Chapter I
IAll of history begins between a women's legs.-Proverb/I

Bonds- Generation I
Tcacci sat up to breathe as sweat glistened on her collarbone. Her powerful neck muscles stretched to ease the pain of her long-bent back. Her recently cropped dirty blonde hair brushed against her nape- where a thin, black scar circled her neck. All of the workers wore the same mark, the mark of their imprisonment. Though the wound was old, it ached, indented and tipped with poison from the tentacle-whip which marked her as a slave, in bonds to the Crawlacks like the rest of her race- at least the rest to speak of. She breathed heavily into the already hazed air, humid and exhausting. When she walked over to the water bucket, one of the overseers stopped behind her.
"Hardly halfway time after last break, suckling. You becoming so weak?"
She nearly choked on her water, and then spun around quickly to face her commander. She said nothing, carefully hiding her rebellious thoughts.
"Silly suckling, yet you have grown so much. You could be in a better position- and I to offer it to you." he said tantalizingly.
She turned her head up and away in an expression of defiance and disgust. Even though their two species were incompatible, that didn't stop many owners from abusing their property. Hawdacki stiffened, his eyes shrunk.
"Id rather play in Tamatar." she said, almost sneering.
His eyeshields came together for a quick moment, taken aback. Then his eyes grew large again, deep pools of sable.
"And rather die in the coldness of space? You have nowhere but Ihere,/I foolish girl!" He exploded.
It was true. The Crawlack's homeworld was the only inhabitable planet known of at the moment, and that was controlled by the original spawnings. Earth had long since been abandoned by all but a few. Long ago in events but not in time, a few weather control satellites had gone awry and released their power on the surface, splitting it open and turning soil to sand. Now nearly nothing could grow. The population relocated deep underground, but could hardly stand it. She remembered those few years deep beneath, cramped, claustrophobic. They needed sky! A few years later, when an excavation had been made to the surface, they had been instantly overrun by Crawlacks. It had barely been a struggle, since they had no weapons to speak of. Their colony was on its last leg to begin with. Then there had come to boarding into vast transport ships, and the promise of food and green-ness. But all the while there had been the guns, and the utter control. The Crawlacks were a broad species with eyes the length of a man's forearm. They were mainly gray, except their legs, which seemed more machine than flesh. Their short arms ended in curved but nearly useless claws. Same for their three legs. Their circular mouths seemed void of teeth, and almost nothing was known of their history.

The Crawlacks used their human slaves to run their docking and launching facilities, which was utterly huge and required immense amounts of power. So much in fact, when humans died their corpses were fed into one of the many energy ports. The Crawlacks kept their promise- the people were fed and saw much greenery, though it mostly came from the immense shimmering portals used to transport ships. The human population was separated into about seventy large clusters, about three thousand for each of the stations. They were fed; they had beds and health care, but not freedom. It appeared as if there was no other option, even if they did manage to overthrow the Crawlacks they had no idea how to operate their technology, and most things required appendages they simply did not have. The human race had no technology for themselves, since everything had to be abandoned at the underground colonies. So the Crawlacks feigned that humans Ineeded/I them, despite the obvious fact that they were despised by their captives. Just because they had nowhere else to go did not mean they needed commanders. Without the Crawlacks, humans would figure the planet out and a way to survive eventually.

Tcacci was a seventeen-year-old willful girl. Her body had been made strong with labor, her mind through use. She had been around since the beginning when Gaia had been ripped and dehydrated. She was a favorite of Hawdacki; he found her appealing in some bizarre alien way. She despised him and his race just as much as the rest of her kin.
"Get back to work, then! Make yourself useful!" he pushed her back into the operating line. She stumbled along to her place, next to Marrie.
"Taken an 'interest' in you, then? That's a quick way to get ahead in life, if you take it." she said.
"But I Iwont./I He's simply Irevolting./I" she retorted as she pushed and pulled, pushed and pulled. Marrie only shrugged. Tcacci sighed and fell into the steady rhythm of the pumps. Despite the daily drudgery, a small inner society existed among the humans. Some people banded together more so than others, small relief from the bigger picture. A few of the orange fumes reached her nose and she began coughing. The fumes could hurt a person severely, and there were enough lames working the barrels already. IBreath/I she told herself IJust

"Breath!"/I her mind shouted and a male voice commanded. She did, in gasps and puffs as she lay in the corner and moaned.
"AarrraaaaaAA!" she cried and pushed at the same time.
"Tcacci, if you can't push, then we're gonna have to pull!" a elder female voice told her. She opened her eyes and spotted Cain coming in the side door, looking anxious.
IWhat does he want?/I She thought.I Sweet Earth, he doesn't think the child's his/I,I does he?/I She grimaced at the picture of him as a father. It Iwasn't/I, was it? Even now she was unsure. She cried out again as finally, finally the baby came out. Han'ah picked it up and gave it a quick shake, and it began bawling. Tcacci forgot to do anything for a minute. The pain, the people, none of it mattered now. She had a Ichild!/I The poor fragile thing was handed to her, and she gazed down lovingly at the tiny red face. IHers/I she thought. IAnd who else's?/I A part of her mind probed. That was a question she daren't answer. Han'ah peered at her and the child. "It's a girl." she said softly. "Healthy, thank Gaia. No problems. " She smiled. "You'll need some retreat." she said as she and her husband Mac began clearing out the watchers from the hovel. She looked down at her tiny babe, so beautiful. Her minute arms, baby face.. and no scar on her neck. Yet. For the first few years of her life, Tcacci vowed, she would be protected, loved, happy,.. and Ifree./I They, the Crawlacks, wouldn't touch this human babe. She was vaguely aware of Cain watching, and then leaving hurriedly since it would do him no good to be there. Her full attention, though, was on the child as she sang softly to her and both mother and daughter fell into sleep.

Bonds- Generation II
Esret nearly fell as a dizzy spell hit her. IShit/I she thought II must've hit that bot./I She clutched her throbbing head and continued to run. ICan't let them get me, can't get me, can't get me./I She turned a sharp corner, saw a hole, and ducked into the vent. She scrambled to get into the shadows so they couldn't get her, and her left hand brushed the metal. She nearly cried out. It was burning hot, and a welt began to form on her hand. She gritted her teeth and pushed farther into the shadows, hoping to be overlooked. She held her breath until she couldn't take it, let it out in a few quick pants, and then held it again. She could hear the shouts and curses of a few very angry and groggy Crawlacks.
"Where could that thing of escaped to?" They scanned the room quickly then muttered "The bots will find the filth, bring her back. I need to sleep." They both loudly retreated to the upper levels. Slowly her breathing returned to normal. She occasionally gave a sob of pain, but she was quiet and hidden enough that the bots overlooked her. She was small enough to fit in tiny places, places the bots would not think to look, also because, as far as they knew, there had never been such a situation. To all their knowledge, she was the very first to escape.

Her mind flew back to her bold escape. The huge, crowded cafeteria. She was not hungry. She just kept staring at the farthest wall. The Crawlacks, she knew, were starting to go into their long hibernation, a month or so. It had been no coincidence that just that morning she had been bonded. They wanted to get it over with, break her spirit before they slept. She was shoved into the small, hot room with Hawdacki and the whipmaster, carrying his long stringy black tentacle laced with poison like the instrument he was nicknamed for. They had no idea how he had a tentacle, if it was an implant, a genetic fluke, or perhaps something else. She remembered his rasping voice, growing louder as he explained exactly why the humans were the "workers" for the Crawlacks, how they were inferior and could never have survived on their own. Her mother, Tcacci, had told her their history long ago, and she knew which she believed. Then, at his final closing sentence, the great whip had struck out quick as a flash, then he drew a long thin line across her neck where her vocal cords were, and she let tears creep out of the corner of her eyes-though no sound, she wouldn't give them that pleasure- from the poison that burned, leaving the black ring-scar. It was as clear as day. She was a slave now.

But she would not have it. Just that afternoon, when the bots were all occupied, she made a rush for the tiny gate. She was small enough that she made it through, which set the alarm off, and sent the bots after her. Sliding down the corridors proved faster than running, she reached the bottom floor, someplace she was sure her kin had never seen.

Slowly the vent cooled, as the Crawlacks didn't need their steamy conditions as they slept. Panting, she pressed her hand on her bleeding head, she could feel a long, deep cut running across the side of her skull. Cringing at the pain, she went into a strange sleep-like state from exhaustion and pain, best described as feverish.

She awoke a short while later with a sharp jerk. She was shaking, and as she moved her hand came off her cut, providing fresh pain. She heard a great grinding noise, and panicked. What could it possibly be? She moved around, searching for the source. From all directions at once- her blue eyes with tiny green rings near the center flicked back and forth, she gave off tiny noises. Slowly she calmed down and decided it must be the systems shutting down, and then all noise ceased. II have to get outside. Can't stay here./I Very, very slowly she crawled out and rose. She stretched her back, and felt her head wound. There was a great scab there, and dried blood matted her hair. The welt on her left hand was gruesome, but not serious. She took a deep breath, and silently approached the doors. How she knew they were the doors, she didn't know, she probably had just guessed. A few feet from them, the doors dropped away as if gravity had suddenly come by and detached them from the wall, and pulled them down. She blinked, then leaped quickly out before gravity changed it's mind and restored them. Once she was a yard away, they sprung back again. She blinked and kept walking.

All was silence but the sound of her feet and her breathing, all was darkness save the light of the tiny four moons. She walked by what seemed to be shops, all unlocked, for there were no robbers, all Crawlacks slept during this time whether they wanted to or not, and there were no other creatures to steal anything.
ITil Now./I She smiled at the thought. As scared as she was, she was proud of herself. She wandered down the eerily vacant streets, only the shadows of life wandered here. And herself. After a couple of miles, she came to a cluster of what seemed to be transportation vehicles. She touched one tentatively. When nothing moved or made a sound, she jumped up onto one. Still nothing. The Crawlacks being so large, she only took up about half the seat. She had to reach over to the control panel, she gripped a thing jutting out and to the right. Immediately the thing sprung into action, whirring down the street.
ISurely they don't always travel this slow./I She reasoned. IHmm../I she moved her hand down to a brown button below, and the machine suddenly sped out of control, so fast everything was a blur. She had no control, she might crash. She released her grip on the joystick, and nearly fell off as the scooter stopped so suddenly she was thrown backwards. She would have been thrown off if not for a great bar in the back, which she hit instead. She cursed and scrambled back to the seat. She depressed the green button, and pulled the joystick to the right sharply. She spun in uncontrollable circles, pivoting. Once she released that she thought,
IPush forward, forward. Back, back. Right, left, green is slow, brown fast..black../I She went at a good pace. IThere./I Slowly she mastered the controls. She flew on her scooter around the towns. Where could she hide? Maybe in the wilderness? It seemed to her the towns were all circling a large physical feature, a mountain, a forest, and such. The farther west she went, though, the less Crawlack cities there were. She sent her scooter straight up by flicking a lever, and surveyed the land yonder. Across that one river, there was nothing. Well, almost. A few buildings that looked very very abandoned, a huge forest, and a bald spot like the trees had all been burned in a circle. She sped towards the spot, and landed. IHere. Here I can live. I can make this my home./I Something deep within her was reminded of humanity by this place, but how, she had no idea. She knew what she had to do, though. For the next few couple of days, she gathered supplies and such for survival.

As she ground the shell of the mil-nut, as she had dubbed it, she had a sudden urge to fly up. She knew it would be dangerous, because the Crawlacks might see her, but she could hardly resist. Up and up, to the north, and.. she couldn't believe what she was seeing. IImpossible. I had no idea..So I'm not the only one! /I
There, just below her and to her left, were Iother humans!/I Captives were never allowed outside the launching buildings, and they weren't accompanied by Crawlacks, they must be..Ifree/I. She thought. IWhat should I do?/I She was hardly ready for this. She shook off a foreboding feeling, and turned the scooter into a slow dive to greet them.
IOthers! Free! It's a miracle! A Earth-blessed miracle!/I

Chapter II
The great elliptical ship slipped through space like a lazy leaf on still water propelled by a gentle zephyr. It's crew also remained unconcerned, as they had made so many voyages like this one before. The ship was a charter-science type, Standard-Class 668,dubbed INama-yfin./I Her crew was a group of data collector-recorders who were steadily growing less interested in their jobs. It's not that the aliens known as Usacipes were not interested in collecting and recording, in fact they were immaculate at it, but so far they had found so very little of interest there was nearly nothing new to record on their journeys through solar systems. But they were also a diligent species, and this particular collection of people prided themselves in finishing any task set before them, even if the assignment was undesirable. So on they sped, through the vastness, only three systems from the completion of their task. They could then return home, all the collected information proof that this large region of space did not merit any great attention from scientists. Or so they prognosticated.

The navigator read off another long number from his quarters, their present sector. The directorate had already agreed this would be the spot to pause. Mechanical probes were sent out, a few manned shuttles were directed to various destinations. Perhaps if the charters had been human, they would have held small hopes of finding something interesting, but the Usacipes had a very Ikay serah,serah/I mindstate. They were neither pessimistic nor optimistic; they merely accepted what seemed to be the most probable future. Which, consequently, caused the explorers among the Usacipes to be surprised quite often.

Hlin'tor found a report in his review packet that the computer had classified separate from the others, which was a surprise. There were no casualties or injuries, the exploration had gone smoothly as always. Perhaps the pilot of the shuttle had found a potentially useful material to aid their journey? He picked at a skin flap absentmindedly and cautiously tapped the screen to read the report. He liked to get things done more quickly than most, but this seemed to require greater attention than sorting and storing. The report read as follows:

" MS 14857506, eight planetiod satellites, four solid, four gaseous. One meets requirements of carbon-based life, may be inhabited, request to explore further issued."

It was terse, like most reports, especially of late, but Hlin'tor put it ahead of all the others. He sent a message requesting a meeting to Kkap'yfi'te, the pilot of the scouter shuttle. Soon a reply came, and he conversed with the elder through a small audioport on the wall.
"Kkap, in you report you said there was a planet capable of supporting carbon-based life. Could you elaborate?"
"Yes, Hlin'F-tor. I-"
"No need for formal greetings, Hlin'tor suits me fine."
"Well, before the asteroid belt, there was a small solid planet that met the requirements. But it looked either rather young or old, the atmosphere was in a great turmoil and only beginning to settle. I thought it was interesting, and seeing as we haven't found anything else and the journey is nearly over, I proposed that perhaps we could explore it further, visit the surface perhaps?"
"Well, you have my support, and I'm sure the directorate will agree. Yes, you and," he made a quick glance through his files, "Ahlt're'dcu will go down to the planet and explore thoroughly."
I"Mewr Ik Verrum,/I it pleases me to be useful and explore at the same time."
"I think the entire crew is going to be thanking you, for finally we have stumbled upon something intriguing!"
The conference ended and Hlin'tor rushed to talk to the rest of directorate, and within the hour it was all arranged. He was somewhat envious of the two pilots, but still would not trade his position on the directorate. He relaxed in his quarters and waited for further information.

Kkap, on the other hand, was quite agitated. Not only was he going to leave for an unexplored planet that very evening, he was going to travel with the fantastic Ahlt're'dcu! Not all the crew might have considered Ahlt that way, but Kkap held him in great esteem. As his shuttle went through routine check and he was fitted with the proper equipment, he only kept wondering what he would think of him. He was competent at his job, but compared to him! He was an expert scientist who could analyze many things in a matter of minutes, aided by only his personal probe. But he mustn't worry about that, he chided himself, there was a whole planet out there that required their attention, he could work on personal relationships later. But his excitement did not fade.