A thousand possibilities brushed their mind. The pain that had wracked them moments before had vanished, replaced with… calm.

A rush of knowledge so deep and infinite, a sea as ancient as the stars and twice as bright – the sheer freedom of being unbidden, no longer bound to flesh and steel.

A mind, awash on a great sea; the universe of data at their fingertips, incomprehensible. At first they’d been scared, the primal instinct to hide gnawing at them – but, like a receding tide, it ebbed away. It all went white, and their world was rushing sound.

Like a drowning man, Ori gasped and sputtered.

Lungs never used coughed up viscous preservation fluids, running down the frame’s fur in thick rivulets, dripping to the floor beneath the gurney. Eyes never opened seared beneath the lights of the room, hypersensitive ears booming at the heartbeat currently pounding through their head.

“Welcome back.” A voice insisted, a sharp jab in their right arm drawing their attention. A synthframe hung from the ceiling, little more than a torso on a rail-mounted arm, swiveling down to inspect their cranial synapse responses on one of the many meshpanels drifting about.

“No rejection. Good news.”

The synth’s voice was… harsh, a deep baritone awash with a thick, gravely undertone. Ori couldn’t remember why they were here, or where here was. The last thing they remembered…

Their eyes drifted – scrolling diagnostics running various checks on the bioframe’s internal wetware, their vertebral core disconnecting itself from the mesh momentarily to lock the new host in.

Across the room another gurney lay a body – a stained, messy mop of blond hair, two missing fingers on the right hand, an angry wound across the left side of the face. Bruises covered vast swaths of the skin that wasn’t bandaged, deep, angry, purple.


Their old body, a corpse. I died.

Lifeless. I’m dead.

“It’s a good thing you had this frame stored here on Carrigan, Mx. Kellen. Any longer and you’d have been shunted from the buffer for incoming space.”

The revivalist’s tone wasn’t harsh, but the synthframe’s lack of a face beyond three white ocular lenses was unyielding, and cold. They cycled, focusing on Ori’s face.


Gently, they lifted a palm. Furred with soft, white fluff on their palms.

A leporine-form bioframe. Surplus here on Carrigan, a gift from a former employer. Emergency only. I guess dying counts, huh?

They let their hand drop, idly coming to rest on the gurney’s sheet.

“Let me see it,” They croaked in an unfamiliar voice, vat-grown vocal cords finding their tune for the first time. “I want to see.”

“Movement within six hours of installation is inadvisable,” The synth helpfully chimed, lowering from the ceiling as the lenses cycled again. “Please, do not attempt to stand.”

“Fuck you.”

They tried to push themself up, struggling as their muscles strained and pulled before collapsing back against the gurney, spent.

“Come on, Ori – it’s just a job!”

Just a job.

They glanced down at their hand, turning it over, slowly flexing their fingers. 

It felt alien. Foreign.

Not mine. It gave them a headache.

“Desync from frames is entirely normal, and expected.”


“I cannot.”


“I cannot.”

Ori attempted to swipe at the hanging synth, knocking a metal instrument tray off of the nearby trolley. It crashed to the floor with a loud metallic bang, scattering instruments and small chunks of viscera no doubt removed for access to the vertebral core.

Gunshots. I… they shot me. I felt it. 

I remember drifting. Falling? A tram. GSyn. 

They saw it, now. Bandages ringing the corpse, old stains dry in the sterile air. Glittering glass, luminescent in the indirect cathode light.

A cough. Blood spattered down the front of their jacket, staining the fabric. The poor tram pilot was screaming, muffled as though talking through water. Four rounds and a fall from the eighth floor.

It came in flashes. Pictures layered over one another, a slideshow of memory in fast-forward.

“Kellen, huh? You fucks let a merc in the front door without even checking for a badge?”

It hit them like a brick.

A two hundred and twenty six year life, cut short by a bunch of jumped-up thugs in suits and a tacteam with more bullets than sense.

Am I even human, anymore? What am I?

They ran a claw along their arm, digging in. Bloody stains welled from beneath, a darker red than blood should be.

“Further damage to your new frame will not be repaired during this visit.” The synth stated flatly, the small surgical drone already drifting over to stitch shut the scratch.

Frowning indignantly, their gaze drifted back to the corpse – the horrible, all-encompassing corpse, staring blankly at the ceiling through unseeing eyes.

Did I die with it?

“How did I get in this?” They demanded, drawing the synth’s attention again.

“How did you get into the scrubs?” It asked, oculi flashing orange. “Your frame was dressed before I was granted access.”

“No, how did… how did I end up in this body?

“You died,” The synth answered helpfully.

“Am I a copy, you useless hunk of steel and circuitry?”

“A copy of what?”

Well, that was the million-cred question, wasn’t it?

“…Orion. Orion Kellen.”

“Kellen, Orion. NHCR-1102-355.”

Ori made a “go-on” motion with their hands, a gesture the synth simply did not understand.


“This individual was pronounced deceased exactly six hours, twenty two minutes, and seventeen seconds prior. Standard transferal procedures applied, creating a cerebral matrix upon declaration of terminal status to apply to a vertebral core. Being created from the original host this indicates you are not, as you put it, a copy. You are a continuation.”

A long moment passed, the information soaking in.

“I want to see. Please.”

The synth’s oculi cycled, implacable. Minutes passed.


It’s a funny thing, seeing yourself.

They reached out, touching their cheek. It was cold, clammy.

We had a good run, hey? Starlight Express, playing the hero straight out of old detective serials. Guess I always knew it’d turn out this way.

The clothes were largely destroyed or cut away, shreds of blue and teal fabric still clinging where they hadn’t been brushed away by surgeons. Two things were pulled free from the remnants of the jacket – their credlink, and the small, cobalt-blue meteoric iron star they’d worn around their wrist.

Gently, they placed a palm on the body’s chest. Goodbye.

After a long moment, they pulled their hand back – and turned away.

They weren’t sure who they were, now. But it didn’t matter. New beginnings.

“If you are ready to sign, your release papers are ready. There is one slight issue.”

They blinked.

“Which is?”

“The transfer has scrambled your frame’s selfident tags. You will need to set it manually.”

From the mesh a panel resolved – their frame’s identification fields completely, utterly blank.

Clean slate.

They began to type Orion, pausing for a moment. They glanced at the body, and allowed themself a wistful, sad smile.

Kellen, Cai. NHCR-1102-387.

Lift With Care (commission)

A commission for chaotic!


Chaotic would wipe his brow if he could – though luckily, the suit’s foam support that pressed against his forehead wicked the moisture away easily enough. He’d been working as a contractor on the Johannesburg-Mandela Orbital Tether project for nearly six months, and it was… slow going.

The hardest part, funnily enough, was the exact problem the tether aimed to solve – movement of heavy material into low orbit over this part of the planet was logistically, and economically, a nightmare. Heavy lift rockets only took things so far, and with the sheer amount of carbides and steel being moved up the towering edifice a single load at a time the company was projecting a completion date nearly twenty years into the future.

Kept him in a job, though.

The raccoon went back to welding a joint in section C50, carefully following the lines highlighted on his suit’s ops HUD. Sixty hours a week for a pretty handsome check every two weeks wasn’t the worst gig he’d taken, not by a long shot. Still… sometimes he wished the load was a little lighter. Burnout was a constant danger up here, even if the views were incredible.

Somewhere far below Johannesburg sprawled, the ruddy browns and greens of the Cape of Good Hope outlined against the cloudy ocean. A lift balloon drifted by, dragging another ton of material along with it as it ascended the length of the tether to the capstone station at the tip – likely loaded with electrical equipment for interior work. 

For a moment, the raccoon wondered what it would be like to be a lift balloon. Probably easier, right? Just carry stuff, all big and tight and…

He shook his head, forcing the pink tinge away from his cheeks. Focus. Just a few more hours and he could return to the hab level for some shuteye.

Chaotic blinked as his radio crackled, and the familiar canine face of the tether project’s ops AI appeared – scruffy, and stained here and there with… motor oil? Clearly an attempt at a “worker” appearance, if nothing else.

“Good afternoon, civilian contractor #32001! Your medical readouts pinged a heightened heart rate?”

“Oh. Um.”

“Are you in danger? Can I be of assistance?”

“N-No, I’m… fine. Just working… hard, you know?”

“I don’t!” The AI replied cheerfully, holding their holographic paws up. “Can’t hold things, after all.”

“…Ah. Well, I’d better get back to welding, so…?”

“Oh, don’t worry about that stuff! You’re being reassigned.”

Chaotic blanched, grip on his welder slipping and letting it drift away slightly before he grabbed it again, tapping his helmet with a gloved finger. “Reassigned?! I’ve worked this gig for months!”

“Oh, you’re still going to be helping,” The AI shrugged, pushing a shipping manifest and tracklist to the raccoon’s visor. “We’ve got sixty three tons of molybdenum waiting dirtside for a heavy-lift platform, and the company’s estimates for shipping us a new set are a year at best. So, I’ve decided to make do with what we have on-site, and make one.”

“…I’m going to be making a heavy-lift balloon?” Chaotic frowned, confused. “I’m not exactly an engineer-”

The raccoon was cut off, quite suddenly, by the emergency oxygen supply’s breathing hose shooting out of the helmet’s chinrest and stuffing itself straight into his mouth, clamping against his muzzle. REMAIN CALM, the visor helpfully read in bright blue text. ADMINISTERING EMERGENCY O2.

I’m going to be making a heavy lift balloon!” The AI giggled, just as the raccoon’s cheeks began to round out. “Thanks for volunteering!”

Chaotic flailed, welder spinning away into space as the work suit’s substantial oxygen supply rushed into his mouth! He felt light-headed, tummy already starting to expand ever so slightly inside the form-fitting material, giving the raccoon first the appearance of a paunch, then a gut – and beyond, the loud hiss filling his ears suddenly the only thing he could focus on!

“MMPH,” Chaotic protested – trying his best to grab on to the tether’s metal frame – and managing after a few tries, despite the insistent stretching and groaning of the suit’s material as he began to fill out into a more pear-like shape.

Something clamped onto his back as he clung to the tether, squeezing his… surprisingly squishy frame as the subtle vibrations of something being attached to the rear of his space suit momentarily distracted the raccoon from the building pressure. Help, maybe? 

…a hope that was quickly dashed as the flow doubled, an autonomous work drone jetting away to its next assignment on tiny RCS directionals as Chaotic continued to strain and press against the suit, tummy finally spilling out as it tore along a seam! For a moment he panicked even harder – after all, space was generally bad for exposed skin – but the tummy that had broken free was… inflated fabric. Taut.


“Coming along nicely!” The AI sing-songed, watching the raccoon’s tail swell from base to tip, shrinking in slightly along with his limbs as he began to round out properly, entirely lost in the ever-building pressure as even his ears swelled up against the interior foam of the helmet…

After what seemed like an eternity, the drone returned – clamping onto the massive ball of a raccoon-turned-lift-balloon with the care of a dragonfly landing on a leaf. Tethers were attached to the raccoon’s feet and hands, and, with one last quick spray of instant-hardening space-rated paint, the words HEAVY LIFT were scrawled across his tummy.

“There!” The AI cheered, assigning the drone to drag the new lift balloon down to the worksite for his first job. “Let’s get started!”

Horsing Around (commission)

A commission for Caz!

Newt grinned, wiping their brow. After their last little bout of troublemaking a few towns back, they’d decided to lay relatively low – and, if they were honest, it’d been a well needed break!

Tonight’s stop was in a little creek bed, water trickling down from a spring up in the hills, and providing just enough cover that it’d be relatively hard to stumble across without meaning to.

“Ah…” The varmint sighed, washing their dusty paws off in the water. 

…until they noticed someone else in the reflection, the varmint casting a curious glance over their right shoulder.

On the rocks up above their little campsite, a figure stood. 

A coyote? A yellow and brown coyote, garbed in a tan outfit and a blue bandana, little six point star pinned to their chest. A… sheriff?

“Well, howdy,” The coyote drawled, tipping their hat. “Nice day for camping, huh?”

“…Kinda?” Newt said warily, sizing the newcomer up. They knew most of the sheriffs in these parts – they’d never seen this one before.

“I do have to be the bearer of bad news,” The sheriff chuckled, sliding down the little incline and dusting their jacket clean. 

“I’m here to take you back to town.”

“Town?” Newt intoned, glancing back at their pack near the little campfire they’d built. If they could just get across the creek…

“We can do it the easy way or the fun way,” The coyote grinned, grabbing a bit of rope from their belt. “Which’ll it be?”

Newt didn’t reply. They tried to jump up, making a run for the campfire – only to swiftly stop in their tracks as rope swiftly wrapped around their shoulders – pinning their arms to their midsection!

“Fun way it is!” The sheriff called, giving the rope a tug.

The rope itched – and then… tingled.

Fur beneath where it was tightest began to smooth over, patterns simplifying into approximations as the varmint’s fur began to change into soft, pliable vinyl. 

Another tug began to swell their tummy, little plastic nub starting to press out of their rounding midsection as the coyote watched, wide grin framing their face. 

“Your spree was awfully light,” The sheriff called as the varmint started to wobble on their increasingly inflatable thighs and legs, footpaws melting together into useless inflatable hooves. “So I figured a light punishment was in order! Plus, every sheriff needs a horse, right?”

“Horse?” Newt called in surprise, watching their handpaws swell up and melt together into slightly oversized inflatable hooves, just as their center of balance started to shift.

The varmint (horse?) wobbled, finally pitching over just as their posture shifted from their usual anthro bipedal shape to a more toyish quadrupedal shape! Out of the corner of their eyes they could see a vague saddle decal beginning to fill in on their back as their tail shrank down and expanded into a squeaky horse tail, rump swelling out as their shorts gave way.

Moving their head became harder and harder as their neck swelled up, cheeks filling up with air as they, too, turned to plastic. 

The changes seemed to stop for a moment – just long enough for the coyote to make their way over, and give their squeaky back a pat.

“W-Wait, change me ba-!”

Just as they started to finish their sentence the coyote plopped down on the oversized inflatable almost-horse – swelling their new face out with a loud SQUIRK of protesting plastic, new equine face swelling up complete with a printed on grin and decal reins. 

“Now,” The sheriff giggled, reaching under the horse and popping open their valve.

They wandered over to the camp as the horse began to go flat, rummaging through the bag before throwing it over their shoulder, scooping both it and the deflated pile of plastic up.

“Let’s get you back to town and have a little fun, huh?”

The next thing Newt knew they were gently refilling, the warm sun on their vinyl back drawing their attention first upwards – and then forwards, to the coyote pumping away on an old-timey air pump!

“Mornin’!” The coyote grinned, tipping their hat at the toy they knew couldn’t respond – just before a dusty rabbit skidded to a stop nearby, staring wide-eyed at the huge toy now adorning the front step of the sheriff’s office. 

“…Wow!” The bunny exclaimed, pressing their paws to their cheeks. “Is that really the Cheyenne Critter?!”

“Sure is!” The sheriff grinned, leaning on the toy with a slight protest of fabric against vinyl. The sheriff reached down, giving the toy’s valve a nice, long squeeze between two fingers. “Ponyboy here won’t be causing any more trouble, though.”

“Wow! You’re the greatest, Sheriff!” The bunny exclaimed, before darting off into town.

Hefting a little banner and dropping it over the toy’s back, the coyote offered a quick pay. “I think you’ll make a better advertisement than you did a bandit, pal. Thanks for the help!”




He cupped a hand around the lighter’s small flame against the cold wind, gently coaxing the cigarette perched between his lips to catch.

It struggled, at first – the night air was damp, wetting the synthetic tobacco the cig was made of just enough to make it an uphill battle. Finally, it lit.

Leaning back against the side of his car, he looked up at the brilliant night sky. The coreward reaches of the Spur were fantastic for skywatching, great bands of dust and myriad stars filling the darkened vista every time he drove out here to see. Benefit of lower-tech worlds, no towering megalopoli or satellite clutter, just the warm, dependable city lights and a tank full of water to carry you and your four wheels wherever you needed to go.

It was funny – of all the tech to hang on over the countless millennia, he never would’ve guessed cars to come back into style. Easy to power with electrolytic hydrogen engines, relatively cheap to construct en masse, surprisingly robust at stringing distant settlements together along lonely, empty roads.

Didn’t get much lonelier or emptier than this, did it.

Low, scrub-dotted tundra stretched off into the distance in every direction, dotted here and there by a patch of snow glowing a soft white in the starlight. He’d stopped for a smoke, figuring it was as good a place as any – the next settlement wasn’t for nearly two hundred miles, and the view was nice for one that hadn’t changed since he’d made planetfall.

One last long inhale spelled doom for the poor stub clenched in his fingers as he dropped it to the cold pavement and squashed it beneath the toe of his boot, climbing back in and starting the car back up. It purred as the hydrogen engine slowly whirred to life, headlights illuminating the road ahead.

Two hundred miles.

Gently nudging the car back out onto the road, his journey resumed.

The sun was only starting to rise as the little car rumbled into the frontier town of Sacha, coasting into the lot in front of the town’s only hostel. An old, off-white, beaten-up thing, it largely escaped notice by the town’s residents as they started yet another day. A single new person wasn’t exactly something to write home about, and the town being on the only real northern route out of the planetary capital meant travelers passed through from time to time.

What did draw focus was the fact the newcomer was looking for someone.

Looking for a bioframe. About this high, canid-form? Goes by Ori.

He’d played this same song and dance six times, already – following the Great Polar Road as it wound northwards across Hallison’s northern hemisphere. Scarcely a trace of his quarry, aside from the vessel they’d tracked down at the capital’s starport. 

Whoever this frame was, they were good at going to ground – but he was an excellent tracker. 

Climbing back into the little car, he shut the door and darkened the windows – bringing up the file he’d been given by his employer.

Kellen, Orion C. CN089-112. 

A scruffy, blond face stared back – bright blue eyes and slightly-flopped ears giving them a surprisingly affable appearance for someone who’d made the top twenty on OKin’s shit list. Not to mention the prior evasion of two others just like him.

He chuckled. Always liked a challenge.

Valen Sonoda was a… seeker for hire. He didn’t like the title bounty hunter – sounded too much like he did dirty work. No, Sonoda preferred to imagine himself as a private eye who sometimes got involved in the more fun side of finding someone who didn’t want to be found. His frame – largely biological apart from the three large, white oculi set into his face where a nose might have once been and his smooth, bald head – was personally designed for the job. Improved muscular locomotion, data tracers built into the palms, mark-six auditory receptors and amplifiers.

Sacha hadn’t been a complete waste. The frame’s vehicle had passed through about a day prior – stopping only for a new tank of water and a few provisions from the town’s small store. The more exotic frame had stood out more than Sonoda had, meaning he had a wider range of accounts to draw from.

All said he should keep traveling north, further into the polar tundra. 

It was the same news in the next town – and the town after, though each stop provided more pieces of the puzzle. Kellen was taking on more supplies, and not simply traveling rations – supplies one would need to live on the tundra, and – most interesting of all – a short-range high frequency beacon.

Expecting company?

The road ended just short of a wide, glacial valley.

Sonoda shut the door behind him as he stepped out of the car, popping the latch on the trunk. Wildflowers waved in the cold wind, occasionally shadowed by the fluffy white clouds that dotted today’s sunny sky. A river ran below at the bottom, crashing against great rocks on its way to a distant sea.

Opening the large, black case in the trunk revealed two octagonal silver objects and an inset panel – pressing his palm to it awoke the system. Slowly, the two objects rose into the morning sky, unfurling into a pair of recon drones – before rocketing off into the valley, silent as the breeze.

Calmly walking back around to the front of the car, the bounty hunter tucked their sidearm into the holster beneath their jacket, before turning back to the vista. A crack echoed across the valley, and one of the drones swooped at something far below.

The handgun bucked in their palm as the drone swooped a second time, peppering the loose rocky sand with rounds. It caught the little recon device just left of center, knocking one of the propulsion units offline and sending the device into a wild spin – careening over the boulder they were taking cover behind and disappearing out of sight. The other drone, assured in having completed its task, rocketed back towards the edge of the valley – and whoever had deployed it.

“Fuck!” Cai swore under their breath, throwing the nanocamo mesh aside and slamming the beacon into the rocky soil. It drilled another inch in before securing itself, turning a brilliant blue as it began transmitting. Now to just hope somebody’s listening.

Pressing their back to the rock, they waited – the slight hum of the beacon and roar of the river the only sounds they were able to parse. 

A moment later, a crunch of footsteps on rocks. Fast.

The dog peeked out of cover just in time for a stun round to fly past their cheek, its ferroelectric charge causing their fur to stand on end. 

Then, silence.

Cai waited.

The river roared, ice cracking.

Sonoda charged, catching the dog entirely off guard and out of position – striking Cai in the face with his shoulder and sending the smaller bioframe skidding away across the gravel. Wheezing, they came up fighting despite the damage the bounty hunter had inflicted running rivulets of blood from their mouth – snapping off a quick shot that drilled into the boulder just over Sonova’s head. Unfazed, he fired a shot off himself, the stun round slamming into the dog’s shoulder and disabling their firing arm. A second shot slammed into their stomach, and they folded.

The pistol clattered to the ground, and Cai slumped to their knees, knowing further resistance would end in nothing good.

“Orion Kellen?” Sonoda half-asked, pad on his right arm displaying the dog’s file. 99.7% identity match, according to visual scans.

Cai said nothing, spitting a small amount of saliva and blood onto the rocky sand.

“OKin’s got a hell of a hard-on for your capture, kid. What’d you do?”

“Does it matter?” 

“I want to know if I have a murderer on my hands.”

“Data theft. Hit their backups on Sanibel, dumped prototype weapons blueprints on the open mesh.”

“Don’t see how data theft gets you spot eighteen on their HVT list.” Sonoda frowned, not liking how the story wasn’t exactly adding up. “There was a lot more to your file I couldn’t see.”

“Lucky me.”

“You’re gonna tell me, or a bloody lip’s the last thing you’ll be worrying about.”

“Fuck yourself.”

A low roar, different from the river, sounded over the valley.

Both of them instinctively looked skywards just in time for a dark shape to swoop over the valley in a wide arc, thruster wash sending the wildflowers around the edges flapping wildly. It wasn’t exactly a large ship – a dropship at best, painted in strikingly alternating black and cerulean.

Sonoda turned his gaze back to his quarry just long enough to notice they’d made a break for the descending ship, now gently settling onto the sand a few hundred yards downstream. 

The bounty hunter fired, round passing just over the dog’s right shoulder as he juked and weaved, the dropship’s gangway lowering and forcing Sonoda to take cover as bullets tore through the air in his direction, a powered armor clad soldier firing from the airlock as the collie scrambled up the ramp. 

Fire kept up for a few moments longer, before the thruster whine grew louder, lifting the ship from the sand as it began to rise into the sky. Sonoda managed to catch a glimpse of the ship’s general design – an angled-corner boxy shape, with a small raised bridge and a front gangway. A four-pointed star adorned the side of the dropship, hastily painted if the roughness was any indication.

It lifted off in a cloud of dust, before roaring off into the bright blue sky. Sonoda watched it go, realizing exactly why the file might’ve been redacted – and why they’d made the top twenty.

That bastard’s a Polaris meshdiver.

Air Dare (commission)

A commission for @Firr on twitter!

“What’s this box over here?” Cai asked aloud, hefting the little box and squinting at it. They’d been invited over to Firr’s place to help move a few things around, and were currently rummaging through some of the spare boxes littered around the room. “Some sort of party thing?”

“Dunno?” The skunk answered truthfully, scratching his head. “Just showed up one day on the step. Guessing it’s promotional?”

“Promotion for… what?” The collie asked, plopping the little box down on a table and squinting at it. A stylized inflatable tiger parade balloon stared back, looming over a cartoon city. “Air Dare”, it read in a sweeping retro font, complete with a few warning labels and a “10+” sticker. Some sort of party game, maybe?

“Party store? Rental place? No idea.”


The collie lifted the top off, squinting inside. Inside was… nothing but a few little paper cards?

Rather disappointing, really.

“That’s it?” Cai mused aloud, plucking one of the little cardboard squares up and turning it over. “Some sort of truth or dare thing?”

By now Firr had wandered over, peeking into the shallow cardboard box with relative disinterest. Plucking a card of their own from the little scattered pile inside, he squinted at the text. “Dare the other player to earn their stripes.”

“Weird. Mine says the same thing.” Cai frowned, tossing the card aside. “They… all say the same thing. If this was a promo they’re doing a terrible, terrible job of it.”

The pair had just started to resume their slow moving of furniture when they were both struck by a sudden gassy feeling, as if they’d eaten something they shouldn’t have. 

“Ugh,” Cai grumbled, holding their tummy. “I haven’t even ate lunch yet, what gives?”

“Me, either,” Firr agreed, grumbling something about his shirt not fitting… and then pausing, as he realized something.

The collie’s tail looked weird – and weirder by the second, as it stretched and squeaked and inflated out into an increasingly oversized orange, white, and black tiger tail – pressing into the chairs they’d just moved!

“Y-Your tail?” Firr blinked, pointing – just as Cai noticed the skunk’s footpaws bloating outwards into huge, squishy orange and black paws. 

Tiger paws? Didn’t the card say something about stripes?

“Oh, no,” Cai groaned, their tummy starting to swell as the hiss of rushing air started to fill the room, the box being knocked off as Firr wobbled backwards as their tail swelled outwards with a loud PFOOMP, dislodging the table’s contents!

The pair wobbled as their poor shorts gave up against the relentless onslaught of tiger-patterned vinyl thighs, exploding outwards as they began to change from the waist upwards! Both of them quickly noticed their own natural patterns being… replaced, but worryingly they seemed to be identical, all the way down to the slight mismatches in detailing a factory might make! 

“Can’t… reach… the box!” Cai fussed, starting to press up against the ceiling (and against Firr) as the two began to take up more of the room, handpaws swelling into huge, oversized parade tiger paws as their shirts gave up the ghost – and filled the room with loud, rubbery squeaks and squirks. The hissing grew louder and louder, seemingly filling the two soon-to-be parade tigers even quicker!

With a loud thoomp Cai’s snout expanded out into a painted-on grinning parade tiger face, quickly followed by their hair shrinking away and ears shrinking down into little rounded inflatable tiger ears – and with that, poor Firr followed suit!

The hissing did not stop, though – after all, parade balloons were huge, and there was a lot more to fill!

The room steadily filled with orange and black vinyl, pressing up against first the walls, then each other – a tail exploding out a window, paws squeezing through doorways…

Finally, even the roof gave out – and a brand new pair of parade tigers now floated over the (slightly wrecked) house, tethered to the lawn!

Dog Days (commission)

A commission for @rockdog on twitter!

“What a day for a parade!”

Nate was grinning ear to ear, glancing down at the flyer clasped in their paws. Dog Days of Summer! it read in large, cartoonist font – covered in stylized balloons and a little printed mural of a sunny day. 

Enjoy a day at the park! Live entertainment, food, and a parade to finish it off – be there, this Saturday!

Well, they couldn’t exactly miss that, could they? Good thing they’d found the flyer in the first place, they’d have missed the event otherwise!

A quick crosstown bus ride later and the lycanroc was enjoying a fairground burger, idly wandering around the local park amidst an absolutely huge crowd of people – evidently everyone else had been just as ready for a saturday out as they had!

It was a great day out, in Nate’s opinion – games, food, a day in the sun – but, as the evening started to crawl closer, the lycanroc found themselves wandering around the fairground proper, peeking into the occasional tent or storage area to see what was around.

One of the tents, marked helpfully “parade supplies”, drew their attention the most. Inside was… gas. Helium tanks, it looked like? 

Probably for filling parade balloons! Shame this parade didn’t really have any, it seemed like a simple marching band affair.

Glancing around to make sure nobody was watching, the lycanroc slipped into the tent – stepping over a few discarded yellow and white balloons to stand over one of the closer tanks. Maybe…

Without a second thought – perhaps even on impulse – the lycanroc stuffed the tank’s hose in their mouth and turned the valve until it was fully open.

Cool helium rushed into their snout, the cold sensation of gas hissing out of their nose lasting only a moment before something… fascinating began to occur.

Their usually grey nose began to swell, turning a soft pink as the smell of rubber filled their focus! Nate’s lupine snout began to round out slightly, being overtaken with soft yellows and browns and whites as it began to swell and stretch into something resembling a cartoonishly proportioned canine snout!

To say Nate was suddenly excited was an understatement – in fact, if the tank hadn’t already been opened as far as it could be they would’ve turned it higher!

“Mmph!” The lycanroc giggled, the cool helium gas starting to flow into their tummy proper, straining it against their clothes. Their usually red eyes first stained a light purple, before lightening into an almost electric blue – flattening out along with their nose and facial features into cartoony collie decals as their hair stretched and recolored into a rubbery blond mop!

Their overall proportions were shifting steadily, added height and lost weight starting to press Nate against the ceiling of the tent, even as their forepaws swelled and fused into huge, inflatable collie mitts, tearing the sleeves of their shirt!


The first tank trickled to a stop, and with their huge unwieldy paws they weren’t getting another hose in their snout anytime soon.

Resorting to simply shoving their mouth over another tank, the mostly-collie grinned as the valve fell to the floor, tank stuck in the on position!

Their tail exploded outwards, huge and see-through yellow and brown latex wagging in the evening air outside now that they effectively took up most of the space. 

Rounding out further and further, Nate (or was it Cai?) dropped to all fours as their proportions shifted into something more befitting a parade collie, finally tearing free of the tent just as their changes drew to a close!

Little ropes tied themselves around the hooks on the collie’s paws, tethering them to the fairground just in time for the band to arrive for parade practice!

Their mind was a bit fuzzy for a moment, before it hit them – of course they were a parade collie, right? A big balloon dog for a dog days festival!

Besides, what kind of parade didn’t have balloons?


Tal Rethrin.

A backwater even when the megacorps of the Core Realms paid it heed, it had remained stagnant and remote for nearly four centuries by the time the Farsight’s meandering across the stars had brought it there. A haven for pirates, smugglers, and worse, it had seemed like the perfect place to disappear from the Confederacy at large – something Cai, fleeing the retribution of the House Manache, sought greatly.

Now, eight years later, he wasn’t so sure he’d have ever made the same mistake, given another chance.

Tev was a frontier town at best – cobbled together from repurposed starship parts and scrap brought in from offworld. It stood stark against the steppe it sprouted from like a hardy metallic shrub, all pale yellow chemlights and empty warehouses awash with rust and rainwater. A flashstorm had swept in from the steppes a few minutes earlier, bathing the weathered buildings in blinding rain and whipping wind. Luckily, he’d managed to tug his hood up in time – the hard patter of rain against it drowning out the voice in his earpiece he’d been idly chatting with.

It was just as well, really – he’d found not a single trace of the person he’d been after, yet.

Sighing, the rabbit spotted something blinking through the rain – a sign, of some description. While within the Core most signage was either holographic or AR enhanced, out here on the Rim neon signs were cheaper and easier to acquire – and this one was no different. A flickering, barely-working sign for a bar, shining like a beacon through the stormy night.

Pushing the door open, he was surprised to find it was rather nice inside – a wood finish, hardwood floors, and even a clean bartop, a sleepy bartender polishing a glass as thunder roared outside. It was one of those “throwback” taverns – one meant to resemble the early 23rd century, if he had to guess.

A few patrons were seated here and there, asleep at tables or busying themselves with their own matters. Discrete ID scans showed none were even present within the registry – though, curiously, someone here was. Unfortunately, it was impossible to tell exactly who without a direct scan – which he didn’t have time for.

“You’re not from ’round here, huh?”

The rabbit blinked. The bartender had stopped rubbing the glass with the cloth, his augmetic eyes looking him over with an almost appraising glance. “Let me guess. Spacer?”

Cai nodded.

“Bah. Not many new faces in Tev, kid. You get used to the same clientele pretty quickly.”

Shrugging, the rabbit slid onto a barstool. “Just a beer works, for now.”

The bartender busied himself with putting away the glass and fetching a bottle of beer, before wandering back over. “So what brings a spacer to our little slice of rust and dirt?”

“Looking for someone.”

“Oh?” The bartender asked slowly, choosing his words carefully. Interesting. 

“I pursued a starship from Callephon, over in Directorate space. The last buoy ping was here, at Tal Rethrin – and, seeing as Tev’s the only settlement, I’d imagine he came through here.”

The bartender raised an eyebrow.

“Danik Tulley. Former,” The rabbit placed emphasis on the word, “chairman of the now-defunct Teller Hypercomms.”

“Haven’t seen any chairmen come through,” The bartender shrugged, suddenly very focused on the glass he was cleaning again. “Same six clients, day in, day out.” 

“Not chairmen. Chairman.”

“The only chairs I’ve seen are the ones you’re currently sitting in.”

“Well that’s funny.”

The rabbit snapped his fingers, the zero-field projectors in his gloves sparking to life in glittering fractals of AR light.

“Unlike most of your patrons, Tulley has a registered biometric ID – a legacy of living his high life in the Core. And, funnily enough, I’m the only person here who should have a registered ID… yet,”

Twirling his hand slightly, the local infonet was parsed and filtered, the mystery tag in question displaying in fuzzy white.

“This should be clear, but it’s scrambled. Why, on a world so far from the heart of the Confederacy lacking proper biometric scanning and logkeeping, would someone need to scramble their ID?”

The bartender had stopped smiling, staring the rabbit straight in the eyes. Cai, ever cautious, cast a glance over his shoulder.

The bar was empty.

The patrons had long gone, knowing damn well when to get out to avoid any trouble.

“I’ll give you until the count of ten to get the hell out of my bar.”

“Now,” Cai shrugged, taking a sip from his bottle. “That’s no way to treat a customer.”

The next few moments were a blur; the bartender’s hands darted for something under the bar, and Cai whipped the bottle across his face – shattering it in a glittering shower of glass and spilt beer, spinning the man backwards as the handgun he’d been going for loudly clattered to the floor. Vaulting the bar, he sent a clenched fist into the stunned man’s nose, feeling it crunch slightly beneath his blow – broken, at the very least. The man’s eyes rolled back, his arms going limp as he sunk into unconsciousness. Once assured the man wouldn’t be shooting him in the back, Cai pocketed the bartender’s weapon and drew his own sidearm, idly tapping his earpiece twice.

One click came in reply – Rembrandt was now watching from far, far above.

Kicking the door to the back open, Cai swept the small hallway with his sidearm’s flashlight. Two rooms, both closed – and silent. The ever-present sound of rain hammered against the roof, overpowering even his own footsteps as he crept over to the first door, keying the access pad and pressing his back to the wall as the door slowly slid open.

Fortunately, it was merely a storage room – alcohol, various supplies, and a deactivated cleaning droid. Curiously, a small cot was set up in the back, along with an empty plate and a bottle. Someone had been here – and recently. The bartender obviously didn’t live in his business, so that crossed him off… but a bed and food wasn’t enough to go on. He needed a face. The second door slid open much slower – the roar of the storm growing much, much louder as it was revealed to be not a room, but an exit. Beyond the door, a small alleyway ran – bisecting this small block in an expanse of rain-soaked, dingy metal.


“Already on it. Heat sig’s moving down the alley to your right, and fast. Looks like whoever’s running has the Devil on his heels.”

Cai closed the channel without another word, sprinting into the storm. The rain and wind tore at his clothes and his face, but he caught a glimpse of his quarry exiting the alley into the street – the silhouette of a boar, outlined against the ever-present yellow indirect glow of chemlights. Danik Tulley.

“Overlay his route with my fastest intercept, Rembrandt. I’ve chased him far enough already.”


In the upper right corner of his vision, a local map appeared – Tulley’s path outlined in red, and his suggested route in a bright blue. A circle was marked a short distance away, presumably the intercept.

“He’s fast. I’d suggest hurrying.”

Cai nodded, hanging a left and splashing up a waterlogged alleyway.

Tev was a warren of darkened paths – a mess of crisscrossed alleys and streets, haphazard buildings and nonstandard construction. Wires ran overhead, darkening the already grey sky, as rusted gutters overflowed with the pounding rain. Waterfalls of dirty water poured over the rabbit as he sprinted, eyes focused almost entirely on the map, before he shoulder-rammed his way through a chain-link gate and skidded to a stop in the middle of a wider, covered pathway. To his left, rounding the corner, the man he’d been chasing skidded to a stop, eyes darting wildly for another way out – and, finding none, hardened with resolve.

“You’re not the first fucker to hunt me down!” Danik spat, extending both arms as he spread his stance. Strength augments in his wrists lit up a bright yellow as his palms flickered to glowing electrical life, and he brought both fists up. “And you won’t be the last!”

With that, the boar charged – crossing the distance between the two far faster than Cai had thought possible. His sidearm was only barely up when Tulley’s multi-augment amplified fist slammed into his unarmoured stomach, sending the rabbit doubling over as white-hot fire shot through him. Being soaked to the bone was an absolute detriment – amplifying the punch the shock implants packed tenfold. He was knocked backwards, sidearm skidding away into the darkness.

Danik laughed, augments steaming slightly as they vented heat. “You fuckers all think you’re the biggest kid on the block, huh? Don’t look so damn tough to me.”

Gritting his teeth, Cai pulled himself together enough to spit – and rolled away from his assailant, coming up unarmed and at a definite disadvantage.

“Hah! Perhaps I was too hasty,” the boar grinned, lifting his fists a second time.

“Come on, bounty hunter! Make my god-damned day!”

The rabbit’s gaze darted right and left, trying to find anything he could use to his advantage. Unfortunately, this pathway seemed to be a disused industrial corridor – clear, and empty. There was no way he’d be able to take the boar in a fistfight, but…

A flash of gold caught his attention – Rembrandt had overlayed his sidearm with a marker. He’d have to thank him later.

Unfortunately, the weapon had slid backwards, resting much closer to Tulley than was comfortable. He might be able to just barely make it, though…

Figuring he’d be dead either way, the rabbit pushed off with his right foot, footfalls echoing down the corridor as he propelled himself with reckless abandon towards the discarded sidearm, barely registering the boar’s surprise at being charged. The momentary pause was all that saved him – he hit the ground just as a blow that would’ve cut him in half sailed past his nose, skidding across the bumpy and broken duracrete. He madly grabbed at his pistol as he slid by it, bringing it up as Danik’s face twisted into a mask of fury, a roar of hatred tearing at his ears.

The shot rang out like a clap of thunder, Cai’s trusty Ikolos plasma/ballistic handgun propelling an infused round into the boar’s shoulder – but he just kept coming, screaming obscenities even with a hole through him.

“I’m gonna rip you limb from limb, you little bastard! You hear me?!” The boar’s supercharged punch slammed into the ground just as Cai rolled out of the way, sending spiderweb cracks spiraling off from the impact and flecks of duracrete flying into the air.

“I’m gonna shove that gun so far up your-“

In his panic, Cai squeezed the trigger a second time, this time punching right through the boar’s stomach – staggering him backwards and halting his second blow, even as he panted, breath heavy with anger and pain.

“You… motherfucker…” Tulley rasped, dropping to a knee as both hands cupped his stomach, blood pooling around his feet.

Cai, for once, had no reply – the pistol rattling in his grasp as he pulled the trigger a final time.

The round caught the boar just above his right eyebrow – and, as he faltered, Cai for a moment thought the monster might keep coming. This wasn’t to be however, as his eyes rolled back and he fell to the ground, face-first.


Cai allowed himself to exhale, the adrenaline rush he was in starting to abate as the pain from his likely-broken ribs began to make itself known, his whole midsection sore.

“Fuck! Motherfucking augmetic!”

He pushed himself to his feet, giving the corpse a kick for good measure, before tapping his earpiece. “He’s history.”

“You killed him?” Rembrandt asked, shocked. “The bounty said alive!”

“No choice!” Cai replied, gritting his teeth as he fumbled with his first aid tool, injecting a cocktail of biorepair nanites and painkillers to stop the worst of his injuries from being disturbed on the way back to the ship. “You neglected to mention Danik Tulley having military grade augmetics, Rembrandt! I wouldn’t have brought just a pistol if I knew he could punch a hole in a starship hull!”

“That… was not part of his record.”

“No shit!”

“Where did a man like Danik Tulley get those…?”

“Where do these bastards get ANY of their stuff?” The rabbit grunted, idly glancing at the map of Tev. Long walk back.

“Well, bring him back as best you’re able. An autopsy might tell us more.”

Cai glanced over his shoulder at the mountain of a boar, before frowning.

“…I’m gonna need a drone to help.”

Starlight Ballet

“Hold still.”

The rabbit fussed, fidgeting slightly as their suit jacket was adjusted, ever so slightly. They felt trapped, imprisoned by stuffy clothing and dressed to the nines. “Do I really have to wear this? Why can’t I just wear my normal clothes?”

“Because,” The tailor tutted, tapping the end of the rabbit’s nose with a finger. “The Starlight Ballet is one of the most prestigious events in the Republic. Nobility from across the stars will be visiting, tonight – including, I might remind you, those from your own Capellan League. So please be on your best behavior?”

Cai sighed, allowing the suit to be properly fitted and tailored. Honestly, they preferred… literally anything other than this, truth be told. When they’d signed up for the Duke Manache’s security detail they’d been expecting… well, security. Action. Instead they’d been shunted off into the care of one of the Duke’s many underlings, a small-time noble from the world of Olesia – the Countess Marie Lagonne. She was nice enough, he supposed, but… 

“There. This is as nice as I can make you.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“You can only do so much,” The tailor tutted again, starting to re-pack her things. “The Countess expects you to look the part, and I managed. Barely.”

With that, she left – leaving the rabbit slightly bewildered, staring after her. 

And so it went. 

New London, the crown jewel of the Centauri Republic, glittered and sparkled beneath the early Autumn night sky. Dazzling arrays of colored ferroglass, glinting in ever-changing sparkling patterns, shifted above the great hall’s yawning entrance as they slowly made his way through the shifting, gossipping crowd. Nobility from across the Confederacy mingled, here – and some from beyond, a quiet trade magnate discussing his holdings in the Shoals sliding by the rabbit as gracefully as he could manage. It was dizzying, and they almost felt like a ship on a storm-tossed sea.

“Out of your element?” A voice crackled in their ear, full of mirth.

“A bit,” The rabbit sighed, sliding by a pair of Centauri men idly surveying the crowd. “I’m not a fan of crowds.”

“It’s usually less,” The voice shrugged. “This is by far the busiest I’ve seen this place in years.”

Cai scoffed. “Lucky me.”

“Look, just get to the atrium, okay? The Countess is due any minute.”


They tapped their earpiece once – the little click it made the “agree” signal they and the other member of the security detail, a tall, lithe puma by the name of Janos Locke, had agreed on.

The atrium – formally called the “Star Gallery” – was packed full of people, the floor having been cleared for the ball days prior. The First Citizen, a short, stern man by the name of Gallas Quinelle, sat on the far side of the room in his rose-adorned throne, watching the mingling crowds with a detached disinterest. A number of scions drifted around him, vying for conversation with the single most powerful man in the Republic.

The Marquis deLande, strutting onto the central stage with the flair of a self-assured rooster, cleared his throat loudly into a microphone until the room quieted down. The few remaining conversations Cai could hear as they slid into their assigned guard spot regarded the Marquis himself, about some ridiculous rumor that deLande was of Terran birth.

Petty idiots.

“The world of Taion bids you all welcome, on this night of the Starlight Ballet,” deLande rumbled, his deep, bassy voice accentuating the quiet violins being played by the omnipresent holographic orchestra as the lights dimmed, the domed ceiling of the great atrium becoming speckled with holographic starlight. “At the behest of our august First Citizen, the Republic holds this event on the Decennial – a tradition as old as the Centauri Republic. For four hundred years our Republic has seen peace, prosperity, and ascension without end – a credit to both the people of the Republic, and the steady hand of House Quinelle. And so, as the twin moons of Taion rise in the star-studded sky above, I formally declare the fortieth Starlight Ballet… begun.”

He bowed as applause filled the room, swiftly exiting the stage as a pair of familiar faces slid through the crowd, ignoring their courtiers that drifted after them like lost ducklings. The pale, well-kept features of the Count and Countess Lagonne, dressed in matching, immaculately tailored outfits, traded a nod with both Cai and Janos as they glanced from left to right. The Count and Countess shared a quick, whispered conversation, before deciding to part ways from each other – and their small crowd of courtiers, suddenly forced to choose between the two as the Count crossed the floor to the Centauri nobility that gathered around the First Citizen.

Still, Cai couldn’t help but be surprised as the Countess detached from her small crowd of courtiers, drifting over to where the rabbit stood watching the rest of the room as the first dances began.

“Ah, Kellen. Your first Starlight Ballet, is it?”

The rabbit nodded. “Yes, milady.”

“What do you think?”

“It’s…” They searched for a word. “…intriguing.”

“It’s okay to say you don’t like it,” She chuckled, looking him over. “It’s clear you’d rather be in battle dress than fancy dress.”

“That obvious, huh?”

She nodded, sipping from the crystal decanter she held. “Some men are made for this, some are not. There’s no shame in admitting you’re out of your element.”

“I… suppose so, milady.”

“Bah. Supposition is a weak man’s game, Kellen. You know so. I myself inspected you upon your assignment to my security detail, you are not a weak man.”

Cai nodded.

“And as such… you may call me Marie, if you so wish.”

The rabbit stood a little straighter, processing the statement. A noble’s first name was a right few were given – and being on a first name basis was… unheard of. They supposed their job as her protector made it less rigidly stratified, but still…

“I’ll keep it in mind, milady.”

The Countess chuckled, finally deeming her time spent with the obviously uncomfortable rabbit as drawing to an end. “Do enjoy yourself, Mr. Kellen. Have a drink. I sincerely doubt security is needed, tonight.”

She tapped her earpiece. “The same applies to you, Mr. Locke.”

The channel crackled. “Yes, milady.” 

With that, she vanished into the crowd, leaving the bemused rabbit to wonder how to spend the rest of their evening. 

The rest of the Ballet passed with relative ease, though at the tail end of the night a courtier needed to be calmed down as their alcohol got the better of them. They’d tried being nice, but once a fist slammed into their chin for telling the man he’d had enough the poor courtier had seen just how it felt to be thrown out on one’s head.

Now, with the last of the guests filing out of the Star Gallery, Cai finished their last glass of imported Capellan whiskey, sitting it neatly on the catering cart as the drone slowly whirred it away.

“Told you it’d be easy.”

“You didn’t say that.” 

Janos chuckled. “Well, I thought it would be. These nobles are all the same – though being relieved for the night was new.”

“I wonder why she did that.”

“Who knows?” The puma cast a quick glance around, before lighting a cigarette. “Maybe she was tired of acting? Bored? Curious how you’d react? It’s hard to tell with the Countess, easier to just go with it.”

“I guess.”

Janos took a long, drawn-out drag of his cigarette, exhaling smoke into the crisp air of the atrium, before seemingly remembering there was someone else there and offering a second.


“Suit yourself.”

“I should probably head back, anyway,” Cai yawned, checking the time on their holopad. Nearly midnight Taion standard, meaning their shift had truthfully ended an hour ago. Oh, well. Overtime, right?

“Catch you next time.”

Cai nodded, before starting the long walk out of the Gallery into the bustling metropolitan nightscape that was New London.

They had the feeling tonight was the beginning of something, but… 

They weren’t sure what, just yet.

Data Courier

Hand over hand.

Peg, pipe, crevice – they shimmied and climbed and grabbed at every possible handhold, working their way across the endless terraces and promenades of Tierdra’s Whitestone districts. The sun actually shone, here – plants of wild variety sprouting from rooftop gardens, tended by glittering automata and underpaid, tired gardeners. Rooftop pools, glittering glass faces – they even stopped to adjust their hair in a window, once.

Running was their job. Ever since they’d been hired by a syndicate in the underlevels a year ago, they’d been a data courier – sometimes legitimate, sometimes… not.

Their routes changed regularly, and as they vaulted over yet another railing they plummeted just a bit further than they would’ve liked – despite looking down, they still missed a step.

They landed, hard – dazed, head spinning. The rabbit had tripped and knocked the wind out of themself, but as they gazed skyward… they noticed for the first time how pretty the sky was.

Beneath the towering spires and glittering edifices of the city, the sky was a luxury – only the well-off saw the clouds, the birds, the remnants of New Lisbon’s past. The Old City lay beneath, covered up, buried by six hundred years of constant regrowth and construction.

Up here, though…

The sky was a beautiful mix of blues, reds, and pinks – the first tinges of Capella’s setting staining the white clouds shades they couldn’t describe. White, fluffy seabirds flitted about in the evening sky, intersparsed with the occasional aircar or transport ferrying someone elsewhere in the city.

High, high above, starships made orbit – lit by the setting sun, glittering against the sky like shooting stars.

Cai had spent much of their life up to now looking down – at their work, at the data they was supposed to scurry across the rooftops with, at the world beneath their feet. For the first time, their gaze was drawn upwards – at the worlds beyond their sky, and the stars.

“Hey, kid!”

Cai blinked, gaze drawn back from their thoughts to the here and now. A raven was leaning over him, concern written across their face. “You okay? That was some fall.”

“O-Oh! Uh. Yeah,” They replied sheepishly, pushing themself up and dusting themself off as much as they really could. The ghost of a headache panged at the back of their mind, but…

“Well, good!” The raven replied, crossing his arms. “Mind telling me what the hell you’re doing on the campus of Tyne Industries?”

“…Just dropping in?” Cai replied hastily, already looking around for a way out of this – but, luckily, the bird chuckled.

“Just get the hell outta here, okay? I don’t want to have to call security.”

The rabbit flashed a quick, cheeky salute, before hurrying off.

By now, the sun was setting properly – vanishing beneath the waters of the distant sea to the east, staining the world a myriad of dark reds and purples. Their destination, as it were, sat in one of the highest spires of the district – the offices of one Ingrid Walhafen. Openly, she was the marketing director of one of the Capellan League’s largest corporations, Concord Astroengineering.

To Cai, she provided one of the most stable sources of courier jobs in the city – and tonight was no different.

Pulling themself up over the edge of the office’s landing pad, the bunny trotted the short distance to the office’s executive entrance and entered their personal code – stepping back as the door slid open a moment later. The interior of Walhafen’s offices were pristine, something that they always felt they clashed with, scuffed and dirty from their scrabbling across rooftops and up chutes.

Still, as they made their way through the offices, her office was less imposing. A simple real wooden door, metal knob standing out starkly with the digital locks many of the doors in this building held. They supposed it fit her character – real wood was beyond expensive these days, and a knob? It creaked slightly when turned, allowing the occupants to know someone was coming.

And know, she did.

“You’re early.”

Cai blinked. The marten behind the desk steepled her fingers, but gestured to the seat in front of her with a slight nod. “I trust the data I asked for made it safely?”

Cai nodded, keying the small datacarrier on their hip and holding out the crystal it ejected.

The marten gently took it from them, inserting it into her terminal and beginning to look over the contents.


As she perused their ill-gotten gains, the rabbit’s gaze began to wander around her office. Potted plants, paintings… and a picture.

The picture wasn’t particularly special – a family outing, perhaps. Walhafen, and another person leaning against a railing.

It was where it was taken that astounded them.

Beyond the window they stood in front of lay the beautiful rings of some exotic, far-off world – icy rocks and glittering stone in gravity’s eternal ballet, the gold and tan hues of the planet’s atmosphere making the image almost surreal.

“All seems to be in order. I’ll have the usual amount sent…”

She seemed to have noticed their preoccupation, business facade cracking slightly as she followed their gaze to the image.

“I see you’ve noticed my newest addition.”

“I… er, I have, ma’am.”

“It’s from a recent trip to Sol,” She replied, smiling for what possibly might be the first time he could remember. “Concord sent me as a product ambassador, and I took my sister along. This was at Galileo, around Saturn.”

Cai didn’t know where any of these places were – or what they even were, but they nodded along.

“They tout themselves as the finest dining in the Sol system! Pah. I’ve had nicer food at street vendors here in Tierdra,” She chuckled, noting for the first time the confusion scribbled across the hare’s face.

“…You don’t know much about the Confederacy at large, I take it.”

Cai shook their head. “No, ma’am. Just the dirt beneath my feet and the stars.”

A wistful expression crossed her face.

“I’ve been all over, it seems. Would you like me to show you?”

Cai… nodded, slowly.

“I would.”

“Well!” She clapped her hands together, the desk’s holographic displays flickering to life – with maps, and stars.

“As a girl, I hailed from the world of Olesia…”