Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Ch. 32


Bouncer’s hide was no comparison to my face when I finished reading. It was exactly what I’d thought it would be. Pair-bonding was sexual. Genetics played a huge role, but from everything I read, it was emotional as well.

Was Garjah emotional? I leaned back against the bed. He didn’t say much, but he took care of me. He brought me food. Made sure I had Bouncer. He’d pinched his slim nostrils shut and glared at Bouncer on the bed when he brought the midday meal, but he hadn’t said anything.

It was close to the evening meal, and Garjah should be off shift soon. He said we’d get my stuff. Then… I leaned my head against the pillow.

“He’s not that different,” I told Bouncer. He perked up, staring at me. “Humanoid, at least. Equipment all on the outside.” Male Four Arms were not fertile, at least, and I’d spent some time checking if the stupid medical bots had decided to infuse the liquid metal anywhere else. Not that I’d had the balls to try whipping my shaft out and stroking myself to a release.

One, Garjah would definitely smell it. Two, my luck Timok would come over and he’d smell it. Or three, one or both of them would come in and actually catch me. No. Just no.

At least, not until I figured out how to lock the damn door.

Case in point, it beeped and then slid open. Garjah stood with Seedrah behind him, and my meager possessions were in their arms. I sat up, holding the covers to my lap when Garjah’s gaze snapped to it and he froze.

“I thought you would be resting.”

“Why? I’ve been resting all day. What are you doing?” I tugged the blankets up a few more inches, and Garjah’s shoulders relaxed. He came into his quarters and allowed Seedrah in behind him. They set my things on the table and in the corner.

“I-I just… thought you would be.” It was one of the first times I’d seen the large security officer flustered.

“Why didn’t you come get me? I thought we were going to get my stuff.” It was hard to keep the whine out of my voice. I wanted out of this bed and to move. I was going stir crazy.

“Seedrah wasn’t on duty yet, and I need you here. Besides, someone has to take your cerops back.”

“He can’t stay here?” I put my hand on Bouncer’s head. He rumbled, nudging my hand with a soft twist of his head so I would scratch the base of one of those big ears. He half-closed his eyes in appreciation.

“No. I do not share my head with deadly creatures.”

I raised my head. Smirking, I shrugged one shoulder. “Guess I’m out. I’ll just head back to my quarters. Seedrah can you help carry things into my room?” I knew that last question would be the final pin. He was even jealous of Timok, though he tried to hide it.

“Seedrah can’t help you. He is on shift now and must go.” Garjah crossed both sets of his arms and stood with that wide-legged stance.

“So bossy.”

“Yes, I am the boss. Goodbye, Seedrah.” Garjah looked at Bouncer, waiting by the entrance to the main corridor.

I sighed, patting his shoulder. “Better go, buddy. I will see you tomorrow.” I wasn’t asking, and I glanced at Garjah so he caught that. He did. There was a swirling energy between us. When we had guests, it was banked, a simmer. Once we were alone, the air turned heavy.

“Are you all right?” Garjah came to sit on the edge of his bunk.

Oh stars, now he was going to be all nice and ask about my feelings. Well they were a mess. A big, giant, swirling maelstrom of ‘What happens next?’.

“Last meal?” I finally strangled out.

“Oh, yes, I can go get that.” He cleared his throat. “Do you have any requests?”

Could I ask for a do over? So much had changed, it was hard to keep up. “No.”

When he left the room, I stood. It would be better to meet him at the table. Plus all my stuff was on it. I grabbed my bag, digging around for clean clothing. I changed as fast as I could, then tossed my bag in the corner with my bin of supplies Timok had let me use for scientific specimens.

I felt like a specimen in a jar, so how I missed the door opening and shutting behind him. I’d never know. The large hands landing on my shoulders startled me, and I yelled, jerking away. My ran into the table, wincing at the rough edge that dug into my thigh.

The pounding of my heart shook my whole chest. Or maybe that was my hands.

Garjah stood close, his warmth and hot, spicy scent filling my senses. “You don’t have to be afraid, Ellis.”

“I’m not,” I said. My voice shook hard enough it was stupid to even try to lie, but I did anyway. I fisted my hands. “Just a tickle. I need a drink.” On the edge of the table was a tray Garjah had been carrying. The stew looked amazing; I’d kill for a thick, crusty roll to go with it.

Not exactly food for beings who didn’t chew. They just used that long, slender tongue and those strong throat muscles to push their—

If Garjah hadn’t noticed my arousal before, he was going to now. Even I could tell the smell in the room had changed. Maybe it was time to be brave again.

I turned. “I want you,” I said baldly. I looked up into his wide eyes. “And I know you want me too.” The telltale white creeping up his uniform jacket provided all the proof I needed.

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J Alan Veerkamp

Julie Lynn Hayes

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Ch. 31

“Are you always this calm?” Even as I asked the question, I was pushing away from the table to pace the room. As big as it was, I could only manage a few paces in each direction and that wasn’t enough.

“Yes.” Garjah set down his knife and watched me. “Staying calm is essential in high stress situations.”

I ran a hand through my hair. “Basically your whole job.”

He inclined his head. “A lot of the time, yes. My mission is to keep everyone safe, but I feel different toward you.”

Of course that was stressful. I’m an alien. Well, he’s an alien. We’re both aliens? I threw my hands up in the air. “How is this supposed to work?”

“I don’t know. I think it’s best if we go see the Kardoval. I should not be in charge of security with a pair-bond, but Seedrah is too inexperienced. I must continue to fulfill my duties.”

“How come you’re not mad? I’m messing up your whole life.” Ever since I’d learned about how their society worked, I’d made the mistake of believing that meant their thinking was rigid. That they lacked flexibility by their memories.

But the ability to access a memory and learn inherent knowledge didn’t necessarily indicate a lack of plasticity in thinking. Assumptions were biting me in the ass again.

Exhaustion swamped me, and the manic energy fueling my pacing drained out of me. I slumped on the edge of the bunk. “I don’t know what to do.”

Garjah turned his chair and leaned forward. “Humans do not bond this way, correct?”

I shook my head. “No.”

“Believe that I would not harm you in any way.”

My mouth dried, and I found it hard to swallow. Harm me? My voice rasped and stuttered as I spoke. “W-what would make you think that?”

Garjah’s expression was earnest. “The extra limbs, the increased bone density, and ability for your body to handle the gravity due to stronger fibers within your muscles… all of that is an improvement over your previous form. But you are still much smaller than me. I was careful when I tended your body.”

Cheeks heating, I cleared my throat. “I don’t know that four arms is an improvement.” I also wanted to know what he meant by tending my body; I’d had the same thought when Timok had said it, but I didn’t want to know either.

“Of course it is.” He smiled and sat back.

“Agree to disagree.”

He cocked his head. “That must be a human thing because it does not make any sense.”

I sighed. “What happens next?”

“We finish eating, I return the tray. You rest, and I will bring your cerops to you. Then I must work. I will be back with meals. After my shift, we can move your things.”

“Wait. I’m not trapped here, am I?” I narrowed my eyes at him. “Why can I go get meals?”

“Because Timok wishes for you to rest. And we have not completed our bonding. It would be better to limit your exposure to others at this time, for their sake.”

I lifted my eyebrows. “Their sake?”

“Hurting my crewmates would not be ideal.”

“Why would you hurt them?”

“You scent of me right now after spending so long in my bed. That is good. I would not like it if you were touched by another.” Garjah lifted his gaze and the intensity in his eyes shocked me. I gasped in a breath. “Not when you have not yet touched and claimed me so I carry your scent as well.”

Closing my eyes, I began to count. From the things Timok had said, I’d assumed the pair-bonding was intimate. Of course that mean… physical things. Touching. Being touched.

I’d never seen one of the Four Arms naked. Did they have external genitalia? Oh stars, what if I’d assumed Garjah was a male this whole time from his build but he had an innie? I didn’t do females.


Trying not to think about that, I cleared my suddenly ticklish throat. “I’m not hungry. Will you go get Bouncer?” I needed some space. I needed some answers.

“Of course.” Garjah put the dishes on the tray and strode out of his quarters, his movements always deliberate and steady. I’d caught a glimpse of a fiery emotion inside him, but he’d hidden it quickly. Tapping my fingers rapidly on my leg, I tried to think. It was no good. I was going to have to ask Timok.

“Yes?” he said when I contacted him.

“I need information.”

“More? I thought I overshared last time.”

“Turns out, not quite enough,” I said darkly. “I need… um… I need gender studies. And information on pair-bonding. Things you’d give to adolescents.”

The tiny smirk he didn’t bother to smother irritated me immediately. “Adolescent gender and bonding videos. Completely innocent research. Right.”

“Just knock it off. You know why I’d be asking these questions, and you can either provide me with the data to read or view or come tell me yourself.” I threw down the gauntlet. That was one of my favorite sayings I’d learned. I still wasn’t quite sure what a gauntlet was, but had the image of throwing a hand covering pointing at the person making a very rude gesture.

Timok would deserve it. He was so irritating. “Well, I could come explain in—”

I cut him off. “Don’t. Send the data.”

“Very well.” Timok smirked. “Have a good day reading in Garjah’s bed.”

He was gone before I could curse at him. At least Bouncer was coming. He’d be a good distraction from the embarrassment I was sure was about to commence from whatever Timok would send. 

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J Alan Veerkamp

Julie Lynn Hayes

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Ch. 30


“Did you tell Garjah this?”

“Of course.” Timok sat back in the chair beside the bed, for all the universe like he hadn’t just dropped news deep enough to mimic a black hole. It consumed all logic, all thought, and sent my emotions into a tumble. I sat up, swinging my legs over the edge of the bunk. I couldn’t just lay there.

Gripping the edge of the bunk’s mattress, I asked, “Does he hate me? It’s not my fault. I didn’t do this on purpose. I didn’t ask for you guys to pick me up. He chased me down, stunned me, and brought me on board.”

“Garjah knows this. We are assigned to a vessel that goes on missions that can be considered unsafe, to say the least. It is an honor and a risk. Only the best may go, and only the strongest survive their tour of duty.”

“What? I thought you guys were miners or something. How dangerous is that?”

Timok chuckled, and I winced at the sound. “It can be very dangerous. But this side mission is not the whole of our directive. And even returning to planets we have explored before can be risky—you never know what species might turn up.” He considered me, narrowing his eyes. “Or how that might impact the entire ecosystem.”

“So my being human is somehow to blame? That sounds like an excuse to make this all my fault.” I glared at him.

“I did not say that, you did.”

“You said what species might turn up and how it impacts the entire ecosystem. An ecosystem you interacted with before without this happening, right? No other crew people formed bonds? What about any of the others who’ve been on the planet?”

“No one else as far as I can tell. I’ve asked for any who’ve had any sudden urges and tested all those who might have come in contact with the organism, just to be safe.”

I drew myself up at the word urges. “What do you mean? What urges?” It echoed in my head repeatedly.

“The bonds between you and the animal intrigued me. The cerops are not known for anything but hostility for those outside their own species, especially if the being might be competition for food. Garjah is even less social. Yet with you, he’d drag you out for meals, take you to the hold. Talk to you.”

“He felt responsible.”

“He is drawn to you.”

That should have scared me. An intellectual, I’d run in circles among the scientist families my parents had known and then the students at the university. The ship, where’d I’d been so clearly resented by Captain Sonez had ostracized me from my peers and I’d steered clear from the crew.

No one like Garjah had ever been attracted to me before. Wait. “What do you mean, he’s drawn to me? Like a protector?”

“Do many protectors among your people sleep in the same bed? Tend to the other’s bodies?”

He tended to my body? Heat flushed my cheeks.

The door slid open right then of course revealing Garjah. He held a tray in his lower hands. He shot a glance at me and then Timok, raising his brows. “Food,” he offered, hefting the tray. “And a stimulant brew for you, Timok.”

Timok eagerly took the clear glass, wrapping a hand around the narrowed center. The mixture was smoking. My nose wrinkled. I’d smelled that before; it had a peppery, acrid odor that wasn’t appealing at all.

“Here, Essell.” The light orange drink he handed me was much better. Fruity with a sweet note, the liquid swirled with thinner yellow ripples as I twirled the glass. Standing, I moved to the table, pulling out the chair. I sat and waited.

“Actually, I think I’ll go. I ate when I got up.” Timok drained his glass, plopping it down on the tray Garja sat on the table. “Message me with any other questions you have.” He paused in the doorway. “Or just ask Garjah.” This was a set up. He’d asked Garjah to leave so he could explain things to me, gave me the shock of the news, then leaves? Tells me just to ask the male whose life I’d upended?

Could I do that? I fixed my gaze on the table, considering. Sighing, I slumped. This was the path I expected my life to take, and I really doubted it was what Garjah expected either. At least I had some flexibility. His kind was probably rather rigid.

“Do you need your fork?”

I hadn’t even noticed the food Garjah had slid in front of me. I wasn’t hungry, but I picked up the fork anyway. I chewed a bite slowly. Garjah sliced off a strip of meat and swallowed it down.

“Ah, Timok said he told you about the thing.” I pointed with my fork at my chest then his. The mouthful I’d swallowed sat in my stomach like a lump. I licked my lips.

Garjah paused in slicing off another bite. “Yes.”

Nonplussed, I put my fork down. “That’s all you have to say? Yes?”

“What else should I say? He told me. I understand it.”

“What about how you feel?”

“This is not what I expected, but it will be fine. I’ll take care of you.”

I rubbed my hands along the edge of the table, starting when I realized I was using the new ones. Screwing up all my courage, I finally looked up. “But do you want to?”

“Yes. You’ve fascinated me since I brought you on the ship.” Garjah inhaled his next bite and I stared at him while he eat, seemingly unconcerned.

“That it might just be the symbiont doesn’t bother you?”

“I don’t know. I can’t tell the difference. All I know is I want to take care of you.”

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J Alan Veerkamp

Julie Lynn Hayes

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Chapter 29


“Stars,” I said weakly. This was going to take some getting used to. Clean. Even without water, I’d feel better if I cleaned myself up. I set the bag on the available shelf and dug around for some clothes. Cursing when I realized shirts were out, I grabbed underclothes and pants at least. I wasn’t sure if I was more angry or scared or if I was both in equal measure.

But I wanted answers.

I marched out of the bathroom. Garjah sat at his table.

“What did you do to me?”

“I didn’t do anything but give you nutrient fluid. Is something wrong? Do you feel okay?”

Dropping my bag, I spread my arms… my four arms. “No I don’t feel okay. Are you completely stupid? I have four arms. Four. Humans don’t have four arms. And why can I do this?” I picked up the chair opposite his. It was made of metal, thick bases on each leg helping it stay steady even if the ship was moving and they weren’t locked in place under the table. “That should be impossible for me to move!” Before he’d always had to move my seat for me.

Garjah shifted in his seat. “Don’t you remember? Timok told you.”

I narrowed my eyes. “I remember waking up. I remember him saying he’d messed up. I want to know what the hell you have done to me, right now.”

“It’s the middle of the night. He’s off duty right now. He’s been watching over you for six full shifts with barely a break.”

“Tough! Wake him up. This….” I gestured wildly and all four arms moved, which only increased my agitation. “This is wrong. I don’t understand what….” My knees began to give, and Garjah jumped up. My face planted against his wide chest, and he held me tight to him. “This isn’t right,” I said weakly. His scent overwhelmed me but the second he’d pulled me against his body my pulse calmed and my breathing eased.

“I know. You’ll be okay, Essell.” Garjah scooped me up. He held me close with two arms and rubbed my back.

I sighed. “Carrying me again.”

“Just to the bed. You’ve done too much, too soon. Timok said to keep you quiet until he came back. I’m sorry, I always leave at the worst times. Just rest. I promise, he’ll be here as soon as he wakes to answer everything, Essell.” He eased the covers down with his free hand and placed me gently on the bed. Then he crawled in beside me.

After everything, this was just too much. I grabbed the soft pillow and turned my back on Garjah, but he didn’t let me go. He stayed close, murmuring things I didn’t understand. Hugging the pillow to my chest, it was only minutes until my mind shut down.



“I heard you wanted to talk to me?” The impersonal handling and metallic band snapping around my wrist woke me more abruptly and it took a little while for the words to process. Especially once I realized it wasn’t one of the hands I was used to but one of the new ones.

“Where’s Garjah?”

“I asked him to leave.” Timok studied the pad he held.

“Why?” I scowled and sat up.

“Because there are things you don’t understand happening, and I find it necessary to explain them to you.” Timok tapped the pad. “This is fascinating.”

“Would you stop treating me like an experiment.” If glares could blast holes through someone, Timok would have two right through the middle of his green head.

“I apologize. I just never anticipated this. But maybe I should have. Ardra is a strange planet, and you were on the surface for some time.”

“Strange? I thought you guys were familiar with the planet. Garjah made it sound like you visited often.”

Timok gestured with one hand, a wave up and down. “We mostly stay on the ships when we travel, and those who go out do not usually do so without precautions. This trip is one of the first where we have gone beyond automatic mining operations. This is something… new to us.”

“Garjah was barefoot.” I remembered seeing him planted with those wide, strong legs standing firm as he stared down at us on the ground.

“Was he? And did you touch the soil at any time barehanded?”

“Of course.” I wiggled the fingers on the one he’d replaced. “Even if I didn’t, there was this ‘minor incident’,” I said sarcastically. “Now stop stalling.” Maybe that was a trait of their race. Oblique commentary without giving any real information. “Or else.”

“Or else what?” Timok pursed his thin lips, looking unimpressed.

I tossed a pillow at him. “Talk!”

“As you’ve created a bond with your cerops, so too you’ve created a bond with Garjah. It’s been there since the beginning, but since introducing the bots to your system, the connection seems to have created some sort of confusion on their part as to what your DNA structure should have entailed. So they ‘fixed’ you to the best of their ability before we realized what was happening and stopped further changes. Unfortunately, some things could not be undone once they began.”

My mouth dropped open. That was not what I was expecting. I laser focused on the heart of the matter. “What kind of bond?”

“Symbiotic? Some organism in all of you creating a link between you.”

“A parasite?”

“Nothing that big. This is microscopic. But it seems to be working to create bonds in order to do something for is hosts. Duplicate, protect, strengthen… I’m not sure yet.”

“We should be in quarantine.”

“No one else on the ship seems to have it. Just those who’ve been in contact with both the planet and your bare skin. Garjah has allowed no one but himself to do that since he brought you aboard.”

“You were just touching me!” I pointed out.

“But I have not left the ship.”

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J Alan Veerkamp

Julie Lynn Hayes

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Ancalagon Ch. 28


Something didn’t feel right. My mouth was gummy, and I’d kill for a glass of water. I cracked my eyes open, but they were crusted over and blurry. “Waaa.” Oh stars, it really was dry.

“Essell? Can you open your eyes?”

“Nuuh.” I shook my head a tiny bit side to side. “Waat.” The word came out in a long exhale. I groaned, “Er.”

“Get him a drink.”


“No, he needs the nutrient fluid.”

If I could have wrinkled my nose, I would have. Nutrient fluid? That sounded awful.

It was. It so was. The fluid was thick, trickled down my throat in a warm stream, and had a metallic aftertaste. But it did wet my mouth and throat so I could talk.

“What happened?”

“A miscalculation on my part.” That was Timok’s voice. He’d been talking to me since the beginning. But I smelled Garjah, and he’d held my shoulders and lifted me so I could drink the nutrient fluid.

“Explain.” Each word I got out burned my throat like fire. I wanted another drink, but at the same time I didn’t want one.

“The bots were programmed to replace the missing body part… but I didn’t adequately define the parameters between our species and yours. We have no had this problem with the bots before. I have a theory that our genetics must be closer than most species for them to be so easily confused.”

I blinked, wincing at the rough scrape across my eyelids. I closed them, sighing. So the bots screwed up. What else could go wrong? I mean, seriously, since I’d landed on this planet nothing had gone right. My life was a series of stupid choices, apparently, mixed in with unfortunate circumstances.

It… was… “Ow!” The muscles in my neck crawled and shivered down my spine. I twitched, only then realizing Garjah still held me in his arms.

“Put him down. It’s not safe yet.”

“You said to give him fluids.” Garjah lowered me to a pillow.

“Just do it. They’re moving in his spine again.”

My spine? I need that. It was important. What had Timok done to me?


When I woke next the stinging, itchy crawling feeling in my body was gone. The blanket was tucked up to my chin, but I was on my side curled around the soft pillow on Garjah’s bed. How did I know that?

How did I know that?

Well, I recognized the softness of the pillow, but the bed was Garjah’s because his scent saturated the space. For the first time in maybe months, I felt rested and relaxed. I’d been on edge since I’d been posted on the ship and realized how much Sonez resented my placement. My plans for a study were put aside, and I’d worked relentlessly to find a way around his interference.

The trip to Ardra had been the perfect plan. Except for running into aliens. So much for my offhand confidence of being the son of a first-contact specialist. I’d never considered advanced aliens who didn’t participate in the universal community.

None of the scans of Ardra indicated any sentient life lived here or even visited. No habitations, no landingss indicating space travel, no harvesting or mining operations.

“Huh.” Just how were the Four Arms getting the oslium then? I rolled onto my back and kept going, nearly hitting the wall. “Whoa.” I opened my eyes, blinking. The room was dim, too dark for me to see anything clearly. I ordered the lights to brighten.

“Stars!” My breath quickened, and I pushed myself up with the hand I hadn’t injured. The other one, the one that Timok had removed, had regrown and looked just like it had before. But that wasn’t the most surprising part. There was a second set of limbs coming out… of my spine? I thought about bringing my hands together, and they did just what I was thinking. The fingers wove together then apart. I flexed and turned each wrist, bent each finger.

Swinging my legs over the edge of the bed, I sat. I tried to lift my arms. My normal arms, the ones I’d always had, moved freely. The new ones…? They didn’t go up and down far, most movement limited to forward and back.

This was insane! I stumbled to my feet and rushed into the bathroom, nearly slamming into the wall when I tried to stop before the door opened all the way. What happened to the gravity? It used to be so heavy, slowing me down.

My breathing had gone from light, quick breaths into pants barely preventing hyperventilation. What kind of freak did I become? I had to see. The door opened after what seemed like forever but was most likely only seconds, and I entered the bathroom.

The wall became a mirror with one touch, and I stared. My hair, brown and long enough to flop into my normal human eyes, was still there. Skin, still pale with pale pink tints in places better left covered—

Naked. I was naked. Why did they keep taking off my clothes? This time they hadn’t even put new ones on me!

“Essell?” Grajha’s scent had been in his bed but had faded from his room. It wafted from him as soon as he entered, spicing the air so I knew who it was before he even spoke.

Without conscious thought, my new hands covered my vulnerable bits. I spun to face the open door. “Where are my clothes?” I demanded.

Garjah stood in the doorway with my bag. “I just went to get them. Timok said you’d be awake soon, and all the bots had broken down and left your system so it would be safe for you to redress.”

Relief swamped me. “Great. Thanks.” I snatched my bag and hit the sensor to shut the bathroom door. I stood there, two new hands over my junk, one hand holding my bag, and one hand on the wall sensor. 

Want more flash?

J Alan Veerkamp

J Ray Lamb

Julie Lynn Hayes