This was the Blog Battle Entry for April 2021 and the prompt was Owl.
The setting sun was nothing unusual to any person who had lived on Earth and taken the time to watch it go down. Golden flames gave way to purple and blue hues as the day gave way to night. The first and brightest stars started to peek through the iky velvet, welcoming the night in with their twinkling light. An cry of an owl echoed through the valley and If Alexandra Velan closed her eyes she would be back on Earth, at home smelling the cool night air and letting the sounds wash over her.
But the twin moons of Eridanus 4 were the first and most obvious clue that this was not Earth at all. The now alien constellations that only someone educated in astronomy would be able to see were the somewhat less obvious sign that they were indeed far from Earth and far from the solar system that mankind called home. The balcony that Alexandra looked out from was outside the ships hull, usually only the vacuum of space was it’s company. In the days since landing on Eridanus 4 she could make use of it. Being the commander of an exploration mission had it’s few rewards. This luxury was one and the other was the spacious prep room behind her. For months now she could only look through to command from the desk just a few metres away, now she was outside breathing fresh air and looking in at the on duty crew.
A light chime came from the door to command.
“Come in.” Alexandra called, once again entering the prep room with the ships customary dry air. The hatch behind her slid over and locked. A tall, dark muscular man entered and presented himself at her desk. “How did the recon teams get on?”
“They’ve all come back commander.” The man replied bluntly.
“And?” Alexandra insisted. She knew he was struggling to get something out. She knew her second in command well and he was usually forthright. “Come on Blake, spit it out.”
“It’s simpler to just show you, recon 2 found something.”
Alexandra frowned. “Like what?”
Blake motioned for his commander to come, Alexandra frowned and made her way out with Blake following. “They’re waiting in hold 3.”
Alexandra stepped through the door and into hold 3, marching purposefully towards the 2 men and one woman that formed the team. They looked up and from the expression their commander was holding they knew Blake hadn’t told her.
“What have you found that’s so important that…”
Jacob, the team lead presented her with a tablet computer showing her what they had found. He didn’t say anything, he just looked at his commander. When she looked up her eyes met his.
“How big is this?”
“This was taken from about 500 metres away. This is the size of a fairly large building on Earth. About ten metres high and forty or fifty long.”
“What?” Alexandra gasped.
“Exactly.” The man replied.
“Is the rest of it underground?”
“It’s impossible to say.” He replied. “We observed it only at a distance. We only found it because an area of forest 2 miles in size has been destroyed with that in the middle of it. We didn’t want to radio the find in for everyone to see. We wanted your thoughts first.”
“You did good, well done!” Alexandra handed him back the tablet, Jacob was a good man for the work he did, rugged and reliable. His African roots seemed to play into his explorer role. She thought he deserved a higher rank but despite several promotion attempts he wouldn’t take a role that took him away from his ground work. Alexandra paused while the others waited for her orders, eventually she straightened.
“Let’s get back out there, I’ll accompany you. Blake you’re in command until I’m back. We need 3 hours to prep the Jump Jet so that gives us some time to prep too. I would suggest we don’t leave the hold as we don’t want to risk any work of this getting out. Let’s keep this quiet. Everyone clear?”
They all nodded and went about their work. Alexandra led Blake away. “As far as anyone needs to know I’m in my cabin not feeling well. The trip shouldn’t take more than six hours anyway. Could you please bring down my expedition bag?”
Blake nodded and left the hold, the door sliding behind him as he left. Alexandra’s thoughts went back to what she had seen. There were so many questions and yet also its existence was a clue to so much that had been witnessed in these local star systems. Maybe the reports were not as crazy as she had been led to believe. Either way, she knew that she needed to maintain morale and this needed to be approached carefully. first though, she needed to know more.
The Jump Jet wasn’t the most comfortable of places to be, compared to the ship it was pretty barbaric but these things weren’t meant for comfort. At least, Alexandra thought the air wasn’t as dry. There was only ten minutes of flight time left and every muscle in Alexandra’s body ached. The dirty grey and functional interior of the Jump Jet made it a dark place. The landscape shot by in a blizzard of moving form and colour. They passes over another forest as the course turned to avoid the mountain just a mile away, the speed of the Jump Jet slowed and up ahead Alexandra could see patches where the trees were no longer there. One of them struck her as being especially large and she pointed at it.
“Is it that one?” She shouted to Jacob.
“Yes!” He shouted back. “As you can see there are others and we’ve not explored them, as the largest we thought we would pick this one!” They circled the bare ground taking in a look of the area below. It appeared from this height to be nothing more than a mound of some kind. None of the features could be seen from where they were.
“How close do you want to land to it Commander?” Aliya shouted. Unlike her Aliya had short hair, but she still had a feminine, almost catlike beauty that couldn’t be mistaken. Her nature and energy reminded Alexandra of her when she was young. The feisty youth of her past was gone but not forgotten though.
“Put us down just a few hundred metres from it!” Alexandra shouted back. She looked over to Nev, his looked like he was strung up like some meat in his seat, but he looked asleep. “Hey, time to wake up, we’re there.”
Immediately Nev opened his eyes. “Yes commander. Sorry.” He unclipped himself and prepped the ramp for landing.
Alex couldn’t help but admire the work that these seasoned pro’s did, they worked together like a well oiled machine. Only a few minutes later the Jump Jet landed with only a small bump. The engines wound down, their noise diminishing to nothing in just a few moments. Alexandra unclipped her fastenings and joined the others who were already at the top of the lowered ramp that led down to the desolate ground below. Dust swept in by the wind stung the exposed skin of their faces, placing goggles over their eyes they made their way down to the ground.
As they descended the ramp, the huge face came into view, seemingly half buried in the dead soil it looked as it it was looking straight at them with it’s deathly stare. Each of them carried a small and portable set of equipment to take air and soil samples, later these would be analysed to find out more about what was killing the ground here. They walked some way, stopping at the midway point to collect samples.
“How close are we going commander?” Jacob asked.
“We’re here aren’t we?” Alexandra replied. “Is there any reason not to get close enough to touch it?”
“Radiation seems only a little above background, it’s safe.” Eliya confirmed.
“It’s obviously dead.” Jacob added. Drawing his weapon, he marched off. “Let’s go.”
Alexandra and each of the others also drew their weapons, following after the man his large frame and confident stride was infectious, even though this thing they were about to explore was many time larger than him. It only took a few minutes to cover the remaining ground, as they closed the huge face loomed ominously over them and it was hard not to feel a little dread. Jacob reached it first, slapping his hand onto the edge of the metal mouth a dull metallic clang echoed. The others arrived only a few seconds later, ghost like howls could be heard from inside and the relentless dunst wisped over its corroded and dull surface. Nev took another sample and Eliya used her hand instrument to gather more data. Alexandra crossed the moth opening to it’s lower jaw and looked over at Jacob some five metres away.
“It’s massive!” She exclaimed. “What could this possibly have been used for?” She asked walking back towards Jacob.
“This was almost certainly a weapon.” Eliya exclaimed. Showing the results of ultrasonic scans the other half of the head was indeed buried, or what was left of it. Some immense weapon had clearly blown away most of the other half of the head.
Alexandra looked in through the mouth but it was hard to see anything in the darkness. Feeling an irresistible sense of youthful curiosity she stepped into the dark. The others followed more reluctantly, Jacob shone a light around, his Commander couldn’t be seen among the walls, chambers and rustin broken structures that latticed the inside. Calling out his voice echoes around abandoned chambers and walls. All three looked around and for a few minutes Alexandra could not be seen.
A feeling of dread rose within Jacob and his mind played with the option of leave and keep searching. Just after he entered another darkened chamber he saw Alexandra kneeled down examining something. She looked around and held up a small piece of glowing equipment.
“Look at this.” She motioned to Jacob.
“What is it?” He replied.
“I don’t know, but I think it’s worth taking back and examining it.”
“Ok, but let’s ok ok? This place is giving me the creeps now.”
Alexandra stood up and walked towards Jacob, patting him on the shoulder. “It’s ok. I know how you feel. Let’s go.”
Jacob called the others and they re-grouped back at the mouth. After a few nods of acknowledgement that they were all well they headed back to the Jump Jet and headed back to the ship. All was quiet and no one said much, Nev slept again most of the way home. After they arrived back they reviewed the data that came from their sweep and it seemed that area was littered with the remains of other huge metallic beings that it was assumed at some point long ago had been engaged in battle. Protocol now dictated that they needed to report back to the local base some three weeks away. This planet was not immediately suitable for colonisation, who knew what dangers may lurk. So more, if it was deemed economical.
Alexandra oversaw the launch with her usual efficiency and retired to her prep room, sitting at her desk she flicked through some news feeds and status reports casually, not really taking it in. A grin crept across her face as she pulled out the glowing item from her pocket. The unbelievable luck even after all those years that someone would walk straight into their grasp. Their thoughts went back to that dungeon they endured for countless years. Now it was someone else’s turn to endure it, they wouldn’t last even a fraction of the time they had, but it made no difference. They were now free and the universe would be theirs to conquer again.
© Simon Farnell 2013 – 2021
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