Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Sub Concious

The dark behind the exo suit pilots eyelids began to brighten and it took some long seconds before he realised that they were in fact open and what he took to be the dreams of unconcious reason was in fact the liquid pressing against the clear plexiglass of the cockpit. The brief flashes of light he had thought were in his head reappeared, along with a throbbing pain in his temple. He reached up to his head, expecting to find blood, but found the skin smooth and untouched. Just then he noticed a warmth running slowly down his face from the forehead and inspection quickly revealed he was in fact cut and bleeding, but not in the part of his head where he felt the pain. Wiping the blood from his eyes, he refocussed on the gloom outside, reflexively reaching for the external strobes. Beyond the glass, the dark greenish world of Io's methane sea lit up for several metres, revealing a fluid alive with tiny particulate matter, floating in the brilliance of the lamps. The suit had come to rest on a natural ledge, at an angle and he was looking downwards into the deeps. Nothing apart from the floating specks was visible, so he shut off the lamps to conserve power. Apart from the blinking telltalles on the instrument panel and the faint glow from above, there was nothing to see. Or was there - again the sporadic flash somewhere beyond the glass, it was impossible to judge distance in the gloom as the flashes were fast and never appeared in the same place twice, lingering in his sight like an afterimage of a distant sun.

Then he recalled why he had crashed and the fear that had swamped him, an experienced and level headed pilot, panicking over nothing and putting himself in jeopardy. The idea gave him some resolve and he automatically went through a quick systems check, prior to trying to ascend. Everything seemed intact, the suits integrity hadn't been compromised and the massively powerful mechanisms had not been damaged by the collision with the sandy surface. Once more he tried the comms, but this was in fact dead. When he prepared to restart the jets and move the suit off the ledge, he felt the hairs rising on the back of his neck and the primal, insidious fear that he had felt before, began to creep up on him. This time he was ready though and faced it, gripping the handles of the manipulators tightly and looking straight ahead, fighting the fear down as he began to tremble and shake. His head had begun to ache again, not where he had struck it, but at the temples and at the base of his skull. Just then, the gloom parted and a vast grey shape, all teeth and jaws sped towards the suit, instinctivley, he flattened himself into the restraint, preparing for another impact... but none came. He opened his eyes and flicked on the lidar, scanning the immediate area, but there was nothing. Had he hallucinated ? Was he suffering concussion ? He began to realise he must reach the surface and the comparative safety of the bulk lifter and trying to ignore the fear, he started the jets. Silt and grit flared to the side of the cockpit as the jet cleared the obstructing material and flared into life. He felt the suit move and encouraged by this small success, adjusted his position to head for the light dimly reaching from above.

Just then, the tiny flashes appeared, but in greater numbers and faster. Ignoring the lights and assuming they must be a by product of his head injury or just bad air, he gently eased the sticks back and gunned the jets to begin the ascent. As the vibration rose in the metal skin of the suit, his headache became more insistent and he reached up momentarily to check for fresh bleeding. As his hand came down from his face, the view beyond the glass was filled with something vast and truly alien - pulsing, shifting lights and flecks flowed and writhed in what looked like a think fluid - almost as if the liquid outside had begun to gel. But the substance wasnt solidifying, it was moving and flowing towards the glass. Colours ran like oil on water and the lights inside pulsed and faded in and out. Suddenly he a realised that the pain in his temples had gone and so had the fear. As the thing outside the glass coalesced, it became more solid looking and compact and he could see the edges of its rounded form, just a little longer and wider than the suit itself. He reached up to switch on the strobes and even as he willed his leaden arm to move to the switch, the creature flexed quickly and retreated from the glass. He lowered his hand and it slowly came back towards him, oddly now that the fear had gone, he felt a strange elation, a vague excitement. The transmissions from the lost freighter had mentioned some kind of marine life in Io's seas, but the description of what they saw had been more akin to the dreadful toothed apparition that had almost rammed the glass, this was something entirely different and most certainly alive....

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