(Protectorate Year 500)
Hiya! It is I once more, Soldier Grungel Chara Gree, 3rd Daughter of Soldier Sum Gnat Gree and Worker Tera Bo Waverya, Born of the Velant Spawn Pit on Crown World Oshai.
So… let me just start off by apologizing. I was mistaken in a lot of ways, and I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. Joining criminal syndicates and tricking them to give me food does, in fact, make me a criminal as well. Here’s the story of how I came to that realization.
There I was, in a cafeteria on one of the lower levels of the cave, scarfing down food. Potatoes, cabbages, meat, no matter how much I ate, the kitchen just kept sending more!
“Pfft,” some of the Workers strains rolled their eyes in disgust.
“How come she gets so much?”
“She doesn’t even do anything but stand around all day…”
“Stupid Soldier strains…” I could see the envy in their eyes. Tall, strong, Master’s favored, why would anyone want to be a Worker or a Caster when You made us Soldiers so perfect?
I leaned back on the bench, using my impressive ab muscles to prevent myself from tipping over. I spoke with the classic Soldier grammar to keep their opinion of my intelligence low. “You want know why me get big food? Tell, how much you lift?”
Some of the Workers looked at each other, but it was the same answer for them all. “About 40 pounds…”
I nodded. “Me see, me see… me lift 10 pounds 500 time no stopping! You know what that mean? 10 time 500 is 50,000. That mean me lift 50,000 pound easy.”
Their ears perked in shock horror, while a confident smile crept across my lips.
“Is that possible?”
“N-no… it can’t be…”
“I don’t think the math works, but… she seems so confident. Am I wrong?”
Workers are so dumb, Master. Obviously I can’t lift 50,000 pounds, that’s absurd. Just because I can lift 10 pounds 500 times, that doesn’t mean I can lift 50,000 pounds once! Though, I don’t know what that Worker meant when she said the math didn’t work. Was she just especially dumb?
I continued. “Me strong, me protect cave from heretic. Me get big food in return. Simple economics. You weak, any Worker replace. Small food.”
Even when expressed with horrible grammar, they couldn’t argue with my logic.
“Wait, heretics?” One whispered to her friend, “is she talking about the feds?”
Her friend slammed an elbow into her side, “shh! She doesn’t know we’re drug manufacturers.” Despite trying to whisper, my large ears heard her clear as day.
Acknowledging how they’ve all been lying to me for months would just cause problems though. I pretended not to hear that and continued eating my pile of food. What the chefs served me next was a steaming hot stew cooked with 17 different kinds of meat, seasoned to perfection with a nice, savory taste and a honey-thick broth.
The Workers came and went from the large cafeteria. A flurry of conversations and activity as the predominantly Worker-dominated cave came from or returned to their various drug-related duties. I, meanwhile, sat and ate for what felt like hours.
I raised a mug in your honor, “what a life! Thank you, Master!” Nobody knew the specific context of why I yelled that out, but they understood my feelings and did the same.
“Oh Grungel?” The leader of the cave entered the cafeteria, a polite smile on her face.
“Hm?” I turned to her, my mouth full of potato. “Ogh! Ghigh goss!” (Oh! Hi boss!)
“’Ghigh’ to you as well. Now, Grungel, do you know what time it is?”
I swallowed my food and looked up at the clock. Ten minutes past when my shift started. “Uhh…” I narrowed my brow and stared at it. “Ummm… big hand… is…”
The leader, Worker Vortes Zan Farfarahee, put a hand on my head and ruffled my hair. “It’s a little past your shift, deary. Would you like me to escort you to the surface?”
Giving her my widest smile, I rose to my paws, “sure thing, boss!” That’s why it’s so great, pretending to be dumb. She can’t get mad at me for willingly not going to my post if she thinks I’m too dumb to read a clock.
Before leaving, I grabbed another potato, split it in half, and offered her the other side. Refusing food is a grave insult to we Slavani, so of course she accepted. Once we left the cafeteria, Vortes held my hand to make sure I couldn’t get lost.
The cave was convoluted and featured a lot of twists, turns, and dead ends. Signs often lied to you, and successfully navigation required that you already memorized the layout through years of exploration. Vortes took me down a few wrong turns, but I’m pretending to be an idiot so it’s not like I could correct her.
As she was wasting my time, I decided to mess with her a little. “Hey boss. When me in food-place (cafeteria), me hear Workers talk. Say me not protect from heretics, but from… ‘feds’?”
Her whole body went stiff, “u-uh.”
“Say me think we good guys but we… bad guys? Why say that? We… bad guys?”
She turned to me, grabbing my shoulders to force my full attention. “L-listen! I’ve told the other Workers not to joke around too much in your presence, they’re just messing with you. You’re just a poor, silly Soldier strain who’s easily mislead, and there are loads of people in this world who will try and lie and manipulate you. All you have to do is trust me.” She flashed a nervous smile, “okay? A-and don’t just take my word for it! I give you lots of food, so how can I be a bad guy, right?”
“Mhmmmm… make sense!” But I wasn’t done messing with her, “so ‘feds’ bad guys?”
She couldn’t look me in the eyes. “Y-yeah, something like that…” Suddenly, her brow tightened, “our cave provides a very valuable service to the people of Crown World Oshai!” She took me by the hand and led me to a side room, a storage room full of boxes. She opened one such box and pulled out a small glass bottle. “This is enriched nerve fluid, Huggiggle! Just one small vial and bam, makes you feel closer to Master. It’d be like she’s hugging you, and you won’t be able to stop giggling. Who would not want us to feel closer to Master? Heretics, that’s who!” She proudly puffed out her chest and fluttered her ears, “as far as I’m concerned, we’re doing a public service to the people. Those who would stop us are in the wrong.”
“So we give Huggiggle for free? So everyone be with Master?”
She deflated, her shoulders slumped forward and her ears dropped. “Ah, no. We don’t give it for free, we charge people.”
I raised an eyebrow and cocked my head.
“B-but that’s only cause we need food in order to make Huggiggle, you know? It’s like everyone has to pitch in in order to make the drug available.”
“But… me eat big food. Where me food come from?”
Vortes’ eyes darted around the storage room, she swayed side to side, her wings fluttered in anxiety. She couldn’t admit that she ran this place like a business, and she wasn’t smart enough to think of a lie.
The way her body squirmed in distress, the way her mind sputtered to think of an excuse! Ah, Master, I love Workers, they’re so much fun.
“A-anyway! Enough of this talking, we need to head to the surface and start your shift, right?”
I gave her a salute. “Right, boss!”
The look of relief plastered on her face was so precious.
We reached the top floor and walked down a long hallway to the entrance. There were small piles of sand blown in from the raging storm outside. The cave was built under a mountain, and the exit let out into a vast, windy desert.
I was brought outside. It was still day, but only small bits of sunlight broke through the sandy clouds. The entrance had no door, but was decorated with columns and an etched, triangular roof piece.
“All you have to do is stand here and let merchants through. If they’re a heretic, don’t let them in.” I’ve worked as a guard for months, but she still reminds me what to do everyday. Can’t say I blame her, given how dumb I act.
“How me know if they heretic?”
“They’ll try to show you a badge and demand to be let through. Got a real pompous air about them, like they’re the boss of you. If they got something called a ‘warrant’, kick them out.”
“Got it, Boss.”
So she left and I was alone, free to go about the second best aspect of the job: standing around all day and doing nothing. Merchants and huggiggle-addicts come from all over Oshai to buy our product, and considering how addictive it is, they’ll literally climb over mountains to get more of the stuff.
I never partook as I’ve see what it does to people. Basically, Slavani veins are full of a yellowish-pale nerve fluid, not blood. That nerve fluid carries brain signals to our muscles and organs. You made it so our bodies will generate just the right amount of nerve fluid to fill us to the brim. When you add enriched nerve fluid (huggiggle) to your body, you’re basically overfilling yourself and increasing the pressure higher than what was intended.
While many think that huggiggle is this deeply religious chemical, the ‘warmth’ they experience is really just their veins being stretched like water balloons. The added pressure on their small brains probably gives them delusions that you’re speaking to them.
Supposedly, it feels really good. It would have to, given how addictive it is.
Not long after I started my shift, a small horde of addicts approached from the shifting sands. Easily recognizable from the way they rubbed their arms, scratched, and occasionally spasmed or twitched, it seemed to be a caravan of the poor addicts, probably from the other side of the desert. They all carried boxes or sacks of food, which they’d use to barter for a supply of huggiggle.
“Oi!” I yelled over the wind. “Form a line in front of me or I’ll toss you back into the desert!”
Worker strains crave order and leadership, so they were quick to follow my authority. Coordination is inherent to their very being and there wasn’t any pushing or shoving to get a higher spot. Worker strains truly are servile by nature, just as you intended.
I’d been doing this kind of work for years, longer than I’ve worked for this particular drug den, so I knew at a glance none of these girls would rat us out. I asked their names and what kind of food they brought for payment, then sent them inside. Under the guise of making sure their payment was what they say it was, I always make sure to give a taste test. Just to make sure.
The day dragged on until, off in the distance, I saw a large group. They had large pack animals pulling a cart. ‘Merchant?’ I thought. ‘I’ll have to inspect them more thoroughly.’
But as they got closer, I started noticing some things. Their gait was proud and confident, unlike normal merchants who always sample our product and end up stumbling around like the usual addicts. They also had a few Soldier strains with them too, and I noticed they all wore similar black leather uniform.
Then my eyes rounded, my ears drooped. It was finally happening, the feds arrived and it was my duty to protect the den.
“Oi!” I called out to the Workers who were still patiently waiting to be inspected. “I gotta back off for a moment, if anyone cuts in line then nobody gets in!”
The Workers gasped and straightened up, careful not to accidentally cause a ruckus in line. They’d serve as an effective distraction for at least a few minutes as I high tail’d it outta there!
I’m quite proud of the deception, Master. Drugs are illegal and are an affront to your law. Ergo, me syphoning large quantities of food off this syndicate for ‘protection’, then leaving them to their fate when the authorities arrive is just the kind of deceptive, devious act that your 3rd incarnation would be proud of!
I’ve done this to loads of different crime groups over the past 70 years or so. It’s dangerous to be a criminal, and they don’t have access to spawn pits to create their own Solders for protection. Most Soldiers also don’t want to run afoul of the law, so it’s really hard for these criminals to get protection from the feds, or other criminal enterprises. They’re desperate, you see, and they’re always willing to pay a lot of food for the kind of security I can provide. So, they give me far more food than any other job would, but because I’m not actually a heretic or a criminal, I run away at the first sign of trouble so I don’t actually have to do my job! I’m a genius!
Plus, every group I betray either get’s thrown in prison or doesn’t see me flee, so everyone assumes I’m strong enough to fight my way through the feds and escape. ‘She’s as strong as a hundred Soldiers’ the rumors of me say.
Which brings us to a problem. The cave entrance was built into the side of a mountain range. The feds were closing in, too close that I couldn’t slip by and escape into the sandstorm. The cave had many emergency exits on the lower floors, but how would I get there without being seen? Everyone in the den knew I should be standing guard out front, so if they saw me run away before the raid starts, and they were able to escape as well, then they could spread nasty rumors and make it hard for me to infiltrate the next criminal group.
I needed a cover to get down into the depths of the cave.
I turned towards the hallway, “hey you!” I called out to the Slavani I just let past, “uh, Chance Nonegi Withramite.”
She had been carrying a box of fruit and walking with a bounce in her step, but her whole body jolted to attention. “Y-yes, Grungel? Ma’am?”
I hurried over and looked her up and down, pretending to inspect her. “Something’s wrong…”
“N-no! No ma’am, nothing wrong at all, hehheh. I… I’ve just had a real tough time of it lately and want to experience some of Master’s warmth. To help get back into the swing of things, you know?”
I rubbed my chin, “so you say, but I recognize your face. You’ve been here a lot. You sure you’re not some kind of spy or infiltrator?” I grabbed her bicep at dragged her down the hallway.
“No! Infiltrator?! What?” Chance tried to struggle, but was powerless against my Soldier muscles. “I just want to feel closer to Master, that’s it!”
“Yeah, yeah, a likely story. But I already said you could pass and Master abhors liars,” which is a lie, “so I have to escort you down. Make sure you don’t cause problems.”
“…So I can still trade for a box of Huggiggle?”
Chance’s body relaxed, and she was walked alongside me without a fuss.