TENTACLES FROM THE VOID
by Vicky Morgan-Keith
Drifting through the chill silence of space, a massive vessel cast a shadow far colder and malignant than the void it traversed. Its long voyage had taken its toll, the ship’s craggy surface abraded and scarred by untold meteoroids and assorted cosmic dust. Sharp spines and spires spiraled out from its crusty shell, lending it the appearance more of an ocean dweller rather than the space faring transport it was. For almost a century there had been no activity within its weathered hull. No footfalls had echoed through its winding corridors. No voices had spoken. There was only a deep and whispered thrumming, like the conjoined pulse of a thousand heartbeats, quietly, patiently, waiting.
Automated devices whirred and murmured, performing functions and tasks which had been predetermined long ago by those who had launched the craft into space. These devices protected and maintained hundreds upon hundreds of stasis pods. The chambers, bearing a strong resemblance to the shells of mollusks, contained a variety of cephalopod occupants, the ship’s precious cargo. Lights flickered to life on one of the pods, casting a soft blue glow upon the strange being within.
After a few moments the creature stirred, lifting one of its six tentacled limbs to press a release button to open the compartment and enable it to exit. Four tentacles lifted it up, and it stood swaying slightly, the other two tentacles held in readiness before it. The being most closely resembled an octopus or squid with its many sucker-covered limbs and its bulbous, elongated head. Its irregularly textured skin, multihued in shifting pastels of blues and violet, possessed a translucent quality that lent the creature an alien allure in spite of its monstrous appearance. However, the peculiar being cared not that others might find it grotesque or beautiful. It cared only that it was Edofleini. And it, and its fellows, were hungry.
Hearing neither alarms nor anything untoward that would indicate an intruder or other danger to itself or those remaining in stasis, the Edo relaxed. Deadly spines, that had extended from the pseudopods at the ends of its arms in response to its agitated condition, retracted. Extremely sharp, these thorny protrusions were fed a neurotoxin from venom glands located at their base. The poison could incapacitate an enemy in mere moments. Pausing briefly before moving on, the Edo blinked its two pairs of eyes, finding even the limited illumination within the waking ship painful after almost an entire century of darkness.
It crept along on its many undulating limbs, making its quiet way down a long corridor until it came to a spherical chamber. The curved panels of this room bore consoles dotted with alien script and soft blue control lights that cast a comforting glow upon the Edo as it entered. It moved immediately to the central console, its flowing limbs rapidly activating monitors to display imagery from the ship’s powerful scanners. Four eyes watched data flash across multiple screens, searching for the tell-tale signature that would mean salvation for it and its fellows.
A monitor flashed amber, and the Edo leader tapped more controls, refining and clarifying the information the vessel had received. Elation swept through it, but it gave no outward sign. There was a nearby unindustrialized planet that contained not only a livable atmosphere, but consumable lifeforms as well as the fuel and resources they required. It would be a suitable place to establish a first colony.
Pleased, the Edo moved about the support junction, activating controls that would awaken the appropriate members of its kind necessary to construct and protect the spawning pool needed to launch such an outpost. It also triggered a beacon, sending a signal back along the ship’s trajectory for other Edofleini vessels to follow. A second screen flashed amber, drawing the Edo Leader’s attention.
A vessel of some kind was approaching. It was small, much smaller than the mammoth craft carrying the Edofleini. The leader considered it a moment while activating defensive systems. If the beings aboard the intruding vessel were examples of the inhabitants of this galaxy, it would be prudent to know their minds. Closing its smaller set of eyes, the Edo Leader concentrated on using its formidable psychic powers that all its kin possessed to a greater or lesser degree. Even after being asleep in stasis for so long, it formed a connection to The Deep almost immediately.
The Edo reached out for the alien minds, barely able to sense them at first. They were curious the leader realized, a fact confirmed when the ship altered course to intercept the Edo craft. It sensed apprehension as well, but this appeared to be overridden by the aliens’ curiosity and something else, something outside Edofleini understanding. The closest thing the leader could equate it to was hunger. A hunger, but not quite, not for sustenance, something else. It broke the connection with a shudder of distaste. The alien minds were weak, undisciplined, overburdened by trivial matters, lacking any notable connection to The Deep at all.
The Edo Leader linked its mind with several lesser Edo, guardlings and underlings it had awakened, alerting them to the intruders’ presence. The aliens intended to board and explore the Edofleini vessel, and they would be allowed to do so. Shortly thereafter, the guardlings and underlings would intercept them, and the intruders’ minds would be crushed.
The leader glanced at the view-screens once more, noting the time to planetfall. There would be just enough time for the awakened crew to feed before landing.