Three years later...

Cerberus came home to a terrifying scene. Old Jack, the elderly lur who had rescued her after her pack was captured by Khribli Clan slavers, was hiding inside his house from a pair of heavily armed humans.

The slavers were back. And they wanted her.

"Where's the kid, parrot?"

"Sh-she left to get groceries.."

"Don't lie to me! We want our due for our stolen merchandise!"

Cerberus had none of the courage of the beast she was supposedly named after. She was eight, goddammit. She dropped the groceries and ran down the alleys in a blind panic.

There was one way to get away- the Vas Damhan. Old Jack's old, unused omni-tool was her sole valuable possession. And the key to the wandering lur ship.


Horizon hated her job. Sure, she had dreamed of helping the world as a hatchling, but real life turned out to be mostly listening to hours of reports about random frigates requesting replacement FSD clips.

She loaded the second of the giant pile of tapes sitting on her desk into the player, one of the few things not buried in junk and spent tapes in the room.

Date: 2304.3.5

Type: Asset Extraction

Extract Location: Indilum System, Hotra, Camp Alpha, Central District

One of our community reform operatives, going by the trade-moniker of "Old Jack", has ben reportedly killed by a group of slavers known as the Khribli Clan. Intelligence reports that the slavers were searching for a freed Tzynn slave, who calls herself Cerberus. The name apparently originates from a fellow member of her dust rat pack, Shrike, a black-feathered lur hatchling, approximately 7 at last known location. Individual sold to a black market transplant clinic, reported dead.

Cerberus is reported to be seeking sanctuary offworld. Forwarding to Asset Management.

Horizon entered the data into the AR interface from her visor, and reached for another tape, shoving several empty plastic water bottles off the desk where they clattered onto a pile of their brethren.

Date:2303.5.6

Type: Starship Part Overhaul

The Vas Niell requests a change of jump drive coils. Not urgent. Model not a major consideration, although shorter recharge tines would be helpful for maintenance.

Wait. It's been a year since this was filed. Oh well, she'd seen longer waits, she thought, punching in the delivery orders into her interface, just as an alarm blared.

Warning. Warning. Gedol have boarded. Warning. Warning.

Struggling to extricate herself from underneath the gargantuan pile of garbage she had amassed in her six months working here, Horizon rifled her desktop for the pistol buried under a pile of bottle caps.

She'd actually never left the chair in those six months except to go to the bathroom. Hopefully she could still run.

Dragging herself out of the door, she followed the flashing emergency lights on the floor. Sometimes she heard fighting and orders barked in a pidgin hybrid of Common and Gedol. Luckily, none of the gedol saw her.

The evac zone was near. Dark-Eyes, one of her fellow techs, was waiting there.

"Dark-Eyes! Do you think anybody else made it?" she asked.

"No. They'd have been here by now."

"Do you know why they're-"

"Driin les! Don't nom les get hilan. No keeling! Boss no giin!" yelled a gedol commander. The troops moved in from the hallways.

"Well damn." remarked Dark-Eyes, dashing for the shuttle.

Horizon tripped in her panic. Dark-Eyes stopped to help her up. And in that moment, the gedol surrounded them.

"Dat's all, boss. Gin paatlash." remarked one of the troops.

They tried to escape the gedol closing in on them, but failed. Dark-Eyes managed to get his left hand free for a few seconds, though.


The gedol roughly escorted the entire crew of the ship onto a nearby docked slave-ship. They shoved the prisoners in pairs into small filthy cubicles, gagged and bound.

For three, or maybe four days, they were crammed into there. Occasionally the guards would pour some nutrient paste down their throats.

Horizon was relatively lucky- some of the other slaves got fevers and infected wounds, and one just starved to death after the guards forgot to feed them. The gedol as a whole had mostly degenerated into uncultured brutes. Few were literate, and those who were were extremely bad at spelling and grammar. Honestly, Horizon pitied them.

Dark-Eyes had tried to get the restraints off, banging his wing-claws against the bars and rocking back and forth. The guards had put an end to that, shocking him with a tazer attached to the end of a stick until he fell unconscious. He was awake now, though.

Suddenly, there was a commotion in the ship. Guards were hurriedly running fingers over their frills, hoping to remove some of the grime, and shoving dirty magazines and drink cans under desks.

A gedol officer ran around yelling orders at the guards in crude Common.

"Cleen up! Dramloc want many slave- get rid of junk! Make Dartnose look good! Swish swish!"

Then a small party of red-painted gedol entered, along with a couple Tzynn guards.

The officer ran up to meet them, chattering away in pidgin Common.

"I is Risli of Clan Dartnose. Many slave here, yes?"

"We want many slave indeed-dig herox, make moneys. Twelve fine-throw some of those pretty parakeet shiin on there too."

Horizon managed to scratch something in the grime with her talons. Dark-Eyes knew a little bit of Tzynn and Gedol-he'd actually paid attention to the lessons in school.

Shiin?

Dark-Eyes rubbed it out and scraped his reply.

Females. Not good.

Horizon just sat there contemplating, when Dark-Eyes scratched another message into the grime.

Pretend you only speak Lur if they talk to you-that way the'll let me "translate".

Horizon nodded and rubbed the message out, just as two guards and one of the visitors passed her cell.

"You speak Common, pretty birdie?" one said, pulling down her gag.

"Qaka dlaak noo?" she replied. What was that?

"I said, you speak Common?"

"Ir, nkes?" Uh, no?

"Hey, blue birdy. Can you translate?" the guard said, removing Dark-Eyes's gag.

"Yes. She doesn't understand you."

"Tell her to make other slaves listen?"

"Yes. That I can do."

They then continued their conversation in Lur.

"They say the other slaves are not listening. They trust you, though. You're one of the few to have made it to an evac zone."

"Okay. What's the plan?"

"Tell the other lur slaves to listen- you have a plan once we get to the mines."

"Got it."

Dark-Eyes then turned to the guards.

"She says the lur slaves will listen to her." he said in Common.

Horizon then yelled at the top of her lungs. "Laakaa nok Dramloc noksee! E dors j kiinah! Draak niik Samsa!" Listen to the Dramloc guards! I have a plan! Speak only Lur!

Mutterings in Lur surrounded her, most agreeing to the proposed initial step of the plan. They fell into line neatly.

The Dramloc guards, satisfied with their new purchases' relative cooperation, herded the fourteen lur slaves onto their ship, where they were shoved into a holding cell on the engineering deck. The room was crowded, cold and dark. Occasionally something would warble and skitter in the ventilation. Nobody dared say anything, however.

One guard got Dark-Eyes to translate the instructions he was supposed to give the slaves into a crude pamphlet; that he handed around the gathered masses.

"Okays. You get instructions, yes? I go now. Yell if need thing really bad. Otherwise shut up and wait." he said, turning to leave and dropping the original pamphlet and a bag of junk marked "Slayve stuf"

The original pamphlet was still readable after being dropped.

Rules:

1. Obey Dramloc Clan.

2. Mine the shinies with pick, not lamp or hand. It hurt.

3. Eat the provibded thingies. No complaning.

4. Useless things will be providended if ask for useless thing fire.

Recomend not stick hand in useless thing fire, or thing-meltr. It hurtets.

The lur had picked apart the junk quickly, searching for edible food. There was a dust jacket from a book titled "Glerb Flurpole: Erb Boppop Nombeep," a piece of rusty scrap metal, three generic-brand chocolate bars, a stick of orange-flavored nutrient paste and a strip of red carpeting.

"One question- what was the plan you had earlier?"

"We plan a revolt. Gather supplies, then overpower the guards and soar for the gales."

Suddenly, the craft flipped somewhat to the left, then settled back down. Someone apparently turned on the intercom, because the pilot's ranting was suddenly broadcast throughout the ship.

"Skiierin astroids, alwas gettin in da skiierin way! I hate em!"

Suddenly, there was a loud metallic crash and a sloshing noise. Evidently the pilot spilled their drink. The ship then suddenly stopped moving.

"Ghik! Leerin! Mop this up!" the pilot yelled. "I fix now!"

There was a rustling noise, several pings, then the lights turned off. "Why can't dey make a skiierin slave-nagsha cordectly!"

"Well. I almost pity them." remarked Dark-Eyes. "It's a wonder that they somehow managed to mess up getting to the FTL relay that badly."

"Probably have exposed wiring on the speed dial or something." replied a younger white-feathered lur.

The ship suddenly started moving again. However, the lights were still off in the engineering section.

"Okays, da nagsha is moving. Holding compartment might be a leetle dark tho. Oh well, noboody cares aboot slaves." said the pilot over the intercom.

"Great. We're stuck in the dark for the whole trip now. As if slavery wasn't miserable enough." remarked Dark-Eyes.

"Shut up. You'll be envying this day once we get to the facilities. The coal plants were bad enough." remarked an older black-and-white male.


Cerberus snuck down the alleys to the supply yard. Seeing an opening in the guard patrols, she dashed for a shuttle and dived inside a crate in its cargo bay. The omni-tool was thankfully still on her wrist.

The tubes of paste inside the crate were thankfully levo-amino. She was thankful for the fact that she could eat without having to leave the crate. It would be a long journey to Indilum Station.