This story is set a year or so after The Cold Wind which I wrote in September 2005 (Sci-Fi/Fantasy section of Nifty), and features some of the same characters set in the same universe, however it isn't required reading - this story should be able to stand on its own (and hopefully be better written, doh!). If you're interested in a bit of background on this story, give the original Cold Wind a quick once-over first before reading this one (and one of these days I'm gonna edit the HELL out of the original it so it's more readable). Oh, one important thing to note with CWII is that I've changed the first name of one of the main (human) characters - Troy has been renamed to Andrej (too many names starting with T ).

First and foremost this is a story with a developed (*choke*) plot and characters, so it's not dripping with jerk-off material, sorry. That being said I like jerk-off material in my Nifty reading, what's not to like? So there is some scattered through the storyline, both human and alien... Oooh, Kinky Alien Space Sex, wicked! :-)

I'd really like to thank those who took time out to drop me an email regarding the original Cold Wind story - I hope this one proves to be a lot better reading for ya. If you enjoy a story, please drop the author a quick email - most of them love hearing from appreciative readers, I know I certainly did. Enough of this rubbish, on with the story!

From the darkness of interstellar space a shuttle coasted towards the light and warmth of an unremarkable yellow star. On board, several banks of computer instrumentation came to life, pre-programmed to activate when the destination was close by. Slivers of wispy fog swirled around in frantic eddies as the life support systems fired up, blowing warm air into the cabin. Hibernation chamber hatches slid open with small cracking sounds as the ice around the seals broke, more wisps of fog fleeing in the warm breeze blowing around the cabin.

Conciousness came slowly to Tainui and it was some time before he felt brave enough to crank open his eyelids and look around him. He felt a small twinge of fear at the sight of the large creature lying swathed in mist to one side and concern at the sight of his new companion on the other side. Reaching over with an unsteady arm, he rested his hand on Andrej's shoulder, the young man not yet awake.

Muttering quiet obscenities to himself as he struggled into a sitting position, he winced at the continuing racket of some alarm system going off somewhere; whatever it was it would have to wait until the large reptilian alien beside him was up and about. Turning to regard said creature, he shook his head and reflected back to recent events. The hot, hot sex with Andrej, the terror and confusion of an alien abduction. Followed by a struggle which appeared to end in heartbreak for the alien lying unconcious next to him.

According to its species burial customs they had burnt the body of its dead companion on a large funeral-pyre. As they were preparing to part company the creature had stopped them, awkwardly enquiring if they wanted to accompany it when it left the planet. It hadn't made clear where it was going but given recent events it was unlikely to be welcomed back to its home-planet, wherever that was.

After some consideration both he and Andrej decided to throw in their lot with it. Quite why they decided to go flying off into the vast unknown with something resembling a reptilian demon escaped him, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Neither of them had any close friends or family that would worry about them. Neither of them was unhappy to leave behind the emotional wasteland that their lives had been up until that point.

Checking that Andrej was still breathing, Tainui got up and wandered up the corridor into the cockpit hoping to find whatever was making that awful racket and shut it the hell up. The noise was starting to give him a headache and that, he decided, couldn't wait for the comatose alien to do something about it.

The starry vista in the viewport in front of him was something he still hadn't quite gotten used to - growing up he'd often laid outside at night staring up into the night sky, contemplating life, the universe and everything. Here, however, it was something more tangible - he was in it, not just looking up at it. One of the consoles in front of him was lit up with alien script flowing across its surface and seemed to be the source of the irritating noise. What it said he had no idea, but he touched it anyway which seemed to have the desired effect; the alarm cut out abruptly and a heads-up display flashed up onto the viewport. A small target highlighted the yellow star then magnified it, words in the alien language flashing up beside what he gathered were points of interest.

Tainui yelped, startled, as something cold clamped onto his bare shoulder and he whirled around to see the hulking alien standing behind him looking at the viewscreen with its enigmatic black eyes. After studying the readout for a few moments it turned its gaze on him but didn't release his shoulder. Its other three arms were flexing and stretching, the light grey scaley skin taut over the large muscles beneath. He hadn't heard it wake and move about behind him - for something so large and heavy it was surprisingly light on its taloned feet.

Even more unsettling was the fact that Tainui knew the alien was definitely a he now. Despite its alien physiology there were definite signs that it was equipped with certain features that generally only graced the male of a species - Especially evident since it wasn't wearing any clothes. Letting go of his shoulder it reached out to tap away at some of the controls with deft flicks of the talons while making hissing and rumbling noises at him.

"... Unwise play with things you not have knowledge." A clipped, electronic sounding voice issued from a small black translation disk hanging from one of its ears. Tainui swallowed nervously and nodded.

"Yeah sorry about that."

"Alright small one, damage not done. Near end journey, that star destination. That «gutteral-noise»."

Trying to replicate the name Tainui spluttered, coughed and stopped with a slightly embarrassed grin on his face. This seemed to amuse the alien somewhat - at least he thought it was amusement - as it rocked back onto its haunches and huffed quietly while regarding him through half-closed eyes.

"How long have we been asleep?" There was a slight pause before it answered.

"Approximately three years."

"Three years? Damn!"

Ears twitching, Two-Talon turned his head in the direction of the hibernation chamber. Curses followed by the sound of someone falling onto the cold decking issued through the hatchway. "Your mate awaken, you check. Talk more later."

Giving the alien a nervous smile he left the cockpit and went aft to join his friend.

"There you are, thought you had abandoned me or something." Andrej gave Tainui a mock-hurt look as he unsteadily picked himself up off the decking and got to his feet. "Whose silly idea was this anyway?" Tainui shrugged and opened a storage hatch and dragged out a large backpack which he dumped onto the floor and opened. Leering at the pale, naked youth in front of him, Tainui chucked some clothes at him.

"Better put those on, otherwise I wont be held responsible for my actions."

Andrej giggled and threw a pair of undies back at the naked Maori adonis standing in front of him. "You can talk Tai, wandering around in your birthday suit, giving that lizard out there ideas you are!"

"Can't blame him, really. When you're as gorgeous as I am everyone gets ideas," He joked. It was good to see Andrej laughing and happy again, after the last few days events he'd been worried that Andrej would completely freak out. Tainui was still a little surprised he hadn't freaked out, himself.

Grabbing Tainui in both arms, Andrej stepped in close and held him close, hands roaming over the broad brown back. The human touch was comforting for them both in such strange circumstances. Tainui felt something hard pressing against his leg and responded by moving his hands down to grab the boy's butt and gently squeezed. Closing his eyes, he locked his lips against Andrej's and slipped his tongue into the waiting mouth.

Andrej was the first to break the kiss. Looking into Tainui's eyes as he slid his body down, his face came level with Tainui's cock. Still looking into Tainui's eyes he reached around and grabbed the tight butt and proceeded to pull the gently throbbing brown cock into his mouth. Kneading the captive butt with his hands as he worked his lips up and down the cock, Andrej was in hog heaven - salty pre-cum was starting to pour out of the huge tool he was making love to with his mouth, tongue sliding underneath Tainui's foreskin around around the sensitive head.

Tainui started bucking his hips, fucking the pale face of the youth who was loving every minute of it, his cock slipping in and out of the boy's mouth with wet sucking noises.

"Oh man, I'm not gonna last long at this rate," Tainui grunted as he picked up rhythm. He was interrupted as Andrej pulled off his straining cock and slipped one of Tainui's balls into his mouth, slurping first on one before sucking on the other, revelling in the heady, musky scent of a young man in his prime. "Damn boy, you know what I like, dontcha." Andrej stopped sucking, stood up and pulled Tainui over to one of the hibernation beds, where he lay down, pulling the well built young Maori down on top of him.

"Fuck my face like you mean it, Tai. I want to choke on your big brown cock and I want it bad!" he growled. Not one to argue, Tainui did as he was asked, straddling the youth's chest and resting the oozing tip of his cock on Andrej's lips.

"What do you want?" He sneered, wiping the leaking weapon over Andrej's sweating face. The boy whimpered impatiently. "You want some of this cock, you hungry for it? Yeah, well I'm gonna spear that pretty little face of yours and fuck you to death with it!" And with that he thrust up to his balls into Andrej's throat and started humping hard, the muffled groans and slurping noises urging him on.

As his mouth and throat were assaulted with the huge pre-cum oozing cock, Andrej looked up past the black pubic hair mashing into his face at the hard abs and well defined pecs straining above him, into the handsome, straining face of his lover as the cock slid in and out of his throat. Damn but that was an amazingly sexy sight. Above the noise of slurping, and the soft slapping of large brown balls on his chin, Andrej heard Tainui mutter quietly.

"Shit, I'm gonna blow... UNGH!" Before he came, Tainui pulled out of the abused mouth and furiously jacked his engorged cock, exploding a massive hot load of cum all over Andrej's face, large gobs splattering onto the boy's forehead, eyelids, cheeks, lips. Breathing heavily, he tilted his head back and gave a great big shuddering sigh. It was only then that he noticed his butt resting in a pool of Andrej's cum that had pooled on the boy's heaving chest. Andrej had blown his load without even touching himself... He looked wonderingly down at Andrej who was busy mopping up gobs of cum with his fingers, sucking them clean. "Damn you look hot," he smiled and lowered himself down onto the boy beneath him and they locked lips again, the taste of his own cum in his mouth.

Two-Talon turned around and quietly padded back into the cockpit unnoticed. He had heard noises of a struggle and had gone back to check on the cause. Curious, he had then watched events for a while and was interested to see that while built differently, humans obviously shared similiar sexual habits with the Vanguard. Although Vanguard sexual exploits were probably a little more aggressive. What he found found particularly interesting was that these humans also seemed to have same-sex partnerships, he briefly wondered how common it was in their society. He'd have to ask them sometime.

Feeling a twinge from his own cock nestled in its bulging sheath, he rumbled out a long, low shuddering sigh. Visions from the recent past forced their way unbidden into memory. Dammit! Things had been going well between the two of them, how could it all go so wrong? There was a Tusker-shaped piece of his life missing - a cold, deeply numbing gap in his soul. For a brief moment a flash of resentment welled up at the two humans, disappearing as quickly as it came - it wasn't their fault, they had been caught up in events just as he and Tusker had been. Besides, he was the one who had asked the two humans to accompany him on this trip into the unknown.

A few minutes passed before the flushed looking humans came into the cockpit and looked out at the stars through the viewport. Two-Talon turned to them briefly before returning his attention to the instruments. He had taken the time to put on some clothing. It was an old black skinsuit of Tusker's, one the warrior had grown out of some time ago. Every now and again he thought he could almost make out the faint scent of his lover coming from the fabric. Pulling himself together pointed at a small spot of light to one side of the yellow star. "That «gutteral-noise». Destination. Arrive soon, hope find others..." He hesitated for a moment before continuing, tapping himself on the chest. "Others like this one."

The two humans looked at each other. This was the first time the alien had brought up what had happened on board the destroyed ship. It was Andrej who spoke up.

"Those others on the big ship, they weren't like you?" Two-Talon snapped his jaw shut in a gesture they had come to recognise as an affirmation. Andrej caught Tainui's confused look. "I think this one and the one that died were rebels. They didn't like what the others were doing - or planning to do."

Tainui digested this revelation thoughtfully. "The one who died was special to you?" At this question Two-Talon turned and stared searchingly at Tainui with his four unblinking black eyes for long moments, before uttering a long mournful sounding growl. The translator disk remained quiet, but the boys got the idea anyway. "Sorry, man," Tainui looked back at the screen.

After several minutes of silence, Two-Talon got up and lumbered over to a hatch where he removed some packages. Returning he tore open one of the packages and stuffed some of the contents into his mouth, chewing noisily. In between mouthfuls he did some explaining. "We Vanguard, Vanguard been around long time. Vanguard strong, others weak. Strong lead weak - way always been, way always be. Weak not agree, weak die. Most others judged weak, most others die. Not all Vanguard agree." Tapping his chest again he hesitated before continuing "This one not agree. «hissssss» also not agree, but reluctant - death this one's responsibility."

Andrej looked at the hulking alien who studiously avoided his gaze. "We were judged weak?" Two-Talon didn't comment, just sat there chewing away and continued staring at a control console with an unreadable expression on his face. "Tai do you think we should have warned someone before we left?"

"Nah, I think people know, after all someone shot down their ship. Now they know there are bug-eyed-monsters out there I reckon they'll be on the lookout for any more visitors."

"I dunno Tai, these guys are streets ahead technologically. We don't stand much of a chance if these Vanguard come knocking on earth's door with warships."

"Maybe, not much we can do about it now though," He said, indicating the alien star system outside the viewport. "Any-hoo, I wouldn't worry, people can be pretty tough when they're working together."

"Tai the Wise."

Tainui grinned at Andrej before turning back towards the alien. "Thanks for saving us, bro. Sorry about your loss, maybe you'll find someone else special one day." Two-Talon didn't respond to the implied question, just sat there chewing slowly while watching the boys thoughtfully.

Feeling a little uncomfortable, Andrej got up and moved aft, motioning for Tainui to follow him. Sensing some time alone might improve his mood they left the alien to his meal.

"It's times like this that I wish I'd brought along my guitar," Andrej muttered as he plonked himself on one of the hibernation couches and pouted. Tainui sat beside him and put an arm around his shoulder.

"Yeah, pity we didn't have much time to get our shit together before Mr Lizard wanted to leave. Would have liked listening to you perform my own private concert." He started slowly running his fingers through Andrej's medium length black hair. "Still kinda hard to believe you're here with me though, never would have picked you as liking guys."

"Never would have picked you as liking aliens," Andrej giggled poking his friend in the ribs, "But here we are!"

Smirking, Tainui grabbed the poking fingers and squeezed.

"Ow! Ow, OK, leggo - I'll stop, I'll stop! You big bully."

"Seriously though, you hid it well. I don't think there were any rumours about you even."

Andrej leaned back onto Tainui's shoulder and relaxed. "After all those boy-band guys came screaming out of the closet our manager Gary warned us not to do anything like that." Seeing Tainui's questioning look he smiled. "Nah, he didn't know about me, I think he was just covering his greedy arse. Our band was marketed largely at the young teenage female audience, you might have noticed that both Anton and Steve are both quite attractive as well? I think Liz, our bassist, was the sole concession to horny teenage boys... Well, the straight teenage boys anyway."

"Did any of them know...?"

"Yeah, Liz did. She was cool though, used to give me all the sordid details about all the fanboys she used to sleep with." He grinned. "The guys probably wouldn't have cared, they were just happy to have more money and pussy than they knew what to do with."

"Heh, I bet. So who comes up with the songs for you guys? I like that they're quite ambiguous, not full of girl this, woman that."

"You noticed that? Sweet, that's kinda what Liz and I intended, we're the ones who come up with most of the lyrics. Gonna miss her," Andrej sighed.

"Funny y'know, sometimes during the concerts I'd sit backstage and watch you perform. Would imagine..." Tainui hesitated and when Andrej turned to look at him he was surprised to see the Maori blushing.

"Imagine what?"

"Nah, it's dumb."

"Tai man, you cant leave me hanging like that! Imagine what?" He grabbed one of Tainui's nipples through the tight t-shirt and playfully twisted making him wriggle and laugh.

"Ow, OK OK, mercy mistress!" Feeling a little sheepish he looked away from Andrej. "Used to imagine that there was no-one else around and that you were singing to me alone."

Andrej was silent for a minute before he responded. "I was."


"Did you ever really listen to Outside Looking In? Liz wrote that song specially for me and everytime I sang it... You were the one I pictured in my mind. And before you say it, yeah I know how sappy and pathetic that sounds."


"Serious." Closing his eyes, Andrej cleared his throat.

"Did you ever see me there, watching quietly / waiting my turn,
 Forever dreaming of holding you tight but knowin' it's a sin.
 Seein' you standing there, all torn up inside / making me burn,
 Did you ever see me there, always on the outside lookin' in...

Tainui shifted on the couch so that he was facing the singer. "I loved that song from the first time heard it. I don't know quite what to say, you were really singing about me?"

Andrej smiled self-consciously. "Changing the subject, what about you, Tai? You've never said much about yourself or your family."

"Not much to tell really. Brought up by my extended family on a Waikato farm, never really knew my parents. Was just one of many kids running around. Dropped outta school when I was 15, wasn't a very good student. Preferred playing rugby outside than being stuck in a classroom all the time. I've spent the past few years just travelling round the world doing jobs here and there."

"Never found someone you wanted to stick around for?"

Tainui grinned at Andrej. "Not till now. Did you really sing that song about me?"

"Down, ego-boy, before I beat you with the rolled-up newspaper of humility!"

They lay in comfortable silence for a few minutes before Andrej propped himself up on his elbows facing his companion. "So where do we go from here?"

"What, us or everything?"

"Both I guess."

"Dunno, I'm happy to take our time and see what happens. Since you're here, there ain't much of interest back home anymore. Now if it was just me and Mr Lizard, well..." Tainui shrugged nonchalantly. "He a top or a bottom y'reckon?"

Laughing, Andrej poked Tainui in the ribs. "You're terrible. Seriously though, this trip could take years. We might never see earth again."

"We knew it would probably be a one way trip when the alien asked us, dude."

"Yeah, I guess you're right."

Tainui put his hand on the boy's shoulder and squeezed gently. "I didn't leave anything on earth that I'm gonna miss. And from what you've told me you didn't either, so let's not stress about it. Let's just do the Captain Kirk thing and go boldly and all that crap, one day at a time."

"Hey, I got a nice photon torpedo here if you want to see it?" Giggling, Andrej straddled Tainui and wriggled provocatively.

"Mmm, set phasers to suck, Mr Sulu..."

"The engine cannae take it cap'n, it's gonna blow."

"Well since you asked nicely..." Tainui unzipped Andrej's loose-fitting jeans and teased out the stiff cock he found. "Horny little bugger aren't ya? Mmmmmph!"

"Sssssh, it's rude to speak with your mouth full."

Tales told long ago of a splinter group of Vanguard who - tired of the old ways - decided to leave and create their own colony, far away from what they perceived to be negative influences of mainstream Vanguard society. Such tales were spoken of quietly, amongst like-minded individuals, however such tales were frowned upon by those in power. Tales that were vague, fanciful, mythic. Tales that were dangerous knowledge. Banned knowledge.

Vanguard civilisation was fairly ancient by human standards and had endured many millenia and many thought that they were the at the peak of their technological and social evolution. Fanciful tales were to be discouraged, were illegal. Anyone caught out soon learned the error of their ways, swiftly dispatched by a rigid social system in which there was no rehabilitiation, only redemption through death.

When Two-Talon was but a spawnling he had hung around listening to the tales told by the family elders around roaring fires late into the night. It wasn't until he had moved into one of the large cities years later to begin his medic training that he learned first-hand the price paid by those indiscrete enough to talk openly about such matters. It was in the quiet, dark hours of early morning when their barracks were flooded by bright light and several large strangely uniformed warriors stormed in and dragged away one the other trainees who was clearly quite terrified. A day later he saw the barely recognisable badly beaten body strung up outside the city walls, a rather stark message to anyone else who sought to question the status-quo.

Since then Two-Talon had never spoken to anyone else about the splinter-group myth, but started doing some research into it, being extremely careful to cover his tracks as he went. Living in constant fear of another late-night visit by the internal security services.

Several months of painstaking after-hours research unearthed some records dating back several hundred years which alluded to an exodus of several thousand Vanguard to an area of space many light-years from the Vanguard-controlled sectors. Maddeningly there were no co-ordinates or clear descriptions of exactly where this area of space was. It was only when he briefly returned to his extended family before being shipped out to the latest conflict zone, that he aquired a significant piece to the puzzle.

One of the clan-mothers who had taken a special interest in and tutored him when he was younger, took him aside as they hunkered down around a large fire on his last night of freedom. "I have been watching you for a long time now, since you were but a spawnling. You are different from the others, showing a gift for healing rather than hurting. Such talents are rare amongst our kind," She pressed a small well-wrapped package into one of his hands. "Take this. This is a gift for none but yourself, keep it safe, keep it hidden. It is a gift that would be dangerous shared with anyone else." Ignoring his questioning look she turned back towards the fire and started rumbling a quiet tune he recognised from his childhood - Brave New Home.

The following day he shipped out on a frigate bound for some new conflict zone and it wasn't until he had finished unpacking in the cramped med-bay crew quarters that he recovered the small package. Pulling the object out of its wrappings Two-Talon held it up to the light. It was a crude bracelet with a large flat crystal set in the middle. On closer examination the crystal appeared to have markings on it. Inscribed onto its surface was a few words in an ancient Vanguard script along with several uneven dots spaced at odd intervals across the surface.

Suddenly everything the clan-mother had said and done made a lot of sense. The tune she had sung the night before - an old lullaby normally sung to spawnlings to send them to sleep told of a paradise of peace and plenty that good Vanguard would go to when they died. A paradise far away across space and time. A myth, but perhaps a myth based on a nugget of forbidden truth...

Over the long weeks of travel Two-Talon befriended one of the young Astrogators on board the frigate. After a carefully planned and particularly athletic sex session the Astrogator was sleeping off a fuck he'd be feeling for several days. Two-Talon stole into the astro-observatory and ran some queries through the astrogation computers. His suspicions were right on - the dots on the surface of the crystal corresponded with a pattern of stars. Quickly he'd made a copy of the co-ordinates before slipping back into the Astrogator's quarters, making sure not to disturb his unwitting accomplice snoring quietly in the sleep-webbing.

Light years and several physical years later, Two-Talon held up the bracelet and watched the distant pin-points of starlight being diffracted through the crystal. Interrupted by a small chime from the comms system, he re-wrapped the bracelet and stowed it in a utility pocket in his skinsuit. While he had been expecting something in terms of a reception once he got to the co-ordinates he wasn't sure what form it would take. Nothing on the scanner other than a very faint and repeating signal. Eyes narrowing he studied the read-out - it was a weak automated distress call. With a sinking feeling he set the shuttle's course to match the approximate location and got up to inform his new companions.

As he lumbered into the room the two humans looked up at him guiltily. The paler one calling itself Andrej was sitting naked on top of the darker one's lap. From the look of things they were at it. Again. Doing the Vanguard equivalent of rolling his eyes, he waited while they scrambled off each other and got dressed. Two-Talon chided himself, the humans were a long way from home and he was still a little surprised that they had agreed to accompany him on this journey at all, especially after what they had been through at the hands of his species.

Choosing his words carefully he explained the situation to them. "Received signal, maybe friendly - maybe not. We tread softly. Now come, need assistance." As they followed him back to the cockpit he felt a pang of guilt for the small lie he had told them - it wasn't their assistance he wanted, it was their company. Two-Talon was beginning to reluctantly admit to himself that while alien, these two creatures were the closest thing to friends he had. If things went bad then he was definitely going to be glad of the companionship they offered. They still seemed slightly nervous around him but their concern for him after Tusker was killed seemed genuine, which he appreciated.

A few hours later as they approached the one habitable planet in the system the first wreckage started to appear. The sinking feeling he felt earlier only got worse as he guided the shuttle around large sections of what used to be an old-style Vanguard space habitat, showing very obvious signs of explosive damage. The signal seemed to be originating not far from their current position so Two-Talon slowed the shuttle and started hunting through the viewfinder for the source, too weak for the shuttle's communications system to pinpoint properly.

Andrej and Tainui watched large chunks of orbiting alien wreckage drift past the viewport as the shuttle nosed gingerly through the debris-field under control of the talons of their nervous pilot.

"This cant be good," Voicing the concern they were all feeling, Andrej was the first to speak.

"Hey, what's that over there? Thought I saw something." Both Two-Talon and Andrej looked to where Tainui was pointing and saw nothing. Suddenly something bright flashed against the dark backdrop of the planet's night-side below them. Two-Talon manoeuvered the shuttle closer and a large slowly tumbling piece of wreckage loomed out of the darkness. It appeared to be the remains of a rather large battleship with massive sections of the hull smashed in, parts of the internal structure open to the hard vacuum of space.

Another small explosion from the tumbling wreck made them all raise their arms to shield their eyes. Once the glare faded they could see a small amount of debris moving in a rapidly expanding cloud away from an already badly damaged section of the vessel.

"Signal from there." Two-Talon nodded in the direction of the ship and started tapping away at one of the consoles. "Cannot sense survivors, interference bad. Need data-stack from wreck, figure what happen."

Several failed attempts later, Two-Talon finally managed to get the shuttle to latch onto a docking-port on the side of the slowly tumbling wreck and stood back with a loud hissing sigh. Turning his head, he looked at Tainui and Andrej. "You come with this one? Assistance wanted."

The boys exchanged a look and nodded - they'd come this far... Two-Talon closed his eyes in gratitude, before heading over to the airlock. Opening a storage locker beside the hatch he pulled out a couple of hand-weapons and held them out to the two humans. "As you humans say, just in case."

"Uh, how do we use these?" Andrej asked.

Pointing a talon at a small recessed pressure pad on the side of the bulky handgrip, Two-Talon huffed. "Hrrr... Point, shoot. Not shoot this one! We leave now."

After the pressure equalized, the airlock hatchway swung out with a rumble, small slivers of ice dropping from around the edge. Two-Talon stopped and turned to them. "Careful, very cold. Gravity malfunction, move slow, not get hurt."

Tainui put an arm around Andrej's shoulder and smiled. "You and me, bro, we'll keep Mr Lizard here safe, eh?"

Andrej gripped the weapon he'd been given with white knuckles and smiled nervously. For its size the weapon was remarkably light-weight but its bulk was still quite reassuring. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"

"Yeah bro! I'm in outer-space with scary aliens and I have no idea what's going to happen next. It's like being in that Aliens movie - Take off and nuke the place from orbit, it's the only way to be sure!"

"My mother warned me about men like you, dirty adrenaline junkies up to no good."

Tainui laughed at the look of mock-horror on Andrej's face. It took them a few minutes to adjust to moving around in the zero-gravity and weak emergency lighting of the wreck with the large alien watching them bounce off the walls, occasionally grabbing them if it looked like they were about to get into trouble.

Stopping at a four-way junction, Two-Talon consulted with a small data-pad then pointed at a rather battered looking hatchway blocking one end of a corridor. "That blocked, no atmosphere. We seperate, make search quicker. Take this, call if find something." He handed a translator disk to Andrej who pocketed the device while Tainui held him steady.

"Hey, just what is your name anyway?" Andrej asked the alien after he'd secured the disk. Tainui looked at his friend with a raised eyebrow.

"You choose your moments, dontcha?"

"Well, it's probably a good a time as any. Besides, can't just keep calling him Mr Lizard all the time."

"True." The boys looked at the alien expectantly.

"This one is «hiss-grunt»."



Tainui sighed in exasperation. "That may be easy for you to say!."

Two-Talon cocked his head and contemplated them for a couple of seconds before reaching out a hand on one of his forward arms, with his two longest talons extended. With one of his other hands he tapped each of the extended talons one at a time.


"Incorrect. Number, two." The reptile waved the talons in front of the his face, causing Tainui to flinch. They were razor sharp, he'd seen them in action before.



"Talons?" Andrej ventured tentatively. Two-Talon mulled this over for a moment before snapping his jaw shut in agreement. "That's rather, err, appropriate I guess. Two-Talons it is then."

Some minutes after they had seperated and the alien was out of ear-shot, Tainui turned to Andrej as they slowly drifted down a dimly lit corridor. "Y'know, I could be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure they were both male. This Two-Talons one and the other one with big fangs who died helping us escape the mothership. Do you think they were brothers or something? Two-Talons seemed to be pretty cut up about the other one dying."

"Dunno, possible I guess. Who knows, it might have been his lover."

Tainui laughed. "Come on, that would be too weird. What are the chances that we'd be flying around the galaxy with a faggy dragon."

Andrej smiled at him, grabbed a hand-hold and pressed on a pressure activator to open a hatchway. "Well there's a dragon flying around the galaxy with two faggy humans, stranger things have happened! Whatever he is, as long as he keeps his grubby little talons off my new man I think we'll get on just fine."

Tainui brushed past Andrej with a laugh and awkwardly swam through the gap as the hatchway opened part-way then halted, malfunctioning with a grinding noise. Grabbing the edge of the hatch he stopped, colour draining from his face. "Whoa!"

"What is it, Tai? What's... Oh my god..."

Carnage. Several of the large alien bodies, a couple of which were not much more than unrecognisable meat, drifted in slow motion through the diffuse haze in the room along with bits of damaged electronics, wiring and other assorted debris. The walls were covered in scorch-marks from energy-weapon discharges and large black smears of the alien blood. Some of the bloodstains looking disturbingly fresh and the smell of melted plastic and burnt meat hung cloyingly in the air. Andrej pulled the translator/comms disk out of his pocket. "Uh Two-Talons, you should probably see this."

"Locate data-stack?" Came the reply.

"No. We found some crew, I think. You need to get down here."

"Acknowledged," The signal hissed briefly then went silent.

Tainui found a bit of bulky machinery attached to the wall and anchored himself against it, recoiling slightly as a large droplet of the glistening black alien blood drifted past his face. Avoiding the droplet, he reached out and grabbed Andrej's leg and pulled him closer. Wide-eyed they both watched the bodies move around in stray air currents while they waited for Two-Talon to turn up.

Andrej was looking at one of the closest bodies when he thought he saw it twitch. "Shit, one of them's alive!"

Tainui looked at the slowly drifting body closely. Rips, scorch-marks and blood-stains were evident on the uniform the creature wore but there wasn't any movement that he could see. Abruptly the body convulsed as the creature came to life, coughing and choking, dark blood spraying out its mouth. Andrej struggled out of Tainui's grip and gingerly launched himself towards to the struggling alien. "What the hell are you doing?" Tainui hissed urgently at him.

"It's hurt, it needs help."

"Like hell it does! Wait till Two-Talons gets here, you have no idea what it could to do!"

The injured Vanguard had curled into a ball, panting and shivering, tail wrapped protectively around itself. Fresh blood-stains quickly started spreading around two of the largest visible wounds. It heard them and turned its head to look at Andrej with what looked like terror on the battered, craggy features. Hissing, it weakly tried to strike out at him as he drifted closer. Gently colliding with the battered creature, Andrej made quiet noises as he tried to reassure the terrified alien. This was obviously too much for it as it convulsed again and went limp.

Giving it a quick once-over, Andrej ripped strips off his shirt and pressed the material into the two largest wounds which appeared to staunch the worst of the bleeding. "You got anything that I can use to secure these?"

Pulling his belt from his jeans, Tainui shook his head then launched himself over join his wayward friend. Andrej tied the offered belt around the thigh of the alien to secure one of the bandages. "Put pressure on that one, it'll help stop the bleeding." Andrej indicated a wound on the alien's stomach. Tainui hesitated for a moment but did as he was directed. The thick black blood had started soaking through the material and was getting smeared over his hands and clothes.

A smell, vaguely reminiscent of used engine-oil, came from the blood seeping through the bandage. Grimacing, Tainui grunted at his friend who was examining the alien's head for signs of injury. "You're a regular boy-scout, you know that? Ugh, its still warm. Thought lizards were cold-blooded." Not finding any other obvious injuries, Andrej turned and gave him a quick kiss. Tainui looked at him wide-eyed. "This is so not the time or place for a quickie, bro!"

Minutes later, Two-Talon poked his head through the partly opened hatchway and looked around at the mess inside the room before seeing the two humans hanging onto the unmoving Vanguard body, their hands and clothes smeared with fresh blood. Horrified, he launched himself at the two with a roar, knocking them both away from the body.

Stunned, the two boys hit a bulkhead like large sacks of dropped potatoes, managing to grab some loose wires hanging out of a busted conduit before they rebounded back into the middle of the room.

"What you doing?" Two-Talon hissed angrily at them before he turned back and looked at what they had been doing to the body. Crude bandages had been applied to the worst injuries - the humans must have been trying to help - they weren't being ghoulish after all. With several large external wounds and possibly internal injuries as well, the Vanguard was unlikely to survive unless stabilised quickly. "Mistake made, apologies."

Pulling a couple of compression bandage-patches from a small med-pouch he replaced the crude human bandages, before pushing off towards the hatch with his patient. Stopping at the hatch he turned to the two humans. "Continue searching. Find data-stack or survivors then return to shuttle. Ship falling apart, worse than thought. Be quick - not have much time."

Shaken but happy to leave the scene of the bloody battle, the boys didn't hesitate before launching themselves at a hatch on the far side of the room, twisting to avoid a badly mangled body on the way. After drifting along another corridor they anchored themselves beside a solid looking hatch at the far end. Andrej examined it closely. "This looks important. Doesn't have the normal pressure switch thingy on it either." After fiddling with it for a few minutes they admitted defeat. "This calls for a bit of brute force - time to play space marines and blow some shit up with ray-guns." After retreating to the far end of the corridor Andrej gestured to Tainui. "After you, sir!"

Tainui steadied himself, lined up the weapon on the far hatch and fired. The weapon made a loud buzzing noise as Tainui held down his thumb on the trigger. Smoke, sparks and gouts of flame erupted at the far end of the corridor, quickly obscuring the hatch and drifting down the corridor back towards them. After a few seconds he stopped firing and squinted through the haze at his handiwork. As the smoke thinned they could see that the hatch was criss-crossed with black scorch-marks but didn't appear to be otherwise damaged.

Andrej laughed and hefted his own weapon. "You great big poof! Here, let a real man have a... What the fuck!" The ship started shuddering around them, accompanied by several loud bangs and a drawn out rumbling noise. The hatch suddenly exploded off its rails with a loud shriek of tortured metal, along with several of the nearby wall panels, sucked into the star-studded black void on the other side. A hurricane force wind slammed into them both, sucking them screaming towards the hole that now gaped with jagged metal edges where the end of the corridor used to be.

End of part 1