Read The God Mars Book Five: Onryo Online

Authors: Michael Rizzo

Tags: #ghosts, #mars, #gods, #war, #nanotechnology, #heroes, #immortality, #warriors, #cultures, #superhuman

The God Mars Book Five: Onryo

 

 

The God Mars
Book Five: Onryō
By Michael Rizzo
Copyright 2015 by Michael Rizzo
Smashwords Edition
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Table of Contents

Part One: Dead Men Tell Tales

 

Chapter 1: The Invisible City

 

Chapter 2: Harvester

 

Chapter 3: Heroes Quest

 

Chapter 4: Die to Live

 

Chapter 5: Dead Man’s Memories

 

Chapter 6: Return of the Reaper

 

Chapter 7: Wizard and Demon

 

Chapter 8: Premature Burial

 

 

Part Two: Time of Death

 

Chapter 1: Local God

 

Chapter 2: Duty

 

Chapter 3: Purpose

 

Chapter 4: Yod’s Will

 

Chapter 5: Weaponized

 

Chapter 6: The Battle of Katar

 

Chapter 7: Fates Worse Than Death

 

Chapter 8: End In Fire

 

 

Epilogue: The Importance of Ritual

 

Map
of the Western Vajra

 

Part One: Dead Men Tell Tales
Chapter 1: The Invisible City

From the Diary of Jonathan Drake:

 


Abu Abbas of the Northeast Melas Nomads, tell
your life.

The deep commanding voice of the War King of Katar
booms in the massive cut stone and rammed-earth chamber.

As bidden, my father steps up to the Speaker’s
Podium, standing directly under the circle of open sky that is the
apex of the Oculus dome. After a brief moment of silence to finish
gathering his thoughts, he looks out at our fantastic audience as
if he can make eye contact with every one of them. He takes a last
deep breath through his mask, and then loosens it to hang over his
chin so that he can be heard better, relying on the passive oxygen
bleed to keep him from getting light-headed in the thin but
actually breathable air here.

And then he honors the tradition of our hosts, as
strangers who come in peace are expected to: He tells the story of
his life, of our people.

“My name is Abu Abbas, son of Yusuf. I was born in
Twenty Sixty-Four by the old Earth calendar, a Standard Year after
my father brought his family to Mars. He was an engineer, and a
skilled near-vacuum welder. He worked hard out in the cold and what
was then one-percent atmosphere to construct Baraka Colony in the
belly of Melas Chasma. He helped build the first Holy Mosque on
this planet. Then he served as its Imam. He was a good man. A brave
man…”

His voice, as usual, is soothingly deep and rich, and
echoes off the walls of the great circular space, rivaling the War
King’s.

“I was not even a year old when the Apocalypse came,
but I remember pieces of it like an old nightmare. Alarms. People
running, panicking, faced—I realize now—with the unthinkable. My
father took us into the shelters, dug deep under the colony, but
the shock and the noise of the bomb through the bedrock of the
planet… By the will of God we were spared, some of us, because the
missile that was meant to sterilize our colony was knocked off
course before it detonated. A miracle… But the blast wave shattered
and crushed and burned the above-ground structures, the Mosque, all
of my father’s work.”

I notice something: Our hosts have all closed their
eyes and lowered their faces in unison, all the same, like a
ritual, just at the moment my father mentioned the nuclear
bombardment.

“Those of us that survived sheltered in place for as
long as we could. There was no word from the outside, no rescue, no
relief. The surface was too hot from all the fallout to go out and
explore, but within three months we had no choice, because our
water and air recyclers had begun to fail, and the Feed Line to the
colony had been cut by the blasts. We packed surface gear,
shelters, rations, and hiked in pressure suits for the nearest
intact Line. My father and the other engineers welded the first
Taps to draw what we needed: Oxygen. Water. Hydrogen fuel for our
heaters and cook stoves and generators. We made our home in the
open desert. And out of fear of those who had dropped bombs on us,
we painted our shelters to match the terrain, made these cloaks to
keep us warm and shield us from the sun’s radiation and hide us
when we moved. Unseen, they would believe us all to be dead, and
not send more bombs to finish the task. And so, by the mercy of
God, we lived.”

The story having passed the nuclear stage, our hosts
open their eyes and look up, look at my father with the same
dispassion they’ve universally shown since we were escorted through
their great Gate Wall, as if the coming of strangers is no more
than a routine annoyance.

As I stand here on the chamber floor with my too-few
surviving family and friends, my eyes can’t help but scan our
strange and amazing audience. The Oculus is easily big enough for
the several hundred citizens present, most of whom sit on the tiers
of benches that climb the walls all around us like stairs—I feel
like I’m standing in the bowl of a steep crater, the inner slopes
of which are made out of these incredible environmentally-adapted
human beings.

The adults are almost universally a full head taller
than we are, with long thin limbs and oversized rib cages. But
what’s most impressive when they gather in such numbers is their
homogenous color palate: The apparent civilians wear a variety of
simple hand-made clothes, all patterned with the same abstract rust
and green and ochre patterns as the armor of their warriors, as if
constant camouflage is as much a rule for them as it has been for
us. The effect of so many of them sitting so close together is that
they visually begin to blend into each other when they’re still.
Then when they all move—like they did to lower their gazes—it
almost makes me dizzy.

And even more striking than that is their dyed skin:
The ruddy mineral compound they use to protect themselves from
solar UV leaves a permanent rust red tint, under which can still be
seen a variety of ethnic tones ranging from pale to tan to dark.
It’s like I’m looking at them through crimson-tinted goggles.

They all sit and listen to the story of a stranger
(who must look as strange to them as they do to us) in perfect
polite disciplined silence. The only sound in the domed chamber
during my father’s pauses is the whisper-howl of wind across the
open circle of the single apex skylight—it produces a low tone that
makes me think of an ocarina, almost hypnotic. This gives the space
a palpable sense of sanctity.

Watching them, I decide to correct my initial
impression of these people: What I’m seeing is not a lack of
interest in the proceedings, but practiced, ingrained serenity. And
it’s being exercised in the face of what must certainly be
terrifying times.

The cold hardened stoicism is what I feel from their
Council of Kings, sitting at their curved stone table on the
chamber floor, facing the carved-stone Speaker’s Podium (and behind
it, the rest of us), symbolically forming a thin line between the
stranger and their people. Five pairs of eyes glare from faces that
could also have been cut from stone: full of hard experience, loss,
and difficult decisions. And here we are: one more difficult
decision. Or maybe not so difficult. Maybe they’ve already made up
their minds about us.

My father continues our history:

“We were not the only ones spared by God’s will, of
course. Soon we encountered more of our own, refugees from Uqba.
And a very few random others. But food was becoming scarce, and
there were those that were not interested in sharing. We risked
scavenging the ruins of the other Melas colonies, sometimes finding
precious rations, or useful supplies, medicine. Because of those
who would not share, we also began scavenging metal, making
weapons, because our precious few guns had precious little
ammunition, and when it was gone, all we would have left were poor
clubs. So we made knives and swords and spears, bows and crossbows,
and armor…”

He touches the lamellar on his breast, even though it
isn’t our manufacture—a fine gift from the Forge-Men (and an
impressive prize for a traveler to be wearing in this place). Since
they have let us keep our weapons—likely because they outnumber us
several-hundred-to-one—he also gestures to his prized revolver and
his Forge-made sword, then raises his cloaks to show them the rest
of his load: tools, canteens, breather gear, travel rations, med
kit, spare clothing; prayer rug and Holy Quran in their battered
protective cases…

“We wear all this metal, carry all this weight,
because we lost our colony centrifuges, and our parents wished us
to keep as much of the bone density and muscle of Earth-Gravity as
we could,” my father digresses as if he needs to explain, and
explain tactfully, since our hosts have obviously chosen the
opposite path: They’ve long-since embraced the conditions of this
world, strived to adapt to it as completely as possible, letting
their bodies develop unburdened in the .38 Gravity. Compared to
them, we’re almost as squat and thick-bodied as the Children of the
Forge.

“Even long after all hope of ever returning to Earth
had faded, we kept the practice. Tradition.”

He’s holding back. The real reason we keep Weight
Discipline is that my father—our Sharif and Imam, as his father
before him—reminds us that we were made in God’s image, and should
strive to stay so. Of course, saying that would likely sound like
an insult to our hosts, who have been gracious enough to let us
into their fortified homeland and not just kill us when we
approached their great defensive wall.

“As the years passed, we traveled and scavenged, and
sometimes encountered new groups. Our armor and weapons and
concealment tactics became essential to our survival and success.
To the southwest, Shinkyo Colony had become a hidden fortress,
defended by stealthy warriors. To the northwest, the City of
Industry, which was made to look like an abandoned ruin, was
protected by equally deadly soldiers, former Unmakers who still
call themselves Peace Keepers… I will let my good friend Lieutenant
Straker tell you of them in her own tale, as she is from
there.”

He nods to Jak Straker, who gives a polite but
clearly uncomfortable smile. Apparently even the power of a
Companion Blade does not overcome the inherent terror of public
speaking.

“To the northeast… From there came the Zodanga in
their crafty flyers and air ships, calling themselves ‘pirates’ and
raiding and killing for what they needed, striking from their
fortress in the Rim.

“We wandered, kept moving to avoid our enemies, and
divided our band into three factions, each taking a quarter of
Melas to seek their resources and fend off our mutual enemies, and
sometimes each other as need drove us to compete against former
brothers. Living and moving on the surface became easier as the air
thickened, but as it did, the scavenging became thin, the preserved
food began to run out, and our meager shelter hydroponic gardens
could not provide for all.

“But just as we were succumbing to malnutrition and
starvation, God again showed us His mercy. From the east came food:
A few brave travelers had managed trade with Tranquility in Western
Coprates—I will let my dear companion Ambassador Murphy tell you of
them. They brought us precious fresh and dried fruits, vegetables,
beans and grains. And so by God’s will we lived, had children and
grandchildren, occasionally fought with competitors and buried
loved ones for it.

“But then came the return of the Unmakers. And the
coming of the Shadowman.”

He punctuates these revelations with a dramatic
pause. I know our hosts have had their own intelligence of these
turns, some of it at tragic cost, so I expect this is the part of
the story that they’ve really been waiting to hear, far more than
my father’s life story as a testament to his—and our—character and
quality.

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