Thursday, February 2, 2012


Although Asa's brain and spine were permanently encased in a titanium neuropod he marveled that he could still feel such dramatic stress. Asa's staggering intellect struggled to finish the Europan Ice landing checklist. The pressure mounted as Jupiter's icy moon, once a distant speck now filled his neuro-display. As they plummeted towards the barren ice Asa's only crewmate, a female copilot named Megan steadily announced critical telemetry data. Megan's Neuropod was identical to Asa's and the two were mounted in tandem. The diminutive craft descended in a graceful parabolic arc toward the mirrored glacial surface. Megan steadily announced the crucial telemetry data. Landing pads kissed the ice and the tiny ship came to rest upon an alien and frigid plain. Asa opened the COM link, "Tranquility control we are skids down, what an amazing sight."
Asa said, "Excellent work Megan I couldn't have done it without you." Megan's optics drank in the majestic stars twinkling in a sea of solid water. "Thanks Asa," she replied, wishing she could see the smile she heard in his voice. Asa fired a hollow piton into the ice and then inserted a small gently supported Russian flag. Megan fired her own and flew the stars and stripes. The world would never see a more iconic image of the partnership of the two nations. "Isn't this amazing?" Asa wondered. "There is no place in the universe I would rather be," she said and then mused internally, here with you. "Well let's see what's down there," said Asa. Megan took one last optilook at the Europan sky which was split in two by stars and the setting Jupiter. Both neuropods tipped within the cradles of the ice-lander and then began the slow inexorable tunnel down, deep into the heart of an enigma. Reactors churned steady warmth melting the surrounding solidified water. On and on they plummeted into the frigid glassy desolation. As the miles crept and the mission clock ticked Asa began to feel a nagging doubt. What if this was all they would find in Europa? Perhaps the ice moon was just a mighty comet caught in the gravitational clutches of the gas giant Jupiter? Once, Europa may have sailed fast trailing a splendid tale but not fast enough to escape the all seeing Jovian eye.

 Megan could sense Asa's unease because he hadn't transmitted a single word for most of the day. "We will find the end of the ice one way or another Asa," she reassured. "Perhaps we'll pop out the other side of the moon in a year or two," he joked. Megan admitted, "That would be bad because then we would have to tunnel all the way back to the lander for our ride home." Asa didn't want her to become infected with his own melancholy. He said, "I kind of like it here, maybe we should stay and start the first world peopled entirely by neuropods." Megan giggled, "Neuropodlings!" Asa felt her mirth lift his own spirits and he suddenly knew why Spacecom had decided to send two instead of one on this perilous mission. He was glad she was here, more than glad, he found himself feeling joyful for perhaps the first time in his strange life. Megan said, "You know back in the early NASA days they only chose astronauts that were perfect physical specimens, ideal men. They never would have let a couple of invalids like us even enter the door, much less fly in space." Megan chuckled, "and now here we are, ideal candidates, flying all this way to melt a hole in the biggest ice cube in the solar system." Asa admitted, "It's pretty good for people with handicap parking." They tunneled on and Asa again grew quiet again but Megan would have none of that. After another hour she said, "Are we there yet Dr. Buronovich, because I am sick and tired of staring at your pods hind-end?" Asa was about to transmit the perfect rebuttal when something new appeared in his optics.
A deep blue hole formed, at first it was the size of a thumb and then gradually grew larger until both pods emerged into the oceanic domain of Europa's mantle. Megan transmitted, "Tranquility station we have entered liquid water just over three miles below the surface." The underside of the ice pack, now illuminated by their lights, was graceful sculpture. Asa drew a few drops of water and then pressed it flat between plastic sheets and gazed through his optical microscope. On earth, even in a frigid environment such as this a drop of water would be teaming with microscopic life. When they were training at Lake Vostock he remembered his amazement at the diversity of life under the Antarctic ice. After they had searched the samples for 40 minutes both Asa and Megan found nothing. "Not even a single solitary amoeba," Megan complained. Asa said, "Well, let's stick with the program and extend filter traps into our slipstream; we'll analyze them every four hours."
Every exploration mission whether it is robotic or manned begins with questions. They had already answered the first question by discovering that Europa had a vast ocean of water beneath the ice. The question of life existing on other worlds had survived the first landing on the moon and the subsequent establishment of a lunar base. The life question had also survived mans first steps on Mars. Unfortunately, for all of its promise and mineral wealth nobody had found conclusive evidence of life on the red planet. Asa was not going to let the life question deter the Europa mission. He said, "Still plenty of mysteries to solve". Asa headed down away from the ice ceiling.
Megan's pod swam gracefully about his with turbines whirling leaving a contrail of tiny bubbles. After days of nothing but the narrow confines of the ice tunnel, the feeling of water expanding in every direction and the fun of submerged flight was magical. The two went deeper playing as dolphins might on earth. In submarine mode Asa was in his element, the sea had always been his domain. The nuclear powered titanium pod surrounding his brain-spine would fly circles around the modified Akula hunter killer submarine he had used to drive. His entire pod, with every piece of equipment attached, weighed less than a single torpedo in the Akula. Megan kept trying to dogfight' with his pod but the rules underwater are different and the Immelman turns and split S's weren't as effective as they are in the air. Every time she brought his tale into her site picture he would pivot in a jarring Crazy Ivan and Megan would find herself directly in his neuro-display. Space command had intentionally paired up the finest minds, Megan for aerospace and Asa for submarine tactics, construction, and technology. Both of the Neuropods had left behind deformed, wheel chair ridden bodies. The two of them together were ideally suited for the mission. They were top minds with none of the zero-gravity health problems an ordinary human body would experience.

Asa asked, "Any thing in your filters yet Meg?" She withdrew a small scraping of sediment from the filter and pressed it under plastic and fired up the microscope optics. Megan said, "Looks like some mineral debris. Let me take a closer look with the mini-electron microscope." At this magnification, a grain of sand looked like the Himalayas. Megan said, "This water is cleaner than what we drink back at Houston, absolutely no life." Asa said, "The water temperature at this depth is almost two degrees warmer. Something below is heating up this moon."
They descended on and on for hours deep into the murk. On Earth they would have passed crush depth a long time ago but Europa's mild gravitational field meant that pressures were gentler here. Megan said excitedly, "Sonic, I am getting some kind of noise in the sensors, are you hearing it?" Asa stopped his turbines and fine tuned his sensors. His sensors heard faint noises, click, click, click, click, click, chirp, chirp, chirp, click, click. Asa said, "Spread out, I will launch a sensor buoy, let's try to triangulate the source." He pinged, then she pinged, then the buoy pinged. Asa said, "I see it on sonar, it's big, and it's moving." Megan watched her own sonar sensors with wonder and said, "It is not just moving in a strait line, its changing course." Asa's spine tingled with the sudden and unexpected onrush of fear, "It's coming for us." Megan offered, "Maybe it's friendly." Asa said, "Can't risk it follow me." He set the sensor buoy for a steady ping and instructed it to travel in a zigzag course towards the surface ice layer. The buoy buzzed away at full speed leaving a wake of tiny bubbles. Asa told Megan, "Shut down everything you can spare and don't move." Both pods simply drifted and watched.
A great leviathan rose up amongst the neuropods and the buoy and then stopped. It seemed somehow alive but with no tale or fins or visible swimming apparatus of any kind. The beast was shaped like a great tapered diamond and glistened like mercury. They buoy was still running pell-mell for the surface while pinging madly. A cable fired from the leviathan like cobra striking prey. The whip-CRACK sound so intense that were it not for buffers both neuropods could have been damaged by the noise alone. Fortunately for Asa and Megan the cables target was the sensor buoy. Bits and pieces fluttered down between the pods and the behemoth like coins vanishing into a wishing well. Asa said, "If it decides to attack us there is nothing we can do." Megan turned on her navigation lights and for the first time the leviathan was illuminated. The prismatic surface of the creature was brilliant. The great beast suddenly flooded the tiny pods with light of its own. Megan blinked her lights once and the leviathan blinked its lights once. She said, "Well, curiosity is better than aggression". Suddenly both of their COM links received a signal that was low, ominous, and oddly enough in perfect English. The leviathan said, "Curiosity is greater than aggression, true". Asa noticed, "It said greater than, not better than, like it's speaking with math." Megan asked, "Are you alive?" The low voice said, "I am a machine." Asa said, "Who programs you?" The Leviathan answered, "A machine". Megan asked, "Where are you from?" Again it replied, "A machine". Asa said sardonically, "I would hate to play poker with this guy." Megan asked the leviathan "Is the machine that programmed you nearby, can you take us to it?" The monster simply turned about and began moving away. Asa and Megan had little choice but to follow.
The trip to the core of Europa would take over an hour. The leviathan sped to them in minutes but was running slowly now so that the pods could keep up. In the black it was impossible to comprehend the size or shape of the core. Ahead Megan saw a tiny light. It took twenty minutes to get close to the source of light. As they approached it became a circle of brilliant lights surrounding an inner groove carved into the core. An odd type of hatch coiled open like an iris. The orifice inside was colossal; it could hangar the Hindenburg twice over. Gradually the water receded and the trio found themselves resting on a metal deck. Asa tried to take a sample of the deck but the metal was harder than any tool he possessed. A voice entered their COM links, different from the bass rumble of the leviathan, it sounded warm, almost human. It said, "Give me a moment to adapt you to the atmospheric conditions of the Genship."
The neuropods slowly drove out of the airlock and into a rich pastoral countryside. "Welcome to Neo Rasif, my name is Tenevers." Tenevers led them through Neo Rasif while Asa and Megan looked about like babies just experiencing the wide world for the first time. Tenevers began, "I know you have questions; to tell the truth I am sure we have as many as you and in the fullness of time some of them may be answered." Tenevers was bipedal, his coarse grey skin reflected little light and his face had a wide doglike mouth but with generous lips which concealing rows upon rows of dagger teeth. It was obvious that this creature was powerful, his muscles were substantial and at 8 feet tall he could simply stomp them to death, if he chose. The tiny neuropods rolled alongside on retractable wheels. Tenevers wore some sort of cured animal skins; his clothing was reminiscent of early primitive man. They approached an outcrop of rock and Tenevers gently lifted the pods to the dome of it so they could peer out and see the entire domain. Below them Neo Rasif speckled a vast and verdant country side. It appeared to line a valley, but the walls of the valley extended
away forever. Megan and Asa gazed out at lush fields, in the distance other aliens worked the fields by hand. All resembled Tenevers. There were no machines or even beasts of burden that they could see. Above them brilliant light, resembling the sun shown brightly, so bright Megan couldn't peer at it without optic filters. Tenevers noticed her gaze and said, "The Nucleon" it is the eternal energy source that our entire civilization relies upon. Asa finally recovering from his wonder asked, "The Nucleon keeps the water melted outside the core?" Ten smiled and said, "Yes, I was wondering when you were going to talk." Megan asked, "How did all of this get inside Europa." Tenevers laughed heartily and replied, "My dear girl, the moon you know as Europa is simply accumulated ice water and debris on the surface of a Genship." Asa said, "Your people built this?" Tenevers said, "Come."
He lifted the pods from the lookout and led them down a gravel lane, as they walked a strange blue mantis like insect leapt from the vegetation and landed on Megan's titanium shell. She gently scooped it into a collection tube. Tenevers turned to her and said firmly, "I have you captured in my laboratory, shall I keep you here forever to study?" "Sorry," she said feeling embarrassed and liberated the blue mantishopper. Fortunately the pods had been recording every image, scent, and sound since arriving for later study. Asa said, "Your consideration for that creature kind of surprises me." Tenevers said, "Life is precious and rare; when you find it in this universe you respect it." The trio finally approached a graceful column that went to the sky and disappeared into brilliance of the Nucleon. The hollow shaft that appeared more to have grown than been constructed. Tenevers pressed his strange three digit hand into crevice in the wall and the trio began floating up. There was no feeling of inertia and Asa couldn't calculate the speed of ascension. Great sections of the tube were transparent and at this altitude the explorers could see the full grandeur of the Genship, like an entire planet turned inside out. They stopped inside the Nucleon and floated into a room made of light.
Megan's pod gently jostled against Asa's as they slowly floated there. Tenevers hummed a strange melody and moving images sprang up all about the floaters. The room became a cacophony of television news signals from Earth. Apparently Asa and Megan's successful landing was being broadcast around the world and Spacecom was concerned at not receiving any transmissions in the past day. Tenevers began, "We've been expecting you." Megan asked, "How long have you been out here, why did you never contact us at Earth." Tenevers hummed a different melody and all of the disparate images became one. A holo-image of a completely different alien coalesced. The alien sat comfortably. It looked nothing like Tenevers; this one was tall and lean and had three legs. It did not speak but instead gestured to another hovering image. It showed other aliens like itself constructing the Genship. It looked so different when it was new, glistening, cold, and technological. A graphic of strange numbers and a map of the interior of the Genship appeared. The map had thousands of lights peppered inside it's three dimensional surface. The numbers gradually dwindled and as they did, one by one, the lights went out. Tenevers spoke, "After 100 generations they started dwindling; lower egg production, lower hatch rate, until they became completely sterile." The image then showed a couple of tripod aliens standing aside an immense machine.
A sack of goop was extruded from a large tube, the aliens pierced the sack and smaller being emerged, it looked like a juvenile Tenevers. He explained, "The last few Tripod generations became masters of genetics. We believe they were trying to cure their own sterility. They could create wondrous new creatures, such as me," he smiled proudly. "Maybe the tripod alien's own DNA was far too complex to be mapped and manipulated. This is unlikely though for we have found no creature that the Geneticon couldn't decode, given time. Tenevers sighed; I personally believe the vast tripod mental faculties began to exceed limitations of their biological bodies. The neuronal activity could have just been too much for them. We may never know for sure. One thing is certain the Tri went extinct and we, the Gorim took their place. The tripods didn't even make it to your solar system." Asa asked again, "You still haven't answered my question. How long have you been here?" Tenevers smiled and said, "When did your people first notice the moon you call Europa?" Megan answered, "Galileo and Marius discovered it in 1610." Tenevers replied, "This is an image of your world when the Tri astronomers first discovered it." The precious jewel of Earth hung in holo amongst them. None of the continents that exist today were visible, just one super continent with very little ice at either pole.
Tenevers went on, "That was the destination but they never made it." The Genship limped into orbit around Jupiter and we've been here ever since. Asa asked, "Why didn't you finish the journey to Earth?" Tenevers responded, "Earth was the mission of the Tri not the Gorim. We are not technologically advanced and most of us don't care to be. The Genship is extraordinarily old and has survived millennia past its prime, most of it no longer functions." Tenevers went on, "The Genship no longer has propulsion, though we receive signals we cannot transmit, and finally what would we do about the ice?"
Tenevers hummed a low melody and an Earth documentary appeared showing American technicians removing Asa's neuropod from the bowels of the captured Russian Akula submarine. He hummed again and the documentary sped up and then slowed to normal playback. The body of a deformed and misshapen Megan was lifted from an electric wheelchair and laid upon a stainless operating table, the grizzly removal of her brain-spine ensued. Tenevers said, "Now it is my turn to ask a question, why were you willing to sacrifice your physical bodies for this mission?" After a short silence Megan answered, "Well my body didn't really work any way, I was about to die when they did the procedure. I studied aerospace engineering in college because I love space exploration, I wanted to be among the stars, and this was the only way for me to do that." Tenevers turned to Asa and looked at him expectantly. Asa started slowly, "I didn't choose this, in my society, in those days, others made the choices, and I just live with them. I am much happier since coming to America andmeeting Megan." Tenevers only nodded and said, "Come with me." He entered the column on the opposite side of the room of light.

The trio floated down and away from the Nucleon. The terrain on this side of the Genship was rugged and mountainous with deep canyons and sparkling rivers. This time they didn't stop at ground level but continued to plummet into a subterranean industrial complex. They passed immense machinery, some so large you couldn't even see from one end of the machine to the other. Asa asked, "What is all this?" Tenevers answered, "We aren't sure, but the elders think these are engines that once propelled the Genship." He stepped out of the column and into a white corridor and began to walk. The pods followed. Occasionally another Gorim would walk past and smile. Rooms to each side of the corridor were filled with Gorim attired in various styles of animal pelt. They seemed to be studying. Ten said, "Some of the more curious of my race come here to study the Tri. Megan asked, "Were the Tri peaceful?" Ten answered, "We don't know for sure, we only know they were desperate." Finally they entered a long chamber. Tenevers smiled and pointed, "The Geneticon." The genetic machine that had created such wonders as the Gorim rested at the end of the long room. An empty space preceded the Geneticon and was lined with cushions; on each a Gorim sat, smiling. Tenevers went on, "Asa and Megan, meet the Elders." The tiny neuropods rolled in amongst the Gorim and were greeted warmly.
Megan said, "They seem nice." Tenevers replied, "In time you may know them." Asa asked, "How much time do you think we have here on Europa?" A member of the Elder council named Roth spoke, "We all hope you will stay with us here." Asa said, "This discovery is too important; we must return to Earth and share what we have learned." Roth said, "The tribes of your planet still battle; we are concerned that if they come here the battle would extend to our world and we do not possess the technology to repel invaders. We hope you will stay." Tenevers said, "If you choose we can decode the genetics of your human bodies, repair the defective genes and create you anew." Megan and Asa were stunned into silence. The Gorim simply waited and smiled. Finally Megan asked, "I wonder if Asa and I might go someplace to talk alone for awhile." Tenevers gestured them into a side room, holo-images of the paradise inside the Genship floated about. Before Tenevers walked out Asa asked, "If we decide to go, will you hold us against our will?" Tenevers responded with a trill hum and the holo image changed to show a recording of Megan releasing the blue mantishopper, the hopper cocked its odd head and in an instant had disappeared back into the vegetation. Tenevers smiled again and walked out.

Asa extended a tiny fiber optic cable on the end of one of his sensor arms and connected it directly to Megan's port. He said, "I doubt they will be able to break the encryption of this transmission. What do you think we should do?" Megan thought, "This is just so unbelievable, I don't know, maybe we should just complete the mission." Asa responded, "They are right you know if word of this were known it could be disastrous." Megan responded, "I can't help thinking about when the Americas were first discovered by Europeans, it ultimately destroyed the natives. The Gorim may not be as technologically advanced as us but ethically they may exceed mankind." Asa said, "The Tri technology is more advanced than anything on Earth. If Tenevers is right and the Geneticon could give us normal human bodies, imagine the applications it could be used for on Earth. Think how much suffering could be stopped." Megan said, "If the Geneticon gives us bodies we would have no way to get home." Asa replied, "That is probably what the Gorim are counting on." The two sat silently for a time with troubled thoughts. Megan finally spoke up, "I think you should know Asa, I have fallen in love with you." He felt warm suddenly and said happily "I love you, too!" The two laughed a little in relief. She went on, "Imagine if we were normal humans and not neuropods, we could make a life here, a good life, and there could be children." Asa asked, "What did our last transmission to Earth say?" Megan played it back, "This water is cleaner than what we drink back at Houston, absolutely no life." Asa thought about it and said, "Okay Megan, we will make a life here, study this place and watch the Earth with the Gorim. When mankind matures enough to handle the news we will inform them of the Genship and all its mysteries."
Days later the Geneticon oozed two sacks of goop and a couple of slimy human beings emerged, laughed, and embraced. Asa and Megan at the age of 37 and 38 gave each other their fist kiss, while the council of Gorim elders bellowed heartfelt applause. The entire Genship would celebrate the occasion and Megan and Asa would become local heroes.

At almost the same time as the Genship festival on Europa an image was played for the president of the United States. A member of the CIA spoke, "Mr. President, neither of them knew about the secret cameras and transmitters attached to the neuropods. This was the final video transmission we received." The leviathan exploded into frame menacingly and destroyed the sensor buoy and then hovered in front of the Neuropods looking ominous, the transmission ends at this point. The president looked grim and said, "Call a meeting of the joint chiefs."

To be continued.

The Gift of the Acoli , Part 3


"Good lady you mean to kill this alien?" "Now Cacao what kind of fiancée would I be if I killed my betrothed. Honor demands that I not only let this monster live but that I serve him." The elders watched her and knew not what to say to this. She saw their consternation and said "serve him and learn his ways."

She retired for the night. The others decided to hedge their bets, they would not only give this monster a wife they would set another trap for him. It is unfortunate that the innocent Acoli girl would be in danger of the trap as well but after having witnessed her power they were doubtful that she could be harmed.


Krin had the female confined to quarters, no telling what dangers she posed. He was disgusted by the wretched natives and amused by their feeble attempts to harm him. Once they had failed in their foolishness he took a good look at this Acoli girl. He had never seen her equal. As humans go she was quite attractive. The aliens race was unique it could not procreate with a member of its own species. By seeking mates among the stars they guaranteed genetic superiority.

He watched her and strangely he felt she could see him right through the scryers. It was unnerving when she smiled at him slyly. She could not possibly see him or even his minute spying devices.

He aimed his cutter for home, the trip would take the better part of a year. His race had conquered the light barrier a thousand years before. His cutter was capable of greater speed but he had burned a surprising amount a fuel in his quest for a suitable mate. Now he carried his prize home for proper Kernigan nuptials. They would become acquainted on the journey. Love was not a part of Krin's culture, in fact the concept was completely alien to him as he was alien to the Acoli.

The Acoli girl sat on the deck plates and peered into the blackness of space. She had watched the ascent from her home planet with awe and wonder. Good bye, she thought, she would miss home but she knew it was best if she and her betrothed never returned. The Alien wrecked havoc on every human he had encountered. She felt pride and trepidation at being the sacrificial virgin. At least I have helped the people she thought. She could feel the alien watching her, he seemed at peace, satisfied that his quest was complete. She heard mechanical noises from the door and it opened. He stood before her and for the first time she had a chance to study him.

His skin was dark blue with lighter magenta on his face. He had removed his armor and wore simple white garments, they seemed uniform like. He had long black hair that was braided neatly down his back. His eyes were magenta and seemed to glow faintly. He was bipedal and was humanoid. A leather belt was about his waste and it had a number of devices attached to it. The girl sensed that power emanated from the belt, she suspected that his 'magic' came from his mechanical equipment instead of from him. He was of athletic build and taller than most humans, close to 7 feet she estimated.

He spoke "My name is Krin what is yours?" She frowned briefly considering what she had gone through and the suffering of her people before this alien bothered with a formal greeting. "Jayla" She said simply. She wondered how he could speak her language but decided that his machines were somehow making it possible. "You will dine with me Jayla." His rudeness was off putting but she knew her ways would be as alien to him as his were to her and was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Besides who knows when she would get to eat again. "Okay" she acquiesced.

They made an odd pair as they walked the passageways of his vessel, he called it a cutter. Krin in his white uniform and her in a tanned buckskin dress with sea shell beadwork. He had some crew aboard she guessed in the hundreds of number. He seemed to be in command as the other aliens stood aside for them as they passed. His quarters were Spartan and they sat at a bare table. An attendant brought a large single platter with some kind of roasted meat. It rested on a bed of roasted 'vegetables' they weren't the greens of Earth but alien blue in color. She expected something horrible but surprisingly the alien food was succulent and it felt good to eat. The attendant watched her intensely as she took her first bite. When she continued to eat and smiled he visibly relaxed. Krin spoke to him briefly in a language she didn't understand and the attendant left. It seemed that they wanted to please her, strange after all the atrocities she had witnessed at the hands of this alien.

The Gift of the Acoli, Part 2

The Acoli girl Matnialla grew out of the council fire. Her clothes, little more than skins, danced in the heat but did not burn. Hay colored hair drifted with the sparks and ashes but did not singe. She smiled calmly "The alien invader will trouble your lands no more." Our people have always coexisted; you are masters of agriculture and singing to God. My people have spent generations mastering the Psi. The Council elders watched her in the fire with awe and fear. "I am only an apprentice and yet I can walk through fire." Cacao found his voice "Good lady we have tried to kill the alien already and we haven't even hurt him. Many of our best hunters have died. The alien's powers are impenetrable." Matnialla grinned. "Who is your best warrior now?"

A somber man in his prime stood slowly. He simply nodded her way. "You are?" "I am Neoli." "Kill me Neoli." "Lady, God forbids." "Does God also forbid the murder of the alien?" "God forbids the murder of people, not animals." "Your logic is sound Neoli, well then wound me, try hard!" Neoli faded from the firelight. All peered into the inky blank hoping to see his attack. After a few moments an arrow appeared behind the Acoli girl. It hovered just inches from her back. Neoli walked back into the firelight and watched his bolt with curiosity. The arrow drifted around the girl till it hovered above her hand. "Do not judge this hunter for what you see today friends for his shot was strong and true. Had I been a carniprimate I would be dead." Neoli grinned, "Wounded lady, you have my word." "I honor it good hunter. I tell you all, we know the time and place when this alien will appear and he knows nothing of our preparations, therefore we have the advantage." "Cacao your people will make preparations for the wedding we must not disappoint this monster, I promise to you all I will have a surprise for my betrothed."

Read Part 3

The Gift of the Acoli, Part 1

A symphony of moans blasted Krin's tempanic membranes. The noisy crowd exuded more decibels than a Nebula Cutter at launch. He raised his hands skyward. "Your race has not even conquered the sky much less the galaxy. You will kneel before the might of the Jidha." Many did kneel and tremble in fear. His voice, technologically translated and amplified, dripped with human behavioral manipulators.

A rebel shot a primitive projectile at Krin's head. It collided against his armored and shielded helm making a glimmer of blue fire dance before his eyes. He extended a hand and the lash flicked out and returned in an eye blink. The rebels head tumbled away from his neck.

The tribe's leader, Cacao, lay prostrate at Krin's boots begging in incoherent babble. Krin looked at the once great man with revulsion. "You will bring her to me Cacao or your people will suffer greater pains." "Who my lord...whoooo?" "You know who halfwit! A wife. I need a wife built to my exact specifications. Send your envoys around this pitiful rock if you must, I will return in four seasons. She had better be standing in this very spot upon my arrival Cacao or I will convert your people into something quieter."

Krin's ship left a broken people in fear of the future. The council fire that night was a bit more alcoholic than was normal. Cacao's father Ramo smoked and listened to the debate. Every female in their realm had been present today, wives, daughters, even infants. None were favored by the arrogant alien.

These debates always ended the same, in some intrepid assassination plot. Cacao sighed. "The carniprimate hunter could kill anything on legs and he failed. What can we do?" Ramo's face was contemplative, the firelight making the crags on his cheeks into black crevasses. "Once, during the great walk that all men must make I strayed into a land of rock so high that I could not climb it. I followed the canyons looking for a pass and wondered into another realm, the realm of the Acoli.

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