June 7 YC122
Night fell and the Jovian city descended into darkness and chaos. Casmir’s lungs burned with the fading heat of the desert and a desperate need for more oxygen than he could get. His legs ached and every muscle in his body begged him to stop, while every fiber in his nervous system begged him to keep running.
The creature towered over the Jovian ruins like a vengeful alien god, rising hundreds of meters towards a grotesque and shifting bulbous mass from which fractal limbs telescoped out and retracted. It pulsed like a heart pumping as it moved with what would be a ponderous slowness if its stride length didn’t carry it five blocks in one lunge.
Casmir and Cosra had run off in different directions and the creature had gone after Cosra first. Despite that, Casmir refused to stop running, trying to put as much distance between himself and the thing as he could. It had awakened a deeply buried animalistic instinct in Casmir, the ancestral part that knew what it felt like to be prey, and that part took command of the archeologist and kept him on his feet as his body threatened to collapse under him.
A hail of gunshots erupted from somewhere in the distance and the monster seemed to throb with increased activity, its limbs expanding and contracting as it sent hundreds of dark tendrils into the streets below. It seemed that Cosra had made it back to the campsite and hadn’t been able to keep his mouth shut. He felt a pang of sympathy for the RSS soldiers who he knew without a doubt were being slaughtered where they stood. An RPG spiraled upwards from between the buildings to strike the creature’s central mass but this seemed to have no effect on it at all; the round didn’t even explode it was just swallowed up anticlimactically.
The Jovian city gave way to open desert as the sound of violence began to taper off into individual volleys, separated by greater and greater gaps as the creature methodically murdered each member of the expedition. Casmir kept running. He didn’t know where he was going, he didn’t really expect to escape, but the idea of standing his ground and letting the thing come for him was too terrifying to contemplate. Casmir wasn’t a young man, but he wasn’t yet ready to go to his death, certainly not a death that would leave him erased and forgotten like the city that was falling behind him into the gathering twilight.
Under the bruised glow of the darkening sky, Casmir could see that the deadly monstrosities were scattered all across the desert like enormous alien monoliths. The one in the city was still busying itself with the slaughter of his expedition, but he didn’t want to run directly into another one and he tried to angle himself towards the emptiest place he could find using a stand of low hills in the near distance as a landmark and destination. If he found shelter would the things come and track him down? How did they hunt? What could they see? Could they communicate with each other? Were they intelligent? Would they try to circle around and head him off? He had no answers to any of these questions but every time he noticed another monster lurching along, tinged blue by the vast distances involved, he felt his odds of survival slip further and further.
There were lights up ahead of him somewhere but he paid them no mind. Maybe it was some sort of village or outpost, he doubted they would be able to help him and adjusted his flight to steer clear of the lights, not wanting anyone else to be dragged down into death with him. His mind contracted down to the singular idea of escape, of continuing his flight. He thought maybe if he could just get off the planet he would be safe, but that seemed like an impossibly distant goal. Was the dropship still at the digsite? If the creature wandered off maybe he could sneak back in and use it to flee from the desert world. He had no idea how to fly a dropship but it was better than waiting to die.
Because he was so focused on his escape and the creatures, Casmir could be forgiven for having missed the small figure darting among the increasingly rocky landscape he was scrabbling across until they slipped from the darkness beside him and sent him tumbling to the ground with a painful chop to the neck that left him gasping for breath on the regolith with a boot on his neck
“What’re you doing in my desert bonesniffer?” A girl’s voice asked him.
Casmir gasped and wheezed as his body finally caught up with his terrified mind, “Monsters…” he managed to croak out desperately, “It’s not safe here, you have to run.”
“I was afraid you’d say that,” she said before clubbing him over the head and interrupting his consciousness in a starburst of pain and darkness.