Authors: Scott Toney
Solaris. A planet like any other, rife with wars, science and love. But at the peak of its civilization, a great meteor fell, bringing long-dead souls to Solaris, souls that had been sustained by the life-force of one lone man, Ineal.
At the moment of impact, these souls scattered across Solaris, giving inhuman abilities to mortals while scarring their bodies and corrupting their lives.
Samuel was one such man, a man of faith who thought to use his powers to worship his God: he watched his followers, and his planet, die. Seas turned to lava and the skies darkened. And as Samuel’s heart grew weary and angry, he used his powers to manipulate the world to serve him alone.
Samuel became god of a planet whose only life was the symbiotic life so like his own.
Centuries later, he discovered others, threats that had not been on this planet before. A winged woman; a cyborg; a future-seer and a child. A great vengeance burned a comradery between them.
They were souls that could overthrow him. Souls that he would need to destroy.
Breakwater Harbor Books presents by Scott J. Toney
NovaForge (Nova Trilogy #1)
The Ark of Humanity
Scott J. Toney
Breakwater Harbor Books, Inc.
Scott J. Toney and Cara Goldthorpe, Co-Founders
Copyright © 2014 by Scott J. Toney
All Rights Reserved
Cover by Bradley Wind
Author email – [email protected]
First Printing, May 2014
is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real people or places (past or present) is strictly coincidental.
Dedicated to Ivan Amberlake, a fellow author whom I am honored to call friend and whom I am greatly indebted to for all the support and edit advice he has given my books. I set out on this writing journey in search of new worlds and have discovered an excellent friend in the process. Check out his book, The Beholder, when you’ve finished NovaForge.
A tremendous thank you to Ivan Amberlake, who has once more been an essential help in editing and whose dedication to my writing means a great deal.
Thank you to Melissa Simonson, whose edit advice I greatly value.
Bradley Wind, my cover artist. This is the fourth cover Wind has designed for me. His talent is immense and I am honored to have his artwork for the covers of my books.
A great thanks to my fellow authors at Breakwater Harbor Books. It is an honor to create and publish beside such talented authors.
My stunning, intelligent and loving wife Laura is the woman of my dreams. She believes in and supports me in all endeavors and is everything and more than I’d ever imagined having in my wife. Without her nothing would make it to page or be worth writing. As my equal partner, she fills and enriches my life.
Annabel and Benjamin, you are the most amazing children, a little rascally at times, but I wouldn’t have you any other way. May you enjoy this and all my books when you are old enough to read them. I love you deeper than you will ever know.
Darkness consumed Ineal as the voices tore at his thoughts. The sole survivor of the planet Eon, he wanted to shut off his brain, to destroy his consciousness and be nothing. But the voices would not let him.
The planets’ souls,
he thought, encased in this meteor hurtling through space.
The souls of dead planets destroyed us. I am the last. They take me for their own.
He did not know when the essences of dead planets first came to Eon. Men and women bonded with them, inviting the haunting gaseous essences to their bodies and allowing the essences to become necessary symbiotes of the flesh. The symbiosis with the dead planetary souls gave his people powers and abilities beyond their dreams. But the price, the price of the flesh was great, and an ultimate death of sacrifice and pain was given in return. Ineal was the last, and the only being of Eon who had not accepted them into his flesh.
But you took me,
he thought as they spoke with their unintelligible voices, whispering in a constant echo through his mind.
When my planet died you came to me. You took my body to keep yourselves alive.
They kept him alive too, feeding him their energy as they fed off his living essence.
Millennia of time passed as the meteor orbited the solar system.
Ineal could take no more. Rock pressed against him, suffocating his thoughts.
He closed his mind, pulling blackness from the void beyond and urging it to destroy him and the planetary souls, so that whatever planet they would go to next might be spared.
His mind’s darkness came. He forgot speech. He forgot sight. He forgot love. But the essences would not release his life force and the greatness it became in their harnessing embrace. They would not allow him to forget primal sense.
Then, in that rawness of life, where he was barely being at all, he sensed a planet. They had intended this new planet as their destination from the start.
The essences’ telekinetic connection pulled away from him, severing the symbiosis and sending searing heat through his form.
There was a moment of silence for Ineal, of freedom. Then came the violent crack of stone, as meteor met planet. A great boom consumed him. Ineal’s consciousness was lost… almost. But his essence lingered somehow in the planet’s form.
The planetary essences fled their transport, consuming life and searching for prey.
Ivanus stood in awe, watching the radiant orb and its tail of fire growing larger and larger in the sky.
He stood in the market of the city of Asil. Men and women streamed around him, while others did as he did, watching death come down. It had been prophesied that the meteor would come, and then the world would die of fire.
It radiated a striking hue.
Ivanus shut out the sounds around him. Silence loomed past the screams of his city’s people.
A vast burning ring ripped in his planet’s atmosphere as the meteor punched through.
A second passed.
It hit as if in slow motion, pummeling the earth miles before him, and a massive shockwave blinked the plants, city and people from existence.
But in that instant, something punched Ivanus through his skin and muscle. It held his body solid while he watched the world flatten in the meteor’s wake. He watched as glowing spirits splintered and burst forth from the crag.
His stomach lurched. Black swelled over him. His body disappeared from the expanse of the land, leaving nothing where he once stood. He was gone from that time.
When Ivanus opened his eyes, centuries later, radiant sunlight burned his retinas. Before him, a woman screamed in pain.
The other side of the planet
After the meteor came the essences sought out beings to be their hosts. People proved to be most compatible. They were given great powers because of them, but not without cost. The more they used their powers, the more the planetary essences devoured their life force.
Markings covered the bodies of the essences’ hosts, streams of boiled flesh burned into their victims as proof of what would ultimately be given to possess the supernatural abilities and the great power that came with them.
Men died and new men rose to connect with the essences in their wake. Again and again the cycle went.
But that was not always the way. There were a select few who could control the coming death and harness it, keeping themselves alive almost indefinitely. A great Bishop and leader of men was one of these.
Samuel was one of the first to discover that the essences had power. His faith in his god was great, surpassed only by Samuel’s love of that deity. At first he used his power to pull as many followers to his god as possible and teach them the ways of peace. But as he sustained his life his followers died. The planet was consumed, its vegetation devoured by the heat of its two suns and the life-draining power of the essences. Seas turned to lava. The sky darkened, and so did Samuel’s heart.
He turned on his god, knowing that he did not exist, that no true god would let this suffering come to the world. And in his ages of life he turned on goodness and was consumed by desire, desire to control and manipulate the world to serve him.
Samuel used his power to attract people to him. He turned them not only to his worshipers, but fighters in his name, conquering civilizations all over the dying planet and turning them to his slaves. Any who neared him to overthrow him were encased in their minds, while their bodies were turned into his loyal warriors.
He was god of a planet whose only greatness of life was supported by the symbiotic essences. His reign and power would be eternal.
Then one day, centuries after he first discovered the essences, he looked out over the lava sea beyond his citadel and knew. There were new planetary essences out there that had not been on his planet before. He sensed someone who could overthrow him, someone he would need to search out and destroy.
Samuel stretched his boil-singed hands, smiling at the burning sensation that coursed through him. “Come,” he spoke into the hot, rust-flecked wind that curled over his body. “You will only die.”
Raw, hot wind whipped over Julieth as she ran barefoot across red earth. A mesh mask covered her face to protect her from the rust-wind. Her chest heaved heavily.
Battle raged in her city, miles behind her, and though there was nowhere to run, to stay would mean death. Since the arrival of the essences to the planet, those who connected with them used their powers to rule and destroy powerless humans of the world. A half metallic man sent by the great Bishop, Samuel, now butchered her city with the help of mercenary warriors. The conflict had gone on for mere days, yet already the structures of the city lay scorched and warped on the earth.
With a bow and arrow clenched in one hand, and a ten-year-old boy from her city clutching her other, Julieth fled as quickly as she could.
He was one of two boys she had cared for since their parents’ deaths. She hadn’t been able to locate his brother before fleeing the Kaskal but at least Bayne would live.
If we are lucky,
once they defeat my people and take them to enslave, we can return and find food stores to sustain us for one or two weeks.
The land was barren of vegetation and most animals, but her city possessed a machine from the fallen ages, which created synthetic food to sustain what remained of humanity. She couldn’t operate it, but some of the synthetic food would surely remain.
Julieth stopped for a moment, something on the horizon catching her breath. A spark of light grew larger and larger as it approached. Her auburn hair whipped in the harsh wind.
Have they discovered us?
Her vision shook and a crack resounded in the air, deafening her for an instant.
“Come to me!” she called to the boy.
She touched his back with her hand as he came, and then radiant light blinded her.
Julieth’s body thrust back as ethereal gasses burned her flesh, ripping through her body. She hurtled to the red soil and cried out. Hot pain surged in her chest and back as she struggled to stand.
she thought while realizing she didn’t hear the boy’s voice.
Julieth forced back the pain and braced herself, standing. Darkness swelled in her sight, but soon she made out the silhouette of the mountains in the distance and a form standing before her.
“Bayne?” she asked, stumbling toward it.
No, it is too tall for him.
She stopped, fear raking through her. It hunched over, its form slowly more distinguishable in her returning sight.
“Where… where am I?” a young man’s voice asked.
“Don’t come near us,” she warned, picking her bow off the ground and knocking back an arrow from her quiver in aim.
The man heeded her, but looked around in confusion. “Where is Asil? Where is the meteor?”
“Asil?” Julieth asked, seeing Bayne lying limp on the ground nearby, his chest rising and falling. Her back throbbed in pulsing pain. “The city of Asil was destroyed when the meteor came long ago,” she said. “It was here, but now this is a barren land.” She watched the young man, her arrow cocked at him as he looked around in disbelief. “And the remnants of the meteor are in the earth in the distance. You look as if you truly do not believe me. Where were you raised, that you do not know these things?”
The man rubbed his brow. “But they were just here,” he said. “My head is foggy.” A look of certainty came to his eyes. “What is the year?”
She needed to lose him and escape with Bayne, that or kill him and leave him here. “3906,” she said, watching him intently as he did not react.
“It was 3674 a moment ago. The meteor crashed through the sky.” He suddenly seemed to notice something beneath his shirt, touching it as he looked down.
Julieth recognized the vibrant marking the moment she saw its glow.
He is one of them.
She did not hesitate, only let the bowstring slip from her fingertips, its arrow shaft splicing toward his skull.
Before she loosed it, his hand moved before his head, right where the arrow shot. He clasped its shaft in his fist and pulled it away.
Julieth backed away from him, fear coursing through her chest and across her skin.
The man took a step toward her. “Hear me, please. I am from when the meteor crashed.”
Julieth cocked another arrow back in her bow, holding it steady in aim.
It won’t work against him,
she thought after seeing him pull the other arrow from the air,
but it is the only protection I have.
“I think I must have moved through time.” The man held still. “I am somehow sensing what will happen for miles around us, moments before the time actually comes. It’s coming in blips of energy in my mind, but I see it.”
“What do you see, and how can I know you won’t harm us?”
“A people a great distance from us are dying as a man with mechanical limbs leads warriors against them. These people fight, but are losing ground.”
Julieth stood beside Bayne, measuring whether she should lift the boy and try to escape, or attempt to flee alone. “If you were one of them, you would know that. Leave us, if you are who you say you are, and do not head in that direction.”
“I am Ivanus, and I cannot leave. I have no place to…” he stopped speaking, watching her with a look of awe on his face. “Step away from the boy. I cannot tell you what is going to happen. But you will not want to be near him.”
“What?” Julieth asked, stepping away from Bayne, though she didn’t know why she listened to Ivanus. A deep pain suddenly struck her chest and back as her sight went red. She opened her mouth to scream, but was in such pain she could not make a sound.
She fell to the ground, clenching earth with her hands and barely seeing Ivanus dragging Bayne’s limp body away from her. Her back quaked as something ripped from her flesh. It felt like a writhing serpent, moving, but still connected to her. A moment later another surge of pain struck her as another massive thing burst out of her back. A slimy substance oozed around her on the red soil. The pain receded as regular sight returned. Feathers blew in the wind away from her, covered in the same gooey substance on the earth around her body.
“You have wings!” Ivanus called out nearby. “Vast, beautiful wings. I didn’t know what they were when I saw them in my
What is he saying?
Julieth worked through the remaining pain, trying to pull together her thoughts. She could move the things protruding from her back, and could feel them as if they were her limbs.
What is going on? Do I really have wings?
She could believe it if she had somehow bonded with an essence, but had never seen wings in person before. All species of flight perished shortly after the meteor, except for one man who had been possessed by the essences. He was rumored to be part dragon, but she had never seen him.
Whatever struck me when Ivanus arrived, those must have been essences from his time, if he is telling the truth.
Julieth touched her chest where the things had entered her, and then reached around her back to feel for their markings. Her hands touched slime, and then the intricate patterns of fresh muscle and feathers. A shiver ran through her and she used the new muscles protruding from her back to curve her wings before her and into her sight. Their ivory white feathers were beautiful.
They are a part of me,
she thought in surreal wonder.
Julieth looked back at Ivanus.
Can I trust him?
she thought, approaching him and suddenly unafraid. Ivanus laid Bayne on the earth and walked away before she could tell him to.
“You are beautiful,” Ivanus said. “Is that what the markings do, give people physical and mental traits? Why would they do that to you, and then do
Julieth kneeled and touched Bayne’s back, noticing the color markings of an essence seared in the top of his spine.
When will his ability manifest? Why has it not yet?
she wondered. “Are you really from the past?” she asked. “You do not know these things? I suppose it would explain a lot. And if these are new essences in us from the meteor, then they will kill us slower than the essences bonded with others, that have connected to multiple people since the meteor’s crash.”
“Kill us? Essences?” Ivanus exclaimed, genuine fear in his eyes.
He cannot be faking that,
Julieth thought. “Yes, they are the essences of planets long dead, their souls, I am told. And as you use your abilities given by them, your life-force will slowly drain away.” The realization washed over her that this was her fate now, too, but there was no way to remove them once they bonded with your flesh.
“Ivanus, the city you sense close by, is my own,” she spoke in desperation. “In blood its people are yours as well, because the few survivors of your city when the meteor came, fled to where my city is now. I must go back, to save my people, and I need you by my side. Before you came, my people had no essences or abilities and no chance to turn back our enemy, but with your
and my wings, my people might have a chance.”
Ivanus walked toward her. “I know nothing definitively of what has happened to me, and less about how to control it. And what can we do, a man who
things only seconds before they happen and a woman with wings? I cannot fight. I worked as a Stone-Smith in my city and have never wielded a weapon.”
Julieth looked at him. “You pulled an arrow from the air with your hands. Surely there is much in you that you may not know, but which will give us a chance. Besides, what else will you do? You do not know this time. Without help, you may perish.”
“And the boy?” Ivanus asked hesitantly. “He needs medical attention. A battlefield is not the place for a boy as injured as he appears.”
“Kaskal is the only city for a great distance. If he is to be healed, then that, my city, is the only place he
go. And besides, an essence has connected with his flesh as well. It will not allow him to die yet, at least not of natural causes, because it is so fresh in his body.”
Ivanus hesitated as wind cut around them.
Heat baked Julieth’s back. Somehow that heat invigorated her, giving her strength through the veins in her wings and drying the goop from their forms. “I am Julieth, and this is Bayne.” She held out her hand. “Will you help us fight for my people?”
Ivanus took her hand and embraced it with his own. “I will go there with you and do what I can. But I make no promises of if I will stay if your city falls.” He let go of her hand, looking over the barren landscape behind her and closing his eyes.
“What is it? Do you see something there?” Julieth asked.
“Your people need us quickly. If those wings allow you to fly, then you could move with speed, but how am I and the boy to join you?”
Julieth felt a surge of strength as she spread her vast wings, pumping them and lifting quickly into the air. Their muscles were warm against her back as she beat them and hovered in the sky above Ivanus and Bayne. She curved her wings in the rushing wind and soared upward away from them, then curved them again and dove. “They are strong,” she said while landing and stirring soil from the ground. “I could carry Bayne in my arms until we reach Kaskal.” She was desperate. There was no time. Grasping, she asked, “What if you rode my back?”
“It will work.”
Ivanus’s mind was registering the future again. It frightened Julieth that she could see his ability manifesting so easily. He walked behind her, going between her outstretched wings and clasping tight with his hands on her shoulders, holding his body close to hers.
“Hold on,” Julieth said, pumping her wings and lifting to the sky, then diving low and hefting Bayne’s limp body in her arms from the earth in a swoop.
Barren soil swept by beneath her as she flew, harnessing flight fully for the first time. She had never seen the planet in this way before. Shells of rusted out structures that once stood like titans on Solaris’s form carved the crimson earth below.
Wind made it hard to breathe, and her hearing lessened as it pounded her eardrums. Ivanus weighted down her back. If he could speak in the battering wind, he did not.
In the distance she saw the city of Kaskal and its broken buildings littering the earth. A tall, vast wall surrounded the city. Breach holes pocked its shell. Blasts of light burst across Kaskal, and though she remained far off, she knew what they were.
“He has guns!” Ivanus said loudly as he leaned close to her ear. “But his warriors do not!”
“Guns?” Julieth asked. “I have not heard of ‘guns’, but this man harnesses weapons that bear lightning to the world, destroying all that their energy touches!”
“They are guns! I remember them from my time, though I have never seen ones so advanced! What do we do with the boy if he does not awaken before we arrive?”
Julieth tried not to focus on the encompassing, beautiful feeling of her wings pumping air and the embrace of wind curling over them.
If I live, there will be time for that later.
It was as if the essences in her body wanted her to focus on her power, instead of the people and city she loved. “You are the one who can see within the city walls!” she shouted to Ivanus above the wind. “Where do you think I should set him down?”