by Travis Perry -
Ernsto’s feet touched down at the bottom of the sea, six kilometers below surface. The lifeforms that had been beneath him had cleared away as he descended, he never seeing any trace of them with his own eyes.
His sonar screen now showed more green dots of movement, seven hundred meters dead ahead. He shuffled forward, deliberately leaving his dive suit floodlights off. He wanted his arrival to go unnoticed until he was ready to strike.
Various types of the creatures called “angels” lived at all depths of the ocean, but the top-dwelling ones contacted mankind often and knew which human beings to avoid. But these bottom-dwellers wouldn’t be ready for a man like him.
He would approach the group his sonar told him were clustered together in the dark, net at least one, kill any that resisted, and then jet upward to Zirconia before the aliens could react, a solid, simple plan to exploit the angels’ ignorance. The only shortcoming—he didn’t know anything much about them either…
His eyes began to pick up a glow coming through the inky blackness of the deep. At first he wondered if he were imagining it, but it kept growing brighter and brighter. Must be undersea magma, he thought, but no, the water temperature was far too low. And the color seemed wrong.
At one hundred meters from the movement on his sonar screen, the glow’s brightness approached that of the Twin Whale, light rising up from the ocean floor and illuminating little bits of floating debris and odd-looking fish swimming over the light. These fish, he realized with disappointment, were the source of his sonar reading.
But he noticed something else, a bit of a ridge between him and the light. He approached it cautiously, crawling the last few meters to the edge, knowing from experience that crossing a ridge in a danger zone standing up is a good way to get shot—though his experience had been of the man doing the shooting.
Facemask over the edge, the brilliance below him stung his eyes. It took long seconds to adjust, but he gradually saw the ocean dropped down below the ridge into a massive shining thing, at least a kilometer wide, full of movement.
Shapes with wide fins like wings, lit up with sparking and changing patterns of bioluminescence, mostly white, what must be dwellings, likewise glowing, mostly blue or green, what where passageways—no, streets, several hundred meters below him he saw, an entire city of angels shining brightly at the bottom of the sea.
There must be thousands of them, he thought to himself, his mouth dry. For a long moment, he almost quit the mission. But no—he had never failed to deliver any cargo he’d been paid to smuggle. He wasn’t about to start failing now.
He patted himself down, running his hands over his bandoliered and belted weapons. Then he braced himself to roll over the ridge, down into the Angel city below.