Authors: F. Allen Farnham
F Allen Farnham
Cadre One Publishing, LLC
Milford, NH 2013
Copyright © 2009 by F. Allen Farnham
Cover artwork by Bob Cram, Jr. (www.bobcram.com)
Also available in Print:
Library of Congress Control Number: 2009904995
Soft cover 978-0-615-29832-0
All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced or transmitted in part or in whole by any means mechanical or electronic without the express written consent of the copyright owner.
Names, places, characters, and events in this work of fiction are exactly that: fiction. Resemblance to any persons (dead or living), places, or events is purely coincidental.
This book was created entirely in the United States of America.
Table of Contents
An Ordinary Day
Securing a Future
The Beckoning Abyss
The Arms of Somnus
Friend or Foe
Nature of the Beasts
“My Beautiful... My Beautiful...”
The Rest of Us
Scratching the Surface
The Misery of Being
Lieutenant Colonel Anders
All as One?
The last person on Earth died suffering and alone.
Her dignity tattered and sullied as her torn silk dress, the woman shivered in the dry heat as she clutched her child. "It's all right, honey, don't you worry," she rasped, gently bouncing the boy in her arms. His limbs swayed like tiny pendulums, his clouded eyes stared past walls and ceiling.
A plasticized ID
badge on her collar proclaimed her Executive Vice President of Soshiba Varicorp. The photo on the badge depicted a glamorous woman with bright white smile and sparkling green eyes. The woman wearing the badge could be her grandmother.
ke a zombie, she shuffled from the shelter’s blast-skewed entryway. Outside, harsh gusts tossed the matted locks of her once fair hair and pelted her gaunt cheeks with the dust of shattered concrete. Roaring crackles above drew her blotchy red eyes, and she followed the strange aircraft as they climbed out of sight through hazy, darkened skies.
Her stomach heaved unexpectedly, triggering a fit of hacking coughs. Fresh blood renewed the ruddy crust on her lips and chin. Too exhausted to cry anymore, she slumped to her knees and collapsed into the thousands of bodies littering the street.
* * * * *
There was no warning of
the attack. Power, communications, data, monetary transactions—every strand in the dense web interconnecting humanity simply disappeared at once. That night, the sky gleamed with the stars’ dazzling luminance, unseen since times before electricity, enhanced by the glowing trails of plummeting satellites.
Before anyone could fully comprehend the scale of the failures, the first detonations bloomed in brilliant indigo over
the largest cities.
Whole coastlines shuddered under the savage blasts, launching towering tsunamis from Greenland to Antarctica. Rampant fires and surging volcanism blotted the sky with sooty ash, reducing the sun to a pale disk. Rioting was barbaric, and in those frenzied weeks, people brutally fought one another for any resource they could scavenge.
For weeks, the detonations continued, methodically reducing the largest areas of man’s endeavors to glassy, charred craters. When the indigo blasts finally ceased, small bands of confused and emaciated survivors crawled from their shelters. They struggled to comprehend the nightmare surrounding them and wondered if it was over or if the lull was prelude to something worse.
later waves of assault transports descended through the smothered atmosphere, expelling row after row of armored soldiers. The soldiers sped through the ruined landscapes, their saffron-yellow eyes never leaving the sights of their short weapons. Like hounds, they sniffed out their prey and flushed whole groups of survivors to the streets where hovering gun ships cut them down.
The flood of soldiers cascaded into the surrounding neighborhoods, igniting panic wherever it ran. Long, slender tails gave the invaders superior balance over the piles of rubble, and their pitched-forward, loping gait was too swift for any to outrun. Shrieks, screams and weapons’ fire were continuous; and all the while, more troop carriers descended from above.
The meager human resistance was annihilated, the global infrastructures were smashed.
But then, the terror was over.
As suddenly as they came, the invaders packed into their carriers and ascended. Formations of special planes replaced them, flying low and slow in wide patterns, atomizing a sweet smelling, sweet tasting mist into the air. The few still alive—desperate, starving, dying of radiation and thirst—could not stop themselves from lapping the dew off any surface it touched.
In so doing, they ingested a virus tailor-made for the Human genome.
Thriving amid the squalor, the pestilence ravenously devoured the last pockets of tired, ragged survivors, liquefying their internal organs.
No ambassadors were received or sent. No attempt at communication earned reply, not even the unconditional surrender.
The invasion was never about conquest. It was about extermination.
Forty thousand years of Human development were eliminated in less than two months. And so, with a hacking cough, Earth’s great civilizations died.
* * * * *
Debate carried on for decades among the
blue skinned invaders, then centuries, until popular sentiment at last decreed the annihilation of Humanity was a grievous mistake. The reasons, justifications, and provocations simply could not equal the deliberate extinction of a nascent species. Naturally, large segments of the society maintained until the end of their long lives that the pre-emptive extermination prevented an imminent and costly war. It did not matter if they were right. This ancient and splendid race had committed genocide and it weighed heavily on their collective conscience.
Time rolled on and m
emory of that crime had all but faded when the disappearances began. Deep space transports vanished along their routes, with only a burst of static before the void swallowed them whole. For all their technological advancement, none could rationally explain the disappearances, and amid the rumors and suppositions that followed, an arcane term resurfaced with new meaning. Those who spoke publicly of “Da-oma Ka-chi-in” were derided as superstitious or overly pious, but all who heard the term trembled inside. The unpunished guilt of an entire people had been awakened by an ancient religious term meaning, “Ravenous, Angry Ghosts.”
he obese, azure-skinned captain reclines in his chair, boredom consuming him. A broad Holoscreen floats before him, relaying various news updates while his crew performs their mundane duties, guiding the ore-stuffed freighter
along its lengthy voyage.
small, spouted container from his chest pocket, the captain twists the cap and raises it to his elongated face. Throwing his head back, he takes a hearty slug, not caring that it’s spilling all over his greasy gray coveralls. His saffron eyes close as the draught flows into his system, easing the tedium with pleasant sensation. He smiles as it works, drawing a thin purple tongue across the pale blue skin of his lips. Muscles relax, and he allows his mind to wander.
Bright red characters appear on screen, shaking him from relaxation. A serious looking newscaster dominates the broadcast, and the captain shifts in his seat to better focus on the well-dressed reporter.
“Another vessel is feared lost amid the Tobarentian Expanses,” the newscaster exclaims. “The passenger liner
Gro El Tokai
was last seen taking fuel and passengers at Eben Station. She is now far overdue at her destination, and no transponder signal is detected along her charted course. The military has dispatched its fastest warships to investigate, but it is feared this is number eleven in a terrifying string of mysterious disappearances. When reached for comment, Eben Station governor, Met Do Teron, urged calm and assured the families of the missing that he was working non-stop to find their loved ones and that a rational answer would be found for these strange disappearances.”
The newscaster turns in his seat to face another camera for dramatic effect. “Maybe they collided with something uncharted. Maybe their navigator piloted them through a star… or could it be something entirely different? On the home worlds, suspicions are growing that these disappearances are a form of supernatural revenge. Our Venerated Pontiff had this to say…”
The screen changes to a close-up video of an elderly creature with scaly graying blue skin and long wisps of white hair dangling from his chin. Taupe fabric drapes liberally over his long head, sheltering his faded yellow eyes from the bright sunlight. Remorse and guilt live deep within the lines of his face.
“We have long discussed our elimination of the Humans,” the elderly being states, “and thirty generations later, our culture is
divided over it. At what point will we understand it doesn’t matter if we were correct in our strategy, or if we were acute in our foresight? We committed an
, and it is a terrible sin looped around our necks. Now,
have returned from death, and they are claiming their just revenge.”
The captain closes his eyes
in thought. Foolish superstitions never troubled him, and the old Pontiff’s assertion holds little weight.
What he feels more than anything
else is relief.
There are always large spans of time from one disappearance to the next, and the Liner’s disappearance means there will be ample time to pull into port before the next one.
He caps the container and slips it back into his chest pocket, no longer needing its sunny effects.
Statistically, with over twenty thousand space flights in progress and with the long interval between disappearances, a catastrophic engine failure is many times more likely. But
odds he can live with because a catastrophic engine failure has reasons. It can be prepared for and dealt with, not like these awful disappearances where nothing is ever found,
no trace at all
His relief triggers a small amount of guilt over his selfishness, and the heavy captain reflexively pities the thousands lost aboard the passenger liner. More important, though, he and his crew will make it home okay.
The captain opens his eyes, looking his ensign over. She is young with spotless gray coveralls, and her
whiptail undulates eagerly.
He remembers when he was that age, proud at graduating with honors from the flight officer’s academy, longing to travel the stars. The excitement wore off pretty fast once he understood he was just moving rocks from one place to another. The mediocrity gives him a bitter twinge.
“I have the plasma interflow data you asked for.” She offers a tablet to him. He takes it lazily, furrowing his brow.
“This wasn’t due for another twenty revs…”
She looks straight ahead, smiling broadly.
“I know, sir.”
The captain grins fondly and gives the tablet a cursory glance, no doubt in his mind that it is flawless.
“Excellent work,” he praises, and hands the tablet back to her. When she reaches for it, he notices her delicate hand, her manicured claws, her soft light blue scales. They remind him there is someone waiting for him at home.
“That’ll be all.”
The ensign bows. ”Thank you, Si—”
A tremendous vibration rocks the bridge, knocking the ensign flat, and nearly bouncing the captai
n out of his chair. Alarms wail, and the illumination shifts to an urgent hue. The captain hauls himself upright while the ensign pushes herself up with her tail. She hurries to her station.
“Hokah!” growls the captain, “What happened?”
The navigator rapidly draws information from his terminal. “Something hit us!”
“Why didn’t you see
The navigator shrugs. “Sensors are blank…”
The captain’s posture shifts angrily. “Get me an explanation!”
Behind him, the ensign calls up ship diagnostics on her console. “Confirmed, Captain, ship’s mass has increased. Whatever it is, it’s sticking to us.”
“Just ahead of the main cargo hold. Air pressure seems stable, though… no leaks.”
The captain turns to his first officer. “Go, check it out, and make sure everyone’s all right.”
The commander leaps out of his seat, pausing only to grab emergency gear, and dashes out between the thick blast doors.
“Captain!” the navigator yelps, “it’s cutting through!”
The news Holowindow closes and a much larger window opens at the front of the bridge, displaying an interior corridor of the freighter. There, a fountain of sparks jets from the leading edge of a circular cut in the hull.
Mouth agape, the captain swings to his communications officer. “Get out a distress call
!” Tapping the intercom, he adds, “Commander, get our people out of there and seal that compartment!”
“Right away,” the commander replies.
The captain watches the screen in terror as the spark fountain carves through the reinforced alloys. Crewmembers filter into view, gathering around the curiosity, trying to make sense of it. When the commander runs in, he waves his arms and shouts, ordering the crew away as fast as he can.
“This is Ore Carrier,
, declaring emergency!” the communications officer pleads in the background, “All vessels, please respond!”
Furious whistles and buzzes overwhelm his headset, and he throws it from his elongated head, swearing. “Massive interference, Captain! I can’t transmit!”
The captain’s eyes go wide, panic tugging at him. In the Holoscreen, he watches the spark fountain complete its circular slice; and the metal disc explodes away. Dense smoke billows into the corridor, washing over the startled crewmen. Flashes of light strobe within the haze, and the captain hears familiar voices screaming in agony.
…?” he mutters, unable to believe what he is seeing. “Give me a visual of all compartments!”
Working quickly, the communications officer divides the large Holoscreen into smaller sections, each section showing one of the freighter’s various corridors or compartments.
The captain’s pupils shrink to pinpoints as he scours the screens for attackers, but thick, roiling smoke hides their relentless advance. One by one, the divided windows of the large Holoscreen are obscured, and the shrieks of dying crewmen amplify the panic in his heart.
Terrified yelps and gunfire are his only reply.
“Seal the bridge!”
Heavy blast doors grind together, dreadfully slow.
The captain peers through the closing gap, clutching a short pendant around his broad neck. Just before the doors meet, a darkened, titanic figure runs into the far end of the corridor.
Slamming together, the heavy doors seal and the sturdy mechanical locks rotate shut.
Footfalls reverberate from the corridor and jog to a halt just outside the doors. First a pause, then a resounding clang of something metallic rams the far side. It rams three more times, but the doors do not yield, and the heavy footfalls retreat as rapidly as they came.
Recovering some of his composure, the captain stands from his crouched position behind his chair and turns to the communications officer. “You
to get that Comm Array functioning! I don’t know how much time we have, so you’ll have to—”
The bridge doors erupt with a deafening roar. White-hot shards of metal streak into consoles and crew, scattering the bridge officers like leaves.
The captain lies on his back, dazed, staring at the ceiling. All sounds are gone, and his tongue lolls at the edge of his mouth. The smoky air flashes all around him, and he struggles with disorientation, unaware that his organs are spilled out beside him. Trying to sit up, he finds himself looking into the barrel of a large-caliber rifle, his brain just registering the muzzle flash.