(**Unedited Story. There will be mistakes.**)
Your pilot has alerted you that she’s picking up thermal readings under the ground. She is not sure if it’s animal or humanoid.
Orders are to find out what happened to a Federation crew that lost contact with their Fleet Admiral over three weeks ago.
You tell your pilot to land the ship and you take your weapons officer and go investigate using an infrared scanner.
As you scan you don’t see anything until a large – something moves underneath the ground.
“Did you feel that?” your weapons officer asks.
“Something is underneath us.”
“Something or someone?”
Another large mass moves past you and you wonder if the thermals you picked up was your team or the planet’s natural inhabitants.
Moving forward you scan the hills and see a few spots of red and orange. Pointing you tell your fellow officer, “Over there.”
Then the ground shakes so hard you fall to your knees. The hard clay ground cracks, separating between your arms.
You roll to your right and knock into your officer. “Time to run.”
“You don’t say,” the weapons officer said sarcastically.
Pushing off the ground that still rumbled you and your crew mate run for the mountain. All of a sudden your pelted with rocks from behind. You turn and see….
Quickly you double time it as the monster beasts follow with a high pitched scream.
“Are you sure it’s not the crew. I remember one of them being really ugly.”
You don’t want to smile at that. You are running for your lives and your ridiculous weapons officer is cracking jokes.
One of the monsters tries to knock you off your feet, but you raise your hand that is holding a vibrant pistol and shoot at the eye.
The hit takes and the screams increase. Refusing to look back you keep running.
“What the hell was that?” Your weapons officer asks keeping pace with you.
“A gift from my sister.”
“I want one.”
“If we live, I’ll get you one.”
Finally, you and the officer reach the hills and scramble up. taking deep breaths of relief you look back and see nothing but a long pile of ash from where the monster died.
Your friend looks at you and asks, “What now captain?”
As captain you lead the way, following the scanner until you reach the first heat source. You can tell it’s humanoid because of the head, two arms and legs.
“We need to find a way into the cavern,” your weapons expert said scanning the mountains.
You agreed but added, “We stick together no matter what.”
“Of course, captain. I’ll need someone to validate my claims of being a hero.”
You snort and begin looking for an entrance.
Three hours later you found it. As you walk in the cave you see that there is a humanoid heat signature in front of you, further back in the dark.
Turning the scanner over you press the light button to get a better look and you see a male.
“That doesn’t look like the lost crew,” said your weapons specialist.
The male ahead doesn’t respond but tilts his head slightly.
“Can you understand me?” you ask.
The male nods once.
“We’re looking for five crew men who were last reported being here.”
No response from the strange male.
You try one more time. “Have you seen them?”
“Can you take me to them?”
The strange male hesitates, then nods. When you move forward he points at your scanner and waves his hand in the air, as if he’s telling you to leave it.
You tell the stranger, “I’m keeping the scanner. You have a problem with that, that’s your problem.”
The stranger raises his eyebrows slowly but remains silent.
The cave grows alarmingly silent. A half a second later the stranger turns around and you follow him deep into the cave.
As you walk it gets darker and you can see several heat signature on the right and left, but you can’t see them visibly.
The further you get get into the mountain the hotter it got.
Ten minutes after that the light in the scanner that made it easier to walk in the dark tunnel winked out. In fact, the scanner stopped working to.
You tried to power it on and off, no response.
Frustrated you were about to stop the hike when you saw a red glow in the distance. “What is that?”
Your weapons officer shrugs.
The stranger does not respond.
As you get closer and the tunnel opens up, you see a large open cavern with lava.
The heat is so high that it feels like you are directly in a stars rays.
The stranger continued to lead the way through the active volcano to a side lip where you see three lumped bodies. Both you and your officer rush past the stranger and check the bodies. Only one is still alive.
Two more are missing.
There is no way to take all three bodies back with only the weapons officer and yourself.
When you turn around you see the stranger waiting.
“There were two others. Do you now where they are?”
The stranger pointed to the lava. Just then the ground shook and the it looked like the lava was rising. So high it was going to cover the path you just took.
You hand the gun to your weapons specialist and say, “Just in case we meet up with those snake-monsters again.”
He grabs the gun, then you reach down and pick up the crew member that’s still breathing.
The stranger turns around and quickly leads the way back. As the lava rises you push yourself to go faster – but it’s difficult with a full grown male on your shoulder.
“Want to switch Captain?”
“Want to shut up and keep your eyes open for danger?” you say back.
There is a long section of the path that flooded with lava. Just when you think you’re screwed the stranger veers in another direction. Following, because you have no other choice.
This path takes longer and you’re started to gasp for each breath. It’s hot, you’re sweating so much your clothes are wet, and your back is aching from holding the extra weight.
But you can’t slow down, and you have to use all your mental strength to keep going.
Finally you see the mouth of a wide cave. It’s only a hundred feet but the lava is already creeping on the path.
The cooler air hits your face and you want to stop but the stranger has not slowed down, so neither are you. Another few minutes and you’re legs are buckling. You need to rest.
You are about to tell your weapons specialist he needs to grab the male – but you hesitate. In front of you the cave tunnel is just in front of you and you know you can rest when you get out.
You’re out. The stranger stops by the mouth of the cave. Finally you slow down, pulling in the outside air.
“This isn’t where we came in,” your weapon’s specialist says.
As you look around you notice he’s right. You don’t recognize anything. Not even the tall pillars of rock. Pulling out your scanner it’s still broken and you can’t radio for help.
Hoping that the stranger knows the way around his own planet you ask. “We need to find my ship. It’s near where those monsters live and where you first meet us. Can you take us?”
The stranger kneels down and draws the surrounding scenes and then draws a line through it. As if he’s drawing a map in the dirt.
He even includes the section with the snake monsters and draws around them so they can safely get to their ship.
The weapons specialist blows out a deep breath. “That’s a long way.”
Yes it was. And it would be hard on both of them because they didn’t have any water or provisions. After being face to face with the internal workings of a volcano they were going to need something.
When the stranger got up he pointed into the distance and used his fingers to look like they were running.
You weren’t sure you had another sprint inside you. Especially when it wasn’t life or death.
Without a farewell the stranger pointed to the sky then pointed at himself… then pointed at you.
“I don’t know what that means?” you say.
The stranger points to you, then himself then kneels down to the spot he marked as the ship.
You’re not sure exactly what he’s saying so you ask, “Are you going to take us to our ship? Or are you asking to come with me once we get back to the ship?”
The stranger nods.
“You want to leave the planet? With us?” you ask just to make sure.
He nods again.
“Uh, captain…” your weapons specialist says scratching his head. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”
“Yeah, you can come, but you have to help us find our ship.”
The stranger gestures to follow him.
Your weapons specialist gives you weary look and mouths, “are you sure?”
You nod because it’s better to show confidence in uncertainty.
Plus right now you’re weak and the extra weight of the lost crew is causing you extreme discomfort. All you want is to finish this mission as soon as possible.
Following the stranger you contemplate how you will get your boss to accept the strange male. You don’t even have a name for him.
The registration of a new species was going to drown you – but a promise is a promise.
Your small group made it to the fifth pillar before the stranger stopped and held back his hands. Then rushed back and urged you to get back behind the giant pillar.
That’s when the ground started to shake again, and just like before large snake-like monsters sprung from the ground. Unlike you, the stranger ran at the beast.
The snake snapped and screeched, but went back inside the ground.
“I take it back. He can come with us,” said your weapons specialist.
You chuckle and wait until the stranger gives you the all clear.
From there you pass through the rock pillars. Past them you see a small clearing and a dark grey mass. If you’re eye sight wasn’t playing tricks on you. Then that was your ship.
With the last amount of energy you lead the way. The docking ramp lowers seconds before you arrive and you force your weak legs to carry you up. From there your medical officer is there waiting.
You hand off the crew member and hope he makes it but at the moment you need to get to the captain’s seat and rest.
You didn’t think too much of it as the stranger followed you into the bridge. Inside your pilot turned around with a smile, but when she saw the male next to you she stood up, eyes wide.
“You’re real? That can’t be. I’m dreaming again.”
The stranger next to you speaks for the first time. “I’m real. I’ve been waiting for you, for a long time.”
Your pilot grabbed the console, her legs acting as weak as he felt. If it was any other time you would have let her have the private moment. But you were tired of the planet and tired of standing.
Slumping in your seat you say, “I don’t want to break up this happy meeting but I’d like to get off this planet.”
Your pilot looks at you and then to the stranger, not moving. Maybe she’s too shocked?
The stranger moved to his side and took a seat, not taking his eyes off her he said, “Your captain is tired and there are things headed this way that can swallow this ship. It’s time to leave, Avee.”
Rubbing her face, your pilot, Avee flops in her seat mumbling several curses and powers up the ship. Minutes later you’re back in space where you belong and you can breathe easier.
You push yourself back up, you can feel the cramps in your bones. “Start back to our flight station. And unless it’s an emergency. Don’t bother me.”