This was a day long in coming. This was the day that cadets miraculously became soldiers. This was pass and review, when the greatest warriors would stand before their charges and take the oath to defend their worlds from all that would threaten them. They had trained for years to harness their abilities, getting worshiped for their abilities was just a fringe benefit, and an awesome one at that; just like living forever. Granted, everything that lived could get killed, but for them there were no "natural" causes.
The stands of the Capitol sports complex were full of cheering throngs waiting for the girls to march into the parade field below. Giant screens in the background showed the power of the hosts, as well as the standard recruitment rote, though there was little need for it, every girl that could become a host did, the Coalition demanded it.
Sageet Aten, Senior Edun instructor entered the Edun VIP booth, a little later than she intended. This booth was at the top of the extreme left of the stands, the small section set aside for their species. The section of the field below was where their training groups would stand. The booth was purely functional, there were no chairs, the instructors were never in residence long enough the need them. But, there were a few small tables that once had snacks. However, like locusts had visited, the plates were picked clean, not even enough crumbs remained for vermin.
The rest of the instructor corps were already present, the ceremony was due to begin in a few moments. The other women greeted each other and talked quietly. Sageet chose to bypass the social zoo. She was in one of her moods, and they were slow to pass. She walked to the railing and gazed over the arena, hoping her despondency would pass, usually did once she started to interact.
Sageet was tall by Edun standards. Her blood red hair inspired as much awe as fear. Though she considered herself a very reasonable person, most avoided her. It may be because a host can kill a normal person with barely a thought. Maybe this was why the men she courted, seldom sought hosts, relented only out of fear, or morbid curiosity. Besides that, the men that did care would grow old while she would remain forever young, it was no wonder moods lasted longer these days. That was an untold curse of the symbiote.
As always, the weather service had ensured the sky was a crisp blue-white, with no clouds. The temperature was also kept at a relaxed 40 degrees above freezing for the comfort of the majority of the species present. Those that liked it warmer would bundle up.
High above, in a tighter orbit around their star, Aten, than the habitation ring on which they stood, panels orbited to create a night and day sensation. The panels also collected power and acted as the major spaceport of the parsec, if one knew where and how to look, they could see interstellar ships coming and going. The habitation ring also slightly wobbled off center to the star, to ensure seasons, for the most part, it took care of itself. Much as its designers intended.
As the march began, she drew her attention back to the rank and file and watched for a moment as the cadets precision marched below. The first to enter were the most numerous of the armed forces. The first to enter were the proud women that represented the Kaxar Khanate, sometimes known as the Cougars. These cat people were the shock troopers of the Coalition. They believed in honor above all else. To them, Clan was the most important obligation, for this reason, they had never been very expansive, until the Ansaii introduced them to the galaxy. Fortunately, their ideas of honor and clan prevented a massive expansion.
Theirs was a massive world of archipelagos, with islands so large they were like small continents. The eccentricity of its tilt meant it had no ice caps, every piece of land was super habitable. Their star, a "K" type brown dwarf, was still rather young for its kind. The fact that it was a super habitable world meant that there were predators of all kinds, and so, they evolved to love competition and strength.
The Kaxar were a long lived race, much longer than Edun, and so these girls were barely teens by comparison. But, while still considered children in the eyes of their people, though they were still the most powerful of all the ladies present. Just like any other race, the symbiotes that gave them the power could only bond with women, and so they were the proudest that could ever be, as few seldom got to ESMAF category in their armies without a symbiote. Their fur had been meticulously cleaned and brushed, their uniforms were well starched and handsome. They marched in perfect synchronicity, not a step was out of phase. Honor demanded no less, in fact, the last year of their training was devoted to this day.
Each of the young warriors had the medals they had earned in their schooling and specialist medals to denote that they were now considered ESMAF, elite multi adaptive fighters, the highest category for warriors their people had, and they just joined, they could not hide the smiles on their snouts.
After the Kaxar stopped and came to parade rest, the second largest group entered the grounds. This was a group only 2 thirds the size of the Kaxar hordes. These tall reptiles, the Bruish, were the strategic planners of the Alliance. Though they could not, and wouldn’t if they could help it, hold their own toe to toe physically with Kaxar, they generally out ranked them in the combined military, strategy was just more important than brute force when it came to interstellar war.
They were simple lizards, and did not believe in frivalties. They did like to take their time, but when motivated they could beat cheetahs. Their uniforms were simple and utilitarian. There was nothing that had less than two purposes. They didn’t even wear medals, choosing instead to only display their personal coats of arms, the only "frivolous" and colorful thing in their wardrobe. Their marching was as meticulous but less showy than the Cougars.
With skin tones of purples, greens, browns, and blues, they really looked like clones to the other races, and that is the way they liked it. They were by far the longest naturally living races, lasting on average 500 rotations. For this reason alone, they didn’t mind long machinations that others would forget about. (don’t think they did not use this to their advantage whenever possible)
Next came the last of the original three that the Byrds had incorporated into the Covenant; the Vahley, they were called the Caribou by the others. They were the third most numerous in the alliance. Those with symbiotes were normally used by the corps of engineers as they were best used as workers. They were all decorated in bright colors, their antlers were festooned with silks and scarves, they were the most important women in their society, so they were entitled to all the bright and shinies they wanted.
Hailing from a snow ball world orbiting a brown dwarf on the brink of losing its life, the Ansaii had put in place a weather regulating device that kept the planet as cold as they had grown to like it, but prevented all the life from being expunged. Excavations of their ice ball revealed great wonders, there were even cities made only of the "steel" ice native to the world’s poles. These people were fans of making things that lasted the test of time, and would readily follow anyone with a plan, and that turned out to be the Ansaii saviors.
Then there was the parade of minor members of the council. They mixed more readily than the other races, as their numbers were so small on the galactic stage, that if they wanted a say, they had to work together. They included: the Ulgregon or Apes, the Utesh or Fruit bats, the Dontrai or Flamingoes, the Peonai or Doves, the Isshmire or Eagles, the Grontrlal or Tarantulas, the toodail or Toadies, the Unai or Unicorns, the Doshi or Dodos, and finally the kroyin. Some found it a bit odd that the majority of sentient races were avian, but that was the way of it.
After the parade of second tier members, there were Sageet’s people, the "Monkeeys," or more properly, the Edun. Created by the byrds to supposedly fight a war they could not win, and that no one else believed was coming, when their first version of bio weapons, the first iteration of the symbiotes went bad. The race name Edun even means "victorious ones."
Numbering a just a few hundred in this training group, they were actually the work horses of the alliance, but still not very powerful in the Coalition, on the surface at least. When the byrds flew the coup, it was the Edun that delved into their sciences and fashioned a working society from the ruins. Even though the other races knew this, they refused to acknowledge it, and the smartest of the Edun used this to their advantage, and kept the others on the line, through any means, (usually sedition), needed.
A strange confluence of the races, Edun liked bright clothes and metals and some even stuck to the shadows, blending in but somehow apart. It was with a great sense of pride that Sageet looked over their ranks, she had a hand in training each and every one of them, something that the other races just could not do, due to the numbers involved.
Now Sageet stood tall in the booth, her dagger, or five person team, had fallen into ranks with her as the marching began. To her right, stood her second in command, Nami Giri. She was short and her yellowish skin and small almond eyes set her apart from the rest of the team. She was also the most well versed in ancient languages. The skill was taught to all, but as the byrds had developed a device, called an auto translator, any race could use their own language and talk to any other, assuming the language was on file.
Nami was a simple woman, not prone to excess. She was the least likely to get upset over anything, and was least aggressive. Timid as she was, she had never expected to be a host, but the symbiote in her head had manifested traits uniquely suited to her. And so she accepted the role as galaxy defender, but there really was no choice in the matter.
To Sageet’s left was Amitzu Khan. She was a head shorter than Sageet, her long hair was epic black, and her darkly tanned skin as a bit rough, more like a man’s than a woman’s. She did not really care about keeping her skin soft and supple like other girls, she was a warrior, and was going to live forever anyway.
She had grown up knowing she was going to be a host. She enjoyed beating up anyone that deserved it, like bullies, that’s how she kept herself from getting in trouble for her excessive and excessively violent, random fights.
Then there was Ramira Aster. Skin not as dark as Amatzu’s, she was often called light brown sugar by her assorted acquaintances. She believed in live and let live; while more than capable of killing, she only resorted to that when ordered, or as a last resort.
Coming from a family of pragmatists, she could have been perfectly content to live her short life on the farm world she had been born on; but she accepted the government’s call and enjoyed the fact someone else had to feed her now.
Last was Caster Bailey. Platinum blond and an attitude that had the whole dagger in trouble on multiple occasions. She was a man hater and wanted people to know so she didn’t have to rip their nuts off. Though she did not start out that way, the week before she was to be implanted, she was brutally accosted. Though those responsible were apprehended and delt with, she was forever changed by it, and swore she would never be in that position again, and help prevent any woman from the like as well.
“Gods, will this guy ever shut up?” She groaned as the speaker of the stellar Coalition droned on and on about how their new assets would be treasured by the Alliance.
There always were too many speeches and grandiose words. The audience didn’t care, their metabolism was normal, they did not have to consume twice their body weight a day just to stay alive. For a host, though, especially a young one, it was torture.
This was the second man to take the mike since the parade had stopped. The aerial recording drones buzzed the stands and ranks capturing the moment for news and posterity.
“Cas, mind your attitude, this is live to the whole alliance…” Sageet sighed, glad the cameras were seldom on this booth.
“Fuck’em all, who needs them?” Caster scoffed.
“We do, in case you forgot, Cas.” Amitzu laughed, “As Hosts, we wouldn’t be able to find enough food on our own to survive.”
“Unless all we did was search,” Nami grimaced as her stomach growled, “But he is going over the time, Geet, There’s a whole mess of hosts down there that haven’t eaten in three hours, it’s dangerous to do that to an Edun, let alone the Cougars…”
“I’m sure he’s almost done.” Sageet soothed, “We always make sure they overstuff themselves for this, you should have too.”
“Hey, they’re starting the oath.” Ramira pointed out, “Won’t be long now.”
“…The coalition welcomes our newest assets.” The Councilmen concluded, “We are honored to call you hosts of The Stellar Coalition.”
The army of women were dismissed, the Kaxar left in an orderly, stylized fashion, the Bruish were controlled, the Vahley followed the leader, and the tier two races filed out. Amongst this activity were the Edun, they left en-masse, like always.
“Another successful class.” Sageet sighed, turning to the others.
She was widely regarded as the most beautiful of the Edun. It was no wonder she had been the face of Edun host recruitment for going on ten solar cycles. She moved toward the door, and the others, dagger 4B6, fell in step behind.
“What are your plans for your vacation?” asked Nami, as she followed out the door.
Like all the structures of the great ring, the perfectly smooth blue-white construction ceramic walls all had Veemee posters, or pictures created by microscopic projectors on the walls surface projected centimeters above the wall itself, that were constantly changing to suit the most senior person present.
“My plans, Nami,” Sageet smiled as pleasant memories filled her head, “Are the same as always.”
“After fifty rotations, can it really be that much fun to lie on a beach doing nothing?” Caster scoffed.
“That’s the point Cass, I just want to do nothing with my time off. What are your plans?” She chuckled.
On the ring the only soft things were the cushions of furniture, the rest was shiny ceramic, or plots of land where plants could grow. Some of the acreage was quite large, with enough "made to be natural" area that one could think they were on a primitive world, if they ignored the distant view of the ring angling off to the sun. There were quite a bit of square kilometers on the surface, and more below. More land than could really be settled in lifetimes.
The dagger made their way through the building’s interior, around some "gardens" toward a private area of the arena where they could be themselves; basically eat constantly and talk around full mouths. Though, right now there was no one that would really notice.
“Well, apparently I came highly recommended as a translator for 5th dialect written Ansaii,” Nami shrugged.
The Ansaii were known for their unnecessarily complicated language that had ideograms, letters, numbers and assorted other symbols, just because. They had 10 known written dialects, each more random and confusing than the last, the tenth was known as scientific and only one in a few trillion could recognize it, let alone master it, usually Bruish, but sometimes a board host of other species. The Ansaii actually made certain that some of their dialects didn’t end up in the auto translator databanks, and to this day they still are not.
As always the walls constantly updated with images, both still and moving to suit the tone of conversation, or advertisements. Like anything else, this was so commonplace that they would only notice if the pictures were not there.
“I know you don’t like being part of a fighting team.” Sageet intoned, “But we are a dagger. We may not be a combat unit currently, but were still not supposed to be on different worlds.”
The door to their private lounge opened at their approach, like all doors, it was connected to the net, as was their personal tablets, and they talked to each other. This way, doors never had to be manually opened, which was viewed as barbarian. It also helped with security, if your weren’t allowed in an area, it would not open for you, you might not even know there was a door there.
“Got that covered, lead,” Nami was excited despite herself, she could finally do what she studied 6 dekarotations ago, “This is actually an Ansaii knowledge vault in the asteroid Vingmar, it’s in this system!”
“That’s great, Nami, congrats, hope you have fun, I know I wouldn’t.” Sageet shrugged.
The room was spacious, five cozy chairs around a clear top table piled high with all manner of snacky foods. A large curved bay window dominated the far wall, with a majestic view of the ring and a far off "ocean." The girls sat down and chowed down for a few moments before the conversation continued.
“You doing anything exciting, Ams?” Caster asked of the closest thing she had to a friend, around a mouthful of high density, cheese flavored protein chips.
Amatzu swallowed her own food and quickly chugged some beef flavored broth, “There is a company calling itself Fractured Realities, they claim they have a VR game that can even beat a host, I plan on proving them wrong. How ‘bout you, Cass?”
"I promised I’d keep an eye on my youngest sister’s family, while she was on her death bed. Well now, her great, great granddaughter, Melissa, is having trouble with her self-defense and I get the impression she may also want to train to be a host, so, I’m heading to Nancore Srita, the other side of the ring, to contribute or whatever.”
“It's winter over there, right?”
“Yeah, but I don’t mind. The worst part is the bullet train ride, it leaves in the morning, and I’ll be on five straight cycles of bare bones rations. It’s going to suck.”
“It's been a while, what did your sister die off?” Sageet asked after swallowing a bite of burger.
“Old age, Lead.” Caster returned, a bit confused, “Like your first boyfriend.”
“I actually married Steve, He divorced me at 70 because he couldn’t keep up, asshole. You doing anything, Ram?”
“I have a few cousins coming in from the farm, we’re going to see the sights, it’s going to be awesome,” Ramira harrumphed sarcastically.
“We really should be certain before we go, Lead, how long do we get this time?” asked Nami around a mouthful of high density protein chips.
After consulting a flexible, yet firm, data pad she withdrew from her pocket, Sageet chugged some protein rich liquid, “Five decirotations, a bit longer than usual, guess our numbers are a bit high.”
They all made notes on their own pads, and inhaled almost happily. A host can never eat enough to be full, they are constantly hungry, a result of the symbiote in their heads. Though they could get almost satisfied, the feeling could never last, they just burned through calories too fast.
Now that they were close to that point they were not completely focused on food, they looked casually around, for the first time taking in the space and any new pics or adds that maybe on the wall.
“Whose poster is that on the door?” asked Sageet suddenly getting up.
The team grabbed a few handfuls of food and followed the leader to look at the oddity, which none actually saw until now.
On the door was a decoration depicting a black haired woman in glowing armor with the words, ‘Edun: solving the galaxy’s problems for 8000 rotations’.
Nami smiled and stuffed some bread in her mouth, “That’s mine, lead, guess you don’t have a preference there.”
“You realize.” Caster remarked, “If some other race sees that, we’re all in deep.”
They all gave Caster the ‘Should you really be saying that’ look. She responded with a ‘Like fuck I care’ look. Finally the looking match subsided and they continued.
“That pic’s presets are pretty low, probably not going to happen.” Nami shrugged meekly.
“Happened now, didn’t it,” Sageet sighed.
“Hey,” Nami defended, “It’s true, the Byrds did make us, Edun, specifically to solve their problems…”
“Lead, how many other races come here?” suggested the cocoa skinned Ramira, “Especially when we’re here.”
“You have a point, Ram.” Sageet sighed, “Let’s finish our snack and get out of here.”