Genesis

Genesis

See how the end of all things began.

Arden, birthplace of a people who have mastered the secrets of arcane, reality-bending technology, and home to a civilization that now spans more than thirty planets throughout an entire quadrant of the galaxy. They are wise and understanding. Majestic in vision. Powerful beyond compare. And intent on extending their benevolent influence throughout the stars. . .
Until the fateful day their thirst for knowledge leads them to push too far, too quickly. In doing so, they open a door into the antiverse, a realm where the very nature of existence is an anathema to life. An antithesis to all that is good. Evil. And that evil is sentient, as highly contagious as it is fueled by an irresistible proclivity to feed and multiply and spread.
Faced with an overwhelming flood, the Ardenese have no option.
They must fight or die!

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About the Book
[excerpt from Genesis]

 

 

Part I

“The scariest monsters are the ones that lurk within our own souls. . .”

– Edgar Allan Poe

Chapter One

The Calm Before

 

Flames flickered on the far side of Keshia Shaní’s eyelids, providing amethyst contrasts to the blood orange embers warming her soul. She stretched, luxuriating as the sun kissed her face and the gentle breeze persuaded stray hairs to tickle her nose and cheeks.

It was easy to doze when the grav-car was on full automatic with a lengthy journey ahead. And a four-week winter recess spent enjoying the comforts of home with her parents gave her plenty to reminisce about on the way back to Rhomane.

Shanél and Kendric, her mother and father, were getting on in years, but still actively managed the family’s livestock enterprise—Fed Co—on the outskirts of Selán, not far from Genoas city. The business involved the selective breeding of animals for commercial conglomerates, domestic freeholds and private farms throughout Kirban, Orianne and Asten.

Even Viléth, down in Arden’s southern polar regions, had benefited from the genetically modified stock Fed Co sent their way, earning them a prized government patent.

For all their success, neither Kendric nor Shanél took things for granted. Even in the early days, they were determined that Shaní would grow up with a sound set of values and her feet fixed firmly on the ground. As a child, she was encouraged to explore the hills and grasslands surrounding the estate, learning all she could about the wildlife and ecosystems that made Selán such a paradise. As a young woman, Shaní’s education was supplemented by hands-on experience. She was expected to muck out stalls as often as she was encouraged to swat up on subjects as diverse as corporate finance, business law and animal husbandry. At university, it became apparent Shaní would put a political career ahead of her natural scientific aptitude. Therefore, her parents ensured she developed the healthiest respect for everyday working-class folk, the mainstay of the economy despite Arden’s industrial proclivity.

She thrived, and her knowledgeable, patient, no-nonsense approach in putting the interests of her constituents first earned her the love of the people and the admiration of her peers. Her rise through the ranks of the Senatum to Deputy Magister was legendary.

Sadly, the speed of that rise brought two necessary evils with it: the lack of a personal life and, much worse in her opinion, pressure.

Her workload—and the stress associated with it—was, quite frankly, unhealthy. That’s why she insisted on the hike down to Selán for every senatorial recess. Nowhere else could Shaní regain her sanity so swiftly as when she was at home, assisting the sentinels about the estate, or helping the ersatz laborers pitch forking hegh down from barn lofts, feeding sitrá and vroim to the allorans, clearing out ropillo infestations, or simply strolling through the winter orchards collecting iceberries and tsardrops.

Such a philosophy also helped explain why she much preferred five and a half hours in a grav-car over a four minute flight in an executive hopper. The car trip, though much longer, allowed the mellow fugue of her holiday to melt into her bones, fortifying her mentally for the long sessional haul ahead. An additional bonus, as far as Shaní was concerned, was the rare opportunity to enjoy the scenery, something the Genoas-to-Rhomane road had in abundance.

Her lazy musing ended abruptly when everything went dark.

Opening one eye, Shaní craned her neck to peer over the dashboard. An avenue of toran trees, tall and imposing, flickered by on either side. She glanced at the satnav. Ah, Gilen’s Cut. I’m approaching the borders of Rendólin Deep. Soon, I’ll leave the woods and its isolated hamlets behind and hit the lowlands. I don’t want to miss that.

After wiggling into a more comfortable position, Shaní sent a subliminal request through her comlink to the autopilot, asking it to adjust her seat from “sleep” into “drive” configuration. As her spine pivoted up and forward and her legs tucked in slightly, she issued several verbal commands in quick succession. “Decrease temperature by two degrees; thicken bubble screen by ten percent; and add a glare filter.”

“Decreasing temperature,” the onboard AI incanted, “bubble density now at forty percent. Filter adjusting to compensate for anticipated conditions.” The interior cabin dimmed further.

Just in time.

Seconds later, the vehicle erupted from the tree line like a heat seeking missile and thundered out onto the plain.

The contrast was startling.

Beneath the forest canopy you would hardly know it was winter, for the closely packed boles, intertwined branches and thick evergreen foliage kept the worst of the chill away, creating a dark and foreboding arboreal maze full of floral scents and the chatter of unseen critters. But here, out in the open, an endless mantle of white folded off in every direction. The only thing that dared to challenge the authority of that pristine shroud was the Genoas to Rhomane hyperway, the gray streak of its thermally regulated surface adding a hi-tech insult to nature’s purity in a relentless charge toward civilization.

Even so, that insult did not go unchallenged.

Seventy-five milan to the north, a glittering wall of mist awaited.

The Shilette Abyss. Shaní sat up in her seat. “Computer, as we hit the one mila marker prior to the crossing, add an image enhancer to the screen. Maximum resolution. I don’t want to miss a thing.”

“Noted, Deputy Magister,” the AI replied, “preparing imaging package now. I take it you would prefer a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree panoramic view?”

“I certainly would,” Shaní murmured.

Running in a roughly east to west direction across the girth of Kirban, the Shilette Abyss could be seen from space, and gave the impression that a giant had taken an axe to the planet’s crust to cleave out a groove at least eight milan deep and more than two thousand leagues in length. So large was it that it almost cut the continent in two; and so broad that observers standing on either escarpment would be unable to see across the horizon to their counterparts standing on the other side. Except, that is, for the point where the Genoas to Rhomane hyperway crossed the gap. There, the chasm puckered to form a chokepoint only seventeen milan wide, allowing travelers a chance to peer down through a multitude of sedimentary layers outlining Arden’s prehistoric history toward the rapids still intent on breaking Kirban’s back, far, far below.

Shaní never tired of the spectacle, and decided to leave her car on full auto until she’d reached the other side. She didn’t have to wait long.

Several minutes later, the autopilot decelerated from one thousand mph (milan-per-hour) to a paltry one hundred, and the landscape jumped out in crystal-clear clarity, revealing a land of hot springs and waterfalls, frost-crusted blankets blasted by frigid winds, and sulfurous fumes, the spawning ground to the countless rainbows glazing the atmosphere.

Those fumes also conjured wraiths to tease the eye; apparitions that either skipped among crags and ledges bearded in blue and silver or yellow and red mineral-laden icicles, or cavorted merrily through the fringes of the mighty Tar’e-esh, bedecking stately willan and majestic hoká trees alike in a panoply of opaline dewdrops.

Everything shimmered in the midafternoon sun, and Shaní was reminded of a fairytale portal she had seen on an old vi-disc as a child, in which a little girl—the heroine of the story —entered an enchanted land through a magic door. Utterly magnificent. This time of year always makes the abyss pop!

Sighing deeply, Shaní vocalized a profound realization. “I’ve traveled extensively throughout our republic and visited the furthest reaches of colonized space. There are some truly astounding things out there . . .” Her gaze continued to drink in the vista before her. “Even so, there’s nowhere quite like home. This place will stand forever.”

The car slowed to negotiate the kink in the road on the far side of the bridge that allowed the hyperway to navigate the southern tip of the Triskelon foothills. A rare occurrence, for Ardenese carriageways usually ran in a straight line between two venues, or until they intersected a major travel hub. However, this exception to the rule was vouchsafed by the fact that the entire region had been designated an area of outstanding beauty, and the detour proved only a minor hindrance in an otherwise untaxing journey.

Shaní decided the time was ripe for her to prepare for her arrival back in Rhomane, a mere eighty-five milan distant. Flexing her fingers, she announced, “Computer, grant me executive override. All driving functions. You may continue to monitor external conditions and the vehicle itself.”

“Understood,” the AI replied cheerily. A steering wheel folded out of a hidden compartment in front of her, complete with a hands-free cerebral interface. “Returning manual control in three, two, one . . . now!”

Fitted with all manner of safety features, the grav-car didn’t twitch as Shaní took over. Clearing the first of the three tors that marked the crown of the Triskelon, she increased her speed until the indicator showed a steady one hundred and twenty mph. She relaxed into the sensation of exercising dominion over five thousand libren of polymer-bonded alloy. “Yes,” she breathed, “it’s good to be back in the driving seat. And soon, it’ll be business as usual.”

To help pass the time, Shaní ran through the strengths and weaknesses of her fellow Senatum members, eventually finishing with her wiliest foe. It’s strange to think I’ve missed Pulígio’s insufferable posturing. And after his inspection tour on Exordium, he’s bound to be full of himself and itching to impose all sorts of penny-pinching restrictions on us. I wonder how many people he upset while he was away?

That reminded her of one of the more promising developments she’d been keeping tabs on over the winter break. Our differences apart, I do hope Pulígio remembered to upload a copy of the schematics I asked for, regarding the new educational aids being released this year. From the preliminary reports I’ve seen, we’ll soon be able to begin teaching children in the womb! What a marvelous invention. Her consideration expanded to include some of the other subjects she knew were listed for open debate. It never ceases to amaze me what we’ll come up with next. I’d say the world lies open at our feet, but we’ve already conquered that. I suppose the rest of the galaxy would be a good place to start?

An unexpected sense of foreboding darkened her mood. I only pray we remain worthy of the miracles we uncover.

*

The chamber had seen many changes over the years. Shaped eons ago by chemical weathering as sea levels adjusted, it was first an abode to a colony of simple-celled organisms and, later, to microscopic shrimps and other crustaceans drawn to the rich acidic broth on offer.

As the terrain continued to rise and water levels dropped, juvenile rivers sought to establish themselves by seeking out new pathways to the ocean. Attrition, long and enduring, continued to landscape the cavity’s features, scouring and polishing the slowly emerging environment until finally, millennia later, a smooth inverted bowl had been fashioned. At more than one hundred centans across, it became the habitat of all manner of insects, rodents and other small creatures able to make their way down through the warren of tunnels from the headland above.

Time passed; the cycles of life barely noticed within the sanctum of granite solitude until, centuries later, intrepid explorers from a faraway world chanced upon its splendor during one of their surveys.

In due course, the planet was colonized. And sixty years ago—a mere blink in the cosmic eye of things—the peninsula and its hideaway grotto became the property of CIART, the Ardenese Cosmological Institute of Advanced Research and Technology, and the home from home of one person in particular.

A brilliant young scientist by the name of Katiél Faran.

To say that Katiél had added some embellishments during her tenure would be an understatement. The outer circumference of the cavern was now a crenellated buttress of computer terminals, hanging screens, bizarre redundancies with mysterious twinkling lights, and power relays. Arranged in a segmented amphitheater-style layout, the workstations gradually tapered toward the center of the room where a circular podium more than twenty centans across waited. Above it, a pair of glowing, fifty-decan long U-shaped brackets hovered in midair, reaching out, one to the other, like long lost lovers about to meet after an age spent apart.

In themselves, the brackets were impressive, for they crackled with a vibrancy that could be felt as well as seen and heard. Nonetheless, it was what lay between their outstretched arms that was truly extraordinary: a living tau-field that challenged the very precepts by which spacetime existed.

Flaring softly, the halo encompassed a twirling gulf that pirouetted off into infinity with the grace of a serpent. A gentle breeze flowed toward it, hinting at voids and vacuums as yet undetected.

At one of the consoles nearest the event horizon, Katiél flipped a switch and held her breath. Behind and all around her, fifty-seven researchers followed suit.

“Gravity lock established,” a mechanical voice intoned, “sublunary matrix initiated.”

As the medium within the collars shimmered, a mirrored plane folded out of nowhere, blocking her view of the oculus. The AI continued giving its rundown: “Temporal sheath deployed. Standby for final resolution.”

Katiél felt as if she was peering down into a quicksilver whirlpool from above. Her hair stood on end, snapping and crackling to a buildup of static that sparked from her extremities and off along the nearby counter tops despite the safeguards.

“Safety overrides engaged. Quantum pathway established . . . Wait!”

A palpable tension manifested as the AI completed its scans. No one dared speak.

“Congratulations, life signs detected. You may proceed to tabulate statistics.”

Katiél pumped her fist, prompting a ragged cheer from her staff. That’s our third hit. Two thousand years without encountering another sentient race and we get three in less than a month!

She exhaled loudly and deflated, as much from a mixture of relief and exuberance as a need to actually breathe. Turning to accept her team’s plaudits, she waved repeatedly, begging their forbearance while she set the HST’s powerful sensors to monitor and record all pertinent details before initiating an automatic shutdown. Only once she had accomplished this did she allow her smile to morph into a self-satisfied grin. Raising her voice to ensure everyone could hear, she called out, “Well, we did it. That marks our hundredth successful activation . . . with the added bonus of yet another inhabited planet to add to our ‘places to visit’ list. How-”

“Woo-hoo!” somebody shouted, to the accompaniment of further catcalls and handclapping.

Katiél was forced to wait for the celebrations to subside before resuming her pep talk. “Woo-hoo indeed. However, we can’t rest on our laurels. The proof of the HST’s viability comes the day after tomorrow when we run a live test in front of our VIPs, Vice Chancellor Ságel and Gul Lukor. While the confirmation of extraterrestrial life will no doubt go a long way toward rubberstamping this scheme for expansion, it’s the HST’s sustainability over protracted mission-specific distribution that will seal the deal, so. . .”

She raised her hand high and turned slowly on the spot, ensuring to make eye contact with everyone present. “We’ll wrap things up for now and reconvene at the Rec bar later tonight at twenty hundred hours. First round will be my treat, so don’t be late. But no overdoing it, okay? I want your synapses firing on all cylinders for the demonstration.”

Lowering her voice into a more conversational, even conspiratorial tone, she added, “It goes without saying that if we nail the demo, I will be ecstatically happy and open to challenges from any fool who thinks they can drink me under the table. That’s all!”

Her declaration was met by raucous hoots of approval, triggering a stampede by the majority for the exit tunnel.

Katiél laughed out loud. She loved the spirit of her team. They enjoyed a special camaraderie that impelled them to play hard but work like devils. An ethic she had encouraged from the outset to promote productivity. A canny move. Though young in years, Katiél knew her success was due, in part, to their resilience and dedication, and she was gracious enough to acknowledge that fact publicly and, at times like this, privately.

Eventually, after much backslapping, handshaking and congratulatory hugs and kisses from those who lingered behind, Katiél found herself alone with nothing but the background hum of her computers to keep her company.

She studied the figures scrolling through the mist of the main screen. “Tara’s formula was spot on. And by adding a recycling constituent to the electron emulsion, I was able to paint the entire length of the conduit with a self healing, self replicating template that kept the stream viable.”

Katiél leaned back and laced her fingers behind her head, mentally playing with the possibilities that sprang to mind. The implications are huge. This code clearly indicates the sublunary matrix can be maintained indefinitely. It feeds on itself, extending the range and integrity of the gate by a factor of pi for every light-year traveled. And now we’ve incorporated DNA markers into the sequencers, well. I mean. We . . . we could range freely across the galaxy, building up a cache of suitable planets for future colonization, either by us or the new races we meet along the way. That idea sent a thrill down her spine. Wow! What we do here in the next few months might plant the seeds of a super confederation of advanced societies, all striving to make the universe a safer place. And if we run into creatures like the Kirìl? Then we’ll just have to use this technology in tandem with the Shredder engines. Bam! An instant carrier group on their doorstep. Be nice or else.

Pieces of an intricate jigsaw suddenly fell into place. “Pherôn’s Throne! Is that why Ságel included me in the tour? I’ve been so wrapped up in getting the HST through the final stages that I hadn’t thought of it until now. But we’re just one of the teams on the Trojan Initiative. The new classification ships; the latest armaments and shields; the sub-light displacement satellites I’ve heard of. And now a whole new range of engines to play with, despite the fact our Rip-Drive generators are still state-of-the-art. Of course, the Shredder program is part of the larger picture. So . . .”

Never more sure of herself, Katiél leaned to one side and made a copy of her most recent calculations, one with the DNA codex factored in. “I can’t let on I know, of course. But if I show Tara how grateful I am for her help the other week, she might be inspired to make some tweaks herself. Who knows what a little tinkering might accomplish?”

*

First Magister Sariff lounged in one of the comfy chairs positioned close to the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the private plaza forming part of his official residence. As one of Arden’s premier consuls, the grounds were extensive; incorporating a series of lawns, flowered gardens and walkways spread across a walled-in parapet set two hundred centans up the rampart separating the inner city from its outer precincts. At such a height, Sariff had an unobstructed view of the southern quadrant of Rhomane, with its parks, manicured woodlands and stately residences, dusted white now by the latest snowfall. The grandeur of such a sight always put him in a reflective mood. What we’ve managed to achieve here is not only beautiful, it’s a lasting testament to our society. And if the latest reports from the Verianda Nebula are anything to go by, it’ll never end.

The soft hiss of pneumatics drew his eye to the fountain situated in the middle of the courtyard. Constructed from pure dalenite and set within a flat-topped pagoda, the fountain was fed by hot springs and equipped with a wide variety of faucets and spouts, which, when fully open, sent loops of water streaming through the air in elaborate twirling patterns. Some of those loops were caught in cunningly placed sluices and channels that bounced their charges on toward other outlets, while others redirected the water back to the main pump, or—particularly during the summertime—down through a series of channels to irrigate the creepers and flowering vines hanging in tiered floral arrangements along the outer wall of the inner bailey.

At this time of year only four of the sixteen jets were working, along with the central nozzle, of course, which kept the primary flute of the fountain sheathed within a permanent film of water. Thermal springs or no, a buildup of ice had deformed the supporting telamons and caryatids into grotesque monsters, making the main feature of the garden appear as if it had been plucked from a nightmare realm and dumped into the real world as a reminder that things weren’t always as they seemed. A portent, perhaps, for the coming year? With everything happening so fast, we mustn’t rush in where angels fear to . . .

Another round of hissing distracted him. Only this time, it had nothing to do with the hydrous display outside. The sound emanated from the couch opposite, where his guest—and scientific counterpart, Chancellor Calen—perched in triumph.

Realizing he’d been caught daydreaming, Sariff jumped. “What? What are you laughing at?”

Unabashed, Calen hastened to apologize to his best friend of fifty-two years. Unfortunately, the small piece of breakfast muffin lodged in his throat was making that task rather difficult. “I . . . I’m sorry old . . . do excuse me.” He gesticulated furiously and paused to take a large swig of mulled wine. “Ah, that’s much better!”

Replacing his glass on the table, he slapped his chest, coughed, and carried on as if it was nothing but a minor inconvenience. “You were a million milan away there. As you are every year when you get back from your winter holiday. Good break, was it?” The last being added with a knowing smirk.

“You know it was,” Sariff snorted. “I cut myself off completely from the outside world. Diverted all calls through to my secretary on pain of death. Put my feet up and didn’t do a thing . . . except eat, drink and get fat. Do you know, my blood pressure returned to normal in less than a week. Doctor L’gel tells me I should get away from it all more often.”

“Ha! Like that’s going to happen.”

“Pot. Kettle. Black,” Sariff responded, his gaze unwavering. “My sources tell me you barely spent any time at your estate during the recess.”

Calen smiled and pointed to an info-crystal on Sariff’s desk. “I simply didn’t have the time. Too much to do and not enough hours in the day to do it . . . as you’ll find out when you read my breakdown of the sci-wings latest discoveries. They’ll top the agenda when the floor opens for debate in a few days’ time, believe me.”

Here it comes. “Oh, I’m sure they will, Calen. Especially if you can get me to fast-track your favorite proposals, yes?”

The Chancellor grinned, making no bones about the strings he wanted pulled. “And why not? Do you know Katiél’s breakthrough progressed my original thesis further in the last five weeks than I could manage in the previous two years? Using her equations, I tasked a small army of sentinels and ersatzes to build my own, even bigger version down in the catacombs under the Archive’s vault. I even recalibrated the scanners to include the DNA sequencer she’s gushing on about. And I soon saw why she’s so enamored of it. Guess what happened when I fired the damned thing up?”

Sariff could tell his friend was getting carried away by his own enthusiasm and didn’t want to dampen his spirit by revealing what he himself already suspected. “I haven’t a clue, old boy. Why don’t you enlighten me?”

“Revelations, Sariff. That’s what. Revelations.” Calen edged forward in his seat and started counting on his fingers. “The very first attempt managed to reach the C’altos Spur. I made a few tweaks and tightened the bandwidth, and my second shot reached the central bar with ease. Third time out, I boosted the power and compressed the probe even further and was able to home in on part of the Shas-kâ Spur.”

“The Shas-kâ Spur!” Sariff interrupted. “But that’s the far side of the galaxy. I thought the HST could only provide access over five light-years?”

“Ah, I see your spies have been at work.” Calen winked and tapped the side of his nose. “But they didn’t work hard enough. While what you say is true if you’re considering transporting a flagship and its support vessels, you get a very different picture when you merely want to take a look.”

“Take a look?”

“Yes. As I said, I narrowed the transmissions capacity and augmented the signal. While it condensed the active zone considerably, it did allow me to reach out further than we’ve ever done before. Only small pockets, here and there along a very restricted frame of reference, I’ll grant you. Even so, the transmission was able to pick out several new extraterrestrial species that Katiél’s experiments haven’t the range to find.”

Sariff was dumbfounded. “But that . . . that’s remarkable.”

“Isn’t it though? These new races differ vastly in genetic makeup and technical sophistication. One of them, the youngest and furthest away in fact, is a lot like us in many ways, if somewhat primitive and warlike. At the other end of the scale, we have the O’hix—as they call themselves—a space faring civilization at the beginning of a colonization age.”

“Anything we should be wary about?” Sariff’s concerns were well founded.

Calen wasn’t perturbed in the slightest. “Not from what I’ve managed to ascertain. If anything, the O’hix seem a rather grandiose and cultured people, if a little strange on the eye.”

“Thank Pherôn for small mercies if their physiological differences are all we have to care about, eh?”

“Yes, it’s refreshing to know we’re not alone after all. I think the Kirìl soured our expectation of what we might find out there. At least history will paint a better picture of us if we take the time to initiate contact in a way that promotes understanding and a mutually beneficial concordat.”

“If I may?” Sariff knew Calen’s predisposition for forging ahead all guns blazing. A trait displayed so profoundly in his young protégé. “I’d counsel a soft approach, if I were you. Let everyone get used to the idea we’re on the verge of encountering new, benevolent life forms before you hit them with your dreams for multiple trade and border proposals . . . and whatever else you might have hidden away in your bag of tricks.”

Calen’s face set into a mask of innocence. “Bag of tricks? Why, Sariff, you injure me. Whatever do you mean?”

Details
Author:
Series: IX Series
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Publisher: Perseid Press
Publication Year: 2021
ASIN: B09F1432NZ
ISBN: 9781948602334
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About the Author
Andrew P Weston

Andrew P. Weston is Royal Marine and Police veteran from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with his wife, Annette, and their growing family of rescue cats.

An astronomy and law graduate, he is the creator of the international number one bestseller, The IX, and also has the privilege of being a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, as well as the British Science Fiction Association, and British Fantasy Society.

When not writing, Andrew devotes some of his spare time to assisting NASA with one of their remote research projects, and writes educational articles for Astronaut.com and Amazing Stories.

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