The Legend of the Spectral Seal
by Anonymous (send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jorogumo races forward, legs splayed wide as she darts between cover. The whore-spider hunkers down, the verdant surroundings reflected infinitely in the facets of her mechanical eyes.
None of this makes any sense.
Orbiting eyes can map Terra’s surface right down to the finest grain sand, so why would Earth Central send anyone at all?
There’s also the small matter of tomorrow being the end of the world. Not that she believes the hype. It’s just another tired old internet meme, coupled with the vaguest of pseudoscience and just a little old-fashioned mumbo-jumbo.
The logic boils down to this:
According to the Mesoamerican Long Count calender, the current baktun cycle ends in a little under 7 hours.
Add to this historical coincidence the fact that the Winter Solstice will see Sol in precise alignment with the intersection of the ecliptic and the Milky Way’s ‘Dark Rift’ and suddenly everyone is screaming apocalypse.
But still, none of this explains what a veteran war drone is doing running ‘search and neutralise’ in Goatswood.
The village itself is quiet in a way that makes her mandibles want to clatter. Whether it’s a caution born of experience or something more akin to animal instinct, there’s something about this place that feels ‘furtive’.
Corrugated iron sheets clatter in gouged shop-fronts, an uprooted streetlamp lies across the road, and humped earth is scattered with disembowelled mattresses, their entrails fluttering feebly. She advances, passing houses where one window is blinded with brick, the next still open and filmy with a drooping curtain.
Whole streets are derelict ... gaping houses and uneven pavements ... Tenements drift by, shoulder to shoulder, ribs open to the sky, red-brick fronts revealing their jumble of shattered walls and staircases.
Hunches have no place in the ordered mass of orbital crystal that holds her brain, but that knowledge doesn’t alter the fact that Jurogumo already owes her life to these flashes of inexplicable inspiration.
She saw things during the war, things that have etched themselves into her memory and which, even now, send strange harmonics through her thoughts. Corruption in her code that would have rendered the drone unfit for service, had she not already grown bored of her peace-time role.
But, of course, those self-same qualities make her ideally suited for this kind of operation.
Sweeping her head slowly back and forth, she paints a detailed picture of the valley. And the data she collects is so unbelievable she considers running a series of diagnostics and checking the results again. Nothing stirs in the surrounding woodland. No squirrels, no birds, not even an insect crawls between the fallen leaves.
Despite the incongruent winter greenery, the valley is apparently dead.
She expands her search, sensors sucking in the fading light as she reaches blindly for something. Jurogumo looks beyond the close-set dull-red roofs and narrow streets, out into the encircling forest.
Before the woods closed in, a last stand of dingy houses lies exhausted between gardens high with grass, uneven with rocks and deep pools of disturbingly orange mud.
Willows, their branches glowing, stippled curves, are spaced carefully toward the hill out of which a cemetery is carved, black behind ivy or railings. Above stands the crumbling ruin of a hospital, a grey reminder of hope or despair.
The avenues are guarded by broken-nosed angels yearning heavenward. One shows a leprous patch where her left eye and cheek have sloughed away as if to accentuate the sense of decay. Urns stand here and there like empty glasses at a sick bed.
Each corridor of trees seems made to be explored, each green shadow promising mystery. The drone side-steps, fighting the glitch-code as it expands within her kernel. Instability threatens to crash her emotions. But she embraces the sensation, immediately recognising the good kind of crazy.
The screen of leaves seems secretive. Parted, it reveals only an expanse of dim branches.
Heat signatures flare in the distance, appearing magically as she filters their locations from the ambient noise. The drone sweeps forward, engaging her AG drive and snatching her segmented legs clear of the baked mud.
The town is out in force, their strangely amelodic chorus audible even at this distance. Jurogumo shunts the audio feed to a hastily constructed sub-mind. It will alert her to any changes in the droning song, leaving her free to hunt.
Really good chameleonware doesn’t just mask its user’s presence, it blends seamlessly with the background. The lone picket, crouching at the edge of the tree line, is only noticeable by the things Jurogumo cannot see but which she knows should still be there.
Her chameleonware is good, but the drone’s is better.
In the distant clearing, the exultation grows louder and more primal. Jurogumo knows there is precious little time, but the situation calls for subtly that cannot be dispensed from the muzzle of her railgun.
She is barely ten metres away when her sensors finally pierce the exotic camouflage. The woman wears an eclectic mix of military gear, the pinnacle of which is the AWP clutched in her gloved hands. That gets Jurogumo’s attention: it’s a weapon that could seriously hurt her and that at least demands respect.
The AG disengages and she drops soundlessly to the forest floor. Stalking forward, the mechanical spider reaches for the unsuspecting woman. Her pincers slip around the target’s throat, chainglass blades cutting effortlessly through the combat jacket and exposing the pale flesh beneath.
Without pause, Jurogumo moves even closer, rearing up on her hind legs and hauling her victim into the air where she can dangle by her tethered ankles, while dexterous forelimbs slowly spin the now blank-eyed young woman throat an intimate dance that leaves her helplessly wrapped in a shroud of orbital silk.
Jurogumo’s mandibles clatter excitedly, tiny, pleasurable sparks chasing themselves through her crystal mind as feedback whines from the exotic device embedded in tip of her manipulator. The drone has no truck with limited, mammalian superstitions, but she cannot deny the Spectral Seal’s effectiveness.
Not only does it augment her already formidable chameleonware to the point where she has become effectively undetectable. But, more importantly in this instance, the slightest touch is enough to short out all higher brain functions, leaving the victim utterly tractable and entirely helpless.
On Pluto the Separatists who found the artifact had intended to use it as a weapon.
Instead, they died.
Unwanted memories bleed through digital blocks, processing anomalies that many would deem insanity. Her eyes stare blankly, gazing into unimaginable vistas, and then the moment is past.
Enzymatic decay is already well advanced by the time she returns to the here and now. The woman squirms beneath the thin silken shroud, her body already partially denuded by the complex chemical reaction. Small nipples stand tight and proud, practically begging to be teased and tormented.
Jurogumo trails her manipulator down the undulating cocoon, tactile sensors noting how wet her victim is already. She whispers, singing a melody that slides through the infrasonic, further stunning the woman’s hopelessly weakened mind.
Moving with impossible dexterity, the drone rubs the now sodden silk between her victim’s parted cuntlips. She moulds the cocoon with precise movements, sealing in the woman’s curves as the gauze continues to soak in her oozing juices.
The wrapping grows increasingly transparent, clinging more and more tightly as she smooths it into place. Thin sheets cover the captive’s eyes, sealing her mouth and even her nose, leaving the helpless woman blinded and breathing in soft but energetic gasps.
Nothing but a needy, muzzy-headed, squirming package of succulent girl-flesh. Subdued, powerless and completely open to Jurogumo’s every sordid whim.
Normally she would stay to play. But tonight there is no time and, besides, there are other forces who will be more than happy to welcome the will-less woman into the fold. The drone steps away, crossing into the clearing as the chanting reaches its crescendo.
All-round vision detects the first movements. Something black slides toward the mummified watcher. Something that isn’t a tree. Something big and black and ropy. It has just been sitting there, waiting, its ropy arms squirming and reaching. Now, it crawls closer—this black, ropy, slime-jelly tree-thing, flowing on its hoofs and mouths and snaky arms.
And the Earth Security Agent disappears into its multi-limbed embrace, gone in an instant of swirling tentacles.
“Iä! Shub-Niggurath!” the throng sings.
Joy tingles through Jurogumo’s mind, drowning out the liquid echoes of another lost soul being welcomed back into the womb of the Black Goat after whom these woods are named.
She knows the truth. Finally, after long and strange aeons, the stars are right. The sleepers will reawaken and this solstice will bring not an end to this world, but a new and vibrant dawn for their followers
“Iä! Shub-Niggurath!” she sings, adding her voice to the chorus: “The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!”