The Thing

Ten thousand gone. Ten thousand and twenty seven, actually. One should never round down when counting casualties. Every single one of those lost had a life, a path that was cut short by this menace. How many more would it take?

The next report was due any minute now and Harris had no expectation that number would jump significantly. Nothing the military had attempted had even slowed the Thing down. They barely understood what it was, hence its creative moniker. Entire capital ships were swallowed into its dark mass as if they had never existed. And every one of those ships held hundreds of crew with families that would need to be notified.

Some of them would not hear for weeks.

“Admiral?” Lieutenant Ensley asked from the doorway. She held a classified tablet in her hand, undoubtedly the newest report.

“Bring it in, Ensley,” Harris said. “No use delaying the bad news.” He sat down at his desk and gestured for her to approach.

“Aye, sir,” Ensley said, walking up and presenting the tablet forward with the precision and enthusiasm only seen in those newly assigned to Harris’ command.

“That will be all,” Harris said. “Let the others know there will be an announcement soon.” That didn’t really need to be said. Ensley would tell everyone anyway. But it gave Harris a greater sense of control, which was otherwise slipping away rapidly.

Harris flipped open the pad and scanned the summary. Another capital ship lost along with attendant cruisers. Five hundred more gone to feed the Thing. How the hell did it move so fast? It had been at Sectis Delta only a day ago. It didn’t even give them time to rest or regroup. It just found them, one after another, always going to the closest fleet like it was gobbling up a trail of breadcrumbs.

A trail that would eventually lead back to Earth.