Prophets: Apotheosis: Book One

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9780756405410: Prophets: Apotheosis: Book One
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It’s been nearly 200 years since the collapse of the Confederacy, the last government to claim humanity’s colonies. So when signals come in revealing lost human colonies that could shift the power balance, the race is on between the Caliphate ships and a small team of scientists and mercenarys. But what awaits them all is a threat far beyond the scope of any human government.

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About the Author:

S. Andrew Swann lives in the Greater Cleveland area. He has a background in mechanical engineering. He has published twenty-three novels over the past eighteen years, which include science fiction, fantasy, and horror. His latest series is his epic space opera, the Apotheosis trilogy. He can be found at sandrewswann.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

 

FIRST PROLOGUE - Signs

CHAPTER ONE - The Music of the Spheres

CHAPTER TWO - Vocation

CHAPTER THREE - Audience

 

PART ONE - Original Sins

CHAPTER FOUR - Stigmata

CHAPTER FIVE - Pilgrimage

CHAPTER SIX - Geas

CHAPTER SEVEN - Tithes

CHAPTER EIGHT - Mysteries

CHAPTER NINE - Initiations

CHAPTER TEN - Heresies

CHAPTER ELEVEN - Acolyte

CHAPTER TWELVE - Portents

CHAPTER THIRTEEN - Communion

CHAPTER FOURTEEN - Limbo

CHAPTER FIFTEEN - Divine Intervention

CHAPTER SIXTEEN - Exodus

 

PART TWO - Burnt Offerings

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN - Sectarianism

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN - Purgatory

CHAPTER NINETEEN - Faith of Our Fathers

CHAPTER TWENTY - Service

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE - Fallen Angel

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO - Jihad

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE - Revelation

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR - Confession

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE - Apocrypha

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX - Relic

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN - Resurrection

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT - Harbinger

 

PART THREE - Prodigal Son

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE - Test of Faith

CHAPTER THIRTY - Seraphim

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE - Good Samaritans

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO - Descent

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE - Hubris

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR - My Brother’s Keeper

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE - Mixed Blessings

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX - Hallowed Ground

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN - Zealots

CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT - Destiny

CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE - Götterdämmerung

 

FIRST EPILOGUE - Last Rites

CHAPTER FORTY - Mysterious Ways

CHAPTER FORTY-ONE - Visions

CHAPTER FORTY-TWO - Conversions

APPENDIX - Alphabetical Listing of Sources

“SO, NICKOLAI, HOW DO YOU FEEL WORKING WITH A BUNCH OF HUMANS?”

“Mosasa isn’t human.”

“Yeah, you mentioned that, didn’t you? Mind expounding on that little tidbit?”

Nickolai pondered his options for a moment. The fact he carried a rather large secret with him made him reluctant, but Kugara was the only other member of the team he would feel comfortable having as an “ally.” He also thought she had a point that they both needed one. This mission was going to take them far outside the grip of the BMU, the only law recognized by their nominal comrades. And would he want to trust his life to humans like Wahid or Parvi, or even Fitzpatrick?

Nickolai finished his pitcher and told Kugara what he could about Mosasa. “Our employer,” Nickolai said, “doesn’t just work with AIs. He doesn’t own them.”

“Meaning?”

“He is them.”

Kugara lowered her mug. The glass hit the table with a slightly liquid squeak. A similar sound seemed to come from her throat. After a moment she said, “Shit.”

“Tjaele Mosasa is a construct controlled by a salvaged Race AI device. The ‘man’ who briefed us is no more real than my right arm. . . .”

Other fine DAW science fiction and fantasy from S. ANDREW SWANN

Science Fiction:
THE HOSTILE TAKEOVER TRILOGY:
PROFITEER (#1)
PARTISAN (#2)
REVOLUTIONARY (#3)

THE MOREAU NOVELS:
MOREAU OMNIBUS (#1-3)
FEARFUL SYMMETRIES (#4)

Fantasy:
THE DWARVES OF WHISKEY ISLAND
THE DRAGONS OF THE CUYAHOGA
*
BROKEN CRESCENT
*
GOD’S DICE

Fiction:
ZIMMERMAN’S ALGORITHM

Copyright © 2009 by Steven Swiniarski.

 

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

DAW Book Collectors No. 1468.

 

DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

 

All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

 

The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal, and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

Nearly all the designs and trade names in this book are registered trademarks. All that are still in commercial use are protected by United States and international trademark law.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Printing March 2009

eISBN : 978-1-101-01969-6

This is for Michelle,
for putting up with all my crap.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

Bakunin

Father Francis Xavier Mallory—Roman Catholic Priest and veteran of the Occisis Marines.

Nickolai Rajasthan—Exiled scion of the House of Rajasthan. Descendant of genetically engineered tigers.

Vijayanagara Parvi—Mercenary pilot from Rubai.

Tjaele Mosasa—Proprietor of Mosasa Salvage, owner of the Eclipse.

Jusuf Wahid—Mercenary from Davado Poli.

Julia Kugara—Mercenary from Dakota. Descendant of genetically engineered humans. Former member of the DPS (Dakota Planetary Security).

Eclipse

“Bill”—Paralian expert in physics.

Dr. Sharon Dörner—Xenobiologist from Acheron.

Dr. Samson Brody—Cultural anthropologist from Bulawayo.

Dr. Leon Pak—Linguist from Terra.

Rebecca Tsoravitch—Data analyst from Jokul.

Earth

Cardinal Jacob Anderson—Bishop of Ostia, Dean of the College of Cardinals, Vatican Secretary of State.

Yousef Al-Hamadi—Eridani Caliphate Minister-at-Large in Charge of External Relations.

Khamsin

Admiral Muhammad Hussein al Khamsiti—Commander of the Prophet’s Voice and battlegroup.

Admiral Naji Bitar—Commander of the Prophet’s Sword and battlegroup.

Salmagundi

Flynn Jorgenson—Forestry surveyor.

Alexander Shane—Senior member of the Grand Triad.

FIRST PROLOGUE

Signs

The no-mind not-thinks no-thoughts about no-things.

—SIDDHARTHA GAUTAMA BUDDHA (563-483 Bce)

CHAPTER ONE

The Music of the Spheres

Blaming Fate, God, or Destiny is an admission that you don’t have a clue what’s going on.

The Cynic’s Book of Wisdom

The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.

—SOCRATES (470-390 Bce)

Date: 2502.12.09 (Standard) 5.48 ly from Xi Virginis

The egg moves at half light speed through the vacuum, its surface a deep blackness absorbing every stray photon, emitting nothing. Particles with small masses—from stray protons up to grains of interstellar dust—slide around it, nanometers from its surface, following the ovoid perimeter until they find their original track on the opposite side, where they resume their motion as if the egg had not crossed their path. The only sign that something exists beneath its event-horizon skin is the resonance in the fabric of space-time as it ripples gravity in its wake.

The egg has traveled for over two centuries, 228.326 years standard to be exact. Viewed from the perspective of those who built it, its journey has barely begun. The Protean outpost on the lawless planet Bakunin, the origin of the egg, had secluded itself from the persecution of the rest of human civilization and looked far beyond the limits of that civilization to propagate itself. The egg’s destination is removed from its builders by thousands of light-years in space, and a million years in time. Packed within it is the combined resources and knowledge of the entire Protean civilization.

Within the egg sleep the minds of a quarter million people.

One mind is awake. An artificial mind devoid of boredom or emotion. A mind that can observe the egg’s travels over the course of an aeon and not go insane.

A mind that sees with an almost omniscient eye.

The egg itself is a collector of every scrap of radiant energy; it touches every ripple in the fabric of space, hears the twist of momentum of the particles slipping close to its skin, and smells the quantum foam of virtual particles that break across it as it moves through the vacuum. The mind is as aware as any sentient being can possibly be.

For all that, the mind’s job is simple. Watch, and ensure that the egg does not move through anything that could damage it or its contents. That is the directive, the mind’s sole reason for being.

The mind cannot feel pride, but it knows that it is good at its job. It knows in a concrete fashion that it has saved the egg from danger 1,568 times in the past 200 years standard.

Dust will slide by the dent the egg makes in the universe around it, but a stone any larger would not be so easily dissuaded at these velocities. While the egg could withstand the occasional grain of interstellar matter colliding with its surface, the mind knows the distance they are traveling. Even sand grains could cause an unacceptable wear on the egg’s resources over the course of their long journey. And, of course, a rock of any size larger than a pea might prove crippling. Fortunately, the egg is forward-looking enough to maneuver around large obstacles, from dark patches dense with interstellar matter to a variable star whose motion would carry it into the egg’s path 2,856 years standard from now.

The mind does not feel curiosity. The mind does not sense that as a weakness, since it has a defined procedure for assigning priority to stimuli. Threats receive its full attention. Non-threats are discarded as irrelevant. Unclassifiable phenomena are stored pending the mind’s ability to determine if they are threats or not.

For the past five years, the mind has struggled with its first dilemma. It has observed spectral anomalies around the star Xi Virginis that it cannot classify, and since first detecting it, the mind has returned to consider it every one to five seconds.

Each time, the datum refuses to fit into the mind’s model of the universe.

Despite its lack of curiosity, after reviewing the same item for the two hundred millionth time without being able to arrive at any conclusion, the mind decides that it is unable to properly classify the event.

Xi Virginis is now too close in time and space to ignore. Without deceleration, the egg will pass within three light-years of the star. However, decelerating the egg enough to avoid it would radically alter the path of the egg and, therefore, its mission.

The mind of the egg concludes that it requires consultation with its passengers in order to proceed. With its decision, a quarter million minds held in stasis are freed.

There is chaos as the population of the egg wakes. A quarter million thinking individuals suddenly occupy the single body of the egg, each one seizing its share of its processing and sensory abilities. All have a last common memory of donating the contents of their mind to the egg. All have the common shock that they are the result of that copy, and the person they remember is centuries and light-years removed from them now. All suffer disappointment in not finding themselves at their destination. All look out in wonder with the sense array of the egg, once the sole province of the mind.

All hear the mind’s message.

“There is something requiring your attention.”

The mind is surrounded by a sphere of attention as the population focuses on it. Emotionless, the mind does not flinch from stating that it is unable to decide how to respond to the anomaly. It offers the choice of proceeding as planned, or decelerating and radically altering either their ultimate destination, or near doubling their travel time. To the mind, velocity is too precious a commodity to dispense with without a communal decision.

Almost at once, the populace wonders, “Why?”

The mind shows them the anomaly around Xi Virginis.

Light speed thoughts ripple across the mental sphere inside the egg. Individuals cluster and debate the meaning of the mind’s observations. Most of the population study the phenomenon with the egg’s own eyes. Camps develop in the debate, first thousands, then hundreds, then a few dozen as points of view converge and communal differences are ironed out.

In the end, there are three camps of belief.

The first, smallest group maintains that the anomaly is non-threatening and should be ignored. The mind should not adjust the course of the egg.

The second group, almost five times the size of the first, preaches caution. Their mission to seed another world should not be endangered by a cavalier attitude. The mind should start maneuvering; decelerating the egg to ensure that the egg comes no closer than ten light-years of the phenomenon, whatever it is.

The last group, and a majority, urges a course of action that the mind hadn’t even considered. They should maneuver slightly to take the egg even closer, within a light-year of Xi Virginis. Their mission should not just be a journey of space and time, but one of knowledge. They should, in fact, be studying this anomaly, not running away or ignoring it.

Consensus is long in coming, but the egg eventually maneuvers to come as close as possible to Xi Virginis.

The decision is a mistake, and when the egg is within two light-years of Xi Virginis, it is too late for the mind to correct it.

CHAPTER TWO

Vocation

Everyone is vulnerable to their past.

The Cynic’s Book of Wisdom

I would far rather be ignorant, than wise in the foreboding of evil.

—Aeschylus (525-456 Bce)

Date: 2525.09.14 (Standard) Occisis-Alpha Centauri

Father Mallory was two weeks into his xenoarchaeology class before one of his students finally asked him “the question.” The questioner was a kid, barely eighteen standard, with a complexion and height that tagged him as having come from off-planet. Most of Mallory’s class were squat fair-skinned Occisian stock who had already done their tour in the Marines. Judging by age, many had put in more rotations than Mallory had.

“Master Gideon,” Mallory read the student’s name off of the holo display and used his most scholarly voice, “That question is always asked when I give this class.” Mallory smiled and faced the ranks of almost-solid holos showing students scattered all over Occisis. Even the classroom was a projection, as Father Mallory actually stood in a small room in the administrative offices of St. Marbury University.

“Can anyone identify the flaw in Master Gideon’s question?”

The question was in large part rhetorical. Rarely did anyone ever answer; rarer still did they answer correctly. Mallory paced the two square meters that represented actual floor. Behind him, a display that was virtual to a second level of abstraction showed digital models of artifacts on the Martian...

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