‘Come in…’ The quarantine satellites docking crew crackled, ‘…approaching vessel please respond.’
Jury finished adjusting his pitch and yaw to match the station’s rotation.
‘Receiving you, am requesting docking for flight. We were on a mission to examine an asteroid…there’s been some problems.’
The man on the screen leaned forward as though he was trying to see behind Jury into the bridges corners.
‘Where’s the rest of your crew? Landing parties normally have twelve.’
Jury made sure his voice was level when he answered, ‘That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.’
Jury tried hammering on the glass again. He felt like a fish in a bowl as he stared at the station’s crew on the other side of the barrier. They’d put him on lockdown as soon as he arrived. He supposed it was better than the alternative. At least the gravity conditions were right.
‘You said you wouldn’t do this.’
There were four crew members manning the station and all of them were staring at him like they’d found some weird species of bug and were starting to get really interested in pulling the wings off it to see what it did.
‘You reckon he’s telling the truth?’
The station’s psychic took a long swig on something that looked like it had no place on the planetary quarantine wall. After the last epidemic had nearly resulted in earth being overrun by plague they’d begun building. No one wanted a repeat of the sickness that had emerged from the festering life systems of decaying colony habitats and outdated satellites to lay waste to humanity’s home.’
‘Don’t talk rubbish. The man’s mad.’
The overweight figure in the uniform with tasseled epaulets and shreds of shabby finery hanging down its chest knocked the beverage flying.
‘Stay off that and concentrate on making sure the filters stay clean. Last time I looked there was a fungal infection that looked like it could evolve legs and walk.
‘I think he’s telling the truth.’
The woman who’d spoken was the shortest of the group: a woman with jet black hair and green eyes. Her uniform was the only one of the four that didn’t look like she’d been through several wars in it.
‘You’re as bad as him then,’ said the station chief. ‘Not that it’s going to change anything. We all know what happened the last time we let someone through quarantine without due process.’ He pointed at the memorial of a grieving widow on the wall and Jury got the feeling they’d heard it before; judging by their glum expressions a thousand times or more.
‘That’s right, The Dying, and we’re here to prevent a repeat.’
‘Yeah, but if he’s telling the truth shouldn’t we inform someone? He’s been moaning on about aliens ever since he got here.
That was the youngest of the four, a kid who looked like he spent far too much time behind a monitor screen. He had pasty white skin and a plaster on his chin where he’d nicked himself trying to scrape off the patchy fluff that had sprouted there.
‘Well we could do, but someone’s got our net so jammed up the systems on the verge of collapse.’ Half of those things aren’t what you say they are anyway. Don’t think I don’t know it.’
The kid shifted looked down at his feet. It’s all necessary upgrades Chief. I wouldn’t use company hardware for personal use.
‘You’re lucky I can’t understand any of it.’
Of course, the kid already knew that. One of the first things he’d done when they’d exiled him up here after the little incident with an orbital banking syndicate was check the station chiefs technical rating. He could hardly believe his luck when it turned out the man was as retarded as a six-year-old when it came to programming.
The crew turned to look at the black man trapped behind the isolation cubicles glass.
‘We leave him in there. I’m still the Chief round here and my word goes.’ Jury’s fist cracked against the glass and the Chief took a step back. ‘He’s definitely in a mood about something.’
But #209’s eyes were fixed on what was trickling down the glass.
‘Looks like he’s damaged himself already.’ The Chief hand scraped across the stubble on his chin, ‘are we liable for that?’
‘Not under the terms of our franchise,’ said the youth. ‘That only covers suicide and escape attempts.’
‘Well, we’re not going to flush him yet,’ said the station Chief.’ ‘What’s he doing?’
Jury had begun to write using his blood as ink.
Jury had seen something similar on Earth once back when they’d finally bitten the bullet and started carpet bombing the arcologies. He watched as gold span away blinking in the distant sunlight like shards of glass and the creature that had crawled through the rift dragged itself closer. He paused…dragged might not be the right way of looking at it. There was something like a bow wave traveling in front of it as though it were water not solid matter it was going through. Jury watched as an energetic thrust brought it so close to the splintering pyramid that its whips and flagella could reach into its center and free what had been hidden there.
The ships dry voice answered, ‘unsure at this time they’re not like any hominids I’m familiar with.’
‘It’s possible but we have only encountered two species with a genus significantly different enough to ours to warrant the term.’
Jury watched one of the figures cartwheel away, their arms and legs outflung like a starfish with the light of the sun sparkling on the rents in their shattered suits. The pyramid had been packed with them like sweets in a box and the dead figures were beginning to form a cloud of their own round the tumbling asteroid. As he watched two collided and shattered in a soundless explosion, broken crystals spinning way into the darkness.
Alarms sounded as one of the things whip-like flagellum spat across the void and slammed into the ship causing it to lurch to one side.
‘Get us out of here now.’
‘Already complying, sir. You should be aware that you are the sole survivor.’
Jury had thought as much although he’d been struggling too hard in the traction beam on the way up to pay much attention to what else the ship was doing. It explained the lack of lights from other beams though.
‘Yes, sir, if I’m right in aticpating your question correctly the navigator perished along with the rest.’
That meant no access codes to Earth’s quarantine satellites. They were likely to get shot out of the sky.
‘There are no life forms on the rock with a pulse sir and the newcomer presents an interestingly new definition of ‘threat’.’
‘How do you mean?’
‘It barely seems to exist.’
Jury wanted to laugh something that barely existed had just obliterated the crew.
‘You’ll have to clarify that ship.’
‘Sir, I mean that it appears to be from somewhere else and…’
‘It appears to be half-formed, a juvenile maybe.’
As the ship shot away and the carnage shrank until the lights from the pyramids destruction began to look like the pinpricks you got from one of the settlements on the edge of habitable space Jury tried to imagine what an adult would look like.
‘Ship, you’re recording equipment?’
‘Inoperative sir, one of the blows destroyed the main data processor.’
Then we are the only witnessess.’
Jury’s jaw tightened. He’d have to work fast. He knew exactly what was likely to happened if data like this found its way into the Blue Empires hands. They’d never been keen on challenges to their speciesist world view.
One lonely body was drifting toward the nearest star. Jury wondered how long it would take to reach it as he tracked its trajectory.
‘I hope it’s you sweetheart, I really do. Rest in peace.’
There was something on Jury’s cheek and he reached up to rub it away. So long as she wasn’t at the centre of the maelstrom erupting below them as the arrival really got down to the business of dismembering the bodies around it Jury would have to be happy. Jury watched tthe corpse drift away if anyone had survived to see it they might have spotted the skin on his knuckles whiten.
‘I’ll make it pay Sofia, and I’ll warn the rest too. You can rely on me.’
(to be continued)
The Nephilim had smelt them even from behind the ten suns. From the spot, it liked to bask in the dropships approach and what its engines had brought to life had glowed like heartbeats. It had decided what the pyramid held must have stood since the days when the Nephilim and its kind had still played a part in the arm of the galaxy it could feel on the veil’s other side. Of course, nobody knew what it was doing what the rootlets it sent through the gaps fed on, but it was so hungry it wasn’t able to ignore the veil anymore. It wasn’t supposed to be so far from the hub either. It was so close to the space beyond the rift it could almost see the lives scurrying on its worlds. It didn’t know what the rift was called, didn’t know what the ten suns were called either. It was too young for that, but it knew what it could smell. The energy was brighter than a sun to it; as clear as the days its parents had swallowed in their effort to keep it alive.
It finished struggling through the hole the needles were cutting into the void with a song burning at the center of its mantles; shrugging its bulk through the gap like a worm.
The Nephilim finished dissecting the screaming woman in its grip, pulling the spine from her with a sound like a kiss. Her man had fled when he’d finally succumbed to the traction beam that had caught him in its grip although he’d tried to struggle all the way up.
It eviscerated another figure, sucking the last of the scraps of possibility from them before they were lost to the depths of space.
‘Always hungry…always empty.’
It still hadn’t found the mother load, the treasure trove that had called it across space. It shuddered as it dropped what was left of its victims. The penalties for crossing the veil were severe. Most didn’t even know about the points of light you could glimpse on the edges of the Nephilims home were. They were so starved they could barely see. It was another reason the hub stayed in power.
‘Unused futures…cut short lives.’
It watched the ships afterburners flare as it sped toward a nearby planet. The light caught the structure near the base of the needles that had cut a hole for it to travel through.
It’s feelers quivered as it dragged itself closer to the spire. The needles were quiet now. Their tips no longer crackled and sliced at the veil separating the dimensions, but it would have to work fast if it was to crack the structure before someone noticed its absence.
It was nearly salivating now the asteroid underneath steamed where the drops from the mouthparts hidden beneath its mantles skimmed its surface. It had heard of such things before; although the last physical object had been dismantled eons ago in the emptiness it called home. It concentrated and sent a little of itself into the nearest fissure.
Like water it let itself flow between the pyramids gaps, freezing and cracking, letting the slabs the thing was made of burst into the void. Soon it was looking at something like the petals of a flower. The sun caught the bodies floating from the pyramids embrace sparkling with frost and frozen droplets that had spilled from their veins. The Nephilim breathed a sigh of relief as it fed on what was left of the lives that had lain preserved by the portal for just such an eventuality. It had been a long journey. Below it, the blue planet floated. Down there were more lives, more futures, and these weren’t dead. It dropped the corpse it had been feeding on. If the Nephilim had had lips it would have licked them.
(to be continued)
Through her helmet Jury watched Sofia’s mouth open and fluid spatter across the glass. He unsnapped his tether and launched himself through the void. There was no atmosphere on the asteroid. At least not enough of any gas to make a difference to his speed. If he mistimed his flight he’d likely end up in an orbit all of his own, a frozen moonlet so tiny that even the most powerful telescopes back on earth would never pick him up. A figure catapulted by with their arms outstretched and their head thrashing from side to side. What was dragging itself from the gate had reached out to embrace the landing party.
Jury had his knife out with its serrated edge gleaming in the distant planet light.
‘Can you hear me?’
He tapped the side of Sofia’s helmet, but her face stayed invisible. If she heard it she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, answer. It wasn’t a good sign. Jury and his wife had been in more than one combat situation. If she was hurt she’d likely shut up than draw attention to herself. He brought the knife into contact with the things leg and started sawing.
‘I’ll have you off that in a second, don’t worry Sofia. You’ll be fine. It doesn’t look like it hit anything vital.’
Jury tried to stop, aware he was gabbling but the sound of his own voice was helping him calm down. He could see the fluid inside Sofia’s helmet getting worse and it was becoming increasingly difficult to convince himself that all it was was coolant. The dome was flooding like the inside of a bathing pool.
Sofia’s voice crackled through his headphones, and Jury looked down to see his arm caught in a gloved hand. When he looked up he could see her face pressed against the glass as her lips mouthed the words he heard so often in the morning on the pillow they shared together. Then the things leg snapped taught and his wife sped backward toward the rift Jury began to howl with rage.
He stopped when the ship’s lights found him. There was still a job to do.
Evac operational,’ said the ship’s computer, ‘…situation report.’
Jury was already on his knees with useless curses falling from his lips. What more did it want?
‘Get me out of here, now.’
Wherever Sofia’s corpse had gone he doubted he could follow. He watched as the last of the gap began to contract. Someone had to take news of what they’d found planetside before more of the new arrival’s shot through space. Jury’s feet began to leave the floor as the vessels tractions beams locked into place. The last of the shadows finally detached themselves from what was left of the rift and began to swallow the pyramid.
Jury’s skin crawled.
(to be continued)
I’ve come across it more than once recently. I’ll be watching something on YouTube from a war torn, skint, country where people are surviving on a dollar twenty five a day and you’ll see a paraplegic. You get thinking about what life must be like for them and their families. I don’t know if it’s all for the cameras, but you see them getting dragged through the doorways of houses that have never heard of the term ‘disabled access’. A lot of stuff like that must be from another planet when you’re living in a rural third world country. But brother/father/nephews and uncle’s grapple them up the steps, feed them and clothe them, probably help them go to the toilet as well. Somehow I don’t think they’re getting ‘meals on wheels’. And the families they had before a blew their spine to bits? What happens to them? One of the geezers (an Iraqui I think) was walked out on by his wife because he could no longer provide for their kids. That’s incredibly harsh, but then what are you going to do? Your sons and daughters are there wailing coz they’re hungry and you’ve got nothing to feed them with, and no means to get it either. You’re crippled.
You can see why people in these countries look at the West they might think we whine a lot. We get houses, benefits, and hospital care. They get none, but they seem to get by. There’s a name for it too although I suppose it is unnecessarily grand: ‘Mutual Aid’. The miners practiced it and it’s what we used before the invention of the welfare state. There were even kitties people put into for the unlucky day when someone was too ill, or unavoidably occupied to get into work. I wonder how much of that sort of thing exists now? (outside of trade unions anyway) To me, it sounds like a blast from the past.
They were nearly at the pyramid when it happened. Jameson’s foot connects with something Jury finds hard to make out in the weak light. It looks suspiciously like a skull, but there isn’t time to make the suits optics focus before it’s sailing through the void and slams against the nearest needle. Even the smallest impact out here sent debris tumbling though space and for a minute he thinks that’s what’s going to happen to the thing despite it’s foundations as it starts to vibrate.
‘Jameson get back here, do something like that again, and I’ll cut you free myself.’
But it’s not the suited figure that’s really occupying Jury’s attention. He’d expected the needle to stop, despite it’s lack of girth but if anything its vibrating faster, and his ears are full of noise.
‘Anyone hear that?’
‘Impossible,’ say’s Sofia; she at least is clear. It sounds like she’s standing right next to him. ‘You can’t hear anything in space, everyone knows that.’
‘Then what the hell is that?’
Jury gives his helmet a tap, gently. He’s never gotten over his fear of it cracking even though the gear having been designed to stop a bullet.
It’s one of the other crew. Jury doesn’t know which. It doesn’t seem important with what’s opening in front of them.
At first the thing reminds him of an eye. It’s edges bleed lightning that crawls down the obelisks until they earth themselves in the rock, and all the time the humming in his ears is getting worse.
‘The pyramid, it’s glowing..’
That was Sofia sounding more nervous than Jury has heard her in all the years they’ve served together. Humans have only colonized the edges of known space and the corps isn’t big. He and his wife had been among the first who’d to sign up from the hive to defend the settlements. It hadn’t seemed necessary for the force to be much bigger. There wasn’t much to worry about with the nearest habitable planet ten light years away or more.
‘Get back, and call the ship, all channels. We’re getting out of here.’
But Jury can barely hear the sound of his own voice in his head or out of it, and he doubts the others can either as the space trapped between the cold fire crawling between those spikes finally splits and he’s looking at something that ripples like its made of oil.
‘Back, back…now. Come in ship.’
‘There’s nothing, but static in the comms pellet they implant in your ear when when you join the corps.
‘What the hell is that?’
The crewman might have been about to say something else, but screams drown it out. Jury’s feet are already moving as he grabs Sofia by the arm and gestures for the others to move. His fist pumps in the void and flashes from behind him light his way as his feet move slow…too slow. He feels Sofia jerk at him as though she’s trying to pull him to a stop and turns to drag her with him if he has too. That’s when he see’s what’s come through the gap, and what’s punctured a hole through her suit.
(to be continued)
I’ll have ranted on about this at one point or another on here I expect, but in the UK we have something we call housing benefit. It’s the social support payout that stops us having to step over too many homeless people on the way to work. Or of having to worry too much about loads of dangerous, depraved, squatting youth moving into the cellars of our tower blocks.
When I was about twenty rent was minuscule compared to what it is now (at least it was where I was living). I used to pay eighteen quid all bills inclusive per week for a big room in a shared house. Admittedly the house was in a run down inner city part of town but it was a nice area believe it or not. Now rent has gone up, and up…and up, that means the housing benefits that get paid out have gone up, and up….and up too. Or the debts that people get into to cover these costs.
Social money, designed to be used for the public good is being employed instead to line private landlords pockets: that’s insane. With proper social housing profit and the going market rate wouldn’t be the driving force behind what is charged for rent. No one (or very few) in the private rent area are going to go: ‘Oh that’s far too much I’ll knock off half the price.’ Landlords charge what they think they can get away with, if for no other reason than that they’re getting squeezed too.
Why can’t we have council property being built again? It’s like so much of our views on it are still stuck in the time before Maggie Thatcher sold it all off to win an election. In the entire Rushmoor Burough Council area there’s only 4,700 odd council houses. They just don’t exist any more like they used too, but we still think they do. When/if we ever do the sensible thing and have council property being built again we could have it massively discounted for those on a low income. Making rent cheap would make a real difference to people’s lives in a situation where the rents have risen endlessly while peoples wages have stayed pretty much the same. Don’t hold your breath though ey.
Still just a rough title for this…but I’m on limited time on a library computer so I’m going to post it anyway.
The woman at Jury’s side had the long hair and black skin of one of the equator zones inhabitants. For a moment he can barely see her against the void pressing against the view port. She moves and her shadow slides across the stars spilling across the heavens.
‘You see it?’ says Sofia. ‘We’ve arrived.’
The asteroid is one of the more solid examples of its type, the ice at its poles only a few meters thick. That doesn’t stop it glittering in what light makes it this far from the sun.
‘Object c.547/1,’ says Sofia, ‘look there’s the anomaly, and…’
Jury follows her finger, he can clearly see the pyramid: the squat edifice they’d come so far to find, but its what’s spreading from it that his companion means.
‘It’s like its part of a circuit,’ says Jury.
‘Yes, but for what?’
Jury can see the ragged ends now where the lines of gold leading from the pyramid’s base have severed. The lump of space debris tumbling through its orbit must have been part of something larger once, some long shattered planet perhaps.
‘Prepare a landing party. We’re going to need to take a look.’
Below them the pyramid gleams, its apex winking in the sun.
‘What do you think that is?’ says one of the suited figures alongside Jury as they cross the asteroids frozen surface.
‘It’s not the first time Jury’s heard the question and he’s asked it a thousand times in his head himself; ever since they’d seen the results.’
‘I don’t know,’ he replies. ‘But whatever it is we’re going to find out.’
More of the asteroid’s empty landscape is being revealed now as it tumbles through the void. Cold sunlight chasing the shadows until they vanish. Jury hears Sofia gasp over the comms net.’
‘Those didn’t show up on the preliminaries.’
The twin needles are nearly the same height as the pyramid, and Jury can see why they’ve stayed invisible so long. They’re thin enough to look like knives and they’re facing side on to inhabited space. It’s only because they’ve gotten round the asteroid’s equator that they can see them face on.
‘What do you think they’re made of?’ breathes Sofia.
Some sort of metal probably.’
But its not gold; its not anything he’s seen before thinks Jury as he runs a scan over the nearest. There are hieroglyphs cut into its surface that make his eyes ache just looking at them.
He’s still trying to decipher what they mean when one of the men standing nearer to the pyramid’s comes crackling across the net.
‘You need to look at this Jury.’
Jury’s eyes linger for a moment on the hieroglyph he’d been puzzling over. If he looks at it side on its something like a figure poised over a prostrate victim. They have their arms upraised and there’s something in their hands.
He mutters under his breath.
(to be continued)
Ok, just been sat in the park working out what I want to do. I planned out a book about three years ago now that I entitled ‘Displacement’. You can see images for it over on my Pinterest page. The link is on the ‘Contact Frequencies’ page on this blog. Now the plan is using a character from a short story I’m about to submit for publication I’m going to write a prequel series concerning the first skirmishes as our galaxy is invaded by an alien race called the ‘Nephilim’. Before they reach Earth they will have to conquer the outlying colonies and orbiting habitats no?
So I’ve been doing a bit of initial planning. Now I need to read up on some of my old notes and get it clear in my head again because other projects got in the way. Not to put too fine a point on it the whole thing’s covered in dust sat in my filing cabinet.
The idea is the Nephilim have run out of entropy in their own dimension and have come to ours to feed…
Born out of a creative writing lesson in Aldershot, and written on Guildford’s library computers during their one-hour slots (you gotta be quick, man). I planned them out on the bus into town most of the time after I was given a picture of a scarred youth that became Kapan Serikebekev and then Yurii Serikbekev because I don’t like the ‘captain overtones. Basically, I was mucking around. I’ve never tried writing a flash fiction series, and I’ve quite enjoyed it, there will be another.
Yurii was fighting for the right-wing militias in Ukraine but began to realize that maybe that wasn’t all that great an idea as he found out more and more about what they’re up to.
Finally, he realizes Putin is in fact fucking EVIL and a puppet of Cthulhu and his brothers. He encounters a little girl whose been operated on by mad scientists intent on weaponizing love…or at least creating some sort of monstrous new device of mass destruction. He helps to free her and she banishes the tentacle things back to whence they came.
Pretty cheesy ey….blame it on this hippy I met in Glastonbury (England) who told me about the love frequency. I’ll try and make the next series a bit darker.
If you want, check out some of my other work on here. I swear to almighty Richard it’s not like Steven Spielberg wrote it.
Last installment. Updated. My apologies I was too rushed for time on the library computer first time round.
What Yurii hadn’t expected were the girl’s arms fastening round his back. He tried to jerk his head away as the breath left him faster and faster. But there was no breaking the sort of hold she had him in. Already it felt like his chest was collapsing and still she wanted more. He needed to break the seal where he’d clamped his mouth over hers, and fast. Yurii’s eyes bulged with the effort, but she was having none of it. No matter how much he tried she was too strong. Yurii could feel the life leaving him as he was drained, and she never opened her eyes not once as the colour returned to her cheeks. He felt himself go as cold and numb as the freezing briny waters around them and then she let go. Yurii Serikbekev was falling toward where he thought the floor had been when he saw what the plates had hidden.
She had wings.
He’d already gotten rid of most of the rods they’d used to bind her with and she made short work of what was left. Her movements fast as the water rolling back from her skin. What was within her looked like fire. The sea that had flooded in with the tentacled things arrival steamed and shook where it touched her, and as he watched the last of her shook, split, and shed the dead husk they’d kept her in. No wonder they hadn’t wanted her loose. The wings spreading from her back moved faster than a hummingbirds, just like what was dancing at the centre of them. But it was the noise they made that drove the torrent back, sending the waves to where they’d come from and the things that had crawled through the gaps mewling for safety before the doors slammed shut after them.
‘What are you?’
There was a shape in the water now like he was looking at a helix, and the music it made was laughter. Atoms bounced off each other, rubbing themselves like bees in a hive and Yurii Serikebekev’s felt warmth begin to return to him as his dive halted. Already the air around them was dry. It was like looking at the opposite of a shadow, a girl made from fire. Nothing could be still with the waves of energy dancing around her.
‘Amplified. Frequency 528.’
‘Where have you come from?’
‘They stole me.’
Yurri had taken a glimpse of the facilities inner rooms once; the vials and batteries they’d stacked so high you could barely move. But he’d never asked what they’d stored or where the children him and his company had delivered to the doctors had been taken from. The militia had dealt with the residue; the empty husks and shattered remnants of the people that had been used up. Now he began to understand what they’d been decanting. As he watched the ball of light around her grow like it was the centre of an explosion and the ripples were strong enough to knock a hole through walls.
‘Now run,’ said 528 as the light built up around hera and the writing on the stones behind her began to fade.
Yurri turned to leave never noticing the draught that shivered across the last puddles around him.
What was left of the President didn’t stay on the floor for long as water flooded in from whatever sea the tentacled thing grappling its way toward them had come from. The tidal wave picked up his broken body and took it with it. Yurii Serikbekev braced himself as the waves climbed up his legs and did his best to make sure he didn’t fall. The girl was up ahead, but he couldn’t take his eye’s off the monstrosity as cracks splintered through the walls on either side of its bulk. It reminded him of an octopus, although it was larger than a house. The ground bounced underfoot as it landed and Yurii got a glimpse of the place it had come from. Cold stars were spread above the solitary peak of a mountain standing at the end of a lake. Just looking at it made him shiver.
‘They have chained you in place, why?’
The thing had spoken and an eye as big as several people standing on each others heads in lowered itself so it was level with the girl. Yurii Serikbekev was left staring at her silhoeutte as she answered.
‘They were worried I’d let you in.’
‘Too late for that. You can hear it?’
‘Yes, all of them, all at once, it’s driving me mad.’
‘Then use it for what we talked about. Let us in. We will stop it, all of it.’
The girl’s rods were rattling so fast now they’d started to produce a low hum. Yurii wondered what it would feel like to have that sewn through your flesh; how much she could feel. He tried taking a step forward but there was still so much water flowing past him he barely made it a couple of steps before a tentacle snaked out and held him back.
‘Not yet, Yurii Serikbekev. She has something to do first. We’ve waited along time for this.’
There was a glow starting underneath all that metal covering her and it was matched by spots on the wall now. As Yurii watched more siguls began to appear as though someone were scratching them into the bricks. Door after door followed them until Yurii was staring down a row that disappeared somewhere in the palace’s depths. As he watched they began to open.
‘That’s it…good girl,’ said the creature that had arrived from the bottom of the lake.
The air overhead was so full of the flicker of half glimpsed ghosts and the scream and gabble of voices that Yurii’s hair had begun to stand on end. With a sound like a jet engine gaining velocity the doors slammed wide and the first tentacles appeared on their thresholds thrashing and flicking as they looked for the source of the warmth they could feel. Yurii grabbed the girl the same time the original dropped her.
‘Don’t worry I’ve got you.’
But he doubted she could hear, what was hidden at the center of the gifts the facility had given her had its eyes closed, and if she’d looked dead before she looked worse now.
The water was fast reaching Yurii’s shoulders now, and he realized what was about to happen the same time he realized there was only one thing he could do. With fingers that were turning white with cold he began to look at the plates.
‘Talk to me, tell me your name…please?’
He could barely see her face, although he’d found the first of the nuts and begun to loosen it. She was still cold to touch, had been ever since he’d first seen her and as the metal fell away he saw what he had to do. Yurii’s mouth clamped over hers and he breathed as hard as he could. He kept doing it as the deluge lifted them from the floor and he pummeled at her chest.