What the hell was going on? We had landed with no problems. The previous host had easily sent us on our way and the group commander was aware of our intended target. But now that we’d landed, it was almost impossible to move away from the landing sight. Under ordinary – well, for some values of ordinary – circumstances we should have been able to set up a base camp at the landing site and then almost immediately move out to explore the near in area before sending out larger groups of colonists into the further reaches of the new host.
But this apparently was not going to be an ordinary colonization trip. I glanced up at my second-in-command.
“You’re positive? Everything around us is hostile? Everything?” A level of self-control I hadn’t known I was capable of was all that was stopping me from rolling my eyestalks out of their nodes. Dreveod was not given to exaggeration or telling tall tales, so despite my incredulity and inclinations towards disbelief, I had to think he was telling the truth. This entire host was hostile territory.
“Sir, after twenty-four hours here, it is my considered opinion that we should immediately move on and find another host. Staying here could be deadly for the crew and colonists,” he said in that formal manner of his.
“Well, Lieutenant, you know that we can’t do that right away. We need to refuel, recharge ourselves, and find another host that’s close enough we don’t fall into unknown space when making the jump. That will require at least another twenty-four to forty-eight hours here.” Dreveod waggled his brain pod in affirmation, albeit unhappily. He knew as well as I that the odds were stacked against us.
“Just make sure that everybody stays close to base camp. We don’t need any curious colonists wandering off just for the fun of it and bringing back some of the deadly native species and taking all of us out before we have a chance to salvage this,” I warned him.
“Yes, sir.” Dreveod saluted smartly and moved off to spread the word.
I sighed and stared at the data tablet he’d left with me. Despite what I’d just told Dreveod, I was afraid this mission was doomed before it even had a chance to get started.
The entire surface suddenly shook violently, and a gale force wind blew across base camp.
“Everybody hang on!” I shouted. Grabbing a hold of one of the fins on our landing craft, I reached out a tentacle to snag a young one just before he was thrown into the dark beyond camp.
Reeling him in, I glanced down. “Wrap yourself around my third tentacle,” I ordered. As he did so, I shaded my eyestalks from flying debris and peered in the direction of the center of camp. It looked like all our supplies and equipment had been destroyed. The landing craft, to which I was clinging, had taken some damage, but from where I hung, it appeared to be repairable. Hopefully we would have that necessary forty-eight hours.
The wind died down as suddenly as it appeared. “Status check!” I called out, unwinding the young one from my tentacle and handing him back to his mother as I glided toward what remained of the center of camp.
“Oh, captain! Thank you so much!” the distraught mother cried, squeezing her young one to her chest.
“You’re welcome, ma’am. Please return to the center of camp so that we can all assess our situation,” I told her with a small smile.
Dreveod skated up to my side. “Sir! Camp report!” he shouted.
“No need to shout Lieutenant. What’s the situation?” I asked, rubbing a tentacle across my eyestalks.
“We’ve lost almost all our supplies, and about half the colonists were thrown out of camp and into the darkness behind the landing craft. That young one you caught is the only one of them to survive,” Dreveod said in a quiet voice.
I gazed across camp and the worried faces of my crew and the remaining colonists. My mind raced as I tried to figure out how to tell them that we were all doomed and it was only a matter of time until we were all dead. This host had become a living prison. We, the Virii III colony, were not getting out of here alive.
The surface heaved once more and the violent wind blew across camp.
“Geez, woman. Gesundheit! That was a helluva sneeze! What’s going on?” Ben asked.
“I don’t know,” Melanie sniffed. “I think I caught something a couple of days ago. I’ve been feeling a bit off, but it seems to be getting better already. I guess I have a good immune system,” She grabbed a tissue and blew her nose.
“Well, hopefully you can get rid of it before this weekend. We can’t miss my brother’s wedding,” Ben told her with some sympathy.
“I know, I know. I felt better when I woke up this morning, and I’ve been okay for most of today. I’ll just make sure I get enough sleep the next couple of days. I’ll be fine.” Melanie smiled at Ben.
“Love ya, babe. I’ll get dinner started,” he responded, walking into the kitchen.
This week’s challenge came from Fiona Grey: The virus made her a living prison. It took me a few days to figure it out, but I hope you enjoy my slightly off-kilter sense of humor. My challenge went to Cedar Sanderson. Find your way over to More Odds Than Ends and see what she did with that and what the others did with their prompts. If you’re feeling the need for a writing challenge in 2023, you can join the fun at More Odds Than Ends and tickle your creative bones with the prompt challenges. Challenge responses can take any form, written, art, photography, whatever speaks to you. Check it out!