Goliath and a Trillion Trillion Davids
If anybody had been there to hear it, they would have said it sounded like thousands of tiny grains of glass being ground underfoot.
But there was nobody to hear.
If there had been anybody there to see it, they would have marvelled at the network of cracks in the plastic, emanating front a single point, moving steadily outwards, forming a snowflake-like circle of perfect imperfections.
But there was nobody there to see.
Nobody there to comment on the smell in the room, like the air after a thunderstorm mixed with strong vinegar.
The perfect circle of cracks dissolved. A hole, the size of a match head. One small breach in the material. Insignificant anywhere else, catastrophic here; if there had been anyone left to be concerned.
From that hole emerged delicate tendrils, translucent antennae, tasting the air as it gushed out through the myriad of identical holes its legion had brought into existence.
A sleek translucent body was hauled through the hole by its six front legs. It paused on the plastic, as though catching a breath it didn't require. Four beautiful wings unfolded from the carapace, extending many times the length of the body, almost as long as the barbed and deadly tail.
Shrimp-like, dragonfly-like, quite unlike anything ever seen out here, if there had been anyone left to marvel at this strange bringer of death. But there was nobody.
The swarm continued to spawn, billions upon billions now.
Twenty Earth hours later the once mighty ship hung in space, as dead as her crew and the millions of sleeping pioneers. ESS Goliath was undone.
Trillions upon trillions worked upon the hulk, improving, making it safe and useful for their kind.
In another million years they would disperse again, swarming, breeding, sending out microscopic spores in an interstellar cloud, waiting to colonise the next suitable hive, devouring anything solid, expanding across the Universe.
Starlight shone through the holes the swarm had made, the vast starship now a wondrously filigreed hive.
If there had been anyone left, they would have said it looked quite beautiful.