Posted Nov-02-2013 7:01 PM
Dead City A vast mountain range of black horrorclouds, megatons of thermal energy so high they are visible from 200 kilometers away, are approaching from the west. There has been 2 hours rest from hostile weather, but the sea is becoming restless again. The figures of David and Shaw walk up the beach in sketched silhouette, helmets at their sides. One recurring theme in Shaws childhood dreams were that of nightmare storms, incoming homicidal weather visible from high windows, mammoth clouds the color of evil and pregnant with tornadoes. Nowhere to hide. The dreams were always terminated by the first thunderclap, so unnaturally powerful they'd scare her awake. This storm front is the dream made real, but Shaw is far from the child she once was. She is far now from the human she once was. The connection to her father's death lives on in her, but not the memories to support it, nor the vulnerability to succumb. Having access to this information, David marvels at the malleability of terrestrial psychology. The cliffs and their nests have given way to endless beach pocked with bizarre blow holes, 10 and 20 meter high mineral mouths that vomit salt water into the sky in time with the tide, a foaming mineral dreamscape of dwarf volcanoes, salt and sulphur accreted in rainbow hues, dissolving together in eternal hardfroth. A sound like the clearing of incredible throats. The planet is porous nearly to its core, conducting the water well inland in an ever changing matrix of subterranean aqueducts, and the net result is that gravity here is near that of Earth, despite its great size. It was paradise, but not of human conception, not of human scale. Like any great love, it defies reason, and is at the very edge of nightmares. The long dead locals lived in harmony with the crust, great white crablike beings that would stop their work to exalt a wind. Then came the Makers, the Space Jockeys, who vacuumed the place clean, the gentle aborigines perishing in great filthy turbines that reduced them to pulp. The coughing mouths eclipse a farscape of fantastic mountains only visible for the great surface mass of the Planet, and its near flat horizon. They are disappearing as the storm rolls over the stratospheric peaks in great glowering plumes that seem to walk on legs of lightning. Surreal distress informs every detail, and before them through the moisture paled air even stranger shapes have begun to resolve. A sort of city looms ahead, more beyond comprehension the closer they get. Kilometer high polyps the color of bruises, dark and faceted, puncture the clouds. A riot of shape and form, climbing into the sky like vast undersea structures, eclipsed by a giant artificial rampart fronting the ocean. Yawning aqueducts pierce the lipped barricade, scaled to flush a billion tons of waste into the hydrosphere with one convulsion. Massed bones in their many thousands slide to and fro on the tide, washed up against the divisions like apocalyptic dunes.The bones do not rot, and are only very slowly pulverized by the ocean, the horrid last dignity of the armatures of the near immortal. Shaw stops and follows the structures up with her eyes, a great grey reef vanishing into the new storm front. She speaks in a near whisper: "Are they buildings?" " Not buildings, Doctor. Beings." " They were alive?" " More accurate to say they only ever approximated life, thus they were never really dead. Biomechanics. They're awakening now, actually. Our arrival has set ancient ambitions into motion." She stares at the structures soaring into the clouds, eclipsed by the oddly organic ramparts that vanish into an ocean of bones. The thunderheads are growing nearer, groaning and crackling with a promise of unsuppressed violence. Against this backdrop the towering horrorforms gain a new level of morbid grandeur. " We need shelter." " Yes. But best not to enter any opening here. They consume Biomatter. The bones are their waste." " Whose bones are they?" " The Engineer's." " This is where they were executed.." " This is where they were made. Specimens deemed faulty were stripped of soft tissue to be recycled. There were apparently quite a few." The thunder is getting louder, but still a hundred clicks away. The storm is almost upon them. " I want to see them. We need to find a way up." " We are running out of time, Doctor." " When were we not." David can't help but note how similar she is becoming to himself. "There will be more to see if you live than if you die." " That's my choice." David overcomes an urge to sigh. He's slowly mastering his social protocols. " Very well. Put on your helmet." The wind is picking up, but no rain as yet. The air is sweet enough to inspire tears, a cleanliness no modern human knows. Shaw installs her helmet and breathes processed oxygen compressed to the point it could blow a hole through a reinforced hull. Thunder rolls over them as they scale a deep crack in the rampart, tiny figures in a land of giants. Reaching the lip, a bizarre vista greets them. An organic rail yard stretches away in all directions, whitish vertebrate tracks in a muscled spaghetti bowl disappearing into shadowed openings at the base of mammoth rooted structures. The area is only perhaps a kilometer across, and growing darker by the second, stuttered highlights offering cruel definition. At the far end stranger shapes are vanishing into the shadow of the storm, even more bizarre and vast than the 'city' that precedes them. They slide down into one of the crevasses, walking with some effort on the irregular track, riddled with evidence of trauma and decay long ceased and flooded with near a meter of water. A submerged rail yard of scar tissue, odd tumors the size of houses blocking the way. Some bear the remnants of teeth. " How long?" " Two millennia, give or take." Their voices are thin and breathless via the comlink, barely audible above the strengthening wind. " The devastation seems to coincide with the disaster on LV223." " These things do not decay." Almost yelling now. " Only to a point. The ones in the cave were sea life. These are grown from the Maker's tailored matter." " Will they awaken too?" They are now struggling against the wind. " No. Only the machines. Though as you can see, their mass and likely their functionality have been perverted by the Eitr." Now a terrific wind roars down the crevasse, and Shaw and David are driven into a dead mass of corpulent tissue, battered by a high velocity barrage of raindrops the size of baseballs. " David...Thank you..." Rain thudding on them like a hail of fists. " Whatever for?" The water is rising. David pins himself against the tumor, and wraps his arms about Shaw. " For showing me..." Yelling now. Water up to their helmets. " what it really is." Their helmets touch. "Doctor, I should tell you.." Nearly covered now. Shaw looks into David's eyes. His voice purely mechanical. " Protecting Earth is your priority. Not mine. But never fear, so long as you're alive I work for you. It's coded into my social protocol." At that, he can feel the code spooling off and THERE, he quits it. And deletes it. Comforting Smile Averted. Forever. There's a trick to everything. Before Shaw can question him, they are enveloped and runoff from somewhere strengthens the current to the point it pulls them loose from under the tumor, carrying them back toward the rampart. They are pulled apart and spin in the water, and see two things: A huge glossy black egg shrouded in a penumbra of bursting raindrops, hovering just above the surface of the water. 50 meters away. Directly in their path. And beyond it, in the distance: A falling star. The egg plunges into the water, and intercepts them. They strike it and are instantly absorbed into its mass. Jellied Black.