Another Day At The Zoo

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Like many of the other younger humans in our enclosure, I like to interact with the aliens that pay to come and visit us.

I’m a third generation captive so the novelty of being on display doesn’t affect me in any way. My father, mother, grandmother and grandfather, still have major issues with our way of life. Especially my grandfather, who we call Papa. He gets to talking about when he was a soldier in an army that fought the first wave of aliens when they invaded Earth back in 2068, and it’s hard to stop him. The old boy is still pretty passionate about losing something he calls “his freedom.” I admit that I really don’t understand what he means by that, but I humor him.

We have everything we need here. Food, water, housing, and even entertainment. The neighborhood I live in has immaculate yards and custom homes. No two look alike. My family lives in a two-story house that is said to be a perfect copy of an 1880 Second Empire Victorian home. Right down to the furniture inside.

Forgive my rudeness. My name is Thad. I’m the youngest in our house at 78-years-old. I’m in the best shape of my life and I enjoy running 5 K races. A good game of full court basketball still gets my juices going. My Papa, at 124 years-young, is still a force to contend with on the tennis court. He often talks about living longer than he ever dreamed. He grudgingly admits that something the aliens put in our diet has extended the normal lifetime of humans.

My father, an only child, became immersed in a religious book called the Bible, at an early age. He gathered followers for years sharing his belief about following the Ten Commandments in it. When I was in my 20s, he made me read it, from end-to-end. Once he told me that although it appears we live in the Garden of Eden, we were, in fact, living in hell. That we were nothing more than trained apes content to live meaningless lives. His face always got red whenever he talked about it, and his eyes lit up with a fury that was barely contained. Afterwards I would feel vaguely guilty for reasons I didn’t understand. I never dwelled for long on his passionate diatribes. Life seemed good enough to me.

I never tire of seeing new species from around the solar system stare through the unbreakable glass, full of curiosity. Sometimes I’m able to communicate with universal signing, and learn about life on other planets. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Martian. He was ten-feet tall, thin as a rail and had extraordinarily long arms. We signed back and forth for hours before he took a picture of me and moved on to other exhibits. It was an exhilarating experience learning about life on Mars. When I came home and told my father he got angry and started quoting passages from the Bible. After that, I didn’t talk about what I did during my days.

My favorite visitors were from Venus. Not only were they polite but beautiful to look at. They reminded me of a book Papa showed me once about fairies. They were only a few inches tall, and had wings. They would visit in large groups of a hundred or more, and would spell out simple words in the air, like “Hello, and goodbye.” Because my father taught me to read, I had no trouble picking out the words. It was fun. Sometimes their little bodies would light up in brilliant colors. They could put on quit a show. In turn, they enjoyed having me tell them about my life. They seemed particularly interested in our food distribution system. I explained that the zoo staff flew into the enclosure once a week and dropped off supplies in a central location – the House of Food – where a trained staff of humans distributed the food throughout our community. One of the most popular food items was a ready-made soup that was irresistable to human taste buds. My Papa says it’s that soup that’s extending our lives. Our zoo keepers called the soup Ska.

The only visitors I didn’t like seeing were the Saurins from Jupiter. Not because they of their huge scaly reptilian bodies, but because of their fierce dislike of humans. They let us know that they’d rather eat us, then watch us. Their large baleful eyes hypnotized prey before they struck. I still shudder recalling a time that I was caught up in that deadly stare. If it wasn’t for the glass between us, I would have been his next meal. After that I learned not to look into their eyes.

One evening when I was having a bowl of ska, I discovered an eyeball! I was shocked and wondered how it got in the soup. To my untrained eye, it looked like a human eye. My stomach heaved for a moment at the thought. My brain raced through numerous possibilities – none of them good. Try as I might, I couldn’t see how an eyeball got in there by accident. When my father got home that evening I showed it to him. He was silent at first, as he carefully examined it.

“It’s a human eye!” he suddenly blurted out.

“How do you know?” I asked.

Turning to me with a look of pity he said, “We’re the only animals left on earth son. The rest have been eliminated a long time ago by humans, and finally the aliens.

I was so shaken by this information that I stood there with my mouth agape and couldn’t form any words. I shuddered at what it meant. When Papa came home and confirmed my father’s opinion, I was horrified. It meant that we were eating parts of humans. The mysterious meat base to the soup had to be human flesh. The eyeball was a packing accident. Despite my family telling others about it, there was a lot of skeptism. I stopped eating the soup immeditely, as did other members of my family. But the community at large continued to eat ska.

The effects from not eating the soup became apparent weeks later as my family and I began showing signs of rapid aging. My Papa was right about the soup being responsible for our advanced ages. Somehow, the aliens had developed a way of slowing aging down considerably by using humans and a combination of chemicals.

Papa and Grandma died of old age last night. Their skin was so wrinkled I barely could recognize them. My father and mother are so frail they can no longer walk. Their days are obvisiously numbered. I can’t walk a 100-yards now without being exhausted and out of breath. I haven’t touched a basketball since that dark night of discovery. I pass my days now waiting for aliens to come visit our little community.

When they do, I give the international sign for help. It’s all I can do. Perhaps someday, another race will rescue humanity. I’ll keep trying as long as my body lets me. I’m not afraid of death, but the idea that someone will be eating my body is the hell my father has been preaching that we live in now, for years.

You’ll have to excuse me now. I think I see a group of Venusians coming this way.

As It Stands, sometimes what we take for reality, is merely an illusion.

In The Blink Of An Eye

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The last thing Professor Ludwig von Bruenstein remembered before the lab explosion was that a green fog was escaping from a containment capsule. There was a sickening sweet taste as he inhaled it, before passing out.

A Month Before The Explosion.

Ludwig was having a beer with two of his colleagues at a bar in the small town of Judas Corners. It was located near the laboratory, about two miles away, and was called The Happy Traveler.

It wasn’t a particularly large laboratory. Only 22 people worked there. It was a top-secret facility and was heavily guarded with an electric gate perimeter, and roving guards 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Because it was a top-secret compound, no one in government, with the exception of the president and two cabinet members, even knew about it.

The highly vetted staff agreed to literally give up their private lives and to live at the facility until it was time to shut down the program. After two years, those dedicated scientists were only halfway towards their goals.

The ultimate goals were harnessing time travel, and traveling between dimensions not yet discovered in the universe. The staff agreed not to ask how the knowledge was going to be used. For the good of man, or to help destroy lives with military applications. They all felt the magnetic urge to conquer time and space and were willing to set aside their conscience in its pursuit.

Ludwig raised a frosty mug of beer up high and toasted his friend’s birthday.

“Harold has hit 60,” he said, “and is still as ugly as ever!” 

The three friends gulped down their beer amid laughter.

“Hey! Maybe someday Harold will be able to go to the future and get a new face!” Blake roared, beer dribbling down his long beard and onto the table.

They’d been drinking for hours and were pretty toasty when they finally had to leave when the bar closed. They stumbled out into the street towards a black SUV parked nearby. Someone clicked an electronic key tab. The lights came on and the doors automatically opened. The engine started as they climbed in. The doors closed and they all three sat back and relaxed as the driverless vehicle took them back to the laboratory.

The First Sign Something was Wrong.

Ludwig and another scientist were studying a row of monitors when one of them showed a room where one of their colleagues, Harold, was working on opening a capsule retrieved by the US Space Force on a distant planet. He suddenly stood up when a green gas emitted from the capsule, filling the room instantly. They lost sight of him but heard a startled voice cry out “What the hell?”

Moving fast, Ludwig sealed the room off and turned on a duct vacuum system that sucked all of the green gaseous substance into another capsule and into another room for safe storage. When the gas was gone, so was their colleague! There wasn’t a trace of Harold left. Ludwig called the team’s supervisor Dean on the intercom. He, and the other man in the room, Blake, were told not to talk with anyone and to stay where they were.

The laboratory was built with numerous innovative safety features which included hermetically sealed rooms. Even the hallways were sectioned off into sealed sections. It was impossible to get into any area without proper identification. Only the supervisor had total access of the compound. Everyone else had assigned areas with limited access.

As Blake and Ludwig discussed what they saw on the monitor a door opened and the supervisor walked in, followed closely by two other staff members.

“I’m still doing a head count. Can you tell me who was working on the capsule?” Dean asked as he approached the control panel.

“It was Harold,” Ludwig replied.

“You said a green gaseous substance filled the room. Anything more about it I should know?” Dean queried them.

“It was a luminescent green and sparkled like bursts of electricity were going through it,” Blake said.

“And you said that you transferred this gaseous substance to a storage room?” Dean asked Ludwig.

“Yes. Number Three on the north side of this compound,” Ludwig assured him.

“What do you think we’re dealing with?” Blake asked Dean. “A life form? A portal to another dimension?”

“Both are good guesses. I wish this wouldn’t have happened. You know we can’t tell the rest of the staff about what happened here. Just the five of us know right now. Let’s keep it that way until we know what we’re dealing with.” 

Two weeks later.

Ludwig and Blake were swilling down copious amounts of beer and recalling good times before Harold disappeared. Ludwig was proposing another toast to their lost friend when he suddenly appeared next to them!

“I can’t blink...” Harold said before disappearing again.

Even in their inebriated state they knew he wasn’t a ghost. He was obviously being caught up in a dimensional dilemma that he had no control over. They looked at each other and went back to drinking in earnest. As usual, they closed the bar. On the way back they decided to tell Dean what they’d seen.

After telling their story to him they went to their sleeping pods and passed out.

Ludwig awoke abruptly when someone pulled on his leg!

“What the…?” Then he saw Harold standing there. His normally smiling face was angry and his eyes blazed with fury!

“We have to free the Szani and send them back to Aoqil!” He cried.

“Who are the Szani?” a terrified Ludwig managed to ask as he crawled out of his pod.

“Locked up in storage room three,” Harold said, gritting his teeth in an effort not to blink. “Damn!” he cried out, and disappeared again.

So there it was. The green cloud was an alien life form. Maybe numerous life forms. And they were being held captive. Did Dean know this? Ludwig pondered all the possibilities as he slipped his shoes on. He felt conflicted. He had no moral ground to stand on when it came the ethics of what was happening. In essence, holding other life forms hostage. He was excited about time travel and researching other dimensions, but this was another animal…literally.

Should he free the Szani? Did they have the key to dimensional travel? He had trouble trying to decide where his loyalties lay.

As Ludwig struggled with indecision Dean watched him on a monitor. He saw everything. Turning to his two guards/staff members he gave them instructions to take Ludwig to storage room number three and lock him in. It didn’t take long. He watched them overpower Ludwig. They laid him down on the floor near the capsule and left. Minutes later he regained consciousness and sat up and looked around. He stood just in time for the explosion that sent him careening across the room! The capsule had a long crease in it’s side and green gas was pouring out and filling the room! He could taste a cloying sweetness before passing out.

Harold was there when he woke up. They were somewhere else. He saw purple and gold hills and fields of foreign-looking plants.

“It’s not easy, but don’t blink,” Harold told him. “After awhile you’ll get use to it. In time, they tell me, that you can even control where you go when you do blink. Right now, welcome to Aoqil!”

As It Stands, first encounters with aliens are bound to be a messy process.

A Season To Kill

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Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

Some people are born killers. It’s true. I’ve known a few.

The man I’m going to introduce you to, is one. His name is Troy. Just Troy, like in destroy. All I can tell you about his personal history was he was an orphan, and went into the US Army while living in New Jersey, at 18-years-old.

Troy was assigned to the 173rd Rangers, in an elite unit of assassins. Not snipers, although he was an expert shot. It was a special ops unit funded by Pentagon dark money. They called themselves The Wolf Pack, and were only called on in special operations like killing foreign heads of state. The unit’s leader was an ex-CIA spy, Derrick Nunes. They were always on notice; 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. Troy became the star student and was soon teaching his own classes. He was a natural killer.

Troy was the alpha male of The Wolf Pack and was always on the edge of sanity and humanity. He followed orders…up to a point for five years when his superiors began to worry that he was becoming a liability. Being anti social was one thing, but scaring the men he worked with was another. He seldom spoke. When he did, his voice was gravelly and harsh without emotion.

His sheer size was intimidating. At six-feet, nine inches, he weighed 275 pounds. It was all muscle. They saw his strength when he crushed skulls with his bare hands! He snapped men’s bones like an ogre out of The Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales. His feats of strength in the weight room were unequaled. Couple that power with a quick and crafty brain and you had the most dangerous man in America’s military.

As Troy became increasingly unpredictable his superiors went over their options and decided it was best to kill him. His disappearance would go unnoticed. He’d long ago severed his ties with family and friends when he joined the program. They were still working on the details when Troy disappeared on his own. It happened twice before, but he eventually showed up and reported for duty. In both cases, within a week. He’d been gone twice that time in this last disappearance. They finally issued an alert to all of their operatives. Troy had gone rogue. Exterminate with extreme prejudice.

The reason why Troy was gone so long was he was kidnapped by aliens from the planet Orth in the fourth Solar System from Earth, in the Gelean Galaxy.

It was done efficiently and without harming him. A super stun-gun and drugs, took care of the giant human they were bringing back with them. The tallest citizen on Orth was three-feet tall. Most were about two-and-half feet tall. Troy’s captors mission was to bring him back to their scientists, and military leaders, so they could study him and look for human vulnerabilities. The eventual goal was to invade earth. After hundreds of years of monitoring Earth from afar, they wanted to see an actual human. As fate would have it, they found Troy alone on a beach and assumed he was representative of the species. The main reason Orthians selected Earth to conquer was that it’s environment was nearly identical to theirs.

When they returned home the giant’s body was transported by solar-driven moving platforms to a massive military complex where it was deposited on table that had built-in restrains made from the strongest metal on Orth. He was hooked up to numerous monitors, and an IV regulating the amount of drugs that kept him unconscious, but alive.

Not everyone in Orth wanted to invade Earth. As a matter of fact, most were against the idea. But the dictator they lived under was too powerful to overthrow. Loth’s well-equipped army smashed every attempt at overthrowing his mad regime. There was a thriving underground resistance that kept track of what Loth and his minions were doing.

Saen, the son of Kalt, who was once the King before Loth, was one of many trained spies that infiltered the military complex and kept an eye on their activities. He was there the day they brought the giant human in to the medical research building. All programs within were suspended in order to concentrate all their resources on the human. As the days went by Saen became aware no one knew just how strong the human was. It was one of the reasons they hadn’t allowed him to regain consciousness. With his cover as a scientist, Saen was able to go into the guarded room where they kept Troy to make observations for the data base that was being compiled daily.

One fateful day, the ranking members of the resistance called an emergency meeting. It was apparent Loft’s fleet was getting ready to invade Earth. One of the spies reported the giant was going to be dissected and disposed of that night. Saen was tasked with freeing him in the hope he’d cause enough chaos to stop an immediate invasion. It was the best idea they could come up with. Right after the meeting Sean headed to the Research Building. After showing his pass to the guards he went into the room where Troy slept under a blue light. Without hesitating, he switched the IV container that contained sleeping drugs to another one nearby that was used to wake patients up. He watched the blue liquid run through the clear feeder to make sure it was working. An eye suddenly opened! Then the other. As he watched with fascination an angry frown stretched across the unshaven face and he grunted. His bare chest heaved mightily and the corded muscles in his arms bulged as he strained against the toughest metal on Orth. It was time to go! The restraints were giving and he didn’t want to be there when they gave way. The guards couldn’t help notice Saen looked nervous when he came out. One stood up and opened the door just as Troy freed himself. Before he could draw his stun gun Troy was on him! He picked up the little alien and snapped him in half with his bare hands! The other guard had time to scream before Troy picked him up with one hand and threw him against the wall, smashing him like a bug.

The Troy that woke up on the planet Orth was a different man than the one on Earth. He was completely crazy. There was no humanity left in him. He was just a killing machine in search of victims. Within a week Loth, and his minions, were no longer a cohesive force and were scattered around the mountains surrounding the military complex. As for Troy, he roamed the planet like an angry god for decades searching for victims.

As It Stands, the universal gods of war laughed, and the carnage continued.

The Gate Keeper

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Torug tore off the Bazalite’s limbs, one by one, in a show of power that terrified his comrades who turned and ran for their lives. Before the Bazalite died, he cut his head off and threw it in the direction of his retreating comrades. Then he let out a roar that echoed throughout the valley.

No one would ever get by Torug.

Created by the gods of Azorth, Torug was the gate-keeper to their world, where the gods from three solar systems lived in harmony. It was a beautiful lush world of grassy savannas, majestic mountains, mighty rivers, and valleys covered in trees as far as the eye could see. It was Torug’s job to see that the portal to Azorth was protected at all times. To this end, his creators made him a fearsome creature. He stood seven-feet-tall and was massively muscled. His blue skin was covered in golden armor. His golden helmet covered his entire face. There were two small openings for his brilliant orange eyes that glared in the dark. He stood night and day in the vast desert. Never complaining. Always ready.

The planet, Tenith was a barren wasteland, ruined by generations of polluters and wars. It’s inhabitants, the Bazalites were dying off as resources shriveled up and food became more scarce. A once proud civilization, the Bazalites had reached the height of civilization generations ago. Their decline was a steady series of wars.

Once upon a time in Tenith, the portal/gate that Turug now guarded was open and the Bazelites mingled with the gods of Azorth. But that was thousands of years ago before the wars began.

Now the Bazelites faced extinction. They lived in small war bands that continued to fight for survival in the unforgiving heat. Every Bazelite knew about the portal to Azorth. And, its fierce gatekeeper. In desperation they attacked Turug day and night, only to be savagely turned back.

It was during these desperate times that a young female Bazelite, Adio, came up with a plan to open up the portal without attacking Torug. Her family wished her well as she set out across the vast Nigaran desert one night. Not only was Adio brave, but she had the best imagination of anyone in the little group she was brought up with. She was always telling stories, weaved from her fertile dreams and thoughts. It was this ability, to tell fascinating stories, that she counted on.

It took two days to cross the Nigaran desert. Adio was scanning ahead during the second day when she saw a glint of light. The closer she came it glittered until she made out Turag. He was standing with his arms crossed staring straight ahead at her. The sun danced over his golden armor, and Turug looked like a terrible angel to her. But, she didn’t panic and kept walking towards him. Not sensing any aggression, Turug was mildly amused at her courage. She was unarmed yet she still approached him. It was a novel moment. Something new after years of silently standing guard and listening to the wind.

“My name is Adio. I tell stories,” she simply stated.

Behind the golden helmet, Turug’s face contorted in surprise. What was this? No one ever talked with him before. She wanted to tell stories. He was confused and unsure of what to do. She didn’t appear to be a threat.

“Why do you think I want to hear your stories?” he asked in a gravelly voice that was not used to speaking.

“Because your alone, and you don’t have any friends. It must be boring,” she replied.

“Alone. Boring. What are these things that you speak of?

“It doesn’t seem fair that you stand guard all alone with no one to talk with and pass the time. That seems sad.. boring,” she explained.

Turug’s interest was piqued. He took his helmet off, exposing an ogre-like face and bald head. She watched him carefully, trying to read any expression on his grotesque face. His strange orange eyes seemed to twinkle in amusement, so she went on, “Let me tell you a story of long ago, when the Bazelite’s and the gods of Azorth mingled in harmony.”

“It was so, once?” he asked in surprise.

“Yes. Many lifetimes ago, before the god of war turned our people into what we are today.”

“Speak. I would hear this story.

“In the days when the gods and the people of Bazelite were close, they sometimes intermingled, and had children. Rarely. But it did happen. One day the god of love mated with a Bazelite and they had a child. It was against the rules, but like I said, it happened. When the other gods held court to talk about the violation, the god of love defended what he’d done. The court was in chaos for days as the gods argued back and forth.

“Finally, they decided to see how the child turned out, and didn’t censor the god of love for breaking the rule. The child’s name was Bal. As he grew up he wrestled with his dual nature and developed a bad temper. By the time he reached his majority he was fighting with others over stupid things and had earned a reputation for being foul-tempered. It got to the point where he recruited several Bazelites and gods and they went about sowing discord. He was upsetting the harmony of Azorth and the day came when he had to be dealt with. Because he was half god they did not kill him. Instead, he was banished and named the “God of War.

“The banishment included all of the Bazelites who were living in Azorth. From that day forward the god of war ravaged the planet. We have been expelled from paradise ever since.”

“This is true?”

“Yes. A mistake was made and a civilization has paid for it,” she softly replied, as hope began to build inside her that she’d reached his heart.

“It’s a sad story,” Turug allowed, and crushed her skull with his massive fist!

As It Stands, the gods were not to meant to mingle. They were meant to rule.

Treavor’s Ark 2167: The Exodus

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It was the biggest spaceship ever built.

It was the vision of Treavor Lancehold, a reclusive billionaire who hoped to bring two of every species that were still left on the dying planet, along with his family and skilled followers, to another world to start over.

Earth was under siege from the elements. Floods, droughts, volcanos, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes were happening where they never did before. Arctic glaciers that were millions of years old disappeared, and the ocean’s waters rose and islands slipped beneath the waters never to be seen again. Coasts worldwide gave way to the sea, reclaiming the land and creating new beaches.

It was during these trying times for humanity that Treavor finally completed his massive ship – the Ark – after ten years of construction. It had the latest technology, allowing it to take off under its own nuclear power, unlike the old days when rocket boosters were used. It only needed a large flat space to land on. There was no need for runways.

When Treavor first began construction, he was mocked by most of the world. They called him a cult-figure with mindless followers. When he went to the U.N. to present his project so that others could learn how to make one, they laughed so hard that they couldn’t hear his presentation. He doggedly finished it, and then left to go back to Oregon.

As the years passed the elements got worse and major tragedies caused by flooding and other elemental disturbances were daily events across the globe. Disaster, after disaster, drained governments resources and emergency supplies.

Treavor carefully selected people with skills in science, agriculture, geology, physics, electricity, literature, history, engineering, psychology, construction, and medicine. He made it a requirement for a man and a woman to work (and live together) in each field. The couples agreed to use birth control until they landed on a new world and colonized it.

Word had been circulating around the world for a year that the ark was nearly complete. Former skeptics contacted Treavor and pleaded to come. He turned them all down because he’d already selected a crew. Along with the experts, he brought his wife and twin sons.

A week before departure, hordes of desperate people showed up in Bend, Oregon, where the ark sat waiting for its maiden voyage. Treavor had to turn on the force fields around the gigantic ship to prevent them from crawling all over it like ants. The crew tried to stay focused on completing their last-minute tasks, but it was hard to see the naked desperation in the eyes of thousands of people clustered outside the invisible shield.

A day before the scheduled departure, a squadron of fighter jets and bombers tested the shield. It held despite the all-day assault. The carnage outside of the shield was a sight the crew would never forget. Bodies as far as they could see lay mangled by collateral fire, and the bombs that rocked the earth for miles. Historians one day would document the demise of the innocents, whose only crime was their governments were too stupid to take a proactive stance to what was happening on Earth.

The Ark cruised through galaxies looking for a planet where humans could survive. Treavor was the oldest person on board, and his health was failing him after they left Earth two years ago. His wisdom was universally acknowledged among the crew. His even sense of temper and compassion earned him the love of everyone on the Ark.

Knowing his days were numbered, Treavor drew up a will, leaving his twin sons with equal authority and in charge of the expedition. Rufus and Mathew were like night and day. The twins seldom agreed on anything. Neither processed all of the qualities of their revered father. Each had some good points, but one of them, Mathew, had a terrible temper, unlike his father.

When the inevitable day arrived and Treavor died during his sleep, the whole crew went into mourning for a week. They released his body to the cosmos in a simple but stately ceremony.

It only took a month before the two brothers clashed about something. Mathew wanted to colonize a planet that already had an intelligent species, because the atmosphere was perfect for humans. According to the rules for colonization set down by Treavor, they couldn’t disrupt a planet that already was inhabited by a civilization. Rufus refused to murder aliens, and stuck by his father’s stated rule. This incident produced a tension that grew worse as the weeks passed.

Mathew gathered together crew members who agreed with him about colonizing the next planet if the atmosphere was right; even if it meant committing genocide against a whole world.

Rufus was aware of what was going on with the small group Mathew assembled. He was smart enough to realize a confrontation was inevitable and spent hours thinking about his response. He knew the first thing to happen would be an attempt to take over the control room so he armed six men and tasked them with protecting it. New security for the bridge was instituted in case of an attack.

Two months passed before another possible candidate for colonization appeared. It had the required atmosphere but was inhabited by an alien race in its infancy.

It was the chance Mathew and his cronies were waiting for. Their attack was met with equal force as deadly lasers tore through flesh and metal. Computers were destroyed in the carnage and the great Ark slowly came to a stop, floating like space flotsam in the solar system.

Mankind’s hope for redemption was shattered, as the crippled Ark drifted silently in space for eternity.

As It Stands, hope for humanity rests with those who recognize the perils of pollution and climate change, and prepare accordingly.

The Space Orphans Of Pallidia

What happens when a planet is overpopulated and torn by continuing wars?

In the case of Pallidia, one out of every ten babies get sent to other planets. The rest are killed. Only the super wealthy, one-percenters, could afford to send their new offspring to other planets with similar atmospheres.

Even so, there was no guarantee that those children would be accepted by whoever found them. It was a last-ditch gamble by a desperate civilization. A forlorn hope that their species might survive somewhere else.

With only six other planets in their solar system, the choices were down to four planets that could sustain them. Nothing was known of their populations and civilizations. Space travel had only progressed to sending small lifeboat capsules to nearby planets.

The capsules didn’t always make it to their destination.

The one’s that did, suffered different fates on the four targeted planets. The nearest planet Hatho II, was the worst one. When its inhabitants discovered a capsule, they took it as food from the gods! The fate of those babies was a barbaric death.

The second nearest planet Strava, was populated by bipeds similar in stature and make-up to the children from Pallidia. They were an emerging civilization using crude technology to survive. Whenever they found a capsule with a live baby in it they rescued it and adopted it into their tribe.

The third planet, Arsus, was a cold bleak world that seldom saw much light from the twin suns in the solar system. It was populated by bipeds and quadrupeds. There was no cities, because no species existed with that kind of expertise. Half the planet was underwater and unexplored. There was zero chance for a space orphan.

The furthest planet, Zenxa, was populated with advanced Homo sapiens who built great cities and civilizations. They were a peace-loving species that welcomed the space orphans when they arrived…which was very seldom.

Only three of the nine capsules that actually made it to Zenxa bore live cargos. The other six had problems with entry and burned up by the time they hit the ground. Of the three, one died a year later for unknown reasons.

The remaining two children, both boys, were adopted by two sets of parents. The adoptive parents lived half a world away from each other so the boys weren’t raised together in the same city.

The capsules quit coming as the years passed by and the two boys grew up.

Cain and Abel grow up miles apart and had no knowledge of one another. They both had one trait in common, a violent streak. Each worked their way up in the local governments until they were a step away from becoming supreme leaders of their civilizations.

Cain formed a militia. The concept was unknown in Aton until then. He had succeeded in his desire, because the Supreme Leader died of natural causes.

When word got to Lux, where Abel lived, that the kingdom of Aton was doing some strange things like training groups of men to fight together, Abel knew he had to convince his people to arm themselves.

The current Supreme Leader, Sray, resisted Abel’s efforts to form a militia however. He was a scholar who studied lost civilizations, solar systems, and other mysteries of the universe. He was also an expert at Mindsight, and knew exactly what was going on in Abel’s head.

Sray knew Abel’s history and that he came with another alien who had somehow ascended to the Supreme Leadership of Aton. It was time, he decided, to tell Abel about Cain and their orphan heritage.

Abel’s reaction went from surprise to curiosity. Then suspicion.

“Why tell me now?” he bluntly asked, “Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?”

“Because no one could foresee the future. Your adoptive parents, may the Lord of Life always keep them in his heart, didn’t see the need. They raised you as one of their own.”

“What now?” he sullenly asked.

“You two should meet,” Sray answered. “I’ve taken the liberty of inviting him here.

Two days later.

“Thank you for inviting me,” Cain said to Sray.

“Thank you for coming. I have something of special interest to you, but first you must agree to hear me out before reacting to what I tell you.”

“An intriguing offer. Please tell me what’s so interesting.” 

“Excellent!”

Sray went into another room and came back out accompanied by a man roughly the same age as Cain.

“Cain, meet Abel. He’s from another planet just like you.

Cain’s coutesy melted away in an instant, as he glared at Abel.

“What is this about another planet?” he demanded.

It took an hour for Sray to calm Cain and Abel down. Using his Mindsight he was able to say the right things to address each man’s concerns. Then he contacted Cain’s back-up, and they mind-melded. A plan was formed.

The next day Sray heard that Cain had murdered Abel in the night!

The plan was thrown out. Citizens and scientists of Aton and Lux did not believe in killing, but they didn’t want Cain on their planet any longer. It was decided to put him on a space ship that would take him out of their solar system.

All provisions were made for his safety. He would be at the mercy of the ship’s computer – GOD – wandering other universes for a lifetime.

As It Stands, this tale is a nod to supreme beings that I’m sure exist somewhere.

The Star Child

Jericho was the only person in town who could see a spook, or spirit as Reverend Ledbetter called them.

No one in Titusville, Kentucky, doubted that Jericho had the ability to see, and communicate with the dead. He was always a strange child that defied description.

For starters, no one ever tried to pick on him in school even though he made an easy target. He never bullied anyone. He tended to be a loner, but spoke with other students and teachers when he had to.

There was something powerful that emanated from Jericho. There was a certainty in his eyes that belied his age. He was neither short, nor tall. He wasn’t stupid, nor was he the top of the class.

He was every man by the time he graduated from high school. He could disappear in crowds effortlessly. Nothing in his features made him stand out.

If not for his ability to see and talk with spirits, Jericho would have gone through life unnoticed.

Instead of leaving tiny Titusville like most of the other kids did when they graduated, Jericho was content to stay in town and scratch out a living as a handyman and carpenter.

He lived with his elderly parents in the house he was born in. The house was located near the downtown district in a small residential area.

One afternoon while Jericho was repairing a neighbor’s fence, an alien from a nearby solar system trying to disguise itself as a restless spirit, approached him with a question, “When shall I go to heaven?

Jericho stopped hammering and turned around to fully face the apparition.

“Never!” he harshly replied, “You’re a fraud!

Surprised to be discovered so easily, the alien took on its true form.

“Perhaps the rumors are true,” the alien said. “Maybe you are the star child.”

I don’t know anything about a star child. The dead choose to talk with me. I’m nothing more than a sympathetic soul bent on leading a quiet life.

“Your modesty humbles me…for a moment. But I’m not here to admire your ability to speak with the dead. I’m here to warn you to stop! My master, Lord Lucan of Antares, doesn’t like it. You’ve been stirring up some lost souls that he’s collected around the solar system and they now believe they have hope.”

“Get out of here, whatever you are! Take your warning and shove it up your master’s ass!”

When the alien left, he went back to work on the fence and finished it before the sun went down. That night as he ate dinner with his parents, he sensed an underlying tension. Like they wanted to tell him something.

After dinner, they all went to the living room. Instead of picking up a book, like he usually did after the evening meal, Jericho’s father said he had a story to tell him.

It started with the fact that he was an orphan. They found him near the wreckage of a small metal capsule in the forest. He was only an infant, so they took him home and raised him.

They agreed that some day they would tell him what they knew – little though it was – when they felt he was ready. One thing that amazed them both was how much he came to resemble a little of each of them in his features.

“This is that day,” his mother spoke up.

“Why today?

“Because our time is running out,” his father explained. “Some alien-looking thing came by today and threatened to kill us if you didn’t stopping talking with the dead.”

Jericho bowed his head for a moment and tried to collect himself. “Who was he? The alien thought he might be someone called the star child.”

His parents watched his confusion with sympathy. Their world was turned upside when they first found him. Now it was being turned upside down again because they raised him. Neither, for even a moment, considered asking him not to communicate with restless spirits.

It was an ability they accepted because of their love for him. Both were ready to die for him now.

“Mom and Dad, would you do me a favor?

They both quickly nodded yes.

“Can you take me back to that place in the forest where you found me?”

There was a slight hesitation before his father said, “I’ll do my best son, but my legs are old and weak. Along with my memory.”

They drove to the edge of the forest. His mother stayed with the pickup truck while his dad picked out a trail and followed it. After an hour they came upon the partly buried capsule. Vegetation had nearly engulfed it.

“Thanks dad. Now you head back before it gets dark.

“Good luck son…if I never see you again.”

When night fell Jericho attempted to do something he’d never done before; summon up a spirit – and not just one – but hundreds! Soon he was surrounded by spirits. He discovered they all weren’t just earthly spirits, but spirits from other races in other planets too!

He looked through the canopy of trees and saw stars twinkling brightly in the heavens. It was like they all were waiting for him to speak. With the support of other alien spirits, Jericho put together a team to stop Lord Lucan’s evil reign.

When it was done he felt pain in his earthly body. It only lasted for a moment before he died and his free spirit was able to assume his destiny as the star child.

As It Stands, this tale was a twist on the superman story.