Meadowsweet (S1 E3) — Too Much of a Good Thing

Season Notes: This is essentially a heavy nonconsent/dubious consent D/s story set in space that’s as close to erotica as I come. If you are uncomfortable with noncon, explicit sex and/or rape, or fictional slavery, skip this story entirely. Sexism

It was a week before Moira finished the medical inventory. Not, unfortunately, because there was a lot to inventory. Luckily for her, among the few supplies available were some creams and spray-on analgesics. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have been able to sit down. As it was, she sat… gingerly.

She was, bluntly, sick of sex. Sick of the feelings, sick of the smells, sick of the tastes. She was nearly sick of orgasms, which once upon a time she would have sworn was impossible.

She was pretty sure the captain was sick of it too. But that didn’t seem to stop him. In the moments between waking and sleep, she wondered what kind of psych case study he might make. What drove him to this constant sexual activity that he really didn’t want…

As she worked up a list of the minimum necessities for a medic station, she thanked the skies that her homeworld viewed sex work as a respectable profession. If she had the hangups of some of the core worlds, she might have be having a breakdown. Instead, she was ‘just’ sore, annoyed, sick, and dreaming about science papers.

She was also thankful that the captain wasn’t a complete ass. When she’d told him she was getting sores on the third day, he let her take the toys out. Now she kept a big bottle of lube in her pocket.

“Yo, is the medic in?”

She turned to see Ezra standing in the doorway. “For the moment, what can I do for you?”

He rolled up a sleeve to reveal a poorly bandaged burn. “I’d wait and get it seen next landing, but we’re going to Burnet’s Planet, and no one in their right mind sees a doctor from the holy rollers.

Moira had medic experience; she wasn’t a doctor. Well, not a medical doctor. But this didn’t look like it needed debriding. She stripped off the old bandage, slathered one of the few topicals on hand that would treat burns, and re-bandaged it.

“I’ll need to change the bandage every day, as long as the supply holds out. Don’t get it wet. Who are the holy rollers?”

“Thanks.” Ezra flexed his arm and smiled. “The holy rollers are–” He cut himself off and shook his head. “Thanks.”

Then he was gone.

Before Moira could wonder, the captain was calling her.

“Guess that break’s over,” she muttered.


She shuffled into the captain’s room, wincing. Without waiting for him to say anything, she bent over the bed. Then she froze. He’d fucked her brains right out of her — and likely fucked his own out as well. She stood up, bumping him back.

“Moira…” He growled.

“Why don’t you use my mouth?” She turned around and barely stopped herself from glaring at him.


“I’m so sore St. Casanova couldn’t ‘make this good for me’ right now or anytime in the past two days. For whatever reason — and don’t think I’m not grateful — you haven’t tried the back door yet which, like I said, please don’t. But I have a mouth. It works. And it isn’t ready to break out in bleeding sores at the slightest bit of friction.”

He blinked at her. It was the expression she had started thinking of as ‘brain flew south for the winter.’

With a sigh, she nudged him back another step. Grabbing a pillow off the bed for her knees, she knelt down in front of him. It took only a moment to finish opening his pants and pull out his cock.

That seemed to startle him out of his brain funk. He pushed her hands away. “Don’t…”

This time she did glare at him. “Why not? It’s not like you want to hurt me, right?”

“But you’re… you’re a lady.”

She blinked. “What?”

“I mean, you…”

“Are you seriously going to tell me that you’ve never had any of your other… girls suck you off?”

“No, but you aren’t–”

“Oh dear fuck. You’re from one of those planets.

“If you say I’m ‘not like them’ or anything similar, I will find a way to sneak in here one night and cut your dick off, don’t think I won’t. I think I could even stitch it back on so it would work after.”

He gaped at her.

“I hate the universe.”

He blinked, and she watched as his brain started drifting south again. The shock of a ‘good girl’ or whatever crap being willing to suck cock was fading. Better get this over with.

She grabbed his cock again and wrapped her lips around the tip before he could protest. It had been a long time since she’d had cock in her mouth, but she hadn’t forgotten how it was done. With how primed he was, she didn’t need to remember much anyway. A few quick stroked with her tongue and fingers, then suck him in, deep into the back of her mouth, just touching her throat.

He came, thrusting against her. She held on until he was finished, then swallowed. With another sweep of her tongue, she cleaned the last drops from his head and stood up.

“Are we done here?”

“A… yeah… I… Yeah.”

Shaking her head, she went back to her improvised medic station. She needed that list finished before the next planetfall, ‘holy rollers’ or not.


Zdenko watched her go and tried to get his brain back online. He didn’t know who Moira had been, and he really didn’t want to. He knew enough. From her competence with the medical stuff and the bit of reading he’d seen her do, he knew she was educated. Like, summa cum loud educated or whatever they called it. Normally, he wouldn’t even meet a woman like that; never mind get to fuck her. The truth was, he didn’t want anything to do with those types. Too full of themselves and thought they could learn everything they needed out of a book.

But he’d always tried to treat his slaves decent. Respectful, in a sense. As long as they behaved and kept him grounded. He would never have asked a woman like Moira to… to…

He looked down. Fuck. He was getting hard again. Already.

Return to:
Meadowsweet S1 E2

How NOT to Save the World (S1 E7)

Season Content Notes (incomplete): violence, anti-nonhuman bigotry, consensual violence

T-minus 1 year 355 days

Ho’neheso checked the time. Ey waited ten more seconds, then stood up and walked out of eir room. It had taken eir over a week to find the security break. Wu, ey thought, was getting sloppy.1 In fact, Wu was just as meticulous as ever, but with so much going on, things got missed. What had been missed this time was a coincidence of timing across several layers of security.2 Someone quick and agile (and lucky) could get from the penthouse suite to a back service door without security knowing. Probably.

The security teams knew better than to make their rounds on a timetable, so there was a chance ey would be caught. But not a big one.

Wu and Ho’neheso had played this ‘game’ from the time she was 5 years old. Wu and eir Mom had both felt guilty that she couldn’t have what they thought of as a ‘real’ childhood. So Wu had started leaving intentional breaks in their security and challenging eir to find them. At first, the breaks were only internal, with the challenge being to get from her room to, say, the kitchen or the basement. As she got better at finding the breaks (and Wu made the breaks smaller and harder to find), she started leaving wherever the current hideout was entirely.

The deal was that when she ‘escaped,’ she’d send Wu a priority message. Ey then had until ze came to collect her to find other kids to play with, go shopping, or just enjoy a few precious minutes of freedom.

Two years ago, Wu had sat eir down and told eir that ze could no longer create breaks in the security for eir. Eir mom was no longer hiding as a precaution, but necessity. People were actively hunting her. Ze apologized for taking away eir game but said it was necessary for eir safety.

It took eir two months to find a break in security that Wu hadn’t known existed and escape for real.3

Wu had other people, paid people, who tested the security from outside. But Ho’neheso had become zir best internal security check.

Tonight, ey didn’t have any plans. Ey just needed someplace quiet and a chance to be alone for a few minutes. Wu and Mom wouldn’t be happy with eir for sneaking out. Ho’neheso knew the game eir mom played and what rode on it.4 But no one except his most trusted people even knew eir dad had a daughter. Eir mother had actually done some genetic theft and illegal gene slicing5 to have Ho’neheso, so even eir mom hadn’t known about eir until after Mama died.6

Sure that no one could recognize eir, ey pulled eir cowl low over eir face and slipped out the alley behind the building.7 A single press of a button alerted Wu to eir escape. But zi was in a critical meeting; it would take zir at least a few minutes to extricate zirself.

According to all the maps, there was a small, almost forgotten park a few blocks away. A quiet park at night would be perfect.


Sitting on a swing, Ho’neheso heard gravel crunching behind eir. Ey spun around to find a figure stepping into the moonlight.8 Ho’neheso found eirself looking at a woman with short spikey hair in a long trench coat9 with a subtle triangle pattern running around the hem. The woman held up her hands in a ‘peace’ sign before lighting a smoke. “Hey, just wanted you to know you weren’t alone. No trouble.”

Ho’neheso reached into eir pocket and took hold of her holdout gun. “Okay. No trouble.”

A dragon flew by overhead, one from the Welsh clans.10 Ho’neheso recognized him and cursed under eir breath. So much for some alone time. After a moment, the dragon came back the other way and took up a circling pattern over the park.

“Huh. You know them, kid?”

“Yeah.” Ey sighed. “He works for my mom.11 I just wanted some time away from everything, you know?”

The woman laughed. “I think we all do, sometimes. But it’s good that your dad cares about you.”

“Yeah.” Another sigh. Then ey bit eir lip. There was a question she’d been wanting to ask someone but hadn’t. Ey was afraid of sounding foolish. But a stranger in the night, who ey might never see again… “Um… Can I ask something?”

“Sure, I got time to kill.”

“Um… how did you know that you’re a woman?”

The woman, a technomage named Joan,12 inhaled abruptly, then started coughing. When she had her breath back, she put her smoke out and squatted down in front of Ho’neheso. “Hell of an introduction, kid.”

Ho’neheso shrugged and traced circles in the dirt with her toe.

“Ah, like that, is it?” The last thing Joan had expected was to meet a rich kid in the pack having an identity crisis, but it wasn’t the strangest thing she’d ever seen. She thought a moment and finally said. “Hell kid, gender is like love. No one can define it, but everyone knows it when they see it. Damn sure no know else can give you answers.”13 She looked up at the stars and the dragon circling overhead. “I spent years worrying about it. What was I? What’s it all mean? Then one day, I looked in the mirror, and I saw a woman.”

The two sat quietly. The dragon circled a few more times, then peeled off and flew away.

A moment later, Wu walked into the entrance of the park. Joan stared at hir a moment. “Ah… that your mom?”

Ho’neheso smiled as ey stood up. “No, but ze’s here for me.” Ey paused a moment. “Do you think… you might be here again?”

Joan said nothing for a moment, then sighed. This was a complication she did not need. But she’d been that kid once… “Sure, kid. You come here again, you’ll probably see me around.14 My name’s Joan.”

“Thank you!”

She watched the pair walk away and sighed again.

A moment later, she pulled out another smoke and offered it to the young man who joined her from the shadows.15

“You’re here early,” he said.

“Yeah, we’re gonna need to find a new meeting spot.”

He blinked. “Why?”

“Did you see the per with the kid?” She nodded in the direction they had gone.


“Well, I’ve seen zir before. Standing next to our Big Bad on a netcast.”


“Yeah, oh.”

A few minutes later, two more figures emerge from the darkness.

“Sargeant.16 Ahnold.17” The man greeted them. “Let’s take a walk.”

“What is going on?”

“Not here.”

Return to:
How NOT to Save the World S1e6

Meadowsweet (S1 E2)

Season Notes: This is essentially a heavy nonconsent/dubious consent D/s story set in space that’s as close to erotica as I come. If you are uncomfortable with noncon, explicit sex and/or rape, or fictional slavery, skip this story entirely.

When they reached the ship, Zdenko did as he promised — brought Moira to his cabin, bent her over the bed, pulled the dildo out, and slipped himself into her. Already panting, she arched back against him. She knew that she would feel conflicted later, but right then, she needed to be filled and fucked before she exploded.

“Good girl, Moira,” he said, “just like that,” as he pumped slowly and steadily into her. He kept that steady pace until she was almost frantic, whining and begging. His own breathing heavy, he twisted a hand in her curls and pulled her back against him. With his other hand, he reached around her and tweaked her nipple. She moaned and pushed back against him, that little touch nearly pushing her over the edge.

Letting go of her hair, he grabbed both her nipples and squeezed. She exploded; a moment later, he followed her over the edge, spending himself in her, then laying them on the bed while they caught their breath.

After a minute, Zdenko stood and went to get a wet cloth. He wiped himself down, then tossed the cloth to Moira so she could clean herself. When she was done, he shoved the dildo towards her and watched while she reinserted it, wincing a bit at the stimulation so soon after orgasm.

So clinical, she thought. The sex had been good. She’d always orgasmed more easily than most women she knew, and he had decent technique. But that was all it was. Technique, a moment to rest, then clean yourself up.

When she had the shorts back on, Zdenko sat across the bed from her. “So, rules. You mostly have free roam forward of the cargo area. Don’t touch anything on the bridge. Make yourself useful if you can — cook, clean, give Ezra a hand in the mechanic shop. As long as you don’t cause trouble and don’t try to escape, you’ll get a decent bed, food, and 3% of our profits. Last girl I had bought herself out in 5 years, but she spent a lot on entertainment vids and fancy food. If you try to escape or cause problems on the ship–” he pointed to a corner of the room. Unable to see what he was pointing at, Moira got up and walked over. She bit her lip to keep from gasping. A cage, barely hip-high on her. Next to it a section of the wall with hand and ankle cuffs bolted to it. She looked back at Zdenko, who was fuzzy without her glasses.

“I don’t like locking you up. Not good for you, and a pain for me. But if I have to, then you’ll be locked up any time I, or one of the crew, can’t be keeping an eye on you. Which will be most of the time.”

“I understand. I don’t want to cause trouble, and as long as you are telling the truth, I won’t try to escape.”

“Good.” He reached into the pouch on the wall that served him as a ‘nightstand’ and pulled out a small personal data unit. He tossed the PDU to Moira, who fumbled the catch. “My last girl, Vivian, she was smart enough to save some. Had enough left over to set herself up okay. She left that for you, along with 50 credits in a secure account. You can play with it later.”

Moira hugged the PDU to herself like it was a liferaft. In a way, it was. “Thank you.”

“Alright, so vibes make you panic. What other problems?”

She licked her lips. “Ah… I’m allergic to most oil-based lubes. My ten-year implant is due to be replaced in 2 years. I think. I don’t know how long I was…”

“Yeah, that happens.”

“I haven’t tried much… creative, so there’s probably problems I don’t know about. I don’t like missionary, and my leg gives me trouble if I stand too long, so, like against the wall or whatever doesn’t work well.”

He nodded as she spoke, making a mental list. “All pretty reasonable. Don’t think we’ll have problems. Anything else I should know? What’s wrong with your leg?”

“Old injury that never healed right. You know how it goes; doctors charge an arm and a leg. I’ve got persistent anemia — I’m supposed to get a B12 shot every month. If I don’t, I’ve got about 6 months of feeling like I’ve got the flu — achy and tired. And then things get bad.” She licked her lips again. “I, ah, It feels like I’m about two months without it.” She paused. “And I don’t drink.”

“Bad how?”

“Worst I ever let it get was 2 years. Couldn’t think, could barely get out of bed, my hands didn’t do what I told them, and the doc I finally managed to get to said if went on longer I could have had permanent nerve damage.”


For a moment, neither said anything.

“I’ll try to round up about a years’ worth of your B12 at our next port. The ship will cover 50%; the rest gets added to your buyout. We’ll get you a new implant as soon as possible, covered by the ship.

“Now come on, I’ll introduce you to the crew.”

Zdenko’s introductions were like his sex — got the job done, but no feeling to it. The navigator and second officer was a petite Black woman with short hair named Efe. She seemed friendly but kept her distance after Zdenko glared at her. Ezra, a squat troll of a man with vampire-pale skin, was mechanic and cook. The signals office and third watch was Ildar, red-brown skin, blond hair, and a smile a mile wide. The last member of the crew was Skullfire Aranya, who wasn’t entirely human. She wore no covering but her pale yellow fur, her ears were slightly pointed. Skullfire was cargo master and handled the paperwork at every port.

After Zdenko’s cursory introduction, Moira was half breathless from the constant teasing of the toys. But she was starting to be able to think past the constant arousal. She decided it was time to test the waters. “You said I get a percentage of each run. What is it?”

“One and a half.”

“You don’t have a medic. Make it four and a half, and I’ll make sure none of you loses a limb between ports.”

“What, you a doctor or something?”

“Or something.”

“Two, if we needed a medic, we’d already have one.”

“Four. A medic is like a fire extinguisher. You don’t need one until you do.”

“Three, and that’s final.”

“Deal.” Moira stuck out a fist and Zdenko bumped it. “Where are the medical supplies? I need to take an inventory.”

“We’ve got a box in the common area. But you’ll need to do your inventory later.” Zdenko grabbed the back of her head and pulled her in for a kiss.

“Oh.” Moira didn’t resist and found the man’s technique with his tongue was as good as otherwise. “Of course.”

How NOT to Save the World (S1 E6)

Season Content Notes (incomplete): violence, anti-nonhuman bigotry, consensual violence

T minus 1 year 363 days

Ameohne’e Littlesun waited in one of the government building’s cleanrooms with a giant carafe1 of coffee2 and an aching head. She was not happy with herself, Wu, or the world at large. She was especially unhappy with the clock, which said her current appointment was running ten minutes late. Eleven.

On the other side of the door, Tamrat Tessaro pretended he wasn’t holding off a panic attack. Which meant he was slouched down, tapping his foot, and cracking gum every few seconds. The guard on the door was frustrated and growling. “Take them off.”

Tamrat popped a bubble3 to hide his shakes. “No.” He scratched the side of his head. “Look, the boss man wants me, I came. But if she wants to drag me away from my single day off4 this month, she can take me as I am.”

“It’s a cleanroom.”

“So you clean it after I leave. I’m not taking them off, and I’m not putting on the damn suit. Don’t like it? I’ll go write up my resignation letter.5 Tomorrow. Because, get this, I am off today.”

This argument, and variations on it, had been going on for most of the ten minutes Ameohne’e had been waiting. If she had known this, she would have been even less happy.

Before the guard could rebut, the door of the room opened, and Ameohne’e yelled, “What the hell is taking so–” she cut off abruptly as he saw Tamrat. Ameohne’e didn’t even notice the man’s clothes because her eyes were immediately drawn to the bunny ear headband6, one ear folded down, the other tall enough to Tamrat would need to duck a bit in most doorways.

Tamrat, who usually didn’t pay attention to what anyone was wearing, immediately noticed that she wasn’t wearing a clean suit.

“Tamrat Tessaro?” Ameohne’e asked.

“Evil Overlord?” Tamrat replied, too distracted glaring at the guard to watch his tongue. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, his tawny skin paled and he barely kept from cringing.7

Ameohne’e waved for the guard to stand down and grinned. “And I have the list8 in my office.”

“The List!” Tamrat’s jaw gaped. “You know the LIST!?”

“What self-respecting Evil Overlord9 wouldn’t?” Ameohne’e stepped back, suddenly much more at peace with the world. “Come into my parlor.”

“Said the spider to the fly.” Tamrat slapped his hand over his mouth, then banged his head into the wall. “I have no filter. I’m going to get myself killed. She’s going to throw me out a window because I can’t keep my damn mouth shut.”10

Ameohne’e laughed. The guard stubbornly muttered, “Sir, the cleanroom–”

“Can be cleaned. That’s what magic and modern technology are for.” She turned back into the room. “Oh, and Tamrat, you’d be safer in here. No windows.”

Tamrat followed the chuckling overlord into the room, muttering to himself.

“Alright, Tamrat, your name landed on my desk as someone who is always exceeding the mission brief, looking to build bigger, better, and out of budget.” With the door closed, the cleanroom was completely soundproof. Quiet enough that it usually pumped white noise into the impossible silence. Otherwise, folks working there ended up with unhealthy levels of stress and too many sick days. In that silence, Tamrat’s gum popping sounded loud enough it made him jump.11

“Um, well, yeah. I mean, why do a half-ass job, right? Hey, why is there a cleanroom here, anyway? I mean, it’s not like your manufacturing nanochips or something here.”

“Espionage. The computers here are supposed to be completely disconnected from everything else. Most folks have no idea how tiny a good bug can be these days, but you probably know something of that.”

Tamrat’s jaw dropped open, and he had to catch his gum before it hit the floor. He looked at it a moment, looked around for a garbage bin, then shrugged and popped it back in his mouth. “I mean, a bit, yeah. Not my area, but you have to know something. Still, this is, like, overkill. Or something.” He thought a moment. “I think.”

While Tamrat had been talking, Ameohne’e had been summoning up a holo projection.

“I need an engineer, with a background in spaceship and satellite design, who isn’t afraid to think big.” Ameohne’e pulled up an image, a sphere. Going by the scale notation is was around 6 miles across and had the Greek letter Lambda carved into one side.

Tamrat leaned closer and blinked. “Troy?” he blinked again. “You want me to build Troy?!”

Ameohne’e started to reply by Tamrat kept talking. “Alright, you know the List, so I suppose Troy isn’t too surprising. A bit more obscure.12 Also, you realize the maneuvering systems were shit, right? And the whole giant mirror thing… those kinds of AIs are STILL fiction and probably always will be. Argus we do not have. Also, I don’t think much of his politics.

“The basic idea is doable, I suppose. I mean, hollow asteroid designs as a practical matter go back to the early 21st century. But that’s not what you are looking for, is it?”

He actually stopped this time, and Ameohne’e hurried to answer. “No, it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, giant space station is cool. But I’m more interested in giant space laser.”13

“So why not the Death Star?”

Ameohne’e grinned and fiddled with the hologram controls. “Would you believe I hadn’t heard of it until last night?”14

“How the hell do you know Troy and not–”

The hologram exploded in a shower of sparks. “Also, for all its flaws — in both politics and physics — at least Troy was built with functioning armor and couldn’t be taken out with a single lucky shot.”15

Tamrat blinked at the fizzling light show. “You do have a point.”

He thought a minute. “Given modern technology, a profligate use of magic, and enough money, could probably do something in 5 years or so. Can’t imagine why you’d want it, but every Evil Overlord has to have some ridiculously over elaborate secret base, right?”

Ameohne’e grinned. “Exactly. But you have 18 months.”16


Ameohne’e ignored his sudden hyperventilating. “There will be bureaucrats over seeing the project. Their only job will be to make sure you have what you need, when you need it. Personnel, money, magic, you name it, you get it…”

An hour later, Ameohne’e and Tamrat shook hands and left the clean room. Tamrat had mostly regained the ability to breathe normally.

If Ameohne’e figured right, it would be about six months before Cheung Bo learned about this little project.18 She was almost looking forward to the Colonel’s reaction. Almost.

Return to:
How NOT to Save the World S1E5

Meadowsweet (S1 E1)

Season Notes: This is essentially a nonconsent/dubious consent D/s story set in space. If you are uncomfortable with noncon, explicit sex and/or rape, or fictional slavery, skip this story entirely.

The 3Ps (‘Personnel Processing Platforms’) in the outer rim were not places anyone wanted to be. Not the overseers, for whom it was (hopefully short) rotation at a shitty job. Not the buyers, for whom it was a necessary evil. And most especially not the ‘Personnel,’ slaves really, who came to the platforms from a number of sources but mostly went two places: the gas mines and ‘entertainment’ facilities. Debating which was a worse fate was a common pastime. Those condemned to the mines had a shorter life expectancy, but the highest cause of death among the entertainers was suicide. So long life expectancy wasn’t much of a selling point.

Captain Zdenko of the Meadowsweet was one of those who sometimes came to the 3Ps to offer a third choice. In Zdenko’s case, he /did/ offer a choice — if a slave didn’t want to come with him, he’d send them back and pick another. But he was honest enough to admit that under the circumstances, it wasn’t exactly what you’d call ‘freely chosen.’ And he wasn’t surprised that on his three prior visits, his purchases hadn’t been at all interested in telling him ‘no.’

Now Zdenko and the Meadowsweet were back for the fourth time. As usual, he’d spent the trip hating himself for giving in to his weakness and cursing the day he’d landed on Verda. He hated that he couldn’t afford to throw enough money around to buy everyone free and get the hell out of there.

Or maybe stage a jailbreak. Ezra would get behind that. Bust down the doors, kill some shitheads, load up everyone they could on the Meadowsweet…

But ‘everyone they could’ would be maybe ten folks tops before the life support gave out. Then they’d be hunted down by governments, corporations, /and/ pirates and he’d end up right back here… on the inside of the cells.

So instead, he was one of the shitheads.

He gave his usual requirements to the overseer who met him, turned down the pro-forma offer of a beverage, and waited with as much patience as he could manage.

A few minutes later, the shithead return leading a naked woman. Redhead (natural), who squinted like she needed glasses, carried at least 50 extra pounds, and jug-handle ears. She had a limp, but nothing so bad it would interfere with her ‘duties.’ Her name was Moira.

Moira wasn’t in hell. She knew that. Hell was what came next. But that didn’t keep it from feeling like hell. Still, she kept her head up and her stride steady as she followed the overseer into the small room where Zdenko waited.

She hated him immediately, like she hated all of them. But she knew he might be her ticket out of hell. So she bit her tongue, kept her eyes off him, and waited with as much patience as she could manage.

Zdenko sent the overseer out of the room, introduced himself, and asked her name.

“Moira.” He rolled her name over his tongue, liking the feel of it. “Here’s the deal, Moira. Anytime you want, you can tell me ‘no,’ walk out the door, and I’ll tell the shithead out there you don’t suit, and you can go back to your cell. If you don’t, then you belong to me until you can buy yourself free.”

Moira started at that and Zdenko grinned. “Thought that would get your attention. I run a small freighter, the Meadowsweet. You will be, being blunt about it, my sex slave.”

“Me?” she was startled into exclaiming. He, correctly, figured it was because of her looks.

“Not to be crude, hon, but one hole is much like another.

“Your job will be to be available anytime, anyplace, anyway. The word ‘no’ will have no place in your vocabulary.

“When I feel like it, I’ll share you with my crew. We’ll all try to make it good for you; blood and screaming aren’t exactly arousing. But that’s the most I’ll promise.

“If you do your job and keep us from tearing each other apart, you’ll get a percentage — /small/ percentage — of our trades. You spend that on what you want or save it to buy yourself free. Your buyout is what I spend on you today plus 5%.”

Moira wasn’t one to rush into things. Even less so now, when rushing in had gotten her into this mess. But… “I have no reason to believe you are telling me the truth.”

Zdenko grinned. “Nope. But what are your alternatives? You aren’t pretty enough to get snapped up by the entertainers, so that means the mines. If you take a chance with me, you can be free in five years. In the mines…”

In the mines, she’d likely be dead in five years, and they both knew it.

“I accept… Sir.”

“Good, that’s good. ‘Sir’ or ‘Captain’ is how you call me. Now turn around, bend over, and grab your ankles.”

She did as she was told, bracing herself for whatever he’d do. Inspect ‘the goods,’ she assumed. To distract herself, she quipped, “At least you didn’t say touch your toes.”

He chuckled. “Got a sense of humor, nice. You hold onto that Moira, and I think we’ll do okay.”

He opened up his supply bag and applied lube to both her holes. She shivered and bit her lip but otherwise didn’t move. Then he inserted a stacked-ball dildo into her vagina and slowly-but-steadily inserted a thin anal plug. She gasped and whimpered, not liking the burn of the plug.

“Not used to using the back door, are you?”

“No, Sir.”

“Well, you’ll get used to it. Now stand up.”

She obeyed, muscles twitching as the movement changed the way the insertables sat inside her.

“Here, put these on.” He handed her a pair of tight boy shorts. “Eventually, you’ll learn to hold that dildo in yourself, but for now, you get a bit of help.”

Already, the sensation of those toys was making her warm, making it hard to think, but she caught the meaning behind that. “Sir… am I to have these… all the time?”

“Unless I tell you to take them out or you need to use the head. You take them out, you wash them, you put them right back in. I got those just for you, so you don’t need to worry about anyone else’s gunk on them.”

“… thank you, Sir. Can I ask… why?”

“You can always ask,” he assured her as he repacked his bag. “Rather have you ask, just be polite about it.

“I told you, you’re going to be available to me anytime I want you. That dildo and plug will make sure you are always wet and always stretched… well, not /that/ plug. I’ve got some bigger ones on the ship but figured we’d start slowly. And for the most part, they’ll also keep you eager. Like I said, trying to make it good for you.”

“Oh… thank you, sir.”

He opened the door and walked out. She followed behind without prompting. Each step brought another burst of sensation, another wave of arousal. She shuddered, trying to imagine spending the next several years like this… and likely more and worse (better?) when the captain was actually trying. And she believed he would try. There was a note of pride in his voice when he spoke of ‘making it good for you.’

Thinking of what he might come up with when he was paying attention to her brought up a memory so sharp she froze. Cold fear wiped out every bit of arousal the toys had pulled out of her.

“Sir… sir, you can’t–”

He whipped around and grabbed her upper arm. “What did I say about the word ‘no’?”

“I’m sorry, sir. I’m sorry, I just–”

“No ‘just,’ no ‘buts.’ Do you hear me?”

“Yes, sir. Please, sir,” questions. Questions were allowed. Make it a question. “Please, sir, would you please not use vibrators on me?”

He blinked, surprised. “You don’t like vibes?”

She swallowed. “I… they don’t feel good, sir. The last time I tried, I had a panic attack. I’m going to be good, sir, I promise. I want my life back, and you’re the only one who has offered me even a chance at that.” Now that she had started talking, the words tumbled out beyond her control. “I’m not trying to make trouble, and I’ll remember to never say ‘no,’ and I’ll not cause trouble with your crew. But if you want to ‘make it good’ for me, I need to be able to tell you things. Things like this.”

She started out pleading, but by the end, she’d stiffened up, got some steel in her spine. Impressed, he nodded. “You’re right. And I never would have thought that vibes would be a problem like that. But this isn’t a conversation to have here.

“Once we’re back on ship, I’m going to take a chance to get to know you,” he palmed himself, “Because I’m not sure how much longer I can wait. Just straightforward sex with no extras. Then we’ll talk.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

Relieved, she continued following him through the passages of the 3P. Each step once again increasing her arousal. She wanted to rip out the dildo and plug, to stop feeling when she needed to think.

Since she couldn’t… stars. She hoped they reached the ship soon.

How NOT to Save the World (S1 E5)

Season Content Notes (incomplete): violence, anti-nonhuman bigotry, consensual violence

The triumphant heroes took their bows, and the screen faded to black. Wu shook zir head. “That was…”

“Classic.” Tracey spoke quietly, trying not to wake the child curled up in her lap.

“Not the word I was looking for. And I’m not sure how it got on your ‘Evil Overlord’ list. That trash compactor was never intended as a death trap.”

“Come on, the explosions? The laser beams you could see? The aerodynamic starships? You don’t see vids like this anymore.”

“For which blessing, I will make a large donation to the next artistic fundraiser that hits you up for money.”


Tracey shifted, preparing to stand.

“Would you like me to take them to bed?”

Tracey shook her head and pushed herself up out of the person-eating couch. Ho’neheso stirred, opening their eyes to look at her a moment before snuggling back into her arms. “You’ve stood in for me too often the last few years. I’m grateful, but Ho’neheso needs me to step up and be their father again.”

Wu followed her as she carried Ho’neheso carefully to their new—and well protected—bedroom. “You never asked them to change their name.”

“No.” Tracey laid her child on their bed and pulled the covers up. “They lost so much already. As long as I could keep them hidden…”

“And what of you? You no longer need to hide who you are.” They started back down the hallway towards Tracey’s rooms. “Taking an Anglo name made sense when you wanted to move unnoticed in North America. Even with the tribes reclaiming so much of their land, Anglo is still the ‘norm’ north of Mexico.”

Tracey grunted. Wu only stated the obvious when zi was building towards something big.

“You will be remaking the world in a new image. As you once remade yourself. But is Tracey Frederickson the person who should be remaking the world? Or Ameohne’e?”

“Does it matter? I’m me, whatever I call myself.”

Wu shook zir head. “Deborah has some interesting things to say on the importance and meaning of names. And I believe some of the First Nations have similar beliefs.”

Tracey let herself collapse on her bed. ”Wu… just drop it. I can’t think about this right now.”

Wu said nothing. Zi knew that sometimes it was best to sit back and let Tracey argue with herself.

Which is exactly what Tracey did. Argued, and remembered. Her thoughts circled endlessly until arguing stopped and only memories remained.

Setting up Tracey as a fake identity. The last time she saw her father. The day she read her obituary. The… No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t push the pain and the memories away. A sob caught in her throat.

With hard-learned patience, she steadied her breathing. I control nothing if I cannot control myself. Stepped back from the painful memories and watched them, like clouds scuttling across the sky. She looked for the meaning that tied them together. The belief behind the pain.

“Ameohne’e is dead,” she finally whispered, “They named her dead and did the rites. I walked away from that name, from that life. I killed her. There is nothing to go back to.”

“We live in an age of magic. Your servant would be honored to find a necromancer to resurrect her.”

“Ha. Ha.”

Wu knelt beside her, hand outstretched. Tracey sat up and rested a hand on Wu’s head. “What would you ask?”

“Only this. Does your soul bleed for the loss of who you were? Tell your servant it does not and I swear by the heavens I will never speak of it again.”

“I…” Tracey couldn’t say it. “I can’t answer that.”

Wu’s head bowed further, hir hand pulled back to hir heart. “As you will.”

Tracey’s fingers tapped against the bed, quick and discordant. Never before had she refused Wu an answer. It was her right. But she had never…

She pushed herself up and began pacing the room. On her third circuit, Wu stood.

“With permission,” the dragon said, “your servant will retire for the night.”

Pacing wasn’t helping. The buzzing in her head grew worse.

“Yes, go.” Another circuit before Wu reached the door. Quickening her steps brought her to the door as Wu opened it. “I’m sorry.”

Wu bowed. “Your servant will do all zi can. But I cannot fight your demons for you.”

“No.” Tracey smiled. “Zi can only precipitate the battle.” She stepped back from the door. “You can go if you want. But I would rather have you with me while I fight them.”

Wu closed the door. “Then I will stay.”

Tracey had been right — she did not have the time or energy for a crisis of identity. Certainly not one that kept her up and cost her sleep. She had stolen two hours from a too-short night already to spend time with her child.

But Wu was also right — she could not do what she must if she was not sure of herself. And that meant knowing who she was — and who she would be.

It was when she found herself wishing she could seek out the medicine woman who had guided her on that long-ago vision quest that she realized it had never been a question. Tracey was a mask she created. She was — had always been — Ameohne’e. She had come to believe the mask was the truth, like an actor playing a role for too long. It was time to take it off.

It was far too late when she finally crawled into bed. Wu climbed in behind her and wrapped hirself around her. Zi had been a supportive but silent presence throughout the night. Now Ameohne’e murmured, “One day you are going to be wrong, and I’ll be there to see it.”

“I have been wrong often. But not tonight.”

Note on names: You might recall from episode 1 that our Evil Overlord went by Trevor in the newsleter and Tracey on here. Similarly, there he reclaims the name and identity of Ma’evoto and on here she reclaims the name and identity of Ameohne’e. To the best of my knowledge, Ma’evoto (like Tracey) can be gender neutral, but I decided to continue the split naming, and Ameohne’e is explicitly a woman’s name. Feel free to mix and match names in your personal headcannon.

Sorry folks, don’t have the spoons to footnote this one. I’ll try to come back and update later, but no promises. FWIW, this episode was rather light on the tropes iirc.

The Price of Survival S1. E9.

Season Content Notes: attempted genocide (off screen), child murders (off screen), prejudice, violence, abuse references

Elisabeti went into labor in the middle of the human army camp. She and the other wolves were crowded into a fenced area. It had been used as a pasture for horses before their arrival. The army had been generous with tents, at least. Or, the materials to make them. In the rush to get the pregnant wolves to safety, there had been no room in those first few carts for the people who could support the pregnant women. A few midwives would be arriving the next day, which did Elisabeti no good.

The other pregnant wolves crowded around, trying to give her what comfort and support they could. The fighting wolves who traveled with them as guards had healed enough to wear their human skins. They, not one of them a parent, were pressed into help. One had rounded up whatever cloth he could find and was boiling it to swaddle the newborn. Another had, he said, been going to the speak with the soldiers. He hoped they might know a human midwife or give them more supplies.

The last crouched awkwardly by Elisabeti’s side, waiting. One of the pregnant wolves, who had given birth in human skin before, did her best to instruct he and Elisabeti in what to expect. In howl-song.

She was most definitely not a singer.

The contractions were spaced well apart, and all the wolves wondered what they should hope for — the longer the labor, the more danger for both mother and cub. But if the labor lasted long enough, the midwives would arrive. Surely that would be better than a group of pregnant wolves trapped in fur and three unmarried fighters doing what little they could?

Elisabeti labored through the night and into the morning. The wolf guard who went to the humans came back empty-handed. The human guards had agreed to carry his request to the camp commander. But he claimed to have no supplies to spare and would not send one of his few medics to help a wolf. The clothes were as clean as they could be. Their fuel being spent profligately to keep the water hot for cleaning. Most of the other pregnant wolves were thinking how grateful they were to be birthing in fur. Those few who had experience with human births were worried — the contractions were increasing, but Elisabeti’s water had not yet broken.

By noon, one of the pregnant wolves — her name was the silver of moonlight and the scent of witch hazel — left the crowded tent to find a long, thin stick. It was a risk, she knew, even if she could explain to the guards what needed to be done. But Elisabeti weakened the babe would weaken with her. They were almost out of time.

With a combination of wolfish body language and her very basic howls, she got one of their wolf guards to strip the bark from the stick and scrub it with the hot water. But at that point, they hit a wall. She couldn’t get them to understand what was needed. Or perhaps they didn’t want to understand. She would have tried explaining to Elisabeti, but the woman was wracked by constant contractions and barely clinging to consciousness.

Finally, finally, one of the guards realized (or perhaps accepted) what she was trying to say. Hesitantly, fearfully, he squatted down in front of Elisabeti, poked the stick up between her legs and into her birth canal. He winced several times, started to pull away. But the wolf whose name was the silver of moonlight and the scent of witch hazel growled at him each time. It had taken long enough and too long; she would not let him stop now. Finally, the stick reached far enough and met resistance. After a moment, he gave one firm push. He was rewarded with a sudden gush of liquid pouring down Elisabeti’s legs, over his hand and arm, and splashing into his face.(1)

The babe came quickly after that, before Elisabeti lost the ability to push. The other pregnant wolves licked Elisabeti clean and ate the afterbirth. By wolf custom, this would bring them luck in their own births. More importantly, it brought her comfort and relief. The fighters did a competent job of cleaning and swaddling the babe and lay them on Elisabeti’s stomach. She was so exhausted she could barely move but managed, with much encouragement and a wolf under each arm, to hold her child to the breast and still the quiet cries. So quiet were the babe’s cries that the wolves fur puffed on end to hear them. A babe so tired they could barely cry was a babe who nearly died in the birthing.

Thankfully, Elisabeti had little bleeding. She relaxed as the fighters washed her with the hot water and the babe suckled at her breast. With rest and food, she should recover.

Late that evening, the cart carrying the midwives arrived. Too late to help with the birth, they bustled in and took over support for the new mother, letting the other wolves rest and recover from their long vigil.

Shortly after, Aswathi came. He had looked for Elisabeti at the pasture gate, where she had met him each time he arrived with another cartload of wolves. When she wasn’t there, he sought her out, fearing what might have happened. The midwives would not let him close, but he saw that she was sleeping peacefully with the babe still on her chest. He saw also how little the wolves had. He had known many of them still traveled in fur, and few brought bags or baggage but had not realized what it meant.

He had little himself — he received his pay packet once a week and sent most of it to his parents. But he had a little. What he had, he gave to the midwives. “Get what she needs,” he said. “If there is any leftover, use it for the others.”

They did not know what to make of this human man who was so interested in their packmate. But he had been friendly and polite to them on their long journey that day. He even distracted the wounded from their pains with many silly stories of his mule. So they decided he meant well and thanked him. There would be extra food for the new mother and more fuel to heat water for the next birth.

Having done what he could, Aswathi bedded in the back of his cart so he would be rested for another long day tomorrow.

Lot of changes for everyone to navigate. Hopefully they are through the worst of it, right?


Next week we’ll be starting Meadowsweet (season 1)

Think of it as Firefly meets noncon ‘why choose’ romance. (Sort of.)

Anonymous post to the Galactic Reddit AITA

I’m the captain of a small trading ship, and I have a problem.

I have a ridiculously high sex drive thanks to that damn parasite from Verda, and I can’t afford surgery to remove it. I tried to control it, but I nearly destroyed my crew a dozen times before I found something that worked:

A sex slave.

I buy a slave from people who are going to work her to death, give her good quarters, good food, and a percentage of each trading run. All I expect is that she be available for sex, mostly with me, sometimes with the crew. A lot.

I’ve had 3 so far. Two saved enough to buy themselves free and got a nice set up on the world of their choice. The third kept trying to escape so I ditched her at our next plantfall with the clothes on her back.

We’re on our way to a so-called ‘Personnel Processing Platform’ to buy the next one.

Am I the Asshole?

(Content notes and trigger warnings out the ass on this one, for obvious reasons.)

(1) For those curious, it is actually medical practice in the US (and presumably much of the world) to poke a long stick up there and break the water if it doesn’t break on it’s own. Obstetric nurses use a plastic stick with a small hook on the end, but anything long, thin, and rounded or blunt should work just as well. Or a sharp end if used carefully enough, but I wouldn’t want to try that myself.

How NOT to Save the World (S 1, E 4)

Season Content Notes (incomplete): violence, anti-nonhuman bigotry, consensual violence

T minus 1 year 364 days

Tracey watched as Kasmir Teufel hurried from—it wouldn’t quite do to say that he fled—the office. Filling Kasmir’s place in the government hierarchy would be difficult, but Tracey hadn’t even tried to convince him to stay.

Let the scared ones go, Wu had said, forcing them to work with you will only lead to problems.

So Kasmir would get a generous retirement bonus and a chance to escape.

After a few minutes, Tracey’s temporary secretary (a security guard vetted by Wu, Deborah, and Glen) escorted in Narges Khoroushi, the head bureaucrat for Arcane Persons and Artifacts.1

She walked stiffly, her starburst earrings chiming with each step. She wore a simple white cap covering her head that contrasted with her dark brown skin and curled black hair. Her pants were dark with intricate floral embroidery climbing halfway to the knees. A robed upper garment that fell to mid-thigh and mimicked the embroidery around the cuffs. Together, her outfit gave an impression somewhere between an active or relaxed lifestyler. An impression Tracey knew was false. She’d done her research and there was nothing ‘relaxed’ about Narges.

She stopped a few steps from Tracey’s desk. “Fredrickson.”

Keep the evil ones close to you,2 had been the second part of Wu’s divination. ‘Evil’ was a flexible concept.3 But Wu said that in this case, it meant those who would cause or force division. Which Tracey thought fit Khoroushi to a T.

“Thanks for coming. Please, sit, have a snack.”

On cue, her ‘secretary’ returned with a tray of finger foods.

Narges glared at Tracey. “There is no need for courtesy between us. Say your piece and have done with it.”

“I want you to step down from APA.”

She sniffed. “And if I don’t?”

“Then I can’t put you on the team that is going to be restructuring the World Peace Force.” Tracey leaned back in her chair and sighed. “You heard about Winehurst?”

Narges jerked her head.

“He was… typical of our so-called ‘peacekeepers.’ We need a military, with an emphasis on marines and space forces.” Narges opened her mouth but Tracey rolled over her. “We don’t need a bunch of bullies and jackboots who use chemical weapons on protesters and demonstrations.”

Khoroushi pursed her lips. “You watched my speeches.”4

“We were enemies.” Tracey smiled. “I try to know my enemies.”

“We are enemies. And if I’d been more willing to support… harsh measures against your street mobs you might not be sitting in that chair right now.” The stiffness was gone now. She leaned in, anger glinting in her eyes. “And you know damn well that not all your engineered protests were peaceful.”

“You and I both know your boss’ personal cowardice5 is the reason my butt is in this chair.”

Khoroushi glared but didn’t try to deny it.

“The protests,” Tracey waved out to windows, “helped me build grassroots support to take power without instant chaos or rebellion erupting. All the arrests, and beatings, and chemical attacks did was prove to my supporters that I was right. The World Government was a corrupt oligarchy in service of the elites.6 And don’t tell me they were democratically elected. When a full third of the world’s population couldn’t vote there was nothing democratic about it.”7

“Monsters.”8 It was quietly stated, without the venom most people would imbue in the word.9 But Tracey found it no less hateful for that.

“No. People.10 My people. And one way or another, I am removing you from power over them. But I’d rather make peace with you than toss you out a window.” She smiled again. “If nothing else the repairs will get expensive after a while.”11

“Ha!” Narges looked at her for the first time with interest. “So you’ll let me fix the problems with the peacekeepers if I buy into your revolution.”

“Not buy in. Just stop fighting me.”

She said nothing for a full two minutes. Tracey waited. Then Narges sat down across from her. “Tell me how this brainstorm of yours will work. And why you think we need a military at all.”

Tracey took 10 minutes to eat a quick lunch and check in with Wu, overseeing the set up of her permanent on-site security. Aside from that brief break, the rest of the day was much the same. Meeting with bureaucrats powerful enough to need an individual touch and cajoling them or coercing them into working with her. Or kicking them out of her government.

Three hours after the dinner hour, Wu messaged to confirm that zi was satisfied with the on-site security and would be getting Tracey’s household moved in that night.

Tracey relaxed and poured herself a celebratory drink. She was halfway through that drink when Colonel Cheung Bo12 reported to her office. They wore, as always when on duty, their tailored uniform with small trapezoid pins at the shirt cuffs.

Cheung Bo had never liked Winehurst, wasn’t surprised to learn the man was a traitor. Winehurst’s death was, as far as Cheung Bo was concerned, the only good thing to have come out of this ‘peaceful transfer of power.’13

But it did make them a little… apprehensive about receiving orders to report directly to the new dictator.

Of all the things they might have expected, being greeted with a cheerful “Colonel Cheung Bo, welcome. Would you like a drink?” never occurred to them.

“Sir.” The colonel saluted and took the indicated seat. “Yes, thank you.” In the military, it is generally considered unwise to refuse a drink from a superior officer. Cheung Bo figured the same applied here, only more so.

Tracey poured a second glass and waited while they sipped appreciatively. “I’m curious, Colonel. Did you realize my people tried to recruit you?”

The colonel had good control of their face — their surprise only showed in a slight widening of their eyes. “I have always been loyal to my government.”14

“That’s not an answer,” Tracey observed but continued without waiting for one. “You haven’t resigned your commission. Will you give me the same loyalty you gave my… predecessors?”


“I have yet to establish my legitimacy in the eyes of most people. Assuming I ever can. Still, the best chance of overthrowing me would be in the next few months, before I have time to establish my control. And using the many people I can’t afford to remove.”

More silence.

“Give me your opinion, Colonel. What will happen if I am overthrown?”

Cheung Bo took a deep breath and set their glass down. They hadn’t expected to be able to avoid taking a stand. “Chaos. You have not established legitimacy, but your… predecessors have lost it, ma’am. Your followers would need to be crushed to keep endless rebellions from happening. There would be no guarantee that whoever picked up the pieces to form a new government would be able to hold it.”

Tracey smiled soberly. “I’m glad we’re on the same page.” She reached into a draw of her desk and pulled out a very thick, very old-fashioned paperfile. “This is your file Colonel. You have more disciplinary write-ups than any other officer of your rank, and those same disciplinary issues are the reason you have never become a general officer, despite your long and otherwise exemplary service.”

“I have become reconciled to it, sir.” The comment had an edge, a warning for Tracey not to think of bribing Cheung Bo with the rank they had been denied so long.

“These,” Tracey pulled out a much slimmer file, “are my plans for expanding our space forces and centering further military development around it. You started in the space forces,15 didn’t you Colonel?”

The colonel nodded, their face tightened. They understood now that the bribe was nothing so simple as rank.16

“He who holds the orbitals…” Tracey trailed off.

“… holds the world.”17 Colonel Cheung Bo finished the old space aphorism that their former superiors had refused to heed.

“I need an officer I can trust. Not because they are loyal to me. Not because they supported my coup. Not because I’ve bribed them.

“But because they want the same thing I do: to keep people safe.”

She picked up the thick folder and held it out to the colonel. “I think a soldier with a dozen write-ups for arguing against punitive actions18 might be that officer.”

Cheung Bo stared at the folder, then at the man holding it. They felt the sand shifting under their feet. Their commitment to hold themself aloof from this usurper and just do their job eroding. “What would you expect of me?”

“Remove the Winehursts, prevent chaos, prepare for anything.”

Cheung Bo reached out and accepted the folder, not entirely believing they were doing so.

“Hold the orbitals for me, Cheung Bo.” A hard light gleamed in Tracey’s eyes, the charming politician stripped away to reveal the fervor that toppled a government. “Hold the orbitals for us all.”

“I will, sir.”

They meant it.19


The Price of Survival (S1 E8)

Season Content Notes: attempted genocide (off screen), child murders (off screen), prejudice, violence, abuse references

After three days, Lubomir was cautiously pleased with the army’s advance. Cyneburg had remained nearby and continued answering his questions and carrying messages. The other wolves — and he knew there were other wolves nearby — stayed out of sight and (mostly) out of hearing.

Even as he thought this, a howl rolled in, at first far away and barely heard, but growing closer and louder as each new wolf took up the call. Finally, it rose less than a bow-shot from Lubomir’s tent.

A few minutes later, Cyneburg walked up to Lubomir’s tent, accompanied by two guards. “General.”


“As of sun-high, your forces hold the pass. Our fighters pulled back but remained close long enough to be sure your soldiers could hold against Caldelon. Then pulled back to the nearest village to await orders.”

“Excellent. What of the mountain trails?”

“No word yet.”

Lubomir nodded and let himself fall into thought. When he said nothing further, Cyneburg turned to leave, not waiting to be dismissed.

“A moment, wolf.”

She turned back and waited. He spent several more minutes examining the map table and moving pieces around on it. When he was satisfied, he turned back to Cyneburg. “A messenger arrived this morning. Must have been urgent, as he rode through the night.” He grabbed a message pouch off his desk.

Cyneburg resisted the temptation to grab it from his hands and waited for him to hand it to her. Bringing it to her nose, she caught a hint of Navin’s scent. Relief nearly brought tears to her eyes. She tore open the pouch and opened the message within, forgetting the general completely.

She read it once quickly, looking for the name of the new pack leader and Navin’s signature with his new rank mark: the Queen (she stuck a mental tongue out at her soul-brother) and Navin now ranked as second. A wise move by the new Pack Mother.

Then she read the letter again, slowly. Twice.

When she finished, she looked up at the general. “Well?” he asked.

“Forgive me, General. There is… much here.

“Navin Wolf did not just surrender to your Queen, General. He stepped down as Pack Leader, naming your Queen as his successor.”

“I see.” His eyes narrowed.

“Forgive me, General, but I doubt you do. Until she dies or chooses otherwise, the Long Valley pack, and every wolf in it, answers directly to Pack Mother Alfhard Haredin.”

Lubomir bit back an exclamation and waited for the wolf-woman to continue.

“The Pack Mother orders that we continue to obey you until the evacuation is completed and otherwise that Navin’s seconds retain their rank and manage pack matters within the limits she sets.

“There are other matters here for the Pack, but there will be a party of wolves traveling to the palace within the week to answer the Pack Mother’s summons.”

Lubomir considered the wolf-woman, disturbed. It should be — it was — a good thing that the Queen had gained the allegiance of the wolves and not just their grudging surrender. But it disturbed him that they would change their loyalty so quickly. How much was their loyalty to the Queen actually worth?

So wondered the Queen’s general, who had started his years in service as a palace guard shortly before the coup attempt against Alfhard’s father. But Lubomir knew better than to say anything. He would put his concerns in a letter. No, he decided, two letters. One to the Queen, and one to General Revazi. Revazi, he knew, would be watchful of the Queen’s safety.

For now, Lubomir only said, “Very well. I will pass them through with an escort.”

He turned back to his map. “I am sure you will want to carry this news, but before you do, I have another task for you.

“I have been impressed with your… people’s ability as messengers. Once the valley is secure, I’ll want to start integrating some wolf messengers into my forces. A dozen to start. I’d prefer volunteers, but I’ll take conscripts. Have them report to me… Let’s say a week from today. We should have things largely secure by them.”

“Of course, general. You’ll want messenger-scouts, I assume. Wolves with at least enough training to defend themselves.”

“I’d rather fully trained fighters. With the pass secured, you should have at least a dozen — several dozen! to spare.”

Cyneburg swallowed a growl. “Yes, General, but they may not–”

“Just send them wolf, the best you can manage.”

She didn’t wait to be dismissed.

It was rare for all the pack’s seconds to gather together in person. Especially for a pack as large as Long Valley, a pack leader needed their seconds widely scattered to address problems as they came up.

But they had known a message from Navin Wolf could be expected soon. Some things they did not dare sing on the wind.

Cyneburg left the army camp and let her brother’s skin sweep over her. As they had planned, the wolf whose name was the feel of racing paws and the crack of lightning carefully picked up the message pouch and moved swiftly to a village a few hours steady trot from the army camp. Close enough the wolf could return quickly if needed, far enough the army was unlikely to notice him or his fellows gathering.

When the wolf arrived, there were six waiting, two wearing wolf skins, the others human. They had taken the back room of an abandoned house. The front rooms were guarded by the most trusted assistant each of them had.

The wolf greeted each of them in turn and slid back into Cyneburg’s skin. “I hope the day comes when I never need to deal with that man again,” she growled.

“That bad?” Edmund asked. He was sitting in a tipped-backed chair with his eyes closed, looking ready to take a nap.

“He demands we supply him with a dozen wolves — fully trained fighters! — to serve as his messengers.”

The five who were not pretending to be half asleep looked at each other and expressed their disbelief and distaste.

“Cyneburg, did you not tell him?” Kazimiera asked. Messenger-scouts split their time. They trained in the subtleties of howl-song with the singers and in combat. The fighters… trained in fighting.

“He would not listen.” One of the wolves flattened her ears and chuffed a dismissal. “Yes, if he wants to be a fool, let him.

“More importantly, we have word from Navin.”


“Yes, /Navin/. He gave neck to the human Queen.” Cyneburg stopped as the others all started talking at once.

/Quiet/ yipped the other wolf, whose name was the feel of sun-warmed grass and scent of green. He stood, man unfolding out of wolf. “Give us the word Cyneburg, then we can discuss it.”

So Cyneburg read out the contents of the letter.

When she finished, there was a moment of silence.

“So. Navin represents us at court and tries to win over the humans. For now, the rest of us are left with a great deal of autonomy as long as we keep the general happy. But the Queen has plans, and we must fit ourselves into them.” Kazimiera growled.

The wolf become man said, “Cyneburg, Navin put you at the border because you are one of our best fighters. You are not a diplomat.”

“You think you need to tell me that, Andre?” Cyneburg growled.

“No,” Andre replied. “I will volunteer as one of this general’s messengers and take your place as liaison. The high places are evacuated, and I am free to take on other tasks.”

After a moment of thought, all the others signaled agreement.

“I’ll join one of the wagons going to this new… place.” Cyneburg decided. “We need someone there, anyway, and it will get me as far away from this general as possible.”

“The rest of us,” Edmund said, “can continue as we have been.”

“I do not like this,” Kazimiera muttered.

Prasanna, quiet until now, stood up and murmured. “We are lucky to have asshole generals to worry about. To fret over how to deal with a human Pack Leader and who to send as messengers for the humans.

“We are lucky.”

“How often do you tell yourself that?”

Prasanna sighed. “Every day, every hour. Sometimes every minute.

“Most of the time, I believe it.”


How NOT to Save the World (S1, E3)

Season Content Notes (incomplete): violence, anti-nonhuman bigotry, consensual violence

In the silence only excellent soundproofing could create, the quiet rustle of reeds was loud.1

Wu sat in the middle of the floor, manipulating a double handful of dried stalks, while Trevor watched. Zi split the stalks, placing some on the floor in front of zir, a few at a time. Then set a handful aside before starting again with the rest.

Stillness had never come naturally to Trevor, but he held himself as still as possible. Only his fingers moved, tapping out a soothing rhythm on the seam of his skirt.2

Eventually, Wu placed the last handful aside and closed zir eyes.

Trevor had watched Wu cast zir reeds dozens of times over the years. He’d never shaken the edge of fear it brought him. And tonight, the night of their first great victory, the fear was worse than ever. Trevor knew he had good people behind him. But he didn’t think he could do this without Wu beside him.3

Wu opened zir eyes and smiled. “We have danger, but also opportunity.”

Trevor sighed, tension running out of him. But he couldn’t stop himself from asking, “We?”

Wu, not understanding, bowed, zir shoulders drawing inward. “Forgive this presumptuous one. Your servant only meant— your servant would not lay claim to what is rightly yours.”

“What?” Shocked, Trevor knelt beside the dragon. “Oh, damnit, Wu, I didn’t mean…”

Wu looked at him, and Trevor could see the confusion and hurt in zir gaze.

“I’m afraid of losing you.” Trevor reached out and took Wu’s hand, rubbing a finger across the braided ring zi hadn’t removed in over 10 years. “When you gave yourself to me, you said…”

“Your servant said many things. Do you doubt them now?”

“No! No.” He took a deep breath. “But… I guess I feared I would need to pay a price for winning today.”4

“Trevor.” Wu’s hand cupped his cheek. “Talk sense or I’m going to put you to bed and call a healer.”

“Your first loyalty, you said, would always be to your ‘path of heaven’ or whatever it is.”

“And you thought… what? That I would leave? Now?”

“If your Heavens called you, yes. Of course, you would.”

Wu sat back and covered zir mouth. Zir eyes sparkled. And every once in a while a strangled laugh slipped through their fingers.

Trevor didn’t see the joke.

“That… That’s not how it works.”5 Wu said finally.

Trevor leaned forward and tapped Wu’s knee. “What’s not how it works?”

“The Heavens…” Wu took a deep breath and fought down hir laughter. “They aren’t like Deborah’s God, Trevor. They don’t issue commands or expect people to serve them. They… they are. Their path is the path of righteousness. Of right conduct.6 Not… whatever you have been thinking.”

For a moment, Trevor was still. “…you mean I’ve spent over a decade worrying that one day you’d up and leave on some kind of divine marching orders for nothing?”

“Apparently.” Wu’s lips quirked.

“Are you smirking at me?”


Zi was smirking at him.

“Where in the world did you get that idea anyway?”

Trevor glared. “Wu, I conquered the world because of a prophecy and a vision quest. Over half the magic workers and soothsayers in the world support me — many of them because they got some kind of divine marching orders7 from whatever it is they follow. You have not once in over a decade talked about your beliefs or faith or whatever it is you follow except to say, on the day you took my collar, that your first loyalty was to the path of heaven. What did you expect me to think?”8

“Oh.” The humor drained from zir face.

“It was pretty obvious you didn’t want to talk about your culture or past, and I respected that. I didn’t go researching Chinese belief systems behind your back or digging into your family and background.9 I figured you’d tell me if you wanted to. But… damnit, Wu…”


This time Wu gave him a full bow, face pressed to the floor, hands clasped behind zir back.10 “Your servant most humbly begs forgiveness for zir foolishness. Your servant has… reasons for not speaking of things past. But your servant owes you the knowledge you need to make full use of your servant. And… your servant regrets, bitterly, the pain zir foolishness caused.”

Trevor grabbed a fistful of Wu’s hair and pulled zir head up. A frisson of energy danced along his nerves, stronger because of the fear and frustration which had come before. He knew why he took such pleasure in control. Knew also how dangerous it was for a man who had set himself up as a dictator and tyrant. But he and Wu had shared this bond almost since the day they met. He wasn’t giving it up unless he had to.

“Let me be sure that this time I understand.11

“Your path of heaven is a guide for your actions. A code of ethics or moral strictures.

“You have given yourself to me, and there is no person, entity, being, or god that can make you leave me. But your path of heaven comes before your loyalty to me, and if I tell you to do something that violates your code, you will disobey.”

He gave Wu’s head a little shake. The dragon winced but remained passive under his hand.

“Do I have that right?”

“Yes, you are correct.” Wu swallowed. “Only at your word will your servant leave.” Wu met his eyes for a moment, long enough Trevor glimpsed the fear in them, before looking down again.

“Wu…” he released the dragon’s hair and cupped zir chin. “Do you really think I would cast you off over this?”12

“No.” Zi swallowed again. “No. But one day you will learn of your servant’s past. And I fear that day.”13

Trevor’s fingers tapped on his thigh, but this time the rhythm didn’t soothe. “We will deal with that day when it comes. But I can’t imagine anything from the past that would change how I feel.” Trevor had killed a man earlier that day because Winehurst was no longer useful to him and couldn’t be trusted not to interfere. He couldn’t imagine what in Wu’s past could be so horrible zi feared to tell him.

Trevor pushed the question away. It was for the future, and this was now. He pulled Wu up and into a hug. “It’s okay. We’ll be okay.” They held each other for several minutes until Trevor said. “Now, tell me about your divination.”