Blane Kajer felt crowded. He’d wanted to explore Simmel to see his first non-native world for himself by himself, but two of the slaves he had freed upon his arrival on Simmel followed him. The mute Garren they called Maverik witnessed Blane’s quiet exit from the Leswensel residence and followed, more like a stray lantil puppy than the enormous reptilian he actually was. When the Kollin Vasion saw them leaving, he invited himself along so that he could walk freely on the world that he had formerly known only as a world of masters.
Vasion, at least, demonstrated more intelligence and general competence than Maverik, and Blane figured that the Kollin could at least keep the energetic Garren out of trouble. With luck, Vasion could keep the Garren occupied and distracted, thus salvaging some small portion of Blane’s need for solitude.
Maverik idolized Blane, who only briefly enjoyed the preferential treatment. By leaving the Leswensel Residence, Blane had hoped to escape constant attention. Treated as an outcast in his foster family, Blane had grown up used to being ignored and left alone. Now Blane’s lover Domenika and Maverik both constantly and continuously pulled Blane into interaction with thepeople around him. Maverik’s grateful dedication and Domenika’s new openness of their relationship now smothered him. Blane had resented the unwalled isolation that had surrounded him during his childhood, but he had adjusted to it so well that he craved time alone. Denied that since their arrival on Simmel, he became increasingly frustrated and irritable. He suffered longer than people with more honed social skills might have, because he didn’t want to say anything potentially hurtful to either Domenika or Maverik. He wanted to explore the freedom that a new world and his new personal liberties offered. The new and strengthening connections to those around him were already checking the freedoms he had always imagined he would have as an adult.
The Garren liked Blane immensely and automatically with undying appreciation for the human who had freed him from his bondage. Blane’s rescue of the slaves had not been a move calculated to gain him friends. When the imperial slaver had begun tormenting Maverik, Blane had related to Maverik’s learned helplessness and suppressed anger all too well. Witnessing that abuse had triggered an eruption in the deep well of Blane’s rage. He had acted in thoughtless righteousness, interceding for the slaves’ benefit like he had wished someone, anyone, had interceded during his tormented childhood. Blane had not planned out what to do with the slaves once they were free.
Blane had since heard the Garren utter no comprehensible word. Maverik conveyed his anger with twists and flicks of his massive tail, quivering, vibrations and outright snorting from his huge nostrils, snaps of his huge teeth-lined jaws, and purring roars that echoed in his massive scale-covered and slaver-branded chest. Blane could not tell if the Garren was mute or just did not or could not speak Interworld Standard; the noises Maverik made came from his chest or nose, never past his throat. Smarter and emotionally stronger, Blane took the differences in their mental facilities as a responsibility to Maverik. As a lifelong victim throughout childhood, Blane felt that the strong should be defending the weak, not exploiting them. The fact that Maverik stood four times Blane’s height and perhaps seven times Blane’s weight only made the situation amusing to watch. If Maverik felt the black mood Blane often radiated, he thought his continued presence and cheer would brighten his small friend’s spirits.
Blane had never had any real friends during his formative years. Now he had no notion as to what to say or do with friends. Blane had never before encountered that problem with Domenika; too afraid of her father, she had seldom openly associated with him. The times they did get together, sex had always bridged the gaps between them. They would talk sometimes in the darkness on the edge of her father’s homestead, then sneak back to the house separately. Once there, they would guiltily avoid all conversation in fear of saying something revealing. What other uses did people have for friends other than discussion or sex?
Vasion spoke most often during their visit into the Imperial-built city that surrounded the Leswensel Residence. Blane knew that the imperials had castrated Vasion to curb his aggressive Kollin nature, but he didn’t imagine that the operation had succeeded. Vasion would wait for imperial officers to pass, then make quiet, whispered threats of violence against them. Vasion’s fins would quiver or sometimes fan erect, their sharp spines pointing skyward as if to stab the eyes of his alien slavers’ gods. His webbed hands would clench into tight fists. He would remain tense, too ready to fight, until Blane diffused him with a caustic remark like “Orfezzins, they bleed kind of blackish,” or “Jadannis, with that blue skin, you should see how they bruise.” Vasion would snicker at Blane’s brutal images, then relax until he saw the next uniformed officers.
After strolling for three hours through Fedzordza, it became quite clear that the situation would only get worse. Vasion relaxed less than he angered with each distant encounter. Funny, mean and off-color remarks came easily to Blane; it took him longer to figure out a way to suggest going home without making it seem like an order to the two freed slaves. “I’m tired. We should go back.”
Vasion grumbled consent while he sneered at a pair of Qualmloids in imperial uniforms.
Maverik panted excitedly and hopped behind the two. Blane swore he felt the ground quake under the Garren’s massive feet.
They were still at least a half-kruup from the Leswensel Residence when five enforcers approached them directly. Blane threw Vasion an uneasy look as Maverik growled at the uniforms he recognized only as the sign of slavers and abusers. Vasion tugged on the Garren’s heavy arm, precisely how he’d signaled restraint to the Garren so many times during their enslavement. “Easy, Rik.”
Blane smiled nervously at the enforcers. “Can I help you?”
“Those slaves,” the Delmeen commander pointed. “Aren’t they Leswensel’s?”
“Yessir,” Blane smiled.
“What are they doing away from the house?”
“It’s bein’ fumigated,” Blane lied quickly.
“Who’re you?” the Dogomon sergeant asked.
“My name’s Mard,” Blane lied with the first name he thought of. “Thade sent me from Shorns to watch the house while the missus is away.”
“Doesn’t he trust our men stationed there?”
“He sure does. Couldn’t speak good ‘nough ‘bout them. But Mrs. Leswensel, she wanted a civilian or two t’make sure the place don’ get too military-like, so she said.”
The Dogomon cocked his head to the side. His muzzle rippled to reveal a large canine tooth. “So you’re at Les’ house?”
Blane nodded with perfect maintenance of his nervous smile.
The Dogomon leaned closer. Blane’s hand neared the cloth sack that held the Chrid concealed at his side. “You,” the Dogomon grunted with a puff of breath that gagged Blane with the stench of rotting flesh, “tell Grishanyail that I want those fifty stans he owes me.”
“Will do,” Blane promised.
The Imperial scowled, and leaned even closer, driving his snout into Blane’s nose. “You tell him—”
Maverik reacted to the Dogomon’s threatening posture, most particularly because that posture threatened Blane. Immensely larger and unfathomably stronger, Maverik took the differences in their physical facilities as a responsibility to Blane. He reached out a long arm. With just his thumb and one finger, he grabbed the hapless alien by the head. The Dogomon’s booted rear paws swept from the smoothly paved street.
Blane smiled stupidly. “Rikki, put him down.”
Maverik sniffed at the Dogomon, who writhed to hold onto the Garren’s enormous fingers to take the strain off his neck. The Delmeen stepped back, his hand falling for his holstered lasertron.
Blane’s voice gained a shrill desperation. “Please?”
“Charge him!!” the Delmeen demanded of Blane. Then the Delmeen noticed the discolored skin on Maverik’s and Vasion’s wrists, where the slave bands had ringed them until very recently.
Blane’s stupid smile did not dissipate. “Oh. The charger. Where’d I put it?”
“Gun’m all!” the Delmeen shouted.
The other three Imperials, another Delmeen and two Bekks, drew their lasertrons as the Dogomon in Maverik’s grip reached for his own lasertron with one hand while the other still gripped Maverik’s scaled finger.
“Not good,” Blane sighed.
Vasion acted in the protection of his friend and threw himself into the three enforcers.
“Really not good.” Blane finally lost the stupid smile, stopped thinking and began acting reflexively. He drew the Chrid. The energy scepter gleamed in the Simmellian emerald sunlight.
A brawl had started, publicly. The Delmeen commander fired a quick shot that grazed Maverik’s massive forearm. The sting surprised the Garren into dropping the Dogomon.
One of the Bekks fell back with the force of Vasion’s assault and drew her communicator. Vasion hurled to tackle the alien woman. They tumbled. Vasion knocked the communicator from the enforcer’s grasp.
Maverik snorted when the Dogomon shot him in the chest. Scales burned with an acrid stench , but even at such close rang, the laser could not penetrate the Garren’s hide. The blast and the stench of his own burned scales did nothing but anger him. He stomped his massive three-toed foot once. Bones crackled. The Dogomon never grunted or screamed.
Light burst from the Chrid. Blane released a single blast, then ground his teeth in fear that he would hit Vasion. The white ball of energy veered skyward. He hoped it would hit a Imperial patrol plane. He turned on his heel and cut the Delmeen commander in half with a wide thin red ray as the Delmeen fumbled for his communicator.
Vasion displayed outright savagery, landing blow upon blow in the hapless Bekk’s face. Vasion’s awareness of this time and place was lost. He remembered beatings administered by other blue-uniformed Imperials, and hated Bekks specifically.
Maverik pounced at the remaining two enforcers as Blane started after Vasion. Maverik’s eyes rolled after them both. Aged thirty-two Intergal years at the time he had been sold into slavery, the Garren had been little more than a big late adolescent. He had since aged little, emotionally or physically. He had always allowed himself to be led by Vasion more than anyone else, slaver or fellow slave. The sight of this friend in action incited Maverik as much as the sight of Blane being threatened had. The Garren bashed the two Imperials together with a perverse pleasure. The pent up anger shared by all three young men finally found release.
A siren wailed in the distance. Blane doubted coincidence. “Vasion! Rik! We gotta go!!”
Blane felt pinned down. Having chosen their journey off the main routes where they would be more likely noticed and questioned, they were on a side street, on one of the higher elevations of the small city. Blane and Vasion alone would have stood little chance of being witnessed. Maverik’s size made him difficult to conceal. He stood taller than a quarter of the buildings in the area.
“They deserve this!” Vasion bellowed. He grasped the Bekk by her pointed ears and tossed her to the side. She gasped for breath. Her face and uniform were all blotted with blood. Blane killed her with a needle of green energy from the Chrid. Vasion turned to Blane and began sputtering protest.
For the briefest instant Blane wondered if Vasion would turn his anger on Blane himself. “I know they deserve it, Vaz.” He shrugged against Vasion’s objections, hoping Kollins found the gesture disarming, and not some type of fin-puffing challenge. Vasion grunted and looked at Maverik. Blane sighed relief and turned in the same direction, then to the two remaining Imperials that Maverik had captured in his huge hands.
“I lost myself,” Vasion admitted, eyeing Maverik. The Garren tossed the two enforcers through the air in a sadistic game. He would let one go, watch him start to run, then snatch the imperial back into his enormous hand, squeezing a little more tightly each time. Vasion barked, “Rikki! We go!”
Air whistled through Maverik’s stiletto teeth. He took a enforcer in each fist and slammed them together repeatedly, then hurled both against the ground. The Delmeen didn’t move. Maverik stomped on him, heedless if the thick curled horns on the Delmeen’s head might puncture his foot. The Bekk man struggled to limp away. Blane killed him with a clean thin burst of the Chrid even as Maverik reached out for him. The Garren snorted his disappointment to Blane, then smiled with a wide, toothy reptilian grin.
“Where’s there a teleporter?” Blane asked Vasion.
Vasion splayed his bloodied webbed hands. “We’ve never been allowed into the city before.”
“Come on!” Blane fled the scene, encouraging the two former slaves to follow.
“This way!” Vasion shouted, stamping his foot.
Blane stopped and turned. “There’s at least one patrol comin’ from that way! We gotta avoid them! Rik’s not ‘xactly forgettable to anyone that sees him!”
Vasion hesitated. As alien as the Kollin’s face was to Blane’s human features, he could tell that Vasion wanted to attack the other patrol. They stared at each other for long moments. “True,” Vasion finally agreed. “Rik, haste!”
The Garren ran forward with strides that would encompass at least five of any Blane or Vasion could take. He scooped up Blane first, then Vasion, and fled the scene with a fleetness that belayed his bulk.
The excitement had invigorated rather than exasperated them. They had made a stand together, even if they had not intended to. That stand had become a statement in their minds, even to Maverik. Their lives of repression and slavery were over. Those who had directly served as parents, guardians, controllers and slavers to them all were now gone. Yet a city, an entire world, bustled all around them, full of similar users and abusers.
At the start of their first journey away from the residence, they had each been so overwhelmed by Simmel’s expansive size and pervasive Imperial occupation and their total unfamiliarity of it that none of them would have dreamed of lashing out. But their anger had forged a bond of mutual protection, and had gotten the better of them. The battle was over. Five slavers and authority figures over this conquered world and its repressed people had been left behind, beaten and crushed and killed. Blane and Vasion and Maverik all knew that they had accomplished something that none of them would have dared if they’d planned it ahead of time.
The garage doors slid shut, signaling their return to their current home and sanctuary. Silence fell between them momentarily. They each silently looked between the closed doors and each other, at first disbelieving that they had gotten away with their rash melee. Blane smiled when the success of their retreat fully registered in his mind. In response to Blane’s smile, Maverik’s chest rolled in a contented purr Vasion clapped his hands together with a sound of bursting air between his flippers. Blane’s smile broadened. Maverik hopped in place, shaking the walls. Vasion grinned, a gesture that displayed his serrated teeth. Reacting to each other and the cathartic release of anger they shared, they erupted. Hooting and victory snarls and back slapping morphed into laughter. Blane and Vasion laughed in a riot, sound bursting past their throats to echo through the empty garage. Maverik guffawed noiselessly, his head shaking and bobbing, his teeth glinting in the indirect light. With words and motions, they recounted their battle, exaggerating it with each retelling. No longer controlled children or captive slaves, they shared individual but identical fantasies of lashing out at the Imperials again.
Jeff Kozzi – A property manager in Providence, Rhode Island, Jeff Kozzi has been published in various magazines and anthologies including Our Haunted World, Malicious Deviance, The Aether Age Helios and Things We Are Not. He writes mostly in his own “Sivil Galaxi” milieu and is currently in search of an agent for an ambitious space opera trilogy. He maintains a website at www.kozzi.us.