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Authors: James Axler

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Dragon City

BOOK: Dragon City
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After the end

Humanity has been held in subjugation for thousands of years, manipulated by a cruel alien race. But what began as a game among self-styled gods evolved into an internecine power play. Divided by ego and greed, the enemy faced resistance—and a reckoning—from an intrepid group of human rebels. But now the Cerberus operation lies in disarray, its members missing or broken, even as the Annunaki threat is reborn in a new and more horrifying form.

The God Machine

Enlil, cruelest of them all, is set to revive the sadistic pantheon that will rule the Earth. Based in his vast Dragon City, Enlil plans to create infinite gods—at the cost of humankind. With the Cerberus team at its lowest ebb, can they possibly stop his twisted plan? Or are they, too, destined to be absorbed by the God Machine?

Hassood simply wasn't anymore. Where he had been there was only the dark outline of his shape

“What the…?” Grant muttered, staring at the screen as it locked on a fixed image of the wall with the stain that had been Hassood marked on its surface.

Grant turned back to his colleagues, the four of them as transfixed by the screen as he had been.

“What happened?” Domi asked. “It didn't make sense.”

Grant was about to answer when, in the moonlight that seeped into the roofed passage, he saw silvery lines cutting the air, winking on and off like Christmas lights. From the screen behind him, Grant heard his own voice echoing back with barely restrained urgency. “Hassood?” it said. “Hassood? Come in.”

He watched as another of those silvery lines cut through the air around them, like a knife caught in the moonlight. It was water, pouring from the roof above them, dripping down to the floor where they stood.

“They're made of water,” he declared, “and they're here.”

As he said it, Rosalia's dog began to bark. Something was taking shape behind its mistress.

Other titles in this series:

Destiny Run
Savage Sun
Omega Path
Parallax Red
Doomstar Relic
Iceblood
Hellbound Fury
Night Eternal
Outer Darkness
Armageddon Axis
Wreath of Fire
Shadow Scourge
Hell Rising
Doom Dynasty
Tigers of Heaven
Purgatory Road
Sargasso Plunder
Tomb of Time
Prodigal Chalice
Devil in the Moon
Dragoneye
Far Empire
Equinox Zero
Talon and Fang
Sea of Plague
Awakening
Mad God's Wrath
Sun Lord
Mask of the Sphinx
Uluru Destiny
Evil Abyss
Children of the Serpent
Successors
Cerberus Storm
Refuge
Rim of the World
Lords of the Deep
Hydra's Ring
Closing the Cosmic Eye
Skull Throne
Satan's Seed
Dark Goddess
Grailstone Gambit
Ghostwalk
Pantheon of Vengeance
Death Cry
Serpent's Tooth
Shadow Box
Janus Trap
Warlord of the Pit
Reality Echo
Infinity Breach
Oblivion Stone
Distortion Offensive
Cradle of Destiny
Scarlet Dream
Truth Engine
Distortion Offensive
Infestation Cubed
Planet Hate

James Axler

Dragon City

“They're dragons now, and that's that. Normality has shifted to accommodate it.”
—Charlie Brooker,
The Guardian
,
2006

“He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”
—
Adolf Hitler,
1889–1945

The Road to Outlands—
From Secret Government Files to the Future

Almost two hundred years after the global holocaust, Kane, a former Magistrate of Cobaltville, often thought the world had been lucky to survive at all after a nuclear device detonated in the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. The aftermath—forever known as skydark—reshaped continents and turned civilization into ashes.

Nearly depopulated, America became the Deathlands—poisoned by radiation, home to chaos and mutated life forms. Feudal rule reappeared in the form of baronies, while remote outposts clung to a brutish existence.

What eventually helped shape this wasteland were the redoubts, the secret preholocaust military installations with stores of weapons, and the home of gateways, the locational matter-transfer facilities. Some of the redoubts hid clues that had once fed wild theories of government cover-ups and alien visitations.

Rearmed from redoubt stockpiles, the barons consolidated their power and reclaimed technology for the villes. Their power, supported by some invisible authority, extended beyond their fortified walls to what was now called the Outlands. It was here that the rootstock of humanity survived, living with hellzones and chemical storms, hounded by Magistrates.

In the villes, rigid laws were enforced—to atone for the sins of the past and prepare the way for a better future. That was the barons' public credo and their right-to-rule.

Kane, along with friend and fellow Magistrate Grant, had upheld that claim until a fateful Outlands expedition. A displaced piece of technology…a question to a keeper of the archives…a vague clue about alien masters—and their world shifted radically. Suddenly, Brigid Baptiste, the archivist, faced summary execution, and Grant a quick termination. For Kane there was forgiveness if he pledged his unquestioning allegiance to Baron Cobalt and his unknown masters and abandoned his friends.

But that allegiance would make him support a mysterious and alien power and deny loyalty and friends. Then what else was there?

Kane had been brought up solely to serve the ville. Brigid's only link with her family was her mother's red-gold hair, green eyes and supple form. Grant's clues to his lineage were his ebony skin and powerful physique. But Domi, she of the white hair, was an Outlander pressed into sexual servitude in Cobaltville. She at least knew her roots and was a reminder to the exiles that the outcasts belonged in the human family.

Parents, friends, community—the very rootedness of humanity was denied. With no continuity, there was no forward momentum to the future. And that was the crux—when Kane began to wonder if there was a future.

For Kane, it wouldn't do. So the only way was out—way, way out.

After their escape, they found shelter at the forgotten Cerberus redoubt headed by Lakesh, a scientist, Cobaltville's head archivist, and secret opponent of the barons.

With their past turned into a lie, their future threatened, only one thing was left to give meaning to the outcasts. The hunger for freedom, the will to resist the hostile influ-ences. And perhaps, by opposing, end them.

Special thanks to Rik Hoskin for his contribution to this work.

Prologue

We are water.

The composition of the adult human body is, on average, about sixty percent water. In children the figure is higher, frequently as much as eighty percent. That is to say, up to four-fifths of the human body is water. Which means that every living, breathing person is little more than water sloshing around inside a skin suit like waves against the beach.

Enlil saw this. Enlil, who saw all of eternity laid out in front of him when he closed his eyes. Enlil, overlord of the ancient Annunaki, the superior race who stood as masters of the Earth.

The Annunaki had ruled the planet for millennia and their history had been incorporated into human culture as Sumerian myth. Some would argue that, before the Annunaki, there had been no human culture to speak of, that it was all just cave paintings in blood and clubbing one's fellow apekin with a blunt rock for the duration of each man's very short life. The Annunaki, by contrast, were an incredibly long-lived race, whose lifespans had been extended even more so by two developments. The first was that each Annunaki shared a group memory of the past, so things that had happened a thousand or a hundred thousand years ago were as vivid to each individual Annunaki as things that had happened just minutes ago. The second development came in the form of their increased longevity courtesy of an artificial rebirthing process, a memory download into their next body shell. In essence, dead Annunaki were reborn, over and over, in new forms, to pick up where they had left off when their previous body had withered and died, their memories infallibly complete.

In another race, these incredible developments might have led to some form of enlightenment, a mutually agreed upon concept of a higher purpose, a philanthropy even, or perhaps a philosophy that was as far beyond the ability of mortal creatures to comprehend in their own abbreviated lives as the nature of the combustion engine is beyond the ability of a termite to understand. This was not the case in the Annunaki, however. Instead, the near-infinite memory cycles had stultified the whole race, bringing about only a boredom so pervasive, so bone-deep that the whole race seemed destined to die from sheer apathy, the indifference to their own lives consuming them like a flame. That was until Anu, forefather of those who would walk the Earth, had ventured beyond the skies of their home planet of Nibiru, carving a trail through the cosmos in the sacred starship
Tiamat
and discovering the primitive planet he had named Ki. The planet, known today as the Earth, had been bursting with life, primitive protohumans just dropping out of the trees to make their homes within the warm, dark, womblike embrace of the caves. It must have seemed like a game board to Anu, with pieces beyond number to be placed and tinkered with based on the whims of the bored Annunaki.

Shortly thereafter, the bored Annunaki had followed Anu, traveling through the starscape until they reached this planet, this Earth, to rediscover what it was to be surprised, even if it was just a little, just for one fleeting second of interest in a lifetime that was beyond measure. The Annunaki had landed in the territories known today as Syria and Iraq, where they had settled. Mistaken by the locals for gods, they had built great cities that acted as expressions of themselves, cities that seemed to challenge the very heavens that they had descended from. The first of these cities was called Eridu, and it nuzzled at the banks of the River Euphrates like an embassy, a piece of foreign real estate amid the humans' otherwise unspoiled world. Eridu belonged to Enki, brother to Enlil and a prince of the Annunaki royal family. Soon Enlil had his own city, Nippur, and the other members of the royal family established similar territories: Babylon, Ngirsu, Kish and more. Housed within those cities, as the Annunaki found new creatures to toy with, new places to acquire, they began to squabble. Boredom had given way to greed and greed led to envy, and if hate was the only thing keeping boredom at bay then the Annunaki hated wholeheartedly and fought as if their very immortal lives depended upon it.

But that had all ended approximately four thousand years ago, when the Annunaki seemed to disappear from planet Earth.

They had not died, these so-called gods. They had merely retreated into the shadows, their squabbles become too overblown. And so their charges—the infant race known as humankind—came to be more prolific and more advanced on the surface of their planet as the Annunaki turned their attentions inward. In a final gesture, Enlil had sought to destroy humankind along with his own slave caste, the Igigi, to wipe this blight from the planet with that weapon of such exquisite irony—the weapon called water. The events that Enlil had set in motion came to be known as the Great Flood, but it had been a simple exercise in pest control, an exercise that had failed thanks to his own brother's interference.

And so, from the shadows, Enlil and his brethren watched and waited and secretly guided the events on Earth until they were ready to reveal themselves once more. In the first few years of the twenty-third century, two hundred years after nuclear war had ravaged the planet almost beyond repair, the starship
Tiamat
had reappeared above planet Earth, and the cycle had begun again. The catalyst was set, the Annunaki had been reborn, emerging from the chrysalis shells of the nine hybrid barons who ruled the old territory that had once been known as the United States of America. The Earth, it seemed, was primed and ready for their takeover; humankind would be crushed once and for all beneath their heel. The Annunaki would rule the Earth once again.

Yet within two years, the plot had failed. The Annunaki, an immortal race who had waited almost four thousand years, guiding humankind's development from the shadows, orchestrating a nuclear war to thin the population, to cull the herd, had turned on one another once more, and so their promised reign as kings of the Earth was aborted before it had even begun.

In a final act of despair,
Tiamat
herself, the wombship that had orchestrated their rebirth, had died, sacrificing herself rather than allowing her wilful children to continue taking shots at one another.

Or so it had seemed.

Despite being on board when
Tiamat
had exploded, Enlil had escaped the fiery destruction via lifeboat, plummeting back to Earth's soil and bringing with him one single seed that formed the essence of
Tiamat
herself. The Annunaki were masters of organic technology and they had developed devices that seemed both sentient and lifeless, crossing the boundaries of what it means to be living.
Tiamat
was one such thing, a dragon-shaped spaceship that was semiliving, that watched and emoted, that felt pain and wished for death. If a spaceship can be said to have a soul, then the seed was that soul.

Enlil had planted the seed beside the banks of the timeless Euphrates, that place where the Annunaki had first established themselves with the city of Eridu many millennia ago. And all those millennia, all those changes and acts and ticking seconds on the clock, had seemed as nothing to Enlil, who viewed time in terms of his own immortality, and so understood how dull time really was.

So now he stood on the banks of the rushing Euphrates once more, as he had thousands of years before, his scales glistening in the sunlight like gold washed with blood. A spiny crest probed the air above his head, plucking at the material of the hooded cloak he wore over his majestic form, the golden armor of his own body. The Euphrates rushed on, timeless and ever-mobile, hurtling to its destination as water will, thriving in the journey, not caring about its end.

Enlil, overlord of the Annunaki, master of the Earth, watched as the water played across the reborn figure of
Tiamat,
lapping at her scaly flanks. Around him, a towering city had grown once more, dominating the lands all around, engulfing them like an infection, for such is what the buildings were.

As he watched the water, Enlil knew what must be done. He would use the water against the humans once again, use it to create his own army with which to enforce his will.

Death by water. The fate of all humans.

BOOK: Dragon City
12.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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