Sensual Sentient ♥ Episode 7

NortokShip

image source: I.F. 221C by Andree Wallin on Deviantart

Know Thy Enemy

The echo of Sida’s screams followed Blake and the others over the valley, as the Meylosian cruiser rushed them toward their fate.

“Commander?”

The familiar, muffled voice came from the other side of the black wall of Non-Terrestrial squished against Blake’s right side. “Johansen?”

“Yes, sir,” she answered.

“Who else?” he asked.

“Lupo, sir.” Engineering Junior Grade, Torance Lupo, replied.

“And Kass, sir.”

Ensign Baron Kass was a medical officer Blake had never seen outside of the infirmary before and he prayed he wasn’t the only one Sida had ordered to join the field team. The thought of her and the rest of the crew being stranded on an unknown planet without a medic didn’t help his already foul mood. Especially,  when he knew they’d most likely sustained injuries in all that chaos with the other patrol cruisers. Of course, that would only be a problem if the NT’s didn’t decide to cook them up for dinner. Fuck!

Blake ground his teeth in frustration, but he wasn’t completely irate. He would get captured a thousand times over if it meant his captain was free with a fighting chance of survival, and hopefully a rescue plan.

“Okay crew, as you’ve probably noticed, we’re dealing with the Meylos, who are supposed to be non-hostile neutrals. Filthy bleeding liars,” Blake swore, despite his lungs going numb from lack of space. “Just stay calm and I’ll get us out of this somehow. I doubt the opportunistic vultures want to go to war with Earth.”

The hot air that rushed over them wasn’t all natural, but enhanced by the cruiser’s energy field and proton net. The only thing Blake was grateful for was that he was facing the underbelly of the ship, rather than the valley far below. That would certainly make it difficult to think clearly. The trek over the jungle grew a little cooler as they passed over the large lake that followed. In no time, they were in the city that he and Sida had spied from the ridge, yet his limbs had still managed to turn into pin-prickling uselessness from lack of circulation. Noise assaulted them from every direction, but it was recognizable; the din of a bustling urban center.

The ship’s descent was somewhat nauseating and by the time it came to a hovering stop, a million different scenarios had already raced through Blake’s mind. A thousand logical steps to take. His adrenaline was still churning, while he tried to capture every new invasion to his senses. The net was slowly lowered and only a few seconds ticked by, before he felt solid ground beneath his back.

“Well, well, what do we have here?” The unmistakable nasal curl of a Meylosian’s voice questioned from somewhere nearby.

It was a male, though higher pitched than the average human male range. The Meylos accent was unique, sounding equally Austrian and British without any distinction between the two, yet warped into some kind of dual inflection.

“When I heard there were Earthlings running about the jungles, I just had to come see it for myself,” the speaker continued.

As the Meylos started his speech, the net was released and Blake’s lungs immediately inflated with the additional room, causing him to suck in huge, audible breaths. The relief from the weight and renewed circulation made his skin tingle painfully. He couldn’t even attempt to sit up while the feeling slowly returned to all his limbs. It didn’t seem to be an issue for the NT, though, who released a snarling battle cry and lunged off the tarmac. The Meylosian soldiers standing by merely cocooned him in his own personal proton net and watched him topple over onto the ground.

“Imagine my surprise in this moment to see that it’s not only true, but we have in our company, officers from Earth’s Galactic Navy, itself. To include its Commander,” the Meylos continued.

Blake and his team were lifted off the ground by the soldiers and their commentator finally came into view, stopping directly in front of Blake. His long, spindly finger ended in a talon and flicked the insignia embedded into the material of Blake’s AABV. It took a considerable amount of restraint not to deck the thing right in its ugly little face. Meylosians were supposed to be neutral diplomats, mediators and negotiators that helped set up mutually beneficial trade business between planetary systems. Blake had always found them to be an extremely pretentious race, but altogether harmless. They were the yuppies of the universe.

Blake towered over him, for the Meylos were quite petite in stature. They made up for it with the long, broad feathers that grew out of their narrow, oval scalps and curved backward like a headdress. This alone was their only distinguishing feature, each style, color and pattern unique to the individual or a genetic marker of their bloodline. Otherwise, they all looked the same. Pale coral skin, their noses nothing more than a thin spine down the center of their faces that ended in two small slits. Their mouths were small and scaled like a lizards, their eyes round and eerily identical to those of a baby Caiman’s. They were like the missing evolutionary link no one ever wanted to find.

“Last I heard, GINESS was welcome in the Meylos System,” Blake stated.

“But of course,” the Meylosian gestured grandly to their surroundings. “You, I’m afraid, will not be seeing the Meylos System anytime soon, Commander. Toss them on the transleigh.”

Blake didn’t fight when those orders were followed out by the soldiers. He and his crew watched as the NT was lifted onto his own separate sleigh, still trapped in a net. Cargo sleighs were designed to hold up to five tons without losing altitude, which was only about three and a half feet off the ground. The Meylos leader lounged across the buffer ledge at the front of their sleigh, staring down from his mild perch at Blake and his three unfortunate crewmates. Pretentious bastard. The sleighs started moving, heading off the brightly lit tarmac and into one of the large hangars that were open at both ends.

“You and I both know you didn’t come here by ship, Commander,” their captor spoke, as if there had been no lapse in the conversation.

The nice thing about dealing with narcissists was they enjoyed the sound of their own voices so much, they tended to reveal pertinent information in their outpouring of bullshit, with next to no prodding. The truths were typically springboards for their embellishments, easily transliterated into vital details by applying sheer common sense. Blake didn’t know which was more pathetic, that they were so transparent or that they actually believed they weren’t?

“We are on a planet in the most remote outer reaches of space, that with Earth’s rudimentary jumping technology, would take generations for your people to reach by ship, without any detours or delays.”

Blake looked down at the sleigh beneath him and then around the large hangar full of cargo. “So, the natives here trade with their imaginary friends?”

Okay, perhaps he was a little cranky and too sore to muster the pretense of civility. He’d just spent the better part of three weeks on a dust-filled planet with little oxygen, a slight hangover and a nagging libido he hadn’t been able to slake, only to end up on a potentially volcanic planet full of spear-wielding NT’s and not so non-hostile Meylosians. He wasn’t a frigging android. The unexpected jab served its purpose, at any rate, causing Mr. Arrogant to pause in the middle of his “I’m an evil villain” monologue and lean right into Blake’s face.

Blake leaned back just as slowly, to keep the distance between them the same at all times and never broke eye-contact. Johansen was directly behind him, so Blake used the exaggerated motion to distract the birdbrain from the fact that he was grabbing the fixall laser tool out of Johansen’s AABV. He shoved it up his sleeve, because he knew they’d be stripped of their vests once they got to wherever they were going. He wasn’t about to get imprisoned without a Plan B.

“Your kind has always been so crude, so unrefined. It’s a cosmic wonder you ever made it out of your caves, let alone your planet’s atmosphere,” the Meylosian sneered. Maybe. It was really hard to tell.

“At least we don’t look like we still belong in them,” Blake remarked.

“If you must know, the beings that trade in this region of space are so far beyond your scope of perceived intellect and grandeur, that the chance of your kind ever meeting them redefines the meaning of ‘worst odds’,” he continued, talking right over Blake’s insult. “Elite races from these most advanced civilizations would never bother making contact with any of the insignificant star-systems you know of.”

“I know of yours,” Blake smiled coolly. “And I’d like to see how you plan to explain this to the United Federation of Earth’s Intergalactic Alliance.”

“I won’t be explaining anything to anyone,” the Meylos answered. “I’ve never met you or any of your crew and my people know nothing of this planet or what happens here. We are a neutral race with no ties to any alliance or their laws.”

Make that pretentious underhanded bastards!

That was fine, though. They had plenty of those on Earth and Blake knew exactly how to handle them. He’d never had much patience for the sport of manipulation. He’d earned his stripes by being the best without having to kiss anyone’s ass in the process, because both GINESS and the Galactic Bureau of Exploration and Scientific Research liked his results far more than they hated his attitude. That and they knew he could just as easily ditch the regulations and protocol and make a killing on the Galactic Black Market running his own Starblood smuggling operation.

The only reason he didn’t, was because then his crew would be made up of untrustworthy mercs carrying around their own shitty attitudes and a pension for mutiny, while competing with the universe’s worst mobsters. None of which gave a lick about the lives, ecosystems or general planetary stability of other worlds. Blake could be a dick, he even wore the badge with pride most days, but he wasn’t into mass genocide for profit.

“Now, Commander, why don’t you tell me who else you have here on Pralldex with you. Your Captain, undoubtedly,” the Meylosian picked up again. “It’s only a matter of time before we find and capture them all. My cruisers never return empty.”

Blake nearly pointed out that two of his cruisers hadn’t returned at all, but that would only confirm the Meylosian’s suspicions, which he wasn’t about to voluntarily do.

“I’m afraid you caught me on my first solo mission that our captain entrusted me to lead.” He scowled grimly for affect. “Just a small group of scientists trying to find more alien bugs to add to our collection.”

The Meylosian glanced over his shoulder toward the end of the hangar they were rapidly approaching and came very close to smiling, when he looked back to Blake.

“I have a feeling your answer is about to change, Commander,” he said confidently.

Blake spread his hands in an innocent gesture, retaining his bluff. Then the sleigh veered left out of the hangar and right into a docking station full of Nortokian Class B fighter ships. Dread didn’t even begin to cover the sinking weight in the pit of Blake’s gut, because as far as the universe’s worst mobsters went, Nortoks made them all look like fucking amateurs.

©A.C. Melody

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more of this SciFi serial, or if you like a little more fantasy in your alternate worlds, check out Thief of Dragons under The Wicked Web on the menu bar. There’s already 25 episodes available and counting! 🙂

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Sensual Sentient ♥ Episode 5

Infared

Some Like It Hot

Satisfied that Barnes’s grunts would have their camp up and running in no time, Sida led her crew into the jungle surrounding the World Opening.

“Shouldn’t take long to find running water in this environment,” Blake noted.

That was always their first objective. It was the fastest way to find civilization, especially if they were dealing with a primitive planet, as the lack of pollutants would suggest. Of course, it was just as likely they were dealing with a highly advanced race that had stopped emitting pollution a long time ago.

Forty minutes into their trek, Blake smacked another mosquito-like insect off his neck. “It’s like walking through the damn Amazon around here. Even with weapons, you can’t help feeling extremely low on the food chain.”

“Humans haven’t been at the top of the food chain since we decided to be smartasses and leave our own solar system,” Sida remarked. “Insolent children that we are.”

“Wow, Captain, that only missed the enlightening mark by this–”

Blake cut himself off when Sida stopped abruptly and signaled for her team to do the same. Pointing to her eyes first, she then pointed through a gap in the broad leaves straight ahead and started unfastening the binoculars from her belt. Blake leaned in to get a line on her visual.

“Is that smoke?” he questioned, pulling the binoculars from her hands and using them, rather than digging out his own.

Sida squinted at the distant pillars of something white rising up into the sky. Some were narrow and nearly transparent, others were so dense they looked more like stretched, vertical clouds.

“Well?” she prompted.

“I’m thinking steam,” Blake replied. “No embers, ash, or discoloration that would indicate burning. Of course, that means we could be looking at volcanic activity after all.”

“Any signs of life?”

“No, just the steam.”

“Try thermal,” she suggested.

Blake adjusted the binoculars and immediately jerked them away from his face with a seething hiss. “Well, that was insightful, everything’s red!” he griped, rubbing at his eyes, before adjusting the binoculars more and trying again. “Yep, red, yellow and orange. Even the vegetation has body heat, as if everything’s abnormally hot.”

“Hot springs, of course!” Isiah swore, obviously disappointed he hadn’t thought of that sooner. “They must be feeding all the vegetation, which is why there’s a higher concentration of minerals and sulfur in the air.”

Sida removed her glove and placed her palm on the nearest tree. “It does feel warmer than it should,” she confirmed. “Close to the same temperature as the air, though, nothing extreme.”

“They seem elevated from our position, but could still be exposed pools, or geysers,” Isiah noted, as he took his own turn with the binoculars.

If it was the former, natives could still be situated nearby in order to utilize them, but if was the latter… “That puts us right back in danger of seismic activity,” she said, chewing on the debate running through her mind on how to proceed.

“Hey, you know what we could do in a hot spring?” Blake wagged his brows at her.

His libido was so predictable, it was amusing. “You go right ahead and keep that image in your mind, Commander, because that’s the closest you’re getting to hot tub sex right now,” she smirked.

“Well yeah, because we have to get there first,” he scoffed.

She merely shook her head at his optimism. Secretly, the idea of sinking into hot mineral pools sounded like paradise to her, sex would merely be a bonus. She didn’t have to tell him that, though.

“That’s our new destination, team. Let’s gain as much ground as we can.”

Countless hours passed, as they trudged through underbrush half the size of the trees, which was still three times the size of them, and didn’t appear any closer to the steam stacks than when they’d started. Yet, they could still see them, playing peekaboo through a somewhat steady range of gaps in the the canopy and foliage.

“I’m not sure I care for how much this feels like a trail,” Sida remarked.

Blake glanced at the spongy, moss covered ground. “It’s not worn by anything living,” he pointed out. “Something under the surface is blocking the root systems here.”

“You always make me feel so much better in potentially dangerous situations, Yarring,” she grumbled.

“Potentially dangerous situations is exactly why I asked to join your crew, Captain,” Blake deadpanned. “No matter what you tell those cadets at NASE, you live for this kind of shit, same as I do.”

Sida couldn’t argue with him completely. She thrived on the various thrills that came with danger and discovery, but she was also responsible for a lot of lives and there was nothing exciting about that. Another hour passed with no change, so when they came upon the first decent clearing, she called it.

“Alright crew, we make camp here for the rest of the night–or day, whichever,” she announced. “Three hour shifts. Yarring, Minnows and I will take first watch.”

No one argued, as gear packs were dropped and rifled through for camp materials. Everyone was hungry, thirsty and exhausted. The temperature never altered a single degree, heavy with humidity and no wind for relief. If anything, it felt warmer the closer they got to the steam stacks. As Sida started walking a perimeter around the site, circling further out with each pass, she worried about the pressure that could be building in trapped veins right below the surface of where her crew was getting ready to sleep.

“You ever hear of safety in numbers?” Blake scolded, coming up beside her a little while later.

“Mmm, only when it comes with coffee,” she grinned, accepting the steaming cup he offered. “Thanks.”

“Self-preservation,” he admitted, taking a sip of his own. “I know how charming you get without your regular caffeine fixes.”

Sida chuckled, too tired to argue.

“Unless, of course, you had a different kind of fix in mind?”

She opened her mouth to answer and then went on full alert at the somewhat distant sound of thrashing leaves. She knew Blake hadn’t heard it, but he instantly followed her cue, because they knew each other too well for skepticism. Their coffee was quietly abandoned, as they drew their weapons, tuning all their senses into the world around them. Sida signaled that she’d heard something and then pointed in the direction she was intending to go. Blake nodded and moved with her.

It was as natural as breathing, the way they fell into sync, creeping silently through leaves and vines. Their gazes swept opposing hemispheres, so all angles were covered. It didn’t take long to notice they were going up a gradual incline of thick, fern-like ground coverage. Sida heard the same noise again, and this time, so did Blake. It sounded like someone was running very swiftly through the jungle, without fear of being heard, yet it was still distant. It grew louder, the higher up the small hill they went.

They crouched into a crawl for the last several feet, until the land rounded into a natural ledge and that’s where the scenery hit them all at once. The hill topped a dramatic drop-off that led into a dark valley where the canopy of more jungle kept the real distance to the ground hidden from view. The mouth of a river was just visible beyond the far-off forest end, snaking out to feed a large body of water between it and a sprawling, modern metropolis glowing with lights nestled into the base of a giant mountain range. It wasn’t a neon city filled with cloud breaching skyscrapers, but it was far from primitive.

Sida studied the red glow of a large moon offset by two smaller moons that were farther away. They were illuminated in varying shades of pale pink to the same bright white that Earth’s natural satellite reflected. That confirmed their suspicions; a Red Dwarf was definitely present, but so was a Yellow Dwarf, which would account for the temperature and lush vegetation. Sida held up two fingers and Blake nodded in agreement. The planet had two stars. Daytime cycles were gonna suck.

Blake dropped and shoved Sida’s head down into the ferns, when a patrol cruiser broke through the treetops in the valley far below, its spotlights shining in all directions, to include theirs.

Sida parted the ferns between them and found their noses nearly touching. “It’s looking for whoever we heard running,” she whispered.

“Did you recognize it?”

“I didn’t get a good enough look. That blasted red moon isn’t penetrating even the weakest of shadows.”

They heard the thrashing of underbrush again and Blake pulled his binoculars out to try to lock onto the position of their runner.

“I think there’s more than one–”

The sound of multiple shots being fired split the air from behind them and to the right, turning Sida’s blood into ice and physically jarring Blake.

“That was camp!” She panicked.

©A.C. Melody

Thanks for reading! If you’re just joining in, you can find the first 4 episodes under the menu link “The Wicked Web” – There you will find 25 episodes of another serial titled Thief of Dragons, which combines SciFi with Fantasy. Stay tuned for new episodes coming soon!

Thief of Dragons ♥ Episode 22

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Time-Share

Roehn flipped through the stack of index cards in her hand, matching call numbers to drawers and filing them. It was one of the more tedious aspects of her job, but the quiet solitude gave her time to think. Usually. Today, it was impossible, because for all the silence, she wasn’t alone. She slid the drawer shut and sighed at the brooding presence standing in the corner.

“You’ve been awfully quiet today, Rynd.”

Their eyes met and held. He nodded, but didn’t say anything.

“You know, you’re not exactly giving me a confidence boost with the silent treatment,” she pushed.

The Hawk smirked, overhead lights refracting in his rust colored eyes, as he stepped toward her. “You got a guilty conscience, puss puss?”

“There, that’s better.” She smiled, her shoulders relaxing. “So what’s on your mind?”

“Just this whole meeting business,” he frowned. “I don’t understand how everything Arcylaen has done for this country can be forgotten so easily. It’s insulting that one little incident can erase years of heroic deeds.”

Roehn studied his rugged, handsome face that always appeared to have a five o’clock shadow. There was a small scar near his right cheek and another running down the side of his neck to disappear under the collar of his shirt. He looked born to be a solider, and had no doubt seen his share of war. Had one of her own family members rendered those wounds? Even if it had only been one of their allies, she felt distantly guilty and remorseful.

“You really admire him, don’t you?” she observed.

“He was the only one who ever truly believed we could save our country,” he nodded. “Who not only motivated the war to remove the Black Dogs, but stayed on the front lines the whole time. He kicks his feet about it, but he’s a natural leader. A true leader, you know? Not one who sees his position as power over others or entitled privilege, but as an opportunity to make things better. Their father was the same way.”

“Lord Malcaen Draea?”

Roehn knew Arcylaen’s parents were passed, but she’d never looked into how it had happened. She was afraid of the answer, now more than ever.

“Yeah,” he smiled. “He had the same outlook on pageantry, too, but Lady Nyris loved it. She…well, you kind of remind me of her. Very classy, but could cut a man down to size with one witty comeback.”

Roehn grinned. “A woman has to have her weapons.”

“Oh, you’ve got plenty, I’m sure,” Rynd chuckled. “And though I admired Lady Nyris greatly, the female Dragons will always hold certain ideas sacred. Those that reflect the same views as Lady Turvo. They’re very closed-minded about certain things.”

“Is that a warning?”

He shrugged. “Just a heads up. I’ve no doubt that Brejeir is right; you could charm the pants off any old Head of House, but if you can’t win their wives over, then it’s a useless strategy. They’re the ones who really run things behind the scenes. They know exactly what to say and what buttons to push to get their men to do what they want.”

“I’m suddenly ashamed of my own gender,” Roehn grimaced.

“Don’t be, they’re clever and resourceful,” he grinned. “That can be dangerous for your current position, though.”

“How do you mean?”

He studied her again, as if deciding whether or not to continue. Lucky for him, he chose wisely, otherwise Roehn would’ve become the biggest thorn in his side until he spilled the beans. Sometimes, it was delightfully effective being that obvious.

He released a sigh and lowered his voice a little more. “The truth is, Lady Turvo may be blunt with her words, but that doesn’t mean she won’t fall back on manipulation when the words fail to get her what she wants, and she is her father’s favorite,” he elaborated. “The Turvo’s are second in line to the Dragon’s Head position, but they had all girls this generation and much like the archaic rites, the laws stating the position can only be held by a male Dragon heir has never changed.”

“It’s both frightening and sad how grateful I am for that,” Roehn admitted with pure female reluctance.

“Yeah, I think it’s safe to say we all are,” Rynd agreed. “But, the tradition of uniting the two Houses by marriage, which has long been deemed the remedy for that gender bias, has now been threatened by your Echelonite’s choice. The presumed promise that the Turvo’s would get their time sharing the power allotted the Dragon’s Head with Eleqwyn and Arcylaen’s betrothal is no longer a sure thing. That gives House Turvo zero reason to vote in favor of Arcylaen remaining their leader. And if Lord Turvo takes Cylaen’s place, I guarantee you, it will be Eleqwyn, her mother and her sisters running the country behind the scenes.”

“That sounds like a very bleak future for Skaulling,” Roehn managed, horrified.

“It’s been worse, but yeah,” he said. “It won’t be what the Lords Draea and all their allies fought so long and hard for, that’s for damn sure.”

Roehn let that work around her mind for a moment, understanding that they could pretty much count on House Turvo voting against them, but that still left eleven other Houses.

“He has to be voted in by the Dragon Houses first, before the people get a say, doesn’t he?” Roehn had already deduced as much, but didn’t mind having a confirmation, which the Hawk gave her with a simple nod. “Why didn’t he just secure the position, officially, once the war was over?”

“Sorry, kit-cat, that’s something you’re going to have to ask him, yourself,” Rynd smirked. “All I have are my theories.”

“Which would be?”

“My theories,” he repeated. “You’ll have to come up with your own, or ask the man straight out.”

“How clever and resourceful of you,” she jabbed.

“Are you calling me a woman?” he balked with a surprised laugh.

Roehn just shrugged with a chuckle, as she turned out of the rows of filing cabinets and walked right into Arcylaen’s solid chest. His scent was right there to pervade all her senses, before she could even blink, adding a drugging haze to the fright.

“Damn it, we’ve talked about this,” she hissed, slapping a hand to her thundering heart.

“Sorry, am I interrupting?” he asked, his expression a little too dark and serious.

Crap, how much of the conversation had he overheard? A quick replay had her worry easing. They hadn’t been talking about anything more than what his entire household had just discussed at the breakfast table a few hours ago.

“Not unless you wanted to help sort index cards,” she answered. “What are you doing here?”

Arcylaen studied her for a moment, the muscles ticking in the back of his jaw. He looked angry, which made her uneasy. Had something else happened? Another meeting dumped in his lap or worse? “I came to take you to lunch.”

Roehn glanced at her watch and sighed. “I didn’t even realize it was that late already.”

“Time flies when you’re having fun,” he remarked.

“What are you getting at?” she narrowed in, not appreciating his tone one bit.

Rynd stepped into the area at that moment and Arcylaen’s dark gaze flicked to his. “Alone.”

“You got it boss,” the Hawk nodded and stalked away.

Roehn’s mouth fell open, as she realized exactly what the Dragon’s problem was. When he looked to her again, his expression turned leery at the sight of her disapproving scowl.

“What?”

“Don’t you what me,” she snipped, though dropped her voice to a near whisper. “You think just because we shared a bed last night that I’m not even allowed to talk to Rynd anymore? The one man on the face of this planet who respects and admires you more than anyone else?”

His eyes widened with surprise, before his expression turned sheepish with shame.

Roehn shook her head in disbelief. “You’re an ass.”

She stalked past him, heading toward the staff break room, where he couldn’t follow. Then she remembered that he ran the whole freaking country which pretty much came with an all rights pass. Not that it mattered, when she didn’t even make it to the door, before he grabbed her arm and turned her around to face him.

“Leandra, wait. I’m sorry.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and gave him an expectant look, waiting for a far better explanation than that.

“I don’t know why I reacted that way. Honest. I just heard you two laughing and it…” he bit off his own words and ground his teeth, seeming to struggle for the right way to explain himself.

“It what? Angered you? Made you jealous?” she pressed.

“It just struck me that he’s here, while I’m across the damn city,” he grit out. “Not only does he get to spend all this time with you that I miss out on, but if something were to happen, he’d be the first one there for you, instead of me.”

“And you’ve a whole building of people who get those same things with you, Arcylaen,” she pointed out, though she’d softened a little with his confession. “Look, I get it, okay? But, that doesn’t mean you get to take it out on Rynd. I was the one who started talking to him first.”

“Asking questions,” he stated, rather than asked.

Roehn narrowed her eyes. “You’re going to apologize to him,” she stated firmly, cutting off his attempt to turn the conversation around on her.

When he frowned, she turned into the break room to gather her things, but he was still sulking by the time she returned.

“Does it really bother you that much?” she asked.

“You already made me apologize to Brejeir this morning,” he complained.

Roehn laughed and shook her head. “The big bad Dragon’s Head, afraid of words. Maybe if you stopped being such an ass, you wouldn’t have to worry about it. Now, where are you taking me for lunch?”

He smiled for the first time since arriving, his golden eyes glinting in the semi-darkness. “What is soon to be the best restaurant in the entire Heart City,” he replied.

Try as she may, Roehn couldn’t keep from smiling over that. “So, you roped your brother into playing Chef again?”

“First, my brother is a Chef, he wasn’t just playing at it,” he informed her, to which she smiled even brighter as that was a pleasant surprise. “Second, no. We’ll be dining alone.”

Roehn nibbled on the inside of her cheek for a moment. “You know, we probably should be eating out in public like Brej suggested,” she reminded him, even though the idea filled her stomach with anxiety.

The look he gave her was still edged with his previous foulness. “I understand that, but I want one more day of having you all to myself before I’m forced to share,” he grumbled. Before she could respond, he perked up and gave her a completely different look; one filled with hesitant hope and mischief. “Besides, there’s something I want to show you.”

“What?” she hesitated, loathing the idea of any more surprises.

So far, her number of bad surprises far outweighed the good. Even if the surprise of falling for a Dragon was slowly creeping toward better.

“It’s a surprise,” he winked.

Roehn groaned, which only seemed to brighten his mood. “Gentlemanly and gives surprises,” she griped. “You sure know how to treat a woman, your highness.”

Arcylaen laughed, the big, sexy sound echoing off the cavernous ceiling and marble walls of the museum’s lobby, causing heads to turn.

“Oh, kitten,” he sighed. “Only you would find fault in that.”

©A.C. Melody

 Thank you for reading! Please check out The Wicked Web link above for previous episodes, if you’re just tuning in. You can also follow my blog via e-mail to ensure you never miss any free content. Until next time…

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

Image source: pinterest.com

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…