Hypovolemic Apoplexy

The man in charge of the blood in the blood lake was worried about the lack of blood in the blood lake. He, Alejandro Ferré — though used to the name Ferres due to foreigners getting it frequently wrong — volunteered for this job because babysitting a big puddle sounded easy. He didn't minded the remote location on a phantom island somewhere at an undisclosed location in the Southern Ocean. In fact, he appreciated the solitude as a welcome change from the hectic military life.

But of course the trouble had to start barely six weeks after he took over from the last guy, when the corpse's bleeding turned from a former river to mere trickle. For no obvious reason at that. Three and a half years that thing had bleed like there's no tomorrow, just to dry out from one day to the other.

He wasn't too sure what the giant, pale, gelatinous and vaguely gynecoid body lying across the the northern third of the island even was. It smelled of glue, but Ferré decided that that's one of the less unpleasant odours a dead body could've emit. That thing had supposedly broken out of the antarctic ice, crossed hundreds of kilometres of ocean whilst shrugging off shelling with artillery and missiles and then just lied down here to give birth. The birth process had seemingly involved the child slicing its mother open in order to escape her body. Admittedly, the lack of genitals made a birth through other means rather difficult, he had to give it that.

He didn't knew what exactly happened after that. The files were blackened out to such a degree that even whilst he preferred to work with paper documents, the printing costs were just too prohibitive in this case. But apparently the child had been dragged off by two destroyers after its umbilical cord had proven an effective impromptu leash. The mother had been presumed dead and left in place for later recovery. Upon return, she was found profusely bleeding from her cuts, with the volume of blood soon exceeding that of her already gargantuan body.

Never shy of opportunistic actions, an trench was dug to re-route her blood to gather in place, instead of wastefully diluting in the ocean water. Whilst it certainly wasn't human — the geneticists couldn't properly sequence it, because her Ts, Cs, Gs and As weren't actually Ts, Cs, Gs and As — it was still blood enough to be of some use. Category 53-C, Grade 2 blood, to be exact. Ferré once had tried filling out the blood classification form for himself, and even without the additional appendix for females, it took him an entire afternoon of working through various systems of assessing blood groups — and even more for virginity — and he still wasn't confident he got it right.

That meant the blood wasn't suited for many purposes, but what it lacked in quantity was compensated in quantity. A whole plantation growing Blood Berries couldn't match the monthly output of this small venture. And that without requiring much maintenance, independent from the weather and seasons, with superb ocean access — most of the ships docking were massive tankers that only had to deviate slightly from the position they were supposed to be according to their GPS trackers, with the occasional odd high-tech vessel in the midst of night — and best of all, everything at the unbeatable price of being free.

The last such fill-up had made the current problem very apparent; the small lake's shore had receded beyond the designated minimum point. Evaporation wasn't an issue, same for dilution from rain — due to the canopy spanned over the whole place to conceal it from satellites — but the sad little runnel could barely compensate the seepage and percolation draining the remaining reserve.

He had found many dead fish on the now exposed, yet still slippery, rocks, and a couple of things that suspiciously looked like unexploded ordinance. Not a fan of either, he had decided to stay away from there.

The fish coincidentally were no big news. They probably got swept in by a storm wave early on and had mutated splendidly in the new environment. Most of them lived from the filter feeding in the nutrient-rich liquid, though a couple of rays that had found their way from somewhere into the pool had promptly become the apex predator species, their pectoral fins having grown to long, whip-like appendages.

Trying to earn favours with the Cryptozoologists, he had tried his hand at angling. But since the spiny, pallid and eyeless creature's stern refusal to die on land had to be resolved by means of his FAMAE FN-750 multiple times, he left this task to the other few residents of the island.

Residents, who, as it turned out, weren't exactly interested in the current situation, being here for different reasons than him. So it was up to Ferré to be concerned about the dwindling strategic resource, and more importantly, his career, making him decide that something had to be done.

This was the reason why he currently waded through the puddle of blood around the corpse in a cheap Tyvek coverall and a respirator to get a closer look at the very source. Its body had been tilted to the side by the emerging offspring, the lacerated abdomen facing inland. Blood trickled from the deepest cuts above him, but Ferré had noticed something that made him furrow his brow. He'd need a ladder to check — something very obvious to bring in hindsight — but a good chunk of the belly portion was covered in some blackish-brown — perhaps even purple in some spots — substance. He examined it closer and quickly came to a conclusion.

Could it be this easy?

"A blood clot." Nuñez repeated after Ferré, intending to prompt him for more, but only achieving to annoy him.

"Yes, obviously. It's dried blood or scab or some other exudate that is clogging up everything."

"Okay, but why now?" Nuñez twirled up some spaghetti around his fork. Today's diner was spaghetti bolognese. Yesterday's was spaghetti aglio e olio, the day before that's spaghetti cacio e pepe — the outpost's limited kitchen didn't allowed for much cooking and their last supply order had a typo in the number of noodles. "It didn't do anything like that in the past."

"Well, has anyone checked on coagulation at the source in the past? We knew it can cause issues with piping and drainage systems, so why not also old venes?"

Medina chimed in. "But wouldn't that mean it builds up pressure till it explodes?" Diner was — besides watching Huachipato games — one of the few occasions the wispy man was seen on terra firma. Most of his day was spend on a small research vessel anchored ashore, doing deep sound channel surveillance. Ferré was sure that Medina secretly mourned the glorious times of the cold war when people sitting in submarines, nervously listening to their headphones were actually of military significance. The closest option for someone with his interests had been joining the SHOA.

"I mean, it wasn't doing that when it was still alive, so I guess it only produces more to compensate for blood loss." Ferré paused for a moment, imagining the thing rupturing into a fountain of blood. "If that were the case, it should have visibly bloated by now."

"True." Nuñez — the glutton — had already finished his second portion. "But what are you going to do about it?"

Ferré spotted a triumphant grin. "We're gonna blast it free!" He had no idea where to get explosives from, but considering whom this outpost belonged too, it shouldn't be too hard to organize some.

"What if you blow it up? Like, the whole thing." He had never expected Nuñez out of all people to have concerns about using too much force.

"This thing broke through the southern anti-kaiju mine belt and withstood multiple battlecruisers trying for more than just scratching the outter skin. It'll be fine. Actually, we might need multiple runs to break it all up."

"Fair. And you're bringing this up because…" Nuñez let Ferré finish the sentence "…because everyone else around here is either a civ or from the Armada, so I thought you as a Ejército technician know a thing or two about demolition."

He raised a finger to correct him. "I'm an engineer, not a technician. And all I know about explosions is to not be near one."

Ferré eyeballed the bald man. "But that doesn't mean you're not inclined to help me, right?"

"Hell no, I won't miss the chance to have finally something happen here! You in, Quique?" he turned to Medina, who waved dismissively. "Nah, sorry guys, the sensors picked up something we've never heard before, and we're working hard to identify the source."

Nuñez rolled his eyes. "You always hear something new and unexplained and in the end its always ice bergs. Ice bergs or sea quakes, I'll tell you."

Cristobal Nuñez balanced across the creature's forehead. The ground beneath him wasn't as bouncy as he had imagined it, more like walking on one of those gel pad used for ice packs. Just that the skin behaved like paraffin paper and didn't provided the best grip for his boots. He had opted not to go for any personal protective equipment — outside a disposable mask against the fumes — because he figured that if he had to scale on a monumental corpse without any climbing gear, he could at least use some additional ease of movement.

Its face was flat, as if it was cut from a larger slab of something else. No nose broke up the flat surface, and the mouth was hardly more than an oval pit, like the maw of a baleen whale. Only the eyes, three to each side, broke up the even contour. They were rolled up, as if asleep, with no eyelids to cover them. The sclera was of a intense blue colour that seemed to glow, like clothes washed with optical brightener do under black light.

The face transitioned seamlessly into a short neck that connected just as seamlessly into the torso, which was twisted from the creature lying on its side. They first had tried throwing ropes over the thing, but soon discovered that this wouldn't work, so Ferré had sent him to climb up the body in order to let webbing down on both sides. Slowly, Nuñez begun to realize that this was the exact reason they couldn't get anyone else to help.

Scaling the shoulder was the worst part, and he had to move on all fours to keep his balance. Forming bulging lumps and then pressing them down prove to be a slow but steady way to gain some height. Eventually, his caterpillar-crawl brought him to the armpit, which offered somewhat solid footing for him to shout down to Ferré and get him to catch the ropes he threw down and anchor them.

Whilst watching him running around the corpse, Nuñez changed his opinion. Perhaps not having to dive into stagnant blood to grab the anchors was indeed the better task.

This notion only lasted until the last two meters of his way back down, when he slipped and fell face-first into a blood puddle. Suddenly Ferré was all smug in his stupid coverall.

Back at the outpost, he had to discover that the courier had finished his nap and was blocking the only shower on the island. He had piloted the sea plane that brought the latest supply delivery, including the order for mountaineering equipment, plastic explosives, and a field manual to demolition. Nuñez had no idea what Ferré did to get an unscheduled drop like that, but given then quantity of the deliveries, he was either following the "more is better than less"-philosophy, or their logistics officer was illiterate. Given that spaghetti fiasco, the latter was not unlikely.

After hosing himself down a bit and cursing the courier three-fold for taking so long, he lounged in the empty rec room and flicked through the field manual. Perhaps it was just his primal urge to stay in one piece, but the booklet made for a great lecture. He wasn't too sure why the repeated warnings that C-4 was toxic when ingested were necessary, but then, the blood lake's blood was also prominently noted to be non-potable.

He spent the rest of the time until diner working through it — only interrupted by flipping of the courier who told him the shower was now free — until he got a rough understanding of shaping charges and rigging them up safely to detonators. Of course he would have to do some smaller trial runs first — contrary to his reputation, Nuñez wasn't too light on safety protocols when the chance of being around for a repeated offence was slim — but he was confident that he could do his part.

This didn't mean he believed Ferré's plan — they called it Project Gulliver, although neither of them had ever read Swift — would succeed. His own theory was simply that whatever source the blood had come from, it had dried out. But trying this route was still bound to be more entertaining than his usual duties, and either way, Ferré would owe him a big favour.

He sighed as his nostril picked up the smell of diner being ready. Time to talk this through one last time over some baked spaghetti casserole.

Alejandro Ferré's ears were ringing from the recent blast — or rather blasts, they fuse weren't rigged properly to detonate all at once. Apparently using normal HPDs for meant for shooting ranges wasn't quite enough for having bounteous amounts of C-4 go off nearby.

"Is it safe to go now and look?" he yelled at Nuñez, who was the reason they remembered to bring hearing protection in the first place. "What?"

"Can! We! Go! And! Look!" They both had sheltered behind one of gigantic knees, figuring that should provide enough distance and protection.

Nuñez pressed the trigger on his blasting machine twice again, and when nothing happened, nodded. "I think so." He removed the remaining wiring to make sure.

In order to save themselves the walks around the leg, they had brought ladders, and Ferré was glad the one on the other end was still standing when he reached the top side of the knee. It wasn't clear from up here how effective the first charges had been; the area was covered in red mist. His past experience had told him that blood doesn't actually works like that — it might be sprayed around from sufficient force, but wouldn't form vapour — but that might be different when kilos of dried blood were just vaporized.

He descended the ladder and stepped into the cloud. Upon entering he noticed it being more of a dust cloud than mist, though it still felt wet on his uncovered cheeks. He wished he had brought a face shield instead of mere goggles. Waving his arms did help a little in dissipating the smoke directly in front of him, but his sight remained confined to only a meter or two, and decreased with every tiny droplet sticking to his goggles. He resisted the instinct to wipe them clean, knowing his bloodied hands would only worsen the problem.

Impatiently fighting forwards, he felt the dead ground beneath his feet turn to a splashing thick puddle. There might be a sound — if his still ringing ears and his wishful thinking weren't playing tricks on him — the sound of a thick liquid under pressure pouring out. Not quite like water, the sound alone spoke of the heaviness and stickiness of what produced it.

Following half the noise, half his mental map of his surroundings, went into the direction of their first detonation. First he he splashed, then he waded against a faint flow — there was a flow!

The debris in the air had finally dispersed into a pink haze and he saw that his plan has been more of a success than something this poorly thought through had any business to be. Not just did the first attempt cleared more area of scab than he anticipated, the major gash was releasing a respectable stream of fresh blood. The cut was more straight than he remembered — he had never seen the thing not covered in exudate. The wounds in the cleared area were surprisingly little. The child must have slashed its way out with almost surgical precision.

For a moment he just stood there — covered in blood that was not his own — and soaked in the sight. This is what somebody who struck oil must fell like. Sullied, but happy beyond words.

Nuñez words broke him out of his awe. "Did it work?"

"Yes." he said. "Yes, yes, yes! Look at this, it's probably even more than before!"

"Great, then we can go about blasting the rest. I think we can do the majority in just on more swoop, and then have to work on the hard-to-reach places." He had brought the case with the remaining charges with him. Ferré watched him put it down and go back to get the rest of their equipment from behind the hiding spot.

The two men continued preparing more charges and climbing the corpse, sticking and wedging them into the crust, now slightly more confident around the explosives.

Half-way through mounting the rest, Ferré noticed that the deluge of blood they just caused was already dying down. "Hold on." He gestured to Nuñez and abseiled to a spot they had already freed of blockage. The blood there had returned to a light trickle.

He pushed off the body and kicked the spot when he swung back against it. A sputtering of blood squirted out followed by a short surge, before everything returned trickling. "Aha." he lowered himself a bit more and tried splitting the wound open. His gloved fingers had difficulty separating the sticky flesh. He fumbled for a short while before deciding it was worthless and putting off his gloves. It wasn't like the blood was toxic, so this was probably fine.

Proceeding barehanded, he slipped his fingers into the wound and pulled it open wide enough to get a loom into it. He didn't liked what he saw.

"What is it?" Nuñez called from below.

"It's clogged from the inside too. Like an embolism. Stuff was good before, but the blasts must have broken off and dislodged the clotted parts and now they're clogging it up from the inside."

"Aw, shit. Any idea what to do about this?" Nuñez didn't give him a chance to respond by immediately answering his own question. "Let me guess, more C-4?"

"Absolutely. I mean, it worked already, and we got more than enough of that stuff." He shrugged. They had planned the entire day for Project Gulliver, so this wasn't much of a setback. "Seems fine to me."

Enrique Medina sat in his boat and racked his brain over the recent new sound. It was still ongoing, clearly hearable to everyone in the southern ocean — including the Coalition-operated sonar array he was in charge off in his other unofficial job — although recording it locally had been difficult lately due to interfering noise. Most of that noise had been a sea plane landing and taking off, as well as two idiots toying around with fireworks.

Absorbed in his thoughts, he listened to an isolated sample of the irregular sound. The clip wasn't even a full minute and had played on repeat for hours on end. He was knocking in its rhythm on his desk until his knuckles hurt.

The sound was too regular to be a case for the cetulinguists, even though the very low frequency seemed to match. If this was created by something living, it was certainly not trying to communicate through it. But at this low frequencies, the pulse was also useless for echolocation.

Nobody had triangulated the source so far, but lack of Doppler shift in all directions implied that it was stationary, and stayed that way — for now.

Medina had always been fascinated by the way sound worked underwater. It started when he noticed how different voice sounded like when he was diving, and only became more of an obsession for him when he started listening to whale song recordings before going to sleep. Sometimes he felt that air was limiting him and his ears, with its woefully slow speed of sound and rapid fall-off. Then he wished he could breath underwater — of course his current employer had means to fulfil that wish, albeit none of them were enticing enough for him to subject himself to surgery or worse.

So he spend all day wearing his headphones and listening to the ocean. It had many things to say and invaluable knowledge could be gleamed from just tuning in and keeping an open ear. Sometimes it really did speak — or at least something within in — other times it conducted the telltale noises of fleets moving and submerged armies moving into position.

The IMGINT folks kept spreading the poisonous idea that one needs to see, but in the dark depths, all their spy planes, observation satellites and high-tech optics were useless. It were people like Medina that had to monitor them. People that only had to hold their breath in order to eavesdrop the whole world at once.

Another detonation startled him and made his thoughts focus back on the present. Waiting if there were any more explosion following the recent one, he perused some visualizations of the sample, feeling like they should be familiar to him.

There it was, another explosion. Not enough time to place new charges, so Ferré and Nuñez were still figuring out the timing of the fuses. He could feel his pulse raise from the irritation. He had told them he was busy, yet they inconsiderably decided to bomb some carcass for the sake of Ferré's flawless CV. How annoying. But now he had to concentrate and think hard, and being annoyed didn't help with that.

He took off his headphones to massage his temples whilst trying to calm himself down. As the throbbing in his forehead slowly faded away, he had a sudden flash of insight. A flash of concerning insight.

Very, very, concerning insight. He had to tell the others.

He jumped up from his chair and sallied out of the cabin that was his office. He raced down the small footbridge that connected his vessel to the island and along the trail that lead uphill.

He hadn't done any actually straining exercise since he joined the SHOA. Now he paid the price for it — he panted and wheezed as he jogged uphill. He reminded himself to focus on his breathing before developing a stitch.

Suddenly remembering he was running into an active blasting area, he called out for the others. "Guys! Guys! Stop!" He saw no trace of them on the body's backside, so they probably still were in the front, setting up more charges. He hurried around the creature's stumpy heel and tried catching enough breath to shout louder.

"Álex, Chris, stop! I discovered what the sound was! It's a heartbeat!" He fell silent as he finally got a look at the two standing like frozen in front of its chest.

"We know." he heard Ferré saying, as six squinting blue eyes tracked him.

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