This adventure takes between Moebius Trip and Butterfly Wings
It took nine days of uninterrupted work to excavate the object. Night followed day and day followed night as the sand-blowers were used constantly, peeling away layer after layer after layer. Calls from the colony became ever more frequent as the Pilot tried to find out what was going on; her requests would have been deliberately ignored if anyone had enough time to answer them.
As the week stretched on and the workers fought against fatique and dehydration, the nature of the buried object became more obvious. It was a steel zeppelin that had landed out in the desert and gradually been buried. Although primitive in design it was constructed of a technology far in advance of anything the human race had encountered; even a million years of harsh dust, sand and erosion under ultraviolet glares had not so much as scratched the hull.
But like any halfway decent cult, the Esoterics had an answer for anything.
It took very little discussion or imagination to adjust their mythology to fit around this new development. They had already believed their prophets had lead them out of the Milky Way to the edge of the frontier, that destiny had guided them to be underpaid skivvies to the mining corporations and terraforming combines. And now fate or coincidence or blind chance had ensured that they and they alone had uncovered the artifact.
As the tenth evening drew in, they uncovered a hatchway in the underside of the airship. It was unlocked and the mechanisms that opened and closed the portal still functioned perfectly; their durability was as mysterious as their nature. The inside of the zeppelin was cool and pitch-dark, with a strange fetid rubbery smell that caught at the back of the throat far worse than any dust or sand.
Poygarne was the first to enter the craft, and not merely for his rank. The others were afraid to go a place no human life had ever been - except, perhaps, in nightmares of course. But their faith and loyalty was not so easily tested and they followed their leader into the dark, into the intact derelict as though walking into the gaping mouth of a beast that might only have been sleeping.
It was obvious that their excavations were nowhere near complete. The airship they had uncovered was the tip of the iceberg, with a far larger construct still underground. Either that, some of the brothers joked, or else it was somehow bigger on the inside than it was on the outside.
Poygarne himself was uncertain if they had uncovered a crypt or a tomb or an underground city. Certainly if it was an airship as it appeared, it was some kind of cargo freighter - the vast oval hold they soon found was filled with polished metallic caskets like hexagonal hat boxes stacked one atop the other. They numbered in the tens of hundreds, and there was no telling if this was the only hold.
The brothers reverently opened the first of the caskets and then another. Each one contained a strange helmet designed for a humanoid head with two visors for eyes, a barred grille for a mouth and two V-shaped horns that curved along the sides like fins. Sprouting from the snout of the visor at the front of the mask was a black antennae ending with recievers that were either circular, triangular or crescent shaped.
Poygarne cradled the helmet in his hands, marvelling at the strange flexibility of the material. It seemed to weigh less than nothing and it tingled ever-so-slightly against his fingertips. A transporter of helmets seemed odd, at least until they discovered the vulcanized rubber suits at the bottom of each container. A uniform, perhaps? The dress of an army older than mankind.
"O Great and Powerful Synthesizer of All Matter And Life," he sang softly to himself. "Lord of the Primeval Chaos, Mightiest of All Creators, your faithful children have traversed the sunless gulfs of eternity to bear witness to your resurrection. Could this ritualized garments be intended for us to wear?"
So saying, Poygarne threw back his hood, placed the visored mask over his face and pulled the helmet down over the back of his neck. The headpiece seemed to stretch and then contract, as if making itself comfortable over his skull. Such intelligent fabrics were commonplace and expensive, and none were really surprised that the helmet could personalize itself to the wearer.
But then Poygarne began to scream in agony.
Eventually, the screams stopped.
And by that time the creature wearing the helmet was no long Poygarne.