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Underdog

Chapter Text

Earth was used to giants.

 

They had arrived generations ago, from the sky in crafts to big for any military to shoot down. The humans were ants in comparison, ones that the aliens culled in order to shape the earth for their purposes. At the time, people thought it would stop. Teenagers joked that it was just like the movies they’d seen, or the tv shows they watched, and they concluded that humanity always prevailed in the end. They soon discovered the flaws in their theory.

 

The Giants were intelligent. Highly, to be exact. They rounded up humans that could be useful, using their advanced technology to weed out weaklings. They used them for manual labor, and forced guides. They used them as food. They kept scientists and historians around for a short while to learn from them, but as soon as the aliens knew how to live and prosper on the cruel earth they killed the intelligent. No use for slaves that can think for themselves.

 

And so, the Earth became alien to its occupants. Human life still existed, but now it was controlled, calculated, under the watchful eyes of giants. The world had a new apex predator, as well as a new form of cattle.

 

The Earth became used to giants, and it would remain that way for a very long time.

 

___

 

A human male awoke like he did every morning- by force. The Gargan scientists picked him up out of his sleeping pod and put him on a table for his morning checkup. They prodded and poked at him, made sure he hadn’t contracted any diseases since yesterday, and then fed him. He hated the food. It was gross. Full of nutrients, and way more calories than a human needed to survive, but still gross. When he was younger he remembered a Gargan caretaker telling him that he was lucky. Most humans didn’t get this much food. It made him cringe. Who cared if he was going to live short life. At least he was fat. That thought reminded him.

 

He was going to die today. Or soon, anyway.

 

M8C3 was going to die soon. He had known this for the majority of his life, but it never felt good. It was common, for humans to be sold as slave labor or food from the factories as soon as they hit 20. Unfortunately, he was the latter.

 

But M8C3 was special, apparently. A ‘delicacy’ they called him. ‘Exotic’. Descended from the only surviving human from somewhere the Gargans referred to as ‘Israel’. That place didn’t exist anymore. Most places from when the humans ruled didn’t. M8C3 had heard very little about the time before the Gargans came, but he knew it was different. So he was special, an exotic piece of meat that was bred and raised and fed by scientists that was going to be bid on for some stupid amount of currency for him to just die. He knew he was going to die today or soon, because as he ate his breakfast brick, there were phone calls. Numbers being tossed back and forth to people on the line, mentions of ‘product’ and ‘quality’ and other words that made M8C3 want to run and hide. Some of the other humans he met, though he had met very few, were content with this life. Content with being condemned, they knew they couldn’t overpower giants. Some even believed the Gargans to be Gods, sent to punish the earth. They told him he was being given an honor. That he wasn’t worthy. He thought that was bullshit. He kept quiet, never wanting to get in trouble, and he remained fearful of his masters, but it still made him mad. He would accept it, knew he couldn’t change his fate, but he would not let anyone tell him to be happy about it.

 

He became absolutely sure of his death when a scientist picked him up and moved him to a different table and started seasoning him. They poured powders on him that smelled harsh and sweet. It was gross. He sneezed once, but he got flicked for it so he tried not to do it again. Ruining the chef’s work, he supposed.

 

He knew this was all a prelude. Gargans liked their meat fresh, so he wasn’t going to be snuffed out until he was in the monster’s mouth. Which sucked, cause over the years he had developed a logical fear of teeth.

 

After all the preparation, some of which he felt was way too invasive even if he was going to be eaten, he was placed in a red bag.

 

Minutes turned into hours that felt like years to the human sitting in his prison. He tried to take a nap, but found that his nerves were too shot to even consider it. Nevertheless, he laid on his side and closed his eyes.

 

He shot up when he heard footsteps clicking outside his bag. Those were not the sounds of the scientist’s shoes. Those were the harder, more expensive sounding ones. He’d seen gargan men and women, though mostly women, walk in them outside the factory’s window. They made an unmistakable clicking sound.

 

His buyer was here.

 

“Hello!” He heard a cheerful woman’s voice through his packaging, “Is this my order?”

 

“Good day Miss Otran,” M8C3 could here the smile in the factory managers voice, “Yes it is! I do hope you’ll enjoy it, I know humans are an expensive taste, but this one is especially worth it!”

 

“Oh, it’s not for me,” The woman, M8C3 refused to refer to her by a name considering he was just an ‘it’ to her, replied, “It’s for my brother. He turns 18 today, and we wanted to get him something special. He’s never had human before due to that silly law.” She giggled. He couldn’t believe this. He was being led to his death by someone who giggled.

 

“Good for him!” The manager replied, “And good on you for following the law. It may seem silly, but human can be addictive, and should not be given to anyone underage.”

 

“Of course sir. And I believe the payment has already been transferred?”

 

“Yes, no need to worry. Have a wonderful evening!” And then the conversation ended. M8C3 was lifted up. He could feel himself swinging back and forth to the click of the woman’s shoes. This was it. He was leaving the factory, going to the birthday party of some Gargan brat, and then he’d be dead.

 

He was going to die today.

 

___

 

A young man sat on his porch, looking at the setting sun in the distance. He was smiling. He was excited. It just so happened that today was this young man’s birthday. He was 18. Meaning, that he could leave. He was an adult, and no matter how much his parents wanted him to stay and help run their tech business, they couldn’t force him. He was going to see the world, visit human ruins, due social work. It was going to be amazing. But not yet. He had one more night here. Tonight he was going to tell his family his plan. His parents would be angry, certainly, his sister would probably be upset. His youngest brother wouldn’t understand, and that made him hesitate. But he knew he had to leave.

 

“Kalvir!” A voice called, beckoning him to come inside, “The guests will be here any moment! You need to get ready for your big night!” It’s his mother, anxious as usual. There weren’t even that many guests coming, just some family members and a couple close friends.

 

“Coming!” He got up and ran inside, sprinting up to his night room and into his bathing chamber. He rushed to get ready, putting on his best jewelry and his favorite shirt. He swept his hair to the side, and kept fixing until he felt it was just right. He needed to look his best if he was planning on being the family disappointment.

 

He was done in a matter of moments, and with a smile he headed down the stairs to the main hall, where the rest of his family was waiting, accept for his sister who apparently had to ‘run an errand’.

 

“There’s the birthday boy!” His father exclaimed, opening his thin arms in an attempt to catch his son for some affection.

 

“Dad,” Kal rolled his eyes, “I’m 18. I’m not a kid.” His father persisted though, and managed to pull the slightly smaller man into his embrace.

 

“I know, I just love you so much!” He exclaimed, “I especially love it since we can finally have fun at your birthday parties.” His wife gave him a pointed look before adding,

 

“We are all going to be responsible at this party.” She sounded exasperated, but she was smiling. Kal was excited



Later that night, Kalvir was absolutely certain his parents had forgotten his mother’s rule. They were downing things that had been under lock and key since he was born. It was terrifying. But when he thought about it, Kal was pleased with this outcome. If they were intoxicated, they probably wouldn’t have strong reactions to his confession. It was going great.

 

It was going great until it was time to open gifts. Everyone was pretty tipsy except for Kal, who had been avoiding any substances. He wanted to stay lucid. Everyone was leaning on him, telling him to open theirs first or last, it was funny. His friends were never this affectionate sober.

 

He opened box after bag after box and said thank you to everyone. Soon people started to leave since it was getting so late. In the end it left just his parent’s and his sister, who was bouncing up and down in her chair with a red bag in her lap. She was smiling, excited. Whatever was in that bag definitely made her think that he would like it. So with a big smile at his sister, Kal reached over and grabbed the bag. He shook it a little, feeling a weight move around took a few guesses as to what it could be.

 

“Just open it, silly!” His sister exclaimed, grinning, “oooh, you’re gonna love it!” Kal grinned back.

 

He looked down at his gift, thinking of how great his sister was, and then he opened it.

 

And then he froze.

 

A tiny pair of terrified eyes peered up at him. A miniature Gargan, a human, was in this bag.

 

“Ah!” His sister shrieked, “I hope you like it! I was so excited since you’re finally old enough to try some. It’s all your favorite flavors and spices, super expensive, from one of those factories out in Vidtun.” She was still smiling, but all Kal could do was stare at this thing, this very alive thing, in his gift bag.

 

“Flavors?” He choked out.

 

“Yeah!” His sister got excited again, “Mace and sweetrock, I bet it’ll taste amazing.” She smiled, “Don’t worry, you don’t have to eat it right now, I know it’s way too late to be eating, but do you like it?”

 

“I love it!” Kal replied, eyes flicking to look at her, “You’re the best. I’ll probably have it for breakfast tomorrow. I’m really tired right now though, so I think I’m just gonna gather my things and head up.” His mother smiled.

 

“Ok sweetie, see you tomorrow.” She said peacefully, and with that unspoken permission, he raced upstairs. It wasn’t until he was halfway to his room with a human in a bag in his hand that he realized he hadn’t told them. But he glanced down, and saw those frightened eyes, and kept going.

 

Chapter Text

M8C3 was shaking. His bag was still, the boy that was carrying him much more careful than the woman who picked him up earlier. He’d been in here for hours. He had ended up falling asleep for a small period, but he woke up to the sound of drunken laughter and someone picking up his prison. When that had happened, he started to shake. Why was he shaking? He knew this was coming. He was prepared. This is what he had been made for, what he was meant to be according to everyone on the god forsaken planet.

 

But then why did it hurt so much?

 

The bag had rustled above him, and the human had not been able to stop himself from looking up. Large, bright eyes peered down at him. Despite his terror, M8C3 noticed the man wasn’t smiling. He looked more… confused than anything else.

 

But he wasn’t thinking about that now. He had heard what the monster had said.

 

“I’ll have it for breakfast tomorrow.” The man had stated happily, dashing any hope the human had garnered from the look. Great. His execution had been postponed. For some reason, that only served to make him shake more. Some part of him just wanted to get it over with, his own thoughts making the time spent alive worse.

 

So now his bag was being carried by the man he’d been gifted to, though it wasn’t swinging like earlier. He could tell it was hugged close to the Gargan’s chest, the dull sound of it’s heart seeping into the space around him. He heard the click of a door being opened, and a few seconds passed before his bag was set down on what he could assume was a table of some kind.

 

About 5 minutes passed before anything happened. M8C3 had already closed his eyes to try and get some sleep before his time came, but his attempt was interrupted when his bag was very unceremoniously tipped upside down, and he came tumbling out.

 

The human let out a quite cry of pain when his head banged against the hard surface, and he rubbed his head slightly and cringed, before looking up and jumping slightly at the big eyes that were level with his body. They were deep brown, and he might have thought them beautiful if he wasn’t so terrified. The giant didn’t do anything, just stared, and M8C3 tried to keep his composure and just stared back. Tried not to move, or make a sound. He wanted to be brave in his last moments, wanted to be dignified. He didn’t notice the tears that were slipping down his face until the giant started to to panic.

 

“Oh- oh shit, oh my god,” The gargan said, leaning back a running a hand through his hair in a seemingly nervous gesture, “Hey, hey, ok,” Suddenly hands reached out to the human, and he froze, to afraid to process the giant’s words. All he could process was that two hands, each the size of his body, were currently scooping him up off the table and carrying him across the room. He couldn’t help but let out a choked noise.  

 

The giant sat down on a pillow, in the corner of the room, and didn’t move for a second. M8C3 had his eyes closed tightly in order to stop crying. He felt the Gargan release a deep breath, before an anxiety ridden voice washed over him.

 

“What the fuck am I going to do.”

 

___



Right after the words left his mouth, Kal looked down at the human he was cradling in his palms. It apparently had stopped crying, but now it was looking at him with confusion. The fear was still there, and its eyes were red rimmed and it was breathing heavily, but it was looking at him and not crying, so Kal counted that as a win. He lifted the human up a little higher, so it was closer to his face, and the human winced.

 

“Hello,” Kal whispered, not wanting to deafen the thing, “I’m Kal.” He tried to give it a small smile, but the human just looked at him with wide eyes. He took a second to look the tiny thing over.

 

He, Kal assumed, had short curly brown hair and tan skin, which was surprising since he had assumedly grown up inside a factory. He had light brown eyes and was kind of chubby. Kal realized with a grimace that that was most likely on purpose. Fat made food taste better. The human was wearing something, though it wasn’t exactly clothing. It was thin, not quite transparent and resembled something you would wear when it rained, minus a hood. Kal made the assumption it was edible as well, but he was in no hurry to test that theory.

 

“I’m not going to eat you.” He said quietly, and waited to see if he could get a reaction. He wasn’t prepared for the smaller man to start crying again. His eyes widened, “No, no, hey why are you crying? Everything’s going to be ok, I’m not lying. I understand why this whole situation is horrible but I’m not gonna hurt you so you should be happy I mean-”

“Why not?” A quiet voice cut him off. It was hoarse, probably due to lack of use and Kal almost couldn’t hear it. But he did.

 

“I don’t eat things that-” Kal paused, not sure what to say exactly, “I don’t eat things that look like me.” Is the answer he settled on. There were other things, like ‘I don’t eat things that are intelligent’ or ‘I don’t eat things that have panic attacks in the palm of my hand’ but it was the easiest answer.

 

“But I’m food.” The human replied, and he said it so nonchalantly that a stone dropped in Kal’s gut. It sounded like the phrase was practiced. It was so messed up.

 

“No you’re not.” Kal said gently.

 

“Yes I am.” The human replied forcefully. It would have been comical to see the tiny thing so frustrated if Kal didn’t feel so disgusted by the situation, “I am a human. I am food. I am a delicacy. You are supposed to eat me!” The tears were back.

 

“Oh my god-” Kal hung his head, “I’m not going to do that, and I’m sorry that you have to deal with this but please, please stop crying. I can’t deal with people crying.” The boy in his hands sniffled and stopped, steeling himself in the giant’s palm. They sat like that for a moment before Kal spoke again.

 

“So, I’m Kal.” He smiled gently, “I don’t eat humans. To be fair I’ve never been allowed to, but now I am and it still seems sucky.” He let out a quiet huff of laughter, “Um,” He paused. This felt so strange. “Do you have a name?” Kal assumed not, due to him being treated as less than gargan his entire life.

 

“M8C3.” The human recited. Kal inwardly cringed. That was somehow worse.

 

“Uh, alright, well, how about we come up with a new name? Sound cool?” The human didn’t respond, just sat there looking scared. It was heartbreaking.

 

“I have an identification number, sir. That is fine.” Kal had never been referred to as a ‘sir’ before, and it saddened him that the human believed the honorific was necessary. However, he was happy that the human was communicating and seemed fairly intelligent.  He figured it would make things easier, in the long run.

 

“Yes, well, I think it’d be easier if you had a name, let’s see,” Kal started to mumble a bit, trying to find something that would fit. “M8C3, Maytcthree,maytcee…” Kal paused. The human was looking at Kal with confusion. The fear was still there, but he didn’t seem as stiff as before.

 

“Mace!” Kal exclaimed, smiling down at the man in his hands, “Your name is gonna be Mace!” The human just looked at him quizzically. “It’s a spice,” Kal offered, “For food,” He hesitated, “And obviously you are not food, but it’s my favorite and your number kinda sounds like it.” The human said nothing for a moment, but Kal could see his tiny lips mouthing the word, like he was trying to solve a puzzle. Then he spoke.

 

“Thank you, sir.” He said quietly, “I’m glad you like it.” Kal hesitated at the backwards mentality the boy was exhibiting, but didn’t want to get into it to much. It was late. He was tired. Mace was probably exhausted and terrified. They could work on mental states of abused humans tomorrow. For now, Kal had to figure out what to do with him.

 

He couldn’t put Mace back in the bag. That would be cruel, and probably remind the boy of why he was here in the first place. He couldn’t sleep with Kal, what if he rolled over and crushed him? Also, his pod had certain health settings. What if they were harmful to humans? Kal couldn’t risk it. But he needed to keep Mace close. If Mace panicked and tried to run away or leave the room, someone else might catch him, and Kal knew for a fact that his family was not going to be as liberal as he was, especially considering Mace had been their gift to him. He glanced around the room, looking for something that could be of use. He spotted an old color box next to his closet. That might work. Kal got up, and carried Mace back over to his desk and set him down gently.

 

“Now stay here, just give me a moment, ok?” Mace gave him a slow nod, so Kal turned and went to fix the box. He opened it, and began to clear out all of his color sticks and pastes. He didn’t bother organizing them elsewhere, he didn’t want to waste any time. He grabbed a shirt from his floor, and bunched it up on the bottom of the box. That would have to do for now. He turned around, and let out a slight sigh of relief when he saw Mace still waiting patiently.

 

“Ok,” He said, picking the box up and carrying it over to Mace. “It’s not great, but it’ll have to work for now. Probably better than the bag right?” He tried to joke, “And you’ll be able to see me, so if you need anything just yell, I’m a pretty light sleeper.” Carefully he scooped Mace up and deposited him softly into the box. It was taller than him, so he couldn’t climb out, which, while he still hated the circumstances, Kal counted as a blessing. It would keep him safe. Kal let out a deep breath.

 

“Ok, little guy. I’m going to go to sleep, and I’m going to turn the lights off. Any objections?” Kal waited a moment, before receiving the shake of a tiny head. Kal gave a small smile. “Alright. Goodnight Mace.”

 

Kal stood to his full height, and walked over to flick off the light. After, he stumbled towards the glow of his pod, his exhaustion coming to hit him full force. He laid down carefully and took a deep breath, closing his eyes, and as he did he swore he heard the tiniest voice whisper,

 

“Goodnight.”

Chapter Text

If you didn’t count the naps he’d taken in the paper bag, Mace had never slept outside of a pod before. It had always been easy, no comfort, no discomfort, just rest for 9 hours in a controlled environment. So now, Mace was sitting on top of a blanket inside of a box, trying incredibly hard to process whatever had just happened.

 

It had been awhile since the gargan had gone to sleep, so some of Mace’s nerves had calmed down. Mace leaned against the side of the box, and let out a tired sigh. He felt so confused. The gargan had said some things that Mace didn’t understand. Gargans ate humans, Mace understood that. So why was this one acting so strange? Was it a ruse? Was the Gargan trying to trick him into letting his guard down? That didn’t make any sense, if so. He thought gargans were supposed to be intelligent. He thought they considered humans to be dumb, not worth trying to communicate. He had expected to be eaten immediately. But this gargan, this boy was different.

 

He had given the human a name.

 

“Mace,” The human whispered, testing it out. It sounded sharp on his tongue. Foreign and dangerous. “Mace.”

 

The gargan had smiled, and while his features were huge and terrifying to the boy that had stood in his hands, Mace could tell the giant was attempting to be gentle. While thinking, he let himself fall on his side, pulling some of the blanket over him. What was he supposed to do? Part of him wanted to fight. To kick and scream his way out of the situation and out of the gargan’s room and out of this house and out of harm’s way. The other part of him knew that wasn't smart. He had already tested the box to see if he could climb out. The walls were too high and he was too weak to accomplish anything, much less perform a daring escape.  He stared up at the ceiling. He wanted to be able to close his eyes and sleep like he would if he was in a pod. He couldn’t decide if the day’s turn of events were better or worse than what he had expected. He shook the swirling thoughts from his head. A voice whispered in the back of his mind.

 

Humans weren’t supposed to think. He let out a tired sigh at the thought. Gargans weren’t supposed to not eat humans. It was apparently a day to be breaking rules. He closed his eyes.

 

“Mace.” He whispered again. He smiled.

 

---

 

Mace woke up screaming. He shot up in the box, kicking wildly, trying to untangle himself from the gargan’s shirt. He wanted to move, needed to leave, run, do something. His head hurt. His screams had turned into quiet whimpers when he heard the tell-tale woosh of a sleeping pod turning off. He heard the gargan sit up, and in that voice, that kind, anxious voice that made Mace so confused he heard the gargan boy call out.

 

“Mace? Are you ok?” He sounded worried. Mace didn’t know why, but he sounded genuinely worried and it hurt. It hurt to not be able to tell whether it was sincere or not. It hurt because he didn’t know what to do if it was. He ended up getting so lost in thought, he didn’t notice the sound of gigantic footsteps pounding towards his. He only noticed when hands gripped the side of the box and wide eyes looked down at him.

 

“Mace?” The gargan, Kal Mace remembered asked gently, “Are you alright? You were screaming.” Mace swallowed, unsure how to respond.

 

“I’m sorry.” He responded softly, “I’ve never slept like this before. I saw bad things.” He felt a tear slide down his cheek. He was trying to avoid eye contact with the person above him, but he could tell that Kal was frowning. He heard the gargan let out a sigh.

 

“That’s ok, Mace. It’s Ok.”

___

 

“That’s ok, Mace. It’s Ok.” Kal replied to the shaking human, “You had a sleep terror. Everyone gets them sometimes.” He didn’t add what else he was thinking, or mention his worry that Mace was going to be dealing terrors for a long time due to his past. Best to deal with what was happening right now and wait to deal with future problems. “Do you want to talk about it?” He watched as the man flinched slightly and shook his head. Kal let out another sigh.

 

“Listen, it’s fine. I promise nothing is going to happen to you now, ok? When I go down for breakfast I’m going to tell everyone you’re gone, and then we’re gonna leave. Ok? We’re gonna leave, and you’re never going to have to think about what those people told you you were supposed to be.” Some part of Kal knew that he was talking to himself as well as the human now. He wanted to convince himself that he could do this, even now that there was a small complication in his plans.

 

“Are you going to be alright if I go back to sleep?” A second passed before Mace slowly nodded his head, mumbling a quiet ‘yes’ in return. Kal smiled gently. “Alright then. The sun’ll be up in a couple hours anyway, but if you get scared again just yell. The walls are soundproof so no one else will hear us.” Kal let go of the box slowly, but continued to peer inside until the human was lying down again. Then he walked back over to his pod and went to sleep.

 

---

 

Kal woke up like he did every morning: Peacefully. He sat up and let out a small yawn, blinking groggily in the morning sun that pierced through his window. He raised his arms to stretch, letting his muscles crack. He hadn’t had much to drink last night, but he still had a small headache. He glanced around his room groggily, trying to process what exactly had happened last night. It wasn’t until he turned and saw the old box sitting on his desk that he remembered it all.

 

Oh.’ He thought, staring at the makeshift home of a human, ‘ Right. I have to take care of you now.’ He supposed that, in a strange way, this was a good thing. Lucky for the human, since Kal was probably the only gargan in leagues who would treat him with basic decency, and lucky for Kal since he now had another reason to leave as soon as possible.

 

Kal went about his normal morning routine of getting dressed and prepping for the day. He poured cold water over his head to wake himself up more; he had to be fully lucid for the upcoming conversation. He had already packed what he needed, keepsakes and other essentials. It wasn’t a heavy case, but he felt that was fair considering he was abandoning the people who had payed for most of it. Plus, he was practically an adult. He could take care of himself.

 

Walking over to his desk was a nerve wracking affair. Peeking into the box, Kal was happy to see that Mace was sleeping soundly. He felt bad to wake him up, but it was nice to know that the human had gotten a few more hours of rest after his terror-filled night. Carefully as he could, Kal reached a hand into the box and gently nudged the sleeping boy. It hurt his heart when the human jerked awake and let out a small whimper. Kal tried to hide his frown with a gentle expression, but in reality he was so pissed at the people and society that had caused this poor man to be so afraid.

 

“Good Morning Mace,” he said quietly, “I hope you got some good sleep. I have to go for a bit, but I’ll be back and then we can get out of here, ok?” The human didn’t respond, and Kal let a sigh. “I need you to stay here, ok? And if someone comes in the room, be very quiet. Can you do that?” Kal felt incredible relief when the human nodded. Kal figured that was the go ahead to get the morning started.

 

Walking down the four stairs to the kitchen felt like the longest steps in Kal’s life. Walking into the dining room and being greeted by his mother’s smiling face hurt more than he felt it had the right to. His sister immediately jumped in front of the door, her typical smile plastered across her face.

 

“So,” She said, bouncing a little on the balls of her feet, “How’d it taste? Delicious right?” Kal suppressed a noise of disgust, and nodded with his lips pursed in a tight smile.

 

“Yea, I loved it.” In his mind he apologized over and over for referring to Mace as an ‘it’. The pronoun felt gross in his mouth and it made him feel so guilty, even though the human had no idea of what was happening downstairs, “Really, Savlu, thanks so much. It tasted amazing.” In his mind Kal was begging for a change in topic, and then it hit him. He let out a sigh, steeling himself in preparation for what was ahead. He looked at his family, his mother and father, his sister in front of him, and his little brother already sitting at the table.

“Can we talk?”

Chapter Text

It went about as well as Kal expected it to.

 

“You can’t do this to us, Kalvir.” His father spat, “You can’t do this to your family.

 

“Dad you don’t understand-”

 

“Don’t you dare speak to me like that. I understand perfectly, you are leaving behind everyone who cares about you to chase some wild fantasy. You are abandoning your future, Kalvir.”

 

“Dad, no, I’m building a future. I’ll never be happy if I’m stuck here.” His father stared at him with wide eyes, wet with tears. His mother stood off to the side, fuming. His sister just looked sad. What hurt the most was the look on his little brother’s face. The kid was only 10. How could he possibly understand what was going on. Maybe he did. Maybe he understood that part of his family was leaving and wasn’t planning on coming back any time soon.

 

“Look,” Kal breathed. “I don’t want to lose my family. But I can’t stay here. I love you, but I’m an adult. You need to let me make my own choices.” He tried to sound resolved, but he couldn’t hide the slight tremor that managed to slip into his voice. Kal tried not to show the pain that he felt when his father turned away from him.

 

“I can’t listen to this.” He said, his tone dark, “Fine, go ahead, waste your future. But don’t come crawling back to us when you’ve got no hope.” With that, he turned his back on his eldest son and walked over to Kal’s mother, who put her arms around her spouse and shot Kal a deadly look.

 

“I suggest you leave before you cause this family more distress.” She spat coldly. Her words felt like ice piercing his lungs, but despite wanting to retaliate, he did as he was told. The sooner he left, the easier it would be. He turned and fled up the stairs, slamming the door to his bedroom behind him.

 

He let out a long sigh and ran his fingers through his hair, trying to calm himself as he leaned against the door. Tears threatened to spill and he let out a cough, choking back a sob.

 

“Well,” He whispered to no one in particular, “at least now someone wants me to leave.” He let out a slight chuckle, trying to make himself feel better despite the circumstances. He stood there, back pressed to his door, separating him from the rest of the house and from his family. Separating him from what would soon no longer be his home.

 

He shook his head and stood to his full height. Clapping his hands together and forcing himself to smile, he walked over to his desk and peered down at Mace. The Human stared at him with wide eyes full of fear, and Kal suddenly felt horrible about slamming the door.

 

“Hey buddy, time to go.” Kal reached his hands into the box, far too quickly and Mace immediately flinched. Kal cringed, “Sorry,” He mumbled, “How about we figure out how this is gonna work. Are you ok with going in my bag? It’ll be open at the top so you’ll be able to see me.” Mace responded with slight nod. “Wonderful. Can I pick you up? I’m sorry for not asking before.” Mace looked at him curiously before responding.

 

“It’s fine,” He mumbled, and Kal beamed. He reached into the box again, and this time he scooped the human up carefully with both hands and gently carried him over to his luggage. His case with the essentials, clothes, self-care products and the like, was all packed and ready to go. On top of his case sat a smaller bag. Carefully, he made sure that Mace was stable in one hand before reaching down to open the bag. Lowering Mace into the bag, he gave the human man a shaky smile.

 

“It’s gonna be ok, Mace. I promise.” He said before releasing the man to fall onto the plush bottom of the bag. He then checked his inventory one final time, before closing his case. Picking up with one hand, he pressed the button on the handle that allowed it to be pulled along like it was nearly weightless. Then he picked up his smaller bag and headed down.

 

He walked down the stairs with caution, listening closely for any sign of his family. Peering into the kitchen, which he would have to cross in order to get to his point of exit, he was relieved to find that his family had become scarce. He stepped softly through the entry way and made his across the stone floor. His footsteps sounder harsh as he made his way over to the front door. Taking a deep breath, he put his hand on the lock, and waited as the door slid open.  Stepping outside felt like walking through a wall, like wading through an adhesive that wanted to stick him to the floor and keep him there. It failed.

 

Kal walked to his transport and unlocked it. ‘ Almost there’   He thought, but his mind was interrupted by the slam of the front door.

 

“Kal!” His sister called, racing up to him, “What are you doing?”

 

“What do you think I’m doing Sav?” Kal monotoned. When she got close to him he gripped his bag tightly, praying that Mace wouldn’t make a sound.

 

“I think you’re leaving your family to chase a stupid dream.” Kal let out a tired laugh.

 

“You sound like mother, Sav. Can I not just-”

 

“And I think you should go.” Kal froze.

 

“What?”

 

“I think you should do it.” She smiled softly, “I think you should go. See the world. Just don’t forget about us, alright?”

 

“Of course not, I could never do that. I was planning on staying in touch, but I’m not sure how our parents are going to feel about me now.” Kal smiled, but there was sadness in his voice.

 

“They’ll calm down.” She replied quickly, but Kal knew that wouldn’t be the case. His family was proud, and his parents rarely changed their minds about anything.

 

“Thanks, sis.” Kal gave the happiest face he could muster, “I’ll see you soon.” Sav laughed.

 

“No you want. Just don’t forget my comm ID, alright little brother?”

 

“Alright.” With that, Kal watched his older sister turn and walk back to the house. “Alright.” He swung open the door to his transport, a small, two-person ship that was fairly new. It was sleek and silver, but the inside was rather dark with only one window in front. It had a driver’s seat, and one for a co-pilot or passenger, but not much room aside from that. Carefully, he squeezed his trunk behind the seats and then placed his bag on the passenger seat. Then he sank into the driver’s seat and let himself relax for a moment, before pressing his hand to the control panel and allowing the door to slide shut next to him.

 

“Alright Mace,” He said softly, “You can come out now.”

 

____



This was turning out to be the most stressful day in Mace’s ever-extending lifespan. The day before had certainly been horrifying, but at least then he had known what was supposed to happen. He knew the schedule. Get bought by a gargan, get tossed around by a gargan, get killed by a gargan, and poof, he wouldn’t have to suffer a moment more of his miserable existence. It was awful to think about, but it was what he had planned for, and now, that was all being thrown out window. He didn’t know what to think now. The voices were back as well, Humans aren’t supposed to think they whispered again. Maybe they were right. It would certainly make him less worried about what was going to happen now. The Gargan boy had said he wouldn’t eat the human, but anxiety had taken root in Mace’s gut. The Gargan had certainly shown him kindness last night, but it didn’t sit right with him still. Especially after this morning. He had gone along with Kal’s plan, albeit reluctantly, but mainly because he was still absolutely terrified of what the gargan might do if he disobeyed. He agreed to go into the bag and be carried, and Kal apologized for the circumstances over and over, which Mace definitely thought was strange. It was almost funny too. In reality, Mace had no problem going into the bag. He’d much rather be in a bag then remain out in the open where more Gargan’s could see him. It was safer to stay hidden.

 

It had gone fairly smoothly until they were outside. Mace was trying to keep quiet, and doing so rather successfully, but the bouncing of the bag and the opening of doors and the sounds of the outside world all seemed to be working together to make him as stressed as possible. He nearly screamed when he heard her voice.

 

He remained silent, listening to the gargans converse. It was obvious they were siblings, but very different. Mace felt uncomfortable listening to their conversation, but it was a habit he had picked up from years of boredom and loneliness. He had gotten rather good at eavesdropping.

 

Mace was glad no one could see him. Everytime the woman, Sav he heard Kal say, spoke, he grimaced. If one of his old handlers could see him, they’d call him disrespectful and worse names, and then shock him or smack him until he could give an empty smile to any gargan that passed, like a good little piece of meat. Mace however, always the rebel, felt that despite the fact he was still shaking, he could use a couple angry looks, at least when no one could see him.

 

When they were finally in the transport, Mace allowed himself a sigh of relief.

 

“Alright Mace,” He head Kal say, “You can come out now.” Come out? Out of the bag? Why would he do that? The bag was safe, it was no longer shaking, and besides, what if someone peered into the transport and saw him? It was a much better plan to stay in the bag. So, in his first real act of defiance, Mace didn’t move. It was a few moments of silence before Kal called again. “Mace?” He said. His voice had a slight tremor to it. Still, Mace didn’t respond. A few moments more passed, and Mace almost considered responding, but then something happened.

 

A hand reached into the bag.

 

It felt around for a second, before running into Mace’s foot, and then wrapping around his torso and pulling him out of the bag.

 

Big brown eyes stared down at Mace’s shaking form as the human man fought back tears.

 

Oh no. He thought I did it. I did something wrong and now he’s decided I’m not worth it. He’s going to-

 

“Oh thank goodness you’re alright.” Kal stated. “When you didn’t respond I thought you went and had a heart failure or something. I’ve heard that can happen to smaller organisms under stress.” Kal looked at Mace nervously and then let out slight laugh before placing him gently down on the seat. “Sorry for causing some of the stress by the way.” Mace swallowed. He didn’t understand this creature at all.

 

Looking up at the gargan, he took a moment to assess Kal’s features. Gargans looked fairly similar to humans, but there were quite a few differences aside from the major height difference. Kal had pale skin that had a slight green and blue tint to it. He had spots on his face that were darker green. His eyes were a deep, dark brown, nearly black. His hair was light, with a slight golden tint to it. He had slightly pointed ears that were pierced with enough jewelry to crush the human. His facial structure and smile reminded Mace a tiny bit of a human boy he’d interacted with a long time ago, but when Kal opened his mouth Mace could spot the jagged teeth that hid there.  

 

“It’s fine, sir.” It was certainly not fine, Mace knew. Again, this was the most stressful day of his life. He watched as the Gargan’s expression turned into a frown. Had he said something wrong?

 

“Mace, you can just call me Kal.” He said. Mace couldn’t help the argument that bubbled inside him.

 

“I’m confused, sir.”

 

“Why are you confused, Mace?”

 

“Why do you want me to be disrespectful?” Mace watched as Kal’s frown deepened.

 

“Mace, you’re not being disrespectful. I just think it would be nice if you called me by my name.” Mace thought on that for a moment. It went against everything he’d ever heard from his caretakers, and from the scientists, and, based on what he had witnessed so far, it went against Kal’s own family’s principles.  But arguing with Kal might result in the gargan getting mad.

 

“Alright, Kal.” He said quietly, and the Gargan beamed.

 

“Alright, Mace. I’m so excited to get to know you. And believe me, we’ve got plenty of time. So let’s get going.” Mace felt the engine whir to life underneath him, and the ship took off.

Chapter Text

Mace was learning a lot today. He’d been in transports before, but usually as cargo and never as a passenger. He watched as Kal controlled the vehicle by a series of panels that appeared in front of the only window.  He typed something into the largest panel, and Mace felt as the ship jolted slightly before smoothing out.

 

“Ok, Mace, I’ve put us in autopilot so we should have a pretty smooth ride to our first stop. I know there’s a place in a couple leagues that lets you get food without getting out of your ship, so I won’t have to leave you alone or anything.” Mace paled at the thought of food. He hated food. It was gross. Just the thought of forcing it into his body made him feel sick to his stomach.

 

“I’m, uh, I am not that hungry,” Mace stuttered out, “Kal.” He added the name just in case. Kal looked at him quizzically.

 

“You’re not hungry?” He questioned, “But you haven’t eaten at least since yesterday morning. I really think you should eat something.” He paused, “Give me a moment.” Mace watched as Kal made another screen appear on the control panel. Kal typed something in and then started scrolling.

 

“It says here that humans are usually fed,” Mace saw Kal frown slightly, “a tasteless mixture of proteins and vitamins that come in bits. They are fairly cheap and a human can live off two for 24 hours. There are trace amounts of melatonin that can make humans…” Kal stopped and stared at his screen, his brows furrowed. Mace fidgeted in his seat. Kal let out a sigh. “I don’t think I want to read this anymore.” He turned and looked seriously down at Mace, “Is that what you want?” Mace couldn’t help but let out a sound of disgust, but he slapped his hand over his mouth. He wasn’t supposed to dissent! Sure, Kal was asking for his opinion, but how was Mace supposed to deal with that? He hadn’t been allowed to opinions for the last 20 years! But Kal kept surprising him. Like now, when Kal let out a load laugh causing Mace to flinch.

 

“I’m going to assume that’s a no then. You know, not all food is like that.” Mace knew that. He’d seen the scientists eat before. Their food always seemed more colorful and sometimes it smelled good. But it still disgusted him. Mace continued to frown, and repeated himself.

 

“I’m not hungry.” He said again, slightly more forceful. Kal sighed and closed his eyes.

 

“Alright Mace, I understand. But I’m going to find some snacks that are acceptable for you to eat.”

 

They sat in silence for awhile. Mace had managed to maneuver himself so that the bag was behind him. Slowly, he was becoming more at ease around the giant, and he allowed himself to lean back against the fabric. Whatever it was, it felt soft and warm against his skin. It was nice. It was new to him, but Mace liked the way it felt. It was different than the cool metal and hard plastic and rigid fabric he was used to. It made him feel safe. He leaned into it and let his eyes fall shut. He kept himself from falling asleep, however, and started listening.

 

Mace was a great listener. Some of the gentler scientists often told him that when he did exactly what he was told, but Mace knew that wasn’t where his skills stopped. He listened constantly. It wasn’t like he’d been allowed to speak, so what else could he do? He’d been told it was dangerous to listen to conversations he wasn’t part of, but he couldn’t stop himself! His mentality when he was younger had been ‘If I’m gonna die anyway, who care cares if I listen to people talk’. Mace listened to everything. He didn’t understand most of what he heard, but he listened.

As Mace listens now, he can hear a few things. Nothing important, no information being shared or imminent danger being revealed, but it isn’t quiet. The transport’s engine is letting out a whir sound. Kal seemed to be mumbling something under his breath, but it was quiet enough that Mace couldn’t make it out. It annoyed him. Nevertheless, he said nothing and closed his eyes.

 

___



Kal was focused on driving. Mostly. Partially. Barely. It didn’t matter really, the transport had a great autopiloting system, and no one else was near them.

 

“Alright, alright, new plan, get food for Mace. I skipped breakfast, so I guess I need to eat too. We can stop by that transport friendly place so I don’t have to get out of the car, I really don’t want to leave him alone. What would he eat?” Kal muttered. He glanced down at the passenger seat and felt slightly relieved to see the human with his eyes closed.

 

‘He trusts me’  Kal thought, and let out a sigh. That had been a lot easier than he thought it would. At the same time, however, he was worried. Did Mace really trust him? Or was it just another sign of the fucked up mentality based on undeserved respect and resignation that Mace had shown earlier?

 

While he’d been trying to keep his feelings at bay, Kal had been experiencing complete horror since opening his birthday present last night.

 

Mace was tiny, granted, in comparison to himself, but Kal could clearly see his wide, terrified eyes that were full of so much life staring up at him when he had looked into the bag.

 

He could still hear the sound of pain Mace made when he tumbled out of the bag, could still hear Mace reciting his ‘identification number’, could still hear the scream that was to big for the human’s tiny body.

 

Could still feel the tremors that had wreaked havoc on his tiny body as Kal held him.  

 

What had caused this? Who had caused this? Kal didn’t want to pry, knew that asking to many questions would only serve to cause the human more anxiety.

 

And he kept thinking about those eyes. Those brilliant eyes, so small, and yet it was like they held worlds inside of them. Pale brown, much lighter than Kal’s own, that swirled with curiosity and defiance alongside the fear.

 

Why would anyone want to hurt those eyes?

 

Kal shook his head, placed with hand on the control panel, and kept driving.

“We’re going far away, Mace. No one is going to hurt you ever again.”

Chapter Text

Mace opened his eyes to the sound of two voices, and for a moment he panicked. Was there another gargan in the transport? Mace had deemed Kal safe enough to , but how was he supposed to do anything to defend himself from another Gargan? There wasn’t any place to hide, hypothetically he could crawl back into the bag but it probably was already too late, and what did it even matter, he knew this was going to happen eventually, he’d already accepted it yesterday, how stupid was he to think that anything had changed in the few hours he’d known this boy.

 

Mace had practically become a statue before he fully processed his surroundings. Kal was talking to someone, yes, but the voice wasn’t connected to anyone Mace could see. Then he focused on what Kal was saying.

 

Food, he realized, Kal was ordering food. Mace remembered the Gargan mentioning a place that allowed you to get food without leaving the transport.

 

“Yes, thank you,” Kal spoke into a panel that had lit up on the dash, “That’s everything.” He then removed his finger from the small highlight section of the dash.  He then peers down at the human, who flinches slightly, before returning the gaze.

 

“Alright Mace, I’m really sorry about this, but would you mind climbing back into my bag? I’m going to have to open the transport to get the food, and we don’t want anyone to see you.” Kal explained, and while Mace was a little confused by what Kal meant when he said ‘would you mind’ he nodded. Carefully, he turned around, moving the bag so that it was on its side, before crawling inside.

 

After a moment of silence, Mace heard the telltale click and hum of the transport door opening, and a bored voice that he didn’t recognize explaining something he didn’t quite understand. Kal gave a quick “thank you!” in the overly cheery voice Mace had become familiar with, and the transport door closed.

 

“Mace, you can come out now.” Kal said, the optimistic tone persisting. Mace almost found it irritating, but he wouldn’t dare to comment on it. When Mace was out of the bag, he sat down with his legs crossed and looked curiously at what Kal had placed in between the seats. It was food, obviously, but it was gargan food, so it nearly swamped Mace in size, and it was nothing the human had ever seen before. His stomach rumbled, and he cringed, because despite his claims that he had no need for food he was starting to feel the first onslaught of hunger. And whatever it was, it certainly smelled better than anything he’d ever been near. But even thinking of consuming what was in front of him made his throat close up.

 

“So I got a bunch of different things for you to try to see what you like most. I prefer things on the sweeter side, but who knows! We could have totally different tastes.” Kal smiled wide, showing his teeth. Mace’s neutral expression turned into a slight grimace before he could stop it.

 

“I’m not hungry.” It was Kal’s turn to frown.

 

“Mace I know the food you’re used to was disgusting, but I promise this is better. And it’s still got all the stuff you need, plants, biotics, meat-”

 

Meat

 

Meat

 

Meat.

 

That’s all you are.

 

A piece of meat.

 

You’re lucky. You’ll sell quick. You won’t have to suffer long.

 

Just be a good little piece of meat.

 

Mace hadn’t even realized noticed the tears falling from his eyes until Kal let out a curse. He felt the gargan scoop him up, gently, and let him do it without protest. He almost couldn’t feel it anyway. He was in the transport, he knew that, but his mind was elsewhere.

 

He was young, no more than a few years old, in a place he barely remembered. There were other human children. Some could be his siblings, but he’d never know. There was an older human woman talking. She spoke to them often. She was speaking to him now. She spoke as if she knew the future. Maybe she did.

 

And then she was gone, and Mace was still in the transport, being held in soft hands, with soft eyes looking at him in fear.

 

“Mace, come on, Mace, come back to me. Everything’s alright” Kal was saying, and he must have noticed Mace’s eyes becoming focused because he continued, “There you are. What happened? Can you tell me?” Mace looked at Kal for a moment before allowing himself to quietly reply.

 

“I’m meat.”

 

____



While Kal could not see himself, he imagined that his skin had gone from it’s typical tone to pale and gray. That was typically what happened when he was disgusted with something. He couldn’t help his darkened expression. He was trying so hard to be positive, to not say or do anything to upset Mace. And he had failed.

 

He knew it wasn’t his fault really. It wasn’t anyone’s fault accept whoever forced Mace to think that way in the first place, but Kal couldn’t help but blame himself for the human’s current subdued state. He shook his head.

 

“Mace you’re not meat. Well you are but so am I! I mean, everything living is meat, well not everything. And in the food sense we aren’t meat. I mean we are but, wait, hold on, fuck, where was I going with this…” Kal paused and looked at Mace. On the brightside, the human no longer looked like sobbing, only confused. Kal continued, “Look, you’re not food. And while this is meat, it did not come from a human. We have other cattle animals. We need meat because it has nutrients in it. I will not make you eat that if you don’t want it, alright?” Mace stared at him, before his expression morphed into an angrier one.

 

“I do not want to eat anything, but that is not alright! You keep saying everything is alright, but it’s not! I don't even know what alright means! I think it means ‘good’ but me not wanting to eat is bad. That’s what everyone has ever said. It’s not alright, it’s-” Before Kal could get any answers out of the shaking human, a tiny hand slammed over Mace’s mouth, and he whimpered. Kal waited a moment, but the human said nothing, just shook silently in his hands. Kal looked down at him sadly.

 

“You’re right Mace.” He said softly, and the human glanced up at him, “You’re right. It’s not alright. In fact, everything is pretty bad. But we have to look on the bright side.” Mace gave him a confused look, “We need to think of positive things. My bad thing is that my parents are very mad at me, but my good thing is that I’m out a household that didn’t understand my wants and needs. Can you tell me your bad thing?”

 

“Um, I, uh, I don’t want to eat?” Kal silently thanked the universe that Mace stuck to that. He was absolutely sure there were worse things to deal with, but one at a time was good.

 

“Ok, but what’s good about this situation?” Mace started tearing up again.

 

“I don’t know, Kal, I’m sorry.”

 

“Sh, sh, it’s fine! I can help.” Kal replied, “I think a good thing about this situation, is that you don’t want to eat, but you can choose! Have you ever done that before?”

 

Mace sniffled and shrugged, “No.”

 

“Yes, but now you can! You don’t want to eat, and that is fine. We are going to wait until you’re ready.” Or until you’re so hungry that I absolutely need to feed you, but hopefully you’re smarter than that. “Is that alright?” Mace only nodded, but Kal was happy anyway.

 

Carefully, he placed Mace back down in the passenger seat, and started driving. There was one last place they needed to stop.

Chapter Text

Mace couldn’t see outside the transport, but he felt it when the vehicle slowed to a stop. They hadn’t been travelling for that long, but Mace knew how fast these things could go, so he didn’t have a good guess as to how far they had actually gone. He watched silently as Kal shut down the transport and unlocked the doors.

 

“Mace, can you hop back into the bag please?” Kal asked,  Mace nodded before turning around to the bag he’d been using as a pillow and crawling inside. “I’m going to lift you up now.” While Mace didn’t really see a need for it, he appreciated the warning and braced himself as the purse was grabbed. The pair got a couple steps out of the transport before Kal started talking again.

 

“Mace,” Kal started, and for the human it was a little disconcerting to not fully see his surroundings and only a partial view of the Gargan speaking to him, “I want you to know that nothing bad is going to happen.” Well that certainly did nothing to put Mace at ease. He didn’t respond.

 

Suddenly, Mace felt Kal stop and he could hear a slight buzz from above him. They waited there for a moment or two, before he heard a door slide open.

 

And then a voice.

 

“Kal!” Suddenly Mace felt the bag shake and Kal jerk forward. He could barely see arms wrapped around the familiar gargan.  

 

“Hello Nex,” Kal replied, his voice much quieter than the other gargan’s booming exclamation, “May I come inside?”

“Of course!” and then they were moving again.

 

From what Mace could see, it was much darker inside the gargan’s, Nex’s, house than Kal’s home. It smelled different than other buildings he had been in too, less sterile. Mace stumbled a bit as the bag was set down, and his nerves grew when Kal’s hand left his line of sight.

 

“I’m so sorry about leaving the party early last night, Kal,” Nex said, “But you know I don’t think your parents like me that much.” Mace heard Kal let out a quiet laugh.

 

“You know I don’t think they like me much right now either.” He mumbled.

 

“Oh, Kal, you actually went through with it?” Mace had never heard something that sounded like a whisper and a yell all at once.

 

“What, you didn’t think I’d be able to do it?” Nex cackled.

 

“Well Kal, no offense, but I’ve known you since we were children, and you’ve never really had much of a spine for anything, especially when it came to your parents.” Mace decided then. He did not like this new gargan very much.

 

“Yeah well, everything's been kind of insane for the last twenty-four hours. I think turning eighteen actually changed something on a cosmic level. The universe keeps throwing new things at me. I suddenly feel like a deserve to be listened to.”

 

“Kal, you have always been worth listening to.It’s not your fault your parents are the worst.” Mace changed his mind. Maybe the gargan was onto something.

 

“Oh, they aren’t that bad.” The silence that followed Kal’s words was telling on all accounts. Nex released a deep sigh.

 

“So, Kal, you said that it’s been insane, and then you said ‘things’. As in multiple. So what else happened on your eighteenth birthday?” Mace suddenly went cold. Of course this entire conversation had been slightly terrifying, just with the knowledge that there was another gargan in the room, but Mace had quelled some of that anxiety by convincing himself she couldn’t see him. She didn’t know he was there.

 

“Well, something else did push me to leave as soon as possible,” Kal paused, and Mace held his breath, “More like someone.” Mace felt the bag shift, and fell back as he was lifted up. He saw Kal’s dark eyes staring at him. Mace started to shake.

 

“No, no, no,” He choked out, “Kal, I don’t want to.” They had just talked about this. Kal had said that he had choices now, was it just with food? Was everything else still under the gargan’s control?

 

“Mace, I know it’s scary, but she won’t hurt you.” Kal whispered, “She’s like me, I promise. Remember what I said outside? Nothing bad is going to happen.” Mace did remember what Kal had said. It was not helping. He was still struggling with what was considered bad.

 

“Uh, Kal,” called the other gargan, “What’re you doing, do you need to comm someone?” Mace glared up at Kal, angry tears starting to appear under his wide brown eyes.

 

“Don’t” He whispered, but Kal had already lifted his head and turned to face the other gargan, Mace’s bag still in hand.

 

“Nex, I want you to meet someone.” Kal stated firmly, before reaching into the bag. Mace tried to grip the sides of the purse. One thing that he noticed, while kicking at the fingers trying to pull him out, was that his want to live and the belief that he should be able to had certainly increased in the last day. Did it matter? Apparently not since he lost the battle in about five seconds and was pulled out of the bag and placed rather gently down on a table.

 

He wasn’t sure if he imagined Kal whispering ‘sorry’.

 

He jumped to his feet, but a strange sensation went through his head and he fell backyards into Kal’s hand. He felt as he was lifted up slowly, and he turned to look at who Kal had ruined his comfort for.

 

It was hard to tell, but at first glance Mace thought that the new gargan was slightly bigger than Kal. Her skin was darker, and more blue than Kal’s. Her hair was dark too, and it bounced and curled down to her shoulders. Her eyes were bright green and they stared, unblinking, down at the human.

 

“Holy shit.” She whisper yelled, and Kal laughed lightly. Mace didn’t understand how he could. Was he really that cruel?

 

“My thoughts exactly,” Kal mumbled, “My sister she, uh, bought him as a birthday present for me to, uh-” Nex cut him off.

 

“Kal, I’m sorry but again I need to say I fucking hate your family.” She was staring at Kal with a frown on her face, and Mace was grateful for the lack of attention. He couldn’t stop shaking in Kal’s hands, but at least he hadn’t started full blown crying. But then Nex looked back at him and leaned in way to close for comfort, and he felt the tears come back to his eyes.

 

“Hello, little guy,” She said in the softest tone Mace had heard from her so far, “What’s your name?”

 

Mace opened his mouth, releasing a choked sob, before taking a deep breath. He knew how to do this.

“M8C3.”

 

____



Kal felt horrible. This was not how he wanted things to go at all. He needed Mace to see that he was safe. That Kal wouldn’t let anything hurt him. He needed the human to see that not every gargan was a threat, but now he considered how wrong he was. Of course Mace wouldn’t be alright with meeting another gargan, no matter how much Kal vouched for her. Mace probably still viewed Kal as a threat.

 

Why had he pulled Mace out of the bag? It was split second decision, one that Kal had barely even registered until Mace was in Nex’s line of sight. He tried to keep his hand steady, tried not to move Mace around to much. Then he realized that any move that he saw as tiny probably felt like an earthquake to Mace. When Nex leaned forward, he wanted to jerk his hand backyards to prevent Mace from thinking that Nex was going to try something bad, but he stopped himself. He also didn’t want Mace to fall over again.

 

When Nex asked his name, there was a moment of heavy silence.

 

And then he recited that code, just like he had the night before. Like he didn’t have anything else. Kal felt his heart break.

 

This is my fault.

 

Nex looked up at him, confused, “Kal, does he not-”

 

“This was a bad idea.” He said, and brought Mace back towards the bag. He carefully placed Mace inside, and looked to make sure the human seemed comfortable. Mace had moved so that he was curled up and facing a corner, so Kal couldn’t see his face, but the shaking had stopped. He set the bag down next to him and sat back down, running his hands over his face.

 

They sat in silence for awhile, Kal trying to get his thoughts in order.

 

“Nex, my sister bought a human for me to eat on my eighteenth birthday,” He spoke quickly, wanting to get it all out, almost afraid if he didn’t he’d never be able to talk about it again, “I told this human I wasn’t going to hurt him. I gave him a name,” He sighed, “and then I left my family to go chase some stupid dream and I took the human with me,” he let a laugh, but it felt empty, “and, Nex I want to help him! I want to fix everything, because I look at him and I think why would anyone ever hurt you? But I just keep messing up!” Kal took a deep breath, “Something horrible happened to him, and I don’t know how to fix it.”

 

The silence returned, with Nex looking quizzically at Kal. Then she spoke.

“What’s his name?” Kal’s train of thought stopped.

 

“What?”

 

“Well, he recited an identification number, which in my humble opinion isn’t much of a name,” She stated, “and then you said that you gave him a name. So I ask again, what’s his name?” Kal stared at her, before letting out a slight laugh.

 

“His name is Mace.” Nex gave him a tired expression.

 

“You named him Mace, as in, the food?” It was less of a question and more of an accusation. Kal felt his face heat up.

 

“Well, it sounds like his code, it’s easy to remember, it’s one of my favorite- look it was kind of a heat of the moment thing! He told me his number and I just, ugh, I just had to fix it alright? Sorry I wasn’t that creative.” It was then he realized Nex was smiling at him.

 

“I’m sure he doesn’t mind. That being said, he probably does mind being dragged around to who knows where with people that he probably thinks are going to eat him.” Kal sighed.

 

“Yeah, I know.”

 

“Well, if you know that already then why did you bring him here?”

 

“Listen, I don’t know what I’m doing. You know way more about humans then I do.”

 

“Alright, ‘way more’ might be a bit of an exaggeration,” She raised her hands, “Look Kal, you need to figure this out. Don’t pull shit like this because you’re confused. Humans are fragile from what I’ve seen. If you don’t want him to break, just be careful. Talk to him.” Kal nodded as Nex spoke.

 

“Thank you, Nex,” He breathed, “Can you send me any notes you have on humans? I no longer want to do my own research.”

 

“What, the results make you queasy?” She laughed, “I can send you what I have.” Kal stood up to leave, lifting his bag up slowly and clutching it to his chest. He didn’t look to see how Mace was doing. He had opened the door before Nex spoke again.

 

“He’s adorable, Kal,” she sighed, “and you and I can see that he doesn’t deserve this shit. Everyone else is going to see him as a snack. Remember that.”

 

“I will.”

 

The walk back to the transport felt like leagues. Kal stood with the door unopened, thinking of his next move.

 

He knew he messed up. He knew he couldn’t take it back. Now he had to make it better.

 

But he was scared. Scared to open the bag and find the human exactly as he’d been last night. Scared and untrusting. But that had never changed had it? Kal was just seeing what he wanted to see. Mace was nowhere close to trusting him, and he had never stopped being afraid. Kal had made it worse by betraying any trust that had been given.

 

The door opened and Kal sat down, placing the bag in the passenger's seat.

 

“I’m sorry, Mace.” He said, just loud enough that it could be heard, and they took off.

 

Chapter Text

Mace nearly choked on his identification number, but he didn’t.

 

He nearly screamed when Kal’s hands closed around him and took him back to his bag, but he didn’t.

 

He nearly sobbed inside the bag, nearly looked back to see Kal’s face, but he didn’t.

 

When Kal deposited him into the bag he practically launched himself into a corner, hiding his face in his arms.

 

He wasn’t really thinking when he recited his code. It was second nature, a reflex. A gargan asked for his name, and he responded with what the answer should have been.

 

What the answer was. ‘Mace’ was just a fallacy, something covering up what was really there.

 

But it made him so happy. To have a name. Something that was his that wasn’t the same as everyone around him. Something that was his and his alone.

 

He couldn’t focus on what Kal was explaining. He tried to listen, but it felt like the words were muffled, like his head was filled with static. It was a familiar sound. A noise that often accompanied machinery back at the factory. A noise he had learned to replicate when he no longer wanted to listen. It had been a hard trick to learn. He was so good at listening. It was easy now. He simply slipped away, and allowed the noise to drown out the voices and the thoughts.

 

But he couldn’t drown out the pain.  The pounding in his head and in his chest and his whole body. Everything hurt, and he couldn’t hear, and he was crying. He had been crying so much lately.

 

It was a while before Mace became aware of his surroundings again, or maybe it wasn’t. He couldn’t tell how much time had passed.

 

“What, the results make you queasy?” He heard. They hadn’t left yet.  The pair talked some more before saying their goodbyes, and Mace felt the bag lift. He didn’t look up to see what was going on or where they were going. Most likely back to the transport, and if not it didn’t matter anyway.

 

Mace liked this bag. He liked the way the walls felt, how detached from the world he was. He liked the tight space, it was comforting and familiar. He knew that the bag barely functioned as actual protection, and Kal could disrupt him at any moment, but it just felt safe. Like nothing could reach him.

 

He heard the transport door open, and felt the bag as it was placed down. There was no noise for a moment. The transport didn’t start, Kal didn’t speak. Mace had stopped crying.

 

“I’m sorry, Mace.” Kal said, and it hurt. That was the third time Kal had said sorry to the human, and it made him so confused. Mace had apologized to others before, but no one else had ever claimed to be at fault.

 

And was he actually sorry, or was it a trick? Mace thought back on the last day, and carefully decided no, it wasn’t a trick. He had heard Kal talking to his parents and Nex. The gargan wouldn’t have lied to people that mattered just to deceive one insignificant human.

 

He still wasn’t safe though.

 

He wouldn’t be safe until he was dead or not surrounded by things that could kill him. He let out a steady breath in an attempt to calm himself down. He was never going to be safe at this rate anyway.

 

They took off after that, and travelled in silence for awhile.

 

“I’m so sorry,” Four times now, “I just,” Kal sounded tired, “I wanted you to see that not everyone is going to hurt you. That not everything sucks. I realize that I ended up hurting you. And I’m sorry.” Five. “Mace, I’m so sorry,” Six, “and I’m going to keep saying so until you believe me.”

 

Mace let out a choked sob, before slamming his hand over his mouth. Only the steady hum of the transport was heard for a moment.

 

“Could you,” it sounded like he was crying, “Could you just say something? Just to let me know you’re- ugh, not alright, but just, to let me know you’re still in there?” Mace heard Kal breathing deeply. Could he say something? Of course he was still in the bag. He had to assume Kal knew that the gargan wasn’t stupid. Maybe he meant something else. He moved his hands away from his face. Looking towards the top of the bag, Mace weighed his options. He could yell something and not move, but he didn’t have anything to say. He could just scream, but based on Kal’s reaction to him screaming the night before, that might end up with Mace out of the bag anyway. He could crawl out of the bag, but he’d lose the little bit of safety he had.

 

“Mace?” Kal called again, and Mace cringed, “it’s alright, you don’t have to talk now, maybe later is better.” Would it though? Things had drastically changed for the human in the last day, but would they continue to? Would things keep changing, and if they did what if things got worse? What if everything just went back to the way it was?

 

He was so confused and he hated it. Did his world change, is it going to end up good or bad. What did good or bad even mean any more. Mace was thinking faster than he’d ever thought before and he was feeling more and more overwhelmed.

 

He made a decision.

 

Climbing out of the bag required more effort than he thought it would. He jumped up to reach the edge and succeeded, but as he pulled up the bag tipped, and he toppled out. He heard Kal squeak, but he picked himself up and looked up into the worried face of the gargan.

 

“I’m here,” He spoke softly, as if unsure, “I’m here.” There was silence again, Mace unsure of what to say next. Thankfully Kal spoke first.

 

“I know I messed up. I forced you into a situation where you didn’t feel safe. I’m sorry,” Seven, “But, god, Mace I don’t want you to think that it was my intention to do so.” Mace looked at him thoughtfully.

 

“I don’t think it was, Kal.” He said, and suddenly Kal was smiling like nothing had gone wrong, his sharp teeth glinting down at Mace.

 

“Really? That’s great! Oh but,” He frowned again, “Are you alright? Even if it wasn’t my goal, it still hurt you. I want to fix that.” Mace let out a deep breath, trying to calm his mind. He sat down and crossed his legs, waiting until he knew what to say.

 

“Before, you said I could choose,” He started, not looking into Kal’s eyes, “and maybe you just meant about the food, but I thought, and I know I’m not supposed to do that,” Mace did not miss how Kal’s frown deepened, “but I thought that I had choices about staying in the bag or not. So when I said no I was… confused.”

 

“Is that why you recited your id number? Because it wasn’t confusing?”

 

“Yes,” Mace paused, “and I thought it would be more respectful to Nex.”

 

“May I ask why?” Kal cocked his head to the side.

 

“I don’t know Kal, or I didn’t no how she’d react. You gave me a name, and I, uh” Mace stuttered and gave a half smile, “I, um, I really like it but it’s not what I’m supposed to be. I have a number, and that’s all I need. There isn’t really a difference.”

 

“Is that what you think?” Kal asked quietly.

 

“Kal?”

 

“Do you really think there isn’t a difference.”

 

“I don’t think there’s a difference. I’ve never thought about it. It’s just what people call me. I don’t understand the difference.”

 

“What would you think, er ah, how would you feel if I said there isn’t a difference, but you can choose what you’d like to be called. In front of anyone, not just me.”

 

“I’d be confused.” Mace thought for a minute, “I’m sorry Kal, I don’t understand the choices you’re giving me.” Part of Mace thought that it’d just be easier if he was back in the factory where he didn’t have to make any decisions. He hated that part of himself.

 

“Oh, right,” Kal made a face that could only be described as guilty, “Listen, when I said you could choose I meant everything. Not just food, and it should have applied at Nex’s house but I wasn’t thinking straight. I promise that will never happen again.” Mace waited for an ‘unless’ but it never came. He didn’t trust it. “Could we go back a second, what do you mean you’re not supposed to think?”

 

“Humans aren’t supposed to think. We are to dumb to have coherent thought.” He stated simply. Kal looked at him strangely.

 

“But, Mace, you are coherent. You actually seem really smart, you know way more words and concepts than I would expect you too! You’re great at thinking!” He replied with a smile, “What would make you think otherwise?” Mace wasn’t sure how to answer. He stared at Kal for a moment before replying.

 

“I don’t know Kal, I’m sorry.” Kal sighed and leaned down, resting his head against his seat. Mace leaned back slightly.

 

“That’s alright.” He breathed, “But back to my earlier question, are you ok with Mace? Would you like to be called something else?” Mace shook his head quickly.

 

“No! I like Mace. If I can, I’d like to choose Mace.” Kal smiled softly, and Mace returned the gesture. He felt good. Something was lighter in his chest. The pain from earlier was still there, but it was muted. He felt warm.

 

And then he threw up. 

Chapter Text

Mace had never really felt pain. His entire life had been the same routine over and over and over again, every day for nearly twenty years. Sure, he had felt sad at times, like when he stopped seeing other humans. And he had felt uncomfortable, angry even, on occasion. But he had never felt true physical and mental pain.

 

Perhaps that was why he was feeling it now. The conversation with Kal hadn’t been bad, he might even go as far as to call it nice. However, he still had that ache in his head throughout the conversation, and when he stopped talking, he suddenly felt warm. Very warm. Way too warm. His throat hurt. He didn’t know why.

 

For a second he thought he was dying. Was he dying? Was this dying? He lost feeling in his legs and started to fall. His vision went black. He didn’t like that. Was he dying? He couldn’t see anything, but he wasn’t asleep. So he was probably dead, or maybe not. He could barely hear Kal over the roar in his ears, but he could still hear him. He couldn’t feel his legs but he could feel the passenger seat beneath him. So maybe not. His throat burned, and he felt his body convulse but nothing happened. He just hurt.

 

Not dead. Still hurting. Tears sprung to his eyes. He could feel something sticky on his face. The roar in his ears cleared, and he could hear Kal over the hum. He was… crying? Why was he crying? He felt gentle hands lift him up and Kal’s breath ghosted over him. He was very close to the gargan’s face, and while that would normally terrify him to no end, he couldn’t bring himself to care.

 

“Come on, Mace, come on,” Kal whispered, “Please, you gotta give me something.” He made a choking sound. Mace didn’t think it suited him. Gargans shouldn’t cry. Why would he cry? There was nothing to be sad about. Mace wanted him to stop.

 

“Kal…” He choked out, and the hands holding him stilled, “I’m alright.” The words were quiet, and mostly untrue, but in that moment it was all Mace could think of.

 

Mace didn’t think he was dying.

He started to come back to himself, though he didn’t know how much time had passed. It could have been days for all he knew. He could see again, and Kal was still holding him, peering down at him with wide, wet brown eyes. Pretty, Mace’s mind supplied. He couldn’t remember where he learned that word. He sat up, rubbing his eyes and coughing a bit before he fully started to take in his surroundings. Everything looked and felt raw. Like there someone had come and stripped the world of a layer that no one knew was there. Mace could feel it when he moved and when he breathed and when he blinked.

 

“Mace?” Kal called, hesitantly, “Can you… hear me?” Mace almost felt the need to laugh, but he didn’t.

 

“I can hear you.” He replied, and Kal smiled softly.

 

“Alright, Mace, well I think the first order of business is to get you cleaned up,” Kal brought the human closer to his face, “and maybe get you something else to wear, this thing is trashed.” It was then that Mace noticed the grime covering his chest.

 

“Disgusting.” He muttered. He pulled lightly on the translucent covering, and felt a hint of sadness when it started to come apart in his hands. It had never been the most sturdy material in the first place, so he was honestly surprised that it had lasted as long as it did. But he was still sad.

 

Nevertheless, he took it off and handed it to Kal, who also looked surprised but took it carefully between his fingertips and tossed it somewhere Mace couldn’t see.

 

“Well,” He chuckled, “That was easier than I thought it would be! We should still find some different clothes for you though. And Mace” His face turned serious, “You have to eat.”

 

Mace wanted to throw up again. Why would he want to eat? Everything he had ever consumed had just exploded from his body; why would he ever even look at food? He didn’t want to in the first place! This only made him feel worse. He shook his head.

 

“I don’t want to.” He pouted, and Kal just sighed sadly.

 

“Mace, I fully want you to believe in you choices and your bodily autonomy,” Now there was a word Mace didn’t know, “But if you don’t get something in your stomach soon you’re going to throw up again! And if you keep throwing up you’ll just… waste away.” Kal got quiet and glanced away sadly. Mace understood, but he still wasn’t sure.

 

“I’ve always hated it.” He mumbled, “Eating. It’s something that I’ve always had to do, and I’ve never enjoyed it.” He let out a dark laugh, “That’s one of the things I was looking forward to. Not having to eat anymore.” He tried to ignore the ever-deepening frown on Kal’s face, and he let out a deep breath, “But I understand. I have choices, but I need to eat.” He didn’t even want to think about throwing up again. That hurt a lot more than eating. Kal spoke softly.

 

“It’s alright, Mace, I understand,” He said, “food is connected to bad things, so eating hurts, right?” Mace thought that was oversimplified, but he nodded, “How about we find something that you like first, alright? You don’t even have to eat anything in the beginning, I can just break pieces off and we can see what tastes good to you! Does that sound like a plan.” It certainly sounded like something to Mace, so he nodded again, and watched as Kal smiled and lowered him back down. He reached to the backseat and pulled out a bag, and Mace recognized it as the one that had food in it from earlier. Kal carefully picked food out of the bag and set it down on the divider between them.

 

“Ok here we go,” Kal exclaimed, clapping his hands together before pointing at the first thing in his lineup, a fairly plane looking block, “This is a type of protein made from plants. Protein is very important for living things, and usually it comes from, well, meat, but we don’t have to eat any of that if you feel uncomfortable.” Mace did feel uncomfortable, “I, uh, know everything is pretty big for you, but I think it’s small enough for you to break a piece off?” Mace nodded, and reached to do as Kal instructed, but was blocked by Kal’s hand, “You should wash your hands first though. We don’t want you getting sick.” Right, getting sick. That’s what the scientists always checked him for and why they cleaned him every morning. To prevent diseases. Mace hadn’t thought about it much. Kal had placed a metal cup, about the size of Mace’s head in front of him. “I just filled the cap with some water. You can use it to wash your face and hands, er, actually, drink some of it first.” Mace did as he was told, lifting the large container carefully and taking slow gulps. The cool water did wonders on his throat. Then he grabbed the food and broke a piece off. It felt spongy and kind of wet. Weird. He tentatively brought it to his mouth.

 

“This tastes like nothing.” Mace jumped in his seat when Kal burst out laughing.

 

“Yeah you’re right.” He chuckled, “Alright, how about we try something more fun.” Fun? “Let’s see… Here’s something.” He pulled out a brown bar of sorts and broke off a tiny piece before handing it to Mace. The human inspected it. It was dark brown and hard, unlike the white thing, but also slightly melted and flexible. “I don’t really like it- too bitter, but a lot of people do.” Mace bit into it.

 

Whatever this was, Mace liked it. Loved it. He’d never had anything like it before. This was the opposite of a bland, nauseating brick.

 

“Kal, I only want to eat this.” The gargan laughed again.

 

“Mace, you can’t only ever eat cocoa. It’s not healthy all the time.” Well that seemed stupid, but Mace just shook his head.

 

“I know.” And he smiled.

Chapter Text

“Kal, what am I?”

 

“What?”

 

“I know that I am a human, but I’m not sure I know what that is now.” Mace backtracked, “I don’t need to know, though.”

 

“Oh, well…” Kal was silent for a moment, “Humans are a type of animal, just like gargans. Humans, however, are what we call an ‘original species’. It just means they were on earth before we were.”

 

“Gargans didn’t always live here?”

 

“Well, no.” Kal replied, “Gargans need a lot of resources to survive, so we’re spread throughout space. A long time ago, Gargans found earth to be habitable, so they came and…” Kal wasn’t sure what to say. He knew the story, what he was taught. That gargans found a planet that was already dying and they fixed it, made it better, by limiting the populations of original species. But Kal was also aware that that wasn’t entirely true. ‘Limiting the population’ was just a phrase to replace brutally murdering and consuming intelligent life. Nex had explained it to him when they were younger. He sighed.

 

“They came and killed many of the species to make room for their own.” Kal finished. Mace was quiet for a moment.

 

“But Kal…”

 

“Yes, Mace?”

 

“How did the humans survive? I was told that humans are useless without gargans.”

 

“They lied, Mace. Whoever told you that lied.” Kal didn’t really know what he was saying, and he wasn’t sure it was completely true, but after what he’d seen Mace do…

 

From what Kal gathered, Mace had been raised in a lab specific to using humans as food. Kal was certain he experienced physical abuse and suffered from a warped mental state. Despite this, he had a personality! He knew things! Though he struggled, he could hold conversations and ask questions. If he had been allowed to learn and grow, then maybe…

 

“Mace, I am absolutely sure that humans can live without any extra help. Well… maybe a little extra help, but not too much.”

“Do you think I could live on my own?” Mace said quietly. Kal looked down at the human. He was so small . So vulnerable. And what could he say? There was no way Mace could survive on his own. He had only just started eating properly. Kal was afraid to let him out of his sight for a second, much less to release him into the wild.

 

“Eager to get away from me that bad, huh?” Kal attempted to lighten the mood, but felt worse when he saw Mace’s look of despair.

 

“No! I did not mean that, I just-”

 

“It’s fine, Mace,” Kal sighed, “To be honest I think we should wait awhile before testing that, alright?” Kal withheld his opinion that ‘awhile’ could mean ‘forever’. There was no way humans could survive on their own, he concluded, not right now at least, with the tight grip of gargans on the earth. It was impossible. Mace just nodded. They sat in silence for a bit. Kal glanced down after a bit, and noticed the cap he had refilled was still full.

 

“Remember to drink your water, Mace.”

 

“Why?” Kal welcomed the questions that Mace asked, since it showed he was opening up, but it was grating when seemingly obvious things had to be explained.

 

“You’re dehydrated. It’ll make you feel better.”

 

“What if I don’t want to feel better?”

 

“Why would you not want to feel better? Feeling better is good!” Kal grunted, “Ugh, I know you are having a hard time knowing what good is, but trust me feeling better is good, and drinking water is good. Do you want to throw up again?”

 

“No…”

 

“Then drink your water”

 

___

 

Kal was acting weird. Yes, Mace had only known the Gargan for a little less than a day, but his behavior had changed from what Mace had grown semi-used to.

 

Mace was used to enthusiastic, happy, smiling, overly apologetic, not-caring-about-manners-from-the-human Kal.

 

Maybe this was normal? Maybe he was tired? Or maybe… maybe Mace had done something wrong, and Kal was angry. Was it because he wasn’t drinking?

When he asked about feeling better, he didn’t really mean it. Mace understood why Kal wanted him to drink, but he wanted to see what the boundaries were. What he had control over. He could only get water if Kal gave it to him, but he figured he could choose when he drank. It seemed, however, this small act of choice annoyed Kal, and that scared Mace.

 

So he stopped asking questions, at least for a little while. He drank his water, it maybe it did help him feel better on a small scale, but not by much. He looked around, taking in the details of the transport. He was seating in a seat far to big for him that wasn’t necessarily soft, but it gave way under his tiny weight.

 

In front of him the seat stopped, and there was a dip that Mace would prefer to stay away from. He didn’t want to fall. In the very front was a pane of glass that made its way seemingly up and over the entirety of the vehicle. Some of it was clear, some of it was tinted, but a lot of it, mainly on the driver’s side, was covered in boxes and screens that seemingly came out of the glass. Mace watched as Kal typed things in or twisted a flat knob. It went over Mace’s head, though he could assume Kal was doing something to affect the transport. He had seen similar things at the factory. Sometimes the scientist’s would touch the glass of his sleeping pod and similar screens would appear, but he never thought much of it. Never thought much of anything.

 

He was looking rather closely at the handle of the door when he felt warm breath above him. He jerked around, immediately moving away from the gargan before steeling himself. Kal had leaned over, and was resting his head in his hands slightly above where Mace was seated. He hummed.

 

“I’m glad you drank all the water, Mace. Are you feeling better?” Mace nodded, and Kal smiled, “See! I told you that would help.”

 

“Yes, Kal.” Mace replied softly. Kal tilted his head.

 

“Is something wrong, Mace?”

 

“No, Kal. Everything is alright.” Kal frowned for a second before sighing and closing his eyes.

 

“We won’t be at are destination for a while. Got anymore hard questions?” He murmured.

 

“No, Kal.” Hard questions. What made them hard questions?

 

“That’s good,” He reached out and nudged his finger against Mace’s stomach, “You’re too cute to be asking hard questions.” Mace didn’t know what that meant so he ignored it. Kal yawned, and it made Mace afraid. When Kal opened his jaw, it was big obviously, but it opened wider than his ever could. He could see Kal’s many many jagged teeth. He hated those teeth. “I’m going to get a quick nap in before we grab more food,” He mumbled, “You may hate food, but I need to eat. You should take a nap too. I bet you’re tired after all this excitement.” He stopped talking, and Mace listened as his breathing slowed. He watched the gargan’s pale blond hair shift to fall in his face. He heard the hum of the transport engine, taking them to whatever destination Kal had chosen.

 

Mace did not fall asleep.

Chapter Text

Hey everyone!

Now I know what you're thinking: Sam! (that's me) Where's the new chapter! You're two months late!

This is true, and I would like to apologize immensely. I'm excited for the next chapter, but sadly cannot get it to you right now. As I may have mentioned before, I am a senior in high school. Do you know what seniors in high school have to do? They have to apply for college! And when, might you ask, are all of those applications due, at least for your dear writer? Why, January and February of course! So basically, I'm swamped. I'm also applying to art school, so I also have to finish my portfolio. I'm dying.

Basically, until all of my apps are finished, I don't have time for something I write for fun, such as Underdog. Gotta save that writing juice for essays. Which are all do tomorrow... yeesh.

Please don't worry! I'm definitely continuing, and when I have more free time, say February/March we will return to our regular schedule.

In the meantime, I made a discord channel! Link in notes. Use this to share head canons, take wild guesses at where the plot is going, share fan art, make friends, and maybe see a hint or two at what is to come.

Thank you so much for supporting this original story of mine. It's the first original writer content I've put out into the world and it means a lot. So thanks.

Also please stop commenting "please continue". I will. Promise.

Also also:

Best comment I've gotten: "Yesssss
YESSSSS" by SnugglyKuriboh27 because it's the exact mood I have when I come up with a good plot point.

Worst comment I've gotten: "wait a minute is that a homestuck reference" by LordoftheFlutes I'm mostly kidding but this horrifies me because since I've never read homestuck I have no idea what I referenced or where the reference was. It's hiding. Andrew Hussie is hiding in my story, and I intend to find him, and I will kill him.

Chapter Text

When M8C3 was born, it was in a cold, dark room. Minutes after his birth he was separated from his mother, and taken gently to another room, one that was filled to brim with infant humans. Brothers and sisters, cousins, all strangers. Of course, everyone is a stranger when they’re born, but they would remain so.

 

It is common knowledge that the human brain is most malleable the younger the person is; this is called brain plasticity. There were cases, even before the marvel of Gargan technology reached the earth, where young humans suffered severe trauma to the head, and still came out perfectly fine, all because their little brains were able to mold into new shapes. So if you wanted, say, to embed a chip in a human beings brain, it would be perfectly safe to do it to a child.

 

Probably.

 

So M8C3 was born, assigned a number, placed in a nursery, then removed for surgery. He would later return to the nursery, eight miniscule pounds surrounded by four and a half ton beasts, who failed to see an infant, and only saw an undercooked piece of meat.

 

In two years and a few days time, another baby would be born, much larger and much, much luckier in circumstance. This baby was unhealthy, thin, born prematurely, but this was no problem. He had parents that loved him and doctors that cared. If M8C3 had been born too small, and too sick, he would not have been given that luxury. But he was lucky in a different way, and was granted years that many others had lost.

 

In two years, M8C3 had learned how to speak. The scientist’s found it odd, since many of the children didn’t learn to form words until later, and even then never got farther than fragments, but they let it slide. There were a few other humans that could speak eloquently, but they were mainly caretakers, and weren’t set to be sold. M8C3 seemed to take note of everything that was said. This was mostly useful to the Gargans. M8C3 remembered every order, every rule, though his ability to learn backfired occasionally. Opinions popped up, occasionally. He would frown when the gargans ordered him to do something unsavory or wince when things hurt. It wasn’t to much of a problem, and by this point he had been separated from other humans, so he couldn’t influence anyone. It was just odd.  But he was obedient, and 20 years passed with little incident.

 

On the other hand, leagues away, 18 of those years passed with more activity. Kal Otran, like M8C3, was curious by nature, and since he was allowed this curiosity it often grew out of hands. He got in trouble, but it was never serious. He spoke often and quickly, and when he ran out of words he would make pictures, bursting with color. It was when he got older that his parents starting pushing him towards what they considered better things. He learned physics and engineering, and he was great at it, but he always moved back towards more creative callings. He wanted to explore, and he couldn’t do that stuck in his parents lab.

 

He crafted a plan of escape.

 

M8C3 did not.

 

___

 

Mace continued to watch Kal as the gargan slept. It amazed him how different they were. He’d been surrounded by gargans all his life, and they were different from each other, but they were so much different from him. Kal he found especially different. His hair was much lighter and stringier than Mace’s, and it covered his entire head. Mace didn’t remember having spots on his face. He started thinking more about differences, and ran a tongue over his teeth. They were mostly flat, or at least more so than a gargan’s. He opened his jaw, and he knew not counting the size differential it was no where close to how large Kal’s yawn had been.

 

This situation… what was the word Kal used… sucked. He hated this. Hated waiting. He wanted to cry again. He had been crying so much. He shook his head.

 

“Good side,” He mumbled, hoping Kal wouldn’t hear. “I don’t like this because I feel like I’m going to die. Or maybe not, but he doesn’t…” Mace paused. What did Kal not do? Take him seriously? Respect him? No one had ever done that before, and Kal was at least better! What right did Mace have to be complaining. He was probably the luckiest human on the planet right now. “Stupid,” He hissed. “Stupid M8C3,” No wait that was wrong. “Stupid Mace.” And he smiled, pleased with himself with remembering his own name, and for a split second forgot what he was doing. “Good side,” He repeated, attempting to stay focused, “Kal gives me food that isn’t super gross. Or he did. He might not again… You’re being stupid again! Agh!” Why was this so hard? Why was thinking so hard?

 

Mace decided to focus on something else. Despite the fact that Kal was asleep, the transport had kept moving. He could barely see the screens that were higher up, but one of them showed clouds and treetops passing quickly. He wondered where they were going, which is both easy and difficult to do if you’ve only ever been to maybe three locations. Easy, because it’s something you do automatically when you no longer want to be somewhere, and hard because you have no ideas for what those new places will look like. You have no template except for where you’ve already been, and that place, at least for Mace, sucked.

 

He was so busy focusing on the outside world he failed to notice large dark eyes blink open behind him, and he missed the small smile that touched on the gargan’s face as he looked down at the human. Mace jumped and turned around when Kal let out a yawn and stretched. God, was his mouth getting bigger? Mace twitched nervously in the seat.

 

“Good morning, Mace,” Kal said cheerfully. Mace cocked his head.

 

“I think it’s mid-afternoon,” He replied in confusion. “Kal,” He added for good measure. Kal’s smile faltered for a second but then came back stronger.

 

“Of course, Mace. It’s just a figure of speech,” He explained.

 

“Oh,” Mace responded. He didn’t know what that meant of course, growing up with scientists that don’t try to teach you things means few lessons in literary or figurative rhetoric. Kal turned and began moving screens around and pushing things on the console.

 

“Alright, Mace, we’ll be there in about another hour, maybe a little less. Depends if the wind stays this calm or not.” Mace nodded like he understood, and then turned to face forward, absentmindedly running his hands over each other. Kal continued to punch things in on the screens. Mace let his mind wander, but it slowly become blank, which was nice.

 

His peace was broken when a loud beep burst from the console. He covered his ears. He’d never heard anything this loud. He could feel the noise pounding inside his head, trying to split it open. It made him want to throw up again.

 

“Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry-” Kal was moving around frantically and exclaiming apologies. For a second, Mace considered they were for him. But then the siren continued and told him otherwise. He started to tear up but Kal interrupted, “Mace!” He shouted, and the human looked at him, shaking. The gargan put his hands out. “I need you to get into my hands.” The beeping continued, and Mace felt the transport shake. Mace leaned away. Kal looked desperate.

 

“Ok, Mace, I really, really, need you to get in my hands,” Kal looked scared. Mace found it odd. Thoughts filled with fear and a tiny bit of rage bubbled up inside him. He took the chance.

 

“Do I have a choice?”

 

“What?”

 

“Do I have a choice?!” Mace all but shouted, “Or is this something I have to do?” Kal shook his head.

 

“Yes Mace, you are always going to have a choice when it comes to me, but right now the options of that choice are really bad, and I need you to get in my hands!” Mace was angry.

 

“Well, what’s the poi-” He was cut off when Kal’s hands wrapped around him. It was a tight fit, but it was dark, and he was a little scared, but mostly furious.

 

“Fuck!” He yelled, kicking and squirming as Kal moved him. He had heard the scientists, and Kal, use the expletive when they were upset, and he was way more than upset now. He couldn’t see outside, but he could hear Kal’s endless stream of meaningless apologies. He didn’t calm down, but then he felt Kal’s hands move, and the gargan turning.

 

And then they crashed.