Chapter 7: Landing, Walking, and Disappearing.
“Holy Mother-Of-Stars, the micro-star is sentient?” Annie’s surprise was uttered in a silent voice as they rushed through space. The station hadn’t sent anyone to escort them back yet and Annie was hurrying to make sure that didn’t happen.
“Yes, and we think the techno-mages having been hiding it the whole time.” Seren sighed at the implication that she’d come to believe. Their civilization, who’s guiding principle was to learn about and respect life, prospered on slavery.
They told each other everything that had happened and even after Annie explained that the star shaped ships had saved someone, they all held their breath as they passed the line of ships orbiting the planet.
When they’d passed the star shaped ships, Jan said, “Wow. There are a lot of them.” They were right; the ships seemed to have completely surrounded the planet with a hole where the station was transmitting something to the surface.
As the passed the line of ships, they saw the planet. Lush and green, it seemed to have more vegetation than anything else. The oceans were only forty percent of the planet.
Scans showed that under the plant life were ancient metropolises. “This planet must have housed hundreds of billions of people.” Seren sounded excited.
“Whoa! Can a planet even sustain that many people?” Jan asked.
Annie was the one who answered, “Not for long. I’m guessing they either left or died out.”
There were cities all over the planet according to the scans, but eight metropolises dominated the landscape. The eight formed a star pattern similar to the ships.
Scans also showed that each city had a giant building that hadn’t decayed and was shielded from sensors.
In the centre of the geographical star was an enormous version of these buildings. It was larger than most cities on the planets they’d visited. It was also where the station was transmitting information.
“Where should we land?” Annie asked, fully expecting the answer.
“We should go to the largest one. If the station is sending a signal, there must be someone to receive it,” Seren said, while taking deeper scans of the planet.
Jan had been looking at their screen and finally asked, “How did they get this much material? Those buildings are impossibly big. I can’t find any quarries or sign they recycled parts of the cities.”
“We’ll have to ask them when we get there.” Seren was practically vibrating in her seat. Annie expected her to dash towards the door and jump out.
The building was massive and had no obvious doors or landing places. The transmissions from the station was being sent to a small area of the building. Since it was the only reference they had, they landed nearby.
There was a small opening in the jungle that let them land, but the walk to their destination was going to be over harsh terrain. They had machetes to cut through vines in the survival packs but kept them sheathed. It was standard procedure to avoid slicing a sentient tree by accident. There were no paths, which was unusual. It meant there were no large animals.
The planet was definitely not dead, however, and they could hear bird songs and other small creatures.
“The larger animals would have no way to get up here!” Annie exclaimed. “We might look like we’re in a jungle, but we’re on a giant building’s roof. Big animals wouldn’t come up here since there are no large water sources.”
Jan looked impressed. “I thought you weren’t paying attention in school, spacebird.”
“I love flying, but I spent a lot of time with Seren and her curiosity is contagious.” They all laughed.
The laughter startled a small flock of birds and the sound of their wings was enough to bring the three back on task. They walked for over an hour before they reached the middle of the building, according to their devices.
There was no indication in the foliage or the ground to show this was the spot. Seren took out a scanner that would let them see what was under all the plant life.
She synced it to her computer and scanned. Watching the screen of her computer, she could see there was something under the plants, but it must have been blocking everything out. Just as she was getting frustrated, she saw an outline of a square.
Annie watched from over her shoulder and said, “I’ll go check it out.” She walked over to the square and started feeling for it. It was definitely an indent. She crawled slowly forward and when she was fully inside the square, she disappeared.
Seren yelped and ran forwards to help Annie. Jan’s strong arms stopped her and said, “Wait. If she’s been disintegrated or hurt, running into the same trap isn’t going to help. We need to study it some more.”
Her heart hurt at not rushing to help her friend but Jan was right and they had to be careful out here. She got closer and started to run scans on the area, hoping beyond hope she hadn’t lost Annie.
While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial story: