Admiral Foyer stared at the form of the ex-god Sanaer, and only then realized that the man was naked. He had, after all, spent the last few weeks in a cryochamber. Everyone else on the bridge realized the same thing at about the same time, and there was a sudden movement throughout the bridge as everyone looked away in embarrassment, or for the sake of their eyes.
Sanaer looked curiously at the averted gazes before realizing what the problem was. “Ah. My mistake.” He walked over to one of the many bridge staff killed by the onrushing hostile reality and stripped them of their clothing, as they had no more need of it due to their current liquefied state of being.
Once ridiculously attired in the uniform of a dead soldier, Sanaer spoke again. “The phenomenon that caused me to go into a coma after I killed Montoya has been weakened by our entry into this bubble, and I was freed from its curse. I have placed failsafes in my own mind so that it hopefully does not happen again, but I cannot make any promises in this regard. The phenomenon was powerful.”
The crew was silent for a few moments, until Foyer answered, “What phenomenon?”
“The nature of that phenomenon is currently the project that Ignosicous is working on,” the ex-god replied, “You set him to the task.”
“Are you saying that an astral daemon put you into that sudden coma?” Fiona asked incredulously.
“Perhaps,” Sanaer replied, “I cannot tell if it is still on board; it may have jumped ship once it sensed its true home was outside.” The ex-god tilted his head. “It is most unfortunate that I have not come to understand the Eclipse‘s aethryic powers. Dr. Ignoscious’ thought patterns indicate that he desperately needs someone to scan the aethyric wavelengths of the Victory to find the daemon. I wish I could help, but I am useless here.”
Fiona stared. “How did you know about that?”
“I thought you could only read peoples’ body expressions?” Foyer asked. “I didn’t think you could read thoughts, too.” He grimaced; he had already had problems with Sanaer before.
“I could,” Sanaer said, “And once we leave this place, things will go back to being that way. But reality is different here, and I can now do many things that I could not before. Your old reality is slowly eroding away, even behind the astralium walls of this vessel.”
“We noticed,” Foyer said drily, “Now can you get us out of this?”
“Perhaps,” Sanaer said, “Perhaps not. You have stumbled into a bubble of the invading universe. Pure, one hundred percent hostile reality.”
“We’d figured that one out,” Foyer said coldly, “Now, since you seem to possess the magical ability to push that reality out of this ship, I am sure you can tell us something we don’t already know?”
Sanaer ignored the admiral. “It is the exact opposite of the pocket of reality that you found me hiding in. I was hiding in a bubble of our pure universe. This is their pure universe.” He turned around and gazed at the closed viewport. “Our senses were not made to handle this new reality. Our bodies were not made to handle this new reality.” He slowly turned back around. “Even the most fundamental unit of matter what we are composed of is unable to handle this new reality. As the laws of physics come undone all around us, the matter itself is changing. Emotions, thoughts, abstractions, and everything that we consider incorporeal shall become this reality’s equivalent of corporeal.
“And as every ship in this fleet has a different outlook on life and existence, so too will every ship in this fleet have a different outlook on the new universe. Every ship will experience it differently, depending on dominant thought and emotional patterns there, among other things.” He stared into space for a few moments.
“Each ship will have to be helped individually. I shall start my work here. In my time on board my vessel, I have seen a great deal of these hostile bubbles pass me by. I have much data on them.” He tapped his head. “I can calibrate your ships instruments so that they function in this new universe. The process should also make them more accurate once we have moved on.”
“Why didn’t you tell us about this in the first place!’ Foyer practically shrieked, losing his decorum in a rare moment of stress. “Get to it!”
Sanaer nodded slowly. “I shall. This ship may be the easiest of them to save; your astralium is thickest, and the mark of the phenomenon on board has caused your ship to be better able to adjust to these new realities. Once I am done here, I will travel to the others. The Astral Dawn next, I think. Then the Solfyre and Eclipse.”
“We can’t send you out in a shuttle in this!” the admiral said, regaining his composure. “You’ll be lost!”
“I don’t need a shuttle,” Sanaer replied calmly. “I can walk.”
David Mulligan shakily got to his feet in the darkened auditorium in Quadrant C. It took his eyes several minutes to adjust, and when they did, he found himself alone in the room, save for the specter of Robert Montoya.
“You… brushed me… and… oh. Oh.” Mulligan stood still, swaying slightly. “I… see.”
“I implanted into your head coordinates for escaping this place,” Montoya said. “A bubble of the alternate universe, where life and death cease to have the same meanings that they always have in our universe. If you can get to the navigation console on the bridge and input the coordinates in your mind there, the ship can navigate there without error and we can escape.”
“I… alright.” Mulligan smiled, relishing the responsibility given him. “I can do that.” He looked around. “Where are the others?”
“Outside, awaiting your orders, making preparations for the seizure of this ship. It will not be easy to take the control panel, but it can be done. Use your knowledge of the ship’s inner workings to do so.” Montoya laid a hand on Mulligan’s shoulder. “I have faith in you.”
The dead man suddenly looked over his shoulder. “They’re coming… I must go now, back to the embrace of the Lord. Fare thee well, David.” Without fanfare, Montoya vanished, leaving Mulligan truly alone.
“Well,” Mulligan said, “Time to get to work.”
The sorrows and vagons gathered about the podium of a long-forgotten auditorium as Ra’guul began to speak. “Brothers and sisters!” he shouted, “The time has come for us to rise!”
The sorrows chittered and flapped their leathery wings while the vagons made squishing noises with their tentacles and gelatinous bodies.
“I have seen the future that’s about to come, and it is indeed glorious! The vain, arrogant, foolish human race will fall to its knees as the bell rings to awake the Sleepers! The blood will flow from their bodies as we stand over them, our tongues lapping up their blood and being made strong in their deaths! We are the Bloody Tongue, my friends! It is not some god come to save us and destroy the humans; it is us! We are all the Bloody Tongue, ready to lap at the wounds of our conquerors and relish the sweet taste of their defeat!”
Cheers and alien applause grew louder and louder. “I am sure you all have seen the visions too, of the time to come when mankind falls. We have left the universe of humanity. We are entering the universe of us! Man’s death knell will toll soon, and we must be ready to rise up! Check your arms, check your secret routes, check your wiretaps! Check the generators, check the engines! Make sure everything is going according to plan, so that our tongues may bathe in blood!”
Outside the Victory and well beyond the fleet, an enormous, being slowly walked, its ponderous footsteps covering galaxies as it left the drowning ants behind it. Its enormous bloody tongue, easily the height of the rest of its body, writhed slowly in the otherworldly winds as its arms clenched and unclenched spasmodically to no rhyme or reason. Its three legs moved with a motion that would have driven any man insane, and its hoofs crushed reality.
A shriek came from its mouth, set at the top of the headless monstrosity’s neck, and echoed through all of its existence. The fleet of struggling ants was twisted and stretched as the hideous sound passed over it and through it, altering the reality that they all lived in.
On board the Victory, time stood still for a moment as the Victory twisted into a shape approximating that of a corkscrew, before righting itself again and straightening out like an arrow, elongating and then compressing as it tried to restore its original balance. The shapes of the other vessels were hardly more consistent as the Bloody Tongue’s screams warped reality to its own dark design.
In her cell on board the Victory, Lucy Flanagan raised her head and laughed as the shriek passed through her, relishing the sensation as her body convulsed with waves of pleasure that soaked her body in creamy fluids. Soon, my dear Lucy. Soon you will join us.
The Victory screamed in pain, and Dr. Williams winced. She looked up at the ceiling of the medical facilities. “I’m sorry!” she said to the ship. “I’m an organic doctor, not a mechanic! Get Mulligan to do that for you!”
The ship squealed and pleaded again with the doctor.
“There’s nothing I can do!” the doctor said. “Besides, I’m all tied up!”
“Be quiet, doctor,” one of her aides said quietly. The aide was standing guard over the tied-up doctor, her companions having fled the medical facilities to try and figure out what was going on. She sounded nervous. “The ship can’t talk.”
Dr. Williams gave the aide a look, and fell silent. “I had thought so too, but reality has fallen apart. The fabric of the old universe is gone here; can’t you feel it?”
“How do you know that?” the aide asked quietly.
Dr. Williams smiled tiredly. “When you are as old as I am, you learn things.”
“You’re not that old,” the aide said. Her face hardened. “You’re still young and strong enough to kill Kathyleen.”
“You killed Kathyleen,” Dr. Williams said flatly. “She would be alive now if you hadn’t tied me up.”
“You stuck your hand in her stomach!”
The doctor nodded, and stared directly into her aide’s eyes, concentrating all of her willpower. The aide stiffened and walked forward, and began to loosen the doctor’s bonds. Dr. Williams stood up when the rope was loose enough, and gently kissed her aide on the forehead. The aide collapsed.
Dr. Williams stared up at the ceiling. “You were saying, Victory?”
Lacey Tarrigan and the rest of the Victory‘s crew trapped in the Weapons Module sat tight, praying to their own gods. Lacey Tarrigan’s mind, however, was not with the Victory. It was still strapped within her vision.
She was surrounded by white, sitting on the crumbled throne of God, with his decaying corpse in her hands. She threw the corpse to the ground and turned around to face the figure approaching her. His skin was midnight black, and he wore the traditional vestments of the pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.
“You are the Lord?” Lacey said, and scoffed. “You look like some guy who stepped out of ancient history.”
“The two can be one and the same,” the figure said, its deep voice vibrating throughout Lacey’s entire body. “We have been watching you for a long time.”
“Me?” Lacey said.
“Your people. Your beings. Your God. Your existence. We have always been watching. Your tenacity is surprising.”
“You have no idea,” Lacey snarled. Without hesitating another moment, she leapt towards the pharaoh, arms outstretched, ready to snap his neck.
“What… what did you do?” Farthing asked incredulously as he stared the the navigation controls, which were once again normal. “Everything is working again! I can navigate!”
“The system is rigged to be able to read the new reality,” Sanaer replied, “That is all I can do to help you for now. I have given you the tools, and now you must use them to get out of here. The best of luck.” Without another word, Sanaer turned and walked out of the ship, through the closed viewport.
The Victory‘s bridge just stared.
“That was odd,” Lori said at last.