Harooo (The Final Countdown!)(7.1)

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(Author's Note - tie-breaker entry!  Prompts were the two photos showing at the top of each chapter - the unicorn on the moon was chosen for me by krazydiamond

Sub genre chosen by me - Lost World

A story in two parts

Word limit under 2,500 - 1788 not counting this note)


Silvery grey dust, as fine as face-powder but rough as sandpaper, covered the surface of the moon as far as she could see. Curved hills broke the horizon to her right but a flat plain lay ahead, pock-marked by craters—some big enough to hold a house... or a city.

Nothing stirred the surface, no breath of wind, no living creature or vehicle hurrying to its destination, nothing moving—except herself and her Steed. Each slow, mechanical step leaving an imprint in the dust that would last for centuries.

The whisper of her own breath was the only sound.

Evleyen rotated her shoulders inside the spacesuit, performing a series of progressive muscle relaxation exercises that would keep her from stiffening up too much during the journey. Then she spent a few minutes running through her checklist to ensure her Steed was operating properly, beginning with the radiation detector-rod at the front. It was glowing a soft green, indicating safe levels in the surrounding area.

The Steed itself was mostly titanium; everything—including the gears—constructed out of materials tough enough to function in an airless, alien environment. Resembling images she had seen of a horse—an extinct Terran mammal—the Steed's four independently mobile legs proved ideal for traversing the uneven surface.

She wasn't expecting anything to go wrong, but then... you never did. A malfunction out here could be fatal, but everything was working to standard. Her light-sabre flashed reassuringly when she swung it in a wide arc, before returning it to the scabbard at her side. More of a status badge than a useful weapon out here in the middle of nowhere, it was surprisingly comforting to have when you were travelling alone. Finally, she checked the maintenance readout on the emergency medical supplies she carried in her back pack. All OK so far.

There were ten Steeds in the moon's Scout Patrol, all in high demand as the most efficient means of transport on an airless world. She'd actually expected yesterday's trip—her sixth for the month—to be the last for a while but then her boss, Gus Schreiber, had sent her out on one more. "This will be the final one, I promise," he'd assured her. "Then you can take a break, catch up on some sleep, watch some holovids... whatever."

Evleyen twisted round on her seat to scan the view behind her, then turned forward, taking a sip of nutrients from the tube beside her mouth. She checked the time.

Five hours, thirty-two minutes and sixteen seconds before she would reach Epsilon Base, the newest outpost on Harooo.

It was going to be another long day.

Evleyen had slipped into a light doze when her Steed began to descend down the side of a large crater. Automatically, it picked its way across the rubble strewn surface until a slight misstep jolted her awake. She looked around quickly, scanning her surroundings, seeing nothing but silvery grey dust and rocks, and the uneven lip of the crater against the blue-black sky. She took another sip from the nutrient tube and checked the time again. Four hours, fifty-one minutes and twenty-nine seconds to go.

She sighed and rolled her shoulders again.

Evleyen had barely time to register the hole opening beneath her Steed before they were plummeting down... down...down... into the depths of the moon. A door, or lid, clanged shut above her head, sealing them in.

She hung on for dear life, eyes wide in fear as the Steed fell ever faster, staying miraculously upright. "What the hell—?" She stared in disbelief at the silver grey walls flashing past—they looked as smooth as metal.

How could... they had to be artificial. But how? And more importantly, who? She was damned sure this tunnel hadn't been created by humans. They'd only been on Harooo for five years. A mixture of terror and excitement filled her heart. Aliens. This had to be the work of an Alien culture. Was it possible they were still here?

The Steed seemed to be slowing. Another lid clanged shut behind them and then the Steed slowed to a complete stop.

A door opened in the side of the tunnel and Evleyen's mouth dropped open in shock.


(continued...)

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