Authors: Ken Lozito
HEIR OF SHANDARA
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Copyright © 2015 by Acoustical Books, LLC. All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Published by Acoustical Books, LLC
If you would like to be notified when my next book is released,
SIGN UP HERE
“System failure is imminent,” the AI said as its monotone voice spat out critical alarms.
The old man shuffled on shaky legs across the room as if he were straining from a great weight. The aged metallic floor shuddered beneath his feet. The bronze holo display was overrun with catastrophic failure messages. The alarms he muted, not needing them to know the chaos that had swallowed all of Safanar was coming for them.
“Bring up cryo-vault ten-zero-three-nine,” the old man said.
“Confirm. Cryo-vault online. Status is green.”
The old man sucked in a breath of relief. “End stasis,” he said, and collapsed to the floor.
A bronze panel on the far side of the room slid open, and a cryostasis tube hovered through. Tendrils of cold vapor hissed around the tube, and the red indicator light switched to green as the tube settled upon the floor. A mechanical arm rose from the platform, and a blue laser ran the length of the tube. There was a snap-hiss of the tube opening, and the occupant inside began to awake.
Bayen forced his eyes open. He sucked in quick breaths and coughed out the bitter fluid used in cryostasis. He wiped fluid from his eyes and pulled himself up.
“Stasis ended. You may now exit the pod,” the AI said.
The secondary tube door that covered his legs hissed open. Bayen swung his legs to the side, placing his feet on the floor, but didn’t rise. He knew better and continued to take shallow breaths until his head cleared. He flexed his feet and rubbed his hands together until the stiffness left them.
A medical bot hovered to his left, and Bayen felt the slight prick of a needle enter his arm. Within moments, his foggy brain cleared. Bayen rose to his feet, feeling more of his strength return.
“Where am I?” Bayen asked.
“Location Q34B Alpha Base,” answered the AI.
Bayen frowned and looked away from the holo screen. He’d never heard of Q34B Alpha Base. His last memory was going to sleep at the palace in Shandara. His gaze darted across the screen, searching for the current date. A soft rustle drew his attention, and Bayen peered through the dimly lit room. Vibrations coming through the floor panels caused the lighting in the room to flicker.
Across the room an old man knelt, balancing himself with his outstretched hand upon the console.
Despite himself, Bayen took a few steps toward his father and stopped. He barely recognized him. The dark hair had turned mostly gray, and his clothes draped off his frail bones. The brown eyes still had strength in them. When had his father got so old?
“Bayen, come closer,” the old man said.
Bayen glanced at the readout on the console behind his father. “What have you done? How long have I been in cryostasis?”
A coughing fit stole the breath from the old man as he struggled to his feet. His once-towering frame stooped with age.
“I protected you,” the old man said.
Bayen stomped over to the console; his fingers flew over the interface. “Twenty years? You kept me in cryostasis for twenty years! It was only supposed to be a few months while the cure was finished.”
“The plague had already claimed your mother and sister, so with the help of the Hythariam, I had you kept in cryostasis to keep you safe.”
Bayen’s eyes locked with his father’s.
Mother and Taryel dead?
His gut clenched. “You had no right.”
“Things got worse after you were asleep. The plague spread everywhere, and armies of those creatures swarmed across the continent…” his father said with his watery eyes growing distant.
“Where are we? What is Alpha Base? What happened to our home?” Bayen asked.
His father winced as shadows of unwanted memories pushed themselves across his haunted eyes.
“It’s all gone. Alpha Base was our last hope. We had to run. Shandara was lost,” his father said.
The city was a marvel of the joint efforts of the people of Safanar. One of the capitals of the Free Nations. The city had been rebuilt after High King Amorak’s armies sacked the city before his father was even born.
His father coughed and continued. “Alpha Base is on a string of islands well away from the continent. We took survivors of the plague and came here to continue working on a cure.”
“Do you have a cure?” Bayen asked.
His father compressed his lips in a thin line and shook his head. “No. Each time we thought we had a cure, the plague changed. It spread to the other creatures, and each iteration contained the Zekaran directive to replicate itself and hunt humans.”
“What about the Hythariam, they are immune to the plague?” Bayen asked, unable to stop the growing dread creeping through him.
“There is no one else left, Son.”
Bayen jerked back, his chest heaving. “I don’t believe you. Stop this.”
There was a loud pop, and the floor shuddered beneath his feet. The lighting in the room dimmed for a moment. Ignoring his father, Bayen returned to the console, which had the standard interface. He brought up the base’s video feeds of the surrounding area. Smoke and haze billowed past, slowly giving way to a sea of glowing yellow eyes.
“Is there a way out of here? Can we get off this island?” Bayen asked, glancing back at his father. His fingers flew across the console, checking the system and defense status. Nothing was online. It was a miracle there was still power in this room. He checked the backup systems and noticed that power was being diverted to somewhere beneath them.
“What is this?” Bayen asked, bringing up the schematics of a chamber beneath them. It appeared to be a keystone accelerator, but with additional pylons configured to tap into geothermal energy deep underground.
“It can take you away from here,” his father said.
“Great, let’s go. We can take the research data here and go.”
“I cannot leave.”
Bayen faced his father, seeing the energy gathered around him. “You’re keeping all those creatures at bay?”
“Even if I weren’t, only one person can go through this portal.”
Bayen frowned, glancing at the information on all the screens and then back at his father. “But the cure?”
His father turned away from him. “There is no cure. We stopped working toward a cure and shifted our focus.”
“You just gave up! No, this can’t be happening,” Bayen said, his mind racing. Twenty years stolen from him and everything he knew was gone.
“We had to find another solution,” his father said.
“Who is we? There isn’t anyone else here,” Bayen said.
A door hissed open behind them, revealing an elevator. “Please, there is little time,” his father said, heading for the door. “I don’t know how much longer I can keep them at bay.”
Bayen headed to the door, feeling like this was futile. The elevator rapidly descended for a few moments then came to a halt. The doors opened to a blast of stifling humid air. There was a red glow at the far side of the massive cavern and the acrid smell of sulfur. A web of cables ran along the walkway that took them to a ring of metallic pylons. On either side of each pylon were glowing crystals.
“How are energy pylons going to help with the plague? That keystone accelerator is different than the others. You said the plague was everywhere on Safanar. What’s all this for?” Bayen asked.
“Safanar’s last hope. You, my son.”
His father slowly nodded.
“What can I do?”
“The portal can take you back to a time before the plague.”
Bayen’s eyes swept the room, taking in all the equipment. The amount of energy in this cavern could destroy the entire island. “Time travel is impossible.”
“The last of us devoted our remaining resources to this. Our AI helped with the calculations required for adding the fourth dimensional plane to this keystone accelerator.”
“You put an awful lot of faith into an AI. How do you know if this will work?” Bayen asked.
“We don’t. This is not something that could be tested. We only have enough resources for one trip. If you don’t go, then we’re dead anyway.”
His father walked over to a console, and Bayen couldn’t help but notice just how old his father had become. “You’re the reason why this happened.”
His father stopped what he was doing at the console, and his shoulders slumped even farther. “I know… I didn’t know it then. You can stop this from happening. It has to be you. You can stop the plague from being created in the first place, and then this world will cease to exist.”
“Yeah, but it could be much worse,” Bayen said.
“There is no other way. We’re out of time.”
“Even if it means your life?”
“Better I die than let Safanar become like this,” the old man said.
“But it’s my life as well.”
His father drew himself up. “You are a member of the Safanarion Order, Son. Who will the fate of the world fall to if not to us? There is no other way.”
Bayen glared at his father. The man had stolen his life from him, and now he was being asked to sacrifice what little there was left.
“What happened to the other people here?”
“They were all killed. The forsaken surprised us. We’re all that’s left,” his father answered.
Bayen had never seen his father look so defeated. He looked dead on his feet.
“What am I supposed to do if this works?” Bayen asked.
His father reached out toward him and Bayen stepped away. “Don’t you dare. I’ll do this, but you and I are finished.” Bayen said scowling at his father.
“Killing me won’t prevent this from happening,” the old man said.
Bayen stepped back. “How do you—”
“We tried to conceive of every possible probability.”
“Then what am I supposed to do?” Bayen asked.
His father’s lips pressed together. “Keep Halcylon alive.”
“What! He’s a monster. Father, I can’t do this. How will keeping Halcylon alive accomplish anything?”
The old man held up his hands. “Sam, what is the greatest probability for preventing the plague?”
The AI’s monotone voice answered. “The greatest probability for preventing the plague that stemmed from the life form known as Ryakuls is tied directly to General Morag Halcylon, 55 percent.”