“A jump gate there is just as good as having one in the Void Lands.” The comment received a collective groan from around the table. The Maur who spoke would be considered attractive with his luminescent silver fur and startingly bright cat eyes if he weren’t such a giant douche.

“You’re just mad that your last hook-up fled to Old Sol just to escape you.” Welp…that escalated quickly. Escaping to a mystical location…quite the burn.

A growled, “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“It means that I think we are all good with your unproductive commentary.” The Hissak isn’t wrong.

Unusual confrontation from an easy going Hissak, but the Maur can drive a skleet to tumble off a cliff, and those bastards are so chill I’m pretty sure they could be set on fire and yeeted into a star and still invite the perpetrator to their burrow for a slice of Grumman cake.

Mmm…cake…looking along the rectangular board table I spot my prize. Snacks. It was the Dorian’s turn to bring them and they think of everything. The Dorian knows a Citza, so you know anything brought in is going to be worth any cost. I’m actually surprised the Citza was willing to provide for this meeting. I look over and size up the Dorian. Highly suspicious. The only situation more suspect is if the Kintar had this kind of spread. Any special favors on that front, and anyone among the Kintar race would be bringing it up for eons.

I’m a Synthetic, not that anyone knows that; a good thing because my created existence is completely illegal. The arrogance of the members in this leadership committee assumes me to be an undetermined half-breed, but it’s rude for them to ask. But beyond rude, the insufferable egos in this room are so intense that no one wants to admit that they can’t place the community I belong to. Frankly, I’m not sure why I’m invited to these meetings. One day I was randomly cornered and asked, but I wasn’t quick enough to come up with an excuse to turn down this obligation.

“What’s wrong with increasing trade among the Terran colonies?” The Terran is spoiling for a fight among the most supercilious collection of creatures to ever be divined from Nix.

“Pffft,” the Maur counters.

“Oh, fur face has something to say?” I love her initiative for tempting possible maiming or death for the express purpose of being a dick to someone who deserves it. I think that’s a personality trait for Terrans. I’ve met a few over the years, and they are all pretty scrappy. What they lack in innate powers and skills, they make up for in innovation, both verbally and technologically.

“I know your issar insect brain didn’t say what I think you did.” That’s a pretty good volley for this particular Maur.

“I’m sure you could figure—”

Suddenly water douses the Maur and Terran. Everyone looks to the Sahaia. She’s never said what her psionoic profile is. Just when we have her pegged, something weird happens that she won’t admit to, but we all know she’s the one fucking with us. The Sahaia takes a moment to look around as though she didn’t just throw a substantial amount of liquid on two people without getting a drop on anyone or anything else…it’s a crowded table, there is shit everywhere and too many bodies clustered together.

“Okay…this meeting is getting a little out of hand—” the Dorian who somehow has become the Chair of this council is trying to mediate, but they aren’t as good at wielding power as other Dorians I’ve seen. It makes you wonder if this Dorian is completely incompetent and someone wanted to brush them off by giving them something to do. The Maur growls at them…because Maurs have a gift for growling when they can’t think of anything impressive to say. The Dorian raises their eyebrow. Most of the people in the room have found out the hard way that it’s not worth a confrontation because incompetent or not, crossing a Dorian is inevitably a bad scene.

It’s not even their psionoic powers. This Dorian is just an evil bitch with a long memory. Predictably the Maur looks away, but he can’t help a low-level grumble. The Dorian doesn’t bother to ask for clarification. Most of us wouldn’t bother. “Now that I have your attention,” the Dorian continues, “I want to impress upon on all of you that joining Terran colonies to the wider Nethraverse is an opportunity for immense profit.”

The Kintar snorts, and I see the Maur lean over much too closely with a smooth and lazy swipe of his hand under the table…that’s brave. In a blink the Kintar takes his hand and pushes the Maur away by his face, and teleports to the other side of the room…harsh. I don’t know exactly what the Maur was doing, and I don’t want to, but I can imagine the need for the Kintar to protect the virtue I’m almost positive he doesn’t have. I guess we all figured out who the Maur’s next romantic victim is, but really this has been an ongoing thing. The Kintar wants nothing to do with the Maur. I don’t know if it’s a challenge to him or what, but he’s just not letting the possibility of this particular Kintar go.

I lean over to the Orchallen, “Hey, can you pass the snacks?” Nothing. I absolutely loath being ignored. The Orchallen totally hears me; he’s just a twat. Mr. Warlord Badass can’t be bothered to acknowledge his “lesser.” Fucking prick. Rich coming from a member of a group that’s just discovering the wonders of technology that everyone else in the Nethraverse has known about from the beginning of time.

“What’s burning?” The Hissak interrupts the meeting that is consistently unproductive and droning.

Everyone is puzzled until they notice the black curls of smoke coming from the coat of the Orchallen. The smooshed orc face only a mother could love glares at me after ripping off his coat that I set on fire. I stare him down, impressive from my sitting position; I refuse to be intimidated by this fuck-wit denying me snacks. I don’t care how large he is. He’s about to do something when the Maur pushes the Orchallen’s shoulder down, telling him not to bother. Fucking right don’t bother, bitch ass. I look around the table not knowing what they all are staring at…maybe they didn’t know about my Pyrokinesis? I suddenly just upgraded my star-cred. If I didn’t spend most of my time avoiding these people outside of these meetings, I’d be more stoked.

“Can I get some snacks now?” A plate levitates over to me…no idea who is responsible, but I don’t care. I’m hungry because I missed breakfast thinking I was going to be late. Should have known. We never start on time; today was no exception. “Thank you.” I scarf food in my face. I don’t actually need eat, but I can taste food and love it…and the other races in the Nethraverse don’t realize that some Synthetics can eat…extra protection for me because I’d be painfully destroyed if anyone recognized me for what I am.

The meeting continues…and continues…and continues some more. Aside from the Terran zapping the Kintar with a jolt of electricity from one of her gadgets that never cease to impress me. I didn’t hear what the Kintar said to the Terran that got him zapped, but those two have a history I don’t care to know about…aside from the ancient history of colonization attempts and war between their races. They have a treaty and stuff, but that doesn’t really translate to interpersonal skills.

I personally think the Kintar has a galaxy-sized chip on his shoulder because he’s a dude and in Kintar terms isn’t taken as seriously as he would be if he were female. I’m actually surprised the Dorian didn’t look at his appointment to this committee as the colossal fuck you that it was probably meant to be.

The Dorian’s voice breaks through my consciousness while I’ve been enjoying my snacks in my own blissful world, “…we are agreed, then, to table this issue for our meeting the next lunar month?” Everyone grumbles and begins to stand before the Dorian can finish their sentence.

I take a moment to appreciate that we’ve been talking about the Terran jump gates for three years now. Even counting the planetary time variations, it’s a long fucking time, and I can’t believe a decision hasn’t been reached. And by saying that I can’t believe it, I very much can. I brush the crumbs off my shirt…gotta love a Citza. That was delicious.

I get up to leave and catch the Maur playing grab-ass with the Kintar. I would be surprised if he wasn’t missing his hand next month. I scoff, not even praying to Tyranus would protect him.

(Image description: empty conference room in space. Small room with a full wall windows looking out to a blue planet. Gray rectangular table surrounded by twelve pushed in gray and silver chairs. Clear upside down water glasses at each seating. Gray carpet with dim lighting. Image credit: Tally Workspace)