The air grew cooler, and the wail of the alarms drew distant.
Apolliona's unique sight and perspective gave the deepening darkness of the lab more dimension. It was impossibly deep for what dimensions of the ship she was aware of. Smooth bulkheads blended into rough hewn stone walls covered in... condensation and soft moss? Counters, tables, metal cabinets melded into dark stone. The living shadow was serpentine, slithering, writhing through the deepening cavern system as they chased it. The closer she got to seeing its full length, the further away from the others she felt. There was another tremble accompanied by what seemed like a sigh.
Beyond her field of vision she felt unseen eyes full of hunger watching them, willing them deeper. A pointed tip of a smooth scaled tail, as pitch black as the shadows it hid in, beckoned invitingly before it disappeared into a hole in the wall large enough for her to follow.
A drip echoed against stone walls as the stench of rot wafted up in a breeze towards them.
Edwin's call to his assistants resulted in static, whatever had disrupted Carol's projection was impacting his communications as well. The air felt heavy, acrid, moist as the stench of decay persisted. He couldn't see into the darkness beyond the dim crimson glow. He felt like something resented his presence, and that hatred washed over him in a seething frigid wave that froze the sweat rolling down the curve of his spine.
Kuru and Krankoz felt a thrumming vibration through the deckplate beneath their feet as something changed. It was like gravity had shifted around them and left them somewhere different. They advanced forward into the darkness and their bootfalls were softened into a wet slap against damp stone. They felt the retreat of the creature slithering through the dark.
Sock noticed that the colors of the room were all.. fucked. In a matter of seconds, everything had changed. A thick damp mist had settled over the rear of the lab. More things took shape beyond. A swirling cloud of crimson and violet hung over Edwin. A softer teal luminescence retreated into blackness. It was colder. The din of the alarms echoed like ghosts on the breeze trailing into silence beyond the ragged panicked breathing of the humans in the room.
At the rear of what must have been a terminal, Magister Gloriana typed quickly, her mouth a thin concerned line. "Everything outside of the room is.. gone? That doesn't make sense. They just..." She turned her head towards the door and frowned. It was gone. Only stone bathed in crimson light remained. "What in Saule's name?"
@Jimmy @Jabonicus @Ham @Riko
There was a common superstition on her homeworld, that one who wandered ghastly places in the mists and fogs would find places that did not normally exist. Caves and structures that were never built, never made, and never existed in that realm of reality. She knew that such legends only came about because of the blinding short-sighted fog that crept over the entirety of the planet, disrupting the navigation of people into areas they were not familiar with, or simply skewing their perspective to see something else, like some form of mirage in the flickering darkness of sporesmog. However, many local elders told such horrific stories of beastly things that lurked in those crooked places that it sent shivers down her spine even to think of it. The purpose was simple, really, the kind of story meant to keep children from wandering too confidently in the drifts that hid your steps.
When she was still learning the art of Weaving, she fell into such a trap that nearly sent her into a sense of panic. She had accidentally strayed from the path of the Monastery in the late evening when heavy winds and sootfall sent her off the path and into a strange angle of the civilities walls that seemed far too crooked and tall to stand correctly. Buildings and guardposts she walked daily, but from this new angle, they seemed hostile and foreign, as if she had never seen them before. She stood there for minutes on end, confused and bewildered as her mind absolutely rejected the idea that these buildings could be the ones she so frequently used and abided in. How could such a foreboding place be her home? It was anything but welcoming, the very buildings seem to leer and glare at her as if she was the trespasser.
She eventually did make it back to the entrance, after working up the nerve to approach the bizarre walls. It seemed almost childish looking back, but she was never a child nor was she overly superstitious. Even that night as she laid in her mat, regarding the event, it seemed so immature, even if she couldn't escape the creeping feeling that now lingered those halls.
Such a feeling arose once more, but this time she could not chalk it up to a change of perspective. She had seen the lab, in its entirety, and it did not exist like this. It did not have stone walls, nor moss, nor did it extend so deeply into the ship in crooked and broken angles. Not to mention the bizarre, rotting thing that seemed to lurk this new entry. Was this some form of simulation? Did some ships harbor deeper stone structures within as part of some scarcely spoken of cultural ritual? She knew of none, and strangely she doubted it, even as she stepped forward into the foreboding room that felt more like a trap for insects than any room meant for habitation.
She felt an itch from her Proxigial eye and limb, and a low rumble came from the clamped tendrils that connected her arm to the beastly thing. It too felt the creeping dread of this place, and even from its predatory nature, it felt unease at the sense of something beckoning them onward, an unknown thing that clearly knew something they did not. It wanted them forward, to drive with curiosity towards a solution, but what drove that cold dead dread into her spine was the feeling that it had already trapped them. She turned her gaze to the Magister Gloriana with a concerned expression, the spiraling tendrils of her Proxigial eye clenching tightly against her connected flesh, a strange emotion visible in the segmented eye. "This is... An anomaly. No other term could describe it." She spoke aloud, the term alone pulling fear to her brain, unconsciously stepping forward once more. "Strange things do occur in biological constructs, but those are almost never classed to anomalies, rather circumstances and synapses we did not consider. This... Is beyond such logical consistencies. While meat can spasm with muscle, walls of steel do not simply vanish and rot to stone."
She realized as Edwin asked that she was sent forward with a purpose, the world was much darker to them. "Constructs of your artificial form have turned to primitive stone shapes, scarred by moss." She stared down at the contorting cavern with a fearful expression, steps pushing forward towards it. "An aperture without reason, no architect could have hidden it, yet it sinks into the bowels of the ship." She felt like she was treading into the territory of an ambush predator, and with such things, she knew of a few key details. Such predators were things of opportunity and would strike when it best suited them. This beast, whatever it could be, had not yet found the best angle. More than that, it was clear that it was comfortable in these strange walls, as if they had always been stone, as if it had always hunted and tread them.
"These walls do not exist uninhabited."
"Why do we stop, the creature flees." Krankoz growled, his fingers flexing on the haft of his cleaver.
"We are no longer on the ship, if this creature can bring us to a potential new world we do not want to chase it into its potential trap."
Krankoz did not like Zu'Lor's logic, the Sho clan blood pumping though his body craved the destruction of the beast. Unfortunately for him, Kuru's logic did prevail at this time his blood-lust would have to wait.
"What do you suggest we do then Kuru?" The other Karshvick grumbled his fighting stance relaxing a bit as he waited for an answer.
"We are tasked with being security, and seeing as we are currently the only official security here we should keep our charges alive."
As the pair made their way back towards the rest of the science team, being ever vigilant of the direction the creature went, Kapil was busy taking care of things on her own end. The Kudah was quickly taking in stock of the situation, everyone seemed to be as confused at the situation as her though some seemed to be taking it worse then others. The one called Edwin piqued her interest and the Kudah was tempted to use her abilities to pry into his mind to figure out why but this wasn't the time nor place for that currently. Her first idea was to talk to the Magister, it was her ship or at least operation so maybe she would know something. However, when she heard Apolliona mention something about the walls she immediately turned to her.
"What do you mean the walls are inhabited? Are you acquainted with this place or whatever caused this interruption to happen? "
Placing the cutting board back onto the counter Edwin jolted back into the group, now seemingly afraid of being ahead. "Is this a magical entity or something else?"
Something began eating at him mind, a choice he did not expect to have to make and he was hesitant to do so. "Do we try the door or just... something else?"
His devices may not work, contact was already cut to the rest of the ship as he'd already known, "Are we to live or... something else?"
Was his job and assignment conflicting again? He didn't stammer out anything this time. His mind was working over possibilities. Confusion met fear at the round table of decision making and one part of him forced itself into motion.
"Okay, I need to find a computer access, I'm going to see if I can get anything out of it. Whether the ship's AI is bugging out or a third party setting foot, I want to know."
"Noises and smells do not occur without reason, and that stench of rot is one of meat!" She further structured her argument. "I make no claim that the things within these walls are natural, only that they exist!"
A mist with the vague smell of vinegar crept towards Edwin as the alien sprayed.
"Got some alien swanky over this mister dampy, pray nought if 'tis bound by fey or physics, pray only that it yield to ye old power of hydrogen-nin and acetic!" Sock said as he spirtized at the alien aura that now fell upon the human as he brought up a rag to wipe dry the misted man.
Sock didn't actually think the spritzy bottle would work, but the more insectoid members of the group seemed content to stand between them and the critter, and Sock recognized the color of magic when he saw it as his other hand put the spritzy bottle away and went to his magic-bullshittery-beepy-booper. The device looked like an ancient TV remote control with a large plastic crosshair at the front, pointed firmly at Edwins head it made a beeping noise as the alien began to troubleshoot.
He felt that he backed into a corner, a corner of a counter top that met one of the refrigerators at a slight outcrop. He was beginning to sweat as much as his eyes were tearing up from the vinegar mist stung his eyes. He didn't like any more how the Bu Qi was now pointing some device at his head which was proceeding to beep. It was at the point he finally spoke his mind.
"What in the seven hells is that and why in God's name is it beeping?"
Deep within the concealed recesses of the encroaching darkness came a guttural rumbling, that brought with a resurgence of the putrid stench of rot. The wet stone walls gained more substance as the fog began to thin. The form of the Magister began to distort as the air shifted, looking much like she was going to vanish much like Carol had. Vibrations throbbed beneath their feet as glowing embers in the shape of eyes became visible in the cavern walls. A pink mist coiled out of the hole that their original prey had disappeared into. It wafted flowers and warmth amidst the dirt and decay of the increasingly cold tunnel.
Searching the darkest corners of their memories, Apollonia and Kapil remembered something about ancient horrors that could rip open reality to spill into new worlds. Such a thing was the stuff of fallen civilizations and no record of it happening in modern times came to mind. If a doorway opens, travel could happen both ways. But where had they opened? More importantly, how could they close the door before the worlds melded together and stranded them? Apollonia thought of a strange symbol she saw painted in the meadow of the living quarters that had visited earlier while Kapil thought of the strange spade shaped leaves growing in the dining area. It dawned on them there might be a way out of this to close the gateway before it was too late.
The Karshvicks felt an itch at the base of their antennae, their thoughts drifted to ancient predators that lurked beneath trapdoors, waiting for unsuspecting prey to tread upon unsteady ground, to fall to their deaths. The growl of a predator was unmistakable to them. Whatever it was lurking, it was moving closer to them.
Edwin as the more human visitor felt a ancestral terror lurking, waiting for him. Whatever was in this cave meant to rip him apart and savor his pain. He felt its malevolence and its growing hunger. White panic threatened to over take him as did the fear that once he turned, it would seize the moment to sate its hunger. It felt like hundreds of hungry eyes bored into him.
Sock watched as the colored swirled in a maddening frenzy around Edwin. His spray momentarily distracted the colors but they returned once the spray stopped. This was definitely some sort of the weird magic stuff his great nan was always telling stories about. "Wear an onion round ya neck ta kep da spirits away," was the piece of advice that came readily to his mind. It looked strange to him but he wasn't sure why the pink skin was being targeted by the cloud of malice.
Magister Gloriana's voice raised as it came out as alternating serpentine hisses and English, "I...ssssss.... ssssss.... gate.... ssss...." The metal of the ship had nearly seamlessly melded into stone. Only the blue glow of the console against the Magister's face remained.
It all felt too real to be an illusion. The only answer felt like a form of magic that had been lost to time. Never had anyone heard of such a thing happening on a space ship or inside a docked station. Something was very wrong. Etchings along the walls glowed green as the red emergency lights started to fade. Symbols, became clearer but where had they see them before? The morning felt increasingly further away as the impossible nature of all of this weighed upon them. The air gained weight as gravity shifted to something stronger than normal. Were they moving? The ground listed left for a moment with a distant boom that resulted in another tremor.
Magic laced and interwove through the air around them in thick discordant strands of red, black and silver that became clearer to Apollionia as she looked for a pattern in the strangeness of it all. Some red threads dangled from a tangle like they had been cut.
The sickening feeling that even if there was a passing of understanding, that Weavers could never truly explore the infinite passages and corners of bestial minds, and thus could never know their workings. Every invention, every proxy was altered to fit upon their own self, rather than the other way around. Such was necessary, Weavers told themselves, but Appoliona knew very well that theoretically such could be done, and was the source of the outright extinction of a certain clan that no longer had an official name.
What brought her mind in this direction was the intense feeling of that passing connection, the eminence of something beyond the interactions of predator and prey. Beasts that hunted to eat and to defend territory tread within certain patterns, certain pulses of thought and instinct that could be recognized, to some natural degree. They were deep roots of feeling that went so far into the history of genes that it blurred the definition of what people were when they last mattered, but such strands of instinctual thought still persisted, in the dark corners of tripwire and pitfalls, waiting to be stumbled upon.
Then, there was hate.
It was entirely possible to watch a great predator maul its offender to death and recognize that the level of thought and instinct present was one of the natural processes, but one with enough reason, with enough awareness of its own faculties to hate was either something nearing, or surpassing sapience. As the stories of anomalies that broke the barriers between madness and perspective came into thought, Appoliona knew that, even if it was unlikely, it was a possibility one could not ignore. To ignore the existence of anomalies was to ignore risk, and she was worth her silt enough to take it in stride. The kind of being that could pulse with much hate was one that would relish in cleaving their existence from its den, perhaps more so in the cleaving than the ultimate resolution. Before she knew, her unscathed hand reached towards the strand, her mind pulsing towards it with the method-drum of Weaver's to touch it.
She wished that she could claim it to be in defense, that her act was to find some way to proactively save them, but one question circled her head in selfish, smothering addiction, the source of her knowledge, the source of her pride.
What are you?
If the strand held anything at all, she would find it.
What secrets have you hidden?
Could others even see it? Was it a simple thread, or some tangible web of biological origin? Could she read it? What did it say?
She did not know.
She grasped one anyway.
Kuru and Krankoz memories were a bit confused a bit when the mental images began seeping into their collective minds, why was their Leige and ward giving them images of predators or ancient beast that were still rumored to inhabit some of their worlds? Was the Kudah in trouble, were these the mental death screams of a failed mission? No it couldn't be that her presence still lingered in the two warriors minds.
"Kuru, Krankoz" Kapils voice breaking their minor mental confusion, "I wish to leave this place."
The Humanoid moths voice carried an air of annoyance, as if someone had made an off joke at some sort of upper society party. Yet, the essence of authority was clearly present making the wish a clear order.
"I don't know why exactly, but I think if we go to where that beast came from we may find a way out of here."
"Not to overstep our bounds mistress," Kuru said with a flick of his antennae, "But what if thats what the creature wants us to do?"
"Then I suppose we will have to makes its plan difficult Zu'Lor."
As the trio made their way towards salvation or doom, Kapil turned over her shoulder to the others "You are more than welcome to follow, we don't bite"
“This piece of mighty engine-a-mancy finds those with significant regrets in life, or soon to be!” Replied Sock as he rummaged in his pouch before pulling up his next object of wonder.
“Fear naught, we shall right ward the fuckery right off with a touch of this magi-dandy-mitey-bitey, magical, edible, a tad smelly, but good enough for ye old warding.” The alien continued.
Sock quickly twisted open the top of a small yellow canister and dipped its thumb into the thick, tar-like black gel within, before its hand darted out and smeared the black ichor over Edwins forehead. The substance was a by-product of vegetable matter and yeast, combined with a few other processes to make a reasonably edible, and nutritious, black substance with the consistency of wet clay and the smell of a feral cat when cooked. Also useful for keeping certain hazardous lifeforms at bay according to his peoples legends.
“Thar, should be right naow!” Declared Sock in victory, before looking back over his shoulder at the large animal they were apparently looked in the room with. “Now to be movin upst the list o’ troubleshooting, aye.”