Anyhow, back to the matter at hand, this next one is the first time we had concrete, undeniable proof that something truly bizarre was happening - not just on the scale of otherworldliness, or even breaches from another universe, but something from another dimension entirely. We were deployed to the swamps of Louisiana to infiltrate a covert research facility being operated by the Prometheus Mandate, a shady multinational organization that we hadn't even heard of until someone on the inside leaked some info to us, and swallowed a cyanide cocktail a day later. It wasn't much, but it was enough to spook the brass, and knowing what we did afterward, they were right to be scared.
In terms of the Traveler and his scouts, we didn't have any real news at the time, but we were getting some strange seismic readings around where the village in Libya went poof. The boys in the lab fixed the recoil on our railguns, though, and thank Christ for that. We also got some prototype power armor, complete with cloaking modules and an oxygen supply, but they still couldn't replicate the alloy from the Traveler's armor, and the fact that they were giving us air meant that they were sending us into a toxic environment. Naturally, though, they didn't tell us much about what we were actually walking into. The objective was to secure the facility, and gather anything we could on what exactly they were doing there. Not exactly brimming with detail, considering the ever-present risk of death or dismemberment.
We swept low over the rural swamps in the osprey, two pilots up front, and myself, Jefferies, Barry, and Tanner in the back. They ditched the mobile command center idea, and the pilots were ordered to get the fuck out as soon as they dropped us off. I kept getting the impression that anybody who knew what we were actually walking into was scared shitless of it, but they wouldn't breathe a word of it to any of us, like we'd desert on the spot if we figured it out.
The osprey slowed, hovering over the bog, and Jefferies threw the rope out the door, the end disappearing into the trees below. Grabbing hold, he climbed out, and the rest of us quickly followed, an aura of wet decay radiating into the air the closer I got to the ground. Slipping through the cover of leaves and branches, I set down with the others in the muck, my ankles disappearing into the ground beneath me. The rope was wound back up, and the osprey turned and went back the way it came, the chopping of the blades disappearing in the distance until only silence remained. That should've been our first red flag. Normally you'd hear something out there, whether it's insects, animals, or even the wind, but that place was dead silent.
None of us brought it up, but I could tell the others were bothered by it. Barry got us oriented, and we started making our way through the swamp, the hot sun shining through the trees. Our armor made it easier to move through the muck, but one thing they didn't add was air conditioning or ventilation of any kind, so ten minutes later, the only word I can use to describe the inside of my suit, is moist. The really fun part, spoiler alert, is that they never fixed it. Every single operation from then on out, I had to bathe in my own sweat. You also couldn't take them off without help, so relieving yourself on any sort of extended op was a little slice of hell. In basic, that used to be the standard if you ever felt the urge in the middle of a run, but you never expected to keep doing it after you get your MOS, unless you eventually got suckered into scout sniper or some other recon. Apparently, you would be wrong.
As soon as Barry let us know we were close, we all activated our cloaking modules and pushed forward. We were leaving leg-sized holes in the swamp wherever we stood, and the blur was a lot harsher than the Traveler's, but it was better than regular camo, and we could selectively communicate through our face masks without making any outside noise.
"Two o' clock," said Barry, stopping to look through the scope of his railgun. A short ways ahead, two men in ghillie suits were moving across a finger of dry land, camouflaged M16s in hand.
"Tanner, you're up," said Jefferies. Tanner moved ahead, leveling his scope on the men as they walked.
"I've got the one in the back," said Barry, charging his railgun with a faint whine.
"Ready," said Tanner.
"Three, two, one."
With a soft hiss, they fired two subsonic slugs at the men, and their upper bodies exploded, painting the trees with a splatter of blood and bone fragments.
"Clear," said Barry, lowering his gun and continuing forward. That was when things started getting strange. A couple minutes later, I started to notice the sunlight getting paler, almost like twilight, but in the middle of the day.
"You guys seeing this?" I asked.
"Oh yeah," said Jefferies, stopping to point up at the sun shining in through the trees. It was like a blue eclipse, just a pale ring of ghostly light shimmering around a black disc in the sky.
"What the fuck," said Barry, looking up at the bizarre sight.
"Let's keep moving," said Jefferies. "You know the drill."
We picked up the pace, and the further we went, the more the light seemed to bleed from the eclipse, dripping down from the base like a glowing seam in the sky that deepened by the minute, bathing everything in an indigo light. I was still getting chest pain from where that thing in the arctic hit me, piercing through my ribs with every step I took, even with the armor assisting me.
"We got movement," said Barry, creeping forward as he raised his gun, the trees parting to reveal a fenced concrete platform that ramped up into the walls of a large structure, a layer of grime staining the exterior. Beyond, a guard in green camo patrolled along the paths, but his eyes weren't on us.
"Thane, get us in," said Jefferies. "Tanner take point." I moved up, and lit my torch against the metal of the barbed wire fence, slicing a large hole through it. Carefully pulling it away and setting it down in the muck, Tanner ducked through the opening, and the rest of us followed close behind, moving onto the path where the guard was slowly walking away from us. The trees had been cleared around the facility, and another guard was perched in a watchtower at the far corner ahead of us, looking out over the swamp with an AR-10. "Wait here, until he comes," said Jefferies, watching the guard on the walkway as we all took cover behind the structure. "Tanner, you take him out as soon as he's near. Keep it quiet."
"Consider it done," said Tanner, the blur of him removing the knife from his belt shimmering upon the air. After a couple minutes of waiting, the footsteps of the guard drew closer to us, Tanner peaking out around the corner as the rest of us stayed hidden. As the guard stepped out in front of us, Tanner grabbed him and covered his mouth, sawing open his throat as he dragged him back behind the wall. Holding him still until he bled out, Tanner propped him up against the concrete, hidden from sight.
"Move up," said Jefferies. Tanner took point, and we made our way across the open, concrete path, moving past the watchtower and around the corner, the front of the building glowing in the indigo light. The entrance was in sight, two guards posted out front, but they were both smoking and looking out into the swamp. "Move past them," said Jefferies. "Let's get inside."
We slipped past the oblivious guards, and entered the facility, the halls lined with blackened metal painted with strips of blue that traced across the walls, each marked with white lettering that indicated where they led, that being administration, testing, communications, and maintenance.
"Testing it is," said Jefferies, eyes peeled ahead as we followed Tanner through the labyrinthine complex, the halls lit by strips of fluorescent light upon the ceiling. The facility seemed like it had almost been abandoned, and though we heard voices from one of the other corridors, nobody crossed our path. Eventually, we were led to a large, open chamber filled with electronics, a sealed elevator booth in the center of it with its doors welded shut. Two guards kept their eyes on the elevator, their expressions deeply uncomfortable, while a woman in a lab coat monitored a terminal nearby. "Tanner and Barry, take out the guards," said Jefferies. "Thane, keep the lady breathing, but keep her quiet. I've got some questions for her."
I crept up behind the woman as the others took their positions, Jefferies setting up near the door to shut it. We each sounded off, and Jefferies started the count.
"Three, two, one."
I grabbed the woman from behind and covered her mouth, dragging her back from her chair as the others slashed open the guards' throats and waited for them to bleed out. Jefferies quietly shut the door, and disabled his cloaking module, walking toward me as the woman tried to scream through my fingers and struggle in my grip, but to no avail.
"Okay," said Jefferies. "My friend here is gonna' take his hand off your mouth, but if you scream or signal for help, you're gonna' die. You stay quiet and answer our questions, you get to walk out of this. Nod if you understand." She nodded apprehensively, ceasing her struggling. I slowly removed my hand, but still held her in place. "First question," Jefferies continued. "What are you testing?" The woman shook her head.
"I don't know," she said. "They don't tell me anything, I swear to God."
"Hey Tanner," said Jefferies. "Start peeling off her fingernails if she doesn't answer in five seconds." Tanner walked over in a blur of motion and grabbed the woman's hand, holding his knife to it as Jefferies counted down. "Five, four, three -"
"Wait, wait," said the woman. "Okay."
"Well, shit, I thought you didn't know anything," said Jefferies.
"I don't know a lot," she said, shaking in my grip. "But they put me here to monitor the underground, to make sure nothing comes up while the station's being decommissioned. Beneath us is a tesseract, meant to keep something from passing through the walls."
"The fuck is a tesseract?" asked Jefferies.
"A 4D cube," I said.
"And how exactly did this something get down there?"
"I don't know, honestly," said the woman. "It's something to do with modifying kyanite to make contact with another place. Anything more than that is over my head - it's not my department. I'm just a tech."
"And this thing," said Jefferies. "Is it hostile?"
"Not unless you're schizophrenic, but you can't go down there, it's -"
"Watch me," said Jefferies, leveling his gun at the woman's chest. "Thane, open up the elevator."
I released the woman and took out my torch, walking over to the elevator. I slowly cut through the welding of the door, sparks flashing against my cloaking field in a haze of distortion.
"Give me a hand," I said, Barry coming up from behind to help me pull the heavy door free, and then carefully set it down on the ground. As Jefferies and Tanner led the woman into the elevator, Barry briefly disabled his cloaking module and took a sentry from his pack, setting it up on the wall and pointing it at the closed door. He waved his hand in front of it to make sure it was tracking his movement, and then joined us in the elevator.
"We're good," he said, Jefferies reactivating his own cloaking module.
"You don't understand," said the woman, her expression terrified. "You can't do this. We have no idea what this thing even is. If it gets free ..."
"Yeah, I'm sure you're real concerned about the wellbeing of humanity," said Jefferies, hitting the button to go down. The elevator groaned around us as the cables above slowly lowered us into the shaft.
"Can I at least stay in here, with one of you? I don't want to go in there. I heard the others talking, and -"
"Actually, you're going up front," said Jefferies. "You're gonna' give us a guided tour."
The elevator groaned to a halt, and the grated, bloodstained barrier that now stood before us slid open, revealing a hall lit by a glowing blue light, a faint mist wisping through a door half-open at the end. Jefferies shoved the woman ahead of us, and we followed her as she slowly crept forward, the texture of the walls around us writhing like a bed of worms.
"Something's wrong," she said, beginning to stumble as she clutched her stomach. "I don't feel right."
"Then maybe you should've explored another career trajectory," said Tanner. "Keep walking."
Opening the door, the woman stepped into the next room and stifled a scream, immediately looking away. We moved in behind her, and I saw what used to be a recreation room, televisions, pool tables, and bookshelves dripping with streaks of blood as trash and bodily fluids littered the room, a faint mist wafting over everything. Thankfully, I couldn't smell a thing, but nothing could take away what I saw next. Snaking across the floor was a tangle of flesh that wound up into a basin of twitching arms that had taken residence on the couch, and above it, a conglomerate of fleshy skulls were fused together around an exposed heart, slowly beating as the multitude of sunken eyes jittered within their sockets. From the exposed valves of the heart, streams of a watery, red-tinged liquid trickled down into the basin. It wasn't blood, being almost clear, but blood was surely a part of it. The woman began muttering to herself, slowly running her hands across the squirming walls.
"Mind explaining what the fuck we're looking at?" asked Jefferies. The woman ignored him, twitching as she started repetitively banging her fist against the concrete, humming to herself as though she were slowly losing her mind. Jefferies walked over to her, snapping his fingers in front of her face. "Hey, what the fuck is wrong with you?"
The woman slowly turned, rocking in place as her eyes shifted to the amalgamation of flesh in the center of the room. Her pupils were completely dilated. Slowly, the liquid in the basin of arms began to rise into the air before splashing down again, as though it was being lapped up by an enormous, invisible tongue. The woman began to hum in distress, unable to peel her gaze away as the lapping of the liquid abruptly stopped. We all backed away from the basin, keeping our guns trained on the seemingly empty space. The woman was suddenly ripped from the ground and dragged screaming across the ceiling, disappearing into the adjoining hall as her shrieking disappeared in the distance.
"Tanner, take point," said Jefferies. "We're doing a quick sweep, and then we're getting the fuck out of here."
"Keep your skin covered up," said Barry. "There's something in the air."
We slowly followed Tanner down the hall, passing by an empty bathroom with the door ripped off its hinges, the floor covered with the blood-soaked glass of the shattered mirror. We then passed two bedrooms, equally torn to shreds, yet the second had an intact bed shoved into the corner of the room as something slowly pulsed beneath the covers, as though breathing. A long, fleshy tentacle hung down from the blankets and coiled beneath the bed, squirming in the indigo darkness. Tanner advanced forward, and we turned into the kitchen, where the woman was pinned to the far wall by some invisible force, staring off into space as her mouth hung agape.
"Hold your fire unless it attacks us," said Jefferies, keeping his gun trained on the cluttered space ahead. Slowly, the woman's flesh began to ripple and expand, and we slowly backed away into the hall, watching as her features melted away into the shape of a viscous sphere, her disjointed arms dangling from the undulating mass as her legs folded back into the fluidic chaos, the snapping of bone cracking upon the air as her limbs crumpled like discarded wrappers. Slowly, the floating sphere of flesh split open into a yawning maw, concentric rings of human teeth spinning into nothingness as it exhaled a faint mist into the air. The invisible creature loosed a chittering hum as it breathed in the vapor, several bloody handprints appearing upon the wall and smearing across it in long, sweeping motions. "We're leaving," said Jefferies, moving back as the rest of us followed.
Slowly, we made our way back down the hall, yet when I looked into the closest bedroom, I saw a sunken, human face peering at me from the pulsating mass beneath the covers, extending from the hidden darkness upon a long, rubbery neck. It opened its mouth, unhinging its entire skull to reveal a throat layered with masses of staring, dilated eyes, yet they did nothing but watch as I slowly moved out of sight, following the others back into the recreation room, where the basin of twitching arms and faces gazed in every direction at once.
We quickly hurried back to the elevator, and Jefferies hit the button, the grating sliding shut in front of us as the cables groaned above, beginning to pull us up through the shaft. Just as the floor could slide out of view, I saw the long, turtle-like head of the thing that once lurked beneath the bedroom covers peek into the hall from the open rec room door, its sunken, dilated eyes watching me intently before it slipped from sight, the concrete wall of the shaft passing in front of us.
We didn't say a word, the elevator bringing us to the surface once more as we filed out of it, and Barry dismantled the sentry, the dead body of a man in a lab coat riddled with bullet holes next to the open door of the chamber. We moved back down the hall, and found our way out of the facility, Barry and Tanner wasting the two guards out front and dragging them inside before the watchtowers could spot us. We left through the hole in the fence out back, the body of the patrol still laying undisturbed against the concrete. As we made our way back, and Barry called for the evac, the blue eclipse slowly faded into a pale, ghostly light once more, before splitting back into the familiar, blinding glow of the midday sun.
It didn't take long for the osprey to arrive, and we got out of there as quick as we could. BREACH sent in a strike team a couple hours later, killing everyone onsite and assuming control of the facility. I don't know much beyond what my contacts in R&D told me, but we think these guys may be responsible for all the weird shit that's been happening, at least in part, like they drew some forgotten offshoot of existence too close to our own. The strike team secured an encrypted coms record that the facility had with other Prometheus bases before the staff could wipe it, but nobody can figure out where, geographically, the messages were coming from, and anybody that wasn't killed by the team committed suicide on the spot. From what I've heard, the entire zone was created by the quantum entanglement of a kyanite sample with a cluster in another reality, prompting any wildlife to stay the fuck away from it. Why they chose kyanite, nobody really knows. The working theory is that it's the only thing our universe has in common with whatever we're bound to. They don't know what to do about the thing in the underground, and they have no idea how the tesseract around the living quarters was even constructed, so they're apparently choosing to just let it be until they understand it better.
Hopefully, they can wipe the whole thing off the map. Prometheus was recruiting people and locking them down there on the pretense of high-paying clinical trials, spiking their water supply with acid while that thing waited in the background. Now, everything that goes down there unprotected is transfigured into something that breathes and bleeds LSD, sustaining whatever it is that now calls it home, and any hostile action doesn't even affect it - opening fire on it is like shooting at the air, and it won't even try to hit you back, unless you've been dosed. Even then, nobody can describe what they're seeing, because the human mind is only human, no matter how much you try to alter it.
I'll get back to you soon. A while before I left, we got deployed to investigate something called the Cult of the Veil, up in the Northwest Territories, who somehow obtained an artifact that could summon lightning storms. Until then, stay safe, and avoid looking at the moon. I was watching it last night, and I swear it was looking back.