Golgotha by P Stanley by P Stanley - Read Online

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Summary

An astronaut in exile, Saul Blackwell has discovered the key to eternal life—a salve—while living amongst a primitive people who worship him as a god. In order to refine this life-extending substance and purge it of its negative side-effects, Saul requires the high-tech lab facilities of the New Athens base—the very place from which he is in exile. First, however, Saul must lead his followers, the Kishna, in a desperate battle against a deadly enemy and hope against hope that he survives. Meanwhile expedition leader Kenji Yashioto must deal with a personal loss, a plague of equipment failures, and a pregnant wife. When a new menace arises to threaten all mankind, Kenji and his crew may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. The Children of Sol Book Three: Golgotha, is the final installment of the Children of Sol trilogy.
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16

THE CHILDREN OF SOL

BOOK 3: GOLGOTHA

by

P. STANLEY

WHISKEY CREEK PRESS

www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Published by

WHISKEY CREEK PRESS

Whiskey Creek Press

PO Box 51052

Casper, WY 82605-1052

www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Copyright Ó 2014 by Philip O. Stanley

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 (five) years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

ISBN: 978-1-61160-657-7

Cover Artist: Gemini Judson

Editor: Dave Field

Printed in the United States of America

Dedication

For my Little Grandma Audrey and my Aunt Barbara—forever loved and always missed.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

After-Action Report

Advisory-Report

Prologue: It is Good

Chapter One: Banners of Flesh

Chapter Two: Visions of Death

Chapter Three: The Sacrifice

Chapter Four: The Battle

Chapter Five: A Decree of Death

Chapter Six: The Great Secret

Chapter Seven: Golgotha

Chapter Eight: A New Birth

Chapter Nine: Relics

Chapter Ten: Vanquished

Chapter Eleven: Nessus Rising

Chapter Twelve: The Essence of the Worm

Chapter Thirteen: The Siege of Eden

Chapter Fourteen: War in the Heavens

Chapter Fifteen: When A God Dies

Chapter Sixteen: Gabriel’s Journey

Epilogue

Advisory-Report:

Advisory-Report:

After-Action Report:

Advisory-Report:

Advisory-Report:

Appendix

Glossary

Acknowledgements

Bibliography

About The Author

Chapter 1

AFTER-ACTION REPORT

ULTRA-BLACK TOP SECRET

EYES ONLY

HOMEWORLD SECURITY INFORMATION ENCLOSED

WARNING: THIS IS AN ULTRA-BLACK TOP SECRET DOCUMENT CONTAINING HIGHLY COMPARTMENTALIZED INFORMATION ESSENTIAL TO THE PLANETARY SECURITY OF TERRA AND HER SUBORDINATE COLONIES.

EYES ONLY ACCESS IS LIMITED TO ONLY THOSE POSESSING ULTRA-BLACK CLEARANCE LEVEL. REPRODUCTION OR DIVULGENCE IN ANY FORM OF THE MATERIAL HEREIN IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN.

PRELIMINARY BRIEFING DOCUMENT: AFTER-ACTION REPORT CONCERNING THE ALPHA-CENTAURI EXPEDITION.

PREPARED FOR THE UNITED NATIONS PRESIDENT, SHARON R TRAUB (EYES ONLY).

PREPARED BY THE UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY OF SPACE EXPLORATION, DR. ORIN FLETCHER

Mrs. President,

This is an After-Action Report concerning the expedition to the Alpha-Centauri star system. More up to date reports will be issued, as datastream communications are decrypted and compiled. Also, please take special note of the covert, tandem-report that was apparently issued by Dr. Sarah Faye LaBuff.

Dr. LaBuff is officially the expedition’s geologist; however she has obviously infiltrated expedition data for purposes of gathering insider-knowledge for use by Strauss Corporation.

Dr. LaBuff’s tandem report was intercepted and decoded by the NIBIRU Deep-Space receiver. The complicated decoding process of Dr. LaBuff’s covert reports has greatly slowed the compilation of the Alpha-Centauri After-Action data as a whole but the expedition’s data-stream itself is also degraded and intermittent.

Mrs. President, it is with deep regret that I inform you that Astronauts Maria Sanchez and Dr. Saul Blackwell are dead. According the Governor Kenji Yashioto’s report, the astronauts were attacked by a large, native animal while they were gathering water samples, deemed critical for the long-term survival of the expedition.

While actual tissue samples of Maria Sanchez’s body were recovered, Dr. Blackwell’s death was confirmed by circumstantial and blood/DNA-evidence alone. Governor Yashioto also reports that the astronaut’s attacker was a non-sentient, native lifeform and was terminated by multiple shots of small-arms fire.

Incidentally, subsequent tests of water sources near and around New Athens base confirm that it is adequate for irrigation, human-consumption and ultimately, colony-expansion.

Although both deaths are regrettable the death of Dr. Saul Blackwell has a more profound significance directly related to the human colonization of extra-solar worlds.

Dr. Blackwell’s work in the field of bio-engineering culminated in the creation of Premium-Grade Bio-gel, a substance that greatly slows the human aging process. This substance is key to the preservation of the human body during long interstellar voyages and without which humans would not be able to colonize other worlds with our current propulsion technology.

In the creation of Biogel, Dr. Blackwell gave mankind a wondrous gift and although we do have the bio-chemical formula and means to reproduce it, neither the R&D department at Blackwell Bio-Corporation nor our own scientists at Bane Bio-Research Facility has had any success in improving upon it.

Bio-gel will only take humanity so far into the galaxy, Mrs. President, and it appears that whatever undisclosed knowledge that Dr. Blackwell gained in his secretive research into the extension of the human lifespan, died with him.

Fortunately, however, there may be a feasible way to gain access to Dr. Saul Blackwell’s knowledge into the secrets of life extension. Unbeknownst to Dr. Blackwell, he was a recipient of a Soul Code phylactery, a device, which over time, creates a facsimile of sorts of one’s personality and knowledge—for lack of a better term, an A.I. copy of their soul.

Identification of Dr. Blackwell’s personal phylactery is on a need to know basis only but I believe that this phylactery is recoverable as are the secrets of life extension held within.

Mrs. President, more After-Action and/or Advisory-Reports concerning the expedition will surely be forthcoming. However in light of this latest report and the disclosed information in Dr. LaBuff’s unauthorized tandem-report to Strauss Corporation, it is my strongest suggestion that you green-light all final phases of all Ultra-Black projects relating to and culminating in the Apex Project; Pantheon.

I also strongly urge that Dr. Nathaniel Brickman’s security-clearance level be upgraded to that of Ultra-Black and that he immediately be indoctrinated into the NETRU organization, as it is my intention that he become my even

EYES ONLY

END OF REPORT

ADVISORY REPORT

ULTRA-BLACK TOP SECRET

EYES ONLY

HOMEWORLD SECURITY INFORMATION ENCLOSED

WARNING: THIS IS AN ULTRA-BLACK TOP SECRET DOCUMENT CONTAINING HIGHLY COMPARTMENTALIZED INFORMATION ESSENTIAL TO THE PLANETARY SECURITY OF TERRA AND HER SUBORDINATE COLONIES.

EYES ONLY ACCESS IS LIMITED TO ONLY THOSE POSESSING ULTRA-BLACK CLEARANCE LEVEL. REPRODUCTION OR DIVULGENCE IN ANY FORM OF THE MATERIAL HEREIN IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN.

ADVISORY REPORT DOCUMENT: DR. SARAH LA BUFF’S COVERT TRANSMISSION TO STRAUSS CORPORATE H.Q. AS INTERCEPTED AND DECODED BY THE NIBIRU DEEP SPACE RECEIVER.

Sirs,

It took a great deal of coaxing but I was finally able to persuade Lt. Gabriel Clark to perform a high-resolution, spectral holoscan of the planet Nessus and transmit this scan from the Pegasus directly to my personal A.I. lab system. Due to the plague of electronic system failures we are experiencing here, Governor Yashioto concurred with this slight deviation from protocol, on the condition that I manually upload the scan to the colony database.

Although it deprived my friend Gabriel of some much needed sleep, I believe the effort was worthwhile, for I am pleased to report that my initial findings strongly indicate that the planet Nessus holds a large reserve of endurium ore.

As you will see in the attached holoscan, the large southern peninsula of the planet’s single continent is rife with endurium deposits. The peninsula itself is a large mountain range running from the continental temperate zone to its southern arctic pole. Because of her breathable atmosphere and the fact that by Earth standards Nessus holds little in the way of arctic conditions, it is my belief that the mining of these endurium deposits will be a far less burdensome endeavor than our traditional asteroid mining efforts.

Although I have admittedly focused the core of my attention to the deposits of Nessus mountain range, my cursory observations of the holoscan in general reveal that the planet Nessus has an inherently high background radiation level and regions of its single continent appear to be pock-marked with small asteroid impact craters. The continent appears to be completely desert with a few oases of what I believe to be dense vegetation along various coastal regions. Several small, volcanic island groups are also present and peppered throughout Nessus’s vast oceans; however, thus far I have observed no indication of endurium deposits among these island chains.

As not to raise suspicion, I have uploaded a lower-resolution and highly-edited version of the Nessus holoscan to the official colony database. As planned I will covertly tether this A.I. encrypted report to the colonies initial datastream transmission, that is if Lieutenant Mooneagle can get the damned data-streamer up and running.

ADDENDUM:

Sirs,

After the regrettable events of the past several days, I have taken a far less-hurried, second examination of the high-resolution Nessus holoscan. Through my careful observations, I have discovered what appear to be structural ruins and artificial canals on the surface of the planet.

These features, had I been looking for them initially, would have given an early indication that an alien civilization once did or currently exists on the planet Nessus and the unfortunate events that transpired may have been averted.

EYES ONLY

END OF REPORT

—Then God said, Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.

—Genesis 1:26, The Holy Bible.

Prologue: It is Good

Alone in his bedroom, hour after hour the little boy kneaded the brightly-colored clay; his small fingers were now quite tired from molding each glob of the toy-dough into the detailed form of a magnificent animal. Presently, a vast multitude of the boy’s favorite animals stood in various molded poses on his bedroom floor.

Clearly the boy paid attention to detail and had even dug some of his mother’s plants from her flower garden and brought them into his bedroom—after all, he knew that when the clay animals jumped to life they would need a beautiful garden to live in. The animals themselves had been created in their proper order with the fish of course being first; the boy understood that he had to follow the instructions precisely as his illustrated book portrayed.

Currently the boy was working on his last and greatest creation, the apex figure that would rule with a benevolent hand over all the other clay creatures. This particular figure had hair, hands and even blue eyes, for the boy had molded its form in his own image. As a final touch, the boy grooved an upright smile into the figure’s face for he wanted his greatest creation to be forever happy.

It is good, the boy said.

Finally the moment had come, the moment where he would breathe the breath of life into the apex figure and it along with the host of clay-dough animals would awaken into vibrant being. Anticipation consumed the boy, as thoughts of never-ending sessions of play with his living clay creations filled his young mind.

With a smile of eagerness on his face the little boy held the clay figurine close to his lips and blew a great breath—nothing. He cocked an eyebrow and blew again—still nothing. Carefully he looked over the figurine, feet, hands, eyes, mouth and nose, they were all there, all accounted for but still there was no animation, no sign of life, not even so much as a sputtering cough from his greatest work of clay.

Frustrated, the boy snatched-up the nearest clay animal, a serpent, and attempted to breathe life into it too—not a damn thing.

With a tap on the bedroom door, the boy’s mother peeked in and eyed the mess the boy had made of his bedroom. She sighed.

Oh, Saul—what are you doing, son?

A clay human in one hand and serpent in the other, the boy looked to his mother, his little nostrils flaring as his eyes welled with tears.

"I did everything right, Mom! I followed the book exactly and it didn’t work! I worked hard all day at it and my creatures aren’t alive! Why didn’t it work? Why?"

By the expression on her face the boy thought his mother to at first be angry or perhaps even frightened. But then a familiar comforting expression adorned her countenance as she knelt next to him and placed an arm around his small shoulders.

"Because, Saul, you’re not God."

The answer given did nothing to comfort the boy or alleviate his utter disappointment but outwardly, he accepted his mother’s explanation with silence.

The mother stood and brushed her hand through the boy’s mop of dark hair.

Now get this mess cleaned up, I’m putting lunch on, she said and walked out of the room.

Downcast, the boy beheld the clay creatures in his hands; tears streamed down his face.

"But I want to be God!" he spat angrily.

The boy’s teeth clenched, his upper lip curled into a snarl as he squeezed the clay figures, mauling their forms then, consumed with frustration, he mashed them together.

In his angry hands the features of the apex figure blended with that of the serpent, until the two vibrant colors coalesced and became irreversibly-intertwined into a hapless new thing.

"I will be a God!"

—Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.

—Hebrews 13:3, The Holy Bible.

Chapter 1

Banners of Flesh

I will be a God!

The crashing sound of a felled reed tree abruptly brought astronaut Saul Blackwell out of his daydream and into the here and now. However it wasn’t really a daydream so much as it was a recollection, a vivid one, almost as if he were reliving the event.

Saul scanned his memory.

Weird, I’d completely forgotten about that until now.

Saul’s eyes welled with tears—the clear recollection of his mother brought them forth; he fought back the emotion.

Sitting cross-legged, Saul glanced to the rip in his jumpsuit and to the glistening sheen of worm-salve that glazed his thigh. The wound was nearly healed; the venomous Drooma bite that had nearly killed him.

It’s the worm-essence that’s doing this to me, it has to be.

Saul wanted answers; he wanted to unlock the secrets of the Umma-worm essence but unraveling that mystery would have to wait. For now it was more important that he simply survive the next few days.

The Kishna, the primitive tribals who’d adopted him as their human-god, were under threat from the predatory Drooma. And although Saul had vowed to use his divine power to protect the Kishna from their hated enemy, he was uncertain of his ability to make good on that vow.

Enough sitting around.

Saul clamped his gauss rifle to his equipment pack then slung its entire weighty bulk upon his broad shoulders. Carefully he descended from the lofty but natural spire that the Kishna called The birth rock, traversing its rocky incline to the relatively-flat surface of the outcropping ledge below. Rounding the curve of the ledge, Saul came upon the entrance of the temple cave, the holy-site of the Kishna people and forbidden to all but an elite few. He lingered for a moment.

The cave entrance was now stacked with bundles of dried worm meat and piles of wormskins filled with water, the entire tribe’s collective reserve. Saul could also see a silvery glow emanating from what appeared to be a wide tunnel at the back of the cave.

How is a light source being made by a people who don’t even have the knowledge of fire? he wondered.

It was yet another mystery that would have to wait.

The lone centaur that guarded the stash of gathered rations at the entrance covered his eyes with his hands and bowed his head in respectful acknowledgement of his human deity. Saul offered the centaur a quick nod before moving along, for now ignoring his passing curiosity over the strange, silver glow.

As Saul rounded the outcropping ledge, he looked along the length of the High Place path, the natural and narrow stone ramp that was the only access to the Kishna’s home. His gaze trailed from the crest of the path to the surrounding clearing floor. However, Saul stopped dead in his tracks, disbelieving the sight that his eyes were taking in.

The female Kishna; the soft-ones, were gathering rocks and larger stones from the clearing floor just as he’d instructed and already there was a small pile of them gathered where the crest of the path met the outcropping ledge. What Saul found disbelieving was the manner in which the stones were being transported…one at a time.

One by one the soft-ones carried the stones, each awaiting their turn to step upon the path and shuffle their burden along the narrow incline to place it into the gathered pile.

Crikey! Just how bloody-stupid are these people? Saul whispered.

He shook his head in exasperation as he approached the crest of the path. Through the filtered speech of the translation mask he spoke.

Stop what you are doing and remove yourselves from the path! he commanded.

The soft-ones ceased moving along the stone path and looked to Saul, seemingly confused over his request.

Go back down to the clearing floor…all of you, off the path now! Saul ordered as he made pushing motions with his hands.

The soft-ones complied, all of them turning direction on the narrow course and slowly descending, single-file, to the clearing below. The soft-ones gathered at the foot of the High Place path and watched in silence as Saul descended half-way then stopped—he overlooked the crowd.

"There is an easier and quicker way to do this, people—it’s called teamwork. Just as the strong-ones work together to gather umma-worms, so too can you work together to bring the stones to the top of the ledge."

Saul carefully descended the remainder of the path to the clearing floor. With his human height he towered over the soft-ones, unintentionally intimidating them—he didn’t mind.

Place the stones into a pile next to the start of the path, he instructed.

The soft-ones quickly complied and made a small pile of rocks comprised of fist to head-sized stones.

Now, Nishnay. Saul pointed to her. Go to the top of the path and to the ledge next to the pile of stones that are already there. Fennay, follow Nishnay and stop upon the path within an arm’s length of her. Wikilnay, follow Fennay up the path and stop within an arm’s length of her. Jeebanay, you follow and do the same.

One by one, Saul instructed fourteen soft-ones along the length of the High Place path. Then he took a fist-sized stone from the gathered pile and handed it to the soft-one at the bottom of the path. The soft-one held the stone in both hands and looked to Saul with an utterly-empty expression.

She still doesn’t have a bloody clue!

Now hand the stone off to the tribe-sister next to you, Saul instructed.

The soft-one obeyed and Saul indicated for the next female in line to repeat the task, and then the next.

Yes, that’s it, keep handing it off…good!

Saul looked to Nishnay upon the ledge above and cast his voice to her.

Nishnay, when Fennay hands you the stones, you will place them in the gathered pile next to you.

With her hands over her eyes and a quick bow of the head Nishnay acknowledged Saul’s command as the stone made its way up the line to her.

Saul looked to the soft-one stationed at the foot of the path.

What is your name, soft-one?

Meppanay, she meekly replied.

Saul nodded and pointed to the small pile of rocks at the foot of the path.

Meppanay, I want you too keep handing-off the stones to your tribe-sisters as quickly as you can until there are no stones left. Do you understand this?

Yes, star-god, I understand.

Meppanay saluted Saul by shielding her eyes with the palms of her hands and bowing her head in reverence.

Saul smiled, his ego bolstered by the acknowledgment of his godhood.

Very good.

He spoke to the rest of the soft-ones clustered around him.

Now as for the rest of you, gather stones and place them in a pile, right here next to Meppanay, so that she may send them up the High Place path. Keep collecting the stones until there are no more of good use to be found—we’ll have need of them.

Saul waved the females off.

Now get to it! he ordered with a brisk clap of his hands.

Like a group of children on an egg-hunt, the soft-ones scampered off, their sharp eyes to the ground seeking stones both large and small from the clearing floor.

Saul moved away from the High Place path toward the bodies of the Drooma he had slain the previous day. He’d ordered the bodies to be dragged from their various deathbeds and now their rigored remains lay at his feet. So far, three bodies had been collected.

Saul nudged one of the carcasses with his boot, rolling it onto its back. He knelt to study the creature up close.

It’s all fangs’n claws, nasty-looking critter!

The Drooma was lean and muscular and despite having small scales about its joints and spine, it was for the most part, soft-skinned. The creature’s torso was more rounded than that of a human’s but roughly of the same frame. And its legs, Saul observed, were jointed similarly to a canine’s and exactly as the Kishna’s were—just larger.

They’re well-developed for speed and power, Saul thought.

The two native peoples of Pholus indeed had distinct differences with the Drooma easily being the larger and physically more powerful, but Saul observed that they also shared many similarities and hypothesized that the Drooma may have shared a common ancestor with the Kishna sometime in the distant past.

He stood away from the alien corpses and watched for a moment as the gathered stones moved with assembly-line-efficiency along the High Place path.

The Kishna learn slowly, but they’re learning.

Saul wondered if the Drooma were equally as dim-witted as his newly-adopted people. He wondered if perhaps that the Drooma were actually meant to wipe out the Kishna just as the Cro-Magnon man had likely eliminated or absorbed the Neanderthal thousands of years ago, back on his home planet. He pondered for a moment the possibility that his presence among these primitives was actually altering what should be. The idea was merely a passing curiosity though, because at any rate Saul Blackwell didn’t care.

It doesn’t really matter, just as long as I’m on the winning side.

Saul took his time and made a slow inspection of the outcropping by strolling around its perimeter. The outcropping was a natural fortress. Its semi-circular base was a ten-meter high, sheer wall of solid stone and indeed, the High Place path was the only access to the wide ledge above.

The outcropping offered nearly impenetrable protection, which, Saul surmised, is why the kishna from long ago had chosen to live upon it. Yet if Saul hadn’t known better he’d have thought the fortress’s shape to have been formed rather than a natural one—or at least partially so.

Saul continued on and as it came into view he gazed upon the small but beautiful waterfall that cascaded from out of the very rock high above.

We can gather water from the fall itself if need be. The primitives only take it from the pool below because it’s easier for them to access it there. So having a supply of fresh drinking water shouldn’t be much of a concern when the Drooma come to lay siege to my little castle.

Saul meandered to the edge of the water pool and watched with amusement as a handful of strong-ones struggled to drag the body of the largest Drooma, the one they had called Jolona from the water.

"My, my, he is a big one!" Saul spoke into his translator. The strong-ones wholeheartedly agreed.

Gripping the corpse’s arm, Saul used his human strength and helped heave the body out of the water, then left the strong-ones to it.

The lifeless creature’s head flipped limply from side to side at an unnatural angle as the strong-ones dragged the carcass toward the other gathered bodies. Saul glanced at the Drooma’s head wound, eyeing his kill.

Heh, that was a bloody good shot if I do say so myself, he mused as Jolona’s lifeless form slid past.

Saul continued his inspection of this alien fortress until he returned to the soft-ones, who were still hard at work relaying the stones to the top of the ledge. A large gathering of stones had been piled next to Meppanay whose small hands were now bleeding from tiny cuts.

Meppanay ceased her work for a moment and looked to Saul.

"I have been told that all the large stones that