“Ares, located in the Saris system 56.9 light years from earth , is the outer edge of current human colonisation. With a diameter and geological makeup similar to Mars, it was first colonised by the Gentech Corporation in 2046 for mining, due to the unusually high connotations of heavy metals in its core, but more recently has become a bludgeoning centre for R&D. With a thin CO2 and nitrogen based atmosphere and weak magnetosphere, it’s surface is hostile to life, The only native organism is a simple multi-cellular lichen existing in caverns below the planet’s surface. Human colonists on Ares are required to live in sealed domes and habitats, or more recently Gentech’s state of the Art Arcology. ”
-A brief compendium of the Outer Colonies, by the United Nations Space Force Office of information
September 2092, 2 km under the Gentech Arcology on Ares, Saris system
The sound of metal grinding against metal cut through the fetid darkness as the pressure door opened, allowing bright light to pour into the room. The beam briefly illuminated several grey creatures moving on the concrete floor before the light sent them scurrying to the shadows, the intense white beam painful to eyes adapted for almost total darkness.
A figure stepped through the metal doorway, wreathed in a bulky yellow environmental suit, lights shining from holders on the toughened plastic chest piece and the sides of its helmet, features hidden behind the mirrored plastic of its sealed box hood. It struggled to carry a large white specimen crate into the centre of the room before awkwardly setting it down with a thump, eliciting a sibilant hiss from its interior. The Figure knelt to fiddle with a set of controls mounted on the container, a series of beeps accompanying the commands. The electronic bleeps elicited another hiss from inside and the figure froze for a moment before returning to typing in commands, muttering to itself in muffled voice.
“Locks off, surveillance engaged. All right, let’s get this show on the road. Time to spread the message.”
The task completed, the figure stood with a muffled groan, before heading to the doorway and leaning through it to retrieve another case. Opening the case it removed several recording devices and began setting them around the area, the lights mounted on its chest and head highlighting the decaying metal and plastic of the machinery and dripping pipes running along the ceilings to disappear down tunnels branching off the room, the darkness beyond swallowing up the light. The whole area was filled with the signs of industry and human occupation but had long since left to the elements.
The figure’s movements were followed from the shadows by creatures that had taken up residence in the tunnels and mineshafts after Humanity abandoned the area, pale eyes watching as if resenting mankind’s return. Apparently satisfied with its task the figure returned to the case and input a final command, before hastily retreating backwards to the door. It briefly struggled to close the heavy metal portal, the encrusted hinges proving more difficult to shut than open, the rust and filth fighting his efforts. The container on the floor began to beep, causing the figure to become almost frantic, throwing its shoulder against the door repeatedly until, with a final creak, it shut, leaving the room dark once again.
The chest continued to beep gently but after a few minutes with no more movement the rooms’ inhabitants began to creep out of their nooks and crannies. Pale eyes that were adapted to spectra of light unavailable to humans regarded the box in suspicion before a bolder individual moved forward, its four main limbs carrying it carefully over the moist concrete, whilst the more delicate limbs protruding from its chest remained protectively tucked back. The faint glow given off by the box illuminated it slightly, a pointed rodent nose and white beady eyes, set into a narrow head covered in waxy grey skin.
The creature bore a passing resemblance to the old earth creature it descended from since, though generations of mutation had given it extra limbs and allowed it to adapt to the dark and toxic environments mankind created wherever it travelled in the universe, people still referred to it by the name of its ancestor. The Rat
The specimen examining the box was a large female, her size close to that of an old earth terrier, her grey skin baring the scars of many vicious fights in the darkness, marking her as a survivor. She cautiously leant forward to sniff the surface, detecting strange sharp chemical smells mixed with the stink of humans. But underneath it all was something familiar, one of her kind, but somehow different.
The front of the box suddenly retracted and a blurred shape snapped forwards, bowling the rat onto its back and sinking jagged teeth into its shoulder. The female shrieked in alarm, its sharp claws scratching futilely at the strange creature above it, sharp digging claws skittering off coal black plates of chitin and leathery flesh. The strange creature started to drag its prey back into the darkness as the female’s struggles weakened, potent paralytic agents passing through its body from the bite, along with something far more dangerous. Once back in its den, the creature sniffed its twitching prize. Recognising the scent of a female, its body shivered, tissue reforming to a more suitable gender, it swiftly mated with the paralysed creature, its need to reproduce overcoming its burning hunger. Once finished it stalked out of its box in search of prey for its new mate, pursuing the fleeing rats into the darkness.
In the crate the paralyzed rat started to twitch and writhe as something began making changes to its body, a microscopic invader delivering new lines of genetic material and foreign DNA to the rats cells, reprogramming its flesh for new purpose, proteins forming and enzymes being created to change its tissue far faster than seen in nature, whilst in its womb new cells were already blossoming.
From the other side of the door, the figure watched the proceedings on a clear-screen, its cameras having recorded the assault and the listening devised picking up distant shrieks as its creation began to feed on the hapless rodents. The figure sat back and rubbed its hands together with glee, and deep inside the helmeted suit, it grinned.