Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Xenophobia - Chapter 31


    "You're there already?!" sputtered Illiquina.
    "H-How?" asked A'alan't 32 who appeared just as shocked as Illiquina.
    Ferris and Darrian exchanged confused glances. They were certainly surprised that the Gorderians had somehow reached Mars before the Tulgucks, but still...
    Jin'thun gave the group a hard look before he responded.
    "Do you know anything about folding space?" he asked them gruffly.
    "No?" Ferris offered unhelpfully.
    "I know that it's great for traveling long distances, incredibly dangerous, and wildly inaccurate." A'alan't 32 added.
    "All true." Jin'thun confirmed. "It's even worse when you're firing off into a solar system. But we made it through with minimal losses."
    Darrian felt his throat tightening.
    "How many-" he began.
    "Four ships were lost in the fold." Jin'thun responded flatly.
    Darrian responded with a soft nod. He felt a shiver run down his back as he thought about it.  
    Four ships. Four ships full of people lost well before fighting even begun. And if the Tulgucks could be talked down? Four ships possibly lost for no reason.
    "I'm sorry." A'alan't 32 offered, taking the words from Darrian.
    "As am I." Jin'thun growled softly.
    Straightening himself up, Darrian steeled himself. They would need to think ahead for now.
    "What do you need from us?" he asked.
    "Not much you can do." Jin'thun said bluntly. "If I have someone nearby, we'll keep you up to date. But short of that, the Merrenians aren't worth much."
    ~ZZZT~ "I take offense to that, Fur-face."
    As if on cue, the holographic image split into two. On the left, Jin'thun. On the right, Harris.
    "Harris!" Ferris exclaimed.
    "Oy." he responded with a nod before turning his attention towards Jin'thun.
    "Harris." Jin'thun growled. "How did you-"
    "My literal purpose is to watch and listen. You think I didn't patch into your comms the moment you ripped a hole in space, you're sorely mistaken."
    "This channel is supposed to be secure..." Jin'thun responded with venom, his attention focused away from the imager.
    "Don't blame your comms-officer." Harris interjected. "I'm just better than him."
    The two images sat in strained silence. Darrian had seen Jin'thun's explosive temper more than once and expected another outburst promptly.
    But it never came.
    "Fine." Jin'thun snarled. "What do you want, Harris?"
    "Better question: What do you want?" Harris responded snidely.
    "Okay. What do I want?"
    "I bet you want access to the Tulguck armada's intranet."
    For once, Jin'thun seemed less angry and more flabbergasted.
    "You're serious?"
    "I'm talking to you on a spliced channel." Harris shot back with a smirk. "What do you think?"
    Jin'thun considered for a moment.
    "A'alan't 32." he said. "If you could arrange someone to stay nearby for the next cycle, I would greatly appreciate it."
    "Of course." she responded before glancing to the others. "We'll take shifts?"
    There was a series of nods in agreement.
    "Fantastic." Jin'thun said gruffly.  "It seems you and I have much to discuss, Harris."
    Harris didn't say anything, but simply wore that same smirk. A moment later, the imager blanked out, leaving them once again in the dark room.
    They sat in silence for a few moments before A'alan't 32 spoke up.
    "So who's willing to start?" she asked.
    "I will." Darrian offered.
    "I'll do next shift." Ferris added.
    They both agreed with little nods before settling back into their spots.
    "Next cycle is going to be long." Darrian observed with a heavy sigh.
    There was a mutter of agreement before everyone but Darrian started to make their way towards the door.
    "I'll be back by early cycle." Ferris said as he left.
    Darrian waved them off with a little smile before looking around the empty conference room. It had never occurred to him how cavernous it seemed without the other councilors or the old jud-
    His attention snapped back to the closed door.
    In the excitement, the group had totally forgotten to go over what Illiquina had found.
    "I hope it's not important." he muttered to himself.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Xenophobia - Chapter 30



    "Get out of that solar system." A'alan't 32 said with a mix of stern decisiveness and motherly concern. "Let events play out however they will. You're done there."
    "Ma'am?" Harris asked with a lit of surprise.
    "If the humans are gearing up, that's a third army that's mobilizing for battle in that same area. First the Tulgucks, then the Gorderians, and now them."
    Darrian and the other councilors quietly regarded her for a moment before she said.
    "It's not safe for you to stay there anymore."
    Harris seemed to consider this for a moment.
    "You're not wrong." He said after a thinking for a second. "But I'll have to decline."
    A'alan't 32 gave him a quizzical look.
    "Given your direction," Harris continued. "I'll offer those few individuals I have with me the opportunity to head home. But I, at the very least, will stay here until the conflict has resolved itself."
    "But why?" Cagool demanded, sounding quite confused.
    "Monstrous as the humans are in their design," he responded, "I've grown quite interested to see this played out until the end."
    "No matter the outcome." Harris finished with a glance back towards A'alan't 32.
    A'alan't gave him a small nod.
    "Thank you." she said softly.
    There were several other nods and murmured agreements from around the room.
    Harris regarded the room for a moment before saying, "I'll send you a quick report of anyone who is staying and anyone who is going. That way you know which of the survey team to expect back home."
    A'alan't 32 nodded once more before terminating the transmission. The holographic imager went dark and the room eerily quiet with it.

    Despite the fact that there was no real survey data to review and that they had no mediator, the councilors spent the majority of the cycle in the conference room.
    Some of it was spent reviewing the personnel list that Harris forwarded shortly after his transmission. However, the majority of it was spent discussing and pondering what this sudden preparation might spell for them and the impending armada.
    "Not to mention the galactic community." Darrian had offered stoically.
    The implication of what humans might infer from their first interactions with alien races being violent was not lost on any of the councilors. Given how war-like the humans tended to be, the thought of what might come from aliens being viewed as hostile was terrifying to consider. If these naturally violent creatures expected violence, they might enter the universe with the intent to do harm.
    The one thing they could all agree on, however, was that whatever happened on the next cycle would determine the future for the species. The Tulgucks would reach Mars and, three cycles later, Earth.

    "Do we know if the ships Harris mentioned will reach Mars by the next cycle?" Darrian asked.
    "Ships?" responded Ferris.
    "The ones that were en route to Mars."
    "I think so." Illiquina confirmed. "Based on the speed, they should actually reach there by early to mid cycle."
    "Just in time to meet the Tulgucks." A'alan't 32 said quietly.
    The four of them sat quietly, the implication weighing heavily on them. While the other councilors had left, they had stayed by Illiquina's request.
    "So you wanted us for something, Illiquina?" A'alan't 32 asked as she settled herself heavily at the conference table.
    "I did." she confirmed and drew out her datapad.
    It always bothered Darrian how she seemed to pull that thing from nowhere.
    "Did you find something new out?" he asked her.
    "I did actually." Illiquina repeated with a knowing smirk.
    She quickly tapped out a few commands on her datapad. To their surprise, the holographic imager powered up a moment later.
    "Oh wow." Ferris commented. "I didn't know you had access to the imager."
    "I don't..." she said, her voice drifting off.
    The imager hummed for a moment, glew, and, to the group's surprise, generated the image of a diminutive Gorderian.
    "Jin'thun!" they exclaimed with surprise.
    "I'm glad you're still in conference." he said growled out. "I was worried tha-"
    Jin'thun took a moment to regard the empty room.
    "It's just you?"
    A'alan't 32 nodded.
    "Correct. It's a long story."
    "You can tell me later." he said quickly. "Get the judge."
    "About that-" Ferris began.
    The group proceeded to fill Jin'thun in on the details that he'd missed: the Judge, the malfunction, the disappearance, and how they seemingly weren't being provided a mediator by the Merrenian government. They got the impression that Jin'thun was in a rush and tried to make the details short and to the point.
    "So who's mediating the meetings?" he demanded.
    "Officially...no one." Darrian offered. "However A'alan't 32 has stepped up to help try and lead us."
    "Good enough."
    "So what's the issue?" Ferris asked
    "We've arrived." he growled. "We're in orbit over Mars and waiting for the Tulgucks to arrive."

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(Hello Lovelies. So, I just wanted to apologize for the delay and let you know that it is related to our previous discussion. At the moment, I'm still undecided as to how we will proceed. However, no matter our direction, I need to return to regular updates. I deeply appreciate all the recommendations and will be considering many of them. Thank you. That said, I hope you enjoy!)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Thinking


Hello Lovelies,

So, recently I had someone point out to me something and begin a discussion about something I hadn't deeply thought about before: the overall traffic appeal of my site.

While, I certainly have never had any intent on building some 'click-bait' style website whose sole purpose is the acquisition of views and followers, there's a certain appeal to the idea of spreading to a wider audience. The discussion revolved around the idea that there might be a stronger drive to attract new followers and individuals if I opened up more on the site and provided a little bit more fun content. A few simpler posts, attractions, pictures, and such might do more to appeal to a wider audience versus my current style which is 'bludgeoning people with fiction'.

Now, my original idea with my blog revolved around the idea of having a slowly spreading site focused solely on works of fiction as a means of both increasing my own writing abilities as well as spreading the works of others. However, the discussion in question made me question if the approach is to heavy handed and unappealing.

While I've been chewing on this for the better half of a week, I realized that the question might be better suited to my current readers:

Would you find the site more overly enjoyable with the
addition of a few simpler posts and some sillier content,
outside of chapters, excerpts, and short stories?

I'm honestly torn on the idea. Overall, I feel like I could more easily post content with better consistency if I wasn't holding myself to producing new content at all times. On the other hand, I'm not sure if this notion appeals to my current readers.

Any input is welcome, both as blog authors and readers. I've been beating the question about in my skull and just can't decide on what would be the best course of action. Thank you for any advice you might offer.

- RB

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Xenophobia - Chapter 29


    Darrian felt a welling sense of excitement deep inside him.
    The humans were preparing for a fight.
    But wait a second...
    "How do we know it's regarding the Tulgucks?" Darrian asked hesitantly. "Surely there must be some kind of a response to whatever is happening on Mars. How are you sure this isn't it?"
    "Well..." Harris began.
    "He's right." Ferris quickly added in. "Why would you presume that it was in response to the Tulgucks?"
    Ferris glanced around and a few nods of agreement confirmed they were wondering the same.
    "Actually, it's..."
    "What are they even doing?" Ugul asked absently.
    Harris gave them all a look of annoyance and they quieted.
    "You want answers or do you just want to hear each other prattle on?"
    "Answers, please." Ferris responded in an almost playful manner.
    "Our apologies, Harris. Please continue." A'alan't 32 added quickly.
    "To begin, with regards to Mars, the humans already responded while you all were on vacation."
    "We weren't..." Cagool started to protest.
    "The humans," Harris quickly emphasized, cutting Cagool off. "dispatched two ships en route to Mars. While we're no longer on the planet, imagery of their departure suggested that they were a touch more prepared this time."
    "Prepared?" Darrian asked.
    "For mounds of violence, I'd expect." Illiquina offered.
    "You'd be correct." Harris confirmed. "However, shortly after the ships departure, the humans seemed to have noticed something. I can only presume it was the Tulgucks."
    "You said that earlier." Cagool interjected. "Why do you think it was the Tulgucks?"
    "Because the humans stopped fighting." Harris said. "And they started building."
    The councilors all exchanged confused glances.
    "Look, what do you know about humans?" he asked when he realized he hadn't made himself understood.
    "They're scary." Ugul offered.
    "They breathe oxygen." Illiquina added.
    "They love to fight each other." A'alan't 32 said thoughtfully after a moment.
    Harris nodded his confirmation.
    "One of the primary consistencies, and the reason the Tulgucks were scared of them in the first place, was the humans' tendencies towards war and violence." Harris stated. "And about a cycle ago, intraplanetary violence, particularly extreme measures between geographic locations utilizing ground troops and heavy artillery, ceased by 96%."
    "W-wow." Stuttered Ferris.
    "Wow indeed." Harris confirmed. "Instead they have all suddenly dedicated themselves to construction."
    "Of what?" asked Illiquina.
    "Warcraft. Space-faring warcraft."
    The councilors fell silent once again.
    "How-" A'alan't 32 began.
    "We, of course, are unable to properly determine exactly what the humans are building, particularly those units behind closed doors." Harris said quickly, cutting off A'alan't 32. "But we've counted a minimum of eight hundred separate spacecraft of varying degrees of sophistication."
    "You're serious?" Cagool asked. "You expect us to believe that, in less than a cycle, the humans have mobilized enough to begun construction of nearly a thousand craft."
    "Minimum." Harris confirmed.
    Cagool stared hard at Harris, seemingly choosing his next words carefully.
    "It's not like it matters." he finally said. "The most powerful weapon they have are nuclear devices. They're crude...they might as well throw rocks."
    "Perhaps, but even with the single trip to Mars, they were able to vastly improve upon their own technologies for the second trip." Harris said. "With motivation, I'd say the humans might just be able to rustle up more than you give them credit for."
    "It won't make a difference." Cagool snapped to the councilors' surprise.
    "That said." Harris said turning to A'alan't 32. "My men and I will be leaving their immediate orbit and spacegrounds. I don't care to be used as target practice once those ships are mobile."
    "Understood." A'alan't 32 confirmed.
    "I'll remain within the solar system and use long range systems to keep an eye on them, but I think the Tulgucks might be in for more of a resistance than the planned for."
    "That's absurd!" Cagool exclaimed.
    "Absurd or not." Harris said coolly. "Believe me or not. I'm telling you that the humans are gearing up for a fight. And, for the first time in their existence, it's not going to be with each other."

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