This story contains MSG, traces of nuts (or is that just the author?) and should not be viewed by anyone that is allergic to that. Mmm, nuts. Oh, and beware the angst, have a double-helping of hot, dripping, sweaty angst. Enjoy!

"Why cant I see him?" Tainui was getting increasingly frustrated with the unresponsive New Home warriors standing guard outside his room. He knew damned well they could understand him, they had the small translation disks hanging from their ears just like Two-Talon and Hunts-In-Grass did. "Why am I being kept a prisoner, I'm not one of the bad guys for fucks sake! Bah, you guys are useless!" He turned and faced the mirrored wall on the far side of the room and glared at his reflection for a couple of minutes before throwing himself into the sleep-webbing in one corner.

He was still brooding a few hours later when the two warriors stepped aside to let another Vanguard enter the room. Looking up he saw the familiar figure of Hunts-In-Grass, some metal bracing attached to one of his well-muscled rear arms. Jumping to his feet he met the young warrior near the doorway. "What's going on, bro? When can I see Andrej? Why are they holding me prisoner here? Where's -"

Hunts-In-Grass held up a hand interrupting the human in mid-question. "New Home thought us traitors, bringing Original Home invaders here. Took time explaining they follow us here, that we not know they follow us. Come, Two-Talon wants talk with you."

As they exited the room, Tainui turned around and gave the two New Home warriors the finger. They didn't react to his gesture, just watched him impassively with their unblinking black eyes as they followed a short distance behind him. Shortly before they arrived at what Tainui presumed was the infirmary the two taciturn warriors broke off and disappeared down another corridor leaving him and the younger warrior alone. "So where is Andrej, when can I see him?"

Stopping, Hunts-In-Grass turned to the human and gently grasped his shoulders with his two forward arms. He hesitated slightly before answering. "Patience. First we see Two-Talon."

Dropping his hands, the young warrior turned and led Tainui into a large, well-lit room where a rather battered looking Vanguard struggled to his feet to greet them.

"Man, you look like shit. Are you OK?"

Both of two-Talon's right arms were in metal braces, as was his left leg and most of the horn on the right-hand side of his head, not much more than a jagged stump remained. Several patches of artificial skin were also evident on the scaley hide that wasn't covered by the light-blue medics skinsuit. "This one will recover, thank you for concern." Moving closer to Tainui, Two-Talon reached out with his left forward arm and gently stroked the human's face with his talons folded back out of the way.

A little surprised, Tainui looked at the Vanguard medic's face closely and saw dark tears well up around the four eyes. Two-Talon lowered his hand and turned around, self-consciously wiping them away. "What's wrong? Is Andrej OK?"

Sharing an unreadable look with each other, the two Vanguard gestured towards the doorway. "Come, we go see your mate," Hunts-In-Grass nodded at him.

With a growing feeling of unease, Tainui turned and exited the room, Hunts-In-Grass and Two-Talon close behind him.

The flight aboard the fast little scout ship only took about an hour, but to Tainui it seemed like days. Neither of his two companions were particularly talkative and they both seemed quite nervous, if his interpretation of their body language and facial expressions was correct. The only other occupants of the scout were the two New Home warriors he recognised from their earlier guard job duties, and they weren't saying anything much, either. When the scout touched down on a small plateau on the side of a large mountain range, the unease Tainui was feeling started developing into a sickening fear when he saw the smashed up remains of the shuttle that had been his home for the past few weeks.

Wrapping his arms around himself to try and keep warm, he walked slowly up to the largest section of the wreck and stood silently for a couple of minutes letting the numbing realization sink in. He heard the two reptiles come up and stand behind him, silently watching. Still facing the wreck he spoke quietly. "Where?"

They led him to the front of the wreck where there was a pile of stones half covered by the drifting snow. The two Vanguard been at the crash site the day before with an armed escort to salvage the shuttle's datastack and to bury Andrej. An engineer had cut the mangled bulkhead away so they could get at the body. Hunts-In-Grass stepped forward to stand directly behind the shivering human and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Your mate said -"

"Save it!" Tainui whipped around and spat the words angrily at the warrior, his face a twisted mask of rage and despair.

Storming back to the scout Tainui threw himself into the support webbing inside, curling up into a ball of barely contained misery. The two New Home warriors turned to stare at him in surprise from the cramped cockpit before turning back to the controls. Hunts-In-Grass and Two-Talon climbed in shortly afterwards and sealed the hatch, motioning for the warriors at the front to take off. As they flew back to the base, Two-Talon reached out an arm in an effort to comfort the human but stopped when Tainui snapped at him.

Darkness had fallen and it was getting quite late when Two-Talon got an unexpected visitor to his quarters. Looking up from the datapad he was studying, he was surprised to see Tainui standing in the doorway and wondered how long the human had been standing there. Putting aside the datapad, he patted a space on the sleep-webbing beside him and waited as the human hesitated for a moment before joining him.

They sat in silence for a few minutes while Tainui stared at the floor. He finally looked up at Two-Talon. "What was your partners name?" he asked quietly.

"Was called Tusker."

"You were together for a while?"

"Hrrr... eleven years," Two-Talon sighed, wistful.

Tainui smiled sadly and nodded. "I only knew Andrej for a few weeks, but I still loved him. Was that too quick you think?"

"Cannot always control who we love, time means nothing for the soul."

Tainui was silent for another couple of minutes. "Does it ever stop hurting?"

Two-Talon didn't answer, instead he pulled the smaller human into an embrace, wincing slightly as Tainui pressed against the bruised ribs on his chest. Wracked with sobs, Tainui clung to him and cried out all his hurt, frustration and loss. When Hunts-In-Grass entered the room a bit later, he found them asleep together, the medics arms, legs and tail wrapped protectively around the human - the same way any Vanguard would do with a frightened spawnling.

Tainui woke slowly, not recognising where he was for several moments as he blinked in the bright pink light of an early-morning New Home sunrise streaming in through the window. He could hardly move, sometime during the night Hunts-In-Grass had joined them on the sleep-webbing and he found himself sandwiched between the two slumbering reptiles, their various arms, legs and tails wrapped around him.

As he lay there, warm in the cocoon of reptilian limbs, he studied Two-Talon's face. The medic's jaw was relaxed and slightly open, his long tongue draped over one of the small tusks on his lower jaw. Two large nostrils at the end of his scaley snout expanding and contracting slightly as he breathed, eyelids closed over those four enigmatic black eyes. His feathery ears laying flat against the top of his elongated and vaguely equine head. Reaching out, Tainui stroked Two-Talon's ear gently - it was quite soft compared with the scales covering most of the rest of his body.

For all their vast physical differences it still seemed like they shared a sort of bond which made him feel a little better. Even with the loss of Andrej still fresh and raw in his mind, Tainui couldn't help but sympathise with the large alien and the loss it had also suffered recently. However with the developing friendship between the two reptiles, it looked like things were on the up for the medic at least. Sighing, Tainui turned over and was startled to see that Hunts-In-Grass's eyes were open and looking straight at him.

They lay there staring at each other for a minute or two until the reptile pulled him closer with his two fore arms, turning him over then spooning up against his back. Nervously, Tainui waited to see what Hunts-In-Grass would do next, but all the reptile did was start a very low pitched rumbling deep inside its chest which made his whole body tingle pleasantly. Closing his eyes he allowed himself to relax back against the warrior. Lulled almost back to sleep he opened his eyes as the rumbling started to intensify a bit, Two-Talon had woken up and had also started the deep rumbling. Tainui's whole body now vibrated gently between the two purring reptiles and he enjoyed the almost massage-like feeling for a few more minutes until both Vanguard stopped.

"That was cool, what were you doing?"

"Instinct. Adult Vanguard soothe injured, frightened spawnlings this way," Two-Talon explained after stretching his jaws open in a wide yawn.

Getting unsteadily to his feet, the medic turned and looked out the window before limping over to the cleaning pool in the corner of the room. After gingerly lowering himself into the water he turned and looked at Tainui with what almost looked like a smile on his craggy features. "This one thinks young warrior likes you."

Hunts-In-Grass snorted and made his way over to the pool to join the medic. Tainui watched them clean each other for a couple of minutes before turning to look at the view out of the window. "So, you guys gonna show me around this alien planet or do I have to go exploring by myself?"

"We go soon. You not allowed by yourself yet. We also talk about future," Hunts-In-Grass replied while sloshing around in the pool trying to stop Two-Talon from wriggling around so much.

"Why aren't I allowed out by myself?"

"Base leaders orders. She not sure what threat you pose."

"Threat? Me?"

"You. You are alien, no? Apparently alien is security risk. New Home defences still nervous after Original Home attacked when we arrived."

Tainui shrugged and walked over to the pool where he undressed and jumped into the hot water with the two Vanguard, watching as they cleaned each other. "You're like a couple of baboons," he commented to the two Vanguard.

"What are they?"

"Baboons. Monkeys. Y'know, eat bananas and fling shit at each other? Masturbate in front of school-kids at the zoo? Ring any bells?" The two reptiles just looked at him silently. "I guess not then." He turned around and rested his chin on his crossed arms while staring vacantly out the window, wondering what was to become of him.

A few minutes later a pair of familiar looking New Home warriors turned up and stationed themselves outside the door. "Oh look, it's Dumb and Dumber," Tainui frowned at them.

"Actually, warrior on left called Lightning, warrior on right called Thunder, " Hunts-In-Grass said as he gave Two-Talon a hand out of the pool then shook himself dry. At the mention of their names the two warriors turned to look at Tainui and bowed their heads to him. Tainui , who had been about to laugh out loud, bit his tongue and climbed out of the pool to get dressed.

As they made their way over to the base command centre with the two New Home warriors bring up the rear, Tainui spoke quietly to Hunts-In-Grass. "Are they really called Lightning and Thunder?"

The young warrior huffed with amusement. "Hrrr... Yes, they are bonded warriors, famous on base. They inseperable from when spawnlings. When elders tried seperating them, Lightning moved very quick to defend Thunder. He would not let elders near her. Thunder roared and growled very loud when seperated. To keep her quiet they not try seperating again!"

Two-Talon, who had been listening in on the conversation, turned his head to look curiously at their escort when Thunder poked her tongue out and proceeded to lick her snout slowly in a suggestive manner at him. Lightning huffed loudly with laughter as Two-Talon tripped over his feet in shock, then he turned to Thunder and smacked her in the shoulder with one of his rear arms and grumbled something the others couldn't quite make out. Hunts-In-Grass who hadn't seen the exchange between Thunder and the medic, glanced at Two-Talon curiously. "You look worried, are you alright?"

"I hope so!"

Once they reached the command centre, their escort led them to a large and mostly empty room then stationed themselves at the only exit, standing impassively. They didn't have long to wait when another Vanguard strode purposefully into the room and approached them. She was wearing one of the translation disks similar to the one being worn by Hunts-In-Grass and Two-Talon but when she spoke Tainui couldn't make out what she was saying - she had disabled it before entering the room.

Not wasting any time with pleasantries she stood in front of them looking quite angry. "So - our security outpost has been destroyed and the Original Home bastards now know where we are. Did you know we lost nearly 7000 good warriors and engineers during those battles? Not only that, but you bring aliens here! We have no idea what sort of risk they pose. Give me a good reason why I should not just kill them and have you executed!"

Lightning and Thunder had gotten closer while the leader was speaking and had drawn their projectile-rifles. Two-Talon put himself between Tainui and the two armed warriors while Hunts-In-Grass stood there somewhat surprised at the leaders reaction. "Wait, you know very well the forces from Original Home arrived at the outpost before Two-Talon and the aliens even got there! They risked their lives to save me from the wreck of the Sirius-Defender."

"Sensor readings and datastacks are easy enough to fake."

"Sure, but then why involve the humans? If Two-Talon is some kind of Original Home spy then why bother dragging a couple of aliens along with him that are only going to attract attention?"

"I am still not convinced," the leader glared at Two-Talon and Tainui before returning her gaze to the young warrior. "Where is the other alien - what did you call them?"

Hunts-In-Grass hesitated a few moments before replying and the leader noticed a look of genuine sadness that briefly flashed across his face. "Humans and the other one did not survive the crash - it was this one's mate."

"I see. Hrrr... That is unfortunate," She sighed, her expression softening. "Now that Original Home know where we are it means we are in for a rough time. Generations of Vanguard have made incredible sacrifices to make New Home what it is today - it looks like they are not going to stop any time soon. Oh, do not look so worried, I will not be sacrificing you three, at least not for a while."

"Thank -"

The leader cut Hunts-In-Grass off. "Do not thank me just yet. I have not made up my mind what to do with you and your... human - not entirely sure I trust any of you. Still, no point in keeping you confined to your quarters any more, you are all free to go - do not try to leave the base however. Looks like you could do with some more time to recover from your injuries anyway. Are you and the medic...?"

"I am hoping so, yes."

"Very well. Until I come to a decision I am going to have Lightning and Thunder keep their eyes on you. Leave me now."

Hunts-In-Grass tilted his head back, exposing his neck in submission before indicating for Two-Talon and Tainui to follow him out of the room. Just before Tainui left, the leader turned on her translator disk and stepped in front of him preventing him from leaving. "There is storm coming and this one fears for her people. This one is sorry about loss of your mate." She gave him a small bow before striding out of the room.

Lightning and Thunder looked at each other a little surprised before holstering their weapons and following the alien out the door. Tainui hurried to catch up with his two companions as they headed back to the barracks.

"What was that argument all about? Your leader looked rather pissed off with us."

Two-Talon put an arm around the human's shoulder in a companionable way and glanced back at the two armed warriors behind them before responding. "Hrrr, Understandable. With Original Home attacking same time we turn up, not surprising she is suspicious. You must understand, she leader not just of defense force but whole of New Home in time of crisis."

"But Hunts-In-Grass is from New Home, why would she be suspicious of him?"

Hunts-In-Grass interrupted the conversation, huffing with laughter. "Hrrr! This one thinks she worried of evil medic influences!"

Letting go of Tainui, Two-Talon lunged playfully at the young warrior who easily sidestepped him. "You wait young warrior! When this one no longer requires medical braces he influence you with long hard evil!"

Walking behind them, Lightning rolled his eyes at Thunder who just bared her teeth in a smile.

Later the same day Tainui approached Hunts-In-Grass, who was taking the opportunity of a break in between teaching Two-Talon about various aspects of New Home society to stretch his muscles. "Hey, you got a minute bro?" He asked quietly.

The young warrior turned to him and snapped his jaws shut. "Got a minute? You humans have strange way of saying things. But yes, what is it?"

"I need to go back to the crash site, there's some... Things I need to do there."

Hunts-In-Grass snapped his jaws shut again, understanding. "Of course. When you want to go?"

"Uh, now if possible?"

"Wait, this one back soon." He disappeared down a corridor for a couple of minutes before coming back with one of the two warrior guards. "Thunder will take you. Do you require assistance?"

"Nah, this is something I need to do alone. But thanks."


Hunts-In-Grass walked with Tainui and Thunder to the scout ship launch-bay. Lightning, who was staying behind, watched them go through narrow slitted eyes, uncomfortable at being seperated for long from Thunder. Once they got to the scout, Hunts-In-Grass stopped and hunkered down beside Tainui until they were eye to eye. "You need to know this before you go. Your mate told this one to tell you he loved you."

"What! Why didn't you tell me this sooner?"

"Tried telling you at crash site."

"Geeze mate, you got a lot to learn about timing!" Tainui stormed up the ramp and smacked the hatch closure mechanism with a closed fist. "Let's go," he muttered to Thunder who had watched the exchange through the open hatchway as she prepared the scout for departure. Now he fucking tells me, Tainui thought to himself as the New Home warrior piloted the scout towards the mountains in the distance.

Hunts-In-Grass watched the scout ship disappear off into the distance before making his way back to the barracks. As he approached the entrance, Lightning glared at him and fingered his projectile-rifle suggestively as he waited by the entry. "Oh go fuck yourself," Hunts-In-Grass hissed angrily at the other warrior as he passed through the entrance.

Thunder glanced at her passenger occasionally as she piloted the scout ship to the crash site. Although she was a little skitterish at being seperated from Lightning she understood the alien's motives for returning. She and Lightning had been there assisting Hunts-In-Grass and his medic friend in burying the dead alien when they returned to the wreck a couple of days prior. Hunts-In-Grass hadn't handled dealing with the human very well and would obviously have a tough job in making amends when the human returned after this trip, but he was still young - he'd learn.

Touching down a short distance from the wreck, she turned to Tainui and indicated the exit - now that they'd arrived, the human seemed reluctant to leave the ship. After a few moments Tainui got up and left, closing the hatch behind him. She watched as the alien approached the burial cairn and sat down beside it after removing the snow accumulated since their last visit. After a few minutes the alien got stiffly to his feet and started over towards the wreck of the shuttle and started looking for something. On their previous visit they'd stripped the wreck of any useful components so she wasn't too concerned that he would find anything dangerous. Puzzled she watched as the alien started picking up some rocks that had been dislodged in the crash and carry them over to the cairn.

Tainui had just finished making his fourth trip to the cairn when he heard the hatch on the scout ship open and then the footsteps of the female warrior crunching through the snow towards him. He laid down the rocks he'd been carrying and turned back to get some more when she fell into step beside him as he returned to the wreck to gather more. Not saying anything she made several trips with him, carrying some larger rocks that he wasn't able to move himself and heaping them on the cairn.

Satisified with the size of the mound of rock and soil, Tainui sat down beside it and turned to smile at Thunder who was now standing behind him. She reached out and gave his shoulder a brief squeeze with a forward arm and trudged back to the warmth of the scout ship without saying a word.

"That's better isn't it Andrej? You wont get covered in snow anymore and you'll be able to look at the view all day." Indeed the view from the small plateau was quite impressive, looking out over a large brown plain far below. Glacier-fed rivers winding like small blue ribbons across the expanse, disappearing into the haze - he couldn't make out the large lake that lay closer to the city where they were staying from this distance. "Well you aint missing much at the moment, we're just hanging around the base waiting for something to happen. Hunts-In-Grass is giving Mr Lizard school-lessons about some boring shit and the president or mayor or whatever-she-is of the place is grumpy with us. Not to mention the goon-squad baby-sitters we've been given."

He glanced over to the scout ship but couldn't see through the front viewport as the sun was setting and reflecting off it back towards the wreck, bathing the area in a red glow.

"Nah, she's OK I guess." Tainui sighed and was glad he'd brought a coat this time, the cold wind was beginning to pick up as the sun sank towards the mountains behind him. "I just dunno what to do now, bro. Not gonna be seeing earth again I don't reckon, so stuck here with Mr Lizard and his boyfriend. Now he's got someone else I guess he's not gonna want me hanging around for much longer." He closed his eyes and turned his face towards the sky, letting the wind ruffle his hair.

"You reckon they've got bands here on New Home? I could go back to being a roadie, whaddya think?" He laughed softly and opened his eyes, looking at the mound in front of him then at his hands lying in his lap. "Nah, me neither mate. Time for a career change. Sounds like things are gonna go to the dogs here shortly anyway, might see if there's something I can help out with when I go back."

He picked up a small stone beside him and tossed it slowly from hand to hand. "It's not fair, Andrej. Was supposed to be you and me against the galaxy. Don't know if I can do this by myself." He stood and threw the stone as hard as he could off the edge of the plateau, the sun glinting briefly off it before it arced out of view. Putting a hand into his pocket he drew out a folded sheet of paper and straightened out the worst of the creases before placing it on top of the cairn, weighing it down with a rock. He'd spent several hours and dozens of sheets of paper until he got something he was happy with - written with words he would never be able to speak in person to the boy he loved.

Blinking back tears he made his way back to the scout ship and opened the hatch, pausing briefly and turning back to face the mound, whispering the words echoed in the letter. "Goodbye Andrej - I love you too."

Once they'd landed, Tainui headed back to the room he'd been allocated in the barracks. Lightning was extremely happy when he saw the scout ship coming into land, so much so that he only spared a brief growl for the human when it appeared a few minutes later with Thunder in tow. When Tainui got to his room he didn't bother with the lights and stripped in the dark before clambering onto the sleep-webbing. He'd barely settled in when he was startled by a large shape sillohetted against the doorway, rumbling and hissing at him. "Are you not joining us tonight?"

"Oh man, don't creep up on me like that! Nah, it's OK, I'm tired and just want to sleep."

"Hrrr... Hunts-In-Grass told this one about what happened. He didn't mean to hurt you. We both worried for you."

"I'm touched."

Feeling awkward, Two-Talon hesitated. "You sure you wont join us? We -"

"Look mate, just leave me alone, alright? Go back to your boyfriend who loves you," Tainui said somewhat more bitterly than he intended to. He knew he'd gone too far when the reptile hissed loudly and walked out the door. "Shit! Wait... Oh fuck it," he muttered too late as Two-Talon was gone.

Running naked down the corridor he got to the medic's quarters and saw the door close just as he arrived. Pressing the door activation panel it flashed and beeped at him indicating it was locked. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that." There was no response so he pounded on the door, yelling. "Please Two-Talon, let me in, I'm sorry OK? I'm really sorry!" A door further down opened and a rather annoyed looking Vanguard poked its head into the corridor, hissing at him. Two-Talon still didn't respond. "Shit!"

On the way back to his room he came to a decision. Quickly putting on some clothes he went looking for one of his minders. There were two strange warriors guarding the exit to the barracks, Lightning and Thunder were no where to be seen. They looked down at him curiously as he spoke. "Gah, I feel really stupid saying this! Can you please take me to your leader?"

"It is late. But she keeping strange hours at moment, might be around. Follow, this way." One of the warriors holstered his weapons and beckoned to him as he started walking towards the command centre.

"Why did you put your weapons away? Aren't you afraid I might try to attack her or something?"

Huffing with laughter, the warrior looked at Tainui over his shoulder. "Hrrr! There is good reason she leader, she rip you apart before you get chance to blink. Besides, what you do, bite her ankles to death? Hrrr!" He carried on walking, chuckling to himself.

Tainui was lead to the same stark briefing room as earlier and told to wait. He didn't have to wait long until the leader came striding into the room with the warrior taking up station beside the doorway. After adjusting the translator disk she wore in her ear, she stood in front of him in a rather intimidating manner and looked down at him expectantly with her unblinking eyes.

"Sorry to disturb you this late, I know you're busy."

"Yes, this one is busy. What do you want?"

"Uh, well I'm probably stuck here, don't think I'm ever gonna get home again. I know you've got some trouble coming and, uh, I was like wondering what I can do. Y'know, to help?"

Straightening up with surprise she cocked her head to one side and considered the question for a few moments before responding. "This one unsure, you tell this one - what can you do?"

Tainui hadn't really thought through the options before making the decision to offer his assistance and was suddenly at a loss for something to say. The leader rocked back onto her haunches and regarded him thoughtfully. "What is your name, human?"

"Tainui Rauwhero."

"This one is Dark-Mist. Alright, you make very... Generous offer. Let this one think overnight. Report here in morning when you ready and we will try find role for you." She nodded to him and left the room.

Tainui walked back to the barracks with the New Home warrior beside him. Before they reached the entrance the warrior turned to him and fixed him with a speculative gaze as they walked along. "This one thinks you not make good warrior. Perhaps you make good meal? Cannot possibly taste worse than Rank meat."

"Hey, don't you lizards have some sort of ethical dilemma with eating something that can talk back?"

"Some Vanguard might, this one does not."

"I'd give you indigestion and that's a promise." Tainui ducked into the barracks building, still not quite sure whether the warrior had been joking or not. Not exactly the most cheery sort of conversation to end a crappy day on, he thought to himself.

After a night of somewhat disturbed sleep, Tainui got up and had a long soak in the cleaning pool. As he lay soaking he thought back to the first time he and Andrej had shared one of these pools aboard the Victorious-Hunting and what they had got up to in it. Primal instincts in the face of danger leading to them rutting like animals, splashing water all over the room. His now throbbing cock reminded him that he was still alive and parts of him needed some attention.

Sitting on the edge of the pool he closed his eyes and leaned back with one arm for support while squeezing and pulling on his cock, stopping occasionally to cup his balls. He continued slowly jerking himself, sliding his foreskin over the bulging head of his cock. As he got into it more he lay flat on the ground with one leg out of the pool, foot flat on the floor so that he could slide his finger over the wet, hairless pucker of his arse as he jerked his cock. In his mind's eye he pictured Andrej's naked body glistening with sweat as he plunged hard and deep into the writhing youth pinned beneath his muscled body. The earthy scent of two young men fucking hard and wild - the groans of mixed pleasure and pain, the slaps of moist skin against skin.

Feeling himself nearing the point of no return, Tainui jammed two spit-slicked fingers as deep as he could into his tightly clenched hole, crying out at the pressure while his other hand moved in a blur up and down the pre-cum dripping and rock-hard brown length of his cock. Ramming his fingers in and out of his spasming hole he arched his back and yelled wordlessly, seeing stars as the universe and everything in it came jetting out in stringy gobs from the depths of his balls.

"Oh FUCK YEAH," he moaned and realized he was still seeing stars. Dizzily sitting up he looked around and saw a patch of blood on the floor where his head had been. He put a hand to the back of his head and it came away sticky with blood - he must have smacked his head into the ground when he came. Damn, that was some orgasm, he thought to himself. Slipping back into the water to clean himself off, he milked the remaining cum from his cock with a sigh. "Looks like just you and me from now on little buddy."

Lightning and Thunder were back on duty outside the barracks when Tainui emerged for which he was thankful, no sign of the other creepy warrior from the night before. The sky overhead was full of dark clouds emitting a baleful reddish-orange glow from the unseen sun as they scudded across the sky. A faint smell of ozone was in the air and a warm, humid wind had sprung up. Reminded of what Dark-Mist had said to him the day before about a gathering storm, Tainui jogged over towards the command centre, Lightning accompanying him while Thunder remained on station.

Dark-Mist was already waiting in the briefing room when he arrived, studying the readout on one of the large monitors attached to one of the walls. She finished reading and turned to face him, nodding a greeting. "Thought about your offer last night, this one did. Also some research into records from medic's shuttle datastack. All very, hrrr... Educational," she huffed with amusement and Tainui blushed a shade darker than normal. "You not suitable as warrior -"

"So everyone keeps telling me," he muttered under his breath.

Dark-Mist pretended not to hear him and carried on speaking. "And you don't seem much of medic either. Research shows this one that humans are unstable war-like aliens. This one thinks you could be useful as engineer."

"An engineer? As in build bridges and fix engines you mean? I dunno. I'm pretty good with my hands, but much past that is doubtful."

"Oh no, engineers much more than build or repair. Engineers also design."

"Right. You Vanguard are pretty far ahead of us in tech, so dunno if I could design much that you don't already know."

"New Home settlers come from Original Home over many generations. Our ideas taken from their ideas with few innovations. When Original Home attackers come in force we need new ideas they do not know."

Dark-Mist tapped a couple of commands on a small datapad she was carrying and the large view-screen flickered and showed a grainy recording of a space battle that looked alarmingly familiar to Tainui. She tapped away some more and several of the ships were highlighted on the screen. They were pretty battered looking and were shortly overwhelmed by the other ships - which didn't look as if they were in much better condition. "Recent attack was small force already damaged from attack on outpost. We defeat them with few losses. Next time they come they not damaged and likely much greater force. Original Home long distance from here so have time for prepare. But we do not have resources to defeat larger force."

Dark-Mist blanked the screen and faced Tainui again. "Many many Vanguard make sacrifice to make new life on New Home. Vanguard free here. New Home has few laws, few traditions other than ones we choose to make. This one wants New Home to stay free."

"OK, OK, I'm sold. I'll be an engineer if you think it'll help."

"This one found wonderful expression you humans use - this one wants you to provide container of filthy magic."

"Container of...? Oh!" Tainui couldn't help laughing, causing the leader to look slightly annoyed if he read the expression on her face correctly. "Sorry, I think ya mean bag of dirty tricks."

"Hrrr, yes, you are indeed correct. Alright, after doing calculations, this one thinks we have approximately six years before new attack force arrive. Possibly sooner. If attacking New Home too expensive then they might think again after that." Dark-Mist closed her eyes and rumbled a sigh, suddenly looking old and tired. "This one can hope. Just want to raise clan spawnlings and tell stories around fire."

Tainui waited for her to continue but she seemed to have lapsed into a state of melancholy silence. Just before he was about to clear his throat she stirred and shook her head. "Alright, you will need Vanguard engineer training. There is engineer specialist clan in Whiterock city. Will mean seperation from warrior and his medic. This is problem?"

"No - no I don't think so. I suspect the bridge I burned last night isn't easily repaired," he said sadly. "So does this mean you now trust me and I wont need those baby-sitters anymore?"

Dark-Mist blinked at him as her translator disk choked trying to translate some of his strange phrases into something she could understand. Eventually she seemed to get the idea of what he was saying. "You will not require baby-sitter as you will be too busy. Training not easy but you are resourceful this one thinks. Will arrange transport, prepare quickly. Show this one has not misplaced faith."

"Before you go, I just wanna know what made you decide to trust me?" She gave him a toothy smile and left the room without replying, Lightning accompanying her leaving him alone with his thoughts.

Later that day Hunts-In-Grass hunted in vain for the human. The room he had been allocated was empty and all the human's belongings were gone. The only sign that he had ever been there was a small patch of blood on the floor near the cleaning pool which was worrying. When he went outside the barracks to check with the two warriors they were missing as well. The night before Two-Talon had returned to their room in a filthy mood after going to speak with the human and he wouldn't say what had happened. Two-Talon also prevented him from opening the door when Tainui wanted to come in and apologise.

After questioning a few other warriors around the place he learnt that the human had been seen boarding a transport earlier in the day with all his gear, but they didn't know where it was headed. After having seen the blood-stain, he was at least relieved that Tainui was still alive and probably not seriously injured.

"He is gone," Hunts-In-Grass said as he came lumbering into their quarters. Two-Talon looked up briefly then returned his attention to the datapad he was reading. "No, I mean really gone! He is no longer on this base. A warrior I talked to said he saw the human boarding a transporter with all his gear earlier in the day."

That got Two-Talon's attention. "Are you sure? He might have just gone back to the crash site again."

"With all his gear? On a transporter?"

"No, I did not think so either." Two-Talon got to his feet and made his way out of the barracks with Hunts-In-Grass close behind him. "Where are Lightning and Thunder? I thought we were still supposed to be under guard."

There was no sign of either warrior, although Thunder's namesake rumbled ominously overhead from the boiling clouds. When they arrived at the command centre they found Dark-Mist near the entrance talking with another Vanguard in an engineers skinsuit. As they got closer the two broke off their conversation and turned to face him.

"We cannot find the human. Do you know his location?"

The leader bowed gracefully to the engineer and dismissed him before answering Two-Talon. "He asked to be assigned to duty, I granted his request."

"He what? What duty? Where?"

"That is not your concern."

"But I am the one responsible for bringing him here! I should be looking after him, especially after -"

Dark-Mist interrupted, pulling out a small data-pad and handing it to him. "This may answer your questions, the human asked me to give it to you before he left. Now if you will excuse me." She walked into the command centre and disappeared.

A few large drops of water hit the ground at their feet as a stiff breeze started blowing. This was accompanied by a bright flash, followed a few seconds later by an extended rumble of thunder, making the command centre building rattle beside them.

"Come, let us look at this back in our quarters," Hunts-In-Grass put an arm around Two-Talon's shoulders and led him back to the barracks, the rain becoming heavier on the way.

Once inside their quarters, Two-Talon connected the datapad to the wall-mounted viewing panel and turned it on. The screen flicked a few times then showed some chaotic movement before the image stabilized showing Tainui backing away a couple of metres till most of him was in the frame. They could make out a couple of his backpacks beside the doorway to his quarters in the picture.

"Uh, hi guys. At the risk of sounding like a dumb movie cliché, I'll be gone by the time you get this. Not very good at speeches so I'll keep it short. Two-Talon mate, I am so sorry about last night, I said something dumb without thinking. I know you were trying to be kind and it wasn't fair of me to say what I did. Just going through a bit of a rough patch myself - you probably know how I'm feeling. Still, no excuse for what I said and I hope you'll forgive me. Dammit -"

The image shifted suddenly and went dark as the datapad fell off whatever Tainui had rested it on. More chaotic movement and the sound of footsteps followed as the human picked it up and held it facing him, his face filling the screen.

"Sorry 'bout that. Stupid thing fell over. Anyway, I've asked your leader for something to do so I don't feel so useless and she's found me a job. You and Hunts-In-Grass look like you're happy together which is cool, I'd just get in the way." An unidentified Vanguard spoke behind Tainui and he turned to listen for a few moments before turning back to the datapad. "Shit, gotta go, that's my ride. It's a strange new world out there and you guys have enough to worry about without me around. Hunts-In-Grass, if you're watching you better be good to him or I'll hunt you down and do something horrible to you. Two-Talon, please please forgive me." The picture wobbled around a bit then went blank.

Two-Talon powered off the viewing panel and went over to stand beside the window watching the storm lash the base outside, rain beating relentlessly against the plexiglass. Hunts-In-Grass came over to stand beside him. "Are you alright?"

Two-Talon shook his head. "I don't know. I really don't know."

End of part 4