We idled within that chamber, staring at our corpses.

Dried up husks of our friends, our comrades.

How long had they been here? The suits were fried. Only the deathrats would reveal what happened to them.

I gripped the green, almost emerald, cube and stood still.

The other man was speaking to himself in short, muttered phrases as he cataloged everything we could find of that crew to send as ping data back to the ship. There was too much mass between us and the ship for normal communication.

This was not the first time this body had been in the presence of a dead xeno civilization.

It was the first time he had seen himself dead.

It was the first time he had seen… whatever that swarming mass was before he closed his eyes. It was new to me as well.

[Something… protected us…]

My body had sent a brief message minutes ago.

Recovered signal. Dead xeno? Anomaly? Tags recovered.

A triple ping had come from the ship. Automated confirmation of data received.

The other man rested against one of the many pillars. Red and tan dust had settled all over his gear. His suit was giving him a steady stream of chems. One which acts on the cells of the sinoatrial node to keep his heart rate lower. Even with it, I could see into him. His chest was pounding. My visor showed his vitals as well, but only as data.

I rested next to another one pillar which towered above, into shadowy space, too hazy to see. I sat in that dark place. Waiting for a message.

The air was quiet.

The many containers left by the other crew were not only of tools, but also of living supplies. There was enough concentrated nutrients and calories to last us two for years. For one of us, at least ten years.

[It didn’t make a sound. Not until… hot metal scorching…]

I looked over the recordings my gear took. Video showed my passage through the dug out doorway. Our encounter with the bodies. For a moment, there was something in the distance. There was a rumble that shook everything around us. Violent feelings. Dread. But we didn’t die.

The instruments lost the ability to collect anything useful. When I saw that thing, the recordings all went to heavy noise.

Thick static caused by… some kind of energy… radiation.

Energy outside of causality.

[Was it even real?]

[But if it was… there could be more…]

“Hey.” I said over the radio. “It’s taking a while to get a reply. Shouldn’t we go back?”

“… Yeah.” The other man replied. His voice was tired, rough, strained. “Give me a minute.” The beat of his heart did not calm. “If there’s another one… I’ll shoot it this time.”

The other man carried the deathrats, and I carried the cube. We left the rest for later if later would ever come.

Data pings came from the ship, but only in automated ways. What was the crew doing? The telemetry was also strange. As if the signal was being reflected.

We walked through ancient halls and up twisting tunnels which led up to the opening of this place. A doorway within a cave. The cave gave access to only to a body of water below it.

When we came to this world we were shocked to discover a distress ping with a signature within the range of what we would use. In fact, according to the rules of step based pseudo randomness, it was going to be a signature we would have used at some point. The unlikelihood of such a signal, let alone a signature collision, made it irresistible for investigation to those who gave us command.

[Shouldn’t this be where?]

It had been many hours of walking on an upward decline, climbing over old stone, some smooth, some rough, some sharp. I inspected the breadcrumbs of our journey displayed on my visor.

This place should be where we began our descent into the depths below. Yet we were at a dead end of freshly fallen rock and debris. The soil here was heavy with wet, as if an enormous wave of water from the cavern had been made to rush within the entrance.

“Collapsed.” The other man said. “Signal with ship is weak, but it’s still there.”

“It was stronger before. Did it move? Why aren’t the others responding?” I said. I could feel the anxiety within me quake.

“Hmm.” The other man touched the crushed stone and scanned into it. “It’s deep. Must have been a cave-in. Don’t know if those digging tools would be any use.”

I could feel something pulling at me. Tugging at my soul. A heat was growing.

As Above So Below!

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