For stories set in The Aldrinverse, I include a “post-epilogue” chapter/scene as a bonus to readers who want a little extra. Maybe a hint or two at what’s coming next. Sometimes it’s tense, sometimes it’s just a fun moment. These are all going to be available for free, but as they are “post-epilogue” they should only be read after you finish the respective story. Plus there could be minor spoilers.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
The Deadliest Earthling
Callisto lifted the white mug and brought it to his mouth. A single sip soured his face. He cringed and set down the mug.
“I asked for a cup of joe,” he growled. “What is this?”
“Iced coffee, sir. Used to be a delicacy in some parts of the world.”
Callisto pushed the coffee away on the table.
“What makes you think I wanted this?”
The guard blinked several times. He reached out a hand to take the mug, then made for the second mug. The one for their guest.
“You said bring you something special for our visitor.”
Callisto shook his head. Idiot. He gestured to the flaps of his tent. “Get out and tell Rodriguez to bring me and my guest some real coffee.”
The guard made for the exit, stopped, and walked over to the mugs.
“Do I take these?”
Callisto sighed. “Yes.”
He watched the guard hurry out, but the flaps of the tent stayed hanging on his shoulders.
“Go,” Callisto said, almost shouting.
The guard twisted around, eyes wide in horror. “He’s here, sir.”
Callisto threw out his hands. “Go. I don’t want you embarrassing me. Make sure no one comes near this tent.”
The guard vanished from sight and a scruffy-looking man with thick cheeks, grey-brown hair, and a black coat and pants entered. Exactly like they said he looked. Shameful. Not the kind of man to give commands or make military decisions. But money talked. Callisto forced the smoothest smile he could onto his face and stood up. He stretched a hand to the man.
“Nice to finally meet you face-to-face, Zacharia,” he said.
They exchanged a handshake, and Zacharia sat in the seat in front of Callisto’s table. He gave off the air of one impatient but without a place to go. Almost like he was impatient with life itself. Or at least his life.
“I heard you liked black,” Callisto said. “It is a nice coat. But a bit thick for this terrain.” “To each his own,” Zacharia said calmly. “How has Mount Nebo treated you?”
Callisto nodded. “Good. I’ve lived in many places. This place will bring its interesting moments, I’m sure.”
Zacharia smiled, cheeks rich with dull blemishes. “Don’t worry. The Anunnaki won’t bother bombing you here. The Tabernacle used to be one of their treasured structures, after all. And you have too many soldiers for them to consider a ground approach. It wouldn’t be worth the energy now that the Ark is…impotent, we’ll say.”
Callisto shared a laugh at the unusual pun. “I’m not worried. I know the Sinsers won’t kill innocent civilians. Not usually, anyway.”
Zacharia leaned in and wagged a finger like he’d done something naughty. “I wouldn’t let the New Bagramites know you’re glad to risk their lives if you want to stay the leader,” he whispered.
Callisto crossed his arms, the gesture full of challenge. “They don’t know what’s to gain. Not like I do.”
“You shouldn’t believe all the fairy tales you hear,” Zacharia said.
Callisto smiled. “Why is that?”
“Because sometimes they’re true. And knowing the truth can lead a man to do so many things he shouldn’t.”
Callisto glanced at the flap. He felt naked inside this tent. As if anyone could’ve been listening to them despite his orders otherwise. Zacharia had as much as confirmed his beliefs. All his hopes and dreams.
Quietly, Callisto asked, “So how could you activate it? I’m sure the Conifers will pop up, but don’t you need a special kind of signal?”
Zacharia interlocked his fingers and rested them gently on his lap. “Oh, the signal isn’t the problem. It’s acquiring the Conifers that presents the issue.”
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The Boy Who Wields Thunder
“I can’t understand why you chose this place,” Sinser Helios said shrewdly, referring to the monumental eyesore looming over them. The hangar bay the boy had destroyed. Anunnaki overseers and human slaves labored under the hot sun to restore it. To what purpose, Helios could not say.
The man sitting across from him grimaced. “There are many things you don’t yet understand. Nor should you.”
“I understand that the anarchists are stronger than ever,” Helios said, his voice laced with mock urgency.
The man nodded. “Believe it or not, the decision to trade your avatar’s life for the traitor’s may pay off.”
Helios glanced at his avatar, standing in a shiny new model of the combat armor that failed him against the other boy. “How so?”
Spidery fingers interlocked beneath the man’s jackal-shaped face. “Your namesake believed that when warring on another species’ planet, you use the inhabitants as weapons rather than invest your own troops. It’s safer and more cost-effective. This Sky-Breaker boy will play a larger role than a hundred thousand of our soldiers. Not because of his abilities, but what he represents.”
“A hero? Freedom? Rebellion?”
Helios hissed in amusement. How could one human mean so much?
The man shook it off. “I misspoke. I should’ve said he is important for what he has achieved.”
“My mentor, forgive me.” Helios ran a finger across his console’s control panel. “You didn’t misspeak. I simply have a bad habit of twisting others’ words. I am a politician.”
“No. I believe you corrected me. The boy has achieved greatness. He is an elite among his species. And as we know, elites congregate.”
“Then you believe the rumors?”
“Rumors?” Helios’s avatar interjected.
The man’s insidious eyes flicked to his avatar. “You know our language?”
Mark cleared his throat. “Some of it. Yes.”
A nod from the man. “Then you’ll be of good use to Helios.” His focus returned to the Sinser. “The anarchists are gathering their greatest soldiers.”
“Almost as if they mean to strike us a critical blow.”
The man’s tone hardened. “Not if we strike the critical blow first.”
Helios’s eyes sharpened in curiosity.
“As I said, the earthlings are our tools. Not just our enemies. And I’ve discovered one I can manipulate with ease.”
“Elaborate please,” Helios said.
“He was a mental slave of the Ascendi Major. Through indirect means, I suggested the Ascendi instill certain knowledge in him.”
“And what critical blow can this one strike?”
“Before he died, the Ascendi intended his slaves to unearth the Ark. And so this slave shall.”
Aladdin: The Genie’s Keeper
He knew her voice from a thousand years ago.
Are you awake yet?
Aladdin shifted in bed, felt the cold biting at his fingers and toes, infiltrating his limbs. He panicked, and his eyes shot open as he imagined the sarcophagus shutting over him. Locking him away, and thrusting him to Groomlake and the ruins of Las Vegas. A speck of gray crept in through the window, and he grew aware of the dark lumps lying around him. Backpacks. Sleeping bags. Sofas. Gluff’s cringe-worthy snoring ruptured against his ears.
He sniffled, and wished the Militia Patrol officers hadn’t set the A/C so high. Randall said they were lucky to have found a working air conditioning system. But Aladdin didn’t feel lucky. The cold sucked.
Look at the bright side, Al. No more giant robots trying to kill you, no more blood mobs trying to slit your throat, a woman’s voice in his head said.
He smiled inwardly, dug his arm between his blanket and the pillow, and yawned. She was right. For now, he could relax.
Genie, I know you didn’t ask me if I’m awake just for fun, he thought to her.
He could feel her pause to gather her thoughts.
I wanted to tell you that I’ve forgiven you, she said.
Beside him, the Militia Patrol officer known as Grandma rolled around in her sleeping bag. He tried not to laugh at the revelation. Her words injected a shot of elation into him. These past few days, her judgment had weighed on him more than he’d known. Now, there was no more question that he was on the right path. Because she was like his moral compass in a world that crumbled a little more every day.
I can tell you’re genuine about joining the Watchers and saving Cassie, she said.
Cassie. He pictured her bright hair, flawless skin, and alluring face. A pang of longing hit him hard. He shoved thoughts of her from his head. It as all he could do to keep himself intact.
Yes, he wanted to see her again desperately enough that he would even join the Watchers.
A sigh escaped him. He’d spent days on the road with the Militia Patrol. Honestly, it surprised him that they even possessed enough gasoline for their vehicles. They must’ve ransacked all the supplies during their prison escape.
Without warning, sorrow stole over him. Not his own.
“Genie?” he breathed.
I’ve also been thinking about Akhenaten lately.
Just his name made Aladdin uneasy. Akhenaten, AKA the Sorcerer, was the whole reason Cassie was taken from him. Aladdin had slain the merciless warlord, though. Somehow, he’d expected to feel more satisfying after eliminating the bastard. But in the days since, his satisfaction had diminished, eclipsed by his waning for Cassie.
What’s there to think about? He’s gone, right? Aladdin projected irritation into the thought.
He was my husband.
He went crazy! He imprisoned you in that ring. The ring he wore on his finger. Aladdin couldn’t believe he was having this conversation with a djinn in the wee hours of the morning.
Akhenaten wasn’t always. Ironically, his ambition was his greatest setback.
Aladdin shifted on his blanket and folded his arms over his chest. Above him, the ceiling fan spun endlessly. Yeah, well, may he rest in peace I guess. He knew he slept easier with the Sorcerer dead.
To the point, he was one of the first Anunnaki on this planet. He’s hundreds of thousands of years old. It just strikes me as odd that he would let himself be defeated so easily.
Aladdin’s face scrunched up. He and the Sorcerer had clashed a few times now. The Sorcerer had beaten him on most occasions, and could’ve ended his life several times if he’d truly desired. Aladdin hardly considered his defeat easy.
You think he’s alive? He didn’t want to entertain the possibility.
I’m sorry, Al. I shouldn’t have bothered you with this right now.
Sleep still tugged at his mind, and he relished the silence. Even as he shut his eyes and his breathing slowed, he could sense the djinn’s presence. As long as he wore his ring, she was a part of him and he a part of her. She served as his aide, his helper. He, the life force of her existence. The ring was only a vessel that contained her, Nefertiti, once the queen of Egypt, and an Anunnaki like her ex-husband, Akhenaten.
He didn’t bother entertaining the possibility of the Sorcerer’s survival, and sleep conquered his mind quickly.