Aside from us, only the dead walk the streets of Illaria.
We find ourselves moving into the maintenance district of the main starport. Like the roads and trails that lead to the city, it is eerily silent. Gantries and cranes sit motionless, cargos and engine parts swinging slowly from the steadily rusting chains.
Before us lie many square miles of concrete, steel and refractory, pitted and scarred by decades of starships ferrying cargos and passengers, the essence of interstellar commerce.
For a moment, you can imagine the shouts of engineers and stevedores as they swarm around the ships, the great clouds of steam buffeted by the landing and takeoff of ships from every part of the Candor district.
Each and every one of them is gone.
We are here to locate the source of an energy anomaly that the Nike Athena uncovered during its over watch of our mission. Its search for the Sansica Corporation science team has been fruitless. Instead it has found an enigma, but perhaps the first evidence that life still exists.
Communication is useless of course, the shrieks and jabbering continues to flood our radio channels; so we must explore the area for what we assume is a ship the old fashioned way.
Although we have night vision, we opted to stop at dusk and created an encampment in the shadow of one the vast fuel purification towers. It seemed superfluous to post guards in this place, until one of the motion trackers picked up the first dyybuk.
At first there was excitement, a survivor perhaps who could tell us what had happened. Our heat sensors told us otherwise. This thing looked like a human, and indeed its torn and bloodied body was once a person, but it had no body heat, no eyes or hands. It shambled towards us, stumbling over barrels and coiled cable, an occasional shriek coming from its head.
It never reached us.
Its blind path sent it careering into one of the many cooling lagoons where it disappeared without trace. The second appeared an hour later, a child perhaps since it clutched a doll in its left hand, its right arm largely missing.
It stood at the edge of the light cast by our headlights, its eyeless face turned towards us, the dark pit of its mouth open wide. Nobody moved for an hour as this thing that once was a child screamed at us.
Only as the sun began to rise again did it move away, stumbling slowly into the maze of warehouses and workshops we had explored hours earlier.
Now we know what the interference is on the radio. The dead are talking to us.
Mission log of Lieutenant Ara Mercator, Recon Group
Mission Clock: 25 hours, 17 minutes, 12 seconds
Scene elements created in Hexagon and the Vue terrain editor using height maps from Photoshop CS2.
Scene assembly and final rendering in Vue 5 Pro Studio