Day 56. 125 pages, 57,211 words.
Gyden fed the log data, which allowed audio-visual translation after a brief technological wrestle, onto one of the comm viewscreens.
“SEGMENT FOUR,” the audio announced in a deafeningly loud but otherwise mellow single-toned human voice. Gyden winced and dialled the feed down. The cryptic message didn’t seem to correspond to any logging or timestamp data, so they disregarded it for the time being and watched the sequence of events leading up to the Flesh-Eater’s demise.
The interior of the platform was as smooth and white and organic-looking as her hull, and as aesthetically twisted as her security devices. The Flesh-Eater was moving through smooth corridors and vast ribbed chambers, possibly within ‘SEGMENT FOUR’, without much sign that there was anything untoward happening. They couldn’t see its body, just the smoothly-shifting point-of-view as it – presumably – walked its rounds.
A doorway opened and disgorged a number of humans in similar pale wrappings to those worn by the Flesh-Eater. They were running, clearly agitated, and when they saw the Flesh-Eater in the passageway they panicked entirely. Some of them froze, others fled back the way they had come, others attempted to do so and were shoved aside or trampled. A few in the front line drew weapons of some kind, but it was obvious from their faces – not to mention the faint blue-white outlines the point-of-view drew around the instruments in the humans’ hands, and thereafter disregarded entirely – that they would have no effect on the Flesh-Eater.
Nevertheless, they opened fire. The Flesh-Eater’s point-of-view surged forward into the crowd of struggling humans, and its arms flashed in the peripheries of the display.
“Dear God,” Lelhmak said queasily after a few seconds.
The Flesh-Eater, almost eerily living up to its namesake, hacked the cluster of humans to pieces as though they were made of mist. As those at the rear of the crowd fled back the way they’d come, the Flesh-Eater stepped forward and followed – until it crossed the threshold of the doorway.
“SEGMENT FIVE,” the audio announced cryptically, and the Flesh-Eater stopped.
“Looks like its interior movements are limited?” Predericon mused softly.
The Flesh-Eater didn’t need to give chase. The humans had nowhere to go. A few seconds later another pair of Flesh-Eaters loomed out of the passageway in ‘SEGMENT FIVE’ and finished carving the platform’s human crew – or at least these representatives thereof – to pieces. Gory to the elbows, their white robes splashed liberally with lurid red human blood, the Flesh-Eaters regarded each other for a moment across the invisible demarkation line. The three Molren watched the screen in tense silence.
Then ‘their’ Flesh-Eater turned and headed back the way it had come.
“What the Hell,” Gyden said, then tapped at the interface. “Looks like it went dormant after that for … a couple of months? Next set of logs show ambient temperature and air pressure to be pretty close to – well, Lelhmak’s Moon normal. I guess the platform went down and lost environmental control.”
“How?” Predericon shook her head. “The Godfang is much more resilient than the Speed, and we managed to maintain life support.”
“If I had to guess,” Lelhmak said, “I’d say she went into controlled storage and was unable to sustain her human crew. Normally when that happens, the crew is evacuated but there doesn’t seem to have been any way for that to happen here.”
“So the Flesh-Eaters put them out of their misery as quickly and violently as possible?” Predericon concluded.
Lelhmak grimaced and shrugged. “Intentional venting of atmos,” he said, “but it points to a problem with the computer protocols, not the actual hull or systems.”
The Flesh-Eater point-of-view was once again gliding smoothly through the passageways of the now-frozen Elevator interior. There was no sign of habitation, human or otherwise. Suddenly, and in synchrony with a flashing series of alerts on one side of the viewer, the Flesh-Eater accelerated. The passageway walls blurred.
“Something about an intruder,” Gyden reported tensely. The screen went dark – it seemed as though the Flesh-Eater had simply descended into the floor – and then brightened again as it rose up out of another. Some faster means of internal transit, maybe. Or a glitch due to damage. The Flesh-Eater swept into one of the large buttressed chambers – “heavy freight gallery 7,” Gyden identified the area – alongside a dozen more of its disconcerting kind.
A human was standing in the middle of the gallery, arms open. What appeared to be a human, anyway – it was humanoid, indiscernible from the ones the Flesh-Eaters had killed apart from its clothing, which seemed to be the crisp silver-and-black of Earth’s domestic military. There were hundreds of strikingly similar uniforms across the Four Realms, though, and Predericon had to admit she’d never paid much attention. Neither had Gyden or Lelhmak, she guessed, since neither of them spoke up.
The strangest thing about this human, however, was that despite the fact that it was unarmed, its body was highlighted on the display in a lurid, pulsing red. The Flesh-Eater, or its security protocols, considered it a severe threat.
“Priesthood?” Predericon theorised.
“Not according to the data imprint,” Gyden said. “There are categories for various soldier and mage classes. This is … actually if anything, it’s checking most of the characteristics for the Angel profile … but it’s not an Angel, either.”
The screen winked, there was a flash of white, and then the log ended.
“End of the line,” Lelhmak noted. “Can you play that last bit slower?” he stepped over and sat at the console next to Gyden. “Way slower.”
Gyden nodded, and tapped at the interface.
The Flesh-Eater’s final scene was a strange role-reversal of its massacre of the human crewmembers. The red-outlined intruder strolled through the looming white figures, simply … obliterating them, one by one. Some it waved its hands through, shattering them. Others it picked up and bashed into the ground hard enough to leave craters in the gleaming enamel of the floor. And others still, it punched. Those ones flew, impacted the walls of heavy freight gallery 7, and … vanished, leaving holes in their wake.
It was like some sort of comedic animation. The entire scene was slowed down so that the work of less than quarter of a second played out over the course of almost a minute, but the intruder’s movement really was just like a casual walk, interspersed with lazy movements of its hands. About halfway through the fight it punched their Flesh-Eater, presumably right through the Elevator’s outer hull and clean across the surface of Lelhmak’s Moon. The flash of white was the icy landscape flying by in the Flesh-Eater’s final logged data influx, accompanied by a discordant declaration of “SEGMENT ZERO,” followed by nothingness.
The comms area was silent for a few seconds in the wake of the insane replay.
“Still want to sit around down here for another sixty or eighty years?” Lelhmak asked in a low voice.
– Written in the wee small hours of the morning. Sent off from my Huawei mobile phone while on my coffee break.