The roaring of our vehicle’s powerful engine jumped an octave, and I felt the visceral thrill of acceleration throw me back into the hard seat. Spinning around to stare out the back, I could see the larger cargo trucks shaking back and forth as they lumbered to keep up. The featureless, identical hills of gray sand, however, seemed to stretch on forever, offering no clue as to our increased speed.
At first, it seemed as though Kurt’s plan was working; I could see the darker smudge among the hazy clouds, the origin of the attacking misty tentacles, receding into the background behind us. But the smile of relief had barely appeared on my face before it was whisked away as I glanced forward again and saw more splotches darkening the clouds ahead.
I finally found my voice. “But I thought that subspace was empty!” I said in disbelief. “I thought that nothing could live here! Nothing could survive!”
Kurt had pulled his gun back inside the vehicle to avoid losing it as we had picked up speed, but he kept his window open, casting suspicious glances towards the clouds. “Oh, there are things here, all right,” he growled. “Don’t know if you’d call it living, though. Seems that they just want to attack, far as we’ve seen.”
“You encounter these things regularly?” I stared up at the sky, my eyes wide, struggling to keep a handle on the situation.
The only response I received from Kurt was a short nod, but the soldier riding shotgun in the front, who had remained quiet for the entire ride so far, finally opened his mouth. “And they’re getting worse,” he added darkly.
Shifting in my seat to lean forward, between the two front seats, I turned to him. “Worse?”
The soldier didn’t turn back towards me, didn’t even tear his glance away from the window, but he opened his mouth to reply. “Been doing these runs since the beginning,” he grunted. “First few runs were completely clear. Fifth run was when we first saw them – they attacked just as we reached the end, so some of us could escape. Still destroyed half our convoy; we weren’t prepared or armed at all.”
The man adjusted the position of the rifle on his lap slightly. I watched his knuckles turn white as he gripped the weapon. “Now, they attack every run, and more of them each time,” he went on. “We tried lights, klaxons, different times, different routes – nothing made any difference. The whole place looks exactly the same, and there’s no way of navigating save our guidance systems. So now all we can do is try to outrun the bastards and hope for the best. And I don’t know how much longer our luck will hold.”
Despite this fatalistic viewpoint, we seemed to be doing all right – for the moment. The engines of our convoy were roaring as we hurtled over the sand, splashing through the crests of dunes, but the dark shapes in the clouds seemed to be keeping their distance. “Three minutes to beacon,” the soldier in the driver’s seat commented, his voice terse.
The commander merely grunted again, turning his gaze back to the skies, but Bradley risked a quick smile at me. “Not so bad of a run,” he said. “We ought to make it the rest of the run without any-”
Bradley’s words were cut off, and the rest of my senses momentarily overwhelmed, as a gigantic shape suddenly swept down across the road in front of us…