CLICK HERE FOR BLOGGER TEMPLATES AND MYSPACE LAYOUTS »

Friday, 12 June 2009

Chapter 1

The first and only time you will meet the original Anathema, a disturbed engineer who can see through time and is contaminated with time itself to the point his mere presence encourages decay. To prevent harm to those around him, he wears a containment suit which also acts as a protective atmosphere for himself.

Anyway... I haven't looked at it much since I started, but I haven't posted anything either. So here it is, in all its raw glory-

This document is licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK: England & Wales license, available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/uk/.

Chapter 1


"Antula, come quick! You have to see this.” Tayla shouted to her husband from the front door of their home. She beckoned to him excitedly, as he begrudgingly stood up and wandered slowly to her. Taking him by the hand, Tayla dragged Antula outside into the street, where scores of their neighbours were stood looking upwards in awe.

The orange skies of Apep Prime were sparkling in what seemed to be a meteor shower. Every so often a flash would flare up, outshining the sun, and a slight crackle would reach the ears the audience below. Antula gripped the hand of his love and looked back toward her.

It's beautiful.” He gently pressed his lips to her forehead, “now make a wish.”

Tayla closed her eyes and thought deeply, before sighing and gazing upon her husband.

Your turn.”

I made my wish years ago. I don't need another.”

Did it come true?”

Antula smiled as he looked skyward, “you're living proof that it did.”


******************


Above the planet, in far orbit, the Leisure Vessel Flagstone was attempting to defend itself from an onslaught of small, three man fighter craft which had launched an ambush as it fell into orbit around the planet below. The fighter craft displayed the markings of the Miaphe military, and were preparing the make another sweep. Inside Flagstone, the Timekeeper by the name of Anathema was frantically putting the finishing touches onto a new suit of armour as emergency lighting flashed around him.

Damned Whiteshirts. They're a full thirty seven minutes early. I thought I had more time.”

Anathema could not be seen, as he wore a rusting hermetically sealed extreme environment powered armour. It was bulky, and lacked finesse, but it allowed him to move freely without damaging his surroundings. The mask covered his entire face, leaving only small panels for him to see through, which themselves were sealed using a material known as Kersaw Glass.

The ship was not a dangerous place; Anathema could easily survive outside of the suit, but he chose to never take it off. This was due to a massive contamination of Chronons, the elusive time particle, which poisoned everything it touched. If he were to step outside of his suit, the walls would quickly rust, wood would rot, and living things would wither and die. Yet he seemed virtually immune to the effects, achieving a lifespan of a full millennium despite this contamination.

Might I ask a question?” The new armour he was building hummed to life as the artificial intelligence indulged it's sentient curiosity.

You may. There's little else you can do until I complete your motor systems.” Anathema began soldering the final set of cables in the back of the armour.

Why are we under attack?”

There's some religious icon or other on board. They want her dead.” He began welding the final plate in place, “can you move autonomously?”

The suit jerked it's left arm and twitched the fingers. “Quite easily. Do you wish me to remain autonomous, or will you be wearing me?”

I'll be wearing you. Check systems”

Systems are running optimally, and I am ready for and capable of total hermetic sealing.”

Good,” the suit Anathema was currently wearing cracked open with a hiss, “open up.”

The haggard human form of Anathema stepped out of his old suit, and onto the floor below, he paused for a moment to catch his balance as the floor corroded beneath him. Coming to his senses, he darted into the new armour.

Begin sealing procedure.”

The new armour clamped shut, and with a slight hiss, sealed Anathema in. The new armour was a whole foot taller than the old suit, and had no space in the mask to see out of. Instead it relayed video signals from the sensor strip on the front to the inside of the helmet. The armour itself was made from a material referred to as Heltant Steel, a metal used for shielding against all forms of radiation. Expensive, but necessary. The fingers, despite being larger than those of the old suit, were more dextrous, and acted much like a large human hand. Anathema smiled to himself as he flexed the digits. This would do nicely.

What will you do with your old suit?” The new armour asked.

I may have to simply leave it here, too bulky to carry. Pity though, I would have liked to have used it for parts, but that's what you get when people are early.”

Perhaps you were mistaken in the timing?”

Anathema glared at the screen which displayed the outside world.

Thirteen seconds,” he responded, and braced himself.

Until, what exactly?”

Another nine seconds and you'll find out! Bloody hell I thought I programmed you with a modicum of patience.”

He paused and waited for the smart reply, whilst bracing himself for impact.


******************


Tayla's smile disappeared as a loud crack followed the largest of the flares. The audience began to disperse as the awe was rapidly replaced by dread.

Antula?” She gripped her husband's arm tightly as the realisation struck her, “it's not a meteor storm, is it?”

I think it may be better if we went back inside,” Antula smiled at her empathetically.

Antula was a tall narrow male of a humanoid species referred to as Tyasurn. The Tyasurn were a widespread species, although they had no empire to speak of. Instead they tended to drift, or plant small self-sustaining colonies which had minimal impact on universal affairs. Their home planet, Verte, was ruled over by a theocratic order known as The Hand, whose reputation made their species respected throughout the galaxy.

The Tyasurn species itself had heavily pigmented skin, although Antula was an albino. This made him somewhat of a curiosity to all who met him, as such mutations had very low life expectancies, due to the levels of solar radiation which rained down upon their home planet.

He took Tayla by the hand and led her back inside.

There's no point in letting it affect us,” the warmth of his smile comforted Tayla little, “there's nothing we can do.”

But what if people are getting hurt up there?” She sat down, directing an occasional worried glance to the windows.

Unfortunately I feel that will be unavoidable.”

But what-” she was interrupted by Antula's fingertips pressing against her lips.

We can do nothing. We have no skills that would aid them, and most of all we have no transport. They might as well be on the other side of the galaxy.” He sighed as he sat down beside her, “it saddens me to think of it, but we cannot help them. But we are not obliged to watch them suffer.”

They sat in silence as another thunderous roar bellowed across the sky.


******************


Anathema was following the stampede of passengers who were panicking their way to the escape vessels, slinging the occasional straggler over his shoulder and carrying them out of harms way. He had to be careful as he ran, as his armour was sufficiently large enough to crush the life from any unfortunate soul caught beneath his feet.

Oh dear,” his armour began very loudly, as though it was deliberately broadcasting itself throughout the ship, “don't these people realise panicking only causes more problems, without actually solving anything?”

That was rude,” Anathema chastised the AI, “and personally I don't care. But we need to get off.”

I'm not sure you want to hear this, but I stand over 8 feet tall. I don't think we'll fit in the escape vessels. Especially considering they're Lances. Not really designed for larger folk like me.”

Point well made,” Anathema hurled a screaming squid like creature into the nearest available escape hatch, “alternatives?”

Well,” the suit paused with a slight hum as Anathema wrenched open a sealed door which had automatically closed due to fires, but was blocking the evacuation effort, “considering the nobelium warhead approaching the ship at nearly twice the speed of light, I still wouldn't recommend jumping.”

Your sensors reach that far?”

Not really, I'm using the ship to boost the signal.”

How long do we have?”

Until screaming agony or total obliteration?”

Screaming agony.”

Just over three minutes.”

Total obliteration?”

A little over three minutes and twenty seconds.”

A cheap warhead then.”

It will still evaporate the ship!”

Anathema stopped and sat down, lost in deep thought as other passengers clambered over him. Eventually his voice returned, unagitated.

The important ones are safe,” he stood back up, accidentally stepping on a liliputian male of a now-unrecognisable species, “I think, considering that I'm not sure you could survive a detonation of nobelium, we may be forced to jump.”

Well, I would survive...”

Don't be a smart-arse.”

Hmm...” The suit, despite being just a few hours old, had acquired some quite inefficient human traits, “it would seem I miscalculated.”

Anathema paused in exasperation, “how? You're a bloody computer!”

I would have thought you would have liked to know what I miscalculated instead of simply stating the obvious, but I am mistaken. Again.”

Shut up and tell me the problem.”

Which would you like me to do first?”

The latter.”

Well the warhead is just fourteen seconds from impact.”

Anathema didn't respond, he instead launched his armoured fists through an escape hatch, and tore the hatch wide open. The ship began to depressurise, spitting atmosphere out into the cold of space. The decompression tore the hole open wider, making it large enough for the armour to fit through.

I said I wouldn't recommend jumping.” The suit flashed a red light across the screen inside the helmet.

Too late!” Anathema leapt forward, and span around to face the ship as he fell.

At first nothing happened except a sea of passengers flooding out through the hole after him. They stood no chance of surviving- even if they were picked up before they asphyxiated, being exposed to UV radiation outside of a protective atmosphere would kill them. Hypothermia wouldn't get a chance. Anathema waved at another squid-like creature as it seemed to swim quite happily in the zero-atmosphere environment. He didn't know what species it was, although it appeared sentient.

Well, he seems happy at-”

He was cut off by a shock wave which preceded the Flagstone shuddering and collapsing in on itself. He was hammered backwards, or at least what was backwards for him, and he turned around in an attempt to stabilise himself. It was then he saw what his suit was talking about.

What planet am I falling into?”

I'll check.” The suit fell quiet, before spreading information over the helmet's screen, “it's Apep Prime. A minor Tyasurn colony. It's mineral-rich, but they don't have the right tools to exploit it.”

Ah the Tyasurn are a welcoming lot.”

Thinking of dropping in?”

Not much choice.” Anathema hummed to himself a tune from his earlier memories of childhood.

What is that?”

Lost in Space, I believe it was called. A wonderful television program. You'll never see it.”

On account of you being so old?” The suit dropped it's chirpy tone for a more monotone accent. This only served to make it sound like it was hiding something.

Did I program a teenager in there, or are you being insolent for a reason?”

No offence intended, I wasn't mocking your age,” it revert back to it's original tone, “I was just wondering if I will never see it because it's some obscure program no-one else has watched or something that was broadcast while you were a child?”

Anathema chose to ignore the armour's excuses, instead paying attention the sweat dripping off his forehead.

Suit?”

Yes?”

Can you protect me from the heat of entry? Crispy skin isn't a good look for me.”

Why are you worrying about it now? We're almost through the worst of it. That's a yes, before you get all narked at me.”

Anathema went through the processes of searching for a handkerchief before realising he had no pockets, and no way of opening his helmet safely to wipe his brow. He missed his hermetically sealed home. It had been specially designed so that he didn't have to wear his armour all day. He sighed and tried to shake the sweat off.

There,” the suit said cheerfully, “no more nasty atmospheric entry heat.”

Thank you.” Anathema paused to think about his earlier conversation, “So what was the problem with jumping?”

You didn't install orbital drop organ bracing technologies before you did.”

Ah, so I'm going to die anyway?”

With a resounding splat followed by, at terminal velocity, a large boom. Sorry.”

I suppose I really should have seen it coming.” Anathema repeatedly banged his head against the screen before him.

Probably. You being a Timekeeper.”

Well, that puts a dampener on the day.”

Sir?” The suit removed all irrelevant data from the screen.

Yes?”

Can you authorise autonomous motility function?”

Why?” Anathema asked, “you can't help.”

No, but at then least I won't have to stand around like a ninny until someone accidentally gets me walking again.”

You're really not helping. Imminent death awaits and you're asking me if you can wander off when I'm dead.”

Sir?”

What?”

Can I have a name?”

Anathema grunted in vexation. He was beginning to regret programming AI into his armour. His last suit simply helped him move. That being said, he couldn't actually remember programming the suit in the slightest. He released a huff before talking to his armour once more.

Suit, how much of you did I complete whilst asleep?”

I cannot say for certain, seeing as my sensors were not activated at the beginning of the build. Quite a lot though.”

Typical,” he mumbled to himself. Sleep-engineering was one of his more irritating habits.

He looked down at the ground below. Buildings were starting to shape out of the rocky soil.

Suit, is there any chance I can avoid the urbanised area?”

Not really. You can aim for the pub though, according to maps it's on the outskirts. That might reduce total death rate by three or four.” A building was highlighted on the screen.

Whatever. Fancy a pint?” Anathema attempted to steer himself as he fell, directing himself towards the target.

Sir?”

Yes?”

What's your name?”

Anathema. Pleased to me-”

The tavern exploded as he struck it's roof, demolishing the building with a single blow. As he collided with the ground a pulse launched through the rock, raising a wall of rock and dust which proceeded to storm across the colony, tearing down all in it's path.


******************


Antula awoke under rubble. As he struggled to free himself, he could taste iron in his mouth. He could taste iron in the air. He worked to push the detritus from his chest, and managed to stand up. He had walked into the outhouse just moments before the blast; he had been fortunate.

Tayla?” He cried out, choking on the dust that hung in the air.

The wind carried no reply back to him. He stood, dazed and wavering, looking upon the destruction that lay before him. He could see no others standing up, though he could barely see through the dust at all. Even the sky looked grey through the cloud of debris. He began frantically shifting portions of his former home to search for his wife.

Tayla?!” He tried to make his voice louder, but found it failing him.

A barking caught his attention. The colony was home to a single human by the name of Greg Fischer, the barking could only have originated from his dog which never left his side throughout his travels. Antula looked up toward the sound, and strained to see the silhouette of the animal digging and whimpering less than twenty metres from where he stood. He ran to where it worked.

Where is your master, boy?” He stooped down and helped the animal dig. Beneath the detritus was the tattered corpse of Fischer. Without pausing, he grabbed the dog by it's collar and pulled it towards the remains of his house.

Your is master is dead. Find others.” Antula remembered how Fischer and the children of the colony had played with the creature. It would follow simple commands if they were enthusiastically given.

Find boy. Fetch!” He patted his knees playfully in encouragement. The dog leapt onto it's hind legs and barked in approval. It began to sniff around the areas Antula directed it to. Within minutes it was barking and began digging just one metre from Antula had awoken. He raced over and frenetically heaving rock and brick away from the spot.

Tayla lay, still and unbreathing. Her shoulder length black hair was matted with blood and dirt, and her normally mahogany skin was ashen and caked in dust. Antula collapsed to his knees, shaking. It was then he found his voice.

The scream cleared the dust and debris from the colony, it travelled across the globe of Apep Prime and circled the planet, leaving nothing untouched. Rocks tore from the earth, bringing with them magma and boiling brimstone. The scream scorched the plants, and mountains were levelled as dust.

As Antula rose to his feet, Apep Prime was all but dead. All but the presence he felt.

I bet you have a wonderful singing voice, too, yes.”

That nagging little itch at the back of my head...

Okay... I don't usually hibernate for that long. Sorry about that folks! I blame work for that so-dull-initiating-brain-shutdown quality. Also, I've moved in with two friends from work. Allowing for a more active social life. Now that's gradually calming down, I hope to get back to the real work.

I have gradually been adding little bits to From the Ashes, although I'm still not even quarter way through. But I do intend to get a move on. Also, I need to work out what I'm doing this November.

So to summarise... because my morning photosensitivity kicked in with a sneezing fit, and left me dazed and confused, and running out of time.

1) I'm not dead. Or lost. Call off that search party.

2)Work-eat-work-sleep. Mmm... work sandwich. Room for imagination? Maybe, but I guarantee it'll spill out and mess up my shirt.

3)I'm getting back to it. Put that whip away. That's a different kind of motivation.

4)Like a bear in the spring, I'm updating myself with your blogs again, thinking- "June!? I've overslept!"

5)I suddenly have a craving for bagels... but have none in the house! Blast you Anna!

With a hamster-like yawn,
Mike.