Thursday, July 31, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 7 (6)

Bang. Bang. Bang. Hans groaned and tried to block out the sound with his pillow. BANG. BANG. BANG. Hans finally opened his eyes and looked at the time. It was almost 1100h already. BANG. BANG. BANG.

“Hans? Are you in there?” A familiar voice drifted through the door. Rolling out of bed, Hans wrapped the blanket around his waist and stumbled to the door.
“What is it, Nance?” Hans asked.

“Ah, um, I…” Nance couldn’t seem to form a coherent sentence as her face went from its normally ruddy colour to a deep scarlet.  She closed her eyes and shook her head before looking him straight in the eyes. “I was just concerned about you. I haven’t seen you around in a few days and when I asked around I found out that no one has seen you since you arrived.”
“I just needed a little rest is all. My mechanic Duke and the junior pilot, Honora, have been taking care of everything. I figured I deserved a break.” Hans shrugged and tried to act as though it was nothing. He had been worried about Nance the most. Even though he had bought them a few days he had known that she would still be keeping an eye on things.

“I hadn’t seen them either, although I’m not as familiar with them.” Nance took a step back from the door. “I’ll get going now. Sorry to bother you.”
“No worries.” Hans watched her as she made a quick escape down the hallway and tried not to chuckle. He had never seen the normally tough hangar managed so flustered before.

With a sigh, he started getting his stuff together. They had wasted enough time sleeping and now they needed to get back to the mainland and figure out what to do. There were a lot of decisions that needed to be made and they needed to be made quickly.
Dressed and awake, he headed over to Duke’s room to wake him up. To his surprise, Duke answered the door already showered, dressed and ready to go.

“Never been much of a sleeper.” Was all he had to say to the surprised look on Hans’ face. “I’ll go make sure Honey is ready to go.”
“Yeah, thanks. I’ll settle the bill for the rooms and I’ll meet you downstairs.” Hans went back to his room, grabbed his gear and headed downstairs. He had just finished paying for everything when Duke appeared downstairs with a very groggy Honora in tow.

“Bill is settled. Let’s go.” Hans grabbed his stuff and lead the way back to the hangar. Nance was already there by the time they arrived. She looked Hans’ straight in the eye when they arrived. “About time you guys came back to pick up the hunk of metal. Gonna have a shipment of mining equipment from off planet coming in this afternoon. Everything fixed up then?”
“Right as rain Nance.” Hans gave her a wicked grin and she turned away, but not before he caught a hint of her smile. He had to admit that she was a good looking woman, but it wasn’t something he could focus on right now. He had far more important things to think about than trysts.

Once they were safely in the air, Hans turned his attention back to the big question at hand that none of them had yet brought up. “So how are we going to do this?”
“Good question. I’ve been thinking about it and I’m pretty sure the only way for us to be successful is for you to go in person.”  Duke said.

“But…” Hans already knew the arguments against it, but he wanted to hear someone else say it.
“It’s risky, it’ll set off red flags if you really are being watched and I don’t think the company will be impressed with you taking that much time off. Plus, I don’t think you should go by yourself which will look even more suspicious and be harder to accomplish.” Duke leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms. “I just don’t see how we’re going to make this work.”

“You’re good at point out the flaws in a plan Duke, but we need to find a way to make this possible.” Hans looked to Honora who just shrugged in response.
“Well, you’re the mastermind.” Duke glanced at his hand and frowned. “You’re going to have to do something about that.”

Hans looked down at his hand; he had already forgotten about it. “Gloves, spray skin maybe?”
“I don’t think the spray skin will stay on well enough, but you can give it a try. Not to mention it’ll be noticeable. People will ask questions.” Duke, once again, was quick to point out the flaws in his suggestion.

“Gloves it is then, but that’s going to bring up some questions sooner or later as well.” Hans sighed and closed his eyes. There was too much that needed to considered, too much to be done that it was starting to seem a little overwhelming.
“So, who’s going to go with you then?” Honora asked.

“Duke.” Hans said. “He may be good at poking holes in ideas, but I think that his inclination towards pessimism will be more likely to make the Admiral believe my story. Then again, I could probably pull it off just by showing him all the tricks my new hand can do.”
“Point.” Duke smiled and nodded. “So, you are the man with the plan, what do you think we should do?”

“Honestly?” Hans asked. He had an idea, but he was worried that it might be too bold a move for Duke to agree to.
“I’m not sure I want to hear this, but yeah.” Duke said.

“We just go and not tell anyone. I can pull in a few favours to get us undocumented passage to wherever Admiral Falun is right now. So long as it’s not Earth, we should be able to get in without anyone knowing.” Hans frowned. “And if he is on Earth right now, we’re screwed.”
“Then you better find out where he is and if he’s on Earth than we’re going to have to figure out how to get there without anyone finding out. Or we can get fake identities.” Duke scratched at his chin. “I do know people who’d be able to help us out, but that won’t be a for sure thing. Identity altering is never a sure thing though.”

“It would need to be fool proof to get us onto Earth.” Hans shook his head. “No, we can’t go to that sort of extreme.”
“Let us just hope that he’s not on Earth right now then. Actually, what are the chances of him being on Earth?” Duke asked.

“Unfortunately, there is a pretty good chance of him being there. It is where the Armed Forces is based, including E&E. However, he does travel a lot from what I understand.” Hans glanced down at the floor as he tried to gather his thoughts. “Of course, finding out where he is might raise a red flag or two as well, but I think I can cover that.”
“How?” Duke asked.

“He offered me a job once, I can say that I’m thinking of coming out of retirement and wanted to see if the offer for a position on his staff was still available. However, even that will be of interest to certain parties, but I don’t think anyone will suspect that we’d be going to see him.”
“Do you have a backup plan if something does happen?” Honora asked, a small line appearing between her eyebrows as she spoke.

“If the people we don’t want to know find out and catch up with us then I don’t think we’ll need a backup plan Honey.” Duke said and reached out to pat her hand. “But no worries, better people have tried to hurt me before and failed.”
“I don’t think you quite understand the extent to which the government is willing to go to keep things quiet.” Hans said; his voice quiet and grave. “We are talking about people that mind wiped on of their own.”

Duke shrugged and grinned. “Bring it on.”

Monday, July 28, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 7 (5)

“Guess we need to figure out what we’re going to do from here on out.” Duke said as he gave the large alien a once over. “Do you think your Admiral will be willing to take your word or will proof be required?”

“I’m not sure. I think proof may actually be required in this case. At least, to get the sort of reaction we require.” Hans thought carefully about what little he knew of Admiral Falum. “I think he would take my word for it, but we need to act fast in this.”
“I’ve got the camera. We can do a video.” Honora suggested, holding up the camera for everyone to see.

“Alright, let me talk to Ohaehim and see if he can say something for us on camera.” Hans stepped away from the group and towards the alien. “Ohaehim, our government may require some sort of proof that you exist and that the threat you speak of is real before they act. Is there anything you can provide to us for this?”
Ohaehim turned to face the trio, giving them his full attention before speaking. “I cannot provide you with tangible proof. There has been degradation in the systems that I am trying to counteract now. I only know that the Afoixox is coming soon, but I cannot ascertain where they are or provide coordinates for such.”

“Are you getting this?” Hans spoke softly as he glanced back at Honora. She nodded and motioned for him to continue on. Hans looked back at the alien.  “We are recording your likeness and this conversation as a part of the proof. Is there anything you would like for our government to know?”
“My name Ohaehim of the Shai Halad. We are a race that once lived peacefully in this section of the galaxy, but have since moved on. I am a guardian that was left behind in case the Afoixox return to wage war once again. I bring a message of peace and assistance from my people. I offer to you my full assistance in defending your race against these intruders.”

Once again Ohaehim performed a complicated ritual with his tentacles as he spoke. He finished the short speech with a dramatic flash of silver across his dark skin. Hans glanced back at Honora who gave him another nod and lowered the camera.
“Thank you, Ohaehim. Hopefully that will bring our government into action quickly. We need to go now, but we will be back as soon as we can.” Hans smiled at the alien who had already turned his attention back to the console again.

“Okay, let’s get out of here and back to the town. We’ve probably raised a few suspicions by now, but these towns are pretty good about minding their own business. We might be lucky and just get a few questions when we get back.” Hans was already starting to pack up his stuff as he spoke and the other followed suit.
“What if they did notify someone that we’re missing?” Honora asked as she finished packing up her stuff.

“Then we’ll think of something.” Hans shrugged and turned to Duke. “You’re the tallest. Give me a lift up the tunnel. I’ll take all the packs and get them out of the way. Send Honora up next and then I’ll help you get up. Sound like a plan?”
Duke just nodded and then glanced over his shoulder at the occupied alien. “Not so keen on being stuck in here by myself with him.”

“He’s one of the good guys Duke.” Hans tried to keep his voice even, but he was starting to get irritated by Duke’s attitude towards the alien. “Besides, you won’t be here alone for very long.”
“Fine.” Duke said and walked over towards the entrance to the tunnel. Interlocking his finger, he knelt down slightly so Hans could place a foot in his hands. “On three.”

“One….two….three!” They counted together and as they said the word three, Duke lifted Hans who grabbed onto the edge of the tunnel pulled himself inside. With a little work, he turned around and hung down his hands to take the packs that Duke tossed up.
It took a few minutes to pack it all to the spot where their hoverboards still waited. With that done, he headed back to see Honora sitting calmly on Dukes shoulders, her feet resting calmly in his hands. She smiled as she saw Hans return to the entrance and reach out for her arms. She latched on to him as Duke lifted her further up.

Hans pulled her into the tunnel and backed up far enough for her to squeeze by before going back for Duke. Pressing his legs against the sides of the tunnel as hard as he could he hung his arms out for Duke to grab. With a little work, Duke was able to jump and grasp Hans’ hands and pull himself up to the tunnel.
“Next time we bring a ladder or some rope.” Duke said between breaths. Hans just nodded his agreement as he tried to catch his own breath. He only wished that he had thought of that in the first place.

“Let’s go.” Hans said once he had caught his breath.  Duke didn’t say anything as he crawled down the tunnel towards where Honora was waiting with their stuff. It didn’t take them long for them to get themselves all sorted out and ready to go. It took them almost seven hours to make it back to where their boat was tied up.
Luck was with them as the normally perpetual storm had died down for a bit and the sea was as smooth as it could possible with just a light 80 km/h gale for them to fight against. It was the in the early hours of the morning, local time, that they finally managed to sneak back into the dome that surrounded the town. Exhausted, Hans led the way to the hotel rooms that he had rented and they all finally got to spend a night in a real bed.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 7 (4)

Hans thought back to his days in the Armed Forces. There were a few people that he had kept in touch with, but none of them were in a position to help. There was one person though, but he wasn’t sure exactly how much they could trust him. He was certainly in the right kind of position within the Armed Forces to get things done.

“Well?” Honora asked impatiently.
“I know one person who might be able to help us. He’s in the right position, but I’m not sure how much I trust him. His name is Admiral Steven Falum and he’s always struck me as being pretty honest and straightforward. He’s in charge of the Exploration and Expansion section of the Armed Forces.” Hans thought back through all his interactions with the Admiral and one moment came to mind in particular. “I think he’d be our best bet.”

“E&E? That’s not exactly the most prestigious section in the Armed Forces.” Duke’s voice was calmer now.
“Maybe not, but they are the ones who are actually trained in first contact.” Hans hesitated and then decided to share the story. “He actually came to me when I was recovering from my accident. I had already decided to retire and he wanted to convince me not to retire, but to switch over to his department. He said that my unique knowledge from my time with Special Forces would be indispensable to him.”

“And?” Duke asked.
“It was the way he said it.” Hans said. “It was like he was hinting at something more. That I may have had special knowledge that he didn’t. Except at that time, I didn’t know anything special, but I do now and I think that was what he wanted to know about.”

“And I think you’re stretching, but if you two both agree on this course of action then I will go along with it, but I will say ‘I told you so’ if it all goes horribly wrong.”  Duke stretched and stood up. “How much longer till it wakes up?”
Hans checked his watch. “I’d guess another hour or so, how do you guys want to do this? As you said we can’t go back to that mining town with an alien in tow and we don’t have enough supplies to stay here and call someone in.”

“Well, you’re the one that knows this Admiral Falum so you’d have to be the one to contact him about this.”  Honora said and then glanced around the room and at the tunnel they came in through. “I think, though, we’re forgetting something very important.”
Hans and Duke both glanced up at the tunnel, around the room and then their gaze rested upon the alien in his glass case. It was the most basic of problems that none of them had even thought about until this moment. They had all come in through a tunnel too small for the alien to fit through and they could see no other entrance of exit.

“Maybe they’re extremely flexible?” Duke frowned and took another glance around. “I mean, they had to get in here to build it and lock up that guy. It’s not like the whole installation could have just appeared out of the blue. Laws of physics would apply here too.”
“Or we can ask when he wakes up. Maybe there’s a hidden entrance or some sort of transportation device.” Hans shrugged. “Not much we can do until he wakes up anyway.”

“How are we going to ask him? We don’t even speak the same language.” Honora asked.
“Oh, I forgot to mention that they used me as a language template. Our language is being downloaded into him right now. When he wakes up he ought to be able to speak as well as any of us.” Hans smirked. “Hopefully he won’t sound too much like me.”

“I think we’re about to find out really soon.”  Duke nodded in the direction of the alien and they all looked over to see his tentacles twitching behind the glass. It was the first movement they had seen of Ohaehim since the waking process had started.
 “Yeah, it’s time alright.” Hans said as he glanced at his watch. “We should probably give him some space.”

They all backed up to the other side of the room from the glass case and waited for Ohaehim to wake up. It wasn’t long before his the thick white membrane that covered his eyes slid aside and he was looking at them from behind the glass. Slowly, one tentacle reached up and stroked something on the inside of the case and, with a hiss, the glass dissipated.
Ohaehim stepped out of his case and stretched to his full nine meter height. His gaze travelled around the room and finally rested on the three humans standing together on the other side. “Cuu’huye. Hello.”

 “Hi, my name is Hans. My friends are Duke and Honora.” Hans stepped forward to speak for the group, pointing at each of his friends as he said their name.
“I am Ohaehim of the Shai Halad. I have been brought up-to-date on the current situation by the computer. It is imperative that I speak to someone in a position of authority immediately. There is little time to prepare for the coming of the Afoixox.” As Ohaehim spoke, his tentacles made patterns in the air.

“We understand, but there’s a small problem.” Hans looked back at Duke and Honora, unsure of how to explain their situation to the alien.
“Problem?” Ohaehim stood still and waited for an explanation.

“I’m not sure how to explain this, but you’re the first alien species our race has ever encountered before. We can’t just take you to the nearest government representative to explain the situation, people would panic. Things need to be done in a way that may take more time, but will get better results.” Hans bit his lip and prayed that he had done a decent enough job of explaining the situation without upsetting the alien.
“Proper channels must be gone through. The hierarchy must always be respected, that is as it should be. I will wait here.” Ohaehim turned his attention to a console that was at eye height for him.

“Did you need anything if you’re staying here? Food, water, anything?” Honora spoke, her voice quavering slightly.
“I am fine. Things must progress quickly. They are coming.” Ohaehim turned one eye towards the humans for a moment before focusing both oculars on the console again. “I will monitor the information available and I will attempt to learn more about your culture and protocols.”

“Is there a way we can keep in touch with you?” Hans asked.
“That is not necessary. Just return as soon as possible with someone that in a position of leadership.” Ohaehim didn’t even bother looking at them this time; his full attention was on manipulating the console in front of him.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 7 (3)

“Hans?” Duke asked from behind him, sounding very unsure of himself. Hans turned around and smiled at him and Honora.

“I’m famished, how about that breakfast we never had?” Duke wandered towards them already phasing his left limb back into a human looking hand.
“Yeah, starving, but what happened?” Duke glanced at Hans’ hand and then towards the time-locked alien. “You stuck your hand into that orb and then you got this strange look on your face. A few seconds later everything disappeared and it was just you standing there with a tentacle instead of a hand.”

“It’s hard to explain.” Hans scratched at the back of his head and frowned. “It was incredible. They talked to me and told me about themselves and another race of aliens and about a war that destroyed most of the Milky Way Galaxy. I’m not sure how the tentacle thing happened, but I have a pretty good guess. What’s important is that the other race they told me about are coming back and they are not very nice.”
“How not nice?” Honora asked.

“Very. All they care about is war and they will destroy all species in the way of their expansion.” Hans sat down on the floor and the other two followed suit. “I think we’re going to have to make a whole new plan on what we’re going to do once our alien here wakes up.”
“Is that what you were doing?” Duke glanced at the monstrous alien still locked away behind the glass and shuddered. “Are you sure it’s safe?”

“They’re the good guys here. From what I understand, we do not have the technology to compete with the Afioxox. They’re relentless, but Ohaehim here has access to technology that we don’t have. Technology that will help us survive a war we cannot avoid.” Hans looked Duke straight in the eyes, his tone grave. “To be honest, I’m not sure we can win even with their help.”
“How did you learn all this in just a few seconds?” Honora interrupted her eyes were wide, but her voice was steady.

“It wasn’t a few seconds to me. It was…” Hans searched for the right words to explain such a unique experience. “It was like forever, but without any sense of time. It’s so hard to explain. I saw what they were talking about – their entire history and the conflict with the Afoixox. I even felt what they were feeling. I wish you could have experienced it. There really is no way to describe it in words.”
“So we have to just take your, and their, word on this?” Duke had already started making the breakfast they had missed with the excitement of earlier. There was no denying how hungry they all were – it had been a long morning.

“If you had been there you’d understand Duke.” Hans leaned back against the wall and stared across the room at the Ohaehim.
“Well I guess we can’t all be so lucky as to burn a hand to a crisp and have it turned into a weird alien tentacle thing.” Duke kept his eyes fixed on the cook stove and what he was doing, but Hans could almost hear him rolling his eyes with that statement.

“Ohaehim should be ready to wake up in just a few hours. He’s been time-locked for a very long time.” Hans decided it was best to ignore Duke’s statement for now.
“So what’s your guess on how you got the funky hand?” Honora said into the silence that had taken over the lab.

“Well, the Shai Halad are brilliant genetic engineers and they had created these nanobots that were everywhere in the world. So long as a being was still alive, they could repair it, but they had a limited shelf life. I think some of those nanobots were stored in the artefact I had found and were released when we activated it. They’ve never seen human DNA, so they fixed my hand as if I was Shai Halad.” Hans shrugged. “But it’s just a guess.”
“So cool. Our nanotech isn’t nearly that advanced!” Honora grinned. “I mean, we have nanotech for identification purposes, but nothing that can work without instruction like that. I mean, if we could learn from their technology just imagine the benefits for the human race!”

“Gee, I never pegged you as being secretly a Soch, Honey.” Duke grumbled as he split the food onto three plates.
“You know I’m not Duke.” Honora rolled her eyes as she grabbed her own plate of food. “It’s just that there is so much potential technology that can be used to better life for everyone. Just because I choose to live outside what society considers normal doesn’t mean I hate the whole human race. I just don’t trust the government.”

“And I think it’s safe to say none of us really trust government, especially not after seeing this. There is no way that they haven’t discovered other sites like this on other worlds.” Hans said as he grabbed his own plate of food.
“Speaking of which, what are we going to do once big, bad and ugly wakes up? It’s not like we can just stroll him on through the mining town like it’s an everyday occurrence.” Duke said, pointing out the obvious.

“Like I said earlier, we may have to rethink what we were planning to do. This is much bigger than just getting the truth out there. As much as we distrust the government, we might have to bring this to them.” Hans frowned at the thought.
“So they can what? Just go ahead and cover this up as well? You said it, we can’t trust them.” Duke glared at Hans.

“No, but can you imagine the fallout if we took it straight to the media?” Hans shook his head. “We can’t go straight to the media and that would be the only other option.”
“He’s right Duke. We can’t take something like this to the media.” Honora sighed. She wasn’t happy about having to agree with Hans on this matter. “There really is no other option than going to the government, but in saying that – we don’t have to be stupid about it.”

“Got suggestions on how we tell the government in a smart way that doesn’t end with us being dead, missing or mind wiped?” Duke glared at Honora.
“Well, we just need to get in touch with people we can trust. I mean, Hans, you have to know some people that you still trust in the Armed Forces? I bet they’d be the best government branch to talk to and you know people in it so that’s a bonus.” Honora tapped a finger against her lips as she thought about what she was going to say next. “I mean it would still be risky, but I think it would be our best option. So, do you know anyone Hans?”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 7 (2)

Hans looked up the alien that seemed to be listening carefully to every word he said. He tried again and pointed at his chest and said his name again. Then he pointed at Duke and Honora, saying each of their names carefully as he pointed. Finally he pointed at the alien and waited to see if it got the idea.

It made a noise and Hans tried his best to put the sound into words. “Shai halad?”
Once again the alien made a few more bubbles and Hans guess that meant he had gotten as close as he could to the name of the alien. At least he knew what to call it now. It was a step closer to two way communication than they had been a bit ago. He just wished there was a way to speed things up so that they could really communicate.

“Look, Shai halad, I can talk till the cows come home, but we need to speed things up. We only have enough food here for one more day in this place and then we have to get going. I’d like to know why you’re here and what you want, but that’s not going to happen if we can’t find a way to communicate with each other.” Hans crossed his arms and stared up at the alien. He had no idea if it knew what he had said, but he hoped that it had gotten the gist of what he was saying.
There was silence for a few minutes before the alien made a rattling gargle and pointed at toward one of the machines. It repeated the sounds again and jabbed towards several buttons on the machine. Hans walked over and touched the buttons the alien had indicated. Almost immediately a bright orb appeared in the centre of the room.

Shai halad placed a technical inside the orb and looked at Hans. It repeated the movement again and made a sound. Hans walked up to the orb and gave it a good look over. Slowly he reached out with his right hand and the alien screeched at him. He jerked his head back confused.
“Maybe you shouldn’t be doing that.” Duke spoke up from where he and Honora had decided to sit and wait. There had been little for them to do since the image of the alien had appeared.

“It’s either this or nothing.” Hans looked over to Duke and smiled weakly at him. “It’s not like we have many options here.”
Once again Hans reached towards the orb with his right hand, but the alien screeched at him. He looked at the alien confused as it once again stuck a tentacle into the orb and gargled at him. Hans raised his right hand and the alien screeched once again. Hans raised his blackened left hand and the alien gargled and produced more bubbles.

Hans looked at his hand and then back up at the alien. He had to admit there was a certain similarity between the skin on his hand and the skin on the alien. It was one of those questions he would have to ask when they could communicate. For the moment, all he could do was follow the direction of the alien. With some trepidation, he placed his left hand inside the orb.
It was one of the most singularly incredible experiences of his life. It was like he was in two places at once. He knew that he was still in the lab, but as far as his sense were concerned he was somewhere else. He didn’t recognize the place, but he felt at home here, safe. Hans wondered if it was the orb that made him feel that way or something else.

We are the Shai Halad. We are a peaceful race, or at least we were until the Afoixox came along. For the Afoixox war was all that mattered, it was their way, and somehow they had managed to not destroy themselves. In fact, they thrived and spread, much like a disease, through the galaxy. There were two main factions of the Afoixox – the Sizocku and the Exiruji. Each faction would recruit other races to help them fight in this war – by force if necessary.
We are not a species that takes kindly to being forced and while their weapons were greater we were far more advanced in technology. It did not take much work for us to be able to first protect ourselves and then we fought back. We eradicated the disease from this part of the galaxy, but at great cost. We sent the Afoixox back to their own galaxy, but they had managed to weaken our numbers to such an extent that we could not destroy them completely.

We knew that one day life would return to this part of the galaxy and that the Afoixox would not be held back forever. We created warning stations on many planets, well hidden beneath the ground and protected from accidental discovery. Most of our race chose to move on and resume a life of peace on another planet in another galaxy. Others, our new warrior class, were placed in a time-lock inside these stations to be awoken when the alarm went off.
You have discovered one of these stations and something has gone wrong with the system here. An alarm should have gone off, but it never did. The guardian, Ohaemih, should be awake, but he sleeps. Thankfully, you have managed to activate the interactive communications system. We have been trying to understand your language so that we can communicate with you and so that Ohaemih will be able to communicate with you when he awakes.

They are coming. War is coming.

Hans blinked and saw only the lab again, the orb and alien were had disappeared from view. Duke and Honora were staring at him, mouths agape. Hans looked around the room until his eyes landed on Ohaemih. He needed to be woken up and Hans realized that he knew exactly what needed to be done to make it happen.

Hans walked over the console that they had originally taken for a case when they walked in and went to run his left hand across the top of it. He paused halfway there and stared at his hand – or at least what used to be his hand. Instead, from the wrist down he had a black tentacle instead. He finally understood why Duke and Honora had been looking at him so strangely.
Hans held up his hand, or rather tentacle, for a closer look. He wondered what had happened to his fingers, but as he thought it the tentacle reshaped itself into a hand once again. A perfect match to his right except for the colour. Hans smiled and made his hand into a tentacle once again. He had a feeling this was an ability that he was going to enjoy.

Hans focused on the console once again and dragged his tentacle across the top. It responded immediately to his touch and new lights came to life where before there was only dull metal. Hans worked with the console for a few minutes before stepping back and glancing at where Ohaemih still rested in his time-locked state.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 7 (1)

Duke woke up first and began to make breakfast for everyone. They had another long day ahead of them. Their last full day of exploring the lab and he didn’t wanted to miss out on any work. It took a while before he even noticed the beeping sound. It was so soft that he almost missed hearing it. Duke searched until he found the source of the sound.

“Hans?” Duke called out softly, not really wanting to disturb anyone, but it wasn’t enough to get a response. Duke called out louder. “Hans, come here.”
“Wha..?” Honora responded first, she rubbed her eyes and sat up.

“Sorry Honey, I was trying to get Hans’ attention. There is something going on over here.” Duke apologized.
Honora sighed and turned to face the still sleeping Hans. She reached out and poked him to only be rewarded with a grunt and some movement. With a shrug she leaned in close and took a deep breath before shouting in his ear. “Hey! Wake up you lazy lump!”

Hans bolted upright his good hand catching Honora by the throat and letting her go just as quickly. “Shit, sorry, what?”
“Remind me never to offer to wake you up again.” Honora rubbed at her throat which wasn’t even hurt, but she couldn’t help herself.

“Instinct. Armed Forces remember?” Hans wiggled out of his sack and stretched. He gave his left hand another wiggle and was happy to note that it didn’t feel as stiff today.
“Hans, your assistance please.” Duke said patiently.

Hans wandered over with Honora close behind. Duke placed a finger on his lips to shush them and they both kept their lips sealed. It wasn’t long before they heard the soft beeping. Duke pointed at a blue light that was blinking in time to the beeping. A button, matching in colour, was beside the light. “Do we push it?”
“Only if there’s a sign that says don’t push this button.” Honora rolled her eyes and reached forward to press the button, but Hans grabbed her hand before she could reach it.

“Let me do it. I’ve already been injured and survived more or less intact. If anything happens, it might as well be me again.” Hans shooed them both back and reached out with his already damaged hand to press the button and closed his eyes.
After a few moments had passed he looked back down to see the light had stopped blinking, but nothing else had happened yet. He turned to face Duke and Honora who were staring at a creature in the center the room. Hans gasped and his eyes went wide. It was a matching pair the creature inside the glass case.

Symbols appeared around it in a constantly changing pattern and it wasn’t until he noticed the writing that Hans realized that he was looking at the most advanced 3D projection that he had ever seen. It was perfectly life-like and real looking. Carefully, Hans walked forward and stuck his hand into the creature. He could feel nothing, but the creature responded by turning towards him and looking down.
“Interactive?” Duke asked from the other side of the creature.

A sound came from the creature that sounded like a mix between a drowning cat and the wind blowing through dead leaves. It sent shivers down all their backs as they heard it. It spoke again, stretching out each sound with careful precision.
“I don’t understand you.” Hans looked up at the creature as he spoke making sure to speak carefully and loudly. He had no idea if the projection would understand or if it was capable of understanding, but it was worth a shot. It leaned forward as if to study Hans who stood as still as he could. He met the eyes of the creature, at least what he assumed were its eyes, and fought the urge to run away.

It spoke again, quieter this time and pointed a tentacle at Hans’ chest. Hans knew that it was incapable of touching him but still he flinched away from it. It spoke again and gestured again with its tentacle before straightening up again. It glance the round the room gesturing broadly and speaking again.
“I. Don’t. Understand. You.” Hans yelled each word with determination at the image of the alien. It just stared at him and made bubbling sound. Hans was shocked to see actual bubbles form at what he believed to be its mouth. He wished he knew what it was saying, but because he was sure that it was trying to communicate.

“Do you want me to keep talking? Is that what you need?” Hans cocked his head to one side and looked up at the strange thing in front of him. Once again it produced more bubbles and he could only assume that it was something akin to agreement.
“Okay. I can talk, I can talk about anything. In fact, we can all talk, can’t we guys?” Hans glanced across at Duke and Honora who were both fixated on the alien.

“Sure,” said Duke, his eyes still focused on the alien which twisted around at the sound of his voice. It was amazingly flexible, almost rubbery in its movements. “We can talk too, right Honey?”
Honora said nothing until Duke elbowed her in the ribs. “Oh, yeah, we can talk too. I mean I talk all the time about absolutely nothing. I mean, I just jabber on and on and on. Especially when I’m nervous or scared and you’re really scary.”

Another elbow to the ribs shut her up quickly. She glared at Duke, but didn’t retaliate. The alien turned its focus back to Hans. It spoke again and pointed at Hans.
“Okay. Just me then? I can understand that. Too much input and ways of talking. You just want to listen to one, but I have no idea what to say or what you need me to say. I could tell you my life story or maybe just a fairy tale. I could tell you why we’re here, but I have no idea what you want from me.” Hans sighed as the alien produced more bubbles.

“What else can I say? I’m a pilot. I used to be with Armed Forces, but I retired because of an injury. We are on a plane that my people call Cantun. Oh, and my people are called humans. We originated on a planet that we call Earth, but no one really lives there anymore. I heard it used to be very beautiful and mostly covered in water. And, um, and…” Hans racked his brain for more things to say.
“Oh. My name is Hans Beaulieu and I’m twenty-eight standard years of age. I was born on a small farming planet in a place called Koshka. It wasn’t much of a place to grow up, but it was home. I left as soon as I could, joined the Armed Forces and became a pilot. I was good at it, one of the best and moved up the ranks quickly. I miss it sometimes though, but somehow I think things have worked out for the best in my life. I’ve learned things...”

Hans frowned. He hadn’t counted on having a heart to heart with anyone – certainly not a 3D alien projection. He has no idea why he was talking, but it seemed to be what the alien wanted from him and only him. He caught Duke’s eye and motioned that he needed to something to drink. If he was going to keep talking then he’d need something to drink.
“My friends over there are Duke Willis and Honora Li-Macklin. They’re pilots and Duke is also a pretty good mechanic. Actually, he’s a great mechanic, but his personality could use a little work sometimes. He’s not what one would call a people person, but he does have a soft side that he hates to show. I think he’s actually a pretty decent guy overall though.

“Honora is pretty new and I don’t really know much about her. She’s a pretty good kid who seems to want to keep her nose clean. She’s pretty young, but I think she shows the possibility of becoming a better pilot than me. She has great instincts and I think she’s smart as a whip.
“So those are my friends over there and their names. So what do I call you?”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 6 (4)

“Hey, look at this. There’s an indent here like there was in your artefact that would fit mine.” Honora pulled her artefact out from under her shirt and held it in front of the indent to better judge the size. “Hey, do you think this is maybe some sort of key? I mean this is the second time we’ve come across something like this.”

“I wouldn’t rule it out, but that doesn’t explain the condition of the crew on the ship where you found it.” Hans frowned.
“And we didn’t think yours did anything other than emit light and beep, but look at your hand. Think about it. We’re talking about some unknown alien race here. Maybe they’re the type of people who like to put certain safeguards on important items so that they can become dangerous in the wrong hands. Maybe they were at war.” Honora smiled as she spoke, her eyes lighting up as she hypothesized.

“Well, we are talking aliens so who knows.” Hans shrugged and glanced down at his bandaged hand. “I mean we need to start somewhere, but let’s not go to crazy on the guessing here.”
“I don’t thinking letting our imagination run wild would be the best plan either.” Duke’s voice came from above and both Hans and Honora looked up at the tunnel entrance. “Here, I’ll toss this down, someone catch it.”

It wasn’t long before all their gear was spread over the floor of what they had decided to call the laboratory. It was one of the few things that they could all agree on. This room reminded them all of some sort of lab. Honora didn’t make things better when she started talking about viruses and chemical weapons.
“Seriously, if you don’t shut up I am going to find a way to make you stay quiet and I guarantee you won’t enjoy it.” Hans growled in her direction and it seemed to do the trick for the moment.

After a few hours of inspecting the room in as much detail as they could none of them had figured out what anything was or where to even begin. There was so much to see, but they were all worried of something else happening. Another trap, as Honora wanted to call it.
“We’re going to have to do something because right now we’re not getting anywhere and I’m not sure I really want to remove anything from here as proof of what we found.” Hans sighed and sat down on the floor.

“Then let’s do something drastic.” Honora marched up to what they had guess was a door and took out her artefact. Before anyone could stop her she pressed it into the matching indent. They all backed across the room as the sound of swishing liquids came from the door. Slowly, the metallic look of the door disappeared to reveal a glass case.
“What is it?” Honora took a few steps towards it in awe and Duke grabbed her arm and pulled her back.

“I’m going to guess that it’s an alien.” Hans stayed where he was, but he studied the form behind the glass. “I can’t believe it. I real alien. Do you think it’s still alive in there?”
“My guess is yes. That case you wanted to open, I bet it’s actually some sort of life support system for it. Maybe some sort of cryogenics thing?” Duke took a half step forward, but stopped quickly. None of them were willing to get too close to it.

“It doesn’t look cold. Maybe something really sci-fi like a stasis field or something. We have moved out of the realm of real now. This is something that none of us came prepared for.” Hans grinned from ear to ear. “We have to revive it.”
“Only to find out it that it thinks we look like food and then it eats us for a midnight snack.” Honora laughed.

“Okay, Honey, you have got to lay off of the horror vids. Seriously let’s try to think on more positive notes.” Duke finally let go of her arm so he could scratch at his chin. “Do you think we could wake it up?”
“I have no idea, but that is the sort of proof we need to make prove that aliens do exist, but not enough to prove that the government is hiding knowledge of it.” Hans took a deep breath and walked towards the glass case to study the creature inside.

“Is it really that important to you or is it enough to know you’re right?” Duke took another hesitant step forward.
“Once they know we’ve found something it isn’t going to be enough to just be right, they’re going to want to eliminate the knowledge. They did it to me once already.” Hans pointed his damaged hand at Duke. “And frankly, maybe it could fix this. This is a lab so there is bound to be some sort of medical equipment here, we just aren’t able to recognize it.”

“Point, but we still don’t know what its like – friendly or not. That’s an important thing to know about something that looks like it could swallow you whole.” Duke eyed the creature in the case and shuddered.
“Getting hung up on looks are we?” Hans grinned. Leaning closer in, he took a good look at the creature. “It’s big, I’ll grant you that, but I think it would still take two bites to get you down.”

Honora stepped up beside Hans and Duke, with a sigh, joined them. “Big is one word for them for sure. So do you think those tentacle things are its arms or whatever? I mean, we’re assuming its upright and facing us – right?”
“Good assumption. It would make sense to us, but would it make sense to them.” Honora pointed at the creature and tilted her head. “I don’t see any more places that look like a key hole. Maybe we need to find another way to wake it up.”

“If we could read any of the symbols on this stuff it would be a start, but none of us are xeno-linguists or cryptographers or anything useful. We’re pilots and a mechanic. That’s not going to do us much good here.” Hans tapped on the glass and sighed.
“Well, maybe we’re not as useless as you seem to think. I mean, we all have basic mechanical knowledge and these are machines. Right? We just need to think a little outside the box.” Duke smiled for the first time since they had entered the lab.

“You really think we can figure out alien technology that easily?” Hans raised an eyebrow and took another look around the room.
“Nope, but what have we got to lose? We have enough food for another two days down here. And worst that happens is we have to come back here another time and finish figuring it out.”  Duke shrugged and reached for a bag. “In the meantime, I want to document as much of this as I can. Maybe if we have to leave we can try to figure out some stuff from home.”

Hans grinned back. “Well it’s nice to hear something positive from you for a change.”
“Give me a break Hans, I wasn’t even sure I believed in aliens till now. You two had a head start on me in that department.”  Duke handed Honora the camera. “You start with the taking the pictures and Hans and I will see if we can figure out the mechanics of things.”

For the next few hours none of them talked beyond the basics that they needed to communicate to each other. It was straight work until they came close to collapsing. It wasn’t until they were eating dinner that something occurred to Hans.
“My hand doesn’t hurt.” Hans looked down at the bandaged limb with surprise. He had entirely forgotten about it.

“It should have been hurting you a long time ago.” Honora grabbed his arm and pulled it over into her lap. She started unwrapping the bandage until they could all see the same black charred limb, but it was subtly different from before. It had looked wasted away before, but the form had come back and it looked more like a regular only blackened and rough.
“Can you move any of your fingers?” Honora asked.

Hans focussed on moving a single digit and was rewarded by seeing his index finger twitch upwards. He grinned and tried to bend it and was rewarded with a slight bend. “It’s stiff, but it doesn’t hurt.”
Honora pressed one of her fingers down on his and looked up expectantly.

“I can feel that, but only vaguely. I can’t really tell how hard you’re pressing, but it doesn’t hurt.” Hans brought his damaged hand up to his face so he could inspect it closer.  Smiling he waggled his fingers and was rewarded with more movement than he had expected.
“Okay, well that is slightly disturbing, but whatever that thing did to your hand, at least it wasn’t permanent damage.” Duke pushed a plate of food towards Hans. “And you’ll be far more useful with two working hands.”

Honora laughed and grabbed her own plate of food from Duke. “Well at least everything is documented and we can try to see if we can wake up Mr. Alien over there.”
“In the morning.” Duke yawned and then shovelled some food into his mouth. “Besides, what if it’s Miss Alien?”

Honora backhanded Duke in the shoulder and laughed. It didn’t take long before they were all fast asleep on the floor of the lab and doing their best to block out the constant light. No one heard the soft beeping that had started coming from one of the machines on the other side of the room.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 6 (3)

Hans rubbed at his eyes and wondered why he had left the blinds open again. Groaning he reached out blindly and felt only rock. He sat up suddenly and looked around. “Wake up. Everyone wake up and get your goggles.”

He stumbled around getting ready as quickly as he could and he grabbed his own goggles. He didn’t wait for Duke or Honora to get a moving as he dashed down the tunnel towards the light. He had to see whether or not it had worked. He finally got to the end and cursed. Although the goggles worked better than expected, it was obvious that there was still nothing but inky blackness beyond the opening.
“Did it work?” Hans could barely hear Duke he was too far away still. Hans didn’t bother to answer him he just crawled closer and carefully reached out to touch the glowing artefact. It gave off no heat so he picked it up and shoved it beyond the edge of the opening and into the darkness.

“Hey, what’s going on?” It was Honora shouting this time. It was pitch black in the tunnel now and none of them had thought to grab a light.
“Shit.” Hans shouted as the artefact started growing warm in his hand. He dropped it pulled his hand back. He could feel the blisters forming where it had been in contact with his skin. “Shit.”

Someone bumped into him and he put his hand out to steady himself biting his tongue to keep from crying out in pain.
“Hans is that you?” It was Duke speaking. Hans just nodded even though he knew that no one could see him right now. His hand hurt too much for him to even want to try speaking yet.

“What’s going on up there? Is everything okay?” Honora sounded further back still, but she was obviously concerned.
“Hans?” Duke began to shake him and Hans let out a groan.

“Stop.” Hans finally managed to force that one word out and then he closed his eyes trying to focus on blocking out the pain coming from his hand. He couldn’t believe that a burn could hurt this bad. He had been burnt badly before, after the crash, and that pain didn’t even compare to what he was feeling now.
“Hans, look. Hans? Shit, your hand.” Hans felt Duke grab him by the shoulder and lean him back against the stone. “Honora get the first aid kit and get it now!”

Hans tried to curl up in a ball, but Duke held him still. “It’s going to be okay. Just hold on okay? Just keep holding on. HONEY, HURRY!”
All Hans could focus on was the pain in his hand and he prayed that he would pass out soon, but that blessing seemed to be out of his reach. He just gritted his teeth and tried to remember to breath. It was hard enough to just keep breathing. It was the feeling of coolness spreading through his hand that finally brought things back into focus.

“Hans? Come on, speak to me.” Duke’s voice broke through the fog in Hans’ head and he finally opened his eyes. “What happened?”
Hans looked around and it was the first time that he realized that he could see everything clearly. “Light? It worked.”

“Hans, focus on the important things, like what happened to your hand.” Duke reminded him.
Hans looked down at his hand, or rather what used to be his hand. He held it up and stared at it gaping, unsure of what he was really seeing. He turned it this way and that, but from his wrist up it looked all the same. It was nothing more than charred remains of a hand. “I placed the artefact into the darkness. I guess there must have been some kind of reaction. It doesn’t hurt.”

“No, we emptied an entire bottle of freeze spray on it. I’m not sure how long that’ll last though. We need to get you out of here and to a doctor now.” Duke motioned for Honora to start backing up.
“No.” Hans glared at them both. “We’ve made it this far and whatever I did worked. We can see and I, for one, am not going home without finding out what is that cavern.”

Hans dragged himself forward with his one good hand until he could see inside the cavern. “Holy mercy shitbuckets. You guys have got to see this.”
“Kinda hard when you’re in the way, there isn’t enough room for all of us.” Duke growled.

“And we should wrap your hand or something…” Honora replied.
Hans turned around and started pushing his feet through the entrance first. “Worry about that later. Grab my good hand and lower be down. It’s not far to the floor.”

“You are certifiable.” Duke grabbed Hans’ one good hand with both of his and helped lower him down.
“Great, now you both have to get down here. If you want to wrap my hand then you’ll have to do it down here.” Hans called back up.

Duke looked at Honora and shrugged before lowering himself down the ground. Honora followed him over the edge and stood in awe as she looked around the room. It wasn’t anything like what they were expecting. It was more than any of them could imagine.
“What now?” whispered Honora as she walked slowly around the room being careful not to touch anything.

“I have no idea, but I think I want to see what’s in that.” Hans pointed to an object on the far side of the room that had the most lights blinking on it. He wandered over and studied the lights on the case. Symbols like the kind that had been on his artefact covered the outside of it.
“I don’t think touching anything is a good idea. Look what happened to you.” Duke pointed at Hans’ hand. “Let’s be smart about this.”

“You’re right. I’m sorry. It’s just that justifies everything for me. I’m right and now I want to know what they’ve been hiding from us, all of us.” Hans looked around the room in awe. “This is my proof that I’m not crazy.”
“I might still call you crazy if you don’t let me wrap up your hand at least.” Honora grabbed his arm roughly and started wrapping the charred remains of Hans’ left hand.  No one said anything until she was done.

“So, now what?” Honora asked.
“I have no idea. Hans?” Duke and Honora both looked at Hans who was still staring around the room like he had just landed in paradise. “Hans!”

“What? Um, I wish I knew, but we can’t just stand here looking like idiots. Maybe someone should go grab our stuff and we’ll set up camp here. That looks like a door over there so I think there might be more to explore, but maybe we should play it safe and not touch anything yet.” Hans walked over to what he thought was a door and started inspecting it closely, but didn’t touch it.
“I’ll go get the stuff.” Duke volunteered. He was the tallest and could get back into the tunnel the easiest. Hans just kept inspecting the suspected door and Honora, not sure of what else to do, joined him.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 6 (2)

What had taken nearly three days to for Hans to walk only took them six hours on the hoverboards. It had still made for a long day and they were all ready to rest when they could no longer get any further by hoverboard. This time there was no light coming from the end of the tunnel and Hans was slightly worried that they might find nothing.

“So, we’ll camp out here before moving on or do you want to try and push on a little further by foot?” Hans didn’t want to be the one to make the decision at this point.
“I’m all for pushing forward.” Duke said and looked down at Honora who nodded her agreement. “I mean we can always call it a night if we don’t find anything, but there’s no light this time, should we still put the goggles on?”

“I think we should be prepared for anything.” Hans took a deep breath and opened the case with the goggles in it. Right away a little red light began to flash, but there was nothing they could do about that. Hans only prayed that his calculations were correct and no one would be receiving the signal.
“Duke, it gets really narrow up there. I want you to stay here with our stuff unless we need to call you on the pickup if we need you, but I think it would be better if we don’t all rush in blindly.” Hans was worried for a second that Duke would argue with him.

 “I can see the wisdom in that. Just keep radio contact okay?” Duke shrugged and then sat down on the hard ground.
“Definitely, I’ll open up a line as soon as we’re out of sight.” Hans smiled and grabbed his artefact. He started to head further down the tunnel and then glanced back to make sure that Honora was following him. She gave him the thumbs up and he continued forward. After a few minutes of walking he turned on his short range communicator. “Testing, are you receiving Duke?”

“Affirmative. Do we have two way communication?” Duke’s voice sounded small and tinny in his ear instead of the normal overpowering tone that he was used to.
“Affirmative.” Hans shined his light up ahead. “I’ll keep you apprised of any change in situation, but right now it’s just more the same.”

“Understood. I’ll just be here committing a bit of temporal homicide.” Duke’s chuckle was cut off as he turned off the voice pickup on his end.
Hans pressed forward hoping that they wouldn’t suddenly be hit by a bright light. It was strange that there was nothing this time, but in a way it was also a blessing. Now they wouldn’t have to test out the effectiveness of their goggles against the alien light.

As the tunnel became so narrow that he was forced to crawl he could see a deeper darkness up ahead that his light wasn’t cutting through. He slowed down as he approached closer to the cloying darkness. “Duke, this is Hans. We’ve reached the end of the tunnel and the access point is up ahead, but there’s something strange going on. It’s dark up there and my light isn’t cutting through it.”
“What do you mean?” Honora piped up from behind him.

“I’m not sure what is going on. I’m going to get closer to see if I can see anything.” Hans crawled forward till he was at the edge of the opening. He reached out and touched the darkness. His hand went through it as though nothing was there, but as soon as his fingers crossed the edge of the circle he could no longer see them. He yanked his hand back and inspected his hand.
“Okay, this is some sort of negative light. I can’t see anything past the rim of circle, not even my own fingers.” Hans looked down at his hand again just to make sure he had all his digits. “It’s not harmful, but there is no way to see anything past this point. It just absorbs all light.”

“I’ve never heard of anything like that before.” Duke’s voice rang in his ear.
“That makes two of us.” Hans responded.

“Three.” Honora said from behind him. “So, what do we do now?”
“I don’t know.” Hans said. He didn’t even have an inkling of an idea on how to proceed past this point. This was not a possibility that he had prepared for.

“You said your little artefact gave out that painful light? Why not try to see if that light can counteract the darkness?” Duke said after a few moments of silence.
Hans looked at the artefact and shrugged. It was the only idea they had. “Okay, I’ll give it a shot.”

Backing up a bit Hans slammed the artefact down on the ground as hard as he could. It broke apart, showing the button as it had the first time. He pressed the button and waited for the artefact to put itself back together again. He picked it up and placed it near the edge of the entrance.
“Is it working?” Duke asked.

“It took a while last time, a few hours actually. I think we’re going to come back and call it a night. Hopefully it will have done something by the morning.” Hans motioned for Honora to start backing up and they made their way back to where Duke was waiting.
Honora was the first to get back to where Duke was waiting and she gave a low whistle as soon as he was in sight. “Hans you have got to see this!”

Hans picked up his pace and it wasn’t long till he saw why she had called him the way she had. Hans grinned as he looked at the wonderfully set up campsite. Duke was in the centre preparing a meal over a portable cook stove and glaring at them both.
Honora opened her mouth, but Duke spoke before she could get a single word out. “Don’t either of you say one word or I swear I will murder you both in your sleep tonight.”

Hans pressed two fingers over his lips as a sign that he would stay mum about everything, but he couldn’t stop smiling. “I will say it was nice of you to get this all done for us. It’s been a long day and I think we could all use some food and a good sleep.”
“You’re welcome.” Duke shrugged and started serving out the food.

It was a fairly quiet meal and they all decided to get to sleep as soon as they could. None of them had much to say, all they could think about was the impassable darkness. They could only hope that their only idea would work.