“This is Science Officer Jacques Mallard. Is anyone on this frequency?” A lone demon said as he held up a crystal sphere. He was clad in a black suit with an open back, the standard style of modern spacesuit for demons. While it gave the appearance of being dangerous to wear in a vacuum, there was an invisible barrier extending from the back that wrapped around the wearer’s wings.
Those wings were the greatest reason why space travel had become such a difficulty for the demon race. Mundane suits could not feasibly be created that would encase the wings without restricting them, while also being reasonably quick to don in case of an emergency.
As he stared at the crystal sphere, it thrummed with the mana he had been inserting into it. However, there was no response from the device. With a shake of his head, he lifted a hand to tap at it. A holographic panel emerged, through which he changed the sphere from broadcast to recording mode.
“This is Science Officer Jacques Mallard of the Deckan Starship, Eternity.” He introduced himself again, releasing the orb to allow it to hover beside him. After that, he reached down to grab a pair of pistols hanging from his waist. His eyes swept around the grassy plains in which he stood. “My ship has encountered an unknown anomaly while traversing deep space.”
As he continued, he began walking towards the west, feeling a humid breeze from that direction. “Crew status is unknown. After encountering the anomaly, I awoke on an unusual planet. Atmospheric conditions are stable, with ample plant life. However, I have not seen any animal life since my arrival eight hours ago.”
“If anyone finds this recording, I will be documenting my experiences and discoveries. Once every hour, I plan to halt the recording and attempt to make contact again.” He could see the trees starting to rustle in the distance, his grip on the guns he was holding becoming tighter.
With a potentially hostile lifeform nearby, he dropped his voice to a whisper. “Unusual movement, possibly an alien lifeform ahead. Moving to investigate. Due to unique planetary conditions, I must make as much progress as I can during the day.”
Such a statement would no doubt seem odd coming from the nocturnal demonic race, who had far better night vision than any other species. “From what I observed upon my arrival, this world does not possess a moon. Either that, or I coincidentally appeared at the worst part of its lunar cycle. However, that is not what makes this world unusual.”
“Perhaps due to a celestial phenomena within this solar system, there are no stars visible at night. I repeat, this world has no stars.” Just the thought of the pitch black sky was enough to send shivers down Jacques’s back. That was why he wanted to act during the day, in spite of his naturally nocturnal cycle. Staring into the pitch black abyss gave him an eerie sense of dread that he couldn’t shake.
“How are they, doctor?” A demonic woman asked, standing in the infirmary. Her face was haggard, showing clear signs of overwork, but she did her best to move past it.
Opposite to her stood a man with a white overcoat, his wings wrapped overtop it. The doctor shook his head, glancing into the room. There were twenty people laid out in medical beds, all appearing to be fast asleep. “No change. According to all of my tests, they are physically fine. Their bodies are not under any undue stress. It’s just…”
Seeing the doctor’s hesitation, the woman furrowed her brow. “Doctor, I need to know what is going on here. Why is the majority of my science team comatose if there is nothing wrong with them?”
“It’s… difficult to explain.” The doctor shook his head. “From what I can tell, their brains are showing constant activity. While their bodies are asleep, their minds are anything but. I’ve seen this a few times before, but I can’t exactly reason how that situation connects to this.”
“Are you really going to make me ask?” The captain practically growled out the words, her patience running short. She had been up all day, scrambling to assess the damage after their ship collided with an unknown energy during warp. Thankfully, the size of the anomaly was small, and most of the sections it struck were hallways or unoccupied bedrooms. However, the science lab was directly along its path, with most of the team immediately rendered unconscious.
“I’m getting to it…” The doctor said with a small sigh. “The only time I’ve seen readings like this was when I was examining a patient who was logged in to virtual reality. As you know, the virtual reality headsets put the body into a dormant state while the mind is connected to a digital world.”
“Only this time… they aren’t connected to any devices that would explain their condition.” As he said that, he brought a hand up to rub at his weary eyes. “I’ve tried to bring some of their personal virtual headsets in to use on them, but they simply won’t connect. Instead, it displays an error as if it wasn’t used on someone in the first place.”
His words made the captain look at him strangely, unable to figure out what was going on. However, before she could see anything, there was a deep ring that echoed through the infirmary. The doctor spun around in surprise, looking for the source of the noise before running over. There, he saw one of the many scientists laying on the bed, but with a significant difference compared to what was there before.
Now, his health bar had become visible. Although it was faint, he had taken damage. “Is this normal?” The captain asked with a faint tone of annoyance.
“No… no it isn’t!” The doctor was far more agitated now than he was a moment ago. If the patients were taking damage due to their state, then this was far worse than it was previously. Now they had a timer. “None of the other patients have taken any damage so far, despite being here for the same amount of time.”
Walking up to the scientist, the doctor placed a single hand on her head, and released a soft green light from it. This was a common healing spell to cure minor damage to the body, little more than magical first aid. He did not expect it to work, but needed to try regardless.
To his surprise, the health bar above the scientist faded away, showing that the damage had been cured. This baffled the doctor, as he had assumed that any injury sustained at this point in time would be with the brain, an organ that his spell would not have been able to repair.
“What’s going on…” He mumbled to himself before another ring sounded in the infirmary. This time, the patient that had suffered damage left them even more shocked. They saw one of the leading members of the team, Jacques Mallard, with his arm broken, bent clearly in the wrong direction.
The doctor’s mind raced as he saw the damage, his medical team already running over to quickly tend to the man. Yet, before they could do so, his arm was set on its own, and the man’s health slightly recovered. “I need his personnel file…” The doctor said, his voice shaking. “I need everyone’s file immediately.”
With the evidence that had been laid out before them, he had an idea as to what was going on. However, the thought of it scared him even more than the prospect of their condition slowly killing them. He lifted his hand, tapping a device on his wrist and using his clearance to access the personal records of his patient. “Trained in first-aid runic spells.”
“Captain, I’m sorry, but I need to ask you to leave the infirmary immediately.” He said, spinning on his heels to address the ship’s captain. “As of this moment, the infirmary is under emergency quarantine.”
“What are you talking about, doctor?” The captain asked, her face showing clear surprise. Regardless, she knew better than to break quarantine without knowing the details, and backed away towards the exit.
“This is just my preliminary estimate… but the minds… no, the souls of the patients seem to be connected to a parallel world. Similar to when one connects with Vision Expanse or Natural Seed. However, in this case, the connection appears to be deeper. Injuries that the patient suffers are transferred between the ‘virtual’ world and physical.”
“Why does this call for a quarantine?” The captain asked, now standing outside of the medical bay, her eyes worried as she looked into the room.
“Because we do not know the state of the world that the patients have been sent to. There is a possibility that they could contract a pathogen, with that pathogen then being transferred to their physical body. In order to prevent a potential outbreak, we must clear the infirmary of all unnecessary personnel.”
When the captain heard that, she seemed to better understand the seriousness of the situation. She clenched her fists, debating the activation of the ship’s recall device. Using it at this time would allow them to return to Deckan immediately, but force them to start their journey anew. Although they had a teleport drive copied from Metong ships, they did not have the same level of scanning technology to ensure that uncharted destinations would be free of obstruction.
In the end, she decided to wait, giving a faint nod and leaving to return to her office. Seeing that, the doctor let out another sigh, walking back to his patients. “Everyone, immediately remove the patients’ uniforms. Standard medical dress. We need to be able to see any injuries as they occur.”
As he said that, he walked towards the storage room of the medical bay, retrieving a more bulky scanner. This item was designed to detect internal injuries, similar to an MRI, only using pulses of ki instead of magnetic fields. After he had the machine prepared on standby, he made a decision that… did not sit easily on his conscience.
Jacques Mallard panted for breath as he clutched his arm, knowing that the bone had not fully healed. Across from him lay the corpse of a large ape with golden fur, the creature that had emerged from the forest. “Haah… the beast is large, three and a half to four meters in height. Extremely muscled and with fur that appears to be made from solid gold.”
“Its strength should have an equivalent value of a hundred and seventy-five points. Give or take, I’m not really a physical type. However… it broke my right arm. Although I’ve applied first-aid, I do not expect to be able to regain full use of the limb for at least two days. At this time, I wish I had blocked with my other arm, at least… gah!”
The scientist shouted out in pain, his left arm starting to spasm. “Strong burning sensation in my left arm, unknown cause. Temporarily halting recording.” As he said that, he cut the mana he was feeding to the device, dropping to his knee. He lifted his left arm, expecting to see some sort of creature burrowing into his flesh. Instead, he saw thin, even lines drawing themselves on his dark red flesh.
‘VR instance. HP Transfer. Status?` Those words were slowly ‘written’ on his skin, his eyes going wide and shaking as he struggled to decipher their meaning through the pain. Pain that was… quickly fading. A cool energy permeated his right arm, mending the damaged bone and muscles.
VR instance… virtual reality? If that was the case, HP would refer to health points. Would that explain where this burn came from, and the healing? But… I clearly still have all of my items. Thinking that, Jacques grit his teeth. If his hunch was correct about this message, then he was planning to do the same thing. He needed to communicate his situation in as short of a message as possible to spare himself any undue pain.
“Are you sure about this, sir?” One of the medical staff asked, approaching the senior medical officer. They had just finished their work, going to each patient and using a surgical laser at its lowest output to inscribe the same message on everyone’s skin.
“No, I’m not sure.” The doctor groaned, clapping his hand over his face. “First off, we don’t even know for sure if the damage inflicted on them from this side transfers to them, or if the connection is only one-way. Secondly… how many of them will be willing to injure themselves just to send us a message? Just… this is the only thing I can think of to establish a line of communication.
The medical staff hesitated, but gave a small nod of understanding. Just then, the familiar ring of a damage alarm sounded, and the two of them moved into the main hall of the infirmary. By the time they arrived, almost every patient had triggered their damage alarm, medical personnel scrambling to help them.
The doctor walked to one patient, looking at the message that had been written back as his face began to distort, and then the next. Some patients had their own laser tools to make clean lines on their skin, others caused deep gashes with bladed instruments. However, they all communicated the same message, the same single word.