No Way Back – The Story Ch. 01-05 – Edited 04JUN2010

I had a mystical, technomagical thought.  What if I posted my story, start-to-finish, in order, in a place that’s easy to find? Voila!

As the chapters update, this will also update.  So, it becomes up to the individual reader.  Either look at the individual chapters in the blog (which has the added benefit of seeing my older Random Thought pages), or here!   At least here it’s in order.  But please feel free to read my Random Thoughts.  I spent many good hours on them.  And they are feeling left out…  =^_^=

Chapter 1

I woke up lying flat on my back. That wouldn’t have been strange had it not been for the hard, unpadded feeling that came from it… Or the lack of my soft pillow. Or the unusually-shaped blacklight positioned over me. That’s what startled me the most. I closed my dark blue eyes, thinking it was just some odd dream I was having, and if I passed back out that I would wake up again in my room. But the cold air around me shifted and told me this wasn’t a dream. I opened my eyes again to the same oddly-shaped light that was positioned only inches from my face. I turned my head to see if I was trapped. I was surprised to find that, whatever it was positioned over me, it wasn’t affixed to the dark metal slab that passed as my resting place.

Just outside of that slab stood … something. From where I’m laying, all I can see is the glowing of the blacklight off of some kind of fabric. Whatever it is, it’s moving, slowly folding in some places while stretching taut in others.  They seem to be leaning over whatever is over my body. I hear a gasp, then a loud yelling, something I can’t understand or think I want to. A hand comes cautiously into the gap and lands on my shoulder. At least I think it’s a hand. The same voice, now kind and gentle and very feminine, comes through the gap. She speaks passable English, a strange accent tingeing the words that sound almost forced into existence while still being taught. “Please, do not panic. You are safe now,” she said. Her tone was gentle and reassuring while obviously not used to speaking the words. The feeling I got from her hand still made me nervous. Something was just not right about it. It had a strange shape and a blur to its lines with long, black nails that pressed against my shirt. When she realized I was looking at her hand, she withdrew it quickly. I notice the fabric that is her outfit twist as she turns and yells again in her own unusual tongue. A mechanical hiss came from behind her and a stronger, deeper, more gravelly voice sounded from behind her in the same language. The sound of that voice made me more nervous, and I began to feel around with my hands and legs. My feet were bare, but I was still clothed otherwise, which did little to console me in my growing panic. That’s when I discovered that whatever was over my head and chest was not over the rest of me, and that I was not actually restrained. The fear that had held me still snaps and I finally bring my hands up to try and force the fixture hung over me away. No sooner had I done so did a loud buzzing begin from outside the device. I heard the deeper voice cry out with its strange words, followed by the sight and sound of the fabric as its owner turned quickly away. I noticed she was being partially hidden by something that seemed just as blurry as her hand, but pushed through the cloth itself. As I pressed on the hood I heard her yell, much clearer, “No! Don’t! He doesn’–” That’s all I remember before the light above me becomes dazzlingly bright. A wave of searing pain courses down my arms and through my body. Then, silence. Darkness.

Was it all a dream? The end of a horrible nightmare?

I wish I could say that it was. But it wasn’t. That’s how I came to live here. Away from all I had known.

— —

“How do you know he wasn’t going to kill you?! They are vicious! They can’t even live with their own peacefully, let alone deal with a new race in a friendly matter!” The commander’s voice, his deep, throaty growl, made it obvious he was angry about her attempt to countermand his order. “I understand very well that you are the medical officer on this ship, but it is MY job to keep everyone on this ship ALIVE and SAFE, and that includes our chief of medical staff! You intentionally kept him unsecured, and you were standing next to the gurney! What is it, your desk safely across the room couldn’t show you the vitals and scan data?” He licked his lips, his grey eyes glaring at her in across the few inches he’d spared her, daring her to challenge his logic.

The problem was that she was just as capable in combat as she was in the medical bay, and his concern, she felt, didn’t apply to her. She allowed her voice to convey that indignation to her superior as she spoke in a sharp tone. “The problem, sir, is that this ISN’T a combat room! There’s absolutely nothing here he would have been able to use as a weapon! What could he have done, hit me with the scanner? You and I BOTH know that it wouldn’t have moved! What else could he have done, sterilized my non-existent scratches? He’s not a warrior, he’s barely an adult! His pack is going to be looking for him soon, and we needed to get him taken care of quickly.” At this point, she began to calm herself, her golden eyes beginning to lose their flash of aggravation and shift to mockery as she turned and gives her commander a dismissing hand gesture. “Besides, if your men had done their job, we wouldn’t even have been in this situation. He’s supposed to be sedated and checked for any weapons.” She stepped back to the scanner, looking at its readouts. She continues on, the edge in her voice gone. “What did you find on him, anyway?” She casually looks over her shoulder, throwing her long bronze hair back as she does.

The commander, still fuming, storms across the medical bay. He snatches up a bag resting on the floor and returns, loudly stomping, to her desk. With a quick flick of his wrists he dumps its contents onto her desk. “See? He was armed,” he snapped, the growl finally leaving his voice. He extends his arm and points down to a round object with several slivers of metal attached. “It’s primitive, but it’s definitely a weapon of some kind. And this,” he gestures to a black leather square, “Must be a trophy of some kind. It’s made of an animal’s skin, the barbarian.” He grabs a thin, rectangular silver object, running a claw through an opening. “Is this some kind of tracking device?! Get it off my ship!”

The doctor reaches over and grabs his hand, taking the device from him. She sighs, then makes a dramatic display of flipping open the small machine. “Mergrayne, this is a communications device. They use these all the time where he is from.” She turns it to show his cell phone’s numeric pad and graphical display. “We have our own versions of these,” as she points to his uniform’s collar, the small, matte black device almost blending into his clothing.

“Well–” he starts, but she barrels on.

“And this,” she lifts the ring of metal between claws, her voice still dripping with condescension, “is their version of this…” She reaches into the folds of her close-fitting outfit, and pulls out her data-card. “They use those … What are they called…” She consults the display on her desk. “Oh yes, keys. They’re much like our own data-cards, but they only work for opening things, or locking them down.” She stops herself for a moment to take in a breath and concentrate on not sounding so harsh. The alien’s claws unclasp, and the key ring drops to her desk with a jingle. Her next words are far more sweet and calm: “And this,” she points to his leather square, “is what they use to hold together their currency, identification, and other materials, just like what is all stored on our data-cards. He’s safe. He’s not going to hurt anyone. Least of all me. Last time I checked, Mergrayne, I was able to best you in the combat ring.” She smiles as she finishes her last statement, her feline ears twitching as her tail follows suit, its white fur finally laying smooth.

The commander tries to continue his glare at her but can’t. He sighs as he finally relaxes, his dark, bushy tail swishing back and forth slowly behind him. “I’m sorry, Nishka, I just worry about you sometimes. You don’t keep your guard up around them. And how many times do I have to ask you to call me Commander Grai’Gahrd when we’re on duty?” He smiles, his jet-black fur settling again, his tail waving further, almost hopeful. “Or, at the very least, sir…”

Nishka stands slowly, walking around her desk and towards him with an exaggerated gait, letting her own sleek tail playfully whip behind her. Nishka stops dangerously close to him, a flirting smile crossing her maw. “The day you don’t consider me yours is the day I’ll stop, Mergrayne…” she whispers, and gently kisses his cheek, pressing her lithe body to his. She starts to say something more, but jumps back instead as she hears the door open. “Now, Commander, I want to know why this rescue wasn’t properly sedated. I find it rather haphazard that such a creature–”

“It’s only me, doctor; you don’t have to hide your pawing, against regulations, might I add, of the commander…” The artificially sweet and melodic voice comes from behind the lupine commander’s trembling but still standing form. “I’ve only come to let you know that the scan was complete, and they hadn’t had a chance to put a recruit marker on him yet. I’ve also come to remind the commander that his wife is waiting for him back home with their pups, and, according to regulations, I am supposed to report this to my superior officer.” The younger woman steps purposefully between them and presses the thin sheet of plastiform into Nishka’s waiting hands. “But, seeing as you are my ranking officer, doctor,” she turns to let her accusing, yet soft eyes fall on Mergrayne, “and you are the ship’s superior, I don’t think it would do me much good.” She continues her slow pirouette, then nimbly jumps into the doctor’s seat. Her dark-purple fur and soft pink stripes along her large, bushy tail settle against its texture as she lets her words sink in.

The two officers embarrassedly step apart as they try looking at anything other than each other, or the younger skunk who had taken an unneeded seat in their company. They knew that she was well aware of their secret since she had stepped in on a moment of passion before. They had neglected to make it to either of their quarters, nor had they locked the med-bay doors and disabled the cameras, a mistake the officers never made again. They also knew that she wouldn’t say anything, so long as they made the appearance of an attempt to conform to their stations.

“Was there anything else that you wanted to mention, Dharcia?” Mergrayne spoke quickly as he cleared his throat and straightening his navy-blue uniform, pulling at its mandarin collar and adjusting the row of polished black buttons. He absently ran his claws through his tail’s fur as he watched from the corner of his eye as Nishka returned to the examination table and adjusted a few settings, each one sounding its own tone.

“Well…” Dharcia started as she spun the chair. “There is one major issue of protocol.

“We know about the protocol, Dharcia!” hissed Nishka, glaring over the sensor hood at the junior grade.

“Not that protocol, doctor.” Dharcia quickly cut in, not letting her superior bully her into silence. “Didn’t he wake up? The sensors indicated he had.”

“Well, yes…” answers the commander slowly.

“According to protocol, he’s not allowed to return home then.”

“Wait, what?” Commander Grai’Gahrd asks, his tone making obvious his confusion. “You mean to tell me that we rescued him from that “recruit transporter” only to make him a prisoner here?”

Dharcia jumps up from the chair, and taps the display screen on the desk, pulling up a message she’s forwarded to herself for just this purpose. She waits for the officers to step nearer, and then tapped the display again to bring it standing off the desk, so they would be able to read it without stooping over. “Universal Federation Order, designed as both collective rules, and to not let alien species know we exist until they are deemed safe for merging with the galactic community, makes it where we can’t interfere with their race.”

Nishka chews one of her extended claws in a display of puzzlement as Mergrayne furrowed his brow, looking over the document he’d half-read before. “I know all of this, Dharcia. What does this have to do with our “rescue?” His spat the word, causing Nishka to look at him. The sudden and unhidden irritation worried her slightly. She’d have to ask about that later.

The skunk presses another button from the hovering display, causing the pages to roll forward. Judging by the commander’s response, it was much deeper in the document than the wolf had ever gotten. “It seems that the UFO has a ‘you break it, you bought it’ clause. We broke it by not ensuring that the specimen was properly sedated. He’s witnessed something.” The skunk’s pink eyes drift over to the observation table as she slowly continues. “Even though it could easily be dismissed as a dream at this point, he’s seen at least some of our technology, and I doubt that control shock didn’t burn his skin since he doesn’t have the natural protection that most of us have.” Her eyes finally tear away from the table, and find the commander’s unhappy gaze. “There’s no way to return him without the existence of some kind of evidence.”

“So what you’re saying is, because I hit the button too soon, and the wrong one at that, he’s our… prisoner?” Mergrayne looked at the slab. The irritation he felt was growing and making its presence known in his cold, stony eyes.

“No,” Nishka quickly interjects, “he’s our guest, whether he wants it, or not…”

“Great.” The commander grunted, looking back at Dharcia and hiking a clawed thumb over towards the table. “Now how do we explain it to him?”

No one responded.

Chapter 2

Five Years Prior. . .

“ROBERT! How many times do I have to tell you to stop playing that damn game and do your homework?!”

“MOM! I’m almost done this mission! Can’t I have a few more–?”

“No! Get off of that computer, put that game away, and do your homework!”

I sigh, knowing if I don’t do as she says; it’s only going to continue. “Yes, Mom…”

I hit the Escape key, bringing up my combat simulator’s control menu to save my progress. I know that I’m going to lose the last fifteen minutes or so of my playtime since I hadn’t reached the checkpoint, but it doesn’t matter. Homework is homework, and it’s just a silly game. Even if it is a really cool one. I mean, thirty-foot tall combat robots! So unrealistic, but so amazing to think about. The characters shown in the game are so well thought out. Even their artwork seems like they were drawn directly from live models, or, at least, from multiple pictures at different angles. Granted, they are mostly aliens, some human or human-like, some reptilian, others more mammalian, even a few insect-like creatures, but it’s still amazing. It just drew me in from day one and kept me engaged on an almost daily basis, and it‘s already more than a year old. Now if only I could convince my mother and father that a newer system would make this so much better. And maybe, just maybe, a yoke and set of pedals.

I stand up and stretch as the software winds down, my casual gaze heading out the window. It was dark outside already. Have I been playing that long? Explains why mom was freaking about homework. I start to step forward with my hand reaching to close the blinds when I see a flash of light from just outside. It wasn’t big or spectacular. In fact, it was something that normally would have been overlooked. But this one was just outside the window and way too close to be something that was normally there, considering this one particular window overlooks the backyard. My curiosity piqued, I grab my jacket as I yell to my mom that there was something going on outside and that I’d be right back. I was out the door before she could object, my attention already fixated on where the flash was.

Now, I’m not exactly a big guy. Just under six foot, I’m skinny, lanky, and awkward like any teenager is, and the best I could have done was startle someone. Maybe even stun or knock them over and yell for help. But I didn’t think about that. All I knew is that, whatever it was, wasn’t supposed to be there, and I wanted to find that flashing thing before it disappeared.

I blindly jump down the three steps that made up the small porch, my dirty blonde hair slapping against my forehead as I turn quickly, ready to run and find whatever it was. My planned dash was cut short as I almost run down Allessa, my next-door-neighbor. She was fifteen, just like me, and was only slightly shorter than I am. She had been much shorter until just recently, and was often thought to be a few years younger than she actually was up until recently. She was pretty, with full lips that just begged to be kissed, a cute little nose that wrinkled ever so slightly when she laughed, and a soft, light skin tone. I had never seen her almost-black hair any way other than pulled back into a wide ponytail which bounced as she walked. As crazy as it sounds, sometimes seemed to have a mind of its own and moved without any obvious reason. She just joked about her hair being fussy. Her most memorable feature, though, were her eyes. They were a cool, soft neon blue that you could swear were glowing. They weren’t glowing then, though, as she looked at me in startled confusion.

“Oh!” I gasped as I quickly side-stepped to avoid slamming into her. The motion sends me tumbling down the slight downhill that stood just past the paving stone walkway. I managed to bring my hands and feet out to stop my tumble and jumped back up, dusting off my faded jeans. “What are you doing out here, Less?” I asked as a slowly approached her, curious about the fact that she was at the back door instead of the front.

“Oh, I, uh,” she started, those entrancing eyes looking back and forth. “I thought I saw something outside your house and I wanted to see what it was.” She turned to where I had seen the flash, and I turned with her, looking in the general direction, although it was rather dark past the glow of the porch light.

“So did I! Wow you’re fast. Maybe I should go and check–”
Her hand sprang for mine quickly as I started to step closer to the spot. “N-no, uh, you shouldn’t worry about that. I mean, after all, I didn’t see anything when I was over there.” She licked her lips and her eyes suddenly lit up. “Hey, did you get the new ChromeBots game yet?”

“No,” I answered flatly, still looking in the direction of the now non-existent flash. “But I really should see what that was.”

Allessa gently tugged my arm, her free left hand grabbing at my jacket. She pulls on the fabric to make me face her. She was smiling sweetly at me, like she did every time she wanted something from me. She’s known that I have had a crush on her ever since someone snapped up my notebook and found my writing out my confession of my feelings for her. It was a letter that I was going to give her one day when I wasn’t so skinny and beneath her. She also seemed to know that her sweet smile tended to make me forget what I was doing, if only for just for a moment of gazing into her big blue eyes.

“Really, Robert, I’m sure it wasn’t anything to worry about. I mean, I really didn’t see anything over there. Anyway, how about you come over and play the new game with me. I’ll even let you win the first round or two so you can get the hang of it.” She winked playfully at me, keeping that enchanting smile on her face as if to guarantee my submission. And I fell for it, letting her pull my hand over her shoulder as she turned towards her own home. Her soft voice starts telling me all I would need to know to set up my own ChromeBot and how to control the machine. Not that I was actually listening. All I could process was this girl who was holding me close to her, like she had a hundred times before, and how much I wished the gesture meant more than just a friendly conversation.

I vaguely remember having homework that needs finished as she pulls me into her house, and suddenly feel a need to inform my would-be captor. “Allessa, I know you’re excited about the new game which, no, I can’t afford to get right now,” I finally manage to answer her earlier question about having the game, “but I really should be home. I have homework that needs done and my mom‘s gonna kill me if it‘s not done.”

She ignores me and urges me through the back door with a gently bump from her hip. “Go into the living room. I’ll meet you there. I need to get out of my jacket.” I smile and willingly obey her, my resistance completely gone now that I’ve entered her home. I know she won’t take it off until I am out of sight, and trying to argue with her now was pointless. She never took her jacket off around me. Or in front of anyone I knew for that matter. It was always in another room, or near a closet that she couldn’t be seen through, or in the lavatory. She was very secretive about it. Everyone just laughed it off as a personality quirk, and we’d learned not to ask her. She never gave the same answer twice in a row.

I walked into the living room to find it in the same, absolutely clutter-free condition it was always in. The walls are a never-changing and sterile white against a mocha brown carpet. The walls were split up with a trio of windows, each one with its own set of darkly-shaded blinds. Three computers line a wall, always separated in the same fashion, using opaque curtains hung between each individual player station. They were also spotless and meticulously maintained, their cases polished and absolutely dust-free. Each computer was specifically color-coordinated. There was a cobalt blue system, complete with blue keyboard, mouse, speakers, even a combat yoke and pedals that was custom-done to match the system. Then there was a neon-green system next to it, and the last one was blood-red. Blue and Green were the visitors computers. She was very protective of the Red computer. She acted so much like an over-protective parent was of their young child in regards to that one. It always made me curious what she hid on it but never bold enough to ask. I don’t think she’d tell me anyways. The televisions across the room are connected to the house’s network and, as always, were displaying communications information from around the house. I don’t remember ever seeing the panels used for anything other than connected statistics, replays, and assorted network information. In fact, where were her parents? Weren’t they usually here?

Allessa walked into the room with the soft sound of her shoes sliding on and into the carpet giving her away. “You really waited for me? I’m impressed!” I turned to see her, and again caught myself admiring her so very lovely body. Not many girls at her age had her form and she just seemed to naturally know how to use it. My eyes trailed down her figure once again. Even fully clothed in her white sweater and blue jeans she was a spectacular sight to behold. She flashed that smile my way yet again, and I could feel my knees weakening. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to find that she didn’t want me to play a game but, instead, wanted to tell me that she felt for me as much as I felt for her. “Here. I’ve already set it up the game on the each of the systems. All you have to do is log in. You’ll find its controls familiar, and…”

She continued on, but I had stopped hearing her as I feel my heart shatter for the millionth time. Oh well, I thought. Maybe if I stopped being such a pansy and just admitted it to her myself then she’d see it. Maybe if I… No… She wouldn’t, she’s just way too beautiful for me. I gotta stop being so down on myself. That last thought hit me by surprise as I take a seat at the green system, the one closest to hers. I get to work setting up my profile on ChromeBots 2 game programs. As it turns out, this newest version connected to a web server and I would only have to set up once. Once I set up my profile online it would automatically load my personal profile, settings, everything on any computer I play on. Great!, I think to myself, so much time is wasted on setting up three or four different computers.

By the time I’m ready to go, I’d already received an invite to a game in progress. Much like its predecessor, you start with only the basic ChromeBot, more or less a large, walking battle robot. From there, you work your way up to the bigger, more capable units. On the original game, I had already worked my way up to the strongest Bots and could walk through almost any battlefield unscathed. But, being a new profile, I was still a green and raw recruit, making me less than trusted by the Uniform Galactic Military, the game’s extra-galactic combat corps. This meant taking time to get stronger. I think to myself that if the controls were identical to what I was used to, there wouldn’t be too much trouble. I accept the invite and find myself pulled into the basic training simulation where I’m working side-by-side with Allessa. We start pressing through the training area. The controls were mostly identical, and a small options change made all the difference. Within a half-hour we’d begun pushing through the storyline, her gentle voice becoming hard and cold as she issued orders, called for reinforcement, and we settled into another gaming trance that would for several hours.

– –

Ten feet from the window of his house, a small, insect-like machine goes active. It slowly extended small wings. They begin to flap faster until the device gained lift and fluttered to the wall. Once it gets close to the wall, the machine tilts up, the stick-like legs clipping into the tiny imperfections of the surface of the structure. It begins climbing the wall, around the gutter, and onto the roof. It fluttered its wings yet again, keeping close to the roof, and landed silently on the highest point of the A-frame roof. The machine retracts its legs into its body, flattening itself to the tiles. As the thin, opaque wings slide back into their hiding spot within its body; its optical receptors analyze the tile coloring. With a soft hum, the insect-like robot changes its own external coloring to blend in to the tar and stone that made up the roof. It then flips open its back. On it, a small transceiver points skyward and begins its burst transmission towards the heavens. It waited for a moment for the proper counter-response. It didn’t take much more than a few seconds for the bug to received the return transmission it was expecting. The hidden device then began an up-to-the-minute interfacing with the cloaked ship in orbit, allowing for a record of all the “training” being done.

“She works quickly, Shipmaster,” the data operator hissed as she turns her serpentine head towards the control seat, her ruby eyes flickering in entertained delight. “We only ordered her to begin transmitting today.”

“She had better. If she doesn’t, she’ll be the one who pays the price. Inform the fleet master that we are receiving.” The shipmaster chuckled to her, knowing that it wouldn’t be much longer in terms of her mission.

The junior officer responded in a muted hiss and turned to do her duty.

Around the world dozens more of the small robots tapped into the network that had taken two local years to covertly get into position. Now it was just a matter of sitting back and collecting the data.

Chapter 3


I reached over and slammed my hand down on my alarm clock. I had set it about an hour early so I could get my homework punched out, but now, as I lay in bed looking at my clock with its display now showing 5:01 in the morning, I wonder if I can even get myself moving and out of bed, let alone consider doing my homework. I sigh loudly, and then throw the blankets off of my body. It’s chilly in my room, like it always is, and my body reacts to it like it always does; with a strong shiver. I keep asking dad to fix that vent. He always gives me the same non-answer that he has for just about everything that he considers minor at the moment, “When we have the money.” He had the money when he bought that old Challenger to restore. He had the money to make it great. But he didn’t have the money to replace a section of ducting. I grumble as I flip my light on and look across the room to where I’d laid my clothes out for the day. I jump up and quickly cross the room to where I’d set them. I quickly pull the clothes off the desk, get myself dressed, and hop into my shoes. I finally deign to look at my backpack as it hangs on the closet door. I know what’s waiting for me inside. I got lucky; at least it’s only my algebra. I’m good at math. Science, too. I’d already done half of it at school while I was waiting anyways. It would be a breeze to push through what little I had left!

That’s what I had anticipated, anyway. I sat down at my small desk, pulled my books out of my bag, and attempting to do the work. Instead, I found myself thinking about Allessa and that game. She is so lovely, so sweet, but when she sits at that desk it’s like someone flips a switch. She becomes cold, ruthless, almost scary. Isn’t that what makes a good leader, I muse, gnawing on my eraser. And that game. It was impossibly realistic and was in every way better than the original. We had spent several hours on it when mom called over to Less’s house and asked her to send me home. During that entire time she commanded that imaginary battlefield in her virtual armor, calling out commands, positions, and tactical data. How she does it, I’ll never know. I’d heard rumors before about some kind of commanding officer package that allows a person to deploy sensors and get satellite readouts, but my ChromeBot didn’t have it. With her help I’d managed to work my way into a medium-duty ‘Bot, one of many. I had opted to set mine up as a short-to-medium range assault unit. It left me vulnerable to longer-range attacks but made me far more formidable once in the thick of battle.

A half-hour had passed and I had only gotten through three equations. I forced the thoughts of the girl and her love of the game from my mind and pushed myself to finish out the assignment. As my concentration gathered, they just got easier and I managed to finish up just in time to hear my father’s typically heavy footsteps land outside my door. He pounds on the door once, twice, then a pause, and a third time. He always did it the same way, as if it was some kind of code.

“I’m up, dad.” I called out, knowing he’d hear me.

“Good. Now put your homework away and come on downstairs. Your mother and I have something to show you.”

“How’d you know?” I yelled in genuine surprised.

The door opened and his head pushed through the opening, a sarcastic smile lining his face. “I’m your father, that’s how.” He stepped in, half-closing the door behind him. “Besides, your alarm woke me up, and your mom said that you hadn’t done your homework last night. I just put two and two together.” His smile was huge, and he winked. “But I won’t tell. I know why you were over there last night.”

I felt my face get warm and I looked down at my finished work, closing it into its book. “Yeah, well, one of these days, I’ll tell her.”

He laughed and then started out the door. “Hurry up.” I never was sure if he meant telling her, or about getting down the stairs. He probably meant both.

I threw everything back into my backpack, snapping the zipper quickly across the top to close it, then slung it over my shoulder as I headed out of the room. I turned down the hall and hopped down the steps, dropping my backpack at the front door. I made my way through the living room and into the kitchen, expecting that they were waiting for me there.

The kitchen was empty.

“Mom? Dad?” I passed slowly through the kitchen and dining room and into the back room. That’s where they were waiting, both of them smiling. “Uh… What’s going on?” I asked nervously.

“Well, we know that you’ve been doing well in school, even if you don’t do your homework,” mom started. “And you’ve been bugging us about getting a new one, so…” They separated, and there was a new computer system already set up and booted. They’d gone all-out, even getting the control scheme I’d been drooling over for weeks. It was similar to what was set up next door at Allessa’s house but still had its original black coloring.

I blinked in awe of the system for a moment with no words forming in either my mind or my mouth. After a brief moment, I managed to stutter, “But I thought we didn’t have the money!”

“Well, that was true, but the office gave me a promotion and a big hefty bonus! Since we already had a newer system we thought it was time to update yours!” came dad’s response. “I’ve even put in to replace that duct to your room, finally. They’ll be in to do it after you get home from school, so make sure to get home right away.”

“Oh my gosh! Thanks mom! Dad!” I was finally able to move again, and rushed forward, hugging them both. We all laughed for a moment and shared the hug.

“But,” mom started again after the group hug had subsided, “We’ve had this system specially done. See that?” She pointed to a small round socket on the front of the computer. “Your grades slip and that thing won’t start up. We can do that.”

“I got it mom…” I sighed.

Dad’s laugh helped to push past the stern moment. “We also talked to Allessa about what to have in it. She made sure we got the right thing. Oh, and one more thing…” He grabbed a box from the desk and thumped it into my chest. “You’re gonna need this later. Now, I’m sorry, but I have to run to work. I love you both!” he said as he kissed mom quickly, then quickly took off towards the front door.

I looked at the box. It’s wrapped in a brown paper that’s thick enough to block out the light without being too heavy. As mom followed dad out of the room, I tore into the paper. “ChromeBot 2” in chrome on a black background. They’d gotten the new game! I guess they do listen to me, I thought as I started to sit at the computer. It was waiting for its initial configuration and setup. I looked at the clock, realizing I only had about fifteen minutes before I would have to be out the door, and turned around heading out to grab something to eat and catch the bus.

I charged out the door to get to the bus stop after quickly eating a stack of pancakes. When I say quickly, I mean I can’t tell you what they tasted like. Jumping down the steps, I bolted forward and cut across the street towards the bus stop. Allessa was waiting there along with a half-dozen other students. Those hypnotic eyes of hers lit up behind a smile when she saw me, and there was nothing else in the world for me at that moment.

“So, anything interesting this morning?” she asked, her voice telling me she already knew.

“Dad says you helped them pick it, so… Thanks…” I smile, noticing the other students laughing and pointing in my direction. I looked over my clothing quickly, thinking I might have spilled something. There was absolutely nothing to be found. Then, as I turned, I saw it in the reflection of the glass of the bank that served as our bus stop. My hair was sticking straight up! I’d forgotten to comb it! I turn to run back to the house when I hear the bus crest the hill. Too late! All I can do is climb up and be ready for the day of tortured harassment.

Chapter 4

Luck must have been on my side today because I managed to get through the entrance and to the men’s room before too many people saw me, save for the people on the bus and anyone I ran through. No one really could have with as fast I was moving. I straightened my hair out with water and my fingers and no one said anything all day about it. To top it all off, the day was rather uneventful. That’s good because the last thing I wanted was to get home in a bad mood. It was bad enough that Less saw me like that. Ugh! I must have looked so horrible! She’s never gonna think of dating me if I keep doing stupid things like that…

I flop into my comfortable chair in front of the computer and look across at the display. I start going through the setup, adding the information as it requests it. As if finishes up it asks if I have information from an older system to transfer. Luckily, the other system is still in the room. I quickly reconnect it to the network, power it on, and let the two computers talk about what files to copy and what files to forget. Once I start the process I hear the doorbell ring. I jump up and answer it, then lead the HVAC crew my father had hired into my room. They get to work, checking out the airways and decide to tell me that the issue was a damaged duct, which we already knew. They head into the attic to work on the ducting, and I soon hear sawing as they begin making the much-needed repairs. Ten minutes later they re-appeared with a crumpled piece of aluminum and head to their truck. After about ten minutes I finally see them coming back with a long stretch of rectangular ducting. Another twenty minutes and they’re climbing down and check the airflow from the vent in my room. Satisfied, they gathered their gear and left, but not before leaving me with a bill to hand to my father.

“Back to the computer,” I sigh to myself as I finally shut the oaken front door. I cross the house, ignoring my mom’s favored taste of Asian design, and get back to the desk. As I sit, I see the screen telling me that it’s ready to log in for the first time. I glance at the clock; Four-thirty. Good, I still have a half-hour to get things ready before anyone gets home. I quickly pop open the game box, scooping out the disk and pushing it into the slot-loading optical drive. Within minutes the game is installed and ready to sign into the gaming network. I was stretch my arms and shoulders to ready myself for a short bit of gaming when there’s a tap on the window. I look out to see those luminescent blues that I still swear she uses to keep me under some kind of hypnotic control. Allessa smiles, then points to the back door. I nod and head to the kitchen, around the refrigerator, and open the back door to head out.

“Well what a surprise!” I realize how excited I sound to be seeing her again, so I clear my throat. “I mean, I figured your parents are home, you’d be doing something with them.”

“My par– Oh, right, them. They’re home, but they locked themselves into their room. I decided I didn’t want to hear what they were doing.” She quickly glanced to her sides as if she was expecting someone to be watching, “Have you set up your software yet?”

“I only just finished, I mean, the guys who came to fix my heater just left. Kinda makes it hard to get things ready when you’re playing foreman.”

“I guess.” She smiles wider, and I feel my knees shaking. I will them to hold me up so I don’t look more like a total fool for the day in front of my dream girl. “What was up with your hair this morning? It looked like you’d just gotten out of bed.”

I roll my eyes in irritation. I knew it was coming sometime today. Here it is, I think to myself, she’s going to outright tell me I don’t have a chance in hell. “I was a little distracted. I had homework to get done, and the computer thing. I just didn’t have the time to look in a mirror.”

She gives a slight laugh. “Well that part was obvious. Did you have any homework to do tonight?”

I shake my head, “Nope. Did it all in study hall. Why they give someone study hall at the end of the day, I’ll never understand.”

“Well, then, Robert, get logged in! I need someone to cover my six.” She starts to head towards her house. “Oh, yes,” she adds, facing away from me, “I have a little wager.”


She turns to face me, looking straight into my eyes. “I know that you’re a little new to the game. I know that you don’t have the kind of ‘Bot that I have. But, if you ever want to duel, ask me.” She steps closer, stopping just out of arm’s reach. “I’ve known, you know.” She lets the words trail off, dropping the bait for me to pick up on.

“Hmm? Know what?” I feel my throat going dry, my legs suddenly even more wobbly.

“What you think of me. How you feel. I have a copy of that letter you were probably never going to give me.”

I try to act stronger than I know I am, not wanting to give up so easily. “H-how do you know that was from me? I mean, half the school–”

“Rob, you’re cute when you try to hide it. So don’t. You think I don’t see the way you stare at me? That I notice how jealous you get of the other guys who come around? Why don’t you just tell me yourself?” She stands, crossing her arms as she strikes a daring pose and purses her lips.

I lick my lips and try to think of anything. My mind races through every possible answer to give her. My voice sounds distant and I stutter as I try to respond. “Uh… What about the, uh, wager,” I ask, trying to change the subject.

“Not until you admit that you wrote the letter and that you meant it. Come on! Is it that hard?”

My eyes fall to the grass as I try to hold my ground as best as I can. “Yes… But no… But…” I grunt in irritation with myself. At that moment, I ask myself what the worst that could happen would be. “You’re beautiful, and amazing, and smart, and I’ve always liked you. There, I said it! Are you happy?”

She smiles as she leans back slightly, her hands pressing in behind her back. “Well then, here’s the wager. If you can beat me in a duel, then I’ll let you take me out.” Her smile never leaves her face as she shifts her body and leans forward to plants a soft kiss on his cheek. “So I suggest that you get to work, Rob, because I’ll be waiting.” She spins around quickly towards her house. Her hair flies up in their pony-tails and back down unusually quickly as she walks quickly away, moving to make herself appealing to any guy who would have been watching. As she reaches her door, she looks back over her shoulder and winks at my still immobile form. I stand there with my eyes wide in confusion, surprise, shock, still entirely unable to move. She then bounds gracefully into her house, leaving me agape with the thoughts of her seemingly limitless beauty.

I still can’t make my legs move as she heads into her house. Did I hear her right? She wants to go out with me?! All I have to do is win. I can do that! I’m one of the best. Aren’t I? This has to be a joke. She couldn’t mean it. But what if she did? And what did I see in her hair when she turned? It was such a light color in comparison, almost pink against her black hair? Well, maybe it was just a funny angle. Wait, what the hell am I standing here for, I need to get my levels up!

I turn to rush back inside. I can’t help but to jump and let out a loud whoop before heading inside. Her own words, it was her asking me to admit my feelings for her. Her betting that I couldn’t beat her. She was giving me exactly what I’ve wanted! It just made everything so much brighter in the world. And it gave the game an entirely different meaning. Now I just have to wait until I can take her down in-game. I’ve waited years for a chance to hear her say she’ll go out with me. What’s a few days, right?

Chapter 5

Two years.

It’s been two years since she told me that she would go out with me if I beat her. And I’ve tried. Very hard. It’s two years today and I vow that I’m going to get my chance to be with her. Like I have two or three times a week since she said it.

It doesn’t seem to matter what I do. I’ve learned to ignore her voice as we play. The distractions she throws at me no longer faze me. Her purring flirts and her hurtful barbs are virtually nothing to me now. I’ve begun working on my most advanced Bot, a heavy-armor assault unit designated NightWolf. I’ve upgraded its engines to crank out the speed of a Bot half its weight. Its armor has been replaced with an energy-ablative coating to dissipate energy attacks. Each weapon has been specifically selected and configured for a specific purpose. I no longer stick to the shorter range weapons because she simply hangs back and hammers me from range. When I switched to long range, she changed up to be close-in. She seemed to know when I was going to do something, and adjusted for it on the fly, so I’ve switched to an all-around configuration.

I’ve gotten close. So close that I can taste it. But just when I think I have her she does something to end my day. Once was a surprise minefield that she had lain for me when she knew that I was relying on shorter range weapons and would have to move in to hit her. Another time was a specifically-timed round fired practically straight up, which came down on my Bot and destroyed it in its weakened state. Another time she used the bog to keep my Bot from coming after her and pounded on its armor from behind. I had her down several times and had thought victory was mine. That’s when she would spring another surprise, firing her jumpjets to keep active, bouncing off of one foot and firing again, or firing from the ground.

It’s been rough on me. I’ve almost given up a dozen times. Each time I do, she comes to me, comforting and teasing me into feeling better. I’ve tried dating other girls. Each one of them left me because I was too in love with “that girl” to ever give myself to them. And she’s supported me every time they left. She let me know that there was someone for me, that, when the time is right, the right girl for me would come along. She would hold me; run her fingers through my hair. I asked her several times to forget the wager and just go out with me. Every time I did she would say that, for as much as she wanted to think about it, she thought it would make our time together online battling together or against each other special. She told me that I would remember her forever because she made me work for it. So, almost like clockwork, every Sunday I would challenge her. And I would fail. Again. And again. And again. The only one I can’t seem to defeat is her.

Today is different, though. I can feel it. Something feels right. Something that says you’ve earned it, that she’s going to let me win.

I’ve felt that every Sunday, though…

I sigh as I look at my ceiling and wonder if I should just call Dannielle back and tell her that I want to see her. I hadn’t heard from her in almost a month. The last thing she said to me was, “Call me when you decide you’re done chasing someone who doesn’t want you.” It’s not that I didn’t want to see her, but I wind up spending my weekends on ChromeBots with Allessa. I think that was her breaking up with me, but I’ve never been good with understanding women. Boy, do I want to call her right now. She really was sweet, kind, cute, and she even liked video games, as long as you count Pong and Breakout…

The house phone rings downstairs. I quickly sit up, the air much warmer since they’d fixed that duct. I think about that for a moment and remember when I was first in the attic and fell on that particular duct. I had caught it while trying to not go through the ceiling. It saved me, but I damn-near pinched it shut.


I probably should get that, I think to myself. I jump up, quickly hopping into a pair of shorts. I rush to the door, fling it open, and start into the hall


I leap down the steps and come to an abrupt stop on the landing. I quickly spin around and jump that last flight of steps as well, landing with a sharp sting as my bare feet slap into the hardwood.


I turn, yelping from the sting, and rush the phone. I get to it right as the next ring starts, grabbing it from the charging cradle, and answer it. “Hello?”

“Hey…” I know the voice immediately, although it’s sad, as if she was about to cry.

“Dannielle? I haven’t heard from you in so long! I thought you hated me!” My voice is high-pitched to my ears, and I wince because I sounded more surprised than I wanted to.

“I tried calling. Some woman answered every time. She kept saying you were busy and that they’d have you call me back. Why haven’t you called me?”

“Dannielle, the last I’d heard from you, you’d told me that you didn’t want me to call, didn’t you?” I really thought that’s what she meant. “I didn’t want you to go but I didn’t know what you wanted me to do. I’m sorry, I was confused.”

I hear her sniffle, and then a smile shows in her voice. “I know you didn’t, but… You seemed so busy with your neighbor, and I didn’t want you to pretend to care about me.”

“Wait! I never pretended!,” which is true. “I do like you and–”

“Robert,” she interrupts, “you don’t have to lie to me. I’m a big girl. I just wish you would have told me about her before.”

“What do you mean? You know Allessa!”

“Not her. Some other girl, the one I left the messages with. She kept saying her name was Chi’bi, but I knew that couldn’t have been her real name. And it didn’t sound like your mother.” She sighs, and I knew that she wasn’t making this up. I needed to say something fast or she really was about to break up with me for good.

“Wait, Dannielle, I don’t know anyone named Chi’bi, and no one ever gave me a message! I swear!”

“Look, I didn’t call you to harp on you for not being the perfect boyfriend. I called to say that I am done waiting for you to tell me what is going on.” I can hear her trying to hide her pain. She is trying so hard to be strong, and I don’t blame her. “Rob, I care about you, but you obviously have other things that you feel are much more important.” I hear a soft sniffle. “I just can’t be second to someone who doesn’t feel for you like I do, and I won’t be second to some game. Goodbye.”


I stand there with a quiet phone held to my ear. Why? Why does this have to be happening to me? We just started our senior year, and every girl I’ve liked and dated I’ve lost, either because of Allessa, or the game, and now this “Chi’bi” person. And who is this person anyway? I feel a deep anger growing and a feeling of betrayal. Someone had made it where I wasn’t with Dannielle. She really was a great girl! Why would someone be doing this to me? Who hates me so much?! I slam the phone back into its cradle and launch an explosion of punches into the couch cushions, my knuckles catching the supporting wood behind them on several swings. I keep swinging until I can’t lift my hands and my knuckles are bruised and rug-burnt. I look at my hands, swollen, painful, but blurry since I’m so angry that I’m starting to tear up. I turn towards the kitchen and head towards the sink. I turn the cold water on full-force and plug up the sink, then let my hands sit in the water as it fills over them. I notice a drop of water landing in the pool, realizing it wasn’t from the spigot. I close my eyes and feel another drop fall from them, hearing it landing in the water with a soft splash.

“If I ever find out who this person is, I will beat them within an inch of their lives.” It’s the only thing I can think of. They are the words that leave my mouth, my hands still burning in the icy water. “And when I get them there, I’m gonna make them wish they were dead.”

“Look, I didn’t call you to harp on you for not being the perfect boyfriend. I called to say that I am done waiting for you to tell me what is going on.” I can hear her trying to hide her pain. She is trying so hard to be strong, and I don’t blame her. “Rob, I care about you, but you obviously have other things that you feel are much more important.” I hear a soft sniffle. “I just can’t be second to someone who doesn’t feel for you like I do, and I won’t be second to some game. Goodbye.”


Then a long pause. The soft, yet ragged sound of a pained breathing. Then a hard clacking sound, and the transmission cuts out

The human girl sounded so upset. She understood. She even sympathized. But she couldn’t let anyone interfere with her plans. There was too much at stake. Her family. Her sister. Her friends. Her own commander, the one being she loved. So many lives depended on her making sure this didn’t fail.

She lets her black-furred right paw drift to the holographic display, and it catches the disconnect symbol. She then stands and stretches her white-and-black-spotted body and lets both of her hand-paws drift up, stroking her long, overly-oblong ears that pushed through her moderate-length black hair. They were sore from being hidden away, and she knew it wasn’t going to be the last time. So much to hide, so much coercion. It was all taking a toll on her. But she’d made a deal. She’d find a suitable replacement for her own baby sister on this back-water planet. These humans didn’t even have the technology to replicate the alien devices and systems, but they could handle what was already available effectively. Her captors only wanted the best, and she’d found him. She knew it already. He just needed to prove it and this nightmare would be over.

She sat again at the table that held the holographic base, then pressed a control to bring up a data file. It contained a photograph of a young, dark-blonde haired and blue-eyed subject. It had all of his personal information; anything that could be collected on the planet’s data networks was already collected. Height, weight, social security, birth certificate, school records, any website he’s ever seen, all of it. Further into the text, it also included his combat stats which, while impressive, had one flaw: the last person on his dueling list whom he hadn’t beaten, call-signed ChiMaschi. She knew who that player was, very intimately.

This was all going to end soon, and she relished that thought. She had done so much to prepare him for this. What she was doing was in gross violation of UFO law, but it was either this or know that her love would be left to die in suspended animation when they simply shut down its power grid without awakening him. And her sister being forcefully conscripted into their horrible training program, making her nothing more than a horridly twisted version of herself, whose only wish is to follow the commands of her handlers, regardless of what that was. Her friends, members of her battlegroup, would be executed by being fed to their younglings. No, this was a much better outcome, she told herself over and over again. One human life for her love, her friends, her family. But one thought kept nagging at her mind, making her rabbit-like nose twitch as she thought about it.

Was one life worth it all? Even if that life was a human’s?

To her, at this moment, it most definitely was.


3 Comments on “No Way Back – The Story Ch. 01-05 – Edited 04JUN2010”

  1. Virginia Says:

    Oh my goodness! that is…WOW! keep going!!!!

  2. The Vic Chick Says:


    • The Lone Wulf Says:

      I now understand, and thank you.

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