Chapter 11

The rest of that day was a wonder to Terna. She went around the compound meeting the many members of Wizneiber Affiliated.

And despite her recent travails, she honestly enjoyed herself. For the rest of the day, gone was the pain and terror of capture and of losing her people. It wasn’t until well after a delightful supper in the cafeteria that she realized that maybe here she had found her new tribe.

But it was in those thoughts that she realized that this place was being overly friendly. They had come out with their military to fight against a force that she had seen firsthand. And that force has not been paltry. They were instead an actual military unit complemented by a spaceship of some design.

And if she understood the words of her ratty encyclopedias well, and if she were able to put them to reality in the correct fashion, then the ship she had seen had been a cruiser. Or perhaps a battle-transport.

The point was that it had been something expensive and powerful. The people who had come to save her had quite obviously had big reasons to do so.

As had the people who had come to capture and experiment on her and her people.

It was funny because just yesterday she wasn’t questioning their intentions. They were, after all good people. She could see that.

The problem was that now she was in the hell of the BuyMort. She had learned just that morning that in the world of the BuyMort people are worth no more than the morties that they save or earn their affiliate masters.

She shuddered when she thought about how the wonderfully whimsical grimm, Horta, laughed at the human wave solution of using the poor and destitute in droves to defend their affiliate headquarters. 

Or how Crawley and Zell made it clear that this solution was proper and even brilliant to those who could afford it.

It hinted at an even darker idea that she might be just as expendable. 

The day was done, and she was in her room laying in her bed thinking through the darkness of it all. What should she do? What could she do?

She was just sixteen years old, a young woman her mother would say. almost old enough for the world her father would tell her.

But she knew better. Without her tribe, she was just a lonely and scared girl hunkered down amid the luxurious facade of wealth, surrounded by the aura of death and profiteering.

Tis the sailor’s life for me. Hi ho, applicant, and welcome to the arms of ye new family. Death and Profiteering, Incorporated. We are on the lookout for young hardy lads and ladies, survivors of the pillages and waste of the universe, all looking for hearty companionship and a berth to call their own.

Death and Profiteering. We put the I into Pirate!

Apply now!

This advertisement was more than just text. It was audio, and it was visual as well. 

She saw small ships crewed by groups of five or more. Hearty beings of all imaginable alien species, wearing weapons at their hips and crooked smiles on their faces. Underneath were different various slogans and catchphrases. 

Family. Loyalty. Adventure. 

The many ships swarmed through the galaxies, hundreds of them to a fleet. Many fleets to one overarching commander. They descended upon the giant transports of the galaxy, firing blue and red lasers, breaking through shields and cutting holes in their sides.

Men and women boarded desperate ships filled with armed defenders, and they cut down all who opposed them.

And gave new, heroic life to those who surrendered.

The ships then tore away, emptying the vessels of wanted supplies and selling the rest away to the demon BuyMort, its pods warping in and taking the remaining bits. 

They cheered and sang, splitting the plunder.

It was meant to look adventurous and exciting. Terna had no doubt about that. But it didn’t look like any of that to her.

It looked horrific. She thought of the families inside of those ships who must be torn apart by radical adventure, and she mourned for their losses.

But then she looked around herself again, and wondered how that was any different, then, from this particular affiliate. Did they not also promise to tear apart families in order to continue their lives in luxury?

Terna arose from her bed and padded to her door. She was not going to sleep tonight. Not unless she got some very specific answers to some very specific questions. 

The door clanged and moaned slightly as she pushed it open and padded out into the hallway. Her sneakers were on, and she had her tracksuit back as well, nicely cleaned and quite warm if she had to leave for any reason.

Armed with flight, Terna made her way back to the film room to see if she could find Horta. He was there, watching film without sound. This one had a man scrabbling through tunnels being chased by giant rats. It looked terrifying and she turned her eyes away.

“It ain’t real,” Horta said, laughing quietly. It sounded like a dry and raspy sort of thing, like the laugh of her father after a night of too much shine and sniff powder.

Terna came closer, looking the man up and down to see if he too was perhaps partaking in the liquor and drugs of her tribe. “It is late. Are you drinking?” she asked. His nightmarish eyes rolled over her, and he chuckled.

Horta opened his starkly white arms and showed his empty hands.

“Yeah, I’m not doing any of the fun stuff. So if you’re looking to do that stuff, you’re looking at the wrong person,” he said. “But I can tell you some answers if you might have some questions for me. See, there’s this thing that I haven’t really told many people yet. It might be something you want to hear.”

Terna narrowed her eyes.

“Come closer,” Horta said. In the flickering light of the paused film he looked extremely frightening, a ghast or ghoul come back from the dead to wreak vengeance upon the living.

But his pink eyes still held kindness, even if the rest of his body promised terror. She leaned in.

“When I first came to this affiliate, it was right after my world had died. I was working here on a temporary job, helping to install some of those maintenance bays that you saw in the garage there. Us grimms, at least the ones from my dimension, we’re really good with mechanical stuff. The whole inside of our world was just one giant machine. A lot like BuyMort in a way, I guess. Just not as many cool gadgets.”

She shook her head at the comparison and he held up one finger.

“Suddenly here I was. No home, no family. I didn’t get along with most of my kind but it doesn’t mean that I wanted them to all go away. Especially not like that. The people here, they could have sent me to Storage, but they didn’t. They took me in. And that says a lot of good things about them. Things that a NoMort like you is probably questioning right about now.”

She nodded. “The ideas of this universe are strange and scary. I don’t understand why they would spend so much effort to get me and my people.”

“And lives,” Horta added. “Don’t forget those. About half-a-dozen died.”

Terna stared, stunned.

“There’s a couple of things going on here that you should probably understand. One of them is that Planet is a refuge for NoMorts almost entirely across the multiversal spectrum. At least those of them that have been discovered so far. There’s just something about you hobbs that makes you not just accept the people who don’t accept BuyMort. But also protect them. Which, let me tell you, that is not a common thing in this universe. So lucky you got born into a place that is about perfect for your kind.”

“The Mulitudinal Symphony asks that we all accept one another’s ways,” Terna responded. “It is one of the oldest traditions of our people.”

Horta snorted. “Well nowadays hobbs have a reputation for being traditionally fierce warriors. But they get a lot of respect too for the loyalty they show to those who are loyal to them. It’s the rare hobb that stabs someone in the back over a contract.”

“It is the Symphony,” Terna insisted. “All of us are of a kindred want and spirit. But the demons of the ether corrupt and taint. From there comes the hatred and greed that breaks bodies.”

“Whatever,” Horta said, waving it away. “Yeah, magical hortacorns exist and the great Poombar showed up in the last days of my homeworld and saved it as the priests told us he would.”

Terna’s eyes went wide.

“For fuck’s sake. No. Poombar was a lie. Or if he wasn’t, he decided we weren’t worthy. Or whatever it was that the priests were always saying. Point is, Miss Level 2 Cadet, that yes you are right to be worried. I was too when I was first accepted here. Most people are looking to gut you for a quick mortie. But, no, Crawley and Zell aren’t planning to use you.”

Terna’s cheeks reddened. “Then why the great big tour? Why so much kindness? I am just a girl with a dead family. Do I not ruin the bottom line?!”

She practically shrieked the last words and Horta reared back, almost falling out of his chair.

“No, Terna NoMort. They are saving you because world tradition expects them too. And because, all across the multiverse, NoMorts are being seized, experimented on, and terminated. And they want to know why.”

Published by Damien Lee Hanson

I am the founder of Damien Hanson Books. Come check out awesome authors right here at my website!

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