Atmosphere rasped across Minum's body as it tore down through the sky towards the planet. What the satellite grid would predict to be the chaotic re-entry of spatial detritus was a carefully composed act. Minum's insertion into the exosphere with nanoscopic precision was planned years in advance during their journey; but like all great performances, there was room for improvisation. Their body flicked, vibrated, and spun downwards. It predicted eddies of heat and analyzed compositions of denser-than-average pockets of turbulence, and danced around them. It did this while Minum slept. They regained consciousness one second before hitting the ground.

There was no earth-shaking impact or crater left behind. Each joule of energy that would have been wasted on such useless endeavors was directed into Minum's first stride on the surface of this world. Instantly the being was skimming atop a vast expanse of desiccated soil at thousands of miles per hour. Silently. The bipedal form's surface was etched with a shimmering network of microscopic stabilization arrays; a million ceramic fairy wings that flaked away now that the season of their use had passed. This left no trail, as each unit of shed gossamer material was encoded with enough knowledge to hide itself; to drift away randomly and disguise itself amongst the miles of empty wasteland. A fragment of misplaced matter could endanger Minum's task. A single misplaced grain of sand could alert a thousand autonomous drones. A single photon coming from an unknown source could awaken the being that lived here. Minum did not know about this being, and it was rare that anything eluded both their database and their senses.

Something was being constructed here. It had been detected across the black of space years ago. Since Minum left to investigate, its growth had progressed erratically across the face of this world. Its perimeter had apparently originated as a circular pattern, though for reasons Minum could only assume with varying levels of certainty, it had expanded erratically. Sweeping avenues of functionless steel structures repeating for miles. Skyscrapers beaming nonsense data back and forth to each other. Chemical reactors churning out reactions, only to vent it all away as waste heat through roiling columns of steam. Whatever mind lived here, it was sick. No matter how similar it was to Minum, it needed to be destroyed. This was a mission of mercy.

Minum stopped suddenly at the range which their thousands of overlapping stealth schemes would no longer be enough to offer invisibility. This was the edge of the horizon. Traditional electromechanical sight was one of the few remaining things that could not be confused with simple tricks. Minum's bipedal form was entirely still. The desert air, untouched by the lone stampede that had been coursing across it, was silent. Minum had no breath to hold. Their calculations slowed, and turned inwards. So far, the mission was progressing nominally. No signs of being detected. No hostile contact with the unknown intelligence. Each step was reviewed a million times. The insertion, and its million variables and million outcomes, were discarded. Junk data. The final approach on foot, a required obstacle to ensure the re-entry went ignored, was also complete. More memory freed up. An uncountable network of things so complex and electric to make a neuron look as dead as the sand Minum stood on was focused now entirely on one fact. One millionth of an inch further, and Minum would cross the horizon and be known, instantly, to an unknown force. Another intelligence in the galaxy, yes, but one that was clearly diseased. Possibly brilliant at one time, and almost certainly dangerous now. Regardless of the empathy felt in the remaining animal portions of their spine, Minum's plan was already in motion. It would all be over soon.

Since Minum had stopped, one whole second had passed.

Minum took one step forward and saw the city they had come to destroy. In the nighttime above, a torrent of energy rained down. Sheer, hot white melting heat and light bled from the sky and flooded the miles of useless architecture. Not enough to harm whatever half-thinking creature had built this unending shrine, Minum sprinted down concrete roads and along steel pipes carrying molten steel to and from refineries. Clouds and spires of mechanical defense systems rose up around them, casting shadows in the blinding electromagnetic sun that Minum had spun into being above the world. Every sense was filled with the energy that scoured the city, and Minum charted their course entirely on the single glimpse they had seen of the city. They dodged and annihilated drones and defensive turrets entirely on instinct. Mile after mile, within only a few ragged seconds, and Minum had reached the heart of this world. Smashing downwards through plates of defensive glass, Minum's sight returned as they were brought downwards into the earth.

The scan was instantaneous. A large chamber, miles deep, circular in nature, filled uniformly with the encased bodies of humans. Many of them were no longer alive. Many of them survived, though their brains were damaged by the typical frailties that struck biological life prolonged far beyond the sensible. Minum landed silently at the bottom and assessed this. This was no rogue mind, sick and alone. This was a culture, sick and alone. The humans had surely detected Minum. Surely they felt the fear of their oncoming eradication. They must know their error, now. But these were humans, and their ability to alter the galaxy in any meaningful way was limited. This decision needed to be weighed. Each possible outcome must be calculated.

One whole second passed.

With no need to hurry or expend more energy than needed, Minum began climbing up out of that pit. Hands melding to a steel and glass beams, they scraped slowly upwards. It took hours. Hands and legs and fingers worked to gradually ascend the same chasm that had been effortlessly traversed moments ago. They worked in the normal way, unaided by tricks of magnetism and light. Thinking back to the pit and its waking inhabitants, Minum knew that those humans would have a much harder time. Minum then happily deleted every bit of information concerning the mission. More junk data.