..........The lone ship had now passed the point of no return. They had exhausted all their energy on their jump in-between dimensions. They almost had enough kick left for a trip back home, but they would have to find a fuel source once they landed.
.........."That dirty little scoundrel," said Giamarck, speaking of his captain. He wasn't too frustrated, though. He knew what he was getting into when he first joined the crew. Captain Clerk always had a policy of "all or nothing", believing that their best performance came when their backs were against the wall.
..........In the seat next to him, Domi was reclining. "Relax, it's not as scary as it sounds."
..........The ship lurched.
.........."That would be the gravity shifting," noted Domi. After the shaking was over and the pilot had adjusted to the new conditions, Domi got back to resting and closed his eyes.
.........."Crazy awful dimension," said Giamarck before settling down as well, pulling his rifle close to his body. The barrel was positioned in such a way that he could kiss it if he wished to get that intimate.
..........In the corner, the new recruit, Leng, looked very uncomfortable. It was a different discomfort than Giamarck's, because Giamarck was more annoyed than anything. Leng was a young boy, and he was new to the mercenary business. He had every reason to be afraid. He hadn't been running long enough to be secure in his ability to protect and preserve himself. It was natural.
.........."Hey, don't worry about it," said Giamarck. Leng looked up. "I mean, it's okay to worry. I understand; I was there once. It's going to be okay."
..........Leng sighed. "I've heard things about this place. None of them are very good."
..........Giamarck got up and sat next to Leng. "You have no reason to be afraid. You know why? You're a simple farmboy. They always end up as the lucky hero of the story."
..........The simple farmboy didn't laugh. Giamarck didn't know what else to say. He guessed he just wasn't the best motivational speaker, but it didn't matter. Leng would learn to motivate himself, anyway.
..........Yotar burst into the room. She had a rectangle of light in one hand, a hologram. Giamarck moaned. He had enjoyed the motor-mouthed fizgig's absence. "Hey, I was looking through the IDN and found an ancient blog entry."
.........."You don't say," said Domi. He wasn't so bothered as he was - apparently - amused, for the corners of his mouth moved up for a moment.
..........Yotar rubbed Giamarck on his goatee. Giamarck moved back. He was only going to be comfortable when a woman he liked did that. She laughed at how she bothered him. Leng followed everything with widened eyes. He wasn't all too comfortable with the chemistry between those two particular members, but at least Giamarck could tell that the young lad's mind was taken off of the mission at hand.
.........."Men, I swear," said Yotar. "Lighten up, Giamarck. But seriously, this thing is ancient. As in, I have no idea why it popped up. Look at this."
..........Giamarck set his feelings aside and looked at Yotar's hologram. "The date says May 30, 2012," he read. There was a pause between them as Yotar let it sink in. "May 30?" he repeated.
.........."In other words, old. I've never heard of that dating system. I think this was adopted before the current calendar."
.........."But that's impossible. That would make this entry millions of years old," said Giamarck.
..........Yotar's eyes widened with excitement. "There's more. It's written in ancient Lucian. Here's the text:
'Yesterday I got myself hurt. Don't worry, it wasn't that bad, but it's still causing me pain. I had decided to have a little fun and try out the swing over the lake in a new and dangerous way. Since I was wearing shoes, I couldn't just let go and drop into the water, so I had to take whatever I had coming.
'This isn't rocket science: If you jump out at the right angle, the swing will come back and land you right in the trunk of the tree. That's what I did, and I hit really, really hard. In fact, after I finally managed to get back on the ground again, I discovered that my foot hurt so bad that I could hardly walk.
'For some reason, my father was a bit incredulous, even though he was the one who had encouraged me to hang out and play in the first place. There are several issues I take up with that. First, he's always encouraged me to swing on that thing and do dangerous things, and he still does, but it's getting real old. Even now when I'm technically an adult, he belittles me for not playing like an eight-year-old child. Second, I wanted to bad-mouth him when he talked down on me for wearing my shoes above the water when he did things a million times dumber that he still brags about as if it makes him a role model.
'My limping today is still just as bad, perhaps even worse, and I have trouble walking across the house. Then he went and offended me by presuming that I could mow the lawn, then treating me like I was weak and lazy when I clarified that I couldn't.
'This all reminds me of a couple of years ago when he pressured me to walk around the block during a -33o F blizzard naked. Granted, it was in part my idea, but he was goading me on and telling me about how tough he and all his brothers were when he was young. He encouraged me, and no sane parent would do that.
'To make matters worse, the block was half a mile around. It was a big block. When you put all the factors together, the result was frostbite. I didn't even know I had it and therefore didn't treat it. I nearly lost my toes that night. Fortunately, I suffered the mildest of consequences and only had to put up with my soles swelling up with fluid and rotting off over the next couple of weeks.
'I was actually fairly smart, because I walked halfway around the block before cutting across a couple of lawns to make it back home, shortening my trip to a mere quarter mile. Had I gone on longer I probably would have lost my toes.
'Father's mentality remains alien to me. The next day, he teased me for making it only halfway because he would have done better, yet he also criticized me for being so reckless. Today, he did the same thing. What a complete and utter fefnicute.
'The moral to take away from this is that I shouldn't have been so eager to prove myself for someone with impossible and irrational expectations. He only ever had the expectations in the first place to satisfy his own ego. It's not worth putting myself in harm's way to live up to standards that shouldn't be in place. I would be better off if I knew my limits.'.........."And that's all she wrote," concluded Yotar. "Or rather, he. You see, most intriguing of all, the name of the blogger is Monosmith." Here eyes widened with excitement.
..........There was a moment where Giamarck took a long, hard look at Yotar, then wound up and punched her. "You wasted my time on this? Your tall tales are becoming increasingly lame lately."
.........."No, actually, I didn't make this up. I came across it out of nowhere. It was like a message from the past that specifically made its way to me. Come on, why don't believe me?"
..........Behind her, Domi yawned and stretched. "Have you bothered checking to see if her pupils are dilated? It's always a dead give-away."
..........Good old Domi, always giving good advice while being completely chill.
.........."Yeah, look into my eyes and tell me I'm lying," said Yotar.
..........Giamarck held eye contact with her for a while. Here pupils were open windows, like black ponds sitting amidst the thin green rims of her irises. "Alright, I believe that you're not messing with me, but you're taking your find too seriously. You're not honestly telling me that you believe that the blog was written by Monosmith. It's just a username."
.........."Well, maybe, but I still did a cross-reference and some computer wizardry, and I confirmed that this bit of data predates the current calendar. And since when do blog entries 'find' you? I still find it intriguing. it's as if it was meant for us," She smiled and tilted her head to the side, biting her tongue with her teeth.
.........."Whatever," said Giamarck, not believing that he was having this conversation.
..........There was another lurch as gravity shifted again.
.........."Crazy chaotic dimension!" cursed Giamarck. He strapped the gun across his back, no longer in the mood for sitting down. He left Yotar in the cabin and moved forward to the pilot's chambers.
..........Captain Clerk was dressed up for landing and was at present occupied with helping the pilot plot a landing and running through topics in techno-babble. He could do that all he wanted, being a Kitilik.
.........."How soon?" asked Giamarck.
.........."Just let me plot something here," said Clerk. He pulled out a large sheet of wrinkled grip paper and began to sketch out something with a pen. "See this?" he said to the pilot. The pilot nodded her head and began working on the controls. Clerk pulled out another large and wrinkled sheet of paper with blueprints of the ship. "This dimension is causing the ship to act strange. To be honest, I dan't knaw how soon we'll land. Actually, call Yatar up. She's the computer geek in this group."
..........Giamarck vanished for a moment and reappeared with Yotar.
.........."Yatar, bloodic doesn't belong to our periodic table of elements and thus doesn't really show up on our radar," said Clerk. "However, it should effect the bacteria in the general area. Can you organize a tracking algorithm to detect electric irregularities without running your mouth off?"
.........."Yeah, but I'll need your input on some of the calculus."
.........."Good," said Clerk.
..........Giamarck left, because he knew well that Yotar could only keep her mouth shut for so long. In fact, before he had even left the door, she was speeding off at a thousand miles per hour, and when he shut the door behind him he heard her beginning to make offhand comments about the mysterious blog entry she found.
..........Back in their quarters, he found that Leng was now standing, and Domi was now fully awake and next to him. They didn't say anything, but they both looked out the window together. Giamarck joined them. Below their ship, giant skyscrapers passed below them. The very atmosphere was orange and rusty, as if it had aged and broken down with the rest of the world beneath.
.........."Spooky," said Leng.
.........."Yeah, no kidding. I've never been here before," said Giamarck.
.........."I hear it's the most dangerous place in the universe," he said.
.........."Well, I haven't heard anything, save for some tall tales about nuadine making their home here," said Giamarck. "Some fabulist spun that tale up."
.........."Still, it's just the place they would make their home," said Leng. "They find places on the fringes of space to camp out, the others and the beyonds that nobody else would dare visit."
.........."Hard to say, but what I do know is that this place is crawling with the most deadly bacteria known to lifeforms all across the IDES," said Giamarck. "I don't think anything could survive here for long. Not without a proper suit. That's too much trouble for any rational creature to put up with, even if they're the most blood-thirsty barbarians alive. If I was a guy who lived to kill people, I wouldn't sit and hide in the place where people are least likely to come."
.........."I still think I'm insane for going along," said Leng.
.........."You're probably the most sane person on this ship," said Giamarck, ignoring Domi's chuckle. Actually, he thought that Domi was the most sane person, but it didn't fit the purpose of the conversation, and Domi knew that. "Seriously, you were a farm boy, which I bet built your character up pretty darn well, and then you decided you needed a little adventure. You know what I say to that? Screw the newbie treatment. You're officially a member of the team, and coming here with us is a heck of a way to make it official."
..........The captain's voice, mixing Kitilik and Ghidget accents, crackled over the intercom. "We've found a crop of bloodic a few miles from here. Get ready to land."
..........They felt the vessel accelerate. Leng grabbed Giamarck's shoulder to stable himself.
..........The ship lurched again. "Cursed chaotic dimension," said Giamarck.
..........A minute later, the ship decelerated. Yotar and the Captain left from the pilot's cabin with their helmets underneath their arms. Clerk removed his pince-nez glasses. He wouldn't be needing them to read anymore.
.........."We're about to land. Everyone put on their helmets," he said. He fastened on his Kitilik helmet, which formed an egg-shaped dome over his head. Giamarck grabbed his from where it had hung above his seat and strapped it on as well, making sure it formed its airtight connection to his neck armor. He opened up a panel on his forearm and pressed a button that activated the shield on his visor. His surroundings became dimmer, but data splayed itself across his vision filled with relevant information that he had custom selected to be shown.
.........."Ready," he said. He looked around. Everyone except for Leng had their helmets on.
.........."Hey, I see that you have some trouble," said Yotar. "You know, I think you deserve an egg-shaped helmet like the captain's. Then we could see that pretty little face of yours. If it takes you much longer, we can always give you an embarrassing nickname or something. We seem to be lacking in those. Hey, I don't see any reason why we can't start now. The Captain can be Doc; Domi can be Sleepy; Giamarck can be Grumpy - "
.........."And you can be Dopey," said Giamarck.
.........."You have neh idea how eld that fable is," said Captain Clerk. "It's a priceless reference." He went over and helped Leng with his helmet, which admittingly was more complicated than the others. When he was done, Clerk removed a backpack from the rack and strapped it on himself.
.........."Right, seh we're walking through the airlock," he continued. "I'm not going to trade our fresh air with the air out there. When we come back, we're definitely going to spend a minute both in vacuum and in hardcare gamma radiation fire to kill off the bacteria. I don't want a single living alien cell making it anto this ship."
.........."Sir, yes sir," said Domi casually.
..........The blast doors opened. They walked through. Another blast door opened, and they walked through again, this time in a small space that felt distinctly like a crowded elevator. There was a hissing sound as the air removed itself from the room.
.........."Establishing radio communication. Am I loud and clear, guys?" said Yotar.
.........."Unfortunately," said Giamarck.
..........The door hissed and opened, revealing the urban wilderness beyond. They stepped out. Giamarck walked a distance away from the ship to get his bearings. He had never been on a mission quite like this before. Sure, there had been similar situations, hunting for treasure and the like, but they were usually in obscure locations, but this was a big place and hard to miss.
..........The skyscrapers were huge, stretching upward for miles. Somewhere up above, he could see the deep orange sky, which was filled with lighter orange cracked of light that leaked small amounts of photons from the rift beyond. He knew that this web surrounded the entire planet, creating the strangest form of light ever.
..........The street was huge, so huge that he could still see the sky above. It looked to be designed to traffic a hundred lanes each way. He couldn't be entirely sure, since any marking on the ground had long since worn out. For all he knew, it was all walking space, or it was filled with parks at one point, and the primary mode of transportation had been hover vehicles. He could accept that notion.
.........."Why did this world face apocalypse?" asked Leng.
.........."That's something I've often wondered," said the Captain. "We Kitiliks, with our thirst for knowledge, have always wanted to knaw, but alas, hist'ry has been lost to the mystery of time."
..........They all took some time to get their bearings. The scale of everything around them was huge. Then they looked at the building they landed next to. The pilot had put them down right in front of the main door, which was large enough to fit a Tyrannosaurus rex through. It was framed by large stone slabs with leaf impressions covering every inch. Long ago, the glass doors had broken down.
..........Clerk activated a hologram interface and held it in his gloves. "We should ga up about fifty-three stories. There's a room deep within the building. I can't quite pinpoint it, but I should get a clearer picture the closer we get. I'll be downlewding this hologram interface into yer gloves. We should be splitting up sometime to get clearer results."
.........."Yeah, because nothing's better than splitting up in a dark and creepy place," said Yotar. "Hey, is it just me or is climbing the stairs going to suck?"
.........."It happens," said Domi.
.........."Yotar, don't be stupid," said Giamarck. "That's why we wait until the gravity shifts and gets weaker. Then we'll feel like we're on a moon and we can just glide up."
..........He began walking to the door, then discovered that the glass hadn't actually broken. He remembered something about glass being an extremely viscous liquid, and it looked that long ago it had puddled up. "Huh. Weird."
.........."Giamarck, ye lead the way up," said Clerk.
.........."Yes, Captain," said Giamarck. Clerk was still technically in charge, but once they were in the field it was Giamarck's time to shine.
..........He instinctively took out his rifle and attached a flashlight to the end. It was hardly necessary, as there would be nobody home, let alone any hostiles, but he was comfortable with his gun. It had guided him through so many fights to stay alive that it was natural for him to use it to hold his flashlight.
..........The main lobby had a very high ceiling. It looked as if primitive space ships could have been designed there. He looked around the giant space. There were doors and larger hallways, and couple of halls that had several stories of balconies on each side. It reminded him of the planet-sized mall of Moa in many ways, except infinitely less busy.
..........Looking around, he saw a giant spiral staircase, but it was missing a large chunk right around the middle. That got rid of the most obvious way up. He beckoned to the direction of one of the large hallways on the other end of the lobby. "Let's see if there are any stairs leading from balcony to balcony."
..........They made their way across and roamed the large hall. It was covered in lovely geometric tiles, and covering the tiles was the dust of an olamic slumber.
.........."Heh heh, these people sure cared about looks. One of those cultures, I guess," said Yotar. "I think this would be the ultimate place to play tag. Maybe I could chase people upstairs and downstairs, and eventually everyone would get pretty darn tired. How much would you want to bet that I could kick some serious - "
..........She was interrupted when she slipped on the dust and landed hard on her bottom. Everyone laughed.
.........."Speaking of which, I don't see any staircases," said Giamarck.
.........."I see even less," said Leng, who walked up to stand next to Giamarck.
.........."Why whatever do you mean?"
.........."Have you checked the rooms?" asked Leng. "There's nothing in them. They're all completely empty. They don't even have any furniture. What about those streets? They're so big, but there's not a single car. Something's wrong with this place."
..........Giamarck looked around. Huh. How about that? The young man was right. What's more, Giamarck felt that the he even had a point. "Everyone, take out your guns. I think other people scavenged this place once. We may come across other people, we may not, but you never know."
.........."Giamarck, it just satisfies your ego to think that there might be something dangerous around the corner, doesn't it?" said Yotar.
..........He continued to look around, but to his dismay couldn't find a single staircase. He had people check the rooms, but they still couldn't find any staircases. However, they found a whole lot of elevators.
..........When they all got together again, Giamarck shook his head. "Well, I don't like saying this, but I think that the only way of getting to the other stories is through a straight vertical ascension. We're going to have to go back to the ship and get some cables."
.........."Roger that," said Leng.
.........."The supplies aren't that heavy," said Leng.
.........."It isn't now, but what if gravity shifts before you get back here? No, we're all carrying the bare minimum of supplies," said Giamarck.
..........As they went back to the spaceship, Giamarck noticed again that there was nothing around. How had this dimension been completely abandoned? These buildings looked almost as if they had never even housed life in the first place. The only signs of civilization were, in fact, that someone had to have constructed the giant engineering feats.
..........Back in the airlock, there was a long discussion about how troublesome and boring this particular trip was, filled with all sorts of snarky comments from Yotar.
.........."Right, because we're all going to waste our time acting like kids wandering around and looking at strange stuff. Oh wait, we have one of those in our midst," she said.
.........."That's enough," said the Captain. Yotar kept her comments to herself while gamma rays destroyed every living organism on the surface of their suits.
..........They went back to their supplies deck and pulled out a crate with climbing supplies. While Leng eagerly did most of the work, trying to prove his worth, Giamarck pulled the Captain aside. "Captain, why can't we just fly up to the fifty-third floor and enter through a window?"
..........Captain Clerk shook his head. "This ship isn't designed to hover. We can't simply dock like we can a space station. It's much like an eld kyry vehicle."
.........."But use your imagination," said Giamarck. "Let's say we went by, opened the hatch, and jumped out at a moment of low gravity. Then, if we use our grappling supplies, we can stay attached to the outside, break in through a window, then walk straight through the halls until we find our target."
..........Clerk's eyes shifted as he though the idea through. "In arder to maintain altitude, even at lew gravity, we'll be traveling along pretty fast to maintain flight. Do you want to do that?"
.........."I think we can," said Giamarck.
.........."I'll ga tell the pilot," said Clerk. "Ye tell everyone else. It's official."
..........A minute later, they were taking off. The ship gained speed and eventually took off from the ground. The wide open streets made for a perfect runway. Giamarck shared his plan with everyone else and ran through the details on what it was supposed to look like. Most of them had skydived before, and even though this wasn't the same thing, it should be similar enough.
..........Pretty soon he could tell that they were ready, and he didn't want to wait any longer. The Captain came back from the pilot's cabin and spoke over the radio. "Everyone get in the airlock!"
..........Giamarck was liking this. Things were beginning to get more exhilarating.
.......... "How much time before we get ourselves positioned?" he asked.
.......... "I'm waiting until the gravity drops dewn considerably," said the Captain. "Until then, we'll keep on flying at the level of the floor we're trying to bard."
.......... Giamarck knelt to the ground and put his rifle stock on the ground. He bowed his head down and closed his eyes. Domi got down opposite and did the same. They spent time meditating, getting into the zone, and making time go by. They tuned out the comments from Yotar, who took the empty airwaves as an opportunity to fill them up with her own chatted. The next thing they knew, there was a lurch upward before the ship adjusted and Captain Clerk was telling them it was time.
.......... "Just a mement before we slew down. Den't worry, we can easily survive this jump."
.......... Giamarck got up and gave Domi a rough pat on the back. He did the same for Leng. He did the same for Yotar, too, except really hard.
.......... "We're all going to die like bugs on a window," laughed Yotar. "We're all going to go splat. We're all going to break every os in our body and feel all the pain before our brain activity stops. We're going to - "
.......... "Oh, shut up," said Giamarck.
.......... The blast door opened and wind rushed in. Everyone readied their guns and loaded the grappling supplies. "On my mark," he said. He opened up the control panel on his forearm and began fiddling around to create an interface on his visor. First he tried his best to pinpoint the location of the bloodic supply. Then he dropped the sidebar and applied a targeting system into his helmet to clearly mark the place where he wanted to jump off.
..........He stepped forward to stand on the edge of the door. The sides of the building rushed past. Huge steel buttresses moved by. He couldn't feel it himself, but he could hear the wind brushing against his helmet. The red mark was coming up.
.......... He jumped. They all jumped. Their grappling hooks fired out before them. It was skikker technology, so it was guaranteed to keep them connected to the building. The next thing he knew, his cable made a connection to the table and he was falling down an arch.
.......... He bent his knees, and his boots hit the metal frame of the building like hammers. The shock ran up his body, temporarily stunning him as every muscle and bone took time to comprehend the sheer force being applied to them. It was like jumping off a two story building.
.......... There was a moment of relief, and a touch of admiration. It was a rough experience, but it was worth it. He pushed off with his feet and clung on to his rifle. There was a trigger for retracting the grappling supplies somewhere. When his mind got back to its senses, he pulled it. He felt himself beginning to climb, bumping into the bodies of his teammates along the way.
.......... "We cleared the jump," said the Captain, apparently including the pilot in the conversation.
.......... "There's no Heaven. There's no Heaven! Someone's going to lose their grip and fall to their death!" Stupid Yotar. Giamarck kicked her.
.......... "I am so suing you wen we get back home. I will find a lawyer and sue you worth billions of mackers, you dimwit," she retaliated.
.......... They all stopped. They were at the level they needed to be at. Giamarck's face was right next to the red laser sticker keeping him connected to the wall. He pulled out a similar laser sticker meant for hand-held use and attached it to the wall. It would serve as his outcropping. Everyone else did the same.
.......... Leng was the furthest to the left, the closest to the empty window where the glass had long ago melted away. He swung his body into the opening. Everyone else, using their footholds, made their way to where he was and did the same.
.......... They took a moment to recuperate. It had been a rough landing. Captain Clerk checked his egg helmet for cracks.
.......... Giamarck took the time to look around. It looked like an abandoned construction site up here. It had been completed once, but there were still many walls that were no longer there. There were many steel rods showing. All across the floor there were puddles of glass.
.......... He got up. "I'm taking care of this the good old fashioned way." He removed the grappling line from his rifle and loaded it with a grenade. "This is going t be loud."
.......... He fired at a wall in front of them and blew a hole in it. Yotar commented on its messiness. When the dust settled, he loaded his rifle again. "Permission to take a straight path, sir?"
.......... "Nee, den't waste the ammunition," said the Captain. He activated a hologram in his hands and created a three-dimensional model of the building. Its details were very basic, and there were no internal details save for a red disk somewhere on the fifty-third floor, showing the search area for the bloodic.
......... "Here is our field of err'r. It is somewhere within here," he said, placing his index finger on the center of the disk. "Its mest probable lacation is right in the center, so we'll look there first, but we're gaing to split up if it's not."
.......... "Yes sir," they all said.
.......... "Then let's get down to business," said Clerk. He turned on he lights connected to his helmet. Everyone activated their lights.
..........When they walked through the hole that Gianmarck had created, it became much darker as they entered into a hallway with no connection to the rift-light outside. It went off in both directions, but it turned to go deeper into the building on the right. Giamarck took the lead and went in that direction. Soon, they were engulfed in complete darkness, and he felt like he was walking through a deep sea wreck.
.........."This kind of reminds me of my mother's home," said Yotar. "You know, a creepy old bat who could drive everyone insane. No wonder my father was driven to uxoricide."
..........They walked on for what felt like a mile. The dots that represented their location got closer and closer to the red volume of the search area. Soon they were in the search area, and they were getting closer to the center. It looked like the path was taking them straight there.
..........Then, suddenly, the path came to a dead end, right before they got to the center.
.........."Unless I get permission to break this wall down, we're splitting up," said Giamarck. "Usually, I go with Domi, but I'm suggesting that Leng takes my place, because I'm going to break this wall down the old fashioned way."
.........."Oh yes, absolutely, because you have to be tough that way," said Yotar. "This reminds me of the tale of a beaver named Sid, who was a hundred percent ego and zero percent id. Ha, I get a kick out of how fitting that is for this scenario. It's a beaver. Get it?"
.........."I have no idea what you're talking about," said Leng.
.........."Oh, I was reading that blog and a later entry said that beavers were the only thing that wouldn't be affected by bloodic."
.........."Oh please," said Giamarck. "If that thing was anywhere as old as you said it was, the writer wouldn't ahve known what bloodic was."
.........."See, that's what I was thinking, too, until I thought that maybe it really was Monosmith who wrote it," said Yotar.
.........."He's a myth created by Master Legious," said Giamarck.
.........."Unless he's not," said Domi.
.........."I'm inclined to say that there's enough evidence to suggest that he existed, but that there's every reason to be skeptical that you received a message from an ancient figure from religious texts," said Captain Clerk. "Now if you dan't mind, Yatar, follow me. I have our bloodic to find."
..........He walked off to the right, and she followed. Domi and Leng wandered to the left for a moment before Domi stopped the newbie. "Giamarck, I'm speaking specifically on your frequency right now," he said. "Have you noticed that Leng had been limping this entire time?"
..........Giamarck looked to see what Domi was talking about, then he noticed it, too.
.........."Hey now, it's not so bad," said Leng. "It's hardly noticable in this low gravity."
.........."Yeah, but why didn't you tell us?" said Giamarck.
.........."I didn't want to bother you, Giamarck," said Leng.
.........."Dude, we're going to have a problem when the gravity goes back to normal, or even worse, to crush mode," said Domi.
.........."Yeah, plus we're going to have trouble once you load yourself with as much bloodic you can carry. You'll be weighing us behind," said Giamarck. He paused as he overheard Yotar making a witty comment over the link to no one in particular. "Maybe I should bring you back and sent a laser line down the building for you do go down on."
.........."No, seriously, it's okay," said Leng. "I can walk the whole mile, here. It's not as if we're in actual combat. Don't worry about me."
..........Giamarck was ever so slightly worried, but against his better judgment he decided to shrug it off. He was a newbie. This was part of the initiation process. Giamarck was much the same when he began the job, so he admired seeing someone else who liked taking the initiative in spite of personal drawbacks.
..........Over the intercom they heard the Captain and Yotar saying that they were splitting up for another hallway. Giamarck looked at his two companions and nodded. They couldn't see his expression behind his visor, but he was going to be lonely for the next few minutes.
..........He returned his com-link to public chat.
..........Yotar, wherever she was, was as bored as he was and began singing. He really wanted to blot her out, but he kept her on the line just in case.
..........After a couple of minutes, he hammered in a small hole in the wall without using any ammunition. It wasn't large enough for him to fit through, but he could still peak in to see if there was anything worth looking for. He looked, but didn't really see anything. Of course, he wasn't seeing the whole room, and he couldn't see if there was a vein of bloodic on the wall he was looking through, so he continued to hammer. When he made a hole large enough that he could crawl through, he did so, though he had to leave his gun behind to fit.
..........He still found nothing. No trace of the rare metal. Nothing. He turned to leave, but then something caught his eye.
..........There was a nest of fungal material lining the edge where the wall met the corner. Might he say, it was in fact a very active fungal material, for it had tentacles that waved about, filled with life. He was at once disturbed. His senses tingled with formication.
.........."Uh guys," he said. "Nothing here. I am in the center of the storm, and nothing is here. Except for some odd organic growth. Captain, you said that the tracking algorithm was based off of electrical oddities in living organisms, right?"
.........."Don't be ridiculous. I fleer at your for your fedifragous doubting of my ability," said Yotar. "An odd growth, maybe it exists. It's probably a symbiote with the bacteria in the air that hasn't been recorded. But no, it wouldn't have interfered with my tracking algorithm. It was very specific to a certain type of phenomenon."
.........."Alright, just thought you ought to know," said Giamarck. "Captain, I would use whatever tracker you have and send out another signal. You said our margin of error will go down the closer we get."
..........There was a pause. "Yes, I'm getting there," said the Captain. "Alright, the transmission's out. Look at the map again, because it appears that the figure is clesser to me and Yatar."
..........Yotar began singing again. Giamarck could hear everyone sigh, including himself.
..........He looked around again. Something was really off. This room had no doors. None whatsoever. Yet, there was a raised platform on one end, looking as if it served some purpose. Why would this room exist?
..........He walked over to the platform. It was literally covered in an inch of dust. How the dust had got there, he did not know. It made no sense the more he thought about it. He brushed the dust aside and discovered an ancient writing carved into stone of fons et origo unplacrable.
..........It was the first sign of writing he had encountered here.
..........He was going to spend more time pondering it, but then the Captain spoke up. "Touchdawn, touchdawn! I have found the goods."
..........Giamarck brought up the screen to pinpoint the Captain's location. The map had been edited to show the path that the Captain had took so he could easily be followed. Giamarck fist-pumped, then abandoned the platform table to climb through the hole in the wall.
..........A few minutes later he reunited with his Captain, and later still Domi and Leng arrived.
..........The room looked like a crystal cave. The red glint of bloodic was everywhere. Geometric spires of the precious substance was left and right, growing from the ceiling and the floor. It was a fairly large supply, too, as far as Giamarck could tell, because Bloodic was worth ten times its weight in gold and there was enough to fill their ship's supply deck ten times over. Captain Clerk was kneeling down next to one spire and carving out a bar with a laser cutter.
.........."Nice," said Domi.
..........Suddenly, the gravity shifted, and they were all twice as heavy as during their normal weight.
..........Clerk dropped the bar, then struggled to place it into his backpack.
.........."Well darn, I suppase we were on a lucky streak," he said.
.........."What now?" asked Leng.
.........."We gather what we can, then we wait," said Clerk. "The density of bloodic is a hundred fifty-three. Remember that. It's a very special number. What that basically means is that we can anly carry seh much at a time, seh we can't really do anything until gravity is on law, when it's at least as dense as geld. Meanwhile, I'm placing a tracer here seh we can mare easily find this place later and blast a straight path to it. By then we should have a better ship. Friends, an imaginary tewst to our success."
..........He connected a homing beacon to one spire on the ceiling using laser tape. They all raised their hands and gathered in a circle. It was time to call it a day.
.........."Wait, has anyone noticed that Yotar has stopped singing?" asked Leng.
..........They all paused. Then Clerk activated his hologram. There were four dots, and four dots only. Her tracking beacon couldn't be turned off, nor could it be clouded by physical interference. That could only mean one thing. As impossible as it seemed, as hard to accept as it was, that could only mean one thing. The senses that mad him a good mercenary burned with red flags. He immediately held up his gun and set it to kill.
..........There was a noise somewhere in the distance.
..........There is was again. It was the sound of some force breaking through the walls, very eager to get someplace.
..........It was coming their way.
..........They were not alone.
To Be Continued