The Hiigaran laughed so hard he spilled his drink out of his nose. Recovering, he breathed and exclaimed, “Come on! That story?”
Several heads in the establishment had turned to look at him. This was in orbit of Dareen, one of the worlds bordering the Vaygr area of conquest and thus saw traffic from both the Core and the Rim of the universe. Today, there were more from the latter than the former.
On the other side of the table was a Vaygr, bold-faced and stoic despite his counterpart’s hysterics. “But it’s true,” he said, “There are witnesses.”
“Yeah right,” The Hiigaran said, “The Beast was a hundred years ago, and nobody believes that story anymore. Wooo-oooh!!” He waved his arms, “I’m a frekin’ mass of nano-mites out to eat you alive! My God…”
The Vaygr blinked, serious still in his conviction and undeterred by the Hiigaran.
A Taiidan at another table gestured with a hand, speaking to the Vaygr, “Don’t listen to him, what the hells does he know?”
“Plenty, since I come from the Core.” The Hiigaran snapped to the Taiidan, and then ignored him as he turned to the Vaygr. He considered the man in black and red for a moment while he adjusted his seat and said, “Ok wise guy, if you’re so knowledgeable in this and think it’s so true, then answer these facts. The Beast is Impossible. The Beast has been dead for a little under a hundred years. Anyone touching the beast would have been infected, or so the myth claims, and the bigger it is, the worse. Infecting a friggen mothership? Come on….”
“Then perhaps you need to hear the tale.”
“Pft,” The Hiigaran waved off, “Fine. If you wanna hear the sound of your own voice.”
A patron sipped at his drink at the bar as the Vaygr bowed his head and began the tale.
We were in deep space. Somewhere. It was months into the invasion. We were all partaking in the assault on the core, waiting for Karan Sjet to show herself so Makaan could begin his plan to trap her. In those days, we fought everywhere and with wanton abandon. Makaan himself seemed impassive to the voraciousness of his armies, as long as they caused mayhem and discord.
I can’t remember why we were there, only that there was a reason. Makaan seemed to think there was a purpose… nothing he did was without a purpose. We were there, in space, when we found It.
I didn’t see it myself, but I know It was there. Because we heard the screams but there was no battle. And then there was the chaos as these… these things that were once our vessels came roaring back at us and refused to listen or speak to us. They just came.
We fired at them, but they seemed stronger than they should be, and more resilient and more driven than any fanatic we could count in our ranks. They were smeared with blood, these ships, making it seem all the more like a nightmare while we were awake.
We tried hard to stop them, but they came. The carrier Irha-Dosh had been lost, and it’s full compliment of mute, blood-stained warriors had turned against us… against Makaan, and now came after us. Because they did not recognized their fellows, and because they worked to defy Makaan to whom we all sworn allegiance, we knew something terrible had happened. No soldier in the Squadron of Makaan would ever desert
It was all so dreamlike, those hours of insanity under the veil of that nameless, ruby nebula. The Irah-Dosh had changed, also smeared with blood and bleeding beams to smear the hulls of other ships. It was chaos, madness, as these vessels ‘touched’ by the blood also turned into mute traitors who hunted their brothers. As the madness spread, chaos started to rise, and the screams became louder.
Until Makaan spoke.
His voice was across all channels, giving commands and speaking like the God we assumed he would become. His flagship issued forward, becoming a wall that we, his soldiers, covered behind as we faced the blood-stained traitors. Despite the hits the Great Ship took, Makaan gave us a shelter where the damaged could repair, and the shocked could find shelter.
Until the ships of Blood touched his craft.
There are stories of blood and chaos as the tides of red ripped inside of the ship. I was only aware of the chaos and the screaming inside, as I was awaiting the repair of my fighter. I remember the wide-eyes and terror, I remember survivors having escaped from the other side of the ship. They claimed a tide of blood, consuming those who fled before it and had no escape. A call went out to all those who could serve and fight, and being Vaygr I volunteered to take up a weapon and defend my lord.
There were so many of us that volunteered that the Great Hall where Makaan did his planning was filled with people. Tables had been overturned and arsenals collected from across the available parts of the ship. We heard stories of entire sectors of the great vessel going silent- even moments after the ship of blood touched our craft. But we poised, ready, for it to come.
And come it did.
You can never quite capture what it was to see the Blood. It flowed almost like water… or worse. At first it gushed through the doorway, pushing it outward and spreading forth as a mass of gelatenous red. But then I remember someone panicking and pointing, and all of us looking at the walls where it leached out of the metal like water oozing through a wall.
And then it took it’s first victims, washing over them and dissolving them. I saw a man consumed up to the waist and sinking. Another, running to escape, was splashed by the Blood. He screamed as he toppled over a barricade, where it spread and consumed the people behind it. Blood and bones also dissolved under the ichor.
But we fired. Ammunition flowed from our weapons like water into the tide, and it seemed to hold the blood at bay. Explosions worked, but fire worked best of all. Hope rose in us as a pair of plasma-throwers moved forward in the ranks, until the blood welled up beneath their feet and consumed them.
At the sight of this, many panicked. The thing was coming through the floors… and the cealing. It seemed the end for us.
But then… He walked. He left his dais and walked forward through the ranks of the warriors and the broken alike. He strode without pause, without hesitance, and walked up to The Blood. I just watched him, all hope of my own having long evaporated. I wasn’t sure if He intended on facing the end with Dignity, as he faced all other things. But he seemed… seemed to glow. I wasn’t sure if this was just corruption from the lighting, or the madness from the situation, or whatever. A halo seemed to be around his head as he walked forward, facing The Blood.
In that moment I was focused only on Him. Makaan. The savior of our people and the changer of all things. He walked up to the blood, chest and head held level as he approached the threshold. “You will leave my people alone,” He decreed, “and never again scourge this universe.”
I cannot believe, even to myself as I recount this story, what I saw next. He struck the blood, screaming, with a fist of white and the blood shriveled. A sound like the breach of a hull deafened all of us, and when I looked next, the blood was gone. Only the spaces where it had warped and erroded the metal remained.
And then… Makaan, He Whose Hand Shapes What Is, turned his head as if to stare into space, and for the second time there was a mighty glow and a scream- a crack of sound not unlike a sudden breach in space. We all covered our ears, and our eyes, since the shock was so great.
I learned later that all the ships touched with The Blood dissolved on their own accord into dust. Nothing remained of those ships touched by whatever it was. We left that space not long after, and we put in at the Port of Biblos to effect repairs on The Great Ship. Makaan himself said nothing, and every person there had a different account of what we saw that day…
The Hiigaran laughed again. He did so for several moments, and so hard that he lost his drink. He recovered, saying, “You’re Delusional! Mad! Insane! Just like the rest of your race.”
The Vaygr only blinked.
“Gotta say,” The Taiidan said, “The whole thing of Makaan being a God? That’s a little far-fetched.”
“Finally,” The Hiigaran said, “The oppressive genocidal maniacs agree with me.” He turned to look at the Vaygr, “Buddy, your leader wasn’t a God. If he was, why in the seven hells did he allow himself to die, huh? Why did he let The Goddess carry off the core if he coulda just mind blasted her or something? If he was so fruggin great then why did he loose?”
The Vaygr searched the air for answers, but was forced to decline his head a degree. “I do not know.”
The Hiigaran only nodded, recovered his drink, stood and said, “Well, have fun with your delusions, buddy.” He turned, gave a rude gesture to the Taiidan and then dropped the drink on the counter before leaving the establishment.
The Vaygr folded his arms and sighed as he stared into his own drink. The Taiidan turned away before he too, left the establishment.
But the man at the bar, after paying his fee, stopped for a moment to approach the Vaygr. He laid some coins down on the table. “Have faith. Remember, some legends have a grain of truth in them, no matter how fantastic the tale.”
The Vaygr looked up. He did not see the face of the man who had said this, but he did see the back of the man’s bald head and confident stride.
Science can scoff, but we know what really happened.