Science Fiction Contest Entry
The road, a narrow stretch clear off the debris, twisted and turned through the mines. They were endless pits with nothing but darkness in them. There was no light, whatsoever. The sky lacked both its moon; even the stars were shy that night. The little vehicle rattled alone down the dirty path. Its lone passenger behind the wheel swayed his head with an unknown tune he had picked up from where he couldn’t remember. The vehicle, a small beetle like machine with one nuclear-powered mute engine, was at the danger of falling apart. But its owner was neither worried nor bothered about it. His prime concern was the radar screen which remained spotless, so far. The satellite view of the area gave him an overlook for five miles in every direction. Once he checked his watch, glanced out the window and opened his dashboard. The sole occupant, a laser shotgun, rested peacefully.
He slowed down before the last half of a mile and almost crawled the rest of it. He stopped and pressing a button on the dashboard that activated the thermal scanner, he waited for the report. A ten seconds’ exhaustive scan revealed nothing. There was no other life form other than himself. Satisfied he stepped out of the car drawing a rucksack after him which he dropped over his shoulder. Before moving on he made a last minute check of his belongings. The laser shotgun was secured on his right waist, a light knife was on his left. The light in his helmet was operational and so was the thermal sensor behind it. The screen on the visor was clear except for the tiny bit of the map at its top right corner. Putting on his mask and gloves, he zipped his jacket and stepped forward.
Time and again his eyes flickered towards the thermal scanner. It remained silent. He crossed the last of the pile and stopped before the clear area. Activating the motion sensor on his left wrist he stepped on. Careful not to make any sound he crossed the clearing till the center of it. There he stood still listening to his surrounding. There was nothing to be heard. He knelt down. Fumbling for half a second he found the switch to the hatch. Giving a good look around he pressed it. With a hiss of air escaping under pressure the hatch silently raised itself revealing a hole in the ground. With another quick look around he leapt into it.
Other than the splash of the pool of water on which he landed there was no other sound. He pressed a button on the wall closing the lead on the hole above him.
On his three sides there were solid walls. In front of him was a door. Beside the door was a small scanner. Removing his helmet and mask, he put his face in front of it. The screen lit up and a narrow band of light fell on his face, traveled from his forehead till the chin.
The screen went blank and then a voice spoke.
“Richard Maxmillon, the scavenger. Welcome.”
The door slid open and he walked in.
“Thank you,” he mumbled to the machine.
The narrow passage went deep into the ground. He ignored the voices coming from the rooms on both sides and came to stand at the end of the tunnel. As the end of the tunnel neared he could hear a faint music. Some kind of rock he couldn’t grasp. He rapped none too gently on the door and pushed it open.
It was a small room and with minimal provision for comfort. There was a desk and a chair behind it. On this side there were two stools. A man sat on the chair and nodded his head with the beat of the music. The man had crossed fifty long back but looked to be forty. He had a round head without a single strand of hair. His face was smooth with two narrow eyes and a broken nose to feature. Everyone called him Zor. His Earth name was long forgotten even by himself.
Maxmillon dropped the rucksack on a stool and made a switch on his wrist. There was a squeak somewhere and the music stopped. Zor winced at it and shook his head.
“Do you have to do it every time?” He asked massaging his ear.
Maxmillon put his hand inside the rucksack and brought out a small box. He placed it on the desk and lightly touched the top. The sides of the box glowed and became transparent. Inside one could see a capsule as big as a man’s fist.
Maxmillon could see Zor's eyes sparkle with anticipation. He was already dreaming of the money he would get. He touched the top and the box lost its transparency. Zor quickly snapped straight and pulled open a drawer. From there he brought out some cash. Maxmillon grabbed the bunch and left.
Pretty, a native of planet Danix, was preparing dinner when the alarm rang. It was no alarm but the doorbell, but its all the same to her. When something rings in the house you go and check. That’s what her boss has taught her. She liked her boss though he didn’t like being addressed by that word. He preferred to be called Rick by her, which sounded like Wick on her lips. He met her in one of his scavenging expeditions and brought her home. She needed a place to stay and food to eat and her boss provided her both. None understood the other’s language but a few gestures are universal. With time her boss taught her his language. Now she could both speak and understand it. She was of average height of five feet, a foot less than her boss. Light blue skin that gave out a faint luminescence in dark was a total contrast to her boss’s dark complexion. Her eyes were pure black and wide. Her ears were a little pointy and she liked to keep her red hair long and flowing which is, secretively, appreciated by her boss. Though they are on strict master and maid relation but none denies the fact there is something else too.
Pretty wiped her long hands on her apron that her boss insists that she wear and quickly went to answer the door.
She peeped through the eye-hole and found John, her boss's friend, and opened the door. John didn’t smile at her like always. Instead he swayed and fell on his face by her feet. As soon as she had knelt by him to see if he was hurt, a hand clapped her face and before she could resist, she was dragged off. She only saw a paper float on top of John’s back before her eyes closed in.
Maxmillon drove home under forty minutes. He had gone beyond his range this time and he didn’t want to be followed. But Zor’s offer was more than any other. He needed money. Food was scarce and he could see Danix going where Earth had gone years back.
Thanks to man’s greed there was nothing left on that planet. Fuel resources had long being depleted. Thousands of acres of land was lost to seas as the ice caps melted and the oceans swelled beyond their limits. Continents shrank leading to less and less space for men and animals to live on. Death due to flood, earthquake, and other natural calamities became frequent and man was to enter the list of endangered species, where many other species had found their names, courtesy the brilliant human beings. Health degraded and life was at stake when Danix was discovered, quite accidentally. It was like Mother Nature wanted to give man another shot. Right now, Maxmillon was sure, she was regretting her decision. Man landed on this planet and not only found it habitable but also quite rich in minerals and other resources like fuel. In fact, the egg of an native animal, Tbec, was found to be the cure of an incurable disease on Earth. The war that almost killed Earth and cost man his existence broke out on Danix.
Men who could reach Danix built their own bases, made their own rules and had their own terms to live by. No one cared about anything or anyone. The native inhabitants on Danix, a weak and peace loving being gave in to man’s cruel ways and were soon enslaved. When Maxmillon arrived, which was purely in search of job, the war was already waging wild. It took him over a month to settle into the new atmosphere and the work that he had found himself to excel at. He was a born scavenger. That’s what he had been doing since he could remember.
Life was a careless trade before he met Pretty. He couldn’t pronounce her original name without running into the risk of losing a few of his teeth that he took good care of so named her Pretty. It came up on its own and he had carefully avoided telling her the meaning.
Even the thought of it brought a smile on his cracked lips. He could see smoke in the chimney of his mound. Pretty was cooking, he supposed. But then his smiled went out. Something tugged at his sixth sense. He slowed down and turned on the thermal scanner. He stopped where he park his beetle and stepped out, his loaded gun in his hand. Pretty dreaded these machines but he was suddenly scared. Carefully, noiselessly he made his way to his mound and stopped by the door.
Across the doorway was lying John. On his back was a note. Maxmillon threw a quick glance inside his house and picked up the note. It was handwritten and by someone who was holding the pen for the first time.
'Come with the egg. Or your girl is dead.’ Signed Rex.
Maxmillon crumbled the paper and ran out of the mound. Informing John’s wife next door he reached his beetle. The vehicle roared to life and then fell silent. With a muffled whine the beetle sped out of the parking.
Different things were running through his mind. Rex was his only rival. Maxmillon had never seen a man more crooked or cruel than him. He would go to any length to get what he wants. Maxmillon knew he would turn Rex against him soon enough. Thrice he had intercepted Rex's consignment and that had left him in discredit in front of his clients. It was high time he had to pay back. But not with Pretty.
He had lost his fiancée years back and that wound was yet to heal. He hadn’t been able to forgive himself for the accident. He was behind the wheel after all. But the same thing was not to happen to Pretty. He needed to free her in any humanly, or inhumanly, way possible.
He needed the egg. But he had sold it to Zor and its gone. He couldn’t scavenge another in a minute’s notice. Maybe he could crack a deal with Rex. He had to. For Pretty he must.
The rope seemed to cut deep into her skin. The darkness came to stifle her. She couldn’t see where she was or didn’t know why she was brought here but she knew she was in trouble. They were ignorant of the fact that she understood them and spoke freely in front of her. It turned her blue skin grey in fear to think what her boss would need to do to free her.
She must help him. She turned and twisted only hurting her hands. Failing several times to free herself she fell silent. She closed her eyes letting a drop of tear slide down her cheek.
“I am so sowy, Wick,” she murmured. “I am so sowy.”
But in her heart she knew he would come.
Word Count: 1990 words..
Written For: "Science Fiction Short Story Contest"
Prompt: Time after Life as we know it is destroyed...