The colony. Chapter 25: Night Outside

    It was the third hour of the night. The sky dragged on with dense clouds, and this made the street even darker.

    There was complete silence in the cockpit of the rover. The radar still did not register large animals nearby, and the noise graph showed almost zero values, only occasionally noting the rare and quiet singing of crickets and the rustle of leaves.

    Once again, Gordon reached for the dashboard and made sure that the volume knob was turned to maximum. Then he made sure that the audio system of the rover is still working properly and transmits all sounds to the salon. Gordon was ready to swear that more than anything else he dreams of hearing the usual noises of nighttime Demetrion, such as the rustling of the leaves of mighty trees, which has become customary singing of crickets, howling of wolves and even the roar of titans. Silence was very pressing on him.

    Barney hasn’t taken off his helmet for a long time and hasn’t let go of the joystick responsible for controlling the main plasma gun. When he turned his head to look around, the gun turned too, and Barney was very afraid that sooner or later one or several electric drives would break down and further control would become impossible. But every time he wanted to take off his helmet and give the drives a rest, he saw something in the distance, and he continued to stare at the bushes and seek out the silhouettes between the trunks of the trees.

    Raytnov was more comfortably seated in the chair behind Gordon, lowered the back of his head on the headrest and closed his eyes. But disturbing thoughts did not allow him to plunge into slumber, and he periodically opened his eyes and looked into the darkness through the porthole. Then he turned his gaze to the screens of the night navigation system, made sure that the titan was not hiding in the neighborhood, and again closed his eyes.

    Isaac, without even noticing it, had been spinning an empty water bottle in his hands for several minutes - such monotonous actions helped him better organize his thoughts. And he thought, like Gordon, only about the fact that the board was too quiet. Suspiciously quiet.

    Scott, following Barney’s example, put on his helmet and looked around. Several times he was sure that he had seen titanium or even their group and was ready to pull the trigger, but he stopped at the last moment. Then he looked for a few minutes in the direction where the predators were supposed to be, and he became convinced that he only imagined himself. After another such incident, he decided to take off his helmet, as his state of health worsened due to the constant release of adrenaline.

    Joe sat next to Scott and ate an extra portion of the evening ration. Prior to that, he had not closed his mouth all evening and chatted a lot - apparently, this helped him to feel calmer and in no case give out what was a little scary to him.

    Angus sat in the back of the rover and thoughtfully looked from one colonist to another. It seemed that he was completely calm and thought at all not about the titans and not about the oppressive silence. Especially often his eyes fell on Raytnov, and then his expression changed slightly, but no one noticed.

    And only one Emilia managed to doze off sweetly on one of the beds in the back of the rover.

    Angus straightened his glasses on the bridge of his nose and looked again at Rytnov, while he smiled strangely. He wanted to get a tablet from the inside pocket of the jumpsuit, but he suddenly noticed a strange flash in the porthole. The darkness disappeared for a second, giving way to a bright white light, and then again flooded everything around. After a moment, Angus bounced on the spot from the sudden and deafening rumble that the rover’s audio system played. Isaac dropped the bottle from his hands, Emilia jumped up and began to look around, blankly, and Raytnov, who had just managed to doze off, suddenly woke up.

    After a few seconds, a thunderstorm began, accompanied by torrential rain and rolling thunder. It seemed that the epicenter of a thunderstorm was directly above his head.

    Night navigation system screens quickly dimmed, unable to penetrate the wall of water, and visibility was almost nil. Millions of drops of water created a semblance of white noise, so the sound schedule also did not have to count more. Now you can only rely on the radar and good luck.

    “Fine,” Gordon grumbled, diminishing the sound enough to keep his head from the next rumble of thunder. - This is what we lacked now. See anything?
    “Nah, no shit,” Barney said, but he didn’t take off his helmet.
    “That's exactly t-sure,” Scott agreed, but again he was sure that his keen eye had pulled something out of a shroud of water.

    Raytnov, Isaac and Joe also put on their helmets and took control of the remaining three guns. Visibility was really almost zero.

    “Hey guys,” Barney said after a while. “Look two hundred and forty degrees to the right.” It seems to me, or is there something there?

    Of the “guys,” only Isaac and Scott were able to look in the indicated direction, because the guns, which were controlled by Raytnov and Joe, were oriented in other directions.

    Isaac's eyes narrowed as if it would allow him to see better. To his surprise, the smart aiming system recognized this as one of the control gestures and did a two-fold scaling of the image - now he could see the details better.

    - Well, what is it? - Emily asked impatiently, and her voice felt uneasy. - Titans?

    No one answered. Emilia shivered, felt goosebumps going down her back and looked at her watch. It was 2:23. “Why have they not yet appeared?” She thought, and looked at the ceiling, listening to the deaf and barely discernable knock of large drops.

    “No,” Isaac finally said. - There's nothing there. By the way, if you squint, the image is scaled.

    The rest immediately followed the advice and nodded their heads. The guns also nodded in agreement.

    “There’s a switch under the thumb of the right hand,” said Scott. - He is responsible for turning on the thermal imager.

    Barney stopped squinting, and the scale of the image returned to its original. He felt the switch under his finger and moved it to another position. The gray tones were changed to blue - the rain was cold - but there were no global changes in the image. The spectrometer did not detect any temperature changes.

    “Not a soul around us,” said Barney, having carefully studied all directions. - At least, not a single warm-blooded animal.

    Gordon carefully examined the nightie monitors, which he also translated into spectral mode. The Titans were cold-blooded killing machines, but were not owners of cold blood. The imager should have noticed them, and this calmed Gordon a bit.

    “Wait,” said Barney suddenly. - At eighty degrees, there is something there. Pretty far, barely discernible. Some reddish figure. It seems to be a wolf.
    “Yes, I see it too,” the Wright and Joe confirmed in chorus. Now the action took place in their coverage area.

    Barney squinted suspiciously. The image is very opportunely increased - it is still not used to this useful feature. Now Barney thought that the wolves were actually three whole things, and he soon finally became convinced of this.

    The wolves behaved strangely - they ran randomly around a single point, jumped, fell and rose again. Barney instinctively stretched his neck, trying to see at least something, but besides the three figurines barely illuminated by a thermal imager, he did not see anything. Suddenly, one wolf literally took off above the ground - it was not like a jump, the wolf broke away from the surface too smoothly. And the next second, it literally tore into two parts, and warm red blood began to flow to the ground from the half that was still hanging in the air.

    “Have you ... seen this?” - Barney heard his voice and did not recognize him.

    Emilia again felt the goosebumps running down her back with cold. There was no need to ask for details - she herself perfectly saw everything on one of the monitors of the "nightie".

    “The wolf just ripped in two,” Joe concluded.
    - But what was it?

    Gordon scratched his chin thoughtfully and nervously.

    “It was a titan,” he said softly, almost in a whisper.
    “But why don't we see him then?” - Barney continued to fascinated to watch the battle already two wolves and something invisible.
    “I don't know,” Gordon shrugged. - But what else could it be? Any ideas? Alex?
    “I also think that this is titanium,” he agreed. “But really, why don't we see him?”

    Angus looked away from the monitors and noticed the sight of Raytnov, who had taken off his helmet.

    “Some kind of devilry,” Joe grumbled. - If I believed in God, I would have crossed myself.

    Raytnov continued to look inquiringly at the doctor. But Angus did not answer, only corrected his glasses on the bridge of his nose and scratched his head. Then he looked at the monitors again, confused.

    “The Titans are warm blooded,” he finally said. “But I can't say why the imager doesn't register them.” Option two - either we don’t know anything about them, or there is no titanium in this direction.
    - A wolf that the wind blew?
    “By the way, the wind is about thirty meters per second,” said Scott, but then he mentally cursed his talkativeness. Of course, thirty meters per second is not enough to break the wolf.

    Angus looked down and shrugged.

    “I don't know,” he admitted. - I can assume that the titans are not amenable to spectral analysis due to the special structure of the skin and bone growths.
    “Be that as it may,” Barney spoke up again, “the dust moves in our direction.” It seems the wolves are on the run.

    The two red silhouettes on the night navigation system screens quickly moved towards the rover. A few seconds later, the radar alerted to the approach of two large predators. A moment later, a third point appeared on the radar.
    Barney squinted again. The wolves were already close enough to discern their parts of the body, and not just see an abstract reddish figure. But there was still nothing behind them.

    Barney's finger found the spectral switch and moved it to its original position. The imager went off, and Barney finally saw what had terrified the fearsome predators and forced them to flee. More precisely, only a blurred silhouette was visible, and it was impossible to say whether it belonged to titanium or another creature of comparable size, but Barney did not think about it. He was led by reflexes, and he, without saying a word, pulled the trigger, not taking his eyes from the silhouette.

    A bright plasma clot blinded him for a moment, but quickly withdrew. And then time seemed to slow down. Barney watched, fascinated, and it seemed to him that he was already flying for a few seconds. And when the plasma came close to its goal, it illuminated it for a moment. There was no doubt - it was titanium.

    On the imager, it was possible to observe another picture - a bright white round object with red edges was quickly removed from the rover. As it moved away, it became smaller, and it seemed that it would soon turn into a small dot and disappear. But then something unexpected happened.

    The small dot suddenly exploded, and a multitude of drops of warm liquid flew out of it. It was like a bursting balloon filled with water. The wolves, who had made a tactical retreat a second ago with tails tucked in, suddenly stopped and turned around. A second later, they attacked the enemy, who no longer presented any danger to them. On the radar displayed only two points.

    “It was a titan,” Barney concluded, although there was no need for that. Now it was obvious to everyone.
    “Thank God,” Emilia sighed, and leaned back with relief.

    Joe snorted. It was clear that he would rather glorify Barney’s shooting talents and the skill of the engineers and mechanics who created this rover. Barney took off his helmet, closed his eyes and tiredly threw back his head.

    Gordon tapped some rhythm with his fingers on the armrest and looked thoughtfully at the radar. Then he reached out and added sound. The cabin of the rover was filled with the sound of rain.

    “I don’t like it,” Raytnov whispered from his seat, and Gordon nodded in agreement. - I don't like it at all.

    Barney massaged his eyes and snapped his neck. He also did not like the situation. The inability of thermal imagers to detect creatures is half the trouble. The second half was also in the almost complete inability to notice the Titans because of the damn rain. It remained to rely only on the radar and listen to the sounds surrounding the rover.

    And the decision of Gordon to increase the volume turned out to be very, very good, because to the noise of thunderstorms and gusting wind was added something deaf, very similar to a muffled roar. Barney put on his helmet again and began to look around, this time not even including the thermal imager.

    For a while nothing happened, and no other sounds were added to the thunder noise. And then the roar was repeated, and this time it sounded closer.

    “It's in the back,” said Emilia confidently, sitting in the tail of the rover. - I just feel this roar.

    Barney obediently turned the gun back, but saw only a fallen trunk. More precisely, its shape. A minute later the roar came again. Barney continued to look for something among the bushes, but to no avail. Joe, who is responsible for the rear small cannon, also began to peer into the distance, but also to no avail. They shuddered when the radar made a harsh and unpleasant sound, warning of the approach of another predator. Now the display again showed three points, one of which approached the center of the coordinates from below.

    “He’s really behind,” Gordon confirmed. “Barney, can you see anything?”
    “Nothing but this ...” Barney kept back the curse that was about to fly off his tongue. - Besides this trunk. It obstructs the entire review.

    Joe confirmed, confirming his words. The point, meanwhile, gradually approached the center.

    “Sixty meters ... fifty," Gordon's voice was unusually calm. - Forty meters.

    Raytnov sat up and leaned on the headrest of Gordon's chair, as if not believing his ears and wanting to independently verify the accuracy of the information. As it turned out, Gordon did not deceive - and now the predator was already only thirty meters from the rover.

    “Still nothing,” Barney, unlike his comrade, was clearly nervous.

    Gordon started the engine.

    - Twenty meters ... he stopped.

    There was heavy silence in the air for a few seconds. It seemed that even the rain stopped for a while. And then the new roar literally stunned everyone, and Gordon lowered the sound with a sharp movement. Barney almost dropped the joystick from his hands.

    - Fifteen meters! - Gordon's voice ceased to sound calm.
    - Yes, there is nothing there but a fucking trunk! - shouted Joe.

    The wolves distracted themselves from their meal, soberly assessed the situation and made a sensible decision to retreat. For the next day, their stomachs were provided with work. Only one point remained on the radar, which slowly approached the center of coordinates.

    Barney suddenly made a strange sound, like a surprised duck quack. He raised his head high, as if trying to see the moon hiding behind layers of clouds, which, by the way, did not have Demetrion.

    - Thirteen meters!
    “He climbed a tree,” Barney whispered and opened his mouth in surprise. - How did he get there?

    Joe also raised his head and whistled in surprise.
    Titan stood on the trunk of a fallen redwood and looked around. The thickness of the trunk exceeded its growth threefold, and Barney could hardly believe his eyes. He could not believe that a huge and seemingly clumsy predator could easily overcome such obstacles. The predator, meanwhile, looked down and noticed a large tin can and two small ones. For some reason his attention was more attracted by the big one.

    Barney was not going to be particularly surprised for a long time and was already preparing for a shot, but he was blinded by a sudden and very bright flash, followed by a monstrous power of thunder. A gust of wind lifted the leaves to the ground and whirled them in a wild dance. When Barney regained his ability to see, the titan was no longer visible.

    - Eight meters! - Because of the noise of thunderstorms Gordon was barely audible.

    Raytnov glanced at one of the monitors and started. The Titan was fast approaching and it seemed that he was ready to swallow the rover completely, without even chewing it. This individual was much larger than all the previous ones.

    And the next instant, Raytnov lost his balance and fell into his chair due to the sharp acceleration of the rover. The distance to the predator began to increase rapidly, but Gordon stopped when it became equal to sixty meters.

    - Why are we not going further? - Angus asked uneasily. - It is now catching up with us!
    - Because no shit can be seen! - Gordon snapped. He was afraid to leave the road to the swampy curb and hoped that he could use the time gained in order to properly aim.

    However, the titan quickly lost interest in the retreating rover and switched to those who stood close to the tree. With a powerful blow of the paw, he deformed the body of one of them, did not find anything edible in it, and headed towards the other. Expedition rovers were completely defenseless against a formidable predator.

    “I don't see him,” said Barney, peering into the mist of water.
    “He stayed by the tree,” Gordon guessed. - Cried our rovers.
    “Get closer,” Barney said.

    Gordon turned on the rear gear.

    - Maybe not worth it? - Fired voice Emilia. - Maybe the hell with them, with the rovers?
    “Get closer,” Barney repeated in a voice that could not stand objections.

    Gordon pressed the gas pedal. The radar showed that the distance to the predator was slowly but surely decreasing. When it became equal to twenty meters, the rover stopped. Gordon did not want to risk it.

    Barney narrowed his eyes, deliberately zooming in this time. A new flash of lightning momentarily illuminated the space. Just for a moment, but Barney was enough. He saw the silhouette, remembered its location, looked in the right direction and pulled the trigger. On the “nightie” screen, which displayed the image filtered by a thermal imager, a fountain of red drops was displayed, and only one thing could mean it.

    Barney successfully hit the target. And at the same time with her and the second rover. The point on the radar disappeared, and he, to the great relief of all the passengers, finally shut up.
    The rain was getting smaller and smaller, and the wind died down almost completely. Lightning and peals of thunder moved beyond the horizon and continued their business elsewhere.

    “Well, something like that,” Barney took off his helmet and turned his head toward Gordon. Then he turned and looked around.
    “Something like that,” Gordon repeated.

    Joe looked thoughtfully at Barney and snapped his knuckles.

    - How do you do it? - Finally he asked. - I do not even have time to take aim, but you already give an accurate shot.

    Barney shrugged. I wanted to laugh it off, but nothing came to my head, so he said nothing. Although, the question most likely did not require an answer.

    The clock showed 3:14. The wind quickly dispersed the clouds, and the stars glowed brightly in the sky, sharing a part of their light with the expanses of the night Demetrion. The crickets seemed to wake up from their sleep and set off their usual song, and the noise graph finally showed the usual values.

    For the whole next hour, nothing happened.

    And then the eastern edge of the firmament began to burn with fire, and soon the sun seemed out of the horizon line. The first night outside the base was successfully experienced.

    Unless, of course, do not assume the loss of two vehicles.

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