Fictober, Prompt 15 – “I like that in you.”
Warnings: none for this part.
I frowned at the spell on the screen in front of me, erased part of it, and rewrote it on the integration pad in front of me, the new sigils appearing on the screen. That…might work.
Laying my hand flat on the pad, I sent a pulse of energy into it to trigger the spell, then held my breath.
And then the screen lit up in a blaze of data.
“Yes!” I yelled, jumping out of my chair. “Finally!”
The layers and layers of monitoring spells on this planet had been nearly mind-numbing to wade through, but they had gone down to a certain point beneath the planet’s surface and then there had just been nothing. Vivi had given up two days ago, going to work on something else instead for awhile, but I had been sure there were actually more spells deeper down, and that I just needed to write the correct kind of connector spell to get them hooked into the station’s systems again.
And I had been right.
Data streamed in, too much to take in all at once, but one of the flagging spells I had set up previously started to pull pieces out for me. The composition shifted around a little bit but didn’t significantly change: silicates, iron oxides, that continuing series of weird calcium deposits, some carbon-heavy layers. None of it especially surprising in a planetary crust, but something about how it was arranged still pinged wrongly in the back of my mind.
Abruptly, the data stream stopped.
Cursing, I leaned forward. If I had to spend another two days figuring out a workable connector spell again—
A notice flashing at the bottom line of the screen caught my eye: data processing finished.
I blinked. What?
I skimmed down the last few dozen lines of data, similar composition materials, and then a last calcium deposit, and then…nothing. The data collection spells apparently went just down to that layer of calcium, some more of the iron oxides layered just above it and then…nothing? It wasn’t even that far down, really, about a dozen kilometers. Maybe the spells couldn’t continue down into whatever sort of mantle this planet had? That would be odd, though, because I knew that there were spells used to investigate the inner parts of planets and even stars, providing data from places it was difficult or impossible to get a person or a machine into. But there had to be more than this, it wasn’t like the whole planet was just some sort of she—
Every hair on the back of my neck was suddenly standing on end.
No, that wasn’t— that wasn’t possible.
The oddly composited and layered crust. The strange, regular seismic signals. The blood sacrifices.
I had no idea if the latter were even necessary, but Lin had certainly thought they were.
She might even have been right.
I scrambled for the keyboard and the integration pad at the same time, stopped, forced myself to take one calming breath, and then went to the keyboard first. When that search was running, I turned to the integration pad, and wrote up a new flagging spell to search for certain combinations of sigils. When that was running too, going through all of Lin’s files, not the mass data sets about the planet itself, I forced myself to get up and leave the room, going to get a drink of water.
I was probably wrong. Assuming it was even a real possibility, which was highly questionable, the odds were astronomically small.
There were still goosebumps all down my arms.
I had another glass of water, and went back. The searches were still running.
I gave in and paced.
Then the results started pinging in, and I scrambled for the console.
And there it was, clear enough, but only if you knew what you were looking for. Lin’s notes were full of references to what she thought it was, at least, even if it was carefully phrased: ‘the growing space’ or ‘the space below,’ things like that. I ran more searches, and found even more relevant notes, some data sets, and a single set of spell results that was once again hair-raising in its implications. I would have to check and re-run the spell, to make sure the results weren’t the product of some miscalculation or wishful thinking on Lin’s part.
Unfortunately, the totality of it was damning.
I breathed slowly through the beginnings of panic, and pinged Vivi where she was down in the lab investigating what could be learned from the operating and surgical equipment left there, a job I had gladly let her take.
“Find something?” she asked as she sauntered in a few minutes later.
“Vivi, you know how you always said you appreciate my wild ideas?”
“I like that in you,” she admitted, “within reason. What wild idea is it this time?”
I turned the chair towards her, and whatever she saw in my face startled her into seriousness.
“Vivi,” I said, holding her gaze, “have you ever heard of a world-eater?”
“Demir,” she said slowly, “world-eaters are a myth.”
“I thought so too,” I told her, “until about an hour ago.”
She struggled with the desire to protest and deny, emotions roiling briefly over her face. Then she took a deep breath, straightened, and said “Show me” in her hardest voice.
Even through my own shock, I was grateful as always for her respect.
I showed her.
I let her work through it all a second time on her own, checking that last spell of Lin’s that I had run across, and finding no flaw in it. When Vivi at last turned to me, her face drained of blood and eyes a little too wide, I wrote the spell into the integration pad, then placed my hand flat.
Looking to my partner, I waited until she nodded, and triggered the spell.
We both waited, silent, until the results came back, a magical ping like a sonar resonating out below that last layer in the planet’s crust.
The shape that came back as a result, tracing itself out in the spell’s returned energy on the screen, was the same as Lin’s results had been.
Whatever it was, it was not the interior layers of a planet.
Below our feet, there came a tremor, some seismic shift bigger and out of time with the usual smaller, rhythmic rumbles. As though the magical ping had disturbed something, if only slightly.
“This isn’t a planet,” Vivi whispered, dead white.
“It’s an egg,” I finished, feeling numb.
Helplessly, we turned to stare at each other, and I could see the same lost look that I was feeling in her eyes.
World-eaters were supposed to be a myth. We were just a couple of investigators working for the local sector’s security forces and trade fleet association.
The question was on both our lips, but Vivi whispered it first: “What do we do now?”
I turned to look at the image on the screen, the light blue-green of the magic filling in around the dark, negative space of a mind-bending shape that took up most of the planet’s – the egg’s – interior.
I looked at it and admitted hoarsely, “I don’t know.”