• Cal in the Dark

    Ready or not I punched the hand-sized button at the side of the outer door and it slid open. The hurricane of dust hit me. The winds had died down, which only meant you could now stand up in them. I could see about fifty feet in any direction. That was it. The screech of the wind had died to a howl, but it was ever present, making me long for silence.

    Dad and my brother piled some ropes and climbing gear onto the six wheeled rover. I pulled the door open on the passenger side of the cab and climbed in. The howl reduced to a moan. I took off the goggles but left the filter in place. You didn’t screw around with the dust.

    Soon we were bouncing along the ground. In the rear facing cameras the dust flew everywhere, blotting out where we’d been as if the world was being destroyed right behind us.

    We rode not saying a word to each other. My mind replayed the last time we made this trip. The Bandsaw Bitch, the fear of Dad dying, the heavy responsibility of his life dependent on what we did or didn’t do. My eyes stayed glued to the infrared and radar camera feeds on the dash which pierced the dust, showing the way ahead past what we could see through the windshield. I wasn’t looking for obstacles, I was looking for anything that might swoop down out of that maelstrom to try and eat us.

    But for all of my anxiety, nothing came at us. As the sky became ever darker, we eventually reached the base of the cliffs at the edge of the valley. The only light came from the intense lamps of the rover, and the flashlights mounted on our headgear. Like ancient coalminers we were about to go into the permanent gloom of the cold edge where the sun had never been seen.

  • The Dust of Tee

    After breakfast I brooded about going out to the Edge. The cold edge was the worst. If I had my choice I’d go to the edge on the sun-side of the terminator. It was hotter than hell, but as a rule the critters were fewer and less dangerous there. And if you had to go into an extreme environment, at least you would get to see the sun fully above the horizon. You know, like real people get to see it back on earth and the planets that don’t suck. But this is where the Immigration department sent us, where there was a critical need, as they said. I was still trying to figure out how we were helping conquer this planet, when every day it seemed like it was wiping us out just a piece at a time.

    I couldn’t procrastinate any more, and started to put my gear together. The wind suit, a one piece, practically bullet proof smart fiber that sucked tight onto you at a press of a button. Once activated it was like a second skin, powered by a battery and thermally regulated by a system of tiny microscopic tubes that webbed through the suit, just like blood vessels. You could stay warm or cool, withstand incredible amounts of wind force, and it was tough as iron. You could slide down razor sharp shale rocks and never feel it. That being said, a Bandsaw Bitch had once sliced right through Dad’s suit like it was butter.

    I had the suit on, and made my way to the door. It was actually an air lock. Here in the Ring the dust was everywhere. The door on the farmhouse was actually two doors with a negatively charged mudroom between them. When you came in, dust detached from you and was sucked into the vacum vents. I placed the goggles on over my eyes and set the breathing filter over my mouth and nose. If you didn’t wear a filter in the Ring, you’d be coughing up bits of your lungs in less than a day when the incredibly sharp bits of dust embedded slowly into them like tiny fishhooks.