Read The God Mars Book Six: Valhalla I Am Coming Online

Authors: Michael Rizzo

Tags: #mars, #zombies, #battle, #gods, #war, #nanotechnology, #heroes, #immortality, #warriors, #superhuman

The God Mars Book Six: Valhalla I Am Coming (5 page)

BOOK: The God Mars Book Six: Valhalla I Am Coming
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Lisa gives me a knowing nod. I swallow my anger and
climb the ladder.

 

Another slightly promising sign: I’m not met by gun
barrels when I come through the airlock. They do keep their
distance. And put up a few barriers.

The rear of the hull looks like it’s devoted to tight
crew quarters, supply lockers and one sealed lab space. Through the
layered viewing port, I see the familiar face that matches the
familiar voice I heard on Rios’ link: Lyra Jameson. Anime-big eyes
and white-blonde hair bob-cut like the last time I saw her, but
there’s more experience in those eyes now. I can only imagine what
she’s been through since I left her with these people during my
last attempt at a diplomatic gesture. She raises the cylinder I
gave Rios where I can see it, and gives me a nod of thanks, though
there’s still an edge of anger flashing in her eyes, the pain of
perceived betrayal. I told her I would show her the bigger world,
and let her assume that meant she would be traveling it with me and
mine. But instead I turned her over to UNMAC, as living proof that
UNCORT had secretly sent recon ships to this planet decades ago;
and, already knowing there were people living here, ordered
experimentation on living humans.

The worst part about that is I did it to test the
character of people I really had no faith possessed any. I wanted
to see if they would pursue the damning evidence, to investigate
and punish the conspiracy and atrocity, or bury their crimes in
denial and secrecy. And I don’t know for certain, but I expect it
was more of the latter. So I gave her to these people for nothing,
other than I felt like I had to try, had to give them the benefit
of the doubt, just once.

Having no time for apologies, excuses or reunions, I
see Rios waiting for me at a heavy hatch in the direction of the
bow, his helmet off.

“This way, sir. Please.”

And so I’m excused from another piece of peripheral
drama I’d rather not face right now.

The hatch opens onto the vehicle’s command bridge,
which is more like a cockpit, but there’s enough seating to make it
a cramped briefing room. They’ve even set up a small screen-table
in the middle of it.

Waiting for me are two familiar faces and one readily
recognizable one:

General Richards is standing in formal greeting,
despite having very little headroom to do so. He still reminds me
of his grandfather, mostly in the good ways. He gives me a nod, and
seems reasonably grateful that I took the risk of calling this
meeting. But I know there’s a lot weighing on him, pressure from
Earthside, and their loyal agents in his own command chain. (I’m
sure none of them had any regrets that Richards was at zero with
the rest of Chang’s hostages when Jackson tried to nuke us.)

In what I assume is the pilot’s chair is Erasmus
Jane. Dee told me he’d been grounded from flying due to his
prosthetic arm, and then exiled to Long Range Recon like Rios
because he mouthed off to the wrong people in my defense, making
himself inconvenient and expendable. (Like Lyra—I’m sure the real
reason she’s here isn’t her extensive knowledge of biological
nanotechnology.)

The third figure I know is Jackson, and not just
because of the updated Aircom uniform and the colonel’s insignia.
Most of the right half of his face is a featureless black patch,
probably carbon fiber, covering whatever damage he suffered when he
crashed his ship—and a T-88 tactical warhead—into the first
Stormcloud. Everyone was sure he was dead until they found the
wreck of his ejected cockpit days later. The fact that they still
let him fly without an eye but won’t let Jane without an arm—even
though he’s proven he can—is especially galling. (At least he’s not
wearing one of those creepy doll-like prosthetic faces I’ve seen,
but I assume the patch is designed to be intimidating.)

What’s left of his face is all hard lines and
righteousness. I’d guess him to be pushing fifty Standard, dark
skin, and shaved-short black hair frosted gray. His one
coffee-colored eye glares at me like he’s wishing he knew a way to
kill me. (I’m certainly happy to annoy him with my continued
existence.)

Lisa and Rios come in behind me. We’re almost packed
in shoulder-to-shoulder. I’m the glaring odd-man: everybody else is
in a UNMAC uniform or UNMAC gear, and I’m wearing a long black
surcoat over heavy black plate (not to mention the definitely
non-reg rockstar mop of hair that won’t stay put and grows back in
hours if I cut it off).

Rios moves to stand between me and Richards, but
Richards gestures him back, and extends his hand to shake.

“Colonel,” he greets, showing for the second time
that he isn’t afraid I’m infectious.

“And I thought
I
was taking a risk,” I barely
joke.

“I’d say we all are. Hopefully for a good cause.”

I can feel Jackson bristle at his nominal CO’s
tolerance. Richards gestures me to take a seat. Rios stays standing
like a guard at the hatch, though the only weapon I see on him is
his sidearm. Maybe his orders are to shoot the mortals if I do
prove infectious. Maybe I should test the theory by pretending to
infect Jackson. But then I see Jackson has his left fist around a
small deadman, probably wired to the nukes under our feet.

“Begin recording,” Jackson orders whatever systems
are still online. “Debriefing of the entity that identifies itself
as Colonel Michael Ram, former Ground Forces Commander, UNMAC
Planetary Peacekeeping Force.”

He still doesn’t believe I am who I say I am, and
that’s one thing I can’t fault him for. I’m really not sure myself.
But still:

“That probably won’t kill me,” I feel the need to let
him know, nodding to the switch he’s barely trying to hide. “Or
her,” I nod to Lisa. “It
will
be inconvenient. The delay
will certainly be taken advantage of by our mutual enemy. The rest
of you, however…” But I realize as I say it, he’s probably counting
on that, that I won’t risk the lives of Rios, Jane, Lyra and even
Richards. They’re here as hostages, more so than Lisa is.

“And how are you so certain it won’t destroy you?”
Jackson interrogates coolly, with a flash of a smirk like I’ve just
stepped into his trap.

“Because I have it from a reliable source that it
didn’t kill Chang,” I go ahead and admit, hoping that will let him
know how helpless he is. But he barely blinks.

“We know that, Colonel,” Richards tells me before
Jackson can gloat. “But we appreciate your candor.”

He calls up video files. It takes me a moment to
recognize the ruins of the City of Industry, ruined further—and now
honestly rather than cosmetically—by what looks like a sustained
bombardment. But in the blasted wreckage I can see a single figure.
Or more accurately
not
see him, as he’s a perfectly black
silhouette, just standing there, as if staring up at the satellites
filming him.

So that’s where he’s got to. I wonder what his play
is, but I can make a decent guess, assuming he
is
looking
for some kind of redemption.

“He’s not the threat,” I insist, “not anymore.”

“Maybe not the number-one top of the priority target
list, at least for the moment. This ‘Asmodeus’ has taken that
distinction,” Jackson allows, but barely. “We’ve all seen the
videos he uploaded.”

“Then you have a sense of how dangerous he is. If you
want a better sense, look him up in the old UNACT files. Ange
Apollyon. Codename: Asmodeus.”

“Assassin. Trained by the SENTAR-McCain SIT Project
Beta Phase. Suspected of numerous homicides, many of them ordered
by the so-called Triad Conspiracy,” Jackson lets me know the
homework has been done. “Known for torturing and mutilating his
victims, sometimes sexually. Terminated by General—then
Colonel—Marcus Powell in 2026.”

“And re-created using a combination of DNA
manipulation and simulated memories,” I complete the story.

“Similar to the technology that’s made you into…
whatever you are,” Jackson barely pads his accusation. Then he
tilts his head at Lisa. “And her.”

“I can’t prove that I’m not just a convincing
facsimile, if that’s what you mean.”

“To what purpose?” he gets to the root of his fear.
“Who made you? Who controls you? Or do you
really
expect us
to believe that you’re somehow from the future?”

I give him a lazy shrug.

“We’re here. We’re certainly real enough. Feel free
to come up with whatever explanation for that that makes sense to
you.”

Apparently he already has one, or his masters do:

“We have good reason to believe a rogue group with
access to advanced nanotechnology research engineered the original
Disc drone attacks that resulted in the devastation and isolation
of Mars fifty-three years ago. These elements anticipated and
survived the nuclear bombardment, taking shelter with the ETE
personnel, influencing them to continue their agenda as well as
their illegal research in isolation, free of oversight or
restriction; research beyond all reason and responsibility. And
you
are the ultimate result: a weapon designed to wipe out
the human race.”

He recites it like he believes it completely. I’m
sure he’s far from alone in that.

“And what’s the point of wiping out the human race?”
I have to ask, just to see how far the madness goes.


You
are, Colonel, or whatever you are. You
think
you’re alive. You think you’re better than we are.
Evolved.
Superior. Whoever made you thinks they can make
themselves into something they think is better than human, to
replace
us. With things like
you
. They want to play
God. Maybe
be
God. To live forever, if you can call whatever
you are really alive.”

Amazingly, he’s got a lot of that almost right.
Except it already happened. And it was the whole fucking human race
that decided to try to be more than human, minus a very few. And we
did
play gods. Even made ourselves a God, or a very
convincing substitute. Because we could. There was no more sinister
reason than that. We did it because we had the technology.

“Minor flaw in your fantasy,” I point out. “You’ve
had a taste of what we are, what we can do. If we’re here to wipe
you out and replace you, why haven’t we done it already? Or do you
really think we’re just lulling you into some false sense of
security by helping and protecting you from the one monster who
actually
would
do exactly what you’re afraid of? And he
wouldn’t do it to replace you. He’d just wipe you out for the sake
of doing it.”

“Asmodeus,” Richards lets me know he’s following
me.

“And I thought that was Chang,” Jackson shifts to
ridicule. “Or can’t you ‘people’ keep your own con straight?”

“Chang thought he was stopping a world full of
monsters,” I defend my former enemy, “stopping the very thing
you’re so terrified of from happening. You’d probably be allies if
you weren’t afraid of what he is and he could trust you not to go
down that path.”

“He wants to make sure there won’t be nanotech
monsters in the world, but he brings one—an especially dangerous
one—with him?” Jackson throws back. “That’s even less believable
than the time travel story.”

“So what
is
our ‘con,’ Colonel?” I push,
knowing I’ll probably regret wading in.

“I think that’s pretty obvious: You convince us
you’re our friends, that you’re no threat to us, that you’re the
only hope we have, while your allies scare us into accepting
whatever you offer us. Submission? Conversion? Extermination of the
human race?”

“And that gets us back to my earlier point: Why
haven’t we just done that by force?”

“Because maybe you’re not as powerful as you say.
Because we’ve kept you at a distance, isolated here on this planet.
You
could
convert or kill the people who live here, but you
pretend to protect them so you can get to us, to all of us, to
Earth.”

I meet his unshakable faith with a chuckle.

“Whether that’s paranoia or propaganda, I have to
give it to you: It’s very well thought out. It makes sense. But it
if it’s true, it means you’re stuck and you know it. You came all
the way back here to save these people you left behind, or that’s
what everyone back home believes, so you’re reluctant to just nuke
us and hope that ends it. Or isolate us here, because you’d be
isolating them. And you know you don’t have a good way to deal with
us surgically.”

I look at Lisa, see the atrocities she’s let herself
suffer for their edification flash behind her eyes. And again, I
have to suppress the urge to rip Jackson apart; to pummel his smug,
self-righteous extremist half-face into jelly. The thought of doing
it brings on a grin that makes him hesitate, as if he could read my
mind.

“Maybe that isn’t really Chang at Industry,” he
tries, showing his desperation “Maybe nukes
can
kill
you.”

“But you’ve already told me you think I’m just some
manufactured weapon. That means I’m easy to replace. What if you
can’t kill what
made
me?” Now I’m edging into danger,
tempted to actually tell him about Yod, just to send him screaming
back… Where? To Earth? Yod’s there, too. Yod’s probably inside
Jackson’s skin right now. Anywhere and everywhere… So I switch
tactics, turn to Richards: “Is this the official line? That this is
all some mad scientist’s plot to consume and replace the human
race?”

“It is a popular theory, Colonel,” he admits like he
isn’t bought in himself. “One I’d rather not believe. But only time
will prove.”

“Well, honest gesture or sinister ploy, this is my
next move…”

I risk Jackson’s trigger-finger by initiating a local
hack, and project a three-dimensional model of a common Harvester
module onto the table.

“This is what you’re facing, and I think you’ll find
it terrifying enough for UNCORT.”

BOOK: The God Mars Book Six: Valhalla I Am Coming
10.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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