Beauty Through Death

Farrah’s foot sank into a cleft in the cave floor. She tripped forward, twisting her ankle, catching herself on outstretched arms. Through wincing pain she freed her leg from its hold and collapsed along the tunnel wall. The air chilled her lungs, with every breath a torrent of frost enveloped her body. She exhaled an icy mist that danced in the ghostly luminescence of her headlamp, before evaporating into nothing. The surface, the Boroughs, they were cold, but these tunnels, untouched by light of distant stars or the warmth of crowds, they were something different. Farrah inspected her ankle. Nothing broken. She jammed a med straight through the muscle, wincing at the stab of the needle, sighing at the tingle of relief. A pause. Tinnitus rang in her ears, accompanied by her beating heart. Every so often a rumble, a tremor, born from a far off mining laser haphazardly blasting deeper into the rock. Dust weaved through the tunnel, caught only in the light surrounding Farrah. She felt a smile forming, she didn’t fight back. The motes shined like stars in an expanse of black nothingness, just her and them, twirling in the invisible wind. Therapeutic, spiritual perhaps, but mostly beautiful. The narc was taking effect.

Lost among her floating thoughts, eyes glazed over thick with heaviness, memories grew and shrank away without intention. A cautionary shock from her onboard DeFid brought her back to life with a yelp. As if ordered she picked herself back up, though her balance was shot from the cocktail of narcotics circulating through her. She wobbled onward, regaining composure as her system stabilized.

The tunnels between ABE 1 and the graveyard were never intended for human traffic. The mining unit simply commandeered existing Arorem passages in the interest of saving time and money. They spider-webbed out through the surrounding rock, crossing and combining and forking off with less reason then one might hope. They haphazardly crawl their way to the central chamber, host of the remains of a centuries old Balesh. Catacombs. Trivial to even the simplest of Arorem, deadly to the uninitiated spelunker without a Cerebral-Geomap or extra-sonic hearing. Farrah possessed the former. It ticked off in her brain every step she took. She knew where she was because it knew where she was. She was sixteen feet away from the central chamber.

The walls surrounding Farrah receded away, the ceiling curved up, her footsteps became quiet as she stepped blindly into the graveyard. Silence. Light from the surface streamed in through cracks and holes, and curiously, lanterns alien in origin dotted the hulking skeleton, enveloping the beast in a pale blue glow. Farrah stood motionless against the backdrop of the long dead behemoth. She stared up, mouth agape, into its open maw. Gods indeed.

While not expressly written, it is well understood that a military presence within the graveyard could be perceived as a declaration of war. With that being said, the lavish sensibilities of Miss Koing trumps anything as petty as galactic relations. She resolved to send a single underling down into the depths of the graveyard, in the interest of receiving a sizable chunk of bone to replace the one she lost prior. Quick and dirty, morally and intergalacticly gray, and best of all, unofficial. What perhaps could not be counted for is the immaculate splendor of a corpse centuries old.

The entire cavern, lit faintly under the blanket of a soft glow, sparkled with qualities both familiar and ethereal. Debris, dust, dirt from the outside cascaded down through the cracks, hanging in the air like a silken vale. Lichen, grass, vines sprouted from fissures in the bones, climbing upwards towards the light. Inside the husk, memories of a long dead society. Building, perhaps a city, skeletal like the monster that carried it silently wasting away under layers of rock. Farrah took a step. A sharp crack broke through the silence. Bones.

Farrah’s mind sprang to two questions. Firstly, how was she to collect a single piece of such a colossal creature? Second to that, why would she want to? What is there to gain from desecrating such sacred ground? The Boroughs are teaming with life, music, art, but no thanks to Farrah’s side of the conflict. She considered her last twenty years in service to the military. Her countless sleepless nights. Anxiety cascading into itself, making her vomit for days on end. She never wanted to fight in the first place, she wanted to create. Perhaps it was the narcs, or perhaps even in death these whales still make their gas, or perhaps those aliens, crazy as they may be, are right?