And here we have Chapter 42: Pureblood.
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.
Okee, time to meet the relatives…
What the serpent-like Yuon Kwon had said was true. Jack’s eyes roamed the length of the vessel looming overhead, a few kilometers of it in smooth and rounded shapes like a melted candle… or a lampshade made of skin. It was a human lifeform, drawn apart and molded into a starship, and the borrowed memories in Jack’s head told him one thing for sure: it was undoubtedly Nefrem.
He and the other newtypes remained frozen in place. In one fell swoop, the Nefrem had transmuted battle into instant detente, meaning that Jack apparently wasn’t the only miracle worker on duty.
His left arm was still out of commission, hanging limply from his side and struggling to shape itself back into something useful. Being conscious of things like that disturbed him some, but not nearly enough to distract from the surging pain.
Smokey took several swaggering steps forward, tore his ruined arm off and tossed it to the side. “Donovan’s demons,” he said with a fluttering voice that reminded Jack of nothing so much as cheap department store keyboards.
“One and the same,” Jack said.
The Yuon Kwon hissed. Its long, whiplike body writhed in place, and its arms flexed furiously. “So your fleet finally arrives to save you abominations.”
Jack glared at it. “This isn’t our fleet. They will devour us all.”
With a fizz and a pop, Smokey asked, “What the fuck are they saying?”
Jack didn’t get a chance to answer. The Nefrem ship called out like a lonesome and dying whale, and a bright and gleaming light appeared at the tip of its nose.
The light shot downward, slowed gently and stepped down onto the land. Its blinding glow faded, revealing some kind of creature made of petrified flesh and shining bone. Wings stretched out behind it, composed of a hundred silver ribbons.
Its head was a demented skull, too wide and low, with jagged edges, sharpened teeth, and eyes like distant coal fires. It moved like a modern dancer, so talented the ground seemed barely able to constrain it.
The Yuon Kwon serpent fired. In the silence, the sound of its cannon was like the world ending.
The Nefrem ogre raised a hand, caught the burning blue bolt, and crushed it in its fingers. The projectile crumbled away on the wind like scraps of fallen leaves.
The enraged Yuon Kwon thrust forward and howled, and made it only a meter before a living bullet bit a hole through its chest, shredding a wide swath on the way through. The Oikeyan newtype dropped to the ground, and rumbled but didn’t scream.
The ogre’s wings retracted. It knelt down in perfect supplication, and muscles all over it relaxed at once, then its ribcage cracked in half and folded intricately outward.
A thick fog spilled out that seemed to flicker and slither in the firelight. As it consumed the ground, a naked human stepped out of the creature’s chest cavity and stood at confident ease.
Its body was impossibly lean and well toned, without a single imperfection marring its skin. Except for the silvery lavender hair on top of its head, the rest of its body was completely bare, and where there should have been something awkward, there was only a smooth patch.
Its eyes were full of mirth and curiosity. It looked over each of them, Amira, Jack, then Smokey, and it smiled.
It spoke in the ancient language of the Nefrem, with a discordant melody that turned to hatred in Jack’s ears. “Who among you may speak for your rogue bloodline?”
“None of us,” Jack replied.
“How strange… then you will deliver my message to your feuding factions. Tell them I seek asylum on your quaint planet. I require aid in my struggle against Nemesis, and will gladly destroy those who refuse me shelter. But I am above all fair… In return, I will help pacify the planet’s invasive pestilence. Bring me your answer within one planetary rotation.”
Jack felt strength returning to his arm, and a fresh wellspring of power flowed into him. Like a child backed into a corner, the meek and angry voice inside begged him to kill.
Amira moved almost imperceptibly at his side, and he barred her with an arm. “It’ll murder us all, Sal.”
She stopped cold.
“Who are you?” Jack asked of the Nefrem. Against his own better judgment, he bristled, stretching his shoulders apart and flexing his fingers in preparation.
The Nefrem smiled its eerily beautiful smile, the sort that a self-obsessed celebrity might bestow on a fawning teenage fan. “You intrigue me, cousin,” it said. “Your wildling code is degenerate, and you are ill fitted to the clothing of your fathers… but there may be some glimmer of nobility within you.”
Jack held his ground, trying his best not to betray any weakness to the beautiful monster. He tightened his jaw behind his mask and said, “Who may I tell them is calling?”
The Nefrem sighed. It said wistfully, “Oh, but you wish to play so badly, don’t you? Allow yourself the impertinence, Eireki child. Come dance with me.”
Jack refused to move a millimeter, even as the voice inside him mewled with pent up bloodlust. “Kill!’ it hissed manically.
The Nefrem studied him and said, “Very well, wildling. Tell them the scion of Nemesis has arrived, he who is born but once a millennium. Tell them the Nefrem prince stands here in supplication, who alone may sing the Splinter Legion into battle.”
It was an invitation made with a closed fist. Jack wasn’t quite sure what to make of the mixed message, but he knew it wasn’t good. Nothing was ever good anymore.
His thoughts returned to the Eireki Seed buried a hundred meters away. If he could find some way to bring it back, maybe Amira could turn it against the Nefrem. The entire invasion force could be cut down with one stroke of the scythe.
“Infect,” the voice inside him cooed. “Weaken and slay.”
But it wasn’t possible, and Jack knew he wouldn’t even if he could. This prince stood against his mother for some reason. This was a different Nefrem, and that required more investigation. No matter how deep his disgust for the entire race, he had to give this one the benefit of the doubt.
Jack offered a curt bow, while Smokey kneeled and crossed himself, which Jack found curious. Amira closed her stance, and that didn’t surprise him at all.
He pushed her shoulder lightly, and it seemed to break her trance. He could see an outline of her face only dimly through the helmet, but it was enough to make out a bemused expression. She didn’t know what to make of this whole ordeal, and her first impulse was usually to fight until the answer became clear.
Even as the thought occurred, it came too late for him to stop what happened next. Amira Saladin brought her wrists together, aimed and fired her strange weapon. A beam of ghostly glass shot out that melted light around it, and the Nefrem prince didn’t react fast enough.
Amira’s weapon stabbed a hole the size of a softball through the prince’s ribs, leaving a vortex of blood and tissue in its path. The wound did nothing to stall the prince’s advance though, as his dodge melted into a quick series of steps and a single terrible punch.
Amira flew backward through the air, and before she could come back under control, the Nefrem prince was above her and slammed her back down into the ground.
Her gold and bronze body bounced limply.
“Kill,” the merciless voice in Jack’s head said, and this time he very nearly obeyed. But he didn’t have to be a weapon.
With muscles, sinews, and tendons that had designed themselves, powered by energy leeched from the blood of the universe, he instead pressed out across the ground and placed himself between Amira and the next impact. A stone elbow hit him like a falling boulder, crushing anatomy that had repaired itself only seconds before.
He hit the ground at speed, scrabbling at it with his hands and feet, and he clawed himself to a stop. He raised one hand and said, “Wait! She didn’t understand… There will be no alliance without her.”
The Nefrem prince turned, and the mirth was entirely gone from his face. Jack could see only the cold stare of murder. The wound in his side had already knitted itself closed, leaving a hollow knot like a tree’s.
Amira lay motionless beneath him, not so much as stirring. Her life was completely in his hands.
The Nefrem spat blood on her. “I am not accustomed to permitting such disrespect, mutt.”
Jack stood uneasily with several parts of his body aching, broken, failing. “I apologize,” he pleaded. “But there will be many misunderstandings in the days to come. If you desire our help, you must be prepared to adapt.”
The prince’s lip curled. Jack wasn’t sure if he’d misspoken, or if his entire ploy had been in error. It all hinged on how badly the Nefrem needed human help.
“So be it,” the prince said, and nothing more. Instead, he turned and walked back to his armor, stepped inside, and returned to his waiting ship.
Smokey stood, having been a brand new model off the showroom floor only minutes before, and now looking ragged and ready for the scrap heap. There seemed to be a lot of that going around.
“Hey alien,” Smokey said with his computer generated voice. “Truce?”
Jack didn’t realize it was addressing him at first. When it dawned on him, he nodded.
“What were you and him talking about?”
Jack considered lying, but he had no right. Omission was a more forgivable offense. “He’s a Nefrem prince, and he’s gone to war with his mother. He wants allies, but under threat of death. We have until tomorrow to answer.”
Smokey said, “Angels and God damned demons.”
Jack looked up at the vast shape in the sky, coloring the night with neon light, and he wondered where the angels were. It seemed the gates of Hell kept swinging wider open, unleashing more demons onto the battle-scarred Earth, and soon there wouldn’t be any men left to stand against them.
Smokey walked clumsily to the Yuon Kwon still lying on the ground, reached into its wound and tore out its innards. Jack watched the last spark of life go out of the Oikeyan newtype, and he felt sick.
Then Smokey turned and began to walk away.
“We need to stand together,” Jack called after it.
Smokey kept walking.
“…or we’ll fall apart,” he mumbled to himself.
He looked to the earthen mound one last time and thought of the dangerous Eireki technology hidden within. At the same time, he felt an itch along his spine and understood that the sky was full of eyes and cannons. He’d been given enough leash to leave, but anything else would likely bring about his immediate and catastrophic destruction.
Instead, he sullenly walked to where Amira was laid out, hoisted her unconscious body over his shoulder, and headed back into the relative sanity of the jungle.
Next will be Chapter 43: Confirmation Bias, sometime tomorrow.
Copyright 2013. All rights (currently) reserved.