Risk Assessment

Perado had already broken away from the rest of the crowd that disembarked from the passenger carrier when a rumble like thunder rolled behind them.

The others, mostly Zora like him but a few were other beings of various shapes and colors, were probably going to switch to aircraft or spacecraft at the busy transportation port where he worked.  Everybody hesitated, some glancing at the clear azure sky framing the high buildings that displayed every color his mineral-rich world of Dea offered.  Perado was among those who looked back where he believed the noise originated.

Yellow and green smoke rose in the distance, from the other end of the urban settlement.  His stomach wrenched and his heart pounded against his chest.

That looked awfully close to home … where troops of Voratene had been prowling this morning searching for an infamous human.  And his wife Ervina was still there.

Gasps and cries arose from others as they began comprehending what happened.  Perado hastily tapped a specific pattern on the lower part of the interlink cuff on his ruddy left wrist.  The screen flickered on, pulsed, but then returned to a dull gray.

The communication service at home was down.

Perado broke into a sprint, dodging past other members of the crowd.  He darted back on the transport that brought him here and burst into the cabin with the Zora pilots.

“Take this carrier back!”

Both of them gaped at him.  One had green skin and the other was blue like Ervina.

“We can’t go back there!” the green one protested.

Perado tapped the cuff again, and the screen lit up with his credential to authorize transportation exchanges.  He thrust it in front of their faces.

“I said take it back, now!  Maximum velocity!”

They grumbled, but obeyed.  Perado braced himself in the doorway and scanned through the screen on the cuff, his throat tightening with each nugget of information that surfaced.

Voratene sonic burst … troops used … pursing unspecified number of humans … purpose unknown … sonic burst to prevent escape….

And it all happened on the division where he lived with his wife.

The conversation they had that morning, before he left for work, replayed in his mind as he hoped it wouldn’t wind up being the last time he got to speak with her.

“Have you ever wondered why this liberator they’re looking for would be human?”  Ervina asked as they stood in their kitchen, after the Voratene troops left their masonry home.

He sipped his cup of swizzle in an effort to assuage his annoyance.  Looking upon her was at least an enjoyable distraction from the rude interruption of having their house searched.

The blue cast of her skin reflected the nickel-rich hills of the planet Dea, just as his ruddy complexion was reminiscent of the iron-laden plains.  Her navy hair was twisted in five ringlets that cascaded down her back.  She also wore that shimmering jade outfit that complemented her graceful figure.

“The Voratene are a scourge to all the races of the confederation.”  That didn’t exactly answer her question, but it was true.

Her cobalt lips pouted.  “Of all the worlds in the confederation, why would the race that has no world produce somebody to challenge their regime?”

Perado redirected his gaze to what of the amber liquid remained in his cup.  “Why not?”

Ervina rolled her head and returned her attention to the window where earlier she watched the Voratene troops leave to pound on the doors of other homes.  “I think it’s because humans have nothing left to lose.”

“That’s a brilliant theory.”

“But if they have nothing to lose, then what are they defending?”

Her topic of conversation dug deeper into his consternation.  “Humans share more than basic physical characteristics with us.  I understand it was their devotion for freedom that drove them to leave their own world.  They might be scattered on different planets now, but oppression is oppression.  Nobody likes it.”

“Then why do we put up with it?”

His heart skipped a beat.  “Careful.  The Voratene are hunting down a man based on the yammering of a Yuri.  If they overheard what you said, that’s enough to arrest you, or worse.”

“You know, I’ve wondered, do the rumors of this liberator do the rest of us a disservice?  Are we willing to hide behind a homeless race and submit to foreign rule while we wait for a man who might not exist?”

“The Voratene believe he exists, and if that distracts their predations from the rest of us, well….”  The end of his statement was as dangerous as her question.  “That frees us up to work on our own projects, unseen and unheard.”

Ervina tilted her head.  “Do you know of such … resistance projects?”

“No, and we’re better off if it stays that way.”  He swigged the rest of the swizzle, and set the cup in the lavage bin.

Her brow furrowed.  “Wouldn’t it be better to participate in an uprising against the Voratene regime than just wait for what might unfold?”

Perado tried to ignore the quiver in the pit of his stomach.  “You want to get us all killed?”

Her gaze leveled on his.  “I don’t want to be a Voratene subject for the rest of my life.”

“There’s nothing average folk like us can do.”

So when he left for work that morning, he was somewhat relieved to escape Ervina’s questions.  They only stirred his annoyance at the troops … but right now he’d give anything to speak with her again on any topic of her choosing.

The carrier didn’t reach a complete stop before he opened the portal and leaped out on the decking.  A chill coursed through him as he approached the ruined buildings lining a couple of the roadways.

Built from blocks saturated with copper, the cottages used to abut each other, creating soft-green rows of columns and arches.  Now sickly dust lingered over rubble piles, and the patina blocks were scarred with orange.

Several excavator craft hovered over a segment of the span’s remains, shifting blocks and debris onto a central mound.  A sparse line of Voratene forces pointed pulsar rifles at the mobs of shouting Zora.

The Voratene, generally only about half his height, looked especially squat in their brown uniforms.  He could tell they were barely mature because they didn’t have as large or as many warts on their heads as the older ones.

Perado’s cry joined the noise as he surged into the crowd.  Others grabbed at him as he broke through the front of it.

A searing blow in his upper left arm sent a convulsive charge through his body.  He fell back, and others caught him as they hollered at the troops.  Multiple hands supported him as he collapsed and wound up sitting on the flagstones.

A matronly woman of ruddy complexion kneeled beside him.  “Stay there.  You’re lucky they’re using low charges, and it wasn’t a lethal hit.”

As much as he wanted to stagger to his feet, he couldn’t.  “Why won’t they let us search for survivors?”

“They want to reclaim the humans first, see if any are alive.  Of course they hope the liberator is among them.”

“The vermin!”  The throbbing in his arm, where a trickle of blood left a blue trail down his sleeve, was insignificant compared to the agony in his heart.  “More of us will perish if we don’t get them out of there!”

“We know, but … the Voratene refuse.”

By the time the stunning effect of the charge relinquished enough for him to stand again, the Voratene retrieved the bodies and started moving out.  The excavator craft dispersed to sift throughout the rubble, and Perado surged ahead with the others to dig by hand.

There was nothing recognizable about his home.  It was even difficult to determine if he was the correct distance down the division.  But he began turning over blocks and tossing away mangled household items, calling Ervina’s name throughout.

After what felt like an eternity, he shoved one block over and uncovered shimmering green fabric.

Crying her name again, he pushed another block away.  The fabric was stained blue.

The soreness of his hands and weariness in his body did little to slow his frantic work.  Block by block he dug down to the body of his wife.  Her graceful form was now broken and twisted, the flattering outfit more blue than green.  When he was finally able to pull her out from the debris, Perado collapsed again and clutched her in his arms.

* * *

Funerals were supposed to help provide comfort to the living, but the mass service Perado attended the next day offered no consolation.  He felt the condolences he offered to others, but their commiseration meant nothing to him.

When finally he was alone at the patch of ground where Ervina’s ashes were buried, he kneeled and placed his hand on the beryl marker over her remains.

“I’m sorry you were a Voratene subject for the rest of your life.”

His fingers curled into a fist.

The troops had done nothing to assist the Zora, leaving them to cope with the carnage the Voratene created.  The wound they caused from their invasion long ago had become like a scar to him, a blemish that one simply grew accustomed to.

But now they’d reopened that wound … and made it worse.  And he wasn’t going to let them get away with it.

Those murderers, so confident they were superior and more valuable than any residents of the other worlds, were rattled by one rumor:  Among the humans was a liberator who would bring about the end of their regime.

This prophesied liberator they sought for could be on any populated planet, or any ship in space.  When the Voratene didn’t have a lead to follow, they resorted to occasional intrusions like yesterday in the hope of uncovering him accidentally.

If the liberator had been among those humans they downed with a sonic blast, they would have heralded his termination over all the reports.  But it must have been a group of people hiding out for different nefarious purposes.  The Voratene’s silence only condemned them more.

“But I promise you will not have died in vain,” he murmured to the marker.

He would begin with his career.  He would track down the itineraries of all their air and space craft.  He would locate projects of resistance.  He would betray the Voratene’s movements to them, enabling them to intercept shipments and create accidents for the enemy ships.

From there he would be forced to leave Dea, to disappear into the universe by way of a path he would have to discover when that time descended.  But he would be armed with all he’d learned and use it against the Voratene, until either he or they were vanquished.

In their eagerness to track down this liberator, they’d created him.  He, Perado, would see to it the Voratene regime fell, and thanks to their focus on the liberator, they’d never see or hear him coming.

After all, it was because of them he had nothing left to lose.


Here is my contribution for this month’s #BlogBattle, and the word this time is Scar.  Be sure to check into all the other stories!

When Does an Idiom Become a Cliché?

Idiom:  An expression in language that is peculiar to itself either grammatically or in having a meaning that is not literal.

Cliché:  An expression that has become overly familiar or commonplace, making it trite.

The other day I glanced out the window and realized approaching rain clouds signaled my outdoor plans for that morning were going to have to wait until later in the day.  It also brought to mind the phrase storm clouds are gathering, and how that’s used to insinuate a conflict of grand proportions is about to happen.

Or has that phrase become a cliché?

If I told you it started raining cats and dogs, you know that phrase is overused.  The same goes for claiming we need to make hay while the sun shines, or there’s an ill wind blowing, or there are plenty of fish in the sea – just be sure you don’t rock the boat.

All of these sayings are built upon truisms, but they just don’t pack the punch they used to.

What about the idioms of today?  Many used currently seem headed for cliché territory.  If you’re feeling under the weather, you might not steal someone’s thunder unless you can wrap your head around how to get the ball back in your court – just be sure you don’t miss the boat.

It seems a good rule of thumb to use either sparingly.  Yes, you can even use clichés if they serve a specific purpose (such as revealing a character’s unimaginative thinking).  But if you want to write creatively, try coining your own phrase.

Instead of putting out the warning that storm clouds are gathering, you could allude to another event of impending danger.  Who knows, it might become so popular that eventually it gets overused, and one day becomes a cliché.

Let’s see, how about the chickens are getting organized…?