“Captain, we have a transmission that’s coming up from a nearby planet! The signal is weak, but it’s looping. If we record it a few times, we could splice the video and audio feed-“
“Make it so.”
The communications officer looked at her commanding officer and nodded, her brows furrowed as she returned her gaze to the console and began to gather the samples required. As she waited in her comfortable red seat, she tapped one of her red-painted nails against an empty part of the console. Green eyes gazed listlessly at the reading screen.
She looked up after an hour, and glanced toward the front window. The only planet in sight was unevenly dotted pale brown, small green areas, and a dull shade of blue-grey.
The local file on the planet told of the world’s life fading. It was not polluted at all, and all archaeological finds pointed to a high degree of ecological awareness, as though the previous civilization knew of the coming mass extinction in advance.
Her console beeped. “A sizable sample has been gathered and compiled into audio and visual.”
The captain turned to look at the communications officer and nodded. “I want it on the big screen, Weller.”
Communications Officer Antoinette Dennice Weller tapped a few buttons on her keyboard and turned her attention to the large screen that lowered slowly from the ceiling. It was thin and rigid, and curved to provide a view for all present.
The video began after a few moments of darkness and static noises. A young man became visible. He wore a tight leather jacket with a drawn hood over a thick body, and stared out at them through his recording device. Freckles dotted his face unevenly, and his full lips took a deep breath before he started to speak.
“I am Chaser Gionni Merveln, also called ‘Water’. I am the last Chaser, and my line traces back to the hand of the first Chaser King– not Emperor. King.” He grinned and his brown eyes glanced behind him, pupils small before he returned his attention forward. His right hand twitched slightly. “Like all of my forefathers– and mothers– I was trained by my parents in combat, politics, and more-” He became quiet.
“I should start with a history lesson, in case whoever sees this has no idea who the Chasers are. The Chasers were created and ruled by the First King. He ruled a tiny little city that was plagued by spooks, like werewolves, ghosts, ghouls, goblins– everything. It drove him insane to lose his people so quickly, so he sent out a doctor, a wizard, a scientist, a priest, and an apostate to kidnap each of his citizens– old, young, rich, poor. It didn’t matter who. Each was given a gift from each of the five men. The doctor gave healing. The wizard gave magic. The scientist warped their biology. The priest gave faithfulness, courage, and honor. The last, the apostate, gave immortality with the secrets of all of the gods who lived at the time.
“It took years for even one of them to die after they became their new selves, and they began to fight back against the creatures. They beat them with ease, and people began to come into the country. The King called for those who could teach to teach his people how to fight, and they did, and they leaned every fighting art known to man in exchange for protection.
“Anyway, expansion happened, the line of kings died out, the Council took its place, and the little country expanded out into hundreds of worlds. My people became called the Chasers, because we hunted down every monster to kill it. This pissed some people off, and as the world began to die, so did we, and we began to try diplomacy. It worked a lot better, and we all lived a little longer, until monsters with grudges began to show up.
He paused and took a breath for what seemed like the first time. His whole body was tense, and he leaned in closer to the camera. His breath fogged the lens. “The council fell about then, and we all became free agents. That’s about the end of that. Down to why I’m last– everyone else was hunted and killed by monsters with grudges, simply. I managed to hide when I was kind of young, and got taken in by some nice humans. Anyway, I’m the only one left of the Chasers throughout hundreds of worlds, and I’m the only one who can pass on my knowledge. The Chasers end with me.”
Gionni forced a grin that didn’t meet his eyes. “All of this is a warning. Stay away. The monsters have overrun the world, and not any single one of them are friendly anymore. They’re all hungry, and they’re looking for any way they can get to another world. Do not come here. Steer clear…” He said it in every language as he paused between each to furrow his brow and bite those plush lips that Weller stared at openly.
The list stopped. “I can’t remember how to say it in any other languages. Just-” He ran a hand through his hair, and his hood slipped off. “Stay away. Don’t come to save me or anything stupid. I’m going to be dead in two hours– universal date two-five-seven-one-dash-luna-five-dash-seventeen at hour twenty-three and fifty nine. I will be exactly two hundred fifty one years old on the day of my death, and my final resting place is in Chaser Capital Alpha-Zero, location classified.”
The round-faced man took a deep breath and smiled, and tears shone in his eyes. He used the heel of his hand to wipe one of them. “Safe journeys, travellers. This is Water Merveln, over and out.” The video and audio quality faded as he fiddled with something on his end, and then stopped.
For a time, the ship’s hum was the only protection against the heavy silence.
“Captain, it isn’t over yet.” Weller’s voice was quiet, and the captain stopped leaning forward and straightened her posture.
Gionni’s voice broke through the muted static, barely audible. “Someone, please help me.” His voice broke.