The Contest

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.

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Picture of AcriendThe 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 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.

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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?

Trophy

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 Issgire
Petima placed the ceremonial paints back in their pouch and bowed once more to the image of Krak, the god of war. With the intricate war paint completed, he was a formidable visage despite his youth. He had just turned twelve and was on his sacred quest to become a man by facing his fears. Those fears would be formidable, but he would not fail on his quest.

His people were primitive by any standard, but they ruled their world as the dominant species. Descended from arboreal creatures, they left the trees to take advantage of the greater food sources available on the ground. As tool development, and eventually weapons development evolved, their species rose in prominence and intelligence. Soon, all creatures of the forest feared them and gave way.

They were bipedal, had incredible binocular vision, and shed the fur so dominant in other creatures. Tan in color, they possessed small heads with two ears capable of independently swiveling one hundred eighty degrees to detect sound from nearly all directions. Their very large eyes were adapted to daylight but darkness was where they excelled, when hunting was best. Petima was nearly a perfect specimen of their species.

Petima’s smooth skin was marked from head to toe in the ceremonial colors his people wore when preparing for a hunt or battle against neighboring tribes. His only clothing was a simply loin cloth protecting his genitals and a small belt to hold his weapons. He was free and unencumbered for this quest.

Each boy within the tribe must complete a series of tests, each difficult and perilous. Many did not return from these quests, but those that did were welcomed into the tribe as a man and a warrior. Only then would they be instructed in the powerful art of battle and take their rightful place beside their elders protecting the people.

Petima had thought about his chosen fear to confront since first seeing the great lizard people when he was only eight. He and his sister had been out gathering nuts for his mother’s bread when a powerful light ignited the sky with a roar like thunder. They ran as far as they could and took shelter in a small stand of bushes as a great white monster fell to the ground spitting flames that destroyed all they touched.

His sister had cried and he held her mouth to keep her sounds from betraying their location. He watched from a distance as the great beast came to rest on the ground before belching forth lizard people in dizzying numbers. Hundreds descended from the beast’s belly, each wearing ceremonial garb and carrying strange weapons.

Though fearful, he had wanted to see more of this mysterious beast and its kin, so he released his sister who ran back to their village in stark terror. He crept closer to the large monstrosity, keeping low in the vegetation to conceal his location on the ridge overlooking the great beast. As he drew closer than he dared, he stopped behind a large del tree, its enormous branches spreading out above him, blocking the sunlight that might reveal him.

He watched from behind its great trunk as the lizard people unloaded strange equipment and supplies from the belly of the great beast. Several of the lizards had broken off from the main group and walked into the surrounding forest. Their eyes were covered in darkness and they wore large packs on their backs with mysterious devices in their arms. Petima was curious.

After walking a short distance, the lizard men aimed their devices into the forest and belched forth green flames of such brilliance that Petima was blinded and fell to the ground in shock. As his vision returned, he watched a towering inferno of fire engulfing the forest around the great beast. He ran as the flames licked at his heels. Large trees, thousands of years old were ignited in a pyre of horror, and Petima feared he, too, would be consumed by the strange fire.

He shook as he remembered that horrible day when the lizard people had arrived. At first the tribe had believed them to be gods sent to punish the people for their poor offerings. But later, after many had died at the lizard’s hands, they came to know them as demons sent to consume their world and all the life within it. They dug enormous holes in the ground, stealing the very life force of their world while laying waste to anything that stood in their way, including the tribe’s village.

It had been a sad day when the village was forced out of their home and chased across the land to another location far from their birthright. They cursed the lizard people, but against their power and magic, the people were no match. But Petima was determined to face them, bringing back a trophy that would prove his worth as a man and a warrior.

He placed his ceremonial equipment back in the hollow of the tree where he’d made his camp and set off into the forest toward the distant camps of the lizard people. Their numbers had grown great since his first encounter, but he was not afraid. He had faced many reptiles as a child, some large enough to swallow him whole, but he had always won because the people were intelligent, and reptiles were dumb animals.

He was a descendent of the great tree spirits, and from the moment they had descended to the ground from the high branches, they had grown to be the rulers of the forest, greater than all animals that crawled, climbed, or flew. This was their land, and although he might never see the end of the lizard people, he would let them know he was no coward, he was a warrior.

He made good time as his heart beat strong and his legs ran free. He knew these forests and was one of the fastest creatures on two legs. He came equipped with his boomerang, a knife carved from the great crystals of the mountains, and a small sling with which he was deadly accurate. But his mission was not to fight, his was to use stealth to make off with one of their prized weapons right from under their noses.

He stopped and surveyed the perimeter of their encampment as the sun began its eventual quest for bed that the moon may have its time in the sky. Twilight would be best for his quest. He slid beneath their barrier and made his way toward structures where many of the lizard men gathered. As he neared, he heard their insidious voices hissing demonic words while sitting around a fire cleaning weapons.

This was his chance, a perfect trophy for his quest. He eyed the strange metallic weapons reflecting light from the fire and he narrowed in on a small, handheld device that didn’t look too large to carry. The lizard men were large and strong and he was small by comparison. Their weapons could be heavy, and he needed speed to escape with his prize.

Convinced the smaller weapon would be manageable, he eased around the edge of the building, trying to still his heart from the pounding in his chest. He closed his eyes and chanted the sacred prayer of fear.

Fear is but a feeling, not an enemy. But like an enemy, it can beat a man down until he is defeated by only a feeling. Only an enemy is real, and only an enemy can cause death. Fear not death, for a warrior will rise again to join all the warriors that have come before him. Fear is but a feeling, not an enemy.

He checked his quarry once more and determined the path he would take after gaining his trophy. He took several deep breaths and focused. Sprinting from his hiding place, he was a dark blur through the lizard men as he grabbed the weapon in one stride, leaping into the air off the table they sat around. He heard their sharp hisses as he sprinted across the open road and slid beneath a piece of large equipment sitting idle.

Clearing the heavy machinery he was at full stride as he heard the lizard men curse him as they pursued him across their encampment. He passed other lizard men, his appearance causing shock as he sped past faster than a chitaca being chased by a lek. He was nearing the barrier and was prepared to slide beneath it in one deft move, putting more distance between him and his pursuers. Only two more steps and he was free.

His body went rigid and he fell in a heap, sliding into the barrier, its sharp edges cutting his skin. He lay motionless, stunned by the change in his circumstance, his mind reeling as he felt little but the blood oozing from his wounds. He could not control his eyes and he stared blankly into the darkening night sky, the first of many stars beginning to make their appearance.

His breathing was shallow and rapid, and his heart felt like it would burst through his chest. Fear gripped him as he realized he had been caught. He had faced his fear only to have it consume him. He would die and it was fitting, though he might never join the warriors before him. Suddenly, a large silhouette appeared above him, its demonic grin and razor teeth ready to eat its unlucky prey. He would be strong to the end. It raised a taloned foot and placed it on his neck, and Petima knew it would suffocate him as did the lek when it finally caught the chitaca.

∆ ∆ ∆

Seraar had just come from his hut when he spotted the commotion by his men. A small, dark figure was darting through the camp, and it carried one of their weapons. His eyes narrowed as he focused on the dark flash. He went into battle mode and sprinted from this hut on a path to intercept the local creature. Although they mostly kept to the woods, several of his men had been attacked as they patrolled the region around their mining operations. Fear was their best method of keeping the locals away.

Issgire were built for speed, and he easily clocked the local with little effort. It was small and would be difficult to catch, so he pulled his weapon and set it to stun. As he rounded a large tanker, he intercepted the small creature as it was preparing to slide beneath the perimeter fence. If it got into the forest, they might never find the small being. He aimed and fired twice, the second knocking the creature to the ground, its body sliding into the fence, the sharp wire cutting it severely along its arms, legs and neck.

Seraar slowed his pace and holstered his weapon as he approached the stunned creature. It was small, most likely an adolescent. The paint colors made it from a local tribe they had chased off years before. Why do they always come back against such impossible force?

He placed a foot on the creature’s neck and applied pressure. If it regained its strength, he didn’t want it to escape. He picked up the weapon as his men approached. It was a small handheld, but capable of killing on the highest setting. He flipped it over and read the name on the handle, Lisoor.

“Lisoor, step forward please.” He hissed in angry tones.

The young soldier stepped out from his peers and looked down in deference. “Yes, sir?”

Seraar wasn’t sure whether this incident warranted disciplinary actions or not, after all, no one expects a small creature taking off with your weapon in the middle of your armed camp. Still, it was best to make sure his men understood even these small creatures posed a valid threat. It wouldn’t have been much effort for the creature to turn the weapon on his men instead of just stealing it.

“I believe this is yours.” He hissed as he threw the weapon at the soldier’s feet. “How is it such a diminutive creature can make off with your weapon?”

“Uh…I do not know, sir. It came out of the darkness and was gone before we knew what had happened.” He picked up his weapon slowly and placed it in his holster.

Seraar felt the small creature beginning to stir beneath his foot and he made his decision. “I will not tolerate such sloth in my unit. This world may not possess real enemies, but the local wildlife can be just as dangerous when you do not pay attention!” He pulled his own sidearm and shot Lisoor with a stunning blast. The young soldier fell in a heap.

“Pick him up and make sure he is assigned exterior perimeter patrol for the next five nights.” He holstered his weapon and looked down at the now squirming creature beneath his foot. It feebly tried to bite him, but his scaly feet were far too hard to penetrate. “As for you my poor friend, I admire your tenacity and courage. However, we cannot have you wreaking havoc on the order of my camp.” He placed his large claw against the creature’s cheek and pulled his foot back, slashing a deep tear in the creature’s face.

Blood spread from the wound and the creature barely silenced a yelp from the pain. It was a bloody and muddy mess as it backed against the wire fence trying to flee from Seraar. He laughed as he picked it up by its neck and grabbed its flailing feet. “You won’t be bothering us anymore, and that scar will remind you who is in charge in this region. Tell your tribe to keep away or we will wipe you out!”

He tossed the small creature across the fence and it landed with a thud on the hard ground. He stared at its stunned form as it tried to recover from a demoralizing capture and release. “Run little animal, run!” Seraar hissed through the fence as he brandished his weapon, firing into the night.

 ∆ ∆ ∆

Petima placed a large heja leaf against his face to stop the bleeding and prevent infection. He spit blood from his mouth as he limped through the forest towards his village. He had failed but survived. His face was torn badly, and he feared a broken leg as pain shot through him with every step. He had a long way to go but refused to give up now. Despite his lost trophy, he had faced his fear and lived to tell about it.

He didn’t know why the lizard had released him, but he suspected it was to warn others who might try such a daring quest. The lizards would step up their vigilance, and any attempt to penetrate their perimeter would be more difficult to virtually impossible. But he had faced them and no longer feared them. They were not demons as his tribe thought, but only warriors from a distant land in the sky.

He had witnessed his captor shooting one of its own, presumably for letting Petima steal his weapon. He smiled at the memory, but this only caused pain across his torn face. He stopped to steady himself as spots swam through his eyes. He had to keep moving and reach his village before his wounds felled him. If he fell in the forest, he would not last long. As it was, the smell of his blood would draw predators looking for an easy meal.

The stars above lit his path, and he yearned for the moon to rise, its brilliant light a beacon he could follow home. He drew his knife and held it tight as he continued to limp through the forest. He might not survive the night, but in his mind he was a warrior. He had faced hundreds of the lizard men and could tell the tale. Perhaps he hadn’t failed in his mission after all. He thought about the other boys in his village and knew his quest had been far greater than any they had survived.

He had no trophy like the tooth of a lek or paw of a teer, but he had faced the lizards and lived. As the moon finally peered over the trees, he smiled once more, grinning at the pain this caused. He felt the hot blood beneath the leaf and realized he would wear his trophy forever.

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!

Decisions

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 LeranSeelzra quietly listened to Ambassador Molfe’s arguments against aligning with the Leran, a species he aptly pointed out was not from this galaxy. Seelzra shook his head slowly, as if any species’ origins dictated their intent. Whether they were homegrown or imported, they both posed threats that this world had to avert, the question was how?

He eyed the Council, the wizened elders listening to the arguments dispassionately, waiting until all was laid before them before making their monumental decision. Seelzra had already made his, and the Leran were the lesser of the two evils.

Ever since being assigned this critical mission shortly after their world had been contacted by both species, Seelzra had realized his world was only one more conquest in a larger than life strategy game, the ultimate prize unknown. He wasn’t naive enough to believe everything the Leran told him despite their obvious age and technological superiority. They appeared non-threatening, and the alliance of worlds they had gathered from this galaxy was impressive—worlds that had once been under Issgire oppression.

He had dutifully spelled it out to the Council, trying his best to leave his own prejudice out of the presentation of his fact finding mission. But his colleague was not as professional, and his presentation reeked of promises of personal fortune should his side sway the vote in favor of the Issgire. It was inevitable, especially in politics. Even Seelzra had been offered bribes throughout his career, but he took pride in declining such offers, his own personal financial situation secure thanks to his family.

But the Leran had not bribed him, perhaps another vote in favor of their side. He would have mentioned as much if he had proof of his colleague’s collusion. Alas, it would come down to the merits of the situation at hand, the Council voting it’s conscience as always. If he held any doubts of their objectivity, he would have retired years ago. It was the one positive in a world increasingly moving towards the negative. This new development would not end well regardless of the vote, of that Seelzra was certain.

Inherently, something sinister was at play between the Issgire and the Leran. Seelzra didn’t truly believe the Leran were generous saviors from another galaxy sent here to free the poor souls under the claws of the Issgire reptiles. They wanted more and those that threw in with them might just prosper when all was said and done. Seelzra looked at it as an insurance policy, pick the right side and you might just ensure the future of your species.

He had left these dire predictions out of his analysis and presentation. Though his gut told him he was right, he had no proof to back up his feelings. Any attempt at deception or obfuscation with the Council would be seen straight away, easily defeating your arguments because of your poor choices. He believed Molfe was making that mistake. He smiled as he saw the scales of victory slowly tilting towards his side.

Despite holding back his own personal feelings, he hadn’t held back those of the species now aligned with the Leran. One such species, a particularly ugly one from a distant dirt ball on the other side of the galaxy, had claimed their people were slaves under the rule of the Issgire, forced to create weapons for the lizards using their own precious resources from a resource-poor system. The representative had even claimed the Issgire used the dead to create food for the enslaved, saving the real food only for themselves.

It was a gruesome thought indeed, but Seelzra rather believed the man had been lying about that part. Interspecies hatred would make most say outlandish things about those they were pitted against.

Nonetheless, as world after world presented their experience under Issgire rule, a clear picture of a brutally superior species emerged. Seelzra’s world had been spared the experience of Issgire rule, but word of the lizard empire had spread to their system, though many believed the tales were just that, tales to scare children at bedtime. Beware the monster lizards who will eat your young and have their way with your women! They appeared ridiculous at first glance, but Seelzra now wondered if some of those tales might actually be true.

Ambassador Molfe’s presentation was winding down and Seelzra listened to man’s final words. “…and without such protection, our world will be swept up in this insidious invasion of our galaxy by imposters posing as our saviors. They will take over our bodies, our world, our way of life, and our species will be erased from this Universe forever!”

Seelzra thought that was a nice touch, though overly dramatic for the Council. Still, he obviously was speaking about the supposed Leran’s ability to take over other species through some sort of possession or duplication, eliminating that species while maintaining their appearance. Seelzra scoffed at such a fantastical idea and mentioned as much to the Council. He believed the species that were part of the Leran Alliance were real and not duplicates created by the Leran. A ruse of that magnitude would be impossible to perpetrate.

Though the Leran were technologically advanced, Seelzra didn’t believe they were capable of replicating every single species he’d met, creating the illusion of an alliance that didn’t actually exist. Though he wouldn’t be surprised if they explored genetic research with other species they aligned with, he didn’t believe they were capable of possession or replication at the level the Issgire insinuated. After all, he’d met them, and they were a real species, old and from a distant galaxy for sure, but they were a real peoples.

The Ambassador finally finished his summation. “In closing, we must protect the integrity of our world and our way of life, accepting an alliance with the Issgire Empire to forge a future of mutual respect, protection, and sharing in the wealth this galaxy has bestowed upon us and our peoples. Thank you esteemed Council, as always, your wisdom will prevail.” Molfe bowed deeply before taking his seat.

Lead Councilor Catilosl spoke deliberately. “Ambassadors, you have given the Council much to deliberate, and we will discuss this matter in private before rendering our decision.” She rose from her seat followed by the other Councilors as they walked from the main chambers.

The secretary rose to her feet and made the prescribed announcement. “Please rise as the Council adjourns to private chambers.” The crowded room rose quietly as the Councilors made their way to the inner sanctum and quiet deliberations.

Seelzra felt rather confident he would win this decision. The Issgire, though a local species, simply didn’t offer as much as the Leran. The Leran alliance had already succeeded in recruiting many thousands of systems to their cause, and their momentum would crush the Issgire whose past was riddled with inequities and a reputation of supremacy over all they ruled. Their message may be peace and brotherly love now, but their true intentions were likely far from that reality. The Council would see this.

~

The Council retook their seats before everyone sat down per protocol. The press took up most of the public seating behind the Ambassadors, but cameras were forbidden in the Council Chamber, so artists scribbled quietly, trying to capture the Council’s mood as the decision was rendered.

Lead Councilor Catilosl read from her notes of their deliberations. “The Council has thought long and hard on these proceedings and we are not without passion for the import of our decision. Many on the Council expressed that passion as we discussed each side’s arguments extensively, no fact or innuendo left un-mentioned. Our world is on the brink of a new era, one in which we will become embroiled in a conflict started long before we even understood our place in this Universe. Now that conflict has caught up to us, or perhaps us to it.” She paused.

“It is more than our survival that we must ensure with this decision, it is the survival of our culture and our freedoms. Once we align ourselves in this conflict, we will be forever bound by that decision, the results unknowable, the future unknown. For that reason, our charge has been difficult at best, impossible at worst. But a decision has been made.”

She paused once more as the hushed crowd leaned forward to hear the results. Only the sounds of the artists sketching furiously disturbed the eerie quiet. “By the power invested in us by the fair people of Wazcatrain, we hereby declare an alliance be formed between our world and the…”

The blinding light that lit the chamber was followed by a rush of sound that crushed the ears and shredded everything in its path. Seelzra barely registered a thought of surprise before he was thrust into a world of utter darkness and silence.

~

“Are we on? Can they hear us? Okay, this is Jarila outside the destroyed remnants of the Wazcatrain Council in the capital city of Lathrone. Minutes ago, a bomb detonated inside the Council Chambers as the Council prepared to deliver their decision concerning the future alliance of our world with either the Issgire or the Leran! The explosion was enormous and knocked us to the ground as we waited on the steps outside. As you can see behind me, the entire roof of the structure was brought down, the remaining walls looking as though they, too, will fall inward trapping even more victims and thwarting rescuers efforts. Hey, wait! You can’t do that! We have a right to…”

“Apparently we have lost the feed with Jarila but will try to the reestablish that connection momentarily. At this time, we have no idea what caused the explosion and whether any of the Council or others inside the chamber survived the blast. We will attempt…wha…wait, this just in, we have received a video from an organization identifying themselves as the Wazcatrain Freedom Fighters who are claiming responsibility for the attack. We’re…yes, we will now play the video unedited in its entirety.”

“Good people of Wazcatrain, we are the Wazcatrain Freedom Fighters, an organization of concerned citizens who refuse to let our beloved world be sold to the highest bid from galactic trash like the Issgire and Leran! We will not stand by while our world is destroyed by those politicians who would line their pockets with the blood of our brethren, selling their souls along with our world! Today’s attack on the Council serves as warning to all who believe their backdoor deals will be tolerated by Wazcatrain’s peoples. We will fight and we will die for our just cause, and anyone who stands in our way better prepare to die with us! We will not let those dirty, off-world species pollute our culture with their lies and deceptions intended to fool us into aligning with their perverse armies and unknown purposes. We have our own armies and we will use them to fend off these invaders. It is freedom or die in this conflict—no other choice exists!”

Overlord

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

Kiirgatt paced calmly in front of the large viewer dominating the ship’s bridge. As Overlord of his Leran, he watched the space battle with confidence. Although his ship rarely engaged in battle, this sneak attack by loyal Issgire allies was actually a blessing as his troops were placed under actual fighting conditions. A practice they needed more often as the war intensified with the Issgire. He never feared the outcome, his armies were more than capable of quelling such upstarts.

If there was anything disturbing in this attack it was that a non-Issgire controlled species orchestrated it. After eons of oppressing all those the Issgire viewed as inferior, the reptiles had changed tactics, matching the Leran’s as they offered greater autonomy to those worlds they possessed, turning the populace against the Leran and their message of peace. As the Leran extended their control through the galaxy, they were discovering more worlds turned by the Issgire, prepared to resist the offer to join the coalition of worlds led by the Leran. The damned reptiles were fighting fire with fire.

Kiirgatt was realistic and understood there was something disturbing about the Leran to other species, and the thought of being replaced by a replica of alien origin was more frightening than subjugation by a hostile reptilian species. The Issgire were exploiting this fact in a brilliant demonstration of their keen intellect. Their success in keeping the worlds they already possessed and recruiting new ones from the millions yet to enter the conflict was slowly turning the outcome of the war in their favor.

Kiirgatt shook his head, the motion elegant in the Dal body he typically created to move among his people. To many within their coalition, the Dal were the Leran. But the Dal were an old species the Leran had conquered billions of years before the war. The two species were so well integrated, very few real Dal survived. Kiigatt made sure the genetic line of the species was kept strong through careful breeding programs designed to strengthen the intellectual capabilities of the species while removing known genetic disorders. Several million actual Dals still existed within their ranks, but they were outnumbered by the billions of Leran that took their forms.

Every Dal knew of their Leran counterparts, accepting their conquest with humility and grace. The two had lived and loved together for too long for animosity to exist. Coupled with the backing of a god, Kiirgatt, the Dals were easy to control, providing the much needed face to the faceless Leran.

A large explosion off the port bow was abruptly followed by alarms throughout the ship as the damage caused a dangerous loss of atmosphere to that portion of the vessel. It was a minor incident, and Kiirgatt signaled the alarms to be silenced on the bridge. He watched as small ships swarmed the gash, quickly affecting repairs from the outside before those within the interior could patch the other side of the wound.

It was astonishing the small ship could penetrate their defenses and crash into a section of their vessel. He made a mental note to analyze the ship’s penetration to understand how it had got through their defensive network. A part of him wondered if it had been a suicide crash or simply a strafing run gone amok. Suicidal ships were not unknown but rarely did significant damage, certainly not enough to offset the cost of a trained pilot and tactical assets.

“Overlord, shall I pull our ship away from the fray while we make repairs?” His fleet Admiral offered.

“Nonsense, Admiral, we are perfectly safe where we are.” He said calmly. “Make sure we analyze the footage on how that ship got past our defenses. Clearly we have holes in our network.”

“Yes, Overlord.” The Admiral said deferentially.

“In fact,” Kiirgatt said ominously, “let’s move the ship closer to their home world, I want to see what they are fighting so viciously for.”

The Admiral relayed the orders with a lift of his brow. Kirrgatt smiled as the large engines came to life, the enormous ship moving forward towards the flash of lights illuminating the battle. The small blue disk of their home world grew in the viewer as he surveyed its tenuous atmosphere, something he could extinguish with only a thought. The planet’s significance to the Leran was location rather than resources. A permanent base on this world would be indispensible for their efforts in this region, and though he hoped to win that base through negotiations and treaties, he would take it with force if necessary.

“Overlord, we have received a preliminary analysis of the damage.” The Admiral said. “There were no life forms on board the ship.”

“Of course, that is how it escaped our network.” Kiirgatt replied. “Only robotic ships can evade our defenses so easily. This is a new threat we must consider. The rules of this war prevent the creation of robotic armies, but only if they are under the direct control of one of the competing species. Clearly they are exploiting a loophole as they form new alliances with other species who are not constrained in employing any army they choose.” He paused as he thought through the ramifications. “Brilliant.” He said in hushed tones.

“Overlord, are you certain we are safe at this distance?” The Admiral grew agitated as the thought of a robotic army made him nervous.

Kiirgatt ignored the question. The Admiral was a real Dal and inherently a coward. “Admiral, take us to their moon and shift our assets to the capture of it. Ignore the planet and focus on the moon.”

“But Overlord, the battle above its surface is far too dangerous for our ship.” The Admiral pleaded.

Although Kiirgatt knew the Admiral spoke some truth, he had to see what facility was producing the robotic fighters. If there was any connection to the Issgire, he could use that to force the hand of Watherful. “Admiral, I want that facility taken at all costs. Is that understood?”

The Admiral bowed as he relayed the appropriate orders to change tactics and targets. Kiirgatt smiled as he watched their assets disengage the planet’s defense system and move towards the moon. Only the moon provided the logical resources for such an operation. Easy to launch from, plentiful raw materials, and few civilian assets made it the ideal base from which to create a robotic army. Even the facility could be completely automated.

However, if they were using any Issgire technology on that base, it would be enough to cry foul on Danirdan. It might cause a forfeiture of the system, but would award Kiirgatt the right to create another world nearby, thus securing the base he needed in this region. He needed that base, intact if possible.

“Admiral, I want ground troops deployed as soon as our carriers are close enough!” He ordered with authority.

“But Overlord, we have not suppressed enough of their defenses to move troops onto the surface.” He protested. “We will lose a great deal of assets if we proceed too quickly.”

Although Kiirgatt was generally calm and level headed, his desire to prevent the destruction of that base overrode his normal demeanor. “Admiral, while I appreciate your tactical capabilities under normal battle conditions, this is not a normal battle situation and we must not allow that base to be destroyed either through our actions or our inactions. If that is too difficult for you to fathom, I will replace you!”

The man realized what replacement meant, a Leran duplicating his DNA, disposing of his body when complete. The Admiral shook his head and issued the orders with haste and authority. If they were lucky, they could stop the base’s self-destruction as the locals realized they could not withstand Leran troops. It was evident they had not created too many of the robotic vessels to have a meaningful impact, but the question remained, did the Issgire help them construct the facility, and if so, did they make sure it could not be captured?

Within minutes, their ship took up a position orbiting the moon. It was frenzied chaos below them as the smaller, outgunned locals put up an impressive defense of their base. Unfortunately, they would lose the battle. Kiirgatt watched as several drop ships disengaged from their carriers and headed to the moon’s surface. The base was visible below them, powerful guns peppering the space above it with hostile fire as they attempted to repel the invaders.

At least a dozen drop ships descended as one of them exploded in a fantastic fireball that knocked another off course and into one of the carriers. The damage to the carrier was too much as the ship split in half and began its slow spiral to the moon below. Damn! Kiirgatt swore under his breath as the Admiral’s predictions began to unfurl. It was an expensive blow, but he held onto his belief the capture of the base would be worth it.
He felt the vibrations as his own ship’s powerful guns were brought online to take out enemy emplacements on the surface. He could already see several of the drop ships landing, their troops rapidly deploying to protect the other ships following close behind. Kiirgatt smiled, they were going to succeed.

Another explosion sounded alarms as another robotic ship pierced their defenses and inflicted more damage to their hull. It was also minor, but they couldn’t withstand an infinite number of such strikes. He ignored the alarms, content to let them ring as the pitch of the battle intensified. The sound would rally his troops to battle, ensuring they stayed on their game to acquire their god’s prize.

He watched the monitor as ground forces mounted an attack of the base’s perimeter. Although most of the troops were neither Dal nor Leran, they were a loyal and powerful species that never failed to acquire their targets once dug into a world. He watched as a phalanx of the units broke through the perimeter and made their way into the guts of the base. He would soon travel to the surface to survey his hard won conquest.

A blinding light erupted from the position of the base, a monstrous fire ball clawing its way into space as if to grasp his ship in its deadly embrace. As the explosion subsided, only a blackened scar stretched for hundreds of miles across the moon’s surface. Millions of his troops were annihilated as the base was permanently cleansed. They were too late, but it confirmed what he had suspected. The Issgire were helping to build the facilities, covering their tracks with self-destructive devices that vaporized all evidence. He would talk to Watherful about this deceit, but without proof, it might be in vain.

He shook his head in disgust for the assets they had spent in the valiant attempt. “Admiral, please contact their home world and begin negotiations.” He said quietly. “We have both lost enough for today.”

“Yes, Overlord.”

 

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.