Disclaimer: I do not own Subnautica. Unknown Worlds does.

If anyone would volunteer to beta, I would be eternally grateful.

Chapter published 6/28/17.


Varien

He groaned, and stirred awake. With a heave of effort, he turned over in his wide bed and into the spot of warmth next to him. The spot of warmth started talking. "Morning, dear," she said, giving a kiss to the top of his head.

"It's too early to be morning," he grunted. He turned away from Silvia and sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. After a few moments they adjusted to the darkness of his and his fiance's cabin. All things considered, it was a decently sized one for two people on the Aurora; a benefit of her being high up in Alterra's ranks. Two beds, a shower, coffee... he hadn't even had to pay much; Silvia Berkeley was part of the engineering crew and had brought him along on the premise he could lend his programming assistance. "What time even is it?" he mumbled.

Silvia seemed to explode out from beneath the covers, walking over to their desk and waving a hand over it. The red hologram flared to life, and Varien closed his eyes with a groan. "Six fifty, come on! We don't have to be in the engineering bay until noon."

Her hand grasped his and started tugging. "Up," she commanded simply. "I'm on the crew, remember? I've a loaded schedule today. Besides, we're passing by 4546B soon anyway and I want to get a good view before I vanish into the bowels of work. I hear it's an ocean world."

"Fiiiine," he drawled, a lazy grin tugging at his lips. He got his feet under him and stood on his own. His clothes stuck to his sweaty skin after the night. He looked down at Silvia and waggled his eyebrows. "How about we shower first, then breakfast?"

Silvia hummed and shuffled up to him, pressing her chest into his and wrapping her arms around his back. "Oh, I think that sounds like a great idea," she purred.

A few minutes later they stepped out of the shower. Silvia went to go get dressed while Varien stayed in the bathroom. His hair was wild and messy, points sticking in all directions like craggy spires. "Open drawer," he said aloud. There was a little blip and sure enough, the drawer next to him opened. Varien grabbed his hair gel and got to work putting his turqoise-streaked mohawk back together. After a bit of fiddling around, he viewed himself in the mirror and grinned. "Nice," he whispered, exiting the bathroom.

Silvia was finished getting dressed, having thrown on a light blue blouse and golden pants, with her hair up in a bun. She was off in the corner, by a large gray box. Inside the box was a compartment with two cups next to each other with a dark stream of liquid pouring into each. As Varien watched, the streams cut off. "Coffee completed," the machine chirped. "Would you like cream?"

Before Silvia could open her mouth, he said, "Yes, in one of them!"

"Dispensing product," it said happily as Silvia mouthed 'wimp' at him. She took her coffee, as black as her hair, and downed it in one gulp while smiling smugly at him.

While the coffee machine took care of his cup, Varien got dressed too. He didn't pay too much mind to what he wore, just threw on a brown 'Aurora Lining Vessel' shirt and gray sweatpants. He didn't bother with socks, just shoes.

"Come on, hurry up," Silvia said, rushing around to find her PDA. "I want to get breakfast before we pass by 4546B."

"Why are we even swinging by it?" he wondered, grabbing his sweetened coffee in one hand. "Our destination's nowhere near it."

Silvia shrugged. "I actually asked around about that. Don't tell anyone, but apparently some Mongolian ship went down there a few years back, they want to take the excuse to scan the world and see if they can find the wreckage."

Varien scoffed. "They probably crashed because they were too busy praying about the persistence of life and consciousness or something - ow!" he shouted, gripping his arm with exaggerated pain.

"Be nice," she chided. "Come on, we're gonna miss breakfast," she said, pulling her PDA - little more than a rectangular piece of plastic and electronics - off the ground and giving it a swipe. As she did, the doors to their room opened and light spilled in from the corridor beyond. Varien quickly found his own PDA, stashed it, and followed after Silvia into the Aurora's hallways.

Already, the ship's crew was up and about, scurrying through the titanic hallways he had to crane his neck back to fully appreciate. Some of the crew chattered animatedly with each other while pointing to things on their PDAs. Others operated propulsion cannons, strange mechanical devices the size of an arm with three blue prongs at the end. From the end came white streams of energy, which wrapped around titanically large metal boxes and held them aloft with ease. There was a focused air about them; they'd be in charge of scanning the water world they were flying past, after all. Once they had breakfast, Silvia would be joining them.

He and Silvia took a few turns through the Aurora, the ship's engines gently humming beneath their feet, as they told each other little jokes they'd found over the internet. They didn't pass through the Prawn bay, as they were closer to the opposite end of the ship. Eventually they found themselves in the cafeteria. After ordering from the breakfast machines - cereal and milk for Silvia, toast and a slice of orange along with some water for him - they found a table and sat there. There weren't many others there with them. A few passengers, a handful of crew members, and what he thought was a small envoy of Mongolians, keeping to themselves off in the corner.

There weren't any windows on the Aurora. Some thing about structural integrity, according to Silvia. But there were exterior cameras that could stream to their PDAs, so he and Silvia sat together and, as they ate, propped her PDA on a stand. She flicked her fingers across the glass surface and pulled up a video feed from outside the Aurora.

The screen flickered, but then displayed a bold picture of planet 4546B, the closest planet to HIP 4546. HIP 4546 was a yellow star, eleven times the size of the sun, that gave out thirty-eight times the light. 4546B was a comfortable seven-ish AU away from the enormous star, and they were coming up on it fast. They should be by closest approach in an hour or two.

Varien had to admit, it was a nice looking world. He'd never seen an ocean world before; there was something eerily beautiful about a solid blue marble, cloaked in streaks of clouds and capped on either end with ice, floating through the void. It even had two moons, one closer than the other, in the backdrop. "Sure is something," he said through a mouthful of food. "Wonder if they're still alive down there."

"Jeez, I kinda almost hope they aren't," Silvia said. "Can you imagine living alone like that, surrounded by aliens and maybe any other survivors for years on end? Nobody else to talk to but who you have, nowhere to go if you need space, no internet, no entertainment, no relaxation. Just constant stress, day in and day out." She shivered.

Varien put an arm around her and gave her a peck on the cheek, grinning madly. "Well, I imagine if it was us then somehow I'd survive having only you around," he teased.

"Aww." She kissed him back.

They finished up their breakfast, watching the orb of 4546B rotate on its axis. Eventually they finished and got up. "Anyway," Varien said. "I have to go help with the crew logs. They still haven't found that memory leak."

"Right, you go do that," she said, pushing him off the bench as he stood. "I've gotta head off, too. Yu's been riding my ass. See you around."

"Love you, honey," he said, leaning in. "See you later."

They kissed again, and when they pulled away both of them smiled. "Love you too!" Silvia said, before heading towards the tunnel that led to the Seamoth bay. Meanwhile, he headed towards the upper levels. There were more and more crew members this high up, and the hum of the Aurora's dark matter drive was quiet. He passed a row of emergency escape pods, and headed down an elevator to the server room. It was a deceptively long walk; the Aurora was massive. Along the way, some of the other programmers greeted him.

"Hey."

"Hi there, Varien."

"Say hi to Ms. Berkeley for me!"

He returned a few greetings, then found a seat at a nearby terminal. A lightbar sat in front of him, just a glowing line in the desk. He waved a hand over it, and a hologram materialized over it. With that done, Varien got to work. He and the others had been tackling a memory leak recently. The Aurora's systems were failing to properly delete some data, but the data was still rendered inaccessible, so the junk kept building up and up and taking up their memory. The quantum computers had a lot of storage, but they were also producing junk at a relativistic pace. Finding the problem was just such a headache, even with all the crew around also working on it.

"Is it there?" he asked himself, scanning over the code onscreen. There was nothing wrong. Everything was working as it should be. But maybe it was causing a problem with the lines under ShipExhaustHandler? "Computer, bring up - "

BOOM!

Varien flew out of his seat, as did everyone else, and landed on the ground with an 'Oof'! For a moment all the light died, stranding him in utter blackness. A heartbeat later the auxiliary lights kicked in, rows of searing white forming along the bottoms of the walls.

"What the hell?!" someone shouted. Varien tried to stand, only to find himself standing along the walls as gravity changed around him.

"Warning!" the ship's autopilot blared, drowning out all thought with her volume. "Multiple severe hull breaches detected! Emergency evacuation in progress! All personnel, report to emergency escape pods!"

Evacuation?

Breaches?

Escape pods?!

He scrambled to his feet and made for the door. He stumbled, leaning forward with his arms flailing as he tried to catch his balance, and in his haste he accidentally shoved someone. He left the room, trying to remember where the escape pods were, and ran.

Varien's mind shut off. His brain stopped forming thoughts that could be interpreted as sentences. The only thing that went through his mind was a vague sense of 'out the door, to the left, one stair flight down, escape pods', underlined by a desperate panic that clenched his throat and made the pounding of his blood deafening. His feet moved on their own, and then gravity flipped to the right and he landed with a grunt. He was first out the server room's door. He didn't look behind him.

To the left, one stair flight down, escape pods.

His feet skidded along the ceiling as he headed to the left, or was it right? It didn't cross his mind to question it. He just knew which way the escape pods were. Behind him there was a blast of searing heat that briefly cast the metal in front of him in warm red.

One stair flight down, escape pods.

He careened down the stairs, which were now right side up as gravity spun back to normal. Varien ran into the escape pod tunnel. He caught a brief glimpse of some others getting into various pods, and he distantly heard the whoosh as they ejected. He found a door with a crimson number five over it, and grabbed the door to open it.

Then gravity cut out entirely.

"AH!" he shouted, his feet floating behind him as he struggled to open the door. Another explosion rocked the Aurora.

"Attention! Power failure imminent!" the autopilot intoned like a death knell. "All personnel - "

With a heave of effort, Varien opened the door to escape pod five, only to fall flat on his stomach when gravity returned.

" - abandon ship!" He ran through the open door, not even bothering to close it behind him. Varien found himself in a cramped room, barely large enough for him alone. The floor was made of some shiny white metal, and had a glass hatch right in the center. He threw the hatch open. A ladder, into an escape pod. He had to go.

Moving off instinct and pure adrenaline, he hopped in and slid down the ladder, the hatch closing automatically behind him. He didn't even take a moment to process the escape pod's interior, he just found a seat and bee lined towards it.

BOOM!

Another explosion rocked the Aurora, forcing him to stumble forward. Luckily, forward was still in the direction of the seat and he all but collapsed into it. The seat formed a black mass around him, plastic and yielding easily to his body. There was a lap bar above it, currently out of place, and the right arm had a bright blue control screen on it. Once he was on, he pressed the white button.

The lap-bar swung down and over him, and at the same time the escape pod spoke. "Launch in three - "

Varien breathed out uneasily, his mind still rushing to process what had happened. He felt like he was forgetting something.

" - two - "

Silvia. Silvia! She wasn't in the pod with him. Nobody was! Where was she, was she okay, had she gotten to a -

" - one!"

A sound like a potato fired from an air cannon stole the breath from his lungs as the entire pod jolted. Varien glanced up and saw the Aurora's hull receding into the distance, blue sparks spilling from its side while crimson flame burst from the seams. There was another, colossal explosion that nearly burst his eardrums and rattled his bones, but then he had other things to worry about.

Because apparently, his pod chose that moment to hit atmosphere. Everything began to shake, his skeleton jostling about inside his body. He glanced around, inspecting the escape pod. It was a squat hemisphere with a ladder up the center. There was a fabricator, communicator, diagnostics screen, fire extinguisher, and even a medical kit shelf, all on the walls. The diagnostics screen was lit up with red letters. Varien didn't have time to read all of it, but the last line caught his attention.

Brace for impact.

Oh no.

Then, the fire extinguisher next to him flew out of its casing and slammed into the ladder. It clattered to the floor and then flew into the opposite wall. Another slam, and red lights began to flood the entire pod. The storage compartment opened up and a panel came loose. It exposed a field of sparking, damaged wires. Varien stared transfixed, barely even breathing, as both panel and fire extinguisher clattered haphazardly around his trembling pod. The panel sunk to the ground. Then it lifted into the air and flew right at hi -

...

...

...

When the world returned, it was blurry and orange. Varien's head lolled about, sweat pouring from his light brown skin. Ugh, his head. That was going to swell up. Why was it so hot? Where even was he? And man, what was that bright light to his left? He held up a hand to try and block it, only for his hand to quickly start feeling uncomfortably warm. Something was... loud, too. Like a siren.

Exactly like a siren. Because that light was fire!

Varien's head jerked towards the fire, and once again conscious thought fled him. All of a sudden he could barely breathe from the smoke, and the seat's lap-bar was crushing his lungs. He had to get out! He brought his fingers to the control panel on his seat and pressed, but he couldn't hit any of the buttons so all he got was a 'cannot process' message.

No, no no no. He was not going to die by being roasted just because he couldn't get out of his chair! He slammed his fist on the control panel, and that registered. The lap bar opened up and he all but spilled onto the searing metal floor, grunting. He backed off from the fire, shielding his eyes from the glare, then spotted the fire extinguisher just a stone's throw from him.

He grabbed at it and -

"AH! AHKH! ACH! HRAAACH!" His shouts trailed off into hacking coughs as his fingers touched the scorching metal. All the same he lifted the fire extinguisher and pointed the nozzle at the grease fire engulfing his lifepod. White mist shot out, so forceful he fell back onto his ass and the fire extinguisher tumbled from his hands.

He crawled over to it, grasped it in burning hands, and pointed it back at the fire. He held down the lever and braced himself for the kick. White foam blew out and sealed itself over the flame before boiling away just as fast, taking the fire with it. With the grace of a madman he drowned the fire in retardant, until there was nothing left but smoke wafting out through the air filters. Only then did he set his fire extinguisher down, brushing his blistering fingers on his shirt.

His PDA. He had his PDA somewhere on him when the ship started to blow up, right? Those things were regulation, they had some sort of... emergency feature, right?

It turned out, Varien did still have his PDA, in his pants pocket. He pulled it out, brushed the soot off of it, and pressed the power button.

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, four red letters lit up the glass. Booting in emergency mode. Meanwhile, the assistant began speaking to him through his brain implants. "PDA initializing in emergency mode. Moderate head trauma detected," it said in a flat, feminine voice as his PDA continued to boot, circles spinning within each other. "Your personal data assistant now has one directive and one directive only: to keep you alive on an alien world. To this end, it - "

Just as she said that, the PDA lit up with a list of... blueprints for items? At the same time something appeared in the corner of his vision. A large green circle, with smaller orange, red, and blue circles beneath it. At least his brain implants could still stream data to his optic center.

" - will organize your dive suit's inventory, display currently available construction blueprints, and hold other valuable information and programs. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with its various functions. Good luck."

Alright, alright. Varien did just that, taking a moment. The green circle lodged in his vision was 'Oxygen', and had a slowly rising and falling number of seconds within the circle. It seemed to stay mostly around forty-five seconds. The orange circle had a small apple, the red one - which wasn't filled all the way in, he noticed - a heart, and the last one a drop of water. He thought 'towards' the red circle and it expanded, pushing away the other circles to show him a gray, 2D human body with several red spots across its body. Light burns, blisters, head trauma... it didn't look good.

Blinking away the in-depth health report, Varien tucked his PDA away and started climbing the ladder. They'd crashed on... what planet was this again? 4546B. What was so special about 4546B? He couldn't quite remember, his head was still filled with cotton.

He pushed the hatch open and pulled himself on top of his hatch. The first thing that struck him was the heat, with a blistering humidity that seemed intent on cooking him alive. The sky was blue, and the air smelled heavily of sea salt. He couldn't see the planet's sun from where he was facing, but he did see the Aurora, off in the distance. Its massive outline dominated the horizon, tilted at an odd angle.

"The Aurora suffered catastrophic hull failure. Cause: Unknown," his PDA beeped.

Catastrophic hull failure was right. Massive holes were carved through its engines, spilling black smoke into the cloudless sky. The entire massive vessel had sunken halfway into the water.

The water.

Varien looked around, and he suddenly remembered what was special about 4546B. Ocean planet. Almost no dry land at all, and absolutely no dry land in sight. Nothing but uniform, choppy water in all directions.

"... zero human life signs detected in one hundred meter range," the assistant continued helpfully.

His heart sank into his stomach, and his mouth hung open. No human life signs. Did... was his life pod the only one to eject? His lungs grew tight and a lump settled into his throat. Silvia! Was Silvia alright? He couldn't see any life pods by scanning the horizon, but for all he knew some of the pods had landed on the other side of the planet. Right? That could happen, right?!

Water for miles around. No humans in sight. His life pod rocked on the waves uneasily, smoke still spilling up from the damaged wires and out the open hatch. The realization didn't hit Varien all at once. It didn't come in a slowly encroaching wave of terror. It ebbed and flowed like the tides, nausea rushing over him before receding to be replaced with numbing fear, one after another.

"I am so screwed," he whispered.


Earlier...

Volara

With a crackle of her prongs, she woke herself up from rest and stretched. She sent a few sparks down her body, then swam out of her cave into the open, inky waters of her territory. Her stomach rumbled, so that definitely meant it was time to go hunting!

The long spines of the oil vines reached upwards from the black stone, as they always did, splitting into multiple ends like a green-blaster's legs and spilling faint, light-blue light into the water. Volara took a deep gulp of water through her mouth, and began beating her tail against the water to swim, hunting for any prey.

Small prey were everywhere. Lightly nipping at the gray detritus that fell from Above, pecking at the hardened globules of oil, swimming in schools nestled between branches of the vines. She eyed them and growled hungrily, readying her prongs. The bone-fish were quick and agile, but she was a shocker, apex predator of the world!

Prongs crackling with an indistinct phrase, she swam full speed into the nearest school, her swim bladder fluctuating as she did. The bone-fish saw her coming of course, her arcs were cuttingly bright in the darkness of the water. Half of them tried swimming away. Another half went perfectly still and started sinking to the distant ocean floor. None of them would get away. Maybe playing dead would trick a crawler, or a green-blaster, but not her. She ran a charge through her prongs, and let it out into the water. Her brilliant power lit up the stone, arcing into the fish and leaving the water tingly, leaving it hot. The bone-fish twitched, but then they started to sink for real. Volara took great pleasure in snapping them up in her jaws, feeling their slimy, salty flesh sliding across her tongue and down her throat.

Ah, that felt good. That'd keep her fed for a good, long while.

With her belly full, Volara decided it'd be good to patrol the perimeter of her territory. Swimming happily, she inspected her lands. It was good. It was right. She couldn't smell the ionized water of a recent shocker passing through. Though there were a few odd currents. Probably some summoners wandering through. She flinched guiltily; hopefully they were gone. Hopefully they'd never be back.

She reached the edge of her territory, a series of risen cliffs with deep caves leading into their depths, where she sometimes hunted crawlers and chompers. Volara came to a halt, half curled around a vinestalk, and inspected the drop from the cliff face. The black stone fell quickly, carved into canyons by the currents. Faint blue light shone down from far above, sparkling through the water and casting a tepid light upon the lands. Far to the side she could see the stone arching up to the Above. She'd been up there once or twice, when she was a fry. Mother had shown her the white stone, the feeble armored creatures swimming beyond. There was nothing up there for her.

Volara lashed her tail against the water and swam out of her territory, into the unclaimed space that green-blasters liked to frequent. She spotted a few with her emerald eyes, crawling along the stone and hunting down bone-fish, but she paid them no mind. As long as they didn't get in her way, she was happy to leave them alone.

Green-blasters tasted horrid, anyway.

She meandered aimlessly across the unclaimed lands, sending the occasional arc of power down her body. Soon, she saw more familiar tracts of land, a honeycomb of caves and canyons. The territory of Herzaron and his consort, Teslara. She peered closer, looking for any of them... aha! She saw something off in the distance, a series of undulating lights that was the telltale sign of a shocker's prongs. Even as she watched, Volara saw a crackle of azure power race down the shocker's form, the equivalent of sighing quietly.

Volara swam closer, up to the border of their territory, and lit up her series of prongs, forming the pattern of, "Hello!" Now that she was closer, she could make out the pattern of swirls along the shocker's carapace. This was Herzaron! "How is everything, Herzaron?" she asked.

He came to a stop, then swam closer. He wove between vines and chomped at the air happily. "Volara! It's been a while." He contorted about in the water to look behind him, then turned back to her, sending a happy crackle through his pair of chin prongs. "Everything's going great. Had to chase off a summoner and green-blaster recently though, those two were really going at it."

Her hearts suddenly clenched. "A summoner? Fighting a green-blaster? In your territory? You're sure you're alright? What about Teslara, or the fries?"

"I know, I know," Herzaron responded. "But if it had the Green Weakness, it was in the very early stages, and it's gone now anyway. Teslara's fine, she's taking the little ones out to teach them to hunt right now, on the other side of our territory actually." Volara still wasn't sure... if there was a summoner in his territory...

As if sensing her worry, Herzaron swam closer and gave her a little zap. Her prongs lit up in a giggle and she swam a little ways back. "Hey, stop worrying," he chided. "Your line is strong, my line is strong. The fries are fine. Now anyway, what does bring you by? Get lost hunting?" he asked teasingly.

She did a roll in the water. "That was one time," she groused. "But no, I just found a school of bone-fish, I'll be set for a while. I just thought I'd visit, see how our clutch is doing. I can't help but worry," she explained, glancing down at the black stone, covered in a thin film of oil. From so far away, the normally red light the oil pustules gave off was a sickly green.

"Well, I'm glad to have you," Herzaron said. "Teslara and I were actually thinking of coming to visit you, once the little ones get a hang of area shocks."

"Oh!" she said, swimming slightly higher. "Oh, of course! I'd be delighted. I'll start heading back, getting the caves ready." She swam in and bumped the side of her armored head against Herzaron's, then backed off. "Swift currents to you, Herzaron!"

"You too!" he replied, before turning back and heading deeper into his territory.

With lifted spirits, Volara made it back to her territory in record time, even considering she had to fry a green-blaster that proved too stupid to live. She wove between cliffs and caves, twisting and turning, and occasionally brushing her tail against the stalks of a vine. What was she going to do with Herzaron, Teslara, and their six fries coming over? She... she needed to smooth out a few cradle plants, smear some oil along her underside, maybe brush her prongs in the feather-plants...

Then, something far above her flooded the world with light. Volara froze, and glanced up through the water. The blueness shining down suddenly blossomed into a dull green, and then for a moment it was as if night fell because all light from above just vanished as something colossal swam through the water far, far above her. Then it was gone and the light returned to normal...

WHUM-KABOOM!

A distant crash, and a light pulse of pressure in the water that made Volara's swim bladder do flips inside of her. Then it was over. Volara looked left and right. She rose up a tad, then sank back to the ocean floor. "What in the world?" she muttered.

Before she could put it out of her mind, she saw something else in the water, far above. From so far it only looked like a black dot, leaving a brief trail of silver behind it. Confused, Volara swam into a nearby cluster of vines and quieted her prongs, watching as the strange thing fell deeper and deeper, into her territory.

Soon, she realized it was some sort of... egg, mostly white, and leaving a trail of bubbles behind it as it sunk. Then all at once it stopped producing bubbles, and fell the rest of the distance to the ocean floor with a muffled crash, landing right in the lowest, clearest part of Volara's territory. There was some odd red pattern on its marbled surface.

Weird. Volara had never seen anything like this. A glance up showed more pieces of blackness falling, but these weren't pearly eggs. They looked more like ravaged and distorted pieces of her home's black rock. They drifted down and settled around her territory like the gray detritus that bone-fish sometimes fed from.

Speaking of bone-fish, there weren't any, nor were there any chompers. The strange egg's crash had scared them all away. Volara was about to swim over there and smash it before it could hatch and scare more of her prey away when its top opened up and something emerged from it.

It was like nothing she'd ever seen. Four limbs, long and gangly, around a central torso. It somewhat reminded her of the crawlers, but there was no giant eye, nor was the torso circular. The legs bent in all the wrong ways, and its head wasn't a set of pincers, but instead more like some round... knob. Its skin was dark gray, blending in well with its surroundings, but with orange streaks along its limbs. What in the world was this thing? Did the egg just hatch now?

As Volara watched, silent and intrigued, it swam slowly and meticulously towards one of the black pieces that had fallen after the egg. It grabbed one, hefting it in its strange limbs, and started swimming back to its egg. She paid more attention, and when it opened its egg back up she momentarily saw some sort of... boundary between the water and the egg. Like something inside the egg were keeping all the water out.

What was this thing?

What was it doing?

... could she eat it?

Volara watched as the creature made a few more trips. It went for the light blue crystals that grew from the surrounding rocks, grabbing them and hoisting them back inside. Around that time the bone-fish recovered their courage and swam back into the area. Then the creature returned, this time with a strange tube on its back, and started hunting the small fish.

It was... uh... it was really bad at it.

Bone-fish weren't exactly the fastest things out there. Their main form of defense was to play dead and hope whatever was hunting them didn't want to risk eating rotten flesh. But this thing could barely move at all, struggling to beat its limbs against the water, as though the surrounding liquid itself was overwhelmingly heavy. It had no prongs, so it couldn't zap them. It clearly wasn't a good swimmer; why didn't it just land on the stone and run around like the crawlers did? It struggled and flailed about, not able to grab even a single one of the fish. It was actually pretty sad to watch.

It finally gave up, and settled for grabbing a hardened pustule of oil in its hands and returning to its egg. Egg? Maybe it wasn't an egg, but rather its shelter? That would explain why it kept going back. But what was it doing in there? Maybe it was time for Volara to go and see.

Before she could, though, the shelter opened up again, and this time two of the creatures swam out! This second one was ever so slightly smaller than the other, its limbs shorter. And it was a little hard to see, but Volara could swear this one's torso had two rounded bumps next to each other. The duo of creatures swam about, looking intensely for something, but she had no idea what.

UCK UCK UCK UCK! Oock oock oock oock!

She perked up and relaxed her swim bladder, letting herself rise slightly. That was a green-blaster. Volara scanned the area for a moment and, sure enough, there it was. It descended from the water, four lifeless eyes fixed on the shelter and the two creatures. The two creatures spun around in the water. Volara assumed they were staring at the green-blaster, but where were their eyes? At most, their knobby 'heads' had a smooth, shiny dome on one side.

"Mmr!" one of the creatures vocalized, and they both started swimming as fast as they could for their shelter. But they were terrible swimmers, their exploration had taken them far away from their shelter, and the green-blaster was descending upon them with incredible speed, pincers and mandibles ready to rend and tear.

Volara gave her prongs an agitated crackle. No. Oh damnable death, no! This was her territory and her prey. This green-blaster needed a firm lesson! She shot out from her shelter of several vines, sending their oil globules tumbling to the ground. She focused and lit up all her prongs at once, wreathing herself in an electrical barrier as she zipped right at the green-blaster.

It shrieked in panic as she approached, and tried to swim away from the little creature it'd been tormenting - the one without bumps on its torso - but there was no escape from a shocker. There was no escape from her. The currents of her tailfin tossed the strange creature away. Volara opened her jaws as she approached and bit one of its four eyes out.

Greenish-yellow ichor burst into her mouth and the water, filling her nasal cavity with the heavenly scent of blood as she tore out the eye and spat it out. The insolent creature that tried to hunt in her territory warbled once in pain, then all at once went still as her bright blue wrath crashed through the water and fried it inside and out with a sharp crack. The green-blaster slowly started to float away. There, that was good. Now, the creatures. The one the green-blaster had been tormenting was swimming away, towards the Above. She turned to other one and... oh.

Oops.

It floated mostly in place, so much smaller up close than it had seemed from far away. With a single beat of her tail, Volara came closer to it and peered into the glossy plate on its head. Now that she was closer she saw it wasn't shiny, but transparent. Inside was something far more recognizable as a head, but only barely. Two eyes and a mouth, but what was that beaky thing with two holes? Or the shiny black strands at the top?

"Mmmph! Nnnrrrr!" it warbled. Its smooth plate was cracked now. It looked like water was... rushing into the creature's headspace. Which was strange because that meant there wasn't water inside normally.

There was now, though.

The creature was still alive, but its legs jerked spasmodically and its eyes went wide in terror when Volara came into its view. It opened its mouth wide, only for bubbles to pour forth as water rushed inside. Then...

Crunch!

Its two-bumped torso went noticeably flatter, collapsing inward with a wet crunch that made Volara wince. Then the creature's struggles grew frantic, its muffled, panicked gargles pouring forth even after no more bubbles spilled from its mouth. It beat its limbs at the water with the desperate strength of the dying, but made no progress in any direction.

Alright, that was enough. Volara didn't know what this creature was, but she could tell that it was in a tremendous amount of pain. She fired up her prongs again, and zapped the creature. It choked once, then went still. Then it began to sink.

Volara circled around it, then grabbed one of its puny, puny limbs in her mouth - seriously, these things were tiny, a little smaller than even her head! - and bit down.

Dark green blood, a different shade than what she was used to, filled the water and she backed off, spitting the severed arm out as a rush of bubbles spilled from within its shell. Blech! That tasted horrible! Like old and shriveled vine-oil! A swarm of chompers could have this thing. She sure wouldn't eat it.

What about the shelter, though?

A few beats of her tail brought her down to it. It was still closed, and she didn't know how to 'open' the top like the creatures had. Though now that she was next to it, Volara could make out more details. Collapsed orange rings around the shelter's bottom, their color fading to greenish-blue where the light from nearby vines didn't penetrate. There was a series of yellow rungs along its outside, forming a duo of bands. There was another transparent thing in the top, and Volara peered in. It took some effort, since she could only manage to look with one eye at a time, but there were even more features inside the water-filled thing, things she had no way of identifying other than weirdly shaped.

Could she eat their shelter? Worth a shot.

Volara swam over to a portion of the mysterious object that was almost all white and opened her mouth wide. Then she darted her head out and chomped. Her fangs bit into the shelter, and her strong jaws tore a wide segment of the thing clean off. She backed away and tasted the white sheet with her tongue... and spat it right back out. Ugh, even worse than the creatures themselves. It was like a rock. She started swimming away, leaving the sundered 'egg' and the sunken creature to be devoured by the chompers. She still had to get ready for Herzaron and Teslara's visit, after all.

She'd probably forget all about those unfortunate creatures before long.


Please do leave a review, let me know what you think.

FOR THE RECORD: I am aware that canonically, Subnautica exists in the Natural Selection 2 universe. In this story, however, it will not, because I 1)Know nothing about Natural Selection 2 and don't want to go looking up stuff that may end up ruining my plot 2)Others may not know about Natural Selection 2 and I don't want THEM to have to go looking stuff up.

The excuse I'll use for this is the existence of the Natural Selection 2 poster. Honestly, it doesn't even matter beyond a few sentences, but there it is.