The years did not used to matter at all.

In her youth, Comorro had hung low above the sun-smeared horizon of Lotor in a distant age when that planet still had a sky and remained intact. Back then, the most advanced inhabitants of that world swung by their tails from tree to tree, chewing on bark and hiding from feathered predators, long before they would evolve and form the much envied Lotorian Trade Syndicate.

She had roamed the reaches of Hiverspace at a time well before the Kamir unleashed the Il’ri’kamm Hive Mind on the galaxy. The great Yaralu knew of the Kamir millennia before they could pass between the folds of time and space.

Her memories even stretched back to an era when the repugnant slime-drenched slugs known as the Thul had prospered so much that they had an empire, known as the Crawl, stretching across the Ancient Expanse. People today could scarcely believe that the Kamir had once bowed to Thul masters. Any Aukami descendants who heard such claims would dismiss them as lies and heresy. Nevertheless, it was true.

For ages, Comorro had been content to travel slowly among the stars, letting the years slip by like forgotten wisps of dust. Her kind, great sentient organic vessels, lived for tens of millions of years. Truth be told, she had lost count of her own age.

She knew she was old, though. She could feel it. Soon, she might go to dust or drift inert through the stars as a cold, dead husk.

She didn’t want to die without finding the Homestalk. There, the Yaralu were born. When their life ended, it was where they were supposed to return so that they could pass on their collected knowledge to the younger generations. But the Homestalk had fled into the great dark with the coming of the Djeraki fleet when the Yaralu was still quite young. The Hekayti had helped thwart the invasion in one of their first efforts with an organized space armada. It was widely believed that between the Hekayti fleet and the brutal methods of Kamir against the Djeraki people, the invaders had been set back thousands of years.

No one had seen the Homestalk since. Perhaps it was destroyed, lost to the war despite those valiant efforts by the Yaralu allies. But Comorro was among those who believed that the Homestalk still existed, somewhere out among the stars, keeping ahead of enemies like the Djeraki.

She had been searching for the Homestalk when the first outverser refugees arrived. That had been more than three years ago. By now, she had hoped they would settle on new worlds to call their own or find places for themselves among the inhabitants of Hekayt Prime or Kamsho. But they hadn’t. They stubbornly clung to Comorro, comfortable with the safety and security provided by the Yaralu.

She couldn’t seek out the Homestalk until they were gone. They wouldn’t be gone until she died or they reached the end of their own lifespans. Even if she died, she thought, they might still make a home in the massive carcass.

That is the way of opportunistic feeders.

The years mattered so much more now. Something would have to change. Soon.

By Brody

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