Just remember: If you shouldn't then don't. If you can then do. Or do not, I am Yoda, reading disclaimers a waste of time are. Reading story you should be.

Life seemed to settle down for Hunts-In-Grass and Two-Talon over the following weeks but Two-Talon still tried every couple of days to track down Tainui without success. Hunts-In-Grass also seemed to miss the presence of the human which surprised him, when he questioned the young warrior about it Hunts-In-Grass would just change the subject.

Due to the limited size of the New Home defense force there wasn't much call for a full-time medic on base so Two-Talon joined a small group of like-minded medics who administered to the population of the lake-side city adjoining the base. He was forever surprised at the lack of imagination the New Home inhabitants had when it came to naming places on or around the planet, including the cities - the city they lived in was just called Base City much to his amusement. The total number of Vanguard on the planet was considerably larger than he expected, given that the original immigrant population numbered about 10000, augmented by new arrivals totalling not more than a few hundred each year. More than 30 million Vanguard now called New Home home.

Although physically a lot smaller than Original Home which meant a lower gravity, New Home orbited a lot closer to its sun which was resulting in a slow change in the physiology of the Vanguard living there over the generations. They were becoming smaller and the average life-span was increasing. Two-Talon was quite fascinated by this and also by the new social structure which had developed over generations.

In their desire to escape from a corrupt and highly regimented society full of rules and restrictions, they had gone in completely the opposite direction and ended up with an almost complete lack of any sort of governing structure whatsoever. Quite how it all held together Two-Talon wasn't sure, but everyone seemed fine with it anyway. There were some basic rules governing certain crimes but for the most part the extended clans and family units tended to self-govern sufficiently without any outside influence. Most Vanguard tended to gravitate towards different areas of expertise as the whim took them so there were usually enough experts in the various fields to keep things running smoothly.

He learnt that in times of crisis that a highly respected warrior was usually given overall responsibility for looking after the best interests of the colony and had certain powers they could use in emergency situations. This meant that most of the time the defense force was quite small and generally limited to patrols around the New Home and Outpost systems, also serving as a type of police if there were small localised conflicts. While there was no conscription of any type, young Vanguard were strongly encouraged to spend a few years serving in the defence force anyway.

As a result of this the New Home defence force had a fairly small number of attack-capable ships as the planet didn't possess any large-scale off-planet industrial capabilities - they had never been needed before. Most of the ships it had were converted freighters, some of which dated from the earliest waves of escaping migrants. Dark-Mist had contacted the various clans who specialised in engineering and construction in order to start building as many new ships and weapons as they could in the time they had left before the Original Home attackers returned in force, but it was going to take some time to ramp up production.

Hunts-In-Grass had decided to make a career out of his military experience and spent most of his time around the base learning combat and strategy techniques from the older and more experienced warriors. They had decided after some discussion to keep using his quarters on the base as their home rather than moving into the city. One night as they lay in the sleep-webbing together, Hunts-In-Grass decided to broach a subject that had been on his mind for some time. "Are you happy, lover?"

"Hrrr? Yes I am," Two-Talon turned and looked at the warrior in the darkness. "Why do you ask?"

"For some time now I have got the impression you are just going through the motions."

"What gives you that impression?"

"Well, every now and then when you think I am not watching I see you looking unhappy."

Two-Talon was silent for a few moments. "I guess maybe sometimes I am. Cannot help but think of the sacrifices that others have made for me."

"When are you going to join the present rather than living in the past all the time?" Hunts-In-Grass moved until he was on top of Two-Talon, staring down at him in the dark with exasperation evident in his voice. "You need to make their sacrifices count for something otherwise they have been wasted!"

Stung by the response, Two-Talon blinked in surprise and was about to offer a heated retort when the realisation hit him - his lover was right. Perhaps he had been living too much in the past. After all, wasn't it he himself who said that life goes on?

Hunts-In-Grass poked out his tongue and licked Two-Talon's snout while twining his tail around the medic's. "If you are feeling guilty about the human then just consider what would have happened if you did not save them after they were abducted - they would both be dead. Anyway they are the ones that chose to come with you, they were not forced." He rubbed himself against the medic suggestively. "Join me in the present, it is nice here."

"You are right," Two-Talon felt the hard bulge growing in the warrior's cock-sheath as it was trapped between them and it wasn't long before there was an answering stirring in his own.

"Do not worry we will find the human. I do not think he has come to any harm."

Two-Talon responded by pushing his tongue into Hunts-In-Grass's mouth, twisting it around the warriors, their breathing becoming heavy. He tried to move so that he was on top but Hunts-In-Grass stopped him and hissed. "No, my friend - tonight you are mine..." Sliding seductively around, the warrior smirked at Two-Talon's wide-eyed expression in the dark as his rapidly hardening cock slid out of its sheath, already oozing strings of slimy pre-cum between their two bodies.

The medic had never been fucked before, it had always been him that had done the fucking and now that the tables were turned he was a little nervous - and quite turned on. He was starting to pant in anticipation when Hunts-In-Grass surprised him by moving down and wrapping his tongue around his cock, sliding up and down it's lightly ribbed length, occasionally running some of his teeth gently along it as well. "Oh by the Ancestors, where did you learn this little trick?" Two-Talon moaned, arching his back and clawing at the sleep-webbing.

Hunts-In-Grass didn't say anything but continued to massage Two-Talon's cock with his tongue while raking his talons down the softer scales on Two-Talon's stomach until the medic roared and his cock exploded jets of cum into the warriors mouth and all over his snout. As Two-Talon relaxed he felt the warriors tongue release his sticky cock and move further down, circling his tail-hole teasingly. Hunts-In-Grass swirled his tongue around the twitching tail-hole for a couple of minutes, tasting highly aroused reptile before thrusting his tongue inside. This produced a surprised gasp from his lover who was still reeling from the earlier assault. With two of the hands on his rear arms he started jacking himself off as he tongued Two-Talon for a couple of minutes, priming himself.

Finally satisfied that he had all but driven the medic crazy with the intense new feelings, he drew himself up and lined his drooling cock with Two-Talons tail-hole, gently teasing the entrance with the very tip.

"Hrrr, your first time?" he whispered huskily with an evil smile on his face as Two-Talon stared nervously back at him, eyes wide.

A creaking sound came from some of the bolts holding the sleep-webbing to the walls as Two-Talon dug his talons into the webbing and tensed, waiting for the brutal thrusting to begin. Hunts-In-Grass gripped the medic with his two strong rear arms and the webbing with his forward arms and eased himself slowly without pausing deeper into his lover until he bottomed out. Two-Talon who had stopped breathing expecting a violent thrust, let out his breath in a long drawn out howl as his tail-hole was gently but firmly stretched by the warrior's pre-cum lubed cock.

Swivelling his cock slightly to help stretch the medic's spasming tail-hole, Hunts-In-Grass started nibbling at the sensitive skin on Two-Talon's throat eliciting surprised little whimpers from his lover. Slowly at first he slid his cock most of the way out before firmly pushing it back in, repeating the gentle thrusts until he felt Two-Talon start relaxing, at which point he increased the speed and power until he was pistoning his cock in and out. Two-Talon was writhing from side to side beneath him enjoying the ride making cute little whining noises as his tail-hole was pounded relentlessly. The warrior's cock making obscene slurping noises as the ribbed length was thrust deep inside the puffy abused hole then drawn out over and over. Nearing the edge, Hunts-In-Grass bit down hard on Two-Talon's neck, tasting blood while slamming himself in short sharp bursts into his lover's tailhole.

His back stiff, Hunts-In-Grass jabbed his cock deep into the medic, spurts of cum squishing out of the tail-hole around his cock as he withdrew it until he collapsed, spent beside Two-Talon on the webbing. Reaching over he gripped Two-Talon's cock, jacking a second load from the sweaty and exhausted reptile beside him. Crying out, more dribbles of cum being squeezed out, running down from Two-Talon's now well-used tail-hole.

"Does it always feel this good?" Two-Talon asked his companion as he struggled to catch his breath. "I have never seen or even heard of any of the things you did to me tonight - all I can say is that I want more!"

After a couple of minutes of heavy breathing, Hunts-In-Grass looked at his lover lying in the dark beside him. "The humans' call it making love. I was inspired after watching recordings of the humans when they were on the shuttle." They lay there in companiable silence for a few minutes, their breathing slowly returning to normal as they relaxed, sticky but satisfied. "I do not quite know how to say this, Two-Talon, but..."

"What is it?"

"I want you to be my bond-mate." Stunned and at a loss for words, Two-Talon lay there staring at the darkened ceiling. The young warrior, concerned by his companion's silence continued nervously. "I... I love you and have for some time now. I know you may need some time and will understand if you say no."

Two-Talon turned to face Hunts-In-Grass, bringing their heads cheek to cheek, a serious expression on his face.

"I say yes - I would be honored to accept your bonding, Hunts-In-Grass of the Brittlerock Clan of New Home."

During the next few days Hunts-In-Grass tried every trick he could think of to try and track down Tainui. Although the base leader professed ignorance as to the human's location, he wasn't fooled - there was something she wasn't telling him but she remained steadfast in her denials. Dark-Mist had been approached by Two-Talon to preside over the bonding ceremony which was something she was more than happy to do, not often getting the opportunity in recent weeks to take charge of pleasant duties.

As the day approached, Two-Talon got together with his mate to discuss some of the details. "So how do bonding ceremonies work here on New Home? There is little information in the databank about them."

"They are less formal by design than what you are probably familiar with on Original Home, but they mean just as much. There is a defense force tradition that all warriors not on active duty have to attend the ceremony though, so there will be quite a few Vanguard there."

"What prompted that tradition?"

Hunts-In-Grass blinked trying to remember back to some of the lessons that he hadn't paid much attention to when he was younger. "I vaguely seem to recall it having something to do with remembering what we are here for. To protect our new way of life or something. There are a few members of my clan that will be coming as well, I hope that is alright?"

"Hrrr, no problem with that. Would have been nice to have some of my family along too, but that is not going to happen. I just wish we could find Tainui, he is the closest thing to family I have now." Two-Talon sighed, downcast.

"I know and I am sorry. I have been trying to locate him with little success."

"Never mind, it is our day and I am looking forward to it." he smiled and clasped hands with Hunts-In-Grass before getting up to leave for work.

The day of the ceremony dawned crisp and clear, a chilly wind blowing down from out of the mountains to the West. Hunts-In-Grass was fussing with his uniform and weapons nervously while they waited for their honor-guard escort to show up. Two-Talon looked him up and down with a critical eye before smiling. "Relax, you look great. I am the one that should be nervous, after all it was you who asked me, remember?"

Hunts-In-Grass leered at Two-Talon. "Hrrr, you also look good, lover - that colour really suits you. Although I think you more attractive without clothing."

When the medics in town found out that Two-Talon was being bonded they banded together and aquired a new skinsuit for him to wear for the ceremony as their gift to him. Rather than the typical pale-blue colour of a normal medical skinsuit this one was a deep blue that contrasted nicely against the light-grey scales covering his skin. They had also forced Two-Talon to do something about the broken stump of his horn, grinding the jagged remains down until it was smooth.

"When you are both ready?" A deep, gravelly sounding voice made them both jump and turn to face the door. "We shall be your escorts today. My, what a pretty pair you two make, hrrr!" Thunder gave them a big toothy grin.

This was the first time that Hunts-In-Grass and Two-Talon had heard her speak and her deep rumble was quite incongruous coming from a Vanguard female. Lightning huffed with laughter in the corridor behind her - he was always amused when he saw the reaction others had when his bond-mate spoke to them for the first time. As they left the barracks heading for a hangar that had been cleared out for the ceremony, Thunder lead the way with Lightning falling into step behind them.

When they reached the hangar Lightning and Thunder split off and took up station on each side of the entrance, tilting their heads back and exposing their throats as a sign of respect as Two-Talon and Hunts-In-Grass passed them. Inside the hall it was quite packed, mostly by warriors but they could make out a scattering of other Vanguard wearing civilian clothing scattered amongst the crowd as well, including Two-Talon's medic friends from the city. Hunts-In-Grass saw a couple of his clan elders standing near the front of the hall talking with Dark-Mist.

"Shall we do this thing then?" Two-Talon smiled nervously at Hunts-In-Grass and indicated for him to lead the way.

Dark-Mist nodded solemnly to them as they came over to stand in front of her, Hunts-In-Grass's clan elders stepped to one side to make room and a hush fell on the assembled reptiles. "In these otherwise dark times it fills me with hope to see the bonding of two loving souls - it is a beautiful thing, it is a thing to be honored and respected. Who speaks for the Brittlerock Clan?"

Hunts-In-Grass's elders stepped forward and bowed formally. "We do."

"And you are?"

"Stalker and Quick-Step of the Brittlerock clan," the elders spoke slowly but with pride.

"And you vouch for this member of your clan and approve of this bonding?"

"We do."

Eyes glistening, Two-Talon looked at his lover and gave him an encouraging smile.

"Hunts-In-Grass, your clan has spoken affirmatively for you." Dark-Mist raised both of the arms on the left side of her body and turned slightly towards Two-Talon. "Who speaks for the Silentforest Clan?"

Two-Talon closed his eyes in shame. Why was Dark-Mist doing this to him? he wondered, wishing he could just find some dark hole to crawl into and disappear. He had specifically asked her to skip over this part of the ceremony as she knew damned well he had no family.

"I do," a breathless and strangely accented voice called out from the back of the hall.

Two-Talon and Hunts-In-Grass both whirled around in surprise. Tainui was standing at the back of the hall dressed in a human-sized version of an engineers skinsuit, a large back-pack on the ground beside him. He not only had answered, but he had spoken in Vanguard which was almost as much of a shock. There was a rising murmur from the crowd who also seemed to be surprised with this sudden new development. Both reptiles reluctantly turned around as Dark-Mist continued, her solemn features breaking into a conspiratorial smile.

"And you are?"

"Tainui Rauwhero of the Ngati Tuwharetoa tribe."

"And you vouch for this member of your clan and approve of this bonding?"

"Hell yeah! Uh, I mean yes I do."

"Two-Talon, your clan has spoken affirmatively for you." Dark-Mist raised both of the arms on the right side of her body so that all four of her arms were now raised and stepped toward them both.

Grasping their skinsuits she ripped them off in one fast movement and threw the shredded remains aside, leaving them both standing there naked. She indicated for them to stand face to face before she continued. "You both stand exposed and true before each other, to your clans and to your friends. Hunts-In-Grass of the Brittlerock Clan, place your mark on your bond-mate."

Hunts-In-Grass reached out and dragged the talons on one of his hands diagonally across Two-Talons chest, leaving three bleeding trails across his scales.

"Two-Talon of the Silentforest Clan, place your mark on your bond-mate."

Still somewhat stunned at the abrupt turn of events, Two-Talon carefully cut two parallel lines diagonally across Hunts-In-Grass's chest using the talons on one of his forward arms, the wounds bled slowly leaving dark trails down the young warriors chest and stomach.

"The marks may heal in days, but the scars you will carry for life. These signify the bond you both will share until you pass from this existance. May your bonding bring you much strength and love in the days to come and for the rest of your lives. It has been my honor to bear witness to this event - go with the Ancestor's blessings, young Vanguard bond-mates!" With that, Dark-Mist bowed and stepped back smiling, the ceremony was officially over.

The crowd roared with approval as the two newly bonded Vanguard embraced, the blood flowing down their chests mingling between the press of their bodies.

When they were back in their quarters, Two-Talon surprised the human by grabbing him and holding him tightly. "It is good seeing you again," Tainui was almost being suffocated by the medic's enthusiastic embrace. "You did great honor, speaking for this one in ceremony." He finally let the human go and pulled on the strange new skinsuit that Tainui had brought with him as a present.

Wiping off some of the dark Vanguard blood now smeared across his forehead, Tainui watched the big reptile as he smoothed out some of the wrinkles in the skinsuit, wincing slightly as it pressed against the cuts on his chest.

"Well you've been the only family I've had for these past months, so thought I'd make it official. Just glad you're not still angry with me, that could've made things a bit awkward. Ack! You're going to have to use the translator disk thingies again, this bloody thing is hurting my throat," Tainui fiddled with the thick metallic collar around his neck until it hinged open with a small electronic beep. "Damn it feels good to get rid of that," he sighed.

"What is that thing?" Hunts-In-Grass asked, looking with curiosity at the collar-like device.

"It's a voice-modulator thingy. There's no way I can speak your growly-hiss language, but this thing does stuff to my throat which alters my vocal range. Hurts like a bitch to use for long, though."

"Interesting device, did someone make for you?"

"Yeah, another trainee engineer mate of mine."

Two-Talon plonked himself onto the sleep-webbing next to Hunts-In-Grass and watched as Tainui opened his backpack and pulled another skinsuit out. Instead of the dull blue colouring of the one he had been given, the new one was a silvery colour and appeared to be made of thousands of tiny rings. He held it out to the warrior who took it and examined it closely.

"This one is not familiar with material, what is it?"

"Actually they're both made of the same stuff, a new polymer. I just thought it'd be cool to make one that looked like chain-mail armour for my favorite warrior. Heh - listen to me! Didn't think that a few weeks back I'd be tossing off terms like polymer and shit in casual conversation."

"What does it do?"

"Absorbs energy and disipates it harmlessly. If some bad guy fires a ray-gun at you, it should protect the same as if you were wearing body-armour, only it weighs much less and is a lot more flexible." He laughed. "Professor Rauwhero - has a great ring to it dontcha think?"

"This one has to ask, why are you giving us these?"

Tainui's smile faded and he looked at the two Vanguard with a troubled expression on his face.

Mistaking his reaction, Hunts-In-Grass hurried to add to his question. "Please - we are not ungrateful for your gifts, just curious."

"They're not easy to make and we're not gonna be able to provide them to everyone - there isn't time or enough raw materials. But I do what I can to protect my new family."

"Hrrr, then we shall wear them with honor, my friend." Two-Talon lay back resting his head on Hunts-In-Grass's shoulder, carefully avoiding the cuts on the warrior's chest. "So tell us what you been doing since you left?"

"Hmm, where to start. Well Dark-Mist seemed pretty convinced that with my quirky alien brain I'd make a good engineer so she sent me to engineer school in some city called Whiterock. Kinda ironic really given that I dropped out of school when I was young, but whatever. So I learned me some Vanguard stuff using computers that teach straight into your brain, quite cool really." He sniffed at a scent in the air. "Mmmm, something smells good, I'm starved! Don't you guys feed wedding guests around here?"

Two-Talon got to his feet and gave Hunts-In-Grass a hand out of the sleep-webbing. "Apologies. We will take you to mess now." Heading down the corridor Two-Talon looked at the human curiously. "Is it alright for you to eat our food now?"

"Yeah, most of it anyway. Just gotta remember to take some special pills later on, vitamins and stuff I think. The food I brought with me ran out weeks ago, bro!"

The mess hall was still pretty full when they arrived and there weren't many spaces at the tables scattered around the place. They were still hunting for somewhere to eat when someone goosed Two-Talon from behind, making him yelp with surprise.

"Greetings handsome," came a deep, gravelly voice from behind him. Thunder was standing there with a tray full of food and a smirk on her face. "Why not join us?" She indicated a spot at a far table where Lightning was crouching, eating.

"Awww man, not fucking Rank stew again. I swear I'd kill for a salad right about now," Tainui muttered as they sat down and regarded the uninspiring brown glop on the trays in front of them. "Smells good but tastes like arse."

Lightning paused briefly in between shoveling handfuls of the stuff into his mouth to cast a glare at the mess servery window. "One day someone going to murder cook. There be big celebrations that day."

"Heh, maybe I should try cooking something up for us. Couldn't possibly be any worse than this." Tainui frowned at the horrified looks on the faces of the Vanguard around him. "Not fair man, you've never even tried my cooking!"

After the meal, Lightning and Thunder accompanied them back to their quarters. Before they left, Lightning handed Two-Talon a small box.

"What is this?"

"This is gift for you and bond-mate. Human tells this one it traditional to give gift to newly bonded." With that he smiled and left arm-in-arm with Thunder.

"Oooh, what'd they give you?" Tainui craned his head to see what was in the box as Two-Talon opened it with Hunts-In-Grass also looking on curiously.

Two-Talon pulled out a couple of identical rings inscribed with intricate patterns and ancient Vanguard glyphs, the Iridium metal shimmering strangely in the light as he held them out for the others to look at. They were quite wide with a larger diameter than would fit around their fingers. He handed one to Hunts-In-Grass and studied the other closely himself.

"Hey those are really cool, but they don't look like they'll fit on your fingers very well, a bit big," Tainui said as he watched the two reptiles study the rings.

"Ancestors blessings, these are not for fingers. They are for horns and they are wonderful," Hunts-In-Grass tilted his head down and let Two-Talon slide one of the rings down his left horn until it settled near the bottom where he pushed it down hard so it wouldn't come loose. He did the same for Two-Talon, on the medic's one remaining horn.

"They look good on you," Tainui said, admiring the shimmering metal. "Hang on, I wanna get a photo of you two together wearing those. I'll just grab my camera," he muttered, rooting around in his backpack and pulling out a battered but still serviceable digicam. "Now, smile for the camera... Uh, actually no don't smile that just makes you look angry."

Two-Talon ignored the chattering human and stared at Hunts-In-Grass who looked back at him with a serious expression. He leaned forward and brought his head close to that of the young warriors, not breaking eye-contact. "Bond-mate," he whispered.

"Bond-Mate," Hunts-In-Grass whispered back closing his eyes.

"Bro, freakin' perfect! Tainui yelled, setting the camera off, the flash momentarily blinding the two reptiles who turned and hissed at him. "Whoops, sorry guys. I'm gonna get this printed out, it's a great pic."

Turning back to each other the two reptiles started stripping off their new skinsuits and lay down on the sleep-webbing together. Tainui grinned and left the room with the camera, making his way over to one of the hangar bays where the on-duty engineers were working. Spotting a familiar form, he trotted over to the side of a scout-ship where the engineer was leaning into an exposed access panel. He tapped the engineer's shoulder and stepped back as the young Vanguard jumped in surprise, smacking his head against the top of the panel and roaring out a string of loud Vanguard expletives.

"Oh man, I'm sorry - are you OK?"

Attacks-First stood up straight, rubbing the tender spot between his horns and glaring at Tainui for a few moments before sighing and putting the large diagnostic datapad he was holding onto a trolley full of tools standing next to the scout. "Hrrr, do not sneak up like that again please. Still, this one pleased to see you. How was bonding ceremony?"

"Very cool, I've never been to a wedding before, let alone an alien wedding. Bit disturbing with all that cutting and blood but I guess you guys have your own traditions and stuff. Hey do you think you could help me for a sec? I want to get a picture from my camera printed out." He pulled the memory card out of the camera and handed it to the engineer.

"Alright, should not be difficult. Please get this one's datapad from workbench over there," Attacks-First indicated a datapad on a bench a few metres away. As Tainui walked over to get it he watched the alien with confused emotions.

It was back in Whiterock City where he was studying that he had seen the alien for the first time. He was nearing the end of the training program and was beginning to wonder what he was going to do with himself when one of the clan had approached him and asked if he would help tutor the strange new arrival. He'd reluctantly agreed and went over to greet the alien that he learned was called a human, native to a star system a considerable distance from New Home. What it was doing on New Home wasn't explained, other than the fact that the leader in charge of the defense forces had great hopes that this alien would prove to be a very useful asset in the leadup to the impending invasion.

Over the next few weeks he got to know Tainui quite well, the two of them spending a lot of time together both in and out of the training sessions. Attacks-First didn't get on very well with the other trainees, he was a few years older than most of them and had trouble relating to them on any meaningful level. For their part they distrusted him and were somewhat jealous of his seemingly innate ability to understand and work with even the most complicated and obscure electronics. The only one who ever showed any interest in or kindness to him was the strange little alien.

He slowly became familiar with the alien's moods and expressions and helped adapt one of the electronic teaching units so that it would work with his unusual physiology. Once he'd picked up the basics of Vanguard technology and a better understanding of basic universal concepts, the human started coming up with all sorts of strange and interesting ideas, things that would never have occurred to any Vanguard. Attacks-First finally started to understand what the defense force leader saw in the alien. It was about this time that he also started developing strange feelings when he was around the human.

Tainui had eventually told him the story of how he came to be on New Home and Attacks-First had been shocked to discover that while he was saddened by the human's loss of his mate, he also felt a small but noticeable amount of hope. Disturbed by these feelings he had tried to distance himself emotionally from the alien. Tainui had noticed the change in him and had commented on it several times but he refused to talk about it and eventually the human stopped asking. What made things so difficult for him to deal with was that Tainui still made the effort to be friendly and hung around despite his suddenly cold demeanor.

When Tainui had transferred back to the main defense force base to be with his medic and warrior friends, Attacks-First impulsively applied as well much to Tainui's happiness. Watching him at the bonding ceremony with his friends was a bitter-sweet experience - the human was happier than Attacks-First had ever seen him before and he was annoyed with himself when he felt an irrational stab of jealousy. Afterwards he'd gone back to the hangars and taken out his frustrations on some damaged flight electronics while avoiding thinking about the conclusions he was beginning to reach about his feelings.

"... I said, here's the datapad you wanted. Wakey wakey dude!"

"Hrrr? Yes, yes. Will need translation algorithm but not difficult. Leave with this one, will have it done by morning."

"Sweet, thanks! Hey can I sleep with you tonight, bro? I think the newly-weds will want some alone-time if ya know what I mean." Attacks-First blinked and wondered if the translation disk had said what he thought it did. Tainui, mistaking the hesitation continued. "You already got a room-mate? That's cool, I'll hit up the boss-lady and see if she can find me somewhere then."

"No! Hrrr, no that is alright. No room-mate. You welcome to share room with this one. This one has lots of work, be back late. Will try not disturb you."

"Awesome, thanks mate. I'll go grab my backpack and move it over there before the two love-birds get it all sticky." Tainui waved at him and left the hanger, leaving Attacks-First holding the datapad in one hand, the memory card in another and wondering what in the name of the Ancestors he had let himself in for.

A bit later as he made his way back to his quarters, Attacks-First hoped that the human was asleep already. Unfortunately this was not to be the case as he entered the room.

"Oh, hey bro," Tainui yawned and smiled at him as Attacks-First stepped over him to get to the sleep-webbing. "You should stop working so late, don't think the boss-lady pays overtime."

"This one not mind working late. Lot of work to be done. Sorry if this one woke you."

"Nah, it's OK I was already awake. Was waiting for you, actually."

"Hrrr, why?"

"I'm just a little worried about you. Is everything alright? You seem... I dunno, angry, depressed, withdrawn. Something."

"No, this one is alright. This one is just tired," he smiled at the human and turned off the light before laying down on the sleep-webbing, eyes wide open and staring at the ceiling. He heard the human moving around and then felt the webbing sag a little as the human came over and sat beside him. Turning his head he looked at Tainui in the darkness, not sure how well the human could see him.

"You're not a very convincing liar, mate. You've been miserable for a couple of weeks now. What's wrong?"

Attacks-First let out a long sigh and stared at the human who thankfully seemed to be having difficulty seeing him in the darkness. "Hrrr, have you had feelings for someone? Someone it would be impossible to have. Knowing feelings never be returned."

"Ahh, you're having girl trouble. Or boy trouble maybe. Yeah I have, you either gotta confront them and find out for sure or you move on. You cant dwell on it, just eats you up inside."

"This is... Complicated."

Tainui reached out, finding one of the reptile's arms in the darkness and giving it a squeeze. "Yeah man, I hear ya. This kinda shit is never easy. Tell ya what, why don't you tell me who it is and I'll do some asking around. Scope 'em out for you."

"That is unneccessary. Thank you but this one should work it out by himself."

"Well OK, if you're sure. Just know that I'm here if you need me."

Tainui stood to return to his spot on the floor when Attacks-First stopped him, speaking hesitantly. "You do not have to sleep on floor. There is room here... With this one." Blinking in the darkness, he waited with trepidation for the human's answer.

"Umm, you sure? I think I snore, don't wanna keep you up all night."

"This one sure."

"Well since you're offering!" Tainui clambered onto the sleep-webbing next to him and settled down after a bit of wriggling to get himself comfortable. "Thanks man, the floor isn't the greatest thing to sleep on."

"You are welcome. Tainui?"


"Thank you for being friend."

"No worries, bro. G'night."

Attacks-First lay there in the dark listening to the human breathe, after a few minutes the breathing got deeper and a bit louder - Tainui was finally asleep. As he was slowly nodding off himself, the human snuffled and moved around in his sleep, spooning up against him before his breathing returned to normal. The human's body was warm and soft against his chest and stomach, with a strange but not unpleasant scent to it. Being careful not to wake him, Attacks-First gently draped his right arms over the sleeping human protectively. Smiling to himself in the darkness, the young engineer drifted off to sleep, content for the first time in weeks.

The bright pink morning light of the New Home sun angled through the window and across Attacks-First's face. Blinking he woke with a start, momentarily confused, his snout nestled against the back of the human's head and arms still wrapped around him. Immediately he panicked - what if Tainui woke up and found them together like this? He was about to disentangle himself hoping that the human wouldn't wake up when Tainui yawned and stretched, twisting around to look straight at the wide-eyed Vanguard with a sleepy smile on his face.

"Morning sleepy-head. Sorry if my snoring kept you awake. I'll have a talk to the boss-lady today about some new quarters of my own." Pulling himself out of the sleep-webbing, Tainui stood and looked around, sunlight highlighting the muscles as they bunched and moved under his brown skin as he stretched. Attacks-First watched mezmerised as the human moved about naked, reaching down to grab his skinsuit from the floor where he'd left it the night before. Taking a sniff of the material, Tainui wrinkled his nose and looked over his shoulder back at him. "Sorry bro, should've grabbed a bath before hitting the sack last night. I smell like a dead Rank beast." He lowered himself into the cleaning-pool in the corner of the room, dragging his skinsuit with him and proceeded to clean himself and the material as best he could in the warm water."Hey, remind me to invent a washing machine sometime," he laughed as the engineer looked at him, nonplussed.

"OK, the way I see it is we aren't gonna win this thing using our muscles," Tainui looked around the briefing room at the assembled warriors, engineers and other experts. Dark-Mist stood back from the rest slightly, watching the human talk with a slight smile on her face. "You've said as much yourselves, your ships are antiques that were only able to take out the last lot of attackers because they were already weakened."

Several of the other engineers and warriors had already taken their turn speaking, laying out a few new ideas and strategies, most of which centred around getting as many new attack-capable ships up and running before the Original Home attackers arrived. Construction of several large space-docks was almost complete and there were now a few ground-side production facilities up and running as well. Production of the smaller attack-frigates and launch platforms was quite advanced, but the production of the larger and more powerful battle-ships was painfully slow going. They'd come a long way in the few months since Hunts-In-Grass, Two-Talon and himself had arrived but most of the assembled Vanguard in the room knew it just wasn't going to be enough.

"You guys have to get over your whole honorable battle ideal that you've got going on! They're coming here to wipe out your way of life, if not wipe you out full-stop. Since we can't beat them into submission with a big stick we have to get devious and sneaky." Several of the gathered Vanguard grumbled and hissed at him, mostly the warriors. Dark-Mist glared at them and indicated for Tainui to continue. He brought up some schematics on one of the large viewscreens.

"Firstly, there is a lot of slag and rubble being created from refining the asteroids used for constructing the space-docks. I think this stuff could be useful. With help from a friend," Tainui smiled and winked at Attacks-First who stood watching the meeting nervously. "I've done a bit of study into the shielding used by the ships that both you and the attackers have. It's designed to stop energy weapons mainly as well as small meteorites and missiles. They are much less effective against large masses." Pointing to the schematics he smiled at the assembled Vanguard. "These generators you use on your ships for power and gravity could easily be modified into gravity bombs.Coat 'em with that rubble and slag to disguise them and leave them scattered out where the attackers are likely to run into them."

The room erupted into an uproar, the warriors and even a few of the engineers spitting and hissing at Tainui or each other as they argued.

"The power requirements are beyond anything we have available," An engineer glared at the small alien from across the room.

One of the senior engineers seperated from the group and stood in front of the viewscreen studying the schematics thoughtfully. He motioned for Attacks-First to join him and they had a brief discussion, pointing at various parts of the diagram. The engineer turned to Dark-Mist with a cautiously optomistic smile and snapped his jaws shut at her.

"Alright, settle down!" Not getting any response, Dark-Mist sighed and drew one of her weapons, firing it into the ceiling. Shattered ceiling tiles rained down over the now quiet Vanguard. "That is enough! Human is correct, we quickly lose against attackers if we use conventional ideas." She nodded at the senior engineer standing by the viewscreen.

"This could work well. Put in standby mode until activated by heavily shielded sensors. This prevents early detection. When activated we initiate massive power-overload and get miniature singularity. This will explode quickly needs to be close to ship to do serious damage. But could be very effective." The other engineers brought up the schematic on their datapads and started breaking into groups to discuss the idea, joined by a few of the warriors.

Dark-Mist thanked the engineer and turned to Tainui, giving him a smile and a small bow.

"Do you have more ideas in bag of dirty tricks?"

"Heh, yeah I have a few toys I think you will like," he nodded to her and waved Attacks-First and the senior engineer over to join them.

End of part 5