Tyler stared up and up… and up. The castle was beautiful, like something out of a fairy tale. Soaring spires topped with cheerfully snapping flags gleamed white against the dark green background of the mountains that rose behind it.
“Wow!” Jamie said, his head craned back as he gazed up at the improbable structure in front of them. “It’s like Cinderella’s castle or something.”
“Yeah. Wow is right. Yes, it is beautiful. But I have a lot of questions about this,” Tyler answered.
“Like how the hell did that get here?” Jamie asked.
“Yep. As far as I know, there’s no instructions or codes for buildings in the terraforming programs. So, yeah. How the hell did that castle get here?” Tyler rubbed the ache in his neck and lowered his head to look at Jamie. “The terraforming tech has been perfect up until now. What happened?”
“You think the terraforming program did this?” Jamie asked, astonished.
“Well, yeah. How the hell else do you get a castle on an otherwise uninhabited, barely-able-to-sustain-life kind of planet? How do you think it got here?” Tyler frowned at his teammate.
Jamie shrugged and started pulling at the straps to his backpack before dropping it to the ground. “I dunno. I’m just the quality inspector, a ‘glorified park ranger’ according to Assistant Deputy Director Spurgle. So I don’t know nuthin’.”
Tyler sighed and slid his own pack to the ground. “I was being facetious. And don’t forget I’m one of those ‘glorified park rangers’ too. Spurgle’s a dumb-ass.”
“Yeah, he is.” Jamie busied himself with pulling out their tent and all its component parts. “Unfortunately, he’s also our current boss, and we’re gonna have to report this to him. Let’s get camp set up and then we can figure out how the terraforming program created a castle.”
Tyler stood and gazed up at the castle once more. The setting sun behind him cast a golden glow on the walls that seemed to grow up from the base of the mountains. Wait a minute… grow up from the rocks? He turned to Jamie.
“I might have an idea about how the castle got there,” he said.
Jamie looked up at him. “Okay. Dare I ask?”
“Well, look at the castle. It looks like an extension of the rocks at the base of the mountain. What if that’s what it really is? What if the terraforming program somehow misunderstood cliffs, or tectonics, or something like that and instead created a castle?” Tyler asked.
“But the mountains were already here. The terraforming should have just seeded the flora below whatever the tree line is. It wasn’t designed, or shouldn’t have been designed, to create a castle or even cliffs,” Jamie replied.
Tyler shrugged and went back to setting up camp and getting their evening meal together. Obviously, they weren’t going to solve this mystery any time soon. An hour or so later, sipping his tea, Tyler stared up at the dark outline of the castle. Its existence went beyond mere puzzle and straight into “weird mystery” territory.
A light winked on in one of the windows on the tallest tower.
“Uh, Jamie?” Tyler reached out a shaking hand to hit Jamie’s shoulder.
“What?” Jamie looked up from where he was poking the fire. “Oh, shit!”
Tyler immediately doused the fire and scrambled into the tent to get the small weapons they had.
“What the hell do we do now?” he asked, staring up at the lone light.
“We assume whoever, whatever, is in the castle saw the light of our fire and we move the hell away from here now. And we build no fires, no matter how comforting they are, and we call for reinforcements as soon as we move camp,” Jamie answered.
“Right,” Tyler shook himself to clear his head. He pulled his pack out of the tent and started stuffing everything back into it. Jamie did the same and then grabbed the tent and pulled it apart, shoving it into his pack. They completely doused the fire, throwing dirt over it and doing their best to eliminate all signs that they’d been in the small clearing.
“Okay, let’s get out of here,” Tyler said.
The two men walked at an angle that would take them back towards headquarters in the growing settlement currently housing the terraforming teams, but still give them a sight line to the strange castle. Once they were both comfortable with the distance from their original campsite, they stopped.
While Jamie began setting up their second camp, Tyler put in his call to Assistant Deputy Director Spurgle.
“Uh, good evening, sir… Yes, sir. The terraforming was going perfectly. Well, that is until… well, we discovered something interesting…”
This week’s More Odds Than Ends prompt challenge came from Fiona Grey. She gifted me with The terraforming technology was surprisingly perfect, until… and my brain went to a strange place. My prompt went to AC Young. Hop on over to More Odds Than Ends and see what everybody did with their challenges. It’s fun and it’s free!