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The Endlust War
Chapter 5: Discovery
IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT TO BREATH. My hands and shoes were dirty with mud and grime. Blubber sat idly on the path next to me. His head was just meandering back and forth. I had started referring to Blub in the male pronoun. His behavior just reminded me more of a guy than a girl. Of course, there was a chance I was wrong, but I figured it was better to refer to him as a gender instead of an it. An it implied lack of personality and intelligence, which was far from the truth. My green friend had definitely matured many times over in the last year. His tiny green arms were getting longer and bigger. He had grown enough now to actually slide down on the ground next to me. Amazingly enough, his speed was astonishing. He could go as slow as a baby’s crawl or as fast as my sprints. The noises he made when demonstrating his mood were extraordinary. I was getting better at recognizing his sounds, which proved crucial because along with his physical growth, he was also developing quite a personality.
“What do you think? Think we’re there yet?” I wheezed. Machu Picchu’s high elevation definitely made the hike from the nearby town a lot more difficult than it had to be. Before the arrival of the Starfall creatures there were two ways to get up to the ruins. It was either a hike or a bus. A bus I could have used. Unfortunately, the government of the country called Peru pretty much stopped all transport from the nearby town to Machu Picchu. I couldn’t blame them. They tried to fight with one of the aliens, and lost badly. I had to sneak across the manned outposts to avoid the guards in order to get to the ruins.
When I finally caught my breath, and looked up, I almost lost it again. I was thousands of feet above sea level, and could only look in awe at the sight that was before me. Mountain ranges dotted the landscape in vibrant colors, with green trees intermixed with yellow and blue flowers. Below where I was standing was a deep valley that was enveloped in the morning mist. It was mid-autumn for them and the air was already growing cold. The mist itself was covered in low-air clouds, which was slowly drifting from the valley upward to the peaks. A river ran through the valley, and off in the distance, I could see the town where I had made my journey from. The death of tourists meant that the town died with them. I was lucky enough to discover some remaining locals They had stayed because they wanted to worship the alien as their new god.
Plants and birds were in abundance in every direction. The lack of tourists in the last year seemed to have reinvigorated the local flora and fauna. Small blue and green critters ran in the distance. I couldn’t tell if it was a local or an extraterrestrial invader. Blubber looked up at me with his last remaining antenna. I had deducted by then that the red antenna looking thing was its eye. Remarkably enough, he showed no ill-will toward me. “You look hungry. Why don’t you go and see if you can find yourself breakfast.” He nodded and glided off. I lost him once he entered the bushes below my path.
As I walked the path toward the center of the ruin, the one where most tourists took their photo , I couldn’t help but think back to how I got to Machu Picchu. I had listened to the creature in Barcelona and had planned for the last year to make my way to the Incan ruins. It was actually easier than I had originally thought to get tickets to the country. The appearance and defeat of the Peruvian military pretty much killed off all tourism in the country. When I had arrived a few days earlier, there were riots in the street of their capital city as people demanded the government do something to bring back the tourists. A lot of that was happening worldwide actually. It had only been five years since Starfall, but in cities and countries where these aliens had made a permanent home, the citizens had been protesting for their government to do more. But by all reports no military had been able to defeat these newcomers. For better or for worse, humanity was starting to realize that the Starfall creatures were not going anywhere and had made Earth their new home.
As I continued to walk, I couldn’t help but continue to observe how beautiful the scenery was. While the clouds were blocking the view of the main ruins in front of me, I could still see the peaks of the bigger mountains in the background. Whenever the wind swept through the winding paths, birds and other unidentifiable creatures fluttered into the sky and disappeared into God’s breath. My jacket was a lifesaver. The air was definitely becoming colder.
A shuffling in the bushes behind me caused me to jump around but it was only Blubber. He had returned from his hunt. “Did you find something good to eat?” I asked him as I continued walking toward the main ruin. He nodded in reply. It was weird. I almost couldn’t remember a time when Blub wasn’t next to me.
About a dozen minutes later, I was in the midst of the main ruin, but the clouds were so thick that I couldn’t see even a few feet in front of me. My worst fear was that I would take the wrong step and fall into the ravine, and in effect, to my horrible death. The ruin rose up around me, blocks of granite rocks stuck together by some sort of mechanism that had allowed them to endure hundreds of years of abuse by wind, rain, and more recently, tourists. The ruin of Machu Picchu was an interesting archeological find. No one knew how the people got such large and heavy boulders up the mountain and no one knew what happened to the original inhabitants. By the time the landmark was discovered its creators were long gone. I was standing in a ghost town. And then I heard it. Some sort of sound that, to my ears, sounded remarkably close to that of wings flapping.
I slowly edged forward; fearful that I would fall to my death. All of a sudden, the clouds gave way around me, and the sun came out from its hibernation. Yellow rays of light filtered through the last remaining clouds and gave the former gray ruins a golden glow that turned it from a ghost town a minute ago into something that was more of a golden city. I could see an angled blonde beam tracing its path along the valley beneath, bringing its life-giving light to all the plants. When my eyes left the valley and returned to the majestic multi-layer main ruin in front of me, I saw it.
The Starfall creature in front of me was the closest real life approximation of the dragon in fantasy books I had ever seen. In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I would have posited that dragons in fantasy books were modeled after the beast in front of me. Its main body was like that of an egg, with two wide giant legs stuck to the side at the bottom, and an elongated neck at the top. Attached to the end of the neck was a giant head with layers of sharp fangs that were the size of a baseball bat. Its face was similar to that of an alligator, with giant blinking violet eyes on the side. There were three curved horns atop the head, with the two side ones an onyx color and the horn in the middle shining a brilliant golden glow. Eight massive rainbow colored wings, of over two hundred feet in length, were attached to its side. It had four arms protruding from the top half of its body, and a brown tail that was almost as long as its wings. Its skin was similar to that of an elephant; the skin looked like dried hide, but instead of gray like an elephant, it was a deep pitched emerald green. There also appeared to be something shimmering in front of the skin.
The clouds had been blocking my view when I was walking, and I found myself standing in the midst of the creature’s shadow. I could tell it had already seen me because it was lowering its massive head next to the ground where I was standing. Funny enough, I saw Blubber dashing in front of me as if it could protect me from this giant bringer of destruction. I understood then why the Peruvian military lost. They had no chance in hell.
“Ah!” it exclaimed. Its voice was a womanly voice. Or at least as close to a womanly voice as I could identify. Unlike some of the other aliens I had encountered, this one spoke verbally, instead of some type of telepathic waves. “I have a visitor!” It was speaking in an American English accent. It must be using the same device as the Barcelona creature.
I could only blink. I was quite possibly looking at the cause of my own death. “Now now, a gadang caught your tongue? And what do we have here?” It edged its head closer to us. “Why now, isn’t that a wonderful looking !@#$!” Again, like before, I couldn’t make out the sound that it made.
“You’re…” I stammered, “You’re using the same technology as the one in Barcelona aren’t you?”
“Pfft,” it snorted, “I see you’ve met the Watcher. Annoying fellow isn’t he? Can’t stand being in the same room as him. Way too talkative.”
“It’s a he?” I questioned.
“Well,” it said, in a deep contemplating voice, “the closest to an approximation of a he. For example, I would be something you would call a female. Except not really…hmm, how can I explain…but first thing’s first, you’re not here to shoot at me are you?”
Both Blubber and I gave each other a look and then I glanced back at the she-beast. “No…not really. Why would I do something like that?”
She flapped her massive wings and shrugged off the morning dew. “Just had to be sure! The last time I encountered humans you sent your primitive weaponry at me. I mean, I didn’t even mean to knock those jets down! I was just trying to move my wings so that they weren’t spoiled by the horrible fuel that those jets were using.” She sighed as she raised her head high up, “Just for that, I got called back by the Order to reprimand me. Ah well, that’s life.”
I was getting tired of standing and gawking up at the thing, so I moved to the side and sat on a nearby rock. The winged giant leisurely lied down next to me and propped her head up with one of her arms. “What was the reprimand?” I asked in curiosity.
“Ah, they took my kids away from me,” she answered nonchalantly.
“What?!” I exclaimed.
“No worries human. The kids will be fine. To be honest, I could use space from them. Their mother can take care of them for now,” she gave a grin and flashed those very sharp teeth.
“Mother? But I thought you were–”
“A female? Ah, I forgot! I was in the process of explaining this early. Sorry, bad memory and all. Getting way too old for my age. Now, see, in your specie, you only have one gender carry the baby. However, in my specie, the gender is defined when mating happens. When my mate and I were consummating our agreement to produce our kids, I came to realize that I was the female in the consummation, and he the male. Even then though, that’s all a gender is. Who preferred what during mating. But either of us could have gotten pregnant. It turned out that he was to be the mother of my babies, so he carried all twenty of them to term.”
“Twenty!?” I was almost beginning to believe I was dreaming.
“Yeah sure. Our population had dwindled quite a bit due to some prior wars, so we were given permission by the Order to be merry. You gotta understand though, I’m just trying to translate this into a term your puny brain can understand. Oh deary me, did I just insult you? You have to forgive me. This…language that I’m speaking. The words are all so confusing sometimes.”
“You were referred to as the Enlightener by the Watcher. What did he mean by that?” I didn’t even notice that Blubber had left for one of his hunts again. So I found myself alone with the giant she-beast. That was a scary thought.
“Well now, aren’t you the curious one,” she smiled as she moved close enough that I could see my reflection in her giant eyes. They were a deep brown color. “During Reseeding, which you humans called Starfall…holy. It’s been five years now. Insane! Well, in any case, there were five of us who arrived during that time. We were all given roles by the Order to make sure the Reseeding happened efficiently and peacefully.”
“Reseeding?” I felt I had stumbled onto something that was over my head.
“Hmm, maybe it’s better for you to see it instead. I am quite bad at explaining things. Horrible at it actually.” She raised one of her hands and extended out a talon. It was the size of a full grown human male. “Do not fear. This will not hurt. But I do need physical contact in order for the Link to happen.”
For some reason I trusted her words. I closed my eyes and felt a warm pressure in the middle of my forehead. And then the world expanded around me.
I saw planets flashing by with thousand mile wide cities, mountains that made Mount Everest look like an ant, and blue jungles enveloping an entire planet. The scenes melted and then I was in a room with pedestals in front of me. In front of the pedestals were five creatures, two of which I recognized. A voice harmonized within my brain. It mentioned Watcher, Enlightener, Protector, Judger, and Peacemaker. A new scene flashed by, this one of destruction and of war. Spaceships violently plowed into one another. Winged beings without spacesuits flew through the deep darkness and slayed one another. There was an orange sun, and then an explosion of a beautiful aquamarine planet. I was suddenly standing in the middle of what appeared to be a giant stadium. Then arguments broke out. Finally, small capsules were being carried to a giant circular…ship? I couldn’t understand what I was seeing, but I had already realized the implications.
“It’s an ark,” I opened my eyes. “Starfall. What happened five years ago. It was an ark. You sent an ark full of species from a dying planet to Earth…”
The winged she-beast sighed out loud. “A tragedy. There was a war between two rival species. One of them, wanting to end the war quickly, set off a neutralizer on the sun. By the time the Order found out, there wasn’t enough time to stop the bomb, so it was decided that we evacuate any beings of intelligence, or capable of it, to a new planet that was similar in conditions. Earth was it.”
“That’s not right is it? Our resources are already taxed as it is. How could you introduce new species into our fragile ecosystem without asking for our permission?” There was almost anger in my voice.
“Permission? HA!” She lifted her head up into the bright blue sky, “You should be glad we didn’t level some of your cities to make way for the Ark. Did you know that there are only so many livable planets in the galaxy? And here you humans are, slowly destroying a practically young and good one. No TJ, we did not need permission to settle on something that was ours!”
“Ours? What are you talking about?”
“It was the Order that sent off a single cell to Earth when it concluded that the planet had the right combination for life to exist. That was the Clause. Find a new planet, set off a single cell, and let evolution take over. They waited and waited, waiting to see what specie would rule the planet. We first thought it’d be your dinosaurs, but they were too stupid. However, the Order does not like destroying life, so it waited, hoping the reptiles would grow more intelligent. They did not. Luckily for you humans, a wandering comet destroyed most of them. You should be thankful. Your ancestors somehow survived that event, and developed into what you humans are today.”
“Are you saying you’re our Gods then?”
She chuckled heartily, “No, not Gods. More like, your lovable grandmothers who helped the best she could. Well, ugly loveable grandmothers. The Order isn’t what you humans would call the best looking crew out there.”
“Then why now? Why all this?”
“Meadra. That was the name of the planet that your green friend there came from.” She pointed one of her talons at the green blob as it sauntered toward us from a nearby corner. “We couldn’t let the species there die. We had to find a new home for them and Earth was it. Amazingly enough, after five years, it seems like the worst we thought would happen will not in fact happen.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked. I felt like a first grader trying to ask Einstein to explain his theory of relativity.
“We originally thought that humans would try to kill off the invading aliens, like you have killed off so many of your local creatures. That was why five of us were sent. A Watcher to watch and report, an Enlightener to explain if asked, a Protector to protect the new species, a Judger to deem if humanity is ready for the next step, and finally, a Peacemaker to ensure successful integration. But you did not. Some of you have tried, but the rest were more curious than destructive. That’s what amazes me about you humans. You’re at your worst when you’re destructive, and you’re at your best when you’re curious.”
“What do you mean by ‘ready for the next step’”? I asked in curiosity, trying to process the information as fast I could.
She grinned at me, “Why my dear TJ. To see if humanity has earned the right to join the intergalactic community, or has failed and needs to be deported from Earth!”
500 years after Starfall
THE PITCH BLACKNESS OF SPACE SWALLOWED THE SHIP’S VIEWSCREEN. I sat in my commander chair, silently studying the holographic table in front of me. There were seven ships in all, including my own. The enemy had shut down all engines, thereby making it impossible to mark their location. We had done the same a moment prior, and the game was on. Thousands of lives on these ships were looking to me to figure out a strategy. If I failed, everyone would die. If I succeed, the enemy would die. That was the brilliance of warfare. Regardless of what happened, someone would die.
A figure came to stand behind me. I already knew who it was before the voice spoke out.
“How are we looking Admiral?” Blubber asked, his green hue filtering the white ceiling light.
“It’s a deadspace. They could be right next to us and we probably won’t even know. There’s too much debris. Scanner’s not showing anything, and unless we get some type of activity from them, we’re in the dark.”
“Perhaps a remote drone then?”
I looked up at him and smiled. “There’s enough space out there to cover many thousands of sun over and over. I doubt we have enough remote drones to cover all that space.”
He nodded. Sometimes, it was quite difficult to get an emotion out of my green friend. “We got a ping from the 3rd Fleet. They have finished their encounter and have proceeded to the gadang’s home planet. The war is won Admiral.”
“Perhaps,” I turned back to the table in front of mine. From edge to edge, it showed the equivalent of ten astronomical units, with one unit the distance of the sun to the Earth. Somewhere in there my enemy was waiting. Waiting for my first move to Drift-Drive out so they could pounce. “But, we cannot leave this space. They might have been expecting a lost, and have thus traveled here and set up this trap for us.”
“What are you orders then?”
I sighed. We could wait for days on end until more backups arrive, but that would expose more lives to this pointless battle. I knew what I had to do, but the thought of it weighed heavily on my mind. But alas, that was the point of being a leader. To make the difficult decision that no one else would.
“Blubber, what’s the status on our ships?”
“Most have suffered minor hull damages from the previous encounters, but the majority are still at over ninety percent operational, although the Pilgrim is suffering from quite a bit of structural damage. It’s at sixty percent right now.”
I turned back to the table. Seven ships. Thousands of lives. “How many are still alive on the Pilgrim?”
“About three thousand sir. Might I inquire why you ask?”
“Command all ships to be at Battlestation Level 5. Patch me into the Pilgrim’s intercom system. I need to talk to them.”
Blubber did not question my order. He saluted and went to relay my instructions to the other ships. Faithful Blubber. I wonder if he would remain with me until the end of days. A quick blip in my ear told me that the patch had gone through. I sat down on my chair and touched a green dial on my side, and a green light began blinking in front of my personal viewscreen.
“This is Admiral TJ, High Commander of the 5th Fleet Strike Force,” I began. I wondered if they could hear the anguish in my voice. Or was that excitement? I couldn’t tell. “As you know, we are at the end of our war with the gadang. I must thank you, the crew of the Pilgrim, for your patriotic effort in the war to defend humanity’s presence in space. I now must ask you to make a decision. We are currently blind in space and cannot see where the enemy is. A brief ping when we first entered the system showed that there were about thirteen of their ships out there, with three of them being Dreadnaughts. The only way we will win this battle is through first strike, which we cannot do unless we know their position.” My voice trailed off. They already knew what I was going to say next. Before I could though, a female voice spoke on the other end.
“Admiral, this is Captain Derela.” Derela. One of my mentees. I had met her a century earlier when her father introduced me to her as a vibrant child with dark brown eyes and light blonde hair. My heart ached. I had not spoken to her for months, but I thought she was supposed to be halfway across the galaxy…
“Captain Derela,” I calmly said. I did not want to frighten the Pilgrim’s crew with any emotions. “I thought you were supposed to be in recovery?”
“I was Admiral,” her voice responded. So full of energy that one. “But, I wanted to get back into the war. These savages took my crew from me, and I wanted to repay them in kind. As it turned out, the Pilgrim had lost their captain a few weeks prior, so I took my remaining crew members and joined this great ship.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
There was silence on the other end. And then she spoke up again, “Admiral. The crew of the Pilgrim and I are ready to do our job. Please tell the other ships to be prepared. We have already started the clock on the engine. It will activate in thirty seconds. Thank you for everything Admiral.” The voice cut out. I didn’t slam my desk in frustration or try to reconnect. That was the benefit of having lived as long as I have. Losses become just numbers.
“Admiral,” Blubber said. “All ships are ready at your command.”
I looked down at the holographic screen, and marked the outermost ship in red. “Tell them to prepare all weapons and be ready to lock and fire at the moment the Pilgrim activates her engine booster.”
He saluted and left. I sat back down in my chair and raised my hands to my chin. A few moments later, on the ship’s giant viewscreen, brilliant lights of lasers and artillery-cannon explosions converged on a single point of space to my command ship’s right. Three seconds after that, my own armada returned fire with its own rainbows of lasers and missiles and artillery fire. The pitch blackness of space gave way to a concert of pulse laser fire that lit up the sky. First there were the violet colors of the shield lasers designed to neutralize shield energies. Then came the orange wide-beam of the structure lasers created to pierce through the tough structural outercast of the gadang battleships. Finally, the aquamarine heavy lasers, built to pierce through the enemy’s ships’ hull and shatter all life on contact. The missiles and projectile cannons that came afterward finished up the job.
The battle was over. A brilliant explosion reverberated an astronomical unit away. A second later it disappeared from the main HUD of the ship. I looked to my green commanding officer and gave a nod.
“Battlestation: Level 1. The enemy has been destroyed. Move in for the mop up.”
“Casualty report Commander?” I asked.
“The majority of the ships are facing light hull damages, and the Kingslayer is facing a fire in its engine room. But besides that, not too bad…”
“And the Pilgrim?”
“We sent shuttles sir, but…”
Blubber trailed his sentence off. I didn’t need to inquire further.
“Sir, we’re picking up an unidentified ship hiding behind the second moon’s shadow.”
“No sir. It appears to be a civilian transport. This must have been the enemy’s cargo ship sir. We had reports there might have been gadang slavers in the region.”
“Get me a combat team. I’ll go myself.”
He didn’t try to stop me. After being together for so long, Blub knew when I was determined to do what I wanted.
Two of my assault marines detonated the door onto the main hold of the ship. When we got through, I saw two gandangs holding up their rifles. They were surrendering. I pushed through them to look at the huddled mass of flesh that was squatting on the ground. Humans. They were transporting humans. I approached what appeared to look like a boy with onyx color skin. He looked up at me with brilliant green colored eyes. They were eyes of defiance.
“Are you okay son?” I said as I took off my helmet.
He nodded. Poor creature. His frail body showed his abuse and lack of food. “It’s okay. You’re safe now. We’ll get you out of here as soon as we can.”
He nodded again and pointed at the huddled mass behind him. “Hungry,” he said.
“I know. You’re a brave fellow aren’t you? What’s your name?” I could feel the anger boiling up in me.
“Kit,” he responded.
“Kit is it? Well Kit, I need you to do one last thing for me. You’re a brave soldier. So I have an order for you okay?” He nodded again. “I need you to close your eyes, and cover your ears for one second. Can you do that?”
With the boy’s eyes closed and ears covered, I walked back to the two gadang, down on their tentacle knees, took a combat blade from one of the nearby marines, and drove it point first into the creatures’ neck and up to its brain. Its black colored eyes turned into a hazy milky white fluid. The other gadang jumped up in fear and began running for the door. Before the marine could shoot, I held up my hand to stop him, and tossed the knife. It flew through the air as if dancing with the limited oxygen in the room, and found its home inside the creature’s brain. The body instantly collapsed, twitched for a few seconds, and stopped moving. I turned to the marines in the room and quietly said, “No one saw anything. Clear the captives. We’re burning this ship.”
- I would rather run free than run on a hamster wheel
- The Endlust War Chapter 6: Evolution