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Legacy of Earth: Birthright | Ch 5

01/16/2021

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CH 05

The Torrentian Void aboard the Endeavour

Our trip through the ship was short, Hinderman led us down a corridor which adjoined the one through which we entered and stopped in front of a hatch. She smiled at me again, before she tapped on the door’s control pane. The once opaque surface became translucent, revealing enough details of the room inside to give me a good idea of its size and who waited inside.

“Oh God,” I muttered under my breath as my nerves kicked into overdrive, anticipating the shit that was sure to follow.

“Ma’am,” the lieutenant tapped the door again and leaned forward, speaking into it. “They’re ready for you.”

“Send them in,” my grandmother’s voice wafted through the door, sounding a little artificial conveyed through the audio transmitters.

The door slid open, and I pulled on my new blue locks with a single hard tug, as I looked my grandmother over, face to face after more than five years apart. She pressed her lips into a line, and her eyes locked on my hair and eyes, growing a bit wide as she took me in, no doubt surprised to find me sporting the telltale attributes of a joined host.

She stood and walked across the room, her hands reaching up to finger a shock of blue hair that came loose from my ponytail. “This, is unexpected.”

I shifted my footing and cleared my throat, as I sensed rather than heard the door shut behind Tanner and myself. I pulled her hand away, shaking my skull and trying my damnedest to keep myself from looking in her eyes, but to be honest, there wasn’t a chance in hell that I could exhibit that level of self-control. Unable to resist, I locked gazes with her and uttered a single word, which explained far more than a couple dozen could have.

“Khala.”

“H-how, you said Sofia died?”

“Mom used a stasis pod, it saved Khala’s life.”

“A fact for which, I am eternally grateful,” Khala spoke up, her curvaceous form materializing beside me, wearing a dress that was only a bit more modest than the last one.

The pair were well acquainted. In fact, since she’d been host to a symbiote all of her adult life, Kaya Briggs knew the K’teth when she was still host to my great grandmother, the late Lexa Briggs. A smile touched the rim of Khala’s lips, and my grandmother returned her affection in equal measure. My grandmother’s symbiote joined our odd reunion, her hard-edged features coalescing in the empty air beside my elder.

I’d only spoken to Crae a handful of times in my life on those rare occasions my Kaya permitted her to assume control of her body. I wasn’t sure what I’d been expecting, but something about the form she projected seemed a little off. She was tall, and bulging with enough muscle that she would rival most Qharr if she possessed any actual body mass, but I guess the most remarkable thing was that she chose to project a female form at all. Crae was biologically a H’ra or a queen, but that hadn’t always been the case.

The Conclave sank a lot of money into increasing K’teth reproductive rates, and succeeded in one very significant way, by increasing the number of Queens through genetic engineering. Though Crae had been the first male to become a Queen, she was not the last. Given that she kept her male name, I sort of expected she might still identify as male. The K’teth were very different from humans, so there was no telling where gender factored into their identities, if at all.

Crae barely offered me so much as a second look, instead, offering greetings to Khala, but given that my symbiote who, in human terms, was Crae’s grandmother it would surprise no one that she would choose to greet a relative over a human who was barely aware of her existence.

As the two K’teth shared greetings, my grandmother slipped both of her hands on my shoulder and pulled me close. I stiffened, a little surprised as her arms wrapped around me. Kaya and I didn’t part on the best of terms. So it disconcerted me just a little to find myself in such a position. The oddest part? I returned the gesture.

Then sanity returned to me and I pulled away, feeling my cheeks burn as I turned my head enough to gauge Tanner’s reaction. She rubbed the back of her neck and staring at us as if she wanted to be anywhere but in that tiny little room. I jerked back, putting a good meter between my grandmother and me.

“Right.”

My grandmother cleared her throat and glimpsed at Tanner for the first time. I felt a bit of a knot form in my stomach, realizing that I hadn’t introduced either of them to one another.

“Tanner, this is my grandmother Kaya Briggs, Kaya this is my business partner Tanner Grace.”

“We sorta met already.” Tanner turned a brilliant crimson and took my grandmother’s hand. “When you called her over the HoloGRID.”

“Yes,” my grandmother replied, a smile touching the corner of her lips. “I remember quite vividly. So vividly in fact, I went to the trouble of checking up on your past.”

Tanner’s eyes grew wide, and she bit her lip, shaking her head. “Shit, you did?”

“Don’t worry, I found nothing too worrisome. Though I must say you turned out lovely. I never would have imagined that the young–”

“Right, well, um.” Tanner grabbed her by the shoulders, wearing the most grotesquely contorted smile I had ever seen. “It’s been really nice to meet you, Ms. Briggs, but we are here for a reason, aren’t we?”

My grandmother seemed surprised, but glanced toward me, nodded, and a knowing smile passed across her face. I didn’t have any idea what that brief exchange had been about, but if the wild-eyed look on Tanner’s face was any sign, I doubted I would find out about it from her any time soon. Whether I could milk it from my grandmother was another matter, but I soon put it out of my mind. Though I found the prospect worth further investigation, for the time being, I had bigger fish to fry.

“You’ve been reckless, Jek,” Kaya Briggs stated between pursed lips. “If it hadn’t been for my intervention, you would be in restraints right now.”

I blinked, then shifted on my feet and shook my head. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“The Valiant has already linked into the Endeavour’s computer systems. They ascertained that you used a Conclave access code to obtain entry to the ship.”

I bent my neck and cupped my face with the palms of both hands, ready to bite back with an angry retort, but Tanner spoke before I could say anything stupid. “You stole an access code from the Conclave?! What are you, some kind of a dumbass?”

“What else did you expect me to do?” I dropped my hands and clenched my jaw.

“I understood that if I ever found the Endeavour, I would never be included in any resulting investigation. The only way, I would have found out what happened to my mother, without the government feeding me some bullshit story, was to gain entry into the ship. Either that or force my way in. Since, my grandmother had the codes, it seemed like the easier solution.”

“You know that I would have never let the Alliance shut you out, Jek.”

“Oh, and you can’t tell me you wouldn’t have tried to shield me from the truth if you thought I couldn’t handle it? I was fifteen before I learned my dad offed himself. I found my mother’s corpse with a big ass fucking hole in its chest, no doubt put there by a creature out of my worst nightmares, don’t stand there and tell me, that you would have revealed that little tidbit to me.”

“Perhaps, when you raise children of your own, you’ll understand.”

God, how the hell could she be so clueless! I didn’t want her to shelter me, I wanted to know the goddamned truth. She’d been lying and manipulating me all my life. Supposedly to protect me, but she always wanted me to follow in the family footsteps and become joined to a K’teth. Her lies were just another way to push me toward that objective. The funny part was that she got her wish, but only because I had gone off and done the exact opposite of everything she wanted. That’s irony for you. I leave and do my own thing and end up fulfilling my worst damned nightmare. Figures.

I grated my teeth and glanced toward Tanner again. We’d had this argument before and it never ended well. It wasn’t something I enjoyed even without an audience, but I sure as hell would not let it happen with my partner lurking about.

“Look, we’ve both made our feelings known, I will not rehash the same old damn argument. Let’s just get to the point. I’ve made a shit storm of trouble and you’ve been forced to clean up my mess. Is that about right?”

My grandmother sighed. “It’s fortunate that I convinced Colonel Cayne that you were on the Conclave’s payroll and that I was the one who gave you those codes.”

“Of course you did.” I gritted my teeth. “Which means, what? I already know intergalactic law. Since the Endeavour was derelict, I had probable cause to enter and I can even justify blowing a hole in the research area wall since the artifact was going nuclear on my ass.”

“It means, Jellfree Keiran Briggs, that you’re not facing any criminal charges, but don’t believe it’s not coming without a price. I want to protect you, but you haven’t made it easy. Join the Conclave, and I promise you, whatever direction things go you will be right in the thick of it so long as you sign and abide by the NDA agreement.”

Good lord, in the thick of it? Geez, talk about cliched lines. I cringed and released a long breath of air before issuing my reply.

“If I don’t?”

“I can’t protect you any further…” And she paused, squaring her jaw. “And more importantly, you’ll never find out, who or what is responsible for your mother’s death.”

She pushed the right buttons. Honestly, unless my grandmother spilled the beans, I didn’t think I’d need to worry about any of those sticky legal issues, but I’d spent most of my life wondering what the fuck was behind my mother’s disappearance. I wasn’t certain I could step aside now that I’d come so far. Sure, that creature killed her, but who or what had sicked it on the crew of the Endeavour in the first place? She had me and she knew it.

Damn her.

“I don’t suppose you’re going to give me any time to think it over.”

“Three days,” she replied.

She left a lot unsaid, but for a change I didn’t press her for details. She wouldn’t be likely to reveal whatever secrets she might be hiding unless I agreed to her terms.

“Now that’s out of the way. I believe Colonel Cayne will want to have you debriefed . I was fortunate enough to convince him to allow us this little reunion before someone met with you, but his patience may wear thin if we make him wait any longer.”

My grandmother tapped her throat with two fingers, activating her sub-dermal transmitter. “Cayne, I’m done with him if you’d care to send someone down.”

Kaya Briggs peered at the exit, the slightest smile touching her face before pursing her lips and glanced at the door. Listening to a response transmitted back to her through a similar implant inside her ear. “It seems Cayne will debrief you himself.”

I wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad thing, but when my grandmother invited Tanner to leave the room, it set me on edge. Why the hell shouldn’t my partner be present?

separator
Colonel Cayne arrived moments later, just seconds after Tanner had vacated the room. He looked every bit as gaunt and severe as he had over the comm, but his most striking feature was one that couldn’t be detected over the holo system. His eyes were a cold steel blue, save for a small patch in his left one, which was a deep shape of green. An unusual birth defect, in an age where genetic engineering was so prevalent.

His parents had probably been conservers, but the fact that Cayne hadn’t elected to have this little feature fixed hinted that he might have kept some of those values. Most purist were opposed to military service since the UEAF still relied on clones to make up the bulk of its forces. Which also explained why he was scowling at the two of us. A lot of people distrusted K’teth and the Conclave by extension, but conservers took it to a whole different level.

“Ms. Briggs,” he said with a flat, almost monotone voice, so passionless and devoid of emotion that it seemed at odds with the sneer displayed so prominently on his countenance. “Please take a seat beside your grandson.”

My grandmother nodded and slipped into place at the very same time Cayne seated himself on the opposing side of the table. He set a small recording device on the tabletop and pressed a small indent on the side. “Why don’t you tell me all that happened and we’ll go from there?”

So I did just that, reciting everything that had occurred from the moment that I’d contacted the Faioloese traders until the point I contacted my grandmother. When I  finished, Cayne palmed the recording device, but didn’t deactivate it. Instead his scowl deepened as he held it out for us to see.

“The parasite was witness to everything that happened?

I nodded, ignoring Khala’s screams of indignation. “Right until the creature killed my mother.”

“Then I should speak with it. It’s answers may provide some much needed insight.”

I hesitated, knowing full well just what Cayne was asking me. Though my feelings toward the K’teth weren’t as negative as the Colonel’s I never asked to be a host and I was still annoyed that I’d gotten stuck with one. To give one control of my body was something I wasn’t prepared to do, but even though I didn’t like it, I recognized the necessity.

I closed my eyes and let out a deep breath, calling out to my symbiote. I didn’t know how it worked, but the only thing Khala told me was to relax and let go. It took me several moments, fighting down the sense of panic that rose to the surface. What if something went wrong? What if I lost command over my body forever?

As I struggled to answer these questions, a calm wave of reassurance washed over me from Khala. There was understanding there, and… love. Khala had known me through my mother’s eyes, it hadn’t occurred to me that she might have developed an attachment. It was soothing, and it was what allowed me to relinquish control.

My eyes snapped back open and my body grew very rigid as Khala assumed command. She craned my neck around, getting a good look at the room, then she snapped my head and turned her focus to Cayne pursing my lips.

“Well,” she said, folding my arms across my chest and smirked at the Colonel. “I believe this should be interesting.”

Although my lips moved when Khala spoke, the voice that escaped my mouth was not mine. It was soft and feminine, and if it weren’t produced through my vocal cords, I might have even thought it sounded sexy. I’d never heard of a symbiote manipulating a hosts voice in such a way, but seeing a person’s pitch was determined by the length and tension of his or her vocal cords it wasn’t much of a stretch that Khala would be able to manipulate my larynx to produce a much more feminine cadence. That being said, it was disconcerting.

If this surprised Cayne, he didn’t let on. Instead, he set the recorder back down and clasped both hands across the tabletop. He didn’t speak or even blink. I would have wilted under his stare, but Khala didn’t even flinch. She started speaking, unperturbed by the Colonel’s unblinking gaze.

She hadn’t even finished her first sentence before the lights in the room dimmed and a siren’s call rang through the cabin. Cayne was on his feet in an instant, tapping the side of his neck, more than likely to open a communications line to the bridge.

“Rodriquez, what’s going on up there?”

The response, issued out the loud speaker, rattled through the room, the speaker’s voice taking on a manic edge. “Sir, a ship just appeared out of nowhere. We didn’t detect any leap activity. One moment it was just there. There’s an energy build up inside the ship, we believe they’re preparing to open fire.”

“Raise, shields and ready weapons. Do not open fire unless they make the first move, do you understand Major?”

“Yes, sir!”

Cayne didn’t speak another word, spinning away and lurching toward the door with a blank expression. Khala leapt up with such force that the chair I had parked my ass on tumbled onto its side.

“WAIT!”

Cayne stopped, staring at me with a scowl. He glanced at my grandmother, then turned his back.

“What your Major just described, sounds what happened on the Endeavour. If you don’t stop and listen to me, it could very well mean the death of us all.”

Cayne stopped, craned his neck around again and studied my form with cold calculating eyes. “You come with me.”

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Legacy of Earth: Birthright | Ch 4

01/09/2021

CH 04

The Torrentian Void aboard the Centennial Hawk

I spent the rest of the night and a fair bit of the morning tossing and turning in bed. The one dream I had wasn’t what I’d call pleasant and involved me waking up with a pair of breasts while a red macaw hung over me and told me to ‘find her. Set her free.’ Right before he threatened to use his unholy powers to change me into a pigeon. Needless to say, when ten o’clock hit, I crawled out of bed with heavy eyes and a loud yawn. I didn’t often sleep so late, but considering what my previous day had been like, it wasn’t much of a stretch to say that I would be pretty damn tired.

“‘FEINE!” I let out another yawn as I moved into the control room and pounced on the coffee distributor. In mere seconds, the aroma of freshly brewed heaven wafted into my nasal cavities and I released a deep sigh of contentment just before bringing my mug up to my mouth and drawing a long sip.

Okay, so the coffee wasn’t that good, but for someone as sleep deprived as me, it was a heaven-send. With it, I just might get through the day without collapsing into an exhausted heap. I turned my head, eying the phantom form of my symbiote as she stared at me with those magenta eyes.

“Coffee, never much cared for it.” She grimaced, leaning against a nearby bulkhead.

I sneered back at her and took another sip. “Well, don’t expect me to give it up on your account.”

“I wouldn’t ask you to.” She matched my gaze and glowered before letting out a long sigh and shaking her head. “Look, we need to talk. I doubt you want to hear this, but very soon I will be ready to produce offspring and–”

“It’s time for you to turn me into a woman. Is that it? I was dying! It’s the only damn reason I let myself be bonded with you. I didn’t ask for this, I didn’t ask for any of it. Goddammit, Khala. It’s not fucking fair.”

“No, it’s not,” Khala agreed, staring at me with a sad smile on her pretend face. “I understand that you’re angry. Lexa wasn’t thrilled at first either, but she adjusted and made quite the life for herself.”

“I am not Lexa,” I tossed the coffee cup to the side, shattering it into a half a dozen pieces when it impacted the wall and found my way to the pilot’s seat doing my best to ignore my new symbiote.

Tanner had her feet kicked up on the console, trying not to make eye contact with me or call attention to the fact that she’d been in the room the entire time. She couldn’t hear Khala’s end of the conversation, but given what I had said, I wouldn’t blame her if she freaking out over it.

“Morning.” My eyes darted to my partner, who smiled and returned my greeting.

“Listen, Jek… I can’t say I understand what you must be going through, but if you wish to talk things over, you have my ear.”

“Thanks Tanner, that means a lot.”

I smiled, glancing down at the controls, getting a good look at the readings for the first time since coming back aboard the Hawk. Nothing noteworthy there, but it didn’t hurt to check, especially after what had happened on the Endeavour.

‘You can’t just ignore me. Whether you like it or not, we’re stuck with each other until one or both of us dies.’ This time Khala’s voice echoed inside of my mind. Clearly she had, at least for the time being, given up on casting an illusionary image for me to communicate with.

“Fine, fine, talk away!” I threw my hands up in air all the while shouting at the top of my lungs. Not even daring to throw a glance Tanner’s way. I’m sure she must think I’d gone insane by this point, anyway. “You know what, if you’re going to give me a pussy, just have at it. Just do me a favor and make sure it’s–”

“Would you stop that already!” Tanner screamed, cutting me short before I finished. “You realize I can hear you? Good lord Jek, aren’t you supposed to be able to talk to that thing inside of your head without speaking out loud?” People are bound to think you’ve gone nuts if they see you talking to yourself like that.”

“Right.” I clench my jaw, my cheeks burning as I glanced her way.

‘Thing?! THING?! I am a living, thinking, sapient being! Why do you humans so insist on objectifying my kind?’

I rubbed my hand through my hair before looking out the viewport. ‘Maybe it’s because most people can’t see or hear you. You’re about as real to them as the air they breathe. They accept it’s there because they’ve been told it is, but all they care about is that they can draw breath.’

‘I suppose it’s to be expected,’ Khala replied. ‘Now, how about we move on to matters of more immediate importance?’

‘You need a female host so you can reproduce, is that it? We’ve already been through this.’

‘We can postpone it, for now, but there is something which I would prefer to get out of the way, now rather than later. As I’m sure you’re aware, my kind have what you might call a compulsion which–‘

‘The blue hair… Is that it?’ I glanced over at Tanner and rocked my head back and forth. ‘I can live with the hair, if it means keeping my man junk intact for a little longer.’

‘And the eyes?’

‘Yeah, I can even make do with the freaky eyes, too.’

I closed my peepers, fully expecting Khala to institute the changes, but she gave me a bit of warning before continuing. The symbiotes’ obsession with blue hair was a sort of control mechanism put into the K’teth genetic code, a means by which their creators had ensured they wouldn’t be able to stay concealed. As far as the eyes, a lot of people thought hosts sported them for the same reason, but that had never been true. Khala was the first K’teth to grant a human host magenta eyes, because she had liked the way they looked. When she produced offspring and other symbiotes joined the ranks of the conclave, they adopted the magenta eyes to separate themselves from joined Qharr.

‘Ready?’

I nodded, which seemed like a stupid way to respond, given that Khala couldn’t see my head move, but she must have sensed it. I felt her make the changes. It started with a slight itch atop my scalp, a sensation that creeped down the sides and back of my skull. It didn’t last long, but I knew from being raised around bonded hosts what would happen if I touched it. I told myself I wouldn’t, but shit, somehow I did it anyway. Sure enough, as my hand passed across the top of my head, the hair fell away. I’m sure it would have anyway, but seemed a little like I was helping Khala along with the entire process.

I glanced at Tanner, who gawked at me with her jaw hanging half open. “You know somebody it going to have to clean that mess up.”

I snorted and burst out laughing as what was left of my hair fluttered away, unassisted by my roving hand. The itching returned and in mere moments new hair cascaded down the side of my temples. I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised, but I had expected my hair to grow out to its previous length and stop. Maybe Khala had a thing for long hair since it just kept growing and growing until it’d gotten longer even than my forearm.

“Just got a damn haircut last week.” I turned to Tanner, hoping to gauge her reaction, but she only stared back at me like a deer caught in headlights.

I groaned and hunched over, feeling a similar itch in my eyes, and snapped them shut as Khala did her thing. The sensation that followed was uncomfortable, but it didn’t hurt. Mostly it felt like Khala had put the old peepers under a few dozen pounds of pressure. As you can imagine, that’s not a pleasant experience. It was no small mercy that the K’teth could suppress pain. I was never so glad that Khala had spared me in that respect. Something told me that the pain which would have accompanied that would have been pretty intense. I shuddered as my eyes snapped back open, thinking about what I might expect from a full on transformation. It was probably something best left to the imagination.

I batted the hair away from my face, collecting it in fistfuls until I had it all clenched into a ponytail. “Could I bother you for a hair tie or a scrunchie?”

This provoked an unexpected fit of giggles from Tanner, and all I could do was grin and bear it. I’d just become the brunt of a joke, but I sure as hell wasn’t laughing.

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I spent most of the day spilling over sensor logs from the Hawk‘s computer, hoping to gleam something from the energy readings from the mysterious box or the creature who had attacked me. After many hours, the only thing I discovered was that most of the readings didn’t make a lick of sense. I was, very, very briefly, tempted to scoop the box up from out of the void of space, but given it had almost gone thermonuclear on my ass I was naturally resistant to the idea. It would be better to stick around until someone better equipped to deal with the potential risks arrived on scene.

I passed the remainder of my time ruminating over the Endeavour and her crew, but that didn’t mean it completely occupied my mind. Khala and I hardly had spoken two words to each other, but I was all too aware of her constant presence every time I batted my new length of blue hair out of my eyes. I considered, more than once, of grabbing some scissors and just going to town on my new locks, but there was a reason I went to a stylist.

I suppose I could have asked my symbiote to take care of it, but that seemed a bit like asking her for a favor. It was better to wait until I got back to Earth and have someone trim it down to its more usual length.

After what seemed ages, a ship arrived appearing from out of the darkness of the Torrentian Void with a brilliant flash of light as its leap drive transitioned the vessel out of subspace. I didn’t waste any time, opening up a communications line, making sure that our transponder signal was transmitting in the clear, before their sensors registered our presence.

“Unknown vessel, this is the cargo ship the Centennial Hawk. Please identify yourself.”

There was a brief delay, but I expected no less. The transition into regular space was more than a little traumatic to the senses, and even the most seasoned traveler would take several moments to adjust. Sure enough, a moment later the holo imager flared to life, displaying the visage of a tall, yet unassuming man in a crisp-cut military uniform. “I’m Colonel Tybrus Cayne of the United Earth Alliance Fleet destroyer the Valiant, I am here to investigate claims of a derelict ship.”

He spoke with a stiff jaw and a curled upper lip that spoke volumes for what he expected to find, but I didn’t let that deter me. The Endeavour was proof enough to win over any skeptic. I was, however, surprised that they had sent in such a large ship. From the looks of it, the Valiant was a titan-class destroyer, the largest and most powerful vessel in the UEAF. Either my grandmother had more clout with the government than I had ever guessed, or someone in power had reason to believe that the Endeavour’s reappearance represented a genuine threat. Either way, the Valiant’s presence scared the hell out of me.

I cast a sidelong glance at my business partner, who was staring at the holo display with wide eyes before meeting the Colonel’s gaze. Cayne struck me as a man that would pounce on the slightest sign of weakness, and there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that I’d let him see any from me.

“Jek Briggs.” I had hopes that my family name might at least get him to chill out a bit, but he either wasn’t impressed or didn’t make the connection.

“Look, I’m sure you’ve already detected an energy reading–”

“Yes,” he stated with a flat, almost bored tone. He turned his head as if glancing at a display or listening to some subordinate speaking in his ear, then glanced back to me. “Our sensors have detected some anomalous readings several hundred meters adrift outside the stern of the cruiser. ”

He paused again and glowered back at us. “Prepare to dock, we’ll need to debrief you, as will the representative of the conclave, to whom I believe you have a certain amount of familiarity.”

The Colonel’s holo image blinked out, and I gritted my teeth, glancing toward Tanner as my stomach sank. I put on my best grin, shook my head and started doing as Cayne had suggested.

“Why the hell am I not surprised?”

Tanner furrowed her brows and glanced at me sideways. No doubt hoping for some sort of explanation, but at the moment I was a little too preoccupied. If there was someone here from the conclave, there was a very good chance that person was my grandmother.

“Well, this ought to be fun,” I whispered under my breath as the Hawk, now under control of the Valiant’s systems, moved as if with a mind of its own.

“Why do I get the sense we’re about to walk into a shitstorm?” Tanner walked up behind me and placed a hand on my shoulder.

“Trust me,” I rose to my feet and turned to face her, “you don’t know the half of it.”

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Several moments later, the airlock hissed and swung open, revealing the dull gray and uniform bulkheads of the Valiant. I shuddered and stepped forward, grimacing as my roving eyes failed to find a single smudge, spot, or flaw. Even the dark steel floor plates were unblemished. God, it was horrendous!

The one thing you could always be sure of with UEAF vessels was that they always looked the same on the inside. I had no issue with the military, but there was just something about a place that looked so pristine and homogenous that set me on edge. Places like this were an anathema to me. There was no adventure, no creativity, and no sense of wild abandon. You know, the good things in life.

A young woman, who couldn’t have been more than eighteen or nineteen, approached, clasping her hands together as she smiled at the two of us. She was pretty enough, so I put on the charm, giving her my best smile and winked, holding my hand out or her to shake. “I’m Jek Briggs and this is my business associate Tanner Grace.”

“Lieutenant Hinderman,” she replied, a smile touching the corner of her lips as she met my gaze.

Although Tanner and I had what some would consider a flirtatious relationship, neither one of us ever acted on our innuendos. If she was uncomfortable with me coming on to Hinderman, she didn’t say so, but if the way she glared at the Lieutenant with arms folded across her chest was any sign, I don’t think she was too happy about the situation. That’s not to say I had any intention of backing away.

If Tanner really was interested, it was about damn time she stopped pushing me away. Flirting was one thing, but every damn time I’d made a move, she turned me down flat. If she wanted something more out of our relationship, maybe it was time she did something about it.

“Listen, Hinderman, I don’t know what you’re doing in your off hours, but I–”

“If you’ll come this way, Colonel Cayne is waiting,” the lieutenant said, not even giving me a chance to finish before cutting me off.

Ouch, I’d struck out enough to recognize it when I saw it, but it left me more than just a little mystified. Either she was playing hard to get or I’d misread the smile she’d given me.

“Swing and a miss,” Tanner whispered in my ear as she followed the younger woman out on her tail coats.

I grimaced and followed suit. It would be best to just get this over with, anyway. So what if my attempt to win the lieutenant’s attentions had failed? It didn’t make me any less of a man, right?

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Legacy of Earth: Birthright | Ch 3

12/19/2020

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CH 03

The Torrentian Void aboard the Centennial Hawk

You know what? I always thought that if I ever lost consciousness that, whenever I came awake again, it would be like waking from a long nap. Yeah, not so much. It was dark one moment and the next my eyes snapped open. I sat bolt upright and screamed bloody fucking murder. It might have something to do with my encounter with the thing that should not be and the immense hole he tore in my chest, but a part of it was damn well the realization that I’d taken up a little hitchhiker.

No, we hadn’t made a stop on some cosmic highway and picked up an eccentric but charming psychopath with a pleasant smile who intended to tie us up and chop us into little pieces. If only. I let myself become bonded to a K’teth symbiote, and sure enough, it was the very same goddamned one responsible for everything wrong in my life.

A pair of hands grabbed me by the shoulder and shook me. I found myself looking into Tanner’s rather bounteous chest. Usually, that would put a smile on my face, but guess what? Not this time.

“Jek, calm down. It’s all right, you’re safe now.”

“My chest!” I screamed, my hands clawing at the fabric of my shirt, expecting to find an enormous gaping hole where the creature tore into it. Instead, I found nothing. Disturbing, right?

“God dammit,” I cursed, my hands sliding down my pants and finding a familiar bulge, but it wasn’t quite the reassurance that you might think.

“Thank God! I’m not Lexa!”

“Uh… What?”

I rocked my head, took in a deep breath and shook away the last of my confusion. It was doubtful Khala would transform me into a Lexa duplicate, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t end up batting for the opposite team.

“Forget it.”

Okay, so she hadn’t worked her voodoo… yet. I gritted my teeth and sat up, drawing in several sharp gasps as I glared into my palms. They looked the same, but that would change all too soon. K’teth queens had a nasty habit of transforming their male hosts into women, and lucky me I got saddled with one.

“Khala!” I screamed the name, waiting for the symbiote to respond, but she never did.

“Jek,” Tanner grabbed my head with both her hands and forced me to look into her eyes. “Hey, hey, you’ll be okay. Just talk to me.”

I nodded, taking in several deep breaths as I screamed Khala’s name out in my head over and over. I got a response, but not quite the one I expected. A busty girl wearing a white dress that looked like it would slide off with the slightest wrong move, appeared in the doorway, a sultry smile on her face. I might have assumed I was witnessing the beginning of an erotic dream, if I wasn’t aware the K’teth could project images into the minds of their hosts.

The woman stepped inside the room, brushing at the mane of blue hair that cascaded down her head like waves crashing against an embankment of rocks. She stared at me, with magenta eyes nearly identical to my mother’s, and neither one of us broke our gazes as we sized each other up.

“Jellfree.”

The woman was illusory, of course, the only thing Khala saw was whatever she witnessed through the eyes of her host, now me. I didn’t question how she recognized me. I could damn well guess, though we hadn’t encountered each other in almost twenty years. As an entity capable of manipulating the genetic structure of its host, first my mother and now me, it wasn’t much of a stretch that she would be able to identify me through those very same genes.

“Actually,” I grimaced, ignoring the worried look on Tanner’s face. “I go by Jek these days.”

“Jek, then. I’m assuming since you’re now grown, I was in that stasis pod for more than a few years.”

“Almost twenty.”

She walked over, passing through Tanner as she moved through the room and sat down on the bed beside me. I had to stop and remind myself that it was all an illusion when she reached out to touch my face. You know the freaky part? Those soft hands that cupped my cheeks weren’t even real.

“I’m sorry about your mother, believe me when I say there was nothing I could have done to save her. It was only because of her foresight that I survived. Our time together was brief compared to most of the hosts I have inhabited over the centuries, but she was a kind woman.”

I stood, moving away from the mirage created by the symbiote, and glanced at Tanner. She looked at me, her mouth hanging open and eyes cocked. Had I jumped off the deep end? Was it possible that I was sitting in some padded room blubbering away like an idiot? Something told me I wasn’t that lucky.

“Tanner,” I turned to my partner and grabbed her by the shoulders. “You’re probably wondering what the hell is wrong with me, but let’s just say I have a new house guest rattling around inside my brain and I think I’m stuck with her.”

“What?” She studied me with furrowed eyebrows, her body tensed as if she were ready to bolt, but I wasn’t loosening my grip.

“Okay,” I dropped my hands. “It’s a K’teth symbiote. Khala, she was bonded to my mother and Lexa before that. She was preserved in a stasis pod.”

“Okay, well, that explains some things.” She bit her lip and did about the last thing I expected. She threw her arms around me and pulled me close to her. Her breasts were pressing into my chest and my cheeks burned as less than gentlemanly thoughts flowed through my head.

She pulled back and looked up at me with wide eyes. “Did it say what happened to the Endeavour?”

Khala’s eyebrow arched, as she glared at Tanner, but if she objected to my business partner’s use of ‘it’ when referring to her, she didn’t speak up.

“I haven’t had a chance to ask her, but I was kind of wondering that myself.”

Khala fell back, landing atop the bed, and her scowl faded away before she clenched her eyelids closed and released a long sigh. Tears gushed down her cheeks as she spoke, and I almost walked over to the bed to comfort her before remembering she was just an illusion. “It all happened so fast I’m not sure where to begin.”

She jerked up, and I took a step back, startled by the abrupt movement. “I probably don’t need to tell you that the Endeavour expedition was a joint mission between the military, the Conclave, and the scientific community. Officially our goal was to search for traces of the Phyrr Lesch. What you wouldn’t have been told was that Cobaldis traders had already discovered ruins on a remote world in the Cythsten system.”

“The Cythsten system? How the fuck then did the Endeavour get all the way out here in the Torrentian Void? That’s way too far for it to have drifted out here.”

“I-I don’t understand how that would’ve happened,” Khala blinked away a new deluge of tears before continuing. “We found the ruins and started excavating. Lots of tedious, tedious work, I never understood why your mother loved it so much. We excavated for weeks, before uncovering the box. We never discovered its significance, but the ruins where we found it were right around ten-thousand years old which would put it near the end of the Phyrr Lesch’s reign over the galaxy.”

“And what exactly was the significance?”

Khala shrugged and shook her head. “We never found out. We took the box aboard the Endeavour, hoping that we could set up a clean room environment in the lab, but the moment we got the damn thing transported onto the Endeavour, a strange ship showed up. It blasted us half to hell and your mother died before I could do anything to save her. I don’t know what happened after that creature attacked your mother or even how the Endeavour ended up where it is now. I don’t have the answers.”

I turned away from Khala and Tanner, fighting away tears as I struggled to block out the image of my mother’s corpse from my mind. Most times, I wasn’t the crying type, but I don’t think anyone would blame me under the circumstances. I’d just received the closure I’d sought for so long, but in such a way that I could say would shape the rest of my life. Seeing your mother’s frozen corpse after twenty years of looking and subsequently getting pursued and almost killed by a creature right out of every child’s worst nightmares would have that effect on a person.

“Maybe, later we can put the puzzle pieces together. For now, I think we should contact the right authorities. It’s time to share the Endeavour‘s ultimate fate with the galaxy.”

I stepped out of my cabin and into the Hawk’s control room, sensing both of their eyes on me as I departed. Khala witnessed everything through my eyes, but the image she projected into my mind seemed very real to my senses. Without hesitation, I stepped toward the communications controls as my thoughts turned toward the task at hand. All my life I had sought to step out of Lexa Briggs’ shadow and distance myself from her legacy, but the very act I was now committing would have the exact opposite effect.

If I contacted the United Earth Alliance government or the military I’d wind up dealing with bureaucrats and I’d waste a lot of time trying to convince them I wasn’t trying to scam them. There had been many people who claimed to have found the Endeavour over the years and, like it or not, my reputation wasn’t exactly what you would call squeaky clean. If I convinced them, it might take weeks to lure the right people out to the Torrentian Void.

I was acquainted with someone who had the resources and power available to bypass all the rigamarole and get shit done, and as much as it sucked, that person was Kaya Briggs, the woman who raised me. Not only did my grandmother embrace the family legacy, she expected me to do the same. If I got in touch with her, it might lead to me getting pulled back into the world of the Conclave, especially now that I was bonded to the most notorious symbiote in the galaxy.

I parted my lips and opened a comm line. A sense of dread settled in as the ship’s comm array beamed the signal out through subspace. At this hour, there was only one place where my grandmother would be, asleep at the family estates on Earth. That meant communications would be patched through a subspace relay. She might be wealthy, but even someone with her money wouldn’t see a reason to install an expensive subspace module in her home communications system.

“This is Earth subspace relay station 47, servicing the greater California region. My name is Lexa, how can I help you today?” The bright and cheerful, subspace operator’s face appeared, hovering like a spectre of doom in the empty air above the console.

I grimaced between gritted teeth. Of course, the subspace operator had to be named Lexa! Good lord, a hundred and sixty years and people were still naming their children after my ancestor.

“Yes, I’m trying to contact Kaya Briggs,” I said, and gave her the routing number to the family estates.

“One moment please,” the operator offered another artificial smile, and I bit my tongue, fighting off a surge of irritation. “Uh, sir, it looks like because of the high volume of calls to that line, it has a restriction on it.”

“What sort of restriction?”

“You must have a recognized passcode or biometric signature, sir. If neither of those options are suitable, I can put in a request–”

“That won’t be necessary,” I cut her short before she went off on a long tangent.

“I’m sending over a biometrics signature now.”

I placed my hand on the console, letting the scanner do its work. Biometrics were the best and most accurate way, not only to encrypt data but also to identify a person. Every person’s body had a unique system of blood vessels that was damn near impossible to fake or copy. Even cloning couldn’t duplicate them, as circulatory systems grew in a random pattern. So even if a person shared identical DNA, the pattern would be unique. It was a shot in the dark, given that my grandmother and I hadn’t parted on the best of terms, but she had an encoded copy of my pattern on record. Whether she had me on her list depended on if she thought I was a lost cause.

“Well, the home’s AI has accepted your biometrics, sir. Have a delightful night.” The woman smiled just before her image faded away. So, my grandmother hadn’t given up on me. Not a comforting thought, given that she’d had my life mapped out from the moment my mother went missing.

I waited, sensing rather than seeing Tanner approach, all the while thrumming my hands on the control surface. I hadn’t spoken to my grandmother in almost five years and would have been happy letting another five pass me by with no contact, but given the circumstances, I was especially nervous. She would never say as much, but Mom’s disappearance had been like a dagger through her heart. I did not look forward to confirming her worst fears. Just because we weren’t talking, didn’t mean I was heartless.

An image flared to life in front of me and I froze, my breath caught in my throat as I looked into those all too familiar magenta eyes. Kaya Briggs was host to Crae, one of the first K’teth born on Earth after its liberation. Though symbiotes didn’t really see familial relationships the same way we did, biologically Crae was Khala’s grandchild through her daughter Dyssa. The two symbiotes couldn’t communicate over such great distances unless we allowed them control of our bodies or pass along messages from them, but I sensed an odd sort of tension from Khala. She knew her descendant lived somewhere behind my grandmother’s eyes and wanted to speak with the other K’teth.

“Jellfree?” My grandmother’s eyes were alert and alive despite the bags under her eyes and the late hour.

“How many times do I have to ask you to call me Jek?” I stared back at her, all the while shaking my head. Time hadn’t diminished the hard feelings I felt toward her, but it had tempered the anger.

Neither of us spoke for what seemed to be ages but was only a few seconds. I was the one who broke the silence, fresh tears streaked my face as I stared across at my grandmother’s disembodied visage. “I found her.”

Her features softened, and she matched my gaze. “Found who, dear?”

“I found Mom.”

She blinked, mouthing my mother’s name and looked back at me, all signs of fatigue and wariness replaced by that thoughtful frown I had learned to dread. “The Endeavour?”

“Adrift in space, the crew all dead…”

“Sofia too?”

I nodded, not trusting myself to speak the words. My grandmother seemed to get the message. She sighed and her eyelids drooped shut. “I always feared what finding the Endeavour might mean. How did she die?”

“You don’t want to know.” I shook my head and let out a sigh of my own. “Trust me, what I saw I can’t unsee.”

I expected her to press me for details, but maybe the haunted cast to my eyes stopped her. “Give me your coordinates.”

“Hey, wait a minute,” Tanner spoke up, pushing past me so that she was staring my grandmother right in the eyes. “Jek discovered the Endeavour, and I’m not letting him give you any coordinates until you guarantee the reward money is his.”

I should have expected Tanner might try something like that. She wasn’t the most trusting person, least of all, toward people in positions of authority. “Tanner, back the hell off, would you?”

I grimaced at her as she glared at me and retreated, albeit with a reluctant sigh. “Forgive my business partner she can be a bit… protective.”

“Well, she can rest assured I have no need of any reward money. Tell your friend that whatever finder’s fee that is applicable is yours. Give me the coordinates and I can get a ship out to you inside of a day.”

I complied, transmitting the coordinates via the computer terminal.

“Finally, after all this time, we can find out what happened.”

I nodded, biting my lip as I prepared to end the transmission, but before I could it seemed my grandmother had a little surprise in store for me. “Jek, I know these aren’t the best circumstances, but it’s nice to see you again. I missed you.”

I nodded, and just barely managed to croak out a reply of my own before my hand pressed down on the console, ending the transmission.

“That’s it?” Tanner asked as I turned my back to the console and retreated toward my quarters. “What do we do now?”

I reached the doorway and glanced over my shoulder at Tanner, who hadn’t taken a single step away from her previous position. “We wait.”

I entered my quarters, letting the door slide shut behind me, and collapsed onto my bed. It was going to be a long wait, and I might as well get some sleep.

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Legacy of Earth: Birthright | Ch 2

12/12/2020

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CH 01

The Torrentian Void aboard the Endeavour

I panted, coming to a stop in front of a door. “I really, really need to spend a little more time working out.”

“Jek?”

“Forget about it,” I shook my head and gritted my teeth. “I think I’ve found it.”

“Are you sure… I mean, how can you tell?”

“The door marked ‘Research Area: Authorized Personnel Only’ kind of gives it away, Tanner. If shit is going down, it’ll be in there.”

It made a certain amount of sense. The Endeavour had been a research ship on a very specific mission. If someone brought something freaky aboard, they would take it to the one place on the ship where they would be able to examine and contain it. I toggled the controls, cursing when they failed to comply with the command to open, and took a few steps back. I whipped my pistol out and removed the energy cell. Though I wasn’t really keen on blowing the door to shit, you know what they say about desperate measures and all that.

Energy cells were designed to prevent idiots like me from doing just such a thing, but when you spend enough time with sleazebags and lowlifes who live on the outskirts of their respective societies, you picked up a few tricks and… I’d lived a pretty sheltered life until striking out on my own. Tanner was the one who showed me that trick, who had taught her was a matter I hadn’t quite figured out.

I finished the modifications and ducked around the corner, seconds before the resulting explosion rocked the corridor. Okay, so rocked was too strong of a word. What came was more like a little tremor. Either way, once I ducked my head back over the bend and got a perfect look at the huge freaking hole in the door, I didn’t pause to debate semantics with myself. I took action, running toward the opening and crawling through without hesitation. My eyes as wide as saucers, I stopped dead in my tracks, staring at the form laying prostrate on the deck.

“Mom.”

I should have figured that my mother would be at the source of the shit I stepped knees deep into. That didn’t mean I understood what the fuck any of it meant. My mother’s corpse lay sprawled out on the ground, covered in blood, and would have looked lifelike were it not for the huge gaping hole in her chest. Her dead eyes stared out into nothingness, and I knelt down, a sigh escaping my lips as I looked upon her body. Tears cascaded down my face as I found the closure I had sought for so long.

She looked exactly as I remembered. I was only six years old when she disappeared, but I etched the image of her face into my mind long ago. She looked young, perhaps in her thirties, but appearances can be deceiving. My mom had been close to eighty years old. Medical technologies progressed a lot after the occupation, and each successive generation lived longer than the last, but her longevity had more to do with her symbiote. Bending over, I stroked her blue hair, a telltale sign that, in life, she hosted a K’teth symbiote. I slipped my fingers out to close those striking magenta eyes, as tears splattered my cheeks.

I cupped my gloved hand in hers, only realizing, as I did so, that she held something clenched in her palm. With gentle force, I pried her fingers loose, careful not to break or damage her hand. What I found was a stasis pod no larger than a medium-sized orange, the sort used by scientists to preserve organic samples for later study. I had no idea what she was doing with the thing, but judging from the way she clutched it in her hand, something told me it might be important.

“Jek!” Tanner’s voice cried, and my mind jumped back to the present. “Energy levels are building to dangerous levels. If you’re going to do something, it better be soon.”

The only reason I ran towards the energy buildup’s source was to prevent the ship from being destroyed and along with it, whatever hope I had of discovering my mother’s fate. I did not expect to find her corpse within its vicinity, but now that I had, I would go to whatever means necessary in order to ensure the ship remained intact.

Not that I had a death wish or anything, but I spent pretty much my entire life wondering about the fate of the Endeavour. If it got blown up, I would never discover the truth. If nothing else, the family of the crew deserved to learn the final fate of their loved ones.

My eyes scanned the room and locked onto the only item that looked important, a plain, unadorned box that wouldn’t have looked very out of place in the Centennial Hawk’s cargo hold. That is, if it weren’t for one small little detail. The thing looked ancient, like someone buried it thousands of years ago and the Endeavour crew only recently unearthed it. There were even a few clumps of dirt still affixed to its surface, but what caught my eye were a pair of blinking lights, which alternated between green, yellow, red and orange, on the front along the seam. I couldn’t guess the box’s significance, but if I were a betting man, which I was, I would say it was the origin of all the interference.

I secured the stasis pod to a clip on my waist, walked over toward my prize, reached a hand out to touch the box, and the hairs on the back of my neck rose as the entire cabin quaked.

“What the hell?” I turned toward the source, just as the opposite wall collapsed and shot toward me with sudden violent force and a loud metallic shriek.

A figure stood in the fresh opening, a hulking creature with muscles bigger than my head. Amidst the debris still fluttering through the air, I didn’t get a very good view of it, but I understood one thing without even having to ask, it wasn’t friendly. I snatched the box off the counter and booked my ass the hell out the entrance I’d made, the tiny hole snagging the suit’s fabric on the jagged steel edges of the opening. A high-pitched wail followed me out the opening, accompanied by the collapse of metal on metal as the creature, unable to fit through the opening, tore the door free from its frame.

Tanner’s voice called out, but it was not intelligible against the creature’s roar when it came tearing after me. I risked a glance back, but it moved so fast that I saw little more than a blur. It was big, gray, and had lots of teeth. That was pretty much all I needed to know. I didn’t stop to examine it or try to reason with it, assuming it was even a sapient being. For a change, I didn’t do the stupidest thing humanly possible, I did the exact opposite. I ran like hell.

“Tanner. I uh, think I made a new friend.” I panted, rounding a bend, just barely evading the creature’s fist as crashed it down toward me.

“Holy fuck, what is that sound?” She replied as my pursuer let out a blood-curdling scream.

“My new friend, don’t you listen, Tanner?”

“Uh huh, and this new friend is trying to kill you, isn’t it?”

“That’s why I like you Tanner, you’re such a smart cookie.”

“You realize I can’t help you, don’t you? I can’t read a damn thing on my end.”

“Figures, I’m being chased down by a massive gray blur with muscles that would make any man tremor in his little booties and teeth big enough to bite me in two and all you can do is provide commentary. Story of my life.”

“Why don’t you shoot it?”

“Can’t, I already used my energy cell to blow a crater in the research area’s door and my only spare one is inside my suit. I think I might have a plan… I won’t speak it aloud in case smiley understands me, but assuming he doesn’t get to me before I institute it, it should work.”

“Why doesn’t that fill me with confidence?”

“Tanner, you need to–” I stopped short as a sudden and very violent force yanked me back and slammed me into the wall.

“Jek? Jek? JEK?!” Judging from her screams, I’m sure Tanner had at least an inkling that something had gone wrong, but the cold acceptance I experienced as I stared into the eyes of the creature was far and beyond the most terrifying feeling… ever. I know that itsounds like a contradiction, but it’s like I had divided my mind in two. One half was scared beyond reason, and the other half had already accepted that I would die.

I got my first good glimpse at the creature, as the hand grasped tighter and tighter around my neck. My original assessment had been correct, but as my eyes filled in the gaps, my imagination hadn’t, I realized just how much shit I was in. The creature looked like someone had taken a Qharr warrior and crossbred him with a Dre’k. The Qharr are big, gray, three-eyed and fairly human looking. Dre’k are not… They’re four legged reptilian beasts from the darkest depths of hell. The resulting combination was the most horrifying and fearsome creature I had ever laid eyes on. One who was all scales, teeth, muscle and claws.

Shit, it was like the living-embodiment of the fucking boogeyman.

I would have died there and then, but as my bowels evacuated, the part of my mind that was scared shitless did something completely and unexpectedly rational. I kicked out with my legs, hitting the huge bastard where it counts. That’s right, square between the legs. The effect was instantaneous. The fucking beast dropped me like a ship ejecting its cargo and I hit the floor gasping for air. I struggled back up, shaking my head as I fought the remaining effects of hypoxia.

Back on my feet before the monster had recovered, I swooped down, snatching the fallen mystery box from the deck before taking off down the passageway. I rushed forward, moving at a speed that only adrenaline could sustain, and screamed at the top of my lungs as the beast jumped at me with one spectacular and impressive leap. It prompted me to run even faster, moving at speeds I never would have believed possible without the aid of a K’teth symbiote.

I felt the creature’s hand on me again, but before his grip tightened, I spun around and forced the box into his hands. “You know what? You can have it.”

The ploy worked… in a matter of speaking. My attacker’s hand slid away as it fumbled to grasp its prize and I scrambled away, once again launching myself down the corridor. It roared and resumed pursuit, and I screamed louder. Why couldn’t he just have been happy with the damn box?

Pretty soon I reached my destination, which was a small miracle since I had no clue where in the hell I was fucking going. I didn’t make to celebrate, instead I made a beeline right for the cargo dock release controls, but before I reached them, the creature stopped me and slammed the box square into the center of my back. I went down like a sack of potatoes. This time I slid across the floor and slammed my head into the nearest bulkhead. The collision had me seeing stars, and before I could even think about getting back up, something pressed against my back.

I thrashed about, trying to break free, but the more I struggled the more the pressure tightened. I cried out, begging for mercy, in a vain hope that the creature understood me, but if he could comprehend, my cries were either unnoticed or more likely he just didn’t care. With a sharp intake of breath, I squeezed my eyes shut, preparing for what must be my end when a voice cried out, screaming the most beautiful words to have ever been uttered.

“Hey, fuck-face! Over here.”

Phase fire illuminated the corridor, as my attacker lifted its foot off my back and he went tearing through the passageway after his new prey. I rolled onto my back, just in time to watch Tanner’s fabulous ass, prominent even through the thick fabric of her EVA suit, disappear into the passageway followed by the beast. This time I had a lot more difficulty clawing back to my feet, because of the throbbing pain in my back. The fact that I could move my legs meant he hadn’t injured my spine, at least not to the point he’d paralyzed me, but there was some definite damage in my mid-back. One thing was certain, I wouldn’t be doing any running soon.

“Tanner, god dammit, I told you to stay on the Hawk!” I spoke into the comm. “Do you have any idea how dumb what you just did was?”

“As opposed to your brand of stupidity?” She replied. “Besides, you’d be dead right now if not for me, so I fully expect to hear the words thank and you some time in the not so distant future.”

I grimaced, rubbing a hand up and down my back, hoping that it would ease the overwhelming pain and thus help me move better, but the fabric of the suit was too thick for me to feel much of anything. “Right, just get back here, would you? And have a tether ready, things are gonna get pretty… turbulent in here.”

“You’re one crazy motherfucker, you know that, Jek?”

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t expecting you to be here.”

“Need I remind you? Tanner here… Jek not dead.”

I hobbled over to the controls, trying to hurry, but unable to produce more than a crawl. Whatever the hell that thing had done to me, it had really fucked me up. Just walking in a straight line was a challenge. I did finally reach the control panel and, by some minor miracle, it was ready to take my commands.

A glimpse through the transparium doors, and into the area beyond revealed nothing. It was dark, probably to conserve power. Not a surprise, cargo holds saw little foot traffic compared to the rest of a ship. Why keep it lit all the time? Tanner and I did the same thing on the Centennial Hawk.

I knew what was on the far side of the cargo bay concealed by the shadows without being told: the bay doors. Though it was a stroke of brilliant deductive reasoning, I didn’t have time to congratulate myself. An unearthly scream cascaded through the corridor, hitting my ears and producing a shiver down my spine.

“Fuck it.” I anchored my tether to the console and turned my head just as Tanner reappeared, tailed by the creature.

I opened the doors leading into the cargo hold and Tanner took her cue, latching her own tether in place. Before I could open the exterior doors, the creature’s eyes locked onto me again and it let out another howl as it came charging straight toward me.

“SHIT!”

I slammed my hand down on the emergency override mechanism. I guessed it would have been too simple to have labelled it with something a tad more straightforward like ‘jettison’, but who was I to argue in a life and death situation?

The beast had me before the doors had opened. It tore into my chest with claws that looked a great fucking deal more menacing than a phase pistol. When it pulled its fist back, I got an up close and rather personal view of the serrated, jagged little growths that were sticking out from the outside of its hand. When its fist struck, it rent through flesh like butter, producing an immense hole just below my heart.

If I wasn’t completely and utterly terrified beyond rational thought, I probably would have reasoned that he ripped through the thoracic aorta, the artery that runs down from the heart.  Instead, I screamed out, blood splattering all over the place, but it was to no avail. The creature did not let up. He smashed me into the controls, and I cursed, spitting blood into his face as he raised one of his massive arms to make a swing at me.

He never had the chance. The doors slid open with so much force that it produced a loud clang and the ship rocked. Everything in the area not bolted down or tethered in place hurtled through the new opening. Most of that included the cargo and the mysterious box, but what it didn’t include was my buddy, the grotesquely terrifying creature from the deepest darkest recesses of my nightmares.

No, the bastard had grabbed hold of my ankle and was holding on for dear life. I took the only option open to me: I kicked the bastard with my one free leg. The blow wasn’t as hard as I liked, but his hand slipped so it must have done some good. Three successive kicks. His hand shifted a little further until finally he slid free and flew into the deep abyss of space.

Blood was everywhere, and the darkness crept at the edge of my vision as I struggled to pull myself close enough to toggle the emergency switch off. I was just able to grab hold of it and force it back into place before my hands went limp. Even as the room re-pressurized and my lungs filled with air, unconsciousness continued to creep away.

It was all the blood I lost and there wasn’t a lot I could do. I should have been delirious, but somehow, I remained lucid. Something clicked inside my dense skull, and I realized why my mother had been clutching the stasis pod so obsessively. Somehow I mustered enough strength to yank it free from my waist and slammed it down to the ground, shattering the glass into a thousand pieces.

Tanner screamed my name, but by then it was already too late. The darkness carried me away, but just before it took hold there was a blur of movement from something that looked an awful lot like a clear ball of gelatin. Maybe I was hallucinating, or maybe it was just something I knew that could save my life. Either way, I didn’t remain conscious long enough to see what happened next.

As my mind receded, I heard a voice calling out. Speaking words I had heard a thousand times over, but always in my dreams.

‘Find her, set her free.’

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Legacy of Earth: Birthright | Ch 1

12/05/2020

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Author's Note

This story is a sequel to Battle for Earth set close to 160 years after the events of the previous story. It can be read as a standalone, but (and it’s a big but) to read this without having first tackled Battle For Earth will result in spoiling the plot of the first story.

Thanks go out to the following people: Jenny North for her valuable input on the fictionmania hyperboard, Jessica Nicole for proofing the bits of Spanish dialogue, and Zapper, Patricia Marie Allen, Chris, and Xtrim for pre-reading various drafts.

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CH 01

The Torrentian Void aboard the Centennial Hawk

Cold chills trickled down my spine as I stared out the viewport of the Centennial Hawk and out into the vast expanse of space. A long cigar-shaped ship, of obvious human design, floated through the emptiness, dark and devoid of the lights that were so evident on other vessels of its type. Had I not been familiar with the class, I might assume it was a stealth vessel on some secret assignment, but the United Earth Alliance had decommissioned that line more than a decade ago and it was never used for that purpose.

“Good lord,” a voice said beside me.

I turned, studying my business partner, trying my damnedest to keep any sign of emotion off my face. I couldn’t say how good of a job I was doing, but the lump in my throat made it pretty hard. For the last twenty years, I wanted nothing so much as to find the Endeavour and discover what happened to her crew. I let my hands manipulate the controls, seemingly taking on a mind of their own, but I couldn’t keep them from shaking.

Tanner didn’t know my history with the Endeavour, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to reveal it to her. I stepped away from my past life years ago, and I was not quite prepared to let myself get pulled back into it. I wasn’t ready to cast aside all of my heritage just yet. Not until I discovered the truth. I needed to know for closure’s sake.

I bowed my head before glancing back out at the derelict ship. “Begin docking procedures.”

Tanner’s head twisted toward me, her hair whipping out far enough to brush against my shoulder. “What about the casu marzu? We have cargo that needs delivered.”

“Maggot cheese is the least of my concern right now.”

I rocked my head back and forth, and despite my statement to the contrary, let myself wonder for the briefest of moments why the Credknotts seemed to love the stuff so much, but the prospect of the task before me soon overtook such thoughts. I stood up, moving across the control room with quick determination, not saying a word as I opened one of the overhead storage compartments, my hand finding purchase on a small black duffel and helmet.

“What!? Are you nuts?” Tanner scrambled across the room and yanked the bag out of my hands. “We don’t know anything about that ship!”

I turned back to her, and grabbed her by the shoulders, a smile touching the corner of my lips even as my heart pounded in my chest at what felt like a thousand beats a minute. “Sure, we do… It’s the Endeavour.”

“The Endeavour?” She took a step back, her brows furrowed as she shook her head. “This is what you’ve been looking for, isn’t it? All these little side trips over the years. You always said you wanted to see the universe, but that’s not it at all. You were hunting for that ship.”

Tanner knew me well enough that she could tell when I was lying. So, I didn’t deny it. I bit the inside of my cheek and nodded, not even bothering to look her in the eyes before I seized the duffel out of her hands. “I’ve been waiting for this moment a long time. Start docking procedures, please.”

I expected Tanner to issue further protestations, but she didn’t let out a peep. She didn’t need to, I saw her misgivings in her eyes. Derelict ships were left abandoned for good reasons. There might be dozens of dangers lurking inside the hull of the cruiser, but no risk would be great enough to keep me from seeking the truth. The Endeavour had been missing for almost twenty years, and there wasn’t a human alive who hadn’t heard of it. My reasons for seeking it out were personal, but there were an overabundance of people who would gladly lay their hands on it. The rewards offered by the United Earth Alliance and the Conclave alone were incentive enough for most people to search it out. Of course, there was the whole bit about salvage rights to consider, but none of that mattered to me.

It smacked of predetermination, but, though I was only six-years-old I’d known from the moment they declared it missing, that I would find it.

My hands shook as I pulled the EVA suit free from the duffel. The Endeavour was devoid of energy signatures. I had no idea whether there was a breathable atmosphere inside, but even if there was, I’d still need the suit. Without working life support, the ship would be damn cold. Unless I wanted my own little ice age and to get frozen into a meat popsicle after I stepped inside, precautions had to be taken.

Modern EVA suits were pretty light, a mere nine kilos, but the damn life support tanks were another matter. Those would wait till just before I entered the Endeavour. With the ship dead, the artificial gravity would be offline and the air tanks would be weightless. I lugged the air pack out of the storage compartment and made my way toward the hatch just in time to watch through the viewport as the Centennial Hawk inched closer and closer to the Endeavour. From far off, the larger ship was a dark mass devoid of any identifying marks, but as we drew closer, I got a better look. The whole side of the vessel had been scorched to hell, no doubt, from weapons fire, but what seemed odd to me is that there was no sign of forced entry on the air hatch. If Ghrev pirates or some other marauder force had attacked them, they would have been boarded.

I caught a brief glimpse of the United Earth Alliance Fleet insignia before the lights from our ship were smothered out by the Endeavour’s darkened hull. A moment later, a slight tremor rumbled through the Centennial Hawk, accompanied by a snap-hiss. I clenched my gloved fists at my side and my heart jerked inside my chest, now beating so fast I thought it must leap out of my rib cage and perform a musical number.

With slow yet deliberate movements, I reached down and grabbed the helmet, securing it to the neck piece before moving on to the tanks. It was a major pain in the ass, let me tell you, but modern suits featured a hook on the back which allowed a person to fit the air supply without a whole damn team to help them… Well, at least when you had something to hook the damn thing onto.

“Tanner,” I spoke into the helmet, as a rush of air pelted me in the face, a sure sign the suit had transitioned from exterior air supply to the suit’s tanks. I grabbed my pistol from its hook near the door and secured the weapon around my waist and glanced back at my business partner. “I’m all suited up. Open the airlock.”

“You sure about this, Jek? That cruiser looks pretty banged up. If something goes wrong in there, there isn’t a lot I can do from inside the Hawk.”

“You bet that sexy little ass of yours, I am. I’ve wanted this for the better part of two decades.”

“All right,” she replied after a brief delay. “Just don’t get yourself killed in there. You still owe my twenty creds after that little wager we made last week.”

“Right… Well, it’s so nice to learn you got my best interests at heart.” I walked inside the airlock as the door hissed open and my gloved fingers twitched as it sealed shut behind me with a snap-hiss.

“Always and forever.”

Any other time I would have issued a reply, playing off the deep-seated sexual tension that neither one of us would ever admit to, but for once my mind wasn’t on sex. My nerves were shot to hell. To think I might, at last, discover the truth, but as much as I would like closure, I also feared what I might find. I didn’t even realize it until the hatch on the Endeavour slid open, but my hand had been resting on my pistol the entire time I’d been waiting.

“Good luck,” Tanner said seconds before the Endeavour’s entry hatch closed behind me. Most airlocks would receive power from exterior sources, like another ship, but that only applied to the outer door. Human vessels, especially military ones, required some sort of access code to allow for docking, but fortunately for us, I had one handy. The means through which I had acquired it weren’t legal per se, but they would do the job.

Even so, I was pretty relieved when the hatch slid open. Whatever had happened, the cruiser was for all intents and purposes dead in space, which meant the inner door needed to be manually opened. So, several minutes later, after a fair bit of panting and grunting accompanied by no small amount of tugging and turning, I got the damn hatch open.

The interior, no surprise, was just as dark as the exterior, but activating the light on the side of my helmet, at least remedied that problem. Though it lent a certain degree of creepiness to the whole experience. I stood there, getting my first good look at the bulkheads, and bit my lip. Like the exterior hull, phase fire had blackened the metal bulkheads, but beyond that the light from my headlamp didn’t illuminate the corridor enough to tell me a damn thing. The only thing to do was continue forward and hope further exploration would help me uncover the truth.

The means humans used to simulate gravity tended to have a bit of a bleed through effect so the first few steps were under its pull, but the further from the hatch I moved, the less of its tug I felt until I put a foot out and it didn’t fall back down. I understood what I had gotten myself into, so it was no surprise when my body drifted from the ground. The effects of anti-gravity had never been very easy on the stomach. God, my insides were crawling with grasshoppers.

I tried not to think about it, gripping my hands on a bulkhead and leveraging myself before pushing off. I glided through the passage, using whatever handholds I could find to help me bolster my momentum. “Tanner, you there?”

“Yeah, I’m here.”

“You had any success mapping the corridors with the sensors? I have the ship’s layout memorized, but it’s hard to tell one corridor apart from the next when they all look the same.”

“You memorized the layout, Jesus Christ, Jek, what the hell is with you and this ship?”

I grabbed hold of a bulkhead trying to halt my momentum, but as an added bonus also slammed into the bulkhead, or I suppose in this case it was the overhead, which is ship-talk for the ceiling. I gritted my teeth and glanced down the passageway, trying to visualize the layout in my mind, but shook my head, realizing I might be almost anywhere. All the damn bulkheads looked identical.

“Tanner.” I repeated her name, trying not to let my impatience bleed through the comm.

“Sorry, Jek, I’m not getting anything useful. I think there must be some interference. I can’t even get a read on your position.”

“Just great,” I muttered under my breath before shoving off again. “Tell me if you get anything. Who knows how long it’s going to take me to find what I’m looking for.”

“Right, which means you have the perfect opportunity to fess up and tell me what the actual fuck is going on.”

I released a deep sigh.  “My mom was a member of the crew.”

The silence that followed was damned eerie. The more time I spent inside the ship, the creepier it got. I’d never explored a ghost ship before, but I’m pretty sure it beat cemeteries for level of creepiness by a long shot. The silence only made it worse. I guess if Tanner would not talk, I’d just have to do something about that. “Sofia Briggs.”

“W-what?”

“That was her name, Sofia Briggs. I know what you’re going to say and you’re right. I haven’t been completely honest with you. I am related to the Briggs of the Conclave. I just wanted to make a name for myself. It’s been almost a hundred and sixty years since the occupation ended and my family still can’t step out from under Lexa Briggs’ shadow. Do you have any idea what it’s like–” I stopped mid-sentence, catching sight of a dark form floating in the passageway a half a dozen meters in front of me.

“Hold on.”

I didn’t pause, but instead let my forward momentum carry me toward the shadowy form, and as I drew closer, the figure took shape. It was a woman suspended face down, her arms spread out full eagle as she hung there in the emptiness. I drew close enough to grab her by the shoulder and spun her around to see her face. It wasn’t one I recognized, but I felt my heart sink. She couldn’t have been much older than eighteen or nineteen at the time of her death. I couldn’t tell which had done her in, asphyxiation or the cold, but neither would have been a very pleasant way to go.

With a shudder, I moved on, trying to rid myself of those pallid, lifeless eyes. I’d long suspected that if I ever discovered the Endeavour that I wouldn’t find the crew alive and well, but I always had this faint hope they might have somehow survived. Now, it was time to accept the truth. They were all dead, which put the ship’s creepiness level up to a ten. Nothing was creepier than a derelict ship in the middle of nowhere, filled with lifeless corpses. Okay, so far there was only one dead body, but where there was one there would be others.

I grunted, propelling myself forward once again.

“Jek?” Tanner’s voice whispered over the comm. She had a direct feed into my helmet’s cam, so she’d seen the whole thing. I lucked out. She took the conversation in a different direction. “How did you figure out that the Endeavour would be here?”

“I didn’t.” I replied, thankful for the distraction. “Last week I had some drinks with a few Faioloese traders and one told me about a gagava… Their word for ghost ship. They’re a pretty superstitious lot, so I had some difficulty filtering out the religious bullshit, but after getting them good and drunk, I finally got one of them to reveal the location. I didn’t have a clue if I would discover anything at all, given how much the Faioloese love to exaggerate, but it wasn’t a lead I could overlook. The prospect was just too damn good.”

“Well, you’ll be happy to hear the sensors are now picking up the interior.”

I blinked. “What, how?”

“Fuck, you tell me.”

“That’s odd, maybe you can give me some direction. I don’t have the faintest idea where the hell I’m going.” I grabbed a corner, using it to swing around and stop my momentum.

“If you’re looking to reach the control room, you’re headed the right way, but there’s something else you might want to investigate. There’s a dead spot in the heart of the Endeavour the sensors still can’t penetrate. I think it might be the source of the interference which was giving me so much trouble earlier.”

“First stop, control room. If I can get backup power going, I might could get artificial gravity and minimal life support running. All this floating around makes my stomach churn.”

“Well, just keep going and you’ll reach it soon.”

I grimaced, then launched myself forward. “I’d say that’s good, but something tells me we’ve stumbled into some deep shit.”

I grunted as I continued, I didn’t know it then, but I was right. Sometimes I wish I would learn to just shut the fuck up.

separator

When I reached the control room, I found the place in shambles. Someone had blown half the consoles to shit while the other half looked almost untouched. I would have been a lot less creeped out if that was the only shit I found, but it got worse, so much worse. A full dozen corpses littered the place, two still strapped in their seats with enormous holes in their chests and the rest floating around covered with more wounds than I could count. A few were even missing limbs.

Several had bled out so much, gore stuck to their clothes and froze to their bodies. Bits of red icicles hung in the open space all around me. The creepiness level jumped from a ten to eleven surpassing my previous estimate, which was saying something since everyone knows the scale only goes up to ten.

My mother was not among the dead. It sounded odd, but I had mixed feelings about that. I mean, sure, it would be the fulfilment of my deepest dreams to find her alive, but given how long she’d been missing, it didn’t seem likely. The Endeavour expedition should have lasted a year, but when a group of people go missing for a long period, you kind of expect that they’re all dead. Some closure would be nice after so many years.

Those sorts of thoughts gave way to the sight of all those corpses. I could only ignore them for so long before they were thrown into the forefront of my awareness.

God, it was worse than the woman.

I turned my head and looked away, closing my eyes as I dry heaved. I swallowed hard and slowed my breathing. Vomiting would have been bad enough, but spewing in my suit would only make things worse. When I got my stomach under control, I slid my eyes back open and moved through the area, looking for an undamaged console, and found it.

An indicator light was blinking in the bottom left corner. It was so dim, I might have missed it, if I hadn’t been searching for that very thing. I moved close, tapping my fingertips over the console, and allowed a grin to stretch across my face as the control interface blinked to life. I looked about, my smile fading as I remembered I was surrounded by the bodies of the long dead. Not only did it seem creepy, but it was just a little… disrespectful.

“Jek, did you just do something? I’m reading an influx in power from the control room.”

“Yeah, it was me.” I grimaced, returning my attention to the console. “I activated a control panel. It’s looking for biometrics.”

I grabbed the arm of the pilot, who sat just a few feet away, and groaned as I fought to bring her hand down to palm the console. Okay, it was just a little more difficult than I imagined. It might have been because the frigid temperatures had frozen her solid, but it may also have something to do with rigor mortis. How should I know? It’s not like I was a doctor or anything. I reached for the straps which secured her to the seat and grimaced as my hand brushed her chest. It made me feel like some sicko-perv necrophiliac, but I clench my jaw and forced aside my discomfort. I released my breath as the clasp on her harness came free.

I placed her hand on the console and released her wrist the second the ship accepted her biometric signature. She floated away, and I shuddered, never so glad to have that ordeal done with. I remembered hearing stories of my ancestor, Lexa Briggs, using dismembered limbs to unlock the biometrics on Qharr ships and had always thought it sounded grizzly. What I had done was bad enough, I didn’t care to try it with a severed hand.

I paused, dry heaving again as I struggled to get the ghastly images out of my head. Bile rose in my throat and I gagged, taking in several deep breaths before managing to once again gain control over my rioting stomach. The taste in my mouth was none too pleasant, but at least I’d spared myself from soaking the interior of my suit with the not-quite digested remains of my last meal.

“Okay,” I said, clearing my throat. “It looks like I need a passcode to get into most of the major systems, but I think I can at least make things a bit more comfortable. Whether there’s enough power is another matter.”

I tapped the controls, and again a smile spread over my features as the ship responded to my commands, coming to life with a glorious humming sound. With a suddenness I wasn’t quite prepared for, artificial gravity kicked in and I hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. Okay, it wasn’t the smartest thing in the galaxy to do, but in my defense the room happened to be filled to the brim with corpses. That would unnerve even the most stalwart of Qharr warriors.

Granted, most ships had safety systems to prevent just such an occurrence, but given the Endeavour was in pretty terrible shape, it seemed likely that those systems might not be functioning.

“Well,” I grunted, clutching at my chest and climbing to my feet, “gravity’s working.”

“Now let’s see what we can do about environmental systems.” I leveraged myself against the console, still shaken from having my ass slammed to the ground, and toggled the controls. I let out a sigh of relief as the life support kicked in with a hiss and whirl. Someone must have invaded the ship, then shut the reactor and secondary power supplies down. Why the hell would anyone do that? They’d already killed everyone on board and left the ship adrift. What purpose would shutting down the power serve? Something wasn’t adding up.

It would take a while for the ship to heat enough to take my helmet off, but my respirator had already switched from the tanks to outside air supply, allowing me to shed the heavy as fuck pack. I didn’t hesitate, releasing the latch that held the damn air tanks in place and set them on the ground.

“Tanner, you still there?” I asked glancing at the temperature reading on the console’s display and undoing the clasps on the helmet, relieved the ship had warmed enough.

“Yeah, I’m getting a lot of unusual readings. Whatever is causing all the interference is getting stronger. I think it’s reacting to the influx of power.”

“Shit, of course it is.” I cursed, releasing the final clasp, and slammed it onto the console before I took off running, making my way out of the control room and back into the corridor.

If I had learned one thing in my twenty-five years, it was that when you detected a strange energy signature and it started getting stronger, shit was about to go down. I know that sounds oddly specific, but you’d be surprised how often it comes up when you transport cargo for a living.

Okay, it almost never happens, but there are some situations in life that are just no-brainers. This was one of those times, but instead of running back to the safety of the Hawk, I did the stupidest thing I could ever do, I ran toward danger.  What can I say? I may very well be the biggest dumbass who was ever born.

“Tanner, I’m gonna need you to point me in the right direction. Which way is the dead spot?”

“Keep going straight and at the next fork, turn left and then left again. I can’t read anything beyond that point, so you’re on your own from there.”

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, why does this shit always happen to me?” I cursed, taking off down the corridor and toward what I’m sure was certain doom. Further confirming that I was, in fact, a dumbass.

Facades: A Christmas Tale

08/19/2017

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

Shout outs go to the following people: Beyogi who served as a beta reader and Maggie Finson for beta reading as well, but also for coming up with the title for the story, and the late Holly H Hart for her superb editing prowess.

This story is part of an open universe, if you are interest in writing in this universe, visit the open universes page and if your still interested use the contact form and shoot me an email with your idea.

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

Second Chance

06/24/2017

An abusive father discovers he and his son have more in common than either could have ever imagined.

Author's Note

This story is set in the same town as my other works Facades and Good Deeds, as with the other two tales this one is intended as a standalone. Like Facades, it hits particularly close to home as it covers the topic of abuse. This time however, it’s written from the perspective of the abuser. I like to think that I covered the topic delicately, but if you are particularly sensitive to the subject you may wish to abstain from reading.

This story is part of an open universe, if you are interest in writing in this universe, visit the open universes page and if your still interested use the contact form and shoot me an email with your idea.

Allen was trembling, can’t say I could blame him the kid had every right to be scared. I mean I would be too if my father had found me all dolled up like that. Of course, as his father I was kind of at loss for words. I dropped my beer and just let the bottle shatter on the floor as I stared at the kid. He would have made a pretty convincing girl if he’d been able to cover up his stubble a little better and done a little more work with his breasts. They looked a little lopsided and the full length dress helped hide his figure, but it didn’t quite hide all of his stocky frame.

“Dad, I can explain.” He held his hands up and flinched probably expecting me to hit him, but I wasn’t drunk enough for that. Not yet.

I looked down at the broken bottle and the former contents which had been soaked up by the carpet and shuddered. “Go, Allen.”

“W-what?” the boy asked staring back at me his lips quivering.

“Go to your party”

His eyebrows shot up and he gasped and went running out of the room as fast as his footwear allowed. I heard his high-heels clacking against the floor just before the door creaked open and thundered shut behind him. I stared down at my fists, flexing my hand and collapsed onto the couch.

I thought about grabbing another beer, but it just didn’t seem like there was any damn point. For years now I’d been looking for some clarity by guzzling the stuff, but all I ever found was another empty bottle.

The doorbell rang and I closed my eyes and just sat there hoping whoever was on the other side would just go away, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen. It was Halloween after all. “Damn, trick or treaters,”I cursed under my breath and staggered to the door.

I swung the door open and felt cold air blast me in the face. “Huh? That’s weird,” I muttered craning my neck out the door hoping to catch sight of the culprit. No one showed themselves so I slammed the door.

“It’s hard isn’t it?”

I jumped and spun around to find myself facing probably the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I probably should have freaked out, I mean here there was this strange woman in my house, but for some reason all I could do was smile like some big dope. She was wearing a toga, had a halo over her head and a set of feathered wings to finish the whole look off. I wasn’t sure how she kept the halo in place. I couldn’t see any wires or anything.

“Damn good costume,” I said my jaw dropping to the floor as she started to chuckle.

“It’s not a costume, but I think you already know that. I usually don’t show myself like this, but I figured what the heck, it’s Halloween. If anyone were to see me I wouldn’t look out of place.”

“Look lady, aren’t you a little old to be trick or treating?”

Her hand reached out to caress my face and I stiffened at her touch. It felt so warm.

“Why did you let Allen go, Jim? I know why, but the question is can you admit it to yourself?”

Something damp touched my cheek and I reached up to wipe the tears away. I tried to tell the woman to go away, but the words just wouldn’t come. Instead I said exactly what I didn’t want to. “Because I’m just like him.”

“I can help you, but first you must make a promise. I can give you what you’ve always desired, but you have to be willing to change.Tell me, what I want to hear. Tell me what you’re going to do to make this happen.”

I stood there blubbering staring at the woman in disbelief. I didn’t doubt who she was and I didn’t doubt that her power was real. I didn’t need her to tell me what she intended, I already knew. My hands started to shake and I looked down at them as I spoke the words I thought I’d never hear myself say.

“That’s the first step, and it’s exactly what I wanted to hear. I can see you sincerely want to quit, but it’s difficult when you’re drowning in despair. Just remember, the gift I’m about to bestow on you won’t make you a better person. That sort of change has to come from the inside.”

The most brilliant, blinding white light filled my vision and I collapsed to the ground as I felt the world shift and turn.

I trembled and stood up, Allen, now Cassie clasped her hand around mine and gave me a smile of encouragement. I had been given a gift greater than anything I could have imagined. The angel had worked a miracle as she had for my daughter. The encounter had sparked a deep revelation in me and I realized that things had to change. It was a tribute to Cassie that she was being so supportive after the way I’d mistreated her for so many years.

I stood up and felt all the eyes on the room turn to me. There was no judgment or harshness in their eyes as I had feared, merely encouragement. I swallowed, bit my lip and brushed the hair out of my face before finally speaking. “My name’s Rebecca and I’m an alcoholic.”



The End

Comments, no matter the length, are very much appreciated. If you liked this story please take a minute to leave a review or even just to tell me you liked it. Criticism is welcome so long as it is constructive and I will gladly answer any personal messages or emails you want to send my way.

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 my own site, Fictionmania, Bigcloset Topshelf, & tgstorytime.com have permission to host this story and my previous works unless I state otherwise.

Good Deeds

04/08/2017

Doing good always helps to bring a little happiness into your heart, but it’s nice to get a thank you every now and then.

Author's Note

This story was originally part of an anthology which can be found by clicking this link.

This story is part of an open universe, if you are interest in writing in this universe, visit the open universes page and if your still interested use the contact form and shoot me an email with your idea.

Sometimes it’s hard staying humble, but it was a virtue so I had to at least try. Still, I had to admit I did good work even when I seldom got credit for it. My current venture was only just wrapping up.

She was in a restaurant, a ritzy one from the looks of it. Funny, how changing just one little detail had such a ripple effect. Before I got to her, she was holding a gun to her head, ready to blow her brains out. Judging from the way she was looking around she didn’t understand where she was, or how she’d gotten there nor did she seem to have noticed her new body.

I was beginning to wonder if she’d ever wise up, but then she finally glanced down at her chest. She let out a high pitched squeal and lurched onto her feet. I followed her into the bathroom and when she caught that reflection in the mirror she started to teeter on her feet. That’s when dark beads of mascara stained her cheeks, and I rolled my eyes as she started to sob. Why were mortals always so emotional? Wait, that last one didn’t sound like a sob, in fact it sounded more like a giggle, which was followed by a second and third.

I couldn’t blame her for laughing, I would be too if I found myself living in the right body after a lifetime spent in the wrong one. I doubted that she’d be posing in any magazines any time soon, she was far from ugly. She was pretty in a girl next door sort of way, which I think suited her pretty well.

“Hey, are you Ellie?”

“I, uh, well,” was all she said to newcomer who’d just stepped inside the restroom.

“Well whatever, there’s some guy out there looking for an Ellie.”

She moved to leave, but the other woman stopped her. “You know you may want to clean yourself up. Unless you want him to know you’ve been crying.”

She bit her lip, then grabbed a paper towel, dampened it and washed the mascara from her face. She didn’t spend any time applying new makeup, but I don’t think she knew how.

“There you are.” A tall dark-haired man approached her a moment after she exited the bathroom.

She looked nervous, but I really don’t think she should have. The two of them had grown up together in Meridian. In her old reality she’d never had the courage to tell him how she really felt and their relationship had never been a romantic one, but… well things had changed.

“Thank you, whoever or whatever did this,” she whispered to the open air.

She couldn’t see me, but I couldn’t help but smile, sometimes I did get credit for my good deeds. “You’re welcome.”

“Something wrong?” Jeff asked.

“No,” she bit her lip then looked around a final time before turning back to him. “Everything is just fine.”

The End

Comments, no matter the length, are very much appreciated. If you liked this story please take a minute to leave a review or even just to tell me you liked it. Criticism is welcome so long as it is constructive and I will gladly answer any personal messages or emails you want to send my way.

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 my own site, Fictionmania, Bigcloset Topshelf, & tgstorytime.com have permission to host this story and my previous works unless I state otherwise.

Ragnarok Shorts: Tales from the Spellbinder Universe

04/01/2017

In a world where magic reigns supreme, identity and gender can be as fluid as the forces of nature. A mad scientist, a transgender woman who has become involved with a radical revolutionist group, a goddess of mischief, a supplicant to an inexperienced goddess, and a young apprentice; each person’s life takes a strange and unexpected twist as elemental forces reshape their existence.

Author's Note

Each piece can be read as a standalone, but you may get more enjoyment from them if you read my Ragnarok Rising Trilogy as they are set in the same universe and feature some of the same characters. Each of these tales takes place at different points in the Spellbinder Universe chronology and contain minor spoilers. As such they may seem to contradict each other if you’re not familiar with the mythology and history of universe in which they are set.

Thanks go out to Hutcho for creating and putting out the Mixed Tape anthologies in which these stories were originally featured. I’d also like to thank Maggie Finson who pre-read “Convergence of Magics” and to all the other Mixed Tape contributors who provided valued input on each of these tales.

‘Bathe in his blood!’ she said as I collapsed to the ground.

I heard the guard’s feet clomp on the floor followed by the clank of the cell door closing behind him. I rolled onto my back panting and clutching at my side where I was certain his repeated kicks had resulted in broken ribs. Each time I drew in breath, the pain which was normally a dull throb swelled to the point I felt myself growing faint.

‘Get up! Fight, kill, burn everything!

“I-I can’t, I don’t know how!”

‘Let the magic burn inside of us!’

My vision flashed a brilliant bright white and gasped and gritted my teeth as I sat up. I could use magic, but given my current state I wasn’t sure I could live with the consequences. I flexed my hand, the female one, and watched fascinated and in disbelief that it could be mine. I cupped my breast and gasped, letting my hand drop back down. There was a jagged split down the center of my body, like two of my victims sewn together in a bizarre mishmash of male and female.

So many years, so many experiments, and it had all come down to this. It all started with twins, but it’d gone far beyond that. How many victims did I abduct over the years? I always had such a clear image of their faces in my mind, but now I could only recall a handful. I’d lost my passion for the work and instead became obsessed with power, specifically magic. Men were denied it’s use, but I’d been determined to find a way to make it mine and… I did.

I’d never been given the time I needed to test it, they came before I could and I’d been forced to inject myself to save the formula. It’s how I found myself in my present predicament, a prisoner of the Nordic empire.

‘Let it course through us. Burn our enemies to ash and cinder!’

“No! I-I can’t. I won’t! It’s too dangerous!”

I hadn’t called upon the magic, but I could feel it boiling just under the surface. It was said that it took years to master the power of the seidh, but the pure destructive force could be harnessed by the untrained if they were willing to take the risk.

‘Let the power burn!’

“YES!” I screamed my resistance slipping away as I let the magic just wash over me. It whipped and whirled. It burned… oh how it burned. I let it go swirling out of me a whirlwind of destructive fire and rage that blasted my little cell into oblivion.

‘We are free!’

The voice had been so right, all this time I had fought it, but she had known. The magic consumed me, eating away at male flesh, but I didn’t care. The voice and I howled out in unison until… I couldn’t discern her voice from mine. We were Mengele.

+


As featured in Funky Lady

Tires screech from the street behind me and I pull my apprentice robes close as I step into the convention center. I shudder, and bite my lips. I am worried that the gathered magic users–Spellbinders, Charmers, Enchantresses, and Mages all come at the behest of the Seidskati for an emergency meeting of the council–will see through my disguise. I am an imposter, once a man I had been transformed so that I could tap into the power of the Seidh, a power which is denied to males.

I stop and cup my breasts and get an odd look from the woman next to me. My boobs feel so right, but come with a terrible price. I have always been certain that I am meant to be a woman, but society hasn’t been so understanding. Once, I came close to taking my life, but then I heard about the formula, one which promises to turn any man into a woman and by extension a magic user. Whispers mostly, unsubstantiated, but I had so desperately wanted to believe and as a member of the Sons of Odin it was already in my grasp.

The spellbinders control everything and the Sons of Odin claim to want equal rights for men and even transgendered people like me, but their methods are not those of the righteous freedom fighters they claim to be. There are rumors that they are preparing for the end, the battle of Ragnarok, but if so I think I’ve chosen the wrong side. I hate them. They killed my mother when I refused to cooperate and are holding my sister ransom to ensure I cooperate now.

I have no choice, I must continue or risk losing the only person I care about. I walk slowly through the convention center, craning my neck around looking for a flash of that trademark Le Fey auburn hair. The place was big and it was going to take time. There is a balcony up above and stage at the far end. She could be anywhere. Bryn is Sophie’s friend, and given my transformed self’s resemblance to my sister I am the perfect person to play her. Especially with the illusory spell cast over me.

“Neil?” I ask sidestepping the fair-haired giant of a man standing guard over her. She is beautiful just like her mother, and like Aryanna she has been born male.

Bryn spins around and I watch her eyes grow wide. “Sophie?”

My lying face contorts into an awful smirk. A lie, just like everything else about me. The Sons of Odin want me to get close to Aryanna, and through her daughter, I can do just that. Aryanna is part of the task force hunting down the Sons of Odin and they desperately want to get at her. A lot of people will probably die as result of my actions, but I don’t care. I will do anything to save my sister, even betray her best friend.

+


As featured in Du Bist Sehr Schön

Boobs, you gotta love them. As a goddess I have a pretty rocking set, but that hasn’t always been the case. I used to be a dude, but that was another life and I’d tell you all about it if it weren’t so incredibly boring. My new existence is far more entertaining, but that sort of comes with the job description. I am, after all, the goddess of mischief and chaos, which used to be Loki’s gig, but he went and got himself killed (twice) and I got the honour of stepping in to fill his rather robust shoes.

Sex is a riot, but my partners are usually mortals and they just don’t have the same stamina that I do. Take my last two studs. Their affections had been pleasurable, certainly, but I’d done about everything I could think of with them and frankly it was getting incredibly stale. I knew just what they needed, a nice pair of luscious melons. I snapped my fingers and couldn’t help but grin as I watched the two transform, the taller blond one’s short cropped hair grew darker and cascaded down her back in a mass of curls before her body shifted taking on a perfect hourglass figure. The other, I made a redhead and well… let’s just say I left a little something extra between her legs.

I couldn’t wait to take the two for a test drive, but it was time to perform some of my godly duties. It was a bit of a bother, but once in a while I could derive some fun from it. I snapped my fingers, disappearing from my abode and reappeared in the domicile of a mortal, a silly little man who was always praying to me and whimpering about all kinds of dreary things. I don’t often answer prayers, but when I do, as you might imagine, things don’t usually turn out quite the way the supplicant envisions.

He couldn’t see me, which is how I like it when I’m working. The little guy went about his monotonous little existence doing all sort of tedious things. He wanted me to make his life more exciting, you know give it a little spice, and I giggled as I realized just what gift I’d confer on him, a pair of mammaries. You know it’s funny how often it comes down to that. I grinned, but instead of snapping my fingers, I switched it up and wiggled my nose.

His chest bloomed into a pair of glorious mounds, and his hips, legs and the rest of his body soon followed. Hair splashed down her back where before she had almost none and her face morphed into the perfect vision of feminine beauty. I smiled and left her to discover my handiwork. I heard her scream just before I vanished and I rolled my eyes. You know, some people are just never happy with the gifts bestowed on them.

Tiny little droplets, trickled down my cheek and I stared up at the statue of the goddess begging her to answer my prayers. If the Aesir were so powerful why wouldn’t they grant my simple appeal? I would think she, of all the gods, would be the most sympathetic to my plight, but I guess the worries of a simple mortal like myself were beneath her notice.

I stood and pulled my hood up over my face, glancing around the temple and shook my head. Her shrine was unlike that of any other god or goddess, there were no priests, priestesses or even an attendant in sight. Other than a simple altar and a towering statue with her likeness the room was empty, but even as I looked around I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was not alone. Was it the presence of the divine that I sensed or was it merely a product of my imagination?

I shook my head and moved for the open archway which led back out into the city, but before I could I felt a hand on my shoulder. My heart was racing as I slowly turned to meet the gaze of the smiling figure. The statue didn’t do her justice, her soft features were framed with long auburn tresses and one look at her body was enough to make me weak in the knees. She was perfect in every sense of the word, and I doubted that anyone, man or woman, could find fault with her voluptuous form.

“Do you know who I am?” she asked her hand reaching up to touch my cheek.

A simple nod was all I could muster, but it seemed to be enough for her. She backed away, then shook her head and placed her hands on her hips. It seemed so strange, but there was something very… human about her posture. Everyone knew her story and how she had been born to a human mother, but somehow I expected that she would have shed her humanity. To see that it was still very much intact seemed so… odd.

She shook her head and turned her back to me. “Prayers are… still a little weird for me. So, forgive me for taking so long. I-I’ll gladly help you, but you do realize that once it’s done, it will be permanent. It’s a big change, I know, so if you don’t think–”

“NO!” I screamed, then ran a hand through my hair and grimaced. “Please, you can’t come all this way just to tell me no.”

“I didn’t intend to.” She spun back around and smiled.

It happened so quickly that I don’t think I was fully prepared for it. Whirling bursts of energy flew out from her fingertips. The brightest light filled my vision, and when it cleared again, the goddess was gone. I looked down at my now flat chest and smiled, finally my prayers had been answered.

+


As featured in Miniskirts

Lights swirled and whizzed through the room at almost sickening speeds. Sometimes one would bounce of a wall and ricochet off in another direction, and other times it would simply disintegrate. There was no rhyme or reason to it, but magic could sometimes be unpredictable that way. My master and his wife were pioneers in inter-gender magic research and the lights were one of many unforeseen results of their experiments.

The lab was a simple unadorned room, with cupboards lining the walls and a large workspace at its center. Empty beakers and test tubes lined the counters, but they weren’t what I had come for. The more dangerous stuff was locked in the cupboard at the back of the room and it was there that I went. Otto and Thora would be gone for some time and I knew that if I didn’t take advantage of their absence I may not get another chance.

I unlocked the cupboard with the key, I had swiped from my master, then quickly gathered the magic artifacts made from Thora’s power, a feather of wind, three fire beads and five small phials of spirit essence. I memorized the recipe the last time my master had granted me permission to view his valdbok and I was familiar enough with potion making that I was confident I would be successful.

Potioncraft was a new art and it was one of the few ways in which male and female magic could be used together. Otto was fond of saying that the power of the seid for men and women were like different sides of the same coin. While either type differed slightly from the other, they were both elemental and some abilities, like transformational spells, were much more difficult for men to perform. Women’s enchantments had their own weaknesses and it couldn’t exactly be said that either sex was overall more powerful.

Inside a large beaker, I mixed the ingredients in the order the recipe had directed then closed my eyes and began to funnel the required amounts of male energy into the container. When I opened my eyes again I found that the ingredients had turned into a clear blue liquid. I grinned then, before I could chicken out, quickly downed the entire potion.

A moment later the world started fade into darkness and when I came to again, I was laying on the ground. I shook my head then stood up. Something felt wrong, and when I looked down at my chest I found a pair of breasts sticking out from it.
“Crap!” I yelled.

A check inside my pants revealed a new vagina. The spell was supposed to make me more appealing to girls not turn me into one! “Double crap!”

“Alibran?” A voice, which belonged to my master, called from the other side of the door. “Did you sneak into the lab, again?”

“TRIPLE CRAP!”

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