A heavy rain was beating hard on the concrete slab that was the main landing platform of the small Industrial Outpost resting on the edge of a cliff. It had been two days and still no sign of the Confederation Patrol ships. For weeks they had hunted him from one celestial body to another, all throughout the sector. Finally, it felt safe enough to step outside and scavenge the abandoned outpost. Not that he required anything special to make it back safe and sound to anything that could be called civilization. He was just very curious by nature. The weather was almost tropical and the way it rained he figured that; unless it always rained, it must be some kind of monsoon season.
That had been his way all his life. His curiosity had given him a life full of adventure with moments of minor riches and fortunes. But it had also given him more trouble than he deserved and now days he had difficulties entering the space lanes of the core worlds. Therefore he made his way doing all sorts of work that crossed his path in the Outer Rims. Out here life was anything but easy, unless you had money and lots of it! The life as a Mercenary wasn’t that bad though. The money wasn’t very good, but the job had its advantages and it was better than living the life of a prospector.
Many were the souls that searched the planets and moons of the Outer Rim in hope of stumbling upon a precious ore or some other raw substance that could be refined and sold to the highest bidder. Some prayers were heard, but many and more hopes and dreams of a better life were brutally crushed. Factories, mining facilities, ore processor stations and whole colonies, half way through terraforming, were abandoned, dead or dying from a reality that would not allow prospect.
He put on a dark blue rain poncho, grabbed a glow rod in one hand and slung his highly illegal neutron rifle over his right shoulder. It was an excellent weapon against the organic, but hopeless against non-organic. He had therefore assembled an ordinary, one shot grenade launcher underneath the rifle.
He went down the access ramp and halted beneath the “neck” of his ship which was the foremost cargo bay. It sheltered him from the heavy rain as he directed his glow rod on the grey complex before him. A small passageway of concrete parted the grey and the squared platform that stood out and above a wide artificial crevice. Water stood a few inches high on the slab and worked its way towards the corners. When it reached the corners the water continued on as small waterfalls down to the darkness below.
He could partially distinguish the entrance to the outpost through the heavy rain. The massive downfall made it hard to see if the entry was intact or not. He drew the ponchos hood over his bald head and started wading towards the complex. Half way over he managed to trip on something beneath the water and fell head long, stunning his left shoulder as he tried to dampen the fall. The glow rod left his hand and tumbled on underneath the waterline.
He cursed and slung his rifle over his back as he rose. The stunned shoulder felt better soon enough, but his moss green jumpsuit was now more wet then his poncho. It was then he saw the strange lines beneath the water, illuminated by the glow rod. With a faint color of orange it looked very much like roots threading their way across and around the edges of the passageway. He picked up the glow rod with his left hand and stepped carefully towards the edge. He looked over and swung the glow rod from left to right, but all he could see were roots hanging down from the platform or the rock face into the nothingness below. He retreated back and squatted down to illuminated one of the roots for a closer inspection. He reached down and surfaced one of the roots with his right hand, which gave way effortlessly. It felt soft to the touch and when he gave it a squeeze it felt spongy. Yellow zap trailed down his hands from the compress, and suddenly it stiffened and wrenched itself free from his grip with short rapid spasms. The whole passageway shook and then it stopped as abruptly as it had started.
Curious, he thought for himself. Better not upset… whatever those roots belonged too. He moved on, avoiding stepping on anything orange. At the end of the passageway the roots dived back down the rock face, but as he let the glow brush the entrance door he could clearly see that the entrance and the flanking walls were covered with the same orange roots.
He stood there a while trying to figure out what to do and how much the roots posed a threat to his person, when he reached a conclusion with a short; “Fuck it!” He slung forth his rifle, switched the setting to ‘wide’ and blew a hole among the roots where it had covered the entrance. The roots vaporized in a second, but the door stood undamaged. He waited for a reaction and for a heartbeat nothing happened, but then the ends of the wounded roots jolted with a terrible spasm. From behind him and deep down the crevice a shrilling cry echoed dreadfully as if a thousand entities simultaneously felt the pain of one lost limb.
He spun around, his rifle at the ready and saw the flooded passageway boiling from the all the trembling roots. He fired of a few rounds towards the passageway, with the effect of severed roots and more horrifying shrieks from below. Suddenly more roots appeared from the deep, embracing the only way between him and his ship. With a terrible crushing noise the concrete gave way and a gap about twenty meters was all there was left of the passageway.
“Bloody hell,” he cried out loud as he watched the landing platform slowly loose stability and break apart. He watched with horror as his only means to escape this world with, plunged with ease down into the crevice. Panicking, he spun around once again and head for the entrance to the Outpost.
It was only then his saw the grimy warning sign that also worked as a seal. He read it twice with haste and then cried out with despair. He retreated back taking the safety off his grenade launcher. As he reached the edge of the cliff, he pressed the rifle against his good shoulder and aimed towards the entrance.
Something took hold of both his ankles and snatched his legs underneath him...
In orbit around the small moon of the gas giant Belboreous, one of the three patrol ships that had hunted the renegade freighter had ordered station-keeping. Its sensitive sensors were locked on a specific location on the moon, an old Outpost that had been abandoned for decades.
“Captain, the radiation signature has vanished on our sensors,” one of the bridge officers in charge of the sensors reported.
“It is done then,” the Captain responded. “The moon has devoured our slippery fugitive.”
“Sir?” the bridge officers had a look of puzzlement.
The Captain sighed. “The moon. It’s a living thing… or things. No one knows for sure. But the prospectors who built the Outpost soon found out what lurched underneath the crust of the moon, once the digging begun.”
He paused and held his breath. He then let it out with an order; “There’s nothing more here for us to do. Helm, break orbit and lay in a course for home.”