The amphitheatre is ringed by trees. A set of stone steps leads to the lakefront where Astrid’s followers are sitting. And in the centre of the half-circle is a strange machine. Alien technology, you can see that at once. It’s an oblong black box with a huge crystal longer than your arm set in the centre. Astrid is operating several buttons and dials on the box below the crystal, covered in alien writing like runestones in the metal.

“You got a plan?” says Lang.

“I’m thinking,” you whisper.

A gathered mass has congregated on the steps of the amphitheatre. They are sitting in a trance, weakened by Astrid’s influence. “Deeper,” she intones, in a calm voice, “You can feel your energy settle…”

“The crystal,” says Lang, “She’s feeding on them.” The crystal pulses with a blue glow, getting brighter. Faint threads of energy trace along the veins beneath the skin of her victims.

The humming intensifies and the crystal, and Astrid, glow with a golden light. Her followers are growing older by the second. Their hair turns white and wiry with age, their skin wrinkles, and their backs stiffen like trees bent by a relentless wind.

Beryl enters the amphitheatre, holding a crystal. She looks dazed.

“Come here,” says Astrid, speaking in a deep monotone. Her hypnotic tone and the machine weaken Beryl’s willpower. She shuffles forward, and Astrid pulls the crystal out of her limp grasp.

“You’ve been so useful.” Astrid adds the second crystal to a slot and Beryl collapses to the floor as the power of the drain doubles.

You fire your raygun but you’re too hasty. It only hits Astrid on the shoulder. Her face splits in a grin and she turns the dial to max.

The crystal hums and it’s brighter than the sun. Around you, Astrid’s followers drop to the ground as withered husks.

“This town will feed me for decades to come,” she crows.

Lang has already succumbed. You look down at your hands. They’re wrinkled and bony. You fall to your knees as the energy drains from your body and your eyes grow heavy. Dying is almost too easy.