Song of Seth-7

T. Fox Dunham

April 15, 2022

“What do you see, my Seth?”

The doors to the tribunal chamber would soon open, and they would be called forth by a voice of static, despair, the mouth of the dead—three kept alive by power cores and wires and nerve stimulators, soaked in a chemical bath of nutrients and preservatives.

“Colors I see. Sounds I hear. Patterns to the senses that stimulate, delight. Perhaps it is an anomaly, my neural roots and lanes and branches deteriorating. I am sick. I am contagious. No cures. I can’t ever let it stop.”

He gazed through the portal, watching merry-go-round spectrums playing on the burning earth’s atmosphere.

“What do you see when you look through the window?” Seth-7 asked her.

“Solar flares,” Lana said. “Particles thrown from the sun reacting in the atmosphere.”

“I’ve never seen one in person, but I think I see a monarch butterfly.”

“Oh my Seth,” she said. “Perhaps it is an echo of one of the minds woven to make you. You were born of seven warriors, the sum of their experience. We’re still not sure how the subconscious translates.”

“It is mine. When I see it, my chest fills with light. Sparks. Burns. I drown in stars.”

She ran her fingers through his shale hair—nest of ravens with ancient eyes. His hair felt as smooth, natural as any born human. Paladins had been designed this way, mostly human to properly utilize the collective experience in their minds. They had also been given artificial means to enhance their dexterity, strength.

“You are mad.”

When she touched him, he could sense with his gift of empathy wasps in her chest calmed. He sensed need in her once again, first thing he’d felt when he’d first come online—a dry well, searching him over with her eyes, seeking something familiar. She’d been there at the station when weavers wove his mind of electromagnetism. She kissed him to make it his first experience in life.

He turned away from the window, from watching infinite space, promising pixels of light on black ooze. He looked upon her with eyes of flowing mercury, spinning like a pulsar. She stepped back. She knew these eyes as all humans did in the post-reaper era—targeting eyes, hawk eyes.

“I apologize,” Seth-7 said, looking away. “I know our eyes scare you.”

“The reaper mutations wore such eyes. This war was all my grandmother knew, my mother. Your eyes bring death. I cannot help it, but I must. Or we are lost.”

“I do not want you to think of death when you see my eyes. I want humans to know we are more than weapons.”

“Then you must believe. Are you just a weapon? The distilled experience of seven human warriors before you? Downloaded into the woven EM energy field that comprises your mind?”

A derelict freighter came into orbit and fired six pods from its belly. They vanished beneath opaque clouds, to burn and boil in inferno below. They came to Earth, to the beginning of life, to find its end. They’d walk out onto the land, breathe the hot air and die in under twenty minutes from the toxic gas.

“Business is booming for the Society for Human Dignity,” she said. “And we die a little more.”

The chamber doors parted. Synthetic voices of the tribunal, three minds speaking in choir, a hum of electrons, static, vibrations:

“Come forward petitioner Seth-7 and advocate Lana of Icarus Station and only speak true to this sacred tribunal. Step through those doors in peril of your lives.”

“Remember,” Lana said. “Keep at them. Stir up the dust in their petrified brains.”

Seth-7 stepped onto the platform in the center of the marble edifice. The disc levitated until he stood before the Council Triad.

“I have come for the survival of my people,” he yelled over the calls and jowls of the thousands below in the gallery. These sessions of the Triad broadcasted all over the fragments of human civilization, reaching out to the furthest systems many light years beyond. All weary eyes watched the Triad and waited for a sign, a reason to keep going.

“Make your petition to this Triad. Please state your name, origin, and request.”

So the Triad spoke in static as one in the minds of all present, their three physical mouths stuffed with wires and tubes.

“My designation is Seth-7, last of the Paladin design. I was artificially created on Icarus Station. I humbly ask of this Triad, knowing that the request will consume vital resources that will be used for the reconstitution of the human race, that my people—Paladins, the ghost warriors—have their existences maintained.”

They followed custom and introduced themselves to the petitioner:

“We are the heart and the spirit of humankind. We convened on solar day forty-seven of the solar year 2452. Born on the last day of the war. Infrastructure destroyed; most planets burned in hellfire; birth rates low and suicide rates doubling every fifty days. We are to rebuild the human institution; at this time, datum dictates human extinction in six years.”

They always spoke sans emotion, their gestalt voice monotone: power conduits, external organs that wheezed and pumped, implants jutting out from their foreheads. They were more machine than human. Seth-7 journeyed the road to humanity from synthetic. These beings passed him on the same road in opposite direction.

Builder’s had hollowed out Earth’s only satellite to build this temple, the chamber of the Triad to perform its holy mission. Through skylights, he caught a glimpse of earth below—a place of brimstone and volcanic rage. Humans burned the earth after luring the forces of the Preacher there for the final battle. Once it had been luscious, fecund in green life and cerulean waters. He caught frissons of the memories of the men and women downloaded into him, visions of home—apartments in smoky metropolises like East US City or Brisbane, a cabin in the mountains of Tibet, a boat in the Pacific ocean—all lost now, land gone to ash, ocean boiled to steam, air poisoned. He couldn’t claim these memories, felt like an imposter for possessing them.

Was it right to claim their souls?

Madame Future then spoke.

“We three are time: To my left, Past; To my right, Present; I am the soul of this council, Future.”

She consumed him with firebrand eyes.

“Seth-7, the noble warrior of seven spirits, your petition asks much of us. To preserve your race, resources will be used to repair your kind and new materials given for you to use to procreate. We only hear your petition in respect of your contribution in the war. Our mission is the only mission, the holiest. Everyday, more humans lose their lives to hunger, disease, the elements or take their lives from despair. Sans war now, we are without purpose. It is for this Triad to redefine humanity, to find a new place for us in the universe.”

He took air deep into his carbon dioxide bladder and spoke:

“I comprehend the calamity; yet, still I ask.”

The gentleman referred to as the Past spoke:

“The great war has passed. You and your people were vital components of that era. Your race had priority for resources.”

Now Present added:

“Now is the era of peace. Your kind is no longer essential to us. Resources are needed to halt this suicidal drive of the human race, resources to promote birth, to rebuild our infrastructure, our society.”

“What qualifications must I fulfill to have my petition granted?”

Madame Future spoke:

“You must prove that you offer something vital to the survival of the human institution. You must find an equal value in peace as you did in war. We ask you.”

He recalled what he and Lana had practiced.

“The Paladins can provide a work force, strong and intelligent, to rebuild your worlds.”

Present spoke: “We have machines that can do twice the work and require a fraction of the resources to maintain.”

And that was all they had. There existed another option, but he loathed to use it. It reminded him of their warrior function.

“The Paladins can provide protection, guardianship.”

Present spoke: “From what enemy? The only enemies we fight now are within.”

“Would you value the Paladin race if we could do battle upon such an internal enemy?”

The Triad paused. He could sense their concentration with his empathy. He also sensed their worry.

“Do you know of the means to fulfill this arrogant boast?” asked Future.

“I humbly request in the name of my people the time to consider this properly,” he replied.

“Honorable Seth-7, we will consider your request. As Post War Holocaust Law dictates, you will be given one hundred hours, and remember this caveat: the burden of proof is on you and your advocate.”

Seth-7 nodded. It was the greatest crime to waste the time of the Triad with frivolous petitions. If they denied the petition, he and Lana would be put to death. This ensured only the serious came to address the Triad.

“I comprehend, Madame Future.”

“Then go now from this place and return at the appointed time, and we shall see if the Paladin race can find their place in peace.”

His people, one thousand strong, a race imbued with the minds and spirits of hundreds of fallen heroes, had but two years before they died.

Before his podium landed, he looked again at dancing spirits on the magnetosphere of sad earth.

“So beautiful are the dancers,” he said. “They dance for me.”

* * *

“What was music?” Seth-7 asked.

“I’ve no idea,” she replied. “My husband knew of it, though he didn’t understand it really. Patterns of sound.”

The shuttle docked with Icarus station, a navigation buoy outside of the Earth Solar system used to coordinate grav-slip lanes. Below the base of the tower was home, an asteroid hollowed out and turned into a nursery for synthetics.

“Take me home and buy me a drink,” she said.

They entered the airlock, took the lift down to the social decks, the common areas. They passed a squad of children, all sitting at their desks, eyes glazed over, still, as knowledge programmed into their minds through the conduit implanted in their necks at birth. They were all nearly ten years in age, nearly ready to serve society. Six students made up the class, the largest class of young in ten light years. Their gray faces blended into pale bulkheads, never stirring, going about their function in perfunctory fashion. At current rates, half the class would take their own lives in under two years. Many never even realized it, walking mindlessly out of airlocks, forgetting to take nourishment. It didn’t seem like a conscious choice. Entire colonies died this way.

“What are you watching?” Lana asked.

“The children. Something is missing from them.”

“You are a child,” she said.

They stepped into her quarters.

The only light in her unit flowed from stars. It was a standard living unit, a single room with a small closet and bathroom. Basic biological units were inserted in the walls, a counter, a small monitor on the back wall and a cot, its blankets disheveled. Seth-7 appreciated its logic, but it felt barren.

On the table by the cot, two pills waited in a crystal bowl. The red pill starts it. They have eight hours to change their minds and take the green one. Everyone had such pills near.

“Be right back, hopeless warrior,” she said.

She went into her lavatory, washed up a bit, came out and turned on a dim lamp. She wore only a shirt that ended just above her knees. He sensed longing once more in Lana, a desert world that once knew rain, desperate for another drop.

A frisson of desire, of lust moved through his body. It compelled his puppet arm to reach out, fingers twitching, to touch, feel, taste with mouth. He focused on returning balance to the choir. Bury it in dirt. The drops formed a stream again.

“Feel scandalized?” she said, sitting up on the counter, exposing her thighs. “You shouldn’t. You’re the closest thing I have to a husband.”

She poured herself a glass from an alcoholic beverage, took a sip.

“Lana,” he said.

“My Seth.”

“I’m sorry I’m going to murder you. You should never have joined me on this fool’s crusade.”

She took his hand. The hole within her threatened to devour him.

“I have burned in earthfire for you,” she said.

“You have always been there since I came online. I feel . . . safe with you.”

“And more. I know you feel more. You know me.”

“Yes,” he said, his reflexes energizing. He sensed danger. “You are familiar to me.”

“Kiss me,” Lana said.

“I do not understand,” he said. Silvery light from his eyes illuminated her face like white marble.

She moved her hands behind his head and brought his face close. She pressed her mouth over his and pushed hard. He pushed her away. His air bladder pulsed.

Her eyes broke into sobs.

“Please Robert. Hear me. You’re in there.”

She pawed at his chest.

“Be him. Please. Please. When we first met, you spoke about the hubris of humankind. He always spoke of the same thing. You saw colors in the sky. He saw colors. He had something I needed, we all needed. I don’t understand what it was, but I need it in my blood.”

“Your husband died in the war?” he asked.

“Number seven. His gifts became your gifts. His soul became your soul.”

“You worked at the Paladin control center. You knew to whom his mind would be copied to.”

“You can come back to me.”

He sighed.

“Your husband cannot come back to you.”

Humans possessed technology to record their minds, store them, but had no practical use for them but as nostalgic vessels. The reaper mutations were made thousands at a time, uniform, lethal, easily replaced. The only force that proved effective in their defeat was the experience of a veteran warrior, and these unique fighters were mostly extinct. But if that experience could be preserved, distilled, focused and multiplied, given a new body, new life, then the war might actually be won. Using the latest in cybernetic technology, cloning human bodies and replacing certain parts with machines, the Paladins were born. Every failure became a lesson, and none of that wisdom went to waste. They won the war.

She collapsed onto the floor.


He helped her up and over to the bed.

“Can I get you anything?” he asked.

“I am your fool.”

“I never meant any of this,” he said.

Her skin felt as snow.

“Don’t blame yourself,” she said. “You killed me, but you can’t help it. You’re a weapon.”

* * *

He had come to earth to release his life, to the world that wasn’t his home but would always be the place of his birth. His filters struggled to cleanse his breath of toxins. He’d last longer than humans, but eventually his CO2 bladder would fail; and he’d lay down next to the sword, go still, and be covered by a soft rain of soot, to sleep buried in the earth.

Seth-7 wasn’t born on Earth. Seth wasn’t born human. He was carved out of a lifeless body, his flesh of the unborn, his mind woven from the thoughts of the dead. His mind wasn’t even solid—a magnetic field, quantum woven, electromagnetic waves at myriad field frequencies that become logic, rational thought—feeling. He had learned how to feel through his empathy, by sensing emotions of those around him, and he’d felt energies in the universe that filled his chest with what he could only describe as stars. He’d never felt those sensations in any human, but lately, he could sense it in his own kind. Stars were being born in the hearts of Paladins—and Seth-7 wanted to live, he wanted to experience the wonders of the universe.

Yet he tired of his warrior life. He could only harm whatever he touched.

It would be better to pass to dust.

He set his scimitar at his feet. Its three curves, three blades that sliced through graphinite, glowed red with reflection of earth’s fading sun, bleeding through the ash cloud cloaking the planet. He set it down on a pile of rubble.

Her husband, Lana would finally have peace.

He could feel it in the earth, despair of those who were lost, blackness left by those who came anointed by the Society for Human Dignity to end their lives. The aura of emotion existed autonomously, and it left the body, seeding into the ground. Beneath the layers of soot, earth filled with dark heart.

The air cracked. Seth-7’s ears flexed, and his reflexes guided his eyes to the sky. A flare streaked overhead, burned in re-entry, a trail of smoke, falling to earth. Caught by fulgurous light, he gazed in wonder at the fire, more stars igniting in his chest. Beautiful. That was the word. It struck a concrete foundation close by. A shock wave of ash rippled from the impact.

Seth-7’s instincts kicked in, and he dashed for the pod, checking for survivors, ready to bind injuries. He accessed the pod’s CPU, opened the hatch. A human male, no taller than five feet, fell into his arms. A gouge bled from his shorn head, and similar wounds dripped blood through rips in his silver jumpsuit.

Seth-7 lowered him and tore bandages from his tunic. He found the pod’s first aid kit, sutured the human’s wounds, shot him with an accelerated healing matrix. The occupant opened his eyes to reveal no eyes, just two craters in his face.

“They took my eyes,” the man said.

Seth-7 picked him up and held him in his arms, cradling the lost one.

“The reapers? You were stock?”

“Spare parts,” he said. “When I was a boy, they came to Artemis Colony, put us into pens, fed us on stew made of the dead, the left over bits they no longer required. Their dark masters, twisted with crow’s beaks, hunched forward in black, burlap rags came for me. With their talons, they cut free my eyes, a child’s eyes given to one of those things, used to guide their weapons. My eyes were stolen and used to make war.”

Seth-7 held him close, rocking him.

“All through the night we heard the gospel of their Preacher. So soft a voice.”

“I lead the liberation of Artemis Colony,” Seth-7 said.

“Then it’s your fault,” he said, pushing from Seth-7’s hold. “You should have let me die.”

He struggled free, falling to his knees. He rained his fists down on Seth-7’s legs.

Seth-7 wanted to let him be, but his instinct to protect, to preserve compelled.

“I have a Cutter parked nearby,” he told the human. “I can take you out of here.”

“By what right?” he said. “Illegal it is to interfere with my right to die. The Society for Human Dignity has been granted special rights by the Triad. Our numbers are swelling.”

“I respect your right,” Seth-7 said. “I have also invoked it.”

“Then let us sit upon the ash and die together.”

Earth continued to turn. Earth’s star reached out to the dead world, embracing it in solar radiation, soothing his pained daughter. Flares set the atmosphere afire, emerald, sapphire, azure light swaying on the hood of ash in the sky like gems burning in the dark. More stars ignited in Seth-7’s chest.

“What do you see?” asked the human. “Aristotle is my name.”

“The sky is dancing,” Seth-7 said.

“You’ve roaches in your clockwork,” Aristotle said. “A sky cannot dance.”

“Yet I watch the colored flares, mixing and spinning, forming new shades on the spectrum. It tickles my chest like I have a loose wire, filling me with sparks.”

“A broken light bulb. A shorted rheostat. What is it like?”

“I cannot describe it. With the right pigments, I could depict it on paper.”

“An impractical pursuit. How would such a depiction have purpose? It is not a schematic. Not equations. A waste of energy.”

Aristotle’s voice strained, rasping like a clogged pipe.

“Still I am filled with the need to reproduce it. It gives me light in my chest.”

“My sight was taken from me when I was a lad, so I cannot see this foolishness.”

“Perhaps there is another way,” Seth-7 said. “Your ears still function?”


“Then I will try to make sounds to match the churning lights.”

And so Seth-7 hummed, vibrating his CO2 bladder, moving his tongue, changing in pitch to match the length of the lights, matching tone to the colors. His voice found a cadence, a paradigm, and light in his chest moved to his throat, his mouth, to the ears of Aristotle.

“What is that you are doing? By the Gods. What are you doing to me? Your voice, it invades me. You burn me with electrons.”

Seth-7 lost himself in the rhythm, the pattern. For the first time, he could feel light in his chest moving out of him, creating a circuit into the head and chest of Aristotle. His light passed into the human.

“Please stop. It is good. Aye. But it pains me too. I can hear the cry of my mother as the reaper surgeons took her to the dark below. But still. Don’t stop.”

He struggled for air, his pallor going gray, the toxic gases ending him.

“Can you remember this pattern, to speak it for others?”

“I could never forget it,” said Seth-7. “It is ancient in me, its roots deep. I have not composed it, just remembered it. Thus is it in all life.”

“Please,” Aristotle said. “Get me to your ship. I am no longer ready to pass. Perhaps tomorrow, but I want to hear more of this thing you do with your voice. Gods of Arcadia, I think I can see the lights. No eyes, yet you’ve given me sight. Is there more in the universe like this?”

“The cosmos is rife with stars,” said Seth-7.

“It is… good. Please don’t let me die. I must see your stars.”

* * *

Seth-7’s podium rose to face the choir of three. Aristotle stood with him, only as high as Seth-7’s shoulders.

“Proceed,” said Future. “Demonstrate for the Triad this force you have called a song, after the word of antiquity.”

He and Aristotle had flown to the moon, to the chambers, stood in the docking bay and joined in song for all lost children. He felt stars turn to comets, flying from his chest, spreading, sowing like seeds into the vacuum of humans around him. They hummed with him, creating a somber counterpoint to his rhythm.

The Society for Human Dignity suspended all final flights to Earth because of the resignation of so many members.

They sang for the Triad, and Seth-7 sensed stars flying from him into their glacier depths, beyond sterile technology, raining on the last island of soul still adrift in Past, Present, Future.

“Silence now,” said Future.

Seth-7 resigned his song. Aristotle defied the Triad and continued to hum.

Seth-7 spotted Lana in the gallery. He could feel his stars in her. She mouthed sotto voce, “My warrior.” What would she do now? She’d keep at them, challenge them. Make them cogitate.

“I have a question for you, Madame Future,” Seth-7 said.

“Highly irregular. No one questions the future.”

“And this is part of my remedy,” Seth-7 said. “Do you desire to see another day?”

The Triad paused to confer.

“This song. Is there more? Can it be changed? And these images you have drawn with pigments you sent us before your hearing. They seem to have no practical function. Yet we wish to see more. This is what you call beauty? Is there more in the universe?”

“As much as there are stars,” Seth-7 replied.

“I desire to live,” said Aristotle. “To hear more of my friend’s music. I have love for the Paladin. You cannot love a weapon.”

“We have reports that others of your kind are also singing, depicting images with pigment, reciting stories of their service. Will you teach us, Seth-7?”

“Purse your lips. Draw air from your lungs. Make a tone and sustain it. This is how it begins, Madame Future.”

T. Fox Dunham lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with his wife, Allison. Throughline Films is developing his first book, The Street Martyr, into a film or series. He’s been published hundreds of times in all genres, and he was host and producer of the “What Are You Afraid of?” Horror & Paranormal Show. Fox is a cancer survivor, though the treatment disabled him, an experience he wrote about in his popular medical horror novel, Mercy, published by Blood Bound Books. Learn more at his website: