“Wait, look Brzko, what are they doing?” The Muse of Mischief asked. She and Agent Brzko were the last to arrive, the rest of their group had been on the terrace long enough to have enjoyed a few espidruns. They had some catching up to do.

“It almost looks like they are trying to balance full shots of espidrun on their noses.” He answered.

“Well that hardly seems like a fair contest, Ferocity has a snout!”

“Oh! Did you see that? Zri just spilt his. He’s really changed hasn’t he, relaxed a bit.”

“Yeah, somewhat. He still takes the work seriously, maybe he’s just learning to accept himself.”

“Good point. Are you ready to go down and join them M?”

She nodded, took his hand, and started walking down the stairs. About halfway down she announced their arrival. “You better not have finished off that bottle before we got here!” She teased.

“M! Brzko! You’re here.” Lelelu called, excited.

“Ah, it’s just like you to keep us waiting M.” Bartala teased.

“What makes you think it was me, maybe I was waiting for Brzko.”

Everyone just laughed at M’s attempt at pretending to be insulted.

“Who’s pouring?” Brzko asked, taking a seat between Ferocity and Xiix. Lelelu took care of his requesting, refilling everyone else’s glass except Xiix’s.

Have I offended you in some way Lelelu?” He projected.

“No Xiix but you still have some in your glass.”

Ah yes, but it is only the steam I find appealing.” He projected.

Ferocity leaned forward, reaching in front of Brzko, he grabbed the glass, quickly drank the remaining espidrun and said, “There, problem solved.” as he returned the glass to Xiix, smiling and showing all of his teeth.

Lelelu just shook her head and pretended to be annoyed while she filled Xiix’s glass and a few others.

M stood and raised her glass, “A toast!” Everyone lifted their glasses, “To my oldest friend Kufeter Whakeclyte Wissswara Bartapulnye, we are thankful to you for joining us, all the better for having you, welcome to the group!”

“Welcome!” Everyone yelled or projected.

“Thank y…”

“Whakeclyte? Your first name is actually Whakeclyte?” Zri teased.

“Mmmm, this from a being that has a single name, but masks his true form when in the company of others.” Bartala teased back.

“Touchdown Bartala, touchdown.” Zri said.

M choked, she laughed so hard that espidrun flew out of her nose.

“Do you mean touché Zri?” Brzko asked laughing.

“Yes! That’s it touché! What is a touchdown?”

“Uh, something that would take time and visual aids to explain.” Brzko answered.

“It’s a term from a contact sport played on the barbaric place where M and Brzko were raised, Earth.” Bartala said.

“Really? Contact sports? That place is worse than I thought.” Zri said.

Bartala nodded in agreement. “So what do we call ourselves?”

“What are you talking about darling?” Nalau asked.

“M said welcome to the group. What is this group called?”

No one made a sound. “Uhhhh we don’t really have a group name Bartala, it’s not a clubhouse ya know.” M said.

“We need a name. How will people refer to us – you know that group that consists of two Clyreans, two Ploosnarians, a Trelod, a Dragon, a Gaznzulian, and a Suus?” He asked sarcastically as he refilled glasses.

“The Regulators!” Zri said, excited.

“Zri, have you been watching Earth television?” M asked.

“Uh, yes. There is something called westerns. Have you heard of them?”

M and Brzko both laughed. “Yes Zri, we’ve heard of westerns. Be careful, too much Earth television will rot your brain.” Brzko said. Zri leaned back in his chair to consider this as though it would actually make his brain begin to rot.

“Coalition.” Nalau said quietly.

“What was that my love?” Bartala asked.

“We are a coalition, are we not?”

“Yes, we definitely are a coalition.” M said. “But that sort of suggests a temporary bonding.”

“Guild.” Brzko said.

“That is a perfect word to describe us.” Bartala said. Everyone agreed.

“But we can’t be just the Guild” He said.

“Why is a name so important to you Bartala?” M asked.

Before he could answer Xiix projected, “It provides a sense of belonging, acceptance.

“Exactly.” Bartala added.

Lelelu who thus far had been quiet spoke up, “Everything we do is within the Cosmos.”

“The Cosmos Guild? It doesn’t sound quite right.” M said.

“Advocates.” Ferocity said. Everyone looked at him.

It hit the Muse of Mischief then, she stood and raised her glass. “To the Advocates of the Cosmos!”

            And so it began. With glasses raised, standing in a circle, are two immortal Clyreans, a  blue Trelod, a fire breathing Dragon, two royal Ploosnarians, a reflective Gaznzulian, and a four armed Suus.



The Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko have been traveling the Universe and working with a vast number of species, in a vast number of places for decades now – but they have never seen an event like this one – the ascension of a new Emperor on Ploosnar.

This ascension ceremony was unlike any of the previous ceremonies on Ploosnar. When Bartala became Emperor, his father had died unexpectedly while traveling, there was a small ceremony held inside the palace, with only Ploosnarians in attendance. But today was much different.

In order to accommodate the huge crowd, consisting of Ploosnarians, Dragons, Suus, Gaznzulians, and many other species, a huge outdoor arena has been created. It’s a theatre really, there is a small stage in the center. From there, the land gently slopes up and out in all directions – it’s as if the stage is in the center of a large bowl. The gentle slopes are covered in finely manicured grass, the blue grass that is used all over Ploosnar. The top of each slope has been decorated with huge emerald green flags. They billow in the gentle breeze. Between each flag stands three Dragons. The slopes are filled with observers.

From their position near the stage, M and Brzko look around, observing the crowd. “How many?” She asks.

He continues to survey the slopes turning to look over his shoulder. “There’s got to be thousands.”

“Ten thousand.” Zri interjects from next to them.

Lelelu, at his side turns and looks up the slopes, taking it all in. “Are the Dragon’s planning something Ferocity?”

He grins, exposing his jagged teeth, and nods in affirmation.

The crowd suddenly goes silent as Emperor Bartala, wearing his crown, takes the stage. He turns back to the steps and offers his hand to Empress Nalau as she joins him on the stage, also wearing her crown. Looking more beautiful than ever, they stand arms linked, waving to the crowd in all directions. Everyone in attendance applauds, whistles, shouts – whatever their custom dictates – and the sound is deafening. Bartala and Nalau let them continue on for a moment, just standing in their brilliant blue attire. The sun is catching the crystals on the crowns, throwing brilliant blue flares of light around the crowd.

Bartala steps away from his wife and that cues everyone to be silent. Instead of speaking, he and Nalau step apart and welcome Wisssi and Nguvu to the stage. The crowd goes wild again, this time they don’t want to stop. Wisssi and Nguvu take a tour around the stage, waving in every direction. Finally it begins to quiet.

Wisssi steps away from Nguvu and stands before his father, Empress Nalau stands before Nguvu.

“Ezopica Mischievous Wisssdartai, I am honored to have a son and heir such as you. Ploosnar will flourish with you as Emperor.” Bartala began. “I Kufeter Whakelyte Wissswara Bartapulnye hereby pass the title of Emperor of Ploosnar to you, with all of its responsibility, authority, and amenities. If you accept this bestowment willingly, kneel and accept the crown of the Emperor of Ploosnar.”

Wisssi kneels in front of his father, Nguvu kneels in front of his mother. In the final act as Emperor of Ploosnar, Emperor Bartala removes the crown from his own head with both hands and places it on Wisssi’s head. Empress Nalau removes her crown and places it on Nguvu’s head. As Emperor Wisssi and Empress Nguvu stand to face the crowd as officials of Ploosnar for the first time, Bartala and Nalau discreetly leave the stage.

Each of the Dragons at the top of the slope roar loudly as they tilt their heads back and breathe a long stream of fire straight up. The glow that it creates is amazing. The crowd goes wild again. Wisssi and Nguvu stand arm and arm on the stage.

“M.” She turns and sees Bartala at her shoulder. “M we’re ready to get out of here, can you and Brzko take us to Misko now.” He looks toward the stage.

“Of course, let’s go.” She takes his arm and goes to Misko. Brzko takes Nalau’s arm and follows.

“Wow.” M said. “I really like the way you Ploosnarians keep things short and sweet.”

“For real.” Brzko said. “There are places where it would have taken days of ceremony to name a new Emperor.”

“Who has time to waste?” Bartala said. “Wisssi has an empire to run and we have beings that need our help. But first, we have espidrun to drink. Shall we meet you on the terrace after we change?”

“Of course! We’ll see you there.” M said. As she and Brzko turned toward their house, they could hear both Lelelu and Ferocity’s ships landing.


“Are you nervous?” Agent Brzko asked the Muse of Mischief as he circled her, making sure there wasn’t a single thread out of place.

“Me? No I do this stuff all the time. But hey, let’s take a few shots before the ceremony begins. Just to relax.” She smiled at him. In truth she is nervous. It’s one thing to rescue a being from pending doom, or track someone that’s become lost, but being part of a wedding – that was trying her nerves.

M is wearing a brilliant blue suit – Wisssi had Schatorren make it for her. The back collar stands taller than her head, creating a frame. The suit is identical to Wisssi’s except that it is tailored to fit her body.

The wedding ceremony is smallish, and taking place on Misko. Wisssi and Nguvu both insist that this part of the day must be intimate. There are around thirty guests waiting for them on the beach. The ceremony will be led by Whotov.

There’s a knock at the door, but before either of them can move to answer… “M, M, are you ready?” It’s Wisssi.

“Yes Wisssi, I’m ready. Are you and Nguvu ready?”

“Yes, she’s outside. Let’s go.”

M turned and looked at Brzko, it is his cue to leave. He should already be on the beach before they arrive. He kisses her cheek, pats Wisssi on the shoulder and heads to the beach.

“You look fantastic Wisssi.” M says.

“Thank you M.” He reaches for her, pulls her in and holds her close. “I’m honored to have been named after you. I’m lucky to have an autaunia like you – thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”

“Oh Wisssi, you were also named after your father.” She said, downplaying her importance in his life.

He laughed. “Yes, and he has been a great father. But not nearly as much fun as you Autaunia M. You showed me things in the Universe that he’s never seen. And without you, I never would have met Nguvu.”

“Oh, yeah, I guess I did that didn’t I.”

“Shall we?”

He took her arm and gestured toward the door. They step outside and see Ferocity and Nguvu just ahead of them on the path to the beach. They follow in silence.

The guests are seated in a semicircle, looking out at the ocean. In front of them stands Whotov. Now too old to butler for Ferocity, but still residing with him as a companion. His pale grey hair makes his brilliant blue eyes even brighter. M and Wisssi pause at the edge of the beach and let Ferocity and Nguvu make their entrance. Silence falls as the crowd sees her – today she wears a string of leel flowers around her neck. Courtesy of Ciic of course. She stands before Whotov with Ferocity at her side. Wisssi walks toward them, M following close behind. He sneaks a glance at his parents, tears are streaming down his father’s face. He breaks from the expected progression and greets his father, hugging him, sharing words that only he can hear. They continue on until Wisssi is next to Nguvu. He reaches for her hand and they face Whotov together.

“Loved ones we are here today to witness the joining of Ezopica Mischievous Wisssdartai and Nguvu the Dragon. Who will stand with them today?” Whotov begins.

“I will!” M and Ferocity answer in unison.

Whotov nods to Wisssi, indicating it’s time for his vows.

“My dear Nguvu, I will forever walk beside you, I give myself to you. Will you walk beside me, grow old with me?”

Nguvu met his gaze. “Wisssi, I will forever walk beside you, I give myself to you, and I will be honored to grow old with you.”

“Friends!” Whotov called. “I present to you Ezopica Mischievous Wisssdartai and Nguvu the Dragon – husband and wife.”

Wisssi embraces Nguvu, kissing the tip of her snout -she surrounds him with her wings, embracing him. When she releases him they turn and look at the small crowd as an official couple for the first time. Everyone stands and begins coming forward to offer their congratulations. M steps back from the crowd and finds Brzko. He’s standing alone at the edge of the crowd. His long coat billows in the ocean breeze with the sun catching the small red paisleys on his vest.

“Damn you look good.” M says, hugging him.

“Thanks M.”

“Aren’t you glad I turned you on to Schatorren?”

He laughs. “Yes, but… “

“Hey you two! Isn’t this just amazing?” They turn to see Lelelu and Zri approaching.

“Le.” M greets her with a hug. “You look lovely today. The color of that dress makes your blue skin even more beautiful than ever.”

“Thank you,” she says twirling so that they can see her from all sides. “Zri helped me pick it out.” She turns and looks at Zri with an adoring look.

“Hmm.” Zri says, uncomfortable with the idea of discussing fashion.

“Friends! Are you ready to go? There’s one more ceremony to attend to today!” Bartala calls as he, Nalau, and Ferocity approach; saving Zri from having to discuss the finer points of fashion.

“Emperor, Empress, how…” Brzko says before Bartala interrupts him.

“Ahhhh Brzko, that will be one of the last times you can call us that. In a few hours Wisssi will become the Emperor of Ploosnar, and Nguvu the Empress.”

Ferocity makes ticking sounds, uttering something in an ancient Dragon language. Everyone looks at him. He realizes they heard him.

“I was just expressing my… surprise, or disbelief, that a Dragon will become the Empress of Ploosnar. It was not that long ago that Dragons chose to live in secret.”

“Does it displease you Fericity?” The Empress asked, unable to read him.

“No Empress, it does not displease me. I am honored, as are all Dragons. I remember when we rescued Nguvu from the stasis tube.” he looks off in the distance, recalling the unpleasant memory of the VReoria specimen ship.

They all stopped to recall the horrible conditions they had rescued so many beings from – and they all knew that there were more VReoria specimen ships, with more beings in need of rescue.

The Empress decided to move them along. “And look at her now Ferocity. Later today I will relinquish the title of Empress of Ploosnar to her. If you had not mentored her it would not have been possible. Do you remember how she used to breath fire with no warning, anytime she was upset?”

“Yes I remember.” Ferocity said. “It took some work to get that temper under control.”

“I can relate to that.” Brzko interjected.

They all looked at him and then realized he was speaking about The Muse of Mischief, so they looked at her.

“And your point is?” She said oozing with sarcasm. “A temper is just an untapped tool. SOME of us learn how to use it to our advantage.” She shrugged, making them all laugh.

“We should all go if we’re going to be on Ploosnar before the Emperor to be arrives.” Lelelu said, keeping them organized and on task as always.


The Muse of Mischief was surprised by the smell of Dragona. The strong scent of the red salty ocean water wafted up toward her. She was at the end of the walkway that connected the landing platform to the castle of the Great Assembly. She stood on one side with Agent Brzko and Ferocity, Emperor Bartala and Empress Nalau were on the opposite side.

Nguvu’s ship descended through the atmosphere almost silently, landing just as Ferocity’s ship had all those years ago when he was bonded to Agent Brzko. M looked over at her old friend Bartala just as the ship set down. He caught her glance and a grin spanned the entire width of his face. The ramp descended from the rear of the ship – everyone tensed. Nguvu came out first, she paused at the bottom of the ramp waiting for Ezopica Mischievous Wisssdartai, her bond, and soon to be her husband.

Wisssi had grown into a fascinating young man. He was more fond of business than his father, but he was also more mischievous, living up to the reputation of his namesake. Although Wisssi was taking today’s ceremonies seriously, he couldn’t help but dress with his usual flair. The suit he’d had made for this occasion was a brilliant scarlet color, trimmed in black. His hair was styled as his father had worn his many years ago – sticking straight up and forming a crown around the top of his head. He looked even more like Londo the science fiction character from Earth than his father ever did.

Nguvu began to walk past them with Wisssi following. When they exited the castle here today, it would be she who followed Wisssi, and when they complete their marriage ceremony later today, they will forever walk side by side.

The young dragon is also a bit rebellious – because she did not receive a normal upbringing on Dragona, she often struggles with the stringent customs. As she passes Ferocity she steps out of place to reach for his hand. He has recovered from his experience on Justea MJ, but his hands are forever scared from the fire balls. Nguvu never tires of hearing the story of how his Bond saved him. She continues past them without the traditional battle cry of the soon to be bonded Dragon.

As they progressed, the Dragons that had been standing still along the edges of the bridge begin to take flight. M was surprised by the wind they create and relieved that her derby is planted firmly on her head. She wants to ask Agent Brzko if it was like this when he arrived on Dragona to bond with Ferocity, but she doesn’t want to distract him.

The five of them follow behind Wisssi. Empress Nalau wearing a long black elegant gown with a long trail behind her. The fabric makes a wooshing sound as she progresses across the bridge.

At the door Nguvu raises her hands, makes fists and bangs one fist on each door twice. The huge doors open inward. It’s difficult to see inside the castle from outside, it’s dim. Nguvu takes Wisssi’s hand and steps over the threshold. The Muse of Mischief, Agent Brzko, Ferocity, Emperor Bartala, and Empress Nalau follow them in. They position themselves in a loose semicircle behind Nguvu and Wisssi.

Lord Brzko…” Ferocity projected, allowing M to hear his thoughts.

I know Ferocity, there must be three times as many Dragons in here today.

Today the walls were lined with rows of Dragons, they are grouped by the color of the cord that holds their medallions. The Dragons begin ticking, communicating in one of their ancient languages. Again Kwaii stands on a platform at the head of the room with the scepter topped with a glowing red orb. He raises the scepter and silence falls.

“As we have for millennia, Dragons bond to those that are worthy, those that are a positive force. Before us stands Nguvu, she comes to us today to be bonded. Nguvu! Present the Bond.” He raises the scepter and brings it to the floor, making a deep clanking sound.

“My fellow Dragons,” Nguvu said looking around the room, “Today I stand before you with Ezopica Mischievous Wisssdartai of Ploosnar. He lives in service to his people, ever diligent in their empowerment and their protection. He is worthy of a Dragon.” She took a half step to the side and turned to look at Wisssi.  He stepped forward with his head bowed.    

“Ezopica Mischievous Wisssdartai, Nguvu finds you worthy of bonding, you know that only death can break this bond, if you are willing to accept it then step forward and kneel before the Great Assembly, kneel before Dragona!” Kwaii said, again banging the scepter to the ground.

Just as Agent Brzko had done all those years ago, before Wisssi was born, Wisssi steps forward and takes a knee. “My Lord, it is my honor to accept Nguvu as my bonded Dragon.” He says as he bows his head.

She kneels beside him and whispers to him, “This is going to hurt, but it won’t last long.” He knew what to expect.

Kwaii extends the scepter toward them, the bolt of red light jumps from it and encloses Nguvu and Wisssi. In his mind, he’s seeing Nguvu’s life up to now – being a captive on a VReoria specimen ship and then placed in a stasis tube for what seemed to be an eternity. How had she not gone mad he wondered, just reliving it in this way was driving him to the edge. He couldn’t take much more, then the images changed, he was seeing her life after being freed. It finally ended, when the light disappeared his body lurched forward as though he had been leaning on a support that was removed. Nguvu quickly reached out to steady him.

“Stand!” Kwaii commanded. “You are now Ezopica Mischievous Wissdartai and his bonded Dragon Nguvu.”

The Dragons began ticking again. All at once they stopped. But instead of blending in and seeming to disappear, this time they come forward to mingle with the group of outsiders.

Things have changed since we were bonded here.” Brzko projected to Ferocity.

For the better Lord Brzko, for the Better.

The soon to be wed couple was surrounded by the Great Assembly, being congratulated. May of them will attend Wisssi’s ceremony on Ploosnar, but they can’t wait that  long to congratulate them. M makes her way over to the parents of the groom while Ferocity and Brzko are engaged with other Dragons. She has to wait for them to be free, the Dragons have many questions for them – they are all excited that a Dragon will become an official dignitary on Ploosnar later today.

Finally she was able to break in. “How are you two? A bit overwhelmed?”

“Oh no M, we do this all the time.” Bartala teased.

“I am.” Nalau said. “I admit it, this was an unbelievable experience. Being around all of these Dragons, it’s….” She threw up her hands with a beautiful smile upon her face.

“Agreed. It’s…” M said. “And we’re not done.”

They were nowhere near done for the day though.


“He is the youngest, the youngest ever.” Emperor Bartala said.

“Why are you doing this? Why are you deviating from the centuries old traditions of Ploonar?” The Muse of Mischief asked.

They were sitting on the patio of her and Agent Brzko’s home on Earth. Listening to the waves of the Pacific Ocean below them, she was trying to determine if her oldest friend was all right. Her first thought was that he may have been infected with mind altering bacteria.

“Wisssi will be the youngest Emperor that Ploosnar has ever had. Has any other ever surrendered the title to his offspring while still in his prime?” She asked.

“No  M. It’s never been done.”

“Then why Bartala, why are you doing this? With a lifespan of more than 200 years you’re really only in your prime.”

“Exactly.” He answered. “I’ve been thinking about his since you mentioned it.”

“Me? You’re going to put this on me?”

“You don’t remember.” He said. “You came to see me before you left for Clyrea X9 the first time. It was the time we taught Wisssi how to ‘raid the fridge’, as you say. You suggested that he could take over for me and I could work with Nalau.”

“That sounds like something I’d say.”

“So you see, this is your doing.”

She just looked at him, waiting for more. She wouldn’t let him off that easy. He’d be trapped here on Earth with her until she was satisfied with his answer.

He took a deep breath and slowly released it. “I envy you M. I’ve always envied your freedom. I don’t think I ever really held it against you, but I longed for it. When we were young we had great fun planet hopping and causing a little trouble. But then my father passed and I became the Emperor of Ploosnar. The position certainly has benefits, but for more than a decade now, I’ve watched you, and my wife, and my best friends make a difference in the Universe. And Wisssi has had plenty of time to explore and enjoy the freedom of his youth. He and Nguvu have been all over the Universe.”

“But…” She attempted to interrupt.

He held his hand up to silence her and continued. “I know what you’re going to say. I’ve made a difference on Ploosnar, and even to some degree throughout the Universe – like when I helped the Rogsaars get back to Myaad. I see the deep personal satisfaction that comes from the work all of you do, and I want that for myself. I also want a chance to share that with my wife. Wisssi will excel as the Emperor of Ploosnar. In fact, I suspect he may be a better Emperor than I ever was. He has new, innovative ideas about the roinad empire. He’s already expanded the market by working with the Dragons. At his age, he won’t let tradition stop him, he’ll forge a head in new directions and I think Ploosnar will be better for it.” He paused and took a sip from the fine china teacup beside him. “What do you call this stuff again?”


“I like this stuff, I REALLY like this stuff. I feel invigorated!” He said.

M just laughed at him.

“So if Wisssi becomes the Emperor of Ploosnar you’ll be homeless. What’s your plan?”

He looked at her and smiled.

“Oh I see.” She said sarcastically. “You want to live in the spare house on Misko.”

“Well you DID have it built for me and Empress Nalau – under different circumstances, but nonetheless.”

“Bartala you know I’d love to have you that close, even though it probably won’t be good for us.” They both laughed. “You realize that you’ll be taking orders from your wife right?”

“Yes. And I fail to see how that would be any different than it is now.”

“She has a full crew, they’ve been working well together for many years. Numia and her make a great team – they can anticipate each other’s needs when they’re working. How will you fit in?”

“It is a shame that Numia will never be able to return to her home, but she seems to enjoy her new life. I don’t intend to intrude on to my wife’s ship. I’m having my own built – I’m still the Emperor of Ploosnar, and can use the resources as I see fit.” They both laughed.

“Oh, this is where you two are?” Agent Brzko said as he came out of the house.

Bartala turned to see who was behind him, he jumped up and greeted Brzko. “Agent Brzko, it’s nice to see you.”

“You don’t usually hang out here with Bartala M, what’s up? Everything OK?” He asked, pulling up a chair.

“Yep, it’s all good. I wanted to find out the real reason Bartala is stepping down as Emperor of Ploosnar, and I figured if he refused to tell me the truth I’d threaten to leave him here.” She grinned at Bartala.

“Oh you are an evil one M.”

“Yep. Hey Brzko, Bartala wants to come live on Misko. Are you OK with that?”

“Really? How can you be the Emperor of Ploosnar and live on the Planet of Portals?” He asked, taking a sip if M’s espresso.

“I’m relinquishing the throne to Wisssi.”


“Yes, I want to do something else with my life, and he will be a better Emperor than I ever was.”

“I’m surprised you don’t keep a residence at the palace. I would have guessed you’d want to keep the… luxury. I guess that means M will have to give up the purple rooms too.”

“He doesn’t know does he?” Bartala asked, looking at M.

“Probably not, he’s been out with Zri in the Vaproutov Galaxy.”

“What don’t I know? What did I miss?”

“Ezopica Mischievous Wisssdartai is not just to be bonded with Nguvu – they are to be bonded.” He could tell that it hadn’t clicked for Brzko yet. “Bonded, as in marriage.”

“Holy shit! Are you serious? I had no idea they were involved that way.”

“No one did, they kept it very discreet.” M said.

“Has a Dragon ever married outside their species before?”

“No. This will be the first. So you can see that my place is no longer at the palace on Ploosnar.”

“I do see that now!” Brzko said. “Has there ever been an Empress that wasn’t Ploosnarian?”

“Yes, but never one as… well, never one that could breathe fire.” He said grinning.

“Wow. So are you going to play house husband to Empress Nalau on Misko.”

M laughed so hard that she lost the sip of espresso she’d just taken.

“Hardly Brzko!” Bartala said, doing his best to look insulted. “Actually my new ship will be ready in a few days, and my crew and I have already attended flight and defense training on Gaznzul. We’re ready to join you.”

“Wait, you said you lost weight because you’d become vain about your appearance. You were actually training with the Gaznzulians.” M asked shocked. “I can’t believe you were able to hide that from me. Does Nalau know?”

“Of course.”

“Wait, you said crew.” Brzko said. “You’ve already selected a crew? Who?”

“Several that you rescued from the VReoria specimen ship have been living on Gaznzul, but not really settled in.”

“Oh, so they’ve all been there for a while.” M said, thinking out loud.

“Yes, with the exception of my first officer.” M and Brzko just looked at him, waiting. “Do you remember Scomia?”

“Of course, the young Keateran that Kilome adopted. She’s going to be your first officer?”

“Yes. You know we stayed close while she was finishing school on Ploosnar. She’s never really settled into a profession, she’s restless and eager to explore more of the Universe.”

“What about Chuna and Blona? Are they still running roinad freighters?”

“Mmmm hmmm.”

“So when and where is the ceremony for Wisssi and Nguvu?”

“Next week – there will be three ceremonies. First a mostly traditional bonding on Dragona, then a wedding, then the ceremony of ascension on Ploosnar.”

“Mostly traditional?” Brzko asked.

“The Great Assembly of Dragona has agreed to open the ceremony to immediate family/”

“Oh! Are you serious?” M asked.

“Yes. It’s true.”

“I wonder why Ferocity never said anything.” Brzko considered out loud.

“Because he doesn’t know. I only found out minutes before I was kidnapped and brought to this beautiful place on the most infantile of planets.” He said pretend frowning at M. “Now I’ve had a lovely time M, but will you please take me home. There’s little time to prepare and I need to see Schatorren. As the father of the groom I must be impeccably dressed.”


Ferocity couldn’t stand the hover chair any longer. He complied with Agent Brzko’s request and used it until he was at the bottom of the stairs. With Nguvu’s assistance he stood. Empress Nalau could hardly wait for him to stand before she embraced him. They stayed like that for several minutes – his large, now scarred wings wrapped around her. The last time she had seen him he was on a planet being consumed by a red giant, a planet with no breathable atmosphere – she was devastated to think that she’d lost one of her dearest friends.

Once Lelelu had also had a chance to confirm that Ferocity was indeed alive, he took a seat on the stool next to Brzko. “Pour a Dragon a drink, will you Lord Brzko?”

Brzko, well everyone, turned and looked at him. “Really?” Brzko asked. “Are you well enough to drink?”

“It will soothe my throat and help me relax. Nekmid if you like.” Ferocity said slowly.

Xiix was up and offering him a glass with each of his lower hands – espidrun in one, nekmid in the other. “Your choice…” He projected.

“Oh! I see you have a partner in crime now.” The Muse of Mischief teased.

I know of no one else that can debate the nuances of every opera in this galaxy, I am honored to provide him comfort.” Xiix projected.

Ferocity took the espidrun from Xiix’s left hand, and then quickly grabbed the nekmid in his right. He held a drink in each of his scarred hands looking back and forth between them, making everyone laugh.

Are you really OK Ferocity?” Brzko projected privately.

Yes, Lord Brzko. I assure you, I look worse than I feel.” He responded without looking away from the glasses he held

“I don’t know which to take first.” Ferocity teased.

“So are you on medication Ferocity? You seem a little… uninhibited tonight.” Lelelu asked.

“No, no medication Lelelu. Taking your last breath, on a planet with no atmosphere, can cause one to gain a new perspective. Nguvu!”

She had been quietly standing on the outskirts of the group, almost unnoticed. “Yes Ferocity.” She said as she came forward, toward him.

“Find a stool and join us. Tonight you join us, as an equal.”

She followed the direction of her mentor, rescuer, and closest companion, and pulled up a stool near Ferocity. He handed her the nekmid and raised his other hand in toast.

Xiix quickly refilled the other glasses with espidrun, everyone lifted their glasses and waited for Ferocity to find the words.

“Nguvu, you are like no other. You are strong, independent, and wise beyond your age. The mission to Jastea MJ was dangerous and difficult, but you performed the mission with the inner strength and discipline of a mature Dragon and put the needs of the evacuees before your own. While I’m happy to continue as your mentor, you’ve demonstrated that you are ready to determine your own path through life. To Nguvu!” He lifted his glass a little higher and then tossed it back.

The others mimicked his sentiment. “To Nguvu!”

Nguvu was smart enough to sip her first nekmid.

Empress Nalau caught The Muse of Mischief’s eye. She didn’t have to say anything, M knew exactly what she was thinking. She got up and walked to the edge of the deck for a little privacy.

She activated her earcom link. “Hey, old man. Are you in bed yet?” She was of course calling her oldest friend, Emperor Bartala.

“No M, I’m up, waiting for my wife. But as usual you are keeping her busy.” Bartala fired back playfully. “What are you two doing tonight, planning another rescue mission?”

She ignored his question. “Can you sneak out? We need you here with us.”

“Yes! Meet me in your rooms, I’ll be there in two minutes.”

Without saying a word to anyone, The Muse of Mischief disappeared from the deck. She returned almost instantly with Bartala.

“Bartala! Welcome.” Brzko called to him.

“Thank you Agent Brzko.” He said as he walked over to Ferocity. “Ferocity. I…” He didn’t know what to say.

Ferocity stood slowly and embraced him with his wings. After a moment he released the Emperor of Ploosnar and took his seat again. “I’m OK Bartala, thank you for coming.”

Bartala was having a difficult time pulling his attention away from Ferocity but Xiix was there to help. “Here, you have some catching up to do Emperor!” He projected to everyone as he shoved a steaming glass of freshly poured espidrun toward the Emperor.

Emperor Bartala immediately tossed it back and held the glass out toward Xiix, while he turned to look at his wife. “Darling, as always you are a vision of beauty.”

As soon as his glass was filled he went and sat with her.

“Emperor?” Ferocity said.

The Emperor didn’t answer, he just looked across the deck toward the Dragon with a raised brow.

“May I share an image with you?”

Bartala didn’t really know what to say, or what that really meant, so he just nodded. Suddenly it was as if he was standing on the deck of the Dragon ship. The ramp was down, open to a fiery red planet. In the distance he could see the red giant, pulling the planet’s atmosphere toward it – everything glowed a hostile shade of red. At the base of the ramp stood his wife, the Empress of Ploonar. She donned a brilliant green bodysuit. Every part of her body was firm and tense, ready for action. With a pulse weapon strapped to each thigh, she stood ready with her feet at a shoulder’s width, ready for action. She turned and looked toward him, she was of course looking toward Ferocity – this was his memory. Bartala had never seen the love of his life look more beautiful – not even in her most elegant gown decorated with jewels. As quickly as it came, the vision ceased. Bartala looked up, across the deck toward Ferocity.

“Thank you.” He said as he tried to discreetly dab the edge of his wet eye.

Ferocity just nodded to him.

Empress Nalau leaned toward her husband and whispered in his ear. “What is it darling, are you alright?”

He kissed her forehead. “Yes my love.”

The Empress sat back in her own chair, “So Nguvu, have you given any thought to bonding?” she asked.

Bartala’s hand was casually resting on her thigh, but when she asked Nguvu about bonding he squeezed in excitement.

“Empress Nalau I…” Nguvu started. But she was interrupted.

“Hey! You started the party without me!” Zri said as he came down the stairs.

Lelelu was up, and in her lover’s arms in a flash. Zri embraced her, and the moment he let her go he went to Ferocity.

“Close call huh Ferocity.” He said patting his shoulder.

Ferocity didn’t answer, he stood and embraced Zri. At first Zri was completely rigid, unaccustomed to being touched by anyone but Lelelu. But there’s something about being wrapped in a Dragon’s wings that relaxes even the most rigid.

Ferocity released him without a word and sat down. Xiix was right there handing Zri his first espidrun of the evening. Zri took it with him, and sat down with Lelelu. Xiix made the rounds and refilling glasses. He saved Nguvu for last. “Nguvu, would you like another?” He asked as he extended the arm holding the nekmid bottle.

“Only if you are having another Xiix.” She said extending her glass toward him.

They all laughed. “Nguvu you fit in perfectly.” M teased. “So, before Zri arrived, you were about to say something about bonding…”

Nguvu took a breath, about to respond but was interrupted again.

“Please forgive the interruption.” Whotov as he descended the stairs. “But I’m quite sure you are in need of refreshments, especially you Ferocity. You need to keep your strength up.” Once again, the Ploosnarian butler that served Ferocity the Dragon, came to everyone’s rescue. He was balancing an unbelievably large travy, filled with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and lusimis. He set it on the table and turned to leave, he noticed the Emperor and simply nodded to him. Knowing that the Emperor of Ploosnar is not supposed to leave the planet without a full escort of palace guards, he was uncomfortable with openly greeting him but at the same time accustomed to seeing him here.

“Thank you Whotov. You always know just what we need.” Agent Brzko said as Whotov ascended the stairs.

“Pleasure!” he called over his shoulder as he climbed the stairs.

“Remember Whotov, we’d be happy to have you back at the palace anytime you tire of this Dragon.” Bartala called after him.

Whotov just waved his hand and kept heading up the stairs. He was glad that they couldn’t see his face, he couldn’t hide how happy it made him to hear these things from the Emperor of Ploosnar, whom he had served for decades. But he wouldn’t leave his post with Ferocity for anything. He often bragged about his position to family and friends, sharing tidbits of his most interesting days.

Glasses were filled again, snacks were grabbed from the tray, and the group settled again. As usual, they were quite a sight – two Clyreans, two Dragons, a Suus, a Trelod, a Gaznzulian, and the Emperor and Empress of Ploosnar. But there never has been, nor will there ever be, a tighter group.

M was afraid that saying anything would interrupt anything Nguvu may have to say. So instead of speaking she leaned forward and look past Brzko and Ferocity toward Nguvu, catching her eyes.

“Yes Muse of Mischief.” Everyone went silent when Nguvu spoke. “I have spent time considering the possibility of bonding. I’ve spent time on Dragona with unbonded Dragons that devote their lives to politics, or other duties of servitude. But I’ve also spent time with Ferocity, a bonded Dragon. And recently, I realized that I am in a unique position. Ferocity’s bond to Agent Brzko was arranged, as are most bonds. But because I was in stasis on the VReoria ship for so long a bonding was not pre-arranged for me. I have the luxury of having a say in who I bond to, and I would like to be bonded.”

He couldn’t help himself, Emperor Bartala blurted out, “Would you consider being bonded to our son Wisssi?”

The only sound was the waves of the Shwarth sea crashing below. Everyone was looking at Nguvu. She was looking at the ground in front of her.

Ferocity attempted to come to her rescue. “Perhaps…” Nguvu looked at him and he stopped speaking.

“Emperor Bartala, Empress Nalau, I would be honored to be bonded to Ezopica Mischievous Wisssdartai when he is ready.” She said.

“Ready? I do not understand.” Bartala said.

“A bond cannot be undone, it is for eternity. He has to be old enough to know what it means to be bonded to a Dragon before I can be bonded to him. And it needs to be his choice.” She said.

Bartala just looked at her, then finally said, “You, Nguvu, are more insightful than I imagined.Would you consider spending time getting to know him, before he’s old enough to make a decision about bonding?”

“Of course.” She answered. “I think we will have a great time getting to know each other.”


“I’ve asked Leleu and Empress Nalau to join us. I want to hear what happened from them.” The Muse of Mischief said.

Agent Brzko was sitting in his favorite spot, on the deck overlooking the Shwarth sea. “Hmmm.” He hadn’t really been listening, but he tried to recall what she’d just said. “Oh OK M. Good.”

“Hey, are you OK?”

“No. Yes. Well, this has been…” Close to breaking down, he didn’t finish.

“But everyone is OK, Ferocity is expected to make a full recovery. And this is what we do, this is what our team does.”

“I know, I know. It’s just that I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if we’d been in a different universe, off exploring somewhere. I don’t think we could have made it in time. I doubt if our telepathic links would work form another universe.”

“I see your point. So are you saying you don’t want to explore other universes?”

He turned and looked at her, trying to gauge her reaction before he answered. She saw that he was concerned that not wanting to explore would upset her, she decided to make it easy on him.

“Because I hope that’s what you’re saying. If we’d been somewhere else when Lelelu was kidnapped we would have lost her, if we’d been somewhere else today, we would have lost Ferocity.” She gave him a second to process what she was saying. “Besides,” she continued, “if I ever run into The Muse of Slight again, I’m going to have to teach her how to dress. And it won’t be pretty!”

Surprisingly he laughed. “Oh M, you are too damn funny.” One of the many things she loved about him was his ability to laugh, always.

“Oh I’m not kidding.” She said, feeling herself getting fired up again.

“I know you’re not, I know.” He said grabbing her arm and pulling her down into his lap.

“But what about meeting other Clyreans?”

“First, I doubt the validity of any information we’ve been told so far. We heard that we can be near other Clyreans and we heard that we cannot. So who is telling the truth, and what does the other one have to gain by misleading us? And I’d like to try and figure out if meeting Bartala was arranged, because…”

“And who arranged for Ferocity to be bonded with me. Remember? He said that someone made a request for me to have a Dragon. I’d like to know who that was.”

“That’s right. Have you asked him about it?”

“No, I actually forgot about it until now. Hopefully the bond with Dragona is good enough now that they’d be willing to help us figure it out.”

There was a commotion at the top of the stairs, it was Lelelu, Empress Nalau, and Xiix. Nalau had her hair down, and Lelelu and she both wore casual, loose fitting attire. Xiix had a bottle of espidrun in each of his lower hands, and bottle of nekmid in each of the upper hands.

I think we need to let off some steam.” He projected to all of them.

Nalau and Lelelu both roared with laughter. M pretended to be unimpressed. “Oh Xiix really?”

He looked confused and considered explaining that he was referring to the blue steam released when espidrun is exposed to air. He was sure that this was a joke that they would all find humorous.

“Oh damn Xiix, you’re fitting in better and better all the time!” Brzko said, pushing M off of his lap and getting up to embrace the big four armed being.

“Good one Xiix!” M said, clapping him on the shoulder. “Uh, let me help you with one of those.” She said as she liberated one of the espidrun bottles.

His relief that she’d only been teasing him was felt by them all.

With the espidrun poured they all lifted their glasses, “To a successful rescue!”  M toasted.

“A successful rescue!” They chimed and projected, four of them tossing back the shot, Xiix inhaled the steam and then sat his glass down. M looked at him.

I’ve learned to be a little more cautious with the espidrun. I do not need a repeat of the first time.

This made them all laugh. Lelelu and Nalau had heard the story of the time that Xiix had discovered the steam of espidrun had an effect on Suus.

Brzko felt Ferocity reach for him. “Hey, what’s wrong Ferocity? Are you OK

Yes Lord Brzko. I am OK, I’m tired of being inside. I would like to take a walk or get out of here for a while.

Why don’t you join us on the lower deck, but bring the hover chair, I don’t think you should walk that far. And bring Nguvu.

Brzko stood up and poured another round for everyone but Xiix, and then went to the bottom of the stairs.

“What’s wrong?” M asked.

“Nothing, Ferocity and Nguvu are going to join us.”

“Oh! He must be feeling better!” Empress Nalau exclaimed, joining Brzko at the base of the stairs. She hadn’t seen him since he was on the surface of Jastea MJ.


“Oh my GOD!” The Muse of Mischief exclaimed as soon as she and Agent Brzko were on Zri’s ship.

“Are you OK?” Zri asked with concern.

“Yes, I’m fine. I just want to take a shower!” She turned to Brzko, “I really wanted to kick her ass. And Agent Strno… I’m sorry, apparently he missed the memo that says no one wearing a cowboy hat can be condescending! ARRR!” She roared in frustration.

Zri stayed silent, knowing that the two of them would bring him up to speed once M had calmed down.

“M, I’m not sure I want to explore the other universes. Something doesn’t seem right about Clyrea X9.” Brzko said.

“I agree. Can you believe the two cowboy clowns we met.” M said. “They were nothing like The Muse of Banter and Agent Qmos, these two seemed skanky and…. Brzko what’s wrong.”

Brzko looked like he was about to faint, he grabbed the railing near him and steadied himself. He closed his eyes and threw an image to M. “I’m going.” He said before disappearing.

Ferocity was in trouble, he had given M an image – the view from Ferocity’s own eyes. He seemed to be surrounded by moulton fire. His skin was burning, but worse, the atmosphere was almost gone. He couldn’t get enough air.

“Zri! Call Lelelu, find out where they are and if anyone else needs help!” M didn’t wait for a response, she opened an aperture and went to the image Brzko had sent her.

She was hit with instant heat, it was so hot she couldn’t open her eyes. She forced them open and they instantly flooded with tears. She looked for Brzko, he was just ahead of her.

M, help me. He’s not breathing!” Brzko projected. Even without spoken word she could detect his panic.

M ran toward them, knelt on the other side of Ferocity, taking his arm, and threw Brzko an image of the lawn in front of Ferocity’s home on Misko, they went. It was a relief to be away from the heat of the red giant, but they had to work fast to assess Ferocity’s condition.

“I don’t think he’s breathing M, what do we do?”

“Hold on!” She opened an aperture and arrived inside Ferocity’s house, in the kitchen. It was a good guess, Whotov was there. “I need Nguvu here NOW!” She left, returned to Brzko.

“Any change?” Brzko shook his head.

 Whotov came running out of the house, wringing his hands. They heard Ferocity’s ship break through the atmosphere and begin to descend above them. Whotov had been successful at reacher Nguvu. Before the ship even touched down, she jumped from the open doorway. Extending her wings, gliding down to where they were.

“Get back, get back!” She took a deep breath and blew a layer of ice over Ferocity. She knelt next to him and put her snout up to his ear and purred, making the same sound that Ferocity had used to resuscitate her when they removed her from the stasis tube on the VReoria ship.

It seemed to go on forever, the ice layer had melted from everywhere but the claws on his toes. Nguvu was having a difficult time deciding if she would stop purring long enough to cover his with ice again, she kept purring.

First the toes on his right foot twitched, then his foot moved. He opened his snout and drew in a huge breath and slowly let it out. Ferocity was wracked with a coughing fit. He turned his head to the side and spit red bile. He was taking very shallow breaths in order to avoid coughing again. Too weak to stand up, he first turned toward Nguvu and said “Even” and then he reached toward Brzko.

Brzko settled on the ground next to him. Explanations would have to wait.

“C’mon.” M said to Nguvu, leading her away. “Let’s let them have some time alone. You handled yourself well Nguvu, I’m impressed.”

At this she absolutely beamed, a compliment from The Muse of Mischief was not something to be taken lightly. “May I ask a question Muse of Mischief?”

“Nguvu you never need permission to ask a question, you should question everything, and after today, please call me M.”

As her smile widened, even more of her teeth were showing. Dragons were one of the many species that were not attractive while expressing joy.

“What do you think Ferocity meant when he said even? I, my, well my purring was consistent and steady so…” She noticed that M was smiling so she waited for the forthcoming explanation.

“I suspect he meant that he had saved you, and you have now saved him. Repaying the debt so to speak. It means you are two are even. You have become his equal.”


“Nguvu, do you have the same telepathic link to other Dragons that Ferocity has?”


“Good, contact Kwaai and tell him what’s happened. I’d like a Dragon with medical training to come to Misko and check on Ferocity.”

“Understood.” She nodded and turned away from M to find a quiet place to complete her task.

“Lelelu, are you on?” M asked as she activated her earcom link.

“Yes M, I’m on. Where are you?”

“Misko. You?”

“We’re all with the Dragons, offloading evacuees on Gcugrawa. We can be there within the hour. M, something terrible has happened. It’s Ferocity, he…”

“He’s here Lelelu, he’s on Misko.”

“How did you find him? The last time we saw him was on Jastea MJ, he was with the last few evacuees when the planet started breaking apart and falling in on itself. All at once the atmosphere disappeared.”

“He managed to get an image to Brzko. We got him back here, and Nguvu helped to revive him but we need a Dragon with medical experience to…”

“Hold on.” Lelelu interrupted.

Within a minute there was a flash above M as a ship entered the atmosphere. A ship that looked a lot like Ferocity’s landed in an open area near M. A Dragon walked off of the ship and came running toward her, it was Hasira.

“Where is he?”

M looked over her shoulder toward Brzko and Ferocity in the lawn. Hasira went to them without saying another word. M followed him.


Lelelu, Empress Nalau, Xiix and Ferocity were all near Jastea MJ, but they had no intention of getting close until they actually began the evacuations. They were on the bridge of Nalau’s ship, discussing their options.

Our scans show that there is barely any atmosphere remaining. We don’t have time to shuttle a few evacuees at a time. I’m going to land.” Xiix projected. “Lelelu, please have them send landing coordinates.

“Wait, are you sure you want to do that? If something goes wrong you may not be able to get your ship out of there in time.” Lelelu said. She was still a little reserved after being kidnapped off of her own ship.

“I don’t see another way Lelelu.” The Empress added. “And we don’t have time to debate it. How soon will the Dragons get here Ferocity?”

“They are arriving now.” Ferocity said, receiving information telepathically. “And they brought a newly designed transport ship. It’s large enough to hold over 500, we won’t need to land our ships.”

“Good, let’s go. Lelelu I think you should stay up here and coordinate. Ferocity, can we all transport to the Dragon ship? As the only humanoid in the landing party, I think I should be the one to greet the Jasteas. They’ve been told to expect Dragons, but…” Nalau said.

“Of course. I agree.” He reached for Nalau’s armband and programmed in the transport ship’s coordinates. He didn’t have time to program Xiix’s transporter, it was subcutaneous, so instead he reached for him and activated his own transport.

He reached for Nguvu who was waiting on his ship, “Nguvu, transport yourself to the cargo hold of the Dragon transport ship that just arrived.


The group arrived in the cargo hold of the Dragon transport ship. It was a huge empty space with a console toward the back, they headed that way. As they were walking, Nguvu arrived.

Reporting as ordered Ferocity.” She projected.

He didn’t respond, only looked at her. In her excitement she had forgotten that speaking was the expectation when in the company of non-telepaths.

“Reporting as ordered Ferocity.” She said falling in step with him as they headed toward the back of the cargo hold.

There was a line of stools, most of them were already occupied with Dragons ready to handle the evacuees, but there were enough seats left for Ferocity, Nalau, Xiix and Nguvu to have a safe place to sit while the ship descended.

It was like being on a ride at an amusement park, the ship descended as quickly as possible. The second they felt it touch down, everyone in the cargo hold jumped up and went to the door, ready for it to drop. They lined up – Dragons an Xiix splitting up so that they were lined up to either side of the door. Empress Nalau was front and center; her hair pulled back tight, wearing a brilliant green bodysuit and a pulse gun strapped to each thigh. Ferocity had just a second to think that Emperor Bartala had probably never seen her looking like this.

The upper half of the door lifted, and a ramp descended from the lower half of the opening. The heat was stifling and the dirty air was thin. The hot wind was almost unbearable. She ran down the ramp looking for the beings they came to rescue. Suddenly the area around her began to darken and she was confused, ready to retreat from a threat. But then she realized the darkness was a mass of beings, running toward the ship. As she got closer they became visible, there was one out in front. She hadn’t thought to ask what a Jastea looked like. They were intelligent humanoids, that was all she knew.

A bright red tri-ped standing over two meters tall, presented itself to her. “Thank you for coming, I am Lornv these are the science seekers.” Lornv said, gesturing with one large arm toward the masses directly behind where they stood. Nalau noticed that on the other side the being had two small arms. She didn’t have time to reflect on how odd the Jasteas were, she had to get moving.

“You’re welcome. We need to move quickly, we have much less time than we thought. You’ve been told that you’re being rescued by Dragons right? We don’t want to create panic.”

“Yes. But we assumed the transmission was damaged by the radiation, Dragons are not real.”

“They are, and they’re the ones here to save you so get everyone moving. Now!” Nalau stepped to the edge of the ramp and gestured for Lornv to take up position on the other side. They started routing the Jasteas up the ramp. Just inside the door, the Dragons and Xiix began guiding them toward the back of the cargo hold so that they didn’t block the entry. Most were so relieved to be off of the planet that they didn’t notice the Dragons at first. There were a few shrieks and many gasps as the evacuees took note of their rescuers.

It seemed like it took an eternity to load them all. Finally the last one was aboard. Lornv went and joined the others. Ferocity walked down the ramp toward Nalau. “Is that all of them?” He asked.

“I think so.” She said.

But it wasn’t all of them. They heard shrieking and turned toward the sound. There were three more beings approaching, but two of them collapsed. “We don’t have time for this!” Nalau exclaimed, running out into the dirty air.

“Empress NO!” Ferocity yelled and grabbed for her but missed. He followed her with Nguvu right at his heels. The planet began to shake violently just as they reached the last three Jasteas.

“GO! GO! Get on the ship, NOW!” Nalau literally shoved the standing Jastea. “We’ll take care of them.” She said, following the Jasteas gaze toward it’s fallen mates.

Surprisingly her directions were followed. Nguvu went to the smaller of the collapsed individuals and scooped them up in her arms. Without saying a word she spread her wings and flew back to the ship with her precious cargo.

As Ferocity bent to pick up the fallen Jastea, the planet shook again. He knew the ship couldn’t stay any longer. “Nalau get back to the ship. I’ll take this one via transport.”

She hesitated.

“GO!” He both yelled and projected telepathically to her. The single word hit her brain like a lightning bolt and she sprinted for the ship.

The ramp was already closing. They were departing without Ferocity. Nguvu ran for the door and lifted off, flying toward the small opening. Shrieking as she went, “Ferocity!”

Xiix saw what was happening and jumped as she passed over him, he managed to grab her foot and throw her off balance. They both fell to the floor as the door closed and the ship began to ascend.

Nguvu, we must follow our orders.” He projected to her.

But he’s going to die out there.

Perhaps, but I’m sure he has a plan, and if you had flown out that door you would have distracted him from whatever it is that he’s trying to do and we’d end up losing two friends today.

I understand.” She projected as she got to her feet.

Now, let’s go see if anyone needs assistance.” Xiix projected.

Just as Ferocity lifted the Jastea, the planet shook again, and as the atmosphere was stripped away, fireballs began to rain down on him. He dropped the Jastea, already dead, and reached for his own transporter to save himself. But the fireballs were too much, they knocked him to the ground as they burned him. He’d been without air for too long, he wasn’t going to make it. With his last thought, he reached for his bond. In desperation, he reached for Lord Brzko, not expecting to be rescued, but to say goodbye.


The Muse of Mischief and Agent  Brzko stood looking at the Agent wearing a cowboy hat. A Muse came out of the dome and joined them. She wore a short patchwork denim skirt and bright green cowboy boots that matched her plaid shirt. Her ensemble was hideous, worse than his.

“Howdy y’all. I’m The Muse of Slight and this here is Agent Strno. We’re mighty pleased to meet ya.” She stuck her hand out, toward M. Reluctantly M took her hand.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m The Muse of Mischief and this is Agent Brzko.”

“Oh we know who you are darlin’! We ALLLL know who you are.” She said drawing out the word all as she rolled her head back for emphasis.

M was at a loss for words. Brzko came to her rescue.

“You’ve heard of us?”

“Lawd yes we’ve heard of you two. Who hasn’t?” Agent Strno said, comically drawing out the word Lord. “I mean shucks, we all heard about how you kicked ass on them VReoria. You two are old school all the way!”

“Old school?” Brzko asked, M was still too grossed out to talk.

“Yeah, you know, like our ancestors, before Clyreans got all selfish and stuff.” The Muse of Slight chimed in.

M was so busy thinking about how unintelligent this being seemed that it took a second for her process what she’d said. She scratched the side of her neck, activating her earcom link before bringing her hand back down.

When he didn’t hear her say anything, Zri attempted to initiate contact. “M, I’m receiving you. If you need help just…”

“Mmmm” She cleared her throat interrupting the voice in her head. “Selfish? Clyreans are selfish now?”

Agent Strno and The Muse of Slight looked at each other like ‘oh here we go.’

“Why yes darlin’” he said in a most demeaning tone. “Ain’t you ever wondered why the two of yas are the only ones working on fighting the VReoria? It ain’t like we don’t know ‘bout them. It’s just that, they can’t catch us, so why should we care? Shiiit, we’re having too much fun exploring, to spend any time risking our lives to protect lesser beings.”

“Is that an agent I hear?” Zri asked.

“Uh-huh.” M said, as though she were speaking to Agent Strno and The Muse of Slight, but really speaking to Zri, “So the other Clyreans we’ve met here were just talkin’ shit when they told us what they knew of the VReoria?” M asked, mimicking their Southern drawl.

“Well I suppose there must be other… Um overachievers like you two.” The Muse of Slight said, using her fingers to make quotation marks in the air when she said the word overachievers.

“Overachievers?” Was all M could say.

“Course darlin’, who ever said it was our duty to save every insignificant life form out there?” Agent Strno said.

M was at a loss for words. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to continue the conversation or kick these two country ass idiots in the shins and then box their ears so hard that they’d never stop ringing. Agent Brzko rescued her, while Zri stayed silent, listening.
“Wait, wait, wait, so you two are saying that you know other Clyreans?”

The looked at each other and shrugged. The Muse of Slight answered for them. “Well know” again with the air quotes, “might be a little strong. We’ve seen a few. Even a few of them devoted to the losers of their universes, like you two.” She looked over at her partner, Agent Strno when she said losers, with air quotes.

M wanted to kick her more than ever now.

“So you see these other Clyreans here, on Clyrea X9?” M asked.

“Sometimes.” Agent Strno said, as though he were speaking to a child.

“So then, you’re telling us that this isn’t the only place where Clyreans can mingle without consequence?”  Brzko asked.

I’m done Brzko.” M projected to him.

“Lawdy no, someone’s been feeding you a line of horse dookie. Oh probably some stingy Agent and Muse, wanting to keep you outta all these here domes.” He turned toward the Muse of Slight with an overemphasized frown when he said stingy.

“Thank you so much for your time. Good luck in your travels.” M said without waiting around for a response. She pictured the bridge of Zri’s ship at the same time she projected it to Brzko, and disappeared.

“Well!” The Muse of Slight said. “She’s not really all that friendly… and did you see that outfit? They ain’t got nothin’ on us sugar.” She turned toward Agent Strno, and reached for him.

Brzko decided not to interrupt them, it might be better to just leave Agent Strno and the Muse of Slight before they had a chance to share their impending PDA.