Saturday, June 17, 2017

Star Talker: Part 2: What's a goat?



Three Lo'Rahni males stood just inside the doorway of the vault. They were tall, the whole lot of them two meters tall or better. They were humanoid, for the most part. They had skin the color of deep cinnamon similar to the Terrans who descended from the desert regions of Earth, only with a shimmer of gold that gleamed in the bright fluorescent lights. Each had a set of horns sprouting from their foreheads, protrusions of bone that curled and twisted in the fashion of a Terran ram. The most striking feature of their species, aside from the amber eyes, were the additional set of arms each sported.

The one in the center was the shortest of the three, muscular. His hair fell in black braids around his shoulders, his horns spiraling back around his head like a crown. He raked his golden gaze over me and snorted.

"I didn't know Terrans hissed," he said, crossing his lower set of arms.

"They don't," said a thinner man to his right. I recognized him as one of the scientists from a delegation we'd met with several months ago.

The first man chuckled. "A little warrior then?"

"A bit plump for a warrior," said the final man with a snort.

I jabbed the knife in his direction. "Fuck you, you hulking goat!"

He blinked with surprise. "She speaks our language?"

The shorter man furrowed his brow. "What's a goat?"

"A goat is a horned animal on Terra, used for milk and meat," said the scientist. "That is Selena. The Terrans' translator."

The shorter man grinned. "How useful. Take her and put her with the other females."

The rude one strode toward me. I slashed with the plasma knife. He cried out as I made contact with one of his arms. I backed away, holding the knife up, clutching the Arkiv to my chest. My back met the hard flesh of a man. I yelped and whipped around, knife high. Large hands gripped my hips while a third gripped my wrist and the other easily pried the knife from my fingers. Why did they have to have so many damned hands? It was the man with the spiral horns and braids.

"I admire your courage, but we both know you can't win this battle, girl."

He tossed the knife aside and reached for the Arkiv. I twisted and bit the arm closest to my face. His brow furrowed, nostrils flaring. His free hand landed sharply on my left cheek. I blinked, pain blooming in my skin. There hadn't been much force behind it, just enough to smart, but I had little doubt he could have easily broken my neck if he wanted to. However, I knew from studying their language and from conversations with their people that he wouldn't despite the bodies decorating the once immaculate floors of the facility.

"I would advise," he said slowly, as if speaking to a child, "that you cooperate. This could go far worse for you, but, then, you know that, don't you?"

I lifted my chin. "I keep the tablet."

He arched a brow. "You are not in a place to negotiate."

"I'm not negotiating. I am going to cooperate. I'm also keeping my tablet." I gripped it tighter. "It's my work. You can't read it or likely translate it. You have no use for it."

He snorted. "You think we couldn't find another Terran translator to decipher your little computer?"

I stared him straight in the eye. "There are roughly seven thousand Terran languages, modern and extinct. Have fun figuring out first what language my notes are in, and then trying to find another linguist who is not only familiar with Terran languages, but with the subset of languages my notes are in. The odds of a non-Terran linguist being able to translate it are infinitesimal, and given what I saw on the cameras a few minutes ago, I really doubt you're going to get you're hands on another Terran linguist."

There was an uncomfortably long silence.

"I thought you were a xenolinguist?"

I looked at the scientist. I suddenly remembered his name was Korath. "All exoplanetary linguists are xenolinguists, but a girl has to have hobbies."

My captor closed his eyes and winced as if I had given him a headache. "Fine. You keep the tablet." He tossed me over his shoulder, gripping my ankles with one hand and planting the other on my ass.

"Is this really necessary?" I said, now eye level with the toned muscles beneath his black trousers.

He gave my ass a little pat. "Let's see, you attacked my man with a plasma knife and bit me, and I haven't beaten you yet. You really going to complain?"

I stayed silent. Mostly because the "yet" hung in the air like a menacing promise.



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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Star Talker: Part 1: Attack



Alarms blared throughout the facility. Lights flashed along the corridors, red, the color of attack. I had never seen the signal lights flash that color before, not in the two years I'd been studying on this planet. Blue signified storms. When the lights were solid green, it meant visitors. The facility had several delegations of the native dominant species visit before. Initially, military probes to determine whether our presence was a threat. Then a few scientists were allowed that we might observe each other. Learn about each other.

A few months ago, the scientists stopped coming. Now I knew why.

"Shit shit shit!"

I ran down the stairs, clutching my Arkiv tablet. I slammed my hand on to the palm reader at each floor barrier. If I got to the basement level, I could lock myself in the pharmacology vault. Hopefully, they wouldn't destroy the facility entirely. Maybe I would be able to find a return vessel, or signal for a rescue pod from a proximal station.

I flew through the final door into the vault, securing the mag locks and throwing the thick steel bars in place. The room was the color of brightly polished pearls, pristine and sterile. It smelled faintly of antiseptic and the powdery chemical scent of pills. Steel refrigerator units lined the walls, each filled with vials of various medications. The temperature controlled safes contained the pill forms. I jerked open the drawers of the prep counter, looking for some semblance of a weapon. Pill cutters, packages of unused syringes, bins of sterile needles. I laid the Arkiv on the counter and crouched to pilfer through the lowest drawer.

An inactive plasma knife gleamed up from a package of surgical instruments. I ripped open the hemp plastic and took the knife flashing it on briefly, to ensure it worked. Snatching the Arkiv back into my hand, I flipped off the overhead lights and sat against the wall behind the counter, keeping it between me and door. The red lights continued to flash, oddly dim in the darkness of the vault. The alarms were muffled now, sounding outside the vault, but thankfully not in it.

I switched on the Arkiv, wondering if I might access the camera network. The wifi tether was still in place, so the natives hadn't destroyed the server room yet. I tapped the camera icon and pressed my thumb to the scanner. Images flickered onto the grid as the streams loaded to the tablet.

My heart stopped. Corpses littered each floor. Doctors in bloodied white coats lay in heaps on the tile. Even the poor old botanist in his dusty apron lay among his plants in the greenhouse, feeding his lifeblood to his verdant children. I scrolled through each image, zooming in on the faces of the fallen. So far, they were all men. Many were Terran, like me. Human. There were a few other races that had joined us here, studying both the planet and us through proximity. The botanist had a coworker, a female Candarri agriculturalist, who had been interested in the cultivation of Terran food sources in alien soils.

Litai had been a tall slender woman with iridescent blue skin. Her eyes were large and round with irises the color of Terran emeralds that seemed to refract light much like a cut and polished gem. Silvery feathers adorned her head in place of hair. I’d found her striking. I also found her missing.

I scanned the cameras again. No corpse. But Litai was nowhere to be found. Instead, teams of large humanoid beings moved quickly through the halls, firing blasters at any male facility staff that crossed their path.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

I looked up, wondering at the sound that had echoed inside the vault. I looked back to the cameras in time to see every door in the facility fly open. Shit, the emergency release.

The steel bars on the vault door slammed open, making me jump. The sound of the mag lock releasing echoed in the chamber a split second before the door swung open. The lights came back to life, blinding me briefly with their brightness.

“Get the drugs. Take everything.”

They were speaking Klotharan. It was the primary language of the continent the facility stood on. All the visiting scientists had spoken it. From our talks, Lo’Rah, the planet we were on, had several hundred languages, much like Earth, but Klotharan was the most common and the one they used for interstellar communications. I had been studying it for years, among other interstellar languages. I had been brought to Lo’Rah as an interpreter. I guess I suck at my job.

I leapt up from the floor, flicking on the plasma knife and hissed at the invaders before they could round the counter.



Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked