ZOMG disclaimer. O RLY? YES RLY! Ohnoes! Actually nothing like that, just more story goodness. If you've made it this far a big hearty thank you to you, Mr or Mrs Reader.

An hour or so later a subdued Two-Talon entered the cockpit area where the boys were sitting watching the stars wheel slowly around through the viewport. Reaching out he laid a hand on each of the boys' shoulders. "Come, this one needs you," He led them back to the mess room where the other Vanguard waited, watching them impassively. "Sit. This one talked with Hunts-In-Grass. New Home was original destination, however turns out was only outpost. Now Original Home know of existance it no longer safe. We manage escape for now, however future uncertain and dangerous. You have choice: This one will take you home where you are safer. Then this one continue alone."

Hunts-In-Grass hissed softly and turned to look at Two-Talon.

"Then this one continue," Two-Talon closed his eyes briefly before continuing. "Otherwise you stay. What say you?"

"We've come half-way across the fucking galaxy with you, what on earth makes you think we'd want to turn back now, after what we've seen and done?"

Tainui nodded in agreement with what Andrej had said. "You're stuck with us, mate."

Two-Talon snapped his jaw shut, looking almost relieved. "Very well - and thank you. Real New Home trip take approximately one year, will need sleep during time. This one will make necessary course changes. You should prepare."

The boys got up and made their way to the hibernation chamber to get ready. Hunts-In-Grass watched them go then turned to Two-Talon. "I was hoping they might take up your offer," He said, pouting.

Two-Talon looked at him curiously. "Why? You are not jealous of them are you?"

"They are aliens, why would I be jealous?" Hissing in embarassment Hunts-In-Grass quickly left the mess.

Two-Talon watched him leave, following the humans towards the hibernation chamber. He was beginning to wonder why Hunts-In-Grass had latched onto him so quickly - what sort of life had the young warrior had up till now? The temptation to give in to his desires and chase Hunts-In-Grass down was very strong, and this latest revelation certainly didn't help. If he persued some sort of relationship with Hunts-In-Grass, would he only end up causing more damage for the warrior? For himself?

Conflicted, he returned to the cockpit and entered in the co-ordinates that the warrior had given him for New Home into the control console. Hunts-In-Grass was young, attractive and obviously very interested, but still Two-Talon hesitated. It was bad enough that Hunts-In-Grass resembled a younger Tusker...

Having finished the course change program, Two-Talon stood and stared blankly at the control console without really seeing it. Although his emotions were still running raw from his earlier outburst, a realisation dawned on him. Hunts-In-Grass was definitely interested in persuing something and while Tusker would always hold a special place in his soul, his old lover was not coming back - ever. As much as it hurts sometimes, life goes on.

Andrej was lying on his hibernation couch watching a naked Tainui who had just finished stowing his backpack when they were both startled by a loud roar coming from the direction of the cockpit. Hunts-In-Grass, who had entered the room just moments before with a rather murderous expression on his craggy features also looked up, startled by the noise.

Two-Talon came thundering through the open hatch and leapt at Hunts-In-Grass with a primal scream, sending both reptiles crashing into the corner of the room in a hissing tangle of arms, legs and tails. Quickly pinning the younger Vanguard to the decking on his back, Two-Talon growled loudly and forced both the warrior's legs apart with his own. Using one of his talons he shredded the clothes they were both wearing before gently biting Hunts-In-Grass's shoulders and neck. He roughly ground his rock-hard cock against the warrior's sheath, eliciting a high-pitched excited whine from the reptile beneath him.

Tainui gave the thrashing reptiles a wide berth as he edged around the room to Andrej's hibernation couch, carefully avoiding the gobs of slippery ooze and small splashes of blood being flung around the room.

"Why are they fighting, shouldn't we stop them?" Andrej whispered with alarm as Tainui plopped himself down on the couch beside him.

"Dude, I don't think they're fighting," Tainui whispered back.

"Then what are they... Oh... Oh!"

"This is very very hot!" Tainui mumbled hoarsely, spooning up against Andrej's back, not taking his eyes off the two Vanguard wrestling on the decking.

Wide-eyed, Hunts-In-Grass struggled underneath the larger Vanguard and panted, his own cock becoming erect out of its sheath from the friction and excitement as the medic nibbled at all the right spots on the underside of his jaw and neck. "What made you... HRRR!... Change your mind? What about the aliens?"

Two-Talon sunk his teeth into the tender flesh of Hunts-In-Grass's neck, drawing blood. The young warrior hissed loudly as the medic pressed down on him, tail twining around his own. Releasing the warrior's neck, Two-Talon raised his head and stared at Hunts-In-Grass with a twisted sneer on his reptilian features, saliva drooling down his chin, dripping onto the younger Vanguard's snout. "I can stop if you want?"

"No! Oh ancestors, no, do not stop!" Hunts-In-Grass twisted his head back, horns scraping the deck, neck exposed.

Taking the queue, Two-Talon sank his teeth gently into the younger Vanguard's neck again and moved his lower body until the head of his throbbing, drooling cock found Hunts-In-Grass's exposed tail-hole. Growling softly he paused, their intertwined tails wrestling each other, before sinking the entire length of his cock deep inside the young warrior underneath him in one quick movement. Half-strangled, Hunts-In-Grass let out a loud gutteral hiss of combined pleasure and pain, arching his back, his own cock exploding in several massive spurts as it lay trapped between their two writhing bodies.

Brutally thrusting, Two-Talon never once let his grip on the younger Vanguard's neck go, although he released Hunts-In-Grass's arms so he could support himself better. This enabled Hunts-In-Grass to wrap all four of his own arms around Two-Talon's back, his talons raking shallow bloody scratches down the entire length as the medic pounded into him. Growling loudly himself despite the pressure on his throat he lost himself in the pleasure/pain, his ribbed cock exploding messily between their taut bodies yet again, hot streams of cum dripping down his stomach to mix with the streaks of blood running down his neck and shoulders. He felt Two-Talons cock-sheath pulse and could tell the medic was about to blow his load, so he clenched his tail-hole hard on the cock thrusting mercilessly inside him.

As Two-Talon's cock unloaded inside his spasming tail-hole, he thought he heard the medic rumble past the teeth clamped around his neck...

"Life!" THRUST! "Goes!" THRUST! "On!"

Exhausted, Two-Talon opened his jaws to release Hunts-In-Grass's neck a couple of minutes later and raised himself into a sitting position. His slimy cock pulled out of the younger Vanguard's puffy and abused tail-hole with an obscene slurping noise, hot, sticky cum oozing out of the tenderised opening. After a moment he staggered to his feet, pulling Hunts-In-Grass upright with him, drawing the youth into a tight embrace. Gently he ran his tongue over the puncture marks on Hunts-In-Grass's throat, sealing the wounds with post-coital saliva. "They will not take long to heal - I am sorry I was so rough." When Hunts-In-Grass didn't respond immediately, Two-Talon broke the embrace and looked the younger Vanguard with concern. "Are you alright?"

Shaking his head with disbelief, Hunts-In-Grass had a large dreamy smile on his face. "Praise the Ancestors - that was a legendary fuck. You are an animal, I am going to be walking funny for days!"

Two-Talon huffed with amusement and turned to look at the two humans who had been sitting on one of hibernation couches during the performance, figuring he probably owed them a bit of an explaination. To his surprise he saw that the Andrej human was bent over the couch with an expression of what he took to be lust on his face, grunting as he was vigorously fucked from behind by his mate. Hunts-In-Grass also watched the event with interest. A few moments later Tainui screwed up his face and puffed as he blew his load deep inside Andrej's arse before collapsing on top of the younger man.

Looking up he saw both of the Vanguard staring at him with their unblinking black eyes. "Nothing to see here folks, move along," He giggled and rolled off Andrej's back and onto the couch panting. For his part, Andrej blushed furiously and got up, leaving a sticky wet patch on the couch where he'd been lying. Grabbing what little dignity they had left, the boys dashed out the hatch laughing to the shuttle's bathroom to clean up.

Hunts-In-Grass went over to the stained couch and rubbed a talon in the sticky mess, bringing it to his nose and sniffed it. Sticking out his tongue he then licked the talon clean, looking at Two-Talon and shrugging. "I probably will not get the opportunity to eat them so this is as close as I can get to see what they taste like."

"You are a mystery, my young friend. Strong and sexy, but still a mystery. Go and get yourself cleaned up but no more taste-testing the aliens, you do not know where they have been!"

Huffing with laughter, the young Vanguard followed the humans to the bathroom. Two-Talon grabbed some rags from a locker and set about cleaning up the mess on the floor. Pausing by the couch he also tentatively tasted the human's semen, looking around self-consciously as he did so. Shaking his head he continued with the cleanup. Picking up the youth's bad habits already, he thought to himself with wry amusement. Didn't taste too bad though...

When Hunts-In-Grass entered the bathroom, Andrej and Tainui were horsing around in the shower but cut their conversation short, regarding him warily. To his surprise it was the Tainui human that broke the silence first, stifling a giggle.

"I'm sorry, I just have trouble taking an alien seriously when its just been fucked nine-ways-to-Sunday and has lizard-spooge dripping down its leg!" at which both humans burst into laughter.

Hunts-In-Grass blinked in confusion as the translation disk made hard work of the conversation, although it did manage to decipher some of what the human had said. Noticing some of Two-Talon's cum running down the inside of his thigh he realized the human was right, it was kinda funny. Although still a little wary of these aliens, they did seem to be quite harmless and they had a sense of humour too, something his own species sometimes lacked. They made some room in the shower and gestured for him to join them. Grunting his thanks he moved under one of the water streams, closing his eyes and basking in the warmth with a sigh.

It was a minute or so later when he felt something touching one of his arms. Opening his eyes he saw that the Andrej human was gently running his fingers across the scales on the bicep of his left rear arm. When the human saw him looking he jerked his hand back and muttered a quiet apology. A little surprised, he closed his eyes again and rumbled softly. "Go ahead, explore. Just careful of injuries, still not fully heal yet," He huffed with amusement. "Careful of new injury, hope that take long time fully heal!" Emboldened by his response, both of the humans started running their hands over various parts of his body, taking care near the patches of artificial skin still covering his recent wounds. Occasionally he flexed his muscles or moved an arm, leg or his tail as they examined his body.

When he felt one of them get close to his sheath he flexed his cock so that it protruded a small way out. Opening his eyes again and smiling, he looked down at the two humans as they leaned in to get a closer look. "You not study Vanguard before?"

Tainui stood and looked up at him, reaching up his hand and running it across the scales on the well-muscled chest. "No, this is the first chance we've had to look at one of you guys closely. Your scales are quite hard in places, soft in others. How well can you feel through those?"

"Not well, some places better. Hands good, body not good. Parts of body very good," He flexed his cock again and both the humans laughed.

"So how old are you, anyway? You're a bit smaller than Two-Talon so I'm guessing you're younger than he is."

After considering the question for a few moments, Hunts-In-Grass huffed and shook his head. "Unsure, time measure different on New Home than Original Home. Ask Two-Talon. Two-Talon older than this one but not much."

Andrej finished examining Hunts-In-Grass's cock-sheath and directed some of the shower water over the still tender-looking tail-hole, washing away the evidence of Two-Talon's earlier enjoyment. The warrior sighed as the warm water soothed some of the ache away. "Hrrr, now this one asks questions. You never answer this one's earlier questions! Mating between same type normal with humans? You cannot produce spawn, how humans make spawn?"

"When a mummy and daddy love each other very much -" Tainui started speaking but was quickly slapped into silence by Andrej.

"Humans have two sexes - males and females. When a human male and female have sex if it's successful then a few months later the female gives birth to a live baby human." It seemed that Hunts-In-Grass understood most of what Andrej said so he continued, "Most humans matings are between males and females. Only a very small number between two males or two females. It is normal I guess, just not exactly common. The only ones that seem to have much of a problem with it though are the religious freaks."

Hunts-In-Grass cocked his head and seemed to be listening to the translation disk hanging from his ear. "This one not understand word you use."


"No, word before that."

"You mean religious?"

The Vanguard snapped his jaw shut in affirmation. Andrej looked at him, surprised. "How about the word religion?"

"Not understood."

"Really? Huh, so you Vanguard don't worship gods or churches or anything?"

"More words this one not understand."

"Well count yourselves lucky then. Religion has caused a lot of trouble on earth over the years. Basically a religion is a belief in a higher power - supposedly an all powerful, perfect being that created us and sits there judging how good or bad we are."

The warrior was silent for a couple of minutes, thinking over the explaination before he responded. "Vanguard respect, honor revered ancestors, some Vanguard think ancestors help guide them. This what you mean?"

Andrej considered this for a few moments. "Yeah, close enough, I guess."

"Ancestors not higher power however. Ancestors are revered but dead Vanguard. They give Vanguard wisdom through teachings. In future this one hopes to be revered Ancestor. This one hopes to leave wisdom, teach those who come after." When Tainui laughed, Hunts-In-Grass whipped his head around and hissed at him. "This one serious. Why you laugh?"

"Man, if we had something like that ancestor stuff on earth instead of bullshit religions then the world would have been a much better place. Not laughing at you at all, what you said is logical and makes sense." Andrej nodded in agreement. "Anyway, religion is about as interesting as politics and we've already experienced enough dodgy Vanguard politics to last a lifetime! So changing the subject, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?"

Two-Talon finished cleaning up the worst of the mess in the hibernation chamber and also made for the bathroom to get himself cleaned up. On hearing the conversation he stopped short of the hatch and listened quietly.

Hunts-In-Grass closed his eyes and relaxed again under the warm water, slumping back into a sitting position with his tail poking out between his legs.

"I'll take that as a yes. How did you get that big scar on your face?" Reaching over and tracing his fingers lightly over the damaged scales and down over the broken tusk, Andrej stopped when the young warrior flinched and turned his head away.

Making a deep rumbling noise, Hunts-In-Grass opened his eyes, fixing his unblinking gaze on the inquisitive human. "Do humans know of rape?"

Andrej nodded slowly.

"There was commander in this one's military training unit that wanted this one and did not take no for answer." He stopped and enjoyed the warmth of the water flowing over his shoulders for a few moments before continuing. "Commander angry when this one refuse, severely injured this one and took what he wanted anyway. Hurt this one for long period of time." Hunts-In-Grass lumbered slowly to his feet with a growl and moved out from under the shower-heads, shaking himself dry.

"Shit, that's horrible. Man, I'm sorry, didn't mean to -"

The reptile cut Andrej off with a curt gesture and turned to leave. "Not matter, it history now. This one is, as how you humans say, damaged goods."

Passing through the hatch, Hunts-In-Grass walked head-long into Two-Talon who was still standing in the corridor and took a couple of steps back in surprise. "How long have you been... Hrrr, long enough, judging by the expression on your face."

"Why did you not tell me about this before?"

The young warrior flexed his arms in agitation and avoided looking at the medic. "It was not relevant and besides, you have had enough to deal with lately without me complicating things."

"Ancestors guide me! Not relevant?" Two-Talon dropped to his knees in horror and held out his arms towards Hunts-In-Grass imploringly, "And after what I just did to you a few minutes ago!"

"Come on! You know I wanted you as well! Please Two-Talon, get up!" He grabbed all four of the medic's arms and struggled to pull the larger reptile to his feet.

"But -"

"It is bad enough that I am disfigured on the outside," Hunts-In-Grass self-consciously rubbed the scar on his snout. "I thought that if you knew I was disfigured on the inside as well that you... You would not want me."

Completely heart-broken, Two-Talon couldn't stop the tears from welling up and streaming down his face as pulled the forlorn young Vanguard warrior who reminded him so much of Tusker into his arms. Any thoughts of maintaining a friendly but emotionally-detached relationship were blown away at that point, he was caught - hook, line and sinker. Releasing Hunts-In-Grass, he took a step back and wiped away the black streaks and tried to compose himself a little. "This is not good for either of us, you know. You have only just met me, and I have only recently lost... Anyway, I am not quite sure where we go from here."

"My friends are all dead, killed in the battle defending the outpost and my clan is several months travel from here. You rescued me and have been nothing but kind to me ever since! You are so Ancestor-damned attractive it hurts and yet you still want me! Despite my... Flaws." Reaching out an arm to Two-Talon, he looked up into the taller Vanguard's eyes. "All I am asking is for you to take me with you. I know I will never be able to replace Tusker in your soul, but perhaps one day you might... Develop feelings for me as well."

"Hrrr, beginning to wonder if I have not already," Two-Talon sighed, clasping the youth's outstretched arm. "That aside, you seem awfully sure that you want to throw in your lot with me and the two humans. I have grown quite attached to them in the short time I have known them - like it or not they are part of the package."

Hunts-In-Grass's face split into a smile. "Those humans have an old childrens' story I was reading about - you are my, what is the expression... Hrrr! Leader in Shining Armour, come to rescue me."

"Leader in a banged up old shuttle, you mean. Alright, let us just take things slow and see what happens. You do not have any more secrets you need to tell me about, do you?"

"Nothing worse than what you have already discovered, no."

"Good, I have had enough emotional ups and downs in the past few weeks to last me a lifetime. Let us get you and the humans prepped for hibernation - we can talk more once we get to New Home."

It wasn't long before there was an extremely low pitched rumbling noise echoing through the dark empty rooms and corridors as the near-FTL drive powered up on its pre-programmed sequence. The four passengers slumbered, oblivious in their sealed hibernation couches as the shuttle gradually picked up speed and started surfing along on a small distortion of space-time towards one of the many small points of light shining diamond-sharp in the blackness.

It was followed a few hours later by several much larger space-time distortions rippling through the same section of empty space, heading in the same direction.

After regaining consciousness, Two-Talon opened the cover of his hibernation couch and looked around. Hunts-In-Grass was still out, but the two humans were nowhere to be seen, they seemed to recover from the forced sleep process a lot faster than the Vanguard. Stiffly he got to his feet and hunted around for a new skinsuit. He found one and slipped it on, the material hugging his body like a second skin. Grabbing a water canister he drank heavily as he made his way to the cockpit where he found the two humans staring through the viewport.

"What's happened to the stars?" Andrej asked him as Two-Talon lumbered up to the controls and studied the readouts. The view was considerably different from what they were used to - a ring of deep blue stars that expanded around the edges as the shuttle moved forwards, turning to a deep red as they swept by out of view.

"Shuttle travels very fast, light not work properly at high speeds. Will appear normal as shuttle slows. We near real New Home, engines shutting down shortly."

Right on queue the deep, almost subliminal, rumbling of the near-FTL drive went quiet and the stars outside started returning slowly to their normal state as the space-time distortion that the shuttle was coasting on dissipated. Now centred in the viewport was a large and faintly reddish coloured star which bathed the cockpit area in an erie glow.

"We must've been travelling pretty damned fast," Andrej looked with interest at the new starry vista surrounding the shuttle.

"This one not engineer so cannot explain theory well. Engines use gravity, twist space creating ripple which push shuttle. Works for small craft over short distances between close stars. Big craft use different engines. Rip hole in space, travel to other space. Rip hole in other space to get back. That way covers long distances faster." Two-Talon straightened up from the controls and looked with satisfaction at the two boys. "We nearly there, just need Hunts-In-Grass here. He contacts New Home so defense not attack us."

"Speak of the devil," Tainui nodded to the young warrior as he entered the cockpit area and looked blearily out at the star-scape. Hunts-In-Grass had managed to find a new skinsuit to replace the one shredded by the medic during their lustful engagement earlier, although it was a bit large and hung loosely off his slightly more compact frame.

After a few hours of travel, a large brown and white planet came into view and they could see small yellow patches of light scatted across the dark-side indicating cities as they got closer. The proximitiy alarm started chiming and a heads-up display flashed onto the viewport, highlighting several small specks spread out in space ahead of the shuttle. The computer magnified the specks showing them to be several large battleships and a flotilla of smaller attack frigates in orbit around the planet. Hunts-In-Grass rumbled with relief. "Hrrr... New Home defense fleet. This one should inform about attack on outpost."

Two-Talon indicated the comms console and moved out of the way.

"This is Hunts-In-Grass of the Brittlerock clan, former warrior of Sirius-Defender. We were attacked at the Outpost -" He was interrupted by the weapons-lock notification system flashing up a warning.

"We are not the enemy for Ancestors sake, tell them not to fire!" Two-Talon gripped the edge of the control console nervously.

"Stand weapons down, we are unarmed! We are unarmed!"

Andrej and Tainui watched with dawning horror as the New Home defense ships started firing volleys of missles and powerful looking beams of energy towards them. Shoving Hunts-In-Grass away, Two-Talon grabbed the helm controls and forced the shuttle into a series of wild evasive manoeuvers. It didn't take long for them to find themsevles surrounded by the battle-fleet as Two-Talon threw the shuttle from side to side, avoiding missiles and smaller attack ships. After a few nerve-wracking seconds they were through the main battle-group and in clear space heading at a rapid clip towards the planet.

"What the fuck is going on?" Tainui yelled at the bewildered looking Hunts-In-Grass. "Why are they firing at us, I thought they were supposed to be friendly!"

"Ancestors forgive me..." Two-Talon hissed quietly as a sensor readout caught his attention, grabbing the young warrior and pointing at the display. "They must have followed us here! It was not us they were firing at, but what is behind us!"

After Two-Talon spun the shuttle around they watched aghast as the New Home defense fleet engaged with the Original Home battlefleet, massive explosions flowering silently in the vacuum. The larger battle-cruisers moved ponderously at sub-light speeds, bringing their larger weapons to bear on each other as the smaller frigates duelled it out in a space becoming rapidly crowded with debris and jettisoned weapon counter-measure devices.

There was a loud crash and the shuttle rocked violently as something exploded. A fast-attack frigate that they hadn't seen was bearing down on them rapidly, several more missiles on an intercept path. Bringing the shuttle around, Two-Talon aimed at the planet and pushed the sublight engines to full throttle. "Take the humans and get into the hibernation chamber, it is the most well-protected part of the ship! Go quickly!" He roared, battling with the controls.

Hunts-In-Grass did as instructed and was halfway to the hibernation chamber with the two frightened humans when the next missile hit, knocking them to their knees. Lights flickered and dimmed as several power-conduits exploded and with a sickening lurch in the pits of their stomachs, the artificial gravity failed.

Grabbing both of the humans using his two rear arms, Hunts-In-Grass pushed off a bulkhead towards the hibernation chamber and had just made it through the hatchway when a third missile impacted the shuttle. Slammed against the buckled floor grating, the last thing Hunts-In-Grass heard over the roar of destruction as he lost conciousness was Two-Talon roaring defiantly...

Mortally wounded, the wrecked shuttle tumbled out of control towards the surface of New Home, trailing scraps of metal, plastic and blasted ceramic shielding in its wake. Atmosphere explosively venting from the crippled life-support systems added to the debris. Satisfied, the leader of the attack frigate ordered them back to the main battle, the shuttle was clearly doomed.

As the atmosphere around the shuttle gradually thickened, a thin plume of plasma started forming around the front of the shuttle, filling the smokey interior of the shuttle with the noise of thermally stressed hull plating. Two-Talon growled as he pushed a large piece of wreckage off himself and lay panting as looked at the destruction around him. Internal atmospheric pressure was dropping, main power was offline and most of the control console was a sparking ruin. A rising shriek made him look up at the cracked main viewport. The blackness of space was being replaced by an orange glow that was getting brighter. Although the artificial gravity was offline, things were starting to settle in a downwards direction as the gravity of New Home asserted itself.

Wincing in pain he pulled himself to his feet using the wrecked control console for support. Backup power was working fitfully as there were still one or two consoles responding. Manoeuvering thrusters seemed to be operational as was, uselessly, the weapons-lock alarm. The shuttle was starting to shake quite badly as the atmosphere outside thickened and tore at the wrecked vehicle. Loud bangs and drawn out metallic groans were becoming more frequent as various external parts were torn off or destroyed by the friction-generated plasma.

Ferverently hoping that Hunts-In-Grass had managed to get himself and the humans to safety, Two-Talon set about trying to save what was left of the shuttle. With no sublight engines he couldn't hope to slow their descent so he could only hope that the damaged superstructure of the shuttle would survive the ravages of re-entry. Two-Talon pondered using the manoeuvering thrusters. It was the only thing he could think of that would stop them impacting the surface of New Home at several hundred kilometers per second.

There was a shriek of rending metal from the engineering section and the shuttle lurched as something massive tore itself free. That might help, Two-Talon thought to himself ruefully. The howl of the atmosphere outside the shuttle was getting louder as the air thickened quickly and despite the violent shaking he could feel the vehicle slowing slightly as the air pushed harder against them. Activating the manoeuvering thrusters to full reverse, he desperately wanted to convert some of their vertical speed into horizontal movement so they wouldn't just crater when they hit the surface. Several more cracks appeared in the toughened material of the viewport as the wounded shuttle's structure bent under the stress from the thrusters pushing against their descent.

"Just hold together for another couple of minutes", Two-Talon whispered, clinging desperately to the console for support as the violent shaking got worse. With a loud metallic clang, the outer airlock hatch ripped out of its mountings and was whipped away in the maelstrom, the sudden pressure differential causing the internal hatch to groan loudly in protest. Two-Talon watched, eyes wide, as cracks started spreading across the small viewport built into the hatch - if it blew then the rest of the hatch would lose its integrity and likely blow out as well.

Two-Talon was knocked off his feet as the shuttle lurched again. As he lay dazed on the decking he thought he heard someone talking, but couldn't make it out over the shattering roar. After a few seconds he managed to pull himself to his knees and struggled to make out what the voice which appeared to be coming from the wreckage of the control console, was saying.

"...nent. Landing scenario failure, collision imminent. Landing scenario failure, collision imminent..."

Another automated warning system, uselessly telling him something he already knew... Collision imminent? As the shuttle rocked violently around him he looked past the cracks in the viewport and saw a large snow-covered mountain range directly below getting very close, very quickly. At least he didn't have to worry about the airlock hatch failing, he thought to himself. His scream was cut short as everything suddenly exploded around him.

It was a chilling wind that Hunts-In-Grass first noticed as awareness slowly dawned on him and then after the pounding in his head settled down to a more tolerable level, the silence. Wiping a trickle of blood from one of his eyes, he took stock of the situation. Ruddy coloured sunlight poured in through a large gap where a bulkhead used to be, exposing a rather stark snow and rock covered landscape littered with twisted bits of wreckage, some still smouldering from the reentry. The hibernation chamber was a mess, wiring, support beams, wall panels and other assorted wreckage lay all over the place, two of the hibernation couches were smashed almost beyond recognition. Of the humans he could see only one, slumped unmoving and covered with debris in the opposite corner, the other one nowhere in sight.

Cursing loudly he pushed a collapsed support-beam off his chest and struggled to stand, wincing in pain as he realized one of his rear arms was broken and his tail was numb, likely broken or fractured as well. Other than a few small lacerations and bruises he seemed to be mostly in one piece, which surprised him somewhat given what they had just gone through.

Picking his way carefully over buckled and missing decking, he approached the human. Carefully removing bits of debris from the still form he checked it over. What he presumed was blood seeped from several cuts on the creatures skin but it was still breathing which was a promising sign. He shook it gently but got no response.

Stepping stiffly down onto the snow covered ground through the space left by the missing bulkhead, he surveyed the landscape. The shuttle had broken up into several large sections as it plowed a huge smoking furrow down the side of a mountain before coming to rest on a small plateau above a steep drop. The nose-section was lying half buried in a mound of piled up snow and soil, smoke from a small fire inside it was being whipped about by the bitter wind blowing across the crash site. Half stumbling, Hunts-In-Grass made his way over to the nose-section and pulled aside some ripped insulation, trying to find any sign of Two-Talon's body in the mangled wreckage where the cockpit used to be.

"Over... Her-" Interrupted by a coughing fit as he tried to prop himself up on his elbows, Two-Talon blearily looked around for the source of the movement he'd heard.

Hunts-In-Grass's ears twitched as he hunted around for the medic, finding him lying on his back in the snow a short distance from the nose-section. A large partially buried rock had ripped the other side of the nose-section completely open before it came to rest, throwing Two-Talon's unconcious body completely clear of the wreck. One of the medic's legs was bent at an unusual angle and both arms on his right side were badly broken. The horn on the right side of his head had also been broken off 3/4 of the way down its length and he was still weakly coughing up blood from a several broken ribs when the young warrior dropped to his knees beside him. "Thank the Ancestors, you are still alive!"

"Hrrr... «cough» Just about. Are you... Are you alright?"

"Yes, nothing too badly damaged. That was some piloting there - are you sure you are just a medic?"

Smiling weakly, Two-Talon gave up on trying to sit up. Struggling to stay conscious for a few more moments, he reached out and grabbed one of the young warriors arms. "What of the humans?"

"I could only find one of them, it does not appear to be too badly injured. No sign of the other."

"Try and find the other one. Do what you can for them." Unconsciousness claimed Two-Talon and he released the warrior's arm.

Groaning painfully as he got to his feet, Hunts-In-Grass went back to the nose-section and ripped off as much of the ragged insulation as he could find and fashioned a crude blanket for the unconscious medic. There was no change in the humans condition, it was still unresponsive. Satisfied that he'd done all he could for that one for the moment, he continued to look for its missing mate.

It wasn't until he climbed in behind what was left of the engineering and propulsion section that he found the other one. Leaping over the still smouldering wreckage he knelt down beside the small alien. Lying on its back in the snow, panting, most of its body was crushed underneath a section of the missing hibernation chamber bulkhead. As he approached, the human opened its eyes and looked at him with a weak smile. "Are we there yet?"

Gently snapping his jaw shut in affirmation, Hunts-In-Grass looked at the bulkhead that trapped the human. It in turn was trapped under the largest part of the wreck - there was no way he could move it by himself. In desperation he stood and looked around for something he could use to try and pry the bulkhead up with, but stopped when the human called out to him. "Forget it, think I'm... I'm outta time. Just tell me -" The human whimpered softly in pain as it reached out its free arm towards him. "Is he... Is he OK?"

Hunts-In-Grass knelt down again and held the human's hand in two of his own.

"Your mate not badly injured, will survive. Two-Talon badly injured but alive. Rescue get here soon."

The human coughed weakly, bright red blood pooling beneath its body. "Good. Just tell him I... love him." He squeezed the young warriors hand and looked at the reptile intently. "Please?"

Helplessly Hunts-In-Grass snapped his jaw shut again.

Closing its eyes, the human smiled gratefully at him. Hunts-In-Grass continued to hold the human's hand for several minutes until its breathing slowed and finally stopped. After another couple of minutes, he gently laid the humans arm down onto the snow and stood slowly. Making his way back to the demolished hibernation chamber, he collected the unconscious alien up and carefully carried it over to where Two-Talon was lying under his makeshift blanket.

A few minutes later a small scout ship flew over the crash site, circling around a couple of times before it came in to land. The two New Home warriors who got out were both heavily armed and kept their weapons on him as they helped him get the survivors onboard. As they were flying back to the military base, Two-Talon came to and looked up to see Hunts-In-Grass who was cradling the medic's head in his arms, smile at him. "We are home. You are going to be alright."

"Hrrr... It has been a long time coming," Two-Talon sighed. Looking around, he could see one of the humans wrapped up in a survival blanket being held by a strangely uniformed warrior. He turned his head back to look at Hunts-In-Grass. "Where is the other one?"

Hunts-In-Grass's smile faded and he turned his head, avoiding the medic's eyes. Two-Talon's breath caught in his throat and he choked back an anguished howl. How many more were going to die because of him?

End of part 3