Author : Daniel Nugent

The stars shone coldly through the solar plane of the binary system XJ-22V. At a point 100,000 kilometers away from the lone planet in the system, space began to warp itself in such a way that if you looked at it, you would vomit. Which is what the grey, blast-marked ship resembled as it was ejected from the cross-dimensional tear.

A moment elapsed and the ship’s antimatter annihilation engines came to life, hurtling towards the gravity well of the planet. As it breached the atmosphere, its hull, bristling with menacing tubes began to glow with friction. By the time the ship slammed to an abrupt stop 20,000 meters above the surface of the planet its skin was glowing white hot. Again a pause of but a moment and the ship shot off again, slower than before, but still leading an immense sonic boom through the acidic atmosphere.

As the ship slowed, now a mere 500 meters above the surface, the belly of the half flattened, convex hull split and a series of electric eyes and sensory apparatus emerged. They picked apart the bizarre, slooping alien flora and disfigured landscape atom by atom, searching for the ship’s destination. The olfactory boom picked up a chemical signature that matched the designated profile. All the eyes swiveled in the direction that the scent had come from and pinpointed the origin. The craft’s organelles retracted and its belly sealed again.

The ship maneuvered to the destination and again dropped like a rock, this time with landing pads extended. The ship didn’t slam, so much as pat the ground. Even as it was settling into the marshy earth, a circular airlock on its side swiveled and hissed as atmosphere escaped.

A biped in a khaki colored suit that made him look like a scarab emerged from the portal and mounted a ladder leading to the ground, a boxy kit on his back. After jumping off the last rung, he looked at a panel on his wrist and walked up to the precipice of a small cliff, his suit trailing noxious gases as the atmosphere slowly dissolved it.

Looking down into the pit below, he saw what he was there for: A massive, black-green, tentacled figure, shiny and oozing. He flipped on his suit’s external speaker and said loudly, “Hi, I’ve got a package for a Mister Xelquarkle?”

“I’m him,” said the hideous terror from beyond the stars, with a timbre in its voice that could curdle milk.

“Okay, I’ll just need you to sign here,” said the man, extending a pad and a stylus. Two tentacles grabbed them and scribbled a tainted symbology upon the pad, which promptly melted.

“Oh, sorry…”

“Nah, don’t worry, that’s the third one that’s done that this week. Here’s your package.”

“Thank you!”

“Have a nice day.”

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