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An Important Update

Posted: October 15, 2013 by Aaron Matthew Kaiser in Uncategorized

Greetings, chaosticians! As you may have noticed, it’s been a month since the last chapter was posted. Without going into major details, let’s just say that scheduling shit hit the fan for multiple people involved in this project. Kella has asked me to make a post to let everyone know what’s going on and that things are swinging back into gear this week.

If you look over to the sidebar, you will notice that the lineup dates have been updated. To get things going again, I will be picking up where I left off in chapter 10 and will have the chapter up by this Sunday. Following me will be Elise on 10/27, Kymele on 11/3, Kella on 11/10, and Sarah on 11/17. So, get ready for five weeks of writing and please note when your week is coming up.

First Chaos – Tenth Chapter – Aaron

Posted: September 15, 2013 by Aaron Matthew Kaiser in Chaos #1

Ike approached the control chair of the shuttle and looked at it before sitting. He had heard stories of Ternian engineers constructing seats that used body heat to conform to the bodies of whoever sat in them. From initial appearances, this was not one. A black, synthetic type of leather stretched out over rows of rigid padding. Small armrests rose out of the sides.

“Well?” Tris’ voice interrupted Ike’s thoughts. He locked eyes with her, then looked at the control console. He was embarrassed as to why he was lost in thought. Such a silly thing to wonder about the seats.

Ike’s fingers touched the control display, causing it to light up as he settled into the chair. The basic tenants of navigation were there, although the layout was different than his Council shuttle. It might take a few minutes to gather his bearings, but he could fly it. As he began inputting commands into the system, Ike paused as a thought came into his mind. He swiveled around in his chair to face the others.

“How do you intend to get onto the ship?” he said.

Tris paused and looked at him. She had been in the middle of instructing Kyri and Anod to fasten their safety belts, lending assistance as needed since they had never seen such restraints before. “You will fly us there.”

“Flying the shuttle is only part of the equation,” Ike replied. “Normal operations would require us to communicate with the ship before docking. I don’t know the clearance codes. Not to mention that the ship sensors would pick up on three Eltari—make that four Eltari and no human life signs. We’d be blown out of the sky before we got within a thousand kliks of the ship.”

There was a moment of quiet collective reflection before Ike continued, “And if we do manage to dock, how do we anticipate moving through the ship—”

“You are beginning to sound like Anod!” Kyri interrupted.

“Since you foresee the problems, perhaps you can foresee a solution.” Tris said, staring into him. Ike thought for a good minute before reestablishing eye contact.

“Actually,” he said. “I think I do.”

 

* * *

 

“Sir, Captain Altair’s shuttle is exiting the planet’s atmosphere.” The junior officer turned around from his station on the bridge to face the first officer, Marius. He was thankful that things had calmed down in the day since they had shot down the Council ship, but also glad that there was something to actually do on the ship. Years of watching this planet from afar had limited them to mostly drills and maneuvers aside from brief excursions out of the system here and there. “Their plotted course will return them here to the Gauntlet.”

“Have they radioed ahead?” Marius asked.

“Not yet, sir.”

“Is the entire crew aboard?”

The junior officer turned back around to his console, inputting a few commands. The machine beeped and chimed in response. Within moments, he had his answer for Marius. “No, sir. I’m reading three humans and one Eltari.”

Silence filled the bridge as officers looked at the senior officer. The memories from early the previous morning were still etched in their minds. There was no knowing how Marius would respond again. Hopefully, the tongue lashing Captain Altair had given him before going down to the planet had wisened him up.

“Ready the EMP cannons,” Marius stated.

“Sir?” The junior officer stared at him. In the back of his head, he knew that the first officer was making the appropriate call, but he still didn’t trust the young man in this situation. He glanced at Marius’ hand. The slight trembling betrayed the calm demeanor of the command.

“I said to ready the EMP cannons. Until they have established proper docking procedure—”

A chirp from the junior officer’s console interrupted Marius. The officer looked at his alert, then back to his superior. “It’s them.”

Marius simply nodded. The junior officer pressed a button that caused the speaker system to instantly come to life. Tris’ voice began to cut through the air. “Gauntlet, this is the shuttle. We need to dock immediately.”

“Please state the clearance code.” Marius responded as he slowly walked toward the monitor that displayed the incoming shuttle. “And where is the rest of the crew?”

“I am returning with sick crew members. We need a…” Tris’ voice paused momentarily before returning. “Quarantine. We need the area around the docking port quarantined. These men are contagious with Larna swamp flu and need medical attention.”

“Please state the clearance code,” Marius repeated, turning to the junior officer. “Arm the EMP cannon and ready the plasma coils.”

A chill went up the junior officer’s spine. He closed his eyes and swallowed his saliva. He could feel the knots forming in his stomach as he input the command to lock weapons on the shuttle.

“Mister Marius,” Tris objected, the tone of her voice elevated. “I do not need a clearance code. You know my voice and that I have Captain Altair’s ear.”

The junior officer glanced over as Marius placed his hand on the back of his chair. The tension of the moment was causing full trembles now. He wasn’t sure how Marius was able to contain his voice to sound so calm.

“Halt your approach and state your—”

“We will do no such thing!” Tris exploded over the intercom. “I have three marines here that will die if we do not get them to sickbay. And if you do not clear the docking port, the entire ship could become infected. I am on direct orders from Altair to save the lives of these men. Do not make me tell him who caused them to perish simply because I was not given a clearance code to relay to you.”

Marius’ hand gripped the fabric on the back of the junior officer’s chair. He paused there for a moment as sweat began to bead along his forehead. Slowly turning back toward the central chair, he sat down.

“Power down weapons, quarantine docking port two, and dispatch medical personnel.” Marius spoke to his junior officer, who immediately did as commanded. “Shuttle, you are cleared to dock.”

“Thank you, Mister Marius.” Tris responded before the channel closed.

A collaborative sigh of relief spread through the bridge. Officers looked up at the ceiling and then to each other, joyous that the previous day’s incident hadn’t repeated itself. Except for Marius, who sat in his chair with his hand on his fist as he contemplated the situation.

 

* * *

 

Kyri could hear the latches of the docking port click into place. The sound caused her to turn her head from the viewport and toward the door at the rear of the shuttle. The entire trip from the surface of the planet—her first trip off the planet—had felt like a surreal dream. She glanced over to her older brother. He would never admit it, but she knew he was feeling exactly the same way.

“Human looks good on you.” Ike’s voice pulled Kyri out of her trance. She looked at him, a smile across his face as he leaned over the back of the control chair. His human characteristics were back in place. “Of course, it helps that you were beautiful to begin with.”

“Enough of this,” Tris interrupted. “You are not Eltari. It is inappropriate—”

“Inappropriate?” Ike rose from his seat. “Listen here, guffalo breath. I was just paying a compliment. Besides, last I checked, you and the guy that shot me down have a thing going on and he’s no more Eltari than I am!”

“Guffalo breath? Not only are you…”

For Kyri, the voices of Tris and Ike faded away as she slipped back into her mind. Her focus was on a reflection of herself on a shiny bulkhead. Her silver hair now black and her amber eyes now a deep blue. She looked down to her now-pink hands and stared at the Cyrex unit on her wrist. The same unit they had removed from two of the unconscious marines guarding the shuttle.

“How in Rell could this be possible?” Kyri thought. So much had happened within the past day that challenged her concept of demons and magic. She couldn’t grasp how this transformation could be possible outside of spiritual possibilities, and yet her aunt had assured her that it was not.

“Stop this, now!” Anod had quickly stood, pushing Ike and Tris apart. He, too, was in human form with a Cyrex on his wrist. He held a knife to Ike’s throat and his bandaged stump against Tris’ shoulder. “In your fighting, you do not realize that we are no longer alone.”

Kyri finally snapped out of her gaze as she heard what Ike and Tris now could: a knocking on the rear door. She stood and faced it as Anod lowered his knife from Ike’s neck. They could hear a muffled, male voice call out through the dense metal.

“Hello? This is Doctor Cornell.” the voice said. “We are hear to treat the wounded. The corridor has been cleared. Unlock the door so we can enter.”

Tris took only a step toward the door when Anod put his abbreviated arm across her way once more.

“How do we know this isn’t a trap?” he asked. “There could be a dozen soldiers on the other side.”

“We don’t.” Ike responded. “But either way, we have to open the door or there surely will be a military response.”

Anod paused, then nodded at his aunt and lowered his arm.

“Everyone, remember the plan.” Ike said. “Like the marines guarding the shuttle, we subdue and move on in secret. With any luck, we can get back to the shuttle and embark again before any alarms are raised.”

Kyri nodded, raising an arrow in her bow toward the door as Ike raised his blaster. Tris looked back one last time to make sure everyone was ready, then input the command to unlock the inner door.

The two parts of the reinforced aluminum slid open to reveal an elder gentleman in a Terne military uniform and a white coat on top. On his face where a pair of thin-framed, gold-colored eyeglasses. Next to him was a young woman in her twenties, similarly dressed. As the two of them looked into the cabin to see weapons trained on them, the elder man’s jaw dropped.

“Are you alone?” Anod asked, moving closer to the both of them.

“Ye—yes.” Doctor Cornell replied, his voice trembling.

“Get in.” Ike said coldly. Cornell and his nurse complied, stepping up onto the shuttle deck, which was about a foot higher than the corridor outside. Ike directed them to two of the jump seats farthest away from any instruments and sat them down.

“Tris, what is this? I do not understand.” Cornell said as he looked at her. Tris closed her eyes and turned away, unwilling to make eye contact.

“No talking, doc.” Ike said as he fastened their wrists to the seats with adhesive.

“You’re the pilot we shot down, aren’t you?” the nurse said, defiance in her voice. Ike didn’t respond as she continued. “I can tell by your treacherous Council uniform.”

Kyri gasped as Ike backhanded the nurse across the face. Although she barely knew him, this action did not seem to be in his nature. Her mind raced to understand why he would strike this woman for a simple comment.

“I said,” Ike began as he placed a strip of tape over the nurse’s mouth. “No talking. Besides, your government is the one that split the Terran Union sixty years ago and caused that bloody civil war. All because of your bloodthirsty desire to conquest planets instead of allying with them. The Council of Worlds today is a fraction of what it could have been under the Union.”

“What are you talking about?” Tris said. “I have lived on this ship for ten years. I haven’t heard anything about this civil war.”

“If I may?” Cornell looked up Ike before continuing. At Ike’s nod, he looked back over to Tris. “Tris, there are certain things that Altair has asked us not to discuss on the ship. Especially in front of you. Besides, that was the war of my parents, most of the crew their grandparents. Both sides lost many family members.”

“Like my grandfather.” Ike said to Cornell, who looked back at him.

“You should know,” Cornell continued. “Not all Terne desire conquest. Some of us are Ternian by birth and heritage. That is why I practice medicine, it’s how I can help change things in my own, little way.”

“He lies.” Anod said. “He is trying to get you to lower your guard—”

Ike simply raised his hand toward Anod to interrupt him, still keeping his eyes on Cornell. “What’s your name, doc?”

“Doctor Hubert Cornell.”

“Alright, doc—Hubert…” Ike paused as he knelt down to eye level with him. “I believe you, but I’m going to leave Anod here to keep guard over you. I can trust you to behave?”

Cornell nodded. Ike stood and walked past Anod toward the door. Tris and Kyri followed him, stepping down into the corridor as Ike looked back.

“Anod,” he said. “Why don’t you tell him how you lost your hand?”

As Anod sat down in a jump seat across from Cornell, he smiled and said, “I lost it defeating your metal man.”

Kyri saw Cornell’s eyes widen just before the doors to the shuttle closed behind them. The hallway was suddenly quiet. No one stirred nearby. She didn’t care for the quietness of space. In the forest, there was always a bird chirping or a lema cat growling in a nearby bush. She wasn’t sure how her aunt had put up with ten years of this silence.

“You’ve been pretty quiet lately, “ Ike said, once again snapping Kyri out of a daze. “I miss the old you.”

“The old me?” Kyri said, anger welling up. “The old me died along with my twin. The old me didn’t have her world shattered overnight. The old me—”

Kyri paused as Tris put a hand on her shoulder. The elder Eltari didn’t need to say a word; Kyri knew that she was overreacting to Ike’s comment. She didn’t understand why these emotions were ruling her, but her words did ring a certain amount of truth: part of her did die with Geneth.

“We should move quickly,“ Tris said, pointing down the corridor. “The cargo bay is not far in this direction.”

The three of them walked in near silence for several minutes. They turned a handful of corners, both to the left and to the right. If Tris were not with them, Kyri surmised, there would be no way to prevent getting lost in this maze. Finally, they came upon a doorway somewhat larger than the others they had passed. Tris input her access code and the doors slid open to reveal a massive room with high ceilings. Crates of various sizes were arranged in rows and blocks. At the far end of the room sat a long crate by itself. Tris made her way straight for it.

“Sister…” a voice whispered to Kyri. She turned around to see who said it, expecting to see Anod behind her, but only seeing the empty room. She turned back around to continue following her aunt when she heard it again. “Sis…”

Kyri stopped this time and stared at the space she heard the voice. She recognized it this time, although that was impossible. It was Geneth. And for a moment, she thought she saw movement amongst the crates. If it was her brother’s voice, she had to investigate.

At the far end of the room, Tris and Ike arrived at the crate. It was several feet long with a transparent window on the top. A simple button press by Tris activated an internal lighting system. Inside were several eggs, each the length of Ike’s forearm.

“These are the dragon eggs of the pale ones,” Tris explained before Ike even had a chance to ask. “They are the last of their species and we have kept them in stasis for the last ten years to prevent them from hatching.”

“Okay,” Ike simply said instead of asking more questions. “Let’s get this on a maglev cart and move it to the shuttle—”

Ike was cut off by a blood curdling scream coming from the other side of the room. It was then that he and Tris realized that Kyri was no longer with them. Running toward the sound, they found Kyri standing in front of an opened container with her bow drawn fully out. Inside was a C.O.R.M. unit, powered down.

Memories of yesterday’s battle flashed through Kyri’s mind. Tears streamed down her face as she pulled the arrow back in the bow further and further, even though she stood mere feet away from it. Her arm quivered violently as the images flashed through her mind. As if she were there again, she saw the beast sever Anod’s arm and cut Geneth down.

“It’s alright, Kyri.” Ike said. “He’s not turned on.”

“Listen to me, my niece,” Tris added. “It is going to be okay.”

“No, it’s not.” came a voice behind all three of them, followed by the powering up of a small blaster. Tris froze as Ike slowly raised his hands. Kyri, immersed in her experience with the disengaged Corm, failed to notice what was going on.

“Marius?” Tris said as she turned around to face their new captor. Ike slowly turned around, his hands still raised into the air.

“I knew something wasn’t right with your story,” Marius offered, keeping his blaster trained on them. “Ten years on this ship at Captain Altair’s side and now you betray us?”

“It is Altair that has betrayed the Eltari,” Tris responded. “And now we take that which has belonged to the Eltari all along.”

“I take it that you know this kid.” Ike said to Tris, causing Marius to target the blaster at his face. “Easy now, you don’t have the safety on.”

“Give me a reason to shoot you, Council.”

“This is the first officer,” Tris explained. “He is the one who shot down your shuttle.”

“Him? This pipsqueak shot me down?” Ike raised his eyebrows toward Marius. The first officer’s face began to redden at the antagonization. As Ike taunted, Tris backed up slowly toward Kyri. “I liked that ship, it was a good ship. I can’t believe you managed to shoot it down. You don’t even know how to tie your own boots!”

Like a moron, Marius looked down momentarily at his feet. Realizing that his boots were not, in fact, untied, he looked up just in time to see Ike’s fist rushing into his face. Making contact with his nose, Marius flew backward and tears immediately welled up into his eyes to cloud his vision. He fired his blaster, only to miss Ike and hit a wall. Sparks flew as the red alert klaxons immediately began to wail.

Ike looked over to a stack of materials nearby and pulled out a medium-length pipe from the mess. Swinging it around, he knocked Marius’ blaster out of his hands, causing it to slide far across the room. Another swing to Marius’ head caused the young officer to fall to the ground.

“Get Kyri and the eggs and get back to the shuttle!” Ike exclaimed, turning his attention from Marius for only a moment. That moment was all the younger man needed to rush him, knocking him onto his back. The two of them wrestled on the ground for control of the pipe as Marius pushed down in an effort to choke Ike with the blunt instrument.

Tris stepped between Corm and Kyri, who still had her bow stretched out. If she released, it would go straight through Tris before hitting its target. Her eyes looked through her aunt, still trained on the lifeless metal body of the cyborg.

“Listen to me,” Tris said calmly. “This is not the same beast that killed your brother. Honor his death by living.”

Kyri focused on Tris’ face and slowly lowered her bow. She didn’t know why, but that made sense to her. Honor Geneth’s death by living. Reliving the memories was not living, it was a form of dying inside. Then she looked over to Ike.

“We have to help him,” Kyri said.

“He will buy us time,” Tris responded. “Let us do our part before more people come.”

 

* * *

 

Ike watched from his back as Tris and Kyri ran over to the crate and began pushing it out the door. As soon as they left the cargo bay, Ike brought his knee forcibly up to Marius’ crotch and bought his freedom.

As Ike backed away, massaging his neck with his free hand, his opponent covered his groin. For the moment, Ike had forgotten about his previous wounds. Adrenalin was coursing through his system, overpowering every pain receptor that tried to fire. With any luck, this encounter would end much quicker than the last one.

“You shoot down my shuttle, then try to shoot me in the back?” Ike taunted Marius again. He found that to be as great a weapon as anything he could hold in his hand. “Your captain should take away your keys to the ship.”

Ike partially caught his breath and made his next move, swinging the pipe toward Marius’ head and missing. He landed against a stack of crates, leaving his back open for an uppercut from Marius. Pain shot through his nervous system once more.

“I’ve got a secret for you,” Marius said as he punched Ike in the back again before being pushed away. “I didn’t fire upon your ship because I thought we had been discovered.”

Marius, standing next to the pile Ike had gotten his pipe from, pulled out one of his own and charged at Ike. Their pipes clanged against each other as if they were swords. Ike pushed back and swung again, his pipe hitting the metal of Marius’ pipe.

“Don’t tell me that you were trying to make friends,” Ike goaded. “Because you did a poor job of that. Or were you just bored?”

Ike faked a swing up, causing Marius to attempt a block. The move caused the Ternian officer’s side to be exposed, as designed. Ike swung hardly into his ribcage. The scream of pain likely meant that Ike had managed to break at least one, if not two of the man’s ribs. As Marius grabbed his side, a single stream of blood trickled down his forehead and down past his split lip. He managed a laugh.

“No, you idiot.” Marius said, spitting blood onto the floor. “I wanted to kill you. Simply because you are Council.”

Gathering momentum, Marius swung at Ike again, connecting their pipes against each other. The metallic clangs echoed throughout the room as they fought. After a couple strong blows, Marius once again had Ike pinned.

“I hate to generalize,” Ike said, his back against a large stack of crates. “But you people really are bloodthirsty, aren’t you? And what is it with you people and swordplay?”

“After I kill you, I will kill Altair’s mate and shoot her out an airlock,” Marius stated. Ike could sense a shallow coldness in Marius’ eyes assured by his callous voice. Apparently, he had unlocked the officer’s inner sociopath. “And after I kill her, I’ll kill your little girlfriend… as I penetrate her.”

Ike screamed out in defiance, striking blow after blow toward Marius. The first two were easily blocked, but then he knocked the Ternian’s pipe away and kept swinging. Marius raised his arms to block the blows, only to have the bones in his arms shattered. Ike drove his adversary onto the ground. Each swing became more intense than the last.

Finally, Ike swung down one last time. His energy was spent and pain coursed through his entire body. He limply dropped the bloody pipe onto the floor and looked down at Marius—his eyes wide open and his skull shattered into pieces with bits of brain laying about.

Ike stepped back, ashamed at how far he had gone. But he was alive and that was all that mattered. He knew he had to go; it was only a matter of moments before the doors would open with more marines coming after him. As he ran toward the door, he picked up Marius’ blaster and took it with him.

Running through the corridors, Ike tried to remember how to get back to the docking port. The hallways twisted and turned, causing him to become bewildered. He stopped at an intersection and looked around, not recognizing which way to go. Each path looked similar, but none of them looked correct. Down one hall, he could see a hydroponics bay. Down another was an external viewport. A third revealed a small room with terminals.

It dawned upon Ike that those terminals could be his salvation. Running down that direction, he stopped at the first terminal and brought it to life. A ship schematic quickly showed him where he was and where he needed to go. As he turned to run off again, he paused and wondered if he could access the communications grid through this station.

 

* * *

 

“What do we do with them?” Anod asked about Doctor Cornell and his nurse as Tris settled into her seat on the shuttle. Kyri stood by the door, looking down the corridor for any sign of Ike. If they didn’t leave soon, she worried that they would not be able to.

“I do not know,” Tris responded. “Probably throw them into the corridor before we leave.”

Kyri turned around and took a couple steps further into the cabin. She traced her fingers over the crate they had placed against the wall. “What if he does not return?” she asked.

“Then we pray to Rell,” Tris responded just as a figure appeared in the doorway.

“Anyone miss me?” Ike said as he leaned against the frame. Kyri turned around and smiled at him. She could see the bruises forming on his face and the blood that stained his uniform. For some reason, she had been worried about him. She stretched out her hand to guide him up the step onto the shuttle floor.

As Ike made the movement, a blue pulse of energy shot through the corridor and hit him in the back. The force of the blow knocked him forward, halfway into the shuttle entryway. Time seemed to slow down for Kyri, as it had the day before when her brother died. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Anod stand up and throw his knife at the approaching marine. The blade embedding itself into the man’s chest and sending him to the hallway floor.

Kyri glanced out the door and could see three more men with large guns running toward her. They fired their guns, hitting various bulkheads while missing their targets. With her brain on auto-pilot, Kyri pulled the unconscious form of Ike fully into the shuttle and pressed the button to close the doors, locking all of them inside the shuttle with no way to escape.

Looking up from Ike, Kyri locked eyes with Anod, then Cornell, and finally with Tris. Desperation filled her gaze as she didn’t know what to do, not only to save them, but to save Ike if he was even still alive.

Delay on chapter 10

Posted: September 9, 2013 by Aaron Matthew Kaiser in Uncategorized

Hey, fellow chaositicians. This is my week for a chapter and you may have noticed that Sunday has come and gone and nothing new is up. I’ve been a bit under the weather the past few days, plus slammed with work, so I’m still working on my contribution to our combined masterpiece. I will be working hard to get it finished, polished up, and out to the masses sometime during the day Monday.

First Chaos – Fourth Chapter – Aaron

Posted: July 29, 2013 by Aaron Matthew Kaiser in Chaos #1
Previous: Chapter 3 by Christina || Next: Chapter 5 by Kella

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Captain Altair stood by the entry to his shuttle, reviewing information on his data pad. By the ship’s clock it was still the middle of the night, but late morning on this part of the planet. While his marines were busy putting out fires, he wanted to get a jump start on the day’s tasks.

Tris was nearby, collecting whatever berries and nuts she could find. It was a rarity that she was able to go planetside and always wanted to bring back whatever produce she could.

The shuttle had landed a safe distance from the Council ship’s impact zone and the marines wanted to clear the area before he approached. Luckily, the fires were not spreading quickly and they did not anticipate it would take long to extinguish the flames.

Since they were effectively off the grid, there was no official work for Altair and his crew to do, but he still liked to keep an eye on all intercepted communications and review all department reports. His keen oversight had allowed them to profit from a side job more than once.

“Do you see this?” Tris said excitedly to Altair, breaking his focus from the translucent screen. He looked up to see her holding some mangled foliage. “Warek root. Most Eltari mash it, but I enjoy it as part of a stew. Have your marines kill me a wild boar and I will make you a feast tonight.”

Altair’s mouth half-cocked into a smile. “I don’t see how I can turn down your offer.”

“You never can,” she quipped as she gently stroked his face with her hand. “I think you’d give me your ship if I asked you the right way.”

Altair blushed and pulled her hand away, unsure if any of the marines had seen their interaction. “Tris, we have discussed what behavior belongs in my quarters and what does not.”

Before either could continue, Altair caught the movement of an approaching marine in the corner of his eye. He turned to face Corporal Jenng, leader of the company. Jenng was an experienced marine, not much younger than Altair himself.

“Captain,” Jenng said as he removed his helmet. Light ash smudged his face as his salt and pepper hair reflected the amber sunlight that poured into the small clearing. “Most of the fires have been extinguished and we’re ready to approach the crash site.”

“Thank you, Corporal. After you.”

Altair followed Jenng back toward the edge of the tree-line, followed by Tris. Within moments, they were joined by the rest of the marines. There were five marines in all, led by Jenng. The landing team had to be small to accommodate the extra storage of bringing the crashed scout ship back into orbit. That left only eight jump seats for the trip. Those seats accommodated Captain Altair, Tris, Jenng and his men, and C.O.R.M.

C.O.R.M. stood for “Cybernetic-Organic Research Marine” and everyone simply called him Corm. He was a humanoid robot with an organic brain, capable of performing a wide variety of mission types. Equipped with advanced sensors and weapons, he could serve an important role on almost every tactical or scientific mission. Altair had two of them onboard.

“The crash site is only two kliks into the forest,” Jenng reported. “It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to get there.”

“Then let’s hurry up,” responded Altair. “Have your men keep their eyes open and weapons ready.”

“You heard him. Move out. Corm, take the rear.” Jenng made the first steps into the trees as Corm stood at ready and watched the marines pass in front of him. A salute and a hushed beep were the only acknowledgements that Corm made to the order.

As Tris passed by, they caught each other’s gaze. She had always been unsettled by this ‘creature’ that was not a man, yet more than a piece of equipment. The crew treated him almost as one of them, yet did not socialize outside of missions. She could not imagine having such sentience without having a soul, yet that was best how she understood him to be.

Part of Tris’ disconnection with Corm likely also had to do with his face—or lack thereof. Had his creators made him look more human, she surmised, perhaps he would be more accepted. Instead, he had arms and legs—even a head—yet no face. Where one eye would normally be, there was a blue light. The other socket housed some form of sensors or camera, she guessed. And there was no moving mouth, just a disjointed voice for the few times he actually did speak.

“Are you alright?”

“What?” Tris turned to Altair, whose question snapped her out of her bewilderment. “Yes, of course. I’m sorry.”

They had walked farther than Tris had realized. Yet, she suddenly knew where she was. Despite the years of growth and the burn marks from the fires, she knew these trees. She was near home.

“We’re here, Captain.” said Jenng just as the company stopped. Before them lay the burned out wreckage of what remained of the Council scout ship.

“Spread out, gather what you can and confirm the pilot’s fatality.” Altair’s orders were quickly followed as Jenng nodded to his men and they quickly spread out. Corm walked past Tris and toward the main hull. His sensors quickly scanned the remains before he picked the bulk up over his head.

“Dear-heart, I was hoping we could—” Tris began, tugging on his elbow to ask a favor. Before she continued, one of the marines approached Jenng in the near distance.

“Sir, we can’t find the pilot,” came the marine’s report. “There is a small pool of blood half a klik out, but no sign of the body.”

Jenng turned to Altair, who lowered his data pad as he absorbed the information. After watching the scout ship nearly disintegrate in the atmosphere, he did not anticipate actually finding anything except body fragments.

“How the hell did he survive that?” Altair blurted. “Corm, scan the vicinity. Find him.”

Corm immediately lowered the wreckage down to where it lay before. He slowly pivoted around as his sensors adjusted for the new command.

“An operational Cyrex unit has been located twelve kliks Northeast from our present location,” Corm reported. His voice was mostly natural with only a hint of its mechanical synthesis. “It is surrounded by multiple Eltari life signatures, most likely a small town.”

Tris covered her mouth and gasped lightly. Both shock and a sense of horror overcame her. Altair quickly approached the cybernetic officer.

“Corm, I am authorizing containment protocol, level 3. Authorization Altair-seven-seven-one-alpha. Confirm.”

“Authorization confirmed,” replied Corm. “Commencing containment protocol.”

Immediately, Corm turned in the direction of the small town and took a couple of steps away from Altair. Panels along his back opened up to reveal atmospheric thrusters and, within moments, he was sailing across the sky toward his destination.

“Altair,” Tris began. Her voice was nearly trembling as she approached. “What is containment protocol, level 3?”

Altair turned from his gaze into the sky and faced Tris. “I’m sorry, my love.”

“Orders, sir?” Jenng asked, taking a step closer.

“What is containment protocol, level 3?” Tris repeated.

“Let’s gather what we can of this mess,” Altair responded to Jenng, ignoring Tris’ question. “I’ll monitor Corm’s progress—”

“WHAT IS CONTAINMENT PROTOCOL, LEVEL 3?!?” Everyone stopped in their tracks at Tris’ outburst. Altair had only seen her this angry once before and it cost him a broken arm. Still, he could not bring himself to answer or even look at her.

Jenng finally spoke up; the only man brave enough to tell her the truth. “Eradication of the anyone who has come in contact with the target.”

“Listen, Tris—” Altair began, attempting to dissuade her outrage.

“What have you done, Altair? I have never seen this side of you before.”

“I know how you feel. Eltari are going to die, but—”

“Not just any Eltari,” Tris exclaimed. “My Eltari. My town. My family. Do you not recognize these woods? Do you not remember that this is where we met all those years ago before you took me into the stars?”

“I’m sorry, but there is no other way.”

“Call him back.”

“I can’t.”

“Call back your machine-man. I will find your pilot and resolve this without bloodshed.”

“I am sorry, Tris. I can’t.” Altair remained calm, hoping that she would pick up on this and relax her anger as well. “This is how it needs to be.”

Tris stepped even closer to him, their noses nearly touching. Her skin seemed to darken as her amber eyes sparked into a golden glow. Her face distorted with rage and hatred for the man that she loved. Suddenly, she erupted into a scream like that of a banshee. All of Jenng’s men covered their ears and buckled to their knees in pain. Altair stood there, taking the full brunt of the sound. His ears began to ring and he closed his eyes as Tris turned around and ran into the forest faster than he had ever seen her move before.

* * *

“Why are you just standing around like a herd of guffaloo?” Ike nearly screamed as he swung his legs off the cot and onto the floor. He grimaced in pain as the hind muscles flexed across the arrow’s wound. “I told you to go. Now.”

“And what of you?” Kyri asked before her mother continued the thought.

“You will not get far in your wounded condition.”

“I’m not getting far at all,” he said, moving closer to them. “I’m as good as dead. That doesn’t mean that I have to take you down to hell with me. I’ll make my stand. Here. And you can get away.”

“I should never have brought him to you,” resolved Kyri to her mother. “I should have left him to die in the forest.”

Kyri’s mother grasped her by the shoulders and stared her in the eyes. “You brought him here because that is who you are. Adventurous, caring, and very foolish. What has come to pass is meant to be. And if not…” she paused a moment to glare at Ike. “We can kill him later.”

“You are still not leaving,” Ike pleaded. “Am I speaking an alien language? Maybe my Cyrex isn’t working. Tap tap, nope, it’s fine. You can understand me. Help me find me red bag, then get out of town before it’s too late.”

Both Kyri and her mother stood still, perplexed by Ike’s sudden sarcastic tirade.

“Or just stay here with me and die.” he continued. “Either way works for me.”

Before anyone could react further, a commotion was heard outside the room. The door burst open and Sabra ran in, making a circle around Kyri before jumping on the cot and lying down. Moments later, both Anod and Geneth appeared in the doorway.

“There you are!” exclaimed Geneth. “Did you find your dragon?”

Anod continued, “When you didn’t return to camp last night, we decided to—”

The room suddenly grew silent as Anod’s eyes fixated on the stranger with the pinkish skin across the room. Picking up on her master’s emotions, Sabra stood up and began to make what sounded like growling sounds toward Ike.

Instantly, Anod and Geneth stepped into the room and readied their weapons. Geneth held his spear out while Anod brandished a hunting knife in each hand with the blades pointed back at his elbows.

“What is this demon?” Anod asked. Kyri rolled her eyes, forgetting that she had gone through the same misperception herself.

“Why do all of your people think I’m a demon?” Ike uttered to Kyri as he backed against the far wall.

“Put your weapons down,” their mother said, stepping in their way. She paused as she tried to determine the best way to alleviate her boys’ fear. Perhaps Ike’s original story, the lie, would be the best. “This creature is… a messenger.”

Anod, not backing down or lowering his knives, kept his eyes trained on Ike. All he needed were three seconds and the pink demon would be disemboweled. “What message does he bring?”

“To leave. Now. Or die a horrible death.” Ike responded, hoping that these new visitors would heed his warning. “And help me find my red bag. I really need that.”

Suddenly, Geneth’s spear begin to quiver in air. “What… the dresh… is that?!”

Geneth’s eyes were fixated on the window overlooking the street leading into town. The rest of the group turned their gaze as well just in time to see an object fly quickly through the sky and land in the dirt. A cloud of dust erupted around it and swirled, slowly settling to reveal Corm in his landing position.

“Not good, this is not good!” Ike exclaimed, tapping his Cyrex as Kyri’s family surrounded him at the window. “New plan. I can mask my life signature, but only for a few moments. I’ll distract ugly over there and you leave out the back. I assume you have a back way out of this little town?”

“Yes,” Kyri acknowledged. “We have a way to escape.”

“Good, but I still need my red bag.”

Kyri’s mother walked across the room toward a small cabinet near the cot. Opening the door, she pulled out the red bag and threw it to Ike. “Take your bag. May Rell watch over you always.”

Ike nodded at the sentiment. He watched as the mother turned and walked out of the door. Geneth and Anod followed, the latter not taking his eyes off of Ike. Once Sabra jumped down from the cot and left, only Kyri was left with him.

“Go,” he said, looking into her eyes. “Get your family as far away from here as possible.”

“Farewell, Isaac Gibson.”

“Ike.”

“Farewell, Ike. May you have the strength of Rell in your battle.”

Ike waited until Kyri was finally out of the room, then unzipped the bottom section of his red bag.

* * *

Outside, several Eltari gathered around the dust cloud to investigate. Some adults held their children back from getting too close, but no one spoke. Finally, Corm stood erect and began scanning for his target.

“Unable to locate life signature. Beginning containment procedure, level 3.” Corm stated to himself. The unusual voice caused the onlooking Eltari to stir.

Corm raised his right arm into the air. The robotic hand folded back, revealing the soft blue glow of a plasma cannon. The light enchanted the natives as it glowed brighter. They did not know to take this as a warning to run, but it was now too late.

A single plasma blast discharged out of Corm’s arm, cutting through half a dozen Eltari and obliterating the side of a home. Dark grey body parts flew about the air, landing all across the road. The remaining souls erupted into chaos, screaming and crying as they ran into various directions.

Corm aimed his cannon at another building and repeated the process. Much of the same carnage followed as Eltari fell dead and fires began to burn across rooftops.

Amidst the screams and the chaos, Kyri picked up on one in particular and paused from her family’s exodus out of town. The sound beckoned her attention and forced her to look.

In the middle of the road, Kyri saw an Eltari toddler sitting by her deceased mother. The wailing cries had also caught the attention of Corm, who trained his weapon directly at her. As the glow built up, Kyri rushed over to the child and scooped her up into her chest and knelt down, waiting for the demon fire to consume both of them.

“It’s okay,” Kyri whispered with only seconds left to live. “I will walk with you into Rell’s paradise.”

Both girls clenched their eyes as the high pitched tone of the cannon indicated that it was just about to fire. It was moments that seemed as if an eternity before she finally heard the shot fire, followed by another one. Suddenly, the building not far beside them exploded and sent shrapnel all around them.

Kyri opened her eyes. She wondered how had the demon missed them at such a close range and glanced around, finally settling her eyes on the entryway to her house. There stood Ike, a small blaster in his hand.

Looking back, Kyri could see Corm’s arm pointed to the side. Apparently, Ike’s well-placed shot made at the right time had saved her life. She also noted the sparks emitting from the creature’s arm.

“Plasma cannon offline,” Corm stated to no one in particular. “Target identified visually. Enabling close combat mode.”

Ike slowly walked into the middle of the street, keeping his blaster trained on Corm’s head. His Cyrex spoke into his head. Item: Unable to sustain life signature cloaking. Disengaging.

His ability to hide had ended, but that didn’t matter any longer. There were only two ways this was going to end: either he would get another lucky shot to take down this bastard, or he would die then and there.

Corm’s stance changed from the rigid machine into something resembling a boxer. Ike knew about the capabilities of these cyborgs, but he’d never seen one up close. Only the larger ships were equipped with them and then it was only one or two. He’d certainly never gotten to see one fight hand-to-hand and he was likely about to die for that pleasure.

A moment later, Corm’s forearm plating opened up and two steel blades slid out, one on each arm. They measured several inches in length and shone brilliantly in the light as they locked into place.

Hurriedly, Kyri carried the orphaned child away from the showdown and handed the girl to her mother.

Corm twitched, calculating his series of moves. It was now or never for Ike and he pulled the blaster’s trigger.

Nothing. A brief flare up, but no pulsating beam of energy. Another pull and still no activity. A quick glance at the battery indicator showed a spent fuel cell. One shot was apparently all that Ike was going to get.

With nothing standing in his way, Corm leapt off his stance and ran toward Ike. The mechanical beast swung his sword-arms around like a character from one of Ike’s old animation shows.

The only move Ike could make was to duck. Narrowly missing decapitation, Ike fell backward onto the dirt road. His red bag sent flew out of reach and he could feel his wounds opening again from the abrupt movement.

Towering over Ike, Corm held both his arms high, ready to strike a devastating final blow. As his arms swung down, they were caught in mid-air and prevented from reaching their destination. Ike looked up to see Anod standing on one side, using his knives to stop the blade. On the other was Geneth, his spear barely holding together under the weight of the steel. Both Eltari men pushed back and sent Corm staggering.

“Are you okay, messenger?” Geneth asked, not taking his eye off the adversary.

“I thought you people were going to leave while you still could?” Ike responded, looking around for the red bag.

“You saved our sister’s life,” responded Anod. “We are repaying the debt.”

Ike could see the momentary confusion in Corm’s programming. Despite combining the strength and agility of a machine with the processing power of a human brain, these units were prone to delays when the parameters of a situation changed—especially the older models.

This could be his only moment to change the tides, so Ike tried to stand, but the pain in his rear caused him to fall back down again. Locating his red bag, Ike could do little more than resort to crawling toward it.

Corm began to move again. This time swifter and more agile than before. He trained a blade on each of his opponents. His arms sliced through the air and each man countered, keeping the machine busy. Anod’s accuracy was amazing as his stone knives were able to counteract each movement with a direct block. Geneth mainly focused on deflection and avoiding the strikes. Neither man knew if the demon could grow weary, but they could certainly keep it busy for a moment.

After several blows, Geneth’s spear gave way and splintered into two. Corm’s left arm sliced down his chest and then across his neck. Geneth dropped to his knees and the distraction caused Anod to lose his concentration for only a moment.

That moment was all that Corm needed to disarm Anod. A simple swipe across and his blade sliced cleanly through Anod’s left wrist. The severed hand dropped to the ground and Anod crouched down in pain.

Anger swelled up inside Kyri at the shedding of her brothers’ blood. She let out a high-pitched scream and rushed Corm as he retracted his blades to survey the scene. Her tackle attempt didn’t even cause Corm to flinch. All he had to do was lift his arm and she was sent flying back to the side of the road.

Corm looked around and spotted Ike only a few meters away, almost to the red bag. He walked over to the wounded human and reached down, turned Ike over, and grabbed by the neck. Corm’s metallic fingers wrapped around Ike’s throat as he lifted him off the dirt. Staring Ike in the face, Corm once again unsheathed the blade on his left arm and held it up to face level, ready to snuff out his existence.

Kyri pulled out her bow and focused on Corm’s head. Despite her horrible aim, she knew that this arrow had to hit its target. Pulling the line taught, she closed her eyes and breathed deeply. The world around her began to slow down, much as Geneth had tried to teach her to do for years. As she opened her eyes, her hands knew an unfamiliar steadiness.

“For my brother,” she said to herself before releasing the string.

The rogue arrow flew through the air with the speed and grace of an eagle. It embedded itself into Corm’s neck, causing him to drop Ike back into the dirt as his systems began to overload.

Ike looked over to see Kyri and then back up at Corm. Glancing to the red bag, he could see that it was now within reach. Grabbing the handle, he pulled it close to him and vehemently rummaged through the bag for a spare battery.

Regaining control, Corm reached up to his neck and pulled the arrow out. He looked down to focus his attention back to Ike just in time to see the new battery slide into place. A low hum sounded as the blaster powered up. Corm raised his arm to make his kill as Ike raised the blaster to Corm’s head.

Kyri’s heart leapt with brief happiness as the demon’s head exploded into pieces. The cyborg’s entire body went stiff for a moment before collapsing into a crumpled heap. Making eye contact with Ike, her brain determined that he was alive, but her thoughts were elsewhere. She turned her attention back to her brothers.

Geneth’s head was in their mother’s lap as she stroked his silver hair. His eyes were wide open, looking into the sky as he gasped for his final breaths. Anod, holding the stump on his left arm, ignored the massive pain as he lay by his dying brother. Kyri came close and touched her forehead to his. Her stomach was turned in knots, twisted beyond recognition.

“Farewell, my brother.” Despite only wanting to cry, she was able to utter the last words Geneth would ever hear. “May you visit me in my dreams.”

As Geneth stopped breathing, their mother pulled her two remaining children closer to her and they wept together.

Afar off, Ike watched the somber moment. This was no time for victory. They had defeated the cyborg, but other privateers would be coming soon. Above all else, Kyri had just lost a family member.

“Misa?” Tris’ voice cut through the crying and startled everyone. In all the commotion, no one had noticed her arrive. “I am too late. I swear to Rell that I did not want this pain to befall our family.”

Kyri’s mother slowly stood and stared at the stranger. After a moment, she turned back to her children without saying a word.

“Misa,” called out Tris, desperation in her voice. Her voice stopped the mother in her tracks. “Do you not recognize me? I know it has been ages, but—”

“My sister is long since dead,” snapped Kyri’s mother, whipping her head around again to the newcomer. “And if she were not, she would need to explain where she has been for ten years and why she claims to be responsible for the death of my son.”

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Previous: Chapter 3 by Christina || Next: Chapter 5 by Kella

Author Reference File

Posted: July 26, 2013 by Aaron Matthew Kaiser in Chaos #1 Planning, FYI (Oi! Pay attention!), Resources & Cool Stuff

Hello, fellow Chaosticians! (That’s your new official name. Learn to like it, or else. Ha!)

My name is Aaron and I am a new author for Chaos #1. You’ll be reading my work this Sunday with chapter 4. I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone and getting your feedback.

I digress. The reason for this post is to let everyone know about the author reference file that Kella and I have created. Right now, it is a basic list of terms/names with short descriptions. The goal is for this to become a quick reference guide so we all stay consistent with names and details without having to go back and re-read sections of previously written material.

You can find this file in the Google Drive folder. If you do not have access to it, please contact Kella. Please make part of your author habits to visit this file after your chapter has published and enter new information that you have established. If we meet a character in chapter 2 and find out they have two belly buttons in chapter 6, let us know so that someone writing chapter 10 doesn’t miss that detail and give them three.

I hope this helps everyone as I know it will help me greatly. Obviously, don’t write anything in the file that has yet to be established, unless you are explaining in greater detail about something. The entry for the Cyrex 3000 is a good example of this.

If you have any additional questions, please let me or Kella know.