We're All Just Stardust

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Falling Part 1

It had been three days since the crash. Three long, torturous days baking under the heat of this alien planet’s twin suns and still no sign of her crew. The storm had come upon them without warning. An unholy mass of black clouds and dust that fried the ship’s AI, knocking out their navigation systems, the ship’s gravity drive, life support, everything. What should have been a routine training mission had turned into a fight for their lives. It was due to no small amount of luck that she had managed to land their vessel in mostly one piece, although with the AI destroyed the USS Sylphide was now nothing more than a hundred-ton paperweight.

That her fancy paperweight had managed to crash land onto a life-sustaining planet with an oxygen-rich atmosphere was nothing short of a miracle. That she and her chew had managed to survive with only a few minor bumps and bruises was even more so. After putting out the fires in the engine room she sent a handful of her men out to scout the surrounding area while she and the rest of the crew stayed behind to try and repair their ship.

Captain Bishop used the time waiting on the scouting party to tend to her wounded, take stock of their weapons and supplies, and check on the repairs being made to the ship’s engines and AI core.

Hours passed, and there was still no sign of her scouting party.

When the twin suns set in a blaze of magenta and orange behind the rocky cliffs in the distance she began to worry. Hours later, when the sky had turned to a deep purple filled with unfamiliar stars her worry turned to action. Leaving most of her crew under the watchful gaze of her first mate, Bishop takes a select few with her to go search for her men.

That was three days ago, and now she was the only one left.

The blistering afternoon heat beats at her back as Bishop stumbles over another sandy dune. She had long lost sight of the small oasis her ship had crashed by or the tall cliffs that protected her crew from being scorched by the two suns. Something about this planet did a number on their equipment. Her communicator gave her nothing but static and her palm-sized navigator was nothing but a blank, useless black screen. Trying to navigate by the night sky was impossible when you didn’t recognize anything in it. So she did what she could during the day, hoping that this world’s suns still rose in the east and set in the west.

Being horribly lost in an alien desert was concerning. Being lost with a nearly empty canteen, no ammo, and all the men she brought with her either dead or captured by hostiles was the stuff of nightmares. Her only hope now was to get back to her ship, what was left of her crew, and with any luck get the hell out of Dodge.

With the suns setting on her third day Bishop’s pulse began to race. She had really hoped to be back at the Sylphide by now. Nothing frightened her more than the nights here. The scorching heat of the day turned to bone-chilling cold. This planet seemed to have no moon, leaving her to travel the sea of sand with nothing but a small fusion lamp to light her way. No crickets chirped, no hooting owls or the sounds of traffic like she was used to back home. The only noise was the crunch of sand beneath her boots and her labored breathing. But it wasn’t the eerie silence or the cold that had her skin crawling, oh no.

They come out at night.

That first night they came without warning. A big brute of a man, Johnson, went down without so much as a scream, his throat completely ripped apart to where his head hung from his shoulders by a mere strip of bloody flesh. Briggs and Garcia were down before they had a chance to fire a shot. Bishop, well, she was taken out by Phillips. Knocked out cold when his riffle, along with his severed arm, crashed into the back of her skull. She woke up the next morning in a sea of her men’s blood and entrails. After relieving herself of what little remained in her stomach from the day before, Captain Bishop gathered as many usable weapons she could carry and high-tailed it out of there.

On the second night, she knew she was being followed.

She didn’t know how she knew, she just did. She had that hair raising feeling you get when you know someone is staring at you from across the room, but you don’t want to turn around and look because then whoever they are might just decide to walk up and introduce themselves. But this time the feeling she was getting was far worse than any she felt in the past while drinking at one sleazy bar or other. Instead of worrying about running into an overeager creep or a drunk looking to pick a fight she had to worry about coming face to face with a bloodthirsty extraterrestrial.

The anticipated attack never came, however. Dead on her feet, Bishop dredged onward in the direction she believed the cliffs were in. The morning quickly brought back the sweltering heat, but at least she could now see where she was going. Not that that mattered much. The golden dunes surrounding her were all starting to look the same. That is until one started to move.

She heard it before she saw it. A low rumbling as the sands began to shift out from under her. Falling hard on her back, Bishop stares up in horror as a gigantic sand slug rears up out of the side of the dune she had only moments ago been standing on. The creature looms over her, acidic drool dripping from it’s gaping maw to land in a sizzling pool at her feet. With an ear-piercing shriek, the slug lunges towards her. Captain Bishop narrowly dodges out of the way. Scrambling to her feet, she readies her rifle and begins to fire on the beast. She manages to empty the clip into its side before the slug buries back into the sand. She barely has time to reload before the creature shifts the sand out from under her, sending Bishop careening down the side of the dune.

Ass-over-head, the lost captain tumbled further down the sand. She could no longer tell which way was up as her vision was filled with a blur of tans and golds. The gold faded to amber, which quickly turned to ochre until she suddenly found herself free-falling through darkness.

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