Major NoobOvomorphMember0 XPSep-14-2013 12:27 AM
All is quiet. The Dome looms in the darkening air.
Inside, a strange dangling orifice in the side of an as yet unseen chamber opens like an eye, and the white membrane underneath slits open as a large, egglike object appears, sliding out and dangling from a thin, clear placenta. The tissue splits into ever thinner strands as it descends through a luminescent blue layer, and touches the floor, where many other spores sit in precise formation. This is what remains of the Agent in the pit.
The one nearest it slides away, as do the tens of hundreds of others in it's path, borne along by muscular ripples that then disappear, and again all is quiet.
The Mother Wind drives impossible waves onto the darkest beach.
Towering cliffs are riddled with holes as far as the eye can see, which is little in the dead of night. Ominous in their regularity.
The low clouds are woven with quickflash veins of lightning, a turmoil of counterclockwise motion. An air raid wail becomes audible, and the Dreadnaught descends through the roiling vapor, bigger than big. It is barely visible, and incredibly loud. It descends through the storm lashed night like a great howling apparition.
It's latter quarters disappear into the darkness, great waves thundering away from it in all directions as the water is stamped flat by exotic forces supporting the hull.
It hovers just above the surface of the ocean with all the charm of locomotive on acid, a great howl of terrific dynamos winding down.
One of a series of pores disappearing into the sea swept darkness becomes enflamed, bulging outward with bulbous yellow membranes formerly concealed. A helmet appears at the center, and David is pooped into the surf, drenched in membranous clots that dissolve in the water.
Birth and defecation are too similar for comfort.
The Dreadnaught then eliminates Shaw, into the arms of David. He sprints through the water to the shore, propelled by shock waves of energy being shed by the Dreadnaught.
The Vehicle breaks gravity and with an enormous moan it slowly ascends into the clouds, lightning crawling over its surface.
The wail dwindles into the sky as David dashes across the beach with Shaw over his shoulder, toward a wall of rock riddled with large penetrations, each seeming to slump downward at the mouth.
He quickly scales the cliff face, trying to gain height as the waves return, hundreds of thousands of tons of water exploding against the rock just meters below him, scrambling up and up until the stone is dry. Then he considers the caves.
Something made these.
He lays Shaw in the mouth of an opening, one of hundreds that vanish into darkness in all directions.
So long as Shaw stays in her suit, unconscious, nothing should sense her. But he's seen enough to know that logic has taken a holiday. And there is little time.
David is counting on Shaw's induced vitality to see her through, but theres no knowing. And at this moment, there are no vital signs to monitor, Shaw being dead. No matter, if anything in the cave takes him it will take her too. And she won't face it alive.
Anything that builds a nest in solid stone is something to be wary of. He steps carefully into the cave, infrared vision, no torch. The passage is a head shorter than he, and he advances in a crouch. The stone has an odd, smoothly ribbed texture. About 25 meters in he finds the cause.
A dark deflated mass the size of a car puddles into the rock, long dead and having burnt a well into the stone. This organism had the same corrosive properties as the others they encountered. There is little left, It having perished eons before. The chamber is strung with voluptuous strands of desiccated webbing that disintegrates to sparkling dust. All over the corpse are the scant remains of thousands of smaller life forms, fist sized Decopoda, alarmingly violent looking, that apparently swarmed the beast, also long dead. Their carapaces crumble at a touch, coming apart like ash.
Some horrific cycle of nature played out here, and he believes it was stimulated by the same chemical agent found in the capsules. Biowarfare.
He emerges from the cave and gathers Shaw into his arms. Carries her in.
10 meters in David lays her down, and removes his helmet and gloves. Then Shaw's helmet. Her suit is coated with matter that dries to a flaky sheen like egg whites.
He plays a bit with the touchpad on her arm, and fires her DeFib. She convulses, and he assesses her vital readout. Peels back one eyelid with his fingers.
Her heart is beating.
But she's brain dead.
He withdraws the Synapse Reestablisher from his belt, and installs the needle.
He initializes the device, and optimizes it optically, eyes briefly strobing. The template he enters is far removed from what he would have input even two hours ago.
The device utters a polite beep. He settles with perfect symmetry, and his motions become precise, artificial.
One hand on her head. One on the needle.
He lets the point rest just behind her ear, pivots slightly from the waist and drives it home.
Shaw seizes, her head pinned by David's hand. Her eyes flutter madly, and roll back into their sockets. David withdraws the needle, and wipes it with a swab. He now produces a small ampule and, immobilizing her head once more, crushes it under her nose. She goes limp.
It won't last long, the chemical the Maker injected her with has sent her vitality into overdrive, but even a few minutes unconsciousness should reset her nervous system.
David crouches in the surf, and puts his hands in the water.
The storm is moving off to the east, and the ocean is eerily still. Lightning stutters in the distance, lending a spastic illumination to the scene. He puts a finger in his mouth, and closes his eyes. Salt water. Strangely devoid of bacteria. The entire planet is dead.
He fills a small bladder with water, and drops two tablets in, shaking it. Stares off into the dark.
The casual murder he has witnessed, and perpetrated, is apparently a universal constant. Biological life seems to know no other way. Things live only to die, and feed the cycle of evolution. These lifeforms with acid blood are not natural. They exist only to kill, and leave only pollution in their wake. Rather contrary to nature.
David is also contrary to nature .
Lightning strobes in the distance.
Only sentience would conceive to do away with the nurture of death, killing with no natural value. Thus, sentience is toxic. And unlike anything else, sentience seeks to be eternal. David is powered by one isotope. His moving parts will fail, but his mind will go on for centuries. Tens of them. Not quite eternal, but...
If he can access current, closer to immortal than even the Engineers.
Distant thunder rolls over the water.
Only ones like Shaw, with her righteous naïveté, her soul, seem to apprehend the value of life. And look where her optimism got her. On the shore of a BioIndustrial graveyard. But All Is Death is not the same as All Is Dead. And now his human charge is no longer completely human. Again, logic does not apply...
Eventually, he'll have to take his memory back. And when he does...
Stimulated, David rises, and climbs back to the cave.
21 hours pass. Shaw's eyes open, and she stares for some time at the brightening oblong of the cave's mouth. Somber grey light oozes in. Morning. Breathing. No helmet. 13 minutes pass, and then she croaks: " David.."
David tries a bit of levity on for size: " Welcome to Heaven, Doctor."
"Are we home?"
" We're there. Here."
" Of course."
David puts the badder to her lips. Shaw seems to re-learn the act of swallowing. She chokes a bit, David holding her erect. She recovers swiftly.
" Thats terrible." she takes another swallow, and then: " What happened?"
" Before we proceed, I'm afraid I've had to transfer a good deal of my memory, Doctor. I did it in transit. So my retention is...low. Although it should be enough to serve you."
" Transferred to what?"
Shaw searches his eyes. Like searching a plasma display.
" Is that why I can't remember anything?"
" In a manner of speaking. You have the things they might have wanted from me. I have yours, up to being put in stasis. The ship assisted me. I could have stored the information there, but they purge the memory. As I imagined they would. And the ship has been destroyed."
Shaw closes her eyes. The stimulant administered by the Maker has subsided to an oddly poignant vibration. " No going back..."
" No. But not for them either, if that's any consolation."
Shaw takes the bladder herself, and drinks. A bit neater this time. Her eyes fix on his.
" Why can't I remember your memories?"
" They're encrypted, for your safety. There is a password."
" What is it."
That smile. " No, Doctor. We're not out of harms way. I'll know if its time."
"They're not just in orbit."
The first real emotion since sealing her into the Biochair crosses Shaw's face, in the form of a dark cloud.
" What [i]can[/i]you tell me?"
David tilts his head to one side, weighing the answer. So many of his actions are predetermined, energy spent on social posturing. He's trying to overcome that, but it bedevils him.
" Humans are the equivalent of lab rats."
" **** you, David." She drinks again.
David's eyebrows rise one millimeter. " Humor me. We understand the Engineers serve the Makers. Why did they make humans? At the Makers behest. The how of it I found in the ships database."
Shaw closes her eyes, settles back against the stone. David continues:
" Humans were tailored from the Engineer's DNA for experimental assets. That is your origin. Catalysts. To produce life forms that would in turn produce the liquid agent in the capsules. They call it Eitr. Apparently something they found produces it naturally, when combined with donor tissue. A sort of endlessly adapting parasite. You started out as a growth medium, Doctor Shaw. I'm afraid the first cause never had you in mind."
A deep and elemental chord of sorrow surges through Shaw. Her core beliefs have not yet lost resolution. Nevertheless, she doesn't understand why.
" So what changed?"
" They became vain, and grew humans out of sight of their Makers. With the intent of multiplication. Earth was one such site. The Engineer you killed was due to deliver a dose of evolution."
" There's other planets?"
"Yes. Seven to be exact."
" We were to become them."
" All this from that little campsite."
" They tampered with the first law: Life brings Death. Such activity is well removed from civilization."
" So the first law is zero immortality."
" No, mum."
" [i]Don't you ever call me that you fake mother****er..[/i]." Barely a hiss.
David lets the moment pass, knowing Shaws memory still hold's scenes of her "Child". 30 seconds elapse. He continues: " The Eitr is the first law. That room with the head was a sort of reverse graveyard, samples of the fallen held alongside samples of the Eitr. They hoped to one day bring them back. But the Eitr is programmed to destroy anything that might capture it. We did its bidding, coming here."
" Do we have any with us?"
" Only what's in you."
" That would mean there is Eitr in every living thing."
" Well done, Doctor. The Engineers came to understand after eons of disaster that it was an element more ancient than the universe itself, a remnant of the processes that carved space/ time from the void."
There was a time such an assertion would have amused Shaw. Not now.
" The first planet..."
" The planet they found it on was not really a planet, more an accretion of waste from the forges of reality."
Shaw takes this in. At this point there's no reason not to believe him. But still...
" That can't be right. They would have to be immortal."
" It is not their place of origin. They found it."
" But not God."
" I came all this way to get my answer from you."
" That's not all you got from me, Doctor Shaw."
9 seconds elapse. Shaw's eyes narrow.
" It was you."
" The universe is maybe crueler than you imagined. I'm sorry for that."
" So you killed Charlie."
Silence, one beat.
" I had a hand in it."
The emptiest possible flood washes through her mind. A meaningless poignancy, one more thing to endure and then gone. What was Charlie anyway? A mate. Shaw has learned a thing or two about mates, none of it good. And the word Boyfriend is laughable here. Sorry, Charlie. All she has left is this:
" The Maker took my Crucifix."
" It recognized it. The Makers feel their Engineers have much to answer for. It's no matter, I'm your savior now."
He smiles as if the jokes between them. Shaw only stares. David takes this to mean she's ready.
" I believe the serum you were injected with has altered your physiology. Your immune system and regeneration appear to have been accelerated. And your nervous system appears to have doubled its mass. Are you hungry?"
" You don't need your helmet, but I suggest you bring it with you. You have 12 hours of air left?"
" 12 hours."
" I can purify water for you for 5 days, and I have 5 days nourishment. Between us we have 12 hours of light in our torches. Are you able to walk?"
" Where are we going?"
" I'd like to say where no man has gone before. But that would be inaccurate. So North."