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Spaceworms - Chapter 1 - Introductions

PRW Feb 11th, 2015 (edited) 2,652 Never
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  1. [Amon and Apophis - Part 1]
  2.  
  3.  
  4. >In a small desert town, a crowd of ragged villagers gather around a hastily constructed alter.
  5. >A grotesque shape shrouded in robes appears from a cloud of sand and dust, and looks over their offering.
  6. >Making offerings and sacrifices to Apophis is heresy punishable by death; but the Pharaoh and her soldiers are far away, and the Beast is not.
  7. >These wastes are the home of the Demon of the Sands, and those who live here know better than to offend.
  8. >She always inspects the young and the healthy men in her visits. Tradition holds that if she is not satisfied with the offering, she will take people instead.
  9. >Not even the oldest can remember her doing so, but none want to risk it. Even in hard times like these, the people contribute all they can spare in the hopes of appeasing her.
  10. >The hooded figure stops before the alter, but it is the crowd she is focused on.
  11. >Paying no attention to the goods laid out for her, she approaches a gaunt young mother holding a babe.
  12. >A corrupt purple hand with clawed fingers emerges from the robes and caresses the babe's head. The mother flinches but dares not move.
  13. >"Such a wonderful smell. I had given up hope of finding it." The voice is cool and melodious, but those who hear it shudder.
  14. >"You will give me this boy. The rest, you may keep."
  15. >The mother begins weeping but the crowd descends on her, urging her. An elder gently pulls the child from her and presents it to the snake.
  16. >She receives him and holds him to her chest.
  17. >"You will be Amon."
  18. >A small hand reaches up to the creature's face, pushing aside the hood. Many gasp as they catch a glimpse of her face; the tainted demonic eyes, the forked tongue. Her smile sends a chill through them.
  19. >A gust of sand-filled wind blows through town and the demon vanishes, gone as abruptly as she came.
  20.  
  21.  
  22.  
  23. >"Chief Architect Amon."
  24. >The finely dressed young man stops and turns, waiting for the one who called him.
  25. >A tawny Hathorite priestess approaches him, nearly tripping over her own ornate robes.
  26. >"Holly-"
  27. >He stops and gives an apologetic smile at her sudden pout.
  28. >"Sorry. High Priestess, what can do for you?"
  29. >"You changed the layout again. Why? You know you are to consult with me about these things. The alignment of the structures is very important for them to fulfill their religious function."
  30. >"I'm sorry, there was a problem in one of the foundations." He nods and waves a hand to cut off her objection, "I know, I know, I think it would have been fine anyways, but Pharaoh wants them strong beyond reason. The new layout should still satisfy your requirements."
  31. >The priestess gives a huff; and 'impressive' motion with her build.
  32. >"Fine, but tell me first next time, will you? If we keep moving things east the monmument will end up in the river."
  33. >Amon frowns down at the cow woman.
  34. >"I'm sorry, the what?"
  35. >"The what, what?"
  36. >"Did you mean monument?"
  37. >A slight blush creeps into her face. "That's what I said."
  38. >He steeples his fingers and looks at her with a deeply thoughtful expression.
  39. >"Could you say it again?"
  40. >She pouts again, but complies with his request, "Moonum..ent." She falters halfway through and the red in her face deepens.
  41. >"Sorry?"
  42. >"Monumoont" Her face is as red as it can get now. With both tears and a glare in her eyes, she mutters, "stop making fun of me."
  43. >"I wouldn't think of it High Priestess. Again, I'm sorry about the mix up. I have to be going now, you have a good night."
  44. >The pouting cow mumbles out a "night" as Amon leaves.
  45. >As he leaves, Amon walks through the partially completed temple complex, admiring the scale and artistry of the construction.
  46. >He pauses when he sees movement in the shadows.
  47. >Most of the workmen are gone to the tents for the day. Thieves wouldn't be unheard of. The punishment for being caught desecrating religious sites is very harsh, but that just makes them more dangerous.
  48. >Amon quietly walks into an alley between two finished walls, hoping to hide and catch sight of the intruder.
  49. >As soon as he enters the shadows his leg is caught in a vice-like grip.
  50. >He is pulled to the ground and spun about like a doll as a thick, powerful tail coils itself around him.
  51. >When the world finally stops spinning, he finds himself caught tight, covered in coils of iron-hard muscle and scale, staring into the black and gold eyes of the most feared creature in the desert.
  52. >"You are such a bully~"
  53. >He feels a pang of regret for teasing Holly.
  54. >"Well I learned from the best," he grouses.
  55. >The purple snakewoman puffs up her cheeks, a performance in imitation of Holly's ealrier antics.
  56. >"Muu~ So you aren't satisfied with just the cow, now you want to bully me too."
  57. >Amon sighs and rests his face against the side of her neck. He takes a moment soaking in the soothing, mellow smell of her. Several days have passed since he was last able to leave the camp to report to her and receive instructions. Probably the longest he has ever been out of her company.
  58. >"I needed to distract her, I don't want her getting suspicious about the changes."
  59. >He looks up to her eyes and asks, "Why are you here, mistress?" A rather stern tone to use with one addressed as so. "It is dangerous. There are guards here, even at night."
  60. >The snake merely smiles and gently feels his face with one of her clawed nails.
  61. >She ignores his question, staring into his eyes and her coils slowly contract and expand. It has the feeling of a full-body massage, but he recognizes it for what it is - her own peculiar way of feeling anything she has a great interest in.
  62. >He cannot help but blush and look away; her eyes have always had that effect on him. Somehow her gaze always feels so intimate.
  63. >After a time, she sighs and relaxes her grip. She kisses him lightly on the cheek, then rights herself, extending into an upright posture and pulling him to his feet in the process.
  64. >"Come, Amon. I have found a lovely cave system much closer to the city than our home. Try to remember the way; I will remain there for the time being and you will go there to see me instead of trekking all the way to the valley. You should be able to meet me every night now.
  65. >She starts off into the night, slithering through the shadows with Amon following, looking around nervously for guards or thieves - either one would likely go running for the nearest barracks at the sight of the Apophis.
  66.  
  67. >"This feels extremely perverse." Amon says, slowly sliding his hips back and forth.
  68. >His Mistress lays on her back beneath him, stretched to her full length on the soft, sandy floor of the cave.
  69. >She lies limp and still, with a content smile on her face and her eyes closed. He would think she was sleeping if not for her slightly ragged breathing and the way her womanhood clenches around his penis.
  70. >"Do not be silly, Amon," she murmurs. "You are simply helping me relax."
  71. >"I feel as though I am assaulting an unconscious woman." He pauses to let an unusually strong constriction in her flesh pass. She likes to drag these things out; she would not want to finish so soon.
  72. >She shudders slightly and gives a pleased sigh before continuing, "Are you sure you do not simply feel guilty because that thought excites you?"
  73. >The only responses he can come up with to that would leave him open to further teasing, so he remains silent.
  74. >Her constrictions come more closely together as time passes and soon she reaches the point where pauses can no longer delay and extend her pleasure.
  75. >Amon begins to thrust into her in earnest, finally allowing himself to focus on the feeling of it - she insists he climax when she does.
  76. >She begins to orgasm earlier than he expected. To catch up, he forces himself deep inside her, pumping in a strong, irregular rhythm, attempting to match his thrusts to the convulsions of her walls.
  77. >A wet slap accompanying one of his thrusts sends a small spray of her sexual fluids across his chest, finally pushing him over the edge.
  78. >She breathes out softly in satisfaction as he cums inside her.
  79. >When he attempts to shift his weight off of her, her tail wraps around his waist and holds him in place.
  80. >"Stay. Let me feel it a bit longer." Small aftershocks run through her vagina as his penis shifts slightly within her.
  81. >He gives up his hopes of sleeping soon; this is her favorite part and it usually lasts for hours.
  82. >As he settles in to her coils and gets comfortable, he starts to do what he always does during this time: think.
  83. >Amon secretly credits this habit of his mistress for his skill as an architect. He does most of his basic planning and layout work lying in her coils like this.
  84. >Tonight he isn't thinking about buildings, he is thinking about the other dozen or so worries that have been stalking him lately.
  85. >"What am I doing?" He asks the ceiling.
  86. >"Keeping me from leaking all over the place," his mistress murmurs into his ear.
  87. >"I mean with the changes. I have spent all of my adult life and most of my childhood working toward this and I still have no idea as to the purpose of it."
  88. >A soft yellow glow peeks out from behind her eyelids as she opens them slightly to look at him.
  89. >"I'm not telling you."
  90. >"Why?"
  91. >She purses her lips in a pout. He usually accepts her decisions without question.
  92. >"Would you do as I say anyways? Even if it means you are doing something you do not like?"
  93. >"Of course," he responds, surprised at the question, "I would do anything you asked of me."
  94. >A sly smile spreads across her face, and she asks "Because you love me?"
  95. >He pauses before remembering an answer to that question he came up with years ago. "No. Not because I love you. Because YOU love ME."
  96. >It surprises her but she seems pleased by it as well. "The humans should be glad I took you," she whispers. "You would be a heart-breaker otherwise."
  97. >More clearly she says "That is why I won't tell you, Amon. You will do it either way so it won't change anything, and letting you think about it will just torment you."
  98. >He accepts the answer and lets the topic die. It doesn't entirely satisfy him, but he knows it for truth; he had guessed as much long ago.
  99.  
  100.  
  101.  
  102.  
  103. [Morgan and Shai - Part 1]
  104. (format change)
  105.  
  106.  
  107. Lieutenant Morgan Wright apathetically enters his user name and password into his work console. The system chimes acceptance and moments later his monitor is filled with technical data. Clicking a small icon on the bottom of the screen - the so-called idiot button - converts the data into a more easily read graphical interface.
  108.      
  109. Morgan studies the interface carefully, looking for anomalies. After a few minutes, he sits back and nods to himself in satisfaction; nothing exploded, nothing jettisoned into space, nobody trying to plasma torch their way through the station's hull. His job done for the day, he closes the diagnostic program and opens the system's internet browser, to engage in his only compelling hobby: shitposting on anonymous message boards.
  110.      
  111. As he insults another user's fetishes, he thinks over the depressing circumstances he finds himself in. Eight years in university and another six in an officer's training program, learning every aspect of starship engineering and subspace communications, sacrificing his social life and some of his sanity, all to end up as the attendant at a cosmic gas station.
  112.      
  113. Morgan glances out his 'window' - a screen displaying the outside of the station. Familiar bulky grey lines and planes greet him. He should feel some honor for his assignment. The station, and the others in its class, are the most massive structures ever built by man. They capture high-energy radiation emitted by white dwarfs as a form of solar power, using it to produce antimatter to fill fuel cells. Without those cells, deep space travel would be imp- well, inconvenient.
  114.      
  115. Rather than feeling honored, he mostly just feels bored. The station was designed to be entirely autonomous. As the 'commander' he has one job; press the big red button in the event of a pirate attack. The fuel cells are worth millions each, and the stations are intentionally constructed in isolated systems that don't have another form of antimatter production. There are automated defenses of course, but the law requires human input to activate any potentially lethal weapons system. As such, the station must keep a single occupant at all times.
  116.      
  117. The last person Morgan met face to face was a female trucker who used his facility over a month ago. She was grey-haired and looked like an overripe tomato, and offered him 'a quick roll' before she left. He is beginning to regret turning her down.
  118.      
  119. Morgan's one means of combating the loneliness and boredom is the station's subspace communication suite, which allows him to shitpost in real time, without the years long delay of a normal connection.
  120.      
  121. Morgan's fingers pause on the keyboard as he cocks his head toward an unfamiliar beeping. He quickly minimizes his browser and pulls the system diagnostic program back up. He looks through the checklist but everything is green. Tapping a question mark icon, he brings up the sysadmin help screen, which displays all currently detected or recently resolved issues.
  122.      
  123. "Proximity alarm? What the f-" The lights flicker and Morgan slams against the ceiling of the administration office. He attempts to push himself away from it but is pinned to it by what he can only guess is acceleration. After a moment of futile struggling something changes and he crashes to the floor, clipping his head on the side of his desk.
  124.      
  125. He sits on the floor dazed, trying to ignore the dozens of alarms sounding, until a pop in his ears sends a chill down his spine; the room is losing pressure. He pulls himself to his console and checks the diagnostic, but can't focus on the letters and numbers. He taps the button to switch to a graphical representation and nearly shits himself. Three quarters of the station are dark red, a color he has never seen outside of drills. It means a complete loss, no response from the sensors. The rest is all amber, including his tiny admin section. He is about to die.
  126.      
  127. He collapses back to the deck, desperately thinking. An asteroid? Comet? Either should have been detected months in advance by the system. Can't be an attack, it would take a decent sized nuke to destroy so much of the station so quickly, pirates don't have that kind of firepower. Doesn't make sense anyways, the hold was in one of the destroyed sections and nothing outside it is worth stealing. More importantly, how can he save himself?
  128.      
  129. An ungodly screech reverberating through the remains of the station draws Morgans attention to his Window display. The view outside spins slowly; he hadn't even noticed the room was spinning. A surprisingly small debris field is all that is left where the station once was. Too small. He blinks tears of pain from his eyes and focuses on the screen. What he had taken for the blackness of space is an oddly shaped object. As it moves he realizes it is only a small section of something much larger. A ship?
  130.      
  131. No, too big. Way too big. He zooms the view out as far as it will go and gets a better look at the thing. It's bigger than any human ship. It's bigger than the station was, much bigger. It Looks like an enormous, disfigured serpent; an even deeper darkness writhing its way through the dark of space. As it moves the light of the stars behind it shifts and distort in a way that makes Morgan's stomach turn.
  132.      
  133. As Morgan stares in awe at the thing, he notices a bulbous silver spec floating near it. He recognizes it; it's the stations life support module. He spares a moment to assess his condition. That is a mistake: as soon as he lets himself feel his body he realizes he is blacking out. He takes one last look at the beast that killed him before everything goes dark. It almost looks like it's smiling.
  134.  
  135.  
  136.  
  137. Morgan opens his eyes to the sight of the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. Her skin is incredibly pale - it almost seems see-through - and lightly speckled with freckles. Her eyes, her hair, and even her freckles glow with a soft, white light. When she notices him looking at her she smiles and gently cups his face in her hand.
  138.  
  139. "Good morning." Her voice is smooth and slow but she sounds younger than she looks.
  140.  
  141. "Are you an angel?" Still confused, the words pop out of Morgan's mouth before he has a chance to think about them.
  142.  
  143. The woman's smile deepens and she laughs lightly, "You're quite the charmer." The light emitting from her warms and strengthens, illuminating the whole room. Or rather, it's coming from more than one place now.
  144.  
  145. Morgan takes a moment to look around. He is lying on his back in a small room with very unusual and uneven walls. It is lit by small sections of wall that are emitting the same kind of light as is coming from the woman. He turns his eyes on her and pauses, confusion coming back, stronger than before. She is lying atop him naked, and looks to be growing from the floor.
  146.  
  147. "Am I hallucinating?"
  148.  
  149. The woman looks into his eyes and responds, "I don't think so. You seem lucid to me."
  150.  
  151. "Where am I? Who are you?"
  152.  
  153. "I haven't been able to settle on a name. I've been called a few different things over the years. As for where you are, humans don't have an equivalent, but the closest I can think of is the uterus."
  154.  
  155. "Pardon me?"
  156.  
  157. "You're in my uterus. Well, something like that anyways, it isn't really the same."
  158.  
  159. Morgan snaps fully upright. The woman leans back slightly, but doesn't get up. She sits straddling his lap, facing him.
  160.  
  161. "This is a dream, isn't it? I had a nightmare like this once."
  162.  
  163. The woman gives a disingenuous pout and says, "Well now you're just being mean; calling me a nightmare."
  164.  
  165. A silly idea occurs to Morgan. Ridiculous really, but comes out before he can dismiss it. "You're the snake."
  166.  
  167. "I'd say I'm closer to a worm. Then again, I'm not from earth, so I'm not actually related to either."
  168.  
  169. "You're an alien?" Morgan asks, trying to stifle panic. "Why do you look human? Why do you speak English?"
  170.  
  171. The woman smiles broadly at that. Morgan flinches as a small hole opens in the floor next to him. With a wet squish, a small computer display covered in plastic wrap rises out of the hole. It activates a moment later, and the intro to Saved by the Bell starts playing.
  172.  
  173. "Is that a TV? How...I...I think I'm having a stroke. Or a brain aneurysm or something." Morgan jumps as he feels a twinge in his toe.
  174.  
  175. "You're fine," the woman says, patting him comfortingly on the shoulder. "Perfect health according to WebMD."
  176.  
  177. Morgan leans around the woman too look at his foot and sees a small fleshy white tube attached to his toe. "What is that?"
  178.  
  179. "Ahhh. Well~ it's actually kind of hard to keep cavities in my body filled with oxygenated air. Oxygen and I don't really get along in some ways. It's a lot easier on me to just produce small amounts of it a add it directly into your body. More efficient too. The air in here is mostly just nitrogen. I'm also supplying you with all the minerals and organic compounds and what not your body needs, so you don't need to worry about starving or dehydration."
  180.  
  181. Morgan freezes and stills his hands, fighting the urge to reach over and rip that thing off his toe. Not out of fear of offending his 'host', but out of the realization that it would probably kill him if he did. "That is very interesting."
  182.  
  183. "Isn't it?" She smiles. "Where was I?"
  184.  
  185. "The TV," Morgan says calmly. In his head he is desperately attempting to convince himself it's just an IV, no different. There are not a bunch of air-headed little worms crawling around his innards. Just an IV.
  186.  
  187. "Ahhh, right," She claps her hands together. "So years back I ate a few of these little things, I later learned they were deep-space communications relays. I didn't know that then though. So I ate them and there was a bunch of neat little stuff inside, so I interfaced some of it with one of my tertiary brains and I started getting these weak signals. I grew out one of my dorsal spines and remodeled it a bit into a comms antenna, and all the sudden Ive got cable. After that I figured out how to work the subspace router I found and I made one of my other tertiary brains into one and boom! High-speed internet!"
  188.  
  189. "You just... 'figured out' how to use subspace communications equipment? And replicate its functions with organic material?"
  190.  
  191. "Yeppers!"
  192.  
  193. "I've wasted my life."
  194.  
  195. "Hey, don't say that! You'll make your parents sad or something."
  196.  
  197. "What the hell are you?"
  198.  
  199. She pauses for a moment, drumming her fingers on her lower lip.
  200.  
  201. "Sorry, the way I worded that-"
  202.  
  203. She raises a hand and cuts him off, "gimme a sec, I'm googling it." After a long pause she looks up and asks him, "Have you ever read Lovecraft?"
  204.  
  205. "Nevermind."
  206.  
  207. "What? but-"
  208.  
  209. "No. Thank you for checking, but I no longer want the answer to that question." As she pouts he says, "Instead, can I ask what you intend with me? Thank you for saving me, but why go to the trouble when you're the one who attacked the station in the first place? Did you not know it was occupied? Why DID you attack it? And what do you want with me?"
  210.  
  211. He silly expressions melt away and she says seriously, "I attacked because you were there. I wanted you."
  212.  
  213. "Why?" he asks again.
  214.  
  215. "You are going to be my husband."
  216.  
  217. "...what?"
  218.  
  219. "I'm very old. I do not know exactly where I come from, but I think I am the only one of my kind, or maybe the first of my kind. For most of my life I reproduced asexually. I have had young, but they never stay with me long, and I've never had a mate. It is a very lonely life. When I started listening in on your people's entertainment and communications I fell in love with them. They are very different from me. So I made a few changes, so that I could accept one of you. So I would never be lonely again. I've spent nearly a century finding an ideal match."
  220.  
  221. "Me? I'm nothing special."
  222.  
  223. "Perhaps, but I like you. I think you can understand me well, with the life you've lived. And the songs you wrote in your diary are wonderful. Cheesy and lame, but wonderful."
  224.  
  225. "You hacked a secured military system to read my diary?"
  226.  
  227. "Yes. Which is why I also know you are a pervert. That was another reason I chose you. I tried to make myself as close to human as possible, in form and function, but I am still very different from you. I figured somebody with fetishes like yours was my best bet."
  228.  
  229. Morgan blushes. The thought of a potential romantic interest looking through his browser history is somehow the most disturbing part of this situation.
  230.  
  231. "Alright," he says. "But I just realized something and I have one more question. It's very important."
  232.  
  233. "Ok, ask" she replies.
  234.  
  235. "Why is my penis in you?"
  236.  
  237. The woman's expression becomes very neutral and after a short pause she says, "I need to create an interface with your body to supply you with oxygen and other-"
  238.  
  239. "Isn't that what the thing on my toe is for?" he interrupts.
  240.  
  241. She glances at his foot then back to his face. "I was checking your temperature."
  242.  
  243. "With your vagina?"
  244.  
  245. "..."
  246.  
  247. "..."
  248.  
  249. "I was having sex with you."
  250.  
  251. "While I was unconscious..."
  252.  
  253. "I'm sorry. Do you want me to stop?"
  254.  
  255. "You aren't done?"
  256.  
  257. She holds up a hand with five fingers spread out, "Five more minutes, tops."
  258.  
  259. Morgan sighs and lays back, thinking to himself; this is what I get for complaining life is too boring.
  260.  
  261.  
  262.  
  263.  
  264. [Amon and Apophis - Part 2]
  265.  
  266.  
  267. "No! You can't move the arch! That's the most important part!" the priestess shouts, hunched over and panting for breath.
  268.  
  269. Amon can't stop himself from giving her a sour look. He had walked quickly, hoping to lose her; with her shorter legs she needed to run to keep up. Hathorites almost never run in public. Their robes are made from a light and airy cloth, bleached as white as possible and tailored to fit closely to their bodies. The garment serves its purpose - making the priestesses appear both holy and motherly - but it also makes quick movement an embarrassing and uncomfortable prospect. The robes of the High Priestess are much more ornate, but with the same basic design and the same drawbacks.
  270.  
  271. Holly shoots a glare at Amon as she steadies herself. Every exposed inch of her beads with perspiration and a tiny pool of it has already formed in her cleavage. Her outfit is already hanging heavier on her and it will look positively scandalous in a few moments. She likely knows that, and from her scowl she intends to hold Amon responsible for any harm to her dignity.
  272.  
  273. Amon merely shakes his head; it's her own fault for being out of shape.
  274.  
  275. Pharaoh's Chief Advisor, Caureus, stares at the two through the space between her fluffy digits as she massages her temples. She sits behind a desk piled with scrolls and surveying equipment, with dark shadows under her eyes.
  276.  
  277. "What are you two on about now? What's wrong this time?" the golden furred Anubis demands.
  278.  
  279. Amon clears his throat but Holly cuts him off. Drawing herself up, and jiggling slightly, she addresses the Anubis, "He wants to move the arch to the western side of the main building. It's supposed to be on the eastern side! The arch is meant to direct the worshipers' praise toward Pharaoh and the Pantheon; switching sides directs it AWAY from them!"
  280.  
  281. Caureus holds up a hand and addresses Amon, "Before that, what's wrong with the current site?"
  282.  
  283. Amon looks to one of his subordinates standing a good dozen paces behind Holly and himself. The grizzled man looks away sheepishly.
  284.  
  285. "Do you have something to contribute, taskmaster?" the Anubis asks.
  286.  
  287. The man reluctantly steps forward and bows his head to her. "My fault, Advisor. I should have seen it weeks ago. There's a huge vein of blackstone running through the bedrock. It'd pass right under the arch. I would swear on my mother's grave it wasn't there yesterday. I don't understand it, my eyes must be going bad. But none of the men noticed it till today either!"
  288.  
  289. Amon shakes his head. "They probably didn't want to rock the boat. Relax, man, everybody makes mistakes. We aren't here for blame; we're here to find a solution."
  290.  
  291. The taskmaster bows and steps away, giving his superior a grateful nod. Amon feels a prick of guilt.
  292.  
  293. "I don't see the problem," Holly chimes in. "The builders told me the site is stable regardless."
  294.  
  295. Caureus grumbles crossly to Holly, "You would know better if you didn't devote all of your time to a lesser god."
  296.  
  297. Amon winces at that. It's technically true, but still an insult. Holly's face twists in anger and she opens her mouth to reply but the Anubis interrupts.
  298.  
  299. "Forgive me, that was inappropriate. I haven't been sleeping well lately."
  300.  
  301. Holly backs down and folds her arms under her breasts, muttering a stiff acceptance.
  302.  
  303. Caureus continues, "Blackstone is a symbol of the Abomination. According to Pharaoh's priesthood it is benign, but there are dozens of horrible superstitions about it. Most believe Pharaoh instructed her priesthood to lie to prevent a panic every time a pebble of the stuff turns up. The important thing is that she has banned any religious structure from being built within ten paces of any deposit too large to be moved."
  304.  
  305. The cow frowns. "So it isn't really dangerous, is it? Couldn't we just cover it over with tile? Perhaps we should consult with her on this; she may be willing to make an exception in this case."
  306.  
  307. Caureus shakes her head, "The arch must rest on bare bedrock."
  308.  
  309. "Ah. Yes, of course." Holly flushes. Aside from it being Pharaoh's order, it's also one of the things Holly has been insisting on. The arch supposedly cannot fulfill its function otherwise.
  310.  
  311. Caureus goes on, "This temple complex will be the greatest of all monuments; an enormous and everlasting testament to Pharaoh's glory and power. To have a symbol of her most hated enemy clearly visible beneath the sacred arch is out of the question. As for consulting her..."
  312.  
  313. The Anubis trails off and Amon asks with a concerned voice, "The headaches again?"
  314.  
  315. Caureus looks at him sharply, "You are not supposed to know about that. Neither of you are."
  316.  
  317. Holly and Amon glance at each other awkwardly. She was the snoop, but he was the one who instigated the snooping. He had already known from another source, but needed confirmation - not that he told Holly that.
  318.  
  319. Caureus sighs, "Holly is right, though. We cannot move it. The only thing I can think of is to quarry it out."
  320.  
  321. "That vein could be miles deep for all we know," Amon counters. It would certainly end up miles deep if they tried to dig it out, he thinks to himself. "There is an easier way to deal with it. All we need to do is construct the arch on the western side of the complex, then change the orientation of the interior of the main temple building to match" He holds up a hand to forestall Holly as she tries to interrupt. "Which side it is on does not matter as long as the glyphs in the main temple building match the positioning of the arch. We just need to reverse them all. The masons haven't started on them, so it will only take a day or so of redrawing that section of the plans to get everything lined up right."
  322.  
  323. "That will not work," Holly objects.
  324.  
  325. "Why?" Caureus asks. "It sounds reasonable to me, Holly."
  326.  
  327. "I...I-I don't know. No, I do know, I mean..."
  328.  
  329. Amon sighs and mutters, "You do not need to oppose the idea just because I'm the one who suggested it."
  330.  
  331. "That's not it! It just, I don't know, it doesn't feel right. My mind is just in a fuzz suddenly. There's a good reason, I just can't think of it."
  332.  
  333. "You've given yourself heatstroke," the Anubis declares. "Guardsmen, bring water for the priestess."
  334.  
  335. "What? No, I'm fine, really. Hey!" Holly jumps as Caureus flicks one of her nipples.
  336.  
  337. "Look at yourself, you're covered in sweat. You might as well be naked."
  338.  
  339. The cow looks down at herself then goes beet red and raises her arms in an attempt to preserve her modesty.
  340.  
  341. "Amon, go back down to the site and start making the necessary changes. I'll take care of the priestess."
  342.  
  343. Amon bows and turns to leave, ignoring Holly's protests. He steps out of the large tent and pauses, looking down on the path below - a beaten trail, winding back and forth down the hillside under a blazing sun. With a sigh, he sets off.
  344.  
  345. After several minutes of walking he comes across a hunched old woman, struggling up the hill.
  346.  
  347. "Ma'am? Do you need help? There is nothing up there but the overseer's post."
  348.  
  349. "How kind of you to offer assistance, handsome stranger," a familiar voice replies. "You should be careful though, a good-looking boy like you might be led astray by someone with wicked intentions." The woman looks up at him with slitted, golden eyes and smiles; revealing a set of long, thin fangs.
  350.  
  351. Amon sighs. He had almost been expecting it from the oddity of the sight, but he still feels exasperated. "I thank you for the warning, but I fear it came far too late for me." He takes her hand and helps lead her back down the hill, playing along with the illusion.
  352.  
  353. "Oh Amon, how cruel of you. You wound my heart so, and after I brave the elements to come visit you at work."
  354.  
  355. "Why ARE you here, in the middle of the day? Wait, was that you? The thing with Holly just now?"
  356.  
  357. Apophis drops her act and nods. "Yes, and that also answers your first question."
  358.  
  359. "You knew what she was going to say," he realizes. "Mistress, if she can see it someone else might too. If the effects of our changes are becoming that obvious, even if you keep interfering-"
  360.  
  361. "Our cover won't keep much longer, I know," She finishes nonchalantly. "Amon, think for a moment. Why is it I can come here in broad daylight and talk to you? Why is it I can make your men see black rocks where there are none?"
  362.  
  363. Amon stops in place and stares at his mistress. "The guards should have seen through this. Your illusions are getting stronger."
  364.  
  365. "Close, but not quite," she giggles. "What was it your men raised in the central plaza yesterday?"
  366.  
  367. "The obelisk? But we didn't do anything to it."
  368.  
  369. A sly smile spreads across her face and she leans in close to him. "All we did was get them ahead of schedule in the one section that needed to be kept behind." She playfully flicks the tip of his nose with her forked tongue.
  370.  
  371. Amon jumps in surprise which sets off her giggles again. Rather than look around to make sure nobody saw, he just keeps staring at her. He has never seen her so...giddy.
  372.  
  373. After getting herself under control she takes on a lecturing tone laced with mirth. "Pharaoh's temples and shrines serve many functions; some spiritual and symbolic, some practical. One thing they do is disseminate her power. The main obelisk receives her grace and spreads it across the heavens," she pauses to snort. "The others, the obelisks in the shrines and temples, collect this grace and impart it to the faithful. That's the official story anyways; mostly what happens is it gives her a limited control over them and access to their excess mana. The only benefit they get out of it is protection against the horrible demon," she stops to roll her eyes.
  374.  
  375. "When your work crews took the main obelisk from the old temple, it cut all of her followers off from that protection. They installed it here, but until Pharaoh consecrates the new location it is just a useless hunk of stone. And the poor baby is so infirm she refuses to leave her bed," Apophis chuckles. "Arrogant fool. She goes to great lengths to protect herself from magic, but she disdains mundane things like poison."
  376.  
  377. "That is something that worries me," Amon says. "She will recover eventually, or someone will figure out what is happening. What then?"
  378.  
  379. Apophis allows her true face to peek through her illusion for a moment and gives a ravishing smile. "You leave that to me. Everything is in place now, just get the construction completed. The only ones you need to watch out for now are the ones that never relied on Pharaoh for their strength. The jackal has power of her own, and the cow gets hers from a different god, directly. That's why my interference earlier didn't work very well. I will help with them, but be wary. Pharaoh herself could still ruin everything, but unless she decides taking a stroll down to the construction site will soothe her woes, she shouldn't get the chance."
  380.  
  381. She settles back into her illusion and starts merrily skipping down the path, like a young girl rather than the aged grandmother she appears to be. "I have been scheming against that wench since before this nation was born, Amon. But I'm going to win this time. I'm finally going to win!"
  382.  
  383.  
  384.  
  385.  
  386. [Morgan and Shai - Part 2]
  387. (tense change)
  388.  
  389. Morgan shifted uneasily in his 'Captain's Chair'. The irregularly shaped chamber that was his new home had been decorated with a collection of fleshy furniture. His nightmarish La-Z-Boy sat on a small dais surrounded by empty book-shelves. Clusters of delicate bio-luminescent lattices and tassels hung from the ceiling in convincing imitation of chandeliers. A large bed was hidden in an alcove, partially blocked from view by a shroud of some semi-transparent membrane that his host insisted was 'romantic'. She had provided everything, forming it from her own flesh. It was all extremely comfortable, but had a tendency to sweat - or maybe salivate - whenever she became excited.
  390.  
  391. Morgan's host - his new girlfriend - was draped over his arm, staring at the side of his head. She had been locked in that position for more than an hour now. Morgan tried to distract himself from his unease at the situation by watching her face. Her small glowing freckles slowly dimmed and brightened at random, sometimes flaring brightly for a few moments before fading away. It was soothing to watch, and enhanced her beauty.
  392.  
  393. "Are you sure this is completely safe?" he asked for the forth time.
  394.  
  395. "You're the one who said you wanted to be able to see outside," she replied, keeping her gaze steady. Her hands continued their meandering exploration of his chest and shoulder. That was a habit of hers; whenever she was distracted she would begin to caress his body, prodding at him and feeling along the curving lines of his muscles. Any attempt to dislodge her would be met with pouting.
  396.  
  397. "I was thinking something like a window or a view-screen, not...whatever it is you're doing."
  398.  
  399. "Windows don't work very well in space, Stud-muffin."
  400.  
  401. Morgan gave her a wry grin and repeated, "Stud-muffin?"
  402.  
  403. She ignored him and continued, "as for a screen, anything I made would be blurry and have a lot of image lag and distortions. I could use one of my salvaged monitors, but I would have to figure out how to convert what I see into something the electronics can read. I've never tried that so I don't know how long it would take. This is easier."
  404.  
  405. "And you're certain you don't need to cut me open, or stick anything in me?"
  406.  
  407. "I already have enough of my cells in your bloodstream to do what I need to, I just need to guide them into place."
  408.  
  409. That thought didn't agitate Morgan as much as it would have a few days ago, but he still didn't like thinking about it. "I'm surprised my immune system isn't going ape-shit."
  410.  
  411. "Ah...well, about that," her freckles glowed brighter as she blushed, "I may have altered it a little bit to prevent it from reacting to me. I had to, it would be nearly impossible for you to survive in here otherwise."
  412.  
  413. Morgan sighed and went back to studying the worm's face. After a few minutes of it an idea occurred to him. "How about Akiko?"
  414.  
  415. "No."
  416.  
  417. "Why not? That's a good name. It's sexy."
  418.  
  419. "No it isn't. Stop trying to name me after old lady characters."
  420.  
  421. Morgan looked away before saying, "I don't know what you're talking about."
  422.  
  423. His girlfriend's eyes flickered to him before settling back in their previous position. "Wait," she said. "Have you ever even watched Kanon? Or played the game? You haven't, have you? You just like the name because of that doujin series."
  424.  
  425. "What's a doujin?" he asked innocently.
  426.  
  427. "Are you forgetting I've been watching your browser activity for years?"
  428.  
  429. He grimaced and dropped the subject. Rather than forgetting it, he had blocked it out. The thought made him want to hide under his bed.
  430.  
  431. After another stretch of silence the worm finally broke her stare and said to Morgan, "I think I've got it."
  432.  
  433. Morgan looked around waiting for something to happen. When nothing did, he turned back to her, "I don't feel anything. Nothing seems different."
  434.  
  435. "Try to imagine looking at stuff outside, looking through my eyes."
  436.  
  437. He closed his eyes and did as she said. Minutes ticked by and nothing changed. "It isn't working. I don't really know what I'm supposed to be-" He cut off as he was staggered by a wave of dizziness. He saw a burst of lights in his head and the world seemed to split into a hundred images. He recoiled, pulling back from the strange sensation, and it disappeared.
  438.  
  439. "Are you alright!?" Morgan heard his girlfriend shout. He opened his eyes and found himself pressed into her breasts. His chair had shifted forward and caught him, holding him around the middle with it's armrests.
  440.  
  441. "I'm fine. It wasn't that bad, just surprised me." He watched his chair relax back into it's previous shape before cautiously sitting down on it. "I didn't know it could do that."
  442.  
  443. "It's part of me, I can make it do whatever the muscles and ligaments in it allow. Try the buttons."
  444.  
  445. "Buttons?" he asked. She pointed to a series of small squishy nobs growing out of the pale white flesh of the chair arm. He had avoided touching them before since they...well, they looked like nipples. Curious, Morgan reached out and pushed one in.
  446.  
  447. "Ahhnn!" The worm contorted and let out an erotic moan.
  448.  
  449. Morgan gave her a flat stare, expecting this to just be a joke at his expense, but then the chair began to twist and vibrate, pushing against him and giving him a massage. "Alright, that's pretty clever," he chuckled.
  450.  
  451. "Isn't it?" She replied with a smile. She leaned in close and continued in a conspiratorial whisper. "If you want I can even grow a hole on it and have it give you a 'special' massage." She broke into laughter.
  452.  
  453. Morgan watched her with pursed lips, wondering if she was serious in the offer and how she would react if he accepted. Eventually her mirth faded into worry and she asked him with concern, "Do you want to try again?"
  454.  
  455. He nodded. "Yeah, I know what to expect this time."
  456.  
  457. "I closed all of my outer eyes except one; that should make it less confusing."
  458.  
  459. Morgan closed his eyes and tentatively reached out in the same way he did before. A single image of the darkness of space formed in his mind. He opened his eyes and struggled to keep the image from overlapping with his own vision. After a few minutes of practice he was able to see both simultaneously without getting confused. "I think I've got the hang of this."
  460.  
  461. "I'll start opening my other eyes, tell me if you need me to slow down."
  462.  
  463. As his view of the outside increased, Morgan gave up trying to look everywhere at once. He had to focus on a specific object to keep his bearings. He picked out a bright group of stars and locked his attention on them.
  464.  
  465. "Don't try to control the eyes; it won't work and you'll confuse yourself. Let the images come in and try to sort through what you're getting."
  466.  
  467. All of the excess information faded into the background and he was able to get a clear image for the first time. He slowly moved his focus to another star near his group, then another, and the images began to blend together. He made his way slowly across the sky, getting accustomed to this weird way of seeing.
  468.  
  469. He spent several hours practicing, trying to ignore the distracting sensation of somebody squishy cuddling against his body. As his skill increased he noticed he could do more than see outside; he could feel the weightlessness of space and even smell...something. "Why can I smell? Or, I guess I mean how can you smell? Shouldn't that be impossible in space?"
  470.  
  471. The muffled reply came from the vicinity of his chest. "Nothing impossible about smelling in space. There's still stuff out here, it's just far apart. What you're smelling now is the cloud of dust we're in. Just be glad we're too far away now to smell the wash from the star your station was orbiting. That stuff is vile, and it gets worse the closer you are."
  472.  
  473. Morgan started scanning the worm's vision for Alpha Eridani. He hadn't thought to look for it but it should be the easiest landmark to pick out. Now that his mind was working, another question stuck out to him. "Why is there gravity in here?"
  474.  
  475. "Sorry, I can't explain that one. I know what does it - it's a big round organ in the bottom half of my abdomen - but I don't know how it works. It's one of the oldest parts of my body; I've had it for as long as I can remember. I've thought about taking a peek inside a few times, but I'm afraid I won't be able to put it back together right and it's a really important part of keeping my body running."
  476.  
  477. Thinking over the mysterious functions of the worm's body, Morgan shook his head and gave up on his search. "Where IS the star my station was orbiting? I can't find it."
  478.  
  479. The collage of images in his head shifted as several of the eyes supplying them moved to focus on one particularly bright star. "It's that one."
  480.  
  481. Morgan stared at the star, dumbfounded. "How the hell could you move so far away so quickly? It must be at least a light-year away. Do you have a hot-wired warp-drive strapped to your ass or something? Come to think of it, how do you move at all? You're a giant worm and there's nothing to dig through in space."
  482.  
  483. "There's space," she giggled in response. "I just wiggle my way through it like a worm wiggles it's way through dirt. I'll show you, watch. I stopped moving to give you an easier time seeing stuff, so we've been drifting for a while."
  484.  
  485. Morgan watched as the world through the worm's eyes lurched. The stars twisted and distorted, their light kaleidoscoping in a nauseating display. Suddenly most of her vision went dark as her eyes were shut. Only a single image remained, this one almost sensible though it still looked like something out of Star Wars.
  486.  
  487. "I shut all except my horn-eye. That one looks directly in front of me, so it's image is the least distorted. You can only see because we're going slow; when I pick up the pace everything goes black. I can't keep that up for long though, since I can't really tell where I'm going unless I've been there before."
  488.  
  489. "This makes no sense," Morgan muttered. "This goes against everything I know about physics."
  490.  
  491. The view outside went back to normal and the worm opened the rest of her eyes. Morgan could not recognize any of the constellations in the blackness, and all of the landmarks and objects he had picked out earlier were gone.
  492.  
  493. "I think it has something to do with my scales," the worm replied thoughtfully. "If I just wiggle around without trying to move they don't do anything, but as soon as I try to move they start sucking up energy."
  494.  
  495. Morgan considered for a moment. "The amount of energy it should take to rip through space-time like that is obscene. I can't imagine any biological organism managing to produce it."
  496.  
  497. "Oh, I don't have to worry about that, I've got a little star in my tummy."
  498.  
  499. Morgan finally reached his quota for absurd, laws-of-physics-violating insanity and pulled away from the worm's senses. He focused on his own eyes and found her cuddled into his lap, looking up at him happily. "Run that by me again?"
  500.  
  501. "It's what I need my gravity thingy for. I eat a lot of light gasses and my innards pump them all to my gravity thingy and it smushes em all down into a little star. That's where I get most of my energy from. I can turn it off if I need to, but it takes a lot of strength to start it up again and I can't do much with it off, so I try not to."
  502.  
  503. Morgan stared at the worm with a blank face. She seemed to be waiting anxiously for a response, but his brain had decided to call it quits for the day. After a few minutes of fidgeting, the worm looked up at him with a pouty frown. "Well? Isn't that neat?"
  504.  
  505. Morgan stared at her a moment more before replying, "Yes. It's very impressive."
  506.  
  507. She smiled and nudged his shoulder with her head, watching him expectantly.
  508.  
  509. He complied with her suggestion and gave her a gentle pat on the head. She giggled in response and nestled back into his chest with a content sigh.
  510.  
  511. Morgan now fully understood what this creature was. She was God's practical joke on the universe. What a fucking troll.
  512.  
  513.  
  514.  
  515.  
  516. As Morgan stumbled through the uneven passage, his eyes kept drifting to the woman beside him. She had admitted her feet were mostly for show, and her uncertain steps attested to that. Most of her weight was supported by a column of thick fleshy tubes, like tentacles, running from her back to the ceiling. Morgan watched as the ceiling slowly shifted around the base of the column, pulling it forward at a pace matched to his movement.
  517.  
  518. He pointed to the shifting flesh above her. "Doesn't that hurt?"
  519.  
  520. She followed his gesture with her eyes before shaking her head. "Not as long as I'm careful. I'm not damaging anything, just pushing it aside for a bit. I do this all the time. I can move my core anywhere between our love-nest and my mouth. My big mouth, I mean. Well, anywhere within reason; I need an empty space to fit into and soft flesh to move through. Of course, even then there are some places that are a bad idea, like the stomachs I use to process rocks and metals. I don't fancy the idea of suicide by self-digestion."
  521.  
  522. Morgan had to laugh at that thought. "It would be a pretty embarrassing way to go. Would that actually kill you, though? Just losing this part." He reached out and poked her side.
  523.  
  524. She jerked away with a giggle before putting on a perplexed expression. "I don't know, actually. The brain in my core is the primary, so it might. I tried to build in some redundancy, but there's only one way to test it and I'll never get the chance if I can help it."
  525.  
  526. Distracted by the conversation, Morgan walked into a damp, pillowy wall. The worm jumped and let out a muted gasp as Morgan recoiled. After taking a quick look at what he had run into he cast a suspicious gaze at his companion. "What's this?"
  527.  
  528. She cleared her throat before responding. "We're here. This is the entrance."
  529.  
  530. Morgan glanced at the 'door'. "The wreck of my station is in there?"
  531.  
  532. She nodded. "Whenever I eat something that looks neat I keep it in here to look through before sending it to be digested. It's totally safe; it isn't a stomach or something, it's just storage space. You've already been through here once, you were just unconscious last time."
  533.  
  534. "Why does the door look like a p...like a part of a woman's body?"
  535.  
  536. "It's just a normal valve. I've got hundreds of them." She kept her face smooth but a slight blush crept into it. "It's nothing sexual, really."
  537.  
  538. "How am I supposed to get through an opening this small?"
  539.  
  540. "Don't worry; it's stretchy, just force your way in."
  541.  
  542. Morgan watched her quivering lips with a flat expression. "I know what you're doing."
  543.  
  544. "What I'm doing?" she asked innocently. He could see the outline of a dimple forming on her cheek despite her straight face.
  545.  
  546. He turned back to the door with a sigh and resolved to ignore whatever further jokes she made. He dug his hands into the soft flesh around the opening and pushed it back, widening the hole enough for him to see through to the other side.
  547.  
  548. "Nnnn!"
  549.  
  550. Morgan resisted the urge to glare at the worm and continued, widening the hole as much as he could manage then climbing through head-first.
  551.  
  552. "Ahh! Be more gentle! You're so big!"
  553.  
  554. With one of his legs still hanging from the hole Morgan exhaled violently, breaking into laughter. He tried to tug his leg the rest of the way through but it caught on something. He felt a tug on his toe and looked down to see the little tether the worm used to keep him supplied with oxygen was holding him in place.
  555.  
  556. "Oh, let me get that," the worm said. She reached down to pull the tether off his toe and push his foot through before disappearing behind the door. Confused, Morgan spread the door open again to see an empty passageway. As he was looking through, the floor beside him split open. He stumbled back in surprise as his friend rose out of the split. She fished the tether out of the writhing mass behind her and reconnected it.
  557.  
  558. "Why couldn't you just bring me through the ground with you?"
  559.  
  560. The worm looked at the door. She frowned in thought for a moment before replying, "It wouldn't have been as funny?"
  561.  
  562. Morgan rolled his eyes and looked around at the room he found himself it. After taking a moment to adjust to the dim lighting, his jaw dropped. Spread out before him was one of the largest scrap-yards he had ever seen. Piles of equipment lie between satellites and pieces of structure, some from his own station. In the distance he could make out the distinctive silhouette of heavy cruiser, seemingly still intact. Much of what he could see was clearly not of human origin.
  563.  
  564. Gaping in amazement he turned to the worm. She winced and muttered sheepishly, "It isn't usually this bad. I haven't gone through it in a while."
  565.  
  566. Morgan took to the display like a kid in a candy store. Since his tether could only stretch out to a dozen meters or so before it became too long to work properly, the worm had no choice but to be dragged around as he explored. She watched with amusement as he spent hours digging through piles of junk like they had gold hidden in them. Eventually she reminded him of their purpose and the two went looking for the remains of his living quarters.
  567.  
  568. They found that particular section of wreckage easily enough, with small help from the worm's memories and more from the bank of sensory organs embedded in ceiling.
  569.  
  570. Morgan climbed into the gaping hole the worm had torn in his quarters in her efforts to reach her prize. The inside was as messy as he expected, but most of his belongings looked undamaged. He began packing a duffel bag from his closet with everything he wanted to salvage, but quickly realized he had more than he could carry. His companion offered a solution, summoning long tentacles from somewhere in the dim expanse to carry the larger objects back to Morgan's new living space.
  571.  
  572. After handing his personal PC off to a tentacle, he reached under his ruined bed to retrieve his chief treasure. The old aluminum chest was dented, but a look inside confirmed the safety of it's contents; a large collection of ragged paperback novels. He had most of them in electronic format on his PC as well, but he had always loved the smell and feel of a real book. He ran his eyes over his collection and one title stuck out to him.
  573.  
  574. "Shai," he said aloud.
  575.  
  576. His companion turned to him in confusion. "What?"
  577.  
  578. "For your name. What do you think?"
  579.  
  580. "Shy?"
  581.  
  582. "S-h-a-i."
  583.  
  584. She chewed her lip for a moment in thought. "I like it. It's pretty. Where did you get it from?"
  585.  
  586. He kissed her on the forehead and smiled, "Serendipity."
  587.  
  588. She smiled shyly and looked away, fingering the spot he had kissed.
  589.  
  590. His smile widened and he commented, "I see it's an appropriate name."
  591.  
  592. She blushed and frowned at him awkwardly. "It's the first time you've done that on your own. I was just a little surprised."
  593.  
  594. He chuckled to himself and hefted the chest full of books.
  595.  
  596. Morgan exited the wreckage and was about to ask Shai which direction to go when an idea occurred to him. He reached out to her senses and began sorting through the deluge, focusing on anything he could find that felt internal. He was soon looking down on himself from above, with a clear view of the path to the exit. He set off with a smug grin. Shai caught up within a few steps and started interrogating him about what games he had on his PC.
  597.  
  598. Morgan only payed halfhearted attention to the conversation. Now that he was connected to Shai's senses, he could feel something off about the cavernous space they were in. There was an odd itchy sensation in places. He couldn't pin it down until a sharp jab of it stopped him in his tracks. He frowned into the shadows. "What is that?"
  599.  
  600. Shai, who had been watching him in confusion, suddenly stiffened. "What is what?" She asked with a nervous laugh.
  601.  
  602. Morgan raised an eyebrow at her and walked in the direction of the irritation. She followed him, protesting. After about fifty feet, Morgan turned a corner and nearly walked into something that looked like a dog-sized spider mixed with a metroid. The creature was sitting next to a large, inflamed sore in the hard flesh of the floor, and was eating at it's edges. When Morgan came to a stop it paused and looked up at him. The two stared at each other in silence until a massive tentacle extended from the ceiling and crushed the creature into the floor before seizing it's remains and dragging them away into the darkness.
  603.  
  604. Morgan stared after it for a moment before shouting, "What the fuck was that!?"
  605.  
  606. He turned to Shai and found her crimson, blushing more than he had ever seen before. She looked at him and started babbling. "It's just a tiny little infection. They just showed up one day. I have very good hygiene, I swear! It's just, I need a lot of different elements to repair parts of my body and grow new stuff, and some of them are really rare, and maybe if I find an asteroid or something with heavy elements in it I don't look closely enough before I eat it. I'm not a slob or something, I mean who would expect eggs to survive on an asteroid? That's just silly. Those should be safe! I wouldn't have-"
  607.  
  608. When Morgan noticed tears building in her eyes he hugged her into his chest and started patting her head to calm her down. "Hey, it's not a big deal, right? I caught Athlete's foot once, back in basic. This stuff just happens to people sometimes, nothing you can do about it."
  609.  
  610. She hugged him back and nestled her face into his chest. He glanced down at the smear left by the parasite and asked, "Can't you just do that to all of em?"
  611.  
  612. She shook her head and mumbled into him, "They can trick my senses somehow. I only found this one because you were looking at it and whatever they do to trick me doesn't seem to work on you. All I have to go off is the irritation I feel when they bite."
  613.  
  614. Morgan's eyes widened. He hadn't realized their shared senses worked both ways.
  615.  
  616. "Ahhh!" Shai shouted. She was looking at the sore the parasite had made. "That little bitch was stealing my cum!"
  617.  
  618. "Say what now?"
  619.  
  620. "That's my spooge duct!" She pointed at something inside the sore. "It takes your cum from my pussy and pumps it to my eggs to fertilize them. They ate a hole into it! Those cunts are eating my seed!"
  621.  
  622. "Um, ew."
  623.  
  624. "Those fucking NTR fleas! That's it, I'm torching this place. Once we get out of here I'm filling it with stomach acid, I don't care how bad the heartburn is!"
  625.  
  626. "Whoa, hold on now, lets not do anything rash." Morgan thought of all the neat stuff he found earlier being digested. "Isn't there another way to get rid of them? I haven't even gotten a look inside that cruiser yet."
  627.  
  628. Shai frowned at the hole, thinking. "I guess since I know you can see them now we can just hunt them down. They aren't hard to kill, just hard to find."
  629.  
  630. "Let's do that, then. Hell, it might even be fun."
  631.  
  632. She mumbled acceptance and Morgan walked back to the path out. The rest of the journey was uneventful, though Shai managed to slow them down a good deal. After mumbling to herself for a while about slutty lice she climbed onto Morgan's back and wrapped her arms and legs around him. He tried to get her off but she refused and settled in to a jealous pout. He carried her piggy-back the whole way. Fortunately, with her tentacle column supporting her weight she wasn't much of a hindrance.
  633.  
  634. After returning to their room, Morgan started sorting through his loot. Shai watched him at first but became distracted. By the time Morgan finished he realized she was being unusually quiet. He asked her what was wrong but she didn't respond and continued to stare at nothing. When he tapped her shoulder she jumped in surprise. She looked at him with a shocked expression and said, "I...smell something."
  635.  
  636. "You said it was normal to smell things in space. Why are you so surprised?"
  637.  
  638. "We're moving too fast. I shouldn't be able to see or smell or feel anything from outside when I'm moving like this. I'm not really in space right now. Well, I am, but...I don't know how to describe it. But I shouldn't be able to smell anything but myself."
  639.  
  640. Morgan looked through the worm's senses and confirmed what she said. There was only blackness outside. He tried to reconcile what she was describing with his knowledge of physics. That had proven a pointless exercise in the past, but this time the answer came to him quickly. "We're in a wormhole." Shai looked up at him and he quickly added, "I didn't mean that as a pun. I think we're actually in a wormhole."
  641.  
  642. She nodded thoughtfully. "That makes sense. I've never really given it much thought before. This has always just been 'fast' to me."
  643.  
  644. Morgan focused on her senses again for a moment. "I don't smell anything out there though."
  645.  
  646. "I don't think it's really a smell. I think my brain is just interpreting it that way."
  647.  
  648. "Shouldn't I be able to sense it either way?"
  649.  
  650. She shook her head. "I only linked you to the senses you have an analogue to. I thought you wouldn't be able to process anything else."
  651.  
  652. "You have other senses?"
  653.  
  654. "Several. I don't understand them very well except for the ones I made myself, like the subspace antenna. I learned most of what I know about myself from human science, so I don't really have anything to go on to figure out stuff humans don't have."
  655.  
  656. Morgan puzzled over that. If she was confused about something he couldn't even sense then there wasn't much he could do to help her figure it out, but what could she possibly be sensing from inside a wormhole? "What does it smell like?"
  657.  
  658. "Um...purple?"
  659.  
  660. "It smells purple?" He repeated.
  661.  
  662. She nodded.
  663.  
  664. "Can you tell where it's coming from?"
  665.  
  666. "I think so."
  667.  
  668. Morgan considered. The desire to be a space explorer was what originally got him into his field, and even if things didn't go as planned he still had that desire in him. "Want to go check it out?"
  669.  
  670.  
  671.  
  672.  
  673. [Amon and Apophis - Part 3]
  674.  
  675.  
  676. Amon stepped into the main sanctum of the Old Temple. The woman he had come to meet was already there, waiting for him. He quelled his unease and approached her.
  677.  
  678. "Advisor," he called out. "Why did we need to meet here instead of in your tent? Construction is nearly finished and I don't like leaving the men unsupervised when they are doing such delicate work."
  679.  
  680. The Anubis watched him approach in silence. As soon as he was within arm's reach she seized his head and gazed intently into his eyes.
  681.  
  682. After a moment of frozen panic Amon realized she was feeling through his mana. Something had roused her suspicion and she was checking the person most likely to be subverted. He used one of the tricks he learned from Apophis to force himself to blush, then looked away from the Anubis's eyes. "Uh, Carrie, you know I think well of you, but um...I mean I'm not really...I don't know, in the market? Not that you aren't a lovely woman! It's just..."
  683.  
  684. Her hands jerked back as if burned and her posture went even stiffer than usual. A blush suffused her face and she protested, "That isn't what...I-" she coughed to clear her throat, "We had to meet here because the new temple is not yet consecrated and I do not want unsavory magics interfering. You are very lucky, Amon. Holly's mind has been tampered with and I suspected you to be a victim as well. I supposed she thought you were not worth targeting, or maybe that it would be too obvious."
  685.  
  686. "She?" Amon asked. "Who is 'she'? Who could do such a thing? Holly is the High Priestess of Hathor."
  687.  
  688. "Apophis," Carrie replied.
  689.  
  690. Amon winced and quickly looked around before whispering harshly to Carrie, "Do not say that name out loud, it is bad luck!"
  691.  
  692. The Anubis gave him a wry grin and responded, "I didn't think you were the superstitious type."
  693.  
  694. "I'm an architect," he grumped. "I know better than to take unnecessary risks, no matter how small they are."
  695.  
  696. She nodded back passively. "I have no proof it is her, but given everything else it is the only answer that makes sense."
  697.  
  698. Amon frowned. "You call me superstitious with one breath then speak of a children's tale villain as if she were real with the next."
  699.  
  700. "Oh, she is real, I assure you. She has been unusually quiet for the last few decades but before that she was causing problems with annoying regularity."
  701.  
  702. "And you're certain she is the one who did something to Holly?" Amon asked doubtfully.
  703.  
  704. "You said it yourself - Holly is the High Priestess of Hathor. Apophis is probably the only person capable of manipulating her by force like this. Unless you think Pharaoh is trying to sabotage her own temple."
  705.  
  706. "The temple?" Amon's eyes widened. "The problems. I have been thinking from the start that there were too many." Carrie nodded in confirmation. "Advisor, Holly was against every change I made. If I had payed her any heed we would still be laying the foundations."
  707.  
  708. "I know," she said grimly. "It's clever, really. The priestess should have been able to overrule any human, even one with your authority, and she is much less likely to be suspected. But Apophis did not account for your stubbornness. Her other subterfuge was more successful."
  709.  
  710. "What other subterfuge?"
  711.  
  712. She dropped her voice low and whispered, "Pharaoh has been poisoned."
  713.  
  714. "Poisoned!?" Amon yelped. "How!? Is she alright?"
  715.  
  716. "She will be, with time. One of the royal chefs was bitten. We have him isolated now but once he realized he was discovered he went mad and nearly killed one of the guards. The withdrawal hasn't started yet but I think it may kill him."
  717.  
  718. "Why would the abomination try so hard to stop the construction?"
  719.  
  720. "I don't know, but with Pharaoh weakened it is imperative the temple be finished soon; she will not fully recover until it is. How is progress? How long do we have left?"
  721.  
  722. "A few days." Amon paused to consider. "Four, I think. Four at most."
  723.  
  724. "Good. I will leave you to it."
  725.  
  726. "How is Holly?"
  727.  
  728. "Well enough. The other priestesses are caring for her. I do not think she was harmed beyond a little confusion." The Anubis paused and turned a concerned eye to Amon. "Perhaps you should sleep here tonight. It would be safer."
  729.  
  730. "Ah," Amon said, a blush returning to his face. "Well, that is a kind offer, thank you, but I'm sure I'll be safe. She would have gone after me by now if she intended to. Have a good afternoon, Advisor." He spun and quickly walked away, tripping slightly over an uneven tile.
  731.  
  732. Carrie stared after him in puzzlement for a moment before suddenly shouting, "Wait! I didn't mean in my room! I meant one of the guest rooms! Amon!"
  733.  
  734. He was already out of sight and no response came. She stood in the silent chamber for several minutes, blushing profusely and complaining to herself about arrogant men misunderstanding things.
  735.  
  736. Outside the temple Amon whispered into the broach on his shoulder, "Did you hear?"
  737.  
  738. "Yes," the smooth voice of his mistress replied. "I'm so glad I went to the trouble of teaching you 'crown approved' magic," she chuckled.
  739.  
  740. "Is this a problem?"
  741.  
  742. "No. They figured it out right on time. Everything is going to plan. In four days Pharaoh's kingdom will be mine."
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