The Psychovores

Summary: An account from a lost starship details the hostility of the university to intelligent life.

[The following account was recovered from an escape pod from the Lianghu, a supply ship that vanished a standard year ago.]

I don't have the time or energy to explain the whole story. I'm Doctor Vold Atterdag, science officer from the Lianghu, and this is my farewell message. Captain Lin and Sergeant Aigbogun just died, but it is a small mercy given the alternative. I pray you do not follow in my wake, for you risk future of the entire galaxy.

I grew up by the beach, so I always had an interest in ships. At first, it was sailing ones, and later, spacefaring ones. I graduated and got the first position I could, more for adventure than the prestige. That post was a support ship to the Far Horizon expedition, charged with deploying proper null-space beacons behind its marker probes. The Far Horizon itself was a virtual city of thousands, shifting in and out of nullspace as it approached the galactic rim. We'd only rendezvoused twice before they vanished from our sensors completely.

Now, tracking things through nullspace is impossible, but we have ways of estimating positions. Each spacecraft with a true AGI, human crew, or uplifted animals exhibits a particularly psionic signature on the Clarke-Liu field. When the Far Horizon did not report in, we tried tracking it by CL psychotronic scanner.

We detected the Far Horizon's signature very faintly, and it was almost eclipsed by an unknown contact. As nullspace sometimes can result in false positives, I thought it was merely some form of measurement error. Oh, how wrong I was. We exited nullspace, and we began the fight of our lives. Here, on the edge of intergalactic ocean, we found what lurked in the void.

A quartz-like lattice grew around the ship, comprised of some exotic matter that a better physicist could understand. The whole thing looked like a Yule tree, covered in frozen entrails. Little did I know, the truth would be far worse. The ship was entirely covered by this alien material, and we cautiously approached. We were not trained for first contact, but this was clearly out of our league.

We never boarded the ship, but we did not have to. We found a jettisoned black-box recording from the Far Horizon, which we interfaced with well away from the ship. The vessel's security head, Chief Marcela Lugosi, recovered an abridged version of their mission. In case that information is unavailable, I will repeat it here: The original purpose was to take advantage of the cooler galactic rim for megascale computing and intergalactic observatories.

As part of their science mandate, they'd scan nearby matter and distant galaxies with high-power telescopes, augmented by CL scanners. They found a meteor floating in the void, an apparently frozen rock that practically thrummed with psionic activity. Identifying it as an extragalactic visitor, they brought it aboard. That's when things went wrong.

A spindly creature, made of exotic matter, attached itself to the brain of an unlucky scientist. A dozen spawned from his head, which devoured the remaining scientific staff. The creatures began to amalgamate, and neither the security crew's slugthrowers nor energy weapons stopped them. The creatures started to build that lattice around the ship, which they vigorously defended. That was not the worst part.

CL scans found the lattice was psionically active with the minds of the crew's victims. They were aware of what was happening, even as the extragalactic invaders scoured their minds for information about our technology and galaxy. Chief Lugosi tried to scuttle the ship, but she was unable to. The weavers killed and presumably assimilated her sometime after that blackbox was ejected.

The creatures continued their work, long after human resistance ceased. The lattice was becoming active, as though it was calling something beyond the void. We arrived just in time to see it arrive. It was big enough to engulf the Far Horizon, and it dwarfed any space habitat I've ever seen. It radiated with the same energy of the other psychovores, as it devoured the minds and machines of that poor doomed ship. It was only natural it eventually noticed us.

Whatever nourishment it gained through its feast was far greater than what we were worth. Nevertheless, it tried, as it was well-aware of our existence. It turned the Far Horizon's point defenses on us, and it launched infected debris towards our ship. We were hit, and we could not jump to nullspace. I was going over the retrieved data, so I narrowly avoided the hit that took out our bridge.

There were two things I could do. The first was to achieve what I saw, and upload it into the nullspace escape pod's transponder. I could not risk those creatures getting aboard it, so I would have to go down with my ship. The second was to use the emergency controls to send us on a one-way trip into the abomination's body. Thus, my final mission was sealed. Even if I survived by some miracle, I could not risk them returning to settled space.

As I logged the coordinates for my kamikaze run into the flight computer, a computer alert gave me pause. My virtual assistant finished some analysis of the Far Horizon's astronomy data, which was included in Lugosi's blackbox. The implications, by far, were more terrifying than the amorphous aberration and its commandeered starship.

There was a supercluster of galaxies they called the Triumvirate, visible only from the galactic rim. While its material composition was unremarkable, the psychotronic activity was blinding. It was like staring into a supernova with a blinding telescope. It was from these galaxies that the meteor likely came from. Or rather, which it was launched from.

All three of these visible galaxies were merging, as though steered by unseen hands. All of them radiated the same CL signatures as the psychovores, which explained those almost deliberate, unnatural movements. I realized what I was facing. Like a virus spread through cells or as a rogue nanobot turned to a gray goo swarm, the psychovores were to intelligent species. All of us was like a beacon in the void, and the very act of thinking was like blood in the water before a school of sharks. As I conclude this recording, I see a grim solution to Fermi's paradox. This is the first time we've seen these things, but it will not be the last.

Stay away. This is our last, and final, warning. The next time may be our last time.