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

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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J Ray Lamb

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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Julie Lynn Hayes