Flash Fiction Friday 018 – Cave Diving

The ship sailed low over the ground, its oraculum glowing faintly against the barren earth.

“You sure this is the right way? Thought the next farm was….nevermind. There it is,” Liam said as he adjusted course and allowed the vessel to drift towards the the gaping maw in the landscape. Once they were alongside it, Liam dropped anchor and turned towards Henri.

“Now remember lad, this place is still being seeded. Air’s gonna be a little thin. You start getting light headed, you come back.” Henri started to climb from the ship and down the ladder when Liam’s hand caught his shoulder. “One more thing. The oraculum can make some strange things when its getting started. You hear a skitter, you come back. We’re terraformers, not soldiers.”

“Yeah, yeah.. I got it pops,” Henri replied. Old timers always thinking just cause he was new, he was dumb.

As Henri descended the robe ladder and past the safety of wood and rune and into a world of stone and dark, he felt his breath catch. The change from the ship’s air to planet still got to him, even after all the training. Slowly, he started to climb down the maw and into telhe earth. Veins of green glow told him that the oraculum was settling in nicely to the area as they dove deep into the planet. According to his lessons, this area would be ready for a colony in six months and well on its way to self sufficient life.

Henri found a ledge about fifty meters down and settled himself on it for a little break. The walls of the cave were damp with dew, another good sign. On one end of the ledge, the glowing vein seemed to disappear around a bend. Rising to his feet, Henri followed the vein into a tunnel. He had to crutch as his fingers traced the element deeper into the bowels of the planet and he lost track of how long he had been following it.

Suddenly, he seemed to step into a vast cave. Oraculum veins and ore glittered silently above him like rainbow constellations. All about him, dark entrances and exits yawned their darkened mouths. He stood in the middle of the room transfixed, spinning ever so slowly as he took it all in when his ears caught the sound of skittering along one of the walls.

He stopped dead in his tracks. His heart pounded as he strained against the darkness. The skittering drew closer. It was accompanied by a low level keening that seemed to throb through the stone floors.

Henri ran towards on open mouth in the wall, following the faint green glow. The sounds of his heavy breaths and heavier pounding of feet drowned out the any sounds of pursuit. Several desperate minutes past before he slowed down. There didn’t seem to be a chase, but the vein he had followed also ended a few meters in front of him. Darkness loomed before him as he realized he chose the wrong tunnel. Frantically, he started to back track.

Up above, Liam leaned back and waited. After an hour, he noticed a small bundle under an empty bench that contained Henri’s guideline. He swore softly at both Henri failing to take it and his forgetting to check. They weren’t expected back for several hours, so Liam waited, hoping the rookie would find his way back. When his recall time came, Liam sighed and tossed the guideline into the maw. Raising anchor, he set sail for base. This was dangerous work and the empire had plenty of bodies.

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