For those of you worrying, I’m sorry. We had a family errand to run early morning, and I came home with a head-splitting headache. Probably just tiredness, which means after this I’ll be taking a nap.
For those following my adventures at pjmedia, this week this was published:
And beneath is the prologue of a book that has been clammoring to be written for YEARS. No, there isn’t any more, except a couple lines of the first chapter, in which Klim is a prisoner of his own people.
I have a backlog of about thirty books that must get written and soon. The five years of illness, you know… Anyway, I’ll do it as soon as I can, but of course, I have a certain amount to do on books under contract, first.
Anyway, those of you that DO read snippets are an excellent sounding board, so here goes:
The Accursed colony lay in ruins. Commander Andryi Melor came in on a long landing path.
The air-to-space was neither military nor designed to take off and land without the proper platform. But he had his duty, and he’d been called to look at the ruins for some hint of what the Accursed had been doing there, what part of their empire this represented. There were strategies and planning hanging on that.
“I’m sorry, my dear, the landing will be rough” he told his wife. She sat in the seat next to his, clutching their two year old child in her arms, beneath the safety harness. More comfortable, and safer, too, for both of them if she let Havryi sit in his own chair, beside her own. But Elna hadn’t been able to let go of him. Not since she’d lost the other. He’d thought their trip to the resort of Arafar would have cured her, the singing trees, the gentle waters. But she remained as she’d been, gray and wan, even her once golden hair seeming lifeless, colorless.
She nodded at his words, and hugged Havryi tighter, as though this son too could be ripped from her arms by an enemy so stealthy and powerful no human could fight it.
They flew a protracted flat path over jagged edges of buildings, still smoking from heavy bombardment, which had been performed from the air, by stealth, before the colony knew of the presence of humans nearby.
The buildings looked too big, too… regimental for this to have been a residential colony, a sign of the Accursed simply looking for more space.
Not that it had ever been likely. Their slow reproduction, the price of their abomination, made space an unlikely need.
He found what had likely been the terrace of a spacious building, the ruins near it jagged and blackened, and managed to bring it to a not too jarring stop. He turned to his wife and smiled, “That was not too bad, was it my dear?”
But she looked attentive, like someone who is listening for something very far away. “What is that?” she asked. “Andryi, it’s a baby.”
He couldn’t hear anything, except from nearby the steps of a battalion, going door to door, likely making sure no enemy remained alive.
And the occasional call out when one was.
“I don’t hear anything.” It would not be good if Elna joined hallucinations to the other effects of her grief. But she seemed to be ignoring him, while she tensed, expectant, towards the sound only she heard. Havryi was trying to open the seatbelt. Andryi leaned over,” No, son. You and momma stay here. It will not be safe out. I’ll be back soon, Elna. Don’t let him out.”
She nodded slightly, almost imperceptibly without speaking.
He opened the door. A detachment of men, six, in incongruous dress uniforms waited him. The one in front saluted. “Commander, we think this was a scientific settlement, we don’t know for what purpose. Planning asked we have you confirm.”
He confirmed. Though the buildings, littered with human-looking, winged bodies, were ruins and rabble, there remained enough to recognize high power telescopes and various machines for measuring… He wasn’t quite sure measuring what, but for measuring something in such small quantities only scientists would be interested.
The place stank of smoke and death, and Andryi was relieved when he could say “yes, this was a scientific settlement, though why in a planet that seems wholly unremarkable and Earth-type I don’t know,” sign the necessary papers, and return to his air to space.
He came in briskly, shedding his military persona as he stepped in, and said, “I’m sorry my dear, I shouldn’t have had to do this.”
And then he stopped. Havryi was in the chair next to his mother’s, properly strapped in with the modified child harness, but Elna sat in her seat clutching a baby; probably no more than six months old, with a round head, seraphic features and blond curls.
“Elna!” he said. Before he exclaimed, he knew what the baby was. There were lumps of wings beneath that blanket. “Elna!”
“Shhh,” she said. “You’ll wake Klim.”
The name of their dead son applied to this creature made the hair stand at the back of Commander Melor’s neck. He thought the baby, its head lolling back, must be dead. Had to be. Where had Elna even found him? Then she noticed the baby’s chest rising and falling, and looked up from the child to his wife’s face. She was smiling. She was smiling for the first time in three months. “He was in the building,” she said. “Everything was charred and burned, but he was beneath an overhang, and he was fine. Dirty, and hungry, but fine. There were diapers and bottles nearby.”
Very slowly, the commander went to his knees before his wife. “Elna, this is not a human baby. You have to give him to me. We will… we will be humane. But he is Accursed. We can’t keep him.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” his wife said. “What harm can he do us? He’s a child. “ Her hand caressed the blond curls. “And we’ll raise him right. As for not human, Andryi, that’s stupid. They’re just humans with wings.”
He made a face. “No, my dear. When their ancestors were abandoned in a prison planet, they made use of abandoned alien technology and DNA to modify themselves. They tainted themselves with alien DNA. They don’t know – we don’t know – what it did to them. Nor what it might do. That act made them accursed to all of humanity. Their risk could kill our own race. They gave themselves wings, which allow them to fly despite weighing as much as normal men. Not all their power is rational or explainable. We cannot allow them to reproduce with our kind; to take over our DNA. It would be the end of humanity.”
Elna was firm. There was something of the impetuous young woman he’d once known in her face. “No. He’s a baby, not a menace.”
Andryi knew his duty. He knew all the reasons the accursed were considered so. He knew the risks they were taking.
But it is the infamy and glory of mankind that under certain circumstances men and particularly women are incapable of killing the young and helpless. It might happen in the heat of battle, in the excitement of a hunt, but in cold blood, it becomes difficult, if not impossible.
The baby was just a baby. They could conscribe him to some unimportant role. Perhaps the wings could be removed? Or maybe not. Then there would be no danger some young woman would want to reproduce with him in the fullness of time. And that was the only danger of the accursed, individually. Andryi would make sure Klim was raised in honor and duty. And would be no danger to them.
This trait of mankind had, in old planet Earth, well before machines or civilization, allowed the domestication of fowl and beast. Animals raised with humans, obedient to humans.
It gave Commander Andryi Melor a younger son. And foretold the collapse of human civilization.