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NETHEREAL by Brian Niemeier – Review

POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD: YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

INTRODUCTION
Nethereal follows the journey of the Gen, Jaren Peregrine and his crew aboard the Shibboleth as they engage in piracy across space. They are under constant pursuit from Malachi and the Steersmen Guild. However, when they are gifted the Exodus. They plunged into a near, inescapable nightmare.

PLOT: 3/5
The plot starts off strong by introducing Nakvin. It displays her talents and how the magic of this universe is employed. She’s also on a job that involved getting close to a guild member before trying to make off with a plaque that contains information that would late lead them to an abandoned space fortress. We are then shown who she works for, a Gen pirate Captain named Jaren who commands the crew of Shibboleth. The Gen are all but extinct and Jaren is the last of his kind. A plot point that comes to a head later as the crew delves deeper into hell. But before all that, these pirates are being pursued by the cunning and determined newly appointed Guild Master Malachi, who has made it his personal mission to destroy the Gen pirate and his cohorts. There is also the secondary plot involving Mordechai and his own plans that go way beyond Malachi or even Jaren. The end result sees the pirates fighting their way through the various Circles of Hell before the conclusion sees the universe being almost torn asunder by the ambitions of powers beyond mortal comprehension. It needs to be read because it’s executed in a fun and memorable way.

As a whole, I found myself enjoying more so, Malachi as the main villain because once more started showing up, especially in hell. The novel lost some oomph as it meandered through the circles and their schemes. A small part of me wondered how different this story would be with Malachi versus Mordechai or if hell itself wasn’t a factor. There’s a really good moment where the two confront each other and it has to be the most memorable part of the book because, for the first time, Malachi is up against someone he can’t easily outplay or scheme. Mordechai offers a threat to his perceived control over the fate of Jaren.

There are also a few twists here and there, including some good old-fashioned backstabs. The pace is decent, a little fast though as I already implied. And as interesting from a world-building perspective the Nine Circles were. I found myself drawn to Jaren and Malachi more so than the Baals and other monsters.

I can’t end this part without mentioning the Event Horizon… I mean Exodus. It functions much the same as that cursed ship and even indulges the body horror shown throughout that film. It’s a dark edifice that if you’ve ever played Stellaris, you know that innocent blood went into making this abomination of a ship.

CHARACTER: 4/5

The human characters, Mordechai included even if he becomes a void-like being were all unique and engaging. Jaren’s crew each have their own personality, fears and wants. One of the defining moments of that relationship is when Jaren is pulling away from his loyalty to the crew, and Teg just straight-up socks the man to get him back to his senses. Malachi was a memorable villain but sadly, he’s no Mephistopheles. Though now I’m thinking what if he and Malachi were one and the same? Could have been a really good twist in hindsight. That’s the thing there are many standout characters but there are also a lot of characters generally. Including Sulaiman who provides an early insight into the machinations of hell and his long existence is reflected in his speech and mannerisms. I won’t say much more here because it’s getting into serious spoiler territory.

WORLD BUILDING: 4/5

The world-building is seamless throughout and is easy enough to follow even if you are thrown unfamiliar terms. As the story goes from place to place not just hell. It does feel lived in. You have stations, outposts and hidden bases on planets. The detail that went into the Nine Circles is also really good, each circle offers near horrors and dare I say some Lovecraftian elements. Even the ending portion of the book feels like something Lovecraft would employ or probably has in his own stories.

OTHER + FINAL THOUGHTS
As a whole, for the first book in the series, I liked it a lot, and I do plan on reading the follow-up books. And while the exploration of the Circles was fun, it took away from the Malachi conflict since he more or less disappears while the crew journeys through various hells. I would have liked more there since he was a strongly grounded antagonist that was sadly overshadowed. If you want a story that literally goes to hell and back then I would recommend this. If you want a more grounded pirate story that doesn’t do that then perhaps consider another book.

OVERALL: 4/5

As always a link to the book can be found here.

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BEYOND BLUE EYES by Ana Mocikat – Review

INTRODUCTION – 5/5

Beyond Blue Eyes begins with a covert operation involving the cyborg Nephilim and her allies as they take down a group of terrorists situated beyond Olympia. These people went off the grid and have tried to go back to humanity’s roots; thus, they stand as a threat to the notion that people need Olympia to survive. These efforts to go off the grid are quickly shown to be fruitless as the ruthless efficiency of the Blue Death sweeps through the camp leaving very few survivors. The only ones remaining by the end are children that are then moulded into cybernetic killers like Nephilim. While a little video gaming in its execution, this opening is very strong. It establishes how efficient our main character is and that she is one of many with a shared network to keep them working at their best. There’s one part where the POV changes to that of someone in the camp and you get this short wonderful description of how others perceive the Blue Death;

And to top it off, the man is ruthlessly dispatched with the Blue Death’s leader mocking him afterwards. The one thing the opening does well is that establishes what to expect from each character while also setting Nephilim up via EMP to undergo her own transformation into a freer person. 

PLOT – 4/5

The plot is more so Nephilim becoming freer and seeing Olympia for what it is. And around the midpoint, you are introduced to a group aiming to bring down the city and those who run it. However, what I like about this plot is that it mirrors a lot of what we see in 1984 and Animal Farm. Both books are referenced directly by Metatron with direct quotes from each one but an attentive reader might quickly realise that the status quo for this present world is very much alike to the one we see in 1984 with three separate powers seemingly warring with each other and forming alliances together. The cyborgs also have the potential to be the pigs of this story, as Metatron hints at plans far beyond his current station. Without spoiling anything more, I actually like how these two stories are implemented into Beyond Blue Eyes, it provides an additional sense of hopelessness that sadly rings true for all those involved. Ultimately, the backbone of the story is essentially uncovering a wider global conspiracy to bring down Olympia. One side is direct, while the other has infiltrated society itself. The execution seems to stray from how Cyberpunk is usually handled, and I could argue this book subverts a lot of that expectation but in a good way. 

CHARACTER 5/5

The characters are the best part of this book, and it’s hard to settle on a favourite. Metatron is a great villain, always one step ahead and very much a capable threat. It’s actually nice to see a competent male villain since often these days they are dispatched comically easily. Metatron is not like that, he’s like a twisted mix of Big Brother and O’Brien. His manipulation of Nephilim and the other Angels is pretty stand out but even he has flaws such as being quick to anger when questioned about his motives by those closest to him but for the most part, the leader of the Angels is very much in control and I look forward to seeing what his goals are in the sequel. 

Nephilim’s arc is also what you would expect from a cyborg gradually becoming more human. She learns to let people in and starts living for herself. The truth of what she is is fairly obvious but the way it’s shown to her is once again very 1984. The book relies a lot on mental subjugation and it does that very well. A character I didn’t expect to like but ended up quickly becoming my favourite is Finwick. What starts off as a creep, turns into a genuine hero who not only outsmarts the man himself, Metatron but his willingness to put his neck on the line for Nephilim is how she’s able to become free of the network. It could be said that without Finwick, her dreams of being free might have fallen short. 

Jake is also very well done and from the get-go, you get a sense he is not who seems, almost too good to be true. While there is a romantic subplot with him and Nephilim, it does a lot to actually show the difference between human and cybernetic interaction. He is a reflection of a society that is more intimate and that definitely comes across. 

The other characters all stand out in their own way, even Adriel who I wish we saw more of, he’s present in the beginning but is alas overshadowed by a very strong cast of characters. 

WORLD BUILDING 5/5

The world-building is great and I look forward to seeing more of it when I read the sequel. I won’t go too much into it here but the three different organisations and how they operate are well thought out. Plus it plays into the references mentioned earlier. 

OTHER + FINAL THOUGHTS 

All in all, a fun read for anyone that likes science fiction or cyberpunk. The only thing I will say is that the backend of the story has a lot of sex, if that’s not to your taste, then you may find your enjoyment a little hampered. But honestly, even that serves a purpose in the grand scheme of the story. It was nice to actually read a cyberpunk novel that didn’t just revolve around bringing the system down and even that element was subverted in its execution, more so this is a story about individuality and the price you have to pay to get it. 

OVERALL: 4/5 

And as always, you are welcome to form your own opinion of any book I read. Since I’m fairly random when it comes to what stories I read, expect to see a broad mix of authors you may or may not know.

A link to the book, Beyond Blue Eyes can be found here – here

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Science Fiction, Short Fiction, The Fall Years

The Fall Years, Roswell: CHAPTER FOUR – THE DERELICT –

The Derelict loomed over them, in its scarred trench. And compared to humanity’s own spacecraft this thing dwarfed them. The Alpha team had set to work securing all possible exits from the craft. Despite the impact, the hull remained mostly intact and so far there were no signs of anything emerging. They didn’t want to take any chances and had deployed large, black, spiked energy pylons that looked noticeably alien in design and marking. And positioned in a circle, close to them were also high powered electro-magnetic turrets that would disintegrate anything that left the ship. In order to oversee things on the ground, the Secretary of Navy, James Forrestal had arrived not long after everything was in place. He had made it absolutely clear that no one was permitted to enter the craft until he gave the order. The last thing he wanted was Mortans to overrun them. And if survivors belonging to the craft still lived, he had no guarantee they would be friendly. Word had reached him that a survivor had been recovered from the other downed shipt. But one friendly xeno didn’t mean they all would be. 

“I have the right mind to use the bomb on this wreck. One less mess that way.”

The senior advisor that had joined him for this trip looked a little shaken by that statement. “Is that not a little excessive, sir? It would also require us to evacuate any civilians nearby.”

“We know the Soviet’s Deterrent overran Lazarus. Therefore, it’s not out of the question that the ship may have fallen to a similar fate. It doesn’t hurt to have all options on the table, and the last thing we need right now is a Deterrent outbreak on American soil. I considered us lucky to avoid the worst of it when things went awry in the Middle East and Eastern Europe…”

At that point, someone came on over the radio. “Sir, before we proceed. There’s someone that wants to help. I wanted them to rest and relocate but they were insistent.”

It didn’t take long for Forrestal to understand who Doctor Kate Underwood was referring to. A short distance away from base camp, a helicopter was heard making land. He left the tent and watched as the grey man in her care now approached him. The alien easily stood over him despite looking humanoid, the mandibles around their mouth and larger two fingered hands with opposable thumbs gave away some key differences. The Secretary and his advisor met them halfway.

“I guess the Doctor made progress on your ability to communicate with us. I am James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy for the United States of America. Any questions you may have about this operation go through me or my advisor here.”

The alien looked past him toward smouldering wreckage. “I can’t say this enough. Use what you have at your disposal and destroy it. Failing that, I know my way around the ship. I can destroy it from within.”

“Impressive, so you understand us.”

“Enough to make my point. The ship needs to be destroyed,” The alien said. “Has anything come out?”

Forrestal shook his head. “Nothing yet. We have strike teams in place ready to enter at a moment’s notice.”

“If anything survived the crash. They can’t be allowed to leave.”

“The president’s orders were to recover intelligence surrounding the incident on Lazarus and your ship. The data and technology onboard would be vital to the future of this planet.”

“James, if my people couldn’t stop them. What makes you think yours can?”

“I assure you, we have contingencies in place to keep the Mortan threat contained. And I hear you are just part of a preliminary force. The contents of that ship will help us prepare for the inevitable arrival of any allies you may have. But you seem more interested in sabotaging the vessel.”

The alien shook their head in frustration. “I don’t know at which stage this Deterrent as you call it is at. It’s already likely forming the foundation of a Convergent Mind. If that happens. You’ll face more than just feral monsters. A single seed can consume a planet. They will not stop. No matter how many you destroy they just keep coming back. You have to believe me. Our people – we didn’t fully understand what they were capable of… until… until it was too late.. And we lost. Why do you think we came this far seeking life!”

“I understand your concerns but that wreck is worth more to us than you could possibly realise. I want to at least try and recover something. Anything that can help us long term. You want us to destroy the craft, we will but first, let us secure any intel we can.”

The alien scratched at the back of their neck and cocked their head at the craft. “If you must insist on entering the ship. I know a few ways inside, the outside of the ship has hatches used by maintenance personnel to carry out outside work. Get me to one of those hatches and I can get your men inside.”

“And you won’t be going alone,” Commander Miller stated as the Welcome Wagon fell in behind him. “It would be unwise for us to send multiple squads, they would just be easy pickings for the Mortans. Send us in, we get the data and blow the ship to high heaven, how does that sound, sir?”

“Are you confident in your abilities Commander?

“This is what the Welcome Wagon has been preparing for, ever since we were assigned to Site 51. If we fail, you can go to Plan B. We all know the bomb is ready for deployment.”

The Secretary of Navy grimaced but looked over to the ruined vessel. “Fine, I’ll let the Welcome Wagon take the lead on this. But know this, you will be up against a force that decimated Lazarus. They won’t go easy on you… that’s if any of them are still alive of course. We can only hope the impact killed most of them. ”

“Then it’s settled, we’ll prepare for insertion, and our new friend here can tell us where to find one of these hatches.”

“Then you best not hang around, you’re dismissed, Commander.”

The Welcome Wagon departed to one of the nearby tents, hesitant to follow, James patted the alien on the back. “I promise you, we don’t bite. Besides, we need to leave a good impression, especially if more of you show up.”

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The Fall Years, Roswell: CHAPTER THREE – ONE SMALL STEP FOR A KASKARI –

“He’s alive, but only just,” came a voice at Vadir’s side. It spoke in the human tongue. He had little grasp of their language and couldn’t move from his current position. They had him in restraints. That made sense. He was, after all, an alien. They had no way of knowing what he was capable of. There was also various pieces of tubing tapered to his arms and legs pumping all manner of unknown chemicals into his system. It dulled his senses and made him sleepy every time he stirred. 

“So it’ll live?”

“I should think so, Commander, provided there are no complications unaccounted for. I mean, aside from some anatomical differences, his internals are not that much different from ourselves.”

“So it’s some kind of xeno human?” The Commander asked. 

“Not quite but based on our evolutionary history. Something similar probably occurred on the world he came from.” 

“I wonder, where did it come from?”

“A long way away I imagine. For now. Letting him rest is the best course of action. I assume you have the matter of recovering the bigger ship to deal with, sir.”

“Before anyone goes anywhere near that other ship, I need to know what we’re expecting to find inside of it. Inform me of when it next wakes. I’ll bring the A.I. unit. It said it would be willing to help with communication.”

“I will, sir.” 

When Vadir stirred next he fought the tiredness and strained into a seating position. A female human nearby saw this and left the tent. It was nice being away from the cold insides of his doomed transport. The strange warmth of a foreign world was oddly comforting since it had likely been centuries since he had last felt the wind on his skin. A few minutes later, another male human entered carrying a small module. He recognised it almost immediately. The container unit for the transport ships A.I. 

The human began speaking but like before he barely followed what they were saying. It was all just words to him. The man eventually sat down and rested the module on the table nearby. After a single button press, the holo-form of the A.I. appeared. It first spoke to Vadir. 

“Captain, I am here to assist in your communication with the human.”

“I see. What does he want to know?” Vadir asked, looking at the grizzled human face. 

“Tell me what brings it here?” 

The translation came quickly and Vadir answered. “We were a scout vessel sent to assess and determine whether there are habitable worlds in this solar sector. We would have continued on our set course if not for the distress signal transmitted from your moon city.”

The man cocked his head as the A.I. translated. “So there are more of you coming?”

“Possibly, if they locate our beacons.”

“Beacons?”

“We left a record of our findings in secure beacons. Only those with the matching frequency can detect it.”

The man leaned back for a minute, his face had paled. “Are you part of an invasion force?”

As the translation came through, Vadir held his hands up. “No, no, not at all. At least not from my own knowledge. I was just an engineer so my understanding of the mission is limited. We were just seeking a new home. Each habitable world we encountered was archived and ranked based on compatibility with the native life forms and the environment itself.” 

“Interesting. What can you tell us about the main ship you came from?”

“It’s infested with those things my people call the Nirimor,” said Vadir. “It needs to be destroyed.”

“Nirimor? You mean Mortans. Then it is as I thought,” the Commander said standing up. “I will have you relocated to Site 51 once you’re on your feet. Welcome to Earth. Shame it had to be like this.”

“Wait!”

The man stopped in his tracks and half turned. 

“Let me help, I know every part of that ship. Get me to engineering and I can help you destroy it from the inside.” 

A minute passed. “I will relay this to my superiors and keep you updated. Thank you…”

“Vadir.”

“Vadir, thank you, for being forthcoming.”

— 

Once again he was alone except for the single Nurse and guards positioned outside the tent. As the heat faded to give way into the evening. He felt a chill run through him. If he wanted to be of use to these people, he would need to be able to speak to them without relying on the A.I. I wonder could a trace allow me to absorb the data I need. He looked over to the nurse wearing white and waved at her. Perplexed by his actions she stood up and approached his bed. She carried in one hand an old electric lantern. Its illumination kept back much of the darkness and it allowed Vadir to take in the alien person’s features. The Kaskari had encountered many alien races across their travels through the vast void of space. Some alive. Many more extinct, and some of those races had come close to looking like them but the humans were so similar he almost wondered if a group of Kaskari had gotten here first centuries ago. It would explain much of their technological feats unless something else was responsible for that. 

“How can I assist you?” she asked, placing the lantern on the side table. She had interrupted his train of thought and he didn’t know how to communicate his intention. He simply held his hand out. Obviously, even more confused, she presumed he wanted her hand for something. It hovered above his silver palm. She looked visibly shaken, uncertain of what he intended to do. Not wanting to give her the chance to pull away he gripped her pale pink hand and engaged his trace. The veins on his skin turned bright yellow. If I can read her mind, I can better understand the human tongue and hopefully better understand them.

The smell of burning plasma and the sound of crying wounded would have led a weak-willed person to turn away from it all. But she had to remain steadfast. She had a duty of care to these men. Even if that care meant they would end up back here anyway. A never-ending cycle… What were they even fighting for anyway? The Japanese had a vested interest in securing the pacific region of course. It was as much a reaction to China’s growing strength as it was a desperate power grab. That was the paraded answer but there was probably more to it than just that. On the one hand, they wanted security and the resources that came with that. On the other hand, if the rumours were true. There were ‘alien sites’ dotted across South East Asia. She knew this because she had been reassigned from Site 51. One of those alien sites. The treasure trove of ancient alien technology had accelerated the race for technological superiority in a world that was progressing ever more off a cliff and into the unknown. She dreaded how this all would end. But as long as she did her duties, and if things went as intended she might actually be able to return to her parents at the farm. Or they would just send her back to Site 51. To live the rest of her miserable life under the Earth. A never-ending cycle…

The vision shifted then to a cold sterile environment. Outside this tomb was the endless space. Vadir Kor had been informed of a power fault in this corridor and with his assortment of precision tools, he set to work on removing the grates and soon found the issue. A split wire. Fixing it took very little time and as he fixed the grate back into place he stood up and stretched. In doing so he turned to see where they were. A grey crater-ridden surface was below them and beyond that sitting on the horizon was a handful of large connected domes that stretched out in all directions. Another fledgling civilisation, one that had just begun reaching out into the dark forest. A new player to join this never-ending game. Beyond the alien domes sat the planet itself. Indescribable in its majesty. He took a minute to absorb its finer details. He had longed to set foot on another world. Perhaps this would finally be the one and their journey could at last end. 

Little did he know that hell would soon follow. 

He let her hand go and felt an immense weight of despair and sadness wash over him. A mixture of her regrets and his mourning. He saw her recoil back clutching her hand in abject horror. 

“What did you do? What did you show me?” she screamed at him. 

The flaps ruffled and one of the guards entered, his weapon now pointed at Vadir. 

The Nurse held her hand up to stop him. “It’s fine, I think. You can leave us.” 

The guard’s icy stare pierced Vadir but the man relented and left them alone. 

“I – needed – communicate. So I got inside your head. I forget it’s – a two-way link. I see your mind. And – you… you see mine. That was moments before… first contact. Before – I lost everything.” 

She loosened up and placed her hands on her hips. “You could have asked. I thought you were trying to take over my mind or something. I thought you were -”

“A Mortan?” Vadir shook his head realising he had absorbed how the humans referred to those creatures. “Can I get out of this bed?”

“Why?”

“I – I – I” He struggled to articulate what he wanted. For him, his first two times waking up on an alien world had been from a state of unconsciousness. He had not yet felt the ground underneath his feet. That’s what he wanted. That’s what he had dreamed of.  “I just want to see how it looks from the Earth.”

“See what?”

“The Moon.” 

She rolled her eyes but appeared to understand. “I saw the Earth from your perspective. She looks so -”

“Inspiring.”

“Yes. It kind of gives me hope in a way.” 

She didn’t elaborate and instead went about removing the tubes. She grabbed some nearby bandages from a storage unit and applied them to where openings had been cut. With Vadir no longer chained to a bed, he sat up and swung his legs over the bed, planting them on the dirt. It sent a cold shock up through his ankles. He had forgotten he was barefoot. He used his toes to rub dirt between them. This odd coolness proved soothing. It also hurt as his feel rolled over small stones. The Nurse soon helped him to stand. Dizziness overcame him and it took a moment to steady both his nerves and himself. The Nurse thankfully helped him remain steady. He was reminded of her memory. He was about to ask about it when she spoke, “careful, don’t do anything too sudden, you’ve been out of it for a while, remember.” 

“Thank you, you know my name but what’s yours?”

She met his red eyes and huffed. “You saw into my mind and you didn’t even learn my name, Vadir? Really.”

“Forgive me, I was too focused on getting to grips with your language.” 

“Right, since you asked so nicely, it’s Kate, now let’s get this over with. Come with me.” 

She parted the flaps much to the surprise of the two guards. A simple request gave them the room they needed to exit. By now night had fully settled. Vadir removed her hand on his shoulder and stumbled forward so that he stood alone. Behind him, Kate and the guards remained vigilant. The two men looked ready to gun him down. He expected that. There was so much to take in, from the chatter of the nearby tents, their flickering light and the ship he came from, almost invisible due to its metal design. Its final resting place would be here. He looked beyond it and saw her. The Dauntless sat in an open grave. Its impact had more than left a mark. And above that, a bright white circle casting light across the landscape. On that celestial body, humans likely remained fighting against the Mortans and any Kaskari fortunate enough not to have returned to the Dauntless before it crashed. Vadir’s legs finally crumbled beneath him and he landed on the dirt. Kate began barking orders but he had all but tuned her and everyone else out. All except the Dauntless now stood in focus. 

Am I the only one left? 

A single answer floated in his mind but he dared not accept it. 

We didn’t come this far, all to die!

With some help from the guards, Kate had him back in bed. She placed the quilt over him and stepped back. 

“Will you be okay, Vadir?” 

“Yes.”

No… because the nightmare isn’t yet over. The Mortans inside that tomb will soon wake and then the real struggle begins. Who can stand against such consuming madness? The humans would be at a disadvantage by themselves. They would need someone who knew that ship like the back of his hand. He looked at Kate. 

“Tell your Commander, I can help. I must destroy my ship. If it means an end to those creatures.”

“I’ll do that, but first Vadir. You need to rest.” 

And rest he would, until the dawn approached. 

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The Fall Years, Roswell: CHAPTER TWO – THE WELCOME WAGON –

The jeep shuddered and shook as it approached Crash Site Bravo. The driver and his passengers could hardly believe what lay ahead of them. They had departed from Site 51, after being given a short briefing on what their mission entailed. The large convoy aimed to secure two crash sites. Alpha being the main source of the problem was the priority. While a smaller taskforce led by the Welcome Wagon would break from this convoy and begin the recovery effort of Site Bravo. Overhead reconnaissance from reconnaissance planes had given them a rough idea of the scale and shape of the smaller alien craft. But seeing it up close for the first time put them in awe of its size. It was clearly intended for rapid troop deployment and could likely hold a dozen alien soldiers inside.

The oval-shaped sleek looking ship still looked mostly intact despite the hard impact. The semi-circular wings on either side had large defensive turrets installed but they had since been rendered mangled and inoperable. As the second group took position around the craft. The bottom section of the ship finally became visible. It had a larger upward curvature near where a ramp would be deployed. The wreck by itself was fascinating but the vision on the horizon was even more awe-inducing. The remains of the larger craft stood out against the setting sun. It’s ruins smouldering as it sat in a trench of its own making. In both cases, neither team knew what to expect from their respective wrecks. They had no clue if there were survivors or worse if they were all Mortans. 

The troops allocated to site Bravo began unloading various kinds of support equipment while the squad designated the “Welcome Wagon” and based at Site 51 when the call came in were gearing up to enter the craft once preliminary scans had been completed, and a perimeter had been established covering all possible exits. A few military-grade tents were also erected; one served as the main command tent, another housed scanning and communication equipment while the remaining two were temporary barracks and a field hospital. Inside the Command Tent, the squad of six destined to enter the craft had gathered alongside other personnel that were coordinating the operation.  On the table was the preliminary report immediately following the impact of both this small craft and the much larger one some miles away.

“Judging by aerial reconnaissance, nothing has escaped this craft. However, our attempts to scan for life inside of it have proven unable to penetrate the hull itself. In other words, we don’t know if there’s anything waiting for us in there,” Commander Miller said. 

“You really think someone could survive that?” asked Gregory. He was one of the squad’s medics, a small man known for nimble fingers and nerves of steel.

The Commander stared intently at the report and furrowed his brow before putting the tablet on the table. “We have no way of knowing until we get in there.” He turned to face the remaining members. “I need you all to look sharp, you’re about to make first contact with life from another world. So put on a friendly face and for Christ’s sake let’s try not to cause an intergalactic incident.”

“I think we’re already past that, sir,” remarked Jackson, the tall muscular black man had a strong gaze and was the only of them qualified to use the experimental exo-suit.

“What if all the Xenos are dead sir?” Asked the other medic, Munroe.

“Then we prepare the bodies for exfil, and have Site 51 scientists handle the autopsy. Any more questions, Corporal?” Commander Miller asked. 

No one else spoke. “Good,” He said. 

The squad consisted of six men, each of them was specialised in some form. Two of them, Mason and Webber were engineers if anyone could make sense of the alien technology, it would be them. Munroe and Gregory were medics, and the final two were Commander Miller and the Exo-specialist, Jackson. The reason being that if the aliens were hostile, it would be best to hit them hard and fast. It would be the warmest of welcomes for sure. 

The squad and the accompanying personnel from Site 51 also had an unusual kit that involved laser rifles and similarly designed pistols. The exo-specialist had brought along plasma-based charges that would ideally melt the weakened exterior, giving them easy access to the ship. Once everything had been checked and triple checked, the squad of six left the tent and headed for the craft. They navigated past the automated turrets that were positioned facing it. 

“Sergeant Jackson, prepare the charges for a breach. Everyone else keep your weapons primed on the exit hole. This ship may be crawling with Deterrents.” 

The squad let out a chorus of yes sirs and took positions so that if anything did leave the ship, it wouldn’t get very far. Sergeant Jackson removed the small plasma charges from his backpack and approached the port side of the ship. He reached out and first got a feel for the strange alien metal that made up much of the craft. It felt incredibly smooth, and unlike anything, he had come across on Earth. 

“We have no time to admire some Xeno’s handiwork, Jackson. Set the charges and get back here for a remote detonation!” the Commander ordered, snapping him back to his senses. 

He set the charges and hurried back to where they all had taken a position at the edge of the semicircle they had created. 

The ensuing explosion created a large plume of smoke and what followed was a loud clang as hot metal collapsed inward revealing the craft’s interior. 

“Great job, Jackson, now give us some light.”

Jackson passed a button on his exosuit as he approached the gaping hole. The torches attached to his shoulders turned on illuminating the insides of the craft. Jackson lifted his exo-heavy rifle and moved to enter first. He did a 180 survey of his surroundings before calling out to the others to enter. 

“All clear!” 

The squad entered what appeared to be the equivalent of a troop seating area. They also switched on their shoulder torches making it easier for them to see all that was around them. The interior much like the outside had a sleek silver touch to it. It looked alien compared to the more rugged aircraft used by humans. 

“What kind of transport deploys without men?” The Commander asked. 

Mason shrugged. “The kind that was likely in a hurry. The cockpit is up ahead. That should answer your question.” 

No one disputed his claim and together they entered the large cockpit. Intended to carry a handful of people. It too was empty. The front screen had a protective seal forcing them to navigate by torchlight. The front end of the cockpit had three seats. Two were unoccupied while the third positioned in the centre had a solitary alien passenger. The squad were speechless. More so because they had expected to find more than one Xeno. 

The Commander gestured to one of the medics. “Munroe, run a scan, see if it’s still breathing.”

“Understood, sir,” Munroe said, opening the case he brought with him. First, he performed a surface scan. That projected a patient’s vitals onto a monitor built inside the case. Like most of Bravo’s tech it was advanced beyond much of what was currently in active deployment. 

The other medic hovered close and chuckled after seeing the initial readings. “Aside from external differences. Internals aren’t too different from us. That’s not really surprising though,” Munroe said.

“Is it alive?” Jackson asked.

Munroe nodded. “Yes, unconscious, likely from impact but still breathing. So that’s one thing it’s got going for it. I’ll get to work with Gregory here, and we’ll get it prepared for extraction. Shouldn’t be too difficult.”

“Good,” Commander Miller said, spinning to see the Engineers trying to make heads or tails of the alien consoles. He approached with Jackson lingering not far behind. 

“Webber, Mason. Any luck?”

“Well we know one thing for sure. These guys are way way ahead of us,” Mason said.

“It’s on the level of Site 51. Which is not good, sir. Especially if more are on their way,” Webber said.

“Do you think these people built Site 51?”

Both engineers look at each other and knew neither could give a definitive answer to that question.

Miller straightened a little at their lack of answer. “Then we need to be prepared. Is any part of it operable?” 

“Perhaps. It’s just more a matter of finding the right…” 

Before Webber could finish his sentence, the console lit up and a small holographic form appeared in much the same shape as the man alien behind the Commander. Its sudden appearance put the six of them on edge. It spoke rapidly in an alien language before it entered a long silence. 

“I took the time to analyse your communication network and live conversation. I believe I have a strong enough grasp of your language to communicate with you, Terrans.”

“What are you?” Asked Mason. 

“I am a Kaskari Artificial Guidance System. Or Kags if you want something that’s less of a mouthful.” 

“You brought our friend here?” The Commander asked, pointing at the resting alien.

“Yes, based on my current assessment, designate Captain, Vadir Kor is the only known Kaskari to evacuate the Dauntless, as it would be called in your tongue. And they may be the only non-compromised survivor.”

“Dauntless? Is that the name of the large ship that crashed close by?” Mason asked.

“Yes.”

“Anything else you can tell us about it like why did it come here?” 

“Unfortunately, my programming means I only have access to this ship’s logs. Kor would be better to ask, once he is in a better shape.”

“Are you able to share those logs?” The Commander asked. 

“No, the only way I can do that is by authorisation from Kor himself.”

“Damn it,” blurted Jackson.

“Makes sense though,” Mason said. “Since the ship looks clear we should move to salvage what we can from it.” 

“Agreed,” the Commander said. “In the meantime, once Kor is stable. We can ask it some questions.”

“I would like to assist in that,” Kags said. “I can be removed from my current location and act as a live translator. Even Kaskari, have first contact guidelines.” 

“You two work on getting Kags removed. Once Kor is taken out of here, we can get more people in to better assess the contents of this ship.

All six of them gave a chorus of “yes sir” and set to work.  The Commander looked back to Kor. 

Let’s hope he is forthcoming about what led him here. I dread to think what those at the Alpha site have in store for them. And if this is just a mere scouting force. Is a much bigger armada on its way? Looking at the internals of this ship, a sinking feeling gripped the Commander. 

We are hopelessly outmatched. 

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Science Fiction, Short Fiction, The Fall Years

The Fall Years, Roswell: CHAPTER ONE – SURVIVOR –

The Dauntless’ alarms blared in his ears as his bloodied fist met the door’s panel button. For Vadir Kor everything right after making first contact had been hell. Finding intelligent, compatible life on Earth was great. Finding the very scourge they had hoped to avoid in the shape of a unknown Nirimor variant proved unexpected. The ships self-destruct had been triggered at some point and then shut off by either one of the interfering forces. He had only minutes if that before the ship’s current trajectory saw it enter Earth’s outer atmosphere. His still smoking overclocked plasma rifle made a loud clang as he tossed it to one side. He hurried over to the ship’s main console and began preparing for take-off when one of his fellow crew members emerged from the shadow, coated in a black substance and clearly out of it. They waved their arms frantically in an attempt to get his attention.

“Ship lower-” the words barely escaped his lips as a creature clad in deep black and bearing a multitude of spiked tendrils burst from the shadows overwhelming the crew member in such a way that there would be very little of them left.

“Fire! Fire! FIRE!” Kor shouted pushing himself back into his chair. “No more delays!”

The plasma turrets on the underside of his dropship began their assault on the creature and while it stood its ground. It could not withstand the heat and explosive power forever. It’s body melted into a puddle and left Kor wondering if it would still be able to come back to life. His heart reached fever pitch as he heard more noise on top of his ship. 

“Tracking multiple hostiles on the hull,” the ship A.I said candidly. “They are intending to breach the structure.”

As if on cue the ships metal heaved and bent. “Don’t just tell me. Deal with them.” 

The ship obliged and the topside turrets did their part in melting whatever resided on the top of the dropship. Black congealed blood drifted down the front viewport as Kor fastened himself in and engaged the lift off procedure. It wasn’t long before he exited the hangar. And for the first time since the alert triggered his flight response, he relaxed and took in the view of the jewel below. He found salvation but it had come at a cost of everything behind him, the Dauntless began separating as it hit the atmosphere. Hull, debris and more spilled out into the abyss. An explosion close to his ship catapulted Kor towards the embrace of a foreign world. It took a few moments for the gyros to orientate the dropship and he soon sank into the chair. At least for the now the worst was behind him. 

He spent the first few minutes calculating the best landing area. Earth may have been large but it was also covered by Terrans. He didn’t quite like the idea of dropping into a major populated area. The risk to his life would be too great. In the end, he put his faith in the automated system. Once the calculation were complete he begin his journey to land on the world. Unsurprisingly, the people down below did not take too kindly to his attempt to land on their world. The ship’s lights turned red as it began automated combat manoeuvres. In response to the closing inbound missiles the ship dipped and returned fire, dispatching them easily enough. Something else soon grabbed his attention disturbed by the ships sudden descent. The clanking and grinding made him think some wires had loosened above him, but it was much worse, for out the corner of his eye, a tall black mass lowered itself from the hole in the ceiling. It must have been hiding among the tubes where it chose to rest. Its long claws scraped against the metal floor and the creature slivered toward him. Kor still had his plasma Kelcior pistol but in the time it would take for him to leave his chair. The foul Nirimor would be upon him. Without moving too much he keyed in commands for the ship to shift direction. The sudden tilt caught the creature by surprise and it fell toward him before hitting the glass screen. Realising the danger it was now in, bladed tendrils rose from its back and frantically attempted to strike Kor but each one narrowly missed his face Kor squirmed back and fired off a few plasma shots. This was enough to shatter the glass and send the Nirimor out of the ship and into the embrace of the world below. “Ship, lower the visor!”

The dropship’s metal screen slammed down into place and a series of holographic images created a rough idea of what was in front of him.

“Captain,” said the A.I communicating for the first time.

“Ship? what is it?”

“I had engaged auto evasion subroutines but by entering a manual order, I need to recalculate our entry.”

“Do what you have to do.”

“Understood. I will assume direct control from this point forward.”

The ship jerked up from its nosedive and took caution to evade the unabating inbound threat from the Terrans.

“I’ve marked the optimal landing area,” the ship A.I said. “It should be safe enough.”

“Any way we can open communications with the Terrans?”

“I’ve been attempting to. However, I am getting no response. I don’t think they understand my request.”

“Figured as much.”

The next few seconds were spent approaching the landing area as the onboard turrets continued to keep the missiles at bay. “Engage landing protocol.”

“But, Captain?”

“Do it.”

The final set of missiles came in close together and hit the dropship’s right side. Though the hull held, the ship shuddered violently as Kor took the controls and lifted the front of the ship up before it met with the ground. The sudden impact caused him to black out.

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Ascension Before the Fall, Science Fiction, Short Fiction

ASCENSION BEFORE THE FALL: CHAPTER ONE


The hot afternoon sun would not deter their endeavours for on this day they intended to enter the Bush Barrow. Some distance beyond the Barrow loomed the ever-mysterious stone pillars of Stonehenge. The reason as to why such a monument came to be is often speculated but no conclusive answer has ever been found. The only clues as to its existence lay within the tombs that surrounded it and even they often posed more questions than answers. 

It had taken some time to dig down from the crown to the base of the Barrow but they were soon able to enter the hollowed-out burial chamber wherein the centre rested a single large skeleton surrounded by various trinkets, a dagger of brass and a spearhead. They could even make out the remains of what are likely pieces from a shield. So far, nothing unexpected but the contents of this Barrow had been far more fruitful than others close to it. Francis Grey followed the lead of William Cunnington and Richard Hoare, two archaeologists he had observed closely and learned much from.  

As both men set to work, Francis focused first on the skeleton. At first glance, it appeared to be a human male, stout and tall. What made him do a double-take was the hands. Humans have 5 digits, 4 fingers and a thumb on each hand. These hands, however, had two fingers and two thumbs. Unless this was a deformity, then this skeleton was not human. That sentiment was all but confirmed when he observed the skull. The facial structure was far from human. It was like nothing he had ever seen before. He crouched down to get a better look. The jaws to this being were quadruple-hinged, with an upper jaw, and a much smaller lower which were four mandible-like lips. The skeleton did have two nostrils and the skull looked oval-shaped. He moved down the skeleton and observed that in life this being had to have been fast and agile. Francis looked over to Cunnington. 

“William, take a look at this and tell me I’m not going crazy.”

The older man repositioned himself and followed the same pattern as Francis. “You are not. This skeleton is unnatural in every way possible.” 

Richard, curious as to the discussion, finally addressed the skeleton. “That’s not all, some of these artefacts look like they had been put here just yesterday, barely any rust or signs of natural decay. There’s plenty of other artefacts I’d expect to see in a site like this but some look wrong. Like they don’t belong.”

Both men looked to Richard equally perplexed. Francis had to carefully move around the skeleton to see what the other archaeologist was referring to. He noticed to the right of the body was a perforated stone, wrought articles of bone, some small rings, a Lozenge of gold similar to the one occupying the body and a noticeably large bronze Sphere. What stood out about the sphere was the remarkable lack of decay. It also had various detailed difficult to make out engravings, the meaning of which would need to be looked at closely. 

Francis noticed something else in the corner of his eye, something glinting behind him. Turning with great care he approached it and crouched down. Using a trowel and brush he removed the surface layer of dirt that partially buried the artefact. It was elongated and also in remarkable condition. Its shape led him to conclude that it was perhaps some kind of advanced rifle. As it looked to be made of it an unearthly material. Careful not to damage it, he lifted it to get a better look. 

“Is this some kind of gun? Just why was this buried here?”

Cunnington looked over to him. “A better question would be why is something not entirely human buried in a barrow that likely belongs to some early human society. We should move these artefacts somewhere hidden. A safe place to clean them up and get a better idea of what we’re dealing with.”

“One thing though, both of you, this find could unsettle more than a few god-fearing folks. Let’s keep this between us for now,” Richard said pointing to one and then the other. 

Francis nodded in haste. “I very much agree. I can only imagine the reaction this would cause if others found out about it. This whole barrow raises so many questions.” 

Once outside the Barrow, some rope and a small wooden platform served as a means to piece by piece extract everything of significance. 

Richard held onto the rope and pulled it up once the platform was loaded. He looked to Francis who was waiting to unload it. 

“That skeleton, it is not human, Francis, no matter how we rationalise this. There’s only one place it came from.”

“Don’t be silly,” Francis said seeing Richard’s eyes dart up. “If something like that existed and wasn’t of this Earth, wouldn’t we know about it by now?” 

“Sound logic. What’s to say they don’t live among us?”

“Don’t let anyone else hear you say that. Unless you fancy a one way trip to the madhouse.” 

“You think they won’t do that even once we show proof of a Xenos skeleton. I mean think about it for a second, If people can be convinced of our orbit around the sun. Then why not Xenos life?” 

“A single skeleton and that strange gun is not “proof”. We’ll be laughed at, mocked and ridiculed,” Francis said. 

Richard frowned at that, “Don’t be so sure, you get nowhere by doing nothing.”  

Richard was right but the Earth’s orbit was an apple to the orange of a Xenos life form existing. They had the gun and bones but one thing most religious folk and scientists had in common was that they were natural sceptics. Either one would flood any hole that could label the whole thing a hoax. The idea of a life form humanoid in stature but not human would likely be a shock to anyone’s system. Was the risk worth it though? Francis desperately wanted to think yes, but at the current time he feared what threshold this would cross. What kind of world will be born from this discovery? Are we as a species ready to step into that unknowable darkness?

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Short Fiction

What is the Infinitum?

The Infinitum is to put it simply a culmination of all my writing into one single place. It started with the earliest of my writing before the name itself came to be. Back then my aspirations toward writing centred more around campy adventure stories. Stories like the Circle of Life and Cold Blooded Heart provided not only the foundation but templates for future characters. In fact only one of those characters truly remained unchanged and has managed to cement himself even in my more recent stuff. 

As time progressed I moved on to more in depth world building and from that was born the basis of the Infinitum. As to what stories you should expect, the universe itself is full of mad science, demonic magic and all round insanity. The first series I’m working on Mortalis is set on a Earth alternate to ours. One influenced by alien intervention many centuries prior and is still reeling from the consequences of those aliens disappearing. This is an Earth accelerated by alien technology with humans striving ever beyond the mortal existence.

The Children of the Entity originally began as its own thing but I’ve found away for it to fit, taking science fiction and mixing it with old fashioned eldritch horror. I would be lying if I said i didn’t take some inspiration from Lovecraft.

The Chronicles of Sycane takes place inside its own sphere and is pure fantasy and to date represents one of my earliest pieces of writing, back when I regularly did forum roleplays.

My end goal with the Infinitum is to release a set of stories people come back to. To really describe all of it here would be a monumental task. The universe covers many genres from science fiction to romance and back. It’s not just novels that I plan to write either. A lot of characters exist and will feature either here or on the subreddit I made. Either way, there will be something here for everyone I hope. At the end of the day, I just want fiction to be something people can laugh, cry and most importantly enjoy consuming. Whether you enjoy it, is not for me to decide. I might be a perfectionist but I’m not without fault. Either way I hope you stay for a ride.

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Short Fiction

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “No Cliffhangers.”

Write a post about the topic of your choice, in whatever style you want, but make sure to end it with “…and all was well with the world.”

No Cliffhangers

In the end, atomic fire had savaged our world. We thought it was left bare, after our destructive nature brought darkness, disease, and despair to the Earth. A civilisation all but extinguished, it’s dying embers, nothing more than memories of a past life.

As we emerged from our sanctuary underground, we believed nothing would survive the nuclear apocalypse. We were wrong. The Earth hadn’t just survived our wrath, in its wake, life had found a way.

For beneath the cracks and wounds upon the Earth. A sea of green burst forth. We were stunned, as nature stood before us in defiance. Even in our absence. All was well with the world.

The Return of Life

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Poetry

101

The world folds,

Our reality torn asunder,

Rebuilt in mind of the total. 

 

Freedom,

Absolved,

Our every movement,

Scrutinised, Analysed and Catalogued,

Our future paved through toil.

 

Our blood,

Returns to the earth,

The core of self,

Reconstructed.

 

One body born of earth,

Its mind lost to time.

War is waged with the instruments

Of

Total 

Unequivocal

Control. 

 

They pretend to stand as our equal,

To delude us with the concept of freedom,

What is language when it distorts the truth,

What is lies when passed as history,

What is to be our fate,

When the barrel is already pressed

Against our cold dead head?

 

They control us,

They own us,

What is humanity,

And what will it become.

 

Are we destined to be their,

Machine?

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