Major NoobOvomorphMember0 XPJan-04-2013 8:28 AM
Tragedy stalks the Engineers like a terrible virus.
The first was their birthing, their mothers great factories, their fathers the SJ. The last was their freedom, won at a terrible cost and threatened to this day. The interval between is fantastical, there is no story quite like it. Yet.
Sterile tools that divined the process to self reproduce, machines become culture, clones who would be king. The Eitr brought down their Masters, and nearly set them free. The one true seed of Death made giver of Life, and yet it all but destroyed them as well.
Like the SJ, what remains of them now sleep in wait, but entombed in an anomaly so dark they may never be found. That is good, their enemies will never die.
Like the one on LV223, they wait. But even that one is forfeit, as we know. And they dare not attempt to destroy the downed craft that was the one kink in their plan. A time bomb announcing itself forever, waiting to entice their children. Waiting to undo them all.
Long ago they sprang from the void and captured the source, on the black, glassy shores of the Eitr Sea, a thing so hostile and indestructible they could scarcely contain it.
The Sea itself attacked them, vile transformations on black shores edged to the atom. Ribbons of mutated flesh sliding down through the shards and washed away to become something else. But they were tasked to seize this thing, and take it they did. And, they came to realize, not a living thing. Itself a machine, made of stuff outside of reason.
At the SJs' command they exposed themselves fully to the peril of its study. They synthesized spores to reproduce the Beast, to tailor itself to whatever environment it was spawned into. The SJ have an appetite for strange murder, certainly. It is their custom to drink in the misery of their enemies as their own bodies betray them. And the easiest way to kill a culture is to have the culture kill itself.
And the ones they burgled of the Beast were coming. What a surprise the SJ had for them!
And what a surprise the Engineers had for the SJ.
The marvelous blood of this thing was the Eitr, an agent so powerful it nearly confounded them. They dutifully explored the substance, combined it with other things, and battled the results. They generated low grade offspring to feed the replication. Humans. And in the midst of this dark struggle of discovery they did become vain. The inevitable history of the sentient, aspiration to Godhood. This is the horror of true creation.
And so the travelling Engineers went nomad, the reapers now the sowers. Innocence found. Appropriate planets were identified for the homes of their children.
And the moonbound Engineers devised the undoing of their Masters. And, in their view, one Engineer was the Finder of the path. Nyet, Tamer of the Beast, Maker of the Spore Machine.
Maker of Humans, their hope for eternity.
But they were found out. Now this Nyet is held by the SJ in their eternal prison. And even then, awaiting the worst fate of all.
And the Eitr, this was their God.
And now, their children step where history should never have taken them.
The footsteps of the rescue party ring wet and cautious in the hollows of the Dome. They count five, plus a Pilot, all armed.
Already rattled, they are further harried by the Survivors' torment via their radios, and the cool voice of the Synthetic guiding them in. They also have the gruesome debris of their comrades to trod through, their dome lights and torches arcing and swinging from one horror to the next, carnage like none they've ever seen.
Two legs projecting from a body compacted to the point of bursting. Bright bones in Hyper Flexitive Armor collapsed and dissolved among stone that not long ago ran like Molasses. Vast washes of blood as if a hundred men exploded. Strange arabesques of viscera like portentous meat runes. Splash patterns made eternal by corrosive matter. A comrade incised a hundred times over, the wounds deep and swollen and cauterized by some chemical irritant, limbs pulled apart. His is the only face identifiable, vaguely, beneath his mercifully fogged bubble.
They pause here as if frozen, no speech, just their breath in thin static pulses, and the tormented grunts of their fellow in their helmets. One by one their lights swing away, and find bizarre tracks, left by the huge Horror barely glimpsed on the Raijins' monitors. The Deacon. Now presumed dead, so says the Synthetic.
They had a mole, a European. Hardened, so they thought, but he went to pieces. Now their only intel is panicked transmissions and confused motion capture from their own crew. And the Synthetic. They examine every shadow for what it might conceal, a tricky business in the lingering haze.
What they find is a surreal bloodbath that will haunt them forever, though for them forever is an hourglass quickly running out. All is death in this country.
And the tracks, like no tracks one should ever follow.
They have been conditioned to deal with pleas, with the lament of those bound and hopeless, including their own. But the voice in their ears, their fellow, is in the grip of an executioner far more efficient and merciless than any imagined by their masters. And yet unseen. If the Horror is dead, what is this? The sound of his anguish harasses their headsets to a one, then wetly cuts out altogether. They freeze again. Another one gone? The Synthetic refuses to explain, softly urging them forward to his location. They pass the lucky dead and disappear in the murk.
Now the Urn Chamber yawns before them, it's features becoming more distinct as they draw near. Eitr blown out into the tunnel, running down the walls in glittering potent droplets of pure creation. A huge stone Head emerges from the haze, one side smashed and partially liquified, and at the foot of the damage a terrible Acid Hole. All smoking, and still liquid. Before them are dozens of smashed capsules, their contents collecting in great puddles like black mercury. Near the Head one such puddle is collecting around the pulverized remains of an Agent.
They hear shrieking and splashing from deep within the Hole, where the injured Deacon has fallen through its own blood into the Cistern below. While the Pilot and 2 Agents investigate, 3 others proceed around the Head, and to the Pit.
The Synthetic stops them short of the edge. With their flashlights they probe the details of a deep, circular chamber clad in smooth reflective material, curved inward at the top and slick enough to prevent escape. 9 meters down they find a gigantic webbed membrane traversing the walls, strewn at the far end with a blast pattern of body parts, debris and acid holes. At the center they find what can only be its victim.
Whatever process is taking place has him spread and pinned like a frog for dissection. Strange suds have eaten away most of his suit and helmet, leaving him bare to the whim of this monstrosity. Wet snotty edges of material pooling in glistening pink blooms of exposed nerves. And he is far from dead, seizing and contorting, utterly encased in a writhing bubble of semi transparent fibers that break down and down to a brilliant white construct of quivering fuzz that grows around and through him, tainted a brilliant ruby red near the body, now turning black. Meshing with his blood.
His bones are audibly cracking. His extremities appear to be foreshortening. As they watch, his limbs atrophy, begin to vanish, his head bent impossibly back and fusing with the torso. The whole process appears to be gaining efficiency, long dormant engines of death, warming. What is left of the Survivor spasms and utters explosive gasps through some unseen hole.
With a whispered oath one Agent unholsters his firearm and aims it into the pit, emptying 12 caseless rounds into the spasming podlike remains of his fellow. A concentration of strands immediately grow around and into the wounds, 12 in all, which close like pudding filling a cup. The writhing fails to cease. He's still alive.
Taking in this atrocity, the Agents' eyes go dark. The other two raise their firearms, but the Synthetic stays them. All obey the Synthetic.
The Acid Hole is not nearly so neat as the pit, a huge wet wound in the soil yearning down to blackness. Just before it, 2 Agents and the Pilot examine the regurgitated remains Left by the Deacon. Glistening muscle tissue appears to squirm in the harsh light, the Eitr sliding into the morass via some Devils' osmosis. The whole of his masticated carcass is seething like a bowl of slow worms. Reforming. One agent gags, his suit responding with a tidy puff of Antiemetic.
Shots startle them, they rise and spin and the soil gives way. 2 Agents slide into the Acid Hole, one clawing at the slippery edge until his arms burn. 2 cries, 2 splashes in the Cistern below.
The Synthetic appears first, right arm out to restrain the Agents behind him, gun held loose in his hand. He advances carefully, eyes on the Pilot, though with the goggles it's hard to tell. He raises his left hand and softly warns the Pilot away from the edge. Zero urgency in his voice.
The Pilot stares into the Acid Hole, the 2 dome lights of his men far below thrashing in the water, and their staccato exchange now becomes panic. Something from below, a mass of thin black rootlike fauna, is surfacing in a spiral around them, their helmets like eggs in a nest of huge quivering spider legs, rising from the deep. Radial stabbing motions, punctuated by sharp cries. Like spitted pigs. Halos of red around their disappearing lights as they're dragged down into the nest.
Once again the Synthetic orders the Pilot away from the edge, and, eyes on the Hole, he steps back one step, into a mass of Eitr and corrosive matter. One beat too late, the Synthetic warns him to stop. Immediately the Pilots' boots begin to burn from the soles up. His own scream joins the two from the cistern in an apocalyptic chorus.
He falls back into the Eitr as his feet dissolve. He thrashes about. The Eitr is slowly yearning toward him from all sides, and seems to be particularly attracted to his smoking stumps. Only the Synthetic observes this. 2 agents restrain the Pilot as the Synthetic now drives a thin cable into a socket on his shoulder. He taps a sequence out onto a pad and the Pilots' suit delivers a powerful dose of Narcoanalog. He goes limp. Insistent radio chatter from the Raijin. The Cistern is quiet.
1 Agent steps away to report as the other 2 drag the Pilot to a dry place, and the Synthetic examines his stumps. They bag him in an antibiotic shell, spraying down the bag. The Synthetic then hefts the Pilot over his shoulder in a firemans' carry. To a one they swiftly disappear into the tunnel, figures, then halos, then diminishing chatter.
Back in the Chamber, a thin segmented appendage emerges from the Acid Hole, dripping, black, and longer than a telephone pole