A depraved blessing, p.4
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       A Depraved Blessing, p.4

           D.C. Clemens

  Chapter Four


  New days kept ending and I was still as uninformed as I was when the crater was first formed. The few reports that managed to surface only explained that the slow pace came from the military’s caution of any potential contamination and their even greater vigilance at accidental provocation, in case anything was indeed responsive inside. The best technology we had available was commissioned in trying to reveal what was underneath the stubborn casing. Drones, satellites, and any other sensory equipment governments could muster had their opportunity to perform their designed tasks, and each also took their moment to absolutely fail.

  In addition to technology, nations began sending some of their best and brightest for an impromptu congregation near the crash site. Some liked to describe themselves as experts when interviewed, but I didn’t understand how someone could be an “expert” without ever having the experience of studying an alien object. As long as the structure refused to cooperate, it seemed unlikely that any major decisions could be made in the immediate future. The imminent right then rested on the unceasing rescuing persisting around the wrecked city, for though the world was no longer paying as close attention, some things should never come to an end.

  The monumental week came and went in a way that made it seem as though the impact happened the day before and also to have happened decades ago. The intermission permitted our lives to return to relative normalcy. School doors were beginning to open, offices were fuller, sports resumed to be a topic of conversation, and the ever present theme of the weather was discussed. Yet, no matter the subject matter or the location one was in, there was always a way to connect it to the unsettled billow of shadows looming behind every one of us.

  Before a second week came to an end, I was gratified to learn that one of the specialists invited to join the research committee in Valland was actually a good friend of mine, a bioengineer named Lormek. He was an old professor of mine whom I had never lost contact with and was the crowning reason I had ventured into my chosen profession. When Lizeth, who was as starved for information as anyone else, discovered my close connection to the situation, she entreated me to immediately attempt to communicate with him. While I was as famished as she was, I decided it would be beneficial to wait a day or two, knowing it would be appropriate to give my old professor time to get comfortable with his new employment and learn as much as he could.

  I did not have to wait many rings to hear his gruffly familiar voice again. He was the type who loved to hear himself talk, which I knew was the main reason he seldom responded to text messages or email.

  “How ya doing, Roym?!” he answered with his usual gusto, no doubt through a smoke filled mouth. “I had a feeling or two you’d call me, seems like everyone else has. People I haven’t talked to in years or outright hate my guts are giving my ass a good licking these last couple days! I feel like some hot bitch in a bar. Regrettably, I had to blow most of them off. Ha! Get it? Blow?!” He took a moment here to recover himself from his uncontrollable laughter, which I did not attempt to dissuade. “Since I like you,” he resumed with a lingering chuckle, “and are basically a colleague of mine, I’ll make the time for a short chat.”

  “Thanks, Lormek,” I said as my first words to enter the conversation, “I hope I didn’t disturb you too much. I know it must be madness over there.”

  “Of course it is,” he returned with a more serious tone, though I still would not quite call it that, “but it’s a fun, historic kind of madness. The times I forget about the large amount of people who died here recently, I become as happy as I’ve felt in a long while. I know you’d love it here, Roym. It’s full of our kind of people. Why not come over? This is an official invitation.”

  “I’m flattered,” I replied half-truthfully. “Ten years ago I would have accepted without a second’s hesitation, but I can’t now for the little details of Liz and Dayce.” I knew I was using family as an excuse, but I was hoping he wouldn’t realize that.

  “You don’t have family they can stay with? How about your mother? I’m really serious here, Roym. I can easily call you my ‘invaluable assistant’ and they can send you over on their coin. You’ll be in the ground zero of history by tomorrow night.”

  Since I was beginning to feel uncomfortable with his insistent request, and not wanting his considerable influence to get the better of me, I attempted to change the subject and asked the only topic that I knew would attract his attention. “Your actual assistant didn’t go with you?”

  “Carloma is here, but she’s without her head most of the time,” he answered with a loosening attitude.

  “That can happen when you hire someone based purely on how expansive they make a particular organ feel,” I told him, willingly taking my part in the banter.

  He gave an ardent laugh and said, “Life is far too short to look at the unattractive all day. But you don’t have to worry about me! I’m smart enough not to fall into the old marriage cliché and get hitched to my assistant like you did with your pretty little one. I’m enjoying life as a perverted old man and I plan on staying that way.”

  “I was only engaged to her,” I corrected. Recognizing I had not yet formally refused his offer, and not wanting him to take the subject change as an affirmative on my part, I continued with, “Thanks for the offer, Lormek, but I have to decline it.”

  “That’s certainly too bad,” he said regretfully, but still with his lively spirits intact. “There hasn’t been a dull moment around here. And Spirits, what a sight she is! Pictures or video don’t do that work of art justice. Even from several miles away she rules the landscape, and despite her black exterior, she gives off this eerie glow that allows her to stick out at night.”

  “I heard no one has been able to examine what’s beneath the shell.”

  “We’ve been observing her nonstop with everything we have and we’re having trouble detecting how thick her skin is, much less determine what’s underneath it. It will also take time to figure out what in Evon it’s made of, but the material has proven to be damn interesting of late.”

  “Care to explain?” I asked, my full attention on him at this point.

  “Well,” he said with some difficulty, “she’s healing herself.”

  “She’s healing herself?” I reiterated more to myself than addressing him. “You mean the cracks?”

  “Precisely.” I could hear him taking a long puff from his cigar. “Yesterday someone observed some of the cracks becoming smaller and less shallow, especially on her roof, but there has also shown to be a minor increase in temperature where the healing is taking place. A week ago our pics showed the largest crack ran fourteen hundred feet across and averaged thirty feet deep. It was twelve hundred feet across and about a dozen feet deep as of three hours ago.”

  “Shit, Lormek!” I said, surprised by how animated I became, especially knowing Dayce could walk into my office at any moment. “Why haven’t we heard about this yet?”

  “Don’t worry, ol’ boy, I expect it to be in the news soon. Like I said, we just collected this information yesterday and the guys here want a while longer to try and gather more data. It would also be nice to find out how this reconstruction is happening.”

  “I know your theory. Are others agreeing with you?”

  “Yes, a good number actually. And don’t be so astonished, it makes the most sense, doesn’t it? Imagine it, countless of unseen, microscopic workers working around the clock. The shell must be at least partly composed of microbots, making the cracks on the exterior resemble wounds on skin.” Lormek said all this with a dignified air, pleased of the analysis he had made.

  “Then it’s mimicking a biological system,” I reflected aloud to myself. Then, conjecturing to Lormek directly, I said, “Of course, this is probably an automatic response to the damage it obtained. It doesn’t confirm anything’s actually alive in there.” I felt comforted in the theory I attained.

  “Alive? As far as I’m co
ncerned, she is alive.”

  “How do you mean?” I asked, putting a restraint on my comfort.

  “There’s something in the air here, Roym, something… physical,” he said in a wistful tone, one I had never heard him use. “I’ve felt it since the first day I arrived here. I thought it was just nerves at first, but when I first went into the edge of the quarantine zone, I knew for a fact it wasn’t. It’s emanating from her. I haven’t been able to actually measure anything on my instruments, but I know I’m right. I know it, particularly on the rare event when everything is still and quiet. I can sense a low buzz in the air all around me.”

  “Do others feel it as well?” I asked, wholly intrigued by his description. Plenty of things he said in the past had always intrigued me, but never on this scale of importance.

  “Most I’ve spoken with think it’s just stress or all in my head,” he said, sounding a bit frustrated by the circumstance. I knew nothing annoyed a scientist more than skeptics to their ideas. It was expected in our highly critical profession, of course, but it was still annoying. “However, a couple of them did agree with me, and I’ll take what I can get. Both of them were spirit warriors, no less, which I don’t think is a coincidence. The first one is an older guy, like me, with the resemblance being freakishly uncanny, if I might add. It made me wonder just how promiscuous my father was. Anyhow, he described the atmosphere like a relentless drizzle that keeps him chilled to the bone. The other is this young babe who patrols the quarantine zone perimeter. She said she felt like someone was always watching over her. She also swears she can sometimes hear the ship ‘breathing’ if she gets close enough. These are spirit warriors, Roym. I’m confident they aren’t just freaked out. Of course, this is all anecdotal, therefore, no one will take me seriously. But if you want my professional opinion, she is alive. At least, somehow she is, and when she’s done healing herself, something is going to happen. Take my word for it.”

  “If that’s the case, we should know more about its intentions soon.” I bemoaned calling him, since I thought the troubled feeling taking me over was not worth the knowledge. I didn’t care that knowing about Lormek’s enlightenment was better in the long run. Directing the attention to Liz instead of myself, I continued by saying, “I doubt this will make Liz feel any better.”

  “Speaking of the ladies, I think that young soldier girl took a liking to me.” Lormek’s statement was so casually stated, it was almost as if he had completely forgotten the conversation we were previously having. “She showed me how she was able to warp water right out of the air and solidify it into ice. Now, you know I’m no expert on spirit warriors, but that has to be master level stuff. If Evon starts cracking, I’m finding her.”

  “How is the military presence?”

  “As you might expect. The quarantine zone is thick with soldiers, but there aren’t too many tanks or heavy weapons around, since they don’t want to look dangerous in front of our guests, but it looks like I have to get going.” His voice accelerated near the end of his answer to signify that he was ready to speak to somebody new. “It’s been a good talk, Roym. You know I can talk to you all day, but it seems like Carloma’s lost her head again and I just received some new thermal readings. If I find anything good I’ll be sure to call you when I can. Tell that woman of yours not to worry, Lormek is on the case!”

  After expressing my gratitude for his generosity and exchanging our farewells, we disconnected and returned to where we belonged; him on one side of the world and I on the other. The pleasant exchange did not ease my outlook. All that was affirmed in the chat was that my wish for the ship to do nothing had wholly vanished. Its recovery was now a double-edged sword. The great machine was doubtlessly mending its more vital interior no less as profusely as it was healing its exterior. On one hand, the ship could repair itself enough to be able to depart from this world and leave us to return to our formerly dull lives. It would never come back and I would not care where it went. Someday I would wake up and the experience would all seem like a vivid hallucination, simply becoming a chapter in our history classes at some point. Why would it not leave if given the chance? It obviously did not land on its own accord. Would it not leave this primitive, parched planet at its first opportunity? The other edge of the sword cut much deeper. What if it heals itself enough to do everything but takeoff? My brittle body involuntarily shivered when I ventured to think about everything they could possibly do, and especially from the things I could not conceive.

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