Monday, November 30, 2009

nano post 59

Dejah woke up in the middle of the night. The rig was cold, though the heaters were working, powered by small atomic units that were guaranteed to run for decades. She shivered, and realized that the thing blanket she had pulled over herself had fallen off. She tugged it back into place, and lay down again.

The star filled sky was visible through the windsheild, and she watched the stars slowly make their rotation. The occasional meteor streaked through the air on its way to a fiery death, and once a dust devil blew through the camp.

Finally, she was lulled back to sleep by the calm steady blinking of the lights on the instrument panel. She slept until the alarm on her wristcomm beeped.

“Time to get up and do it all again,” she muttered, pushing back the blanket and getting to her feet. Eduardo stirred on his mat, which had been pushed back against the back of the seats of the rig, and blinked as he opened his eyes.

“Time already:”

“Yep. Wakey wakey.”

He groaned and pulled the blanket over his head for a moment, before sighing and getting to his feet. “I suppose this wouldn't be the time to remind you that I'm really not a morning person?”

“No, you did plenty of that on the twenty four hour exercises.” Dejah tossed him a food packet, and stepped into the cab of the rig.

She saw Thomas doing the same, and waved to him again through the windshield.

“Good morning, sunshine,” she called over the comm, “glad to see that you're already up—I wasn't really in the mood to wake up another bear this morning.”

“Tell Eduardo to get his lazy butt out of bed—we roll in ten minutes, unless you have other plans.” Thomas settled into the driver's seat, and buckled his harness.

“No problems here, I'm ready to roll.” She turned to call over her shoulder. “Eduardo! Come on, get ready, we're gonna head out in a few minutes.”

“Yeah, I heard, I heard,” he muttered, running his hands through his hair. “I'm up. Just lemme finish my food.”

A few minutes later, under a sky still dark with night, the rigs began to roll slowly forward again.

The day was long, and Dejah took a nap around noon, before putting on an exploration suit and joining Thomas in his rig to give him a break.

Sixteen hours later, the rigs slowed to a halt again in the dark. Dejah put on the suit again, and went back to join Eduardo as they camped for the night.

“Come on, guys, only five more days of this!” she exclaimed, taking off her helmet after the Flint's doors sealed. “We're making great time.”

Eduardo was hunched over the intstrument panel, frowning.

“What's wrong?” she asked, leaning over the panel to take a look.

“I just got a comm from Bradbury Dome,” he said, pointing to the latest weather satellite images. “See this? This is a huge storm that's building up. It's headed right for us, too.”

Dejah looked at the images. “Well...ok, yeah, that's not good, but can't we just push through on instrument readings?”

He shook his head. “Not here we can't. The ground's a little unstable, and I wouldn't want to risk driving on it without being able to see what i'm getting into. If we nose over the edge of a gully and get stuck, it'll take an airlift to get the rig out again, and that would be the end of it—they'd have to take the rig back to the base to get the engine and seals checked.”

“How much time do we have before the storm hits?” she asked.

“Ten hours, give or take. We should stay put and get some sleep, then try to do some driving tomorrow. It may not be bad, but I don't want to risk the rig.”

“Ok, sounds like a plan. Any idea on how long the storm might last?”

He shook his head. “No, it’s still developing. We probably won’t know until it’s over. Could be a day or two, could be a week.”

Dejah looked around the cabin of the rig. “Well, let’s get to sleep as quickly as we can, and wake up two hours early. We can get an early start and get as far as we can.”

Eduardo nodded, and Thomas commed his approval of the plan.

“Alright, it is now three in the morning! Rise and shine, campers!” Thomas’ calm voice over the comm caused the other two explorers to groan and sit up slowly, rubbing the sleep from their eyes.

Dejah rested her head on her knees, and called out, “Hey, is it too late to take back that whole ‘let’s get up two hours early’ thing?”


Ten minutes later the rigs began to roll forward under the night sky. The ground looked a pale blue under the cold light of the stars; Dejah watched out the window as the rig’s shadow rippled along the uneven ground, an inky black companion.

She heard a small noise, and looked over to see Eduardo yawn, blinking his eyes rapidly. “Hey, you look tired.”

“Getting up two hours early will do that to you,” he said with a tired grin. “Besides, I didn’t sleep too well last night. Couldn’t get comfortable.”

“Were you worrying about the storm?”

He shrugged. “That, too, I suppose. It’s ok, I’m fine to drive.”

“No, let me take over for a while,” Dejah said, unfastening her harness. “You drove for the last part of the day yesterday, and I got more sleep than you did.”

She clicked the comm. “Hey Thomas, stop for just a second, I’m switching with Eduardo.”

“Copy that.”

The two switched places, and Dejah adjusted the controls. Soon, they were underway again.

The day passed much like the one before, until the sun neared it’s zenith. Dejah heard a beeping, and looked down at the instrument panel.

“Storm Alert,” a light on the panel flashed. She glanced at the horizon, and saw a line of dirty red cloud near the ground.

“You see that, Dej?” Thomas’ calm voice came over the comm.

“Yeah, I see it. Looks like we have about ten minutes, you think?”

“Maybe a little more. Does this look like a good stopping place to you?”

Dejah looked through the windshield at the land around the rigs. It was flat and featureless, and she responded, “Yeah, things look pretty good here. Let’s wait it out here.”

The rigs slowed to a halt, and Dejah locked down all the brakes. She slipped out of her harness, and turned to ask Eduardo a question, but found him sleeping, head thrown back against the seat. She grinned, and decided not to wake him.

At first, it hardly seemed that the storm was moving at all; it still looked like a red blurriness around the horizon. But over the next few minutes, the cloud reached towards them, stretching up to fill more and more of the sky.

Now Dejah could more clearly see the leading edge of the storm. It roiled with airborne dust and sand, and moved rapidly over the flat floor of the desert.

She had once seen news footage from Earth, when a dam had broken after heavy floods. The dirty water had surged forward, throwing itself toward the city in its path, as if urged on by a frenzied malevolence. The edge of the storm looked just like that, Dejah thought, as it bore down on them.

“You watching this, Dej?”

She nodded, and looked at the rig parked beside her own. She could see Thomas through the windshield, and wondered how long the visibility would last.

They fell back into silence as the storm came closer. Dejah could hear a slight whistling as the wind picked up, rushing by the parked vehicles. In the distant, she heard a roaring sound, faint at first, but rapidly growing louder.

Eduardo stirred, and blinked, waking groggily. “Have we stopped? Is this where…” His eyes focused, just in time to see the edge of the dust storm fill the windshield.

“Holy…!” he muttered, and then it hit.

The first blast of the wind rocked the rig, and Dejah swore in surprise. The light of the sun was quickly blocked out by the dust, and the world disappeared in a swirl of red.

Dejah could hear a faint sound, like the ambience of an open comm line. Wind brushing the dust over the metal, she assumed.

Thomas asked over the comm, “you guys alright over there?”

“Yeah, we’re fine,” she responded, not taking her eyes off of the maelstrom outside. “That’s one hell of a wind, though. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a wind that could shake a rig like that. Glad it seems to have stabilized. Nothing more to do but wait it out.”

“Copy that. I’ll comm if anything comes up, you do the same.”

Dejah set the comm down, and looked around and rig cabin. It looked odd, having no view from the windows. Very little light came through, and the light that did filter through the dust was a deep red.

“Not much to do now,” Eduardo commented, as he rummaged through a bag, pulling out a battered paperback book. “I told you that you should have brought one of these.”

“I've never been much of a reader,” she replied, trying to find a comfortable place from which to watch the storm passing in front of the rig.

The whirling sand was hypnotizing, and she found herself gradually drifting off into a shallow sleep. Every time Eduardo turned a page in his book, she would flutter back to consciousness, only to be greeted by the dust storm again.

It was impossible to tell how much time was passing; the light was too dim to notice any of the small changes that ordinarily served as markers.

Finally, Dejah moved to the sleeping space behind the seats. She heated and ate the contents of a food pouch, then lay down and attempted to sleep.

When she awoke, she checked her watch. Ten thirty eight a.m., it read. “At least I finally got a chance to sleep all the way through the night,” she muttered, pulling the blanket back. Eduardo was still asleep, sprawled on the floor on the other side of the small space.

Dejah clicked her comm. “Thomas, you awake yet?”

“I'm here,” he commed back. “Been awake for a little while, but not long. This light has me all screwed up. At least when the dust storms hit the dome, the city lights give you some clue.”

“I know what you mean. I don't think I've ever slept in till ten in my life. At least it's a chance to catch up on our rest. I'm going to have to ffigure out some sort of exercise routine that I can do in the cab, or I'm going to go crazy. Suppose I should wait till Eduardo gets up though, I don't think he'd appreciate being woken up by a foot in the face.”

Thomas laughed. “Yeah, you don't want to do that. He'll probably be up soon. I've already made a call in to Bradbury dome to let them know the situation here. They're still not sure when the storm will be over, so they told us to just sit tight. Kruiser was pretty worried, though. He said that the engine seals had been replaced just before we went out, and he didn't like the new batch they put on. It's a newer, cheaper brand apparently. But you know him, he's a worrywart when it comes to the rigs and rovers, so I'd take any of that with a grain of salt.”

No comments:

Post a Comment