Not a good night for me. I’m miles away from getting back to my team, in a rain forest, during a monsoon, and being…followed…by something that’s managed to stay just outside of my ability to identify it. This adds up to me being very, very pissed off. Whatever’s on my trail is dangerous. Everyone who knows me knows how I deal with dangerous things — usually with the edge of my blade.
Shinobi is as shinobi does, I suppose.
Why Angel had us take a mission in one of the most volatile parts of Southeast Asia is beyond me. It boggles my ruthlessly honed ninja mind. Deal with a ring of poachers and smugglers working for a Dreamer from Sarnath, she said. It’ll be easy, she said. No one told any of us that they’d have Beings from Ib in their employ — Ghosts of a long dead species who revere a Dreamlord named Bokrug, beings who shame even me in stealth and sneakery. F***ing ghosts. We destroyed them, but the energy surge caused by their dissolution scattered us all across what used to be called Indochina.
Godless Cosmos, I hate that word, except when Marie uses it. Bastardized and promoted by purveyors of bad 1980s comic book and cartoon fiction everywhere, with no end in sight. Wait. How did I know that? Mindbleed again? Maybe, but it doesn’t seem to be from Angel. The ‘feel’ of that thought was different…
Push that out of mind for now. Back to my pursuer. Wait. There’s a village up ahead. Maybe I can find shelter from the storm…Collect my thoughts and find a way to rejoin my team, to ensure Marie’s safety.
Once I settle in, I can deal with whoever, or whatever’s, been shadowing me. Isn’t that a funny thought; a shinobi being shadowed. Me. The guy most shinobi wish they were…End that thought. Something’s wrong. This place looks incredibly run down. There are huge gaps in the roofing of these shelters, no smoke, no light. No people. This place is abandoned. Futz. My mood just got ten shades darker. I’ll take particular care to make what’s trailing me hurt extra badly when I fillet it.
I smile as I see a figure emerge from the forest into the same clearing. I begin speculating on amusing ways to prolong his agony…
Wait. Not him, it. It’s not human. Looks human, but the movement’s all wrong, like the control of an intoxicated puppeteer who’s never seen humans move before. No, not a zombie. Even zombies have better coordination than that. My mind generates a list of things that might match what I’m seeing, as the figure stops just twenty feet from me and raises both hands to its head — removing the top of its cranium to reveal — I suppress the urge to get ill as a lightning flash shows me — the thing crawling out of its braincase, three pale green eyes looking tonfas at me.
Double futz. It’s a Feaster. With an animated cadaver for a disguise. There’s a damn Feaster after me. Where’s a flamethrower when I need one?
To be continued…
The hunt went well. Only a few hours planetside and we’d bagged all three of our test subjects with no interference from local authorities. First was the old man.
We found him begging in the streets, not quite all there, we think, but good for a first test of the relics’ power. We’ll see how he does, and use what we learn for the next subject.
Then there’s the girl. We found her foraging for local foodstuffs in a rain forest on the planet’s eastern hemisphere, just on her way home when we caught up with her.
Feisty little blood ferret.
She should do well as a soldier, given the trouble she gave our extraction team — twisted and nearly wrenched off the arm the one subduing her, knocked a crack unarmed combat specialist unconscious — we’ll keep her under observation before implantation as she matures.
We’re Kai’Siri. We like scrappers.
The last one, the boy, just into his teens. Perfect for training, conveniently malleable at this time. We’ll put the second relic in him. The girl we’ll test next and keep for last. I’ve recommended we do that to let the technology for the hypershard control-systems mature, with the best we can build going to her if the others fail or turn on us.
I’ve been given access to the implantation protocols, and clearance to observe the old man. Well, not that old really, just in his late thirties, but aged beyond his years by a harsh life on the streets. I’d be careful with him, though, he’s a smart one. Almost managed to evade the extraction team — black ops specialists for urban environments, until we finally caught up with him.
As first test subject, he’s probably the most dangerous — lots of life experiences in his years — but also the best pick given the odds of finding many more of his species. Damn difficult to pick out that fraction-of-a-percent in genetic variation from baseline humans with sniffer handsets in a crowded city.
He’s lying on the operating table now, the Dunar field manipulators lowering the relic into position, barely tangible, as it slips through flesh and bone into the brain. His face contorts a little as the ‘shard slides into place, interface points stimulating parts of the brain as they pass through.
Implantation complete. The aged Wavetouched’s facial contortions cease as the ‘shard reaches the optimal interface location in the brain.
The strange quasi-matter co-exists with his cerebral tissue and awaiting the activation signal from our control system, linked with the ‘shard through neutrinocom. He’ll be sleepwalking the whole time, body active, mind asleep, fully under our control. We’ve decided to call him the Fractus, for his fractured mind. That’s the one reason we want to be careful here…He could be…problematic if he ever woke up.
Activate. Hypershard now online. The Fractus rises…. His eyes open, leaking a flickering, pale greenish light, arcs of greenish cold fire flowing across the skin. The fire, on both his skin and from his eyes, subsides as the control system compensates for excess power consumption. In seconds, he stabilizes, and stands fully upright, awaiting his first mission.
We’re already well underway to a colony world of the Giants, a world so well-defended that conventional military craft have trouble overcoming resistance. This time, though, we have a weapon they can’t stop.
What will our test subject do?
He will do nothing less than cause a mass-extinction event, the first our target world has had in millions of years. He shall be our Giant slayer, a god of death given flesh, our first bringer of the End for our enemies.
He will usher in a new age of warfare…and of the victory of the Kai’Siri race!
I, Akarmiin Piruuta, Special Agent of the Order of the Orugruuta guarantee it. ;-)
Two bodies lay motionless in the room, the scorchmarks of a hand laser marking their foreheads like macabre bindi, looks of utter surprise frozen on their features as a team of paramedics prepared them for spacing. In the burial traditions of my people, the dead are jettisoned into the local stellar primary, necessary to utterly destroy the bodies to the molecular level, and prevent the return of their troublesome spirits to the world of the living.
Silly that even a rationalist society as my own still has superstitions.
The woman was lucky. She died in less than a second as coherent light drilled a hole through her brain. The man a bit longer when he tried to avoid my aim, but to no avail. He lived just long enough to prolong the pain as the light burned a half-second longer through the thicker part of his skull, the steam of vaporized cerebral fluids escaping through the hole.
I am Special Agent Akarmiin Piruuta, and the discovery they made will win this war for us, but these two have been watched for a while, and they had to be eliminated. Silly academics. Sooner or later their sense of ethics would get the better of them. But they had to die. Orders from higher up — from the Exarch himself. As the youngest operative of the Order of Orugruuta on this installation, that duty fell to me. I must prove myself.
Tricking the late Instructor First Rank was easy, tricking his student was even easier, and getting them to take their cargo directly to this base was brilliant if I do say so myself. Scientists are so gullible. Gods of ancient Sirug, never let me be taken so easily! Of course, posing as a research student was the fun part. I’m called into my Coordinator’s office to discuss the new project…
The datacomp that Samdrumani kept her notes on is in my hands now. Easy enough to get the encryption key when you spike someone’s nanocotics.
“Ma’am. The targets have been dealt with, and we are ready to proceed with the next phase. The weapons and all of their data belong to us.” I hand over my dataspike, and my Coordinator inserts it into her handcomp, a hologram tailored to look like a dead Terran philosopher, Ariztotl, or somesuch, projected above the touchpad, looking rather sagely as he goes over the essential points, changing to a hologram of Samdrumani when her journal files are accessed. Damn, that’s creepy, seeing the face and hearing the voice of the woman I’ve just killed, even if it is a recording.
The recording ceases. “Agent Piruuta, I’ve received word from the Exarch, and he sends his congratulations on a mission well done. He wishes to continue with this project, so you are ordered to Sacred Terra to acquire testing subjects, three in number we’ve identified and kept under surveillance, that new species of humans who shall prove perfect for what we have in mind. They will serve as the housing for our weapons,” — she hands me the dosier of a boy barely in his teens, that of a girl just reaching adulthood, and of an older man in his thirties — “Any questions?”
A smile crosses my lips, canines just barely showing in predatory anticipation.
“Only, one, Ma’am….When do I depart?”
To be continued…
There’s a powerful and ancient civilization in the Gods of Terra setting, descendants of terrestrial prehumanity diverging from a common ancestor, and belonging to their own hominin genus: Meganthropus tokmolosensis, the gigantic Mokthraga, and a somewhat shorter species, Meganthropus mentis, the Miithrok, both looking something like massively-built, impossibly tall and well-muscled humans.
Mokthraga average about 4 meters tall and mass an average of 800 kilograms; Miithrok average 3 meters tall and mass about 450 kg, not exactly beings you want to get angry with you. The frightening thing is that these are not low gravity species, but natives of a 1.3 gravity world, rich even in the planetary crust and oceans with heavy metal concentrations toxic to terrestrial life, but exotic only in this regard — most life is still carbon-based, just with a higher tolerance of heavy metals, particularly titanium, which takes the place of calcium in the bones of most vertebrate analogs, and the exoskeletons and shells of others, for example, the local analogs of beetles and molluskoids.
This, and factors of the Giants’ anatomy deviating from the human baseline are what make them possible, keeping them from collapsing of their own weight due to the implications of the square/cube law.
First, it’s almost impossible to mistake them for humans in good lighting, even at a distance. They don’t look exactly human in proportion. They’re too broad in build. Think of the incredible Hulk, then scale that back a bit. The Giants are literally built to support their mass, including the use of titanium in their skeletons in place of the calcium that their ancestors used before the ‘Great Experiment’ of the Strangers, an unidentified, hypothetical civilization with a penchant for biological meddling that resulted in the divergent evolution of transplanted human offshoot populations on dozens of worlds.
The bones, muscles and the connective tissues of the Giants, including cardiac muscle, ligaments and tendons, are all thicker and denser, with much more tensile strength than those of baseline humans, adding to their builds and giving them the tremendous strength they need to live in their native gravity. This helped keep them from suffering more than their due from the medical problems related to heavy gravity living. That, in turn, relieved selective pressures toward a reduction in size and mass exceeding that of the Miithrok. At first, these were genetically engineered into them by the Strangers, in giving them the necessary adaptations for survival on their home, and these were built upon by natural selection once the population was fully transplanted and underwent breeding.
Whatever they were when first brought to Tokmolos from ancient Earth, they are now so unlike us biologically that only their DNA and fundamental chemistry speaks of terrestrial ancestry. Even the foods they eat would be toxic to humans, which makes setting up interspecies restaurants difficult — food items must be labelled for edibility by species, as some Tokmolosian delicacies are poisonous to beings such as humans.
As I said, they’re an old race for one descended from early terrestrial hominins, becoming a technological civilization about 50 millennia ago, after transplanation from Earth about 450 millennia prior, brought to Tokmolos as live specimens and genetic samples, before the rise of anatomically modern Homo sapiens.
The Giants have a conservative streak; not in the political or ideological sense, of course, but they’ve grown old as a species and are slow to change. There is a certain degree of contentment, with a patience and tolerance of difference that makes them amiable enough with other beings, but slow to react to threats and they are no longer as curious as they were in their youth as a species, when much of their scientific and technological innovation occurred. Oh, they still do science, but not as much.
They’ve turned inward, and stopped looking at the universe outside their sphere of colony worlds, systems cut off from contact by massive Dyson spheres and Cryswell structures built around their stars.
This could mean their end, despite their status as a Type II civilization, as a new and aggressive race, the Kai’Siri, are encroaching on their ancient borders, and have discovered a frightful new weapon to counter the powerful but old technology of the Giants: Humans, or something very much like them, ‘Wavetouched,’ implanted with the powerful quasi-matter hypershard relics; mind-controlled soldiers empowered to single-handedly cause planetary mass-extinction events.
Will the Children of Tokmolos survive? Or will their Elder civilization be wiped from the skies forever by enslaved doomsday weapons that kill every world they’ve ever been sent against?
We’ll see…Time and luck are of the essence.
On the final leg of our journey from our expedition, we settle into orbit around the Damendas system’s mainworld, used for an orbital military installation for the Exarchate and a munitions testing ground, the perfect place to take our findings.
We’ve discovered ways to better handle the relics, these ‘hypershards’ as Ranan calls them, and to access their control systems, using brain-machine interfaces.
He’s…highly capable…in our more intimate moments, hardly the stuffy academic I first thought him to be. Our relationship has become our little secret, as it would be ethically unacceptable in University circles. But secret it must remain. I’ve already been forced to duel a fellow student, Embael Maaga for threatening to report us, ‘accidentally’ putting her into a coma with a well-placed blow before she could go public with what she found out. That rabid bloodferret had it coming anyway!
I must make sure I show more discretion in future nightly encounters… At least my honor remains unsullied for the time being.
It turned out to be fortuitous, for Embael’s comatose brain proved the perfect interface with the relics after we ran a few tests. Or so we thought. The hypershards ghostly quasi-matter will with little resistance pass through flesh and bone into the brain itself, and we are able to set up a means of controlling the relics remotely, sending signals into a ‘shard which then controls the brain, which then accesses the ‘shard’s functions.
Like weaponry. Whatever these things were meant to do, they make powerful weapons, as we suspected the day we found them. They have incredible defensive and offensive systems, and would be perfectly suited for a new breed of elite soldiers.
“Emisse maatan porangas, Embael Maaga” — “Embael Maaga, in service even in endless sleep”
About an hour into testing, poor Embael’s brain had burned out from apparent sensory overload and a power surge caused by a faulty connection in brain wiring.
Dead because her brain wasn’t so perfect after all… Oh well. At least she still proved useful.
There must be something maddening about getting raw sensory data along ten or more spacetime axes, even in a permanent dreaming state.
Surely there’s a solution…
Our time at the outpost, Warstation 43758, has still been productive, and we’ve learned much of the relics. While we were together last night, I ran the idea past Ranan of using aliens for the ‘shard receptacles, other species of humans, specifically a new daughter species we’ve discovered on Sacred Terra.
A nascent species, on the Motherworld of us All, with just the right brain architecture to handle the relic’s input and energy levels without burning out, according to computer models. There are only three we’ve found and identified, all of them relatively young, and all unaware of their status.
We call them ‘Wavetouched,’ and they are special indeed, for they are what the Terrans may yet evolve into. Not that silly ‘ladder of evolution’ fallacy, just a new sidebranch on the tree of human descent, which may or may not supplant their parent species in time.
They have potential…the potential to become gods…gods of Terra. They must be watched…watched and controlled.
I must close this journal file. Ranan is on his way to see me, he says for something *special* tonight. No one must see what I’ve recorded.
[quantum file encryption complete: eyes-only log saved as ordered]
To be continued…