Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween


Hello Lovelies:

So, today I don't have any stories, I just wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a Happy Halloween. I know some of you might not celebrate it, but I know it also might be your favorite day of the year. Either way, with my own love of spooky, scary, skeletons and all things that go bump in the night, I wanted to take a moment to and say:

I hope you and your family have a very fun, safe and 
Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Xenophobia - Chapter 15



   "I...I don't understand." stammered Cherryl from her place at the table. "How can they have found a G-Guillae?"
    "I concur." agreed the old judge. "The Guillae vacated that planet dozens of rotations ago."
    "Indeed they did." confirmed Harris. "But all the same, the humans have recovered one."
    "Alive or dead?" asked Darrian in utter confusion.
    "Are you kidding me?" snapped Cagool. "That thing has been there for who knows how many rotations. Alone. Under the ground from how it sounds. Why would you think it's alive?"
    Harris cast a sidelong glance at Cagool before responding. "It's certainly dead."
    "W-well that's good news." said Cherryl looking notably relieved.
    "No. It's not." said Harris and the old judge seemingly simultaneously.
    "It's not?"
    "No." confirmed the old judge.
    Cherryl looked like she had more to ask, but quickly reconsidered as the old judge and Harris turned their attention back to each other.
    "Sir. Is it normal for Guillae to leave one of theirs behind like this?"
    The old judge shook his head.
    "I'm not completely sure. It's been an exceptionally long time since the Consortium had any interaction with the Guillae. Likewise, as a general rule we never authorize colonization of old Guillae planets. Researchers rarely favor such locations either."
    "So this could be a norm?" questioned Harris.
    "We simply don't know."
    "Why are we even discussing this?" groaned Cagool. "Who really cares?"
    The old judge flashed Cagool a threatening glance before responding.
    "Do you know anything about the Guillae, Cagool?" he said.
    "Nothing more than you've told us before. Plant people. Like to eat planets. That sort of thing."
    "I also mentioned that they travel together in a great cluster. A spore." explained the old judge. "Because of this, or maybe it's the other way around, the Guillae have a number of innate capabilities."
    "Capabilities?" questioned Darrian.
    "Well, for one, the Guillae are linked to one another. Each Guillae is connected to all of the others. Think of it almost like a hive mind, not unlike insects..."
    "Or a flora-network." added A'alan't 32. "Like roots or a forest."
    "Precisely." agreed the old judge. "It functions even across deep space."
    "While creepy to think about, I ask again, who cares?" said Cagool. "It's dead."
    "That brings us nicely to their other capability. Just one Guillae can repopulate an entire planet. One. Dead. Guillae."
    "You can't be serious!"
    "No. He's right." confirmed A'alan't 32. "I've been studying them on my down time. Not unlike some plants, Guillae essentially convert to giant seed spores upon death. Their only purpose is to sprout when exposed to water."
    The old judge nodded in agreement before turning his attention back to Harris.
    "Thank you, Harris." he said with a nod. "Is there anything else?"
    "Uhm...no, Sir."
    As the old judge reached down to turn off the holographic imager, Harris spoke up.
    "Actually, a moment, Sir."
    "Harris?"
    "Should we...do something about this?"
    "No."
    There was excitement and confusion as whispers littered the table.
    "Of course, Sir."
    "Keep us up to date when the Guillae spores."
    "I will."
    With that, Harris terminated the transmission and the old judge sighed. Darrian found the action peculiar for a robot. But with the number of other peculiar learned programming the old judge had demonstrated, this was hardly the strangest.
    "So we're not doing anything about this?" asked A'alan't 32.
    "We must maintain the quarantine." said the old judge. "We would need to discuss the matter with the Consortium before we could take any true action."
    "But what if they accidentally spawn more Guillae. More live Guillae?" demanded Darrian.
    "When the humans do, we will wait and watch to see what happens. This could prove to be an exciting learning opportunity."

===

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===

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Xenophobia - Chapter 14


    After the last meeting, Darrian noticed that the cycles began to pass at a sluggish pace. At first, he couldn't wait to get to the meeting room. That was, until he noticed that Jin'thun was missing. Unlike before with Juag-e, the old Judge said nothing about the Gorderian's absence.
    That meeting dragged on like nothing else.
    The next meeting wasn't any better. No Jin'thun. No word of whether they had rallied support or the Gorderians had gone to the Tulgucks aid.
    It was like this for a dozen cycles.
    During this time, the humans were already making immense progress with their colonization of Mars. The colony ships from both China and the United States had arrived safe and sound and had quickly begun the process of creating life-support habitats for the colonists. Once they finished their construction, the humans immediately sank their time into agricultural and scientific endeavors.
    One thing that struck the council as odd was the fact that the humans from the two ships remained separated and seemed to make no attempt to actively interact with each other. Despite their only difference being geographical location on Earth, their groups remained separated aside for occasionally checking that the other was alive and well.
    Darrian thought he'd never understand how humans disregarded their own species so much.
    The humans' presence on Mars created a number of unique problems for the analytics team as well. Unlike on Earth with it's rather massive population, a lone individual or group of individuals stuck out compared to the general populace of Mars. It wasn't a matter of simply slapping on a holographic imager and walking into the crowd. Every human knew every other human and they couldn't simply walk into a mess hall as an unknown.
    But Harris's team was talented.
    Utilizing a combination of technological infiltration and carefully hidden listening and viewing devices, a small group of the analytics team was able to monitor the humans as they progressed into their colonization. It proved challenging keeping their craft hidden, sometimes in orbit and sometimes on the surface, and it was not nearly as informative but they made it work.

    "I just don't get why they don't really interact with each other." grumbled Ugul.
    "Hmm. Do you think it could be the whole 'language barrier' thing that Harris had mentioned before?" said Cagool snidely.
    Darrian couldn't help but feel that the Yool had become absolutely insufferable as of late. While he had actively denied any interaction or affiliation with the Tulgucks or Gorderians, his mood swing seemed too conveniently timed. Ever since Jin'thun's disappearance, he couldn't seem to keep his condescension to himself. Maybe he just liked being the contrarian.
    "Many of the colonists speak each others regional linguistics, Cagool." groaned A'alan't 32.
    "Well, maybe this is a new batch. Who knows? With how short lived they are, maybe they had to reproduce on the ship before the original batch died of old age. Did we think to check?"
    "Would you just shut up?" snapped Ferris in an unusually bad mood.
    Maybe he was just used to being the sarcastic one or maybe Cagool was just getting under his skin. Either way, Ferris had more venom then normal.
    "I feel like you haven't had anything useful to add to these meetings in a while." Ferris added quickly.
    "What's there to add?" asked Cagool. "We're basically just watching a virus grow in a petri dish while we wait for the doctor to come and destroy it."
    "Cagool." warned the old judge.
    "What?" he said as he looked around the table. "You might not like it, but facts are facts. The Tulgucks are on their way right now to wipe them off the map."
    The old judge glowered at him and a few of the other councilors looked uncomfortable.
    "Even if the Gorderians decide to try and stop them, which they probably won't, the Tulgucks have good headway. I'd give it another few cycles before for the first warships show up and then we can start doing something better with our time."
    "Cagool. Are you suggesting that this is a waste of time and that we should be supporting the Tulgucks in their vicious slaughter of a young species?" demanded the old judge.
    "Hey. I didn't say it. You did."
    Darrian could feel his throat tightening and was about to say something when the light on the holographic imager started flashing.
    The old judge reached down and hit a button on his datapad and Harris, not in his human disguise but instead his proper Merrenian form, appeared above the table.
    "Harris?" asked the old judge. "Is something wrong? You have this labeled as a priority one message."
    "I bet the warships just showed up." muttered Cagool quietly.
    "Would you just..." growled Ferris.
    "Shut it!" snapped the old judge. "Harris?"
    Harris adjusted himself and cleared his throat.
    "Yes. Well... I'm not sure how to put this. As you are aware, the humans begin their scientific research on the surface of Mars. Some of that research includes extensive digging. Archaeologic searches and the like..." his tone was hollow and he looked nervous.
    The room fell quiet. Even Cagool didn't have something snide to add.
    "What did they find, Captain?" asked the old judge with hesitation in his voice.
    Harris seemed to look around the room as if he was considering what or how to say whatever it was needed saying. After a moment, he sighed heavily and looked back to the old judge with a stern expression.
    "The humans have found a Guillae, sir."

===

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===

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Xenophobia - Chapter 13


    The awkward silence drew out for several long moments. The majority of the Consortium stared at Jin'thun and the other two Gorderian representatives as if they might spontaneously combust. They stared right back.
    "What?" Jin'thun finally growled, his expression unable to hide his annoyance at being the sudden center of attention.
    "W-w-well... It's just..." stuttered Cherryl.
    Jin'thun locked eyes with her. Despite the fact Darrian didn't think he was actually trying to be intimidating, Cherryl let out a little squeak and stopped talking.
    "It's just...with the way things are happening..." Illiquina tried to continue for her.
    "Where do your allegiances lie, Jin'thun?" asked the old judge, clearly growing annoyed with the Consortium's attempt at tact.
    The Gorderian glowered at the robot and Darrian felt his throat tightening with fear that they had been right. But, as they watched, Jin'thun's expression softened and he sighed heavily.
    "What do you mean by that?" inquired Jin'thun with the softest tone Darrian had ever heard from the ambassador.
    "Will you, and by extent the Gorderians, be joining the Tulgucks in the slaughter of the human species?"
    The room grew incredibly still as everyone waited on bated breath for his response. At the same time, Jin'thun seemed to return the glances, silently weighing his options.
    "I don't know." he finally stated.
    "Well, that's better than a yes..." whispered Ferris.
    "Is it?" asked Jin'thun. "I simply recognize that it's not my place to make a decision that would slaughter an entire species. Or condemn my own to exile from Consortium."
    "Unlike some." grumbled A'alan't 32.
    "You're not wrong." agreed Jin'thun begrudgingly.
    "So you're considering it then?" asked Darrian.
    "I'm considering all of my options, Merrenian."
    "The humans are monstrous. Terrifying." stated Ugul. "But you can't just kill them all."
    "Again." Jin'thun said with just a hint of anger. "It's not my place to decide. After this meeting, I will contact my homeworld and we will discuss the implications of all possible actions."
    "As it is, I can't deny the possible threat that the humans present." he continued. "But, it's hard to deny that the more we have watched them, the more promise I've seen from the oxygen breathers."
    "May I suggest something then?" asked the old judge.
    Jin'thun looked at the robot expectantly.
    "You say you would like to discuss all possible options?" the old judge continued.
    "Yes..." Jin'thun responded with a questioning look.
    "What might those options be?"
    Baffled whispers could be heard around the table. Many of the ambassadors looked just as surprised and confused by the question as Darrian was.
    "Is this some kind of a trick?" asked Jin'thun with a threatening growl.
    "No trick." said the old judge. "I simply want to know what you consider as options."
    Jin'thun watched the old judge carefully, seemingly still not sure what the robot was getting at. Finally he answered.
    "We will discuss whether we should join the Tulgucks in their attack on the human population, and thereby lose our standing with the Consortium, or if we shall remain neutral."
    "May I suggest a third option then?" asked the old judge.
    "You may..."
    "It's well known that the Gorderians and the Tulgucks are the only two species within the Consortium that maintain a regular Armada force. You're both young, new to the Consortium, and clinging to your old ways."
    Darrian noticed several of the ambassadors quietly agreeing.
    "As a general policy, the Consortium maintains a regular species-based security force to help maintain order within respective planets. But, as you likely know, those forces are little to nothing compared to the might of either the Tulguck or the Gorderian armadas."
    "While this might be considered an oversight, it is quite rare that we ever need such a force. It's even more rare that such an event might come from one of our own."
    "Where are you going with this?" asked Jin'thun thoughtfully.
    "Jin'thun. Your species is the only other member of the Consortium with a military force that might be able to stop the Tulgucks from committing a horrible atrocity. Will you ask your homeworld to about utilizing your armada in aid of the humans?"
    The Gorderians looked just as surprised as the rest of the ambassadors. None of them would have ever considered suggesting Consortium races wage war on each other. Or, if the thought crossed their minds, it would have been gone just as quickly and certainly never said out loud.
    "Are you serious?" asked Jin'thun quietly.
    "As serious as an impending genocide." the old judge answered back, seemingly nonplussed.
    "Defend the humans?" Jin'thun growled and then repeated. "Defend the humans...?"
    "Yes." the old judge agreed.
    The Gorderian furrowed and glared at the robot. His fur bristled and claws dug deeply into the table. Darrian felt himself tensing as he waited for the impending explosion.
    But it never came.
    Instead, once more, Jin'thun let out a heavy sigh and stood.
    "Will you consider this third option?" asked the old judge again.
    "I will." agreed Jin'thun to the Consortium's surprise. "I make no promises. But I will present the proposition to my homeworld."
    "We will have a great deal to talk about." he said as he made his way towards the meeting room door.
    The room was silent as he went. Just as he reached the door, the old judge spoke once more.
    "Thank you." he said softly.
    "Don't thank me yet, robot." Jin'thun said. "And judge?"
    "Yes?"
    "You do know that, even if we were to respond, the Tulguck Armada has already mobilized. The humans may already be dead by the time we could even reach their solar system."
    "Then I hope the Gorderians will be willing to take such a risk."
    Jin'thun stared quietly at the old judge for a long time before finally closing the door behind him.

===

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=== 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Xenophobia - Chapter 12


    "Have you lost your minds?!" bellowed the old judge at the holographic images of Guor-a and Juag-e.
    Darrian had never seen them side by side, but it suddenly struck him how much smaller in stature Juag-e was in comparison to the High Maister. He knew the little Juag-e was known for being a bit shorter than his compatriots, but he had to wonder if the Armada leader that he stood side-by-side with was not also larger than normal for his species.
    "You think I'm crazy?" yelled back Guor-a with just as much ferocity. "You're the ones that are out of touch with reality! All it seems that you ever do is talk and talk!"
    "Yes! We've been hosting a council to review information! Our purpose isn't to declare war on defenseless species!"
    "They're defenseless now, but what about in a rotation? Damnit! What about in half a rotation? These creatures move at such a rapid pace they might achieve interstellar travel in thirty cycles! Beating down our doors in thirty two!"
    "So you admit you'd be slaughtering a defenseless civilization." snapped A'alan't 32 with more emotion than Darrian had ever heard from the Bivvie.
    "Is it considered slaughter to vaccinate a victim from a disease? To give them medicine and kill an infection before they are cowering with illness?"
    "The humans are not an infection!" screamed the old judge.
    "Then why quarantine them if they aren't little more than a plague waiting to happen?"
    Murmurs whispered throughout the Consortium at that. A large number of the ambassadors had remained silent through the screaming contest. When the emergency council had been called, no one knew what to expect given the last time war was declared by anyone was many rotations ago. Now, sitting before this fervent anger, few even knew how to react.
    "To observe and collect data. To avoid outward influences." retorted the old judge.
    "And to keep us safe in case they proved themselves dangerous." growled Guor-a
    "Guor-a." said Illiquina softly.
    His scaled visage glowered back at her.
    "The humans are a terrifying race. Hell, the fact that they can breathe poison is unsettling enough. Yet, they are exceptionally young. We've already had observations regarding a majority population living in support of many ideals the Consortium holds dear."
    "We've seen many who are in support of peace and prosperity and ending the needless violence their species has suffered." she finished with a joyous lit to her voice that seemed to defy Guor-a's anger.
    "Would these be the same creatures that declare war on each other regularly? Would this be the same species whose only reason for trying to escape their atmosphere is in the name of competition?"
    "It's the same species who is learning to overcome their primordial instincts and move on to something greater. To look for something greater." said Cherryl with a level of confidence in her normally shaky tone that left several ambassadors staring with surprise.
    "Don't talk to me about what humans are or aren't like." growled Guor-a, pointing a clawed finger at no one in particular. "I've learned all I need to know."
    "And what does that mean?" inquired the old judge.
    "After Juag-e came to me some cycles ago, I decided to do some digging. I found out that a few of my fellow compatriots had already known about this monstrous little species."
    Any side discussion there was within the Consortium fell dead silent.
    "What are you saying?" asked Darrian in utter shock.
    "We've already known about humans for some time now. In fact, it would seem that our own survey was being conducted. We even have Tulguck infiltrators in a number of higher governmental offices learning all about..."
    "YOU TREASONOUS PIECE OF SHIT!" screamed the old judge, pounding the table with an echoing boom.
    Darrian stared in disbelief at the old judge. The old robot had been around for more rotations than Darrian would ever know. He'd been programmed with the ability to learn, but, at the end of the day, he had a base programming. Where or when the old judge would have learned such a fervent and emotional reaction was beyond him.
    "YOU MOCK US WITH THIS INFORMATION?!" continued the old judge. "HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN EVERY FACET OF THE CONSORTIUM'S AGREEMENTS?!"
    "And what would you be referring to?" asked Guor-a with a look of contempt.
    "Your government withheld information about a possible spacebound species! Not only that, but you're bragging that you've INFILTRATED their government?! Do you know that kind of damage you could be doing."
    "Look robot..." responded Guor-a in a surprising docile tone. "I'm not the one who made those calls. Hell, I'm not even sure I could find out who. But at the end of the day, we're talking about a plague. A pestilence. A virus that needs to be wiped from the galaxy before it can spread."
    "That's not your call to make! You're going against everything your species agreed to...everything this Consortium stands for!"
    "Then stop me."
    The old judge fell silent. No one on the Consortium maintained an Armada or Fleet anymore. No one but the two youngest species: the Tulgucks and the Gorderians. At best, each species kept a small defense force, but nothing that could even hope to stand up to Guor-a.
    What was worse: given the sheer amount of how often Jin'thun and Juag-e agreed on matters of state, Darrian didn't doubt the Gorderians would soon be joining the Tulgucks to cull the humans.
    And there was nothing they could do.
    "That's what I thought." continued Guor-a with a sneer when no one said anything.
    "If you do this, you'll be making an enemy of us, Guor-a." said the old judge in a low tone. "The Tulgucks will be stripped of their trade rights and positions within the Consortium."
    "Maybe so." said Juag-e. "Maybe it means our species has a falling out for now. But in a few rotations, after you've had time to think about how nice it is not being murdered in your beds, I'm sure we'll be welcomed back. With sanctions, of course...or maybe as heroes."
    "Time will tell." finished Juag-e with a small smile that suggested he really did believe they were in the right.
    "Don't do this." Darrian suddenly pleaded.
    The humans terrified him, yet the thought of simply wiping them from existence...murdering billions of people before they could respond. He couldn't stomach the idea.
    "It's already done." said Juag-e.
    "Our Armada is mobilizing as we speak." added Guor-a. "Soon enough we will remove this threat and you all can sleep peacefully once again."
    The image snapped out and the reptilian visages of the Tulgucks disappeared. No one said anything. No one knew what to say. Everyone just seemed to stare at the blank space where the hologram had been.
    "They're all going to die..." whispered Ugul woefully.
    Darrian's gaze wandered the room to Ugul and then to the other ambassadors. All of them looked devastated. There was nothing that could do. The Tulgucks were going to Earth and would probably be joined by...
    The Gorderians.
    Everyone seemed to have the same thought. As if on cue, dozens of eyes were staring intently at Jin'thun and the other Gorderians representatives.
    "Well shit..." growled Jin'thun with a look of annoyance.

===

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Start at the Beginning

===

(Hello Lovelies! I'm so sorry that this took longer than planned to come out, but I had a few personal things that hit me hard and, to be candid, I've found I'd much rather focus my efforts on Xenophobia right now then simply forcing myself to right random tidbits. I should have a more stable schedule now, so I'm sorry again for missing a couple days! Keep an eye out to find out what the Gorderians are going to do.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Xenophobia - Chapter 11


    The next ten cycles were a maelstrom of activity. The council met at least once a cycle, if not two or three. Darrian was even required to attend several Consortium meetings over that same time period. Everything was concerning the humans' attempt to colonize Mars.
    While the news of their upcoming attempt definitely made ripples, the main reason for the constant deliberation had more to do with the speed that humans seemed to operate at. Every cycle brought several new challenges. Something new to review and discuss.
    Recruiting for the colonization begun. Political arguments rallied regarding planetary ownership. A competition among geographic "nations" broke out regarding who would be the first to reach the planet. Tensions rose between those nations and even threatened war. Several interplanetary vessels were destroyed by what was believed to be sabotage.
    Despite all the setbacks and changes, the colony ships launched at the very end of the tenth cycle. There were two ships; both from different geographic "nations". One from a location known as "China". The other from the "United States".
    Juag-e never showed up to a single meeting during that time.

    "Where is he?" the old judge demanded of Jin'thun at the beginning of the second cycle.
    Jin'thun gave the old judge a withering glare before responding.
    "Do I look like a Tulguck?"
    "You two are always together." interjected Darrian before the old judge could respond.
    "Politically." agreed Jin'thun with a threatening growl. "The same can be said of him and Yool, yet I don't see you turning a sharpened tongue towards him."
    "Hey. Don't drag me into this." retorted Yool.
    "The fact remains," continued the judge, "We just went through an entire cycle without so much as a notification as to his whereabouts. Juag-e needs to take this council seriously."
    "Who could?" snapped Jin'thun. "Particularly when you can't seem to tell me apart from an entirely different species."
    "It's jus..." began Cherryl.
    "It's just what?!" demanded Jin'thun. "I am not an ambassador from Tulguck. I'm a Gorderian and you'll be wise to remember that."
    "Calm yourself, Jin'thun. They meant no disrespect." said A'alan't 32.
    "Of course they did. Because we dare have a different opinion from their own." he said, turning his rage on the little Bivvie. "It's the same reason Ferris likes to call Juag-e, Yool, and I the Trifecta."
    "That's right." he snarled, turning towards Ferris. "You're not as quiet or as funny as you think you are Merrenian. But what can you expect from a rodent in a robot?"
    "Jin'thun!" yelled the old judge.
    "What?" he responded in a low, threatening tone.
    "This is a council meeting. If you can't control you're temper and follow the rules of etiquette you will be removed from this council."
    "Would those be the same rules of etiquette that dictate interspecies relations, specifically on the matter of respect, tolerance, and mutual agreement? Or perhaps you're referring to the subsection that dictates what a council lead is to do in the absence of a species ambassador?"
    The judge had no response and no other counselor dared the Gorderian's fury.
    "Before you yell at me about my breach in etiquette, consider your own. I am not Juag-e's keeper and I will not be put on the spot for his absence." growled Jin'thun. "If you want to know where he is, contact his embassy. That's yours and his problem. Not. Mine."
    Despite the fact that Jin'thun was clearly still fuming, he settled back into his place at the table. The room was silent for several moments as no one knew what to say. Finally, the old judge stepped up.
    "I apologize for my inconsideration, ambassador." said the old judge in a soft tone.
    "Damn right, you are. Now, we've got a job to do. Let's get to it."
    And they did.

    Despite the fact that Darrian was sure the old judge would have contacted the Tulguck embassy immediately after the debacle with Jin'thun, no one heard anything regarding Juag-e for a good while. He didn't return nor was a replacement Tulguck arranged to take his spot. His place at the table remained empty.
    It stayed that way until the evening of the twelfth cycle.
    "Just when I thought we were done with meetings for a while." grumbled Ferris.
    "I thought so too." agreed Darrian as they settled into place.
    "There can't possibly be something else going on." Ferris complained towards the old judge. "The human ships aren't supposed to arrive on Mars for another six or seven cycles."
    "Did something happen?" asked Illiquina with a hint of concern. "Was there an accident? More sabotage?"
    "No accident." confirmed the old judge. "But, to be frank, we have a problem."
    "And what is that?"
    "The Tulguck Armada has been mobilized and they have declared hostile intent against the humans."

===

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=== 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Clean Up - Journal



Hello Lovelies,

As you may have noticed, I've been gone for the last day as I've been in the process of cleaning up the site a little. The main thing that I've been focusing on is getting the Xenophobia stories set and looking clean. You can now flip through each chapter manually for an easy reading experience. We also now have a full title page dedicated to Xenophobia as well.

My intent is to clean up a few more things and, time permitting, I will hopefully begin work on Chapter 11 tonight. If it's not completed by tonight, I assure you that it will be out come tomorrow. Can't go a few days with having more, haha.

I hope everyone is well and I promise that more is soon to come.

- RB

Xenophobia Title Page


Xenophobia
 
---
When people picture Aliens, they imagine monsters. Creatures. Other worldly things
with voracious appetites and powers and technologies that far surpass our own. But what
if we were the monsters in our eyes. Violent and bloodthirsty with capabilities they could
never imagine. How would they react to these monsters from Earth?
---











Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Rider


    Clinklck.
    Amanda put away her keys as she walked away from the darkened shop front. Her neck hurt. Her head hurt. Her back hurt. Everything hurt. Since Tomas had called out that afternoon, she had been at the shop open to close without backup.
    After thirteen hours on her feet, all she could think of was getting home. She wanted a warm bath and a soft bed.
    Looking out over the empty parking lot, she groaned loudly. In the rush of the day, she had completely forgotten to call for a ride to get home. With her car in the shop for the next week, her boyfriend had dropped her off in the morning, but with him working the evening shift there was no way he could come grab her now.
    Flipping through her phone, she curled up on the sidewalk for a moment and sent a barrage of text messages to the few friends she thought might be willing to pick her up.
    She'd just have to wait and see if anyone got back to her.
    Curled up on the curb outside of the shop, she watched as a fine mist slowly rolled over the parking lot. It started at the edge of the darkened forest and billowed out like a slow rolling wave that settled over the black asphalt. With it came a wet cold that left her teeth chattering in the dark of the moonless night.
    Come on...somebody get back to me.
    Ten minutes had passed when she decided to try to start calling over texting. First her sister. No answer. Then her friend Bethany. Straight to voicemail. Her roommate Joseph? No answer and a full voicemail box.
    Desperate, she dialed her boyfriend. All the while, she watched as the mist ever slowly thickened into fog that drifted about her in the darkness.
    "Sorry, hon." Cory said apologetically over the phone. "There's no way I can get there. One of the server's went down and we're doing everything we can to get it back up. I don't think I'm even going  to take a lunch."
    "It's ok, sweetie." Amanda said with a sigh. "At this point, I guess I'll just walk home."
    "Be careful." he said.
    "I will. It's only two miles away. I've done it before, it's just spooky at night."
    "I know. Just please be safe, baby." said Cory with that soft croon in his voice.
    "I will." she said again. "I love you."
    "I love you too."
    Amanda put away her phone and stood up, looking at the darkened road. It was also being slowly covered by that thick hanging fog that drifted off the forest's edge. Every now and again a car would drive by, but it was already getting so late that the roadways were quickly becoming abandoned.
     Ignoring the many complaints of her throbbing feet, she stepped onto the side of the road and headed homeward bound.
    As she walked, she pulled out her headphones and started to plug them in when she reconsidered. With the woods on one side and the roadway on the other; drifting, nightmarish thoughts of monsters coming out of the woods plagued her mind. The harder she watched the passing treeline, the more she imagined a giant werewolf or a horrible creature waiting in the fog to jump out at her. If she listened to music, she might not hear it coming.
    Stop being a pussy. she thought to herself before popping in her earbuds.
    The music helped ease the walk and drew her attention away from the pounding in her feet. It drew her attention away from the silent, darkened roadway and the eerie quiet that perpetuated the heavy fog.
    Despite this, she continued to watch the treeline. Sure, the night might have been playing tricks on her mind, but there was no harm in keeping a lookout...
    Had she seen something in there?
    Was something moving back behind that bush there?
    A flicker of movement caught her eye and she stopped cold on the side of the road. A shadow seemed to play across the underbrush and a branch flicked up and down.
    What was that?
    The bush rattled more and she saw a flash of something large and black that disappeared back behind a big tree.
    Instinctively she backed away from the treeline. Her eyes searched for the answer. Hunted for whatever it was she had seen. Was it a monster? A beast of some kind? No. It was just a shadow from...lights?
    Fully in the road, her back to it, the car swerved at the last second in a desperate attempt to avoid the young lady standing in the street. Amanda felt a sharp pain in her back as she flew forward towards the roadway.

    When she awoke, the road was cold and hard under her hands and her head and back hurt more than ever.
    Slowly pushing herself up, Amanda found that she was again alone in the road. No lights. No monsters in the bushes. Just skid marks in the street to indicate where the driver had tried to stop.
    That son of a bitch hit me and ran...
    Settling on the side of the road, she pulled out her phone to try and call the police. To her dismay, however, the phone was heavily cracked and refused to turn on.
    It must have been damaged in the accident.
    Tearing the back off her phone, she stared at the electronic components. The battery seemed in tact and nothing looked all that bad except for the screen. If she had known anything about electronics, maybe she could have done something more. For now, she simply sighed and closed it up again. She'd have to give it to Cory later.
    Clip clop clip clop.
    The sound echoed down the roadway.
    Clip clop clip clop.
    It got louder. Amanda could see nothing through the dense fog.
    Clip clop clip clop.
    Out of the fog, a thin, old man with jet black her and a heavy black overcoat appeared in the middle of the road. He rode atop the back of a tall, white horse.
    Amanda stared in disbelief. The closest farm she knew about was on the outskirts of town, a good few miles away, AND it was the middle of the night.
   "You alright, ma'am?" the man asked with a look of concern.
   "Yea, I..." she stopped herself. Who the hell was this guy? "I'm fine." 
   "You don't look it. You're bleeding." he said with a point towards her forehead.
    Amanda gingerly touched her head and her fingers came back red.  
    "What happened?" he asked with his brow furrowed.
    "I...I was in an accident."
    The old man nodded thoughtfully.
    "You're alone." He said. It was a statement, not a question.
    Amanda considered lying but simply agreed. Sitting on the side of the foggy street in the middle of the night, it was clear no one was with her.
    "I was walking home from work." she said shakily. "I just live about a mile up the road."
    "Alright. Come on." he said, patting the horse's read-end. "Hop on up and I'll get you where you're going."
    "I...are you serious?"
    "Would you rather walk?"
    "Don't take this the wrong way, but I have no idea who you are."
    "Fair enough." he said with another nod. "But it'd be wrong of me to leave you out here wandering the road."
    As if on cue, a chill ran up her spine. Looking around, the darkened roadway with its heavy, cold fog and the woods on either side suddenly felt a lot more foreboding than before.
    "At least let me walk with me until you get where you're going. It would be wrong for me to leave you out here." he said.
    Why should I trust you? Where are you from? Why are you out here so late?
    She had to wonder if she had a concussion. Maybe the car did more damage then she thought. Despite the hundreds of questions flooding her mind, all that could come out of her mouth was...
    "Ok."
    The old man smiled in return.
    Amanda stood up, dusted herself off, and walked up to the man on the horse. Getting closer, she noticed now that the horse wasn't actually white, but appeared almost a pale green. A trick of the light?
    "Would you like to pet him?" the man asked.
    Despite her reservations, Amanda smiled and nodded. The horse nickered happily as she ran a hand down his soft neck and through his flowing mane.
    "Let's get going." he said and, side by side, they headed down the road.

    The next morning Cory cried harder than he could ever remember doing.
    "She asked me to drive her home." he said between sobs. "B-b-but... I was so busy. I just...I didn't think...I couldn't..."
    "It's ok." said the officer. "Please. If you need anything, don't hesitate to contact us."
    "I'm so sorry." said the older man sitting across from Cory. "It was so foggy... I didn't see her. I couldn't see her. I have no idea why she was in the middle of the road."
    "No one's blaming you, Bert." said the officer.
    "N-no." was all Cory could muster.
    "The ambulance did all they could." continued the officer. "Tried to resuscitate her for twenty minutes right there in the middle of the street. She was already gone when she arrived...I'm so sorry..."
    Clutching the shattered remains of Amanda's cellphone, all Cory could do was cry harder.

"And lo, upon a hill I saw a pale horse, and a pale rider upon it.
The name of the horse was Pestilence. And the name of the rider was Death."

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(Hello lovelies, I know that today was a break from my regular stream of Xenophobia, but I do hope you enjoyed. Today, I had the pleasure of visiting the Guillermo Del Toro exhibit at LACMA art museum in Los Angeles. As you might have guessed, something I saw got under my skin and the result was this simple little piece. I do hope you enjoyed it.)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Xenophobia - Chapter 10




    “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS ABOUT?!” bellowed Juag-e as he stormed through the council doors.
    Most of the counselors who had already gathered for the message briefing were too surprised to respond. A’alan’t 32, however, had no such issue.
    “If you read the message,” she said in her normal quiet, cool tone. “You’d know it was regarding humans attempting to colonize Mars.”
    “Of course I read the message!” snapped Juag-e, his eyes wide and his teeth bared. “How in the hell are they already attempting to colonize another planet?!”
    A’alan’t 32 simply shrugged and settled at her place at the table. Darrian thought this only made Juag-e more upset. He watched the little Tulguck’s scales actively hackle and his eyes follow A’alan’t 32 threateningly.
    “I’ll remind you,” said the old judge warningly, “we will not have this manner of disrespect in a council meeting.”
    Juag-e glowered at the robot for a minute, seemingly debating if he should pursue the matter further. The old judge matched his gaze. Neither looked away for several tense moments.
    Finally, Juag-e gave up.
    Juag-e was still hackled, but he houghed loudly and made his way to his place at the table where he buried his face in his datapad. Nothing else was said as the remainder of the counselors made their way into the room.
    A moment later, they were all settled in.
    “Can someone explain how we are having this meeting right now?” demanded Cagool.
    “Well, first we came into a room…” started Ferris.
    “No!” Juag-e shouted, cutting off what was sure to be an incredibly sarcastic explanation. “Now is not the time for that! It’s been a total of twenty-nine cycles since the humans launched their first Mars-bound craft. TWENTY-NINE!”
    “Right.” Agreed Cagool. “How are they talking about colonization already?Did I miss a rotation or two?”
    “You’ve missed nothing.” Confirmed the old judge.
    Cherryl cleared her throat before standing up next to the judge.
    “C-correct.” She said with a little nod. “The humans have already decided to try their hands at colonization.”
    “But they’ve only been to the planet a few times…” said Ugul in confusion.
    “Twice, actually.” Agreed Cherryl.
    “And their technology… It’s so…primitive.”
    “You’re not wrong.” She said as she started typing something on her datapad.
    “I’m sensing a ‘but’.” Said Darrian.
    “But, if any species…” started Cherryl before she was suddenly cut off by Illiquina.
    “But if any species was suicidal enough to try it, it would seem to be humans.” Illiquina said coolly.
    The old judge flashed her a warning glance.
    “I mean it in the most complementary way.” She said with a playful tone to the judge.
    “Right.” Said Cherryl, starting again. “With that said…”
    She didn’t get to say more before she was cut off again. This time, it was by Jin’thun.
    “Is that what it’s come down to then? We’re complementing these monsters?” he growled.
    “Jin’thun!” gasped Cherryl.
    “What?” he snapped at her obvious discomfort. “Have I been the only one listening to what’s been said? This is just another obvious facet of this species’ deficiencies.”
    “For trying to colonize Mars?” inquired Darrian with just a hint of disgust.
    “For trying to do it almost as soon as they’ve touched Mars dirt! It’s reckless abandon!”
    “Or perhaps it’s simply fervor.” Said Ugul. “Excitement.”
    “Fervor?!” snapped Juag-e. “Jin’thun is right! Is it considered fervor when a virus is contagious? When it hops from host to host as fast as possible without care for who or what harm it does.”
    “Now hold on.” Said Illiquina.
    “No! We said that this species reminded us of a plague early on and it seems that the similarities just keep coming.”
    “Why are we even bothering with these meetings?” He demanded. “All we do is talk. It hasn’t even been a twentieth of a rotation and this species has already attempted and succeeded at interplanetary travel. Now they’re attempting to colonize just as quickly! All while they are so violent that they literally slaughter each other in droves back on their home planet!”
    “How long do you give them before these monsters are on a door step? Before they achieve deep space flight and bring their violence to us?!”
    Even the old judge was left speechless as they watched Juag-e’s explosion. Jin’thun had been mad but it was clear that Juag-e was furious. No one knew how to respond to the outburst.
    “Go ahead.” Juag-e growled, his scales standing on end. “Keep talking. That’s all we’ve ever done about the humans. See how good that does you when they come knocking down your door.”
    With that, Juag-e stormed back out of the council room. Jin’thun seemed to consider for a moment and then quickly followed after the Tulguck. Expectantly, the remaining counselors glanced at Cagool.
    “Don’t look at me.” He said in his usual stand-offish nature. “That was all them.”
    The remainder of the meeting was tense but proved less eventful than the beginning. The council reviewed the spacecraft and number of humans who were traveling on what the humans openly called a ‘one way trip to Mars’. They discussed the likelihood of survival and what the trip might mean for human technologies. One constant question revolved around if they would find any remains from the Guillae population that had been there before.
    No one dared talk about what Juag-e’s outburst might mean for Consortium or the human population. They didn’t want to think about it, but the fear of what to come hung thick in the room. It followed Darrian back to his office and wouldn’t leave his thoughts for several cycles.

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