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?                                                                                  

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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.

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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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Julie Lynn Hayes

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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Julie Lynn Hayes