The decahedron brought him to an unknown planet without warning. If that wasn't enough, his intervention had screwed up the transfer process, stranding Ves in a strange state.
His body, his gear and Lucky only partially existed on this jungle planet. He could breathe the air and stand on the ground, but when he tried to touch a tree his hands went right through as if he was a ghost.
"Am I turning into my mother?"
Ves quickly shook his head. This was no time for jokes. He performed some more experiments and found out that besides breathing the air, he could only interact with the environment in a couple of ways.
The most important observation was that he couldn't go through anything thicker than the leg of a mech. Anything bigger became an obstacle to him. On the other hand, it also allowed him to interact with the object.
"Lucky, come try to scratch this big old tree."
The jungle was overgrown and ancient. It possessed a peculiar desolate aura that pinged his sixth sense. The trees had lived through countless standard years. Some of them even reached a thickness comparable to an office building.
When Lucky floated over and raked the bark of the tree with his energy claws, the tree had definitely become scratched.
Something changed at that moment.
Their surroundings whooshed as the giant tree trembled. The other trees began to sway as well.
The entire forest became agitated as if Lucky had affronted them all!
Lightning suddenly flashed between the trees. Thick bright lightning bolts interweaved the entire forest as if it had been turned into a lightning storm on the scale of a gas giant!
Just when Ves thought he would be fried to a crisp, the lightning bolts all harmlessly passed through his body and gear. Not even Lucky suffered a single burn.
The lightning storm only persisted for a couple of seconds before subsiding. Even though Ves got off unscathed, he still felt all of his hairs turn stuff.
He could have died just then!
The entire incident could have killed him if he hadn't entered a semi-corporeal state!
"These aren't regular trees. This isn't a terraformed planet."
Ves became aware that he fell into the trap of relying on his preconceived notions. Just because an alien tree looked like a tree didn't mean it behaved the exact same way as a Terran-standard tree.
Humanity came across many cases of convergent evolution in the galaxy. Countless of habitable planets that revolved around yellow suns grew trees that grew green leaves in order to make the most out of photosynthesis.
That didn't mean that all of these trees evolved into passive, unmoving lifeforms.
Having learnt his lesson, Ves towed Lucky away towards a random direction. He wanted to get away from this frightening forest as fast as possible. Who knew if they retained a means to affect a semi-corporeal entity such as him in his current state.
Ves and Lucky ran for half an hour. The forest seemed endless, and the canopy barely allowed him to glimpse the pale blue sky above. Throughout his passage, he never came across a single native insect or wildlife.
Had the trees fried them all? Had the indigenous life forms evolved to instinctively avoid this forest?
The all-encompassing presence of the trees put a fair amount of mental pressure on Ves. These trees hadn't held back their might when one of them suffered a scratch. Even now, his mental senses perceived a subtle waveband in the air that carried a vague threatening flavor.
No outsiders allowed!
Thus, even if he didn't see an end to the forest, Ves still ran as if his life depended on it. Fortunately, his partially alien physique provided him with a boundless amount of energy. Although his internal energy cycle still hadn't fully recovered since meeting his mother, it still provided more than enough of a push to sustain his run.
"Even my Jutland organ is acting strangely!"
The organ responsible for most of the changes in his body became more active all of a sudden ever since he ended up on this unknown planet. Ves had the sense that it leeched some of the ambient energy emitted by the trees.
Ves did not like where this was going. His body already carried an excess amount of internal energy.
Thus, he continued to run in hopes of exiting the scary forest. In order to make sure he ran in a straight line, he utilized his hazard suit's navigational functions. Although it temporarily hadn't been able to make sense of the planet's magnetic field, it still featured other settings that could keep track of his route.
Even without his hazard suit, his comm offered similar functionality, so he wasn't helpless from the start.
After another half hour of running, Ves finally reached the edge of the forest. The trees abruptly grew less dense until they stopped growing entirely. Once he finally escaped the forest he stopped and caught his breath. Even with a strengthened body, he hadn't conditioned it to sustain an hour-long run.
After he straightened up, he beheld the dready brown landscape before him. A wide valley stretched before him. Unlike the forest behind him, the valley was completely barren of any growths. Neither plants or animals came into his view. While that relieved him somewhat, it also puzzled him. Why would the forest abruptly stop its growth in this direction?
He swept his gaze over at the hills and mountains and caught a single location that shone and sparkled with a brilliant luster. The location sat on top of a low hill a fair distance away from his current location.
To Ves, it looked like a sign of civilization.
"Finally! A potential clue!"
Ves had always kept his eye out for any signs that could explain his impromptu teleportation. The sudden appearance of the decahedron and its strange light show came too abruptly for him to draw any clues on what had happened.
Whatever the case, the decahedron definitely fulfilled some sort of purpose. It wouldn't dump him on a virgin planet without purpose. The act of transferring him from the Joe System to a completely different one with a yellow sun and a habitable planet must have used an enormous amount of power.
The technologies that made this possible also made it clear that this was not a casual event!
Rumors swirled around that the first-rate superstates developed a means of teleporting something from one star system to another. Whether these rumors spoke the truth or not, most people considered such technologies to be out of reach of the general public.
Thus, Ves held a definite interest in the alien device. What was its origins? What kind of aliens constructed it? What was its purpose? Why was it buried in a desolate red dwarf system in the galactic rim?
"Why did it trigger now?"
He racked his brains over the last question and couldn't figure out an answer. He pushed his questions to the back of his mind and jogged towards the site that glistened in the alien sun.
He controlled his pace since it would definitely take a few hours to reach his destination. All the while, he kept observing his surroundings for any further clues.
"This valley is completely barren. There's not a hint of life in this place."
Now that he distanced himself from the forest, Ves sensed that the ominous waves he caught before had faded away. Nothing else brushed against his sixth sense, so he slowly let down his guard.
"There shouldn't be anything I should be worried about here."
Just as he took another step forward, the ground underneath broke apart as a massive mouth ripped upwards. Some kind of two-clawed worm emerged from below and tried to snap his body in a single bite!
Fortunately, the worm was just small enough to pass through his body, but the hole the worm had dug caused Ves to lose his footing. He started to slide into the bottomless well until he hastily engaged his hazard suit's antigrav function.
After the clawed organism failed to bite him, it crashed back down into the earth, turning around for another go. The soil beneath the worm's passage bucket as the alien creature forcefully dug close to the surface.
"You won't get me this time!"
Ves hovered higher and retrieved a white block made out of exquisite alloys and composites. It quickly unfolded in the majestic gold-crusted Amastendira.
He dialed the power setting to a moderate setting and pointed the muzzle in the direction of the disturbance in the soil.
"Come on then! Take a bite out of me if you dare!"
Even Lucky stood ready on his shoulder. The cat had been caught off-guard with the first strike, which shamed him to no end. If Ves couldn't take down the worm, then Lucky would definitely follow suit.
The clawed worm emerged from below yet again. As far as tactics went, the worm primarily appeared to be driven by instinct.
Some things always stayed the same. Worm-like creatures never exhibited any notable level of intelligence in the galaxy.
A thick golden laser beam seared the worm straight into its maw. Its internal organs received so much damage that it instantly broke the beast. With an agonizing wail, the worm collapsed on the soil, having reached just short of engulfing Ves.
The ugly worm's appearance repelling him on a primordial level, so Ves quickly shot it again until he became sure of its demise.
After that, he spent a couple of minutes inspecting the dead creature. As much as he wanted to leave the sordid corpse behind, Ves still had to find some clues on what went on in this place.
A brief inspection of the corpse revealed that the worm wasn't as long as he thought. It was roughly as long as a mech. It featured no obvious organs besides the claws. It didn't even possess any eyes as far as Ves had seen.
Underneath the cutting burns left over from the Amastendira, Ves spotted a number of unknown but disgusting-looking organs. He didn't dare to come any closer.
He might have been able to figure out a wealth of information if he was an exobiologist. Sadly, his expertise only extended to mechs and machines. He remained as clueless as a bystander when it came to alien life.
"This is one scary creature, though. It's likely not the only one that's around here."
Ves looked back at the barren valley and imagined the clawed worms lying dormant underneath the surface. The thought instantly sent a chill down his back.
He checked the power, water and oxygen reserves of his hazard suit. "I only have two days left until my oxygen reserves run out. Water will last a little longer, but my suit is able to recycle my waste."
If people had to leave their hazard suits every time they needed to go to the toilet, then they wouldn't be so widely used.
Ves tried not to think he'd be drinking water filtered from his own bodily waste in a couple of days and focused on his power reserves.
"My battery will only last for a week."
After that, his suit would run out of power. The motors that eased his motions would lock up and the waste management systems would stop supplying him with recycled air and water.
Ves did not relish the thought of devolving into a savage that lived off the land.
"I have to find a way out as soon as possible!"
He left the corpse behind and continued to run towards his destination. Along the way, he encountered several more ambushes. The clawed worms really didn't like it when someone stepped over their heads.
Ves solved each and every one of them with a single laser beam. The creatures possessed no resistance against this type of energy damage. Added to the fact that the Amastendira's battery constantly regained its charge on its own, Ves showed no scruples against the primitive beasts.
He finally reached the site atop the hill after four hours of running. The marathon took its toll on his body and he stopped again to catch his breath.
Once he looked up, he observed a clearly artificial sight, something he had never encountered since he ended up on this planet. He came across a city of crystal.