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Leaving the Rock

Leaving in a hurry sucks. You can’t plan for these kinds of things. You go where you go, and trust that the higher-ups know what they are doing. We’d been there for a good six months, so we’d dug in a fair bit. But, when they yell EVAC, it’s grab and go time. Sure there’s a protocol. But really? No protocol survives an EVAC. 

The seasons are short and harsh on Ginstron. The rain and snow pushed the dirt, rocks and debris until they almost completely covered the rusted power unit. The morning sun shimmered in the drops of dew that formed on the remaining exposed panel. Chirping could be heard in the distance. The unit hummed as it had for the last 50 years or so.

We bugged out of Ginstron for a reason; We couldn’t go back for it. And besides, we were hundreds of thousands of miles away before anyone even noticed the unit was gone. I blame that new captain. He’s a sweaty, nervous guy. That dude is fresh out of the academy and he just doesn’t have it yet. I mean, it took him 4 days to order a inventory. 4 DAYS! There was no way we were going back after 4 days. 

The weight of the mud and rock cracked the containment shield. It started small. Tiny drops of green sludge dripped from the corner. The dry red soil soaked up each drop. It had been unusually dry this year, but the rainy season would start soon enough.

Everyone knows this shit. The D240 power generator is the standard power unit for planetary expeditions. It’s a couple meters in size, but light weight, and durable. At its heart is a small reactor that can sustain a mission for a year or two. We come and go pretty fast these days, so nobody really uses them for that long. I just love how easy they are to fix. We were on Jackson345 and Mel fixed one with a tweezer and some tape from the medical kit. 

Large tree-like plants surrounded the ravine where the unit sat. The canopy of bushy yellow leaves shaded the red ground below. Small purple weeds swayed in the slow breeze. The rains had begun in mountains and a river could be heard rushing in the distance.

We aren’t supposed to leave those units behind? You think I don’t know that? I know that. Everyone knows that. But, you know what, SHIT happens. We put that unit on the edge of the encampment because Sutter needed it there for one of those silly experiments she was always running. That is NOT normal procedure, but hell, the captain signed off on the exception notice. They knew it was out there. 

It rained and rained that day. The river finally burst its banks late in the afternoon. The water rushed into the ravine and took everything with it, including the power unit. Every rock and twig bobbed up and down as the water screamed down the hill toward the valley below. The unit smashed into a tree and was trapped under a large log. The box split open and the remaining green sludge spilled into the water.

Did we leave it on? I don’t know. I suspect we did. Why would we turn it off? I understand why they need to ask the questions, but are they seriously stupid. I mean, you don’t usually turn these things on and off. Sutter probably set up that experiment and left it running the entire time we were there. I suspect that’s why we forgot about it. If we had to trek out there every day and turn if off, I imagine one of us would have mentioned that we had a D240 out in the field.  

Rows and rows of thin leafy stalks shot upward from the valley floor. A human-like figure stood knee deep in the recent floods. Grasping a stalk with all four hands, it yanked a large round black root from the ground. It wiped the curious green watery sludge off the root, trimmed the stalk, and placed in a woven basket slung over its back. Others could be seen in the distance doing the same thing.

Those units make some nasty waste. We collect them, clean them out and store that sludge until we safely get rid of it. I can’t imagine how much shit is in that unit if its been running this whole time. I can’t even imagine. 

Published in Fiction Science Fiction

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