The Howling

By: Joshin Yasha

Beast Wars and all related belong to Hasbro.  The story, its original contents and ideas, and any original characters belong to the author and cannot be used or reprinted without the author's permission.


Disclaimer: No money, no rights, no life.  I own all original characters unless otherwise specified.


Dedications: Like usual, the story is dedicated to the writers for their excellent work.  It's also dedicated to all the voice actors, especially David Sobolov and Campbell Lane, for bringing these wonderful characters (especially my favourites) to life.  As well as the writers of Beast Wars, it's also for the people I love in hopes that this will show that one day I can do something better.


Author's notes: Well, this only took forever.  Oh, well, I'm out for summer break, so hopefully I can do some writing this summer since I've neglected this for so long...!





" . . . Omicron, I repeat, if you copy us please respond.  This is Captain Vapour Trail of the Exaton, please respond."~




"Omicron, I repeat, this is Vapour Trail of the Exaton, we are responding to your distress call.  What is your distress. Please respond."~




"Sir, do you think it's possible the transmission is simply not going through?" the second in command, Torque inquired.  It had been two days since a lone distress signal was sent out across the universe.  The Cybertronian battleships Exaton and its sister ship, the Resistance had received the distress call in a neighbouring galaxy and relayed the message-less signal to their superiors on Cybertron.  After an initial attempt from Cybertron to contact the colony failed, the Exaton and the Resistance had been authorized to ride the jump gate to the colony's defense.


"Negative," Vapour Trail shook his head from his seat in the captain's chair.  The white light of the bridge highlighted the twenty crew members eagerly watching the silent colony Omicron through the bridge windows.  "There would be signs that we weren't getting through if there were no connection.  No, we're connected, they're just not answering."


"Sir, I request permission to take a task force aboard," Torque saluted, awaiting his commanding officer.


"Patience, Torque.  High Tide, what do you have for us on the scanners?"


A grey and purple bot typed furiously at his computers, then began to list the various readings to Vapour Trail, "All systems show normal. The docking bays are operational, I did manage to authorize a dock with their systems if we're going in.  Energy readings show normal, no signs of radiation or energon spikes.  Everything's just . . . normal."


"And the life scanners?" Vapour Trail crossed his right leg across his other hand placed a hand on his foot, a contemplative gesture.


"That's the frightening part, sir."  High Tide swallowed hard, fear holding him for long seconds as he could faintly hear his captain amid the ringing in his audios.  He swallowed again and shook himself free. "Nothing, sir. Just . . . nothing. Not a sign of life out of the hundred thousand registered on the manifesto."


"Are you sure?" Vapour Trail stood and began to make his way down the bridge to High Tide's station. "Check it again. That can't be right."


"I've checked it six times, sir. Every time I've got nothing, and it's scaring me to death," for a soldier, it was bad form to admit fear.  But High Tide had never seen battle, choosing to instead be the communications officer due to his squeamishness.


It was something Vapour Trail could forgive because he understood. He had been in that situation when he had first rolled out of the factory.  But that was while he was still in training.  This was much different, and as sympathetic as he was to High Tide, he knew the fear had to be stepped over in order for this mission to go successfully.  Vapour Trail then turned back and glided up the steps to the captain's platform.  "Torque, you have half an hour to assemble the troops.  I want no less than forty when we dock." His seconded saluted and disappeared from the bridge, and it was then he turned to his communications officer.  "High Tide, I want you ready to go as well. You'll be in charge of base in the dock."


"Yessir," High Tide nodded slowly, then found his jittery self making his way through the doors that Torque had previously disappeared through.


Vapour Trail returned to his seat and clasped his hands together, contemplating his next move.  "First officer Archive."


"Sir?" the solid green bot behind him came forward in an almost tentative action.  Vapour Trail could tell his troops were spooked at the mention of no life forms within the colony.


"Archive, I want you to contact the Resistance and request Captain Heliolatry to send her support troops to meet us in Dock 2 in 30 minutes." He gave his first officer time to nod, then continued, "And Archive, you'll be in command until Torque and I return."




The dead of space has no sound, but if you were to ask High Tide as he shook nervously in his seat upon the leading shuttle, he would have said he could hear the hum of the planets, the ferocity of the burning twilights of stars, and the gales of the galactic winds all around him.  But he could only hear the dead silence within the colony screaming at the front of his mind.  He shuttered once more until he felt Vapour Trail's hand upon his shoulder, calming him.  Without words, his friend had lessened his fears but not driven them away.  The unyielding emotions he still felt could not completely satiate the unnerving prickle of fear running up his backside.


"Revenue, how's our approach vector holding?" Vapour Trail's voice suddenly came to his ears, drawing him further from his recessive fears.


"Sir," a brown and blue coloured female never turned from her station, hands gripping the helm, "approach vector is holding.  I may have to course correct by less than three degrees to clear the doors, but we're coming in smoothly."


The other 56 troops were seated in back of the shuttle, leaving only Vapour Trail, Torque, High Tide, Revenue, and her copilot in the helm.  Vapour Trail then stood, gripping with his left hand at the hand holds in the ceiling.  "Revenue, transmit the landing signal to Dock 2 and begin landing procedures."


"Yes sir, transmitting . . .now--what?" her sky blue visor fluttered as she sat dumbstruck in her seat. "Sir, the docking bay doors just opened themselves without me sending a transmission."


"Could it be an autopilot?" he went to take a step forward but was stopped by the sudden rumble of what sounded like stones skidding across a pond, but in this case, the hull of the shuttle.  "Revenue, are our shields up?"


"Yes sir, but I can't get a visual on the screen. It appears whatever is outside is too small to be picked up by the shuttle's cameras."


"Open the blinders.  Let's get a look at it, then," Vapour Trail took a tentative step forward, hand never leaving the support rail.  Revenue complied, face darting back and forth as she gave the command to the shuttle.  Slowly, agonizingly, the solid metal workings shifted and withdrew, leaving the bare windows exposed to the galactic elements.


The eyes of the captain followed the floating debris as it hit the windows with tiny pings and bounced away into space.  Vapour Trail again followed the trail of debris, this time towards the approaching docking bay, and analyzed the spectrum of bits and pieces as they flowed out of the bay and into space.  At first, his mind could not make sense of it, but eventually he began to connect the details before him.  And then, he did not want to understand; many of the debris were minute in size, but he had recognized too much of it to know what it was.  The remains of the denizens of Omicron poured out of the docking bay and into the void of space, forever scattered to the galactic winds and never to be recovered again.


Vapour Trail gave the next order once the first shuttle had sat down in the bay, slowly followed by the second shuttle.  Without Revenue even touching the communications system, the docking bay doors had closed behind them and the auto-gravity restored, leaving the remains that had not been sucked out of the bay to fall idly to the metallic floor with a mute bang.  As soon as his people were on the metaphoric ground, he had ordered them to sweep the mile long docking bay to ensure that there were no traps.


"High Tide," the captain approached the shivering grey and purple bot, closing the distance so that his mouth was close to the other's audio, apparently so they could speak privately.  "I know you hate doing it in these circumstances, but I need your gift.  Can you pan out this place and tell me what you hear?"


The grey and purple bot shivered once more, hands opening and closing into frequent fists.  "I wish you wouldn't ask me," he whispered, eyes trained only on his captain as if he were hearing something painful.


"Then I won't ask," Vapour Trail refrained from shaking his head, mainly because he did not want to accidentally bump heads with the other bot, but also because he did not want to show his disappointment for what he was about to say, "I'm giving you a direct order, High Tide zygæna


.  Tell me what you hear."



High Tide was motionless as he held his blank expression, staring right back at his captain's eyes.  "I hear only death."


Vapour Trail continued to whisper, his hand finding its way to High Tide's shoulder to comfort the grey and purple bot.  "Are you sure there's nothing here alive that can be a threat?"


This time, High Tide let out a long sigh and twisted his helm to take in everything in a 180 degree rotation.  As he focused, he began to speak softly to his captain while turning his head slowly from one side to another, giving the colony a once-over.  "It's the sound of a soft breeze of air, a light rain falling upon dirt, a whistle down a wind pipe, the vibration of metal all rolled in to one. It's ringing in the ears and a bell as it comes to an end.  Everywhere I look I hear nothing but death."


"Can you scan one final time to be sure?" the captain asked, drawing partially away from his friend and withdrawing his hand so that he did not invade the other's space for any longer.


"Yes," he said, this time more calm as he scanned the silent colony.  This time, though, when he reached the halfway point in his rotation, in what he knew would be the center of the colony he heard a small pulse of static.  "I hear a weak spark holding out, but it will be gone in nanoclicks, before we could reach it.  I'm sorry, sir, but there's nothing left here alive. And whatever did this is long gone by now."


Vapour Trail shook his head, closed his blue optics, and lowered his head long enough to say a prayer to Primus and the Matrix.  Once recovered, he turned to his men as he caught sight of Torque returning with the then soldiers he had taken with him.  "Torque, what's your report?"


"Sir," he lowered his cannon from where it had been gripped across his chest. "We checked the other docking bays down the west side, the ones that are sectioned off.  It's a slagging slaughter house through here.  I don't think we found anything attached to a single torso - transformer or otherwise."


Vapour Trail could see that his man was visibly shaken, but he knew Torque had seen things like this on a much smaller scale before, so he felt he had to ask, "What's got you worried, second?"


"It's not so much the bodies, sir, its the fact that nearly every torso we found in tact had its spark ripped out, and I'm not talking done by a blade of any kind.  This was all hands."  He pointed behind him to one of the larger soldiers who towered over the rest of the crew, "Ballistic could match his hand perfectly in all of the intact torsos, so whomever did this had to be of his size."


"Or it could just be secluded to this area . . ." Vapour Trail turned and began barking orders to the mix of troops before him, "I want teams of four.  Torque will take a group to the lower levels, four teams will stay here with High Tide as base camp, and the rest will follow me.  I want thorough searches.  You all have the resident manifesto, anyone that you can match, do so.  Don't leave the sight of one another."


Suddenly, the interior bay doors began to creep open, sending in artificial light from the smoldering flames that were still burning in most areas of the collapsed ruins.  All soldiers were at the ready with their weapons incase something came through the opening unexpectedly.  "Revenue, please tell me that was you this time," Vapour Trail whispered over his comm. link.


~"Yeah, that time was definitely me,"~ the speakers of the first shuttled announced her voice.  ~"Sorry, sir.  Um, but, uh, you'll be happy to know the doors are open now?"~


"Right . . . Alright, troops, let's roll out!"




The flight along the way to the security station floating high above had made Vapour Trail and his soldiers give up hope of finding any alive.  The remains of the denizens of Omicron littered just about any flat surface they passed, and half way to the center of Omicron he and the rest of the soldiers had stopped for the few who had beast modes and had felt the urge to regurgitate everything they had in their systems.  The smell and the visuals had been the worst for those few, and those who were pure of form found themselves thankful for no such bodily function.  Even Vapour Trail found himself secretly thanking himself for never undertaking a beast mode - he knew that if he did, he would have been joining his crew by now.


"This is the cruelty of the beast," one of his lieutenants, Equivoque, had said with a deadpan expression, intending the full meaning of the double entendre.


Before reaching the security station, the troops had begun to split off into the groups of four to scatter and begin cataloging the dead.  Their orders were to check in every megacycle on rotation with reports.  Then, once Vapour Trail and his group of four that he was leading landed at the security center, they were so overwhelmed by the destruction caused to the building that they wondered how it was still standing.  "By Primus, this place looks the worst of them all," Equivoque placed his hand along the door that was half open and shoved it completely open, grinding gears as he did so.  He then had the butt of his gun pressed against his shoulder as he stepped into the long corridor that lead upward, scanning it for anything. "Clear," he yelled over his shoulder and then lowered his weapon.


Vapour Trail stood from where he had been cataloging the remains of a body found on the floor, which he had identified as being one of the security personnel.  He refused to acknowledge it any further than being a body at this point, otherwise he knew he was going to lose his nerve.  Swiftly he moved to join Equivoque and placed his hand on the opposite side of the door frame.  "According to the schematics on file, this leads to the communications tower.  Let's head there and see if we can get a recording of anything that went on here . . ."


After making their way up the long stairwell, after cataloging and stepping over more bodies, and after forcing many a door open, they finally found their way into the darkened sphere of the communications tower.  "Lights," Vapour Trail ordered, but received no reaction.  "Slag, lights are down . . .  Equivoque, Sidewinder, see if you can get some lights in here."


The two nodded and began typing at the nearest computer, attempting to pull up the controls for the lights within the chamber.  "Ensemble, Metronome, while they're doing that, see if you can get a location of all our groups and route the catalogue of the dead to High Tide as we receive it."


"Do you really think we'll be able to identify that many of the dead out of this?" Ensemble inquired, using a multi-tentacled hand to operate another computer screen.  Vapour Trail had never asked about the purple and charcoal grey bot's beast mode, but he would have presumed it was some sort of alien sea creature by the amount of fins and tentacles that covered the other.


"I don't know.  We'll be lucky if we get half the civilians, and right now all the security crew is missing," Vapour Trail answered, stepping close to a monitor and felt the floor beneath him give slightly.  "Everyone be careful, it feels like this room is unstable and may collapse at any time."


|You have nothing to fear,| came a cold answer that boomed from about the room.


Vapour Trail and his men nearly jumped, weapons trained all about the room.  "Easy, men, it's just the computer," he stepped into the center of the room, feeling the floor give again until he stopped moving and was surrounded by a series of steadily brightening lights.  "Is this the Telatron unit, or a different model?"


|I am no computer.| This time the female voice was angry as the room became completely illuminated with light, revealing whole, broken, and cracked computer screens that began to rotate themselves.  Once all those that were not being stood on by the rescue crew were now arranged in a circular pattern around the five Maximals, the screens that were still functional began to fill with images from what security cameras still remained, most of them showing only flames, rubble, and the dead.


This action around them made Vapour Trail come to his senses, and he grew bold by stating: "Our sensors indicate that there are no living life forms on this colony aside from my crew that just arrived.  I ask again, is this a Telatron unit or a different model?"


Several of the screens peeled away and aligned themselves towards a distant platform that held two figures.  |My name is Shock Therapy,| she said.  Seated in a control chair, and still wired in, what remained of Shock Therapy's purple frame was limp with head tilted forward and chest ripped open.  Curled in her lap, the beaten and ravaged remains of Jazz³ was held tight by the animatronic arms of the platform.  |I can't return to my body,| the detached and frightened voice of what was now known to be Shock Therapy bemoaned, |Something's missing from my body - I can't go back - I can't escape this! That monster - my body - Jazz - they tricked me! - He ate part of me!|


"Calm down, calm down!" Vapour Trail pleaded, motioning with his hands while using his internal computer to scan the manifesto for her name.  "Please, if you can tell us what happened here we may be able to help you!"


|I can't remember all of it!| if she had the capacity to weep, she would have, but currently she was unable to do anything other than vocalize her woes.


"Please!" Sidewinder interjected, "if you could tell us something of what happened here! We need to know what happened to this place."


"Bots, please," the captain hushed them all while still making a calming motion with his hands.  Then he turned back to face the lifeless body of Shock Therapy.  "You said your name was Shock Therapy.  I do see the name registered as the chief communications officer.  Are you sure that you just don't have a glitch and think you are Shock Therapy?"


|I would know if I had never been a Maximal or not,| her tone had changed to more of a sarcastic chiding of the captain.  |I downloaded myself before I died.|


They all looked expectantly at their captain, wondering what to do exactly.  Sidewinder, Vapour Trail mouthed, but did not say, You have more experience with trauma victims, see what you can get.  Obediently, Sidewinder stepped forward and offered up his empty hands, thereby proving he meant no harm to the disembodied female voice.  "Shock Therapy, right? What was the last thing you remember before you were killed?"


|I . . .| A flicker ran across any screen that was still functioning, showing Shock Therapy, still alive and in her own body, moving backwards as fast as the platform could carry her, but it was too slow for the dark image of a bot coming towards her. |I don't . . .| another image of the wires that connected her to Omicron's central security network being severed and hacked away, leaving her to fall to her knees and screaming. |I can't . . .| another instant change in imagery left the group of five blinking after a choppy image of a blackened void delving what they could only presume was a hand into Shock Therapy's chest. She screamed at them, then, |Don't make me relive it!|


"It's alright, calm down, please," Sidewinder cooed, not sure what exactly he should do to assuage the pathetic whimpering coming from the computer.


"This is one whacked out computer," Metronome breathed his words so that only Ensemble could hear him.


Metronome was not as silent as he thought he had been, for he was instantly startled.  "I don't think so," Equivoque interjected, speaking loud enough for everyone to hear.  "All the things we just saw flash on the screen.  All the images of her attacker have been blackened out, disfigured, or deleted entirely.  She's acting like any traumatized victim would do; not even a malfunctioning AI program would go so far as to distort the image of an attacker."


"What do you mean?" Ensemble inquired further.


"Yes, do elaborate," Vapour Trail ordered.  "I'm equally as curious."


"Well," Equivoque began, "I've seen it with attack victims before who have survived. Sometimes it's almost impossible to get details from them because they have simply deleted or distorted the events so that they don't have to remember what happened.  It's an emotional response, so even an artificial intelligence wouldn't be compelled to go to such lengths to delete things that have happened." He paused, turned his helm towards the what he determined to be the source of Shock Therapy's voice and treated it as if it were the direction of where she would have been standing if still alive.  "You are Shock Therapy, at least what's left of her."


There was silence from the computer, and it thundered in Vapour Trail's audios until he decided to move forward with the interrogation.  "Shock Therapy, are you still with us?"


|Yes,| she meekly responded.


"You mentioned someone named Jazz earlier.  Is that third in command of security, Jazz Cubed that you spoke of?" The captain decided that it might be easier to test the waters with his questions so that he would not cause her to have another outburst.


|Yes,| her voice became clearer as the former Decepticon became curious.


"Is that he who lies with your body there?" he indicated with an uplift of his helm in the direction of the black and white body curled against the purple female's body.


|It is.|


"Do you remember what happened to him?" he tried, and was instantly rewarded with images upon the screens once more.


|They beat him until he was almost dead,| her voice was weak once more, attempting desperately to remember as the screens flickered from recording to recording, jumping the omitted past with such sharpness as to look like a horribly mismatched animated slideshow.  |They were killing him,| the image changed to show Shock Therapy still being held in the air by her connection cables, screaming We had a deal! You said you'd leave him alone! And then it changed to show Jazz³'s beaten torso being dropped to the floor, and he began to crawl off screen with the one good arm he still possessed. JAZZ! the image of her wailed, until being overtaken by the blackness.


The memories had been enough to stir the uncertainty in the five Maximals, delaying them from further inquiring into the events surrounding the destruction of Omicron, until Ensemble worked up his nerve.  "What happened to Jazz Cubed after that?"


She said, simply, |He died next to me,| but the monitors showed the truth behind the events.  The then empty room was left with Shock Therapy's dead body and Jazz³'s slowly fading life.  She still could not believe they had manipulated her as if she were some ignorant child!  |Oh, Jazz . . .| her voice had filled the room - animatronic arms extending from the approaching platform as she had spoken.  |Jazz, I'm so sorry I let them do this to you,| the arms had tentatively reached out and slid under what was left of his fragile and dying frame, and then retracted to carry him towards the floating platform.


" 'Ther . . . a . . ." he had tried to whisper, strength rapidly reducing within his body.


|Shhh, don't talk, Jazz. Just rest a while longer with me,| she had murmured, all the while taking diagnostics of his vital signs amid his personal computer announcing his need to fall into stasis mode.


"O . . . er . . . ri . . .d . . ." he had commanded amidst his computer's objections.  Jazz³ did not want to die in stasis.  As peaceful as it would be, he would rather prefer to know what was going to happen to him.  "Lie . . . to . . . me . . ." he had begged of her.


|I can't, Jazz . . . I love you too much to do that to you,| she wept as he died in what arms she had left to her. |I can't go through that anymore,| her voice brought them back to reality as the visuals disappeared from the monitors. |He died, that's all that's left.|


"I understand," Vapour Trail cleared his throat, and then Equivoque leaned into him and reminded him of the more pertinent questions.  "Shock Therapy," he asked, stepping away from his lieutenant, "do you know where Chief of Security Depth Charge and his second, Cybershark, are?"


|What's left of Depth Charge is in Ward 6.| The monitors again became lit with the scanning of the security cameras over Ward 6.  Several minutes passed them by until the cameras settled upon an amassed pillar of rubble, and beneath it, face down, with an outstretched arm severed just above the bend of the elbow, was the purple and blue remains of Depth Charge.


"By Primus," Metronome shuddered, hands cupping over his face in disgust.  "Look at his face--"


"I think we can all see," Ensemble cut him off, equally as repulsed by the mutilation that devastated the large Maximal's face.


Vapour Trail soldiered on, intent on not allowing the scenes around him distract him from their search and rescue.  "And, what of Cybershark?"


|I don't know where he is or if he's still alive,| she withdrew the computer monitors and placed them in their former locations.  Now, with solid flooring beneath them, the rescue team was able to move around once more.  When they inquired further, Shock Therapy responded without the use of the computer screens this time, |Cybershark and Depth Charge pursued those responsible for our previous bombings outside the colony.  I lost track of them once they ventured through the jump gate.  Only Depth Charge returned, but they ambushed him once he was back inside.|


"How much time passed between the time Depth Charge left and the time he returned?" Equivoque requested before his captain could.


|Two days,| she responded, and a collective shock ran through the five males.


"That's impossible," Sidewinder objected, "no one could kill this many people without major destructive weapons leveling everything.  There's too many body parts that are intact for that!"


|Don't argue with me, I'm a system monitor,| Shock Wave chided.  If the air of seriousness had not been surrounding them, the group might have laughed at her snide comment to Sidewinder, but as the way things stood, it only further bolstered Shock Therapy's claim that she was who she said she was.


~"Captain,"~ High Tide's voice filtered through Vapour Trail's personal comm. link.


Vapour Trail had to shake himself free from the sensations currently overwhelming him.  "I'm here, High Tide. What've you got for me?"


~"Sir, that signal I picked up before. It's back again. Weak, but it's there."~


"What are you saying?" Vapour Trail was hopeful.  If it was the life mentioned before, then there may be a slim chance of--


~"I think we may have a survivor.  Based upon the layout I have of Omicron, I've calculated the coordinates. I'm transmitting them now."~


By this time, they were all looking to Vapour Trail expectantly, waiting for any news, any orders.  After he received the approximate coordinates, he raised his arm to relay the coordinates to any available units to begin the search. That is, until Shock Therapy interrupted him, |Give me the coordinates. I can help you.|


Vapour Trail nodded, "Done. Let's do this."




"The transmission I intercepted from the Exaton and Resistance indicate that they've found a survivor."


Taciturn's words drew the attention of Xyston's half-lidded, emerald eyes.  He understood, but he acted as if the red and black male's words had not registered while he continued to stroke the backside of the sleeping female.  His fingertips traced the grooves between her wing mechanism and he returned his gaze to her as he spoke.  "So, the mongrel lives . . ."


"Indeed," Taciturn withdrew himself from the pilot's chair and disconnected his body from the Cenotaph's mainframe.  "Might I postulate a theory?"


Xyston returned his attention to the female laying prostrate next to him and continued to trace his fingertips across her back.  "You may . . ."


"If Depth Charge is indeed alive, then it means that the extension of Starscream's gift to Misery has proved him a valuable asset."  The flick of a glance from Xyston gave Taciturn all the indication for him to continue, "He may not be as immortal as you and Misery, as indicated by his lack of speedy recovery, but his spark is immortal enough to pull him back from the Matrix twice now."


"Twice?" Xyston turned his helm completely this time, brow raised enough to show his physical confusion.


"He was the orange and black Maximal you killed once at the TRUNDLE tri-cluster outpost."  Xyston tipped his head up, pantomime of someone realizing something really important.  "Though, I must say, there are still other TRUNDLE branches that could pose a problem.  Especially if they know there is a survivor."


"Are you suggesting that I save him?" Xyston growled, paying extreme attention to black and red male as he crossed the bridge and sat down on the other side of the sleeping Misery.


"I'm merely proposing that it would be very unfortunate if TRUNDLE got their hands on Depth Charge.  The consequences of replicating the immortal code could prove detrimental to your plans." Taciturn held a taloned hand above the black and blue female's backside, pores opening in his palm and building a small warming fire.


Xyston observed the flames as they licked up Taciturn's palm, but as fascinated as he was with the fire, he pursed his lips before he offered his idea.  "Perhaps you should continue to follow the transmissions from the Exaton and Resistance.  If they dock at a colony within striking distance of TRUNDLE, and we just so happen to be passing by his recovery station, then we shall liberate him from his aggressors, but only-" Xyston made certain that he would not awake Misery as he spoke, but it did not stop him from emphasizing his words with his unoccupied hand "-if he is capable of making it out on his own.  I shall not assist him any further than that."


"Of course," Taciturn nodded, raising from his seat to return to his pilot's chair.  "Oh, Xyston?" he stopped midstep and turned to face the behemoth.


"Yes, thrower of flames," Xyston's voice was beginning to show his displeasure and annoyance.  He felt today the most exhausted in his entire lifetime of over 9 million years, and the past four stellarcycles had been the most taxing.


". . . What do you think he'll do now?"


"He is Misery's pet," he turned back to the sleeping female, but no longer did his hand grace her back as he spoke.  "She is responsible for his actions, now."  Xyston then gentle caressed her from her sleep, and though she was still tired, he led her by the hand to her feet.  "Come, ma fierté, let's retire to our quarters, for we have much to plan tomorrow."