Pawns of The Prophet: Into The Darkness
Pawns of The Prophet is the second instalment of the seven part epic Science Fantasy series Kiranis, continuing the machinations of the Prophet Naveen. In the first part, Gods of Kiranis, a mysterious structure (the cage) has encompassed Earth, and now Geobey draws the reader further into his fascinating, and expanding universe.
ZiN Daily presents to you an extract from Ronald A. Geobey's Pawns of The Prophet, second instalment in the Kiranis series (https://www.templedarkbooks.com/pawns-of-the-prophet).
THE MEC SYSTEM
MEC Station Gamma-48, Sector 176
The Argo ploughed the darkness in which stars would grow. It was a thing of beauty, this black shredding ship. Sleek and fast, its rows of proximity beacons were like strings of pearls embedded in the shimmering skin of an obsidian predator searing through the waterless depths. And a predator indeed, because like many things of beauty, the Argo was lethal, a trickster of seductive destruction. Small windows along its hide emitted pinpoints of light belittled by the proximity beacons. But through these pinpoints one could see life. As the Argo was nearing a gigantic station living in the shadows of a nearby star, Captain Abigale Saranne was enjoying the silence as she traversed one of the outer corridors. There was no activity in this area of the ship, and she trusted that there was none anywhere else. Well…almost anywhere else. As she reached an elevator door, she tapped the control panel and said, ‘Medical.’ After a few seconds, the face of a man in his early forties appeared on a small screen. Green-eyed and handsome, his light brown hair was retreating from an encroaching forehead and losing the battle on two fronts, as invading grey also assaulted on the left and right flanks. ‘We’re ready, Captain,’ he reported. ‘Just you and me to go.’
‘Good,’ Abigale replied. ‘I want the bridge crew as soon as we’re through.’ The man furrowed his eyebrows. ‘I’m not a big fan of flouting protocol.’ ‘You’ll have to trust me on this one, Doc,’ Abigale assured him. ‘I just can’t tell you why.’ On matters such as this, the conflict of authority between Command and Medical usually ended in stalemate, serving nobody’s interests. The doctor conceded, aware that there was little time to argue. ‘I’ll skip straight to Engineering after the bridge then…to get back on track.’ Abigale gave a little laugh. ‘I can’t imagine you skipping anywhere.’
The doctor smiled. ‘You’d be surprised what I get up to when you’re all out!’ ‘I really don’t wanna know.’
‘Call me from the bridge,’ the doctor said, as a warning sounded from his console. ‘We’re within scanning range.’
‘Will do.’ Abigale tapped the panel and, as the screen went blank, the elevator door opened. She stepped in.
The dark station came to life as the Argo continued towards it. It was seen to be cylindrical as thousands of points of light burned the shadows, but it opened with an internal spiralling section separating its two operating units in anticipation of its latest client. The station was a portal to the MEC network.
Abigale looked at her reflection in the mirrored wall at the rear of the elevator. She was tired, and it showed. Loath to wear much make-up, the darkness around her eyes was rescued from over-exposure by her sallow skin. Yet still she could see it; she knew it was there. Her blue eyes saw an older woman than the one to whom it had become accustomed. And her long brown hair framed a face which had seen too much. She was looking forward to getting home. As she began to tie up her hair to transform herself into Practical Mode, she said, ‘Bridge,’ and two things happened: the elevator began its ascent, and the mirrored wall became almost fully transparent. Abigale could still see her reflection, enough to aid in fixing her hair, but she could also see something wonderful.
The self-perpetuating engine of the Argo represented a considerable evolution of even the most trusted and economical quantum intake conversion drives which had become the norm in the past century, but its mechanics were a secret fiercely protected by the Vawter Corporation. Whereas a standard QUIC engine collected its fuel on a quantum level as the vessel moved through space – its hordes of bots processing a theoretically endless supply of energy – the pulsing and swirling sphere of multi-coloured lights in the centre of the Argo was the effect of the undulating waves of mirror-cased bots obscuring the true heart of the operation. It was suicide to investigate closer, a determination not unfounded. As captain, however, Abigale was necessarily privy to its secrets. She knew that the engine of the Argo
was one of a kind, but it was not the only thing on view as the elevator rose higher, allowing Abigale to look down upon it.
The internal walls of the inner corridor-run of every deck could be seen, as well as the scores of elevator cars and lines. Hundreds of robotic automatons with various duties moved around the weightless interior, their mag-drive propulsion systems humming amidst the glow and pulse of the engine. Abigale loved this sight, the inner workings of the ship. It reminded her of the doll she once took apart as a child, much to the frustration of her father. As she sat in her room amidst the pieces, she had looked up at him sweetly and explained, ‘I wanted to see how she cried.’
Flickers of blue light could be seen in the space between the two ends of the cylinder as the great MEC station prepared for the arrival of the Argo. Like an enormous glowing mouth waiting to swallow the vessel, the spiralling centre had been opened according to the dimensions of the ship, allowing for its passage through this giant metal portal. The interior of the portal activated then, crackling blue energy igniting to create a sheet of bright blue light.
The elevator stopped and, rather than having to turn around and exit the way she had entered, as on most other decks, Abigale watched the glass descend to open the elevator onto the short corridor leading to the bridge. It was also transparent, and Abigale walked a curving path until she reached the bridge, feeling a familiar shiver run through her as she stepped into the deathly, but occupied, silence. It welcomed her with a whispering, ‘Remember me?’. Seventeen of her crew were here, unconscious at their stations, laying comfortably in reclining chairs designed for this specific, haunting purpose. Abigale went swiftly to her own chair and settled in, pressing the button to recline with her left hand. Tapping the panel with her right, she said again, ‘Medical.’
A holo-image of the doctor projected from the ceiling. ‘Comfy?’ he asked. ‘And if I say no?’ Abigale quipped.
‘Not my problem. Close your eyes and relax.’
‘Ooh, I bet you say that to all the girls!’ Abigale closed her eyes and tried to relax as she heard the soft hum of the hypo-spray moving into position at her neck. On the end of a short arm attached to the chair, the hypo-spray was ready to administer the sedative which would render her unconscious. It reached her neck, and with a short, sharp hiss, its pressurised delivery system shot the sedative through her pores and directly into her bloodstream. She was quickly out. Down in Medical, the doctor followed suit, until the Argo was like a ghost ship, its unique engine shutting down until it set as a solid reflective sphere. Power was systematically cut off in a pre-determined hierarchy of systems, until only the string-of-pearls proximity beacons were active. Then they, too, were shut down, until – all lights out, all life out – the Argo was drawn like a black moth into the sheet of blue energy inside the automated station. The prow of the ship pushed into the energy wall, but it was not destroyed. Instead, once the entire ship was devoured, the spiral reversed and closed the station, before an aperture opened on its dark surface and a ball of bright blue light shot out across the galaxy. Travelling at immense speed, it vanished into the darkness.
Many light years away, a very different ship was approaching Earth. A majestic vessel, it was beautiful like the Argo but larger and more powerful, the killer whale to the Argo’s great white shark. It appeared to cause ripples in the fabric of space as it came closer to the planet around which similar technology was being brought to fruition. For here, finally, were the Illeri, a species whose reputation preceded them only insofar as their mysterious nature had become synonymous with the Shield. Only slightly larger than the C-1 Battle Cruisers of Earth’s military, the Illeri ship boasted no lighting of any kind, no indication of windows or the flashing, coloured strips of a proximity detection system. There was no visual evidence of life on board; but appearances could indeed deceive.
Star Marshal Rami Marush had heard little about these people, these strange new friends whom he observed from the command centre of the lunar station. A life form known only to humans as a Type-4 Sentient, this classification identified the Illeri as a primarily aquatic life form, and as such it was likely that they were loath to spend too much time away from their natural habitat. Marush tried to imagine them interacting with the Senate representatives, grinning as he pictured someone throwing the bureaucrats into a gigantic tank to swim with the Illeri ambassador.
‘Could do with a joke, sir,’ a familiar voice cut in. Marush did not particularly like the man, but he chuckled softly as he turned to see Commander Collenson, his direct subordinate for this operation, walking up the ramp towards him and saying, ‘Been a long day.’
‘Just thinking about this meeting,’ Marush explained. ‘How they’re gonna do it without drowning.’
Collenson nodded, stony-faced as always. ‘Should be interesting,’ he agreed, missing the joke, ‘although we won’t see any of it ‘til we get home. There’s something interfering with civilian broadcasting.’ He handed a light-key to the star marshal, who put it on his right palm and activated it. The projection jumped up from his hand, displaying approach vectors for the visiting ship as Collenson explained, ‘They’re clear for entry. Far as we can tell, the Shield itself is guiding them in.’
‘Probably what’s blocking the broadcast,’ Marush noted.
‘As long as it’s nothing more than that. I don’t like knowing nothing about these guys.’ Marush nodded in agreement. ‘Well, that’s what this is all about. Fifteen planets and seven different species under their watch, all of them out farther than we’re willing to go without a MEC station in tow. It’d be nice to find out how they managed to get all that power without antagonising the Kwaios. Either they’ve nothing the Council wants, or something they just can’t take.’
‘Dunno which is better.’
‘I know what you mean,’ agreed Marush. As the sleek monster passed the moon and reduced to minimal speed, an escort of seven battle cruisers attached themselves. On the lunar station, an alarm suddenly sounded and shouts were heard across the command centre: ‘We got incoming! Multiple targets!’
They had clearly been monitoring the approach of the Illeri, these predators. With terrible speed and ferocity, scores of ships arrived from different directions, assorted in size and strength. With some risking being torn apart by the sudden drop in velocity, this was apparently a concerted attack. Marush ordered fighters launched from the lunar station to engage them, but it quickly became clear that these were diversionary tactics on the part of the attackers. Larger vessels materialised in the space between the Shield and the escorted Illeri ship, Garran battleships opening fire on Earth’s cruisers without delay. Marush could see only the flashing bursts of explosions in the distance and Earth itself was just a dark sphere looming in the background, but his screen magnified the scene just in time for him to witness something magnificent. In the shadow of the Shield, the Illeri vessel came alive, thousands of lights illuminating its surface, countless weapons pummelling the Garran ships and tearing them to pieces. Another alarm sounded and Marush shouted, ‘Report!’
‘A vortex, sir! Above the North Pole!’
The darkness beyond the zenith of the Shield rippled as if a stone had disturbed a pool of black, and three ships birthed from the darkness. The outer hulls of the warships of the Jaevisk Society were now composed of a shimmering network of black and reflective metal, and they were deadlier than ever, from Marush’s viewpoint appearing to descend upon their Illeri target like ravenous birds. The battle cruisers from Earth were severely damaged and would not last much longer, but even the Garran found themselves in the line of fire as the three Jaevisk ships opened fire on everything in their path. This was not a concerted attack at all. It was a moment of opportunistic chaos brought on by the Illeri arrival. Although the final guest at the party was fashionably late, it swiftly made its presence felt. The Argo roared into the fray like an angry beast.
Countless weapons, some never before seen by the attackers, disabled and destroyed everything that came up against it, and the Jaevisk found its lead ship with a gaping hole in its belly as strange missiles burst from this unique vessel to blow it wide open. The Jaevisk realised too late that the tide had turned as this new horror maintained a collision course with the weakened section of the lead warship, ripping it in two as the Argo burst through the explosion and the wreckage. Stunned by these tactics, the Jaevisk fled, waiting until they had reached a safe distance before opening a vortex and returning to the sanctuary of their space, leaving behind the burning debris of a warship. It was not long before the Garran and the other unidentified attackers followed suit, with Earth’s military vessels snapping at their heels. In the aftermath, it appeared that the Illeri had suffered little damage, and they made no attempt to contact anyone to express any form of gratitude. Their lights went out again. And they resumed their course to Earth.
The Shield constructed around the blue planet deactivated its defence systems. Electromagnetic fields of protection went down, surface-to-orbit guns switched off and thousands of apertures opened to reveal the patchwork of metal encompassing the Earth. The metal world opened, allowing the Illeri vessel to enter its domain. Marush watched it passing through the Shield and he felt a shiver run through him as he observed, ‘It’s like it recognises them.’
About the Author: Geobey has degrees in Ancient History, and Theology; as well as a Ph.D. in Ancient Near Eastern Studies. He is a fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica; as well as a reader of Heroic Fantasy from the likes of David Gemmell, David Eddings, and Raymond E. Feist.
He lives with his wife, two daughters, and his Shichon, Monty, in Ireland, and has been writing since 1991. You can find him on Twitter @Ronald_A_Geobey