Author, Chapter Two, Mini Series, Novel, Science Fiction, Writing, Zach Acid

Act One | Chapter Two: Notan’s Pit | Episode Eight: Fligar & Ragilf

With this he could defend himself, if he managed to keep it, it would be paramount in establishing his name as Ragilf. NaN basked in his self-aggrandizement for a moment. First, he had to figure out a way to keep it better hidden, since it had already atomized his sleeve. He checked his data card for the time. More than a revolution and a half before the rest were back onboard. “If some aren’t back already,” he whispered in embarrassment to himself.

Now or never. He climbed out of the hatch, back into the engineering compartment where he looked for a couple of heat masks. JOS was probably in the fitness arena already done with his tasking, attempting to train. The thought made NaN smile. Then he imagined JOS’s reaction to the nanobrains.

Likely he’d defecate on the spot. NaN chuckled to himself rounding the corner towards the fitness arena, the imagery of his hardline friend, eyes bulging with shock, mouth moving speechlessly. As if gasping for air. Too amazing.

He’d almost forgotten the need to be paranoid when he heard the whisper of a door from the fitness arena opening further down. “You’ll never guess what happened!” NaN called out.

His heart sank.

“What exactly happened?” Voiyn’s deep voice made the feeling worse. NaN swore he saw Voiyn look at his arm before he could shift it out of view.

Quick to reach for something, “Vahl’s compartment is absolute filth. It was so foul I had to hold my breath the entire time,” he mimed, placing his right hand over his nose and mouth. In an attempt to draw the attention away from hand holding the masks, covered in nanobrains, poorly hidden behind his back.

“And the masks?”

‘Think, think…’, “They’re to help with JOS’s training, I figure he’s probably not going hard enough in there,” he served the lie on silver.

“You’ll be surprised. He’s training harder than I’ve ever seen. Maybe being so close to death from that Boi-zht gave him some fire,” Voiyn said with great knowing. “You both should go through the Pit. Show the other Packs that Voiyn’s Horde is unafraid. This time show your faces proudly. You have a revolution and a half to explore. Don’t get yourselves killed. This next hunt will be big. Worth close to half your debts. Don’t waste the opportunity being reckless.” NaN couldn’t help but stare into the poisonous yellow eyes that reflected the light in the semi-shadow he stood in.

Voiyn carried on nonchalantly towards his private compartment. NaN was drop-jawed, ‘He knew. That crafty lizard knew,’ he looked at the matte black coating his hand. His footing returned to him as he began reading into what Voiyn had said. His mind flicked through an infinity of scenarios. “Yartūss*…” he shrugged to himself continuing on. That had been the only permission he could have wanted. Hopefully JOS wasn’t too dead to make this soujorn into the wild.

“Incredible,” NaN gave JOS a clap after watching his friend leap knee height, drenched in sweat.

JOS shot him a fierce look, he wasn’t the first interloper, JOS wasn’t in the mood. “Are you going to to stand there and stare, or join?”

NaN flashed a toothy grin, “You’ll never believe what happened.”

JOS’s face switched from anger, to exasperation.

“Remember how you told me about nanobrains?”

JOS sunk his body in annoyance.

“Wait!” NaN stopped him from turning around by raising his blackened arm.

JOS stared for a moment, “If this is some trick you’re playing, I’ll kick you so hard you’ll vomit,” he snarled. Marching towards NaN, his footsteps echoing off the walls, sounding harder with every step towards him.

Before JOS covered even half of the distance between them, NaN opened his hand like before. The unit long spikes stopped JOS in his tracks.

There it was. That face, it was even better, JOS looked like he’d just had a bucket of water thrown on him. NaN wasn’t sure if his smile could get any wider.

“Is that real?” JOS was still processing everything.

“Quite,” NaN responded haughtily, wanting to sound impressive.

“How?” was all he could say. ‘Got ‘im,’ NaN thought.

“That’s not even the best part,” he relaxed his fingers causing the spikes to recede, ‘I’ll have to remember that.’ “We have just receive notice of our allowance off this box, to go explore this Pit.”

“This is getting ludicrous. You’re telling me you have a nanobrain weapon,” JOS pointed at the matte black hand, “and somehow you secure us leave off the ship.”

“Something like that,” he waved towards the sanitation compartment, the nanobrains for med into talons. “Awesome,” NaN examined his hand. “Let’s go get back in our omni-suits, Valegbosh’s request.”

Donning their omni-suits, NaN exlained Voiyn’s offer, then he told JOS what he’d learnt going through each compartment. NaN finished up his magtags, deciding on a pair of black machining gloves instead of the matching pair. One puncture anywhere on his omni-suit would be a disaster to repair. ‘It’s better not to risk it,’ NaN reasoned with himself.

“How have you planned to tell Essec about the microscopic artificial intelligence attached to your arm?” JOS asked with those eyes that made him feel like a target. NaN hadn’t actually given it as much though as he probably should.

“By giving it back… if I can,” NaN hoped the joke would misdirect.

Nonplussed JOS responded,”That’s clever, I bet you have a voidsealed plan for getting off the ship without any permission. And at the same time, though unintentional, you stole someone elses belongings.”

NaN took the criticism for what it was, JOS knew he needed to hear it. As much as being wild was fun, the level of trouble for a single mistake beyond the protection of Voiyn’s Horde was too great.

“You can get what you want without asking sometimes too. Opportunities are everywhere it’s important to take advantage of them when you can. Which means you have to take risks.” NaN was all snark. He held his hand in the thumb and finger chevron sign of sarcasm.

“Since we’ve got our permission, let’s go out. Better learn something about this place if it’ll be our docking home for the foreseeable future,” JOS deadpanned.

“One of these rotation’s you’ll stop doing everything so stressfully,” Nan sighed. “You’re right though, let’s go learn about this filthy mess.”

Both exchanged a look of excitement.

“Ragilf.” JOS said.

“Fligar.” NaN responded, together turned in sync proceeding towards the hangar exit.

NaN remember, turning to JOS said, “Oh yeah, Voiyn said, don’t get us killed”

JOS punched him in the shoulder, sending him into the bulkhead.

There was a tense, silent moment between them. Then, JOS laughed. NaN joined, they laughed together until they couldn’t stand.

Finally able to catch their breath, they stood up, brushed themselves off, and went off into the plums of yellow, questionably nontoxic, gas.

* Yartūss – slang. Used when performing an undesirable task, (ex. “Oh well…”, “Git ‘r done…”, “Yartūss…”)

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Author, Chapter Two, Mini Series, Novel, Science Fiction, Writing

Act One | Chapter Two: Notan’s Pit | Episode Seven: Curiosity & Calamity

NaN did his part. If he didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to get away without notice. And, JOS would be impossible to convince otherwise. He grimaced, putting a polish shine to the last vanity in the sanitation compartment. He too a look at himself, the way his black hair shined purple and green as it passed through light. The four rectangular geometric dark brown marks next to his right eye caught his attention, which made him look into his eyes.

Never having seen them until recently it was still a shock. Silver with hidden stripes of blue, almost pointing to his birthmarks. The way it was set against his almost white skin. When he’d finally seen his reflection he was surprised he didn’t have the same features as JOS, both descendent of apes, he’d assumed they would look the same. He knew they had different markings, and colors.

JOS had too distinct of an appearance even as an ape. Mostly his skin was pale, like NaN’s, however he had fierce dark brown markings, a crescent that touched his top lip, where his skin was a white grey, and ended above his eyes, almost symmetrically. Another formed on his chin and remained unbroken down to his chest, where his heart would be.

He saw the last smudge of grease fade into a perfect shine from all angles. Satisfied, he moved on to the last on the list. NaN had to check all personal compartment filtration systems. A task scheduled specifically when Valevyinellin was docked. Not a whole lot to do if there was any problems with the filters floating in the Void.

While everyone was gone, NaN had to take advantage of this perfect opportunity to know his packmates better. Maybe. He had to be the one to volunteer for it, JOS would never appreciate the situation.

OhkBD’s was first. When the door hissed open NaN nearly leapt in shock. Every microunit* of surface was perfectly cleaned. They knew he’d be coming in. ‘Challenge accepted,’ NaN thought as he stepped into the spotless compartment.

The bed was against the left most wall of the square space, probably four units cubed. Opposite the door was a maze of monitors and what were, NaN could only assume, input devices. Probably all designed by OhkBD himself. ‘That’s the most dangerous thing in this entire compartment. If I do anything he’ll know, probably being recorded right now,’ he thought reaching the circular vent just above the layout.

He pulled the datacard from his coverup pocket, thumbed through its various function icons, selecting the EviroCert one, with the bacteria swimming, another OhkBD creation. Holding it up to the vent, it began reading the particulate count being filtered into this space.

NaN played the game that was also the data processing screen. He was the big black bacteria, eating the smaller bacteria in a three dimensional space. The game ended after you ate the last one in your territory and evolved, then the screen faded to white. A report of showing the contamination analysis faded back into view. Clean, within .001% variation from norm, it gave him a small bit of satisfaction to know he was literally polluting OhkBD’s space.

‘Not this time. OhkBD, your guard’s way too high my mate, we’ll learn about you some other way,’ NaN thought, turning to leave the compartment, confident, not wanting to give away his disappointment.

Next was Vahl, “This’ll be interesting,” he mumbled checking off OhkBD’s compartment. He need to think of a way to get his hands on a usable weapon, and some kind of knowledge about Notan’s Pit and how it worked. Maybe not far, not into the crowds. If they got ahead of themselves they would die. Something came together, “It’s the best alibi if we get caught. Just completing the checklist.” No one would question them, the display of death was convincing enough, even for NaN.

NaN opened Vahl’s door, assailing his olfactory senses with a cacophony of smell, which was somehow dominated by the stink of sulfur. Scanning the dimly lit compartment, NaN regretted taking this task, ‘Funny how wen you seek something, the universe provides.’ He scratched his head in frustration, face plastered in a look of disgust.

One more breath of fresh, as fresh as he’d ever known it, air. Bravely he entered, breath held.

His eyes darted around, searching the piles of scrap on the floor, whilst maneuvering through them. In the corner was biomaterial forming some kind of bed, nest. Heat was emanating from it, probably the source of the smell. NaN thanked him self for having good lung capacity, as his eyes began to water.

‘Somehow,’he thought putting his datacard up to the vent, ‘I have a feeling they’re all like this. Trying to keep us from their things, instead of hiding the real treasure, their full personalities. Like I would steal from them, I have to live with these beings.’

OhkBD is in VirtualSpace rather than reality in his compartment, and is protective, bordering hyper paranoid. Judging by his ridiculous rig with nineteen or more cameras, he was also probably very insecure outside of his intangible world. Every pinhole could’ve been one as far as he was concerned. Vahl seems to have nothing to hide, seeing as he so delicately cares for his personal space. NaN couldn’t say either way, the Ioikheil had a personality much like how his compartment looked.

The EviroCert completed, perfectly normal readings, not that he wanted to remove his other hand from his nose and mouth to bask in it. Using the last of his held breath he examined the walls of the compartment. Still, and in-motion images lined the walls, NaN couldn’t tell if they were supposed to be gory or pornographic. Either way, they were effective at warding him from the space.

There hadn’t been much to expect, but their datacards would only generate the codes for their compartments once per docking. Once a compartment was checked off, it’d be back in restricted access. Giving him one shot at a look, who knows how often.

“Best is last,” he said to himself snaking the thin electronics device between his fingers. ‘Probably not,’ he thought. ‘There’ll be nothing visible, but thousands of tiny hidden digital eyes watching and following me,’ he couldn’t control a giggle as he thought about how true a statement like that might be.

Of all the members of Voiyn’s Horde, Essec was by far the most mysterious. Speaking his mind here and there, but otherwise kept to himself. Inside the compartment, behind the door that JOS and he practically worshiped. The one he was standing front of.

NaN placed his datacard against the same sized compartment lock. He watch, eagerly waiting to see the red “Forbidden” pyramid, switch to “UNLOCKED” in gold on the screen.

“Sa-ka!” he exclaimed reading the word with excitement. His body felt like it was on autopilot, numb and out of control from hyping up his entrance into Essec’s compartment. This time the surprise was pleasant, he didn’t think it’d be possible with Essec’s mysterious behavior, there was no way Nan’d expected this.

There had to be at least one hundred awards and certificates from various institutions and systems. The largest NaN needed to be all the way in the compartment to see. A large canvas banner in some impossible language, a creature’s decapitate head held by what looked like Essec’s arm filled the left side of the image.

NaN imagined a scene where Essec stood as the executioner for his bounty. Holding it’s severed remenants for all to see, the crowd cheering for blood. ‘I’ll ask,’ he said to himself. ‘Maybe I’ll ask.” JOS would want to hear anything about outside the Vale.

Ever since the first rotation they’d met, when JOS punched him back for hitting someone JOS was friends with. They fought like younglings, NaN touched the spot where his nose had been broekn. Even since then, NaN and JOS were bound by friendship to leave this forsaken section of space. Information had always been kept hidden, now he knew they had genuine access to the real thing. He’d always been sure that there had to be more out there, too much of reality argued for that point. Now he was standing amongst the treasures commemorating the exploits of one of his packmates, whom has been outside the Vale.

The compartment wall to his right was lined with weapons, projectile and melee. All the classic Juxl weapons were there, the AP6, the GRØ-Tohrax, a single handed energy projectile weapon. Easy to recognize from the cylindrical power core that hung from the users waist from the thick cable connected to the hand hold of the weapon. Some he recognized, most he couldn’t even imagine how to operate. Or their purposes.

NaN checked the vent before he fed into his fascination with weaponry. Didn’t need to get distracted at the last moment. He hadn’t noticed in Vahl’s room, but his little bacteria had maintained it’s evolution and now needed to pray on other, bigger bacteria. All good. He slipped the card back into his huge pocket.

NaN went over the exotic pieces first, one at a time, inspecting their uniqueness, feeling the strangeness of the materials origin. Careful to keep his limbs he restrained himself from any lingering touches on any of the devices. The very last one he came to was the least attractive on the rack, a matte black sphere. It’s commonness made NaN that much more intrigued by it.

He reached out to feel the material, at his touch the sphere seemed to come to life. The material reached out, grabbing at his hand. NaN panicked, ripping, pulling, biting to escape the things grasp. Nothing worked, this was the worst.

NaN wondered if this was some new crew ritual intended for a laugh, ‘No Essec isn’t that funny,’ he confirmed mentally. Then, what if it was far worse, if this device was anything like the blood feeders he’d heard of. The thought was too much. Cutting off his own hand might be better then the embarrassment of being found like this.

NaN flew from Essec’s compartment as near the speed of light his body could manage. His favorite hiding hatch was on this level, in the engineering compartment. ‘Something, something…’ coming up with ideas felt as futile as swimming in space, “Think of something!” he yelled at no one.

The glassy black liquid-like material began to solidify, fingers first, then all the way down to his elbow. The device had eaten away the material in its path as it had formed to NaN’s arm. NaN spread his fingers apart. Spikes shived instantly into the air from every fingertip. Again. Same thing. Then it came to him, ‘Nanobrains.’ It’d always been something he wanted to see, he’d convinced himself they were made up stories to scare young ones about the future. Maybe they would be able to go a little be further than just outside now. If he was stuck with it, may as well own it.

*microunit – micrometer

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Author, Chapter Two, Mini Series, Novel, Science Fiction, Writing

Act One | Chapter Two: Notan’s Pit | Episode Six: Collection & Comfort

“Beings have died for less than assaulting a packmate,” Essec reminded his potential victim.

“You’re the one to do it?” garbled ML.

“Twitch wrong,” Essec invited, still as carved stone.

The moment between them hung in time, JOS tried to search for some kind of improvised weapon. There were too many careful, watching, eyes, and talented hands in their own methods of death to do anything. Not that he could really be of any help, but Essec was protecting him. there was an obligation for him to do something. From everywhere around him came the intense feeling of being in focus, having all attention directed at him.

Uneasy JOS stayed frozen in place, feeling the erratic palpitations in his neck and teeth.

“Nothings like you. Not worth the damage you could cause.” The way the sound of its footsteps moving away, into the crowd, put JOS a little at ease.

“Ræpk*. Te tu nao xilach,” Essec called after the being. JOS tried to remember what all the words meant in Notanish, he could only remember that it was a very insulting farewell. Usually reserved for the Double Dosca.

Reading the situation he turned back to face Voiyn. Less than an arms-length away from the Vale Hound, senses on full alert.

Muffled gurgling suddenly in his ear piece caused him to whip his head around. What he faced was a creature drowning in its own neon blue blood. Essec stood behind the thing, one hand restraining the fowl, ruddy, gelatinous head. Infinite tiny serrated teeth were exposed, pulsing with each attempt at breath. The other of Essec’s hands performed the killing stroke deep into the spot where JOS’s trachea would’ve been.

“That confirms it,” Essec said to himself.

No one asked what he meant. The Hounds would listen when he decided they required an explanation.

“Sorry you and your new friend couldn’t hangout longer,” NaN tried really hard. OhkBD laughed weakly.

JOS couldn’t respond, he was still trapped in fear of the blade in the creatures extremity, now dangling lifelessly at its side. He received a hard look from Essec, “Let’s move, we don’t need to give his friends any time to find him like this.”

Right, back to Valevyinellin. JOS felt like tearing himself to pieces over the whole thing. There was nothing he could’ve done. He wasn’t fast enough, well enough armed, experienced enough. Who was he kidding, he’d failed his confidence most. Something not unfamiliar to him, JOS would force Essec to teach him anything that he could convince the Haw-Kow to teach. Not a single doubt, a strategy began to form . Everything it would take for him to grow. That never again would he recognize being this self.

It’s what generated him so much favor in the Servitude Colony. Instead of shrinking like others, JOS spent valuable time picking up new skills, learning more effective methods. He remembered the approach of his fifteenth cycle, how angry been to still be so deep in.

Reality checked back. Giving JOS the ideal team, along with the closest person he’s ever known, his hard work had payed off.

Nerves subsided he set his mind back in the moment. Returning to Valevyinellin as one piece.

———————————————————————————————–

Back aboard, Vahl couldn’t resist, “I just lost ten thousand because you didn’t get skewered.”

“Thank by the by,” OhkBD offered JOS and NaN a hand to shake, a third placed in front of Vahl expectantly.

NaN grabbed the hand and shook exuberantly, JOS grabbed it reluctantly. Vahl batted it away, “Like lᴂr I’m paying up right now. You know you only get paid if they make it five cycles. If you die before that, then the money is mine.”

“5 cycles?”, Nan feigned bewilderment, “Can you both even make it that long at your advanced age?”

The hangar echoed with raucous laughter. The tension of the moment before non existent.

“Prepare for the gathering,” Voiyn’s command redirecting their focus.

“How do we prepare?” NaN asked. Eager to do anything to get JOS back on good terms quick. At least pretend that’s what he wanted to do. JOS hesitated back there. While he felt bad, he knew JOS well enough. He’d have to follow whatever new path his friend chose, guaranteed he would learn a bunch of crazy new things. Just thinking about it got NaN excited.

“Stay. Put.” Three voices chorused, Voiyn stood there. The look said everything, crafty lizard, ‘No one will be coming to save you.’ Or at least that’s what NaN wanted to interpret it as.

“You two are restricted on board with me.” Voiyn gave the final verdict.

He’d been planning this for too long, of course they wouldn’t be able to stay in their new omni suits. They’d have to get into their normal work gear anyway. “Yes Valegbosh!”, JOS saluted.

“Yes Valegbosh!” NaN followed as earnestly as he could, not wanting to appear to be scheming. JOS knew all about his intelligent personality. He just preferred if everyone thought he was simple, less pressure to do the right thing. Which right now, in his mind, was making sure JOS was happy. A bit of mischief is exactly what NaN had in mind.

“Have we been paid BD?”, Voiyn asked.

Spindly fingers furiously weaved complex motions in the nearby Brain access. “Looks like it,” OhkBD confirmed.

“Divide the earnings appropriately. You have three revolutions*. Be back for the final attendance. Go! Enjoy yourselves, it’s been a while. I will be negotiating with the Seven Hound’s Bounty. During our e.r. meeting we will discuss the perimeters of our next hunt,” Voiyn finished debriefing them. “Adjourned.”

The crew departed until it was only the two of them left. “What happened?”, he asked JOS.

“Nothing really, I just bumped shoulders with that thing,” JOS admitted.

NaN cackled, “That nasty thing really wanted you dead for it too.” He couldn’t help it, something about JOS always invited that kind of trouble. It’s why NaN could stand to be around such a rule-follower for so long.

“I’ll get Essec to teach me so it never happens a second time,” JOS was vim and verve.

“Sounds like fun,” NaN punched JOS in the shoulder. “It’ll be just like at the colony, except we won’t be guessing.” JOS shot an ‘are-you-kidding-me-you’re-going-to-do-this-too’ look. NaN winked back, “What are we going to do while the Double Dosca and Essec are out?”

“Probably complete the rest of our responsibilities. Then I was thinking about starting some physical training.” Already JOS was aiming to better himself. More reason for NaN to get his friends mind off the subject.

This is what always happened. JOS gets reprimanded, destroying his confidence. Then he tears himself down to atoms doing these “routines” all for the sake of some little mistake. NaN made it his duty as a friend to make sure his pralo had fun too.

“Work first,” he agreed. “I’ve got an idea for some training after,” Nan hid his dastardly grin.

 

 

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