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Literature
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Fourteen
Tearis, Etris Lunn
August 7, 2017
2:30PM
Eric studied the Tearil architecture as he bobbed past on the back of his steed. The buildings seemed to bubble out of the ground, intertwining with tendrils of blue and magenta vines, some almost buried underneath clusters of pale pink fruits. Little blue blades of grass grew between every cobblestone, each blade curling at the top, and here and there tall pink plants with streaks of yellow at the top grew like trees.
The lead Xzeejee tugged on the reigns of her beast and brought it to a halt. The other creatures skidded to a stop around them, and the leader called out something to the Tearils, speaking their language flawlessly. That was when it hit Eric – these Xzeejees were native to Tearis. Their people had lived here for generations, hiding in the wastes, occasionally trading with the Tearils.
The Xzeejee turned around and pushed Eric off the saddle. He fell, almost eagerly, to the safety of the firm ground. He landed on his hands an
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Literature
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Thirteen
The West
August 7, 2017
2:03PM
Nellie leaned against the sheet metal wall, listening to the sounds of the dark city outside: men’s voices, mostly, and the occasional sound of machinery and power tools. The men had dragged in a mattress and tattered blankets, but she couldn’t quite get comfortable. The mattress smelled funny, and even with noises outside, the empty little room still felt like a sarcophagus. Aleisha stood leaning against the wall next to the door, smoking a cigarette.
“Sit down,” said Nellie. “You’re making me nervous.”
Aleisha shook her head. “I don’t like it here.”
Nellie walked to the door, opened it a crack, and poked her head outside. Harsh florescent worklights beamed down from somewhere high up above, and pale, disheveled men walked across the floor carrying tools and pieces of metal. The dim glow from just off the horizon shone through a window spanning across the upper levels. The vast room smelled like
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Literature
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Twelve
The West
August 7, 2017
2:03PM
Christopher Lau sat at the end of the table, chewing the end of a ballpoint pen with a BRI logo on the side of it, and said, “Can you tell me what exactly Benson’s trying to do?”
He and Maggie had been talking for the last two hours, mostly about the deaths of Maggie’s father and old Benson. It felt like an interrogation. Nellie and Aleisha were a few floors down in a room Lau had set aside for them. Lau’s office was up in the highest reaches of the factory building. It had once been a nice room, with a huge window on the side overlooking the little town and a balcony looking out on the factory floor. It had since been stripped down to the bare brick, and the only furniture was a careworn wooden desk and a huge piece of sheet metal atop four stacks of concrete blocks – this served as a table. The rest of the room was filled with dusty boxes and old books, most of which seemed to be instruction manuals and parts catalogu
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Literature
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Eleven
Tearis
August 7, 2017
11:30AM
Nellie kept her eyes on the back of Maggie’s head as they trudged through the jungle. She wished that they could have taken just enough time for her to go back to her house and grab a bottle of water, or even a stick of deodorant. Her whole body felt achy and sore after having spent the night sprawled out on the rubbery white ground. She tried to imagine how good it would feel to take a shower.
If Aleisha felt the same as Nellie did, she wasn’t saying anything. Aleisha was like that – the things that bothered Nellie always seemed to take twice as long to start to bother Aleisha. Nellie thought that might have had something to do with the way Aleisha was raised. She’d only actually been to Aleisha’s house a time or two. Her mother didn’t want her going back there when she heard about the bed bugs.
It was slow progress walking through the jungle. Twice already they’d had to circle around a mass of blue, pink and purp
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Literature
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Ten
Tearis
August 7, 2017
1:00PM
Eric stumbled blindly after his Xzeejee escorts as they ran through the Tearil jungle. In the heavy fog that had descended over the past few hours, he didn't know how they were navigating - it was all he could do just to avoid clusters of tangled, white plants. The leader finally grabbed him by the hand and dragged him along.
The leader seemed to notice his gasps for air and she called to the others, signalling for them to pause. While Eric caught his breath, the Xzeejees mulled about, apparently unfazed by the forty-five minute jog, and the leader gazed up into the tree-tops. She let out a shrill whistle that rang in Eric's ears, and within moments four ape-like beasts descended from the trees, each equipped with pale-colored bundles strapped to their backs. It took Eric a moment to realize that these were saddles.
“Why didn’t we ride them all along?” Eric asked, more to himself than the Xzeejees.
“See,” said the leader.
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Literature
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Nine
Tearis
August 7, 2017
6:13 AM
Nellie, Aleisha and Maggie stalked through the white jungle, wielding sticks they’d pulled off of trees. There were surprisingly few dead plants just lying around on the ground the way one would expect to find them on earth. Once, Nellie found a stick half-submerged in the ground, with the sticky white surface slowly growing over it.
They were going after the bubble-wrapper Maggie had seen a short distance away. The plan was for Maggie to attack the creature by herself – she would just need the two of them to pry it off of her if it attacked.
As they walked along, Aleisha asked, “So, what was going on back there? How come your boyfriend blew up the factory?”
“He didn’t,” Maggie said, sighing. “It’s a long story.”
“We got time,” said Aleisha.
“A really long story.”
“That ain’t fair,” Aleisha said. “We’re here – we might as well know why.
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Literature
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Eight
Tearis
August 7, 2017
6:43 AM
Eric awoke stiff and aching. He'd twisted his back somehow during the night, and couldn't turn his neck all the way to the left, but somehow he hadn't fallen off the branch. The sun shone through the treetops, flickering in his face. He craned his neck to look around and saw that the forest floor was still murky with fog. Eric popped his shoulders and climbed up to the topmost branch he could reach, looking over the fibrous, fungoid canopy. He held a hand over his eyes to shield them from the glare of the Tearil sun.
The planet’s terrain was flat and nondescript. There was a smudge on the horizon to his right, but that was nearly due-east, and couldn’t have been Etris Lunn – it was far too long and wide. Probably the Hizhda mountain-range, he thought. Even at the top of the tree he really couldn’t make out much - he couldn’t see anything that looked vaguely like Etris Lunn, and he didn’t see any buildings or roads. The o
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Literature
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Seven
Tearis
August 7, 2017
6:04AM
Maggie’s eyes snapped open. She thrashed on the ground, trying to figure out where she was. She recognized the teal-blue sky, white-stemmed plants and purple flowers. The memories of the previous night came flooding back to her along with the throbbing pain from her wounds. She pulled back one pant leg and looked at the gash she’d received climbing over the barbed wire. That would have to be treated. The wound next to her ribs wasn’t much better – a little deeper, and the rocks might have gored her.
Both of her parents were dead, now. When her mother had died nine years ago, it had been hard, but her father had been there for her. He always had been. When he wasn’t there for her, Old Benson was, and they were both dead, now, blown up along with Benson’s death ship.
Maggie heard snoring. She looked to her left and saw the two girls sleeping in each other’s arms. God dammit, she thought, what did I do?  
Last nig
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Literature
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Six
Earth: BRI, Coonswater Facility
August 7, 2017
2:15 AM
The Valley terminal to Au’wm was exactly where Eric had said it would be, but he’d never said that it would be this heavily guarded. Of course it was guarded. Lilun didn’t know what she’d expected. She clenched her jaw as she walked past the rows of cold, black doorways, ominous enough without a row of armed guards standing in front of them.
Even if there were guards, Lilun told herself, there was no reason why she shouldn’t be able to go back home. She wasn’t one of the ones back down in the Hole – the men standing at the gates should know that.
Lilun headed with a brisk skip for the Valley to Au’wm, trying to avoid eye contact. She knew it was a mistake as soon as five of the guards arose and blocked her path, gripping the handguns they wore at their waists. “Clearance pass?” said one of them.
“What?” said Lilun.
“This Valley’s on lockdown until f
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Literature
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Five
The West
August 6, 2017
11:03 PM
Eric hissed a creative barrage of expletives as he raced through the Valley. The BRI security was close enough that he could hear their boots thudding against the rocky floor. He hadn’t had time to work out any of the details of this tunnel or where it led to. Some Valleys were short, only a few feet long, and others took days to traverse even in a vehicle. He used the camera flash on his tablet to light his way as he stumbled across the rocky Western floor. This one was a short, narrow tunnel blocked with rocks and boulders. I had to pick the rough one, he thought.
He climbed up a narrow crevice and found himself surrounded by spongy, white Tearil terrain. He leaned over the edge of the hole and looked around. It was too dark to see – if there were any familiar landmarks, he would have to find them in the morning.
Eric pulled a flashlight from his pocket and shone it around. Ahead of him there was a clearing in the thick, white brush, which
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Literature
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Four
Coonswater
August 6, 2017
10:38 PM
"I just saw a shooting star."
"I saw it, too."
Every day, after dark, when her family thought she was asleep, Nellie would sneak out of her house and meet her friend, Aleisha, in the cave beneath the mountain. A few hundred yards down the road was the town border, where the huge, faded, peeling sign stood greeting visitors: a cartoon mountain man wrapped in layers of furs, smiling underneath a speech bubble proclaiming, “Welcome to COONSWATER!” Beneath this, in smaller letters: “Home of Ol’ Bob Coon!” Coonswater had no tourist attractions, no history to speak of, and no jobs, but it had a mascot.
Nellie was thirteen years old – two months older than Aleisha – and these nights spent in front of the cave were the only time that the two of them were able to see each other. Nellie was from Mountainside, and Aleisha was from Riverside, and everyone knew that Riversiders and Mountainsiders didn’t get along. Th
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Literature
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Three
Earth: BRI, Coonswater Facility
August 6, 2017
7:23 PM
It felt like a rainy Saturday evening, a world away from the routine with laundry lining the halls in between being washed and dried and cartoons playing nonstop on the TV and the light outside too dim to keep the lights off but too bright to feel like the lights should be on... But Maggie wasn't home. She was a mile underground. Instead of dirty laundry, it was drawers full of papers stuffed with confidential information which belonged nowhere but in their desks, but those desks had been overturned when the riot hit, and instead of cartoons, it was the loudspeaker blaring the alert: "The Hole has been breached. Security code B. The Hole has been breached."
Helenski stumbled past, tie askew. Maggie could smell the whisky on his breath as he brushed by her. He was one of the ones that would normally be working down in The Hole right now. "They're lining them up on racks," he was mumbling. "Punching them full of holes... Hooking them
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Literature
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Two
Earth: BRI, Coonswater Facility
August 6, 2017
12:00
Eric’s few days off were usually spent in the facility commissary, drinking cup after cup of coffee and debugging his latest pet-projects. When he wasn’t working, he was spending time with his girlfriend, Maggie Verger. He hadn’t seen much of Maggie for most of the month – she’d been spending all her time topside, monitoring old Benson’s vitals alongside her father, Sam, the founder of the BRI’s Medical branch.
Eric always got a little antsy without Maggie around. It was too easy to lose himself in his work, and without her to talk to, it gave him time to think. Things tended to get dangerous when Eric was alone with his thoughts. It didn’t help that things down in the sublevels of the BRI were starting to get a little creepy. Ever since old Benson had taken ill, his son had started moving projects down to the lowest levels of the facility – the Hole. Lately, people were starting
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Literature
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter One
Earth: BRI, Coonswater Facility
August 6, 2017
7:04 PM
There was a siren, and Lilun jumped out of bed with a bolt.
“ALL PERSONNEL REPORT TO THE HOLE – SUBLEVEL 34-B.”
Lilun almost forgot to don her lab coat and pants. There was little point in her wearing them, anyway; she was a Xzeejee – a creature from the planet Au’wm - which meant that she was covered in fur. She’d been working for the Benson Research Initiative for her entire adult life, and even though everyone working in the sublevels was used to working around Xzeejees and other creatures from outside of earth, the humans still sometimes called her an otter.
“I hear you, yeah yeah yeah,” Lilun grumbled, heading out into the crowded corridor. The halls were congested, and the more qualified staff bustled past her in a rush, completely ignoring her presence. As Lilun buttoned up her lab coat and snapped her name-tag to her lapel the siren sounded again, and the loudspeaker boomed, &
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Literature
The Tchacata Machine - Prologue
Tearis
June 8, 1974
6:32AM
“Robert” was a human name. Robert himself was not human.
He stood at the edge of the empty battlefield, staring with four eyes across the soft, white terrain. He leaned against one pale blue tree, claws sinking deeply into the plant’s soft, velvety flesh. Metallic brown blood oozed from a gash in his side, darkening his red robes. Robert paid the wound no mind – one more battle scar would only earn him that much more respect from his soldiers.
Robert watched Leir, his wife, walk across the empty field and stand in the morning sunlight. She knelt and dragged one slender, amber-colored claw across the white ground, drawing the shape of a little man on the planet’s surface. This morning, under Robert’s command, she had wiped out an entire contingent of enemy troops.
There were no bodies to lay out this morning, because the planet did not allow them to remain. All dead tissue was absorbed by the planet’s living surface. L
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"I... Could you repeat that?"
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She edged away from the door, keeping an eye on the intruder beyond the glass. It was bloated and purple with decay, green and black fungus speckling its face. There was fluid coming out of its mouth and dripping from its nose. It had no eyes, and all indication of sex or age had rotted away.
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Haters are gonna hate
 
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If this sounds like you, well then listen up your not alone,
around the world there are people like us that seem to get hate all the time and
enemies,,, , why do you get them and what can you do?
 
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1) We have a talent
2) you're a people person
3) others like you
4) Your life is successful
5) you feel good about yourself
And  last but not least
6) You have something they want
That is pretty much the summary of why we get haters….
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Activity


Tearis, Etris Lunn
August 7, 2017
2:30PM

Eric studied the Tearil architecture as he bobbed past on the back of his steed. The buildings seemed to bubble out of the ground, intertwining with tendrils of blue and magenta vines, some almost buried underneath clusters of pale pink fruits. Little blue blades of grass grew between every cobblestone, each blade curling at the top, and here and there tall pink plants with streaks of yellow at the top grew like trees.

The lead Xzeejee tugged on the reigns of her beast and brought it to a halt. The other creatures skidded to a stop around them, and the leader called out something to the Tearils, speaking their language flawlessly. That was when it hit Eric – these Xzeejees were native to Tearis. Their people had lived here for generations, hiding in the wastes, occasionally trading with the Tearils.

The Xzeejee turned around and pushed Eric off the saddle. He fell, almost eagerly, to the safety of the firm ground. He landed on his hands and knees, looked up, and said, “Thank you.”

She just nodded at him.

“What’s your name?” he asked as he dusted himself off.

“Acsbetlaxzentir Prioon Affel Mi’er,” she responded in full.

“Um…”

“Prioon,” the Xzeejee repeated, almost as if she anticipated his questions.

“Prioon,” repeated Eric, nodding.

“Be safe,” Prioon said. She turned and looked at her comrades, barked a few orders, and they trotted away on their gorilla-like steeds, heading back the way they came, leaving Eric alone with the Tearils. Eric stared after Prioon and her group as they disappeared back down the road.

A group of five Tearils were standing in the field a few feet away – looking on and humming together in an odd, discordant melody. Eric looked around. Chis Losi’s palace had to be close by – he wondered if Maggie and Lilun had already made it there.

Eric waved as he approached the group of Tearils. They all smiled, but said nothing, their faces serene.

“Has anyone seen Maggie Verger?” Eric asked the five. “A little shorter than me, curly red hair… She should be wearing my black jacket.” Eric had enough experience with the Tearils on earth to know that what any of them had seen, the others would all know telepathically.

The Tearils continued to smile, humming quietly in unison. Finally, almost as an afterthought, one of them said, “We have not.”

Something was wrong.

“What about a female Xzeejee by the name of Lilun Baghret?”

“No,” the Tearils all sang.

“Can anyone at least take me to Etris Lunn?” Eric asked, agitated.

“They –“

“- are –“

“-coming.”

From behind, Eric heard a mechanical whine. Coming from his right, out of the crater, was a large, white wheel spinning up the crater's edge. Within seconds it came to a halt in front of them.

It was some kind of gyroscopic vehicle with a little pod in the center - that was the cockpit. A hole appeared on the side of the pod and a Tearil jumped out and approached Eric, smiling just like the others. It put a hand on the side of Eric’s face in the usual greeting and crooned, “Human: you bring news?”

Eric nodded, edging away from the Tearil’s touch. “I have some urgent news for Chis Losi - the BRI is moving the Valleys.”

The Tearil smiled and climbed back up into the cockpit. “Come along,” he called.

Eric climbed into the cramped pod while the driver caressed a white tablet that served as a control panel. The round door seemed to melt shut, and two spots on the walls faded until they were completely translucent, providing windows. The wheel lurched to life and careened backwards toward the city, bouncing down the outer walls of the crater. Eric shut his eyes. The motion was surprisingly smooth, but he’d had enough thrill-rides for one day.  

It wasn’t until he heard the Tearil chirp, “Here!” that Eric opened his eyes, loosened his jaw, and unclenched his fists. A hole opened on the side of the pod and Eric tumbled out of the cockpit. His stomach was still turning when he finally pulled himself up off the ground. “Chis Losi is in the statehouse,” said the Tearil, hopping to the ground beside him. It pointed to a building just ahead.

The statehouse looked to have been grown more than built – its walls were completely formed of the blue and pink vines Eric had seen growing up all around the farmhouses. Beneath the vines, Eric could see hints of pearlescent white walls. As he stepped inside, he saw a white light pouring in from the walls themselves. The few attendants standing inside the building almost blended in with the flawless whiteness all around – the shadows of their tunics and dresses were all that betrayed them.

The Tearils standing in the atrium gestured to a winding staircase at the side of the room built of spiraling white branches. Eric slowly began to ascend the stairs. They felt sturdy, but there was something so alien about them that Eric had to check each step, one at a time, making sure not to lose them in the blankness all around him.

He came to an archway composed of two bough-like tendrils interlocking together high above his head. He stepped into a much larger room where several Tearils congregated, murmuring to each other in melodic whispers. Somewhere up above there was a low hum, which grew in pitch to a whistle and then faded back to a low whine. The ceiling opened up from the center, uncoiling, and Eric watched as a few thick blue tendrils sunk down to the floor in a triple-helix. A glowing orb, as wide as Eric was tall, appeared in the hole and glided down the helix to the floor.

The tendril-helix withdrew while the bubble melted away into the ground. Standing in its place was Chis Losi. Chis was unmistakable amongst the other Tearils – he was the only one who showed age. He was old, and there were lines at the corners of his eyes from years of smiling. There were also deep circles beneath his eyes – a characteristic of mourning unknown to most Tearils.

He walked up to Eric and put a hand on the side of Eric’s face. For once, Eric didn’t move away. Eric had seen Chis before, down in the BRI, and that was the kind of effect Chis had on people: he put them at ease.

“I’m Eric Blake,” said Eric. “I used to work under Benson.”

“I know," said Chis. "I’ve heard you have news about Benson." Losi’s voice was different from the rest of the Tearils. It was deep, cracked, and uniquely his. “You say he’s moved the West?”

Eric nodded and pulled some papers, along with his tablet, out of his satchel. He handed the papers to Chis and pointed at one of the graphs. “You can see the energy-spike here, last May… And he’s displaced Xzeejees. Brought them all down to the Hole. He's doing something to them... Not sure what.”

Chis looked grim, but didn’t look infuriated as Eric had hoped. He knew that the Xzeejees and Tearils were usually strong allies and had fought on the same side in the last war, and he’d hoped that Chis would be more than a little concerned for their safety. “While Benson’s attitude towards xenopolitics is regrettable," said Chis, "we have no control over his decisions. We are very interested in how he was able to move the Valley without catastrophe, however. Do you know how he did it?”

“I don’t," said Eric. "That’s not why I’m here.” He pulled the documents from Chis’s hands. “I saw him kill some Tearils. They were trying to escape – to warn you.” Chis remained expressionless. “Don’t you care?”

Chis almost shrugged. “Again, Benson’s judgment may be regrettable, but I am not his keeper. We have our own problems here on Tearis.”

“You want to talk problems?” said Eric. “Benson's messing around with a machine from Echtectular and he’s experimenting on Tearils. That spells one thing to me – ‘Teur. Benson wants to bring back the ‘Teur.” Eric took a few steps forward, close enough to Chis that he could feel his breath on his face. “Does that ring a bell? ‘Teur? Do you remember them?”

Chis slowly closed his eyes and sighed, turning away from Eric and walking to a nearby window. “Being capable of something and taking the proper actions to pursue that course are two entirely different things, Eric Blake. Need I remind you that William Benson, his entire family, and the Research Institute owe their existence to Tearil technology. To Etris Lunn, in particular. He is in no position to take actions in the West near us without our knowledge and consent. Nor do I believe he is capable.” Chis sighed. “I really do wish you knew how he did it. We could compare techniques and make our own technology so much more efficient.”

“Look, Losi,” Eric stepped in front of Chis. “Benson’s planning something big. I don’t know what, or exactly why, but… shouldn’t you at least send somebody to look into it?”

Losi shook his head. “Our Lady of War is silent.”

“Who?”

“Our Lady of War.”

“What the hell does that even mean?”

“That we do not face war.”

“But he’s working with the ‘Teur!”

“The Valleys leading to Echtectular were all sealed over four decades ago. Every last one of them. No ‘Teur has been able to breach that space in that span of time. Benson is not capable of working with them.”

“But he can move the Valleys!” Eric clenched his fists. “If Benson can move the West, what’s to stop him from working with the ‘Teur?”

Chis laughed. “The ‘Teur never work with anyone. They just kill them.”

“You can tell your Lady of War to go fuck herself,” Eric seethed, and turned back down the stairs. He wished Lilun was here. Or Maggie. Where the hell was Maggie?
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Fourteen
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The West
August 7, 2017
2:03PM

Nellie leaned against the sheet metal wall, listening to the sounds of the dark city outside: men’s voices, mostly, and the occasional sound of machinery and power tools. The men had dragged in a mattress and tattered blankets, but she couldn’t quite get comfortable. The mattress smelled funny, and even with noises outside, the empty little room still felt like a sarcophagus. Aleisha stood leaning against the wall next to the door, smoking a cigarette.

“Sit down,” said Nellie. “You’re making me nervous.”

Aleisha shook her head. “I don’t like it here.”

Nellie walked to the door, opened it a crack, and poked her head outside. Harsh florescent worklights beamed down from somewhere high up above, and pale, disheveled men walked across the floor carrying tools and pieces of metal. The dim glow from just off the horizon shone through a window spanning across the upper levels. The vast room smelled like machine oil and, faintly, food of a non-benebit variety.

Aleisha appeared behind her and pushed Nellie aside, pushing open the door a little further.

"You smell that?" asked Nellie.

Aleisha sniffed the air. "Yeah," she muttered. "That better fuckin' be for us." She sniffed again. “It’s coming from over there,” she said, walking towards the source of the smell.

“I think we should wait until Maggie gets back.” Nellie hesitated at the doorway.

“We ain’t nobody’s prisoner,” Aleisha said, laughing.

Nellie didn’t understand how Aleisha could be so uptight in the room and completely at ease out here trespassing on a world which up until last night neither of them had even known existed. That was how Aleisha always was – perhaps one reason why Aleisha could never seem to stay in school. She always felt safer by herself, hiding out in abandoned warehouses and walking down long-unused train tracks.

All Nellie wanted to do was hide in the relative safety of their room until Maggie got back, but she followed Aleisha anyway. It wasn’t like she had anything better to do. They passed workrooms filled with hulking pieces of machinery sprayed with the BRI logo. This place appeared to be some kind of salvage station - Lau’s men cannibalized BRI parts and used them to make… things. Nellie wasn’t mechanically savvy enough to tell what. She saw a quite few parts that looked like some kind of turret; the rest of it was a mystery.

They came to what looked like a lunch room filled with collapsible tables surrounded by folding chairs. A few plastic cups still lay abandoned on some of the tables. Somebody had written "TRASH" over one of the cabinets under the sink. Aleisha tried turning on the faucet. Nothing came out.

The warm food smell emanated from a closed doorway on the far side of the room – that, and voices. Men’s voices, arguing.

Someone said, “What’s on the menu?”

“Pea soup,” someone else replied. “Not for you. It’s those girls.”

“Girls?” someone else said, excited. “What kind of girls?”

“The kind with tits, dumbass.”

She heard the sound of a metal spoon scraping against a bowl. Aleisha flattened herself against the wall on the other side of the door.

“They gonna let us fuck ‘em?”

“Maybe the redhead.”

“There’s a fuckin’ redhead?”

“Yeah. The other two are just kids.”

“Psh. That ain’t never stopped me.”

“Hey, whatever, man. Ain’t no law down here.”  Nellie heard the sound of clanking dishes.

“How long you think it’s gonna be before Lau lets us in there?”

“Geez, Seth.”

“I’m just sayin’.”

“We have to wait til Lau finishes with the redhead.”

“So, next fuckin’ year.”

“This is Maggie Verger. Her dad was one of Benson’s bigwigs. Lau would be an idiot if he doesn’t use that to try to get Benson’s attention…. Maybe try to squeeze some kind of ransom out of him. Heh. I hear she was begging for us to send her to Etris Lunn.”  

“Ha!”

“That’s probably the only way we’re gonna get her to stay here. Just keep telling her that we’re working on it.” In a lower voice: “Between you and me, I’m kind of hoping Benson doesn’t sell out. Then she’s fair game.”

“But these two kids… they ain’t nobody.”

“Not that I hear.”

“If I just went up there while Maggie’s out…” There was the unmistakable slap of a spatula hitting flesh. “Ow!”

“Not until this is done cooking.”

“Fuck you. I’m getting a cigarette.”

Nellie shot Aleisha a panicked glance. “Shit!” Aleisha mouthed, and dashed for the cabinet marked "TRASH" just as the door opened. Nellie opened the other cupboard and they both jumped inside before they had time to realize that the cabinet door covered a hole straight down. The last thing Nellie saw was what had to be Seth’s face peeking over the edge, watching as they tumbled down a steep, rocky slope.
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Thirteen
Next Chapter: The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Fourteen
Tearis, Etris Lunn
August 7, 2017
2:30PM
Eric studied the Tearil architecture as he bobbed past on the back of his steed. The buildings seemed to bubble out of the ground, intertwining with tendrils of blue and magenta vines, some almost buried underneath clusters of pale pink fruits. Little blue blades of grass grew between every cobblestone, each blade curling at the top, and here and there tall pink plants with streaks of yellow at the top grew like trees.
The lead Xzeejee tugged on the reigns of her beast and brought it to a halt. The other creatures skidded to a stop around them, and the leader called out something to the Tearils, speaking their language flawlessly. That was when it hit Eric – these Xzeejees were native to Tearis. Their people had lived here for generations, hiding in the wastes, occasionally trading with the Tearils.
The Xzeejee turned around and pushed Eric off the saddle. He fell, almost eagerly, to the safety of the firm ground. He landed on his hands an


Previous Chapter: The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Twelve
The West
August 7, 2017
2:03PM
Christopher Lau sat at the end of the table, chewing the end of a ballpoint pen with a BRI logo on the side of it, and said, “Can you tell me what exactly Benson’s trying to do?”
He and Maggie had been talking for the last two hours, mostly about the deaths of Maggie’s father and old Benson. It felt like an interrogation. Nellie and Aleisha were a few floors down in a room Lau had set aside for them. Lau’s office was up in the highest reaches of the factory building. It had once been a nice room, with a huge window on the side overlooking the little town and a balcony looking out on the factory floor. It had since been stripped down to the bare brick, and the only furniture was a careworn wooden desk and a huge piece of sheet metal atop four stacks of concrete blocks – this served as a table. The rest of the room was filled with dusty boxes and old books, most of which seemed to be instruction manuals and parts catalogu


The Tchacata Machine is a free, online, sci-fi serial novel I wrote with RRedolfi, titled "The Tchacata Machine." I'm going to try to get all the chapters uploaded here, but do visit the website at Tearis.com for the occasional easter egg and other neat tidbits. It's also @tm-project on Tumblr. Special thanks to Nashoba-Hostina
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The West
August 7, 2017
2:03PM

Christopher Lau sat at the end of the table, chewing the end of a ballpoint pen with a BRI logo on the side of it, and said, “Can you tell me what exactly Benson’s trying to do?”

He and Maggie had been talking for the last two hours, mostly about the deaths of Maggie’s father and old Benson. It felt like an interrogation. Nellie and Aleisha were a few floors down in a room Lau had set aside for them. Lau’s office was up in the highest reaches of the factory building. It had once been a nice room, with a huge window on the side overlooking the little town and a balcony looking out on the factory floor. It had since been stripped down to the bare brick, and the only furniture was a careworn wooden desk and a huge piece of sheet metal atop four stacks of concrete blocks – this served as a table. The rest of the room was filled with dusty boxes and old books, most of which seemed to be instruction manuals and parts catalogues for various machines.

“I don’t know anything,” said Maggie. “My boyfriend, Eric… he knew more, working in IT, but I don’t think he told me everything he knows.”

“What did he tell you?”

“It’s not just what he told me… it’s what I saw,” said Maggie. “There was breach the night the factory topside was blown up. A bunch of Tearils got through the Hole, which was weird… They hadn’t been there for very long. They usually let Tearils go wherever they want to as long as they’ve had time to adapt the way they do…. These ones were desperate. Hadn’t adapted yet. The guards gunned them down before they made it out.”

“Was that all?”

Maggie shook her head. “Eric and I saw something. It was… this… person. Used to be a person. They’d done something to it…. It was all wired up to these tubes, and… the thing teleported. Just like a warp cat, just into the middle of a wall. Sloppily. Chopped itself in half.” She paused. “I think there’s more things like it down in the Hole.”

“Huh.” Lau stroked his beard.

The door opened. A boy not much older than Aleisha and Nellie leaned inside and said, “We got soup for lunch downstairs.”

Lau groaned. “God dammit, Randy, I’m busy. Have Bucket bring it up.” Randy shrugged and closed the door behind him.

“I heard Helenski – he’s one of the people in charge down in the Hole – saying something, too,” said Maggie. “He muttered something about them lining people up on racks down there. I keep hearing that over and over, but I have no idea what that means.”

“That could mean a lot of things,” said Lau, “but that doesn’t tell me what Benson’s planning to do.”

“I don’t know,” said Maggie. “I don’t know why he had to kill my dad…” The memories of the previous night came flooding back. Don’t cry, she willed herself. I swear to god, if I start crying right here…

The door opened. The smell of soup filled the room. Maggie turned to look and nearly fell off her seat.

The devil was standing in the doorway. He was a short, impossibly thin creature with two sets of owlish yellow eyes, one set grotesquely huge, the other small and beady, and long, thin claws that jutted out the length of his nearly skeletal fingers. His skin was sallow, almost jaundiced, except for the black shadows around his eyes. The rest of him was more or less man-shaped, although somewhat shorter in the torso and longer in the legs. He wore a set of ripped jeans, two dirty black jackets, and no shoes.

Maggie jumped to her feet and gripped the stool she’d been sitting on, ready to bash the creature over the head with it if necessary. “You’re working with the ‘Teur?!”

Lau laughed. “That’s just Pissbucket,” he said. “Don’t worry about him. We have a whole platoon of ‘Teur down here that we captured during the war.”  

Maggie watched, unmoving, as the ‘Teur approached the table. He carried a huge vat of steaming hot soup and a stack of two ceramic bowls. He put the vat down on the table and began to ladle it into the bowls. Maggie watched his eyes as he worked – his pupils dilated in and out, going from the size of pinheads to stretching almost to the edges of his eyes. She looked away when he glanced at her.

“They can go places we humans can’t,” Lau explained, “so we keep them around.”

“They never try to take over?” said Maggie.

Lau put a hand on the gun at his waist. “We don’t let them,” he said. “Relax.” The ‘Teur finished filling the second bowl of soup and headed back for the door. “Where you think you’re going?” Lau said.

The ‘Teur paused. “What do you need?” His voice was deeper than Maggie would have expected, and oddly metallic.

“You want me to take these dishes down myself?”

The ‘Teur’s long eyebrows sprang straight out from his face like a cat’s whiskers. “No sir,” he said, and sat on the floor next to the door.

Lau smiled, and pushed one of the bowls over to Maggie. “Back to what we were saying,” said Lau through a mouthful of soup. “Have you seen anything that might give you some indication as to what all these… medical experiments might be for?”

Maggie thought about it. “Eric told me that Benson had to displace a tribe of Xzeejees to move the Valley,” she said.

“What do you mean, ‘move it?’”

“Re-route it,” said Maggie. “You know that’s possible, right? Channel parts of the West so that they lead to different places than they originally went to.”

“But the amount of energy that would take to do…”

“I don’t know how he does it - all I know is that he did.”

“Did,” echoed Lau. “You mean he’s already done it.”

Maggie nodded.

“Damn,” Lau muttered. “That could shake our entire operation if he tries something like that around here…” He pushed his bowl across the table half-finished. “This means the ‘Teur could come back. He could open up what the Tearils sealed off.”

“We don’t know that,” said Maggie, “but Eric also mentioned something about the machine that they were looking for back during the war. The last thing Bill Benson Senior said before he died was something about the machine on Tchacata.”

Lau rubbed his face and leaned back in his chair, thinking. “Mt. Tchacata... That's on Echtectular. The 'Teur planet. But even if Benson does bring the ‘Teur back… even if he gets their machine… what’s he going to do with it?” He looked over at Pissbucket and asked, “You know anything about a Tchacata machine, ‘Teur?”

Bucket’s pupils quickly dilated and narrowed, and he leaned back against the wall nervously. “No sir,” he said.

Lau sighed. “You get your brother up here,” he said. “Maybe he knows.”

“I can’t,” said Bucket. “He’s gone again.”

Lau stood up, walked up to Bucket, grabbed him by the lapel and lifted him up to look at him eye to eye. “What’s the point of me keeping him around if he keeps wandering off?”

Bucket winced, but didn’t struggle. “I can’t stop him,” he said.

“I told you to follow him.”

“I tried,” said Bucket.

Lau let go of Bucket and walked back to his seat. “He’s useless,” he muttered. “So. Benson’s moving the Valleys, it sounds like to contact the ‘Teur and do something with this machine, which he appears to be using to torture humans and possibly Tearils. Now as far as what the purpose of this torture is, we only know that it involves sticking tubes up their asses and getting them to teleport.

“None of this makes much sense to me, but what you said about him moving the West, together with that machine… It does sound to me like he’s trying to bring back the ‘Teur. I don’t know what else he’d be trying to do with the Valleys. But I don’t know why in the world he would do something like that. There would be war. You don’t realize how close the ‘Teur were to crossing the West and heading for earth last time they fought the Tearils.”

There was a long silence. Maggie glanced sideways at Bucket. “The Tearils would know,” she said.

“No, they wouldn’t,” said Lau. “They don’t know jack shit. And even if they did, they wouldn’t do anything for earth. They don’t do nothing unless their goddamn leader Losi tells them to, for all the good he’s ever done. You’ve got a way better chance of fighting the ‘Teur from right here.”

Maggie leaned back, crossing her arms. “So I guess it’s a long shot to ask if you’ll help me get to Etris Lunn?”

“Yep.”

Maggie edged away from the table as Bucket rose to collect Lau’s empty bowl. Her stomach was empty, but she didn’t feel like eating. “So what are we going to do?”

“We’re not going to do anything,” said Lau. “I’m going to check on my contacts in the BRI and see if I can’t come up with something more conclusive. You… for now, I’m keeping you downstairs.”
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Twelve
Next Chapter: The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Thirteen
The West
August 7, 2017
2:03PM
Nellie leaned against the sheet metal wall, listening to the sounds of the dark city outside: men’s voices, mostly, and the occasional sound of machinery and power tools. The men had dragged in a mattress and tattered blankets, but she couldn’t quite get comfortable. The mattress smelled funny, and even with noises outside, the empty little room still felt like a sarcophagus. Aleisha stood leaning against the wall next to the door, smoking a cigarette.
“Sit down,” said Nellie. “You’re making me nervous.”
Aleisha shook her head. “I don’t like it here.”
Nellie walked to the door, opened it a crack, and poked her head outside. Harsh florescent worklights beamed down from somewhere high up above, and pale, disheveled men walked across the floor carrying tools and pieces of metal. The dim glow from just off the horizon shone through a window spanning across the upper levels. The vast room smelled like


Previous Chapter: The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Eleven
Tearis
August 7, 2017
11:30AM
Nellie kept her eyes on the back of Maggie’s head as they trudged through the jungle. She wished that they could have taken just enough time for her to go back to her house and grab a bottle of water, or even a stick of deodorant. Her whole body felt achy and sore after having spent the night sprawled out on the rubbery white ground. She tried to imagine how good it would feel to take a shower.
If Aleisha felt the same as Nellie did, she wasn’t saying anything. Aleisha was like that – the things that bothered Nellie always seemed to take twice as long to start to bother Aleisha. Nellie thought that might have had something to do with the way Aleisha was raised. She’d only actually been to Aleisha’s house a time or two. Her mother didn’t want her going back there when she heard about the bed bugs.
It was slow progress walking through the jungle. Twice already they’d had to circle around a mass of blue, pink and purp


The Tchacata Machine is a free, online, sci-fi serial novel I wrote with RRedolfi, titled "The Tchacata Machine." I'm going to try to get all the chapters uploaded here, but do visit the website at Tearis.com for the occasional easter egg and other neat tidbits. It's also @tm-project on Tumblr. Special thanks to Nashoba-Hostina
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Tearis
August 7, 2017
11:30AM

Nellie kept her eyes on the back of Maggie’s head as they trudged through the jungle. She wished that they could have taken just enough time for her to go back to her house and grab a bottle of water, or even a stick of deodorant. Her whole body felt achy and sore after having spent the night sprawled out on the rubbery white ground. She tried to imagine how good it would feel to take a shower.

If Aleisha felt the same as Nellie did, she wasn’t saying anything. Aleisha was like that – the things that bothered Nellie always seemed to take twice as long to start to bother Aleisha. Nellie thought that might have had something to do with the way Aleisha was raised. She’d only actually been to Aleisha’s house a time or two. Her mother didn’t want her going back there when she heard about the bed bugs.

It was slow progress walking through the jungle. Twice already they’d had to circle around a mass of blue, pink and purple foliage, and they’d had to look for a good vantage point to climb to the highest point they could to see where they were going. Then, around mid-day, the fog started. Nellie was used to thick fog, especially living near the river, but this was the worst she’d ever seen – so thick that she couldn’t see much past her elbows when she held her arms out all the way.

Maggie leaned against the low-hanging limb of a plant, running her hands through her hair in frustration. Nellie sat down on the ground beside her. Aleisha lit up a cigarette and asked, “How long you think it’ll take us to make it?”

Maggie shook her head. “Doesn’t matter,” she said. “We just can’t stop… Can’t give up.”

“This is insanity,” said Nellie, lying back against the soft ground. “How are we supposed to get there if we can’t see where we’re going?”

Maggie swung herself up on the branch and leaned back against the plant’s trunk. It wasn’t quite a tree – not enough bark – but big enough to be comparable. “I guess we can wait for this to blow over,” she muttered. She paused for a moment, listening. “Did you hear that?”

Everyone went silent. Somewhere nearby, plants were rustling. Something big was crashing through the trees. Maggie hopped down from her branch and crouched down beside Nellie and Aleisha.

“What do we do?” Aleisha whispered.

“Don’t move,” said Maggie.

“What is it?” said Nellie.

“I don’t know,” said Maggie. “Could be an asbilok. Just stay quiet.”

They waited, listening. “It’s coming this way,” Nellie whispered.

Maggie put a hand on her shoulder. “I’ll tell you what,” she said quietly. “If it’s an asbilok, you and Aleisha go running that way, and I’ll run the other way. I’ll make a lot of noise, so it’ll go after me.”

Aleisha gave a low snort. “That’s stupid,” she said. “You wouldn’t do that.”

“Would, too.” The sound was closer, now – it could have been several people, or one large creature with a dozen legs.

“What do we do if it’s the BRI?” said Nellie.

Maggie swallowed. Nellie could see by the look on her face that she’d been trying not to think of that. “Well,” she said, “I’ll try talking to them. It might be somebody I know – they might be willing to help.”

“So not everybody back there was bad?” said Aleisha.

Maggie shook her head. “Of course not,” she said.

Nellie gripped Aleisha’s shoulder tightly in one hand. “Shh!” she whispered.

The three of them flattened themselves into the brush and held their breaths. Whatever it was, it was close – Nellie could see the tops of nearby plants wobbling and crashing to the ground. Then, sooner than she’d expected, the white reeds parted, and a haggard man stepped into their little clearing.

He didn’t look anything like the kind of person Nellie would have expected to see coming out of the BRI – for one thing, he wasn’t wearing the uniform she’d seen on the men last night. He had a long, black beard flecked with grey, and he was dressed in a mix of rags and what looked like bubble-wrapper flesh, carrying rows of bottles of water and leather satchels and metal canisters strung up on parachute string. She noticed that he wore a gun around his waist.

The second he saw the women, the man sprang backwards and whipped his gun out of its holster.

“Wait!” Maggie yelled.

Three more men filed out from behind the man with the beard. The bearded man lowered his gun. “If I’m not mistaken,” he said, “I do believe that we have found ourselves Maggie Verger.”

Maggie cautiously stood up, keeping herself in front of Nellie and Aleisha. “You… Who are you?”

“Name’s Christopher Lau,” said the man with the beard. “I’m with the Western Front.”

Maggie’s eyes widened. “That means we’re on the same side,” she said. “Maybe you can help me. I need to get to Etris Lunn. Bill Benson’s dead. His son’s gone crazy.”

“So what else is new?” said Lau. He headed back into the brush. “Come on – we can talk about this underground.”

Maggie, Nellie and Aleisha followed the sound of Lau’s footsteps as they made their way through the fog, following the path they’d taken through the brush in the first place. “How did you find out about me?” Maggie asked.

“Your name’s all over the place topside,” said Lau. “Also there were all the ones we caught last night.”

Nellie thought about the men who’d followed them through the West the night before. “What did you do with them?” she asked.

Lau laughed. “Don’t you worry about it,” he said. “We won’t let them get to you. The Western Front is a private organization - completely unaffiliated with the BRI.”

“Except when we steal their stuff,” one of the other men added, and they laughed.

They waded blindly through a sea of white grass until they made it to the cave entrance they’d come out of the night before. Nellie saw Aleisha shoot her a nervous glance just before she followed Lau inside.

They spent a while retracing the steps they’d taken earlier, following Lau’s flashlight beam until they came to the place where light refused to shine, and then they kept their hands on each other’s shoulders in a sort of congo line. “We go left here,” said Lau, and shimmied into a little crack in the wall that even Nellie had some difficulty getting through.

They went this way for what felt like an eternity. Nellie side-stepped through the hole, sandwiched between Maggie and Aleisha, until the tunnel opened onto a narrow ledge on the edge of a cliff. Beneath them, accessible only down a rocky, narrow pathway, was a city built of freight containers, rusted junk, plastic barrels, and rock, illuminated by clusters of flickering florescent lights. A few fires were lit here and there; the smoke rose straight into the air with no wind to blow it. There were faded BRI insignias on the metal walls of some of the houses.   They reached the bottom of the ledge and marched down a dusty road towards the factory. More men had gathered near the edges of the path, watching.

In the center of it all was a building that might have once been a factory: a crumbling set of towers, chutes, and broken windows, strung up with bivouacs hanging from the windows and chimneys. The canyon opened up to a sea of black rock extending into an infinitely flat, barren landscape. If they were still underground, the cave was impossibly large, but there were no stars in the dark, blank sky, and the only light was a faint glow on the distant horizon. There was still that tingly, electric buzz in the air – they were still in the West.

“Home sweet home,” Lau said as they walked down into the city.
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Eleven
Next Chapter: The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Twelve
The West
August 7, 2017
2:03PM
Christopher Lau sat at the end of the table, chewing the end of a ballpoint pen with a BRI logo on the side of it, and said, “Can you tell me what exactly Benson’s trying to do?”
He and Maggie had been talking for the last two hours, mostly about the deaths of Maggie’s father and old Benson. It felt like an interrogation. Nellie and Aleisha were a few floors down in a room Lau had set aside for them. Lau’s office was up in the highest reaches of the factory building. It had once been a nice room, with a huge window on the side overlooking the little town and a balcony looking out on the factory floor. It had since been stripped down to the bare brick, and the only furniture was a careworn wooden desk and a huge piece of sheet metal atop four stacks of concrete blocks – this served as a table. The rest of the room was filled with dusty boxes and old books, most of which seemed to be instruction manuals and parts catalogu


Previous Chapter: The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Ten
Tearis
August 7, 2017
1:00PM
Eric stumbled blindly after his Xzeejee escorts as they ran through the Tearil jungle. In the heavy fog that had descended over the past few hours, he didn't know how they were navigating - it was all he could do just to avoid clusters of tangled, white plants. The leader finally grabbed him by the hand and dragged him along.
The leader seemed to notice his gasps for air and she called to the others, signalling for them to pause. While Eric caught his breath, the Xzeejees mulled about, apparently unfazed by the forty-five minute jog, and the leader gazed up into the tree-tops. She let out a shrill whistle that rang in Eric's ears, and within moments four ape-like beasts descended from the trees, each equipped with pale-colored bundles strapped to their backs. It took Eric a moment to realize that these were saddles.
“Why didn’t we ride them all along?” Eric asked, more to himself than the Xzeejees.
“See,” said the leader.


The Tchacata Machine is a free, online, sci-fi serial novel I wrote with RRedolfi, titled "The Tchacata Machine." I'm going to try to get all the chapters uploaded here, but do visit the website at Tearis.com for the occasional easter egg and other neat tidbits. It's also @tm-project on Tumblr. Special thanks to Nashoba-Hostina
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Tearis
August 7, 2017
6:13 AM

Nellie, Aleisha and Maggie stalked through the white jungle, wielding sticks they’d pulled off of trees. There were surprisingly few dead plants just lying around on the ground the way one would expect to find them on earth. Once, Nellie found a stick half-submerged in the ground, with the sticky white surface slowly growing over it.

They were going after the bubble-wrapper Maggie had seen a short distance away. The plan was for Maggie to attack the creature by herself – she would just need the two of them to pry it off of her if it attacked.

As they walked along, Aleisha asked, “So, what was going on back there? How come your boyfriend blew up the factory?”

“He didn’t,” Maggie said, sighing. “It’s a long story.”

“We got time,” said Aleisha.

“A really long story.”

“That ain’t fair,” Aleisha said. “We’re here – we might as well know why.”

“Okay.” Maggie pondered for a moment, debating where to start. “It started back in the 70’s,” she began. “My dad was just starting out with the Benson Research Initiative - they didn’t even have Benson Medical yet. He was working for Old Benson, Benson I, usually just going on scientific expeditions out to Tearis to learn about the Tearils and see if they had any medical technology that could be used to benefit humanity. That was what the company was all about, then – kind of a scientific and cultural exchange, all in secret, just between the Tearils and the BRI scientists on earth.

“But in ’72, the Tearils got into a war with the people living on the other planet in this star system, Echtectular – those people were called ‘Teur. The problem was that the ‘Teur didn’t just attack the Tearils – they took over the Valleys and went around conquering every civilization they could find. One ‘Teur warlord – a Galeek, they called him - completely enslaved a race of creatures orbiting another star – they were called Xzeejees, and their planet was called Au’wm – and then they turned against the Tearils. Benson wanted the BRI to stay neutral, even when he realized that the ‘Teur were planning to go after earth next.

“The BRI was divided against itself – some people supported helping the Tearils and Xzeejees, and others wanted the company to stay out of alien politics. It got really heated, to the point where a group of people decided to break off and do their own thing. They called themselves the Western Front. Benson did everything he could to keep them from getting involved in the war, but they ended up building a hideout in an uncharted part of the West and using it as a base to ambush the ‘Teur.

“This actually ended up being kind of a good thing – an entire army under the Galeek’s control just disappeared, the Xzeejees were liberated, and shortly thereafter the Tearils and Xzeejees were able to drive the ‘Teur off of Tearis and Au’wm entirely.

“This would have solved everything, but the Galeek got desperate. He had one last trick up his sleeve that he thought might win him the war. It was an ancient machine built thousands of years ago, rumored to be on Echtectular, high up on a mountain called Tchacata.

“Nobody knew what it was supposed to do, but everybody agreed that we had to do everything we could to prevent the Galeek from getting it. In 1978, Benson picked just a handful of Tearils, Xzeejees and humans to go with him to Echtectular through one of the West tunnels controlled by the BRI and try to sneak up the mountain before the Galeek. Benson II was one of those people… he was only 6 years old. Another one was my dad.

“I’ve heard stories about that mission my whole life. There was a skirmish between Benson’s team and the ‘Teur. It was bad for both sides – they made it to the cave, and somehow the whole thing ended up catching fire.”

“The cave did?” said Aleisha.

Maggie shrugged. “That’s what my dad told me. I guess it was booby-trapped. Anyway, Benson II almost died… Fell into the fire and somehow walked away without a scratch. My dad ended up going hand to hand against the Galeek himself… ended up with a huge claw scar going all the way down his chest.”

“The… what do you call them, ‘Teur... They have claws?” said Aleisha.

“Oh yes,” said Maggie. “With acid glands. That’s what they’re known for. Those motherfuckers are something straight out of your worst nightmare. Anyway, in the end, nobody ever figured out if the ‘Teur got what was up there or not. The mission was a failure. Old Benson managed to get the surviving members of his team back to earth, and the last thing they did was seal up all the West tunnels leading out of Echtectular. I don’t know how successful they were – it’s rumored that they still have one or two small tunnels leading to earth – but it was enough to end the war.

“That would have been the end of the story, except that a few years ago, when Benson I got sick, his son took over the facility and put all the lower levels – the Hole, the quarantine zone for off-worlders – on total lockdown. That in itself wasn’t that bad – kind of expected, really – but then we started getting rumors up top that weird things were going on down there. Something involving the West.

“Eric worked as an IT technician for the facility and was able to uncover some of what was going on. They were trying to move Valleys… I think they might have been figuring out ways to access some of the more unstable parts of the West, but some people were saying that they were trying to figure out how to re-open the routes back to Echtectular. Then he started reading about genetic experiments… something to enable people’s bodies to cope with the West’s environment.”

“We were just in the West, though,” said Nellie.

“Yeah,” said Maggie, “for a little while. You can walk through it and you’re fine. People who stay down there for longer than a few days, though… They start getting a little weird. Not, like, sick… they just start going crazy. I mean, wouldn’t you? And that part we walked through… That was one of the most stable zones. There are some areas where people get torn apart as soon as they walk in, and then there’s other places where we just have no idea – people who go in never come back out.

“Anyway, just like before, the BRI was split between two sides – the people who supported the BRI’s original mission, and those who supported Benson II. Things started getting really bad for those in support of Old Benson’s legacy… people started going missing. Some even turned up dead. And then Eric found out that that machine the ‘Teur had been trying to find on Tchacata – whatever it was - might have ended up in our hands.

“And then… Benson killed my dad.”

The girls glanced at each other in a somber silence while Maggie led them forward, her jaw locked and stern.

They came to the clearing where Maggie had seen the bubble-wrapper. It hovered over the white terrain, dangling three bright pink tendrils along the ground, which it seemed to be using to pull itself along. Maggie crouched behind a blue-colored bush sprouting fans of translucent white material that could have been leaves. “And here we are,” she murmured, keeping her eyes on the wrapper.

“That thing eats people?” said Nellie in disbelief.

Maggie nodded. “It’s more of a parasite,” she said. The creature started gliding away. “I don’t think it sees us…” Maggie stood up and yelled, “Hey!”

The creature slowly turned. Beneath its transparent membrane, its three eyes swiveled to identify where the noise had come from. Maggie stood up and waved her arms. The wrapper flipped itself off the ground with one tentacle and glided across the clearing. Maggie jumped out from behind the bush and charged the creature with her stick, striking at the place where the creature’s tentacles met its eyes. It let out a hollow warble, reared back, and flipped inside-out, wrapping its entire outer body around Maggie from head to toe.

Nellie and Aleisha ran to Maggie’s side and stabbed at the wrapper with their sticks while Maggie tried to attack it from inside. “Go for its nerve center!” Maggie yelled, her voice muffled by the creature’s membrane.

“The hell is that?” Aleisha asked, stabbing whatever she could.

Maggie reached a hand around and blindly tapped at the part where the wrapper’s tentacles connected with its eyes. Nellie grabbed the eyes bare-handed and squeezed. One of them popped, spreading a clear, pleasantly tingly ooze all down her hands. The wrapper warbled again and part of it pulled back just enough for Maggie to stick out her left arm and most of her face and yell, “Don’t let it get away!”

Nellie wrapped her hands around the creature’s entire nerve center and sawed at it with her stick until Maggie was able to pull free. Maggie used her own stick to pry off the wrapper’s tentacles, and Aleisha pulled off the remaining two eyes. The tentacles writhed on the ground as Maggie pulled away the severed membrane.

Maggie, Nellie and Aleisha sat in a circle around the wrapper’s carcass, which now looked somewhat like a popped and deflated balloon. The three of them puffed in relief. Aleisha sat back and laughed until Nellie elbowed her in the ribs.

Maggie gouged off a section of the membrane and used it to contain the ooze from the wrapper’s nerve center. She tied it off with a hair tie from her pocket. “Disinfectant, antibiotic, pain killer… possibly food,” she explained. She dipped some out with a finger and rubbed it into the wounds on her thigh and stomach. “You two haven’t been immunized… you’re at risk for a lot of different diseases out here. You want to make sure you use this stuff if you get hurt.” She draped the rest of the membrane over her shoulder like a cape. “We can use this as a blanket if it gets cold.”

“It won’t rot?” said Nellie.

“It might shrink a little,” said Maggie. “We just can’t leave it on the ground for too long, so it doesn’t get reabsorbed. See how you don’t see anything dead lying around here?” She patted the ground with her hand. “The whole surface of the planet is alive. It’s… kind of like a fungus. Sort of. And, it also tends to absorb anything that sits in one spot for long enough.” Seeing the worried look on Nellie’s face, she added, “You’re good as long as you have a pulse.”

Nellie rubbed her hand across the white ground. It did feel a little like a mushroom. A faint dark spot remained in the place where she’d touched it. There were a few other spots just like it nearby – footprints, mostly, from where she, Aleisha and Maggie had stepped as they’d brought down the bubble-wrapper.

A few feet away, Nellie noticed a blackened spot where the ground dipped and pinched together like a scar. She followed the shape with her finger. Round at the top, then skinny, then two lines sticking out either side, almost like an outline of a person. “What’s this?” Nellie said, pointing.

Maggie knelt down, rubbing a finger across the gouge. “I dunno,” she said. “Something probably just scratched it. Maybe an asbilok.”

“What about that one?” said Aleisha, pointing to a bigger spot a few feet away. It was exactly the same shape. There was another one right beside it, and another, and another… There was an entire circle of them. Nellie, Maggie and Aleisha were standing in the middle.

Maggie crouched at the edge of the circle, tracing her finger along one of the lines. “That’s weird.”

“Found a couple holes,” said Aleisha. There were several of them beside a few of the outlines – most of them were just little round black spots in the whiteness. One of them was still open. Aleisha probed it with a stick of benebit. It only went down an inch or two before it struck something hard. She reached into the hole and pulled out a tiny lump of metal. She held it up. “Do the Tearils use bullets?” she said.

Nellie and Maggie gathered around to get a closer look. “No,” said Maggie, inspecting the bullet. “This was fired recently,” she said. “Otherwise the ground would have closed up.”

“You think whoever shot it is still here?” said Nellie.

Maggie didn’t answer. She stood in the center of the circle, looking around, listening. A gentle breeze began to blow. “Let’s get out of here,” she muttered, and headed for the edge of the clearing. Nellie followed. Aleisha lingered for a moment, staring at the figures in the ground.
The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Nine
Next Chapter: The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Ten
Tearis
August 7, 2017
1:00PM
Eric stumbled blindly after his Xzeejee escorts as they ran through the Tearil jungle. In the heavy fog that had descended over the past few hours, he didn't know how they were navigating - it was all he could do just to avoid clusters of tangled, white plants. The leader finally grabbed him by the hand and dragged him along.
The leader seemed to notice his gasps for air and she called to the others, signalling for them to pause. While Eric caught his breath, the Xzeejees mulled about, apparently unfazed by the forty-five minute jog, and the leader gazed up into the tree-tops. She let out a shrill whistle that rang in Eric's ears, and within moments four ape-like beasts descended from the trees, each equipped with pale-colored bundles strapped to their backs. It took Eric a moment to realize that these were saddles.
“Why didn’t we ride them all along?” Eric asked, more to himself than the Xzeejees.
“See,” said the leader.


Previous Chapter: The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Eight
Tearis
August 7, 2017
6:43 AM
Eric awoke stiff and aching. He'd twisted his back somehow during the night, and couldn't turn his neck all the way to the left, but somehow he hadn't fallen off the branch. The sun shone through the treetops, flickering in his face. He craned his neck to look around and saw that the forest floor was still murky with fog. Eric popped his shoulders and climbed up to the topmost branch he could reach, looking over the fibrous, fungoid canopy. He held a hand over his eyes to shield them from the glare of the Tearil sun.
The planet’s terrain was flat and nondescript. There was a smudge on the horizon to his right, but that was nearly due-east, and couldn’t have been Etris Lunn – it was far too long and wide. Probably the Hizhda mountain-range, he thought. Even at the top of the tree he really couldn’t make out much - he couldn’t see anything that looked vaguely like Etris Lunn, and he didn’t see any buildings or roads. The o


The Tchacata Machine is a free, online, sci-fi serial novel I wrote with RRedolfi, titled "The Tchacata Machine." I'm going to try to get all the chapters uploaded here, but do visit the website at Tearis.com for the occasional easter egg and other neat tidbits. It's also @tm-project on Tumblr. Special thanks to Nashoba-Hostina for website suggestions and for helping to get the word out!

The Tchacata Machine tells the story of an unlikely handful of friends caught in the crossfire between a corrupt business empire and a deadly alien civilization. It turns out that the path to other worlds is not through space, but under our very feet. The only goal is to stay alive, but there are fates worse than death. How much can a person go through before they are no longer the person they were when they started? Before they're not even human?
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Entomotheist
Christina Lewis
Artist | Hobbyist | Varied
Writer, artist, actress, singer, designer.

Not a dancer.
Interests
I just need to get this off my chest: I've been meaning to start working on Cockroach Pentecost again and I keep thinking about going back to it.... And then every time I re-read it, all I can think is:

I really did not intend to make Nevitt look that much like Benedict Cumberbatch.

In my defense, it's purely coincidental. Cumberbatch wasn't even a blip on my radar when I did my first conceptual Nevitt sketches. He's just got that really long, oddly-rectangular face...

Sigh.

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:icondevouredex:
devouredex Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2006
thank you very much for the watch :D Greatly appreciate it :D
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ShinjiSaigohakai Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2006
Thank you for the fav!
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TomatoDragon Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2006
Thanks for the watch :wave:
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Rapsody Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2005
I like yours too :D

Lots of detail, nice and very traditional
I esp like the one used for your ID the eyes under the book. Cute :D
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DTHunsterblich Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2005
hey thanks for the fav :hug:
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shingworks Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2005  Professional Digital Artist
Hello! I was pleasantly suprised by your gallery. Very imaginitive and detailed... keep up the good work!
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Entomotheist Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2005  Hobbyist General Artist
I plan on it. I'm going to scour my sketchbooks, and probably post the "From the Attic: Part 1" pic, which people need to see.
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RRedolfi Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2005  Professional
you

*pokes*

post more
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Entomotheist Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2005  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for visiting! I'm glad you like it.
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bubblegumpink Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2005
awesome gallery I really like your pictures alot!! and welcome to DA
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