Casual Play Astrogation

Zeta Vaucouleurs Lundmark 5(47)-33v (Arctostaphy)

Your ship's phasedrive spins down audibly as you pass through the veil which separates normal space from between-space, and instantly a warning from your ship's integrated intelligence blossoms at the edge of your awareness, directs your attention to a point among the stars you can't see with your physical eyes. Magnification comes quick, brings a spot of shifting light in the blackness to total focus. Something massive, you realize, something moving, something that catches the flickering rays of the system's tiny, pale star with a liquid glassiness, with a shine that is almost opalescent. Even before more detailed readings come in, you are struck with a sense that something is wrong, a sense of horror, of flightiness and fascination that hits you at an instinctual level, stirring up sensations that still cling to the psyche, vestiges from another age, a time when man ran barefoot through the grassy savanna, was master only of his own hands, and of nothing that he surveyed.

It takes the mechanical part of your mind a moment to separate the signatures tangled up one inside the other, but movement betrays the places where the glistening shape thrusts glassy shards of its spidery, articulated whole into the perforated curve of something dull and ovoid. Passive scans at a distance pick up the whispers of a transponder-- registry codes that mark the ovoid as another survey ship, one similar to yours, only older, larger, enclosed within the armor of a thicker shell. The glassy, razor-legged shape tearing into it is unlike anything you've seen before, but the stabbing motions, the rooting, hunting movements it is using to gut, infect or mate with the dead ship make it seem dangerous, hostile. Dread climbs along your spine in shivering fingertip touches, digs in right at the base of your neck, brings up your hackles, and with little more than an anxious wisp of thought, you set your ship's phasedrive spinning and make the jump immediately back to the safety of between-space. In the great scintillating interim between planets, between stars and points of interest, memories of what you've seen glitter glass-like, haunt you. Questions you can't answer pull at you with barbed hooks, leave you wondering if you were seen, if you were observed, recognized. Shivering, you fight the fear that you've been marked somehow, that fate has somehow decreed that it will be your little ship in the claws of that glassy phantom next time, torn apart when spidery legs find you suddenly, seize you and tear into you with predatory efficiency, leave your body cold, spread and stretching between stars in a cascade of ice and shrapnel.


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