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On vacation from my tenuous job as Head Cosmologist of Galacticon-12, I was walking through the halls of my alma mater when I came across an old professor of mine, a Dr. Saint-Laurens. He greeted me warmly, and after dispensing with the small talk, invited me in his office to see a new discovery.

"Fresh from the dark side of Deimos. Dug it up at an excavation near the ruins of Kepler-3. A pocket diary. Electronic, of course. Very primitive - seems to run on a quantum memory system of some sort. Took us awhile to bring it up to speed - insane almost how much we learned there - but now we've finally gotten a look at the files kept. Some of it's corrupted; might be the work of the author. Or man's author, Time itself. Here, have a look."

He turned on one of the nearby holodecks and up popped some entries from the diary. Mostly inane garbage, playing moonball with friends, a mildly bad breakup with some girl in galactic economics. Anthropologically interesting, but little else. There was a little time leap in the diary - the corrupted files, no doubt - and the next entry caught my eye.


6.58.2709

Today, Ridge and I sparkleshined fer hours. Busted up a hidden Banthanite crew. Pop sez we'll get crystal before he did. Making him proud is our only reason to live.


"Banthanite?"

"Small underground group of humans who developed super-hearing - and a taste for sacrifice. A number of great wars were fought between Worlders - the above ground people - and the Banthanites. Eventually it devolved into a kind of guerilla terrorism methodology. Very impractical, really. Please continue."


6.62.2709

Hard to spotlight 'em come darkfall. We're running around with our lightguns and steelforge, but first you gotta see 'em. They creep up to the overworld, looking for easy prey, till we show em what's what. Keep comin' back for more, too.

6.63.2709

Ridge and I split up today. I ended up in Utopia; Ridge ventured off into the Nomadics. Didn't find me no Banths to bust on. Played shadowtag with some of the young runners. 17, you're not supposed to do that no more, but I was real bored. Met back up with Ridge around 4130. He was covered in blood. I'm jealous.

6.64.2709

Today at fireside a junker came by and started spouting off rumors of Banths planning something big. Revolution. We could hardly believe it, but he offered details, real info. Thanked him, said we'd check it out.

6.66.2709

Ridge has been acting strange since his killnight in the Nomadics. He seems nothere, disinterested in getting crystal or anything else. I'm worried. Did the Banths get to him?

7.2.2709

On a duskraid by Perihelion Tower, Ridge suddenly became deathsick, vomiting all over the place. I took him back to the huntbase while everyone else kept on. Watched him all night. He lay in bed, moaning intolerably. Something is definitely wrong with my brother.

7.4.2709

Finally broke down and told Pop about Ridge. He ghostfaced on me. Told me about his Pop. How he came home one day with dryblood and a devilgrin on his face. Only two weeks later, he went soft. Started to change. Ran off from the colony, disappeared. Everyone told Pop the coldtruth: his Pop had gone Banthanite. Happened now and then. Then one killnight they found 'im, hiding in the darkrooms of the Nomadics. Killed him - had to.

Pop is sure this won't happen to Ridge. I'm not.

7.5.2709

Ridge is gone.

7.7.2709

Searchparty gone out on a killhunt. I'm joining them soon, but only to look for Ridge. Can't trust anyone.

7.8.2709

Ended up back out with the Nomadics. Darkfall. I quietcrept around for hours, occasionally getting a kill. I thought I saw 'em a couple of times, but no. Then I did. He was also quietcreeping, hiding, shameful. I caught him with a quickshot, took him down. He was babbling as he bled out. Poor Ridge.

The worst day of my life.


I turned off the holodeck in disgust. "What madness."

"Indeed," Dr. Saint-Laurens added. "But what makes it truly terrible isn't the content, but the calendar."

I looked up. "Come again?"

"Yes, this was all written in 2709. But in our archaeological research, we've discovered that the Banthanites all went extinct around 2400. Natural gas pockets in their capital city killed most of them. Then the race slowly faded away. Of course, the Worlders couldn't've known that. They saw someone they didn't know, they just assumed it was the mysterious Banthanites. All they had to go on were rumors like that junker's. Well, that, and man's own rumormonger.

Fear itself."

With apologies to Joseph Conrad for the title.

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