Category Archives: Martian Chronicles


The first thing you notice as you awake is the total darkness surrounding you. No matter how many times you blink, you cannot work away the terrible darkness that seems to be pressing in on you. You move to rub your eyes but find yourself to be restrained. You begin to move your head in an effort to look about but soon remember the action’s uselessness. Instead, you focus on your breathing and listen.

“What is it?” A voice echoes through a wall. It’s muffled, but it’s close. You estimate it to belong to a male recently waning from his prime just outside the room. Closer listening reveals he’s shuffling his feet and holding a complex, metallic object in his arms. You suspect him to be an armed guard.

“I kind of figured that much was obvious.” Another voice makes its way to your perked ears. This voice originates from an older female, nearing seniority. The chalkiness to the voice reveals that the speaker has a mild breathing problem. She does not shuffle her feet, instead favoring to tap her fingertips on… something. You think it may be a log book. Anyone keeping watch would have to log the goings-on around her. “It’s an alien, Foster. Oh, don’t give me that look!” This minor comment reveals to you that she’s known the man, Foster, for quite some time. “If it wasn’t hostile before, then it sure will be now, after what we’ve done to it.”

You find this to be a curious comment. You can’t remember anyone doing anything particularly terrible to you. Then again, you don’t really remember how you wound up here. Thinking more toward the state of your slightly muddled mind, you imagine you were probably drugged specifically for this purpose. Whoever did so must have been unsure how your system would handle anaesthetics. Going for a memory-suppressing drug instead would be safer. Whoever drugged you must have valued your life. That’s good. You probably don’t have to worry about anyone killing you too soon, then.

“I didn’t say anything,” Foster defended himself. The female must have struck a nerve with her comment. Foster must have been involved more directly if his concern toward your innate hostility was so obvious. You hear a set of footsteps approaching. “Good evening, sir,” Foster called out. “Will you be wanting to see the prisoner today, sir?” There was a certain level of apprehension in Foster’s voice that made it clear that this was not an immediate superior. Whoever Foster was addressing was much a much higher rank than with which he was used to dealing.

You await the addressee’s response, but no one speaks. You suspect there to be nonverbal communication in effect. After a few moments, you hear the soft, screeching sound of old metal scraping over old metal. The door to your room is being unlocked. Apparently, there are multiple locking mechanisms, however, as the screeching is followed by a series of light taps and a beep, the sound of an old wheel turning, and a quick succession of clicks as latches are undone. Then, there is a metallic whine as the door opens, and you hear footsteps as someone steps into your room.

You tilt your head toward the sound, your ears turning slightly to align in the same direction. For the first time since waking, you are acutely aware of a sense of weakness. Your body is filled with pain, and you feel as though you would be little able to attempt an escape even if the opportunity arose. The scratching of carbon on wood tells you that the person in your room is writing something on a notepad.

Strange, you think. At the writing rate your ears are picking up, the writer doesn’t seem to have any trouble seeing what they’re writing, yet you still can’t see anything. Focusing more now on your own body, you begin to notice the sources of your various pains.

While you feel no warm trickling indicative of bleeding, you are painfully aware of several open wounds. You’re fairly certain that at least one wound is infected, as you can feel the swelling about  the injury. You very consciously open your eyelids again, trying your best to see, but when you close them, you notice that there is no pressure against the flaps of skin so well-designed to protect the eyes. Scrunching your face a few times, you withhold a gasp as you realize the horrible truth: your eyes are missing. Focusing on the sensation of your skin, you feel a dry warmth telling you that the room is actually very well-lit.

You decide to speak, but upon attempting to do so, you realize that a tightly fitting muzzle has been placed over your jaw, preventing articulate speech. Retaining your dignity, you refuse to simply grunt and groan through the muzzle. Instead, you merely relax your body and sit back onto your haunches. You return to simply listening, and pay attention not to reveal any emotion across your face.

The scratching comes to a halt. “I see that you’re awake.” The voice belongs to an elderly male. “I hope you’re not feeling too much pain. Unfortunately, I can’t risk giving you any pain medicine. Can you understand what I’m saying? If so, please nod.” You do so slowly, trying to make it clear that you are nodding only to demonstrate that you are listening and not in any attempt to obey. “Excellent!” The man makes no attempt to hide his elation at this revelation. “That will make communication much easier.”

You feel the warm pressure of his hands on the back of your head as he removes the muzzle. “I hope you don’t expect me to reveal any information to which you
are not already privy, Earth-child.” Your voice comes out with a fluidity no human could match despite the fact that your throat is so worn. “What do you hope to achieve in capturing me?”

The man takes a few steps back and sets the muzzle on the ground to your right. “Well, I must say, I didn’t expect you to speak English.” A light clatter and more scratching tells you that he’s writing more notes. The pace at which he is scribbling does little to hide his excitement.

“Well, I have been on this planet long enough to learn your languages,” you say. “They’re all simple enough.” A quick gasp shows that you may have revealed something of which he was not already aware. Either that, or he was offended by your comment.

“What are you doing on Earth, then?” He makes a short scribble. “Are you here to invade? Or perhaps you wish to use us as food? Maybe this planet has a good fuel source that you can’t find elsewhere?” Is this man stupid? You wonder, but you dare not ask. That would also be offensive. Your interrogator clearly has no sense for interstellar relations, however. This seems in accordance with the Earth’s general paranoia and sense of self-importance.

“I’m here for my own purposes, which are centered around protecting this planet.” Again, scribbles follow your every word. This time, the man takes a few steps toward you. “Before you question me further, however,” you add. “May I know the name of my interrogator? My own is Kahlisa.”

The man scribbles some more. “I am Dr. Tyson.” There is a certain pride in his voice as he states this fact, but you are displeased.

“I asked for your name, human, not your title or your clan.” In your culture, it is only subordinates that address one by title or clan. “Very well, though. I am Kuli J’Homerri, Galactic Monitor and Guardian, First and Last Sentry of the Fehmadadi.” There is more scribbling, and the man takes another step back. You must have intimidated him.

“You said you intend to protect this planet. What did you mean? Are you defending it from us?” This man was incredibly paranoid, though it was possible most humans may think this way.

“I am defending you from a force that has not yet revealed itself to you. That is all I shall say on that matter.” You close the issue, which clearly displeases Dr. Tyson since he scoffs before continuing to write. “Where are my eyes, Dr. Tyson, and why were they removed?”

He stops writing. “That’s enough for today. I’ll be back tomorrow. Someone will bring you bread and water later.” Well, that wouldn’t do.

“I cannot eat bread, Dr. Tyson. I require fruit or meat to sustain myself.” These were the last words you managed out before the muzzle was put back over your jaws. Dr. Tyson’s hands are shaking as he fastens it tightly. Perhaps he is scared or apprehensive.

“Well, I’m sorry. I can’t get you either of those things. I’ll see if I can get some sort of non-glutenous protein, though. You asked my name,” he adds. “It’s Colt.” Colt Tyson stands and walks out of the room. The door’s locks are restored, and you begin to meditate.

The Phoenix will rise in ten more years. Until then, you must wait and observe. For now, you focus on regrowing your eyes.

Family Dinner

“Daddy!” A now ten cycle-old Gildr Khuda’Mundi ran into his father’s arms for the first time in his life only minutes after finally landing on Earth. The man catching him, Grie Khuda’Mundi, was quickly reduced to tears, a highly uncommon sight on a Dragon Rider, particularly when still wearing his Drigarmr. Still, Grie hadn’t seen his son since shortly after the boy’s first cycle-mark over nine cycles ago. His violet eyes filled with tears quickly, and he gripped his son more tightly as his cheeks began to cool from the tears evaporating in the wind.

“Oh, my boy! You’re so big.” Grie held his son out at arm’s length as he said this, then picked him up, making a small seat for him in the crook of his arm, a feat that most would no longer be able to manage at the boy’s current age; but Grie was a Dragon Rider, and his strength was second to very few, so it was to him as effortless as an atmo-hype. With the boy secured and tightly embracing his father around the shoulders, Grie pulled his wife closer for a kiss.

“We took the first passenger ship out of Osgord as soon as we could. Oh, Grie, I’ve missed you.” Priha’Di broke into tears of her own as she spoke. “I’m so sorry about Veriar, Grie.”

At this, Grie’s face took a more somber look upon itself for a few moments. “Accidents happened our first few cycles here. The people weren’t quite as receptive to the idea of the Monarchy as we’d hoped at first. It wasn’t even an attack. We had the English Prime Minister in custody at the time, and a protester jumped onto the shuttle to make it land and got sucked into the turbines. The whole thing was just an accident. So many people…” His voice trailed off into the same wind that was tousling his green hair. Priha’Di nodded.

“Now! Where’s that sister of yours?” Priha’Di smiled sharply at this, wanting to move the conversation to a lighter venue. Little Gildr even looked up from the hand that had been playing with his father’s short red cape to search for his aunt and playmate.

“Auntie Kehrann! Auntie Kehrann, where’d you go?” His boyish voice, loud as it was, carried across the entire room, and a short, green-haired teenager quickly scampered her way to the group with her backbag bouncing to and fro as she went.

“Hi there, Grie-ellr!” Kehrann worked her way into a one armed hug from Grie and then reached up and disheveled her nephew’s hair. “Thanks for calling me, Gildr. I thought I’d lost you guys!”

“Ungr-bug, what are you doing here? I’d have thought you’d go back to our parents’ home when these two shipped over here. I’m so happy to see you! Oh, hey, is this everyone? We have to go register with the umbodsmother before the housing office closes.” Grie looked about, half-expecting to see another of his sisters or his brother.

“Nope!” Kehrann beamed. “We’ve got one more family member to grab before we leave,” she said before scampering off in a slightly more intentional direction than that she had used when finding them.

“Who else is here, dear?” Grie looked to his wife, who bit away the smile creeping onto her face. Grie may not have seen that expression in a long time, but he still knew it meant he’d like whatever the surprise was. He grinned and looked back to his son. “So have you been learning a lot from your mommy?” The boy shook his head fervently, making his mother scoff and pinch his leg playfully.

“Yes, he has. We just finished hyping physics last week. Sorry, I meant to get to it a lot sooner, but there were some timing issues when we were getting ready to leave, so he got off to a late start.” At this, Grie laughed loudly. “What? What’s so funny?” Priha’Di looked totally bewildered.

“Oh, Pri, you would know if you’d been with me to the American school their last winter. You know, they don’t follow a standard cycle here. The planet revolves almost thirty-five days fast. Oh, but the local day is exactly one standard day. They split it up weird, though. You’ll get used to it.. Anyway, by little Gildr’s age, the locals haven’t even learned differential mathematics. He’s the best-educated child his age on the whole planet. There aren’t any other kids here with former Valkyries for mommies, after all. Well, except the Sheii’Cronell’s daughter, that is.”

“The Sheii’Cronell’s married?” Priha’Di was even more astounded at this fact than Grie had been when he found out. It was another exceptional trait of the man he had come to see as something of a friend and mentor. Sheii’Cronells didn’t marry. They were supposedly infertile. “Who’s his wife? Do I know her?”

“That’s the best part, Pri. It’s Terira.” Grie beamed at this particular statement. Priha’Di hadn’t heard anything from her sister since she had left for the Deep Space Navigation Program over her (the same mission, in fact, during which Terira found Earth), in main due to the fact that she hadn’t stayed on Thor when she married Grie, who had been a low-ranking enlisted Armadian at the time. By the time Terira got back, Priha’Di had already moved to Osgord.

“You’re joking!” Priha’Di exclaim
ed. “Daddy’s joking, huh, little Gildr?” She tickled the boy, who started wiggling and laughing, which made it considerably harder for Grie to hold onto him. Grie just kept smiling and looking at his wife. “Wait,” she said, her tickling slowing to a crawl as she looked back at her husband. “You’re not joking?” He shook his head. “Terira’s here?” He nodded. “And she’s married to the Sheii’Cronell?” Again, he nodded. “The same Sheii’Cronell who saved your life and got you into the Dragon Riders is actually our brother-in-law?”

“Now you’re getting it…” Grie smiled even wider. “She’s invited us to dinner, too, which is another reason we have to hurry up to register. That’s why I told you to dress nicely today in my last correspondence.”

At this, Priha’Di looked positively mortified. She had dressed with a slightly different type of appeal in mind when planning to see her husband for the first time in nine cycles. She hardly considered her present outfit, a sweater suit with leggings and a ladies’ kilt, appropriate for dinner with a Sheii’Cronell and a sister she hadn’t seen in about fifteen cycles. Grie must have sensed this, though, since his next words were, “You look great, Pri. I think Terira’s wearing something casual, though the men are obviously wearing our Drigarmr formals. Oh, speaking of which!” Grie reached into the Armadian pattern satchel he was carrying and pulled out a small set of Dragon Rider’s Drigarmr, though with the armor itself made of local leather instead of actual Drigarmr. “This is for you to wear, little guy.” Gildr grabbed excitedly at the armor and instantly did his best to wrinkle the material with his arms as children do when they hold clothes they love.

“Still making trouble, I see,” a familiar voice said from behind Grie, the speaker placing his wrinkled hand on Grie’s shoulder. Grie turned to look at the little, graying man.

“Hello, grandfather.” It was a phrase of caring practice, holding in it an old formality a little boy had once learned to make his grandfather proud.

“This is everyone,” Kehrann said from beside her grandfather. “Now we can go, Grie-ellr.”

“Sounds great,” Grie said enthusiastically. This was the third best day of his life, the second being his wedding, and the first being Gildr’s birth. He was looking forward to it. “Well, the Umbodsmother’s office closes soon, so we should get going. I’ve got a pulse car waiting for us. The office will send someone to get all your belongings.

Agreeing, they all headed off to the outer shell of the docks. “So, grandfather, what are you doing here,” Grie asked as the boy in his arm excitedly tried to work his way into the Drigarmor without taking off any of the clothes he was already wearing, which included a rather thick coat and made his task practically impossible.

“Well, you know your grandmother was my second wife. After she died a few months before Priha’Di here ended up leaving, I was offered to come live with these two young ladies and my favorite little man here.” At this, he pinched one Gildr’s cheeks gently. Gildr made a halfhearted effort to stop the man, but he obviously didn’t really mind. “When we got word that families were allowed to head out to Earth, Priha’Di asked me to come with. Said it’d be a good surprise for you and that I’d be good fun for Gildr during the trip.”

“It’s the beard, grandfather. Kids can’t help but fall in love with you when you’ve got that silver beard. You remind them too much of the Saint of Winter.” That was probably true. All children loved that old story and the presents they got every year ‘from the Saint of Winter’ on Drigan’di’s Day.

“Well, in any case, I’m glad I offered. Your parents were going to send him to an Ellrhome. That would have been a tragedy,” Priha’Di added into the conversation. Kehrann and Grie nodded.

“Still, I can’t believe my little Grie grew up to be a Drig Reidr. I remember when they first started up over a hundred cycles ago on Thorlinthia’s side of the Bifrost, you know. Who knows how long it’s been on this side. How that new Sheii’Cronell managed to synchronize the two sides still leaves me totally stumped, and I’ve been trying to figure it out for the past seven cycles.”

“It’s Dragon Riders now, grandfather, and it’s not as bad as it used to be. We aren’t all bloodthirsty Oa’din, you know. And the Sheii’Cronell isn’t a bad man, either. Something’s different about him. You’ll see what I mean. You’re joining us for dinner, I assume?” Grie hoped he could show his grandfather that Drigondii Sheii’Cronell wasn’t like Fargerre Sheii’Cronell at all.

“Of course I’m coming. Not even an old man’s prejudice could keep old Gril’Die from having dinner with family, and there’s no questioning that this is a family dinner. I still have my old uniform in good condition. I’ll change at the same time Gildr does. And trust me, I’d love nothing more than to meet a good Sheii’Cronell.”

A few hours later, according to Grie, the family was on the shuttle to America for the family dinner. Apparently, Drigondii had made his home in a small base in an area called Texas for reasons undisclosed. He seemed fond of the area.

In the shuttle, Gril’Die Khuda’Mundi stood out a bit with the standard Armadian uniform, admittedly much more highly decorated than most. The other two males were wearing the Dragon Rider uniform (which still seemed to fascinate Gildr), and the females were wearing the same semi-formal attire in which they had arrived. Every time Grie looked over to see if his grandfather was paying attention, he’d find the old man’s eyes gently fixed on the speaker even as his hands continued to fiddle with his uniform, trying to further perfect it.

A few minutes before they landed, Grie clapped his hands together loudly, and everyone jumped. “I just remembered to warn you that our hosts have another guest we’ll be meeting today.” When everyone gave him a look that said they clearly didn’t understand why this mandated a warning, he added, “She’s an alien. Just don’t freak out. She’s very kind, and she’s been very helpful with relations with the locals. Go figure, right? But she was held in custody by the Earthers for quite some time, so she’s become a bit shy around new people. I called ahead to let them know I was bringing more than just Pri and Gildr, but I just thought I’d let you all know not to act too surprised at her appearance. Just don’t give her any weird looks, please.”

Once everyone had agreed to this, Grie nodded, smiled, patted his boy’s head, and walked into the cockpit to oversee the landing procedures, since they’d need his authorization number to get through to the Sheii’Cronell’s residence. The shuttle touched down without incident, and the Khuda’Mundi family stepped out together to see a surprisingly small and plain house before them. It was quite unlike what they would have expected from a Sheii’Cronell, but nothing about this Sheii’Cronell was to be as expected, apparently.

Grie took Priha’Di and Gildr by the hand and walked to the front door with Gril’Die and Kehrann in tow behind them. He lifted Gildr again when they reached the door and had him knock. From inside, the scraping of wooden chairs against ceramic flooring heralded the fact that someone was coming to the door, which opened shortly thereafter.

A kind looking young woman with blue hair and green eyes who held a remarkable resemblance to her sister stood at the door in a sweater and ladies’ kilt. Smiling, she said, “Hello, Pri. I’ve missed you. Won’t you and your family come in. Hello again, Grie.”

“Hello, Terira. This is my son, Gildr; my sister, Kehrann; and my grandfather, Gril’Die.” Grie introduced everyone one at a time, gesturing to each of them.

Terira beamed, escorting them to the house’s dining room, in which waited Drigondii Sheii’Cronell and their alien guest. “Dear, this is Grie’s family, and this also happens to be my sister, Priha’Di. Pri, you’re very well known in this house. Umm, sweetheart, where did Lihandii go?” While shaking everyone’s hands, Drigondii pointed into the kitchen, where a young girl with blue hair no older than Gildr was grabbing a bowl to bring to the table. “Right, everyone, this is my daughter, Lihandii. Say hello, dear.” The girl managed out what was apparently a hello and set the bowl upon the table, finishing the final preparations for their dinner.

“Forgive me,” Gril’Die said. Everyone looked to the old man, who was looking to the alien with tears streaming down his face. “Forgive me, but I must ask you. What is your name?” The alien looked to the man, and its expression changed from one of curiosity to one of concern.

“Her name is–” Terira began but was interrupted when the alien began to speak, which was obviously something that did not happen often around strangers.

“This one’s name is Kahlisa. It is very good to meet you.” Kahlisa set one of her six hands on Gril’Die’s shoulder and whispered something into his ear. The man immediately embraced Kahlisa, a strange sight for everyone in the room but a calming and welcome one at that.

“I am honored to meet you, Kahlisa. And I am so glad that I have lived to this day. Thank you for your words. They mean a great deal.” Gril’Die wiped his tears and looked to Drigondii. Everyone finished introducing one another, and the family sat to the table. Kahlisa merely lowered herself onto her lowest set of hands to bring herself to the level of the table, where she had a quite different meal from everyone else.

Before the prayer, Grie noticed, Drigondii and his daughter made the same two sweeping motions with their fingers over their bodies and did so again at the end of the prayer. This was never pointed out or explained, but Grie did find it odd. “Now then,” Drigondii said to his extended family, which had become much larger this day, “I understand you’ve all been waiting quite some time to try Earther food, and I won’t make you wait any longer. I will say that this meal was made as a joint effort between myself, Terira, and Lihandii, so we all hope you enjoy it. I am very pleased to have such a large and wonderful family.” Drigondii smiled, and the family ate.

Khuda’Mundi’s Confession

As a Minor Admiral, I remember, I was a bit less abrasive than I later became in life. My career had consisted only of quelling rebellions that were inevitable on the outer planets. Due to the dangerous debris from the remnants of other, less fortunate outer planets’ collisions during the Ragn’Rouk, the surviving outer planets were difficult to reach for most cargo vessels, which meant that they mainly had to fend for themselves, supply-wise. This gave them considerably more independence than other planets, which in turn made them more rebellious.

The most distant planet from the core of the system was Nivlahim, a planet which had itself not completely survived the Ragn’Rouk. The initial passage of our system through the Bifrost had altered Nivlahim’s orbit so severely that it had actually rammed another planet whose name was lost long ago. Were it not for the fact that Nivlahim had already had a rather extreme environment for which its inhabitants had heavily adapted, the impact alone would have destroyed all life on the planet. Its atmosphere had dissipated to near-nothingness, and the volcanic activity that followed the collision made what little atmosphere remained highly toxic. But the people of Nivlahim had built most of their society beneath the oceans, and so a loss of atmosphere had little effect.

As if the planet had not suffered enough from the collision, Nivlahim had also been sent into an elongated orbit, causing extreme winters two standard cycles long. Still, its people had survived. The ice above their homes grew thicker, which helped to insulate them from the cold above them. With an entire quadrant of the planet decimated, a hellish winter, and almost no atmosphere, the people of Nivlahim had to form a very different culture from that most formed before space travel became again viable well over a hundred cycles after the Ragn’Rouk.

It wasn’t until Nivlahim began sending out its own ships two hundred cycles after that, looking for other survivors of the Ragn’Rouk, that the other planets of Thorlinthia even knew they had survived. Because of this incredible feat, in fact, the people of Nivlahim became known to the Thorlinthian people as the heroes of the ice for quite some time. Then, upon the annunciation of the Monarch, they rejected the Thorlinthian identity. They were proud of their planetary heritage, and they refused to adopt the Monarchy and abandon their republic. The Monarch refused to accept this and sent the Armada to forcibly occupy Nivlahim. That sparked the beginning of the rebellions.

The Armada was never able to overtake Nivlahim. Due to the nature of the atmosphere, troops could not be landed above the ice, and ships were immediately overwhelmed when they tried to land in the cramped Nivlahim docks. The Armada’s assault ships held no measure against the ice, which was miles thick. Eventually, the planet was merely quarantined. No cargo would be taken to Nivlahim, and any ships leaving the planet were to be destroyed.

Upon word of the first assault on a Nivlahim ship reaching the planet, we discovered how well suited to war the Nivlahim were. Swarms of small fighters and bombers would launch against a single ship at a time, making short work of the quarantine. Larger ships followed. They were slow and clumsy, but they were so heavily gunned and armored that our ships were no match for their fleet, which flew in close formation toward the core. Then, when they reached the fourth orbital range, they stopped.

They had been sent out to remove the quarantine and any members of the Armada from stopping their trade with the other outer planets. Their cargo ships were unlike our own, equipped with weaponry capable of destroying any small debris in their way and maneuverable enough to work around any debris too large to destroy. Their technology was then shared with the outer planets, and those planets formed the Ginnung Domain. The highly militarized void between the Ginnung Domain and the Thorlinthian core worlds became known as the Ginnung Gap.

After over a thousand cycles of all-out war, the Monarch declared a cease-fire. But secretly, he had formed a military organization completely independent of the Armada. Composed entirely of Khuda’Cronell females who possessed unique genetic makeup, the organization was known as the Valkyries, alluding to the great Valkyri’din who had fought in the Eternal War of scripture. The Valkyries were assassins, straight and to the point. They utilized two-person crews and the latest technology to achieve nearly unlimited military strength with only a handful of ships, called Valkyrs.

Valkyrs 1 through 4 were all built within the same cycle, and they were quickly utilized to infiltrate the heavily armored ships guarding the Ginnung Gap. Within hours of arriving, the Valkyries left the ships to die in the cold of space, their crews freshly killed inside the only things keeping them warm. As they moved from ship to ship, the Armada moved in behind them, disposing quickly of fighters that had once been superior to their ancestral counterparts. As they worked through the Ginnung Domain, the Armada occupied the worlds that had seceded from Thorlinthia all those many cycles before. It was not until only Nivlahim remained that the Armada stopped moving outward.

The Valkyries moved in to infiltrate Nivlahim’s cities, but Valkyrs 1 and 4 were gunned down by the people of Nivlahim. Only Valkyrs 2 and 3 remained, but upon reaching the docks of Rym’Yotn, Nivlahim forces overtook Valkyr 2. Valkyr 3 managed to land, and when the boots of the Valkyries touched Nivlahim deckplates, the war was as good as over. More deadly than any ship, Valkyries had strange power that gave them impossible speed and reflexes. A single Valkyrie was stronger than a hundred Special Operations Armadians. Though they carried a repeater for suppressive fire, they tore their foes apart with their bare hands. In centidays, they had moved to the Capi
tol in Rym’Yotn. A full surrender was declared by the Nivlahim senate, and the war had ended. All the worlds of Thorlinthia were united under the Monarch, and the tales of the blue-haired angels of death faded into legend.

Nonetheless, the occasional rebellion still sprung up in the outer worlds, and the Armada spent most of its time providing a preventive presence in the Ginnung Gap, still riddled with dead ships such in number that it was just as hazardous to travel through as the debris fields.

So there I was, a Minor Admiral suppressing another small rebellion, when the Bifrost came alight. It was well known through the Armada that flying too close to the Bifrost would result in the total destruction of your ship, but this was not the light of a core explosion. “Admiral, we’re picking up some strange signals from the Bifrost!” A young ensign panicked as he announced his news without even standing from his console. “There’s a very large ship out there, sir. I’ve never seen anything so massive.”

It must be one of the ancient worlds, I thought. If a world collided with the Bifrost, it would surely spew strange radio signals, and small bits would likely remain of the planet, large enough certainly to be confused with a ship.

No such luck. “Sir, we’re receiving the signals on every wavelength. It doesn’t sound like noise. It’s almost like…” The ensign trailed off, concentrating more intensely on his displays. I pulled up the signal.

A noise rang throughout the bridge. It was almost like a voice, but there was something more animal to the sound. Nevertheless, the same sound repeated through the bridge. “See if you can clean that up. The ancient worlds produce all sorts of interference.” The ensign nodded and spoke quietly to a handful of enlisted men that worked under him. They nodded in turn and got to work removing the signal noise by comparing the signal on varying wavelengths.

“Garf’kan, Fehmadadi bara. Defri serai farjin? Fehmadadi jibah serai farjin!” Such was the content of the message. It was being broadcast on all wavelengths in raw audio. This was a distress beacon, but who–?

“Sir, the ship just passed Nivlahim! It looks like it’ll reach the Ginnung Gap in ten centidays.” The minor officer speaking from battlefield detection was frightened and rightly so. If that ship was moving quickly enough to close that void in only ten centidays, colliding with a planet could be enough to eliminate all life on the planet it hit within five.

“Does it show any sign of slowing?” I grimaced. Here was our first extra-Thorlinthian contact since our system’s passage through the Bifrost, and we faced rapidly expanding crisis. If it slowed down enough, we could aim our weapons to its foremost points and keep it from hitting a planet.

“Y-yes, sir. In fact, it appears to be slowing at such a rate that it will stop of its own accord by the time it reaches Valhal’s orbital range.” That was too quick. Acceleration that great would crush any ship.

“Double-check those calculations! Cease all cargo traffic between that ship and the Ginnung Gap. Maneuver all available Armadian resources along its previously projected flight path. If that ship isn’t really stopping on its own, I want to be able to stop it before it hits the core worlds. And take us as close to that ship as we can get.”

A chorus of “Aye, sir”s resonated through the bridge. Orders were spread along through the ship, and we moved with a military precision one normally only saw in battle. The next several centidays are well enough known to the public.

The ship stopped exactly where it was expected to stop. When we approached it, its hull became visible, and everyone on the bridge or with a feed to the external cameras could tell the ship had been badly damaged. When it began ejecting cylinders, we realized that there was a cargo ship still in the area. It was later discovered that it had lost its wireless to the debris field and hadn’t received the order to leave the unknown ship’s flight path. One of the cylinders hit the cargo ship, and the cargo ship vented into space. The fighters standing by reported later that they had received orders to do so, but no one ordered anyone to destroy the other cylinders. They did anyway. Other Armadian vessels began to fire on the ship, which released four smaller versions of itself that began to fly back to the Bifrost. All but one was destroyed or immobilized.

The final alien ship reached the Bifrost, which lit up brightly once again, and was gone. A few Armadian ships had followed too closely and disappeared into the Bifrost themselves. Investigations were launched, and technological advances in materials, plasma shielding, and drive systems were made in the next cycle that would have taken tens of thousands more cycles. Two cycles later, the Temporal Manipulation Drive System was announced, TMDS for short or Timids to technicians and pilots.

A cycle after that, the ships that had disappeared into the Bifrost reappeared, repo
rting having been gone only centidays, and the Monarch announced those unfortunate travelers that had been encountered to be the Murhan of old, citing the technology used as evidence. He announced that we would go after them with massive new ships of an entirely new design being built at that time and destroy them, finally avenging our ancestors’ fate of being thrown through the Bifrost.

After I had volunteered to test the first ship with a TMDS on a suicidal whim, I was promoted and assigned by Mi’Olnr Khuda’Cronell to lead the Armada with him in the newest flagship, the TAS Fhit, one of the new Qzceno class ultracarriers. A Sheii’Cronell would be accompanying us to test out his new team of fighter pilots, the Drig Reidrs.

I was told that I would receive the greatest honors if the operation was successful. Five cycles later, the new Armada, completely refitted with new hull designs and TMDS propulsion, headed through the Bifrost, and I left my home to destroy another’s.

I was going to destroy the homeworld of the one creature whose body had made it through that fateful day cycles ago. In my pocket still, I carried the soft slip of cloth that bore a picture of two of the creatures holding another, smaller. When I held that slip out, it still emitted a small sound which I could only assume was the laughter of that small child. When I ran my thumb over the characters on the back, it spoke that foreign word, “Kahlisa.”

Great One, my name is Gril’Die Khuda’Mundi, Grand Admiral of the Thorlinthian Armada, and today, my ship has arrived over a world innocent of my people’s blood. And I will kill them all. Forgive me.

Phoenix Day

Phoenix Day
Darkness surrounds you. It’s a sensation not at all unfamiliar to you, but you still find it disquieting. In darkness, one is unable to respond to visual cues because there are, in fact, no visual cues to which one can respond. It is this singular awareness, however, which allows you to sharpen your other senses. You close your eyes. They are useless to you at this time, so they may as well be rested for when they are needed once more. Right now, you only need your ears.
You hear a disturbance approximately 45 degrees left of your forward position. You turn your head ever so slightly in response, careful not to move so quickly as to make a sound. Your armor may be silent, but the mud in which you hide is full of air pockets which could burst at the slightest motion, causing movement and sound, both of which would be your enemy right now. You increase the sensitivity of your armor’s microphones, listening more intently to the gentle noise of silence.
The noise occurs again. This time, you recognize it. A sneeze. Though the mud muffles most of the sound, it is clear that one of the guards has moved. Your opportunity has arisen. You rise slowly and silently out of the mud which has been hiding you for the past four hours. A thin layer of the mud had dried into a crust atop the mudpool, and you press gently through it, now grateful for the darkness which envelops all of you. You open your eyes, switching your armor’s screen to an ultrasonic reflection display. Now, the field is yours. You reach out slowly toward both guards, unable even to smell you due to the fact that you now smell exactly like the mud surrounding the entrance to this facility. In the final moment before reaching the guards’ bodies, you accelerate, your eyes shining a vibrant green inside your armor, and you see the screen reflect a slight amount of the light back to you inside your helmet as your hands crush the skulls of the guards who find themselves unable to react in any manner due to the fact that you had initially deactivated gross motor control in their brain with a specific electrical signal through your gauntlets. No alarms would go off tonight.
Upon the final reflexive twitches of the guards, you remove one’s identification card and place it inside the card receiver of the door’s entry system. Grabbing the guard’s skull, you hold his eye open, still warm, and place a small electrical impulse across the optic nerves, causing the iris to contract in apparent response to the light produced by the optic scanner. Upon confirmation that the door is unlocked and open, you cast the guard’s corpse aside and enter the building just as you wirelessly create a small loop in the security cam footage showing the door close itself as if the guard had decided not to enter and continuing to show an empty entrance hall. The technology of these primitive people never ceases to baffle you. It’s so ineffective against electrical interference at the appropriate signal strength and wavelength. You continue onward, looping the past four hours of footage, preventing any viewers from noticing some small, repeated detail. Today had been entirely routine, and the second half of every shift was exactly like the first half on such days as this.
You reach the staircase and momentarily simulate a continued short between the sensors on the door as you open and close it, giving the interpreting circuit the impression that the door was never opened, preventing the need for another open/close loop like you had performed earlier and which would be entirely inexplicable right now, since the spaces on both sides of the door were clearly shown on camera as being empty.
As you approach the twentieth floor below entry level, you use your armor’s ultrasonic reflection system to perform a momentary scan through the wall of the adjacent hallway. There are three men in it, conversing with one another in a casual manner. You prepare your armor-mounted railguns to fire small, metallic darts at the men as you enter and wait for them to report normal conditions. This is performed every hour, and they will not be missed for at least twice that time. You bypass the door’s sensors just as you did twenty floors above and execute the men where they stand without even making it through the door. The men fall to the ground with the darts lodged inside their brain stems. You now walk carefully through the hallway, making note to use your armor’s sensors to check around every corner before you approach it and killing every guard you encounter with precise strikes to the medulla oblongata.
After approximately one hundred fourteen seconds of walking through the halls, you reach your destination: a small cell designated with the identification code, 4XT. You quietly knock in a form of code you learned from the Kuli, Jil’Hanr, before departing the Watch several months before. Simply put, your encoded message states, “The door is opening. A friend is waiting. Do not attack.” A small response is picked up only by your sensors in the affirmative. You use a specially made keycard to bypass the door’s security features, and you open the door quickly as alarms emanate through the facility. You toss an explosive charge in the direction from whence you came. It explodes after a short delay, enough for you to protect the room you had just entered from the brunt of the explosion.
Your helmet opens and folds swiftly into the neck of your armor as you reach out to Kahlisa, who recognizes you immediately and grabs your hand with three of her own. Her arms have weakened greatly during her time here, and you find a certain uncomfortable ease in pulling her to her feet. The last time you had seen her, she had weighed more than five times her current weight and had been in prime health. Now, her gaunt eyes looked to you for guidance. You activate your armor’s remote hype commands, a design of Drigondii’s own ingenuity. The TAS Valkyr 53, your beloved ship, hyped directly into the location which only now contained enough space for its presence.
You take Kahlisa inside your ship and close the main entrance hatch. Outside, the hull of Valkyr 53 begins to superheat and melt the metal supports inside the facility’s structure. Kahlisa had been the only non-criminal resident of this facility, and it now houses only the most dangerous of Earth’s men and women.  Every other cell designated with an XT had been emptied of its bodies long ago. Only Kahlisa was trained in the ways of the Deep Sleep which had kept her alive without any nourishment for the past several years. It is a pity even now, as you contemplate the lives of those visitors which had desired only a peaceful contact with this barbaric planet’s people.
The facility begins to collapse, and you activate your ship’s hyping procedures. The drives roar to life as they perform an exit hype to the planet’s thermosphere, and you cringe at Kahlisa’s sickened reaction to the imploding sensation. Upon completion of the procedure, you activate the final charges, which you had placed at the bottom of the mudpool before execution of your mission. The 15 kiloton nonnuclear explosion destroys the entire bioweapon testing facility in moments without a trace of its contained contaminants or occupants. It is the first of many such strikes to be completed this day, but it is the only one with a high-priority rescue involved.

< div>

You strike up your communications system and listen in as your husband, Drigondii Sheii’Cronell, finishes the unprecedentedly peaceful occupation of the planet and his takeover of Earth in the name of the Thorlinthian Empire. Today would not be forgotten. April 1 would never again be known as April Fool’s Day but would rather be known as Phoenix Day, the day the Earth was reborn in its own ashes.



Fire was spread across the Fehmadadi sky. There was panic
on the streets. A young mother was frantically searching for her daughter, who
was only four orbits old. The daughter’s point of interest, however, was the
young soldier to whom she had run. His name was Darwhan. His tall stature at 10
dinthets set him several thets above his colleagues. In each of his three sets
of arms, he held a rapid projectile launcher, making him a seemingly
intimidating figure. However, the girl knew better. He was her uncle, a very
kind man who would only hurt someone if it was truly called for. He normally
didn’t even use a weapon. He was a shield engineer, dedicated to preventing
injury. But today, as the sky was burning with the blue flames that this
foreign enemy’s weapons caused upon impact with the 
Fehmadadi fighters’ ships, he
was being called to the infantry in case of a ground assault.

Darwhan stooped down and set his uppermost weapon in its
holster on his back so he could pick up his niece. “Kahlisa, defri bara?
‘Kahlisa, what doing?’ he asked.

Kahlisa jibah felof Darwhan kired.” ‘Kahlisa
wanted see Uncle Darwhan.’ she looked up into his face. His eyes were sad. “Defri
perwha Darwhan kired?
” ‘What wrong, Uncle Darwhan?’ This perfect example of
innocence did not understand that the fire in the sky was an attack on the
planet. Kahlisa only knew the joy of celebratory sky-fires. Darwhan smiled at
his niece kindly, hoping at least she would survive this whole ordeal, but as
he looked up at the first ship to reach below the clouds, he knew it would not
be so.

The 50-plinthet-long ship was long and elliptical, much
like a medicinal capsule, but with a bulbous aft. It was 10 plinthets in
diameter along the length of the ship, and the bulb at the end was 20 plinthets
in diameter. There were thousands upon thousands of massive ten-thet guns
constantly raining fire upon the 
Fehmadadi Defense Force. The propulsion systems
were a crude replica of a
 Fehmadadi Time Drive, but well-enough made that there
were no apparent signs of singularity erosion. Just when Darwhan thought he had
seen the worst these ships could dish out, he saw them. Emerging from a port in
the back of the ship, thousands of smaller ships were pouring out like a
blizzard of metal. They were as the darkness, silent but fearsome and deadly.
Each smaller ship had two guns that fired hot plasma in small bursts at nearly
30 bursts per camth. They rained fire upon the
 Fehmadadi fighter ships. The Fehmadadi Defenses had quickly been withered down to a mere ground force.

Sha filan jibah serai kalaha. Defri kha bara serai
” ‘God didn’t want such things. What devil does such things?’
Darwhan’s answer was to be soon at hand, for the enemy’s smaller ships were
returning to their larger ship. When Darwhan looked around for the savior that
caused this retreat, however, he saw only several more of the enemy ships
gathering up their small fighters. It was then that the voice burned down into
his mind and those of his companions and niece. It spoke in the universal language
of ideas.

‘You came to our worlds and fired upon our convoy. It was
then that we took it upon ourselves to fight back. When we disabled your great
time ship, we studied its technology thoroughly until we were able to build our
own ships even greater than yours so that we may destroy such a powerful enemy.
You have been judged by the Great Monarch himself. He has demanded your demise.
We assume this means you are the dreaded Murhans. You must now be destroyed.’

The larger ships retreated then into the sky, and the
voice boomed through the 
Fehmadadis’ minds again. This phrase was repeated over
and over again: ‘We are Thorlinthia. You are sin. We are justice. You will
die.’ It boomed through everyone’s brains as if the entire civilization was
screaming it at them at the same time. Everyone hit the ground screaming.
Everyone did but Darwhan. He looked up now, Kahlisa screaming in his arms to
make it stop, and he saw one more ship through the clouds. It was far up,
possibly even still in space, but Darwhan knew it was these Thorlinthians’ tool
of supposed judgment. Whatever was about to happen, it was going to be painful.
Darwhan then noticed that next to him was a strange looking creature. It was
some sort of bipedal mammal. It stood tall, taller even than Darwhan. It looked
over at Darwhan, calm and collected. It reached gently into his mind and
silenced the shouting of the Thorlinthians. It then spoke coolly into his mind.
‘I am sorry that this moment has come, but it has come nonetheless. I am
Jil’hanr. I am a member of a group of students of the universe called the Kuli.
You share some of our abilities.’ A flash of strange incidents through
Darwhan’s early life where Darwhan had exhibited unknown talents flashed
through his mind. He had learned to control these abilities at will, but rarely
used them anymore. They seemed unnecessary at most times. ‘You have potential
to become Kuli, and our members are few now, so I cannot allow you to die
today. Come with me.’ A ship shimmered into appearance behind Jil’hanr.

‘May Darwhan take Kahlisa with?’ Darwhan asked. ‘Kahlisa
has exhibited the same mind-speak ability Darwhan has, and Darwhan feels that
more abilities are beginning to show.’

‘Only if, on your command, she is able to shut away the
pain the Thorlinthians are inflicting on her. You must be quick, however. Time
is not on our side.’ Jil’hanr stepped toward his ship, seeming anxious to

Darwhan reached into Kahlisa’s mind and told her to shut
off the pain and follow him. She asked how, and he told her that she would just
have to know how to do it herself. She immediately lifted her head and stopped
screaming, drying her own tears and said, “Kahlisa berof.” ‘Kahlisa is ready.’
Darwhan walked into the ship.

Jil’hanr closed the door. It stepped towards the main
console in the center of the entry room, which seemed to be the only room. ‘The
Thorlinthians have mistaken your race for mine, I’m afraid. They have been
brainwashed, it seems, to wish revenge for being lunged into a new universe. We
don’t know what has happened in the past few star-cries, but your race seems to
have reopened the Galaxy Tear, and provoked the aggression of the now bitter
Thorlinthians. We should leave now.’ When its phalanges touched the console,
the walls lit up into a piloting display more advanced than Darwhan had ever

The ship quickly and silently rose up into the upper
atmosphere, where Darwhan could better see the Thorlinthians’ Armada. There
were at least 200 of the large ships. When Darwhan saw this, he gasped.
Jil’hanr spoke again, ‘The Kuli fleet was once a hundred times larger, but when
the Galaxy Tear first opened, its trembling in space-time destroyed most of it.
Only a few ships remain, and we are not in a position where we can yet expand
our fleet once more. We are rebuilding our numbers once more, but we are not
yet enough to stand up to the Thorlinthians. They were once a peaceful
civilization billions of years ahead of your technology, but the Galaxy Tear
destroyed their star system’s equilibrium. No one could have predicted that the
peaceful Linthians would become these bloodthirsty scavengers.’

Darwhan had a hard time believing these devils were once
a peaceful people. He then saw the judgment ship again. It had a bright red orb
hovering directly above it. As soon as Darwhan thought that it might just
explode, and his people would be saved, Jil’hanr turned to him, shook its head,
and said, ‘Watch.’

Darwhan watched as the orb descended into the ship,
pressing into a disk of light. The ship then began to spin rapidly, causing the
disk to expand. Darwhan noticed that another disk was expanding on the other
side of his homeworld. When the disk had expanded beyond the breadth of the
planet, the ship passed through the disk. The disk then fell like cloth around
the planet, covering an entire hemisphere. The other disk covered the second
hemisphere. When the light faded away, all signs of the planet having borne
life at any point were gone. Its oceans had been frozen into two icecaps, its
green terrain had turned red due to oxidation, and the great buildings that had
once stood tall in the cities had turned to dust.

‘This is a power of the Deceiver, an opponent of the Kuli
that has existed since our rise to power. They had been killed by the Galaxy
Tear but for one student who had only just learned this ability, which they
call Glascing. It is only one of their powers. Its destructive power is great,
but it comes at an even greater price. Every Thorlinthian on those two ships is
now in a comatose state and will die in eight days.’ Jil’hanr’s face expressed
what Darwhan could only describe as an avid disgust. The expression was only
there for a moment, but it was as intense as Darwhan’s newly-founded nausea for
this Deceiver. Then it was gone. Jil’hanr spoke. ‘We are about to enter
worm-space. It is a bit more turbulence-ridden than your Time Drives, but it is
faster, and it does not involve damaging the universal balances. You will learn
about those in your studies. Brace yourselves.’

It was then that Darwhan realized Kahlisa had been
listening as well. She had also located securing mounts on one side of the room
and positioned herself into one. Before Darwhan could do the same, Jil’hanr
lifted one set of phalanges up into the air, curled them into a ball, and
plunged it into the console. The console began to rapidly wrap itself up around
its arm like a vine. Once it had wrapped itself sufficiently around Jil’hanr’s
arm, it hardened again, and the ship imploded.

Or at least it felt like it. It had actually entered
another field of space-time. Darwhan had not been prepared for this and was now
being thrown violently around the ship as it wove its way through what seemed
to be a sort of asteroid field. ‘This is worm-space. Space correlates randomly
to each of these gateways. Only by using the mind-feel ability that all Kuli
are trained to use can one navigate worm-space. Flying in worm-space prevents
enemies from following us. We are almost there.’ Upon these words, the ship
flew straight into one of the asteroids and imploded again.

The first thing Darwhan noticed was that it was very
bright. Then he realized that he was not being tossed around anymore. After
that, he noticed that he was on a sort of bedding-like nest that was very
comfortable. He looked around for Kahlisa. He didn’t have to look for long. She
was in the nest next to him, sleeping. He then looked for Jil’hanr. It was
standing behind him, talking to another member of his species in a very
aggressive manner. They were not using the mind-speak, so Darwhan had no idea
what the topic of their discussion was, but it was apparent that they did not
agree at all.

“I don’t care what was about to happen to their planet;
the members of that planet aren’t ready to be taken in for Kuli training! These
creatures are not advanced enough in their development. Now if they fail the
Entry Carbint, they will have nowhere to go.” These were the sounds coming from
the creature, but Darwhan had no idea what they meant.

“I think the larger one is ready, and the little one
would not make a bad Soretto for him. We used to be protectors of the Great
Galaxy, but now that our own handiwork has been turned on others, we aren’t
going to clean up after ourselves?! We helped create the Thorlinthians, and we
should help destroy them!” Jil’hanr was adamant about whatever they were
talking about.

Darwhan attempted to communicate with Jil’hanr’s
conversation partner, “Garf’kan, Jil’hanr farjin Darwhan.” ‘Excuse me, Jil’hanr
saved us and we have no home left – we must stay.’ Upon this apparently
unexpected use of the mind-speak, the creature turned to Darwhan surprised and
said, ‘My friend, that is exactly the problem here. I am afraid your people
were not yet advanced enough to be brought here and the initiation required to
stay may kill you. If you do not go through the training, then you will surely
die as this is only a monitoring station with limited facilities – making the
training a requirement if you stay.’ Darwhan was saddened with this creature’s
lack of hope for them.

Darwhan said, ‘My people don’t believe in fear in the
face of ultimate choices. If the choice is mortal danger or death, we choose
mortal danger.’ Darwhan was quite adamant at this point. After seeing his
planet turned to rust, he had nowhere to go. The entire 
Fehmadadi fleet had been
brought back to 
Fehmadad to stand up to those Thorlinthians, whose aggression was apparently
due to these Kuli. ‘The other members of my race are all dead because of your
people, and I ask that we be given the chance to live!’

Now Jil’hanr spoke. ‘Darwhan, you have every right, in my
opinion, to become Kuli, as does your niece.’ Jil’hanr proceeded to speak to
the other, “I will administer the Entry Carbint myself. There is no need to
worry about either of them failing.” It nodded, now willing.

As the creature walked away, Jil’hanr turned to Darwhan
and said, ‘The Watcher is very strict, but he will remain true to his word.
You’ll be given your chance to live.’ As the Watcher entered his private
chamber, he grinned. His son acted and thought exactly as he, J’Homria, did at
that age. Exasperated, he began to chuckle. This Darwhan was indeed from a wise
race. It was a shame his niece would be the only 
Fehmadadi Kuli.