The Twelve – The Maiden

The cheer from the crowd was deafening. Emeran’s body was curled in upon itself, though his head still faced back into the arena. His eyelids were locked open. I followed the line of his lifeless stare. It was aimed at Maheras, the centaur. His assassin.

The crowd cheered out the centaur’s game title.

Sagittarius!

Sagittarius!

Sagittarius!

Maheras walked off, his back turned away from the crowd. And from me. I called out his name. “Maheras!” But he did not hear me. Or pretended not to. Well, he would hear me.

I closed my eyes, allowed his image to come to me. I would call him, and he would answer. He stopped dead in his tracks. I felt his fear. His fear weakened his aura. I readied myself.

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Earth Born

Hello aliens. Thought I’d better let you know what’d happened here on Earth, what with it being kinda my fault an’ all. See, it all started with my period being late. I’m never late. I had several thoughts running through my head at the time – I had polyps, or was starting early menopause or something like that. Or it was the second coming of Jesus Christ.

I couldn’t be pregnant, you see. I don’t really do sex. Never really my thing – the sweaty nakedness and the grunting and the bodily fluids. Nah.

I done lots of Googling – that’s a thing what we had here on Earth – Google. You ask it stuff and it gives you answers. Google suggested I took a pregnancy test even though, as I say, I hadn’t had any of the sex. Well, I took the test and yeah, I was pregnant. I had lots of horrible thoughts then, like, something had happened without me knowing.

Turns out, it was the second coming. I had a dream that explained everything – sounds batty, I know, and if I dared mention it to anyone they all gave me the same look and suggested I seek professional help from a mental doctor. Wait, that’s a doctor who does head stuff, not one who’s mental.

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The Twelve – The Scorpion

The crab man’s severed claw splashed back down into the water. The bull gave another triumphant roar. I glanced at Soldan, he looked away. We had let the crab live. There was little else we could do – our greater purpose took precedence. I wondered if crabs were able grow their claws back. I’m sure their genetic ancestors could have…

The arena panels curved right up into the seating area. Soldan gestured towards a panel which had a sizeable dent running along the top. “You think you can hang on there? The waters will be drained soon.”

I wasn’t certain, but I nodded a yes. “What props you suppose are next?”

The fish man shrugged. “Well if they stay with the astrology theme, probably Earth, Wind and Fire. Whatever it’s going to be, it wont be straight forward. I have to organise a couple of the others. We need to strike as soon as we can.”

He hoisted me up onto the panel. I lowered my stomach into the panel’s rough crevice, and pushed against the sides with my tail and claws to gain some traction. It didn’t feel too slippery – might just hold until the waters died away. “I thought we were going to wait until we neutralised the straight players?”

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The Twelve – The Crab

Something was amiss. I’d been to enough bouts, and given enough performances to know something wasn’t right. Throw twelve of any kind of creature into a ring together and tell them only one can leave alive, tensions will arise. Palatable tensions. Gut-wrenching tensions.

We, the ‘altered’, were no exception. If anything, having survived years of abuse, our desire to live was that much stronger. But I did not feel that tension here. Not fully.

The Centaur’s floor show made no sense. Did he think the little brat upon his throne would show him mercy if he lost? Not a hope. But it was more than that.

I looked over at the lion man. He was pacing along the edge of the arena, his fist raised, pumping the air as he drummed up cheers from the crowd. Near the centre the bull was performing a similar display. The twin-headed Aldron was close to the front where the emperor sat, flexing his torso, first one side, then the other. The ram was thumping the ground, bucking his head into the air, then thumping the ground again.

But the rest were standing idle. They were…waiting? I couldn’t figure it out. I decided I didn’t care. Maybe they were hiding their fear well. Maybe they were just idiots. I was neither afraid nor enthusiastic about this fight. It was a job. And with a purse this large – my final job.

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The Twelve – The Centaur

The lion man bounced ahead of us, his mane dancing behind him. A part of me could not but admire him. To play at life – no complexities, no grey areas, no doubts. Right or wrong, win or lose. He was completely ignorant of our cause, as were five of the others. A part of my envied their ignorance.

My torso reflected off the silver-plated shields of the Galacian sentries who lined the arena walls. I flexed my hind legs and pranced like a young colt as my tail splayed and sliced the air with confidence. I was thankful my years of practice in subterfuge hid my trepidation so well. I glanced over at Soldan – Pisces for this particular bout. His blue green scales flashed in the morning sun. His face was sombre, his movements fluid and composed. I took courage from his strength.

We moved slovenly towards the centre of the arena. The lion man was right about one thing. The roar of the crowd was deafening. A swell of faces full of wild glee, their lust for blood spilled down towards us and washed across the hard dirt beneath our feet. We felt it pool around us, clawing at our ankles, hungry to feed upon our suffering…and our inevitable demise.

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The Twelve – Leo The Lion

The Twelve - Leo The LionWhen a hundred thousand souls are screaming for your death, begging for your dismemberment, baying for your blood, most folk would feel intimidated. But we weren’t most folk. I glanced around the holding chamber. The flyer had mentioned a zodiac theme this year, and I wondered if they’d thought up that selling point before or after they’d gathered up these freaks.

The two-headed Aldron representing Gemini was obvious enough, likewise the Minotaur for Taurus, and the hoofed and horned Durvan, all the way from the Iliad Nebula, for the ram of Aries. The rest, were a stretch of the imagination. Some of them I knew of from previous bouts, usually off-track planets that mixed arena touts with some bizarro element to amaze and amuse the little ones.

But this was the big time. Twelve thousand gold pieces to the winner. A grave for the losers – after their bodies were poked, piked and paraded around the Colosseum for a while of course. All good clean fun. For the Galacians at least.

Not my favourite clients, the Galacians. Loud, slobbering and rather unhinged. But they paid well, and on time. Twelve thousand Galacian gold coins. Enough to never have to play again.

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Nazca’s Doodles

Nazca’s DoodlesCommander Nazca knew he would be considered a hero if he completed the mission successfully. Maybe they would name the planet after him. Or at least one of their main habitations once they had settled. But first he had to ensure a secure landing of their aircraft. Thankfully he had been assigned the best possible crew.

Nazca looked at his colleagues seated around the table in the main command room. They were buzzing with excitement, and he understood why. He felt exhilarated himself.

“Right, everybody,” he began and cleared his throat. “We have a lot to discuss before we can initiate the implementation phase of our mission.”

The room became quiet and Commander Nazca switched on the screen at the centre of the table so everyone could follow. He turned on his personal screen, too. In that way, he could take notes – his memory was not what it once was. And doodling helped clear his thoughts while following the conversation.

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The First Colony – Survival

The First Colony – SurvivalJuly 15, 2149, Hawking

From the air Karen could see the cliff walls opening up to reveal a large weapon. Even a mile away she could hear the noise of the rock grating and hoped the sound wouldn’t impede the incoming transmission.

“Breena, did you send the message?” she asked through the comm.

“Yes, ma’am. It’s currently looping as requested. I’ll patch it through to you.”

Soon the alien voice was relaying over her comm and the text from the translator scrolled across the screen. Orders have changed. The newcomers must not be attacked. We have a treaty between us. They will be living along-side you from now on. May their presence last for an eternity on your walls. Thank you for your service. You are now free.

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The First Colony – Plans

The First Colony – PlansJuly 15, 2149, Hawking

“Penner, we’re going to drop you off at the lift landing site. O’Sullivan and Cash, you two go with Penner and make sure you secure it as instructed,” Karen said, passing Penner a tablet.

Soon they were lowering in a flat spot, previously decided upon. The massive elevator loomed above them; a dark monolith in the now night sky. Thousands of stars blared down at them from the distance and for a moment Karen forgot where she was. A voice shook her out of her daydream.

“Are you sure you won’t need help?” Penner asked, concern thick in his words.

“Grant is a pro with the lander, and if we are going to sneak into the cliff, the fewer the better. Use the tablet to direct Boone up top, and let’s get our people down to the surface.”

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Prototype 01: Rocket Raptor

Prototype 01: Rocket Raptor“So what is it?” I asked Steven, as he stood there with his arms wide and grinning like an idiot, like he was P. T. Barnum or something. Steven and I have worked at Oberon Tec. for almost five years. To be fair, I don’t really know they guy. We say hi from time to time and share what projects we’re up to. He caught me just as I was heading home and managed to drag me into his lab and literally unveiled his pet project to me by pulling a big tarp away.

In the middle of his lab stood a titanium body cage, with a full-grown Utahraptor strapped into it. It was just like the ones they make for WWC: Brawl on TV. You know the type: big purple feathers; large claws, with one giant one on its feet that could go through flesh as if it was paper; angry eyes with slit pupils darting around and looking all over the room for a fresh kill. It even has the Upstart Inc. logo imprinted into its colours, so you wouldn’t forget who made this deadly creature. This was a top-of-the-line revival clone. So earlier, when I asked what it was, I got that it was a genetically engineered dinosaur. But the part I didn’t understand was why there was all this gear bolted on to its back and head; the visor on its eye; something I assumed was a rocket launcher of some kind stuck on its back; submachine guns attached to its claws – all these knicknacks that seemed kind of redundant considering its reputation.

“Its my prototype,” Steve said. “The latest in military combat weaponry. The past and the present combined to become the soldier of the future. Introducing: Rocket Raptor!”

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