Lost on Kepler 852-b

Lost on Kepler 852-b

Lost on Kepler 852-b (Chapter 2: Descent and Discovery)

(Pour lire la version française, cliquez ici.)

            All right, so now I have to descend this massive cliff that looks like fucking El Capitan in Yosemite Park. Problem is… ever since I fell through a roof when I was eighteen while trying to impress my girlfriend with a rooftop picnic, complete with uneaten chocolate and scattered flower petals, I have a visceral fear of heights. My limbs start shaking violently while I look over the edge.

            Second problem is that I’ve never done any serious rock climbing in my life. When I was twenty-nine, I took my wife to one of those indoor rock-climbing places on one of our first dates. We did something she called, “Free soloing” which means we climbed without ropes. She looked sexy as hell as she kicked my ass, navigating those colored, amoeba-handles like a monkey. I had already started falling in love with her by then. I’m fairly strong, and I can hold my own when it comes to leisurely-athletic actives but I learned an important lesson that day when it comes to rock-climbing: it’s more about technique than brute force. Better to stay close to the wall, be patient, and take your time. I also learned: don’t climb too aggressively or your hands and limbs will get sore, become useless, then you’ll become careless. Careless = bad.

            My fear of heights and my lack of climbing skills means that I don’t want to be climbing when it’s dark, and I don’t want to construct one of those suspended-sleeping-hammocks in the middle of the cliff. 1.) Because fuck that 2.) Because that would be dangerous and I wouldn’t sleep. I’ll become sleep-deprived, probably make a mistake later, and die.

            So I need to figure out how much daylight is left and how fast I climb. If I don’t have enough daylight I’ll descend tomorrow at the butt-crack of dawn.

           While these thoughts rush through my head I realize something that fills me with terror: the clicking has stopped, my surroundings are now completely silent. It feels like that cheap-horror-film moment right before one of the less-important characters gets pulled into oblivion/another second-rate film. But despite being scared shitless, I have an idea. This silence gives me an opportunity to test something out…

           I find a rock nearby, open the stopwatch on my tablet, walk to the edge of the cliff, then press ‘start’ as I simultaneously drop the rock. I wait and listen for the faint impact: 5.6 seconds. I do this five more times and take the average: 5.4 seconds. With this information I can do some physics…

            Besides this rock trick, the only other thing I remember from physics class back in high school is when I wrote in the margins of my final test: Stay positive, stay positive, stay positive. When I received my ‘F’ back I saw that teacher, Dr. Wilson, had written next to my margin message: Do work! Do work! Do work! I know you can graduate! Well, Dr. Wilson, even though I dropped out of high school, here I am, dropping rocks on an extraterrestrial planet and doing work. Are you happy now?!

            On my tablet I verify that this planet has about the same gravitational field as earth, causing objects to fall at the rate of 9.8 Newton/kilogram (there must be a built-in gravimeter inside it). Assuming that Kepler-852b also has the same air resistance (please Space Jesus make this be true, please), I draw a picture on the tablet. I’ve decided to give this El Capitan Yosemite-like cliff a name for eternity, Ohfuckme: 

            Since the acceleration of an object depends on both the force and the mass, the mass cancels out and I get an acceleration of g meters per second squared. Then I search “Finding the height of a cliff through dropping a rock” and find another equation on the tablet for finding the height and write h = gravitational force (triangle – t) squared divided by 2. So my height is 9.8 times (5.4)squared, all divided by 2 = 142 meters. Fun fact: I impulsively type in 142 meters into the search bar and find an image of “The Killing Cliff” a cliff on Traelanípan (an island between England and Iceland), also known as the “The Slave Cliff,” where legend says that Vikings used to push slaves and criminals off. Interesting! Here it is: 

            El Capitan Yosemite is actually 900 meters/3000 feet high, about six times higher than the cliff I’m about to descend. All right, so I exaggerate a little bit.

            Now to determine how much daylight is left with the help of the trusty tablet. C’mon Walter, focus.

            Unlike earth, which rotates once every 24 hours, this planet rotates once every 48 hours. Why is this? I learned on part of the voyage here that the rotational speed of a planet is determined by the initial angular momentum of the planet when it was formed (my wife and I attended an optional ‘science talk’). Our earth probably collided with another planet back in the day, which gave us our moon and likely slowed down the earth’s rotation. Maybe this Kepler 852-b was hit by a couple of planets…or yo mama’s fat ass. In any case, I found an application on the table called: “Determine Time of Sunset on Planet.” It instructed me to take a video of the planet’s horizon then to shift up to the planet’s sun. While I am doing that I see the tablet calculating the angle. Then I have to type in my latitude location (assuming the crashed ship didn’t land too far off course, I use the latitude that we learned in the voyage briefings: 31 degrees). Okay, so the application determines that I have about 10 hours of daylight left. Side note, due to this planet’s relatively large tilt (44 degrees, almost double our Earth’s tilt of 23.5 degrees) and fast revolution (1 full rotation every week), the seasons change much faster than on earth, but I’ll worry about that later (the temperature has been getting steadily colder). 

            Final step: let’s see how fast this little boy can move.

            Luckily, the 300 yards of iron filament and 30 yards of rope that NASA gave me has little marks every meter. Thank you, NASA, for thinking of this detail.

            If I can descend an average of 20 meters/65 feet per hour, I should be able to make it to bottom before sunset with some time to spare (3 hours to reach the ship). But that’s probably giving me more credit than I deserve.

            Now, the most important part, how to descend with all my shit. I type into my tablet search bar: how to descend a cliff. Yes, I’m an amateur.

            The first video that popped up was Rappelling basics 101. All right, what’s rappelling:

            Descend a rock face or other near-vertical surface using a double rope coiled around the body and fixed at a higher point; also known as abseil. Knowledge!

            Looks like I’m going to have to make a harness using the iron filament and the net. This is going to crush my nuts. But better to have crushed nuts and continue being alive. 

          Also, I’ll need this rappelling/abseil thing to be retrievable. So I watch another video on How to Rig A Retrievable Rappelling Anchor. Yes, these tablets have millions of videos. Thank you again NASA, you intelligent, resourceful motherfuckers!

            Okay, so I have to construct a Ghost Knot, which is a knot that will keep me from falling down the cliff as I descend, but will also be retrievable if I pull hard on it a bunch of times…

            The clock is ticking, as usual, so I immediately create an anchor at the top by cutting then tying long strips of the iron filament to two trees, creating a triangle (to distribute the weight that will pull on it during the initial descent). These iron filament strips will have to be left behind.  

            So I take the center part of the rope, which I’ve doubled up in the shape of a ‘U’, and wrap it around the anchor, so it is in the shape of a candy cane. Then I take one of the ropes of the ‘U’ (the two are parallel to the candy cane) and thread it through the bottom of the ‘U’ candy cane, simultaneously pulling on the other rope to form the knot. I do this eight times. Ghost Knot…complete. When I want the rope back during the decent I’ll have to tug on one of the ropes repeatedly, waiting to feel a ‘pop’ as each knot breaks, until all the knots are popped and the rope falls down to reunite with daddy. 

            But now I need to create something to relieve the tension of the rope as I descend, so I don’t undo the Ghost Knot unintentionally as I climb down the cliff and become a ghost. I’ll be trying to limit how much I pull on the rope by holding on to the crevices and rocks, but looking down I see that the cliff doesn’t always have places for me to hold on to, so I’ll have to rely on the anchor at the summit (or wherever I tie myself to later on) to support my body and supplies.

            I type into the tablet: essential rappelling supplies. I find something that resembles a “belaying device,” that looks similar to something attached to my multi-use knife. I’ll use that. I thread my double rope through this. I’m shaking as I do this, palms sweaty, knees weak, about to vomit my mom’s spaghetti.

            Remember Walter: always keep yourself perpendicular to the rock. Don’t waste energy. Track your progress.

            In order to prevent the iron filament and net from cutting into my groin, I will use my sleeping bag as part of the harness. Ah yes, much better. My nuts will be saved! Also, I cut up a bunch more of the iron filament to create five, make-shift carabiners, which will lock me into the rope. Let’s do this…

            6 hours later…

            I moved faster than I thought I would, fast enough to justify a descent today instead of waiting until tomorrow, but that wasn’t fun, and I don’t want to talk about it. I’m exhausted. But the Kepler 852-b sun is about to set and I’d like to reach the ship before nightfall. I eat an energy tube (29 left) that tastes like bubble-gum cough syrup (maybe NASA didn’t think of everything, unless there’s a trade-off between taste and dense caloric content) and jog in the direction of the ship. My surroundings are still silent.

            The terrain is similar to earth’s grasslands, with a few rocks here and there. After two hours of jogging, I see something that looks like a piece of the ship, a wing, jutting out of the ground. Remember, the ship was transporting 300 humans. The thing’s fucking huge.

            I arrive at the ship, stupidly expecting a welcoming party. “Mr. Wanky! You’re alive! Where the hell were you?!” But there’s nobody here. It looks like the thing has been gutted. While wandering around yelling, “Is anyone there?” I see something that makes me fall to the ground, to my knees…

            Bones. Human bones. But not the kind of bones you’d expect, with remnants of bodies on them, but shiny-white bones, as if they were sucked clean after a chicken-wing eating contest. They are scattered throughout the wreckage. What the fuck happened?

            I barely make out what the ship used to look like. Something really big must have attacked this ship after it crashed.  

            I have to hope that some people escaped. There are a lot of bones, but not enough for 300 humans, I think. I have to alert the survivors that I’m still alive. I have to make a fire.

            What I’ll do is that I’ll make a fire and hide in the wreckage. That way if a monstrous alien comes back to eat me, I’ll be hiding, and hopefully be safe. I’m banking on the aliens here having a weak sense of smell, because I already smell like a rat’s ass.

            I scout the wreckage and find a little cavern high up in a pile of rubble. I hide all my supplies there, then I look for flammable things. After an hour of searching I find some books (the ship contained a hard-copy library). There are also some twig-like sticks on the ground outside the perimeter of the crashed ship. After watching a short tutorial on: best way to construct a fire, I tear out the pages (The Martian by Andy Weirand shove them under a little twig-hut. Then I make the fire using the iron bar, also called a ferrocerium. The alloy (70% cerium and 30% iron) gives off sparks when scratched by my carbon-steel blade. The tiny shavings are oxidized as I scratch, ignite the paper, and bada-bing, bada -boom: fire. But the fire is green and smells like trash. Hmmm, does that mean it’s toxic? I run back to my hiding place. The sun has completely set. Time to wait.

            For twenty minutes I stare at the little green fire, praying to Space Jesus again, watching the smoke twist up into the star-filled sky. Thankfully, the twigs (I typed in: what is green fire? into my tablet: potentially contains copper sulfate or boric acid) burns slowly. Please let a human see this and know I’m alive. Please let me wife see this, if she somehow made it out….

            I hear a bizarre sucking, slithering, clicking sound at the edge of the shadows. The clicking and sucking sounds just like the noises that I heard at the top of the Ohfuckme mountain. I hold my breath.

            Something massive emerges from the shadows. I do my best not to scream in horror and despair…

…Chapter 3…coming soon…subscribe below

Lost on Kepler 852-b (Chapter 4: Captain Premidaire)

(Pour lire la version française, cliquez ici.)

Background artwork by @huleeb (Lucid Dream)


            “Something hit us in the sky. Or…more likely…multiple things. Everything was chaos. Parts of the ship exploded. I couldn’t leave the pilot’s chamber but the door of my adjoining emergency landing pod opened. Instinctively, I jumped in and grabbed hold of a handle, since I knew from the I.M.C. manual that the interior would protect me against the force of the crash landing. There was a window looking out at the hull. I saw hundreds of bodies slamming against the ship’s interior. Sections of the ship were breaking off…”

            Captain Premidaire was slumped against a tree beneath a make-shift canopy I’d constructed using my sleeping bag and iron filament. We were taking shelter against a torrential, sleet-like, purple rain. Premidaire was having one of his lucid moments, which were becoming more and more rare, so I tried to gently guide him, again, to the question I was desperate to receive an answer to. I couldn’t ask him any questions that were too far from his thread of thinking, or else he’d degrade back into his state of mumbling confusion. Premidaire was steadily going insane and I had no idea how to stop his descent into madness.

            “And after the ship crashed, what happened?”

            “Screams. Horrible screams. Fire. Crawling through the wreckage. Then they came…”

            “Who came? You keep saying, they came. That insect-tentacle creature I mentioned? The one who digs holes? That monstrous thing?” Premidarie let out a high-pitched, maniacal laugh. He’d done this before. I grimaced because this meant he was most likely going to have one of his dementia episodes in ten to fifteen seconds. 

            “Those things? They just like fire. They’re the clean-up crew.” He laughed again, a higher-pitch tone. “They are nothing compared to what else is on this planet. Nothing. This planet is fighting back. Those insect things were there when…the rest were being led away, by them…”

            “How long ago since the crash?”

            “A week.”

            “That’s impossible. I was alone when I woke up. I would have died of thirst. You told me two days.”

            “If one of them found you, unconscious, they might of saved you.”

            “How?”

            “I don’t know. There’s something in the air. Time is different here. Everything is different here. And they…they sent us here to die.” Premidaire’s pupils became dilated and started trembling. It was now or never.

            “Who else survived?! Were there any women with you?! Did one of them have-”

            “I put everything in the GlobalDataBase before I left Earth. They will remember me. Feel the existence, no more force, they told me to fill out questions, put the Enregiste-Nanobots in my brain, stand in front of the camera, these were for history, they could make a copy, not the same, but close enough, the artist must create in darkness, everything is created from darkness, to find their light if there is the chance another…”

            I sighed. Another hour of his babbling. Then when he returned to silence, or fell asleep and woke up, I’d try again. I turned off the recording device in my tablet. In my frustration I turned away from Captain, who was still mumbling to himself, now whispering, “I have to take it again, but I also have to run away, feel desperate, hopeful desperation, fight this, run or stay, Siana my love, I…” It seemed to me that whatever sickness Premidaire was suffering from, he was unable to distinguish between emotions, memories, or abstractions when having an episode. It was like his subconscious was overtaking his consciousness. 

            “Ouch!” a rain droplet landed on my skin, burned, and sizzled, leaving a red disc-shaped wound. The rain droplets here are often toxic, like acid. Premidaire somehow knew this and had me construct our shelter when we heard a rumble in the night and the air become heavy with moisture. When Premidaire’s lucid and focusing on a task, he’s impeccable and efficient. You don’t get to become the captain of human’s second migration without being extremely effective in everything you do, which made the contrast with his incoherent grumblings all the more terrifying to observe. I turned to my side and saw the basset hound creature still sleeping in his nest.

            “Walter!” For a wild moment I thought the creature had spoken to me.

            “What!” The captain had grabbed my shirt. I was shocked: he had never escaped one of his trances so fast. Perhaps his mind was fighting back, knowing how much of our survival depended on him relaying me pertinent information.

            “There are…there are human-like aliens on this planet. Different kinds, races, cultures. They knew we were coming. They were waiting for us. The machines who scouted this planet told them everything about us. Some of them want to use us to leave this world, others to survive. That’s why they kept you alive, to learn about us, I don’t what their purpose is, but their sophisticated-.”

            “Are these aliens the ones you escaped from?”

            “No. I escaped from other things. These human-like aliens just didn’t want to take me. They said I was hopeless. The particles in the air, they affect everyone at different rates and in different ways. Humans faster than them. If the infection reaches a certain point, it’s too late, there’s only one antidote, and each member of their group has one emergency for themselves per lifetime.”

            “Per lifetime? What do you mean by…”

            “I wanted to stay with them. They wouldn’t let me.”

            “These alien-creatures took some humans and left others? Who else was left with you?”

            “Fifty-seven people.”

            “And they’re all dead except you?”

            “Yes, I saw half of them die, the other half went in a direction where no human could survive.”

            “And the humans that left…which were taken by these alien-humans? Did you see a woman amongst them whom-”

            “She’s right there! You can’t take her away! Your mistakes will-”

            “Shhh, shhh, something’s coming…” There was a clicking and crashing through the dense vines and trees.

            “You shouldn’t come here. Now the particles can infect you faster…”

            “Shut up! Or I’ll stuff your mouth god damn it!”

            Bunky, my alien basset hound, woke up and growled.

            Through the jungle another insect-weeping-willow monster crashed, heading directly towards our shelter. Within a split second Bunky darted into the monster’s path and started slash-gnawing on the inner tentacles. The monster screeched like it did when I fell running away from it. It tried to grab hold of the basset, but the basset was moving so rapidly amongst the squirming arms that they couldn’t catch him. Within a minute half the creature was consumed, ten seconds later it was a small ball (Bunky seemed to eat the thing exponentially faster). Then the monster was gone.”

            “You’re lucky one of those likes you,” said Captain Premidaire.

            “One of what?” I was staring at Bunky, in awe, while he dolefully licked his chops.

            “That animal.”

            “How do you know it likes me?

            “I feel myself losing control. The regret. I never wanted her to. But the atmosphere weighs down. I’m so sorry Siana. I’ll make everything right. We-” his voice lost its force and he stumbled back. 

            An hour later Premidaire was sleeping and the rain had stopped. A sunrise burst through the vines and branches. Light sparkled and glistened as droplets dripped from the trees. Maybe I was also starting to lose my mind, or maybe it was a lack of sleep, but the colors began mixing and blurring together, like sparkling smeared paint across a canvas. This made me worried. Perhaps I should stop questioning Preston Premidaire about my wife the and survivors. Perhaps I should focus on our own survival. During one of his lucid moments I had him explain some of the functions of my tablet. He had shown me a map that led to a city that was supposed to be under construction since the first migration. He pointed out the F.A.T. magnetic-train line (Frictionless Automated Transport) which the machines built upon their arrival. If there were any humans alive from the first wave, they’d be in the city. I loaded up the map. The city was 2500 miles away. I’d have to travel 500 miles on my own to the F.A.T., then…wait for a train? Premidaire couldn’t explain to me how the transport system works. We’d…we’d need help from…my eyelids are starting to…if we don’t contact the people here we die…we…”

            I fell asleep. When I woke up with a start the rain had stopped and the clearing was bright. Before even becoming fully conscious, I was aware that Preston Premidaire had left. Why…but when I looked around the clearing.

            “No…”

            Preston Premidaire was hanging from a tree.


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Perdu sur Kepler 852-b (Chapitre 4: Capitaine Premidaire)

(To read the English version, click here.)

Background artwork by @huleeb (Lucid Dream)


            “Quelque chose nous a frappé dans le ciel. Ou… plus probablement… plusieurs choses. C’était le chaos. Des parties du vaisseau ont explosé. Je ne pouvais pas quitter la chambre du pilote, mais la porte de ma nacelle d’atterrissage d’urgence adjacente s’est ouverte. Instinctivement, j’ai sauté à l’intérieur et me suis agrippé à une poignée, car je savais, d’après le manuel de l’I.M.C., que l’intérieur me protégerait contre la force de l’atterrissage en catastrophe. Il y avait une fenêtre donnant sur la coque. J’ai vu des centaines de corps se frapper contre l’intérieur du vaisseau. Des sections du vaisseau se détachaient…

            Le capitaine Premidaire était affalé contre un arbre, sous un auvent de fortune que j’avais construit avec mon sac de couchage et du fil de fer. Nous nous abritions d’une pluie torrentielle, violette et semblable à du grésil. Premidaire était en train d’avoir un de ses moments de lucidité, qui devenaient de plus en plus rares, alors j’ai essayé de le guider doucement, encore une fois, vers la question à laquelle je désespérais de recevoir une réponse. Je ne pouvais pas lui poser de questions qui s’éloignaient trop du fil de sa pensée, sinon il se dégraderait à nouveau dans son état de confusion marmoréenne. Premidaire devenait de plus en plus fou et je n’avais aucune idée de la façon d’arrêter sa descente dans la folie.

            “Et après que le vaisseau se soit écrasé, que s’est-il passé ?”

            “Des cris. Des cris horribles. Du feu. Ramper dans les décombres. Puis ils sont venus…”

            “Qui est venu ? Vous n’arrêtez pas de dire qu’ils sont venus. La créature insecte-tentacule dont j’ai parlé ? Celui qui creuse des trous ? Cette chose monstrueuse ?” Premidarie a laissé échapper un rire aigu et maniaque. Il avait déjà fait ça auparavant. J’ai grimacé parce que cela signifiait qu’il allait très probablement avoir un de ses épisodes de démence dans dix à quinze secondes. 

            “Ces choses ? Elles aiment le feu. C’est l’équipe de nettoyage.” Il a ri à nouveau, d’un ton plus aigu. “Ils ne sont rien comparés à ce qu’il y a d’autre sur cette planète. Rien. Cette planète se défend. Ces insectes étaient là quand… les autres ont été emmenés, par eux…”

           “Combien de temps depuis le crash ?”

            “Une semaine.”

           “C’est impossible. J’étais seul quand je me suis réveillé. Je serais mort de soif. Vous m’aviez dit deux jours.”

            “Si l’un d’eux vous avait trouvé, inconscient, il aurait pu vous sauver.”

           “Comment ?”

            “Je ne sais pas. Il y a quelque chose dans l’air. Le temps est différent ici. Tout est différent ici. Et ils… ils nous ont envoyés ici pour mourir.” Les pupilles de Premidaire se sont dilatées et ont commencé à trembler. C’était maintenant ou jamais.

            “Qui d’autre a survécu ? Y avait-il des femmes avec vous ? ! L’une d’elles avait-elle…”

            “J’ai tout mis dans la GlobalDataBase avant de quitter la Terre. Ils se souviendront de moi. Ressentir l’existence, plus de force, ils m’ont dit de remplir des questions, de mettre les Nanorobots-Enregiste dans mon cerveau, de me tenir devant la caméra, c’était pour l’histoire, ils pourraient faire une copie, pas la même, mais assez proche, l’artiste doit créer dans l’obscurité, tout est créé à partir de l’obscurité, pour trouver leur lumière s’il y a une chance qu’une autre…”

            J’ai soupiré. Une autre heure de son bavardage. Puis, quand il reviendrait au silence, ou s’endormirait et se réveillerait, j’essaierais à nouveau. J’ai éteint le dispositif d’enregistrement de ma tablette. Dans ma frustration, je me suis détourné du capitaine, qui marmonnait toujours pour lui-même, murmurant maintenant : “Je dois le prendre à nouveau, mais je dois aussi m’enfuir, me sentir désespéré, désespoir plein d’espoir, combattre cela, fuir ou rester, Siana mon amour, je…” Il me semblait que, quelle que soit la maladie dont souffrait Premidaire, il était incapable de distinguer les émotions, les souvenirs ou les abstractions lorsqu’il avait un épisode. C’était comme si son subconscient prenait le dessus sur sa conscience. 

            “Aie !” Une gouttelette de pluie s’est posée sur ma peau, a brûlé et grésillé, laissant une blessure rouge en forme de disque. Les gouttelettes de pluie ici sont souvent toxiques, comme de l’acide. Premidaire le savait et m’a fait construire notre abri lorsque nous avons entendu un grondement dans la nuit et que l’air est devenu lourd d’humidité. Quand Premidaire est lucide et concentré sur une tâche, il est impeccable et efficace. On ne devient pas le capitaine de la deuxième migration humaine sans être extrêmement efficace dans tout ce qu’on fait, ce qui rendait le contraste avec ses grognements incohérents d’autant plus terrifiant à observer. Je me suis tourné de mon côté et j’ai vu la créature basset hound qui dormait encore dans son niche.

            “Walter !” Pendant un instant, j’ai cru que la créature s’était adressée à moi.

            “Quoi !” Le capitaine avait attrapé ma chemise. J’étais choqué : il n’était jamais sorti aussi vite d’une de ses transes. Peut-être son esprit se défendait-il, sachant à quel point notre survie dépendait de sa capacité à me transmettre des informations pertinentes.

            “Il y a… il y a des aliens de type humain sur cette planète. De différents types, races, cultures. Ils savaient que nous venions. Ils nous attendaient. Les machines qui ont repéré cette planète leur ont tout dit sur nous. Certains d’entre eux veulent nous utiliser pour quitter ce monde, d’autres pour survivre. C’est pour ça qu’ils vous ont gardé en vie, pour apprendre sur nous, je ne sais pas quel est leur but, mais leur sophistication…”

            “Ces aliens sont-ils ceux dont vous vous êtes échappé ?”

            “Non. Je me suis échappé d’autres choses. Ces extraterrestres humains ne voulaient pas me prendre. Ils ont dit que j’étais sans espoir. Les particules dans l’air, elles affectent tout le monde à des vitesses différentes et de manières différentes. Les humains plus rapidement qu’eux. Si l’infection atteint un certain point, il est trop tard, il n’y a qu’un seul antidote, et chaque membre de leur groupe a une urgence pour lui par vie.”

            “Par vie ? Que voulez-vous dire par là ?”

            “Je voulais rester avec eux. Ils ne m’ont pas laissé faire.”

            “Ces créatures extraterrestres ont pris des humains et en ont laissé d’autres ? Qui d’autre est resté avec vous ?”

           “Cinquante-sept personnes.”

            “Et ils sont tous morts sauf vous ?”

            “Oui, j’ai vu la moitié d’entre eux mourir, l’autre moitié est partie dans une direction où aucun humain ne pouvait survivre.”

            “Et les humains qui sont restés… qui ont été pris par ces aliens-humains ? Avez-vous vu une femme parmi eux qui…”

            “Elle est juste là ! Vous ne pouvez pas l’emmener ! Vos erreurs vont…”

           “Shhh, quelque chose arrive…” Il y eut un cliquetis et un fracas à travers les vignes et les arbres.

            “Vous n’auriez pas dû venir ici.. Maintenant les particules peuvent vous affecter plus rapidement.”

           “Taisez-vous ! Ou je vous bourre la gueule … bordel !”

            Bunky, mon basset alien, s’est réveillé et a grogné.

            A travers la jungle, un autre monstre insectoïde s’est écrasé, se dirigeant directement vers notre abri. En une fraction de seconde, Bunky s’est élancé sur le chemin du monstre et a commencé à ronger les tentacules internes. Le monstre a hurlé comme il l’a fait quand je suis tombé en le fuyant. Il a essayé de s’accrocher au basset, mais celui-ci se déplaçait si rapidement parmi les bras qui se tortillaient qu’ils n’ont pas pu l’attraper. En une minute, la moitié de la créature était dévorée, dix secondes plus tard ce n’était plus qu’une petite boule (Bunky semblait manger la chose exponentiellement plus vite). Puis le monstre avait disparu.”

            “Vous avez de la chance que cette créature vous aime,” a dit le capitaine Premidaire.

            “Un de quoi ?” Je fixais Bunky, ébahi, tandis qu’il se léchait les babines avec tristesse.

            “Cet animal.”

            “Comment savez-vous qu’il m’aime ?”

            “Je sens que je perds le contrôle. Le regret. Je n’ai jamais voulu qu’elle le fasse. Mais l’atmosphère me pèse. Je suis désolé Siana. Je vais tout arranger. Nous…” sa voix perdit de sa force et il recula en trébuchant. 

            Une heure plus tard, Premidaire dormait et la pluie avait cessé. Un lever de soleil éclatait à travers les vignes et les branches. La lumière étincelait et scintillait tandis que des gouttelettes tombaient des arbres. Peut-être commençais-je aussi à perdre la tête, ou peut-être était-ce le manque de sommeil, mais les couleurs ont commencé à se mélanger et à se brouiller, comme de la peinture étincelante étalée sur une toile. Cela m’a inquiété. Je devrais peut-être arrêter de questionner Preston Premidaire sur ma femme et les survivants. Je devrais peut-être me concentrer sur notre propre survie. Pendant un de ses moments de lucidité, je lui ai fait expliquer certaines des fonctions de ma tablette. Il m’avait montré une carte qui menait à une ville qui était censée être en construction depuis la première migration. Il m’a montré la ligne de train magnétique F.A.T. (Frictionless Automated Transport) que les machines ont construite à leur arrivée. S’il y avait des humains vivants de la première vague, ils devaient être dans la ville. J’ai chargé la carte. La ville était à 4000 kilomètre. Je devais faire 800 km tout seul jusqu’au F.A.T., puis… attendre un train ? Premidaire n’a pas pu m’expliquer comment fonctionne le système de transport. Nous aurions… nous aurions besoin de l’aide de… mes paupières commencent à… si nous ne contactons pas les gens d’ici, nous mourrons… nous…”

            Je me suis endormi. Quand je me suis réveillé en sursaut, la pluie avait cessé et la clairière était lumineuse. Avant même d’être pleinement conscient, je savais que Preston Premidaire était parti. Pourquoi… mais quand j’ai regardé autour de moi dans la clairière.

           “Non…”

            Preston Premidaire était pendu à un arbre.


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