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.”
At the back of his mind, however, a third option was trying to take root, the original work he wanted to do before they were lost to this event. He knew he couldn't, not yet. He did realize the need for action, something to be done to get things moving. He still felt the reminder of the third option pressing against his torso where it was hidden along with numerous memories in his mind. Edwin couldn't forget. He had a job to do. He was here for a reason. He couldn't just let it all go to waste. He was probably the only one out of his three person party, and that meant it all fell to him. The third option was suddenly the only one to him.
Edwin dropped a hand into his jacket and pulled something out. In the low light, it glimmered slightly like blued metal. Edwin's face was blank as his other hand produced another item and seemed to interlock it with part of the first object. His left hand moved around after to grab another part and pull back. He released it with a light, mechanical click followed by the sound that told everyone what the object was, the sound of a pistol action closing and locking shut. Edwin looked back to the group and spoke calmly in his natural accent, ditching his physical cover completely "Alright, I'm tired of this calamity. If you are not armed or are concealing it from us under the orders of your nations, arm yourselves. We are getting the scheiße out of this."
Edwin, was no longer Edwin.
A sigh. A heartbeat. Yearning.
The thread Appoliona touched trembled with anticipation. It wanted her to connect with it to weave together into a larger tapestry to ever unravel.
Come to me.
Seek me out.
As they followed the path deeper into the stone, minute wisps of violet light blinked along the walls. The tunnels felt endless. When they came across a dead end, another path opened up leading them.
The moist air felt heavier, full of motes of dusk that sparkled in the fairy light. Something writhed beyond the edge of their vision curious, probing. They were almost there at the heart of it. Its heartbeat was louder. Its desire to be with them charged the air with anticipation of a lover’s reunion. A sensual belonging tainted by an undercurrent of decay.
The stench of vegetable yeast undercut the rot.
A mask broken on the stone beneath their feet.
Distantly, the cavern rumbled. Someone forgotten spoke.
What were you doing?
Where were you going?
These questions pressed against them, trying to make them remember.
Something seethed and shrieked in the shadows at the sudden approach of light.
A promise, loneliness, and despair brushed against their minds as they slid from the entity’s grasp. Something was pulling them back at a high velocity that made them dizzy. A brilliant white light flooded the cavern and ripped away the sturdy walls. Something wailed.
When the light faded, they were all sitting on the upper observation deck, staring upwards at the endless sea of stars. Behind them was the soft trickle of water. Something reassured them.
Magister Ariel was gone. In front of them was the back of a blonde woman dressed in a long blue dress, lost in her thoughts as she partook in the majesty of the universe around them.
The ship was moving. When had they left?
At the back of their minds they could still feel it out there calling them home. Find me.
She seemed to sense their waking as she turned to look at them with kind sapphire eyes on a weary face. “I suppose, you have questions. I’m Doctor Morya Scott welcome to the Carol Octavius.”
Yet all at the same time he felt as if he was just fine and comfortable. The sounds of the water seemed to remind him of a time long ago back on his home world where he used to go fishing in a small stream down one of the forgotten traveller's ways to his home town. He shook his head and immediately began to refocus. He was unsure if anything had changed but his mouth and mind moved quick.
He attempted to stand on sluggish, unstable footing before he spoke clear as any Alliance human would, "In the name of all that is holy, what in the fuck was that."
His eyes were locked on to the woman in the blue dress. He did not immediately notice that the magister was gone. His right hand kept searching, more so to hide evidence than to arm himself. "Better question, who are you? I don't remember seeing anyone like you when we boarded."
Except she wasn't, and it was excruciating.
It was as if someone took a fistful of her nerves and strangled them, throbs of pain like a sharp pen tearing through thin paper. A rough scalpel tearing through skin uneven, jagged. Everything hurt, every connection, every touch of her magic corrupted and forced, overloaded with messages and signals too strong to be natural. She had felt such connections before on high intelligence creatures, but this? It was too clear, too strong as if it could communicate through such means better than she could, and it cared not that she wasn't built to match its pace.
Then it all came to an end in a painful flash, and she felt as if a fire had been brought before her eyes. How it tortured her so! Every nerve, every connection alight with signals they were never meant to receive, and then to have her bare eyes wrought against such an eternity bright.
She awoke with a wretched, pained cry, hands covering her eyes, rolling over as if shying them from the dim room would protect them from the flash already passed. Blood, deep and dark red seeped from her nose, and she felt as if she rode the wake of the worst medicinal induced migraine she had ever felt. Every word too great, every sound too loud. She breathed slowly, her body stiff and uncomfortable, as she slowly moved to her knees, tears welling from her shocked eyes. "I suppose some questions are self-evident." She slowly began, trying to prevent herself from sobbing or letting the state of herself get in the way, eyes still covered despite the sudden salt water flowing from them.
She had strained her magical ability before, but that? That was not straining. That was as if something had slammed her fingers in its jaws. She spared a hand to check her person, before letting out a strange, salted curse. "Before I say something quite improper, does something have my goggles? I may just need an outright blindfold for the day regardless."
"Yes, some answers would be wonderful." She said coming to her senses and backing up Edwin, "If things like what just happened are going to be a regular occurrence on the ship we would like to know, for research and security purposes obviously."
Kuru and Krankoz were visibly irritated, the large roaches were not happy that their minds had been messed with. Furthermore they didn't exactly like being forcefully put in or pulled out of some alternate reality. They didn't voice their openly, though the silent chatter between the two was anything but.
Her attention shifted to Edwin, cool, collected, controlled. "I am the xenoarchaeologist in charge of the expedition to Chateau D'lf. I apologize for not introducing myself earlier, I was preoccupied with my preparations but it seems, it started earlier than we anticipated. We are a couple days from making landfall, we have been underway for some time now though I have no memory of what has happened. Time and space was bent to connect us to another place. I have never felt it react this way.
I don't care who you really are. It's not a point of concern for me. But you are here. You have been chosen and it's almost time to learn the truth.
I am unaware of how familiar you are with the Wangdaio Colonies and the Black Out? Or the technologies that the Heise were developing based on ancient technologies they scavenged from the hearts of the colony worlds?
The Heise uncovered something that could open gateways to other planes and places within the hearts of their ships. It allowed them to feed their people in isolation but brought with it great danger. Things in other places could pass through the doorway into their ship if they weren't careful. Ancient and dangerous predators hungry and curious. It was experimental technology at the time, trying to marry the modern and ancient technologies... but... our ship is something different.
Our ship is alive. You can hear her heartbeat, if you listen, you can hear her thoughts. Beyond Carol and Octavia. There is something in those Lost Tombs that is calling to us. It wants us to find it. And this ship? Her heart is yearning to take us there. To go home. A Luisne's heart resides in the soul of this ship. She wants us to hear her, to feel her. She want us us here and until we find the end of this path, we will not be able to leave.
What is a Luisne, you ask? The Tatya hini of Jord reached into the primordial places of the dark seeking answers and they things living there. If they made pacts with it, the beings would do their bidding. It could teach them for eternity, become armor, or become a weapon. Over time as human influence grew, Luisne started disappearing. Some slipped away from Jord and are living among the universe. I don't know how the Magisters found this one but she is attached to the ship and powers it. I don't know what happened to make her open the gateway, or if something just slipped through and forced the door open to meet you. But we'll know soon enough.
Whatever is in the tombs has been calling us and it's getting louder."
It was better to be confused than to admit to a dissociative episode, Catriona had decided.
As they stepped in, a voice was already explaining something to a familiar group of people. With eyes half-lidded, Catriona raised their brows. It was talk of time and space being bent. A few blinks, a questioning glance, and with arms folded over one another, the Kishargal stood at the edge of the room, trying to understand what in the Queen's name this archaeologist was talking about.
"... Is this some... Strange recruitment process into some fringe-cult?" Catriona spoke up, with uncertain eyes, "I don't understand most of what you're talking about. All I know is that I smelled sulfur before all this happened. You sure... Whatever just happened, wasn't just a gas-leak that did something to us?"
"If there is life pulsing within this ship, then it's of something twisted and unnatural. I would not dare tread into the ethical discussions of synthetic life, but if that manifestation we just experienced was an outreach of the ship, then I find difficulty believing it to be anything other than some wholly malignant design!" She wasn't completely sure if her disdain of the event was more due to its effects on her weaving connection or the blight upon her eyes, but it left her disgruntled and offended nevertheless. All she could find solace in was that she would be repaired of any lasting damage in as soon as the next day or two.
The deep murmurs of primitive rage that lingered within the Proxigial eye agreed with her, even if it did lack the depth of better intelligence. "I will not claim it to be evil by any means, no beast is truly so. However, I must advise caution. If this thing holds such power, then you must realize that it is capable of great inadvertent harm, assuming it cares to avoid it in the first place."
She looked at the rest of them, and then at the waste bin. She turned her ears back and sat down beside it, slumping. No questions. Not just now. Not unless they were going to ask her whether or not she regretted taking this crazy job.
Eventually she muttered, "Fuck me."