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Rebo On the Fall of Khalamzadar
#1
Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away. BIAD and I were involved in a collaborative writing story at TOS. It was a Space Opera, had several writers, and more twists, turns, and subplots than you could shake any three sticks at. One of the subplots involved a solar system owned by one of the protagonists called "Khalamzadar", and specifically the fourth planet in that system.

That planet was a hot, jungle covered mess. It was a little like Australia - everything there wanted to kill and eat you. Dotted across the landscape of the entire planet, beneath the jungle canopy with occasional towers emerging above the canopy, were thousands of mysteriously abandoned cities, or, more accurately, their ruins. There was no indication of what had become of the inhabitants, or what they had called their world.

This is their story, copied and pasted with appropriately updated changes from posts I made in that thread.

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Rebo had once been a man. That was long ago, however, when men still walked the surface of Euzkala, and flew in her skies.

Some had even launched from her surface, and had sailed among the stars. Long ago, Rebo reflected. Long ago, and no more. Whatever he was now, whether still a man, something more, or something much, much less, he would never again sail the stars.

He was, as far as he had been able to determine in the last 40 years, the last of his kind. The last Man on Euzkala. Hell, for that matter, as far as he had been able to determine because of the effects of the planetary quarantine, he was the last man in the universe - if man he still was.

His nightmare had begun 40 years ago or so, with the deployment of an engineered bacterium. Man had warred with man since the dawn of time, but as time progressed, he got more efficient at eliminating himself. The miracle of modern science promised an efficiency at killing that boggled the mind. The point came where man didn't even have to leave the comfort of his living room to commit genocide.

Nearly 150 years before Rebo's time, science had discovered an interesting and intriguing fact - the genetic makeup of humans was not matched by any other life form on Euzkala. Man stood alone in the universe, it seemed, with no relatives which could be identified in the animal kingdom. It was a puzzlement and perplexity to evolutionary science, but a boon to religions. It seemed that man had appeared, fully formed and wholly modern on the planet, and had no evolutionary precursors. Religion took that as a confirmation of a creator god, and science scratched it's collective head, checked and rechecked the data, and redoubled it's efforts to find SOME precursor species, ANY precursor species in a frantic effort to refute the religious elements. The effort failed miserably. Religion took off like a shot, leaving science in the dust.

Even when man left the Euzkala incubator and spread out towards the stars, no one ever seriously considered a possibility which was in reality a fact - man had not originated on Euzkala, he had been transplanted there aeons ago. Religion, of course, never seriously considered that possibility because Euzkala was certainly the center of the Universe - confirmed by the uniqueness of man, and the obvious conclusion that a creator god had created him right there in place, sure evidence of Euzkala's favored status amongst all stars.

Science, on the other hand, never seriously considered that possibility because of the dearth of evidence for such a preposterous proposal. Man could be traced back roughly 30,000 years, and appeared suddenly, but in a supremely primitive state. Surely if he had come from elsewhere, there would have been evidence of an advanced civilization that he had brought with him in colonization. Put in layman's terms, man could not have come from elsewhere because there was no evidence whatsoever that he had the technological ability to transport himself there.

Euzkalians, religious and scientific alike, had never heard of the Seeders, the ancient race that had seeded mankind among several star systems in an effort to insure the survival of the species.

The discovery of the supposed uniqueness of man spurred religious development in unexpected ways. It started out with each continent attempting to lay claim to being the birthplace of The First Man. To that end, the religiously minded sought explanations to place their continent as the Genesis Continent, and over a very short period of time, the explanations dreamed up by man transformed into legend and mythologies purported to come from the creator god. Religious schisms developed along continental lines, each claiming to be "The One True Religion" as it went along.

It can't be stressed enough that each continent thought of itself as "The Genesis Continent", and believed itself to be in sole possession of "The One True Religion", even though they had all grown from the same root.

It wasn't long before each religion sought to IMPOSE it's primacy on all the others. After all, should not all men follow the One True Religion, and honor it's god? Wars broke out over the issue. Terrible, manically destructive wars. No one can kill with the efficiency of a True Believer, approved by god and sure of his place in the universe both Here and Hereafter.

A breakthrough in man's destruction of man occurred on the large southern continent of Euzkala. In a diabolical marriage of religion, science, and state, science provided a new and horrid weapon for the use of the State at the behest of the religion in control of it. A scientist in a genetics laboratory first made the connection that, since man had a unique genetic structure, it should be possible to engineer a microbe that would attack only man, leaving the rest of Euzkalian life unscathed, even with the potential to be used as vectors for the new bug. Was it not a sign from the creator god himself that this was the way to win wars? The evidence that this was so was right there in the unique genetics! They were obviously designed for just such a possibility by the creator - more evidence of his omniscience and foresight. he had known, in his infinite wisdom, that mankind would some day veer away fro The One True Religion and have to be brought back into the fold - by force, if necessary - and had given man the gift that would allow that to happen.

Of course, there were problems to be overcome in this approach. Since ALL men had the same genetics, the bug could not be engineered to select for one population or another. It would strike all with equal ferocity if left unchecked. It was engineered to not be able to survive outside a living human host for more than 72 hours. This would insure that the ground could not be poisoned for eternity by the microbe. After all, once the heretics were dealt with, the true believers would no doubt colonize, be fruitful and multiply, and establish The One True Religion over the entire planet. That had to be the creator god's will, since he had engineered it to be so a very long time ago. A 72 hour survival span would allow for a variety of vectors to distribute the virus into the enemy population, while at the same time insuring that it would not survive long enough to be "blown back" to the distributing population. whatever the distribution method - aerosols, dust, animal, or bomb, the virus could not survive long enough on it's own to be returned to the sender. The beauty of this approach was that none of the lives of friendly soldiers would even need to be risked in an invasion.

When enough of the Bug had been produced in secret, the plan was put into effect. All of Euzkala would soon belong to The One True Religion! The Bug was seeded by a variety of methods onto all the other continents, leaving only the large southern continent Bug-free.

It did not stay that way long.

In the early stages of The Bug War, it was not recognized just how virulent and deadly The Bug was. What WAS recognized was that a sudden epidemic had sprang up on every continent other than the big southern one. It was soon realized that there was some sort of biological attack afoot, and it didn't take long to surmise the source of it - the only place where it WASN'T happening. In an unprecedented show of cooperation and solidarity, the governments on ALL of the other continents formed pacts and alliances, intent on erasing the southern menace from the planet once and for all. Scientists were put to work on a fast track to find a cure for The Bug, but soldiers did what soldiers do - they invaded the offending continent in force, and at several points.

Many of those soldiers were already infected, and unaware of that fact. The Bug had bypassed the 72 hour survival span by the simple expedient of returning home via human vectors, in which it could survive indefinitely once they were infected, and before it eventually killed them.

It returned home by riding in the bloodstreams of not one or two men, but riding in soldiers by their millions. There was no possibility of containing it anywhere on the planet. it was on the loose, and on the rampage, and there was not a damned thing anyone could do about it but die from it.

(Continued...)




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“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




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#2
Rebo had missed out on the early parts of the Bug War. He had fought in earlier wars with the net result that he had gotten very, very tired of war - and people in general. After he "retired" from military service, he left civilization altogether. He'd had enough of civilization and the religions and gods and the strife produced in their names, and left it all behind for the remote interior of the equatorial continent, on which he had been born. Since he had cut off the entire world, he didn't get the memo until it was too late. The entire planet had descended into chaos before he even knew that anything was wrong. by the time he heard, news was only filtering in sporadically, in bits and pieces, but those bits and piece were serious enough that he knew he wanted no part of it, and so he stayed right where he was.

The Bug had an insidious effect of turning the sufferers who contracted it into psychotic killing machines. Perhaps "psychotic" was not the right word... one would have to have a mind for that mind to be psychotic, and it seemed to have the effect of removing the mind from the equation altogether. The effect of The Bug eventually killing the sufferer was not the worst - or most effective - part of it. The fact that it caused the sufferer to kill everything he or she encountered was. In effect, The Bug caused an infected population to implode, and destroy itself, whether any particular individual was infected or not. It did this by restricting brain operations to the brain stem, the "reptile brain". The rest of the brain was nullified.

The cities and villages, ANY population center where people gathered, became death traps and madhouses. Millennia later, and light years away, relatives of Rebo that he never knew existed would eat something called "popcorn" in an entertainment ritual where they attempted to scare themselves stupid watching something they would call "movies" of what was called on their planet a "zombie apocalypse". Those moves were eerily reminiscent of the scenes unfolding on Euzkala on a planet-wide scale.

On Euzkala, it was REAL.

The "zombies" were not really dead - they were just incredibly homicidal, incredibly stupid, and incredibly hard to kill due to the actions of The Bug's interaction with their systems. The fact that they WERE so hard to kill gave rise to rumors that they were ALREADY dead - since if one is already dead, he of course cannot be killed. The governments - for as long as they lasted - actually encouraged those rumors, giving the uninfected population an psychological boost in defending themselves. There is less onus on destroying a dead person than there is on destroying a living one.

The Bug had a rapid progression among infected populations. Every person not actually killed and eaten in an attack simply joined the pack and swelled the ranks of the Unholy, making more attackers and fewer defenders as time rapidly flew by and The Bug infested their systems. The cities were imploding as hordes of the Unholy grew and attacked the remaining uninfected. They largely ignored the infrastructure, except in those cases where it stood between themselves and their victims. In those cases they destroyed enough of it to access their targets, but otherwise they left it alone. You can't eat infrastructure, but you can eat the victims hiding behind it.

The net result of that were ravaged bodies and pestilential Unholy attackers rampaging through the largely intact cities, some filtering out into the countryside. In time, some of the Defenders became as savage as the Unholy in their efforts at survival, but they, too fell one by one or group by group as the ranks of the Unholy swelled. Also in time, The Bug started doing it's evil work of killing off the infected Unholy. Even as the Defenders were killed and eaten or themselves infected, the ranks of the Unholy began to gradually decline through attrition of The Bug itself.

After five years or so of Hell on Euzkala, the entire planet was almost entirely deserted, and the grand experiment of The Seeders had failed on Euzkala. Oh, it had a good long 30,000 year run, but it failed all the same in the end.

The surrounding races and planets, in abject fear of the unholy Holy War which had been unleashed on Euzkala, took steps and emplaced measures to quarantine the planet. They emplaced orbital cannons in the orbital space of the planet, preventing any further space launches from Euzkala, and ruthlessly exterminated any Euzkalans they found amongst themselves who had left the planet within a year prior to the initial outbreak of The Bug. Over the ensuing millennia, the orbital cannons one by one fell into disrepair, their orbits degraded, and one by one they fell to the surface in individual blazes of glory, artificial shooting stars. Only one was left in orbit by the time Ninurta came to claim the planet, now known as "Khalamzadar", but we are getting ahead of the story.

Of the most of this, Rebo was unaware. All he knew is that he was alone, horribly alone, on a planet of carnage.

(Continued... )



.
“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




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#3
In the beginning of The Bug War, Rebo had stayed put in his isolation. He was getting sporadic reports from civilization of the carnage afoot, and having seen a fair bit of carnage himself, he wanted no part of it. Rebo told himself that he didn't care if the entire planet ate itself - he was going to sit this war out.

The thing that protected Rebo the most was that very isolation. He had gotten so far removed from the civilized that it was a two week walk over trackless and rugged terrain to get to him, and no one really even knew he was there to be gotten to, much less did the mindless Unholy hordes realize that. They were in search of easy targets, people they could see. No one could see what lies a two week walk away. As people who still had enough mind left to be able to operate the technology available succumbed to The Bug and The Unholy who carried it, fewer and fewer people were left with any knowledge of how to operate the technology to escape the destruction.

Long distance reporting is also a function of technology. Over time, Rebo was getting fewer and fewer reports of the events on the planet. Five months after the initial reports, there were no more to be had. Nothing but static greeted his ears whenever he did the daily run of the dial to hear reports of the outside world. That continued for a further 7 months before Rebo snapped.

A year after the initial attacks, and seven months after he had heard his last human voice, Rebo decided to leave his stronghold and find the survivors - ANY survivors. When he had first come out to the wilderness, he wanted nothing to do with civilization. It was only after civilization was truly gone, and there was NO contact, that he realized just how isolated he really was, and that it was not what he really wanted after all.

Rebo packed up a few necessary items, his comms gear and the implements of destruction he had collected, and set out to find survivors. Instead he found the rotting remains of Hell. He first ran into the Unholy in areas within a couple of days from the cities. they were dull witted, stupid even, and seemed to have but one thing on their mind - killing. They weren't particularly fast or super-humanly strong, but what they WERE was "relentless". It was nearly impossible to kill them without destroying the infected brain stem - any other injuries, even head shots that would drop a normal human in it's tracks, seemed to have little or no effect on them. You could blow out giant gouts of gray matter from their heads, and yet if the brain stem remained intact, they kept coming. From the reports Rebo had pieced together before the radios fell silent, he knew that The Unholy were infected by a bug for which no cure had ever been found.

He killed them whenever he found them from a distance, and never, EVER approached the bodies. He knew, also from the reports, that The Bug couldn't survive past 72 hours without a living human host, but Rebo was never one to take chances. The numbers of the Unholy were falling off as The Bug completed it's deadly work, but Rebo soon found that the cities were unsafe. He concentrated instead on the countryside, individual farmsteads and outposts. Even in them, he found no living people.

Every afternoon Rebo fired up his comms and ran the frequencies, searching for the voice of a survivor anywhere, but he never again heard a human voice beyond his own. He spent the next four years running the countryside, searching outposts of humanity, killing The Unholy whenever he found them, and running the frequencies every afternoon. At the end of four years, he had gotten used to being alone, adjusted to it, but never really comfortable with it.

Over that same four years, his encounters with The Unholy became less frequent, as the attrition of The Bug took it's toll on them. As they razed the countryside and destroyed all the people they found there, there was less and less for them to eat. Between The Bug and starvation, they died in place by their millions, and only remained in the cities, where they turned to preying on one another, further reducing their ranks.

Rebo's initial forays into the cities were dangerous enterprises. There were still enough of The Unholy to be found in the cities to make life... interesting. After a year and a half or two years - what meaning has time when one has no schedule to keep? - Rebo found that there were less and less Unholy in the shining cities, until the time came when there were no people to be found in them at all - Defenders or Unholy, only skeletal remains in the streets, and the occasional mummified former human in some of the building interiors.

The infrastructure was still mostly intact - there was still power to most cities, the lights lit up, and automated machinery continued to run as if controlled by unseen hands. Several years before the Bug War, a battery had been developed that, while only the size of an Earth car battery, could power a city of 4 million people for 20 years. There were lots of these batteries/generators/ zero-point energy devices, or whatever they were - Rebo was no technician - around, and the power continued.

There were, however, no people left to employ it, save Rebo.

Over the course of the next 30 or 35 years, Rebo continued his search. He walked the continent high and low, ran the frequencies every afternoon searching for a companion, and exploring the cities of the dead. He never found nor heard from another living human. In 40 years, one can come to realize just how alone he is, and come to a sort of terms with that fact, but he can never afterwards be considered "sane".

In his last years, Rebo gave up the wandering portion of the search, and settled on living his remaining years in Kahala, a more or less central city of his continent, and once the capitol - when capitols had a meaning. Kahala had two fine towers projecting skyward from the same building at their base, and it was in one of these towers that he made his residence. From the vantage point of his perch in the top floors of the towers, he could see for miles in any direction. Every evening, after he came home from his forays into the city, collecting the things he found useful for survival, Rebo's ancient wrinkled hand would bar the double doors that were the sole access to his apartments, run the comms frequencies in search of a voice, for he had never given up hope that he would some day hear something, and watch the sunset over the encroaching jungle that was reclaiming the civilized on behalf or the wild.

The night came when Rebo ran through his routine as usual, and after the sunset, he cooked a meager meal, ate it, and sat to listen to the voices of the jungle and watch the dance of the stars through the window , before filling yet another page of his by now voluminous journal. He mused that he now appeared to be the sole possessor of an entire planet, and that there really wasn't a damned thing he could do with it but watch. After a couple of hours, he closed and sealed the window, put out the lights and crawled into his sleeping pallet on the floor, making sure his gun was close to hand and loaded, just in case. Old habits die hard.

Rebo drifted off to sleep alone, just as he had lived most of his life.

Rebo, The Last Man on Euzkala, never woke up.

The jungle didn't even notice - it just continued to do what jungles do, creeping ever onward to surround Rebo's sealed tomb projecting skyward out of the jungle as an unintentional but massive and lasting monument marking his final resting place.

The Last Man of Euzkala.

======================================================================

There are other stories in this story arc, tales of the rediscovery of Euzkala under it's new name of Khalamzadar, and one in particular that BIAD wrote, excerpts from the journal kept by Rebo, but I think I'll just pause here for the time being.


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“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




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#4
You guys write really well. I feel so out of my depth. 

My latest is called "Zeke the Potato". That's as far as I got.
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