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Demon Chaser, (part 1) by John A. Karr
SUMMARY: humans battle demons in a distant solar system
Demon Chaser (part 1)
The universe, or those regions that can be observed before it bends beyond the realm of detection, consists of a plethora of immense glowing galaxies whose greatest purpose may be to disrupt the mind-numbing expanse of nothingness. As vast as these are, the matter inside them accounts for only ten percent of the entire cosmos. The other ninety percent is empty – raw, black space.
The galaxies are not disturbed by this 9:1 ratio. They do not breathe, but are busy living and dying just the same. Those that are young to middle-aged take the form of gaseous discs with spiral arms. The elderly have lost the gaseous arms from which new stars are formed. At the other end of the age spectrum, masses of infantile haze have yet to develop into a discernable shape, but have created enough stars to glow like their elders. There are also comet-like nebulae of indiscriminate age, where all matter is being wrenched to one side and consumed by giant black holes. Mindless predators of cosmic scale, the holes will not be sated after all matter has been consumed, and will in turn cannibalize one another.
All galaxies, regardless of age, are populated with mortal stars and planets. During life, the suns burn with ferocious brilliance, unconcerned with the trivialities on the lowly planets that formed in their gravitational fields and now orbit around them.
Space dust glows quasar-blue we approach a galaxy in the shape of a rare figure eight. Among the billions of stars inside it, one in particular draws attention for the twelve planets that orbit it.
Four of these twelve support life . . . and death.
* * *
The rivers of planet Iegaké, once so pure and clear, now run like opened veins through blackened countryside, charred forests and crumbling cities. The blood and bodies of millions, those unfortunate enough to escape incineration during the first wave of blast attacks, choke ancient waterways. Embankments have flooded over. Farmlands are swamps. Still the fouled waters rose . . . and bled into deserts that have been dry for eons. Sand that had been bleached white by the sun was now soaked to crimson.
Mizk plunged his massive arm to the elbow in the sand. His claws left gash marks on the surface. Battle leather creaked as he straightened. Slits of glowing amber served as eyes. The sand screamed as he squeezed, then rivulets of bloody water snaked over the iron muscles of his forearm.
"Who dares approach Mizk with empty hands?" the demon said, not bothering to turn around. The words came out in a growl, through gnashed teeth.
"Insects never learn. Most of them dead on this little planet and still they do not learn. Dull mortals should never taste air.