Author, Chapter Three, Mini Series, Novel, Original, Science Fiction, Writing

Act One | Chapter Three | Episode Eleven: Rude Awakening

JOS was lost… somewhere. Though there was no real way to be sure of where. His head felt as though it’d been split in half, and some beeping sound kept getting louder and louder in the darkness. He then came to the realization he was being shaken by something, . Not just by the vibration from his waist, but a sincere rocking motion, and a voice that was impossible to discern through all the other senses he could make no sense of.

Where was NaN, the need to get back to the ship, Voiyn would murder them if they were late. Knowing NaN he could be anywhere.

No.

He should still be with JOS, but something was telling him that he wasn’t. This terrified feeling grew within him, grew like the violence of the shaking, and the beeping that rose to a siren. He opened his eyes to see a blur of lower extremities. Once his eyes focused on the spot where he remembered NaN was, except there was nothing, no trace at all. JOS could’ve sworn there had been restraints on him. Now he was only surrounded by a crowd, and free to move. The beeping persisted, causing his head to ache ever greater with each pulse.

His datacard!

JOS lurched up too quickly, he had to catch himself before he passed out. As the space around him stopped spinning, he could hear a creature asking, more yelling, “…ARE YOU OKAY!?” in a shrill tongue. He nodded, hoping to satisfy the being. He slid his right hand down to grab his datacard to turn the thing off.

Before shutting it down he remembered to look at the time. There were only ten circuits until he had to be back on Valeviyenellin. He examined the routes available on his card, he was still at the bottom of the central spiral, which he observed had returned to the open position. He sprang to his feet, again nearly collapsing, he bent his knees to catch himself, it didn’t stop his head from throbbing, but there was no time to examine any wound, let alone coddle it. JOS took off as fast as he could up the spiral in the direction of the ship. His body felt more labored than what he was used to. His sense of urgency drove him to fight the pain screaming from his frontal lobe. As he rounded the corner to the diameter arm, he noticed that his eyes were half open, and his vision was tinted red. In spite of this he continued down the arm to the Pit’s circumference. He ignored the disgusted, and offended looks of the passersby, as he rounded the final corner.

Finally on the circumferencial pathway he could see the hangar where Valeviyenellin was. JOS bolted at this marvelous sight, he had to get back, he had to tell someone. Bodily fluids were dripping everywhere, sweat, blood, snot, the parts that ran in his eyes stung, he was a complete and utter mess. Voiyn was waiting for them at the ships entrance, first with a look of anger, searching for the two, then their eyes met. He became confused,, which changed instantly into worry as he moved in JOS’s direction.

What Voiyn had seen was the boy he’d taken in, or some purple and red version of him, sprinting full speed towards him. The soft birthmarked face was broken and bloody, the sweat changing his fair skin into a shiny red. The sclera surrounding his eyes had even turned the color of his blood, and his olfactories were crushed flat. Then he realized the other one wasn’t there, this caused him to worry the most.

JOS could feel his legs getting numb but he had to tell Voiyn about the Seven Hounds Bounty woman, how she kidnapped NaN. As soon as he reached the great reptile he collapsed. Strong arms caught his weight. Despite all his wanting to say something, only fractions of syllables could escape his lips, the rest was winded gurgling breath. It took all of his concentration to even remain conscious at this point. Concern for his friend was the only thing keeping him from slipping back into that place again. Then his friend could be anywhere.

He tried to relax, now that he was safe again, and slow down his breathing. Being carried helped, as they crossed into the ships center he willed himself to say one broken sentence.

“Woman… Seven Hounds… NaN, taken,” the strain was finally too much. His goal had been reached and he slipped comfortably off into the dark of his mind. Floating weightless on a sturdy cloud.

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Author, Chapter Three, Mini Series, Novel, Original, Science Fiction, Writing, Zach Acid

Act One | Chapter Three: Entanglement | Episode Nine: Discovery

NaN’s nerves wore off after a few circuits. The atmosphere was still tense, and stifling, but they were pretty much ignored, their novelty had already worn off. Everything seemed a little clearer this time. Directly across from the Docking Bay were the eateries and ethyl-alch lounges, ‘For those times when you need inebriation as quickly as possible.’ His imaginary commercial voice perfectly irritating. A hodgepodge combination of these businesses formed the outer orbit, two intersecting, diametrical corridors ran into the center of the station. Down into the real Pit.
Every store front corridor had an odd synthesis of natural and synthetic structure. Overall it was an easy layout to understand, it took them the better part of the first half of the one revolution allotted them by walking the circumference. After reaching the first leg of the intersecting passageways, NaN whipped out his datacard to trace a map with his relative position in space. Plans for future visits were already being made.
“…more apes. Can you believe how quickly they reproduce? They should keep themselves to their own cesspool in the Eleventh District. Us good being want have to not put up with their fragile little lives, paying with my good orn to pump this filthy oxygen…” The voice of the passerby clicked as he trailed off into the pockets of crown surrounding them.
“You hear that?” NaN clapped JOS enthusiastically.
“What,? The screaming from the back of that eatery?” JOS pointed at the restaurant bearing a sign: Quality Meats – Fresh?
“No…” NaN lost his focus for a moment, distracted by the many shades of neon making up the sign, he remembered, “No.  There was this thing that was talking about a place here, just for our type.”
“New?” JOS was so clueless.
“Not new to the Pit, it’s a place filled with the same species as us,” NaN could see he’d gotten his friend’s attention.
“Where is it?”
“Some place it called the Eleventh District,” NaN answered.
“What is, or where is the Eleventh District?” JOS beginning to sound frustrated having to repeat himself.
“Probably down in the lower levels, our datacards shouldn’t have any problem mapping any route we take, sound like fun?” NaN watched JOS think about it.
“I’ll set mine as well, the moment we go out of range we turn back. We cannot get lost here,” despite the serious voice JOS’s eyes betrayed his excitement. JOS detached his datacard from his magbelt to set the map tracker.
NaN kept his eyes on the descending spiral about 800 Units away. “Let’s go,” JOS commanded. Together they continued through the light crowds towards the center of the Pit. More aware of the surrounding environment without protection, there were several directories posted around the entrance to the Pit’s main artery. A group of beings were gathered around it, they looked familiar, it was hard to place anyone after seeing so many shapes, sizes, and types of bodies.
He tried to pick out recognizable details, but they all stood cloaked by the back lighting of the directories. Only five in the group. ‘It’s them!’ the thought sounded off like a klaxon. Seven Hound’s Bounty, from down in Notan’s Lair. His hand shot out to stop JOS.
“What?” JOS surprised, “Wasn’t this your idea to begin with?”
“No,”NaN shook his head, “no, I see something better. See those guys by the central spiral?”
“Yes.”
“Recognize them?”
“How could we possibly know anybody here NaN?”
“You’re not thinking about it clearly enough. Look closer.”
NaN watched his friend scrutinize the beings hoping to see him come the same conclusion as him. Now JOS was irritated,”I don’t recognize anyone.”
“Maybe almost dying made you forget, think back like twenty circuits before that,” NaN reminded JOS.
JOS’s eyes went about as wide as his mouth did, “Those are the guys we’re supposed to hunt with right? What do you think they’re doing?”
“That’s exactly why I stopped you,” NaN’s voice was conspiring. “Let’s find out.”
“Are you trying to get us dead?” JOS asked incredulous.
“Not killed, I think we’ve got an obligation to know more about these guys, and what it is we’re getting into. “
JOS thought on it, before he could respond NaN had to include, “Or are you too terrified?”
NaN was always surprised at how JOS could remain stoic, even with his constant checking for cracks in JOS’s ego.
“Alright, I’ll concede. More importantly we can get a guided tour from some serious killers,” JOS tried not to sound nervous. “I’m sure they’ll go to all the best section of the Pit. Set the timer on your datacard now.” JOS fiddled with his own as he continued, “We have about half a revolution, fifty-three circuits exactly. Once our timers hit thirty circuits we return, no matter where we are.”
“Yes, Valegbosh,” he mocked JOS sarcastically.
JOS gave him that stern look of disapproval he often received, “Are you ready to do this?”
“After you Fligar,” NaN meant it. Having any name was better than some anthropomorphic serial number. He caught the smile JOS tried to hide by taking the lead. Not that NaN wanted it anyway. This was JOS’s specialty, stalking clientele, moving noiselessly through hallways teeming with auditory sensors to alert customer’s at the Servitude Colony that they could be heard by the servants. As property of the Juxl Corporation, they were encouraged to learn the secrets of their customers, which the Corporation would gladly keep safe, for a fee.
‘A precautionary measure to ensure the safety, comfort, and privacy of our staff, patrons, and wonderful guests,’ the faceless monotonous feminine voice from the Colony still clear.
Another large group was within fifty units of the Seven Hound’s Bounty, still having a great time bogarding the directory. The two did their best to blend in by having a silent conversation, actually watching their prey, which only stood around making more noise than anyone in the vicinity. They seemed to stand there for revolutions.
Without warning the five Hounds shifted as a group into the central spiral, NaN and JOS stayed relaxed. JOS followed first, just before the last one slipped out of sight. Standing at the entrance was like his first leap across the void. NaN breathed out, taking the lead now, he was feeling powerful, and wanted to test his own abilities. The group wasn’t moving very quickly, making them easy to keep up with, but hard to watch. It’d be too simple to give themselves away if they rushed their stalk.
Halfway down, the entrance into the Pit proper revealed itself again. Imagining it in his mind distracted him from controlling the weight of his boots. It clacked a little too hard against the metallic flooring. NaN pushed his body into the bulkhead they were walking along. Everything was too quiet, NaN’s heart pounded in his throat.
“I smell dessert…” the slimy voice could be heard through the sound of adrenaline try to burst his heart through his sternum. One more check in with his data card, ‘Plenty of time,’ he thought. Twenty-four more circuits until that alarm would go off.
“Fligar,” NaN flashed a smile, nodding at JOS.
“Ragilf,” JOS nodded back in confirmation.
In one motion both of them lifted themselves from the wall, slinking into the vast crowd that made up the permanent residents of Notan’s Pit. Eyes and ears were on full alert, searching for their “guides”, and the Eleventh District.

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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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Act One | Chapter Two: Notan’s Pit | Episode Five: Welcome Return

Docking procedures confirmed, Valevyinellin was set to take its place in the mudball known as Notan’s Pit. For Voiyn’s Hounds, the closest thing to a terrestrial home. JOS’s prisoner, Rooioe Çör, remained fully restrained, especially his oral cavity. Uncovered, it was impossible to resist the urge to break one of his jaw hinges. Prattling on about how connected he is in the Corporations. He was the third catch he’d seen making such lofty claims. It’d probably be the third time no there would be no reaction against Voiyn.

“You’re going to help pay for these,” JOS jibed. Pulling on the collar of his omni-suit.

“Not a bad chunk either.” NaN leapt on the prostrated body, poking hard into it’s chest. “You’re lucky it was him,” pointing at JOS, “not me.” NaN winked, jabbing again, ego swollen.

The pedal exit door hissed open, the rest of the Hounds stood around anxious to exit the ship, no matter how briefly. “ You two better have all the credentials prepared on this one. We want it quick, we’d like to enjoy ourselves as long as possible.” Vahl’s voice impetuous, and alpha.

“Don’t worry about what we’re doing. We haven’t made a mistake to date.” NaN beat his chest right back.

“Call on me after you do, then we’ll talk.” Vahl threw up an obscene gesture, “Pull your weight first, you’ve got a long way until you’ll touch black.” OhkBD put the final word on it, “You’ll be near our age before you can even dream of erasing your debt at this rate.” The Double Dorsca crossed forelimbs.

JOS couldn’t help but repeat the image of OhkBD saying “..at this rate..” scanning him with those spindly fingers. He made a face thinking about it again. ‘One of these days you’ll change your opinion, we’re doing better at this than you ever did.’ JOS started building back his confidence.

“Get ready grubs, stay close. Bad things happen to things with soft flesh in in Notan’s Pit.” Vahl, malicious as possible.

Essec reassured them with a touch. “Anything reaches for you and they lose a limb.”

“Why you got to coddle the little ovellies*,” Vahl pushed.

“Do you remember how it is to be fresh out of the colony? Have your fun, they need to learn. But they’ll know they’re protected from things outside they aren’t prepared for,” Essec’s voice remained cold, and direct. Vahl didn’t make another sound as the crew exited Valevyinellin together.

JOS and NaN were advised to keep their helmets on to withhold their species, and more importantly their age from the waiting predators. Together they carried their catch one arm holding the magtray. A nasty smoke plumed in sheets of red and brownish yellow as Voiyn’s Hounds left the ship.

Vulgar gambling and excess occurred on the outside of his vision. He didn’t remove his eyes from the grime encrusted catacomb, and Voiyn’s back. “Voiyn’s got vekhæ*.” A faceless voice called out from some random corner, causing a lump to form in his throat. JOS did his best to avoid tensing up as the cavernous pathways erupted with vile calls, and a flurry of flying objects.

Maintaining his poise was key, not to be intimidated. His helmet took a blow from something orange and slimy, obscuring the left part of his vision. There were red chunks of something biological in the ooze. Hopefully this would be a once through experience. With a reputation, respect would be given freely, rather than tolerate this.

The rest of his confidence stemmed from the three at his back, and it was he who made pulled the lever. Remembering the takedown set his shoulders back, confident and bold. He followed right. Into the teeming marketplace, a motionless glace around showed beings of all types. Trading, and engaging in what would certainly be considered “illegal” in front of a corporate official. Concerns like those were best left elsewhere. One wrong look could see him with a slug punched through his cranium.

As they moved further into Notan’s Pit the jeering crowds died with the lack of a reaction. NaN, and he had held firm. The Hounds continued their march to The Grand Lair, Notan’s private entertainment compartment. As Voiyn described it on the way in, “The richest hub in the Pit. Listening is how we stay ahead.” His ears would stay hyper vigilant, even if he had no idea what was being said. JOS would do his best to latch onto anything he could grasp.

At the end of the market would be a descending helix, leading to insect maze that made up the asteroid-made livable. Reaching the bottom, the six plus one were lead into a vaulted domed space, filled with immaculate scenes of debauchery at its most refined. On grand display in the center of the room, on decorated platforms; a female of some beautiful lethal species, and a male strong, and powerful looking. Both in chains, linked to a torture mechanism meant to keep their bodies suspended. All gold.

Very off putting against the shifting colors in the semi-translucent floors and ceiling.

She was being decorated. Pierced with lavish jewels, skin marked with knife and ink, all in a seductive display for the sinister creature atop the throne with a perfect view of the bizarre spectacle. Across from her the male was being encased in some precious alloy, a slow process so that the metal would bond to the exoskeleton without damaging its internal organs. JOS had heard about ancient practices like this, they sealed the body to have the energy protect them for eternity.

It was so unbelievably quiet. The realization of the sound proofing somehow made it much more twisted.

“Ah! Welcome Voiyn!” The creature JOS could only guess was Notan, rose taking small devices out from around his neck. Overfed, what used to be muscle was now oozing flesh between plates of natural calcium on his front and back. Loud and over dramatic, his gesture caused his blubber to jiggle. “I see you’ve go my coñnä*. You’re so quick, I’ve got a lot of trust for you.” JOS repressed the sick feeling, watching the crusted fold jump and crack apart as Notan stroked his leader’s ego. Or, the constant hanging yellow drip from the corner of his mouth.

“After all this time doing work for me. I think you deserve a better opportunity. Something one pack could never do alone, a very big hunt.” Notan stood nearly as tall as Voiyn, but danced around him like some small excited thing. “Direct from the corp head hunters, right off the top of the list. 719,000,000orn.” Notan exposed his thick, herbivorous disgusting teeth in a snarl as he stepped up onto the platform, dripping the molten element down his slaves front. Drinking in the silent scream.

Never moved in either direction, Voiyn replied,”Sounds worth hearing about. Though I don’t think my two newest are ready, yet. Since they made their first catch, I can’t tell them no if they want in.” Voiyn paused, looking over NaN, and him. “I am sure you have another pack in mind for us. Before that I would like to ensure our payment.” Voiyn maintained his posture.

Notan’s thick, encrusted finger motioned across the pavilion to a half-moon shaped ethylalch* station and lounge. Seating five shadowy figures. JOS followed the stub across each of the unique faces, all races unknown to him. Every one of them equally dangerous.

“Seven Hands.” Vahl mouthed quietly behind them.

“If we must. The price is too large to pass.” Voiyn responded.

“Good,” Notan purred,”you’ve always been my number one, because you understand so well how my business operates.” Pure, disgusting, honey.

“Have your technicians relay the appropriate link to us on the V-alg Comm.” Voiyn ended the conversation, moving towards the exit. “Don’t forget to include a new magtray in my earnings. You’ll thank me.”

JOS stayed in step, feeding of the confidence exuding from the being before him. Returning up the dank passageways, to the Valevyinellin. He couldn’t help but think how amazing the Vocal-Algorithmic Communication system is. Instantly translating communications into Mean Language, being the commonality between all languages know to the V-algComm’s database.

Distracted by his thoughts, his shoulder met with a passerby’s. “Gxbo fule pukoda siōp.” JOS barely blinked, and Essec was there, between him and the other. All he could really see were the wall stained rags around the creatures shoulders, Essec’s back took up the rest of his view. His eyes couldn’t help but focus on the hand ready on the thin blade behind Essec’s back.

Ovellies – babies, younglings

vekhæ – cabin boys, whipping boys

coñnä – forced submissive partner

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Act One | Chapter One: A Pack With a Mission | Episode Four: The Hunt

JOS watched the heavens become swallowed by the opening above as the eased into the ships depths.
“Activate tracking, and set friendlies.” Voiyn growled.
“How?”, JOS couldn’t figure it out.
“Fix your pupils to the target icon in the upper right.”
He’d hardly noticed the images in his peripherals. JOS focused on the dot inside of a circle.
Non-Combatants Target
Looking into the blackness the brain continued.
Team Target
A quick shift of his faceplate towards Voiyn, the computer generated outline lagged to keep up with the subtly of his vision.
Hold
Selected
More?
Turning to NaN made his magboots click audibly. Both targets set, he peered back into the darkness.
No Target Selected
Continue?
“Yes.”
Tracking Activated
Select New Target
The text blinked, shifting into the upper left field of his vision. Aware of the menu icons, JOS took a moment to gain some familiarity with them: Screen Customization, ‘After the mission.’, Vision Modification, Audio Modification, and Target Tracking. He Opened the Vision mod menu first: Standard, Infrared, and UltraViolet. JOS activated the Infrared.
Everything went black, except the onscreen images. He stared hoping to watch the screen change, to his chagrin he blinked. Activating the Infrared imagery. JOS gaped as he viewed the elaborately etched tunnel the descended into. Beautiful and terrifying images of titan-like creatures, of a more alien origin than the craft they were searching. Locked in combat, consumed by flames.
The lift ceased. Before them a tall door, the etching of two opposing giants seeming to keep the door locked by way of their contest of strength.
“NaN, are you seeing this?”
“See what? Black.” NaN’s voice dripping in sarcasm,”There’s lots, and lots of black.”
“Why are you so slow?” JOS asked no one,”Go to the Vision Mod menu and turn on IR.”
All three stood in silence while NaN adjusted his sight.
“Woah…”
JOS watched NaN as he surveyed above. Remembering their purpose JOS was surprised by Voiyn’s patience.
Voiyn slipped the device from his shoulder again, placing it up against the only smooth space along the side of the door. Roughly the same size as the device. The same glow appeared, only now the figures in the door seemed to ball up their hands. Rapping the same sequence, the two appeared to pull the door apart.
Beyond the entrance lay a vast empty space. A pile of wreckage discarded in the corner. Some other Pack had picked the ship clean of any and all technologies. It was a near guarantee the only thing of value was the living being within these walls, and the vessel he used to get here.
JOS wondered how one could escape a Pack. Voiyn’s Hounds would’ve give chase to the ends of The Vale if NaN, or he attempted the same.
“Spread out. Stay equadistant on my flanks. Weapons ready, look for any heat he’s left behind.”
Simultaneous clicks as all three detached their weapons. JOS looked to see the stun stick in Voiyn’s massive grip, a heavy 17(weight). Too bad for anything on the receiving end. He ventured out to the left, the enormous cavity opening into a circular hemisphere, eventually leveling of into a straight line. Making sure his position was in line with the other two.
Nothing to see but the ornamental imagery surrounding them. He passed through the black limit of his IR mod scanning everything dutifully, “Nothing to see on the left.” JOS announced.
“Same here.” NaN checked in.
They continued in silence, JOS examined the walls looking for any mechanism to open, glow of any kind, and trying to take some sort of knowledge of this lost race. Definitely fascinated, and dedicated to war, many of the images of clashing dichotomies; vessels, infantry, creatures in single combat. Once he could afford his own, he’d have to get an ImageryCollector.
UltraViolet might reveal something different about the artwork, he surmised. JOS flicked his eyes to the vismod. Blinking, again set the new modification, the light was brilliant and deep blue and black, certainly bringing out an incredible new quality to the art. Revealing motion in the application of the UV reactive substance.
“I’ve got a faint lock on his ship mixed in with the trash, and a trail of just glowing blood going back into the ship.” NaN called, forcing JOS to drag himself to the opposite side of the hangar, he switched the mod back to IR. His breathing felt sharp as he tracked the five hundred units, while trying unsuccessfully to make no noise.
Joining the other two, Voiyn gave JOS a hand sign to maintain silence. He tiptoed the last few steps behind NaN to the right of the entryway. Voiyn opposite, ready to watch their rear, he used the device, JOS notice the just barely glowing pool at the foot of the door. Voiyn manipulated the panel, causing the door to groan open. JOS scrunched his face as they lost their surprise. The moment the door was wide enough, NaN slipped in, JOS stayed right on his heels covering the left.
Every step on time with their heartbeat. Focused and calm. Corridor width, seven units. Height, five units. No heat signatures yet, “See any doors?” After a hundred units, JOS had to ask.
“I’m looking at the same things pralo. Are we missing anything boss?” NaN replied.
“You are performing excellently. Continue forward.” The reptile commanded soothingly.
A deep breath, JOS returned his focus to the long corridor ahead.
“Get that?” A new trail of blood.
“Yep.”
Adrenaline kicked in, JOS could feel himself running. His mind still, focused, body reacting instantaneous. Every moment dedicated to seeing a limb, or some other recognizable shape giving him the signal to squeeze the lever sending the being into a severe electro-paralysis.
Two-hundred units down.
Three hundred.
The drops of blood became more frequent, glowing brighter, they continued along in the grey blackness of the corridor.
Twenty more units and the blood veered off behind a bulkhead. A fresh smear on the compartment control. NaN palmed the panel, opening the door. As one they entered the room. A concert of movement, practiced as young boys while they were supposed to sleep. Just like the games back then, only real.
JOS caught a couple of empty hand prints, bi digit, multi-limbed. His pace increased, feeling how close he was to bearing down on his first. Blood, rushing intently. All nerves screaming for the moment, his vision lit up white with what looked like a limb.
Sure of his sight, his suit confirmed the life signs, and range.
<span A million lights buzzed in a chaotic sphere of light. Temporarily overloading the IR cameras. Once the lights dimmed, JOS took off to pin down the catch. Three limbs out of each shoulder joint, a thin creature. He placed his magboot on the thing’s middle while NaN and Voiyn set to restraining all those arms.
“The went perfectly. Well done, both of you. You didn’t give him an opportunity to counter you. You both are definitely riding on the next lethal hunt. Very smooth.” Voiyn complimented, “We need to get him back to Valevyinellin. Electro-paralysis after a grievous injury can cause vital systems to shut down in some species. Not worth a whole lot but experience if he’s dead.” Voiyn gave his congratulations.
Getting the creatures body back to K8 would be simple enough. Jumping back to the K8 would be the only place they needed luck. Voiyn made it clear that he would handle the task. “You pups need to learn to orient yourself in space still. This thing’s not even heavy.” As he reactivated the lift, sending the giants back to combat.
“Can you show me how to operate that?” JOS pointed at the device Voiyn had been using to unlock the ship with.
“The Ancient’s Key.”Voiyn mused,”One rotation. You will probably have your own.” Soundlessly they rose back up into the brilliance of the Vale.
JOS took the response as yes. Somehow it seemed Voiyn was saying more than that. Surely if there was other meaning, it would reveal itself in time. The K8-Blackstar looked intimidating hovering so close. Imagining being the focus of the death machine sent a chill. The lift reached the top, automatically sealing the handmade ship. ‘I still can’t believe we just pulled that off so well.’ JOS still high on his endorphins, shocked in mental disbelief.
“You’re going to have to use me as your outboard hand holds.” Voiyn motioned the two over, positioning himself for their benefit.
NaN went first this time, JOS stay right behind him, he swore he heard the distinct sound of the stun stick going off, or maybe it was Voiyn leaping off after them.

Comeback next week for the start of Chapter Two, come to Notan’s Pit your new home from home maybe?

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