Category: Javalina


Neural Trace


Von sat wishing Rog was still there. Reaching to scratch his head, the familiar tingle just under his scalp reminded him he was not alone. Zing Tao physicians had assured him the neural technology employed by the Javalinas had been completely removed, but that much as an amputee can still sense and feel a missing limb, he would probably suffer likewise for the rest of his life.

Javalina inquisitors employed sophisticated neural technology in their interrogations. They implanted nano devices within the brain tissue to gather information the prisoner either refused to divulge or had forgotten he ever knew. The technique produced mixed results for the Javalinas. For the inflicted, however, the procedure was the equivalent of Chinese water torture. Once implanted, the neural trace devices created an unmistakable itch, an itch from within the skull that no amount of scratching could alleviate.

The devices worked on two levels. Often they gathered the information sought. If not, simply left in the skull long enough drove even the most hardened warriors to tears and eventual confession.

Vestiges

Memories of Dauculus were the least of Von’s worries. All the snoot on Hyneria could not wipe away three years in the hands of Javalina inquisitors. Torture. Liberation. Peace. Experiences without a language.

Commentary:

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Epiphany! Part 1

“John, can you read me.”

“Loud and clear Zeke,” replied John.

“Check your monitor. Can you ID this object? I’m zooming in now.”

“Zeke, that appears to be the remains of a Zael space station. We’re picking up a transmission and what appears to be a life form of some sort. Signal is very weak but your drone should be picking it up. Can you check that out?”

“Roger, moving in now,” replied Zeke. “John, I’m picking up that same transmission but the language decoder seems not to be working. Can you override this Vanguard’s system and patch me in to your signal?”

John hesitated. “Be just a minute on that Zeke.” Command had been jamming Zeke’s signal awaiting Ji’s consent. Timing was important. Rogers nodded. “Zeke, sending. You should have it now on channel 6.16.”

Ji mentored and taught like a master sculptor, and in this case, Zeke was his prized piece of marble. Just the right break required a hundred small hammer blows on the end of the chisel. From the outside, nothing appeared to be happening, and then, well, and then on the hundred-and-first blow, the perfect break. To the uneducated eye, it seemed that the last blow created the perfect break, but Ji knew otherwise.

The looped distress signal from 643 was one series of small hammer blows. The serendipitous arrival of the Raptors created several more. This transmission amplified the steady hammering, building to a break. Each event created stress, created opportunity. Yet, the stress had to come at the right pace. Not too fast, not too slow, but such that each event build upon the other.

The signal was faint. Reaching forward Zeke slowly turned up the volume. There were actually two signals, one loud and clear and another much fainter. The adrenalin from earlier in the day had worn off. But like a second wind, what Zeke heard . . . .

Command monitored his vitals. Heart rate up. Blood pressure up. Breathing became rapid. Untranslated, Zael language sounded like whales or even dolphins. The creatures were as peace loving as any species in the known universe and their language sounded more like relaxing music than urgent communiqués.

Zeke sat stunned. Tears rolled down his cheeks. His visor fogged over. Arms fell limp by his side. The Zael’s had not resisted. They went to the slaughter like lambs, knowingly lying down their lives before the Javalina onslaught, in the hope that a few of their kind could escape unnoticed. The attack had been merciless. The scale of destruction and wholesale butchery of every living Zael exceeded comprehension. To read about such things in history books was one thing; to hear the plaintive cries of children and babies were another.

“Sir, should we alert Lieutenant Zeke we have a clear feed on the second signal?”

“Proceed John.”

“Zeke, we’ve got new information on that weaker signal. Tune to channel 6.17. Tell me what you hear,” said John, his tone as somber as Zeke had ever heard him, which was saying quite a lot for a “blank voice.”

If a transmission could whiplash one, Zeke was there. This signal was not a recording. All indications pointed to someone, something that was still alive.

“John, what is the vector on that transmission.”

“Zeke, you’re two minutes away on a heading of 345.32S.”

What Zeke saw next turned his tears to anger. A baby Zael, fatally wounded was cuddled in its parents dead remains. Zaels, like whales, were huge creatures. Javalina gunships had ripped them apart with ease. Floating debris of this scale and size caused Zeke’s gag reflex to kick in.

Excitedly Zeke, hit his comm. “John, we need rescue vacs out here now!”

Silence.

“John, do you hear me. We’ve got a baby Zael that needs immediate attention. Over.” Zeke always ended his communication with “over” as a form of emphasis.

“John, damnit! Come in.” Zeke caught himself. Everything he had been taught about the gap was here, or in this case not here. Whiplash was the right word. And he knew it. Circumstances and stimulus had seized him like a bouncer’s hands on a drunk and rowdy patron. Taking a deep breathe, focusing his mind, he hit his comm. Again.

“John, Zeke here, come in please.”

John looked at Rogers for the okay. “I’m here Zeke.”

“John, we –“

“Zeke,” John’s voice broke ever so slightly, “Zeke, this little one is lost. Nothing we can do.”

No training on Hyneria had prepared Zeke for this. And the worst was yet to come. Ji sat in his private chambers monitoring events. He knew what was coming next and he knew the time was right for that final hammer blow. Perfect break or find a new piece of marble. He would know soon.

(to be continued)

Commentary Part 1:

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Commentary Part 2:

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Commentary Part 3:

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Reading:

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The Last Paragraph and Bonus Commentary:

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Four Minutes

“Lieutenant Zeke come in. Lieutenant this is central command, please reply. Sir, he’s not responding. We don’t know why, but it appears he’s turned his receiver off.”

“Goddamnit John, fix the sunavabitch. Override the drone’s communication matrix. Do whatever you’ve got to do, just do it now!”

“Sir, we’re doing everything we can. The modifications were not spec’ed for this contingency.”

Damn it John, if you were doing everything, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I can find any idiot on this ship who can tell me why it won’t work. You’ve got less than five minutes to make it work, or the Lieutenant won’t be the only one up shiott creek. Is that clear.”

“Yes sir. Very clear.”

Zeke was lost in thought. The sight of 643 stuck in his mind. Twenty-nine Hynerian scientists, just like his mom and dad, out to do good, not an unjust bone in their bodies, murdered. Murdered in deep space, murdered in silence, murdered where their screams could not be heard. An yet, there was the last distress signal, playing, over, and over again.

643 was a living tomb. A tomb with a horrific voice. A voice crying out in desperation. A plea they must have known could not and would not be answered in time. Every living fiber of Zeke’s body cried out in sympathy with those words “revenge our souls.”

Zeke couldn’t divorce himself from the image of those Hynerian scientists surrounded, desperate, crying for help. Help that would never come. He couldn’t divorce himself from the image of his mom and dad, both research scientists, the image of them on this mission, on that station, in those last hours. Could have been them. Instead it was their colleagues, their friends, with a request. A request made in blood. One word. Revenge.

Sitting alone in the cold silence of space, his heart beat with a different timbre. Deep. Heavy. Brooding. His blood felt thicker as if his heart had to work harder to keep the life flowing within him. Life itself felt heavy at the moment. Just lifting his arm seemed like a monumental task.

“Lieutenant Zeke come in please. Lieutenant Zeke come in please.”

Zeke had turned his receiver off. He couldn’t bear to hear the radio distress signal anymore. Besides, that signal lived in his head now, had taken up residence and wasn’t leaving anytime soon.

“John, status report.”

“We have three Javalina Raptors bearing down on Zeke’s location. ETA, four minutes.”

Javalina Raptors were drones left behind like boobie traps. Their only purpose was to inflict additional pain and suffering on first responders. Small vessels with a single central cannon, they were “single use” killing and maiming machines.

Vanguard drones relied on stealth and silence to navigate the battlefield. The tradeoff was lack of armor or any significant defense mechanism. To lose a Vanguard was to lose a machine. Data was transmitted simultaneously so only potential was lost. This Vanguard, however, was different. It carried a life. And not just any life but the potential successor to Ji. And now it appeared that life had less than four minutes. Four minutes to find a way or four minutes to infamy. No one wanted to be carved into Zing Tao history like this.

“John, I think we need to notify Ji.”

Commentary Part 1:

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Commentary Part 2:

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Reading:

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A Rare Encounter

“Lieutenant Zeke, this way please.” Lampré didn’t walk, didn’t fly, but rather glided.

“Master Ji will see you in his private chambers. He’s expecting you.”

Zeke drew a slow steady deep breath. Letting the air out at a slightly faster nervous cadence, he stepped into Ji’s private quarters. Immediately his mind felt like mush, time seemed warped, and his thoughts slowed. His eyes took in light in the dimly lit room, yet even light seemed to move at a different tempo. An unusual lightness lifted his body as if Ji’s room operated at a different gravity than the rest of the ship. Zeke felt like a Hynerian who had checked his wits at the cloak room. He had them but they weren’t here now.

“At ease Lieutenant.” Words registered. Ji had spoken. Body failed to respond. Then laughter. Ji could manifest as either body or spirit, and preferred his spirit form whenever possible. Invisible to the normal eye, Ji employed an ocular oscillator so that others could visually interact with him.

“Sorry Master Ji. I . . .” and then nothing. Zeke felt like his vocal cords were frozen. More laughter. Ji always seemed to know how to break the tension. “Everyone reacts the same the first time they use the ocular Zeke.”

“Our time is short and there is little to say,” laughed Ji. “No need to speak my son, I know your mind and I know your heart. If I didn’t have faith that both were exactly where they needed to be, you would not have been invited on this mission.”

“Javalina Destroyer’s will attack before we will arrive. The planet is lost but our objective is to save the Zaels we can and bring them back to Hyneria. For you, my friend, this mission has a different purpose. You will see things your eyes have never seen before. Your heart will feel vibrations and tremors of terror new and alien to anything you have felt before.”

“The days ahead Lieutenant determine where you go from here within the order. First contact has a way of blunting growth. The heart grows callused in some, and a callused heart becomes dull with anger and bitterness.”

“Watch your heart. Let it grow not in revenge, not in justification, but let it expand in compassion for our adversary. Hate begets hate. Watch your heart. Cultivate love and compassion. Only love is truth and only truth conquers. Zing Tao, Lieutenant. Prepare yourself. Much is expected. Much you will do. Dismissed.”

Commentary Part 1:

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Commentary Part 2:

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Commentary on the Image:

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Reading:

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Bad News


Javalina Crawlers

Dropping from the sky, Javalina Crawlers fell on Zael CIC. Only twelve hours had passed. Javalinas were not known for keeping their word. At least one could say they were consistent.

__________

Crawler Prototype
for Terry

Twenty-Four Hours

Zael CIC could not believe their eyes. Broadcasting on Zael’s formerly ultra secure comm channel z9 with a signal as clear as next door, Javalina General Jarzuphis demanded unconditional surrender of the entire planet. Zael command had twenty-four hours to comply or be annihilated from the universe.

Outgoing comms were jammed. Decisions had to be made and no information had arrived from Ji’s task force with an ETA. Best estimates put the time of arrival several hours post surrender deadline. With secure communications compromised and Javalina jammers effectively in place, Zael was all but surrounded and isolated. One could only hope Ji had received their last urgent communiqué.

Could they play for time? Was there another option? No one knew, but Zael command worked like condemned prisoners on death row. In a sense, that’s exactly what they were. Sweat poured, minds cracked, and tempers flared. Javalinas took no prisoners. Annihilation mean the compete destruction of their species. All options were now open for discussion.

Scatalinas

Priority: Urgent
Location: CIC Zael
Dateline: 30:567:0982 M23

Message: Zael under intense attack. Stop. Wigglinas have attacked in the North and the South. Stop. Javalina command ships have launched wave upon wave of Scatalinas against CIC. Stop. Situation dire. Stop. Please advise on ETA. Over.

North

The sound of a heavy boot on metal never harbors good tidings. Zeke walked like a man on his way to execution, each step planned, deliberate, slow and heavy with trepidation. Clanging out a metronomic pace, there was no other sound in the corridor but the steady slapping echo of metal on metal. Nor was another soul in sight. Zeke felt the coldness of his worry silence even the normal buzz of the hallway lights.

Several parsecs ahead, a more ominous thudding could be heard on Zael. Massive, lumbering Javalina Wigglinas had arrived in the north. These elephantine monsters descended from the sky with a deliberate slowness that mimicked Zeke’s pace. Each mammoth limb sought solid ground to imbed its metal jaws. Upon contact with the planet, ice cracked with the sound of a whip, shards flew in all directions slaying anything in the path of flight, and the planet shook as if the very land was under attack. And so it was.

Wigglinas were the cruel invention of a warped mind. Designed to destroy the very land of the enemy, they gave a whole new meaning to cruelty in warfare. Destroy the land, poison the water, and retreat to watch the local population die a slow and merciless death of starvation and thirst. The machines and the minds that put them to use were heartless bastards. Wigglinas made the land inhabitable for decades. They were only used when one just didn’t care.

Metal clang in the corridor. Metal thud on Zael. One could imagine the two sounds moving in parallel, in unison, the twisted humor of fate, smiling at the opening act of destinies forever to be joined.

_____________________

And South



Priority: Extreme Level 10 Code Red
Location: Outpost 643 Subsector 5
Dateline: 24:567:0982 M23

Message: Outpost surrounded. Stop. Situation desperate. Stop. Transmitting all scientific logs. Stop. Last rites performed. Stop. May Ji Qong revenge our souls. Over.