The Last Angel: Ozymandias, Chapter 6

My patrons have cast their votes and decided once more for some good, wholesome mother-daughter bonding in the middle of an alien necropolis. Harper has gotten a little shut-eye, while Adrianna has been as happy as an archaeologist in an undiscovered tomb, looking over the Baheil’s last records and waiting to share them with her daughter. Times like these make good memories. Sure, they were unaware of each other’s existence until a few hours ago, sure Harper hates Adrianna with the passion of a burning sun and sure, they’re trapped far below ground on a lethally cold planet fighting an insurrection where alien monsters creep out of the night to slaughter every living thing they can find but hey! It’s the thought that counts, right?

…right?

Below is a snippet detailing part of the fall of one of the most advanced civilizations in the galaxy. For the full story, check out the links above, and enjoy!

Imagine yourself taking a stroll through Manhattan, somewhere north of 68th street, deep inside Central Park, late at night. It would be nice to meet someone friendly, but you know that the park is dangerous at night. That’s when the monsters come out. There’s always a strong undercurrent of drug dealings, muggings, and occasional homicides.

It is not easy to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. They dress alike, and the weapons are concealed. The only difference is intent, and you can’t read minds.

Stay in the dark long enough and you may hear an occasional distance shriek or blunder across a body.

How do you survive the night? The last thing you want to do is shout, “I’m here!” The next to last thing you want to do is reply to someone who shouts, “I’m a friend!”

What you would like to do is find a policeman, or get out of the park. But you don’t want to make noise or move towards a light where you might be spotted, and it is difficult to find either a policeman or your way out without making yourself known. Your safest option is to hunker down and wait for daylight, then safely walk out.

There are, of course, a few obvious differences between Central Park and the universe.

There is no policeman.

There is no way out.

And the night never ends.

~

The cold weight got heavier. The Baheil weren’t native to Baheila Osz; they would have had no genetic relation with the native fauna. Harper could accept that an alien microbe or parasite could attack a handful of similar species, especially if it had been engineered or altered, but if it could attack Baheil Osz’ own native life… “It was a nanoplague, wasn’t it?” she realized. Triarchs preserve them.

“I don’t know. I don’t know enough of the language to get very technical, but from what they’ve listed here, none of their genetic screenings ever consistently worked. They had to rely on looking for the disease’s footprint and the changes it made to individual genomes rather than the disease itself. Nanites are fragile. High heat or radiation doses destroys them. The Baheil would have known that, and they would have tried it.”

“Maybe the treatment had to be intense enough to kill the host along with it.”

“Maybe. They don’t say. The technical parts here are basic, just enough to give visitors an understanding of events. I think – I think – there are further references to more extreme cases of infection. Baheil who were no longer genetically Baheil and… I don’t understand the phrase, but the logogram is partially similar to the one for ‘assembly’. There’s even some questions as to whether the infected were still the original people or if they’d been turned into replicas.” Her lips twitched.

“I wondered about the name they gave it.” It infects and creates imitations of the people it murdered. Or were they still in there, just made into puppets?

Adrianna nodded. “Baheila Osz spent years in this state of siege, conducting sweeps and purges of their own population as they tried to prevent subversion. Suicide rates spiked and birth rates collapsed across the system. Entire ecosystems were burnt off the face of the planet while the outer-world colonies were on near-permanent lockdown. They were just barely holding it together, but even that was better than what was happening outside their borders. Their civilization was falling apart as other worlds looked to their own security, often too late to save themselves. All contact with the homeworld was lost. All interstellar trade collapsed and virtually all interstellar communication with it. Some of the sporadic messages that Baheila Osz would receive from other worlds spoke of sightings of unknown vessels in and around the original hot zone.

“More refugees arrived, a near-constant flood as people fled worlds that were tearing themselves apart as the infected overran and slaughtered everything in their path. Some moved on when they realized Baheila Osz would not let them through, others couldn’t or wouldn’t. They built a shanty town of conjoined ships and makeshift drifts, forming into different factions, working together, isolating themselves from one another or raiding each other for supplies. At first, the Baheil would send supply caches on one-use rockets to the refugees to provide food, spare parts and medicine but the number of refugees was growing too fast for Baheila Osz to support and fights were breaking out as refugee ships fought each other over the caches, even attacking the ships ferrying the supplies to their launch points. After that, the Baheil had no choice but to sever all support.” She closed her eyes. “They had to watch and listen to what happened next.”

~

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