Zev Afrotheria / Chapter Two
Theria Guild Command
Kirit, Afrotheria’s Capital
Commander Demus oversees the fight against Ghost Wraiths
Glass screens mounted on the walls lit up with the flash of blue fire lasers. Commands rang through the large command dome. Officers manned support stations, responding to order requests and responses, combing through footage on the screens for information needed in the fight.
“What’s the count?” Demus Kiima asked, his tough tone rang in every corner of the command dome.
“One hundred and fifty,” the answer came from an officer sitting at a console in the middle of the room. “One hundred and forty-nine, forty-eight…”
“How far is support?” Demus asked.
“Ten minutes, Commander,” a second officer said, voice calm, simply delivering orders.
Demus cursed under his breath and studied the movements of the Simba Recon Team on the overhead screens. The ghost wraiths were on a direct path to the villages of Thuka Province. Demus had all available guardians on site. Sokwe Recon was taking its time getting to the designated coordinates. He could not blame them too much. They were flying in from a training exercise in Palan Town.
“We cannot lose the barricades we have built in the forest in Thuka Province,” Kiel Iram, Demus’s second in command said. “The Thuka barricades are the only protection we have for the outer lands. Yole Province and Teru are vulnerable. The ghost wraiths move too fast.”
Demus hissed because three men in the Simba Recon Team reported injuries. Their vital signs triggered critical signals on the screens.
“We should have increased surveillance in Thuka. Who else do we have close to Thuka?”
“Teru Province has trainees in the auxiliary training camp,” Kiel said. “Yole Province relies on the Simba Recon for protection.”
Two more men fell in the team.
“Report,” Demus said.
“Fifteen active officers, five injured,” an officer said. “Ghost Wraiths are at one hundred and twenty. They are moving faster than we anticipated.”
“Air support?” Demus asked.
“Sokwe is two minutes out,” an officer called. “We have deployed twenty-five lightning drones from Simba Recon’s Base.”
Demus folded his arms against his chest and watched the drones fly to the open clearing in the forests of Thuka. The Simba team was retreating to the stone barricade and the steel door allowing entrance into their military base. The men in the team carried their fallen teammates. Two snipers worked hard to keep the ghost wraiths at bay, managing to hold off the hundred ghost wraiths in an uneven line along the tree line.
The large beasts snarled as blue laser flames touched greasy dark skin, spilling green blood on the forest floor. The snipers worked to keep their attacks consistent. Still, their retreating formation had the ghost wraiths gaining ground. Five of the men carrying the injured went through the steel gates into the base, followed by three more, who paused at the steel gates to cover the snipers’ retreat.
Demus breathed in relief. He was glad when the team made it through the weathered stone barricade. The team took precious time to close the steel gates. The drones took over the snipers’ work. Directing continuous blue laser fire on a hundred ghost wraiths that descended on the concrete wall. The ghost wraiths clawed at the weathered stone barricade built to separate the forest from the rest of Thuka Province. Demus’s relief was short-lived as three ghost wraiths managed to claw thick ridges in the steel gates. The ghost wraiths concentrated on the weak point in the steel grate. They clawed at the large holes to make them larger working to break into the compound.
“Activate the most qualified in the training center,” Demus said. “Authorize Sokwe Recon to take over command of Thuka Base Ops. General Kinya has permission to use the weapons received from Santi Corp. Kiel, make sure you’ve given him the codes.”
“Yes, Commander,” Kiel said, hurrying to the console to submit the codes to General Kinya of Sokwe Recon.
Demus pressed two fingers into his eyes when he remembered the empire was voting in the morning, then dropped his hands to his side.
“Send out a red alert to all branches of the Theria Guild, including the Black Ops Protection Force. We cannot have a ghost wraith attack on villages on a day everyone is out there voting…”
Dalia Taj meets the Pink Piggy about Code
Dalia Taj logged into her Luna VR account and navigated her avatar to the market center. She needed to find a cute piggy about a proprietary app. She needed permission to implement it in her latest project. KISTech was strict about illegal use. The institute worked on making sure every bit of code developed was documented and attributed to the original developer.
Dalia was working on a scientific experiment focused on analyzing the DNA makeup of a ghost wraith. She wanted to find out if she could develop a biotechnology weapon lethal enough to stop ghost wraiths from reproducing.
She was not the first to have come up with this type of research. There were several such studies, many of those studies far ahead of her own. She was sixteen, and still in school. Her research only counted toward her class grade. Still…a girl could hope for a breakthrough. She would not mind winning research fame by changing Afrotheria’s future. Stopping ghost wraiths once and for all would be revolutionary.
Smirking at the thought, Dalia found the stall set up in the virtual market. It was the weirdest stall in the market. All other stalls in the virtual market were built with glass, wood, and even stone. However, the owner of the pink piggy had built his stall with black tarp. The only decoration on the stall was a pink pig head logo over the open entrance. It looked shady. Yet, Dalia did not hesitate as she entered the stall.
The place was always busy. The inside lighted with flashing lights, clients leaning on a wood counter as they called out orders to two men standing behind the counter. The pink piggy sold Luna VR accessories and plugins. The stall was busy. The pink piggy’s coding was efficient and easy to use.
Dalia waved at the two shop assistants and hurried to the closed door in the back of the main shop. It was pink like the logo on the door. She touched the door handle and the lock beeped. Letting out a sigh, she reached for her virtual card and pressed it on the door handle. It opened after divesting her of five hundred credits.
Dalia pocketed her card and entered the room.
“I should expect a grand welcome with the amount you charge to enter your private shop,” Dalia said, glaring at the pink piggy working at a desk, building a greenhouse with a virtual builder on the desk. “Does it have to cost five hundred credits to see you?”
“You’re the one in need,” the pink piggy said, not looking up from the assembly on his desk. “Do you think girls like white?”
“Depends on the occasion,” Dalia said, crossing the room to sit on the chair opposite the pink piggy. “Why? Are you building the greenhouse for a girl?”
“Maybe,” the pink piggy said, shrugging his shoulders.
She knew he was male. The only part he kept hidden about himself was his face. The pink piggy’s style was weird like him. He liked wearing black slacks, a white t-shirt, and a black vest. He wore black combat boots as though ready to run at a moment’s notice. Mostly, Dalia was envious of his talent with code.
“So,” the Pink Piggy changed the color of the greenhouse paper to a sickening shade of pink and she winced.
He looked up and seemed to take a moment to take her in.
“You look stunning,” the Pink Piggy said, smiling at her. Strange how she knew the piggy was smiling at her. She bit back a laugh and he sat back in his chair, studying her. “Do you keep your original looks? I mean, you must be so dangerous to meet in the real world.”
Dalia chuckled, pleased that he thought her avatar pretty. She did not use her true features. Her identity was sensitive to flaunt in the form of an avatar in Luna VR. She could just imagine her father’s reaction were he to discover.
She did try to stick to her real figure. Her avatar had her curvy shape intact. She wore a tight stylish coat belted at her waist with a thick red leather belt. Under her coat, she wore a pinstriped skirt that stopped above her knees. Her feet were in knee-length black boots with a four-inch heel. Her braids were long down her back. She wore a gold masquerade mask to cover her face. Reaching into her jacket pocket, she pulled out the card with the code details.
The Pink Piggy is Unwilling
“I need your permission to use this, Pink Piggy,” Dalia said, holding out the card over the table.
The Pink Piggy stared at her long red nails, a sharp contrast from her dark skin, and grinned.
“I would love to see what you look like in real life,” he said, taking the card from her.
“Same goes for you,” Dalia said, making the Pink Piggy shudder.
“Don’t joke, if I show my face, anyone who knows me will come to my house for cheap plugins,” he shuddered, as he read the card.
“Isn’t it money coming to you?” Dalia asked.
“Yeah. I guess. But it is in the how it comes to me,” the Pink Piggy said, frowning as he studied the card he held. “Why do you want permissions for this code?”
“I have a science project that needs the basics,” Dalia said. “I’m willing to pay.”
“This is not about money,” the Pink Piggy said, sitting up in his chair. “I registered this code in the KISTech Registry on a whim. I thought I had created something that could support the ghost wraith fight—”
“It can support it,” Dalia said. “I can’t tell you what I’m working on, but I feel your logic will add to mine. We could create something worth forwarding to the Theria Guild. I’ll keep the source code intact. I promise to include all your rights when I submit my project—”
“It’s incomplete,” the Pink Piggy said, shaking his head. “I work on it on and off because it feels like something is missing. I’m guessing I don’t have enough information to get the results I’m looking for.”
“I don’t mind using it in its incomplete form,” Dalia said. “Please—”
“What happens when you need to compensate for errors I’ve not accounted for?” the Pink Piggy asked, shaking his head. “I don’t sell incomplete work, even to beautiful women.”
“You’re insulting me,” Dalia said, getting up. “You assume I’m not as talented as you. I’m not here to beg to use your source code. I was in search of code that would support a foundation theory I’m developing. Don’t you submit your ideas to the registry because you are looking for someone who thinks the same as you? Or is it that you don’t want to work with me? I can always find another approach.”
“You have a temper,” the Pink Piggy said, folding his arms against his chest.
Dalia huffed and crossed her arms too, staring at the pink piggy head he preferred. She wondered who he was and why he clung to the ridiculous getup. Was he a student at KISTech? She was one of the top students, and she was quite sure she knew everything about the five students at KISTech she considered competition. Could he be one of them?
“You have access to the KISTech’s Registry, so you must be in the Tech Class,” the Pink Piggy said. “Your ability to pay the entry fee into this room means you’re well-off. High enough in the chain to unlock information on my registration information.”
“I have nothing on you, Pink Piggy,” Dalia said, dropping her hands to her sides. “You don’t give away much other than one can find you here at this stall in the Luna VR.”
“Does it frustrate you?” the Pink Piggy asked.
“Yes,” Dalia said, shaking her head.
The Pink Piggy chuckled and pointed to the greenhouse, with the super pink color.
“You never told me what color girls like?”
“Not that shade of pink,” Dalia said, shaking her head. “A light green or earth green works for greenhouses. It doesn’t have to be so pink.”
“Hm,” the Pink Piggy said, leaning forward to fiddle with the controls on the table. The greenhouse turned into a respectable pale green color.
“I’ll think on the code,” he said after a moment. “I have to review what I uploaded to the Registry and what I have in my database. I’ll let you know.”
“How do I reach you?” Dalia asked.
“Your credits left me your user ID. I’ll message you.”
“Don’t stay too long,” Dalia said, with a sigh. She had hoped he would agree tonight. Her project needed to move forward in three days. The empire’s voting aside, she was meeting her class mentor in four days.
“How long is too long?” the Pink Piggy asked.
“Tomorrow?” Dalia asked.
“I’m busy tomorrow,” the Pink Piggy said with a sigh. “Maybe the next day. I’ll have free time to get back to you.”
Dalia meets a He-Goat that greeted her ‘Meh!’
“I’ll look forward to it,” Dalia said, and turned to leave. The door opened just as she reached it, and she had to bite back a laugh when a cute he-goat walked in. The man hidden behind the he-goat head greeted her with a ridiculous meh!
Dalia burst out laughing.
“Stop scaring our delicate flower client,” the Pink Piggy said.
“She was expecting it,” the He-Goat said.
“I see a theme starting here,” Dalia said, shaking her head, finally getting a hold of her laugh. “The Animal Farm?”
“Is it?” the Pink Piggy asked.
The He-Goat chuckled and Dalia wondered what it would be like to meet these two in person.
“See you two, little piggy and the cute he-goat. I better not run into a cute chicken out there,” Dalia said.
The he-goat laughed and she left the room, logging out right away.
She removed her Luna VR glasses and placed them on her desk.
Stretching her arms over her head, she got up from her comfortable computer chair and glanced at the muted television screen across the room. The news was running. Her father’s face appeared on the screen. He was waving to excited citizens in an amphitheater.
“Unmute,” Dalia said, sinking her fingers into her braids. She massaged her head for a moment.
‘…Izra Taj and his running mate thank their supporters on the eve of the vote. He will know, by this time tomorrow, how well his campaign run has served him. Mr. Taj has held the office of Commander of Tech Class for six years. Winning the office three times. We’re expecting to see his family by his side as the voting day starts in a few hours…’
“Mute,” Dalia said, as a knock came on her door and her mother peeked in with a small wave. “Mama.”
“Baba is expecting us soon,” Amelia Taj said. “It will be easier if we’re all at the hotel where the campaign team is working.”
“Okay,” Dalia said.
She gave her bed a longing look, but then she knew she was not going to be using it until the voting process was over. Her father’s political ambitions left them all living such strange lives.
“It will be over soon,” Amelia said, as though reading her thoughts.
Dalia nodded and gave her mother a tentative smile. The door closed and she let out a heavy sigh. If her father won and became Elderon, their lives would not return to normal. They would only get harder to handle. She hoped she would be able to continue her research…she hoped the Pink Piggy would give his consent.
Dalia sniffed the wrinkled white shirt of her KISTech uniform and headed straight to the shower.
Genre: African Science Fiction, Novels set in Dystopian Africa