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The Sarrans Box Set

By A.C. Katt

Published by JMS Books LLC at Smashwords

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Copyright 2017 A.C. Katt

ISBN 9781634865067

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published in the United States of America.

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The Sarrans Box Set

By A.C. Katt

The Sarran Plague

Living with Syn

The Sarrans Return

The Sarran Senator

* * * *

The Sarran Plague

Chapter 1

“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”

—Joseph Stalin

Earth, July 12th

Twenty-six-year-old pediatric resident, Anya Forrest, lay alone in Manhattan General Medical Center ICU. Her reddish blond hair hung limply about her face. Only her icy blue eyes were visible under the respirator mask. Her heart and liver were failing, and her skin the bluish-yellow tinge of the urine stains on the wall. Anya was terminal. Four weeks ago, she should have been moved to a hospice, a sunny, peaceful place to die. But there were too many patients and too few staff to give palliative care. Therefore, Anya stayed in ICU, hypnotized by the plip-plop of the IVs and lulled by cacophony of digital breath. The pain was intense. She knew she wasn’t going to make it when Mark Stern, the Chief of Staff, had stopped by her bed and asked if she needed anything. That was three days ago, when she could still speak.

She remembered how it began. It was the Fourth of July. She had taken a break and joined some of the staff on the hospital roof to watch the fireworks…

* * * *

Sarran Calendar: Cycle 9435: Barren Trion, Rising 92

Earth, July 4th to July 12th

Fireworks filled the night sky across the United States of America. It was Independence Day. Aerial shells burst, scattering shooting stars in red, then white and blue. The finale was Blue Earth—triple rocket fountains surrounded the rotating sphere highlighting the environmental awareness theme.

Then celebrants spotted a magnificent explosion in the upper atmosphere. It was a show-stopping display. Everyone agreed that green mist was a great finale, until, that is, they noticed it became a slimy, oil-like substance on their skin. Breaking news headlines streamed across CNN. Banners shrieked from print. Talk shows spoke slime 24/7. Environmental groups expressed outrage. The EPA investigated, and Congress planned hearings. The executive branch had no comment.

It was a two-day media fest. Then on July 6th the NYPD nabbed a serial killer. . Someone leaked photos of twenty-six naked women stacked like cord wood in a New York City townhouse basement. Green slime slipped off the national radar screen, and America went back to business as usual.

The first cases hit the hospitals the evening of the seventh. The virus took forty-eight hours to incubate. Another twenty-four passed before full onset of symptoms. On July 9th, at 21:00 hours, hospitals became holding facilities. On July 12, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta provided the media with maps of the infected areas. Every state reported Plague, even Alaska and Hawaii. There was no time progression. No sunburst pattern to suggest an initial area of contamination. No case zero. It started everywhere, at once. No one asked questions. They were too busy trying to survive. Reports from CNN showed the rest of the planet in the same condition. No outside help was available to anyone. Everyone tried to save their own.

Fifty percent of the female population was infected. The CDC named it mixed immune response syndrome. The public called it the Plague. It was a virus, and symptoms varied. All known autoimmune diseases combined in strange variations. The victims were all female.

The National Institute of Health compiled statistics that linked the Plague to ovulation. It struck only the fertile. Someone had manufactured the Plague. It constantly mutated. There was no apparent cure or treatment. Both NIH and CDC worked round the clock. Symptoms worsened as ovulation neared. Episodes, called flares, brought new symptoms, more pain. Each flare brought a patient closer to the brink. Women begged for death, which seemed, in some cases, preferable. The cycle worked rapidly in some, from health to near death in four days from exposure.

As women dropped dead, hospitals became understaffed. If there was a tech to take blood, there was no one to test it. Hospital labs ran with one or two male techs. Nurses came out of retirement. Governors mobilized the National Guard. The White House called in the Army and the Army Reserve. The federal government drafted all single men. Medical facilities returned women to their husbands or families for palliative care. Divorced men returned home to tend children. Patients with no family waited to die in medical facilities with little staff to treat them.

* * * *

To Anya, the hospital was home. She was an orphan. Upon leaving St. Brigit’s, she had lived at or near the hospital since starting medical school. Aside from her cat, Tigger, she had no friends outside of the hospital. Before, Anya had been five-foot-six and small-framed and, at 150 pounds, a bit overweight. Now, the bed, blankets, sheets, and machines overwhelmed the shrunken, nude body in the bed. Dr. Forrest’s one vanity was that she had not cut her hair since childhood. At the orphanage, she had cried and fussed when the nuns tried to cut her hair. The only memory she had from before was of a soft-spoken woman brushing her hair. Anya refused to let it go. One young nun, Sister Rose, had taken pity. She’d taught Anya to braid and pin her hair to keep it neat. Sister Rose assured Anya if it was neat, it could be long. After that, she had pinned it up tightly.

Loosened, her hair flowed below her waist. It might have looked thicker if Anya spent money on hair products or cosmetics. She did not. St. Brigit’s taught its students that frivolity was useless, so Anya bought her cosmetics, lotions, and hair products on sale at a drug chain. Anya’s life was filled with her studies and her patients. She had little money, as few residents did. She brushed her hair for maintenance.

Her luxury was her orange and white tiger cat, Tigger. Tigger was the constant in her life, the only living being that was even close to knowing the real Anya. She had fallen in love with his huge paws and audacious personality when he was a kitten at a local shelter where she had gone to seek some undemanding company. Since she was an orphan, she had no friends from before college, orphans learned not to get too close. After she entered school, she had no time for socialization, she needed to study to keep up her grade point and retain her scholarship.

Anya had never been in love, she had never had sex. There was a voice in her head that said, Hold out for love. Her virginity would be a gift to her lover; the only one she had to give. That day hadn’t come and Anya didn’t want to be alone anymore, so she had gone looking for a safe companion and found a real friend. Tigger knew all of her secrets; they had developed a language of sorts. He didn’t care that she had to study or work long hours. As long as he had her lap when she returned and his kibble and toys while she was gone, Tigger was a happy cat. Every piece of clothing Anya owned, every piece of furniture, was covered in cat hair. Since it was just the two of them in her small apartment, neither cared. She worried about him being all alone. What would happen to him without her?

Anya knew where she was. The sights, smells, and sounds said Manhattan General, and this was her hospital. Her skin texture was yellow and thick. She felt the rash move over her body in concert with the virus. Each patch of scaling skin was a prophecy of the next horror. She had not slipped into unconsciousness, although she longed for that state to shut down the bulldozers that danced on her bones. The pain was intense, despite the morphine drip. Her blood ran through her veins like acid. Her throat and mouth burned as if she had swallowed drain cleaner.

Anya’s senses were hyper-alert. She heard the click of the monitors and muted alarms from the medical equipment throughout the wing. She sensed the vibrations of the stretchers and gurneys as they whizzed by in the corridors and the heightened thump of soft-soled shoes running on vinyl floors. The intercom announced code after code with colors and numbers. She knew the language. The hospital was overwhelmed with too many cases and not enough beds or staff to tend them. Manhattan General’s policy dictated that human contact and interaction was essential to patient recovery, yet she only remembered Mark coming in to see her. He asked about Tigger and sent and an orderly to take her keys to feed him and change his box.

The deadly rash snaked up her left breast. She felt the destruction of each cell as it fell to the intruder. Her body had no reserves left to fight the virus. Pain ruled her mind and heart. Despite her oaths and her supposed strong moral fiber, she longed for the end. Tears ran down her blotchy cheeks, salt stinging her abraded skin. Her body was in constant spasm, not allowing even the slight respite of sleep. Her throat was parched and sore from both the respirator and her silent screams. There was no one for Anya; the tubes in her mouth muffled her sobs. She would die, unloved by anyone, save an orange cat. She dare not close her eyes again; she did not want to go unto the dark alone.

Wait…what was that, voices murmured in her head. The conversation was muted, but intense and masculine. It was a buzz, a fly in her brain. Her path inescapable, she walked toward a blue light, yet the outline of the moon, no, three moons at her back called her name causing her to stop, despite the light’s gentle promise. But the buzz, she couldn’t shake the buzz. She turned toward the moons. She heard the voices, closer now. Anya almost understood the words. The buzzing had ceased. Curiosity, one of her besetting sins, rooted her feet to the path. Forward was the blue light, pulling at her and promising peace; surrounding her on her left and right sides was the constant buzz of conversation, to her back were the strange moons and the pain. She lifted her face toward the sky; the voices came down from the heavens. Tenderness bathed her body…Her imagination escaped the tyranny of her innocence. Lust ran like a fresh breeze through her brain. She felt a masculine presence. Two, she thought. She felt gentle fingers brush against her nipples, and wet, soft kisses flowed across her collarbone to the back of her neck. And then a bite. Both nipples pushed erect against the soft thin cotton of the hospital gown. Need, she needed. She felt the blood moving to her labia, as the lips engorged, becoming heavy. Opening outward, throbbing. Rational thought intruded on her arousal. Anya, you’re dying here, in pain, breathing your last. You’re a physician. You know the score. What the heck is happening?

The thought fled and all was sensation of hands and lips. Her body tensed, climbing, climbing the precipice, a burst of light came. It was white, blinding in her brain, her lower body pulsating in rhythm, leaving the hospital linens damp. It came, a whisper, a tendril of hope, and then a thought drifted into her consciousness. “We’re here, with you,” the voices said. “We are one, BondStirred; you will never be alone again.” The thought gave comfort even as she turned from the light and headed back to the pain.

* * * *

Sarran Calendar: Cycle 9437: Phase 1, Barren Trion, Rising 100

Earth July 12th

Tonas, Prince of LightClan and co-Admiral of the Sarran Fleet stood quietly by the command console in the StarRoom, the Admirals’ ready room, adjacent to both the Admirals’ Quarters and the Bridge. Tension was evident in the line of his heavily muscled back and torso. At six-foot-nine, he was leaner than his BondMate, the fiery Jonal.

Tonas had broad shoulders. His movements were supple, tempered steel sheathed in grace and elegance. Hair the color and texture of sweet Rhine wine hung down his back. A black strip of Nathrian leather gathered it up in a queue. The bulge between his thighs was evident in the Sarran flight suit. Tonas looked well endowed; even for a Sarran. At rest, his package was merely impressive; fully erect, it reached well over his belted waist. His voice soft, he weighed his words and decisions. His face was rugged and not traditionally handsome. However, when lit by a smile that put a silver glint in the shamrock green eyes, it was a face that, before his WarriorPairing ten cycles past, had left many a fem longing to see it up close and personal.

Despite their enthusiasm for their progress in the Fleet and their absorption in each other, they yearned for their fem. He and Jonal conducted relentless, meticulous psychic scans for their fem on Sarran. In their ten cycles together, the pair had worked their way into the highest ranks of the admiralty and to Brightstar. They held the Command Cruiser of Sarran Fleet, but had not yet found the fem to fill their hearts.

So, Tonas practiced the virtue of patience, knowing as he always did that the Bonding would come in time, and he tried to instill patience in his fiery counterpart, Jonal. As they traveled back to Sarran after what they believed to be the final victory over the Zyptz, they had lain in each other’s arms, passions spent, whispering of the search to come. It was time, Tonas had said, time to comb the entire planet for that one fem who would make them whole, complete them. She would revel in the love and passion only they could give her; with them, she would be complete. With her, they would be whole.

On the Bridge for arrival at Sarran, their hopes turned ashen as they beheld their home. Streaks of green slime circled the living planet. The remains of the Zyptz Warrior Bird, Ipz, floated through space. That hollow, soulless message appeared on all subspace communication channels.

Communication Console: Cycle 9432 Planting Trion, Rising 20

This is the Final Communication to the Humans from the Zyptz Cradles:

Even now, in your flush of victory, we have sown the seeds of your defeat. We have exterminated your future. We will watch your extinction with glee.”

Supreme Leader Hanitz, Zyptz Invasion Force

It was all hideously real. Not a tree, nor a wall, nor a building was out of place. But all the fems of mating age were dead—unclaimed or part of a Triad—all were taken to the Goddess.

Tonas and Jonal had not coupled since that rising, almost as if denying their passion and joy in each other would bring back the future they had envisioned. The Sarran mourned, and the galaxy mourned with them.

After two cycles of hard work, the Alliance found a humanoid species that might ensure Sarran survival. They arrived at their destination, a beautiful blue planet its inhabitants called Earth. As they entered orbit, Tonas held some hope for the Sarran culture and people. Their future lay in the hands of the primitive race on the blue planet below.

* * * *

The elders had debated. Could these primitive fems serve to anchor a Triad? They had at last agreed that these Earth fems would be able restore the breeding stock of the population. They needed to rebuild their people, so the current generation could at least patch their broken souls with the hope that their sons would know true Triad, even if they could not. However, before the prize, came the trust of a planet new to the Galactic Alliances and suffering from a Zyptz attack. The planet’s governments had yet to let the citizens know the source of the plague that had circled their world. The only reason the Earthlings had not tried to knock them from the skies, not that they could with their primitive weaponry, was the antidote and vaccine that was offered on first contact to the most powerful and prosperous of the planet’s nation states. They were in this leader’s White House to use at his discretion. It had worked on test subjects. Now Tonas and Jonal danced the delicate minuet of negotiation.

The Leader needed the vaccine and antidote to save his population. He and his advisers also wanted advantage to maintain their country’s position as top predator in their violent world. Tonas and Jonal bargained for the survival of their own race. The Sarrans had the vaccine, the antidote, and the technology for FTLS (faster than light speed) travel. The Admirals held the winning hand, but it was necessary to play the game to the end. They tensed, anticipating the response to their last offer. The problematic issue was the trade off. Some of the Earthen fems had already unknowingly been psychically BondStirred by Sarran WarriorPairs. It was not something the Sarrans planned, it just happened. One of the pairs affected were the Admirals. The Alliance Scientists were correct. The Earthen fems were a match for the Sarrans. However, joy was short-lived for Tonas and Jonal, their connection to their fem told them she was dying. With heavy hearts, they asked to make their plea in person and planet-wide.

The White House Leader insisted on secrecy. He was afraid that his people would react with fear and violence. The Americans explained that a Triad in their culture was both a homosexual and polygamous liaison. These types of liaisons were considered indecent and immoral on most of the planet. Some of the population, the Leader explained, would react as if the women were being sold into slavery.

The Sarrans were in shock. The Sarran fem was given every care. She was the center of her Bond Pair’s universe, they explained. But on this issue, the Americans would not budge. American was the only big nation on the planet Earth still in control after the plague hit. Smaller nation states were still in control of their populace, according to Sarran reports from the ground, but with the smaller populations, the fems taken would be missed.

Jonal sat in the Starroom waiting on the signal to go ahead from Earth.. He ran his fingers through his hair. The tousled black curls just touched his shoulders. His lightly tanned complexion sported visible stubble crossing the edge of his jaw, easing around his soft lips, suggesting a heavy beard despite a recent shave. At six-foot-seven, he was shorter than Tonas, but wider through the shoulder and solid. Jonal was granite to Tonas’s steel. Massive muscle definition rippled across his shoulders and pecs, down to his washboard abs and flat stomach. His maroon flight suit, made of Nathrian leather, pulled tight across his cock and balls. Although not as long as Tonas’s member, Jonal’s cock was wide, the plum-colored tip a fist in heat. Knee-high black boots of the same subtle material were fitted to hard calf muscles. Navy eyes flecked with silver flashed with impatience and barely restrained anger and passion. Anya's touch on his mind had awakened him from robotic state he had assumed since the Ipz attack. He burned with returning hope, flinging back and forth through the talks from despair to hope again. He now knew the elders were wrong, the Earthen fems could Bond. As he paced the room along the star table, the tic in his jaw throbbed, stretching the line of a thin scar down the right side of his face. It was a tic his BondMate knew well, and it betrayed his impatience. The scar transformed Jonal’s face from cold beauty to vibrant male. Unlike his BondMate, he paid little attention to his appearance. His suit, although impeccable in tailoring, was rumpled and a bit unkempt. Though he could be preternaturally still in battle mode and on the Bridge, here in the StarRoom he showed his fire. Jonal's style was to trust his instincts, sizing up situations and acting rapidly. He and Tonas were the ideal command team. They balanced each other. Tonas was used to his pacing. In more light-hearted moments, Tonas had teased him about wearing a rut in the floor around the table where Jonal had paced their way through the Zyptz War. Jonal had not paced since they saw the wreckage of the Ipz on Sarran.

“Tonas, don’t they understand their fems and their planet are doomed unless they take what we offer? Don’t they care about their people, or ours?” Jonal banged the table for emphasis. He turned, looking at his Bonded, tears gathering at the corners of his eyes. “How do you negotiate terms for what is given away? Our Elders sprung to ill-founded conclusions, Tonas.” Jonal brushed his hair back from his face. His intense frustration was evident in his clenched jaw teeth.

“They had insufficient data to make a sound working theory,” Tonas explained.

Jonal shouted, “Our fem endures, suffering, below our boots. The longer we linger over this continent, the more intense the song that stirs our Bond. Anya is ours. We recognize her as ours. The Bond summons. Primitive or not, when our fem needs, we provide.” Jonal’s emotional anguish had merged with the siren song of fem to WarriorPair. His organ pressed against the fine leather of his flight suit. For the first time in three cycles, passion flamed. He swayed from lust to intense pain. “The sewer sucker below negotiates duplicity while sentient life lies in misery.”

Tonas, Prince of LightClan, leaned on one of the consul desks. Outwardly, he was the cooler, more deliberative of the WarriorPair, yet inwardly he seethed. Down there on that blue planet was their destiny. He felt her every whimper. He couldn’t comprehend how she held on. His loins ached and hung heavy. Tonas saw the tension in Jonal’s face. There was urgency just under the surface driving him. They shared an instinct that demanded instantaneous response to threat.

Their fem, heart of their Bond, was down there, and her life force was faint, thready. Tonas’s muscles screamed for freedom to defend, champion, fight. They could not. Neither the Galactic Alliance nor the Sarran Elders authorized war. Trade, yes. Outright bribery, if necessary, even capture, were possibilities, but not war. Tonas rose to his full height, green eyes shooting golden sparks of light.

“They fear us, Jonal,” he said, attempting appeasement. “They have just had their first taste of the Zyptz, their population decimated, and they don’t know who to trust. The Elders were arrogant in their assumption that inferior technology equaled insufficient intelligence. The intelligence is there; they need time. Geological and cosmic events forced the course of life on this sphere into rebirth more than once. The evidence lies before us on the pockmarked surface of their moon. The planet itself is still actively volcanic. They have not learned to harvest and direct the core energy. We can offer them a future free of accidental extinction, with unlimited energy. What the planet offers to us is more valuable than any known object in the universe. It offers fems—life.” He finished with a breath of bitterness.

“Goddess take me, Tonas, she’s down there and she’s ours by right of Alliance. Alliance Law extends even to this backwater of the universe. I need to take her pain away. My member is hard. I’m overwhelmed by guilt at our lust and grief for her pain. I am enraged at being herded into calumny by the roach below. I am lost. We have been one since our twentieth cycle. Ten cycles ago we pledged under a Tierest tree. Physical desire, intense need for you, for her, and I reach out with my mind and body and I’m alone. Dammit, I need you both and soon. I’m alive again. We haven’t been alive since the Ipz.” Tonas waited and watched Jonal pace around the table, caressing the inlays, straightening the wide burgundy leather chairs. The StarRoom’s carpet was well worn under the broader man’s boots. Jonal had marked this path through the Zyptz Wars. Jonal’s fingers ran through his hair and the tic in his jaw appeared more often. Those strong, blunt fingers pulled at the sleeves of his flight suit, loosened the collar. He stopped abruptly and banged the table again, his body vibrating with anger. Tonas didn’t try to calm his Bonded. Jonal’s fire was finally kindled after three cycles of suppression and focus on mission. His body vibrated for release.

“What more could they possibly want? Fems are dying, Tonas, dying. What is it going to take?”

Tonas didn’t answer; instead he grabbed Jonal and pulled him into his arms, lowering his mouth onto hungry lips. The shock of his Firefly’s taste after so long a thirst for both of them sent Tonas reeling to near climax.

“Too long,” Tonas whispered as he licked and teased his kisses across Jonal’s deep jaw line in deliberate slow appreciation of his lover’s beauty. Tonas reached the corner of Jonal’s mouth. He outlined it with his tongue. His kiss deepened. Tongue and lips became a frenzied, brutal, invading force. They dueled, sending shock waves that reached past the wet, lush cavity of mouths to engorged cocks and hardened sacs. Jonal grew long and wide against Tonas’s body. For the first time in three cycles they were lost in each other—their responsibility, for a moment, set aside. They clung to each other, hips moving in a circular motion in sync with their mouths. Lips moved over flesh, licking, biting, and marking. Jonal unfastened the panel of the uniform beneath which Tonas’s cock lay hard and ready. He pulled, exposing the long golden spike to the air. He grabbed, pulling hard, his fist circling with his thumbnail pushing into the slit revealed with the foreskin pulled away. Jonal dropped to his knees. He used his other arm and pulled his lover’s hips toward his face. Tonas groaned as Jonal inhaled the scent of the coarse golden hair. Cinnamon, exotic spice, that feral, earthy odor his senses craved. Jonal buried his cheek against Tonas’s sac, kissing and taking each of the tight balls and rolling them inside his mouth. His left hand moved behind the sac to the heavy yellow-gold ring decorating the guiche piercing on Tonas’s perineum. It matched the white-gold piercing on his own, their personal symbol of commitment to their Bond and their love. He tugged gently, then twisted and pulled as his mouth rode his lover’s shaft. He ventured as near as he dared to the hard muscled cheeks, touching the forbidden crease where completion lay. Tonas’s hands pushed down on Jonal’s shoulders. Jonal’s mouth moved to the shaft, his tongue worried the point just underneath the area where the foreskin attached to the head. He licked the circumference.

“Goddess, your mouth. How I have missed that mouth. Please…Firefly, please…”

Jonal moved his lips down Tonas’s twitching member, planting kisses, his tongue following the pulsing, ropey veins.

“I need you…I want…oh, my love, she’s with us. I can feel her; she’s wet…Jonal,” Tonas shouted.

“Yeah,” Jonal whispered. His chest heaved and his hands shook. Sweat formed on his upper lip. He stretched his mouth over the purple cock head, running his bottom teeth on the underside as his mouth descended down the shank. He sealed his lips, sucking, running his tongue, his throat working as it had so many times before. He felt what Tonas was feeling. He felt himself sucking and being sucked. He was Tonas, and Tonas was him. They were joined, mind to mind. They heard each other’s thoughts, and they felt each other’s senses. And now…she was there. She was wet, wanting, needing. She felt them. The link was almost complete. Almost there…

* * * *

Chapter 2

“Our patience will achieve more than our force.”

—Edmund Burke

The communication console lit up. Tonas pulled away. His body strained, begging. But the console was lit, now was not the time. The government below had forwarded the final proposal. The incoming communication would decide their fate. Tonas dropped to his knees alongside his Bonded, taking deep breaths trying to push away arousal. He grabbed Jonal and held on. “We are one, never alone again.”

It took some time for them to stop shaking.

“It’s going to work,” Jonal said. “We were almost there and we’re not even on the planet yet. The Bond is so strong.”

“Come,” Tonas said rising and pulling the heavy man to his feet. “We have work. There are twenty-five hundred WarriorPairs in the Brightstar Fleet, each with a potential fem on the surface, maybe each of them feeling the first stirrings of the Bond. Every fem with a high enough psi rating and potential compatibility is unconsciously broadcasting to this vessel. We are responsible for every pair, for every potential Triad, for the survival of all things Sarran.”

Tonas’s words burned in his throat, “I feel her. But her touch, her radiance is dim. Our passion fed her soul, briefly, but you are right, there is little time. She is here, in my mind and yours. I have operated on anger for so long, that love and desire are almost strangers. I’m so sorry, Firefly. I’ve failed you.”

“No, Tonas, never that. We both needed the time to heal.” Jonal tried to comfort him.

“The pull is intense. I need both of you in my arms, yet she is the key. We need our fem, she is our future. And she needs us now.” Tonas grimaced with the pain of longing.

“She is alone, dying and fearful, and there is something she worries over, taxing her limited strength.” Jonal sighed. “Something that lives.” His brows moved together.

“Could it be she has a mate? There is a heavy feeling of an impending loss, someone she loves, fears for.”

“The Goddess could not be that cruel. I have to believe that.”

Jonal rose with Tonas and moved to the console. Both men still strung with unspent passion.

“Calm, Jonal,” said Tonas. “Whatever is to be in our Bond must come second to our duty.” He drew in his breath and sighed. “We need to do this right. We must control our desire for completion and think of our burden. It is only a few more tines. We cannot act in haste. We came to offer mutual assistance, not war, and they must not know how desperate our situation is. They claim that theirs is a monogamous fem/male culture despite the evidence in their literature and art to the contrary, and all primitives fear what they do not understand. Our ways are foreign to them. What is normal to us is perversion to them. We must tread with delicacy, like a slink laptard stalking prey. I will not lose this to poor execution.”

“We must outflank the enemy here. I don’t trust this Earthman in his White House. I don’t like secret treaties. We need data and a plan to maneuver around this roach. But to lose the fems would be unendurable, leaving us broken. He has to accept this last offer. And then, we corner the rodent,” hissed Jonal.

Tonas moved forward and ran his fingers along the scar on the side of Jonal’s face. He stroked his thumb across Jonal’s thick lower lip and fingered the cleft that delineated his chin.

Jonal moved his head. His lips brushed the palm of Tonas’s outstretched hand. “I bow to your patience, My Light. We wait, but not long.”

Tonas opened a hidden panel along the far wall of the room. He took two matching tumblers of silver filigree etched with maroon and gold. He filled the tumblers with a clear blue liquid and turned, bringing one to Jonal’s mouth.

“To our Triad BondMate,” he said, as they each drank from his BondMate’s tumbler and let the Sarran Asta brandy flow like a fiery snake down their throats.

Jonal drank from Tonas’s cup, “To our BondMate, one way or another she’ll be ours by this moontide.”

A voice sounded from the consoles, “Admirals, a communiqué from the surface.”

“Re-route it here, Lieutenant Septis,” Jonal replied.

“Break seal, by command, Jonal.”

“Break seal, by command, Tonas.”

Tonas stepped over to the console, the communiqué scrolled open on the screen.

“They agreed,” he shouted, “Bless the Goddess, they agreed.”

Jonas said, “Septis, get me the Bridge on a secure channel.”

Septis responded, “Line open, Admiral Jonal.”

“Commanders Lunas and Saxton, broadcast this communication fleet-wide.”

“Confirm, sir,” said Lunas.

Saxon said, “Attention all fleet personnel; this is Commander Saxon with orders from Brightstar. Attention: all fleet personnel.

“Admirals, the links are in place.”

“This is Jonal, Admiral, and Prince of FireClan. Ready the vaccines and antidote for transport. Brightstar medical pre-assigned staff report to surface teams for teleportation. Saxon, Lunas, distribute coordinates to section leaders, teams of ten pairs to each collection point. Pharmaceutical team, make sure you have complete instructions on antidote and vaccine manufacture. Warriors, proceed to your posts.”

“Communications, Lieutenant Septis, you have the Bridge,” Tonas said and followed Jonal to the cargo bay, issuing orders enroute.

“Saxon, Lunas, have remaining lead section pairs inspect the fleet’s Quarters. Make sure all is ready to accept the fems. Non-paired Warriors of all ranks are assigned to barracks. Those who have already psi’d their fem’s location have been assigned to the center nearest that locale. We go in twelve tine shifts. If a pair finds their fem, they will be immediately replaced by backup, until all Warriors Triad. First shift goes to BondStirred Pairs. All fems will have received the antidote and the vaccine prior to transport. As you are aware, with virus mutation, one without the other is useless to those already infected. Once the drugs are administered by the advance teams, fems will be placed in Earthen transport vehicles, conveyed to collection points, and then beamed aboard. BondStirred claims will be recognized immediately on surface, and the affected Warriors cleared to return with their fems. Back up teams stand ready to replace the newly-Bonded.”

Tonas and Jonal stepped from the transport pad into the cargo area of the ship. The surface teams had assembled.

“Tonas, Admiral: Non-Sarran, Alliance crew should be assigned to all but weapons systems.”

“I need Fleet Medical, now,” Jonal barked into his comm.

Medical Officers Bane and Flagen, fraternal twins and Warriors of FireClan answered Jonal’s summons.

“Here, sir,'' Bane and Flagen responded. Jonal narrowed his eyes. His body gave off waves of hostility.

“Medical Officer Bane, you and your second are in charge of antidote and vaccination in Sector Two, the Manhattan Population Center in New York, United States. Take the list of all Brightstar Medical Personnel and assign at least one team to each of the remaining distribution centers. All of whom are to transport simultaneously in two marks time. Tonas and I will join you in Sector Two at 24:00 tines Earthen Time. You both report directly to me and me alone. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir,” replied Bane and Flagen. Jonal did not miss the arch look Bane sent to his twin.”

::Was that really necessary?:: Tonas spoke to Jonal’s mind.

::Yes, it was,:: Jonal shot back. Jonal returned to his broadcast, “According to Earth Government USA data, there are four thousand four hundred and forty eight Priority One cases. These Fems are the most genetically compatible, ironically because they are the ones most severely affected by the virus. The Priority One List has the additional advantage of no pressing ties to the planet, no clan to miss them or note their absence. Those Fems not paired from this first group will be assigned a medic, quarters and taken to Sarran as guests of the people and hopefully find Triads among our defense forces.”

Tonas spoke, “Follow your orders, I repeat, we beam to the surface in ten parties of 100 to the coordinates given. Timepieces have been set to local time in your translator chips. Additional chips will be given to each Bonded Pair to be inserted immediately upon recognition of their Triad mate. We rendezvous at the distribution sites, Moontide, 24:00 tines Earthen time. Are there any questions? None, good. May the Goddess bless our endeavor. May today be Sarran’s salvation.”

* * * *

“Laptard piss. What did you do to him?” Bane asked his fraternal twin. “Flagen, his eyes shot comets.”

They were standing with the group for sector two, Manhattan. Since their group would be accompanied by Admirals Tonas and Jonal, they would be among the last to leave. Tonas, I still call him Tonas in my mind, despite the ten years that separated us. And I still hate Jonal and Jonal knows it, Flagen thought.

Flagen looked at his brother. Though not identical, the twins could be mistaken as such. Bane had the same honey blond hair, the same brown eyes. He was perhaps a half-inch shorter than Flagen’s own six-five. Both he and his brother were lean and muscular. Both had gone into medicine. They were separated in their eleventh cycle and had roomed separately at the academy. The BondMates in their Triad had thought it would be a good thing to separate the twins. They told the brothers that it was to prepare them for lives that could only be lived independent of each other. They needed to draw apart to enable a PairBond and eventually find a fem to form a Triad. Up until that time, Flagen recalled, he and his brother had been inseparable. After, Flagen, bitter and wary at both the separation and the result, had stayed away from Bane until the Zyptz attack changed everything.

“Flagen, where are you, brother?” asked Bane. The inscrutable look left Flagen’s face and he smiled back at Bane.

“I’m afraid it’s a small bit of unfinished personal business. It has nothing to do with you, Bane. I knew it would probably be like this when I was accepted the mission. I was positive that they would have weeded me out before liftoff if Admiral Jonal had his way. I probably got the posting because I was not Bonded, a plus for this mission and the Admiral knew I was likely to remain so.”

Bane shook his head. “So many of us are heart sore, Flagen. I was on Brightstar when we came out of FTL planet side. We could not draw weapons. Had we known, we would have engaged before the jump. We thought to come home to celebrate victory.” Bane chest expanded as he drew air deeply. “You know how I feel about this mission. I don’t think a Bond is possible with an alien culture. Without the fem, well, even if you love your BondMate, it’s still just fucking. “

“Without your true BondMate, it’s not even that,” Flagen replied. He hardened his expression and straightened his back.

* * * *

Bane remembered the first time he had a real conversation with Flagen since the early academy risings. It was morning, just after rising…

He had jolted up into a sitting position when he heard the pounding. He shook his head and tried to toss the sleep from his fogged brain.

“Bane, open up!” Flagen shouted his name into the com, banging loudly on the door of his rooms. “Open up,” said Flagen.

“All right, all right.” Bane leaned over to grab his trews and padded across his small room. “Admit,” Bane spoke to the control console. “Admit Flagen. Laptard piss, Flagen. Come in and stop waking the dead.”

“I was just trying to roust you, twin of mine. Is it my fault that both tasks require the same amount of noise? I got the job, Bane.”

“What job?” asked Bane.

Flagen responded, “Co-medical officer on the Brightstar.”

“Oh,” Bane answered flatly. “You didn’t tell me you applied. I thought you disapproved of this whole Earthen fem business.

“Doesn’t matter if I approve, it’s going to happen anyway,” said Flagen. “This is a plum assignment. It will lead to better things. This kind of assignment is not usually handed out to Non Bonded personnel, but I’m not alone. Check your communicator,” said Flagen.

Bane touched his communication device. He usually turned it off while he slept, although the base main could override the off-duty mode of any officer, if necessary.

Bane laughed as he read the message. “I’m guess you know I’m going with you. Looks like I get to spend time with my baby bro. Maybe you will find a Bond on this trip and a fem to boot.”

“Bane,” Flagen interrupted, “I told you already. I will not pair. I will not Bond. I will not mate with an Earthen fem. I have no BondMate. There is no one out there for me. I’ve already accepted that. It has nothing to do with taking the opportunity to be co-medical officer on the Brightstar and having the chance to serve with my twin. I don’t have to like the mission. I just follow orders and keep the natives healthy. And cut out the baby bro bit, you’re only five mots older than I am.”

“Well, baby brother, I guess you’ll be serving under me,'' quipped Bane.

“Beside you,” amended Flagen, “co-medical officer.”

Something strange flashed over Bane’s face, “Yes, bro, right beside me. It will give us some time together. We used to be close. I haven’t seen you much in the last two cycles.” And not much the at all since the Academy, he added silently.

“Been busy doing research, like everyone else on the planet. We saved a few of the younger ones, at least. There will be some pure Sarrans left after this debacle. Maybe we should have taken up the Alliance’s offer of clones. Goddess knows, having no center for a Triad, or a center that can’t cement the Bond, would be the same as fucking a corpse.”

“Sarrans don’t clone people,” Bane said.

“Yes, I know. Sarrans don’t clone people. Sarrans mate for life. Sarrans have only one Bond brother. Sarrans protect. Sarrans preserve. Laptard’s piss, Bane, you know how sick I am of that litany. How moral is the alternative?”

“What do you mean?”

“What we are actually doing? We plan to kidnap a group of primitive fems from a world on the outer edges of the galaxy. Taking them away from everything familiar, and let’s not forget, using them like breeding cattle. This is morality? Can we claim the moral high ground here?” Flagen asked.

“Sarran would only need to produce one generation of clones from existing DNA to replace our fems and grow them in the vats offered by the Galactic Alliance. Or, if that offends, use the Earthen women as incubators, pay them well, and send them on their way. After each of them has been pregnant a few times, our supply of women would be restored. We would have to wait a while for Triad, but we are a long-lived race and our males are fertile until death. One generation, and with enough clones, everything goes back to normal.”

“Flagen, that’s disgusting,” said Bane. “Sarran Warriors don’t treat fems that way, even Earthen fems. They are our hearts.”

“If we don’t clone our women, we might never have a heart again. Will those primitive aliens have the strength to make a Bond? Will they be faithful to the Bond? I’ll bet none of them are virgin either.” Flagen spat the word out.

“Are we virgin?” said Bane. “Most of the Warriors in the Fleet were sexually experienced with women and the occasional male before being BondStruck. Our fems explore their sexuality before Triad. Why would it matter if the Earthen fem are not virgin?”

“Because, Bane,” Flagen said slowly, “I want a strong Warrior to bond into a Triad with a virgin mate. Maybe I was a young fool. I dreamed of my mates. They were going to be everything to me, as I was to them. Did you ever feel a BondStir, Bane?”

“No,” answered Bane. “I haven’t.”

“I felt it once, the beginnings of it. I waited too long to make a claim. Someone else got to him first. He would have been a heroic mate. He was about three cycles my senior. I knew my call was stronger. Yet, I hesitated. I lost.”

“You could have challenged for him, contested the Bond before it fully formed. I’d have stood beside you,” Bane said quietly. “Who was it, Flagen? Maybe you still have a chance?”

Flagen shook his head. “It wasn’t to be. And I’m not the type to settle. It will be alright, eventually. I’m happy to be serving with you, bro. I’m excited. This is going to be our first trip together since we were kids,” Flagen said as he slowly smiled. “And the other thing, the Bond, I can’t miss what I never had.” Flagen crossed over to the door.

“Yeah,” said Bane, also grinning. “We’ll get to serve on the command ship Brightstar with the two best Admirals in the fleet. That is going to put our resume in the top of the top, Warriors and medical officers. Wow.”

“Sure, best Admirals in the fleet. We do have that left, don’t we?” said Flagen as he waited for the door to open, the panels slid apart, then he left.

Bane shook his head and came back to the present. And now, we begin. He watched Flagen’s posture as the Admirals came towards them. There was something else there. It wasn’t just that Flagen disapproved of the mission. Bane didn’t fully approve of this approach either. A different expression, helplessness, had flickered across his twin’s face and vanished. The Admirals passed. The sector two team gathered on the pads. Transport beams flashed blue, one, and then another. Bane and Flagen stepped up onto the pads from the cargo bay gridded floor. The mission was underway.

* * * *

Chapter 3

“The character of every act depends upon the
circumstances in which it is done.”

—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Sarran Calendar: 9435 Barren Trion, Rising 104-105

Earth July 14–15th

For a Friday night Manhattan General’s ER bays were quiet. Wednesday and Thursday saw emergency service vehicles ferrying the most critical Plague patients in the tri-state region to this hospital. All other patients had been assigned to different facilities. Hospital personnel were instructed by the government to keep this group of Plague patients alive at all costs.

Antidotes and vaccinations were overseen by a pair of representatives from CDC: Drs. Bane and Flagen who had arrived from Washington twelve tines ago. Dr. Mark Stern, Manhattan General’s Chief of staff, grudgingly admitted that Bane and Flagen knew their stuff, despite that fact they were both were supercilious, egotistical sons of bitches. At thirty-six, Stern was the youngest Chief of Staff in the medical center’s history. His specialty was infectious disease until he came in from the field to take the job at Manhattan General. He wore gold wire-framed glasses and had a pocket protector with several pens in his lab coat. Blond streaked hair, slicked back, body long and lean, he resembled a California surfer gone geek. His smile was an odd sort of a half smirk. His voice barked authority. The bark combined with his sarcastic bent made the med students scatter and the residents shudder. No one on staff wanted to be the subject of Mark’s rapier wit. If a patient went south because of staff neglect, the innocent were known to draw straws to decide who faced him, the guilty just quietly submitted their letters of resignation. Errors were barely tolerated, but were considered correctable “learning experiences.” Neglect invoked the Wrath of God and every staffer at MGMC knew exactly who God was. The CDC Doctors were exempt only because their arrival coincided with the worst crisis the hospital had ever faced. Mark watched Bane for about two hours before he grudgingly conceded that he might know what he was doing. After that, there were patients to tend.

Drs. Bane and Flagen came armed with two hundred and sixty-two vials of vaccine and antidote, which they immediately administered to patients. Bane told Stern that this group and ten others were part of a small clinical trial, administering only to the worst cases, those who had no other hope of recovery. Mark Stern did not believe in using human beings as guinea pigs, but these circumstances were different enough from the clinical norm that experimentation or prayer were the only two options. Mark had no faith in prayer. These patients had no chance but the test drugs. He had reluctantly agreed to the trial. Not that his acquiescence meant shit. Bane and Flagen had the authority from Washington to do what they damn well pleased.

He detested bureaucrats. It did not please Mark that he was once again answering to Homeland Security. What he found even more unnerving was his reaction to Bane. It started after they had shared a few cups of coffee. If it had been whiskey, he would have sworn Bane slipped him rohypnol and had his way with him. If he had, it wasn’t rape, Mark’s cock twitched every time he looked the CDC goon in the face. And if that didn’t please Mark Stern the doctor, it pleased Mark Stern the alpha male even less. He knew he was bisexual. The gender of his lovers was completely immaterial to Mark. But Mark was commitment phobic and, from experience, had learned to be one suspicious son of a bitch. As a result, Mark was having some difficulty accepting that Bane had gotten his hooks in deep and quick. It felt both right and wrong at the same time and it was driving him nuts. Flagen, he simply disliked. But both were excellent physicians, he had to give them that.

Twelve hours had passed since the trial meds had been administered. All of the patients had experienced some slight improvement. Kidney and liver functions had returned, and those patients who were hooked to respirators now only needed oxygen assistance Vitals were at least in reach of normal ranges and the rash began to retreat. Bane and Flagen ordered all patients to be readied for transport to a larger quarantine facility. Mark didn’t think they were ready. Not that either man asked his opinion. After all, he was only the Chief of Staff. It really pissed him off. He had thought at least one of them would make a pretense of consultation.

Governmental assholes, why had he expected any fucking better from Bane than from any foreign or domestic paper-pushing public health hack? Mark fumed to himself. He hadn’t felt so powerless since med school. The current situation was, in Mark’s mind, weird and out of control. It wasn’t the first time since the epidemic began that he felt that way. This was his specialty. His mind should be making connections. He was missing some vital link, information that would put this riddle to rest. Maybe when his body and mind didn’t thrum with exhaustion, it would come to him. It was imperative that the origin of the virus be pinpointed and dissected. If it wasn’t, it would haunt them again, because it would become resistant to the vaccine and morph into something else. No one was asking questions, at least no one but him. Worse still, no one even tried lying. When the government yokels stopped bullshitting and lying at the same time, the U.S. of A. was in deep waters, playing Titanic. His attention came back to business as one of the first year medical students walked up.

“Dr. Stern, the remaining critical patients are stable.”

Finally, Mark thought. Aloud he said, “I need twenty-five members of staff ready in five to be briefed by CDC on procedure. Take doctors, then physician assistants, degreed nurses, EMTs and first year medical students in that order to make up the number. The remaining staff will attend the cafeteria briefing at 22:00 hours. STAT.” The resident took flight. Mark grinned. He still liked that he could make them do that.

At exactly 22:00 hours, every hospital employee was called to the employee cafeteria for instructions. They all came, secretaries, lab techs, aides, janitors, maids, doctors, and nurses. By 22:15, all of them stood waiting except for Dr. Mark Stern and twenty-five others who had attended the initial briefing. At exactly 22:30, Bane and Flagen took the makeshift podium. The staff stood in awe of the giants from CDC. Drs. Bane and Flagen, flaxen haired with hazel eyes, were as tall as NBA stars but built like linebackers. Every woman left standing, and every gay guy in the house drooled. Bane did most of the talking, and Flagen stood beside him with an air of quiet authority. Despite the crises, the hospital grapevine buzzed and the hot topic was, “Who are these two hunks and why are they at CDC?” Stern’s disdain for doctors who pushed paper rather than treat patients had spilled over to the staff. Stern’s views were on record in a book he wrote about his time with the United Nations. The fact that he offered these two even grudging respect was extraordinary. Yet, no one remembered either Bane or Flagen from medical conferences, where hacks were known to congregate for free meals and golf. Most of the staff shrugged them off as foreigners because of a slight accent to their English; foreign medical personnel came to the United States in droves nowadays. Foreigners at the CDC made sense, so the gossips just left it at that.

Trucks would arrive at 24:00, midnight to the civilians. These trucks would take the critically ill to a central quarantine facility. Trained medical personnel would stay with the patients until they were met by people from CDC. The janitors, maids and other non-medical personnel would help with transport to the ER staging area and sterilize all the newly vacated rooms, putting personal belongings in the plastic bags provided with the patient’s name, social, date of birth, current known address and occupation prior to illness. Dr. Bane had been clear about consequences should a staff member misappropriate any patient’s personal belongings. All of those present would make sure nothing went missing. The threat didn’t need to be overt. Bane’s voice combined with the look on Flagen’s face conveyed menace.

* * * *

At 23:40, the ER was empty. What staff they had was up on the floors or in the cafeteria awaiting instructions. Mark was behind the triage desk awaiting the rest of the team. At 23:45, the elevator doors opened opposite the triage desk, Drs. Bane and Flagen stepped off with as many residents and staff as could fit in the small space. Bink. The second elevator in the bank opened, discharging staff, then the third. At 23:50, the low headlamps of what looked to be a long line of transport trucks in full camouflage pulled up to the ambulance entrance on the east side of the four-block, brick and cement hospital complex. Heavy booted Army Rangers in full battle dress accompanied by huge men in maroon, form-fitting uniforms with knee-high shiny black boots jumped from each truck and lined up to the right of the ambulance doors as if they were awaiting a signal. At precisely 24:00 the ER ambulance doors opened wide.

“Stern,” said Bane, “Come with me.” Flagen followed.

Annoyed, Mark walked alongside the CDC goons.

“Who’s in charge here?” asked a guy with a chest full of fruit salad, a helmet and an attitude.

Mark peered down at the shorter man. Yep, Mark thought, Short, attitude, flunkies on either side...Morgan, he read the name from the bar over his jacket pocket. Four stars and impressed with himself. He stepped forward. Stern had dealt with this particular type of asshole throughout his United Nations career.

“I am…''

“General Morgan,” answered Mark, “I'm Dr. Stern and my colleagues from Homeland Security, Drs. Bane and Flagen.”

“You are aware that we are now under martial law.”

“Yes, it’s all over the net and the airways,” Mark replied with sarcasm. “Emergency services have moved all of the most serious cases in the city to our facility as directed. They are on the floors above awaiting transport. There are two hundred and sixty two here. They all have received both antidote and vaccine. I don’t like to argue with the government, but in my opinion, they need additional recuperative time before being jostled by transport.

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