I walk as fast as I can, avoiding attention, before slipping away into a side alley. My kind are not welcome around here. A Temthan dumping ground of former slaves. Big, burly reptilian beings everywhere, all suffering from various, untreated injuries. They’ve always envied us Thraki for managing to remain free all these years.
But I don’t stick out too much. I wear the scars of the slaves. I understand their pain. Which is why I’m here.
My name is Krendoviing. I am a soldier, my loyalty belonging only to the High General of the Dessar Stratos. An interplanetary force that works to free slaves, no matter their owners. Chances are, if you’re not a Temthan, Vohra or Kronospast, you’re probably a fan of us and our peace-keeping duties.
But more than that, I am a master of espionage. You wouldn’t think it from my wyvern-like body, but you underestimate my skill set. Nigh everyvok does. Today’s mission though is different. I am looking to recruit a new soldier, deep in this horrible place.
This alley in particular though is incredibly dreary. The bare brick walls drip with anger and malice. The ground is sticky and unkind to my clawed feet. There is but a single door, a heavy, bolted, metal monster of a door, at the end of the alleyway. On the high walls above me are many a security camera, all looking at me. Normally I would shy away, cover my face and hide, but I want this being to see me.
I take my first few steps towards the entrance. I fear the worst with every step, imagining various booby-traps springing to action beneath me, but nothing happens.
As I approach the door, which looks ludicrously large in such a small alleyway, I take note of the increased security. What looks like an inconspicuous doorbell is in fact a high voltage trap that could easily stop the heart of even the mightiest Temthan. No, there is another button, on the ground, a plastic wedge among all that metal. I delicately press it with the tip of my toe.
Something buzzes. A bell inside. Immediately, various bolts and locks start throwing themselves apart.
The door flies open and I’m greeted with a high-powered mag-net, which throws me back and pins me to the ground. I do not struggle, knowing that if I do, I will be entangled further. The net is then dragged inside with me in it, the door slamming behind me.
“Been wondering when the Dessar would knock on my door!”
I take a good look at the creature as it pulls the net off me. I had expected to see yet another Temthan, but the creature in front of me is not of any race I recognise. If I were to hazard a guess, I would have described it as a Vohra, without the Vohra-y bits. A short, upright creature with black, rubbery skin and yellow plates of armour around its chest, groin and legs. Its reptile-like head also had a plate of armour, a thinner, grey strip, protecting a pair of forward-facing eyes and a fanged mouth. Its tail was nearly as long as the creature was tall, and considering that the creature was less than 2m in height, that was rather impressive.
“Are you Xentress Arkai?” I ask as plainly as possible, only to see the creature’s smile fade into anger.
“It’s just Arkay. How many fucking times do I need to say that? I know the Temthan scum always report my name wrong just to fuck with me but that doesn’t mean every-fucking-one else should!”
‘Arkay’ turns its attention back to me.
“You though. I recognise you. One of the top Oldova soldiers, right? Don’t remember your name though. You must be looking to recruit me.”
I blink, as the creature removes the net, scrunches it up and puts it back inside a net-throwing gun.
“How do you know?”
The creature points at its head. “I’m a telepath. Low-level telepathy, mid-level telekinisis. Of course, due to Temthan genetic engineering, they removed a lot of my true-self abilities but I like to think I’m… mostly the vok I was before. But why am I even telling you?”
Suddenly, the creature draws a blade and presses it against my throat. Again, I do not panic.
“Really, not sure why the Dessar sent anyone. The last two guys they sent, one of them pressed the doorbell and blew the circuits to the neighbourhood, the other guy… Well, he’s the reason why I got rid of the spinning blades of death. Very messy. They were Skiavok though. Such a waste, they were perfectly fuckable as well… You, though, I did not think Thraki could be used as spies…”
“Those with the affinity of camouflage can. I am here with an offer.”
Arkay rolls its eyes. From here, I cannot quite tell the gender of the being. The more I look at it though, the more I see that it is more Skiavok than Vohra. Something older, perhaps?
“An offer? To work for your stupid army?”
“To work WITH the Dessar Stratos.”
Arkay lowered its blade. “How is that any different?”
“You get paid on a per-mission-contract basis and have increased access to our databases, while having no ‘official’ ties to the Dessar Stratos, protecting your, uh, identity…”
The creature hums to itself, then wanders off, deeper into its home. I stand up and look around, amazed at how simple it all is. A tiny kitchen, a living area full of cushions and a single tele-screen. A portable computer sitting in the corner. The only thing that seemed out of place was the bolted door that screamed “do not enter”. It occurs to me that, even if I fail to recruit Arkay, I can learn a lot about it.
“I see you’re looking at all my stuff, Thraki. What’s your name? You’re not related to that president guy, are you?”
“What? Uh, no, of course not!” I stutter, the creature’s voice catching me off guard.
“Then tell me about you. I want to know.”
“Only if you tell me about yourself!” I counter. I am not giving information away for nothing.
Arkay considers it for a moment, then shrugs.
“Sure. But you first. After all, you’re the one who came here uninvited, wanting to recruit me into your stupid army.”
“The Dessar Stratos isn’t stupid, it…”
“… Protects the innocent and all that bollocks, I know!” Arkay interrupts me. “Heard it all before. Bored of it. Go on, talk.”
I sigh. “Very well. I am Krendoviing. I was a former Temthan slave, forced against my will to waste away, clearing up after my Temthan masters. I do not know my parents, they are most likely deceased. But I am sure they would be proud to see me rise up, defeat my captors and make my way to freedom. These days, I work to secure information, as to assist my fellow soldiers in freeing others.”
Arkay smiles, then wanders into the kitchen, opening a metal box and pulling out two cold bottles. It throws one to me and I inspect it closely. It is a caramel soda, not what I expected. It then wanders back out of the kitchen and throws itself onto a large pile of cushions and beckons me to join it.
“Well, there is clearly a lot more to you than that, but that’s fine. I don’t normally get to chat with other beings. Only other contact I have is with this Levik guy and he’s a fucking lunatic.”
“The Starkiller, Levik?” I ask. The Dessar Stratos has had contact with the Starkiller for a long time, an angry, jilted, exiled Deitic. Not a literal star-killer, but considered to be one of the greatest assassins and spies in the known universe. After a moment of thought, it seems almost obvious that an infamous Temthan saboteur would also know the Starkiller.
“Yeah, that guy. But he’s a douche. Don’t really like him anyway.”
“What about you?”
Arkay looks away. All it ever seems to do is sigh or roll its eyes. “Me? I’m just some clone. A prototype from which the Temthans created living sex dolls. Power went out, I broke free, killed everyone, destroyed every copy of me in the factory, stole and/or destroyed all the equipment and samples, and now I make a living breaking shit because I’m pissed off and angry and horny.”
“You’re a clone?” I blink in confusion. Most Temthan clones are horribly degraded, but the creature in front of me looks perfectly healthy.
“Oh, totally. Well. Kinda. It’s hard to explain.”
“Who are you a clone of?” I ask, wondering how far Arkay will let me go.
“You said it yourself. Xentress Arkai. No idea who he or she was. As far as I know, they were some ancient god-killing warrior who served as a non-Temthan Raptess, but I don’t fucking know. So much shit I don’t know…”
I see an opportunity arise and decide to take it. “Perhaps the Dessar Stratos knows something you do not?” I suggest as I sip my drink.
“What do you mean?”
I see I have caught Arkay’s interest. “I am just suggesting, we keep huge archives, vast amounts of information that we’ve saved from worlds taken or destroyed by the Temthans, the Vohra AND the Deitics. You are but a single being, we are many. We may have the answers you seek.”
Immediately, Arkay catches on. “You’re bribing me…” It smirks, realising what I am doing. “I have to say, you’re pretty good. Tell you what, I’ll definitely consider it. I mean, I can’t say yes right away, and the Vohra might make me a better offer in the mean time, but you’ve definitely given me something to think about…”
Arkay leaps up, having finished its drink.
“A consideration is all I ask,” I reply.
“Mhm. Now, if you don’t mind…” Arkay heads over to the door, opening it. “I have… things… I must attend to.”
I get up and allow Arkay to lead me outside. I pull a card from my belt and offer it to the strange, yellow creature.
“Thank you for considering my offer. Here are my contact de-”
“Don’t bother!” Arkay pushes my hand away. “If I decide I want to join up, I’ll come meet you at your base or whatever. Nice speaking to you!”
The door slams shut, leaving me alone in the alleyway. I smile, and turn to leave. My superiors will be impressed.