Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Ch. 60

 


“Aren’t you hungry?” Cheisumn asked. “You must have traveled a long way.”

“We did. But these pleasures are not meant to be eaten alone. Please, can we have the use of some cups and a bowl?”

She rolled a table over, the dishes upon it clattering on the bumpy rug. “Anything else?”

“No, but thank you for the hospitality of your shop.” Garjah flicked something from his pocket to her, and she caught it and winked.

“What was that?” I hissed.

“Cred card.”

“A what?” I scritched the bumpy skin behind Bouncer’s ears, but he barely flicked them in annoyance.

“I paid her. A good sum, but then it was for than the nuts and milk. You had a good eye, Essell. Are you sure you haven’t taken part in intrigue and espionage before?”

“What?” I glanced at the pair of men on the other bench. They weren’t even pretending not to listen to our conversation. How rude! “No, of course not.” I nudged Garjah, lifting my eyebrows and glancing at the men when he looked my way.

“Ah yes. Now that I have everything prepared. Gentlemen, can I interest you in a little snack?” I gaped at Garjah. What? These were who we had to give it away to? The two stood readily enough, but I noticed, with dismay, that there were four cups on the rolling table. Garjah picked up two, handing me one.

“Thank you,” one of the men said politely. He lifted the cup. “To generosity.”

“To curiosity,” said the other.

“To audacity,” Garjah said.

They all looked at me. “What am I supposed to say?” I lifted the cup nervously. “Um, to humanity?” I mean, all their words rhymed. It was all I could think of. The second Four Arms snorted.

“It fits.” He tilted his cup toward me, and I could tell he had a lot more in there than Garjah had put in mine. Thank the stars! From the look on Garjah’s face, I couldn’t get out of drinking the swill. I gagged the second it hit my tongue, the burning acid stripping away taste buds before the funk coated my teeth, tongue, and cheeks.

I desperately wished for some plain water.

“Great,” Garjah choked out.

“Pure heaven.”

“Delightful.”

They all looked at me again. Damn Garjah for not giving me enough information to go on. Then again, I probably would have insisted on staying in the shuttle if he’d told me I’d have to drink this stuff. “Tastes great…” The tip of my tongue touched the roof of my mouth, and I gagged. I clapped a hand over my mouth and swallowed convulsively, not wanting to vomit.

It was close.

The men were smiling, clapping Garjah on the back. The first one spoke up. “I am Chaintrik. This is Swintik. Teams were sent out when you were noticed.”

“I thought they might be. We stopped at the first seller with the sign on her stall outside.”

“Sign? What sign? And why are these guys so friendly all of a sudden?” Gone were the blank expressions and standoffish postures. They were smiling and leaning against the table, looking for all the world like they were old friends with Garjah instead of strangers.

“You drank the nut milk and appreciated it. We know you’re safe.”

I blinked. That made no sense. “What?”

“Lying is almost unknown in our culture. Some word play, sleight of tongue, perhaps, but outright lies? No.”

“But to be a rebel means to embrace many new things,” Swintik said. “Anyone who can drink nut milk and compliment it clearly is a liar.”

“And we like liars.” Chaintrik grinned.

Narrowing my eyes, I considered their logic. “Mereval lied to me.” How did Garjah explain that?

“Did she? Or did she just not tell you the whole truth?”

Stars! He had a point. She had evaded revealing her true motives by revealing ones that I wouldn’t like but that would make me stop looking for deeper deceptions. “But that doesn’t mean she can’t like in action instead of words.”

Chaintrik shrugged. “There is a difference,” he insisted.

Garjah clamped a hand over the bands on my arm. “Agreed.” I clamped my lips shut and let him speak. This was his show, after all.

“Shall we go? Perhaps get a real meal and drink?” Swintik piled his cup on the tray with Chaintrik. The bag of acoji nuts were tucked into his belt.

“Lead the way.” Garjah watched him intently. Chaintrik hurried over and peeked through the doorway into the main room.

“It’s clear.”

The pair of them grabbed the rug and pulled it back. Underneath was a wooden floor and several of the slats were discolored. A trap door.

We had to go underground? I shivered, and Bouncer pushed against my hip. I dropped a hand to his head. He’d hate this. I didn’t like the idea of it either.

Swintik lead the way, stepping onto a panel that slid smoothly down before it rose again, empty. “I will go first,” Garjah said. “Stay with Bouncer.”

“Like he’s going anywhere.” My cerops shadow was close enough to press against me and force me to lean into him so I wasn’t pushed over. His claws were also out, scraping lightly on the wood floor.

Apprehensive, I listened as Garjah went down, but nothing happened. Snorting I shook my head.

Bouncer and I took the pad down next, and I knelt to be closer to him just in case. Not hiding, just… a precaution. My head wouldn’t be where someone expected it to be.

But the pad stopped in a small room light with adaptive lights. They highlighted shadows, throwing Garjah’s strong features into relief and emphasizing the strong muscles of his torso as he captured me in a hug.

“We made it,” he said. “And we’re getting in.”

Swintik was feeding something the acoji nuts. It turned in half, bent over its back, and blinked large, yellow eyes at Essell.

Want more flash?

J Ray Lamb

Julie Lynn Hayes 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Ch. 59

 

Wishful thinking. The market was chaos with Four Arms everywhere, but all eyes were on me. If the Kardoval were looking for us, and people wanted to turn us in, we’d be easy to find.

I had to hope the rebels here would accept Garjah. I wasn’t sure if they’d be more or less suspicious with me in tow, but he’d refused to leave me in the shuttle. Bouncer had been equally insistent on coming with me, so he paced at my side.

Maybe they weren’t staring at me so much. The predator with poisonous claws would probably make any sane person nervous. Especially after the first thing Garjah did was buy some meat and start tossing it to him as we walked.

“What are you doing?” I hissed. “Can you be any more obvious?” Weren’t we supposed to be hiding?

“I’m sure anyone who might be alert to my appearance already knows I am here. If I were coming at the head of a security force, you would not be by my side and I would not be walking with a cerops and feeding him.”

Oh. I hadn’t thought about that. “You’re making it seem like we’re on vacation.”

“I don’t take vacations.”

I flapped a hand at him, scowling. “Don’t try to twist words. Here for leisure, not business. Or arresting people, since that is what you do.”

Garjah raised his eyebrows, his nostrils narrowing as he looked down on me. “I do far more than that.” He sounded insulted. “Peacekeepers arrest those who are guilty of crimes.”

“I really need to figure out all the job roles you guys have specialized,” I muttered. “Or I’m going to keep sticking my foot in it.”

Garjah looked down, already shifting us to the side of the narrow path we were walking beside the busy street. A pair of Four Arms crouching in a doorway grumbled, looked up, then shot to their feet and into the darkened recesses of the shop without another complaint. “What did you step in?” He eyed Bouncer suspiciously.

Rolling my lips in, I bit the bottom one, trying to hold in my laugh. I snorted, then choked on the giggle that somehow made its way out my nose with a nasal honking. Garjah stared at me like I was insane.

Okay, I was the insane one for using an obscure human idiom and then laughing, well, not so normally but still. He’d brought me to a remote small city to buy unpalatable food and drink and give them away to indicate our good intentions to rebels determined to bring down the government that he’d supported right up to that very afternoon.

If the light wasn’t fading, I’d have taken him somewhere to explain how the joke was on him. Instead I pointed to a shop with a small booth in front, bins full of different foods, some raw, some prepared, propped up on table lit up with spotlights in the corners of the awnings. “Aren’t those the acoji nuts you wanted?”

“Oh yeah, come on.” He took one last careful scan of the ground, as if checking for waste or anything else unpleasant that would soil his feet, and then towed me across the road between shuttles zooming past. By the time we made it, my heart was racing as fast as the vehicles had been.

“Isn’t there a crossing path through that?” I asked breathlessly, watching the shuttles weaving together. “Why do they have to fly so low anyway? Why not stay above the streets?”

“Above them? Why would we do that? Then no one will know the shops are open and come to see who is here and what they can buy.” The food seller winked. “I’ve never seen your kind before.” She tilted her head, examining me. “Four Arms, but no markings, and all that fuzz on you.” Both her eyebrows went up. “Hmm. Looking for exotic foods from some strange planet are you?”

Cheisumn, as the name above the cafe and food stall announced her, only shook her head. “Well think again. Not much import allowed from them.” She pointed a long graceful finger at us. “Come with me. I may be able to rustle something for some weary travelers long in the seat.”

As they followed her into the building, she paused when Bouncer followed me. Her eyes rounded so wide, she almost lost them. “That… animal—”

“Is my friend,” I interrupted her. “He goes with me. Everywhere. All the time.” That wasn’t strictly true, but I wasn’t going to equivalize right then.

She glanced at me, then Garjah, who was standing just behind and beside me, hefting the bag of nuts. I’d peeked into it once, and never again. It reeked of something like three day old body suits when the sweat had made the collar both sticky and stiff plus dead. Something had to be dead inside those oblong little white spheres. They looked more like shriveled organs left in fluids too long; the skin on the outside sloughing off with the gentlest of touches, the insides both wrinkled and swollen with fluids.

Disgusting.

Almost as bad as the tuber milk. Milk came from processors, not plants! When I’d told that to Garjah the first time he’d offered some of the thin, red fluid with a last meal, he’d looked at me like I was mentally deficient. For all their technology, they were a very agrarian society. I’d grown up too much on stations and planets with little plant life hospitable to humans.  

And of course, tuber milk is what Cheisumn handed Garjah. “Here, here. Sit, sit.” She pointed to a low bench against the far wall. Two men were already on another bench against the other wall, a window open to the night air bringing in the scent of dust and moist, heavy heat.

Bouncer sat at my knees, his gaze fixed on the two strangers.

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J Ray Lamb

Julie Lynn Hayes 


Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Chapter 58

 

I leaned heavy against Garjah, and he gripped my hips with two hands, locking our lower bodies together. Despite being on top and having leverage, and two sets of arms, there was no way I was getting away from him.

Good thing I didn’t want to.

“We don’t have anything to slick the way.” His voice was a low rumble that vibrated against my chest.

“Hmm, guess we’ll have to do something else.” I wormed a hand between our bodies. My shaft was slender beside his, but rigid. He was flexible, the control he had over his shaft amazing as he rubbed in slow pulses until I gripped both our shafts together.

He grunted. “Tight.”

“Mmhmm.” Keeping up the torment, I used the same small strokes he’d used to keep stimulating our shafts. His wide shoulders, so capable of carrying the burdens others placed on them, eased as I massaged them with all the strength I had in my fingers. Knots gently eased, and his breathing picked up slowly as Garjah’s hips got into the thrusts I barely allowed through my grip.

I grinned fiercely as I watched him slowly relax and let go as the arousal I sent through him peaked. This was something only I could do for him. His eyes bare slits, Garjah palmed my face with two hands and brought me down to meet his lips. We kissed, sharing taste and scent, breath and pants and soft caresses for long moments until my balls began to ache. Need growing myself, I eased my hold and started thrusting in counterpoint to his surges.  

Garjah gasped, or maybe I did. Pleasure skittered down my spine, and I stiffened. My knees dug into the chair, my thighs clamped around his hips, and I came. Arching backward, one hand on the back of the chair and the other holding so tight to his shoulder it’d bruise, I striped Garjah’s stomach with my pale come.

I panted heavily through the pleasure, the touch almost too much as I kept stroking. Garjah’s growl was growing in his chest. I leaned my head against his shoulder, kissing then licking his salt-tinged flesh. I drew a deep bite in then sucked hard.

“Essell!” Garjah barked. He jackknifed in the chair, and I held on so he didn’t spill me onto the shuttle’s floor. The muscles in his stomach were rigid, and he came in flowing ribbons that coated us both. The salty musk of his scent increased, and I sank boneless against him when he fell back into the chair. I rose and fell on his chest as he struggled for air, but I was too drugged on the pleasure and utter release of stress I felt in his arms to even consider moving.

Closing my eyes, I snuggled closer. Garjah let me relax until I shivered. “We should clean up and get dressed. Your skin is too delicate.”

“Not really.” It was warm outside, so the cool air was circulating through the shuttle. I’d noticed Garjah had no fine body hair like I did. “It’s just the hair on my back getting tickled in the breeze.”

“You do not have hair here.” He stroked a hand down the muscles alongside my spine, and I almost arched and purred. It felt good. I’d have to ask for a massage later.

“I do too. They’re almost invisible though.” Garjah peered over my shoulder. “It is soft, not prickly.”

“Most human’s hair is only prickly if they shave it. On women, that’s usually their legs and underarm. For men, their faces.” I stopped to consider that. “And sometimes their back and chest.”

“Why?” he asked.

I opened my mouth, paused, then closed it. “Evolution. Sometimes it leaves us with weird automatic functions that make no sense.”

Of course Garjah had cleansing wipes in the shuttle, though I had to push Bouncer away when he got a little too interested in the smells ponging off my body when I leaned down to get my clothes. Apparently the wipes got us clean, but they didn’t cover up the scent at all. “Bouncer, no, go lay down.” He was persistent, coming back for more with his mouth open and cloth pushed the cerops away from my lower belly where the soft fur on his face tickled my skin and sent ripples through my muscles.

“We will be there soon,” Garhah sad. “You should buckle back in.”

I was fascinated by the glimpses of the strange animals and plants we passed, but as the time went by, I was forced to accept  If ad three wishes, I’d ask for all the time in the world to explore this planet and touch Garjah and be touched in return.

Meeting up with rebels who opposed the government was not on the plan. Then again, nothing had been according to the plan since I’d landed on Ardra.

“How are we going to find the rebellion people?”

“There’s a place they meet, Dytokshun market, and a signal. A phrase you have to say while you buy acoji nuts and a skin of tuber milk.”

Tuber milk? “Do we have to actually buy the things we order?” The expression on my face must have shown my disgust because Garjah chuckled. He shook his head.

“We do not. They will not go to waste, however; giving them away is part of the identification.”

“Oh good. I can give away tuber milk all day long.” Something about the process fermented it, and the one time I’d tried it, I’d nearly thrown it up right there. I’d tried a lot of things over the years, but that was the worst. I wasn’t sure how getting a container of that was considered a gift and not a curse.

I squinted at the map then looked at the lights on the horizon. The city was larger than I expected, but it was still a lone star of lights in the otherwise dark landscape. Did it really scream freedom or was that just wishful thinking on my part?                                                                                  

Want more flash?

Julie Lynn Hayes

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Chapter 57

 

Cooperation was one of my mother’s three basic tenets for first contact. These aliens had protected me, fed me, healed me, changed my body to be like theirs, and probably forever isolated me from the rest of humanity when they did that.

Someone would find the crashed skimmer and make the wrong conclusion. Sonez wouldn’t check too extensively, just order a scan of the surface of the planet from orbit and examination of a few days travel in either direction of the spot.

There were plenty of predators large enough on the planet to consume a human. Someone who was thorough might question where my suit was or the other missing equipment I took with me, but he was anything but thorough.

Odds are, he’d blame me for stealing the skimmer, say I crashed it on purpose, ruin my reputation and declare me dead.

Which left me with a decision to make. Did I let the rest of the Galactic believe that I was dead and help Garjah resolve this with his people and close the rift with the Kardoval? Or did I shock everyone and push the Four Arms to expose themselves to the rest of the universe and reveal my status as very much alive but irrevocably changed?

Rather than answering me, Garjah pulled up a map. “This is the city. We’re here.” He indicated a dark spot on the ordered map. He wasn’t joking when he said those in the snarl didn’t like to be ordered. Apparently it was so disorganized not even a satellite map was visible. “This is the port and the ship.” He tapped a white dot.

“We’re not going there.” They’d have to be waiting for that. I toyed with the arm bands, unable to sit still and do nothing. Bouncer had eased to the floor and had fallen asleep, so I’d lost the blanket over my legs.

“Of course not. I wouldn’t put the crew in danger.” Garjah shook his head. “I am not that na├»ve, even if I do not play political games. There are things the Kardoval don’t know about me.”

The things I did know about him I could recount with the fingers on four hands… in other words, not that much. Was I surprised he was hiding things from the beings that ruled his entire culture?

Actually, yeah. “You seem like such a rule follower.”

“I am. I am not the one breaking custom. Besides, I did not lie when I became Garjah. Securing the fate of our people is part of my nature. It is not against the laws to fail to reveal that I straddled two paths. Pryntiok was both ti, a nurturer, and ok, a scientist. My father was a government official; he saw the danger of the admitting I had both his memories and his father’s.”

My lips parted, and I stared at him. The bracelets… “You should have these. You’re like your mother.”

“They wouldn’t fit me.” Garjah smiled. “Besides, I am more like my greatfather than anyone else. He trained me.” He grew serious, his thin nostrils flaring. “He was afraid for the direction our people were going too.”

“Why afraid?”

“Nine continents. Billions of beings whose voices are smothered or ignored until many of them have no choice but to fight back. Three of the four quadrants have sent envoys asking for advice about encroachments, as they’re even closer to galactic space.

“I worry the fourth hasn’t even contacted us in nearly a cycle. After we filled the ship, it was supposed to be the next stop on our check of the boundaries of our space.”

“I messed that up,” I said ruefully.

“It wasn’t your fault. None of this has been.” Garjah shook his head. “You are just the latest in a long line of reasons they will seize upon for their excuse to remain in power.”

“That’s it, I don’t get it. Why would joining the Galactic take them out of power?”

Sighing, Garjah pointed to a dark dot on the map on a lower continent. “That’s where I think we’ll find the answer. I know the resistance has a base there; I kept it a secret.”

“From the Kardoval?”

Closing the map, Garjah said, “From everyone, except you that is.”

“So no one will know where we are going?”

“No one.”

 

To say I was nervous as we flew over the planet was an understatement. We were alone. There was no back up. Garjah was the face of security in the government, and we were going to confront people who were against the government.

There was a chance we could disappear just as permanently as Sonez would make me in the Galactic.

“How long until we get there?”

“Past nightfall.”

Bouncer was asleep. The shuttle was autolocked onto the coordinates of the location Garjah had showed me. There was only so much much oohing and ahhing I could do from above. I longed to explore, learn, if not touch.

There was something I could do. Or someone. We were safe for the moment. The seats weren’t spacious or comfortable, but we could make it work in a pinch.

“What are you doing?” Garjah’s eyes flared wide, his green skin darkening. My nipples peaked in the cool air on the shuttle as soon as I stripped my shirt over my head.

“Multitasking. I’m a scientist; I’m good at it.” As I spoke I pushed down my pants. In another moment I stood naked. “Your turn.”

“Is it?”

“Mmhmm.” Garjah had swiveled his chair sideways; I stood between his legs. “Arms up.” His wide chest invited touch, and I stroked him, tracing the patterns across his defined muscles. “Lift.”

I had no idea how to remove his boots, so I left his pants bunched at his ankles. He didn’t need to stand anyway. Crawling onto his thick thighs, I straddled his legs. My erection had grown as I stripped him, and I pressed it against him. 

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Julie Lynn Hayes


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Ch. 56

 

Garjah tapped the screen on his transport. He tapped it again and growled.

“What?” I asked. I was sitting in the seat opposite him and Bouncer was crowded in close. To say the meeting hadn’t ended well was an understatement. Garjah was pulling an implacable unmoving object on the Kardoval, which scared me.

Everything I’d overheard, or was directly told before we’d arrived, was about how powerful they were and how much everyone revered and respected their unique abilities. Maybe I hadn’t spent enough time among the different Four Arms, interacting while they worked, to learn the difference but they seemed like any other group of leaders to me.

Cagey, willing to use deception and misdirection to achieve their aims, and secrecy above and beyond anything else. What was it that drove them, and the rest of Garjah’s species to want to remain so isolated?

No, it wasn’t all of them. Lenveval had said there was growing dissent to the isolation in recent generations. That meant those with the view hadn’t changed their mind and had passed it on to those they birthed. How many generations back? How many dissenters? Was this a biological imperative or a cultural development?

The scientist in me itched to find out more. The scared human, especially as the only human on an entire planet, wanted to find my own special place to hide. Lost in my thoughts, it took a quick change and turn to the right to jar me from them. We hadn’t made any abrupt turns before. “What? Where are we going? What’s wrong?”

Garjah’s entire body was tensed. “We are being followed.”

“And the evasion technique? It’s not like everyone doesn’t know where you live.”

“We are not going back to my house.” Garjah pulled up and we flitted away from the street level and into a maze of buildings I was amazed existed just behind the main thoroughfare. They were fanciful, angled, some with arches and others with towers that leaned in crazy angles.

And other transports were careening through them at speeds even greater than ours. Bouncer’s claws scrabbled against the floor as we tilted sideways, and I caught him in a vise grip around his chest. I draped him over my lap and clamped my lower arms over his back. To calm both of us, I rubbed his head and hushed him when he growled. The transport was silent, but the tension was thick enough to feel like an oppressive shield.

I tried to move and make as little noise as possible. All four of Garjah’s arms were moving at the same time, and he was operating the controls, tapping on the screen, and rapidly scrolling something on the edge of his seat. We narrowly missed being clipped by a stinger shaped skimmer that was emitting a harsh ripple of light in its wake.

Closing my eyes led to my stomach lurching with every unexpected movement, so I dealt with the abrupt stops to my heartbeat whenever I watched Garjah save us from a crash or make a turn skim divers in propel suits would be proud to execute on a professional course.

Nausea, the rapid changes to my blood pressure, and the acute stress of the entire day had tense my body to painful rigidity. I wanted to blast this entire culture and their crazy… “Stars bedamned!” I choked out the words as we came to an abrupt halt, nose down in a darkened parking cube.

“I haven’t had that much fun in ages.”

Fun? I was going to have bruises on my bruises. Bouncer was still growling. I would need more than two hands to count how often we’d almost died, so it was a good thing I’d evolved to grow two more. That made me think about the Kardoval and all the hypocrisy left behind.

“How is this fun? Your leaders sent people to follow us because my ship is looking for me, a reasonable action when someone goes missing by the way. You drove like an insane person; we could have died. A lot.”

“People can only die once in each mortal form.”

Dealing with his stolid logic was going to make me scream. “You know what I mean,” I said sharply. The faint smile on his face after that proved I was right.

“We may have to wait. This is the snarl; each building is prided on being unique, and the community likes being on the outskirts of the tranditionalists structure. Zoning is impossible, and so many of the building foundations and levels are supported together they can’t untangle the mess. Any who skim through the area is tagged for reimbursement to the sector. I’ve never hit another transport or even tapped a building.” Garjah was smug, but had he even heard what he just said?

“Tagged? Who oversees that? Who could intercept an image of our vehicle, tag it, and make it so we can’t fly out of here?”

“No one,” Garjah said.

“What—” I was cut off when we spoke at the same time. I loved a good mystery, the same as the next bored spacer without a planet to explore, but I wasn’t about to show my ignorance on this one. Thankfully, Garjah took pity on me.

“So we wait. When they give up, we’ll creep out, join the main thoroughfare and start traveling again.”

“Where?” I understand now the politics. The Kardoval and the opposition, the old and new were locked in a dance that repeated itself through history. Should we stay, or should we go? Hide or reveal ourselves?

Once upon a time, the Four Arms would have always said the Kardoval were right; but now enough had joined the ranks to actually create a strong opposition. Too many felt like the galactic was the right way to go; hiding behind shields lost all the benefits participating the wider universe would garner.

Because of course there’s an opposition that Garjah used to hunt down that we’re now running straight to. Made perfect sense.

Want more flash?

Julie Lynn Hayes 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Chapter 55

 

“Why didn’t I get this report?” Garjah tapped his screen, but it remained dark. He frowned. “What is going on?”

“We have temporarily blocked all the signals to and from this location,” Mereval said.

“Why? Security has been breached, and I should respond.”

The rest of the Kardoval marched into the room, and the aide stiffened. He saluted with one hand across his chest and backed against the wall. Seedrah had followed suit, his skin paling. Garjah stood, but he didn’t salute. He dropped a hand to the back of my chair and stood firm as we watched their entrance.

Mereval gestured to the other chairs around the oval table. Somehow there were just enough for the six of us. Quixoval, Sloval, and Lenveval all sat without ceremony. I wasn’t fooled. I’d witnessed power plays by officials before, and this reeked of orchestrated manipulation.

Had they planned this? Separate me and Garjah, debrief him about the planet, then reveal the breach? How long had they known humans were on Ardra looking for me?

“Last night, humans landed near Essell’s small ship. They have a shuttle, a crew of ten, and a ship not that far outside of the system.” Sloval stared down his narrow nose at me, and I refused to look away. I might be a scientist, but I wasn’t weak.

“No one thought to wake me?”

“They’re being monitored.” Lenveval was still neutral, but what was worse was how Quixoval had lost his smile. Mereval, for all her calm expression, made me the most wary. She’d known and still spent all morning teasing tidbits about humans from me.

Our conversations took on whole new light. Not only had she been asking about me, and humanity, but was she trying to figure out my link to the humans who came after me? I couldn’t hide the hurt in my expression or voice. “All you had to do was ask. I promised never to harm Garjah, and that means his people too.”

Garjah’s hands slipped from the chair to my shoulders, squeezing. My chest was heaving up and down, but I didn’t hold back and he didn’t try to stop me. “I have no idea who came after me. I snuck off my ship, hiding the launch of the skimmer, because I was being airlocked from every method of advancement in my career. The captain, Sonez, had it out for me. But I knew he had a beacon he had to follow before he could send anyone after me, if anyone would even go.”

I kept the role Sonez really wanted me in from Garjah. No need to reveal that kind of ugliness to him. “Maybe it’s Sonez.” I couldn’t imagine it’d be anyone else. My parents wouldn’t bother. My screen had been limited from transmitting, so there was no way they’d gotten any of my survey details.

And if we’d been able to detect the Four Arm’s presence before, I’d never have gotten the idea of going to the planet by myself in the first place.

“It’s probably Sonez.” He’d relish picking me up and throwing the rules at me until the code and charters I’d violated were so long I’d be wrapped up in punishment duty—at his discretion—for at least a decade. Maybe two considering I’d crashed the skimmer.

Garjah gestured to Seedrah. “If you will.”

Seedrah moved up to a section of the wall and tapped on it. It shimmered, and then he inserted his screen in a slot that opened. “What do you want?”

“All data stored on Essell’s device about his previous ship and captain.” When had he gotten that? I tensed and Garjah squeezed my shoulders again. He wouldn’t do anything to harm me, I had to trust that. He was irritated, but not scared or stressed after the revelations the Kardoval had made.

It was almost like he’d expected their deception and prepared for it.

Well then why the stars hadn’t he prepared me? I tilted my head back and scowled at him but kept my mouth shut. I trusted him, just as much as he trusted me.

The four on the other curve of the table, not so much. They did watch, silently, as Garjah revealed all the data he’d mined from my device before we’d left the ship. He exposed the technology for what it was—inferior to theirs and not capable of communicating over this distance.

“So now you explain this,” Garjah said. He nodded at Seedrah who disengaged his device and turned off the display on the wall.

“Our isolation has been in contention among some of the community in recent generations. We needed to be sure that you hadn’t been compromised by the dissension and weren’t planning to reveal our existence to humans and the rest of the galactic command.” Lenveval took a drink of the ruby red liquid in front of him, then licked his lips.

I shuddered at the red tint to his lips. His narrow-eyed stare and the crimson drop trailing down his chin gave me chills. I thought about offering him something to wipe it away, but I didn’t even want to speak to him. This wasn’t about me, even though it was being framed as if it was.

This was about their isolation.

“We anticipated humans arriving, if not this early. I do not have plans to reveal myself to them. Essell has not asked to contact the humans or his family. He has sought to learn and understand our culture, to adjust to his changed body, and to connect through our bond. He is not a danger to our isolation through any fault of his own.”

I did want to speak to that. “I went to a planet that was marked as unclaimed. Your isolation harms you in that way. The Galactic system doesn’t just develop interconnections between cultures, but governments, education, and more. If humans had known you claimed that planet for resources, we wouldn’t have been exploring it. I never would have gone.” I reached up to press against Garjah’s hand. I hoped he knew that didn’t mean I wished I’d never gone; I was happy with him.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Ch. 54

 

“This is in English.” I glanced at Mereval. “You can read it.”

“Yes,” she said. “But we don’t understand it.” She pointed at the screen. “Why would you cut off your nose to spite your face?” She grimaced. “We weren’t aware that humans took part in body mutilation.”

“We don’t,” I said automatically. Then I backtracked, thinking of all the genetic modifications made in the womb that produced what seemed like, to me, some pretty freaky looking people. Not to mention what modern cosmetic surgery could do in a single afternoon. “Not in that fashion at least or for no reason. It’s an idiom.”

“Oh?” She sat back, fiddling with the ties of her tunic and then and settling its draped folds better over her lap. “And what does it mean?”

I blinked. I had to think about it for a moment. It was hard to translate idioms; they really didn’t make any sense when you thought about them outside of your own language, but the concepts remained the same. “It means knowingly harming yourself when you seek to harm someone else.”

“Hmm, interesting. It seems humans were more complex than we gave them credit for.”

My mouth dropped open, and I goggled at her. “We reached space. Colonized several planets. Joined the Galactic Council. And the use of an idiom is what makes you think we’re complex?”

She reached out and patted my thigh with the one hand not still restlessly smoothing her tunic or holding the screen. “It’s not the idiom itself, but what it represents. The acknowledgement of self-harm, understanding it on a conceptual level so widespread that it’s become an idiom, means you must also try to avoid it. Avoiding harm to one’s self by avoiding to harm others is logical. Logic is vital in such a short-lived species like humans.”

“People do hurt themselves in order to hurt others.” Look at what happened to me when I tried to sneak away from my ship and punish Sonez for being a crappy captain. I wasn’t about to mention that though.

“Ah, but if it’s an idiom, it’s ingrained in your culture to be an object lesson. Object lessons are there to teach realities so mistakes don’t continue.”

There was an undertone to the conversation I thought I was picking up on, but people weren’t my thing. Aliens really weren’t my thing. “What sort of idioms do Four Arms have?” I asked slowly.

She smiled. “Funny, how humans rename or judge due to outside characteristics.” Mereval folded a pair of her hands together, leaning back in her chair. “Perhaps a fitting one might be to beware the beguiling heshwa.”

I frowned. “I don’t get it.”

“A heshwa is… well, perhaps better to show you.” She tapped the screen several times, then a picture appeared in front of us.

“That’s so cute.” I couldn’t help but smile; it was almost involuntary.

She huffed. “So many say, before they lose a limb or an eye.” Mereval tapped the screen again and the image turned into a video. What had appeared to be a cute, baby animal with oversized eyes, long floppy ears, and short limbs covered in a thick, shiny pink fluff turned horrific in an instant.

When the whirling dervish of claws and fangs that couldn’t possibly fit in the shiny pink bow that was its mouth were done, nothing was left of the creature four times its size that had tried to creep up on its back.

“Okay,” I said breathlessly. “Lethal pink fluffsters called heshwas a no go for petting. Got it.” I laughed shakily but Mereval didn’t join in. I took a deep breath in and let it out. “Yes, I get the message. Don’t judge anything until I learn more. We have sayings about this too.”

Mereval smiled. “Good, good. Well! Let’s go eat.” She abruptly stood, and I stared up at her.

“I just got here a little while ago.”

“I’m sure you’re hungry.” She held out a lower hand and I grasped it, letting her pulling me out of the chair.

“I guess.” How did they always know when I was hungry? Why was I always hungry?

Garjah joined us when we were about halfway through, Seedrah with him. “Hi!” I said around a mouthful of crispy orange stalks with red spotted tops covered in a gray sauce. It was a good thing I didn’t judge the food by its appearance because it looked poisonous or horrific tasting, but everything I’d tried tasted great.

“Is your meeting already over?”

He shook his head. “No, but I wanted to join you and Seedrah wanted to share his greetings.”

“Looks like Bouncer already is.” The cerops was stalking Seedrah, ready to pounce on the nervous young security officer who hadn’t realized it was a game Bouncer had started playing with him a while back. He always sheathed his claws and never came close to breaking skin. It didn’t reassure Seedrah.

Then again, the idea that a deadly predator wanted to pin you down and mock kill you would probably frighten anyone.

I knew I wouldn’t like it.

Before they could sit down a young aide dressed in a communications uniform—and I was proud I was able to tell the difference after such a crazy time on board—came in with a carefully blank expression on his face. His hands told another story.

He bent to whisper to Mereval, his eyes roving over each one of us until they hit me and nearly bugged out of his head. Well, not me, Bouncer. Still, I didn’t like the looks of things, and that only ramped up when they both turned to face Garjah when he finished speaking.

“What is it?” Apparently not even super hearing could break into that conversation.  

“The block you put around the planet has been breached. By humans. Looking for him.” All their eyes turned toward me. 

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Ch. 53

Bouncer woke me living up to his name. He pounced on the bed, dislodging the sheet pooled around my back. I grunted and pushed up onto one elbow, shoving him off my side. “Ow, you beast. What’s got you so excited?”

His eyes were fixated on the door, and he danced on his legs. The soft mattress sunk under his weight, and I rolled toward him. Bowling into him, we collapsed into a heap. He licked my shoulder and neck, nuzzling his head against my cheek. I stroked his nubbly skin, rubbing along his powerful muscles over his shoulders and down his spine as far as I could reach while I tickled his sides with my lower arms.

“It makes me nervous when he does that,” Garjah said.

Craning my head, I glanced over Bouncer’s back. Garjah was in the doorway, two trays balanced in his hand. Steam rose from the upper tray, and a large jug with mugs balanced below it. I had the urge to pounce on him, not to knock him down and rub my body all over his—though that would be fun too—but to get to the food.

My stomach snarled angrily, and Bouncer jerked back onto his haunches. I laughed. “Sorry, buddy.”

Garjah set down the trays on the bed and slid in on the other side of them. Somehow they didn’t spill. Technology, magic, I didn’t care. “How long did we sleep? I’m starving.”

“Timok said you were still providing nutrients for the change in your body and the additional mass. You need to eat more.”

“All I ever do is eat.” I picked over the tray, grabbing into the bowl and the stabby things I was supposed to eat with. Not even bothering to ask what the new dishes were, I started tasting and eating. I huffed and hissed my way through a few bites that were too hot, which made Garjah chuckle as he ate at a much slower pace from the single bowl he’d grabbed off the tray.

“Did you make all this? How?” It looked fresh.

“I had a delivery from the markets of food, other parts are replicated, and some is from the garden.”

Stopping with the bowl pressed to my lips and a shovel of the diced orange bits about to scoop into my mouth, I glanced from Bouncer’s begging eyes to Garjah. “The garden he was in, unsupervised? Did you wash the produce?”

Garjah’s thin lips spread in a smirk. “What would you say if I said no?”

My nose wrinkled, and I started to lower the bowl. Garjah grabbed it and tilted it back up. “Stop. You’d think you weren’t a biologist with how finicky you are. The food garden is enclosed so he couldn’t get inside. And I washed it,” he said before I could open my mouth to protest again. “No other animals, insects, or chemicals are present in your food. Well, other than the chemicals that make it, but that’s not exactly sexy breakfast in bed talk.”

“So we did sleep all the way until breakfast!” I blinked, but the light hadn’t changed much. The suns were really affecting my ability to tell time.

“A human saying I picked up, since we don’t call first shift meal breakfast.”

“Is it first shift if you’re not on a ship?” I countered.

“Yes. It is still the first shift, and the same general functions apply to the meals and work performed on a planet as on a ship. Speaking of that, I need to connect with Seedrah today, and there’s a meeting we need to attend regarding the block I put up.”

I put down the bowl since I couldn’t exactly look serious and dignified while shoveling food in my mouth. “We need to talk about that, by the way. When were you going to tell me about the power you have? You never told me you head security for the entire race!” My voice rose, and I stopped, taking a breath.

“It isn’t something I felt the need to explain. Jah. My name says it all.”

“Your name says it all for Four Arms. Even with these”—I waved my arms—“it’s obvious I’m different. I don’t know these things.”

Today, you should learn more then. While I am in a meeting, Mereval asked to speak with you and also work on some documentation from your quadrant from long ago. Something about books on paper she’d like you to assess.”

I’d wrapped my hand around the cup on the tray, but I jerked when he mentioned records on paper and spilled over my hand. Lifting my hand to my mouth, I sucked the sweet, caffeinated fluid off my skin. Hmm, I faintly tasted of Garjah.

“Is that all?” I liked the scent, and I wanted nothing more than to be wrapped in it. But my belly was sated, I gave Bouncer my bowl to pounce on and finish off, and I was ready to go.

 

Bliss. Water cleaning. They had reclamation processes, so it didn’t go to waste, but I was able to get completely clean in a water shower that didn’t make the water feel like chemicals burned by skin or gave me a risk of organ-consuming bacteria spiking straight for my brains.

Clean, fed, hydrated, with Bouncer at my side, I left the transport Garjah was piloting and waited on a light blue bench for him while he put it wherever personal transports were located. I liked the one he had better than the one the Kardoval had made us use the day before. This one didn’t let anyone see inside, limiting the uncomfortable stares directed at us.

Mereval met us at the doors, this time made up in a casual outfit with a tunic that tied above and below her arms. She looked nice, but not so nice my clothes looked out of place.

“I have a scroll I’m dying for you to translate for me,” she said, tugging me inside.

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Julie Lynn Hayes 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Ch. 52

 

Garjah’s bed was soft as a cloud, an unexpected luxury. I sank into it under his weight as he knelt between my thighs. When he tried to lift off me, I pulled him back down and locked my legs around his hips.

“Stay,” I ordered. I rocked up, pressing our flesh together. I was leaking and the clear, sticky fluid smeared between our bellies.

Garjah glanced down. His nostrils flared and he rumbled. He wormed one hand between us and joined our lengths, pressed his flexible shaft to mine.

“Yeah,  just like that.” My toes curled in the satiny sheets. I loved to feel him against me. The combined scent of our pleasure rose up as he stroked. I grabbed his hips, urging him to move.

He was graceful for all his size as he stroked and rocked. The need I’d felt in front of the Kardoval made me bossy, and I relished the way he let me dictate the pace even as he caged me in his arms and under his bulk.

Sex was something I used to hurry through, but not any more. I stroked every inch of Garjah I could reach. Pulling him down, we kissed until I gasped at one particularly tight stroke over the head of my cock. I buried my head in Garjah’s throat, biting down then sucking on the salty flesh in my mouth.

Grunting, his ass flexed hard under my hands, the muscles rock solid as he froze over me. I hummed and undulated before I let go with a quiet pop. “Ugh,” Garjah grunted again in response. I licked his heated flesh, tracing the indent of my teeth and the blood I’d brought to the surface in a dark green bruise, and then I continued the caress along the column of his neck and across his shoulder. Nipping my way over the muscle, I smiled each time his muscles kicked and he drove against the grip he held us both in.

Overwhelmed by the smell, taste, and touch of him around me, I could have easily fell into pleasure but I felt hollow, empty. I wanted him inside me. Sliding a hand down between us, I curled my fingers around his. “Let go,” I said in a husky voice.

He blinked twice, slowly, before his unfocused stare finally cleared and met mine. “Why?” he complained in a rumbling voice.

“I want to scent like you, inside and out.” I didn’t have to say anything else before he let go. He barely lifted his body, and I struggled to turn over. This would be hard, and fast, and…. “Ahh, there.” He was pressed against my back, his shaft notching my cleft. His metallic slick was weeping from the holes on his shaft.

Too impatient to wait any longer, I arched and whined when the narrow head caught on the rim of my hole on the next rocking thrust. He grabbed my hip and stopped me, but I demanded, “No, now!” and pushed back another fraction. Straining, yet open to the invasion, I took his shaft with stinging pleasure until he was seated completely inside me.

Garjah held both my hips and one shoulder, his other hand braced on the bed beside us. I leaned toward that hand in the soft mattress, not quite balanced, so I lowered my chest. I gasped, shaking as his dick stroked hard over my prostate as I shifted.

It was thick, and tight, and long moments passed before I could draw in a deep enough breath to demand he move. Garjah rumbled in response, but he pulled his hips away from my ass. Cool air slid between our bodies for a moment, then he pushed back in.

“Stars! Yes!” I shouted. Pushing against the headboard, I rocked back into him on the next move, slapping our skin together so the underside of his lovely shaft caressed my prostate with ball-achingly good pressure. We moved apart and slammed together with increasing vigor, his grunts in my ear and my shouts devolving into demands for more.

I couldn’t remember any other words. I just knew I didn’t want it to end, even if the agony of sensation could only last for so long before my body cried its surrender. I rocked under him, no longer in control, and then Garjah slid one hand from his bruising grip on my hip to cup my leaking shaft against my belly.

The touch inside and out sent me over the edge, and I screamed a fierce “Yes!” as I filled his cupped palm with milky come. He kept jerking me and slamming his hips against my ass, growling as he stroked my cock with my own fluids and rode out my orgasm until the clench of my ass muscles around him became too much.

“My turn now,” Garjah rumbled. He bit down on my shoulder, his arm an iron band around my shoulder and down to my belly to keep me in place when I would have squirmed away. He hammered at my oversensitive hole before he unloaded, roaring loud enough my ears rang.

We collapsed, his weight bearing me into the bed. I turned my head, gasping for breath, and waited to recover enough to move. It might take a few hours or more. Before I was ready, Garjah pulled out. I hissed as the sensitive skin around my hole protested his movement, but I did enjoy taking a deeper breath when he collapsed on his side next to me. He pulled me over out of the wet spot.

“Sleep. You’ll need it.” Garjah caressed my back in long strokes. I wanted to ask what he meant, but exhaustion from the stress of worrying about meeting the Kardoval and the amazing orgasm he’d just fucked out of me rendered me mute. I closed my eyes and buried my face against his chest, ready for a good, long rest.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Ch. 51

The color of the plants were echoed in the walls, dabbed with bright colors done directly on in murals showing scenes I couldn’t interpret. Bouncer’s nose was twitching, and he chirped, looking up at me.

“You want to explore, buddy?”

He bounced on his front legs, eager to move after so long being cooped up.

Garjah tapped a panel on the wall. “Go ahead. The field is off, so he can get in now.”

“Enjoy. Don’t destroy anything,” I warned him. I hoped he’d listen as he bounced off, true to his name. He sniffed at the plants. “Nothing in there is toxic to him, right?” I asked.

“No, he’ll be fine.”

I wanted to look around more, explore everything, but there was something I wanted more right that moment. “I can’t see the sleeping quarters from here.” I turned in Garjah’s arms. “Show me?” Rubbing against him, I made no secret of exactly why I wanted him to lead the way to the closest bed.

Hopefully it’d be bigger than the bunk we’d been making work. There was something to be said for snuggling close though.

Garjah lifted me. For once, I didn’t protest him picking me up. He went up a flight of stairs quickly, and I grabbed his shoulders. The second floor was open at the top of the stairs, the garden to our left with the tops of several trees rustling in the air flow system. Seating was arranged in the open area to the right in an informal sitting area. Opposite the stairs was a door. A corridor ran along the wall and turned to the left again, but Garjah didn’t tell me what was down there or offer to pause so I could look around upstairs.

He went straight for the door. It opened when he neared and the lights came on full brightness. Inside the room was a large bed, easily three times the size of the bunk we’d used. It dominated the room, but I could see a room with clothes through an open door and a bathroom through another.

“Lower lights.” The room had windows, but they were in the outer wall and covered. With the lights lowered, the room was dim. Spotlights on the walls shone in cones of light on either side of the bed in pale gold. The fibers of the bed covering shimmered in the light, and it was silky smooth under me when Garjah set me on the bed.

He straightened. “What do you want?” he asked in a low voice.

“You, naked, and on this bed.” I breathed hard, my lower hands clenched on in the blanket next to my thighs. I leaned back on the top pair. “Then I want you to get me naked.”

Garjah’s breathing sped up. “And then what?”

“We’re going to spend the rest of the day making sure no one doubts we’re bonded,” I promised him. I reached over and tugged on the bottom of his formfitting tunic where it was tucked into his pants. “Off.”

He didn’t argue, pulling it open and then slipping the tunic off his back and leaving it on the floor behind him without a second glance. Toeing off his foot coverings, he opened his pants and slid a thumb under each side over his hipbones. He shimmied and pushed, and then they were down and piled on top of his shirt.

Naked except for his arm bands, Garjah’s green skin shone in the gold light. It cast shadows that highlighted the muscles rippling in his abdomen. His cock hung thick and full between us.

“Hmm,” I hummed in satisfaction as I slid hands over both his shoulders as Garjah hovered over me. The muscles capping the strong breadth flexed as he slid my top off. I lifted my hips, brushing against his glistening tip, so he could slide my pants down my ass.

Garjah cursed and surged forward, knocking me backward. My legs were trapped in my pants, locked between his. He rubbed our lengths together as he caged me in against the bed. “Ahh,” I cried out, punching my hips up as he arced down.

Grabbing onto his shoulder and the back of his neck, it was all I could do to hold on. This wasn’t where I wanted our first time in a full bed to end. I wiggled, and gasped, and tried to push him back by the hips. “Wait, wait.” I panted, separating our lower halves.

“My pants. Get them off,” I gasped.

“Later.”

I squeezed his hips. “Now.”

Garjah growled, but he reared up on his knees and then pulled on my pants. Yanking hard, I slid on the bed but he got them off and threw them over the side of the bed a second later. “Good?”

Spreading my thighs to welcome him back between them, I curled one leg around his hip. “Much better.” I rocked my hips, sliding my slender length against his thicker cock. I was leaking from the tip, clear fluid dribbling down the side and easing the glide.

Pulling him down, I urged him to kiss me. He joined our lips, and I breathed in his scent and moaned at the flavor of his tongue when I sucked on its mobile length. I rocked against him, turning and lifting my chin. He pulled away, panting for air as he kissed along my jaw, to my neck, and along my shoulder. This was what I wanted, what I needed. Him over me, touching me, his scent, his taste, his touch… I wanted to consume and be consumed.

He was mine, and no one who came within arm’s length of Garjah would miss my claim. The bond between us sang with need and satisfaction. He was mine, and I was his.

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Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Ch. 50

“Timok wasn’t concerned about the sneeze because he felt it prudent to inoculate Essell while he was in stasis.” Garjah shrugged a shoulder. “He already knew I was safe.”

“But this was already after you felt drawn to him?” Mereval asked Garjah. “The inoculations and the sneeze?”

He nodded. “I knew there was something out there I had to find. I thought I was just securing the ship and crew. Instead, the second I laid eyes on him I knew I had to take him back to the ship. And that I needed to keep him.” His voice dropped on the last few words, the husky note sending a bolt of lust through me.

His tone made no mistake on just how he wanted to keep me. How did he do that while saying so little?

I had too many clothes on. This room was way too small, and there were too many people.

“They can see our bond. I’ve said I don’t want to go back, and we’ve established I don’t believe the changes to my body could be undone anyway.” Bouncer came around to stand beside me. “Can we go?”

“You have been remarkably calm during all this.” Mereval smiled at me. “We appreciate how difficult this must be for you.”

“Not really.” But I needed to go.

“We will go over the data further. There needs to be studies done on this connection, more than can be achieved on a ship.”

Garjah nodded once. “I placed a security hold on the planet once we removed a full load of oslium. We also left probes in case of more visitors.” He stood, and I didn’t let go of him so I was pulled along with him. “We shall stay close.”

We were silent on our way out of the building. Bouncer padded beside me. The sky was high overhead, bouncing off the blue metal that capped the building. I squinted. “Where are we going?”

“I have a home nearby.”

“You do?” My eyebrows went up. “Here?” I almost smacked my own forehead. I kept thinking he was simply ship security, even if he was in charge of security, but he was much higher ranking than that. Of course he’d have a home here where the leaders were.

“It’s a few minutes away. We’ll take the transport.” Garjah indicated the waiting vehicle.

“All right.” There was little to no traffic around the Kardoval’s building, but we merged into it and once again the Four Arms were gawking at us. “Is it me they are staring at or you?”

Garjah shrugged. “Both? This is an official vehicle, so it does attract attention. I am known, and you are an alien.”

“Will I always attract this much attention?” I stroked Bouncer’s head.

“Maybe.”

I smacked Garjah on the arm. “Thanks. Couldn’t you lie?”

“I try not to.”

Sighing, I turned to look out the window. We’d left the area I’d consider a business area and were approaching what I hoped were homes. The buildings had more of that blue metal on them, extending outward in only two or three stories.

Some of the buildings lined the road and others were set back. I saw a few security, their stance and stares obvious. The transport slowed as we neared one of the places with a fence, though it didn’t have the guards in front of it. “Is this your place?”

“Ours now.” He ushered me out of the transport. “I have an interior garden I think Bouncer will enjoy. There are a few trees and there’s a small water feature.”

“That sounds perfect.” Garjah used two of his palms to activate a scanner on the gate. The gate lock clicked open.

“I will add you to the system so you can unlock the doors. We’ll have to go to the security suite.” The distance between the gate and the home wasn’t large. Two stories, blue metal capped his home too. There was vegetation in the front. Bright flowers dotted the path in a carpet of orange and brown and a  tall and thin shrub with feathery strands coming off stalks branching about shoulder height flexed in the slight breeze.

The strands glistened and something clicked. Bugs? I wanted to pause and study it, but Garjah kept us moving. The door was thick, tall, and made of orange metal that matched the flowers. Using two palms, he touched the door lightly and it swung open.

“Come in.” He gestured for me to enter.

I walked inside. The ship I’d woken up on after he’d put me in stasis was larger than the Fleet vessel I’d snuck away from, but Garjah’s quarters on it had been small. Then again, he hadn’t had to share them. Maybe his quarters were really nice for a ship. But the size of his quarters had still left me with an assumption of his rank.

For the son of two scientists who’d been dragged around to station and planet, I’d gotten used to cramped quarters or being tucked away and forgotten. From time to time my parents might be important, or rub elbows with important people, but I wasn’t part of that. Honestly, I’d barely been treated better than staff.

Garjah’s home was beautiful. The interior was full of cushioned seats to the right grouped around a vid, and to the left was a food prep area that was nearly as large as the seating area. There were no exterior windows, but in the center of the space I could see was a large walled off garden full of natural light so I must go up both stories. It was stuffed full of plants I didn’t know and wanted to study.

Garjah rubbed my back, and I leaned into him. There were other things I wanted to do first though.  

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Ch. 49

 


There wasn’t a sound or movement to indicate how upset Garjah was at Lenveval’s statement, but just like he always knew when I needed him, I knew he needed me. Sloval shouted when Bouncer leapt on the table and then off on to our side. We both pressed against Garjah from either side. Bouncer put his head on Garjah’s lap, and I put one hand on his head, then used another to squeeze the rigid muscles holding Garjah’s frozen body in place.

Gently, I turned cupped his cheek on the far side. He resisted for a moment, then reluctantly turned his head to meet my gaze. Fear dominated those eyes, flaring nostrils, and nearly invisible lips pressed so hard together they were colorless.

I hated seeing it on him just as much as he hated seeing it on me. I’d had thoughts of going back, to the what ifs of working for the Institute like I’d always planned, to… stars swallow it. That life was gone, and I didn’t really regret it. Not if it got me this being by my side. I stroked Bouncer. Both of them.

“You know that’s not what I want.” If it was, I wouldn’t have been such a mess worrying about them breaking our bond.

“Before you thought they might kill you or not let you leave. He just said you could go back to your life.”

“Did you forget I study biology? Advanced as you are, I don’t think this is something that can be fixed.” I waggled my fourth hand I’d had resting on my thigh. I wasn’t quite sure how I could make all four hands do independent tasks. Huh. I’d never thought about that before. Humans struggled with that, but since I’d woken up with four arms, I didn’t seem to have the same limitation.

Something to take notes on would really be handy. I sighed. “If you guys trust me now, can I get a device I can access data on and use for notes? I keep thinking of new things I want to research.”

“That’s it?” Mereval asked. “A simple no thank you to changing you back and going home, and can you have access to ways to research?” She exchanged a look with her fellow Kardoval. “What about your family? Humans live in close groups.”

“I didn’t say no thank you. I just don’t see how it’s possible. And I don’t want that, even if it was.” I shrugged one shoulder. “My parents are busy people. They expected me to go out and live my life. That’s what I’m doing.” I smiled at Garjah.

Sloval, his upper arms crossed over his chest and lower arms gripping the table, was staring at Bouncer. “You’re not mad at Garjah?”

“No, why?”

“He could have judged you safe before you were injured. He did not.” Sloval didn’t blink often enough, and the twist to his lips made his stare antagonistic. Bouncer looked up and lifted his own lip, showing off sharp fangs. Sloval paled. “What’s he doing?”

“Right now he’s comforting Garjah because he felt how upset he was, just like I did. But when you stare at him like that, it upsets him. Maybe knock it off.” I broke off when Garjah placed one hand on my thigh, pressing down.

Yeah, yeah, leaders of their people, should be respectful. They hadn’t seemed very leader-like since we’d come in and Sloval could benefit from a lesson in manners himself. “I believed my exosuit was unbreachable as well. I’d have died if I’d touched that plant while I was on my own.” Besides…. “Could have is not what is. We face what is. We move on.” A lesson I’d learned early from my parents.

Maybe they had taught me more than I knew.  I’d always planned to be a biologist, and I’d thought that first contact didn’t interest me, but between them and Bouncer, I had all sorts of research to do.

“One day, I hope to help introduce Four Arms to the rest of the galactic, anyway. I’ll be famous.”

“Four Arms?” Lenveval’s face was doing unbecoming things. All the Kardoval stared at me. Garjah sighed. He knew what was coming.

“It’s pretty descriptive, don’t you think?” I waved all four arms, wiggling my fingers around. “And handy, too.”

He slumped in his chair.

“What?” I said.

“I’ve told you before, we call ourselves—”

“Meh, that’s boring. Mine is better.” Okay, I totally knew their racial name was Neejah’al… and interesting. Neechay’al, Kardoval, Mereval… al, all? And what place did jah have in there? Or did it mean anything since it wasn’t at the end? These guys had racial memories, locking them into a role.

I turned to Garjah. “You said they needed to be sure I was safe and test our bond.” It was sounding more and more like that had been the barest hint of the truth.

“They can see the bond, just as they can see how all Neejah’al connect to the whole. They can understand the path a youth will take, if they do not know it. That is how they guide our society.”

“But I’m a break in the system. A divergent path in the normal connections.” I cocked my head. “Has no one really ever experienced what Garjah and I have before?”

“No one,” Mereval said. “But we think it may have something to do with the planet where you met. It was new to us, just as it was to you since you were the first in your sector to approach it. We have never encountered an alien race there before.”

“But what could it be? Timok ran tests.”

“He did?”

“I might have sneezed on Garjah. In his face.” My face heated at the memory. 

Want more flash?

J Ray Lamb

Julie Lynn Hayes 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Chapter 48

 

“You said they wouldn’t…. That they couldn’t….” Each time I trailed off, unable to finish my sentence. How could he have sat there so calmly and asked if I knew what would happen if they broke our bond?

Garjah griped my sides, pulling me into his body. I ducked my head against his chest, pressing my forehead into the hard muscle. He locked one arm around my back and the other he used to stroke my hair. “Breathe,” Garjah rumbled.

His muscles were tight, but as I relaxed and started to breathe with him, he calmed too. His chin rested on my head, and I felt every word as he spoke to the Kardoval seated at the table behind us. “Maybe you should consider your words carefully before you ask him any more questions.” The words were mild, couched in a suggestion even. The tone made it an order. My anxiety spiked again, and Garjah stroked a hand up my back. “Shh, we’re fine.”

“You… They’re in charge. You’re going to get in trouble.” I could only imagine giving the Council orders like that. I’d find myself sanctioned so fast I’d be a social pariah, unable to find work, a place to live, an outcast. Those in charge did not like underlings who spoke above their rank.

“When it comes to your wellbeing, I am in charge.”

“That may be true,” Mereval stated, “but you have left him woefully ignorant of bonds. And yourself.”

My heart started to race, and I stiffened in his hold. What didn’t I know? I’d done research. “Timok gave me things.” I thought I knew about this. “Garjah.”

Bouncer rumbled and pushed between us. I dropped a lower arm onto his head, cupping behind his erect ears and rubbing. The rough texture softened just behind his ears, and stroking the skin there soothed both of us. I didn’t want to do this in front of them, in front of anyone.

In the weeks since I’d left the Rinta to explore Ardra, I’d made impulsive decision after impulsive decision. I’d let emotions and panic rule me. Relied on those around me to care and calm me. I was doing it now. Gulping in a few more deep breaths, I firmed my resolve.

I’d graduated head of my class at the Institute. I’d explored countless worlds and stations my parents dragged me along to. Met hundreds of alien species. Knew smatterings of dozens of languages, cultural practices.

My body might be different now, but my brain was still in control. Taking in one final deep breath, I lifted my chin and moved back from Garjah’s chest to look up at him. “Let me go,” I said quietly. He looked down at me, his thin nostrils flaring. “I’m okay.”

Not on the inside, but no one but him and Bouncer had to know that.

“Let’s sit down. I think it’s time I ask some questions.” I dearly wished for a recording device, but I could remember what was important.

It was all important.

 

The Kardoval, this group of four aliens who resembled my Garjah but were somehow also more, stared at us. They’d stopped eating. Good. They could answer my questions. We took our spots back at the table.

“First. Who is Garjah?” I knew if I asked him, I would not get the answer I sought.

“He is the head of security,” Lenveval said.

“For his ship, I know.”

“No.” Mereval shook her head, placing a hand out on the table. “He is the head of all security. He was on the ship to scout our borders. The planet you stopped on, that you humans call Ardra, is just one place along the way.”

That… Stunned, I sank back in my chair. Swallowing hard. He was like… the general of generals. Commander of all. Whatever they called it. I wasn’t familiar with military for us or them. No wonder everyone gave him wide berth and looked at us with wide eyes.

I gasped, turning to him. “It wasn’t just that you were with me and I’m human, was it?”

“What?” Garjah asked.

“The stares and whispers.”

He scowled. “No.”

I’d thought it was me. Turns out, it was about him. Well, maybe him and me. “So,” I said slowly, “if you’re in charge of security, you were always the one who could decide if I was a danger or not.”

Now it was his turn to answer reluctantly. “Yes.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I know you would never harm a living creature or being.” Garjah looked down at his clasped hands, the lower pair scrubbing over his tight uniform pants. “Once I knew that, how could I justify keeping you?”

“And then this happened?” I waved a hand to indicate both the changes to my body and our bond.

He shrugged one shoulder. “I wanted you before. Something drew me to where you were hiding on the planet.”

Mereval made a noise, but I ignored her. Well, I tried to. “What?” I turned to her. She was practically vibrating in her chair, leaning over the table.

“What did you feel when you first met Garjah?” she asked.

“Scared as fuck,” I replied drily. “He’s huge.”

Quixoval giggled and even Sloval snorted. “He’s funny,” Quixoval said. Bouncer left my side and began to slink around the table toward him. The youngest of the Kardoval watched him with big eyes and a motionless body. “Is it safe?”

Bouncer wasn’t hunting. “Yes.”

Focusing on the Kardoval, watching Bouncer sniff first one and then the other, I considered what to ask them next.

“Why did you ask me about broken bonds?” I asked Lenveval.

“If we could reverse the physical changes, and you could go back to your sector, back to your life, that would break your bond with Garjah.”

Want more flash?

J Ray Lamb

Julie Lynn Hayes