Day 67. 33 pages, 10,956 words.
The network of cracks crisscrossing the platform’s exposed hull made climbing relatively easy, even in the clumsy EVA suits. The hole, when they arrived, was a bit of a tight squeeze – the high-velocity Flesh-Eater had presented a Molranoid-narrow profile, and the suits they were wearing were bulky. Its impact had been so violent, however, that it had blasted a certain amount of additional material out with it, and so they were able to angle themselves inside and down into the darkness within.
They did this as quickly as they could, so as not to leave themselves enough time to think about it too much. Predericon told herself that the stories they knew about the Destarion were just that – stories – and that the platform was just another quirky but ultimately harmless derelict warship.
Unfortunately, she’d seen Stankley the Flesh-Eater, and witnessed its final acts. This made it quite challenging to continue fooling herself.
They didn’t actually have to drop to the floor through the hole. While it did angle sharply downwards, the hull breach was in a wall rather than the ceiling and it didn’t seem as though the platform’s artificial gravity had been deactivated as part of her stowage-standby routines. As a result, the floor was likewise sharply angled against Lelhmak’s Moon-horizontal – far more sharply than their own ship’s deck, in fact – but thanks to the platform’s operational systems they were able to simply adjust to the new horizontal as they climbed, and it was a short slither down the hard white surface to the floor after that.
“Welcome aboard,” the platform’s voice spoke into their helmets once they’d all made a safe landing. Predericon looked around at the large buttressed chamber, so familiar after their reviewing of Stankley’s logs. “I am afraid I have been unable to restore full life support to this compromised gallery, but if you will continue through to the internal chambers I will be able to heat and pressurise a safe area where you can take off those EVA suits. I am not yet fully committed to my slumber, due to the current situation with the intruder. Furthermore, it is still possible we will be able to establish communications with our support network, and I am hesitant to give up that possibility for lost – which I will need to do if I enter stowage-standby.
“Of course, if you prefer to keep the EVA suits on, that is also understandable. I may be able to provide you with some suitable packages – limited power, replacement air…”
There was a flicker of pallid light on the far side of the gallery and Predericon, Gyden and Lelhmak headed towards what turned out to be an opening at the base of one of the great waxy buttresses. A tunnel extended beyond this opening, lit with a sourceless illumination that made it difficult to judge how long the tunnel was or whether it turned a corner or simply terminated.
“Can you tell us more about the Demon that attacked you?” Predericon asked.
“Wait,” Lelhmak said, putting out his gauntleted left hands and stopping the others before they could step into the tunnel. “Before we proceed, I think we should establish our ideologies.”
“Ah,” the Destarion said. “A classically educated scholar.”
“Actually this is quaint even for me,” Lelhmak said, then added a grudging, “no offence. But it seems like a valid approach.”
“I concur,” the Destarion said. “Obviously, my loyalty is to the Pinian Brotherhood and to the Four Realms.”
“Ours is to the Pinian Brotherhood and Capital Mind,” Lelhmak said, “and to the teachings of the Book of Pinian, Manatrikti’s Interpretations and Arguments. This makes us allies – first tier allies, if I am not grossly misusing the standard. Second tier at the absolute outside.”
“I again concur,” the Destarion said formally. “Welcome, Molran allies of the revered Firstmades.”
Lelhmak gave Predericon a nod through his helmet screen.
“Thank you,” Predericon said. They started into the smooth passageway. “This Demon-”
“The Demon’s name is Odium,” the Destarion said, “and as you know, it is the Darking equivalent of an Angel.
“Most Demons are not human in origin and composition,” the platform explained as they walked. “Most are diabolised mortal denizens of Castle Void, as you would expect given that Angels are glorified mainly from Four Realms stock – indeed, almost exclusively from the human, for … various historical reasons. Demons, on the other hand, operate almost solely beneath the Rooftop, and only a handful of representatives – diabolised human representatives, specifically – are permitted to exist in the Four Realms. Said existence is not exactly celebrated, but it is tolerated. As long as they do not overstep their bounds.”
“And I take it Odium has?” Predericon asked.
The Destarion was silent for a time, and the Molren emerged from the passageway into another chamber. Once they were clear, the tunnel mouth closed and the pale light swelled to show a smaller room scattered with strange blocky shapes melded to the enamel floor. Perdericon was momentarily distracted by the odd ‘furnishings’ and in attempting to discern their purpose, so it took her a moment to register the fact that they were now irredeemably trapped inside the Godfang.
“Yes,” the platform responded, her voice turning decidedly chilly. “Odium has dared what no Demon has in five thousand years. And as first tier allies, I call upon you to avenge this transgression.”