Hop Skip Jump

Dorine thought her luck had run out. The Space Corps was on her tail, to draft her into a war she didn’t believe in, all because they wanted her engineering skills. Her only chance was a hyper jump to the Darnassia system, the farthest one with a habitable planet. At least, that’s what her computer told her. It didn’t tell her much else. The Space Corps hadn’t put that system on the colonization list–who knew why–which meant Dorine could be flying into a death trap.

But it was her only shot.

She jumped.

The habitable planet–the only planet–was so green, was her first thought. Green, with gorgeous purple waters. She rode down, reaching the surface as all her fuel lights lit up at once. She put the ship into support only: life support system and scanners operable, but no flight. She was here until she found a new fuel source. She could only hope she wouldn’t be found by the Space Corps.

Her scanner picked up no followers from above. Outside the air was breathable, at least with the help of an air filter.

She pulled one on, fastening it tightly, and went out the airlock to look at this world that wasn’t worth settling.

It was beautiful. Lush. Verdant. Like walking into a diorama of what the worlds of the galaxy looked like before the Space Corps came and ‘improved’ them.

She only let herself enjoy that, for just a moment. Now that she’d walked far enough from her ship to reduce interference, it was time to set up her (patent pending) personal radar, to find the nearest source of anything she could convert into starship fuel. If she could just keep refueling, she might find worlds the Space Corps hadn’t even had a chance to taint. Hell, she might never see the Space Corps again.

It was a nice thought.

She finished assembling the pieces from the carrying case, and flipped it on. Small round probes of light emerged from the top and streaked away across the landscape, and a little panel of solid light popped up for her to read the results of their search.

That was when the radar spoke.

She shouldn’t have understood what it was saying, but she did. Its language was melodic, with clicks and chirps interspersed. The static, however, she was sure was not part of it.

“…evacuate immediately …tunnels …do not look back”

She adjusted the settings, trying to clear the signal. Instead it ended with an abrupt squeal that made her teeth vibrate. Silence.

Dorine took out her tools, trying to analyze what was wrong with the radar. Were there people here? Had they evacuated at the sight of her ship? But the radar held no trace of its strange message. Eventually she gave up and sat there, waiting for the radar to do what it was supposed to do.

Finally, a response. There was source of energy to the north. A big one. She disassembled the radar and hefted her gear onto her back. It would be a walk, but if this worked, she could be off the planet before her waking cycle completed. A good start to her escape.

She walked in the grass, past far-off trees so wide and tall that they put her home planet’s skyscrapers to shame. She preferred the natural look, and regretted she wouldn’t see them up close. She was closing in on the energy source and had no time nor excuse to explore.

Her probe’s signal light began spinning in a circle above a bunch of thick ferns. She pushed them aside.

The Space Corps logo stared out at her. She pushed the ferns further apart. She knew what she was seeing now.

It was bomb model that hadn’t been in use for a hundred years.

The green of this world melted away. The distant trees became burnt husks. She was standing on an ashen scarred planetary surface, an unexploded antique bomb before her. By the looks of it, this bomb was the only dud in the artillery that had hit the surface.

Dorine harvested the ancient bomb’s core and walked back to the ship. It would power her ship far away, and farther. She had an escape to make.

Much farther than Darnassia. Which wasn’t even close to far enough.

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