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Legacy of Earth: Genesis | Ch 6

10/17/2021

CH 06

Kingsburgh, California, Conclave Headquarters

“Kaydence!” a familiar voice exclaimed as I entered the council chambers. I blinked and paused, regarding Reyna Feldstone. There was far more warmth in her voice than I had expected.

She didn’t seem to have aged a day since I’d last seen her, but it’d been almost a decade. She must have been close to a hundred years old, but looked like she’d just rounded forty. In an era where humanity had learned to slow its aging, Reyna’s youthful appearance was still remarkable. I would never consider Grey’s grandmother to be attractive, young or old, but there was something about the wide set of her features and the intensity of her eyes that made her striking in her own way.

I glanced about the chamber and was unsurprised to see the same council members were present as the previous session I’d attended, with the notable exception of my grandmother. There were, however, several different faces. A pale woman, who would be rather pretty if she didn’t look like she was trying her damndest to make her eyes pop out of their sockets, met my gaze and tilted her head, a gesture reminiscent of the Dexagarmetrax and stared at me with her too-wide eyes. I diverted my attention, unnerved by her stare, and glanced at General Arnoff, who nodded and smiled at me. I returned the gesture and moved on to the final inhabitant of the room, Nyvok Nakyrr.

“Miss Briggs,” the dome headed fellow with the wisps of hair above his ears rose wearing a smile that didn’t quite extend to his eyes. “We’re glad that you could join us. Please, be seated.”

I peered about, and took the nearest empty seat, which was right between Nyvok and Miss Wide-eyes. Nyvok gave me a curt nod, a human gesture, but his eyes didn’t seem to register me. His attention was focused on the woman sitting on the opposite side of me. When I met her gaze, she smiled, stretching her mouth into an almost unnaturally tight smile. “It is pleasing to once again meet your acquaintance.”

This raised my eyebrows since I didn’t know her from Adam. She had the blue hair and magenta eyes of a joined host, so perhaps she had undergone a physical transformation at the hand of her symbiote, but I never got the chance to ask. 

The dome-headed man stood, clearing his throat, and scowled at me. He looked around, fingering his collar. “As interim chairperson, I will conduct this session. Brothers and sisters, I am pleased to welcome General Arnoff from the United Earth Alliance Fleet, Plenipotentiary Nyvok Nakyrr of the Gieff Confederacy and the former ambassador from Dexagarmetraxia, who as yet has not picked a new name for herself.”

He gestured to the wide-eyed woman and smiled. I peered at her just in time to see her throw back her head and belt out a single high-pitched squeal much like something the doctor might produce. Good lord, no wonder she reminded me so much of a Dexagarmetrax. She used to be one. I couldn’t speculate why or how she ended up with a human mug, but something told me it wasn’t just for shits and giggles.

‘Crae?’
I thought out loud, not realizing I was broadcasting my words for all to hear until everyone in the room, save Arnoff, turned to look at me. I blushed, focused all my will at the K’teth and tried again.

‘Crae, are you in there?’

‘Yes, Kayde, I’m here.’

That confirmed my suspicions, but before I could press Crae for anymore details, baldy started talking again.

“And finally, you’ve all met young Kaydence Briggs, Kaya’s granddaughter.” He said, followed by a long pause, before a solemn frown creased his lips.

“We have a rather full agenda for tonight,” he said at last after releasing a sigh, “but before we get started, begging our guests’ indulgence, there is one matter we must attend to. It is never an easy task to fill the position vacated by a deceased colleague, but it will be difficult to function without one of our numbers. It has fallen upon us to take up this sad duty.”

The whole thing felt a bit, like he was putting on a show, especially when Baldy kept glancing across the room at me with malicious glee in his eyes. Several times he eyed Reyna Feldstone and tilted his head in an almost imperceptible nod. Yeah, whatever he was up to, it couldn’t be good, and it didn’t seem to bode too well for me.

‘Khala, any clue what the hell Mr. Luscious Locks is up to?’
I thought at the symbiote, making extra sure I wasn’t broadcasting to the whole room.

‘If you mean the bald fellow, I wouldn’t know. I am a little out of the loop, remember? When I was last involved in the council politics, Kell Seymour wasn’t so far up the council totem, but he was quite opinionated. He seldom agreed with Lexa, which might tell us something. Then again, you may just want to ask Crae. She’ll have a better idea of his goals.’

I glanced at Hexapledra and arched an eyebrow, repeating my question to her symbiote.

‘I’m not privy to the most recent council dealings as I was a bit… busy trying to save my new host the last few weeks, but if I had to guess, I’d say he’s trying to force a vote. Reyna has been on the short list to join the council for some time. If he can manipulate matters and keep other potentials away long enough, it would all but guarantee her a seat on the council. She doesn’t possess the same charmingly abrasive personality as Kell Seymour, but Reyna holds similar opinions. Not surprising considering they’re rumored to be longtime lovers.’

Eying Seymour with a forced smile, I swallowed hard. Given my uncle’s warning and considering she was the only non-council member present besides Arnoff, Nyvok, the former Ambassador and myself, her presence didn’t exactly give me the warm tinglies. 

I was too young to make it onto the council, even if someone were to nominate me. While, yes, a council position belonged to both host and K’teth, and Khala was among the oldest and most respected symbiotes within the conclave, it didn’t negate the fact that I was so very inexperienced in council politics and, well, life in general.

“–in mind, it’s about time we offered Reyna a council seat.” Seymour spoke, and I returned all my attention to him. More than a little afraid I might miss some crucial detail if I kept chattering away with Crae and Khala.

A slender woman, Dharma Gregory who looked so frail that I wondered if she might snap in half if she were caught up in a strong gust of wind, rose to her feet, eyes searching the council chambers before speaking with a soft, yet steady voice. “I second.”

“And I third.” The woman with such prominent crow’s feet from the previous meeting lurched from her seat so fast it almost qualified as jumping.

“Thank you, Dharma, and to you, Ellia. Is there anyone here who would like to put a name out?”

I turned to Crae’s new host, a question occurring to me. ‘If I make a proposal to the council, would Seymour support me?’

‘Unlikely, he’s long criticized Kaya and the Briggs family for allowing the conclave to get too cozy with the government. He claims it has led to too much compromise with the rights of joined pairs.’ Her response was what I expected, but I only clenched my eyes shut and bowed my head.

“Shit,” I mouthed the word, imagining all my plans crumbling around me as Seymour continued.

“There are other candidates. Has it not been tradition to give the opportunity to all the interested parties?” A man rose. He spoke with the barest hint of a South Asian accent. It was unusual, but not unheard of. 

When the Qharr occupied Earth, they relocated much of the human population. After the Earth Reclamation Force liberated our world a hundred and sixty years ago, and freed the human slaves, many of those people elected to return to their birthplaces, but some stayed. To this day, there remained isolated pockets of different cultural groups scattered in locations on entirely different continents from their ancestral homes. Some integrated with the cultures in those areas, but others remained separate, maintaining their culture and traditions.

“I sent invitations out to a number of perspective candidates, as suggested by several colleagues and none bothered to show as you can well see. We can put this off if you like, but I for one would like this body to be whole again.”

The man bowed, but didn’t return to his seat. Instead, he glanced over toward me. “In that case I nominate Kaydence Briggs.”

“W-what?” I gasped and leapt to my feet. “You can’t be serious!”

“Is this a joke, Bhupinder? Miss Briggs is a little young for such a position, don’t you think?”

“I am dead serious, Kell. She has the benefit of being bonded to Khala. It seems likely her symbiote’s many years of experience and wisdom will balance out her reckless tendencies.”

“I have no doubts about Khala’s qualifications, if it weren’t for her none of us would be here, but according to council bylaws a candidate must be a member of the conclave for at least ten years before they are eligible for consideration. We must abide by these guidelines as set apart by our founders, Khala among them, or they mean nothing. Now, let’s move things forward.”

Seymour looked around, his features pinched like someone who’d just swallowed something sour and I got the sense he was daring someone to challenge him. When nobody did, he nodded and let a smile creep onto his narrow face. 

“Then we vote.”

I sighed and leaned into my chair as the council prepared.

‘Crae?’ I thought. ‘What happened to your host? How is she human?’

Crae appeared sitting cross-legged atop the table before me, an apologetic smile creasing her lips as several members of the council paused and regarded her with disapproving frowns. “You know the few attempted bondings with a Dexagarmetrax resulted in the symbiote’s death.”

I frowned as the K’teth continued. “The Phyrr Lesch may have used your ancestors for a template to create the Dexagarmetrax, but they altered their biology to a much greater extent than the Qharr. Their immune systems resist the symbiosis process. I can only guess, but it may have been a deliberate attempt by our creators to prevent them from becoming joined to a symbiote. They wouldn’t want their hand servants to become a threat to them, now would they?”

‘Then how did you change her?’

“With some help from me, her body fought off the parasite that had infected it, perhaps through the same resistance the Dexagarmetrax has to my kind, but the process had left her weakened and on the cusp of death. That enabled me to overtake the ambassador’s immune system and start the bonding process. Still, there were certain incompatibilities that had to be resolved. The vision of loveliness you see before you was the result.”

Lovely was not a word I would use to describe her. The former Dexagarmetrax was pretty in her new human form, but her weird jerky movements and that wide shit-eating grin prevented me from finding her attractive.

Crae put a finger up to her lips, then glanced over her shoulder at Seymour before vanishing. Taking her cue, I let my attention settle back on council proceedings just as Seymour read out the results. I waited on bated breath as they tallied the numbers. No really. I mean, what would be more freaking exciting than learning the results of a vote that I already knew the outcome?

With no one to oppose her, Reyna’s admittance was all but assured. The whole thing felt calculated, like Seymour had been manipulating the whole thing. The worst part was there wasn’t jack shit I could do about it. I know they were just following protocol, but fuck, what a damn waste. Eight members voted for Reyna and the remaining three abstained. 

I didn’t understand enough about conclave politics to ascertain whether that was unusual, but it suggested that I might have at least three potential allies. At the very least, they might be less inclined to support Kell Seymour or Reyna Feldstone if they attempted to bar me from involvement in the Endeavour investigation.

Seymour’s eyes scanned the room. “General, ambassadors, Ms. Briggs.”

His eyes lingered on me just a little longer than the others, but turned away as he continued. “Seeing as any potential chairperson has not been fully apprised of all variables of the Endeavour situation, we’ll abstain from selecting a permanent chairperson for the time being and get right to business. As with our previous meeting, we’ll be following formal protocols. If you wish to speak, press the button on the table before you and if it flashes, the floor is yours. General Arnoff, we’re readt for you now.”

Arnoff rose to his feet, a stern expression on his face that helped offset his bland continence. He nodded to me before speaking. “First, I’d like to apologize, especially to Miss Briggs, for the information leak within the Fleet. We’ve identified the person, and disciplinary action has been taken.”

He paused long enough to give me a pointed look, then continued. “Save for your newest member, you’ve all been appraised of the information concerning the Endeavour and the attacks from the mysterious creatures.”

Reyna blinked looking, up at the General with eyes so wide you might think someone had slapped her in the face. “W-what?”

“Sorry, for the interruption general, we’ll do better at following protocol from here on out. Reyna, interface with the conclave’s central database. I just added your credentials. The general has been good enough to upload all available information on the incidences involving those creatures and the Endeavour.” Seymour nodded to the newest council members before gesturing to Arnoff.

The General continued, showing no sign he was the least bit perturbed by the interruption. 

“We’ve conducted a thorough search and forensic sweep, and gathered precious few clues. The Valiant’s encounter with the alien ship has provided a bit more intelligence, but not as much as we’d like. What we know is we’re dealing with an enemy with superior technology and who appear to be skilled at genetic manipulation. The creatures we’ve encountered so far have been mindless beasts, but if they are being controlled by the parasites as my science team has concluded, we may encounter alternate more cunning forms of these beasts along the way.”

“What about those the creatures infected?” I asked with the slightest tremor in my voice, only remembering to push the button after I’d spoken.

Arnoff bowed his head and then gazed at me with a smoldering fire burning in his eye. So intense was his gaze, that it seemed likely I would have taken a step back had I been standing. When he spoke, however, I realized the rage that burned inside of him was not directed at me, but at himself. “They’re still in stasis. What we’ve learned from bioscans and blood samples, both from yourself and the ambassador, shows promise, but my people tell me it might be years before we can purge the parasites from their systems. Thankfully, stasis seems to have halted further spread of the organism.”

I nodded and bit my lip, a sinking feeling forming in the pit of my stomach. Arnoff didn’t say it, but we knew of at least one cure, becoming bonded to a K’teth. Symbiotes weren’t a dime a dozen, and if Khala’s comments on combating the parasite within my body were any sign, there was no guarantee the symbiote would defeat the invading organism. I couldn’t say why the General said nothing further. Perhaps he knew it would open a can of worms. Symbiotes only became available when a new one was born or a host passed away. It would be months, perhaps even years, before that happened. If one did, was it fair to ask him or her to risk their life in the off chance they’d be able to combat such an invasive organism?

“Based on the information we’ve gathered, the attacks on the Valiant and Endeavour would seem to have been perpetrated by the same group or organization. Also worth noting, there is one item that connects both attacks, the box first found by the Endeavour’s crew, among them Sophia Briggs, and later recovered by her daughter, Kaydence Briggs. 

Our scientists have determined it’s powered by a form of fusion, but beyond that, the exact specifics of how it operates is a matter of some debate. The device’s power core became unstable when activated on the Endeavour by Ms. Briggs. After reactivating the device, we were able to stabilize it. It appears to only become active once exposed to an oxygen atmosphere. When it does so, it emits what seems to be some sort of transponder signal. It is what enabled them to find the Valiant and the Centennial Hawk after Kaydence Briggs recovered the box.”

“In addition to this signal, the box seems to work as a kind of data storage device. We could not interface with it, but our scientists believe that it’s possible. We’re operating on limited information, but it seems logical to conclude that these aliens may be after whatever data may be stored on the device.”

“Last night, the UEA Security Council held a closed session and authorized me to organize a task force to deal with and investigate the threat posed by these unidentified attackers. As the Conclave had a direct hand in the original Endeavour expedition, I’ve convinced the Council of the need for your involvement. I’ve already forwarded a list of resources and personnel we require. Considering the device’s link to the Phyrr Lesch, we’re seeking any expertise and information the Conclave has to offer.” 

He hesitated and glimpsed at me, the slightest smile touching the corner of his lips. “Furthermore as Miss Briggs was the one responsible for finding the Endeavour and her symbiote’s firsthand knowledge of the events leading up to its disappearance and given that Sofia Briggs was an expert on the Phyrr Lesch I have to believe that the symbiote must have gleamed much of that knowledge from her previous host. Between the two of them, their knowledge and expertise will be invaluable to our efforts.”

“I want to be very clear. This is not a conclusion I’ve come to lightly. Kell Seymour fears that both Khala and Ms. Briggs’ experiences, while of obvious value, would create a conflict of interest within the investigation. While I understand these concerns, the benefits of utilizing such expertise outweigh any risks and her inclusion is the one condition I have to the your involvement, which is why I would like her to serve as an intermediary between the Conclave and the fleet.” He cast a sidelong glance at the other man.

“In an unprecedented show of cooperation, both the Confederacy,” he paused holding an open palm to Nyvok and then nodded at the former Dexagarmetrax, “and the government of Dexagarmetraxia have both pledged ships to the task force in what will be the first joint venture between all three races.”

“It is shameful that it took an attack on one of your ships to bring our people together in a common cause.” Nyvok spoke after pressing his own button and rising to his feet. “I am eager to lend aid and put an end to this troubling threat, as are my superiors within the Gieff Confederacy. It is a small token, but one I hope that will help show that Qharr attitudes towards our human cousins have changed.”

“Thank you, ambassador,” Seymour said, taking the floor once again. “General, if that is everything, I believe we can proceed.”

The general nodded and stood, marching through the exit without another word. Nyvok watched the general leave, but did not depart as I expected.

“Now, there’s just a few matters left. First, I’d like to open the floor to Ambassador Nakyrr.”

Nyvok rose to his feet again and peered about the room. “Thank you Kell Seymour. Since the Gieff came into power, there has been a dramatic shift in the attitudes of my people. I would say that most of these have been positive, but our Gieff cousins have long distrusted the K’teth and their bias has begun to rub off on my people. For some time, I have attempted to create a cultural exchange between the Edant K’teth and your Conclave. I believe Kaya Briggs called it a passion project. So it is with great pleasure to announce to you that my government has agreed to allow this exchange.”

“We will begin a full dozen applicants, on both Tel’c and Earth, who, if accepted, shall spend a full year learning from their…. What is the word? Counterparts on the other world? Anyone familiar with the Edant K’teth known that it has long been an informal organization that has had little to tie its members together except for a name and a common… condition. That is changing. 

Inspired by the human example, that is your Conclave, it is my pleasure to announce the formation of the first Edant K’teth Consortium. I have convinced my superiors that their distrust of the K’teth would be better assuaged by adopting the human model of cooperation between host and symbiote. Public announcements will be made within the next few days by the Confederacy, the newly created Consortium and your Conclave. Thank you.”

Following the ambassador’s announcement, there was a whole slur of questions. I leaned back in my seat, folded my arms across my chest and shook my head, ready for the damned meeting to come to an end. I assumed that when the questions dwindled away and the Nyvokk was finally done answering them, that I’d get to leave. Boy, was I ever wrong.

“One other piece of business,” Kell Seymour said. Glancing at the ambassador as the Qharr sank back into his seat. After what felt like hours of incessant queries and explanations. I could say it was the first and only time I was glad to hear the asshole speak.

“As you all have, no doubt, gathered.” He peered at Hexapledra and smiled. “The former Dexagarmetrax ambassador was attacked by one of the parasitical creatures, set upon us by Kaydence Briggs, in the same attack that brought about the death of our former chairperson, Kaya Briggs. Crae, Kaya’s symbiote, survived by burrowing into the ambassador. I won’t bore you with all the details, but complications arose, Crae’s symbiotic abilities and the ambassador’s Dexagarmetrax physiology were their saving grace, but given to certain incompatibilities those same factors could have led to their downfall. Thankfully, for both their sakes, Crae found a workaround by granting the ambassador a human form.”

“Indeed!” The former ambassador emitted a screech, her face stretching into an ungodly grin.

Seymour rolled his eyes and clenched his jaw, but kept his voice neutral. “The former ambassador has, as a result, resigned from her position with the Dexagarmetrax government and has requested citizenship within the UEA so that she may experience, in her own words, ‘what it is to be human’.”

He paused and glanced at me with a creepy-ass gleam in his eyes, displaying a toothy grin before continuing. “We have already agreed that we should induct her into the Conclave, but there is one minor matter to resolve. Our friend is a stranger to humanity’s ways and our culture and has asked for someone to mentor her. She named one person in particular: Ms. Kaydence Briggs.”

The once Dexagarmetrax beamed at me and jerked her crown sideways just before our gazes could lock. I had no idea what was going through her skull. I found it odd that she would choose me, a person who’d spent most of her life resenting her heritage and grandmother by extension, and someone who had driven off the only person she could imagine herself having a deep and lasting relationship with. It was utterly baffling and so deeply ironic. 

“I know it would be a heavy burden, for someone with such high expectations as the new liaison between the fleet and Conclave, but if Ms. Briggs would take the time out of her busy schedule, our new friend would be–”

Okay, that did it. I held my hand up and cut the jackass short. The little shit was trying to scare me off, but hell, Kaya Briggs raised me. If he thought he could pull that crap on me, well, two could play that kind of game. If I gave in or refused, he’d see it as a victory, but that wasn’t to say I couldn’t turn the situation to my advantage.

Fuck, who’d have thought I’d be playing politics like my grandmother? I swallowed hard and rose from my feet. When I slipped my hand over the indent in front of me, I cleared my throat and took the floor.

“Of course, I would be happy to help the former ambassador. She faces a tough road ahead. I, of all people, perhaps, understand better how difficult such a drastic change must be. There is no better way to understand the human condition than to live and work amongst other humans. Her knowledge and expertise would be a valued asset in our investigation. If she would consent to work alongside me?”

Kell scowled back at me, and I fought damn hard to keep my triumph from showing on my face. If I was going to get under his skin, I had to maintain my composure. It was damn hard, but I think I managed it if the look he gave me was any indication.

“Thank you, Ms. Briggs, and to you ambassador for your agreeing to assist the Conclave in these matters. We will not overlook your cooperative attitude in the future. We no longer require your presence here, so if you will excuse us, there are some matters the Senior Council needs to discuss which are of a sensitive nature.”

Though it was a bit of a turnaround, I don’t think there had been a time in my life when I wanted to stay in one place, but I doubted if I lurked about he’d let me listen in. I looked around the room one last time and departed with the ambassador in tow. Despite my disappointment, I had high hopes for the future. Arnoff had, in effect, given me a chance to get to the bottom of my loved ones’ death. I would not waste the opportunity.tran

Facades

07/02/2021

All his life Jake Melton hid behind a mask. When he returned home, upon learning of his abusive mother’s death, fate intervenes and his life is changed forever.

Author's Note

With her passing I’m rededicating this story in Maggie Finson’s name. I think it only fitting since she came up with the title.

This story was original shared on Decemeber 04, 2012 on Bigcloset Topshelf.

Shout outs go to the following people: Beyogi and Maggie Finson who served as a beta readers, and the late Holly H Hart for her superb editing prowess.

This story has so much meaning for me, it was written so long before my egg cracked. In retrospect, I believe had I delved deeper into this story, it probably would have cracked much sooner. You’ll probably understand why once you’ve read it.

Sometimes your past has a way of sneaking up on you. For some folks that could be a good thing, but for me it nearly always meant trouble. Now I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not as if I lived a violent life of crime or anything like that. When you grow up in the sort of mess that I did your past isn’t exactly something you like to dwell on. My father died when I was very young and my mother, discontent with her lot in life, turned to alcohol in order to cope. She was a mean, bitter and manipulative woman, and she made my life a living hell. I’d been lucky in one respect, at least, a lot of people who grew up in abusive homes were beaten. My mother only ever tried to hit me once, and by then I was both bigger and stronger than her. When she hit me, I hit back, and she never so much as laid a finger on me again.

My mother always had a handle over me. She knew just what buttons to push to get me to do what she wanted and she manipulated me with the skill of a master puppeteer and much to my shame I let her do it. My mother could read me like a book, and had known whenever I was keeping something from her, but there was one secret she’d never guessed at. Perhaps, she knew and just wouldn’t accept it or perhaps the mask I wore was so convincing that even she couldn’t see through my carefully laid facade.

You see, for as long as I could remember I’d been convinced I was meant to be born a girl. My memories of my early childhood were foggy at best, so I can only surmise that something scared me enough to bottle my feelings up and keep them concealed. I sometimes thought that my mother may have had played a hand in this, but I doubted I would ever know for sure, especially now that she is dead.

I hadn’t spoken to her for years, and I’d been perfectly content to leave it that way so it had come as a pretty big surprise when I got the call about her death. The call came from an old friend, one whom I hadn’t heard from in years, but one who had been on my mind nearly every day since I’d left home almost ten years ago. Katie, my closest friend growing up, and the only person I’d ever truly loved. I spent years trying to work up the courage to ask her out, but I was far too afraid to put our friendship at risk. It seemed fate was not without a cruel sense of irony, in our senior year my hopes were dashed and I learned that devastating truth, Katie was a lesbian. She was only attracted to girls, and despite my secret belief that I was meant to be a girl, I knew we could never be together. Completely heartbroken, I left town once we graduated and never returned.

It was just two days before Christmas when I got the call, and as always I was spending the holidays alone. It wasn’t that I didn’t have any friends, but there were just too many bad memories and I would just as soon drown myself in alcohol and spend my Christmas in a drunken stupor. I’d only had two beers and was about to start in on a third when I heard the phone ring. I almost didn’t answer it, but for some reason I had this nagging feeling that it might be important.

“Jake?” a soft and melodic female voice asked from the receiver.

My heart skipped a beat and I felt ice cold chills shoot down my spine. It had been almost ten years since I’d heard her speak, and despite the subtle changes that time had made to her voice I still recognized the speaker as Katie immediately.

Memories came to me unbidden and I fought to keep my emotions from getting the better of me. “Katie?”

“God, it’s good to hear your voice. I just wish it were under better circumstances,” Katie said from the other end. There was a distinct tone of tension to her voice and I just knew that something was up.

“Katie? How did you get this number? What’s wrong?” I asked her feeling a lump form in my throat.

“It’s actually Deputy Forenst now, I work for the Sheriff’s office. Look Jake, I wanted to be the one to tell you. Your mother, we found her dead yesterday morning.”

“Shit… How?”

“She took her own life. I’m sorry.”

My hand, the one holding the receiver, started to shake and I felt all my bitterness and anger rise to the surface only to mingle with guilt and grief. My mother, my tormentor for so many years was gone. I wasn’t sure how I should feel and I was having trouble reconciling the sudden flood of conflicting emotions.

“Jake?”

“Yeah, I’m still here… I just… I haven’t heard from my mother in so long and now to learn that she’s dead. God, I don’t know how to feel,” I said, hot tears stinging my cheeks.

“Jake, I… if you don’t want to come home. After all that woman did to you–”

“No,” I said cutting her suddenly short. “I think I need to see for myself.”

After a long conversation Katie offered to let me stay at her place and I reluctantly agreed. I didn’t want to impose on her, but I had nowhere else to stay, as my hometown of Meridian was so small it didn’t have a hotel and I sure as hell wasn’t staying in my mom’s place. I was still reeling from the news of my mother’s death and I wasn’t quite sure how to react. A part of me wanted to curl up in a ball and cry, and the other wanted to jump up in the air and shout out in glee. I know it sounds horrible, but my mother had brought me nothing but grief, and in a weird sort of way her death came as a relief.

I let out a long sigh, walked over to where I’d left my still unopened third beer and picked it up. I stood there holding it in my hand, and stared at it blankly for a moment. I shook my head, set the beer back down then sank down to my knees and started to weep.

“Dammit!” I cursed and turned my windshield wipers up to full speed.

It was Christmas Eve, and the drive to Meridian, my hometown, had been pretty sedate to begin with, but just a few hours in it had started to snow. It wasn’t really all that bad at first, but the closer I got to Meridian the more heavily it came down. I could only see a few yards in front of me and it didn’t show any signs of letting up. The mountain road that led into Meridian was hazardous, even under the best of conditions, and I was really beginning to regret my decision to come. I sighed, and flipped my car star stereo on. Adam Gontier’s voice screamed out the lyrics to I Hate Everything About You, and I could feel the singer’s emotions as acutely as if they were my own.

The song had come out when I was still living with my mother, and had quickly become one of my favorites. As of late my musical tastes had moved away from the angrier and more angst ridden stuff I’d listened to in High School, but for whatever reason that particular song had remained in my playlists, and at the moment it was just the sort of song I wanted to hear. I hated my mother, I hated that her death had affected me as it had. I had never had any intention of returning to Meridian, but there I was, doing just that. It was as if my mother had reached out to manipulate me one last time from beyond the grave.

Still, it would be nice seeing Katie, despite how much it would hurt. I still had pretty strong feelings for her, and I knew those feelings would never be returned. It was strange that after so long that my emotions would remain so strong. Maybe I was just clinging to the unattainable so that I wouldn’t get hurt by anyone else. It went to show just how pathetic I really was. I was afraid to get married, and afraid to have kids for fear that I would do what my mother had done to me and ruin my own children’s lives. It was better that I remain alone so that the cycle of abuse could be broken, or at least that’s what I told myself.

For the first time in years I found myself thinking about my gender identity. Well that’s not really accurate, I thought about it all the time, but this was the first time in a long time that I had really put any deep contemplation into it. Over the years I had carefully constructed an image of myself for the outside world to see. I did everything I could to appear as an ordinary guy, but that image was a lie. At one point I considering seeing a gender therapist, but the thought of hormone therapy and SRS held no appeal to me. I wanted to so desperately to be a woman, but I was tall and was pretty well built like a tank. With my face and body I didn’t think I could ever make a passable woman, and I’d always feel like I was pretending to be something that I wasn’t.

The tune changed to Norns by HeavensDust and I was about to reach down to change tracks when I caught a glimmer of light out of the corner of my eye. I looked up to find a pair of headlights headed right at me. I swerved out of the way in time to avoid getting hit, but I went flying off the road. For a moment my car teetered over the edge of the mountain’s cliff, but then the car suddenly jerked sideways and everything went black.

My head felt like some deranged carpenter had been beating at it with a mallet as vision slowly returned to me. I reached up to touch my forehead and felt something warm and slick, when I pulled my hand away I found that it was covered in blood. I took a deep breath and thought I might pass out from the pain as stabbing sharp agony shot from the lower-left section of my rib cage. I groaned, and turned my head to take stock of my situation. My car’s descent appeared to have been halted by a small copse of oak trees, but I had no idea how far down the mountainside I’d fallen, as the snowfall was so thick by then that I could only see a few feet in any direction outside the car.

The front of my car had crumpled inward and I was pinned against the steering wheel. All attempts to free myself were an exercise in futility and only resulted in more pain. The good news was that I could move my feet, so I wasn’t paralyzed. My biggest concern was that I was bleeding pretty badly, and if someone didn’t find me soon I feared I might bleed to death.

I gave up on trying to get free and focused on trying to keep warm. I was wearing my coat, which provided a great deal of insulation, but it was damn cold, and snow was drifting into the car from a crack in the rear window so I knew that it wasn’t going to be enough. I slipped my hand into the sleeve of my coat and lifted it up to the bloody gash on my forehead. Short of tearing off a sleeve I didn’t have any means of cutting off the blood flow, so my coat sleeve would have to do.

I found myself drifting off and I realized it would probably be bad for me to fall unconscious again. I’d banged up my head pretty good, and I thought I might just have a concussion. I fought against my drowsiness and did the only thing I could think of to keep myself awake, I sang. Like my mother, I’d been gifted with a pretty good singing voice, and one of the few good memories I had of her was of the two of us singing together. Of course, the first thing I could think of happened to be ‘White Christmas’, which seemed an oddly fitting tune for my current predicament.

Singing was second nature to me, and it didn’t take me long to turn to more melancholy tunes like ‘Everybody Hurts’ by REM, but as I struggled to stay awake the lyrics started to slip from my mind. I eventually just started to scream out in misery. I don’t remember all of it, but I do remember calling out to whatever god, goddess or gods would listen to me, begging them to end my pain. I didn’t want to live anymore, I hated my life, I hated my body and I didn’t want to live with it any longer.

I could never bring myself to completely discount the possibility that there was a God, but I’d never really put much stock in the idea of a wise, merciful, omnipotent and omniscient god. If there really was a God, and He really gave a fuck about any of us, why would He put us on this earth to feel so much pain? If He really cared about His children why didn’t He try to alleviate our suffering? Then again maybe His power was limited and He was just as helpless as the rest of us, or maybe He just didn’t give a damn.

I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder, and turned my head to stare into the eyes of the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid my eyes on. She had long blond hair, a dazzling set of green-eyes, and she stared down at me with a calm reassuring smile. She tugged at my sleeve and I felt myself being lifted gently from the car and placed back down on the ground.

“Jake,” she whispered kneeling down next to me. “I’m sorry that I’ve never done enough for you.”

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Someone who has watched over you for your entire life,” she smiled.

“W-what do you want?”

“What I’ve always wanted, to protect you and help you to be happy,” she said, reaching down to cup my face as a single tear ran down her left cheek.

“I can’t undo the years of abuse and mistreatment you’ve suffered at your mother’s hand, but there’s one thing I can do that should make your life a little more bearable,” she said with a thoughtful smile as her hand slid away from my face.

“Hey, what–?” I protested as she pressed her hands into my chest.

“Shh, don’t worry. It’s all going to turn out alright,” she said with a very slight smile just before a blinding white light filled my vision.

“Your bitterness is understandable, but know this. God is real and he does care,” I heard her whisper as darkness closed in and I felt myself slip back into unconsciousness.

I woke to find a brilliant bright beam shinning in my eyes and for a very brief moment I thought that my mysterious rescuer was still there, but realized that the light was coming from an ordinary flashlight. I groaned and shielded my eyes against the beam’s golden luminescence.

I briefly took stock of my situation remembering the accident and everything that happened after. And there was my body… it felt strange. Something was different, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was.

“Jenn?” A familiar voice asked, and the light faded away to reveal the face of the newcomer.

‘Jenn? Who is Jenn?’ “Katie? God, is that you?” I said with a loud gasp, and couldn’t believe my ears at the sound of the voice coming from my mouth.

‘God, I sound like a woman!’ Maybe the reason my body had felt different was because it actually was different. I hurriedly reach up and grabbed at my chest and let out a loud squeal at the pair of fleshy globes I found there. They were breasts, but how?! The woman that had freed me from my car… it was her doing, I just knew it!

“Jennifer,” Katie knelt down to touch my shoulder with a reassuring smile. “You’ve been in an accident, but you’re going to be alright. An ambulance is on the way.”

I swallowed hard and nodded. Had I hit my head harder than I thought? God I really hoped not! Whatever had caused my sudden transformation had fulfilled the deepest desire of my heart and I was pretty sure I had the woman to thank. Who was she and why had she done this? For a moment I thought she might be a goddess, but then I remembered what she had said about God being real. Then it came to me, and the answer seemed so stupid I almost laughed. She was my guardian angel. I’d always discarded guardian angels and their like as nothing more than silly fairy tales and wishful thinking. Clearly, I was going to have to rethink a few things.

“Katie, what time is it?” I whispered reaching up to touch my old friend’s face.

“It’s just past one in the morning,” she replied with a slow intake of breath.

She was so beautiful and I felt a slow smile creep onto my face as I realized what being woman meant. Not only did I have the body I always wanted, but I had a chance to be with Katie. I said a silent prayer in my heart of thanks to whatever God had sent the woman–no my guardian angel–to me. My past may not have been all sunshine and daisies, but I could see a glimmer of what my new future might entail and it looked to be very bright indeed.

“Katie come closer,” I whispered.

Katie furrowed her brows, and leaned in as I had suggested. I reached up and grabbed the collar of her shirt, then tightened my grip and pulled her closer still.

“Merry Christmas, Katie,” I whispered just before locking my lips around hers in a kiss.

As she broke away she stared done at me with wide eyes and the beginnings of a smile as she whispered the words, “Merry Christmas” just before I pulled her in for another kiss.

I stared down at my mother’s face and grimaced. She had once been a very attractive woman, but no longer. Years of alcohol abuse and a laundry list of poor health choices had taken their toll. I actually looked quite a bit like her in my new form, and every time I looked in the mirror I saw a younger, more attractive version of her face looking back at me. She looked calm, almost peaceful laying there in the casket almost as if she were asleep. I turned my back and leaning heavily on my cane I limped back toward the door where Katie was waiting. The viewing was just getting started and the funeral services would be held later on in the day.

The crash had left me in pretty bad shape, but it could have been much worse. I had a few broken bones here, a sprain or two there, the big ass gash across my forehead and of course my body was covered in bruises. I wasn’t what you would call thrilled about my injuries, but I think I could live with them especially considering the other ways in which my body had changed.

As near as I could tell I was a fully functioning woman, and I had my beautiful guardian angel to thank for that. Reality itself appeared to have changed along with me. Everyone in town knew me as Jennifer, or Jenn as Katie preferred to call me. They had no memory of a Jake Melton. To them I’d always been Jennifer. For the most part everything was pretty much the same, but there were subtle differences. Apparently, in this new reality Katie and I had dated in High School, but we broke up before I left town for college.

I didn’t dare tell anyone what had happened for fear of getting locked up in a mental institution, so I was forced to be a bit roundabout in my inquiries. The doctors said I may experience a bit of memory loss due to my head injury, so I had the perfect excuse to ask questions. The odd thing was that my memory seemed fine. Maybe it was the work of my guardian angel.

It was odd, people I’d known my entire life treated me as if I were a completely different person, and to their knowledge nothing had changed at all, though I think it had more to do with my physical gender than anything else. Still, I worried that my life as Jake had been wiped from existence. Or had it? Was my life really all that different? Jake and Jennifer were really the same person, the only real difference was that they had been born into bodies of different genders. Which begged the question: Does our physical gender really dictate what sort of person we are? I had so many questions, but I thought that perhaps I could find those answers through prayer.

I did tell one person about my change, and I’m sure you can guess who. At first when I told Katie, I made it sound as if it had all been a dream. Then a weird thing happened. She remembered me or more accurately my male self. She was a strong believer in God and she was quick to proclaim my transformation His work and a miracle to boot. Not that I was going to disagree, mind you. How the hell else was I supposed to explain what had happened?

My mother had made my existence miserable, but I wasn’t going to let her influence the course of my life any longer. I had a chance at happiness and I was going to take it. As I drew close Katie reached out and grabbed my hand to provide support. I leaned against her and she wrapped her arm around my back as she led me out of the funeral home and into the light of the day.

I smiled and closed my eyes leaning my head against her shoulder. I thought I was going to really like my new life.

The End

Comments, no matter how short, are very much appreciated. If you liked this story please take a minute to leave a review. Criticism is welcome, but only when presented in a constructive and positive manner.

As my other stories this is a work of fiction and as such any resemblance to real life individuals events or locations is purely unintentional. Only Fictionmania, Bigcloset Topshelf, & tgstorytime.com have permission to post this story and my previous works unless I state otherwise.

NOTE: For anyone that is interested, HeavensDust, one of the bands mentioned in the story is a group that combines traditional Japanese music with Western Metal. Click here to watch their music video for the song Norns.

The other song, I Hate Everything About You by Three Days Grace, can be watched by clicking here

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Legacy of Earth: Genesis | Ch 5

05/29/2021

CH 05

Kingsburgh, California, The Briggs Family Estates

 

The woman swung her crown and waves of hair whipped through the air, but when she stopped, her long locks returned more or less to the same position they were in before. She smiled, and I bit my lip, my heart fluttered as she imitated my facial expression. I turned away from the mirror, forcing away tears. Maleena’s efforts had produced astounding results, and, no matter how much a part of me wanted to, I didn’t dislike it.

Slap some war paint on the ol’ mug and I went from pretty damn hot to drop dead gorgeous. The strangest part is, it didn’t unsettle me in the least. Yeah, butterflies kept fluttering about inside my stomach, but I suspected it was because of my pending meeting with the Conclave Council. Worse yet, the butterflies kicked into overdrive each time I thought about it, but when I looked in the mirror, my face stretched into grin. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but considering recent revelations, it seemed likely my sexuality wasn’t the only thing I was fooling myself about.

I turned back to my reflection and met the gaze of the woman who gaped at me. A lot of humans found the eyes of joined host unsettling, but, hell, half my relative were card-carrying Conclave members. There was nothing in those eyes I hadn’t seen before. I don’t know how long I stared at my countenance, my mind racing, but it could have lasted a hell of a lot longer if not for Tanner.

“Kayde, I do–” A voice spoke out, and I spun around to face the newcomer with pursed lips, my heart pounding even harder inside my chest.

Tanner glanced at me, furrowed her eyebrows, and turned to leave.

“Oh, I’m sorry I was looking for K–”

She stopped mid-sentence, eyes growing wide as her lips formed a silent ‘o’.

“Kayde, is that you?”

I nodded, my cheeks aflame as she sized me up. My inner bitch, who’d been so offended by my business partner’s presence, rose with all the fire from before. How dare she look at me with those judgmental eyes? I scowled, ready to let out a vitriol-filled rant that might put her in her place, but by some small mercy Tanner spoke before I made an ass of myself again.

“Kayde, please, before you tear into me, listen to what I have to say and I’ll get out of your hair.”

I reined in my fiery temper and clenched my teeth, forcing back an angry retort. Tanner, to her credit, kept her composure, despite the burning, fiery rage which must have shown on my face, and batted a strand of hair out of her eyes. “I’m leaving.”

“What?” I blinked, my anger fading away. “Tanner, you can’t.”

“Something has got you all in a twist, and you and I both know that we can’t keep on like this. I barely said two words when I entered and you were ready to jump down my throat.”

I opened my mouth, ready to refute her claims, but she held a hand up, stopping me. “Don’t, please.”

I nodded and licked my lips. “Where will you go?”

“Miquesis, it’s a tiny planet on the fringes of Ghrev-held space that suffering some major seismic upheavals. Though the inhabitants are technologically advanced, they’ve extended a lot of resources trying to keep their world from ripping itself apart. It looks like they lost the battle and they have mere weeks before the upheavals become too great. The Ghrev fleet was almost decimated after that little spat with the Credknotts ten years ago and they’re asking for ships to help with the evacuation efforts.

If I hadn’t known better, I would have figured that Tanner was hoping for an excuse to get away from me, but she always had a soft spot for humanitarian causes. The planet in question was already receiving help from the Gieff Confederacy and the United Earth Alliance, but the part of me that still cared about Tanner’s feelings didn’t want to burst her bubble.

And maybe she could still provide some help. Evacuating a couple hundred thousand beings was no small task, even with the massive transports the Qharr and human governments pledged to the cause. Our ship was tiny in comparison, but even if she could save one life, Tanner would see it as well worth the effort.

I nodded in understanding. Tanner hadn’t come to tell me of her plans. The Hawk belonged to both of us. No, she was seeking my permission.

“Go.” It was the only response I could manage. I had enough presence of mind to bite my tongue and prevent myself from voicing some of the less than amiable thoughts that came so close to slipping out of my lips.

Tanner nodded and eyed me for a moment before slipping across the room and kissing me on the cheek. “Goodbye Kayde, I hope you come to terms with whatever’s been eating at you.”

She moved away, but stopped, putting a palm on the frame as the door slid open. “I doubt this is what you want to hear, but that outfit really works for you.”

All that pent up anger exploded out of me and I said about the stupidest thing possible. “Why the hell do you care?”

“Goodbye Kayde,” she said between gritted teeth, and started for the exit.

“That’s right, leave! See if I care.”

She craned her neck back toward me, but didn’t utter a single syllable. Instead, she frowned, shook her head, and slipped out the door. It was all I could do to keep myself from running after her. I’d never wanted Tanner so much in all my life, but I needed to get my head on straight and figure out what the fuck was causing all the hostile feelings.

I glanced back toward the attractive girl in the mirror, and forced a smile onto my lips. It was almost time.

I tugged on the collar of my blazer and stepped toward the door, taking short, careful steps like Maleena taught me. It was annoying as hell, but my knee-length skirt wasn’t designed with long strides in mind. I had no idea which was worse, that I was wearing the damn thing or that it forced me to change the way I walked. I had only myself to blame. Of all the outfits Maleena showed me, I couldn’t figure out why I’d picked the one I now wore.

I found myself in the main living room, or I should say the one my grandmother used, and found my uncle sitting in the corner in what had been Kaya Briggs’ favorite armchair reading an ancient leather-bound book. Few publishers printed paper books, other than a few novelty printers. I was willing to bet that whatever book Zed was reading was ancient, or at least very expensive. He stopped and looked up at me, marking his place with his index finger, and closed the book.

“Kayde.”

His eyebrows shot way up, and I almost smirked when I realized I caught him by surprise. Zed Briggs wasn’t an easy person to startle.

“You look different.”

Okay, strike that I hadn’t just come up on him and startled him. My rather drastic change in appearance seemed to have at least contributed to his surprise. I tugged at the sides of my skirt, but stopped when my uncle stood up and placed his book down on the side table behind him.

“I assume this…” He waved his hand at me and massaged his bearded jaw. “New look has something to do with the council meeting tonight.”

My jaw-dropped, but in retrospect I should have realized Zed would keep tabs. My uncle was well connected, but always stayed clear of Conclave business. I avoided telling him of the meeting for good reason, so either he’d been monitoring me or the Conclave. I sucked air in through my teeth. Either way, I found it worrying.

“Jek.” He paused, clenched his eyes shut, and released his breath. “Sorry Kayde.I’ve been distant, and I blame myself. When you left Earth, I was angry. I was resentful that you didn’t give me warning, but I understand now why you blocked me out. I like to think I know you pretty well, hell I helped raise you. What I want to say is, that if there’s anything you need to discuss, anything, I’m here to listen and help you through it.”

My eyes were wide as I stared back at Zed. My uncle had never been one for emotional displays, but when he made his feelings known, it was short and to the point. He and I were different in that regard. I was impulsive and was never shy about telling people what was on my mind. Had it been me, I would have gone on a tear-filled rant, permeated by sobs and more than a little crying. I nodded, fighting back tears, more than a little aware that if I cried my mascara would run.

“Thanks, I will. I mean, if I ever need to talk.” I swallowed and met Zed’s gaze. “It’s almost time for me to leave.”

“About that.” he pursed his lips and put a hand on my shoulder. “If I’d found out about your meeting a little sooner, I would have warned you, but I only just learned of it this morning. There is a growing sentiment within the Conclave that the Briggs and Farris families have been holding the reins for too long. Whatever you are hoping to accomplish, I think you may find that this attitude may hinder your plans.”

With those simple words, I had my own sneaking suspicions confirmed. Yes, I had been approached by the council, but they had contacted me through a very junior member of the Conclave. Whatever they were up to. If Zed was right, something told me I’d have a much harder time bringing them around to my way of thinking. Of course, that didn’t mean I would give up. I was too damned stubborn for that. Hell, I’d gotten a makeover just because I believed it would help sway their minds.

“I have to try,” I said, with barely more than a whisper.

My uncle nodded, but didn’t say a word. I turned away and slipped out of the room. Moments later, when I stepped out into the night air, my stomach twisted into knots, but I didn’t let it keep me from hopping into my grandmother’s car and setting course for Conclave headquarters. My path was already set.

separator

As I pulled the car onto Shirka Way, I cursed under my breath, and slammed my foot on the break. Protestors lined the streets and the walkways leading up to Conclave headquarters, and the news crews positioned before the building’s front entrance made it all but impossible for me to get any closer with my vehicle. The Conclave had seen more than its share of protestors over the years, but they usually only turned up on more notable occasions. I had heard nothing on the news about the meeting tonight, and I knew next to nothing about the reason for the gathering.

I could think of two reasons all those people might have gathered. Either word had gotten out that the Conclave was going to make some sort of announcement, or there was a VIP from the government meeting with them. With a slow shake of head, I cursed myself for not considering the possibility. I backed my car up, turning around the first corner, and settled for parking on the street. Before exiting the vehicle, I bowed my head and released a long plaintive sigh. I moved with quick footsteps, maintaining a faint, and maybe naïve, hope that I could pass the protestors and the local media crew without drawing attention to myself, but when a voice proclaimed my name I knew I was in for a shitfest.

“Fuck,” I exclaimed, releasing a dozen more choice curses as a tide of bodies surrounded me.

Protestors waved signs above head with slogans like ‘The K’teth will enslave us all’ and ‘Joining with a K’teth is a crime against nature’, but there was one in particular which drew my attention. It featured an image of my grandmother and read ‘The bitch is dead. Take the Conclave down with her.” The message itself was bad enough, but when I saw the asshole who was holding it, my blood boiled.

“You like the sign, Briggs? I made it just for you.” Jax Aukes grinned down at me with a malicious gleam in his eyes. Jax wasn’t one to start anything with so many people standing witness, but the hatred directed at me gave me cold chills. If I dignified him with a response, it’d only make matters worse. So, I stuck out my jaw and breeze past him, never once making eye contact.

“I always knew you were a sissy freak,” he called after me. I stopped dead, closed my eyes, released a deep breath, and continued onward.

“Miss Briggs, Miss Briggs!” The foremost of the cadre of reporters called out to me as I approached the building. She was tall, dark and damned easy on the eyes and if she hadn’t been so intent on beaming my image all over the local holo network, I would have welcomed the attention. “Can you tell us anything about tonight’s meeting? Rumor is that the council will name a new chairperson.”

“Oh, please. You really think they’d tell me?”

“Could they perhaps be discussing the Endeavour? Our sources tell us that the UEAF is still investigating the reasons behind its disappearance.”

“I can’t comment on any of that.”

I breezed past her, but stopped once again when yet another reporter, this one male, but no less of a looker, stepped in front of me. “Miss Briggs. General Arnoff of the United Earth Alliance Fleet has been spotted on the premises. Could you perhaps comm–”

“I’m the very newest Conclave initiate. I don’t have the foggiest idea why Arnoff might be here. Ask him the next time you see him.” I gave the second reporter the slip and finally made it to the door. The guard on the other side nodded after reading my now accurate IDEC with a security wand and let me slip inside.

“Shit.” I glanced at him. “What was that all about?”

The guard shrugged and peered out the transparanium entrance. “Fuck if I know, I just watch the doors lady.”

I slipped past him, my cheeks alight as I realized his eyes had been lingering on my breasts and even more so when I sensed them on my ass. I tried not to let it show on my face or in the way I moved, but it made my skin crawl considering that the guy was old enough to be my father at least twice over.

Never had I been so aware of how much my body had changed, nor had I ever been so uncomfortable in my own skin. Understanding dawned on me in a way it never had before. He was undressing me with his eyes, and I shuddered. I’d heard women complain about dudes staring at them and to my credit I tried to avoid looking too much, but sometimes my eyes had lingered just a little too long. I gritted my teeth, and I resolved myself to keep my eyes where they belonged.

When I turned the corner, I paused, issued a brief sigh, still imagining his scrutinous eyes on me, and leaned against the wall. I took a moment to compose myself, glancing at the large steel-framed mirror. A plaque just beneath it, claimed it was salvaged from the remains of the Qharr-destroyed Safe Haven, Lillian Tidwell Brigg’s home during the early years of her life. My hands came up, collecting a few stray hairs and tucking them behind my ears. My eyes studied my reflection once again, and I lingered a little longer than I should have, once again transfixed by the mug that peered at me.

“Damn, at this pace, I’m going to end up spending more time looking in  the mirror than interacting with other people.” I let a smile touch the corner of my mouth, but jerked sideways when heavy footsteps clomped against the hard phelocine floors nearby.

“I thought you already did.” A voice echoed through the hallway as a tall figure stepped into view.

I turned to Grey and bit the inside of my cheek, thoughts of our liaison giving me just the slightest pause before I began moving toward him. I shook my head, forcing those naughty little tidbits out of my mind, and smirked. “You’re one to talk.”

“Hey, I came by this mug, honestly. You got prettied up because of your symbiote. There’s a world of difference.” He smiled, putting both hands on his hips. His words might have been facetious, but there was a great deal more warmth in his tone than I expected from him.

“You look amazing.” He whispered, one hand reaching up to stroke my cheek.

I swallowed hard and pulled away, realizing why he seemed so different. “Please, don’t.”

“Hey,” he said, gripping my forearm. “I don’t blame you for being nervous, but after what happened the other night–”

“NO!” I yelled, but glanced back over my shoulder and pursed my lips. “What happened, was great. In fact, it felt… amazing, but please don’t make anything out of it. I’m too confused right now to make up from down. I don’t need to complicate things with a relationship.”

He grunted and took a step back, looking so much like I’d slapped him in the face that I expected him to massage his jaw. He turned his back to me and I put my hand on his shoulder, which was pretty awkward considering our height difference. “You’ve changed.”

He craned his neck around. “The world didn’t stand motionless just because you left Kayde.”

“I-I know.” I smiled up at him. “Never figured you for the relationship type, that’s all.”

He shrugged and turned so that his chest was facing mine. “Neither did I.”

I touched his face, then slipped away. “The council’s waiting.”

“Whoever he is, he’s a lucky man.”

I lurched to a stop and turned back to him with a single arched eyebrow. “Who?”

“Tanner, you called his name out during sex.”

“Actually, Tanner’s a woman and I already burned that bridge.” I lingered just long enough to watch his eyebrows shoot up, and then I disappeared down the corridor.

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Song of the Dwarf

05/15/2021

Author's Note

I’ve been sitting on this story for some time. The character referenced in the title is one I first conceived of close to two decades ago and he is one I often regretted I never did more with. I hope that he will appear in future tales, but as with everything I write, inspiration is key.

“There’s fairy creatures in them trees!” The man dropped his tankard onto the counter with an audible thump, and wiped his mouth with the back of his tunic sleeve. “Always fomenting trouble and causing mischief. I tells you, we oughta march on that forest and annihilate every last one o’ them.”

I shook my head, sighed, and reached for my tankard, sipping the warm ale within. ‘If only he knew,’ I thought to myself, a smirk touching the corners of my lips.

“What say you, stranger?” the man asked, thumping the back of a meaty hand against my shoulder. “You look like you’ve seen a thing or two; you ever laid eyes on any fairy folk?”

I placed my tankard back on the bar and regarded the man, my smirk creasing into a frown. Weary from my travels, I hadn’t come to the tavern to make conversation. All I wanted was to drink my ale in peace and be left alone. These small town bumpkins were all the same. Go to the big city, and people ignore you; travel to the outlying villages and the townspeople all want you to regale them with tales of your grand adventures.

I sighed and peered up at him, tempted to tell him no, but I furrowed my brows and rested my hand on the pommel of my sword. “If you knew anything about fairies, you’d keep talk like that to yourself.”

“Oh, yeah?” He grinned, exchanging glances with a second tavern patron. “What makes you say that?”

“A dwarf once saved my life,” I said, retrieving my tankard for another sip.

“A dwarf?!” The stranger guffawed and slapped his knee as if I’d just said the funniest thing in the world. He held a hand about half way between his knee and his hip. “A wee little man about yea high saved your life?”

“Nah,” I replied, shaking my head and held a hand just above his bulging belly. “A wee little man about this high saved my life.”

“What he do, keep you from falling into a hole?” he asked, again erupting into a fit of uproarious laughter.

I gritted my teeth and glowered at the man. Fingering my blade, I contemplated removing his head from his shoulders. I’d killed men for less, but on this occasion, it just felt like too much work.

When I finished the last of the ale, I paused, savoring the lingering taste in my mouth, already wishing I had enough money for another drink, and turned to regard the man with a shake of my head. “He fought off some bandits.”

“Bandits?” a third man asked. “Sounds like you have an interesting story to tell.”

See what I mean? Always with the stories.

I suppressed a groan, and despite my better judgement let them cajole me into sharing my tale.

# # #

Ten years ago I was as green as they came, but eager to leave my sheltered life in Imber, a village on the outskirts of the kingdom. I took my ash bow and my father’s sword and departed town with high hopes and dreams of fame and glory. There were no princesses for me to rescue or dragons to slay, so I took work lending a helping hand wherever I could for a spare bit of coin.

I never made a home for myself. No matter where I traveled or who I met, I felt an itch to move on, and so I never stayed in one place for more than a few weeks. About six months into my wanderings, I was traveling alone through the Eldar Woods and that is when it happened.

Times were tough and a weapon like mine was a rare prize. A sword of solid steel was often an indicator of great wealth, and could fetch a pretty penny almost anywhere. My father served in the local earl’s guard during the war and was awarded the weapon after saving the nobleman’s life in battle. When the war ended, the earl offered my father a place in his household, but weary from war, he returned home to the simple life of a farmer. As our village was nestled in an isolated valley in the mountains and self-sufficient by necessity, we’d never had need of monetary wealth and so the weapon sat within our home collecting dust, until I found it and took it for my own.

I wasn’t stupid enough to travel the woods after dark. While I knew bandits made them their home, I was young and naïve, convinced that a lone traveler would not be enough to draw their notice if I moved along the outskirts.

“Don’t move,” a voice said and I froze at the touch of cold steel kissing the back of my neck.

A man stepped out of the trees a few feet in front of me, a roguish smile stretched across his disheveled features. “Well met, stranger. Mighty dangerous territory to be traveling alone. Rumor is there are bandits in these woods.”

I clenched my jaw, but did not answer him, instead following his movements as he strolled toward me. The blade at my neck lifted away and I spun around to face the other bandit, reaching for my sword, but my as yet unseen captor beat me to it, sliding the weapon free before I could retrieve it.

I eyed this bandit, getting a good look at her, surprised to see that she was a woman. Though her voice was deep for a female, it was the cadence with which she spoke that had thrown me off. She slipped a dagger into her belt and held my sword before her, a smirk touching her lips.

“A well wrought blade,” she said, holding the flat of the weapon in her gloved palm. “I believe it’s much too good for the likes of you.”

“Oh, I agree,” the other bandit flashed a smile. “Peasant stock by the looks of him. Methinks we’ll do the rightful owner a bit of service and liberate this fine weapon from him. It’s the right thing to do.”

I had no illusions that the pair were lying through their teeth, but it was just the sort of game these types played, or at least it seemed in keeping with what I’d heard. Like I said, I was young and inexperienced.

“Now, the question remains, what do we do with our young friend?” the man asked, his face drawing back in a wicked grin. “Anyone willing to steal such a weapon is a menace to public safety. It would be downright unneighborly of us to–”

The man stopped mid-sentence, eyes scanning the trees just off to his right. I followed his gaze, but saw nothing. He returned his attention to me, cleared his throat and smiled. “As I was saying–”

Again, he stopped before he could finish, a loud thwack sounded somewhere behind him, and his eyes rolled into the back of his head. He fell to the ground in a heap, revealing a compact fellow with a beard so long it almost touched the forest floor. A loud wail escaped his lips and he clutched a long-handled battle-axe like a lute, gyrating about like a frenzied beast. He was broad-shouldered, more so than any man I’d seen, but only came up to my mid-chest.

“Good evening, the name’s Delek Stormwood.” He nodded to the pair of bandits, one arm windmilling in the air.

“Dun dun dun, durrrr dun durr dun. Dun dun dun, duh duh!” he called out at the top of his lungs singing the notes to some unknown tune.

The dwarf–for he was a dwarf; I’d heard descriptions of them and he fit the bill–paused, stopping just long enough to throw a thumb over his shoulder before continuing with his strange wild jerking movements. “Say, you haven’t seen Townshend or Daltrey lurking about, have you? We’d planned to meet up for a jam session.”

“What?!” my female captor asked, raising her blade and brandishing it at the intruder. “What are you talking about?”

The dwarf did not respond; instead, he continued to thrash about, blazing a trail toward the woman in a jagged and erratic path.

“Back away!” She raised her voice, holding the weapon before her as if to shield herself from him.

He seemed to pay no heed, arm spinning around, strumming the flat of the axe as if it were a musical instrument. It took him several long moments to get close to the woman, and she pounced when he was within a few feet. The dwarf dropped to his knees, sliding across the well-worn dirt path, and emitted a high-pitched wail; the bandit’s sword swung through the empty air without touching a single hair on the dwarf’s head. Before she could attack again, he jerked to his feet, swept sideways and slammed the haft of the axe into the side of her head. She went down and he paused, peering down at her.

“Huh.” He shrugged and turned to meet my gaze. “Some people just don’t appreciate good music. Never thought I’d meet someone who didn’t like Smoke on the Water.

“Well, I guess if the boys aren’t going to show, it’s time to be off.” The dwarf slung the axe over his shoulder, and walked into the trees.

I stood there for a moment, mind racing as I struggled to come to grips with what had just happened. I bent over, retrieved my weapon, and ran after the little man, but as I passed into the treeline, I could find no trace of him.

# # #

“To this day, I search for the dwarf every time I step inside the Eldar Woods,” I finished, regarding the empty ale tankard, wishing I could spare enough coin to purchase another.

The trio of townsmen stood around me, the leader regarding me with a frown. “You spin a fine tale, stranger, but methinks you’ve imbibed a few too many drinks. A woman outlaw—perish the thought!”

I did not respond, but slipped a hand about my waist, procured my coin purse and peered inside. Again, I considered purchasing another drink, but seeing how much remained within, I discarded the idea. What little remained would pay for some much-needed supplies. With an exaggerated sigh, I returned the pouch to my belt and shook my head.

Ready to retire for the night, I started to rise from my seat, but a man stepped into sight and I did a double take when he slipped into the vacant seat beside me. Though there was a fair bit more gray in his beard, the man’s image had been burned into my mind and I recognized him at once. So taken aback was I, I slid back into my seat.

“Be that as it may, he has provided us with an evening’s entertainment. I believe that’s at least worth another round of drinks. Whaddya say, boys?” The newcomer slapped a pair of coins down on the counter and motioned at the barkeep without waiting for the others to reply.

When the barkeep returned with a fresh set of drinks the bandit I’d encountered all those years ago in the forest nudged me in the shoulder and winked. “No hard feelings, eh?”

I nodded, fingered my blade to ensure he hadn’t somehow swiped it off my person, then snatched up my tankard and took a good long sip. Who was I to turn down a free drink?

###
The End

, ,

Legacy of Earth: Genesis | Ch 4

05/09/2021

CH 04

Kingsburgh, California, The Briggs Family Estates

I shivered, folding my arms over my breasts. Pacing at the foot of my bed, it had been two days since Grey and I made love to one another and I still couldn’t stop thinking about it. God, it had been good, no strike that, it had been amazing, but it wasn’t only the sex. I’d now fucked on both sides of the fence, and my what my childhood friend and I had done seemed so… right. I wasn’t certain how to interpret that, but I would do almost anything to experience it again. The same question kept worming its way into my mind: were we in a relationship now?

I shook my head, and peered over my shoulder at the box of holo albums, curiosity supplanting musings. Zed and I devoted most of the day to dividing up Kaya Briggs’ belongings. My Aunt Muriel, as usual, hadn’t deigned to show up, leaving a message, requesting we should leave her a few specific items, and left the rest for us to decide. So, my aunt ended up with all the crap neither my uncle nor I wanted.

Not that she would even be bothered to care. In the five years before I left, I’d only seen my aunt half a dozen times, and even then her visits hadn’t lasted more than a few days. Her work was her first and only priority, but no one, not my uncle or my grandmother, had been able to tell me what she did. She worked for the government; I was aware of that much. Her advanced degrees in bio-engineering and genetics suggested a number of possibilities, but beyond that I couldn’t tell you jack shit.

Kaya Briggs may have been wealthy, but she was far from a clutter bug and not the most sentimental type either. Still, we found a few things with personal significance. I managed to snag a few odds and ends. The two boxes, which now rested atop my mattress, contained it all. The first was filled with holo albums, mostly of my parents, and my childhood, but one in particular which I was dying to take a look at entitled “Jellfree and Sofia”. I checked and re-checked, but had been unable to find one titled “Jellfree and Watt”, which seemed a strange omission, but not one which came as a surprise when I thought about it. My father had been pretty detached the final few years of his life.

I rested an open palm across the “Jellfree and Sofia” album and licked my lips. I don’t know what it was, but something kept me from opening it. A shudder worked its way up and down my spine. What dark truths would it reveal about my past? I’d already learned my parents were in the midst of a divorce when my mother left, and the guilt over her subsequent disappearance had been what prompted my father to take his life. What other revelations about my family’s past might I uncover?

So much had changed for me in recent times, I’d done a complete one-eighty reuniting with my grandmother and joining the conclave. Kaya Briggs had died, leaving me one-third of her fortune. The estates, the home in which I’d grown up in, and perhaps the biggest representation of everything I had run away from were now mine. I’d become the very thing I’d sought so hard to avoid. My ego was fragile enough as it was. Whatever revelations the holo albums might hold could very well shatter it. Despite telling myself this, I soon flipped the album in question open.

Text, not the first thing you expect when opening a holo album, popped out at me proclaiming that the album was ‘Dedicated in loving memory’ to Sofia Briggs. I fought back tears and gestured my hand above the image, signaling the album to progress to the next image. This one was one I saw a time or two before, my mother looking worn from childbirth holding a tiny little bundle in her arms. Me. I waved my hand again, and again, each time it displayed a new image.

There were multiple projections in the same location and time, each with a similar collection of smiling faces, but as I progressed through the album the infant me, aged first into a toddler than a little boy, one who looked somber for such a small child. Then, as I got further in, something changed that I didn’t expect at all. A little girl, so often wearing frilly dresses and bright-colored outfits, replaced the little boy. I stopped into the dozenth such photo and took a deep breath.

The little girl was also me, but I sure as hell possessed no memories of wearing anything so feminine. I was young in those photos, no older than four or five, and most of my recollections from before my mother’s disappearance were hazy.

Still, it freaked me the hell out. The strangest part was that in the images where I wore girly clothes, I looked happy. Happier than I ever remembered being. My whole body trembling, I stepped away from the album and turned my back to it. When I closed my eyes, I strained my mind trying to come up with an answer. I realized something: Khala had been there for everything.

I opened my eyelids and called out to my symbiote. She appeared with no fanfare, wearing what was on the conservative side, even for someone like my grandmother. A plain black dress covered her arms and her legs down to her knees. It bore the look of something someone might wear to a funeral, but it was her expression that drove the impression home more than anything.

“Khala.” I gawked at her, all the confusion and doubts in my head personified by the image she cast, and my hands shook. “What did I just see?”

“Pictures of you and your mother.”

“I understand that, but why was I dressed like a girl?”

Khala blinked and stared at me, eyes wide. “You don’t remember?”

“No, I pretty well don’t fucking remember!” I yelled back at her and winced the moment the words left my lips.

“Sorry.” I clenched my eyes shut and sighed.

Khala paused, bit her lips and ran a pair of hands through her thick mop of blue hair. “When you were about three or four, you began expressing the opinion that you were a girl. Your mother was fully supportive, as you might surmise, and I guess your father had no qualms. At least, he raised no objections, but the man wasn’t what you would call a talker. It wasn’t long before you started calling yourself Alexana, after your great-grandmother, and your parents began using female pronouns.”

“What?” It was my turn to blink. “T-that can’t be true.”

“Why?” Khala titled her head and eyes wide as saucers.

“Because I should remember something like that, should I? And if it is true, what changed, why didn’t I transition and undergo reassignment after my mother disappeared?”

“I couldn’t begin to tell you. If you recall, I wasn’t around for that.”

“And why am I only finding out about this now? Why didn’t you mention it to me?”

“Despite, what some Conservers may lead you to believe, I’m not a mind-reader Kayde, I have no idea what you do or don’t remember. I must admit, it seemed a little odd when we first became joined, especially after all the trouble your mother went to confirm her gender, but I guess I figured you grew out of it.”

“You don’t gro–” I stopped mid-sentence and froze in place as the full gravity of what she said struck me.

“Khala, was my mother trans?”

“Let me point out to you once again, that I cannot read your thoughts. I–”

“Khala,” I cut her short and grated my teeth. “Answer the damn question.”

“Yes, she was.”

I don’t know why her answer shook me so much. I mean, it didn’t change who Sofia Briggs was, not really, but it raised questions. Did my grandmother hide the truth from me or did she, like Khala, assume I remembered? With her passing, I might never uncover the truth.

Oh sure, there were a few people in my life, like my uncle, who I might ask, but Zed had been distant. Until getting with him today I hadn’t seen him in days and when he showed up, I counted myself lucky if I could coax an entire sentence from him.

I glanced back toward the door and grimaced. I plopped down on my bed and flicked the album shut. I didn’t have the slightest clue what those old pics of me and my mother meant, but I needed time to digest everything. I wouldn’t allow myself to jump to any conclusions. Not this time.

Biting my lip, I eyed the second smaller box labeled Watt’s things. I hadn’t looked through it much, but as his only child, my uncle insisted I take it. I reached a hand inside, my fingers grasping hold of a small leather-bound notebook, and held it before me.

The leather was dry and cracked with age, and I traced the words inscribed on the cover. It read simply, ‘Ideas.’ The handwriting was in a flowing, feminine script I didn’t recognize, but I knew one thing for certain: it did not belong to my father, his messy scrawl was far too distinct.

I furrowed my brows and flipped the cover open, intrigued by what I might find. Within, I found technical notes and detailed schematics. I had some idea who the book had belonged to, and I flipped to the back, finding a page labeled, VGR-X1. My breath caught in my throat. What I saw confirmed my suspicions.

She’d scrawled details schematics of a ship, I recognized all too well, across better than a dozen pages. The drawings were of the prototype ship that Tanner and I would eventually salvage and name the Centennial Hawk.

The idea book belonged to my great grandmother, Lily Briggs. How or why it ended up in my father’s things was anyone’s guess, but what I found within was a treasure trove.

I lay back in bed, flipping through the pages, my mind racing. Thoughts of the holo album and the revelations contained within, temporarily forgotten.

separator

One thing I always loved about flying was that I could have time alone with my thoughts, but also experienced an exhilaration like nothing else. Driving didn’t quite give me the same level of enjoyment, but it was a pretty damn good way to help me get my head on straight, even when wandering through the city without a destination. Which is what I ended up doing after my recent revelation.

Was I transgender? My mother had been, and I seemed to think I was when I was little. It would explain so many things, but I resisted the idea. Why, if I’d been assigned the wrong gender at birth, did I try to distance myself from all those rumors growing up?

I bit the inside of my cheek, an idea occurring to me, but one that forced me to feel even worse, if possible. Perhaps my mother projected those feelings on me, and I’d been so eager to please her, I went along with it. I’d put my mother up on a pedestal. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch, would it?

I blinked, aware that I was a few blocks away from the Conclave Headquarters. I’d been pretty much on autopilot, not paying attention to where I was traveling, but instead I roved where my instincts took me. Did my subconscious mind steer me to this part of town for a reason?

I needed to talk to someone with a unique perspective. Someone who knew my mother and grandmother. I wanted that individual to be Crae. She was better acquainted with Kaya Briggs than anyone, but, from my understanding, she was still fighting to keep Hexapledra alive aboard the orbital platform. My uncle seemed the next logical choice, but I wasn’t sure how he might react. Something told me he would be about as helpful as Khala.

There was someone whose mind I might pick, who wouldn’t judge me, and would have perspective unlike anyone else I knew. Above all, he knew how to keep a secret. I only hoped he hadn’t left Earth yet. With that in mind, I took another right and parked inside the Conclave underground parking structure.

My grandmother’s old Paradox shuddered and settled to the ground, and I climbed out, not even taking a second look at the aged Hover-vehicle. I’d seen it hundreds of times in my youth, and it was almost as familiar to me as the Hawk. The car seemed like an old friend. In a way, when I drove it, I kept a piece of my grandmother around with me. I smiled at the thought. Even so, I did not look back.

I found the nearest lift, making my way up through to the second level where the conclave medical facilities were, and stepped out when the doors slid open. Before long, I found myself inside Vakrexid’s lab. I smiled upon entering, and folded my arms across my chest, studying him as he scurried about the place. His head wobbled back and forth, almost as if it were made from gelatin. He let out several high-pitched squeals as he meandered about, oblivious to my presence.

The doctor had been in and out of the conclave headquarters, since the military first requested his expertise. He seemed to handle all the travel time pretty well considering his age. Vakrexid hadn’t slowed down any, and he was still his regular old, twitchy self.

Finally, the doctor turned, unleashed a squeal that was both louder and higher-pitched than any I’d ever heard from him, and rounded on me with both of his arms held out. Someone less familiar with Vakrexid might have assumed he was making some odd Dexagarmetrax gesture, but they would be wrong. I closed the distance between the two of us and threw my arms around Vakrexid, smiling as he did the same. It seemed like a long time since the doctor last hugged me and in some ways it made me feel like a little kid again.

When we broke, I was disappointed but didn’t let it show on my countenance. “Doctor, can I talk to for a second?”

He blinked, cocked his head sideways. “Of course, though Vakrexid does not believe so short of a conversation would be very fruitful.”

I grinned from ear to ear and released a soft chuckle. “Okay, maybe we should talk for an undefined amount of time.”

“That would seem to be more efficacious. Vakrexid has some time. Speak.”

“Do you remember much about my childhood?”

“Most assuredly, Vakrexid has excellent memory recall. Why is it that you ask?”

“I found some pictures of me as a little…” I paused and clenched my jaw. With a slow shake of my head, I continued. “kid and I was wearing dresses and calling myself Alexana. You remember any of that?”

“Indeed, though truth be told it befuddled to me. Human gender identity is not a concept I am capable of grasping. Vakrexid was even more befuddled after your mother died and you insisted on going back to wearing, what you called boy clothes.”

“I insisted? No one pressured me or anything?”

Vakrexid let out a low-pitched warble and bounced his head from side to side between his hands. “It would seem so.”

Not clear cut, but it was the best I could hope for from the doctor. “And my grandmother?”

“She was most distraught over your mother’s disappearance. Vakrexid suspects she did not spend much time cogitating upon it,” he warbled again and turned his back to me lurching about the room.

I thanked him and almost turned to leave, when something else occurred to me. “Doctor, how much do you know about the Tyrsh?”

‘Please don’t open that can of worms.’

I ignored my great grandmother’s pleas and gritted my teeth. There was a reason Lexa’s consciousness remained imprinted on Khala’s mind after her death, and I wanted to understand why. If for no other reason to give myself something different to muddle over. I had a theory, but the doctor was the foremost expert on K’teth biology in the world. If anyone might understand how or why Lexa became a permanent resident in Khala’s mind, it would be the doctor.

“Little more than you do, Vakrexid believes, it is an ability of the K’teth in which I am not certain can be explained without many years of research. The initial outcome, the energy discharge, is most easy to comprehend, but the resulting deepening of the mental bond between host and symbiote is one I have yet to explain. Vakrexid once theorized that it may have left an imprint upon a K’teth’s consciousness, but as far as I was able to determine, that is not the case.”

‘Please don’t do this, Kayde. I love Vakrexid, but do you comprehend how disastrous it would be, if word of my continued existence got out?’

All at once, I understood a little better why Lexa insisted on secrecy. There were so many implications that I hadn’t considered until that moment. K’teth did not age and in theory would go on living until the end of the literal universe if they maintained a continual line of hosts. The sole reason we didn’t have any alive today dating back to the time of the Phyrr Lesch was that historical evidence suggested that the Qharr purged K’teth populations every few thousand years.

If a K’teth could imprint the memories of their host, in theory, they could perpetuate their existence for the life of the symbiote. Such a revelation could increase demand for symbiotes and worse yet, make them a commodity. It would wipe all the progress the Conclave had made these last hundred and sixty years out in an instant.

There were other ramifications to consider. The Conservers already feared the K’teth and viewed them as parasites or worse. If news spread that a person could extend their awareness past their death, it would increase their dislike for Khala’s kind by tenfold. Lexa was right, I was opening a can of worms. The more people who knew about Lexa, the more chance word would get out. Even someone like the doctor might reveal her existence.

“Then again, perhaps Vakrexid is wrong.” The doctor spun around, his unblinking violet eyes just a little too intently focused on me.

Crap.

The doctor may be odd by human standards, but he was anything but stupid. In fact, I would measure his intelligence above that of most humans. If I thought it through, I might have realized that approaching him was not a good idea. Even if I didn’t tell him there was no guaranteeing he wouldn’t see through whatever load of crap, I tried to feed him. It was better to be honest and upfront and try to bring him around to my way of thinking. While the doctor must follow human laws and practices, in this case doctor-patient confidentiality, nothing would prevent him from publishing a paper about an anonymous patient.

So, I gnawed on my lip and told him everything. It felt good getting it off my chest, and when I finished, I released a long sigh, and dropped my hands as the doctor regarded me. For a change, he did not jerk about or let out any weird sounds. He took a seat across from me and spoke.

“It is unexpected. I discarded that hypothesis because your mother insisted it was not so. If Vakrexid knew, perhaps I could have helped. Vakrexid knows you humans are very social animals. To remain trapped within the mind of another, to only speak with two individuals for so many decades, must be very difficult indeed. I wonder if, perhaps, you would allow me to perform a detailed neural scan. It might help to explain how such a thing is possible.”

Then again, maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. Vakrexid seemed concerned for Lexa. They knew each other for over a hundred years, and he was a friend both to Lexa and I. It wasn’t so surprising he should feel something.

“Doctor, you can’t tell anyone, you understand that, right? If word got out about this, even if you kept our identities secret, there’s no way to know how people might react. This could be bad for the Conclave.”

“Vakrexid agrees, that is why I have not made my hypothesis public. Any data Vakrexid might gather through a neurological scan, you can be assured that it will remain confidential. I suggested it, so that Vakrexid might understand why this has happened and perhaps help Lexa. I believe there are many within your family, who would very much be overjoyed at another chance to once again converse with Lexa Briggs. Vakrexid knows I would.”

‘You and me both, Doc.’ Lexa’s voice whispered in my ear.

I nodded, a lump forming in my throat. “Do it.”

separator

When I awoke the next morning, I was in good spirits, a new sense of resolve supplanted my confusion and doubt. My personal life might be a mess, but other forces drove me. I spent the afternoon after visiting Vakrexid and most of the night wallowing in my troubles, but shitty as the whole thing had been, there were bigger fish to fry. That night, I was meeting with the Conclave Council and I fully intended for something good to come out of it.

I had a reasonable idea how they must see me, a rogue and a wildcard with an independent streak, but I would have to shatter that image if I was going to be involved in the efforts to find the mysterious aggressors and determine why the hell they attacked the Endeavour. I had more going for me then the council would like to admit, but the key was to show them how much they needed me and convince them I would play ball.

If I learned one thing from my grandmother, it was that the image you presented went a great way in shaping people’s opinions. I used those lessons to an extent while negotiating with other traders, but most of them hadn’t been humans and and none had expectations as demanding as those of the council. I needed a new look.

The very thought filled me with a dread that made my insides twist into a knot, but if I couldn’t show the Conclave I’d changed, I didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of achieving my ambitions. So, I did something out of my comfort zone. Which is to say, the knots in my stomach tangled into one great tangled mess of a ball when I stepped through the entrance of Sue-Ellen’s.

For as long as I could remember, it had been the only place my grandmother allowed to cut her hair. I’d only been inside a handful of times and never once had I made it past the waiting area. They catered to a very select clientele and while Kaya Briggs was certainly noteworthy enough to fit the bill, I hadn’t been. It was the sort of place I despised, because it was so exclusive.

Unfortunately for me, because I just attained celebrity status, I’d recently been bumped up on the social totem. Places like Sue-Ellen’s, protected the privacy of their clients. If I stepped into just any Salon, there’s no telling the kind of reception I would receive. Of course, that wasn’t the only reason I was visiting. Sue-Ellen’s was one of the few places I knew of with image consultants, especially ones that were willing to work on short notice.

“Can I help you?” The woman at the reception desk peered at me as I entered. She carried a smile on her face, but it didn’t extend to her eyes.

“Uh,” I answered back, grimacing as my hand kneaded the back of my neck. I almost turned away and left right there and then, but I managed just enough self control to step forward instead. “I have an appointment, I’m Kaydence Briggs.”

The moment I gave her my name, there was a very sudden and marked shift in her demeanor. There was a sort of nervous anticipation bubbling under her calm facade that made me just a tad uneasy. “Oh, Miss Briggs! Maleena wanted to see you the moment you arrived. Right this way.”

‘Well this ought to be fun,’ I thought at Khala as the receptionist grabbed me by the wrist and led me through the Salon.

“No complaints, this is your own doing.” Khala appeared, leaning against a wall and smirking at me.

“I’m with you.” Lexa materialized, leaning against the opposite wall. “I never understood the need for places like this. I can’t understand how my Kaya developed a taste for this sort of thing. She never picked it up from me.”

There was something so overwhelmingly motherly about Lexa’s comment that I just stopped and stared at her for a few seconds. I would use many words to describe Lexa, but motherly was not one that I ever pictured might apply. I had no doubts she loved her children, but if the stories my grandmother shoved down my throat were true, even after accepting her transformation and status as a member of team woman, Lexa had always maintained a very masculine mindset. Her distaste for the Salon fit the image of her in my mind, but the tone which she spoke of her eldest child did not.

The receptionist paused, cleared her throat and looked back at me with a smile that somehow conveyed just a bit of impatience without being condescending. I bit my lip and motioned for her to continue onward and followed in her wake as her high-heels clattered and clicked against the hardwood floors. Butterflies flitted around inside my stomach, but when my guide stopped and opened a door revealing a small studio, it got a lot worse.

I took a few steps inside and swallowed hard as the door slid shut behind me. A tall, but unassuming woman stood near a bright pink salon chair. Her clothes bore the clean lines and fit that suggested they might be custom-tailored. Her face was plastered in makeup, just shy of clown proportions, and I could smell her perfume from the other side of the room, but she looked pretty normal. I half expected some half-crazed hyper-sexualized fashionista with a penchant for calling everyone ‘darling’.

Okay, maybe that’s cliched, but hell, what on Earth should I have expected? This was all new to me.

“You must be Kaydence.”

“Uh, yeah, that would be me. And you’re Maleena, I’m guessing?”

At first, Maleena didn’t speak, but stepped a few meters forward and locked gazes with me. She placed a hand on my right cheek and frowned. “Your grandmother told me about your situation.”

I arched an eyebrow, but didn’t say a word. Maleena dropped her hand and turned away. “Her death was a tragic loss.”

Again, I did not speak, but it seemed Maleena had enough to say for the both of us. She turned back, a smile touching the corner of her lips. “It surprised me to hear you made an appointment. Based on what Kaya made me to understand, I would expect you to steer a wide path of this place.”

“Uh, yeah.” I said with a grimace and scratch the scruff of my neck. “I’m appearing before the Conclave Council tonight and I, uh…”

“Want to make a good impression?” She smiled, a single eyebrow arched.

Her unspoken question obvious to me though I had just met her. If my grandmother would have told her anything, it would have been that I spent my life distancing myself from the Conclave. Why then would she jump to the conclusion that I would need to impress the council? I had sound reasons, but I didn’t owe Maleena an explanation.

I met her gaze square in the eyes and smiled back. Maleena met my glare and peered deep. She nodded and tilted her head sideways before folding her arms across her chest. “I know you’d prefer not to be here, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help you. Tell me, Kaydence, what is it you want?

I gulped hard, shaking my head, the slightest tremor entering my voice as I spoke. “I have a reputation. If you knew my grandmother, you know, but the conclave sees me as a loose cannon. I’ve gotta change their perception of me.”

“That’s an excellent explanation for your end goal, but it doesn’t tell me why a young person just given female form. One who has spent much of his adult life running from the Conclave, and the notoriety of his family, would want to do something that would go against everything he has fought against his entire life?”

Her choice in pronouns annoyed me more than her presumptions, which were spot on. I clasped my hands together and narrowed my eyes.

“That is none of your business.”

“If I am to help you, I must learn your motivations. If you don’t want my help, that’s fine, but I’m not just here to slap a new slab of paint on your face and make you over. If you really seek to change your image, it is important to understand what is driving you to seek this change so that I can make it stick.”

I swallowed hard and nodded. Long term planning had never been my strong suit. I’d never envisioned myself doing exactly what Maleena said, but if I really was committed to involvement in the Endeavour investigation, I couldn’t just play dress up for one night and expect the conclave to play ball. Convincing them I changed, would go a long way in doing just that. Which meant I had to keep looking the part. I would need Maleena for that. I don’t think I could do it by myself, and I kind of doubted Tanner would help me given the way I’d been treating her the last few weeks.

Fuck.

“I can’t say a lot.”

“Did I ask for your life story? I just need to understand how committed you are. I don’t put my time and effort into hopeless cases.”

Tears started to well up, and I averted my gaze. My entire body shaking, I met her eyes again.

“For most of my life, I’ve wondered what happened to my mother, but when I found her and the Endeavour, it left me with more questions than answers. To make matters worse, I watched my grandmother die and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I need to find out why they died. If that means selling my soul to the Conclave, then so be it.”

“Oh, how… interesting.”

Maleena released a low moan and smiled. “Well, I think that covers it. Why don’t we get started? Oh, yes, I believe you will be a lot of work, but so very worth it.” She held a hand out, motioning toward the pink and silver old-Earth-style salon chair bolted to the hardwood floor. I had no idea how old it was, but the style was consistent with the time-period when humans had only just reached out to the stars.

I took more than a few tentative steps across the room and seated myself atop the soft and supple leather of the seat after just a moment’s hesitation. My heart pounded like a jackhammer inside my chest, but as I caught my reflection in the mirror that occupied the entire upper-half of the wall in front of me, I blinked when I realized that almost none of my agitation showed on my face.

Maleena stepped up behind me and place both of her hands on my shoulder. “You are a beautiful young woman, I have clients who’ve paid an exorbitant amount of money to get a body like yours. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you need to learn to take better care of it. You were a man before, and most men are content with basic hygiene practices. Which is fine, if you have no aspirations in life, but in today’s society you won’t get very far without taking things a bit further. Male or female, if you look like a slob, very few successful people are going to take you seriously and honey you could do much better. Your hair is a mess, just look at it you have split ends, you dress like a man and worse your clothes don’t even match.”

“But I am a man… Or at least I was until about a month ago.”

“You came to me for help, remember? How you dress and groom yourself help shape the way others see you.”

“What do you propose?” I asked, the words coming out of me in little more than a squeak.

“Oh, I have some ideas.”

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Legacy of Earth: Genesis | Ch 3

05/01/2021

CH 03

Kingsburgh, California, Ash-Shām Middle Eastern Cuisine

“–ith the recovery of the Endeavour last month, neither the government nor the Fleet has provided any information concerning their findings save for stating that the crew was found dead.”

I stopped, bits of meat still hanging from my fork as I turned to eye the tiny holo projection of the news anchor who hung overhead like a specter of doom. I’d been avoiding the news broadcasts. They spent the last month rehashing every tiny tidbit of information the EUA government gave out about the Endeavour. Which you can imagine, might bring about a few unpleasant memories, but something about the anchor’s tone told me this broadcast was a little different.

Grey didn’t say a word, but his eyes turned to watch as the broadcaster continued her spiel.

“We still understand precious concerning the circumstances of the Endeavour’s disappearance, but new information leaked by a source within the United Earth Alliance Fleet has confirmed that the missing cruiser was located by none other than Kingsburgh native Kaydence Briggs, child of crew member Sofia Briggs noted archaeologist and expert on the Phyrr Lesch, and great grandchild of the resistance hero Alexana Briggs. Ms. Briggs, formerly Jellfree Briggs, has–”

“Fuck,” I cursed under my breath, already sensing eyes on me as the holo projector switched to a display of my face. Not the old male one, but my current female mug. I didn’t have any clue where the hell they got it, but being a Briggs had always meant more media attention than your average Joe. I’d been in public places, some with my uncle and some with my grandmother since undergoing my change. There would have been nothing to keep someone from snapping a photo of me. I may not have been a household name, but Zed and Kaya Briggs were another matter. If I was in their presence when someone in the media spotted them, well, you know the drill.

I dropped my fork, letting both it and the food on it clatter and plomp respectively onto my plate. With a shake of my head, I lurched to my feet, held a hand up and said “check please” as loud as I could without yelling. Though I didn’t stop to catch my reflection, if the warmth of my cheeks were any sign, they must have been bright scarlet. Just what I needed: media attention. I sure as hell didn’t like finding my face plastered all over the news, especially while in a public place.

When the server approached the table, I knew full well she’d seen the news broadcast. She couldn’t take her eyes off me, but at least she didn’t call anymore attention to me. I paid for both Grey’s meal and mine and left what was almost certainly too big of a tip and departed, with quick and determined steps. I didn’t bother to stop or pull my hair away from my face. As a result, when I stopped outside the diner, I couldn’t see a thing.

Taking more than a few deep breaths, I paused, leaned against the building and took a moment to compose myself. I brought a pair of slender hands up to my face and began to slip strands of thick hair behind my ears. It was about then that I noticed people on the street were giving me more than the casual sort of glances they might cast at a total stranger, even an attractive one. Information spread fast on the post occupation Earth, many people received broadcasts directly into their comm implants, some even had visual receivers. I found it a little creepy. Which explains why I only used mine for personal communication.

A tall man with a pinched face and shaved head approached. He looked at me with a scowl on his face and I met his gaze, realizing that he looked familiar. He didn’t stop to talk, but mumbled ‘conclave mutant’ and passed me by. I realized after several seconds where I’d seen him before, and I winced as unpleasant memories hit me like a ton of bricks. He was Jax Aukes, the childhood bully responsible for making my life a living hell as a child. An icy shiver worked its way through my body, as I relived all the beatings I received at his hand. He called me a sissy, I wondered what he would think if he knew the mug I sported now.

Jax was a Conserver which meant he opposed anything that altered the natural state of man or animal. In effect, people like him believe genetic manipulation, biomechanical augmentation and symbiosis with a K’teth symbiote were a violation of the laws of nature and the will of the divine. Some Conservers like the Aukes family also viewed homosexuality and transgenderism as unnatural and unhealthy. Jax never liked me because I’m a Briggs, but as a bonus, since I didn’t fit his image of what a ‘real man’ should be, Jax pegged me as a sissy. Which made me a much bigger target than the other children in our class.

I watched Jax disappear around a corner, and jumped when Grey appeared, letting the diner door slide shut behind him.

“Looks like your famous now,” he said with a bit of a lopsided grin as a single set of fingers dug into the back of his head.

“Yeah, grand, just what I always wanted.” I clenched my hands at my side and turned away, my body shaking as Khala’s and Lexa’s gentle reassurances washed over me.

“Hey, it can’t be so bad, can it? The Endeavour’s disappearance was the biggest mystery of the past twenty years. At the very least you’ve earned your place in the history books.”

“For finding something that was missing? Gee, what an accomplishment. I’m sure people from all around will call me to help them find their lost passkeys.”

Grey chuckled and shook his head. “There are worse ways to be remembered. At least you’re not Straffen McMillan.”

‘Oh God,’ Lexa’s voice echoed in my mind. ‘If only he knew.’

I stared walking and Grey stepped in line beside me.

“Yeah, you have a point. It could always be worse.” I looked out across the bustling street and grabbed Grey by the arm. “Thanks… for getting me out of the estates.”

I didn’t say it aloud, but I got the sense that I wouldn’t be spending much time in the open for the next few weeks. I’d found the Endeavour over a month ago, and it was still being mentioned on the news. Word that I had been the one to discover it had only just gotten out. It might be a little early to tell, but it seemed likely that I would be getting a bunch of attention from the media.

He stopped and nodded, leaning over to meet my gaze. The height difference was never so clear to me as in that moment. I paused, pursing my lips, taking several deep breaths, and I trembled.

Good lord, what had come over me? Grey was my friend. I was well versed in all the tricks he pulled to lure women in, and among them he was damned good at the soulful gaze. I would not be falling for it, would I? Oh hell, who the fuck was I kidding? Grey hadn’t put on the charms at all. I just wanted someone to fuck.

I swallowed hard, stood up on the tips of my toes, grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, pulled him close and locked my lips around his. He didn’t return my kiss, but his body turned rigid and it was only after I release my grip on his collar and let my hands rest on his chest that he reciprocated.

Not that long ago the thought of kissing a man would have seen repellent, but even when my soft lips brushed against his stubble it didn’t deter me.

Then the reality of what I had just done settled in and I pulled my thick head away staring up at Grey taking in deep breaths of air. I took several steps back, far enough that I actually hit the damn wall behind me.

“That was unexpected.” The[ ] words were Grey’s, but I could have just as easily spoken them myself. The purely impulsive act had caught even me by surprise.

A thousand thoughts coursed through my head. I’d already admitted to myself I was attracted to Grey, but was it just that or something more? Of course, my feelings for Tanner complicated matters. We had a lot of history, and a fair bit of chemistry, but I seemed to lose my temper whenever she came around. I wanted her about as much as I wanted Grey at that moment, but what the hell was I supposed to do about it? Should I—

Okay, you know what? Screw it.

Grey drew close, and I trembled as he leaned in for another kiss. I melted into his arms, and didn’t, for once, let myself worry about anything. Those concerns would come later. Maybe that wasn’t the smartest thing, but face it, my sex-drive was calling the shots. She saw something she wanted, and she took it. I had no idea if it was a good or bad thing, but damn did I enjoy what followed.

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After a generous amount of kissing and a little more petting than was probably acceptable in the middle of a public street, our amorous pursuits took a decidedly more serious turn once we got back to the estates. Honestly, it all happened in such a blur, I didn’t even remember making our way to my room after arriving back home, but what followed left a much more lasting impression.

With slow deliberate movements I undid the buttons on Grey’s shirt, my lips following my hands as each button was undone. I didn’t show as much restraint with his pants, actually tearing the seams loose in my efforts to free him from his clothing. He didn’t seem to mind, especially when I slipped his boxers down to his feet.

I stopped, staring at his bare cock and let an appreciative smile slip across my face. Grey was a big man, in every way that counted, and my heart pounded inside my chest as anticipation built. I wanted him inside of me with every fiber of my being.

Grey slipped my shirt over my head and had my bra off in just a few seconds. He didn’t struggle with it, as I would have done, not so long ago. Finally, my slacks and panties came off and our lips locked against one another. I forced my body against his and my bare breasts pressed against his skin.

I pulled away, then pushed Grey back until he staggered into my bed and collapsed atop it. Sex while standing could be awkward as hell, and it would have been impractical with our obvious height differences. Not that I was too broken up about it, I was more than happy to fuck in bed.

Sex wasn’t new to me, but unless I counted the phantasmic encounter with Khala, I’d never actually made love to anyone as a woman. It wasn’t, however, something it took a leap physicist to figure out. I positioned myself atop Grey and clenched my eyes shut as his erect member slid inside my clit.

As convincing as my lovemaking with Khala had seemed, it didn’t compare to having a real dick inside of me. Khala had manipulated the muscles and tissue inside of my vaginal cavity to make it seem as if something were entering it. His penis pushed it open with sudden, violent force as I came down on him and I shivered in pleasure. It hurt, but God, I didn’t want it to stop. I gasped and pulled out, letting out a high-pitched squeal when I forced myself into him again.

Each time I pulled out and went down on him, a pressure built inside of me and I expected it to burst out of me like a dam, but when it actually came, it didn’t come from me. He released his load, and I pulled out again, and leaned forward, my ass up in the air kissing him first on his lips then down his neck and chest.

Soon I was going down on him again, squealing louder and louder until I started screaming out a name. Not Grey, but Tanner, again. Grey didn’t seem to mind. If anything, he became more enthusiastic. I rolled onto my back and gasped as my old friend slid atop me. We went at it again, this time he rode me and, fueled by our enhanced abilities, we kept going for hours.

When Grey rolled off of me, I sat upright and slid my legs off the side of the bed.

“Oh God,” I whispered and cupped my face with both hands.

I’d had sex with Grey. It didn’t bother me that he was a man, something that surprised me more than the actual act we’d committed. He had a spotty reputation when it came to women, and it made me more than a little uncomfortable to learn I’d become another conquest. That, however, was the least of my worries. How could I tell Tanner? Should I even tell her?

I still had feelings for my business partner, but fucking my old high school buddy was not exactly a good way to begin a relationship.

I shivered, and closed my eyes, as thoughts of Grey’s shaft penetrating my vulva. My cheeks burned. I wanted more, so I dropped my head, met Grey’s gaze and took it.

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Legacy of Earth: Genesis | Ch 2

04/17/2021

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CH 01

Kingsburgh, California, The Briggs Family Estates

You can probably guess the state of mind I was in when I arrived back at the family estates after waking from my three-day coma. The funeral didn’t make things better. The whole thing was being covered by the local media, and most of the people who attended weren’t well-acquainted with my grandmother. You know the type, politicians and minor celebrities.

It all seemed so impersonal, so much pomp and circumstance that it left little room for the mourners to actually mourn. God, it was awful. Not that funerals tended to be the highlight of the week, but hell, it could have gone a lot better. The wake was a bit more tolerable, given that it was for close friends and family only, but since most of my relatives didn’t even recognize me, it made interacting with them a bit awkward when I revealed my identity.

So there I was three weeks later, spending all my time battling holodrones and wallowing in my own self-misery. Hoping beyond hope that I’d get a chance to bring those responsible for my grandmother and mother’s deaths to justice.

My eyes snapped open, and I peered up at the shower head, basking in the warm water as it trickled down my frame. I lost track of how long I’d been in there, but I was in no rush to leave. If not for Khala, I would have been a mess of sores and bruises, but my skin was as smooth and unblemished as ever.

“Are you ever going to get out?” Khala appeared on the opposite side of the shower, stark naked, illusionary droplets of water dripping down her alluring form.

“No, probably not.” I answered back, a faint smile touching my lips. “It feels good. Life hurts… Do I want to go back to that train wreck?”

I tried to look away, but Khala was pretty stacked. I swallowed, hard, as she sashayed toward me, a slow smile creeping across her face. When she got close enough, her hands caressed my neck. My heart beat harder inside my rib cage and I backed away, which is to say I pressed my back flat against the wall.

“What are you doing?” I asked, my voice little more than a whisper.

“What do you think?”

“W-why?”

“All this stress, all this grief, and anger. You need a relief.”

I didn’t speak, but Khala seemed to sense my acquiescence. I admit it seemed strange. Hell, it was strange, especially with my great-grandmother’s consciousness ever-present in the back of my head, but, for a change, I didn’t give a damn. I wanted someone to hold me and make everything all better. What I really wanted was Tanner, but for now Khala would have to do.

Her lips locked around mine. They seemed so soft, so supple. It was amazing how realistic her illusions . I clenched my eyes shut and let her at it. Her weight pressing into me as her lips touched my neck. I gasped and my eyes flew wide open as her hands slid down my side and something warm caressed my privates.

It was her tongue, and damn was it amazing. I closed my eyes again, my muscles relaxing as warm water splattered down my body, setting my entire body aflame with pleasure. I moaned and heard Khala purr in response. A wave of pleasure washed over me as her tongue slid across a particular spot and I called out a name. I didn’t realize what I said at first, but when something warm slid into my vagina and I spoke it again, I realized I’d cried out Tanner’s name.

When I opened my eyes, a smile touched the corner of my lips and I found Tanner’s eyes looking into my own. Of course, I understood that it was Khala, but I didn’t care. Her cock, pounding into me, was another illusion. My symbiote couldn’t even part the lips of my vaginal cavity, but it seemed real. The only thing that shattered the illusion was when I advanced and pressed her against the opposite wall, and my hands touched bare tile. It didn’t stop our love making. I turned, pressing my back into the wall, and let Khala pound into me. I moaned louder and louder with each thrust.

I sank down to the shower floor, reveling in the glow and warmth of what we had done. It wasn’t until a satisfied smile spread across my symbiote’s face and her image faded away, that I experienced the first pangs of regret, guilt and horror. I’d allowed myself to be penetrated… Not in the literal sense of the word, but you know what I mean.

I’d been questioning my sexuality since before my transformation, and now that I had succumbed to the desires that had risen from some pit inside of me, I could no longer escape the truth. I liked Tanner’s girl dick.

Did that mean I liked guy dick too?

I pursed my lips and shuddered, testing the image of one Sim Grace in my mind. He’d been a flingball player and outspoken Conserver who’d been a rising star before falling out of the spotlight about six or seven years ago after suffering a major accident on the field. He was something of a heartthrob, which is why my mind latched onto him. That and the fact that he shared a last name with my business partner. Though I doubted there was any relation.

I imagined him kissing me, caressing my nether regions and plunging his cock into my pussy much the way Khala had, and gulped as I let the truth sink in.

I shuddered, and climbed up to my feet, freezing despite the hot water cascading down my naked body. I switched the water off and stepped from the shower, padding myself off with a towel retrieved from a nearby rack. The linens from the estates were a fair bit softer than those of the Conclave, but I was still having issues. Khala’s healing abilities would prevent my epidermis from callousing, so it was likely I would be stuck with it for the rest of my life. I mean, while it was nice, it got irritated all the time. Hell, I had to be sure to buy extra soft clothing to keep myself from getting friction rashes. Okay, so Khala cleared those right up, but it was still unpleasant.

I grabbed my robe, an enormous pink fluffy affair that prompted my cheeks to burn every time I put the thing on, but felt amazing against my skin. Remember, Ms. Soft and Sensitive skin, right?

Back in my room, I stopped dead in my tracks and eyed the door as three dull thuds resounded from it. I scowled, glanced down at my breasts and pulled the folds of my robe closer together to better cover my cleavage, activated the wall switch and found the eyes of a bonded host looking down at me.

The figure that stepped inside my room would have been the epitome of tall, dark and handsome if it weren’t for the blue hair and magenta eyes which made him even more striking. I brushed the hair out of my face and stared up at him, frozen as I fought away certain lascivious thoughts that rose to the surface with a sudden and very violent intensity. Great, I just came to terms with being attracted to men and who should appear, but Mr. Wet Dream himself.

“I understand your going by Kayde now.” He slipped one of his hands inside a pocket and walked over to my nightstand, picking up one of my hair ties, and eyed me in my pink robe.

“Yeah,” I mumbled and turned my back toward him, closed my eyes and took several deep breaths. It helped… a little. “What do you want, Grey?”

“This is how you greet an old friend? No, hiya Grey, it’s so wonderful to see you or what you been up to? Just, what do you want, Grey?”

I scowled, folded my arms across my chest and spun around on the balls of my feet to better look into his eyes. Grey had always been tall, but now instead of having close to eighteen centimeters on me, he had over thirty. The last time I’d seen him, we’d both been right around eighteen so he might have put on a few centimeters in height, but it was damn hard to tell given I’d lost so much of mine.

“I saw you at the funeral. You were so broken up about Kaya Briggs’ death, it made me curious. I asked, and when I found out it was you, well, it made a bit more sense. Surprised the hell out of me, though.

“A lot’s happened.” I attempted to sound nonchalant, but the truth was my grandmother’s death was still a difficult subject. I couldn’t keep my voice from shaking.

“Well, something tells me there’s a pretty good story behind all this,” he waved a hand at me and slipped both hands back into his pockets. “I mean, you were never the poster boy, girl whatever, for the conclave and the whole gender swap thing while not exactly a shocker is weird.”

Not exactly a shocker? What the hell was that supposed to mean?

“I gotta say though, you turned out–”

“Don’t!” I held my hand up, cutting him short before he finished. I gritted my teeth and shook my head. Grey loved the ladies and well, they loved him back. He was damned charming, and he’d drawn so many in hook, line and sinker, with a simple smile. I had no intention of becoming his next conquest.

“Would you just tell me what you’re doing here?”

He fingered the collar of his shirt and coughed. “The Conclave cCouncil is meeting in three nights. They would like you to attend.”

I blinked, casting a sidelong glance at Grey and bit my lip. It wasn’t like my old friend to play the messenger boy, but one person held enough sway over him to get him to do pretty much anything. His dear old grandmother, Reyna Feldstone. She’d long vied for a spot on the council, and if I guessed right, she may have gotten her wish. If my suspicions were true, that would mean that there wouldn’t be a single member of the Briggs family on the council’s ruling body for the first time since its inception more than a hundred and sixty years ago.

I nodded, waiting long enough to get the time from Grey and then wished him goodbye.

He turned as if to leave, but stopped, cleared his throat and threw a thumb over his shoulder. “You wanna grab a bite to eat or some coffee or something there’s this great new shawarma place on main that I’ve been dying to try out.

I don’t know what made me say yes, but my cheeks turned a bright shade of red when I accepted his invitation. I was dying for human interaction. My uncle was so distant I went entire days without seeing him, I couldn’t go near Tanner without having a conniption fit and most of my cousins seemed to have gotten it into their head I had something to do with my grandmother’s death. Suffice it to say, I didn’t have much in the way of company.

I seemed in a better mood as I dressed. By the time I had my hair dried and was sporting a fresh set of clothes, I had a bit of a smile on my face. Sure Grey might be a bit self-involved, but he and I had had some good times in our teen years and if I was going to be honest with myself, he was damn easy on the eyes.

separator

“So… You run cargo for a living?” Grey asked, hands clasped across the table, peering over his neck across the diner.

My childhood friend had spent the last few minutes staring at a set of doors across the far wall. The wait staff came and went through them as they delivered food to their hungry patrons. Considering that it was pretty late in the afternoon and I would have heard his stomach growling from across the room, even without enhanced hearing, it didn’t take an aerospace engineer to figure out what he had on his mind.

“Cargo, certain illicit substances, the occasional sex worker, whatever a girl’s gotta do to make a living.”

Grey blinked and his eyes settled on me. He stared at me for a second, just before his face cracked into a smile and he released a low throaty chuckle.

“You almost had me for a moment there.”

I shrugged and let out a chuckle of my own. “Just checking if you were paying attention.”

He shook his head and leaned in close. “Trust me, you have my rapt attention.”

My cheeks burned again. I tried not to let it show, but I failed. If Grey noticed I was blushing, he sure as hell didn’t comment on it. Which was just as well, I hated that a few simple words could make me flush.

“Look, Jek.”

He paused after speaking my name. A part of me imagined it must have sounded odd to his ears, but I couldn’t say for sure.

“I couldn’t say what’s going on with you and the Conclave, but I’ve been hearing a lot of rumors. It’s no coincidence that you’ve turned up right after the Endeavour has been found, is it?”

It was my turn to blink. Grey was anything but stupid, but I hadn’t expected him to put those pieces together.

“No.”

“And becoming bonded? You’re about the last person I’d expect to join with a symbiote.”

I scowled and bowed my head. “It’s complicated. Don’t spread this around, but I’m the one who found the Endeavour, and I ended up host to Khala because, well, I damn near died.”

His eyebrows shot straight back, and he leaned back in his seat, letting out a long breath of air. “Wait a second, did you say Khala? Wasn’t she bonded to your mother?”

I should have known that talking about my symbiote would prompt her to appear, but I had no idea what prompted her to take on the likeness of my mother. If my symbiote’s abrupt appearance surprised Grey, he sure didn’t show it. No surprise there. If he’d known Sophia Briggs, he would find Khala’s choice in appearance a little disconcerting.

“She was,” Khala said, seating herself beside Grey. “Now she’s bonded to her daughter.”

“Is that right?” Grey flashed a grin that showed just a little too much of his pearly whites. “How exactly does that work?”

“Stasis pod.” Khala cocked her head, displaying a smile that looked so fucking wrong on my mother’s face.

“So, I take it your mother was dead for a while?” He asked, returning his attention to me.

I nodded. My hands shook, but I slid them under the table so he couldn’t see. “I can’t say much. I signed an NDA, but everything that’s happened has left me pretty shaken. There are things, Grey, things that have happened that have left me wondering if any of us are safe.”

“Sounds pretty serious.”

“More than you’ll ever know.”

“Yeah, well maybe, but if you ever want someone to talk to or just listen. I’m here.”

I nodded and let a smile touch my face. “Who’d have thought all those weeks ago, that getting transformed into a woman would be the least of my worries.”

Grey’s eyebrows shot way up. “I sort of had you pegged a little differently.”

“Pegged how?”

“Well, you know there were always those rumors about you. The sort of bullshit you always hear from Conservers. The way they talked, they made you sound like a sissy boy. I probably wouldn’t have put much stock in it, but sometimes you just seemed so uncomfortable in your own skin I thought the rumors might be true. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t care either way, but your damn sight easier on the eyes now, if you don’t mind me saying.”

“You think I’m a trans girl?”

My whole body trembled as I averted my gaze. I glanced back at him, shaking my head. It was crazy and yet…

My mind flashed to my youth, long before I knew Grey, when I was always getting bullied by the other boys, especially the Conservers, because they believed me to be a faggot. I wasn’t athletic or really good at anything except being a smart ass. Most of my friends had been girls. Hell, it wasn’t until I hit puberty and started getting second glances from the fairer sex, that I moved past the whole scrawny effeminate dweeb thing. If we met back then, it would only be logical for him to make the jump, but some of the person I tried long and hard to bury must have lingered if Grey picked up on it. Was it any wonder it had shaken me?

“Jek–”

“Kayde, it’s Kayde now.” I stared him down, shaking away the last of my confusion and doubt. Why the hell should I care what anyone else thought?

“Kayde, then. Sorry if I upset you.”

“No,” I said turning to watch as the server returned with our food. “Don’t be, it’s good to see a friendly face.

As we dug in, our conversation switched to more pleasant things, and for that moment, it was two friends talking about old times. I almost forgot about my troubles. Almost.

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Legacy of Earth: Genesis | Ch 1

04/10/2021

CH 01

Kingsburgh, California, The Briggs Family Estates

The trio of throwing knives twirled through the air, striking my intended target in the chest. I spun around, only to have a fist slammed into my jaw. I twisted sideways, just managing to fall onto my side before I slipped another blade from my boot and leapt back onto my feet. As I did, I stabbed out, slashing a huge gash across the creature’s chest. Then finished it with a quick thrust to the heart.

“Kayde.”

The voice came from behind and I swept my feet down and out, sending the speaker tumbling down to the ground. I produced yet another knife from the sheath on my wrist and dove, ready to plunge the blade into my attacker’s chest.

“KAYDE!” The voice screamed again, and I gasped, stopping my weapon, mere centimeters from the newcomer’s heart.

“Athilda!” I called out to the house’s artificial intelligence system. “Shut down the simulation.”

I tossed my knife aside and rolled away. When I came back to my feet, the images of the beasts shimmered and flickered away, replaced by the metallic sheen of holodrone torsos. One by one, I watched the robots shuffle across the chamber and disappear into an opening in the wall, before I held an open palm out to Tanner. She scrunched up her nose and scowled up at me, but took my hand and let me pull her up.

“What the fuck, Kayde,” She said, patting off the front of her shirt and pants.

“What is this?” She threw her hands out, motioning at the last of the retreating drones.

I turned my back to her, retrieving the nearest knife, and slid it back into its sheath.

“And what are you wearing?”

I didn’t reply, but I glanced down at my chest and my cheeks turned red. All I wore was a black athletic bra and a pair of legless workout shorts. Basically, the most revealing outfit I’d sported since taking female form. In my defense, the entire reason I picked it out was because it allowed for maximum mobility.  Hell, I hadn’t expected anyone to barge in on me while training. So the amount of skin I had on display wasn’t a factor.

I wiped sweat from my brow and gave my ponytail a good tug as I surveyed the damage. One of the three throwing blades I’d tossed at the first holodrone ha hit where the crotch would have been on a human.

“Dammit! Well, at least it’s a simple part to replace this time.” I said under my breath, yanking the knife in question free from the unit.

“This time?” Tanner grabbed me by the arm and pulled me close, looking into my eyes. I didn’t fight, hell with Khala’s enhancement’s I could snap her like a twig, but that would have been the overreaction of the century. “How long have you been duking it out against these holofighters?”

I slipped free from her grip and rocked my head. Trembling as I looked back into her eyes.

“Two weeks.”

She put her hands on her hips, looking around the room before her eyes settled back on me. “This is about your grandmother, isn’t it?”

I clamped my eyelids closed, Kaya Brigg’s lifeless eyes greeting me the moment they closed, and I jerked them back open. Tears streaked my cheeks, and I wiped them away, hoping that Tanner hadn’t seen.

“It’s about survival. The next time I come up against those damned creatures, I intend to be ready.”

“Uh huh,” she said, bending over to pick up one of my knives. “That’s why you’re crying.”

I scowled, folded my arms across my chest. “I don’t have to explain myself to you, Tanner.”

Tanner flinched almost as if I dealt her a physical blow and I slipped past her, moving toward the room’s only exit. She called after me, before I reached the door, but I didn’t turn back. I was feeling all sorts of hostility toward her, but it had nothing to do with her finding me in so compromising a situation. The number of times I’d snapped and barked insults at her over the last several weeks, numbered in the dozens. The most frustrating part? I couldn’t tell you why.

As the door slid shut behind me, I stormed down the corridor and up the steps leading out of the basement. I made a beeline for my bedroom and slammed the door behind me. Once inside, I paused taking in my reflection in the mirror and stood there transfixed for several moments. The girl staring back at me looked wild, untamed, blue hair a wild mess, sweat covered about every inch of her skin. Dirt and grime covered her arms, legs and most of her left cheek.

Yikes. A shower, that was what I needed.

My heart still pounding, I took several deep breaths to calm myself before I undressed. My sports bra came off first, I tossed it across the room and it landed hanging halfway out of the laundry chute. I’d become accustomed to my feminine figure, but sometimes when I looked at my image, I almost seemed… glad. This was one such time. A smile touched the corner of my lips as my hands cupped my bare breasts.

I scowled and dropped my hands, glaring at the reflection. What the hell was wrong with me? I kept having these odd moments where I almost enjoyed my new body. Khala could never manipulate my mind. The Conclave took great pains to prove that to the population, but I had this irrational fear that she was responsible. I should have never broken that stasis pod. Maybe I would have been better off dead.

Better off or not, I resumed disrobing, freeing the knife holsters from my hips and wrists, before slipping out of my boots. The workout shorts and panties came off together, collected in a little heap on the floor. I didn’t bother picking them up, but slid a hand over my pussy and pursed my lips. Though I’d swapped sexes, my libido had not diminished. If anything, it seemed stronger.

In short, I was horny all the damn time. I doubted it had anything to do with my change in sex, though. I’d never been one to suppress my appetites, but it seemed like ages since Tanner and I made love. Was it any wonder I wanted to bend over backwards and let somebody fuck my brains out?

I spent plenty of time pleasuring myself, but it didn’t satisfy me like the actual act would. It felt different, too. As a man, it was so centered on my cock. As a woman, masturbation was harder, and a lot of work. Just sticking my finger in the crevice wouldn’t be enough to achieve an orgasm. I had to work for it. As much as I would like to have a go at it there and then, I stopped myself. My body really got going with slow sensual movements, you know a soft caress here, the right music and bam, orgasmic bliss, but with me being so angry, it would not happen. I tried it once, and it had been uncomfortable… it happened, but it sure as hell hurt.

I moved toward the bathroom, naked as the day I was born, but decidedly more curvaceous. My breasts jiggled as I stepped inside the shower and pulled the curtain closed. At first, the shaking had been disconcerting, but the longer I stayed in my current form, the less I noticed it. At least most of the time. When running, working out or battling against holodrones, it got a little more distracting. It didn’t help that I was so busty. I mean, I wasn’t sporting beach balls or anything, but for a girl less than a hundred sixty centimeters, my bazoongas were pretty sizable.

As the water came cascading down from the ceiling, I slid my eyelids shut and just let my awareness slip away. At first, I was greeted by darkness, but then my imagination swept me to dark places as it did so often since my grandmother’s death. Tears dribbled down my countenance, indistinguishable from the droplets of water that washed over me.

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Three weeks prior…

Find her, set her free

I coughed, sitting bolt upright, swinging my arm up to shield my eyes, within seconds of them snapping open. I panted, breathing hard and looked around, fighting back fog as I struggled to discern where I was and what had happened. My vision adjusted quickly, one more benefit of my bond with Khala, but the thin plasti-mould walls did nothing to help me understand. I peeked down at myself and some of the puzzle pieces fell into place. 

I was wearing a hospital gown, and the durafoam surface atop which I was laying was a fold up style medical bed. Further glances revealed an assortment of medical equipment that I couldn’t even guess it’s use. I slipped a palm up the left side of my neck, my fingers finding purchase around a monitoring device before I yanked it free. A second device, this one attached to my wrist, an intravenous nutrient distributor from the looks of it, was removed with only the slightest sting of pain. 

“Oh god,” I whispered as a flood of memories assaulted me. “Grandma.”

I bowed my head, just letting tears wash down my face. The simple inescapable fact that Kaya Briggs was dead struck me as if I’d been dealt a stinging blow. Bonded hosts were hard to kill, thanks to the healing abilities, but we were far from invulnerable. She had her heart torn out of her chest. There was no way Crae could heal that, and the odds of a medical team getting to her in time to do anything but pronounce her death were slim to none. Even with advanced technology, there was only so much you could do in an emergency situation.

I sat there for the longest stretch, huddled in grief and sorrow. Guilt. I could have done more, should have done more. It didn’t matter that these thoughts were irrational. It didn’t matter that I’d been so thoroughly, laughably outmatched by that creature. A thousand could haves and should haves sprang to mind, each more far-fetched and non-sensical than the last.

“Kaydence, I’m so sorry.” 

Hands touched my shoulder, and I jumped. It was Khala. For once, I didn’t chastise or yell at her for startling me. Instead, I closed my eyelids and allowed myself to bask in the warmth of her touch. Khala was manipulating my senses and her hands were nothing but a very intricate illusion. 

I didn’t give a flying fuck. 

They felt real and helped me offset the sense of loneliness. A second pair of arms wrapped around me, and I didn’t need to open my eyes to know the phantom limbs belonged to Lexa. We were one in our grief, a being who knew her since she was a child, the ghost of her mother, and the ungrateful granddaughter who she raised. Such an odd trio.

I suppressed a sob and let my eyes slide open with a groan. The warmth, the unity, I didn’t want it to end, but the more rational part of my mind was more concerned with my surroundings.

I pulled away, slipped my toes over the edge of the bed and dropped to the floor. Reminded of my new shorter stature for the simple fact that, in the past, my feet would have touched the ground the moment my legs slipped over. I landed with a grunt, my knees almost buckling as my feet made contact.

“What the…” I leveraged myself against the bed, taking a few shaky steps forward. 

“I would grant you some extra strength so you could walk, but I’m pretty drained,” Khala spoke her form still roosted atop the bed beside my great-grandmother. “Keeping you alive has been a lot of work.”

My head snapped around, studying her. I didn’t demand an answer, but she replied to my unspoken question, anyway. “That creature infected you with some form of blood-borne parasite.”

“Parasite?” I grunted and took a second look at the plasti-mould wall panels. Understanding dawned on me. Someone had put me under quarantine. 

Khala trembled and folded her arms across her chest. 

“I’ve encountered nothing like it. It spreads through blood and…” She bit her lip and stared down at the ground.

“And what?”

“Its genetics were similar to my kind.”

“How similar?”

“Like the difference between a Qharr and a human. I think it might have even been intelligent, but, if it was, it didn’t try communicate. The creators know I did.”

I cupped my face with both hands. So a K’teth-like parasite was being spread by these creatures, which made for some pretty disturbing implications. Whoever or whatever had attacked the Endeavour, and the Valiant, was someone with the ability to manipulate genetics to a pretty frightening degree. Most species consider the K’teth the Phyrr Lesch’s greatest achievements in genetic engineering. 

It had taken the conclave almost ten decades of constant research and development to come up with a means to make a H’ra from a male symbiote. To create something with so many differences to a garden variety K’teth would require a skill at genetic manipulation that was beyond pretty much any intelligent species out there. At least, those who hadn’t been missing for ten thousand plus years.

I swallowed, hard. “Is it gone… Am I still infected?”

“You’ll be fine.” Khala shook her head and vanished. Lexa wiped tears from her eyes, then she too disappeared. The sounds of rubber on concrete preceded their departure, footsteps four sets of them, before the plastic wall in front of me collapsed, peeling away like skin from an orange.

I grunted, almost toppling over as something big came rushing toward me. Well, something bigger than me. A set of hands slipped onto my back and breasts pressed against my own. I soon found myself lost to another warm embrace, this one all too real and all the better for it. I was never was so disappointed when Tanner pulled away. Her hair was such a jumbled mess that she flushed and spent the next few seconds pulling it from her face. I wobbled back a few steps and peered into a familiar set of eyes though ones with much more pronounced crow’s feet than I remembered.

“Uncle Zed?” I released a squeal that, I’m ashamed to say, was more girlish than any sound that had ever escaped my lips and flung my arms around him. Zedekiah Matthew Briggs pulled away with gentle steady force. Easily overpowering me, which was impressive considering he wasn’t joined to a symbiote. 

Then again, whatever strength I had, had been leeched from my body battling that parasite. Khala must have been malnourished for me to be so feeble. It was the first time since being changed that I’d realized just how delicate my tiny form was without Khala enhancing my strength.

I stepped back and stumbled, almost collapsing, but Tanner and my uncle both stepped in, each grabbing me by an arm. 

“Maybe you should sit down,” Tanner and Zed both said at once, giving each other odd looks as they helped me back onto the bed. Perhaps helped was the wrong term. It was more like they picked me up and placed me atop the mattress, the same way one might slip a delicate flower into a vase. All with good intention, of course, but it was a bit like being a little kid again. It was fucking humiliating.

I didn’t struggle, however. I was weak and knew how futile it would be. My other two visitors approached the bed. The first I recognized, Mr. Personality himself, General Arnoff. The other was a new face… Well, new in the sense that I’d never seen him before. He wasn’t new in any other sense of the world. He looked to be getting along in years and if the lab coat was any sign, I’d say he was a doctor or at least a man of science.

“Miss Briggs,” Arnoff smiled, his chest all puffed up, not at all his usual expressionless self. “This is Dr. Zeeger.”

I nodded at the doctor and averted my eyes. “My grandmother?”

I knew the answer, but I needed to hear the words. For closure’s sake, if for no other reason. Tanner clasped her hands in mine and squeezed, hard.

“I’m sorry.”

“How long?”

“Three days,” Zed replied, scratching at his salt and pepper stubble. A nervous tick of his that I was a little relieved to see he hadn’t overcome.

“Oh, God.”

A sob slivered its way out of my mouth and I shuddered, fighting back a new flood of tears and failing.

“This thing that did this… This creature, it’s blood infected me, and if it hadn’t been for Khala…”

Zeeger coughed and adjusted his necktie. “You would have ended up just like one of those creatures.”

“I figured as much.”

“So what? You guys brought the corpse of the first creature back to Earth, you decide to perform an autopsy and whoops some scientist gets blood splattered on his face and whamo you got another monster on your hands.”

“We did a thorough check for contagions before bringing the body here. There was no reason to believe anything like this would happen.”

The doctor slipped both his fists in his lab coat pocket and released a single plaintive sigh. I arched an eyebrow, but said nothing. If the doctor’s reaction was any indication, he may have been the one responsible for this whole mess.

“Aside from one other, you are the only person exposed that managed to–”

“To not get turned into a bloodthirsty freaking monster? Yeah, well, yay me then. I guess I’ll just have to take home the consolation prize of having my grandmother murdered by one of them instead.” 

I winced the moment I uttered the words and looked into my uncle’s eyes to gauge his reaction. He pressed his lips together and tucked both his hands inside his pockets. His face was a calm mask, but although he often butted heads with my grandmother, I knew he cared for her a great deal.

The biggest question I had was why had it taken so long for him to return? I kind of expected my Aunt Muriel to be a flake, but Zed had always been there when I needed him. After my father died, he’d been the closest thing I’d had to a father. It hurt just a little to think that it took my grandma’s passing for Zed Briggs to turn up. 

“Our containment protocols will need to undergo some revisions to be sure,” Arnoff coughed and gave the doctor a hard sidelong glance. “We’ve contained the situation. We have three infected people in stasis, and without a cure, short of terminating them. The only other solution is to keep them there indefinitely.”

“There’s no simple way to say this, but these parasites are genetically very similar to K’teth. It raises some tough questions, but ultimately this similarity and your symbiote’s resistance to the parasite may be the key to finding a cure,” the doctor said, clearing his throat and casting a furtive glance towards Arnoff.

“Look if you’re suggesting that you’re going to use my niece as some sort of guinea pig…” Zed took a step forward, blocking both Cayne and the doctor from my sight.

“Nothing of the sort. We should have what we need, plenty of blood and a detailed bio scan.” Zeeger said, then paused and let out another sigh. “We need someone with more familiarity with K’teth biology. We need Dr. Vakrexid.”

“Don’t say his name!” I yelled out. My face burned as all eyes homed in on me.

“The doctor is a dear friend,” my uncle said, placing a hand on my arm and squeezing hard. “And I believe, given these beings are so close to the K’teth, it would be more than enough incentive to spark his interest. It shouldn’t be too difficult to convince him to collaborate with your people.”

“For now, I’d like to take Kayde home. She’s been through a lot and if what you say is true, there’s no need for her to stick around.”

“Of course.” Arnoff motioned for the doctor to leave, but lingered as Zeeger disappeared through the opening.

“I’d like to thank you.” He said, placing his palms on the footboard of the bed as he locked his unblinking eyes in a gaze with me. “If you hadn’t pushed me out of the way. I don’t think I’d be alive to tell the tale.”

“You’re welcome.” It was about as feeble of a reply as you might imagine, but it appeared to satisfy Arnoff, who nodded and turned to leave.

“Wait?!” I cried, throwing my hand out as if to beckon him back to me. 

He turned back toward me with an arched eyebrow, but had an otherwise unreadable expression on his face.

I dropped my hand and my voice quivered as I spoke. “Did that thing get anyone else? I mean, besides the people you’ve put in stasis?”

Arnoff’s expression turned sour, and he nodded. “Five of our people and two Dexagarmetrax are dead. The Dexagarmetrax ambassador is in critical condition.”

“Crae?” I asked, realizing as I did so that my uncle and I were the only people in the room who knew the K’teth’s name. I shook my head, then added, “My grandmother’s symbiote.”

Arnoff pursed his lips, folding both arms across his chest. “The symbiote appears to have entered the ambassador’s body, but from what I’ve been made to understand, this has brought about some complications.”

“Complications?” Zed said, mumbling the words before shaking his head. “That would be an understatement. The last time a K’teth tried to bond with a Dexagarmetrax, both host and symbiote died. Dexagarmetrax biology is too different from Qharr and human. Crae would have never been retrieved in time, so she took the only option open to her.” 

“Crae knew that there’s never been a successful bond between Dexagarmetrax and symbiote. Why would she take such a risk when there was a viable unjoined human in the hangar?” I asked.

“We can only speculate as to the symbiote’s motives, I believe it would–”

Zed scowled at Zeeger and cut him off. “The ambassador is the strongest proponent within Dexagarmetraxia’s government to share technology with Earth. If it were to die, all of those within their government who opposed the current policy would seize the opportunity to restrict Earth’s access to new technologies. Crae knows the importance of keeping the ambassador alive. She very well may have attempted a bonding hoping to save its life.”

“And if she fails, she could have further endangered relations. If the ambassador dies–” Zeegar said.

“It will mean a lot more to the Dexagarmetraxian government if Crae sacrificed herself in a vain attempt to save the ambassador than it would have if she had done nothing.” Arnoff nodded and glanced back to the door. “There are two guards waiting outside, they will escort you to a transport that will take you back to Kingsburgh.”

Arnoff’s hand slipped inside his pocket, produced a slender metal cylinder and slipped it into my hands. “It’s not much, but I hope it helps.”

Khala had already fed on the little well of energy inside the power cell, but it was just a tiny little morsel. It was like offering a single slice of bread to a person who hadn’t eaten in a week. It wasn’t enough, not by a long shot. My uncle slipped an arm under my legs and hoisted me up into his arms. He wasn’t a young man, but I was so tiny now. I doubted I even topped fifty kilos. I didn’t protest, I placed my head on his shoulder and clenched my eyes shut. Feeling new tears cascade down my cheeks, letting loose all the anger, self-recrimination and grief.

I had found the Endeavour, directly or indirectly, all the deaths those creatures had inflicted were on my hands. Whoever was behind those attacks must be stopped. I wasn’t sure how I’d find them, but when I did, there was going to be hell to pay.

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Legacy of Earth: Birthright | Ch 15

04/03/2021

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Author's Note

Just a bit of a warning, this chapter has content that may be upsetting to some readers. All I can say is, it was extremely painful for me to write. Please don’t hate me.

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CH 15

In transit to Orbiting Defense Platform Odin, aboard the Flint

Our ride, the Flint, was a Voyager class transport, a sleek and slender vessel and was among the smallest classes of ship in the United Earth Alliance Fleet. Often used on the front line to get troops in and out of tight spots, it was no mystery why they had so often been equipped with precision drives.

The vessel seemed more than a like familiar. The Centennial Hawk was a prototype model, which was the basis for Voyager-class ships, like our transport. There were, however, some pretty noticeable differences. I mean, they kept it a fair bit cleaner, and the Hawk’s bulkheads were a hodgepodge of different materials Tanner and I scavenged from wherever the hell we could.

The Hawk was unique, the only one of its kind, built with a modular dock that would have allowed it to be outfitted with dozens of different pods. As near as I’d been able to determine, the only pod ever produced had been the cargo container. It had been a good idea in theory, but the engineers at Briggs Aerospace and Engineering who had worked on her hadn’t quite worked out all the kinks after Lily’s death. So the company scrapped the modular aspect and sold the design to the UEAF as a transport ship.

When we’d gotten hold of the Hawk it had been an empty shell, a husk save for the propulsion system, but one which came at an enticing enough price that we hadn’t passed it up. Retrofitting her had been a challenge, but boy had it been worth it. Few transports could match her speed or maneuverability, and we had equipped her with second-hand and re-manufactured parts. If Tanner or I had managed to get our hands on some of those military grade hardware, I can’t speak for my partner, but I think I’d have died and gone to heaven.

After we were all inside, Lt. Chev Raymont, the UEAF officer who’d greeted us outside the ship, closed the ramp behind us by slamming his hand into a nearby wall switch, then turned back to us with a smile that looked a little too forced.

“If you’ll be so kind as to follow me, we can get underway.”

The Flint didn’t appear to be a troop or cargo transport, given that those sorts of ships had a more open design, with few bulkheads and no corridors. This vessel had both. My guess, it was a transport for persons of importance, like high-ranking officers, consultants, dignitaries, government officials and whatever the hell category we fell into.

A short walk down a corridor, and into an adjoining room, later, and we soon found ourselves inside an area that must have measured a good sixty square meters, lined with padded bench seats, a minibar and a holo projector on one wall. It looked very much like the interior of a limousine, only much larger, which pretty well confirmed my suspicions.

The good Lieutenant invited us to sit, have a load off, have a drink or two and… wait. He didn’t phrase it that way, but that was the general point. He turned to leave, and I put my hand on the door and called out.

“Wait!”

He stopped in his tracks, then ever so slowly swung back to face me. The soldier didn’t say a word, nor did I, but I peered at him, hoping he could read the silent plea on my face. How could he leave me inside a room with the Qharr diplomat, my grandmother and business partner? No way, nope, just a whole hell of a lot of nuh uh. Things were awkward enough already.

The worst part was, he didn’t seem to understand or else he didn’t care enough to do shit about it. Not one to take no for an answer, what I did next shocked even me.

“You know.”

I rubbed a hand along the inside of my shirt collar, massaging the skin with slow sensuous movements, popping a button loose as I did. He didn’t move his head, but his eyes pretty well followed the movement and I realized I’d gotten the reaction I wanted.

What was I doing? I almost stopped there, but as his eyes looked over me with hungry desire, I realized something that weirded me the fuck out. I enjoyed getting the attention.

“My business partner, and I,” I paused long enough to nod back toward Tanner. “We run a small shipping business and our ship is an early X-419 prototype, we’d be interested in seeing more of the ship.”

He swallowed and averted his eyes, stepped away and nodded. “Uh, yes, we could arrange something like that. The weapons systems and engine sections are off limit to guests without clearance, but you and your friend are more than welcome to join me in the control room.”

“That, would be wonderful.”

I smiled, letting my hand slide away from my neck, but leaving the button of my blouse undone. When I peered back at Tanner, I paused before beckoning her forward. The look on her face and the one worn by my grandmother were almost identical. Eyebrows shot way up to the top of their forehead and eyes about as wide as they would go. I didn’t blame them for being surprised, so was I. The real question was, what came over me?

I shook my head, forcing breath in and out. It had gotten me all… excited, and a growing part of me was a little uncomfortable with the implications. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and snapped my eyelids open.

“Um, yeah can we forget about it?”

I turned back and took several steps away. I did not understand what that had been about, but I wouldn’t let myself take it any further. As fucking weird as that had been, I was a tad more concerned about how my companions would react.

That weird, newly discovered aspect of me was disappointed when Raymont left the room, but my sane half won out. I took one look around, noting that neither my grandmother nor Tanner looked even slightly less surprised, then marched into the corner, plopped down and cupped my face in both hands, wishing for all the world that I understood what the actual fuck had just happened.

The insides of my stomach clenched, and I remained there, burning tears streaking my cheeks, too humiliated to open my eyes or uncover my face. The room fell silent as the seconds passed into minutes. Soon enough I sensed movement, but instead of looking up to see who it was, I froze in place, unable to make eye contact with anyone. Hands slipped around my arm and a voice whispered in my ear.

‘Kaydence, you can do this. Find her, set her free.’

The voice sounded familiar, a unique combination of Salvadoran and Texas accents I had only ever heard from one person, my mother. I snapped my eyes open, and sat bolt upright, heart hammering in my chest when I discovered that there wasn’t anyone close enough to have whispered in my ear.

‘Khala, did you…’

‘Do what?’

Either Khala was messing with me or she really had no idea. I doubted Lexa would have pulled such a trick, and even if she had, the symbiote would have known. I wouldn’t be satisfied until I got an answer out of her, and when she replied in the negative, my heart sank. I was going insane. It was the only logical explanation.

For years now, I’d been hearing a voice in my dreams encourage me to find ‘her and set her free’. Until recently, I always assumed that the voice was trying to tell me I needed to find my mother, but since doing that, it had spoken to me four times, twice in dreams, and twice in the actual world. Granted, one time, I was an inch from death, but it seemed a little disconcerting that I was hearing voices.

“Kayde?” Tanner came over and sat beside me, putting a hand around my shoulder and held me. “What’s going on, you’re weirding us out.”

My grandmother hung back only a moment longer, before she moved across the room, took a seat beside me and placed her hand on mine.

“I’ll be fine,” I whispered, lying through my damn teeth. I wasn’t sure if I would ever be fine again. The experience had me shaking, doubting my sanity and confused as hell.

“I need to figure things out. Give me some time.”

That seemed to satisfy them both, but it would take more than a few paltry words to wash my doubts away. There was something very assuring about being held, a closeness that would have never been acceptable for me when I was a man. Things didn’t seem so uncomfortable anymore, even with Nyvok huddled in the corner, looking like someone who wanted to be anywhere but stuck in a cabin with a trio of human women. Quite a feat considering that the Qharr were so expressionless, but I suppose I might be getting better at reading his body language.

My first trip out since becoming a woman was less than stellar. Already, I’d pissed off a DTS agent, weirded everyone out, myself included, by flirting with Raymont, and had a very public breakdown in front of an alien ambassador who also happened to be a descendant of the warrior who enslaved my great-grandmother. Yeah, as bad days went, that one ranked in the top five, and it was only going to get worse from there.

separator
I was never so glad when the bukheads of the transport shuddered, and an almost imperceptible snap-hiss sounded from somewhere on the other side of the wall. If I hadn’t been so attuned to space travel, I probably wouldn’t have even heard it, but it was sufficient for me to identify. I slipped my hands clear of my face and stared at the exit, all the shame and shock from earlier forgotten as I listened for any signs of movement.

My grandmother’s gaze snapped up to stare at the door at about the same moment as mine had. Tanner was slower, no doubt, because she lacked the enhanced senses of a symbiote, but soon enough she too watched the door with anticipation in her eyes.

Nyvok held a small volume resembling a book, but made of slats of a material that might have been wood strung together into sheets. Each page was about three millimeters thick, and I guessed there were around forty pages judging from the thickness. I’d never seen a Qharr text of that sort, but I’d been made to understand that they read it bottom to top and the characters weren’t so much a collection of words, but instead represented thoughts and ideas. The amount of information in a single sheet would have been the equivalent of pages and pages worth of English text. He may very well have been reading the Qharr equivalent to War and Peace.

He was either so engrossed in his reading that he was unaware that the airlock had opened or was hoping to find a good stopping place before setting the book aside. It wasn’t until the door slid open that the ambassador pulled one slat out a few centimeters, perhaps marking his spot, and rose from his feet, meeting Raymont’s gaze as he stepped inside the room.

Lurching to my feet, I was out the door before the Lieutenant could even blink at me. I had been eager to leave the ship, so eager that the desire overcame me with an almost obsessive, manic fire. In seconds, I was clambering down the hallways before the others departed the room, and when I reached the exit ramp, channeled all the patience I had to keep myself from exiting without waiting for them.

When they did join me I ran down the ramp, basking in the wide open space of the hanger as I strained my neck back looking upon my surroundings. I was more than ready to put my little breakdown behind me, but as great as that sounded, it wouldn’t be something I could cast aside. Despite this disconcerting revelation, I put on my best professional face and waited for everyone else to descend the ramp. I might have looked calm and collected on the surface, but underneath a raging storm of emotions threatened to come thundering out. I shuddered to think what would happen if someone pressed the wrong buttons.

I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, and I turned to face the approaching entourage, led by an aging figure wearing a fleet uniform and sporting three bars on each of his sleeves.

Oh great, a General.

On his right side and just a meter back moved the towering figure of Hetzapledra, the Dexagarmetrax ambassador, and about the last being I expected to see. The General and ambassador were escorted by a pair of Dexagarmetrax much both closer in height to the human than the ambassador. Two servicemen trailed behind, keeping a respectful distance.

When the leader of the group drew closer, I was able to make out his nametag which identified him as General Theodore Arnoff. He greeted my grandmother with a curt nod and a flat, expressionless face. “Ma’am it’s good to see you again and ambassador so good of you to join us as well.”

“Charming as always, I see. Arnoff this is my granddaughter, Kayde, and her business partner Tanner.” Kaya Briggs held her hand out, first to me, then to Tanner.

Charming? Ha! That was the exaggeration of the century. The guy had about as much personality as food dispenser.

“It is agreeable General to once again have the honor.” Nyvok bowed his head and closed all three eyes, then stood bolt upright as he glanced around the hanger. “If it is not too impertinent of me to ask. How soon can we see this second beast? My government is very concerned about these beings. Consolidator Fryshck has taken a personal interest in the matter and will be expecting an update by the end of this Terran day.”

“The situation has changed.” Arnoff cast his eyes back at the Flint. “I’m afraid no one will be seeing the creature. We have put most of the facility under quarantine.”

“What?” My grandmother and I stepped forward and spoke up in perfect unison.

I cleared my throat, held my hands up and stepped back. My grandmother watched me and turned back toward Arnoff.

“I don’t understand. Is this second creature diseased?”

“It’s a bit more complicated than that,” he replied.

Despite his cool facade, I got the sense for the first time that he found the subject unsettling. Okay, so he was shifting from foot to foot and he had this odd tick where his left eye kept twitching, but I swear to you it was all intuition. Hey, what can I say? I just have a knack for reading people.

“Why don’t we discuss this very classified bit of information somewhere less public? I have some surveillance footage to show you, which I believe will be very illuminating.”

I craned my neck around, my eyebrows furrowed. We were inside one of the orbiting defense platforms, which was the most impenetrable military installation in the entire alliance. Couple that with the complete absence of anyone besides ourselves, and it just seemed… odd. Who would spy on us? A hunk of space debris?

Arnoff must have had reason to worry about eavesdroppers, but I didn’t see what it might be. Still, I was dying to find out what had happened and I’m sure the others were too considering they didn’t issue a single word of protest as the good General led us away. Not that I was in any place to criticize, I didn’t either.

separator

We never made it more than a hundred meters before, you guessed it, shit hit the fan. Okay, so it didn’t happen all at once. It starred with the sirens, which sounded out of thin air. I didn’t know what sort of sound system the UEAF used, but shit, it was loud.

“Dammit.” Arnoff cursed and cupped a hand over his jugular. “Someone tell me what the hell is going on.”

He paused, listening to a response from a subordinate, then started barking out orders.

“Get all available units prepped in containment gear, throw some god-damned coil guns in their hands and send them after that thing. Nothing gets in or out of this base, do you hear me? Nothing.”

He dropped his hand, spun around on the balls of his feet and started ushering us back toward the transport. “I need you back aboard that transport, now.”

“I thought you said–” I started to object, but the General cut me short.

“It’s not going to take off, but it’s armored and a lot more secure than an open hanger bay. Now move!”

I didn’t budge an inch, for that matter neither did my grandmother. Tanner took a few steps back, but when she saw that neither one of us had moved, she stopped and stared back at Arnoff, who’s face turned so red I half expected him to drop dead of a heart attack. Nyvok inched toward the door, craning his head around and sniffing like a dog trying to pick up a scent. Hetzapledra and their aids were the hardest to read, but they didn’t seem at all alarmed. Mostly, they quivered, which was pretty normal for members of their race.

“No.” I folded my arms across my breasts and stared him down. No small feat considering he towered over me. “You need me. I’ve gone toe to toe with one of those things already and killed it without enhanced strength. Now that I’m joined to a symbiote, I’m much faster and a lot deadlier. If there is anybody here, that can deal with that thing, it’s me.” I said, this time confirming that not only was a dumbass but also extremely self-deluded.

“You, are not trained to handle this kind of threat. My men are.”

“Your right, but my symbiote, has more experience than anyone on this base.”

Arnoff gritted his teeth and pointed at our transport. “You will get on that ship if I have to drag you onto it myself.”

The General knew damn well he would never match my strength, but maybe he hoped his size would intimidate me. I guess it worked, I actually took a step back when he moved toward me, but you know what? That’s about when I caught sight of something a fair bit scarier.

“Please, General,” Nyvok spoke, his voice rumbling above the sound of the siren’s. “Allow me to stay, you are right that, these humans are not warriors, but I have fought many engagements.”

Arnoff nodded and glanced back at me. His eyebrows furrowed. “Back on the ship, now.”

“Uh, too late.” Tanner said, staring off into the distance.

“Dammit,” I cursed and slapped the palm of my hand into my forehead. “Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

You know how I have a nasty habit of doing something insanely moronic? Well, this was one such moment. I should have just ran like hell, but no Kayde’s gotta try to be the hero. It was just my luck that the creature had found us, before I had seen common sense. Boy, sometimes I could just kick myself.

I slammed into Arnoff’s side, sending him reeling away. As the creature came rushing across the pavement toward us, I screamed at the others to “get the hell out of the way,” just before I leapt forward to take the thing head on. It crashed into me, sweeping one huge hand out, and sent me careening into Arnoff who had just gotten back to his feet.

We went down in a tangle of limbs and it took precious seconds for me to work my arms free, but I did just in time to hear a high-pitched squeal and look up. Tanner lay sprawled on the ground, the creature towering over her, both its hands balled up into fists at its side. I lurched free, but before I crawled back onto my feet, there was a blur of gray as Nyvok moved in to take on the creature.

The ambassador grappled with it, and for a moment I thought he would overpower it, but then it slid free and sent him stumbling into the deck. Next, a flash of blue hair, as my grandmother joined the fray.

Kaya Briggs was no spring chicken, but her symbiote afforded her a strength and speed even an unbonded human my age wouldn’t be able to muster. She leapt forward, spinning sideways and kicked out, striking it across the side with first one foot, then landed on all fours. She rolled back to her feet, watching the creature stagger back. I wasn’t sure if Crae was manipulating gravity waves or not, but if she was, she’d only disoriented the beast. That struck me as just a little unsettling.

Strike that, it was very unsettling.

I dove forward, ready to join in the fight, but a split second before reaching the creature, it shrieked, whipped an arm out and latched a massive paw around my grandmother’s throat. I drew close and slammed a fist into its side as I called out to her, but it was a futile gesture. It’s sweeping claws raked me across my skull and I stumbled away, my face throbbing in fiery agony.

The pain soon dulled, no doubt Khala’s work, but as I staggered toward the creature, I felt something warm trickling down my countenance and reached up to touch it, realizing as I did so that I was bleeding from an open gash on my forehead. The wound began to close within seconds, thanks to my symbiote, but it had gushed out until it had trickled into one eye and blinded on side.

I tried to blink it away, but there was too much. I didn’t waste precious seconds wiping it out of my eyes, but struck out at the beast, hoping to dislodge my captive grandmother. It back handed me again, and this time I went tumbling down onto my ass.

Phase fire blasts fizzled and hissed against the beast’s skin, but it didn’t seem to have much effect besides drawing its attention towards the source of the discharge. It slammed my grandmother with enough force that the metal grating she hit groaned and shrieked in protest. Crae must not have softened the blow in time because when I bent over to check for signs of life, her eyes were closed and blood dripped from her mouth.

I bowed my head and sighed when I found a pulse. Good, she was alive, but not in very good shape. My head jerked back up and I belted out a blood-curdling scream as I watched the pair of servicemen drop their phase weapons and retrieve a set of coil guns from their sides.

Hetzapledra and their attaché stood huddled behind them, no doubt hoping that they would protect them from the beast, but I knew such an effort was futile. If they tried to make a run toward either exits, they’d expose themselves to potential attack from their aggressor. If they stayed put, the creature would bulldoze through their protectors. They stood little chance either way.

Bullet’s crashed into the creature, each inflicting enough damage to splatter blood all over the metal grating, but not enough to slow it down. I was already on my feet tearing across the hanger bay, prepared to fling myself at the rampaging beast if necessary, and Nyvok wasn’t far behind. Arnoff hung back, producing a slender coil pistol, a K5 Elite series from the looks of it, and opened fire. He was too far away to aim with much accuracy, and when they struck his bullets did not enrage the creature enough to distract it.

Neither Nyvok nor I reached the Dexagarmetrax or the servicemen in time. The monster tore into them, its own violet blood mingling with their crimson as it reduced them to dead, lifeless husks. I caught up with the alien creature as the two men collapsed, their gore seeping into the cracks in the metal grating, and grabbed at an arm as it swiped at the aliens. I diverted its fist, but it took every bit of strength I could muster. Instead, it smashed into the metal bulkhead and made a sizable dent. I released my hold, flicking purple blood from my eyes, and slammed my fists into its midsection. The attack had almost no effect, and it backhanded me, sending me careening away.

Next, Nyvok stepped up to the plate, his massive muscles bulging as he leapt at the creature. Its knees bent, almost buckling under the force of the Qharr ambassador’s attacks, but it staggered back and regained its balance. I didn’t dare step in. The beast was thrashing about and each time I got close it lurched into a new direction. Of all the beings within the hanger, Nyvok stood the best chance against the creature. He was closest in sheer strength and size, but when his opponent let out a roar and charged straight toward the bulkhead, I knew it was going to knock its opponent loose.

Sure enough, when it slammed into the wall with the full force of a freight cruiser, Nyvok slid off the beast, at least for the moment, disabled, and it swung around lurching for the trio of Dexagarmetrax and me. Arnoff changed clips and unleashed a new salvo of fire on that thing.

I threw myself between the alien dignitaries and the monster, bracing myself. Knowing that I was the only one that stood between them and life and death. The beast, disoriented at first, shrugged off the general’s weapon fire, picked up speed and came charging at us. I ran forward, knowing that if I stayed and let it come steamrolling into me, it would flatten me like a pancake.

When I was close enough, I intended to slip behind it and sweep it out from under its feet, but it had either figured out my plan or it had damn good reflexes, maybe both. It swept its claws out and around my waist, sweeping me up off my feet and threw me across the docking bay. I landed hard enough that I almost slipped into unconsciousness, but I fought it, trying to blink away the splotches of light that were disrupting my vision. I heard high-pitched, almost panicked squeals, like someone blowing into clarinets. One by one, each of those squeaks were silenced, and I knew the beasts had succeeded in either killing or subduing the Dexagarmetrax.

With slow, careful movements, which were the best I could manage, I swung my head, feeling blood trickling down the right half of my chest and from the re-opened forehead gash.

“Khala.” I said, in what came out sounding like a whimper.

‘Kayde, I am trying. You’re really hurt.’

“Yeah, tell me something I don’t know.”

I looked around, letting out a sigh of relief, realizing that at least the Qharr ambassador and the general were still standing. They converged, each moving toward my grandmother’s still form as the beast barreled toward them. I lurched up, gasping with pain as I put pressure on my left foot. Sharp, jagged pain flooded and my vision went pure iridescent white.

Oh, fuck it hurt, which probably meant it was broken.

Any ordinary person would have collapsed back to the ground, but I managed to inch forward. As I did so, I could feel my bones snap back into place as Khala healed my wounded appendage.

I slipped in close, but not before the creature grabbed Nyvok by the arm and swung him around, toppling the two. I was unsure if the beast just didn’t see me or if I was so injured it didn’t consider me a threat, but it ignored me. Instead, it knelt down, looming over my grandmother’s form. She moaned and tried to stand up, but it clenched her head and smashed it back into the grating. When I witnessed this, I shouted out and lurched forward, but my leg wasn’t completely healed and I collapsed again.

I caught the creature’s attention for the barest of seconds. It snarled at me, then returned its ire to my grandmother, pounding its fist down into her chest. She gurgled, coughing up blood. I fought to climb back up, but before I could, it grabbed her by the throat, pulled its fist free from her rib cage and slammed it down again, this time over her heart. As distant as I was, I could still feel blood splattering against my face, further blinding me. I saw just enough to realized it had pulled something out of her chest. A sob escaped my lips when I realized it was her heart.

I cried out, wriggling and writhing, struggling so hard to get up. I released another sob as it squeezed its fist tight, crushing my grandmother’s heart into mush. The remains of Kaya Brigg’s flesh still dripped from its hand as it turned its attention to me. It didn’t offer mercy or hesitation in the slightest. It kicked me, flipping me onto my back and slammed down into me.

I thrashed about, trying my damndest to injure the creature before it finished me, but nothing worked. It was like trying to level a mountain by driving a hover car into it. You might do a little surface damage, but you damned well weren’t going to move it. It forced its fist into me, ripping through lung, ribs and muscle and pulled flesh free. If the pain from my broken leg had been bad this was like a nuclear warhead going off. Pain rippled through my body with multiple successions of blinding white light. I could feel consciousness begin to slip away and I was sure I was a goner, but then the beast jerked back, howling in agony, before its fist pierced my skin a second time.

The General had come to my rescue. He and Nyvok had untangled their limbs from one another, and they both stood there as he once again opened fire. This time he was near enough to take careful aim, and he did just that, hitting the creature in its middle eye. It’s body collapsed, hitting the ground with a dull thud. Barely conscious, I rolled over onto my chest, my blood and guts gushing all over the floor, looking into my grandmother’s unseeing gaze, before my own eyes slid shut, ushering in the darkness.

, ,

Legacy of Earth: Birthright | Ch 14

03/27/2021

CH 14

Kingsburgh, California, Spaceport

“Do you think you’ve frisked me enough, or should I bend over and let you stick your hand up my–”

“KAYDENCE!” My grandmother’s voice shouted from the next booth over, silencing me before my big fat mouth finished saying the stupidest thing imaginable.

I clenched my jaw shut and scowled, fixing my eyes on the agent who slipped the gloves from her hands and glowered back. As it so happened, my big mouth had gotten us in our current predicament.

Okay, before I go further, a bit of an explanation might be in order. After arriving at the starport, we passed through security just as any international or interplanetary traveler would. Standard enough stuff, I experienced the same ordeal every time I departed from or returned to Earth. This time there was a minor snag.

The agent, with who I had the pleasure of dealing, seemed to believe that it was suspicious that my IDEC didn’t match my current form. Go figure, huh? Now, I know what you’re thinking. What about all that hubbub with the UEA Fleet giving me safe passage? Well, yeah, they did, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t get a thorough pat down, now did it? Tanner only escaped the nastiness by sheer virtue of choosing a separate line from my grandmother and myself. And now you’re pretty much caught up, so I’ll return you to your scheduled programming.

“Despite what I can only describe as a winning personality, you’re clean. You’re lucky you have someone up high pulling strings for you. If it were up to me, well let’s say, with that attitude of yours and that unusual IDEC which I suspect is a poor forgery, I would toss you into a detention room and throw away the keys.”

My teeth were grinding as I watched that bitch turn her back to me and disappear through the opening, but the moment it slid shut, a smile touched my lips. I loved sticking it to the ‘man’ even if she was a woman. I suppose it was a little like poking the bear, but so many things were out of control it seemed a little liberating to act without lasting consequences… for a change. Even if I pissed the rest of the world off.

Okay, now I should probably be a good boy… girl whatever.

I cleared my throat, let the scowl slip back onto my face, grabbed my leather jacket from the hook on the wall and followed the bitch out the door. My grandmother waited for me outside, and if possible, she looked even more irritated than the good agent. Not surprising considering she got the supreme honor of getting patted down right alongside me.

She grabbed me by the shoulder, hissing out curses in my ear as she led me away from the angry eyes and scowling faces of the DTS agents.

“What the hell was that about?”

I stopped, jerked free from her hold and rounded on her, ready to shout out an angry retort. Then I realize that behind the furrowed eyebrows and clenched teeth, there was a spark of concern in her eyes. My irate response died on my lips in that moment of shocking clarity.

“It was stupid.” I said mumbling out a hasty response refusing to look in those eyes again. Not because I feared to face her wrath. I’d stared her down more than a few times. The concern was the part that got me. It gave me the heebie-jeebies even considering it. Weird, right?

“Kaydence, I know this is difficult. I may not be able to understand what’s happened, but I’m here to help if I can. I know you’ve always been a little hotheaded, but it’s never a good idea to antagonize people who have the power to ruin your life.”

Okay, so maybe the temporary high I got out of pissing off the DTS agent hadn’t been worth the thrill, but hell, can you blame me? Now it was time to return to do the whole adulting thing, so that I didn’t get myself in real trouble. It was best not to tempt fate, you know?

“I’m sorry.”

Clenching my eyes shut, I almost immediately snapped them open again. I looked into my grandmother’s eyes and all the years of resentment and anger boiled away. For the first time in my life, I understood. All the things Kaya Briggs did hadn’t been done to punish me or to force me to follow in Lexa’s footsteps. At least not in the way I thought. She only wanted what she considered best for me.

Oh sure, she’d been misguided, and we disagreed a lot, but I understood that her motives were much more selfless than I ever imagined. It didn’t make it right, but at least I understood.

“I’ve been a fool, but thank you, thank you for being here.”

Hot tears stung my cheeks, and I let my grandmother wrap her arms around me. I experienced a warmth, an emotional bond, that I thought lost to us forever.

“When you left, I feared I might never see you again. I pushed you too hard, I should have seen that it was a mistake. You’re so bright and intelligent, I wanted the best for you.”

And somehow we were both crying… A lot of guys would say it was because we were a couple of gals, getting all teary-eyed from an overdose of estrogen. Having been a woman for half a week didn’t make me an expert, but I’ll just call bullshit on that right now. Truth be told, even were I still sporting a cock and flat chest, I’d still be bawling my eyes out.

My grandmother cleared her throat and reached up to straighten my collar.

“Come on Jellfree, our ship will be waiting.”

For once, my grandmother’s use of my old name didn’t bother me. For some odd reason, I couldn’t help but smile as we moved deeper into the spaceport. The overwhelming feeling of helplessness that had been with me since I’d first became joined to Khala withered away and died. Replaced by an overwhelming sense of hope, the like of which I had never experienced in all my life. All was right with the universe again, I had my grandmother back.

separator

We met up with Tanner a short while later. My tears were dry, but there was some concern that my face might still be red. Either Tanner was too polite to say anything (not freaking likely) or else Khala’s healing capabilities had taken care of the redness and it didn’t show on my face. Given that my grandmother’s countenance didn’t show any signs of having shed tears, it must have been the case.

“Well, I’m assuming since you’re both here that it went well?”

“As well as a good frisking can go.” I replied, glancing toward my grandmother with just the slightest little smile.

Tanner narrowed her eyes and put her hands on her hips, perhaps looking to glean some information from the two of us. Neither of us cracked. I couldn’t speak for my grandmother, but I didn’t much feel like sharing. The frisking had been unpleasant, but what had followed had been illuminating. It seemed too personal to blab to anyone, even Tanner, in whom I had shared so much, and least of all in the middle of the spaceport.

separator

When we made it to our dock, the UEAF vessel was waiting. An officer stood at attention outside of the ramp. He looked so out of place in his dull gray uniform against the backdrop of the spaceport and the sheer variety of humans and other beings coming and going. I came to a screeching halt as I caught sight of a dark form approaching from the east. Tanner followed my example, but my grandmother veered off course, making a beeline for the figure.

“Oh, shit,” I cursed under my breath, and stopped to marvel how odd it sounded when I swore with my new voice before I was off treading toward the newcomer. When we were close, I craned my neck back and stared up at the towering form of the Qharr ambassador Nyvok with just a little lump in my throat.

“Chairperson Briggs,” he said, his booming baritone cutting through the noise of the crowded spaceport like a hot knife through butter. So powerful, was his cadence, that several nearby travelers took a wide berth of him. Of course, that could have something to do with his stature and the fact that he was a gray skin, but the voice was probably a contributing factor.

My grandmother nodded and held a hand out first to me, then to Tanner. “You’ve met my granddaughter, of course, and this is her business partner, Tanner Grace.”

“I did not expect to see you or your kin here… And your associate,” he added the last part nodding toward Tanner. “Though given the circumstances, that would seem to be a miscalculation. I should have anticipated that the one called Arnoff would seek your expertise.”

“And he’s sought yours too, has he?” Kaya Briggs asked, folding her arms across her chest. Despite what she might say, I could tell from her body language that she wasn’t comfortable around the Qharr. Given that his ancestor had been the slave master of her mother, Lexa Briggs, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why.

Khala was no different. If she’d had insides that resembled anything but a blob of goo, they would have been twisting and turning. She made no appearance, but Lexa, or her shadow, or whatever the hell she was, wasn’t so shy. Her illusory form materialized, scowling up at the ambassador with undisguised hatred burning in her visage.

I glanced at my grandmother and furrowed my brow. Her mother had just materialized out of thin air and she didn’t even so much as bat an eyelash? When a voice whispered into my ear, understanding dawned on me.

‘They can’t see her, nobody can, except you and me,’ Khala said appearing a moment later, leaning against my shoulder.

‘Why?’ I thought toward her, not wishing to make our conversation public.

‘I can’t even begin to tell you.’ She shrugged and glided forward, stood beside my great grandmother’s form and tapped a finger against her temple. ‘All I can say is that she seems to have turned into a permanent fixture inside my head.’

‘You don’t have a head.’

‘Fair enough, I was attempting to borrow from your human vernacular. Suffice it to say, she’s become a permanent resident inside my consciousness.’

She disappeared so suddenly, with no fanfare, that I lurched back. I was quick to recover, my attention returning to Lexa and Nyvok. She paced back and forth before the towering Qharr, shaking her head and muttering under her breath. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but coughed, receiving a few odd looks from the others.

It had the desired effect, Lexa’s head snapped around and her brilliant magenta eyes focused on me. To the average person a joined host’s eyes were disconcerting, but for someone like me, who had spent most of his… ahem… her life around all things K’teth and Conclave, they didn’t trouble me so much. Lexa’s gaze on the other hand was so powerful, so very intense, that I took a step back when our eyes met.

“It’s amazing. A hundred and sixty years later and one of Duvak Nakyrr’s descendants wears the same face. I thought I had moved past the tortures inflicted on me, but when I see that mug, my blood just boils with hatred. Oh, how I want to pummel him and beat his face into mush like I did Duvak’s, but I can never act on those impulses. I’m just a shadow in Khala’s and my great-grandchild’s minds. The latter is so ashamed of my legacy that he wouldn’t even use my name.”

She took another step toward me, glanced back toward Nyvok, scowled and disappeared as Khala had. I found everyone in the groups’ eyes on me.

“Earth to Kayde, is anybody in there?” Tanner asked, waving a hand in front of my face.

I bit my lip, grabbed her hand out of the air and forced it away from my face. “I was just talking to Khala.”

“Right, well… Should have figured.”

I kneaded a hand into the back of my neck and grimaced before taking a few tentative steps forward. I paused long enough to wave the others on, then continued toward the UEAF ship. They got the message. Soon enough, they followed suit.