She repeated the mantra over and over through tightly clenched teeth as a rear screen showed the creatures gaining on her. Pulling hard on the old-fashioned control stick, the craft flipped over to the right and powered through into another chasm. Looking again to the rear screen, she smiled as one of her pursuers misjudged the corner and slammed into the wall. Fluid burst into space to freeze instantly as it rebounded and went slack, inert and slowly floating away. It was the cause for further destruction as the fourth and fifth pursuing creature slammed into its carcass at high speed. One creature shook its chitinous body, eyed the fleeing craft and spotted its damaged companion. Quickly it gathered speed and extending its front claws drove one into its stunned cohort. The other creature thrashed as the claw was pushed into its body but was soon still. Satisfied the creature was lifeless; it was quickly joined by others that ignored the rapidly receding craft to feed on the dead.
She continued to power through a few more tight curves around the tall canyon walls and smiled to herself when the antiquated warning system tried to slow her down. She had disconnected the only cable that had controlled anything an absolute age ago and still remembered when it had been needed.
So long ago.
Bumping into Moragore from the Drifters community had shocked her at first, but the way he related the experience against permanent dispersal, had her think twice of the procedure. Moragore had died in a decompression accident on arrival. Coming back a week later from the wasted bow, we had all thought him returned. Then, when the first chance arrived for the survivors to come to a consensus, he had spoken of his role in our lives. He spoke of where we are, he spoke as if he had lived here forever and then tried to explain who he now was. The Community saw it another way.
They saw a favourite son, lost to them, then returned, in an impossible way.
She sighed. The canyon walls were wider here, which meant a brief rest, but she was sure there was a shallow crater near where the latest chunk of rock or ice had spiralled into the gravity well to hit the HulK. With a bit of luck, it shouldn’t have been absorbed just yet. Wrapped up in these thoughts she did not see the creature leap from a crevasse in the canyon wall to smash into the port flank where it held on despite the phosphorus web of energy surrounding the ship.
Through a direct interface with the central computer, she felt everything.
The ships skin was as flexible as a whale skin. Via the sensors studded all over the ship, each pressure change from the heat of the distant sun or a change of a few degrees above Absolute Zero, was felt by the pilot connected into the nervous system through the Biotronic.
Just as its makers had envisioned.
Unfortunately, the advantages one gained from the immersion into space also gave some pilots terrible nausea and headaches, though no movement was felt.
The ship felt too much, the pilot felt too little.
The creature began to tear into the hull, digging with chitinous forearms tipped with blades and spikes, hacking into the cera-metal, its body wedging into the folds and splits until it dove into the ships body, emerging to a cataphone of noise and screeching alarms.
In the front pilot’s capsule, she squirmed and tore at her ear as the BableFish-interface jack screeched into her auditory canal.
Her ship was being torn from the guts out, affecting the smooth handling, the groans and crashes, testimony to the creature raging through the machinery behind her.
She screamed as her craft swerved into a canyon wall to ricochet and spin between the wide gaps of the gorge. Her head had glanced off a panel in the crash and she looked woozily up to see a derelict ancient ring-ship drifting directly in her path. The creature chose that time to rip into the Biotronic direct interface causing the control stick to go limp in her hands. She drew a deep breath and slumped back into her seat, watching the rapidly approach ring-ship in her forward screens, her mind racing for solutions.
In a panic she checked a display to her right showing the internal layout of her craft, bordering in red the sections where the creature raged. It was rapidly making its way through the internal maintenance shaft towards her pressurised cabin, drawn to where she was by the life energies of her body.
She gasped aloud.
Sweat prickled over her hands as she rapidly tapped at the keyboard with its oversized buttons, verifying the status of the Aeon Gravitational Flux engines. Seeing that system still worked she typed in instructions, programming it for a micro-jump. Glancing at the displays she saw and felt the creature slam into the hatch just two feet above her head and heard the protest of metal as claws tore into the cerametal.
She had moments left before it came through the hatch.
With desperation she finished the program and launched herself forward at the AGF control, activating it just as a taloned claw smashed through the hatch to swipe the place where her head had been. The drive activated for a millisecond, and for that brief instant she saw the bulkheads and empty oxygen cylinders of the ring-ship pass through her ship and herself, before snapping back into true-space to fuse together into one mass. Her ship was now bonded with the ring-ship and together they tumbled up out of the canyon into space.
She saw with satisfaction that her gamble had paid off. The creature had fused into part of her ship and a bulkhead of the ring-ship, killing it instantly, its spiky limb still sticking out where the hatch had been.
The ship continued to spin and tumble disorientating her senses, as she watched the massive size of the HulK flash past she lost its attractive gravitational field and was left in the wake of the spiralling craft. A new fear gripped her as the Hulk shrunk from view, she could feel the bond she had with the others of her clan stretch and distort until with a cry it broke altogether, leaving her to scream into unconsiousness at the void in her head.
Taking the taloned claw as a trophy, she pushed off the small craft towards the ring ship to thump against its skin at first she explored the ring ship,
Her constantly being chased through the infested ring ship the ring ship and those years spent alone had tested her mind and sanity.
But she found survival and a new understanding of what Moragore had been trying to say.