Chapter Two: Sk’lar

The cargo ship’s engines hummed merrily as we gained altitude in the clear blue sky. From my position in front of the windscreen of the atmosphere bound ship, I could see the uneven skyline of Amarita spread out in the distance on the shores of the crawling sea.

“Approaching Amarita proper on vector 201x.”

I turned to regard the corporal piloting our craft. He was a K’ver, just as I was. Jet black skin rippled with muscle in his forearms, emblazoned with hair-thin silver circuitry. Since he’s low rank, he only had the most basic implants. 

As a ranking officer, I had many more. For example, an implant near the back of my brain increased the flow of neurons between my nervous and muscular systems, meaning I could stand steady even when our craft encountered the stiff wind blowing off the coast.

“Minor turbulence, sir. Compensating.”

“Hold her steady, Corporal. The last thing we need is to crash on top of a human dwelling and stir up more xenophobia.”

“Yes, sir.” The corporal’s hands flashed over the controls, and soon the chassis stopped shaking. He glanced at me, black eyes inscrutable. “Sir, If I may pose a question?”

“I believe you just did, Corporal, but go ahead.”

“Yes sir. Hasn’t the anti-alien sentiment mostly run its course by now? I mean, after the whole mind-wiping fiasco.”

“You keep a close eye on current events, I see.” I nodded in approval. “Yes, their movement has definitely taken a hit, and many humans have rejected them. However, if there’s one thing that my admittedly shallow perusal of human history tells me, many of their species don’t behave rationally. There was one orange skinned fellow in the early twenty first century who—“

A light flashed on the console, and the Corporal quickly scanned a read out.


“Sir, sensors are picking up some sort of structures near the Vengeance Crater. It looks like the start of a settlement or colony.”

I pressed my lips together, considering options. I walked over to sit down at one of the monitoring stations.

“Patch in the feed to my screen, Corporal.”

“Yes, sir.”

The monitor flashed briefly, then depicted a series of crudely constructed buildings surrounded by a perimeter fence. I held my chin in my hand as I took in the sight of some salvaged atmospheric transports which had been modified with weaponry. 

The compound seemed to be abuzz with activity, and I quickly lost count of how many bodies were milling about in the throng.

“Corporal, get me an estimate on the number of life signs within that compound.”

“Yes, sir.” His fingers whiz across the console, making adjustments even as he continued to keep our flight steady. “It appears that I can’t give you an accurate estimate. The compound has jamming technology. I can only scan those life forms outside of its walls.”

I already knew the answer before I asked my next question, but I had to verify my intuition.

“What’s the racial breakdown of the life forms you can scan, Corporal?”

He fiddled with the console for a bit, then turned his head around to regard me with a grim expression.

“All human, sir.”

“I see.” Silently observing the compound as I pondered what our move should be, I felt a certain trepidation build within me. These were the kinds of decisions I was supposed to make as a Team Commander.

But I couldn’t help but feel like I was out of my element. I knew I was a capable soldier, and my implants put me in the league of the other speices. I couldn’t arm wrestle a Valorni, perhaps, but I would bet on myself in a fisticuffs none the less. 

However, I had limited experience with command positions. In many ways, I wondered if I wasn’t appointed the head of Team Three just because of convenience, and not because I was the best candidate for the job.

Here I stood, for good or ill, and the corporal was waiting for me to make a decision. We should just finish the supply run, but the compound hadn’t been on any briefings that had been disclosed to me. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to garner new information on what could be a potential threat to peace.

“Take us down, Corporal.”

“Sir?” He couldn’t quite hide a note of fear in his tone. I couldn’t blame him. The last thing I wanted to do was land in a nest of hostile humans. 

The potential gains outweighed the risks, though.

“You have your orders.”

“Understood, sir.”

“But try to bring us down near the southern gate. Most of their vehicles and munitions seems to be concentrated to the north east. If they want to get…testy…we’ll be in a good position to retreat.”

“Yes, sir.”

The corporal took us into a shallow dive into the blasted, melted rock canyon where the Vengeance once stood. Now there was nothing left but scraps and a crater where that mighty vessel had rested, and if that was not a warning to be cautious I didn’t know what was.

We dipped down below the level of the compound. Multicolored strata flashed past the viewing port as we skimmed just beneath the surface of the crater. 

I doubted they had any weaponry trained on the crater itself, but apprehension still threatened to overwhelm me. At any moment our unshielded peaceful vessel might be perforated by fire from hostile humans.

I knew I shouldn’t make assumptions. Just because this was an unregistered settlement of purely humans didn’t automatically make them hostile. 

But I had learned as a warrior that it was not just your brain that you must rely on, but your instinct. The humans called it ‘going with your gut,’ which was about as silly a notion as I could imagine, but now in the moment I believed I was beginning to understand its meaning.

The corporal nosed the ship up and we flashed above the crater’s edge. It was obvious that our arrival had not gone unnoticed. A large group of humans were clustered about the southern gate, and even from this distance they didn’t seem all that friendly.

“I guess this is the Welcome Wagon.”

“Sir?” The corporal’s brow wrinkled in confusion.

“It’s a human expression. I was being sarcastic. I think we’d best prepare for antagonism from these creatures.”


The corporal set our craft down about thirty meters away from the gate. Our landing pylons had barely extended into the grassy turf when the gate opened and the mob of humanity came spilling out. 

They weren’t charging our position, but they walked with a menacing purpose that made me second guess my decision to investigate.

“Keep her hot and ready to lift off,” I clapped my hand on his shoulder. My old CO used to do that, and it oddly helped calm my nerves.

“Yes, sir.”

My boots clanked off the metal deck plating as I went down into the cargo bay. Because this was a peaceful supply run, I didn’t have the entirety of Team Three with me. However,  protocol insisted that I bring at least three along even on an ostensibly peaceful mission.

 The biggest member of my crew was Tyehn. A big burly Valorni, he had to cut the sleeves off his skin suit to accommodate his size. 

I silently considered if I should speak to someone about him; I swore he kept getting bigger each time I saw him. Tyehn held his salute crisply, perhaps because his laughter had been the most boisterous when I came below deck.

Jalok stood two inches shorter than Tyehn, but one look at his stone cold expression and you realized that he was the one you should be afraid of. 

Jalok was an expert at close quarters combat, though he was pretty accurate with munitions as well, and those Skotan scales were a nice addition.

Finally, Cazak gave me his version of a salute, which was limp and casual. He wasn’t the most intimidating being in a fight, but he had a true knack for repairing and maintaining field equipment. Cazak was the only member of my team I had requested by name, but to be honest it wasn’t hard to get him. His attitude rubbed a lot of commanders the wrong way, to use a human phrase.

“At ease.” They relaxed somewhat, and Cazak gave me a little smirk I chose to ignore, even though it hit me right in the confidence. “As I’m sure you’ve noticed, we’ve made an unscheduled landing. There’s a human settlement that’s not supposed to be here, and we are going to make contact.”

“Finally, some action.” Tyehn reached for a two-handed pulse rifle but I held up my hand and shook my head.

“Not so fast. You’re a bit too threatening in appearance. Head up front and assist our pilot in any way he wishes.”

His face crinkled with disappointment.

“But he’s only a corporal.”

“In any way he wishes, Tyehn.”

“Yes, sir.”

With a sigh of resignation, he headed up to the front. I turned my attention to the other two.

“Small side arms only. We don’t want to alarm them.”

With Jalok and Cazak in tow, I pressed the panel which lowered the exit ramp. The crowd of humans had gathered a short distance away. When they first caught sight of us in our skin suits, they started booing.

Jalok tensed up next to me. I whispered surreptitiously in his ear.

“Easy, Jalok. We’re not here to fight.”

“Try telling that to them.” Still, his fingers uncurled from around the hilt of his side arm.

I approached the throng with purpose, refusing to show any sign of weakness while still trying to appear non-threatening.  

An older human male stepped forward, a slapdash projectile weapon clutched in one hand. At least the barrels were pointed at the ground—for now.

“Salutations.” I offered a small bow of my head, and my soldiers followed suit. “I am Commander Sk’lar of the K’ver Central Command,” a small lie. “Who speaks for you?”

In response, one of the humans spat a wad of white froth at my feet. Jalok’s eyes narrowed, but he holds his place.

The older human grinned at the display and stepped right up in front of me.

“I speak for us. And if you can’t tell, you obsidian skinned droid spawn aren’t welcome here.”

“We come in peace. Your settlement isn’t registered and we were simply investigating if you needed any assistance.”

A young child shouted out from the throng. “You can assist by going the hell away.”

A ripple of laughter rose into the warm air.

“We don’t need anything from a bunch of aliens. Now beat it, and tell the rest of your inky brethren not to come back.”

“Humans are not native to this planet.” I grimaced at Cazak’s smarmy grin. “That kind of makes us ALL aliens here.”

The sound of weapons powering up in the crowd had me thinking this could go bad fast. Ignoring Cazak, I bowed my head to the lead human.

“Then we go in peace.”

I turned on my heel and walk back toward the ship, Cazak and Jalok falling in behind me. As soon as our backs are turned a wave of open threats and insults were hurled at us. 

A soft bodied fruit smashed between my shoulder blades, setting juice running down my skinsuit, but I didn’t even slow my stride.

“Sir?” Jalok looked at me with widened eyes, as if unbelieving that I didn’t react to the hurled vegetation.

“As you are, Jalok.” We got back inside the ship and the ramp raised up flush with the hull. I relayed the order to the pilot to take us up post haste.

As our craft climbed back into the sky, my mind was troubled. I had a feeling that this settlement was going to be a thorn in the side of anyone who wanted peace between the species.

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