"How many died?"

The question broke a near-silence that had lasted over ten minutes straight. Before then, the only sounds were quiet, repetitive ones; the rumbling of engines, soft breath, the quiet beeping of machines struggling to keep people alive. Everything was so calm, especially in contrast to the chaos that everyone had been put through recently. Still, it stank of blood.

"Many more than we expected. That's all that I know."

Nobody needed a reminder of that; the quiet itself was a nagging sign that something was wrong. When word of the disaster had reached them, the nearest space station had dispatched three ships for a rescue operation. The Veritas was the last of the three to arrive. Just the necessity of three ships was enough to show how many people they expected to be picking up from the colony; the Veritas alone was an expansive ship with four different branches, able - and expecting - to hold several hundred people.

They had picked up less than thirty civilian survivors.

Even if each other ship had picked up hundreds of survivors, that still meant that a huge chunk of the colony was missing. "Missing" was the term they used, although everyone was aware that they were never going to be found, at least not alive. The soldiers who had gone in for the rescue had returned with stories and sights so horrible they couldn't bear to speak them aloud. It was a massacre, and nobody was able to explain it. After nearly a year of "testing" the planet for safety, the colony had been left on its own for only a week before the outside received a frantic call for help. By the time they had reached the planet, the damage was already done, but by who, or what, they did not know.

"How bad was it?"

"You don't want to know."

"I need to. For God's sakes, you can't expect me to treat these people and never tell me what the hell happened to them! Even these survivors are in a horrible state, I can't imagine what the dead look like. These people haven't just been injured, they've been tortured. I've seen them drag in civilians with missing limbs, organs gone - not ripped, but cut out precisely - tongues cut off, I.. I just... why is this happening?"

There was no response.

"And how do you explain that one boy, who gouged out Lyra's eye when she tried to help him? Gouged out the eye of a 15 year old girl for no reason! Tell me what's going on!"

There was an uncomfortable pause.

"I can't," the man answered her eventually, unable to meet her eyes.

"Jesus, why not?"

"Because we have no fucking idea."

Confused? No worries. Think of this as a teaser trailer for the story; it'll all make sense eventually. (: Please read and review, tell me what you think! The first real chapter should be up soon.