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reptile logic

An imposter among aliens.
I needed to take a break from my novels for a while. Here is my latest short story, to add to my collection. It's 14, 8-1/2 X 11 pages long. So rather than break it up, I decided to attach the PDF
(Brief moments of implied sexuality [nothing graphic] and brief moments of violence.)
I hope you enjoy it.

Edit: For those who are reluctant to click on a PDF, I broke up the story and posted it in parts. PDF updated 10 October, 2022. Posted copy shortened, dropped the last few paragraphs to better fit the book's plotline, but otherwise unaltered.


  • Twenty Year Review_22-10-20.pdf
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reptile logic

An imposter among aliens.
As some people are reluctant to download a pdf, Here is the story, in parts. Sorry for the weird break points; 10,000 character limit per page, here.

Twenty Year Review by D A Barr

Copyright © November 24, 2020

All rights reserved
Part one:
It woke up at dawn. Whatever the clocks might read, at whatever point on the globe it was on that day; Secundus always woke up at dawn. Reluctantly, it stirred from the warmth of Master's embrace and gathered up a nearby pillow to give Master something cool to hold onto, in its stead. It carefully climbed down from the bed and began drawing Master's bath. As the tub filled, Secundus quickly crossed over into the dressing room; staying on the carpet runner so its toe claws would not click on the hardwood floor. It hopped to the upper tier and walked along the padded rail to pause as it stood up high and retrieved a shirt from a hangar. It then squatted and reached down to retrieve a pair of matching pants, below it.

Master will not be going out today, it thought to itself. A simple, black belt with black socks and his favorite slippers will do. It staged the shirt and pants on the rack, next to the center ottoman, and gathered the rest to add to this morning's presentation. Master would choose his underwear, if any, when dressing began.

Secundus was forever grateful that it had never been required to wear clothing. Why would one wish to cover such a body?, it asked itself as it watched itself turn in the mirror. Black horns, curving gracefully rearward, which surpass doorknob height when I stand tall and proud. Those piercing, bright green eyes. Fine, smooth scales that shimmer in shades of browns and pale greens, as if oiled. These long fingered, dexterous hands with their claws filed, just so. The upturned tip of this thick, healthy tail held just above the floor. These strong legs that carry me so effortlessly. The way Masters Mark shines so proudly from my right buttock in beautiful, iridescent blue hues.

Remembering the tub, it rushed back across to the tub room and shut off the water. The thermometer read a little above Master's favorite temperature. Secundus turned to the wall and set the timer for the steam, then walked down the hallway runner to the kitchen.

By the time Secundus had arrived back in the tub room, Master had already climbed into the tub. "Master!" it exclaimed in worry, "The doctor said you should have help. You did not even bring your cane." It set the cup of coffee and saucer down on the small, tub-side table and scurried back into the bedroom to fetch the cane; to hook it on the edge of the tub. "You have not yet healed from your tumble on the slopes."

Seeing Master take up his coffee, Secundus stepped closer to the steam vents to warm. The hot steam condensed on its cool body; transferring heat directly into its skin. Secundus reveled in the warmth as it watched Master take his first sip and smile at the taste. Secundus quietly purred in satisfaction at having pleased the one it serves, once again.

"Babe, come in here with me," commanded Master. He used that name only when they were alone; the only time that he allowed any intimacy between them.

Secundus climbed into the tub and rested its wet belly against Master's. Its head lay on the man's chest. It purred again as the man stroked its back. When the hand reached further down, across Master's Mark; Secundus' tail gently twitched back and forth a few times in the warm water, then relaxed completely as the stroking continued.

"Babe, have you been happy here, with me?"

"For each day of these last forty years, Master. It feels only like twenty to me."

"Your next review is coming up."

"Very soon, my Master. Do not make me take the review, I beg you! I do not wish to start again! I wish to remember you as I do now!"

"One has to consent for review at least once every twenty years. The law doesn't allow any further extensions."

"So this is why you brought us here. I thought we might be getting a little too old for skiing."

"As I told you; last time, you ran! I don't like this anymore than you do. At least this way I won't have to chase you very far."

Secundus looked out over Master's shoulder, out the tub room windows of the isolated chalet. Cold, dry wind-blown snow flashed white against a blue sky. Even if it were to hide indoors, Master could simply cool down the house enough that Secundus could no longer move, or think. Then the command pulse could be administered in any case. It would not hide. "What do you fear so, that you feel you must trap me, Master?"

"I don't want to lose you, Babe. I'm afraid I couldn't live without you." Master changed hands and stroked Secundus' other side for a time. He used his other hand to idly rub the tip of one of Secundus' horns. Over the years, Master had rubbed just that one tip to a polish. Secundus wore the mark proudly.

Secundus purred quietly as it lay sprawled across the man's body. It remained mindful of its claws. Except to preserve their life and health, the servant may never cause pain nor intentionally induce emotional distress upon its Master, nor anyone else. It said, "I fear this only because I see the fear in your eyes and know that I am the cause. At least let me share this burden with you."

"It's no secret that the review is for you. A reminder of why you're here."

"Yes, Master. That I have always known. What about my remembering causes you pain?"

"During the review, I also get reminded why you're here. Twenty years ago, you killed Primus during your escape. When I finally caught up to you, you tried to kill me."

Deeply disturbed and sorrowful, Secundus replied, "I believe you because you would not tell me this just to hurt me. I remember none of it. I only know of Primus because you said we were once close."

"You and Primus were mates, Babe. You stabbed Primus with a kitchen knife before you ran out the door. You put that same knife in my thigh, later that same day." Master pointed to his scar. "I'm telling you this so you might understand the profound changes that'll happen during your review.

"Why did you spare me?" asked Secundus. "I should have been killed for such actions against my Master and his property."

"Because I love you too much to let you go," replied Master. "I held you and waited until you got beyond reliving your past; so you could remember who you had become. When you finally told the reviewer, "Yes" and relaxed again in my arms, I cried for the rest of the day."

"I remember that," said Secundus. "You had to keep reassuring me that your tears were happy ones. I did not remember what had been done to cause them."

Master frowned for a moment then said, "Yes, happy tears." He shifted his position; his signal for Secundus to get off. "I don't want any help. We'll eat in the kitchen."

Secundus carefully climbed out of the tub, walked over to the warming drawer and fetched two towels. It wiped itself down with the smaller one then set the larger one on the tub-side table. It picked up the cup and saucer and carried them down the hall to the kitchen. Master was troubled. That much was clear.

Putting its mind into its work, Secundus soon had the preparations done and the pan heated. It cracked open two chicken eggs and got them started. It then cracked open two more into a clear, tall glass. Next it flipped over the eggs in the pan and turned off the heat. Master liked them over easy with barely a hint of liquid whites remaining and just a dash of pepper. He preferred to salt them at the table.

Master slowly walked down the hall to the kitchen in his bare feet and sat down at the kitchen table.

As Secundus laid the hot toast next to the eggs, it commented, "It looks like the stiffness persists." It quickly buttered the toast and set the two small bowls of his favorite jams next to the plate, on the tray. Masters second cup of coffee and small glass of cranberry juice were already waiting there, along with napkins and silverware.

Secundus carried the tray to the kitchen table and deftly set it in front of Master. "Shall I get you an analgesic?"

"No, just my socks and slippers. Where are the peaches?" asked Master has he salted his eggs and sipped his coffee.

Secundus returned to set down a bowl with a canned peach half and a scoop of cottage cheese inside. Learning that Master loved his grandmother's canned peaches, Secundus had learned how to make them. It then went to fetch the socks and slippers. After it placed them on Master’s feet, it walked over to the step stool and climbed it to wash in the sink; drying its hands on the nearby towel. This will join the wash today, it thought to itself.

It finally joined Master at the table with its glass of raw eggs and cottage cheese. It began lapping up its meal from the tall glass. Secundus did not like toast and the prepared peaches were too sweet. Though Secundus was well-trained in utensil use and table manners; in private Master encouraged his servant to enjoy eggs and other lick-able foods this way. Secundus believed that Master liked to watch its tongue work in and out of the glass. It delighted in making a better show of it, for his benefit.

Secundus licked slowly as it waited to fetch something or to answer a question. With no conversation forthcoming and no task to complete first, it finished its meal just before Master did, as usual. It began collecting dishes while Master walked from the kitchen into the front room. Secundus cleaned up and put the bath and dressing areas in order, put fresh sheets on the bed, and started a load of laundry.

It checked on Master from time to time as he worked on some problem on his computer, in the front room.

With Master occupied for a time, Secundus lay down for its late morning nap, near Master's feet. The sunshine through the big windows bathed it in light while the warmth of the nearby fire soothed its backside.

reptile logic

An imposter among aliens.
Part two:

"Babe, time to get up," ordered Master. "Go out and fetch the package."

Secundus had heard the knock on the door but had chosen not to stir. It knew what this meant; the reviewer had arrived. As it carried over the package, Secundus reminded itself to be brave. Master had his own fears but had chosen not to abandon his servant at this dark time. It would not run. Instead it handed over the package and climbed up on the couch to join Master and await its fate.

Master began to open the package. He said, "Once I break the seal on the inner bag, we only have two minutes to position it over your eye. The device is set to recognize your retinal pattern and your voice. Hold your eye open until you hear it speak to you, then answer all prompts clearly."

Master opened the inner bag, placed the device on Secundus' head and aligned the eyepiece.

Before activating the reviewer, Master gently said, "Thank you for making this part easier this time, Babe. There is something you forgot to do last time. I need you to remember this."

"Anything, Master!"

Master bent his head close to Secundus' ear and told it the words to remember. He then sat back away from his servant and said, "I can't protect you from what's coming. Say what I told you, only after the final prompt is given, and you will never have to go through this again. I love you, Babe. He then sniffed back a tear and said, "Activate review, Secundus. Registration code fourteen, fourteen, eight, three, six, pop-top."

* * *​

Bursts of light filled its vision. A female voice was heard, "Derrick Wentz, your sentence begins today. To stay the execution, you have agreed to be among the first volunteers for a new rehabilitation program. You will never again be a free man, but you've been granted the opportunity to continue living as a productive part of society."

Derrick was in a lab somewhere. Tubes and wires ran everywhere. He was strapped to a gurney. Other than the equipment surrounding him, Derrick was alone.

The voice continued, "You will be asked some questions. Anything but completely honest answers will only make it harder to find you a match. Do you understand?"

"Yeah. Get on with it." Derrick's voice, at once so familiar and so alien, reverberated in the room.

From the speaker, overhead, "During your trial, you claimed to have lost control when you strangled your father's girlfriend and set fire to the house. Are you prone to impulsive acts?"

"Imagine that, " said Derrick. "I lost it after my father met me for the first time; to kill my mom in front of me and my brother. Tough learning you're an orphan at eighteen; caring for a fifteen year-old brother."

"I'm sorry for your loss. Have you made any other decisions that most would consider impulsive?"

"Nothing off the top of my head." Secundus' voice now quietly echoed the words of Derrick Wentz. Derrick was returning.

The voice on the speaker replied, "What about when you and your brother walked straight into that crib with a pistol apiece and a bagful of pipe bombs? You two took out the top players and assumed control of the block, just like that. Tell me you thought that one through."

"OK, I might have forgotten that one other time."

The voice said, "This is only going to hurt your chances of getting what you want out of this. I get to go home tonight, no matter how badly you screw yourself. Honest answers.

"OK" said Derrick.

"Do you consider yourself loyal?"

Derrick said, "Never had anyone I looked up to, so no."

"If it were up to you, how would you live as a free man?" asked the voice.

"Dream big?"

"Go ahead."

Derrick said, "I’d like to live like the rich and powerful. Hang out with 'em and travel the world. I'd like to eat the food the rich eat, for the rest of my life. I've had enough of that crap I grew up on!"

"I can relate. Anything else?" asked the voice.

On a roll now, Derrick said, "I wanna live where it's warm. I wanna feel that warmth and appreciate that feeling, every day.

"Do you want to live there alone?

"No, some buddies would be alright. Better if some of those buddies were ladies."

The voice asked, "Do you prefer sex with women, or men? What do you like to do?"

"Bi, if I'm gonna be honest. I kinda like someone else taking charge; makes me feel smaller somehow. Sometimes it sucks to be the big, scary badass." Derrick chuckled in embarrassment.

The voice asked, "Are you tired of killing?"

Derrick took a deep breath before answering, "Yeah. . . been tired of it for a long time. Afraid I'll still do it, though. It's always come easy. It got me what I wanted quicker than any respectable way I could think of.

"Very useful information! Thank you, Derrick. If you were going to pledge your loyalty to one person, what would you want from that person in exchange?"

Derrick replied, "That person would have to trust me; treat me like I was worth something. He has to need me and know it."


"I'm more comfortable looking up to a guy. . . don't judge me."

"It's a perfectly valid answer, Derrick. Do I understand that you would give your loyalty to a man who loved you?"

"Sounds a little over-dramatic, but yeah."

The voice on the speaker went quiet for a while. Someone else within range of the open mic said, "I never thought we'd find a fit for that shell. I've never seen a match line up that close before. Look up the buyer sheet. Look what they paid for that thing; who'd of thought something like that could cost so much! These improvements aren't even on the open market yet. No wonder it’s only the second one ordered. Looks like we’ll get our sales bonus, this quarter. . . *more quietly,* oops, shit."

The voice came back, "Derrick, your new body is ready. It's been waiting for someone just like you. You are a near-perfect match.

"I'll tell you how this is going to go down: Because of your record and your own, recorded statements, you'll be formatted as a rider core. Once the shell transfer is completed, your new body will instinctively want to be near him and to serve him. His safety, happiness and well-being will be your only concern. Nothing will feel better to you than learning you just did something to make him feel good, to smile or laugh. The second closest feeling is when he touches you. If something you do, or fail to do causes your master any harm or distress; you'll feel like you've been gut-punched and you'll do anything to help him feel better. The directives we installed will be there to guide you and the fail-safe pathways will automatically route your destructive impulses into positive actions.

"In exchange for your servitude, you will get everything we talked about."

Derrick asked, "What the hell's a rider core?"

The voice on the speaker answered, "The core is you; everything you are, minus your body. A naked core can be stored for a little while, but it needs a shell to survive. Not every core is a good fit for every shell, so most buyers have their servant shells grown early and stored until a match is found."

"A rider core has limited access and limited control of the shell. You're being formatted as a rider core because we can't afford the lawsuit they would throw at us, if you killed your owner."

"So people who buy shells for themselves, they get a driver core format?" asked Derrick.

"Exactly," answered the voice.

"I heard enough to know the boss is rich. It's no secret that you need money to buy into this game. Why is he tucking me into that expensive toy of his? What's he think he's gonna get from me?"

"All matches are blind. Matches are determined through these neural and chemical tests we're performing and your verbal answers to our questions. What he's getting is a full-time personal valet, companion and confidant."

Derrick said, "I'd make a better bodyguard."

"That's not what he wants," replied the voice.

"What if he doesn't cover his end?"

"We'll schedule reviews every four years. If you don't have any complaints, you have the option to push them back for a while."

"Why would I push back a review?"asked Derrick.

A heavy sigh came through the speaker, before the voice said, "I'm going to be up front with you, Derrick. The reviews aren't to see if you've earned something better. That's never going to happen. They're to give you a chance to decide whether you want to end this and die, or keep doing what you're doing. Even though all your other rights are forfeit; by law, you have the right to decide whether your core lives or dies. Your match is so close. It'd be a shame not to take a chance on it."
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reptile logic

An imposter among aliens.
Part three:

"So what's this new body look like?" asked Derrick.

"It doesn't matter. It's the only shell you'll be offered. One way or another, the body of Derrick Wentz will be destroyed tomorrow. You've done enough damage in its lifetime and the people will have their execution. Last chance; do you want to go through with this?"

Derrick asked, "What's the name of my new boss?"

"Until he tells you different, it's Master."

"What's my new name?"

The voice answered, "Until he gives you one, you don't have a name."

Derrick could hear the buzz of some nearby machine as he waited for whatever would happen next. The electrode cap on his head was really starting to itch. Being strapped to the table, there was nothing he could do about it. "Hey? Are we done here? Can I get up?!"

In just a few seconds, the voice replied, "Derrick, we just got confirmation from the buyer. Transportation's been arranged and since you're right here, we thought we'd deliver you today."

"What? Wait! Don't I get a last meal, or something?!"

The voice said, "No. More cleanup involved and your shell is taking up expensive storage space. Don't worry, it happens so fast you don't feel a thing. OK. . . cameras recording, doctor ready to verify. . . death certificate right here. Ready?"

"No last rites?" asked Derrick.

"Says here when we asked you about any religious preference, you replied, 'Fuck that.'."

"I guess I did say that."

"Well then, here we go," said the voice.
* * *​

His eyes opened. He was laying on the floor. It was warm there, so much heat bathing his back. He could hear the fire crackling in the fireplace. Sunshine poured in through the big windows and added their own warmth to his skin. He knew he'd never been here before but it felt like home. Everything smelled as it should. "What?" he said aloud.

"Hey Babe, I'm glad you're awake so soon," said a voice behind him.

Derrick spun around and spotted something following behind him. He grabbed it; the end of his tail. Surprised that he felt that hand with that tail, he let go of it and shook his hand for a moment as he looked up at the old man on the couch. Why does he look so damn big?, he thought to himself. Quickly, he looked for an exit. Opposite the couch and the old man was a glass door leading outside. It looked cold out there. He had never left the city before, now he was on a damn mountain somewhere.

As if reading his mind, the old man said, "All the doors are unlocked. You have the run of the house. The closest bathroom is down the hall just past the kitchen, first on the right. There's step stools and such, right where you need them."

"What the hell's going on?! Is this really the shell you paid so much for?!" asked Derrick, angrily.

The old man said, "You're new to this body. You haven't learned to speak through it yet. Based on past experience, I'm guessing it'll take at least a few more hours before anything you say comes across to me as anything more than parrot squawk. Just keep that in mind if you get frustrated. Yelling won't help things.

"Yes, I paid quite a lot for you. You are exactly what I wanted. I know you don't understand but this is my second time going over this with you. At least this time you haven't tried to kill me."

Derrick squawked incoherently, "Man, I don't know you!"

"You don't believe me, I understand." The old man then ordered, "Servant, go put the laundry in the dryer."

Enraged that this old man would disrespect him this way, Derrick stormed past the man on the couch into the kitchen, then down the hall to the second door on the right. He reached up, pulled on the handle and thrust open the door. He opened up the washer and angrily set aside the silk under garments to dry on the rack. He then screamed as he repeatedly stuffed one garment after another into the dryer. With a huff, he closed the door and started the dry cycle. His task now complete, he suddenly felt a warm glow of satisfaction wash through his body, down to his fingers and toes and clear out to the tip of his tail. He then realized that this room was familiar. He had been here many times before.

After putting away the step stool, he gently closed the laundry room door behind him and slowly walked back to the living room; ignoring the old man as he passed by that giant couch. He could look over the seat cushions, but not over the back. He lay himself in front of the fire. It felt so soothing there, in front of the fire. He finally said, "I think I get it."

"You're smart. You catch on quick. That's one of the reasons you're here. Still don't know what you're saying. Keep trying," said the old man.

Derrick stood up, reached for a piece of wood and added it to the fire. He then paused a moment to look at his hands before he asked, "Is this my life now? A pet that can keep house?"

The old man said, "For the last forty years, the one I counted on to keep my life together, every day, was you. You kept me presentable in public and made it bearable for me. You anticipated my every need and you always had my back. I could always trust your advice because I knew you had my best interest at heart. But this was the you that developed after the man who died on that table; after the person you think you are right now."

As Derrick just stood there, stunned, the old man continued, "Look at it from my side; somebody I don't know visits every twenty years and we get to go dig up his nightmares together. Only this guy can take out someone I love if he doesn't like what he sees on his visit. Keep talking; otherwise I won't know when Secundus' memories start kicking in."

Derrick said, "I don't know what to ask."

"Getting better, sounds like it meant something that time."

"What do you want from me?"

The old man smiled. "That sounded familiar. I want you to consider that you might have had a good life with me. I'm hoping enough of Secundus returns in time to help me convince you to stay."

"Like I have a choice!" argued Derrick.

"Try not moving your mouth around so much. Your lips don't work like that anymore. Your body can make the sounds; just takes time to make the connections. I know you want to look in a mirror; don't. You're still plugged into the device. It's monitoring and recording all of your vital functions, your actions, your words, and everything you see and hear. The damn thing scares me to look at it and I don't have to wear it."

"Here," said the old man as he reached for his computer, typed a few keys and turned the computer around to face Derrick, "By then Secundus was talking and had a well-developed personality. Primus was certainly glad when you'd matured enough to take care of yourself and help out around the house. You're the one on my right."
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reptile logic

An imposter among aliens.
Part four:

Derrick looked at the magazine article picture. He saw the old man, much younger. Lizard-like creatures stood on either side of him, looking at the camera. Their short horns nearly reached as high as the man's belt. They had piercing, bright eyes; orange on the man's left, green on his right. Under their horns were small, pointed ears. One's body was colored in patterns of black and subdued red scales. The other carried a different pattern, done in browns and pale greens. Their hands were large in comparison to their bodies; almost as large as the man's hands that rested on their heads. Those hands only had four fingers, tipped with short claws instead of nails. The legs ended in three-toed paws with no heel, just a hock. Their bodies were muscular and fit and each had a thick, heavy tail they held up behind them, keeping them balanced.

"Dammit," said Derrick, "I look cute! Why did you have to make me look cute?!" He then looked at his hand. Why didn't I notice the missing finger before, he mused.

"I'm guessing that you're not thrilled about your appearance. You'll get used to it. You and Primus debuted that day. You became the most popular model overnight. Everyone who had the money lined up to order one. Who'd of dreamed that our fantasy line would take off like that."

Derrick said, "I can read the letters, but not the words. What language is this, old man?"

"Better! I heard 'not words' and 'Master'. Come on, Secundus, I need you here," said the old man.

The man explained, "You can't read. You carry a text randomizing program. I can command you to look for certain words or phrases, so you can help me find something like a road sign or our flight information, but it's only temporary."

"What does this say, then?" asked Derrick as he pointed to the words.

Seemingly embarrassed, the old man read aloud, "'Bioengineering's Hermit on the Hill has done it again. Martin Boardman surprises the world with the first of his new, fantasy line. Each in the Kobold series will carry a unique personality that never requires updating. The days of clunky, hollow personalities are over, folks. They tell me that these servants feel as alive as you and me from day one. Over time, their personalities are said to only become better suited to life with you. They will be available in three standard personality formats; The Pet, The Assistant, and The Companion. Any format is fully up-gradable! Then they top that with a truly impressive selection of color and other physical options, standard. Hypoallergenic, and meeting all current bio-engineering regulations, these certified non-human servants are yours for life; no term limits with minimal renewal hassles.' It goes on for a while but you get the gist."

"What does 'certified non-human' mean?" asked Derrick.

"That was damn close. Say it again," said the old man.

"What does 'certified non-human mean?' the squawking sounded like words, this time. Damn, I do sound like a parrot, he thought.

"There's the voice I remember! A little rough yet. It means you're certified and registered as a non-human; a non-competitive, non-reproductive, artificial life form. You have no rights beyond that granted to a pet. You are not allowed to own assets, beyond a few personal items, and you can never own property, own a business, or vote."

In his mind, Derrick saw the other one, face to face for the first time. It and Master took care of him and kept him warm. It taught him how to speak and comforted him when Master refused his affection. "You will be all right," it told him, "Master does not always have time for us, but he always loves us."

"Primus. . ." the word drifted out of Derrick's mouth.

The old man sat up and leaned forward from the couch. He said, "You're beginning to remember, Secundus. You loved Primus, just as I did."

Derrick remembered Primus teaching him how to do the household chores and how to cook. Being close to Primus felt so good; almost as good as Masters touch."

He remembered running with Primus on the beach near Cancun; swimming alongside it in the water then chasing Primus back to their bungalow to find Master napping in the huge hammock. They curled up on either side of Master and held each other's hand as they drifted off to sleep together.

"Where are you?" asked the old ma. . . asked Master.

Derrick answered, "We're in Cancun in a hammock. All three of us. It's a beautiful day. We went everywhere together."

"Yes, we did," said Master. "You and Primus were together at my side for twenty years."

"What happened to Primus," asked Derrick as a sense of dread filled him. He knew what happened, the moment he asked.

Concerned, Master said, "Stay with me! Ride it out. I'm right here if you need someone to hold onto."

Suddenly, Derrick had just been executed and was awakening for the first time, or is this the second? he thought. He was in this kitchen, disoriented. He was on the lap of some huge stranger. Some sort of demon rushed toward him. It had a knife! Almost as a reflex, he turned the knife point toward the creature and plunged the weapon in, clear to the hilt. As the monster fell and cleared a path for him, he pulled the knife from its body and ran with it, out the kitchen door and into the spring sunshine.

He quickly got lost and tired. By the time the giant man found him, he was so cold. He could barely move. It was all he could do to thrust the knife at the man, to try to keep him away. He passed out. A low, keening cry came from somewhere. It was his own voice he heard.

"Primus is dead now, right?" asked Master. "You can come over here if you want. You don't have to stand there alone. You never have to be alone."

In anguish, Derrick shouted, "But I killed Primus! I didn't want to hurt it but I killed it anyway! I miss Primus; it hurts how much I miss it!"

Quietly, Master said, "From your point of view, you had just died a convict. You'd known nothing but hunger, want and violence all of your short life. You were a natural killer and something you didn't recognize came at you with a knife. The fail-safes didn't kick in.

"It was my fault. I should have isolated us from everyone until you settled down. Secundus was so sweet the first time, an innocent soul with your first review still years away. I thought I knew what to expect, on your 20-year review. It was stupid of me to think I could handle the man you once were.

"Primus was peeling apples when you woke. It was just so excited to see you again that it rushed over to you, its mate. Primus must have forgotten about the knife in its hand. It died quickly, as I reached to catch it. After I laid it on the floor, I went looking for you."

"I should just die and save the world from me forever," moaned Derrick.

"No, wait a little longer," pleaded Master as he cried. "You've grown so much since then. You've done so much good that you still don't remember about. We still have hours before your decision is due."

"How have I grown?" asked Derrick.

He, Secundus, suddenly found itself standing next to Master, who was sitting at the large table with the other powerful people. This was the world conference on bio-engineering ethics and Secundus was here to translate.

After the session was adjourned, one of the dignitaries walked up and asked, "Would it be alright if talked to your servant? May I touch it?"

"Of course," answered Master.

"You are just so cute!" said the dignitary as she bent down and scratched behind one of Secundus' ears. "I'm amazed at how lifelike you are. Your personality is flawless."

"You are very kind, miss." Secundus patiently waited for the petting to stop. It was pleasant, just not satisfying like Master's touch.

The woman asked, "Is it true that you are your master's valet and housekeeper?"

"I am also Master's cook, caregiver and translator, miss."

"Amazing. How many languages do you know?" asked the woman as she turned Secundus' head to the side, by its horn, and looked at its profile.

"I hold fluency in seventeen languages, miss."

"How many languages can you read?" asked the woman.

Secundus replied, "Those with non-human classification are incapable of understanding text, miss. Written words and numbers make no sense to us."

"Then my private e-mails and business transactions are safe with you?" The woman let go of its horn and picked up one of its hands. She turned it over.

"Random patterns on the screen, miss." answered Secundus.

The woman let go of the hand, looked up at Master and asked him, "How much for this one? I'd rather not have to wait for a core; I know there's a long waiting list right now."

Master answered, "You're right about the waiting list. Its advanced core truly is the soul of this model line and supply just can't meet demand right now. Secundus has been with me for a very long time and we've grown attached. It's not for sale."

"A pity. If it's worth that much to you, it must be worth having. What if I were to pay you for four new ones, and you hand me just this one?"

"Not for sale. So you would like four, then?"

The woman smiled as she looked down on Secundus and again touched its head. "Let's start with two. I'll have my assistant contact your office."

Master smiled. "Always good doing business with you, Gloria."

reptile logic

An imposter among aliens.
Part five:

As they walked away, to meet with a government official, Secundus asked, "Master, you seem to enjoy spending time with Gloria. Perhaps you should spend more time together."

"Thanks for thinking of me but no, Secundus. That woman holds tight control over everyone in her orbit. I'd just assume stay out of it. You're more than enough to keep me happy."

Secundus felt warm all over. Nothing else in life felt as satisfying as praise from Master.

Bringing Derrick back to the present, Master asked, "Have you got past the conference yet? It sounded like you might be."

A little shaken, Derrick answered, "Yes, I have."

"Good. You accomplished a lot by then. Do you understand yet? When you forgot the person you were, you became this instead. Is what you remember a life worth living, yet?"

With acid in his voice, Derrick yelled, "Great for you! You got to dump Derrick at the side of the road and live happily ever after with this Secundus! I didn't get to live this life!"

Frustrated, Master said, "Dammit, you don't understand! This is what I'm trying to give you, right now! This is all in your hands, now. You don't have to die. Just believe this life is worth living. You don't have to forget, just trust me. Just trust Secundus."

"Trust you? Just a little while ago, you were a total stranger."

The old man, Master, shrank back into the couch. He looked out the window and sighed. "Forty years, for forty years I've loved you. These reviews are a living hell. We can't stop the review until it expires or you close it. While you're hooked up, there's things I can't tell you. If you can trust me, if you can trust Secundus, soon you'll know everything. I'll never keep anything from you for as long as we live." The man wiped at his tears and sniffed.

Grudgingly, Derrick said, "I might as well trust you. I got nothing to lose."

"We'll both lose everything, if you don't. Please mean it,” implored Master.

"You told me I need to trust Secundus. How do I trust someone who I've never known, who's supposed to be me?" asked Derrick.

"If you can't trust yourself, who can you trust?" replied the old. . . Master.

Derrick suddenly found himself, Secundus, running up to Master. Secundus had already tossed down the cup of coffee it had been carrying from the cart vendor. Two men were attacking Master. He was already on the ground and the men kept kicking him.​

Secundus ran up the back of the one closest to it and locked its legs around the man’s neck. It quickly reached forward with both hands and raked its claws across the man's eyes. As that man shrieked, Secundus leapt from that man's shoulders, into the face of the other. It hooked the claws of its right hand into that face and reached down with its jaws to bite the man's throat. Secundus shook its head violently as warm blood gurgled out and splashed against its body. Secundus let go and leapt from the man's chest, over to Master.

Secundus comforted Master and tended his wounds, while the blind assailant lay nearby, screaming. Secundus would not leave Master's side; not in the ambulance, not in the emergency room. It took two men to pull it away from the gurney, so Master could be wheeled into surgery. . .

Derrick came back to the present. Blurting it out, but meaning every word, he said to the old man, "I love you."

Almost too choked up to say it, master replied. "I love you too, Babe." He grabbed a tissue from the box next to him and blew his nose.

As he jumped up to take the tissue from Master's hand, he said, "I want to live. I trust you. How do I close the review?" He reached the waste basket and dropped the tissue inside. "I'm ready."

Master said, "Just say 'end review' and wait for the prompt. Secundus will help you; trust it."

In a clear, parrot voice, the one previously known as Derrick Wentz said, "End review."

reptile logic

An imposter among aliens.
Part six:

In his head, the machine voice said, "To end this life, say 'No'. To reset, say 'Yes'."

Leaning forward again, Master quietly said, "Wait, let Secundus answer."

A few more agonizing seconds passed before Derrick heard himself say, "Admin override command 4XX4 Zebra Earthworm."

The machine voice prompted, "Authorization code?"

Again, Derrick heard his voice as it said, "Happy birthday, Babe. Love, Martin."

Babe stood there in front of Master as the man removed the reviewer from Babe's head and put it away in its box.

Babe stood there for only a moment, then leapt up onto the couch to crawl onto Master's lap. Master reached up to idly rub that tip of Babes horn. Babe began to purr quietly and relax.

"So what do you remember?" asked the man.

"I remember everything, my Master." Babe stretched its legs out across master's legs and sighed, before resuming purring.

"What was your name?"

"Derrick Wentz."

"How many kids in your family, including you?"

"Three, then two, then just me" replied Babe.

Master apologized, "Sorry, Babe, I had to know."

"There is nothing to forgive, Master. All of that happened many years ago. I am grateful for your helping me to remember."

"You don't have to use that formal speech anymore. All your start-up protocols, directives and fail-safes were wiped."

"Yes, my Master. Old habits, I suppose. I am almost sixty-five years old, you know."

Master smiled broadly and said, "No, Babe; this is your first birthday."

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Miles Marsalis

The Last DJ.
One last bump. Thanks, @Miles Marsalis . I hope some of the rest of you enjoyed it as well. I am putting together a book of short stories. No release date.

I need to get my second novel published, first. It's over 100,000 words now and just needs some more connective tissues, and some polish, before it goes to my beta readers for their input.
No problem, I had no problem with the download and I sympathize with the formatting difficulties; I've tried to do that a few times here in the Tavern.

I enjoyed the story and would definitely pay for the book if release an expanded version on Amazon. Mind uploading is a favorite tropes of mine, but the spin you put on it here, especially with the shifting perspectives, made it more ... human ... for me.

I look forward to seeing more of your work and this setting. It's also inspiring to see a working writer take the time post here.

Zara the Hork-Bajir

Well-Known Member
Just finished reading and I must say a very nice and well written piece. The gender-less pronouns are a nice touch for setting up Secundus' character as not his original self. When writing a story like this how do you set it up? Does the idea for something like that just come to you or does it take a bunch of revisions?

reptile logic

An imposter among aliens.
Thanks very much for your input!

Regarding your questions: Along with me easily being able to put myself in a character's shoes, world building has always come easy to me. I generally have a very good idea of how this world looks, smells, feels, etc., and how the people and their culture behave, before I put the characters into action. One problem I have is that I can easily go overboard with the details. The reader doesn't need to know how many different kinds of flowers are growing in that field, over there, if the character is just driving by, so to speak. They might, however, need to know that the field they're passing by contains one plant that the protagonist later needs. (just an example).

First off, generally speaking, a grand, broad view story and/or world forms in my mind. From there, I bring this world in close around my character(s). If their intimate, day-to-day life meshes well with this world in my mind, I can easily expand their role from there. I frequently check my story against the established world to make sure I haven't ignored or violated any of the 'rules' that I have established. Once in a while I'll even rewrite a 'rule', if the story ultimately benefits most from the change. When I do that, though, editing becomes super important as I must make multiple changes to fit this new 'reality'. To be clear, my worlds are not often written as outlines; I keep most of this in my head.

It really does vary from story to story; sometimes from chapter to chapter, if I'm writing a novel. Sometimes everything seems perfect, the first go-around, and I feel reluctant to make any changes. Even in those cases, I'll sit on it for a few days and re-read it. Often I'll find that a simple change, like changing or rearranging some words or changing the punctuation, will make that piece pop like it did not before.

I believe that editing is vital to creating an enjoyable, finished story. I'll dump entire paragraphs, or even pages, if they appear to be bogging down the narrative or they take the reader to a dead end. Those pieces are seldom deleted. I save them in different 'dump files', where I can look through them later. Oftentimes, those bits and pieces come in handy at a later time, in another story.

Also, I have a handful of friends and colleagues that I can show my work to for feedback; beta readers. A beta reader needs to have at least two qualities; they must like to read and they must be able to put their thoughts to written words in a way that the author finds useful. While reading their own work, an author can easily get in the habit of auto-correcting their prose, in their head, without actually fixing the work. A different person, and their different point of view, will often spot these little errors right away. An author can also auto-fill sections of a story. A good beta reader will find these missing pieces for you by asking questions like, "Where did this person come from?" or maybe, "You lost me here. Who's talking right now?"

I beta-read for a number of people. For something like a poem, or a short story, this can be a fairly easy task. For a novel, or a detailed report, if done right, beta reading can become a very long and tedious task. I have read books as long as 780 pages, for others. That requires a level of dedication that I'd rather not take on too often.

In closing, I believe that there is no 'best approach' to writing a story. If the end product works well for the intended audience, then the final product is a good story. Until it's released to the public, a story is infinitely changeable under the authors hands. After that, the audience holds expectations that the author must consider when creating a second (or third, or fourth) edition.

*Whew* I came close to writing a novel, here. The above story has been edited again, recently. The core of the story has not changed at all. The story just gained a little more polish. That edition will be released when the collection of stories is completed and compiled.

Zara the Hork-Bajir

Well-Known Member
Thanks for your advice, good to get some advice from a much better story teller, the time you put in shows, because after reading it I keep thinking about the world you setup, and how I might react in that world.

Zara the Hork-Bajir

Well-Known Member
I gave the updated story a re-read and enjoyed it very much, though it is interesting how my opinion of the characters shifted during the second reading.
- While I like the concept of the story but it seems like only death row inmates happen to get to become cool scalies when I am sure you could have a long line of volunteers for that position. (I realize that is core to this story but I can't help but be a bit frustrated, similar to how they used to send convicts to Australia, it would be like only sending convicts to colonize Mars today when we have a slew of volunteers)

- I would love to see a longer exploration into Jeans character or their children.

Overall I really enjoyed reading this story again, thanks for the bump.

reptile logic

An imposter among aliens.
@Zara the Hork-Bajir , spoiler noted. Your requests had already been considered, and addressed, in other stories.

Regarding volunteers: There were/are some; they were the first to undergo the transfer. Due to the slavery aspect, there were not as many volunteers as one might think. Volunteer or not, no one transferred into a non-human shell was granted human citizenship. The ruling body would not allow it.

Zara the Hork-Bajir

Well-Known Member
Well I guess that is my fault that I haven't read your other stories, will be fixing that soon. :)

I suppose that the master in this story is probably much nicer than most so I guess I can understand.

Zara the Hork-Bajir

Well-Known Member
I'm just grateful that you followed the story closely enough to come up (with) these questions. Thanks.
No problem, I just wanted to pop back in to let you know that your Accidental Ambassador book link to amazon in your signature isn't working for me. I looked around and I can't find it on amazon at all. Not sure if it is just blocked in Canada or something but I wanted to let you know just in case it had gotten taken down or something.

reptile logic

An imposter among aliens.
Thank you for the information. It doesn't work for me either. I'll look into it.

Edit: Made contact with Bookbaby, the entity that distributed the ebook for me. Apparently there is a communication problem between Bookbaby and Amazon. They're working to fix it.

Edit#2: If Barnes & Noble's Nookbook works for you. It's currently available through them for 3usd.
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