Black Sun – The Murdering Messenger

April 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

Schaven had long since fired his weapon until there were no more sabots left. A kinetic kill relic, the kind handed to farmers to kill local predators when a planet’s biology is understood enough to make it a relative certainty that a hissing jacketed projectile will kill one. It was not designed for things that seemed solid one moment and wet sacks of ooze and gleaming metal the next. They shone in the thin light of Klarakshton’s actinic, blue-tinged sunlight, reflecting it as they clambered over obstacles. The terrified older man, a colonist for decades, shutting from seeming arable world to a somewhat more likely prospect, clutched the ancient gun like a club and waited in the dark of the collapsed grain barn for more of them to come. Behind him in the pockets created when the artificial stone ceiling fell in were children, other old men and women, and some infirm. Anyone else who could reasonably fight had left days before to try and stop what was happening. None had come back. Not even the confident professional soldiers, the ones with the glowing yellow and blue eyes, had returned for them. The air was not cold enough to bite lips or burn lungs, but Schaven’s breath drifted faint blue in the rapidly setting sun.

It would get colder. Food was scarce. They’d taken to eating the small red and black reptiles that the week before had been a nuisance. Now they were the only food available. The metal spiders came out more often during the day, so at least at night, a fire might not draw too much attention. The old man wondered how much longer it would take them to be found and killed like everyone else, turning the thought of what he’d seen into an endless way to torment himself, and thus keep from falling asleep. He was so tired he could feel the inside of his gut sloshing, his skin and hair greasy from sweating in panic for days on end.

The Qualsilath had not come back. The colonists they armed had not come back. Not even the militia had come back.  Days and days and no one but wandering metal sacks that screamed and sent yellow sparks to blow trees in half. There was no hope. If he’d had sabots left, he’d have used them on the children rather than let them be hacked into pieces and flung into that yellow chemical pit they’d blasted out of what had been the seasonal bazaar. He’d met his wife at the first harvest when the colonists from all over Klarakshton had gathered, had raised two children, and no longer knew where any of them were. If they were still alive, his daughters, who had gone to fight and not returned. In the dark near his pant leg, long since stained by his own urine, someone else’s child peered up at him with a question he prayed she wouldn’t ask. « Read the rest of this entry »

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Black Sun – Taklarsaza 4

April 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

When Rythe arrived at Tatris’ rather large (even for a Tsilath, even for a son of the Dytariex) rooms, she could feel the tension even through a shielded mind. On the long crescent strip of silvery metal that held up a kind of garden, with hundreds of plants in a near-riot of greens, purples, reds and oranges, the two male figures stood facing one another. That in of itself was unusual. Tatris, oh she could see Tatris standing his ground, trying to overwhelm with his presence. It wasn’t that her oldest brother didn’t know how to argue. It was that he so rarely had to bother to exert himself so far. Not many in the DytariexenKa Harrak would balk one of the line.

Kyrian, however, had always gone fairly fair to avoid confrontations, so the sight of him not only standing his ground but actually stepping closer to Tatris surprised her. The two of them were an interesting study in contrasting tones. Kyrian had hair like spun strands of copper, eyes the color of emeralds held up to a star, skin like polished pure gold. Tatris’s hair was like Rythe’s own, a mass of completely coal black. His skin was a far darker, almost brass color, and his eyes glowed more like luminous jade. Both were handsome enough males by the standards of the Tsilath, Rythe thought, although she’d not really ever taken this much time to look at them. Tatris looked like their father might have before they were born, while Kyrian definitely favored Siharra. He looked almost like a male version of Malan, their elder sister. If he had been Malan, seeing him come within a few inches of Tatris wouldn’t have been at all surprising, as the eldest children of their family liked bickering almost as much as the entire assembly of the ten thousand.

“Perhaps you failed to understand me. Our father and mother have already given me this charge. That means you can either go talk to them and explain why you seem to think you have the power to countermand their orders, or you can do as they directed and administer the oath.” Kyrian’s thought actually reached Rythe from her position some twenty or so steps away from them, which meant he wasn’t even trying to conceal it.

“Listen to me, little brother…”

“I will not.” Kyrian actually stepped closer still, now but inches away from Tatris. “I do not have to. You’re not Dytariex, you’re not in command of me, you won’t even be in command of me once I take the oath because I have a personal order from father and that takes precedence. Either adminster the oath or inform father that you refuse to do so.” Kyrian’s face curled into a hard, aggressive smile, jagged across his face. “Better yet, inform mother. She enjoys dealing with our excesses so much.” « Read the rest of this entry »

Black Sun – Taklarsaza 3

April 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

I admit, I could not believe it. I don’t think any of us did. It happened so fast.

I was called back to Throneworld to report on the incidents on several of our least important colonies. These were worlds with sparse populations of Naratsilath, ones that didn’t particularly support agriculture in any form. Not even heavily modified plants in most cases. Hrad had barely even been capable of supporting organic life without assistance. Naratsilath could not walk unaided on its surface. It was not surprising that Kotash barely paid the world any attention, even though it was of course his duty to do so. Kotash has been a fixture in my life growing up, and although I admit I find his behavior in this case lacking, he was always amusing when I was a child. Father’s slightly scandalous friend, he cut through the rules.

Growing up there were always so many rules. For the youngest child, especially. I grew up with Malan and Tatris already long since adults, unreachable, essentially strangers I would see when they came home to report to our parents. Kyrian and Arktiesh were closer to me in age, but Kyrian was like the spiny plants that they try and use in every room of the shining mountains to pretend life could possibly endure there without our constant toil. Kyrian was simultaneously always there and yet revealing nothing, as carefully cultivated and as inaccessible as those jagged fronds. Arktiesh was easier to get to know, since were were barely a few decades apart, but Arktiesh is as transparent as Kyrian is opaque. Arktiesh dislikes dealing with people, but loves tactics, strategies, loves watching others and trying to understand how to move them to his desired outcome. Tatris and Malan want to rule, but Arktiesh wants to be the means.

And as for me, Rythe, the daughter born last? I joined the Kandrakoleth as soon as I could, not because it was expected of me. I joined to escape. In the end, I ended up finding comfort in my service. Tatris used it to find a voice, Malan used it to find a mate, and Arktiesh found it suitable for his overall goals. None of us understood why Kyrian would not serve. « Read the rest of this entry »

Black Sun – Taklarsaza 2

April 18, 2011 § 1 Comment

“Why tell me this?” The child looked up at Kyrian with a frank and baffled expression, still speaking words in response to thoughts. Behind those words, Kyr could already feel the emotions, the subtle impressions. The boy was of the blood, there was no doubt. Could be no doubt. Despite being freeborn to long dwellers, he was Tsilath. One of the blood, and thus, he could not stay with the terrified woman and resentful yet horror-paralyzed man. If he had air in his lungs he might have sighed.

“Just listen.” Kyrian surveyed the tiny sun-baked mud and stone home the two long dwellers lived in. Like the rest of their settlement, it dated back roughly four thousand years. Kyrian often wondered why all the people, the Tsilath and the Naratsilath alike, counted time the way they did, in units handed down from before there was even a people as they now existed. In the rounded, carefully shaped dome of the house he felt the boy’s parents stares. There was no way to explain to them why their son would leave with him that night. Another of the Tsilath would most likely simply take the boy from where he found him. He knew his sisters and brothers would, and dump the child off to be raised with the bastards and orphans of the Tsilath, not truly kin but more than kind. Even Tatris probably would, for all that he doted on his own children. “When they came, they were… unconcerned. They knew that life like us existed. They knew that it often covered worlds with valuable minerals they use in their birth oceans. But they were neither convinced that anything made of what we are could be intelligent, nor were they particularly concerned with finding out. Like the ones we do not name, they were happy with a state of affairs which rewarded their convenience.”

“And so they took Klarakshton. Had they not, I would not have come here today.” « Read the rest of this entry »

Without – Excerpt 9

April 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

There was no color to the memory. There never was. It came like a dream, because it never came to him outside of dreams even though he could never forget it. There were colors, he assumed, but could no longer prove even to himself.

He remembered the suit he’d been forced to wear. Not forced, exactly. He couldn’t have dressed himself that day. Evvie, who had left him the month before, came back to help him, at Bishop’s request. Together the two of them got him dressed, got his hair tied back, got him to the church.

The church was a huge stone and glass fang pushed up from grassy earth. Even in his grey memory he remembered staring at those lead and glass windows in horror, seeing Christ dragged from one humiliation to another. It had been something to fixate on, and he gratefully took the option.

“Dude, you okay?” « Read the rest of this entry »

Without – Excerpt 8

April 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

The snow stuck in his long hair, dyed a turquoise blue, and in his tangled red beard more matted than actually curly. He hand a hand over his mouth and chin, straightening the most noticeably tangled patches. It feels like my damn pubic hair. He considered shaving it off even as the wind blew more snow into his face to melt there.

Leaning against the pickup truck, he listened to the low rumble of the engine and looked at the house.

The roof was missing shingles. Some of them he’d kicked off himself, and he could remember watching the flat green rectangles float off into space while he scrambled up from the porch out back, escaping his room to clamber about in the manner he’d imagined for apes and monkeys. Back then he only knew what he’d seen in cartoons or read in paperback about either, and even though he’d since heard the named Fossy and Goodall, he preferred the Tarzan-inspired albino gorilla of his imagination, who spoke English and palled around with a Victorian-era steam cyborg. The Amazing Adventures of Albion Ape and Stephen St George the Articulated Armature, he’d called it in his old notebooks. « Read the rest of this entry »

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