Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1 - Cover

Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1

Copyright© 2023 by Uruks

Chapter 25: Our Trip Takes a Turn

The test subjects are ... unique. They bare the most resemblance to Space Worms, However, they have limbs similar to humanoids. They also exhibit small tentacles on their torsos whose purpose is ... undetermined. I admit, their physical appearance didn’t come out quite according to projections, but they still exhibit all the required biological traits. I think we can consider the project a success thus far.

Éclair concentrated on her footwork while ascending the edge of the cliff. It had been a long time since she had scaled a mountain this high. Even with her enhanced physical attributes as an Elemental, it was no easy task. Luckily, the worst of it was over as she had nearly reached the top. As Éclair took hold of her perch, her fingers and feet steadied on the crevices of the rockface, she looked down to admire the view. Wind buffeted her hair as she gazed across the black landscape dotted with pockets of white forests here and there. From her estimate, she was at least a thousand feet up with a couple hundred yards left to go.

Wiping her brow, Éclair grinned cockily. “If only Ryan could see me now.”

Ryan was still running somehow despite the pain. But his luck did not hold out for long. With a sudden crack! Ryan fell to the ground hard. Realizing that his bones had broken yet again, he grunted as he focused his attention into his legs like he did before.

Ryan actually felt his bones snap back into place from his effort. Forcing himself to his feet, he started trotting into a run again. He managed to get himself into a good tempo until the bones in his other leg suddenly snapped under the pressure. Spitting up dirt after faceplanting a second time, Ryan shouted in frustration as he focused his energy into healing his bones for a third time. Within seconds, the bones snapped back into place yet again as Ryan grunted and heaved through gritted teeth, struggling to stand to his feet yet again despite the feeling of his legs being on fire.

I keep healing, but my bones still need more time to mend before I can start running. I need something to hold them in place. But those sticks are too brittle. I need something sturdier.

Ryan scanned the area for something, anything, he could use as a brace. His brow cascaded with sweat as his heartbeat flurried uncontrollably.

As he searched the area, he noticed he was near the campsite at the pit. Out of the corner of his eye, Ryan found bits of red metal debris littering the ground. No doubt from the vessel that Éclair had mentioned. She probably piled it there after her scouting trip. Without taking a moment to think things through, Ryan dragged himself desperately to the pile of metal. Rummaging through the junk, he found several pieces that would suffice as a brace. However, Ryan knew that he needed more than a simple lashing to keep the brace on his leg. And besides, he had nothing sturdy enough to tie the pieces of debris together.

So, with no options available, Ryan concentrated all psions into a single finger until it sizzled like a blow torch. A little trick that Eramar had taught him for patching up a hull. But instead of the hull of a ship, Ryan was going to weld pieces of metal to his leg.

Breathing deeply in anticipation of the agony to come, Ryan’s last thought was, This is really going to hurt!

Ryan let loose one of the loudest screams of his life as the heat from his self-made blowtorch melted the jagged piece of metal to his skin. It took every ounce of his strength to keep from passing out while still focusing on his work. It was two of the most grueling minutes of Ryan’s life, but he somehow managed to attach a rusty piece of metal to his exposed leg.

Nearly in tears at this point, Ryan gave himself thirty seconds of panting before saying to himself, “One down ... One to go.”

As a strong gust of wind threatened to knock Éclair from her perch on the mountainside, she thought she heard a shrill cry of pain. Éclair instinctively began to think of Ryan as she looked back towards the campsite in the distance. She often found herself worrying about him when she had to leave him alone. But when Éclair failed to hear the sound again, she figured that it must have been the wind.

After experiencing one of the most excruciating agonies in his life, Ryan tested his newly made leg braces as he stood to his feet and started hopping up and down. Satisfied that the iron leg braces would keep his bones together long enough for his regeneration to kick in, Ryan started running again.

The mountain soon came into view. Ryan could somehow see Éclair out in the distance. Even though she was miles away, his eyes picked up on her as she scaled a black mountain that soared high above the earth like a massive spike.

But more than that, Ryan could see the Parasites. There were more of them than Ryan thought there would be. At least half-a-dozen all converging on the mountain from different directions. Ryan’s skin went cold as he watched them slither, slink, and slide across the earth like snakes.

Hoping to warn Éclair of the impending threat, Ryan called out as loud as he could. “ECLIAR!! LOOK OUT!! PARASITES!”

It was useless, of course. Éclair was still several miles away. Ryan would not even be able to see if it wasn’t for all these new, random abilities that kept popping up.

Then Ryan remembered something that Zanderius said. They respond to sound! In that case, maybe I can draw some of the closer ones away from Éclair!


Ryan’s ploy worked, at least somewhat. He saw one of the Parasites turn around and start to head in his direction.

As Ryan ran to meet his new foe, this time with the full intention to fight, Ryan ignited red flames to his fists and said in a resolved voice, “Sorry to break this to you, pal, but you’re gonna be my warm-up, ‘cause I get the feeling that I’m gonna end up having to kill a ton of you bastards. So, I might as well get in some practice while I can.”

Éclair reached the top and found more than she could have ever asked for. She had climbed the mountain hoping for some wreckage, perhaps even an escape pod, but what she found was much more than she had hoped. Éclair had found an entire ship, and even better, the vessel seemed to be more intact than Éclair would have thought possible. There was damage, yes, but there didn’t seem to be as much as Ryan had described.

Ecstatic at her discovery, Éclair gave out a joyful whoop of triumph. If I can’t find something to use in all this, then I’d be a poor excuse for an Elemental!

Ryan dodged a flurry of tentacles and attacked the monster with his bare hands. He managed to score a few hits, but it was the first real fight he had in months, so his skills were still pretty rusty. The Parasite shook off Ryan’s fists and his fire as if it was nothing more than the wind. With a terrifying shriek, the monster snapped at Ryan with its worm-like jaws at astonishing speeds. If it wasn’t for Ryan’s constant sparring with Grafrael to hone his fighting instincts, he probably would’ve lost his head.

Ryan weaved back and forth and kept his fists up as if the fight were nothing more than a boxing match. Whenever the creature closed its jaws, Ryan would pummel it some more with fiery fists. However, each time he landed a blow, it didn’t feel like he was really connecting a solid hit, almost like the creature was made of dough. The Parasite’s face would just bounce off of Ryan’s fists, and it would continue its savage attacks mindlessly.

Fortunately, the monster seemed to be little more than an animal, and simply attacked Ryan through pure instinct with no form or finesse to its movements. Unfortunately, Ryan didn’t seem to be causing enough damage, and the Parasite didn’t seem to mind fire too much as multiple burns dotted its flesh in searing detail.

I think I know why this is taking so long, Ryan thought to himself. This thing has no bones. It’s pure muscle. It’s like punching a pillow. A slimy, gross pillow.

Suddenly, after a fairly predictable trio of attacks from the creature’s tentacles, claws, and tail, Ryan focused his psions into his right hand for a finishing blow. Ryan waited for the perfect opportunity as the Parasite swung too far with its left limb. At that moment, the Parasite exposed its back to Ryan, and the tentacles were on the other side. There was no way it could get away from his attack, or counterstrike. Bones or no bones, Ryan was sure to make this last blow count. Then something unexpected happened. The Parasite somehow sprouted tentacles on its back. In seconds, the monster had Ryan entangled from his feet to his neck. As it started squeezing, Ryan barely maintained cohesion through the suffocation.

Okay! So, this may take a little longer than I thought!

Éclair wasted no time in inspecting the vessel. She made her way through a broken window on the bridge, the blazing symbols of the Ministry of Fire still shimmering around her. As Éclair carefully climbed her way into the decrepit cruiser, she mentally noted how aged the vessel seemed, as if it had crash landed on this world months ago instead of a few weeks.

Éclair took a moment to gather her bearings, and then moved slowly to what used to be the communications console. Though it was dark in the bridge headquarters of the starship, Éclair was familiar enough with Ministry vessels to find her way around. It seemed that luck was on Éclair’s side as she saw that the console remained mostly intact.

One fortunate design of Ministry vessels is that they are powered purely by psions, Éclair thought to herself. Which means that I should be able to act as a conduit and power this console with my own psions.

Drawing an arrow from the quiver at her belt to help stabilize the flow, Éclair stabbed the console with the arrow’s tip and sent as much energy as she could muster from her hand through the arrow and into the console. It took all of Éclair’s concentration, especially considering that she was feeding the machine with her own life energy instead of electricity, making the act all the more difficult given that her natural element was not lightning. But soon Éclair’s efforts were rewarded as the console suddenly sprang to life with holograms and red lights.

“And bingo was his name-o,” said Éclair, basking in her accomplishment.

Then something happened that Éclair did not anticipate. The console showed the vessel’s name in fiery, holographic letters that read Testament.

“The Testament,” whispered Éclair to herself in surprise. “Not the Commandment. No wonder this crash site seems so aged. This craft departed Tarrus months ago, along with a small fleet. To think we’d find it here.”

Ryan gasped for air as the Parasite squeezed him tighter and tighter. The monster used its tentacles to lift Ryan into the air, and brought him around slowly to its face. Then, sniffing tenderly at its helpless prey, the Parasite opened its sickening maw that oozed yellow saliva.

“If there’s anything grosser than your hentai tentacles, it’s your breath, pal,” growled Ryan, despite being strangled.

The Parasite’s orange tongue sprang out of its mouth like a bullet, and straight into the side of Ryan’s neck near his shoulder. Ryan felt pain like he’d never felt before as the barbed tongue shot who-knew-what kind of poison straight into his veins.

Using the pain as a fuel for his anger, Ryan roared in anguish and defiance before using the only weapon left to him. His teeth. Ryan ripped his head loose of the tentacles and bit deeply into the Parasite’s tongue. The creature squealed and writhed, showing signs of pain for the first time as Ryan clenched his jaws together as tight as he could. Ryan ignored the pain in his neck, and ignored the wet, slimy sensation in his mouth as the Parasite’s orange blood filled his throat. Unable to bear it any longer, the monster threw Ryan several yards away with a flurry of its tentacles. The Parasite shook its head furiously as it shrieked out its agony for all the world to hear.

Gasping and spitting up the foul-tasting blood of the Parasite, Ryan managed to say, “Trust me, it was as bad for me as it was for you! That is NOT how I wanted my first French kiss to go!”

The Parasite roared in anger, and Ryan knew that their fight wasn’t quite over yet. Placing his hands on the ground, Ryan summoned his psionic reserves in a last-ditch effort. Seconds before the monster reached him, Ryan caused the ground to explode beneath it. It wasn’t a large explosion, but it was about all he could do in his current state. And it seemed to get the job done as the flash of fire and smoke engulfed the Parasite completely, leaving a small cloud of dust in its wake.

Grinning with satisfaction, Ryan started his trek to the mountain once again. “I’m coming, Éclair.”

But before Ryan could start running, something grabbed him by the foot, tripping him. Ryan realized his mistake too late as the Parasite pinned him to the ground with its tail and both its back and stomach tentacles. The small barbs on the tentacles dug deeply into Ryan’s flesh as the enraged monster roared, with burns covering most of its body, exposing muscle and sinew, and even a few bones in its mouth.

“I guess you do have some bones,” groaned Ryan, before shooting out his hands straight into the monster’s exposed neck.

Eramar said something about this working only when my fingers are inside the flesh! Time to try that out!

Ryan’s fingers dug deeply into the monster’s hide. But knowing that he probably didn’t have enough strength to strangle the monster, he sent his psions straight up his arm and concentrated his explosion ability into his fingertips. Ryan’s plan was rewarded with the desired result as the monster imploded in a shower of blood, guts, teeth, and of course, tentacles.

Picking himself up off the ground and wiping away the goo that cased his face and neck, Ryan gave himself a few moments to catch his breath before he started sprinting again.

“I’m coming for realsies this time, Éclair,” said Ryan under his breath as he sprinted towards the mountain with as much stamina as he had left.

Éclair was still fiddling with the console, attempting to gain control of communications when she accidently tripped a distress signal of some kind. Backing away in surprise, Éclair watched as holographic lights flicked off and on within the console, until the silhouette of a man came into focus. A young man wearing red Fire Ministry armor and robes equal to that of a Third-ranked Elemental.

“This is Captain Shak of the Fire Ministry Vessel, Testament. To anyone who may hear this message, my prayers go with you,” spoke the holographic man.

“A holorecording,” said Éclair quietly to herself as the message continued.

“This vessel, along with a small contingent of Ministry ships, was sent to the star systems in range of Black Star in order to investigate the recent disappearances of a number of merchant ships within the surrounding sector,” explained Captain Shak’s hologram.

“We’re that close to Black Star!” gasped Éclair in shock, remembering some of the horrid stories that her Godfather had told her had happened centuries ago.

“We were sent to ascertain the existence of a possible threat. We were expecting to just find some Space Pirates or smugglers using the local legends to their advantage,” continued the captain, his voice becoming more somber by the moment. “We were mistaken.”

Ryan reached the base of the mountain and looked up to see several Parasites crawling up its surface like bugs.

“ÉCLAIR!” called out Ryan as loud as he could. “IF YOU CAN HEAR ME, LOOK OUT FOR THE TENTACLELY THINGS!!”

Ryan hoped to get the attention of at least one or two more Parasites with his yelling so he could pick more of them off, but they seemed dead set on their destination this time as they continued ascending.

Seeing how the monsters drew closer and closer to the top of the mountain, Ryan didn’t waste another minute and just started climbing. Ryan’s progress was slow at first as he used his fingers and toes to feel around for some kind of vantage point unsuccessfully. He was too flustered and too fatigued to climb properly. Ryan slipped and fell at least three times.

The third time Ryan fell down, he growled in frustration and screamed out, “COME ON!”

It was only when Ryan placed a hand on the ground to pick himself up that he noticed something peculiar. His fingernails were a lot longer than usual, more like claws now. Admiring this sudden change in his physique for a moment gave Ryan an idea.

Instead of climbing the conventional way, Ryan stabbed his hand directly into the rock like a knife. His clawed fingers slipped as easily through the rockface as if it were made of butter. Ryan didn’t hesitate for a moment as he ascended the mountain with relative ease this time with his newfound talons. Stabbing through the cliff relentlessly as he climbed the mountainside at breakneck speeds, Ryan soon started gaining ground on the Parasites.

“Climb first,” grunted Ryan to himself. “Think about how ridiculous this is later.”

It’s pretty convenient that I keep awakening these random abilities, thought Ryan to himself. Because something tells me I’m going to need all the help I can get!

“We were investigating unexplained thermal readings on the fourth planet in the farthest sector when our fleet was attacked,” continued the captain with a strained discipline.

Éclair listened in silence as an impending feeling of dread slowly washed over her.

“Even now, I’m not entirely certain who or what attacked us. They had wings and dark skin, but they were definitely not Black Dragons. And the funny thing is they seemed to come out of nowhere, without any prior warning, ship signals, or even hyperspace Gateways opening. They must’ve flown across the void of space to attack us, or they were lying in wait. Either way, I doubt I’ll live long enough to find out.”

Éclair nodded in understanding as she remembered the monsters that Ryan had described. “So, we weren’t the only ones.”

“They took us by surprise. I’m proud to say that we fought as hard as we could. My men gave those monsters quite a beating. For every man we lost, we repaid them in kind, but there were just too many of them. I never imagined that a Ministry Cruiser could ever be brought down by space creatures that didn’t even use ships. But the powers they employed were beyond anything we have encountered before. It’s almost like they were made of Dark Water. Everything they touched just melted away. But I’m afraid that isn’t the half of it.”

The captain paused as if gathering his thoughts. “We were forced to make an emergency landing on the fourth planet. The smaller vessels and the accompanying Elemental Astronauts were completely wiped out, but most of my crew survived. All things considered, I was grateful for that at least. We established a small command outpost from the crash site. Our communications seemed to have taken the most damage, almost as if those creepy buggers didn’t want us calling for help. However, our supplies were still intact after the landing. So, I figured while the engineers got the disks up and running again, we’d bunker down and watch the stars in case those winged bastards came to finish us off.”

The captain then pinched the top of his nose and closed his eyes as if remembering something painful. “They never came back, though. I almost wish they did. It would have been quicker. It would have been easier. If you just arrived on this planet following our distress signal, and think that it’s just as dead as it looks from space, then look again. Look deeper.”

Éclair could only stare in fear, breathing heavily as an ugly realization creeped its way into her mind.

“We were so keen on watching the skies that we didn’t pay attention to what was happening right below our feet,” spoke Captain Shak in a grim voice. “I’m sure you’ve already heard the sordid stories of the Parasites of Black Star. We’ve all heard the stories since we were children. But that’s all they were to us then, just stories meant to frighten children around campfires. Everyone knew that all the Parasites were wiped out; that it was just some bizarre thing that happened millennia ago. Well, all those stories don’t quite prepare you for the real thing.”

The captain, who had been looking down for a long time now, suddenly stared straight up, almost directly into Éclair’s eyes. It was only then that Éclair realized that the man was crying.

“I’ve been an Elemental a long time. I’ve seen my fair share of violence,” said Captain Shak hauntingly. “But none of that could have ever prepared me for what the Parasites are. What they do to you. They don’t just kill you. They turn you into something ... unimaginable. Something horrible. We barely managed to survive their first assault from underground. Then I watched over the course of a few hours as my crew tore itself apart, one limb at a time.”

Éclair was backing away from the image, summoning her bow instinctively as she slowly began to comprehend just how dire their situation really was.

“Ha. And that’s not even the worst part,” laughed the captain in a dead voice. “The worst part is my com officer finally figured out what those strange readings were. We thought the Parasites were extinct. But according to our scanners, there’s thousands of them below the surface of this world. Maybe even millions of them. And what’s more, we think they’re getting ready to leave the atmosphere to spread to other worlds, just like they did ages ago.”

Éclair backed away to the exit of the ship slowly, her eyes darting back and forth for any kind of movement. She probably should have bolted then and there, but something in the captain’s face made Éclair wait and listen a little while longer. A look of madness that needed to be explained.

“In case you’re wondering why they didn’t bother with me ... why I’m still alive to give you this message, the answer to your question is here,” the captain suddenly raised his other hand, exposing a wound the likes of which Éclair had never seen before.

Organ-like tentacles sprouted out of a long gash in the captain’s arms. He even seemed to be growing extra fingers as bones protruded out of his hand. Making the scene even more gruesome was the fact that Éclair could see the transformation in progress as the man’s fingers grew longer and more tentacles started sprouting up the length of his arm. Éclair had to stop herself from retching as the full tragedy of the man’s grotesque transformations were shown to her in every horrible detail. The tentacles writhed and wiggled in a way that made Éclair sick to her stomach. It was, perhaps, the single most horrific sight in all of Éclair’s life.

With tears falling freely from Captain Shak’s cheeks, he spoke softly, “Whoever you are, I hope fate is kinder.”

Suddenly, the man drew a pistol with his human hand and shot himself in the head seconds before the holorecording ended.

Éclair had seen enough. Jumping through the window on the bridge, Éclair made for the cliff with just one thought on her mind. Must get to Ryan! Must get to Ryan!

Éclair was just about to reach the edge of the cliffside when she came face to face with a mouth full of teeth. She had less than a second to jump back before the rotating rows of teeth closed on her head. She immediately notched an arrow and struck the creature full-on in its tentacle-infested chest. Ice soon spread from the point of impact until the monster was almost completely covered, save for a few tentacles that still reached out for her persistently. One of the slimy appendages brushed over Éclair’s face, causing her to yelp slightly and recoil from the touch that somehow felt like a violation.

Éclair wasn’t given much time to catch her breath as tentacles suddenly sprouted from the ground, entangling her entire body. Before she became completely trapped, she used the sword-like blades on the ends of her bow to cut herself free. Even after severing several tentacles, they still clung to her as if they had minds of their own. She frantically tried to brush off the tentacles still attached to her as she was assailed by two more Parasites.

Éclair probably sent a dozen arrows careening to her adversaries within a single breath, freezing the two Parasites in their tracks. And finally, the last Parasite that had attacked her from underneath the ground, Éclair struck it twice in the head using her arrows like knives, freezing it from the neck down as she left her arrows buried in its skull.

When all went quiet, save for the slight grunting of the Parasites struggling against their icy bonds, Éclair allowed herself a sigh of relief, thinking that the worst lay behind her. That was when she started hearing the cracking noise. Within just a few seconds, the Parasites actually started digging themselves out of the ice, even going so far as to rip their own limbs off that were still frozen. The Parasites didn’t seem to mind the loss of limbs as new tentacles would sprout out where the others had been severed. Even the one that Éclair had stabbed in the head didn’t seem to mind having two arrows in its brain.

Éclair shot more arrows, covering the Parasites with new layers of ice. She made the air so cold that the Parasites were soon covered in a miniature glacier. But the Parasites kept moving, kept struggling, and kept breaking through her ice as if it were little more than paper.

Realizing that the odds were stacking against her, Éclair backed away to the edge of the cliff to make a hasty retreat. But tragically, she had forgotten about the first Parasite that had appeared at the edge of the cliff. Already free of its icy prison, the Parasite wasted no time in grappling Éclair to the ground. During the struggle, her silver quiver of arrows was cut from her belt and knocked over the cliff. She was pinned to the earth with her bow as the only thing between her and the Parasite’s snapping jaws. As Éclair struggled against the Parasite’s ferocious strength and size bearing down upon her, she vaguely heard the other Parasites slowly breaking free of the ice wall she had created only seconds earlier.

With a resounding crunch, the hellish worm snapped her bow in half. Instead of dwelling on the loss of her magnificent weapon, Éclair used its destruction to her advantage. Taking one half of the bow and using the sharp end as a knife, Éclair stabbed the Parasite deep in its neck and its head. The Parasite hissed in anger as it opened its mouth wider, revealing a wicked-looking tongue with a barb on it. Éclair only had to move her head a few centimeters to the left as the tongue shot straight for her face. Allowing her pure survival instincts to drive her, she cut the monster’s tongue off with her broken bow. This, at least, caused the monster to recoil, giving her ample time to launch onto its head and get it in a stranglehold using her bow-turned-knife.

When severing the monster’s throat appeared to do little good as it used its long arms to try and tear Éclair from its back, she put both feet to the Parasite’s back and held the broken half of her bow with both hands. Giving out a fearsome battle cry, Éclair pulled with all her might. The Parasite made guttural sounds of strangulation as Éclair slowly sawed its head off. She ignored the cuts she was making into her own hands as she had nothing to hold onto but the blade of her bow. With a final, yet exhausted scream of effort, Éclair ripped the Parasite’s head clean off its shoulders.

If that doesn’t kill these things, thought Éclair to herself. I don’t bloody know what will.

With a satisfying thud, the Parasite’s headless body fell to the ground, but the motion threw Éclair off its back in the process. She rolled a few feet towards the mini-iceberg just as the other three Parasites pried themselves from their bondage. Éclair had to roll away as almost a dozen tentacles struck the earth where she had been laying.

Sensing the futility of staying to continue the fight, especially with her bow gone and her stamina falling low, Éclair once again made for the cliff to make the long climb down. But her path was blocked once again as at least four more Parasites sprang from the earth screeching horribly, their tentacles and clawed arms thrashing at her.

With eyes wide in horror, Éclair muttered, “Bullocks.”

Then, pursuing the only option left to her as the old and new Parasites approached, she sprinted towards the crashed ship. The Parasites slithered in pursuit of her. The creatures were surprisingly fast despite lacking legs, making her escape all the more tenuous. Instead of climbing back into the bridge, where Éclair knew she would get cornered fairly quickly, she decided to climb on top of the wrecked vessel itself. With her old agility recovered, she assailed to the top of the wreckage in only a few bounds, but the Parasites were not deterred. Some followed Éclair to the roof of the starship, slithering up the walls with terrifying ease. Others followed through the wreckage, but to what end, she could only guess at.

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