The cage on the wire held dozens and as they watched it jerked and thrummed before lowering into the depths. Svelt fiddled with the dials on the communications apparatus before coming across the mangled comm’s links in the occupants helmet mics.
‘Listen.’ Svelt sounded like she’d been given news of someone’s death, ‘they’re terrified.’
The voices were only barely audible, but filtering through the interference were screams.
‘I reckon you would be too,’ said DeepHaul pointing at where one of the wires was coming back up. The cage on the end was empty.
‘Where’d they all go?’ said Svelt.
‘I know,’ said Jury.’ He’d come to stand between them; and the cold orbs in his sockets watched as another cage shot toward the hole torn through the world cloud’s depths. ‘They’re trying to bring them here.’
There was a crackle as something crept through the screams that had filled the deck and Jury cocked his head.
‘I never left.’
Their passenger’s voice spread through the air and for a moment the silence in its wake felt like it had weight, like velvet pressing against your ear.
‘I’ve been trying to gain access to the vessels databases.’
‘What are they?’ said Svelt.
‘Fanatics; of one description or another – God seekers. They believe they’ve found the gates to heaven.’
‘Then why are they still here? Why haven’t they gone through?’ said DeepHaul.
‘Because it’s their ships keeping it open.’
DeepHaul and Svelt had spoken at the same time.
‘They want a shepherd,’ she finished.
‘And they think…’ said DeepHaul.
They watched the cloud as another of the inverted pyramids dropped through it’s upper layers.
‘That’s right,’ said Jury. ‘They’re trying to lure the aliens here.’
‘Isn’t that what you want?’
Jury nodded, ‘of course. But I want to see why they’re here first.’
More of the wires and pyramid cages were coming back up and each of them was as empty as the first. Svelt retched as she spotted the torn scraps hanging from the bars.
‘There’s something else coming through,’ said Svelt.
The world cloud was on fire like they were hovering above the center of an emerald, and as the three people on the deck stirred the first chitinous legs began to appear through the hole.
‘They’re dragging it,’ said Svelt.
‘See that?’ DeepHaul pointed to the wires and the vicious hooks on the end of them. They’d skewered the creatures flanks and now the main body of the visitor was beginning to appear. At first the creature didn’t seem to be bothered by the touch of foreign space, but as more and more found their eyes it jerked and thrashed hard enough to drag some of the ships from their anchors.
They watched as the rent shook and flickered along with the careering vessels.
‘Look at the size of it.’
What was appearing through the rift was easily twelve times the size of the creature they’d followed.
‘Its freezing,’ said Svelt.
Lines of ice were spreading across the creature like cold fire and as it thrashed a row of eyes the size of mountains turned to face them before they clouded over.
‘Do you think it knows we’re here?’ said Svelt.
‘I don’t think it cares,’ answered Jury.
Another of the ships was pulled from its spot and they watched as a beak that could have swallowed worlds emerged and snapped it out of existence.
‘I want to get onboard one of these things,’ said Jury gesturing at the ship.
‘How happy they going to be with us trying that do you think?’ said DeepHaul.
‘I don’t care. I want to know how long this has been going on,’ answered Jury. ‘If they can’t come here then we’ve nothing to be worried about have we?’
He spread his hands disarmingly, but there was something about his smile and the light in his eyes that told you he didn’t believe it.
‘Try getting the crews on the comm’s net again,’ he said.
Already doing it,’ said Svelt, ‘but they’re not answering. All I get is an emergency transmission saying this is a no go zone and to stay away.’
‘Then we’re going ignore them. Get us as close as you can.’
The Nephilim was half way through the rift swirling around it like it was stuck at the centre of a whirlpool and the ice spreading over it had gone blue like something stolen from the heart of a glacier. The explosion came the same time as the ship’s sirens began to sound; and the temperature plummeted.
‘Jesus Christ,’ said DeepHaul.
Sparks burst across the ships hull as fragments of the creature snapped into its captors. What was left was something that looked like a pebble had been dropped in a pond. Steel hawsers whiplashed back the way they’d come snaking through space like a circus trick. One hit a ship and took out an engine tumbling the figures inside into space.
‘Those aren’t people,’ said Jury. ‘They’re robots; combat mechs by the look of it.’
The battered metal husks were already stabilising themselves before returning to their vessel. It was only moments before there was the flash of welding torches and breach foam spat into the gap as the ship and its crew began repairs.
‘Still want to go?’ said DeepHaul.
‘Oh yes,’ replied Jury. ‘Whoever brought them here it must have been years back. There’ll be records in there, data, information, stuff we can use. He turned to face them, ‘or we could just wait until they get it right and manage to pull one of the aliens all the way through.’
DeepHaul and Svelt looked at each other.
‘We should find if there’s any still alive I suppose.’ DeepHaul shrugged and thought about what it would be like to be forced into a substandard space suit and dropped into another dimension as fodder for alien creatures.
‘I suppose,’ said Svelt.
‘Good,’ said Jury and his hands landed on their shoulders. There was something about the way his smile twitched that brought them out in a cold sweat.
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