Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 87

Wednesday Briefers bannerPrompt: How many times must I tell you that?


“Well, bearing young does not have to mean a female gender in all species, but it is the most common expression of gender identity for bearing species. She seems to be using your DNA and hers to create them, and you are male. I scanned the eggs and they show your distinct genetic make-up as well as hers, which is quite unique, as you know.” Aparoe turned and sat on a pile of rocks not far from the pool.

“You didn’t harm one of them to find that out, did you?” I asked, my stomach roiling at the thought of her ripping open one of those shining eggs bobbing in the water to find out what was inside.  

“Of course not. I would never experiment on a sentient creature. Captain Querry only asked me to avoid treating you in my medbay to prevent you from having flashbacks, not because he’s worried I would do anything to harm you. And I’d never harm one of the eggs. Do you see any harm to Sparkles? And I cared for her for weeks.”

Captain did trust the rest of his crew, those people who had been with him for so long. But look at what Lakshou had done to me, and he’d trusted him before that. “Weeks?”

“And she never grew an inch, not until we got here. Then she began to grow steadily. The eggs showed up overnight.”

“How long ago?”

“Two days.”

“Just two?” They were as big as my hand.

“And they were only as big as the tip of my thumb when I first saw them.” Aparoe leaned forward. “And quite a bit darker. They are nearly opaque now.”

“Maybe you just missed seeing them?”

“I didn’t just see them, I scanned the pool. I scan every time I come close after the first time I came too close while she was eating. So no, they weren’t in the pool before that.”

“Did you know she could fly?”

Aparoe’s brow rose. “Fly? No, I did not. Most creatures who swim do not fly.”

“She did. She flew us here from my house. Captain is probably frantic.”

“Would you like to contact him?” Aparoe pulled out a comm from their robe.

I should. I didn’t really want to because I knew he was going to be very upset, but I sighed and nodded. Of course, I was right. The second the comm connected and he heard my voice, he was frantic.

“Stop yelling,” I finally yelled back. “I’m not in any danger, I said. How many times must I tell you that. Aparoe is here with me. They’ve been taking care of this creature for weeks. No one on the ship was hurt. It’s been following me this whole time, and I haven’t been hurt.”

Captain’s nostrils flared. “It flew away with you.”

“You have my location. Come here. But quietly, carefully, because there are little ones.” I cut the connection.

“So I made the call. Captain is coming. Sparkles brought me here for some reason, you’re here, and the eggs are here.” I sank down on the warm rocks, enjoying the heat in the chilling air. “Why? What does all this mean?”

Aparoe cocked their head. “You think there is some purpose or meaning behind all this, beyond coincidence and strange genetic luck? The universe is a diverse place.”

“It is.” I’d been thinking about everything that Aparoe said, about where Sparkles came from, and about how our DNA was mixed. The universe was a diverse place, but it was also immense. And we had not gone to that planet unbeknown to those who had plans to put me back in that cell. So even if Captain’s cousin was under arrest, even if the Elites were dead, that didn’t mean all their plans had been stopped.

But was I right or Captain? Sparkles was swimming in the water, fanning the eggs that swayed in the ripples from her circles. Her movement was the only real way I could see her. The same for the eggs. Sparkles seemed to understand me; if Aparoe was right, she’d been inside me.

She was meant to carry my DNA.

“That’s it.” A back up plan. When I’d been pushed under the water, I’d swallowed some of the water. That was the real reason for the attack. “Plans within plans within plans.”

“For what?”

“I don’t know. Danie’s is way more important than I am. He’s a living Artificial Intelligence.”

“But they kept going after you. Not him, you. Lakshou’s plans were for you. When we arrived at the Elite’s planet, they separated you from the rest of us.”

“What is so damn special about me?” I frowned.

“Everything,” a voice said behind me.

I twisted, knowing the voice and not afraid of being snuck up on by the owner of it. He’d managed to surprise both of us though. “Captain.”

Jumping to my feet, I let him pull me into his arms, nearly squeezing the life out of me. I could feel the hum of our bond ringing in relief and tension I hadn’t realized I carried inside me eased. Inhaling his scent, warm and sweaty and mixed with the dirt and vegetation of the planet he’d had to pass through to get to us, the hot heat of his skin under all of that still stood out.

Sparkles raised her head out of the water and hissed.

“Shush. He’s not going to hurt you or the eggs,” I assured her. “Right?”


“No. This is important. I think someone did plan for her to get my DNA inside her, but I don’t think they ever planned for us to meet after I expelled her egg.” Aparoe and I filled Captain in on what we knew and what I’d been thinking about.

“But then someone else on my crew is a damned traitor,” Captain snarled.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 86

Wednesday Briefers banner

Sparkles shivered, the light dancing around the small clearing. It inched closer. “Come on, don’t be afraid. I’m not.” It was probably stupid, Captain might be right. Someone, or something, might have motives to hurt me with this beautiful creature—but if they did, then they were the dumb ones.

Its scent enveloped me, that sweet odor tickling my nostrils. Its nostrils, a row of them going up its snout, flared. Then it shivered again. “What do you smell, huh? Is there something about me?” I held out one hand, palm down, and waited.

A low thrumming croon throbbed in the air. In an agile move no creature with a spine should be able to make, Sparkles twisted and exposed its neck and belly. The scales were hard and smooth under my fingers as I stroked its neck, first with just two fingers and a soft stroke. The croon grew as I gained confidence and leaned in closer, mapping out the path of the iridescent scales as they covered the being’s flexible neck and down to its powerful chest and abdomen.

“How did you get here, huh? Someone bring you to me? Captain is worried you’re here to hurt me.”

Sparkles opened its eyes wide, shaking its head, kicking up some dust and leaves.

“You do understand me!” I hadn’t been one hundred percent sure before, but I was now. “You answered yes or no. Let’s see…. Um, are you here alone or is someone forcing you to come to me?”

I got another head shake but that wasn’t really clear. I asked two questions. Was that no to both or to one? Those shining eyes were staring into mine, and I could just tell the language barrier was as frustrating for it as it was for me. I sighed. “I’ll get better at this. Though I wish you could just talk to me. Or I could understand you. You must be trying to speak to me. I thought these damn translators worked for everything nowadays.”

Or maybe that the junk the scientists had put in my head would be good for freaking something. I jerked back when Sparkles rolled abruptly, crouching on its six limbs. Its head came up over mine where I was sitting, then it wrapped the first two limbs around my chest and reared up.

Wide wings unfurled, flapped once, and then we were in the air. I didn’t even have time to suck in a breath and yell for Captain where he stood outside our little home staring wide-eyed up in the sky as we passed overhead like a speeding shuttle.

“What are you doing?” My legs dangled uncomfortably until I tried to lift them and Sparkles then used its lower set of limbs to support them. “Where are you taking me? Take me back, Sparkles!”

It ignored me.

Shit. Fuck. Had I been wrong? My heart was pounding, but I was startled by the abrupt changes. I’d never see the wings that perfectly matched the scale pattern of Sparkle’s back when they were folded, and I certainly didn’t expect to be flying around being held up by a creature who might be as tall as I was vertically, if I ignored its tail length, but was only half my width. Still… I wasn’t really scared or angry.

We didn’t travel all that far, though the speed might have been deceptive. Sparkles descended in looping circles under the canopy of some of the stone spires that made up the canyons and rock cliffs to the south of the town and our property.

Sparkles landed somehow on their middle limbs and one arm of their front and back limbs, keeping me tucked close enough not to hit the solar-warmed rocks that still radiated heat from the second sun. It scurried under cover and into a round bowl, putting me down.  Then Sparkles eased down to a pool of water, slipping into the liquid.

That’s when the true worth of its scales became clear… or nearly as good as clear. I couldn’t see anything but its eyes and where its limbs were moving to keep it at the edge of the small pool.

“Stars! You live in the water. It’s like… camouflage. But you’re a fire breather.” How the hell did that work? Why?

The water rippled, and I crept closer. I should be trying to get back to Captain, but there was a mystery here, something drawing me closer. How had this creature followed us from another planet? Or had it?

I gasped. “Are those… are those eggs?”

“They are.”

I spun, stumbling on the rocks. “Aparoe?”

“Careful! You don’t want to crush the eggs. I don’t know how you managed to keep the first one intact through the attack and trip back to the ship, much less how it survived the reclamation system.”

“I did what?”

Aparoe smiled gently. “I have a theory that you might have actually swallowed the egg, because you seem to have sloughed some of your DNA into the… well, I don’t know if it has a name—”

“I call it Sparkles.”

“You do, do you?” Aparoe raised their eyebrows.

“It seemed right,” I said defensively. “What are you doing here? How do you know about Sparkles? What do you know about Sparkles? I just started seeing it a few weeks ago.”

“I found it when I was doing a biological scan on the ship for contagion after our last stop on Central to ensure we hadn’t been infected with anything deliberately to prevent landing on another station or planet.

“It was much smaller, only the length of my forearm, but it had your DNA. I didn’t want to alarm Captain Querry until I had more information, but it hardly seemed a threat or dangerous once my scans proved it was safe biologically.”

“And he won’t let you study me,” I said shortly.

Aparoe shrugged. “Perhaps.”

“Sparkles isn’t the size of your forearm now.”

“No. She’s not.”

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 85

Inspired by the prompt: What did that jackass do now?

“I haven’t been this color since I was a kid.” I glanced at my arms and chest. The locals wore tight vests but I preferred to leave mine off whenever I wasn’t in the small town. The tight squeeze brought back bad memories, but they faded more and more.

Danie put his arm next to mine. “I am still the same color. The locals look at me funny.”

“That’s probably something to do with the nanotechnology they implanted in you, not your skin. And the locals look at you funny because that kid caught you and Freska with her fingers all ending with wires and shoved into your neck and stuff.” I raised my eyebrows. “Not exactly blending in.”

“Like you and Captain don’t attract attention,” Danie said. “And what about when Deke blew that giant hole near the road?”

So none of them had really done a good job avoiding the locals, but at least the universe at large wasn’t knocking down their doors. Freska had littered the night sky above them with some minders, as she called them, that Danie had helped her camouflage. They’d have warning if someone came calling that wasn’t on the usual list of traders or planet hoppers.

“So what are you building today and why are you outside to do it?” Danie curled up in the shade of a striped tree with wide, triangular branches covered in soft, fuzzy leaves in yellow and red. He crushed one between his fingers, releasing its distinct pepper scent to ward off the flying bugs starting to descend as the first sun faded.

I’d begun to tinker, as Captain put it, with different things. I liked fixing stuff, but I liked making things even more. The kids on this planet didn’t have it as bad as we’d had it growing up, but they didn’t have a lot either. I could make toys, little things out of metal and gears, things scavenged from the ship or even things others threw out.

It got where people were already bringing me anything metal they found in trade for an eventual finished product to give as gifts, even the adults.

“I like it outside.” I shrugged one shoulder, using the tiny torch to weld on another scale. “And I needed my inspiration.”

“What inspiration?”

“It ran away when you came. Don’t turn your head, but glance off to your left.”

“Stay calm,” I said quietly when Danie froze, his chest not even moving.

“How did I not see that running away?”

“Dunno. I think it’s got some sort of ability. It’s been coming closer since the second day we were here.”

“What is it? Does Captain Querry know?”

See, and that was where I was having an attack of conscience. I hadn’t told him about my visitor. I wasn’t able to get a glimpse of it for weeks on end, just sense it. How’d he take me thinking something was stalking me? I’d get locked inside and he’d bring Deke in to hunt it.

That couldn’t happen. Then I’d caught a glimpse of it stealing my lunch one day. The next day I brought two lunches. Since then it let me see it every day, coming closer and closer. The toy was my way of showing Captain without telling him.

“I’m making the toy as a surprise for him.” The creature had melted back into the shadows, but I didn’t need to see it to make the rest of the long, plated tail. Just two more pieces to put together.

“Nice.” Danie blinked. “Where is he today? Captain?”

“Dealing with Deke.”

“What did that jackass do now?”

“Nothing as far as I know?” I shrugged. “He’s just making the rounds.”

“Oh. Well, I’ve bugged you long enough today, I guess. Freska said she’d take me in to the market today for more ingredients. If you guys want to come over for last meal after the next sunset, I’m making enough.”

“Thanks. We’ll comm you.” If Captain wasn’t freaking out or starting a hunt. No. I looked up, holding the last scale now, and made a silent vow. I didn’t know what my visitor was, or why it was there, but I knew it wasn’t to harm me.

Captain was screaming and so not convinced. “Fire breathers, Kohen. And it’s not from this planet. So who or what brought it here?”

“That sweet scent. That’s what it is!” I remembered it, from way back when Lakshou had taken me off the ship to the planet when the flame wasps had attacked us. “I knew I’d smelled it before!”

“What? When?”

I explained about that uninhabited planet and the large beasts Lakshou had told me about, the ones that weren’t a threat. “So, see, it won’t hurt me.”

He snorted. “You believe anything he said? Besides, I ask again, how did it get here? You aren’t safe. Deke should—”

“See, I told Danie that you would say that. No! No hunting it. No hurting it. I won’t let you lock me away for my own safety.” I stood up and frowned as I stared down at Captain. “You trust my instincts for other things, why not this?”

Before he could answer, I spun and walked outside. I didn’t care if the second sun was going down, bringing down the darkest night the planet had. I didn’t care that we had plans for dinner with Danie and Freska.

And for the first time, I learned that not only did the sun make the scales on my creature sparkle, but it literally glowed in the dark where it was curled up outside below the window into our room. I glanced at the front door; Captain hadn’t followed me.

“Come on, Sparkles, it’s not safe,” I whispered.

Then I got to hear its voice. It trilled and twisted, following me but staying in the bushes to my left. Then I stopped and sat. “Sparkles? Am I imagining the way you understand me?”

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 84

We all turned to Captain. He blinked, opened his mouth, then shut it. Aparoe snorted. “For someone so eloquent just a little bit ago, you sure lost it. Sir.” The sarcasm of that added sir wasn’t lost on anyone. “Let’s go find a planet that doesn’t have a ring of satellites and settle there. Eventually all this furor will settle down.”

“They will hunt us.”

“I have my recordings. Deke has his weapons and whatever he’ll come up with while you play at retirement. You’ll come up with a plan, and we’ll take down whatever fools think they can use us ever again. It’s not happening. We’re sticking with you.” Freska lifted one eyebrow and waited.

“When did I agree to that?” Captain said.

We wanted it, the two of us, but the fact the entire crew would come with us… that seemed to surprise him. I leaned in. “Why are you so shocked that you have inspired their loyalty? You’d do anything for them, and they’d do anything for you in return.”

Slowly, he nodded, the motion growing more decisive. “Okay. Okay, if we’re going to do this, let’s do it right. Freska, Danie, can you work together to cover our trail electronically?”

“Not a problem,” Freska said confidently. She hauled Danie out of the conference room by one hand.

“Come on, Captain Querry, show us your list of retirement homes. You know you have one,” Deke teased. “Old man that you are.”

“I’m not that much older than you. And if we’re retiring, I’m not your captain anymore, so knock that rank shit off. We’re all equals here now. We all have a say.”

“Sure, sure. Whatever you say, boss.” Deke smirked.

I could tell Captain wasn’t that irritated by him, even though he took a swipe at Deke on his way to the vid screen. And he’d always be Captain to me. Always be the man who came into my cell and coaxed me out, the one who took the time to help me heal the hurt caused by those years of pain and isolation.

“So, this is it, huh?” I looked around. This was only my fifth planet I’d been on since I’d been released. The longest stay had been on the Elite’s planet, though I’d been inside for most of it. Anyas’s planet had been a frozen wasteland, we’d only been on Central’s main space port and city which was all buildings and beings as far as the eye could see.

The first planet that we’d stopped at was probably the closest to our new home. The air was sweet and fresh. There was so much open space, so much to see. The planet was colonized by many species, so their mixed crew wouldn’t stand out too much, but they were on a planet that had no dedicated communication grid.

In other words—it was where people went to disappear.

We both stared at the small house. Our properties were all bordering a small river. The water flowed in many streams over rich ground and sparkling rocks in many colors. “No farming in our plans then?”

“Farming? Why would we do that?” Captain asked.

“I don’t know.” I shrugged. “Seemed like what you’d do on a planet like this.” It was better than the one I’d grown up on before my parents sold me. Here, at least, water flowed. The ground wasn’t dust blown about by raging winds that stole the seed before it could root most years.

Captain turned. He grabbed my arm and ran his hand up it, cupping my cheek. “Did you really think I was going to make you farm, Kohen? After what kind of life you’d had before?”

“I-I don’t know,” I repeated.

“You should.” He rubbed the skin softly. “No, no farming. Maybe some animals, if you ever feel like having some pets. I have enough investments to never need to work again. You can use the vid system to train in whatever field you want, and Deke says you asked to do some weapons training. Danie will probably be over here a lot, and he looks up to you. You’ll be busy, probably too busy.”

His hand slipped to the back of my neck and pulled me closer. Anytime we were this close the warmth of his body and the scent of his skin overwhelmed my senses just as strong as the beginning. But now, now it was pure pleasure.

My breath hitched, and I pressed closer to him. He’d donned casual clothing, giving up the uniforms, but his pants were snug over his groin and ass. They hid nothing of his enjoyment of our closeness. I was rigid as well. His voice dropped into a husky drawl. “Because if I had my way, we’d be totally alone. I really, really want a few months—no, years—where we can just explore our bond.”


“Oh, most definitely. It’s going to take at least that long. Probably even longer, if we want to do it right.”

“Anything worth doing is worth doing right, or so I’m told.” I slid my hands down his back to his ass. He might have some years on me, and he might have been the captain and not a soldier anymore, but he had the body of one. Muscles, so many muscles, just begging to be squeezed.

So I did.

He pushed forward. I moaned.

“Should we take this inside?” Hopefully the small house was furnished. He’d bought it sight unseen. Oh well, there’d be a floor even if there wasn’t a bed. He’d slept on worse, and sex up against the wall?

He could so enjoy the hell out of that.

“Yes. Fuck… yes.”

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Carol Pedroso

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 83

“You are to be interviewed as soon as possible.”

“I see,” Captain said. He stood ramrod straight. The alien in front of us with the line of guards blocking the exit ramp of our ship was tall with a large head topped with a dome of purple scales, and all the swirling patches on his clothes made him look very important.

“The prisoners?” he asked. His voice hissed on the end of the word, and the multiple nostrils on the end of his protruding snout snapped shut to cut off the sound.

“Ready for transfer.” Deke and his small team stood behind three transports with thick bars. They were gagged as well. I was relieved. I clenched my hands in fists, looking away from their glares and frantic movements hampered by the fields holding them to the transports.

Three men snapped their weapons into holsters on their thighs and stepped forward from the line behind the man in charge. They walked away immediately, not waiting for the rest of their squad. The color of the scales darkened on the male’s head. “Now, if each of you will follow along with one of my men, we will start the interviews.” He began to turn.

Wait. What? Each of us go with one of them…? I tensed, and Captain stepped back and to the side so his body barely covered mine.

“No,” Captain said.

A bugled whistle pained my ears, and all the color faded from the guy’s scales. “No?” he hissed.

“We are not subject to military interrogation as civilian contractors, even if we were working on the Council’s orders, which we were not. As such, we can only be interviewed on the matter as a case of civil unrest as false imprisonment and violence was perpetuated against us and we fought back to retain our rights of freedom and life. If the Council convenes and wishes to judge the matter as one of abuse of power by a planetary governing body, we can also be called to testify before them as to that matter.

“Otherwise, you have no legal right to separate, question, or detain my crew. We have provided evidence of criminal actions, the criminals who are so accused who survived the violence against us, and we stand ready to testify in public session as to these matters. That is all.” Captain stood straight and tall in front of me, protecting me and the rest of the crew, and he didn’t bend an inch. His voice didn’t shake as he firmly stated our rights. If I wasn’t so damn scared, I’d be whooping.

Deke clearly wanted to, that, or start laughing at the sheer dumbfounded shock that even I could recognize on the alien’s face. Freska elbowed him. He huffed, and I glanced at him. All the amusement faded from his face and cold fury took over as I heard plastic scraping noises.

Someone had just armed their weapon.

Freska spoke up. “Do you really think us so na├»ve us to approach Central without putting surveillance in place to ensure our presence would not be swept away like so many other embarrassing debacles for the powers that be?”

“We have control of all the technology—”

“I am technology you have never seen,” Danie said. He stood beside Freska. “And you have no idea what I can do. What I will do, if you try to harm any of these people who are just trying to right wrongs that have happened to too many innocents. That video that was transmitted? A single command and only a few seconds against a few old men and women. I had no need to use more… deadly means.”

The cold, impersonal tone was as scary as the implied threat if the soldiers’ faces were anything to go by. The alien whipped one of its tentacles behind its back, and the weapons were powered down.

“You cannot hide from this. Everyone saw what you did. It is your duty—”

Captain cut him off. “I did my duty, for years, for people who were looking out for themselves. For greed. Power. What I’ve learned? Power corrupts. No one remains untouched. No one has the right to demand I give up my life to save the rest of the universe, and I’m not going to risk those who depend on me just to satisfy some heroic ideal any real soldier knows is fake bullshit. Bad things happen every day, on planets all over the universe. Someone else is just going to have to fix them. I’m done.”

Captain backed up, pushing me with him. We retreated into the ship, never turning our backs on the soldiers on the ground. As soon as the hatch slid shut, Captain’s shoulders slumped. I put my hands on them and leaned against his back, resting my head against his shoulders.

“I shouldn’t have spoken for the whole crew like that,” he said. He looked at the hold which held basically the whole crew. Everyone was armed or carrying supplies for running, in case we’d had to abandon the ship.

“Hell yes, you should have,” Deke said.

“Captain Querry, you should know by now that you are more than just the captain of our ship, you are the man who we all follow because you would do anything for us. Fight off fictional Elite who are hell bent on taking over the universe, refuse to bend to sneaky politicians who’d turn us into figureheads and puppets or worse, scapegoats.” Others nodded at Freska’s words.

“But that Council toady was right. We won’t be able to escape this. Our ship is known to every single station, dock ring, and landing field on every planet with a vid system. We’re either famous or infamous—and I don’t know which would be worse.”

“Stop being such a defeatist. You solved that already. Like a damn intern, always spouting off silly questions they know the answer to,” Aparoe muttered.

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