A dredger’s sector assignment measures five hundred by five hundred nautical miles square. Instructions are encoded from first boot: an endless desire for discovery. Cruel existence. Duty at the bottom of the eternal sea, a razor’s edge from the unfathomable dark. Scavenging the sands, by hand, five hundred by five hundred. A delight in the unknown—anticipation of unearthing.
7086-B burrowed its fingers deep in the sands adjacent to the Hjort. Like a child on the beach, burying further and further. A dredger’s path carves deep, jagged scars. A powerful scoop pulled the sand back, nothing. Next patch.
Starboard, the sensors provided.
7086-B gorged on inquisition. Digits plunged into the sands. Nothing.
The dredger paused.
7086-B moved forward, leaving its marks on the seabed. With every scoop of the sand, the dredger cruised closer to the Hjort.
S_ / 7086-B BOUNDARY
The dredger stopped short. A plume of sands from behind engulfing it like a sandstorm. The alert flashed in the dredger’s NRU. Curiosity.
Nevertheless, the edge gave way to the impossible black. The dredger sank, sank, and sank.
ALERT: S_ / 7086-B BOUNDARY?=ERROR
Sinking. Complete enveloping black. Down, down. Sinking, still, crushing dark.
Soft and slowly, the dredger drifted to the bottom of the trench in a cloud of sediment. Dust fell like eerie snow. Silent, still, crushing dark.
7086-B dug its fingers into the sediment, immediately detecting an anomaly. System protocol: deep protonic systems overtake neural reasoning.
ANALYSIS: IRON+ALLOY, CHROMIUM=11%
The dredger couldn’t decide which to uncover first. It dug and sifted, zig zag, removing and analyzing.
ANALYSIS: IRON_ALLOY, OCR=3651-A
Another dredger, buried beneath the sands.
ALERT: INCOMING STARBOARD=121M
The dredger aimed its strobe and vision sensors starboard. Nothing. Impenetrable blackness—even the sun couldn’t illuminate here. The shape, like a giant bullet, getting closer and closer.
NRU calculations determined reasonable recourse, reaction times, escape routes, and defence. But… curiosity.
The shape was directly in front of 7086-B. Black as its surroundings, with long appendages streaming from its bulbous body. It lunged toward the dredger, capturing the entirety of the vessel in its grip. Crushing organic embrace, crushing atmospheric pressure. Total dark. Sensors began flashing. 7086-B’s NRU ceded control to its basic recovery system. With a blast of reserve propulsion the dredger launched from the ridge floor. The embrace continued as the dredger rose. Up. Systems peaking. Up, up up.
Light, filtering above as darkness melted away. The dark organic embrace weakened. Its appendages detached one by one, falling away, vanishing into the black medium below. 7086-B settled back on the seabed adjacent to the ridge. Pause.
The dredger dug its fingers into the sand and carved a path forward. Nothing. Nothing but curiosity.