Legacy Universe: Gentle Reminders (Book One in The Rosewell Sequence)
Gentle Reminders is being serialised right here on SFBook with a new chapter published each week.
Previously in Gentle Reminders:
Beta Crew have infiltrated the forgotten scientific facility beneath the Rosewell family farm. Dust covered and aged, it still feels alive. Ulalo Nuragi, The Gentle Reminder, was hot on their tail though, and her sizeable Free Man Nation force now stands directly opposed to Maur and his Jump Cannon colleagues.
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Ulalo sprung herself up and over the desk. Sailing through the air as she drew her sword; it swung up over her head. As she flew Maur snapped around, cocking his gun, but all too slow. She brought the blade down on Kerra, slicing it through an unprotected gap just near her neck, cutting straight through the suit underneath her armour. The barrel of his gun connected with Ulalo’s temple and Maur’s loaded firearm twisted into the flesh of The Gentle Reminder.
The injury sustained by Kerra was anything but lethal, nothing more than a flesh wound, but the position of the blade meant that her end could be brought all too quickly. She looked up in Maur’s direction, eyes full of faith that he could save her from such a fate.
“You are outnumbered.” Ulalo said, not a hint of fear in her voice. “Even if you pull that trigger my squad will see that every one of you is executed where you stand. What’s more, all the god’s in the universe could not deny me the final breaths I will use to take this woman’s life.
“There is only one clear option for you, one that might see you live through all of this. Each of you, including those located in the vicinity of the vault, will surrender your weapons and yourselves.”
She did not flinch, she did not move. The Gentle Reminder was confident in her position, no matter the gun barrel being pressed into her skull. Her blade was held deadly still, hovering mere inches away from Kerra’s jugular. Her confidence was warranted.
“She is correct,” Charles said, standing up from behind cover. “This scenario can not lead to victory for us. We must move events forward.”
Maur spun his head around to watch as Charles walked down the short ramp, ushering Yazram and Thom to follow him. His steps were slow, his stare directed unmistakably in Maur’s direction alone. With a casual flick of the safety switch the lethality of his weapon became null.
Thom and Yazram followed suit, the former with his common look of bemusement. One by one the rifles were thrown to the ground.
“You should listen to your friend,” Ulalo said, reminding Maur of her presence, his mind so focused on the unfathomable actions of his team. “There is no glory for you in being responsible for her death. The proper response would be to thank me for not claiming that reward for my own.”
In one swift motion Maur swung his weapon away, switched the safety and slung it over the desk. With utter despondence he ran his hands through his hair and turned away in shame from Kerra. She might not be dead, but he could only envisage himself as a disappointment and a failure.
In accord with her promise Ulalo drew the blade away from Kerra’s neck and stood herself up straight. Waving her hand through the air she gave the silent command for Beta Crew to be seized, and her squad complied. They swept forward through the room, cross-hairs still carefully trained on their enemy. Arms were grabbed, pulled down hard, and tight plastic ties pinned hands together behind each of Beta Crew’s backs.
“Move them to the vault door,” Ulalo said with unflinching pride, “and get it open so I might claim the true prize.”
“What?” Maur mumbled in barely audible defeat.
The Free Man Nation soldiers followed their orders and shoved all five of their prisoners forward. The vault door towered ahead of them, yellow and black bands stretching from one side to another, the closing forming a straight, diagonal, straight line up the centre. 'A-51' was written across is in large black lettering, and just below it lay the words ‘Project Legacy’ in a similar font. Maur looked at it, assessing its significance, before the horrifying realisation dawned on him. Had he been drawn here? “Have you worked it out?” Ulalo said, walking up the ramp to the door herself. “Have you seen the truth in what my operative told you?”
Maur did, he understood the significance of the door entirely. It made him feel sick, and made him unable to meet Kerra’s gaze as she turned to him in the line-up.
“You have led us directly to the power,” Ulalo said. “You drew us to the very room that its signal is radiating from. In every way you have fulfilled your purpose, and it is in reward for your service to the Nation that I will allow you to watch as I reclaim this power for humanity.”
Charles had begun to fear the purpose of the vault door not long after they had entered the room. He had led the team in the direction that he believed this supposed power to be in, but the inaccuracy of the scanner information that he had access to meant that it had only been a hunch. Reflecting back, he had been following Maur as much as the scanner.
There was regret in his heart in having led the enemy to their prize, watching as the Nation soldiers began to assemble cutting gear, but he did not feel defeat.
Maur did not hold such a positive outlook. The cutting gear, once assembled, unfolded into a tall spider-like construction. It had two groups of four legs, one set shorter the other which dragged the body up the side of the vault door with the steady thump of electromagnetic feet. The larger set, extending from the same black circular body, began to build up speed in a spin once this body had settled in place. Within seconds it had enough momentum for the individual arms to be undistinguishable as they blurred past. A few more seconds and the bright red glow of the cutting beams became visible, reflecting back into the eyes of everybody present.
A hiss turned to a screech and the efficient arachnidian device made significant gouges in a neat, perfect circle. It made the final rotations and the vault door was successfully breached. Ulalo moved forward with a swagger, swooping a leg into the air, right to her chest, before bringing a heavy boot down onto the door. Her kick was powerful, filled with swelling cockiness, and it broke the cutting clear. With an almighty slam it hit the ground, forcing dust and ancient debris into the air.
The place inside was far more grand than the innocuous gateway room that they stood in. Around every wall, from floor to ceiling, slick black electrical equipment flashed indecipherable information. Thick, dripping cables lead from the tremendous central feature of the room up to this equipment, coolant seeping free into long and ancient icicles. The central feature stood proud and tall, symmetric pedestals held an egg shaped glass container, as tall as the room, on its end. A swirling mass of glowing red energy viciously circling inside, a lone skylight leaking sun through moss covered glass.
It looked like a torrent of water had been trapped inside a cyclone, flakes of black breaking up its hot complexion as it spiralled constantly. Its light radiated just far enough to give a bloody tint to the crevices of the room. Its strength was obvious, boldly exclaimed by the sheer force of its motion. Maur looked up at it in awe, as did The Gentle Reminder before the truth of her victory became solidified in her mind to form unshakeable fact. The Nation had won.
She stepped forward, her swagger still pronounced, and slung around on her boot heel to face to gaping mouths of the Nation squad and her captives. Sword still held in hand, she raised her arms to the sky and saluted whatever deity she deemed responsible for such providence.
Above Ulalo’s head, in the fields of Maur’s family farm, the wider battle raged on as men and women fought against the Nation to defend something that they had already claimed.
“This,” Ulalo boomed, “is the power! This, is the Legacy! I, Ulalo Nuragi, The Gentle Reminder, claim it for the Free Man Nation! I claim it as the retroactive weapon of humanity’s saviour!”
Maur slung his head low, The Gentle Reminder’s words delivering a rapturous din of defeat to his ears as every Nation member present burst into joyous applause and cheering. Eyes closed, heart hollow, he heard them weep and wail. The small comfort of Kerra pushing herself against him was far from sufficient, and instead reminding him of his failure to react quicker in her defence.
“I, The Gentle Reminder, stand before you all in possession of the greatest force ever to be bequeathed to humanity. This power gives any man or woman the physical strength of ten, it grants him the physical endurance of a thousand, and it bestows abilities even greater than this, lubricant for our cause and substance for the return of humanity to its rightful place on Earth.”
“Texts recovered from the era that preceded the Collapse list it as a gift from the stars. It fell to Earth long before the Collapse and was studied here, re-purposed and refashioned into so many of the tools that almost led to man’s demise. In its raw form though, imbued to a worthy holder in the proper manner, it turns a human into so much more, it transforms him into a demi-god!”
“Hah, you are a ridiculous hypocrite!”
The guffaw came from Kerra, and Ulalo matched its frivolity with glowering daggers. Striding forward she flipped her sword twice over before bringing it up against Kerra’s neck once more.
“I beg you not to,” Kerra sneered, “if only because I can not stand the thought of dying at the hands of such a deluded bitch. You claim an alien weapon, something that fell from the sky, for your pathetic crusade of purification? You don’t realise how fucking stupid that makes you look?”
“Do not question the intelligence of The Gentle Reminder!” Ulalo hissed in response. “The work of the Free Man Nation can not be denigrated by a woman who fails to see the weakness that alien culture has brought to our species! There is no shame in claiming the Legacy in the name of humanity’s pure rebirth, there is only the cause.”
A rabble had crept through the room, a few of Ulalo’s entourage seeing the obvious truth in Kerra’s words – even some of the faithful joining in with the coerced members as they babbled insubordination.
The Gentle Reminder stepped back from Kerra, throwing her arms back into the air in preparation for verbal retaliation. She would not be robbed of this glory, she would make this bitch understand.
“What sort of name is The Gentle Reminder anyway?” Kerra continued to shout. “What do you want to remind me of? How fucking ridiculous you sound spouting this human purity shit?”
To Maur’s surprise, somebody already stunned by Kerra’s sheer bravado, The Gentle Reminder did not retort with a blast of angry insult. Instead she stood still but for the heaving of her chest, letting an ominous silence fall across the room. Her light brown skin contrasted the heavy glare of her silver armour, and while not unattractive, Maur could see the hatred and violence in her heart. It exuded from her, and he wondered how they had evaded somebody so ferocious for as long as they had. This had been the woman who had hunted him, this was the woman who was threatening the lives of his family and friends, and beyond the initial burst of fear that her speech inspired within him, Maur became aware of his duty once more. He began to summon his own deadly and efficient fury.
“This woman seeks to pollute your minds followers,” Ulalo began in a hushed tone, “but I am well aware of your belief in this cause. More than that, I am aware of the unquestionable truth of our mission. This woman, all five of these worthless peons, have not awakened themselves, they have spent their adult lives in the presence of aliens without ever seeing the damage that such fraternisation does. One of them is not even of this world! I, The Gentle Reminder, and the rest of The Thirteen will lead you on with the power of the Legacy...”
Her speech continued, a cacophony of applause and other celebration building around her words. Charles was proud of Kerra, she had managed to get under the skin of this Nation commander and it would give Beta Crew the opening they needed to escape.
“...with the power of the Legacy, and with our message spreading throughout known space we will soon have adequate force to conquer Earth, and return it to its rightful place as a harmonious sanctum for humanity...”
Charles leaned in to Maur, who stood next to him, and made the whispers of a plan. The Gentle Reminder marched back and forth, her preaching continuing to raise a ruckus. This only gave an advantage to Beta Crew, who remained unwavering and focused while the enemy around them became disorientated and high on bigotry.
Standing behind each of them was a Nation soldier, all of whom were currently waving their weapons in the air in response to Ulalo’s words. The signs of poor training showed through, as they had improperly matched guards to the men and woman that they were holding prisoner. Charles, the largest of Beta Crew still, was assigned a man who was a good foot and a half shorter than him. On the other hand, Kerra’s guard was overly large, matching Charles’ size, while Maur’s appeared to be most drunk on the fevered words filling the air. Both Yazram and Thom’s supervisors were more evenly matched, although Yazram’s had removed the black armoured mask that all the others wore, making his support of The Gentle Reminder known with even greater volume.
“On my mark,” Charles said to Maur. “Three... two... one... now!”
With a snap Charles brought his armoured elbow up into the short man’s jaw, the hard alloy cutting under his black mask. Maur matched this burst of action, spinning on his heel and connecting his knee with the temple of the second Nation guard. Ulalo stopped her speech far too slowly, the remaining three guards left exposed, their responses slowed by the drunkenness they felt.
Yazram kicked his head back, the rock-hard seetan skin collapsing the nose of the unfortunate soldier behind him. With one man down he lurched to the side, tackling down Thom’s guard. Thom himself was well prepared, the cutting device used on the turf on the surface tucked into the sleeve of his under-skin. Slipping it out, he sliced through the binding plastic with all the skill that you might expect of a chef. Whipping himself around, he drew the downed soldier’s weapon and emptied two hot laser rounds into his chest.
Charles shouted for the cutter to be brought his way as he watched Kerra duck and weave her oversized opponents lunges. He was freed quickly, Thom jogging over with appropriate pace, but the whole room had now come to its senses and was beginning to draw their weapons. Charles had just enough time to dive into hand-to-hand combat, landing heavy fists into the jaw of Kerra’s captor.
Blow after blow landed on the startled giant, but he was eventually felled by the swings of Charles’ almighty arms. Maur, like Thom and the rest of Beta Crew had already done, freed a weapon from one of the weeping heaps nearby. It was a Nation pistol, just like the one he had used on Pura, and so he was quick to fire rounds into the oncoming crowd.
There was little progress being made by brawling, the Nation soldiers descending on them in an unstoppable wave. It appeared that their own weapons were not designed to be used against them, the protective armour worn by each deflecting the majority of the rounds Beta Crew; those few which perforated left only flesh wounds.
Maur, however, did not feel panic. He felt like he was back in Annie’s sim suites. His heart pounded blood to his brain and limbs, both moving at an accelerated pace, recalling muscle and ordinary memory of his training, keeping Kerra protected for the time being. That fearless soldier was holding her own though, but in a glimpse in her direction, he spotted The Gentle Reminder making movements toward the Legacy.
He immediately disengaged from the fight ahead and broke into a sprint towards the swirling torrent of power ahead of him. Ulalo, catching his motion, spun around and began to fire toward him, but Maur’s ducking, diving, alternating movements sent them flying overhead. He felt strong, he felt like a true soldier, he felt invincible.
The Gentle Reminder drew her sword once again, preparing to meet the ferocious man gunning for her. Feet spread, arms bent, snarl hissing forward, she was ill-prepared for what came next. Maur stretched his hand out in front of him. The gun he held pointed past her shoulder. He clicked the safety off and the bullets burned forward, one after another, sending Ulalo Nuragi diving for the floor and splintering cracks across the surface of the Legacy’s containment.
Ulalo looked up, just in time to watch as Maur vaulted himself up against the railings of the platform surrounding the Legacy. His feet raised up, the pistol was dropped to the floor and clanked through apparatus, his armoured arms shielded his face.
“No!” Ulalo cried, desperately reaching up from the ground in the second she had. The room turned to watch, attracted by this bellow.
Maur crashed through the glass, splintering it into thousands of tiny fragments that filled the air behind him. The glow of the Legacy blinded him even past the protection of his arms. Within a fraction of a second he had made contract and felt the torrent drag him in, spinning him like a loose ragdoll. Flashes of his escape from the Nation flickered in his mind, he only hoped that this leap might be as successful. He had felt compelled to make it.
“Retreat!” Ulalo cried, getting up and pounding her feet against the ground. She strode across the room, away from the weapon she had been tasked with retrieving. The Gentle Reminder was well aware that this fight could no longer be won within the walls of this ancient facility.
Her squad disengaged accordingly, shocked by their supposedly fearless leader’s rapid retreat. Kerra, Charles, Thom and Yazram continued to fire rounds after them, but soon held their fire to watch as Maur’s body began to writhe and contort within the red energy.
He could hear it, the changes it was making to his body were being explained in an accelerated voice that was too alien for him to begin to understand. Maur tried to open his eyes and his mind, eagerly searching for comprehension of this incredible feeling. While his friends watched in horror, Maur in fact felt euphoric. The Legacy was in control of his limbs and was replacing the sensation of them with the notion of ghost-like intangibility. Simultaneously he felt as though his body was present, and yet that it wasn’t, a greater awareness lurching his consciousness in and out of reality.
“Maur. Maurice. Rosewell. Maurice Rosewell,” he heard the voices say. “You. It. Being. Thing. Granted. Gifted. Bequeathed. Our. This. Great. Grand. Immeasurable. Honour. Weapon. Existence.”
“What are you?” Maur thought, concentrating through the ecstasy. “What is this?”
“We. Us. Together. Are. Your. Its. Being. Maker.”
There was no more information given. In a flash the euphoria dampened and was replaced with a searing sense of completion.
Throughout Maur’s body, he could sense imperfections and weaknesses replaced and reinforced by an unfamiliar strength. The swirling red torrent extended, growing outward before throwing him back down onto the ground. Maur landed on his feet and he stood tall, fists clenched, while the energy folded in on itself. In awe of everybody present, it folded over and again, swathes of incredible energy taking geometric shape and reducing itself into infinity.
Kerra was the first to run to Maur’s side, the rest more cautious in light of Ulalo’s hasty retreat from whatever consequences now stood in front of them, Maur their avatar. Kerra clutched around his waist, abandoning her soldier sensibilities in favour of a blatant display of her happiness. She had not expected him to exit from the energy alive.
“You’re alright?” Kerra asked, stepping back into the crowd of Beta Crew who had now joined her. “You feel normal?”
“I feel better than normal,” Maur responded with a cold confidence in his voice. “I feel incredible. I feel like I want to kill The Gentle Reminder.”
* * * * *
“...the substance was contained and moved to the appropriate research facility. As per protocol, those involved in the ongoing study of the item will be pronounced dead, and their families notified. Some of the substance’s properties have already proven to be rather exciting although the ongoing extermination exercise of the local affected wildlife is not without its issues.”
Excerpt from a pre-Collapse report recounting the initial human encounters with the Legacy. There have been numerous attempts at illegal access, but there is only one successful hacking incident recorded.
* * * * *
Come back next week for Chapter Twenty Nine of Gentle Reminders (Book One in The Rosewell Sequence)