Those who aren’t heard of,
Aren’t dealt with, aren’t seen,
May linger conniving,
To return with a scheme.
Thirty-nine light years away, the constellation Reticulum loomed quietly in a neglected corner of space. For nearly 5000 years, its inhabitants had remained neutral and unheard, stewing in resentment and plotting their revenge. The binary stars of Zeta 1 Reticuli and Zeta 2 Reticuli burned like the sun of Earth, their light and heat providing a means to life for the planets that floated nearby. Drotrolia was the largest of these worlds. Closest to Zeta 2, its oceans shimmered beneath the glow, nearly constant earthquakes churning the waters to endless commotion. The other planets radiated from Drotrolia like islands from the mainland, and the Zeta Reticulans—known as the Greys by those few human leaders who’d dealt with them in the days of Earth—occupied them all: the sole race for light years in all directions.
Ranging from three to five feet in height, the Greys’ limbs were proportionately much longer and thinner, their craniums abnormally large and black eyes exceptionally prominent over most of their sunken faces. The grey skin from which they derived their man-given name was smooth and moist to the touch, often webbed with vessels pulsing just beneath. Incredibly intelligent and even more devious—the master manipulators of the universe—their minds were tuned to find the weaknesses in others and to exploit them without hesitation. Ravenous, voracious, insatiable: their greed could not be suppressed. It was weaved within their DNA.
Throughout history, the Greys preyed on flourishing races and induced their demise without the slightest warning. Their dealings with the Earthlings were a testament of this. Hundreds of other races like the humans had fallen victim to Reticulan connivances, strung up with lies and false hopes and then controlled like puppets. Presently, the Grey high king had conjured up yet another design through which he hoped to quench a long-awaited, but surely not forgotten, intent.
To find this leader, one would need the courage and fortitude that few possessed. The feat would require a voyage across the treacherous torrents of Drotrolia’s Bedlam Sea: a body of water whose name deceived as much as the race that christened it. “Bedlam” fit quite nicely—for its waves were known to be hundreds of feet high and viciously unforgiving—but truly, this was no sea. Its surface enveloped an area three times as large as the entire Earth of old.
To say that one were able to survive such a trip, they would find themselves washed up on the jagged obsidian shore of Zuron Isle. The unforgiving expanse stretched on for nearly three leagues, nothing but an uphill sheet of black sand layered thickly with serrated stones that could both trip a man and slice his throat in a split second. Bones littered its breadth: the congregated remains of those inopportune assassins that had come and failed over the past few million years. It had indeed been a lengthy era that the island had served home to the Zuron dynasty, a family that had ruled mercilessly since their long-forgotten investiture.
The sinister coastline gradually gave way to a rainforest rich with ferocious beasts and their prey. It was a seemingly depthless woodland that offered safe passage to none. Its trees extended hundreds of feet into the sky, their branches so broad and leaves so thick that Zeta 2’s light could not penetrate its canopy. The moisture from the sea was taken by the wind, entwined amongst the forest, and contained beneath the blanket of foliage. There it brewed, condensing to all surfaces and absorbing the air’s impurities until it solidified to slime. Everything that could be touched was slick with this putrid glaze. Few ever entered the interior of the forest, but rumors held that its grime instilled a sickness: a poison that its animal inhabitants had grown resistant to but that no other life could possibly survive.
Venturing into the forest was assumed to ensure a terrifying and inescapable death. The darkness thwarted all sight, the moisture removed all comfort, the goop obstructed all movement, and the low, petrifying snarls of the beastly dwellers instantly pilfered every ounce of courage that once was. The creatures within were never seen, and they never saw, for their eyes could no longer function after centuries of disuse. It had been the original Zuron Sheb that had imported them from a far away world and implanted them as sentries to his throne. They were said to be some 15 feet in height and nearly 10 in width. Weighing around two tons, their muscle mass was unequalled by any other life form known: legs like tree trunks, biceps like boulders, pecs so thick they could nourish an army. Their faces had yet to be defined, but their hideousness was widely recognized, deeply rooted in hundreds of years of Reticulan lore. They were known as Tetrolls, a name spoken only during Reticulan campfire stories and tales of terror.
Past the Tetroll Forest, a great mountain burst from the earth, a sole giant having lost its way from a world of enormity, its summit so arrogantly high as to entice eyes upon coastlines far across the ocean. Its rocky periphery rose gradually at first but then turned, abruptly, to a vertical cliff that continued upward until it disappeared amongst the ever-present fog of the mountain’s orographic clouds. The rays of Zeta 2 pierced into these discs of mist and recoiled within like lasers trapped in a mirror box. The droplets split its beams and multiplied its light, a process that occurred over and over, illuminating the clouds like giant balls of flame about the peak.
Bursting on through these orbs revealed still an extensive ascent before the zenith. The mountain stood half as tall as the Earth’s moon had been wide, and the angle and smoothness of its face meant that none could scale its height. The mountain’s peak had been flattened to a plateau that was large like its own nation. On this highest of suites resided Zuron Troy and all those with any fraction of shared relatedness to him and his ancient line. Because the amount of land available to them far exceeded their relatively small numbers, the Zuron family lived close together toward the center of the plateau, comfortably housed in a complex so large and grandiose that the degree of its splendor cannot justly be expressed through words.
At this instant in the scheme of things, Zuron Troy had gathered a council at his great estate to discuss his new plans and discern a course of action in light of them. It was a grand assembly, the whole of its company consisting entirely of kings. There were twelve in total, including Zuron Troy, the high king of them all. Each had come from their own Reticulan home, all of which comprised the entirety of life-bearing satellites within the constellation.
The assemblage gathered about the golden table of Zuron’s meeting hall. An immense fire blazed in the crystal hearth at one end, the high king, Zuron Troy, opposite in his silken throne. His seat rose higher than those of his disciples, and intentionally so, evoking upward gazes from their inferior positions. The king looked down upon them, his lips unmoving but his mind lively with thought: thoughts that the others listened to intently. In silence they conversed, but the energy of their discussion was deafening.
“But what of the Bowltren, my lord? With them, we rest in fetid waters. Their incredulous eyes have since strayed from our realm, but I fear that some may yet retain their watch. Suspicion is a difficult poison to remove, and the Zetas, I believe, are well on their way to relieving this venom and reuniting with the others. Our neutrality has long been appreciated by the Bowltren, and I dare not willfully break it.” Flangly Drost of the neighboring planet, Nizu, quivered as he openly expressed his reluctance.
He was fat and repulsive in Zuron’s eyes, but his province was a rich attribute to the race. From it, the Greys drew the metals required for levitation—the resources needed to construct their fleets. Of course, Flangly was merely a middleman: all-important on Nizu but in no way to the degree of Zuron, the leader that reigned over all twelve Reticulan worlds. Troy responded with a sharp tongue:
“The Bowltren is a piteous union, and all that bear its emblem flaunt eagerly the weakness of their ignorant ideals. Cooperation? Compromise? Peace? Their doctrines reek of submission and limitation. Because they will not take what they want, and because they must consistently bend to the wills of others and change their plans to coordinate with all—amongst which reside those with conflicting intentions—no race of the Bowltren will ever attain the power that we have before us, waiting to be seized.
“I only wish what’s best for my people, and as high king, they rely on me to deliver such. I’ve been entrusted with the lives of billions—their pain, their hunger, their needs, their dreams. Ultimately, it is I who will decide whether my people live in comfort or continue on toward deprivation and poverty. As a race, we have excelled to the verge of our current limits. We have done all that we can presently do, and the static state of our society has bore a hole in the hearts of all, especially my own.
“My fathers before me were wise and triumphant. Their ideas were revolutionary, their means were efficient and, although deceptive to the Bowltren, unimaginably effective. They elevated us from the scum of the universe to the powerful and feared. In a mere 100,000 years, we advanced from the third density beyond where any thought was possible. Now, for some 15,000 years, we’ve lingered in the eleventh. And why? Is it because we are incapable of further ascension? Is it because we do not possess the wisdom or the means of opening our minds any further? No!” he screamed, in actual voice rather than thought. “No!”
His words echoed within the chamber. The others stared at him, some cocking their heads as they pondered his words.
“May I get a volunteer to offer up the true reason for our inertness?” Zuron beseeched. His request was void of response, his listeners blank in their gazes. “The Earth humans, you mooncalves!”
His loathing was palpable amongst the air of his words. It burned with an odious fume that filled the great hall so swiftly as to engender pain within the souls of those present. All things in the universe radiate energy, but not all beings are capable of sensing it and being affected by the truths within. The Greys managed so instinctually, and the darkness of their high king at this moment was as physical as a razor’s edge.
“As I’ve said before, I look for your insight into the matter. My plan is quite simple, and I need you all merely to help mold it in whatever ways we may deem necessary. We all know that it has been 5000 years since my grandfather, Zuron Lai, managed to destroy Earth. But as you know, many of the humans were rescued by the Andromedans and allowed to repopulate the three resulting masses. It has been a long wait for us, indeed, but I believe our time to strike once again has finally arrived.
“We need the secrets of the twelfth density to help bring our race to the greatness it yearns for: to help solve the problems that now threaten the quality of our life here in this realm. The Earth humans stand in our way, and they must be exterminated now.” Eleven swollen craniums nodded in accord, their hunger lurking spitefully behind murky eyes. “As my grandfather discovered, the humans are brash beings. They are quick to point fingers, quick to start fights, quick to act but not as quick to think. This fault he managed, well, to exploit, and we shall learn from his example and build from his work.
“As of now, the humans of Earth face the same problems that we in Reticulum struggle with: an incapacity to ascend and detrimental congestion resulting from increasing populations and limited area to support them. The first issue we can solve for ourselves by recognizing that they will never do so and taking just action. The latter we can exploit and use to rectify our own lack of room. Here is my proposition for bringing about solutions to these problems.
“Because all three Terran planets need more space for their swelling populations, we will give it to them. But there’s a catch to our charity. We will send one small planet to their solar system. One of our own—Hitra perhaps. It will—”
“I will not donate my home and my people to the desires of those shameful beings,” Viteroy Gosh interjected.
“You bite your tongue, King Viteroy” Zuron retorted “or I will have a Tetroll bite it for you! Interrupt in such a manner, once more, and I promise you will find yourself calling frantically to the deaf ear of Death.”
Viteroy cowered his head in regret, flames licking at his face from their reflection on the table before him. His mind was silent from then forward.
“As I was saying, Hitra will serve quite nicely. Of course, it will first be necessary to evacuate the planet of all civilian Zeta Reticulan life. Subsequently, we shall hide our army within the intricacies of her underground caverns. They are vast and well-established, their entrances finely-hidden from uninformed eyes. Hitra will be a gift that the humans cannot resist: a treasure that the three worlds will go to war for.
“It was in war that the Earthlings nearly found their doom, and it will be war again that we will bring them. When they have been weakened by their petty squabbles, we shall spring forth from our concealment and force on them the brutalities of our rage. Not man, woman, or child shall be spared of our wrath. Their blood will coat the surfaces of all four planets and, from it, shall spring the new life of our race. We will relocate a quarter of our population to these new worlds and use the space and the resources to fuel our unhindered ascension to the higher state of consciousness that we have long awaited.”
Zuron Troy stepped down from his throne, his cloak swaying behind his gait as he ambled creepily toward the inferno at the other end. His movements were all but fluid: erratic, quick, unnatural. Transitions between opposing positions of his stride were completely absent, so he appeared jerky and abnormal as he moved. The evil within his heart had consumed him, and this frightening display was one of the products. Just watching made the others shudder in terror.
Zuron brought a slender arm to his side, his hand gripping something at his waistline. The kings across the table watched him as he moved. Those on the same side stayed staring forward, their backs to Zuron and hearts rapid with apprehension.
“Have you anything to say, my dear Viteroy?” Zuron invited.
The shaken little king of Hitra sat, yet, with his gaze at the table. “I have spoken, my lord, and I apologize for my previous insolence. What you wish, I believe—”
“I don’t care what you believe anymore, Viteroy!” Zuron interjected. As he spoke, his furtive hand grabbed hold the hilt of his dagger and drew forth the twisted blade from its festooned sheath. King Viteroy Gosh gurgled the remainder of his sentence, his throat now parted and disgorging blood down his chest. He panicked and grabbed for the wound with long, slender fingers, but his efforts were in vain. Zuron locked the Grey’s head in the crook of his arm and yanked it backward to widen the gash. The others scattered away from the scene to the farthest sides of the table, watching in horror as their comrade’s life gushed out at the hands of their ruler.
“There is no place in my company for insolence. Consider this a valuable warning. If any others wish to follow down the same path, I promise you that it will end in similar fashion.” Zuron wiped clean his crooked blade on the cloak of his victim and then returned it to its sheath without remorse. “Since that’s taken care of, I do believe it is time for fine-tuning. Lend me your great minds. I’ve provided you all with the clay, my brothers of Reticulum. Now mold it for me, and we shall have us a glorious drink to a successful conquest.”