This is Not a Place of Honor

June 7 YC122 
Kalilia District
Skarkon II

While not one to be easily spooked, the more he saw of the Jovian city, the less Casmir liked what he saw. On the northern edge of the ruins, the orderly arrangement of buildings terminated in a strange distorted cityscape of misshapen thorns of an unknown dark material. 

The RSS team had already marked out a path leading towards the interior of the artificial briar patch, one which, after a somewhat annoyingly long hike, terminated in a massive monolith, a perfect cube rising ominously through the sea of spikes. It was nearly sunset by the time they made it to the cube and the thorns sent long ominous shadows across the landscape, throwing it into an uninviting patchwork of dark and light. 

A thought wormed at his mind. He had seen designs like these before. Not identical, but similar enough that he was pretty damn sure he knew why the Jove had gone through the trouble of constructing such an alien and foreboding place. 

After the long hike, Casmir knelt down on the dusty landscape. The fossilized remains of trees and scrub poked through the rising sand here and there, as invisible without the memory enhancing drugs as the rest of the ruins. 

“What do you make of this Cosra?” He said to the RSS agent who had been quietly following him while he made observations. 

The RSS Agent crouched down beside him, peering off into the artificial briar patch that had been created in the desert before them. 

“Our guys haven’t been looking at it that long, but none of us are sure of what to make of it,” she responded, “It’s about four kilometers in diameter and sits just off to the north of the city. It’s roughly circular. There were theories it might be some sort of transmission array or telescope.”

“You know why this planet is dead Captain Methanjald?” Casmir’s counterpart, Sari Atavuli said, crouching beside Cosra, connecting the same dots that Casmir was. Once you knew what to look for, the fingerprints were rather obvious. 

“Is that rhetorical?” she asked him, “I don’t. It had no atmosphere when the first colonists arrived but we know there’s evidence of there having been a biosphere at some point. Once you’ve taken the eidestics, you can see fossil plants all over the ngelgnieg.” 

“This place was salted,” Sari responded simply, running the dust between his fingers, “It was made to be as uninviting as possible.” 

“The atmosphere was blown off into space and the world was seeded with nanites that attack and kill microorganisms required for the base processes of life on most worlds,” Casmir said simply, killing the suspense Sari had been trying to build, “The nanites themselves are shielded by the same contracognative effects that shields the city, so to any normal colonists, all they know is that the world won’t support life for some unknown reason.” 

“You ever see the ruins around one of the republic’s older fission waste disposal sites?” Sari asked her. Casmir could see the gears turning in Cosra’s head, her eyes widened as it all started to click together in the fatal chain of calculations. 

“We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture…” Cosra said softly. 

“Yeah,” Casmir nodded, staring into the lopsided forest of dark stone. “This place, it’s a message, one the Jovians went through a lot of trouble to send. It’s a warning, stay away.”

“Think we should do what they ask and ship off?” Sari asked jokingly, brushing the dust off his pant legs. 

“Nah,” Casmir said, ringing his fingers and smiling faintly, “archeology is the profession of graverobbers and fools.”

He stood and approached the obelisk, “If this is a waste disposal site, there will be markings on the stone here indicating what they were burying here.”

“You think that’s what the Angels were after?” Sari said, shoving his hands in his pockets, “Some sort of exotic waste products which they could weaponize?” 

“Maybe,” he said, running his hands over the smooth stone. He walked along the flat face of the obelisk, it was easily three hundred meters on a side, it towered above them higher than any of the skyscrapers in the Jovian city, “Or maybe something that they used to irradiate this place in contracognitive effects.” 

“Why would they hide a warning behind contracognitives like this?” Cosra said, asking the question that would end her life. “If they wanted to send a message, why hide the message and the city and everything else?” 

“Because you need to be on contracognatives to be at risk from whatever they buried here,” Sari answered automatically. It wasn’t something he needed to think about, it seemed rather obvious. However, once he’d actually said it, all three of them paused, looking at one another.

“We’re all on contracognatives,” Casmir said carefully, looking around somewhat nervously now.

“Like what?” Cosra asked him, “Some sort of…monster” her voice trailed off and her eyes widened. She wasn’t looking at Casmir and Sari anymore, her eyes were glued onto a point in the middle distance, and she began backing away from them. 

“Cosra?” Casmir said nervously, looking at a spot in empty space where her eyes were glued “What do you see?” 

“It’s some sort of…it’s huge, bigger than the obelisk. I think it sees us,” she said desperately. Without warning she had her sidearm out and was firing madly up into the air, sending both Casmir and Sari diving away, “Run!” she shouted at them before her body suddenly and without warning collapsed in on itself in a horrifying squelch of blood and viscera. 

The mental image of the RSS agent’s body being obliterated in an instant was enough extra information to fill in the blanks in Casmir’s mind. Some sort of creature, wreathed in a contracognative effect, that became aware of them when they became aware of it, something hostile and malicious, something that would now be coming for him. 

He saw it, and he knew it, and it saw him, and it knew him. The archeologists took off running.

Saede Riordan

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