Shadows of Divinity: Book One of the Enochian War
Introduction (Read for context)
In case you didn’t notice, Shadows of Divinity is a long book. (For its genre, at least. I won’t start measuring sizes with the epic fantasy folks.)
The thing is, it was WAY longer when I first wrote it way back when. Then I wrote the Harvesters Series, learned a thing or two about writing, came back, trimmed this bad boy down, and sent it off to Lisa, my editor.
It was still too long. (Still probably is, in fact. But I did my best!)
Point being, I wrote a lot of stuff that didn’t see the light of day. Some of it was plain bad. Some merely meandering. A lot, I managed to distill down and work the essence in elsewhere.
The scene you’re about to read was extraneous. So I killed it.
Don’t worry. That reflex only applies to the written word. My second pet, if I had one (or a first for that matter), would be quite safe. I promise.
Joking aside, I did like this scene. I was fond of the moments. So I wanted to share it with you.
I can’t bring Carlisle back to life. Okay, technically I can, but… Look, we’d better not get started down this path. Look at how things turned out for Dr. Frankenstein, or the Elric brothers.
(Speaking of the Elric brothers, did anyone catch that chapter title reference? Equivalent Exchange? Eh? Eh?!)
Let’s get to the scene—a final, lovely moment with some of our favorite heroes to tide you over while I keep typin’ away at the next book.
(For reference, this would’ve originally been chapter 34. It fits between the chapters “Insider” and “Homecoming.”)
(Oh, and it’s also not professionally proofread, and there are technically a couple consistency errors, but I wanted to leave it all as-is. Be gentle with me!)
So, without further ado…Action!
"Chapter 33.5" - Preparations
The other three were already up and at it when I woke the next day—James at Carlisle’s desk in a blocky pair of head amps, splicing segments of our Vantage footage with audio from Therese’s logs, Elise sitting opposite Carlisle on the mat, face screwed tight in concentration.
I resisted the urge to reach out and inspect what Elise was doing, fearing I might disturb whatever mental exercise Carlisle seemed to be putting her through. Instead, I padded over, fabbed myself a bowl of sweet, mushy breakfast grains, and ate at the table in silence, practicing my spoon telekinesis.
“That’s a good start,” Carlisle said when I was nearly done eating. “Why don’t we take a break for now?”
Elise watched him rise from the mat in clear surprise. “Are we gonna spar later, then?”
The slight frown on Carlisle’s brow suggested he’d had no such intentions.
Elise glanced between us. “You know, like you and Hal do? I assumed that was part of it. And when do we get to all the other stuff? The—you know…”
She pointed at me, and I paused, mid-chew, full spoon hanging a few inches from my mouth.
“These things take time to learn,” Carlisle said. “A great deal of time, for most. And as for the sparring—”
“I just want you to know I’m ready to help,” Elise said, rising to her feet.
Carlisle sat across from me at the table, his back to Elise, his expression troubled. “To help with…?”
“Sanctuary,” she said. “That’s two thirds of my family they’re holding in there, if you hadn’t noticed. I’m not sitting this one out.”
I realized my spoon was still hanging in my face. I lowered it back to bowl, bracing myself for… I didn’t know what, exactly.
After our time on the hilltop last night, I’d kind of known deep down that Elise was in on this now. How could she not be? All of us were, whether we liked it or not.
Of course, now that I thought about it more objectively, the idea of her wading into danger with us scared the scud out of me. But it also hadn’t been so long that I couldn’t remember how it’d felt when Carlisle had tried to talk me out of fighting for my parents.
How could any of us really pretend like we had any right to stop her?
Carlisle was studying me.
I started to speak then paused to swallow the mouthful of soggy grains I’d forgotten I was holding. “She did take down five men at Franco’s.” Or at least took one and saw to it four more didn’t rise. “I wouldn’t have made it out of there without her.”
The second part was absolutely true.
“I don’t need you to defend my right to fight for my own family,” Elise snapped.
It was the first I’d ever heard a harsh tone from her, and it made me want in equal parts to shrivel up under the table and to fire back that I was on her side, here. Still, when the rush of heat subsided from my head, I realized she had a point. This was her fight to win.
We both watched Carlisle, waiting.
“I understand,” he finally said. “And I don’t disagree with you, Elise, but I will urge you to think about what your father would want. Above all else, he’d want to know that you’re safe no matter what happens to him.”
Elise shifted, her stance defiant. “It’s pretty rich, you know, hearing the guy who started a one-man war against world powers tell me I should keep my head down to make someone happy.”
Carlisle frowned. “We don’t have the luxury of time to train you.”
“Bullscud.” Elise pointed at me. “How long did you spend training Hal before you brought him into all of this and almost got him killed twice? Oh, I’m sorry, three times now.”
Carlisle couldn’t quite hide his wince.
No matter what I said, I don’t think he’d ever accept that I was my own responsibility. He still blamed himself for every hurt I’d received since he’d found me.
“Hal was a trained soldier when I brought him here,” he said.
Elise showed him a confident smile. “Well, lucky for all of us, I’m trained too.”
“Elise,” Carlisle said, “this isn’t…”
But she was already walking over to our cot, where, with a flick of her foot, she popped her compact staff from the floor to her outstretched hand. She turned into the catch, extending the ends of the staff and moving fluidly into an eloquent series of twirls as she danced over to the sparring mat.
She gestured for Carlisle to come try her.
He shot me a questioning glance.
I just held up five fingers, one for every soldier she’d kept off my back while I’d been busy getting throttled by a hybrid.
He studied me curiously, then nodded and rose to go join Elise. “Very well. Try to hit me, then.”
She looked skeptical. “You don’t want a weapon?”
“We’ll see,” Carlisle said.
She shot me a questioning look. I gave her a wink, a nod, and a telekinetic salute with my spoon.
They began to circle one another.
It hit me then that James had been immersed in his head amps this whole time, oblivious to what was happening. I gave him a telekinetic poke on the shoulder and almost felt bad when he jolted, arms flying up with comical intensity.
He whipped around, eyes searching wildly.
I pointed to Carlisle and Elise on the mat, and he immediately yanked off his head amps, mouth agape.
I turned back just as Elise lunged at Carlisle, thrusting her staff for his torso. He twisted under perfect control, just far enough that the weapon missed him. Elise’s staff whirled. She pivoted into a sweeping horizontal strike, which Carlisle bent under with a move I wouldn’t have believed physically possible.
Elise pressed in.
She moved with the footwork of a dancer, her arms blurs of motion, their speed exceeded only by her staff whipping through the air. And, of course, by Carlisle as he danced a breathtaking counter to her attacks.
Before training with Carlisle, I might have had trouble following the match, it was so fast. Now, I could see most of it, but I could also feel everything with my extended senses—each step, each counter-step.
My breath caught as Elise pulled a clever reversal and sent her staff whipping at Carlisle’s head. Even he didn’t have time to get out of the way.
So he didn’t.
He caught the end of the staff in his bare hand, jarring it to a dead stop.
Elise gasped. I almost did the same.
The blow should’ve easily broken most of the bones in his hand. I was surprised Elise hadn’t pulled it. Judging by the look on her face, she was too. She must’ve been caught up in the heat of the fight.
The only one who wasn’t stunned was Carlisle.
He stepped in, clamping the staff to his side with one hand, and drove a palm into Elise’s chest hard enough to send her tumbling backward.
She turned through a passable roll, scrambled back to her feet, and was dropping straight into a fighting stance when she faltered.
“Sorry, I got carried away. I didn’t mean to, uh… Sorry.”
Tension hung in the air.
Then Carlisle’s lip twitched, and he tossed her staff back to her. She caught it without relaxing.
James and I traded a wide-eyed glance.
Elise was watching Carlisle like she was worried he’d keel over at any moment. “Is your hand okay?”
Carlisle raised his hands and wiggled his fingers, a glimmer of amusement creeping into his eyes.
“But how? It should be broken. You didn’t even flinch.”
“He cheated,” I said.
“I’d hardly call it cheating,” Carlisle grumbled.
Elise looked at me in question.
“He used telekinesis.”
Carlisle showed Elise a sly smile. “Haldin’s probably just casting stones because he’s upset you gave me a better fight than he could when he started.”
“Probably better than he could give you right now, too,” Elise added before sticking her tongue out at me.
“Okay!” I cried, wiggling my sling arm. “Let’s all just make fun of the cripple! We’ll see who’s talking when I’m back up to two hands!”
We shared a much-needed laugh, and everyone took a break to eat with me.
No one said it in as many words, but it was clear enough from the subtle change in the room. If we wanted to pretend that had been an audition, Elise had passed it handily.
For better or worse, it looked like the girl I loved was coming with us into Sanctuary.
For the next four days, we did nothing but plan, train, eat, and, on occasion, sleep.
With James’ healing concoction on board, it was only a day before I was able to remove the sling for good, and only another two before I’d worked enough of the stiffness from the arm to get back to at least light sparring.
It’d probably be another cycle before I was actually in good shape, but I’d just have to make do. Every day that passed was another chance they’d see us coming—another day Franco and Phineas might be moved, or worse.
Even if Smirks’ back door got us on base—which, granted, was no guarantee—there was still plenty to figure out from there. Having been roaming Sanctuary most of my life, I knew how hard it was to do so unnoticed, even at nighttime. Especially at nighttime, really. But having the majority of the base sleeping or at least unwinding when the show started was too big an advantage to pass up.
Elise’s efforts to quickly unravel her new abilities were largely fruitless. Try as she might, even the first breakthrough with her extended senses wouldn’t come. And try as Carlisle might to explain that such feats normally took months of training, not days, he couldn’t do much to allay her frustrations.
Troubles aside, though, her telepathy did unexpectedly rear its head on the fourth day.
On that afternoon, the two of us were walking to the hilltop after a productive day of preparations. Elise was in high spirits, knowing we were nearly set to make our move on Sanctuary. Of course, both of us were also nervous. There was no denying it. But we did our best to enjoy the fresh air and the time together.
We were just cresting the hilltop when Elise laid it out that she was pretty sure—certain, in fact—that, in a fair fight, she could take me off my feet.
“Well, that’s not exactly fair,” I said, giving her my best serious face as I stroked her cheek. “Just seeing you already takes me off my feet every day.”
She rolled her eyes and gave me a light push. “Oh shut up. But seriously, let’s go. You know, unless you’re afraid to get beaten by a girl…”
“Ah, you’re gonna go there, huh?” I shrugged and wind-milled my right arm around to work out some of the tightness. “Okay, then. But wait. What do I get if I win?”
“A kiss, of course,” she said, perfectly matter-of-fact.
“Just the one?”
She showed me a mischievous grin.
“And what about if you win?”
Her eyes took on an alluring spark that made me dizzy. “Oh, I’m sure we’ll think of something.”
Part of me—maybe one part in particular—wanted to let her knock me over then and there just to find out more about that something she promised.
I forced myself to focus, wanting to approach this as a serious training exercise.
Elise and I had run through some drills on the mats over the past few days, but we hadn’t properly sparred at any point. With her staff, Elise was beyond deadly, but I wanted to see what she could do without it.
I sank into a ready stance.
When she sprung forward and snapped a high kick at me, I was already spinning clear, throwing my hip into hers along the way to take her balance and topple her over. Instead of toppling, though, she turned through a neat roll and was back on her feet and coming for me almost instantly.
She was quick. I’d give her that.
But I was quick too, apparently. Quicker than I knew.
Dodging her first kick had felt unusually fluid. As I twisted, dodged, and brushed my way through a flurry of her strikes, though, I realized that something was subtly different.
At first, I’d thought I was merely watching for the building tension to betray her moves before she made them. But it wasn’t that. She was too good for that.
I was starting to feel my surroundings with my extended senses even while fighting, I realized. Or at least the most interesting bits. Namely, the raven-haired beauty trying to pummel me.
Was this how Carlisle managed to move so damn fast all the time?
Apparently I was too focused on feeling good about my discovery, because I didn’t feel it coming when she caught me with a solid palm to the ear.
“You’re holding back,” she said between panting breaths. “Afraid to hit a girl?”
I touched my ear gingerly, frowning. “I’m just seeing how you’re coming alon—Agh!”
I twisted outside another impromptu punch.
“Better see how I can take a punch then,” she said, grunting the words out through a stream of quick strikes.
She made a fair point.
So, I gradually leaned into the fight, evading less, confronting more.
On one punch, I caught her wrist and darted back, drawing her arm down—and her balance with it—while I planted an open-palm mercy strike on the side of her head.
Except her head wasn’t there anymore.
She’d thrown herself along with my pull and was rolling by me almost before I knew it, extended senses be damned.
She leveraged my arm to spin and drive a heel straight at my stomach. I deflected the kick, pinned her leg to my side, and stepped to pin her other foot. She arched her back and kipped with her free leg before I could, yanking on my arm to launch herself upward.
I hadn’t seen that one coming.
She crashed into my chest and clamped on like a wild spider monkey. Too surprised to regain my balance, I committed to taking her with me. I let my legs buckle. Twisted back and to the side, hard.
Elise released her grip before we hit, but I clung to her and brought her with me as our momentum carried us tumbling across the ground. On the second revolution, I pushed out with my legs to brake our rotation with me on top. I pinned her to the ground a bit more roughly than I meant to.
We lay there panting for a handful of seconds. Her crisp blue eyes burned into mine with anger. I realized with horror that my hand was at her throat and released my grip, holding my hands up in apology. The intensity flashed hotter in her eyes.
Not anger, my stunned brain registered.
Then she grabbed my shirt, whispered, “I win,” and yanked me down to her.
I was too startled to resist. And once I caught up, I didn’t want to.
I scooped my hand beneath her neck and pulled her mouth to mine.
We got lost in that kiss—mouths hungry, hands tugging insistently through the confines of our clothing. I was about to start rectifying the latter when she put a hand to my chest, lightly pushing for pause.
I drew back, breathless, and searched her eyes.
There was something there—some raw outflowing of emotion that reached deep into me and pulled at my very core. I returned her gaze, nearly overwhelmed with the tender care melting through me.
And that’s when it happened.
“I think I love you,” she whispered.
Shock rippled through me—first at the fact that her lips hadn’t moved, then at the words themselves as they registered.
Elise had just tapped into her telepathy.
And she thought she loved me.
The thought was like the warm honey weight of weapons-grade pain meds—only five times better, and without the mental clarity issues.
Elise loved me?
But then why did she look so shocked right now?
“Did you…?” she said.
She didn’t realize she’d been broadcasting.
“Yes,” I sent back. “I did.”
Her mouth made a silent, Oh, as her eyes searched my face for some reaction.
I gave her the only one I could.
I pulled her to me. Kissed her deeply. Closed my eyes against the hot weight of tears, and pressed my forehead to hers. “And I think I love you too.”
When I opened my eyes, she was smiling, her eyes moist just like mine.
We remained like that for several heartbeats. Everything about the moment was undeniably good. Cool air whispering on the streaks of sweat I’d accumulated sparring. The warmth of the afternoon sun at my back and, infinitely better, that of Elise’s body melded against my front.
We basked in the togetherness—a moment of perfect peace we both knew could never last.
And, sure enough, I was just descending to plant a soft kiss on her forehead when the new palmlight James had brought me gave a chirp. A second later, a similar tone sounded from the one he’d brought Elise. The message was simple.
Elise kissed my cheek, then summarily pushed me off of her and hopped to her feet. “Come on!”
It wasn’t until she stopped halfway across the hilltop and turned back that I realized I was still lying on the ground, watching her with what must’ve been a trance-like expression.
Judging by the way she laughed, there may have even been drool.
“What are you doing? Come on.”
“Right.” I shook my head clear. “Right, coming.”
We strolled down the hill holding hands and enjoying our last bit of peace. We both knew what was coming.
“I’m scared, Hal,” Elise whispered when we were nearly to the temple.
We drew up short of the front steps.
“I’m not gonna let anything happen to you,” I said, pulling her close.
As much as I meant them, the words sounded empty to me, knowing what I did about Sanctuary’s defenses. Not for the first time, an urge gripped me to try to convince her not to go.
But it would be a waste of breath, I knew. And we needed her anyway.
She was shaking her head in the growing darkness. “It’s not that. I’m not scared for myself, I’m scared of losing them. Losing you.”
I cupped her cheek, trying to convey with the simple gesture what I couldn’t seem to with words. Her hand found mine and pressed it more firmly to her cheek. I pulled her to me, and she buried her face in the crook of my neck.
We stood there for a long while. I stroked her hair, feeling rather helpless.
She was right to be scared. Vantage had been bad enough. This was Sanctuary we were getting ready to march into.
No one she loved would be safe.
Then again, until the raknoth were gone, I was pretty sure no one on the planet would truly be safe, so maybe the point was irrelevant.
“It’s gonna be okay,” I finally said, having nothing better. “We’re gonna get them out, Elise.”
She took a steadying breath, the air tickling my neck. Then she nodded and stepped back from me. “Right. I’m okay.”
I took her hand, and we trekked inside to find Carlisle and James.
“It’s ready,” James said when we entered. He looked at me uncertainly. “Except for one thing.”
I turned my questioning look from him to Carlisle.
“We think we should start the broadcast with your story,” Carlisle said. “What the raknoth did to your family. What they’re going to do next. You and your father were respected members of the Legion. Even after everything they’ve said in the reels, that fact will at least get the people’s attention. Then we can hit them with the footage James has compiled.”
I wasn’t sure what to say.
The thought of baring my story for Enochia… well, it sounded mortifying. At least until I remembered that they already thought I was a terrorist who’d helped murder my own parents.
It couldn’t really get any worse, could it?
And whatever they might say about me, my parents’ memory deserved better than that.
Reluctantly, I nodded.
Moving with slow deliberation, like he was scared he might spook me, James stood and offered me his chair in front of the waiting vid camera.
I blew out a long breath and sat down to begin.
Therese Brown's Audio Logs - Entry One
This one, as you likely already know, actually sort of made the cut in the final book. Hal finds out most of the main meaty details as James skips around to the good parts.
Originally, I’d crammed the full logs into the “Insider” chapter with no breaks or dialogue from our main characters, and, while I loved writing these logs, they seemed to be stalling the pace just a little too much.
So I kept what needed to stay and trimmed the rest, resting assured that I could just share the full logs here with anyone who was interested.
(And don't get overwhelmed—the first two entries are by far the longest.)
Now, let’s get to the action!
My name is Therese Brown, and… Oh, this feels silly, talking to myself like some kind of paranoid… No. No, I chose to do this for a reason.
My name is Therese Brown, and I was recruited eight years ago to join Vantage’s regenerative medicine team. Within three years, I was heading it. That’s when I was first approached by Alton Parker himself. That’s when all of this started.
You have to understand, working at Vantage isn’t just another gig. This is the place to be—the pinnacle of biomedical research. In industry. In academia. On all of Enochia. They take the best and the brightest, and they expect nothing less than world-changing results.
Now, understanding that, imagine the CEO of Vantage himself comes to tell you that aliens—honest to Alpha extraterrestrials—have appeared on our doorstep. That they need help and that, having taken a look at what Enochia had to offer, they’d decided that we were the ones to cure their ailments. Could you really blame us for being a little bit curious?
Maybe you should…
At any rate, the story went like this.
In their past travels, these aliens—these raknoth as they call themselves—had happened across a planet populated by a people not unlike our own. It was there they fell prey to an illness against which they had no immunity, pathogens that apparently posed no problem to the local life but were quite deadly to the raknoth. By the time the raknoth realized they were sick, though, they were already halfway across the galaxy. According to Mr. Parker, they discovered Enochia just when they’d been about to turn around and seek aid from that other world.
I know. It all sounds, as my father might’ve said, mad as a softsteel sipper. And yes, we were skeptical. Extremely skeptical.
Another planet that just happened to have life like ours? Even glossing over the millions of mind-boggling quandaries there, you compound that wild story with the chances that they somehow just happened to stumble across us next halfway across the galaxy, and you have yourself an unbelievable story. Or so we told ourselves.
Then we got a look at the samples Mr. Parker brought us, and… Well, I guess it’s easy to lose sight of things when you’re sitting on the biggest scientific breakthrough the world’s ever seen.
The samples… Well, here’s a mind-bender: these organisms—these raknoth—don’t even appear to have nucleic strands. They have something vaguely similar, or close enough to it that we’ve at least come to think it’s probably where they store their genetic information. But it was out of this world. And it didn’t end there. They were like nothing we’d ever seen—cellular structure, organelles… all completely different than any organism we’ve discovered.
We’ve been working around the clock ever since to tease it all out, but we’re essentially starting from square one—learning the new basics of biology. We’re still not even close to a complete picture. Believe it or not, five years isn’t quite enough time to reinvent the wheel and solve the mysteries of an entirely new genome. You know, if genome is even an appropriate word to use here…
Suffice it to say, what we saw convinced a few dozen of the brightest minds on Enochia to believe, or at least entertain the possibility, that we were in fact dealing with real aliens.
Aliens. From outer space.
I know it sounds ridiculous. I’m still not sure I completely believe it after all this time. But I’ll tell you what I do know with utter, empirical certainty.
The raknoth are real.
I can’t prove that they’re aliens. Granted, I can’t explain how something so radically different from Enochian biology could have evolved here, but that alone is not proof.
We’ve yet to see a space ship or anything of that nature. We’ve yet to even see any more of the raknoth than the samples we’ve been working with for the past five years. Mr. Parker tells us they’ve placed themselves in isolation somewhere in the northern wastelands for fear of spreading the illness we’re supposed to be curing. But we’re still getting these samples somehow.
I think he’s met them.
The illness itself… Well, things just get weirder. Their samples are chock-full of parvobes astoundingly similar to the ones that cover all of us. We’ve exposed Enochian life to these parvobes—rodents, swine, even human tissue samples. No major problems, aside from a few fevers that went away in due course.
Of course, we thought this might actually be proof that the raknoth are in fact of this world, but our parvobiologists and geneticists are convinced we’re looking at parvobes that did not come from Enochia. At least not from anytime in the past couple thousand laps.
So where in demons’ depths did they come from?
Score one for that unbelievable story, I guess.
We barely knew where to begin. We didn’t even know whether those parvobes were actually the real problem. But it was the best explanation we had. So we started there, trying to eliminate all non-raknoth life from the tissue samples.
It was no good.
We tried all manner of treatments, from mild to aggressive. Interestingly, the tissues themselves were incredibly resilient to pretty much any harmful substance or stimulus we could throw at them. But that was only in the short term. Eventually, no matter what we did, they would die.
There was talk going on of trying to splice pieces of our own immune systems into theirs when Mr. Parker came to offer another potential treatment.
That should have been the first warning bell. Why human blood? And why in demons’ depths was Alton Parker the one suggesting it? It was preposterous. Nonsensical.
And it worked.
Human blood—not swine, not rodent, but human—was able to keep our samples alive and well as we worked over the next few years. It was… Well, the logical side of me always assumed there was some human-specific protein at work there. Maybe a combination of them. It had to be something. But years passed and no one found a satisfying explanation for it.
It was spooky. And—
Oh, Alpha be damned, I need to go check on our latest graft assay. Another thrilling failure, I’m sure.
I fear I’ve rambled off topic trying to paint the whole picture, so let me end this entry by getting back to the point.
My name is Therese Brown, and I’m recording this because I don’t know if I’m safe here anymore. I don’t know if any of us are. But I need to make it known, just in case anything should happen to me.
The raknoth are out there. They’re real.
And from what I’ve seen, I can only assume they require our blood to survive.
Therese Brown's Audio Logs - Entry Two
The first time I brought my concerns about living raknoth needing human blood to survive to Mr. Parker, he deflected the question and assured us that the raknoth are a peaceful species. Call me paranoid, but something about the way he looked at me… I felt like he wished he could have been strangling me while he said the words. Like I’d poked an open wound, but he was far too professional to let anyone see.
I never should have said anything. I think he’s keeping an eye on me now. I probably shouldn’t even be recording this. Every device in the compound is linked to their network. Granted, our contracts do say that our private files are never to be viewed or accessed except in the case of criminal investigation or at the will of our families if we should happen to die. But that’s just the contract. When a company like Vantage owns your life, private doesn’t necessarily mean private.
But I have to document these things somewhere, and leaving the compound now would only confirm any suspicions he might have. No one on the raknoth research project has left the compound since Sophie went to attend her father’s funeral, but that was just for a day. It was also two years ago.
To say we’re married to our work here would be an understatement.
Speaking of which, I guess I failed last time to even mention what my part in this project is. While most of the teams on the project are working to study the raknoth and figure out how to help them, my team has been tasked with trying to develop raknoth-derived therapeutics for humans.
As I mentioned before, aside from their apparent reliance on human blood, the raknoth tissues have proved incredibly resilient, capable of miraculous regeneration. We seem to be sitting on a medical goldmine if we could just figure out how they do it, or at least how to safely adapt and administer their regenerative machinery to humans. The problem is that, as soon as anything of raknoth origin contacts human cells… Well, to put it simply, the raknoth bits start taking over the human bits, and they don’t stop until everything dies.
It’s… pretty creepy, and we’ve been trying to overcome the problem for years. The only thing that makes any difference is a steady supply of human blood. It doesn’t prevent the raknoth biology from eventually pulling a hostile takeover, but it does slow the process and seem to stabilize things. The cells keep changing until, a few months later, they’re basically full raknoth. And then they die anyway, fresh blood or no.
We’re losing hope we’ll ever be able to make raknoth therapeutics safe for humans. As frustrating as that is, what’s truly concerning is that Mr. Parker hardly seems to care at this point. He sits through Epiphday reports with glazed eyes. He doesn’t even come to all of them anymore. He’s also started bringing in new personnel. Engineers, physicians. They listen to our reports and say very little, aside from the occasional question here or there. I’m not yet sure what their function is in this project, but I’m starting to think Mr. Parker is up to something.
Which is why I finally decided to start recording these logs.
We’ve all had our fair share of questions and suspicions since the beginning of this project, but now…
I can’t help but wonder if my role here has simply been a distraction—a facade to convince everyone we were doing this for humanity when really the only goal was to rid the raknoth of their sickness. And now that we’ve spent five years failing to do even that…
Well, if the creatures that require human blood to survive were to decide they’re done waiting for us to fix their problems, what do you suppose they’d be inclined to do next?
Therese Brown's Audio Logs - Entry Three
Our allometrist, Doug, told me something today that made me want to lock my office door and curl up under my desk.
We’ve all been wondering for years what these raknoth look like, what manner of creatures they are, but we have yet to see one in person, or in… whatever. Doug’s best guess, though—from the admittedly small amount of information he has to work back from—is that they’re fairly small creatures.
About the size of a human brain, he told me today.
Those were his words. The size of a human brain. We’d already heard his report that the raknoth were likely small, but the way he said it today, it was like there was a reason he didn’t just say, “About the size of a dew melon,” or something less… creepy. Like he’d been thinking about raknoth and brains a lot lately.
So, after five years of study, here’s a quick summary of what we actually know about these things. They’re likely damn tough. They somehow exhibit parasitic behavior even at the subcellular level. They seem to require human blood to survive. And, last and maybe creepiest, we have reason to believe they’re about the size of a human brain.
This is purely wild speculation, but I can’t help wonder: what if the raknoth aren’t actually in isolation up north? We’ve all wondered how they’re surviving up there without the human blood they presumably need. I’ve been assuming that, since we’re getting samples, we must be sending supplies to them as well. But what if that’s not it at all? What if they’re already among the population, feeding? How would they go unnoticed? How would you slip into a totally novel society and hope to blend in?
I think I’d take over one of the natives, if I could. Slip in. Learn from their memories. Take control. Become them.
In other words, I think I’d take over one of their brains.
Or take its place…
Alpha, I sound like a delusional nut.
I’m tired. I need more data before I rattle out any more wild conspiracy theories. I just… have a bad feeling. About all of this.
Therese Brown's Audio Logs - Entry Four
Doug is gone.
According to the memo we all received this morning, he tendered his resignation two days after we had our little chat about brain-sized raknoth. It’s hardly putting ease to my discomfort about the goings-on here, but for now, the work must continue.
I’ll try to contact Doug soon.
Therese Brown's Audio Logs - Entry Five
This will be my last log.
I spoke to Doug yesterday in a vid call. Turns out he bartered out of his contract and left the project because he couldn’t handle the pressure and the isolation anymore. Nothing sinister.
Actually, he looked quite well.
I hadn’t realized he’d looked ill before, but it was plain as day when I saw him on the outside. It made me realize how much of a toll this project has taken on me.
Five years of my life…
The stress has gotten to me in ways that I’m only now starting to realize. All these things I’ve been saying about the raknoth… They all sound so bizarre out loud. I’m starting to wonder if I’m losing it in here. I don’t think it’s worth it anymore, working this hard on a project that’s clearly going nowhere.
Eight years ago, I never would have hoped to be a part of something so groundbreaking. I certainly couldn’t have fathomed voluntarily stepping away from it. But now I think I have to.
I can’t take this anymore.
Therese Brown's Audio Logs - Entry Six
I don’t… I don’t know what’s happening, but… Scud.
I don’t think I have much time.
I don’t know if you can even trust what I’m saying right now.
Those things I said about talking to Doug, about him happily resigning… I don’t think they’re true. I can’t… It’s all mixed up in my head. I don’t know how to explain it.
I’m not crazy.
Alton Parker. I think he did this to me somehow. I don’t know how. I think the raknoth have converted him, made him one of their own. I think he’s—
Hey! What in demons’ depths are you doing? You can’t—Hey! Stop! Let me—
Trouble reading in the browser?
No worries. You can download the PDF right here.