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The Great Beast’s high-pitched moan roused Genn from his deep and nourishing slumber. Through the symbiotic connection they shared, Genn knew the Great Beast had detected movement in the planet’s orbit--movement that it considered to be a threat.

Genn made his way up through the Great Beast’s innards, lit only by bioluminescent veins that glowed in soft reds and greens. When he entered the small and warm cockpit, a thick membrane slid aside to offer a view of the planet’s horizon. In the blue darkness below, Genn saw the blazing trail of a small spacecraft that struggled to wrest itself free from the planet’s pull.

The Great Beast had no complicated instruments like the other Sentients had aboard their ships, but it could predict courses and detect threats much in the same way any organism can--though it could do so on a much larger scale. By observing the spacecraft’s trajectory, the Great Beast had determined that it made its way towards Genn and the Great Beast; it would be here within a solar hour. The Great Beast hummed a nervous song. Genn’s tendrils connected with its exposed nervous matter and sent out soothing thoughts to calm it.

Genn expected company. The only question was if this was the right company. In Genn’s line of work, he could take no chances. There was little the Great Beast could do in and of itself when it came to defense. Luckily, Genn was not the only creature aboard the Great Beast. . .

Deep in the bowels of the Great Beast lived the Gutfish: these stumpy, worm-like beings were the first and only line of defense of any Great Beast. In their symbiotic relationship, the Great Beast provided nourishment to the Gutfish; in return, they were launched from the Great Beast’s body in case there was danger, to protect it or to allow it enough time to escape.

When Genn had made his way to the dark bowels, the Gutfish sensed his presence and greeted him with excited chirping. He took a chitin spear and mounted the first Gutfish he found. Once Genn was seated, the Great Beast rushed to expel both Gutfish and rider from its body in a process that other Sentients may have found disgusting, but that had become second nature to the space-faring Mold.

Genn and the Gutfish were greeted by total silence and violent glare of the blue star. It took Genn a moment to adjust; it always felt strange to return to the outside. A prickle went back and forth over Genn’s thin chitin skin and through the fungal fruit that grew underneath; it was not an altogether unpleasant sensation, and in a way it always felt as if he was coming home.

The Gutfish stretched the membranes it used for terrestrial flight, its happy song lost in space. Genn directed it towards the bright blaze that closed in on the Great Beast and felt the creature stir beneath him as it prepared strong, armor-piercing spines--one of its many natural weapons--and flexed the muscles that could launch them fast enough to pierce the strongest hulls.

With a sharp prod of his spear in the Gutfish’s side, Genn urged the creature on. It picked up tremendous speed as it released gas from its air sacs, and Genn shared in its happiness at being in open space again. He stood upright on the beast’s back, firmly latched to it with his tendrils, caught the intense light of the blue star on his face, and felt free.


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