“Good evening campers. It’s a balmy 43.2 degrees Celsius, and methane levels are stable. Make sure you’re sealed up and your breathers are clear or you’ll be goin’ home in the back of the cruiser.” Rory squatted near the excavation. “So, what do we got?”
“The probe’s just starting to transmit.” Chrissie adjusted the instrument panel, her voice muted through the environmental suit’s speaker.
Candi moved near the work area.
“We’re at 54.29 meters and descending.” Chrissie toggled a switch on the top of the unit. “And we’ve landed at 58.37.”
Candi clapped her hands.
“First dig, kid?” Rory put his hand on her back.
“Don’t get your hopes up,” he said. “Never any ancient hieroglyphics to interpret down in these holes.”
“Numbers coming in.” Chrissie typed commands on her console. “Temperature 16.7. Atmosphere, methane…” She gazed at her monitor, disbelief flashing in her eyes. “Wait, I…”
“Just give me the readings, Chrissie,” Rory huffed. “And where’s the video?”
“Methane, hydrogen, sulfur hydride all measure trace amounts. This doesn’t make sense,” the young lady muttered. “Nitrogen 76 percent, oxygen 22. I’ll recalibrate.”
“Don’t bother.” He knocked on the face shield of his helmet. “As long as we have our air supply it don’t matter what’s really down there.”
Chrissie typed a series of codes. “It’s definitely a large cavern. Let’s see…” She smacked the side of the unit with her glove covered palm. “And we have video.”
The monitor flickered.
Static filled images flashed across the screen. The three watched with great intent as rock formations and other vague shapes passed.
“It’s all rubble.” Rory stood up. “Let’s pack it up and call it a day.”
“Wait,” Candi blurted. “Did you see that? Pan left, Chrissie.”
The technician manipulated the joy stick.
“There. You see it?” Candi’s excitement could not be contained. “It’s a structure.”
Rory glanced at the picture. “It’s just a cave wall.”
“No, it’s not,” she protested. “It has some kind of symbols on it. We have to go down and check.”
“Oh, come on,” he grumbled. “Let’s just complete the reports and head home.”
“It’s protocol, boss,” Chrissie chimed in. “We go in whenever there’s any doubt.”
“What doubt?” he hissed.
“How ‘bout the atmosphere readings?”
The shuttle rumbled to a stop near the probe. The three workers stepped into the dark, dusty environment.
“Watch the manifolds, they get a little hot.” Rory turned on his helmet light and surveyed the area.
“I’m getting the same readings.” Chrissie tapped the portable sensors. “This air’s breathable.”
“You keep that helmet on,” Rory barked. “C’mon, let’s get this wrapped up.”
“There it is,” Candi shrieked, running across the cavern.
Rory and Chrissie gave chase.
“I knew it.” Candi gestured. “Look.”
The pursuers scuffed to a stop, their mouths agape.
“Look at the beautiful sculptings, the real wood. I’ve only seen pictures.” Candi bounded up to the small building. “This shows there could’ve been life outside the domes.” She stepped inside.
“It don’t show nothin’, kid.” Rory waved his arms in disgust. “It’s just an old dome that was destroyed in the cataclysm.”
“Then how do you explain the air?” Chrissie inquired.
“Don’t have to. No one’s go’na know?” He leaned against the probe. “Anomalies don’t get reported.”
“This is more than just an…” Chrissie’s eyes grew with disbelief. “You alter the reports?” She stepped away, heaving an exasperated sigh. “You don’t want people to know what’s out here.”
“We’re livin’ in a dome that barely supports us as it is.” He paced across the silt-covered ground. “We should be looking for ways to improve our lives now, but all we’re doing is chasing the past.”
“Haven’t you ever wondered where we came from?” Chrissie pleaded. “Dreamed that maybe we could find life outside the domes?”
“There’s nothin’ we need in these dead caves,” Rory snarled.
“They’ll find out, eventually,” she whispered.
“You can’t prove anything.” Rory grabbed her shoulder.
“I have proof.” Candi walked from the structure; she held a book in her trembling hands.
“What’s this?” He grabbed it from her. He flipped through the pages. “It’s all gibberish.” He dropped it.
Candi picked up the book. “It’s the ancient language,” She replied, confidence building in her voice.
Chrissie gazed at the tiny symbols. “It hasn’t been used since...”
“And who’s go’na translate it?” Rory blurted, a smirk plastered on his face.
“I can read it.” Candi opened to the first page. “In the beginning, God…”
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