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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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 82

“Where’s Deke?” I’d expected him to be in the meeting I’d interrupted, but as it broke up and everyone went to their respective parts of the ship, he’d been nowhere to be seen.

“He insisted on overseeing the ship security after he locked up that Elite bastard. Said he didn’t trust them not to have put something on the ship or tricked the A.I. even though Freska said the ship confirmed we’re clear of any devices or anything.”

I turned quickly from the viewscreen that showed the system we were currently passing. “Is that a concern?”

“No,” Captain said soothingly, “like I said, the ship’s A.I. said nothing was added or installed while she was berthed. It’s safe.” He put a hand on my back. “I think Deke’s just restless because he didn’t have anything to do. He’s not used to someone else being able to do all the ass kicking, as he put it.”

“He said we kicked ass?” I didn’t know if I should be pleased, but I kind of was. My face heated. My skills weren’t a good thing, but they could be used to kick ass, if I needed them to. But that wasn’t the kind of work I wanted to do. That’s why I was working in maintenance, not security.

That, and I’d never trusted myself before. Turns out I’d been right to worry—

“Kohen? Were you listening to me?” Captain stopped in the middle of the corridor.

“Oh. No.” I’d been locked in my own brain again. “Sorry.”

“Do you need to find a place to meditate or go see Aparoe for something? I should have taken you straight to Medical,” he fretted. He slid his arm around my waist. “You can lean on me, talk to me, if you need to.”

“No, I’m fine. Just… thinking.” I curled my arm around Captain’s back, enjoying his closeness. “I will tell you my thoughts.  Just… not now.” That word kept coming. Just a little worry. Just a simple plan. Just thinking, just not talking.

“In the meeting, you mentioned delivering the Elite, your cousin and his contact, and what vid files we could only stream and then record for the more far-flung galaxies.” I licked my lips. “But what about after?” We were still in the middle of the corridor. Anyone could come by. This ship was small, so it wasn’t like there was much privacy outside of his quarters. But I couldn’t wait to ask these questions later—I’d go mad waiting for the answers the whole day.

Captain raised a brow. “We’ve talked about that.”

“So… planet with a good patch of dirt and water and space port not too far off for when everyone comes to visit?”

Sure enough, our privacy was invaded and someone had been listening to our conversation. The voice came before the body turned the corner. “Like you’re going to have any privacy or time to yourselves or the crew will let you just up and disappear on us.” Deke twisted at the waist, his spine cracking. “I’ve been sitting and torturing for too long; I need some place to stretch out. This ship is tiny compared to the last one.”

“The last ship was an attempt to bribe us into complacency and laziness. And it almost worked,” Captain pointed out. “Would’ve too, if it wasn’t for Kohen and Danie.”

Deke waved a hand. “Whatever. It was still nice not to be cramped in a space tin can. Can’t blow stuff up or really get a workout in. Just you wait, Kohen, I know of this one planet Captain Querry and I once spent four months on digging out an encampment of Preus IV immigrants that couldn’t speak a lick of standard and who used deadly force as a method of greeting.”

“Seriously?” I frowned. “This is one of those fake stories you tell, isn’t it?”

“No, no,” Deke said. He tilted his head back exposing the soft underside of his neck and chin, pointed out the scar, then started walking back down the corridor. I had to follow to keep up with him and hhear is hoice. “See that scar there? One of them said hello and sliced into my throat. Aparoe was so mad they threatened to stop fixing me for the whole rest of the trip to Central after that.”

“How was it your fault?” I asked indignantly.

“Trust me, it usually is when something goes wrong,” Captain said. “Biggest pain in my ass still somehow became head of my security.”

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?” I didn’t remember where I’d read or heard the suggestion, but it seemed like a good fit for the situation. Deke was, well, Deke. I had to suppress a laugh when Deke wordlessly objected.

The two of them exchanged a look.

“Hey, I saw that!” Now it was my turn to object. “Are you guys managing me?”

“You seemed nervous after the meeting, wanting to know where Deke was before. The chaos will end, and we will all be okay,” Captain said soothingly. “I promise.”

He really shouldn’t promise things he couldn’t guarantee, but I knew he’d try. They both would. And I was coming to the realization that I might not need to fight, but I’d do it if I had to if that’s what it took to protect me and mine.

The next two shifts were spent traveling straight for the Central alliance. My waking hours I spent with the keepers of the ship—my good friends, a few new ones. I was trying to learn all the jobs; I was good and cleaning and fixing things but the ship was really self-sufficient.

I was slowly going crazy. Worse, everyone knew about us, so we couldn’t stop at most of the medium-sized arrays. So,  by the time that planet came back into view with its crowded air space, I might as well been strapped to the outside of our ship to wave. That’s about all I was good for.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 81

“Kohen, calm down.” Captain’s warm hands landed on my shoulders. He squeezed them, rubbing the tense muscles. “I won’t let anyone take you away from me. We’re bonded, remember? Where you go, I go.”

“But you just said—”

“I know, and maybe I need to censor some of the information I share with you until you are a little calmer. Breathe, okay? There may be some calls for action against us by those who are dirty or who were colluding with the Elites and hoping not to get caught, but I know Freska. She’s damned every single one of the dirty bastards. They’ll go down for this. And even if governments are calling for action against us, there’s a simple solution.” Captain pulled me toward his chest, folding me into his arms.

Bunching my hands into his uniform, I breathed in his scent, took in his heat. Fronts pressed together, there was no escaping my reaction to him, but this wasn’t that kind of intimacy. I matched my breathing to his, slowing down my sharp gulps for air. I pressed my forehead to his shoulder. “Thank you.” I blinked and leaned my head back. “What solution?”

A slow smile spread across his face. Captain shrugged. “We just go to one of the planets that is hailing us as heroes and settle down. I’m sure at least a few of them are good enough to stick around forever on. You trust me, right?”


“Good. I already knew that, but I wanted to be sure that you remembered you trusted me. That you can always trust me.” He leaned in, his lips parting.

Knowing what was coming, wanting it, I met him in a gentle kiss of lips. His hands roamed my back, hypnotizing sweeps up and down along my spine. Brushing our mouths together, he covered every inch of my top and bottom lip with tiny nibbles with his lush lips, taking his time before finally giving me the firm pressure I craved.

“Mmm,” I sighed. The last of the tension leeched out of my body. Captain backed me up to the bunk. I watched languidly as he finished getting ready and then left. Sleep claimed me soon after.  

The door alert woke me, but it took me a few moments to put on some clothes. “Danie?”

“Can I come in?” Danie looked up and down the corridor.

“Sure?” I drew out the word, backing up so he could step inside. He was acting strange, which was saying a lot for him. His behavior was never quite what was expected. His outsides might mimic a human perfectly, but he hadn’t been programmed to act perfectly.

Bandages covered his arms. “Are you okay?” I asked him.

“Yes. The medic says they will heal quickly, but they are deep enough to warrant covering.” He’d been scratched during the attack. I’d forgotten.

Being busy killing people had that effect.

“Are you… um… do you want to sit down?” I waved a hand toward the lounge area.

“I guess.” They both sat a foot or two apart. Danie sat quietly, but he didn’t speak. I shifted around, looking at him then away, then back at him.

“What did you come by for?” I asked. It might sound abrupt, but well… I wanted to know.

“Do you dream?” he asked.

I frowned. “Dream? Like make plans for life? Or like sleep?”

“It is an ambiguous term. I meant sleep.”

“Yes.” Though I hadn’t, not with Captain watching over me. He made everything better.

“I had… flashes. While I was recharging and in stand-by. Freska says I’m sleeping, even though I’m not really human, so was it a dream?”

“Maybe?” How was I supposed to know? I didn’t want to say that though. “Did you ask Freska?”

Danie’s eyes widened. “I can’t do that.”

“Why not?” Now I was curious. I settled into the couch.

“It was about her. What if she became upset or some other emotion? She’s different from everyone else. I can connect with her.” He touched the back of his neck, but his other hand drifted up his chest. I don’t even know if he realized it. “I don’t want to lose that.”

He was worried about offending Freska. Maybe embarrassed about the dream? And he didn’t want to lose his connection to her? The longer Danie was alive, for lack of a better word, the more he was integrating his hardware and software. His humanness.

“Is that all you dream about? Freska?”

“It was after we killed those people. When she connected with us. I could feel her inside me. I-I like it. What if she did it again?” Danie tilted his head. “I don’t understand any of this. Is this how you felt, when you were rescued?”

Was it? He’d been scared, confused, stressed, angry, happy, and so much more in such a short span of time. There’d been a plot to capture or use or kill him since he’d been sold the first time, and his first brush of freedom hadn’t stopped that.

But Captain had. Maybe that’s what Freska did for Danie. “Some. But what I’ve learned is that talking with people is the best way to make sure they know how you feel and you can learn how they feel. So you should talk to Freska, even if that seems like it’s a bad idea.”

“That’s it? Talk to her?”

I stood. “That’s it.” I needed to get some clothes on. I’d slept enough, and talking with Danie made me realize if I wanted to be a part of Captain’s decisions, I needed to remember I didn’t want him protecting me. I had to stay strong, rebuild the confidence I had.

This crew made me one of them, so I wasn’t going to shirk my duties. First I’d seek out Captain to learn what was happening and what our plan was, then I’d find something useful to do.

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