Hope Starved

June 8 YC122
Gulormola District
Skarkon II

It was well after midnight when Metz finally collapsed back into his desk chair in his safe house. The autoinjector which would wipe his memory remained where he had left it in front of his terminal, along with the desiccated corpse in the corner of the room which he’d only noticed after taking the drugs from the first injector. Above the corpse was a hastily scrawled message, written with a marker still held in the corpse’s lap along with the gun she had used to kill herself. 

If you can see this you are in danger! They’re out there everywhere. They’ll come for you. I know they’re coming for me soon, I won’t die like the others. Don’t remember! Don’t remember! Don’t remember! Don’t reme

The mystery that Metz had been unwittingly drawn into continued to expand in scope and danger. Long dead corpses, mysterious bases, lost Jovian technology, the fact that Metz seemed to have been involved in it since the beginning despite not remembering anything about it, whatever was responsible for the string of horrifically gruesome deaths occurring all across the city now, it was enough to leave Metz a nervous wreck. He was exhausted but still shaking with adrenaline. 

With shaking hands he lit a cigarette and sucked down nearly half of it in one drag. His lungs screamed but the shakes started to subside.

“Maybe you’re the lucky one, between the two of us,” he said to the corpse. He’d need to do something about that, just leaving the body sitting there was going to fuck with him to no end, but one thing at a time.

The angel fixer turned the yet unused autoinjector over and over in his hands then set it back down. The situation wasn’t contained, far from it. It would do no good to wipe his memories now. He needed to be sharp, he needed to remember, even if it might kill him. On top of everything else, the whole city was still a warzone, the damned Krullefor were still out there fighting tooth and nail against the local militias and angel troops. The last thing he needed was to be left clueless.

“Well fuck it,” he said, collecting his weapons. They hadn’t done Etraz much good but the whatever had killed him wasn’t the only danger out in the city. This point was reinforced by a distant flash of light as a dropship exploded, its flaming wreckage tumbling into the wartorn streets below. 

He grabbed the autoinjector and his portable terminal and walked over to the mummified body. The corpse belonged to a young woman, a member of the Dominations judging by the insignias on the tattered remains of her clothing. Her body was mummified, her skin shrunken onto her bones like old parchment. She must have been there for years, and nothing had touched her in all that time. The fact that a corpse had sat in the room with him for years without his ever noticing was yet another unnerving puzzle piece. What had happened to her? Was she someone Metz had known? He must have known her for her to be in his safehouse. What had happened to render her so impossible to see that not even insects had touched her? and why could he see her now? 

It hurt his eyes to look directly at the corpse, whatever effect had erased her from his notice for years was clearly still present, just weakened by the chemical cocktail that he’d taken. He forced himself to examine the body, and that was when he noticed the creatures. They were tiny many-legged crawling things and seemed to emit a faint violet light. They were slowly working to consume the corpse as well as crawling across the walls, seeming to flicker in and out of his awareness as he forced his attention to them. Despite their number, it seemed like they had barely even begun to consume the remains. Metz sucked down the rest of his cigarette and immediately lit another, he was thoroughly disgusted but somehow doubted these creatures were responsible for whatever had killed Etraz and all the others still dying out in the city. 

However, observing those tiny creatures and the body gave him an idea which he didn’t much care for. Some sort of effect was shrouding a certain class of objects from the mind. It didn’t seem to be making them invisible, just impossible to remember or commit to memory. Whatever that effect was, the drugs he had taken had reduced it to the point where he could force himself to remember. The rest of his memories had also been sharpened to an uncomfortable degree, so it seemed likely that the first autoinjector had contained some sort of memory enhancing chemical. That gave him a very dangerous idea. 

Metz went to the window and looked out over the city. Whatever was killing people was clearly hidden by the same effect that had hidden the corpse, only strong enough for him to look directly at it and still not see it despite the drugs. He watched missiles streak into the dark sky in a brilliant series of fireworks flashes, their lights fading as they travelled out over the sea towards airborne targets approaching the city. 

Etraz had seen it and he wasn’t on the drugs. So had that man who had been killed. What was the trick there? That they were aware of it? They had realized something was there and that realization had let them see it? But why hadn’t it attacked all of them? Why just Etraz? 

Because Etraz saw it, his mind supplied before he could stop himself, and that was the last piece of the puzzle he needed. 

Several blocks away from the safe house, a strange creature rose hundreds of meters above the city streets. It was An alien amalgamation of fractal limbs, like some horrifying hybrid of a tree and a spider. Long emaciated legs extended themselves and retracted into a grotesquely pulsating central mass as it moved around, sending feelers and tentacles in every direction as it shambled carefully along. 

As soon as he saw it, Metz knew it had also seen him. A knobbed tendril pulsed out towards him, making him stumble back away from the window. He fell onto his ass as the thing splashed against the window and a glittering black ooze began to seep into the room. 

Shuffling backwards, Metz clambered to his feet and ran for the door. He felt the autoinjector again and again decided against using it. He couldn’t fight something he wasn’t aware of and he needed to do something about this. Was this what was being researched in the now-destroyed base? Had the Krullefor let it out? His eyes went to the body again. No, he thought, the Krullefor had let it in. It was always out there.

He rushed from the room and slammed the door shut as the window imploded behind him. The building shook as he flew down the stairs and into the parking garage. His personal groundcar was still stashed there and he threw himself into it. Ribbons of black ooze were beginning to emerge from the stairwell when Metz slammed on the accelerator, smashing the armored car straight through the garage door and peeling out onto the war torn streets. 

The creatures were everywhere. Enormous lumbering shapes littered the horizon like a vast alien army, but they were scattered far enough apart for Metz to aim for a mostly clear direction. Civilians fleeing the war torn city honked and shouted at him as he weaved around them and blasted down the highway. He didn’t have a plan yet, but at least he knew what he was up against. He still had the autoinjector, if he could stay alive long enough to come up with a plan, he could wipe his memories and pass the plan off to his mindwiped future self, like the past him had done by leaving him the injectors in the first place. It was a desperate hopeless long shot, but it was the best he could do. 

He was abandoning the front, heading out into the deep desert, and he hoped no one would notice his absence since he couldn’t explain himself without putting his comrades at risk. The situation was beyond fucked and getting more fucked by the minute. The knowledge of the creatures had gotten into the local population and as that knowledge spread it would become harder and harder to contain, resulting in more and more deaths. 

But the first problem was staying alive, the rest would have to work itself out as he went, it was the best he could do. He pressed the accelerator to the floor as one of the creatures began moving in his direction. The city lights faded behind him and the vast and empty deserts loomed up ahead. A weaker man would have given up, would have injected himself and been done with it. But Metz Jerindold was not most men, he was The Devil You Know, the demon fixer of Skarkon, and he wasn’t about to let some monster get the best of him. He took a slow breath to control his labored breathing and drove onward into the night.

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