Authors: Michael J. Zummo
Michael J. Zummo
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to real people, living or dead, or events is coincidental.
D’MOK REVIVAL: AWAKENING
Copyright © 2013 by Michael J. Zummo
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without written permission from the author.
Cover art by Glenn Clovis
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013904027
This book is dedicated to my best friend, Patrick Conley.
When no one else believed in my story he did. From his constant reviews and brutally honest critiques the foundation of D’mok Revival was born. So, here’s that thing we keep talking about—published! ^.^
has been a labor of love over a decade in the making. Who knew a short story back in 1996 would blossom like it did. Its first evolution came in late 1999 as the background for a role playing game. By mid-2001, with hundreds of pages in backstory, characters information, key locations, and gameplay dynamics, a co-worker, Lynn Murdoch, suggested I write a novel.
I know these characters like my friends, and truly enjoy delving into their world documenting, what I feel is, their lives and history. There’s so much more to come!
This book would not have been possible without the love and support of family, friends, and professionals that helped me along the way. Those people are: Patrick Conley, Elizabeth Zummo, Mark Bender, Yana Malysheva, Michelle Montierth, Lane Beauchamp, Arlene Robinson, Philip Martin, Jake Mace, Rebecca Arnell, Lynn Murdoch, my incredible son Derek, and my dad. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!
Without further ado, allow me to take you on a journey!
He cowered in the dark, naked, his quivering hands over his ears in a desperate attempt to silence the cries and explosions around him. The dirty air was ripe with death, as the ground rumbled from endless legions stomping into battle. He tried to scream, but only a dry rasp escaped.
His breathing erratic, his eyes scoured the darkness. Were they close? Where else could he hide?
A crunching sound just yards away seized his attention.
A blur approached from the shadows; his body recoiled in fear as he saw another, and another.
One by one, the blurs took shape. Their monstrous forms were grotesque; their muted features sagged and bulged like melted wax. Despite their appearance, each haunting face drowned him in memories. Some he had loved, some he had ruined, others were innocents left doomed by his failures. All sought vengeance.
The first to reach him was a woman with jet-black hair. Her pupil-less eyes glared accusingly. Her hand stroked the shoulder of a ghostly young boy who clung to her side.
An ominous symbol formed above them. His eyes were drawn along its ragged, glowing, silvery-blue edges. Heat radiated as its light became blinding. Then, with a powerful blast, it exploded. Tongues of flame enshrouded his tormentors, immolating their already hideous forms, transforming them into hell-spawned demons.
Instinct told him to run, to bolt madly, anything but stay there. But he couldn’t. His body collapsed forward, trembling and useless. Fibers sprouted from the ground and entangled his fingers and toes, wrapped wildly around his hands and feet, wound up his arms and legs. The strands wove into cloth that soaked up color like a bandage on a gushing wound. He knew the garment well. It was his Coalition uniform.
The world around him began to warp, and the ground disappeared. He found himself floating in a void. The emptiness flooded with stars. In the distance, a battle raged. Coalition starfighters dodged frantically about, blindly unloading their weapons into empty space. When a great ruin appeared before him, he stared in horror. It was his space station, burning. Half the mammoth structure already orbited its carcass as debris.
Ominous crafts marked with the silvery-blue symbol took shape from the empty space, to prey upon the Coalition fighters. Two demons shrieked as the enemy attacked. Their flaming bodies burst into a cloud of ash as the two friendly crafts vaporized.
His eyes were drawn back to the female demon’s piercing gaze, desperate and beckoning. She reached out her hand to him.
In the distance, a small fleet of transports emerged from the station’s ruins attempting to slip away. With defenses obliterated, the enemy crafts closed in quickly. The little demon cried out, and huddled closer to his mother.
The enemy weapons radiated a hellish glow. He reached toward the woman as cannons thundered, unloading on the transport. The child gripped her side while she shrieked,
His body radiated with power as his voice rose like a geyser:
The pair burst into ash before him as ripples of energy pulsed from his body, destroying the enemy ships in its path. But it was too late. His mind spun as the universe dissolved into a haze of light.
The sounds of battle ceased. The demons, ships, and stars disappeared. He was utterly alone, cradled in a cocoon of energy. He whimpered and felt salty drops streak his face.
The light around him turned greenish-blue. The wetness congealed, and he found himself surrounded by a thick liquid, trapped inside a huge glass cylinder. His weak hands reached up and grasped the tubes that ran to a device over and into his mouth.
Distorted forms surrounded the tank. As the liquid drained, a great weight overcame him. The cylinder disappeared, replaced by a thick fog from which disembodied voices discussed the miracle of his survival.
He was strapped to a bed with a curtain of tangled wires which led from countless machines into inflamed lumps on his skin.
A translucent figure came to his side. “How do you feel, Commander Mencari?”
Too weak to respond, Rhysus Mencari stared at the round Coalition symbol on the man’s lab coat.
“By all rights you should be dead. I pray we don’t make you wish otherwise . . .”
The world around him blurred as time surged forward. He was poked and prodded. Scientists danced in patterns around him, trying to uncover his secrets. A golden aura radiated from his body after his stewards encouraged him to manifest his abilities. Each time, wild arcs of energy ripped from his hands to destroy targets hundreds of yards away. High-ranking Coalition observers stood speechless while others scrawled notes. Mencari felt only the familiar numbness of guilt.
The surge of time subsided, and he found himself being escorted down a narrow corridor, to a dark end. There, a smiling Admiral Asten, his direct superior, greeted him and motioned to enter the pitch black room just beyond.
“Welcome to your new home, Rhysus.”
The world around him elongated and pulled away as a tingling covered his body.
“Welcome to your new home, Rhysus.”
Mencari woke with a gasp, his lungs burned as if he’d run a marathon. Beads of sweat ran down his brow. He wiped the trickles away; the other hand felt the damp outline that ghosted his form in the sheets. Sudden pain shot across his forehead and he gripped his temples, trying to contain the throbbing.
Just another dream. It’ll pass.
After a few deep breaths, he opened his eyes. The nightmarish images had vanished, his panic receded. He looked around his cramped, dark quarters.
No matter how much he wanted, this wasn’t a dream. Struggling out of bed, he meandered to the window to stare at a slow stream of pitted asteroids that floated lazily by. His weary mind fought for stimulation.
Where is this?
A derelict Coalition mining station.
Associated cosmic body?
Sarien Asteroid Belt.
325 by 65 by 443 sector 82 omega.
Nearest Coalition station?
He hesitated, wishing a different question had come to mind. After the destruction of his deep-space platform, the Plutaran colony where he was born was the answer. This wasn’t going to work. There was no escaping his reality. The maroon-and-black uniform from his dream, neatly folded and sitting on the dresser beside him, furthered his torment.
How long had it been since it all started? The probing, the tests, the observers? Four, maybe five years? He couldn’t remember anymore. He’d only been on this asteroid for a little while, a few weeks perhaps. Sometimes he thought that at any moment Anaka would stroll into the room and tell him it was all a delusion from an over-indulgent night of drinking. He fidgeted with the wedding band he still refused to let them take from him, the only vestige of his wife and son. None of this was part of the wonderful plan they had created together—their fine careers, their family, all the places they wanted to see together. No, she, and everything they had built together was gone. Destroyed.
Instead I’m banished to a strip-mined rock floating on the fringe of Coalition space. Some home.
But where else did he need to be, really? The family that gave him meaning, that defined home, was gone.
Memories flooded his mind of the moment not long ago when Admiral Asten had entered his convalescent room to say,
“Commander Mencari, this is Osuto.”
The alien named Osuto looked human, although he wore an unusual full-length robe, plain, smooth, without features of any sort. His wrinkles made it hard to guess his age; Rhysus believed he was not much older than the Admiral, perhaps somewhere in his sixties. Though, something about the alien gave an air of ancients.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Rhysus,” Osuto had said. “The admiral has told me much about you—”
Admiral Asten raised a hand. “Forgive me, but there’s little time. There’s been a change in plans, Rhysus. As of 2100 today, you’ll be leaving the station.” To the confusion in Mencari’s eyes, he sighed and added, “Priorities . . . have changed.”
Then the admiral motioned to Osuto. “
Don’t worry. You’re going to learn a lot from Mr. Osuto here. . .”
* * * * *
A tone sounded, drawing him from the window. Osuto’s voice, artificially cheerful, filled the air. “Good morning, Rhysus.”
“G’mornin’,” he mumbled back. It was the best he could do.
“When you’re ready, meet me in the control center and we’ll begin.”
The admiral’s parting words rang through his mind. “
Learn how to use your gifts. Give us a fighting chance against those bastards.
So he was going to train with Osuto here. And then?
What he wanted to do was finish what he started before that attack. He and his colleague Scola had been fitting the Coalition ships with a device of Mencari’s own invention, scanners they hoped would be far more sensitive than what they previously had. Scenes from the last battle flashed through his mind, the invisible enemies decimating their fighters, half their mammoth space station reduced to debris.
If only we’d had time to get the system working properly, to see where the bastards were hiding.
Phased space. Who thought you could even do that? He hadn’t, until the new scanners had come online for the first time, and what came back looked like a blob of bad data. And then the anomaly began to move. In what now seemed like the blink of an eye, an entire phased fleet appeared and nearly wiped them out. How long had those aliens been watching?
Now, Osuto was waiting. He looked at his new uniform that sat neatly folded on the room’s small bureau, its distinctive symbol on the shoulder: the letter “D,” broken at the middle with a sideways T-shape, and the entire letter surrounded with tiny planets. The image was faint, as though deliberately faded.
Why did the Admiral make this sound so important when the Coalition all but abandoned him here on a godforsaken asteroid? There had to be something he didn't get, or perhaps wasn't being told. He needed to find out, and soon.
A glance into the mirror above his dresser made him wish he hadn’t looked. Stress wrinkles aged his face; he looked haggard, felt like an ancient alien himself. He looked away, remembering the name Osuto had for those marauding aliens.
As he carelessly lifted his new outfit, a corner of it brushed against a small picture frame propped up on the dresser, sending it tumbling to the floor. A shot of adrenaline surged as Rhysus watched it land with a sharp crack. His hands shook as he lifted the frame, his eyes locked on Anaka’s broken smile peering through the fractured glass. Her twisted image as a demon from his nightly torment invaded his mind. He tried to wall the nightmare away, but her scream filled his mind as he set the frame back on the dresser.
The garment fit snugly as he donned it, accentuating his athletic frame. The material felt strange, unlike anything he’d worn before. Smooth and flexible, almost elastic, but strong.
Glancing at the door, knew he should’ve been at the control center by now. He picked up a crumpled scrap of paper from his dresser, reviewed the crude pencil sketch made in haste a few days earlier. The facility wasn’t that large, but held enough rooms and corridors to need a map. He tucked it into one of the jumpsuit’s pockets and headed for the lift, which still amazed him. Considering the mine’s age, the lift and the other technology he saw seemed incredibly modern. Everything shone with the gleam of fresh equipment just removed from packing crates, brightly polished, without a scratch anywhere to be seen.
When he entered the control center, he saw Osuto juggling between a main console and surrounding monitors streaming with data. The room’s granite floor had the same symbol engraved on it as the one on his shoulder patch.
He wondered, with bitter humor, what it was like to cling to a symbol that no longer held any meaning to him. In a moment of twisted irony, he found himself fidgeting again with his own wedding ring.
Osuto read a few more lines before looking up. “Hello, Rhysus. How are you doing?”
Mencari bobbed his head. “Okay.”
Silently, the old alien’s eyes traced along the floor. He tried, but their interactions were still somewhat forced and awkward.
Finally, Osuto’s wizened face lifted, and he gave a smile that just missed an attempt to reassure. “Everything must be overwhelming right now. I suspect you think you’ve been dumped here. . . I don’t know if this is the right time to say this, but, when my own abilities emerged, I was also taken from everything I loved.”
He motioned to the seat next to him. Mencari sat to be respectful, but wasn’t interested in another pep talk. What followed wasn’t intended to be, he soon learned.
Osuto cleared his throat. “On my world, D’mar, unexplainable things began happening to people. Powerful explosions, followed by the emergence of . . . strange abilities.”
Osuto nodded. “Like yours. Like mine. Many times, there was an emotional trigger the first time. Mine happened when a friend and I were mugged. It was late and we took a shortcut home. A bad decision in hindsight. When she resisted, one of them stabbed her. I remember this surge inside me, and a burning that wanted to rip through my skin. Next thing I knew, I was in the middle of an inferno. We were both protected by this . . . golden light. Our attackers were dead, thrown yards away. Burned to death.”
The old man scowled, remembering. “Help came, but not fast enough. She died in my arms. It took everything they had just to extinguish the blaze. After they carted her body away, they took me for questioning. I told them what happened. Next thing I knew, I ended up at a testing facility. Never saw my family or friends again. Just like that, everything I knew was gone.”
Mencari nodded. He didn’t feel any better, but he appreciated the old man’s effort.
Osuto patted Mencari assuredly, “So, you ready for some more training?”
“Yeah. Sure.” What else was there to say?
They entered an airlock just off the command center. As the entrance sealed behind them with a hiss, Osuto said, “You’ve done well in lab experiments. Now for some practical tests. This area leads to an old section of the mine. Full of all kinds of creatures. Before we can expand our facilities further, we need to clean them out.”
Mencari gave a smile he didn’t feel.
Great. I’m an exterminator.
As the gravity was switched off, Osuto began to glow and smoothly float upward. Mencari followed close behind.
The airlock opened, and they were pulled into the mine. Long rocky halls disappeared in several directions, shrinking in the distance into blackness. Orbs of light cast faint flickers down the deep tunnels. Mencari’s body shook as his mind warned of lack of air and cold. He felt sweat beads forming on his face.
Until Osuto’s order, he hadn’t realized he was holding his breath. How unnatural, breathing in a vacuum. Like putting your head underwater and expecting to gulp air. But his lungs worked fine. He forced a breath, then began to relax while they floated deeper into the left-most chiseled corridor. After a few hundred meters, they approached a collapsed section of the mine. Above them, a hole, perhaps six meters wide, cut through the rock. Rhysus could see a few levels of tunnels crisscrossing above the one they were in. Using their abilities, the pair propelled upward into the vertical shaft.
“You’ve already mastered basic maneuvering in space,” Osuto said. “Let’s work on your ability to do that while managing some simple attack skills.”
They found a harmless-looking blob of a creature, sort of like a piece of underwater coral, pale in color, patterned in a repeating set of octagons. It was pulsating slowly, feeding off the mineral deposits on the wall.
“Hold your hands out and focus,” Osuto said.
Mencari did, and to his amazement a small, radiant globe appeared in his hands. He focused on his target and the globe elongated, stretching into a beam. It shot forward and struck the creature, which shook crazily, then popped and disappeared like a soap bubble.
Under Osuto’s careful gaze, Mencari hunted down a number of similar creatures, all scarcely bigger than his foot.
"Good, keep practicing," Osuto said.
Mencari tried but nagging questions eroded his focus. Finally he broke his silence. "When are you going to tell me what's going on?"
"What do you want to know?"
"What do I need to know?"
"I told you about my world, D'mar. We were an old and peaceful culture. We traveled the stars and called countless worlds our colonies."
"Then reports reached homeworld of attacks obliterating colony after colony. Even with the vastness of our civilization we had never before encountered such a powerful enemy. We had advanced defensive systems, none of which could stop the attackers."
"We didn't know their name then. I was just a boy when the first tales circulated. They were a myth used to frighten children—monsters that took you in the night, never to be seen again. But that would all change."
Mencari noticed Osuto's weary expression.
His mentor continued, "I was eight years old—in school. There was a special broadcast, everyone was required to watch. I didn't understand the panic and looks of fear in my teachers eyes as we gathered to see, what I thought, was another boring holovision lesson."
Osuto shook his head. "So innocent then."
With no comfort to give, Mencari kept silent.
"It was footage taken from a short-lived battle at one of our outposts. Their ships were mammoth and unstoppable. They rolled through our defenses like there was nothing there. Our leader came on after and told us what it all meant. That's the day everything changed."
Osuto paused as Mencari aimed carefully and eliminated the last of the coral creatures nearby. The alien motioned to the far wall, just at the edge of their lights. "Try those."
Mencari saw the rocky wall at the far end of the hall was pebbled with larger versions of the bubble creatures. He reached out his arms, feeling the sinews tighten as he summoned the strange power that came from a place deep inside. His hands released a blast of visible energy that flew as a ball of plasma down the corridor. When the light dissipated, the far wall was nothing but rock. The creatures were gone.