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August 7, 2017

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 night, the only thing on Maggie’s mind had been getting as far away from the BRI compound as she could. If the girls had been taken, they would have been held as witnesses, and then probably subjected to whatever else Benson had in mind. Quite a few people from the little town next to the facility had gone missing, lately. The Hole had to be getting its test subjects from somewhere.

Maggie could see the cave entrance a few feet away. The rock was the only dark part of the landscape – everything else was magenta, purple and teal on marshmallow white ground. Eric had said that the cave came out somewhere south of the river – the Vhas Aleszhe. He hadn’t said how far south, but she knew where the Vhas Alezhe was, and whichever way she traveled from there, she’d be bound to find a Tearil city.

The next question was which way she needed to go.

The sun had just started to rise – that was east, same as it was on Earth.  Maggie found a tree with low-hanging, fibrous limbs and pulled herself as high up as she could go, wincing in pain from her wounds. The view from the tree wasn’t much better than what she could see from the ground – just more white-stemmed plants in shades of every color but green, stretching all the way to the horizon. Jagged, rocky terrain lay south, and endless white forest stretched northward. Flocks of balloon-like flying creatures bobbed hypnotically above the treetops, and small, white, lizard-like creatures zipped in arcs from plant to plant.

A large bubble-wrapper hovered close by – a predatory, jelly-fish like creature that floated around in the soft breeze until it found stationary prey, at which point it would wrap its translucent, bell-shaped membrane around them and slowly digest them alive over a period of weeks. Maggie had heard about them from her father. The Tearils used their flesh to make clothes, and they also happened to be naturally disinfectant – a property necessary to keep their prey alive as long as possible. It would make a good bandage for Maggie’s wounds, if she could catch it.

Maggie climbed back down. She saw a familiar-looking plant on the ground – a white-stemmed plant with a bulbous purple orb at the top. The Tearils sometimes brought these down to the BRI when they visited. They called them benebit. Maggie pulled it from the ground and bit into the stem. It tasted sweet, with a cinnamon-like aftertaste. She pinched off the gelatinous orb that formed the plant’s flower and drank the sweet liquid from inside.

She walked back to the sleeping girls. One of them had messy brown hair, freckles and mean eyes – that was Aleisha. The other, Nellie, was horse-faced, with wispy blonde hair barely held back in a short ponytail. She saw Nellie open an eye, look at her, and then quickly close it. There was no time to let them sleep in. Maggie tugged one of the plants from the ground and poked Nellie with the tip of it.

“Wake up,” Maggie said softly. Aleisha opened her eyes and groaned.  "C'mon," said Maggie, shaking them both.

Nellie, rubbed her eyes. "What are we going to do about food?"

Maggie pulled up another stalk of benebit. "This is called benebit," she said. "They're edible. We can eat them until we find something proper." She handed it to Nellie.  

Aleisha sat up, blinking. “They still following us?” She asked.

“Hope not,” Maggie said, heading in the direction she’d seen the bubble-wrapper.
Next Page: The Tchacata Machine - Chapter Eight
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

Previous Page: 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

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 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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