“Absolutely not!” exclaimed Mil Folea, the Javnis representative for the Radiance Union Council.
Ary Gonvilea, the Aryile representative spoke. “We agree.”
“We agree as well,” said Za Tuylinea. Now the Rabuabin representative had cast their vote.
Vorcambreum representative Gab Wintaei stood and gazed with her gray eyes at the brightly lit delegation chamber. Here, all major decisions within the Radiance Union were made among its five council members, who each represented one of the races that came together to form this mighty galactic nation.
Wintaei was surprised the Aryile would vote in this manner—after all, the human and Aryile races looked almost identical. Nevertheless, if the Javnis and Rabuabin voted “no” along with the Aryile, the original founders of the union, then Vorcambreum must also vote “no”…despite the fact that many in its community believed some humans deserved a shot.
“Vorcambreum lean toward ‘no.’” Wintaei sat back down in her chair, which was taller than everyone else’s since the Vorcambreum were quite short. The average height for their race was about four feet.
The Rabuabin rep’s tail relaxed, this terrifying proposal having been effectively shut down. “I’m sorry,” he said, turning to Linl representative Ure Perfinea. “Humans cannot be trusted.”
The Linl bore a striking resemblance to humans, even more so than the Aryile. This left many in their civilization wondering if perhaps humans and Linl had a similar ancestry, which is why Linl had proposed to have the human race uplifted from their world and brought onto the galactic stage. Had the proposal passed, humans would have been provided with technology and scientific knowledge far more advanced than what they currently had.
“Understood,” said Perfinea.
“Humans continue to fight one another and poison the only planet they live on, which is probably why they haven’t completely wiped themselves out with their atomic weapons. Give them other planets to live on, and they will not hesitate to use those in some petty conflict,” said Gonvilea. “They also act like the Hashmedai when we first uplifted them. Now the Hashmedai are our greatest enemy, and we don’t need another adversary.”
Folea briefly rested his four eyes before speaking. “This brings up my next question. Do the Hashmedai know of the human home world?”
“Not to my knowledge, but it will only be a matter of time before their explorers come across it like ours did,” said Perfinea. “The closest Hashmedai system is a mere ten light-years away.”
Gonvilea added, “I’m confident the Hashmedai will avoid contact with humans. They want their empire to grow, not crumble with human influence.”
“Can scientific study continue?” asked Perfinea. “Humans live on an interesting planet. I see no harm in studying it.”
All five council members nodded their heads in agreement.
A work glove spiraled out of control thanks to the effects of zero gravity. This was one of the first sights Vice Admiral Himton saw as he entered the engine room—that and Captain Jerut’s floating body releasing the biggest sigh yet, white mist leaving his Hashmedai mouth. Himton considered what to bring to Jerut’s attention first—the stray glove or that only two of five engineers were at their computer workstations.
Himton waited for Jerut to acknowledge his presence as the captain gave his weightless body a good push off the wall to glide across room. Jerut extended his hand, and the stray glove’s free-floating trip came to an end. The captain’s orange eyes scanned the surrounding area, probably trying to locate the missing three workers. He failed to spot them…or the waiting admiral behind him.
“I thought you said you had all of this under control, Captain,” said Himton.
Jerut spun his weightless body around to face the admiral. He did his very best to suppress all body language, but Himton wasn’t fooled.
“Vice Admiral Himton, my apologies. I was awoken from cryo last and didn’t get the chance to—”
“Captain, you need not worry about it. We are far from enemy territory,” Himton said.
Jerut turned to a nearby window and gazed out at the bright-blue planet in the distance. The orb was almost as blue as his hair color. Himton floated over beside him to peer into the void as well.
“If they become our next threat, this will be enemy territory soon,” Himton muttered.
“Humans are still too primitive,” replied Jerut. “It won’t be difficult to wipe them out with our fire power.”
“They have an impressive amount of nuclear weapons. Uplifting a species that already has that kind of power is risky,” Himton said. “This is one of many reasons I don’t want to go ahead with these plans.” Himton took notice of his reflection in the window—long gray hair, pale skin, and yellow eyes, the third and final eye color change for a Hashmedai. He was long overdue for retirement.
The two floated away from the window and down the dark corridor, traversing past idle computer terminals, pipes, and system cabling. Bioluminescent material in their eyes reacted to the darkness, triggering them to give off a slight glow.
One computer monitor attracted Jerut’s eyes to the corner of the screen. The current time flashed in Hashmedai language. Jerut’s head tilted back toward the engine room they had just exited. His trajectory across the corridor halted as he grabbed the side of a monitor. “I don’t recall authorizing four people to take a break at once,” Jerut shouted. “Back to work! I need that system check done before we deploy.”
Himton stopped to look back to the engine room, taking in the sight of a single engineer, who was working and clearly oblivious that his partner was missing. What happened to the other? He was just there, Himton wondered.
The remaining engineer turned around with a puzzled look on his face. Thick fluid splashed the side of his arm, and he glimpsed down to see large red orbs floating in zero gravity…and a lot more floating toward him from behind.
A woman dressed in black, holding a glowing object in both hands, seemingly emerged out of nothingness. This wasn’t the missing engineer; that was for damn sure…and the red orbs? Blood.
The engineer’s hand gripped the pistol holstered at his side. A shift strike from the woman’s weapon resulted in his severed hand, which now moved away from him along with the pistol. The entire ordeal transpired in a matter of seconds. The engineer’s screams of terror echoed throughout the ship. “Assassins! Assassins!” The engineer had cried his last words, unable to speak when his throat was slit instantly.
To complicate matters further, the woman hadn’t silenced him. Instead it was a man who had materialized into existence, wearing the same outfit as the woman. He removed his weapon from the deceased engineer’s neck. It was a glowing-green plasma dagger much like hers.
Droplets of sweat floated away from Himton’s wrinkled skin as he turned and fled up the corridor. Jerut followed suit, taking note of the assassin duo in pursuit of them. “They’ve come for me!” Himton shouted to Jerut. “This is the fourth attempt on my life since we left home.”
The two entered a nearby chamber. Jerut swung his body over to interact with a nearby computer terminal. Sliding doors to the chamber shut and locked. “Why would the Assassins’ Guild target you?” Jerut asked.
Himton hesitated a few seconds before replying. “Someone back home must know what we’re really doing out here.”
A second computer terminal screen glowed red as Jerut triggered a ship-wide alert. The deafening sound of alarms ringing echoed throughout. Jerut turned his head toward the ladder at the end of the chamber. “In any case we need to back up your memories,” Jerut said. “That way, should they succeed, your knowledge won’t be lost.”
“Agreed.” Himton floated toward the ladder.
Jerut and Himton made their way to the ship’s cockpit, a small compartment with a large window that showcased the emptiness of space and a blue planet in the distance. A chair and workstation for the pilot were in front of them. They looked around for the pilot, but only the two of them were present. Behind them were the entrance to the cockpit and a few computer screens. One such screen displayed live flight-cam footage from outside the door Jerut had just locked. The two black-clad individuals entered the screen. Himton viewed the footage with concern.
The female assassin effortlessly thrust her blade into the door. The part of the door where the blade went in was glowing red, melting. With the aid of no gravity, the woman moved in a circular direction around the door while cutting with the blade. She came full circle, a perfect glowing one at that, as she cut the door open.
She pushed away from the door while her male companion’s foot slammed against the center of the circle she’d made, and a large hulk of metal flipped backward in zero gravity. Behind where what used to be the door, two armed soldiers stood side by side with plasma rifles pointed forward. Five seconds later they suffered the same quick fate the engineer had. With no emotion on their faces, their weightless blood gushed in all directions. The assassin duo continued forth to pursue their ultimate target.
Himton’s body slowly distanced itself from the camera feed as Jerut pushed a button next to him that shut and locked the door to the cockpit.
“They must have gotten to the pilot as well,” said Jerut, who noticed a pistol slowly spiraling across the dashboard, a severed hand still holding on to it. Jerut floated toward the main control console. “We’ll have to back up your memories into the ship’s log, sir.”
Himton hesitantly nodded in agreement. “This knowledge was supposed to stay with me, but our efforts will be for nothing with it gone.”
Himton glided over to the chair up front. On the dashboard was a small triangular object. He picked it up and stared at it for several seconds. Still worried if this was the right choice, he slowly placed the device on his forehead, and it adhered to it. Jerut’s fingers danced with the computer’s console, as an image of Himton’s brain appeared on the screen followed by a series of characters from the Hashmedaian language.
Screams came from the other side of the door. Seconds later came the sound of metal sizzling in intense heat. The two comrades turned around to see that the assassins were cutting through the door. Jerut reached over to remove the floating pistol from the sliced-off hand, arming himself with it. Taking aim at the door, he knew there was nothing else he could do now but wait.
A chime from the computer indicated the upload was finished. Perfect timing, Himton thought as the assassins finished cutting through the door. He removed the device from his head, got up from the chair, and floated toward the door ahead of Jerut. He knew his end was near, so he figured he might as well face his killers head on.
As the door was kicked in, Himton shifted his body slightly to the side to avoid getting hit by it. The two assassins tore through the entrance.
Defiantly, Himton shouted, “You’re too late!”
Jerut promptly moved behind Himton, placing the pistol at the back of his head. “Correction, they are right on time,” Jerut muttered to himself.
A blast of green energy passed through Himton’s head, leaving a large hole through both sides as burned brain matter and blood flew from his forehead. The hole in Himton’s head was large enough for Jerut to see the two assassins still floating and not moving.
Jerut smiled at the two. “Excellent work, Lettielia and Nodevar.”
Lettielia’s hair was blue, much like Jerut’s, and cut short. Her slim figure and cream complexion projected an allure that often tempted her partner, Nodevar, to shift his eyes toward the general area of her chest and hips—like now, as their mission was more or less complete. Lettielia was indeed a true head turner and, more often than not, a head remover.
Nodevar was tall, fit, and slim with light-blue skin, his black hair tied back and waving aimlessly in the zero-gravity environment.
Lettielia asked, “Are we done?”
“Yes, his memories have been recorded,” answered Jerut.
“All of them? He is an old man—that’s a lot of memories to scavenge through,” Nodevar said. “It could take years to find what is needed.”
“There was no time to properly adjust it,” Jerut explained. He turned to focus his attention and the controls of the ship. “It was all of his memories or nothing. Nothing gets us nowhere.”
Himton’s corpse slowly floated toward the two assassins. Lettielia smirked and blew a kiss at him—a human expression. Someone had done her research. “What shall we do with the remaining crew?” she asked.
“Kill them. No one must know what happened here,” said Jerut. “Leave the psionic, however. We will need him, of course.”
“Can he be trusted?” Lettielia asked.
Jerut nodded. “I’ll take care of things up here after you travel to the planet below.”
“And what of the recon team sent there?” asked Nodevar.
Jerut thought for a moment and then turned to face the two with a smile on his face. “My associates down below are dealing with them. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
The fare meter continued to rise, despite the fact that the taxi hadn’t moved very far—stuck in New York City during Friday evening rush hour. The shining summertime sun beaming down additional heat to the surface didn’t help the lone passenger of the cab, Chloe Vaughan, who let out a sigh of frustration. She looked at the meter, which read $24.50—wait, $24.90 now.
The whistling ringtone of her cell phone went off, indicating a new text message. She eagerly grabbed it. Only one of two people would be contacting here now—her sister or the cute guy who bought her drinks at the bar last night. Only one way to find out.
There was one new message from Sarah. Why do men exchange numbers but never call or text? Chloe ranted to herself while reading her sister’s text message.
Sarah, 5:56p.m.:Couldn’t get a hold of u last nite, what did you end up doing?
Chloe rolled her eyes, returning her phone to her bag—the fewer reminders about the cute guy at this point, the better.
The taxicab finally reached its destination: a newly built condo. Its passenger exited after paying the costly fare. The bright sun prompted Chloe to put on her sunglasses to shade her green eyes. She wore a gray tank top and matching capri pants with flip-flops. The glass-door entrance shot back a reflection of her long brown hair tied into a bun and a reminder that she’d forgotten to put on makeup. That’s what happens when you wake up late, Chloe. Many thanks to the events of last night for that.
She entered the condo, proceeding through its posh hallway and up the elevator. Arriving at last at the suite she’d been trying to get to all day, she knocked her fist on the door. A few seconds later, it opened to reveal a woman no older than sixty. She smiled lovingly and let Chloe in.
“The traffic here is brutal, Mom.”
“Chloe, we haven’t spoken in ages, and that’s the first thing you say?”
Chloe looked at her mother, taking note of her wrinkled skin and her hair, which was now gray and cut shoulder-length. Her reading glasses were still on, definitely a new pair. “I’m sorry, Mom, just a little stressed out.” She then smiled. “I like the new glasses by the way.”
A male voice called out from the kitchen. “Is that one of my lovely daughters?”
“No, Rick, you’re hearing things!” said Chloe’s mother.
The man came out from the kitchen to see that indeed his firstborn stood in the doorway. “Julia, why are you keeping secrets like this from me?” he asked his wife. He walked over to embrace Chloe. “How’s the Marines treating you, dear?” her father asked.
“Challenging me all the time, Dad.”
“I heard they plan on letting women fight on the frontline soon,” he said.
“Hell, yeah, beats taking backseat like I did in Iraq,” said Chloe.
“Don’t remind me of that nonsense,” muttered Julia as she walked to the living room.
“Nice to see she hasn’t changed,” Chloe said dejectedly.
Rick went back into the kitchen. Small conflicts like this weren’t exactly his thing; making dinner was. Mom’s still wearing the pants. Chloe made her way to the living room to talk with her mother but not before examining how well her parents had been living.
The condo wasn’t too huge. The main hallway led to the living room, which connected to the kitchen—only a countertop split the two rooms. Farther past that was a balcony overlooking the city and all its high-rise buildings, and on the other of the entrance to the balcony was a bedroom the couple shared.
A couch, its back facing the kitchen, sat in front of a small glass coffee table. Ahead of that was a flat-screen television, no doubt Rick’s acquisition. Chloe remembered her parents arguing for the longest time over whether or not to ditch the old RCA they’d had for years. Rick always wanted newer upgrades when it came to entertainment systems. “Got to watch the Yankees in style,” he often said. Chloe agreed with her mother that, if the old TV still worked, a new one wasn’t needed. Looks like he finally got his way, since there she is watching CNN with it.
Chloe sat next to her mother on the brown couch. She wanted to say something to lighten the mood but couldn’t really think of anything meaningful. A news report on CNN aired with the headline “Sons of Islam (SOI) terror group still a threat.”
Julia turned to Chloe and said, “What do you think of these guys now? You guys going to bomb them soon or what?”
“It’s a small group. They don’t pose a major threat, Mom.”
“But look.” Julia stretched a withered finger toward the screen.
According to the report, three gunmen had managed to destroy a market in a small Afghan town, leaving dozens dead in the aftermath. The terrorists got away with no casualties on their end, despite a massive shootout with local authorities.
“Three guys torched that whole place up, got into a gunfight, then disappeared,” said Julia. “And those last five attacks earlier this year? Same thing—killed lots of people and vanished.” Julia shook her head in disappointment as her mother continued. “This is why I don’t like the idea of you and your sister being allowed to fight on the frontline. If that SOI group gets bigger and we have to put boots on the ground—”
“It won’t come to that,” Chloe insisted. “Like I said, it’s just a small group. Someone will—”
Chloe was interrupted by knocking on the front door. Rick left the kitchen to open it. He let out a small cheer. Chloe’s sister Sarah had arrived. She wore a black summer dress that went well with her long hair, which was dyed jet-black. Rick gave Sarah a hug before returning to his culinary tasks. “The whole family is here,” he said excitedly, “and dinner is almost ready, too.”
Sarah walked over to Chloe and Julia, with a warm mesmerizing smile on her face. “Did you get my message, Chloe?”
“Oh…yeah, I did.”
“And?” asked Sarah.
“Later…” Chloe sighed.
Julia turned to Sarah and said, “So the Marine Corps lets you walk around looking like that?”
“It’s hot outside, Mom!” exclaimed Sarah.
“You’re a soldier. Shouldn’t you be able to handle this heat?” Julia laughed. “At least Chloe kept her face free of all that face paint you ladies call ‘makeup’ these days.”
“Chloe just wants the young guys to know fully well she’s been a cougar for at least five years,” Sarah said, bursting into laughter.
Good to see you, too, Sis.
Her moans of pleasure were music to Jake Johnson’s ears—or “Jazz,” as he preferred people to call him. His dark hands traversed her quivering naked body as her tongue interacted with his. Their lips separated briefly as she asked, “Wanna do doggie?”
He smiled and nodded. It was her favorite position, the one that always got her off—always. Besides, what man could resist seeing that sexy booty while railing her from behind?
His hips thrust back and forth for a few minutes as he wondered when her epic climax would happen, as his wasn’t too far off.
“Oh fuck…oh fuck… oh fuck!” she murmured. “I’m coming!”
There it is and just in time, too. “I’m comin’ right behind ya!” He then released a loud roar while his body shook in bliss.
The two fell to the bed, creating a duet of heavy breathing and post-sex laughter before she rose to take a quick shower. Nice thing about wearing a rubber—less of a mess to clean up. Time was of the essence.
While Jazz waited for her to finish showering, he retrieved his phone from the floor. No new text messages—typical for this cell phone—not that it mattered since he only picked it up to see the time. It was 3:00 p.m., still plenty of time before his flight was to leave. Of course if she took her time in the shower, that very well might put him in a position of cutting it close, unless he skipped a shower altogether. However, it was summertime, in a Las Vegas apartment that didn’t have working air conditioning, and he had just finishing having wild sex. Yeah, a shower is a must at this point.
The sound of the shower stopped. Finally, he thought. She emerged shortly afterward, naked, not bothering to wrap herself up with a towel. He didn’t blame her. It was hot enough to simply air dry. And this might be the last time he would see her slim, pale body for awhile. He got up and walked toward the washroom. She smiled at him, eyeing his bare, athletically built body, dark skin, and shaved head.
“It’s all yours, handsome,” she said. As he walked by, she reached out, slapped his behind, and giggled.
His shower was much quicker than hers—had to be at this point. Flight tickets from Vegas to Toronto weren’t cheap, especially when living off of savings. Finding a job, more specifically an enjoyable job, wasn’t easy. As a college dropout and Afghanistan war vet, he was not exactly in high demand for employment. He reentered the bedroom and gathered his clothes from the side of the bed.
She sat on the edge of the mattress, now wearing a robe and brushing her long ginger hair. “How long will you be gone for?” she asked.
“Depends how well this gig works out,” he said, putting his clothes back on. “It’s a bar, so there’s lots of money to be made if it’s a hit.”
He was now fully dressed, wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans. He pulled his wallet from his back pocket to produce two twenty-dollar bills.
“You already paid me,” she said with a smile.
“I always tip. You know that.”
“You’re also traveling to live in another nation.” She gently took his hand, which held the bills, and gracefully pushed it back toward him. “Keep it. You spent enough on me the last few months. You might need it along the way.”
“Very well.” He grabbed his backpack from the corner of the room. “Though to be fair, I was born in Canada, so I’m just returnin’ to it.”
He advanced toward the front door, and she followed behind to give him a hug.
“Come see me again if you ever find yourself back here.” She undid her robe to expose her naked body underneath it. “I know you’re gonna miss these!”
“Take care,” he said with a grin.
“Take care, and stay out of trouble, Jazz…if that’s even your real name!”
“Depends. Is Destiny your real name?”
She simply smiled at him, and he left to catch a flight.
The refreshing breeze from the air-conditioning aboard the plane was a huge relief to Jazz and the other passengers. He sat at a window seat around the midsection of the aircraft, watching all the other people board. He was alone for a long trip, so there was nothing else better to do. Suddenly one passenger, someone very familiar, caught his attention.
It was a young woman, no older than nineteen, with skin even more pale than Destiny’s, almost like she was sick. She wore shades and a white summer hat, and under that hat was smooth and curly platinum-blond hair. She also wore long black-satin gloves and a blue loose-fitting blouse and skirt. He tried to look away to avoid any awkwardness, but it was too late. Eye contact was made, and she took a seat next to him after stowing her belongings in the overhead compartment. It was the one time he wished the seat next to him wasn’t vacant.
“Seeing you here is unexpected, Jazz.” She fidgeted with her oversized pendant.
He turned and tilted his head down toward her, as she was at best five foot two in height. “Yes, some business I need to take care of came up,” he said.
“You, too, travel to the region north of here?” she asked.
Seriously, he thought to himself, who talks like that? There was no doubt in his mind she wasn’t from around here, but then again her accent alone was a bit of a hint. He wasn’t quite sure where she was from—probably someplace in Europe, likely close to Russia, especially with that name.
“Kroshka, that ‘region’ is called Canada,” said Jazz.
She gently stroked his arm and looked at his six-foot stature. “You seem calm. Did you visit Destiny recently?”
How the hell did she know? he thought.
Kroshka continued. “Destiny always makes you calm, relaxed…occasionally smell like her perfume.”
Jazz was at a loss for words, afraid that anything else he said might turn into an awkward conversation, as this was what typically happened whenever they talked. Despite this, she was the closest thing to a friend he had at this point in life, even though they’d been talking for a few months.
He typically ran into her at various restaurants and bars. She and Destiny were also friends, though only for a few a months as well. Most likely she arrived in the country around that time and went out of her way to get to know people. Why is she here, and what is she doing? It was something Jazz was never able to figure out. Must have had rich parents—that’s for damn sure—as well as a heavily sheltered life.
Out of cigarettes, fuck me. Rina “Destiny” West had forgotten to pick up a pack before Jazz came over. She was now dressed in shorts and a tank top. The plan was to take it easy and play computer games, but no way in hell was she going to do that without any smokes.
She stormed out of her apartment, fueled by a burning desire for her nicotine fix. There was just one problem—the door wouldn’t close, almost as if an invisible hand held it open. Her eyes gazed back inside, but she saw no one there.
Let’s try this again. She slammed the door shut without issue. Perhaps the joints on the door were feeling the effects of wear and tear.
Unknown to Rina, the door was working perfectly fine. The personal cloaking device of Lettielia deactivated, revealing the mysterious assassin from another world. With the human now out of the apartment and on her errand, Lettielia walked around with her face looking into the many strange objects throughout the unit.
Her eyes glowed red as she entered a nearby closet to see so much useless apparel. How can one human female require so many dresses to wear? The communication implant in Lettielia’s ear beeped twice, indicating an incoming transmission.
“The human female will not be gone for long, I suspect. You need to hurry.” It was Nodevar, Lettielia’s partner in crime.
“My cloaking field has enough power to keep me in stealth for at least two days,” said Lettielia. “I will be fine.” Her hands rummaged through the closet. Is this human some sort of ruler? Empress Y’lin has just as much apparel.
She continued to search the apartment for clues of a person of interest but to no avail. Her forehead was dripping wet—the heat on this world was unbearable.
The nearby washroom was the last place she had to check. As she entered, her eyes once again glowed. No light in here. “Humans don’t see well in the dark, correct?” Lettielia asked Nodevar.
Nodevar replied via her communication implant. “Yes, they have devices that add light to dark areas.”
Lettielia curiously looked around for a terminal that might activate the lights but found nothing—no computer terminal, no interactive hologram, no sensors to detect the presence of someone entering. These humans are truly primitive!
She noticed a stall in the wall, clearly some kind of device, with a metal pipe up top. Small droplets of water dripped out of it. Must be where humans bathe. She retracted the claws on her fingers as her hands reached to the knob and turned it. Strange sounds roared out as water gushed from the top like a fountain.
The sudden burst of water spraying caused her reflexes to propel her backward, and her claws sprang back into action from her fingertips. She slowly stepped forward and allowed her hand to reach in. The water was cold. Her eyes closed in a moment of bliss, triggering her claws to retract once more and a smile of joy to manifest across her face.
She fiddled with the knobs a few times and noticed the water went from cold to hot to warm and then cold again, so it was definitely a temperature control. She made the water as cold as possible this time around, hovering her hand over the side of her outfit to deactivate the electronics powering her suit. Her suit began to loosen around her body, allowing her to remove the small energy pack on the back of it, her equipment belt, and then the black suit along with her boots.
The cold water drenched her slim cream body as she entered the stall. Her red glowing eyes shut while she took in the overwhelming feeling of her body cooling down. Opening her eyes, she extended her arm forward and activated the cybernetics located within it. A small holographic interface appeared in front of her. She activated the device’s record function and blew a kiss toward it.
Shortly afterward, Nodevar contacted her with a frustrated tone in his voice. “What are you doing?”
Lettielia laughed and replied,” Getting cool.” She turned around so water splashed on her back. “And wet without you.”She shut her glowing red eyes once again as her dripping hand slid down her breasts.