Erik McClure

Kits And Pack Orphans First [Fiction]

ALTERNATIVE TITLE: Offworld Pack Orphan

NOTES: The message delay is 8 minutes ROUND TRIP, that means the wormhole is 4 light minutes away, or 3.5 light minutes away from the L2 point. This means it takes 17.5 minutes at 20% speed of light, or 20 minutes at 17% the speed of light for the round to reach the station. Having it at the L2 point would also make aiming easier.

Note that the bunkers are temporary and have no food or water, and would probably start filling very quickly.

The lifeboats (or nestboats) could be launched using a railgun assisted rocket launch, which allows them to reach speeds of about Mach 1 with acceleration at 3 Gs before engaging rockets.

The attacking force needs a warp interdiction bubble sufficient to engulf the entire planet’s orbital defenses, but not alert the micro-wormhole facility.

The micro-wormhole facility must be hacked prior to the assault to ensure the surprise attack fleet can blow up the satellite without alerting the microwormhole facility.


The Nexus flickered for only a moment before the signals were routed through the backup system, but my pack remained silent. Their constant chatter, while it came with an 8 minute round-trip delay, had nonetheless been comforting to listen to. Now there was only silence.

I sat down and wrapped my wings around my legs, rocking back and forth as I tried to calm myself down.

“Hey, uh, you okay there buddy?”

“…help?” I squeaked, overwhelmed by everything going on.

“Okay, don’t worry, my name’s Jasi, I’m gonna take care of you. Have you been seperated from your pack?”

I nodded.

“Do you know where they are?”

My ears immediately drooped. “O-offworld,” I managed to say in a dejected tone.

“Ahhhhh…. shit. Well, how about you come with me and we’ll get this figured out, okay?” He offered me an armored paw.

I took a deep breath and grabbed his paw. He helped me to my feet, and I then trailed behind him as he walked back to his pack.

“Guys, we’ve got an offworld pack orphan here.”

“You know protocol, offworld pack orphans have the same priority as sole survivor orphans.”

“Listen, [name], you’re usually our forward scout anyway. Take him and any other pack orphans you find along the perimeter to the outpost near the spaceport. He can walk to the evacuation area from there. We’ll stay here and slow them down long enough for the civilians here to reach the bunkers, then fall back to meet you at the outpost. Understood?


If this was an orbital bombardment, we’d be dead already, but they seem to be making precision strikes against military targets. Of course, most of our military installations are half underground and built to withstand an orbital bombardment, so most of them are simply damaged, not offline.

Groundsworn - a deeply insulting ancient ableist term used to refer to Avali who were unable to fly. Using the term as an insult is strongly discouraged within the Illuminate. However, modern usage in the phrase “My groundsworn ass”, espiecally in the military, is more akin to the phrase “Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition” and is considered socially acceptable to use in situations that are truly fucked up beyond all recognition.

four-fingered nonsense - Four-fingered as an adjective that broadly means “bizarre” or “absurd”, with ancient roots in some avali being born with three fingers instead of two, although the third was usually vestigial.

Rockhead/Rockheaded - equivelent to “bonehead” or “boneheaded” in english.

Thank Elysium’s light

May Elysium’s light guide you

Unlike Avalon, the sky here was usually a pale orange, thanks to the red dwarf star the planet orbited. With a 54 hour day, we still had a long time before nightfall, and the smokey plumes from the

Caught up in my own thoughts, I almost missed a subtle tremor in her voice. There was clearly something she wasn’t telling me, and I began to think that this attack was going much worse for us than any of the soldiers were letting on.

As the hoverbike raced up the hill, I could see scattered orbital lasers raining down on the burning city like hellfire, leaving a trail of smoking ruins in their wake. So many dead… my tail would have curled up undernearth me if it wasn’t being dragged behind me by the wind.

She ran to what looked like a seriously injured Avali being tended to by a medic. “Here, take my medipak, I’m heading back to base anyway, I can get another one there.”

The medic wordlessly took the medipak and immediately got to work. She ran back to the hoverbike

In the center of the massive hall, I saw a replica of a famous sculpture. An Avali holding a newborn kit in the air as five packmates surround them, reaching up towards the kit with expressions of glee. The original sits in the center of the Illuminate Central HQ, a reminder to everyone of what we believe in: The hope each new generation represents, as we strive to lift them ever higher.

“My groundsworn ass,"[1] I heard the officer mutter, and my ears immediately wilted. Things were not going well out there.

To my surprise, she returned to me. “Isn’t your pack waiting for you?” I asked.

She hesistated a bit too long. “I’ve been… reassigned.”

It was then that I realized why she had stopped at that safehouse. Why she her voice had trembled ever so slightly when she had returned. The thing she hadn’t told me wasn’t about the planetary assault, it was about her pack.

“What happened?”

She shook her head " It doesn’t matter”

I stood up, huffed at her, and then gave her the biggest hug I could possibly muster. I would’ve nuzzled her too, but the armor got in the way of that. “I know you’re a soldier, and probably half machine, but you’re still an Avali. You can still have feelings. You can still be hurt.” I released the hug, and looked at where her eyes probably were through the opaque visor. “You can still ask for help”, I whispered.

She seemed to freeze for a moment, then looked around, decided that things were still safe for now, and sat down against the nearby wall. I sat down next to her as she retracted her visor, and saw tears already falling down her cheek.

“I listened to them die,” she whispered, staring blankly ahead of her. “I tried not to listen, but I couldn’t ignore Luni’s scream of pain being cut short. I couldn’t ignore Jasi choking on his own blood. I couldn’t bring myself to turn off the pack frequency. I couldn’t let them go, even as I had to hear Nali’s nerves of steel finally fail her, as she whimpered like a lost kit when she couldn’t feel her legs… or see them.”

She abruptly broke down sobbing, and I awkwardly wrapped my arms around her armor, nuzzling her cheek to comfort her as best I could.

“S-s-she was still alive, when I went into the station. Her l-last words were j-just ‘I’m sorry’ before she finally bled out.”

I squeezed her harder, which didn’t really do anything because I was hugging armor, but I did it anyway.

“You didn’t get reassigned,” I whispered, “You’re a sole survivor now. You’re being evacuated.”

She glumly nodded.

“Well, hopefully we make it out of here alive then.”

“but what do I do? I dedicated my life to being a soldier, but there’s no way they’ll let someone with a history like mine back in, and I don’t blame them. I’m gonna be… so fucked up after this.” She hung her head. “I’m broken.”

I smacked her armor with one of my paws. “You’re not broken, you’re a hero. Would anyone in your pack have hesistated to defend those civilians if they knew they were all going to die?”

She opened her mouth slightly, then closed it and shook her head.

“Your pack sacrificed themselves so that you could accomplish your mission - to keep me and everyone else here safe. Once this is all over, your mission will be to live, as a free Avali, one who remembers the sacrifices we made.”

Tears still ran down her cheeks, but then I saw her gaze harden, and a familiar resolve took hold once more. “You’re right, I do have a mission: to keep you and the kits safe. But you aren’t safe yet.”

“Wait!” I called out, and she turned around. “Fly true, hatchling of Avalon,” I said, saluting her.

She hesitated, then nodded. “On my pack’s honor, I will.”

“They went straight for the Nexus satellite. Didn’t even bother with the other ones.”

“Well it’s not exactly hard to figure out which satellite has a giant dish array pointing at our communications hub.”

“Yes, but the initial bombardment also hit the honeypot.”


“They knew, and who have no idea what else they might know. Evacuation procedures? Safehouse locations? Hatcheries? Are they monitoring nestboat escape trajectories?”

“You think they’d try to shoot down nestboats?!

“Do you see them taking any prisoners?”

“…Get me the division leader. We’re going to need more than just a fighter escort.”

“Ohhhh, you’re so fluffy!” I said, nuzzling the avali kit’s cheek.

“Foof! Foofy!” chirped the Kit. I instinctively snuggled the young kit against my chest feathers, and the kit started purring against me.

“They seem to like you,” said [], walking over with her rifle out and ready.

I snerked and rustled the head of one of the kits. “I do appear to be trapped by a very ambitious pack of kits.”

She snickered as the chirping kits clambered all over me. “Alright, well, they’re loading survivors now, time to strap in.”

“Why is it ‘Kits and Pack Orphans First’, anyway? Why pack orphans?”

“Well, it used to be ‘Kits and Eggs First’, a long time ago, but nowadays the loss of an entire pack could mean losing decades, if not centuries of valuable experience. Maybe when our experience was just “being good at hunting”, training a new pack wasn’t a big deal, but in our hyper-specialized modern world, we just don’t have a lot of packs that are experts at, say, warp drive coolant systems. With augmentations stretching life expectancy to nearly five hundred years, that’s a lot of experience on the line.

“Mmmm, I suppose that makes sense, but uh, my pack isn’t actually dead, I’m just seperated from them.”

She shrugged. “For offworld pack orphans, it was deemed too difficult to try to figure out if the rest of their pack is still alive, so we evacuate them, then reunite them with their pack if their pack happens to still be alive.”

“I mean, with that logic, shouldn’t we also be evacuating randomly selected members of senior packs?”

“We do, actually, but it’s purely voluntary. This nestboat is going to be carrying a few of them, I think. We won’t forcibly seperate a member from a pack even in dire circumstances, the psychological damage isn’t worth it.”

As I saw fighter jet after fighter jet fall from the sky, I couldn’t help but wonder, How many more Avali would have to die just to save me?

“We’re docked. I’m going to go catch up with the pilots, you can come if you like.”

We don’t know how big the interdiction field is, but it has to be at least twice the diameter of the entire planet. We believe it’s eminating from this super-destroyer over here, which we do not have the firepower to attack. They seem to have scouts that deliberately target fighters trying to escape the field. Despite this, one of our fighters has actually managed to sneak to the other side of the planet, and is still going, but only at half-thruster speed to avoid drawing attention. It’s been an hour since the attack started, and they still aren’t out of the field. It could be another hour or more until they manage to make it out, and that’s assuming they manage to stay undetected.

What baffles me is why command hasn’t responded. They seem to be jamming the communications node, but command would’ve figured out that something was wrong almost immediately.

“…not if it’s hacked.” I blurted out, and everyone turned to stare at me.


“What if they aren’t jamming it, what if the communications node has been hacked for who knows how long? Then central command would have no idea what’s going on. They could be intercepting all our communications, faking sensor data, and letting heartbeat packets through. You said yourself that they seem to know way more about us than seems possible without some kind of mole, but they wouldn’t even need a mole if they hacked the communications node.

“… and that’s how they know where every military installation that wasn’t operating off-grid was. Fuck my groundsworn ass, you’re right, the whole military communications system is totally compromised.”

Why isn’t the whole military on an isolated blacknet?

You can’t just isolate everything. Routine operations must interface with civilian networks, which means you can’t airgap it. Even if we did, there would be a giant hole in our communications network just begging to be hacked. Better to hide something our enemies don’t even know exists. Hopefully, someone at command noticed that our blacknet backup stations were not being targeted in the initial bombardment. Maybe they’ve saved a couple of them for us.

IS there a way to create a direct communications link with the planet from here, without going through the network?

We have a MASER array, we could probably use that. Microwaves aren’t the most efficient for data transfer, but it’d work, and they won’t get scattered by the atmosphere.

Use that and tell them their communications are compromised.

“They’ll blow that thing up the moment we start firing it.”

“Then don’t miss.”

“Shoot that down, rockfuckers” she hissed.

A tense few minutes passed

“I am a hatchling of Avalon, I will hunt again”.



  1. 2024
  2. 2023
  3. 2022
  4. 2021
  5. 2020
  6. 2019
  7. 2018
  8. 2017
  9. 2016
  10. 2015
  11. 2014
  12. 2013
  13. 2012
  14. 2011
  15. 2010
  16. 2009