Salvation’s Promise

It was right at a year ago that a story of mine was published in Splickety. I believe this was the second story I had published with them. The rights to the story reverted back to me after the contract time, so I thought I would publish it here.  I hope to take up blogging again more regularly when life slows down.  Which might not take place soon, but in the meantime enjoy this story.  If you have never read Splickety, you might look them up. Some of the best flash fiction you will ever read.

Salvation’s Promise

“Grass Head, get back to work, useless one.”

Janie’s Cheyenne mistress called her Grass Head because her hair was the color of dried grass. She’d been the woman’s slave for two years. Long enough to learn the language, but not long enough to forget her name was Janie—not long enough to accept her circumstances.

She turned her attention back to scraping a buffalo hide and prayed God would let her die, or at least show her His plan. The hide’s smell made her gag. A sharp slap bloodied her lip, and put her back to work.

A war party returned to the small circle of tents in the grassy valley. A warrior showed his prize, a stallion still saddled with cavalry tack. But the frightened horse reared back, stomping up a cloud of dust.

Villagers gathered to stare at the animal. The brave reached out to steady the horse but received a bite. The stallion slipped free and turned tight circles. Its kick splintered a pole supporting a teepee. The spectators backed off, but not Janie.

She stepped inside the circle of onlookers. The stallion’s brown eyes locked onto her. Janie could feel him pleading with her, begging without words, to the only kindred heart in the camp.

The horse stilled. Janie reached out and gently touched his muzzle. The stallion didn’t bite or pull away. Instead, he sniffed her arm, then backed up, drawing Janie toward the center of the clearing.

“Grass Head, stupid girl.”

The familiar scolding broke Janie’s trance, and she shrunk back. The stallion positioned himself between Janie and her owner, hiding the cruel woman from Janie’s view. His gentle nuzzle reassured her. Janie understood; the stallion loved her. They shared the bonds of loss and bitter treatment.

He swung the reins into her hand, and she obeyed. She hadn’t ridden in a long time, but with his help, she mounted.

“Grass Head, get down, you ugly child.”

Janie looked longingly to the grasslands outside the camp. The horse responded to her feelings, and effortlessly cleared a path through the crowd.

As they rode away, Janie leaned down and hugged his neck. She was certain he understood her pain, and she began to understand and share his. His army training had been harrowing. Learning to endure gunfire and the bloody sights of the battlefield had been difficult.

They galloped over the golden foothills of early fall, speeding and turning and exploring at Janie’s whim. She dismounted by an old oak tree, knowing what would happen next. The braves would come looking. They would return her to her mistress and the stallion to its captor. But her parents had died in the raid. No one would welcome her back to civilization.

She searched the hills for a solution. Her eyes fell on a rock face dropping hundreds of feet. She formed a plan to end their shared misery. He understood and encouraged her to mount. They worked their way up the hills, to the top of the cliff, and stared down. Each longed for relief. She decided and the horse pulled around, got a running start toward the cliff, and then for the first time, disobeyed her.

He was willing to die; he wasn’t willing to carry her with him. She pleaded. He refused. He loved her too much to do this. She realized her selfishness. She had only thought of herself and not of the horse that loved her, the horse she loved. Then the stallion begged her to dismount so he could go over alone. She refused. And slowly they negotiated a compromise.

He would live for her sake, and she would live for his. It was a sacrifice each one would make for the other. Living would take courage, but they would each choose it. Returning to the village, she would take her punishment from her mistress, and the stallion would serve its new owner.

“What will you name him?” she asked the brave as she returned his pacified horse.

“Suicide’s Ride,” he said. “Or do you have better?”

“Salvation’s Promise.”

The brave answered with an admiring glance, and the stallion nodded and whinnied his approval.

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King David Chambers Anchor Point

King David Chamber’s Anchor to Faithfulness

David Chambers was the youngest son of a powerful family. His father, Jesse Chambers, was known all over the quadrant, and his brothers were all well respected. None of this mattered to David because he felt disrespected in his own household. His brothers ran his father’s business ventures, but he was left to run errands and tend to the farms on their home world.

His family never knew that in the process he had fought back pirates, driven off rustlers and tamed numerous labor disputes. David never realized God was preparing him for more, much more. David used this time and his loneliness to draw near to God. He sang praises and wrote many new songs.

His quadrant was guided by a religious leader named Samuel Masters. Even though the Chambers family was well known, they didn’t expect a visit from this powerful leader. Neither did they expect the news that someone in the family was chosen by God. Each of the boys from the oldest to the youngest was brought before Samuel, who rejected them one by one.

Finally someone thought to send for David, whom Samuel anointed. He told David he would be the next king, but that he should be patient, because God was not done preparing him yet. Samuel went about his duties, David returned to the fields, and David’s family assumed Samuel had taken leave of his senses. After all, they already had a king, Saul Longfellow.

Shortly after this, the Chambers family was surprised again. A representative from the king came for David. He asked for the young man to come and assist in the court. Somehow the king had learned about David’s music.

The Chambers family thought it was a lucky break. They didn’t see God at work in the details. The King was so taken with David’s abilities that he used him in the court for music, but also acquired his help as a cabin boy on the defensive fleet’s flagship, The Covenantia. David remembered Samuel’s words and trusted God’s promise.

During this time David was always moving. He would run home and maintain his family responsibilities, then he would run to the king’s court to play, and then still other times he would run out to the battlefields where aliens from the Philistine Sector would invade their space. It was on one of these trips to the battlefield that David found the king’s fleet being held at bay by one massive Battleship named The Goliath.

This ship was the largest ever recorded in human history. It’s weapons were sophisticated, powerful, and numerous. It was twice the size of The Covenantia. This ship stood in the void between the two armies daring any captain to come forward and challenge him, but no one dared. Even King Saul Longfellow failed to answer the challenge.

David approached the king and asked permission to go fight. At first he was rebuffed, but eventually Saul offered him the Flagship to take into battle. David had another plan. He took is normal travel ship.

The captain of The Goliath mocked him severely, but David didn’t care. He just taunted back and flew up to within the range of his main weapon. It was tiny by comparison to the guns on The Goliath. David used it to get off a single shot. The crew ignored it expecting it to bounce harmlessly off the shielding.

One of the many gunners near The Goliath’s bridge, thought he would become a hero by destroying David’s ship. So he opened a portal in the shield to allow himself a shot. David’s round slipped through the opening and connected with the tactical missile on its way out. The missile was detonated inside the shielding bouncing the full force of the explosion back on The Goliath.

God had been faithful to deliver David and the colonies once again. After the battle the king was rightly impressed with the young man’s courage, but he was also rightly scared of the young man’s potential. Soon David was an exile, although loved by his own people, he ran from the king to avoid killing the monarch who had been anointed before him. He made a choice to wait for God’s timing, meanwhile David’s father and brothers were beginning to find a new respect for him.

Many powerful captains chose to join him in this exile rather than to fight with Saul’s fleet. Yet David would still not allow them to overthrow the king, and together they continued to fight for the good of the colonies.

This resolve was tested when he came across The Covenantia, without escort and unshielded, while lading in an out of the way port. David’s men thought he should destroy it and take the throne, but he refused believing God would give him the throne in His own timing. That is exactly what happened when King Saul Longfellow was killed in battle. The people wanted David as their next king. God had kept his promise.

Over the course of his reign long King David Chambers often looked back at how he had become king. God had been with him at every turn. His faith and faithfulness were always rewarded. These memories convinced him to retain his integrity, and carried him through many challenges.

Danny and Kallie

It’s been a long time since I posted anything for Fun Fridays. So here is a short story. The bones of it was turned in last weekend for a writing contest that allows for stories up to 360 words. That wasn’t enough for this story to be told right. So here is the longer version. Feel free to tell me what you think. My own opinion is that the ending is still a little soft.

Danny and Kallie

Danny lives on the second floor. Most mornings he rides the waves before leaving for work.

His surfboard doesn’t fit in the elevator. So he risks dropping it from the balcony onto the sidewalk below. So far it hasn’t been damaged. Then he’ll run downstairs, hoping to get there before it walks away. So far it hasn’t been stolen. If it was he would be at a loss. The surfboard had his heart.

Kallie lives in the next building over. Her morning exercise is rollerblading. One day she heard something fall and timidly spied around a corner to see the surfboard, followed by the young man who gathered it up. She didn’t know why the sight of him made her catch her breath, yet she checked on him every day after that.

She continued to catch her breath at the sight of him, and she missed him when he wasn’t there. Still she did her best to blend in, hidden by the fog, or watching around a corner.

Then came a morning with strong winds, high waves, and a receding tide. Kallie had never surfed, but had researched a little and knew these were the most dangerous conditions. They are also what surfers like best.

She didn’t skate. She stood frozen, praying for his safety. She didn’t know why she worried about this stranger, but she did.

He struggled to get out to position. Twice the waves tossed him off before he could even attempt a ride. When he dumped a third time, Kallie counted seconds, waiting for him to surface. Thirty seconds and she was frantic. Forty-five and she hated herself for not knowing what to do. Fifty-three and he was spit out by the undertow, thirty yards behind his board.

She prayed harder as he swam for it. He struggled to climb on and then rode straight in, completely exhausted.

She watched him drag the board to the building. He tried to toss the board up, but couldn’t this time. Her hand on his shoulder, stopped him. When he turned to see her, he felt his breath catch. For a moment neither of them could talk. Kallie found her voice first, so she volunteered to lift the board to him. The board suddenly was less important than it had been a moment earlier.

That was how Danny met Kallie, and they got to know each other better over the next several days. Now she watched him openly. She would sit on the beach and enjoyed her heart racing at the sight. She felt guilty at taking such pleasure in the young man. Yet when he invited to date, she declined. By way of explanation she described how she prayed for him. He didn’t understand what that had to do with it.

When he persisted she said there was one place she would go with him, if he was willing. He would have done anything at that point. So he met her on Sunday morning in front of a local store front church. Only about thirty people, mostly young adults, gathered there. The music was hokey. The people were awkward. The message was life-changing. When the gospel came clear to Danny’s heart, it took his breath away.

That was how Danny met Jesus, and he got to know Him better over the coming weeks.

The surfboard was almost completely meaningless now. He almost never used it anymore. But one day when the waves were high he thought it was a good chance to impress Kallie. Dropping the board over the balcony as he had done hundreds of times, he heard it shatter apart.

Kallie and he stood over the remains a few minutes later. Both were silent for a long time. Kallie almost cried for him, until she looked up and saw him smiling at her, almost laughing. He told her it would be fine, they could go out to breakfast instead.

Kallie was impressed. So much had changed in Danny’s life. So much had changed in hers.

Tried for Treason

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in sequence.

The first battlefield was The Battle for the Mind.  Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, Adrift, Self Sacrifice, Crash DownThe Lake HouseDancing with Egopods, Lunch with Aliens and Kilkian Alignment

The second battlefield is The Battle of the Hands, Here are the previous episodes in this battlefield Learning to SeeMaintaining Common SenseMeeting CompagnoUnseating DibolocosThe Journey HomewardAmbush on Platinum 9, Refit, Retrain and Rethink, Saved by Rodent Weed, Convoys and Propaganda,  Changing the Moon, Expanding HorizonsRunning the Blockade, Dueling Politicians, Legislation, Delegation, and DeliberationFailed Tyranny,  Political Parties, Visiting the City, and Passing the Constitution.  Today we get Episode 39.

Tried for Treason

Jamison’s change of attitude and demeanor was noticed by everyone, but especially by Chambers. She tried to reason with him and cheer him. Jamison found her attempts irritating and began to desire distance from her with almost as much emotion as he had previously desired closeness.

During this time his sullen attitude and at times, outward anger, made him the target of negative press. The colonies that had previously hailed him as a hero now began to see him as a part of the problem. He was depicted as like a trigger happy gunslinger who would kill anyone who might get in his way.

Documentaries on his past were pieced together and eventually someone was found who could identify him as having been a pirate with Lobokidos. The news brought shockwaves to his reputation and quickly there were calls for him to be removed from government. He was allowed to speak on his own behalf, but not being required to he stood stubbornly and refused to say a word. In these proceedings he genuinely missed the advice of Colopher. She remained silent and for all he knew, he thought he would never see her again.

When the vote was taken the congress voted to remove him from office. An hour later he was sent into town on the train, as if he was an unknown personage. He wasn’t unknown though and everywhere he tried to find shelter or temporary provision he was turned away. Finally he just slept in an alley, feeling the situation couldn’t possibly get any worse.

He woke up to find himself surrounded by a small group of soldiers. They demanded that he surrender his weapon and submit to arrest. He considered defending himself, stunning as many as he could before being overwhelmed by the others, but what would be the point? So he let himself be arrested. The list of charges was too long to read on the street, but the highlights were murder, piracy, treason, and theft.

He found his cell in the jail to be considerably nicer than the alley. It was safer, had better food and the rain didn’t soak into him. It was confining but he mused that it was actually a little larger than the sniper’s camp he had called home for four years. The cell also allowed him to research and respond to his charges. This was a part of the processing. For many people it was the whole process. If they would admit guilt they might be given more lenient sentencing. Most would, because in the colonies, technology recorded most every crime that took place, therefore few cases needed a trial.

However, there was no record of Jamison’s crimes. Probably some of the ships had recorded him boarding their vessels, but none of them had survived to present the evidence. Furthermore there was a lot of room to discuss if he was guilty since he was held there as a slave, or whether the laws passed after, could be used to convict a crime committed beforehand. Chambers was granted a leave of absence to attend the trials. It was largely expected that she would be called on to testify, but that never happened.

All but one of the charges were dropped because the laws had not been created yet. The last charge remaining on Jamison was treason, or specifically interfering with alignment. This charge was not dropped. It turns out he was seen leaving a jar of a jelly like substance on a moon. On further investigation this was found to be part of Lobokidos. Those who found it, gathered all the pieces so Lobokidos could be whole again.

Jamison admitted his actions against the Dibolocos, and even admitted his reasons. He however disagreed with the assertions of his opponents that his actions constituted interfering with alignment. They then brought Jenny into court to testify against him, which she did with great hatred. Jenny’s presence shocked Jamison into submission, and her anger just made him withdraw further into himself.

When he stopped defending himself, the negative verdict was guaranteed. He was found guilty, and since the case had been so high profile, his sentence was intentionally severe. He was assigned to a penal colony on Jinkon to do hard labor for ten years. Jamison took the news silently.

The next day a military transport was set to take him and a couple of other passengers to the prison. When he climbed on board, Chambers was in the pilot’s seat. She had a plan to prevent his imprisonment. She would drop off the prisoners at Jinkon, then the two of them could go away together. All he had to do was to hide himself in a secret compartment she had prepared for the purpose.

When they arrived at Jinkon the receiving personnel noticed the count was wrong. They failed to question Chambers though since she was of such higher rank. Then she returned, dropping Jamison back at his private vessel. Twenty four hours later she was withdrawn from the military and the two of them traveled to Platinum 9. Friends there allowed them to hide in the resort. Enjoying the luxury and considering their next move.

They chose to get married in a private ceremony, attended by many of the leaders of the colony. These individuals risked their status with the new government to help the two. Then Jamison and Chambers traveled out, not telling anyone, but planning to make the lake house their permanent home. They were relatively happy. But both of them missed the close friendship they had previously enjoyed with their Kilkian friends.

Meeting Compagno

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in sequence.

The first battlefield was The Battle for the Mind.  Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, Adrift, Self Sacrifice, Crash DownThe Lake HouseDancing with Egopods, Lunch with Aliens and Kilkian Alignment

The second battlefield is The Battle of the Hands, Here are the previous episodes in this battlefield Learning to See and Maintaining Common Sense.  Today we get the Episode 23 or third episode of the second battlefield.

 

Meeting Compagno

They continued moving across the floor of the valley until they found the original settlement. This allowed them to explore and look for items which might help them at the lake house when they returned.

One building though they both felt was too dangerous to enter. Even though they were not sure why. They decided nothing in there could be so valuable to make it worth overriding the sense of danger they felt. They did ask Colofer if she knew what it was that made them feel so uneasy. She explained the building had explosives from the mining operations. Those explosives had aged to the point of being unstable. If they opened the door, the breeze, the change of pressure or the sunlight might well set it off, blowing the entire settlement sky high.

They spoke about whether this had been the feeling they were following. But it wasn’t. So they moved a safe distance out of town and set up camp again. Both looked around carefully before setting up their tents. Colofer watched with satisfaction. The next morning Jamison felt all the more urgency to get across the valley and find the source of what was calling him. So they hastened their breakfast and headed in that direction. Shortly they stopped on the edge of a tree line watching a man in a mining operation just above them on the hillside.

He had brought in a private ship, with sophisticated equipment to withdraw minerals out of the planet. Almost certainly the operation was illegal, but even if he had secured the rights to do this mining, prospectors were notorious for being wary of claim jumpers.

“This is why we had felt the sudden danger two days ago. He was watching us from somewhere nearby and had considered killing us.” Jamison spoke out loud as the surprising realization came to him. “But why did I need to travel out here and talk to this man? Even now I feel for certain I must get up there and somehow meet him without getting my head blown off.”

Colofer answered, “You want to speak with him because our king is asking you to do so. One of the important lessons you must learn is how to discern what assignments the king is giving you. For you, Jamison, this is one of the most important assignments. Telling others about the king.”

Jamison watched the man going about his business for several long minutes. He would work for a while, then he would put his hand on his side arm and scan the surrounding terrain. After reassuring himself, he would return to work for a while before repeating his routine.

Jamison glanced sideways at Chambers and said, “I will be back as soon as I can.”

“We will be back as soon as we can.” She corrected.

He gave her a nod and the two of them walked out of the tree line and into a clearing. Here Jamison signaled Chambers to stop. They waited until the man did his next scan. When he looked their way they both waved their arms to get his attention. Jamison found the hair on the back of his neck standing up when the man pulled his weapon with one hand while motioning them away with the other.

Jamison did not go away, nor did he draw his own weapon. Instead he waved the man to come down to where they were. The man hesitated only a second, but then he put his operations on hold and started down the mountain. He didn’t put the weapon back into his holster. He carried it at the ready the whole way down.

This caused Jamison and Chambers both to feel the presence of danger. But in addition to that they felt a slight emotional tug, kind of like a Dibolocos was coming toward them. Jamison decided this must be what it felt like to meet someone under Dibolocos control. He determined it must be the passive version, first because it was very subtle. But more importantly he figured if it was active control the king never would have asked him to meet the man.

“Hello.” He called out as the man got close enough to talk with. He hoped he sounded friendly. He felt a bit of relief when the man switched his weapon to his left hand and extended the right for a handshake. Jamison took the hand gladly. Then the man extended his hand to Chambers in a similar way. But when Chambers shook his hand he snatched her back toward him and attempted to hold her, hostage style.

He had not counted on Chambers being a trained officer in the CDF though and she rather easily deflected the attempt. A moment later the man was on the ground with his weapon several feet away and both Jamison and Chambers had their weapons aimed at his head. His eyes were wide and sweat was soaking his hair and clothing. Jamison did not need any special training to know this man thought he was about to die.

After holstering his own weapon he picked up the man’s gun and put the safety on. Then he handed it back to the man. The man sat up, received it and put it back in its own holster. Only then did Chambers lower her own weapon.

The man stood up and said lightheartedly, “So does this mean I am going to live to see another day.”

“Well, not necessarily,” Jamison answered, matching the man’s tone, “but it does mean if there is a fight we would rather fight with you than against you. Shall we try this again, my name is Jamison, and this is Chambers.”

“Glad to meet you, my name is Compagno. If you guys are not claim jumpers then what are you doing here?”

“We crash landed on this planet in an escape pod after our ship was blown up by pirates.”

Compagno nodded and said, “I see.”

Jamison ventured an educated guess and stated, “But you knew that didn’t you. You were here and monitored our emergency beacon as we approached. You have been trying to figure out ever since whether to kill us to hide your illegal mining.”

“Well. If you knew all that, why did you give me my weapon back.”

“We will do better as friendly neighbors than as mortal enemies.”

“Okay, neighbor. But why did you choose to come calling today?”

“I felt compelled to talk to you once I figured out you were here. The colonies are falling apart. The Kilkian and Dibolocos discovery has undermined our society. If we don’t restore society we will cease to exist as a people, we are already in the process of destroying each other.”

“True enough. Legitimate business seems to be a thing of the past. We are trapped in this mess. But in the long run what can we do about it?”

From this point Jamison explained his own journey. He spoke of the things he had learned about the Kilkians and their king. When he was done Compagno made a commitment to the king in the same way Jamison and Chambers had. They invited him to come down to the tree line and meet Colofer and Colofen. When they arrived they were all surprised to see three kilkians instead of two. The new Kilkian introduced himself as Coloban, He was going to be the one responsible for helping Compagno in his journey to serve the king. Just like Jamison and Chambers, Compagno had a special purpose in the king’s plan.

Learning to See

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in sequence.

The first battlefield was The Battle for the Mind.  Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, Adrift, Self Sacrifice, Crash DownThe Lake HouseDancing with Egopods, Lunch with Aliens and Kilkian Alignment

The second battlefield is The Battle of the Hands. What follows is the first episode of this battle.

 

The next day they had a quick breakfast together. Colofen left early, while Colofer stayed behind and gave them instructions. They were to prepare themselves carefully for a day in the forest. They should dress, equip themselves and arm themselves just as if they would be in the woods without the assistance of the Kilkians. In the future, they were instructed, they should always be careful to stay ready and prepared for their day. Any point of carelessness would likely be noticed by the Dibolocos.

So they put on their travel gear, checked batteries in their scanners and weapons, and moved out to the countryside. Colofer lead the two around the lake, up a slight rise and into a meadow. It was a spot they had not seen before and it was very pleasant. Wildflowers scented the air, the sun warmed them and a gentle breeze cooled them. With the break in the trees they were able to see the mountains rising up on the one side, with much of the valley falling off in the other direction.

When they reached the middle of the meadow, she stopped them and asked, “Are you enjoying the day?”

“Yes, actually, it’s a beautiful day. The wildflowers across this meadow are gorgeous.” Chamber’s eyes lit up, as she did a light-hearted spin. Jamison enjoyed watching her as she lost herself in the moment.

“Are you still alert to possible dangers, or have these enjoyments distracted you?”

Something about the question spurred at Jamison, making him scan the grassy ground, tree line and sky.

Chambers laughed, “I am enjoying the day, but I am still paying attention.”

“You walked within 50 feet of an egopod on the way here. It saw you, did you see it?”

Chambers paled slightly and became much more focused.

Colofer continued, “In your training we want to help you to learn how to always recognize dangers of any form. You will have the ability to sense certain things, even if you cannot see them. One of our primary goals is to train you to know by this perception, when a Kilkian is nearby, when a person is truly aligned with the Kilkian King, when a Dibolocos is nearby and when a person is passively or actively aligned with the Dibolocos.”

“Actively or passively?” Jamison asked.

“A person who has intentionally aligned themselves with the Dibolocos as an act of will is actively aligned. A person who has never made a choice to align with the Dibolocos but has also not aligned with the Kilkian King is passively aligned with the Dibolocos. A person who is passively aligned is controlled and manipulated by the Dibolocos almost as easily as someone who is actively aligned.”

Jamison thought of how he had played into the hands of Lobokidos. He was easily subdued and forced to do things he hated, and would regret for the rest of his life. Looking back over his time as a pirate he found it easy to see where he was under Dibolocos control. Even when he was on ship with Colofer, after his rescue, his decisions did not feel like they were entirely his own.

“Once you have raised your perceptions to be able to handle these tasks we will train you to also sense any other danger such as the egopod watching us from the forest edge.”

Hearing the egopod was that close put Jamison on edge, and he was nervously scanning the tree line, but had not seen the creature. He pulled out his weapon and double checked the setting to be sure it was turned to the setting he wanted, the one that would create a small explosion.

“Don’t kill it. He will not attempt to harm us. Later when we get to the more advanced training we will make use of his inquisitive nature to help in your training. But let’s start with easier lessons first.”

“First lesson is to be able to detect when a Kilkian is nearby. And of course I am right here beside you. But Colofen is also nearby, who can tell me where he is first?”

Jamison began straining his eyes at the trees all the more closely, watching for a flash of blue. And attempting to win the contest with Chambers. After a few minutes he was still clueless so he began trying other things like listening or smelling the air. As he tried all of these techniques he made larger and larger concentric circles in the grass. Eventually feeling like he was wasting his time, he noticed both Chambers and Colofer were watching him.

“Chambers found him first.” Colofer explained, “He is right here. With that announcement Colofen materialized alongside Chambers.

“You guys can be invisible?” The realization struck Jamison with surprise. He felt a little bit like the two aliens had been cheating. But since Chambers had found Colofen, apparently it was possible, although he didn’t understand how.

“Jamison, there are two reasons you did not find him, despite having walked within inches of him at one point. First you only tried to perceive him through the five senses of humanity, these senses are not the way that we wish to train you to perceive us. The second reason is your emotional state was clouded while you were trying. First it was your competitive nature trying to win a contest, after that it was a fear you would fail. Fear and pride will block your perception, dulling your ability to feel. It is important to be a person of courage to master these emotions.”

Colofen disappeared again, and Colofer instructed them to try again. Jamison watched dumbfounded as Chambers walked straight to the new spot. He had no idea. They tried this exercise several times over, with Chambers instructed to not reveal the location, Colofer would know by reading her thoughts. But the repetitious exercise felt like an exercise in futility to Jamison.

After a while Colofer had Chambers and Colofen move on to the next level of training and they headed off together to higher slopes on the mountain. This left Colofer and Jamison to continue working in the meadow, trying to get Jamison to make his first find. Jamison had begun to think they were all pulling a practical joke on him.

“The reason you have not found me is you cannot read your own emotions. You were trained as a sniper to suppress them. This is useful in some ways, but in addition to maintaining emotional control, I want to teach you to perceive and understand your emotions as they arise. Once you can read your emotions you will be able to learn which ones come from some aspect of your alignment with our king. Sometimes it will be the presence of a friend, sometimes the presence of an enemy or a danger. Other times it will be the king asking you to take on a specific task.

“For now I am going to ask you to clear your mind, close your eyes and think of nothing but your feelings. Meanwhile I will transport myself into and out of a spot right beside you. You will feel a change in your feelings when I pop in or out. Think to yourself here or gone whichever you think I am at the moment and this will be your first step to knowing how to read your emotions.”

Jamison did as he was told and tried to focus on perceiving the changes. But he perceived nothing and began to get frustrated again. Remembering her warning that negative emotions would block his ability, he worked to calm the feeling and when he did he felt something change. Then change again. “Is that it?” he thought.

“Yes that is it.” Colofer answered into his mind.

It came again and he thought, “Here”

“Very good”

“Gone”

“Yes, I just left.”

Jamison worked hard to tune in to the change of feeling. And with several repetitions it became easier to perceive. Then suddenly it hit home so strongly that he was tempted to step backwards like you would do if someone had walked up into your personal space. This was the first time he had been able to perceive a general direction and distance. They continued the exercises till midday and then returned to the lake house.

Jamison and Chambers talked about what they had accomplished. While Jamison was able to perceive Colofer or Colofen from about ten feet away, Chambers was already able to perceive both of them at the same time in different places from several miles away. Her perception of Kilkian presence was already close to maxing out.

Adrift

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, and Defensive Position. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in order.

 

Floating through space waiting for the rations to run out was hard on Chambers. Jamison could see that. He watched her suffer with the stress of impending death. He found it impossible to explain to her why he took it so well. For him this situation was better than his previous. Both of them were reconciled to death at some level, but with Jamison it was compared to the life of a pirate slave. For Chambers it was the life of a successful and quickly rising military officer.

If Chambers had not gotten on the pod, she would have been destroyed in the explosion. Jamison was pretty sure Lobokidos destroyed the ship because his away teams had all been killed in the process of trying to capture it. So both of them looked on every day as a gift. And both of them looked on every day as another step toward a slow death, lost in space.

But the pod was well equipped. It could support eight people for a month. So it should be able to support the two of them for about four months. The difference was at some deep level Chambers craved survival, while the last couple of months had worked a desire to die into Jamison. This difference was a point of wonder for both of them, and besides, what else did they have to do but talk?

Jamison had considered romancing her. It would not be easy because she still made him think of Jenny. But the real clincher was she had no visible interest in him, so he gave up on the idea.

In the course of conversation, everything came up eventually, so he told her about Jenny. He concluded by saying, “I guess she probably did sell me into slavery. I hope she got a good price.”

This made Chambers laugh. “Well it’s nice of you to want the best for your sister like that.” Her tone changed, “But I doubt she was paid anything. With the Dibolocos, life is cheap, and short. If she was paid with anything more than the promise of another day’s survival, it would be more than I expect.”

“Don’t you mean life is cheap ever since the Kilkians revealed themselves to us? They dragged us into a war we can’t fight on any level. The Kilkians and the Dibolocos must mark their victories by whoever kills more of us.” Jamison was still blaming the Kilkians for everything that had happened.

“Kilkian’s killing humans?” The sound of Chamber’s voice checked Jamison’s attitude. “Have you ever seen a Kilkian kill anyone? You are one of the few who have seen both with your own eyes, what did you observe of their behavior? Can’t you see how different they are?”

Jamison didn’t like being chastised. He had made up his mind about the Kilkians and he didn’t want to change his opinions. But still her question nagged at him. They changed the subject but Jamison’s mind failed to drop the question.

That night he dreamed about the Dibolocos killing the man on the ship returning from the rescue. It was a Kilkian that brought a ship to rescue him, it was a Dibolocos that had done the killing, and it was Kilkians that had defended of the humans on board. Above all that he thought about someone screaming “No!” during the attack. Someone who had been deeply distraught at the death of the rescued human.

He had never realized it before, perhaps never allowed himself to think of it. It was Captain Colofer’s voice. She was the one who had cared so deeply for the humans. By the next morning when both of them were fully awake, Jamison knew he needed to reconsider everything he had thought and felt since his rescue.

His conversations with Chambers took on a deeper tone. One day about a month into their drift she admitted to him she had aligned herself with the Kilkians. A week before he would have been sent into a rage by this news. But now he considered it carefully. She testified that she had found them to be good in every way. They treated humans well, only the Dibolocos enslaved and killed. The Kilkians considered saving lives their point of victory, rather than taking them.

Jamison also noticed a change in himself. He had started this journey a ruffian. A ruffian in mutiny to his pirate captain, but a ruffian none the less. Now he was beginning to rediscover himself. He wanted to be valiant; he wanted to be virtuous.

Chambers continued teaching him about the ways of the Kilkians, and she said something he remembered Captain Colofer saying. “Choosing to not align with either, is the same as aligning yourself with the Dibolocos.” He believed this. He believed he had become like the Dibolocos.

His desire to die was changing. If he could not be good he wanted to die. He had no use for the version of himself which acted like a Dibolocos, murdering and plundering. But if he could find a way, he would put that part of himself and his past to death. Then he could embrace a new life embracing the values of a Kilkian He wanted to be noble, free, and brave.