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Rated: 13+ · Assignment · Contest · #2273614
An alien scavenger hunt on an alien world bring sudden results.
The drone hovered at 300 metres above the bleak desert sands, rotors tearing at the cooling air. The star Cirux sunk below the rugged edges of the world as night began. Sensors operating in the infrared spectrum, suddenly activated. The all-seeing-eye became aware of a single heat signature that moved below.

Kirtux slipped inside the closest jagged hole; one of many that pock-marked the length of the crashed Star Trawler: Enulah. He then pulled his Dyris Band long-rifle in behind him. In the gloom it was cumbersome and disorienting. After some twisting the rifle settled comfortably against his shoulder. Presently he obtained a site picture through the night vision optics. Anticipating the drone he waited. None appeared.

A gnarled 3 digit claw tapped gently on the right side of his helmet. Internal circuitry shifted bands and Kirtux now perceived in the same band as the drone.

“One more piece,” he hissed. “One more and the hunt is finally done.”

Kirtux sucked a stilted breath through gritted fangs. It’d been a rough two years and a long hard trek through innumerable solar systems. He’d stolen a handfull of land speeders, even highjacking a troop carrier once. His biggest finally was when he'd jettisoned himself in a lifeboat from a Star Liner. He grinned, remembering the pearl clutching elites who’d shrieked in disgust as he waved to them. He'd sped away in a life-pod, leaving bigots that would rather not travel with a Dryis Lofyi. Even worse, he’d made off with their posh lifeboat full of goodies. Sayonara Bitches!

Seven parts he’d collected, and only one to go. An old fashioned unifier-coupler, the only one that would fit the other 7 assembled parts. And it was somewhere on the Star Trawler “Enulah”, a ship that had lain derelict on Vitrous for over 70 years.

The first moon came out; one of three that would rise that night. Its green countenance, casted eerie pools on the floor of the rotting Enulah. Each was a stain to be avoided; little vents of disease from above.

Kirtux tapped another switch - this time on a console attached to his forearm. A data stream filled the site picture in his goggles. He swept his gaze back and forth a couple of times and presently a location registered itself in green. In bold letters it read: 35 metres.

Kirtux scurried forward, closing the distance to his target. Keeping low he zigged and zagged, avoiding the pools of moonshine from above. He stopped frequently, peering up briefly to mark the drone which remained motionless. A red icon labeled 303m verified its unwavering position. At the calculated position Kirtux found a rusted hatch cover.

Rolling his backpack from his shoulder, Kirtux flipped open a compartment on its side. A quick search procured a hand-held plasma cutter. Then shielding the glare from the watching drone above, Kirtux pressed his thumb claw to the actuator. A thin blue beam reached out and began to cut the rusted iron on the hatch cover. The cutter stuttered once, but then as flow normalized, the iron began sizzling. He drew a square hole, its outline blazing orange in the black stillness of the Enulah.

The extracted area detached itself from the surrounding metal. It slumped, twisting slightly under its own weight. Then it cooled, coming to rest like a curved rectangular scab. The hole was only big enough for one hand, but that was all he needed. The heat signature too, would be minimal.

The unifier-coupler was melded to the bottom of the enclosure by 16 separate bolts. Each he turned with practiced finesse. Some needed coaxing; requiring heat to unlock the rust that had formed over decades. Then he twisted the coupler, its length being wider than the hole. Gently he guided it out and into his awaiting knapsack.

Exiting the Enulah would be impossible with the eye-in-the-sky waiting above. So lying flat on his back, Kirtux shifted in the sand until he faced directly upwards through one of the many holes. The drone saw him instantly, but Kirtux’s rifle reached out at light speed. In a quantum second drone #626 was vaporized in a very surprised ionizing cloud.

Kirtux scrambled up a dune near the far end of the derelict ship. As he broke over the ridge he lay prone momentarily. He scanned the horizon for danger. An abandoned communications hut lay a little over a kilometre away. Its presence was far from obvious, for in fact the hut was covered with sand almost constantly. In this region of Vitrous, storms raged almost continually and the sand here was more like dust. Only the coordinates in his com-stick - obtained by operatives in his secret clade - allowed him to locate it. The greenish light from the now setting moon, helped to cloak him on his journey. Stark shadows twisted like birds, erupting from dunes that dissipating almost as quickly into the night. At this point he knew that the closest drone was far above, somewhere in orbit.

Kirtux approached the coordinates from the south and began to dig furiously in the sand. His claws became a blur as he uncovered a region big enough to slither down into. There, in the dark dry embrace of the covered hut, he found the remaining 7 parts.

A light popped into existence. The main one on his helmet. He began assembling the final step of a process he’d spent years memorizing. All the parts were in place save for the unifier-coupler. He needed to slide it ever so gently between two edges of a flange. Sixteen tiny screws he now secured. Gently torquing each to a specification he'd memorized. Feeling each through his claws and wrist he made the final moves. Then he sighed, laying back ... relaxing.

The surprise that followed - and the death it brought - he'd never know. The system-wide failure though, that would be obvious and final!
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