It eats me, whole and alive. The underlying current of resistance. The stubbornness I could never hide. The rhythm of which is diabolic in nature—forcing me to struggle profoundly, before I could really learn the flow of its tune; the right notes, the perfect configuration.
It suffocates me, all of me. The scorching heat of ground pressure. The freezing coldness of the judgment I give to me. I push. I push hard. Understanding that my limits are high. I, in most cases, can’t measure this right. I ran out of breath. An image where I start to fear Death.
It liberates me, the child in me. The part where I can do whatever I want. Oblivious of the eyes of the guardians. Hmm. Fine—intently doing so and partly playing the game of a stubborn child. What’s in it for you, she asked. Playing, for the sake of playing the game, I replied.
It honors me, the fighter in me. It contributes to the never-ending loop of proving. To show off to me, in fact. I don’t need no audience nowadays, I reckon. The relationship I am trying to strengthen now is with the one I see in the mirror. Could sound narcissistic in nature, but one that prepares for the strong foundation of the tribe.
It reminds me, of my future. Of purpose—of what I’m here to do and what I signed up for. Of the unbreakable soul contract. The destiny of the matriarch. Thus, the fighter fights. The fighter perseveres. The fighter stands back up as it was supposed to be. The fighter fights, over… and over again.
“War has been the breeding ground for some of our greatest dreams of accomplishment.”
Holtzman, The Butlerian Jihad.
BY Kyle Gray
The Warrior: Be fearless and stand strong
The Knight: Be brave and honest
The Shaman: Trust in higher forces
The Sky Father: Trust in the unknown
Arousing Thunder ䷲
Infinitesimal darkness outside the command center of the ESS Orca seemed like the ocean back on Eos on a moonless night. The stars floated in the dark, little beacons of light affording the universe depth and form. The Void was Admiral Ramos’ backyard where he roamed as the Captain of his ship and master of his fate and the fate of his 5000 crewmembers.
The command center was a plaza of activity. Monitors and gauges flashed their information as the command staff worked feverishly to ensure the wounded ship’s safety and security. The Admiral watched his dashboard panel of essential performance indicators progress from red to amber and finally green. He issued orders, and the staff distributed tasks and priorities to the crew stations.
Ramos recalled in his mind how The Orca had sustained crippling injuries in the battle over Manila. Orca had advanced to earth in search of Captain Rae and her ship, Aurora. On their approach, they detected a Western Alliance fleet over the earth’s horizon. The battle was joined with Orca giving more than she got, scattering the Western Alliance fleet and sending many of their expeditionary vessels crashing into the earth’s atmosphere, burning like stars in the Void.
Hypervelocity missiles rose from Manila just as Captain Rae’s AI had warned earlier. The Orca, outgunned, escaped to land on the dark side of earth’s moon to repair the ship and take care of the dead and wounded. It was what each person had signed on to accomplish. They all knew the risk and accepted it. “For Eos,” Ramos thought. Death here kept the awful burdens of war away from the homeland, so it was a worthy fate.
“G4, how are we on supply, The admiral asked his maintenance and logistics chief.
“All supply classes are green for 30 days operation, amber to return to EOS,” came the reply.
“What is the estimate for return to operational combat status? Ramos asked.
“Two weeks local earth time.”
Apprehension spread through the staff like the shrill tone of an attacking Eosian hawk. Admiral Ramos was planning his next move, and they would all have a front-row seat. Apprehension gave way to a subtle eagerness to take it to the Western Alliance for trying to colonize their ancestral homeland and recover one of their own. As fate would have it, the odds were stacked high against them. Just the way they liked it.
“Secure the bridge for war counsel,” the Admiral commanded.
“Bridge Secured, Sir.”
Ramos collected his thoughts, turned to his staff, and let them in on his plans. “I want to attack the Western Alliance and at a minimum cripple their colony with the objective of as near-complete destruction of their remaining fleet as possible. We will use the attack as a screen to attempt a rescue of Captain Rae undetected, Ramos said. I want to execute this plan within three days.”
The staff remained silent except to acknowledge the order. Each officer knew the Admiral’s famous father disappeared in the exact location as Captain Rae when Ramos was just a kid. To the staff, it was their duty to rescue Rae. To the Admiral, it was personal.
Sgt Hughes and Carter kneeled in the water, laughing under their breath, trying not to make a sound and failing. The remaining squad secured a perimeter around the two men, who appeared to have lost their minds.
“Sgt Hughes, What in hell is going on over there,” one of the crew asked.
“See for yourself,” Sgt Hughes replied while Carter wiped the tears from the side of his face.
The team gathered around and looked at the bloody water lizard in the spacesuit.
“Damn, those Eosians are ugly,” the astonished team member whispered under his breath. The squad lost it, trying to remain quiet in this god-forsaken jungle that demanded noise discipline to keep them from giving themselves away to anyone that might be close by and unseen. To their advantage, the jungle absorbed their noisy presence and gave no hint of the danger heading toward Ezra and Rae.
“Whoever belonged in that suit appears to be long gone now, Sgt Hughes said. Saddle up, ladies; we have a date with destiny up ahead. Let’s get after it.”
The team took up their positions, and Carter, still trying not to snicker at their folly, felt his energy renewed as he hacked his way up to the gigantic waterfall ahead.
Zara made her way upstream and picked a place to swim across the river. She angled downstream and caught the current, rocking her shoulders from side to side, reaching and pulling with her arms as she moved through the water without leaving a ripple. Her long ponytail undulated from side to side like a snake.
At the far bank, Zara grabbed for a root and dug her toes into the slick mud. Reaching higher with handholds and toe holds in the roots, Zara was able to slither up the bank and into the forest. Kneeling and listening, she sensed she was alone. The newly freed half-breed moved as fast as she could toward the makeshift ladder the two natives had constructed to descend into the bowl of the waterfall.
Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there anymore.
Robin Hobb, Fool’s Fate.
Roads Go Ever On
BY J.R.R. Tolkien
Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone.
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.
Difficulties 𝍔 & On The Verge 𝍓
Wet earth and decaying foliage could not hide the odor of smoldering death. Zara moved up from the gentle slope of the stream to an old trail used for many years. She examined the tracks along the path running in both directions and determined the marks were old. Only one human track was recent. It was a man as large as Sgt Holmes; only the imprint was from a foot clad in leather made from the python’s skin. A tribal man.
Zara followed the scent of death that beckoned her toward the opening of a large cave. A vibration in her tracking watch halted her search. Zara scanned the jungle around her as she felt three long pulses, code for where-are-you. She pressed the upper right button that sent her grid coordinates back to Sgt. Holmes, so he could get a fix on her location and move the squad up to where Zara was. She darted up the embankment to the cleft in the wall of stone and eased in. Steely eyes adjusted to the dark as Zara sniffed the hell welling out of the ground from an opening in the sandy floor.
Lying on her stomach, Zara peered into the hole, then pulled her laser baton, put it on low power with wide dispersal, and illuminated the narrow gap. Far below was water filled with skeletons of people and animals. It was an underground cave cut out from eons of rainwater flowing from the rock of the mountain above. She took off her tracking watch and threw it in the pit. She kicked the sand and made claw marks at the edge of the hole to make it look like a struggle took place. She saw the cave formed where the stone split open, and another stone fell and lodged overhead. She jumped up with the grace of the leopard, caught the ledge formed at the top and hand over hand, she traversed the cave, swung out on the left face of the exit, leaped to the right, and began to climb up the steep grade to the forest above.
I am free, she thought. I am free. Tears streamed down her face as her taut muscles strained in the climb until she could stand. Before her was the falls and the verdant valley she was told of by her mother. Zara paused to catch her breath and hurried into the jungle treeline to hide among the leopards, pythons, and giant lizards that hunted everything that moved. Holmes would not look for her if he fell for her ruse.
The team stood dumbfounded around the hole where Zara must have fallen in. Somewhere trapped under all those bones and rotted clothing, hide and hair, Sgt Holmes’ dreams of settling down and raising a family evaporated into a vision of Zara’s last breath. He hid his emotions in a hardness that his men could not penetrate. The men bowed their heads with the shock of losing one of their own to this damned jungle doing a shit mission for a scared Colonel. “Let’s go, men. We have a job to do.”
“Do you want me to call it in, sarge?” One of the men asked.
“No, not yet. Let’s just keep going. Zara got us to the gorge; we’ll do the rest for her,” Holmes replied. He reached down to his radio transceiver and turned off the signal from Zara’s tracking watch.
The squad moved in silence along the river up the gorge toward the falls. Their anger and loss smelled bitter from the sweat that soaked their uniforms and gear. Murder filled their eyes that held only dispassionate boredom before.
Ezra climbed out of the cockpit and looked at his finger. The drop of blood the health scanner had extracted would bring the giant lizards. He wiped his finger on a small stone and threw it on the other side of the river to distract the scaly beasts.
Rae hugged Ezra and thanked him for helping her. He smiled. For Tala Rae, he would do whatever her life demanded of him. Eggman, however, grated his nerves a little. This invisible demon must be a demigod, one of mischief. Ezra could see that Rae trusted and adored this enigma; he decided not to trouble himself with Ralph’s presence. When Rae released him from her embrace, Ezra walked downstream with the softness of Rae’s voice lingering in his mind. He must do his duty to watch for predators and place his desire for Rae’s love in a safe place for later.
“Rae, you have to hear this. Get back into the seat and put the headphones on,” Ralph called out from the speakers in the cockpit.
“Why, What did you find?” Rae asked.
“Please hurry your bootie up,” Ralph pleaded.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Captain. This damn spell checker AI for my text to speech converter is on the fritz again.”
“Can’t you turn that damn thing off and just go naked,” Rae scolded.
“By your command, I am naked as a newborn baby,” Ralph replied in his best obedient voice.
“That’s more like it, wait, what? Nevermind, what did the scan say?”
“Rae, Ezra is as healthy as they come. His biological age is about 22, but his chronological age is 34. He is one super-duper-uber dude, Rae.”
“That’s good to know,” Rae said, her voice trailing off into thoughts of Ezra in anticipation of something more disturbing coming next.
“His DNA is 99.8 percent the same as yours. He is Eosian, and genetic markers make him the son of Dr. Ramos, the explorer. His maternal record is indigenous Eosian origins.”
After a long silence, Rae strained under her breath. “Dr. Ramos disappeared 40 years ago on a mission just like ours.”
“And was never found,” Ralph added.
“That means Ezra has family back on Eos, Rae said. If we get rescued, I have to convince him to come back with us.”
“If we get rescued?” Ralph asked. His question hammered Rae. How would she break this to Ezra? Will he understand what this means?
Rae watched Ezra’s stoic face as her mind raced over what to do. She concluded as he walked up to check on her, she would not leave him, no matter what came their way.