Warp Riders – Chapter 20

The drips were louder, echoing all over the cavern. She didn’t feel like sitting up and checking, but the Captain thought the water must be meters lower than before. She was probably going to be stuck on this island till high tide again.

That is, unless she was on a particularly climbable island, and the squared off edges of the flat bit did not bode well. Ruins, ruins, everywhere on this damn moon.

“It’s like the whole damn thing is built of these horrible blocks!”

“The what? Oh-” and the Navigatrix was moving.

The Captain could hear her voice, talking to someone outside as the last pieces of disturbed gravel rattled down the cavern. Disturbingly, she didn’t hear them splash.

Caving in to curiosity, she sat up and turned her headlamp back on.

“Oh, shit.”

The water was gone – completely gone from anywhere she could see. And she was indeed resting atop a steep pile of overlarge stone bricks, stacked upon one another haphazardly, stretching hundreds of feet in the air above a sandy, silty floor. In fact, it was one of many.

In fact, it really did look like the only thing holding up a layer of sandy soil and foliage was piles and stacks of these worn out bricks. What the Captain had read as cliff walls were, closer to the bottom of the drained lake, clearly made of the same blocks.

The lake floor was sand and gravel and rubble, except for where the current of the draining water had revealed, underneath, bricks. In fact, it almost looked like the vertical piles were originally evenly spaced, as if this … cavern, had been made intentionally.

Grimacing, the Captain looked up to the ceiling – and mercifully she saw something that looked more like a natural cave. There were mineral deposits dripping down, and thin tendrils that could be roots. If there were ruins involved, they were hidden well.

Scuffling noises returned, the scrabble of gravel as it moved underfoot.


“Just had to secure the rope; heading your way now.”

“No, wait! Tide’s out, it could come back at any moment!”

But the Navigatrix’s headlamp was illuminating the tunnel now, growing brighter. The glare flooded the Captain’s eyes as she made it to the end of the tunnel.

“Lovely to see you, Captain!” Then the beam pointed away, at the rest of the cave, and the Captain could see her, loaded down with climbing harnesses, rolled-up raft, another rope, who knows what else. “Not what I was expecting, I have to admit.”

She started winching herself down the steep cliff side.

“Navigatrix, seriously, it’s going to flood again, just wait.”

“No – huff – I don’t think – hff – – that I’ll bother with waiting.”

She paused to salute the Captain.

The Captain pulled herself closer to the edge of the flat block she was reclining on, to better see as the Navigatrix landed on the cave floor and shook out the cramps from her legs and arms. She immediately bent down to poke at some rubble.

“Hey! No time for research!”

“There’s bones here, Captain.” She pulled out what was visibly a femur, even from a distance. “Human bones.”

“Are you – are you collecting them?”

Muffled, as she was half bent to the floor sifting through sand, the Navigatrix shouted “I promised the Engineer!”

Finally she started walking over the slimy, rubble-strewn terrain, picking her way towards the base of the Captain’s tower of blocks.

The Captain strained her ears desperately to try and catch any hint of water crashing back into the cave. The drips felt like a cacophony.

She looked down, and once again the Navigatrix was bent over something half buried in the sand.

“You are going to get very, very wet if you don’t hurry up!”

“Do you still have your scanner, Captain?”

“What?” The Captain had to pause to check. “No, no it fell first, then me.”

The Navigatrix pulled a rattling pile of rust out of the sand. “Well, I found it.” She tucked it into her pack. “Trust me, you’ll want to see it.”

“Could you please focus?”

“It’s fine, Captain, I’m sure–”

And that’s when the gurgling noise came back, but much louder.

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