Zarasic Law

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.


Picture of Leran
The gentle sun warmed the courtyard as small, winged animals flew from flower to flower, gathering sweet nectar and pollinating the future of their food source. A light breeze wafted with thick floral scents, creating an intoxicating dream world of sights and smells. Even the few ornately trimmed decorative trees swayed to the unseen music of nature, the walls of the sacred temple binding the energy within, charging life with its invisible threads of magic. A cascade of water from the surrounding mountains offered its own tune to this dance, and the sweet smell of moisture permeated the sacred walls of the temple, completing the idyllic picture of paradise.

Raksh grew nauseated from the riot of nature surrounding him. As an Onyalum, everything he saw screamed against his very existence. Peace, harmony, beauty, these were not things he appreciated, his desires were more deadly. But his mission was clear, woo the natives with promises of security, riches and knowledge, secure the planet as one more outpost against the damnable lizards. If the Issgire won this world, it would severely cripple the Leran efforts in this sector. He must succeed by peaceful means if possible, by force if necessary.

The locals called their world Minerza, which in their language meant Garden. Raksh sneezed from the effluence of pollen, the sickly sweet smell troubling his mind. The people of Minerza were a religious lot. Every man, woman, and child worshipped the same ideological nonsense centering on the connections between them, the planet, and all things in the Universe. Mumbo-jumbo. Raksh thought.

His only connection to this Universe was whatever body he currently possessed. In this case, it was a Nand called Hosha that had fallen in battle. As General of a scouting unit, Hosha had been a promotion for Raksh, and he was fitting into his role superbly, though peaceful negotiations were still challenging. Nonetheless, his belief the Leran would ultimately win the contest kept him loyal and willing to adjust his natural inclinations.

The leader of this world was a priest and his words were commandment to everyone on the planet. Convert him and the planet would fall in line. However, negotiations had been elusive. When Raksh spoke with the man, the priest had a way of talking such that it appeared progress was being made, but afterward, it was apparent nothing had actually changed. Raksh’s patience was running thin and he hoped today might finally be the day the leader capitulated.

He had brought only a small garrison of Leran elites, but war wasn’t on the agenda. It was only sufficient to show the technological superiority of the Leran armies without overtly threatening the local population. As protocol dictated, several of his troops were visiting hospitals to help treat the sick and injured with their more modern methods. A promise of a society free from illness was a powerful temptation to a primitive world like Minerza.

He waited in the courtyard with two of his subordinates, and though neither were Onyalum, they, too, appeared uncomfortable basking in the glowing beauty around them. Raksh eyed the warm red walls of the temple and was impressed with the artisanship that showed in ornate reliefs and precision stone cutting that formed the walls. Primitive yes, but impressive for a world without technology. That was their weakness, no weapons or technology to save them from being taken over by the Issgire.

Naturally, Raksh had shown them propaganda holographs of the Issgire and their oppressive rule of all who entered or were acquired by the empire. Though their tactics had changed and a softer approach was being employed to new worlds, the people of Minerza wouldn’t know this. They would only know what Raksh told them, and he hoped it would be enough to persuade them to join the growing alliance of the Leran.

They offered technology, weapons, medical advancements, and increased food production in return for a foothold base being established on their world. If they so desired, their people could join the crusade with the Leran and help repel the hoard of reptiles trying to take over the galaxy. Though all Onyalum knew the final outcome of this conflict, those worlds that fought alongside them were oblivious to what was really behind the wars. Raksh appreciated that deceit and tried desperately to emulate it in all his dealings. After all, he worked for Kiirgatt and his own desires, caring less for followers of the Leran.

The sound of a bell signaled the end of the temple prayers and deliberations, and Raksh sighed with relief that soon his role on this world would be completed. Once the agreement was reached, he would turn it over to the units responsible for upholding the Leran end of the bargain. His own troops would move on to new worlds, spreading the gospel of the Leran as they fought against the Issgire.

The door to the courtyard opened and attendants signaled all three to enter. Raksh went first as protocol dictated, walking past the diminutive attendants, towering over all the people of this world. Once inside, they were led down a long corridor with open windows and detailed murals on the interior walls. The murals depicted exactly what was seen through the windows, a peaceful world of beauty and calm. As they turned down another corridor, he spotted a large mural dominating a far wall. In it, people sat beneath a large dais with arms intertwined chanting, singing or praying to some mystical power. On the dais, a person held their arms upward as a ghostly image appeared to be leaving their body, floating into the heavens above.

It sent a chill up Raksh’s spine from the similarity to the spirit of an Onyalum leaving a body. Clearly they believed in some form of afterlife, a person’s life-force moving on to something greater.  He grinned. The only thing you’ll move onto is another hapless being without any memory of your former selves.

Only Onyalum had the power to live endlessly in body after body all memories intact. Everyone else was relegated to a short life before being dispersed like smoke into the giant vacuum of space. Their existence was pitiful, and Raksh had nothing but disdain for them. To him, they were play toys created for his amusement. Something the Creators brought into existence, but he destroyed. And now, they were only pawns in a battle they didn’t understand and couldn’t win. Pathetic.

The large doors to the inner sanctum of the temple opened slowly, and Raksh walked through tall and proud. Though the Nand were elegant, he commanded attention whenever he entered a room. He knew his power was felt by all who met him, and he nurtured that presence as part of his role as leader and benevolent bringer of hope. He moved to the center of the floor and eyed the hundreds of people sitting around him in tiered seating ten high.

At the back of the room, twelve seats towered over the proceedings where the leadership of this world sat solemnly. The lead priest, Vilru, rose quietly as Raksh and his men stopped in the center of the room beneath the vaulted dome where shafts of light created a heavenly glow. Behind the leaders, another mural depicted a similar image of a spirit leaving a body, but Raksh didn’t let it bother him. He had experienced so many religions through countless lives, all blending into similar ideologies in a vane attempt to describe the Universe they didn’t understand.

Vilru spoke quietly, but the acoustics in the room amplified his words to all who stood in the center. “We have consulted the Zarasic Law and find your offer acceptable. We are a peaceful world and do not wish to upset the balance with your conflict.”

Too, bad. Raksh thought darkly. His men hadn’t seen battle in some time and were growing soft. Still, it sounded like the priest was agreeing to their terms, so his mission would soon be over and he could leave this rock for good.

“We do not strive for technological advancement and do not want your assistance in that matter, but we can have an accord where your armies may use our world to continue your vane efforts at quieting the galactic violence we feel through the Zarasic Law.”

Again, mumbo-jumbo. All Raksh cared about was the base on their world. If they didn’t want technology, no skin off his back.

“Before we complete our agreement,” the Priest continued, “Zarasic Law stipulates we must perform the ritual of transformation as we embark on this new path. It is an ancient tradition and must be adhered to lest our world meet unfortunate future events from our mindlessness.”

What is he spouting? Raksh thought impatiently. Ritual? Did these meaningless creatures never stop their inane efforts to bring nonsense into the universe? “We would be honored to watch your ritual.” He said deferentially, bowing slightly. “Afterwards we can work out the details of our treaty.”

Vilru nodded and sat down signaling to all within the sanctuary. In unison, the people intertwined their arms and closed their eyes. As one voice, they began chanting a melodic verse that Raksh didn’t understand. The eerie similarity to the mural was not lost on him, but he was willing to put up with it if it meant the treaty would be signed.

The chanting rose and fell, and the amplification off the chamber walls was nearly deafening. But Raksh and his men stood quietly as it progressed. Suddenly, Raksh’s communicator came to life. He turned up the volume to hear what his men were saying. “What’s that, Pero?” He asked barely able to hear above the din.

“They are all chanting something, sir.” Pero said in a desperate tone. “All at once they simply sat down and linked arms before beginning to chant. The sound is beginning to hurt our ears! What should we do?”

Even Raksh felt disoriented, and a growing pain formed in his ears from the sound as it reverberated off the stone walls. “Do nothing! We are close to a deal.” He replied, but there was no response or it was lost in the chanting as it rose in volume and cadence.

His men looked beleaguered from the onslaught and held their ears to ward off the deafening sound that only increased in strength with every chorus. Raksh began to see spots before his eyes and he staggered backward as he could no longer maintain his balance. He realized too late what they were doing. Only once before had he seen sound used as a weapon, but it had been very powerful. He cupped his ears and tried to move to the entrance, but his steps were unsteady and he fell to his knees.

Through the rush of sound, he heard his men’s screams as the energy from the chanting damaged their ears and vibrated their cores. At that moment, Raksh felt a burning pain as his Onyalum spirit began ripping from Hosha’s body by the sound that grew to a torrent like needles piercing his body. He screamed in anger and lifted his head high as he fought the separation. A bright white light blinded him as all sound became a single note of agony prying him free of the fleshly bonds.

It was done. Raksh floated silently above Hosha’s lifeless form, the spirits of his men clouds of gray smoke floating to the angelic dome overhead and the infinite beyond. He eyed the mural behind Vilru and realized their religion wasn’t just another in a long line of ideologies to help them sleep at night. They had tapped into a power even Onyalum barely understood let alone mastered. For the first time in his existence, he felt fear.

He was about to transition back to Kiirgatt when he noticed Vilru staring at him. The people had stopped chanting and looked to their leader expectantly. Raksh almost believed the priest could see his ethereal form but he knew that was impossible. Still, they had separated his spirit from flesh, who knew what else they could do.

Demon.

A voice sounded in Raksh’s mind. It was the priest.

We follow the Zarasic Law and it governs all things in the Universe, even you. Go back to your god and tell him we will not be part of his abominable armies. Though we were created by a god, we have transcended that realm and live in another, higher plane of existence. Send any other forces to our world and they will suffer the same fate as you and your troops.

Tell him we will not bow to his will and will not succumb to his, or any other evil, Demon. Tell him he will be lucky to survive us as we strive to defeat all darkness in this Universe. Zarasic Law has determined you are a plague to all life, and we are the cure. Tell them all that their war is nearly at an end and all will lose. We have found the power, and they will come to restore the balance. Tell them their end is near.

Raksh was about to respond when he felt the rush of a transition. When he came out, he was far from Minerza in some distant part of the Universe he did not recognize. How had the priest done this to him? How did they wield such power? Was the Universe working with them, granting them the power over Onyalum and all spirits, or were they tapping into some potential that, as yet, had not been seen before? He felt fear once more.

The priest’s words were ominous, and he would report them to Kiirgatt as directed. He hoped the god would grant him another body, but after this failure, his days might be over in this conflict. He pictured the bridge of Kiigatt’s ship and made his transition.

As the blinding light rushed him across the Universe, a disturbing thought nagged in his mind. The priest had said they will come. Who are they?

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Berserker

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.

Picture of IssgireThe Tlacidol were primitive warriors split along tribal lines across one continent on a world of three continents isolated due to the lack of technology. It was here the Leran armies hoped to establish a beachhead before taking over the entire planet. It was a reach for their forces, but they desired the raw resources available in the system, a system too remote from the reach of the Issgire Empire.

All except Tiir, an Onyalum sent by the creator Danirdan to infiltrate the primitive world as a spy and saboteur should the Leran make landfall. He had been on this world over a hundred years, living and fighting among the primitives he’d grown fond of. It was a young world, and he loved the primitive savagery inherent on such a planet.

He had risen in stature to a great leader of the Lapol Tribe, now the largest tribe on the continent. His berserker fighting style while under the influence of local hallucinogenic vegetation was legendary, and the many wounds scarring his visage presented a grim record of his battle prowess.

The Tlacidol were a powerful yet lean species. In the low gravity of their world, they evolved into a tall species with lightening quick reflexes and remarkable strength. Though not reptilian, their appearance was reminiscent of an earlier ancestor of the Issgire, thus making them the perfect ally. A sleek, hairless head was mounted on a slim neck that sat atop a muscular, bi-pedal body complete with a short vestigial tail. The skin was like tough leather, naturally green but often multi-hued due to the tribal paints worn by most. The colors indicated tribal affiliations.

The hands were remarkably dexterous with formidable claws sheathed when not in battle. The eyes possessed excellent distance vision and were able to see through even the densest nighttime jungle. Males of the species sported bony ridges along their spinal column, their size and intricacy associated with age and strength. The ridges stood tall like flags in battle, but remained folded down when not fighting. The ridges were used both as a territorial display against enemies and for sexual courting of the females. To Tiir, Tlacidol were an evolutionary combination of the best reptilian and feline features.

The system was named Saphilon-2146 in the Issgire Galactic Planetary Catalog, just another star in the remote Saphilon section of the Lannion Arm of their galaxy. It was too far from the Empire’s main holdings for the establishment of a permanent base, but desirable enough to seed it with an agent of destruction should the future require it. Tiir loved his job and couldn’t wait to foment revolt against the Leran scouts that had recently landed on this distant rock.

Continuing their rather effective method of recruiting worlds to their cause, the Leran worms had established diplomatic relations with a neighboring tribe, the Dnow. The Dnow and the Lapol had fought each other for centuries along the borders of each other’s territories, and Tiir knew they saw the Leran as an ally that would help defeat the Lapol thus widening their lands. However, the Leran, ancient and wise, rarely offered technology to those too primitive to create it on their own.

However, once the base was established, their defenses would be unassailable to anything but modern weaponry. This was why Tiir had to nip it in the bud before that happened. His spies established only two Leran drop ships had landed thus far. This was good news, but Tiir understood a larger force was nearby, dispersing scout ships to the various worlds in this remote part of the galaxy.

The key to success against this colonization was to demonstrate an inherent instability within the local populace to dissuade the Leran from establishing a base. They wanted the resources, but being so remote made an unstable populace less palatable as their own forces would spend too much time quelling uprisings rather than reaping the bounty of the rich resources they desired. It was always a calculated risk, and the Leran typically induced the local population with technology for increasing crop productions or curing illnesses, something this world didn’t need.

He knew an all out frontal attack would be useless and would only harden the Dnow’s resolve to welcome the Leran as protectors of their lands. Instead, Tiir had devised a method for creating instability in the Dnow Tribal ranks thus creating a civil war. Coupled with a frontal attack, the alliance with the Leran would quickly break.

Tiir had spent time on the other continents and knew their conditions were even more barbaric. This continent promised the most likely place for a base, but he believed he could change that situation if his plan succeeded. Long before the Leran had arrived, he had established relations with certain Dnow leaders in exchange for protection from his raiding parties. It was amazing what you could accomplish with nothing more than a few females to trade.

The instability he’d planted amongst the Dnow had taken root and his final objective would seal the fate of their leaders, chasing off the Leran for now. He and a select few of his forces had already overrun and killed the local border leader named Illut. The barbaric leader had never been in the good graces of the Dnow high council, but his prowess protecting the Dnow borders had kept him in power. He had always been viewed as a threat to the stability of the Dnow, and Tiir planned on exploiting that fact.

After killing Illut and most of his warriors, Tiir and his men painted themselves in Illut colors in preparation for starting the civil war the high council had always feared. At the same time, Tiir had ordered his own Lapol border leaders to attack the Dnow to the North. To the South, Tiir held off his forces as his allies expected the promised protection. It would split the Dnow tribe in two as northern leaders would expect the southern leaders to come to their aid. But they would not come, Tiir had seen to that.

The Dnow relations with the Leran could not survive a civil war combined with an all out attack from their neighboring enemies. It was everything Tiir had set in motion decades before, and he was excited as it began to unfurl as he had envisioned. The Leran would write off this world as too hostile for now, planting one of their worms to rise as leader all could rally behind. But that worm would have to contend with an Onyalum bent on destabilizing the world the worm wanted to pacify. Tiir could look forward to possibly centuries of excitement.

After painting themselves in Illut’s tribal colors, he and his warriors marched towards the landing area of the Leran scouts. Taking up offensive positions around it, their colors had thus far allowed them to move uninhibited within the Dnow territory. Various leaders were sending parties to meet with the Leran, so Tiir’s infiltration simply mirrored those other leaders.

As the hallucinogenic properties of the local plants began to take hold of his senses, he eyed the distant ships sitting idly on the open plain below them. From his lofted jungle position, he could see all the points of attack where his men were currently arrayed. When they started, mass confusion would reign, but his men would be merciless as they took down anyone not marked in Illut’s colors.

Each of his warriors would be under the influence of the narcotic, the drug heightening their battle senses to that of near supernatural proportions. He’d learned long ago that a dedicated fighting force under the influence of select narcotics could be made into a nearly fanatical religious force imbued with powers beyond that of normal warriors. His men were that fighting force, and they followed him as the Issgire followed the creator Danirdan.

Although they lacked anything more technological than swords, spears, and arrows, he had whipped up a batch of primitive explosives that would be used as part of their shock and awe campaign. They would hit hard, bringing the Leran into the fray before withdrawing. It would be quite the spectacle, and poor Illut would be blamed for the attack.

As predicted, one of the scout ships fired its engines as part of daily maintenance, that was the signal. He watched as his forces intermingled down below drew weapons and began the carnage. Those outside the immediate vicinity of the fighting had no idea who was attacking, so they could not marshal a defense against the mysterious foe. Tiir’s warriors mowed them down before they realized what was going on.

Tiir pulled his sword and sprinted down the hillside into the thick of the battle. His senses were at their peak and his berserker actions took out many surprised by an attack by their fellow brethren. It was nearly too easy. He paused, taking time to light one of his makeshift grenades which he threw into the fray. The explosion panicked the Dnow warriors and the distant Leran were suddenly on high alert as something totally unexpected caught their attention.

Other explosions sounded across the plain as more of his men threw their own grenades into the battle. It was too much for the Leran and they opened fire on the local warriors near the ships. Tiir smiled as the technologically advanced weapons tore through the Dnow warriors equally surprised by the turn in allegiance by the aliens. They could trust no one and fell back to tribal identities, fighting all others not in the same colors of their own local tribe.

Tiir laughed through his hallucinogenic haze as he took off another head with a deft swipe of this deadly blade. The fuse had been lit and the chain reaction he’d hoped for ignited the Dnow into a civil war that would take decades to recover from. He watched the second ship’s engines ignite as the Leran prepared to flee the chaos.

It was the final signal for his men to leave the fray and regroup far from the battlefield. He and several of his warriors headed back into the hills, their bodies covered in glorious red from their deadly assault. As he neared the top of the hill, he turned back to the roar of ships leaving the ground while spraying those left behind with a hail of supercharged particle cannons burning enormous black gashes in the plain while vaporizing anyone unfortunate to be nearby. The Leran would not be welcomed back anytime soon.

It was too much for Tiir to dream for, and he howled in victory as he and his men slipped into the cover of the thick jungle. It was good to be Onyalum!

The Stench Of Victory

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.

Picture of AcriendAagar watched silently as his subjugation forces began waves of attacks after their artillery softened up the city’s defenses. He knew Acriend methods were predictable, but so far they had proven highly effective. But the course of the war had been changing, their enemies adapting to the Acriend fighting style in ways that threatened the Acriend efforts. They refused to lose this war, so the Acriend adapted, too.

His real name was Throtnu, an ancient Onyalum with eons of experience behind him, and Aagar was his fifth possession since being recruited by Hammot before he’d even heard of the wars. He’d been tempted by the god with opportunities to wrought destruction on an epic scale only Creators could fully understand. He was an Onyalum of great viciousness, and the thrill of such a grand war could not be resisted. He’d accepted the god’s offer, starting low in the ranks before moving up as his great experience set him apart from the non-Onyalum.

He absently scratched his head as the new helmets irritated his scarred dome. The helmets were one more adaptation thrust upon them as their enemies invented new and ingenious ways to kill. Microwaving the brain cavity would be humorous if it weren’t so damned effective. The new helmet didn’t protect, but it gave one an early warning so one could move before the damage was done. Acriend slaves were still working on a permanent solution.

The smell of artillery exhaust was exhilarating, and Throtnu walked along the line admiring the efficiency with which they could deliver death. But he was always on guard as the new Trilliu became an effective force to contend with. Although this world was uncharted in their conquest records, the Trilliu had an uncanny way of getting their first, undermining their efforts as they helped the local inhabitants fend off an Acriend invasion.

Hammot had warned about this technique used by the Leran, a species the Acriend hoped to face after vanquishing the Trilliu in this contest. He shook his head, clearing thoughts of a future so far away, he would likely never survive to see it. But he would do his part to usher in that future, a future of Acriend dominance across two galaxies.

“Aagar,” a voice called through his helmet, “we have penetrated the first level of defenses. Should we consolidate or continue pressing our advantage?”

Throtnu smiled, Horok was a fine leader if narrow in his vision. “Well done, Horok, but dig in and send half your troops back to our lines.”

“Half?” Horok said in a tone that indicated his concern at holding the hard won possessions if half his troops were pulled back.

This was not the time for weakness, and Throtnu was never weak. “You have your orders, Horok!” He softened slightly. “I sense a trap, my friend, trust me.”

Horok obeyed as he had during hundreds of such invasions. “It will be done!”

Throtnu signaled his artillery to stop firing, their initial mission completed. He eyed the landscape both in front and behind his lines, but nothing stood out of the ordinary. Still, he sensed danger and he was rarely wrong about those things. The Acriend had been foolish in the past, and the Trilliu had taken advantage of that arrogance, dealing blows to the Acriend forces that stung deeply. He would not repeat those mistakes.

The silence after the artillery ceased was eerie, and Throtnu felt a sense of dread that only pumped him up for battle. Fear was a drug that united and lifted one’s soul to levels of violence and destruction only a true warrior could appreciate. Focus the fear and you focused the instincts. Kill or be killed, and Throtnu refused to be killed.

He relayed new orders. “All artillery units switch to anti-aircraft weapons and prepare to defend. All ground forces remain where they are until I signal. Nobody fires or moves until I give the command or I will personally eviscerate them!”

He watched as the nearby artillery units unveiled their latest additions to the weaponry, an anti-aircraft gun of formidable capabilities. If the Trilliu were planning to spring a trap, they would use their new craft to take out the carriers overhead and the ground forces below. They would be surprised. The spinning barrels of the weapons coming online brought Throtnu a feeling of contentment. He would not be arrogant, but he knew they would not give in easily.

A strange vibration moved through the ground, and Throtnu knew it was the beginning of the real battle. He pulled out his blade, it size and cutting surfaces scarring him as he practiced with it religiously. Rifles and pistols were still the weapon of choice for many, but a blade would be called for today. He could sense the hunters gathering, marching forward as their camouflage hid them from all but the best sensors. But this time, Throtnu was ready for them.

He signaled his units as half the invasion force rolled back into line, taking up defensive positions. “They are coming, but do not fire until they are upon us. Let them believe their ruse has worked. Ground forces wait for my signal.” He growled.

He turned back from the city scanning the horizon. Dust and haze filtered the late day sunlight turning the distant horizon blood red. Throtnu hit his chest in an ancient display of a warrior’s readiness. Those down the line following their leader, the sound of pounding a dull thud against the eerie silence preceding the battle.

Underneath the sounds of their bravado, a strange clicking coupled with a hum grew louder as the enemy approached. There was no artillery to hide their deceit, and the Acriend were prepared to welcome them onto the battlefield. Soon. He thought wildly.

“Artillery fire when you spot any aircraft.” He ordered ominously.

He gripped both hands around the hilt of his blade and prepared to meet them head on. His senses were heightened as his focused fear pumped hormones throughout his body. This would not be flight, this would be fight. He ignored the sounds of the Trilliu aircraft streaming into the area, the Acriend weapons spitting a wall of projectiles to intercept them. But Throtnu stood solid, his eyes spotting an imperceptible shimmer against the distant ground.

He spread his legs, posturing in a defense stance as he prepared for his enemy approaching at incredible speeds. They would be faster, but he would be stronger and wiser. He sensed more than saw the three hunters as they sped towards him with blades drawn. With perfect precision, he leapt above their attack, his twisting motion bringing his blade down on the three unsuspecting hunters, decapitating two while the third parried the blow.

Throtnu hit the ground, rolling upright before the third could turn to face him. They charged each other, Throtnu’s blade larger than the two held by his enemy. He dodged the caustic stream of chemicals spewed by the insect before they collided, the metallic sound of their blows a sharp contrast to the peppering spray of anti-aircraft guns in the background. The force of their momentum threw both to the side, but their steady feet maintained balance as they turned back to face each other.

The Trilliu hunter rose on its back legs, grabbing Throtnu’s arms with its middle limbs as it thrust blades with its forelimbs. Throtnu’s strength prevailed and he blocked the thrusts with his own blade, only one edge cutting his cheek as he executed a rollover that brought his enemy with him. One thing about Trilliu, they were terrible wrestlers.

With precision and strength, Throtnu wrapped up his enemy, breaking its lower legs with his weight as his blade came up and down on the creature’s neck. The balance of his weight pushed the sharp edge into the insect’s armor, the crunching sound satisfying as warm blood sprayed into his face. He rolled to his feet, his blade held ready for another attack. The twitching of limbs of his foe told the story, it was dead or dying.

He signaled his troops. “All ground forces emerge and clean up this mess!”

The earth rumbled as ground forces surfaced in new submersible, armored behemoths that crushed everything in their path. Like the crust of the planet split in an earthquake, the ground erupted with Acriend forces emerging from their hiding, startling the hunters, cutting them off with massive treads the Trilliu could not flee. The sound of exoskeletons being crushed beneath the tanks brought a smile to Throtnu’s shredded face. This is what he had signed on for.

Explosions rocked the battlefield as enemy aircraft hit the ground in glorious fireballs as fuel and ordinance ignited from the impacts. A few of Throtnu’s anti-aircraft guns were silenced in barrages of counter fire, but many more aircraft fell from the sky as new Acriend weapons worked flawlessly. There would be no defeat today.

He eyed the battlefield through a haze of dust, its torn crust interspersed with crushed Trilliu. He looked down at the lifeless form of the hunter at his feet, stepping on its form in another ancient, symbolic ritual. The blood of his enemy mixed with his own, the deathly scent filling his nostrils with the stench of victory.

Impossible Resistance

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.
Link to Podcast

Picture of AcriendKragort slogged through the dense undergrowth, leading his squad towards the heavily defended mountain fortress. The planet’s location was critical to moving new units into this undeveloped region of the galaxy, but taking it had proven difficult. The locals were fiendish fighters, and the planet itself defied subjugation.

He was an Onyalum possessing the Acriend squad leader Hakmog, a lowly underling in the battle with the Trilliu. He had only recently been recruited by Hamot to fight the war for the ultimate prize.

Kragort felt confident he had made the right choice, but starting from the bottom was like a slap in the face. He’d possessed thousands of military leaders during his existence, and to be forced into a lowly soldier was demeaning.

Still, if he could employ his experience to set himself apart from the rest of the beastly horde, he would ascend in rank quickly. This was his first subjugation mission, and he intended to complete it with all the rewards that would be due. But first, he had to find the damn enemy. The thought of what he and his men would do to the locals once the battle was won filled him with proper malice.

The world was called Plaximari, and the residents were known as the Herolen, a peaceful, trading species known for their fairness. But they put up a more formidable defense than any of the Acriend leaders anticipated based on prior intelligence—intelligence that was likely tainted. More than a few times, intelligence assets had misled the Acriend leadership in the hopes of damaging the juggernaut. Retribution was swift, but the damage was usually already done.

The idiot Acriend were far too arrogant to engage in peaceable negotiations to ensure cooperation without coercion, so every subjugation was a risk. In this case, the intelligence was misleading, and the hostile planetary environment had been omitted from the early reports.  Creatures the size of houses roamed freely beneath the dense canopy, while the jungle floor was littered with decaying detritus made worse by off and on rain. Even his Acriend size, normally an asset, proved a hindrance within the dense vegetation.

He slashed wildly with a formidable blade at the limbs and vines barring their path. He normally reserved this blade for spilling blood but was forced to hack his way to the base of the bunker looming in the hills above them, but unassailable by air. Subjugation aerial units had already wasted two squadrons attempting to bomb the facility.

This was why they had sent in Kragort’s squad along with two others, each approaching the fortress from different directions. Their orders were clear: penetrate the facility, kill everything within it, and destroy all weapons that could not be cannibalized. He was up to the challenge but was losing his lust as the jungle wore him down.

The oxygen content of the atmosphere was high, but so was the heat and humidity, something that slowed Acriend soldiers. The gravity was lighter than what they usually trained in, so the going wasn’t bad once you cut through the thick vegetation. Jungle fighting was never Kragort’s strong suit, so fate had dealt him a tricky hand with this mission. But he would persevere.

“Damn it!” He screamed to the planet’s gods, his blade tangled in a particularly sticky vine oozing a glue-like substance. “All right, men, stay away from the purple vine, it leeches glue!” He flicked on his radio and signaled the other squads. “This is Hakmog, everyone avoid the purple vines—they secrete a glue-like substance that will slow you down.”

He yanked hard until his blade slid free, the viscous substance splattering his pant leg. Almost instantly, the substance sizzled and popped as it burned through the material and into his leg.

“Get back!” He yelled to his men as he pulled out a small canister and fired it into the wound. Within seconds, he stopped the acidic reaction eating his flesh.

He pulled out another vial and squeezed some of its contents onto the wound, the material cleansing and cauterizing his damaged leg. He carefully picked up his blade and wiped the remaining ooze on the surrounding vegetation, but the native flora was immune to the acid.

He broadcast this new bit of information to the other squads. “The glue-like substance is a volatile acid, so be careful if you have to move through it!”

The other squad leaders relayed they understood, and once again, he thought about fate choosing him to be the first one to run into such a nasty piece of vegetation. Everything about this mission and this planet stunk, and Kragort wondered if he would ever get to prove himself. An uneasy feeling of dread momentarily seized him, but he quickly refocused and signaled his squad to continue.

After diverting around the patch of the purple vines, he picked up a game trail that made the going easier. However, he was uneasy stepping in and out of the enormous tracks left by animals far larger than himself. He had already seen some of these beasts, and they were formidable. Fortunately, he had two men carry large caliber weapons ready to meet any creature intending them harm. He didn’t want to take any chances since blades would not be sufficient to stop the beasts.

He heard sounds up ahead and stopped, signaling his men to do the same. They crouched in a defensive posture, eyes scanning for movement or threat. Kragort pulled down his infrared lenses and focused on the distant track. Flashes of small animals illuminated the jungle on either side, but nothing threatening was visible.

He signaled his communications man, and had him scan for anything in the audible or radio spectrum. The soldier played with equipment, focusing his dish on the distant track. Within seconds he signaled there was something up ahead.

“Animal?” Kragort asked.

The soldier shrugged. “Maybe, not quite sure.”

Kragort connected his earpiece to the device and listened. It was a low, ominous hum that sounded like it came from the planet itself. “Damn if I know.” He said. “Maybe power generation or automatic emplacements?”

The soldier shook his head. “I don’t think so. I have never heard any power generator like this. It is too irregular.”

Kragort signaled another soldier. “Macog, scout the source of this sound.”

Macog took a quick listen before stowing his weapons and crawling into the undergrowth. They waited quietly before he finally returned. “I can’t find anything.”

“Damn it!” Kragort complained. “I hate this planet!” As if responding to his curse, the sky opened and a light rain fell to the jungle floor.

He peered around their position, deciding to move off the game trail and around the mysterious sound. If they didn’t know what it was, it was a good bet they didn’t want to meet it. He pulled his blade and hacked a new path through the jungle, moving closer to the mountain fortress on their right, but still too far east.

After an hour, they finally reached a relatively thinner part of the jungle where it met the hard rock of the mountain. They were vulnerable without the cover of the trees, but would make faster time. He decided to risk it. Thankfully, the rain stopped.

He picked up their pace, scrambling over rocks and debris as they crept closer to the impenetrable base. If his calculations were correct, the fortress should have a weakness, some way to enter without being detected. Sewage lines were notorious weak points, as were power lines or fresh water feeds. Considering the rocky composition of the mountains, natural resources would be hard to find, at least that was the theory.

They rounded another ridge and spotted the main weapons peeking out of the rocky fortress a mile away. So far, they hadn’t seen any signs of habitation, and he wondered why no defenses were visible along the tree line. Surely these people would expect some form of ground attack. Perhaps they believed the jungle was too hostile for an army to successfully navigate through it. They didn’t know the Acriend.

He stopped once more, taking stock of the situation before radioing the other squads. “Any squad reached the base yet?”

No one answered, so he tried again.  Nothing. It was possible the other squads were already reconnoitering the area for penetration points and wanted to maintain radio silence. He turned his off and decided to move under the trees while scanning for possible entries.

His communications man scanned all the spectrums once more before signaling he found something. “Sir, you need to hear this.”

Kragort connected his earpiece and listened. It was identical to what they had heard before, but this time it was louder with an added high pitched sound. “Damn it, what is that?”

“I don’t know, sir, but it’s coming from beneath us.” The soldier replied.

“Has to be artificial.” Kragort concluded. “Some sort of power generation, I‘m certain.”

He unplugged and signaled the men. “Sounds like power production, so there is a good chance we might find an air intake or exhaust vent. Spread out and look for anything artificial.”

The troops spread into a line as they marched deeper into the jungle. The ground shook slightly, and everyone stopped. It shook again and Kragort looked puzzled. It could be the power generators below them, or a wild beast on the hunt. Although natural earthquakes were not uncommon, it seemed implausible considering what they detected.

He stopped and sniffed the air, attempting to identify any exhaust or unnatural scent. Nothing. He signaled they continue before stopping when he noticed a light breeze blowing off the mountain from behind. He quickly signaled his men to group into a defensive posture, but before they could gather, the ground shook wildly as a violent crashing through the trees indicated they were under attack.

Only one of his soldiers with the large caliber rifle had made it back, while the other huddled behind a large tree to avoid the enormous beasts crashing through the undergrowth into their midst. It was three of the largest predators this crappy planet possessed, and they looked pissed. Kragort jumped out of the way as one charged him, and he just managed to grab an upper branch on the tree beside him, swinging his bulk into the canopy.

The communications man wasn’t as lucky as the beast seized him, crushing him with bloody teeth the size of swords. Kragort swung his main weapon around and fired, but the shots barely dented the thick skin and ricocheted off the formidable skull. Another of the beasts grabbed the other end of his soldier, ripping the man in half before consuming him.

The third beast was running down two other soldiers as one of the riflemen fired into its mid-section. The green skinned beast whirled on its attacker, the wound barely making it flinch. It charged wildly as another shot to its mid-section made it hesitate. The other riflemen fired once more, this time catching its lower jaw in a burst of bone and blood. The beast bellowed in pain bringing the other two running to its defense.

Kragort leapt out of the tree and fired at their retreating forms, but the beasts fanned out going after each of the rifle men. The men didn’t have a chance and were quickly run down by the monsters. The other soldiers fired uselessly while the injured beast continued to bellow in pain and frustration.

Kragort stowed his weapon and pulled his blade. He charged the injured beast from behind, leaping onto its back in the light gravity. With a determined force and accurate blow, he severed the beast’s main artery in its neck, strangling the beast in its own blood.

He leapt free of the falling form as the other beasts abandoned their quarry to charge him. He climbed out of reach in a nearby tree as additional thundering echoed through the forest. The bellowing sounds of the pack signaled his squad was in trouble. Working together, the pack of beasts could easily uproot all the trees in the area, removing any chance of escape or cover. He ordered his men to retreat towards the mountains.

Several soldiers flew out from behind cover, confusing the beasts in indecision. Kragort took advantage to swing over to another tree before hitting the ground running at full sprint. The beasts were right behind them, but the dense undergrowth slowed them down. Once he and his men hit the mountain rock, speed and dexterity would win the day. Kragort hoped he possessed both.

The ground shook violently as he approached the clearing at the base of the mountain, but before he could reach the safety of the rocks, the ground beneath him gave way, an enormous maw opening in the ground, sucking in everything above it. Trees, rock, and the pursuing beasts collapsed into the giant chasm.

Kragort jumped with all his strength, but with nothing solid to hold onto, he fell towards the bottomless pit as the screams of his men and the bellow of the beasts were drowned out by the thundering crush of earth. His mission had failed, the planet had won, and subjugation was even further away. The Herolen didn’t need artificial defenses against ground attack, the planet provided it for them.

As the darkness swallowed him, Kragort realized he would have to take over another soldier, starting at the bottom after this epic failure. He only hoped they would permit him command of another squad. And next time, he hoped they wouldn’t pit him against such impossible resistance.

Many Faces

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.
Picture of LeranThrask watched from the command post while the battle waged endlessly on the open plains at the base of his mountain fortress. The damned lizards had been trying for weeks to overthrow the Leran occupation of this world, but they met heavy resistance both in space and on the ground. Thrask, his Onyalum name, was Commander of the planetary forces controlling the Leran armies from a heavy range of mountains that proved difficult for the Issgire to assail.

Nonetheless, the damned lizards kept throwing assets at it, most not from their own populace. They were obviously willing to spend a lot of precious resources to free this system. Thrask didn’t understand why.

The Leran had taken over the system five years earlier after they’d successfully planted one of their worms. He shuddered when he thought about those damned Leran; nothing more than a brainstem with stolen DNA. He checked himself as those worms were in charge. Actually, their god, Kiirgatt, was his boss.

He’d agreed to work for Kiirgatt after a difficult time choosing which side to join in this conflict. Though the fighting had already begun when he’d decided to join, all the Creators vied for his assistance after a demonstration of his powers. The Creator, Kiirgatt, likened Thrask’s skill to that of the Leran. Still, it had been a difficult decision, especially considering the technological prowess of the Issgire. He had nothing against lizards, hell, many of the Leran forces were reptiles. In the end, the versatility of thousands of different species gave the Leran an edge that Thrask couldn’t ignore.

He currently possessed the body of a Del, an intellectually powerful race infiltrated by the Leran many centuries before. Indeed, they were one of the few species who understood who their bosses really were. The body was owned by one Lale Hatit, but Thrask refused to grant him any freedoms. This was Thrask’s prized skill, the ability to possess live flesh, not the dying husks required by other Onyalum. He didn’t know whether other Onyalum possessed his particular talent, but he’d mastered it millions of years earlier.

True to his Onyalum disposition, he repressed the owners of the many faces he acquired. When he was finished, he released them, but by then, they were typically infirmed if not dead. He had no compunctions about stealing their bodies and doing with them as he wished. In many instances, he’d even possessed people simply to force them to kill themselves. A frightening way to die, but you’ll get burned if you play against an Onyalum.

He turned back to the three dimensional display of the battle and spotted a weakness forming in the line of jumpers on the left flank. Damn bugs! He thought bitterly.

The jumpers were another versatile species the Leran had brought with them from their home galaxy. An insectoid race with enormously long rear legs that provided incredible speed and jumping abilities. They were generally effective fighters who often ate their conquests. Though Thrask found this personally disgusting, the psychological impact was priceless.

A heavy armored battalion was breaking through the jumper’s lines, weakening the overall front. The damned lizards had incredible machinery at their disposal, and they were throwing it against the insects in large numbers. Thrask uttered a curse in another language, and prepared to go to the failed flank.

He hated leaving his host’s body, even for something this important, but he hadn’t enjoyed combat for some time and felt a little out of practice. It would be good for him to rally the troops from inside their ranks—show them that all technology could be defeated, usually with simple tried and true techniques. He entered the isolation chamber and set the door lock for three hours. If he was not back by then, it didn’t matter what happened to his host, the battle would be lost.

In a painful burst of energy, he ripped his Onyalum essence from the body that held it. It was a painful process, one he assumed the host did not enjoy. Freed from the fleshly bonds, he transitioned to the jumper command center. Floating above the silent battle, he watched the commanders screeching orders through radios to troops being decimated by the heavy armor penetration. He ignored the inept command staff and located a non-commissioned officer ready to take his squad into battle.

With a force that knocked the soldier to the ground, he forced his spirit into the sergeant’s flesh. Within a few moments he was standing before the squad ready to lead them into battle. He took charge without hesitation. “All right troops, we can beat these damned lizards with simple demolitions. I want each soldier to grab ten sticky charges and secure them to your backs!”

One brave soldier raised his hands, confused. “Sergeant, I thought we were reinforcing the forward bunkers?”

Without thinking, he pulled out the sergeant’s sidearm and shot the insolent jumper. “Any other questions?”

Within minutes, each solider was equipped with the proper charges secured to their backs. Though the species was tall, they were like locusts and difficult to shoot when at full speed. Their endurance was legendary, but so was their cowardice. They preferred sneak attacks to all-out frontal charges. Too bad. Thrask thought darkly.

“These tanks are like any other, hit their weak points and you can take them out. “ He instructed as a private installed charges on his back. “The key is getting to the weak points. I’ll lead everyone in a single line until the tanks come into view. At that time, everyone splits off me in alternating left-right lines to take on their own tank.” He paused to make sure they understood. He was thankful for the nearly programmable instincts inherent in insect species. Give orders to the workers and they usually followed them flawlessly. “Plant two charges on each tank and then move on to another further behind their lines. When you have exhausted your charges, turn on the afterburners and move back to the safety of our lines. Do you understand?”

The soldiers nodded as they readied their gear. Since they possessed six limbs but traveled on only the two large rear ones when sprinting, that left four limbs to use for weapons and planting charges. Thrask pulled two sidearms into his forward limbs and demonstrated the middle set’s ability to plant a charge when needed. They were built for this mission.

“Now, watch for lizards on the exterior weapons on top and behind the main turret. Use your sidearms to take them out or distract them while you plant the charges. One charge on the tracks, one on the main turret. We disable their primary weapon and prevent them from using it as a battering ram. Am I clear?” They nodded once more.

Thrask loved the feel of the powerful hind limbs as he built up a head of steam leading the soldiers into the thick of the battle. Detonations from the armored tanks didn’t deter them as they moved like lightening into the first line firing on this flank’s bunkers. He closed on the tank directly ahead as the others spread out as instructed to the rest of the vehicles lining the field.

He was moving in a blur as he approached the behemoth directing its fire at the rear command center they’d just left. One of the lizards spotted him approaching and pulled its exterior weapon in his direction. He was too fast for the soldier to hit him and easily took out the lizard with multiple shots from his sidearms. Another quickly popped up from the hatch just as Thrask finished planting the charges. They would explode in a matter of seconds, and he didn’t want to be around when they did. He left in a blur as the lone solider attempted to dislodge the device from the main turret. The lizard was too late.

Thrask grinned inwardly as the explosion ripped the hapless soldier into fiery shreds, disabling the turret as the other charge ripped off the right track and its protective paneling. One down, four to go! He thought as another came into view. He rounded the left side and secured the track charge as a lizard scrambled onto the exterior weapon far too late to be effective. The lizard’s limp body fell to the ground as Thrask planted his turret charge.

Within seconds, he was off to the next target as a fury of heat and sound blew the tank into a useless hunk of metal. He would finish them off with aerial weaponry now that they were disabled and vulnerable. Explosions around him told a tale of other troops successfully deploying their own ordinance. As he approached the next tank, he spotted a line of soldiers on the ground mounting weapons to protect their precious vehicle. Word had obviously spread to the other tanks about the tactics they were using.

It made his job harder, but not impossible. Feeding Onyalum strength into the insect body, he flashed into their midst before they could fire. He planted the charges before their bodies fell to the ground dead. He laughed out loud in a screeching sound that would damage normal ears. He’d forgotten how much he enjoyed hand-to-hand fighting. Nothing like getting your feet wet to remind you of what your troops go through.

Within minutes, he’d planted the rest of his charges, putting a large dent in the battalion of heavy armor the lizards had thrown against them. He was heading back for jumper lines and spotted others doing the same. If those soldiers had also been successful, Thrask tallied at least a hundred vehicles disabled. A true victory using nothing more than ordinary charges with extraordinary soldiers. This is how fighting is supposed to be!

He was nearing the final line of bunkers when a bright light ripped through the sergeant’s body, releasing Thrask into the silent world of the Onyalum. He hovered over the smoking crater and looked back at what had caused the explosion. It was a single tank that had escaped their attack. Oh well, the sergeant had died gloriously, and his troops would celebrate his victory.

He hovered for a few more moments as their success rallied the rest of the jumpers into a mad rush to shore up their lines and dispatch the rest of the heavy armor. That’s more like it! He thought wildly, wanting to race back into battle with them. But alas, a commander’s duty was never done, and his host was nearing its freedom from the isolation chamber. Better return and send in the aerial assault to assist the troops. He decided.

Before transitioning to his host, he hovered silently, filled with a sense of satisfaction from the destruction around him. Hell, he loved being Onyalum!

Occupation

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.

Picture of Trilliu Hunter

Ilthot watched the last of the blood drain from the wounds of his victim. His actions had yielded little to no information on the Freedom Fighters mounting resistance to the occupation of their world. Ilthot led that occupational force and held little tolerance for resistance. If nothing else, the torture session had satisfied his blood thirst.

Ilthot was an Onyalum currently possessing the leader of an occupational force of the Trilliu. The leader’s name was General Akkurgat, and he had died in a battle he led on a distant world now occupied by the Acriend. That had been a devastating loss, but a gain for Ilthot. The Trilliu Creator, Confale, had blessed the takeover, but demanded great things from the Onyalum. The god had few kind words for Onyalum, but to date, Ilthot had not disappointed.

Although he hated the insectoid Trilliu, their hierarchical society provided a perfect vantage from which to fight in the Onyalum Wars. His word was absolute within their ranks, so only he could be blamed when things went wrong. He made sure they never went wrong.

He peered past the bloody body to another one hanging unconscious by its ankles. If Ilthot didn’t torture him, he would be processed as food, same as all the prisoners captured during a conflict. Ilthot cringed as he thought about their processing methods. Even he found it disgusting and was repelled whenever he ate the results, a necessary evil to keep his body alive.

The Trilliu were masters of the chemical and biological processes, injecting their victims with a toxic substance that turned the skin into a flexible bag for the liquefaction of internal organs, muscles, and bone. The resultant sludge was fermented into an edible food source for their flourishing hive. Killing your enemy was one thing, but eating them was another, and even a vicious Onyalum like Ilthot found it primitive.

Below the massive city-hive, herds of intelligent species were raised for one purpose: food. They were simply cattle to feed the ever growing and expanding forces of the Trilliu, so holding the upper hand in the galactic war against the Acriend. This world, called Grindeer by the resident population, was another conquest designed to provide resources for the army of Trilliu. Although he controlled the occupational forces on the planet, he was building a mobile battlegroup capable of long range attacks against key Acriend assets. It was his desire to succeed the current regional commander, extending his reach to even more of the Trilliu.

He looked down at his six-legged body and flexed his upper limbs, feeling the power beneath the hardened exterior. He hated their forms but loved the strength it possessed. Against all but the Acriend, no species was adept at fighting the Trilliu. The soldiers were nearly invulnerable, even surviving nuclear attacks. With their vast knowledge of chemical and biological systems, they were nearly unstoppable.

He picked up the remnants of his interrogation and shredded it like paper, the feel of the strength an intoxicating drug he could not give up. He was an Alpha Male, and a typical hive only possessed several hundred. They alone were the progenitors of the species, breeding with females to populate the rest of the community. They controlled the breeding to the point of industrialization, using special chemicals to induce only those types needed by the hive. Ilthot had mandated an increase in the production of soldiers.

Although he missed the intimate connections of love making, his desire for power and destruction overcame that limitation in the Trilliu. He even stopped going to the nurseries, disgusted by the blind, larval females whose only purpose was to reproduce. It was too cold and efficient for Ilthot’s liking. He preferred the warmer, softer species where intimacy was often attained with females. Still, it was hard to resist the power. He wanted to win the conflict, partaking in the ultimate prize with the winning Creator.

A worker mistakenly walked into the room, attempting to clean up the mess Ilthot had created. He watched the diminutive creature as it went about its limited life within the hive. Ilthot despised its presence in his divine sanctum of torture. With two quick steps, he was upon the squat worker, pulling its limbs off like a tree. The creature shrieked in an irritating, grinding voice until Ilthot silenced it by removing the head. He threw the parts to the floor in a heap and turned to the scientist monitoring the proceedings from inside a glass booth. He threw a bloody limb at the window, smearing blood down its length. The scientist jumped back in terror.

“How many times have I told you never to interrupt me until I am done?” Ilthot screamed.

“I am sorry, General, he was new and did not know better.”

The scientist’s voice grated on Ilthot’s ears. He would never get used to the metallic sound of these creature’s. “Next time, I will take my anger out on you.”

“Yes, General, I understand.” The scientist said with little remorse. “Are you finished yet?”

“No, now leave me alone.” Ilthot said threateningly.

The scientist types were necessary to maintain their technological dominance, but they were always a threat to the hierarchical structure of the hive. They demanded more freedom and latitude, conspiring to replace the Alpha Males with themselves as breeders. It was possible for them to breed, but it was strongly forbidden, a fact they obviously resented.

Ilthot had wisely reduced the population of his scientists and demanded more and more from them. This kept them busy and unable to plot against their leaders. Occasionally shredding one of them in front of the others was a good lesson to ensure they all towed the line. Perhaps the one in the booth was ready to be an example for the rest.

He walked over to the prisoner and eyed it critically. This male had been captured during a raid on one of the underground facilities used by the freedom fighters. Although he could not extract useful information from his friend, perhaps this one would be more cooperative when he saw the remnants on the floor. Death could be a great motivator, even for would-be martyrs. Many fooled themselves into thinking cooperation was a means to learn more about the Trilliu, exploiting that relationship for their own means. Ilthot loved to use them in that manner. It rarely backfired.

“Wake him up!” He demanded from the scientist in the booth.

A small device descended from the ceiling and injected the young man. Within seconds the body twitched as the chemical woke him from his induced coma. Ilthot smiled inwardly as he thought about cheating the scientist of his food. This one would not be processed regardless of whether he provided information.

The eyes blinked wildly as the man took in his surroundings. He nearly retched as he spotted the body parts strewn across the floor in a pool of blood. He looked into the grotesque mask of Ilthot and screamed. Ilthot waited until the man thoroughly drained the last of his energy reserves in a futile attempt to escape his bonds.

He eyed the scientist. “Turn on the translator.”

He turned back to his victim and spoke. “You can see I do not mess around when I interrogate terrorists.” The translator turned his metallic clicks into words the man could understand. The sound was very mechanical, but it conveyed what he’d said accurately. The man searched the room desperately, still plotting an escape. They never learn, Ilthot reflected. “You cannot escape. Your friend thought the same as you, and look what became of him. Do you wish the same fate?”

The man’s eyes locked with Ilthot’s, and the Onyalum saw a deep hatred peering back. Good, it was this hatred he could use to manipulate the prisoner. “You see, you view us as an enemy, but I assure you we are your friends. We will protect you from the ravages of the Acriend. They are a most horrible race bent on sadistic rituals with any species they dominate. Bloody orgies with your females are but one thing you can expect from them.” Ilthot would try sugar with this one. The threat of a violent death was already implied by the remains of his friend. “Is that what you want for your females? You can protect them. In fact, you can even protect them from my scientist friend behind the glass. He wants to experiment with your kind, but I have held him off, so far.”

The young man turned away, a look of disgust replacing the hatred.

“Now, now, imagine you are the one that saves the females we have in captivity. I would imagine they would be genuinely indebted to you. In fact, they would view you as a hero, providing you with favors only women can provide. Surely, you would prefer that to death?” The sex card was also a great motivator.

The young man turned back defiant. “How many of our women do you have?”

Ilthot smiled inwardly. “Several hundred, I believe. But if that is not enough, we have other females who would love to mount you for nothing more than fun. We have many species that love to conjugate, regardless of whom they do it with. You could live like a king with a thousand concubines under our care.”

The young man looked dubious, but interest sparkled in his eyes. “What would you have me do in return for this royal lifestyle?”

Ilthot had him now. “I only want your help in pacifying your world, turning them to our side so we can accomplish our goal of vanquishing the enemy. Trust me when I say they are your enemy, too.”

The young man looked indecisive, but nodded. “I’ll do it.”

This looked promising, Ilthot thought calmly, now for the final test of loyalty. He turned to the scientist and made sure the weapon was still in place. The large blade sat quietly against the wall. “Please release our friend here so we can take care of his needs.”

The chains securing him to the ceiling loosened as his body was lowered to the floor. The large clasps around his ankles opened, freeing him from his bonds. Ilthot offered a limb to help him from the floor, but the young man refused the assistance.

Interesting, he thought.

The young man stood, his body barely half the height of Ilthot. “I need food, clothing, and maybe one of those females you mentioned.” He said it defiantly, obviously thinking he had the upper hand.

Ilthot laughed inwardly. They always believe they have the upper hand.

He turned his back to the prisoner, looking through the glass of the scientist’s booth. “Did you hear our friend? Let’s get moving and make him as comfortable as possible. A Welm female ought to serve him fine.”

The scientist nodded as Ilthot detected the oncoming movement from behind. With rapid reflexes far faster than that of the young man, he crouched nearly flat to the ground as he shot his rear leg directly into the young man’s mid-section. The sound as the blade hit the floor was quickly followed by the solid thump of the young man’s body. He was nearly dead from the blow.

Ilthot stood up, looking down at the young man struggling to breath as internal bleeding filled his inner cavity. “It is a pity you could not work with us—but others will.”

He bent down and picked up the body carefully. Grabbing both shoulders, he pulled as hard as he could, ripping the man in half. He discarded the pieces before walking to the shower. In some ways, he was happy the young man had not cooperated.

He stepped into the shower before turning to the scientist. “I am finally finished.” He turned on the caustic soup of chemicals to sanitize his exterior shell. Ironically, cleanliness was important to the Trilliu.