We are excited to welcome science fiction author, M. Pax to LQR this month. She has graciously shared her exciting interpretation of this month's freedom theme. Please help us show our appreciation by sharing the link to her story with your friends and family!
Imprisoned by a mysterious alien enforcer, humanity’s last hope must battle for the right to a future.
If Galloway didn’t let me go soon, humanity would be lost, and the galaxy’s sentries would crown a less-deserving victor. My breaths chafed, my pulse labored, and my eyelids throbbed. The days passed by too long.
All the enhanced traits my ancestors had endowed me with slipped away. To conserve what energy remained, I knelt unmoving in a puddle of light leaking in from the top of the east wall, watching the sliver dance on my wrists. Silver on silver.
The mulcer next door paced, growling. I could smell its foul drool, hear it splashing to the ground. The beast wanted to kill me. Time would beat it to the task. My vigor bled with every heartbeat into the unyielding alloy beneath me.
The alien technology, or whatever Galloway was, chose that moment to answer my plea. The wall in front of me evaporated. I didn’t have to be told to run toward the portal— the transport to the planet.
I had to fight the mulcer for a future. Its huge jaws snapped at me. Striped and scaly, its enormous head consisted mainly of teeth and eyes. Two bulbous pus-like irises sank every time the mulcer opened its mouth. Its breath reeked like burnt leaves dipped in tar left to molder in a steamy swamp then set on fire.
We raced for the portal to claim the rights to the planet. Not willing to let my unborn heirs down, I dug in, tapping into every souped-up trait that could help me triumph—speed, endurance, increased lung capacity and blood flow, tenacity, and valor.
The beast inched ahead of me, gliding along on the slime trail it shed. Thinking only of what failure meant—never another chance—I sprinted toward the orange glowing sphere, eking two steps in front of the mulcer. At that point, I leaped. Arms straight out, body reaching, I dove into the portal.
In a nanosecond, I materialized on humanity’s new world. Unfortunately the mulcer did, too. It pounced, jaws straining for my throat. Swinging a foot, I kicked it in the teeth then jumped for a tree branch. I kept hold, pulling up my legs, staying out of the mucler’s reach. It grunted, bounding to the trunk, clumsily making its way up.
Its slow progress gifted a reprieve and allowed me to survey what would be Earth Three. The ground rolled in burps and swells. Lizardish beetles sang, furry eely beasts with wings squawked, and some squid-like creature scurried under the brush. We rocked together, riding a moss ocean that spanned the horizon in an unbroken prairie, a treasure trove upon which my progeny would thrive.
My people had come to the stars to start over and had succeeded once. We’d do so again. We were so much better than the mulcers, the outcast army of an extinct race. They only knew how to hunt and kill.
My enemy scrambled out on the branch, teetering. I kicked at its pus eye. It roared, showering me with malodor and slime. Its hold slipped, but before it fell, it sprang, wrapping its ropey fingers around my neck, squeezing. Gravity added a wallop to our fight, and with a thud we landed, the mucler on top. I dug at its eyelids, biting, spitting. I punched and tore at it’s flesh.
From the sky a chime gonged, gaining in volume until it struck a tone that rendered me motionless. The mulcer, too. We froze in the throes of mutual murder.
Fuzzy tickles plucked at my brain, intruding, shoving their way into my thoughts. My mind received a scrubbing, at least it felt that way. Once I was thoroughly violated, an arc appeared above the mulcer’s slobbering maw, pulsating, flickers sparking through its foamy pink mist.
Two hammering heartbeats passed, and it spoke. “I told Galloway to get rid of you by bringing you to me.” The arc paused, scalding everything between my temples. “Round two of the contest begins. Think why you deserve this world. Winner gets it.”
No way would the mulcer win. Humanity had risen from a better foundation than genocide. Hope thumped, giving me strength, and I recalled all I knew, singing the praises of my illustrious forefathers. Humanity creates civilizations, is highly intelligent, and can think beyond itself. We’ll make the most of this beautiful planet.
I couldn’t hear what the mulcer thought, but seconds later it screamed and jerked as if electrocuted by a billion volts. The puddle that remained of it oozed into the hiccupping land.
My heart rate slowed, and I grinned, preparing to set free the genetic sequences suspended in a sac in my abdomen. The genetic material would use me to sprout and begin mankind anew. Thank you for choosing me.
“Humanity didn’t win. The rolling ground beneath you did. It’s called an Arith.”
I couldn’t form a single thought, at least none I understood.
“A race’s right to survive is not absolute. Humans were ruled for extinction an epoch ago when Earth Two fell. They had their second chance and blew it.”
“Despite the outcome, you’re allowed to stay.”
Me? As the last human? What an honor.
“You’re not human. Your willingness to sacrifice yourself for others earns you a place here if you let me erase your faulty programming and dump the subpar genetic material you carry.”
I couldn’t bear the thought of imprisonment on Galloway again. The arc heard me and shoved my thoughts aside until I lay empty. I drank in all that the Arith was and watched it and the planet mature. Without protest, the mossy thing gave its heart and vitality to the advancement of new life. Nothing could be nobler, no being could ever have higher purpose.
A slender purple creature hatched reminiscent of a salamander with a long neck and limbs. It’s song vibrated my biomechanics into smiles. I asked the Arith to mold me in its image, surrendering my silver body and electronic nodes. Now I could live and die. I had free will, and I had evolved.
M. Pax is author of the space adventure series The Backworlds, the urban fantasy series The Rifters, plus other novels and short stories. Fantasy, science fiction, and the weird beckons to her, and she blames Oregon, a source of endless inspiration. She docents at Pine Mountain Observatory in the summers as a star guide, has a cat with a crush on Mr. Spock, and is slightly obsessed with Jane Austen. mpaxauthor.com