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About ValentineDavis21

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  1. Chapter 7

    Fade hated dealing with the officers at the hangar bay. Dealing with them was like dealing with the bullies on the playground. Especially when it came to Sergeant Andrews. Sergeant Andrews was a tall thin man with a bulbous forehead. His hair was just starting to turn grey at the sides. Like a majority of the people in Valhalla he thought that Fade was the false Shantic and he made a point of rubbing it in Fade's face. "What are you doing going down there?" Andrews asked as Fade finished punching in his access code on the digipad. "Honestly," Fade said, "I'm just going down there to clear my head." "With the parasitus? You like hanging around with them?" Andrews shook his head. "You're batshit crazy. You must have a deathwish. I wonder what your father would say if he knew that you were taking these personal trips down to the ground level." Fade grinned. "You want to know what I think about his thoughts, Andrews. I wish they were toilet paper so that I could wipe my ass with them. Nice talking with you Andrews." Fade went into the locker room and changed into a jumpsuit. The jumpsuit was blue and fit him perfectly. The jumpsuit was made out of a thermal gel-like substance that closely resembled latex. The pore-sized fibers that lined the suits helped to regulate the internal heat within Fade's body. It was so light that it almost seemed to mold to him like a second skin. Not only was it designed to keep him warm in extreme weather conditions but it was also designed for combat situations. Though his body was already strong and durable the suit helped to protect his body from further damage. No one was stupid enough to go to the ground without it. After zipping up his jumpsuit Fade went into the weapons room. The room was rectangular-shaped, ten meters long five meters wide. He set a black, nylon duffel bag on a metal table and grabbed the weapons most preferable to him: a Saturna 5S77, a Remington 74908, two pistols, a dozen stun grenades, and enough ammo to supply a small firing squad. He shouldered the strap and stepped out onto the landing pad. The landing pad was big enough to cover a whole Martian street. The shuttles were parked neatly in rows of a dozen, their exteriors oiled to a shine. Maintenance drones worked on them daily, keeping them in prime condition. The exterior design of the shuttle closely resembled a butterfly: round in the front with a long tail, wings sticking out at the sides. They were big enough to hold up to a dozen people. On his right wrist Fade wore a small bracelet made out of steel. In the center was a key pad,. From this bracelet Fade could type in commands that would be picked up by the shuttle even if he was a hundred miles away. The bracelet could be useful when in a dior situation. As he approached the shuttle he typed in a five digit combination that powered the shuttle up. The back of the shuttle opened into a ramp; once on board the ramp closed behind him. There were ten crash couches, another couch over by the defense modules, and the pilots chair at the very front. Fade sunk into the pilot's seat and strapped himself in. Buttions and command pads glowed with blue light, beckoning him to take control. The shuttle vibrated and purred around him, reassuring him that he was in command. Just being in the pilot's chair made the misery and uselessness he'd been feeling over the past few months feel like a distant memory. Years of simulation runs under his belt had turned Fade into one of the best flyers in Valhalla. Even if he wasn't Shantic's true reincarnation Fade had done everything in his personal power to ensure that he was capable of protecting himself and others if need be, whether that was using a gun, hand-to-hand combat, piloting a vehicle, or tracking. But all of the simulation runs couldn't change the fact that what he was doing and where he was going as beyond dangerous. If a Parasitus killed you in a simulation you didn't really die unlike down on the ground. In a simulation you just started at the square one and tried to beat the high score. Where he was going wasn't a simulation, it was real. If a Parasitus killed him it was game over. Just thinking about running into the Parasitus made his stomach want to do all kind of acrobatics. I don't even know what it is I'm looking for, he thought. May the spirit of Shantic guide me. Gripping the steering sticks gently in his hand, Fade gently eased the shuttle into the air. He turned it around to face the hangar bay door. The hangar door was a big metal door spanning fifty feet on all four sides. He punched in a command on the flight computer and the hangar door slid open, revealing the velvety black sky beyond. Fade gently pushed the steering sticks forwards. A burst of fire from the thrusters of the shuttle propelled him forward at a steady sixty miles per a second. On the rearview viewing screen he watched as the hangar bay slid shut behind him, as the grand city of Valhalla grew smaller until it shrunk out of existence. Before long Fade was flying over the Atlantic ocean underneath a dim sky full of grey clouds. Just ahead of him he could see the ruins of what had once been New York City. It's there, Fade thought. Whatever it is I'm supposed to see, it's somewhere down there. Using the shuttle's computer he glanced at the rooftops, passing over empty streets and dusty bill boards. The computer showed him digitalized structures of the building, feeding him probabilities of which might be safer to land on. A majority of the buildings appeared sturdy but many of them were structurally damadge due to age. After several minutes of searching, he found a sturdy brick building with a rooftop that was big enough for him to be able to land. As it turned out the rooftop was perfect; Fade had no trouble making a smoothe landing. He powered the shuttles computers down and checked through his gear to make sure he had everything he needed. He put the shotgun in a holster and strapped it to his back. The grenades and handguns were fitted to his belt. He grabbed his assault rifle and punched a sequence into his command pad that opened the back of the boarding ramp. Fade stepped out onto the rooftop. A cluster of rain clouds hovered above his head. Somewhere off in the distance thunder rumbled. Below him was a street crowded with abandoned cars and vehicles that belonged to a different century. He pulled out a pair of binochulars and scanned the streets and entryways of buildings. When several sweeps revealed that there were no Parasitus around he marched over to the fire escape. It was hard to get the door open even with the super strength that all Fourth people possessed. The door was covered in rust and cobwebs. After a minute or two he finally managed to open it enough to be able to squeeze through. The inside of the building was pitchblack. Obviously there was no power. It's a good thing I brought a flashlight with me just in case, he thought. He pulled the flashlight out of his belt and flicked it on. The beam was strong and illuminated the dark sufficiently. Cobwebs hung down from the corners of the ceiling. He stayed where he was for a moment and let his mind stretch out, searching for any signs of the Parasitus. When nothing alerted them to their presence he began to make his way down the hallway. From what he could see the building had once been an apartment building, probably built in the 21st or 22nd century. There was no one here. All of the tenants that had once lived here were long gone; they were either dust or they were Parasitus. Either way their existence had been wiped out by the coming of the comet. At the end of the corridor was an elevator and next to that, a door that led to a staircase. He reluctantly passed the elevator and went for the door. Once again he had to wrestle with the door to be able to squeeze through. He had to climb down eighteen flights of stairs to get to the bottom. He took a moment to snatch a few drinks from his water jug before exiting the building. By this time it had started to rain. Thunder cracked above him as he made his way down the street. The water felt cool and refreshing on his skin. He kept his senses open. Shantic whatever it is I'm supposed to find, help me find it. He stopped, waiting for some hint. After a moment he felt something-it was very faint but he could feel it none the less, like a vibration that came from within. Fade took turned the corner onto a new street; somewhere just ahead of him was the remains of the once-marvelous Empire State Building. Now the building looked as if it had been gutted. It was amazing that it was still standing after all this time-that anything was still standing. He kept his rifle at the ready. The last thing he wanted was to be caught off guard by the Parasitus. The vibration sensation he was feeling grew stronger with every step he took. He was jogging now, hair matted to his forehead. The city as so silent that his footfalls echoed all around him. The sun was sinking. Soon it would be night. Already the shadows had lengthened. Each corner seemed to hide something devious and sinister. Finally, just when the vibration was so strong that it made his blood boil, he saw it: a shade. It was coming in his direction, a glowing blue ball. Shades were spirits of the past, shapeless ghosts of those who had losts their lives and was unable to move on to whatever came next. It was coming towards him, zig zagging back and forth with what seemed like excitement. Just as he could sense them they could sense him too. As far as he knew he was the only one that could see the shades. There were no shades in Valhalla, only on the ground floor. He stopped, letting the shade come to him. Shades couldn't hurt him. Most of the times they just wanted to communicate, to be set free so that they could be set free. As the Conduit he was the only that could do so. The shade came to a stop, hovering before him. It's glow illuminated the darkness all around him. Streams of misty blue light wafted off the side. It made Fade think of pulling cubes of ice out a freezer. Without hesitation Fade reached out and touched the outer edge of the sphere. A tingling sensation went up his arm. Goosebumps broke out all over his body. The hairs on the back of his head stood on end. "Go on," Fade said. "Don't be afraid. Show me what it is what you want me to see." The tingling seemed to ramp up a thousand times. It was excruciating pain unlike anything he had ever felt before. It felt as if thousands of volts of electricy were shooting through his body. His eyeballs rolled into the back of his head. He collasped to the rain-soaked pavement, body twitching as if in the throes of a seizure. Then the twitching stopped and his body became deathly still. Behind the thin layer of flesh that was his eyelids, his eyeballs roved about as his head filled with dreams. The comet swoops through the vacuum of space, past dying stars, getting ever closer to Earth. Like the last comet that destroyed the Third people, this is no ordinary comet. This comet is malignant and has one single purpose: to destroy. It is a weapon. In the center of the comet is the plague of all plagues. Inside parasite wiggle and writhe almost excitedly, sensing that they are getting close to their destination. Unlike the last strain of the virus that created the Parasitus, this is a new strain. It's stronger, more volitile. It's sentient, a life form that has never been before. It will cause even greater danger. Finally, after such a long journey, it enters Earth's atmosphere, gaining heat and speed. And there off to the side is the great city of Valhalla. The comet does the impossibe: it defies the laws of comet and heads directly for the floating city. On the ground floor Fade watches as the comet collides with the only life that he has ever known; he watches helplessly as his home splits in half and falls out of the sky. Fade jerked awake. Except for the light of the moon it was so dark that he couldn't see-even with his superior sense of eye sight. The shade was gone. Where was it? Had it moved on? It was still raining? His clothes were sticking to his flesh. He was frightened. He stayed still, holding his breath, trying to discern the danger that he sensed. He was not alone. There was something hiding in the darkness. It was moving, waiting to make its move. There was only one thing that it could be. He grabbed his rifle and stood on his knees. His heart hammered in his chest. The fear within him was so strong that it was almost impossible to breathe. The Parasitus were out there. They had smelled the fresh meat and decided to come out and play. I made a mistake in coming down here, he thought. What in Shantic's name was I thinking. His hand shook as he fumbled for his flashlight. Gritting his teeth he flicked it on. There one of them stood in the direct path of the beam. Whatever human qualities the creature may have had no longer existed. The plague was known to cause horrendous mutations to the human physiology. The Parasitus itself was a grotesque looking monstrosity. It was hulking, about a head taller than Fade. There were massive pus filled blisters all along its back, forehead and face. Protruding out of some of the blisters were tentacles that seemed to have a mind of their own. They crawled over the wet pavement, looking for food. The creature had two arms, five fingers on each hand; the Parasitus' hand was so big that it could cover a man's entire face. Its nails were razor sharp. The creature was looking directly at him. Its eyes were placed along the side of its bulbous head, almost like the eyes of a horse. Once they had been full of human intelligence but now an endless hunger followed by alien instinct was all that remained. For a moment the creature seemed to study him-and then it charged, roaring. The ground shook under its massive feet. Its claws were pulled back, ready to cause damage. Fade's fear was replaced for the need to defend himself. Teeth grated together in a sort of feral grin, he aimed his rifle at the creature's head and pulled the trigger. Bursts of blue plasma rattled rapidly from the muzzle of his rifle. The Parasitus danced underneath the assault of fire before dropping to the pavement. It continued to wiggled, its tentacle hissing through the air in a desperate attempt to fend itself. With a shot of adrenaline Fade walked over to the creature and emptied another barrage of fire. The Parasitus' screams were deafening. It was impossible to ignore the fact that it was screaming in obvious agony. Fade almost felt sorry for it. Almost. Whoever this unfortunant soul had been he was doing it a favor by setting it free. He sensed something coming up from behind him. He spun around just as a Parasitus lunged at him from out of nowhere. Fade smartly stepped away and unleashed another unrelenting spray of plasma power. More of them were coming out of the shadows, from the sewers. It's an ambush, Fade thought. It's like they set a trap. With them closing in like this he had no choice but to bring out the shotgun. He dropped the assault rifle to the pavement and pulled out the shotgun. He faced the Parasitus closest to him, pumped the shotgun, and fired. The shotgun bucked as a large blue ball of plasma-fire burst from the muzzle of the shotgun. It hit the Parasitus with full force. The creature exploded in a shower of severed limbs, tentacles, and pus. Fade reached for a grenade, pressed the button down, and rolled towards the largest group of Parasitus. Not a second later the grenade exploded, filling the night with a deafening boom. Now that he'd bought himself a few seconds, Fade ran for the mouth of an alley with the Parasitus just on his tail. They filled the narrow alley literally spilling over each other. He fired several more shots from his shot gun and threw another grenade before coming out the other end of the alley. Just across the street was what had once been a supermarket. It seemed like the ideal place for refuge. He threw three more grenades and ran for the supermarket. He bursts through the double glass doors and- He collided with something hard and fell to ground. His head was spinning and he could taste blood in his mouth. He staggered to his feet and faced the thing that he had collided with. In the end it was not what but who. A young woman stood before him, eyes squinted in the glare of his flashlight. She didn't appear to be afraid. "Thank asshole," she spat. "You just rain the dinner bell." Then she turned around and ran in the opposite direction. Fade stayed where he was. Did I hit my head too hard or did I just see a girl standing there? How could anyone be left alive down here that wasn't Parasitus? There was nothing left of the Third people-or so he had been led to believe. Before he knew what he was doing he sprinted after her. They burst through a door that led into another street. The woman threw a glance back at Fade and scowled but made no comment when he continued to run after her. With her taking the lead, it didn’t take long for them to lose the presence of the Parasitus. She led him through a network of streets and alleyways in a path that meandered this way and that. Fade followed her without question or doubt. Wherever she was taking him he could only assume that it was better than facing a mob of alien monstrosities. Finally they came to a brick building with steel doors. As soon as soon as he stepped inside she latched the door shut behind her. Fade flicked on his flashlight and looked around. They were standing in what was cleary a hideout. There were several gas lamps and candles on the floor; a sleeping bag, and a book shelf of tattered paperback books. He was still taking in the details when he felt something hit him in the back of the head hard. He fell to his knees and rolled over. The woman stood over him, her rifle gripped in her hands like a club. Her eyes were hard, ruthless. “Why?” he asked. In answered she hit him in between the eyes with the butt of her rifle, and for the second time since landing on the surface of the planet in his shuttle, Fade was unconcious.
  2. Hey guys, I'm kind of stuck on GOTF and what I want to do with the next chapter. I'm going to put it on hold for now. This doesn't mean I'm going to discontinue it I'm just not sure what to do next. Please be patient.

    1. Emi GS

      Emi GS

      No worries. Whenever you can. And we will be here...

  3. Home

    Home. The first time Jack saw Mars he was on the transport. He'd just left Earth, his family, the life he'd known behind. What was ahead of him he didn't know - and in that moment he didn't care. Seeing that ugly red planet gave him a thrill he hadn't experienced in some time. For the first time since Melania's death, he felt something that wasn't grief, that wasn't anger. There had been a clarity in that moment. He'd realized he'd made the right decision. For better or for worse this was his life now. This was his home. Seeing it no from the observatory deck of the Endes Thebes brought the memory back, along with a relief that was so strong it was dreamlike. For six weeks he'd been unconvinced they were really heading home. There had been a tightness in his chest, a sort of mad itch. Now that tightness was expanding and he found he could breathe again. Thirty-three minutes later Jack, Redric, and Julisa were climbing off the ramp onto Mars' loading docks with their luggage. The last time Jack had stepped off a ship like this everything had been new to him. He'd had no idea what the future held for him. Everything's changed again, he thought. Only this time it wasn't for the better. "So I guess this is it?" Julisa said, coming to a stop. She looked sad. "I guess so," Jack said. "Now your contract with Aansted Corporation is finished." "Yeah. And I'm not taking another one." She didn't say, Not after what happened on Aansted Station, and she didn't have to. She hugged them both. "I'm going to miss having the both of you on my ship. I really mean it when I say this, but you two are the best passengers I've ever had aboard my ship." "This doesn't have to be goodbye, you know?" Redric said. "You live on the same planet that we do. Don't be a stranger." Julisa Temerance smiled. "I won't." Jack and Redric watched as Sheathia replayed the video footage for the third time - the first and second time she'd said nothing and she said nothing now. Instead she stood up and turned to face the window behind her. Before her was a perfect view of the city and the ancient red mountains that had been standing since the beginning of time. Her silence was unnerving. Jack exchanged a nervous glance with Redric. After a moment Sheathia's shoulder slumped and she hung her head. She sighed in resignation, something Jack thought he would never hear coming from her. She'd always had things under control, always knew what to do. To see her like this scared him more than he was willing to admit. At long last she turned to the two detectives and took her glasses off. "This changes everything," she said. Neither of the two detectives said anything; they continued waiting in silence, waiting for her to say more, waiting for her to take charge. "How do I deal with something like this?" she said. Jack exchanged another glance with Redric. "Is that an actual question or rhetorical?" he asked nervously. He sensed that Sheathia was anxious, and when she was anxious she became cranky. As calm and collected as she could be most of the times she also had a temper. Jack did not want to feel the wrath of that temper. To his relief, she smiled. "Both, I suppose. Where is Romanov?" "We placed him in a hotel room for the moment. We put Detective Hank outside his door to keep an eye on him," Redric said. He hastily added, "After everything he's been through we figured it was best that he get some sleep before we continue to grille him about everything that's gone on." She nodded. "I agree. From the looks of it you two could use some sleep as well. You both have dark circles under your eyes. I imagine after everything you experienced at Aansted Station neither of you could sleep much." You have no idea, Jack wanted to tell her. "I'm going to get in touch with Charlie," Sheathia informed them. "We will get some answers, and I assure you we will find some way to handle...this." She gestured at the laptop as if it was a sinister serpent coiled to strike. "We will meet tomorrow and figure out what to do with Romanov. Until then I want you both to get some sleep. And don't mention this...not to anyone." As if anyone would believe us, Jack thought. On the travel tube it was everything Jack could do to keep his eyes open. He wanted to lay his head on Redric's shoulder, touching him, but refrained from doing so. They were not on the Endes Thebes anymore. They were back on Mars and they had to be careful again. Already he found himself missing his partner's touch. The travel tube came to the stop closest to his apartment first. Throwing caution to the wind, Jack risked giving Redric a quick kiss on the lips and wished him a good night. The mild look of surprise and delight on Redric's face coupled with the paranoid way he looked around gave Jack a familiar thrill. They had only been back on Mars for a few hours and they were already sinking back into their old habits. It was as if they hadn't been away for twelve months. Jack barely remembered shuffling into his apartment. He dropped his keys carelessly onto the coffee table and set his holstered weapon on the side table next to his bed. When he crawled into bed he let out a sigh of relief. He'd forgotten what it was like to sleep in a regular bed - his bed. The journey back from Aasted Station had seemed unending. Now we're safe, he thought. But somewhere deep inside he knew that wasn't true. Just because Redric and he were back home did not mean that they were safe. He remembered how he had shot his father - his own father - and how the bullet had passed right through him; he remembered how Erik had grabbed him by his throat and lifted him off his feet with strength that was anything but human. What if Erik were to appear in his apartment right now? What would he do? How could you defend yourself against a ghost? It's as Sheathia said. This changes everything. With that last thought, Jack rolled over and went to sleep. Sleep did not come as easily for Aleister Romanov as it did for Jack and Redric. The hotel room they'd put him in was standard with a single full sized bed, TV and dresser. The walls were painted plain white, and there was a faint aroma of cigarette smoke. There was a dresser with a mirror attached to it, a microwave and a coffee maker. Jack had told him that the TV had cable but he couldn't be bothered with it. In his panic he'd almost completely forgotten where he was. He spent the night pacing around the hotel room, feeling as though he was about to come out of his skin. His head felt as if it was full of a hive of buzzing insects. He had one hell of a fucking headache. He could not escape the feeling of being a circus animal being bounced around from place to place; a prisoner without any control of his own life. He had no idea what would happen to him from this point. He reflected that it had been like that for quite sometime now. It had been that way on Aansted Station with the threat of death and insanity around every corner. For the first three months he'd been determined to survive. I'll find a way to leave this fucking place, he'd told himself. I'll find something! I'm not going to die! It was this determination that kept him from going insane for those first three months. He was stranded with no way to get off the station. He could send an S.O.S transmission but the chances of it reaching anybody was one in a million at best. Knowing the odds did not stop him from trying but he did not put much hope in getting anything in return. All he could do was try and hold out and hope that someone would come along; the chances of that happening were just as slim as someone picking up his S.O.S transmission. Still, he waited. Still he tried to prevail. The station had plenty of oxygen and power - enough to sustain the station for years, perhaps even a decade. He didn't have to worry about that - not yet. What he was worried about was the emergency food rations. There was six months of that. And then there was the fear of what might happen if Erik and the others got it in their heads to come back and finish him off after all. He did his best to make the food last: He went as long as he could without eating, forcing himself to wait longer and longer. When he couldn't bring himself to wait any longer it was nearly impossible not to binge eat, even when he told himself that it was a matter between life and death. He didn't sleep. Every time he tried to he dreamt of Erik, how he'd come back from the dead; that creepy glint in his eyes; all that he'd told them about the other place he'd gone too; how easily he'd converted the others to his cause. Aneke, Henry, Patel, people that he'd worked and lived with for years. All you have to do is take my hand, Erik had told them, and as soon as they did, the people that Romanov had come to know and love were gone. They were no longer human. They had began the very transformation that Erik had started. Just like that they'd turned on Romanov. Should we kill him? Aneke had asked Erik as Romanov fell to his knees and begged helplessly for his life through tears. Her voice had been smooth as silk, cold as ice. No. Erik did not blink, not once. We will leave him here. If he has the will to live then he will find a way off this station. If not then he will die a slow death. And directly to Romanov he said, Believe me, Romanov I am granting you a mercy. The Old Ones are not so kind. As the days turned to weeks with no sleep and no sign of hope for rescue, Romanov quickly sunk into the depths of insanity. He forgot about things like hygiene and roamed the station like a mad man. He forgot about trying to survive. By the time Jack, Redric, and Julisa showed up he had come to accept the fact that he was going to die. Somehow he'd become convinced that Erik and his followers would return and that when they did he would not survive. Now he was on Mars, in this hotel room. There was a detective sitting just outside his door. And just as he'd been on Aansted Station he was still uncertain about his fate. Sure, he was at least half convinced that he wasn't going to die. But what if he ended up going to jail for the experiments that he and the others had done at Aansted Station? He could go to prison for the rest of his days. That wasn't nearly as bad as the possibility of Erik coming back to finish him off. Just because he was on Mars didn't mean that Erik couldn't find him. Romanov stopped pacing and looked at the door. His eyes widened and his heart sped up. What if he's standing outside that door right now? the Russian studied himself in the mirror. There's nothing that detective out there will be able to do to stop him from getting in here. A gun can't stop him. Jack already tried that and it didn't do a damned thing. Then I'd be just as fucked as I was on the station. He took a half step towards the door and stopped. He wanted to warn the detective but then pictured how that conversation would go. The detective would just throw his head back and laugh, tell him that he was crazy. Cursing, Romanov went over to the mirror and studied his reflection in the mirror. His hair had grown down past his shoulders and was slick with grease from being unwashed. The lower half of his face was covered with a shaggy beard. He looked like a savage. Seeing his reflection in the mirror helped him come to grips with what he knew he needed to do: Fight. Fight in whatever way he could. He could make a statement about all that he'd seen and done. Even if that meant admitting to all the illegal things that he'd done while under Erik Aansted's employment. He didn't care what the consequences were, whether it tarnished his reputation for life or caused him to be incarcerated for the rest of his days. Any price was worth it as long as he could recover a shred of the dignity that Erik had stolen from him. A shower and a shave would be a good start, he thought. This time when he went to the door he did not stop himself. He peeked outside. The detective was sitting in the chair, reading the sports page of the Martian Tribune. He appeared to be around Jack's age, maybe a year or two younger, and as green as a spring leaf. "Can I get a razor?" the Russian asked him gruffly. The detective - Romanov could not remember his name - blinked at him nervously. "You want me to give you a razor?" "And some shaving cream." "I'm not so sure that I can. I'll have to check with my superior." Romanovs mouth twitched. He could feel his temper rising. He'd always had a really bad temper. "If it gets me that razor faster you can stand in here and watch me as I shave." Whether it was the dangerous gleam in his dark eyes or the growl in his voice, the detective nodded and stood up, throwing his newspaper back in his chair. "I'll see what I can do." Jack woke up the next morning feeling very refreshed. While he waited for his coffee to finish brewing he showered and shaved. For breakfast he fixed scrambled eggs and toast. After three months of being on the Endes Thebes it was nice to eat something that was not artifically flavored. He was looking forward to getting back into his normal routine. His mailbox was so full of mail that he had to spend a good amount of time wrestling it out. His mood lowered slightly when he finished going through the three months worth of bills that had built up in his absence. This can all wait until I get back home, he thought in disgust. He put his jacket on and left for work. Words couldn't describe how great it felt to be back home, around things that were familiar to him. While he didn't know the people that he passed on the streets he was comforted in knowing that he had similar day-to-day goals as they did. Here in this city the monsters that roamed the streets were made of flesh and blood. You could handcuff them and throw them in a jail cell so that they never hurt anyone ever again; and when you shot them they went down. There were no ghosts. I'm a part of the human race again, he thought happily. Once he arrived at the gate that he waited at almost every morning, he went over to the kiosk and bought today's issue of The Martian Tribune. Typically Jack didn't concern himself with keeping up on current events - he was too busy catching criminals to really care - but for some reason it seemed like a good idea to catch up on things today. The headline of the article on the front page caught his eye immediately: NEW CULT SPREADS THROUGH CITY!!! He checked the time. He had just a few minutes before his train was supposed to arrive, just long enough to read the article. He took a seat on one of the benches and turned back to the article, frowning. We live in a future where things are everchanging. Within the last century and a half alone we have begun to spread our way throughout the stars: the colonization of Mars, the building of the Lunar Cathedral, the birth and death of new religions and deities. With each new discovery, with each step that humanity makes, the human race inevitably continues to evolve - not just in science but in religion as well. Within the last few weeks a new cult has spread through the city of Mars. Perhaps you've heard of it and perhaps you haven't - and if you haven't it will only be a matter of time before you do. Children of the Old Ones they call themselves, a polythesistic religion that claims there is more than what god and that the actual God does not exist. Cults have arisen before. There are plenty of examples scattered throughout history, Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson just being some examples. Adolf Hitler wasn't really the leader of a cult but he was the leader of a movement that influenced a lot of people so let's just leave that example where it is. What makes this cult is so suprising is how quickly it's spread through the city: like some newly discovered plague, it has taken our beloved city within a matter of weeks. Reports have been coming in of people standing in the street claiming that God is dead and the Old Ones will soon arise and take back what's there's. It almost sounds like something out of an H.P. Lovecraft story? What's also shocking is that these people are of all ages: young, old, black and white, and even of different sexual orientation. Some people are orignally from Earth and others were born here on our beloved red planet. Not much else is known about the cult. What are their intentions? What are their beliefs? Who are these Old Ones and where did they come from? Keep your eyes open. You might see one of these Children standing on the streets. According to reports they all wear amulets that look like this: Jack's heart skipped a beat; a cold chill went up his spine. Beneath the article was the snapshot of a very familiar looking symbol: an M laying on its side. It was the same symbol that he'd found back at Aansted Station.
  4. Gone

    He stood at the crest of a hill and found himself looking at a world that was nightmarishly alien and bleak. The soil beneath his feet was the color of cement with black weeds sprouting from the ground. They twisted together in a sinuous mess, their stalks covered in strange abrasions and spores. There was something primal about them, something that frightened him greatly. He got the strongest suspicion that if he dared to touch one of them, they would attack. Above him was a grey overcast sky. Clouds frothed like boiling water. Blue thunder cracked loudly. To his right was a large tree. Like the weeds, it was covered with the spores; the trunk was made out of the same fleshy grey matter. Thirty yards or so away from where he stood was a large temple. Statues of giant creatures stood guard over it, hulking things with bodies that were both humanoid and amphibian in design. Not one looked like another. One’s head was in the perfect shape of a triangle and another was a mass of tendrils. Statues of the Old Ones. Though they were made of the same black stone as the temple they looked lifelike. He couldn’t help but feel as though he was being watched. He was afraid of them, repelled. A particularly loud crack of thunder lit the sky, shaking the world around him. A strong gust of wind blew at him, bringing with it the smell of something dead and rotting. The Old Ones knew that he was here. They were waiting, waiting for him to enter the temple. But he didn’t want to go inside. He didn’t want to go in there and face the monsters, the gods of an ancient alien race. He didn’t want to be in this strange, alien place. They’re waking up. After being asleep for so long they’re waking up. And when they do, they’ll take back what belongs to them. “Jack!” Jack sat up and opened his eyes just as Redric came running around the corner. He was cold. So cold. Redric stopped and gawked at him wide-eyed. “Oh my God. Jack, what happened?” Jack flailed about as he tried to get to his feet. He felt like a drowning man who couldn’t swim. His mind worked to catch up with his body but was nowhere close to doing so. His eyes roved about, looking for his father. The ghost of his father. He was vaguely aware that Redric was at his side, lifting him to his feet. “Where is he?” he half croaked half screamed. “Where’d he go?” “Where did who go?” “Erik! He was just right there!” “What happened to your neck?” Redric was tilting his head back, looking at the hand-shaped bruise that was starting to blacken his neck. “Erik! He’s here!” Jack scooped up his gun and checked to make sure that the safety was still off. “He’s somewhere on the station.” Redric switched his safety off and gritted his teeth. “Let’s find the son of a bitch!” We aren’t going to find him, Jack wanted to say. He’s not human. We have to get the hell away from this place. But he didn’t have the voice or the courage to voice these thoughts. He had never felt so shaken, so vulnerable. He opened a comm channel to Julisa. “Julisa?” The earpiece in his ear crackled with her response. “I’m here.” “Erik Aansted is on the station! Repeat: Erik Aansted is on the station! Keep an eye out. Make sure he doesn’t get on board.” “Copy that.” And then: “Are you sure? I don’t see a ship anywhere. I’ve been up front the whole time. I would know if he showed up, I would have seen it.” Redric glanced at Jack and opened his mouth to speak. Knowing what he was going to say, Jack said, “I swear to God he’s here, Redric. You seriously don’t think I just did this to myself, do you?” Redric took a deep breath and put a hand on Jack’s shoulder. “Of course I don’t think you did this to yourself. We’ll find him. He’s not getting away this time.” It took them an hour to search the station from top to bottom. They took the stairway, checking each room on every floor. With each empty room they entered Jack grew less and less sure of himself. Erik Aansted had to still to be on the ship. There was no where he could hide. There was no way he could get off the station without Julisa or them knowing about it. He was scared, embarrassed. And yet the bruise on his neck continued to throb, an aching reminder that something had happened. Someone had grabbed him hard enough to leave a hand-shaped bruise around his neck. When they came back to the airlock door Redric shook his head. “There’s no one here, Jack. No one. We’re the only one’s here.” “God damn it!” Jack glared at his partner, hurt and angry. How could Redric not believe him? How could he look at him as if he’d lost his mind? They’d worked together for three years, slept together for most of that time. “I shot him! You heard me fire my gun, didn’t you?” Redric said nothing, but continued to look at Jack sadly. “Fuck it. I’ll prove it.” Jack stormed over to the main computer and pulled up the video logs. He clicked on the folder labeled LAB 1 and fast forwarded carefully through the footage. When he got to the footage that showed him standing in lab over by the bed, he stopped. His heart was pounding in his chest. There had to be evidence that proved that he was not crazy. There just had to be. He was determined to find it; he had never been so determined to prove anyone wrong before. “Here it is,” he said, waving Redric over. “Look!” Redric sighed and came over to the computer reluctantly. He stooped, his face aglow in the light of the computer screen. Erik’s appearance was not nearly dramatic as his vanishing act had been. In one blink of the eye he wasn’t there and the next he was. A fresh shiver went up Jack’s spine as he watched himself turn around to face the thing that had become his father...or that looked like his father. He lost all awareness of Redric as he watched the altercation on the screen. Watching it was like he was experiencing it all over again. He remember that strange, inhuman glint in Erik’s eye, seeing the strange tendril move underneath his flesh like a hungry parasite. There was never a time when he’d been afraid of his father. He’d always hated him, but he’d never feared him. Until now. I wish that I’d wake up now, he thought. I wish this was just a nightmare. The footage ended after Jack shot his father and started to run away. Jack looked at his partner and waited to speak. Redric’s eyes were wide; his skin had turned the color of paper. Jack pulled a flashdrive from his pocket that he’d brought with him just in case they’d found any proof and saved the footage, as well as the other documents on the computer drive, onto the flash drive. They had everything they needed; they could leave now. Redric said nothing as they boarded the Endes Thebes. Julisa was already strapped into her seat. She waited until Jack and Redric were buckled in before asking if they were ready to take off. “God yes,” was all Redric said. They’d been flying in silence for an hour when Redric stood up from his crash couch. With the way his big hands were clenched into fists and his shoulders were squared Jack could tell that he was pissed. And when Redric was pissed like this it wasn’t good. It usually meant someone was going to get hurt. “What are you doing?” he asked nervously. Redric looked at him, expression darkening. “It’s time for that Russian to tell us the truth. I swear to God I’ll beat it out of him.” Jack unbuckled his seat belt and leapt to his feet. He grabbed Redric’s arm. “What did he lie about? Everything he told us was true.” Redric was storming down the corridor towards Romanov’s quarters; Jack had to break into a jog to keep up. “You mean about that thing that attacked you back at Aansted Station?” “Yeah that.” “Stop, damn it!” Jack grabbed Redric’s arm and pulled as hard as he could. Redric turned, face red. Anyone else but Jack would have gone running if they’d seen the expression on his face but Jack steeled himself. “He told us Erik had turned into something else, that he was no longer human. And the thing I shot at definitely wasn’t human. I shot him and the bullet went right through him. It didn’t do a damn thing! You saw the footage.” “That thing, whatever the hell it is, wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for your father and his team and his crazy fucking experiments,” Redric growled. “How can you not be pissed about this?” Jack laughed. He wasn’t sure why this whole situation suddenly struck him as funny. It was a habit he supposed, to laugh when he was scared or backed into a corner. Or upset. Laughter was good. It helped to hide the uncertainties he didn’t want people to see, the fact that he really wanted to scream and rip his hair out. Not that he’d ever do these things in front of Redric. He hated looking vulnerable in front of people, Redric especially. And he was already embarrassed enough as it was. “Of course I’m pissed. I’m just trying to keep you from getting your badge and gun taken away, or worse, thrown in jail. Leave him alone. He’s been punished enough for his transgressions already.” Redric took a deep breath, inhaling and exhaling slowly. “You’re right. I’m sorry, I’m just freaked out that’s all.” Jack wrapped his arms around his lover’s waist. Hugging Redric was like trying to hug a barrel. He sunk into the comfort of Redric’s embrace and closed his eyes. “I am too,” he whispered. “I am too.” After the horror that he’d experienced at Aansted Station, Jack was glad to be back on the Endes Thebes. It didn’t provide the familiar comforts Mars did but it didn’t harbor the terrible secrets that his father’s space station had. On Julisa’s ship he felt safe. Knowing that each day brought him closer to home was a comfort and a blessing. That comfort however did not extend to the nights in which he tried to sleep. There wasn’t a single night where he did not jerk awake from recurring dreams of his confrontation with his father. The newest passenger on board the Endes Thebes might as well have been a ghost in his own right. He rarely if ever interacted with the others, staying inside his room. Occasionally Jack would bump into Romanov when grabbing coffee or heading to the bathroom but those occasions were brief and silent. When they did pass each other Jack got the sense that Romanov was trying to avoid him; he would look down at his feet and avoid making eye contact with Jack. It was impossible to pick up on what the Russian was feeling. It was as if he was literally putting a wall up around himself, blocking Jack off. That was fine with Jack. It wasn’t the reason why he was losing sleep. However, Romanov was not the only one that was acting strange. At the dinner table Julisa always seemed distracted, even when she was playing cards. She wasn’t nearly as hard to read as Romanov. She was anxious for her contract with Aansted Corporation to be done and to have Romanov off her ship. On that front Jack couldn’t blame her. Like her, he wished the whole ordeal at Aansted Station had never occurred. On the third day of their second week of the trip back to Mars, Jack shuffled into the kitchen after another long night of tossing and turning. He was so tired that he felt dead on his feet and yet there was nothing he could do to get his mind to turn off. He found Julisa sitting at the kitchen table, staring listlessly at her cup of coffee. When he came back from the kitchen with a fresh cup of his own and sat down at the kitchen table, she looked up and smiled at him. It was a very tired smile. She had bags under her eyes, a clear sign that she hadn’t been sleeping much either. “I see I’m not the only one,” she murmured. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m lucky if I can get a few hours a night. When I do sleep I dream. And they’re not good dreams.” “I don’t blame you. Not after what happened at the station. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my mind around everything. Even after the footage you showed me of what happened...with...with your father.” “Redric is too. He’s so spooked he won’t even talk about it. It takes a lot to scare him.” “I bet. He’s so big.” This won a quiet chuckle from Jack. Julisa smiled for a moment but then looked down at her coffee. Jack could feel the wheels spinning in her head. “It’s just so hard to think about, you know?” she said. “I mean, we’re living in the twenty-fourth century. At least half of the human race is living in space. In that time we haven’t found a shred of evidence to suggest that there’s anything beyond this life. Until now.” For the upteenth time since leaving Aansted Station, Jack thought about the vision that he’d had after Erik attacked him - or had it been a dream? Despite his ghostly experience on the station he wasn’t quite ready to think that the strange alien place he had visited had been real. Up until now he had been too scared to talk about it, as if talking about it would somehow make it real. But now he realized that he needed to talk about it. It didn’t matter who with. It didn’t matter what they thought. He took a sip of his coffee, cleared his throat. “Romanov said that when Erik died that last time, he said he had gone to another place. After Erik attacked me I think I did too.” Julisa leaned forward in her seat. When she offered no comment Jack took that to mean that she was listening. He continued. He told her about the strange place with the alien weeds sticking out of the ground, the alien tree to his left, the boiling grey sky, and the alien temple with the alien statues below. He told her about how he’d felt as if the statues had been watching him, how real everything had felt as if he’d actually been there. “I know it sounds crazy,” he said, “I know...” “Two weeks ago I would have said that it did.” Julisa laughed. “My parents are ultra hippies. They’re into all kinds of spiritual shit, meditation and all of that. They always used to embarrass me with their crazy ass mumbo jumbo. I always used to think it was from all the weed they smoked.” “And now?” Jack said. “And now I’m not sure.” Julisa shook her head. “I mean the universe is so infinite. There are an infinite number of galaxies out their other than our own. Who can truly know what’s out there?”
  5. Ghost of the Father

  6. Ghost of the Father

    I'm confused. Is that a compliment?
  7. Ghost of the Father

    Julisa was glad to be back on the Endes Thebes. For the last fifteen minutes she’d been running a diagnostics check on her ship even though she knew it was unnecessary. She had been on Aansted Station for less than two hours - there was no way something could have happened to her beloved ship in that amount of time. Still the routine of it, the familiarity, was helping her to calm her nerves, helping to distract her from how vulnerable and frightened she was feeling. She hated feeling helpless like some damsel in distress. She had never thought of herself as one of those girls who had to have some man around to protect them and cater to their every whim. She considered herself to be a modern woman, a feminist. She had proven to herself that she could hold her own as she had done against Aleister Romanov and yet she could not quit thinking about the altercation: the knife coming towards her face, the hollow thunk as it struck the keyboard. And she’d been out of it since. She tried telling herself she had nothing to worry about. It had been a misunderstanding. Romanov had been frightened, starving, sleep deprived. He’d thought she was someone else, come back to kill him. Now he was better. As soon as Jack and Redric were done investigating the station they would be heading back to Mars with Romanov and as soon as they got back her contract with Aansted Corporation would finally be over. Good riddance, she thought. She decided that before she signed another contract or did any freelance jobs she would take a few weeks off, maybe go visit her parents back on Earth. It was funny how much a near-death experience could make you miss your parents, how much it could make you feel like a frightened child all over again. “Are you okay?” Julisa jumped at the sound of Redric’s voice; she had to bite her tongue to keep from screaming. She turned and he smiled apologetically. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you.” Slowly, Julisa felt herself relaxing. “That’s okay.” “How’s Romanov?” “Asleep. I gave him some melatonin, so he’ll be out for awhile. I’m going to go get Jack. Will you be okay by yourself for a little bit?” She nodded, hoping she looked braver than she felt. “Yeah. I’ll be fine.” This was where it had happened. This was where his father had died. There was a coldness to the laboratory, a lingering chill that made Jack’s teeth chatter. It was the very chill he felt whenever he stepped into a room where someone had died. And yet it did not look like the place where illegal experiments had taken place. Experiments of the ‘exploring what comes after death and dead people come back to life’ variety. Jack knew that if he wanted to see what had really happened the answers were in this very room. He was getting some very strong vibes from the metal table. All I have to do is reach out and touch it, he thought. But he didn’t want to touch it. Not really. The thought of doing so frightened him, frightened him more than any monster hiding under the bed could have. Whatever answers this room would reveal to him, he knew he would be crossing a line. What was beyond that line he could not say. “Something happened here,” he whispered to himself. “Something bad. What did you do Erik? Why couldn’t you just leave well enough alone?” Erik had always been a selfish man. Reckless. He had no respect for boundaries or morality. The only thing he had ever cared about was science. He had never cared about anyone’s feelings but his own. I hope we never find him, he thought. I hope he stays gone. It was a terrible thought he knew, but he couldn’t help it. It was time to quit being afraid. Once he got this over with he could return to the Endes Thebes and they could leave. He was about to touch the metal of the table when a familiar voice behind him said, “Jack.” He turned and felt his blood turn to ice. His throat worked and when he spoke his voice came out strangled: “Dad.” Erik Aansted stood before him, just five feet away. They were so close that they could have easily reached out and touched one another. The thing was that the man standing before him was not Erik Aansted, Jack didn’t know how he knew, he just did. He could feel it down in his bones. Sure, this man looked like Erik. He had Erik’s white-blonde hair and pale blue eyes; he had his high cheekbones. He even had his height. But there was also something wrong with him - there was a strange glint to his eyes and his skin was paler than milk and his hair was starting to fall in places, showing patches of exposed scalp. This man wasn’t a man at all but something else. Something else that wasn’t human. “Jack,” he said. When he spoke he spoke in Erik’s voice. Though Jack had not heard that voice in years, it hadn’t changed. Jack’s mind raced. Had he gone mad? Was he hallucinating? But deep down inside he already knew the answer. His instincts both as a psychic and a cop overpowered the rational thinking that typically plagued the human mind. He was not hallucinating. Erik’s form rippled before him, as if he was made of smoke - and yet at the same time he looked completely solid, as if he was made of flesh as well. A child-like, curious part of Jack wanted to reach out and touch this strange apparition that wore the face of his father. Another part was trying to decide whether he wanted to grab his gun and shoot it or start running. “A-Are you really here?” he stammered finally. His hand was drifting down towards his gun. “Or have I just lost my fucking mind?” Erik, or rather the man that looked like Erik, smiled. “No, Jacky-boy. You’re not losing your fucking mind.” “What happened to you?” Jack shook his head, hand on the butt of his gun. “Are you really here?” “I can be in more than two places at once.” Erik took another step forward. Now they were only a meter apart. Within the blink of an eye Jack drew his gun and placed the muzzle in between Erik’s eyes. His hands were shaking so bad that he had to hold the gun with both hands. “Get the fuck away from me. One more step and I swear I will blow your goddamn head off.” Erik continued to smile. He seemed unaware of the fact that Jack was pressing a gun to his head. Jack couldn’t remember a time when he had ever seen his father smile. Or when he had ever called him Jacky-boy. That was only something Uncle Charles or Melania had ever called him. “You wouldn’t shoot your own father would you, Jacky?” “I don’t know who or what you are, but you are not my father.” “I am your father,” Erik insisted. “But I’m also someone else. Something else.” Something was moving just beneath his right eye, slithering upwards. “When I died I went somewhere else. You wouldn’t believe where I went. It was so beautiful there. And when I came back everything changed. I began to change. There’s no words that can describe it. All I can do is show you.” The tendril that was moving underneath his flesh seeped out of the corner of his eye, making the eyeball shift in its socket. Jack thought of the nightmare he’d had of his mother just hours ago, saw her being dragged into the floor by tentacles that looked just like this one. A primal nerve within him was struck. He had no courage left. All he wanted to do was get away from this thing. He pulled the trigger. The explosion of the gun filled the space around them. Erik exploded into grey wisps of smoke before forming back together a second later. By then Jack was already bolting down the corridor, running for the airlock. He didn’t make it far. In a cloud of that strange, ghostly grey smoke Erik formed before him again. He was grinning again. Jack watched in horror as the hole where his bullet had gone through Erik’s forehead closed up. “No bullet can kill me, Jacky-boy,” said Erik. “I’m no longer human.” Jack raised the gun again but before he could pull the trigger, Erik knocked it from his hand with a swipe of his own and grabbed Jack by the throat with the other. The hand was like steel, closing around his throat, cutting off his air, making it impossible to breathe. With strength that wasn’t human, Erik lifted him off his feet. Jack struggled and kicked, clawing at Erik’s hand. But no matter how hard he fought and struggled there was no breaking free. Already his vision was starting to blacken at the edges. My own dad’s going to kill me, he thought. Isn’t that fucked up? But then again as fucked up as it was, while it was rare, it wasn’t unheard of. In his short career as a detective, Jack had dealt with at least three cases where a father had killed their child; all three of those times had been by accident. This was purely intentional. Somehow Erik could read his mind. “I’m showing you the truth,” he said in a voice that was growing more and more distant with each passing second. “I’m opening your eyes. And you’re going to thank me when I do. The Great Ones have been wanting to meet you for quite some time.” Everything went black. Jack’s body went limp. When Erik let him go Jack’s body hit the ground like a rag doll. For a moment Erik Aansted looked down at his son’s unconscious body and then disappeared in a cloud of ghostly smoke as if he’d never been there at all.
  8. The Lunar Cathedral

    The lunar cathedral was surrounded by the icecaps of Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede. Protected by a great glass dome, the cathedral rose from the ice, ostentatious, perhaps unnecessarily so. There was nothing else around it to compare it to, no other buildings or statues. Just this. The pope sought to keep it that way. In the second half of the twenty-second century, a century and half before Mars was colonized, Pope Francis III, head of the Catholic church, decided that the greatest achievement of the human race would to be create the lunar cathedral - a church that was closer to the heavens and angels above than ever before. He saw it as a way to be at the forefront of religion again, at a time when Christianity was little more than a fading ghost. When he brought the idea up to the other heads of state at a meeting held in Rome, his cohorts were reluctant. The idea was seen as too ambitious. They did not have the funds, the support, the influence, or the power they’d once had. The closer humanity got to the stars the farther they got from the path of God, ever closer to atheism. Yet Pope Francis refused to let his colleagues’ negativity get him down. He was the third Francis to rule the Catholic church since Pope Francis the First had put forth a new law that priests and popes could be married; this was not the first time the Catholic church had somehow found a loophole to the very rules they themselves had set. He had inherited his father and grandfather’s tenacity, and was determined to achieve his goal. Whatever he had to do to get the task done, he would do it. Even if he had to spill blood. Everyone knows the Catholic church has spilt a lot of blood throughout the ages. What church, in the name of religion, hasn’t? Of course if you were to ask the Pope how he had managed to find the means to get the lunar cathedral built he would have told you it was only through prayer and God’s good will, not through oppression and murder. And who would have the evidence to say otherwise? After a time, Pope Francis the III prevailed. Christianity was pushed to the forefront again and after a century of toil the lunar cathedral was built. And God be good if it wasn’t a wonder to behold. Made of steel, the cathedral was built in the tradition of a Gothic Church. Anchored into the icy floor of Jupiter’s largest moon, towers and spires made of metal reached towards the dying stars of space with the glass dome surrounding it like a shield. Sadly Pope Francis III had not lived long enough to see its completion. But his son and successor, Pope Francis the IV did. In an interview with Times Magazine he said, When I saw it from the shuttle it took my breath away. From up high the sight was just beautiful. There’s only one way to describe it: Think of God holding a snow globe in his hand, and in the middle of that snow globe is the lunar cathedral. But then when you stand directly before it you realize just how big the cathedral is. Another century and a half later, after Pope Francis the IV passed away, his son Pope Francis the V sat on the throne. To sit on the throne was only natural to him; it was as natural as breathing air. After all it was in his blood. But just because it was natural didn’t mean it was not without its discomforts. Francis scowled, shifting for what had to be the thousandth time within the last two hours alone. He slapped at the sides of the cushion trying to shift it so it would cushion his whole bottom. Each time he bounced around the zucchetto he wore on his head became just a little more askew. He had to bite his tongue to keep from saying something blasphemous. It didn’t help that his bottom was mostly flab. Having been born in artificial gravity, his bones were extremely delicate, his skin hanging off his bones like dough. Not for the first time he wished his wife Teresa was still alive to knit him a bigger cushion. Seeming to sense his discomfort from the next room, Tomas Thiago entered the throne room. Like Francis, Tomas had grown up in the cathedral and in artificial gravity. His bones and limbs had the same elongated, delicate look. However, thanks to his youth, his flesh did not hang off the bone like Francis’ did. He was springy, making Francis think of a circus clown on stilts. Though the chamber in which Francis sat was vast, Tomas covered the distance between them in a dozen steps. Francis counted the amount of steps silently. Watching Tomas move with those overlong legs and arms made Francis’ skin crawl. How many times must I request to have a new squire before I actually get one? the Pope thought. He reflected that it wasn’t just the unnatural way that Tomas moved that made him cringe. It was the boy’s jumpiness. He was like a nervous cat, always twitching and fidgeting and looking scared. “Do you need something, sir?” the boy asked. He was only twenty-three, barely a man. “Yes.” The Pope stood, feeling the bones in his back crackle. “Do me a favor, boy, and flatten this cushion for me, will you?” Tomas gave him a jerky nod and stepped forward immediately. He slapped at the pillow with his hands, trying to flatten it like a piece of dough. After several minutes of this he straightened up and said, “How’s that, sir?” “Good enough.” The Pope waved him off and sat back down. There really was no difference but he was glad just to have the boy out of his sight. He grabbed his data pad and was about to pick up where he’d left off on the article he was reading, when J’onn Rickon, the head of security stepped into the chambers. J’onn wore the sweeping white robes of Francis’ guard. The hem of the robe ended just above his ankle. A large red cross embellished the front. His light blonde hair was pressed flat against his skull by gel that gave his hair a brittle, glistening look. With high cheekbones and pouty lips he had a rather horshish face and grey eyes that were as dark as a stormy overcast sky. While Francis often times wondered about J’onn’s devotion to the Good Lord, he did not doubt his devotion to Francis; nor did he doubt the rest of his security staff. Armed with a rifle so immense that if touching the stone floor it would have reached J’onn’s hip, and a lethally sharp dagger sheathed in his belt, J’onn was a most formidable looking bodyguard. No one had yet tried to assassinate the Pope, but Francis did not want to risk there being the slightest chance. There was a funny look on J’onn’s face. Something was wrong. Francis could tell by the way his bushy eyebrows were knitted together. “A freighter just landed in our docking bay. I came over to notify you immediately.” At first Francis didn’t know what to say. At one-hundred-and-twenty-nine years old his brain didn’t work like it used to. That didn’t make any sense. No ships were scheduled to come in today. The Aansted Corp transport vessel had arrived yesterday to drop food and other resources off. They would not be back for eight months. The Pope got the sudden feeling that something bad was going to happen. It was so overwhelming that it filled his mouth with an odd metallic taste. “Who is it?” was all he could say. His mouth was dry, so dry. I need some water. “We’ve been trying to open a communication channel with whoever’s on board but something is keeping us from doing so.” That was not good. They had the best security tech in the galaxy - apart from Aansted Corp’s of course - and they could not get through whatever the ships defenses were. “It’s an Aansted vessel, sir,” J’onn continued, pulling Francis out of his thoughts. “Top of the line.” Ignoring the dread that continued to weigh in his belly like a stone, Francis said, “Do what you have to do to get whoever it is away from here. I’m not blessing anyone today.” With a sigh of resignation the pope sat down in a flourish of robes. J’onn nodded, turned around and marched out of the chambers; the doors swished shut behind him. Not a minute later, the sound of gunfire and screaming started. At first Francis couldn’t understand what it was he was hearing. Surely those couldn’t be his mens’ agonized screams, the clinking sound of shells hitting the marble floor, the sight of flashing light coming through the crack of the double doors? But the longer he sat, too petrified to move, Pope Francis the V realized his ears were not lying to him. Whoever was out there was slaughtering his men like cattle. He didn’t have to see this to know it. He clutched the metal prayer beads hanging around his neck, squeezing them so hard that the knuckles on his right hand had turned white. It was the very beads that Pope Francis the IV had given him on his deathbed. Just as Pope Francis the III had done. The doors burst open and Tomas came zig-zagging into the room. His olive-toned skin had gone completely white with fear. Within seconds he had Francis by the arm, his fear giving him the strength to pull the Pope off of his throne. Francis gaped in horror at the bloody scrap of flesh clinging to the side of Tomas’ robe. There was hair on it. Blond hair. J’onn’s hair. Tomas had a piece of J’onn’s scalp sticking to the side of his robes and the boy was too stupid, too afraid, to realize it. If it wasn’t for the fact that Tomas had a hold of him and was stronger than he appeared, Pope Francis V would have fainted right then and there. “What is going on?” he asked, wanting nothing more than to sit down again. The boy was shoving him towards the door behind him, the doorway with the staircase behind it that led up to Francis’ bedroom. “He’s coming!” he cried. “He’s-” “Who? Who’s coming?” “The man.” “What man?” Tomas was ahead of him, bounding up the steps three at a time; it was everything Francis could do just to keep up with him. “I don’t know who he is’ They keep shooting him and the others and the bullets aren’t doing anything - to any of them.” “There’s more?” “Yes. At least a dozen. I was too busy pissing my pants to be able to keep track.” The Pope did not scold the young squire for cursing; he could smell the urine on the boy and feared he might piss himself as well. “Whatever they are, they aren’t human.” At long last they reached Francis’ living quarters. It wasn’t until he was locking the door behind him that he realized, that in their terror, they had trapped themselves. We should have run for one of the shuttles and flown out of here, he thought. There’s still time! Then the man stepped through the door as if it was made of smoke. As if he was made if smoke. If it wasn’t for the face covered in blood and the luminous glow in his eyes, Francis would have said their attacker was not very imposing. But he had just witnessed the man kill all of his security team and pass through the door as if it was nothing but air. He was terrified. The man was clearly not human. As the man laughed at Francis’ and Tomas’ frightened faces, Francis’ eyes widened in recognition. He recognized the man with the silver-white hair and icy blue eyes. Who would not recognize that face when it had been on the cover of every magazine and newspaper for decades. Centuries. “Erik Aansted,” was all Francis could managed to say. Erik Aansted stopped laughing and became more formal. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Pope Francis V. I’ve traveled a long way for this occasion.” “What are you?” Francis gasped. “More human than human,” Erik said with a smile. His teeth were whiter than white. With strength that was not human he grabbed Frances by the throat and lifted him off his feet single handedly. His eyes glowed with an inhuman glee. Frances couldn’t breathe. All he could do was sputter helplessly and choke. His slippered feet dangled over the floor. His zucchetto slid off his head and fell onto the floor. With a single thrust and pull of his hand, Erik Aansted flayed Pope Francis V alive, clothes and all. As Erik dropped the Pope’s corpse and felt the warm splash of the Pope’s blood against his flesh, Tomas began to scream hysterically. When he was done dealing with Francis and the boy, Erik Aansted made his way back into the chamber. His disciples stood before him, waiting for him to take his rightful place at the throne. He looked at them: Aneke, Hassann, Tui, Bellamy, Chen, Evenson, Blomkvist, Bronson, Diaz, Coil, and Hale. They had come with him to the Lunar Cathedral and killed for him. The Pope’s guards had tried to stop them but their bullets and armor had failed them. Through Erik, the Old Ones had protected them, and through Erik, he and his disciples would continue to carry out their work. With blood trailing behind him, Erik took his place on the throne. The blood dappled zucchetto sat perfectly on top of his head. His disciples bowed before him. He waved at them silently and they immediately stood. “The gods are pleased,” he said, his voice echoing around the chambers. “But our work is far from done.” “What will you have us do my lord?” Aneke asked. Like Erik and the others, Erik could see Aneke’s hair was beginning to fall out. Already her transformation had begun. “You must go to Mars and spread the Old Ones’ gospel,” he said, smiling. “As of now Jesus Christ, the false Savior, dies. And once again the Old Ones shall rise.”
  9. What would be the best way to describe an alien dimension that pays homage to Lovecraft? How could I make it both tangible and metaphysical; fascinating, beautiful, and scary all at the same time?
    1. Emi GS

      Emi GS

      Why don't you try Caz's 'My lover is an alien'. There is some good description of the aliens you might expecting... All the best.  :2thumbs:

    2. ValentineDavis21


      Thanks Emi, I will take a look.

  10. Aansted Station

    Aanstad Station hung in the middle of space, a fortress of steel and glass. Bridges, walkways, and satellites were welded together by architects who knew how to make steel bend to their desires. Aanstad Station was not only built to sustain life in space for long periods of time, it was meant to impress too. Looking at it, Jack could see his father all over it. "It's massive," Redric said. His eyes were wide. He swallowed, his Adam's Apple bobbing. "All of this...just for a research station?" "Go big or go home," Jack said, hearing the cynicism in his own voice. "That was his philosophy." “According to your uncle only twelve people were living on the station. This station could hold hundreds.” Julisa joined them at the window. “I just ran a diagnostic scan over the entire base,” she said. “The power’s running just fine. There’s oxygen. There appears to be no one on board the station.” “So for the last seven months the place has been abandoned, not a soul on it.” Redric shook his head. “Just looking at it, the place gives me the fucking creeps.” Jack knew what he meant. Something about the look of the station gave him the creeps as well. The lights were on but no one was home. It reminded him just how far out in space they were. They were alone with the human race six weeks away from them. He glanced at Julisa. “Are you sure there’s no one on the station?” “I’m sure. Why would there be? According to what your uncle told me, this station has been abandoned for months. I can run another diagnostic scan if it will make you feel better.” “No, that’s fine. Redric, we better gear up and head on over. The sooner we get this over with, the sooner we can start heading in the other direction.” Redric nodded. “Sounds good to me.” “Julisa, are you coming with us or staying on the ship?” Julisa was silent for a moment. “I’ll come with. I’m really quite curious. Besides, with an extra person the search could go faster.” Neither Jack or Redric objected. The trio was mostly silent as they prepared to make their way onto Aanstad Station. Though Julisa had said there was no one on board the ship, Jack and Redric brought their sidearms with them out of habit. The shaft of the airlock was connected with the station’s boarding docks. Julisa pressed the round green button on the wall and the hatch to the boarding shaft opened. As they entered the shaft, Julisa in the front, Jack in the middle, and Redric taking the rear, a computerized female voice said, “CAPTAIN IS LEAVING THE SHIP. ON STANDBY.” At the end of the shaft was another hatch with the words AANSTAD STATION printed over it in large black letters. Julisa pressed the button and another hatch opened. For reasons she couldn’t explain, she suddenly felt very nervous. Maybe I should stay on the ship, she told herself. They’re the two cops, they know what they’re doing. Even Redric had said that the station gave him the fucking creeps, and he was a big guy. Still, she knew she was just being a silly wimp. She had two cops coming with her and they had guns. She took a step forward and officially found herself standing on Aanstad Station. They stood on what had to be the command deck. There were several chairs facing computer stations. The monitors were blank. No one had sat in the chairs for quite some time. The main computer was in the middle, where the commander of the deck would have sat, watching what everyone else was doing. Julisa imagined that was where Erik Anstead would be sitting. But Erik Anstead was missing and so was the rest of his team. The silence and the emptiness of the place, the fact that there was no one to greet them, was eerie. “Where do we start?” she asked Jack and Redric. “Are you computer savvy?” Jack asked. “Yes,” she replied, unable to keep the pride out of her voice. “If you went through the main computer you could see what data you could pull up, see what all Aanstad and his team were working on”. - Julisa noticed that Jack hadn’t said dad or father - “while Redric and I search the rest of the station. That would be really helpful.” Julisa nodded, glad to have a task she could focus on. “Sure thing. I’ll get right on it.” “Holler if something comes up,” Redric said. She waved a hand at him. “You guys do what you do best. I’ll be fine.” She went over to the main computer and sunk into the chair. It was made of leather and was comfortable enough. She pressed the palm of her hand on the computer screen. Still warm, she thought. Which meant that the computer was still on. She wiggled the mouse and the screen blinked on. One word flashed across the screen in green: password. Of course I need a password, she thought, unsurprised. Otherwise it would be too easy. But that’s okay, I like a challenge. She expertly cracked her knuckles and went to work. Redric and Jack strolled down the corridor, not really hurrying. Redric couldn’t help but glance at Jack every few seconds or so. Jack was being quiet, looking around him, in the corners of the ceiling as if he expected to see something. It made Redric feel more uneasy. “Are you getting something?” Redric asked. “Yes.” “Like what?” “I don’t like this place.” “I don’t either. What happened to them? Why would they just disappear like that? I mean, was there space pirates or something that attacked them?” Jack shook his head. “Not space pirates, nothing so dramatic. They left. Something happened here, something big. I don’t know what it is, but I can feel it. It’s in the walls. And I can feel Erik. Everywhere I look I feel like I’m going to...I don’t know...see him, even though I know he’s not here. It’s a very strange feeling.” “Yeah, you’re giving me the creeps and you know I don’t scare easily.” Jack smiled at him humorlessly. “Trust me, if I could trade with you, I would in a heartbeat.” “No way in hell. I’m glad I’m not psychic.” They came to a hatch with a black name plaque on the front. It said PATEL. “Patel,” Jack said thoughtfully. “That’s one of the scientist on Erik’s team.” “Should we check his room and see if we can find anything useful?” Jack stared at the name plaque for a long silent moment. Without answering he pressed the button on the wall next to the hatch. The hatch slid open. Except from the light in the corridor it was dark inside of the room. Redric watched his partner swallow, and reach cautiously into the dark, as if he was afraid that something would reach out and drag him inside. He doesn’t just look afraid, he’s actually afraid, Redric thought. He’s terrified of this place. He’d worked with Jack long enough to know that when Jack was afraid of something there was usually a good reason behind it. Redric had learned to gauge a situation by how Jack reacted to things. He would have never admitted to Jack out loud but sometimes he wished that he was psychic too so that he could see what Jack could see; moreover, so that Jack didn’t have to face the psychic horrors alone. Jack turned on the light and they peered into the room together. The living quarters was just large enough to hold a full-sized bed, a work desk with a computer and chair and a tall bookshelf full of books. There was a bathroom attached to the room with a sink, toilet, and shower. Jack went over to the bookshelf. Many of them were books on math. One of them was based on Andrew Wiles; how he’d discovered the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem. He leafed curiously through the book and stopped when he came across a photo that Patel must have used as a bookmark. The photo showed a middle-aged Patel holding two ferrets, one in each hand. She smiled at the camera. She had brown hair and round bright green eyes. Her nose was long and narrow and her teeth were very white. Jack wondered what all she had left behind in the name of science. Did she have a husband? Did she have any children, or a family that she was close to? He closed the book and put it back on the shelf where he’d found it. Suddenly he felt very depressed. While Redric sat at the computer, going through the files, Jack worked on rummaging through the closet and dresser. No matter what case he was working on Jack always felt guilty when he was going through people’s things, even if it was in search of evidence. The closet was mostly full of turtle necks, flannels, skirts, and dreams. Patel had not had much style. Jack pictured her as being a school teacher, not a scientist working on a space station six weeks away from civilization. Her drawers were filled with neatly folded socks, underwear, and pajamas. In the bottom drawer, sitting on top of a pair of pajama bottoms, was a small notebook. He flipped through the pages. The pages were blank except for the back cover. Drawn on the back was a triangle with a strange rune drawn on the middle, like a sideways M. Jack didn’t know what it meant but some strange psychic vibe told him that it was best to keep it for later, so he tucked the notebook in his pocket. He turned to Redric, wanting to move on. “Have you found anything?” “Nothing but some emails and personal video logs. I’ve gone through a few of them. Most of it is just her going on about mathematical bullshit.” “Let’s move on.” Redric offered no objection. An hour later they had searched through three more of the rooms. The third room was Henry Chen’s. He had plaques and awards he’d received in school as well as a diploma from the University of Mars. He’d received a Masters in Computer Science. Just like the other three scientists whose rooms Jack and Redric had searched, it looked like he’d left all of his belongings. “I think it’s safe to assume that they all left in a mighty big hurry,” Redric said. “We still don’t know why,” said Jack. It took one attempt for Julisa to get into the network. The password was ridiculously obvious: Aanstad. But then Julisa had to remind herself that Erik Aanstad probably didn’t think there was any chance that space pirates would come to the station and try to hack into the network; or perhaps he was just that arrogant. She found a folder titled VIDEO LOG and clicked on it twice. In the folder there were a hundred video logs. Biting her lower lip in concentration, Julisa clicked on the first video log which was simply titled LOG 1. Almost immediately Erik Aanstad’s face popped up on the screen. He was wearing a white lab coat and his hair was brushed. He did not smile and his eyes did not show any warmth. “This is Erik Aanstad, CEO of Aanstad Corporation. After a month’s preparation my team and I are finally able to start the first phase of Project Beyond.” He paused long enough to take a sip from a glass of water. “It is the twenty-fourth century and we have had many great successes such as colonizing Mars, making it habitable and extending the human lifespan by centuries. Our next goal is to peel back the membrane that separates life and death and learn whether or not there is a life beyond this one. Since the project has not been approved by the government officials of Earth or Mars, the experiment is being conducted here on Aanstad Station. “We will taking a page from Dr. Karl Jansen’s book by using the drug ketamine. For those of you that don’t know ketamine is a hallucinogenic drug that is very much like LSD. It blocks all receptors of the brain. The only difference between Karl Jansen and myself and my team is that we will succeed.” Erik said this last part with an air of cool cockiness. On the screen, he sniffed before continuing. “I would also like to mention that this is a very dangerous experiment. If we are not cautious people could be hurt, or killed. To reduce the risk factor I have volunteered to be the subject of experimentation. End of log.” Julisa leaned back in the chair and sucked in a breath. This is some deep shit, she thought. Shivering, she clicked on the next file. Instead of Erik Aanstad, a young woman with pageboy blond hair stood in front of the camera. Like Erik in the last log, she wore a white lab coat. The resolution was just clear enough that Julisa could read the name tag pinned to her lab coat: Aneke. When she spoke she had the same Swiss accent as Erik. “This is Aneke Blasi. I am Erik Aanstad’s second. Should anything happen to Erik I will be overseeing the rest of the project.” There was a slight tremble in Aneke’s voice that hinted at the uncertainty she was trying to hide. Other than her tone it did not show on her face or in her body language. “As of now we are starting the first test run.” The camera panned around to show a laboratory. Erik Aanstad was stretched out on a metal table dressed in a blue hospital gown. A skinny, clear tube led from his arm to a drip stand. There were several probes attached to his forehead. A man with dark skin stood in front of the bed, writing something down on the clipboard, paying no attention to the camera. Erik was looking at the camera, his eyes flat, his face without expression. Julisa didn’t understand how he could not be terrified. Aneke pointed at the plastic bag attached to the drip stand. “This is the ketamine. We will be administering one-hundred-and-fifty mgs of ketamine into Erik Aanstad’s body. While he is under we will be monitoring his brain activity, alpha waves, beta waves, that sort of thing. Updates will be made shortly. End of log.” The next log showed Erik again. This time he was sitting at a table with a mug of coffee steaming before him. Instead of a white lab coat he wore a plain grey T-shirt. His hair was unbrushed and his cheeks had a slight flush to them. “It has been eight hours since I came back and the effects of the ketamine have worn off,” he said. “I have officially experienced an NDE, which is short for near death experience. As soon as the effects of the drugs hit me I had the sense that I was floating facedown. I could see my body in the bed. I could see Aneke and the others standing outside of the room. While I was under my heart stopped for approximately a minute and thirty seconds. Hassann had to hit me once with the defibrillator. Already we are making progress, but if I’m going to do what no one has done before then I must go further. We’re going to wait a few days and then go back at it. End of log.” Julisa was just about to move onto the fourth video log when she caught movement off the reflection of the computer screen. She spun around in her chair. Julisa froze. A man stood several feet from her. His hair was dark and shiny with grease. He had black, beady eyes, and a hooked nose. The lower half of his face was covered in a bush of facial hair that had flecks of grey in it. He held something in his hand, something metal. Julisa was so shocked that it took her a moment to realize what it was. She gaped at the object in his hand stupidly, mind trying to process it. When she did, her blood went cold. It was a knife. A butcher knife to be exact. She tried to open her mouth and scream for Jack and Redric but no sound came out. She managed to get to her feet but she felt like she was moving very slow. The man was stalking towards her, the blade of the knife glinting in the light. His teeth were bared. Saliva dripped from his lower lip onto the floor. He was growling something in another language that sounded like Russian. He was clearly insane. Through the fog of fear that cloaked her brain something clicked. She recognized his face. He was one of the scientists that Erik had been working with. Romanov. Yes, that was his name. “Romanov?” she said, finding her voice. “My name is Julisa Temerence. I’m here to help you.” He stopped and stood straighter. “Help?” he said in English. She nodded, heart thudding in her breast. “Yes. We’re here to investigate what happened.” “N-no,” he said. He shook his head. “You can’t help me. You can’t help yourself. But I can help you.” Then he screamed and charged towards her. There was no time to think. She grabbed the keyboard and pulled it free from the computer drive. Using it has a shield, she put it in front of her face just as the blade of the knife was about to plunge into her right eye. Key letters rained down on the floor as the blade struck the plastic. The need for survival and her defense training came into play. Julisa kneed Romanov in the crotch. His eyes bulged out of his head, his hands instantly going to his groin. Using this as her opportunity, Julisa made a run for it. She didn’t make it far. Romanov growled, grabbing her by the hair. He yanked so hard that he tore a handful of hair from her head. She cried out in pain and started clawing at him, blind with fear. “Let her go.” Romanov and Julisa froze. Jack and Redric was standing there, their guns out and pointed directly at Romanov’s chest. Romanov immediately put his hands up in the air. Sobbing, Julisa ran over to the two cops; she could feel blood running down her neck from where Romanov had pulled out her hair. “Are you alright?” Jack asked. Neither he nor Redric took their eyes off of Romanov. “Yes,” she croaked wetly. Redric pulled out his handcuffs. “Got me covered?” he asked Jack. “You’re good.” Redric stepped cautiously around the Russian. Romanov hardly seemed to notice as Redric slapped the handcuffs on him. He didn’t look at the gun but at Jack, right into his eyes. “You look just like your father,” he said. Redric shoved him down into the computer chair. “So I’ve been told.” Jack put his gun back in his holster. “It’s not really something I take pride in. You must be Romanov. Why did you attack Julisa?” “I thought that Erik and the others had come back,” Romanov said. His forehead glistened with sweat. Snot with the consistency of water ran down his nose. Since Julisa was getting a better look at him now that her life wasn’t being threatened, she could see that his face was gaunt. The edges of his cheek bones were sharp and there were dark circles underneath his eyes. Jack and Redric both pulled up chairs and sat before the man. Now that he was handcuffed they seemed perfectly calm, as if they were sitting down for a regular conversation at brunch. Julisa stayed in the corner of the room, watching, trying to ignore the sick feeling in her stomach. Her head throbbed. It was everything she could do to keep from throwing up. She couldn’t stop shaking. This was the first time that her life had been threatened. Before today, she had never had to raise her fists to defend herself except in training. “What do you mean you thought Erik and the others had come back?” Redric asked. “To kill me.” The Russian’s eyes did not leave Jack’s face. Jack looked at Julisa. “I thought you said that there was no one on the station.” “According to the diagnostic scan there wasn’t,” she said, her tongue heavy in her mouth. She swallowed back a gag. “I saw your ship and hid,” said the Russian. He smiled. “I hid in the cold pantry, knowing that the cold would hide my heat signature.” So that’s how, Julisa thought. Smart. “You didn’t see that our ship was not an Aanstad Corps vessel?” Romanov scoffed. “It’s been two days since I’ve slept and at least three or four since I ate. I’m not exactly in my right mind now, am I?” Jack frowned thoughtfully. “Why do you think my father would kill you?” “Because he’s not your father anymore. He’s something else.” “What do you mean?” “I’m sure you have a lot of questions and I will answer them,” the Russian said, his voice taking on a pleading tone. “But I need something from you first.” “Uh, I don’t think you’re in the position to ask for any favors,” Redric said gruffly. “Please.” Romanov began to sob, his face scrunching up and turning a bright shade of red. “I’ve been stranded out here on my own for months with no way to get off. They took the ship and just left me here. I thought they were going to kill me. I ran out of all the food there was four days ago.” Julisa had been around the two detectives to know that Jack, in many ways, was the more compassionate of the two; the fact that he was psychic seemed to make it easier for him to connect with people on an empathic level. His face softened. ‘If we get you something to eat you’ll cooperate with us?” The Russian nodded at him shakily. Tears were streaming down his skinny cheeks. “I’m going to uncuff him,” Jack said, getting up. “What?” Redric boomed in alarm. “You heard me.” The handcuffs came off and Romanov rubbed at his wrists. “Julisa, can you fetch something to eat from your ship?” Jack asked. Julisa nodded, glad to have something to do other than just stand there like a statue made of flesh and bone. Jack watched as Romanov shoved Ramen noodles in his mouth, chicken broth spilling off the noodles. His greasy black hair hung down in front of his face. Jack couldn’t know how hungry he must have been, nor could he imagine being stranded this far out in space for three months with nothing but your own fear to keep you company. No wonder the Russian had tried to attack them. The fear and starvation had driven him half mad; for all they knew maybe it had even done permanent psychological damage. Redric watched Romanov too, tapping his foot on the floor impatiently. Jack knew that he wanted to leave this place. I want to leave too, he thought. I wish we had never come here. I wish Uncle Charlie had never come to Mars. The joy that he had felt after seeing his uncle for the first time in fifteen years, this whole investigation, felt like a ruse designed by something sinister and unseen. He felt like an insect, helplessly trapped in the web of a spider. He glanced over at Julisa. She stood over by the window, looking at the stars and the black of space. She had not moved once for the last ten minutes since coming back from the Endes Thebes. For a moment Jack thought about trying to scan her thoughts, her feelings, whatever he could pick up from her, but relented. To do so would have been invasive. Rude. Still, he would keep an eye on her. When he got a chance he would ask her how she was doing. Romanov gulped down the rest of the juices in the bowl and set it down on the table. “Thank you,” he said, after a moment. He wiped beads of juice from his beard. “I take it you want me to answer your questions now.” “Please,” Jack replied. “What do you know already?” “Just the basics,not much more. Erik and the rest of your team were working on a way to explore what comes after this life, correct?” Jack asked. The Russian nodded. “Sounds like some Frankenstein shit to me,” Redric growled. Jack silenced him with a look. He turned his gaze back to the Russian. “You were successful?” “I guess you could say that.” “So what happened? In your words.” “We were using the drug ketamine on your father. Even though we were against the idea of him being the test subject, with him being the head of the company and all, he insisted. As I’m sure you know, Detective Aanstad, it is impossible to refuse your father. He always gets what he wants in the end.” That he does, Jack thought bitterly. Romanov continued. “We put him under seven times. The first six times he described what was an out of body experience. He kept wanting us to increase the amount of ketamine we were giving him...until it killed him..” “So he died?” Jack asked. “Yes. We made sure to record it in our video log. We spent an hour trying to revive him.” Romanov shook his head. He started to tremble. Though he was a big man, tall and broad shouldered, he looked small and vulnerable now. “There was nothing we could do. We put his body in a body bag and...when Aneke came back to run the autopsy an hour later he had...risen.” Jack nor Redric said nothing. This was Romanov’s cue to keep going. “When he came back he was different.” “How so?” “Not human.” “You mean, like, mutations?” “No, nothing so dramatic. You could just feel it though. Like how you can sense when something bad is going to happen.” Jack and Redric questioned Romanov for another hour. Romanov described in perfect detail how Jack’s father had described the other place, the things that he’d seen there, and how he’d brainwashed the others with just the touch of his hand. The big Russian burst out into uncontrollable sobs by the end. “They just left me here,” he croaked, shoulders quaking. “They left me stranded out here to die.” “You’re okay now,” Jack said. “Nothing’s going to happen to you. You’re safe.” The Russian shook his head. What he said made chills crawl up Jack’s spine: “We’re not safe. No one is.” Redric glanced at Jack; he did not look happy. “Can I talk to you for a second?” Jack sighed and rose reluctantly out of his chair. They went over to the corner of the room, neither one wanting to risk leaving the Russian alone with Julisa. “Are you out of your mind?” Redric hissed. “You actually believe this shit?” “Yes.” Jack raised an eyebrow. “You don’t?” “Fuck no. He’s clearly insane.” “Most likely,” Jack admitted. “There’s also a chance that he’s not. How can you be so skeptical after working with me for three years?” “It’s just hard to process.” “I know it is. But it doesn’t matter. Our investigation isn’t over yet.” “What do you want to do?” Redric asked. “Well, insane or not insane I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave Romanov alone with Julisa. Why don’t you take them back to the ship and keep an eye on them? I’ll finish checking through everything. Then,” Jack said, “we’re getting the fuck out of here.”
  11. Six Weeks There

    Thank you. I have an excellent editor who works with me here on Gay Authors: Rockcys
  12. Six Weeks There

    Jack couldn’t sleep. The silence that had wrapped itself around him like a cocoon was overwhelming, frightening - the knowledge that all that separated him from the vacuum of space was the metal walls of the Endes Thebes. He hadn’t been on the ship for a day and he already felt homesick. At least back home he had the sounds of the city just outside his window to help lull him to sleep. He crawled out of bed, deciding that he would take a shower. A hot shower always helped to calm his nerves. But as he walked down the corridor of the ship he continued to feel uneasy. For a moment he stopped just outside of Redric’s room. The door was open. Redric’s was laying in his bed, facing away from Jack. Jack felt a strong temptation to crawl in bed with him - fuck what Julisa thought. And why shouldn’t I? Jack thought. What’s Julisa going to do, tell Sheathia? But Jack already knew that he wasn’t going to. He was too stuck in the habit of keeping things under wraps. One day soon we won’t have to keep things secret, he thought. One day soon we’ll be able to love in the open. But when was that day? A year from now? Two? Jack knew that Redric was starting to get restless, and so was he, He wanted to be able to touch Redric whenever he wanted, without having to worry about someone from the Precinct seeing them. Or was there a strong sense of appeal in between those moments of forbidden passion that neither of them were man enough to admit to? He sure hoped to God not. He hoped that their love for each other was more than just a game. In the bathroom there were six separate shower heads on the right side of the wall, six sinks on the left and two stalls at the end of the room. Jack stripped out of his clothes and folded them neatly on the end of the sink. He turned the water on and tested the pressure. When it was warmed up enough to his liking, Jack stepped underneath the warm spray. He could feel the warmth already starting to work its way into his body, unstretching the kinks. He closed his eyes and pressed his forehead against the tiled wall. His bangs hung down before his face, touching the bridge of his nose. After a moment Jack felt fingers gently entangle in his hair. The simple brush of contact made his scalp tingle and a shiver race up his spine. Goosebumps broke out across his shoulders and collarbone. There was only one man that could make his skin tingle as if electricity was racing through it with touch alone. Redric gently pulled Jack’s head and kissed the corner of his mouth. “You weren’t really asleep, were you?” Jack asked with a knowing smile. His eyes were still closed. “No. I know you too well. I figured you couldn’t sleep and that you’d come in here to take a shower.” “Guilty as charged, detective. You caught me.” Redric wrapped both of his arms around Jack and pressed against him. He dropped gentle kisses on Jack’s neck. He could still smell yesterday’s shampoo in Jack’s hair - something with mint in it. The smell made him think of a snowy mountain top, of a clean, cool wind brushing up against flesh. Just having the smaller man close made all of the blood in his body flow down to his cock, making it hard. So hard that it ached. Jack’s right arm was looped around his neck, showing the hollow of his armpit, and the small bush of silver-blonde hair that covered it. His other hand groped at his own hard length. Both men were gearing up for one thing, and one thing only. It was inevitable. After several minutes of foreplay, Redric spun Jack around, lifted him off his feet, and pressed him up against the wall. With the grace of an acrobat, Jack moved with him, wrapping his legs and arms around Redric. They kissed each other furiously as Redric ground against him, his muscles tightening and rippling like a wild jungle animal. His lips nibbled and sucked and pressed against Jack’s flesh, roaming wherever they wanted. Jack let him, putting up no resistance. One of the things that made Jack such an amazing lover was that he had no problem keeping up. “This is your first time fucking somebody off planet,” Jack whispered; he pressed his lips to Redric’s ear as if he was giving away his greatest secret and he didn’t want anyone else to hear it. “It’s kind of like losing your virginity all over again. Make it count.” Redric tightened his hold on Jack almost protectively, his brown eyes boring into Jack’s crystal blue ones. He pushed his cock inside of Jack and began to fuck him up against the wall. He went slow at first, taking his time. Jack’s eyes became soft, his mouth hanging open as he let out soft gaps of pleasure. Their bodies glistened with beads of water. When Redric picked up the pace Jack had to bury his face in the hollow between Redric’s neck and shoulder to muffle his cries for fear that Julisa would hear them somehow. It was somewhere in those next few moments that Jack realized he was tired of hiding his affection for a man he’d fallen in love with almost three years ago. It was ridiculous. After their passionate lovemaking was over, both men wrapped towels around their waists. Jack followed Redric to his room. “What are you doing?” Redric asked. His broad frame filled the doorway. He nodded in the opposite direction. “You’re bedroom’s that way.” “I’m sleeping with you tonight,” Jack said. “What if the pilot sees us sleeping together?” Jack shrugged carelessly. “So what if she does? It’s just for tonight.” After a week of being in the company of the two detectives, Julisa found herself sinking into a routine that was different from the one she was normally used to; which presented a nice change. Not to say that there weren’t interesting moments every now and then. It didn’t take her long to pick up on the fact that they were a couple, or at least sleeping together. It wasn’t hard to discern; they weren’t very good at hiding it. She could see it in the way they looked at each other. There was something more there than just the camaraderie of a long work history. It was the same heated, affectionate look that she’d seen her parents exchange. Julisa didn’t mind. For one, it was none of her business, and for two she thought it was kind of hot. She often wondered who was the top and who was the bottom. She’d watched enough man-on-man porn in her spare time to know that at least half of the time the big muscle guys turned out to be the bottom. Keeping the fact that she knew a secret was starting to make her uncomfortable. She wanted to get it off her chest but she couldn’t think of a proper way to break it to them. She’d never been very good at keeping secrets. She was the type of person that said what was on her mind. Most of the times she saw that as a good thing - she never let anyone push her around. When someone did something to her she didn’t like she read them the riot act. But in cases like this it wasn’t such a good thing. For the last few days they’d made a habit of playing card games. It turned out that of the three of them, Jack was quite the card shark. He always seemed to have the best hands. He had them the most times, therefore he’d won the most money. Julisa wondered how much of that was from his being psychic but Jack claimed that he didn’t know what was in her hands, though he grinned everytime he said it, making Julisa think otherwise. There were a few times when he lost, and Redric or she won - but then Jack could have been letting that happen just to be fair. Still, Julisa enjoyed their company, which was a great surprise. And yet, underneath it all there was a tenseness. No one was bringing up the subject on why they were really there. When it was brought up, Jack’s face would grow a shade or two paler and he would become very quiet. Then there was the fact that Jack and Redric were trying to hide the fact that they were sleeping together. On the fifteenth day of their journey to Aanstad Station, Julisa woke up and went into the kitchen to get her morning coffee going, only to find Jack sitting at the kitchen table with a steaming mug of coffee. There were dark circles under his eyes and his face was pale. Apparently Redric was still asleep. He was always the last one to get up. “Can’t sleep?” she asked. “No,” he said miserably. “It’s been three days...I think. Three days since the last time I slept.” “Probably because you’ve never been on a ship this long. It takes some getting used to. It took me a couple of months.” Julisa sat across from Jack with her own cup of coffee. “That and the silence. There’s not a soul out here but yourself. But I’ve grown to love it. I’m not much of a people person.” Jack gave her a tired smile. The smile disappeared almost as quickly as it had appeared. “I know what you mean. I’m not either. But that’s not what’s bothering me. It’s this whole thing with my father. It gives me the creeps.” “You must be worried about your father and all?” “Not really. I know I should be...but I’m not.” “You hate him that much, huh?” He chuckled bitterly. “Hate is putting it lightly. Let’s just say I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire.” “And you don’t know where he is?” “You mean have I had any dreams or visions that hint at where he’s at?” Jack asked. “No, nothing.” “Have you tried...I don’t know if meditating is the right word,” she said uncertainly. “I can’t control it if that’s what you mean,” Jack said. “There’s no real mechanics to it. It comes and goes as it pleases.” “And did you inherit your abilities?” “Through my mother. It ran through her side of the family. That’s really all I know about them.” “Would you be able to get some rest if you could sleep with Redric?” Julisa asked before she could stop herself. Jack, who had just raised his cup to his lips, spat his coffee out. It splattered across the table. “What?” he said wide-eyed. “You know about us?” Julisa winced, kicking herself silently. Very subtle, Temerance, she scolded herself silently. Reluctantly, she said, “Yes, I know.” “How?” Jack got up and grabbed a paper towel from one of the cabinets. “A girl can pick up on these things,” Julisa said casually. She grinned. “We have psychic powers of our own, you know? Plus you guys aren’t very good at hiding it. Don’t worry, I’m not going to say anything to anybody.” “You promise you won’t say anything to anybody?” Jack asked, sounding doubtful. “Because if you did we could lose our jobs. You understand that, right?” “Scout’s honor. Once we’re done with this investigation my contracts over and I’m moving on so what would it matter to me anyway?” Jack smiled. He had a beautiful, quiet smile. “Thanks. I appreciate it.” He finished cleaning up his mess and threw the coffee-stained paper towel in the trash can. He yawned, stretched. “I’m going to try and get some sleep then. Good night.” She raised her glass to him. “Good night.” During the fourth week enroute to Aanstad Station, Jack received a message. He was at the desk in his room when the notification popped up on his computer screen. It was from Uncle Charlie. Curious, he thought. According to the information on when the transmission was sent, Charlie had sent the transmission two weeks ago. It had taken two weeks for the transmission to travel through space and reach Jack. He went to touch the link and hesitated. What was it that Charlie wanted after all these years? While Jack felt no ill will or held any past grudges against Charlie, it had been several years since his mother’s funeral. There were still old wounds that Jack needed to lick, there were dark times that he needed to shed light on. He was tempted to go and find Redric. Redric was probably in the gym, working out. The man was an ox, always lifting weights and trying to stay fit. Don’t be ridiculous, Jack told himself sharply. You don’t need Redric’s support to deal with family matters. You’re a big boy. You are perfectly capable of dealing with it on your own. Jack took a deep breath and tapped on the link. His uncle’s jovial face popped up. He was sitting in a computer chair, dressed in a suit and tie. Behind him was a large window, with sunlight streaming in. Earth sunlight. Jack thought he could see a slice of bright blue sky. His uncle cleared his throat and said, “Hey Jacky-boy. I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to catch up back on Mars. With your father missing things have been hectic at the company as I’m sure you can imagine. Once this whole thing clears up and the dust settles I would like to make it up to you. I know you still have some hard feelings with how things went with our family and I can understand that - but we are family and as the saying goes, ‘Blood is thicker than water.’ I hope one day we can set things right. Before I forget, here’s this.” A video popped up. The video was from Jack’s fifth birthday party. Melania Aansted was walking down the pier of Sea World in San Diego, with a young Jack sitting on top of her shoulders. A sea breeze blew through their sun bleached hair. The young Jack in the video held a bright red balloon in his little childs hand. Someone stood behind them, filming them. There was only one person that it could be: Uncle Charlie. Of course Jack’s father, Erik, wasn’t there. Jack remembered that birthday well. He remembered every birthday that his father had never shown up for. There had been quite a few of them. It was impossible for Jack to remember his father was a solid flesh-and-blood person and not a spectre that could only be seen standing in the background of photos and home videos. But Melania and Charlie had always more than made up for it. They always threw him a big birthday bash at the Aanstad Estate and then took him for his own private celebration with just the three of them. It was at that age that Jack had been fascinated with dolphins specifically - long before he had ever wanted to be a cop. The job title in those days was somewhere in between rock star and marine biologist. “Jack,” Charlie said on the video. “Jack, look this way...Smile for the video camera...” Melania stopped and turned so that she and little Jack was facing the camera. She wore a pair of sunglasses and a beautiful blue-green sun hat with a matching dress. Both she and Jack smiled and waved at the camera. We look so happy, Jack thought, closing the lid of his laptop. We were happy that day. He thought of Melania and a terrible sadness engulfed him. Though he knew he wasn’t, Jack suddenly felt incredibly alone. Ding...ding… Somewhere Jack could hear the tinkling of a bell. It was the very bell his mother had to use when she’d gotten so sick that she couldn’t get out of her bed on her own. I’m coming, Mom. Hold on I’m coming. Jack sat up and looked over. He could see the bulky outline of Redric’s sleeping form next to him, hear his peaceful breathing. They were on the Endes Thebes. Jack frowned. He was sure that he had heard the sound of a bell - his mother’s bell. Which meant that it was just a dream. Melania was dead, had been dead for almost a decade now. Ding...ding… There it was again. This time he knew that he wasn’t dreaming because his eyes were open and he was wide awake. Jack felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. A trail of cold sweat dripped down his back. He reached over to shake Redric but stopped, deciding that he didn’t want to wake the other man. Whatever it was, dream or no dream, he could face it on his own. He crawled out of the bed and stepped out into the hallway. Ding ding. There his mother stood at the end of the hallway, in the red nightgown that she had died in. It was not the beautiful white dress that she’d been buried in. Her hair and skin gleamed and she was surrounded by a circle of blue light. There was something about the light itself that was eerie...alien. “Jack,” she said. She looked so beautiful, and frail, the bones in her face defined. Just before she had died she had been little more than skin and bones but she had still been beautiful. She would always be beautiful, even in death Jack thought. Jack realized that she was afraid. She held the small, silver bell in her right hand. “Mom,” Jack gasped, no longer sure if he was dreaming or awake. She reached out for him, her face lined and desperate. “Help me. Please help me.” Tentacles started to come out of the floor, wrapping around her legs and waist. Like the blue light that surrounded her, the tentacles were black, slimy, and alien. It was not of this world. The tentacles were dangerous, malevolent. Jack was as afraid of them as he was of the light. Still, the need to save his mother was stronger than the fear. He’d already lost her once. He would not lose her again. He ran towards her, his heart pounding in his throat. Melania tried to say his name but a tentacle slithered down her throat, cutting the sound off. Her eyes bulged out of her head as the tentacle traveled deeper and deeper down her throat. There was a puddle of the alien blue light just beneath her feet where the tentacle was coming out and the tentacles were dragging her into the puddle of light. Like a drowning person she flailed with her arms, struggling against the tentacles, but to no avail. Though Jack knew that he would never be able to reach her in time, he ran anyway, reaching for her. He was almost there. Their fingers were almost touching when the top of her head and the tentacles disappeared into the light… Someone was shaking him awake. He opened his eyes, and sat up. Redric was standing over him, framed in the light. Not the alien blue light that had taken his mother but regular yellow light, Jack was relieved to see. “What is it?” Jack asked, his heart still hammering away in his chest. “We’re here,” Redric rumbled, kissing the top of Jack’s head tenderly. “We’re at Aansted Station.”
  13. The Endes Thebes

    Redric Cortez stood at the entryway of the tube station. He scanned the crowd, hoping to spot his face. Where the hell is he? They had thirty minutes to get to the hangar bay. The tube would be leaving in the next few minutes. If they didn't catch it then they would be late. He rubbed at his eyes. He hadn't been able to sleep all night. He'd spent the entire night tossing and turning, his mind spinning nonstop. All of yesterday had seemed like a dream. He was still trying to process the fact that Jack's father was the Erik Aanstad. The creator of Aanstad Corp. Erik Aanstad. How had he not figured it out before? They had the same last name. But surely there were plenty of people between Mars and Earth with the last name Aanstad. He thought of all the times he'd seen Erik's face on the cover of magazines. In fact just a few feet from where he was standing there was a magazine stand. He picked up both of his suitcases and went over it. Sure enough there was a picture of Erik Aanstad on Times magazine. He was grinning at the camera, looking sort of bemused. The man was handsome. Even though he was three hundred he looked as if he was in his mid thirties to early forties. I hope I look that good when I reach his age, Cortez thought. At the moment he was exactly half of Aanstad's age: a hundred and fifty. The resemblance between Jack and Erik was uncanny. They had the same ice-cold blue eyes, silver-blonde hair, high cheekbones, and narrow nose. The only difference between them was that Jack's hair had curl to it while Erik's was straight. Erik kept his hair short and Jack had let his grow down to the nape of his neck. Jack had beautiful hair. It was soft. When they were in bed together Cortez like to run his fingers through it and along Jack's exquisite jawline. Cortez put the magazine back on his rack. He thought back to their conversation at the dinner. He kept thinking back to when Jack said, He left my mother to die and I had to sit by her bed and watch. He tried to picture a young Jack sitting by his mother's bedside. She would be deathly pale, laying in a huge four poster bed with the blankets pulled up to her chin. For some reason Cortez pictured the blankets as being red. Jack's mother was beautiful. Perhaps she was silver-blonde too and came from Switzerland like Erik. Jack was small as an adult, short and thin. As a boy he would have been smaller, still growing maybe. Did he have the same silent strength that he did as an adult? Were his eyes just as steady? Jack was pretty good at hiding his feelings when it came to interrogating murder suspects. He was good at sounding calm and looking reassuring. Cortez on the other hand was too emotional, too quickly tempered. They were the exact opposite of each other. It was a wonder they were sleeping together. Still he couldn't imagine having to be a child and watch your mother die, having to carry it on your own. Still we've known each other for three years and have been sleeping together for two. He hasn't mentioned any of this. Not once. But I've told him everything there is to know about me. Cortez was a Martian, as were both of his parents, first and second cousins, aunts and uncles. His father had been a lawyer, his mother a teacher. They lived on the east side of Mars City in a huge house. They had paid for Cortez to go to college. His whole life he'd always wanted to be a cop, to throw the bad guys in jail like Clint Eastwood or John Wayne. His parents had met Jack several times and seemed to like him. Though they never said anything Cortez suspected that his parents knew there was something going on between Jack and he. When Cortez had told them he was gay at the age of sixteen they had been perfectly understanding. "We always thought you were," Henric Cortez had said before collapsing into a fit laughter. Before long Cortez's mother had joined in. Cortez had stayed on Mars to be near his parents and the rest of his family. He was a family man. His whole life he'd been taught that family and friends were important. They were your heritage. Whatever heritage Jack had on Earth he'd left behind. His father was the richest man on Earth which meant that Jack could have inherited everything and still very possibly could. God knew how big Aanstad's residence on Earth was. He could have become a scientist like Erik and Charlie and made a thousand times more than what he made at the Precinct. He could have had anything his heart desired. Jack was obviously fond of Charlie and yet they hadn't seen each other for as long as he hadn't seen his father. The death of Jack's mother must have been more devastating than what Jack had described; that along with the anger and resentment towards his father. Several times Cortez had imagined what would happen if Jack and he were to become an actual couple. What if they got married? Was that card in their future? One of them would have to quit the Precinct probably. Then what? Would they move to Earth, take different jobs? He'd never once contemplated moving to Earth before but for Jack he supposed he would. I would do anything for Jack. Anything to make him happy. Or was this all they had together, an affair? Something they did behind closed doors? The mere possibility made Cortez hurt. He had fallen in love with Jack six months after Sheathia had assigned them together. Since then that love had only grown until it was an obsession. On the nights they were apart he couldn't sleep. Speaking of Jack there he was right now, coming Cortez's way. Where Cortez had two suitcases Jack only had one. I think I overpacked, Cortez thought. "It's about time you got here," he said. Jack grinned broadly. He seemed to be in a much better mood from the day before. "What are you talking about? I'm just on time as always. I'm surprised you're here so early. Usually you're the one that I have to drag out of bed. C'mon, we've got a missing persons case to solve." Pilot Julisa Temerance sat on the boarding ramp of the Endes Thebes waiting for the two detectives that she would be taking to Aanstad Station to show up. Mars’ docking bay was big enough to cover a whole city block. Ships of various designs and sizes were constantly coming in and out of the hangar bay. Workers wheeled stock on and off the humongous Aanstad Corp. shipping vessels on dollies, swerving to stay out of each other’s way. She couldn’t help but wrinkle her nose at the Aanstad Corp. shipping vessels and was glad that she was piloting the more compact Ende Thebes. A group of young people that appeared to be in their twenties or so, around her age, was leading a parade of people off the shuttle transport that had just landed. Something about the way they looked around and their body language told her that they were tourists who had never left the great gravity well of Earth. She could imagine the amazement and excitement they must be feeling for she had felt it once too the first time she’d left Earth. Since then she only went back to Earth to visit her mother and father on the holidays. She glanced at her watch. Her boarding party would be arriving any minute. This was a good thing. She didn’t like Mars’ over crowded, noisy, docking bay. She wanted to sit in the crash couch, piloting her beloved Ende Thebes through the vacuum of space with nothing but her own thoughts to keep her company. Julia had never been much of the people person that her parents had tried so hard to mold her into being. It wasn’t that she didn’t like people - she just didn’t like huge overwhelming crowds of them. Tomund and Elisa Temerance were everything she wasn’t - they were at the forefront of every humanitarian group there was on Earth. They smoked marijuana, had been arrested several times for breaking into slaughterhouses in the middle of the night to release all the animals inside. They dyed their hair every color you could think of and camped in nudists colonies. That was fine with Julisa but she didn’t want any part in it. She liked all things mechanical, whether it was computers or vehicles. She loved cars, boats, and ships and most of all she like spaceships. Ever since she was a little girl she had dreamed of piloting a spaceship, exploring the ever-expanding galaxy, and seeing sights that stretched beyond the atmosphere of Earth. For the last five years she’d filled contracts with various companies, trying to pay off the debt that she owed on the Endes Thebes. For the last two years she’d been with Aanstad Corporation. This was her last job with them before closing the contract - and paying off the debt she owed on the Endes Thebes once and for all. Those must be the two cops coming this way now. She stood up and brushed a strand of her bright red hair out of her face. The two cops were a curious couple. They were the exact opposite of one another. The one on the left was tall and broad across the shoulders and chest. He was actually quite intimidating at first glance. His head was completely shaved and his eyes were a warm brown. The one on the right was shorter, skinner, and younger. He had white-silver-blonde hair and a heart-shaped face. His eyes were bright shade of blue, very pretty. He must have been Erik Aanstadt’s son because he looked just like him. She had never met Aanstadt personally - few of Aanstad Corp.’s employees had been given the honor - but she’d seen his face on the cover of magazines and advertisements enough to be able to remember what he looked like. Putting on her best smile, Julisa decided that this was going to be a very interesting trip. For the past two years her passengers were always highly regarded scientists that were in transit between Earth, Mars, or one of the several star cities floating in space. Even when she had a half dozen to a full dozen passengers on board, most of the times it was still pretty quiet. She was always cordial with them and they were always cordial with her, but underneath that cordialness was a line drawn in violent red: she was not on their level and they were not her’s. They were the scientists, the smartest, richest men and women in the world, and she was just the pilot that took orders on where to go from higher up. She was inferior to them. That was okay. She preferred it that way. Julisa sat at the table in the dining area with a steaming mug of coffee and listened to the hum of the ship around her. It was in these moments of silence that the Ende Thebes seemed to have a life of its own. This was her first time transporting two detectives. Something was going on, something big. The head of Aanstad Corp. and eleven other scientists who were under his employ were missing - had just vanished as if they had never existed at all. She couldn’t wait to have regular passengers aboard her ship, doing boring routine missions. “Hi,” the smaller cop said, squinting uncertainly down at a small piece of paper in his hand; he gripped the handle of a suitcase on wheels with the other. “You’re Julisa Temerance of the...er...Ende Thebes...right?” He looked up at her. “Did I say that right?” “You did,” she said with a nod. “Most people get thrown off by all of the e’s. And I am the Julisa Temerance that you’re looking for. I will be chauffeuring you around, so to speak.” Both detectives pulled out their badges and opened them so that she could read their credentials. “I’m Jack Aanstad and this is Redric Cortez.” “Please to meet you both.” She turned her smile onto Jack. “You look just like your dad. It’s an honor to meet you. Up until a few days ago I didn’t know he had a son.” “Most people in the solar system don’t,” Jack said. “That’s how I want it to stay.” “Hey,” she said as she mimed zipping her mouth shut. “My lips are sealed. Anyway, enough chat from me. I’ll take you aboard, give you a quick tour around the ship, and then we’ll be on our way. It’s going to be a long trip.” The exterior design of the Endes Thebes resembled a firefly: round in the front with a long tail, wings sticking out at the sides. As Julisa showed Jack and Redric around the ship, Jack couldn’t help but think of his father. Like his father, every aspect of its design was meant to draw praise. On the outside the ship was so compact looking that it was hard to imagine that all of this was fit into it. The Endes Thebes could house up to a dozen passengers, the pilot included. There was a full dining room, a kitchen, a men’s and women’s bathroom, a gym, tanning room, and an observatory lounge at the front. Then there was of course the fusion drive. Then at the front was the bridge. As soon as Julisa was done showing them around the ship Jack went into the room at the end of the corridor and folded the few outfits he’d brought with him into the drawers underneath the full sized bed. Redric would no doubt be picking a different room. The idea of being on this ship for six weeks, in separate rooms, boggled Jack’s mind; and it wasn’t just six weeks. It would be twelve after they returned to Mars from Aanstad Station. He sighed, frustrated. There was no telling how long this investigation was going to take. For the third or fourth time since his Uncle Charlie had dropped the bomb of his father’s sudden disappearance, Jack got the creeping feeling that there was something deeply wrong with this whole situation. The wall of numbness that he had built over the years since he’d come to Mars was starting to crumble. The dread was seeping in, the dread of seeing his father, the anger that Jack had never been fully able to let go of. It was all coming back. There was an odd metallic taste in his mouth. He found that he didn’t want to be by himself at the moment. He almost bumped into Redric on the way out of the room. “Hey I was just coming back to tell you that Julisa said we fire up in ten,” Redric said. “We should strap ourselves in for lift off.” “Right,” Jack said. The two men leaned towards one another and kissed each other on the lips before heading up to the bridge. Julisa was already strapped into the pilot’s seat. Jack and Redric strapped themselves into their crash couches. “You gentlemen ready to go?” Julisa asked, looking back at them from over her shoulder. “The sooner we can get this whole mess over with the better,” Redric grunted. Julisa eased the Endes Thebes into the air and floated towards the doors of the boarding ramp. They opened to show a range of red Martian mountains and a bright afternoon sky. As soon as they were clear of the docking port, she willed the Aanstad Corp. vessel to go faster. Already Mars’ capital city was beginning to shrink as the Endes Thebes rose higher and higher into the air, flying past misty clouds. The whole time Redric kept his eyes shut in silent prayer.
  14. Daddy Issues

    For the next three days a gloomy cloud of depression came over Jack. It was inescapable. He couldn’t sleep without waking up in the middle of the night, screaming his head off. In his dreams he kept seeing the crawling severed limbs, the screams of Modt’s victims drowning out his own. For the two days he had off he did nothing but sleep. Unless it was to piss he did not get out of bed. For those two days he saw no one and did not answer any calls. On the morning of the third day he was woken by someone knocking on his door. The Martian sun was just starting to rise above the horizon. He climbed out of his bed, a patch of silver-blonde hair sticking up in the air. He was wearing nothing but a pair of briefs. He was still half asleep. Redric was standing at the door. He looked unusually grim. “What is it?” Jack asked, starting to feel afraid. Something wasn’t right. He could feel it in the air. “You better come with me,” Redric said. “I’ll explain on the way.” The morning train was crowded with people commuting to get to work. It was so crowded that there was no place for Jack and Redric to sit. They had to hold onto the metal bar above their heads. “What’s going on?” Jack asked. He couldn’t stand the suspense any longer. Redric leaned to the side so that only Jack could hear him. “You never told me that your father was the founder of Aanstad Corp.” Jack’s hair bristled. For a moment he just stared at Redric, unsure of what to say. His icy blue eyes were wide. For a reason he couldn’t explain he felt guilty. You’ve got some explaining to do. He said the first thing that popped into his head. “You didn’t know?” “That Erik Aanstad was your father? No, you never told me that. You just told me that you and your father hadn’t talked in ten years.” “I thought my name made that obvious.” “Not really.” Jack decided to take a defensive stance. “I didn’t think it was important. So what’s the big deal?” “Someone’s here from Aanstad Corp. I just showed up at the Precinct when Sheathia called me into her office. There was a man there. He said that he came here from Earth.” “Did he say what his name was.” “Charlie. He said that you would know him.” Charlie. Yes Jack knew the name. As a boy it had been Uncle Charlie. The name hit him like a slap in the face. Jack wondered if he was dreaming. The train dropped them off at the Orbital Street station two blocks away from the 39th Precinct. Jack's body made the journey without his mind being present for it. Part of his mind was still asleep, trying to process what was happening. His insides felt like a hive of churning insects. The sights, smells, and sounds of Mars' capital flooded his senses. To make matters worse he could sense that Redric was upset with him. Hurt. He feels like I betrayed him because I didn't tell him who my father was, he thought. So what? So what if I didn't tell him which Aanstad my father was. He glanced at Redric who was looking directly ahead. Was he trying to ignore him? What is your deal? Why are you acting so pissy? Jack wanted to ask him. But he bit his tongue. They could discuss this later behind closed doors. Right now they were out in the open. The facts of what was going on would present themselves in a few moments. Ten minutes later they stepped out of the lift and onto the 39th floor. Sheathia's office door was open. Jack was the first to reach her door. He knocked. Sheathia looked up from her desk. She looked grave, very grave. "Yes, Jack please come in. You too Redric." It was then that Jack noticed the man sitting in the chair opposite of Sheathia. His head was turned so Jack couldn't see his face. His tongue felt incredibly thick. He felt as if he was choking on it. "C-Charlie?" he stammered. The man stood up, turned around. It had been fifteen years since he'd seen Charlie Aanstad the man had changed very little. Like Jack, he resembled Erik Aanstad. The only difference was that his face was slightly rounder and more cheerful. His eyes were bright and flashed with a sense of humor that Jack's father had never possessed. When his arms enclosed Jack as if they had never been apart, as if Jack had never fled from Earth and his broken family, Jack remembered the million times that he'd wished Charlie had been his father instead of Jack. Charlie's cheek brushed against his and Jack was overwhelmed with a feeling of love. Not just his love for Charlie but Charlie's love for him. But somewhere deep inside of him, underneath the happiness, the love, the surprise, was the guilt and the pain. The last time that he'd seen Charlie had been at Coralina's funeral. It had been a confusing and painful time. An angry time. A dark time. He pushed those memories away and clapped Charlie on the back as Charlie was clapping him on the back. "Redric said you were here but I didn't believe him." "Yes, well I'm sure it must be a bit of a surprise for you." Charlie looked Jack up and down and studied him intently. "Well you're all grown up. I remember holding you when you were just a baby. I bet your captain and partner here would love to hear stories all about that." And then he shifted, becoming more formal and businesslike. He sighed. “Jack, I’m afraid I have some bad news.” Jack, Redric, Charlie, and Sheathia moved to the conference room. Apparently the situation was more serious than Jack thought. This became more apparent when Charlie slid a data file across the top of the polished wooden table to Jack. Jack skimmed through the file, not rushing to read through it, and tried to make himself feel something. But he felt nothing. Cold, numbing, nothing. The numbing darkness scared him. He should have felt something. Jack’s father and his crew of eleven had been looking for a way to discover “what came after death.” It was an experiment that was done in secret. No one else knew about it but the higher ups at Aanstad Corp. Jack suspected that Charlie was one of the few who knew about it. For years Erik had been meeting with the government official of both Earth and Mars trying to get them to fund the project. When he was tired of being denied, Erik decided to take matters in his own hands. He had Aanstad Station built. There he could oversee his project and work on it without limitations. It sounds like something straight out of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Jack thought. “How long have they been missing do you gather?” he asked “Six months, maybe longer.” “And you haven’t found anything to suggest that they were murdered or kidnapped?” “Nothing.” Jack handed the data file to Redric and stood up. He went over to coffee maker and poured himself a cup. He poured several packets of sugar and cream into the black liquid - he couldn't stand drinking black coffee and didn't understand how anyone else could. He sat back down, took a sip from his coffee, and studied Charlie. All the joy he'd felt at seeing his uncle had dissolved minutes ago. Now he wished that the man had never come. The numbness he'd felt evaporated leaving behind a cold, dangerous anger. "You want us to investigate their disappearance, don't you?" Jack asked. He only had eyes for his uncle. In his anger he'd forgotten that Redric and Sheathia were in the room. Sheathia cleared her throat. When she spoke her voice was soft. It was the voice she used on personal matters, not the strict tone she used when it came to business matters. "Your uncle feels that you and Redric are the only ones that are qualified to handle the case. Usually I'm disinclined to let an officer investigate matters involving a family member but I have to agree with your uncle." "Because of my abilities?" "That and because of the nature of the case, with it being classified." "Aanstad Corp. wants the investigation to be quiet," Charlie said. Though his eyes were red he was no longer crying. It was as if he was in a routine business meeting. "So why not just have the security of your company run the investigation?" "Because none of them are experienced when it comes to homicide investigations." But Jack was no longer in the room with them, in the present. He was at the Aanstad estate in Sweden. As a child he'd grown up in a large mansion; he remembered running through its halls barefoot, the carpet soft beneath his feet. The house had been so big that it was easy to get lost in. In the winter when it was cold and drafty, the foundation itself seeming to come to life. Life had been so different from the one he was living now. When he thought back to it, it seemed to belong to someone else, like a past life only vaguely remembered. For three years his mother, Melania Aanstad, had fought leukemia. She'd held on until she couldn't hold on any longer. In the end she gave up, fed up with the treatments and the hospitals and the doctors. If I'm going to die then I want to die in the comfort of my own home, she had said. He could picture her lying in her massive bed, blankets pulled up to her chin, pale arms hanging over the bed. He could hear her whisper loving words in his ear: You are my white star, Jack. My little white star. "When do we leave?" Redric asked. He put the data file down on the table and looked up. "First thing tomorrow," Sheathia said. "A pilot contracted by the corporation will be taking your vessel to the station," Charlie said. Wonderful, Jack thought. Jack and Redric went to a diner across the street from the Precinct. Redric was working on a bacon cheeseburger deluxe and a large chocolate shake. Jack on the other hand wasn't hungry so he just ordered a Coke. "Your face was blank," Redric said. They hadn't spoken since leaving the Precinct. "What?" "I watched your face the whole time you read the file. It hasn't hit you yet has it?" Jack blinked. It took a moment for his mind to catch up with what Redric was saying. "I don't know. I don't think it makes much of a difference." Redric's eyes widened. He looked as if Jack had just slapped him. He looked around sheepishly to make sure that no one was eavesdropping and leaned forward so that only Jack could hear him. "Of course it makes a difference. Your father found an extraterrestrial spaceship. That and he was murdered." "He was already dead," Jack said. "What happened between you two to make you feel that way." "He left my mother to die," Jack said, watching the carbonation fizz in his glass. "While the cancer was eating her alive he was off on some fucking business meeting. I sat by her bedside and watched her die, telling her that it was going to be okay even though we both knew that it wouldn't. I hate him for that. I'll never be able to forgive him." "Hate is a very powerful word," Redric said sadly. Yes, Jack thought. And it's the only word that fits. When he thought about it he supposed that his mother had known that she was going to die long before the doctors told her that she had terminal cancer. She'd known the way he sometimes knew things. While Jack had inherited his father's looks, he'd inherited his mother's psychic abilities. Melania Aanstad, whose last name before marrying had been Larrson, came from a long line of fortune tellers. The gift ran like water through the women in her bloodline. As far as Jack knew he was the only male on the side of the family to have inherited the Larrson's psychic gift. He didn't know much about his mom's side of the family, had never met them or seen photos of them. He only had the few scraps of information that Melania had given him: She had left the dysfunctional prison of her blood family to be with Erik. The day before she died Melania had been delirious, floating in and out of madness. As he'd done everyday for almost a full year Jack had sat at her bedside. He remembered her grey, pallid face, and dead blue-grey eyes that made him think of candles being blown out. He remembered how she'd looked at him without really seeing him and said, I left one prison only to find myself in another. "I'm sorry, Jack." Redric reached out to take his hand but Jack pulled it back before he could. He didn't want to be touched right now. Not by Redric, not by anyone. "I never had a chance to be a kid," he said. "Even when my father was around he wasn't really around. He was thinking about board meeting and future projects and quantum physics and God knows what else. And when my mother died he didn't shed a tear, not one. So I won't shed a tear for him." Jack looked down at his duffel bag. He'd packed six outfits, his toothbrush, deodorant, several novels for the six week journey to Aanstad Station, his license and of course his firearm. But there was the feeling that there was something missing. The knowledge of what it was danced at the edge of his mind just out of reach. Weren't people always bringing something personal with them? A photo album full of good memories caught in time, or a talisman? Jack didn't have any of those things. No photos, no talismans. When it came to being a homicide detective there was no time for sentimental pleasantries. He'd left behind a life of riches and luxury and excess back on Earth, for a much simpler one. The path of that life, the directions in which it would have taken him, were straightforward. He would be an employee of Aanstad Corp. like Uncle Charlie, working under his father, perhaps even serve on the board. He would work regularly with government officials, brilliant scientists and God knew who else. When looking at those possibilities from far away it would seem like the perfect life. Why in the world would anyone want to give it up? But in the long run he knew that he would have felt like a prisoner. Just like his mother had felt. In the end, Jack hadn't really left all that much behind. The only thing that had truly mattered to him on Earth was dead, buried beneath Earth's soil. To say that life on Mars was simple would have been a lie, but he felt more at home on the ugly red planet than he ever could have on Earth. He looked at the alarm clock sitting on the bedside table. He had another two hours before he had to meet Redric at the docks. From there they would be boarding an Aanstad Corp. vessel. Flying first-rate Uncle Charlie had called it, as if Redric and Jack were going on a cruise instead of solving a case to catch the murderer of Jack's father. It seemed that the bullshit of the corporate world had rubbed off on Jack's uncle. In such an environment no one was safe, not from the sharks in suits. Six weeks there, Jack thought. Six weeks back. And the time in between that. He looked around his apartment. Redric and he would be gone for over a month. Something about the situation didn't feel right. Jack didn't know if it was a premonition or just his nerves. Thinking about it made him antsy. He paced around his apartment, looking for something to do. I need to stay occupied. The last thing I need is to think about things. But there was nothing. There were no dishes to be washed and he'd cleaned the bathroom just the other day. The bed was made. Everything in his apartment was neat. Too neat even. Before locking up he hesitated, looked at the shadowy interior of the apartment, and wondered if Redric and he would be coming back.
  15. Ghost of the Father

    The future is a dark place. When Erik Aansted and twelve other scientists come up missing, Detective Jack Aansted and his partner Redric Cortez must find out what happened to them. The answers or more terrifying than they could have imagined!

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