Threads, wisps, semi-permeable translucent arcs of magnetic beauty painted a darkened sky overridden with the failed contrails of a mass exit; an escape plan on orders previously unimagined by the timid and frightened onlookers standing uncertain in a strong easterly wind. The bay echoed with the deep hollow thuds of fiery debris impacting the surface of the blue expanse stretching far to the north and west. Here, just below a large and recently abandoned ore refinery, a man sat, stolid and immovable, watching the massive loss of life, turning in his hand, a blade.
“What a waste.” He spoke aloud, expelling only a fraction of the deep sadness that welled within him. He slowly rose, sheathing his katana with expert grace and bowed slightly towards the falling dead. “Tomorrow, they’ll try again.”
The world was named Eros. About one-point-five times the mass of Earth, Eros orbited a comfortable zero-point-eigth-nine AU from its parent star. Eros was perfect for colonization and targeted primarily for its reserves in iron, uranium, and hydrogen-3. Yet, with 90% of the surface covered in water, the majority of colonial mining occurred in the dark depths of a vast oceanic expanse. The few sea mounds that broke the surface of the twelve-thousand meter deep ocean were home to the twenty-five surface refit stations and approximately two-hundred and fifty-thousand mining colonists.
The katana-carrying man turned from the overlook and walked slowly down a dirt path, carefully navigating the loose volcanic rubble. “Tika, it failed.” He spoke under his breath, “That idiot Mannel just led one thousand people to their deaths.” He bristled as the cerebral cape he wore cracked with cortical static, transmitting his dismay to a distant observer.
“I saw.” A female voice responded with a slow pause. “You can’t blame yourself.”
“I don’t. I blame Mannel.” He mentally cut the connection and split his focus between walking down the now darkened path and searching the local network for clues to the current location of Enerst Mannel. “The Tunnuth aren’t going to let us leave.” He swore under his breath as the western sun began to kiss the horizon’s vast waterscape.
A few meters off shore, in the shimmering western surf, the oscillating waves broke their steady fluctuations as a dark and inhuman thing, a manifestation of odd evolutionary divergence that assaults the eyes of Earth-born men, briefly rose a meter into the brine-licked wind and twisted an oblong husk of translucent spongy matter as if studying the nearby cliffs. Catching electrical signals of the man with the katana traversing a dark slope, the sea thing slipped quietly beneath the waves as its abhorrent flesh flashed briefly a dark red and arc blue-green in sickening undulation.
Eros, however, was beautiful. A water world with vibrant coral formations as large as any planetary continent. Such a world was home to many beautiful and deadly creatures, most of which lived in the shallows. But the planetary mining operation had stirred something from the great deep. The extraction of natural resources of a given geological body in order to obtain financial and industrial gain fuels the colonization of the human-controlled arm of the galaxy. Planets war over resources and men toil in the dirt and watery depths to ensure that those wars continue. Yet, the deep digging greed of men uncovered something hideous beneath the surface of Eros and unlocked a grotesque evil, releasing it upon the colonies of man. A bestial malevolence, powerful and ancient on a galactic scale, arose from the twelve-thousand meter darkness to devour a small contingent of industry; a minute human force. While the robotic mining operations continued to ship valuable resources to other off worlds habitats, human efforts had turned to civil construction. With the factories and orbital systems functioning as efficient as any vast robotic system can, men were left to their own inherent survival mechanisms and to their own destiny. And on Eros, that meant that every man, woman, and child had to deal with the Tunnuth.
There are places, dark recesses, reeking of vile byproducts, excretions from biological madness. Places that exist in the blind spots of mans self centered vision, hovering just beyond sensory perception; waiting; watching; studying. The Tunnuth hunted men. Out of this arose a warrior class who’s soul purpose was to protect settlements both above and below the surface of Eros. Every manner of weapon that the colonists could afford was brought to bear, yet the most effective above the waters were simple bladed weapons that cut deep and severed dark organs that otherwise were protected via thick, kelp like epidermal layers. Below the surface, acoustic weapons were employed, pounding the sea floor with great echoes of death, killing man and beast indiscriminately.
A neon blue translucent screen hung between the katana man’s face and a small ellipsoidal capsule suspended in a chlorophyll green mist. The dimly lit room stank of unwashed, embattled flesh and was lit by two ten-foot by ten-foot walls draped in deteriorating monitors; caressing the man’s nose with wisps of ozone and oxidizing lead.
“Damn it. Impregnable.” He spoke as his hand touched the blue screen which displayed two overlays of internal diagrams of the capsule that hung before him. “Tunnuth buildings. Damn amazing structural re-enforcement. A perfect fortress.” He spat as he turned to a small corner bed that laid unmade and covered in old clothing. Collapsing onto the pile, he exhaled and shut his eyes.
Blackness bounded by an ultraviolet hum. A spark. Random noise. A flash to the lower left and upper center of his vision dragged him partially to consciousness as a he rolled over in a sea of dim blue soft woolen warmth. A hand fell upon his bare chest, inhaling with the touch, he instinctively lifted a hand to caress a bare breast and ran his fingers over a soft, pink nipple. The woman gasped as she arched her back while her body collided with his. Young, taunt, and in the flash heat of immediate sexual release, her mouth found his, exploding with desire and hunger. He spun her, forcefully at first, and found her willingly spreading, allowing him entry into the darkness of his warm desires. A thought, a block, and consciousness returned fully to him as he sat upright in his bed.
“Damn it, Tika!” He screamed as his cranial cape flared red intensity. “I told you not to do that! Fuck, I’m twice your age.” He stood, sweat dripping from his bare chest. A voice echoed back from the darkness, playful and only mildly apologetic.
“Come on, I’m old enough.” She teased, “Besides I know you want to.” A small, playful laugh found his neurons silently agreeing.
“Cut it out. We have work to do. Have you found him yet?” He stood, pouring a glass of amber liquid from a decanter that sat on a small, anti-grav work stool. Downing the liquid, he grimaced ever so slightly, and hit a clear glass panel that came to life in multiple color key signatures.
“Yep. In a sub, one hundred clicks south-west. Bearing one-eight-five from the Grenton docks. Two-hundred meters deep. Council just sent out a mandate. He’s to appear in two days for an inquiry.” She spoke with full professionalism. “And,” she paused, “one more thing.”
“Is your dick that big in real life?” She giggled. Saying nothing, but slightly grinning, the man moved to a small shower cell as it lit bright white, sensing his approach and intent. He cut his communications link and sighed.
In a far removed building, Tika moved her left arm as the capsule containing the con-apt fluid, florescent yellow and oily to the touch, drained from the helmet she wore. Standing slowly, she removed the red and green illuminated headset as she arched her muscular back, stretching feline-like while synaptic fluid dripped off her dark, smooth skin. A girl of no more than twenty, she walked lightly across the eerily lit room. A single glass wall allowed the dim surface light to illuminate the oddities of the twenty-meter depths she called home. Tika stretched again to reach a high hung towel and began to dry herself off.
Blue pinpoint flashes of neuronal activity blazed new pathways through the highly engineered biological material that pulsed with youthful anticipation as various machines sprang to life via a single immediate thought. Intelligent systems, scattered through each device in the flat, hummed with delight as the semi-biological processing system of the main housing unit rejoiced in fulfilling the occupants every wish. Tika wanted coffee, what she got was a three course dinner, a liter of red wine, and three small cubes of pure dark chocolate.
Slightly frowning, she conceded to the masturbatory supplement, finding solace in the bitter and delectable candies. Falling into an anti-grav chair, forming perfectly towards her tight and athletic figure, she tossed her shoulder length hair back as the wine quickly vanished. Somewhat satisfied, yet still wanting more, she considered the empty bottle, and then shrugged it off.
“I’m getting bored with this.” She spoke to herself, “I really need to find a clean fuck.” Her thoughts flashed between the bottle and the box under her bed. Frowning, she stood and stretched, “Nah, maybe later.”
Spherical modules hung dispassionately along the parameter of the Grenton docks. Early morning darkness lingered, courting the last remnants of a chaotic night, splashing twilight haze amongst the incoming reports of new Tunnuth violence. Man had successfully eliminated night with technological prowess, yet the Tunnuth had mastered the absence of photonic reflectance long before the birth of human kind. And this they used with unrivaled ability and unregulated violence. Shinken walked quietly along a brightly lit path, carefully avoiding the Tunnuth mine he had placed a day before. His left hand wrapped lightly around his saya, with thumb over his weapon’s suka, holding the blade, known to the Tunnuth as Shiob, or “The End”, firmly in place. Yet, Shinken walked calmly, aware of each sound that met his ears, each scent that assaulted his nose. His cap instantaneously updated his visual cortex with key interest points along his field of view, enhancing visual acuity to unnatural levels.
The neon roadway flickered as phosphorus bulbs danced morosely in a cool sea wind. Points of light turned to incomparable dark and back again as the steady undulations of the westerly breeze danced amongst the abandoned dock front. A boat sat off in the distance, sealed from outside influence, humming only slightly as Shinken advanced. Humming almost in warning as an alarm indicator electrified Shinken’s senses three milliseconds prior to a monstrous form erupting from the nearby fetid tide pool.
“Damn!” Shinken swore as the Tunnuth came down upon him with unbridled determination. A quick single hop back took a quarter of a second longer than expected and Shinken was caught by the end of a dark rancid stalk of salt and sin as he drew his sword one millisecond later. The stalk erupted as the force from the blow knocked Shinken back, foot caressing the hidden death below the surface of the path, clicking picoseconds into infinity as a quick electric pulse careened from one neuron to the next, forcing Shinken to somersault further away from the Tunnuth as the ground below released its steel tipped response. Shinken’s cap triggered another quick movement as his sword ascended to a kasumi block, deflected an errant steel blade. The scent of salt and frying flesh permeated the air.
The Tunnuth, however, was not as fortunate. Its dark, elongated head, flashed red then black as its form seemed to disappear from Shinken’s vision. Only his caps adjusted sensor system allowed for his vision receptors to adapt deep into the ultraviolet spectrum, causing the invisible Tunnuth to shimmer in eerie hell light. Its form doubled over, seeping fluid from its midsection. Shinken moved quickly, transitioning from kasumi to a coherent execution of migi kesa giri maki uchi, dividing the Tunnuth into three equally lifeless parts, in precise thirty-five degree angled cuts.
Sullenly, Shinken repositioned himself, swung his katana across his forward right leg, flicking the Tunnuth’s life fluid from his sword, and silently, with the mastery of years of practice, sheathed the one weapon of man that the Tunnuth had bothered to name. Shinken bowed with respect to the now sectioned husk of visual horror and turned from the form, head wringing from the sonic attacked that ceaselessly assaulted him from the time the Tunnuth appeared until the moment of its death. Had he been under water, his head would have been crushed instantly. He reminded himself of this as he again cautiously walked towards the distant ship.
Tika was tired of masturbating. It had never really fulfilled her, hence that brain game she played with Shinken from time to time. He was her ward, tied to him until his eventual demise, ensuring that all strategic network information was funneled to him, allowing him to quickly modify tactics and to adjust mission objectives when appropriate. When it was discovered that the best way to fight a gorilla-like opponent such as the Tunnuth were small groups, paired hunters, formed as the single line of defense against dark brutality, and to secure human survival on Eros. Tika was Shinken’s tactical guidance computer, and Shinken was her tactical weapon in the never ending blood storm that defined a subculture of ritualistic butchery. Contact between the pairs was uncommon, though many found great stress reduction in mating from time to time, but Shinken was different. He refused advances and remained aloof while in direct contact with Tika. At first, she had assumed that he preferred other men, but she quickly discovered that to be false when she tried to coerce a homosexual dream sequence. She went through variations, all ages, and some different species, but nothing worked. So she decided to go back to basics, but again, had been rewarded only with rejection.
In any event, there she was, staring out of a view port of the ship, watching Shinken clean his blade and re-sheathing it gracefully. She reminded herself to ask about the bow after they got underway, even though she could easily hack into his cap and fiddle around while he slept. It wasn’t like she hadn’t done it before.
“Nice cuts this time; you’ve managed to increase the angle accuracy by zero-point-two percent.” She remarked as Shinken open the hatchway.
“Yeah, it caught me by surprise. They are getting better at land tactics. The pings hurt more as well. He was an old one, big too.” Shinken answered as he ritualistically removed his sword from his belt, bowing slightly, placing the weapon on a specially designed stand on a far wall. The stand erupted in blue neon as the sword sat quietly.
“Tenir, from Goren, apparently bought the lagoon last night. Tracked two into the bay and got smashed by a new acoustic attack. He was one of the best sub fighters we had. Something’s changing.” Tika explained, as floating yellow panels before her came to life while the ship began to move outward from the docks.
“Tenir?” Shinken paused, looked deeply off into an unseen distance and bowed his head slightly. “Damn.”
“Sorry, Shin, I knew you were his friend. After the attack, his tac-op joined him. He found one of the Tunnuth shortly after, strapped a bomb to his belt and baited a trap. I didn’t know him, but I guess they were pretty close, too. To take your own life for revenge of your op, that’s pretty deep.” She stared longingly at Shinken.
“They were brothers.” Shinken walked down a dark stair case into the lower hull of the vessel as Tika watched him vanish.
Twenty klicks and two-thousand meters down, a massive structure loomed over an old, alien monument. Hovering there, the bright white search lights and invisible probe beams searched frantically over the black, decrepit structures lying forlornly on the muddy bottom. Strange, alien angles pierced the black muddy depths. Variations, unnatural reflections, inconsistencies of matter shimmered with each touch of a photon, each caress of a coherent stream of stimulated atomic emissions. Photographs of it made men sick, visual attenuation and darkness followed for anyone that stared too long at the relics of a darker age. Vial distortions and hideous angles, unnatural to the biological world, swam through one’s unconsciousness and vomited hell spawned damnation into the psyche of those who were foolish enough to attempt to understand the grotesque markings and horrid forms on the stones that lay about the ocean bottom.
In a brightly lit control room, a tall man with long gray hair stood studying an artifact newly recovered. “All the ships were brought down?” He asked, not taking his eyes off of the relic.
“That’s correct, sir. We’ve estimated about one thousand lost.” A smaller man in a gray, skin-tight suit stood erect, shoulders back, and reading aloud a report he had in memory.
“Mmm. Too bad. Guess I was wrong.” He smirked as he glanced briefly toward his steward.
Inhaling the fresh, antiseptic air, the steward continued, “In any event, the council will want a hearing and will request that you be present. The Tac-net is, of course, blaming you. Looks like there have been blogs from Tika, Shinken’s tac-op, that he’s on the hunt for you.”
“Of course he is. I wish someone would just kill him already. He’s becoming a problem. Tenir’s death was a blessing, just need one more and we can get on with business.” Mannel turned from the relic and starred out a view port to the blue glow below.
“There’s a high probability his little pubescent tac-op has located us and is already underway.” The ward stiffened, ready for any violent retort. None came.
“It’s ok. After yesterday’s aerial disaster, their plans for an exodus will have to be revised. Shinken’s lot will be diverted to purely civil protection as they move from the island in hopes to free themselves of the Tunnuth threat. They do not understand what influence the Tunnuth have over the entire planet. But that’s not my concern. The Tunnuth must continue to pursue them. What matters is the operation, and the Serum Corporation will not tolerate any disruption. What’s important is that the Tunnuth believe the council is their greatest threat.” He sneered as he glanced towards the ward who reflexively took one step back.
“Yes, sir. Our agents have been able to sustain such beliefs in the network. Though no direct Tunnuth contact has confirmed this, by their movements, it is clear that the council and general public are seen as the immediate threat to them.”
“Good. Sustainability of the plan is the key to our success, Malin. Dismissed.”
The magneto hydrodynamic thrusters engaged as the sleek, tungsten gray hull slipped beneath the surface of the mid-morning waves. Tika and Shinken sat silently, communicating only via the networked caps they wore, planning tactical operations as they searched the echo-network for signatures of the Benne Gen, Enerst Mannel’s personal ocean vessel.
“That was easy.” Tika thought towards Shinken.
“He’s not trying to hide. Nor does he care about those people whom he sent to their deaths. He’s digging into the mud for his own selfish reasons.” Shinken tightened slightly.
“He’ll probably let you walk right in to his personal quarters. You know that?” Tika silently touched two green buttons on the floating I/O board that stationed itself in front of her.
“What’s the Shinrei say about the approach?” Shinken asked, referring to their silent and sleek vessel.
“She says it’s clear all the way in. Looks like we’ve already been given the welcome mat.” Tika begin to visualize the approach pattern as the Shinrei began to re-pressurize for depth.
“Signal the Benne Gen and tell them that our boat is unarmed, though, personally we will retain our weapons once aboard.”
“Will they allow that?” Tika visually gave an expression of surprise.
“Yes. They should have already been told that we are on council orders to retrieve Mannel, no one will prevent that.”
“You seem so sure.”
“Mannel, though a nihilistic self-serving bastard, will honor the council’s request.” Shinken paused, “He’s killed too many people this time to be indifferent to council mandates. It’d be his own death sentence if he refuses us entry.” And in the back of Shinken’s mind, a small wish was made.
“He’s Serum though; makes a difference.”
“Not to me.” Shinken spoke aloud and smiled inwardly. Whatever was about to take place on the Benne Gen, was going to be personally fulfilling. “Oh, and don’t let the Gen’s docking system latch us anywhere other than the main pressure sphere.” He spoke as he rose and turned towards the wall where his sword hung in a mystical blue glow.
The deep. Here, in the infinite dark of a water world, great towers rose, spewing forth violent heat and strange bacterial life, giving birth to larger, vastly more alien sets of creatures; living from one volcanic vent to the next; evolving ever so slowly due to the chaotic unpredictability of vent life. Below the compressed cloud of organic material, strange creatures flashed incandescent as feeding and reproduction happened simultaneously. A slight glow, off in the dark distance; a small mud vent slowly moves material over the disappearing ancient rubble once depicting ancient Tunnuth society. The Benne Gen hung motionless above the decayed and mostly buried stone while a small vessel, silent yet screaming in the electro-magnetic choir, docked to the central sphere of the massive archaeological vessel.
“Shinrei, you are latched to double-zero-one. Magnetic umbilical attached. Pressure is OK.” The tac-net hummed with mildly interesting information.
“Tika, stay put unless things get crazy. Make sure the ship is ready for a fast break.” Shinken moved quietly to the main hatchway.
“Sure thing, boss.” Tika smiled, cat-like yet professional, knowing full well that death lay a few inches away, on many levels.
“Don’t make me regret letting you come along on this one.” Shinken slipped out and sealed the hatch behind him. Tika, looking somewhat annoyed, initiated a full systems check and turned the gain up on the passive sonar.
“You always say that.” She said to herself as she climbed into the tactical enhancement capsule that sat dimly lit directly below the main control board. “But without me, you’re just a blind old man with a sharp sword.” Smiling, the fluid of a thousand senses shot directly in to her cap and engulfed her smooth naked form in immediate and intense electrical stimulation. A small series of orgasmic spasms quaked along her spinal column while a minute amount of ejaculate mixed with the synaptic orgone bath as she briefly tabled then peaked, falling into a calm and fully connected state.
Though the Benne Gen was operating mostly in an automated manner, a small contingent of cybernetically modified scientists moved about the enormous pressure sphere, studying the translucent display panels scattered throughout the vessel. Not a single man or machine took notice of Shinken as he made his way to the main quarters of the vessel’s captain. His vision, overlaid with waypoints, tactical analysis, and tracking squares, flashed somewhat useful information directly onto his retinal receptors. Ignoring most of it, Shinken found himself slightly daydreaming; cutting the perfect head to groin shinchoku giri strike through Mannel’s body. Satisfied with the imagined outcome of the immediate meeting, Shinken turned a corner and found Mannel standing four meters away, staring out a small view port into the blackness of the deep.
“Ah, the cliché warrior, with his trusty ‘Shiob’ slung so close to his hip.” Mannel quipped, still staring off into the darkness. “And your tight titted tac-op not with you? She in her little capsule, quivering with one-hundred little orgasms a minute in war-ready bliss?” Mannel turned slowly to face Shinken. “Too bad she decided to stay in her little orgone chamber. Quite attractive to look at.”
Shinken, stolid and unflinching, placed his hand lightly on his saya, thumb slightly stressing the tsuba, ready for action. “You are well aware of why I am here. Your required, by council mandate, to come with me to a hearing about the exodus,” a slight pause, “accident.”
“Yes, a terrible and unforeseen mishap. I am mourning those people as we speak.” Mannel bowed his head and pressed two fingers together, while clasping his hands in front of his chest, “I’ve also just spoke with Warren, and he has a message for you. You may verify it if you wish. I assume you’re tac-op is forwarding it to you now. Seems that under no circumstances should I be harmed. The council has changed tactics and they want to confer with me on an ocean based relocation effort to the other side of the planet. Subsurface habitats and all. They need my expertise and understanding of the Tunnuth to better ensure their safety.”
“An interesting turn of events,” Shinken smirked, “given your proclivity for political safety nets.”
“Well said. So, shall we be off?” Mannel’s hands clasped behind him as he started to walk forward and past Shinken. “One thing though, would it be possible to connect with your tac-op on our journey back? She is so appealing, I’d like to know what that little tight mound of hers could do given the correct stimulants.” He jabbed, attempting to rouse jealousy in Shinken, and perhaps instigate a confrontation. Shinken, unmoved, followed behind silently listening to Tika freak out, spewing horrid vulgarities over his com-net.
The Shinrei’s outer hatch opened, allowing the circulation of air to trigger the filtration system. Tika hoped that the system was capable of removing any particulate matter that Mannel would bring aboard. Shifting slightly, she disengaged the tactical capsule’s locks and drained the depleted synaptic fluid. Grasping a nearby towel quickly, her bare feet padded softly across the main hold, disappearing into the lower hold the moment Shinken and Mannel entered the chamber.
“Oh, too bad, we just missed her.” Mannel laughed, catching site of the drops left behind by Tika’s quick departure, and inhaling the strong scent of orgone fluid; spiky sweet edged electric eroticism.
“Have a seat here, Mannel. Please don’t touch anything.” Shinken directed Mannel to a small jump seat and sat at the right control console. Tika appeared, fully clothed, and brushed past Mannel, saying nothing.
“Ah, Tika. A pleasure.” Mannel smiled inwardly, closing his eyes and retreating into a fantasy dream while the Shinrei detached from the pressure sphere.
A violent pulse racked the Shinrei as the MHD drives sputtered, straining to escape the sonic wave fronts. Two of the three external magnetic coupling units distorted and broke free from the hull of the ship.
“Fuck!” Tika shouted as automated restraints deployed instantaneously as the force of the assault rocked the Shinrei, destroying many sensor arrays along its hull. “They took out our ears and fins!”
“An attack here? So close to the Benne Gen?” Shinken spoke directly towards Mannel, eyes revealing deep secrets.
Mannel, slightly offset by the comment, spoke after a short pause. “It’s Tunnuth, what difference does it make.” Turning, ignoring Shinken’s silent accusation, Mannel rerouted his cap to connect with the remaining undamaged sensor arrays. “Benne Gen, this is Mannel. Malin, what is going on?”
“Dr. Mannel,” Malin replied after a fraction of a second, “We are not sure, we’ve sustain damage as well. Pressure sphere is undamaged but our communications array is being taken out. We are lo…”, the comm link went dead as a solid projectile slammed into the Shinrei, tearing the right MHD drive in two.
“Tanks! Now!” Tika yelled as the restraints popped free and the three instinctively dove into oblong ports and into thick, warm fluid filled tubes. Tika inhaled the fluid immediately and adjusted to the oxygen rich substance while both Mannel and Shinken gasped for one second, forcing their minds and bodies into accepting the lifesaving matter. Eight seconds later, the Shinrei imploded with such force that the three life capsules shot away like projectiles from a cannon. Deep in the dark the capsules righted themselves, A.I. sprang to life, caps where connected to the full sensor arrays attach to the life pods.
Miniaturized MHD thrusters adjusted the pods to a human acceptable orientation.
“Tika, full status on all pods and I want locations, and rendezvous in thirty seconds.” Shinken ordered, trying to adjust to the new forceful breathing method.
“I’m on it.” Tika replied, already tingling with the con-apt fluid adjustment.
“Mannel, you alive?” Shinken asked, though showing total lack of concern.
Growling slightly, Mannel responding, annoyed with Shinken’s patronizing tone. Shinken continued to brief the scientist, “Once Tika confirms our systems the life buoys will ascend. The deep fluid will drain and…”
“I know the procedure. “ Mannel impatiently interrupted, “I invented it.”
“Fair enough. Tika?” Shinken switched gears, “TIka, copy back?” Shinken paused, hearing nothing. “Tika, check the pods’ sensor arrays. Seems to be…wait. What’s that?” A red arc sped through Shinken’s spine as pain gave way to unconsciousness. All three pods autonomously gathered at the prescribed depth and one by one they were grappled by something deeper and unseen. The fleshly, steel strong tentacles of something far more fear inspiring than a common octopus pulled the pods deeper into the blackness slowly and silently.
Twelve-thousand meters of water equates to seventeen-thousand-five-hundred-and-nine-point-four pounds of pressure per square inch. Given that the main pressure sphere’s outer layer of the Shinrei covered approximately five-hundred square feet, the entire pressure on the ship was one-hundred-and-five-million pounds of total force. This number bounced from neuron to neuron as Tika did her best to regain consciousness.
She acclimated to the tube’s orientation and her head was slightly pounding. She sensed that the capsule was right side up, though leaning to her right, giving her a slight vertigo sensation when she opened her eyes. The orgone fluid had drained from the capsule automatically given the presence of the necessary pressure and mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and argon in the surrounding environment. She thought the open command quickly, but nothing responded. Her cranial cap was de-energized and only partially attached to her scalp. Groaning quietly, Tika triggered the manual hatch release.
The cold gray alloy hatch clanged against an adjacent wall, pitching the capsule left and overcoming the frictional force holding the pod upright, slamming it onto the floor. Stunned, Tika stared up into a dim distant chandelier structure – illuminating, biologically blue, the room where she laid. After a few seconds, Tika pulled herself up out of the capsule and scanned her surroundings; cat-like and cautious, she moved.
The dazed tac-op was on a mezzanine structure, coral in composition and very wet. To her right, she could see a deformed railing, carved, she guessed, in the forms of the Tunnuth in sickly orientations, awakening something dark within her cerebellum. She quickly averted her gaze and focused on a more distant thing, pulsating and obscene.
The chamber was vast. An enormous facility, housing millions of pearl blue-green spheres. Veins of artificial hydrothermal venting laced the floor many meters below the balcony where Tika stood. Gaping, she retreated slightly at the apparent height and size of the monstrous, hexapodal behemoth stretching above and below her. “Leviathan.” She spoke, hard edged and seething. “Shit.” Fear tipped spikes shook her small structure, knees going slightly weak, she backed three full steps from the grotesque railing.
“DOM BA NO AR TO NO BATTO” the room reverberated with a deep, globulous utterance, nauseating with each syllable. Tika doubled over, vomiting yellow and green on the coral floor below her.
“What the fuck?” She coughed and spat reflexively.
“DOM BA…” Not waiting for a repeated utterance, Tika turned and ran to a dimly light archway to her rear and bolted.
And running into a direct confrontation between Shinken and Mannel, Tika slipped and slid a meter toward the melee, cursing.
“Shinken, you do not understand what is happening here!” Mannel shouted as he blocked a lightning fast suki strike with long sword, gleaming evil in the red light of the antechamber. Tika, quickly wondering where he had gotten the weapon, shouted and both men glanced in her direction.
“Tika, stay back.” Shinken commanded, returning his gaze towards Mannel.
“Shinken,” she spoke, rising up on her hands, “there’s something in the other room, big!” She reflexively shuttered.
“I know. I awoke to this bastard talking to it.” Rage seeped from Shinken as he adjusted his tenouchi, preparing for another strike.
“Exactly. Why don’t you explain, Enerst?” Shinken adjusted his grip again.
“Ha. Why not?” Mannel rhetorically replied, “You see, the Tunnuth have an interesting language. We can’t begin to comprehend it, but a Leviathan on the other, is quiet understandable when you realize the idiosyncrasies in the tonalities.” Mannel adjusted his own weapon, griping lightly on the hilt.
“How is it you understand it?” Shinken cocked an eye brow quixotically.
“How do you think? Genetic alteration. Something wonderful, Shinken.” Shifting, Mannel dropped his weapon and squared his shoulders towards Shinken. Instinctively, Shinken adjusted his stance, waiting. “You see, Shinken. I am something more then what you’d expect. I’ve lived for one hundred and twenty years. Surprising? Yes. Yes it is. Now, how do you think that is possible. I know full well I look like I’m no more then forty-five, but, I’ve…changed.” Mannel moved back two steps and tilted his head to the left.
Shinken watched in awe as Mannel’s flesh crawled. It first seemed to gray and flatten, hair vanishing, then a think mucus emanated from his pores while his eyes turned dead space black. At first there was a flash across his flesh, his close evaporating as iridescent arcs of multicolored madness erupted from deep within. Sinister strands of wire like stalks wrapped tightly around his bulging forearms and finally his flesh went into the ultraviolet.
“Fuck!” Switching his visual frequency with a millisecond thought, Shinken immediately found the monstrous form of Mannel rocketing towards him. Ducking, the newly formed horror placed a giant hand on Shinken’s head and pivoted in mid-leap, twisting and landing directly onto Tika’s crouched body.
“First, I want to taste this!”A strange, almost musical vocal eruption sprang from Mannel’s now blackened throat. Grabbing Tika by the neck, Mannel lifted her up, while a stalk protrusion shot from his abdomen and into her stomach, spraying the two of them in dark red blood. Screaming, Tika tightened and coughed, while Mannel retracted the murderous stalk from her stomach. The monstrosity laughed and licked its lips. Slumping, Tika’s body fell motionless to the floor as Mannel spun while Shinken attacked tobi shinchoku giri, aiming for Mannel’s bulbous head.
Lightning strikes, pangs of metal on taught, coral hard flesh, block and jump, flip; turn to the right; roll; parry and evade. The fight raged as all hell and hatred seethed from Shinken and into his weapon. The initial barrage lasted only a few seconds, but a lifetime passed within the furry. Mannel, stumbling back, stunned and deeply wounded, stood up while Shinken regained some composure, breathing heavily.
Shinken froze, eyes fixed on the fast-healing wounds he had thought were deeply inflicted. Mannel laughed again, assuming had had already won. However, the visual modification and A.I. Enhancements could not predict nor track the near invisible motion that allayed his mirth and set him into a panic. In a nanoseconds time, Shinken had severed his right arm and held the blade of Shiob firmly at his neck, pining Mannel against a wall of coral and sludge, sending shrieks throughout the compound. Suddenly, eruptions from below, a horrid hatching and clucking sound bounced from wall to wall.
“Shinken! Wait!” Mannel, unsure of his fate breathed heavily. “The Leviathan, it’s moving over the eggs. They are hatching!” Shinken paused. “They must be harvested!”
Shinken held his sword to Mannel’s throat, breathing heavy, wanting to slide the blade six more inches to end Mannel’s life. Shinken wanted this more than anything. Hatred shot through like violet death, dancing on nanosecond nerve endings, egging on the blow to release the emotional torrent that welled inside his chest. A final touch to a life lived in violence and death. The inevitability and acceptance of it gave Shinken strength and purpose.
“Shinken! We don’t mine this world for it geology. We mine it for its biological gifts. The Tunnuth! Their embryonic young, when consumed, joins with human DNA, and modifies it in ways we have yet to understand. We’ve spent two-hundred years trying to synthesize it, but for whatever hidden reason the universe has, it shows us only that the consumption of Tunnuth fertilized embryos is the only way to initiate the influx mechanisms that triggers the receptor modifications. Serum has been harvesting Tunnuth for two centuries! My death will not stop it.” Panting and sweating, Mannel’s eyes raced from the edge of Shiob to Shinken’s grim, sweat laden brow. “The Tunnuth are ancient. Vastly more ancient than you realize. It’s believed that they once colonized hundreds of worlds in this sector, maybe thousands. This is the second! The second world, Shinken, do you realize what that means? They are dying; a dead civilization and we can harvest them for a millennium to come and still not even dent the reserves of such power!
“What does it matter anyway? Serum central office has extended their lives for two hundred years. The central spine and the three halo towers, all of them have been consuming Tunnuth, changing themselves in ways you couldn’t imagine. But I tell you, Shinken, it is amazing! Join me, taste with me this gift, this universal marvel, and we will shape this sector to our desire, and our will, will rule forever! Your simple steel blade cannot harm me! My arm will grow back, you’ll see!” Fever pitched and shaking, Mannel moves forward, allowing Shiob to slice into his neck. Shinken, unmoved, watches as Mannel slides forward, the blade slicing three inches deeper.
Coughing, Mannel’s eyes go wide; something is wrong with the way the blade has slipped into his congealing throat. Cellular morphological energies cease as a black nodule springs from the angstrom-sized edge while the sudden realization that he has made a fatal mistake careens from synapse to synapse. Shinken removes the blade with lightening grace and stands as Mannel collapses to his knees and sinks back, staring at Shinken in disbelief.
“Thheee Bloooddg! It ssshouldn’tnnn beeeggg! How…? Wherefff did, (cough) youggg, getttt thatsss ssswordddd?!” Death was oncoming like quicksilver as Mannel’s blood flowed rhythmically in dark red cascades onto the floor of the ancient dome.
“Shiob was a gift from my wife. She found it at the ruins of Vannor the day before the Tunnuth massacred the Cameron settlements. So you tell me, Doctor. How does an ancient Japanese sword find itself under millennium of ocean sediment twelve light years from Earth?”
“Vannorggggg….offffcourssss…” Life left Mannel, imprinting disbelief and horror in his black, dead eyes.
Shinken cleans his blade, re-sheathes it silently, and bows to the dead form of Mannel. Turning, he picks up Tika’s naked and lifeless body and walks out of the chamber. Seven Tunnuth stood by the entrance, each one standing erect and unmoving. Shinken paused, ready to fight, then continued to walk as the Tunnuth parted. A single tall, white creature stood in his path as he approached.
Shinken, stopping, looked up to the monster of a thing. The Tunnuth flashed red and green iridescence and sang.
© 2014 J. H. Neilan. All rights reserved
Illustration by J. L. Showman