For a moment the Brelac standing before Fenlow remained silent. Fenlow’s skin twitched, apprehensive as to what would happen next. He had limited personal involvement with these creatures, but knew that they were as unpredictable as they were vicious. He eyed the rows of long teeth under the curled lips and suppressed a shudder.
The Brelac uttered a deep growl to slowly form a single name. “Fenlow. So, you’re the Great Doctor Fenlow. One of the first traitors in the brief history of this war. We finally meet.”
“I find the word traitor to be a little too malignant to suit my purpose,” Fenlow said quickly. “I’d like to think of myself as an entrepreneur.”
The Brelac growled again. Showing more of his sharp teeth. “Traitor, entrepreneur. It’s all the same to me. The point is that you’re here. The question is, why?”
“I’m here to speak to Bane Mariner. I have a proposition for him.”
“You are addressing Governor General Bane Mariner. Supreme Commander of the Brelac Empire. And I hope that your proposition is worth my time.”
“It is,” Fenlow assured him. “What I’m about to propose will greatly benefit both you and my company.”
“Carp Technologies,” Mariner leaned back on his heels, his tail stretching out to counterbalance his shifting weight. “I admire your company. Playing both sides of the war for their own benefit. All the while maintaining the facade of a benevolent corporation serving your little corner of the universe. I wonder, what your people would say if they knew that you and your company were working with us to create the Reploid menace?”
“I’m…I’m afraid that the Reploid program has been discontinued for the present time. More especially the advanced Reploids. En-route to Helios on the planet Meridan one of your shuttles carrying several Reploid units was shot down by Protectorate forces. Three Reploids were captured by the military. Carp considered this to be a threat to company security and decided to halt the project.”
Fenlow withheld the fact that he himself had recommended halting the project. Aided by Carp’s resources, Fenlow produced the Reploids in a laboratory within a company research vessel stationed at a secret location in space. Fenlow notified his Brelac contact on a secured channel when each shipment of Reploids would be due for delivery, and would then meet a Brelac transport shuttle at a designated rendezvous point.
Curious about the Brelac’s vision without the use of physical eyes, Fenlow had asked to examine their psionic implants. After months of extensive research he’d been able to create a more advanced version of the implants, and promised to deliver dozens of Reploids armed with the implants to help the Brelac achieve a swifter victory. Highly treasonous acts that would certainly earn Fenlow and others within Carp Technologies a swift death sentence.
“Those Reploids in the hands of your military could pose a problem,” Mariner stated, cracking his knuckles.
“They’re no threat. There are only three of them. The military will make limited use of their abilities, and I’ve already taken steps to diminish their effectiveness,” Fenlow paused. “Carp’s board of directors has decided to move forward with Operation Broad Axe. I have to do what I can to insure that the plan is successful. This means that I have to begin some of the more advanced projects that I’ve been working on.”
“And you need my help to pull all this off,” Mariner added. He went silent, his eyeless face studying Fenlow. “Let him go,” he growled.
Both guards raised their left hands to their heads in a familiar military salute and exited the hall with haste.
Fenlow thought that it was curious how the two Brelac saluted in such a fashion. As if they were mimicking human troopers. He suspected that he would learn a great deal about these creatures by working closely among them in the days ahead.
“Fix this man a seat next to mine,” Mariner blared out. “He’s my guest of honor.”
The attendants serving food and drink quickly provided a place at the table on Mariner’s right side, and Fenlow sat as instructed, his hands slightly shaking in his lap. Using a long, two-pronged fork an attendant quickly loaded his plate with three long sections of the pale snake-like meats and two of the centipedes, steam rising from their cooked flesh.
Fenlow stared at his plate. The appearance of the food before him was nauseating enough, but it’s oily smell combined with a sour milk odor left him near paralyzed. Mariner silently faced him, and a thin stream of saliva dripped out of the right side of his mouth. Fenlow shuddered, slightly spooked in the close sight of Mariner’s scaled face and the long pointed teeth in the constant grin.
Fenlow nervously cleared his throat. “I suppose you’re not serving any salads.”
A faint, hoarse growl came from Mariner’s throat. “Nothing so elaborate here.”
Fenlow looked to the left and right side of his plate and saw no silverware. He quietly groaned in frustration. It was evident that the Brelac were eating with their hands, and Fenlow desired to blend in with his hosts. He gingerly picked up a centipede. It was warm and soft to the touch. He held it up to his face and managed not to flinch away. At least he was able to distinguish which item smelled like sour milk.
A deep grunt came from Mariner. “You look like you were just kissed by Pandora. Don’t worry, Doctor. It won’t bite you back.”
Kissed by Pandora. A strange terminology to use. Perhaps an example of their alien culture?
But the name, Pandora, stuck in Fenlow’s mind. There was something familiar about it. He thought that this would be the perfect time to get a little more background on his allies. He laid his centipede back down on his plate but kept his fingers on it.
“So, I’ve done a little research and found that you Brelac are Reploids yourselves,” he said.
“To a degree we are all the same,” Mariner sluggishly droned out, grabbing his own centipede and downing it in one loud gulp. “Our race needed a technological means to insure its continuation.”
“A technological means,” Fenlow repeated. “And what of your females? I noticed that through all the grunting and growling you all sound male.”
“As I have already explained, we are all the same,” Mariner said. “We have created the means of producing the perfect military force. Our soldiers originate from templates that are devoid of fear, unhindered by compassionate doubts, and minds that are not mired by the frivolous aberrations that obstruct you humans.”
“What about these original templates that you mentioned? I’m assuming that it’s some sort of original genetic stock.”
“Our original source is centuries old and continues to endure. But its history is not important.” He waved a clawed hand. “All that matters is that it serves us as we produce our numbers en-masse in order to achieve our objective.”
“And that objective would be?” Fenlow asked, suspecting he already knew the answer.
“Our objective is to spread ourselves across this universe and administer retribution to any and all opposition. Then we will become the only supreme power. That is our mission passed down to us through generations. This is what we will achieve. And you, Doctor Fenlow, will help us.”
Fenlow pondered Mariner’s words, fingertips stroking the soft white flesh of the centipede on his plate. He was still dreading the notion of being forced to eat this thing.
The Brelac mission of conquest and retribution. A chilling thought.
But Fenlow’s job was to find a way to work Carp Technologies’ interests into the mission so that their own plans could materialize unscathed. And with the Brelac’s help his job would be much easier.
“I’ll help you,” Fenlow told him, nodding.
He took a long look at the centipede he was holding. He picked it up and slowly raised it to his face, holding his breath against the smell. He opened his mouth.
Title: The McKenzie Files
Author: Barry K. Nelson
The United Protectorate is under attack by the Brelac, a bloodthirsty reptilian alien race bent on destroying humanity. A dark alliance between the Brelac and the Vendetta, a separatist organization, looms over the Protectorate. The Brelac’s onslaught brings forth the creation of the genetically engineered humanoid weapons called Reploids. Reploids are identical copies of real humans captured, killed, cloned, embedded with powerful psionic abilities, and programmed to serve the Brelac. They are untraceable and blend into human society so believably, the Reploids themselves do not know they are clones.
Colin McKenzie, part of a military team sent to a remote planet to investigate and capture a downed Brelac ship, turns on his commanding officer in an attempt to protect a shipwrecked band of Brelac soldiers. But he is captured and reprogrammed – along with two other arrested Reploids – to serve the government they were originally created to destroy.
The balance is upset when a weapon powerful enough to bring the Protectorate to its knees is about to be unleashed – and the Protectorate’s only hope of stopping it is the three Reploids.
A Pennsylvania native, Barry K. Nelson has attended college and has worked at a variety of jobs, including retail and the corporate environment. Barry enjoys reading and gardening and is a fan of science fiction and horror movies, Marvel comic collecting, and the X-box gaming.
Barry has written several short stories, and his first book in the science fiction series, The McKenzie Files, followed by the sequels, Assassination Anxiety, Obliteration, and Maximum Deevor.
Barry is a member of Ning and Goodreads, can be found on Facebook, and can also be reached through Dreaming Big Publications..
Dreaming Big Publications