Authors: Stephen B. Pearl
Tags: #9781629290492, #Damnation Books, #military, #science fiction, #Stephen B Pearl, #romance, #erotica, #Genetics, #cyborg, #science fiction, #science, #biotech, #aliens, #war, #spies, #espionage, #slaves, #love, #romance, #duty, #dedication, #life, #death, #battle, #armour, #rifles, #guns, #torture, #salvation, #sacrifice, #biology, #space
“We need to scout the territory.” Richard stared at a hand drawn map of the
headquarters that lay on Janis's coffee table.
“You're mad. Humans just don't wander the streets,” objected Janis from her seat beside Zane on the couch.
“He has a point. All we've seen of the embassy is hand drawn diagrams and the original blueprints. Even if the mayor gives us passes, we should be familiar with the grounds and surrounding area, in case things go wrong,” said Zane.
“How did things go with the mayor anyway? I was asleep before you got back yesterday.” asked Richard.
“We noticed and thank you.” Zane leered at his wife.
“Zane!” Janis blushed then sobered. “I got you the appointment on the eighth, in the afternoon. That way if your persuasive powers leave permanent marks on the bastard, it's less likely to be detected.”
“Wise decision. I do so hope I get to leave some permanent marks,” observed Richard.
“We do need to do a recon, honey,” said Zane.
“You're both crazy. What do you want to do, march out there in your battle armor and say, âHi, I'm just looking around today. No need to get up, nice mister
“Can you supply us with civilian clothes?” asked Richard.
“Like that would work! Zane, honey, you could pass for someone who's worked as a slave, looks wise. Okay. No offense, I love you, but truth is truth.”
“Go on,” said Zane.
“You'd stick out like a sore thumb. You don't walk right. You look up. Both you and Richard carry yourselves like men.”
have enslaved many men,” objected Richard.
“That's not what I mean. No one's broke you. You believe in things. You still have hope. You still have fight left in you. It shows in how you move, how you speak. No one who's been under the
as long as the people in Goleta move like that. Those few that can are all resistance and have learned to pretend.”
“Teach us how to move then.”
“It's not that easy. It has to come from inside.”
“Beloved, we need to see the area we'll be fighting in,” said Zane.
“Gods help me; I'll try and teach you. This will probably get us all killed though. We'll need an excuse to be on the streets.”
“The tribute processional,” suggested Zane.
“That might work, but it will have to be to one of the original
, or the lower ranks will just steal the tribute and kill us.”
“Why not his bleeding majesty himself, Tannal?” suggested Richard.
“Okay, but you'll have a bit more acting to learn. Have you ever seen a failed bio-ram unit that survived?”
“Think lobotomized eunuch.”
The next day Richard shuffled along the street, barely lifting his feet, eyes focused on the ground in front of him. He caught himself straightening and deepened his slouch, at the same time he opened his mouth and forced a vacant expression onto his face. The torn and battered business suit he wore stank of sweat and other things less savory. Despite the warmth of the day he wore a tuque pulled down so it almost covered his eyes.
A scream sounded to his right. He jerked around to look.
“Stop that,” hissed Janis. “Look down; it's none of our business.” She was dressed in her tattered overcoat. The ragged legs of her jeans showing beneath it and a pair of running shoes held together with duct tape and string covered her feet.
Richard grit his teeth and ripped his eyes away from the scene. A girl, of maybe fourteen, was being held to the ground by a creature that looked like a cross between an aardvark and a gorilla, while a man-like beast, with snake scales and oversized cobra fangs, tore at her clothing.
“Keep moving,” Zane ordered needlessly. He wore a tattered, filthy T-shirt and jeans. The patch over his eye was hidden by a filthy red bandana. His left foot was bare while his right was in a decrepit sandal. The imbalance gave him a limp.
“Shhh,” whispered Janis.
They moved on, carrying the large roll of carpet towards the embassy. Few humans occupied the streets.
of all descriptions passed them. Once in a while a truck rolled by carrying troops towards their new assignments. At other times a scream would echo against the buildings and the
When they reached the lane that led to the embassy's parking lot a corpse came into Richard field of view. It had been a man, tight skin stretched over protruding bone. The corpse was naked and the skin had split, maggots crawled in the wound. Richard prepared to step around it.
“You three?” demanded a harsh voice.
“Yes, My lord,” replied Janis, her voice a mere whisper.
The source of the voice approached them. It was Gorilla-like, except the head was grossly elongated.
“Who do you serve and what is your business?” he addressed Richard.
“Honored Lord, if it pleases you, he is mute,” Janis rushed to intervene.
“It pleases me not, human. Is this one also mute?” The
waved a massive hand at Zane.
“Yes, honored lord. They were honored to become elements of the great bio-mind, but failed at the challenge. It has left them without reason.”
“Whose favor do you curry with this offering? What is your business?”
“I seek the favor of Captain Tannal, Chief General of the
force. Command unit of the star faring mother ship, glorious sovereign ofâ”
“Silence. I know Tannal's rank and titles. Now answer me, why do you seek his favor? What is your business?”
“We come to give this carpet in tribute at the capital, most honored and glorious one. My daughter is ill, and I hope to be granted medicine to see to her healing.”
“Human, I should kill you for speaking to me, but I am constrained to let you pass. I am sullied by your presence. Go.”
The creature stepped to the corpse's side. As Richard watched it casually began picking maggots from the wound and putting them in its mouth, the way a human might snack on raisins. There was a chewing sound and something wet and slimy hit his cheek. It was all he could do to keep from brushing it away. They moved on, coming to the three meter, wire link fence that now surrounded the embassy and its grounds.
of all descriptions, some armed with guns, moved purposefully inside the enclosure. Standard streetlight poles, each topped with a small windmill in addition to the light fixtures, rose about the area so that even at night it would be fully lit.
Oh, Gods and Goddess all, no wonder none of the air strikes worked,
thought Richard as they passed over a pulsing roll of living matter. The stench rising off it made him stagger, and it took his entire concentration to maintain his feet.
“Steady,” hissed Janis.
“Richard?” whispered Zane.
“Shield. That elastic membrane the surveillance photos showed enveloping the embassy during the air strikes. It could prove useful,” he explained as he forced himself to take a deep breath. The air was thick, tainted with a sulfur stench blown in from the steel works.
They moved to the back of a line of downtrodden humanity that carried various items to the front gate. A group of
resembling a cross between a human and a bloodhound took the tribute and inspected it. When the items passed inspection humans, wearing clean, blue coveralls, carried the goods into the embassy.
Zane examined the compound. This was his area. Richard was the biologist, he the warrior, a calling thrust upon him. He longed for earlier days. He remembered eating lunch with Betty, Ashley, and Stanley in the park across from his high school. He knew the park was now a litter of temporary barracks for Darmuk troops.
He thought of Betty and the years they'd had. Even their break up was a memory of life and humanity.
Involuntarily he felt his gaze drawn to a gibbeted skeleton above the embassy's main entrance. Above it in Darmuk and English letters was a single word. “Traitor.” He wished he didn't know who it had been, but he did. His mother had been one of the first resistance members captured. She'd worked in the embassy as a cleaning lady. The smell of the bomb she'd carried had been detected despite her perfume.
I'll make it right, Mom. It's worth the price so the next Zane can have his picnic with his sister and show his mom her grand kid,
he thought. Forcing his mind back to the present he took note of the machine gun installations in the second story windows and the minefields that were scattered around the grounds.
One of the humans farther ahead in the line fainted. She fell against the fence. There was an electric hum and the smell of scorching flesh. An, apparently, well-fed human dressed in clean overalls walked up and pulled her corpse into the street with an insulated hook.
“One for the stew pot boys. Bio-unit won't be needing that pig after all. Pork roast tonight,” he said as a pair of other similarly attired men moved to his side. The two newcomers picked up the corpse and carried it off.
* * * *
Thought Richard as he watched the men carry the body. He scanned the grounds. Tentacles and roots crisscrossed the compound. It would take years to even guess at all their functions. He found several larger tendrils that appeared to be sensory units feeding back to the bio-mind. Anyone coming into the compound without authorization would be instantly detected.
Another set of tentacles, with barbs running their lengths, arched out from the central junction that was the bio-mind. Richard could only guess at the damage those pieces of engineered flesh would cause if they lashed out. All he could know was he never wanted to see them in action.
He found the tendril that connected the shield around the compound to the control unit. It was everything he'd hoped it would be. Even altered as it was, he could recognize nerve tissue. He examined it as carefully as he could from a distance, logging his observations. He would work out the details later, but he was sure he could turn the Darmuk's shield against them.
He was about to turn his attention away when he saw a small green shoot that wove its way amongst the other engineered life forms. This was unlike any of the others. It was green, alive. Somehow closer to the original form it must have been engineered from. Irrational as it was he knew its source. Ashley's genius had used the Darmuk's own facilities against them, providing her with a secured surveillance system of the compound.
Richard smiled then schooled his expression back to the slack jawed vacancy his part demanded. He scanned the building for other things of importance.
Gibbets hung on the outer wall, but only the one containing Zane's mother held a skeleton. The others were set by windows. Wasted humans occupied them. Slender tubes ran out the window and into the human's mouths, while cerebral symbionts grew out of the back of their necks, passing in through the windows. As he watched one of the gibbets was lowered to the ground. Two battle-apes, resembling chimpanzees but with enlarged skulls, released the man and dragged him to a weather beaten table. The man's muscles were so slack he couldn't support his own weight. One of the
lit a portable gas barbecue and set several tools to heat.
“Slaves,” announced Tannal's voice over the loud speaker. “Pay heed. This human swine was a member of your pathetic resistance. We still have done him the honor of incorporating him into the bio-mind. Now he is approaching the end of his usefulness. Still, we have found that by removing superfluous items your weak human minds can function longer in service to us.
You are vermin. Cattle for us to do with as we please. Remember it, or this one's fate will be yours.”
One of the battle-apes stepped forward and tied lengths of rope around each of the man's arms and legs. The other one picked up a large cleaver and with four strokes cut off the limbs. The human screamed until the first Darmuk placed a hot steel plate against each of the stumps, cauterizing them.
Richard gasped and cringed. His stomach fought to come up. He turned his gaze away. A kick from Janis forced him to look back in time to avoid the scrutiny of the creature that walked on the other side of the fence, making sure all the humans watched the show.
The battle-ape picked up a bucket of filthy water and threw it over the mutilated human. The man regained consciousness. The Darmuk laughed, a piercing chimp-like screech, loud enough to be heard by those in the line. Casually it moved to the man's head and gouged out his eyes, eating the first while his captive watched before ripping out the second and setting it aside. Then a hot knife was used to slice out the tongue.
The man screamed throughout.
The Darmuk picked up a pair of garden shears, with the blade heated red hot, and laid its victim's scrotum across the lower blade. Richard wasn't sure if he could hear the hiss or if it was his imagination. The man screamed. The shears closed. Once more he passed out.