Category: Taren

Ed note: The following bits and pieces surfaced on the flight yesterday. They may or may not have happened in the story. The image is what I call “Place Your Bets,” an allusion to which bits below you think really happened.

Internal Affairs visited Cait. They wanted to know where John was. Said something about a chip.

Mairi finds Trev. He’s a mess. Camera pans away with Mairi holding Trev in her arms like a frightened child, her hair blowing in the wind. She is wearing a long pleated skirt with a mustard colored blouse offsetting her auburn locks.

Dr. X discovers that Châtelaine’s undergo three months of training to communicate with their eyes.

The signal Rog recognizes comes from Kyra’s Zing Tao ring.

Taren is forced to destroy the ring, and under duress has to do it in front of Kyra.

This unleashes a side of Kyra never seen and she destroys the entire compound.

When no one is left alive, she collapses in a heap as a light is seen around her–Kieran.

When Mairi finds Trev he has blood caked on his upper lip, his eyes stare unblinking, lifeless; he can’t form coherent words or thoughts. His body feels strangely cold and he trembles uncontrollably.

Mairi puts hands on his head, closes her eyes and has flashes of his mind. She cries, something a hardened Châtelaine would never do.

Kyra spares Taren, barely. The number of dead in the compound count into the hundreds as she moved of body and mind.

Von said it was the most terrifying and beautiful birth he had ever seen.

Emy couldn’t talk about what she saw for months.

Mairi feels guilt at encouraging Trev to sow his oats.

BC is pissed Lil’ let Trev go and not kill him.

Kieran holds Kyra as Mairi holds Trev–tells her he has someone that wants to say hello, someone that did not take the last ship out of dodge.

John writes in his journal that “After the Kyra Incident” he is losing his moral compass with Cait.

Mairi looks to the heavens and cries out, “My Janus, what have they done to you.” Tears streak down her cheeks and she looks back down at Trev’s blank stare and through her tears she utters, “My dear child.” She wipes his hair away and shaking her head says, “How will you ever forgive me?” She is rocking back and forth as a mother might rock a frightened child to sleep.


Kieran says she can’t directly connect with him but that he can act as a conduit.

Message from Papa: “We can still get there from here.”

Von: (Looks at Rog) I hope you brought some snoot?
Rog: I did.
Von: Good Hynerian.
Rog: I drank it–all.
Von: (deadpans)
Rog: But I have a plan.
Von: Yeah?
Rog: Looks at John.
John: What?
Von and Rog: (Start laughing)

I Love You, I’ll Kill You by Enigma is the Soundtrack for “The Kyra Incident.”

Interview from Earth:

T: Can you explain what happened?

K: Taren’s hammer was like a pickaxe. The down stroke to Papa’s ring broke, and I shiott you not, to my mind’s eye, I saw it as clear as day, but broke layer upon layer of inhibition and doubt while harnessing a synergistic melding of practice, theory and application that took years of pieces and in an instant painted, how would you say it, a Mona Lisa.

T: Wow.

K: Don’t ever say that word again in response.

T: Okay.

K: (starts laughing) I’m just shiotting you. Bring more whiskey–nine glasses.

T: (just smiles)


No Pun Intended

“Taren, launch the anti-spades,” said the voice.

“But my liege, we are not undersea. Why waste the resource?”

“Not a waste at all. John thinks we are undersea. If we don’t respond with countermeasures, they will learn sooner rather than later that we are elsewhere. Now launch the counter attack.

“Yes, my liege.”

“Dr. X, how is our little null doing?”

“Better than anticipated. Let’s just say glowing blue, such an amazing biological adaptation, really quite remarkable, but forgive me for my digression. We are getting a much better response than any of my research indicated would be the case, as, I believe, is evidenced by our opponent’s confusion. She is paying off in spades, no pun intended.”

“Excellent. I have big plans for our little friend. Now what is the update on Calfuray?”

“Fully recovered and, if I might humbly say so, stronger than before. She is itching to redeem herself, as you might imagine.”

“So much good news dear doctor, I hardly know how to contain myself, no pun intended either. Have my dear girl come for a visit. I have an assignment I think will make her very happy. And by the way doctor, please refrain from any itching metaphors, which reminds me, how is our friend Shen?”

“Humble, my lord, humble.”

“Good. Have him come see me with Calfuray. Never hurts to have a little insurance, especially the disposable kind. Now, dear doctor, tell me more about this glowing blue adaptation.”

“Hmm, where to start, where to start . . .”

Categories: Story, Taren, The Voice, Dr. X

A Rising Murmur

+Taren, I consider myself a patient lump of flesh with, perhaps, a fair amount of compassionate understanding, although I suspect Shen would take issue with my presupposition. Let it be said, however, I honor my threats.+ Laughter within anomalous cognition created a strange sensation within the receiver, an intention the voice used with skillful intent to effect disproportionate orientation. +How is our friend doing by the way?+

+Recusant to the last,+ responded Taren, unnerved as always in the presence of the voice, his mind tingling like a tooth ache from the telepathic waves of mirth as if ice water lapped at the very shore of his raw throbbing skull.

+Status update on the girl. Where are we?+

+Dr. X is inside her mind as we speak. First breakthrough was easier than anticipated. We should know more within the hour.+

+Good. And Calfuray? How is my dear sweet child?+

+Convalescing, although we are not sure how long she will remain in shock. The doctors seem to think her catatonic state is a mental reaction to defeat as much as any physical infliction. Prognosis is for full recovery, although her albugineous flesh, especially around the eyes, is causing some concern.+

+First time for everything Taren. Nothing lasts forever. As my father often said, better enjoy the fete now, for the suns of Tyrus rise faster than the backside of golden goblets toasted to marital bliss on a cold winter night. What he knew of that, well . . . , another subject for another urn. Have the Tearacs been released?+


+Bring the slate over here. Where my violaceous darling has failed my sleek beasties will feast. Been awhile since I’ve allowed them to run free. How are our two friends progressing? I do so admire their ingenuity.+

Von stared into the oscillating beams blocking their path. “Mmm . . .”

“Care to translate that for me? asked Kyra. Before he could answer they both turned in unison to a rising murmur carried on the wind like cool air preceding a storm.

Categories: Story, The Voice, Taren, Von, Kyra


This chapter is best when playing Robbie Robertson’s Unbound as you let the prose saturate your imagination.

With eyes of fire
No one can see

Scene starts with Mairi, hands bound behind her back walking down the corridor with Taren, a foot taller, somberly behind her. Mairi’s head is hanging down, her eyes on the floor, her face blank and unreadable. Their pace is deliberate. The soundtrack plays over ambient noise in the scene. Their footsteps are silent. Camera plays at three-fourths speed giving the subtle impression of mood. Mairi lifts her head, eyes fixed straight ahead. She releases the burden of resistance. Unbound.

I am lost
I am lost
Has anybody seen me
I am lost

Camera cuts away to Von and Kyra walking toward the Pod, both dressed in all black long coats, fully armed. The two silhouetted figures walk toward the lighted ramp, postures erect with resolve. Doubt released. Unbound.

Oh nothing is forgotten
Only left behind
Wherever I am
She leads me down

Camera then pans to the interior of Bravo. Yul is walking from the lab to the chapel. Her face, like Mairi’s is blank and sober. Her eyes glassy, reflecting the soft light in the corridor. Reaching the chapel, she sees a warm red glow and a figure standing next to the votive candles. Emy turns her head in silence, watching Yul enter the chapel and walk beside her. Yul looks at Em and then slowly looks back at the candles. No words are spoken between the two. Camera moves to a close up of the candle’s reflection in Yul’s eye and then fades to black just as the soundtrack comes to an end. Unbound.

No borders
No fences
No walls
No borders
No fences

Oh, listen for the night chant
Oh, listen for the night chant

Like a moth to flame
She leads me down

Categories: Story, Kyra, Von, Yul, Emy, Taren, Mairi


Mairi sat in the dark room, her knees pulled into her chest, her back pressed into the corner and her eyes fixed on the small ray of light outlining the door. The room was cold.

“What is that Von?” asked Kyra.

“Schematics,” replied Von, not taking his eyes off the glowing data slate. “Fascinating really.”

“Care to explain?” responded Kyra, half amused, half annoyed with Von’s self absorption.

“No other place on the planet has multi-tiered defenses in place like this alcove. This is where we will find Mairi,” said Von, smiling like a child who knows the answer, his arm waving in the air.

The room was also quiet; the kind of quiet that really wasn’t quiet at all. The smallest sound seemed magnified. No matter how hard she tried, her own breathing echoed, or so it seemed. Her heart sounded as if it had moved from her chest to her head and each beat morphed into the footsteps she knew, sooner or later, would be coming for her.

Kyra couldn’t help but reflect back Von’s smile. “So, I take it you have a plan to get past the security, whisk Mairi away, and slip back to Bravo without losing our hides?”

“Oh no, not at all,” replied Von, looking now like the boy who had misheard the question and realized he didn’t know the answer after all.

Not knowing. That was the hardest part. What were these aliens, and aliens they were, going to do, what were they capable of doing? If they were Javalinas, she would know, just as Von knew. She could prepare for the neural trace. But Arc’teryxians were unknown. No history, no knowledge, a complete blank slate. And they wanted what she had, whatever that was. My Janus, she thought. Is there anything I do know?

“What? You’re kidding,” said Kyra.

“Nope, not a clue,” said Von.

“What was that smile about then?”

“The challenge of facing the unknown. Didn’t your Papa ever teach you about the unknown? This is what separates those who ascent to the Zing Tao from those forever destined to serve as Blue Oynx. The unknown Kyra. This is what we live for, this is our calling, this is our time. What’s not to smile about?” said Von holding his arms out wide as if his whole body smiled.

Footsteps tell their own story. Fast or slow, heavy or light, loud or soft. For every step there was a stepper. For every step there was intent and purpose, someone with a mission, someone with orders, someone who knew. The steps were faint but unmistakable. Steady like a spring rain, each one slightly louder than the one before. Would they walk pass or would the rhythm change, would they stop with the click of a heel, the sound of purpose lifting a hand to the door?

“Von, Papa didn’t teach me everything but he did teach me when to lead and when to get out of the way. This mission is in your hands. Let’s go.” said Kyra.

The door opened. Light stabbed into the darkness like daggers into Mairi’s heart. “Mairi,” said Taren. “It’s time. Let’s go.”

Categories: Story, Kyra, Mairi, Von, Taren

The Voice

Come in. Sit,” said the voice. “Raise your eyes, both of you and look at me. Tell me what you see.”

Shen and Taren sat in cold silence. Nostrils involuntarily flared with each in breath as if preparing to absorb a blow.

“Give me one good reason I should not have you both summarily executed.”

Shen started to speak.

“Shut the frail up Shen. There are no words to succor your failings. Do you have any idea? Any? Shen?

“All is not lost. We have the girl,” offered Shen.

The voice hovered as if chewing Shen’s words like cud, digesting each syllable in preparation to shat the refuse back forth from whence it came.

“Yes, you have the elusive null. Quite a coup for your research wouldn’t you say?” said the voice in slow even tones making nuance impossible to read.

“Once in a life—“

“Shen,” interrupted the voice, “speak again and I’ll have your head on the floor before the echo of your vapid vision soils one more precious moment of my time. I want you to look close. Look at me Shen. Come closer.”

Shen stood slowly and walked toward the voice. Taren watched as men on death row watch others take the walk. A small drop of perspiration ran down his face. Shen’s footsteps echoed in the small room, sounding louder than usual.

“I want you see Kulmyk handiwork up close. Please, hold out your hand. The eyes alone do not do justice to their craftsmanship with a blade.”

Shen ran his hand over the lump of flesh that spoke. As an experienced interrogator Shen had seen the worst of physical torture; yet, still, it took all of his estimable mental abilities to quell the disturbance in his stomach.

Are you married Shen?”


“Does your wife love you Shen? Does she make love to you?”


“What do you think she would think if you looked like this?”

The voice allowed silence to suck the living air from the room. Shen struggled to take a breath. Falling to the floor his hands instinctively moved to his collar. The room seemed to get smaller. The floor felt cold and had a distinctive antiseptic smell. Shen’s eyes narrowed and all he could think was just how clean the floor was.

“Your foolishness has put our entire mission in jeopardy. Within days, the Kulmyks will launch a taskforce toward our small sanctuary. And when they get here, when they get here Shen,” said the voice, hovering just over Shen’s ear, “they will make what they did to me look like child’s play. And all for a null.”

The voice pulled away. Shen gasped for air as if breaking the surface.


“Yes sir?”

“Get him out of my sight before I change my mind.”

“Yes sir.”

“Oh, and Taren.”


“You’ve got twenty-four hours with the null. Don’t disappoint me.”

Categories: Story, Shen, Taren, The Voice

On You I Depend

I have seen peace. I have seen pain.

“Yul, tell us what you know,” said Kyra.

“Rog and I were enjoying the evening and we heard odd sounds from down the corridor. Rog grabbed his stuff to investigate. Twenty minutes later, he hadn’t returned so I went to check on him. The door to his quarters was open but no sign of him. I noticed the door to Mairi’s quarters was open too and no sign of her either,” said Yul.

Resting on the shoulders of your name.

“What sort of odd sounds?”

“Loud voices, metal banging on metal, more hurried urgent voices and then silence. I told Rog to leave it alone. The bed was warm, we had nowhere to go, and besides, well, we had unfinished business,” said Yul as Von fought back a smile.

Do you see the truth through all their lies?

“Von, any ideas on why they aren’t answering their responders?” asked Kyra.

Before Von could answer distant las fire echoed through the room. “Oooh, that’s not good is it,” quipped Yul.

Do you see the world through troubled eyes?

“No, that’s not good,” responded Von. “My guess, they came for Mairi and Rog caught them in the act or followed them. Either way, he is facing impossible odds.”

“Taren, this is Kyra. Can you tell me what is going on?”

And if you want to talk about it anymore,

Silence. “He’s not responding.”

Intensity of las fire picked up. “Kyra—static—outnumbered—static—can’t—oh shiott–“

Lie here on the floor and cry on my shoulder,

“Rog! Rog, copy. Rog?” Nothing. “We got to move but all I’ve got is a las pistol,” said Kyra, a sense of relaxed intensity in her voice, her crystal blue eyes looking more steely than blue.

Von stood up. “I think I might be able to assist. Follow me.”

I’m a friend.

Von wasn’t kidding. His Ji Shield was the tip of the iceberg. “What the frail Von,” said Yul, “afraid the Javalinas were going to come back for ya?”

“Hope for the best my friend, but prepare for the worst,” said Von, picking up a pulse rifle. “Try this on for size Yul, that is if you think you can handle such a large tool.”

I have seen birth. I have seen death.

“If I can handle Rog I think I can hand this,” said Yul, taking the instrument in her hands. Her delicate facial features belied her core strength honed in the countless hours she had spent training with Kyra. Von couldn’t help but admire the definition in her arms.

“Yes, I think you can,” smiled Von.

Lived to see a lover’s final breath.

“What have you got in there for me,” asked Kyra.

“I want you to take the shield. Zeke would have wanted it that way. Strap it to your left forearm. Feel the energy flow,” said Von, watching as the center of the shield came to life with a brilliance he hadn’t seen since her Papa had last worn the ancient relic.

Do you see my guilt? Should I feel fright?

Rog wiped the sweat from his brow. Las fire singed the bulkhead just inched above his head. His two las pistols hummed in recharge. The corridor was lit with green and red and the occasion blue ray of energy. He couldn’t see his attackers but then again, he thought, they can’t see me either.

“Lieutenant, what seems to be the problem?” asked Taren, with just a tinge of frustration in his voice. With Mairi in their hands, he could not communicate with his squad other than by normal means, which meant less than secure.

Is the fire of hesitation burning bright?

“Red leader, do you read?” queried Kulmyk command.

“Loud and clear,” responded red leader, his Vollmond approaching target lock.

And if you want to talk about it once again,

“Taren, I need that girl here now,” commanded Shen.

“We’re working on it,” said Taren.

On you I depend. I’ll cry on your shoulder.

Kyra held the shield in her arm. Her whole body flooded with the strangest sensation as the shield responded to her wishes. It moved, like her arm, without thought, without effort as if the very instrument had become a part of her body. “Rog, not sure if you can hear me. Hang tight. We’re on our way,” said Kyra.

You’re a friend.

[ed note: Lyrics from James Blunt’s Cry. Imagine the song playing in the background as this chapter plays itself out.]

Categories: Story, Kyra, Von, Yul, Rog, Taren, Shen


Mairi overheard Taren on the bridge. “I wouldn’t want to be her,” he said. Wasn’t the first time she had heard that. Really didn’t bother her anymore, at least that’s what she kept telling herself. Still, what choice did she have. Who else could she be? Where could she go to escape herself? She knew the answer. She knew the answer because she had asked herself the question a thousand times and the answer was always the same.

“Shen, you look troubled. Do you sense the Vollmonds? Have they picked up our trail?” asked Taren.

“No, something else. Something much closer to home. I can’t put my mind on it, but all is not as it should be,” replied Shen.


“Not sure. But something is moving. Could be the female. I sense activity near her quarters, but the energy signature does not match,” said Shen.

Mairi turned toward her holographic wall. “Springtime, mid-morning please,” said Mairi. As the colors of the wall came to life, Mairi stepped out of her normal bodysuit. Reaching beside her bed she picked up her prized Jasperian cloak. The garment’s lush softness against her smooth bare skin eased the stresses of the body, which in turn calmed her mind.

“What do you mean the energy signature does not match?” asked Taren.

“I mean, the energy pattern does not match any of the Hynerians,” responded Shen, half paying attention to his young pupil and half floating on the aura of this unknown visitor.


“No. That is clear.”

Mairi reached out with her hands as they appeared to melt into the holograph. The warm light, morning springtime sun, made her a bit sleepy but perfect for sliding into a deeper meditation. She closed her eyes and allowed the sound of the breeze to lift her mind on its gentle currents. She could feel her heartrate start to slow. So too the flood of thoughts begin to abate or so it seemed.

“If its not Kulmyk and not the Hynerians–“

“Taren, I’ve never felt a force like this before. Focus. Do you feel it?” said Shen, trying hard to conceal the excitement in his voice. Mairi was the find, but this, whatever this was, was an order higher. Intoxicating in the possibilities.

“Too far away for my abilities,” said Taren.

“One thing concerns me,” said Shen, ignoring Taren’s disappointment. “Whatever it is, its moving toward Mairi. Get a detail to her quarters now!”

Categories: Story, Mairi, Taren, Shen, Paintings

Don’t Ask

“Rog, what seems to be the problem,” asked Kyra, slightly out of breath from the run from Mairi’s quarters. Seems every damn time I try to have a conversation something happens.

“Snazzle junior is picking up unfriendlies heading our way. Might be a malfunction since they are moving faster than anything I’ve ever seen,” said Rog.

“They’re Kulmyk Vollmonds—long range interceptors. I’m impressed,” said Taren. “Apparently, they have not drawn a reading on us. How is that possible on such a primitive vessel as this?”

“Metalunans,” responded Kyra. “Long story, but they fixed and upgraded our ship. We still haven’t uncovered everything they did. More to the point, Rog, how long before they know we are here?”

“Hard to say,” said Rog.

“Ten minutes,” answered Taren.

“Options?” asked Kyra to no one in particular as her eyes did not leave Taren.

“Stay here and the Kulmyks will imprison your crew. Then, they will interrogate each and every one of you to find out who you are, why you are here and what you know about us. Their methods are brutal, unspeakable and ultimately effective. Once they have satisfied themselves that you know nothing, you will thank them for putting you out of your misery. They will, however, take special interest in Mairi. I would not want to be her in Kulmyk hands. That is option one.” Taren paused for effect, his own mind a cacophony of fear, fear from the minds of the crew.

“And option two?” asked Kyra.

“Dock this vessel in our landing bay and we slip away to an undisclosed location,” said Taren.

Kyra glanced at Von.

“You have eight minutes to detection,” said Taren. “ It will take seven minutes to dock and vacate. Do you want to live?”

“Make it so,” ordered Kyra.

Rog worked the controls. Taren’s ship was several times the size of Bravo-Four-Zero. The crew stood in wonder as the bay doors swallowed their tiny ship.

“Where are you taking us Taren?” asked Kyra.

“I like you Kyra. Please don’t ask me again.”

Categories: Story, Kyra, Rog, Taren

No Doubt

As the crew entered the Grand Conference, Taren turned to his mentor and seventh-level Cog, the highest ranking attainable. “Shen, what do you sense?” asked Taren as they surveyed the crew of Bravo-Four-Zero.

“No doubt she is here,” whispered Shen from behind his hood, purple eyes glowing with anticipation and excitement. “I could not be more pleased with her abilities. I have heard rumor of such facility but never did I dream this opportunity would present itself. Fate does work in mysterious ways does it not?”

“You’ve always taught fate speaks to those who open to possibility, to those who embrace the flow rather than resist it, to those who believe like children. I’m not sure I would have intuited the gift this vessel imparts to us and our cause without your mentorship Shen.”

“Don’t be modest Taren. I did not give you your gifts nor did I sharpen them. I pointed the way. You did the rest.”

“Does she know the gift she has?” asked Taren.

“Impossible to know without private inquiry. May I suggest we arrange a personal interview.”

“Absolutely. Kyra?”

“Yes, Taren?”

“The girl on the end, with the red hair, what is her name?”


“She is the one. May we have a private audience with her?”

“Mairi? Are you sure?”

“No doubt in our minds.”

“Can you tell me what special gift you believe she has?” asked Kyra, completely puzzled at what they saw in Mairi. Deep inside she watched as her own sense of vanity rose and whispered softly in her mind’s ear. Papa always said humility was the doorway to truth. She wondered if Taren was inside her head, watching with amusement and seeing her innermost feelings. Pride was a funny thing. She must spend more time looking at this pride when time allowed for weeding the garden of her mind.

“I’d rather not say in the open. Besides, the less you know the better.”

Kyra looked at Taren, trying to judge intent and purpose. So hard to read an alien species.

“You can use my quarters if you like.”

Categories: Story, Kyra, Taren, Mairi, Shen