Compared to the Breadbox’s readings of emergency, the serenity of her surroundings felt dissonant, as if she were walking through some unsuspecting neighborhood, uniquely burdened with the knowledge of the time bomb hidden beneath its pavement.

The faster she could find evidence, however, the faster she could raise the alarm.

Eventually, the device led her to the mouth of an alleyway several blocks away.

In the middle of the alleyway, hidden beneath the shadows of its neighboring buildings, several corrupted rats swarmed around a dead animal--some poor stray, from what little she could make of the carcass. With every motion, the rodents’ malformed bodies writhed and twitched in agitated, unnatural jerks, like clockwork toys mimicking natural movement.

Dr. Thorncroft’s goggles had yet to confirm the obvious truth, however: what were supposed to be the first visual readings of corrupted aether appeared through her lenses as a muddled, ambiguous mess.

“There’s...something, at least?” she mumbled to herself. “No bigger than your garden-variety Cat-2 horde, though--can’t have been strong enough to trigger the alarm on its own...”

Clicking her tongue, she danced her fingers along the rim of her goggles, tuning the frequency to make sense of the confused view.

“Losing visual...can you just work for once, dammit--”

The aether readings glitched in and out of coherence with every minor tweak.

“For the love of--I know I’ve gotten you right, this time...!”

Suddenly, the scene before her snapped into clarity.

The ravenous colony was instantly replaced with grotesque visions of mutated phantoms puppeteering the bodies of the living.

Bile rose to the back of her throat as her blood ran cold.

“Oh...holy shit.”

Chapter 0, Pages 14-15

 2nd Dec 2020