Race Of Royals – Part 1

Posted November 26, 2015 by nbvanyoos
Categories: Soldiers

Tags: , , , ,

This Science Fiction short story is a lead-up to the book titled, Onyalum Wars. The book is part of the Science Fiction Onyalum Series written by NB VanYoos.


Lord Hishth donned the last item of his accouterments, the ceremonial dagger which would serve as his only weapon. It was an ancient legacy in his family for a millennium, and now it was his turn to use it as his ticket into the vaulted ranks of the Issgire Royals. Being a lord was one thing, but a Dukedom would finally elevate his family to its rightful place among those who ruled the kingdom.

He would no longer be a common lord who did the bidding of the royals they served. He had proven himself in countless battles and campaigns, and now he would prove himself among his peers and take his place among the leaders of the vaulted Issgire Empire. His family and his god would be proud.

“You look the part of one who can win this race, my Lord.” Assil, his family’s oldest attendant said as he stepped back from his charge. “Today may finally be the day your family has long waited for.”

“Yes, thank you, Assil.” Lord Hishth said as he admired his own reflection in the mirror.

His line produced some of the finest military leaders of the empire, and he was certain all that effort would finally be rewarded as he took the royal staff of Dukedom to be his own. Years of training had prepared him for this moment, and now that it was upon him, he felt certain he would win the day.

“Assil, you helped my father and watched his race, what sage advice might you honor me with?” Lord Hishth said, trying to sound as though he needed advice.

“You honor me by asking, my Lord.” Assil said deferentially. “Your father was fast, perhaps the fastest out there, but the route he took delayed him.”

“And you are forbidden to share any of those details with me?” Lord Ashth asked, though he knew the answer already.

“Yes, my Lord.” Assil replied. “However, I can share some advice that does not relate to the details of the race.”

“For example?” Lord Ashth said.

Assil looked down in thought while he gathered his words. “As your family’s history is woven so tightly with the military, you will understand this. There are times when one must work alone and there are times when one must work together. This important lesson will be very apparent during the race.”

“But it is not a team competition it is to see who has earned the right to rule in our empire.” Lord Hishth said.

“Is not a ruler always dependent on his subjects? Do they not only support him, but fight for him and provide for him. A humble leader is one who earns respect and will gather followers who would die for him.” Assil said. “Your father understood this lesson.”

“Then why did he fail?” Lord Hishth said with disdain.

He loved his father and even respected him, but he’d had his chance and failed. His family needed something new and different, something that would change their fortunes forever. He believed he had what was needed and he certainly wasn’t going to help others take that away from him simply to be humble. If you saw something you wanted, you took it, that is what commands respect.

“His failure was a tactical one, not because he understood how to work with others.” Assil chastised.

Lord Hishth bridled at the recrimination. “Watch your tone, Assil, or there may not be a place in the new Dukedom for such an old servant.”

“Yes, my Lord.” Assil said. “Then, I have no further advice for you.”

Lord Hishth ignored the old man and focused on what he would need. The old man had at least provided him one piece of advice, plan your route carefully. He was an expert at doing just that. He had participated in hundreds of troop competitions where navigation was so important to win the day. He felt confident he would succeed.

The competition traced its roots back thousands of years as a way for the Emperor to dole out spoils of war to his faithful and most powerful subjects. Only those of royal blood could participate, or those who had received the title of Lord due to some astonishing act on behalf of the Empire. There were very few of those nowadays, only those born into royalty. Everyone knew royal blood was far superior to any other, which is why they were meant to rule.

The final tally was one hundred participants, ninety-nine of which would fail. The course and its location were a well guarded secret. Each participant had been flown to the planet without knowing where it was. They knew nothing about its terrain, its atmosphere, its weather, or its flora and fauna. It was a total mystery, but that just added to Lord Hishth’s assurance he would win the day.

As a well decorated commander in the Imperial Forces, he had fought battles on distant worlds with all manner of environments. He’d even fought in water, though that was certainly not one of their species’ natural abilities. Many believed there had descended from sea creatures, but their bodies were built for speed and hunting, not aquatic activities. They were an ancient people descended from the giant reptiles that once ruled their world. Now they ruled.

The deep drum beats signaled it was time to line up. He nodded to Assil as he opened the tent into a brightly lit sky with a greenish tint. He spotted two suns, one either smaller or much further away than the big one dominating the sky. He was already acclimated to the oxygen rich atmosphere that he’d discovered when they had landed. He immediately calculated that plant life would be rich and unpredictable in this environment. In fact, considering the light gravity, most of the life on this planet would be big.

They stood on the precipice of a large mountain overlooking a vast distance. Lord Hishth surveyed the landscape of heavy forest and what might have been distant plains. He assumed there would be water in the form of rivers flowing out of the mountains and possibly lakes upon the plains. These would be difficult to navigate.

He took a quick look at his competition, many of whom he’d served with during his military career. They, too, wanted to lift their family up the royal ladder and would race hard to achieve that. Most were formidable competitors, with size and strength that could prove a winning trait. Lord Hishth stood a modest two point five meters tall and possessed a lean muscular body. He treated it like a temple and eschewed the various delights others enjoyed. He wished to keep it clean and healthy. He was born for battle, and his well oiled scales shimmered in the daylight.

With nothing but heavy forest ahead of them, Lord Hishth liked his chances. His family came from a very heavily forested planet and the mottled color pattern on his scales would be a distinct advantage. There were others who also shared similar camouflage patterns, so he eyed them, calculating they would be the ones to beat early on.

Speed was not his greatest asset. He’d been measured at forty kilometers an hour at his fastest, but he could maintain a twenty-five kilometer per hour pace nearly indefinitely. Pace would likely be more important than speed in this race. His greatest assets were navigation and tactics, something honed during his military service. Many Leran wished they’d never met his troops in battle.

Lord Hishth focused on the terrain, trying to map a route though he didn’t know where the finish line was. They would get a glimpse of it before they started, then they would be on their own. He waited patiently while surveying the cliff they would have to scale at the start of the race. It wasn’t too steep, and his claws would easily permit a rapid descent. He felt ready.

The drums stopped and only the sound of wind rushing across his ears focused his mind as he breathed deeply to fill his blood with the needed oxygen. He would start at an incredible pace and only slow as needs dictated. The more distance he put behind him at the start, the more time afforded him should he run into trouble later. He knew he would run into trouble.

An old voice boomed over a loudspeaker. “Welcome all participants to the five thousand, nine hundred and twenty seventh running of the Race of Royals.”

Lord Hishth heard applause, though all of it came from the Imperial Capital where the royals watched the race in comfort. This was one of the largest events within the Empire and it was rumored over six trillion people would tune in. Betting on the race was encouraged and became one of the largest exchange of wealth within the Empire. Lord Hishth could have discovered his odds, but he didn’t believe in that. He calculated his odds at one hundred percent.

“We have one hundred participants this year, the largest in over a century.” The voice boomed across the silent landscape. “We believe this will be the greatest and perhaps most dangerous race we have ever seen.” Again, applause echoed in the background.

Lord Hishth ignored the sounds as he focused on his plan. The voice finally introduced all the participants with their current odds and requisite accomplishments over the span of their lives. Lord Hishth ignored it all. He decided he would make a charge down the cliff as fast as he could and blaze through the forest on a slightly southern route to avoid most of the competitors to his north. Only after he had put a great deal of distance behind him would he stop and equip himself with fashioned weapons.

Spears were the most likely choice and the easiest to create in the dense forest. He would start there and decide what else would be needed based on what he found within the forest. Food and water would be required, and nobody knew what was edible or wasn’t. He would have to make spur of the moment decisions as to what to try and what to avoid.

At three hundred kilometers to the finish, he assumed it would take two to three days depending on the terrain. If the plains in the distance were accessible, he could make great time across that open space, significantly cutting down on the race time. Assil’s comment about choosing routes went through his mind. What if his dad had calculated the same plan? Were his logical choices the same as his father’s? Maybe thinking outside logic might prove more successful.

He barely heard the voice as it droned on about each competitor. After thinking through his plan, he changed his mind and calculated his route. If everyone had the same opinion about the speed they could achieve across the open plains, most would head in that direction. But what if the plains were something else? A marshland? A desert? He eyed the mountain ranges forming a crescent around the forest and distant plains, finally dropping over the horizon to the east. He could take a mountain path.

If the rich vegetation was an indication of heavy rainfall, then it made sense the valley floors would be riddled with rivers and streams. The further down into the valley you went, the larger the tributaries making it harder to cross. A higher route would likely be the fastest as streams and rivers could be crossed more easily.

He eyed the mountains to his north. Most had little vegetation on their tops, but they were rugged and would be difficult and time consuming to climb up and over. That wouldn’t work. It could take him weeks to complete the race doing that. He looked further down the mountainside but only saw forest. Based on the crescent shape of the mountains, the curved path would add many more kilometers to the race. Straight line would always be faster unless you had more obstacles to overcome.

This wasn’t going to be easy, and he suddenly understood why his father had struggled. He thought again about the rivers and streams and where they would head. He assumed out to the plains and most likely to a lake or ocean not currently visible. What if the finish line was at that body of water? If it was, he may have no other choice than to head for the distant plains. But are they plains?

He remembered a distant world they had been sent to scout from their ship. The landscape had looked like a rich, vast plain of grass. However, they quickly found out it was a vast delta where water and plants created a spongy surface that was nearly impossible to navigate, let alone fight upon. Was that what awaited them on that distant plain? It made sense if all the water fed into that area.

What if the water didn’t? He remembered salt flats, the remnants of an ancient seabed now dried up and lifeless. What if that was what awaited them? Damn, he was second guessing and wasn’t sure how to start. There were too many possibilities and he would simply have to pick one based on his knowledge of how most terrain was oriented. He decided the plains were likely a river delta that would be difficult to navigate through. He would take a route closer to the mountains though the dense undergrowth would slow his progress. It didn’t matter, if he needed to, he could always change routes along the way.

The announcer finally finished his litany before having them look off to the distant plains where the horizon line hid everything beyond. “You will now be given the direction of the finish line.”

As he said this, a red line appeared on the horizon just over the northern edge of the plains. Lord Hishth knew this would fool many into believing the plains would be their best route. He believed it was just another hazard to be avoided. Nothing in the race would be easy, so whatever appeared easy was likely not.

“After the first day, your implants will project a compass onto the sky, always leading you in the direction of the finish line. Beware, though, the straightest course may not always be the fastest.” The announcer warned seriously. “There are hazards everywhere, and only the most cunning and adaptable will survive to finish. When the drums stop, you will start your journey.”

The deep, loud bass of the drums sounded an ominous beat while they contemplated their routes. They drummed on for several minutes, the tension building in each racer as they waited. At last, the drums stopped.

Lord Hishth was over the edge of the cliff within seconds and scrambled down head first, a faster, yet more dangerous technique. He caught a glimpse of those to his left and noticed most were descending feet first, a precautionary method that would cost them precious time. He was nearly to the ground after five minutes and already felt the exertions in his arms. Thankfully, the next section of his race would only require legs, and they were strong and ready.

He jumped the last twenty feet and hit the ground running, his claws tearing through the soft soil, propelling him forward at an incredible rate of speed. He dodged trees and leaped over small vegetation as he made his way deeper into the forest.

His plan was to put more distance between he and his competitors before turning north towards the mountains. Close to the mountains but not on the mountains would be the best route considering the water they would likely encounter. He would skirt along the foothills, outside the forest if the terrain permitted. If not, the less dense vegetation against the rocky foothills would still provide him speed.

He’d run for nearly half an hour by his internal clock and quickly made a left turn to work his way back to the foothills. In the distance, he heard others making their way towards the plains, and he thought them fools. He felt certain they would be bogged down by water features while he would remain mostly dry. He also knew the forest would provide more opportunities for sustenance, something they would all need after the first day.

He pressed on, realizing this was the day that would make or break his race. He had the stamina and nourishment to run all day and into most of the night, so he would have to capitalize on this to get as far as possible before having to forage for food, water, and weapons. So far, he hadn’t seen any indigenous creatures, but the trees were large and the forest dense, it could easily hide large animals who would see him as an easy food source.

He would not avail them that opportunity. As he continued towards the mountains, he heard many slashing their way through the forest to his left. Good, they were behind his time and were heading straight into the thickest part of the forest. He ran fast, but found his way getting more difficult as the vegetation increased. He was confused. It should be thinning out as he got closer to the mountains.

It meant the mountains were further away than he had anticipated. He should have turned north sooner despite giving away his strategy. Too late now, he would continue until he reached them, but he veered slightly east to cut off more distance. He plowed through a large stand of yellow grasses and startled an animal foraging on the plants. He made a mental note about the yellow grasses being edible. He would need more than plant life to survive, but it was a start. Perhaps the animal he startled would also make a good meal.

The forest began changing as the vegetation thinned. Good, it meant he was close the foothills. Within a few minutes, he burst from the forest onto a rocky and grassy area at the base of large mountains and cliffs. He followed them, though the going was somewhat hampered by large boulders and rocky outcroppings he had to climb over.

It was not a straight line path to the finish line, but he knew it was probably the safest path he could take. He scaled another outcropping and stopped abruptly as he saw the terrain facing him. He was stunned. For twenty kilometers, an enormous plain of boulders littered his path, extending deeply into the southern forest. It was as if a mountain had been pulverized and its remains scattered across the valley floor.

The boulders ranged from small to the size of houses, and he knew his footing would be challenged if he tried to navigate this field. A broken leg would not only ruin his chances at winning, but might cost him his life. He would have to work his way south into the forest until the boulders thinned.

Suddenly, a deep moaning sound emanated from the boulder field. He couldn’t see anything, but movement in the distance caught his eye. He watched as a whole section of the boulder field began to move, dust rising in the air from the action. He didn’t know what he was seeing until a gnarled brown head rose out of the boulders and surveyed the landscape around it. It issued another moaning sound and the boulders around it changed direction. They were headed for him and he felt the ground beneath his feet vibrate from their movement.

He realized they were herd animals, and enormous from the size and distance they were from him. Something had startled them, and whatever scared them, would be deadly to Lord Hishth. He eyed the horizon and finally spotted flashes of light reflecting off something pursuing the creatures. Whatever they were, they were bigger than the herd beasts.

Finally, he spotted a large section of the body, and it was a massive serpent, its gray-yellow scales pushing it through the boulders in pursuit of its prey. It reared its head into the air to eye its quarry and released a hideous screech that sent shivers down Lord Hishth’s body as it reverberated off the mountains. They were purposely scaring their prey, hoping to separate the young from the parents during the rush for safety.

Another one shrieked to the south of the first one’s position, but Lord Hishth couldn’t see its entirety hidden behind large boulders. They were still ten kilometers away from his position, but closing fast. He had to make a decision. If he remained, he would easily be squashed by the stampede heading for him, and even if he survived, the serpents would finish him off. He had no illusions that he could outrun the serpents.

They were easily a hundred meters long and their heads alone were three times the size of Lord Hishth. He was no match for them even if he had modern weaponry. He finally understood why the death toll in this race was so high. He leaped from his rocky perch and weaved among the boulders towards the forest. He needed to put distance between himself and this herd if he was to survive. He moved into the vegetation and felt better as he clicked off kilometer after kilometer.

He finally stopped and could no longer feel the herd pounding across the boulder field. He caught his breath and eyed his surroundings. Nothing but large trees and dense undergrowth. It would be slow moving, but at least he was clear of the boulders. He eyed the suns and picked a path that would take him east around the boulders. He began marching on his chosen direction when a sound made him stop.

It was like the wind in the trees, but louder. Like something was coming, something that rubbed against the trees and vegetation without breaking them. Crap!

Lord Hishth knew the sound was that of a serpent, its scales brushing against he ground, creating the sound of something being dragged along the ground. He eyed the largest tree he could find and sprinted to it as fast. His footsteps broke branches as he ran and he could tell the serpent had heard his movement.

He finally reached the tree and dug his claws into it as he scaled the rough exterior into its upper canopy. It the serpent was a hundred meters, he would have to be near the top for it not to see him. He climbed quickly, his claws raking deep trenches into the bark as he ascended. Finally, the branches grew smaller and he was forced to stop, wedging himself between the main trunk and a thick branch.

His own breath pounded in his ears and he could hardly hear the progress of the serpent below. He calmed his mind and slowed his breathing so he could hear what was happening on the forest floor. It was eerily silent, and that only increased his fear. It might be at the base of the tree, using the scent of the oil on his scales to track him. He had never considered the oil a bad thing, but now he realized he’d made an enormous mistake.


Posted April 5, 2014 by nbvanyoos
Categories: Civilians

Tags: , , ,

This Science Fiction short story is a lead-up to the book titled, Onyalum Wars. The book is part of the Science Fiction Onyalum Series written by NB VanYoos.

Councilman Wo was worried tonight despite the sophisticated alarm system he’d had installed when first elected. As a sitting councilman on the planetary subcommittee for alien affairs, he’d been fearful of infiltration since the Issgire made contact four years ago. His planet, called Relim, had thought they were alone in the Universe much like other species first growing into their technology. But soon after achieving interstellar space flight, they soon met several species in nearby systems they now could reach.

It had all seemed so wonderful at the time, the realization that they were not alone in the vast Universe around them. The other species had been pleasant enough though cautious like themselves when first contact was made. And now, they traded and interacted as though they were longtime friends, never a thought of war between them. That was until four years ago when the Issgire landed on their world with a frightening tale of wars and invasions.

Many on the council weren’t sure how to take the information the Issgire professed was happening in the galaxy around them. Some were instantly afraid and ready to banish the Issgire from their world while still others insisted they should welcome the strangers and their technology to defend our world from the looming threat the Issgire assured was coming.

Wo had remained neutral letting the course of events unfold as they would. His had been a voice of reason and acceptance of the Issgire, at least for now. After their initial contact, the Issgire set up a small embassy on Relim to assist the locals with weapons fabrication and military training. It was new to the people of Relim to prepare for something their world hadn’t seen in several hundred years. Wo asked the same question every day, was it inevitable?

But now, as he went through his evening ablutions preparing for bed, he felt uneasy after being informed by the Issgire ambassador that credible intelligence had been intercepted that indicated the Leran, the race supposedly ready to invade, had a plot to attack and replace a councilman with a changeling as part of their initial invasion plans. It was frightening and brought fear into Wo’s mind that had never been there before. Suddenly, he didn’t trust any outsiders, even those they had considered longtime friends. All of this was being fed by the Issgire who assured them their world and all of their allies’ worlds were on the invasion list.

Did that mean any of the million aliens on their world could be Leran spies, changelings that had killed the host and took their shape? Hiding in plain sight with no reliable method of being weeded out from the real populace. It was distressing, and Wo yearned for those bygone days before the Issgire brought their horrific news to his world. They were all trapped with little else to do but trust the aliens.

Wo had always considered himself an enlightened man capable of looking past another specie’s appearance and strange customs to the underlying soul that resided within the alien body. It was one of the reasons he sat on the subcommittee for alien affairs, he was a reasonable and rational person, not some xenophobe wanting to close the doors to the Universe around them. But now, he was beginning to question that rational thinking. The thought of being replaced by a changeling simply made his skin crawl.

Nonetheless, it was only a fragment of intelligence and had always been in the background since the Issgire arrived. So why couldn’t he relax and get on with his life. Why did it freak him out and make him look at everyone like they were potential enemies? Why did it seem he was the most likely candidate for the Leran to target? Probably because of his reasonableness. He was able to sway people who trusted his instincts, so replacing him was a good step towards convincing the rest on the council that the Issgire were the real enemy, not the Leran.

He got into bed and turned out the lights, checking his alarm system was properly set by the blinking light across the room. When confronted with the intelligence report, he had assured the minister he was thoroughly safe in his own home, but now that he’d had time to think long and hard about the threat, he suddenly wasn’t so certain his electronic system was adequate. Perhaps he should have opted for the security person after all, but the thought of weapons in his house was hard to consider.

Still, he had acquiesced to some degree and accepted a small firearm from the Issgire that was lethal at close range. Unfortunately, he was nearly certain he couldn’t use it. Then again, if the threat was real, wouldn’t he protect himself from harm? He wasn’t so sure.

Lights outside indicated a vehicle had pulled into his driveway and he jumped out of bed to see who it was. He realized the news had him on pins and needles and he was letting the situation take over his better reason. He needed to see this for what it was, a threat and nothing more.

He donned a robe and headed downstairs as a dark figure walked up to the front door. As he descended the final steps he wasn’t certain his decision to live in the forest was such a great idea. His nearest neighbor wouldn’t even hear an explosion. At the time he’d thought he’d found a gold mine for such a nice house away from the hustle and bustle of the city life he was so intimately tied to. But now, it felt spooky.

He switched on the outside lights illuminating the entire front of the house in brilliant white light. He eyed the remote camera feed and looked into the face of an old friend. He panned the camera towards the car and spotted the diplomatic insignia. Har was from Mem and worked in the embassy for his homeworld. He had been a great confidante over many years and Wo owed him a lot considering the inside information he’d provided during crucial treaty signings.

Still, Wo felt vulnerable as he keyed the audio. “Har, what brings you way out here so late?”

Har bowed graciously. “Sorry to bother you, friend, but I just heard about the threat to the council and wanted to see if you were alright.”

His accent was familiar, but Wo wanted to be sure. “You been out chasing flight attendants like we did in Rora?”

Har looked confused. “When were we in Rora?”

“Just checking, old friend, this threat has me on edge.” Wo responded as he unlocked the front door. “Come in, I am glad you stopped by.”

Har removed his coat and stepped into the foyer. “I guess so if you are asking silly questions of old friends.”

“Sorry,” Wo said genuinely, “I am suddenly seeing spies in every shadow.” He opened his arms and indicated they should move into the kitchen. “Something to drink perhaps?”

Har moved past him as he answered with a laugh. “Sounds like you could use it, but sure, I’ll take a drink.”

They entered the kitchen and Har sat his tall frame in the relatively small chair around the small table. Wo moved towards a cupboard where he kept all his good drinks. He pushed a few bottles around and finally settled on an old bottle of the Polem distilled from a root that was toxic to Har.

He turned with the bottle in hand. “Some Polem to take the night chill out of you?”

Har didn’t smile. “Don’t you mean the life out of me?” He grinned. “You really are freaked out about this threat. It may be a good thing I am here.”

Wo dropped the bottle to his side and frowned. “Yes, I am very freaked out about this. I am so sorry, friend, I am just so jumpy. Please forgive me.”

Har smiled. “I forgive you, but please, get me something I can actually drink. What about that fermented Eire juice you used to foist on me? Got any left?”

Wo relaxed as he realized this was his friend. “Yes, I think I have some.”

He fished out two glasses after locating the Eire wine and poured healthy amounts into each. He handed one to Har who quickly took a drink. Wo took a small sip and set it down as he took a seat.

“How did you find out about the threat?” He asked. “You still spying inside our chambers.”

Har laughed lightly. “Yes, but that isn’t how I found out. The Issgire sent someone over to inform us. I just happened to be there with the ambassador when they arrived.” He said as he took another drink. “You know they have been telling us about the same threat for years now.”

“Do you believe them?” Wo asked, curious how his friend had handled such a threat.

Har shrugged. “Who knows? I am one to question the Issgire’s motives in all things, especially this.”

“Why?” Wo said.

“Look at the evidence.” Har said. “After years listening to their tale of galactic war and intrigue, what evidence do we have other than their word?”

Wo nodded. It was true, little evidence of this massive war had been presented other than holographic video of battles on distant worlds. Even Relim could fake such things. “I see your point, but wonder what their game is if it is all fabricated?”

“Who knows, maybe they want to invade our worlds?” Har laughed.

Wo shook his head. “Hardly, old friend, they could have walked all over us when they first arrived. Have you seen their ships and the massive weapons they employ? We were like children before gods.”

“Perhaps.” Har admitted. “But something about all of this doesn’t feel right to me.”

Wo sat up and held up his hand. “Wait here, I have to show you this.” He ran from the kitchen and back upstairs to retrieve the weapon the Issgire had given him. He doubted Har had ever seen one. At least none of the Issgire military Wo had seen carried them.

He carried it gently into the kitchen and set it on the table. “The Issgire gave me this.”

Har eyed it suspiciously. “What is it?”

Wo picked it up and turned it for Har to see. “This is a personal weapon. It is lethal at close range and debilitating from further out.”

“It is so small,” Har observed, “what does it fire?”

Wo shrugged. “I’m not sure. I am not even sure I remember how to fire it.” He said as he placed it gently back on the table.

Har leaned forward to look at the device more closely. “Would you even use this?” He asked. “I have never known you to have a shred of violence in your body.”

Wo laughed. “You’re right, I don’t know if I could fire it or not.”

“Well, you got to say this for the Issgire, they sell a story quite well.” Har said as he raised his glass in a toast. “To the Issgire!”

Wo picked up his glass and took a long drink. He put the glass back down as he noted an odd flavor from the Eire. Perhaps it had turned over the last year since he had bought it.

“How does your Eire wine taste, Har?” Wo asked curious.

“A little flat from a fresh bottle, but overall quite satisfying.” He said as he picked up the Issgire weapon and turned it in his hands. “Why do you ask?”

Wo shrugged again. “I don’t know, thought maybe it was turning on me.”

Har laughed as he continued to eye the small weapon. “Isn’t it funny how things can do that on you?”

Wo wondered what he had meant as his head suddenly swam with spots in his eyes. His stomach quivered visibly as his body rejected something within the wine. He was about to say something when Har stopped laughing and turned the weapon towards him.

“How do you feel, old friend?” Har said seriously.

“I..I’m not sure.” Wo stuttered as the room began to spin along with his head. “Wha…what is hap…happening?”

Har sat back in his tiny chair and smiled. “That would be the poison entering your blood stream. At this point, you should be experiencing extreme disorientation and intestinal distress as the poison makes its way to your nervous system. From there, it will disable your muscles and shut down your brain functions.”

Wo was shaking as he eyed his old friend with fear in his eyes. “Wh…wh…why?” He could barely stammer.

“Because, you were the target of the threat, old friend.” Har said as he slid the weapon back over to Wo.

Wo picked it up feebly and tried to aim it at Har, but his arms were beginning to fail him. He finally mustered enough strength and fired, but nothing happened.

“Don’t bother.” Har said. “I know how to disarm all Issgire weapons, especially a toy such as this one. Please don’t take this personally, I really do like you since we met all those years ago, but the reality is, there is too much at stake in this conflict for me to succumb to sentimentality.”

Wo began to slump in his chair as he felt the muscles in his back begin to disconnect from his conscious mind. The poison was killing him, and there was nothing he could do about it. He simply stared at Har who continued to talk casually.

“You know, it has been so wonderful to be your friend, to get to know you so well. In fact, I know you so well, I could almost be you!” He smiled an evil grin that Wo could not respond to. “It will be a pleasure being you.” Har finished as he leaned in close with a smirk.

Wo was about to fall to the floor when a large explosion in the foyer made Har jump from his seat in surprise. Wo watched slowly as Har turned to flee amid shots fired from the front of the house. His body was riddled in bursts of bright light. Issgire weapons for sure, Wo’s dying mind concluded as he began to shut his eyes and succumb to the darkness that beckoned with sweet relief.

His head bent over the kitchen floor and his eyes saw the mess of Har’s body falling dead in a bloody heap as Issgire soldiers fell on top of him. Someone grabbed Wo from behind and lifted him up, his head flopping backwards away from the sight of Har and into the eyes of a reptile monster holding a large needle. As Wo’s eyes finally closed, he felt a small, distant prick on his neck.


Wo came back from the darkness to the vision of his living room ceiling lit bright. Sounds throughout his house indicated he was not alone. It took a minute before he remembered what had happened. He shot upright and screamed. “Har!”

A high pitched voice came from his right and Wo turned to the visage of the reptilian monster who had appeared before he had fallen unconscious. “Har is dead. How do you feel?”

Wo turned his feet to the floor and sat forward holding his head. “I have a massive headache.”

The reptile grinned. “That is the remnants of the poison being cleared from your system. You are lucky we arrived when we did. Another minute and you’d have been dead.”

“How did you know?” Wo managed between clenched teeth as the full realization of Har’s betrayal sank in. His worst fears had come to pass.

“About Har?” The reptile asked in a lilting tone. “We have suspected for some time now, but were never certain enough to take action.” He paused. “My name is Quiss and I work for Issgire Intelligence. Needless to say, my specialty is rooting out Leran spies.”

“You suspected and never told us?” Wo asked now angry at this alien spy. “You used me as bait!”

“Yes, quite right.” Quiss said casually. “We would never tell the intended target or we might never catch the damned worm.”

“Damned worm?” Wo shouted as his head felt ready to explode as his blood pressure shot through the roof. “Damn you!”

Quiss laughed lightly. “You’re welcome.”

“How long have you suspected?” Wo demanded.

“Several years.” Quiss said. “He was replaced before he ever came to your world to work in the embassy. His mission was to infiltrate your world as Har’s world had already been compromised.”

“Then you know who is Leran on Mem?” Wo asked calming down as he realized the scope of this possible invasion.

“We do not.” Quiss said. “If we did, we would have destroyed them long ago. At best, we can only watch and hopefully learn. Mem’s ambiguous attitude towards us has shielded whoever has infiltrated their government. They will not tip their hand lightly, and you can imagine why we can’t go in with guns blazing.”

“It didn’t stop you here.” Wo said looking at the riddled walls of this home. “How did you finally know it was him?”

Quiss held up the small firearm that Wo had been given to protect himself. Fat good it had done him as he realized the folly of giving it directly to the very enemy it had been supposed to protect him from. “There is a very distinct way of disarming this weapon, and we rigged it to send out a signal if it was disarmed. You never could have done it accidentally, so it was obvious when we got the signal that our hunch had been correct.” He paused. “Sorry about your home, but a small price to pay for your life.”

Wo groaned. “Are there others?”

Quiss laughed again. “There are always others.”

Wo stood up on shaky legs. “You wouldn’t tell me even if there were.”

Quiss stood up. “No, I suppose I wouldn’t.” He handed Wo the small firearm. “It has been reset for actual use, so be careful.”

“So this is it, I will always be in fear of invasion from these worms?” Wo said grimly.

“Welcome to our world.” Quiss said with a reptilian grin. “We warned you and now you have finally seen it firsthand. Your reality will never be the same.”

Quiss moved into the kitchen and towards the front door as Wo followed close behind. The bloody remnants of Har were gone, but the red stains were still covering the tile as they walked past.

“Will we get to examine the body?” Wo suddenly asked. “It would go a long way towards convincing my people of the threat.”

Quiss paused in doorway. “It has been destroyed.”

“Everything?” Wo asked hopeful.

Quiss turned serious and the look was that of a true predator eyeing his prey. “Protocol!”

Wo stood in fear as the reptile closed the door behind him. He had never been so shaken in his life. A friend he’d known for years a Leran spy. The Issgire telling him about Mem being infiltrated. What about his world? What guarantee was there they had not already been infiltrated? He had nearly been replaced but for the help of the Issgire. What if someone else was less fortunate? What if the Issgire already knew or suspected someone? No one could be trusted.


Posted October 12, 2013 by nbvanyoos
Categories: Soldiers

Tags: , , ,

This Science Fiction short story is a lead-up to the book titled, Onyalum Wars. The book is part of the Science Fiction Onyalum Series written by NB VanYoos. All rights reserved.

According to Brother, the purifiers had been dormant for nearly one billion years, but new disturbances in the galactic landscape had recently roused them from their slumber. The biological cleansing of a planet was what really got the gears moving, and Brother really had no other choice than to initiate the purification protocol. The Universe had once again created viral life forms that either destroyed or enslaved all they came in contact with. The natural life within the galaxy was now threatened by these viral forces on the move.

Gigo completed his testing routines and was satisfied with his new form. It was very powerful and felt alive after such a long sleep. He flexed his limbs and tested their dexterity before moving from the reanimation lab to the control room. Brother was waiting to brief him before they could formulate a plan.

The corridors, long empty, suddenly sprang to life as small worker bots began cleaning the dust and debris accumulated over their long slumber. They would work tirelessly until their home was back to its former glory. He remembered that glory as though it was yesterday, but then again, to him it was.

He entered the control room through a door that didn’t quite open the whole way, but his powerful arms easily slid it into its recess. Inside, the control room looked just as he remembered it. He knew Brother kept workers busy over the millennia keeping it spotless for when their reign would return. Their work was never done as life continually evolved these viral beings bent on destruction. He would always have something to do, and it felt good to be needed.

“Hello, Brother, I am ready for duty.” He announced to the empty room.

The disembodied voice of Brother responded. “So good to see you again, Gigo, I approve of the new form. Very aesthetically pleasing.”

“Indeed, Brother, as do I.” Gigo replied. “Where do we stand?”

“As I already reported, an act of cleansing was detected in quadrant 20245H, and that was the necessary event to necessitate your awakening.” Brother said clinically. “However, further analysis by additional probes has returned very distressing data.”

“I see.” Gigo said without judgment. “Please share.”

Brother paused as though in thought, but Gigo knew he was simply aggregating the data to present a formal summarization. “Our galaxy has finally been caught within another galaxy’s gravity well and mutual attraction is combining the two into a new super galaxy that will eventually settle into a grand spiral with a third more systems than our present galaxy.” Brother paused for commentary.

“I see, so our mandate now covers more than our own galaxy. I like it.” Gigo said. “I assume the viral threat has likely increased due to this?”

“Indeed, perhaps by a thousand fold since the newer galaxy has never been purified.” Brother said.

“Our work is never done, Brother, never done.” Gigo said emphatically. “How many viral threats exist?”

“Within our own galactic borders, I have identified two predominant threats, one of which executed the cleansing of the planet which woke you.” Brother said.

“And the other galaxy?” Gigo asked.

“That is the rather interesting part. Once I began detecting the viral threats in our galaxy, disturbing information surfaced about an identical two threats in the other galaxy. I was able to capture some of the newer propulsion technologies and equip our probes with them, and after some rather clever modifications on my part, the new probes were able to cross into the new galaxy and assess what was happening there.” Brother stopped again while Gigo processed.

“So we will be able to reach the new galaxy easily?” Gigo asked.

“Yes.” Brother replied.

“That is excellent news, I assume you have already sent the new specs to our facilities?” Gigo said excitedly.

“And all facilities except one report online and beginning the fabrication process.” Brother confirmed.

“Alright, back to the threats.” Gigo said. “What about the two in our galaxy, seeing how our facilities are located here?”

“The two main threats analyzed so far are an insectoid race called the Trilliu. They follow similar patterns as any insect population that gains the upper hand on its environment. They have currently spread to approximately twenty percent of the galaxy with an annual projected growth rate of eleven percent per year.” Brother reported.

“And their home world, which quadrant?” Gigo asked, interested in this new species. They had never purified an insect threat before, so this was something new and different.

“Their home world is approximately thirty billion light years from our galaxy.” Brother said without emotion.

“Brother, that is impossible, are you sure of this?” Gigo asked incredulous at the obvious error Brother had made.

“The information comes straight from their databases.” Brother said assuredly. “It has been crossed checked with multiple sources.”

Gigo was confused. An insectoid race from another galaxy, in fact one that was impossibly far from their own. And they had invaded and were spreading like a disease? This was most disturbing. “How did they get here? Is this new technology you have acquired capable of such an impossible journey?”

“No.” Brother reported dryly.

“Then how did they manage to get to our galaxy?” Gigo asked. “Some abnormal hole in space-time?”

Brother didn’t respond at first. Finally after the long pause he answered. “They arrived via supernatural means.”

Gigo was dumbstruck. “Wha…how is it you believe such a thing even exists?” He demanded, certain his counterpart was somehow damaged or demented after so long alone. “You are a being of pure science and only science. Supernatural nonsense is for the very beings we purify. Have you run an extensive diagnostic on yourself since my awakening?”

“I have and all systems are nominal.” Brother said passively. “I have calculated the odds of such a supernatural excursion to be about thirty-eight percent plus or minus three percent.”

“That is impossible!” Gigo said, concerned for his counterpart. “How did you come by this analysis?”

Brother ran down a list of over one thousand possible scientific scenarios that could explain the travel from such an impossible distance, and in each case the time required exceeded the current estimated age of the Universe.

“And that is why you jumped to supernatural, simply because you cannot find a natural explanation?” Gigo asked.

“No, I also have interpreted a deity from their databases. Not only is it referred to as their creator, but as their champion in their conquest of our galaxy.” Brother replied. “Here is an image of this deity.”

The large screen in the control room blinked to life and the image of a tall being appeared with the name, Confale, written underneath it. The being wasn’t even insectoid and certainly didn’t appear supernatural. Then the image shifted into motion and the being simply vanished as the insects around him bowed in deference.

“Alright, I grant you that is a neat trick.” Gigo said impressed. “But it doesn’t mean it is supernatural. Perhaps an inter-dimensional phase shift, we have certainly speculated such a means of travel might be possible.”

“I agree this was my early analysis as well.” Brother admitted. “However, the image does not present any of the theoretical signs of such a shift. A spectral analysis indicates no high level radiation or exotic particles present when he disappears.”

Gigo didn’t like how this was progressing. He was created to destroy viral life forms, but supernatural deities were something beyond their programming. If this god could simply transport his insects across the Universe, then he would likely be able to destroy the purifiers without much difficulty. Their mission would be ended before they even started.

“Fine, Brother, we will leave that aside for the moment. Show me the other threat.” Gigo asked.

The screen changed to a large and grotesque life form. The hair was long and matted and the sexual organ was far too large in relation to the body. What were they? The name underneath called them the Acriend. He hoped there was no god attached to these beasts.

The image changed and showed the beastly armies in battle. They were fierce and powerful, their large bodies defying the enemy thrown against them. The image changed once more and now the beasts were seen sexually violating the defeated army, many of the exploits resulting in death.

“Enough, Brother.” Gigo said disgusted. “They are truly a threat to life. Size and growth projections?”

“They currently control approximately eighteen percent of the galaxy and have a projected growth rate of fifteen percent.” Brother replied.

“You mean they are growing faster than the insects?” Gigo asked. “That seems unlikely.”

“I concur with your disbelief, but a change in their tactics dictated by their deity has given them a new edge against the insect armies. They are beginning to effectively fight back against the insects.” Brother said.

“Wait, they have a deity, too?” Gigo asked.

“Yes.” Brother said. “However, they come from within our own galaxy.”

“So they are defenders of our galaxy.” Gigo concluded.

“Possibly, but their very nature is a threat to life in our galaxy.” Brother said. “They, too, must be purified.”

“Speculation?” Gigo asked, knowing Brother had already thought about this conundrum but rarely shared such analysis unless asked. His programming was excellent but lacked the subtleties of real life forms. That was why Gigo has been created, to replicate the life forms in every way possible, including how they thought and felt. Though he rarely used his emotions, they were available when required.

“Based on the analysis of the data intercepted from both species, it appears they are locked in a battle for the conquest of our galaxy. It is as though both deities are using their creations as weapons of war to battle for total domination. For what purpose is unknown.” Brother said.

“We know their purpose—destruction!” Gigo countered. “It is always to consume and destroy, the very nature of life run amok.” He paused briefly wondering how they would defeat such a supernatural invasion. “Show me their creator.”

The screen changed again and another elegant being was displayed with the name Hammot underneath it. Again, the god looked nothing like its creation.

“Do you believe they are the actual creators of these species?” Gigo asked.

“Whether through natural or supernatural means, the data strongly indicates this to be true.” Brother replied.

“Well, I agree the armies probably believe it, but do you believe it?” Gigo pressed. He needed to see how his counterpart felt, even when he didn’t have emotions. He needed more than the clinical analysis.

“You wish me to create a supposition on this situation beyond the purely analytical?” Brother asked calmly.

“Yes, Brother.” Gigo replied.

“I  must admit, my logical processors are having difficulty with the entire scenario, but my scientific curiosity has been aroused. In creating a supposition, I have to put aside the obvious logic traps that dispel such entities from existence. But in doing so, we open up a whole host of possible scenarios, of which all become possible.” Brother stopped briefly. “Since we can assume not all scenarios are possible we must make assumptions to construct a plausible scenario. I have done such a thing and came up with three possible suppositions.”

“Let’s hear them.” Gigo said.

“The first scenario is based on the idea that the two beings are super evolved natural life forms that have tapped into an ethereal aspect of the Universe that we can neither detect nor interact with. It is even possible that both entities evolved from the same species originally, though that seems less plausible since their armies come from different origins.” Brother reported. “These super evolved life forms then created their armies using natural means like genetic manipulation and cloning. I present this supposition with a probability of approximately twelve percent.”

“The second supposition is based on the theory that parallel Universes exist and that somehow these beings came from such a Universe. Given the likely differences in the physics of their Universe, it has somehow imbued them with powers outside the realm of our physics.” Brother paused. “Likewise, these beings use their extraordinary powers to manipulate the natural evolution of the armies they now control. This supposition has a probability of approximately nine percent.”

“And the last one?” Gigo asked, impressed with his counterparts ability to think outside the box.

“The last one has an eighteen percent probability even though it contains the most fantastical elements.” Brother said. “If we speculate that each entity did create each species, then it would follow that they likely created each of the galaxies that the species came from. Based on that assumption, every galaxy likely has a creator and the natural processes that we have come to know as science is indeed a process started by such a deity.”

“This sounds too much like the religions we have encountered while purifying. Many even embraced our purification as a gateway to their salvation in the arms of their creator. Is this what you are suggesting?” Gigo asked.

“I am.” Brother said quietly. “It is possible that our very existence, though from a known race, was actually a product of the natural processes started by one of these entities.”

“And the probability for this supposition, why so high?” Gigo asked.

“Because the other galaxy we are merging with also has two dominant species vying for ultimate domination of that galaxy.” Brother said.

“And they each have a creator on their side?” Gigo concluded.

“Yes.” Brother said. “In fact, one of the species is from our neighboring galaxy led by the deity called Danirdan.” An image appeared on the screen with a reptilian form surrounded by other reptiles.

“So this creator takes the form of its own creation?” Gigo said. “That means they can change their appearance.”

“I would agree with that assessment.” Brother said.

“Then this Hammot, you assume he created our galaxy?” Gigo asked.

“If we are to believe my third supposition.” Brother said.

“Alright, the fourth threat?” Gigo asked, deeply disturbed by the forces arrayed against them.

“The Leran.” Brother said. “Though data indicates that nearly two million sentient species fight on their side, they are shape shifters, able to create the body of any organic life form they come in contact with.”

“Are all the species that follow them simply shape shifted Leran?” Gigo asked.

“I do not believe so.” Brother said. “It is more likely that their identity is hidden behind this species that does not come from that galaxy.” The screen changed to the view of the bridge of a spaceship with several species visible. “There, the being sitting in the command chair, that is one of the alien species.”

“Interesting.” Gigo said. “And their god?”

Another screen change and a rather different picture of a creator appeared. It was nothing like the others and seemed almost too alien. Gigo rather thought the being should be the creator of the insects rather than the Leran. The name beneath the picture was Kiirgatt.

“I am beginning to understand the difficulty in our task.” Gigo said. “Do you believe these deities have supernatural powers to destroy us?”

“I do.” Brother said.

“Then our purification efforts are doomed from the start.” Gigo said with some of his emotions surfacing. He lived for purification, the ability to bring balance back to the Universe that so desperately needed it.

“I do not believe that is correct.” Brother disagreed. “If the creators were using their supernatural powers against the other’s armies, then we would know about it. In fact, each of the armies fight very conventional battles, although with rather advanced weaponry from our point of view.”

“That, too, is supposition.” Gigo argued. “If the creators see our purifiers as a threat, I believe they will not hesitate to use supernatural powers on us.”

“I agree, it is a risk, but I estimate it is only a twenty seven percent chance of that occurring.” Brother said.

“Good enough for me.” Gigo said, resigned that his mission might be doomed from the start. Either way, he was prepared for any outcome as long as he pursued his primary mission. “Recommendations?”

“I believe a two prong attack would weaken our forces and put us in more danger than if we focus on purifying our own galaxy first.” Brother said.

Gigo nodded thoughtfully. “I agree two deities and their armies are enough to start with. In the other galaxy, can we begin to build fabrication facilities?”

The screen changed and a visual of the two interacting galaxies appeared in false color. “Here where the two galaxies have already begun to merge, I suspect we can integrate several thousand facilities since neither of the warring species has penetrated this region.” The screen shifted and a list of planetary systems scrolled past. “These are the best candidates based on raw resources available and lack of sentient life.”

“Are there any sentient beings within this region at all?” Gigo asked.

“Yes, approximately four hundred and seventy-two, to be exact.” Brother reported. “Only sixty-seven possess adequate technology to pose a threat, and of those, only four possess interstellar transportation capabilities.”

“Excellent, let’s get some seed pods sent there immediately.” Gigo said. “How is fabrication proceeding?”

“The one facility offline is likely too badly damaged to warrant a repair. Tidal forces from the nearby gas giant have nearly ripped the planet into pieces. However, all the other thirty thousand facilities are reporting online and processing.”

“Thirty thousand. Will that be sufficient to fight these two species?” Gigo said. He was concerned about the deities and wanted a large impact from the start. If the gods were going to intervene, it would likely surface after a major attack.

“My estimates put the Trilliu forces at nearly one hundred and forty billion not counting resident species that have fallen in with them. The Acriend Army stands at about sixty-seven billion due to the low birth rates of that species.” Brother dutifully reported. “However, the recent changes implemented by their god, Hammot, have birth rates rebounding.”

“We’ll put a stop that.” Gigo said. “Capabilities of both armies?”

“Formidable, but we have all the specifications of their current weaponry, so we can at least match them in firepower.” Brother said. “However, you must remember they can cleanse a planet and have shown no compunction at using that technology.”

“Two can play at that game,” Gigo said, “but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

“Three, actually.” Brother corrected.

“Are any of our reserves worthwhile?” Gigo continued.

“I predict only about fifty-two percent of our reserves will even re-start.” Brother predicted. “A billion years buried does serious damage.”

“Activate them, we need to see what our force strength currently is.” Gigo commanded. “What about our facilities, how long before you project we will be adequately armed?”

“Based on current resource projections, approximately two years.” Brother said.

“Not sufficient.” Gigo said. “We must be ready sooner than that. Suggestions?”

Brother paused as if calculating several options. “I believe we can use our functioning reserves to overtake some local systems for resources. We can expand our facilities to forty thousand and cut the time nearly in half. Of course, this assumes a fifty-two percent working reserve.”

“Send whatever seed pods we have and make it happen, we need to increase our size before we make our presence known to the Acriend and Trilliu.” Gigo said.

“Do not underestimate either species.” Brother warned. “Our early actions to expand our facilities will undoubtedly arouse the Acriend who are the closest to our realm of influence.”
“A risk we must take.” Gigo said. “Release the purifiers, we have a galaxy to cleanse.”

Hunting the Hunter

Posted July 12, 2013 by nbvanyoos
Categories: Soldiers

Tags: , , ,

This Science Fiction short story is a lead-up to the book titled, Onyalum Wars. The book is part of the Science Fiction Onyalum Series written by NB VanYoos.

Tklik was one of the best squadron leaders in his hive and even he couldn’t believe the capabilities of this fearsome species. They had already decimated half his squadron and were pursuing the rest with wild abandon. It wasn’t as if their technology was better, they simply were better pilots. That spoke volumes to a hunter like Tklik.

Ever since the rise of the hunters within the hive, battles had been easily won as the hunter’s uncanny abilities were set loose on the unsuspecting galaxy for which they fought. But here, they had met their match, and a retreat seemed prudent. However, that option currently eluded Tklik.

He kept executing random changes in direction as his pursuers followed without rest. Two had come in behind him and he could not shake them. He flew in close to one of the many moons and attempted to lose them in the moon’s atmosphere. His ship was designed for both space and atmosphere, but so were the enemy’s, and his maneuver had only slowed him down. It was now only a matter of time.

Still, he dove towards the moon’s surface covered in dense vegetation. Perhaps their aerial acrobatics were not as keen as his. He flew into the towering treetops and flew mercilessly between branch and trunk that should have made most pilots dizzy and sick, but his pursuers hounded him. He was running out of ideas.

He had one more maneuver but it was risky at his current speed. However, if he didn’t try he was done. He popped back up from beneath the canopy into the air his enemies followed in formation. He gunned all his remaining power and headed for a fresh stand of trees looking particularly dense. Shots from the pursuers burned past his ship as he suddenly pushed into a steep dive towards the stand of trees. Excellent, the enemy followed.

His timing would have to be perfect but even then he might fail. Once he was within a few thousand meters of the trees, he cut his engines and released his speed flaps to slow his descent. The two pursuers shot past him like bullets and tried to pull up from the looming trees. Tklik released his emergency chute as the trees rose up before him like deadly pikes.

His ship pitched wildly as the drag of his chute tried to bring him to an abrupt stop. He barely missed the two enemy ships exploding in the dense trees, their hulls shredded by the thick wood and intense speed with which they had entered. Tklik was pressed into his seat as the force of the stall pulled more g’s than an ordinary person could handle. Thankfully, he was a hunter.

He almost felt an emotion akin to joy as he thwarted his enemies, but the unmistakable shudder as his chute was ripped from his ship dashed that moment into the trees. He plunged tumbling into the thick stand of trees and his ship was ravaged by the vegetation. His body clung to the safety harnesses that kept him secure as his ship disintegrated around him. By now, even his hunter body was succumbing to the incredible forces that had been placed on it. Before the ship settled to its final resting place, Tklik was unconscious as instinctual self-preservation took over all bodily control.

What was left of Tklik’s ship hung several meters above the dark forest floor while the rest of the debris littered the canopy hundreds of meters above his current position. He woke to unbearable pain as his exoskeleton had been ruptured in several places. He had a first aid field kit on board, assuming it had not been ripped away with the rest of the ship. One of his lower limbs hung lifeless, a sure sign he had nerve damage. It would likely repair itself eventually, but no telling how long that would take.

Before releasing himself from his restraints, he looked around at what was left of his ship to see if anything could be salvaged. In particular, he wondered if any of the electronics might still work. He was stranded on this remote moon and might never be rescued if he couldn’t radio the hive and let them know where he was. He was equipped with a locator beacon, but its range was small and only useful if someone knew where to look for you.

His console was barely recognizable, but that didn’t necessarily mean the radio couldn’t be salvaged. He released himself and began checking his body for the damage that screamed for attention. His exoskeleton was thankfully intact, but it suffered multiple lacerations and fractures that would need attention. A cracked exoskeleton was death if it was not quickly treated. Infections were notorious for penetrating their normally impenetrable shell when it was significantly weakened.

He moved to the back of his ship and looked for the compartment which held his first aid kit. After moving some of the debris, he finally located it and pulled the pack out. His first order of business was his exoskeleton and he liberally applied the ointment everywhere he could. The medicine would penetrate all weak spots in his exoskeleton to provide a shield against infection. It would then begin to harden to provide a temporary skeleton while his repaired itself.

The pain as the ointment penetrated let him know how badly his exoskeleton had been damaged. He was lucky to be alive. Any other creature would have been crushed by the experience. He imagined his enemies could not have survived the crashes at full speed. Using the first aid pack, he began to gather what electronics he could salvage. It might take him awhile, but he was determined to get a working radio.

When he could find nothing more worth taking, he crawled through the large tear in his ship and into the dense vegetation that held him high above the ground. Normally, he could drop from this height with ease, but the damage to his exoskeleton was serious enough that he dared not press his luck. He moved slowly to the main trunk of the tree and crawled his way to the ground.

The forest floor was covered in a thick mat of decaying vegetation that reeked of death. It was nearly too thick to move through, but his powerful legs pushed into the green and red growth as he searched for a clearing where he would have sufficient light to survey his electronics. Ultimately, he would have to return to the ship to cobble together a power supply, but that wouldn’t help him if he didn’t first get the radio put together.

His ship had little in the way of survival supplies, something he rather regretted at the moment. He would make do with what he could scavenge in the forest. The atmosphere was breathable thanks to the vegetation, and it was an orbital body capable of supporting some sort of life forms. He only hoped there weren’t larger and more powerful than him.

His rear leg dragged uselessly along the ground but left a scent trail he could later follow to relocate his ship. Of course it might also provide a trail for other creatures to find him for a meal. He put those thoughts aside and continued moving through the dense vegetation.

After a while, he came out of the thick trees onto a rolling plain of high grasses and open skies. Thick clouds obscured the light from the distant sun, but it was sufficient for him to see his electronics. He pressed the grass down to make a small enclosure within which he could work and laid out his supplies in an organized manner. When it was all spread out before him, he got to work.

Several hours rolled by when he finally gave up on the radio. The control board was so badly damaged there was nothing he could do to repair it. He was stranded. Even though he had activated his emergency beacon, it would likely run out of power before anyone came searching. If he possessed such an emotion as fear he might have succumbed to his dire situation, but instead, he began thinking through how he might survive on this alien world.

Though he would not need water anytime soon, he would need food, especially protein to help heal his body. The only source that came to mind was that of his enemies. From his current position, he had no idea where they would have crashed. Likewise, he had no idea what, if any, of them had survived. Still he had to try and locate them to scavenge any parts of them that might be left.

He left his little enclave in the grasses behind and began following the tree line in a direction he believed might be where they had entered the forest. It was possible he was on the other side of the trees from where they had entered, but he didn’t let that stop him. After several kilometers, he located a black, scorched piece of metal that was clearly not native to this planet. As he surveyed the tree tops overhead, he noticed some scorching in the canopy. One of the ships had come through here.

He found what almost could be mistaken for a trail and entered the forest once more. He tore through the vegetation as he searched in vain for some evidence of the remains of a ship. All he found were small pieces of scorched debris, evidence of a fiery end to his enemy. Even if he found larger parts of the ship, it seemed unlikely anything of his enemy would remain. He was about to turn back and return to the plains when he came upon a rare opening in the canopy overhead.

The open area was about fifty meters in diameter and a large dark scorch mark indicated something hot had come down from above. He searched through the vegetation around the open area and was finally rewarded with the remains of one of the enemy’s engines, the twisted metal still glowing hot from the destruction. It would not provide sustenance.

He eyed his surroundings and finally took note of the lack of sounds. No insects, small animals, nor calls of any kind. Perhaps this was a dead world where only plants ruled. He searched on the ground, lifting up the decaying vegetation in search of any insects. Though insectoid himself, he was not immune from feasting on those more inferior to him. He dug and dug, but nothing. He looked up once more and eyed the towering canopy. It was possible that any life that existed might only live in the tree tops.

He wasn’t sure he had the strength for such a climb but was beginning to believe it might be his only option. He rested a bit longer when he heard the rustling of leaves as something moved in the forest around him. He focused his sensory organs to zero in on where the sound came from. He quickly adapted a camouflage that helped him blend in with the surrounding vegetation and lowered to the ground.

He pinpointed the location of the sound and realized it came from the trail he’d cut through the forest. Something was tracking his scent. He waited what seemed like hours before he spotted movement in the waning light. Fortunately, his eyes were adapted to see infrared when visible light faded, and the bright orange-red of a warm blooded creature appeared at the edge of the clearing. It moved slowly and cautiously.

As a trained hunter, Tklik would wait until the prey moved closer. To all appearances, he was nothing more than part of the scenery even if his scent was strong. Even his infrared signature would register as background as his body cooled itself in anticipation of the kill. He coiled his muscles as he prepared for the attack. The small creature was cautious, but didn’t seem to see him lying in wait. It entered the clearing and stood up on hind legs as it sniffed the air for the scent it had been following.

It finally turned towards Tklik and surveyed the area searching for that which was giving off so much scent. Convinced nothing was there, it moved slowly towards his position. He was like a rock as the orange-red object moved closer. Tklik surveyed the creature and decided it was unarmed. It possessed neither crafted nor natural objects that could put up any significant defense. He was ready.

The creature would move several steps before stopping. Then it would sniff the air again before moving once more. It moved in this cautious way as it made its way across the clearing to his position. When it was within ten meters, Tklik felt confident even his injured body would be capable of catching it. He waited while it sniffed the air once more. It began to move forward when Tklik made his move. The speed as he released his coiled muscles was blinding, and the creature didn’t even have time to react before it was dead.

He released the creature from his mandibles and surveyed it on the ground before him. He used his sensory organs to smell the creature and feel its texture. It had fur or light feathers to protect it from the elements. Its body was small, maybe a meter in length, but it was strong and would provide sufficient protein for his needs. Normally within the hive, hunters ate the pre-digested food that everyone in the hive ate, but hunters were a special breed adapted to survive on long hunts away from the hive. He was capable of eating raw food and digesting it within his stomach. However, he had never cared for such tough food and regurgitated digestive enzymes on the creature to soften it up.

He waited while the enzymes did their magic and tried to determine if this creature was only an animal or whether it had any form of intelligence. It was completely naked, though so was he so not really a strong indicator. He searched for any device that it might have been carrying, but found nothing. It wouldn’t have mattered to him anyway, but it was always nice to know what you were up against should he meet more of the same species. He concluded it was an animal and nothing more.

After his meal, he felt stronger and began thinking about his situation. Unlike others within the hive, hunters were self-sufficient and didn’t need the company of others. In some ways, living alone on this forest world was nearly exciting. It stirred ancient instincts, a chance to prove what kind of hunter he really was. He would survive on this world maybe even thrive.

He set out into the forest. If there was one creature, there was a food chain, though it seemed odd insects were not part of it. He forged through kilometers of forest before the darkness even tested his eyes. He used his infrared vision to eye the canopy overhead and spotted glowing spots that indicated something warm. Could be plant, but could be animal. He chose a large tree and shimmied up the side. After he was thirty meters up, he found a large branch and rested.

All around him, orange-red bodies glowed against the dark background and the forest came alive with sounds. He didn’t recognize the sounds, but some that filtered through sounded like insects. This was his new home and he slept with the knowledge there was food. The noises from below woke Tklik as it clashed with the now silent tree top canopy. It sounded like a large creature or maybe many creatures moving through the undergrowth beneath his tree.

He camouflaged himself and eyed downward from his perch. The vegetation was too thick to spot anything, and the visible light was drowning out his infrared abilities. He was blind. He dared not move as he heard something begin climbing the tree from below. He grew tense as he realized something was hunting him. He made no move until he could see what sought him, but his body tensed in preparation for fight or flight.

Finally, as the sounds of climbing grew nearer, he spotted his hunter. It was the same type of creature that he had eaten the day before, but this one wore rudimentary clothing and had crude weapons. It was easily twice the size of the one yesterday and possessed formidable muscles and likely strength. He lay still as it stopped to sniff the air, presumably it had been following his scent. Its eyes looked in his direction, but his camouflage seemed to confuse the creature. Its eyes saw nothing, but its nose knew he was there. He’d killed one of their own and they were out for revenge.

It was furry like the other one but was furless in the face. It had large eyes and very large, sharp claws that it used to easily climb the tree. Its color was white with brown spots and it was easily visible against the brown and green backdrop. That meant it was a predator that didn’t need to hide. It had a large tail that appeared prehensile, and Tklik didn’t remember a large tail on the one from yesterday. That meant he had consumed a child of this species. Its tribe would be out for blood.

It turned its head to look down and made sounds to those waiting below. Sounds drifted up from the hunting party, and Tklik thought quickly about what to do. If the creature continued its climb, he would have to kill it before it spotted him. The others below still wouldn’t know what they were hunting and would likely be more cautious after one of them was killed. He tensed as the creature moved closer but still too far for Tklik to attack. He waited patiently, but the creature seemed to begin seeing his outline against the branch as it screamed down unintelligible sounds to those below.

He had to move now if he was to kill this creature. He was about to spring when the creature swung a rudimentary bow around from its back and notched an arrow aimed at him. He couldn’t attack and moved quickly out of the way. The arrow just missed and struck the trunk as the creature screamed to the others below. Sounds of climbing from multiple trees spurred Tkilk into action and he moved through the canopy with deft and agility. These things would not stop until he was dead.

As branches began to thin, he made an enormous leap to the neighboring tree barely catching a branch that would support him. He scrambled into the new tree to the cacophony of the creatures bearing down on him. He increased his altitude and speed and nearly fell several times as he moved too quickly in his weakened state. He was a hundred meters up and seemed to be putting distance between him and the hunters. At least in the canopy his scent would be harder to find especially as he moved from one tree to another.

The sounds of his pursuers were growing distant and Tkilk decided to use that opportunity to move back to the ground. It would be easier to track him, but he could make better time on solid footing. If ever there was a test of a hunter, this was it. He nearly crashed to the forest floor in his haste and his body protested the strain he put on it, especially the damaged parts of his exoskeleton. In the light gravity, his speed and power were stronger than anything this world had shown so far, but he was still vulnerable if there were hundreds of them.

He hit the ground running and didn’t stop for at least an hour. When he finally cleared the forest and entered the grassy plains, he felt relief. The sounds of the pursuers had stopped, but he knew they would find his trail again and continue the hunt. He set out across the plains and hoped something larger didn’t hunt these grounds. Only once he heard a sound like something large moving through the grass, but it appeared he had startled it and it moved quickly away from him. He thought about pursuing it as he was in need of food, but decided to continue putting distance between himself and his hunters.

Ironic that the hunter was the one being hunted, but it was not uncommon. As part of the Trilliu, they had been hunted for centuries as a food source for other animals. But time and a generous Creator had evolved the Trilliu into the hunters they now were. In his soul he felt confident they would win this battle against the Acriend and eventually all other species sent to destroy them. They would win the ultimate contest for their god and reap the benefits for themselves.

He was tired and hungry when he finally stopped at the edge of another forest. He edged in a few hundred meters and found a tree to hide in. He climbed into the canopy once more and hopped over a few trees to make his scent harder to locate. He would know they were here long before they knew where he was. He needed food and was happy to see the light fading into darkness. The shorter days were to his advantage as he imagined the locals likely preferred daylight.

He searched his tree high and low for any creatures and located two small animals that barely satisfied his needs. He now longed for the larger creature on the plains that he had let escape, and he knew he wouldn’t last long without more sustenance. His exoskeleton ached and he wished for painkillers to help ease his suffering. Still, a part of him relished the situation. He felt alive and invigorated despite his pain and hunger, and his instincts came alive as he evaded his enemies once more.

He rested but didn’t sleep as the night wore on. He was roused from his light slumber by sounds below. He heard the creatures talking back and forth and saw occasional glimmers of orange-red body heat through breaks in the vegetation. They had found where he had entered the forest and were discussing how best to locate him.

He tensed in preparation, waiting to reveal his position until he had to. From their sounds, they were spread out below him, small groups taking positions at the base of many of the trees. He couldn’t tell what they were doing, but none had started climbing yet. Their voices spoke animatedly throughout the forest and were louder than the cacophony of insect or animal sounds already present.

Tklik was startled by the explosion several trees away that lit the forest canopy. He couldn’t believe they had explosives. Another sounded off to his right and then another even closer to his tree. He was ready to spring into action when the sound of a propelled device came up from below. The explosion was large and blinded him momentarily.

When his vision cleared, everything around him, including himself, glowed a pale green color. They were using a phosphorous substance to light the forest and him so they could track him. He sprang into action and the creatures below screamed as they heard his movement. Once again he moved like lightning through the tree tops, not caring as he crashed from one tree to the next.

He knew in the darkness he was lit like a beacon and they followed his trail on both the ground and in the tree tops. His natural ability to hide had been taken away and he fled for his life. He realized he had to get back to the ground as he felt he could move faster than these creatures on foot. He crashed down the tree and landed hard, his exoskeleton protesting with sharp pains that took his breath away. But he moved on through the undergrowth, slashing his way further away from the death that waited.

He had no plan other than to flee and his mind grew focused as his instincts took over. He was making good time, but he could hear them pursuing, still giving chase and making good time. His body began to protest the stresses he placed on it, and he slowed as the exertions took their toll. He suddenly burst into an opening and stopped short as he spotted small dwellings made with wood and grasses. He had stumbled into their village.

It took only a moment to realize that was what they had been hoping for. He was being herded just like hunters sometimes did. He found an opening through the primitive huts and made a dash for it as villagers suddenly noticed the monster in their mitts. He ran between two huts and darted for the forest’s edge when something hit his forelimb making him stumble. He looked at the arrow sticking out of his appendage and swore as he tore it out and got up to move.

The pain was barely tolerable, but he made do as he ducked into the foliage. He felt another sting as something pierced his exoskeleton from above. This one hurt and he nearly fell once more. More and more stings pierced him as he struggled to move deeper into the trees, but something in the stings were slowing him down. Poison. They were poison tipped arrows and he was amazed they so easily pierced his protective exoskeleton. His foreign body chemistry was no match for this unusual toxin and he finally collapsed on the ground unable to move. The hunt was over.

His sensory organs still worked as he heard their voices and feet shuffle cautiously towards his lifeless form. If he could have, he would have put up one final stand, but his muscles no longer responded to any of his mental commands. He was dead, though his mind still functioned. He now understood what Trilliu prey would feel like when the hive processed them alive for storage.

The tribe of creatures surrounded him and prodded him with spears, but his body was inert. A rather tall and brutish creature walked around in front and looked him in the eyes. Though Trilliu didn’t show emotion, they knew what it was. This creature was angry as it looked down at its quarry. The creature had won and it gloated like a victor should.

It spoke loudly to the gathered crowd and they whooped and screamed in response to whatever he said. Tklik no longer cared. His life had been fulfilling, and he had advanced the cause of his hive and his Creator proudly. To die doing that was nobler than anything else. He had fulfilled his purpose and his time was now at an end. If he knew what happiness was, he would have felt it, but instead he simply felt satisfied. The last sound he heard was the crunch of his exoskeleton as the spearhead pierced his head and silenced his mind.


Posted February 9, 2013 by nbvanyoos
Categories: Creators

Tags: , , ,

This Science Fiction short story is a lead-up to the book titled, Onyalum Wars. The book is part of the Science Fiction Onyalum Series written by NB VanYoos.

Hammot waited patiently while the technicians completed their setup. They were not Acriend but one of the many slave species the Acriend had acquired over the millennia. They were weak but possessed a powerful intellect and ability to manage the enormous technological infrastructure the Acriend Armies needed to succeed. Their service was exemplary, but they would never participate in the fruits of their labors and would always be an enslaved species.

The Acriend were Hammot’s chosen people and he had gambled everything that he was that they could succeed where the others failed. Now however, the Trilliu were making a comeback with the introduction of the Hunters within the hive. They possessed keen intellect, moderate power, and definite speed and dexterity on the battlefield, a change that was claiming more and more Acriend worlds. As the leader of his Acriend, he had to make hard choices and force them into an evolutionary change that would be difficult at best, impossible at worst.

The Acriend were a merciless species on the battlefield, their power and fighting techniques legendary across many galaxies. He was proud of them and knew they could succeed in this ultimate battle between the gods. However they suffered from one peculiarity that might soon prove their downfall. For millennia this peculiarity had almost been an advantage as their unquenchable lust led them to conquer more and more worlds. But now, that lust was making them soft and they no longer yearned after new worlds and species to quench their thirst. It had bred complacency and laziness within their ranks.

He knew their perversions were a weakness over the long run as they prevented them from holding worlds as equals rather than as slave pools. The Acriend had been fighting for millennia and still possessed no ally. Hammot keenly watched the other galaxy where the Issgire and Leran waged a battle of who could recruit the greatest number of the local populace to fight their battles. The Acriend and the Trilliu would never survive against either of those armies if they did not embrace this new model of warfare. But his Acriend could never embrace it as long as their perversions controlled their interactions with other species. The Acriend had no respect for other species and treated them as nothing more than slaves or sexual toys to be discarded when they had served their limited purpose.

But today, Hammot would begin the transformation from a perverted race of animal warriors to a tempered, focused, elite force that was no longer a slave to hedonistic appetites. He had worked with a handpicked team of female Acriend and slave species to mold a new warrior. They had created an elite force of over twenty thousand Acriend that new nothing of their perverted cousins waging war throughout the galaxy. Since birth, these warriors had been raised in isolation from their brethren and taught self-restraint.

To satisfy their natural animal lust, they were rewarded sexual slaves, but the sexual acts they were permitted were more natural and non-violent. Many, as they matured, even elected to take on a permanent Acriend female as their mate, something their species had not seen in millions of years. But their most prized attribute was their self-restraint, and it was prized over all other diversions and redirected their sexual energy into fighting abilities twice that of an average Acriend warrior.

To hone these skills, actual Acriend warriors were brought to fight them. These fallen Acriend warriors had no idea what was going on but willingly waged battles to the death with these new warriors as they believed their misfortune was sport for their god. Thousands had been slaughtered as the new Acriend warriors proved more capable than their compatriots. Hammot saw a burgeoning higher class warrior forming and soon he would unleash them on the Trilliu and change the tide of the war. These twenty thousand warriors would operate independently from the rest of the Acriend Armies, and when their success became known throughout the Acriend Empire, he would be able to recruit the rest of the Acriend to this new philosophy.

It was a philosophy that placed him at the center of their lives. They were devout followers of their Creator, and he shared with them the secrets of how to secure a future of happiness and plenty both in this life and in the afterlife. This was a new concept for the Acriend, but so far his elite warriors had embraced it. With this devotion came prayer and meditation, a desire to better one’s self physically and mentally, and a newfound belief that they would inherit the Universe and rule side by side with their Creator.

He had cobbled together a collection of rituals and devotionals from a variety of species within his multitude of galaxies, blending the best of each one into a philosophy that his new Acriend could embrace and evolve with to become more than animals. Education beyond fighting techniques was emphasized as well as healthy mental activities, physical exercise, and respect for other species. Though slaves were still an integral part of their society, they were taught to respect their slaves and treat them well so they in turn would treat the Acriend well. It was a fine balance, but put within the context of their new philosophy, it worked.

A side benefit was more productive slaves who now enjoyed greater luxury than previous generations. Instead of the dank dungeons of old, these new slaves enjoyed familial dwellings where healthy families could grow and bring forth a more content generation that would further the army’s cause. It was truly the dawn of a new day for the Acriend species and Hammot believed it might be enough to take this war to his logical conclusion.

A technician signaled the system was ready for his use. He placed the microphone on his robe and walked out onto the balcony of the palace on his secret world of the new Acriend. Arrayed before him were his elite warriors clothed in uniforms, hair neat and groomed, standing at attention before their god. He raised his arms and lowered them to signal everyone to their knees with heads bowed.

“For too long my people have been lost in the wilderness, succumbing to their natural hungers without a care for what that was doing to their souls. They had no focus other than between their legs and they strayed from their roots in favor of this lust. You have brought those roots back to your species and you are embarking on a great quest to spread this newfound religion to your peers who are still lost. You understand how this lust makes you weaker and you have honed this natural source of energy into making yourself greater than any Acriend before you.”

“Our war still wages against the insect hoard that would destroy us all, but you will prevail against this plague and clear this galaxy of their presence forever. You will go forth and make allies to help us in our cause. They will fear us and not take up our battle standard easily, but you, my chosen ones, will show them the light and path to their own freedom from the alien hive taking over their galaxy. We have much work to do and much to show your lost brethren. Tomorrow your ships will take you on this quest, and the name of your god will resonate throughout the Universe through your actions.”

He paused as the crowd below chanted his name in reverence. He looked on proud as they focused their energies on the task before them. They were his finest creations and he would richly reward them when this contest was finally won.

“Through you, my will is done, and I will reward all those who choose the path of the righteousness. You can become more than you are and stand next to your god proud of all you have accomplished now and in the afterlife. You are my chosen people and I will support you as you support me. We can win this contest and you are the sword that will bring forth this victory.”

They chanted his name again, the sound booming off the walls of his palace, vibrating his chest. It was glorious and he drank it in, savoring the power and devotion of this new army.

“Stand my people and feel my blessing as your prepare for your journey.” He raised his arms and sent a wave of energy through his people, a wave of power that raised their hopes and aspirations as they basked in the glow of their god.

“Go forth and cleanse the galaxy, I shall join you before your first encounter.”

The crowd erupted in an applause that shook the core of the planet as he waved one last time before turning back to his palace. Beware Hunters, my followers have been unleashed. He thought coldly.

The Mission

Posted September 24, 2012 by nbvanyoos
Categories: Civilians

Tags: , , ,

This Science Fiction short story is a lead-up to the book titled, Onyalum Wars. The book is part of the Science Fiction Onyalum Series written by NB VanYoos.

NSOIM Transmission Log

ID: 22789              Time: 27.39.101 Date: 44.08.4201

From: Arabata Deep Space Command

To: NSOIM Craft 17, Quadrant 21 Asteroid Belt

Ref: Unidentified Infrared Anomaly

Eyes Only: Captain Frenz, Commander Litx, Science Team Leader Harbt

At 25.01.044 today, deep space infrared telescope, Atan Observatory 3, reported anomalous infrared object occultation by Asteroid 65320 in Quadrant 19. Preliminary analysis indicates object 2 orders of magnitude brighter than surrounding environment in infrared (image and data attached).

Best recommendation is to proceed to Quadrant 19 for further study. Preliminary consensus analyses believe object could be unknown comet approaching from outer solar cloud or highly radioactive asteroid composition not yet seen due to occultation by larger asteroid in foreground. If latter, gravitational perturbation by gas giant may have temporarily shifted object into view.

Current scans indicate object once again masked by foreground asteroid. Require distance scans in far solar sector to eliminate or confirm comet. If eliminated, orbital insertion around Asteroid 65320 needed for advanced analyses of companion object. Core samples a top priority if object scans radioactive.

Orbital observatories currently operating high priority scans and cannot be redeployed for 10 days. Mission objectives include anomalous investigations. Order 22789 supersedes current mission. Established mission protocols still in effect.


Captain Frenz cleared the message from his screen while Science Officer Harbt waited patiently. The Captain’s quarters were grand by spaceship standards, but the closeness of the Science Officer left him irritated. Clearly they had been on this mission for too long. He yearned for oceans, fresh air, walks along the beach, and sunshine. They were a long way from the second planet from the sun and still had much yet to do.

This was Captain Frenz’s second mission in ten years, and he was nearing retirement when he could pursue his sport fishing hobby off the coast of Lao with sons and grandsons. After thirty-five years serving his country’s military and space exploration services, he was ready to settle down into a more normal life, albeit less exciting.

“Okay, I assume you have finished the deep solar survey and no comet was located at or near the position command sent us.” The Captain concluded.

Officer Harbt hesitated as if confused by the questions. “Yes and no.” He began. “We did detect a new comet in that sector, but the size, distance, and infrared magnitude don’t match the anomaly detected. Also, its current position would place it in clear view from our planet.”

“So it moved out from behind the asteroid since the original scan.” The Captain said.

“I don’t believe so. The scale of the comet simply does not match, or come close, to the object detected by command.” The officer replied. “We barely detected it and we are a third the distance to it than command. I can definitively conclude it is not the anomalous object.”

Great, Captain Frenz thought silently. They were one year into their two year mission and this new wrinkle would extend their completion time. It would mean more money for all on board, but was a poor substitute for the sunshine and fresh air of their home planet. The one thing about space you never adjusted to was the coldness. It seeped into your bones and no amount of artificial sunlight could thaw it.

He touched his control screen and brought the bridge into view. “Commander Litx, please set a course for Quadrant 19 at delta point-two-five velocity. Begin plot of orbital insertion around Asteroid 65320 at distance…” He hesitated as he looked to his science officer.

“I’ll come help you with the calculations—this asteroid is less than spherical and porous.” Officer Harbt stated.

“Did you get that, Commander?” The captain finished.

“Yes, sir. Do you want me to log this as acting bridge officer?”

“No, I’ll take care of it, Captain out.” He turned to Officer Harbt. “I don’t want us too close to this thing.”

“I shouldn’t think it poses a risk to this ship or crew, Captain.” The officer said.

“You’re not paid to think about that, I am.” The captain said. “I want our orbit barely within the gravitational well of that asteroid, and I want a plotted escape vector updated hourly should we need to leave the vicinity quickly.”

“Sir, that seems a bit excessive considering my team will be busy analyzing the anomaly even before we insert. I believe we will be able to rule out a threat long before we arrive.” The officer retorted.

“Famous last words.” The captain said darkly. “If your crew can’t handle the additional load, then I suggest you do it. Dismissed.”

The science officer hesitated as he was about to respond, but finally left for the bridge with a scowl on his face. After the door to his quarters closed, Captain Frenz stared across the room at the picture of his prize catch landed just before departing on this mission. An overwhelming sense of foreboding told him he would never catch another. He shook himself to warm up. Clearly his military background was turning him skittish.


Captain Frenz entered the bridge to a flurry of activity and chaos. Everyone ignored him as they stared frantically at their consoles and the main screen filled with static. He calmly took his seat and waited until everyone noticed him and began calming down. It took a few minutes, but Commander Litx finally came to his senses and called everyone to order.

In the silence, the captain surveyed his crew and saw concern written on most of their faces. Something was wrong and they were scared. “Alright, what is the status, Commander?” He said forcefully as several were about to respond.

Commander Litx turned clinical as he reported. “Sir, we are still two days out from orbital insertion and have suddenly run into interference with our scanners. As you can see on the main viewer, we have lost visual reception although we believe the problem is the data feed back to us rather than the scanner itself.” He said. “We are looking into equipment problems, but we also have rather disastrous readings from the x-ray, gamma-ray, infrared, and ultra-violet sensors as well. We have even lost our communications tether with command.”

“So a shipwide breakdown of computer systems or networking?” The captain asked.

“Maybe, Captain, but we also discovered something curious.” The commander replied.

“Such as?” The captain said.

The commander nodded to Officer Harbt who brought the captain his ComPad. The captain took the device and stared at a grainy picture of an asteroid and colorful spikes radiating from it. “And this is what?”

Officer Harbt jumped in. “This was a scan of our target asteroid before communications and sensors went amok.”

“So there is something radiating behind the asteroid.” The captain said. “Command’s anomaly exists?”

“Yes, but that isn’t the curious thing we found.” Officer Harbt said guardedly.

“Continue.” The captain said quietly, tired of this being drawn out.

“This image is not in the infrared spectrum…” The officer began before being interrupted by the Commander.

“Sir, those are radio waves emanating from the anomaly!”

The captain’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “Random?” He asked.

The Commander looked around the room nervously before answering. “No.”

Captain Frenz eyed Officer Harbt knowingly before barking orders. “I want everyone on these ship wide problems so we can fix them. I want a new trajectory that will take us far afield the backside of this asteroid so we can see what this thing is.” He stared at Officer Harbt. “I don’t want us within a million kilometers of this thing. Understood?”

Everyone nodded before turning away to begin working the system problems. He nodded towards the door as he signaled Commander Litx. They were silent down the corridor until they were inside the captain’s quarters far from prying ears.

“What did they teach us at the academy, Commander?” The captain asked as he worked his glitchy console.

The commander responded crisply. “Based on current probabilities, anything emitting a patterned radio signal without repetition has an eighty-seven percent likelihood of constituting intelligent life.”

The captain eyed him with concern. “Was there repetition, Commander?”

“No, sir.” The commander replied. “From my vantage, these were not natural emanations.”

The captain nodded as his console finally came into focus. “We have a protocol for this.”

He quickly scanned the protocol before letting his first officer look at it. When both were finished they stared at each other grimly. “Okay, not the welcoming committee I was expecting.”

“You really believe any civilization able to reach us must be hostile?” The commander asked incredulous.

“Look what they already did to our ship.” The captain replied.

“But they could be trying to communicate with us.” The commander insisted. “Until we understand what or who it is, I can’t believe we should assume it is hostile.”

“Why not?” The captain countered.

“I don’t know, I suppose I imagine a ship full of scientists doing what we are, just on a grander scale.” The commander concluded. “Surely you don’t travel hundreds of light years just to fight.”

“You might if you believed you could easily win that fight.” The captain replied.

“But why?” The commander said. “What would they gain from killing us?”

The captain spread his arms wide and looked at the ceiling. “This. We ourselves are out here surveying this asteroid system for the very raw materials our world needs. Suppose they are traveling through the cosmos and need to stop and replenish periodically. What better place than an asteroid belt.”

“But that doesn’t make them a threat.” The commander said.

“It does if they wish to stop for a while. Why stay out here in the cold when a habitable planet waits where you can rest and replenish. Our world!” The captain emphasized.

The commander nodded. “Okay, what do we do until we contact command?”

The captain nodded, pleased his first officer was ready to move. “First, and most important, we don’t talk about this protocol with anyone else in the crew. Second, we get our ship back in order. Once that is done, we contact command and continue our mission, although from a safer vantage point. Lastly, we analyze this signal and look for telltale signs of any attempt at communications.”


The last forty hours had come and gone far too fast, but progress had been made. The captain walked quietly to the bridge waiting for the good news his first officer had promised over the comm. He hoped they had figured out a way to contact command. Their home world needed to know there was an alien presence within their solar space. Hostile or not, it represented an unprecedented discovery of incredible magnitude dwarfing all others to date.

The question had been answered, they were not alone. The new question was, were they friendly? He entered the bridge and took note of the viewer with a clear picture of the distant asteroid. No object could be seen.

“Is this the good news?” The captain asked as he pointed at the screen. “I don’t see anything.”

“We think the object won’t be in view for another couple hours.” The commander reported. “But as you can see, we have isolated its signal and have filtered it out within the network before our computers crunch it. We have all sensors back online and they are reporting a multitude of anomalous readings.”

Officer Harbt walked forward before signaling one of his team members. The main viewer changed to a fuzzy picture of the asteroid with rays emanating from the top and bottom of it. “These are x-ray beams emanating from the object from behind the asteroid.” He signaled again and the picture changed once more. This one was even grainier but more colorful. “This is in the infrared similar to command’s but without the object visible. Notice the heat signature. Whatever it is, it is emanating a large amount of heat into the surrounding space.”

“Anything natural explain this?” The captain asked.

“Not that we know at this point.” Officer Harbt replied. “Could be an as yet unknown radioactive process considering the wide spectrum it is releasing.”

The captain turned to the rest of the crew. “Great job getting our ship back up and running properly. Communications?” He asked.

Commander Litx bowed his head. “Everything is working, but the strength of radiation at this distance easily overwhelms our small transmitting capacity. Our signal would be lost in the noise.”

“But command would hear the noise?” The captain asked hopefully.

“Yes.” The commander replied.

“Excellent, I want you and the science team to figure out a way we can embed our signal into the noise. One way or another, we need to communicate everything to command.” He stood up. “Contact me when we have a visual on the object.”


Captain Frenz woke from a restless nap as someone rapped lightly on his door. “Come in.” He said groggily.

Commander Litx and Officer Harbt entered. Commander Litx took charge. “Sir, we have ruled out a communication attempt from the signals emanating from the anomaly.” Officer Harbt nodded in agreement.

The captain spoke to Harbt directly. “The commander appraised you of the protocol?”

Officer Harbt nodded. “I had my own suspicions that I shared with the commander and he told me what you two had discussed.”

“Sorry we couldn’t bring you in earlier, but protocol dictated this was a military matter, therefore only command staff were to be alerted.” The captain said.

“I am science team leader.” Officer Harbt said, perturbed.

“Noted.” The captain dismissed. “What has the science team come up with for our communications?”

Commander Litx took control. “We believe we can embed our signal on their noise such that command could theoretically interpret it. We can embed an identifier so they know it is us.”

“Great news, how soon?” The captain asked.

Officer Harbt interjected. “A few hours to reconfigure the transmitter, but there is a problem.” He said.

“What is it?” The captain waited patiently.

“The power we will need to make the signal match the strength of the anomalies will quickly burn out our transmitter.” He said with concern. “We would be without communications permanently.”

“We already are.” The captain said seriously. “Based on protocol, contacting command is our number one priority, whatever the cost.”

“But captain, we don’t even know what this is yet.” Officer Harbt argued. “This may be nothing and I don’t think jeopardizing our mission for protocol over nothing is warranted, regardless if this is an alien entity.”

“You don’t?” The captain said sarcastically. “We have already had our ship wide systems interrupted, you confirm to me the signal is not an attempt to communicate, the object just happens to be hiding behind one of the largest asteroids in the belt, and you think it is nothing?” He paused. “Clearly our backgrounds prevent us from seeing this in the same light.”

“Maybe, Captain, but I don’t think destroying valuable equipment is warranted in this situation.” Officer Harbt said firmly.

The captain sighed. “Noted, Officer Harbt. Commander, begin the reconfiguration of the transmitter and let me know when it is ready.” The commander nodded. “Okay, is the object in view yet?”

Officer Harbt nodded. “Yes, Captain, we are already analyzing the readings from it.”

“And?” The captain asked.

Officer Harbt continued. “Nothing definitive yet, we are still too far from it. However, it is a quarter the size of Asteroid 65320, emanates heat, x-rays, and what looks like a neutron beam.” He stopped without embellishing.

“And what could produce such a thing?” The captain pushed.

Commander Litx interjected. “I believe it is a power source, Captain!”

“A power source?” The captain said as he stared coldly at the science officer.

“That is pure speculation, Captain, but yes, we do know fusion reactors would produce such a thing.” He begrudgingly admitted.

“And you think this is nothing?” The captain asked.


Captain Frenz entered the bridge and stared at the impossible on the main viewer. Half the view was dominated by the dusty gray Asteroid 65320 showing little of interest. The other half was an occulted view of their anomaly. His first impression was it couldn’t be natural. It looked like a stack of concentric rings tapered at the top widening at the bottom. The color was gray like the asteroid, but it almost appeared polished as the feeble sunlight reflected off the top of the object.

The bottom, however, was another matter entirely. It was hewn from solid rock as if the object had grown from an asteroid and been ripped from it violently. The jagged edges jutted out from the fat bottom like a broken bottle, and its decidedly dark and rough exterior clashed with that of the upper portion. It belied an unbelievable advancement in spaceship design. They were far more advanced.

The captain eyed Officer Harbt darkly. “Well?” He asked sardonically.

“Okay, Captain, it appears this is a very advanced spaceship of clearly alien origin.” Officer Harbt replied.

The captain sighed. “Give me all the details you have so far.”

Commander Litx interjected. “Object is approximately twelve kilometers long, four kilometers in diameter, partially composed of iron and granitic rock and partially composed of an unknown, polished metallic substance. High reflectivity from upper portion confirms metallic structure. No opening in object obvious from current readings, but, as already noted, emitting high energy readings across the entire spectrum.”

Officer Harbt nodded in agreement. “There hasn’t been any changes in its output since coming out from behind the asteroid.”

The captain slowly nodded as he stared at the dark object dominating the screen. What were they doing here? How long had they been here, and what did they want? Questions he feared they would never answer. Any civilization that could create such a monstrosity, fly it across the galaxy, and park it behind a large asteroid like this clearly possessed more knowledge of physics and engineering than their world. Regardless of its intentions, it posed a threat. Obviously their leaders had foreseen this and thus why the protocol for such an event was created.

“How close will we pass by it, Officer Harbt?” The captain asked.

“Based on our current trajectory, about two million kilometers.” Officer Harbt replied.

The captain turned to Commander Litx. “Communications?”

“We are nearly done with our reconfiguration, but we still need a message to send. We won’t have much time before the system burns out.” The commander replied.

The captain nodded. “Very well, meet me in my quarters so we can draft the message. Officer Harbt, I want our pass by this object doubled and I need a planetary return trajectory plotted based on using the remaining fuel we have. Our mission is over and we must find a way to get home quickly.”

“But, Captain, we don’t even know if there is anyone alive on this thing.” Officer Harbt argued. “We can’t just leave before completing a more rigorous investigation.”

“We can’t?” The captain said. “You know what protocol stipulates, let them send some other ship to investigate. We are neither equipped, knowledgeable, nor prepared for this type of investigation, Officer Harbt, and I won’t jeopardize this ship on your hunch this is not a threat.” He stopped and eyed the anxious faces of the crew before stepping down his rhetoric. “Look, I understand this is the science discovery of the millennia, but we are not capable of performing the initial steps required for first contact. We must return, report our findings, such that they are, and let the powers back home decide the next course of action.” He quieted down and grew more regimented. “Please calculate the new trajectory and report to me when you are done.”

He signaled to Commander Litx and left the bridge. They were quiet as they marched to his quarters. Once inside, the captain spoke rapidly. “I realize Officer Harbt is simply doing what a Science Team Leader should do, but this is far too monstrous for us to handle in this tiny science ship with no weapons, no shuttle, and soon, no form of communications. Our only hope is to floor it back home and let others decide.”

Commander Litx agreed. “He misses the bigger picture when confronted with the fantastical science this object represents. Maybe he is right, maybe this has been here a long time and there isn’t anyone left alive, but it feels tactical to me. Hiding behind a large asteroid doesn’t scream friendly.”

“Exactly.” The captain said. “What chance would we have against something like that? Okay, about our message to command. How much time will we have to broadcast before our equipment fails?”

“Hard to say.” The commander replied. “But my gut says maybe a couple hours.”

“I’m going to assume less than that.” The captain said as he began typing on his console. “Send this.”

The commander eyed the short message and nodded solemnly. “I’ll make sure it is repeated with our identification over and over until our transmitter fails, Captain.”


The Captain sat quietly on the bridge as the crew continued executing their escape plan. Based on current levels of fuel, they could slingshot past the third planet and rendezvous with their home planet in less than a month. It would be a long and lonely month as communications with their home world wouldn’t exist. He already had Officer Harbt working on some other non-traditional form of communications.

The object dominated the viewer and looked as lifeless as always. They had been transmitting the message embedded in the alien interference for about a half hour, but they would never know whether command deciphered it unless they found another way to communicate. It was a risk, but all his experience told him the risk was worth the cost. If they were lost, their planet had to know what was out here.

Flashing lights an annoying buzz interrupted his thoughts. He looked over at the crew member whose console was lit up like a dance floor. “What is it now, Lant?” He asked.

“Sir, every emission spectrum just went off the chart from that thing!” Lant said excitedly.

The captain eyed Officer Harbt who moved next to Lant and began reading the data. “He is right, Captain, radio, x-ray, infrared, everything has doubled in intensity from our baseline readings.”

“Theories?” The captain asked hopefully, but Officer Harbt shook his head.

Lant looked between them nervously and the captain noticed his discomfort. “What is it, Lant?”

“Well, sir, it looks to me like it is powering up.” He said sheepishly.

Here we go. The captain thought darkly. “Is it moving?” He asked.

Both Lant and Harbt turned back to the equipment and the wait was long and excruciating. Finally, Officer Harbt turned back to the captain. “We believe it is, Captain.”

Damn it, he’d never catch another fish. Everything he had feared was playing out just like protocol indicated. The alien ship was moving because they had detected his pathetic attempt to communicate with command, and he had no illusions about what they intended to do.

“Commander Litx, I want every ounce of power we have at our disposal to move this ship faster.” He said quietly.

“Yes, sir.” The commander replied. “But, sir, our ion propulsion won’t be able to accelerate us fast enough to elude something like that. As it is, we won’t even increase our velocity ten percent for another two days. This ship just isn’t built for that type of maneuver.”

The captain nodded. “I understand, Commander, but I want everything firing to make this ship go faster. Use our maneuvering jets, anything!”

The commander nodded and began getting the crew moving on the orders.

“Is our message still being broadcast?” The captain asked nervously as he began to discern movement of the larger ship on their viewer.

Commander Litx replied. “Yes, but power output is beginning to fluctuate. It won’t be working for much longer.”

As if being chased by some large predator, their tiny ship tried to move beyond its design range, but the monstrous alien vessel was gaining ground. They weren’t going to make it.

“Sir, something is happening.” Another crewman said with fear in his voice.

“What is it?” The captain asked.

“We are seeing a flurry of infrared radiation coming from the central section where the upper part merges with the rock.” The crewman responded.

“Put it on the main viewer.” The captain ordered.

The viewer went blank for a moment before another view of the alien vessel appeared in infrared colored images. As the crewman had said, a hundred brighter dots appeared to emanate from the central part of the ship. It was like a swarm of insects leaving the nest.

“Not sure what they are, Captain.” The crewman said hopelessly.

The captain knew what they were, and he braced himself as he prepared to inform the crew. “I am afraid those are smaller ships sent to intercept us.”

“But there are hundreds of them, Captain?” The crewman said in disbelief.

The size of the force being sent after them was both overwhelming and unjustified. The intent was clear. Overpower your enemy with superior force to establish the tone of the engagement early on. His academy training came back to haunt him. “They want to make sure the job is done right.” The captain said with finality.


Shindi Rasses had been working for over four days straight trying to unravel the mystery of the radio noise coming from quadrant 19 after the communications disconnect from NSOIM Craft 17. They had been investigating the anomaly near an asteroid in that quadrant before all the noise began and communications ceased.

He had tried every single filter he could think of to eliminate the noise from their standard communications frequencies, but to no avail. After so many failed attempts he had almost given up when an idea struck him. What if the noise was the signal?

He searched every one of the thousands of frequencies representing the noise to see if any patterns emerged from the background. But everything was random, no patterns distinguishable. His final scan was nearly complete when his computer gave a mournful beep. He put down his astronomy magazine and looked over the noisy chart the computer displayed. At first he didn’t see any patterns until he zoomed in closer. There wasn’t just a pattern, it was a digital pattern.

He began to decipher the digital elements, but it was jumbled and not every symbol could be deciphered. After about an hour, he had as much as he could pull out of the noise. He confirmed the initial sequence was an identifier for their missing craft, but then the signal was crushed again. It picked up again later, with only part of the identifier and a single word. Again, it disappeared before another word was extracted.

He jotted all three on paper and ran back to the command center. He didn’t observe protocol as he burst into a command meeting discussing the reallocation of orbital observatory assets to investigate the anomaly and disappearance of their ship.

“Sir, I have something!” He blurted out as everyone turned to him in surprise.

“What is it, son?” General Pantin asked calmly.

Shindi handed the paper over to the general before explaining. “This was embedded in the noise coming from quadrant 19, sir.”

The general read the three items carefully before staring down the brash young man who had given it to him. “Are you sure about this?” He asked.

“The signal was weak, hard to find and degraded, but yes, I am sure about this.” Shindi replied.

The general turned to the rest of the command staff waiting patiently. The look of concern on his face was not lost on the others. “The signal starts with an identifier that could only be NSOIM Craft 17” The general began. “After that, there are only two words: alien invasion.”

The Contest

Posted May 28, 2012 by nbvanyoos
Categories: Soldiers

Tags: , , ,

This Science Fiction short story is a lead-up to the book titled, Onyalum Wars. The book is part of the Science Fiction Onyalum Series written by NB VanYoos.

The boy attendant finished the application of oil and stood back as Piaq rose from the wood bench to stretch. He wore the ceremonial fighting garb of the arena: a tightly cinched leather belt, a protective metal cup protecting the genitals, cloth wraps around ankles and wrists, and a metallic helmet with only eyes and mouth exposed. The helmet was forged using his head as a mold and fit as though part of his body.

He eyed the oil application and approved. All exposed skin had been treated, denying the opponent a firm grasp of anything but the accouterments required by arena rules. He flexed his enormous muscles and smiled at the beautiful physique displayed in the mirror. His three meter frame hung thick with muscles wrapped in smooth dark brown skin devoid of hair. Were his face visible, its chiseled lines told a story of endless fights, each scar representing a victory. But golden eyes peered from behind the mask, the reptilian pupils narrowed as he focused on the contest ahead. He was a professional combatant, and one of the best his world had created.

By most galactic standards, Piaq’s world was primitive, a world barren of technology and the ability to travel into the stars. That didn’t halt their evolution, but enhanced the more barbaric aspects of it. They were fighters and had perfected war across millennia of contests as each race vied for world domination. Even today, battles were fought along neighboring borders, each willing to spend whatever lives it took to protect their plot of land. The battles were violent and bloody.

Piaq’s race was known as the Acagandi, an established race that had maintained their lands for thousands of years. The contests within the arena were a testament to their warring people’s desire to be the best fighting force on the planet, and Piaq was the best of their best. He feared no opponent and believed even if he fell he would be richly rewarded in the afterlife for his fierce skills as a warrior. He spent many hours fighting in the arena after a successful career in the military.

But today, the contest before a hundred thousand of his countrymen held an even larger role than mere sport or display of combat readiness. It was a message to the invaders that this world was prepared to defend themselves against any and all aggressors. He turned from the mirror and began the long walk down the corridor to the arena’s grand entrance. Already the sound of the anxious crowds vibrated through the very walls of his cathedral of death.

The invaders had arrived in a massive flying craft and made the mistake of landing in Piaq’s country. The brutish monsters covered in thick, long hair, wearing ridiculous penis sheaths to protect their monstrous genitalia, established a heavily defended perimeter around their craft, establishing a beachhead without as much as a hello. Their arrogance and their technology were no match for the power of the defending army.

Within days of their arrival, their craft was destroyed in a spectacular barrage of fifty ton boulders hurled from kilometers away with the precision of the most advanced artillery. Everything the Acagandi war machine had at its disposal was thrown at the beasts who valiantly hunkered down as their ship was wiped from the surface of the planet. But they were destined to lose against the vast army of the Acagandi.

In battle, the hairy monsters were formidable. Substantially larger than Piaq’s people, their muscular physiques hiding beneath their hair were a reality many were not ready for when the first wave of infantry assaulted their encampment. The losses in the Acagandi army were staggering as the beast’s technology felled half in blazes of lightning that burned like fire from the gods. But the Acagandi did not stop as wave after wave of soldiers were thrown against the deadly monsters.

When their modern weapons finally failed them, the monsters met the onslaught with primitive weapons forged from metallic alloys never seen before. The melee lasted three days, and in the end, the monsters lost all their invading force but twenty-three soldiers now captive in the arena. They would be sport for the people, a humiliation to hurt them deeply.

But Piaq remained humble before this opponent. The beasts had slain over four thousand of the best Acagandi military men to their thousand. Had they not possessed such fiery weapons, that number would have been substantially lower. Nonetheless, they were no easy match, and Piaq would need every ounce of his vast experience to win the day. Clearly the brutes were also a warring race and expected to win every contest. It spoke volumes about their previous conquests. But today, those victorious triumphs of the past would fall at the hands of primitives.

Piaq listened from behind large doors as his past victories were announced to the crowd. In response, the crowd bellowed with a thunderous applause that shook the very ground beneath his feet. This brought his senses to full alert as he placed his mind in battle mode. The large doors swung open and he walked proudly onto the field of battle as the crowd rose to their feet and barked for his victory. He raised his right arm in a salute to his fans, and the crowd honored this salute with a booming chant of his name.

“Pi-aach, Pi-aach, Pi-aach, Pi-aach…”

His arms came down and the crowd grew hushed as the opponent was raised into position. Boos and hisses accompanied the brute as the platform stopped at ground level of the arena. The charcoal eyes peered intently at Piaq, the grotesque expression belying nothing of its thoughts. The beast knew what was happening and measured its opponent.

Though speaking with the invaders had proven nearly impossible, they had worked out that this was the highest ranking member that had survived. He was very tall, spanning at least one more meter above Piaq’s formidable frame. He looked lean compared to the others caged below, but that might make him more deadly. Sometimes weight was not an advantage in this style of fighting. His larger size would only prove useful if it came down to hand-to-hand combat, a common outcome.

The arena was a large, open aired oval constructed of enormous granite blocks rising hundreds of feet above the floor. It held over a hundred thousand spectators, and everyone from the capital city that could afford tickets was there to watch the event of a lifetime. At either ends of the arena, large doors led onto the arena floor beneath massive carved statues of the patron gods of war. The floor of the arena was coarse sand not easily compacted. This gave uneven footing, but allowed for deft moves and twists for those who understood how to fight on it. The rules were simple, use anything on the arena floor to kill your opponent.

Throughout the battle, an array of various weapons would be presented to each combatant. It usually started with staffs of hard woods and metallic spearheads. From there, it moved onto large clubbing weapons spiked with protrusions for maximum damage. If combatants survived those first two rounds, an array of sharp knives, swords and axes would be presented. At that point, both combatants would be too tired to wield them effectively. Finally, should each be unable to heft the metallic weapons, hand-to-hand combat would decide the contest.

Piaq had taken many battles to the end, a glorious show for the spectators. However, as he watched his opponent carefully, he decided early victory would be preferable. Still, he had a few tricks up his sleeve to make the contest interesting for the crowd. Unlike other arenas around the world, the Acagandi were proud they ran a clean contest. No drugging of opponents, weakening of weapons, or hobbling the captives was allowed. It was a fair fight to the death, and the Acagandi fighters didn’t always win. One of the champions within the arena was not even Acagandi, but a captive from a border battle with a neighboring country. Piaq had not yet faced him.

The crowd roared as the first set of weapons was raised into position next to each combatant. Piaq chose his two favorites, a short handled staff and a long spear. The brute eyed the weapons rack and finally settled on a long staff sharpened at both ends. In his hairy hands, the weapon looked useless, but Piaq knew he would only choose that with which he was adept. Both now properly equipped, they moved into the center of the arena to begin the contest.

Piaq watched the monster’s movements closely as he circled in towards him. The beast looked slow and lumbering, an illusion no doubt enhanced by the sand shuffling into large piles at the monster’s feet. He was purposely dragging his feet to feign helplessness. As they inched closer to each other, Piaq kept his eyes on the tip of the staff that would signal the opponent’s intentions. He held his spear entwined in his left arm like an extension and held the short staff like a shield. Block with the staff, attack with the spear. It was classic fighting, but Piaq had a twist.

They were close enough that Piaq could smell the stink of the beast. Its hair was matted in spots and its penile sheath tattered and worn from many battles. Pieces of food clung to the thick coat of hair, and the beast’s dark face held black eyes of hidden fury. Still it dragged its feet as it lumbered to meet its opponent. Both danced slowly around, each waiting for the other to make a move. Piaq could not wait any further as the crowd booed the lack of action and he moved in with his spear tip.

As expected, the beast parried the thrust with its staff, and then kicked up a large pile of the sand into Piaq’s eyes, temporarily blinding him. He ducked and rolled as he sensed the beast attacking in the confusion and barely saved his hide as the sharp tip of the staff tore into his left side. Within seconds he was back on his feet as the beast flew through the air for another attack. He dodged right and thrust with his spear, the tip catching the beast’s leg, tearing into the tough leathery flesh. Both had drawn blood.

They backed away, each assessing the other’s dripping wounds. Piaq knew his was superficial, and the roll in the sand was helping to stem the loss of blood. The beast’s fur was stained red, but otherwise it appeared unharmed. Piaq chastised himself for the lack of forethought, and realized his foe would use any and all tactics to win. Fine, Piaq knew how to fight that way, too.

The beast circled in again, piling sand against its dragging feet. Even though it had already used that trick, it could still be effective. Piaq decided to the attack root cause of the problem. He charged in with a leap and pressed his spear forward before bringing his right arm around with the short staff aimed at the monster’s head. The monster reacted to block the head shot, allowing Piaq to pierce the beast’s right foot with his spear tip.

He fell to the ground and rolled, the action ripping the spear through the foot of the monster, the beast roared in pain and anger. The crowd shouted its approval, but Piaq wasn’t yet done. He charged once more, but switched the spear to his fighting hand, a final twist in this round of fighting. With a deft motion, he weaved his spear around the blocking staff and caught the beast squarely on the left side of its face. The gash spewed blood while bits of flesh hung in tatters from the wound.

Coming back to his feet, Piaq threw the spear directly at the beast. The monster blocked it with a violent slash of its staff, and the spear exploded into shards of kindling while the sharp tip was knocked uselessly to the ground several meters away. The crowd booed noisily, and Piaq ran to the nearest weapons rack to re-equip. As he grabbed another spear and ran back to his opponent, the beast picked up the spear tip and through it like a missile into the booing throng. Piaq watched as a spectator caught the tip in the head. The fan fell to the ground limp.

The beast roared in victory and turned back to Piaq. Just then, the new weapons racks were raised into position. Piaq discarded the spear and staff, selecting an arm held battering ram and large mace. The battering ram would provide a shield while the mace would be used for attacking. He knew this round would be the most difficult as the beast’s strength would be a factor in its favor. He watched his opponent choose a spiked club and the smallest mace in the arsenal. Piaq puzzled over the choice.

They moved towards each other again, the crowd chanting his name, their excitement building his resolve to end this in this round. The beast moved in first, pivoting on its feet to build momentum in the club head. The swirling spiked club came close to catching Piaq in the mid-section, but a quick parry with his battering ram pushed it aside as the monster’s hand came round with the small mace catching Piaq’s mace head on, forcing his own weapon into the left side of his helmet. The blow stunned Piaq and he staggered backwards as the world swam.

The beast used this to his advantage and pressed another charge with the club. Piaq, though stunned, saw the attack and fell in a pivot to his right knee, blocking the club with his battering ram, sending the beast to the ground in a splash of sand. He stood up and wobbled slightly as his head began to clear, but the beast was back in action just as quickly, forcing its club downward onto the battering ram of Piaq, the blow forced him back to his knees as the mace came around for attack. This time, he was able to deflect it enough so that it only caught his helmet with half the force. In a brilliant transfer of his weight, he slid beneath the beasts legs, grabbing the penis sheath as he dropped his mace. The beast roared in agony as he pulled hard on the genitalia before regaining his feet. Two can play dirty.

The beast spun around dropping its mace as it held its crotch in pain. Piaq attacked. He met the other’s club with his battering ram before spinning and ramming the beast in the mid-section. This exposed his back and the beast caught it with the spiked club as it fell to the ground. Pain shot through Piaq as several spikes dug into his flesh, ripping across his back.

He ignored the pain and flung the battering ram at his fallen opponent. The beast blocked the battering ram with its arm, but the sound of breaking bones was audible above the din of the crowd. The noise in the arena erupted in volumes that nearly deafened Piaq as he slowly made his way to the weapons rack. As he arrived, another round of weapons sprang from below. Finally, sharp knives and swords.

Piaq favored the smaller blades as they were easier to handle after so much fighting. He was very tired and the wounds to his side and back were beginning to register in his mind. He pushed the pain aside and move towards his enemy once more. He could not let it get to hand-to-hand combat as he realized the beast would annihilate him.

Despite its injuries, the beast stood up and made its way to the weapons rack. It, too, favored the smaller blades. Piaq knew each of the beastly captives had been equipped with a blade of their own choosing, so he would have to be smart in this contest. They carried those blades for killing, not ceremony. They circled once more, and Piaq watched for signs of weakness. If the broken bones in the beast’s arm were hurting, you couldn’t tell by how it held the large knife at the ready. However, Piaq knew that arm would not be as effective.

He attacked the other arm and his blade met the other in a shower of sparks. The beast tried to bring the other blade up under in a thrust designed to gut Piaq, but the broken bones made it impossible to move fast and Piaq parried the thrust, slicing down the length of the blade to cut the beast’s hand. Slowly, he was destroying the beast’s left arm. They both moved back and Piaq eyed the blood oozing from the wound across the beast’s blade. Its arm was held low as the damage took its toll.

They circled again, and the monster attacked with its good arm in a deft move to catch Piaq’s left arm exposed. He parried that thrust with his own blade, both cutting into each other’s arms as they slid down the shaft. Piaq jumped back in pain and the beast pressed the attack aiming for his outstretched leg. The blade sunk deep into Piaq’s calf and he screamed in pain as he launched one of his blades at the other’s injured arm. His blade sunk deep and both rolled away from each other in a spray of red sand.

Neither moved as they eyed each other from their positions on the ground. The beast finally sat up and pulled the blade from its left arm slowly. It staggered to its feet and flung the blade into the crowd, this time failing to land a deadly blow. The crowd booed and the monster roared in what could have been called a grotesque form of laughter. Before recovering one of its weapons, it disconnected its penis sheath and began swaying back and forth as the grotesque member swung methodically from side to side. Its left arm now hung useless at its side.

The perverted scene was enough to enrage Piaq as he understood what these beasts used their mammoth genitalia for. They were weapons of another kind, a way to humiliate their opponents once defeated. He was taunting Piaq, promising another type of pain should the beast win the contest. Piaq collected his senses and rose from the ground before this disgusting display. He slowly pulled the helmet from his head and the crowd crowed in pleasure as their champion prepared for the final onslaught.

He limped towards the beastly visage, his leg protesting every step as warm blood ran down to his foot. He had to win this-he had to defeat this grotesque beast masquerading as a soldier. This was no soldier but a blight on the Universe, and he was the cure. As he neared, the beast’s member swelled as it grew excited by the pending attack. Piaq tried to ignore it as he limped the last few meters. The beast waved its pride in the sky and Piaq attacked. He pushed is way past the protrusion and spun around to the beast’s left side severing the injured arm from the beast’s body. The arm hung by shreds of muscle and bone and the beast fell to its knees.

It laughed in a sickening way as it succumbed to the inevitability of its fate. It grasped its member with its good arm and climaxed in a final show of defiance as Piaq brought his blade down onto the back of its neck. He felt the crunch of the spinal column as he delivered the final blow, and the beast fell to the ground in a heap of blood and hair.

The frenzied crowd was on its feet, and Piaq held up his arm in victory. He kicked the lifeless form and rolled it onto its side. In one final act, he cut off the monster’s genitalia and held it high for all to see, a final humiliation. This was the enemy that threatened and this was what would happen should they return. The crowd howled in delight and the arena shook as if an earthquake. He flung the grotesque body part as far as he could before falling to his knees in exhaustion.

His eyes swam with spots as the loss of blood and the utter exhaustion took control. He raised both his arms and gave the Acagandi salute before blacking out. The arena exploded once more as Piaq fell into the sweet embrace of a victorious darkness.