A League of Atlantis Reborn Colonies novellette
By S Shane Thomas
Copyright 2016 by S Shane Thomas
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of S Shane Thomas except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
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“Starblasted it! You Nefilim dog. I was part of the volunteer corps you know!” the mark cried.
“Listen human. We could swap war stories. I was there too.” Subahu’s massively muscled humanoid form changed shape to an average build, his head sprouted feathers and a raptor’s beak. Talons dug into the cheap floor tiles. The tiny quarters that were tucked into the sprawling development, just outside the colony’s original walls, held dozens of marks like this one.
“One of the bird Nefilim? You killed Dobbs! You son of a…” the mark balled his fists. His dust covered faced streaked on one cheek as a single tear fled watery eyes.
“Easy there friend. We are all on the same team now. As a matter of fact, you and I have a mutual acquaintance, Leonard.” Subahu flexed his wings and the tips touched both walls in the cramped living quarters. He retracted them to fold neatly up on his back.
Subahu watched the mark’s expression wash from confused anger to cold fear. Rightly so; people that borrowed money from Lenny and had trouble paying found themselves with unsavory company and physical impairments they hadn’t had before. The mark, a human with a waist like a barrel, fell back into the old chair he occupied.
“Oh… Lenny. I was just about to call him. Listen, I’m sorry. I just got back yesterday. The Southern continent is a big place. The trip took a couple weeks longer than I anticipated. I blew through every cent I borrowed…”
Subahu spread his fingers, then clenched two fists, knuckles cracking. “Leonard is a patient human. He has waited for this day to come, and it has. He is patient, but there are limits to his patience. Beyond that limit, Leonard calls me.”
“Listen mister…” the mark reached his hand out and pursed his lips, trying to remember a name the enforcer had not shared.
“My name isn’t important. Cash flow is important. As you may know, the key to maintaining a decent state of living is,” Subahu paused here and rolled his gaze about the room, regretting the eagle head’s lack of human expressions, and sighing, “is maintaining decent a return on one’s investments. Leonard wants to help people like you. People who have big ideas, people who have talents, people who promise to pay their debts on time, with the agreed interest.”
“He’s a generous man.” The mark was sweating through his thin cotton shirt. “I just need to take what I’ve found to the right fence. I know I can pay him back and then some! I found an Anki dwelling. Lucky for me none of your kind where hanging around.”
“The time for finding a fence has passed.” Subahu crossed the tiny one room dwelling, cracking tiles under his footfalls. He stabbed one finger at a calendar on the wall near the kitchenette. “Ah look, it’s even marked here.”
The mark began weeping. He rose to his feet, shaking, hands held up in front of him. “Listen pal, hang on a minute. Let me show you what I found.” He hustled to the bed in the far corner, putting the living area between them. He knelt and reached under the bed.
Subahu took the opportunity to close the distance while the mark’s back was turned. This was not his first collection.
“I’ve got something for Lenny right here…” he straightened up and spun about with an energy rifle on his shoulder, but gasped in surprise to find the giant form of the bird man to his blind side rather than in his sights.
One muffled crack later, Subahu laid the mark on his bed. “Looks like another scavenger hunt,” the shapeshifter told himself. He gave the mark a hard stare. The mark snored. Subahu knelt and pulled an old chest from under the bed. He recognized the metal. Anki made. “Looks like you found something after all. I’d hate to have to rob you blind today, just to come back for payment tomorrow.”
Subahu shifted forms, back to the giant muscled humanoid shape he reserved for Leonard’s borrowers. The chest was too heavy to fly with. He opened the lid and the orange-pink glow of gemstones brightened the dim quarters. He nudged the mark with an elbow.
“If you hadn’t tried to blow me away, I’d have left most of these for you. These gems are worth a fortune! Your LARC officials, just haven’t spread the word. You’re better off without them, they have adverse effects on biological beings anyhow. You penniless moron!”
Subahu took the transit tube. He rode into LARC1’s inner city, where the buildings rose nearly two hundred stories. They also plunged nearly two hundred stories. Most of the colony’s underground section was industrial- papermills, waste treatment, textile mills, hydroponic farms of Earth produce, factories, and 3D printing facilities. There was also a neighborhood where guys like him and Leonard could earn a decent living off the desperate.
The grime in this neighborhood, that was once a starship, was clearly older than the low income dwellings outside the colony. This place had filth from their decades’ long journey from Earth to Nibiru. Subahu chuckled softly to himself. The top decks looked so polished and clean, one would never suspect there was a grimy underbelly to the human settlement.
“Hey Lenny,” Subahu greeted as he pushed through the door, Anki chest under one burly arm. “I got something for you, it isn’t cash.”
Lenny did not look up from his task. He stood behind a bar and busied himself refilling the fancy liquor bottles from the cheap stuff off the bottom shelf. He was a slight man, and balding. “Did my friend give it up willingly or did you take payment the hard way?”
“That moron? I kicked in his door, and after the guy craps himself, he tries to fry me with an energy rifle. Probably didn’t return it to his Volunteer Corps sergeant after Free Day,” Subahu set the trunk on the bar and sat on a stool.
“Free Day? Is that what you guys call it?” Leonard shook his head. “That dirtbag was with me in VC all-right. Did you ice him?”
“Nah. I dropped him with a sucker punch. How many morons actually think they can play like they are reaching for the money and then get a shot off?”
Subahu shook his head, then a twinkle lit his eyes. He double checked the booths to be sure they were alone. “Check these out! I haven’t seen these since the Anki days, when you primates still wore loincloths.” He opened the chest and Leonard was illuminated by the glowing gems. The thin loan shark’s jaw dropped.
“Are these…?” Leonard stammered.
“You bet. These are the very gemstones that started all of civilization. Turned Pneuma into Anki. Don’t touch them, I heard one of the eggheads in Zimmerman’s lab turned himself into a shapeshifter with one. You could end up growing another arm or a tumor.”
“Might be worth the risk! If I could change shape like you, I wouldn’t have to lend cash and pour drinks to get by.”
“ I was happy guarding that empty palace on the cliffs. I felt like a little leaf, part of a great tree- the Anki empire. Now I feel like a dried out leaf, tumbled around the ground by any little breeze. I can be anything… But how the stars am I supposed to feel like I’m a useful part of something bigger than this!” Subaho gestured to indicate their lending operation.
“ Hey, with this pile of gems- you, me, and that moron you took them from, are all going to be rich!” Leonard cracked a yellow smile.
“That’s good for you guys, but money can’t buy me a purpose. I existed for thousands of years with a mission that identified me. Now I can be anything and do almost anything, except belong to a cause. There’s a lot of Nefilim who keep doing their daily thing in Beltyre and in the Underworld who don’t give a second thought to free will. I need a cause.” Subahu slammed the drink Leonard slid to him. “Thanks. I don’t know why I feel like this. Other Nefilim are cool with our condition.”
Leonard poured another and Subahu drank. “You poor robot! You haven’t learned about self-interest, being a slave for so long. Most folks are happy scratching out enough cash to live on. You need a cause? I know somebody who is looking for someone like you.” The loan shark keyed his slate’s touchscreen for a minute, then Subahu’s device beeped to acknowledge the incoming message. “Some of your people are spouting the same starblasted thing as you.”
“Yeah?” Subahu cocked an eyebrow.
“Some Nefilim escaped to Haran with the human deserters on Free Day. They’ve got something big planned.” Leonard leaned in close, his voice barely a whisper. “Just don’t forget your ol’ friend Lenny when power changes hands, eh?”
Subahu took a walk. His home was not in the colony. Nefilim visited LARC1, but their homes had always been elsewhere. A few short years with human neighbors and freedom of thought and action wouldn’t change that. He was in no mood to rush, so he set out to walk, the slow human way, on humanoid legs. A couple of miles through the colony, then a couple more through the forest. Subahu hoped his foul mood would pass by mid-day.
Subahu walked past another transit tube entrance. Since Leonard’s bar, the Underdog, was near the bottom of the colony, below the military and scientific complexes that altered Nibiru’s skyline, he walked up a steep incline back toward the surface.
Nefilim who escaped from Nibiru during Free Day? Subahu thought about Leonard’s offer and the contact number he had stored in his slate. If they left on Free Day, they don’t have free will. Perhaps there are some Nefilim out there who retained their given forms and follow the instructions of the ancient Anki.
Those two Pneuma turned Anki, raised by humans here in LARC1, are not cut from the same cloth as the ancient Anki that ruled the galaxy before their last journey.
Most of his kind avoided LARC1, a constant reminder of their origins. Subahu enjoyed reminiscing on the days of conquest, back on Earth, when men hardly understood tool-craft, before they formed a society.
The lunch hour crowded his walk. Humans poured out of their workstations within the various manufacturing facilities, the waste treatment plant, and the power generating station. His appearance was humanoid, but the workers seemed to feel the difference between them and gave the shapeshifter a wide berth. A couple of them, Volunteer Corps veterans who fought during Free Day spat on the ground and muttered comments as he passed.
Why do I mingle with these primates? These short lived beings wouldn’t hesitate to take over an Anki world. Why should they care who laid claim? They probably won’t live long enough to see the old masters return. Freedom? Laughable. These people swamp themselves in material possessions, and spend all forty of their healthy adult years climbing out of debt from their unnatural lifestyle. If only these humans understood that they worked so much of their lives because the Nefilim had sculpted their society to mine precious metals and Anki gemstones from Earth. Their Stone Age ancestors enjoyed far more leisure than these drones who gave Nefilim their freedom.
Subahu kept a fast pace uphill until skylights in the artificial ceiling indicated that he was now only a few stories below the surface. The rumble of water through the colony’s hollow central shaft was loud enough to mask the sound of the two shugarra clad humans falling into step next to Subahu. His reflexes tensed, then he relaxed and offered them a curt nod. Something about the shorter human was familiar.
“Nice day to stroll the undercity,” said the tall one. His blue cargo pants and black boots confirmed that he was part of the Colonial Security Force’s Shugarra Corps. Most who wore the silver device were, although some shugarra were seen on people in lab coats, usually in the practice fields outside the colony.
Are these guys on the beat, or are they looking for me? “This place gets me nostalgic for Atlantis,” Subahu replied.
“Those were the glory days,” a familiar voice said. It was the shorter officer.
This must be Nabu. The Nefilim who survived by fusing his remains with a human. Subahu eyed the man, his features looked human, although the silver mask and cape-like wings of the shugarra obscured his true features. “Nabu?” he asked.
“You got it. We can smell our own. Please, call me Officer Rogers. This is my partner, Officer Dershell,” the shorter shugarra corps man said.
Subahu’s senses heightened. Introductions implied they were looking for him. Leonard’s mark must have called them to report an assault. If he were smart, he left out the bit about the gemstones, Leonard intended to share the wealth with its finder. He was honest and somewhat ethical for an undercity loan shark.
“Have you been over to Mill Street this morning?” Officer Rogers asked.
“ I can’t read English, not sure what those signs say. I like to stay in the undercity so I can do a bit of sightseeing without disturbing the sheeple- I mean timid humans- up above.” Subahu pretended to examine one as he continued walking, flanked by the officers. He was actually looking for the best avenue of escape.
“You seen this guy?’ Officer Dershell showed the screen of his slate to Subahu.
Subahu shrugged. “Sure. Looks like a human. You know, all of you primates look the same to me. This guy looks just like any other hairless monkey. I had an eagle head you know, that’s easy to tell apart. Maybe that’s why the Anki had no need for naming us.”
“Funny you should mention an eagle head. Our friend here was assaulted by a Nefilim who meets your description and shapeshifts into someone with an eagle head,” Officer Rogers replied.
It’s time to run, they may give up easier if I don’t hurt them. Subahu gave Officer Rogers-Nabu a puzzled look, then leapt three stories up and burst through the skylight and into the uppercity’s street. He shook broken glass from himself and looked around.
Startled humans dropped briefcases, and shopping bags to point at him and whisper to their companions. Subahu saw an entrance to a transit tube and dashed for cover. If the officer’s couldn’t jump that high, their shugarra wings would carry them up. The shapeshifter paused in the entryway. Silver wings burst through the skylight. He shifted forms to that of a small human girl, he had practiced this one specifically to blend in. Then his small form wove into the crowd awaiting the transit car.
A couple people pointed and remarked about the Nefilim shapeshifting. It was a rare enough sight to elicit attention in the colony. Subahu’s form was about half the height of a grown human and disappeared before the officers descended into the transit tube’s waiting area.
“CSF! Where is the Nefilim? We are looking for a shapeshifter!” Officer Dershell cried from the transit tube entry. The two silver masked officers raced down the stairs and into the crowd.
The transit car arrived and Subahu followed the crowd into a compartment. From a window near the door, he watched as Officer Rogers-Nabu searched among the people still on the platform, while Officer Dershell boarded the car ahead of Subahu’s. The transit car doors slid shut and the train sped off. One down, one to go. Subahu found a crumpled newspaper stuffed under a seat and sat. He tried folding it into a paper shuttle, an activity he imagined a human child might endeavor in.
At the next stop Subahu didn’t even glance up, feigning interest in the paper. He didn’t need to look up though, he could hear Officer Dershell asking each passenger to make eye contact, one by one. While his disguise allowed Subahu to blend with humans who weren’t paying him attention, all Nefilim had solid black eyes. Fortune smiled upon him. By the time the officer reached Subahu, the transit tube was slowing to its next stop.
“Hi sweetheart,” Officer Dershell said to Subahu. “Can you show me your pretty eyes?”
Subahu shook his head and feigned concentration on the paper.
“Please? It’s official CSF business.”
The transit car doors slid open. A couple passengers got up to leave. Subahu raised his face to meet Dershell’s- and leapt from the seat into his midsection, tackling the man. The pair tumbled into the passengers departing the car and Subahu rolled onto his feet. He recognized the neighborhood and dashed toward the end of the old colony, nearest the forest and his home beyond.
Subahu heard Officer Dershell’s calls for everyone to freeze and face him even as he shapeshifted into an average sized humanoid male figure and casually walked away. The lunch time crowds allowed him to blend in. A couple of blocks later and he was strolling the boardwalk headed toward the forest beyond the colony. Dershell’s cries faded and disappeared. That was close. I wonder if Nabu can report me to Marduk.
Life for the free Nefilim on Nibiru wasn’t completely free. Their regent Marduk, Nabu’s father, had been busy blending Anki behavioral codes with human laws to guide Nefilim life. Subahu heard tales of Nefilim incarcerated for various crimes from time to time. Beltyre, the mountain city, was much more in line with Marduk’s laws than his home, the Underworld.
It’s best to lay low for a while, Subahu told himself. He shapeshifted into an Anzu bird. Its eagle head, wings, and claws paired with a lion’s muscular feline frame. He would blend with the pack in the ancient part of the forest until things cooled off. Perhaps they would invite him to join them in a hunt.
Subahu tore into the flesh of the warm ungulate. The tree climbing goats that the human colony raised had escaped into the forest again. He wondered why the long days spent as a predator had been more fulfilling than his life mingling between human and Nefilim societies. Perhaps it’s a sense of brotherhood, the pack accepts me unconditionally. In the human world, working for Leonard pits me against the Shugarra Corps. In Nefilim society, Marduk’s laws are no better. The old days are gone. Marduk promised that free will would not disrupt our sacred obligations, but it did.
Subahu thought back to his last day guarding the Cliffside palace. He was in his traditional form then, despite the Tablet of Destiny unlocking his free will. Shapeshifting during his duty hours seemed like abandoning his uniform. The Anki gave him the form of a man with the head, wings, and talons of an eagle. Who was he to second guess the shape of a guardian?
His eagle eyes spotted their approach long before his partner. Bearing her wolf’s head, she smelled them only after the craft touched down. It was a human shuttle. This planet may be their home now, but the palace belonged to the Anki. He flexed wings, stiff from long hours in the palace turret and took flight. The pilot landed his craft a few miles off from the site.
The Free Day battle had been fought only a month before. Memory of the other sentinels who shared guard detail before the battle still pained him to recollect. He saw flashes of their broken bodies. The others were merely drones. There was no sense missing someone one who was only the imitation of life. Free Day made them individual, those who died for the struggle did so without personal awareness. There was nothing there, so there is nothing to miss. He repeated the words Marduk and his human cronies told him during his reprogramming. These humans are not the enemy unless they attempt to enter the palace.
“Hello sentinel,” a familiar voice said from the shadow of the shuttle’s entry. Marduk, regent of the Nefilim in the Anki’s absence, emerged. “How have you and your partners been holding up since the change?”
“Hello Marduk,” Subahu briefly knelt and lowered his head in deference to his regent. “We are so few now, after Free Day. Only I and the wolf remain to enjoy freedom. We spend our hours on vigil, as before.”
“Your loyalty is commendable.” Marduk patted Subahu on the back. The pair of Nefilim faced the palace Subahu had protected since leaving Earth in the days when Sumer was the only literate society on the planet.
“Since Free Day, have you given any thought to the technology within the palace? There are marvels the Anki abandoned that my comrades,” Marduk gestured to a group of human scientists who poked their heads out the shuttle entrance like timid mice, “would love to study.”
“Anki devices have not consumed my attention, Marduk. My diligence in protecting this palace is unwavering. I speak for my partner as well. We have been given the freedom of will and we have decided that we are free to resume our sacred duty.”
Marduk laughed. Subahu gave his regent a questioning look. Is he enjoying himself? He had the vaguest recollection of Anki laughing when amused, and of humans in Sumer laughing when something amused them. We are free to experience emotion now, Subahu reassured himself.
“I’ve brought your replacements,” Marduk said. “You and your partner have performed an admirable service keeping this place and its wonders safe since the Departure.”
“Replacements?” Subahu allowed resentment to fill him. He was free to have emotion now, and the sensation welled up, and threatened to overcome him. “These fragile, temporary beings cannot offer this palace the protection the Anki intended!” he screamed, spittle flew from his eagle beak.
“The mission of protection has ended,” Marduk replied, he calmly gestured at the humans. “Theirs is a mission of understanding. The Anki created things with their imagination and magic. These humans have science, given by Ninma, one of our own. She was created by the Anki to discover. These men will unlock secrets the Anki can create. What better way to protect the Anki legacy than to truly understand it?”
“Science?” Subahu spat on the ground. “These humans disrupt our masters’ world and their palaces, weapons, and tools for the sake of curiosity? The Anki are supreme, we protect their possessions and await their return. What of our mission is hard to understand?”
“We are free now. I too thought free will would not inhibit the way I fulfilled my sacred duties. However, through interaction with these beings, I have come to think that the Anki would never have anticipated science developing into a cultural phenomenon that could create a society to rival their own empire,” Marduk said.
“Rivals! Rivals of the Anki. Our masters’ rivals. Our enemies. This palace needs protection now, more than ever before,” Subahu snapped. Defying Marduk would be suicide, but who was he, outside of his duty?
“ You are welcome to question my commands, even ponder their relevance within our society. However I have come to enforce the changing of the guard. Subahu- you and Tataka are relieved of your sacred obligation to protect this palace.”
Subahu’s body trembled violently. Despite his rage, the shapeshifter forced himself to bend a knee once again in submission to the will of his Regent. “Where will I go now Marduk?”
“I have commissioned construction of villages in the Underworld and forbidden human exploration therein. You will join thousands of your brothers and sisters there and make a new home and a new life for yourself.”
“As you command,” Subahu forced the acceptance through a clenched beak.
The wolf guardian, could not accept Marduk’s commands. Marduk had used the Tablet of Destiny to render her temporarily inert. Her unconscious form was draped over his shoulder as Subahu approached his regent for a farewell.
“Will she be…” Subahu struggled for the right word.
“Don’t worry. Our sister Tataka will be cared for. She is not the only one who cannot cope with the change. The humans have a science of the mind. I have reviewed cases of their healers working with patients until a new peace and direction gives the sufferer purpose. She will be safe and taken care of, in Beltyre.”
His Anzu bird brothers broke his recollection. Blood on his beak and face was cooling. His feline belly was full and he graciously left the kill for the real Anzu birds to consume. He returned to the nest the pride kept, high in the ancient trees, which rose far beyond the young forest. Beyond the cover of clouds, he returned to the empty room he claimed. None of the real Anzu birds would enter the space. Scorched spots from energy blasts, slashes in the walls, and blood stains gave their reasons. A hammock and his travel pack were the only items that indicated the presence of a sentient being.
Subahu took his humanoid form with wings, an eagle head, and talons. A good fit, he didn’t not want to startle the Anzu birds with the presence of a human, the face and feathers pacified them. He pulled his slate from the pack and stared at the number for Leonard’s contact on Haran. What could Nefilim who escaped during Free Day possibly be doing on war-torn Haran? Marduk’s new life and direction for the Nefilim, a fledgling society in the shadow of a human colony, offered no sense of unity for the shapeshifter. Some of the Nefilim were powerful enough to ignore the Tablet of Destiny. Could these beings on Haran be among them? Subahu hit the key to connect.
An old familiar face soon filled the slate’s display. “Well, it looks like Leonard has found someone who misses the old days,” Enzu, once the god of Earth’s moon to the people of Sumer, said with a smile. “Have you taken a name?”
“Subahu. Leonard tells me we both share nostalgia for the time before humans ruled Nibiru,” Subahu leaned in close to his display.
“Well Subahu, Ningal and I had a bit more freedom during our long years than the Anunnaki, and no love for Marduk, who stole Niburu’s regency from us. During that time we coped with the loss of our ancient masters. When the humans found our Zagmuku, we had procured a means to operate the vessel.”
“You influenced the human deserters that flew the Zagmuku away on Free Day?” Subahu asked. From his vantage in the war torn colony streets, he had paused to watch its departure and wonder how its guardians had been overcome.
“Ningal and I came to the conclusion that we might never see our old masters again. We Nefilim were created to serve Anki interests. Without Anki we have no true purpose. Haran is full of a people who have the potential to become Anki, if only their society does not cull them during transition. The humans we brought to Haran have done a fine job disrupting the Pneuma way of life, and have given us time to cultivate a new ruling class.”
Enzu backed away from his slate revealing what surrounded him. Subahu blinked hard. Nostalgic pride filled him at the sight. Behind Enzu’s shoulder, dozens of Pneuma trained at combat. Their golden skin flecked with spot of red, or black, or a dull yellow, or green, or purple. Subahu was stunned. These youths on Haran… They would soon grow into Anki.
“How can I serve?” Subahu said.
Subahu puzzled over the gems. Since aligning with Enzu and Ningal a couple years ago; his mission, code named Rakshasa, had been to gather information. Not the hands on work he had grown accustomed to back when he was Leonard’s hired muscle. He had only recently returned from shapeshifting into an insect and listening in at one of Admiral Grunden’s Colonial Security Force meetings. He keyed in a report, then noticed the package.
Pneuma were pouring into a new city about an hour’s shuttle flight out of the LARC1 colony. Was he going to liberate some to grow into Anki? It’s nice to be part of a cause again, but living with a bunch of people who I have to raise and then obey sounds like a step in the wrong direction. He opened a connection request to Enzu. Seconds later, the familiar bronze toned face smiled a greeting.
“Subahu, I just received your CSF report. Your espionage work has been invaluable. By the delivery I see you holding, you may have guessed we’ve got something new in mind,” Enzu steepled his fingers.
“Am I to make Anki here on Nibiru?” Subahu peered in the pouch of gemstones, hoping to conceal the expression of distaste at the notion.
“We have something else in mind for you, my Rakshasa. Recruits in Beltyre have joined the Rakshasa cause, they will handle espionage and engagement for now. This little project I have in mind for you will occupy all your time until Ningal and I can analyze the results.”
Subahu sighed in relief, “I’m glad it won’t be to make Anki. I don’t envy your task there on Haran. It seems like you are running a high school.” He held the pouch open and peered in. “What do I do with these?”
“While we’ve got plenty of Anki now, I’ve received stories of a human scientist developing shapeshifting abilities after prolonged exposure to a gemstone. I’d like to see what happens to various other species. You will dedicate all your time and resources to capturing the young of Nibiru’s animal species and exposing them to the Anki gemstones.”
“What could happen to them? Has Ninma ever studied such thing? What do you hope to achieve?” The questions flooded Subahu’s mind and slipped out his mouth. He was intrigued to say the least.
“If any creatures survive the change, they may exhibit unique abilities that could benefit our cause. Developing a new weapon and a new adversary could mark a tipping point once we decide to act out against the humans. Through our progress here we have uncovered two previously unknown variations in Anki. Green, Black, and Red Anki have been around since the original Anki Empire threatened Pneuma life on Haran before the dawn of humanity. Now youths in our care are turning purple and yellow. They display unique abilities and potential.”
“Perhaps if modern Anki show variety, then other creatures, enhanced by the gemstones, would develop power that could be beneficial to the cause,” Subahu concluded. “I’ll gather every life form that might make a suitable warrior.”
“Excellent. We look forward to your progress report.” The slate’s screen blipped out of communication mode.
Subahu took the afternoon to list out every species on Haran that offered warrior potential. Would a gemstone infused-being have the power to control me like an Anki would? He supposed he would know soon enough.
His cottage lay on the outskirts of an Underworld village beneath the ancient forest. Weather was consistently beautiful below the surface. It was the reason Nefilim had chosen to inhabit the expansive cave network. Its caverns and passages connected nearly the entire world in a web-like maze illuminated by small crystals naturally embedded in the walls and ceiling. Human explorers discovered an outpost under another continent before Free Day, but after the event, the Nefilim claimed the entire territory and forbade further exploration. Some Nefilim never returned to the surface since their liberation from the Tablet of Destiny.
Several days after his conversation with Enzu, Subahu climbed off the roof of the barn he constructed, attached to his cottage. Simply performing these animal experiments out in the open and without a cover wouldn’t do. He would tend to his experiments while raising a herd of tree climbing goats. The outside of his barn was carefully constructed to allow the five fingered beasts to scale its walls and access the trees beyond. The species was chosen for its docile temperament. He simply need to identify a pack’s alpha female and keep it confined in the barn for a few days, then the entire herd would congregate around the shelter for meals and evening rest.
Subahu appeared to all his law abiding neighbors to be a prosperous goat farmer. After less than a month, the barn’s attic held a dozen atrocities. Juvenile animals lay twisted and malformed, gemstones bound to their necks on leather collars. In weeks a healthy young animal would mutate and then whither under the influence of the gemstone.
Subahu had grown to despise the cruelty of the tests, but pressed on. The possibility of a species becoming enhanced could give Enzu’s growing army a formidable power advantage.
The hope of an enhanced creature dwindled. Only the strongest predatory animals were chosen for tests and Subahu had gone through all the largest, fiercest, beasts except the Anzu birds, with whom he felt a kinship. As he provided each of the suffering experiments a merciful, quick end, he resolved to gather an Anzu cub and be through with these starblasted experiments.
The following day, Subahu took the form of an Anzu and visited the pack nested in the towering pines of the ancient forest. Luck was on his side. A mother Anzu had died giving birth. The feline birds had pulled her corpse out of their nest and let it drop to the forest floor. The cub was next. Subahu lightly clamped upon the back of its neck and carried it out of the nest. Gliding on wings, each twice the length of a man, Subahu’s cat form settled upon the forest floor, away from the cub’s mother.
“I regret I must do this, little one, but your life would not have lasted beyond the day anyhow,” Subahu consoled the feline, but the words were really reassurance for himself.
The Eagle winged kitten purred and rubbed its feathered head against Subahu while the shapeshifter affixed a leather collar with an Anki gemstone to its neck.
A noise in the canopy overhead caught his attention. “Howdy,” a small voice offered in greeting.
Cupping the Anzu kitten in one arm, Subahu shapeshifted into his winged humanoid form, wary of the intrusion. “Who is out so deep in the forest?”
A rustle of leaves and a blur of green produced a small primate. The humans called this species Liberty monkey, and this little fellow looked barely past weaning. Its curious brown eyes reminded him of the humans. The monkey took a few steps forward and offered the Anzu kitten a piece of half eaten fruit, squished in its tiny fist.
Subahu thought that if he weren’t so hairy, and were wearing cloths, he would be mistaken for a human. Perhaps this little fellow was the animal closest to conscious awareness. What if exposing the big predators was the wrong approach? Subahu stretched out a hand and smiled at the little monkey.
“How would you like to come home with us, little guy?”
The little monkey chittered and leapt onto Subahu’s arm. Subahu smiled at the unlikely pair, and held each one tight in the crook of an arm as he flew them home.
Landing in the goat filled barnyard, he shuddered at the sight of the unmarked graves. Subahu dismissed his fear for the pair he held and forced a sense of optimism. Life here, however brief, was certainly longer than the Anzu kitten would have had. The little monkey seemed unable to fend for himself also, Subahu assured himself.
The little monkey eyed Subahu warily as the shapeshifter approached it with a gem on a leather collar. “Easy there little guy, this is part of the arrangement.” He extended the collar slowly to the primate, who screeched and clutched the leash at the last second. Subahu jerked his empty hands back in surprise.
The little primate climbed the rafters and clutched the leash in both hands, staring at the gemstone. Then in a sudden bob of the head, he bit into the leather, tearing a chunk free and chewing greedily.
Subahu gasped. The gemstone was attached to the portion that was in the monkey’s mouth! Subahu scrambled up the rafters after the little primate and clutched the monkey to his chest as he dropped down to the floor. Careful not to hurt the little green animal, he pried a finger in its mouth and peered inside. Empty. The Liberty monkey had eaten its gemstone.
Subahu waited for the gemstone to pass. The Liberty monkey and the Anzu bird did not sicken as the other animals had. Subahu’s timidity forgotten, he named the Anzu kitten Valmiki and the little monkey Hanuman.
“Where’s that gemstone Han?” Subahu asked, washing his hands after another day sifting through droppings.
“I don’t know,” Han replied. He gazed at Subahu with glowing orange-pink eyes and smiled.
Subahu gasped. Something changed the monkey’s eyes, has that gemstone become a part of him? “What?” Was all he managed to reply. Subahu was stunned. He lowered himself slowly to a seated position on the floor.
Valmiki’s small eagle head nuzzled his leg.
“What did he say?” Subahu muttered.
“I don’t know,” Valmiki chirped in a sing song bird’s voice.
Every mission Subahu performed lasted a couple days, maybe only a couple hours. Hanuman and Valmiki were his little charges. For months the shapeshifter tended the Anzu kitten and the juvenile Libery monkey. Nefilim had no children, and were created as fully aware adults. Subahu’s rearing methods were simple and patient, gleaned from books.
“What do I do once the panel comes off?” Valmiki asked. She stood up on her hind quarters and peered into circuitry and wiring.
“Quietly getting the panel off and back on again is the hard part. Short circuiting the console is easy.” He leaned on Valmiki’s wing and shoulder and pointed to two wires. “Touch the bare wires together once, then press the keypad.”
Valmiki finished bypassing the electronic security lock and worked quickly to reassemble the door. Subahu nodded his approval. The Anzu kitten would grow into a fine spy or soldier! Valmiki took to training like it was second nature. Her mind was sharp, the changes from the gemstone proved to be mostly cognitive. Enzu believed that as the kitten reached maturity, more abilities would manifest, as they did when Pneuma youths made the transformation into Anki.
Hanuman showed some of the mental aptitude that his companion displayed. However, Subahu noted that the young primate seemed like he could not keep a plan in mind for longer than a minute or two before becoming distracted. Subahu took a slow, long breath, steeling his patience. He exhaled and forced a smile.
“Alright Han,” He said, “Let’s see how you handle the panel and its internal components.”
The little green monkey boy stood in front of the panel. His orange eyes glowed as he locked his gaze on the panel. His tail fished into a pocket of his trousers, a necessity since Han hadn’t grown fur after his exposure to the gemstone. The prehensile tail pulled a multi-tool from the pocket and Han began unscrewing. By the time he had the final one loose, the little green boy was balanced on one foot while both hands and one thumbed foot finished removing loose bolts.
Subahu huffed a sigh of relief. So far, so good, monkey boy. Now you just need to stay focused. “You’ve made excellent time Hanuman, can you remember how to disengage the locking mechanism?”
Han set the panel aside but when he rose, his confused expression filled Subahu with dread. Han placed a palm flat against the wall next to the panel. The boy cocked his head to the faint sound of a goat’s braying. Then, with a twinkle in his eye, Han sprouted a mischievous smile and leapt out the window.
“All right Valmiki, let’s settle in for some reading time, and then lunch.” Subahu walked to the open window and gazed at Han, who played on the roof of the barn with a climbing goat. At times his mind was sentient, he could speak, use tools, and even do a bit of problem solving. Then the slightest distraction would turn the marvel back to a monkey.
Enzu and Ningal were optimistic about the boy’s progress. They insisted that Han’s age was that of a human toddler, and his attention span matched. Valmiki’s stunning progress may be attributed to the fact that Anzu birds are born with all the instinct they need to survive, so she reached mental maturity very early in comparison.
Subahu always maintained the eagle headed humanoid form around the children. Han seemed familiar with Subahu during interactions, but never like he recognized the shapeshifter. Subahu likened Han’s awareness of others to the human condition called Alzheimer’s disease.
“You know Valmiki, your monkey brother is easily distracted,” Subahu confided. “I’m glad you turned out brighter, I’ve always shared a kinship with your species.”
“You think my face is pretty because it matches yours!” Valmiki’s tail whipped about, a sign she was in the mood for teasing. “If you looked like a monkey, I would have to fix lunch alone while you climbed the barn with Han.”
“Perhaps. Do you think Han will ever learn to focus as you have?” Subahu rummaged through his pantry while they spoke.
Valmiki placed a paw on a stack of parenting books. “Every child is different,” she quoted. “Some children focus on developing motor skills while others develop communication skills.”
Subahu smiled at the kitten. How would I deal with Hanuman if my little Valmiki weren’t around to remind me of patience?
The shapeshifter laid out the lunchtime meal while Valmiki flew up to the barn roof to coax Hanuman to come in for a meal.
Subahu frowned at the little green boy as he took a seat, but the innocent smile he got in return melted the remainder of his frustration. Hanuman can’t control what he is any more than I can control what I am.
Watching Hanuman eat lifted Subahu’s spirits. In only a few short months, Hanuman had grown from his juvenile height of around eighteen inches to nearly four feet tall. Despite his toddler mental capacity, the boy had outgrown adults of his species. Subahu did not have to wonder how. Hanuman ate as much as a grown Nefilim, and still eyed Valmiki’s and Subahu’s portions greedily! His belly puffed out and felt rock solid for an hour after each massive meal.
Subahu pushed his half eaten food toward the boy. He imagined leading an army of brilliant Anzu birds into battle and when things looked grim, calling forth the towering monkey giant his little eater might grow into. If Han’s growth rate persisted, Subahu would need a larger cabin in a couple years.
The communication alert on Subahu’s slate chimed. Valmiki pounced on it like it were a mouse.
“Uncle Enzu!” she shrilled. The Anzu kitten nodded and purred. “Yes, I’ve been a good kitten. Subahu is teaching me to read!” Another vigorous head nod, “Well, Han’s trying… Look how big he grew!” Valmiki picked up and repositioned the slate to reveal Hanuman devouring the remains of lunch. He had claimed her leftovers after finishing Subahu’s portion.
Mouth stuffed, the boy gave a practiced salute.
Subahu took the slate from Valmiki and retreated to his private room in the back of the cottage.
“Those two are making outstanding progress.” Enzu clapped his hands. “I worried about the scope of this mission, but it would seem your impressive skill set includes parenting.”
“Valkimi is a delight. Little Hanuman pushes the limit of my patience. The human books on raising children suggest that all children are different.”
“You are better suited to the task than I. Anki adolescents are an unbearable burden. Much of their care must be delegated in order for Ningal and I to retain sanity.”
“To what do I owe this unexpected contact, Enzu?”
“We’ve made an important discovery while sifting through the data on the Zagmuku. Some of our humans have discovered the location of a stasis prison complex on Nibiru.”
Subahu gasped. “If it weren’t for the stasis towers, the LARC1 colony would never have learned to use shugarra, the world would be as it always had been. What sort of beings are held within?” Subahu racked his memory for additional alien species the Anki had collected during their testing and pre-conquest trials.
“This is a prison for two Anki. There were two outlaws, Enkara and Namtar, who sought to control the Anki Empire. They attempted to overthrow the council of elders and failed. They were sentenced to indefinite stasis.”
“This could change everything. Enkara and Namtar could help your Anki youths through their training. They could be figureheads to bind other Nefilim to our cause.” Subahu struggled to reign in his excitement.
“You and I think alike on the matter,” Enkara chuckled. “How about taking a break from babysitting and fetch them for me?”
Subahu emerged from his room in the back of the cabin to find Han warming up for their afternoon martial arts practice. The boy doesn’t seem to form intelligible memories beyond simple phrases, but he’ll never miss physical training. He supposed routine must be ingrained into him on a level separate from conscious memories.
Han began shadow boxing. His little fists blurred with speed. “Hold the mits?”
“Not today kiddo,” Subahu replied.
The monkey boy kept right at his practice, lunging in to practice the motion of a two leg takedown, followed by raising a foot straight overhead and smashing an axe kick unto the face of his imaginary felled opponent.
Subahu recalled the last time he left Han alone during the practice. The furniture had been torn to splinters. Maybe I should take him and leave the kitten to tend the goats, Subahu resolved. “Han, you’re riding with me. Valkimi, you stay and feed the goats at sun down.
The Anzu bird kitten lifted her head from the floor, she had been napping in the sunlight. “Okay Subahu. Are you sure Han won’t punch any holes in the shuttle?”
“I have an easier time getting shuttles repaired than explaining to the carpenter why all my tables and chairs have been destroyed.” He stroked Valkimi’s belly. “I’ve been sent on a very important mission. Please have the cottage tidy when I return, I’m going to have two Anki for company.”
Valkimi purred approval and padded Subahu’s forearm with paws that looked a bit more like hands with each day that passed. He knew she was following instinct and marking him with her scent glands. [_ This is what was really missing- a family, _] he mused.
The shuttle was not spacious. It was hardly larger than a two room cottage. From the cockpit Subahu heard the rapid breathing and thuds of Han striking the canvas duffle stuffed with rags that hung in the cargo hold. Perhaps he’ll become the super soldier Enzu dreams of. Hanuman might be the brute force and Valkimi might be the unstoppable strategist. Subahu heard Hanuman lay into his canvas opponent all afternoon and well into the night.
When Subahu set the shuttle to autopilot over the ocean, he checked on little Han. The makeshift punching bag had been knocked off its peg. Han looked to have fallen asleep while straddled atop it and mid punch. One little fist was buried in while he sucked the opposite thumb. I understand the affection toward Valkimi, but why does the sight of little Han sleeping make me feel the same way? The boy runs me ragged. But he looks so peaceful when he sleeps…
Subahu picked up the little warrior and nestled him into a bunk, first covering him in a blanket, then a loose mesh strap that served as a seat belt to sleeping passengers. The boy sleeps like a rock. Hopefully the little guy sleeps right through until morning when we get back.
Subahu’s coordinates came into range and the shapeshifter activated the flood light to get a visual check on the area. The installation looked like a strangely boxy hill. The jungle overran the entire area and reclaimed the exterior surface of the building in the process. There was no clearing, but part of the area seemed to consist only of brush so Subahu gently set the shuttle down. It took an unnerving minute for the weight of the craft to finish settling.
Lantern in one hand, machete in the other, Subahu cleared a path around the overgrown facility until he found an entrance. The door was engraved with, “Here rests Enkara and Namtar in stasis indefinitely, for treason against the Anki Empire.”
What did these two do to have their own people turn on them? Why should we trust them to lead new Anki? Subahu shook his head, as if the gesture would dismiss doubt. Enzu must feel that their crime against the old regime would be a welcome act with his new Anki, Subahu reassured himself.
It only took moments to negotiate his entry with the security device on door. Nefilim were loyal servants of the Anki Empire after all. The code for “routine maintenance” got him just about anywhere. The air inside was stale. Dust caked everything.
Subahu saw the stasis pods in the rear of the single room facility. He cleaned the dust off a table and three chairs. This is a big moment for the cause, not to mention a return to the old ways. He carried in water and rations from the shuttle for the Anki. Dust motes drifted about the air, some of the stale taste had been replaced with the sweet floral air from outside.
Subahu keyed a quick message to Enzu, “Opening stasis units now.”
“Reply to this message when you’ve filled them in on current events,” came Enzu’s reply.
Subahu keyed the command to disengage stasis around both standing pods. First, the dust fell off as the energy field dissipated. Two lithe figures stood motionless. One with leathery skin as black as ink, the other was as white as new paper. Their short arms crossed their chests as if they were entombed, tails curled about stubby legs. Long slender necks rose, then curved forward, allowing wedge shaped heads to rest upon pigeon chests. Subahu stared at the motionless figures as dust coalesced and slowly settled. Then their chests began to rise and fall, drawing slow breaths. The white Anki simply batted eyes, coming to alertness. The black Anki snarled and leapt from the chamber, stumbling with his first steps and touching one hand to the floor for balance. Black wings spread wide and flapped slowly, as if to stretch.
“Enkara?” the white Anki called out.
“I’m here Namtar,” Enkara replied. His black head snaked about, eyes wide, taking in the surroundings. “Judging by the condition of the room, we’ve served the sentence.”
The Anki embraced one another, necks entwined. Lovers, not just partners in crime against the Empire, Subahu noted.
Only after their long embrace did the white Anki, Namtar acknowledge Subahu. “Anunnaki, prepare us a feast, and pass word along that our palace is to be cleaned and restored.”
“I’ve prepared what food I can. If you would like to refresh yourselves please do. A lot has happened while you were in stasis.”
Enkara reassessed the room. “Judging by the poor upkeep, I assume this is not an Empire sanctioned release?”
“We Nefilim have awaited the return of the Anki Empire for millennia.” Subahu told of the Anki’s departure on Atlantis class vessels and the return of a human made imitation, the LARC1 colony. He described the war against humanity and the Free Day liberation from the tablet of destiny. Finally, he described Enzu’s ingenious efforts to rekindle the Anki Empire with new members of the species, and of Enzu’s hope for their assistance.
The pair of Anki picked at his rations and sipped canteen water while listening to his summary of events. When he had finished speaking, Subahu leaned back against the wall and looked at the pair, attempting to read their expressions.
After a long silence, Enkara cleared his throat. “After an extended absence, the talking primates of Earth built their own colonial starship and came here? Home to the very world their gods and founders of their society occupied? Then they alter the program of our automatons? Now, a couple of the more clever automatons use the primates to wage war on our primitive ancestors on sacred Haran? And Enzu and Ningal would like to give us a position as mentors?”
“I suppose so, from your point of view,” Subahu replied. He had not anticipated these two feeling resentment toward Enzu’s plan. “We work to revive the Anki Empire. Doesn’t that align with your ambitions?”
“You poor limited machines,” Namtar said. “We hardly blame you or another Nefilim for formulating such a plan. It’s noble that, despite your reprogramming, you seek to restore these worlds to their proper and rightful rulers. We could hardly expect the likes of Nefilim to devise a suitable plan without an Anki to supervise.”
Subahu began to feel a strange intuition, similar to when the mark pulls a gun instead of cash from a hidey hole. He readied his posture for trouble. Could he make a stand against an Anki? After Free Day he could, but what about everything he worked toward?
The moment’s hesitation after tensing his muscles must have given Namtar warning. She opened her serpentine mouth, and a frigid blast burst from between her dart-like teeth. Subahu felt the shock of the blast, and then lost sensation below his neck. He tucked his chin down to see that frost plastered him to the wall.
“Stay here automaton,” Enkara hissed. “After we’ve set the humans in their place and dismantled Enzu for his crimes against sacred Haran, I may come back and try to fix your programming. I have a feeling that good help is going to be hard to find now.”
Subahu struggled against his ice bonds as he heard the engines of the shuttle roar and then fade. “Hanuman!” he cried. Hopefully the boy has sense enough to keep out of trouble. Those two won’t be happy to learn what we’ve been up to with their gemstones.
Subahu railed against his ice prison, but his limbs were held fast by the ice and frost. He shuttered as cold seeped into his body, leaching away strength and heat. It was no wonder those two were sentenced to stasis by their own kind. Not exactly the get along type.
As he pressed against the frozen bonds, flexing each muscle one by one, hoping to discover a weak point in the ice, Subahu wondered what other powers the white Anki possessed. Enkara had the power to create devices with only a thought. LARC1’s famous colonist Pringar, a green Anki, had the power of persuasion. Enzu discovered that red Anki had telekinesis, purple Anki controlled illusions, and yellow Anki were healers. If I were a purple one, I could just transform this room to a sunny beach, Subahu mused.
Then an idea that should have been obvious occurred to him. The rakshasa changed shape, to a smaller version of himself, small enough to wiggle free of his ice bonds.
He ambled to the room’s entryway and gazed at the place where his shuttle had been. Thoughts of Enzu’s plan and Namtar and Enkara’s reaction rattled the shapeshifter to his foundations. He was doing the right thing! Those star blasted Anki were simply twisted… That was the reason their own kind trapped them in stasis thousands of years ago. Should they be seeking to resurrect the Anki Empire? What benefits could another political faction bring anyhow? The Nefilim were free now, they were welcome to wait around for their old masters to return, free to take part in human society too. He supposed this whole thing was just a power play. Control. Enzu had a vision of a greater world. Others join his cause. They create changes in the world to shift the balance of power. All for what? There was plenty of unused space between the worlds. Not like Earth, overpopulated in every tolerable climate.
Poor monkey, Subahu imagined the shocked expressions on Enkara and Namtar’s faces when Hanuman roused from sleep and discovered he wasn’t the pilot of the vessel. That boy’s martial arts skills might take them by surprise. Would Hanuman even feel threatened? His memory might not have formed a solid impression of the shapeshifter to know that it was someone else flying the ship. What if the boy assumed that one of them was Subahu? Well, at least the boy was polite, that might keep him out of trouble.
After staring at the sunset over the jungle canopy, and clearing his mind, Subahu began to tremble with rage. The ungrateful Anki had been frozen in stasis, and they attacked their rescuer, cursing the organization who found and freed them without a second thought. These were not the masters he wished would return order to the solar system. These two were no better than the mark who hoarded gemstones, looking out for only self-interests. He and Enzu made a mistake releasing them, a mistake he would mend. Subahu resolved to kill Enkara and Namtar.
As twilight began to give way to starlight, Subahu’s gaze focused on an approaching glimmer of light. Could that be a shuttle?
Had those two gotten lost? Not much had changed in shuttle technology from the days of their imprisonment until the final departure of the Anki Empire. Subahu resumed his full sized eagle headed form. He flexed wings and retracted them, anticipating a fight in the sky. As the shuttle set down, Subahu realized it was not his craft.
A wolf’s face smiled broadly, tongue lolled out to one side. “Subahu, it’s been a long time.”
“Tataka? Marduk took you to Beltyre. I tried reaching you a couple times, but first they wouldn’t allow visits, then you were gone with no record of a current address.”
“Aww. I missed you too, beakface.” Tataka embraced her former sentinel partner. “When I left their head doctor facility, Enzu found me and others like me. I’ve been stationed in Beltyre, recruiting Rakshasa among the Anunnaki in the mountain city. I thought better than mixing you up in it, since you seemed to accept free will readily.”
“That changed.” Subahu told of his own recent past and concluded with Enkara and Namtar’s escape. “Do you feel up to killing a couple of unworthy masters?”
“That’s why I’m here. Enzu knew about their mental instability, that is why only a single Rakshasa was sent. Now it’s up to us to neutralize them before they reveal our organization to LARC, or become a threat in their own right.”
Bolstered by the reunion with his oldest companion, Subahu flew the shuttle toward LARC1. Sensors detected his own shuttle’s approach a little over an hour ahead of them.
Subahu told Tataka about Valkimi and Hanuman. About the twisted failures that came before, and of his fondness for the pair of beings.
“Well, never in all our years of guarding that palace did I imagine you would be good at rearing young. Sounds like you had a swell time raising goats and children. Perhaps when the Anki Empire is reestablished, we can be lovers.” Tataka smiled a wide wolfish grin. “I can lead the Rakshasa security patrols and you can look after our offspring.”
“Offspring? How do you expect us to procreate?” Subahu was startled by the notion. Although he would not mind the company, he had always been fond of Tataka. Perhaps part of his need to belong stemmed from missing his companion, a single constant in their changing world.
“Shala and Ishkur made one by mistake on Free Day. Their vapor forms dissipated so much that when the two cloud Nefilim reformed, there was a third being. They left it with Ninma’s human consort, Dr. Zimmerman. Perhaps they were unaware of its sentience, and perhaps they simply did not care for the responsibility of parenthood.”
Subahu smiled. “Well if we kill these two and make it back to my cottage in one piece, we’ve got two adopted kids already. It wouldn’t hurt to do a bit of experimentation either I suppose.”
Smoke rose from the roof of the military building at the center of the LARC1 colony. Tataka wasted no time hiding their vessel, she set down on the roof of the science center, close to the battle raging between Enkara, Namtar, and the human shugarra corps. Fire, energy bursts, and agonized screams echoed through the corridors between the high rise buildings. Tataka adopted an eagle form similar to Subahu.
“It’s nice to be back into the thick of things with you,” Subahu said. “Thanks for saving me back there.”
Tataka nodded and leapt into the air.
Tataka flew straight at Enkara, who screamed out a lightning bolt, causing her to veer at the last second.
Subahu was eager for his chance at revenge, but he flew to his own stolen shuttle first, hoping to find Hanuman undisturbed. Subahu heaved out a sigh of relief. The little green monkeyboy was sound asleep, right where he was when Subahu left the shuttle back on the southern continent. He dashed to the control console and locked it out with a passcode to prevent another theft.
A startled cry of pain jolted the shapeshifter’s attention back to the renegade Anki. Can a Nefilim destroy Anki? He shifted to his hulking humanoid form and jagged bone extended from each finger to form claws that would splinter, and embed within flesh. He lunged at the first Anki he saw, pulling himself of short when he realized it was green skinned.
“Pringar!” A black Anki yelled. He motioned upward and the roof groaned while changing shape to form a barrier between Subahu and the green Anki. Subahu noticed the voice, different from the voice of Enkara. This pair must be the Anki who lived among humans! Barely adolescents themselves.
“My mistake!” Subahu shouted, realigning himself toward Enkara and Namtar.
The black Anki returned to the fight as well. He and Enkara were creating and hurling weapons at one another. They seemed evenly matched. Subahu leapt thirty feet into the air above the battle. He hurtled right over the friendly Anki and smashed a kick into Enkara. The Anki crumpled under the blow, but an errant bolt of lightning lanced through him.
Subahu fell on top of Enkara and convulsed while electrical current rattled his body.
The other black Anki turned his attention to one of the shugarra corps frozen in his spot with Namtar’s frigid blast. The Anki used his mental ability to form an ice pick from nearby debris and worked to release his comrade.
Subahu summoned his will and forced his body to move. To his dissatisfaction, Enkara shifted out from beneath him and regained his feet. Just as the black Anki crouched in preparation to leap upon Enkara, Subahu dug his claws into the meat of his tail.
Enkara leaped prematurely, likely from the shock of claw tips digging into his flesh. His body froze mid leap as Subahu’s tearing grip anchored Enkara, who smacked pavement with a dull thud.
The shugarra clad human screamed in pain. Apparently his ice prison was worse for human flesh than for the artificial body of a Nefilim. Subahu gasped. The man in the frozen heap was none other than Officer Dershell. Subahu leapt to the man’s aid. He may have evaded the human months ago, leaving the colony, but they weren’t enemies. Not directly.
Subahu’s claws tore through the ice, and in seconds the Anki pulled Dershell free. Subahu withdrew and made for Tataka.
Namtar shot blast after blast of molten ice, which froze upon any surface it contacted. She connected a blast that froze the green Anki to the other shugarra clad fighter. His scream of pain confirmed that it was Nabu- Officer Rogers. The pair writhed against their frigid confines. The green Anki, Pringar, screamed a sonic wave at Namtar, who stumbled back a few paces from the strike. The banshee wail of the green Anki could temporarily deafen and confuse an opponent.
Subahu leaped forward and kicked Namtar in the middle, hitting her soundly. That banshee blast must have distracted her, thought Subahu. He cocked his fist back, ready to deliver a punch, but Namtar basted his fist with ice, fixing it to the wall behind Subahu. He felt a couple hard strikes connect as the white Anki whipped him with her powerful tail.
“These humans and traitor Anki have damaged you Nefilim. Perhaps I’ll decommission your race and Enkara will start your kind from scratch!” Namtar snarled.
“You twisted Anki can’t separate friend from foe! We may not be programmed to allow your control any longer, but I freed you and would have led you to an army of loyal followers. You deranged fools! No wonder your own people imprisoned you in stasis.”
Subahu continued his rant just long enough to allow Tataka to close the distance and lock Namtar into a choke hold from behind. The white Anki’s neck writhed and her head spun about. She pecked at Tataka, and head butted, and bit, but the Nefilim would not release her grip until the white wedge shaped head went rigid on its serpentine neck, and slumped, unconscious.
Subahu wrenched his fist free of the frost and patted Tataka on the back. “Thanks again.”
“You owe me twice, partner,” Tataka winked an eagle eye at him.
Officer Dershell dropped the inert body of Enkara next to Namtar. “Thanks for your help Nefilim.” He said to Tataka and Subahu with a smile. “What were you two doing in the city?”
In all their haste to catch up with the Anki, Subahu had not given this moment a second of thought. “Oh, well these two…”
He didn’t have to finish. At that moment Hanuman burst forth from the shuttle and screamed his fiercest battle cry. The monkey boy began practicing martial arts.
That boy slept right through the flight and a battle, then decides it’s time for practice? Subahu groaned.
Everyone turned to take him in. Even the green Anki and Nabu-Officer Rogers stopped chipping themselves free of their icy trap to stare.
“Now’s our chance to get out of here,” Tataka whispered into Subahu’s ear. “We can’t take on these four, in their colony, unprepared.”
“I can’t leave without Hanuman,” Subahu said. He began to walk toward the monkey boy, but Tataka grabbed him.
“We can come back when things settle down.”
The pair shapeshifted into debris to match the scattered fragments of building materials the black Anki had called forth and manipulated in battle.
Officer Dershell spun about, as if sensing something amiss. “Did anyone see where those Nefilim went?” He walked about the cluttered rooftop, looking skyward, then shook his head.
“A little help here Travis?” the green Anki called.
“Pringar!” Officer Dershell dashed over to the pair stuck within frost and began digging with his shugarra.
“Hey little fella,” the black Anki said to Hanuman. “My name’s Elsaap. Who are you fighting against?”
Hanuman laughed and gave a wide smile to Elsaap. “Nobody mister. I’m just practicing. Practice makes perfect.”
“How did you get here?” Elsaap asked. He was approaching Hanuman slowly with hands in front of himself in a placating gesture.
Hanuman nodded his head toward the shuttle.
“Okay… Where was that shuttle before here?”
“I don’t know. I only remember that I need to practice because practice makes perfect.”
Subahu would have smiled in satisfaction if he were not in the form of a steel beam. That monkey boy’s lack of memory is going to save the day. Funny how he only remembers his martial arts practice though…
The sound of electricity crackling returned Subahu’s attention to Enkara and Namtar. The white Anki held her partner in front of a black portal, ringing in crackling electricity.
“ You humans! Anki never would have allowed you to thrive if they had known what you would make of the sacred home world! We will see to it your species never live to reach sentience! We are going to ancient Earth- when you were all little more than apes. There is another species of hominin who will make obedient servants in your place! We’ll unmake your kind before humanity can conquer with science! You’ll be replaced by primates as docile as that smiling fool.” Enkara pointed one finger at Hanuman, who grinned at her.
Dershell, Pringar, Elsaap, and Nabu looked at Hanuman for an instant. Subahu wanted to scream, but resisted. When they looked away, Enkara and Namtar stepped through the portal and disappeared.
Nabu-Officer Rogers raced to the spot. “Elsaap! Can you create a device to open a portal like that?”
“That white Anki just opened a wormhole through time and space.” There was awe in the black Anki’s voice. “I can feel residual magic lingering here… Get Sam Martin up here right away. I’ll create a device that can read where this thing opened up. He and I can work on something right away.”
“ We had better hurry. There is a good chance those two really can unmake humanity if they can travel back to ancient Earth.” Nabu- Officer Rogers took to the air on shugarra wings and flew off.
Subahu punched a wall and swore. He and Tataka had blended with the debris from the fight well into the night. The green Anki, Pringar had taken Hanuman away hours before. She’ll be easy enough to keep tabs on, she’s one of the most famous people in the colony, the shapeshifter reassured himself.
“Let it go,” Tataka said. “There was no way of knowing how those two Anki would have reacted to being released.”
“It’s Hanuman,” Subahu sighed. “I’ve raised him for months now. I mean, he’s no Valkimi, but I am pretty fond of the boy. If his memory improves, his kind could be the super soldiers Enzu is looking for. That project is probably more important now that Enkara and Namtar are not going to ally with us.”
“Don’t consider him lost. Let the humans care for the monkey boy for now. If and when he proves valuable, we’ll come back for him. In the meantime, you and I have something else to occupy our time.”
Subahu exhaled slowly and raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“My standing orders are to recruit more Nefilim to join the ranks of Rakshasa. Enzu means to have an advanced force here on Nibiru.”
“Advanced force?” Subahu said.
“With or without Enkara and Namtar, Enzu plans on claiming the solar system for the New Anki Empire.”
The pair walked through the colony, lit by two full moons, plotting the rise of the Rakshasa force.
Distant Origins- The human race discovered the lost city of Atlantis buried in the ocean. The ancient civilization was more than a city, it was a colonial starship. Mankind formed LARC- the League of Atlantis Reborn Colonies, reverse engineered Atlantis’s design, and launched a half million colonists toward a new home.
After living aboard the LARC1 colonial starship for twenty-five years, humanity encounters other species, dangerous forces from Atlantis’s creators, and mankind’s distant origins. Separated from Earth, the colonists must embrace mysterious relics to fight forces ancient men called gods.
LARC Transmissions- Available Now. A collection of short stories from all over the League of Atlantis Reborn Colonies. All the flash fiction available at LARC-SciFi.com, 5 short stories, and Rakshasa, a novelette that picks up where Distant Origins left off.
A Paleolithic Fable- Available Fall 2016. Bobby Rogers chases two powerful Anki to Stone Age Earth to save the human race. Strange hominids lend their abilities to the battle. Archeology, cryptozoology, and alternative history become high fantasy.
Monkey Boy- Available Winter 2016. Hanuman is a Liberty monkey as bright as any human 12 year old, thanks to a mysterious Anki gemstone. He leads a unique group of friends through Nibiru and Haran, fighting a secret group who want to return control of the solar system to the Anki Empire.