Ellison’s Fall (Part 1)

I had Ellison on a cold-storage chip in my pocket. He’d fallen back at the ravine.

Could’ve happened to anyone, honestly. Maura’s a planet you don’t mess with. The anomalies still boil across the world’s surface.

One minute you’re rappelling down a cliff-face, and the next you’re leaving an impact crater because the rock you’d anchored to decided that it might not exist anymore.

Object permanence is a horrible thing to take for granted.

The comms still worked, and I’d called it in when it happened. With a skeleton crew, I didn’t get a response for two hours.

“We’ve got a copy of him on file, but take the chip with you.”

Like they had to tell me. It was frontier honor–take the fallen with you. Why lose three days out of infinity when you could lose only two and a half?

If you can.

The dolmen we’d set out to investigate had proven too difficult to approach by air and the company hadn’t bothered to fab up any ground craft. Quicker to go by foot before the claim re-up and see if the world was worth having.

My ocular display painted a streak of light in front of me like some Biblical column of fire. I stopped to align it to the stars every few minutes, just in case the magnetic fields were as untrustworthy as the ground itself.

Something itched in my neck. For a moment, it felt like dust might have made it through my suit.

Only problem: I was running on silicon and steel. No skin, no itch.

Per policy, I should’ve filed a log. Hell, since I was wearing a company piece, they probably could see everything I was seeing and feel everything I was feeling. Or at least they had a contract signed up to do so if they cared.

It could have wait for debrief. Broadcasts in an anomaly field could bring unwanted surprises.

I stopped to use the amplifier. Its probes extended like midnight spires as I held the control orb in my palm. They detached and rose into the air as the device booted up.

Even running synth, I could feel the influence. There was something here. The air around me shimmered, pink-purple arcs lit up the crimson sky.

Then the alert broke me from the rapture. I dropped the amplifier with a start. The sand caught it and fused into glass.

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