Ontogeny

A time of unprecedented crisis has come. During a mission to the edge of the known world, Brigadier Weyland James discovered that humanity faces a threat so terrible that the sane mind can barely conceive it. Failure to meet this threat would mean the end of human civilisation, mankind thrown back to a life of wandering savagery, easy prey for the true masters of the planet who see humans as mere animals, theirs to use and exploit as they see fit.

Hope exists, if all mankind can unite, putting aside their petty differences for the greater good, but the truth is so unbelievable that the Brigadier faces an almost impossible task in convincing the leaders of the human world. His task is made even harder by the fact that several governments have been infiltrated by agents of the enemy, who are using their influence to sow seeds of war and chaos.

The Brigadier is not mankind’s only hope, though. In Helberion, a small group of scientists, struggling to make a major scientific breakthrough, is being hampered by assassination and sabotage. Is this the work of the enemy of mankind? King Leothan hopes it is, because it would mean that the enemy fears this new science, that it could be used to create a powerful weapon against them. A weapon that could be the Saviour of Mankind. The Electric Messiah...

Here is an extract from The Electric Messiah


     The workers at Goldwater's Pharmaceutical industries were given a day off each week, and Jenner decided that Malone should spend his first day off being shown around the city. Every day so far, they'd been so tired after a ten hour day that all they’d been able to do when they got back to their rooms in Drocker’s Block was collapse into a pair of threadbare armchairs until they'd recovered enough strength to make their evening meal, then climb into their cots, where they fell asleep almost instantly. Today, though, was theirs!

     Not having to rush to the factory to begin their work shift, they were able to enjoy a lie in, and Malone luxuriated in a half asleep state as he let his brain think whatever it wanted to think. Mostly what it wanted to think about, it appeared, was how the bedsprings were digging through the thin mattress into his skin. He could have eased the discomfort by turning onto his other side, but moving would have taken much energy and the sheer luxury of being able to just lie there as the sun rose and shone a beam through the window onto the opposite wall, well past the time when he would normally have been heaving sacks of bicarbonate around, was so great that the feel of iron digging into his skin was nothing in comparison. He just lay there, therefore, while he waited for his brain to think of something more interesting.

     He must have dozed off again, because he was awoken by the sound of hammering on his door. “Come on, Fido! Time to rise and shine! Day's getting old!”

     “What time is it?” asked Malone. He managed to summon enough energy to open his eyes and turn his head, to see that the sunlit patch on the wall had dropped much lower than it had been seemingly just a moment ago. Another hour must have passed! He gave a muttered curse and kicked the bedsheets off, then winced as he rose to his feet. Those bedsprings really dug in! As soon as he had the money, he’d have to see if he could get another mattress. Even sleeping on the bare ground while on one of the Brigadier’s missions hadn't prepared him for this!

     The first morning they'd risen together, Jenner had stared curiously at Malone's bare body, trying to spot his few remaining dog features. Malone's body was now almost fully human, though, with only his covering of fine, downy hair left from his quadrupedal days. It was his face and hands where most of his dog features remained, those parts of him that, by unlucky chance, were on view to the world even when he was dressed, and the other man had felt strangely cheated when he could see only the normal human curvature of his spine and his completely human pelvis and thighs. Jenner himself, who'd been raised from an urban fox, had been declared completely human some years before, and there were no remaining animal features on his body to attract Malone’s attention. Now, some days later, therefore, they scarcely glanced at each other as they took turns to use the toilet, washed and got dressed.

     Ten minutes later, they were sitting at the kitchen table eating their breakfasts of sausage and eggs, and Malone looked out the kitchen window, where the towers of the inner city could be seen over the city wall. He was going to have to go in there sometime during the day. This was the day he and the Brigadier had arranged to meet, to compare notes and progress reports. That meant he was going to have to get away from Jenner for a couple of hours. That was a complication they hadn’t anticipated, that he’d have a companion who intended to spend the whole day as his tour guide. He'd have to find some excuse for wanting to go off alone for a while, something that Jenner wouldn't want to tag along for. He searched his mind trying to think of something, but nothing came. Maybe Jenner would want some time alone. He'd lived all his life in this city, he must have family somewhere. Hopefully, he’d want to go off and visit them at some point.

     “So, what's the itinerary for today?” he asked.

     Jenner looked up and spoke around a mouthful of sausage. “The what?”

     “Where are we going today?”

     “Well, you can’t come to Traclow without seeing the dog racing... Oh! You're okay with dog racing, aren't you?”

     Malone chuckled. “So far as I can remember, I wasn’t a racing dog. No, I've got no problem, so long as you don't expect me to gamble all my wages away. I'm hoping to be eating now and then between now and next pay day.”

     Jenner grinned. “Don't worry, they allow spectators, but we can have a little side bet between ourselves, perhaps. The one who picks the first winning dog, the other one cooks for the rest of the week.”

     “You're on! So, dog racing. Then what?”

     “They have cock fights in The Fat Owl every other Sunday. Not strictly legal, we have to watch out for the guards, but even if they catch you the worst that can happen to you is a night in the cells. They always let you out in time for clocking on next morning. Today's main fight should be a good one! Glover's fielding One Eye Pete, he's a bit of a legend in these parts. Baddest, meanest bird we've seen in this city since Claw’s career came to a glorious end against Storm Feathers three years back.”

     Malone tried to conceal his lack of enthusiasm at seeing poor, dumb birds being made to tear each other to pieces. He had to fit in, be one of the lads! “Never been to a cock fight!” he said, trying to sound excited. “They don't have them in, where I come from.”

     “Then you’re in for a treat! There's boxing too, and cage fighting. That's always good for a laugh, especially when there’s new people in town and one of them fancies his chance against Ripper or The Beast.”

     “Ordinary people are allowed to compete, then?”

     “Oh yeah! There's a huge prize for anyone who can last five minutes against the house champions! Only declared humans are allowed to take part, though, so you wouldn’t be allowed to, I'm afraid.”

     “I wouldn't want to!”

     “You’re wise, then. There's some who say The Beast is still part bear. Quite a scandal if anyone could prove it, but when there’s that kinds of money involved, bad things are likely to happen to anyone who stirs up trouble.”

     “I try to avoid trouble if at all possible. The dog racing sounds good. Perhaps we could go there first, see how we feel later.”

     “The dogs it is, then!”