the hate engine (5)

We waited for hours, but the future envoy didn’t speak again. While Yup was shipped planetside we squinted through our telescopes at Jupiter, or the space where she should have been, but they had wrapped her up too tightly. She should've been lit up like a torch, but she was gone.

We jury-rigged a fleet. Every spaceworthy vessel we could find we kicked into working order and, bristling with weaponry and salvage equipment, we found ourselves hurtling toward our new sun. We took everyone we could, but some third of the fleet’s operating crew remained behind. For months we’d been so busy we’d been blind to it, but now the ennui that had been killing humanity finally took root in us. It was a sickness. We watched one another closely.

It would be weeks before we’d know whether it had worked, and if it had not then it was too late. That wait killed. By the time we neared our destination there was more than one ghost ship. They held formation for now, but when it came time to decelerate there would be nobody onboard to give the command and so those ships would march blindly on. Until they hit something, anyway.

Around the time the naked eye could make out the starlessness that was dyson’d Jupiter—eerily indistinguishable from the Earth we’d left—other things took shape. Hulks adrift.

Theirs.

Those hulls had become almost transparent, like a shedded snake skin. We watched the camera feeds from the bridge, the crew silent, fleet chatter dead. Their complex configurations had unwound, no longer pretzels but uncooked spaghetti.

‘Rigor mortis,’ murmured Lemarch.

Jupiter loomed. Spiderweb threads of light peeked out between the plates of her dyson sphere.

Our systems would sometimes pick up acceleration nearby. They were almost always moving away from us. The transparent hulls made tracking difficult, though, and that was why we never saw him coming.

James Firkins

Australian web designer & developer. I write, draw, and make games. I like quiet things.