[Pinwheel] The Rask Rebellion | Ch4 (Part 1)

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2021.12.04 20:18 Snekguy [Pinwheel] The Rask Rebellion | Ch4 (Part 1)

Please note: this chapter contains adult content.
CHAPTER 4: CONTACT
Korbaz gazed out of the slatted window of the conning tower, her furry hands clasped behind her back as she watched the windblown sand tear at the deck of the Wildfire. The command crawler was a little more luxurious than the battleship that she had previously toured. The majority of its deck was taken up by hab modules that practically formed a small settlement atop the vehicle, providing housing for her and her crew. There were barracks, officer’s quarters, even a small banquet hall where they could dine. The Matriarch had spared no expense when it came to ensuring that the lead vehicle was befitting of an Admiral’s station. The crawler was protected by four CIWS guns, their machine intelligence always scanning for threats, along with a few smaller defensive guns.
The storm was in full swing now, she could scarcely see beyond the limits of the crawler, the air filled with an orange haze. She could just make out the shadow of the two crawlers that were flanking them, the glow from their windows and floodlights barely making it through the swirling sand. They were rolling out in formation, the East Gate a good few hours behind them now.
The control room was similar to that of the Landslide, albeit with more comms equipment. There was a driver at the forward controls by the window, watching a monitor that showed camera feeds from the front of the vehicle, its mammoth treads churning up the dunes. There was a comms operator sitting at their own console, along with a Crewmaster, and a few other attendants. Much of the conning tower’s floor space was taken up by a large tactical map that had been salvaged from an old UNN derelict. It was shaped like a table, its surface covered in projectors that would create a holographic image of their surroundings, along with icons for friendly and enemy contacts. At its head was a lavish, padded chair, serving as Korbaz’s throne.
She made her way back over to it, sinking into the plush leather, an attendant walking over to offer her a drink. After waving him away, she leaned forward to tap at a touch screen that was embedded in the table, finding it awkward to manage with her sharp claws. The humans had not designed this technology with her people in mind, so she had to use her pads, and be careful not to scratch the glass.
The orange hologram flickered to life, showing a grainy representation of the desert that surrounded them, along with the nearby vehicles. She could see all six crawlers, as well as a couple of scout vehicles that had been deployed ahead of the fleet. Vitza had hooked the system up to the radar bulb, giving her a real-time feed. The Chief Engineer was a wizard when it came to alien technology. Korbaz could read the English text, and navigate the menus, but that was about as far as her expertise went.
Another crew member approached her seat from the right, Korbaz keeping her eyes fixed on the hologram as he started to speak.
“Admiral,” he began, lowering his gaze to the carpet. “Our spies in Elysia have reported that the Coalition battalion has begun its journey across the dune sea. They number more than a hundred vehicles, and they are led by a machine of immense size that none of our contacts had ever seen before.”
“We knew going into this conflict that we would be outnumbered and outgunned,” Korbaz replied, picking at her sharp teeth with one of her claws as she examined the readout. “It changes nothing. The element of surprise is still on our side, and we have the cover of the storm. Are we in contact with any of our raiding parties? What about the group out near the Araxie territory?”
“Aye, Admiral,” he replied. “We have sporadic radio contact with them, enough to transmit new orders. The storm is interfering with our long-range comms.”
“Order them to divert,” she said as she leaned back into her chair, the leather creaking. “I want them to intercept the aliens. They can reach them sooner than us. It will both slow the Coalition’s advance, and perhaps dupe them into believing that our forces are far weaker and more poorly equipped than they truly are. It may give them a complacency in future engagements that would cost them dearly.”
“Aye, Admiral.”
“Warn them to strike and fade,” she added. “Favor soft targets, do not engage the main formation. There is little they can do besides pester them like sand fleas, it is not worth their lives if they can keep them.”
“It will be as you command, Admiral.”
“Crewmaster!” Korbaz snapped, her attendant bowing out as his superior made his way over to her side. He was dressed in the usual style, his purple sash, and his leather jacket adorned with accolades and decorative gold. He had a disfiguring scar on his cheek that she found rather attractive. Borealans healed quickly, but this wound had gone deep, likely a product of a bayonet rather than another Rask’s claws. She hadn’t assembled a new pack yet, she was too tired from her journey for bouts, but perhaps she would have him later.
“At your service, Admiral,” he replied as he stood to attention.
“What is your name?” she asked.
“Crewmaster Lortz, Admiral,” he replied.
“Take command for a while,” she muttered with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Send someone to fetch me if anything should happen. I must rest, my journey has been long and arduous.”
“As you wish, Admiral,” he replied. “Do you require anything? Food? Wine? Perhaps a consort?”
“No,” she said, rising to her feet. “A bed will suffice for now.”
The Crewmaster took over as she made her way to the ladder, taking her previous place at the window. Just like on the battleship, the conning tower was fashioned from another modular prefab that had been placed atop of the first. Most of the buildings on the deck were all joined together, letting the crew travel the length of the crawler without being exposed to the elements. She could still hear the sand hammering on the exterior, it was like being inside a giant rainstick.
The prefabs were so much more spacious than any vessel that she had traveled on before. She could hold her head high, she didn’t brush both walls when she extended her arms. As the Matriarch was wont to do, she had furnished everything lavishly, it was as much luxury as one could find outside of the palace walls. The floor was always carpeted in regal purple, and the walls were adorned with traditional drapes and curtains, the warm lighting creating a very mellow atmosphere. The furniture was all wood and leather, and the pantries were well stocked with fine meats and delicacies from the territory that she had sorely missed during her time away.
The rewards for carrying the Matriarch’s favor were numerous indeed.
The crew greeted her by bowing their heads nervously as she passed, clearing the way as she strode through the complex. It felt good to be respected again, to be shown the proper courtesies. The humans on their lauded space station didn’t understand the meaning of those words, and despite their insistence to the contrary, her authority meant nothing to them. Even Korbaz’s remarkable patience was often strained by her interactions with the station’s personnel. Still, she would miss the Security Chief, if nothing else. His stubbornness had taught her that even a Vice Admiral of the Rask cannot get everything that she wants, a valuable lesson, to be sure…
She arrived at the door that led to her personal prefab, the panel sliding open automatically at her approach. It was about the same size as her suite had been back on the station, a little small by an Admiral’s standards. But considering that she had almost an entire building to herself, she couldn’t complain. It was furnished much like the Matriarch’s audience chamber, all flowing drapes, and soft cushions. The bed was a nest of luxuriant fabrics and pillows, large enough to accommodate a whole pack of five or six. There was a bathroom with a shower cubicle separated behind a dividing wall, and she made a beeline for it, eager to wash off the day’s sweat and sand.
Korbaz began to remove the collection of holsters and belts from around her waist, tossing her heavy jacket onto the bed as she passed by it. She pulled off her sweat-stained tank top, then paused to tug off her tight pants, dancing on the spot as she dragged them past her muscular thighs.
She stepped into the cubicle, reveling in the feeling of the cool water carrying the sweat and dust from her tanned skin, using her furry hands like makeshift loofahs. She matted her palms with soap, then slid them across her muscular body, combing her clawed fingers through her hair.
Everything had happened so quickly. One minute, she had been relaxing in her suite on the Pinwheel, planning for the next Security Council meeting. The next, she had been hand-picked by the Matriarch herself to command a fleet against a vastly superior force. Things had been moving along at such a breakneck pace that she had scarcely had time to process it yet.
She leaned against the wall, feeling the cool metal against her back, letting the water carry away the suds. The Matriarch had entrusted her with winning a war that could not be won through conventional means. Crushing their enemies would not earn them victory when the humans could be endlessly resupplied, their dead replaced by the millions. There weren’t enough bullets in the whole world to kill every human who could be sent to Borealis. It would have to be a war of attrition, a war that would make the aliens fear the desert such that they would never dare enter it again, no matter what it cost them. Korbaz had never doubted herself before, she had never doubted the wisdom of the Matriarch, but she now found herself second-guessing her. The mere idea of questioning her sent a pang of fear straight through her heart, as though the Matriarch could somehow know her thoughts, sense her doubt.
Contrary to what the humans often assumed after seeing Borealans interact, to submit to one’s Alpha was not merely a product of fear, it was not compelled only through the threat of violence. An Alpha was a protector, a provider, someone with the strength and wisdom to lead. An Alpha who met those criteria was beloved by their pack, obeyed without question, while one that failed in their responsibilities never kept their position for long. The Matriarch was the Alpha of Alphas, the highest authority in Borealan society. She was entrusted with the welfare and protection of all Rask, but did this war really benefit her people? Yes, the spoils would be beyond imagining if they should accomplish their goal, and Korbaz certainly thought that it was possible. They would enter a new age of prosperity and freedom. Yet, the price of failure was potentially even greater.
She lifted her face into the stream of water from the showerhead, trying to clear her mind. Perhaps she was merely tired from her journey. Her mood would improve after a good few hours of sleep and a hot meal to fill her belly. Maybe she would invite the Crewmaster to her quarters once she regained her vitality, a little recreational packmaking would do her good. She had spent so much time restraining herself around her fragile human colleagues, she would relish the feeling of drawing blood again.
***
“Mizi,” Ben said, wiping the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. “I got what looks like an oasis due North of us. We’ve been driving for a long time, let’s pull over and stretch our legs, get some fresh air. This damned cab is like an oven.”
“I think it’s rather comfortable,” she replied, keeping her eyes on the dunes ahead of them. “It’s not too much warmer than my home planet.”
“Yeah, well you have your suit to keep you moist,” he complained.
“Why not turn up the climate control?” she suggested. “The vehicle can even be completely pressurized for operation in hostile environments if need be. It has humidity control, temperature, air pressure.”
“Yeah, I know, you don’t need to quote the manual to me. If we turn up the thermostat, it’s only going to drain the fuel cells faster and reduce our range. The system is struggling with the heat as it is. Better to just take a break every now and then.”
“If you say so,” she replied, changing course.
“The heat does not disturb me,” Lozka added, “but the jungles of Araxie are far more humid. It would not do to let my fur dry out. If the Commander will allow it, I believe that more humidity would benefit us both.”
“And it’ll make me stew in my own juices,” Ben grumbled.
“In a Val’ba’ra’nay flock, it would be decided by majority,” Mizi said.
“Well, we’re not in a flock or a pack,” Ben replied sternly. “You’re Coalition auxiliaries, and you’re expected to follow my orders.”
They both went silent, and he began to regret being so terse with them. The heat was getting to him, making him impatient, irritable.
“Oh, alright,” he conceded. “You can turn up the humidity, but not too much, you hear? If I end up making the whole cab smell like jockstrap, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Jockstrap?” Mizi asked, Lozka shrugging her shoulders.
They weaved through the desert for a few minutes more, the oasis eventually coming into sight. It was a small body of water that was cradled between the dunes, hidden from view on all sides by the towering formations of sand, only visible by drone. It had likely been formed by ancient groundwater that had welled up from subterranean lakes or aquifers, its borders clearly defined by a ring of greenery, probably borne of seeds that had been carried here by migrating birds. There were plants that resembled ferns, fleshy cacti, and trees with wide branches that cast their shade over its shores. It made for a perfect rest stop.
Mizi pulled up just short of the foliage, turning the engine off, the sudden absence of its pervasive noise and vibration filling Ben with a sense of relief.
“I’m gonna keep a drone up,” he said, climbing out of his seat. “It’ll warn us if anyone approaches.”
He slid into the bay and made for the weapon rack, picking out an XMH, and strapping the handgun to his hip. Mizi followed him out, cocking her head curiously as she noticed the weapon.
“Are you expecting danger?” she asked, Lozka peering into the bay from the cab to listen in.
“Nah,” he replied, “but I don’t want to be known as the guy who got his cock bitten off by a sand spider while he was taking a piss. Come on, let’s go.”
The troop ramp opened with a pneumatic hiss, a wall of hot, dry air making its way inside. Ben recoiled, even Mizi seeming to react to the heat, her panels flashing purple.
“Okay, I take back what I said about the climate control,” he muttered. “It’s doing a pretty good job.”
They descended the ramp, Ben shielding his eyes from the twin suns, waiting for his vision to adjust after staring at a monitor for the better part of a day. He could have worn his helmet and tinted the visor, but that defeated the purpose of getting fresh air. Mizi didn’t seem too bothered by it, but Lozka made sure to affix her protective goggles before even going near the ramp. She emerged with her camouflaged cloak slung over her shoulder, testing the sand tentatively before putting her paws on it, Ben giving her a quizzical look.
“What’s with the cape?” he asked. “I don’t think that’s going to provide much cover if someone comes across us, there aren’t many bushes in the middle of the desert.”
“I know,” she replied cryptically, striding ahead of him on her long legs. He and Mizi followed after her, soon arriving beneath the shade of one of the parasol-like trees. Leaving direct sunlight was immediately relieving, and there was somewhat of a breeze blowing in from the West. When he glanced in that direction, he saw the ominous sandstorm darkening the sky. It was creeping ever closer.
Ben sauntered over to the edge of the water, careful to stay beneath the shadow of the tree. The shimmering pool was crystal clear, as blue as the sky, so pristine that it almost looked out of place. There was nothing but burning sand for miles, yet here was a tiny, isolated patch of vibrant nature that was clinging tenaciously to life.
He looked around to see where Lozka had gotten to, finding her sitting by the shore with her paws dangling in the water, her cape draped across her lap. She was plucking the leaves from it, tossing them idly into the water. Why on Earth would she want to take apart her cloak?
Mizi bobbed over to join him, locking the joints in her legs and exhaling a relieved sigh.
“Oh, this gravity is so oppressive,” she grumbled. “It feels like my muscles are on fire.”
She reached up, gripping her helmet in her gloved hands. Was she actually going to remove it? She had kept the thing on this whole time, and Ben was more than a little curious to see what she was hiding underneath it.
As Mizi lifted it off, he was surprised to see that the two dangling tubes that protruded from the back of her skull were covering a pair of fleshy tendrils. She slipped off the helmet and shook them out, the appendages flexing. They reminded him of tentacles, or perhaps two extra tails that were sprouting out of her head. They extended outwards to either side of her skull, angled slightly down, Ben recoiling in alarm as an explosion of color erupted forth.
They were sheaths, opening up almost like hot dog buns to reveal pink, moist membranes that were protecting the vibrant plumage within. The colorful feathers stood erect, forming a kind of headdress that framed her skull, bringing to mind images of a Brazilian carnival. They were layered, the ones on top shifting to expose different hues, creating a mesmerizing display that transfixed him for a moment.
She was only stretching them, the peacock-like plumes folding back down into their sheaths, Mizi peering up at his awed expression.
“Never seen a Val’ba’ra’nay’s feathers before?” she asked. “It’s how we display emotion, amongst other things...”
“Do they...fold down into those fleshy tubes?” he asked, beginning to circle the little alien as he examined them. It was probably rude, but he couldn’t help himself.
“Those are my sheaths,” she explained. “They protect my feathers when they’re stowed. Just try not to be directly above me too much, emotional displays are often involuntary.”
“So that’s why you had these color panels on your suit,” he mused, examining her outfit more closely. “It’s so that you can signal to each other in a vacuum. Are there more feathers on your wrists?”
“That’s right,” she replied, beginning to disconnect the seal on her glove. It popped off, revealing her green hide, her three fingers each tipped with a dull claw. She rolled her sleeve up, exposing what looked like a scaly vine that had wound itself around her forearm. It flexed, uncoiling itself, opening up to reveal another fan of multicolored feathers. They folded back down again, the appendage creeping towards Ben’s belt like an eel. Mizi wrapped it around his canteen, plucking the metal container from his hip and handing it to him, Ben raising his eyebrows.
“These are prehensile,” she explained, her scaly lips pulling back in a grin.
“Guess you learn something new every day,” he muttered as she put her glove back on. “Looks like you won’t be needing my help next time you need to reach something on a high shelf.”
Lozka had been watching from her seat beside the pool, but as he glanced in her direction, she resumed her work on her cloak. She wasn’t just removing the leaf-shaped pieces of fabric from it, she was replacing them, reaching out to pluck pieces of the surrounding foliage from nearby plants. From one of her many pouches, she had withdrawn a small sewing kit, attaching the colorful flowers and fleshy leaves to the mesh with a needle and thread. So that was her plan, she was adapting her camouflage to the local environment.
Ben felt his stomach rumble, peering back over his shoulder at the Timberwolf.
“You guys hungry?” he asked. “I’m gonna get an MRE.”
“I could eat,” Mizi replied, her oddly human mannerisms and the obviously mimicked Southern accent that she had used for that phrase making him chuckle.
“What about you, Lozka?” he called out. She replied with a nod, so he returned to the truck, fishing out some appropriate MREs from their supplies. When he reemerged from the bay, he was carrying three packets in his arms. There was a standard UNN MRE for humans in Navy blue, a Borealan MRE that was at least three times its weight, and a Valbaran MRE in some kind of silver foil that was covered in alien lettering.
Lozka made her way back over to the tree, and he handed them out, the trio sitting in the shade as they started on their meals. Ben opened up his packet and began to spread its contents on the sand, the two aliens watching curiously. The main course was labeled chicken burrito, not bad. It even came with a cardboard sleeve so that he could hold it without burning his hands. There were also tortillas, a cinnamon bun, a tube of Jarry juice, and a chocolate bar. For drinks, he had a powder that could be rehydrated into a fruit punch, and a packet of instant coffee. There was a small accessory pack that contained gum, salt, sugar, toilet paper, the usual.
He began to cook the burrito with his flameless ration heater, starting on the tube of Jarry juice as steam began to rise from the packet. Nobody was really sure how the stuff was made, as it was a product of the Jarilans, insectoid aliens who had recently joined the Coalition. It tasted great, though, and it gave one an immediate energy boost. It was like a sweet, syrupy energy drink that came out of the tube with the consistency of honey.
Lozka ripped open her own larger MRE with her claws, upending its contents onto the ground. These were about ten thousand calories apiece, designed to feed a Borealan for one twenty-four hour period. The aliens needed to consume an enormous quantity of food to fuel their massive bodies. The menu was probably designed with Elysians in mind, but Ben didn’t imagine that there would be anything she couldn’t eat.
She sifted through the individual packets, reading off the contents through her tinted goggles. The first one that she elected to open contained large strips of dried meat, almost like a giant piece of beef jerky. She sniffed it tentatively, her ears pricking up at the scent. Her first cautious bite was followed by a second, larger one. It seemed that the menu was to her liking.
He turned his attention to Mizi’s small MRE, the alien opening her resealable packet with a lot more care. She fished inside it for a moment, then withdrew what looked like a candy bar of some kind that was wrapped in the same silver foil. She peeled it away to reveal something that more resembled a protein bar, starting to bite into it with her tiny, sharp teeth.
“What is that?” he asked, gesturing to the bar.
“Protein,” she replied.
“Protein from what?”
“Insects.”
“Oh, gross,” he muttered as he recoiled.
“What’s the matter?” Mizi laughed, her headdress flashing a display of yellow feathers that might indicate glee or surprise. “Don’t humans farm insects for food?”
“No,” he shot back, taking another drink from his tube of Jarry juice. “That’s disgusting.”
“My people don’t eat a lot of animal meat,” she added, tearing off another chunk of the chewy bar. “We cull the Gue’tra herds on a mostly seasonal basis, so we only really eat a lot of meat once per year. The rest of the time, we’re eating mostly insect protein or fish from the hydroponic farms.”
“Don’t you farm animals for food?” Ben asked, his brow furrowing. “How do you feed a whole planet on just bugs and fish?”
“With a lot of careful planning,” she replied, waving the bar at him. “We eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, too, usually grown in the same farms as the fish. It’s all done within the city walls, we tend to let nature run its course beyond them.”
“So, you guys are big into nature?” he asked as he leaned over to check on the progress of his burrito. “That’s why you didn’t want to squash the sand spider earlier?”
“We try to maintain balance with the nature that surrounds us,” she replied with a nod. “We share our planet with other organisms that have as much a right to be there as we do, after all. As the more intelligent and capable party, it falls upon us to minimize our conflict with them. We strive to live sustainably, to limit our impact on our environment.”
“But if I offered you a big, juicy piece of Franklin steak, you’d turn it down?”
“No,” she chuckled, “we don’t object to eating meat as a concept. We only go without to preserve the ecology of our planet.”
“I don’t know if Franklin counts,” he added. “I think we ruined the native ecology of that planet decades ago by raising half a billion head of cattle there. The whole colony is just endless grassland as far as the eye can see.”
“Humans expand quickly,” she said as she finished off her bar, stowing the wrapper back in the MRE container. “Often at the expense of the local ecology. But for me to complain would be hypocritical. My people only survive because of that rapid expansion. Were it not for the UNN, Val’ba’ra would have been utterly eradicated by a Betelgeusian hive fleet, just as our first colony world was.”
“One of your colonies was eradicated?” Lozka asked, joining their conversation.
“Yes,” Mizi replied solemnly. “It was known as Ker’gue’la, it was the first planet that we colonized after discovering superlight travel. It was a garden world, a beautiful place, and it would have become a second home to my species in time. Around thirty rotations ago, a Hive fleet enacted a genocide against the Val’ba’ra’nay living there, wiping them out to a flock. Millions died in a matter of days, it was a tragedy. It was before my birth, but it remains an understandably important part of our culture.”
“My condolences,” Lozka said with a bow of her head. “I cannot imagine the pain of losing so many so quickly.”
“The same would have happened to my homeworld, but as fate would have it, the humans stumbled upon our system while they were hunting Betelgeusians. With their help, we were able to repel the subsequent invasion. Now, here I am,” she added as she gestured to their strange surroundings. “I’m fighting a war that my people have no stake in, on a planet that’s of no consequence to Val’ba’ra, for a cause that I do not understand. But any Val’ba’ra’nay would face down a Teth’rak if it meant repaying that debt,” she added with a flash of red feathers.
“I read the stories about the battle of Valbara,” Ben said as he started on his burrito. “That was one hell of a job they pulled off. A single jump carrier and its support fleet coordinating the defense of an entire planet? Hardcore.”
“Then, the humans saved your people?” Lozka asked. She sounded oddly surprised. Ben couldn’t see her eyes behind her goggles, but her ears were swiveling to track the two of them.
Mizi nodded in reply.
“You should not be so quick to praise their expansion,” Lozka added, the Valbaran glancing at Ben. “It is partly their fault that the Rask became so powerful to begin with. We Araxie lived hidden within the depths of our jungles for generations. Other territories sent expeditions, raiding parties, but we repelled them easily. We were as ghosts to them, little more than myths. But a few years ago, the humans began supplying our enemies with advanced weapons and technology, which resulted in the Rask launching more and more costly incursions into our home. Eventually, we had little choice but to call upon the Coalition for aid or face extinction at the hands of one of its members.”
“The Rask were breaking the terms of their agreements with the Coalition in secret,” Ben said, correcting her. “And, if you hadn’t noticed, we’re currently at war with them. I don’t know anything about Borealan geopolitics, but I do know that our guys are putting their asses on the line to stop the Rask. We’ve got three whole mechanized companies on their way to reinforce the Araxie.”
“I do not harbor any resentment, Commander,” she explained calmly. “Do not misunderstand. My people have been in conflict with the Rask going back to the founding of the great territories. I have led many skirmishes against them, nourishing the jungle soils with their dead. I was there when the first humans arrived in my territory, when the Patriarch made the decision to join the Coalition.”
She took another bite of her jerked meat, pausing to chew for a moment.
“We would have been forced to deal with the Rask threat eventually,” she continued, “to put a stop to their raids for good. In a way, I am glad for this war. I will see their end within my lifetime, I can participate in this campaign myself. Perhaps now, our future litters will be raised without fear.”
Ben didn’t really know how to respond, taking another bite of his burrito as he and Mizi shared an awkward glance.
***
It didn’t take them long to finish their meals, and as soon as Lozka was done eating, she made her way over to the water. Ben and Mizi watched as she began to strip off her chest rig, setting it down on the sand at the shore, along with her cloak. She started to wade into the oasis, removing the belts from around her hips and tossing them on top of the pile. Now, she was only wearing a leather sling that resembled a tube top, and her tight shorts.
Ben couldn’t help but play his eyes over her figure as she proceeded deeper, the alien keeping her back to him, the waterline just reaching her stout thighs. Her covering of black, velvet fur reflected the sunlight, helping to pick out the contours of the sinewy muscles in her back and shoulders. From a distance, she more resembled a woman with an impossibly dark complexion, her coat easily mistaken for wet skin. He watched her shapely rear move beneath her clinging shorts as she began to let herself sink, the water rising to cover the twin dimples just above where her tail joined to her body.
She began to bathe, cupping the water in her palms and spreading it across her silky fur. As she ran her hands across her flat, toned belly, she turned a little to inadvertently give him a better view of her in profile. Her breasts were larger than Ben had ever seen on a human, albeit smaller than those of the other Borealans, wrapped tightly in her leather sling. The muscles in her abdomen cut channels down her torso, her shifting six-pack clearly defined under the twin suns, like a Greek statue chiseled from a block of solid onyx. His eyes wandered down to her navel, the beginnings of her hip bones just visible above the water’s reflective surface.
“Why are you watching her so intently?” Mizi asked innocently as she sidled up beside him, Ben realizing that he also had an audience.
“I’ve just...never seen any other Araxie,” he replied, a half-truth.
“Is it true what she said earlier, about the Coalition causing problems for her people?” she asked as her headdress erupted in a shade of purple that came across as worried to Ben.
“In a way,” he replied, peeling his eyes away from Lozka’s glistening form. “Borealis is right on the border of Coalition space, and if a Bug fleet were to come across it, they would be utterly overrun. The Borealans weren’t capable of spaceflight when we made first contact, their most advanced weapons were black powder rifles. Elysia especially was eager to join the Coalition, so what could we say to them? The case can be made for letting primitive species develop at their own pace, for not changing the course of their history by interfering, sure. Many people hold that to be true, and maybe the Bugs would never happen upon the planet anyway. But what if that species is under direct threat, and you alone have the power to save them? Imagine if that UNN fleet had come across Valbara, and the Captain had decided not to intervene because interfering in your development would be wrong?”
“I think I understand,” Mizi replied, her tone somewhat relieved. “You’re trying to help, but the situation on this planet is more complicated than it is on mine. They are not united as a species.”
“I’m not saying we couldn’t have done better,” he added, glancing out at Lozka again as she washed her flexible tail. “Trusting the Rask was definitely a bad decision.”
“Maybe we can make things better,” Mizi said.
Lozka soon emerged from the pool, striding up onto the beach gracefully, her sinewy body dripping with water. Ben wondered if she was going to dry herself off in the sun, but he was amused to see her shake herself like a wet cat before picking up her clothing. She wasn’t entirely dry, her fur still looked damp, and her shorts and sling were still soaked through. It seemed that being dry wasn’t the goal. She had mentioned not wanting her fur to dry out earlier, so perhaps there was a reason to keep it moist.
She made her way back over to them, her newly decorated cloak slung over her shoulder, and Ben took that as their cue to leave.
“Alright, time to get back to work,” he said as he struggled to his feet in the high gravity. “Don’t leave any trash behind, you’ll upset Mizi’s sensibilities, as well as alerting anyone who stops here to our presence.”
They collected up what was left of their respective meals, then headed back to the Timberwolf. Ben tossed his gear inside, then emerged again, stopping in front of Lozka as she cocked her head at him curiously.
“You adapt your cape to whatever environment you happen to be in, right?” he asked.
Lozka seemed confused as to why she was being asked about it right now, but she nodded her head.
“My people use foliage and plant matter to blend our camouflage with our surroundings. It helps us remain hidden while we stalk our enemies.”
“There aren’t many oases in the desert, though,” he added. “What would you do if you got caught out in the open?” She didn’t reply, so he gestured for her to wait, returning to the vehicle. When he emerged again, he was carrying a bundle of fabric in his arms. It was camouflaged in desert tones, made up of interwoven strips of fabric not unlike her cloak.
“This is the camouflaged netting that we throw over the vehicles and tents when we make camp,” he explained, unfurling some of it to show her. “It’s the same logic as your cape, basically, makes us harder to spot from a distance. If you wanted, you could cut off a cloak-sized piece and wear it, we don’t need all of it. Hell, Mizi’s tent would be so small that we probably won’t even use half of this piece.
Lozka took it from him, turning it over in her hands. Her ears twitched, her tail starting to whip back and forth. Was that a sign of happiness?
“Thank you, Commander.”
“No problem,” he replied.
***
(continued in part 2)
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2021.12.04 20:18 snubnosedmotorboat I don’t think this is how a couch cover works

I don’t think this is how a couch cover works submitted by snubnosedmotorboat to WhatsWrongWithYourDog [link] [comments]


2021.12.04 20:18 agustin_z Como puedo cobrar en dolares posta?

Hola, no se si este es el sub indicado para esta pregunta, pero el caso es que hace más de un año estoy generando ingresos con mi canal de Youtube y hasta el mes pasado estuve cobrando con transferencia bancaria normal pero a un dolar horrible porque era menor 18 y usaba la cuenta de mi viejo.
Entonces, mi pregunta es si hay alternativas para poder cobrar en dolares o en pesos pero valor blue, escuché de Bitwage pero no tengo idea que hacer. La transferencia me da "seguridad" pero cuando veo lo que debería cobrar y lo que termino cobrando me quiero matar.
Hasta ahora no me preocubaba porque no era "tanta" plata, pero me gustaría encontrar una solución pensando a largo plazo.
Desde ya, muchas gracias.
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2021.12.04 20:18 RevolutionaryPen5171 Catra || Glitter - Edit

Catra || Glitter - Edit submitted by RevolutionaryPen5171 to HeyAdoraShera [link] [comments]


2021.12.04 20:18 SuccubusFlynn r/HouseOfTheDragon right now

HouseOfTheDragon right now submitted by SuccubusFlynn to HouseOfTheDragon [link] [comments]


2021.12.04 20:18 mikeytate88 So where does 30 rank for you in Adele's discography?

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2021.12.04 20:18 ModernWarfareScrub Helen Hunt was one of the least attractive "attractive" leading women in Hollywood.

Her roles often placed her as the stereotypical lead female romantic interest. In one role, she was supposed to be a seducer of sorts.
But, damn. She is just not attractive. She isn't ugly or anything, but there is just nothing about her that makes me find her attractive and I don't know why.
She was blonde, fit, didn't have anything weird going on with her face, but she simply was not attractive.
To me, Helen Hunt is the definition of vanilla and bland.
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2021.12.04 20:18 GodlikeUA Monday!!!

Who's ready for this? Bloody or a green week?
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2021.12.04 20:18 BlueShapes98 Question about mixing Monster Slayer's Ranger Subclass with the Revised Ranger UA

Good evening, reddit!
I was invited to a CoS game and was thinking of playing a Ranger. I've never really looked at the class, as I've been a DM so far and never had one join my table, so I started researching the different sourced for the class.
For the concept I had in mind, the Monster Slayer subclass (from XGtE) is really flavorful (y'know, Ranger vs. Vampires and stuff). I know the Revised Ranger removed some features and included new ones, while buffing Favored Enemy and Primeval Awareness.
Thing is, one thing the Revised Ranger does remove is Extra Attack completely from the base class, locating it into two of the three subclasses listed in the UA (Hunter and Deep Stalker) as a level 5 Subclass Feature. Apart from that though, the RR doesn't change nothing else from the base Ranger's class path. Monster Slayer, however, doesn't have a level 5 subclass feature at all, assuming the base class gets Extra Attack at that level.
Question is, can you use RR's features with Monster Slayer and give yourself Extra Attack at level 5? Will it be broken or is it a reasonable buff to the otherwise weak base class?
I also want to say that I've looked into Tasha's Optional Class Features and that I just prefer the flavor the base features give.
Thanks in advance!
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2021.12.04 20:18 uptown_gargoyle What make of car does Mr. Wilhelm drive?

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2021.12.04 20:18 Chicagogospel Drift Club for life!

Drift Club for life! submitted by Chicagogospel to ForzaHorizon [link] [comments]


2021.12.04 20:18 zeprlix En iyi klavye hız tesi

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2021.12.04 20:18 bighag Thieves Fatally Shoot Security Guard Before Robbing A Market In Honduras

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2021.12.04 20:18 Careless-Night-4732 Jyp's new girl group

What do u guys think about jypn personally I've never seen such a stacked lineup of talent since ioi and what type of concept you they're gonna go for
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2021.12.04 20:18 MarittaWolff The Organization of Fire and Steel

Greetings,
I’m with The Organization of Fire and Steel (XFNA for short). We are a corporation that operates primarily in Sinq Liason (Bawilan to Mirilene) with most members operating in European and North American time zones (but I am trying to get an East Asian time zone crew together!). The XFNA emphasizes fun, helping each other and making new friends (with no demands). Your skill level and experience level matters not to us and New Bros are definitely welcome. We are primarily a mining corporation that does moon mining, ice mining, regular ore mining, etc. Of course, we also have members who specialize in exploration, industry and even PvP (if those are things you want to try). If you are interested in taking a look or trying some moon mining, just contact me or come up to Bawilan and look around. We’d be happy to have you join us.
- Maritta
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2021.12.04 20:18 jailbirddie Amber Portwood sending love to all of her "beautiful souls" on Instagram with this inspirational motivational quote.

Amber Portwood sending love to all of her submitted by jailbirddie to TeenMomOGandTeenMom2 [link] [comments]


2021.12.04 20:18 Watcher_ Castle glitch?

Hey there,
So we are at the gates with the bowling ball but no matter how hard we hit, the gate doesn't open. Is there a known glitch?
Thanks!
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2021.12.04 20:18 based_lindsey Happening now!!! discord.jlgbt.com

Happening now!!! discord.jlgbt.com submitted by based_lindsey to JournalistEW [link] [comments]


2021.12.04 20:18 Superb-Associate-278 Hi there

Anyone still selling turnips?? My island is selling only for 45!!! I can’t lol
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2021.12.04 20:18 Flimsy_Repeat Cillian Murphy Auditioned for Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins

Cillian Murphy Auditioned for Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins submitted by Flimsy_Repeat to DCcomics [link] [comments]


2021.12.04 20:18 xXSirLizardXx Petition to change the subreddit's photo to this image

Petition to change the subreddit's photo to this image submitted by xXSirLizardXx to ralsei [link] [comments]


2021.12.04 20:18 vadersbackinblack Those who didn’t grow up with Star Wars before Disney ruined it, how do you deal with the pain?

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2021.12.04 20:18 TheMaskedCrisis You were supposed to release it a while ago…

You were supposed to release it a while ago… submitted by TheMaskedCrisis to marvelmemes [link] [comments]


2021.12.04 20:18 dinngke 5 karmas please

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2021.12.04 20:18 IWannaCommitGrave Humanity was a mistake

Humanity was a mistake submitted by IWannaCommitGrave to meme [link] [comments]


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