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Authors: Daniel Klieve

Abyss (Songs of Megiddo)

BOOK: Abyss (Songs of Megiddo)
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Abyss

Songs of
Megiddo

Book 1: Abyss

Book 2: Bastion

Book 3: Quirinal Hill

Book 4: The Watcher

Book 5: The Blackwatch Coda

§

By Daniel Klieve

An Aleph8ion Press e-Publication

©

All work contained herein – unless specifically stated to be otherwise – is the exclusive intellectual property of the Copyright holder, Mr Daniel Klieve.

Copyright
© 2014, Daniel Klieve

All Rights Reserved

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Access to further information on related projects; complimentary, novel
-related materials; and contact information for both the author and Publisher can be located via the Publishers homepage:

www.aleph8ion.com

 

The Organisation

The Damascus Incidents

~

In celebration:

...
of the things in this world worth preserving.

In defiance:

...of the things that need to change.

~

Act 1

November the Twenty-Third

§

Rivers flow beneath.

What awaits awakens, now:

The Spring of Winter.

Prologue – Shiva

~ Janissary ~

14/09/2023

“Are we ready?”

Janissary of the Riin paused, staring intently at the monitor-screens. Seemingly suspended in mid-air, they scrolled through and pulsed with data, statistics, and analysis. It was good. Better, anyhow. It relegated the blue and green planet that lay in their path to the realm of dry, sterile statistics. Janissary preferred that. Even after all the time that had passed, her feelings regarding her former home were...complicated. More complicated than she felt comfortable wading into, lest she underestimate the depth and be forced under. Earth had never been a particularly safe place. Even conceptually.

Conceptually most of all.

Folding one leg over the other, she sat back in the tall, throne
-like chair...each arm resting on one of the long, black, leathery ridges that lay to either side of her. The seat was specifically shaped for a Human body. It was reassuring, in a way. She felt as though she belonged, and, by extension, was able to convince herself that her course of action was the correct one. That she was the right one to be following it through. Following it through to the end, if necessary.

Whatever or wherever that end might be.

Janissary felt Myadir’s hand slide over the contours of her own; pressing down with a slight, reassuring heft. It seemed almost as if the hand were designed for the role. Each of his fingers were almost the same exact amount longer than each of hers, and his palm fitted seamlessly to the back of her hand, providing an equal distribution of comforting warmth to bleed out from him and into her. She smiled as it occurred to her that it was entirely possible that this was precisely the case...that the hand in question had, in fact, been specifically designed for the slight intimacy that Myadir was now providing.

The alien species
known as the Riin – the species to which Myadir belonged – were, after all, able to change their form at will. With the exception of the slight friction Janissary felt...a waxen rubberiness of his skin on hers...every detail was exact. The thought that, in choosing a Human form, he might have considered her comfort down to that extreme level of detail – the scale and relativity of his own hand to hers – made her smile, but wasn’t really all that surprising. The two of them had known each other for a very long time. The blink of an eye to some of the older Riin, yes, but lifetimes for any normal Human. Myadir knew Janissary like she knew – literally, apparently – the back of her own hand. Pulling away...smiling over at him in a way that she hoped was reassuring...she ran her hand through her unkempt mane of red-orange hair.

“No good can come of this, Janissary.”
Myadir quietly observed...breaking the silence.


Yes.” She acknowledged. “I’m almost totally sure that you’re right about that. But it’s not what I asked. I asked if we were ready. Are we ready?”


...Yes, Janissary. We are ready.” She felt her heart constrict in her chest as she watched Myadir’s expression crumple into a mask of vexed, dejected uncertainty.


Myadir. I know that this isn’t...‘your thing’. Believe me, the only reason that the first and last things I say, every time I open my mouth, aren’t apologies to you...is that there are no words – not in our language; not in
any
language – for how sorry I am to have brought you here; to have made you a part of this.”

“We are
friends, Janissary.”

“Yes. And I’d be a genuinely terrible friend if I pretended that friendship wasn’t meant to have limits.
Lines.”

“I am not so utterly blind to the ways of the Ara’ghetn of Earth as you might think, Jani
ssary. You have neither transgressed a boundary nor compromised the integrity of any demarcation between us. The gambit on which we pin our hopes is simply...as you observe...not an action that is in my nature. Not an action that, alone, I would have ever, ever had the capacity to countenance.”

“And that’s why I’m sorry. More sorry than I really know how to express.”

“You never need be so. The longer one exists in this Universe, the more a slave to one’s biology and culture one becomes. For on a long enough timeline, what
has
one but the meat of the body, the banality of the habit, and the spark in the mind? We Riin, as you know, outgrow restlessness of the heart and turmoil of the mind earlier than most...and live longer than any but the Elders. We are all but fossilised in the rigidity of our adherence to what we know ourselves to be. So forgive me my resistance, dear friend. Even if my reservations as to the likely outcomes of this act are
grave
...I
do
understand why this must be done.”

“Thank you. Truly.”

“I believe that, were our roles the inverse of their present arrangement, you would, likewise, attempt to recalibrate
your
perspective.”

“Still. Thank you.”

Straightening...looking back to the screens, Janissary focussed herself on the task at hand. Shards of light glinted off of her pupils like novae bursting...brilliant and emerald...from a great distance. Her lips met, squeezed together in a perfectly straight line...forming a determined grimace of unimpeachable resolve...and she clutched for the ancient, wrought iron sigil that hung around her neck. The thin, leather cord that had, originally, kept it hanging over the thin, sensitive skin just below the bottom of her neck, had worn through and been replaced more times than she could count. It was currently held in place by a thin, black twine of knotted, strong-as-steel Aesinya silk; a token of affection and respect made by, and given to, one Queen by another.

The spit of shining metal had been forged into the image of
a single, intricately engraved, and powerfully memory-laden Celtic rune. It had been with Janissary since she was a girl. The symbol itself had, once, had meant something. Now, it was merely a reminder that there was something that Janissary was never meant to forget. A ‘something’ that, truth be told, she had forgotten long ago. Aeons, or so it felt. All that was left of that ancient mantra was a kind of detached determination that urged her, always, to hold on.

Hold on? Hold on to
what
?

She almost laughed at
the question as it burbled quietly up from the deep reservoir of her subconscious mind. It didn’t really matter, she knew. Just so long as she did.


What would you have of me, Janissary of the Riin?” Myadir gently asked, encouraging her to include him. It was, she knew, a deeply selfless gesture on his part. The Riin were as averse to violence as any species had ever been...and Myadir himself was as much a pacifist as any Riin who had ever drawn breath.

“I need simple answers.
” She explained. “I need simple
everything
, honestly. We’re about to go to war, and...in my time, that was when you sharpened swords, strategised, and plotted contingencies. Everything else simply...distracts.”


So sharpen your sword. Strategise. Plot your contingencies.” He nodded. “Ask your questions, and I will answer as simply as I am able to.” She considered for a moment...prioritising.

“The most important question is...can
Earth see us? Can the Humans tell that we’re here? Not just in general, I mean, but under
any
circumstances?”

“They cannot
perceive this place of ours without aid; aid to which they have no
access
. Their technologies in the area of extra-atmospheric detection are primitive to the extent of being barely an improvement on the absence of such technology. I conclude – and with confidence – that the Humans have no means for augmenting their perceptual abilities in such a way that our presence would, to them, be revealed. We are, for all intents and purposes...‘invisible’.”

“Good. Thank you
.” Janissary breathed a sigh of relief. It was confirmation of what she had already assumed, but felt good to hear nonetheless. She realised, with muted surprise, that she was, in fact, far more concerned about the possibility of their detection by the Humans than their detection by their targets: the Pho’ain.

“I am
pleased to be in a position – and possessing the capabilities – to facilitate your approval.” She smiled appreciatively up at him.


Regarding the actual attack...we have the element of surprise, currently. I’m not a fan of ambushes...but that’s what it’ll have to be. One shot, and no second chances. If we can’t manage it the first time, drop-pods are going to start peeling off of that ship at a rate of a couple of hundred every minute. It’ll take us at least two minutes to get set up for another shot, which is...”

“Too
slow.”


And too many Pho’ain making it down to Earth by far. So I’m going to need you to have some kind of a contingency craft prepped and ready.”

“Why?”

“Why? Because I’ll have to go down there myself. It’s fairly obvious, Myadir. I mean...I know that the ‘war’ aspect of this situation does strange things to your brain – ”

“ – Condescension
is not – ”

“ – Condescending it
may
be, but true it is
definitely
. Which is why I was about
to suggest that you try to think about it mathematically. Maybe that’ll provide some...‘objective distance’?”

“Explain, please?

“The Pho’ain
...stupid, lumbering aberrations that they are, can be surprisingly manipulative when they want to be, and are shockingly good in a fight. You’d be stunned – genuinely amazed – at how far those two traits will get you on that planet down there. So...if you roughly estimate how much damage one of them could do, and then factor in an exponential increase of that damage for every subsequent one of them that makes it to Earth and manages to reunite with the first one...that’s probably a reasonable approximation of the threat.”

“Your logic suffers from your conclusion.”

“My conclusion?”

“That
in order to protect the Humans, a suicidal level of risk is required on your part.”

“Taking care of a few Pho’ain raiders is
hardly a suicidal risk...”

“And thus we arrive at the nexus of your logical
disjunction: you have access to advanced technology, but, factoring in the risk of exposure, your advantage would consist of capabilities perhaps...three times those of a statistically average, physiologically prime, and well armed Human?”

“And?”

“An individual Human would fail to constitute a physical threat to an individual Pho’ain. Thus, mathematically – and by your own logic – your chances of survival in the event of encountering multiple raiders simultaneously are...not reassuring. Assuming the survival of hundreds of Pho’ain? Thousands, perhaps? As a percentage likelihood, your chances would be nearer to zero than to a thousandth of a single percent.”


I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me, Myadir.”

“Either a Pho’ain presence on Earth is a threat which can be neutralised by
you – in which case it can be handled by the Humans without serious danger – or it is a threat that the Humans
cannot
handle themselves: in which case, nor could you. Either way, your efforts would be redundant. You are, I must conclude, attempting to obfuscate a readily apparent symmetry, and this obfuscation – transparent as it is – exposes your logic as constructed on fundamentally flawed foundations.”

“How so? In what way?”

“You allow, I suspect, your origins to compromise your judgement.”

“No, I
don’t. I mean...yes, you’re right...I’m a Human, and that
is
a
factor
...but no: I’m not trying to pretend that my decisions aren’t partially about that. I fully admit that they are. But beyond that, it’s about the culture of Earth.”

“You’ve always argued that there
is
no common culture on Earth.”

“Not
complex culture, no...but the Human species is, like any sentient species...in its own ways...distinct, fundamentally, and as a unified whole.”

“So what do you propose constitutes ‘Earth culture’?”

“Hypocrisy, mainly? Most of the things Humans respect in other Humans are traits that we don’t, ourselves, possess...and most of the things we loathe in others are traits inextricable from our own core selves. At least...that’s always seemed
to be how it works, to me. We confuse the moral and the ethical – constantly – and across virtually all cultural boundaries. We fear what is different, but abhor too much of the same. We have a dangerous predilection for allowing power to make monsters of us; most Humans’ ability to exercise self-awareness and keep ideological leanings in perspective is inversely proportionate to the amount of power they actually have access to. Most importantly – and the one trait that seems to be more common and more pronounced in Humans than in any other species that I’m aware of – is our tendency to define ourselves according to what we seek to annihilate.”

BOOK: Abyss (Songs of Megiddo)
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