Malakim: Battle of the Outback
From: Malakim: Battle of the Outback, by Gregory French
He tried again to move the pen with his mind. He was bored and slouched in his chair. The boss was well into his fairly regular staff meeting bluster about falling insurance sales and how everyone had to ‘lift their game’ and ‘take ownership’. Mason’s boss was good at the management babble but at actually running the branch – not so good in Mason’s opinion. He concentrated on the pen sitting motionless on the table in front of him, willing it to move while he blocked out the drone coming from his manager.
His colleagues sat and weathered the diatribe. The pen didn’t move regardless of how hard Mason stared at it. He figured if he could see it moving in his mind’s-eye then it would move in reality – like a basketballer visualising the ball going in the net before taking a free-throw shot. If he could concentrate and really visualise the detail of it moving, surely that would help.
Mason had been having dreams for as long as he could remember where he could hold out his hand and a book or some object would fly into his grasp. He also dreamed he could glide over the ground, not quite flying but more like skimming over the earth, touching down, running forward, leaping into the air and being able to glide just above the ground again. However, when he woke up he would be the same old Mason Jennings, average guy, no special powers. Despite that, something told him that it would happen someday so why not keep trying, even if it was to just keep himself amused when he was bored out of his mind.
He frowned and stared hard at his metallic red insurance company logo pen. Did it just vibrate? Nah, he thought. The boss was still waxing lyrical, hands behind his head, leaning back in his chair. “Arrogant idiot,” he overheard his colleague Dale whisper. Back to the pen. Concentrate. Harder. There, again! Mason was sure that it vibrated. He glanced sideways. No one was watching him or his pen. He sat up straight and stared hard again at the pen. Nothing…then it trembled as if wanting to spin. Mason, frowning with concentration, suddenly felt as though the pen was in total focus in front of him but the surrounding periphery was blurring, diminishing; almost as though he was looking through a pinhole in a piece of paper. It spun, three hundred and sixty degrees on the desk all by itself, just once. Mason let out a short nasal sound of surprise, suddenly fully alert.
“You got something to say, Mason?”
Mason’s colleagues swivelled in their chairs to look at him expectantly.
“Ahh… no sorry something in my throat, Sir.” Mason knew that his boss liked being referred to as ‘sir’ and that many of his workmates stroked his ego for their own purposes. ‘Greasing the wheels Mason, greasing the wheels’, Dale often said to him.
“Well, sort it out. We have a branch to run here and as I said, we need to lift our game. You included Mason.”
“Yes…yes, can I be excused so I can..?”
“Go, I’ll see you after. No more interruptions. Where was I? That’s right, falling sales figures...”
Mason got up, grabbed his pen and pad, caught the eye of his friend Dale and smirked a guilty grin at her.
Dale looked back with an expression saying ‘lucky bastard, can I go too?’
One day earlier
“Yes, I felt it too.”
“He is coming isn’t he? Just like he said he would.”
“I’m afraid so, my love and he will be bringing a whole lot of trouble with him.”
“Why does he feel he has to destroy?”
“You know why. It is part of his nature. That and his jealousy of what we have.”
“I wish that it didn’t have to end the way it did.”
“Me too, but it was of his making, and despite our power, we don’t have the ability to change the past.”
“Is it time then?”
“Yes, I believe it is. We must take steps to prepare them so they can fight whatever it is that he is bringing with him.”
“We were told not to interfere and to leave them alone to develop for themselves.”
“That is true. However, our little insurance policy needs to be activated and we must accept the consequences. We cannot stand aside and let them be destroyed, we have cared for them for so long.”
“Yes, I love them even with all their failings like a mother would. So we begin?
“Yes, I have already started.”
The enormous oval shaped ship exited the swirling misty ring of the wormhole roughly halfway between Jupiter and Saturn on the opposite side of the Sun to Earth. It had been travelling at a quarter of light speed in subspace through the corridor that he had made for his subjects. They would approach Earth from the cover of the sun as this would negate any of Earth’s sensors detecting them, given their systems operated on detecting light intensity. The ship would not emit energy either from any of their sensors so they would hold the element of surprise, land on Earth in under eight hours and begin their campaign to rule over humankind and in doing so punish the other sentinels for their betrayal.
The ship began its deceleration and on board the crew and troops prepared for the invasion. Their smaller more nimble front facing set of arms were running final systems checks and diagnostics on their equipment, weapons and augmented mobility frames; their more powerful, less prehensile set of arms carrying out the lifting and strength related tasks. Commanders held final briefings with their troops, confirming their plans, those not on duty were ordered to return to partial sleep, resting half their brains but still being able to carry out the routine ship tasks and eating.
They had begun to receive the data bursts from the observer drones that had infiltrated the solar system years before. These spying machines, each no bigger than a common Earth motorcycle, had been sent to hide on barren asteroids within the Asteroid Belt and collect all the radio signals and emissions that Earth had been broadcasting, mostly indiscriminately, into space for over half a century. They also recorded the more purposeful broadcasts of the ‘Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence programme’ and made use of all the data to feed into their strategy modelling programme that each observer drone’s central processing unit was installed with. The drones had sat passively in their secluded hiding places, working independently, recording and processing the data to avoid possible detection, but now with the war ship within the solar system and calling for information, the observer drones became active. Their dish shaped antenna rotated to align with the fast moving ship and fired off information regarding what each drone had computed would be the location that would provide the greatest probability of success for the execution of the overall invasion plan. The war ship’s computer would then compile the inputs to determine the overall most favourable landing point.
The commander, High General or Tat Aluf, Agathodeamon, crouched on his haunches on the ships’ bridge, his black eyes deeply set in his skull like pools of crude oil overseeing the piloting of the vessel. His wrinkled blue wattle around his thick neck was fully matured and reddened at the edges, a natural mark of his position in the social order. His mission had been directly given to him by the Maker. He felt a divine righteousness in his cause as the initial strike force that was sent to establish a stronghold on Earth and draw-out and absorb the planet’s inevitable military response. Once achieved the follow-on fleet would arrive, annihilate the concentrated and exposed forces of Earth, and complete the subjugation of its contemptible inhabitants, which the Maker vehemently despised. Soon, thought the High General, he would have ultimate glory and be awarded the governorship of Earth. He had been told that their technology was far superior to that of the Earthlings and that if the plan was carried out as prescribed, they would be assured victory. It was a plan that avoided the strengths of the humans and exploited their political and logistical weakness of having to concentrate and project their military power to be able to bring to bear a concerted resistance. His forces would establish a stronghold in an inaccessible and underpopulated region and then spread out from there, rolling back all resistance while absorbing the human’s attempts to repel them. It was the Maker’s will and the Maker was the one that had chosen their species to be his soldiers for his revenge: the mighty Gonev, above all others, and he had lifted them up out of their basic existence of survival on their home world, Baaluriel, within their binary star system.
With the observer drones having reported in, he now had his location. The High General grunted his satisfaction when presented the report by his chief strategist.
The spaceship entered the Earth’s atmosphere just on dusk above the Simpson Desert of central Australia. Its forward edge was glowing red hot from the friction; its occupants and payload were protected by the ship’s shielding. Jungai, an old, grey-bearded aboriginal, or Koori as his people preferred to be called, darkly tanned by the harsh Australian sunlight, looked up in the sky and saw the glow. He was a member of the Wangkangurru people and was on ‘walkabout’, just like his ancestors did. He was visiting their ancestral waterholes, or Mikiri, that they lived next to during the harsh seasons of the year. These significant cultural and spiritual locations were abandoned after his people moved south to take up residence with missionaries. Jungai had gone off on his own, leaving the trappings of modern life so that he could be at one with the land and lose awareness of time that today’s society demanded. Only then could he connect with the spirit power within the plants, animals and features of the land. It allowed him to enter ‘The Dreaming’ – a state of mind that gave him peace and a connection with the dreamtime when the spiritual beings created the material world.
He had been sitting at the edge of a rocky outcrop that dropped away beneath him and out to the desert’s giant vegetation stabilised dunes that run north-south, taking in his surroundings, when he noticed the object in the sky. He wondered if it was the spirits and that he had been blessed with a chance to see them. The glow grew bigger and bigger as it seemed to race towards him. The larger it got the more metallic it began to look, dimming and cooling as it slowed down.
Astonished, Jungai watched as the massive flying object, the size of a town, came to a stop still some distance from him, above the wide sandy expanse and then gently descended. As it landed, its propulsion systems blew up a small dust storm in every direction, partially obscuring the ship from view. He wondered if he was dreaming and pinched himself on the arm. He felt the pain and rubbed his eyes. It was real. Was it the spirits or something else? He knew that people had a fascination with extraterrestrials and visitors from outer space, he had seen plenty of films and TV shows about it. Was this an alien spaceship? Jungai knew of the Wondjina, the rain and cloud spirits from the Koori songs and stories. The rock paintings showed them as white humanoid beings with large black oval eyes and nose, but no mouth. They also had an aura of some kind around their heads and bodies. Some Koori proposed that these beings were aliens who had made contact with their ancestors.
Jungai waited for the dust to settle around the metallic city. He wanted to see what would happen next. What would come out of it? He could see large hatches around the vessel opening and blue interior lighting shining out into the darkening desert. He could not make out any movement within the recesses, he was too far away. The evening light was fading as the orange glow of the sun went down behind the horizon.
A lizard scuttled from a spinifex bush to the side of where Jungai sat, his peripheral vision picking up its movement despite his intense interest in the bewildering sight before him. He looked at the lizard, which was a goanna about half a metre long and with its neck raised and looking directly at him. That’s strange, he thought, goanna don’t approach people, they know to run and hide. This one flicked its tongue, tasting or smelling the air, still looking at Jungai.
“You better leave now, Jungai.”
The voice seemed to come from the goanna.
“Did you just speak, goanna spirit?” whispered Jungai in the heavy aboriginal accent, amazed for a second time in as many minutes.
“You better leave now, they will be sending out their troops to check the area. I expect that they will either capture you or kill you. They want to remain hidden for now,” said the goanna.
“Who are dey, goanna? Are dey Wondjina?”
“No, they are not spirits and they do not come in peace. You must leave here and tell the others that I want you to meet up with. Tell them about what you have seen and where this place is. They will need this information. You must go to Echuca and help them. Will you do this?”
“Yes goanna, I will go dere. It will take me a few days.”
“I know. I have called upon a number of others to meet there; they will all be going to Echuca.”
The goanna flicked its tongue once more then darted away into the bushes, leaving Jungai alone. He turned back to look at the ship, which sat ominously silent, and decided to leave his elevated vantage point immediately, trusting in the goanna spirit and heeding its warning. He needed to find these ‘others’ in Echuca, which he had visited once before. He trotted away bare footed, pack on his back.