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When Deathworlders Chat Cover

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  • I write novels, novellas, and short stories. You can join our community on Discord.

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When Deathworlders Chat Ch1

She prowled through the dark, sterile, stone halls of the building, long claws scraping softly over tile flooring. The darkness didn’t bother her, slit eyes dilating to admit the dim light and allow her to see clearly. The halls were quiet, and her large, sensitive ears could detect soft scuffing over the still air. Her ears twitched, swiveled this way and that, honing in on the source of the sound. 
She followed the scuffing, coming to an open door on the right of the corridor; there, back to her, was a man, long, sandy brown hair tied back in a ponytail, which hung down past his bottom. He was digging through a drawer the sound she’d followed the shuffling of paper. 
She crept forward, weight perfectly balanced, the soft pads of her feet, making not a whisper of sound. As she approached, the long claws on her feet flexed, and instinctively she crouched in readiness to pounce.
“I can hear you breathing, you know.” She drew up short and quickly stood as he turned, not wanting him to see her acting a fool. 
He grinned a lopsided grin at her. “Stalking your prey, kitten?”
She crossed her arms over her breast. “It’s not like I was sneaking up on you,” she sniffed. “And don’t you kitten me. What do you think you’re doing?”
He glanced over his shoulder at the filing cabinet. “I had a dream about tapioca and woke up thinking about the behavior of hypersolids arranged in regular matrices, so came in to compare my thoughts to-”
She had no idea what he was talking about and, at the moment, didn’t care. “You should have woken me.” Her left ear twitched in annoyance, the very idea of him out unaccompanied, why, it was a scandal. If her mother ever found out she’d allowed a man to traipse about the city, alone, and in the resting hours when thieves and murderers prowled no less. The tanning she’d get didn’t bear thinking about.
He frowned. “You work so hard, Lisril; I didn’t want to interrupt your rest.”
Her lips thinned; he could be unexpectedly endearing in his pigheaded disobedience. “Regardless,” she said. “If it couldn’t wait-” She sighed. “You know how I worry.”
He cupped her cheek in his hand. “I’m fine.” His thumb made small circles on her cheek, and his forefinger came tantalizingly close to that magic spot he’d found at the base of her ear. “And you came to save me anyway.”
She sniffed dismissively. “Only after realizing you weren’t in bed.”
He smiled sweetly at her. “I’m so lucky to have such an attentive Dryantisa lady looking after me.”
She knew his game, the compliments, the tantalizing touches; he thought if he buttered her up, it would cool her temper and convince her to go easy on him… and it was working, drat him. 
She puffed her chest out and enclosed his hand in her three-fingered grip. “You are,” she said. “Which is why you ought to be more obedient.”
His smile turned fond, but he said nothing. “Alex,”  she said. “I don’t mind you running off on these flights of fancy. I don’t; I just worry for you when you go off on your own like this.”
She took his other hand, gave a little shake. “I’m not angry, but promise me, no more. I’m here to protect you.”
He drew her fingers to his lips, an endearing little Dyrantoro gesture of affection. “Promise you’ll come with me?”
An indulgent smile crinkled her nose. “Anywhere.”
He beamed at her, and it was infectious. “Let’s start with home, hm?”
“Home sounds good,” she agreed.

She stalked through the front doors of the office building, alone, without Alex, because she’d woken to find him gone again. She was going to- to- she didn’t know what she would do, but he wouldn’t like it.
She marched up to the front desk, glaring at the human girl, girl, for Earth produced no women, behind the counter. “Where is he,” she didn’t raise her voice, but her tone left no room for discussion.
The human, who Lisril towered a full head and a half above even when she stood, was visibly cowed. “Um,” she swallowed nervously.  “Dr. Hagan?”
Lisril’s lip curled in disgust; she’d never found the human female particularly impressive. Case in point, the specimen currently cowering before her, who she found particularly distasteful. A husband, but no wives, and had only given him two children. While a woman could be forgiven, perhaps commended, for focusing upon supporting her family rather than rearing it, this creature had failed even in that endeavor toiling in a position of low esteem and not even dedicating her full day to her work; forcing her husband to support her.
Alex had admonished her not to judge too harshly, but it was shameful. A woman abdicating her responsibilities that way. Still, Lisril had her own womanly duties to consider, protecting Alex and his reputation among them, so she pushed her distaste away and forced herself to assume a civil tone.
“Dr. Hagan,” she confirmed, sickly sweet.
“I-” the nervous human glanced around. “I believe he’s in his office right now.”
She regarded the little woman cooly for a moment more before spinning sharply on her heel and marching into the building.
“Trouble in paradise?”
She looked askance at the man who had joined her. “Mister Declan,” she said. “I would apricate it if you refrained from spreading rumors about my man.”
The man laughed, a bit shorter than her, with dark hair cut close to his scalp and bedecked in the dress of the building’s guards. His laugh and smile were charming, and he gave her a playful shove, which she, of course, didn’t reciprocate, instead taking his hand and giving it a pat. “I hardly need to spread rumors about that man.”
She chuckled. “I am rather fond of ‘that man,’ Declan.”
“I’ve noticed,” he said. “But that doesn’t make him easy to get along with.”
She stopped, crossing her arms over her chest. “M’lord may well be a free spirit, sir, but that is hardly a fatal character flaw.” She stamped her foot. “And now you’ve gone and made it hard for me to stay angry with him.”
The guard favored her with a grin. “Good luck; I’ll smooth things over with the receptionist; Lord knows you don’t need another complaint.”
She laughed; Dyrantoro men were good at lifting a lady’s mood. “Thank you, Declan,” she said.
He nodded, and they went their separate ways.
Lisril looked at the elevator, made a face, and pushed through the door into the stairwell. She would follow him into one of those little boxes, but she wouldn’t volunteer, certainly. As she approached his office, she began to hear the sound of shouts.
She froze, worry blooming cold and hard in the pit of her stomach. Was he being accosted? Was he in danger? Every terrible thing that could have befallen him in her absence assaulted her mind, and it was a struggle not to make a scene. He was, she assured herself, fine. It was his office, perfectly safe; regardless, she quickened her pace as much as decorum allowed. 
She threw the door open and found him screaming into the receiver of a phone. “I won’t do it!” he shouted.
There was a pause, she presumed, as he waited for a reply, then. “Because it’s immoral!”
He slammed the receiver down, hard enough that she heard something break, and turned sullenly to his computer. Seeing he was unharmed was a relief, and with that relief, her anger at his worrying her was free to return. 
She crossed her arms, heaving out an unhappy huff. “Just what is it that’s wrong with you?”
He didn’t answer, and being ignored only stoked her temper higher; she opened her mouth to give him the lashing he was asking for when his head snapped up. 
He locked eyes with her as though he’d only just noticed her entrance. “In general?” he asked. “I’m a genius surrounded by people who think they can take advantage of genius for profit. Specifically, right now? That was Ross.”
He knew that hadn’t been her meaning, but it got his point across. She had only met General Ross once, because of Alex’s work with the military. Dark skinned and with his head shaved very nearly bald, he struck her as a severe man, his brow perpetually pulled into a disapproving scowl. 
Though, she couldn’t guarantee that wasn’t merely because she’d only seen him around Alex, with whom he didn’t seem to get along. While she wished for the harmony of the men around her, she certainly could understand the difficulty. Alex had his moods. Not that that changed to whom she owed her loyalty. 
“What did he want?” She set aside her own frustrations, concern for his obvious distress momentarily more important.
He chewed on his lip, a sure sign he was thinking. “They want to send me to Nyx.”
She frowned; Alex? On Nyx? Surrounded by good, reliable, Dyrantisa women rather than the unimpressive human stock on Earth? Sounded like a capital idea to her. “I don’t understand; you don’t wish to visit Nyx?”
He glared at her. “What, going to an exotic exoplanet, rich with intelligent life, with its own culture and traditions, goodness, why would I, a prominent physicist with a keen interest in space colonization, ever want to go there?”
His sarcasm was evident but hardly desirable. Lisril found herself massaging the bridge of her nose; chivalrous conduct demanded patience and understanding of men’s flighty nature, but Lady if he didn’t test her. “Then what would the problem be,” she ground out. “Alex?” That was the way, direct, unavoidable.
He found something on his desk to fiddle with, playing with something she couldn’t see. “They want me to direct the construction of communications infrastructure on Nyx.”
His answer should have been enlightening; instead, it merely confused her further. “I’m not-” She shook her head. “I don’t follow.”
He leaned back in his chair, head thrown back, an unhappy sigh bursting from his breast. “That’s exactly the problem,” he said.
“You don’t understand what that means; no Dyrantsia could possibly understand the impact mass media will have on Nyx; you lack the context and experience.”
She shook her head. “I don’t- that is, I’m not sure what that means; the translator is struggling with mass media.”
“Oh,” he said. “It’s-.” He paused, thinking. “It’s a catch-all for technologies that allow wide dissemination of information.”
“Like the town crier.”
He stared blankly for a moment. “I suppose that’s close enough. You’re aware of phones, of course, allowing instant communication between two points anywhere in the world; apply that principle to the town crier; instead of reaching everyone within earshot, they reach everyone in the world interested in listening.”
She nodded, still not sure what he was getting at. Her confusion was evident because he scrubbed his hands through his hair and shook his head. “How to explain it?” He strummed his fingers on the desk, then, as though struck by lightning, sat bolt upright and slapped his hand down.
“The Empire is quite religious,” he said.
That raised an eyebrow, but she nodded along. “Aye.”
“Humans, as a rule, don’t live in theocratic, monarchic empires.” He paused. “But we used to.”
Her eyes widened as the implications of his words set in. “That would mean war!”
“Oh!” He threw his arms into the air, gesticulating widely. “It gets better; what are we going to do as we give you mass communications and plunge your society into chaos by introducing you to liberalism and communism? But hand you rocketry and fusion.”
She felt suddenly ill. “That’s why you don’t want to do it.”
He was silent for a long moment, fuming to himself. “The primary purpose of my visit would be to establish interplanetary communications for military and diplomatic purposes.”
She knew what he was going to say. “You can’t trust someone else with that responsibility.” She swallowed the lump in her throat. “What happens next?”
He cocked his head. “Best case, for Nyx? We go to war with the Community; the common enemy holds your people together, gives military doctrine and society a chance to catch up to technology.
“And the worst?”
He shrugged. “We achieve a quick diplomatic resolution, and Nyx is plunged into a cataclysmic war that would likely wipe civilization from the face of the planet.”
Her stomach twisted, and he turned silently away from her. “Get out of here,” he said at last. “I won’t ask you to be part of this.”
She scowled and crossed her arms over her chest. “What sort of woman do you take me for?”
He turned, face pained, “Kitten-”
She marched across the room and slapped her hand down on his desk. “I seem to recall,” she said. “Having promised to follow you anywhere. Do you take me for a liar?”
He shook his head. “Of course not.”
She reached out, squeezed his hand. “I’m not the Empress’ woman, not Nyx’s. I’m yours, and I would follow you into the depths of hell if that was where you chose to lead.”
The happiness and gratitude in his smile made her chest swell with pride. “Thank you,” he said. “Where would I be without you?”
She chuckled. “In a poor way, surely. Call the general, apologize.” She fixed him with a stern glare. “And tell him you’ll do as he asks. I’ll clear your schedule.”
“Thank you, Kitten.”

She bobbed her head, smiling fondly at him. “You’re welcome, Angel; now do as you’re told.”
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When Deathworlders Chat Ch 41

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