Joined: 2002-07-03 11:51pm
Location: Land of the Mountain Fascists
Anyways, here's a bunch of quotes I've fished out of the old Hyperionverse thread. Make of them what you will:
beyond hope wrote:
The battle in the valley of the Time Tombs serves to illustrate the Shrike's combat abilities against conventional forces. As previously noted, the Pax ground force numbers over 30,000 troops (5,000 of them Swiss Guard) along with armored CTVs, gun emplacements, missile batteries, and observation posts (no numbers given.) Combat air patrol is being performed by Scorpion
-class thrust-reaction fighters with a speed of at least Mach 3 and a combat ceiling of low orbit. Combat orbital patrol consists of a troopship, 2 torchships, a C3 ship in high orbit, and the archangel courier ship (which is armed to the same approximate level as the torchships.) The massacre begins on page 114 of Endymion
, continuing through page 133. Sergeant Gregorius sums up the battle as follows:
"We don't know, sir," answers Lempriere. "It was like the old days... Hegemony Force days when the jumptroops came in by farcaster portal, sire. I mean, thousands of armored... things... appeared, everywhere, at the same second, sir. I mean, the battle only lasted five minutes. There were thousands of them. And then they were gone."
De Soya is still struggling to hear this through the gathering darkness and the roaring in his ears, but the words make no sense. "Thousands? Of what? Gone where?"
Gregorius steps forward and looks down at the father-captain. "Not thousands, sir. Just one. The Shrike."
"That's a legend..." begins Lempriere.
"Just the Shrike," continues the huge black man, ignoring the troopship captain. "It killed most of the Swiss Guard and half the regular Pax troops on Equus, downed all of the Scorpion fighters, took two torchships of the line out of business, killed everyone aboard the C-three ship, left his calling card here, and was gone in under thirty seconds. Total. All the rest was our guys shooting at each other in panic. The Shrike."
To elaborate: casualties on the orbital support ships ran about 60%. There was an explosion on one of the two torchships which left at least half the compartments aft of the CIC" vented to space." The second torchship was "damaged but functional," with approximately 50% losses among the crew. The containment field aboard the troopship was damaged and the gravity was thus out. Also, Raul witnesses the Shrike take a direct hit from a plasma bolt during the battle without any apparent ill effect (page 117.)
beyond hope wrote:
First, I neglected a description. This comes from Endymion
, page 508.
Close up, the Shrike was even more terrifying than when seen from a distance. I used the word "sculpture" earlier, and there was something sculpted about the creature - if one can imagine a sculpture done in chromed spikes, razor wire, blades, thorns, and smooth metal carapace. It was large - more than a meter taller than I, and I am not short. The actual form of the thing was complicated - solid legs with joints sheathed in thorn-studded bands; a flat foot with curved blades where the toes should be and a long spoon-shaped blade at the heel, which might be a perfect utensil for disemboweling; a complicated upper carapace of smooth chromed shell interspersed with bands of razor wire; arms that were too long, too jointed, and too many - there was an extra pair tucked under the longer, upper set of arms; and four huge bladed hands hanging limply by the thing's side.
The skull was mostly smooth and strangely elongated, with a steam-shovel jaw set in with row upon row of metal teeth. There was a curved blade on the creature's forehead and another high up on the armored skull. The eyes were large, deep-set, and dull red.
The Shrike is almost three meters tall (see Endymion
, page 257, among many other places.) On page 256 of Endymion
, the Consul's ship is able to determine the Shrike's weight after it appears in the Hawking-drive accumulator. According to the ship, the Shrike displaced a mass of 1.063 metric tons. A Bettik speculates that the Shrike may be very dense, and may also vary its mass as required since the footprints it leaves on the beach nearby do not seem to reflect such a weight. The Shrike can also open something resembling a farcaster portal which others can step through (The Fall of Hyperion
, pages 142-143.)
Page 153 of The Rise of Endymion
gives us another example of the Shrike at work. The Shrike attacked the Palestinian capital of Arafat-Kaffiyeh on Mars while the Pax was rendering the population lifeless for storage and transport, killing the entire Pax force of 362 people. A 38 second security holo of the event seems to show a dozen Shrikes, but close inspection confirms that there is only one moving so quickly as to appear to be in several places at once. Despite the fact that the bodies are relatively intact, none can be resurrected: the Shrike has removed their cruciforms, including the five hundred meters of microfiber in the "cellular node extensions." The Opus Dei freighter Saigon Maru
is found floating dead in space in the same system, its crew of 51 all killed by the Shrike and their cruciforms torn from their bodies in the same fashion (page 248 of The Rise of Endymion
Beginning on page 166 of Hyperion
, Colonel Kassad has the oppotunity to see the Shrike in battle at something approaching the Shrike's speed. The account follows.
Kassad approved of the way the Ousters had prepared their defenses. The two assault boats were grounded less than half a kilometer apart, their guns, projectors, and missile turrets covering each other and a full three hundred and sixty degrees of fire. Ouster ground troops had been busy digging revetments a hundred meters out from the boats and Kassad could see at least two EM tanks hull down, their projection arrays and launch tubes commanding the wide, empty moor between the Poets' City and the boats. Kassad's vision had been altered; he could see the overlapping ship containment fields as ribbons of yellow haze, the motion sensors and antipersonnel mines as eggs of pulsing red light.
He blinked, realizing that something was wrong with the image. Then it came to him: besides the thickness of the light and his enhanced perception of energy fields, nothing was moving. The Ouster troops, even those set in attitudes of motion, were as stiff as the toy soldiers he had played with as a boy in the Tharsis slums. The EM tanks were dug into their hull-down positions, but Kassad noticed that now even their acquisition radars - visible to him as concentric purple arcs - were motionless. He glanced skyward and saw some sort of large bird hanging in the sky, as unmoving as an insect frozen in amber. He passed a cloud of windblown dust hanging suspended, extended one chrome hand, and flicked spirals of particles to the ground.
Ahead of them, the Shrike strode casually through the red maze of sensor-mines, stepped over the blue lines of tripbeams, ducked under the violet pulses of the autofire scanners, passed through the yellow containment field and the green wall of the sonic defense perimeter, and walked into the assault boat's shadow. Moneta and Kassad followed.
-How is this possible? Kassad realized that he had posed the question through a medium that was something less than telepathy but something far more sophisticated than implant conduction.
-He controls time.
-The Pain Lord?
-Why are we here?
Moneta gestured toward the motionless Ousters. -They are your enemies.
Kassad felt that he was finally awaking from a long dream. This was real. The Ouster trooper's eyes, unblinking behind his helmet, were real. The Ouster assault boat, rising like a bronze tombstone to his left, was real.
Fedmahn Kassad realized that he could kill them all - commandos, assault boat crew, all of them - and they could do nothing about it. He knew that time had not stopped - any more than it stopped while a ship was under Hawking drive - it was merely a matter of varying rates. The bird frozen above them would complete the flap of its wings given enough minutes or hours. The Ouster in front of him would close his eyes in a blink if Kassad had the patience to watch long enough. Meanwhile, Kassad and Moneta and the Shrike could kill all of them without the Ousters realizing they were under attack.
It was not fair, Kassad realized. It was wrong. It was the ultimate violation of the New Bushido, worse in its way than the wanton murder of civilians. The essence of honor lay in the moment of combat between equals. He was about to communicate this to Moneta when she said/thought - Watch.
Time began again with an explosion of sounds not unlike the rush of air into an airlock. The bird soared and circled overhead. A desert breeze threw dust across the static-charged containment field. An Ouster commando rose from one knee, saw the Shrike and the two human shapes, screamed something over his tactical comm channel, and raised his energy weapon.
The Shrike did not seem to move - to Kassad it merely ceased being here and appeared there. The Ouster commando emitted a second, shorter scream, and then looked down in disbelief as the Shrike's arm withdrew with the man's heart in its bladed fist. The Ouster stared, opened his mouth as if to speak, and collapsed.
Kassad turned to his right and found himself face to face with an armored Ouster. The commando ponderously lifted a weapon. Kassad swung his arm, felt the chrome forcefield hum, and saw the flat of his hand cut through body armor, helmet, and neck. The Ouster's head rolled in the dust.
Kassad leaped into a low trench and saw several troopers begin to turn. Time was still out of joint; the enemy moved in extreme slow motion one second, jerked like a damaged holo to four-fifths speed in the next instant. They were never as quick as Kassad. Gone were his thoughts of the New Bushido. These were the barbarians who had tried to kill him. He broke one man's back, stepped aside, jabbed rigid, chrome fingers through the body armor of a second man, crushed the larynx of a third, dodged a knife blade moving in slow motion and kicked the spine out of the knife wielder. He leaped up out of the ditch.
Kassad ducked as the laser beam crept past his shoulder, burning its way through the air like a slow fuse of ruby light. Kassad smelled ozone as it crackled past. Impossible. I've dodged a laser! He picked up a stone and flung it at the Ouster manning the tank-mounted hellwhip. A sonic boom cracked; the gunner exploded backward. Kassad pulled a plasma grenade from a corpse's bandolier, leaped up to the tank hatch, was thirty meters away before the explosion geysered flame as high as the assault boat's bow.
Kassad paused in the eye of the storm to see Moneta in the center of her own circle of carnage. Blood splashed her but did not adhere, flowing like oil on water across the rainbow curves of chin, shoulder, breast, and belly. She looked at him across the battlefield and Kassad felt a renewed surge of bloodlust in himself.
Behind her, the Shrike moved slowly through the chaos, choosing victims as if he were harvesting. Kassad watched the creature wink in and out of existence and realized that to the Pain Lord he and Moneta would appear to be moving as slowly as the Ousters did to Kassad.
Time jumped, moved to four-fifths speed. The surviving troops were panicking now, firing into one another, deserting their posts, and fighting to get aboard the assault boat. Kassad tried to realize what the past minute or two had been like for them: blurs moving through their defensive positions, comrades dying in great gouts of blood. Kassad watched Moneta moving through their ranks, killing at her leisure. To his amazement, he discovered that he had some control of time: blink and his opponents slowed to one-third speed, blink and events moved at nearly their normal pace. Kassad's sense of honor and sanity called out for him to stop the slaughter but his almost sexual bloodlust overpowered any objections.
Someone in the assault boat had sealed the airlock and now a terrified commando used a shaped plasma charge to blow the portal open. The mob pressed in, trampling the wounded in their flight from unseen killers. Kassad followed them in.
The phrase "fight like a cornered rat" is an extremely apt description. Throughout the history of military encounters, human combatants have been known to fight at their fiercest when challenged in enclosed spaces where flight is not an option. Whether in the passageways of La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont at Waterloo or in the Hive tunnels of Lusus, some of the most terrible hand-to-hand battles in history have been fought in cramped spaces where no retreat is possible. It was true this day. The Ousters fought... and died... like cornered rats.
The Shrike had disabled the assault boat. Moneta remained outside to kill the threescore commandos who had stayed at their posts. Kassad killed those within.
In the end, the final assault boat fired on its doomed counterpart. Kassad was outside by then and he watched the particle beams and high-intensity lasers creep towards him, followed an eternity later by missiles which seemed to move so slowly that he could have written his name on them in flight. By that time all of the Ousters were dead in and around the overrun boat, but its containment field held. Energy dispersion and impact explosions tossed corpses around on the outer perimeter, set fire to equipment, and glazed the sand to glass, but Kassad and Moneta watched from inside a dome of orange flame as the remaining assault boat retreated to space.
-Can we stop them? Kassad was panting, pouring sweat, and literally quivering from excitement.
-We could, replied Moneta, but we do not want to. They will carry the message to the swarm.
Some notes on the skinsuits that Kassad and Moneta are wearing in the above passage. The field can withstand a blow from the killing gauntlet on FORCE powered armor (a blow that would carve through half a meter of stone) without any visible staggering or reaction from the wearer (page 140 of The Fall of Hyperion
.) It enhances the wearer's physical strength: on the same page, Moneta throws Kassad (still clad in his FORCE armor) a distance of 20 meters, jumps the same 20 meters to land next to him, lifts him one-handed, and rips his impact armor down the front with her other hand. It does not, however, prevent the Shrike from cutting the wearer (page 142 of The Fall of Hyperion
, among other places.) Aside from the visual capabilities in the above passage, the skinsuit also allows the wearer to zoom in on distance objects. Kassad uses this to watch a group of FORCE soldiers 5 kilometers away, and has no trouble making them out despite their camoflage polymer and minimal heat signiture. He can even see faces (The Fall of Hyperion
, page 182.) It also serves in a first aid role, managing the wearer's pain while serving as both compress and tourniquet (The Fall of Hyperion
, page 332.)
Kassad skidded to a halt ten meters from the thing and activated the assault rifle, slagging the sand beneath the Shrike in a full-power wide-beam burst.
The Shrike glowed as its carapace and steel-sculpture legs reflected the hellish light beneath and around it. Then the three meters of monster began to sink as the sand bubbled into a lake of molten glass beneath it. Kassad shouted in triumph as he stepped closer, playing the widebeam on the Shrike and ground the way he had sprayed his friends with stolen irrigation hoses in the Tharsis slums as a boy.
The Shrike sank. Its arms splayed at the sand and rock, trying to find purchase. Sparks flew. It shifted, time running backwards like a reversed holie, but Kassad shifted with it, realizing that Moneta was helping him, her suit slaved to his but guiding him through time, and then he was spraying the creature again with concentrated heat greater than the surface of a sun, melting sand beneath it, and watching the rocks around it burst into flame.
Sinking in this cauldron of flame and molten rock, the Shrike threw back its head, opened its wide as a creavase mouth, and bellowed.
Kassad almost stopped firing in his shock at hearing noise from the thing. The Shrike's scream resounded like a dragon's roar mixed with the blast of a fusion rocket. The screech set Kassad's teeth on edge, vibrated from the cliff walls, and tumbled suspended dust to the ground. Kassad switiched to high velocity solid shot and fired ten thousand microflechettes at the creature's face.
beyond hope wrote:
In order to deal with the remaining scenes from the Pax-era novels concerning the Shrike, it is first necessary to describe Rhadamanth Nemes and the other vat-born TechnoCore assassins. As with the passages dealing with the Shrike, serious spoilers
follow. Nemes is initially introduced to Father Captain de Soya by the Pope as having "augmentations and much unique training" but still "totally human, and totally Pax." She is described as short and compact, with dark eyes and short black hair. De Soya and the others catch glimpses of her naked after her "first resurrection," and see a Cruciform on her chest (page 485 of Endymion
It very quickly becomes obvious (beginning on page 452 of Endymion
) that she is not human. For starters she is undamaged by the Gideon drive, which as previously established shreds human passengers, and "buffeted but not damaged" by the courier's "terrible deceleration" which is uncushioned by internal containment fields and currently crushing the remains of de Soya and the human crew members. The life support in the general cabin is off: there is no oxygen, the air is a virtual vacuum, and the temperature is -30 degrees centigrade. Nemes, clad in a crimson jumpsuit, is indifferent to these conditions. 6 hours later she stands up and moves under 200 G's of deceleration. Nemes demonstrates the ability to link directly with the dropship's computer through a fiber-optic cable in her wrist.
Landing on the planet below, she steps out into negligible atmosphere and winds blowing ice crystals at 400 kph, still clad in the jumpsuit. She then activates a "biomorphic field" around her body and jogs across the landscape at 30 kph. Reaching the building she seeks, she rips open the doors to an elevator shaft and simply drops down the shaft at 108.8 ft./sec. (the gravity field on Sol Draconi Septum is 1.7 G,) stopping her descent at the desired floor by grabbing a steel girder. By that point she had reached her terminal velocity of over 500 kph and stopped within 3 hundreths of a second. Rather than waste time with a verbal interrogation of Father Glaucus, she shoots a seeking monofilament into his brain and reads the neural energy directly. After determining where Aenea is headed by accessing the Farcaster arch directly and proceeding to kill three 5-meter juvenile snow wraths and a band of native humans, Nemes returns to the ship and alters the ship's memory to cover her absence. She then rests until de Soya and the others are resurrected: apparently moving in fast time and using the phase-shift skin both "tire" her. (Endymion
, page 469.
Nemes catches up with Aenea on God's Grove, which begins the first battle between one of her kind and the Shrike on page 533 of Endymion
Nemes swings her arm, expecting to feel nothing as the edge slices through muscle and vertebrae, and is shocked by the violent contact.
She looks down. The sharpened edge of her phase-shifted hand is in the grip of two sets of fingerblades. Her forearm is gripped by two other scalpel-sharp hands. The bulk of the Shrike presses close, the blades on the lower body almost in the frozen girl's face. The creature's eyes are bright red.
Nemes is momentarily startled and seriously irritated, but not alarmed. She rips her hand away and jumps back.
The tableau is exactly as it had been a second before - river in freeze time, Raul Endymion's empty hand outstretched as if pressing the firing stud on the little laser, the android dying on the ground with medpak lights frozen in midblink - only the girl is now overshadowed by the huge bulk of the Shrike.
"You want her?" says Nemes. "Have you also been sent to kill her? Be my guest... as long as I get the head."
The Shrike pulls its arms back and steps around the child, its thorns and knee blades missing her eyes by less than a centimeter. Legs apart, the Shrike stands between Nemes and Aenea.
"Oh," says Nemes, "you don't want her? Then I'll have to take her back." Nemes moves faster than fast time, feinting left, circling right, and swinging down. If the space around her had not been warped by displacement, sonic booms would have shattered everything within kilometers.
The Shrike blocks the blow. Sparks leap from chrome, and lightning discharges into the ground. The creature slashes the air where Nemes would have been a nanosecond before. She comes around from the rear, kicking at the child's back with a blow that will drive the girl's spine and heart out through her chest.
The Shrike deflects the kick and sends Nemes flying. The chromed woman shape is hurled thirty meters into the trees, smashing branches and trunks, which hang in midair after she has passed. The Shrike hurtles through fast time after her.
Nemes strikes a boulder and is embedded five centimeters in solid rock. She senses the Shrike shifting down to slow time as it flies toward her, and she follows the displacement back into noise and motion. The trees snap, break, and burst into flame. The miniclaymores sense no heartbeat or respiration, but they feel the pressure and leap toward it, hundreds exloding in a chain reaction of shaped charges that drive Aenea and the Shrike together like halves of an old imploding uranium bomb.
The Shrike has a long curved blade on its chest. Nemes has heard all the stories about the victims the creature has impaled and dragged off to stick on the longer thorns of its Tree of Pain. She is not impressed. As the two are driven together by the shaped charges exploding all around them, Nemes's displacement field bends the Shrike's chest thorn back on itself. The creature opens steam-shovel jaws and roars in the ultrasonic. Nemes swings a bladed forearm into its neck and sends it fifteen meters into the river.
In those last seconds of the battle, it was not easy getting the Sphinx trap in place. Nemes is using all of her energy fighting off the Shrike's whirring blades. It is like fighting several spinning propellors at once, she thinks. She has been on worlds with propellor-driven aircraft. Two centuries earlier she had killed the Hegemony Consul on such a world.
Now she bats away whirling arms, never removing her gaze from the glaring red eyes. Your time has passed, she thinks at the Shrike as their displacement-shrouded arms and legs slash and counterslash like invisible scythes. Reaching through the thing's less-focused shield, she seizes a joint on its upper arm and rips thorns and blades away. That arm falls away, but five scalpels on the lower hand dig at her abdomen, trying to disembowel her through the field.
"Uh-uh," she says, kicking the thing's right leg out from under it for a split second. "Not so fast."
The Shrike staggers, and in that instant of vulnerability she slips the Sphinx card from her wristband, slides it through a five-nanosecond gap in her displacement field squarely into the palm of her hand, and slaps it onto a spike rising from the Shrike's banded neck.
"That's all," cries Nemes as she jumps back, shifts to fast time to bat away the Shrike's attempt to remove the car, and activates it by thinking of a red circle.
She leaps back farther as the hyperentropic field hums into existence, propelling the flailing monster five minutes into the future. It has no way back while the field exists.
Rhadamanth Nemes shifts down from fast time and drops the field. The breeze - superheated and ember laden as it is - feels delightfully cool to her. "Now," she says, enjoying the look in the two pairs of human eyes, "where were we?"
The courier version of the Raphael can deliver a beam of roughly eighty gigawatts through atmosphere with virtually all power routed into its weapons systems. (Endymion, pages 543-544.) Effects on the target are as follows:
We never reached the lava rocks. There was a blast of heated air and the chrome shape of the woman was ahead of us, standing three meters above us on the black rock face. “Bye, bye, Raul Endymion,” the chrome mask said. The shimmering metal arm rose.
The blast of heat burned off my eyebrows, set fire to my shirt, and threw the girl and me backwards through the air. We hit hard and rolled away from the unspeakable heat. Aenea’s hair was smoldering, and I batted my forearms against her, trying to keep her hair from bursting into flame. A. Bettik’s medkit was screeching again, but the avalanche roar of superheated air behind us drowned the noise. I saw that my shirtsleeve was smoking, and I ripped it away before it ignited. Aenea and I turned our backs to the heat and crawled and scrabbled away as quickly as we could. It was like being on the lip of a volcano.
We grabbed A. Bettik’s body and pulled him to the riverbank, not hesitating a second before sliding into the steaming current. I struggled to keep the unconscious android’s head above water while Aenea fought to keep the both of us from sliding away on the current. Just above the surface of the water, where our faces were pressed against the wet mud of the riverbank, the air was almost cool enough to breathe.
Feeling the blisters forming on my forehead, not yet knowing that my eyebrows and swaths of hair were missing, I raised my head to the edge of the riverbank and peered over.
The chromed figure stood in the center of a three-meter circle of orange light that stretched up into the heavens and disappeared only when it narrowed to an infinite point hundreds of kilometers above. The air rippled and roiled where the beam of almost solid energy ripped through the atmosphere.
The metallic woman-shape tried to move towards us, but the high-energy lance seemed to exert too much pressure. Still, she stood, the chrome field around her turning red, then green, then a blinding white. But still she stood, her fist raised and shaking at the sky. Beneath her feet the lava rock boiled, turned red, and ran downhill in great molten rivers. Some ran into the river not ten meters downstream from us, and the steam clouds billowed up with a loud hissing. At that moment I admit that I considered becoming religious for the first time in my life.
The chrome shape seemed to see the danger seconds before it was too late. It disappeared, reappeared as a blur – fist shaking toward the sky – disappeared again, reappeared a final time, and then sank into the lava under its feet where solid rock had been an instant earlier.
The beam stayed on another full minute. I could not look directly at it any longer, and the heat was burning away the skin of my cheeks. I pressed my face against the cool mud again and held A. Bettik and the girl against the bank even as the current tried to pull us downstream into the steam and lava and microfilament wires.
I looked up one final time, saw the chromed fist sinking beneath the surface of the lava, and then the field seemed to shift down in colors for a moment before it winked off. The lava began to cool at once. By the time I had pulled Aenea and A. Bettik out of the water and we had begun CPR again, the rock was solidifying with only rivulets and pseudo-pods of lava still flowing. Bits of cooling rock flaked off and rose in the heated air, joining the embers from the forest fire still raging behind us. There was no sign of the chrome woman.
beyond hope wrote:
That reminds me that there's still some things left to add.Nemes vs. the Shrike
Nemes is retrieved from her entombment in solid rock (The Rise of Endymion
, pages 12-13):
"None where we have to work," said the woman as she shut off the laser. The three crossed a low area by the river and climbed a rocky slope. Here the granite had been melted and flowed downhill like lava during the slagging of God's Grove, but on one of the terraced rockfaces there were even more recent signs of catastrophe. Near the top of a boulder ten meters above the river, a crater had been burned into solid rock. Perfectly circular, indented half a meter below the level of the boulder, the crater was five meters across. On the southeast side, where a waterfall of molten rock had run and splattered and fountained to the river below, a natural staircase of black stone had formed. The rock filling the circular cavity on top of the the boulder was darker and smoother than the rest of the stone, looking like polished onyx set in a granite crucible.
One of the men stepped into the concavity, lay full length on the smooth stone, and set his ear to the rock. A second later he rose and nodded to the other two.
"Stand back, said the woman. She touched her wristband comlog.
The three had taken five steps back when the lance of pure energy burned from space. Birds and arboreals fled in loud panic through the screening trees. The air ionized and became superheated in seconds, rolling a shock wave in all directions. Branches and leaves burst into flame fifty meters from the beam's point of contact. The cone of pure brilliance exactly matched the diameter of the circular depression in the boulder, turning the smooth stone to a lake of molten fire.
The two men and the woman did not flinch. Their shipsuits smoldered in the open hearth-furnace heat, but the special fabric did not burn. Neither did their flesh.
"Time," said the woman over the roar of the energy beam and widening firestorm. The golden beam ceased to exist. Hot air rushed in at gale-force winds to fill the vacuum. The depression in the rock was a circle of bubbling lava.
One of the men went to one knee and seemed to be listening. Then he nodded to the others and phase-shifted. One second he was flesh and bone and blood and skin and hair, the next he was a chrome-silver sculpture in the form of a man. The blue sky, burning forest, and lake of molten fire reflected perfectly on his shifting silver skin. He plunged one arm into the molten pool, crouched lower, reached deeper, and then pulled back. The silver form of his hand looked as if it had melted onto the surface of another silver human form - this one a woman. The male chrome sculpture pulled the female chrome sculpture out of the hissing, spitting cauldron of lava and carried it fifty meters to a point where the grass was not burning and the stone was cool enough to hold their weight. The other man and woman followed.
Nemes mentions on the following page that she could not move "with the full force of the ship's lance" focused on her, and couldn't phase-shift in the solid rock. She states that it took "immense concentration" to power down while maintaining an active phase-shift interface.
Some more details about the Nemes-creatures begin on page 82 of The Rise of Endymion.
They are capable of surviving on a world with an atmosphere thinner than Mars, although they do have to phase-shift to survive a vacuum. An outside temperature of minus 162 degrees Centigrade does not force them to phase-shift to cope with it. They communicate with each other by broadcasts on "the 75 megahertz band" rather than speaking. Councillor Albedo states that the Core needs the Pax for their factories, money, and "human resources" to build archangel ships. He also asks if the Stable sector of the Core named the 3 new constructs: this may or may not imply that the Stables are responsible for their creation.
Page 191 of The Rise of Endymion
: communication on the 75 megahertz "common band" is possible while phase-shifted, but not desirable because it consumes enormous quantities of energy above and beyond that needed for phase-shifting. "Even a ping alarm would use the equivalent of (Vitus-Grey-Balianus B's) entire energy budget for a year. The usual procedure is for the Nemes-things to "shift down" periodically to check the common band. Also, the phase-shift effect is not antientropic or hyperentropic manipulation of time (though the UI has both technologies) or a "speeding up" effect, but is some form of "sidestepping into the hollowed-out boundaries of space/time." Continuing on page 192, Nemes is able to take a blood sample from a man through use of a needle in her finger and analyze his blood, determining that he had dangerously high levels of cholesterol, an abnormally low platelet suggesting incipient immune thrombocytopenic purpura, a blood alcohol level of 122 mg/100 ml, and the presence of the painkiller ultramorph and heightened levels of caffeine from which she concludes that he was given drugged coffee. Her sense of smell is rated on the next page as about three times more sensitive than "a typical gas chromatograph mass spectrometer." She is able to correctly determine by traces of scent that one of the children in the building required chemotherapy, and that Raul had either been ill or injured due to the traces of ultramorph in his sweat.
As she follows the scent trail into a tunnel under the building, she encounters the Shrike.
Suddenly the lights went out.
While I am phase-shifted, thought Nemes. Impossible. Nothing could happen that quickly.
She skidded to a halt. There was no light at all in the tunnel, nothing she could amplify. She switched to infrared, scanning the passageway ahead and behind her. Empty. She opened her mouth and emitted a sonar scream, turning quickly to do the same behind her. Emptiness, the ultrasound shriek echoing back off the ends of the tunnel. She modified the field around her to blast a deep radar pulse in both directions. The tunnel was empty, but the deep radar recorded mazes of similar tunnels for kilometers in all directions. Thirty meters ahead, beyond a thick metal door, there was an underground garage with an assortment of vehicles and human forms in it.
Still suspicious, Nemes dropped out of phase shift for an instant to see how the lights could have gone out in a microsecond.
The form was directly in front of her. Nemes had less than a ten thousandth of a second to phase-shift again as four bladed fists struck her with the force of a hundred thousand pile drivers. She was driven back the length of the tunnel, through the splintering ladder, through the tunnel wall of solid rock, and deep into the stone itself.
The lights stayed out.
A few pages later, her clone-sibling Gyges tangles with the Shrike:
Suddenly the thing was right next to him, centimeters away, at least three meters tall, towering over him.
Impossible, thought Gyges. I would have sensed the phase-shift distortions.
Exploding rockets spilled bloodred light on the chrome carapace. Metal teeth and chrome spikes twisted the expanding flowers of yellow, white and red across quicksilver planes. Gyges caught an instant's look at his own reflection, distorted and startled, and then he phase-shifted.
It took less than a microsecond for the shift. Somehow one of the creature's four clawed hands made it into the field before it completely formed. Bladed fingers dug through synflesh and muscle, seeking one of Gyges's hearts.
Gyges paid no heed to the attack but attacked in return, swinging his silvered, phase-shifted arm like a horizontal guillotine. It could have cut through whiskered carbon alloy as if it were wet cardboard. It did not cut through the tall form in front of him. Sparks and thunder exploded as his arm bounced away, fingers numbed, metal radius and ulna shattered.
The clawed hand within him pulled out ropes of intestine, kilometers of microfiber optics. Gyges realized that he had been opened from navel to breastbone. It did not matter. He could still function.
Gyges clenched his right hand into a sharpened bludgeon and thrust it forward into gleaming red eyes. Ite was a killing blow. But the great steam-shovel jaws opened, closed, faster than phase-shifting, and Gyges's right arm suddenly ended above the wrist.
Gyges threw himself at the apparition, trying to merge fields, attempting to get his own teeth within tearing distance. Two huge hands seized him, the bladed fingers sinking through shift field and flesh to hold him tight. The chrome skull in front of him slashed forward: needle-spikes pierced Gyges's right eye and penetrated the right frontal lobe of his brain.
Gyges screamed then - not out of pain, although he felt something similar for the first time in his short life - but out of pure, relentless rage. His teeth snapped and clacked like steel rendering blades as he sought the creature's throat, but he continued being held at three-arm's length.
Then the monster ripped out both of Gyges's hearts and threw them far out over the water. A nanosecond later, it lunged forward, biting through Gyges's throat and severing his carbon-alloy spinal cord with a single snap of long teeth. Gyges's head was severed from his body. He tried to shift to telemetric control of his still-fighting body, peering through blood and fluid out of his remaining eye and broadcasting over the common band, but the transmitter in his skull had been pierced and the receiver in his spleen had been ripped away.
The world spun - first the corona of the emerging sun around the second moon, then skyrockets, then the color-dappled surface of the river, then the sky again, then darkness. With fading coherence, Gyges realized that his head had been thrown out far into the river. His last retinal image before being submerged in darkness was of his own headless and uselessly spasming body being hugged to the carapace of the creature and being impaled there on spikes and thorns. Then, with a flash, the Shrike phase-shifted out of even fast-time existence and Gyges's head struck the water and sank beneath the dark waves.
Nemes finds the headless body five minutes later. She also runs down the damage done to her by the Shrike. All of her ribs, both permasteel and bone, are either bent or broken. Several of her internal organs have been pulped. Her left hand is not functioning. She has been unconscious for twenty standard minutes, when a direct strike from a ship's laser lance and the subsequent burial in solid rock was not enough to make her lose consciousness for a second. Most disturbing to her is the fact that the damage was inflicted through the supposedly impenetrable shift field. Nemes notes that there will be time for her to heal those injuries while their ship is in transit. Gyges is still capable of forming words with his tongue despite being decapitated and having one side of his skull split open: Nemes decides that waiting the months it would take him to heal on his own is unacceptable, and leaves the head and body in the river for scavengers.
Have a very nice day.