Sliding Time 4:
War of the Worms

by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/M sex
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

"Still sure about this?" Sly looked at Carmelita with a nervous twitch as the group of five watched shimmering energy coalesce into an oval.

"Not completely," she admitted very quietly while they watched as Obi-Wan, now dressed in his robes again and looking much more like the alien warrior-priest she understood he was training to be, sent a small probe through.

"Don't think we're supposed to be," Wolf pointed out, shifting a backpack on his shoulders. "Be too simple if we were."

"We have a breathable atmosphere on the other side, but that is all it can give us." Obi-Wan looked back at the odd gathering. "See you on the other side." He said and stepped through.

"I'll go next," Sly offered, stepping up to the portal and taking a deep breath. "Don't take too long," he added, before stepping through himself.

His entire body tingled; his mind went into open rebellion at the chaotic sensory explosion that lasted only a few seconds before he stepped out on the other side to a world of red growths, strange red fungal trees and red soil.

"Not too bad," Obi-Wan nodded to him and watched as the others joined them with various expressions on their faces.

"So is this the Republic?" Carmelita asked with an uneasy glance at SunWind as he shifted into his largest form and sniffed the air.

"Not a world I recognize, but that does not mean we are not in the correct galaxy." He told her with a tone of hopefulness. "We need to find a city, or at least people, to find out."

"That gadget of yours tell you which is the right way to find one?" Wolf asked him easily, looking around the unusual world they were on.

"No, but my other senses can," he nodded in one direction. "There are a great number of sentients this way."

"But there are a few fighting for their lives this way." SunWind countered with a rumble and took off, the long legs of his Lumari form eating up the distance with ease.

"He wins," Wolf said simply, turning to follow his mate, the rest of the group drawing blasters and other weapons and following as well.

Obi-Wan easily kept up with Wolf and was the first to spot the commotion. Two humanoid ducks were fighting for their lives against red, segmented worms that ranged in size from the length of his hand to the size of a speeder. Already one white-feathered Duck had fallen, and SunWind was in trouble.

Wolf charged in head-long, firing into the mass of worms and trying to reach SunWind. He let out a howl and staggered back as something assaulted his mind, a surge of rage and fear and confusion coming from him.

Carmelita opened fire with her shock pistol, the blazing orbs of electricity sometimes catching several of the creatures with a single shot, but not making much of a dent in the massive swarm.

"Obi-Wan, you get SunWind and Wolf, I'll get the Ducks!" Sly called out, ducking under one of the worms as it tried to smash him and running for the struggling pair not far from the wreckage of their ship.

"Right." He called back and used the Force to push the writhing mass away from their targets. "~SunWind, grab Wolf and come here. Sly has the Ducks.~"

The confirmation was in action, the Loup Maru unwilling to spend the energy on talking as he twisted and gathered his struggling mate up in his arms before rushing headlong towards the Jedi and the protection he offered.

"Nasty things." SunWind snarled and grabbed one that had started to bury itself in his head, his claws shredding the visible part of it.

Sly managed to fight his way free of the group, diving around and over the swarm as he approached the Ducks. A second white one was using a slug thrower of some kind and wore a white mask, the other, his feathers a dark brown, was armored and wielded a sword that shimmered with energy as it cleaved through everything it touched. Near them was the writhing body of a heavier built Duck with a tall shock of blond hair feathers.

Sly worked his way close, occasionally cleaving through them with his cane. It was clear that his weapon could do more than bludgeon; it was cutting through the smaller ones like a well-honed blade.

Carmelita approached Obi-Wan and the retreating Wolf and SunWind slowly, keeping up her own fire, covering Sly as best she could. She wasn't sure how he was ignoring the mental noise, the sense that what he was looking at wasn't real, that she was feeling even this far from the mass. But he was managing it, and quickly reached his targets.

"Let's get out of here!" He yelled at the standing Ducks, hacking at the worms to keep them back while they got the fallen one to retreat with. "Follow my lead!"

As the Ducks worked their way towards the main group with Sly, everyone worked to hold the mass of red worms back. It was an effort they were slowly losing.

Sly knew that most of his tricks weren't about to help out here; the worms didn't target by sight, and the majority of them only helped him get away, not other people with him.

"What I wouldn't give for one of Bentley's bombs right about now," he muttered. "Get close together!" He shouted to the Ducks. "I'm gonna try something!"

He really, really hoped this trick would work. He'd only done it for himself before, and that only once ... but then, if he didn't try it now, he wasn't going to have the chance to try it again.

It was at that moment that he realized that the Ducks probably couldn't understand him.

Of course the translator wouldn't be working ... it didn't have anything to work with.

Well, they were close enough, in theory. He would've preferred if they'd been closer, but he could do this. He just had to remember that he could do this.

He pulled one of his spare trick hats out of the pack on his thigh, tossing it into the mass of worms and detonating it, the firecracker-like explosion not doing much but distracting the worms.

Of course, that's exactly what he wanted it to do.

He grabbed a smoke bomb, sprinting into a circle around the Ducks. They pulled up short, not sure at all what he was doing. He threw the bomb to the ground, pungent smoke filling the air as he finished the Shadow Spin and leaped up, jumping into the short space-warp that opened, following the Ducks and directing it. Rather than dropping them through the ground, like he normally would have done to a guard, he steered it towards Obi-Wan and the others, clear of the worms.

They appeared in a matching burst of smoke a few moments later, Sly panting hard, trying to catch his breath after the strenuous effort of not only opening the warp, not only going through it, but bringing three other people through it with him.

"Let's go," he croaked, getting to his feet unsteadily with Carmelita's help, knowing that the worms wouldn't take long to catch up with them if they stayed.

"This way." A new voice called to them even as the worms retreated a bit. "They will not stay away for long."

SunWind spat out something that got the Duck's attention, and the pair nodded, the one wearing the white mask replying in the same language.

Once Sly was steady on his feet, they managed to move a bit faster, all approaching the human woman in simple cream and green clothing they could see not too far away.

"Come, my home is small, but you will be safe there. I may be able to help your friend." She nodded towards the twitching blond Duck and turned away.

There were a few glances between each other, but the Ducks followed her, realizing that she was offering to help them, and Obi-Wan and the others followed next. It was shelter at least, and supposed to be safe.

"I don't have a better idea," SunWind held his mate close as Wolf started to clue into reality again and the group followed her as quickly as they could. She didn't seem to have nearly the difficulty navigating the red growths as they did and made it to a weaving of the native red life that looked like any other at first.

When she brushed the door open it became apparent it was much more than a hollow in the fungal tree. It looked very much like a home they could recognize.

"Bring her here." The human bade the two Ducks and was quickly obeyed.

"Nnngh ... how are you?" Wolf asked SunWind as he had the chance, things starting to calm down in his mind and he was allowed to stand on his own two feet again.

"I really hate those worms." He muttered and turned his attention to trying to dig the remains of several worms from his head and body. "You feeling better?"

"Yeah, and totally agreed," Wolf said with concern. "Let me help with those...."

"Thanks," the huge Lumari form settled down on the floor so Wolf could reach. "Go ahead with a knife. It'll heal faster than with the worms in there."

Obi-Wan glanced around. The two pairs of mates were each taking care of the other; the two male Ducks were doing the same. He could feel their grief, even before the local woman told them she could not help the female Duck except with a quick death to end her suffering.

The one with the mask nodded and placed a hand on the female's struggling form.

"Wait!" Obi-Wan challenged the local woman, unwilling to give up so quickly. "I have some healing talent. I might be able to help."

She nodded and continued to help restrain the female Duck as he came up and laid his hands on her.

"Her name is Tanya." The Duck with the mask told him, the translators catching most of it even as Obi-Wan realized it was a very close relative to SunWind's primary language.

Obi-Wan nodded and focused the Force on her body, then shivered. The local was correct. Her body could be saved, perhaps, but the worms had eaten her brain almost completely.

"I'm sorry," he murmured. "I can not help. Even if her body lives, her mind is gone."

"I'm sorry Tanya. You deserved better than this." The Duck with the mask murmured as the local woman assisted in allowing her life to ebb away in a gentle parting from her body.

"I am sorry," Obi-Wan told him quietly.

"Thank you for trying," he managed to keep his voice level and extended his hand. "I'm Wildwing Flashblade. He's Duke L'Orange."

"I am Obi-Wan," he accepted the handshake. "The Wolf is Wolf O'Donnell, the giant he's tending is SunWind."

"I'm Sly Cooper." The Raccoon came up and shook their hands.

"Carmelita Fox." She added softly, then looked at the local. "What is your name?"

"Salin." She inclined her head slightly.

"Good to meet you," Sly said politely. "What were those things?"

"Whatever they were, I've got the last one out," Wolf said quietly, getting the last piece out and stabbing the knife through it distastefully. He was covered in green blood halfway up his forearms as SunWind quickly regenerated the damage from the basic hunting knife.

"They are called mind worms." She picked one up as it squirmed out of Tanya's eye and funneled enough psychic energy to fry the creature's simple nervous system. "They are attracted to people, and don't like us. We were nearly destroyed in the first generations, before we learned how to deal with them."

"How dangerous are the remains?" Obi-Wan asked her, sensitive to the fact that Duke and Wildwing might not appreciate the question, but it had to be asked, given what they'd seen they could do.

"Oh, they are harmless once they're all dead." Salin said with an easy smile. "Whatever your rites are, she will be safe to handle soon."

The Ducks glanced at each other, clearly uncertain just how to react to that.

"Can a fire be made hot enough to turn her to ash?" Wildwing asked with a difficult swallow.

"Yes, that can be arranged," Salin nodded even as her attention went back to the body and psychically frying the few mind worms left alive inside it.

"Sorry we couldn't get there sooner," Sly said softly as the two Ducks started to come to terms with what they were going to have to do. Right now it was a little too easy for him to imagine loosing Bentley or Murray. It wasn't something they ever really discussed.

"You'll see them again," Carmelita hugged him from behind.

"Anything we can do to help ...." SunWind offered in the Duck's language, the translators working for the rest of them.

"Thank you," Wildwing swallowed. "Will we be able to get back to our ship?" He glanced at Salin.

"Yes, it should be in a similar condition as when it crashed." She nodded slightly. "You will want to wait for a few days for the mind worms to move away."

"We don't have much else to do." He kind of shrugged and took his mask off, revealing a much younger face than most had expected. While not a youth, he didn't look to be far out of his teens either. Decidedly at odds with his dark feathered companion, who had clearly seen a good deal of life, though he was still in his physical prime. "Thank you for pulling our tails out of that fire."

"It is what I do," Salin smiled sadly. "My home is small, but I have enough blankets for all. I am afraid I only have one spare bed."

"I think we can take the ground," Obi-Wan offered easily.

"Yeah," Sly agreed. "You're sure this place is safe?"

"It has been for many years," she nodded to him. "The nearest city is two weeks walk away, much of it through the fungal forest. You should rest for a few days before we leave if you wish to go there."

"Good enough reason," he nodded. "Besides ... don't think we're going to be up for the walk that soon," he said, nodding towards SunWind, still healing the rather deep injuries.

"Thank you for your hospitality," Obi-Wan bowed to her. "A question if I may ... have you heard of the Jedi?"

"I'm afraid not," she shook her head. "Are they a new faction?"

"No, ma'am. They are my people."

"Ah, no, I am afraid you are not close to home." She told him gently and turned to go into a second room. "Do any of you know how to cook?"

"Yeah," Wolf nodded, looking forward to some sort of normalcy here. "Let me see what we've got to work with, and I'll see about a meal for all of us. Do you have a way to wash up?" He lifted his green blood-soaked arms.

An hour or so later everyone was sitting around a low table that nanotechnology created as the meal was finishing cooking. Wolf and Salin brought out the steaming plates of all kinds of food. She made a bit of a point to make sure that the Ducks had plenty on their plates.

"Thank you," Duke nodded to her even as he gave a worried glance at Wildwing when the younger Duck took longer to respond.

"You are welcome." She smiled and made sure everyone was served before sitting down herself and claiming a portion of Wolf's cooking for herself. She turned to him as everyone began to eat. "I must admit; I hope you are here long enough for me to learn your recipes. You are quite the cook given how little you recognized."

"I learned to cook from a guy who was practically a chef, and learned in the field," Wolf chuckled slightly. "You learn to improvise. So, we've established that we're not anywhere near home ... could you fill us in on where we are?"

"This is Alpha Centauri, we're a colony of Earth, though we haven't heard from them since we left. It probably doesn't exist anymore." Salin told them. "You are in the territory of Gaia's Stepdaughters."

"Who are they?" Sly asked her. Figures they'd be in another place where the Earth they knew about wasn't his; there was no way the local space program could have gotten people out as far as they were.

"When we reached this world, the leaders of the mission split on how to keep the colony alive," Salin began softly. "They split into five factions, each taking a colony pod, what equipment they could and set out on their own with their followers. The mission xenobiologist was Deirdre Sky and she founded Gaia's Stepdaughters. She's very dedicated to maintaining the ecological balance that we failed to do on Earth. Sometimes a bit too much for humanity's good."

"Doesn't want to build up, wants to try and live in complete harmony with it?" Wolf guessed. "When the planet's got things like those mind-worms on it, that's not necessarily the best way to look at things." He glanced at his mate, curious at his sudden, very intense silence.

"When the planet has a proto-mind directing those worms some of the time, it's not a bad idea either." She chuckled and shook her head a bit. "We've learned how to tame them, when we can capture them."

"The world itself has a proto-mind?" Obi-Wan asked after a bit, quite curious about that idea.

"That is what we have come to understand." Salin nodded. "It sounds very strange, but if you spend a decade or six watching how the plants and animals coexist, there is more than the normal relationship there. It's hard to explain, but it is true."

"I think I get the idea," Wolf nodded. "It's not entirely unique." He wanted to ask SunWind if there was something wrong, but he wasn't sure if now was the time or place.

"It's not?" She looked at him in very real surprise and a bit of distress. "The Manifold aliens are elsewhere?"

"Manifold aliens?" Wolf asked, cocking his head.

"Insectoid creatures that think they are the rightful owners/caretakers of this world." She said quietly. "They can't agree on who gets to lead either, and they really don't like us. Politics are kind of messy at the moment."

"What do they have to do with the proto-spirit?" Wolf asked her. "I suppose they might be other places, but I've never heard of them."

"They're trying to turn it into a full sentient mind and then harness it. I think. We aren't on that good a terms with them and I don't get to read many of the MSF's reports."

"That's not something I've heard of before," Wolf said, shaking his head. "I just meant that I've heard of planets that seemed to have spirits of their own, though they were full and strong, and under their own control."

"I haven't heard of any world that was sentient," Obi-Wan admitted.

"So how did everybody end up here?" Wildwing asked, only picking at his food and looking for a distraction from his mind.

"Luck," Sly admitted. "We all ended up on a planet in the Lylat System after some weird portals pulled us off our homeworlds. We're trying to find our way back, if not home, then somewhere we've got a good start at."

"Except me," Wolf added. "I was native there, but I came along with SunWind."

"So you are colonists, of a sort." Salin mused. "Are you all stuck here if your ship can not be repaired?"

"No," Obi-Wan shook his head. "The portal that brought us here will appear again with a different destination."

"Do you know when?" She looked at him seriously.

"I will when I have had some time to study." He looked at the two Ducks. "You would be welcome to join us if your ship can not fly again."

"We'll think about it," Duke nodded, taking on the leadership role he wasn't all that comfortable with.

"Is there some reason we should look at getting out of here soon?" Carmelita asked Salin, picking up on the idea that knowing when the portal would arrive would be a good thing.

"Not particularly," she shook her head and relaxed. "If you are looking to go home and this isn't it, I assumed you would wish to leave as soon as you could."

"That depends on the odds," Wolf chuckled slightly. "We've got some idea of how likely it is to go where we want; we're not looking to end up spacing ourselves by mistake."

"Ah," she nodded easily. "Well, if you are going to stay for a while, I will see about expanding the house so you don't have to sleep in such cramped conditions."

"Thank you, Salin." Obi-Wan bowed his head to her in honest gratitude.

"Yes," SunWind snapped out of his thoughts. "For rescuing us and your hospitality. We are a large group to take in."

"Yes, but the land provides for me well, as does what technology I keep." She motioned to the table. "I enjoy my work."

"We're still grateful for it," Wolf smiled. "If there's anything we can do to repay you, let us know."

"I will," she inclined her head slightly. "Having someone else who can cook will be a very pleasant start." She smiled at him.

Wildwing glanced around the table, which had descended to small talk and general socializing rather than eating.

"Ma'am, I'd like to get to the funeral, if you don't mind." He managed to keep his voice from cracking.

"Is your tradition a private one, or would you like us to join you?" Obi-Wan asked him gently.

"Uh ...." Wildwing blinked, startled by the question. He glanced at Duke, who nodded at the silent question. "I think she'd be honored," he murmured.

"We'll join you then," the Jedi offered as the group stood, letting the Ducks lead. They stopped to collect the body, then headed out into the red, fungus covered world surrounding the strange home. It was quiet, fortunately. The mind-worms stayed away, and there seemed to be few other creatures nearby at first sight.

As Obi-Wan looked more closely within the Force, he saw the signs of a wide variety of animals, several kinds of which had been on the dinner table a few minutes ago. It took only a few minutes to build the pyre with so many hands to help and Salin's knowledge of what to use. It would eventually burn hot enough, but it would go much faster if he focused Force-energy on it to feed it into white-hotness and intensify its natural state.

First came the time for speaking of the dead for the Ducks, as with many cultures. It wasn't something either seemed comfortable with, but Wildwing soon stepped up to the small pyre and turned to face the gathering of strangers and his surviving companion.

"It is time to say goodbye to a good friend and loyal teammate, Tanya Quickfeather," Wildwing began, his voice almost level and his grief unconcealed by his mask. It combined to make him look as young as he probably was. "She stood by us across the galaxy, through the loss of our world, even when half the team turned against us."

Obi-Wan and SunWind glanced at each other as they both picked up the very present-tense distress Duke radiated for a moment at the last few words.

"~Something happened they're still afraid of exposing.~" SunWind commented silently.

"~We'll let them speak about it when they wish to,~" Obi-Wan replied simply. "~I seriously doubt they betrayed it.~"

"~Agreed,~" He nodded fractionally and listened as Wildwing half-rambled about the female he'd clearly been very close to, possibly even the mate of, though he didn't use the word or any that might mean it. "~He'll be a long time in healing.~"

"~He doesn't handle loss well ... every time he's faced it, it's been somebody important to him,~" Obi-Wan agreed. "~He will heal though ... I doubt his friend will let it be any other way.~"

"~Agreed.~" He murmured, his mind drifting back to his own losses, and how many of them never did get a funeral or memorial. It was the common thread here among these strangers made packmates of a sort. Everyone had lost at least one person dear to them that they hadn't completely recovered from. He glanced at the Jedi. Well, maybe except for Obi-Wan. The other 'path was difficult to read at times.

Soon Duke had moved forward to light one end of the pyre while Wildwing lit the other. Obi-Wan fed the fire slightly as they stepped back, encouraging it to a full blaze through the Force.

He could feel the Ducks fluctuate between social instincts to stand apart and keep their personal space, and their desire to hold each other and cry for the loss of someone they both cared deeply for. As much as he found such things distasteful to see happen, he knew exactly how it felt. It was one of the very few things about Jedi society that he really did not approve of, though he rarely thought about it either. Here, though, he could do something, even if it was just a few words telling of his group's outlook.

"Nobody here would blame you," he told them softly as the fire built, earning a startled look from Duke. "It's normal to grieve."

"That obvious, hu?" The dark feathered Duck chuckled weakly. Despite his uncertainty, he took Obi-Wan at his word and slid an arm around Wildwing's waist in a silent encouragement to lean against him.

Obi-Wan had to wonder if they were even aware of this dynamic between them. One supported the other, remained the strong, unflinching one while the other broke down, then they reversed it. He had to admit, it was an interesting way to handle grief.

An effective one too, it seemed. He could feel their pain, but it was much easier to handle once they could show it to some extent and take comfort in each other.

"Everyone here has lost at least one close friend and our home." SunWind put a hand on each Duck's shoulder as Wildwing leaned against Duke, trying to show that what Obi-Wan had said was true. "We may not have known her, but we have all been here before."

The others moved close, offering their quiet support as the flames began to consume Tanya's body, burning feathers and sending glowing embers into the air.

Though he kept it very much to himself, SunWind couldn't help but be intensely grateful that Duck did not smell much like duck when in the fire. It would just be far too unsettling to be thinking of food when saying goodbye to a person.

He was pretty sure he wasn't the only one thinking that too.

Obi-Wan woke before sunrise the next day. He had to admit, it wasn't the most comfortable night's rest he'd ever had, but it was far from the worst. A few blankets under each of them to cushion the floor, a pillow filled with feathers and dried plants and a blanket or two to cover them. Wolf and SunWind were snuggled up against each other, Sly and Carmelita much the same, the Raccoon's arm wrapped lightly around her waist under the covers.

What was a bit more noticeable was that Duke was holding Wildwing close and under the same blanket, a position he hadn't been in when they'd gone to sleep.

Almost as soon as he recognized the change in Obi-Wan's position, Duke's single good eye opened to stare at him with the dark brown iris that conveyed a remarkable amount about what he was thinking.

Right now it was asking, almost daring, Obi-Wan to react.

The Jedi just smiled slightly and nodded towards SunWind and Wolf, sleeping on the other side of the room where he was fairly sure Duke could see them if he wanted to.

The Duck lifted his head and took in the scene of the pair snuggled even closer together than he was with Wildwing, put it together with what he'd seen of them before bed and realized they were a pair in the same way Sly and Carmelita were.

His surprise came across clearly to Obi-Wan, then Duke nodded and looked back at the Jedi.

"Have a good walk," he said quietly and lowered his head again, his soft beak ruffling the feathers along Wildwing's neck.

"I will," Obi-Wan said softly with a smile, standing up and stepping out of the building, taking a deep breath. What he had seen explained quite a bit, really. It seemed that the two of them being together was something they were both used to having to hide.

It was not hard to extrapolate the rest from there, especially not after helping SunWind come to terms from much the same mindset. It would never cease to amaze him how common a prejudice it was. Every culture seemed to have dozens of illogical rules regarding who you should or should not be with. Even when they had a basis in a valid need, like having the best of a race reproduce and the young taken good care of, it was frequently taken much too far.

If the rest of their team had turned on them for that reason ... that meant they had just lost the only person they knew who accepted them. There was a reasonable chance that they blamed themselves for it, too ... or at least that Wildwing did. He sighed and shook his head; at least the Jedi were equal opportunity about discouraging relationships.

Of course ... he could be entirely wrong about it. He seriously doubted that he was, but it was possible that something else had happened and their feelings for each other were either a result of it or irrelevant. He was fairly sure he would have the opportunity to find out. These two were almost the last of those he foresaw as his companions to the Republic.

Which meant he wanted to double-check a few things ... and he needed the chance to meditate anyway. He sat down outside the door, taking a deep breath and centering himself. Now was as good a time as any.

Sly looked around nervously as he made his way across the Alpha Centauri surface along with the rest of the group. They were heading out to salvage what they could of the Ducks' ship, and despite Salin's insistence that the mind-worms had moved on, he couldn't shake the nervous worry that they hadn't.

All things considered, the fight had gone fairly well ... but he did not want to see if they could make it two for two.

As they approached the ship, a white spot on the red surface, nestled in a crater dug out by its beak-like nose, he tried to relax a bit. He did not need to be on edge. He was going to be giving the ship a once-over before they left, making sure nothing useful to him had been missed, and he'd need to be a bit more relaxed to do that well.

The Ducks, for their part, were more comfortable here, or maybe they were just half-numb after losing a teammate. He couldn't be sure, but he was fairly certain he'd slept through something fairly major to do with them, and Duke's change in location over the night, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out what it was.

Either way, the fact they were a bit more relaxed was good to see.

"This is your ship then?" He asked as they approached it. After all, it could have been a local one. "In pretty good shape, all things considered."

"It's hardly the first time it's crashed." Wildwing nodded and opened the hatch to reveal a cockpit designed for a pilot and co-pilot and seating for four more behind them towards the front of the craft and that was closed off to the rear.

"I'll see what equipment is left," Duke said quietly, his mood subdued but focused. "You check the engines?"

"Right." Wildwing nodded and opened an interior hatch to enter the bulk of the ship's space.

"Would you like a bit of help?" Wolf offered. "I know my way around the basics of most starship engines."

"Come on." He nodded and led Wolf back, Obi-Wan coming along as the other person with knowledge of starships and fixing them. "Given our reentry into real space, something is probably seriously broken, and we just lost our technophile."

As the three of them went back to look at the engines, while Sly headed in to help Duke look for equipment, making his way around the small ship.

"How many people was this ship designed for?" Sly asked as they took an inventory of what had survived both the crash and the local flora and fauna.

"Two with a lot of space," Duke answered as he unlocked a well-secured cabinet and began to empty out weapons, clips and ammo boxes. "She's housed four for a while now. Guess it's back down to two again."

"I meant to say something about that," Sly said softly, pushing a small animal that was trying to get into a storage crate out of the way. "I don't know what it was that happened, but I'm sorry about your team breaking up. Can't imagine what it must be like."

"Believe it or not, it was because Tanya bumped the play button on a message for me." He shook his head, his long forward-arching feather crest swaying with the motion. "Some of the others didn't take to my past coming back like that too well. I knew it would happen eventually, I just never expected to take half the team with me when I was run out for good."

"Ex-con?" Sly asked, pretty sure that he was. He had the reflexes and attitude for it ... the look too, even if he was a century or two out of place.

"Not so ex-thief." Duke actually winked at him with his good eye. "Best jewel thief on Puckworld and Earth."

"Well that proves you're not from my Earth," Sly smirked back at him, looking into the crate and pulling out some food packets. "'Course, you might get away with saying you're a better jewel thief; I'm more of a generalist myself."

"Who has some interesting tricks," Duke observed. "That teleport must be useful."

"It will be when I can do it without just about knocking myself out," Sly admitted. "It's mostly pulling some of my other tricks together and putting my own spin on them, but once I've got it down it'll be my contribution to the family legacy. I'm just glad it worked."

"Me too," he nodded, doing the inventory without really thinking about it. "Wildwing might not be convinced yet, but he'll come around to thinking living is a good thing again."

"He's been like this ever since the team broke up?" Sly asked, looking at some of the gear that Duke was stowing. It looked fairly unusual, not that he was expecting it to look much like what he was used to.

"Nah, he got over that quick. He left them, after all." Duke shrugged. "But losing two teammates in as many months, that's hit him hard. Tanya was a lot more to him too, even if he still won't really admit it. Wasn't that long ago they were talking about settling down long enough for a couple eggs."

"Two?" Sly asked with a wince. "Damn. Yeah, that would hit a guy hard. He's lucky he's got you to help him out. You seem to be holding up a bit better."

"After the death that caused that message to be sent, the rest isn't too hard to deal with." He admitted quietly. "Besides, somebody has to hold together, and right now that's me." Duke shrugged, though he wasn't entirely convincing. Part of him was just waiting for Wildwing to die too, and leave him completely alone. It wasn't a fate he could contemplate easily any more, no matter how often he bluffed about not needing anyone. Even back on Puckworld he'd been on team after team until Canard had found him and taught him how to play both sides and be accepted, even if it would never be more than grudgingly.

"New topic good?" Sly suggested, pretty sure it would be a good idea.

"Wouldn't hurt." Duke quipped and began to load several of the heavy rifles with puck-shaped black ammo.

"What's with the ammo you guys use?" Sly asked him. "I mean... I was a little pre-occupied during that whole mind-worm thing, but I noticed it then. Hockey puck bullets?"

"We're from a planet called Puckworld." Duke chuckled in honest amusement. "Hockey is something of a way of life. I think I heard us described once as a race where the unfaithful are only fanatical about it."

"So, hockey, or thievery?" Sly asked him with a bit of a smirk as he cleared out the crate.

"Oh, I'm a downright heretic." He grinned down at the much shorter Raccoon. "But don't you dare tell Wildwing."

"Just making sure you have your priorities straight," Sly smirked. "Though I'd suggest not telling Carmelita either," he added, getting more serious. "She's one of the most fanatical cops I've ever met, and I've met a lot of 'em over the years. She's lightening up a bit, but I really wouldn't want to push the 'proud of being a thief' thing too much with her."

"Noted." He nodded. "You seem to be courting arrest, though."

"History," Sly admitted sheepishly. "We've been flirting ever since the old cops-and-robbers game started. Might be something more there, but...." He shrugged slightly. "Is on my side, but she's not up for it yet. Let's face it, it's not exactly one of those relationships that isn't complicated. So I'm hoping I'll be able to change her mind before we get back home, because if I can't, she probably won't be coming back."

"Ouch." Duke winced sympathetically. "Wh..."

"There you guys are." Carmelita huffed a bit as she came into the armory/storeroom. "What did I ever do to get stuck chaperoning two unrepentant thieves?"

"Hey, there's nothing to steal here," Duke chuckled at her. "It all belongs to us anyway."

"Became a cop?" Sly suggested with a chuckle, taking one of the spare guns and passing it over to her. "How does this look?" He asked her. "Like something we could use, or just Duke and Wildwing?"

"If they're okay with us, oh yeah," she rumbled in appreciation of a heavier version of the weapons she'd seen in action before.

"We have more than we can use and plenty of ammo." Duke nodded, more than a touch amused by a heavy puck-rifle being a peace offering. Just went to prove it paid to know your audience.

"Well, I think we've got most everything cleared out up here," Sly said easily. "I found some rations, we've got the weapons ... not too much else, unless we want to try grabbing some of that armor there," he said with a nod towards the rack. "But to be honest, I wouldn't bother myself."

"It wouldn't fit either of you. Not even Tattan was that short," Duke pointed out a bit sadly. "If we can't fix the engines, it's probably not worth bringing."

"Which is mostly up to Wolf and Wildwing," Sly nodded. "You want us to leave you here with your new friend while we check on 'em?" he asked Carmelita teasingly.

"And let you wander around unsupervised?" She huffed and rolled her eyes. "Let's go, you."

"Yes, ma'am," he chuckled, shaking his head as he followed her back towards the engine room.

"You know, there really wasn't anything in there I could have stolen," Sly chuckled slightly as he and Carmelita stood outside the ship, keeping an eye out for... just about anything, really. From the quick run-down on what was dangerous that Salin had given them, it really was pretty much anything that moved, and about half the things that didn't.

She was standing nearby now, working on something off by herself after getting bored watching the work on the engines. It seemed quiet enough to chat a bit though.

"Just because you didn't ...." she let the words drop off as a flicker of movement on the horizon got her attention. "Sly?"

"Yeah?" he asked, noticing the movement she was commenting on and pulling out his binoc-u-com, quickly zooming it out to maximum magnification.

"I think we've got trouble. Salin?" he called. "You know most of the marks the ships around here use?" he asked her, half-hoping that the ships were friendly ... but mostly sure they wouldn't be that lucky.

"Most, yes." She nodded and climbed up to join the pair on top of the crashed ship. After a moment with the binoc-u-com, she cursed low and vividly. "Warn the others. Progenitor forces."

"Hey guys!" he shouted back into the engine room, grabbing one of the spare light rifles from where they were stored. He wasn't the best shot, but it'd do a hell of a lot more good than his cane would against ships. "We've got trouble incoming! Progenitors, according to Salin!"

"Where's SunWind?" Wolf was the first out to grab his own heavy rifle.

"Out playing Loup Maru games," Sly quipped, then relented to Wolf's scowl. "He went scouting. Not far, he said."

"Ships or ground forces?" Obi-Wan wanted to know.

"Ships, but who knows what they're carrying, or if they've got backup," Sly said, starting back out along with the others. "Could be ground forces with 'em behind the terrain."

"Salin!" Obi-Wan called to her as he came out. "Their likely tactics?"

"Come in, grab everything, look for crew, get out," she told him quickly. "They know they are in Gaian territory and their presence won't be tolerated for long."

"Any idea how long we'd have to hold them before they run?" The Jedi asked, giving serious consideration to simply leaving the ship, now that they'd gotten most of the supplies out of it.

"This far out, probably a couple days." She said grimly. "The best tactic is to get out of here and let me lure a mind worm boil in, let that deal with them. We still might lose the ship, but good odds we won't."

"Are you sure you'll be able to get rid of them?" Obi-Wan asked, glancing at the others. With SunWind gone, he didn't much like the idea of leaving him out there ... particularly not with mind-worms in the area. "And that they won't turn on us."

"No and no, that's why we want to leave, and soon," she pointed out with a nervous look at the approaching hovercraft. "I called SunWind in. He's not far now."

"Then let's move," Obi-Wan decided. "Lead the way to somewhere safe, Salin."

"I really don't like this plan," Wolf muttered, looking out and praying that SunWind would catch up with them quickly.

"This way." Salin motioned them to follow her into the fungal forest, not quite in the same direction as her home but with a sure sense of where she was going.

"He'll find us again," Obi-Wan reassured Wolf as the group moved to follow her, keeping a close eye on their surroundings.

"It's just a question of what shape he's in when he does," Wolf muttered as a plasma bolt exploded nearby.

"That was too close," Carmelita muttered, looking around, half expecting to see them on top of the small group. They weren't yet, but they were coming, fast.

"And getting closer." Wolf growled as everyone broke into a run. "What I wouldn't give to have my Wolfen right now."

Another blaster shot ripped through the fungus around them, blowing a crater in the ground ahead of them. They pulled up short, and a massive, eight-foot tall mechanical monstrosity crashed through to the path they were on.

"Progenitor infantry," Salin yelled and dove out of the way even as she drew a relatively small blaster that whined as its energy nailed the creature square in the chest.

Everything froze for a moment as it screeched in agony and popping sounds added to the chorus before gooey green ichor began to ooze from the joints of its armor and it fell.

As remarkably well as it had worked, there were more coming, and they seemed unconcerned with the death of their comrade. If anything, it just proved it was time to use more force.

A missile turret swiveled to target the group and fired. Carmelita swung her puck-rifle up, blasting the missile out of the air as the battle was joined, several more infantry attacking heavily as the group tried to fight a defensive retreat and Obi-Wan made excellent use of his full combat training and his lightsaber. Even as he cut them down and blocked blasts from the others, everyone knew they'd have to find safety to survive this assault.

"This way!" Salin called. "It's not much farther!"

"Better not be," Sly muttered, shooting a missile out of the air as Carmelita targeted the ammo hopper on the one that had fired it, blasting a hole through it and detonating the plasma missiles, consuming the eight-foot tall mech and everything within a half-dozen paces in roiling flames.

"How many of these things are there?" Wildwing demanded as he and Duke kept blasting away.

"A full unit's several hundred." Salin yelled back. "Don't know if they sent that many."

"Let's hope not," Wolf growled, firing with his blaster. It wasn't nearly as effective as Salin's, but they were slowing them down. "If they have, we'll be out of ammo before we're out of targets."

"What the fuck?" Duke actually froze for a moment as a roar shook the battlefield, drawing all attention to the metallic-horned saber-toothed canine monster that stood head and chest above everything there and had just bitten one of the Progenitor soldiers in half.

"That's the cavalry arriving," Wolf grinned darkly, recognizing SunWind's Lumari form as the Progenitors turned to face the newer, greater threat. "Everybody, back him up!" He shouted, laying down cover fire as his mate started to tear into the armored aliens with an ease that was both rewarding and disturbing.

"Damn," Carmelita muttered even as she nailed one in the back that was leveling a plasma missile at SunWind.

"Hell of a partner," Sly agreed with general cover fire so their enemy couldn't focus on a single target.

"It's not much farther," Salin told them. "We drop this wave, we should be able to find cover!"

"Then let's drop them," Obi-Wan agreed, carving his way through the Progenitors, only a few left that were quickly finished off by the defenders.

"You okay?" Wolf asked SunWind quietly as the group began to move again.

"Yeah. Taste awful." He panted, his body soaked in the same ichor that dripped from his open mouth as he dropped to all fours in Lumari to make for a lower profile while they made it to a huge fungal tree much like the one Salin used for a home.

"There is clean water in here if you want to wash up," Salin said quietly as she closed the opening in the fungal wall behind them.

"Thanks." He nodded and glanced around, quickly spotting the small stream.

"I'll help you get some of the harder to reach spots," Wolf offered, the two of them breaking off to go wash up.

"Is everybody else okay?" Sly asked as they settled down in the small, dark room that waited for them.

"A few scratches, but I'm fine." Carmelita nodded and looked around at the others.

"Nothing too serious." Obi-Wan said from where he was tending a burn Wildwing had sustained.

"Just hurts like flippin' heck," the Duck muttered. "Are you sure we're safe in here?"

"Yes." Salin nodded seriously. "We'll be able to make our way back to my home from here underground."

"Good." Obi-Wan nodded, healing the wound. "Between the Progenitors and the mind-worms, the overland route seems ... impractical."

"That's one word for it," Carmelita agreed. "These things happen often?"

"No." Salin shook her head as a much cleaner, but very damp, SunWind joined them in Maru form. "They were both drawn here by the crash."

"Well, that's something." The Vixen nodded. "That was a Hell of a fight out there, SunWind," she added approvingly.

"Thanks," he stretched up with a groan. "It's been ages since I let loose like that."

"How'd anybody manage to take over your world with a race of people like you fighting them?" Sly asked.

"Because to show that form, even at the end of the Plutarkian war, was a death sentence," SunWind said simply. "The ruling race had declared war on the rest of us, bounties and all."

"And -" He stopped when Wolf gave him a stern look, shrugging slightly. "So, when do we head back to our base?"

"Rulers are that way for a reason," SunWind pointed out sharply. "When you're outnumbered a hundred thousand to one, open combat isn't very helpful no matter how much more deadly you are."

"This way." Salin gave SunWind a cautious look, not liking his state at all.

"Sorry," Sly said, ducking his head apologetically.

It was enough to cool SunWind's temper, and the group started to move through the tunnels that criss-crossed everywhere under the red forest above.

"How are you guys doing?" Wolf asked the two Ducks once they were back at Salin's home and everybody had a chance to settle down. He'd taken most of the trip to try and help SunWind relax, but now that he had the chance he wanted to find out about their new companions.

"Recovering," Wildwing said quietly as the pair tried to relax, their armor put aside for now. "Mind telling us what we got ourselves into agreeing to come along?"

"How much has Obi-Wan told you?" Wolf asked him easily, taking a seat.

"Mostly that he couldn't guarantee that we'd end up anywhere anyone knew." Duke shrugged. "It's a better chance than sticking around here."

"Yeah, it's not like we're trying to get to anywhere, really." Wildwing nodded. "Or have another way to leave."

"Not anymore, at least," Wolf admitted. "The general idea, at this point, is to try and find our way back to his area of space. From there, he's pretty sure there's a way to sent those of us who want to go home back, and it's a big enough galaxy that those of us who don't want to leave can make a living there. Problem is, we have no clue where we'll be going on the way.."

"Sounds like what we've been up to, minus the end goal." Wildwing chuckled mutely. "We weren't exactly planning on this stop after all."

"Point," Wolf agreed with a slight chuckle. "Not that we were either. Probably going to be a number of places like this," he admitted. "No real reason to be here, just staying alive until we find our way to the next portal."

"It's a pattern we know." Duke nodded. "Though now we do have enough people to play hockey." He grinned, earning a chuckle and smile from Wildwing.

"Okay, I'm trying to imagine Sly in half the gear, and all I can think of is a pasty smear on the ice the first time he gets body-checked." Wolf chuckled after a moment to place the sport.

"You know about hockey?" Wildwing brightened a lot.

"It translates into one of the local sports. Not that big a thing around here." Wolf shrugged slightly. "I'm guessing that's not the case for you guys?" he said, nodding towards their weapons.

"It's the Puckworld religion," Duke chuckled and relaxed back. "I heard us described once as a race where the unfaithful are only fanatical about it. This one's decidedly not unfaithful." He pointed to Wildwing with a grin on his wide beak.

"Safe to say you guys used to play then?" Wolf asked with a chuckle, having a feeling that steering them towards this topic for a while would do Wildwing some good.

"Every chance we get," Wildwing nodded, eager to even just talk about the core of his life. "It's teamwork, making the right choice, coordination, aim, tactics ... there is nothing hockey doesn't teach."

"I did warn you." Duke grinned, pleased to see Wildwing so animated again.

"I can take it," Wolf chuckled, settling in to listen to what was probably going to be a very long, fairly one-sided conversation. He rumbled softly in appreciation when SunWind joined them and drew Wolf against his chest with an affectionate nuzzle.

No one missed the expression that crossed the Duck's faces, but not even SunWind was sure what it meant.

Several hours later, Wolf and SunWind had managed to escape from the two Ducks, mostly because they'd shifted to talking more to each other and reminiscing than to their audience.

"I was wrong," Wolf groaned, shaking his head as they walked outside. "I couldn't take it."

"That was a truly new level of obsessed," SunWind chuckled and nuzzled Wolf's cheek. "At least they're both doing better, even if you have just put a target on your chest for their attention for recognizing their game."

"Yeah," Wolf chuckled slightly, returning the nuzzle and giving SunWind a light kiss. "Mmm ... so, things a little less tense between you and Sly now?"

"Yeah," he murmured and drew Wolf close. "He wasn't trying to hurt me. He just asked a painful question."

"Sorry," Wolf murmured, pressing back against his mate. "So, in the interests of not spending another three hours getting a play-by-play on the third hockey game each of them played when they were eight, what do you know about them?"

"Well, they were banished for being like us," he said softly. "Because they like male company. They're still not so sure they want to admit it, but Obi-Wan saw them snuggled together earlier in the morning."

"That why you were so affectionate?" Wolf chuckled with a wink.

"Well, that and I like being affectionate." He kissed him softly. "Now that I'm getting used to it."

"And I like it when you are," Wolf kissed him back. "That does explain the look though. We're just quietly showing that it's okay, I take it, not talking to them about it?"

"Obi-Wan's mentioned that it's okay, but they're so used to public denial that I don't think that's enough." He smiled faintly. "I didn't believe it at first, not really, and I knew Tony was telling the truth. But now that we've finally got some space...." he murmured, drawing Wolf further away from the fungal tower house.

"Mmm ... I think I like the way you think," Wolf rumbled, following him to where they had some privacy. "I was scared for you," he admitted, and got a kiss for it.

"~You give me strength.~" SunWind rumbled back and pulled him close as they kissed. "~Want you in me.~" He shivered in anticipation at the admission he was still getting used to being able to say.

"Think I can oblige that," Wolf rumbled deeply, kissing him again as he started to undo the Loup Maru's pants and work them down.

"Good," SunWind groaned and worked Wolf's clothing off before he dropped to his knees to nuzzle his lover's groin.

"Oooh... good start," Wolf moaned, stroking his antennae lightly, kissing the swell at the end of them and licking them softly. Even though he was used to the backwash of pleasure from his lover when he did that, it was still quite a rush and helped harden his cock that much quicker.

SunWind took the cock fully into his mouth, wetting it before he stood and offered his ass to Wolf, his weight braced against a rock.

Wolf moved around behind him, wrapping his arms around SunWind's broad, muscular body and pressing his cock up against the Loup Maru's tight pucker. He groaned as he sank himself into his hot body and relished every strand of pleasure he knew was going both ways. He pushed every feeling of love and affection for his tawny-furred lover to the surface of his mind and began to thrust.

Throttle tipped his head back, putting his antennae in Wolf's reach, and squeezed down on the intruder in his body. Being out here, in the open where they could be walked in on, added a rush of the illicit to the pleasure storming through his body with every movement they made.

Wolf reached out with his tongue, catching one of his antennae and suckling it lightly as he started to fuck the Loup Maru deeply, moaning around the hyper-sensitive length in his mouth that at times caused sensations as intense for him from the feedback as it was for SunWind.

A deep, reverberating moan from SunWind and a few twitches around his cock were the only warning Wolf got that it was almost over, and he thrust hard once more to tie before SunWind came hard around him.

He released SunWind's antenna, howling into the near-silent Centauri air as he flooded his mate's ass with his seed.

Sliding Time 4: War of the Worms

NC-17 for M/M sex
Het Level is Low
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Low
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

57 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written April 20, 2006 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: Alpha Centauri: Alien Crossfire, Biker Mice from Mars, Mighty Ducks TAS, Slayers, Sly Cooper, Star Fox, Star Wars Episode 1, Walking with Prehistoric Beasts, World of Darkness (generic)

Primary Races: Duck, Fox, Human, Loup Maru, Raccoon, Twi'lek, Wolf

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Alternate Universe, Death, Violence

Pairings: Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon (in abstansia), SunWind/Wolf O'Donnell, Sly Cooper/Carmelita Montoya Fox, Wildwing Flashblade/Duke L'Orange

Notes: Many thanks to Annie Booker for going over this monster for spelling and such. She was a great help and any issues that remain are my fault.

Setting: Alpha Centauri: Alien Crossfire (about half way through a game)
Main Characters: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars), Throttle/SunWind (BMFM), Wolf O'Donnell (Star Fox), Sly Cooper, Carmelita Montoya Fox (Sly Cooper), Wildwing Drake, Duke L'Orange (Mighty Ducks TAS)

Blurb: The first jump as a group sends Obi-Wan, SunWind, Wolf, Sly and Carmelita into a world of red fungi and mind worms that are not happy to have the company.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

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