The Skywatcher

Summary: I watch the sky, so Rubius can sleep.

I watch the sky, so Rubius can sleep. An unceasing torrent of extraterrestrial aberrations blights the inhabited worlds, opposed only by our Superhero Squadrons. Thanks to our systematic study and mastery of our powers, we can protect the galaxy. It's only due to the Observatory we know how to coordinate our galactic campaign, and I run the Observatory.

Let me phrase it more accurately: I am the Observatory. Rubians discover their power before or during puberty, and I was no exception. Unfortunately for me, my ability was foreseeing the most likely course of the next few hours. I always remember the day my powers fully manifested. I was demonstrating my powers in public, before a group of adults.

The black-haired girl in line behind me raised her hands before her as a wicked grin crossed her face. Torrents of flame issued from her fingertips, as though she were a living flamethrower. I blinked, and I saw her staring at me. I told the faculty she was a pyrokineticist. The girl nodded her head, and she then denied ever telling anyone. I proceeded to answer the adults' questions before they asked them, and I vehemently denied being a telepath. A glimpse a few seconds into the future gave me the word I was searching for: Precognitive. Gasps issued from the room, and they promptly hushed up. After all, I knew their next words better than they did.

Classes were never a challenge for me, even considering my ability to see the correct answers before answering oral and written exam questions. My savvier teachers wised up by not returning graded papers to me for weeks after I submitted them, but I learned to work around this in time. I deliberately went over everything I went wrong, in case my vision ever failed me. As I learned on my Monster Biology exam, my abilities only showed me the most likely case, not a future certainty. I still blame my poor performance on Mr. Robinson changing up the questions' order.

I graduated into a comfortable role on the homefront. I was unsuitable for deployment with the Superhero Squadrons, but I found horror of a different sort. I saw the things that fell from the sky, and the worlds they'd ravage. In that endless parade of apocalyptic visions, I'd behold their rampages, abilities, and apparent weaknesses, and I'd relay this information to my superiors.

Before my employment, monster detection was a disorganized mess. We had faster than light communication and travel thanks to the telepaths and teleporters, but our observatories were not integrated into the same warning network. A Superhero Squadron en route to a Sector 6 colony miscalculated the orbital displacement of their intended target, so I sent them the corrected coordinates by telepath. I'm proud to say my method for plotting all space jumps prevented our Squadrons from sucking vacuum.

Prior precogs lacked my apparent strengths, so I became the hub of the burgeoning network. As word of my abilities spread, I was hounded by scientists and engineers from across Rubius. My ability helped them confirm or deny hypotheses even before even conducting their experiments. I'd still be answering those questions, had my superiors not decide to restrict the hours I could focus on such projects. It was a real shame, too, since I could easily determine which devices would work or not. Some credit me with advancing science ahead by a century, but I think that's wishful thinking.

Honestly, I preferred answering scientific questions or plotting teleportation coordinates to the nightmares that haunted my every waking moment. I remember the first vivid experience of a monster attack, with the mountain-sized piscine abomination that ravaged the water world of Fathom. My vision started with a glimpse of what I first thought were illuminated stalactites against an abject blackness. I realized they were structures suspended from an icy ceiling above them, extending twenty kilometers through the icy crust of the planet to the subsurface ocean. A shadow passed before the hanging city's lights, and that's when the screaming began.

The abomination obstructed my entire view when it made another pass. From threadbare illumination of the distant buildings, I saw its nightmarish body. It was as obscene as the visions of madness, a writhing mess of tendrils and knotted, gnarled appendages lined with reflective cilia. It wrapped itself around the largest buildings and proceeded to crush it like an empty can. I remember the terrified looks of people as they futilely fled towards the overloaded escape pods. The windows cracked, and the sea came in like an invincible army. The tendrils hauled the bodies towards an unseen orifice, including a few still thrashing.

That was the least nightmarish part of what followed. The pattern of these creatures, as I came to realize, was simple. They targeted major cities and key resources, and then systematically worked to destroy a world's civilization. Following this, they destroyed the local biosphere to the best of their ability, as if marking off territory to others of their kind. Their forms are both large and small, but they share nothing else in common. Sometimes, I find myself fearing that they're all the spawn of some deranged mind that builds flesh like we build machinery. Where these ecophagic monsters come from is a query I've never answered, and one I try not to think about too much.

Fortunately for my sanity, the nightmares I behold are prevented for the most part. Even the Lurker on Fathom, as I called it, was soundly defeated by a Superhero Squadron I suggested for the mission. The monster was not expecting to run into a unit of undersea fighters and hydrokineticists, which turned it into chum for the many bottom feeders in those wretched, terrifying depths. Such solace is fleeting, as other aberrations and doomsdays soon claimed their own corners of my mind.

The strain on my mind translated over to my body. As I aged, I had the greatest minds on the planet replace my dying organs with prosthetic devices. Due to my abilities, I was able to quickly refine artificial counterparts to all the organs of my birth, as well as rejuvenation treatments for the vital tissue. As much as medical scientists and doctors laud my efforts, I cannot help but feel apprehension at my fate. There are reasons my existence is carefully guarded, and they are far worse than my appearance.

I am the Observatory. Its sensors are grafted directly into my spine. Its computers interface directly with my brain. Where my limbs used to be are now dozens of input and output nodes, all directly feeding into my central nervous system. Of all the alternative fates I've seen for myself, this is the only one that permits the continued survival of Rubius. The new recruits all think the Observatory's Skywatcher system is just an automated sensor network. I wish that were the case. Perhaps some inventor will make me obsolete. I cannot wait for such a day to come, though I've never seen it.

My ruminations can wait. I see another one coming.