What follows is a work of complete fiction.

This series will include detailed descriptions of sexual encounters between a human male and other males from various alien races in a science fiction setting.

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About the story:

This series tells the story of an ordinary man who's life is near its natural end, but who suddenly finds himself, at the moment of the unexpected destruction of his world, the victim of an alien abduction with a bizarre motive, that ultimately opens the entire universe to him and propels him into a life of adventure that he'd never imagined was even possible.  He eventually finds himself thrust front and center into events that could, both figuratively and quite literally, change the shape of the entire known universe.

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Favors of the First Ones - Chapter 20

Mak moaned around Jake's cock as Srythryn slurped the head of the young bull's thick tool into his long mouth and sucked it with abandon.  The croc worked his own throbbing penis with one hand while jacking the leathery base of the bull's shaft with the other.

Srythryn was a huge fan of voluminous seed and he never got tired of sucking as much of it out of Mak as the young bull could produce.  The bull, of course, could produce a lot, and he could do it often.  Jake had been modified by the First Ones to do the same so, needless to say, Srythryn felt that he was the luckiest siskreth in the universe now that he had both of them as lovers.

Mak was on his back and the muscular croc was between his legs enjoying himself at Mak's crotch and the young bull's big hands were on the back of Srythryn's head trying to push the croc further onto his cock.

Jake was straddling Mak's head and had the full length of his cock shoved down into his throat.  They had put several pillows under the bull's upper back and neck to lift it up so Jake could fuck his face while on his hands and knees, and Mak simply needed to tilt his head back to accept his lover's long tool.  The young bull's evolutionary adaptation was the same as Jake's artificial one and it allowed Mak to breath freely though his nose even while having the full length of Jake's thick, twelve inch tool shoved down his throat.

Rhokki had maneuvered over top of Jake from behind and inserted his cock into his lover's rectum and was hunched over the man with his back curved and his pelvis thrusting at Jake in short, hard jabs while he panted and drooled with his eyes glazed and half closed.  When Rhokki mounted Jake there was no one else in the room as far as the big cat was concerned.  He lost himself in the ecstasy of being balls deep inside the love of his life.  It was something he'd never thought he would be able to do given the soft tissue wrecking adaptation of his penis that allowed it to only be used for the original purpose for which it was intended, the insemination of a female rhuxus.

The modifications that had been made to Jake's rectum in order to strengthen it against the massively thick tool of his enthusiastic young match turned out to also make it strong enough to withstand Rhokki.  The rasp-like head of the big cat's amazing tool was almost too hard to take at first, but over time he'd gotten used to it to the point that it was now a source of intense pleasure.

Each time Jake pulled his hips back while humping Mak's face, Rhokki's cock would plunge deep into Jake's rectum.  As Jake moved his hips forward to thrust his cock down Mak's throat, Rhokki's cock would pull back in his ass and the barbs on the bulbous head would rake across the sensitive rings of muscle inside Jake's rectum and send powerful jolts of electric pleasure through his body.  He had come to love being fucked by Rhokki more than by anyone else.  The sensation was way over the top and would drive him to the most powerful orgasms he'd ever had.

Rhokki could fuck no one else, so it suited him fine that Jake liked it so much.  Jake was all the big cat craved.  The beautiful, dark charcoal grey lion could never get enough of taking his man and he did it as often as he could.

The four lovers grunted and groaned, whimpered and moaned while they rode the sensuous swirls of pleasure that were dancing through their bodies as they bucked against each other with abandon.

Jake couldn't take it any more and he began to spasm with powerful convulsions as his orgasm slammed into him.  He grunted loudly and began to shoot jet after jet of cum down Mak's throat as his big balls bumped against the young bull's wide, bovine nose.

Jake's anus pulsed and clenched hard around Rhokki's thick tool in rhythm with the shooting of his seed and that, combined with the rhythmic pulsing of the rings of muscle all along his rectum, sent Rhokki sailing over the abyss and the massive lion roared as he bucked hard against Jake's ass and shot his load deep into him.

The chain reaction continued as Srythryn began to suck as hard as he possibly could, driven by his increased arousal at the sound of Jake and Rhokki's pleasure.  Mak pushed even harder on the croc's head and drove his hips up as his orgasm hit him and his massive balls tightened and the first thick spurt of cum rushed up his long shaft to erupt into Srythryn's mouth.  The croc moaned his pleasure as his mouth began to fill faster than he could swallow.

Srythryn was so turned on that his orgasm hit him right along with Mak's, and he shot his seed out onto their sleeping mat as he rapidly jacked his own thick cock.

The four continued to buck and grunt as their bodies were pummeled by their orgasms and they shot every bit of semen they had.

Finally they began to come down and they slowed to a stop.

Rhokki stayed in Jake as usual and allowed all of his seed to ooze out into him while he waited for his cock to begin to go down and the barbs to soften so he could pull out completely.

Srythryn continued to gently suck at Mak's massive tool until it retracted into its base simply because he didn't want to miss a drop.  Even after the head of the young bull's cock disappeared into the base, Srythryn chased it in with his tongue to enjoy the taste of him just a bit longer.

Jake held his cock shoved right down Mak's throat until it finally began to soften and shrink, and then he pulled it out.

They all pulled apart and then collapsed in a heap of sweaty, smiling, panting bodies on the mat.

Rhokki was lying on his side and Jake crawled up onto his warm, soft, furry lover and buried his face into the huge lion's jet-black mane and nuzzled at his neck and scratched at his chest and behind his ears while the big cat lay there with his eyes closed and purred his pleasure.

No matter how often they all made love, Jake could not get over how lucky he was.  He couldn't imagine a better life than this.  He had the three best lovers in the galaxy to lay with whenever he wished.  He was head over heels in love with all three of them.

Rhokki was a lion through and through.  When he took Jake he owned him completely and the others had learned not to try to get between them in any way while Rhokki bred his man.  The cat would lose control and his instincts would drive him to roar and threaten any competition away.  When he wasn't buried deep inside of Jake he was the sweetest, most caring and lovingly attentive male Jake could possibly hope to be with.

Srythryn was the epitome of the perfect mate.  He was sweet and loving, yet a strong, intelligent and determined leader.  He had more self confidence than anyone Jake had ever known and he was generous to a fault.  Nothing ever seemed to phase him and he could face any challenge that was put in front of him.  He was muscular and masculine yet spoke with a gentleness and kind humor that kept Jake smiling non-stop.  His only weakness was Jake himself.  The croc loved him so much that if anything were to happen to Jake, it would likely kill him.

Mak was the absolute best example of what it was to be a male as far as Jake was concerned.  The young bull exuded not only inner strength but completely over the top muscular power as well.  He was massively muscled and covered in a beautiful chocolate brown hide with extremely short, soft hair mottled with darker brown and black patterns, and a lighter brown down his front and the insides of his arms and legs.  His tackle was massive.  His feet and hands were thick and powerful.  He smelled amazingly masculine and musky.  There was absolutely nothing about Mak that didn't curl Jake's toes hard, but above all he loved the bull's personality.  The two of them clicked perfectly and Mak was the closest thing to a true soul-mate that Jake had ever had.  They laughed and joked all the time.  Mak kept Jake feeling young, but there there was really no reason for him to feel any other way anyhow.  He was sixty-eight years old but inside he felt like a twenty year old.  That worked well since, thanks to the First Ones, his body was now that of a twenty year old as well.

As Jake looked around at his three wonderful life-mates with love in his eyes, he was still blown away by how none of this really felt strange to him and never really had.  For sixty-eight long years he was just another guy who eventually became a business executive in the big city and was close to an early death, another victim of the rat race.  Now he was lying naked in a loving pile with a lion, a bull, and a crocodile and he'd just made love to them all repeatedly.  He loved them all to bits and he could not be happier.

It seemed as though it should be strange that he was so drawn to what would appear to be animals.  To Jake they were simply wonderful people with the most wonderful souls he'd ever known.  Their shapes suited their personalities perfectly and he was physically drawn to them more than he'd ever imagined he could be to anyone.  The fact that they looked like animals in some way almost made them even more alluring.

Jake had even developed a crush on Chet.  He often fantasized about what it would be like to be fucked by the wonderfully furry, snow white, giant of a bear.  The massive polar bear was fairly stolid and stoic and was very outspoken and pragmatic.  He could seem almost abrasive sometimes around most people but when he was with Jake he seemed to soften right up.  When the two of them got together in the fighter simulators he would cut loose and they would have more fun than Jake had ever had doing anything else in his life.  Chet was immensely fun and Jake enjoyed his company to no end.  He loved the beautiful white bear and he wished he could get closer to him, but they had never been in any situation that would ever allow for it and Chet had never made any advances of any sort.  His match had been a female and from some of the things the bear had said, Jake knew that Chet had never been attracted to a male and that homosexuality generally didn't happen with his people.  Jake was certain he'd seen Chet eyeing him from time to time as though he found him attractive in some way, but the bear had never given any indication that he might be interested in sex with a male, so Jake had never made any moves of any sort.  He didn't want to jeopardize their growing friendship in any way.

In any case, it was all Jake could do to keep up with the lovers he already had.

They'd all been at it since just after breakfast.  They'd been making love more and more each day lately.  They weren't sure what the future held and they wanted to enjoy each other as much as they possibly could, while they could.

It had been five weeks since they'd 'copied' Srythryn and his duplicate was about to emerge from his resurrection aboard the Slirkstrith and hopefully react to their taunting message exactly the way they wanted.

It could happen within hours.

The Shadow's Claw had snuck up to the Slirkstrith and stealthily parked very close to her as planned.  Instead of going alongside they'd decided the safest course was to come up behind her, near the shuttle docking access.  That way, if the Slirkstrith made any unexpected maneuvers that would spin her around, the Shadow's Claw would not be in danger of being hit before they could react.  They went as close as they could without allowing their shields to come in contact with the Slirkstrith's.  If their shields bumped they would be detected immediately.

They'd been matching their acceleration to hers and, to their surprise, she had not jumped anywhere the whole time.

Srythryn knew that Thriststris would do as his captain had wished and would have continued on to the miquanowan system if he could, so he theorized that the Lawkeepers must have intervened and decided to keep the Slirkstrith in interstellar space until such time as the stealth ship was located, so that she would be ready to jump and already going at great speed to intercept.  It had been a wise move and somewhat unexpected and could have caused them serious problems, but due to the brilliantly simple idea of 'skitching' alongside the ark ship, their speed was identical to hers and they would be in perfect position for the encounter the moment the ship jumped to the siskreth system.

The zeths had completed the modifications to their network infiltration technology and instructed Srythryn on its use.  They'd also prepared a portable, single-burst version of their device to kill the QECH photons so that the favors on the ark ship and in its population could not be used against them in retaliation.  Both devices used the zeths' radio-shielded QECHS system for their own communication.  Since the entangled photons use a wormhole link to communicate, the Slirkstrith's shields would not block them.  They would maintain their link with the Shadow's Claw even once Srythryn brought them inside the ark ship's shields.  Srythryn himself would also be carrying a personal communicator based on the QECHS tech so he could keep in touch with the Shadow's Claw throughout the operation.

Srythryn would not need to be concerned with activating the device to cut off the favors in the ark ship, it would be remotely triggered from the Shadow's Claw.  In order to make the device powerful enough to cover the entire length of the Slirkstrith, it ended up being a bit larger than they'd hoped.  They had to remove the entire guts of the pressure and environmental control systems from the hard backpack of Srythryn's space suit including his oxygen generator, but he would only be in the fighter briefly so he wouldn't need them.  They wanted him to be able to emerge from the fighter suited up to prevent anyone from seeing who he was, so it really served no other purpose than to disguise him and allow him to carry the large device aboard while looking like just another fighter pilot.  He would only throw his helmet on just before he emerged from the fighter onto the ark ship so he could slip past any crew who were there.

He would need to take the suit off before proceeding into the lackeys' area, as there would be no reason for him to be moving around in the ship with his suit on and he would look conspicuous.  They also worried that if anything happened to Srythryn, he would not be able to activate the device or it may be destroyed and the ark ship would be at risk, so they preferred not to have him carrying the important device around with him.  Once he was aboard the ark ship, Srythryn would remove his space suit and lock it up in one of the utility rooms and the zeths could trigger it at any time from the Shadow's Claw to cut off all of the favors.

Right now, the suit and the infiltration device were being kept in the yanking room and waiting for Srythryn.

They were as ready as they would ever be for the encounter with the Slirkstrith and they were anxiously waiting for any sign that the ark ship was going to jump.

The four lovers decided it would be best to clean up and head down to the mess hall to eat some lunch, then perhaps meet once more in the briefing room to go over everything one last time.

They showered in turns and finally, when everyone was ready, they left the room and started down the hall toward the elevators.

They hadn't made it far before the captain's voice came over the intercom and she said, "Jake, Srythryn, the Slirkstrith's thrust cones have just increased in length ten fold.  They have increased to combat acceleration.  The other Srythryn must have emerged and taken command.  They will likely be executing their hot jump at any moment.  Please come to the bridge immediately."

They all rushed the rest of the way to the elevator and went directly to the bridge.

"Has she spun around yet?" Srythryn asked.

"No, she has not begun to decelerate," Sintas said, "She could do it immediately or just after she jumps."

"Agreed, but she will do it.  They will want to begin to bleed off their speed immediately so they can settle into orbit around our world with a minimum of hard braking.  We should mark the time that they increased acceleration.  The other Srythryn would order Thriststris to plan the maximum braking burn to begin as soon as everyone can be evacuated to the emergency section and they are safely in their acceleration seats.  He would give them precisely three hours.  That is the most likely time that they will begin to execute their hard braking burn and we must be ready to engage them just before then," Srythryn said.

"We've marked the time," Sintas said, "Can someone tell me what time they will be executing the burn?"

"Three hours from the marked time would be twenty-two thirteen by universal standard time," the communications officer said.

"The other Srythryn will warn everyone to be in their seats by twenty two hundred.  We should show ourselves at that time.  That will ensure that everyone is in their acceleration seats and they will not be able to launch fighters quickly," Srythryn said.

Sintas nodded and said, "Computer...display a countdown to twenty-two hundred."

Jake saw a series of symbols display in the corner of the main screen.  He had spent some time learning the universal numbering system that was used throughout the collective so he was able to read the time as it counted down.

"Captain, they're spinning the Slirkstrith." the sensors officer said.

"Fire retros to bring us sideways to starboard before her forward scopes come around.  Accelerate forward slightly to put us just beside her once she's turned.  We need to be able to spin ourselves and match her deceleration rate without her forward telescopes seeing our thrusters," Sintas ordered.

"Aye, Captain," the helmsman said.

They waited as the Shadow's Claw was moved sideways and the Slirkstrith completed her maneuver to bring her about.  The helmsman then positioned them alongside the ark ship as close as he could without intersecting their shields, and then spun the ship around and matched their deceleration rate precisely.

"We're in position, Captain," the helmsman said.

"Reduce our deceleration slightly," Sintas said, "I want the Slirkstrith to slow down at a greater rate so that we slip more towards her aft end again.  As soon as we're near it, match her rate again to keep us there."

"Aye, Captain."

"Why are we positioning ourselves at her aft end?" Jake asked.

"Her scopes are now facing backwards, where we've been instead of where we're heading, but her cannon is facing that way too.  We want her to see our thrust cones when we're ready to reveal ourselves so we need to be out in front, but we have to be out of range of her cannon.  That means we'll have to increase thrust to maximum and run alongside her whole length to bleed off as much speed relative to her as possible, and then cut thrust completely to hide our cones as we drift well out past her nose and into view of their scopes.  She will essentially shoot past us and leave us behind.  We should be able to get out of range of the main cannon before we need to engage our thrusters again to show ourselves.  They won't be able to fire on us and they will have to cancel their emergency braking burn or risk us blowing right past them.  We'll wait out there until she launches her first wave of fighters.  At that point we can spin about to disappear, and accelerate hard towards her before she can get a proper fix and fire on us.  We'll come up alongside her again before she can launch anymore fighters," Sintas explained.

Jake nodded his understanding.

Everyone waited quietly and, after nearly ten more minutes, the sensors officer said, "A massive wormhole is opening well ahead.  They've begun their hot jump."

There was a long pause while they waited to slip through the Slirkstrith's wormhole right along with her.  This was the first time Jake had actually been aware of the exact moment they went through a wormhole to travel across the gap between the ends of space that had been severely bent.  He closed his eyes and focused to see if he would feel something.  He realized that it would likely be impossible to detect anything.  Even when he'd been yanked up into the Shadow's Claw there was nothing in between his being there, and then being here.  There simply couldn't be.  The ends of space that were being bent so closely together weren't actually moving through space.  That would be impossible.  They were actually moving through non-space.  The tunnel linking the ends of the wormhole was also in essence outside of space.  Without space, there can be no time.  The two are linked into space-time and cannot be separated.  That means that if you're outside of space, you're outside of time too.  As such, there's no possible way to 'experience' a wormhole.  You only know what happened just before you went through, and what happens just after.  Everything changes in a blink.

Still, he couldn't shake the idea that he should somehow sense something.

He waited to see if he would feel anything at all as they jumped the gap and the massive warp in space snapped back with them at their destination hundreds of light years away, but he felt absolutely nothing and then sensors said, "We're through.  They executed it perfectly.  We're just outside the siskreth system and coming into their heliosphere fast."

Sintas nodded and said, "There's nothing more we can do for the next three hours while they allow everyone to evacuate to acceleration seats.  By twenty-one fifty, I want Srythryn in the yanking room and in his suit.  We'll need a security detail to help with the very confused siskreth who will be yanked aboard as there will be no time for Srythryn to explain things to him properly.  Jake, I will want you here with me on the bridge.  Mak, I will need you to assemble your squadron and be ready to launch in case we need fighters out there.  Rhokki, bring Voph to the bridge as well so he can keep us abreast of what's happening with the zeth technology once Srythryn gets aboard the Slirkstrith.  You are all dismissed.  Be in your positions by twenty-one fifty."

Jake, Mak, Rhokki and Srythryn decided to go ahead and have the meal they had been heading towards when they'd been called to the bridge.

They made their way to the mess hall and ate lightly, and then went over some of the details of the coming encounter once again to be sure they weren't missing anything.

The time approached and they all went to their positions.

Rhokki went off to find Voph and bring him to the bridge.

Mak had gone to assemble his squadron so they could all get suited up and get into their Stiletto fighters and be ready to launch if they were needed.

Srythryn went to the yanking room and donned his space suit.  He kept his helmet off and held it in his hands.  He wanted the siskreth fighter pilot who was going to be rudely yanked from his ride to see his face clearly so that he could calm down as quickly as possible.  Srythryn would only have enough time to briefly explain to the pilot that he was safe and would be returned to the Slirkstrith as soon as possible, but that he would have to stay with the security detail for the time being.  All of the air inside the Juggernaut would be sucked into the chamber, leaving the fighter's cockpit in vacuum.  That meant that once the fighter pilot got out, Srythryn could immediately step into the chamber and be squirted into the cockpit without the need to pressurize the chamber higher than normal first.

This time, they'd molded a large piece of foam to the shape of the seat of the cockpit and placed it in the chamber.  The pilot would have a comfortable landing, but that wasn't the reason for the foam.  It was actually necessary so that Srythryn would fit properly into the cockpit.  Both ends of the wormhole had to be shaped the same way and have exactly the same orientation.  It was impossible to do otherwise, and there was no mechanism to 'turn' Srythryn so that he could fit properly in the cockpit.  If he'd been standing, there would be no way to generate a wormhole that conformed to his shape within the confines of the cockpit.  He had to be roughly in the right orientation with his body bent into the right position so that the Srythryn-shaped wormhole could be generated in the middle of the open space in the cockpit just above the seat.  He would be squirted over, and drop a few inches into the seat.  Srythryn had assured them that the active foam that was used in the seats constantly monitored the pilot and once it found him gone, it would relax back to it's normal, soft state.  Srythryn's landing would be comfortable too.

Jake no longer worried about the yanking technology.  He had finally been convinced of the safety of the process.  It had been explained to him a bit better.  He realized now that there was no force involved in the process other than the difference in pressure.  Even if there was something in the way inside the fighter when they tried to squirt Srythryn over, like a floating object of some sort, the croc would not be 'merged' with it or anything, he would simply slide in and it would be forced away from the space he would occupy.  If the object happened to be immovable, Srythryn simply couldn't go across.  The force of the pressure difference is not enough to damage his body in any serious way.  In any event, none of those things were ever likely to happen anyhow since their scanners could detect any solid matter in the way and position the wormhole wherever it needed to be in order to allow a clean 'squirt'.  If it wasn't possible, they would know before they even began.

Even if the wormhole were intentionally misshapen to leave some part of Srythryn behind, such as an arm, he simply wouldn't go across.  The rest of his body would try to jump across the wormhole but because his arm is still attached, it would stay behind and the croc would stay behind with it.  He would feel a strong tug at his arm that would amount to nothing more than if someone were to grab your arm to pull you back onto a sidewalk you had just stepped off of in order to prevent you being hit by a speeding bus.  He would be held in place by his arm while the vacuum tugged at him and the wormholes would collapse with him still right where he was.  There was simply no way a person could be seriously injured even if the process failed somehow.

Jake made his way to the bridge to join Captain Sintas and, shortly after he'd arrived there, Rhokki and Voph entered as well.

They were all in position and ready.

Sintas had earlier ordered the helmsman to increase thrust to maximum to slow them down hard as the full hundred-plus mile length of the Slirkstrith began to speed past them.  It was still only decelerating at combat rate, much less than the Shadow's Claw.  Just before they would pop out in view of her telescopes the captain had ordered the thrusters shut down and the ship spun about so they would be facing the Slirkstrith and invisible.  They'd shot out behind the ark ship going at a much slower speed, so they drifted further and further behind her.

It had been timed so they would be well out of cannon range by the time they exposed themselves.  The Slirkstrith would continue to decelerate while the Shadow's Claw simply coasted at their slower speed.  This meant that they would eventually match speeds again with the Claw well out behind, but then they would slowly begin to gain on the ark ship once again while it continued to decelerate.  Just before they would come back into cannon range they would fire their thrusters to show themselves clearly and the encounter would begin.

"Thirty seconds to thrust, Captain," the XO said.

"Acknowledged.  Computer...patch an open line to the yanking room."

Sintas waited for acknowledgment and then she said, "Captain Srythryn, we will be showing them our thrust cones in just over twenty seconds.  I will keep this comm open so that you can hear everything."

"Roger," Srythryn said.

The XO counted out the last ten seconds and then Sintas said, "Spin us about and increase thrust to match theirs.  We want our cones just bright enough to show ourselves but we don't want to gain on her nor lose too much ground.  Whatever they do with their thrust, change ours to match to keep us just out of cannon range.  We want to force her to launch fighters at us."

"Aye, Captain," the helmsman said, and he brought the ship around and then engaged the thrusters.

"Captain, I've detected a directed scanning beam.  They are attempting to scan us.  They've seen us," the sensor officer said.

"Good.  Helm, hold as we are for the time being.  Give them some time to react.  They will see that they can't get into range with us so they will scramble to launch a strike force.  Communications, order everyone in the comms room to begin scanning all open channels of the collective and the siskreth home world.  I want to know of any indication that word of what we are attempting is spreading."

The communications officer followed the order and then the sensors officer said, "They've reduced to standard thrust."

"Matching," the helmsman said.

"Helm, allow us to drift very slowly towards them.  Let us give them the feeling that they may get into cannon range eventually without braking any harder to ensure they don't harm the life in the ark.  Sensors, keep an eye out for any fighter launch."

"Aye, Captain."

They waited a while with nothing happening and Jake asked, "How long will it take before the first squadrons can launch?"

Srythryn replied over the intercom, "It won't be much longer.  The first teams will be given priority and they'll be scrambling while the others remain seated in the emergency section so as not to get in the way.  Only when all of the first squadrons are seated in their fighters will the rest of the crews begin to make their way to theirs.  There will be a long gap between launches of strike craft.  The first groups should be ready within a few more minutes."

Several more minutes went by and then finally sensors said, "Fighters are away.  I count three squadrons of Juggernauts."

"Acknowledged," Sintas said, "It will take them some time to begin to make their way towards us.  Hold steady."

There was another long pause then then sensors said, "Two more squadrons have launched.  These appear to be Rapiers, Captain.  They've already blown past the Juggernauts and are accelerating hard towards us."

"Those will be the ships sent to harass us into firing our disrupters and draining our buffer," Sintas said, "There will be a long gap before more fighters are ready to launch as the pilots slowly funnel out of the emergency section.  Continue to hold steady."

"The Rapiers are gaining on us fast, Captain," the sensors officer said.

"Acknowledged, hold steady," Sintas said.

They all waited for the captain to give further orders.

"Now, spin us about, but when we're at ninety degrees and they can't see us, kick our main thrusters hard to send us spiraling out and away from our last known heading.  When we come around fully, increase thrust to maximum and charge in to bring us alongside the Slirkstrith but at a distance far enough away to put the Juggernauts between us and the ark ship."

"Aye, Captain," the helmsman said.

A minute went by and the helmsman said, "We are charging towards the Slirkstrith captain.  The Rapiers are still headed to our last known position.  They will be completely out of the fight before they finally see our cones well behind them."

"We'll be spinning around again before they see our cones.  Weapons control, ready the satellite warhead and the starboard disrupter tubes."

The weapons officer acknowledged her command.

"Helm, cut the thrusters.  Weapons control, launch the satellite warhead at the planet, but do not engage its thruster yet.  Let our increased momentum carry it away without them being aware of it."

"The warhead is away, Captain."

"Helm, kick our retros hard.  Bring us down closer to the Slirkstrith and part way around the cylinder.  I want us in a completely different position so they won't know where to look for the satellite warhead.  Sensors, let me know the moment we're coming up to the Juggernauts' position," Sintas said.

The officers acknowledged the captain's commands and followed them.

There was a long pause, then the sensors officer said, "We'll be alongside the Juggernauts' position in three seconds, Captain."

"Launch the first volley of disrupters.  I want a wide spread of three to cover all three Juggernaut squadrons!"

"Disrupters away, Captain."

"Captain, I'm detecting one of the Juggernaut squadrons well out of position.  For some reason, the ships have turned and are pushing hard towards the planet.  They've dropped shields to divert all power to thrusters."

"Damn, someone out there is on the ball!  They've guessed our intention to launch the satellite warhead and they know their only chance to catch it is to begin to build up speed immediately.  Keep the warhead's thruster off for as long as possible.  They likely still don't know we've launched it and they'll have more trouble finding it if we don't light it up until we have to and we need time to get the fighters out there to intercept," Sintas said, "Computer...patch me through to Komakwa."

There was a 'bong' and the captain said, "Mak, launch your squadron.  I need you to try to reach that lead squadron of Juggernauts and disable them before they can locate and destroy the warhead.  Do your best to minimize casualties, but under no circumstances are you to let any of them reach that warhead!  The siskreth home world is at stake!"

"Aye, Captain.  We're on our way," Mak said over the intercom.

Everyone waited anxiously for the next orders.  Jake was impressed by Captain Sintas' ability to think at high speed and juggle the entire encounter in her head flawlessly.  It was clear why she'd shot up the ranks to captain her own ship.

"Weapons, launch a second volley of disrupters at minimum velocity, give the fighters time to react and get behind the ark ship's shields so they aren't vaporized," Sintas ordered.

"Second volley away," the weapons officer said.

"Captain, the first volley has detonated and caught the other two squadrons.  I'm sending the coordinates of a Juggernaut that is still fully maneuverable to the yanking controller," the sensors officer said.

"We have a lock.  We're yanking the pilot aboard...," said one of the technicians over the intercom, "...We have him."

Through the open comm link Jake heard a familiar voice say, "Captain Srythryn?  What the hell is going on?"

"There is no time to explain, Striss.  You are safe and we'll ship you back to the Slirkstrith soon.  Stay calm.  I order you to stay with these men until you hear back from me," Srythryn said.

"Aye, Captain," Striss replied, sounding completely taken aback.

Jake smiled at the thought of how confused his friend must look right now.  He wasn't even aware that Striss was a pilot.  He wished he could rush down there and see him, but it would have to wait.

The yanking technician said, "Captain Srythryn is getting into the chamber...  He's away."

They waited briefly, then the sensors officer said, "I see the Juggernaut turning and heading back to the Slirkstrith at speed, Captain."

The communications officer said, "Captain, we are being contacted through the zeth QECHS communicator.  Patching it through..."

"Captain Sintas, this is Srythryn.  I am on board the Juggernaut and will be docking with the Slirkstrith in less than one minute."

"Good.  Weapons, you are free to launch repeated disrupter volleys towards their fighter launch ports.  Keep the suppression fire going to stop them launching any more ships.  Anything they try to send out will pop out past the ark ship's shields and be vaporized, so they won't risk it.  Give the captain time to disable their fighter launch controls."

"Aye, Captain."

They all waited for word from Srythryn, and within minutes he said, "Captain Sintas, I am aboard the Slirkstrith without incident.  I have locked the other Srythryn out of the fighter launch and weapons control systems and I am shutting them down now.  You may cease firing disrupters.  I will be locking the suit away and heading straight to the lackeys' section immediately when I am done here.  It is a very short distance from the shipping bay and I will be inside within minutes."

"Thank you, Captain Srythryn.  Weapons, cease fire," Sintas said.

They waited again for word from Srythryn.

Minutes passed and then he came on and said, "I am in the network chamber.  I have attached the zeth infiltration device and it has begun its operation.  I will await word from you on the results."

"Acknowledged.  Helm, spin us around again.  Fire thrusters to match our speed to the Slirkstrith and bring us right up alongside her," Sintas ordered, "Weapons, ignite the thruster on the satellite warhead, full burn."

"Aye, captain."

Rhokki said, "Captain, Voph tells me the infiltration program has managed to connect into the First Ones' computer network and has already made some progress.  It is still searching for the QECH hub that controls the favors, but it has managed to locate the database of all of the memory maps and genetic sequences for those with resurrection contracts.  He wishes to know if the information should be destroyed.  His recommendation is to do so."

The captain thought about it and said, "Srythryn, Jake, what are your thoughts on the matter?"

"The maps will become useless if we succeed, and they can be recreated through the original destructive process for those who wish it if we fail," Srythryn said over the intercom, "I can see no down side to destroying them."

"Yeah, they'll be useless, and the maps and DNA sequences might become a weapon they can use against us even if we succeed.  They could resurrect anyone they wanted to, including world and military leaders, and use them to infiltrate governments and military and cause havoc.  The people they resurrect would have been cut off before the truth got out and would still think the First Ones were benevolent and had somehow been betrayed.  They could be told any story and convinced that they need to help out to get the First Ones back in control.  I say we wipe the databases out to give them less to work with," Jake said.

"Agreed.  Voph, destroy the information please," Sintas said.

There was a pause and then Rhokki said, "Voph says it is done.  He is pleased that the first serious blow has been dealt to the First Ones at last."

Sintas smiled and said, "Let us hope the next one comes soon.  They will not be happy now.  Any progress on locating the QECH hub?"

Rhokki said, "Not yet.  Voph says the First Ones have detected the breach and are attacking the zeth program while trying to locate its source.  The program is attempting to morph and move further into their systems."

"Captain, the squadron of Juggernauts that was headed toward the planet has changed course to intercept the warhead.  There is a small chance they will reach it in time," the sensors officer said.

"Mak, what is your status?" Sintas asked.

"We're closing on them, Captain.  The Juggernauts are not as fast as our Stilettos.  They can't outrun us.  We'll be in weapons range in a few minutes.  They'll be forced to raise their shields and they'll lose a ton of thrust because of it.  We'll stop them before they reach the warhead," Mak replied.

Rhokki suddenly grunted in anger and said, "Voph tells me we will not be able to destroy the QECH hub's communications.  The attack is a failure.  The zeth program has been located and destroyed by the First Ones and they are attempting to track it back to its source.  We must activate the device to cut off all favors and QECH photons in the Slirkstrith immediately!"

"Shit!" Jake exclaimed.

Sintas cursed and then said, "Activate the device, Voph."

After just a moment, Voph indicated the device had been activated.  The Slirkstrith would be safe from retaliation.

"Srythryn, did you read that?" Sintas asked, "There's nothing more you can do there.  Don't take the time to retrieve the infiltration device.  They'll be looking for you!  Get out of the lackeys' area, now!"

"I am already on my way out.  I will be heading to the bridge to try to explain the situation to the other Srythryn."

"I am sorry for this failure, Captain Srythryn.  The warhead is on its way to orbit and will deploy shortly.  Your home world will be safe in just minutes," Sintas said, "Voph, is there anything more that can be done with the infiltration device?"

Rhokki waited for a response but he shook his head and said, "No, captain.  He says the moment he activated the device to cut off the favors the zeth infiltration unit lost contact with the First Ones' network just as the lackeys did.  There is nothing more that can be done.  He did say that the program managed to capture some data that may help.  They are attempting to fully decipher it now.  They think it may contain the physical location of all of the QECH hubs."

"That would be something at least.  We may be able to reach the one for the favors and destroy it with our cannon, but we would not have much time to act.  The First Ones will be doing everything in their power to shore up its defenses if they know the data containing its location was compromised," Sintas said.

"Captain, the comms room says they are beginning to pick up chatter on the collective network.  Our presence here has been detected by telescopes on the planet.  Word is spreading that the stealth ship responsible for destroying worlds is now in the siskreth system," the communications officer said.

"I want all radio frequencies jammed with maximum power," the captain ordered, "I don't want those lackeys to be able to communicate with the planet or vice versa."

Communications acknowledged the order and Sintas sighed and said, "It was only a matter of time before the word of our attack started to spread.  Any collective warships that were already in interstellar space will begin to jump here within minutes to hunt us down.  We will soon be in over our heads.  Voph, are the zeth forces on their way?" Sintas asked.

Rhokki said, "He says they are preparing to jump.  They will be arriving just outside the heliosphere and will be taking positions to defend the planet."

Everyone went quiet as they waited for word on the satellite warhead.  It was the last major piece of their plan still outstanding.  It had to deploy successfully or the planet might be lost.

"Captain, I have some bad news," Srythryn said over the intercom, "I have made it out of the lackeys' section, but there was some commotion after I left.  I tapped into the computer to find out what had happened.  It appears the other Srythryn headed in to the lackeys area to investigate our attack.  He found the zeth device attached to their network and attempted to remove it.  He was caught with it in his hands.  The lackeys put two and two together and realized the captain was the only one with the necessary access to take control of the ship and to enter their secured area and lower the shields around their network chamber.  They attempted to take him into custody but his team moved to his defense and a firefight ensued with several Lawkeepers armed with energy weapons.  He was killed.  It appears my XO has locked them away in their section so they will not be a threat to this ship, but they may attempt to contact the planet and send word to the First Ones that the siskreth are involved in an attack against them."

"We've already jammed all radio transmission, Captain Srythryn.  They will not be able to communicate with anyone.  The satellite warhead will be in range to deploy in just under five minutes," Sintas said.

Jake felt an immediate pang of loss at the word of the other Srythryn's death even though his own version was still safe.  It was a small consolation to think that the other Srythryn had been essentially asleep for the last five weeks and had only awakened a few hours ago.  His version of Srythryn had been living contiguously the whole time so, in a sense, his was the real one and the other was just a copy.  Srythryn 1 was still alive and well, and Srythryn 2 had been lost.

When he thought of it that way, he had no problem seeing himself as the real Jake too, and the other as the 'fake'.  This Jake had been living contiguously since he was sent down to Mak's world while the other had been cooking in a vat for three months during Jake's big adventure on the sacred planet and then aboard the Shadow's Claw.  He wondered where Jake 2 was right now.  He was most likely still in the emergency section with the rest of the population.

"Captain, we're in range of the Juggernauts.  We're engaging them now," Mak said over the intercom.

There was a long pause and then Sintas asked, "Sensors, keep us abreast of the status of those fighters."

"The back row of the Juggernaut formation was caught completely off guard and is disabled or destroyed, Captain.  No casualties yet, though some are adrift in their suits," the sensors officer said, "The Juggernaut squadron leader is not wavering from his course.  He has not raised his shields and still has all power focused on thrust.  The rest of his squadron is engaging ours to keep them off him.  Komakwa's fighter is gaining on the squadron leader and will be in range of plasma weapons in seconds."

They waited anxiously.  The warhead had to deploy, and soon.  The First Ones probably still weren't clear on exactly what was going on, but they must know by now that the Slirkstrith was the source of the attack on their network.  The signal to dissolve Srythryn's home world could come at any moment.

"Captain, I know who their squadron leader is!" Mak exclaimed, "He turned to launch his torpedoes at me to force me to deal with them and I saw his face in the zoomed view of his cockpit.  It's Jake!"

Jake's heart skipped a beat.  Jake 2 was in the lead of a fighter squadron?

Sintas grunted and said, "I have to say I am not surprised.  He must be the reason that squadron broke away from the rest and raced inward.  Clearly their Jake is as clever as ours.  I am sorry, Komakwa.  We cannot allow him to succeed in stopping that warhead.  Do not take any chances.  You must stop him."

"He slowed me down a lot by forcing me to deal with those torpedoes and then I had a tangle with one of his wing mates.  The guy was a hell of a pilot but I managed to take him out.  Jake's too far ahead now.  I won't be able to hit him hard enough with plasma weapons in time.  I have to launch missiles, but he has no shields and he'll be blown to bits!  I don't think I can do it!"

"Mak, you have no choice!" Jake shouted, "He'll never forgive you if that planet gets destroyed by the First Ones because you let him stop the warhead!  Launch your missiles!  Don't give him a chance to destroy it!  Srythryn's whole world is counting on you!"

"Can't you shut down the jamming just long enough for me to talk to him?" Mak asked desperately.

"No!  We cannot risk even a second of clear radio transmissions.  The lackeys aboard the Slirkstrith are likely desperately trying to get word back to the First Ones to let them know that the siskreth are the enemy now.  Their QECH communications are no longer functional so they'll be trying to use radio to get through.  We would risk the immediate dissolution of the siskreth home world before the satellites can deploy.  We just can't do it.  I need you to fire on that ship and stop him!" Sintas ordered.

"Aye, Captain," Mak said with the sound of defeat in his voice, "He won't be in range to take out the warhead for almost a minute yet.  I'm going to try to contact him on tight beam first.  If I increase the gain to maximum I might be able to break through the jamming from this range.  If I can't get him to stand down, I'll launch missiles."

Sintas sighed and shook her head.  She was not pleased that Mak was taking this risk and not acting immediately, but she realized there was no point in arguing with the impulsive young bull.  It would take longer than just letting him do what he wanted to out there.

Mak had left his comm channel open and they could hear him as he spoke into his radio, "Jake, you have to stop.  It's me, Mak.  Please listen, Jake.  You have to stop trying to destroy that warhead.  If you don't turn around you'll leave me no choice.  If you don't stop I'll have to destroy your ship."

He paused briefly as he waited for a reply, "Please, stand down!  Srythryn's world will be destroyed if you stop that warhead from launching its satellites!  I can't let you shoot it down!  Please, for me, stop!"

Another short pause, but still there was no reply.

Mak spoke again but this time he sounded defeated, "If you can hear me, I want you to know.  I'll love you forever.  I'm so sorry, but I have to do this..."

They all waited anxiously and finally Mak came back on and quietly said, "Missiles away.  He wouldn't disengage.  He's not raising shields.  He doesn't stand a chance."

They all waited quietly and the sensors officer said, "Jake's ship is destroyed.  The warhead is breaking open and deploying the satellites.  They will be in orbit shortly."

There was another pause and then Mak came on again and in a very small voice for such a massive bull, he said, "He's dead.  Jake's dead.  The second missile hit him.  I killed him."

Jake heard the anguish in the young bull's voice and he said, "Mak, I'm right here.  You didn't kill me.  I love you and I'm waiting for you to come back so I can see you.  If he were here and I were there he would tell you the same thing, and I would want you to have done exactly the same thing.  You did what you had to to protect Srythryn's home world and all of the people on it.  He gave you no choice.  It's not your fault he's dead.  He could have chosen to raise his shields at any time.  Come back to the ship and I'll meet you at the fighter bay."

"Roger, out," Mak said, sounding no less devastated than before.

"The satellites have activated, Captain," the sensors officer said, "The favors have been cut off planet wide.  I am detecting no activity indicating the favors were commanded to dissolve the world.  They are safe."

"Captain Srythryn, did you read that?" Sintas asked.

"All of it, Captain," Srythryn replied, "I have to say, this has not been as much of a success as I had hoped, but at least my home world and the Slirkstrith are safe for the moment.  In the end, I'm glad the other Srythryn was killed.  He would have likely not survived the loss of his Jake.  I will be reaching the bridge shortly and assuming command.  If you could send a zeth contingent over at your earliest convenience, I would like to have the Slirkstrith outfitted with their QECHS system so that we may more easily maintain communication with the resistance."

"I will have it taken care of immediately," Sintas said, "Voph, if you would pass the request on to your people.  We'll have a shuttle readied to send over to the Slirkstrith."

Voph nodded.

"XO, please coordinate the rescue of all of those floating in suits or disabled ships out there.  I want them back aboard the Slirkstrith ASAP."

The XO acknowledged the command and went to work on the recovery of the siskreth fighter pilots.

Rhokki suddenly became excited and said, "Captain, Voph has told me they've deciphered the data they were able to extract and it does indeed give us the physical location of the QECH hub that controls communication with the favors.  He says that it is located somewhere inside of a very dense nebula.  They know which nebula, but they do not have the precise coordinates of the hub itself within it.  The data does describe the location of the hub so it should not be difficult to find.  There is a binary star system made up of a neutron star in a high-velocity orbit with its red giant companion.  The hub is hidden within the accretion disk formed as the denser neutron star draws the mass off of the red giant, and it is powered by the heat of the disk."

"Could we reach it quickly?  How far is the nebula?" the captain asked.

Rhokki replied, "He says the nebula is a very short jump away from us, but due to the expansive size of the gas cloud, it would take us several weeks even at our current high speed to reach the center of it if we jumped in just outside, and the entire cloud appears to be heavily defended with automated turret systems littered throughout the cloud."

"Would the Shadow's Claw stand a chance?" Sintas asked.

Rhokki waited for Voph's response and then his shoulders slumped and he said, "No.  The defenses are too thick.  They are arranged in a volumetric matrix that fills the nebula with hundreds of millions of turrets.  They are long range plasma cannons and they are arranged such that we could not get close enough to destroy even one of them without putting ourselves in range of hundreds more of the turrets.  Due to the level of radiometric interference in the cloud, the turrets have been designed to use optical targeting systems, so even our sensor suppression would not help us against them."

"What about the Slirkstrith?" Jake asked, "She can take a beating because of her almost endless supply of energy for shields.  Couldn't she make it through those turrets?"

Rhokki paused, and then said, "Voph insists that even the Slirkstrith could not possibly hold out against them even with her massive antimatter buffer soaking up the damage.  She would likely not even get past the first wall of turrets and there would be thousands more walls to get through yet while searching for the hub.  It looks as though the defenses were designed to stop even combined fleets of warships long before they could get anywhere near the hub.  The First Ones clearly understood the significance of the hub and realized it must be protected at all costs.  He cannot think of any way to get around the defenses."

"There has to be some way to defeat those turrets.  They're only machines," Sintas said.

Communications said, "Captain, comms has been monitoring chatter on the collective channels and have determined that a large number of warships from the races that have been doing mercenary work for the First Ones are making their way to the nebula to aid in its defense.  Any that were already in interstellar space and could immediately jump are massing there and the call has gone out for any that are available to join them.  There are over a hundred warships already there and more are jumping in as we speak.  They must know that we might make an attempt on it and they will be ready to stop us before we can even approach the cloud."

"So that's it then," Sintas said, "We've failed utterly.  We can't possibly approach the QECH hub to destroy it.  By the sound of it, it would take several fleets of Slirkstriths to get through those defenses."

"Captain, we've detected several hundred warships appearing right at the edge of the heliosphere and driving in hard.  There are a few dozen huge capital ships and the rest are large corvettes, frigates and destroyers," the sensor officer said.

"Is it the zeth force?" Sintas asked.

"Negative.  They are Jinvhon ships.  More are jumping in behind them!  They're coming in from every direction around the heliosphere!"

"Voph, where are the zeth ships?  We need them!" Sintas exclaimed.

Before Rhokki could even process the zeth's response, the sensors officer spoke again and said, "The zeth ships have started to jump in, Captain.  They are beginning to appear outside the heliosphere as well.  They are rushing to engage the Jinvhon but they are well behind them and were likely not expecting them to be going so fast.  It looks as though the Jinvhon ships had already been accelerating in interstellar space and waiting for a sighting of us, so they'd built up significant speed."

"Shit, we should have seen that coming," Jake said, "It's essentially the same thing the Slirkstrith did.  Will the zeth have any chance of catching them?"

"Negative.  The Jinvhon will be able to reach the planet within a few hours.  The zeths had built up some speed in advance as well, but by my calculation it will still take them nearly a day at maximum acceleration."

"It's as I said when Ausku's world was destroyed and the First Ones blamed us for that and the destruction of the ark ship as well," Sintas said, "The Jinvhon were the worst possible enemy we could have made and that is why the First Ones dissolved that ark ship.  The Jinvhon have the single most massive fleet in all of the collective and the First Ones wanted to give them incentive to hunt us down.  They likely began to assemble their forces that day and headed into interstellar space to begin to accelerate to build some speed so that they could intercept us wherever we might appear, just like the Slirkstrith did.  The Jinvhon are tenacious and nearly unstoppable and they are extremely skilled at combat tactics.  It appears they intend to catch us like fish in a net.  It's unlikely we could slip past them if we wanted to."

Srythryn's voice came over the intercom and said, "Captain Sintas, I am on the bridge and have assumed control of the Slirkstrith.  The Jinvhon are looking for the Shadow's Claw primarily, though by now they've been told the siskreths are their enemy too.  There is nothing you can do against that size of a force.  It is in your best interests to use your stealth measures to try to escape if you can.  They know where you are and they may be able to track you with their telescopes now.  If they can reach you, they will destroy you.  It may already be too late for the Shadow's Claw.  The Slirkstrith may be able to hold out long enough for the zeth forces to come to our aide if we focus all of our antimatter capacity on shields, but we will not be able to hold out for long against the entire Jinvhon fleet so it will be close.  They not only have sufficient numbers to eventually destroy this ship, but they also have enough to bombard our planet into dust and we must do what we can to try to protect our home world.  If you don't mind, I would like to have Jake on my bridge with me immediately."

"Agreed, he may be needed there more than here now," Sintas said, "Please transmit your shield harmonic codes to our engineering so that we may tune ours to match and we'll squirt him over.  We'll do our best to get the Shadow's Claw to safety.  They've seen us now and will be able to track us optically just as your ship was able to in Ausku's system.  We may not be able to reach interstellar space and jump away in time since more of them are coming in at the borders to stop us.  Our shields are not up to that amount of cannon fire and our disrupter suppression will be of no use against ships of that size.  I'm afraid we are doomed."

"Wait, if we can get our shields in tune, can't we keep on skitching like before, but closer?" Jake asked, "We're like a mosquito in size compared to the Slirkstrith.  Could we bring the Shadow's Claw in close enough to get inside the Slirkstrith's more powerful shields and take advantage of her capacious antimatter buffer?"

"By the Granth's wilted whiskers!  That's an excellent idea, Jake!" Srythryn shouted, "We can extend our shields a bit wider at very little additional cost of energy, but they will be easily large enough to envelope the Shadow's Claw if you attach yourself to our side.  We have standard docking ramps with anchor points near the aft end of the cylinder just ahead of the fighter launch section.  I will transmit the location of the docking points to your helm's control panel."

Sintas smiled and said, "Agreed.  Brilliant thinking, Jake.  Helm, maneuver us through the Slirkstrith's shields as soon as we are in tune and bring us right up against her.  Once we're in position engage the docking clamps.  That way we'll also have the benefit of moving freely between the two ships through the ramps."

"Aye, Captain.  It will take at least thirty minutes to maneuver into position to dock."

"Jake, I would still like you aboard the Slirkstrith with me where you belong without further delay," Srythryn said.

Jake could hear the worry in his sweet croc's voice.  They were down to one Jake and one Srythryn now, and neither one was immortal.  Jake realized immediately he would have to decline Captain Sintas' offer to be her second in command.  There was only one place for him now, and it was aboard the Slirkstrith.

He turned to Sintas with a look of chagrin on his face, but before he could even speak she smiled and put up a paw, and said, "You don't need to say anything.  I know what you must be thinking and I understand your decision and, though it is a serious loss to me and my ship, I must agree with it.  You belong with your captain.  I believe it may be best to transfer Rhokki and Mak over there as well.  You should all be together.  Voph should go too.  We will need a zeth presence on the Slirkstrith.  She will be the primary ship of the resistance from this point forward, if there is any resistance left after all of this plays out.  The Slirkstrith and the Shadow's Claw will likely be joined at the hip from this day on so we will all be one happy family in any case."

Rhokki suddenly became quite excited and said, "I will be transferred to the Slirkstrith?  That is wonderful!  When can we go?"

Sintas smiled and said, "I think it best if we all go over right now.  We have a few hours to talk strategy before the Jinvhon are upon us.  I can be yanked back at a moment's notice if I'm needed here.  For now, XO, you have the ship."

"Aye, Captain."

"Captain Srythryn, Jake and I will be coming aboard along with Rhokki and Voph.  We won't wait for the docking procedure but will come over in a shuttle immediately.  We will join you in your briefing room as quickly as we can to discuss our next move.  Please inform your people that we will be coming, and that we also have several ships collecting your pilots and they will be bringing them to you as well," Sintas said.

"Understood.  I will inform our shuttle bay of your impending arrival and the medical crew will be on hand for the pilots.  Srythryn out."

"Computer...patch me through to Komakwa," the captain said, "...Mak, what's your status?"

"I'm on my way back.  I'll be docking with the ship in three minutes."

"Please divert to the Slirkstrith.  Her docking bay is at the aft end of the cylinder.  Her shield codes have been programmed into your system by now.  Once you are inside her shields you will be free of the radio jamming and you can contact her for landing permission.  Jake, Rhokki, Voph, and I will all be transferring there shortly by shuttle.  We will meet you in the Slirkstrith's shuttle bay."

"Aye, Captain."

Just before they left the bridge the sensors officer said, "Captain, I'm reading more ships jumping in.  There are three other races sending in warships now.  They did not come in hot so they've only begun to accelerate.  There are still more zeth ships jumping in and they have begun to engage the others at the boundaries of the heliosphere.  It's getting crowded out there in a hurry."

Jake tried to imagine the mess it must be.  Hundreds of Jinvhon warships were driving in to this location, squeezing their net closed to catch the Slirkstrith and the Shadow's Claw, and to destroy the siskreth home world.  Zeth ships were racing in behind them to try to defend the world.  Dozens more ships from other races were jumping in by the minute and engaging in battle with the additional zeth forces that were still jumping in.  This may be the site of the largest battle the collective has seen since the early days of the war with the zeths and the people on the siskreth home world would still be wondering why the hell they suddenly found themselves at the center of it all.

If only they had anticipated the move by the Jinvhon and had got the bulk of the zeth forces in to the heliosphere in front of them things would be a lot different.

In hindsight, Jake realized that they couldn't have risked the zeth presence any earlier in any case, or it would have signaled to the entire collective that something was going on here and placed the siskreth home world at risk of annihilation by the First Ones before the satellites were in place.  It was just unfortunate that the Jinvhon had made such a clever move and started preparing their forces weeks ago.  With all of the zeth forces and the Slirkstrith in a fortified defensive position they could have held out for a very long time, but as it stood now, with nothing between them and the massive fleet of powerful Jinvhon warships rushing in, they may last only hours.

Communications said, "Comms has intercepted a universe-wide transmission from the First Ones declaring the siskreths to be an enemy of the collective.  They have indicated that they are in league with us and must be destroyed at all costs."

Sintas grunted lightly and said, "Computer...patch me through to Captain Srythryn aboard the Slirkstrith."

"Yes, Captain?" Srythryn asked.

"I assume you are aware of the growing number of forces at the fringes of the heliosphere?  It looks as though we may ultimately be facing the bulk of the collective's military in time.  Your planet and your ark ship are at serious risk.  I know what your answer will be but I must ask; have you given any consideration to the possibility of disclosing our evidence of the First Ones' atrocities to the collective?  If they knew the truth they could not possibly turn against your race, and your world would be saved."

Jake shook his head.  There was no way Srythryn would agree to that.

"No!  I will not allow the entire collective to be put at risk for the sake of my own race!  Should that information get out now with the link to the favors intact, the First Ones would need only press one button to dissolve every world and every ship and every person of every race in the known universe!  It is simply not an option!"

"Agreed, Captain.  Thank you.  I needed to make sure you had considered it.  We will be joining you shortly," Sintas said.

They all made their way quickly toward the shuttle bay to head over to the Slirkstrith.  Srythryn would be the captain calling the shots from now on and his ship was the only one that could remotely stand a chance of holding out for at least a while.

The massive ark ship with its capacious antimatter buffer, powerful main cannon, and large contingent of fighter and strike craft, was the single most formidable ship in the universe, but even she had her limits.

They'd already lost their chance to destroy the QECH hub for the favors so there was no hope of protecting the universe from the First Ones.  Now they had to focus all of their efforts on saving the siskreth race and what was left of the resistance.

Their chances of surviving this did not look good.


If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more from the author please look in the Gay/Adult-Youth section at Nifty.org for...

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or check the Gay/SF-Fantasy section for...

Love and Lycanthropy -  What if after a long life of loneliness you finally found the one person who you could truly love?  What if you found out that there might be moments when he wanted to tear you to bits and eat those bits?  Find out how a man who brings home a homeless teenager finds love he never knew he was capable of and learns to cope with the one minor quirk the boy is afflicted with.

The Hawthorne Accord -  The adventures of a teenage boy who is rescued from a cruel fate in his home village by a friend, but ultimately finds himself on his own and hunted in a world that is being ravaged by brutal race wars between the humans and three races of monsters: kobolds, orcs and ogres.  He discovers in his travels that the world is not quite entirely the way he'd thought it was and that even a single teenage boy can make a difference in the fate of entire races, including his own.

James and the Giant Perv -  A humorous modern fairy tale involving three teenage boys, some "beans", a very tall pervert who dwells in his own kingdom in the clouds, and the various interesting ways they find to enjoy each other sexually.

Feedback is the fuel for the author's engine.  All comments are much appreciated even if they say nothing more than "Liked it, thanks." or "Hated it, don't go there again."

Thank you,


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