A stranded alien must choose between returning his queen to their home world, or saving his human daughter from the invasion that will result.

Explorer Bridge allows humanity to travel the distance between stars in the blink of an eye, but few know the actual price of its development. Stranded in our solar system and fearful of humanity, a secretive alien species, the orhatea, slammed an asteroid into Earth to manipulate humanity with a savior figure. Now that Explorer Bridge is complete, the orhatea can go home, but one of them has other plans.

Tenakee has studied the Book of Engaro since she was a hatchling. She recognized the humans as seed for the orhatea’s next evolutionary jump, but the others did not believe her. As the crews only female capable of creating telepathically controlled human clones, she used them to gather allies in Explorer Corporation. Now, with her transformation to Engaro complete, nothing can stop her from leading the orhatea to their destiny.

Earah has spent two human lifetimes working to return Amah to their home world. When he wakes as the human, Earl Clark, for the third time he feels betrayed. As prince to the orhatea queen and mother he has been loyal to her plans, even the one that left them stranded in Earth’s solar system. When Amah confirms that Explorer Bridge is functioning he knows he should be on Ora, but Earl’s memories haunt his vision, forcing him to choose between his alien heritage and his human family.

Erin Smart was comfortable with her special place in the Universe: The human daughter of a stranded alien. She assumed that when Explorer Bridge was complete, she would go with her father to his home world, but he died before they could make the trip. She was just getting comfortable as a leading member of the First Expedition Crossing when Earl Clark, her dead father, called looking for help. Now she must question everything she took for granted.

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COBRA: Cognitive Operations Bounded Robust and Adaptive An opensource codebase for Artificial Intelligence. Any AI system not developed by Explorer Corporation uses COBRA as its base code.

Earah (ear rha): Pledged male, or prince. The proper name given to the male ruler of the orhatea. He is the primary caretaker of the colony, responsible for its day-to-day functions, protection and expansion. He is the final arbiter in all disputes, and with the exception of Amah, his word is law.

The Earah is a powerful being. He can grow to 217 cm (7 ft) in height. His enlarged body structure makes him incredibly strong. Male orhatea have limited telepathic abilities compared to the female, but they are able to create an energy charge over their shells. The Earah can extend that into a blade of plasma capable of slicing through concrete and steel.

Book of Engaro: A book of orhatea history that encourages orhatea to hijack other species to find the next evolutionary leap. The results were often hideous and resulted in orhatea Colonies competing for species to hijack. Recognizing the degeneration of the orhatea, generations of Amahs forbade the book and merge the orhatea into a single Colony. The book is now considered a collection of fairy tales that encourages individualism, a vile thought for an orhatea.

Arotea (ay row tea): Liquid Life. A Royal jelly and super-food that is the purpose of an orhatea Colony. The amber colored liquid is food for sexless drones, with an abdomen full of the liquid they can survive for months. Tomo use arotea to grow clones and it enables the telepathic connection between Tomo and clone. Male—Tamo—are superpowered by the liquid becoming fierce warriors, ten times faster and stronger than usual.

For other species arotea’s effects are less pronounced until the individual has adapted to the substance. Once adapted the effects are variable and unpredictable, with beneficial effects often followed by a painful and sudden death.

Arotea Ting (ay row tea ting): Harvest Eaters. An orhatea drone meant that produces arotea. They are both bi-sexual and incapable of sex. Their sexual organs aid in the digestion of food which accelerates the production of pure arotea. They grow to colossal sizes and are incapable of movement. Incapable of expelling of the arotea they produce, they are slaughtered, their shells cracked open in seasonal ceremonies, their arotea collected and stored, and their shells discarded.

Aropakte (ay row pawch tea): Motherless. Being part of the colony, a child of the Amah is the definition of purpose for an orhatea. Aropakte is both a derision and a punishment for a drone. Aropakte are forbidden to lay or hatch eggs, or make Tomo clones, or—for males—to share their seed with a female. Sexless drones given the aropakte tag are ruthlessly humiliated and abused.

Aro (ay row): Sex, stimulant, precursor to arotea. Both a hormone and enzyme aro is produced by female orhatea sexual organs that resemble human breasts. In its raw form, aro is a stimulant that is deadly to creatures not adapted to arotea. Mixed with proteins and sugars it acts as any enzyme creating arotea.

Female orhatea can transfer aro with a touch, but will the substance when threatened.

Aro accelerates the growth of arotea, orhatea drones, and Tomo clones. When a creature adapted to arotea injects, or is otherwise exposed to aro they have a moment of euphoria after which they are intensely aware of the substance in their system and can direct it according to their needs, including added strength, sexual stimulation, or—most common—suppressing pain and healing injuries.

Angatam (ang guh tam): The final parting, or the birth of the sisters. Fertility is life to the orhatea. Females and males live as long as they can produce eggs or seed. For aktai that could be a few years, for Tomo and Tamo it could be hundreds of years, and for the Amah and Earah it could be a thousand or more years.

When a lesser male or female are no longer fertile they are fed to the Arotea Ting. When an Amah is barren she kills her Earah then joins her psychic essence to his in her Seed. After which, her body divides into two females, one of which will assume the role of Amah after killing the other. This period of conflict decimates the Colony is the only known limit to orhatea expansion.

Angahai (Ang guh hi): The Universal Nature. A belief system from the Book of Engaro that implies great evolutionary leaps are the only method the Universe has to reveal its purpose. Those not interested in finding ways to evolve the species into something greater are lesser and therefore tools for those who believe. While forbidding the Book of Engaro, the orhatea have adopted parts of this belief system by considering any species that cannot survive in space as a lesser species, referring to them as planet-bound, a derogatory term.

Anga (ang guh): Fate, destiny. Fate is a religious belief. For the orhatea, believers are planet-bound, superstitious fools. Yet, their very name, The Fundamental Beings of the Universe implies a certain weight in destiny. The Book of Engaro asserts the orhatea have not completed their evolutionary journey, promising a new—all-powerful—species, the Engaro. But that leap is dependent on the anga of another species they have yet to meet.

Amah (ah ma): Mother, or queen. The proper name and title for an orhatea female that has formed a Colony. The orhatea are eusocial, with a single queen (the Amah) directing the Colony’s activities, especially the use of a female’s eggs and a male’s seed. An Amah’s egg when paired with Earah’s seed will produce a sexed orhatea. All other pairings of eggs and seed produce unsexed orhatea.

The Amah is a powerful being. She can grow to 243 cm (8 ft) in height. Her enlarged body structure makes her incredibly strong and allows for added air sacks that can produce a sonic attack capable of shattering concrete and melting steel. Like all female orhatea, she is a powerful telepath, but unlike the Tomo, she can reach into the minds of species not hatched from arotea.

The Amah is the only member of an orhatea Colony that has freewill. The Colony’s children are an extension of that will, and behave as if they were a single individual, executing the Amah’s desires.

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