Ready for another chapter? This evening, we’re diving into Chapter 17: After the Throne, which offers our first in-depth peek through alien eyes. Since all of the communication in this chapter is mind-to-mind, I’m experimenting with running that all in italics, so keep an eye out. I may revert to quotation marks when it comes time for publication, though. I’m really not decided on whether this is easy enough to read, so we’ll see.
If you’re just joining Biotech Legacy: Long Fall, you can find all of the preceding chapters right here at the Oktopod Blog.
The previous novel, Biotech Legacy: Stars Rain Down, is currently available exclusively through Amazon.
Strap in. It’s drama time.
After the Throne
Elkellian wove through the halls of the honored one, Chera Aum-Samaraya, a wise and ancient city Yuon Kwon who had fought the Nefrem and survived. Chera was one of only eight remaining Samaraya, the many thousand others who once swam the void between worlds having long since been slaughtered and eaten by The Adversary. The Beast of Kai’s Armageddon. Nemesis.
So great was Chera’s mind that Elkellian could feel it aching in the air as he entered her nerve center, like the all-surrounding pressure one feels in the deepest of waters. Elkellian had never been trained for this, never graduated to the level of meeting with such a powerful Yuon Kwon, and the prospect still tainted him with terror.
But he had learned to adapt. Such was the challenge of this new age; there was no peace any longer, no complacency, no time left to dwell on childish fears. One either adapted and stayed in motion or else perished, and Elkellian had no intention of meeting oblivion just yet. He would persist against any odds cast in his direction. That was the holiest duty of an Alarhya, to survive at all costs and spawn, for through any single one of them might the entire species survive.
The threats which motivated such a dire philosophy remained perched all around them, and the persistence of the Alarhya bloodline could no longer be assumed like it had been since times immemorial. Things were worse for Chera Aum-Samaraya and her majestic kind; ten of them were needed to sire a new child, so their final generation was living right here on Earth.
He swam through the air thanks to a Jerin Yuon Kwon, a slender variety of divine one who attached to his flesh like a pair of leeches, providing thrust that allowed the normally aquatic Alarhya to navigate in dry air. Without it, he’d be capable of little more than flopping around erratically on the floor.
There were many reasons to revere the Yuon Kwon, to be thankful for their tireless generosity and service. Elkellian never felt any shortage of gratitude for what they provided his kind, nor for the terrible sacrifices they continued to make on his behalf.
He entered the central cortex of Chera’s nerve center, a large, disc-shaped cavity whose walls were formed of the great one’s large, root-like nerve fibers. The cradle sat in a massive depression in the floor, surrounded by a series of knobby growths that radiated outward in a pattern not unlike what Elkellian saw when he looked at this planet’s viciously bright star.
The cradle itself was no ordinary bonding organ. This was larger, ornate, with broad fins that made it seem almost as if it could fly. Rings of light pulsed away from it and raced across the floor, causing the knobby growths to blink faintly in strange sequences.
Elkellian swam toward the waiting cradle. He crossed slowly, whispering the prayers that had been sung to him in the Teaching Swarm. “Honored and blessed are you, oh great one. Loved and respected. Hallowed and exulted. It is through your beneficence alone that I persist. I offer myself to you, that I may be a better servant of our union.”
The cradle beckoned him.
He floated above it and the Jerin Yuon Kwon released him. He dropped down softly into the cradle and slid inside as its walls gently embraced him, and he felt the countless nerve impulses close in, tingling with electricity and information. All across his pale body, those nerve impulses bridged the last quantum of space and crashed ashore in one cacophonous wave.
The vision of ten thousand eyes coalesced in his consciousness, forming a mental model of startling resolution. His mind danced across the city, examining its many nooks and corners with a speed that was slightly dizzying, until finally he felt settled.
He felt Chera’s consciousness there surrounding all the world like something hidden behind the sky. She enveloped him, and in return he completed her. His will became the iron core within her.
Elkellian, the vast and penetrating voice of Chera Aum-Samaraya bellowed in his mind, what is the will of the Swarming?
Elkellian focused, tried to quash his feelings of embarrasment. The Swarming came to one mind, great one. We advise patience.
He broadcast an echo of the combined will that had been impressed upon him in the Swarming, and it suffused Chera’s mind.
Her voice came now full of annoyance. Patience, she said in disgust. You still wait for The Harbinger to return.
Kai. The Savior. The Harbinger of the Beast.
We do, great one. Elkellian’s frustration welled up inside him, and he spoke of what he should not. But that is not my will…
Elkellian had already said too much, but now that the foolishness was begun, he had no choice but to continue. I pressed my will against the tide of the Swarming, but it was not enough, great one.
The mind of Chera Aum-Samaraya was silent. Elkellian heard only the many distant vibrations that reverberated throughout her flesh.
Perhaps, she finally said, the time of the Swarming is past.
Heresy, he uttered. This was how decisions had always been made, stretching back through the endless eons of peace that preceded Kai’s Armageddon.
We adapt, Chera said. It was a holy phrase among the Yuon Kwon, their core belief, the faith they held. It was what they shouted in celebration, and what they whispered to themselves when they needed strength.
That was not the way of the Alarhya. Elkellian’s kind were forever spawning, yet always remaining unerringly the same. To Elkellian’s fury, he feared they were doomed to remain unchanged even in the face of oblivion.
You are not like the others, Chera said. You adapt.
Elkellian’s thoughts must have been leaking out. He’d been sloppy, and he despaired at the mistake. No, great one. I speak only for the Swarming. I am but a humble servant of the Swarm Mind.
Do not lie to me, Elkellian!
The substance of his consciousness quaked at her voice’s fearsome touch. As far as he was aware, no Yuon Kwon had ever spoken to an Alarhya that way.
You possess strength that your cousins lack, she went on quietly. You will decide.
He believed in her words; this was a time for action, but could it really be that easy? The Swarming had chosen him to speak for them, but that had always been understood to mean delivering their will. Could one Alarhya truly decide? he asked.
Yours is the voice I hear, Chera replied simply.
Which would be greater heresy, he wondered: betraying the Swarming or disobeying the will of a divine one? It was a question he’d never had to ask before.
Speak, she demanded of him.
The Alarhya will revolt.
They will not. She had the immovable confidence of a boulder.
Troubling feelings bubbled up inside of Elkellian, and his will became unstoppable. We will meet to broker peace with Amiasha and his human companions, he said.
A wave of Chera’s happiness washed over him.
It is time, Chera said. I reach out to Talis Aum-Samaraya. I seek connection.
Elkellian could sense her communications stream, and he submerged himself within it. Borne on tendrils of living lightning, his consciousness arced across the surface of the Earth, stretching out and searching for a live connection.
The stream met its match, and they felt each other out like the antennae of insects, then threaded together and became one.
On the other end, Elkellian could feel the presence of another ten thousand eyes, a voice as deep as darkness, and the furious mind of his cousin.
I am Elkellian, and I speak for Chera Aum-Samaraya. I meet you in peace.
I am Zelliar, and I speak for Talis Aum-Samaraya. Let this joining come to order. Zelliar’s stream held a current of contempt. Have you reached a decision?
I have, Elkellian said. We are not prepared to aid your war with the humans.
Zelliar’s signal crackled. You abandon your kin in the hour of need, with the Nefrem horde so close to defeat? he asked in rage-tainted disbelief.
Humans, Elkellian said. I fear you’re tilting at memories, cousin.
Zelliar came back fiercely. Nefrem, he said. These animals are their kin. Cousins. Did you not hear the words of Sinit Kai? Do you doubt his wisdom?
Elkellian tried to remain calm. You speak of genocide, Zelliar. Hatred wafts about you like a parasitic infection. It clouds your eye.
Zelliar burned. Do not presume to lecture me, little cousin.
The connection went silent.
Elkellian steeled himself and said, It is our will to seek reunion with the wayward child, Amiasha Aum-Samaraya.
Betrayers! Oath breakers! Zelliar shouted. He growled and fumed. There can be no reunion. Amiasha is infected and WILL remain quarantined under penalty of death.
Chera and Elkellian’s minds mingled, and Elkellian found himself in possession of previously unknown facts. You are misled. Amiasha is free of infection! he shouted. The wayward child and these humans have bonded, and there is the most wondrous…
Zelliar seethed, dominating the stream through force of mind. Be silent! You too show signs of contamination by these Earth Nefrem, and I will not sit idle while you try to infect honored Talis Aum-Samaraya with your insanity.
Elkellian had no time to come to terms with what he’d just learned. Something about the human-bond intrigued Chera’s kind. It drove her onward and whatever this powerful urge was, Talis and Zelliar viewed it as a dangerous sickness that could be transmitted from one mind to another. They believed it to be a virus of information and it horrified them.
This was madness.
Zelliar, please, he pleaded.
Amiasha must be destroyed with fire before the sickness can spread.
Chera’s mountainous spirit inflated Elkellian. We will stand for no such thing. You move at your own peril.
Elkellian had just committed his people to war with their own kind. Oikeyan had never fought Oikeyan in the many million years of their history, nor did such things even exist in fable. What was he doing?
Zelliar’s stream was taken aback. He said, You would do well to think deeply before threatening me, little cousin. We will win this war against the Nefrem soon, and cleanse our new home of ALL dangers. That is the lesson the Nefrem taught us.
The stream snapped dead and Elkellian felt as if he’d been slapped in the face. He and Chera were once again alone.
You have been speaking to Amiasha in secret, he said in shock.
Amiasha Aum-Samaraya speaks. I listen.
Could there actually be some kind of mind sickness? Chera was acting in ways that were strange for Yuon Kwon: willful, deceptive. He decided to probe. What is it about these humans that drives you to them? he asked.
Amiasha Aum-Samaraya sings a song of growth, of adaptation, of completion.
Elkellian had only ever heard Yuon Kwon speak of becoming complete with his own kind. Alarhya were the Yuon Kwon’s missing heart.
So, Elkellian said dejectedly, you seek to replace us then.
She said, The humans do not complete Amiasha. They only illuminate the path. Amiasha Aum-Samaraya is self-complete.
I don’t understand.
Amiasha Aum-Samaraya adapts. And Chera said no more.
The cradle released Elkellian and he slid free, with a mind filled to overflowing with doubt and confusion. As he lay there, the Jerin Yuon Kwon descended and kindly took hold of him, and as its warm flesh contacted his own, he remembered how thankful he was. He remembered what all the sacred ones had done and continued to do for him.
He decided in that moment that he would put his own sadness aside, and do whatever he could to help the Yuon Kwon get what they longed for. He owed them nothing less.
Next up is Chapter 18: The Dagger Path, coming your way this Thursday.
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