Of Gods and Men

China @1041 AD

Bi Shang scooped a handful of sticky clay and set it on a wooden sideboard. Using sharpened sticks, he pulled off sections, and with sure and steady hands, shaped each piece into thin edged characters. Bending low, his eyebrows furrowed over the intense work, but a lilting hum escaped his lips.

A thin, young man draped in flowing pantaloons and a loose, grey tunic shuffled into the bright room, keeping close to the wall. His large eyes followed the older man with wide-eyed curiosity. “What’re you doing?”

Undisturbed, Bi Shang arranged each character on an iron baking tray. When the tray was full, he straightened and rubbed his back with one hand. With the other, he beckoned. “Come, Jian.”

Jian stepped forward, tilting his head to see better.

“I’m preserving human intelligence.”

Jian’s eyes narrowed. “My intelligence?”

With a chuckle, Bi Shang snatched a piece of wood from a basket and laid it carefully on a pile of glowing embers in a bake oven embedded in the wall. “Hmm. Yours and your children’s as well.”

Snorting, Jian waved the thought away. “You’re teasing.”

As the flickering flames grew, Bi Shang lifted a rack from the floor and placed it inside the oven. He grabbed a bowl of water and sprinkled the flames, taming them into smoky heat.

The boy’s eyes widened again. “But why—?”

“Because, this is delicate work, and I don’t want my characters to go up in flames.” Satisfied, Bi Shang carefully laid the tray on the rack over the radiant heat. With a contented sigh, he bent low and pointed. “See those shapes?”

Jian nodded.

“They represent the thoughts of men across the world.” His eyes twinkled. “And when we put many thoughts together—we shape both men and world.”

An angry pout formed on Jian’s lips. “You only tell me such stories because I’m small for my age.”

With a gentle hand, Bi Shang squeezed the boy’s shoulder. “On the contrary. I’m sharing great power with you. When my characters bake hard and strong, I’ll set them out for the world to read and ponder. Thoughts grow upon thoughts, and our people will know what wise men of the world believed.”

Stretching forth a tentative finger, Jian touched the clay and rubbed it between his fingers.

Tapping the boy’s arm, Bi Shang grinned. “Someday, if you watch and learn, you’ll know the thoughts of many and share your thoughts with the universe—wisdom to last beyond human sight.”

“Forever?” Jian squinted as if trying to see the edge of unlimited eons. “My thoughts are like the wind.” His gaze fell to the dusty floor. “And can sometimes be evil.”

Bi Shang stroked his face. “You are more honest than most.” Returning to his work, he turned his back to the boy. “Evil thoughts can teach us, too.” He glanced over his shoulder. “For none are barred from their embrace.” He sighed. “Though the wind sometimes uproots the old, it also carries in invigorating air.”

Jian shook his head, a worried frown etched across his forehead. “Such a power is for the gods and their anointed.”

Bi Shang nodded as he lifted his sharp sticks and began to shape a new character. He bent over his work in silent intensity.

Jian shuffled toward the door.

After placing new characters on a fresh tray, Bi Shang lifted his finger. “Before you leave, look at these.” He beckoned Jian forward.

Returning, Jian bent over the iron tray. A new light entered his eyes.”What do they mean?”

“Free—Spirit.” Bi Shang fixed his gaze on the boy. “We choose what we believe.”

Jian nodded, his bright eyes fastened on the figures. “Of gods and men.”

~~~

Sterling, a Luxonian disguised in the rough garb of a Chinese peasant, slapped a mosquito on his arm and frowned at the sight of blood. “Damn insects. Stupid humans! I’m so bored I could—”

“Sir?” Teal, a younger Luxonian dressed in a matching style, stepped out from behind a bush. He nodded toward a tree. “If you need to use—uh—want a little privacy—”

“I’d rather disintegrate.”

Smothering a smile as he rubbed a hand across his face, Teal nodded respectfully. “I doubt that’ll be necessary.” He started toward a sloping hill crowned with a copse of woods. “Though you did have five cups of tea.”

Laboring alongside his companion, Sterling blew air between his lips. “I keep thinking these new world voyages will stimulate me—invigorate my lagging spirit. But instead, everything is so blasted uncomfortable—it’s either hot and humid or dry and cold.” He tugged at his collar. “These ridiculous clothes scratch unmercifully, and the insect life—”

Teal huffed as he neared the crest. “But you enjoyed the tea and cakes—don’t deny it. And, you must admit, watching humans’ first foray into printing was rather fascinating.” With eager steps, he entered the woods.

Sterling tripped and grabbed a branch for balance. “I hate hiding in dark corners. And I’d hardly call a grown man attempting to convince a pathetic child that his clay characters imply a universal achievement—fascinating.” He snapped the twig off the tree and pounded further into the dense woods. “Really, I wonder if becoming a judge is worth all the risk.”

Yelping, Teal stopped and leaned against a tree. He dug a stone out of his sandal. “You have to understand the various life forms in your jurisdiction. How else will you make fair assessments?”

Sterling shuffled from one foot to another, his frown deepening. “I understand that. I just don’t like all the needless hardship. Why couldn’t I have been offered a position on Helm? Shapeshifters have much better sensibilities.” He swallowed and his face flushed. “I can’t stand it.”

Teal glanced around. “We’re safe here. Go ahead—return to Luxonian form.”

“No time!” Sterling rushed behind a tree.

Teal snatched a nut from a tree and studied it thoughtfully, ignoring Sterling’s long, shuddering sigh.

Wandering like a man lost in a dream, Sterling circled toward Teal. “I never imagined such relief—”

Teal pushed away from the trunk. “If you’re ready, we should make our report. Do a good job, and you’ll make a Supreme Judge someday.” He grinned. “As guardian, I’ll always be here to help.”

Sterling threw up his hands in renewed anguish. “But I haven’t got anything to report! It’s all so inconsequential.”

A brooding frown spread across Teal’s face. “Open your mind.” Teal strode closer and looked Sterling in the eyes. “Think about what you’ve seen—all of humanity’s challenges. They suffer from their corporeal bodies and their primitive living conditions—yet they manage to invent new ways to express themselves and preserve knowledge. They work hard, practice discipline and patience, endure pain and, yes, enjoy relief. And, from the look on the young man’s face, they also know ecstatic joy.” He waved his hands as if to encompass the entire planet. “I’d say that was consequential.”

Sterling peered up at the bright sky filtered between the leafy branches. “Perhaps you’re right.” He grinned as he leveled his gaze at Teal. “Supreme Judge, eh?” He glanced around, his smile fading. “Only if I survive.”

 

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

We Could Cry

From Melchior—The Gift of Kings

Frozen to the core, Melchior sat slouch-shouldered at the table; tendrils of steam from his venison stew rose before him. He took a tentative sip and burned his tongue.

Gideon hurried into the hall, his arms swinging at his side, a smile radiating from his face. “Father! Good news!”

Melchior pursed his lips.

Settling next to his father on the bench, Gideon peered from the old man to the stew and grinned. Lifting the bowl, he blew away the steam. After a few hearty puffs, he placed the bowl before his father with a flourish. “You’re right. God takes care of everything!”

“Not always.”

Gideon shook his head. “Well, this time. Wilfred told the Prince about the church, and guess what? You can’t imagine.”

“Probably not.”

“The prince offered to support the building. He even gave me gold to show his sincerity.” Gideon drew out a bag and poured heavy coins onto the table. “Prince Omar believes that the church must be free to serve God without a king’s influence. He’s going to persuade his father to visit, too.”

Melchior swallowed as he envisioned an entourage of foreign kings arriving at his humble abode. “Father Caedmon named you rightly. You’re a warrior meant to spread the word of God, but with a pen, not a sword.” Melchior’s frown returned. “What about studying in Rome?”

Gideon’s eyes glowed. “Perhaps I don’t need to go. With good scholars, we can teach here. Men might come from all over the world to see what we have preserved, what we have remembered…for the glory of God.”

Melchior sighed as images of ruins, mud-caked roads, and ignorant men rose in his mind.

Gideon grasped his father’s cold, feeble hand. “You see. It’s a miracle! And through the help of a foreign king!”

Melchior’s blank stare through red-rimmed eyes proclaimed what he did not see.

“Your father named you Melchior after a foreign king who served God through a gift of gold. This time it will be a king’s son, but a king’s power nonetheless, who serves God through a gift of gold.” Gideon clapped his hands together. “What a wonderful sense of humor God has!”

Melchior sat motionlessly. His stew was quite cool by now. He swallowed and remembered his father’s gentle face as he peered up at him, sitting on the old man’s knee as a boy.

 “Never give up, Melchior, for God is never outdone in generosity. His strength reaches to men—through men. God never abandons His own.”

Pushing his stew to the side, Melchior stared at his happy son. The tears that slipped down his cheeks warmed his face.

~~~

A silent, invisible being sat at the far end of the table, entranced. Omega itched to take on human form, but he knew the rules. Mother had explained observations techniques very carefully, and Abbas had outlined the horrors of alien exposure in vivid detail. If he wanted a world of his own someday, he must study hard and not take risks.

Appearing as nothing more than a flicker of wind, Omega rose from the table, circled around the old man, and bent low to examine the tears. Awesome things—tears. Fearing spontaneous combustion from sheer exuberance, Omega returned to his own world.

~~~

Bright flames flickered over huge logs set into a fireplace large enough to roast a full-grown ox. Lush tapestries and rich oil paintings adorned the lofty walls while heavy wooden trestle tables lined the perimeter.

Appearing as an elderly human in a long robe, wearing a red skull cap, Abbas reclined on an ornate couch with enough pillows to satisfy a Greek god. Studying a painting—the Mona Lisa—propped on a stand at his side, he tapped his fingers against his lips, a minor scowl etched across his brow.

Omega strode into the great hall, bent and kissed his father on the forehead, and tilted his head at the Mona Lisa. “Figure her out yet?”

Abbas rose and waved a languid hand. “She’s not half as interesting as the men who find her fascinating.” Abbas pointed to the painting. “Do you know that Leonardo—the artist—painted her to represent the ideal of happiness?”

A grin played on Omega’s lips. “He’s quite wrong. I believe I’ve discovered ideal happiness—in tears.”

In a fluid motion, Abbas rose and strode to a side table filled with golden goblets and a carafe of pink liquid. “Been to Earth again—have we?” He poured healthy dashes into goblets and handed one to his son. “You realize that we have to find our own medium of happiness—each and every day. It’s not something one discovers once and for all.” He took a smooth sip, eyeing his son over the rim.

In one gulp, Omega downed his drink and tossed the goblet into the fire.

His father frowned.

Flopping onto the couch, Omega crossed his legs and leaned back. He closed his eyes. “I watched a young man turn his father from agony to ecstasy with mere words. He spoke of God as if he knew Him personally, and he drew hope from despair. The old man’s tears redeemed him.” Jumping to his feet, Omega crossed the room and poured himself another drink. “I find that fascinating—even though I hardly understood a word he said.” He gulped down the second drink as quickly as the first, but before he could throw the goblet, his father snatched it from his hand.

“You’re a child, Omega, fascinated by new experiences.” He placed the goblet back on the table. “Even though we have power—we must not waste it. You are too hasty. You—”

“But that’s why they fascinate me! They are creatures of passion and intellect, yet as far below us as their amphibians are below them. But still, they make such music, such poetry—” He swung around and pointed at the Mona Lisa. “Such glorious art! It resonates within me.”

Abbas lifted the painting off the stand and placed it securely between two masterpieces on the wall. His frown deepened.

“Ay, father! Do you think that perhaps they’re right? Maybe they were created by the same God—and that’s why—”

“Don’t forget yourself! You were sent to study—not to emulate—aliens. We worship no gods—or beings—beyond ourselves. That’s how we became so powerful. We’re the best the universe has to offer.”

Turning to the fire and running his fingers through the flames, Omega chuckled. “Yes, father. That’s why we copy their paintings, eat their food, sit at their tables, live in their castles, and wear their skins. We study them—” His smile faded. “And wish we could cry.”

 

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00 

Impossible Beings

Rome 450 AD

As Lidia plopped her hands into a heavy clay bowl of flour, a dusty spray plumed into the air, casting a million specks into the sunlight slanting across the room from a high rectangular window.

Her daughter, Marcia, stared up enchanted. Her lips parted in a soft smile, while her eyes danced in rhythm to the twirling, sparking mini-universe spreading wide throughout the kitchen. Her voice dropped to a reverent whisper. “Papa says the world goes on forever—is that true?”

After thoroughly dusting a ball of dough, Lidia pressed it flat on the kneading trough. She grunted, her eyes on her work, but her gaze turned inward. “Your father says a great many things—some he oughtn’t.” She flipped the dough over and shrugged. Her focus cleared, and she spared a glance at the little girl. “You know how he is.”

Laying an open palm on the table, Marcia waited in hopeful expectation.

With a snort, Lidia ripped off a hunk and dropped it into the child’s hands. “Don’t knead it too much, remember. The soldiers return today—by the gods’ mercy—and he’ll enjoy a nice soft bread for a change.”

Marcia eased her fingers onto the pliant dough and allowed her hands to undulate like deep-sea fronds waving in a gentle current. A studious frown etched across her brow. “Will he stay long this time?”

Placing the shaped dough onto a baking tray, Lidia wiped the excess flour from the edges. “These are ruinous time for soldiers and high born alike. Rome has lost her footing, and the gods are not pleased. Invaders break in the front door while useless slaves run out the back.”

“But Papa says that Rome is invincible. We dare the impossible”

Lidia shoved a smaller tray in front of her daughter and watched her lay the dough straight. A flicker of a smile swept across her face and just as quickly vanished. She retreated to a large oven set in the back wall and slid the two trays on a shelf. Clapping the dust from her hands, she jutted her chin in the direction of a pail of water. “Wash up and go outside now. Keep an eye out for Papa.”

Marcia dunked her hands in the cold water and scrubbed away the shreds of sticky dough. After rinsing twice, she patted her hands dry and held them up for her mother’s inspection. “We are invincible—aren’t we?”

Bending with her hands on her thighs, Lidia fixed her daughter in the eye. “Truth is, no one born of woman is invincible. Only the gods be invincible—and even they suffer loss and death.” She straightened and washed her hands, splashing drops on the dusty floor. “We dare the impossible—true—while we may.” She nodded to the threshold leading to a garden path. “But don’t worry your father with such notions. He’s suffered on every side, and I won’t have him lose his faith as well.”

Marcia’s gaze wandered back to the sunlit kitchen. The sparking universe had disappeared into shadows. She blinked and set her jaw. The entire Roman world might crumble—but a miniature universe floated in hidden mystery all around her—if only she dared the impossible.

~~~

Planet Helm—Bhuaci Capitol

 *Bhuaci are a gelatinous race that can mold themselves into the likeness of a variety of races, both sentient and not. Bhuaci are often called the perfect race as they often mold themselves to the physical ideal of any race they encounter.

Sitting at a large ornate desk with a highly decorated border, Crimson dipped her quill in ink, wrote a long scrawling line, and grinned at the result.

A cherubic boy with a dimple in each cheek, golden curls, and twirling a blooming forsythia branch stopped before the red-hued, lanky Bhuaci beauty and grinned. “What ‘cha doing?”

Crimson peered from her parchment to the childish form in front of her and snarled. “Get away from me you—absurdity.”

The cherub’s eyes gleamed in anything-but-innocent delight. He swept his dainty fingers down his fulsome figure. “Don’t you like it? You’re always telling me to get a new look. Well, cherubs happen to be all the rage these days.”

Crimson let her pen fall from her fingers as her eyes widened in disgust. Her snarl morphed into a snort. “You always traipse after the newest fashion—never really live in any form—just change to keep up with the crowd.” Retrieving her pen, she punctuated the air. “You’d take an insect shape on a dare—and get stepped on before the day was out.”

The Cherub’s eyes glimmered and narrowed as his body grew, adding weight, muscle, color, and masculinity. Now towering above the Bhuaci female as a gleaming warrior wearing a sleeveless tunic—every fiber of his perfect form, from his deep-set blue, determined chin, squared shoulders, barrel chest, and muscular legs screamed classic male beauty.

Crimson titled her head and considered the specimen before her. She sniffed. “You might have hit on something this time, Kane.” Her mouth twitched. “Let’s see how long it lasts.”

Kane sauntered to the high desk and leaned over Crimson’s shoulder. “You never answered my question.”

With a plaintive sigh, Crimson picked up her pen and dipped it in the inkpot. “I’m trying to work—if you don’t mind.”

“With a feather?”

“It’s a quill, idiot.” Crimson pointed to a sign over the door. “Record’s office—remember? I transcribe ships’ logs. Today I have to transcribe Longjur’s hasty notes and send them—”

A blush crept over Kane’s face. “Longjur? He’s been observing Earth—right?”

“Yep, and by the Divide, he has a lot to say! Mostly it’s as boring as watching a cactus grow in the dry season. But this part—”

Kane’s gaze scanned the nearly empty page. “Where?”

Crimson frowned. “Well, I was just getting to it when you interrupted. I have it here.” She tapped a panel embedded in the desk. “But I’m making a formal copy for the Kestrel Committee. I thought ink on parchment would do nicely to reflect the culture and add a bit of authenticity and charm. They’ll look it over before making recommendations—”

Kane shook his head. “Forget all that! What did he say? Is he going back?”

Crimson slapped her cheek and rolled her eyes. “He went on and on about silly details—Emperors and warriors and their never-ending battles, women and men sweating in the hot sun and toiling for their food, and the most ignorant ceremonies I’ve ever heard of! But, there was one point of interest…” She checked her notes, running her finger along the lines. “About a little girl, sunlight, and a hidden—”

Kane groaned, his shoulders sagging. “I want to go there—someday.” He shrugged. “It’s why I take on so many forms—for practice. I’d love to explore that system. Humanoids seem so—impossible.” He peered down at Crimson and their eyes met. “You know what I mean?”

Crimson tapped the panel, a lopsided smile wavering on her lips. “Don’t despair. You must have read Longjur’s mind. He said that exact thing—and I quote: ‘They are impossible beings, yet they bring their faith to fruition.’”

Kane leaned in and stared deep into Crimson’s eyes. “So, you think I might go—”

Crimson chuckled and returned to her work. “You’d fit right in.”

~~~

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Photo https://www.pexels.com/search/fantasy%20specks%20in%20air/

Vision

From OldEarth Georgios Encounter

Coming 2018…

Isle of Patmos Circa 100 AD

Georgios stood by Lysander, staring glassy-eyed and mute at the grizzly scene. How could this have happened?

Bleeding and exhausted, Rueben lay on the hard ground and peered at the man lying prostrate beside him, a man he knew he should hate. “You had a son, Armond, but death is not the end.”

Armand’s eyes fluttered as the blazing sun beat on him. “Fathers don’t kill their sons…there is no name for me.” He glanced around wildly, blindly. “Georgios…I would’ve made you mine.” Armand’s head slumped to the side, his eyes unseeing.

Georgios fell to his knees and clutched Rueben’s arm.

Rueben shuddered each labored breath, his gaze flowed over Georgios like an evening tide over the shore.

His vision blurring, Georgio pressed a ragged cloth against Rueben’s seeping wound. “No, Rueben, you shall not die! Armand deserves death but you must live. That God you believe in—He’ll help us or He’s worth nothing at all!”

Rueben sucked air into his lungs and forced his eyes open. “I’m not dead yet…but I won’t live much longer. Our days are not like pieces of gold, Georgios. We can’t horde them.”

Tears trickled down Georgios’ face. “You’re supposed to help me. I need you.”

Rueben choked on an abrupt laugh. “There is not a man on earth that I wouldn’t help…if I could.” His gaze wandered to the lifeless body. “May he rest in peace.”

Lysander stepped to Georgios’ side and peered at Rueben. He snorted. “Rest in peace? He killed that woman over there, he tried to kill you, and he tried to kill me! Who knows how many others he murdered or would have murdered if given the chance? He even killed his own son! You cannot pray for him. May his soul burn in Hades!”

Rueben’s gaze lifted to the bright sky. “But he did not make me hate him.”

Georgios turned, his eyes searched the immediate vicinity. “There’s a house around here somewhere. We’ll get help and save you, Rueben.”

“I’ll go.” Lysander turned and sprinted away.

Georgios clutched Rueben in his arms, pressing a cloth against the open wound. He closed his mind to the bodies off to the side. Like a mother rocking her child, Georgios hummed a tune his mother used to sing at bedtime.

Rueben closed his eyes.

A lump swelled in Georgios’ throat and choked off all sound, but a thought rose clear and strong.  I’ll never leave you again.

~~~

Song grieved. Her inner being shuddered at the sight before her, yet she dared to exhale the consummate loss and inhale a prayer of hope. If a young human could peer into the mystery of Providence, could not she, a being of vastly greater years and experience, trust in that which is unseen?

In her form as a native spider, she crawled around a boulder and made her way down the winding path. In a sheltered spot, she shape-shifted into a peasant girl. Plucking a wayside flower, she strolled down the hillside to the shore and waited. Her ship would not arrive until darkness enveloped the land.

Rueben’s words, “He did not make me hate him.” rang in her ears. Her entire planet had suffered from the loss of a sister planet, and now she and most of her people were exiled to the outer universe, searching for new hope among ancient worlds. Was she defeated?

Rocking on her haunches, Song twirled the fading flower in her fingers.

~~~

The eastern hemisphere lay in blackness as thick clouds covered the sliver of a moon. Before Song’s eyes, the sea bubbled and foamed in sudden action as a rounded, black form emerged from the surface just offshore. Her ship lifted dripping and glimmering in her sight. She smiled and rose.

A long mechanical arm arched from the ship and lay flat before her feet like a slave, offering obeisance before its mistress.

Song stepped forward, her bare feet tingling at the sensation of warm water and cold metal. When the door opened, a shaft of light nearly blinded her, but she continued her ascent into the interior of the ship.

Within seconds, the door closed, the arm folded, and the ship sank into the depths of the sea, only to emerge leagues away in the center of an ocean no human had yet explored.

Song slipped onto a lounge chair and folded her legs under her. A tall elven-looking male with green eyes and black, curly hair sauntered forward with a crystal glass in his hand. With a stiff bow, he passed it to Song, his grim gaze appearing to penetrate her human form.

“Everything went well?”

After sipping the honey-colored liquid, Song motioned to the seat before her. “Please, no formalities, Romtov. I’m too exhausted to play Queen today.”

Perching on the edge of a lush divan, Romtov clasped his hands in his lap. “I’d help you…if I could.”

Swinging her legs over the edge of the chair, Song righted herself and hunched forward. She laid the glass aside. “I no longer despair.”

Romtov peered intently into her eyes and waited.

She rose and stepped over to the oblong observation window. Earth’s western hemisphere glowed in the light of the sun’s rays. “There is beauty in simplicity, yet it has taken the complexity of space travel, invasion, and encountering new worlds to remind me that hope lies—not in the conquering of evil—but in the admittance of grace.”

“You’ve had a vision. I see it in your eyes.”

Song turned and a smile warmed her face. “Yes, but it will be a long time to fruition.” She tapped the window. “One day, this planet will become home to our people…home to many peoples. Humanity has no idea that we exist, but like a couple that knew nothing of each other while in the cradle but yet grew to intertwine so close as to become one—so the human race will embrace the larger universe. We shall become one. Beyond hate and despair lies hope for us all.”

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Beyond Primitive Need

 

Excerpt from OldEarth Georgios Encounter

Coming in 2018…

100 AD

As they traveled the coast toward Olympia and across the sea to Syracuse, Georgios adapted to the sweep of the ship’s movement, lifting and carrying cumbersome boxes and coiling up thick, snake-like ropes that would trip his feet if he was not careful, rolling heavy tarp—things he would never have done back home. He smiled at the thought of his grandparents seeing him now. He could fold a heavy canvas better than he could have managed a blanket back home or toss a knife, hitting a post at a distance that would have amazed his own father.

A frown etched across his forehead. Perhaps his father would return unexpectedly, and they would spend the rest of their lives looking for each other. With a sigh, he surveyed his new world again, and his anxiety vanished like a mist. Surely, if his father did arrive early, he would wait at Patmos. Then, when Georgios returned, they would be reunited, and he would be a free man once again.

Seanan assured him that summer was nearly over, and they would have to hurry if they wanted to be on their way past Rome before winter. “We’ll get in and out as fast as possible.”

At this announcement, Georgios’s shoulders slumped, his gaze scraping the planks of the ship.

Seanan read faces like some read the stars. “What ails you, boy? We need everyone alert and able to make the ship’s repairs and exchange supplies in quick time. If we don’t keep our wits about us, we’ll lose more than we gain. We must keep the Roman authorities from asking too many questions or prying into our private affairs.”

Georgios glanced up. “Why would the Romans investigate us? What do we have that they’d want?”

“Don’t be a fool. If we’re not broken into during the black hours of the night, we’ll be waylaid by Roman justice and watch our things carried off by some rich merchant or a powerful senator who thinks that what is in a Roman harbor naturally belongs to them. And they have a tendency to claim much!”

Georgios shook his head. “But Roman laws apply to everyone! The Senators are supposed to defend the rights of the people.”

“Are we Roman citizens, then? Do the laws apply to us? And even if they did, could we argue the law in front of those who wrote it?” Seanan shook his head, his lips pursed. “Don’t lie to yourself. Even being the son of a Roman soldier wouldn’t protect you from the villains who gladly take advantage of those who know neither written law nor the ways of courts.”

Georgios peered across the sea as a wave lifted them high. “It looks beautiful though, doesn’t it? I’ve never seen such green hills—so many magnificent buildings. What amazing things men create when they have a mind to.”

Seanan tapped Georgios’ shoulder and pointed to the shoreline. “Don’t forget the brutes that nearly beat you to death. This is where cutthroats learn their trade!”

~~~

Planet Crestar

Crestas have long, soft bodies and tentacles, which they use to manipulate objects. Their eyes are large and watery, and they have a “brain sack” hidden behind a spiral shell. They wear a mechanical exoskeleton when out of their native element—water.

Ungle pulled himself from the murky pool and waddled over to the comfort room where an attendant waited with a warm robe. Slipping his long tentacles around the soft fabric, he clutched it to his middle and let the attendant pat his legs and feet dry.

A tinkle rang from a side room.

Ungle frowned and slapped his attendant away. “Who’s that?”

The attendant bowed his head; silence his only answer.

“No use asking a fool.” Ungle jerked himself free and lumbered into the next room. The chime rang faster, louder, and at a higher pitch. “Dark waters! I’ve got to get my ringtone adjusted—enough to set in coronary palpitations.” He sidled over to a holo-pad and tapped a wall console.

A Cresta female in a bright yellow exoskeleton and wearing heavy green eyeshadow appeared on the pad, her gaze searching. Once she sighted Ungle, she bowed in formal salute. “Superior Ungle, Mygen reporting from the Observatory Incision, orbiting planet Earth.”

One of Ungle’s tentacles swiped a dribble of water from his face. “You’re a day early—” He waved her anxious expression away. “But no matter. Better early than late.” Backing up to a soft, white chair, which looked very much like a sea sponge, he flopped down and grinned. “So tell me all the news.”

With two tentacles laced before her ample middle, Mygen stared ahead in studied concentration. “I’ve observed several sites and even come across a slave trader who seems to have adopted his most recent acquisition as natural offspring.” She frowned. “These beings have no scientific training whatsoever. They believe in everything—and nothing. They take each other apart with no hope of ever putting each other back together again.” Allowing her gaze to meet Ungle’s, her lips puckered in distaste. “Honestly, Superior, humanity is beneath our notice.”

Ungle struggled to his feet. “Ah, but that’s why you are an Inferior taking notes, while I am a Superior making the assessments. I was the very first Crestonian to visit Earth—and it was my testimony that persuaded our leaders to send out observatory crews. The Ingal Court reviews the facts every cycle, of course, but from the reports I receive, humanity has made significant scientific and cultural progress.”

He slapped the wall panel and tapped a series of codes. “Look here.” He pointed to a series of holograms: cave drawings, island dwellers, farms, a Greek ship at sea, Roman soldiers in battle formation, a senator giving a speech before a vast crowd, and Cesar Augustus upon his throne. “This depicts but a fraction of the cultures you will discover upon further study. But trust me, humanity is more intelligent than they appear.”

Mygen’s chin wiggled as she worked her jaws. “The slave I saw appeared intelligent, yet he allowed himself to be taken captive. He will surely die, like thousands of his kind, and humanity will never grow beyond their primitive need to exalt the individual.”

Ungle’s eyes twinkled as he faced the young Cresta. “How long have you been assigned to Earth?”

“The usual. Ten of their solar cycles. I have three other systems to visit before I return home.”

“Fine.” He waved a tentacle in her direction, spraying a few droplets in her direction. “Let us make a small wager. I believe that before you leave Earth, the slave you mentioned will become a free man.” Ungle chuckled. “But if you are correct and he dies, then you may return home as soon as you like.”

Mygen’s eyes narrowed. “And if he is set free?”

“Then you finish out your tour and return home to me.”

Mygen blinked. “To you? For what purpose?”

Ungle’s four tentacles flew upwards, like a child ready to catch a ball. “If I am as smart as you say, I’ll take you apart—and we’ll see if I can put you together again.”

 

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

They Might Be Right

Alessandro gulped as he watched an agonized man pass with a cross hefted on his shoulder. He tugged at his slave collar and waited patiently for the procession to pass. Golgotha was close enough that he could see the crosses already erected and two men hanging in desperate misery. Alessandro closed his eyes and prayed they would die quickly.

Someone jostled his arm, and he glanced up. A woman had run from the crowd and wiped the condemned man’s face with her veil. She sobbed as she worked. Alessandro gasped. He has seen this man, this condemned criminal, before.

Jesus.

The memory hit him like a boulder to the chest. He could smell the incense and hear the wailing of the poor widow as she took her son’s body to his burial place. Then this same man stepped forward. A few gentle words—and a miracle. The son was alive again. Grief was reborn into perfect joy. Alessandro had relived that moment every day since it had happened.

Now Alessandro watched, stunned, as the crowd followed the procession up the hill. He turned away—he had an errand to run for his master. As he stepped into the narrow, winding street, he looked back and choked. A slave from his youth, taken on a warm, spring day from his home and his family—this was his life.

When Jesus rose on the cross, he stared upon death, his eyes dry.

~~~

Months later, just when Alessandro finally thought he had put the haunting memory from his mind, he stepped into his master’s quarters and froze.

As a Roman citizen of high standing, Felix rarely lost his composure. Today, he stood hunched over his table sobbing like a child. After a moment, the elderly statesman dabbed at his eyes and glanced about.

Alessandro stood in the doorway in perfect obedience. To his confusion, his master smiled and waved him forward.

“Come—don’t be afraid.”

With firm steps, Alessandro crossed the room, his eyes fixed on his master’s face.

Felix sat on the edge of the table, his hands clasped before him. “It is not often that I lose control—but I just received a shock.”

Alessandro’s collar itched, but he dared not lift a finger.

Felix leaned in and peered into the youth’s eyes. “You see, I heard a man preaching in the street today—a Galilean named Peter. He told a marvelous tale—about a man named Jesus of Nazareth rising from the dead. Peter even healed a cripple in Jesus’ name.” His gaze wandered to the window. “Many have come to believe.”

Alessandro’s mouth had gone dry as sand.

“I saw Jesus of Nazareth once. Heard all about his miracles. I believed he was—from God.”

Alessandro’s eyes widened.

“But business pressed, and I did nothing about it. I put him out of my mind.” Felix crossed to the window and gazed over the distant hills. “I did not crucify him.” Tears started in the old Roman’s eyes. “I ignored him.” Clenching his hands together, Felix stepped over to Alessandro, pleading. “God’s son, they say—walked among us—and I—did nothing.”

Alessandro swallowed. “Even God would not condemn a man for attending to his own business.” His hands trembled at his side.

Felix’s wan smile chased his grief away. He patted the youth on the arm. “You were a worthy investment—I knew that when I first saw you as a boy.” Felix returned to the window. “No, I do not feel condemned. I feel—lost.”

Shaking his head and squaring his shoulders, Felix returned to business. “I have a message you must take.” He pinched a small parchment off his table and handed it to his slave.

After bowing, Allesandro turned to leave.

Felix called out. “One more question—I know you can’t answer—but I feel it must be asked.”

Alessandro paused, suddenly afraid.

“Will God—ever come again?”

Walking along the narrow street, Alessandro knew—that question would ring in his ears to the end of his days.

~~~

A sunbeam slanted across a quiet hillside where a gentle slope led to a grassy expanse, a world of Hyssop, Daffodils, Lupine, Iris and buzzing insects.

In a blink of light, two figures appeared. One grandfather figure with grey hair and a slight stoop nodded, beaming at a young man with golden brown hair, brilliant blue eyes, and the physique of a young Adonis. They were both dressed in the simple garments of common shepherds.

“Very good, Cerulean! You maintained your shape perfectly! It’s not every Luxonian who can travel as an alien species and keep their proper form. You look every inch the human boy—a little too perfect maybe—but we can adjust that. Remember, humans become either enamored or jealous at the sight of physical perfection.”

The youth nodded even while his gaze traveled the parameter of their setting. “We’re safe here?”

“Of course. I’ve had eons of experience at this sort of thing. Nothing to be afraid of.”

Cerulean clasped his hands together and waited.

A few scattered sheep crested one of the far hills. Cerulean’s eyes widened.

The old man hefted a shepherd’s staff and nudged the boy along. “Now remember, just act natural—like you have your own business to attend to and no one will bother you.”

A shepherd appeared at the top of a distant hill. He peered at them and waved.

Cerulean glanced at his father. “Teal? I believe that man is trying to get our attention.”

“Just keep walking—he’ll ignore us if we go away.”

Cerulean padded across the grassy pastureland, his gaze wandering back to the man on the hill.

Teal prodded the boy in the shoulders. “Don’t look. Never engage in eye contact unless you want to meet someone—which you never will. You’re just here to observe, take careful note of everything significant, and inform the Supreme Council of your findings when you return to Lux.”

Cerulean snuck another glance, but, as his father had predicted, the man had returned to the care of his sheep. He sighed. “We could have gone anywhere on the planet; why—?”

Teal yelped and gripped his son’s shoulder. “Stop a moment. I’ve got something caught between my toes. Panting, he cleared his foot of a trailing weed and then pointed to the blue sky. “Do you remember the story I told you and your mother about the miracle healer, heralded by the magnificent star at his birth? It was noted by every intelligent species this side of the Divide.”

Rubbing his forehead, Cerulean frowned. “As I remember, the man was murdered—by his own people.”

“True, but that wasn’t the end of the story. The people in these lands believed that he rose again and lived on in a new form.” Teal’s gaze scanned the cloudless sky. “I’ve been waiting for him to return.”

“You think he will?”

Teal sighed. “Three generations have passed. I have little hope left. But they say that he lives in the hearts of believers. I have even heard that he comes as food for—”

“Food?” Cerulean’s eyebrows rose.

“Not in human form—but as bread.” Teal shrugged. “It’s hard to explain.”

“Despite your official reports, humans sound rather barbaric.”

Teal chuckled. “Beware, humans grow on you. They’re surprising—they have unexpected strength, and they believe in miracles.”

Cerulean glanced at the crest of the hill where the shepherd reappeared with a young boy at his side. “I wonder what they believe.”

“You will be a guardian soon enough, and experience is the greatest teacher. Just remember—” He nudged his son forward.

Cerulean plodded along, his gaze focused on the crest of another hill. “What?”

“They might be right.”

 

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Live

Planet Earth

Daud leaned upon his shepherd’s staff and tipped back his head. A brilliant star lit the night sky in a thousand points of light. Heart pounding exuberance flushed his face as he stared at this new, unfathomable mystery. His brother, Hikmat, teased him unmercifully whenever he stuttered his thoughts aloud. So, he rarely spoke at all. Fortunately, his young son admired the night sky as much as he did, and they could sit in companionable silence for hours, watching the stars come out one by one, listening to the soft tinkles of bells and the bleating of sheep grazing upon the hillside.

When his brother and son trudged up the hill, his smile died and reformed into a frown. Their expressions and rapid footsteps bespoke the need for haste and—

Daud jogged forward and intercepted them. “What’s wrong?”

His son flew into his arms and hugged him around the waist, squeezing him in a fit of joy—or terror—Daud could not say. He grasped the child’s arm and stared through the star-filled light into his son’s eyes. “What’s happened?”

“Oh, Father, the most wonderful thing—angles appeared—from the sky. They gave us news.” His son swung an outstretched hand from the star to a cave in a distant hillside and began to tug his father’s arm. “Come—see!”

“See?” Daud glanced up at Hikmat who had stopped before him, staring at the same cave. “See what?”

With slow reluctance, Hikmat pulled his gaze away and appeared to see his brother for the first time. “Daud, you won’t believe me—but the sky was filled with beings, singing and joyous. They announced—the Savior—the Christ is born.”

Daud jerked back, his skin prickling. This was not his brother—there was no hint of Hikmat’s teasing tone or his haughty expression.

“Come, Father. Let us see the babe!” The child ran ahead like a colt that can’t be tethered.

Daud started after him and then glanced back; his voice rose high and strained. “Babe? What babe?”

In the bright night, the undulating movements of many forms froze his voice. A strangled gasp issued from a deep well of terror. Shepherds and folk from leagues around followed the nimble trails leading to that same simple cave, moving as one—at the command of a force Daud could not name.

Like a man rousing from a trance, Hikmat started trotting forward and waved his brother along with a shout. “Come—see!”

~~~

Planet Ingilium

Bergen stepped away from a compact space shuttle, blinked in the bright glare of the Ingoti sun, and winced at the geometrically perfect city. He rubbed his exposed neck, leaving an irritated red mark. Even when his girlfriend, Yangon, embraced him, his expression refused to soften.

Yangon wrapped her flexible, armored arm around his and tugged him along the broad city walkway. “Long trip?”

Bergen nodded as he tromped along at her side.

Waving to a tall Ingoti beauty crossing the intersection congested with pedestrians, air scooters, and low-level fliers, Yangon sneered and hugged Bergen’s arm tighter. “Lee’s been asking about you—bragging wretch. Just because she’s traveled to distant galaxies. Like that’s so special.” Yangon glanced at Bergen.

Bergen’s fixed gaze had not wavered a millimeter, though he tugged at his chest armor as if a new appliance irritated him.

“You must be worn down. I’ve got a nutritious meal planned and then—” Rubbing her hand on his arm, she purred. “Well, trust me, the second course will be even better than the first.”

~~~

A stack of metal plates, cups, and cutlery rotated through a wash cycle, as Yangon pulled Bergen to a wide, luxurious couch.

He flopped down with a groan.

She pounced. First, she climbed onto his lap and nibbled his exposed neck. Then she reached—

Bergen stood up and dropped her unceremoniously to the ground. A perplexed frown etched across his forehead. “You ever wonder why we bother? We don’t need to eat meals like that. And as for—” He rubbed his neck where she had kissed him and shrugged. “We don’t need that either.”

Yangon’s flushed face tightened. “You never complained about my cooking before—or my—”

“I’m not complaining—just wondering. Why are we—trapped?” He clawed at his chest armor.

Yangon stifled a gasp and stumbled to the kitchenette, leaning heavily against the counter. “You’ve found someone else.” With a shudder, she dropped her gaze.

“What? No! I mean, not exactly.”

Yangon’s head jerked up. She glared at Bergen. “Not exactly? Who—?”

Pulling off his mechanical gloves and unplugging the wrist connectors, Bergen retreated to the couch and perched on the edge. He tapped his emaciated, pale fingers together and peered at the Ingot before him.

Disgust played on Yangon’s lips as she stared at his raw hands.

“May I tell you a story?”

Yangon grimaced and slid onto a stool, flexing her mechanical hands over the smooth metal surface. “Whatever.”

Bergen stood and paced the white-walled, rectangular room. “Humans are very primitive. I went there to take notes and write an assessment—the usual.”

Yangon tapped the datapad embedded in her right arm, scowling.

“But something happened.” Halting in mid-step, Bergen’s gaze retreated into a memory. “I saw a baby born.”

Yangon’s lip curled as she rubbed a spot off her breastplate. “Disgusting creatures—giving birth to live young. It’s one reason we’re so much—”

Bergen blinked. “The baby spoke to me—somehow. His nakedness—his frailty—his sheer honesty—” He staggered.

Her eyes grew into rounded, horrified orbs. “You exposed yourself?”

With a wave, Bergen thrust the accusation away. “No. I stayed on the ship. I sent a bot and hid it on one of the animals. But I saw everything. The mother, the father, the birth. The baby’s eyes opened, and—for an instant—he looked at me.” Bergen swallowed. “He spoke.”

“By the Divide, what could an alien infant possibly say?”

Live.” Bergen flopped down on the couch. “I want to live—feel hunger, thirst—desire—love.” He leaned back and clasped his hand over his eyes.

Yangon rose and glared at the Ingot in front of her. “You’ve caught some off-world disease, and now you’re out of sync.” Her lips pursed in disdain. “You’d better see a specialist.” Sudden alarm spread over her face. She ran to an alcove and slapped a wall panel. “You better not have given me anything—” She rubbed herself all over as an intense light radiated across her body and a disinfectant spray enveloped her.

Bergen shook his head as he climbed to his feet. “I’m not sick. Or out of sync. I’ve just realized—I’m hardly alive.” He started for the door.

Keeping her distance, Yangon stared after him. “Where’re you going?”

Passing the window, he pointed to the black, star-filled sky. “I’m going back.”

Yangon snorted. “You can’t live like a primitive, Ingot. Technology is wired into your very being.”

Bergen shrugged. “The Crestas are experimenting on our nursery rejects—maybe they can help me.”

Yangon’s lip rose in a snarl. “They’ll more likely kill you.”

“Long as I care—I’ll live.”

 

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00