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Tension

Tension. When you stand at the precipice of safety and danger, debating, begging for the ropes that pull you either way to slack in one direction. Only I felt and heard this conflict, only I knew how easy it would be to choose one or the other, the ease of betrayal or the comfort of obedience; each making their arguments like lawyers before a judge.

In the universe the only constant is fear, the feeling of being unsafe. Power is paranoia; my clenched fist knows that’s truth.

****

Tabatha stood motionless before the holo-screen, which served as doorways to the vastness of space. Her destination was still some hours away but some tick in her brain, her training, told her she should make her decision now. And she did; her face was drained of emotion, the green of her eyes lost their luster, and her features grew taut and starved as if from exposure and starvation. She was still beautiful, but the beauty repelled more than drew. To anyone observing her now, she looked like a silent statue that read “to be left alone” in bold print, and knowing this Tabatha spirit drew dimer.

Withdrawn from her person was a data sheet of the mission ahead. Tabatha often reviewed these things over and over once they have been assigned, her current check and the last one before deployment was a running list of her current situation; recon delivered by the tireless efforts of the Mimics deployed months and sometimes years in advance. She scrolled down for the black list and found a disturbing amount of names: government mostly, ranging from low to mid-level players of interest that the Mimic’s have taken care of themselves. It was unsettling, she decided with a shiver. The nature of so many assassinations were clear, the thought of her arrival preceding the warping in of Earth Prime warships and the Primers that came with them, made the old fears she buried moments before rise up like bile. Acrid taste went hand in hand with the panic rising inside of her. She forced the feelings down, both in body and mind and let her mind hope for other conclusions despite the bad taste that lingered.

And then another thought came to her…was she the only FIST being deployed? The thought made her anxious despite her resolve to push away the fear, the last thing she wanted was some tense standoff between another FIST agent. In those encounters only a split second is allowed to identify yourself before the paranoia of the job moves the trigger faster than either could take back.

Swiftly she closed the data sheet and her concerns shut with the end of holo-light. Mechanically, more possessed than with genuine purpose, she walked down the merchant ship corridors noting the holo-screens that substituted for genuine glass windows found in less practical ships designed for mere tourism than the rigors of interstellar travel and commerce. Though the boundary between luxury and purpose ended there for the PAN-PAC EXPRESS, built for a business oriented clientele, it was a luxury ship of massive bulk facilitating spacious rooms and exotic cargo. It was the meeting place of industry captains both of the legal and illegal type with genuine goods to delivery or luxury to export. And with the amount of wealth inside this merchant ship, hopefully enough clot to bypass border security. It was also under the express jurisdiction of the Earth Prime Unifying Government, and at any given time its civilian passengers could find themselves bumping elbows with various off duty military personal, some of whom were more dangerous than others.

Tabatha was off duty, for as long as she was outside of Ellen Minor solar system.  Now that she wasn’t…well she couldn’t think about that too much. In fact not thinking was her best strategy, as she felt her mental powers flare up as the subconscious triggers in her mind started to click in pace. This sensation was always a moment of terror for Tabatha, knowing the nature of her powers and what the constant buzzing must mean. She could in fact, for a moment of unguarded silence, hear herself think and in those precious moments before her mind drowned out the noise for more pressing concerns, she wondered post-humorously what it would be like to reach into her own head and silence the constant chimes of neurons receiving and firing…if she could, on purpose, commit suicide with her own power. She shuddered at the thought, the possibility, at the mere fact that her own mind produced such a morbid idea. Self-preservation kicked in and her enhanced hearing faded, taking the morbid curiosity with it and set her on a path of continual motion. Toward her room, she understood as she moved with mechanical purpose toward her destination. Toward the last island of safety before—

“Hey babes!”

It was Henry. Though the old Tabatha of five minutes ago would have long detected and responded to his presence, a “Henry!”  Exclaimed with all the mirth of a burgeoning couple who spent months together… the new Tabatha merely acknowledged his presence with a glass eyed stare that looked not at him but through him, a vision that didn’t stop until she saw the locked container inside her private suit. With practice and affection Henry wrapped his arms around her slender waist, bringing her body close to his in one practiced swoop that was effortless and nibble. With excitement in his eyes he spoke rapidly and with a certain jolly expected of a less serious man. However true to training his noise and warmth but of footnotes of irrelevant white noise, even without the full application of her power she barely knew he was there, only seeing his mouth moving and feeling his hands pressing and swirling about her back going higher or lower as he spoke in rapid succession. Even her own facial features were beyond her consideration as Henry occasional concerns looks, periods that punctuated his excitement, were assuaged by her by her reflective control of her facial muscles, allowing her to appear listening when not really there. By her estimation Henry would have chatted her up for days, discussing plans and past pleasures and present intention with undiluted gusto. Only with a sudden snap back to the reality, by Tabatha herself, would this conversation close and that’s what she did as her eyes snapped back from her imagined x-ray vision to the reality of Henry’s brown eyes.

“I have to go.” She spoke with flatness Henry never knew in the 3 months of space travel together.

“I know you do, that’s why I’m saying-“

“The package will be delivered in the next 16 hours.”

And with that she walked out of his grasp like sand through an open palm, his eyes and expression fixated on where she just stood, his mind uncomprehending, conflicting and ultimately restricting to the inner silence that will glue him to that same spot for the next 30 minutes. Reflecting she could have simple let her old self, the safety induced dream of a woman who wanted Henry for warmth and simple pleasures like a meaningless conversations and drinks not consumed alone, break it off with Henry. To explain to him that their time together was nice but unfairly short and the real reason she is here was due. Henry would have understood, Tabatha reasoned, he would have protested and declared his love, but understanding and the heart-break that followed would have donned on him naturally.

“If only he saw me five minutes earlier…” Tabatha reasoned but she knew there was no case in that. She wasn’t safe and thus she wasn’t the woman Henry fell in love with. Even her features have changed, all so subtly, to reflect the loss of careless youth and imagination. She could have never given him the closure he’d wanted, or needed, but worsen her own temptation?

Nights with Henry were blissful. He was both a gentle soul and a ravaging wolf, capable of losing himself and her into passions only long periods of enclosed spaces could produce. To Tabatha he was the complete pie of normalcy that she devoured eagerly and without pause. Only the data sheet reminded her of her looming mission in the days since Henry gamed for her attention, and even that ominous report of some distant hell on the other side of the Milky Way wouldn’t sour her enjoyment of this man. But to Henry… it is not right to blame him for his feelings. To love a telepathy of latent ability is to court vibrations so subtly your mind barely knows it’s been moved. A gentle push in the right direction, pleasure increased to a level only replicated by practice and knowledge of your partner’s body. But in Tabatha, those vibrations are large currents of visible emotions, pushing and pulling in a constant ebb and flow of pleasure and senses never understood but felt all the same. For Tabatha it was merely an assumption that to climax was to experience an ecstasy found in few legal drugs. But to Henry such bliss was the start of a connection that couldn’t be replicated by any other woman in the galaxy. His love for Tabatha and the feelings, the new dimension, conjured by her touch and intimacy, will undoubtfully ruin any chance of him being satisfied by anyone else.

“He knew what I was. It’s not my fault I have to go.” And with those thought, Tabatha’s last regard for Henry was felt.

***

Why she felt her room was safer than the entirety of the PAN PAC EXPRESS, she had no rational idea. Her luxury airliner was usually fitted with a Class 2 Steel Frame, and a civilian crew of gunners that manned the smallest pair of pee-shooters a space ferrying vessel can have before being classified as a potential warship and being restricted from getting inside Ellen Minors solar system. Out here the only thing that could bother the EXPRESS was the pirates that often circled the solar system of systems like these. Whether they’ll see that type of action didn’t get Tabatha sweating, for one the PAN was had a class 2 hull, sturdy enough for any pirate raid short of using real military hardware, which was unlikely but if it did happen the Express would have a fighting chance. Second the government of Earth Prime tends to cover its basis. Pirates are often warned beforehand that some ships have cargo they don’t want or threaten outright, which works just as well for the less organized broods.

Though how Earth Prime negotiated today’s smooth traveling she’ll never know or care; to her safety was inside that special container, four feet wide, seven feet tall, and all bad intentions. Henry knowing who she was never bothered to ask what was inside the locked container made of metals that could survive this ship exploding in the dead of space or survive re-entry. The same type of metalwork used for Prime drop pods. Not entirely indestructible but close enough. For a moment she touched the cool metal that seemed to absorb and reflect heat at the same time. Sliding one finger down the crevice between sliding doors, and noting her quickening heartbeat as she came closer and closer to the numerical lock. In a second, something mechanical inside of her took over and with blank expression she keyed in her combination in rapid succession. Which a click and a slink, the doors slid open and clicked outward, allowing cool refrigerated air to sleep into the room lazily, coiling around Tabatha’s feet and chilling her breath. She smiled. A weary wiry smile but a smile nevertheless. Inside the container were the tools of her trade; four black disks, a utility belt, and a rifle that was taller than she was. With a nod of approval she made three steps away from the container and to her bed. There she stripped, her clothes neatly piled on her bed as she ignored the rooms chill on her bare skin. Totally naked she went before the container again, picking at the four disks and placing them on her body; one for each shoulder, one on her chest just below collarbone, and finally one for the small of her back. With a thought the black disks unraveled in a typhoon of black thread, in mere moments Tabatha’s body was covered in the nano-fibers of her cat suit. She steadied her breath and prepared herself for the body horror that’ll come next. And on the third shallow repetition she forced her eyes not to blink as her contact lenses bubbled into place over her iris. The process burned and confused her eyes; a white blindness overtook her senses as the nerves in her eyes relayed the wrongness of liquid boiling at the surface. For Tabatha it was two seconds of mild discomfort, practice had driven away any real sense of fear, where the temporary loss of a single sense would have given rise to hysteria is less seasoned minds.

Luckily that was only the least of her changes. The psy-engines inside of a frontal lobe churned widely as the incisions made behind her ear widened without drawing blood. Machinery pressed outward against exposed gap, unfolding and stretching along the back of her ear, settling and piercing her skin to establish a foothold that no amount of jostling could disgorge. Short of removing her skull, the dual-core pys-processors will remain steadfast against her skin jutting out slightly into the back of her head like flatten antenna associate with vintage 20th century radios. To Tabatha this too was merely a disquieting sensation whose effects were long numbed with practice. That changed with a click.

Somewhere along the ships many corridors, efficiency-lights will burst spilling their milky contents into the stainless steel below. Somewhere along the ships many back up engines, a third and force generator will come to life and whine a death rattle as the sudden surge of electricity meets the pull back of the grid. Somewhere along the ship, someone who is psy-sensitive will scream as an aneurysm comes suddenly against their unguarded and defenseless mind. Hallucinations will haunt those directly touching any electronics; some will claim to see visions of angels others will see less nice things… The ship itself will shudder like as if given a cold shower, and many will race to the gunner decks in anticipation of an attack that will never come.

And at the epicenter will stand Tabatha, cloaked in power! Surging from her being like a volcano. Only the special shielding encasing her reserved room prevented the totality of her strength from bearing down on the PAN PAC EXPRESS, the very fact of her existence threatening to do what only dreadnought class warships can do with passing easy.  It was the months of pent of power and the enormity of her talent that caused the storm.

“I’m ready,” Tabatha grimaced, her mind slowly drawing in control over her higher processes. With strength, talent, and focus will she survive the coming storm. This she knew. Tabatha walked toward her chair, pulling it to the center of the room. She turned to give her special cabinet, holding her gun and other supplies in hidden recesses lamp shaded by shadows, another look. She reached for her knife, a long blunt instrument of clear purpose, full of weight and size lacking in delicate features or ominous jags along the edge. Only the handle and grip was given a finesse, as a side arm only one hand or her mouth if necessarily needed extra accommodations. Tabatha placed it on the chair, grabbing a utility belt to strap to her hips before snapping the knife into place along her side. Satisfied with the familiar weight to her right side, she reached for her signature weapon, the P105-2nd Generation HellDROP Rifle. Two generations behind and still unwilling to trade up, this weapon has been her friend, lover, and protective mother for the better part of 11 years.

“I need sleep.” And Tabatha did, the FIST way; sitting slightly crouched over the bulk of her weapon, cradling her HD rifle against her lap with the trigger being fingered idly, her mind splitting into two halves, one alert to stimuli and danger constantly searching probing for hostility, while the other force the physical sleep the body needed. She was wide-eyed and rocking slightly in a rhythm really slow drawn out breathing. Anything to enter her room would have been shot unceremoniously and the crew sensed the sudden shift in the atmosphere like fog only the mind can perceive. No one will bother her, or wish to bother her; the required security clearance just to sweep the floor ensured that. Being this close to Ellen Prime, the importance of delivering the cargo pressed heavy on their minds. Tabatha will sleep undisturbed, even peacefully… as far as a FIST could, for about 16 hours.

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Samson : Note 1

I was born in a test tube. Can’t say I feel any particularly way about it, maybe some base distaste for being a crime against nature from the day I was slated to be conceived.  I have no brothers and especially no sisters, for I am a clone and the term brother couldn’t begin to describe what it feels like to be around one of me. Humans talk about love, love for family, love for strangers. But they don’t know respect, understanding, knowing someone not by word or action but by smell and thoughts unspoken. This “respect” is fostered in the litters in which we were born. 24 man-made souls, from 872 capital ships, raised over a period of 14 years, and taught all the basic essentials of life, mostly what we are, what we are meant to do, and the meaning behind doing so. The meaning is the most important, not because having a purpose in life is important, but because that’s what you’re suppose to understand to avoid being weaned from the litter. Out of 24, seven of us are bound to wash out and those bound to wash out rarely turn the age of 10.

“For we are the glory of mankind.

We fight in their footsteps and through the mouths of angels.

We bring the rains of hell upon the foul things that pollute the motherland with their very existence.

We make life short and bleak for those who fester under the sun and below rocks and even under the sea if there is yet more evils to be found there. ”

And so on and so forth until our lives are ground into dust by the reclaimer protocol that claims our corpses when the enemy has finally slain us. It is, as we like to say, a brutish existence not becoming a softer toned men. Softer tone being that of our human handlers, some too anxious to join the battlefield in glistening armor and flaming sword. We try to discourage the spirit the best we can in those that seem a bit too, “into it”, as the softy’s would say, so at least only those fully trained and ready in body and soul can stand in the darkness and freedom as we do, as we have been born for.

Some of our a soft tone handlers, most from divisions not considered to be part of Noah but part of a greater slice of the government with many branches that my kind are vaguely privy to, would often go through great pains to personally ask why us Samson’s, lauded for our great intelligence, seem content with our “grim fates.” Why we don’t rebel? Which even now, several years into this war, is a primary concern of those who distance themselves from the institution that is Noah.

I have answered this question a few times. Usually with a wizened laugh, stating their concerns are drowned under several facets and sufficiently buried underneath several layers of reasons and understanding. The soft tones have misconceptions about the nature of intelligence, inherently so being very much far removed from what is necessary for survival. For humanity intelligence is merely the sum of facts gathered purposely under a keen mind. In mans natural habitat, the universe simply yields results and the only wall to overcome is the ignorance of the unknown. But for the rest of us, archiving facts means little, and nothing “yields” unless savagely broken. To know, to study, and to ultimately overcome an intelligence keen enough to evade your pursuit, or better fight back, is the greatest show of mental prowess. So they (not all) inherently misunderstood what it means to have a firm head on ones shoulders, at least from our perspective.

Now you can blame our ‘nature’ on the weaning, or our indoctrination from a young age. Maybe its the genes, though no one can deny we were bred to be aggressive, if not eager to spill and cause mayhem. Each layer of reasoning has its toll, though I’ve never meet a Samson to complain about it. The assumptions that we’re either happy to be used or seething with bitterness, is a misconception. To rephrase, we are tools, that much is obvious, but we do not take orders for the love or hate of it. It’s not the adrenaline that rides our veins, or any particular high or thrill that ultimately allows us to swallow the heavy pill of our fates. As a Patriarch is a man, not of science, math, or reading, but of necessity, if not mere students of disciplines long forgotten to time and the Exodus, we Samson’s are students of war. And like any good student, it is not the pleasure, or the ease that drives us, but the necessity of the subject in question. Because someone must learn it, we are merely the volunteers.

Can anyone imagine? Full war-time production of Samson’s can reach, 20928 at any given time, with a six-month delay between batches for each ship can only contain at max 3 litters of potential troops. Not including the ones who are weaned, this method of thinking, some may call even twisted, is shared by each and every one of them. Through potentially 20928 life experiences, or 62784 souls at max capacity. This is why we are clones, not brothers. Clones can differ in behavior, temperament, thought process, and can even deal with variations in environment, but eventually…. you are what you are. And if the core is right, ultimately they’ll avoid getting weaned, and the soft tones will declare another victory for the glory of man.

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Chapter 4

The thing about falling from 40,000 feet is that you die. Not from the fall, I’m confident this won’t even break my legs, but from what’s waiting for you when you reach the ground. Naturally I’m implying that there are things in this life worse than going splat from a 40,000-foot fall. Well… maybe I have to survive one to know for sure….

0.51 seconds till I go splat

Two tons of metal should never be allowed to free fall to the Earth without a solid plan. Fact is dropping from “bomber” height is routine for Samsons; though their ability to survive the fall is not entirely due to their ridiculous muscles and bone structure. No, a special shock-absorbing jell, that accounts for multiple layers of both the Goliath and Samson’s armor, allows this impossible feat. The relationship is simple, if not farfetched: as the jell absorbs the energy of the fall, the energy moves rapidly through the armor, generating heat as it travels up. The heat rapidly changes the jell’s state from solid to gas, as large quantities of kinetic energy travel up the armor. Gas is vented out immediately, as the jelly filled layers rapidly expand to accommodates the increasing volume of gas. This same gas is then expelled, once the jell filled layers hits pressure based external facing vents.

Or that’s how it’s supposed to work.

0.33 seconds till I go splat …

After the venting process is complete, the remaining shock travels though the numerous layers of fibers muscle; several layers inside layers of wire, that mimic actual muscles, allow the David inside to move the Goliath with ninety percent of his own strength and without the assistance of the various power systems. Through the muscle fibers, energy is fed into the shock motors; their spinning burns the excessive energy while generating reserve energy. Even then, what does manage to penetrate past the muscle fibers and landing jelly naturally triggers the David’s adrenaline glands, which brings another one of the Goliath’s system into full focus. As the human body pumps adrenaline and endorphin to cope with the pain, the Goliath Armor prepares its first injection of the superman serum. Derived from a Samson’s own adrenaline glands, Noah scientists found the chemicals and hormones inside a Samson several times more potent than anything similar in a lab. Potentially addictive in large quantities, its main side effects are increased strength and improved reflexes, along with pain resistance and improved fight-or-flight responses. Landing would simply jar the brain too much without this simple drug.

0.0001 seconds till I go splat …

When I was five years old, I took the Academy test. The line was long and my parents looked nervous. I was a commoner then so at the time, Patriarch, Noah, Wise Men meant nothing to me. I was five and I wanted to spend my day playing video games. So when my turn came up, I refused to take the test. So my dad yelled and my mom yelled and the Patriarch instructors prodded me, but I just “didn’t wanna.” I wanted to go home; it was hot and smelly with all the people and the kids still in diapers. And besides, I had better things to do like beating level 9286 of Tetris. Faced with the prospect of never knowing my full potential, my dad for the first time took me by the ear and put a world of pain on my bottom that left me unable to sit without fidgeting for the better part of two days.

0.00001seconds till I go-

Ka-boom …

The ground splits, my legs turn to liquid, and the world becomes a brown and yellow haze. The headache follows next as the teeth rattle out of my gums, the armor is pelted with newly displaced rocks and the air smells of sulfur and methane. I heave in one breath, thanking God that the air is filtered as the super-heated landed gel releases itself in a burst of vented steam. Not disoriented, not hurt, I lift my leg gingerly; I can still walk and that’s when I finally look down. Buried under the dirt is a black carapace; the cracks in it seep a mixture of brown, yellow and white goo. The color of its blood and the remnants of his organs are liquefied.

Scattered all around are the remains of the creature that once occupied the same space as where I stand. It being a swarmling, obscenity given proper form: long by at least 8 feet, plenty legs on either side, and a sideways mouth rowed like a chainsaw with teeth and possessing two sets mandibles, one cracked from my landing. And it wasn’t alone; I feel more than see or hear the movement all around me.

“KREEEEEEEEEEEEEACCCCCCCCCCTCH”

I turn to face it.

“KREEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAACHTCH”

My II lets out a jet stream of napalm at the seven o’clock position as I turn. I’m alone in the crater, more screeches, more scuttling, the dust hasn’t cleared, and then-

“CRRRRRRRRRREAAAAAAAATTCCCCCCCCCCCCCKTCK”

And the smoke parts before the bullet of armored flesh, otherworldly fast for a hundred pound of insect. It doesn’t bother to dart out of the way as I swing the II to check its advance. It doesn’t know fear, nor does it have any concept of prey and predator. No, in its mind there is only “full” and “starving,” which makes it the purest binary machine in nature. Oh, and it explodes when set on fire. Ignoring the fire or any thought of self preservation, it pushes past it before exploding.

Taking a step back, I admire my second kill before I’m hit hard from behind. Stumbling, I regain my balance before being hit again from the opposite side. Unable to down me, they shake off the daze before resuming the attack. I take note of how few of them come to attack me. A relief, but not reassuring; the stench of a fresh corpse will attract more of them, but only the curious, the wanders, are paying me any attention. For now anyway; eventually the mounds will displace themselves as millions start to inquire about the funny smelling tin can, and when that happens, the Goliath armor won’t hold against a million set of claws and teeth.

I avoid the attack of one as it rears up on its four legs.

“Cockroaches don’t do that.”  A swarmling is for all intent and purposes a seven-foot-tall cockroach (females are nine to ten feet tall with egg sack included) with eight to ten legs and four mandibles. The first set of legs are its claws: short, hard, and sharp. They can dent steel, and are ideal for rending flesh as quickly as possible with as many strokes that are necessary. Its other legs aren’t specialized, except its back legs that are capable of holding its weight, and are generally sturdier than the other pairs, which alternate between fast travel and tearing into flesh with its jagged edges.

Unlike other insects worthy of extermination, the swarmlings are thankfully not self aware; unfortunately, their weaknesses end there. The Swarm numbers in the billions, possibly trillions, worldwide. Those black hills I mentioned earlier are their homes.  The “mounds” are not constructs, but thousands of swarmlings eating and mating in one spot. Each mound contains over one million swarmlings. I was dropped in a nest containing dozens of mounds.

Three more explode, five more explode, and then a dozen screech and roast before my II. The curiosity phase is rapidly ending; the shadow of one mound disappears, and the smoke gives away to a black tide that approaches from all sides.

“Say hello to the reaper man.”

And I charge forward, guns literally blazing as the Industrial Incinerator becomes a dragon consuming swarmlings by the dozen. But it’s not enough; they come crashing in, biting at shoulder pads, helmet, ripping away the cape and trying to rip apart my arms and legs. One swarmling tugs me by my left ankle with such ferocity that I smashed my head against the carapace of the adult swarmling, cracking it in the process. My II was on full automatic as I blindly shot in any direction with one hand, while my left hand smashing heads, claws, and anything in-between. I was drenched in brown blood as each explosion drenched me more and more in swarmling body fluids.

Then the napalm cartridge ejects without warning and at the worst possible time. I jam the trigger in desperate plea to save my soul before finally realizing the dragon has gone silent. I reach for another cartridge, but the lack of an attacking hand gets taken advantage of in an instant, knocking me flat.

Within seconds, I’m twisting and turning within the mass of bugs. Claws and teeth attempting to dig their way through my armor to get to the sweet flesh inside and rapidly my world stops making sense as the air becomes too shallow to breath. The world has become black, brown, white, and yellow, and it makes no sense. Below me is the swarm, above me is the swarm, and when I look ahead I see the ever moving machinery of a swarmlings underside moving tirelessly in the darkness.  Nauseating! The stomach churns away a response that I barely bite back.

So on all sides is moving wall of armor and carapace and I can’t move. The slip and drip of blood, feces, the insides of their stomachs, and god knows what else surrounds me, and I can’t move. “Can’t move, can’t breathe, can’t think,” and something punches into my armor. I force my fist through the armored flesh and undersides until I reach the handle of my side arm, and with one swift stroke I hear the ’Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakkkccccccccccccck’ of a dozen bugs bucking the blade in agony.

A space opens for a second, so with empty flamethrower in my right hand and blade in my left hand, I pushed and slash to proper footing but not escape. The swarm has made a mound on top of me, an orgy of blood and mating is all around me, but the lack of air will get me killed first as my filter is taxed beyond usability. Out? I slash widely and haphazardly at the world around me, dispersing my anger into this cruel dark world devoid of light and air. I find space to move my right hand properly and hook my II before the chance is lost. The space closes, within moments, but with my newly free right hand I strike out blindly, and grab onto what I assume is something’s mouth because I feel thousands of rows of teeth grinding at my gauntlet. And pull. And push. And pull. And Push. Forward, I move my sword with purpose, as the blade cracks through armor and carapace like chewing through tender meat. Forward; with the barely-conscious swarmling as my shield, his brain bashed into a dozen times and his second or third brain only capable of making his claws and legs fight me out of muscle memory.  The head finally comes off as I crunch the flailing body as I press forward. No I charge, using a cross guard, I bull-rush into mound; using my two-ton body to make the wall armor flesh yield to my will.

But is it good enough? The smell, the air, the weight of thousands, more like millions of swarmlings pressing my feet into the ground, slowing my step, slowing my breath, my consciousness …

“NO!” And I take another step, but the momentum is gone and my armor is being assaulted on all sides. Not even a swing of my sword will clear this, it ends here.

“Too many … Was never a soldier … Can’t breathe …”And then I lunge forward, god help me, and I break into fresh air at least. Coughing up blood and bile, I automatically switch my sword out for a napalm cartridge, plug it into my II, and unleash on the new mound, killing thousands of swarmlings as the mound collapses in on itself and into the fire. The smell of that many dead swarmlings nearly takes me off my feet. It was that bad. I couldn’t breathe for a moment because the smell drafted right into me. Tears ran uncontrolled for the first time and my god why was I laughing even as my eyes burn despite the filter. Then the sound of too many legs scuttling in too close to my ear cleared my mind of all other thoughts, but the one thing to remember about the swarm.

“They are always attracted to the smell of their dead, Andrew.”

“And why would that matter, don’t we kill them all anyway.”

“In war yes, in battle no.”

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Chapter 3

How do you project the will of man, what is holy and just, upon the unholy and the abominable? With a big gun? Easy answer, but you wouldn’t pass the first class of tactics 101 thinking like that. Big guns require either big men or big enough platforms; in which case, guess which one is cheaper than the other? Simple answer: if genetic engineering matched the expansion of weapon research, – both arts running in perfect parallel of the other – then warfare, now infused with man’s ego, would look much different. We may have never invented firearms. But thank the ignorance of man that we invented the hydrogen bomb long before we invented computers capable of mapping the genetic code of millions of species.

This isn’t a course on, “Why we have Samsons,” but an explanation for the Goliath in the age of large guns capable of piercing, roasting, and flailing a man alive. It must be considered, with great gravity, that the best of mankind is being sent to do battle and expected to return home all the same. We engineer the defense of these assets with the utmost resources made feasible; assuring ourselves that the life of one David is worth many times the combined martial prowess of a full battalion of Samsons.

In this think tank comes the Goliath; not just a two-ton life preservation suit, or merely plates of armor slapped on top of already near-indestructible skin and hardened muscle as the mighty Samson, but a full-combat suit that brings the wearer to superhuman levels; combining high-grade armor, machinery, and regular injections of stimulants and hormones to keep the David as battle-ready and fatigue-resistant as possible.

“I’d thought you’d drop me on top of the closest swarm mound,” having confirmed a thousand times that the big red dot we were approaching was not a swarm mound by heat, historic, and live data. In fact, passing one gave my curiosity the extra push I needed to overcome my intense hatred for conversations with Patriarch Gecko.

“Oh you are. That red dot is only your next assignment.”

“Are you serious?”

“Very. Assuming you survive of course, your first supply drop will be a week from now at that location.”

So I’m still a military asset to these people.

“Surprised?”

“No.”

It hadn’t occurred to me that Noah wouldn’t agree to treat me like common garbage to be disposed of casually. Well no, they would agree to that: sending me down with one of the highlights of human engineering to be torn apart for the Wise Men’s leisure. Not so much.

“Getting their money’s worth huh?”

“What was that?!”

“Nothing.”

Black dots in the horizon tell me the time to drop is near. The correlation between the rows of black hills and the absence of any sign of life since I started staring at the display map of South-West North America, does not go unnoticed. The amount of kilometers between the Swarm and the next indigenous population are measured in the hundreds.

“You make light of your sins Patriarch Matchworth.” He pitches the ship sharply to the right, and then rolls to the left. My poor balance and loose grip nearly sends me plunging to the earth below.

“Son of a —-“

Another sharp pitch followed by a barrel roll in the opposite direction.

“My, my, are we getting angry?”

The Michael takes a sudden nose dive; I let go of the handle bar, cursing my idiocy for not strapping myself in to one of the six available seats, when I go crashing into the back of the Michael before sliding into the door of the captains compartment. I reach for the door slide, when I go sliding in the opposite direction when the plane banks. I scramble to my feat as the plane levels, reaching for the II holstered on my back.

“Are you angry yet?” Silence, “Still mocking us I see. I always knew something was wrong with you boy. Two hundred years of cryo wasted and for what? FOR WHAT!!? You’re nothing more than a cow with horns.”

I lower the II.

“Prepare to drop in fifteen seconds.”

I look out the open door and see the lush green, the gentle tops of hills, and the mountains that line the distance further west. But not the black, as if the brain refuses to acknowledge something of that scale and horror could exist in a world so peaceful and serine. The black hills almost look natural, unless you refuse to consider what they represent.

“Remember this Matchworth, you have no brothers in Noah.”

I nearly bite my own tongue to hold back the desire to argue. Gecko makes sense, I am not a Noah.

“You have 5 seconds to decide to jump yourself. Five.”

I back up a little.

“Four.”

And bolt for empty space.

“Three.”

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Chapter 2

“If you wanted me dead, you should have dropped me naked,” a simple fact I spit in the face of an indignant Patriarch of the Plant Life Research Division. More unhappy to be here than concerned with the fate of an accused murderer, his suggestion to remove the “smirk” off my face is his own way of showing it. He doesn’t bother me, in fact most of the room doesn’t; the Wise Men purposely stuffed the East Wing with civilians whose opinions, by default, doesn’t matter frankly.

It is still a strange sight to see none of my brothers and sisters in Noah moving about carrying on their regular duties for the glory of man. This skeleton crew of volunteers and the unlucky are so tense and clueless, fumbling about with no aim and purpose, half wondering the difference between their left shoe from their right. Most look pissed, whether at me or at their petty misfortunes, while others attempt to not trip over themselves and each other avoiding the Samsons, who now make up a startling amount of foot traffic especially in the eyes of the nonmilitary personnel. Fear, not damnation, is the name of the game. Some save that fear for me, not the man, but the David in Goliath armor. They hide behind smiles, keeping their anxiety at a surface level, well masked by the pointless insults and comments on my morality.

But they are not Noah; and no man, woman, or even new blood from the academy could wear Goliath’s armor and have the insignia of a David carved into his breastplate with his name gleaming in the blood sliver, without a hint of a shameless pride. I was two tons of manmade evil, or justice depending on which end of the barrel you stand. Since the formation of our war department the concept of Davids has always been there, only made obsolete by the need for Samsons. In truth, we had no idea what we would face when the Wise Men and all breathing Patriarchs at that time decided to return to Earth. Noah, the closest thing we have to a department of war, was original a self-defense force in case of dire emergencies or merely the need for a human footprint on foreign soil, so naturally the idea of pure-blood men and women trained for combat was on the table from the beginning. In fact each Patriarch currently working as officers in Noah would have been the equivalent of a small counties special forces if the need were to arise.

However, what we thought The Scientist may have left behind gave little pause to seriously pursue said option besides token readiness. Subsequently Noah evolved to become research, development, and planning and little else… until we discovered the Earth was teeming with sentient life – a beyond worst case scenario for Noah… and all of mankind. In which case a simple self-defense force – no matter how well-trained and equipped – risked unnecessary casualties; a single death would be the equivalent to 100,000 of theirs. From that crisis came the Samson’s: sixty percent man, forty percent other. To many, the overwhelming advantage of a clone army composed of genetically altered super soldiers placed the need for human-beings to step down from the stars and wage their own wars unnecessary and worse unpractical.

To draw contrast, all decisions regarding the war are made unilaterally by Noah. Any debates regarding the war are made internally inside the umbrella of Noah. Even a new blood on his first assignment has more to say in what gets researched, where the next hot zone will be, and how many resources will be needed, than a Wise Man. At most, the Wise Men rein in Noah by setting budget, though even the budget can be called into question by referendum. However, Davids, though considered a part of the military complex have been under debate since the first Patriarch expressed desire to step foot on Earth clad in whatever protective armor he managed to weld together and two Goliath Slayers in each hand. To become a David is beyond the boundaries of physical training or military discipline often given to elite Special Forces in the past. Extensive psyche evaluation followed by a private hearing before the Wise Men, among other test, restrict the pool of Davids to only a select few Noah who feel obligated to subject themselves to the opinions of others. The only other shortcut was self-promotion by becoming a General – a pain in the ass by itself.

No, for me the honor was out of reach; my only serious attempt at moving toward that rank has been my practice rounds with a personally decommissioned Goliath Slayer. To be an actual David – all prevailing circumstances considered – was a cause for celebration, if only privately behind my grim mask. Again, they chose the wrong punishment for a true Noah– I plan on enjoying this thoroughly.

“Well, well, Commander Matchworth; no, David Matchworth is it now?” speaks a man approaching 323 by my last count as he materializes himself next to me, matching our pace stride for stride.

“Gecko, you’re my pilot? Go figure.”

“They had to make sure they’d found someone willing to tip the plane over in case you suffer from cold feet.”
My senior takes this opportunity to pat my left cheek three times; bold move, considering I’m the man with the flamethrower.

“My, my, is that the same look you gave Steward before the ‘you know’…”

“No.” I flash my pearly whites, which he can’t see, as I say this, “I was much more relaxed.”

“Oh my, no regrets huh?”

“Not few you can have, especially in Goliath armor.”

We both exchange shark-like grins.

“Well you’d be the first to die in one.” Gecko shakes his head, “I’d rather drop you naked.”

I take a second to laugh out loud; the Samsons were undisturbed so I laugh even louder and harder until I remember Mr. Gecko unimpressed, impassionate face staring at the spectacle that is David Matchworth newly minted warrior of mankind.

“You must excuse me,” I chuckle, “my senses are starting to take their leave.”

Sighing Commander Gecko pushes on past me, like a bored cat leaving behind a new toy. I’m glad his company will be saved for the drop; the safety on my Type-52 Industrial Incinerator may be disengaged by then.

A slight rap on my left shoulder pad signals the need for the oxygen masked to be engaged. An unnecessary precaution, but I’ve heard enough hanger bay horror stories – some of which are well documented – that I don’t hesitate to do myself the favor when reminded. Hanger B-7 is one of 4 sets of hangers converted into force projection platforms, and doubles as an R/D lab on the weekends. In here, my fellow Noah are busy at work, too busy winning a war to be concerned with the fate of a disgraced Patriarch. To them, I’m just another David, which works out for me.

“David Matchworth, right this way.” My escorts tug my arm in the desired direction; I was wondering unintentionally, too caught up in the sounds and memories to remember that I’m an enemy of mankind. The little boy in me cranes his neck to see his squadron, the 122nd. I shake his heart still. First, my unit has always been deployed in Hanger B-2 or B-5. Secondly, the Wise Men are far too paranoid of the rippling effects of my sins to let a man so heavy-laden with his crimes anywhere near his own men. And third, they aren’t my men. A desk jockey is no more a commander than a squire a knight. An attachment to a Samson unit is an exercise in vanity. Seeing them would just remind me of what I’m not … a soldier. And if you look past the bravado and honor of merely holding the title of David…solely wearing the armor doesn’t “make” you one. But why am I torturing myself?

Nonetheless … the alien nature of this old world I’ve always been a part of is starting to encompass me. As a soldier, not an officer, I find a new sense of nervousness that I haven’t felt since I first started as a new blood. I hid it better under arrogance and bravado in those days; I can’t help but laugh with myself at that. For example, the first time seeing a Samson: 9 feet tall, 400 pounds of muscle, and eyes capable of seeing your every detail, access your worth, and grunt it back before you have time to automatically blink… I couldn’t imagine not taking note of them when I was a new blood, a mere volunteer to the cause, like I do now. Yet, the most startling thing about them– what draws you away from the elegant dove-like design of the drop ships, or the massive scale of the hanger itself– is how human they look. Not a mask, or a few common features, but common an ancestry that if one didn’t know better, may have stretched millions of years. Something beyond looking past what is obviously not human, and more like staring into the mirror called a distant cousin, who is 9 feet tall and built like a semi-truck. It’s not hard to believe that the Samsons are only 60% human on average.

No, the curiosity stems from the small scientist in me, wondering how far away from humanity can we go before crossing the threshold that divides “enhanced” human and walking monstrosity. It is their undeniable humanity, despite being physically un-human in every proportion, which makes their alertness; and the undeniable feeling that they will kill, and worse, prepared to be killed, much more subduing.

So of course, if my memory served me right, I wanted to have a conversation with one at the first opportunity. I planned a thirty minute interview, badgering my superiors for the opportunity of a lifetime. It didn’t last five seconds. Children in the academy often pass rumors of Samsons being mere brutes incapable of even speech. This assumption, which is held by even some Patriarchs (A minority, a minuscule minority, I assure you, less all of humanity be shamed!), is due to the heavy use of nonverbal communication and natural assumptions we humans, who use our brains to do much of the hard work, make of the more physically endowed. A Samson’s voice, which I quickly learned, was deeper than anything a human voice-box could possibly produce casually. But it also possessed another quality: a sound that went completely unnoticed by the human ear, but felt in the nerves. That is what ended the interview – which started with me fidgeting like an 8-year-old visiting the dentist, and ended with me running at full speed to the safety of my bed and blankets. Dubbed the ‘predator frequency,’ our ears pick up some sounds, though they can’t technically be heard, and will register in our minds as the personification of fear. Since hairless chimps spent a good part of their time being on the lower end of the food chain … we’ll needless to say it took much discipline and frequent trips to the bathroom to avoid treating an ARK ship like the hot plains of Africa.

A second tap on my right shoulder pad; the Michaels are ready for me. I turn around, almost with some hopes to burn a good picture into my memory. Only a squad of Samsons with guns at the ready met my longing gaze; I flush in my stupidity and embarrassment.

“I’m not going back; I shouldn’t look like I want to.”

Not the best self advice, but it must suffice. My home. I take a single step towards the Michael, originally a line of civilian vessels designed for scuttling between places of interest. Not truly fitted for long term space travel, but at the very least it can go in and out of a planet’s atmosphere with repairable wear and tear. They weren’t called Michaels until we turned them into scorch earth military aircraft. Though the outside looks as friendly and weapon-free as you would expect of a civilian vessel, it is only for the sake of practicality that its array of weapon systems aren’t hanging out every wing and free space. Trust me, nothing says “kaboom!” like a bunch of missiles and MM cannons being exposed to dropping in and out of the atmosphere where metals easily reach temperatures that could make the Atlantic Ocean sizzle. Like a dove folding her wings, her true size isn’t truly understood until it’s ready to fly. Troops, like me, are loaded in from the sides, while munitions, supplies, and drones are loaded in and simply dropped from the back.

I take another step. The deck looks inviting. Step. I know how many Samsons I’ve watched climb in without hesitation. Step. And the few that don’t return. Step. Made for war, not made for war. Step. Born to die, groomed to live. Step. I could just disengage the safety and … Step. I shot a man, this is what I deserve. Step. He deserved it, I’m a hero! Step. The fools. Step. I am better than this. Step.

I hold out a hand to the side of the door: the armor that turns my merger-sized fist into something capable of delivering 20-50 tons of force when wielded by even a moderately fit Patriarch looks otherworldly to me. I was prepared to die, prepared to be stripped of all freedom and privilege. But was I prepared for Earth? I let out a howl: am I ready? I grunt and scream: am I ready? The sound of the Samson’s terrors, priming for action, send chills down my spine, not of fear, but giddy.

“I AM THE REAPERMAN!!!” Laughter possesses my body and I can’t control the otherworldly howls.
“I mock you all! Justice, man, demon, I reap you all!”

Is this insanity or awakening? True acceptance: No regrets, no hesitation. Pull the trigger. For what is holy, for what is human. But the blood…so much blood! Can’t hide . No need to hide! Wrong isn’t so easy … Why was this so easy?

I stepped into the Michael, a warning shot was fired, my eardrums did pop, but that wasn’t what made me go.

“It was so easy …”

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Chapter 1

“Murderer,” they mutter. Some whisper as if saying the word too loud will spread some airborne disease. Maybe it will; in the countless centuries or maybe even millennia since the ARK ships floated in the dead womb of space, we Patriarchs– or whatever form of government that established order before– never had to proceed over a murder. Even to my own ears – the accused, the guilty – the word seems so … alien… yes, alien would be right word to describe it. The act by itself; the 40 millimeter bolter round to the chest, leaving a hole you can stick your hand through and a mess that is still being cleaned up to two weeks later ….that felt all too familiar. Primal even, which makes this mummers farce of a trial even more annoying, but a trial they must have. A swift execution maybe? Was that what I was walking all too swiftly to? Is that what all my brothers, sisters, and fellow Patriarchs came to see?

I turn the corner. The curious eyes end as I walk into the central command cathedral. The new eyes are hard and stern and belonging to the Wise Men. Though all Patriarchs have a say in our government, it is the Wise Men who set the topics that we vote on if the matter requires one. Increasingly, more matters seem too small to bother the larger body of Patriarchs; details that haven’t been missed by most Patriarchs, but haven’t caused much protest– yet.

“We should close the whole department.”

“To what end?”

“Are you mad? We are in the middle of war.”

“The end of a war; the Samsons are efficient enough to suffer the burden of this conflict without spoiling the minds of Patriarchs with this bloody business.”

“The Samsons will win us the war, sure. But soldiers need commanders.”

“Bugger the Samsons, we can settle this decisively from the comfort of our seats.”

“And we ruin the only inhabitable planet in the Milky Way?”

Arthur Dreadfoot’s last words ended the debate before it truly began. I heard these arguments before – the longer versions – but in the end Noah has always been the necessary evil that holds our war for Earth together. But to what end? Awe, I’m afraid I won’t be here long enough to find out though as the room stands at attention when the oldest of the Wise Men take their seats. A smile crosses my face as I watch our forerunners take their rightful seats of honor amongst us. Seats made during the lesser generations, before Patriarchs numbers swelled. The True Men, or Adams, are the first to enter the cryo and are the ones that remembered when our ARKs hobbled along space, maintained by the unlearned masses too stupid to read and write let alone maintain the very systems that allow us to breathe. It is a wonder how we managed to stay alive in the countless centuries before a true Patriarch system was maintained.

Being tried by such men is too much of honor. I bend the knee out of respect and disgrace, my sin feels less natural and I less smug.

“Patriarch David Matchworth, 92nd Noah Commander of the 122nd Samson mix infantry, you stand accused of the brutal slaying of Patriarch Kevin Steward of the Library of Earth Natural Archive and History, using standard-issue Goliath Slayer …” kicked like a bitch without plate armor to absorb the shock, “… death by gunshot wound through the chest. Do you plead guilty?”

“Yes.”

“Can you speak of the motive, if any, for this senseless crime?”

“For the good of all things holy, decent, and human”

“Elaborate.”

I take note of the speaker. She doesn’t look past the age of 40, but those eyes, those eyes told a different tale. A thousand years? Maybe two? Inhumanly old and sure, not hard, not cold, or even judgmental; just sure that I am wrong and she is right– not opinion, but straight fact. I hated those eyes, but understood the logic behind them. Too old; I am 217 years old, six cryo’s and one of them a long cryo at least by the standard of someone my age and rank. Are her eyes my fate as well?

“He wished to communicate with the godless demons below.” I nearly croak. I forced my voice to come out sure and true; the first lesson I learned 205 years ago when I was learning the basis of Newtonian physics– no one believes a shaking, stuttering voice and I have taken that lesson to heart; even now where most men will break into tears under the eyes of the Wise Men or in the presence of an Adam.

“A Patriarch attempting to communicate with the savages on the surface!? Are we to believe this madness? Should we give you a medal for your bravery?”

She mocks me.

“If you had knowledge of Patriarch Kevin Steward’s intentions to travel to the surface with such a foolish idea, why didn’t you simply report to us?”

He accuses me.

“He was stealing a shuttle.”

I silence them for a moment, though not a long one.

“Then arrest him. Surely a man of your prowess can subdue an untrained man in single combat?”

“My martial prowess doesn’t grant me superhuman facilities, especially without armor. It was a split-second decision to kill him before he closed the door, as the place you found Patriarch Kevin’s body should attest to.”

“Who goes patrolling the ARKs hangar with a loaded Goliath Slayer? Did you recently become a David?”

“I was coming from the target range when I saw Patriarch Kevin moving toward the hanger bay, so I followed him until I could ascertain his purpose.”

“So you stalked him with a loaded weapon until you found a good place to dispose of him with minimal witnesses.”

“I confessed to the murder.”

“A whole day after you committed the crime.”

“I was in shock,” a lie, “our people haven’t killed our own since …”

“Enough. If you knew of Patriarch Kevin’s intentions you should have told us first, obviously you knew his plans beforehand or else you wouldn’t have followed him. You also felt he was serious enough to actually commit the folly or his trip near the hanger bay wouldn’t have raised alarms. So why didn’t you make the obvious choice, if that was the real reason to have killed Patriarch Kevin in cold blood?”

The truth is, Kevin wasn’t alone in this fool hardy plan, but he was the one who voiced his opinion to me, believing that laughing together 200 years ago was going to earn sympathy for his cause. He wanted me to come with him. Even when I pointed the gun inches from his chest, he still argued for his “humane” approach to this conflict. Conquest was a bloody business, we all knew that, but with the Samsons, well, we didn’t have to know firsthand how bloody it can be. Maybe if we did, we wouldn’t be so quick to exterminate all of the works of the Scientist with such zeal. Kevin argued a point that anyone in Noah knew already, but only mattered when we judged the difficulty of a campaign. We all knew that they were intelligent, as he often pointed out. Sentient species occupy the surface of our motherland, not mindless beasts that should provoke no more sympathy than a cow being maimed for beef. The ‘gifts’ the Scientist left behind to inherent the Earth are but distorted versions of what used to be humble animals we learned about in Earth biological history. But Kevin … he believed that these creatures were redeemable. The bugs, no, he agreed they must die, but what crawled with two legs instead of six could be reasoned with.

So what did I do when my friend of 200 years past decided that he must steal a shuttle and travel to the surface to “come in peace,” taking with him whatever experimental devices he could smuggle to help translate the clicks and growls considered a language by the savages below? What did I do when he waved away the danger of presenting our technology to the aliens? When he waved away the idea of presenting this plan to the Wise Men so they can give him an armed escort and contingency plan, in case something inevitably goes wrong – “when you get careless,” I remember pointing out. Oh yes, I could have brought him before the Wise Men and they would have laughed and hollered about the foolishness of this “mission.” They may even convince Kevin to concede his point, no doubt, letting him go to his own quarters, thinking all is well, dropping their guard, my guard.

And that wasn’t going to happen. It was treason, against the state, against humanity, against all god-fearing creatures still alive in this cold dead universe. They may say and rightly that the study of the martial, of war and its history, has awakened some deep primal desire for blood mayhem that encompassed much of our early history as humans young in this universe. That the Davids were irredeemable men too filled with blood-lust to rejoin a humanity that survived the emptiness of space for millennia without spilling a drop of blood. Noah will probably be broken down and its memory left only to archives, and that may be for the ultimate good of mankind.

Once the war is over.

But when there is a war, a war that demands the sacrifice of faceless soldiers who are bred for battle and nothing else, then why should we Patriarchs risk the balance between victory and defeat by endangering our one advantage against the demons endless numbers? What right did Kevin have to risk undoing the work of countless men never to have children or live past the age of 30? Rights even the masses that waste space on the ARK ships are afforded, even though all they do for the betterment of mankind is empty their bowels in the designated holes and pop more screaming mouths to feed.

“I’ll take your silence as proof of your guilt. That you committed your crime in cold blood with no just cause.”

I keep my silence; truly what else is there to say? The fools would have never tried Kevin for treason, even if one of the Adams was among their number!

“It is by our right, for the betterment of mankind and the future of humanity, to punish you in proportion to your crimes.”

“However,” a different voice takes over, a grey hair sitting above ageless black eyes. A face that was once dark brown is now a shallow brown leaning to a type of grey because of all the years in artificial lighting. He almost looks his age, if the human lifespan elongated unnaturally over a period of a thousand plus years could even be remotely represented in the long grim face of this man.

“The normal precedent for your crime would not satisfy this court. Life internment would just waste the valuable time of a Patriarch, and no doubt a man of your cunning could easily gull a commoner into slacking his guard just enough to allow your escape, if a commoner could be trusted with such an important task. Some Wise Men suggest we use a Samson for your guard … that is unwise. There is also a matter of what cell would we waste to keep you? Hmm, truly there is a dark corner somewhere on this ship unsuitable for even a commoner to live in. But I ask of you here, my fellow Wise Men, should we debase ourselves to subjecting a Patriarch to inhumane conditions?”

I watch the heads shake in silence, some more bitter about agreeing with the grey Adam than others.

“Nevertheless, there is a precedent to be set here; if imprisonment is not practical, should we partake in your sin Patriarch David Matchworth? Murder one of our own? Find a humane way to end your sin? By our hand I think not. I say nay, we leave your fate to the sword, as you lived by. For killing a man, a Patriarch, not in war, or defense, but in cold blood, with gun in one hand and sword in your heart, this council banishes you to the surface,  to spend the rest of your days amongst the godless and abominations. We grant you the rank of David, a rank of honor given to Patriarchs that wish to face the enemy with pistol and lance in hand. You will meet the surface as a David in Goliath armor, armed with the holy flames of napalm with two tanks to sustain your wrath. Understand that this is a mercy, afforded to you by a merciful court that heard your arguments and pleas and judged righteously. When you die by the hands of creatures as abominable as your sin, do know that even your death is an honor, for you to die as a David, and that your soul is cleansed, as you slay the demons of mankind with flame and steel. “

“Any last word before the court, Patriarch David Matchworth?”

“Oh joy.”

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