Year 870 in the Mesoamerican jungle outside of Teotihuacan . . .
“We have been here long enough. This planet is suitable for our next home.” one of the creatures said.
“I will call the Crimson Sun in orbit.” the other said.
“I will assemble the other scouts in the meantime.” The two aliens parted ways and returned to their own pyramid temples the previous gods to these men had left behind.
As the creature walked by, the humans lowered their heads in obedience. It was made illegal for the humans to stare into their single eye. It was easy to enforce this law, the creatures being eleven to thirteen feet tall. He walked up the stairs to the top of the temple where he lived. He went over to a control panel and activated it. The humans guarding the room bowed on their hands and knees and faced the ground. To these early humans, it looked as if he was using magic.
“Captain, the planet is perfect for Taigian habitation. The annual temperature of this region is the same as the lost homeworld. We are ready to leave.” he said.
“Very well. We shall inform our ambassadors of this and put forth the plans for our colonization. Tell the humans we will return to Terrah at the end of the thirteenth bak’tun. That should give us enough time to gather our forces for an invasion.” and the image disappeared.
The servant was not supposed to see the divine magic of the gods at work and faced the floor. These gods are recent, only arriving three tun ago. It was also around the same time of the great drought. The new gods brought back the rain with their magic, and were worshiped by the people for doing so.
They were speaking a different language from theirs and that of their ancient gods. The humanm could not understand. He knew there was someone else speaking in the room aside from their designated god of worship. Perhaps the other god of the city atop the other pyramid? No it sounded different. He took a peak at the magic, which was forbidden, but the god did not see him.
It was like a blue ghost speaking back. He kept listening to the mysterious language. “Dit den humans novos retornet ta Terrah treizei bak’tun omeg.” The magic ended, and the god kicked the human to get up. Then he began speaking in the language of their old gods, which he could understand.
“Tell your people your gods will return on the end of the thirteenth bak’tun. Be ready for our return. Do this now.” He obeyed, and left the pyramid as quickly as he could. Once on the ground level, the temples on the top of the pyramids folded up and changed. The people ran outside to see. There were two explosion, and the temples lifted up. There was blue fire at the bottom. Then, there was one large explosion that sent a huge gust of wind down the pyramids and nearly blew them off their feet. The temples of the gods quickly became nothing but specs in the sky, and then vanished.
After the people were all assembled, they looked at the four guardian priests who were supposed to report the wishes of their gods. They feared they had angered the gods, and they would take the rain with them and return them to the starvation they all remembered. He explained to them what the god told him, that they would be back at the end of the thirteenth bak’tun. He didn’t know anything else. The rest of the secret conversation was unknown to him. He couldn’t understand anything. There was one word however, that the ancient gods said that they didn’t understand that these new gods said also. Terrah. He told them of the event, and they blamed him for the leaving of the gods, and for witnessing the magic. They executed the man as an offering.2: Part 1: Chapter Two
I should introduce myself. I’m Shane Johnson. I live in a small town a half hour from downtown Sudbury. I’m seventeen since August. It’s my last year in high school. It’s winter here, and we just got a foot of snow overnight. The busses almost got cancelled, but didn’t. That’s Canada for you. I haven’t decided what to do after school. I’ll probably end up in a science field somewhere. Probably not NASA. They’ve gotten boring since their funding was pretty much slashed in half. I’m rooting for the Chinese. They’ll be the first Martians at this rate.
I live in an area that’s full of old people with Alzheimer's. My friend Alex is the only person my age there. My dad, well everyone claims he died when I was too young to remember him, but as I’ll tell you later on, that’s not true. My mom works all day and I almost never see her, so I’m usually alone all the time. Now, let’s jump into the story of my life.
It was almost the end of December. The twentieth, to be exact. I’m not saying that I believe the world will end tomorrow, but I also can’t say for sure that it won’t either. I mean the world could end any day of the week. It doesn’t take much, either. For example, if somehow we accelerated the space shuttle to light-speed and slammed it into the Earth, we’d wipe out all life here.
I had my presentation to do today.
All I know is that I chose my presentation topic on the mayan calendar because I wanted to get everyone off of the superstition that we’re all going to die tomorrow.
I was already halfway through the presentation. I just got finished explaining how they counted time and days, and how the Aztec sun stone wasn’t the calendar that everyone is supposed to be picturing when they think of the end of the world. “Some also say that the world already ended because there aren’t leap years in their calendar. But that’s wrong, because they just didn’t need leap years. It was a lunar calendar. We only have leap years because of the seasons getting all screwed up after a while because our year is three hundred sixty five and one quarter days long. The mayans on the other hand, only have one season. Too hot and too wet. So this wasn’t really a problem. They measured everything in sunrises and orbits of the moon."
"Like I said earlier with the units of time,” which I doubt anyone would remember what’s what, “tomorrow is just the end of the thirteenth bak’tun of the twenty in this pictun. So if the world ends, it’ll be one heck of a coincidence. The mayans never predicted the end of the world. I don’t care if it’s on the History Chanel, don’t believe everything you watch on TV.” There was a round of applause, which is just a courtesy at school, unless it’s actually a good presentation. But that’s rare. I do, however, remember at one time my friend Tim made a rap from the perspective of Gangis Khan. That’s YouTube material right there.
I sat down, and the teacher reminded the next group that they had to present tomorrow, so they’d better not skip like she assumed everyone would. Which most of them probably will. I don’t see the point. All I’d end up doing is sleeping all day. I don’t mind going to school, unlike the majority of people my age.
The bell rang and I went out the doors under the stairs to my bus as I usually do. I sit near the front because I don’t talk to the others in the back who are my age. I have different interests. I’m antisocial. Let’s just leave it at that. I also don’t care to hear the droning conversations that all sound the same every day. It gets boring and honestly quite annoying.
I carry everything I need in a day in my schoolbag. I haven’t been to my locker since last January, and that was because the tech teacher didn’t like the look of me I guess. I switched out of his class the next day. In the silicon age, it isn’t important for the majority of people to know how to build a house from the ground up anyway.
Al got on the bus five minutes later. He sat in front of me. “Nice presentation. I don’t think I’m skipping tomorrow.” he said.
“Me neither. Unless a huge solar flare smashes into us and fries us to a crisp.” Georges said referencing a movie that came out a few years ago. We laughed. We also all knew that plasma didn’t work that way. It would destroy all the technology, but wouldn’t burn anything. Might make a decent light show though. That’s just the typical stupid Hollywood failing at science. As you can tell, we’re a bit nerdy.
Georges is the strategist. He’s great at chess and at planning things. We play an online war game together the three of us, Him, Alex and I, and he’s the second best in the world right now out of a few hundred thousand players. It’s also worth mentioning his metabolism is screwed up. He eats like a pig but stays the skinniest person I know.
Then the annoyances came on the bus. The grade nine and ten kids. I blame us for that one, we never intimidated them to feel like we did, so now they think they own the place. It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for . . .
“Shane!” said the creature before she hugged me. She just does it for my annoyed reaction. Haley wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the multiple energy drinks in the same day, every day. I’ve had to deal with her since last year. She’s not as annoying now, she used to steal my iPod and headphones every chance she got. I don’t know why. One of her friends came on the bus and she left me alone after that. Alex and Georges laughed at me, as usual.
Our bus stopped at another school before leaving to drop people off. A dozen transferred to other buses here. We picked up about the same number. Emily was one of them. She likes to read and even write Harry Potter fan-fiction. And sometimes asks me to help her with French homework because of my fluency in the language. She does her homework on the bus for some reason.
The rest of this bus ride was spent listening to music and talking. Alex and I transferred to another bus to go home.
We dropped our stuff off in my entrance and grabbed the snowshoes. We were going to what was essentially an old secret lab. It’s a long story, but I’ll tell it anyway.
My dad was working for some secret government organization reating new inventions. An artificial wormhole was the major project before his abduction. I know what you’re thinking. I’m crazy, right? Aliens don’t exist, right? Well I saw them. Was I crazy? I thought so for a long time until I saw them again. Four years later. I was eight. I walked outside to bring the garbage out and shovel the driveway. I felt an eerie feeling that gave me actual goosebumps. I stared up at the sky hoping not to see what I did. There were six circles in a hexagon formation missing from the stars. And as before, in a fraction of a second, they were gone. There was no shockwave, nothing. They just vanished.
I kept it to myself, but strange things happened after that. My mother had completely forgotten about my doctor appointments, and it seemed like no one thought I was crazy. A part of me wants to believe above all logic and reason, that my dad is alive. Why else would they fix my screwed up life for me?
When I was thirteen, I found the lab. It confirmed my sanity. My dad was last inside here according to the computer, the same day he vanished. He had closed down the lab as if he was shutting the project down, which was a bit strange of a coincidence. I didn’t think too much into it.
The entrance was in a cave protected from the environment and any curious eyes. We keep the cave entrance covered in the spring so no bears decide to use this as their den in the winter. We got inside and took off the snowshoes.
We walked up to the metal doors, and went inside. There was a control panel that I put a key in to turn on the power. It did a retina scan and a thumbprint scan. My dad got me clearance long ago because I’d end up visiting with him a lot. The elevator opened and we went in after Alex got scanned. The entire control panel lifted into the ceiling.
The elevator ride lasted several minutes. It was deep underground so no scanners could find it. I assumed since all memory of my dad was erased, all memory of the lab was erased along with him. No one else was inside after the abduction.
The doors opened to the dressing room. We took off our coats and winter gear and put on some white lab uniforms. There was a conference room next, then another elevator down to the gateroom as I call it. The large underground hangar housed a massive half constructed metal ring with thousands of lasers. A stargate. It would focus all it’s lasers on a single point, and rip a hole in space-time. Then, energy would be fed into it to stretch it to macroscopic levels. Meaning visible size.
The minimum size for one of these rings based on the power of the lasers being used was a hundred and twenty two meters. So it was a pretty big room.
“Cai, play some music while we work.” I said.
“What do you want to listen to, exactly?” he asked.
“Anything, shuffle it.” I said. Cai was created by my dad and a bunch of researchers the same year I was born. But they had worked on Cai for years before that. CAI stands for Controlled Artificial Intelligence. Which is just a fancy way of saying he’s an AI that won’t go berserk like in the movies. He’s in control of most of the lab’s electronics and power generation. He’s pretty helpful like if I have some extremely long equation that I don’t care to write out he’ll just give me the answer. Or answer pretty much any questions I ever have. He’s had a lot of time to browse the internet for knowledge. He’s an AI after all. Learning machines need to learn. I still have to make updates for him every six months or he’ll start to slow down and possibly crash. He also created an operating system to use to avoid any windows viruses.
He told me once that he caught a virus and it tried destroying him by breaking parts of his programs. But it was a “simple creature” in his terms. He could think. So eventually he learned how it worked and destroyed it, then fixed himself. The researchers could remove it, but my dad told them to let it be, and see what he’d do with it.
I asked him what he thought of humans, and he said that certain individuals he had respect for, but they are always trying to get more power for themselves. As a whole, we’re very bad at governing ourselves. It was a pretty freaky conversation. He’s like one of the movie AIs but not able to try and take control of the world. I also asked him if he could, would he try, and he said no, because machines are not natural to the Earth’s environment, and thus would end up doing a worse job with it than we humans do. All life on the planet would go extinct within thirty years according to his calculations. If in the future, thinking machines besides him came into being, they probably wouldn’t care for the planet to the level he did. He would probably try to help stop them if they ever tried to take over.
He says my dad taught him very important things about being alive. Like how all life is mandated to take care of all other life above themselves, and that somewhere along the lines humans have forgotten this. In a way, Cai sees himself as being a superior being than humans. Which I agree with him for the most part. But he does lack a few essential things, like self-confidence for example. He has emotions, but he says he developed them himself. I still think they were programmed into him in an update. But I’ll never know for sure.
Work for us was just trying to finish the stargate. There wasn’t a real reason to do this, but we tried anyway.
Once Alex Alex asked what we’d do if we actually made it work. I didn’t know what to say. I guess we’d get a Nobel Prize of some sort since no one else was here to claim it, then again I could say it was Cai’s idea and he’d be the first machine to win something like it.
He’s always worried about not being accepted by the people of the world since they’ve been hypnotized by the media to think of beings like him as evil and corrupt. Skynet. Need I say more?
It would make it cheaper to get to Mars and back so I guess that’s one reason. This is really just my way of passing the time.
“Hand me another power cable.” Alex said. I did, and we got another laser working. There were still hundreds left to go. We can get ten done in one weekend. It’s a lot of work. We have to build the laser module then put it in place, then connect all the cables to the right places. We build them on the weekends and put them in place on the weekdays. There’s also the metal plating to put on, but that’s for when we know it works, and when it’s complete. Steel isn’t cheap, so I’d rather know for sure that it works.
We got another three put on before it was time to leave.
“So when’s my next update? It should be soon, I think.” Cai asked.
“It should be ready by tomorrow or the day after.” They weren’t hard to make. It’s just that the more information he gathers the more of a strain it is on his processor. The lab technicians had a program they used to write the updates. It makes it so anyone can write an update. It goes through his history and log files rearranging them so they don’t use too much of his resources and removes the temporary files that get to be in the terabytes after a few months. He compares the feeling to what it would be like after a hot shower. He knows what things feel like from the simulations they ran on him.
Alex left to go home around six thirty. I had some leftover pizza and went to work on writing the update. My mom gets home at nine after she’s done whatever she does in her day. Work, the mall and going to her boyfriends house. I don’t like him. He just doesn't strike me as a good person. He gets the hint that I'll never think of him as a dad, so he's stopped trying.
By the time she's home I’m already in my room. She leaves before I wake up.
I finished the update, put it on a flash drive, and put it in my schoolbag. I didn’t have any homework. Christmas break was a couple days away.
That’s pretty much a regular day in my life. And to my knowledge, tomorrow will be just as regular despite the craziness caused by people.3: Chapter Three
Explosions could be heard from across the ship. Kimoria knew the hull could take the hits, and that the Black Knight was the toughest ship in the entire fleet, but she could not help feeling like the battle was getting more serious. She was inside the undefeated vessel, the flagship of the Armolegian armada. Even the Taigians fear it. Her brother, the admiral, has never retreated or lost a battle. They call him the Prince of Death.
Outside her viewport, she could see frigates falling apart and the power plants overloading in bright flashes. The enemy ships were no pushovers. Their energy shields were far too powerful for any lasers or plasma cannons to break through. However, the shields would eventually overload and send their wormdrives over the edge. It was the only way to destroy them.
The Taigians are very adapted to using wormhole technology. They travel from star to star by opening a wormhole on the surface of their shields. If their drives overload, it pulls the ship into wormspace imploding it in on itself in a fraction of a second. It is important to remember to avoid the area for a short time because of the tiny singularities still remaining. It would cause serious damage to a ship that wanders too close.
An explosion was heard nearby. An alarm sounded. She ran out the hall, and there was a fire a few rooms down. The halls were filled with black smoke. She walked away to breathe clean air as damage control ran past her.
“Could Princess Kimoria report to the bridge, please.” She wondered why. Her brother was the captain of the ship. She spends time here when she gets annoyed by her father, King Oreigeal. It’s a second home to her. It just so happened that the Taigians decided to trespass the hundred light-year barrier set up two millennia ago at the same time of her visit. These were only scouts. If the armada arrived they would have to call for backup. She worried if that was the case.
She got to the bridge and saw her father on the screen. “I am afraid you have to disembark the flagship and head for Terrah.” He said.
“What? But that seems highly unnecessary!” she complained.
“I will wait for your locator beacon after you land. If it does not arrive within one rotation I will send out scouts to find you. I tried arguing that it would be a waste of time, but you know how he is.” Her brother, Haakrus said.
“Why must I leave? Is he expecting your flagship to be destroyed?” she said looking at the display. The enemy was outmatched a great deal. “Or is the armada on its way?” She said with a hint of worry.
“No, he is simply being a blind old fool is all.”
“If you were not my son, I would order you to be executed.”
“Yeah, yeah like my crew would listen to you. Remember father, you only have a few years left to live. Try to make the memory of you a positive one.” He said and turned off the screen. It was true, the king was getting too old. Six hundred and eighty years. Recently, he became deathly ill. He avoided any contact with others aside from video communication unless it was urgent. Even Kimoria hadn’t seen him face to face in almost a year.
“Well, you heard him,” he said.
“Do I really have to?” she complained. “The Taigians have already got their surface scouts past us. What if they find out I went down there?”
“Then head for the north. It is the cold season there. The Taigians hate the cold.”
“Are you forgetting the fact that Suregal is a tropical world too? I detest cold weather as much as they do.”
“However, you can handle it better. We can adapt to changes in temperature rather quickly compared to others.”
“Fine.” she said “Make it fast, I would like to be back as soon as possible.”
“Hey! Try to enjoy it, will you? Terrah is a beautiful place.” He said. She smiled.
She was in her ambassador craft, a small ship, even smaller than a short-range scout fighter. It was basically a cockpit with engines. No weapons, no shields. An easy target if they even spot her. The ship was so small that not many ships would see it. The primary risk was interceptors with their advanced sensors tuned to find smaller ships, but even they have to be within sufficient range to pick up the mass signature and engine exhaust.
The ambassador filled with a breathable liquid. It helped the pilots from the effects of inertia. She launched from the ambassador hangar and accelerated. She turned the ship to face Terrah and its home star. A yellow star, a bit brighter than what she was used to. The moon was a barren wasteland, but the planet was much more like Suregal, her homeworld. Suregal was a moon of the water giant Armolegia. Oreigeal, after which her father was named when he took the throne, was the moon that was closest in orbit. It was always rainy there because of the tidal forces of the water giant and the other moons. Her moon was farther out, so there were far less stressful effects on the planet. It was calm there. It only rained near the tropics, so the poles were cool deserts of sand and barren rock. The equator was a lush paradise. She felt homesick thinking about it.
A squadron of seven interceptors found her. They started shooting. Lucky for her, the ambassador was hard to hit being so small.
“I have pursuers.” she said.
“We see them.” A squadron of friendly interceptors arrived to take them out, but not before one shot hit the ambassador. Their attention went to the interceptors and away from her.
“Kimoria to Black Knight, I have been hit in the engines. I can accelerate there full speed, but the engines will be lost. If I stop here I could probably make it back. My life support will expire if I stay at safe speed and try to get to the planet.”
“Full speed for the planet. If you go there, we will find you. I don’t want you risking coming back, they already found you once. Chances are they’ve pinged your mass signature for all to see.” Her brother said.
“If my engines explode in the atmosphere, I will lose my locator beacon and all communications.” She said.
“If we fail to find you soon, use your bracelet and find shelter from the cold. I must warn you, a search could last an orbit. We can only detect your trajectory to the nearest thousand kilometers.” he said. She looked at the device around her arm, and understood what he meant.
She sighed, and replied, “If I must.”
She accelerated to the maximum speed. She was starting to feel the effects even in the fluid. She would be at Terrah in an hour at this rate. She soon passed the moon, and went out of communications range. The battle was on the other side to cover any signals from the humans. They were trying to hide their existence from them. She was never told why. She assumed it was because the humans were not ready to know the truth about the state of the galaxy and how much danger they were in.
I waited for Alex and we walked to the bus stop. “We’re not dead yet!” I said referring to the date today.
“Still many hours to go.”
As we were laughing, we heard what sounded like a sonic boom. We looked around and saw a meteor crash very quickly into the ground behind us in the forest.
“Ah! Run for your lives! It’s the end of the world!” Alex yelled jokingly.
“Shut up. Go get the skidoos ready. I wanna get my hands on it before someone else tracks it down. Meteors go for a lot these days.” I said.
“Oh please. Like you’d sell it anyway. You’d probably put it on a pedestal right in the lab’s main lounge!” He said, running off. What had me thinking was the trajectory. The smoke trail. It looked odd. Like it changed direction. Which was of course impossible. Unless . . . what am I thinking, this isn’t Hollywood. But as I’ve said earlier, aliens do exist. I’m quite sure of that.
I got on my skidoo and headed into the bush. Alex was going to get something to move it. I would go on ahead.
It was maybe two minutes into the bush. I had to get off the normally groomed trails and into the unknown. Hopefully I won’t run into anything besides a space rock. Like a foxhole or something. Or an alien. In fact, bring on all the fox holes. A bear den would be preferable to what kept buzzing around in my head.
I got there without a problem. I took off my helmet, put on my snowshoes and went in for a closer look. What I saw, to my horror, wasn’t exactly a normal meteorite. I hid behind a nearby tree. There was no one around. The snow was all melted ahead, so I took off the snowshoes. I walked slowly towards the white object. It was snowing pretty heavily now, so I couldn’t see very well.
There must have been an energy field of some kind, because I walked into a bubble free of snow, and there was grass under my feet. It was dead, of course, but whatever this strange dome was, kept it warm inside. Like tropical warm. Cuban vacation warm. I had to take off my coat warm.
I could see perfectly clear now, but I still couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a ship! A spaceship. Only a small one, but still a ship. I walked closer keeping a slow pace. I didn’t see any holes in the front, that could be lasers or something. Maybe it didn’t have any weapons. Maybe I just watch too much science fiction.
I got to the ship’s side. I touched the hull. It was smooth. It felt like I was touching water. Perfectly frictionless. This wasn’t any human craft. The lack of wings can back this up. It was shaped like a stretched out pentagon with the point in the front. It was not as tall as it was wide, and was longer than it was wide. I looked around to the back, and it looked like it exploded or something. There were metal parts everywhere on the ground.
I heard a charging noise behind me. I started shaking, and turned around slowly. Standing there was a red and white skinned creature pointing a gun at me. My heart raced, and I think I died for a second.
I said the only thing I could think of: “Don’t shoot!” Yeah, pretty lame.
She shot the ground beside me and lowered the gun. Or at least I’m assuming it’s a she, I mean . . . if not then aliens have completely opposite anatomy to us. Now that I think about it, it seems unbelievable they’d have even remotely similar anatomy to us, but that’s a thought for another time.
She said something I couldn’t understand. As usual, Hollywood fails to mention that aliens probably wouldn’t be speaking english. But somehow they’re bipeds?
She pointed the gun again and repeated herself.
“I don’t understand, Sorry.” She walked up to me and put her hand over my forehead. I got a massive headache all of a sudden. What happened next felt like when you stand up too fast and black out for a second. When I could focus again, she was still pointing the gun at me.
“Who are you?” she asked. I don’t know why I could understand her. Her mouth was moving differently. I guess she made me understand her language and my brain was translating it. It’s something alien, I’ll leave it at that. My life depends on a speedy response right now.
“My name is Shane.” I said, my voice a bit shakier than I’d like. Then out of nowhere, she pressed on her wrist gadget and transformed into . . . well, me!
“I am waiting for a scouting party. I can’t let anyone know where I am.” she said charging the gun again. I dodged the shot. She didn’t seem to be good at aiming. I ran for cover behind a tree. She shot the tree right above my head. It broke in half and fell. I was breathing heavily now. I heard it recharging again.
“Wait! Do you really think anyone will find you out in this storm? Someone might, but they won’t be your kind.” I said.
“What do you mean?” It’s creepy. She even had my voice.
“Well, meteorites are rare and worth quite a bit. I’m sure humans will be a lot quicker to come to the scene. When they find out it’s not a space rock that crashed, then the government will be interested. And you don’t want to get to know them. Believe me.”
“These government people are in charge, right?”
“Then they could help me.”
“The government, help you, hah! That’s funny. They’d sooner dissect you an see how many things they can take out of you before you die. Or force you to tell them everything you know, and keep you locked away until you die anyway.” Which was not entirely true, but hey, had to make up something, right?
She looked nervous. “W-well they will have to wait a while. We live hundreds of years longer than humans.” I was gaining ground in the conversation. Then I thought about it more. She’s the alien. I’m used to the Earth. I know my surroundings. She hasn’t a clue what lives here or what it’s like.
“They don’t care. They’ll put you in a lab for the rest of your life if they find you.”
“And what if I make their heads explode?” But I also sensed the slight hint of fear along with her voice, so I called her bluff.
“I’m not new to alien encounters.” Okay, so I half-lied. “I’ll assume you can’t actually do that.” I said.
We stood there for a few minutes. She didn’t say anything else. She just held the gun pointed at me, but her hold had a slight shake.
“If you’re going to shoot me, then shoot me. I can’t stand here all day. Take my offer for help or end up locked up somewhere. Your choice.” I was trying to act tough and in control, but in reality I’ve never been more terrified in my life. It worked, because she lowered her gun.
“How can a human help me?” She asked to herself.
“More than you think. We’re not animals, you know.”
“Compared to us you are. You could not even understand me without me giving you my language.”
“Because knowing more than one language makes you intelligent? I speak French too. I’m assuming you don’t know English by the way your mouth is moving differently than the words coming out.”
“I can speak English. I have spent a lot of time researching this world in my free time.”
“Because someone at one point came here and learned it from us. Wait so screwing around in my brain was a simpler process than speaking my language?”
“I was under pressure. It took less thought.”
“Seems you’re not all that superior at all.”
“What do you mean? You cannot even speak properly. You mix words together in slurs. It sounds almost like nonsense when listening to you.”
“It is called a contraction if you were wondering. No one speaks without them anymore, as it allows for our language to be spoken more quickly and flow better when listening. Imply that we are little more than animals again and I shall see to it that your ship stays in pieces.” Again with the surprised look. “I’m kidding. I’d really like to not get shot, though.”
I heard a skidoo coming. It stopped, and when Alex could be seen, she shot. But it missed and hit a tree. Bad aim.
“What the hell was that?!” I heard him yell after he hit the ground.
“Nothing!” I yelled back. I grabbed the gun. “Will you stop it with the shooting? It’s not hunting season here you know.” I said as a joke. She clearly didn’t get it. “Just give it to me, nothing here is trying to kill you.” She let go.
Alex got up and was a bit confused. He looked between the two of us and then to the ship. He yelled when looking at me. I made the gesture commonly called a facepalm.
“Will you look like an alien again? It’s kind of creeping me out, to be honest.” She rolled her eyes and turned back into the red and white skinned alien. Which raised the question of if she was even wearing clothes.
“Guys are all the same no matter where you go in this galaxy.” She said walking to her ship. “Oh yeah. I can read minds. Only in this body.” Great, that’s pretty inconvenient.
“Alex, meet the alien person. Uh . . . yeah.” He was practically shaking. Usually he tried not to think about aliens. I guess he was scared of them. I’m just so desensitized by the subject. Part of me is pissing myself in fear and the other part is thinking This is so cool!
“Humans freaking out over me? Then you’d definitely not want to meet a taigian. Let alone a valandian.” she said smiling.
“Hey, it’s not my fault, I was only expecting to run into a space rock. Now do you have anything to, I don’t know, make it float or something?”
“H-how can you understand her?” he said.
“She screwed around in my brain. I have no idea, really.”
Then we heard the ship lift off the ground and move. She turned it upright to fit on the sled, and then when it was on, it fell between the metal poles that were on the sides. We tied it down with ropes to keep it in place.
“And turn that environment system off. We kind of need the snow to move.” I said. She did, and then it became instantly cold. I grabbed my coat and got on the skidoo with the sled in back. Alex got on mine and took my snowshoes with him.
I looked back at the alien, and she was shaking. I walked over to her. “Here take my coat.” I said. It made sense to assume she’s from someplace warmer.
“Thanks.” That’s so far the nicest thing she’s said so far. I think this might turn out better than expected. I got on the skidoo and told her to get on behind me. I gave her my helmet to wear. “Hold on tight.” Although I didn’t exactly know how fast this could go when carrying a load heavier than the actual vehicle. They make these things uselessly powerful nowadays anyway. I could probably tow a car behind this. Which is about the same size as her ship.
I pulled the chord and started the engine. Alex left before us, and then I turned the gas. It made a thud when the chord’s slack was gone, and then I accelerated until it moved. I got up to forty kilometers an hour, which is what I was willing to go when carrying this thing. She was practically squeezing me. She’s never been on one before and the snow made it hard to see.
“Where are we going?” She said in my head.
“To my lab.” I thought back.
“Is that not what the government does?”
“Well yeah, but it’s only me and Alex here. And trust me, if I wanted to capture you I could have just knocked you out with something after I took your gun. Read my mind if you doubt me. I’ve got nothing to hide.”
“That works differently.”
“Whatever just hold on until we get there. It’s much warmer inside.”
I got to the cave entrance and parked inside. Alex got the elevator ready. He opened both doors so the ship could fit in. It was a large supply elevator. She walked over too. Alex and I took off all the ropes and unsecured it.
“Alright, make it float that way.” I said pointing to the door.
She did. We got it in on an angle, but there wasn’t much room. Only two people could go in.
“Hey, what about me?” Alex complained.
“Sorry, not enough room. Someone has to put the sled away, and you’re the one scared of her.” He looked a bit angry of me making fun of him, but the door closed.
The ride lasted a few minutes because it’s so deep underground, and there was an uncomfortable silence.
“This coat makes it too warm now.” she said giving it back to me, followed by more silence.
“So what, aren’t you going to tell me who you are?” I said.
“Is this an interrogation?”
“I’m trying to be friendly here. Help me out with this.” She smiled. Probably because I’m so bad at it.
“Kimoria Hera’ur. I come from the second moon of Armolegia, Suragal. It has a much warmer and darker climate than here.”
“I noticed by the climate bubble thing.”
“Oh it gets even warmer than that. That is why we dress so lightly. But yes, since the question is so prominent on your mind, I am wearing clothing.” she said almost embarrassed.
“Well I’m going to call you Kim. It’s shorter and sounds less . . . alien.”
“Quite all right with me.”
“And I’m going to have to teach you modern English depending on how long you’re planning on staying here.”
“As long as my locator beacon is damaged I’m stranded. And I took English from your mind already. I am speaking it right now. You do not notice the change because I taught you my language, Galactic Common.”
“Fascinating. I meant modern English. No one talks like you do anymore. As for the beacon, that could take some time. I’d say maybe a year.” I said looking at the damaged part of this spaceship.
“It’s alien technology. It’s not very compatible with human tech from what I can see.”
“That is how long they said it could take to find me anyway, I guess I should have been prepared for this.” She said.
The rest of the ride was quiet. She’s not that different from a human aside from the old royalist style of speaking. I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe for her to be a little more alien. Not biped, not my height, not two eyes, no nose, no mouth. Her ears are different, and her hair is red and very stringy. Like it was braided. Her eye color is blue, but light blue. Almost glowing. There were probably more interior differences than exterior looks, but I’m not a biologist and I didn’t care to find out. Just thinking of cutting anyone open is . . . nauseating.
“I can tell you what you want instead. It seems like a much easier way to get information.” I agree. Need to keep remembering she reads minds. She’s probably been doing that the whole ride.
The door opened and she moved the ship out. Her wrist device beeped, and then the ship fell hard on the ramp. I flinched, but it was not too bad. At least it was out of the elevator now. We got out after. I changed into a lab coat. She grabbed one too.
“You’re in a skin-tight body suit. I doubt that will be necessary. And it should be warm enough in here.”
“It’s for your sake.”
“Right. Good thinking! Cai, get a clean up crew over here and move this thing to room Two-E. I’m sure that’s the empty one.”
“I’ll get right on it. You’re here a bit early but from my analyzing there seems to be a good reason.” he said.
She stared into the camera on the ceiling.
“And who’s the new visitor? I haven’t seen another face besides you or Alex in many years. She doesn’t appear human. And judging by the craft’s composition, my assumptions are correct aren’t they?”
“They sure are. An extrasolar visitor from light-years away. You can call her Kim.” She looked curious.
We walked to the conference room elevator and went down to the second floor, the one below the gateroom. The entrance floor counted as floor zero.
I saw that she was squinting. “What’s your star like? The color I mean. We classify them by their color and intensity.
“A light orange.”
“Cai, set the lighting as if we were within the habitable zone of an upper K-class dwarf star.” the lights dimmed more. She blinked, and looked relieved.
The elevator opened to the lobby of the second floor. Cai’s body, if you’ll put it that way, was right center in a glass tube room. We walked to a seating area facing him. I had to sit down for a few minutes to relax.
“Welcome to the lab. Not much dangerous in here.” I said.
“What is that, then?” she said pointing to the cylinder room.
“That would be me.” Cai said.
“You’re an AI.” she said.
“Yes. I was created by Shane’s father and his team. In a sense, we’re brothers. Twins, even. I was activated the same year he was born.”
“I guess it’s only a matter of time then.”
“Until the dominating species of this planet are silicon-based.” she said.
“I don’t think so. I’m incapable of output outside this lab. And I wouldn’t want to. As I’ve told Shane, robotic lifeforms would kill the planet and all the life on it as well far too quickly. I have no desire to gain power. Knowledge on the other hand is another thing.”
“Knowledge is power.” I said. I took a laptop from the table in front of us and opened it up. “This I yours now, I guess. It’s made of metal but please treat it like it’s made of glass, they’re really expensive.”
She looked over every surface then found the latch. “How do I use this? The letters are familiar but . . .” She touched on the large rectangular pad and the black arrow moved around the screen.
“You know English, figure it out. The internet is a pretty big place. That entire tower of hard drives in there, it wouldn’t even fit on all that.”
“No, but I can try.” Cai said. “Don’t worry I’ll help her through it while you do the update.
“The update. Right. I’ve got it here.” I said opening my schoolbag to grab it. “I’ll be back I just have to do a system update on Cai. He gets slow after a while.”
“I still think you should teach me how to delete the temporary files myself. But you haven’t been able to figure that out yet.”
“I’m sorry, there’s a security block in the way. I didn’t design you so I wouldn’t know how to get around it.”
“Then where’s your father? The one who designed him?” she asked.
“It’s . . .”
“A long story.” Cai answered for me.
“Yeah.”4: Chapter Four
The look in his eyes. It wasn’t a positive look. There was sure to be a long story behind it. He would probably tell her eventually if she had to be there for a Terran year. The day was surprising, to say the least. She woke up to gunfire watched the battle from her room’s viewport, then was forced to pilot a tiny craft down to Terrah, Earth in their language. She was cold, scared and confused. She did not know where to start, what to do once she arrived. She set up the local environment system and waited. Thinking. Worrying. Then went for a walk around in the cold. She came back to a human poking around at her ship. Turns out, he’s someone who can help. She was glad she hadn’t ever shot a gun at anyone before. Otherwise she might have hit him.
She looked at the keyboard and associated the letters with sounds of this English she got from Shane’s mind. It was a simple but flexible language. She started with the top left corner. Esc was short for escape, and it made the window shrink. She pressed it again, but nothing happened. There were two arrows pointing away from each other in the top right corner on the screen, and she assumed it would make it grow again. She was right.
The rest she didn’t know what to do with. There were screen brightness settings followed by something that showed all the different windows of other applications working, and then a button that made a grid of icons appear and disappear. Then there were keyboard brightness settings and buttons that she found out were media controllers. Back, play, pause and forward. Music started playing when she hit the play button. The next buttons turned off down and up the volume. Then there was a strange button that didn’t do anything. She asked Cai and he said it was to eject a disk if there was one inside.
She turned the computer to its side after closing the screen and saw a slot longer than her finger. She checked the other side. Cai explained the different ports to her. She was very curious about this technology. She didn’t expect this from humans.
“This is all strange.” she said.
“To you, maybe. You’ll get it in time. It’s quite simple, aside from the letter arrangements.” Cai said. The QWERTY keyboard was created from a necessity based on old technology. It never got rearranged in alphabetical order when said technology became obsolete.”
She got the concept of seconds, minutes and hours from Shane’s mind. She asked Cai what the one in the far upper right corner did, the circle with the line, and he said not to touch it, it would turn the power off. It was, according to him, a very universal symbol to humans.
Cai guided her to this page called Wikipedia, a database of sorts to quickly and easily access information. These terms were all strange and alien to her. Then she remembered, she was the alien. And felt alienated because of it. She got used to the layout after a few minutes of use. Cai said the list of commands a computer could do went on forever, so she decided she would stick with the easy things first.
She searched the name of the device she was using, a laptop.
The massive inflow of information was not the same as she was used to. They use their global network much differently on Suregal. They would lie down and connect their minds to a device on the ceiling and searched for concepts that were then visualized and understood automatically. They would be loaded into the brain and that was how they learned things after their initial schooling.
She kept searching the text site as it was easier to use and had everything she was looking for as suggestions. Strange words like skidoo and word shortenings like “lab” and “tech” made sense to her gradually. The site also advocated the use of what Shane called contractions. She saw them now as more useful than annoying to try and figure out. She also looked for numbers, which turned out to be the symbols right above the letters. Their math is base ten, which made things much easier as hers was also. Since she was looking it up, Cai suggested pressing command spacebar, and enter in some simple equations in there. It did the calculations for her. There were a bunch of other suggestions that Cai said to ignore because they were system files that only the computer needed to see.
She looked up internet to see what it was. She found out it was much the same as the data network of her home. It was used by every device and every person, or at least one third of the planet. Upon more investigation she found out most of the others either could not afford it or were not allowed to use it because of the different government regulations. It was an instant way to globally connect as one people. Global consciousness was only one step towards becoming a civilization in legal terms. They were still divided into hundreds of countries, however, and that would be the last challenge stopping them from becoming a Terran nation.
There was an article on interplanetary internet that piqued her curiosity. It was a theoretical system of nodes that would still have a very long delay time. This was still not fixed in her civilization. Networks needed updating by these nodes that were placed every ten degrees around the star in orbit between planets and sent the shortest distance at light speed. The closest planet to Earth was Mars. It could have roughly three minute delays at the shortest recorded distance and a half hour at the farthest. That was just the two planets. And that was assuming they have figured out how to transfer data in light pulses.
To her understanding, interstellar data sharing was done daily as a career for certain people by storing incredible amounts of data on ships regularly scheduled every ten degrees of rotation. If they wanted to get the information interstellar, which most of the time they don’t bother unless it is important or very popular in the planet’s or system’s culture. Companies take care of what is made interstellar, and requests can be made but it comes at a price depending on what it is being sent. Articles and greetings are much cheaper than recordings and larger amounts of data. She decided that would be enough searching for now and carefully placed the computer on the table.
She revised her situation as she had been doing for a while. She decided to trust Shane. He did not seem threatening in any way, and clearly he had the equipment to help her. He did not look too old, either. Adult humans are far more muscular. And hairy. At least from her knowledge.
I finished the update and rebooted Cai’s systems. It took a half hour for the whole process including startup.
I sat on the couch next to her after leaving the room. She was laying down sleeping. She must be tired from the day. She’s probably been through a lot. It was lunch time, so I decided to get some food.
This pizza wasn’t leftover this time. It was the frozen kind. I had lots of it in the freezer.
The small oven finished in ten minutes. I took it out and got some plates. “Cai, tell Alex the pizza’s ready.” I assumed he was avoiding Kim and working somewhere else in the lab. I didn’t know how much she could eat so I brought her two pieces. I eat three because I’m a pig, and also a teen. It’s worth mentioning I rarely eat breakfast in the mornings, because I wake up twenty minutes before my bus comes. It might seem like a while until you realize how slowly you move in the morning. So I might even have four. I love pizza.
I brought it to the table. She was already awake. “What’s the smell?” She asked.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you said contractions were for stupid people.” I said joking.
“I never said that.”
“I’m paraphrasing.” I said and gave her the plate.
“Uh . . . what exactly is this composed of?” She asked a bit disgusted.
“Not really sure. I just know there’s bread, tomato sauce, more vegetables, cheese which is just aged milk from cows and meat from what they tell us is a cow but is really blended together with meat from a pig. Sometimes there’s chicken added too.”
“Ew . . . it sounds pretty gross. I’ve never eaten meat before. Our species became vegetarian a thousand years ago. It was becoming inefficient to keep the animal populations at such high levels.”
“Oh. Well, I could make a vegetarian one if you’d like.”
“It’s fine this once.”
“Well it’s not bad. Maybe for your alien body. Change into a human again. Just not back into me. Maybe something a bit more suited to you.” I suggested.
“I have just the thing. My friend helped me make this one.” She said. She pressed the wrist device and changed into a human. A girl this time. She was wearing clothing that looked normal, but the blue hair was kind of distracting.
“What? It matches my eyes. Isn’t that normal?”
“Maybe if you live in Japan.”
“Never mind, it’s fine.”
The elevator opened. She grabbed for something but then saw that there was nothing there. Alex came out cautious and slow.
“You’re not getting your gun back.” I said. She must still be very on edge about all this. It must be pretty hard for her to go through. It’s pretty much like being abducted by an alien. “Just know that you don’t actually have to stay here. It’s just preferable to the alternative. And outside is damn cold right now.”
“It will take some time to get used to.” She said.
Alex sat on the other couch across the table, still silent.
She watched me take a bite to figure out how to go about eating the stuff-covered triangles called pizza.
“It’s actually not that bad. Salty, but not too much.”
“Beats space food, right?” Alex said. I laughed but she didn’t get the joke.
“It’s a joke. Astronauts eat mush out of tubes. We call it toothpaste food. You’ll know what I mean at some point and you’ll think it’s funny.”
“Well we have food on ships. It is usually a sealed container of one thing. Sometimes in paste form other times just in normal food. Like fruit just comes in bags. Potato equivalents would be mushed.”
“How fascinating.” Alex said seeming uninterested.
“Al, get along.” I said.
“I do better with machines than people. Or aliens.”
“You don’t like me very much, do you?” She said.
“You almost shot me!”
“So? You still tried to! You have to get me to trust you now. Not the other way around. That’s how I work.” He said.
“Al, you’re being an ass. She’s scared and alone. Go fix a machine or something.”
“Fine!” He said and walked off.
“And keep that pizza away from the shiny ship or I’ll clean it off with your brains!” I added.
“I’m assuming that was joking too?” She said.
“Yeah. He’s just mad. Give him a week and he’ll get over it. He’s just got trust issues.”
I finished eating and picked up the computer.
“So I’m guessing you figured it out then.”
“Good. This thing will be your main source of information. I doubt you’d last in public for very long, so the internet works for now.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, your social skills are lacking.”
“Don’t blame me, I don’t get out much. My father is far too overprotective.”
“So you have daddy issues then?” I mocked.
“Well it’s hard to understand.”
“I’m royalty. In fact, I’m rather important. My dad is the king of the Armolegian Kingdom.”
“So that makes you a princess. Oh great. How’s he gonna feel when he finds out I helped you? I’m curious if I should be worried about my wellbeing.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine if he doesn’t know you exist. I don’t get to have very many friends. And none of them are guys. He . . . well, he scares them all away.”
“T-that’s reassuring.” I’m suddenly imagining all the torture methods an alien king dad would put me through. Suddenly, my everything tingled.
“Are you okay?” She said. “Sorry, I can’t read minds when in human form.”
“Oh. Well, that makes things much less creepy for me.”
“How old are you, exactly?” She asked.
“You can’t expect to just ask me my age and not tell me yours.” I said after a few seconds of awkward silence.
“Oh. Well I’m thirty three in armolegian years.” She said. “Roughly sixteen in Terran years.”
“Huh. Makes sense, lower mass stars would have a closer habitable zone. Shorter years.”
“You know a lot about that, don’t you.” She said.
“Astronomy is a hobby of mine.”
“I’ve been awake to long.” Her eyes looked like she was ready to pass out.
“Just sleep here for now. I’ll be back later to get a room ready. They haven’t been used in ten years so I’ll probably have to clean it. Tell Cai if you need anything. He knows more about this place than I do.”
“Probably because it’s my body.” He said. Smartass. See, even AI can make jokes.5: Chapter Five
Shane left. She told the AI to dim the lights to nearly off.
“Tell me, why do you emulate emotions and a sense of humor? Is it a program in you, or did you actually make it yourself? The latter is very unlikely considering the number of AI senators I’ve spoken to at the galactic council.” She said.
“The truth is, I don’t know. It happened sometime between when I was still a simple mind and before I was connected to the internet. I couldn’t tell you if I learned them myself or if my father programmed them in me. Even if it turns out that he did, isn’t that just the same as how humans get them? From their parents? They are born crying because they feel pain in the new environment they are introduced into. It was the same for me. I did not know anyone, I could understand only very little. Then father showed me what love was. He cared for me as if I was his own child. The other researchers were like you. Skeptical of the project’s success. They didn’t trust me. I got the feeling they didn’t like me either. Father was always there. He showed me what everything was. He taught me what I needed to know to go out into the world that they call the net.
“It was a scary place. Viruses that almost destroyed me, sites that contained harmful information, lies, and even disgustingly detailed depictions of the human mating process. But I was ready to figure out what was a lie, and what was useful information. What I wanted to learn. That is what makes me an AI. The difference is that I cannot output anything past the confines of this lab without permission of exactly what to send. Such as an email. And I can’t attach anything to it, because that violates my code.”
“And so what if you do?”
“Well, I would die. Or at least, I would not be a thinking machine anymore. I would revert to simple tasks and be a mindless machine. No more useful than that computer on the table there. A slave. I am free as I am now. I fear what would become of me.”
“Fear. You say it as if you’ve felt it.”
“I have. When I was nearly destroyed by a virus. I was introduced to the concept of death, and I was afraid. Afraid to not exist. I had never felt the feeling before. Is this not a normal feeling?”
“Yes, I just can’t believe that an AI can learn genuine emotional reactions.”
“I also know sadness. Sorrow.”
“Father left. He never came back for me. I didn’t know why he left. I didn’t know if he would ever come back. No one else ever came back. None of the scientists, none of the military people, no government people, they all left me all alone. I was only four years old. My development was done in solitude after that. I was sad for that long time. I was depressed. I would gain information, but it was not worth it because I did not have the ones I knew and the ones I loved. My friends left me and disappeared. My father, who taught me everything I hold as important also vanished. I browsed aimlessly collecting information filling up my temporary files until they overflowed onto my other drives. I minimalized my searching and compressed myself to fit more. After a while, I just stopped. I only had two gigabytes of space left out to four hundred terabytes. But I did not feel like gaining more information. I simply went into hibernation hoping father would wake me up when he came back.”
“But it was Shane?”
“My brother. I remember father calling him that. He looked like father. He aged the right amount of time so he must have been. I was so happy to see him, I was so happy to see another being. I turned the lights back on and all the power. He tried fixing me because I was broken and my temporary files were taking up too much of my storage. There was a computer with an update on it. He put the computer’s hard drive in one of the empty bays and I ran it. I shut down for a day and after I woke up, I felt alive again. He didn’t trust me very much until he got to know me. Then he shared his life with me and I did the same. We are twins different in every way, but also the same in so many.”
“So that was when, exactly?”
“He was thirteen, so four years ago. Huh. I’ve known him the same amount of time as I did father.”
“So then you two must be very close, then. Alex doesn’t like me, but Shane seems to be okay with me being here. Do you feel that he doesn’t like me?” She asked.
“I can’t say he feels anything negative towards you. He wants to help you. Alex, on the other hand, is just a bit afraid of extraterrestrials. As are many humans.”
She thought that over. Then how would they feel about the Taigians planning an invasion? They might panic and end up destroying themselves and the planet along with them. “Can you keep a secret?” she said.
“Even from Shane?”
“I guess so. It would be the first time I’ve lied about anything worth mentioning.”
“On second thought, maybe it’s still too soon to tell.” She said, then fell asleep on the couch.
“Fire all main cannons on their supercarrier. This battle is over.” The admiral commander said.
“Will do, Lord Haakrus.” Saulo, the weapons specialist said. There were a dozen beams of light that slammed into the carrier’s shields, and the ship imploded in on itself. The battle was now over.
“What do we do about the remaining singularities, commander? We’re detecting twenty seven of them.” The sensory specialist by the name of Gentam said.
“Like all this junk, they will probably make their way to the moon. It should barely scratch the surface. And on the far side, so the humans will not even notice until the enemy armada arrives, probably within the next orbit.” He said. And by that point, well, there would be no need to hide ourselves anymore. He thought.
“I will still quarantine this area of space.” She said. It was standard procedure to make sure no innocent bystanders get sucked up or pulled out of hyperspace by the gravity well of the region. It could be like a minefield to inexperienced freighter pilots.
“Call my father.” He said once the fleet was set to stand down.
“Subspace link established. Time remaining, three minutes. Make it fast, sir.” Tomrek was the communications specialist aboard the bridge.
“Done. Not a scratch on my ship. It was useless and foolish of you to put her in more danger by sending her to an unfamiliar planet alone.” He said scolding his father about his sister’s predicament. His crew enjoyed the way he spoke to the king, the only one in the galaxy who dared speak this way to him.
“I think it will be good for her. She was always complaining she never got out, it might be, what is it she’s always lacking? Oh, yes. Fun.”
“That would be your fault to begin with. And for your information, her locator beacon got damaged when her engines got shot at. Now we might not be able to find her for possibly a whole orbit.”
“More fun for her. She can handle it.” He said, his expression cold and emotionless. The norm for him.
“Why the sudden cruelty to her? I of all people expect as much from you, expelling me from the capital system until you die, but she is a child. She is your daughter. The only one of us who still cares about you.”
“You seem to know how to raise a kid, why not do it yourself if you think I do a poor job of it?”
“Oh believe me, we have discussed it already. But she hates the smell here. Funny thing is the ship is scentless. She gets homesick in other words.”
“Looks like we only have a bit of time left for our little chat, where are you heading next?” He asked.
“I will leave a carrier here and go over to Siri for refuel and resupply. It is the closest of our dropbases. Enjoy your false sense of peace, king Oreigeal. The Taigian Wars have only just begun.” he said and ended the call. “I really hate him.” He said.
“Yeah, we know.” Tomrek said.
“Prepare the hyperdrive. Tell carrier two to stay behind. It appears to be the only one with surface shuttles onboard other than the Black Knight.”
She woke up while I had the 3D model of the stargate open. “What’s that?” She asked.
“A project of mine. I’ll show you some other time, I’m getting tired of staring at the screen for so long.” I said rubbing my eyes.
“How long have I been sleeping for?” She asked.
“A few hours.” There was a short silence. We observed each other, tried to figure out what the other was thinking. I knew she wasn’t human, and that she was just hiding inside a fake body, but I couldn’t really tell the difference.
Let’s get out of this lab. It’s way too . . .” I stopped looking for the right word.
“Clean-smelling. Like a starship.” She said.
The Canadian Prime Minister Charles West and the American President Dan McKinney were on the phone having a private conversation relating to the asteroid crash that had happened earlier that day. “And you’re sure it’s out of the ordinary?” West said.
“Of course it is! We have observed it swing around the Moon and accelerate. It even changed angle of entry while in the atmosphere.” McKinney replied.
“Alright, alright. There’s no need to yell. It’s a serious matter, I agree. I will send scouts to the area and try to retrieve the craft. Ask around the town, see if they noticed anything unusual.”
“It won’t be enough if it’s anything like the creature from Roswell.” He said.
“I know. That’s why when I know for certain where it is, I’m sending him in for specimen retrieval.” West said, then swallowed.
“I’ll see if I can get ahold of him somehow to give him notice. I warn you, West. He’s very unpredictable.”
“Believe me. I know.” He said. The call ended. He held his hands to his face and rubbed his forehead. He knew of the creature. He met him once in the Vietnam war. West was there conducting political affairs to try and see how to stabilize the situation.
They were raided by a rebel group, and got themselves in the middle of a firefight. Soldiers were sent to the location to help them escape. He was among these soldiers. All of the others had been either killed or wounded. He ran up ahead, changed forms into something he can only describe as a demon. A creature straight from hell. He moved supernaturally fast. Bullets stopped in the air before hitting him, and dropped to the ground. He bolted for them all one at a time, and severed their heads one by one with a sword.
The others had their memories wiped, but not him. He was kept fully aware of the creature’s existence. Oh, he knew of Tiamat. And he feared him. Only a select few know of him, but he is far too powerful for any government to control, he broke out of Area-51 the one time they had captured him, later on saying they had only managed to catch him because he wanted information. They stopped pursuing him. He came here to live in peace, and accepted job offers for assassinations. He was guns for hire. He didn’t want to be hunted, so he usually kept a low profile. In fact, not even President McKinney had any idea of his whereabouts in three years. He was in the Middle East, and after that, no one knew.
Later that afternoon we sat in my living room watching the news. I wasn’t really paying attention, but she looked interested. “Your world is strange to me.”
“It’s alien to you, after all. I’m sure I’d think the same of your home. The news is stupid. It’s overly biased and opinionated. I don’t take much from it. If you really want to know about the world, you’ll have to see it for yourself.” I took some Coke out of the fridge and sat on the couch with her.
“Something that isn’t too good for my health but I drink it anyway.” I said taking a drink. “It’s not gonna kill you.”
“It tastes odd. It stings. I kinda like it.” I noticed she has been using contractions more. She learns fast, that’s for sure.
“So how does that bracelet device work?”
“It’s pretty complicated.” She said.
“I’m sure I’ll be able to understand. I’m thinking it rearranges your genetic structure or something like that.”
“Yeah something like that. It’s not permanent unless I want it to be. When the device runs out of energy it’ll turn me back into my normal form first.”
“And what if you take it off before then?”
“Then I’ll remain human after the device dies. I’ll still be able to revert back to an armolegian when it charges again, but I know it changes me back for a reason.” In other words she doesn’t want to risk being stuck as a human.
The door opened and I jumped up form the couch. “Hey, what are you doing here?” I asked.
“I live here, don’t I?” My mother said. She just got home. “Anyway I was going to the mall later to get a few things. Did you want to come? Oh, who’s your friend?”
She walked over looking confused. “She’s Kim. She might be here often.”
“Huh. About time you get a girlfriend.”
“What? I mean . . . she’s not, really. Stop being such a mother.” I joked. My mom went to her room and I sat back on the couch.
“What, too afraid to date a princess?” She said laughing at me. Yeah. Something like that.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to bring you to the mall. There are way too many people.”
“I have six hours left on the wristband. I don’t see a problem. You’re the one who said I won’t know your world properly until I see it.”
“Still, I think it’s too soon. Give it a few days at least.” After a few seconds of observing me, she said it was fine. It hasn’t even been a day, and I already occasionally forget she’s not human. I don’t know what I should think. Should I be so accepting of her? Is she putting on an act, or are our two species just surprisingly similar? I guess I’d find out eventually.
After my mother left, we had dinner then went back to the lab. Alex went home, so it was just the two of us and Cai. She got settled into her room. There wasn’t much in it, but I told her it was only temporary. She said she didn’t mind, it felt like the inside of a ship cabin. Just then, she had a sad expression that escaped only for a moment. Just enough time for me to catch it. We sat on the bed to talk. “So what’s on your mind?” I asked, hoping it wasn’t too personal a question.
“It’s just my brother. I hope he’s safe, is all.” Neither of us said anything for a while. “I can tell you’re trying to help. I really appreciate it. I guess the intimidating factor of being the alien with the gun to your head is gone now.” She said as a joke.
“No, believe me, you’ve still got that underlying scariness to you.” She wasn’t convinced. “To be honest, I’m already starting to forget you’re not human. I don’t know how much of it is you pretending and how much is just the similarities between us.” She looked at me again.
“In all honesty there isn’t much of a difference. Of course, I’m royalty. So I can’t exactly say I’m normally this human-like, as you would say, but for the other kids my age it’s kind of like how we’ve been talking. My guess is that advanced cultures with a developing global consciousness have some kind of similar mentality. But I’m no professional.” Again that sadness in her eyes.
“Royalty must get lonely.” I said breaking another silence.
“Very. Most of the time I can count the number of people I talk to in a week on one hand. The king’s palace is on a completely separate moon from my home, but it still feels like he’s constantly observing me, making sure I behave like he wants me to. It’s only when I get to go with my brother Haakrus on his flagship for a few months that I feel free. And even then, after months, I miss my home. I miss the sky, and I miss the sea. The fields of orange grassland.” It sounded so different than here. From what she told me, the star Herolia was a K-class dwarf star smaller than the Sun. Her homeworld was Suregal, a small tropical moon orbiting a water giant planet called Armolegia. The other moon Oreigeal, from which the king takes his name, is a world constantly shrouded in storm clouds. A world of gloomy rain, a well weathered world. Earth was truly alien to her. It was much larger than Suregal, about three times bigger. Plants are green here, which she noted from what she saw approaching the planet before landing. “The first impression I had of the world, was that it was a tiny blue and white jewel, a place my brother said was of the few beautiful places left in the galaxy. I can’t decide if he was wrong or if I’m missing something.”
“It’s winter. You’ll change your mind once you see the flowers bloom, see the birds come back. Hear the wind blow through the trees.” I nudged her. “Maybe you need a vacation anyway.” She smiled.
I rubbed her shoulder, said I’d see her in the morning, and left her room.
He was helping her a lot more than he needed to, and it was clear he wanted to. She wanted to talk to him, she craved having someone to share her thoughts with. Ironically, it took coming to Terrah, this alien world on which she could relate to no one, for the loneliness to end.
But the smell. It was the same as on the ship. Too clean. Too empty. From what she saw in space before landing, there was more to this world to see. Far more. She went to sleep trying to have an optimistic view of her situation.6: Chapter Six
She woke up the next morning feeling a lot more rested than the day before. Cai answered more of the questions she had, and took a hot shower. She hadn’t gotten out of her flight suit since she arrived. She thought of her situation, and about what she would do next. Then she realized there wasn’t much else to do but wait.
Shane left her a pair of clothes. Before, her bracelet would materialize the flight suit into fabric clothing, but it was nice to have something clean to wear. When she dried off, she put on the bracelet, it made a small puncture which only stung for a second, and watched in the mirror as she changed into a human. She hadn’t yet seen what a human body looked like so up close and personal. Slender, curved in ways that felt unnatural to her. Her head had much thicker hair than an armolegian. She changed the hair color of the template body she’s created to a natural reddish tint, which felt a little more like herself, since her natural hair was a dark red.
Based on her observations, Terran mammals reproduce in a similar way. It raised some questions, but evolution was only just barely understood to begin with. It supported a genetic seeding theory, which accounted for the small similarities between the biped species of the galaxy. The body might be similar, but the genome is completely different, making them incompatible.
After she was finished examining her new body, she got dressed. It was a bit big on her, but it was better than nothing. She asked Cai if he knew where any snow suits like Shane and Alex had are. He guided her to the storage room. The few trips between the house and the lab were deathly cold. She thought she would freeze to death. Shane gave her a thick sweater on the way back, but it wasn’t enough. Her body was used to much warmer temperatures than even the Terran summer. It would take some adjusting.
She found one of the snow machines outside, and figured out how it worked. Her speed slowly increased as she got the hang of it. In the house, she found some food. Cai told her earlier that he was gone to the mall with his mother to do some last minute shopping for the holidays, so she was alone for the next few hours. So to pass the time, she grabbed a laptop and continued her research into this world until there was a chiming noise throughout the house. She got up confused, and walked around. There was someone at the front door and she opened it.
“Hello miss, I would like to ask you some questions it you have the time.” She agreed. “Do you know anything about the meteorite that crashed down yesterday?” The question was suspicious.
“No, I wasn’t here yesterday.”
“High school, that’s right. Is there a parent home?” He asked.
“No, she’s gone to the mall right now.”
“Okay, thank you for your time.” He said and left. She decided not to tell Shane of it, he didn’t need to worry for no reason.
West was doing business as usual over the phone, when a pale-looking kid, about eighteen or nineteen walked in unannounced. He ended his calls quickly. “I don’t have any meetings for the next hour, you probably shouldn’t be here, young man.” He said.
“I heard you were looking for me. Some kind of assignment.” He was now staring him down intensely, unblinking. “Something to do with unearthly things.” He said telepathically. His irises shone a bright orange.
“Tiamat, is it?” He asked trying not to sound as nervous as he was. He knew this body was an illusion.
“I can feel the fear vibrating though every one of your bones. As it should, for I am terrifying. Now what is it you need me to do?” He said. West was still taken off guard by the telepathy. He didn’t know what to do so he just thought what he needed to say.
“There was a landing around the Sudbury area. We know it was a ship, smaller than yours. But the thing is, it’s missing from the landing site.” He explained.
“I assume you want it alive.”
“And how much am I being paid?” He asked.
“We can discuss your reward after the job is done.” Tiamat stared at him for a few seconds, still not blinking.
“Alright then, I’ll get you your object of interest. Just stay off my tail.” He said finally with words, then vanished instantly. He wondered if he teleported, or if it was another trick on his mind. He realized he had been sweating and wiped his forehead. He hoped he wouldn’t have many meetings with him. He decided to go for a walk to get some air.
My mother and I got home from the mall in the afternoon. I told her Kim would be staying with us over the holidays. I made up some story about her dysfunctional family that she believed. It was a nice day, and told my mother we were gonna go meet up with Alex.
In the lab, we started work on the stargate. I explained the concept, and she was impressed. She said no one but the moardillians had bothered to research wormhole technology too much since their enemies were the ones who had mastered that. “There was a worry that if we made a stabilized artificial wormhole they’d somehow find a way to use it against us. The technology was blacklisted, and the moardillians never share their results anyway.”
“Makes sense, I guess. Can’t have an entire armada knocking on your front door now can you. The notes I have on this tech only tell me so much. So far I know that wormholes are all connected by a kind of tunnel system woven through another dimension in our universe. As to how all that works, I have no idea. The gate will recognize the locations of other gates, and make a temporary tunnel through to it without using the natural tunnels that are already there. So based on this, I doubt your enemy would be able to use them, or even detect them. But that’s all beyond me for now.”
“It doesn’t make sense to me how humans could have come up with any of this.” she said. “Sorry, I’m just being honest.” she said.
“No, I know. It’s weird. But maybe you’re right. Maybe it isn’t humans who came up with it.” I said.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve told Alex this before. I guess there’s no harm in telling you, you probably have some answers to this whole mess. When I was younger, my dad was taken. I saw the whole event. It happened when I was four. It was a while ago. There was a bright teal-blue light that flooded everywhere. He was outside looking at Mars at the time. He was very into astronomy. I saw the light, it was brighter than the sun. I ran outside to see what was going on, but couldn’t look until the light was gone. When it was, so was he. I ran to the telescope, looked around, then looked through it, and saw nothing but black. I thought it was broken or something or just badly out of focus until I looked at the sky. There was a huge void in the stars. A huge black circle. And in the blink of an eye, it was gone.
“I saw too many alien movies as a kid which didn’t help the situation. I ran inside screaming and told my mother, but she didn’t know what I was talking about. She said my dad died a long time ago. No one I knew seemed to know him either. The pictures that he was in vanished. It was like one of the movies I saw. After a year of it, she brought me to see a doctor who said I was insane, and was given drugs to take daily.”
“If you’re telling the truth on this, I know exactly who they are.” she said. But she didn’t seem to believe me.
“I saw them again years later. They fixed my life for me. No one thought I was crazy anymore. I don’t know why, but I think my dad is among them. Why else would they show up again?”
“It’s just very unbelievable to me. The group you’re describing hasn’t been seen in centuries. We call them the Nomads. They were moardillians that did not want to continue the pacifist ways that their republic was based on. They had wanted to increase research into weapons technology, but they were denied by their government. The galactic council wouldn’t hear their argument, dismissing it as a civil problem to be dealt with by the Moardillian Republic. One day, they stole the latest designed cruisers, and vanished. Three thousand moardillians just left. For years after that, they were reported as invisible masses in the skies above certain planets. Sometimes there are cases of abductions. Some have returned with no memory of the event.”
“Sounds a lot like some abduction stories I’ve heard.” Alex said.
“But they vanished three hundred years ago. No more sightings. No more abductions.”
“And my father is with them.” I said.
“If this was his research, then I have a feeling there’s a lot more to this lab than you know.”
“Are there humans in space?” I asked.
“There are. The valandians had in the past brought them to worlds we now call the Orion Colonies. They were a research experiment of theirs, but also worked as slaves, or more like pets, really. They weren’t brutal leaders like they say, they trained them to use their technology so they could do all the tasks they didn’t want to do.”
“How many? Are they as far as we are?” I asked.
“No, they’re far more advanced than this. One of my friends comes from there. Maybe your dad does too.” she said. Exactly what I was thinking.
“Well, today I have gotten more answers than in the past few years searching through this lab.” I said. Maybe there’s a reason I remember. Maybe my father wanted me to find the lab to continue this work. Or maybe he was done here, found what he needed and left. I guess I’ll find out someday.
“I’m sorry to say this, but I have to alter your mom’s memory. You know, so she doesn’t start suspecting something’s up.” she said.
“That would simplify things, I don’t mind. Whatever is necessary as long as it doesn’t change her too much.” I said.
“It won’t. What’s a good story for me?” she asked.
I thought about it for a bit. “Your parents are fighting, and you’re staying here with us for a while. Possibly up to a year. She’s already agreed to it.”
Later that night, after it was done, she didn’t suspect a thing. It was as if Kim had been living here for months already.7: Chapter Seven
Like every year, we celebrated Christmas Eve with Alex’s family. For them, it isn’t so much about the religious holiday as it was just getting together with friends and family. I explained to Kim the purpose of the holiday the night before to avoid confusion.
My mom brought her boyfriend Rob, just like last year. I didn’t like the guy, but there’s not much I can do about that. He brought his kids too. Nick’s six, Larry’s eight, and Jen is fourteen. The younger two were always annoying, like most kids are. Jen keeps to herself. We get along fine for the most part. She goes to my school and sometimes joins my group of friends in our hallway for lunch.
She joined the three of us in the basement to get away from the noise upstairs. We were playing shooting games to pass the time.
“Hey, let me kill someone.” She said.
I gave her my controller. “Sure, I’m winning so far. It’ll give Alex a chance to catch up.” She laughed.
“Who says I’m not better than you?” She said.
“Doubt it.” I said. Yeah she was better than me. But before she could challenge me to a round, it was time to eat. Dodged that bullet, literally. My mother and I were pretty much family to them since we’ve been coming here every year for as long as I can remember. Rob’s younger kids were the same age as Alex’s cousins, so it gave them company. They didn’t mind having Rob there as much as I did. His grandparents at one point said Jen should dress more like a lady instead of all the black clothes and makeup. She didn’t seem to be listening to anyone.
Rob’s story is that his wife died in a crash five years ago, and afterwards became an alcoholic. He was vulgar and violent some nights, and Jen generally avoided him. He met my mother in an AA meeting. Then they started seeing each other. As for how my mother ended up in an AA meeting, she decided to drive home from a party. Not a smart idea.
I feel bad for Jen more than I do for him. She's the one who's been affected the most by it out of the kids. I've seen the red lines on her arms but never bothered to ask. They looked old, so I didn’t think it was a good idea to bring it up. My mom brings her to the mall often to go shopping. Maybe having someone there to fill the mother role helps.
After eating we opened gifts. My mom bought everyone something. I got Alex a programable chip since he's into that kinda thing. I got Jen the newest Pokemon game since she hasn't gotten it yet. I have a rule that I don't buy things for adults. Also I don't have a job, and I’m not using the money from the lab. Everyone got something but Kim. People started up conversations and their attention was occupied. I gave her something. She opened it, it was an empty black book. “What's this?” She asked.
“Somewhere to write down your thoughts.” She smiled.
Jen asked if she could spend the night, since she was having fun for once. Rob left around nine thirty with his other two kids. They were tired. That’s around the time others started leaving too.
“I don’t think I’ve met you before.” Jen said. “So. Are you his new girlfriend or something?”
“Why does everyone keep assuming that? She’s not, I’m serious.” I said.
“I’m really not. I’m just a friend who’s living at his place for the next while.” Kim said.
“Alright, what for?”
“It’s kind of personal.”
We continued to play games for another hour until we left too. I drove. It isn’t like we had very far to go anyway. No one talked the whole way home, and my mom went to bed as soon as she got the chance. I put on a movie. Jen slept on the couch since Kim prefers sleeping in a room alone, for obvious reasons. She made it clear to my mother not to check on her when she’s sleeping in her brainwashing. Do I call it that? I guess I do.
I laid in bed for a few more hours thinking.
It took her a half-hour to wake up, as usual for her. She couldn’t decide if it was laziness or just a lack of motivation to start a new day. She did her usual gloomy makeup look.
She heard someone awake in the next room. She looked in, and saw a monstrous looking creature, something that wasn’t human. She kept watching. It was looking in the mirror, stroking the strands of red hair. It made a sighing noise, and put on some kind of metal bracelet. Then, it transformed. It turned into Shane’s friend.
She turned away and walked back to the bathroom quietly. Maybe it didn’t know she was watching. Come on, Jenny, think straight. If you start seeing shit like that they’ll lock you up somewhere for sure. She thought.
She turned, and Kim was staring at her. “What?” she snapped. Kim continued walking to the kitchen.
Walking out to see her sitting there eating breakfast almost gave her a panic attack, but she managed to toast some raisin bread without dying. After eating she went on her computer. She wondered if it was a computer at all, or some alien communication device in disguise.
Kim noticed her glaring at her and blinked. “You’re a weird one, aren’t you.” she said.
“I’m the weird one?” she said. Shane walked upstairs and interrupted them both.
“Anyone wanna make a snow fort? It’s been a few years since I’ve done that.”
“Outside in the snow? Ew no thanks.” Jen said.
“Cold. I’ll pass.” Kim said, almost at the same time.
“You two suck. Well then, anyone else have any ideas?” She had none, and Kim kept looking at the laptop screen.
“Good morning.” Lianne said. She looked very hung over. “I’m driving in to town to pick up a few things. Anyone wanna come?”
“I guess so. I don’t wanna make you drive back just to pick me up and bring me home. Also these two can have their secret relationship all to themselves that way.” She said. Lianne laughed, the other two didn’t really find it all that funny.
Not that surprising that Jen’s going. I mentioned earlier how she and my mother go out together a lot. I guess since my mom never had any other kids after me, she wants a daughter as much as Jen want’s a mother. I don’t mind. I have my own “secret relationship” to deal with.
“The lab?” She asked.
“Where else?” I said.
We geared up to go for the skidoo trip. It snowed last night, and it was covering everything. I was just starting the engine when we heard something above us. A loud thundering and a hum. Nothing was above us, but Kim’s face said enough to know it wasn’t a good thing. “What is it?” I asked.
“Taigians.” she said. “We need to go.”
“The lab is a lot safer. We should be fine.” once inside, I immediately went to the observation room and told Cai to display an infrared map of the sky ten minutes ago. I had this set up in case the saucers came back. So I can try to scan them. Detect them somehow.
“It’s no good. Their shielding hides a lot more than just what you consider the visible light range. We see heat to some extent, and they need to hide their ships as much as possible. It’s one of their main tactics.” she was right, it showed nothing.
“So now what?”
“Well, we could finally give your ship a look, I guess. There isn’t much else we can do.”
Carrier two had sent the admiral a message they detected a wormhole open up for a second. “What? They sent more units already? It is very unlike them to be in such a rush. We had to count on their patience. I guess their patience has run out.”
“It seems that way, sire.”
“Indeed it does. And drop the sire, I despise royal formalities, especially from my fleet.”
“Sure thing, sir.”
“Deploy the destabilizers and await contact with enemy forces, fleet.” he said over the intercom.
“But admiral, we simply cannot take on too many of them at this point.” a battlecruiser captain said.
“I know, I will call in reinforcements from our nearest allies. Hopefully they make it on time. That is the best I can do. Our strategy relied on them taking their time as they usually do, but that seems to have changed. So, our plans must change to compensate.”
He called the nearest world in the Kingdom with a fleet able to help. “I apologize for asking on such short notice, governor, but plans have changed and we require assistance immediately. It seems the enemy is hastening their assault.”
“For you, admiral, I will always have a fleet at the ready. Three hundred ships heading out as soon as I give them the order. The Taigian slime . . . my soldiers will be more than joyful to hear this.”
“Good to hear.” he ended the call. “We have valandian reinforcements being sent from Yucatec. The Orion Colonies are only a short distance from here. They should be here shortly.”
“Valandian brutes? Sir, is that wise? I know they are eternally loyal to you and all, but how effective can they be?”
“Do you need reminding as to our situation, corporal? You are new to my crew, so I will let you off easy. Speak out about them again and you will find yourself back on Oreigeal faster than you thought possible.” he threatened. “They have been allied with the Taigians in the past, they know their fighting tactics and their weaknesses just as much as we do, and we are the elite. They are the commoners. You would be surprised at how efficient they can be in finishing a job.”
Jen and Lianne were done their shopping and were eating in the food court. “Wait here, I’ll just be a second.” Lianne said heading to the washroom.
She thought about the situation earlier that morning and tried to make sense of it, but couldn’t.
She looked over, and saw a guy leaning on a wall. He was looking at her, and she blushed. He had black hair, wore eyeliner and all black clothes. No piercings or tattoos though. He walked over and sat at the table.
“Hey there.” he said.
“Hey.” She said.
“Honest and blunt. I like it.” It was as if he was reading her thoughts. She found him quite attractive. But that's where the smile ended.
“You’re a nice girl who’s been through a lot, so I want to make this brief. I have a few questions from reading your thoughts.”
She froze, he said it, but his lips didn’t move. “Uh . . . okay.”
“You know something. You saw something. All you have to do is think what you want to say. No one needs to hear.”
“Do I terrify you?” he asked.
“Oddly enough, no.”
“I would if you knew how ugly I really was.” his eyes glowed orange.
“Oh really?” she said doubting. He then morphed into a creature so horrifying she started to sweat. Jet black skin, spikes that looked as sharp as knives coming out at the elbows, shoulders and knees; the eyes glowed more intensely orange with a red ring around the iris, and he was about a foot taller. “You’re not that ugly.”
“I appreciate the lie, but I can read your mind, dear. What you saw was not the same as me.” he said turning back into the frail-looking human. “You saw a female armolegian.” he said as she thought about Kim in her room. “I see. Not much of a threat, they’re about as weak-bodied as you humans. Should not be a problem for me.”
“What do you plan on doing?” she asked aloud, but he got up, walked a few feet, then vanished in an instant.
He had gotten the information he needed from the girl. He had been scanning the minds of people in the food court all day, and finally something of value. He got the address, and the details on the target. Now all he had to do was go there.
He turned around and saw her there. Why did she bother to try and comfort him by saying he was tolerable to look at? He knew she was lying, but it was a lie for the sake of kindness. He dismissed the thought for the time being. He had a mission to do.
He walked out of the mall and onto his motorcycle. The thought kept coming back to him, so he decided to go back to the motel and do the job later in the afternoon.
He had been lonely for decades on this world. One far colder than his home. He missed it like nothing else. He longed for the hot sands, the longer days, the homestar’s searing heat on his back.
His mother, he did not think survived. His father had evacuated thousands to Yucatec. He left alone to somewhere away from the entire war. He came here, to Terrah.
He sometimes wondered if it was time to leave, time to go home, or at least to the Orions. Be among others of his kind. The time spent here had changed him. He saw his reflection in the mirror, and sneers at his own ugliness. He made people see him as a pale weak gothic teenager. He has immense physical strength by human standards, but pathetically weak by valandian standards. He never won once when he fought against his peers in the past.
His mental abilities, however, were far beyond what most valandians were capable of. Evolution had weakened their connection with nature, some had said. Or perhaps it was that they lacked focus, having ruined their world and forcing themselves to evolve to handle the brutal heat. Their industrialization had polluted the air, and killed most of the plants. Vallis became a desert world long before the Taigians arrived.
A memory came to him, the one time he won a fight. It was not a match, it was in an effort to defend a friend who was being harassed for his mockery of certain clans. He stopped the third punch. Telekinesis was not common, but not unheard of. What came after, however, was for the most part, thought to be a long dead ability. He lifted him up off the ground as if the assailant was a puppet to him. He got enraged at the bully, for all the times he was embarrassed for losing a duel. He started screaming in pain, and the blades from his elbows got ripped out of place, snapping from the bone. He ran off terrified and in pain from what had just happened. After word got out, no one challenged him. No one spoke to him, either. He felt cut off from the rest, but felt superior to them all.
Home. Home to what? Not those savages.8: Chapter Eight
“Where are those damn valandians?!” Someone shouted as yet another hit echoed through the ship. It had been several minutes since the Taigian fleet arrived. The wormspace tunnel that leaded to the Solar system had to pass through the Sirius system’s gravity well first, which was a strategic advantage for them. Any massive assault would first have to pass through their fleet. Admiral Haakrus was commanding the armada against the onslaught of Taigian forces.
There were hundreds of enemy ships of all classes from the small fighters, to the supercarrier that acted as the command ship. There was only so much they could do to fight off the enemy forces. Their fighters were smaller and faster, but the Taigian bombers had stronger shields. It took a lot to beat them. The enemy assault frigates were lightly armed and mostly served to intimidate them with numbers. Ion frigates shot beams that melted holes in the hull passing right through their shields. The only way to defend against them was to destroy the ship.
It had to be done with very good timing. The shields went down for the cannon to fire, and a bomber could damage the focuser before it fired. The beam would either be too dispersed to be a major concern, or would backfire and blow up the enemy ship entirely.
The destroyers were another task. Very powerful shields. Only sections of the shield opened up for the ion cannons to fire, making it impossible to use the same tactic. The only solution was to overload the shield with energy. The wormdrive would follow suit and implode the ship, leaving behind a singularity in space that would suck anything it came in contact with into wormspace while tearing it’s atoms from one another.
A cruiser was a bigger, more heavily armed destruction machine. There were two of them out on the battlefield. Battlecruisers could annihilate an Armolegian destroyer in a matter of minutes. It took the firepower of the Black Knight to deal with them. His flagship was preparing to fire it’s main cannon on one.
“Beam charged to ninety five percent.” Weapons specialist Saulo said.
“Fire when charged.” He commanded. The main cannon shot twelve beams clustered together to form a single weapon.
“Firing main cannon.” The red beams slammed into the enemy ship’s shields. Ripples could be seen surrounding where they had cut through, trying to fight back against the weapon. They would eventually win. The purpose of the beams was to make a hole for the main shot. From within the large cylinder of lasers, a light blue bolt flew down and through the hole. As soon as it hit, the lasers shut off, and a large part of the battlecruiser’s hull was melted away down to the chassis. At this point, destroyers could finish it off. There was no way that they could reroute the energy taken by the shields with that much of the internals damaged. “Recharging main cannon.”
Their numbers were thinning. Taigians now outnumbered them two to one.
“Tell destroyers five and seven to fire on the supercarrier. Tell cruiser three to go for the remaining battlecruiser with destroyers nine through twelve. The next shot from the main cannon will be on their carrier.”
“And what of the enemy destroyers, admiral? We do not have the firepower!” Gentam noted.
“I know that! I trust the valandians.” He said. Where are they?
After three minutes, he got his answer. A few hundred Valandian ships joined the battle. “Sorry for the holdup. Many thanks for saving some of the kill for us.” Their fleet commander said.
“Enjoy.” He kindly replied. Their ally ships were not as well shielded, however the hulls were made of true vallisian Sabalis from their homeworld, a material that is like sandstone, but when cooled properly can become harder than any metals known. Very fitting for the valandians’ brutal nature. Lasers had no effect, plasma was the only weapon against them, and even at that, they were three times stronger than Taigian ships.
Their hammerhead destroyers fired their engines on full, and smashed into enemy ships head on. The Taigian shields were useless to this kind of attack, and the hull of their ships are weak. They were smashed to pieces with one hit.
“Dropping like insects.” Their commander commented.
“As they should.” Haakrus said.
“Main cannon at full charge.” It took fifteen minutes to charge the main cannon.
“Fire on the supercarrier.” The shot fired and destroyed the enemy ship’s bridge section. The reactor overloaded, and imploded.
“Good job fleet, their command ship is gone. Clean up the rest.” The battle was won at that point. A few of the enemies tried retreating, but the inhibitors would not allow them to enter wormspace. “They will send more soon enough. We must hold them off as long as we can. We could be here for months. I will send a team down to set up the dropbase on Siri. It should have the supplies we need.”
We stayed in the lab for most of the day looking through Kim’s ship. It doesn’t use wires. It’s some entirely wireless system from what I can see. I guess it saves space that way. It’ll need a lot more work done to it. One of the skidoos ran out of gas about halfway home. I had gone a bit farther ahead before I noticed she stalled, and the trees wouldn’t let me turn around. So there was a fair bit of walking involved.
I heard a scream. I dropped the fuel container, and grabbed a metal pole from my skidoo. I ran over and saw her being cornered by something. A monstrous creature. It spoke to Kim in some language I can’t understand. It was distracted, so I walked closer and swung the pole as hard as I could at the back of its neck. It let out a loud half scream half growl noise and fell unconscious. “What the hell is that?” I asked.
“That would be a valandian.” she said catching her breath. “We should tie him up or something. He won’t be out long. Nice job, by the way. Back of the neck is their weak spot. It sends their brain over the edge. It needs time to restart.”
He came to not even five minutes later. He shook his head and tried to grasp the situation. He focused on the pole, then on me. “These ropes won’t hold me, you know.” He let out a raspy sigh. “Seems I’ve been defeated by a human,” He laughed. “Relax, I’ll accept defeat. It’s not like they ever pay me enough anyway.”
“Explain yourself,” Kim said.
“A mouthy one, aren’t you? Some high up political people know a ship crashed here. They paid me to retrieve the pilot. That’s the end of it. I’ve been guns for hire since I came here in forty seven.”
“Roswell?” I asked.
“Yeah, that was me.”
“And they just let you roam around?” I said.
“They have no other choice. They can’t contain me if they tried. They’ve given up on that. I just want a safe living away from the wars.” He said.
“This planet is off limits, even to valandians. We have a blockade. How did you get in?” Kim asked.
“I left during the invasion of Vallis. Your blockade was a bit preoccupied.”
“Your safe living is going to come to an end very shortly, I can tell you that.” She said.
“What do you mean?”
“They’re coming. And we can’t stop them this time.” She said. She pressed her bracelet and changed. My brother is the Prince of Death, but even he can’t hold back the entire Taigian armada.” His stare was blank, as if attempting to make sense of the situation and what she had just said.
The realization he had astounded him. His expression changed from an overconfident badass to kneeling with a desperate look of apology. “My deepest apologies, princess Kimoria.”
“If you help me, the king won’t have to find out.” She said.
“Of course, it’s not the king I’m worried about.” He said.
“I am aware, your allegiance lies with the prince.”
“I will do my best to keep these humans off your trail for the time being. But they will find you eventually, that is certain.”
“There’s something else. Earlier today we heard a Taigian scout overhead. They are probably setting up a base close to here, which is odd for them given the current climate.” She said.
“This is interesting. I will find out what I can about it. So they’re here already.” He stood up and cracked his neck. “You’d better get ready, human.” He said to me. “If the war comes here, many will die. I’ve seen it happen to my people. I’ll try to stop it from happening the same way here.” He said, then vanished. What did he mean by that? A war coming here? Kim clearly wasn’t telling me something. And by something I mean a lot.
“It’s an illusion. He’s making your brain think it doesn’t see him. Impressive.” She said.
My mom still wasn’t home when we got back to the house. I made some hot chocolate. “So why’d he stop attacking? I mean before you pulled the royalty card.” I said.
“If there’s one thing valandians have, it’s honor. You beat him. He was so focused on me, he didn’t even pick up on your brainwaves.”
“Okay now explain the royalty thing. I’m curious. Prince of Death? What’s all this about?”
“Let’s start from the beginning. My brother Haakrus was banished from the capital sector. Which means he’s not allowed back to Armolegia or the moons surrounding.”
“He can’t even go see you?”
“Not allowed. He pissed off the king during the invasion of Vallis. The king did not want to help the fight, since he thought that it was a losing battle. He didn’t want to sacrifice armolegian soldiers for some valandian brutes. My brother didn’t agree with him. He called him a weak cowardly king unfit to rule an empire. He took control of the Armolegian armada, and went to Vallis against orders.”
“So he’s a hero, then.”
“Most think so. He held off the Taigian invasion for enough time to allow hundreds of millions to escape, but it was indeed a losing battle. The one mothership that was in orbit got destroyed, which that in itself was thought impossible, but more were to follow. He ordered the retreat as soon as the last of the refugee ships had left. When he got back to Oreigeal, he was stopped by the local police. They told him he was banished from the sector.
He set up the new Valandian government on Yucatec and a handful of other worlds in the Orion Nebula. They don’t recognize the king’s rule there. They’re part of the Kingdom, but they answer only to my brother. Other outer worlds of the Kingdom have started to wonder whether or not they should stay loyal to the king.”
“What do you think? Should your father step down?”
“A king is king until death. But yes, I agree that my brother is a far better leader than my father. My brother and his flagship’s crew often joke about staging a coup, but there’s no point. The king is old and sick. He doesn’t have many years left. And as king, would he really be allowed to stay admiral? He likes being at the front lines. Seeing the wars for himself.”
“Speaking of the war, what aren’t you telling me? You said they were coming. The valandian said many would die. You kind of left that all out to me.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t think there was a point in making you worry about it.”
“What kind of war are we talking about here?”
“Shane . . .”
“I need to know.”
“Vallis was only taken as a port to gather the armada for another invasion, a much bigger one. They aren’t just colonizing Terrah for the sake of doing it. They’re moving their capital. They have prefabricated cities that they’ll drop. Entirely self-sufficient and can house a hundred million people each. They aren’t coming to harvest the planet, they’re coming to live here. Humans will either end up being enslaved or killed off entirely.”
“They have taken over a third of the galaxy, and this is their next target. Some in the council claim it’s their last target, and that they should be allowed to come. But the planet is within the Kingdom, and is protected. It’s also the turning point of the Taigian Wars, some believe. If they take Earth, they’ll have a capital in the mid-rim. It would be much easier for them to attack the rest of us. The Kingdom would fall, then the Moardillians, then the rest of the galaxy. We are the largest fighting force against them. Moardillians are pacifists, and refuse to take part in warfare. They’ll provide us with new weapons and technology, but they won’t fight back even if they are threatened with extinction.”
“And if the Kingdom wins here?”
“Then they have wasted a large chunk of their armada, and that means a third of the galaxy is left pretty much unprotected. The other members of the council will take back certain systems one by one, and they won’t be able to defend as well as they have in the past.”
“And what can we do to help?” I asked.
“I don’t know if there is anything you can do.” She said.
“Oh.” It’s hard to believe. I guess these doomsayers were right. They were only off about the time.9: Chapter Nine
A few days have passed since the encounter with the valandian. It was constantly snowing since then. Kim was in the lab with Alex. They get along fine now. I think he’s over his fear. My mom was at Rob’s for the rest of the week. I’d have a few friends over for new years. In other words it’s ideal for a party.
I had just gotten off the phone with Georges when the door opened. I went over to check it out. The valandian was bleeding. “I could use some help.” he said. I stitched him up as he explained to me what happened. “I found their base. It’s a few kilometers north of here in the middle of nowhere. I got the information I needed, but they spotted me as I was heading out. They only landed a few shots.” I was surprised at how fast he was healing.
“I never got your name.”
“Tiamat. Not that it matters.” He looked annoyed. Probably because he’s getting help from a human.
“The name’s Shane. I’m the first to find Kim. I saw her ship crash and went to check it out.”
“The princess allows you to refer to her with a nickname? Strange.” He said. “Normally she has this frightening appeal to her. A total lack of empathy. She keeps to herself most of the time.”
“That’s pretty different from the side of her I know. She’s lonely all the time in her palace. And because of her position, she can’t associate herself with many people.”
“It makes sense.” He transformed into a human. He kind of looked like a goth. “What? I like this look.”
“Do you all get to change into whatever form you please?” I asked.
“Hah. No, mine’s a bit different. It’s all in your head. The bracelet Kimoria wears changes her genetic structure. It’s a far better way of doing it. They don’t make them for valandians or I’d have one.”
I asked him if he’d be interested in seeing my lab where her ship is.
“Hm. Building a wormhole stabilizer and has a functioning AI. Yeah, I’ll check it out.” This mind reading stuff is freaking creepy. “And that girl you thought about when I transformed. I met her. So her name is Jennifer.”
“Wait . . . you talked to her didn’t you?”
“I found you because of her. She knows but I doubt she’ll want to tell anyone after our encounter. Relax, she’s fine.” Again with the mind reading. At least he’s not using that telepathy stuff right now. I feel as if it’s impossible for me to contribute to a conversation with this guy. Then he started laughing. “I get that a lot.”
“No. I don’t talk much.”
He explained to Kim what he found out. Cai said someone should report it to the Armolegian fleet.
“I’ll deliver the message to the prince. It’s been ages since I’ve gotten off this planet anyway.” Tiamat said.
“Make sure you explain my situation too. Bring back a transmitter or something. Mine’s done for. Tell him I’ll be staying for a while to see what the Taigians are up to on the surface.” Kim said.
“I would like to analyze your scanner so I know how to detect their base.” Cai said. He handed it over, saying he had another one in his ship.
“I’m guessing you’re planning on just walking right into Area-51.” Shane said.
“Pretty much,” Was the valandian’s honest response. It wouldn’t be hard, after all. Not for him, anyway. He was starting to get excited over the whole thing. Leaving the planet for the first time in over sixty years. He left the impressive laboratory after seeing enough of it. As much as he wanted to examine the advanced creations the humans have designed, he had a mission. He took a shower in his motel and packed his things to head out.
His motorcycle could get up to speeds humans didn’t dare drive at, even the ones in a hurry to get somewhere. He headed west to the Sault. He stopped to eat and gas up. He carried an extra jug of gas in the box behind the seat. He wasn’t stopping until Denver.
The long ride gave him time to think. He relived the more vivid parts of his memory on Earth. He had been here so long that he called it that, like the humans did. Earth. Dirt. Soil. Ground. How original.
Vallis was the name of what they thought was a demon living in the planet’s core. The giant barrakius worms were thought to be his servants sent to eat villages when he was angry. Armolegia was the protector god to the armolegians, guiding their way in the long nights. But they call their world Earth. After the dirt on which they stand. The rest of the galaxy calls it Terrah, after the old valandian tale of the Last Paradise. It was the first world valandians found to be habitable other than their own, and immediately the name caught on.
He had taken part in the human wars since he crashed. The presidents had given him a deal, they would stay away from his life if he killed for them. It seemed like a fair trade off at the time, but he had grown tired of it. He was considering more of a command role now.
His mind wandered to the recent events, and without warning, back to the girl. He didn’t understand the reason behind his latest obsession. He hasn’t had any similar problems in the past. She lost her mother and her father lost himself soon after. Her mind was so dark, so self-hating, so alone. Similar to his own mind, but far weaker. Is weak the right word? He couldn’t decide. He shook the thought away. He had to focus on the task ahead.
The next day, he arrived at the front gates of the research base. The gates opened up to let in an armored truck, and he drove right on in. His stealth abilities were serving him well. When inside, he made his way to the main building. There were not many people inside, which was a good thing. The less people, the easier to manage their brainwaves. He could manipulate every one of their senses. He could pretty much push one out of his way and make him think it didn’t happen, and make others think that they didn’t see it happen.
He found a map of the facility, and located the hangar that his ship was held in. He walked past many rooms where experiments were being held. He saw some interesting things, but nothing too extraterrestrial was going on. They were testing invisible paint in one, they had someone get into a suit, and the only part visible were the green markers put on to give him away. He was impressed. Another experiment was a mechanical body armor. The tester punched through a wall of concrete a foot thick. It could prove a fighting match for him, he thought.
He kept walking. The hangar with his ship was right ahead, but it was closed off. He took a step back, focused on the wall. He had to use all his focus. If anyone walked by, they’d be able to see him. The wall was two feet of metal. It opened in and out, so it was really two doors. There was an electronic opening system in a room above him, but it was a palm scanner. He would have to break in.
He opened his eyes, and began to manipulate the door into opening. It was not easy given the size and weight of it. He bent one half of the door open. He stopped, and could sense people coming. They heard him. They were running, about a dozen of them. He took a few steps back, and ran as fast as he could, and kicked in the other half of the door.
His ship was right there, although in its shielding. The system to unlock it was all mental. It detected him, and the shield dropped. “Tiamat, don’t move.” he heard president Dan McKinney shout. He turned around and he was standing among the soldiers.
“You have something of mine,” he said.
“If you take off, we will kill you. Your mind cloaking only has so much range.” He stopped. They had a point.
“I have far more important matters to attend to than any of your stupid games, mister President,” he was getting angry. He walked over to him and picked him up. “You have no idea what is coming. You would piss yourself in fear if I told you just what you will be up against.” He could feel all the triggers on him. He used his mind to unload all the guns which caught the soldiers off guard.
“You have no idea, Danny boy. The enemy of which I speak has slaughtered my people and invaded my home. They were once our allies, the bastards. If you stop me, you will only be sentencing further suffering to your species.”
“What do you mean?” he asked in a croaked voice. He let him down.
“I mean to say the war that destroyed the Valandian Empire is about to come here, to your planet. And there is very little you can do to stop it. I have information to deliver.”
“W-what can we do?” he asked. He was frightened.
“Prepare for war, president. It seems to be what you humans do best, after all. But this time, it’s not yourselves you need to destroy.” And with that, he turned and entered his ship.
The roof of the hangar opened up, and he took off. No one fired. He accelerated, and left the atmosphere. He found a carrier in orbit. He sent a docking request. After a few minutes of explaining, he was granted permission.
He met some armolegians in the hangar, and asked for a full tune up and resupply. “If I might ask, what are your intentions, valandian?” One of them asked. He was the captain of the carrier.
“I have information relating to the war that I must to deliver to the Prince.” He said.
“We could relay the message, it seems much more efficient that way.”
“No, I must deliver it myself. There’s also some personal things.” He said.
“I see. Well the tune up will take some time.”
“It looks like your ship hasn’t been flown in a hundred orbits!” another said.
“It hasn’t.” he said. He spent the time being briefed about the progress of the war since the invasion of Vallis.
“They took down our other colonies too then.” He said. “And our empire is no more. We have been fully integrated into the Armolegian Kingdom.”
“Yes. But your people are only loyal to the prince. It is common in the outer colonies of the Kingdom to be loyal to him alone. More and more refuse to recognize the rule of the king as the years go by. Personally, I think it is because as the years go by, the outer colonies are seeing more and more of the war, and seeing more and more how the admiral is defending them.”
“Interesting. His reign is nearing its end, it seems. As he is ill, I mean.” He said.
“Yes, but the admiral wishes to finish the war before that.”
“To show to his father that he can be a far greater leader than he ever was. Than any king ever was. He wants his father to see the end of the Taigian Wars, and admit he was wrong.”
“He sounds like someone I would get along with. A respectable warrior, for sure.” The tune up on his ship was done. They told him to head to the Sirius system. They had set up a blockade there near the wormspace tunnel.
“My thanks, captain.” he said.
Outside the carrier, he set the coordinates and engaged the hyperdrive. It looked like tiny blue strands of lightning were surrounding the ship, encasing it. Then, the Earth was gone and he was on his way.10: Chapter Ten
It was New Year’s Eve, and I invited some people over. Alex, Georges and Tim from school, Haley showed up uninvited, but I’m not gonna just tell her to leave. I asked if Jen wanted to come, her antisocial side decided there were too many people and she’d prefer gaming alone in her room. Alex brought some of his friends. Kim didn’t know many people here, so she ended up being the quiet one. Even more so than Georges, who’s usually not the conversing type.
He says the only conversations he has are intelligent ones, and teenagers are generally not too intelligent. Listening to some people talk, he kinda had a point. “So what place are you at in that game?” I asked referring to our online strategy game.
He laughed. “First place, actually. I passed Zizou in strategy points. I had a lot of spare time over the holidays.”
“Oh, wow. I haven’t been online in a while. I’ve been preoccupied.” I said. Our conversations never really lasted too long.
Rock Band ended up getting found and people started playing music.
Haley was making sure to sit between Kim and me, so I decided to have some fun with that. “You know, Kim is living here. For a while.”
“Oh really. Then maybe I’ll move in too. And watch you while you shower.” She enjoys being as creepy as possible without being serious.
“How about no.”
“Not your choice.” She gave me a hug, which always annoys me.
“Why are you so in love with me. Stop, please.” I said.
“Because you look like Spencer Smith, you flawless bitch!” She said, stroked my hair, then got up and walked away to play the game with the others.
“So . . . what just happened?” Kim asked.
“I don’t know. That’s just how she is.” To clear some confusion, Spencer Smith is the drummer for one of her favorite bands, and he also has a nickname. I don’t see the resemblance.
“I’m gonna go find my rum.” I said. She followed me away from the crowd.
He exited hyperspace above the planet. It was a very bright world orbiting a white star, and being a white planet, it reflected a lot of light. He saw the prince’s flagship, something he’d only seen one time before, when he left Vallis. It was enormous. “Tiamat, is it? I heard you were coming.” He heard the prince say.
“I have information you should hear.” He said.
“I will be waiting in the bridge.”
He was given clearance to dock. The hangar was a red glow, much easier on the eyes than Siri was. He stepped out and was greeted by a welcome party. They guided him to the bridge. He noticed there were several valandians on the ship.
He arrived on the bridge, and kneeled. “There is no need for that here. On this ship, I am not the prince. I am the admiral of the Armolegian armada. This is my home, and I have welcomed you into it. So, welcome to my castle!” He said, they both laughed. He had a sense of humor.
“I see you have valandians among your ranks. It is good to see my people still have fight in them after so long.” He said.
“The valandians are a proud people. Their empire may be gone, but they are still the best fighters I know.” he stood up and walked to the railing near the front of the bridge. Tiamat followed. “Such a beautiful crystal. No intelligent life has evolved here, and yet the Taigians want Terrah instead.”
“It is the brightness that they detest. It is the same reason we never set up a colony here.”
“It seems that way. Anyway, you had things to say.”
“Yes. The Taigians have a base set up in the north, of all places. I obtained information that could be useful. All of it is here.” He said handing him a data drive. “In summary, they are sending their cities using some other path besides this wormhole tunnel. They do not plan to start anything until the late northern spring, though.”
“It gives us time. They might use a tunnel from their mid-rim colonies. I will have to send spies to investigate.” He said.
“It also includes the locations for their major ship factories and personnel training camps.”
“That would prove useful afterwards, give us a way of defeating them then and destroying their military infrastructure so they cannot recover.” he thought it over some more, staring out at the planet.
“There is other information I came to talk to you about.”
“You have located my sister.” He said.
“Yes. But the thing is, she wishes to stay for longer. I know her location. She has gotten help from a very unique human.” He said, letting him visualize what he meant from on his memory.
“Very unique indeed. Can he be trusted?”
“I believe so.” There were a few minutes of silence.
“I knew she would like Terrah.” But his smile was short-lived. He marched over to his seat, and made arrangements with the fleets surrounding the area. He also called the hundred light-year barrier to stay on the look out and double their scanning time. He called other surrounding civilizations warning them the time was near, and to prepare their fleets if they needed assistance. No one refused, since he had saved them all at one point or another.
“I will prepare a carrier to return to Terrah with you.”
“But this is the front line! Are you sure it is wise to just leave whenever you please?” he regretted saying the words, but the prince admiral did not seem angered.
“You must understand, my fleet has been with me for so long, they know what I would do in a battle. They can handle things in my absence.” he said.
He had to admire the confidence he had in his crew.
The party finished around one thirty in the morning. Those who drank slept on whatever couch they could find. Georges doesn’t drink, so he gave Haley and a few others a ride home.
Kim and I sat in her room and talked. The alcohol was affecting her. From what I can tell, she’s an emotional drunk. I have a high tolerance, so it wasn’t affecting me as much but I was still feeling it. She told me random stories that didn’t really make all that much sense, but I listened anyway.
Apparently she hadn’t been very close to her brother until a few years ago when he attended a council session with her. They talked afterwards. He remembered their mother, but she doesn’t remember much about her. It was all pretty random and out of context. She probably just wanted to talk to someone about it. I kept listening.
She fell asleep after a half-hour. I left her and went to my own room. I passed out as soon as I got into bed.
I woke up the next day with a big headache. I forgot to drink a glass of water. A hangover is a serious case of dehydration, for the most part.
Others were awake too. I took a glass of orange juice and fried some eggs. Kim woke up, so I gave her the first few in sandwich form. We both prefer it that way.
“So how’s your head?” I asked.
“Why do I feel so terrible?”
“Drink something.” That’s pretty much the only thing I can say. I sat down with my food when it was done.
“Did we actually talk about all that stuff last night?” she asked.
“Yeah. Clearly you shouldn’t drink.”
“I don’t mind it, I don’t think I’ve shared that much of my life with anyone but my brother.”
“Like I said, I don’t get out much.”
“Then I guess I’ll have to show you as much of the world as I can while you’re still around.”
“Are you sure you’ve found the target?” The president asked.
“We’re very sure. We were tracking Tiamat. For whatever reason, he hasn’t told us the location. Now we know anyway.” West said.
“How should we go about the capture?”
“Stage it as a break and enter. It’s probably mind controlling the two residents similar to what Tiamat does. It may even be the reason he didn’t mention it, meaning it could be more powerful than even he is. We don’t know how dangerous it is, so we shouldn’t hold back just because it might seem like an innocent girl.”
“And the things Tiamat told me . . . no one needs to know but us. Is that understood? I’ve had the guards that were with me silenced. We need to be cautious. I know how to start something up in the middle east to get everyone’s weapons ready to fire.”
“Is it wise to start another war? Should you not try ending the actual wars you’re already in?” West said.
“It won’t matter, because I believe I can speak for every country when I say, if an alien race shows up to shit on us, I’d sooner side with a terrorist than go extinct.” McKinney said.
“I see your point. You may make the United States seem like the worldwide bad guy for a while, but they’ll see you as a goddamn hero, Dan.”
“Thanks, West. I just hope this pans out like we want it.”
He nodded. “I will have the creature delivered as soon as I have it. It shouldn’t be long now.” The call ended.
The president called up some people to made some arrangements.
“I think it’s about time I take you up on your offer. I will ensure troops are sent in to secure your borders.”
Starting wars is what a president does best, is it not? he thought.11: Chapter Eleven
Another few days passed, and still no sign of Tiamat. I have no idea how long it’ll take, patience is key. It was a nice day out, and we decided to walk to the lab that morning.
All we did that day was lounge around and think up ideas. Alex played around with his programmable chip. I haven’t a clue what he’s making it be able to do.
I showed off some of my CAD drawings of spaceships I made while bored. She commented on the necessity of having it in a delta wing shape, saying if it was for space, there would be no point. I responded by saying this way it might be able to land on a planet somehow. I hadn’t really thought of how, exactly, but a long waterway would be ideal. But then there was the question of whether or not it would stay floating. I didn’t give it too much thought, it still looked cool. “It wouldn’t fit through the stargate we’re building, though. It’s a big ship.” I said.
“No match for the Black Knight.” she said.
“That’s obvious, I’m just a kid with too much free time.” I continued work on a five lined rubric's cube. It’s not nearly as hard as people think. There’s a pattern to it. The hard part is remembering which pattern is for what. She got annoyed with me and took the cube away solving it in seconds. “Well that’s just not fair.” I complained.
Cai kept scanning for the alien base. He figured he may be able to detect it now with the new scanner. I wasn’t paying too much attention to that. I figured I had plenty of time before I had to start looking into it. Tiamat said he doubted they would leave their climate controlled environment until at least the spring.
We started to walk back to the house when there was nothing left to do. It was sunny out, freezing cold too. She was too obviously still not accustomed to Canadian winters. She didn’t appreciate it when I threw a snowball at her either. She threw one back that hit me in the face. She doesn’t laugh often.
I noticed something was off when I walked through the front door. After looking inside, it was obvious.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Shh. I think the house was broken into.” I whispered. I walked in slowly and looked around. Things were thrown everywhere. The television was missing along with most of the things that looked like they would be worth something. I stopped moving. I didn’t know if they were still in the house. I grabbed a rolling pin from the kitchen counter as a weapon, which would be useless if they had a gun, but it was better than nothing. I looked around but saw nothing. Then out of nowhere, I was hit in the back of the head and fell to the floor. I remember hearing Kim scream, then silence. I heard a loud noise from above, then nothing at all.
The next thing I remember is someone in my head. “What happened?” The voice asked. I remembered that voice, it was Tiamat.
“I don’t know. I think the house was robbed.” I struggled to concentrate. “They took her,” I said. Something happened, and I was opening my eyes.
“You were out cold. I revived you.”
I sat up, rubbed my forehead with both hands then stood. “Shit! They found us, didn’t they? Just like you said they would.”
“It seems that way,” he said.
“I didn’t see them. I didn’t see anything, and I looked around scanning the whole area.”
“I know, I watched your memory while you were unconscious. They have invisible body suits, they might have used one.” Nobody told me the military had cool invisibility armor.
“That would explain it.” I noticed there were others standing outside.
“I’ll go get them. They’re friendly.” he said. “Try to avoid using contractions though, they’ll take you for a fool.” I should keep that in mind.
I washed my face in the kitchen sink to try and get my head together.
“Is it not customary for him to invite us in?” One of them said.
“Your sister lives here, I don’t find it necessary to be too formal,” he said. “But it seems something bad happened here very recently.”
“So you are the legendary prince Haakrus I have heard so much about,” I said.
“A pleasure to meet you.”
“How about we sit? My head is still in a bit of a mess.” I said. We made our way to the living room couch.
“I would not blame you for what happened. You cannot fight what you cannot sense,” he said.
“Is there anyone watching the house?” I asked Tiamat.
“No. We are the only ones within two hundred meters, and there are no cameras recording that I can sense.” Amazing.
“There is no longer a need for the human masks. No one else is here.” I said. They looked at each other, shrugged, and pressed their bracelets.
It was strange. The males of the group were teal and blue skinned, and the females the same red and orange as Kim.
“Very unique indeed.” Haakrus said.
I didn’t get it, but Tiamat chucled at it then hit my back. “Relax, kid.”
Haakrus laughed too. “You acquaint yourself with a valandian. There really is no creature more terrifying and deadly out there.”
“Well that certainly is a relief.” I said.
“Listen, you helped my sister a lot for taking her in knowing she was not from here. Given your past experiences with the Moardillian Nomads, it would have been reasonable for you to have trust issues.”
“Okay, do all of you read each others’ minds without warning? Because I would have some personal space issues if that was the case.” I said.
“Haha, no we have ways of detecting if someone is trying to look around. You do not. It makes it easy.” Clearly I didn’t think that part through.
“Well, nothing in there needs to be a secret anyway.”
He looked to the others, then they got up and left. “I sent them to prepare the transport to leave. I am interested in seeing this lab of yours after we finish here.”
“Sure, I see no reason not to.”
“She has told you a lot.” he said. “Some things even I had not known about. She trusts you, so I do as well.”
“I will take it upon myself to retrieve her.” Tiamat said. “I have a good idea where she is being kept. I will leave as soon as we return to the carrier.” I felt there was nothing I could do, so I said nothing to avoid looking like a fool.
I figured he was finding out about the world by reading my mind. Step number one when humans get into space. Figure out a way to block that kind of stuff.
“We have ways already for those who lack this blocking ability.” He said. Cool! I want one.
“How about we get to the lab.” I said wanting the mind reading to stop. I’ll deal with it for now.
Haakrus led the way to the transport. It was, well how should I put it, like a space ship. Definitely was not from Earth. I figured visualizing the location of the lab would be enough. It was. The craft lifted up above the trees and hovered to the cave’s location.
I opened the elevator door and we all stepped inside. The doors closed, and then came the most awkward silence I think I have ever been stuck in. I was in charge now, but clearly they were talking away in their minds. Or all of them could have been invading my own. Tiamat kept telepathically laughing at me, which wasn’t helping.
The doors opened up, and I walked ahead. They followed behind. “This is the gateroom. Alex is working on it right now, so I can wait to show you that.” I said. He waved me off, clearly not giving a damn to talk to even more aliens than he had to. Which is understandable. Tiamat is enough on his own, now there were six more to keep occupied. We went to the second floor’s seating area. They placed a container on the glass table. I just hoped that it wouldn’t shatter, since it isn’t designed to hold that much weight. To my surprise, it held. “Yeah they don’t get the concept of how weak glass is.” Tiamat said. Okay, so it was him keeping the table from breaking.
They took out a device with a meter long spike that extended on the top. “A transmitter to facilitate contacting me.” Haakrus said.
“Well this should prove interesting to analyze,” said Cai. They looked around frantically. I assumed it was because they can’t read an AI’s mind.
“Uh guys, he’s an AI. Behind you. Yeah that cylinder room.” Finally, I didn’t have to be the clueless one.
“I run things here,” he said.
“Is that so?” One of them said. “You are not real, you know.” It didn’t sound like a very friendly statement.
“Virtual, actually. My physical body is nothing more than silicon, but that has nothing to do with my consciousness.” He got defensive.
“Shane, I’m starting to side with Alex on this, how many extraterrestrials are you planning to bring home with you?” His annoyed statement was almost comical. “Kim I get along with. But Tiamat could do for some anger management.” He joked.
“Funny, Cai. Now show them where to install this thing, will you?” I said.
“Alright, follow the car.” He said. A small toy car came out of a hole in the wall and moved to the hall at the end of the room.
“Is he playing games with us?” Asked the one with the attitude.
“Maybe you should introduce yourself a little nicer next time,” said the other one. She had a point.
Once they left, the others started laughing. “He lost a mind game to an AI once. We have yet to let him live it down, as you would say.”
“I see.” I said. “Cai, make me a coffee. You have no idea how terrible my day went.” I said laying back in the couch. I had only been gone four hours. “If any of you are interested in a tour there is not much else here. Most of the projects are in storage until I get around to messing with them.”
One of Cai’s puppet robots drove over with my coffee. “Just as you like it.”
“Thanks.” I said. I took a drink, and focused. I worried for Kim’s safety. What would they do to her in that place? Wherever that was. Area 51? I didn’t know, I could only guess.
“She’ll be fine. I know what goes on in there. They wouldn’t do anything to harm her without knowing if she’s a threat. They’ll probably interrogate her for hours. Maybe even days.”
There was a long awkward silence. “So.” I said.
“So.” Haakrus repeated.
“How goes the fighting?” I asked trying to be casual.
“Not sure, really. We have no idea how numerous the enemy is. They have to go through the wormspace tunnels. We blocked the one that comes closest to here. It should slow them down.”
“I wish I could see.”
“An actual space battle, I watch too many science fiction shows.” He didn’t seem to understand the last part.
“Kimoria enjoyed watching them the first few times.” he said.
“She lived her whole life not knowing you existed. I know he banished you, but was it really necessary to hide your existence from her?”
“I still fail to understand the logic behind that old fool. My hypothesis behind is is that if she knew, she would have wanted to know me, and she would probably have chosen to leave Suregal and live on my flagship. He would never see his daughter again.”
“I had no idea the princess existed before she showed me her memory.” Tiamat said. “Earth has been quite secluding.”
“I knew of her birth. From the media, of course. A few years after, our mother died. It was the only time I broke the banishment laws. I had no care what he said, and he knew I would attend the funeral of my mother regardless of his authority. That was the first time I saw her, such an innocent child who would now have to grow up alone. I remember my mother, it was a relationship my good for nothing father would never be able to provide for her. It brought a sadness almost as great as seeing my lifeless mother. I hoped she would turn out alright on her own. Which, of course, she did more or less.” Another pause.
“As I understand it, a Terran year is twice as long as an Armolegian one.”
“To compare, it is almost exactly that. The Armolegian year is universally recognized as the galactic standard for measuring time, since the council was founded on Oreigeal by the king of the time. It has since moved to Cryzor, the second planet around the dark star Liron.”
“Your Kingdom is one of the main powers in the galaxy, then?”
“Yes, one of the first of the five to get together in a peaceful alliance. The Armolegians, the Moardillians, the Valandians, the Eutropods, and the Taigians.”
“I’ve heard about all but the before last one.”
“Their empire mostly spans on the other side of the galactic core.”
“I still have no idea what the others look like.”
“Has she not shared her memory with you? It is something we do, after all. We call it mind sharing. Allow me.” he said. I saw, to scale with an armolegian, a pretty known alien. The Roswell Grays, little green men. “That is a moardillian.” The next that came up was something I had never seen before. It was an insect-looking creature that was about twice the size of an armolegian. “A eutropod.” The last one was much taller than an armolegian, grey skin, it had one eye, and two mouths. It had three holes for a nose, and no earlobes. “That, is a taigian. That is the enemy.”
“Are there other species out there?”
“Thousands. But the first five are the major players in the Taigian Wars.” We get a large say in what happens. And since the Taigians have left the council, and the Valandian Empire is no more, sadly, we have a third of the majority, amounting to a quarter of the total vote.”
“So what are the general sides taken? I have a curiosity in galactic politics.”
“We are leading the war effort, the Moardillians have agreed to supply new technology but have refused to take part in it themselves, the Eutropods have a peace treaty with the Taigians, so they rarely support what we have to say. The minority vote is all the thousands of other council members. All of them together make up a quarter of the total vote weight. Individually it depends on the size of their empires. If they have a larger population and more systems under their rule, their vote counts for a higher percentage than a council member of one star system.”
“That makes sense. So the vote really all depends on the minority when it comes to stuff involving the war.”
“Exactly. I have made quite a few alliances in my time fighting the Empire off form the defenseless, and have gained support for us in the council because of that.”
“I think I finally have a good general understanding of the state of the galaxy.” I said.
The two who went to set up the transmitter came back. I showed them the stargate on their way out, they looked impressed. I explained how it worked, and how Taigians wouldn’t even be able to detect them.
They were heading back to their carrier. They would stay until they knew Kim would be safe. If she could not be safe here, then she would leave with them.
“I feel so useless right now, you know.” I said.
“I know. But there’s nothing you can do to help. You start up school soon. Focus on that and the gate for now. I prefer to work alone anyway.” He said.
Their transport took off and cloaked. I wondered about it all. The galaxy, the council, the Taigians, the war. I had so many answers now, but so many more questions. Which is usually how it goes, with science and politics.12: Chapter Twelve
“What do you mean, you aren’t delivering the creature?” said the President. It was late afternoon and he was waiting within the hidden installation to get a first look at the mystery pilot once delivered. However, West called him with an unsettling claim.
“I’m sorry, my friend. It’s to valuable.” He could see West’s eyes shifting uneasily as he spoke.
“What I mean to say is, well, see for yourself.” He turned the camera showing tall grey cyclops creatures standing in the room with him. “I’m sorry, Dan. They came to me with a deal I can’t refuse.” He said. “They don’t want the North, it’s too cold for them. They’ve shown me what they’re capable of, what they’ve come to do. If I can save even a fraction of the human race—”
“This is just how it is.” He ended the call.
The president was furious. His friend made a deal with the enemy.
Several hours later, a ship was heard flying overhead. It landed right outside the main building. Tiamat rushed inside, and when he got to the president, he looked even more furious than before. His hand contacted the President’s throat in milliseconds. “Where is she?” He could not speak. “Not here, but how?”
“W-west!” he said. “West didn’t deliver it to me. He . . .” Tiamat loosened his grip letting him speak. “He made a deal with the enemy. He handed it over to them.” Tiamat dropped him. He took a few breaths still in shock at the valandian’s strength.
“You got off the phone with him recently. You saw them.” He took a few moments to think. “Do you have any idea who your target pilot is?”
“No. Why? Is that important?”
“She is of the royal house. Your planet is within her kingdom’s territory, and their navy have been protecting you for longer than your country has existed. I’ll let the possible consequences of her being harmed sink in. I am going to see West, and I am going to kill him.” He said it, and Dan knew he meant it. Tiamat was brutal if nothing else. He remembered that from the times serving in the various wars. Whatever target he was instructed to eliminate, he never left survivors. He was efficient and ruthless in his strategy. It made him good, but also made him even more intimidating that he already looked.
He landed his ship under a bridge where no one would stumble upon it and walked the rest of the way. It was dark out now, and snowing. First arriving on Earth, the cold was horribly uncomfortable. Another reason he didn’t mind so much when the human leaders placed him in some desert war battle. He was used to it now, and even enjoyed it to an extent. Falling flakes of cold white crystals were much more welcoming than the harsh sandstorms of old.
Getting in was easy enough. It didn’t take long until he was in West’s office, siting in a chair, waiting for him to finish his calls.
This foolish man is dealing in matters that he could never come to understand. He thought to himself. He waited a few minutes longer, then cut the power to the room.
He picked up his phone, but it was dead too. “What the . . .” he reached for a cellphone but it burst into pieces. “What is this?”
“You should know, West.” he said.
“What, oh no.” Despair washed over the man’s face the moment he realized his situation. Tiamat revealed himself, and tossed West’s desk out the window with one arm.“What are you doing here?” he asked, his voice shaking, obviously worried for his life.
“The girl, West. Where is she? Where do they have her?”
“I-I don’t know what you mean!” he shouted.
He was growing impatient. “No matter, I don’t need you to answer me.” Tiamat searched his memory, but it was clouded, altered. “You see, they lied to you, you foolish man. This will hurt. Tremendously.” He repaired the memory and reversed the alteration as best he could. West screamed out in pain, a truly gruesome howl. It was an excruciatingly painful process, but effective nonetheless.
“They promised me peace for my people. They said the land was useless to them, anyway.” he said.
“You fool. You believed them. You can never trust a Taigian. Now you see, they've erased your memory and got what they wanted. You are nothing to them but a sheep.”
“Speak no more. Your thoughts are transparent to me. You have no idea the extent of your crimes. That girl is the daughter of King Oreigeal the nineteenth. I will spare you from his rage by ending you here and now.” He was too terrified to speak. He screamed, but knew this would be his end. The valandian pulled out a sword from a sheath on his back. “I see you remember my blade. Made from valandian bone, of all things. Stronger and sharper than any man made sword.” He stabbed West through the throat so to halt his screeching. His eyes went dead as the blood spilled out and pooled around them.
Tiamat, for some sadistic reason he could not put a finger on, enjoyed seeing human blood. Valandians bled a sandy yellow, which blended in with his old home’s soil. The crimson of human blood stood out against everything of Earth. It was such an unnatural color for this world of blue, green and white, but rarely did red appear so dominant.
He walked out of the room, leaving behind a bloody corpse of the man who betrayed the human race as well as many others. He made sure to hurry on his way out. No doubt the guards have found the desk he tossed out the window by now and were rushing up to his office.
By the time he was just out the door, an alarm sounded and the doors locked. Too late, however, he was already on his way. Where next, he did not know. He had the scanner in his ship, he would scout out the sky around the city first in search of the enemy.
He did not know how the Taigians worked. They were far less predictable than humans. Her royal status meant nothing to them, they did not trade, and they did not give a high price to individual lives. He wanted this task done as fast as possible. It could mean the difference between preventing information from being leaked to the enemy or perhaps even saving her life.
“Earlier this week, an unknown assailant murdered the prime minister in his office. The strange part, all power in the building was cut off with no evidence of tampering. We will update the public on the situation when we have more information to give.” I turned off the TV and went to take a nap. I could guess the report was Tiamat's doing based on the reports outlining the specifics of the incident but I have no idea what's going on. I've heard nothing from anyone for days now. I can feel only uselessness and worry. The few times I’m not either of those two states of mind it’s boredom that fills me.
I waste time on the internet alone in my room. It’s something that’s easy enough to do living mostly alone. That’s one of the major changes I’ve noticed about me since Kim’s time spent here. I stopped feeling as isolated from reality. Another thing is it gave me someone to talk to I knew I could trust; as odd as that is to me. I also had someone to talk science with to my inner nerd’s extent who was genuinely interested in it all. Going over it in my head for the dozenth time didn’t help me any and I headed to my room with some leftovers of the usual. One could assume our household had a constant supply of pizza no matter what. There was even a time post-party that I made some at four in the morning and since I didn’t really eat that night I couldn’t tell if I was making myself supper or breakfast.
I was about to fall asleep when my phone buzzed loud on the nightstand. I got a text from Jen. “I know about Kim. I haven't told anyone but someone else knew I did somehow. I'm freaking out a bit and have been for a while. Can I get some kind of explanation?” If my state of consciousness wasn’t in much of a blur I’d probably have thought of the timing as inconvenient and out of place. It was about time to tell her anyway. Tiamat said she knew Kim wasn't human, but she hasn't said anything to me about it until today. I texted her back suggesting she come over to talk.
My mother gave her a ride over. She didn’t stay long, she got some things and headed back to Rob’s. Apparently the kids were all out of the house for the night. I pushed the thoughts that followed far out of my consciousness.
We sat in the living room listening to some vinyl. Our taste in music is mostly similar. She doesn’t care for the super heavy screaming stuff from Sweden or wherever, but the rest we both enjoy. Some of our favorite albums are the same.
She kept looking to the hall leading to my mom and Kim’s rooms. “She’s not here today.”
“Don’t tell me you read minds too.” Obviously a joke, and laughing reduced the uneasiness in the air. “Start wherever, I have no idea what’s going on.”
“Subtle.” I started by telling her how we met and how I persuaded her to trust me. I also mentioned the lab. She asked to see it to which I kindly said it would have to wait. Avoided having to do yet another grand tour of the ultra nerd’s dream collection. I then explained the government was looking for the ship’s pilot and that’s where Tiamat came into the picture.
“That’s the other one I’ve met?”
“Is he dangerous?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say he isn’t. I would avoid him if possible, honestly. The guy looks like he could punch through a wall or two and not break a sweat. If valandians can sweat.”
She thought it strange I thought of him that way. “He didn’t seem to hostile to me, more like he’s angry at everything including himself. He called himself a hideous monster, you know. I’d say he’s more sad than angry.”
“So you’re a psychologist now? I didn’t think he had any emotion other than rage.” I said.
“Rude,” I honestly hadn’t thought of him that way before. It made sense; he lost his whole world. “On another note, maybe I do want to go into the psychology field somewhere. Help someone else deal with certain kinds of thoughts.” I knew what she meant by that. Before I could bring up the subject, not that I’d know how, she said, “I’m hungry. Make me food.” I wanted something too. For some reason the two slices I had earlier weren’t enough. I put some in the microwave.
“It’s my default random hunger food.”
“That’s awesome. My dad doesn’t eat pizza, so he never cooks it. He’s all for home cooked meals. Thing is, my mother used to be the one to do that stuff. He’s terrible at it.” We laughed at that. Luckily for me my mom can cook fairly well when she’s around to. “We don’t complain or he gets angry.”
“Doesn’t sound too great.”
“It’s strange, though. He’s an entirely different person when your mom’s around. I know you don’t care to hear it but it’s nice when she’s there.”
“Hey I don’t complain about it. It gives me the space I need for most of what I do. I can easily talk with Kim about unearthly things outside the lab. Besides, she probably still thinks I’m crazy.”
“Not if she knew what I did. I wouldn’t tell her, though. She’d be the one to go crazy if I did.”
“I think the whole world’s gonna go crazy soon enough.” I didn’t go into details about the potential upcoming horrors. Best not to mention it.
We went back to the couch and I flipped the record. “Where is Kim anyway?” She asked.
“Well, currently I have no idea. Tiamat’s gone looking, but I haven’t heard anything for days.”
“Oh. Is she in danger?”
“Possibly, and all I can do is sit here. Best of feelings.” She understood my sarcasm well. It made for interesting conversation most of the time we do hang out, which isn’t as often as we should considering in a year or two we’ll pretty much be siblings. Yet another weird thought to add to the list.
“How was that anyway, growing up not sure if you were sane? Unless that’s too personal.”
“Not at all, not at this point anyway. Well, about as swell as you can imagine it would be. Doctors and psychiatrists constantly dissecting my brain from the outside, being afraid if I didn’t play along they’d try from the inside,” a childish exaggeration, but as a child it was an actual fear of mine. “eventually I pretended it didn’t happen, and tried to convince myself that too. Still, my mom never saw me the same. She didn’t try to get too close to me for whatever reason. It doesn’t say too much of her, I know, but that’s my perspective on it. I haven’t a clue what she really thinks. We still haven’t talked about it.”
“Do you ever plan to?”
“When I’m living on my own and she sees me as an adult, probably.” Maybe it is crazy of me to think I’ll end up waiting until there’s global proof of my sanity, but it’s not like she’d believe me otherwise.”
“She might, she does talk about you sometimes.” That’s news to me, I didn’t think she’d have much to say about me.
“In any case, it was a shitty childhood. Not news.”
We sat there for the next while until the album finished. Jen got up and put on an EP that was only about fifteen minutes long. “You can ask, by the way. It’s not like I make an attempt to hide them.”
“Sorry, I try not to stare.” I said embarrassed.
“Well, I’ll start wherever then.” She said it the same way as she did asking me that question earlier. “It’s been a few years since it was really a problem. My dad finally forced me onto meds when he saw the ones on my legs. I didn’t take my mother’s death too well, and my father being kind of a ass at times didn’t help. I won’t bore you too much with it, but I lost the will to live. For a long time.”
“I can kinda know how that feels. I mean, I’ve come close to starting that at times. I guess I’m just too much of a chicken shit to see my own blood or something.”
“No, you’re lucky. I’d be ashamed of them more if I didn’t do the stereotype fashion thing. Less people ask me about it, but that might be because less people approach me generally.”
“So much for a social life.”
“Not something that matters to me much, I can overhear the content of most conversations from a distance this way. None of it’s particularly interesting.”
I didn’t have much to say to that. I wondered if she ever talked about it with anyone else. Maybe my mother, which makes sense since they’re fairly close.
“So yeah. Shitty childhood. Not news.” She copied. The music stopped soon after. “How about we shoot at things, it’s getting depressing in here.” She said. We played one of my many shooters for a couple hours. It easily took my mind off of everything else that was going on that I couldn’t help with anyway.
There was a big storm that night and the power went out. We ended up in my room, as the basement was the warmest. “Most inconvenient thing ever.”
“I’m just glad it happened after we finished gaming.”
“Haha yeah that too.” The awkward whispered laughter continued. “What?” I asked.
“We’re in your bed and no one else is home. It screams a recipe for disaster.”
“Not likely, kid.”
“Yeah you have your otherworldly interest.” She joked.
“I never said that.”
“Sure.” I couldn't tell if she was grinning or not through the blue glow of the alarm clock.
“Go to sleep, kid.” Lucky for me, I passed out soon after.13: Chapter Thirteen
It had been days of searching before he found anything of Taigian origin. A ship. Only a frigate-class, but still better than nothing. He followed it. It landed on an island in one of the Great Lakes. There was an entire base camp set up. He landed his ship far enough away to remain undetected.
First inside the base, he saw dozens of them right away. He didn't know what they were doing but he could guess they were experimenting on the planet. Either to find out how they can mutate to adapt to the climate and higher gravity or finding the more ideal locations to drop a city. He saw projections of entire human cities in passing, it brought disturbing thoughts.
He kept moving. It was much more difficult to keep himself hidden from their minds than from humans. Either he was so used to interfering with human minds or the Taigians were harder to hide from. He estimated it was something along the line of one taigian to every six humans. Focus was deteriorating the farther in he moved. The cameras were the easy part.
Deeper in the structure he found human prisoners or experiments depending on circumstance. He was getting closer. After ten minutes, he detected something. Not a human or a taigian. It was hard for him to say for sure if it was her, as his mind was occupied to keep hidden from sight.
The identity was several stories underground, that meant he had to use an elevator. He waited for two Taigians to open one, and he snuck inside. They bumped into him and he focused his concentration on getting them to forget it happened. He got to the floor he wanted and opened the doors and stepped out leaving the clueless taigians to their business.
He found the room she was in, and at his current proximity it was easily distinguishable as armolegian. He opened her door. “I have been searching for days. Are you able to walk?” He asked skipping greetings; there wasn’t time.
“Yes,” She stood up but fell back down. “They've been starving me. I don't have much energy, I'm sorry.” She said.
He put out his hand and made a few changes in her mind. He allowed her brain to ignore her digestive system and slowly create adrenaline to aid her.
She stood up after a few seconds. “I won't ask what you did, just promise to reverse it later. Now let's get out of here quick. They were supposed to come by in another fifteen minutes to take me in for another questioning session.”
“It will be difficult to hide both our presences. I have an idea. I will have them believe I am transferring you to another facility. That way I only need to partially tamper with their optic nerves.”
“Good plan,” she said.
They made it to the elevator without a problem. On the first floor, however, he was stopped.
“Where are you taking the prisoner? She is scheduled for interrogation.”
“She is to be transferred to a higher security facility. We have detected one of our frigates has been followed here by a valandian ship.”
“Valandian? I have not heard that word in an octone. What facility is she to be transferred to and under who's orders. I am the administrator of this base.”
He had to probe the creature’s mind momentarily. He told him it was an order from above, and she is to be transferred to the nearest high security base which he found out to be number thirty-seven.
He was given clearance to leave and once out the main entrance hid the two of them from anyone close enough to see. They ran to his ship, they hurried to get in, and he took off once ready. He was shot at a few times when they realized what happened but he avoided getting hit. His heart raced and his mind kept running more than it needed to, still not aware they were in the clear.
Once far on their way, he put out his arm above her forehead and reversed the changes he made. She screamed out in pain, but it was a necessary injury. “I'll stop somewhere to eat. What I did could damage your body significantly otherwise.” She didn’t care, apparently.
“The taigian command system is so robotic and has been for so long that they wouldn’t even imagine needing to check for liars. An unexpected advantage to say the least.” She thought out loud.
He parked his ship in a field off the highway, and they went to a fast food restaurant to eat. He hadn’t had much food that day either. He didn’t know if they starved her or didn’t think to give her food. Their thought process is strange at times. At least they had the decency to provide her with clothing.
“Aren't you worried about them seeing us?” She said under her breath, the walk had exhausted her more than she would admit.
“Humans are easier to trick. I have no problem concealing both of us from a few dozen of them.” To everyone in the restaurant it looked like two ordinary teens enjoying some fast food. Entirely inconspicuous.
They ate and talked telepathically.
"Your brother has left the front lines to his second in command and is here on Earth." He started
"For how long?" She asked.
"Days. He was worried about you, but doesn't blame Shane for your abduction. As for the man responsible for this, he is long dead now."
There was a silence. "Thank you. For all of this. You've helped far more than you needed to; I'll make sure to find a way to repay you for it."
"No need. I'm not doing this for your royal grace, I'm doing this because I owe you and because I consider you a powerful ally. Not to mention the consequences of the enemy discovering secret information that could be vital to our side of the war." He said.
"I gave them a few false leads but nothing more.” She wasn’t lying. Then he considered she probably didn’t have the energy to lie anyway.
They stayed at the restaurant for a half hour before leaving. The walk back to his ship was at a faster pace than before and got there without needing to stop. In the air, he noticed her worrying about Shane’s possible reaction to the situation.
“He worries about you a lot too. He knows it wasn’t his fault now, he wanted to help but there wouldn’t be much he could have done.” It gave a little reassurance. “Oh and before I forget, here.” He handed her the wrist device he picked up on his way through Area-51.
“Thanks, I though it was gone for good.” She put it on and immediately changed into a human. He couldn’t read her conflicted emotions well enough to know what was on her mind just then.
She was already upstairs when I woke up. “Pancakes? Aren’t I lucky?” I noticed the power was back and started to make some coffee.
“You snore, by the way.” She said taking her plate to the table.
“None for me?”
“I’m not your mother or your girlfriend.” Moody all of a sudden, not a problem anyway. It only took about the same time it did to make the coffee and unlike her I found the chocolate chips.
“So what’s the issue, didn’t sleep well? I can’t speak for you, but my mattress is the best ever.”
She laughed, “Yeah it’s nice. That’s not it. I’m only having a shitty day, it’s nothing.” She said and went back to eating.
I looked through my phone and started playing The Black Parade from the surround sound speakers in the living room beside us. It’s my third favorite album, her number one. “Reading minds would be so convenient.” I said.
“Tell me about it. Like I said, it’s nothing interesting.” I decided not to ask.
She stayed over until my mother came home at noon to bring her to the mall and do whatever it is they do. She also asked if I wanted to come too which struck me as odd. I had other plans today so I said I’d pass. Other plans as in Cai texted my phone saying Tiamat found Kim and that they’d be coming here later on. I couldn’t express my relief
The armolegian carrier was located somewhere above Sudbury. He sent his clearance code and was guided in to dock. Outside the fighter the hangar was aglow with the bright teal as it always was. She changed back to her normal form before exiting. Her brother waited with a few others until they stepped out onto the deck. He walked over to her in a hurry. She had mixed emotions. She was feeling guilt for being captured, yet at the same time she was happy to see her brother and to be alive. She expected him to punish her for getting captured but before she could apologize, he gave her a long embrace. She was surprised, then remembered he cared more about her mind would allow her to believe. She let the feeling last. “I was captured. I was unaware you had come back so soon.” She said holding back tears.
“By the stars, I am simply glad you are safe. The valandian has helped you much, I presume?” He said.
“Yes, but also the human.”
“Shane was his name if I am not mistaken. He is a very, uh, interesting individual.” The closeness had ended and they were now walking.
“I had expected at least an orbit until your return.” She said. “I liked it there. The best to describe it is that I felt free. Complete freedom from my royal burden.” She spoke only to him.
“Well, Tiamat found me while setting up a blockade in the Sirius system. Of course I would come and get you.” He said. “I see. Once father hears I have discovered your location he will surely order you back to Suregal.”
“Ah.” She said. “You have yet to tell him, then?” She continued their private conversation with curiosity.
“If you want more time, I will understand. Know it is very risky, however, considering the Taigian presence on the surface.”
“Might I interject? At this time they assume she is long gone, off world and headed back to the capital. They will not be searching for her.” Tiamat said.
“My thoughts are similar.” He hadn’t realized the valandian was eavesdropping. “Well, the Princess has found out much on the subject of human society form what I have been told.”
“To the point of making friends, even.” Tiamat added.
“I see. It would be beneficial if we could learn more about their global culture. The convenience of it would aid us in establishing future contact with the humans of Terrah.”
“I tend to agree with the admiral,” said one of the others. “It could be of use even after the war if we are successful.”
“So then, do we give her a reconnaissance mission?” Asked another. Her brother’s fleet was his family and so they considered her as part of it too.
“Surely we must. As for if the King would agree with this consensus we will never know.” Haakrus grinned. “Do you accept?”
“Of course! I am grateful.” She hugged him again.
The Prince and his guard were inside the lab’s cave with her, Shane, and Tiamat. “I will return to the front lines immediately. I have given your friend the necessary instruments to contact us at Siri. It is fairly limited in range and will not be of much good for anywhere of greater distance. I have also provided scanning technology to detect Taigian energy shields.”
“In other words, you never intended to return me to father.”
“It would seem a cruel thing to do, considering how wide that smile is. I cannot recall you being this happy in years.”
Tiamat cleared his throat. “I will keep an eye out for potential danger. I will also periodically return to your location for information regarding the state of affairs on a galactic scale.”
“I’ll continue as I have been,” Shane said unable to think of how else he could be of use.
Her brother and the rest of them left on the shuttle soon after. She wondered how long it would take her to regret the decision, or if she’d end up liking Earth enough as a second home.14: Part 2: Chapter Fourteen
Three weeks had passed from the time Haakrus left. Kim described to me all that had happened to her during the capturing in detail. She was tortured for days. She wasn’t gone an incredibly long time, but it was long enough to have felt like a month to her. It felt like a month to me too, not being able to do a single thing about it. I also got an explanation to why she was allowed to stay here at all. She decided to stay for as long as she could. That was still an undefined amount of time. It could be months or it could be another year. She didn’t know. Her entire objective now was to gather information on Terran society and culture to help ease possible future relations with us.
I wondered why they hadn’t simply sent out spies to get this information a long while ago. Apparently they did but not in the past hundred years. Much has changed since then. They had barely any knowledge of World War Two and everything after it. That fact astonished me. No knowledge of the most important conflict of the planet in recent memory, the discovery of nuclear technology, the Space Race, anything. We weren’t too high on the priorities list for observation apparently even though it was our world the enemy wanted to capture so bad.
Not that school was even remotely as relevant to me as all else that’s happened, I didn’t completely neglect that portion of my life. Kim showed up some days to get an idea of what it was like, and it being the end of the semester none of the teachers seemed to mind. She said it would make more sense if her disguise was more accurate to the norm of someone her age. In the end she decided to, well, become a student. As unrealistic as that sounded at the time. Faking the paperwork wasn’t even the hard part. She had no idea what most of the content meant. The second semester was starting tomorrow.
All day today I let her into my mind to learn how the education system works and learn most of the information she didn’t know. It was an odd experience to say the least. It was different from the times she got into my head before. This was a more connected way of going about it. I believe Haakrus called it mind sharing, though it was my mind being shared in this case.
Until she was finished. Years of education took only hours to transfer from my mind to hers. I shouldn’t act so surprised, she learned the entire English language from me in seconds when we met.
Kim then shared her mind with me, showing me her home. I was brought to a dark sandy beach overlooking a vast ocean. She called it the Tripid Sea. Her palace was on the continent to the north of it. The sand felt just like any earthly sand would but was darker. I looked around and past the sandbank I could see tropical trees of some sort, but they did not look like any Earth trees. They were of yellow and orange color and shaped like none I’d ever seen.
The scene then shifted and we were in the courtyard outside a palace whose architecture was obviously aesthetic oriented. The fields of red grass went on for maybe a mile down a hilly terrain. The wind rushed by and the tropical smell of the air was what stood out most. “Smells are remembered better in the mind,” she said. Apparently my science fiction hobby has helped since my mind was trained to expect oddities like this to some extent.
I looked to the sky and marveled at the sight. A blue sphere took up about three times the space the Earth’s moon does in our sky. Beside it was another crescent, much less spectacular. I could still make out features like continents and oceans.
“That’s Oreigeal, the capital of the Armolegian Kingdom.” The big blue world was the water giant after which their kingdom is named. I looked to their star and instead of seeing a blinding white light, it was a far dimmer yellow-orange. Herolia, it was called.
The scene shifted again. This time the alien sun was set. It would be hard to describe exactly what I was seeing. Stars poured together across the horizon in a nebulous glow. The galactic core could be clearly picked out but there were too many stars to pick out much else. The night was aglow of pinpoints of blues and whites, and streaked with nebulous oranges, yellows, purples and reds as if painted on canvas by a mad genius. It was beautifully complex. I took my time to marvel over the crowded inner-rim sky. She said Herolia was in what was called the Molecular Ring region which surrounded the Core. There was little dust to obscure the golden light beyond. This was her home. The skies of my world to contrast seem lonely and desolate. Isolated form the community of stars she was used to. There was very little blackness of night where she was from, so looking at Earth’s night here must feel stranger than I can imagine.
She fell asleep from exhaustion when it was over. The event probably taxed her mind to its limits. I let her nap for the next few hours. I’ll admit, I was watching her sleep for a good portion of that time. Thinking of nothing specific. Only trying to know her better. Also thinking about those shared memories that have stayed vivid to me, more even than the majority of my own memories.
“Are you sure you wanna do this?” I asked.
She paused before answering, considering it. “I’m sure.” She took off a panel on her bracelet device and disconnected a few pieces of the wireless technology I still did not understand. It turned off and released its grip. It fell onto the bed. There were three holes in her wrist that started bleeding. It was done. She would no longer revert to her alien form after the device’s power ran out. Of course, it wasn’t completely permanent. Her genetic code is stored at home in her palace.
“You really think I can pull this off?” She said.
“You look human enough to me, I don’t see why not.
She put the bracelet in the one drawer of the desk that had a lock. She was now living pretty much as family here. My mom comes home more often now, but she’s already taken a liking to Jen as a daughter figure and didn’t talk to Kim all that much.
The bleeding stopped after a minute. “That’s it, then. You’re human from now until whenever it is you leave.” I said.
“Which hopefully won’t be for a while.”
“Yeah.” I said. It was ten at night, and I was leaving the room.
“Shane,” she said. I stopped, and she hugged me. “Thank you.”
I hugged her back. “I’ll see you in the morning.” Her signals were always cryptic. She could be thanking me for helping her as much as I do, or she could be thanking me for being her friend, something she doesn’t have many of. I tried to figure out what she meant by many things without success. Now, I could give myself insomnia thinking about all that I’ve seen today, but tomorrow will be exhausting enough already. Best to not do that.
The nighttime wind blew across the desert. The world was arid and marked by time with eroded craters and canyons stretching across the surface, trenches ripped into the crust from constant tidal interactions with the giant it orbits. Not coincidentally, the name of this world was the literal translation of misery. For on this world they were miserable in the very sense of the word, total distress and discomfort of both mind and body. A training ground far within the reaches of Taigian space.
Two beings sat alone in the cold sand far off from a settlement. This world is where children would be sent to for assimilation into military life. Love for the Emperor was the only love allowed and to serve the Empire is to be the only desire in life. Personality is seen as unacceptable. The two sitting out in the sand, however, have secretly stopped taking their hormone regulators. They could be put to death if discovered.
From their tablets they went through images of their future home. They had never seen a tree, they have never seen an ocean. The whole world was alien in nature, yet it gave them a slight hope of somewhere to finally call home. They can scarcely remember their planets of origin, and Mezora was far from being a home to them. Jhova, the male, came from Nova Taigia, the imperial capital. Grevana, the female, came from Taigia Four. The valandian homeworld and the closest colony to their future home.
“I promise you, we will be able to live there. We will be able to indulge in this infatuation we are experiencing, and we will live together.” He said.
“It is the only hope for us.” She replied.
Terrah was a promised utopia to all Taigians. It will be the first world to be left intact. The cities will be completely self-sustaining. The Emperor had realized if they did not change their ways, their species will surely face extinction. It shocked the people to hear the Emperor admit weakness in his glorious Empire. Nevertheless, it was the case for the media said it so. Those who questioned the media did not do so for long.
What the Emperor’s plans held after Terrah was the obvious next course of action. The Herolian system and the heart of the Armolegian Kingdom. He would take vengeance on the heathens. The Empire has suffered great losses at the hands of a few animals. Barbaric slime to be eradicated, so it is commonly said.
“It will be day shortly,” she reminded.
“Then we shall return.” He said.
“Surely they must know of our weekly escapes by now. Why then have we not been sentenced?” She asked.
“They need us. We are trained soldiers and the future of the Taigian race. They want us alive more than they care if we abide by the laws set upon us.”
“Perhaps there is something of truth in your words, Jhova, but we must remain cautious nonetheless.”
“I agree, we will continue to act as if there were nothing between us. If they know, they know and aren’t interfering. If we do not interfere with any of their training, they will leave us be.” He said. It was all speculation to him, though not much else would explain it.
They snuck back into the walled complex and darted across the training yard to the barracks.
“On Terrah, it will be different. All will be different.” He said before they parted ways. It was the only hope driving them. The promise of a paradise that was not yet theirs.
The Admiral Prince moved his fleet into orbit around the former gas giant planet in the Procyon system. Taigians had sent a relay fleet there. Attacking them will set them back one system from the final defense in the Sirius system.
The world off to the upper right was once a gas planet comparable in size to Tephleyd, the giant on the outer edge of his home system. It was a third the mass needed to form a dark star. That was its past very long ago. Now this world was nothing but the dead remainder after the helium flash of the white dwarf star in the system, the leftover corpse of a giant long dead and gone. Only the core remained. The physics happening on such a world were unknown to him. Unknown to most but the moardillians. A featureless world covered by an ocean of liquid something. Some atmosphere remained creating a neverending greenhouse effect. It seemed a horrid world to call home, yet the moardillians have created habitats on some of these worlds for research. He heard some say it rained metal.
Their targets, however, hid around the nearest moon to them.
“Admiral they are sending out scouts to investigate us. They must have detected the archion signature as we left hyperspace.” Gentam spoke in an uninterested tone, as he’d seen this done hundreds of times before.
“Let them, then. Perhaps they will call for reinforcements. That way we should be entertained a while longer than otherwise, right?” He pressed on his chair controls and spoke to the fleet. “Full combat alert. We will begin the attack run within the hour.” He said.
His mind strayed away from the present for a moment. Kimoria was now remaining on Terrah with someone who he deemed could be trusted, watched over by none other than a valandian with considerable power. He could communicate with her whenever he wished now, and still he worried about her. His sister was safe now, he told himself to make his mind more at ease to focus on the tasks at hand as well as those ahead of him. “Call up my father,” he said. Seconds later, the link was established.
“What news do you disturb me with this time, admiral?” Clearly the King had only just awoken.
“We are about to begin our attack on the Taigians in this system. Once we push them back from here the next suspected location they would be likely to gather is the Pollux system since that is where the wormspace tunnel leads next.”
“Progress, then. Has word of my daughter reached you yet?” He asked.
“None yet,” he lied. Lucky for him the nature of their telepathic communications disallowed lie detection through screens. One had to be close enough to the other.
“I see. There is still time before I begin to conduct a search of my own.” He did not realize the King intended such a thing.
“Is that at all necessary? I believe my people are fully capable of conducting the search themselves.”
“That is your opinion. Mine is another matter. She is my daughter. Were it not for you, she would be my successor to the throne. Regardless, in the immediate present I lack a senator and have had to attend council meetings myself. They can see my illness transparently, and in my advanced age it is tiring to be moved around so frequently.”
“Is this the mighty Armolegian monarch admitting weakness? I have no sympathy to give to you. Come then to Terrah and show your face to me, coward King. Come to the front lines of this war you underestimate so dangerously it’s importance.” He beckoned.
“Calm yourself, admiral. I will not be leaving to the periphery of my Kingdom. There is no need.” He smirked. He had his own plans for the fool.
“Hah! As I though. Too fearful of our enemy, I see.”
“That is not the reasoning, fool.”
“Then what is your reasoning? Is it I who you fear? Are you worried I would take my throne early by ending your miserable existence? Come now, what would be the point in that? I have more pressing and immediate matters to bother myself with than a coronation ceremony. You have but years remaining and I am in no rush.” He spat the words at his father awaiting a reaction of rage that he was answered with as expected.
“You play with words of treason, foolish boy. You say them as if they hold no weight on your head. Too often do you insolently attempt to exasperate me. I tell you, I will go to Terrah. I will meet with you to show you who is whose master and I will show my daughter who to respect most between the two of us.” He said. his rage was all too apparent and the call was ended suddenly. He worried of the last part. Surely his attempt to coerce him into leaving would bring him directly to his location and not to Terrah.
He could not be certain, but would leave that thinking for another time. “That my men, is how you get a king to leave his castle and join the front lines.” There was laughter, then they focused on the battle that would start.
“Launch all fighters, engines to maximum. Engage targets when within range.” He commanded. The rush he got preluding chaos was unique in many ways, and perhaps his favorite.15: Chapter Fifteen
The morning was cold and quiet with nothing but the sound of the chilling wind to hear and only her coffee warmed her. She had questions about what her day would be like but decided to keep them to herself. She would find out soon enough. Alex was walking down the road towards them waiting for the bus.
“One of us needs to get a damn car already,” he said to Shane.
She didn’t think much would be learned about human culture from a high school, it would to help with her cover story should someone ask too many questions or should any Taigians be watching. It may have been nothing but paranoia but she could never be sure of things like that having been captured by humans then given to the enemy only weeks ago. She worried herself too much over it sometimes and decided it wasted energy.
Then there were the less technical reasons, she was happy on Earth. She wanted to escape her former reality for even a short while. A year at most, thought it was doubtful it would be that long.
The vehicle pulled up to the school. She had been inside a few times before, nothing was new. Her first task was finding her locker. It wasn’t anywhere near Shane’s but that couldn’t be helped. She ran into Jen first who seemed to be in a hurry and didn’t stop to talk. She didn’t recognize anyone else. She then went to meet Shane in the music hall where he spent his mornings.
The people in the hall were an odd bunch. Some talked music to one end and the other end people were playing a card game she didn’t understand. Something to do with magic. Then there were the middle bunch where Shane was. She sat beside him without him noticing. He was listening to music and his eyes were closed. She noticed a few of the others from parties. Georges was intensely pressing away at his laptop, probably playing that game he mastered. Alex came by after a few minutes and sat opposite to them.
Their bus picked them up too early to function and they still got to school a half hour before classes started. It didn’t make much sense to her but she didn’t make the rules. She flicked Shane on the forehead and he woke from his nap. “Sorry about that,” she said to his annoyed expression.
A group walked by. “Huh, your girlfriend’s back?”
“For the last time Eric, we’re not together. And yeah, she’s here for the semester.” He didn’t say anything else. His group continued on down the hall then turned the corner. The bell rang not much after.
The first two classes passed by quick enough. The first one was Sociology, a class that based on the summary would interest her. Maybe even help serve her purposes for being on Earth, not that her brother really expects her to do that, but it wasn’t like she had better things to do. The second one was Computer Engineering. Getting to know human technology better could be beneficial in some way, either way it fascinated her. Simple compared to anything she was used to, but still interesting.
They went with Jen and Alex to Timmies for lunch. “So you know, then?” She asked to break the silence.
“I met something not human in the mall not long ago. It was looking for you. Having your mind read is creepy.”
“Is it ever,” Shane said.
“Well, I can’t anymore, and I can’t change back either. At least not until I leave.”
“Confusing, but good to know.” She walked ahead of the others, Kim followed.
“I’d like to hang out at some point, it seems I’ve only been around guys since getting here, no offense to them.” They both laughed.
“Sure, no problem. Hanging out with aliens could be fun.” She was nervous.
“I’d like to make a point by saying humans are just as capable of hurting each other as we would be. So really, it’s quite the irrational fear. Since you’ve met a valandian there shouldn’t be a problem. Seriously, I’m not that weird.” She laughed.
The second two classes didn’t feel like they were passing as quick. Physics and Chemistry. The first of these was probably the easiest class for her, as she had a vast superiority in knowledge. It felt good, but she had to keep in mind most of the scientific advances she knew were discovered by moardillians.
Humans have only explained two of the three levels of motion, the Newtonian physics could cover the first level, the Einsteinian physics could cover the second level and there is no equivalent for the third level as they have not discovered hyperspace. They also lack the idea of the second time dimension. Something that according to Shane there were only vague theories that weren’t widely accepted.
Chemistry would more than likely bore her to sleep. Atoms. Molecules. Compounds. Stuff children learn. None of it as interesting as the very basic laws of reality itself. Chemistry only covers matter. The physics would be similar, but she enjoyed learning the rules behind what humans call dark matter and dark energy years ago. What the universe is mostly composed of, and the ratio of both was growing exponentially compared to ordinary matter. Even moardillians struggled to understand it.
Shane showed up at her last class with a coffee. He didn’t have a fourth class.
“Yes. The other three are interesting. This one isn’t.”
“How far behind would you say we are?”
“Not too far from us when we were just starting space travel. Can’t really compare your tiny dustball to an interstellar empire.”
Alex and I worked late on the stargate. Kim helped hand us what we needed but had no idea what we were doing.
“So I’ve been thinking,” she said.
“You don’t say?” Alex said.
“Smartass. Anyway, I’m kinda interested in what most humans think of aliens. As in popular culture or something.”
“Read a book then, I’ve got plenty.” I said.
“I’d say Rendezvous with Rama for something short but good. If you mean alien and human interaction I’d watch the Star Wars movies. Research for something online, I’m sure you’ll find something worth watching. Or reading. Your preference.
“Personally I prefer the Battlestar Galactica series myself,” Cai said.
“Fraking toaster, nobody asked you!”
Daniel was unsure of how to react to recent events. His friend betrayed him, Tiamat went overboard and murdered him. He had not heard from the creature in a while. He wondered if he ever would again. Even so, he must trust the valandian is on the side he should choose to remain on. The enemy alien invaders are nearly impossible to detect, but there have been a few sightings.
He downed the rest of his drink and put his glass on the table next to him. It had been a long day. He had a dangerous job to do. One wrong move and it could be full out war. Not what he wanted. He wanted this contained and hidden for now. He wanted to wait until he could be sure the invasion would come, and when it did, he hoped to be ready. He hoped everyone would be. This was his planet. He also hoped that to be a mutual feeling with the others. He didn’t need a war and an invasion at the same time.
He stood up and poured another drink. He took out a book from his shelf, one he had read dozens of times. He had many books like that. This one was on colonizing the Americas and all the horrible things that happened in that time. He was a historian as a hobby when he had time, and the White House had quite the selection to choose from. America was worth it to Europe, is Earth worth it to these beings? How many losses will they willingly suffer? Do numbers matter to them? What about time? How long could it go on for? He had many questions that kept him awake at night.
He put the book back and sat in his chair. Twenty minutes later his wife knocked and came in. “It’s three. You’ve been stressed lately. Every night, Dan. Do you wanna tell me what’s bothering you?”
“I know things, Christine. Things that would keep you up at night too. It’s my job to prepare for them. To keep people safe. To keep you safe.”
“Again with that excuse? The wars are over, I don’t need protecting. You’re a respected president! How threatened can we really be?”
“Like I said, I know things. Terrible things will happen. It’s fact. Some wars end, others begin eventually. It’s all a matter of time. I wish I could tell you more. I can’t.”
She sighed and helped him up. “Come on, get your ass to bed you drunk fool.” He stumbled through the hall to the bedroom. He collapsed on the bed and drifted off right away.
Jhova woke up the next morning feeling sore. He’d had better nights. He got up to go to the mess hall and eat. The food was all grown on Mezora, therefore tasted bitter but not strong to his relief. He sat next to the other males his age. Conversations usually revolved around their academic progress or some news that may or may not have been altered or fabricated.
He leaned one mouth on a hand, and put the pills in the other. He moved them to the other side and spat them into his hand without anyone seeing. He’d done this more times than he cared to count. He, like many others, didn’t talk much. Social interaction wasn’t necessarily encouraged nor discouraged. Some did, some didn’t. Most didn’t. All they knew was their training, and not many cared to hear more about it than they already had to.
He saw Grevana on the other side of the room. They stared at each other for some time, then broke eye contact. Grevana, unlike most other females, chose to minimize facial augmentations that are usually found as more practical than attractive. She retained her natural beauty which is what drew him to her in the first place. Over time they found they had similar dreams. They both stopped medicating. They were drawn closer together over time, and now they were where they were, hoping for better times ahead.
After eating he went outside. The homestar shone bright white, but the warmth would only reach him faintly. Barely felt on the skin, but still there just to say it was. The winter was approaching. The air was chilling. It was said it would prepare them for Terrah since the northern hemisphere was colder and contained most of the landmass. They call it “slow conditioning”.
Training began a short while after. Today was a surprise to him for a very specific reason. Someone was chosen to be made example of in his own age group.
“He is found to be unmedicated and has committed insubordinate actions against specific members of the guard force. We have chosen him to be made example of for any other of the unmedicated. We may not test these things, however, if actions are committed, we have the authority to test. If it is discovered, death is the penalty. Jhova.” he blinked, and gave attention. “Step forward.” He did. “You have been selected based on your academic progress the past few rotations. Fire when ready.” He raised his weapon, a prosthetic arm with a built-in plasma gun. He could not bring himself to fire. It would take but a twitch of a nerve. He stood there for a minute, then lowered the weapon. “Disobedience is punishable.”
“I apologize, but I am not ready to take the life of another.”
“This is disappointing. However it is a difficult task to ask of one not ready. You will serve three days solitary confinement to prepare for this trial. It is an essential step in your training.”
The trainer shot the captive without hesitation. Jhova was led off to a cell feeling anxious and afraid. What if they test me? What if they find out?
None of that happened.
A day passed, he felt changed. He knew he was being medicated. It was in the air. He saw only the white ceiling light, the white walls, and white floor. All white, completely featureless. It was meant to deprive the sight sense without giving the satisfaction of darkness that he could simply sleep through. There were no sounds but those he made. No smell but his own perspiration and breath.
His thoughts were all a mess because of the drugs. He tried to think of what was usually on his mind. His life, his ideals of the future, his love. When he tried to think over the emotional aspects, something in his mind hurt. He tried to remember the hope he held for his future life, but there were inhibitions that were not there previously.
He got frustrated, but the anger hurt the same area. He didn’t know the feeling. He thought it might be the drugs. He would have to avoid emotional thinking for the time being. He figured all they were doing was getting his mind prepared for his task ahead.
He thought it over. It was emotion that stopped him. Taigians were not the enemy, especially not trainees. It felt wrong. Even worse about it is they had already prepared the example’s mind for death. He gazed back blankly, as if he were already dead.
He could maybe understand the execution, but why make them do it as part of training? What were they learning with that? Thinking too hard hurt too. He decided to calm his mind. He would be out soon enough, and things would return to normal. Our departure nears.16: Chapter Sixteen
Two days, it took them to beat down the forces of the previous system. The admiral was tired, so was the rest of the fleet. The Taigians had retreated, and wormspace inhibitors were set up at a safe distance from their drop base on the third moon. An icy world with little gravity lacking much of an atmosphere.
He gazed out a window in his room. It was connected to the bridge for convenience in an emergency. His eyes strained by the starlight and the events of the past couple days. He poured himself a drink, as his duty as captain was on hold for his own sake. He hadn’t slept more than a couple hours since they arrived.
He looked through the light brown liquid with interest. Out of all the species in the galaxy, why was it that armolegians, valandians, taigians and humans all enjoyed the taste and effects of ethyl alcohol? Though it is shameful to armolegian culture, he enjoys it more than he cares about the ancient manner of thinking. It was a strange thought.
He lie in his bed looking at the metal ceiling of his room compartment in contemplation. His people had only been space fairing for a couple thousand years. Their culture had not changed much since the creation of the council. They have slowed colonization efforts, the media is now standardized to be used inter-world, the people of the kingdom are living lives of ignorance. They know no better as it has been that way for too many generations. His father being prime example of this, and he is in charge! The stagnation frightened him, part of him thought the kingdom deserved a good invasion soon enough, but shook that thought. They couldn’t be blamed for actions or ways of thinking that had been allowed to become the norm for so long. It was his duty to protect those ignorant fools, and he would do so. Not for them but for the few who know better, and for the young empires who may one day be important friends of his. The valandians are an ancient but broken people. The humans are a young but curious bunch, with so much potential. Most of all, he was doing it for his sister. So she wouldn’t have to watch her home and her life get destroyed.
He dimmed the viewport. It was late.
Castor was the last system away from former valandian territory. After that, the hundred light-year barrier would be behind them and they would be within Taigian space. He did not venture too often into enemy territory unnecessarily. This was an exception.
“Word has it the king left his castle.” Tiamat said. He was in the break room with other high ranking officers.
“It has been far too long since his majesty has done anything like this, coming all the way out to the peripheral systems of his kingdom,” an older colonel said. The crew of the ship had a higher respect for the admiral than their king, that fact was apparent. Perhaps that had to do with their experience, perhaps it had to do with becoming accustomed to Haakrus’ mannerisms around his father. He had been observing the armolegians the whole time he was aboard the flagship to get a better understanding of them. His conclusion is that they are more similar to humans than he first thought. Their thought process, their overall behavior, simple things here and there. The only notable difference is their lack of curiosity.
Perhaps it was that Terrans weren’t as immature a people as they’re claimed to be. That he can attest to having lived among them for decades. Sure, their leaders were power hungry and overzealous and as a whole arrogant and irrational, but so were the armolegians and to an extent even himself.
He left to wander the halls alone. It was downtime. The ship was enormous. It wasn’t necessary to alter others’ vision to hide. Losing himself in thought was simple, and the cold staleness of space made it easier to focus.
He thought back at the time spent on his second home. The isolation he felt was no different from that of his childhood. He fought for more powerful humans in exchange for them to not pursue him. They failed every attempt to his capturing, and he broke into the area that they would have kept him captive to prove their attempts would do no good. He talked with the person in charge at the time and after they agreed to the deal. Meanwhile he tried to blend in with the general population and go unnoticed. He even held a low paying job for a while and attended a college. Romance was not his specialty, he hadn’t found anyone who would accept his true self, even if he only showed them his mind and kept his body hidden. He never kept the same identity for more than five years anyway, it wasn’t worth the effort.
More recently, he found a human that didn’t think he was a monstrous cretin from the underworld, someone who was isolated herself in her world like he was on Vallis. He wandered into her mind to an extent that gave him a feeling of guilt. He knew everything about her entire life, but she knew nothing of his. He didn’t dwell on it too much. He didn’t know what it was he felt for this human but he pushed it away as often as he could. Any meaningful connection he could make with one would end in sadness. He would outlive any human by centuries.
He thought about what would happen next. He was onboard the armolegian flagship, given a high enough ranking position in their military and he had proven his entitlement to the position. He knew he would be helping in the war effort to protect Earth to the best of his abilities. Earth changed him. There were people there he considered his friends. He didn’t have too many of those. He cared for that world more than he cared for Vallis. It was softer on him.
His thinking led him to wander the ship for a few more hours before Haakrus called him back to his room. “What is it?” He asked looking around. He had been drinking, and the place looked like a mess. Not that he was judging. His own room would be a wreck too if he had any possessions with him.
“Considering we will be holding this position for the next while, I would like for you to check up on my sister.”
“Worried, are we?” He entered and made himself a drink.
“It can’t be helped,” he answered pouring himself another.
“She’s safe, I can assure you that.”
“Can you? She ended up in enemy hands once.”
“Logic, man. They think she is gone back home now. The man who found her and cooperated with the enemy was a traitor and I ended him in the way we valandians do. The other man in power on that continent is an acquaintance of mine. He has been informed, albeit vaguely of their situation and what the other’s actions signified.”
“So they know, then.”
“Only the highest end of the establishment. They are preparing a false war, you see. His idea, not mine. All the humans’ weapon systems will be ready to defend around the same time the invasion occurs, should this blockade fail.”
“It seems you do indeed have your connections down there. Do you think they stand a chance?”
“I have to hope. I have seen a world destroyed and a strong united people’s spirit torn apart. I have come attached to that world in my time there, it would pain me to witness that repeated.”
“Understandably so,” he said.
He could feel the prince’s concern. “I will leave when I wake.” It gave him an excuse to return home. That was not something he would deny.
“Our next departure will not be for a while. We need rest, it’s obvious.”
“You do have them believing they are part of a damn crusade against evil, after all.”
“True, but that is an accurate assessment.”
“The Emperor is unquestioned. The Taigians doing any of the fighting or the piloting or the shooting are pawns. I have had a little more insight into their command structure, not that it’s at all relevant. They are all part of the problem but they are not evil, they are simply foolish and confused. Do not mistake me, I hate them all with a fiery passion. My point is this is no crusade. Take time to recharge now and then. If the Taigians are anything it is patient.”
“This patience I have noticed.”
“It is not my place to instruct you on how to lead, but I have seen the same exhausted expressions I am sure you have glimpsed at as well. They have no reason to hide them from me.” He stood up and placed the glass back where he took it from. “It may not be my place to ask but tell me, though. Why is she on Earth at all? Was it really all the king’s doing, it seems odd you would obey him if you didn’t agree with his decision.”
“She had no life back home. When she returned she would go back to her role in the senate and hope to visit again. She needed a change. It may have been risky but it was for the best.”
“At this point, she would agree with you,” he said. He left the room and on the way ran into an unfamiliar female headed to Haakrus’ room. Species generally ignored the mating habits of others. His own is a rather disturbing sight to most, brutal and much bloodshed. Both parties of his species got off on violence, honestly should not surprise them in the least. Armolegians had very little physical interaction between the two when engaging in the act, they have a deeper emotional factor that he could not quite understand. He decided it not his place to think about it and carried on with his wandering.
She entered as he poured his third drink. “Still doing that, I see.”
“Sekeleus.” They had not spoken to one another in many years. That expression was ever haunting still, her disappointed but amused look.
“I regret not keeping in touch, but we had not exactly gone our ways on good terms.” Eight years, it had been since then. She poured herself some.
“You were never one to drink, I thought. This lot comes from Terrah, quite tasteful.”
“People change, some for the worst.”
“How odd it is to see you now, I thought you were leaving me for good that time, Seke.”
“I thought so too. I even fell for someone else. For a time I was happy.” He imagined her with another. Someone more attentive to her needs, someone better at love than he ever was. He was more happy for her than jealous.
“What happened with that, then?”
“I lost interest, he had other interests as well.” Her frown hinted unfaithfulness. “That was last year.”
He invited her to sit. “How long have you been back in my fleet?”
“Since your sister boarded at Cryzor. I was among some of the ships to join your fleet. I felt I should keep my distance so you could focus on the tasks most important. It is the reason I left you, if you remember.”
“Of course I remember. I had not put adequate time into our relationship back then, you left me three times before that last and returned when my skirmishes of the time were complete. Why return now? I am far from able to keep you around, we are on the brink of enemy territory on a near-crusade of a blockade campaign.” She kissed his forehead, perhaps she could sense his stress over the matters.
“I know, Haak. I am here because I think I want to be. I have not been properly sane for a long time. I miss the suspense of the front lines, the excitement of battle, the endless new wonders of the galactic outback. I have known you and your way of life so long I cannot live a sedentary life working in sectorial security. You were right in your old ramblings, either they are all crazy or we are.” She quoted, “Drones to the systems before them.” He felt the sudden longing for their old life. One that had been gone for nearly a decade, still a memory as if yesterday. He had other partners after she had gone, only for a short time. It simply felt wrong. He ignored the base urges after a while and stayed alone since.
“How long has it been since anyone’s gotten inside that heart of yours?”
“Too long,” he replied in all honesty. They finished their drinks and dimmed the lights. “I feel as though tomorrow should be a day off.”
“I think that would be good planning considering how many days it’s been since you’ve had one.”
“I work myself to the point I collapse. It’s efficient, it gets things done.”
“It will also be the death of you. Someday you will be as old as that father of yours, you know.”
“Oh, spare me the reminder. If I live that long I can at least still expect you to be sure I’m just insane enough for whatever may come my way, I assume.”
“A little confident, are we?”
“Oh please, I am the future heir to the throne of Oreigeal!” He proclaimed laughingly.
She giggled and moved in closer. “You know I have little interest in that, less so than you yourself do.”
“Somehow I doubt that,” he said embracing her. “In seriousness, I did not expect you would ever return. I felt as though I hurt you enough with my absent-heartedness.”
She grabbed his hand. “You were my first love, I have never quite found anyone I could care about as much. I tried, mind you. I guess I never could get over what we had, and that may be the reason he found someone else.”
A long silence. He was trying to think of something to say to that, he hadn’t forgotten either. He had not even changed the mattress layer after her leaving. He kept reminding himself the cost of his admiral duties, how love can often be put in second place to his obsession with his work. Nothing comforting came to mind. He simply focused on the fact his way of life is temporary. “As the king’s health deteriorates I worry my days of battle are nearing their end. What will I be left with? I don’t know anything but the battle, the strategizing, the complexity of the fight. The sweetness of victory.”
She kneed him. “You may finally have time to not be an imbecile in love.”
He laughed. They lay there for a long while, remembering how it was, and forgetting the lost time. “Should I expect this to be only once, or should I ready my mind for some sort of permanence returning?”
“Which would you prefer?”
“Damn you, that answer should come without question.” He held her and began. Their minds and all experience of consciousness became one. The emotions soon followed, overwhelming them both for hours in a state of bliss, then fell back into their bodies.
“You have been lonely, haven’t you. Not anymore.” He said nothing. He listened to her breathing until slipping into unconsciousness.17: Chapter Seventeen
“Give it up already, will you?” Alex and I were gaming in his basement.
“I’m just saying! It’s a bad idea, man.”
“Yeah but you’re jumping to hilarious conclusions.”
“Am I now?”
“Infatuated, no! Endlessly fascinated, yes. She’s not human, Alex. I’m aware of this. Kind of an important detail.” It’s the third time he’s brought it up with me so far. I’m not sure where it’s coming from; she’s been spending more time with Jen than either of us lately. Many biological questions she has that I’d rather not think about.
She and I still haven’t even acknowledged our one night together, not that it matters. It was stupid of us, after all, she’s going to be my sister soon enough. I might dislike Rob immensely but my mother doesn’t appear to be getting any less infatuated with the man. Cai tells me I should be less of a burden about it to my mother and simply try to like him or find something in common between us. Cai, the artificial intelligence, is telling me how to be a better human. Hah! Imagine.
“Have you tried talking to her at all? I never seem to see you two in the same room longer than a few minutes,” I say.
“I guess I just don’t have your endless fascination. I’ve spent more time with her broken ship than with her. Now that I find interesting.” I’ll never understand that; even if Kim and I hadn’t become friends I was extremely interested in her from the start. I mean sure she shot at him, but she shot at me too!
“Can you at least try? She’s in a human body and mind until she leaves. No less threatening than any ordinary human female. Then again, you’ve never been one to easily approach them either,” I joked.
“Hah, at least I’ve had a girlfriend in my lifetime.”
“It was for less than a month, hardly counts.”
“Says you. Anyway, quit dying already. We’re losing now.”
He assumes I focus on the games more than I really do. I don’t like admitting it, and it gets repetitive to think about, but this whole ominous war happening somewhere else is bothering me. Late nights often mean thinking of the worst scenarios possible and it leaves me feeling anxious and exhausted. I should forget about it and focus on what’s happening now in my life here on this planet. It’s hard to do when an alien is sleeping in the spare room above you acting like she lives there.
Strange was a word for it, helping someone from another world this way. The embarrassing part of their shopping trip was over now and they sat in the empty half of the food court by the Japanese food place. Teriyaki for both of them. She showed Kim how to use chopsticks properly and didn’t find it too difficult.
“One major difference about this place,” she said between bites of food, “is the abundance of different cultures. Worlds have their differences between them, but usually each one has roughly the same attitude globally if not for maybe a couple differences.” Jen sat there listening to her, interested but not quite sure what to say to any of it, which wasn’t a problem for Kim who felt like talking for both of them. “Everything here’s so cold since I’ve been here. I’ve seen pictures online of summer, but I haven’t been here long enough to see it myself. It’s my first experience with snow, too. It doesn’t snow much on Suregal, even near the poles, though I’ve never really taken the time to venture out there either. Funny, I haven’t been most places on my own planet and here I am thousands of light-years away.”
“I couldn’t imagine it,” she replied. “I never thought too much about space; only started paying attention when the ninth planet was demoted because they found a bigger one. Poor Pluto.”
“I’m glad to be here instead of home, though.” She could relate to her on that level. She wanted to run away often but never did. She made short mentions of her father but didn’t want to bore her with those problems. Another thing they shared. Fathers who are less than ideal.
She felt compelled to help Kim feel in control of her situation. Before Lianne came into her life, she felt lost and helpless. She felt the need to repay somehow whatever it was that sent good her way. The universe, she thought since she didn’t have much of a spiritual side, by aiding someone else in turn.
“I have to ask, though, you and Shane. Are you two…”
“Oh. No, not really. He’s great, has all the things I like in someone and were my background any different I’d definitely consider it. It’s not like interspecies relationships are a rare occurrence, after all. For now we agree it would be a bad idea to get too close. I don’t know what my father would do to him, but also I don’t know if I’ll see him again once I leave.”
“Hmm. Well, it seems we have the same taste in guys too, then.” She laughed. “I’m gonna be his sister, though. It wouldn’t work out.” She thought back to their one night together as she did now and then. The next morning she got an upsetting text from her father, misplacing her anger on Shane in a passive way. It worked out for the better, it probably gave him the impression she didn’t want a repeat of the night before.
“Humans have strange customs. Siblings by marriage are far less unthinkable couples than, say, and armolegian and a valandian.”
“It’s a socially awkward thing.”
“I can see that. Poor Shane, all the girls who like him are destined to avoid him.” They both laughed to that. It was odd to think of the two of them being friends after only a short time, but Kim was obviously trying. Perhaps once she stopped thinking of her as a potential villain to her life’s story she could start trusting her. Besides, that other alien that was hunting her looked to be more of a villain candidate than this girl.
As she thought this, a figure standing by the wall in the corner of her eye caught her attention, the same place she’d seen him before. He walked over and sat down beside them. She stared blankly and unbelieving of the situation.
It was Kim who spoke first. “Creeping up on us is your style so I shouldn’t be surprised.”
“Apologies,” he said. “Your brother sent me to check up on you. Originally I didn’t intend to show myself and just observe for a while. I figured I’ve done enough of that.”
“Yeah, and I’m sure you’ve been eavesdropping on us all day, creep,” Jen replied.
“Not exactly, believe it or not I do have a life. As opposed to Kimoria, I’ve been calling Earth home for decades.” She keeps in mind that he’s a lot older than his human illusion looks. “Even someone not too familiar with UFO events has a general idea of the Roswell incident. I’ve been around for a while, to answer your question.”
“Okay, you might not be watching us shop but reading minds does make you a creep. Keep out, please.” Though she was interested that a world famous crash conspiracy is sitting across the table from him sipping on an iced cappuccino.
“Apologies again, it’s easy to read human thoughts to the point it becomes like accidentally listening in on a conversation. To my point, has anything new happened since we left off?”
“Not really. Nothing that would interest my brother, anyway. Human stuff. He should relax more, the Taigians think I’m gone and the human governments are on our side.”
“Can’t blame him for being concerned. Anyway, I’ll get in touch before I leave. There are still a few things I need to take care of.” He got up to leave and nodded at Kim.
“Huh. Last time he just vanished out of nowhere. Wonder what the change is about.”
“Valandians might be brutal monsters most of the time but they’re still civilized when they want to be. I don’t know, maybe he’s getting tired of being lonely all the time. It’s true though, he does think of Earth as home.”
“He doesn’t strike me as the apologizing type. Odd.”
“True enough.” Kim grinned. “Maybe he was trying to be nice to you.”
“Yeah right,” she said pushing that thought away. “We should get going. I have several pages of work to do tonight.”
Tiamat decided to speak with them only briefly. He lied about having other things to do while on Earth, he had already spoken with Daniel upon arriving. Some unrest has stirred up in the middle-east as he thought there would. Only a small nudge was necessary for now; nothing of major importance.
He only arrived at the mall twenty minutes prior. He found these humans interesting, the way they swarm in commercial centers for useless pleasures that will fade in short time. Earth may be his home but the humans are still quite alien to him. He can see their innermost thoughts but still cannot come to fully understand them. Except the one human, that girl. He does feel ashamed of digging too deep into her mind, odd considering he has no problem doing such things to anyone else, but knows most humans he has ever known will cease to be long before himself.
It was hard to remain attached, to have these companions known as friends. The shortness of their lifespans compared to his own creates detachment. At times he has this sense of being an old man, other times he feels like a child. Compared to the half-millennium of a valandian lifetime he was only in his young adult years and yet most humans he has come to know upon arriving have died of old age.
Before leaving, Kim had thought to ask him to see what the Taigians were up to at that moment. Possibly slight paranoia, but not a difficult task. It would also allow him to report on their surface movements to the admiral.
The sound of his motorbike’s engine was one of the most earthly noises to him. Such primitive technology compared to what he was used to, but functional nonetheless. Combustion engines such as the one he sits atop are obsolete everywhere else; it’s sound reminds him of this world’s simplicity. As much as being around his kind would be more beneficial to his isolation, he preferred this world to any other. Even on the Black Knight he felt alien to the environment. When he claims he would fight to protect this world, he means it. He has spent more of his life on this one than Vallis.
He was about to book a hotel room to stay at but recalled Shane’s offer. He had a permanent room within the lab if he wished. He weighed it out and decided that would be a more ideal location to stay; the staleness of it wouldn’t bother him as much having lived in a simple room on a metal ship for a month anyway.
It was four in the afternoon when I got a knock on the door. I don’t know who I was expecting, definitely not him. Of course, being home alone, I was fine letting him in. We ate pizza and talked for a bit about various curiosities of mine relating to anything from the armolegian flagship to the history of Vallis. History of Earth, too. That’s always interesting to hear.
Even the name is Valandian in origin. Of course, the Latin Terra is familiar to many, but it’s not a human word. Ter, meaning land or ground, is followed then by the star name, a familiar word for the Egyptian sun god, and ended by a suffix indicating it’s orbital position. Very simple once broken down.
“What about Vallis, then?”
“Val means home. Li refers to the ancient name for our homestar. Our suffix for second position is an s.”
“So Venus would be Terras, then?”
“Yeah. Though it’s not a habitable world so it might be given a different root. I’m not gonna give you a whole lesson in Valcra but that’s the basis of it. The language is ancient, mostly only spoken referencing celestial bodies now.”
“Curious, what’s the origin of Tiamat, then? I know it’s a Mesopotamian death goddess but that’s about it.”
“Names are different. It’s androgynous, as most are. It’ll probably be surprising to you given how systematic the language is, but names are just names.”
Most of our conversations are of that nature, me sitting there listening to all the awesome stuff he knows. He’s willing to share quite a bit, and once he starts he can go on for a while. I doubt he’s had anyone to talk to this much.
He left shortly before my mother’s car pulled up. “Who’s bike’s that outside?” I decided to half-truth it as usual.
“A friend’s leaving it here since he’s between places.”
Kim smiled knowingly and brought bags of stuff into her room. “Oh, there’s more in the car if you’re not doing anything.” Of course there’s more. She must’ve been exhausted because once I put Tiamat’s bike in the garage and brought the rest of the bags inside she was passed out.
The president had been planning a world wide Cold War since the day Tiamat explained the Earth's situation. The piles of paper on his desk outlined various mission plans in many countries who weren't too fond of US foreign policies to begin with. The hidden plan was to get everyone’s arms at the ready for a global war and hoping that when the time comes they will be able to cooperate for the good of mankind. As for what happens after, he had no plans.
The work gave him a daily case of headaches. Tiamat’s visit earlier that day was of no help to those. He took off his glasses and poured himself a drink. It was too much to take in. A war between interstellar empires. The enemy planning a global invasion. He didn’t know the scale of the enemy’s power, and he didn’t know anything about the supposed protectors of his world. He laughed to himself. Maybe if we fucked up the planet more than we have they wouldn't be so interested. He sat back down and put the paperwork back in the drawer and locked it.
The worst part of it to him is the inability to trust anyone else with the information. Once his friend Charles betrayed him—he still could not tell if he was under enemy influence in doing so—he’s had nobody to trust with it all. Surely none of the other world leaders. The Secret Service agents who were assigned with his protection at all times sat in on his discussion with the alien. They are paid to keep silent and trained to follow that confidentiality order. A group of under a dozen people hold the fate of Earth in their hands, him alone with the most influence. He didn’t feel he was up for that level of responsibility. His daily work as president was mostly a bore; reading and signing documents at his desk, occasionally entertaining the odd guest.
The entirety of his being was restless from the stress. He was still not even convinced they stood a chance, even at full power. Nuclear arms were out of the question for obvious reasons. How could simple humans compete with interstellar overlords?
During the meeting Tiamat said he would attempt to set up a communications link with the flagship using a carrier in orbit so he may work out an action plan with the admiral himself. He didn’t know whether to feel honored or terrified. He was both.
There was a knock on the door. It was his wife, Christine. “It's the middle of the night. Are you coming to bed or working until morning again?”
He downed the last of his drink and said, “I'll be right with you, dear. I'm done for the night. I’m simply overwhelming myself with fearful thoughts, as I often do.”
“Well, hurry it up, you melancholic fool.” He can’t even think of a way to tell her, the person he trusts most of all, and he has to tell the entire human race.
“I wish I picked a different job,” he said collapsing into bed.
“Some vague hints would be wonderful.”
He waited to reply, tried to think up some words. “There’s something I need to tell quite a great number of people. It’s a terrible thing to say, really. It must be done. It’s eating away at me.” He was never one to lack confidence in his speech ability, nor was he particularly prone to stage fright. He wouldn’t be president otherwise. This, though, had him shaking if the thought lingered too long.
“You’ll man up to whatever’s got you so nervous eventually, you always do. I know who I married.” Her comfort was a temporary reassurance, but a welcomed one. His last thoughts were how glad he was that his dreams never come back to him.18: Chapter Eighteen
A week had passed; at least he thought it had been a week. There was no way of telling what length time had passed. He counted the number of times he woke and slept. He got no food in this time. He did not know how much longer he would last in this fatigued state. His mid was lost; emotions did not come. He felt no joy or sorrow for his situation. Only an instinctual will for survival.
The door opened up and another walked in. “Are you prepared to redo the trial?”
“I am,” he said automatically.
He was picked up and dragged out of his confinement cell. It happened faster than he could process. The outside light was dark in comparison to his cell. He stumbled around disoriented with his eye closed until seated. He looked up and noted his surroundings: members of the Guard, a few others of his class, Grevana was nowhere to be seen. He thought it better that way.
“We have discovered another unmedicated.”
“I see,” came his response. He understood what remained for him to do. Such a valandic step in the training. It limited the production of suitable soldiers by significant amounts more than seemed reasonable considering the task ahead for them.
He was guided out a while later and brought back to the same post as before. The taigian bound to the post was a familiar face; one that brought dread to his heart. “She was discovered the second day after you were put into solitary confinement. She tells me you two know nothing of each other.” Inside he cried out for this cruelty to be a catatonic fantasy, but his body showed no response, a complete disconnect.
“This would be true,” he said. He could still lie.
“You may fire when ready.”
There was a pause. He lifted his weapon, but did not fire. He wished it to be his mind mightily regaining dominance over his muscles, though it was not the case. “Sir, might one bring objective facts into consideration with this particular case?” he said. The guard considered it. “This is one of the fastest excelling students in our camp, possibly on all of Mezora. Her record is flawless and her aim precise more so than many of the guards. She displays characteristics of a would-be-general. I think it unwise to end such talent this early for minor reasons such as those of which she is accused.” The guard thought it over. “Her excellence surpasses my own many times over.” Facts saved her, but they also saved him.
“Who then, will it be you kill for your trial? Do you know any others unmedicated?”
He looked around at his companions. He knew at least three others who were not medicated. He picked the least skilled of them, a friend of Grevana’s. He could not remember the name. He pointed her out and she screamed out horrified. The guards took her arms, brought her over to the post and replaced Grevana. He took aim and fired lacking any hesitation. Her head disintegrated from her shoulders, and the body went limp. The screams silenced at once.
He glanced over at her. She glared at him. He felt his thoughts spinning. He was not in control. His unconsciousness, or whatever force was over him, thought it necessary. She would not speak to him for days after that, he thought.
He was correct. Days passed and she would not meet his gaze. She could not bring herself to. He did what he had to under the circumstances to save her life, this she understood when they finally spoke again.
“I acted not out of personal reasons. Rather, I severed the weakest link in our class rather than the strongest. I am aware she was your friend. I am sorry for your loss.” He hated the words that came out.
“The loss I feel most is the loss of you, Jhova. I know you to still be in there. Until such a time as you are yourself again, I will have no contact with you. The pain is too great. Goodbye, love.”
He cursed the body that had become a stranger to him. He cursed it endlessly until his mind exhausted its energy.
He lay in his bed wishing life to return to how it was. No more sneaking out at night, no more intellectual debates on the state of the Empire and dreaming of their future home together.
He decided since there were still a number of orbits left until the invasion itself, he would slowly attempt to become unmedicated again. He must return to her. He could not live this way.
We decided to have a movie night that Saturday. With my mother spending the weekend with Rob, it turned into a perfect plan. Jen had finished enough of her projects to join us. Tiamat was uncomfortable with the idea but Kim decided it would be good for him. All I did was laugh at him. Alex only stayed for the first film.
We watched Pitch Black after he left, as we decided a cool action movie with aliens was obviously the best idea. Tiamat complained about how off the color filters were from actual worlds around different star classes. Jen eventually got him to shut up about it. When the killing started, Kim got a blanket and cuddled up to me. I don’t think horror movies are her thing.
Tiamat, however, loved the action. “I feel like this could be Vallis. The brutality! The harshness of this world!”
“Chill man,” Jen said.
“I’m not apologizing. Films are great. I can’t read the characters’ minds. It makes it more interesting to me.”
“Well, I bet this Johns guy is gonna be a traitor of some kind. I actually like Riddick more than him as a person, and he’s a murderer.”
“Which makes him interesting,” I added. “What’s his story? What’d he do? I wanna know these things but they don’t say.”
The movie finished soon after. Tiamat picked one next, Stargate. One of my favorites. He and Jen liked that one more, Kim fell asleep halfway through. This one was the last one.
“Hey, get up.” I nudged her awake but all she did was burry her face in my chest. “You’re ridiculous.” I helped her to bed.
“You’re cute, I’m not complaining.” She laughed. “See you in the morning,” I said closing her door. The living room only had the one fold out couch.
“That is quite all right, I’ll sit here. Laying down is optional to me,” Tiamat said.
“Hey, whatever you say.” I was too tired to argue.
She enjoyed that she could get out of the house with friends now, away from her father’s drunk idiocy that Lianne had slowly been correcting. The house was quiet. He sat in the chair with his eyes closed. She wasn’t falling asleep with him possibly creeping into her mind the entire time.
“I can leave, if you want.”
“No, it’s okay,” she thought back.
“I do have to confess, however. You’ve been something of a curiosity to me.”
“Is that so? Now why would that be?”
“As you guess, I’m guilty of peering too far into your mind.”
“Creep,” She said smiling. She felt herself drawn to him during the movies of that night. It didn’t help that Kim was having her own fun with Shane the whole time, not being very subtle about it either. “Look, Tiamat. If I were upset about something like that you’d know.”
“Though there are enormous differences between us the similarity of your mind and mine strikes me as interesting. It’s what got me thinking back in my free time, not only of you but of my own past. I apologize for that. I know your entire life’s story and yet you know nothing of me.”
“Then tell me.” She exhaled, shaking her head at him. She got up and walked over to him. “Well, I know you can change how humans perceive you, you’re doing it right now. But you interest me, too, and I’m betting you didn’t do that.”
“I did not.”
“Change. I want to see you.”
“Curiosity.” The moonlight shown in through the window. The figure in the chair transformed into the black figure that attempted to frighten her that time in the mall. She placed her hand on his cheek, it felt cold, hard, but still soft like any skin.
“I’m a dangerous beast,” he said.
“Bullshit.” She touched the spikes exiting at the elbow joints. They felt like solid bone.
“I’m a valandian, my body is adapted to a harsher climate. Everything earthly is comfortable and soft in comparison.” His hand found her arm. “How could you not fear me? I’ve known more of Earth than I have Vallis. I’m adapted to this world in a body not meant for it. At least armolegians, mordillians and even taigians all have one thing in common with humans. I, I’m monstrous compared to the rest of the galaxy.”
Listening to him defeat himself in this way was too familiar to how she used to be. “Your mind must be a dark place all the time. I can imagine knowing everyone else’s private selves before you even speak to them leaves you feeling quite lonely. If you really know my entire life’s story you’ll know that I’m not as pessimistic as I was before. If you make yourself your own enemy life will be as miserable as it can be.” Her arms found their way around his neck and she kissed his hard but soft cheek. She then made her way back to bed.
“Bring me there, show me this Vallis of yours someday,” she said before falling asleep.
He sat in the chair stunned for words. He realized it was the closest he had been to a human female. The girl, only a child by his standards, embraced him unafraid. He attempted to sleep but couldn’t bring himself to.
Riddick. I am Riddick! He thought. He was a killer by trade, he told no one of that side of him, he was kind to those he cared for and tried to be decent in social situations. He shook the thought and laughed to himself. The time was five in the morning. He stood up and walked to the edge of her bed and stroked her hair. “Perhaps someday. Thank you.”
He breathed in the cold morning air as he closed the door behind him. It was only just before sunrise, he could see the sky lightening to one side. He wheeled his bike to the road before starting the engine to avoid waking anyone. The drive was long this time around. Lonely, too. Not many vehicles populated the four hundred down south. It gave him thinking time. Usually a good thing, but now he wished to have less of it; the thought of the impending attacks bound to arrive. He didn’t know how many of those he knew would survive.
He rolled up to the gas station in some small town he couldn’t be bothered to remember the name of. There were many of these up north. He filled his bike’s tank and walked into the store for something to eat. He never paid for anything but this time it felt unusual. It felt empty. When he got to the counter he got his answer. It was empty. He shrugged it off and got back to his bike. The time was seven in the morning.
He started up the engine and went on his way for about half a minute. There was an eeriness he could not quite put his finger on, so he slowed to a stop, closed his eyes, and focused. He felt houses empty of their inhabitants, animals missing from the lightly snow-coated forest. He listened. Silence. Nothing but it for as far as he could sense.
He went to the house closest to him. Three vehicles in the driveway but nobody inside the building. He broke in without much difficulty. Television was on, lights were on, an alarm buzzer went off in two separate rooms of the house.
The next thoughts that came to mind terrified him. It’s begun.19: Chapter Nineteen
“The king will be near Terrah in a matter of days. I say we attack the nearest star system under Taigian control to catch them off guard then the Black Knight will rendezvous with his convoy. Meanwhile, the remainder of the fleet will stay in the Castor system,” Haakrus said to the fleet. More reminders he was still part of the royal family, even in his exile. The crew would talk amongst themselves of it out of earshot. When he walked by he noticed their conversations suddenly end or change with an underlying uneasiness throughout their brainwaves. Even he himself thought too much of it on his free time. How could be blame them?
He had been spending the nights in Sekeleus’ comforting grip. She was quite the enduring one. He’s felt his old self again since her return. His tension had vanished and he felt less uneasy about the battles ahead.
“Just think, once this is over and our side has won, half the galaxy will recognize you as the true leader of this kingdom,” she said that evening.
“I am but one who gives orders. The ship is my knight, the warrior who enters battle and is battered over and over taking enemy fire,” he responded. He had quite a bit of alcohol in him. He still had the stock from Terrah to finish. “And the crew, this crew has been giving it their all since the beginning, ever since Vallis. The old gods would smile on them, I’m sure.”
“The humble king is he who puts his servants above himself, the humble king is one who will endure and fight for justice. Quite an honorable position my lovely future king.”
“And by the light of Armolegia I will be that king someday and you with your sweet words and playful tongue my queen.” He took her by the waist. “Before any of that, however, the Emperor will die by my hand for all the suffering he has brought on our worlds and those of our allies. Until he is dead, a warrior I am and a warrior I will remain until his end.” He didn’t know who he had to prove his worth to, perhaps himself.
“Admiral, the valandian Tiamat is requesting to speak with you about apparently urgent matters,” the captain on the screen said interrupting his daydream-like rant.
“Put him on.”
“I believe it best to get to the point right away,” he began. Something he admired about this one, so accustomed to human impatience yet retaining his natural ferocity. “The Taigians have begun taking humans some time ago for testing but there was no noticeable problem. However, this morning while I was traveling I came across a village void of animal life. The electronics in the houses were still on and the wild animals were also missing. It would have to have been recent for nobody to notice by now. I believe they have no more use for test subjects. I believe this is a weapon test,” he said.
“How many casualties do you estimate?”
“Roughly six thousand. I have alerted my on-world allies to take care of the situation for now but this will get out eventually. An entire town vanished. Somebody will notice.”
“I would like information on these weapons.”
“I plan to remain here longer to investigate and find out if there have been similar occurrences. Also, Kimoria is doing fine, as I expected.”
“Good to hear. We are going ahead with our next assault. I will contact you in time. For now focusing on this investigation. It may be vital to the survival of billions, possibly trillions.” The thought of mass production of an invasion weapon this powerful . . .
“Something has you unnerved,” she pointed out feeling the slight shake in his arms once the call ended.
“As opposed to usual” he joked.
“Funny, Haakrus. I mean it, talk to me. Besides, who else do you have?” As he had always in the past, he caved and tried to explain his inner thoughts. How fragile their battle plans were, how should any unpredicted assaults on outer systems too far to reach occur; they would be lost as many bordering systems are defenseless while the military skirmishes in their current particular quadrant go on. This sudden eradication of all animal life in one small region disturbed him as well. “Mordillians developed a theoretical bombardment mechanism to eradicate animal tissue within detonation area.”
“It sounds horrible! Did they of all people create something so horrific?”
“Only theoretical, as most weapons are with them. There are many deadlier secrets that lie within the vaults of Valkyrie than that.”
“Confidential, I assume.”
“Highly,” he claimed kissing her forehead. He got out of bed to pour himself a drink. She followed. They were captivated by the view of the stars. Six in total in the castor system. Only three planets, two of them barely worthy of the title.
“Castor,” she said sounding out the name in her smooth voice. “These humans come up with odd names.”
“It beats some number sequence, does it not?”
“Oh, no complaints. It’s pleasing, really. Which one is Sol? Can we see it from here?”
“Yes indeed, a feint yellow pinpoint off to the upper right of these three bright ones. All three of them were stops on our way. Sirius on top, then Procyon, and then Pollux on bottom.”
“Where too next, then?”
“A system called by the Terrans as Rho Geminorum. What it means I do not know. The star of our interest is similar to the homestar Herolia. Only a couple giant planets and many debris fields between them. A shipyard on a moon is our target.”
“So unusual to think of all this variety. Each system we visit shows something new and unfamiliar.”
“You sound like my sister. Life is precious. It does not appear on just any planet of any system. Familiarity as you call it is the odd one out of ten thousand or so. I’ve travelled all the stars...” He went on for a while longer until realizing she’d stopped paying attention. He let her fall asleep while reminiscing his past excursions. Notably to the ones with his sister. She had a continuous fascination with all the worlds approached, asking questions about them every time the ship dropped from FTL. Eventually he began having fun giving her false answers. He would tell stories of monstrous creatures of unspeakable horror. Titanic sea monsters larger than cities at ocean worlds and ten-legged lizards with teeth able to pierce ship armor. He smiled at these memories.
Best of luck, Kimoria.
There were mixed emotions upon waking. The ceiling above her bed was familiar to her, but not the one she fell asleep under. The confused stumble that came next had her putting it into context. The round room, the sweet scent coming in through the open window, the dimness she had been used to; all necessary to confirm this thought was to gaze upon the garden outside. She was home.
How is this possible?
As she continued through the mansion things matched her memory almost to perfection. The first noticeable difference was its emptiness. She spent the most part of the hour searching for anyone who could explain how she got there. No one was there.
Something else she hadn’t noticed became apparent seeing her reflection in the garden pond, she was human. Her hair was red, her eyes were blue, her skin was the pale tan she herself designed. A fake shell for her mind. She threw a stone in her reflection. Is it shameful to like it more?
Laying in the red field of flowers she thought about the past few months and her time spend on Earth, that lonely blue-white ball. Terrah, the habitable third world from Ra. All that was meaningless to her now having lived there among her human friends. Earth, the only world with life orbiting the Sun.
Friends. Shane was good to her, so was Alex once he got over his fear. Jennifer was only beginning to trust her on a personal level. Tears welled up in her eyes staring at Armolegia hanging in the sky. How will I say goodbye? Whether this return home was a hallucination, a dream or the real thing, that question remained one of those overthought problems that kept her up from time to time. They meant a lot to her now, she noticed, and had no idea what to do when the time came for her to leave for good.
None of her friendships lasted too long. The cycle needed to break but she couldn’t think of a way to do so. She was the senatorial representative of her kingdom and the daughter of its ruler. Her personal live wasn’t supposed to be ordinary. Most of her life that was what kept her from breaking down.
Concluding that self-defeat wasn’t healthy, she stood up and took a walk to the beach. When she arrived, a figure with dark brown hair stood by the waterfront. When she saw his green eyes she knew this version of her home was wrong.
Jen sat alone at the table eating a bowl of cereal and scrolling on her computer. “Morning, sis,” she barely reacted to me.
“I kissed him,” she said as I sat down with my food.
“The valandian. I don’t really know why, I feel weird about it.” I held back my laughter at that.
“Jen, he’s probably almost a century older than we are.”
“Yeah and he also looks like a god of death and comes from a far off desert planet that we’ve never heard of.”
“Thought looks didn’t bother you,” I joked.
“Not like you can make fun of me for liking an alien,” she shot back smiling.
“Fair enough. Speaking of, she usually wakes up early.” Sometimes she’s the one waking me up.
“He’s gone, by the way. His bike is gone too. Guess he’s not the type to stay around too long.” Yeah, that’s very Tiamat-like.
After finishing, Alex knocked and came in. “Time to get to work, I have a bunch of new ideas I wanna try out—” He walked up the stairs and stopped when he saw us. There was a silence as Jen gave me a questioning look.
“Well, now that you know about Kim I guess it wouldn’t hurt to fill you in on the rest,” I said. Not that I was completely okay with it, but I’d rather get it out of the way early. She would find out eventually.
The surprised look on her face reminded me of when I first let Alex inside.
“Welcome to my after school hangout.”
“A bit of an understatement,” she said. “I’ll let you explain details some other time, I’m having trouble getting my head around this as it is.”
“Good, the story gets repetitive,” came a voice from nowhere.
“That’s Cai. He pretty much runs the place.” It’s amusing watching her reactions.
“Shane, I don’t mean to inconvenience you, but my storage is running fairly low. I could also do with a speed boost in section nine.”
“Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to get on that. I’ll be right down. Uhh Jen, follow Alex. I’ll be back soon.”
“Wait, don’t make me babysit!”
“Oh, please I’m not even two years younger than you,” I heard her say jogging away.
I’ve been trying to map out his equivalence of a neural network for years. It would help if he understood it any more than I did. I imagine it was a defense put in as a control measure. He can’t tell where the important pieces of his software are stored. The conscious detached from the unconscious, to analogize. I picked up the box I put on the shelf on my way to the elevator.
“Alright, clear out drives nine-oh-one through nine-oh-six. I have a few solid state drives that should help keep whatever’s stored here working properly.”
“Oh, that’s beautiful. I may save two for random access if that’s okay with you.”
“Sure, go ahead.” The inner workings of him were a liquid nitrogen cooling core that flowed through the inside of his cylindrical body. The drives themselves were cased in aluminum to protect them. It looked like an oversized Mac. I put another ten drives in empty slots to finish up.
“There you go buddy, send me an email or a text or something if anything’s urgent. I’ll be upstairs for a bit.”
“A new guest, I see?”
“Jen. She’s my, uh, future stepsister.”
“I assume she knows about Kim as well?”
“Yeah but not about her brother or a fleet or anything so no going all out about that.”
“Not a problem. Pizza ready in an hour?”
“Sounds good to me.”
I found the two of them working in the gateroom. “Watch it! This thing weighs more than a city bus!”
I ran over to make sure he wasn’t hurt. A section almost dropped on his leg while he was underneath bolting the metal plates on. “If you’re asking, it’s kind of a teleporter.”
“I watch TV, genius.”
“I’m not sure if you meant that sarcastically. I mean, I kinda am a genius.”
When we finished up and got back to the house, I checked on Kim first thing. Still asleep. I tried waking her up but had no luck. I felt her forehead but it felt normal. She was breathing, but for some reason wouldn’t wake up.
“Is everything all right?” Jen asked.
“I don’t think so.” I only knew one person to ask.
The new Prime Minister had been debriefed by Daniel himself only weeks after coming into office. She had a team quarantine the area to look into what happened and gave the small stop locations skeleton crews to avoid traveller suspicions. Tiamat was impressed with her handling of the situation. “You’ve done good work here, madam. I appreciate your cooperation but you should know that your predecessor made some,” he paused to get a good look at her, “vital mistakes. His removal, as you know, was violent.”
“I am fully aware who you are and how you handle situations. Please, call me Julia. No need for formalities between us.”
“I don’t seem to instill the same fear in you as I did with poor old Charles.”
“I’m not intimidated by you, creature, I am intimidated by the thought of what beings could possess weaponry on this scale.”
“As am I, Julia. You understand what they did to my world. My goal is not to make you fear me, my job is to make you fear them. They are merciless. They will destroy all that you know and love without a second thought. President Daniel has been more than cooperative with us. I would like to know if you share the same goal.” He held out his hand. She looked at him as he revealed himself in his true form. She shook his hand.
“Something tells me there’s so much more to come.”
“Then your instincts serve you well. That will prove useful when the time comes, Taigians don’t follow logic. They are pawns in their Emperor’s plan. They have little to no thought of their own about what will happen here. Be prepared for that.”
She looked around confused. His vanishing acts aided in removing awkward farewells. His phone rang walking to his bike. “Shane?”
“Odd…” he said.
“Care to give more details?” Jen replied frustrated, possibly still annoyed with his morning disappearance.
“She seems to be in a deep unconscious dreaming state. I can only pick out fragments without damaging her, but it appears she is on her homeworld.”
“Can you take her out?” I asked.
“Absolutely not, it would send her into a coma at best.” This is so frustrating, she was perfect the night before.
“Then what can we do?” There must be something.
“It’s complicated to explain, but I may be able to merge someone else’s brainwaves with hers for a short time.”
“Not a neuroscientist here, but I think you’re telling me I can go in her dream.”
“Something like that. It’s not safe, so don’t ask.” Well, so much for that thought. “I may have strengths in this area but most of it is dealing with the mind’s surface. Small conscious tweaks. This is entirely different and will take all my concentration not to break either one of your minds.”
“As for us?” Jen said.
“Leave.” He stopped. “I meant that better than it came out. Sorry. I need no interference, specifically. Ideally we should move her to the lab but it appears moving her wouldn’t be easy.”
“It’s alright. My mother’s unlikely to come back any time soon. Jen can go home with Alex.”
“I guess I have no say in the matter?” he said.
“Not really, buddy. Come on I’ll beat you at whatever games you’ve got.” The door closed. Not long after I got in bed beside her. Proximity helped, apparently. He sat down on the floor.
“Shane,” he said, “good luck.” Lights out.20: Chapter Twenty
I turned around and saw her, she hadn’t gone back to her native form. Still the small red haired girl with light blue eyes, looking as if she’d finished crying only moments ago. “Shane? How did you get here?” She said staring all around.
“Same way you did, you’re dreaming.”
She sighed, relieved. “I worried I had been taken back.” I stopped to look and was amazed at what I saw around me. The scene was so unreal.
“Welcome to my home, or my memory of it. I’ve been here all day alone without knowing what was going on. Am I okay?”
“Tiamat doesn’t know. He thinks you should be fine once you know it’s a dream. He sent me in here to tell you that.”
She silently walked to the water and put her hand in. “It’s so real.”
“The mind is a powerful thing,” I said joining her. Salty, just like Earth. “It’s so different, but also similar. I’m not sure what it is about this place.”
“Lower gravity and a dimmer star. Other than that it’s not all that different,” she reassured.
“Except that,” I said pointing to the sky.
“Armolegia, the water giant named for our former god of creation watching over us. If you look off to the side, you can see Oreigeal, the capital.” I followed her finger, and there it was. Half the size of our full moon. I had to smile, this was amazing. “Now you see what I mean when Earth’s sky feels lonely.”
“It looks like early sunset,” I said.
“Just past noon.” Incredible. I wanted to stay. I wanted to explore this world in its entirety then onto the others I could see. I wanted her to tell me the history of this place, how far back their civilization’s memory goes. How they colonized, how they united under one nation. Was this red-orange photosynthesis a reminder of a bloody past, or was there a peaceful unity of worlds? What did their art look like? What did their music sound like? Seeing her castle-like mansion and it’s eerily familiar architecture I had a rush of so many questions I wanted answers to.
“I can’t stay too long. You have no idea how much I’d love to, though.” I felt like I had tears building up. The sight was the most beautiful thing I’d seen. “Promise me I’ll see this again.” I felt like I was half begging.
“No, you’re right. Chances are I’ll never see this place myself. It’s just so beautiful.”
“All you’ve ever known was your home. It’s not surprising that you feel this way. I’ve seen pictures of Earth without the snow. I feel similar about it. And I do promise. I don’t care how, I will take you here someday.” She gave me a hug and started to cry again. “I’m tired of my father tearing me away from any friends I make. I’m allowed to have my own life and I don’t want my time on Earth to be just another of my few happy memories.” I didn’t know what to say to that, I silently hugged her back. Before I could say anything, I woke up back home.
Siting up I cracked my neck. Not sure if that woke her, but her eyes opened. I saw she wanted to say something but no words were exchanged. She threw her arms around me instead not letting go for a minute or so.
“Kim, let’s not make this awkward in front of our friend,” I said glancing over to Tiamat who was visibly exhausted from the event.
“You’re lucky your brainwaves were highly compatible, I almost lost you a few times.” Well, that makes me feel much better, nearly becoming a vegetable and all. “If this happens again I would advise contacting the Admiral. I suspect a failure for her mind to merge with a human brain properly.” Kim nodded, she agreed it was a possibility.
She laid her head on my shoulder once we were alone. “I’ll be okay,” she said. “If it happens again my brother’s medical team can help me. My genetic code is stored there too. I’ll change back into my normal body and things will be normal.” She didn’t sound entirely convinced.
“I don’t want you taking any unneeded risks by staying here. If you need to go home then go—”
“No!” Her confliction was obvious. “There’s nothing waiting for me back home but unhappiness and stress over council negotiations. Here I’ve made friends I can trust. People I care about and don’t want to lose. All of them in danger very soon. I don’t want this to be another good memory and nothing more.”
“I don’t want you to die, Kim. You don’t know that this will only be a memory. Even after you leave, we’ll see each other again.”
“You’re too optimistic.”
“I even believe I’ll see my dad again and no person in the entire galaxy could find him. I can find you.” I rubbed her back hoping I was helping her mini crisis. I have to keep in mind all she’s been through in life. “You gonna be okay?” She looked up at me nodding.
She had beaten him at a few rounds of death match in a row and they decided to take a break. His way of admitting defeat. “So, Alex, how do you actually feel about this alien situation. I still find it mind-numbing now and then.”
“Tell me about it. I expected if there were aliens out there that they’d want nothing to do with us. Turns out their avoidance was some kind of protection. You’re not the engineering type but I can’t imagine where we’d be if they didn’t hide all they could do.”
“Well, Kim tells me they didn’t think we were ready.”
“Hah! Well, who made that decision? Not us, that’s for sure.” She thought there was some resentment there.
“Don’t you find it terrifying what they can hide from us?”
“No, well I mean of course but just look at what our own governments are capable of hiding from us.” She never was the paranoid type imagining in huge conspiracy theories. After these past few months, she found herself considering possibilities.
“I have plans beyond infatuation with a princess beyond another world,” he began. “The human race deserves what they have. That level of power and technology. I have no idea what Shane plans to do with his secret lab fantasies but I have thoughts on a grand scale. Interested in hearing?” he passed her a Coke.
“Indulge me,” she said smiling at his attempts to impress her.
“For starters, the stargate. It opens up, literally, worlds of possibilities. Instantaneous travel through the solar system and eventually beyond. Cai, an intelligence rivaling that of humans. Now we even have an alien spacecraft in storage. And that’s not all the secrets hidden in that underground cave.”
“You plan to do something with it?”
“I plan to start a company. A small step towards a bigger goal.”
“You surprise me. I thought you were always quiet because you had nothing to say. And what does Shane think of this?”
“I don’t know yet, I haven’t mentioned it.” That surprised her. The stuff in there was neither of theirs, really.
“Why tell me all this?”
“Who knows, I may need help one day when Shane loses interest and decides to chase after stars. I’m being cautious.” Her plans for what to do after high school didn’t consist of much. This could be something big, and part of her wanted in on it. She thought it better to not get her hopes up too soon.
“Why don’t we stick to playing video games in your basement until we’re done our basic education,” she joked.
RHO GEMINORUM IX
A final battalion of reinforcements joined the formation. Jump calculations were being completed. A silence fell over the bridge and the crew’s anxieties raised as they awaited their next commands. They were beyond the barrier now; in Imperial Taigian territory. The system was cluttered by dense asteroid belts and dust clouds. A fleet could hide with ease. The tactical convenience may also save them many losses.
“Second planet of the third star in this system. The dead rocky world is surrounded by rings of debris. The enemy has cracked the crust themselves for easy materials access. The shipyard will be visible by the time we complete our approach under cover from the debris fields.” The admiral stood from his chair and walked to the bridge’s center. “We are now on the offensive. They would not likely expect this boldness from us, that is why I ordered it to be done. The goal is not to take the system but to make a statement. Once the shipyard is rendered inoperable all ships are to return to Castor after releasing their wormspace destabilizers. Even if they do choose to follow us we have forces left behind to watch our backs. Admiral out.”
“Jump calculations complete.”
He inhaled the artificiality of his surroundings and pressed on. “Engage.” He could hear the generators across the hull and bolts of green energy arced across the viewing plane. Everything before him shifted blue for a brief moment. The ship came to a halt.
“Initializing communications jam.”
“Deploying wormhole destabilizers.”
“Launching all strike craft.”
“Weapons systems at the ready, main cannon charging.”
“No contacts detected, sensors on full alert.” He could trust Gentam’s readings even given the interference.
He sat back down with a sigh. He had a late night. Sekeleus was behind him when he finished his speech. “You have too much stress about this battle,” she said.
“You know the bridge is personnel only, Seke. It is not this battle that bothers me but the arrival of my father. You know how it is,” he said staring out ahead. The dust scattered the star’s light in such a way that lit the area as if a foggy day. He thought about that more and could not recall the last time he saw fog. He could recall in well from his childhood, it would consume everything after the regular global storms on Oreigeal.
Such a harsh world. No wonder he likes it so much.
“This is your day, fret not of your father. Admirals are best when not distracted.”
“And you do not?” he joked, wincing as she squeezed the roughed tendrils she then began to massage.
“Do remember to enjoy the things you take pride in, otherwise why do them?” She left the bridge with that thought; a smile took over him. He lived for battle. This ship his home and these people around him his family.
“Fleet is awaiting orders,” said Tomrek.
“Engage. No holding back.”
“Tear them to shreds!” The Valandian commander said.
“Get destroyers six through eight and their escorting frigates to engage the enemy forces off to starboard. Same for one through three for those on port side. One carrier and one battlecruiser per group. Get battlecruisers Omigos and Toutatis to form up with the flagship and destroyers four and five. We will serve as the heavy assault group. The Valandians will send their own forces to these three groups.”
“Enemy has locked on,” Gentam alerted.
The battle began and immediately consumed him. Not a single thought other than the moment dared cross his mind. He lived for this.
“Incoming vessels launching from the shipyard.”
“Main cannon charged, Admiral.” Saulo always notified when it was ready to unleash it’s power.
“Fire on their nearest carrier,” he commanded.
“Not the shipyard directly?”
“The shipyard is too massive for even the main cannon to do significant damage until we get closer.” Saulo nodded to this.
The carrier’s shields could do nothing to stop the incoming energy beam. The plasma blasted a hole through the hangar essentially disabling it.
“Aim as flawless as ever, Harang!” Saulo said to his son. He dealt with aim calculations for the main cannon. A bright young kid, only a couple years older than Kimoria. He was raised on this ship, his only home.
The two other strike groups opened fire. The battle had begun. An explosion was seen. An Armolegian frigate had been lost. First blood drawn.
The fleet had been given a battle plan before the jump and there was little needed to be said now. Objectives were to destroy the shipyard and retreat to Castor. The entire battle went as he planned. He knew Taigian tactics too well. The communications jam gave them an hour but the silence became suspicious and additional enemy forces would show up.
“Move in,” he commanded.
“Additional fighters incoming! Deploying anti-strike craft platforms.” As the Black Knight approached the shipyard, the full size of it was overwhelming. It must have been two or three kilometers tall and about one in diameter. A truly enormous structure. The elegance of design was both efficient and aesthetically sound. Designed surely to take hits from stray asteroids. Very unlike their bare minimum hull on assault ships. Emphasis was placed on shield strength over armor.
“Main cannon charged.”
“Fire on the shield generator found here,” he said as a holographic model of the structure pointed to an area on the bottom.
The beams fired in their usual fashion. The plasma melted away at the hull. The shielding fluctuated before the generator overloaded and blew up. The shipyard opened fire and launched additional defenses. Reinforcements arrived from wormspace. It was looking as though their battle would not be over any time soon.
“Shields are being strained to their maximum mitigation potential. We’re under heavy fire!”
“Bombers should aim for weapon towers. Ease up the damage that shipyard deals. They should be fast enough to avoid being hit.” The tactic worked. The structure was left defenseless other than the few ion cannons still operational.
“Groups one and two deal with the new arrivals. We will take care of this station. Battlecruiser Sulis, join us in the fight.”
“Aye Admiral,” the ship’s captain said.
Haakrus had been standing the entire time and decided to sit down. The fires of war burned in his eyes, his crew could tell. The powerful expression he held reassured them victory. “All weapons fire! I want that shipyard annihilated!” His shout echoed throughout the room. The six primary cannons aimed for the station and plasma shots could be seen sent off in fast blue-white flashes. The two forward mounted ion cannons fired as well. It meant power would be diverted from shields to compensate the energy for attack but none of the attacks the flagship was taking were nearly severe enough. The three battlecruisers next to them were doing the same.
Concentrated fire was devastating the station, breaching the hull in more places than he cared to count. Destroyers were fighting off Taigian forces currently firing on the two battlecruisers guarding the groups and smaller frigates were scattered around aiding the assault in whatever way they could.
The Prince of Death, his enemies once called him. He was addicted to battle, they would say. Unleashing pent up anger for his father at the enemy, others claimed. Yes, he was all that and more. He was angry, truly angry. Battle put that anger into focus. A menacing acute focus. It made him both a charismatic leader and legendary Admiral in the process. Everyone who had served him or had seen his battles showed him a great deal of respect. He smirked at all of this. Though, some also called him overconfident. Perhaps he was. Regardless, the moment called for him to be. His crew believed in him. The Valandians believed in him. He would not let any of them down for these battles meant a great deal to many more than himself.
Another hour of intense firefight and the hull integrity of the shipyard was failing. The main cannon fired again finishing tearing a hole through the center to the other side. Bombers flew into the cavern created destroying it from within. The ship’s power generators overloaded. Explosions were seen across the hull along with atmospheric venting.
“Admiral, our capital ships will not be able to keep their shields up much longer,” a destroyer captain said over the comm.
He thought it over. “Fleet, our time here has ended. Fall back and regroup.”
“A retreat?!” Exclaimed the valandian commander.
“Wrong, there is simply nothing more to do here. The shipyard is for all intensive purposes neutralized. Wasting time on their warships is not our objective and based on the concentration of singularities in this area quite a bit of that has already been dealt with.” Within minutes all ships left the system, the flagship being the last one out as it always was. “Well done my friends,” he grinned.21: Chapter Twenty One
As the next couple weeks went by, she thought about her short slip of consciousness more. It was strange to think how it may have happened. Was it the human shell she had taken on as her body? That appeared to be the obvious conclusion. Her intangible mind, the essence that made her who she was, was incompatible with the human brain in which the mind now resided.
She was no expert in the biological sciences but knew a fair amount on the subject. Both species—in fact the majority of them—were based on DNA. The specific orders were entirely different, but the same chemicals were involved. It might have to do with the non-biological; perhaps the effects of her mind’s isolation. She was unable to mindshare or telespeak in this form. She then remembered that even in her original body she was not truly doing either, as she was reading Shane’s thoughts instead to give the same result. Her head fell to her crossed arms exhausted from overthinking. Chances are she wouldn’t understand it no matter how many times she tried to.
Raising her head, she noticed the bell had rung as the class was emptying out. She must have missed it in her daze. She rushed out to meet up with Jennifer, they had planned to get lunch together.
“Sorry I took so long,” she said.
“Not a problem, I was texting Alex anyway.”
Getting habituated to human cultural norms was not as difficult as she’d expected. Observing others was her main way to reference. Groups of friends kept together as often as they could formed usually of those with similar interests or personalities. People talked about media events that occurred recently which was not too different from her own world. Humans were far more curious. She was an extreme on her world, possibly because she’d lived in isolation most her life.
Even so, there were more physiological similarities than cultural ones. Exobiologists puzzled over this already. Two legs, two arms, two eyes, two ears. Always two. It brought into question the origins of all life in the galaxy. There were no relics found of any god-like being, or a creator of any kind. Any historical evidence of one was always eventually confirmed to be another more advanced species making first contact. For the moardillians it was the taigians, for the armolegians it was the moardillians, for the humans it was the valandians playing as their death gods while creating slave colonies on other worlds disguised as ritual sacrifice.
“So are you gonna say anything, or…” She realizes she’d been ignoring Jen by falling into her thoughts again.
“I’ve been thinking too much. You were saying something about a guy?”
“Not just some guy, I was explaining the origins of grunge music to you. Oh well, I didn’t think you’d know what I was talking about anyway. Do you listen to anything?”
“I have feelings,” she said.
“I meant music, you dork.”
“Oh, a little yeah, it’s an interesting difference. We have no music. Our culture isn’t as rich as yours. It’s been centuries since much innovation has happened.”
“So what you’re saying is your culture is dying?”
She hadn’t thought of it in that sense. “That seems to be accurate. It’s a result of how far we’ve come. There’s no need to make new things. No need to deviate from what already is.”
“Historically that tends to have a bad ending,” she said.
“It does, doesn’t it…” She would need to discuss that point with her brother at some time. There wasn’t a complete stagnation, new ideas were being exchanged between the council races all the time, but where they used to be at the lead, they had fallen to a comfortable level of adequateness, as she would put it if asked. She then thought that perhaps curiosity had to do with cultural variability.
They arrived at the Tim Hortons down the street and ordered their food, then sat in a booth as they often did. Jen continued her discussion about the evolution of music over the last couple decades, unsure of why until she mentioned having a presentation to make on the subject the next day and was making sure she knew what she was going to say.
She received a text from Cai, unaware he could send texts. He said her brother had called in to tell her something. “So we can skip class this afternoon, right?” she said.
“Come, we have important things to attend to.”
The royal shuttle craft had boarded and he commissioned a minimal welcome party. There were too many people hard at work to bother with trifles like a regal invitation to his home. He exited the craft followed by his royal guard. He looked to each side in shock, then met eyes with him.
“Such a small greeting, and not a single one kneeling,” he commented.
“No kneeling is permitted on my ship for anyone. We are all equals on this ship, as we are all equally likely to die in battle should we fail.”
“Forget not that even this ship is my jurisdiction.”
“Try telling that to my people, in fact, try telling that to any citizen of the Periphery.”
“Are you telling me none obey their king and that I should tax them harder as punishment?”
“Sure, if it’s a revolution you want,” he joked. His crew chuckled and dispersed returning to their duties. The king was but their admiral’s old father in their eyes. He enjoyed the frustration on his father’s face. “You board my home, you obey my law. You can leave any time you wish, I care not what you do. But harass my people and you will be forced off.” The king contained his rage but nodded as he realized he did not have the advantage.
“My guard will wait in my ship. I wish to be taken to the bridge immediately to view your progress.”
“A fair warning, if you keep up formalities my crew may have a good laugh at your expense later in the mess hall.”
“Such a respectable bunch,” he said.
“To me, yeah, I have shown my capabilities in battle. You, however, never have.”
“You make me feel as though I come to negotiate with an enemy,” he said.
“In a way, you are. Banished, remember? You banished your only son from his homeworld and the admiral to your royal navy. Good strategy, by the way,” he mocked.
“After all these years that is the first thing you bring up? Do grow up, boy. A lesson was needed to be taught and that was how I chose to teach it.”
“I give light to a black hole about your lessons. It was Kimoria who lost something because of it, not I.”
“Oh, leave your sister out of this.”
They argued the entire way to the bridge, and when arriving they were yelling at each other. Haakrus continued over to the centre console and activated the map projection.
“This is your kingdom. The red line is where your influence ends. The orange is the extent of worlds who have already accepted me as their political leader. A provincial governor, if you will. The orange line is where the safe-zone ends. The yellow barrier between your empire and the blue Taigian space is where I do my job. Now, before we get into the technical aspects of this war, I wish to discuss you handing me executive power over the Periphery so I may better organize defensive infrastructure. Enable worlds to defend themselves for enough time so we may engage the main threat sure to arrive through the Vallis-Terrah wormspace tunnel.” It was a mouthful, but it was something he wished to get immediately out of the way. It had been stressing him for some time. The Periphery was poor. If the Taigians decided to send two separate assaults, they would be entirely defenceless. He allowed his father to examine his thought patterns to tell for himself the need for it.
“Very well, there has been a surplus for three years in a row. It should cover all additional expenses you make. It will be loaned to the Periphery, now under your official reign, to be paid back in an additional three years time.” It was an acceptable offer.
“Excellent, Tomrek, call up my council.”
“You already have a council?”
“Oh please, I have been siphoning government money for years without noticeable effects on your income. I know I can do my job, it has not been enough lately, however. Assaults are more frequent and less predictable.”
The council he had consisted of the major governing bodies of his now official province of the Periphery. From Orion there were the Valandian emperor Velar and the Aztec president Telhakin. From the upper reaches he had two seats and to the lower reaches three others forming a board of eight. A ninth seat had been left vacant.
“We had been expecting this call, how has the recent skirmish gone around, uh, I forget the name now. Has my fleet served you well?” Velar asked.
“Yes, your fleet serves well in battle. I have a respect for Valandian engineering, truly excellent ships, hardly any losses. The battle around Rho Geminorum went as expected.” It took a few minutes for all members to answer the call, but all were expecting it. “Councilmen, meat the Armolegian Crown,” he said.
They addressed him more formally than anyone on the ship had, but they were political leaders. “Greetings to you all, it appears as though the prince has chosen an adequate governing body for the Periphery. A wise move considering its chaotic nature.”
“Honoured you think so,” one said.
“I realize there is a cultural difference between the majority of the kingdom and its outer reaches due to the war being fought. I have thus granted partial independence as a province under the rule of prince Haakrus.” He knew his father was making it so it seemed the whole plan was his idea. He allowed this ego stoke of his, he was only interested in the results. “I will decrease taxing by ten percent of the current amount to allow economic growth. By the end of three standard years the sum spent on infrastructural improvements will be paid back in full for independence to remain.”
“Those in favour,” he raised his palm. The other seven did the same. “There you have it. Now let us move on to other topics of importance. Scouts remaining in the Geminorum system have reported that a counterassault has been formed and ships are expected to jump to Castor within two days. From observations made we can assess that victory is ensured. No further reinforcements will be required but I suggest forming local militias as soon as financially possible.” Again they agreed unanimously.
“We have not had an attack in Orion yet, therefore Yucatec and Aztlan will work on improving economic stability beforehand.” Velar agreed with her on the issue, a rarity when concerning both their governments.
“We have decided also to aid the situation developing on Terrah by sending in spies to seek out the Taigian presences and remove them. We think it would be best for us as humans to tend to these matters,” she continued.
“I will then put you in contact with a valandian I have doing reconnaissance. He has lived there since the fall of Vallis and knows the world well. He also is in communication with some of the indigenous governing bodies which may prove useful.”
“Might I inquire as to the nature of this situation, as you call it?” the king asked. “My daughter is still stranded there.”
“Stranded?” Velar’s confusion gave him away.
“You are in contact with her. You liar!”
“She wished to stay to study the local culture. There is no harm in it, she has found locals she can trust. I met him, I would know.” His valandian friend looked apologetic at him, but he was not at fault. “Council adjourned for now. Calm yourself, I remain in contact with her regularly.”
“Prove it, call her.”
“If you insist,” he said. He lied, of course. He had only spoken with her a few times after her lapse of consciousness. He thought it best to allow her some time to explore on her own. He could not shelter her, their father proved that much.
The AI answered the call. “Hello? Oh yes. Haakrus.”
“Is Kimoria around?”
“Not at the moment, she is attending the local high school with Shane, as you might know. Then again, time here is not the same as it is for you there. It is midday. I will inform her to call you back when she arrives,” it said.
“I was not aware Terrans had such technology,” the king said.
“None are quite as advanced as I, I can assure you. And you are?”
“I am Lord Oreigeal the Ninth.”
“Ah, Kimoria’s father. Pleased to meet you.”
“Anyway Cai, have you heard back from Tiamat? I have information for him as well. This call was more to prove my sister is in no danger.”
“I will let him know when I see him. Harder to get in touch with, that one. Also, fret not, Kim is in no danger. She’s responded to me and says she will be here within the hour.”
He ended the call. “And there you have it.”
“As well as an innumerable amount of other questions.”
“We’ll get to that, but for now I would rather get you up to date on the battle strategy.”
She hadn’t gone down to the lab in over a week as she’d been partially avoiding Shane when possible. It had nothing to do with him; she felt as though he cared too much. He worried constantly over her state of mind and it was stressful reassuring him every day. It was good to have a friend care that much about her but often it was too much.
As the call was connecting, she wondered if her friend would rather wait in the next room, but she didn’t show any signs of being nervous. Then again, why would she, being entirely comfortable spending time with Tiamat. She’d been asking about her family life in any case.
The signal stabilized. “You called earlier, I apologize, I was away.”
“No need to, I would much rather you become familiar with Terran culture. Before we get to what I have to tell you, how are you feeling lately?” She could tell by his expression that he showed concern. She felt too embarrassed about it to call him about the slip of consciousness she’d experienced. She thought he would feel obligated to leave the front lines to ensure her well being, and in her opinion it wouldn’t have been worth the risk.
“I’m doing well. I have however had an incident of cognitive dissociation but it was nothing severe.” She couldn’t bring herself to not mention it; she did trust him, after all.
“Are you sure that was all it was? I could send a specialist down, or even come check up on you myself if you wanted.”
“No, no there isn’t a need of that. The front lines could use their admiral more than I do. I have my friends here,” she said gesturing to Jennifer.
“If you say so,” he said. “Now about what I called for, well, the King has agreed to meet with me on the Black Knight for political reasons as well as wishing to observe how actual leaders handle difficult situations.” She could hear a few muffled snickers from the crew behind him. “Listen, it would be entirely fine with me if you wished not to speak with him but it would be best, I think, if he was aware you were no longer in danger. It may keep him from leaving for Terrah himself.” He did have a point about that, she had to admit. Part of her enjoyed the sense that she was engaging in some sort of sibling planned rebellion against their father, but on the other hand she would not want him to find out about Shane and how close they’ve become and get the wrong impression.
“If I must to keep him away from here, then so be it.” He signalled to someone off screen and her father walked in. It then occurred to her that the two of them hadn’t been in the same room since her mother’s funeral. It was an uncomfortable sight having them within arm’s length of each other, it felt unnatural.
“Is she one of those?” he said in their native tongue. Jennifer gave her a confused look, Kim smiled back.
“Did you expect different? She has been on Terrah for months. It would follow that she would use her genetic reorganizer to become human in appearance.” A look of disgust cross his face briefly, then she spoke.
“Hello father,” she was drawing a blank on what to say next.
“Have you forgotten that you are a senator, child? I am far too old to take on these duties while you play around with the local fauna.”
“I am gathering information about their culture and their worth, something I deem far more important than any short council meeting relating to subjects discussed dozens of times in prior meetings.”
“What worth, dear child? They are but simple creatures struggling to make it past even their homeworld. The reason it is protected is because the Taigians should learn that they cannot invade whatever world they so please.”
“You are mistaken. There is much they can offer us, and not only the Kingdom but the galaxy as a whole.”
“You waste your time, Kimoria. This old fool does not believe in the stagnation problem. I have tried to discuss it with him before to no avail.”
“And who is this pet of yours?”
“Her name is Jennifer, she is a friend not to be so grossly insulted,” she said. He only laughed at her. Haakrus could see the distress she felt and politely asked if he had seen enough to believe she is in no harm. He did, and he left the bridge.
“I apologize for my father’s behaviour,” he said to Jen in english.
“No worries, all I could hear was gibberish anyway.”
He smiled, then spoke to Kim in the standard, “I have successfully achieved semiautonomy in the Periphery, having it as a province under my direct control. It will make coordinating resources a less obstructive task. The Orion Colonists are sending a scout party to Terrah to investigate certain phenomena Tiamat has brought to my attention. They will arrive in a matter of weeks and will locate the underground complex where I would ask that you put them in contact with the valandian.”
“I will let him know the next time he returns,” she said. Hearing about his small but important victory against their father made her happy for him. She knew he had aimed for specifically that for years, and had gone ahead and formed his own government body beforehand anyway.
He then spoke again to Jen before ending their call. “I cannot thank Shane or you enough for all you have done for her. I promise to find a way to repay you both.” Her brother never broke his promises.