Cut Off The Head

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 AcriendThey say, cut off the head and the body will die. Swirtoo was hoping it held true for the Acriend Subjugation Force occupying his home planet. He had been an ordinary citizen until the invasion, the occupation enlisting him into the insurgency as they stung the invading horde of monsters. His previous life had been filled with science and technology, a fine life despite the lack of socialization so many others enjoyed. At this point, those fanciful musings were long gone.

Swirtoo had been a weapons designer for his country’s military, creating new ways to kill in the name of protecting their precious borders. Now those borders had been shattered by the Acriend, a brutish race whose savagery was only eclipsed by their perversions. Swirtoo had watched many of his fellow Andanaens ravaged by the sexual assaults these beasts inflicted on those they captured. Swirtoo made a promise not to let that happen to him as he carefully stroked the suicide device strapped to his chest.

His race was not one to take life lightly, but since the invasion, little could prevent them changing into the savages they now faced. They simply would not be subjugated, young men and women picking up weapons dropped by those generations before them. But did it make a difference? Could they defeat such a massive force with so many overwhelming technologies and an army filled with monsters that could survive nearly everything they threw at them? Cut off the head, Swirtoo thought darkly.

His home world, a planet called Woorlta, was just another conquest in the Acriend’s merciless march across the galaxy. Before the brutes had arrived, everyone on Swirtoo’s world had believed they were alone in the Universe, a tiny island of life in a swirling galactic sea of hostile stars and deadly radiation. But they were wrong, and now they were nothing more than a prison planet subjugated by those more powerful and less moral than the people they crushed beneath their boots. He would do anything to strike back.

He and his people were the dominant species on their world, a rare, six legged mammalian species that had evolved in the equatorial forests encircling their planet. Over time, they had spread across their world, filling every niche possible as their intelligence grew in exponential leaps and bounds. They had believed themselves evolved to the highest level possible, capable of controlling the very world around them. But they soon learned they were nothing more than worms just crawling out of the mud looking to the stars in awe.

But these worms had teeth and they would use them to bite at the offenders occupying their rightful place on this planet. And they would not stop until they were all destroyed or their enemy chased from their soil. Swirtoo crawled through the dense underbrush quietly, his stealth camouflage hiding him from all but thermal sensors. Thankfully, he’d been given a map of those sensors and currently positioned himself on the hillside in a gap between them.

The hill overlooked the massive base camp of the Acriend Army. In the distance, a large field was filled with landing craft, the carriers of the beastly horde now silent as they enjoyed unencumbered access to the resources of this planet. But today, the rightful owners of this world would strike back, disabling as much of their craft as possible in one brilliant raid. But he was the key, the linchpin that would set their plan into motion. Cut off the head, he murmured silently to himself.

His six limbs pulled him through the grass, his primary weapon strapped to his back, fully charged and ready for its debut. If it worked, a whole arsenal of the weapons would be deployed, a new terrorist device with which to attack their enemy at the heart of their subjugation.

He heard a sound to his left and stopped. The deep voices of two Acriend security guards held him breathless as they moved nearby, ignorant of the threat nearly beneath their feet. He wasn’t a soldier, but he’d been instructed on how to move without being seen. His commander, a wonderful leader of his insurgency team, had not wanted Swirtoo to take on this mission. He’d seen the value of Swirtoo for his brilliant mind and weapon’s designs, but Swirtoo had insisted on getting a chance to finally get back at the monsters that had destroyed so many he had known. He might survive, but the odds were not in his favor. In any event, his coworkers could carry on his efforts. He’d left behind a whole raft of designs for even more deadly weapons. One way or another, they would chip away at the beastly horde occupying their world.

The sounds of the guards splitting up and moving in opposite directions made Swirtoo relax. With both so close, he would have to take them out before completing his final mission. He moved a bit further up the hillside, stopping at a large boulder that would make an excellent position. He carefully removed his weapon and placed it on the ground before preparing it for firing. It was a bulky weapon, but using the Acriend power sources easily acquired through inside sources made its capabilities far exceed its bulk. Without the Acriend technology, its size would easily be that of a small vehicle.

His four hands quickly ready the weapon, a green light signaling it was at full strength. He turned to his right and searched the area for the first guard, his thermal scope easily piercing the gloom of night. Within seconds he spotted the hapless brute standing on a large outcrop surveying the plains below. Swirtoo swept the area around the soldier looking for anyone or anything that might detect his attack. It was clear.

He attached the scope to his weapon and lined up the soldier in his sights. Once the large head was in his crosshairs, he pulled the trigger, a slight hum the only indication the weapon was working. Swirtoo watched through his sight as the soldier began to notice the initial tingling effects of the microwave radiation entering his cranial cavity. Unfortunately, by the time you detected the effect, you were dead. The view of the head popping from the boiling fluids was silent yet showy through the scope. The body fell from the outcropping into a small boulder field below. Cut off the head, Swirtoo said silently.

He swung the weapon back around to his left and removed the scope once more, quickly scanning the area for the other guard. Damn, nothing! The guard must have found a position of concealment, forcing Swirtoo to either ignore him and focus on the primary mission, or hunt him down to remove the threat. He eyed his watch and didn’t like how little time was left before sunrise. In daylight, the Acriend were deadly. The mission had to be completed before sunrise. He repacked his gear, deciding to let the guard be. It would probably cost him later, but he had to get the attack underway.

It took another fifteen minutes before he had found a satisfactory position wedged between two boulders overlooking the command bunker. As usual, many of the officers were gathered under a small tent awaiting their leader for the morning debriefing. Swirtoo would give them a surprise this morning. Cut off the head, he repeated one more time as he setup his weapon, steadying it between the two rocks. Although he had slipped into their sensor net, the boulders were hiding him from detection.

He remembered his many briefings, the picture of his target clear in his mind. The specially colored sash, the brutish features, and the overwhelming gray hair the seasoned veteran sported. He might as well have been holding a lit beacon as far as Swirtoo was concerned. The beast had no chance of surviving this attack. He put down his binoculars and pulled up the thermal scope, eyeing the area for the guards and snipers that surely were surrounding the area.

He quickly spotted two snipers on another ridge overlooking the base. Each was several kilometers away, but still capable of killing him if given the shot. Unfortunately, his microwave was ineffective at that distance. He turned to the plain below him and surveyed the forces on duty. He counted four regular guards and two towers manned by the slave aliens the Acriend employed. Would they attack or let their masters die? Time would tell.

He pulled up the binoculars once more and eyed the officers. Finally, their commander was coming up out of the bunker with his slave aide to begin the briefing. Swirtoo put the thermal scope back on his weapon and checked to make sure it was ready to fire. The dull green glow confirmed its readiness. He put his eye to the scope and took aim as his target sat down at the head of the table. Perfect, Swirtoo thought darkly as his target’s stationary position would make the shot easier.

With the beast’s head in his crosshairs, he pulled the trigger releasing the deadly radiation that would superheat the cranial fluids to deadly pressures. He watched intently, the drama stretching the time out in what seemed like an eternity. Finally, the leader scratched his head as the sensation was detected too late. Once again, the popping was silent but sweet as the body fell off the chair in the midst of a confused crowd of officers.

Job one done—now to signal the attack. He took aim at a large fuel tank near a collection of vehicles. Once his weapon was charged, he pulled the trigger. He wasn’t certain if it would ignite the fuel, but he was hopeful. The metallic container would absorb much of the energy, but he was banking on some of it superheating the fluid inside. He ignored the sounds of the base coming to life as they realized they were under attack. He kept his focus on the fuel tank in what appeared to be a vain effort to ignite the fuel.

He didn’t give up despite shots firing into the dark near, but not at his position. He was about to give up and flee when the tank exploded in a fantastic fireball lighting the base in an explosive fireworks caused by a chain reaction of explosions through the nearby vehicles. It was more than he had hoped for. He packed up his gear as shots ricocheted off the rocks around him. They had found his position.

He moved back up the hill towards his only escape, ignoring concealment in favor of speed. Shots came close to his retreating form, but none could find their target as he dodged and jumped to evade. He was nearing his final route, a backside cliff with a dark crevasse he could climb down when a sudden pain ripped through his side quickly followed by the loud retort of a nearby rifle. He felt his energy drain away as he fell to the ground, his lifeblood spraying out in fountains his feeble hands could not suppress.

The red of blood blurred his vision as a dark figure appeared above him blocking out the starlight now fading in the red sheen of his life draining from his body. He smiled at the dark shape, his lips moving in an attempt to say something witty. He wasn’t certain anything came out as a dark coldness swept through his body. He laughed inwardly, his mission complete despite costing him his life. Even now, the rest of his insurgents would be sweeping through the base, his distraction the necessary ingredient to conceal their sabotage. This sting would be significant.

He sensed more than saw more figures surround him as they stood proudly observing the death of the assassin of their leader. Cut off the head and the body will die. It was Swirtoo’s final thought as his heart stopped beating, the absence of electrical impulses triggering the device on his chest. The Acriend standing around him didn’t even know what happened as the fireball lit the top of the hillside sending thousands of pieces of each back to the base below.



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 AcriendHalkmi walked purposefully down the long corridor, her mind swarming with dark thoughts as she contemplated the pending meeting. Quog was not usually an unreasonable leader, but this latest loss was more than even he could rationalize. Something had changed within the Trilliu forces, and it had unraveled their recent attack, turning what should have been an easy subjugation into total defeat.

She pledged to take his abuse quietly, as was her place, but she churned inside from the stupidity he would unleash as he tried to exact revenge for the failure. It was the obstinate side of the Acriend male, and Quog was far from immune to it. He would retaliate with the remnants of his forces, perhaps losing that battle as well. Halkmi understood what was needed, a chance to perform a post-mortem to reveal what had changed so significantly that a formidable Acriend fleet and its pacifier forces could so easily be defeated. The losses were staggering, especially when one realized they’d gone up against a single hive. It was unprecedented and demanded patience and analysis to reveal the change within their enemy.

But Quog would not wait, so she would have to bite her tongue, using her limited persuasion to convince him otherwise. It was hard being a female Acriend, even harder serving in the Aerial forces. But Halkmi was not an ordinary female. Her keen intellect and formidable administrative abilities set her apart from her peers early on. After substantial victories due to her logistical knowledge, she was promoted to a leadership position, unheard of within the Acriend culture. Unfortunately, Quog had never approved of that promotion, viewing it as weakness rather than strength.

But these were not ordinary times, and extraordinary measures were becoming common place as they fought for their Creator, Hammot. The ultimate prize was within their grasp after stomping on the insects across much of the galaxy. They had successfully backed the Trilliu against a wall and were tightening the noose around them, but this latest battle could thwart that success, pushing Acriend forces back, changing the tide in favor of the insects. She was worried, and Quog would be too. The difference was she chose to act rationally.

She was the sitting leader of this fleet, and her decisions would be what Quog would question. He was her superior, a position he constantly reminded her of, but his pacifier forces had been completely wiped out and he would want to know why she had retreated, leaving the planet to the insects. It wasn’t even strategically important, a husk of a world sucked dry by the Acriend and thrown aside in favor of the ongoing conquests. But something had stirred the insects to capture it, and now their defeat of its rightful owner would send shock waves throughout the Acriend forces. Hammot would be unhappy.

Her decision to retreat had been difficult, but the statistics had warranted it. There was little reason to permit the fleet to be destroyed when they didn’t understand what they were up against. Had she stayed, everything could have been lost including the valuable intelligence they had yet to evaluate. Her decision to leave was correct, and she would defend it against Hammot himself. But she knew Quog would push back, viewing the decision as a natural weakness of females.

She tried to calm her herself, picturing her love slaves lathering her in luxurious soaps while pleasuring her during a bath. She imagined them penetrating her, the sensation making her feel weak and vulnerable, building to the crescendo all sought in such endeavors. She felt a deep appreciation for her slaves and treated them remarkably well considering their position within the Acriend culture. She wanted them to appreciate her good graces, sparing her the treachery when in the throes of ecstasy. She knew of many females who had been killed during revolts by the very slaves that pleasured them.

She finally stopped at the door to a large war room now cleared of all personnel except leaders and high ranking administrators. She wouldn’t be the only female in the room, but she would be the only female leader. The males didn’t appreciate this fact and often treated her with disdain, something she grew accustomed to. She stepped forward and the door slid open.

Within seconds of seeing her, Quog sank his barb, setting the tone for the contentious meeting.  “Halkmi, so glad you could take time from your pleasure slaves to fight this little war of ours!”

“No problem,  but it is so hard to find good slaves nowadays after you and your men kill them in your perverse orgies.” She retorted, refusing to back down despite her pledge to remain passive and quiet.

Quog looked angry as his upper lip twitched uncontrollably. She’d seen that before and knew the danger sign. Bite your tongue you idiot! She chastised herself before taking a seat at the right hand side of Quog. She didn’t return his stare while he watched her every move. Instead, she stared at the rest of the people in the room. Her fleet administrator was there, Quagi, a female who coveted Halkmi’s position. Beside her was Kaknok, her fleet leader for Aerial forces. He was a capable leader never questioning her orders, but she doubted he would be on her side today.

Across from them were Quog’s unit  leaders, at least the three who hadn’t been killed in the battle. Quog retained a single female administrator on his staff, Maknoki, and she definitely did not like Halkmi, undoubtedly pulling the party line of her boss. It was the never ending bane of being the sole female leader in a male dominated military. The men didn’t respect her and the women desired her position of power. So much for allies, she was on her own.

Quog refused to take a seat, his overbearing presence a genuine threat. He was a seasoned warrior and had learned some patience through the years. “I’ll let that comment pass, for now.” He said ominously. “First, I want a report of our total losses!”

One by one, his leaders delivered staggering statistics on equipment and soldiers lost during the battle. It had never been close except during their initial landing when they faced only the outer defenses of the Trilliu forces. They had decisively won that battle, the city seemingly theirs for the taking after they softened the inner defenses. But something had happened, and no one was brave enough to venture a guess as to what. The Trilliu had pulled something out of their bag of tricks, and it had been devastating.

Finally, her administrator and aerial leader read off their losses, once again staggering numbers of ships, fighters and resources. She believed it only reinforced her decision to retreat but doubted Quog would view it that way. They had not been prepared for the change in the Trilliu and it had nearly cost them everything. As Kaknok finished his litany, she braced for the attack.

Quog finally sat down, the twitch gone from his lip. “If Hammot were here, he would no doubt kill us all for such a failure! Shall we ask Him to destroy this world for us, our inability to take it an embarrassment to all Acriend?”

It was a rhetorical question and everyone remained silent. Their Creator did not destroy worlds lightly. The long range costs were too difficult to calculate, so Hammot banned such things without consultation. Until now, very few Acriend soldiers would even suggest such a thing. They wanted the pleasure of destroying the enemy themselves and hated such powerful weapons that could take a world down so easily. There was no sport in that, but their latest defeat might change that attitude.

Quog turned to Halkmi, and she knew what was coming. “Why did my fleet turn tail and run like cowards?”

There it was, and he emphasized ‘my’ fleet to ensure everyone understood the pecking order. She was the operational leader of the fleet, but he was the ultimate owner of it, behind Hammot.

She pulled herself together and faced him. “Our operational losses combined with lost resources warranted a speedy retreat before we lost everything.” She said brusquely before taking a breath. “Also, the unknown change in our enemy warranted analysis which might have been impossible had the fleet been destroyed.”

Well, she laid out her reasons hoping it would appease him, but she doubted it. In dire situations like this, he would probably prefer his fleet be destroyed to save face among his peers and Creator. He wasn’t necessarily a vane leader, but this was more than most male Acriend could face without death in battle to retain some form of glory.

“Unacceptable.” His voice was cold and dead pan, and she knew what was coming next. “Ever since your promotion to leadership, a despicable and foolish act, I have had to put up with poor performance, shoddy administration, and insufficient tactical skills. Despite your cowardly retreat, I am surprised you weren’t destroyed.”

None of his accusations were true, of course, but when he was on a rant, it didn’t matter. The reality was she was one of the best fleet leaders the Acriend ever had, and Quog knew it. But he was stinging from their loss and had to take it out on someone. Why not the female leader he did not approve of? She should tread carefully.

He finally turned his gaze to the rest of the leaders. “We will redeem ourselves, destroying those pesky insects on that worthless world, or we will die trying!”

Halkmi groaned inside. Here it was, irrational decisions to go back and face the insects, refusing to admit defeat, even if it cost them everything. When didn’t it cost males everything? They were a brutal race of perverted thugs, and the males lived their lives committing everything they possessed to the pursuit of victory. She wondered what their orgies were really like. Was vanquishing an enemy such an aphrodisiac that they would go to any lengths to achieve it? She would never know, she was a female and the closest she got to an orgy was having more than one slave. But she had to admit, they weren’t the same as the real thing.

Everyone around the table was surprised but remained silent, except her. “Quog, I can’t speak for the others, but I really think we need to analyze our intelligence and understand what happened before we return. Something changed within the Trilliu and they now pose a much greater threat to our forces than before.” She paused as his lip began twitching once more. “Don’t you think Hammot would want to know what has happened? What if the Trilliu have broken the rules of this war?”

He looked ready to burst but she would not avert her gaze. He was a fool and would doom the species before admitting defeat. This was the problem of having such an amazing track record in battle after battle. Soon, you believed you were invincible and could no longer admit or face defeat. He obviously believed their errors had changed the course of the battle, not something the Trilliu had done.

One of his leaders finally spoke. “Our forces are depleted, Quog, perhaps we should wait until we are back to full strength before re-engaging the enemy.”

The leader’s name was Thulk, and he was one of Quog’s most senior leaders, a capable pacifier. But Quog turned on him, his wrath slipping through his control.

“You listen to this female, Thulk? What, you want to mate with her?” His insults had an immediate impact.

“I don’t think rebuilding our forces is agreeing with this female!” Thulk insisted. “I’d rather mate with a Trilliu slug than with her.”

“I disagree.” Quog said in a tone that meant he dared anyone to challenge his decision. “You have all failed me and our Creator, and now you gather together to escape your just punishment for that failure. And, Thulk, your mating wishes will come true after you take that damned insect city!”

She knew she would regret it, but she couldn’t let Thulk be bombarded by Quog’s anger at her. “He is right and not because it agrees with what I am saying.”

Quog spun back to her, his lip quivering as the anger pumped blood to his muscles. There was not fight or flight response in the Acriend, only fight. “Perhaps we should all leave so you and Thulk can mate to produce more bastards that don’t listen to their superiors!” He was shouting now. “Damn you, bitch, shut up, I will decide what we will do!”

She couldn’t stop herself. Maybe it had been building for too many years and needed to be released, or maybe she had become too much like the males after being a leader for so long. Either way, she refused to back down in the face of his fury. “No, Quog, you shut up you stupid male, you’ll kill us all!”

His speed and dexterity was so fast, she saw only a blur before she was down on her back. Even his ferocious roar had been silent during the surprise from the attack. Another part of her admired his prowess considering his gray fur. Quog was truly their leader no matter how stupid he was. She lay on the floor bleeding, the old warrior knowing exactly how to defeat the formidable Acriend body. The only female leader had been removed from office, and considering how Quog would spin this, she doubted any other would rise to such prominence.

But as the last vestiges of her life drained away, she knew none of those politics really mattered. Something had changed in the Trilliu, and until they figured it out, the Acriend would be thrown into chaotic confusion. Her vision began to fade, and she mourned the fact she had never mated with a male. Despite dying at the hands of one, she’d always harbored those feelings. The truth was she really had wanted to mate with a fine warrior like Thulk, and she was far better than a Trilliu slug.

Rise Of The Hunters

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 Trilliu HunterA cold wind blew across the dead littering the barren landscape. Reeking Trilliu and Acriend bodies were strewn about the ground, remnants of an epic battle in defense of the hive. The predictable Trilliu soldiers had fought valiantly, their efforts inflicting heavy damage on the enemy.

But it had not been enough, and they were overrun by the grotesque Acriend who rarely took Trilliu prisoners. All that remained of the Trilliu defenses were rotting corpses seething with local insects benefiting from the unexpected feast.

The Trilliu soldiers were victims of more than their enemy. They had been betrayed by the very soldiers who were created to lead them. These new soldiers, offspring of the scientists and engineers, were designed to lead the less intelligent fighters that were incapable of independent action. But that was an Achilles’ heel the new soldiers intended on exploiting to supplant the old guard with their own rule.

Though the hive leaders had agreed to the procreation of this new breed to bolster their floundering armies, their fears were grounded in reality. The scientist and engineers had devised this plan for millennia, working diligently to perfect this new line in their species, a breed that ironically sprang from an ancient line lost through billions of years of evolution.

In the far distant past, the Trilliu hive operated much as it did today. The leaders organized and protected the hive, breeding with females to create workers, guardians, and hunters. These hunters were the forefathers of the scientists and engineers. Their purpose had been to swarm the environment, bringing back the bounty that was processed for all to eat. And these hunters were formidable, cunning, and effective at taking down enemy hundreds of times larger than themselves.

They had been equipped with an arsenal of natural abilities that made them effective as hunters. And they were as loyal as any in the hive, often mating with females when their numbers dropped below certain thresholds. But over time, evolution and the scheming of the leaders who viewed the hunters as threats, forever changed their line into a highly sophisticated, but physically weak part of the hive. Their natural fighting abilities were atrophied, dormant within their genetic makeup, but nearly impossible to reactivate.

That was until a single scientist found that mixing the genetic makeup of the existing soldiers with that of the scientists, resurfaced many of those old attributes, creating a glorious new breed of soldier with the strength of the old guardians, the cunning and abilities of the old hunters, and the intelligence of the modern scientist and engineer. They were a marvel, and the leaders feared them for good reason.

The scientists wisely hid many of the hunter’s new talents from the leaders for fear of reprisal. Though Confale had blessed this new creation, the leaders still held the upper hand in the hive and in the eye’s of their Creator. But that would change as the rise of the hunters showed their true worth to the species. They would replace all but their fathers, forming a new hierarchy within the hive—a new evolution long past due.

But first, they had to win this conflict, defeating the Acriend before taking on the other species battling within the colliding galaxy. The hunters would tip the scales in their favor, and this battle would kick off their rise to prominence.

Jiirtik woke from his self-induced coma, vibrating his body like a jackhammer, the liquefaction of surrounding soil forcing his body to the surface. Within seconds, he emerged from his cocoon, his senses coming to life to survey the carnage around him. He was a hunter, and burrowing into the ground was an old trick hunters had used to ambush unsuspecting prey.

Sorry brothers, you are but victims of evolution. He thought quietly as he took stock of the guardians lifeless forms. Their loss was a necessary evil, a way to trim their numbers while the hunters displayed their true value. It was a senseless death, but would lead to victory for all in the long run.

The ground vibrated gently as the thousands of the hunters surfaced from their hiding. Their camouflage, far superior to the old guardian’s, made them nearly invisible against the barren landscape, scorched clean by an earlier Acriend occupation. The planet was nearly lifeless, hardly worth colonizing, but rich with raw materials the Trilliu desperately needed to rebuild their depleted forces.

The Acriend had invaded and destroyed the world decades earlier, its riches too far buried for them to mine. But they didn’t possess an inexhaustible supply of workers like the Trilliu. Given time, the workers of the hive would recover half those buried riches within the husk of the planet. But time was not being afforded as the Acriend came back to reclaim the world. It was a single hive against an Acriend fleet, but this time, the hunters would ensure victory.

Jiirtik walked over to the corpse of a fallen Acriend soldier, its mangled form a tangle of blood, hair, and swarming insects. Though he didn’t like feeding on his enemy, he needed the sustenance for the forthcoming battle. He leaned over, releasing a caustic soup of enzymes, breaking down the Acriend body into its basic constituents. Even before the reactions were complete, he began sucking the vile mixture through his proboscis, ingesting the food to rebuild his reserves.

Thousands of hunters followed suit, many forced to eat their fallen brothers, their loss turned to a gain. The sounds of artillery echoed across the plain, the final battle for the hive underway. Jiirtik knew how this campaign would progress, their plot banking on that predictability. After the Acriend overran the Trilliu’s outer perimeter, they would setup camp just outside the heavily defended city limits. Within those defenses were the oldest and most hardened warriors of the old guardians, and they would put up a powerful resistance.

But the Acriend would beat them mercilessly with artillery and probing raids, eventually breaking down the defenses to overrun the city itself. Once inside the city walls, the Acriend would be unstoppable. The Trilliu had watched in horror as many cities were overrun often with nothing more than pacifier forces. It was the beginning of the end of the Trilliu in this contest, and the hunters were the final salvation for the Trilliu species.

After satisfying his hunger, Jiirtik signaled his men using the clicking language of their distant ancestors. Only scientists and engineers fully understood this ancient language carried down for millennia as a means to speak without being understood. Plotting against the leaders was a dangerous game, and the scientists and engineers had become adept at playing. It was the only remnant of their former glory, until they had resurrected the hunters from their genetic slumber.

En masse,  sixty thousand hunters charged across the landscape towards the Acriend whose backs would be fully exposed and undefended. They would take out the artillery first, a signal to the Acriend soldiers that the final push for the city was to begin. It would be a false signal, and the fools would charge into a heavily defended position without backup. Caught between the old guardians and the new hunters, the Acriend would be crushed before any of their leaders knew what was happening.

The sound of the large cannons grew louder as they neared the outer perimeter of the Acriend army. Jiirtik came over a rise and stopped, signaling his men to wait as the rest of their forces moved into position. Time to survey the enemy before proceeding. He adjusted his goggles, switching between multiple spectrums to fully scan what they were up against.

From his vantage, he spied at least four dozen heavy artillery units spread out in a thin line only moderately guarded by regular troops. Many of the large weapons were only manned by non-Acriend aliens, slaves enlisted to fight the Acriend battles. They were smaller in size, easily dispatched. As predicted, the weakest links in the Acriend forces were their rear echelon, now unprotected with an enormous force of hunters arrayed against it.

Jiirtik eyed the distant spiral of the city walls, its protective field still intact. The Acriend knew better than to fire upon the city proper, the wall’s design and force fields could withstand powerful ordinance, even nuclear attacks. The Acriend artillery was simply softening the defenses around the city, weakening the old guardians to penetrate and swarm the great hive.

On his left, his squad mate relayed the signal for readiness, and he dutifully passed it down his right line, the message continuing in a long succession of units ready for the attack. From his vantage, he couldn’t see any sizable obstacle keeping them from completing their mission. Once inside the Acriend forces, they wouldn’t stop. They would mercilessly move inward, killing all in their path until their foe was vanquished.

At the same time, a swarm of new aerial fighters manned by hunters would launch from the city, their mission to destroy or heavily cripple the fleet overhead. It was a bold move by the Trilliu, and the leaders had been reluctant to commit so many of their resources to a single battle. But they had been convinced it was necessary, trusting the very soldiers they now feared. If they won, the rise of the hunters would be ensured.

He spotted the unit to his left moving out towards the enemy and he signaled his own troops to move out slowly. They crept along the ground on all six legs, their stealth and camouflage hiding them from all but thermal scanners. But even those would be hard pressed to recognize them against the background radiation, their bodies able to shift heat to their underside, presenting a colder, more ambient temperature above. To the casual observer, the ground would shimmer and move, but could easily be discounted as ambient temperature fluctuations.

They were within a hundred meters of one of the big cannons, its enormous size and sound an obstacle to the Acriend recognizing there was a threat. He held his troops steady as a lone soldier briefly turned to survey the landscape behind the big gun. But his eyes were not adequate to peer beneath the veil of camouflage hiding a swarm of enemy. The reckless soldier would be the first to die.

The shaggy soldier turned back to watch the gun crew continue firing towards the distant city, and Jiirtik gave his signal. Two of his troops moved out in a flash, covering the hundred meters in seconds. He and the others moved out behind them, their mission to disable the gun crew while the others took out the guards.

As he came upon the massive gun, he latched his strong arms onto the cold metal and lifted his body up to the main control platform. His other troops moved around the base of the gun to disable the workers feeding shells into the monstrosity. He climbed quickly, his multitude of grasping digits easily finding perches on the bulky weapon. He covered the final few meters and leapt onto the main controller’s platform, two aliens startled by his sudden appearance.

Before they could signal anyone there was trouble, he sprayed his caustic chemicals into their faces, the mixture dissolving their bodies while strangling their screams. Within seconds they lay lifeless on the grate, the chemicals leeching their brains through the deformity created in their faces. This was yet another weapon the hunters had at their disposal, a powerful spray of chemicals easily fired nearly ten meters with deadly accuracy. The leaders didn’t know about this ability either.

The gun was silenced, and Jiirtik moved to the ground to see how the rest of the assault had faired. He’d heard only a few shots of small arms fire from some of the guards, but most had been disabled before they even knew what hit them. Hunters were not as large as a full grown Acriend, but their strength was nearly on par. But a chemical arsenal mixed with a lethal combination of blades, small sidearms, and lightning speed made the hunters a serious threat to any Acriend soldier. Teamwork was what made the hunters lethal.

Jiirtik eyed the dismembered remains of one of the Acriend soldiers, his troops using nothing more than their speed and strength to take him out before he knew they were there. He was satisfied with the initial assault and signaled his men to continue moving inwards, squeezing the Acriend army between the hunters and the old guards. They moved onto all six limbs once more, stealthily making their way towards the distant spiral city. The artillery was silent now, and the foolish Acriend would launch their final invasion in their final moments of life.

As Jiirtik covered the distance between the artillery and the Acriend troops, he was excited to watch swarms of fighters launch through special bays installed within the city walls. Thousands poured forth, their powerful engines lifting them into space, signaling doom for the Acriend fleet as they ushered in the rise of the hunters.

Gift Wrapped

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 HunterShreshlin remained quiet as distant crunching signaled the approach of his enemy. The metallic sound of their voices caused him to tense as he relived past battles and injuries, but he remained still, the ruse critical to his mission’s success. In these final moments of life, he recalled the voices of the doctors and leaders who had urged him to sacrifice so much in the hopes of freeing his people from the tyranny they had suffered for so long.

“We don’t know why they are here or what they hope to gain!” The main leader had insisted, his emphasis on gain ironic.

“Indeed,” another officer agreed, “we have lost many, and still they remain elusive and mysterious.” His voice insisted desperate measures were required. Shreshlin would be their desperate measures.

The main leader had leaned close, his breath thick with liquor. “Soldier, we cannot afford to lose anymore. We must stop them now, before everything we hold sacred is forever lost.”

Their fear had been a wakeup call, and it steeled Shreshlin’s resolve to strike against his oppressors, the personal cost irrelevant in the face of such indomitable odds. He would make the sacrifice, sparing his world the fate of countless others that had succumbed to the insect horde.

His mind wandered back to the present as his targets surrounded him, their grating voices prickling his nerves while he maintained the ruse. He felt the insect soldiers moving bodies as they sorted the dead from the unconscious, saving the living as sustenance for their hive. But Shreshlin would change that, providing them a gift that would change the course of their occupation of his world.

“Your legs were too badly damaged, son.” The doctor had told him after his unit had been overrun by the insect army. He and two others were the only survivors. “We had to amputate or you would have died!”

At the time, he had felt the ghostly presence of those lost limbs, the words of the doctor not meshing with his sense of reality. But seeing the stumps brought the message home with a newfound vengeance he nursed for the enemy that had denied him his proper life. A life of love, children, and a future that didn’t include a wheelchair.

Love. He would never know anything more than the love of his family and friends. He would never know the intimate touch of a woman, the warmth of their shared bond, and the pleasures of their shared bed. He would forever be a virgin, sacrificing himself to the gods of war, hoping his meager offering would turn the tides of their fortune.

He settled his mind as he felt the dead body above him moved to the side. Alien appendages gently lifted him, their voices indicating he lived. His dead weight was thrown onto a hover-cart with the rest of the meat harvested from a unit that was sacrificed for his mission. They hadn’t even known what was happening, their unit forced to advance against an impossible foe with overwhelming strength.

He had been added to their unit at the last minute, his disability hidden inside his exoskeleton armor. His orders were simple: advance with the unit, survive, and await capture. At the time, it had seemed easy, but the reality had been far worse when the unit came under heavy fire. It took every ounce of energy to remain breathing during that onslaught, and he watched in horror as so many were easily felled. During the unit’s final moments of valor, he had covered himself with the bodies of those that had fought beside him, whispering a prayer as he lifted their lifeless forms to hide his own. His death served a higher purpose.

The inner voices replayed his final days as the cart moved on to the next pile of dead. “Why, son? Why must you fight after losing your legs?” His mother’s voice barely held back tears as he told her of his final mission. Though he hadn’t revealed the details, she understood he wouldn’t return.

“Mom, you know I can’t sit by while more are killed or captured by those abominations!” The tears streamed down his face, but the anger in his voice had been real. “I can’t let you and everyone else in this town be overrun by those mindless monsters!”

She’d taken him in her arms, both sobbing as they remembered the losses they’d suffered at the hands of the insects. Srilin, his older brother, had been the first to die, the early battles clearly indicating the superiority of the insect forces. His father had been next, refusing to stay at home while his world and everyone he’d loved was taken over by aliens. He’d lasted longer than Srilin, returning several times to recount the battles to Shreshlin when his mother was not in the room.

When the letter had come to the house announcing his death, Shreshlin had enlisted that day, forcing his mother to sign the age waiver. She had cried then, too, her tears forming pools of grief on the table as she signed her last child’s death sentence. But she knew what was at stake, and she would not hold him back from duty.

The cart stopped one last time, and Shreslin felt another tear stain his cheek as he relived that final farewell to family and friends. Many hadn’t understood his need to enlist so young, but then, they hadn’t lost so much. He recounted his father’s tales of the enemy, his friends listening silently as they tried to imagine such creatures existed. But now, the broadcasts were open and candid, no longer hiding the reality facing their world. The invasion was complete, the insect city a dark sentinel in the distance, swarms pouring forth in sickening raids to consume the people of this planet.

Shreshlin wouldn’t have it. He’d told his friends he wouldn’t remain passive while innocent lives were torn apart by the plague sweeping over their land. After that, many had joined, their own families dismayed yet proud of their young sacrifice. Most never returned, alive or dead.

His childhood friend, Litishin, had attended training with him, those weeks passing rapidly as they learned everything their world knew about war. He had trained hard, with purpose, and was rewarded with rank even so young and inexperienced. The military’s ranks were being decimated, and anyone showing aptitude to lead was quickly promoted to lead others into battle. And Shreshlin had been one of those leading the charge.

But more often than not, he led them to death, his squads cut down by the merciless insects, their technology and weapons too great when paired with their size and strength. They were impossible to defeat with conventional warfare, and so unusual measures were being employed. His sacrifice might save millions, and that filled him with renewed purpose as the cart hovered across the decimated landscape towards their hive.

He felt a transition as the air became antiseptic and cool. He was inside and his sacred moment drew near. He recalled the briefing of what to expect, the information barely discovered from a soldier who had miraculously escaped during a rare raid on the city itself.

“My injuries had been mostly superficial.” The sergeant had spoken in a cold, clinical voice as he recounted the grotesque processing of live prisoners. “The monsters had repaired me before beginning the processing.” The poor man had witnessed his unit undergo the sickening preparation, and Shreshlin was amazed he could retell the story without breaking down.

“After I was healed and cleaned, I was stripped of all clothing and attached to a rack that carried me into the main processing center.” He voice was precise and distant as he relived the gruesome experience. “Other racks around me were filled with men from my unit, most upside down with their feet shackled to a chain driven line moving us into position.” He paused, the first sign Shreshlin had seen that the experience haunted him. “Thankfully, most were unconscious.”

“I was opposite the men, watching in horror as each was moved into position and processed.” His voice had caught, and Shreshlin had thought he would finally break. But he had swallowed hard before resuming the tale. “After being sprayed with powerful disinfectants, they were positioned beneath a device of needles and hoses. They injected them with an orange substance, the effect immediately causing spasms until the body finally succumbed to the poison. But the needles would not stop, the hoses filling their bodies until they bloated like a balloon, their eyes turning a ghostly white as they bulged from their sockets!”

Now the retelling took its toll, and Shreshlin had been mesmerized by the horrific process that turned ordinary men into food for the hive.

“Finally, their bloated corpses were moved onward, probably into storage.” The sergeant had stopped, his eyes downcast. “Thank you for doing this.” The man’s gratitude had shook Shreshlin, especially after the tight embrace that took his breath away.

Shreshlin felt his cart stop and bodies removed. He was lifted off the cart and placed on a table, his armor and clothing beginning to be stripped from him with surgical precision. His muscles wanted to react, wanted to flee the horror that he knew awaited, but he had taken the muscle relaxant as ordered, his lifeless form appearing unconscious. He wanted to open his eyes, sneak a peek at the monsters who were preparing his unit for dinner, but he remained still, his eyes shut against the ministrations of his captors.

Their voices were like a wire brush against a sheet of steel, and anger surfaced as he imagined them treating the men like meat in a butcher shop. He quickly ran through the process he was to follow, the insect’s discovery of his missing legs soon to occur. The instructions were simple, he only hoped he had enough strength to execute them.

He felt his pants being removed, and the insects began screeching to each other as they spotted the unusual limbs beneath the special, lead-lined cloth. Like gray columns of steel, his legs were made from a metallic substance of particularly high density. He hadn’t really understood when the process had been explained to him, but the metal had properties that could be catastrophic when brought together in sufficient quantity.

Each limb had been carefully machined, the weight nearly impossible for him to move without the exoskeleton. He felt heat radiating from the smooth surface as light and sparks formed between his legs when the two, exposed masses came into close proximity without proper shielding. The final step was simple: Ignite the shaped charges on either side of each leg, slamming the false limbs into each other, creating a critical mass.

The insects clamored as alarms rang through the facility, signaling others of the danger facing their city. Their arrogance and greed had unwittingly brought the destruction into their hive, and like a birthday present, they had opened the gift wrapped device without first identifying if it were man or weapon. It was the last mistake they would ever make.

He barely could move his arms as he opened his eyes to see his enemy before they were obliterated. He inched his fingers down to the center of his waist where the trigger was hidden inside a false waist attaching his metallic legs to his body. He clutched the small trigger with his forefinger and hesitated. The moment slowed as he realized his destiny was about to unfold just as his life ended.

He wanted to say something, to spit in their faces and laugh at their folly. But nothing came to him. He heard the screech of their voices as soldiers were dispatched to avert the logical conclusion. He couldn’t fail now, not when he was so close to success. He opened his mouth slowly, the relaxant making the movement slow and difficult.

“Eat this!” He slurred as soldiers grabbed for his hand.

But they were too late, and the explosion that tore Shreshlin into a million pieces was followed by another that lit the horizon like a new sun dawning.

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.


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 HunterThe Creator, Confale, sat patiently while his leaders outlined the current casualties and losses. He was disappointed by the staggering defeats at the hands of the Acriend. The perverted and grotesque creatures were winning, and Confale didn’t know how to stop them.

His creations, the Trilliu, were an insect race that had mastered chemical and biological weapons, but the Acriend were immune to nearly everything they threw at them. If it didn’t kill them, they quickly adapted, coming back stronger. Clearly that approach was not working, and they needed something new.

Physically, the Trilliu and Acriend were well matched. However, the Trilliu hierarchy placed them at a disadvantage. Their soldiers were too dependent on orders and could not act independently. When in dire situations, they hunkered down in defensive postures awaiting orders that would never come. Then, the Acriend would pick them off one by one. They could not win a war of attrition regardless of how high they cranked up reproduction. It took time to grow a soldier, and time was no longer a luxury they enjoyed. They needed to make a change, but what?

Confale understood how to fix the soldiers, but following the rules of the contest would take thousands of generations to breed the required changes in. They didn’t have that time, and he didn’t have the patience. Still, he would not break the rules to gain advantage. The repercussions of that mistake would probably lose the war. He had to work within the system using what was available now.

He stared at the insect leaders intently, his face registering the frustration from their lack of creativity. They were excellent managers, wonderful leaders in battle, but faced with adapting or dying, the latter was most likely. Were they doomed? He didn’t want to face that possibility, but the writing was on the wall. Dreading that outcome, he refocused on the current leader who had just mentioned something about scientists.

“What did you say, General Ikknid?” Confale asked, his curiosity piqued. He was desperate and wasn’t afraid to show it.

“My lord,” Ikknid said deferentially, “I apologize, but I promised my lead scientist I would ask if you would allow him to propose a new weapon they have been working on. Unfortunately, he did not reveal details to me, but he assures me it will help in the war effort. Again, I apologize for interrupting the proceedings to ask you entertain this request.” He bowed his head. “I will tell him you are not interested in new weapons at this moment.”

Confale was excited. “Nonsense! I will hear this presentation, and if it displeases me, I will deal him just retribution!” The scientists were the only ones within the Trilliu hierarchy that possessed any form of creativity. If a solution existed, they might have the answers. Unfortunately, up till now they relied heavily on chemical and biological weaponry that had both risks and drawbacks. He expected the same but was willing to hear them out. “Show him in, General.” He ordered.

General Ikknid accessed a communication console and called for his lead scientist with a raspy voice. Confale hoped for something new and exciting, but feared it would be nothing more than the same. Or worse, a way to speed up soldier reproduction. Though that would not be a horrible discovery, it certainly wouldn’t change the tide of the conflict.

After waiting a few minutes, the door to the conference room opened, and a lone scientist entered. His diminutive size was overshadowed by the larger leaders sitting around the table. Despite this handicap, he stood tall and arrogant before the committee.

His eyes locked with Confale, and he bowed deeply. “My lord, thank you for allowing me to present this idea.”

Confale waved a hand. “Yes, get on with it, we have much to do.”

The creature walked to a viewer against the back wall and displayed an image. It looked like a soldier, but possessed distinct differences. For one, it lacked the pronounced proboscis of the traditional solider, and its legs were shorter. It almost looked like a scientist crossed with a soldier.

“Behold the future of our race.” The scientist announced arrogantly, but Confale was curious.

“What is this we are looking at?” The god asked ominously.

The scientist didn’t hesitate. “It is my progeny.” He said casually.

“What!” General Ikknid screeched across the table, rising to his feet. “You have been conducting illegal breeding with scientists and have the nerve to bring it before your god?” He nearly flew over the table to get to his brash underling. “I will shred your insolent, insignificant soul to pieces!”

As he grabbed the small scientist by an appendage to carry out his threat, Confale stopped him. “Let him continue, General.”

“But, my Lord, he has broken the sacred covenant of breeding in our species!” The General complained. “This cannot be permitted!”

Heads around the table nodded in sympathy with General Ikknid, but their god stood his ground. “Let him finish, General.”

An aura of light surrounded Confale, letting General Ikknid know his impatience. The General quickly released the scientist and resumed his seat. “Yes, my Lord.”

Confale stared at the small creature spouting blasphemy before his god and the highest leaders of their race. The creature had incredible nerve, knowing he might meet his death simply by uttering the forbidden. Confale almost laughed as he thought about all the scientists rallying behind the idea, trying to choose who would present. It was a miracle General Ikknid had promised them he would ask for an audience. It was certain the General regretted that decision while he simmered silently.

“What is your name, Scientist?” Confale asked.

The scientist stared directly at the god as he answered. “I am Kiktik, my Lord.”

“Very well, Kiktik.” Confale said graciously. “I am listening.”

The scientist continued presenting his heresy, shocking the leaders around the table with his words. He admitted that scientists from several colonies had communicated behind the backs of their leaders for some time, conspiring to breed with females, strictly forbidden though not impossible. Unlike workers and soldiers within a colony, scientists were not sterile and could reproduce. However, to maintain proper hierarchy within the colonies and avoid splitting the race into two different subspecies, the commandment to prevent scientists from breeding had been put in place, largely at the request of the leaders.

But these rogue scientists had illegally worked on a new genetic code that mixed the best of the scientists with the best of the leaders. The result, the progeny displayed before them. The scientist proudly rattled off details about its creation. One thing was certain, they prevented the new breed from being spawned by existing leaders. Though Kiktik touted biological reasons for this restriction, Confale doubted such a thing existed, and realized the scientists were using this as a guise to begin their own breeding program, something they had desired for a long time.

Confale stopped Kiktik’s prattling. “Why is your progeny the future of our race?” He asked.

“They possess the intelligence of our leaders and scientists, yet the fighting reflexes of our solidiers.” Kiktik said excitedly. “They are no longer dependent on active orders to be an effective fighting force!”

General Ikknid could no longer maintain his silence. “Which translates into a mutinous army, creating a wedge in our colonies that will destroy us! This is why we banned this breeding long ago!”

Confale raised a hand to silence the General before turning towards Kiktik. “Is that all?”

Kiktik eyed the General warily before answering. “No, my Lord, they are nearly as strong as the traditional solider, yet require less nutrition and space to house them. They are slightly larger than I am.”

Confale considered what he was hearing, a new breed with all the advantages of the soliders but none of their weaknesses. “Breeding time?” He asked.

“Sorry, my Lord, but these take longer than the traditional solider, though we have tried to speed it up.” The scientist admitted. “About twenty percent more time to reach training maturity.”

Confale was excited. Though he preferred shorter reproductive cycles, this was something he could use to assuage the leaders. If they were not afraid of being overrun by this new breed, he might be able to sell them without the inevitable civil war. “How do you propose they be used?”

“Field leaders, my Lord.” Kiktik said brashly. “And as part of a newly developed mechanized unit.”

Excellent! Confale thought, we finally have something that might change the course of the war. But they would have to tread carefully to maintain the natural order within the colonies. “I see.” He said neutrally. “Explain this mechanized unit to me.”

Kiktik outlined a new series of vehicles based off designs captured from worlds they now possessed. He went on about the effect these new vehicles could have if properly used by an intelligent soldier capable of acting independently or as part of a cohesive unit. Confale knew the Acriend could be overpowered with appropriate technology, especially when fighting ground forces.

Though the Trilliu employed adequate technology, they were hardly a mechanized military. To date, only spacecraft were used extensively with any success against the Acriend. The large Acriend were ineffective pilots and relied heavily on captured slaves to fly their craft. Though the Trilliu soldiers weren’t significantly better at piloting such craft, they were more effective than those forced to fly for the Acriend.

Now, with an intelligent force to guide their vehicles, they might finally be capable of putting the Acriend back on their heels for a change. At the very least, they could hold their own until something else came their way.

He stopped the scientist once more. “Thank you, Kiktik, you are dismissed.”

The scientist looked confused but left without a word. Confale waited until the creature had left the room before speaking to his leaders.

General Ikknid didn’t wait. “My lord, you are not seriously considering this threat to our kind, are you?”

Confale eyed them all, his soft expression revealing the answer. Though he admired the Trilliu, he had never desired to look as they did. The body he created when interacting with the Trilliu was from another race he’d created long ago. Though the race no longer existed, he loved and missed their beautiful appearance.

“Not only do I seriously consider it, I mandate it!” He said with authority, the glowing aura surrounding him underscoring his intent. “I understand your misgivings and concerns for the safety of the race, but I think you are overlooking something crucial. Without something new and radical, your race is on a path to extinction, and I won’t prevent that from happening!”

The General eyed his colleagues as they mulled over their god’s comments. Confale wasn’t interested in waiting for a debate on the subject and tired of their presence. “You will submit a proposal for how this new breed will be integrated into the colonies and our military. I want them integrated soon before there is nothing left to integrate with!” He waved his hand towards the door. “Leave me.”

The leaders remained silent as they filed out of the room, leaving their god to his musings. They would gather elsewhere, plotting how to integrate the new breed while maintaining their status quo within the hierarchy. They feared upheaval, but they feared their god even more.

As the last leader left, Confale thought long and hard about the conflict. In the beginning, he had been certain the hardy, organized Trilliu would prevail against any who came up against them. They had successfully swarmed their home galaxy, establishing colonies on nearly every habitable planet. They were wicked efficient, and possessed an uncanny understanding of the biological world. But they met a difficult foe in the Acriend, and they needed to adapt or die.

He thought briefly about the consequences of losing and shuddered. He would do whatever it took to prevent that. If this heretical new breeding program was the answer, then damn the status quo.


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 IssgireThe small town was quiet except for the Pacifier patrol rolling through the streets. Hasti watched the Issgire patrol out of the corner of his eyes. He knew better than to stare them down in public. Many Manen citizens had died from that mistake. The damned lizards thought themselves better than any other species and looked down upon those they called allies. Hasti’s world was no different.

He had fought alongside the lizards, conquering another world in the name of peace and prosperity under the Issgire banner. But now, he understood them for what they really were: self-righteous, prejudiced, and only satisfied when they controlled it all. Despite each ally world possessing rights with a modicum of prosperity, every citizen knew the illusion only lasted as long as it didn’t conflict with Issgire goals or aspirations. Manen was nothing more than a slave colony, providing young men as fodder for the Issgire war against the Leran.

But that was about to change. Hasti’s underground movement had a new leader, one that had come from out of nowhere. His words spoke truth, his vision sparked freedom, his ideals were the banner under which Manen would march. Hasti had only met him once, but he possessed an uncanny depth of wisdom and knowledge about the empire. He would finally rouse the sleeping citizens of this world into action.

Hasti hurried across the street as the last of the patrol continued its never ending march. He nearly spat at the last vehicle, his town no longer content under a dictatorial rule. This new leader had rallied most to his cause, and those he hadn’t convinced, remained silent, refusing to turn against those of their own kind. The revolution was building momentum, and their new leader would soon bring them out from under the claws of the lizards.

The town was quiet during mid-day rest, and he easily made his way into an alley leading to the local rendezvous. The new leader would attend today, making a special visit to discuss timetables for the start of the revolt. Hasti couldn’t wait to put his Issgire training to work against the oppressors. It was a bitter irony the Issgire wouldn’t see coming until it was too late. In fact, the new leader had already infiltrated training camps, enlisting the Manen recruits to his cause while demanding they complete training under the watchful eyes of those they would overthrow.

He knocked on the door and waited while his fellow conspirators verified he’d not been followed. The local eatery was usually closed until evening, so the locked doors afforded them some privacy. Today, only the regional leaders would attend, the rest of the populace having to wait for details after their representatives returned. Hasti was excited about the unveiling as he had often argued for terrorist tactics to further their cause. But the new leader urged patience until the final battle that would defeat the Issgire in a single stroke.

This leader assured them Manen was not critical to the overall war effort, therefore, a devastating coup by the local populace would escape retaliation as the cost to quell the uprising far outweighed the planet’s strategic value. Hasti admired the man’s thinking. This great leader possessed unusual insight into the enemy considering he’d never fought in their wars. Still, his words made sense, so Hasti remained patient, biding his time until he could have his revenge.

The door finally opened and Nador greeted him, quickly closing the door from prying eyes. Hasti surveyed the dark interior, acknowledging the regional leaders before taking a seat near the front of the bar. He waited patiently, the time for fighting drawing near. How would they proceed? An all-out attack or slowly disabling Pacifier Security until only a thread of resistance remained? He barely held his excitement in check.

He watched the bar quietly, knowing the new leader wouldn’t come through the main door but through the back, cloaked from spying eyes. The town was considered relatively safe despite the regular Pacifier patrols. The leader’s name was Patrutcia, a foreign name to Hasti’s ears. Like so many citizens, he hailed from rural roots, a farming family from the other side of the planet, and this simple background endeared him to those he rallied. He was one of them, a patriotic freedom fighter with a keen intellect and uncanny insight into the enemy’s mind. Despite his less than prominent roots, Hasti embraced him for what he was, the savior of their world.

Lalren, the regional leader, started the meeting without fanfare. “Everyone sit down so we can get underway.”

Hasti knew Lalren since childhood and respected the man who oversaw such a large piece of the resistance. Everyone finally shuffled to tables, quietly waiting for the guest of honor. Their wait was short.

“We all know why we are here, so  let me introduce Patrutcia, the leader of our planet.” Lalren took a seat next to Hasti as a hooded figure walked out from behind the bar.

The figure lifted his hood as he took in the crowd. “Thank you, Lalren, but I would hardly call myself a leader.” His accent was thick, but his voice cut through the silence like a sword. “I am like you, a simple man seeking freedom for our people.”

Already, Hasti swelled with pride for someone who would rally the people of Manen. Lalren nodded subtly, clearly excited by the prospects of freeing their world. The day was at hand, and the lizards would pay for their oppression.

Patrutcia pulled up a bar stool, sitting casually as he looked out at the gathered crowd. “We have planned and waited so long, and our day has finally arrived. I come to you with news we have the final piece in place. Our military leaders have pledged allegiance to our cause, informing us they will back whatever play we make as long as they are involved in the planning. They don’t want to lose more troops than necessary during the reclamation.” He paused as the group shifted restlessly, surprised by the wonderful news. “Again, this was the final piece necessary to ensure victory.”

“Will they provide us weapons, then?” Lalren asked boldly.

The man hesitated before answering. “No, but I assure you weapons are coming.” He stood from his stool and paced before the bar. “We have another source able to provide what we need without compromising our military.”

Another voice bellowed a challenge from the rear of the room. “What source?”

Hasti turned to Lasto standing as he addressed this new leader. Not one to follow orders easily, Lasto was a man that would have to be convinced before he’d throw in with any plan. Hasti turned back to Patrutcia, also wondering who would provide the weapons. The Issgire notoriously controlled all military weapons, barely trusting the local military commanders with such possessions.

The new leader sat down, his gaze steady as he surveyed the room. “Let’s just say the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Lasto groaned. “Oh god, tell me you didn’t negotiate with the Leran! You want us to trade in one oppressor for another?”

Patrutcia was unperturbed by the dissent as he leaned into the crowd. “Let me assure you now, they want nothing more than to remove the Issgire shackles from our world. They have freed hundreds of worlds within our galaxy and stand ready to help us defend our home, no strings attached.”

“Says you!” Lasto spat. “Why should we believe you?”

Hasti was mesmerized by the exchange, surprised Lasto was so vocal in his criticisms. Still, the man had a point and Hasti wasn’t certain he was ready to trust the Leran anymore than the Issgire. Though the battles he’d once fought were against the followers of the Leran, one couldn’t tell if they’d been coerced or willing to be used in the war effort. Would these same warriors truly free Manen, no strings attached?

Patrutcia refused to be stopped by a single man and stared at each one as he continued his speech. “I have met with others who have fought alongside the Leran, and they assure me their planets enjoy total autonomy, even refusing to fight for the Leran without repercussions. They are a free people joining other free people to free our galaxy of the Issgire, once and for all!”

Lasto remained unconvinced but less cynical. “You have met with the Leran?” He asked.

“Yes.” Patrutcia replied.

“What are they like?” Lasto pressed with less force.

Patrutcia sat back down, relaxing. “They are an old and wise species, attaining their wisdom through eons of fighting oppression wherever it raises its ugly head. They are a tall, regal species, humble before those who join them, but fierce against those who oppose them.” He paused. “We need them as our friends.”

Lasto sat down as he considered these words. Hasti had seen a couple Leran only briefly in one battle he’d fought as a young man. They were tall and regal, their demeanor calm in the face of adversity. The rest of the tale, who knew? Still, the Leran had nearly infinite resources and could provide Manen with everything they needed to win this struggle. He wanted to hear more, but the sound of breaking glass drew his attention to the front window as a blinding light consumed the bar and its patrons.

Hasti stirred restlessly, fighting the binds holding him against the wall. His eye’s slowly focused on a room full of Issgire Pacifiers, weapons held high as they threatened those awake and bound on the floor. Hasti looked past them to Patrutcia being held between two soldiers while a third placed an electronic device on his head. The Issgire officer pushed a button and lights swirled around the ring as though it were analyzing Patrutcia’s mind. What were they doing? Reading his thoughts?

The swirling lights stopped, and the device glowed yellow as the officer replaced it within a special case. He promptly pulled a communicator from his belt to signal others outside. “It’s him, Prime.”

Was he speaking to a Prime Adjutar? Hasti grew nervous as he realized the scope of their situation. This was not a  simple Pacifier dispersal of an illegal gathering, this was a full blown military operation. He eyed the door as the Prime Adjutar entered, scanning the conspirators, most still unconscious from the concussion charge. He looked directly into Hasti’s eyes, but Hasti refused to look away—not this time. He stared back defiantly, rebellious to the end.

Let them kill me, he thought, my death will martyr the cause!

The Prime Adjutar looked amused by Hasti’s obvious hatred and walked over. His cold eye’s peered into Hasti’s, and for one brief moment, an instinctual fear of being eaten flashed through Hasti’s mind. It was quickly replaced with seething hatred for the arrogant lizard.

The Prime Adjutar stopped in front of him and laughed. “You really think your conspiracy would have succeeded?” He walked casually to Patrutcia. “You think this man was going to lead you to victory? This imposter?” He turned back to Hasti a feral grin filling his features. “This worm isn’t even one of your kind!”

“He is not dead yet, Prime.” The officer said quietly as the Prime moved to an open chair still standing after the explosion.

The Prime Adjutar eyed a young soldier who immediately cleaned off the chair and held it for his superior. “Thank you, Pacifier.” The Prime said casually as he sat down. He studied Patrutcia with great interest. “Do you suppose we can get anything out of him?” He asked coldly.

The officer shook his head. “I doubt it, Prime, they are as hard as diamonds.”

“Hmmm.” The Prime hummed softly. “Even a diamond will succumb to the proper pressure. However, I suspect we’ll have to turn him over to Danirdan. Perhaps our God can shake something useful out of him.”

Hasti’s mind reeled in confusion from the exchange. If Patrutcia had been correct in saying Manen was not strategically valuable, then why would the Issgire god interrogate the leader of the resistance? Hadn’t they just successfully crushed the resistance?

“Why is he so important?” Hasti spat before he could stop himself.

A Pacifier next to him threatened to strike with the butt of his rifle, but the Prime stopped him mid-swing. “What is he to you, traitor?”

Hasti seized the opportunity. “He was our hope, our inspiration!”

The Prime laughed louder, his men joining in. “He was a Leran spy who killed the man you think you see, replacing him with this disgusting replica. That is what they do! They infiltrate worlds, taking over someone within the populace, gaining trust before turning them against their leaders. He doesn’t want freedom for your world, he wants to use it for Leran gain!” He stood up and walked over to the crushed leader. “Don’t feel too sorry for yourselves, though, you idiots were fooled by the best.”

“He is a great man, something you’ll never understand!” Hasti argued, pressing against his binds.

The Prime moved closer to, his feral grin turning angry. “I understand all too well, traitor, it is you who do not! They are not who you think they are.” He moved back to his chair and sat down, brushing the dust from his uniform. “The Leran are parasites. They learn everything they can about their victims before disposing of the body, growing a new one from the DNA of the original. They are mimics of the highest caliber, and they serve only their own needs. If this world weren’t important to them, they would just as soon destroy it.”

“You lie!” Hasti said in frustration. “I have seen the Leran, and they are not mimics.”

The Prime laughed condescendingly. “You have seen the image of those they want you to believe are Leran. Those false Leran are a race conquered ages ago, before your world was even a ball of dirt! No, traitor, trust me when I say this impostor is a Leran spy sent here to infiltrate and turn your world inside out.”

“Why should I trust you?” Hasti demanded with less force, the thought of an infiltrator making him nervous. Had they really been fooled by the Leran?

“Don’t trust me.” The Prime said as he stood once more, signaling a soldier to bring him a communicator. “I don’t care. My only concern is that he was caught!” He hefted the communicator, turning away from Hasti. “This is Prime Adjutar Misses, please tell our Lord we have caught the infiltrator and need his assistance.”

He handed the device back to the soldier and sat patiently waiting for their god. Hasti eyed the rest of his conspirators as they slowly came to. He needed them to witness the same thing he was, to verify or reject the notion they had been infiltrated. Was their savior nothing more than a plant? Doubt began to surface in his mind, and he wondered. Patrutcia had been so convincing the Leran were friends. Was it because he was a Leran? He shook his head as the thought made him ill.

A flash of light blinded him momentarily as the Issgire god materialized in the room. He was spectacular, regal in dress, and fierce in form. His reptile eyes took in everything, lingering momentarily on Hasti as the man refused to back down even from a deity. The god finally turned away, staring intently at Patrutcia while he hung limp between two soldiers.

“Get up worm!” He demanded. “I don’t believe you are unconscious for one moment. Face me now!”

Patrutcia stirred, before lifting his head. “Danirdan, how wonderful to finally meet the god of those we will vanquish.”

The words stung Hasti as he began to realize the Prime may have been right, Patrutcia was Leran. Danirdan walked over to the man, taking his head into sizable hands. It would have been easy for the god to kill him right there, denying him the pleasure of fighting back, but Danirdan held his hands in check.

“What is your name, worm?” Danirdan asked, his grin lined with razor teeth.

Patrutcia hesitated, but came to a conclusion. “I am Nethra.”

Danirdan released his grip and stood back. “A fitting name for one who should be crawling in the dirt.” The god signaled to the two soldiers who tied Nethra to the bar, arms and legs spread wide. “Tell me, Nethra, what were your plans for this world?”

The Leran laughed lightly. “You realize I can kill this body at anytime I choose. Why should I tell you anything?”

Danirdan spun back towards the prisoner. “You realize I can bring this body back to life anytime I choose!”

Nethra looked nervous, but responded to the threat. “That would be a violation of the rules.”

Danirdan smiled. “Perhaps, but it would not be the first time I broke the rules. Considering this is the first time we have caught one of you worms alive, it might be worth the penalty. Besides, I know you do not want to die, not even for your fellow brethren.”

Nethra squirmed as he realized his tenuous position. “You would forego this world? For what?”

Danirdan waved his arms around the bar, his toothy grin sneering at the Leran spy. “This dung heap? I would trade it for even less, worm! Now tell me, why was this world so important?”

Hasti didn’t appreciate the tone of the conversation. Would his world be destroyed simply because the Leran would not talk? Was their world really so meaningless? Suddenly his desire for revolution seemed insignificant. They truly were nothing to this god.

Without thinking he spoke. “Please, do not destroy our world!”

Danirdan spun on him, his fierce gaze making Hasti feel small, like prey caught in talons. But he stood his ground, refusing to let his world be parlayed for nothing more than trivial intelligence.

“Why shouldn’t it be destroyed?” Danirdan asked, curious by the upstart who would dare cross a god. “Weren’t you just planning to kick us off this rock? Why should we care about you and your pathetic world?”

Hasti hated to admit it, but he was willing to plead for survival. “Please, I once fought alongside the Issgire, helping you defeat others that stood against you.”

“And you expect loyalty for those feeble efforts? After you plotted to destroy us?” Danirdan dismissed him, turning back to the Leran captive.

“We can change!” Hasti yelled.

Danirdan hesitated but finally turned back around. “How?” He asked.

Hasti wasn’t sure what to say. Could they pledge allegiance to those who had oppressed them for so long? He eyed his fellow captives, now watching the exchange intently, nervous as they awaited the outcome. “We can help you find the information you desire.” He said.

The god scoffed. “You? You couldn’t even plan a revolt.”

Hasti was cornered but had to gamble for whatever chance they had to survive. “We have a way.”

Danirdan looked to his Prime who simply shrugged. “Local magic?” The Prime suggested.

The god snapped his fingers and a soldier injected the Leran spy, knocking him unconscious. “You can keep him from killing himself while extracting information?” He asked more curious.

Hasti nodded. “We have special drugs that will loosen his tongue while removing his self control. He will willingly give us everything we need.”

The god paused, considering the offer. “And if it doesn’t work?”

“Then, you can bring him back to life and sacrifice our world.” Hasti replied. “Your Prime said it himself, the body was constructed from our DNA. If that is true, then our drugs will affect him as they do us.”

Danirdan turned to his Prime Adjutar. “You believe him?”

The Prime stood from his chair and walked over to Hasti. “Tell me what is this drug you speak of?”

Hasti swallowed hard. “It is extracted from a local plant. We use it to treat mental patients we cannot control.”

The Prime nodded before looking back at his god. “What have we to lose, my Lord?”

Danirdan considered the request before speaking. “And in return for this service, I spare your world so you can revolt against us once more?”

Hasti was negotiating with a god but couldn’t fail his planet now. He considered his words carefully, finally deciding he had to go for it. “We will fight your war side by side as equals. You free our world of all Pacifiers and we will willingly provide the troops for your war.”

A deep, incredulous laughter rolled from Danirdan. “You are suggesting you are equals to my Issgire?”

“Maybe not.” Hasti said. “But we will be treated as though we are.”

Danirdan sneered. “Release him!” He said to one of the soldiers. “Bring me this drug, traitor, and I will grant your request, assuming it works.”

Hasti was released from his binds and bowed deeply before this god before moving out of the bar. He ran through the quiet streets, already thinking about Doctor Yassi and his wonder drug that might save their world. He’d been so excited when he’d first made his way to meet their supposed savior, but in less than an hour he’d become the savior of his people. Patrutcia had been proven nothing more than a Leran spy! If Danirdan upheld his end of the bargain, so would Hasti. It would be a small form of freedom for his people, but at a cost. Despite the failure of their revolution, this new resolution to their crisis was palatable. Hasti believed the compromise of freedom from the Pacifier presence was revolutionary.