Sensual Sentient ♥ Episode 4

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If There Be Giants

The instant their boots punched the rocky ground at the base of the cliff, Blake grinned with the thrill still rushing through all of them. “God, I love gravity!”

“That was exhilarating,” Ketha agreed. “I’ve never actually propelled before.”

“Less chatter, more science,” Sida commanded.

“And she claims I have a one-track mind,” Blake muttered, as he and Isiah started toward the mine ahead of them.

“You know, if you accidentally tazed him with a proton pistol, I wouldn’t tell anyone,” Ketha offered, while she and Sida finished unharnessing themselves.

“All comm links are still open, Lieutenant,” Blake’s rough voice pointed out.

“Gotta love an observant man,” Ketha sighed, causing Sida to grin at her with new-found appreciation.

That grin only increased, when they finally caught up to the men and found Blake standing with his arms crossed over his chest and an unimpressed scowl on his face.

“Alright, heads up crew, there’s a chance we’ll be faced with a cave-in once we reach the end of the mine, and if it’s unstable–” Sida began.

“No sudden noises, got it,” Blake finished for her, dropping the pretense of being offended under the seriousness of that possibility.

Inside the mine, their lights revealed more of the same crude tools marks along the low ceiling and walls. The deeper they went, the sharper the edges of those marks became from lack of erosion. Sida paused when Blake crouched and ran his gloved fingers over the lower portion of the wall to their right.

“Look at this,” he glanced at her. “It’s the same powdery residue caused by short or single-burst propulsion thrusters.”

“Like from a remote cargo sleigh?” she asked, crouching beside him to investigate.

“Yeah, but it shouldn’t do this,” he said, holding his glove out to show her.

Sida ran her own gloved fingers over the residue. “There’s no bonding,” she replied in confusion, when the powder transferred to her gloves, as well.

Standing, Blake looked all around them. “Given the lack of elements, I’d say these were left within the last fourteen months, give or take, but not much longer than that. They’re way too fresh.”

“Just like the tools outside,” Sida agreed, yet what that meant she had no clue. It was apparent someone had beat them there and found something in the mine worth hauling out, but what? Starblood was her first fear, but that wouldn’t require a cargo sleigh. No planet produced that much in a single vein. “Let’s keep moving.”

Along the way, they found more areas of residue and then the pottery shards started. The closer they got to the bend in the shaft, the more evidence of their ancient miners. The baked clay remnants had most likely belonged to urns of oil for torches, refreshments for consumption by the miners, or both.

“Look what we have here,” Blake said quietly, when they finally reached the end.

“Wow,” Ketha whispered. “It looks like the inside of a temple.”

Pillars built on a much smaller scale than those in the city stood like support columns along the outer walls of the mine, except the very back where the cave-in had slid down to fill most of the chamber, crushing everything in its path.

“Well, that proves your theory, Lieutenant,” Blake nodded at Ketha. “Now, you want to hear mine?”

“Nope, I’ve already heard it up here,” Sida replied, pointing at her own temple. “That was no natural disaster, it was very deliberate.”

“Which opens up a whole new realm of possibilities from a slave uprising to a civil war,” Ketha accepted grimly. “Maybe some of the citizens disagreed with slavery, or maybe they were frightened by the slaves due to their massive size and wanted to block their only way in.”

Those were both really good theories, considering where the damage had been purposely rendered.

“Captain!” Isiah hissed over the comm link from somewhere among the rubble. “Over here.”

Sida rounded the left side of unnatural stalagmites and other jutting pieces of rock or debris. Squeezing through a narrow gap, she came upon Darling crouched in the only available space, so leaned over him to see what he was so interested in.

Aquacælestis Divinus,” he exhaled, his light shimmering off a half-dollar sized puddle of iridescent liquid deep in the crevice of the rubble.

“Starblood, Ensign,” she grinned excitedly, slapping him on the shoulder. “Learn it, like it, use it. Blake!”

“On it,” he replied. After Isiah set the probe to hover near the find, he and Sida moved out of Blake’s way and waited for the report. “It’s not a lot.”

“Superb scientific deduction, Commander,” Sida remarked dryly. “I saw that much with my own damn eyes. What I need to know is if we can use it?”

“With the right amount of additives we should be able to, Captain,” Blake returned just as dryly, before turning sincere. “At any rate, we have to try, don’t we?”

Yes. Yes, they did. “Alright, you two get it contained and see if there’s more without risking another cave-in,” she ordered. “I’ll call in the request. Minnows, you’re with me.”

Aboard the small shuttle located about two klicks east of the mine, in the only clear portion of the trench, Sida sent the request to her crew still manning their ship in orbit. Surprisingly, it only took thirty minutes to get a reply back, which was fast even under the best conditions.

“Must be my lucky day,” she muttered to herself.

“Captain, Fleet Admiral Dent is coming on Vidlink One,” Lieutenant Commander Winston rushed out, her expression filled with apology.

Jumping out of the chair, Sida brushed her clothes off, straightening them and her hair in record speed. She was standing at full attention, when the screen crackled on, revealing a large, robust older man with silver hair cut to perfection. The stars on his uniform were nearly blinding, they’d been polished so profusely.

“Admiral,” Sida saluted, wondering why the top dog of all top dogs was doing something as mundane as answering a contact request.

“Captain Marx,” Joaquin Dent, five-star Fleet Admiral of the entire Galactic Interstellar Navy of Earth and its Solar Systems, aka GINESS, greeted. “You sent a request. Report.”

She knew the FADM was a no-nonsense man and the lines carved into his aged face weren’t all wrinkles, so she didn’t hesitate. “Sir, while conducting our mission to locate and verify proof of the lost planet Molta Cremyss, we discovered the existence of what appears to be an ancient mine, where one of my ensigns has found Starblood. It is a very small amount, Sir. Permission to attempt a World Opening?”

“Molta Cremyss,” Dent repeated. “Have you verified this planet is truly one and the same?”

“We have not verified that at this time, Sir.”

“But you found a mine?”

“A single shaft, sir, partially caved-in,” she replied. “To look for more Starblood could cause further damage without proper precautionary re-stabilizing procedures put into place first, which my crew and I are ready to do should you prefer it, sir.”

He seemed to contemplate that for a moment, before responding. “Meddling with an unstable environment is an unnecessary risk without a guarantee, Captain. Permission for a World Opening granted. Keep me informed.”

“Sir, yes, sir,” she saluted again.

When the screen blinked out, revealing her starmap instead, Sida slowly relaxed her stance and hailed her ship.

“Winston, was my request for contact sent through the usual channels?” she asked.

“Yes, Captain, I’m so sorry, I had no idea the Admiral would respond, himself–”

“Relax, Winston, it’s okay,” Sida cut her off. “Do me a favor, though and check into all the latest news from Earth. Send the most current links to my personal unit.”

“Will do, Captain.”

“We’ll be attempting an Opening. Send the usual roundup and tell Barnes to bring me three extra grunts. If we’re successful, they’ll be going with me. Maintain current orbit and contact Barnes if necessary, but nothing changes until you hear otherwise.”

It took another two hours for the second shuttle to arrive with the rest of her field team and the soldiers. By then, Ketha had already shoved gear packs together for everyone, and they’d loaded them on cargo sleighs to take back to the mine. When she spotted Blake and Isiah suiting up just outside the entrance from half a klick away, she halted Barnes and his men.

“Stay here and wait for the all clear,” she ordered.

Once Sida and the rest of her team were suited up, she set her Xtreme World Opener to neutralize, while Blake loaded the newly formulated capsule of Starblood into his rifle and set it to Activate.

“Comm links on?” Sida checked. “Barnes, can you hear me?”

“You’re good to go, Captain,” he replied.

“Activate gravity and pressurization systems.”

A resounding grunt of discomfort echoed through the link, when everyone obeyed. In an oxygenated environment, despite how thin, it was as good as wearing a lead suit. The weighted pull toward the ground caused perspiration to break out over Sida’s skin with the effort to remain standing, yet it would’ve been just as impossible to get knocked over as it was to lift her boot from the ground.

“Okay, Commander,” she said. “Fire.”

Blake shot the capsule at the largest, flattest portion of the cliff wall and the Starblood splattered like a paintball. It started glowing almost instantly, reaching levels that had all of their face masks tinting black as night. Cheers went off through the link, their success evidenced by the brightness. When the light dimmed and diminished completely, they were faced with a far smaller Opening than they were used to, but one person at a time could fit through without their packs. Those would have to be tossed through one at a time, as well.

Red skies came into view, suggesting the likelihood of a volcanic planet, with the dark silhouettes of thick, tropical vegetation. It appeared to be night time, but not a single one of them put much stock on appearances alone in their line of work.

“Probe,” Sida ordered.

Isiah tossed it through the Opening and watched the screen on the remote in his hands, as the readouts started showing up.

“Quite a bit more sulfur in the air than usual, but otherwise oxygen levels are really good. Better than here, that’s for sure. No indication of pollutants normally found near modern cities, which opens a few variables. I’m picking up mildly elevated amounts of minerals in the moisture, which means the air might have a tangy flavor. Temperature is a lovely seventy degrees Fahrenheit with a seventy-five percent humidity level typical of tropical climates, and the wind is a calm two knots.”

“Mildly elevated amounts, or we’ll be dead from lead poisoning by morning?” Sida questioned.

“No worries, Captain. The air might have a slight coppery taste, but that’s all,” he answered.

“Alright, suits off. Barnes, move in.”

After they’d each rolled their suits up into their packs, the crew entered the Opening one-by-one, the next in line tossing their pack to the last person to climb through. Finally, it was just Sida, who’d tossed her pack to Blake. Turning, she addressed Barnes one last time.

“As soon as I’m through, activate the Curtain, put one man here and hold base at the shuttles.”

“Yes, sir,” he saluted.

Sida climbed through the odd Opening, having to bend low and pull her knee up high to manage it. The moment she was fully, and officially, on a completely different planet, she removed her NISS helmet and turned to watch the Curtain go up. Octagonal pockets of energy replaced their view of the debris littered trench. It would keep everything from microscopic bacteria, pollen and insects all the way up to the force of a boulder running downhill in an avalanche from getting through.

Sida tucked her helmet into her pack, then pulled the cap free from her back pocket. She unrolled it and tugged it down over her head just as the rest of her crew had already done. They all wore their Standard Exploration Uniforms with Advanced Automatic Ballistic Vests over their jackets and All Terrain Boots on their feet.

“Are we dealing with volcanic activity?” It was the first thing she wanted to know.

“The sulfur content would indicate as much, but that,” Isiah paused and gestured to the crimson sky with rolling dark clouds. “is not the reflection of molten lava flow. It encompasses the entire sky and it’s steady, rather than fluctuating. And those really are clouds, not ash.”

“A Red Dwarf system?” she pondered aloud. “It’s too warm.”

“I agree, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a Red Dwarf present,” Blake interjected. “What does this remind you of, Captain?”

Sida turned to check out the small mountainside their Opening had appeared in and ran her hand over the uneven stone, frowning from the shallow, sharp-edged grooves. “It’s nearly the same as the crude tool marks from the mine. Do you think they came through and tried to start one on this side, as well?”

“Possibly,” he mused. “Maybe the natives took them by surprise.”

“Then, what? They enslaved them?” Sida shook her head in disagreement. “They would’ve just made the natives dig the mine for them afterward.”

“Yeah,” Blake sighed, before stilling and turning his light eyes on her slowly. “Sida, if this is the home of those giants…”

Startled, Sida opened her mouth, then closed it and narrowed her eyes at him. “Bad Jack! So bad!” she shot under her breath, before pivoting back to the rest of their crew. “Alright, kids, listen up. I want you three to get real comfy right here and guard this Opening. No fires. If this really is this planet’s night cycle, you obviously won’t need the heat and your rations can cook themselves.”

“Yes, sir,” the three grunts she’d stolen from Barnes saluted, then started setting up their camp right away.

“Crew, we need higher ground so we can get a better idea of what we’re dealing with, but in the meantime, we treat this like any other exploration. Remember your training, keep your weapons on neutralize with reserves at max power, until we establish contact with this planet’s possible inhabitants and determine whether they’re hostile or not,” she continued. “Also, we’re in a tropical environment, which means higher risk for carnivorous and poisonous flora and fauna, so stay on your toes and keep a wary eye out for plants that looks suspiciously well fed.”

“The optimism of your speeches always gives me goosebumps, Captain,” Blake smirked, switching his rifle settings over and feigning a full body shudder.

“Cheap thrills, Commander,” she returned, following her own weapon instructions, before looking him over pointedly. “I’m a sucker for cheap thrills.”

© A.C. Melody

♥ Thank you for reading! You can find previous episodes under The Wicked Web link on the menu bar above. Until next time….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sensual Sentient ♥ Episode 3

BadJack2

Image source: pinterest.com

Bad Jack

“That wasn’t rock climbing,” Blake grit out two hours later, when they finally reached the top of the cliff. Hauling himself over the ledge, he anchored the lead and started helping everyone else. “That was a goddamn expedition.”

Sida kept her pussy comment to herself, knowing he’d just counter with something like: “you offering?” He always had an inappropriate comeback. While most people needed inspiration or opportunity for their minds to slide into the gutter, Blake’s owned real estate there.

“Holy stars,” Ketha exhaled, when Blake helped her over the edge first.

Once everyone was topside, they detached their harnesses and took a moment to drink in the sheer megalithic size of the deserted city. Every building, statue, fountain and pillar put them right into familiar territory. It was unnerving. Sida’s gaze followed the cracked remnants of a toppled column about twenty yards ahead and to their left, completely blocking their path. She nearly ordered everyone to put their climbing gear back on, since that might be the only way to get over it.

“And it’s still a long way to the summit,” Blake exhaled, his gaze rising to the top of the tallest stepped pyramid in the distance.

“Bad Jack,” Sida snapped at him. “No more magic beans for you.”

He chuckled, rolling his shoulder with equal parts unease and determination. “And here I thought space was the only thing left to make us feel small and insignificant,” he remarked, before flashing that hidden grin at her again. “Guess next time you’ll take the bottom like a good girl.”

Sida patted the butt of her rifle, which was still on her favorite setting despite the engaged safety. “You wanna be the bastard, Yarring?”

Blake snorted. “Cap, I’ve never not been the bastard.”

“You keep giving me reasons to agree with you, it’s going to confuse the hell out of our crew,” she warned.

“There seems to be an actual source of vegetation up here,” Isiah interrupted, too used to their banter to be fazed.

“Just keep an eye on the mine shaft below, let me know when we reach the heart of the city,” Sida ordered. “We won’t find any answers until we can clear this road block, though, so let’s get a move on.”

“I thought the Maya had the whole stairway to heaven thing in the bag,” Ketha muttered, when they reached the downed column.

Due to its massive circumference and smooth surface, they really only had two choices; either bust their way through it or waste several hours walking around it. It was a tough call for a group of scientists. Fortunately, while Sida was still contemplating, they came across a section that was already partially broken and crumbling. It took little effort to carefully blast their way through just the already damaged area by using a relatively weak setting on their rifles. Pausing on the other side, Sida snatched Blake’s binoculars from his vest to get a closer look at the city, now that the view was completely unobstructed.

“Commander, I see glyphs,” she grinned.

“On it,” he reciprocated, running ahead.

“Ensign, where are we in relation to the mine now?”

“Higher than before,” Darling answered. “There’s definitely a steady sloping grade from the surface to the lowest point in the mine, which is the bend. From there to the entrance, it’s almost completely flat.”

Sida hooked the binoculars on her belt and looked around. “That doesn’t make any goddamn sense. A single shaft well should indicate a Qanat system, but there’s only one access point and it’s at the highest elevation, not the lowest. Unless they had gravity-defying water, I think we need to find more evidence behind the true purpose for this mine.”

“I agree. Another three klicks and we’ll be at the city center, Captain,” he replied.

“Good, any readings on what kind of ore we might otherwise be dealing with?” she asked.

“I’ve got trace amounts of the usual recipe, but nothing concrete. We’ll have to dig into deeper sediments for samples.”

“There should be aqueducts,” Sida noted aloud a moment later. “Every civilization had advanced water systems in place by the time they were building cities of this magnitude. They had rain basins, diverted rivers, something to bring fresh water to the citizens.”

Minnows glanced over her shoulder, though they could no longer see the ledge. “That trench could have been a river at one time, which might explain why only part of the city caved in.”

Sida nodded in agreement, though none of them had seen any evidence of that from below. There would be natural markers, different levels of sediment lining the cliff walls like artwork from the water slowly drying up over time. Unless it evaporated all at once. That was an eerie thought, but then so was the very Earthling-like city they were marching toward.

“Or, perhaps water hadn’t been a necessary part of their diet,” Isiah suggested. “It’s kind of sad when you think about it.”

“Then don’t,” Sida suggested.

“Can you imagine our planet dying before we’d even made it out of the iron age?” he persisted.

“Yet, he does it anyway,” Sida grumbled to herself. “Yarring, what have you got for me?”

“Obviously, they made it off this planet, so logically, they were far more advanced than we ever were during our iron age,” Ketha debated with Isiah.

Sida rolled her eyes. “Commander!”

Why did she always get stuck with the kids, while he went to play in the rubble? Something was seriously wrong with that setup.

“You guys aren’t going to believe what I’m looking at,” Blake’s voice finally came through the comm links in their mini-masks. “These NTs…they’re humanoid.”

“Yarring, have you ever seen the Bremm?” she scoffed. “Ogres would be considered more humanoid.”

“These aren’t Bremm, Cap,” he returned. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear I was staring at the tomb walls of one of our own ancient sites. I’m seeing similarities to all of them. They kept record of everything in the same fashion, too. Farming, fishing, ceremonies, battles…wait–”

“Commander?” Sida prompted, when several moments of silence ticked by.

“Shh.”

Sida arched a brow. He did not just shush her.

“I found the city center events,” he finally spoke again.

“And?” she snapped.

“There’s some kind of procession, NTs climbing onto a platform from an underground chamber right in the heart of the… fucking Christ,” he cut himself off. “It’s an auction block, the bastards were slavers. There’s something extremely off about these glyphs, Captain. Not only are the slaves also humanoid, they’re depicted as being much larger than the citizens.”

“Define much larger,” she replied, peering around at the ginormous city.

“A whole other race kind of larger,” he answered. “And judging by the monoliths used to construct these megaliths, I wouldn’t be shy about labeling them giants.”

“Starblood,” Sida said, looking at Isiah. “Any trace?”

“Not on the surface,” he answered, eyes a little wide. “Giants, Captain? They enslaved giants to build all of this?”

“Yeah, I think they did,” Blake answered for her.

“So much for your advanced theory, Lieutenant,” Isiah remarked to Ketha. “If we find Starblood, no one left this planet by ship.”

“We need to get into that mine,” Sida intervened firmly. “I prefer my facts to be of the non-speculative variety. Why don’t we have a reading on this supposed chamber under the city?”

“I’m not showing any cavities other than the mine, itself, which abruptly stops about a hundred yards below the surface,” Darling confirmed.

“Could have been a cave-in,” Minnows suggested, pointing to the crumbled roads. “These aren’t exactly Imperial quality.”

By the time they reached the city center, Blake was just meeting up with them. “I didn’t find anything depicting the Bremm and I’m really starting to doubt they were ever here. Maybe this isn’t Molta Cremyss, after all, but a completely unknown planet. None of the glyphs I found are pointing toward the apocalyptic event that caused everyone to abandon the home world, but I’m willing to bet all of my gambling debts there’s a lot more where those came from.”

“That’s a lot of negative credit, Commander,” Sida smirked, reluctantly amused.

“I’m a giving man, Cap,” he shrugged. “We need to find their version of a Valley of the Kings.”

“Assuming they buried their dead,” Ketha interjected. “Many ancient civilizations used funeral pyres.”

“I love how scientists are always looking on the bright side of things,” Sida grinned. “Darling, run a perimeter scan fifty yards out and see if you find anything interesting.”

“Got it, Captain.” He didn’t get far, before he was waving them over. “Hey, look at this.”

They all approached the broken, rectangular pattern he was dusting off in the rocky dirt. Crouching at various sections, they all started doing the same, revealing a kind of lip about fifty-five yards long and twenty yards wide.

“This was the auction block,” Blake stated first, studying it more carefully. “Or at least the foundation of it.”

“Which means, this had to be where the entrance to the underground chamber was,” Sida pointed to a large area of the ground that bowled toward the center. “Looks like cave-in wins the pool. Good call, Minnows.”

“If that led to the chamber, and its somehow connected to the mine shaft, we could be looking at trouble,” Blake swore under his breath. “What do you want to do now, Cap?”

It was another tough decision. They were already topside, had spent two hours getting there and another making it to the city center, yet the chance of there being Starblood underground pulled at her.

“What we always do, Commander,” Sida decided. “Find the door to the next planet. Back to base, crew.”

Rising to her feet, Sida peered around the city of ruins once more, suppressing the desire to say the hell with protocol and go racing right into every building, turn over every stone, and learn everything she could about the NTs who’d lived there, because the similarities to Earth couldn’t be ignored. They could very well be standing right in the middle of a missing link in their own evolution. Their own origins. To say she was intrigued was a cosmic understatement. She wanted answers five minutes ago.

First, they needed to solve the mystery of the mine.

Thank you for reading! If you’re just tuning in, check out The Wicked Web link on the menu above for previous episodes. Until next time…

Sensual Sentient ♥ Episode 2

StepPyramidRuins

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Surprise

Sida stared across the barren wasteland of a long-forgotten planet, her hazel eyes squinting slightly against the stagnant particles of dust. Thanks to modeling the NISS helmet, strands of strawberry blond hair had pulled free from the braid wrapped halfway around her head. She brushed them away from her face and sighed, resigned to her ongoing mission. Turning, she saluted the lecture hall of cadets one last time, before lifting her rifle and pointing it right at them. Rather than penetrating the entrance she’d just climbed through, the shot dispersed like it hit a solid wall and started frying the World Opening out of existence. The small window to Earth shrank in on itself, leaving charred marks on the small rocky hillside.

The sound of boots scraping rubble and scattering loose pebbles had her twisting at the hips. In a blink, her rifle was aimed between the eyes of the intruder, her finger switching the stream from harmless to ‘Fry the Bastards,’ her personal favorite.

“Captain,” Blake Yarring, her First in Command greeted with his usual cocky smirk hidden behind a mini-mask, not in the least intimidated by her itchy trigger finger.

Sida lowered the barrel, until it was his crotch in the crosshairs of her scope, though she never took her eyes off his face.

“Hey, if you wanted another close up,” he offered, his voice slightly digital through the comm link.

When he held up the extra mask and waved it back and forth, she powered down her rifle, propped it on her shoulder and waltzed up to him, like she had all the oxygen in the world to spare. Blake didn’t hesitate to secure the mask over the lower half of her face, when she stopped. The moment the oxygen kicked on and she could breathe normally again, she blew him a kiss and kept walking.

“Tell me you found something on this godforsaken rock in my absence,” she demanded, once he fell into step beside her.

“What, and ruin the surprise?”

Sida gave him a narrowed sideways glance, keeping the spark of excitement to herself for now. She knew the man inside and out. He wouldn’t lead her on about a mission. If he was insinuating they’d found something, they had. Sida merely hoped it was the evidence they needed to officially declare the dead planet as the missing link in Bremm history, so they could move on. She was more than ready for a change of scenery.

“You know, I’ve never seen anyone take time out of a mission to give a lecture a billion light years away before,” Blake commented. “But, you have to admit it’s pretty bad ass that you’re an actual subject of study at NASE.”

“I find it offensive,” she countered, believing herself far too young and alive to be the subject of study anywhere.

“Yet, you do it anyway.”

“I find you offensive, too,” she pointed out.

“Har,” he smirked blandly, before perking up. “Speaking of doing me, have I ever told you how much your cranky side turns me on?”

“Vrolesian heart ticks turn you on, Blake, that’s not exactly praise, so what are you buttering me up for?” Sida paused.

“Nothing, swear,” he held his hands up, sulking. “It’s just been… I mean I can’t even put a time frame on it without a calendar–”

Making sure her eye roll was profound, Sida continued onward. “How about you reveal this grand surprise to me, before I decide to drop your ass off at the nearest Mrelin colony. You’ll get plenty of action there.”

Mrelins had a taste for Earthling flesh, but they particularly enjoyed Earthling males for all their other appetites, before eating them. Again, Blake was unconcerned. Ugh, it was so annoying trying to threaten someone who knew their own damn worth. Blake didn’t say a word, as they continued toward the edge of the rise they’d been traversing. The moment they crested it, he no longer needed to.

“Eyes,” she demanded, accepting the binoculars he held out for her.

Across a fifty yard trench that looked more like the remnants of an abandoned rock quarry, stood a two-mile high jagged cliff topped by the ruins of an ancient metropolis. The air felt tight in Sida’s lungs, and it had nothing to do with the planet’s low oxygen levels.

“Are those step pyramids I’m staring at, Yarring?” she asked in disbelief.

“Sure looks that way, doesn’t it?” he replied. “Yet we’re on the fringes of the Cremylaean Galaxy and according to all of our data, and what we know of their history, this should be Molta Cremyss, the oldest planet with Bremm origins.”

“That’s not Bremm architecture, Blake,” she exhaled tightly. “It’s ours.”

The rubble they carefully picked their way across once they reached the valley floor, was more than just rock. Taking the massive amounts of debris lying across the trench and stacked against the base of the cliff up ahead, it was easy to determine that a cave-in had brought part of that city down at some point. Natural disaster was in the top five causes for city abandonment, but they wouldn’t know anything conclusive until they got topside to investigate.

They found the rest of their field team near a crude opening in the cliff wall, far to the right and partially camouflaged by natural piles of rubble. There was evidence it had originally been hacked away at with metal tools, but the elements had smoothed the roughness over time.

“This had to have been exposed to weather conditions prior to the planet’s loss of vegetation,” Sida remarked.

“Agreed,” Blake nodded.

“Captain,” her two other crew members greeted in off-key unison.

“How was Earth?” Lt. Ketha Minnows asked.

“Crowded,” she nipped the questioning in the bud, before it could get out of hand. “Tell me what we’ve found. Where does this cave lead and did it contribute to the landslide?”

“It’s not a cave, Captain,” Ensign Isiah Darling informed her, dropping a roll of thick material on the ground and kicking it open to reveal the contents. “We think it’s a mine.”

“Think?” she questioned severely.

“You weren’t gone that long,” Blake intervened, crouching to rummage through the find. “Do you really think I’d risk my ass by proceeding without you? I like sleeping with both eyes closed, thank you.”

Sida studied what little she could see of his handsome face, the rugged sensuality of it. The truth was, if they hadn’t been stuck in space together every damn day and night for so long, they never would’ve even exchanged link codes, let alone bodily fluids. They were too much alike to ever be anything more than respected colleagues, but space was cold. It was lonely and it was harsh. There had to be something to take away from that, even if it was only a handful of hot, mind-numbing hours.

“I knew there was something smart about you, aside from your mouth,” she smiled approvingly. “Where are the readouts from the probe?”

While Darling went to retrieve them for her, she crouched beside Blake and picked up one of the modified hydro-torches from the array of mining tools.

“Apparently, we’re not the first modern crew to have landed here recently. Look.” She turned the torch upside down and ran her fingers over the casing of the spent energy core where a serial number should be.

“Black market issue. Nice,” Blake commented. “None of these tools made that opening.”

“No, the mine was already here. The question is why,” she agreed. Standing, she activated the handheld remote for the probe Darling returned with and scanned the results on the central screen. “A single, straightforward mine shaft that curves down, around and up just under the heart of the city? How is that even possible?”

“I’ve been thinking about that while you were taking your sweet ass time on Earth,” Blake said. “It seems unlikely an ancient civilization would’ve had ground-penetrating sonar in order to pinpoint an exact vein of ore without divine intervention. There would be evidence of failed mining attempts, several dead-end shafts branching off the main one, but there is one natural resource every culture in history had a knack at finding with nothing more than a stick–and what typically stands in the center of a town square?”

“A natural spring or well,” Sida nodded. “Sounds probable. I like probable over divine intervention.”

“Me, too. Gods can be dicks,” he agreed. Then, his cheeks moved in a way that revealed a wolfish grin behind his mask. “So, you want top or bottom first?”

Holding his gaze for a moment, Sida addressed the others. “Gear up, crew. We’re going rock climbing, and your Commander just volunteered to take point.”

© A.C. Melody

Thanks for reading! Check out The Wicked Web link above for previous episodes. Until next time…

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Sensual Sentient ♥ An Introduction

Welcome to my latest addition to The Wicked Web. This is for all you SciFi lovers, but don’t worry Thief of Dragons will still be getting new installments. I’ve also updated the Wicked Web page, because I fell behind on episode links – you can now search by episode title! So, if you’re interested in reading some Free Content, please check it out!

Now, onto the good stuff…

Sensual Sentient

Sensual Sentient

Prologue

Captain Sida Marx stared unflinchingly at the fifteen hundred sets of eyes watching her every move. Twenty-four hours ago, she’d faced a panel of her commanding officers inside the Global Defense Command Center, formally known as the Pentagon. That had been far less intimidating.

The lecture hall was packed with first year cadets. They were eager, their gazes hungry and their minds in a state of delusion fueled by romanticized tales and ambitious dreams. Currently, they had nerves of steel and limitless drive, because they were safely tucked away behind hallowed walls on Earth. Sida knew their future. Most of them would never see space beyond the end of a telescope. Some would never make it outside of the Milky Way Galaxy and several of them would never step foot aboard an actual spacecraft.

Those who did make it into space would either quit or get themselves killed. If they were lucky, they’d manage it without taking the rest of their crew down with them. Failure was the only future for a majority of these poor, young souls. It would come academically, physically or psychologically, because the NASA Academy of Science Exploration was grueling on all counts, tolerated zero mistakes and space was the cold bastard that picked off those who still made it to graduation.

Aquacælestis Divinus,” Sida spoke at last, her voice echoing through the giant containment tube she alone stood inside of. It stretched the length of the hall, cutting her audience in half vertically. “Translates to?”

Hands shot in the air, so she chose at random.

“Divine water of the stars,” the girl answered.

“Street name: Starblood,” Sida nodded in confirmation, holding up a six-inch capsule. She could practically hear the cadets’ Interactive Ocular Attachments zooming in on it, despite the live feed projecting from giant holoscreens on either side of the hall. “Once believed to be a form of Mercury, due to its milky quicksilver appearance, Starblood is an extremely valuable alien mineral found in the veins of distant planets throughout the known and presumably unknown universe.”

Sida lifted her Xtreme World Opener–a huge upgrade from the standard issued rifle the Navy had provided–and slid the capsule into the charging chamber. A speculative murmur rose in the hall, as uniformed butts began shifting in their seats.

“Hopefully I grabbed the right batch,” she remarked, enjoying the ability to put the cadets further on edge while keeping a straight face. “Trust me, it’s no fun Opening a blackhole where a planet used to be.”

Setting her rifle aside, she climbed into her safety suit and then modeled it for her viewers, before slipping the helmet on. It immediately engaged, the inside of the face mask displaying her suit’s statistics and her own vitals, while scanning her environment.

“Full visual and activate external comm link,” she ordered the suit. The link icon blinked once, then the mask cleared of all diagnostics, allowing her to see the hall clearly again. “Who can tell me about this suit?”

Several hands shot into the air. Sida chose a girl who didn’t even look old enough to wash space dust off a ship, let alone be inside of one.

“It’s a NISS, a NASA Issued Safety Suit specifically designed for World Openings,” she answered.

Sida tilted her head. “That’s what it’s called, but can anyone tell me what it does? Just shout it out, cadets!”

“It’s capable of being a full life support system for up to four days,” one of them called out.

“Correct, what else?”

“It can withstand extreme temperatures from sub-zero to six hundred and thirty-five Celsius,” another said.

“Good, you in the back,” Sida pointed at a boy who’d been cut off by the first two answers already.

“It has an automatic center of gravity and pressurization deployment system just in case, you know, you did grab the wrong batch,” he replied, causing Sida to grin. Had to love a smart ass kid with brains.

“Yes!” she gave him a thumbs up. “Precisely. Which is where I left off.”

Much to the startled excitement of her audience, Sida didn’t hesitate to grab her rifle, power up the cells and shoot the capsule at the wall of timber someone had kindly stacked near the middle of the containment tube for her. The capsule exploded, charged Starblood feeding on the raw wood. Her mask tinted darker as the mineral glowed brighter, forcing the cadets to look away from the brightness.

“While harmless and completely useless in its natural state, Starblood’s dormant molecules need an intensely focused source of energy–such as this laser here–to become active. Once a World Opening has been established, it will remain stable until it’s neutralized by another stream of focused energy designed to disperse on contact to rapidly fry all of the Starblood’s neurons,” Sida explained. “Each capsule is a single use only. Fortunately for us, we’re scientists and have created the perfect synthetic additive that allows us to produce the same results while using less of the raw mineral, itself.”

As the Starblood finished spreading, its light decreased until it was possible for everyone to look at the wall of timber again. The hall was filled with new and unusual sounds coming from the alien world now visible through the Picasso inspired Opening spanning about four feet wide and six feet tall. What appeared to be towering vegetation in blueish-green shades nearly blocked out a violet sky. They oozed a cranberry red liquid as thick as tree sap. Veined, translucent petals floated lazily to the ground as if some giant kid were plucking the wings off insects at a steady rate.

“How do you keep the Starblood from spreading too far?” A cadet asked.

Sida smiled. She preferred blurting over hand raising any day.

“Two ways,” she answered. “One, the Opening size can be formulated by the additive in each capsule and two, Starblood will only work on a natural resource. Wood, stone, soil, clay, any natural metal ores or anything made of those things would suffice. It won’t spread beyond the size of your chosen resource. Your options are limitless and usually readily available near any newly discovered vein. After you’ve successfully completed an Opening, what’s your first step?”

“Check the atmosphere to make sure it’s breathable and non-toxic.”

“Absolutely correct,” Sida nodded. “Look, I don’t care how smart these suits are, they’re bulky and a pain to try to maneuver in for any length of time. What are we?”

“Scientists!”

“Soldiers!”

“Both,” she corrected. “We’re both, but primarily, yes, we’re scientists and our main objective is to gather data and determine if a planet produces Starblood. Mobility for your safety, as well as getting into those hard to reach places where the mineral usually forms, is vitally important to your mission. So, before doing anything else, find out if you can ditch the suit.”

So saying, Sida pulled her helmet off and rested it on her hip. “I happen to already know that this planet’s atmosphere is safe for us. Can anyone name it just by sight?”

“Everyone knows the Bleeding Trees of Lexitor Gamma,” a boy smirked, earning chuckling support from his buddies.

Arching a brow, Sida set her helmet aside so she could start climbing out of the suit. “Yes, everyone knows about them, but those are not trees. In fact, they’re not any kind of vegetation at all. Bleeding Trees is the layman’s term for a classification of Lexitorian animal, similar to our ocean’s Sea Anemones. Ignorance, my dear cadets, will get you killed in space and that’s not an exaggeration, scare tactic, or figure of speech. It is pure fact. One might even goes as far as saying, it’s scientifically proven fact.”

Free from her suit, she turned and looked at each area of the audience as she continued. “It’s our job to be informed. Ignorance can destroy entire ecosystems, risk the lives of your crew, ruin any possible hope for diplomacy with Non-Terrestrials and has the very real, frightening potential of starting a galactic war with alien races who are far more advanced and have much bigger weapons than we do.”

The lecture hall was silent, the chuckling cadets now red-faced with embarrassment and shame. It was nothing compared to what they’d endure if they survived long enough to make it into space, so Sida didn’t feel bad for it in the least. Let them learn humility now, while they were still safe and had the choice to continue or not.

“First rule of space: Learn before you think, think before you act. We’re the babies of the universe beyond our own solar system. Those NT’s out there have been doing this a hell of a lot longer than you could possibly imagine, and with their advanced weapons, technology and natural abilities, they don’t have to follow the same rules we do. That’s their playground, and we’re the intruders,” she added for icing on the reality-check cake.

Setting her rifle to a different stream, Sida aimed and fired. The single pulse dispersed in an electrical web, completely neutralizing the Starblood. She let that sink in with the cadets, as the Opening quickly shrank in on itself and an ash like substance floated into the air around the charred wood.

“Okay,” she smiled. “Any questions?”

© A.C. Melody

Thanks for reading and don’t let this prologue fool you, as the title would suggest, this is an Erotic SciFi-Fantasy, so prepare for some steamy episodes ahead and 18+ link-only posts. 😉 Until next time…