Morning broke as a red haze above the planet. Mixie watched the local star split the horizon and light the ever-present dust clouds. Her quick calculation told her that days here would be longer than Earth standard, but not so much as to completely goof up her sense of time. Morning was still morning and noon was still fast approaching. They burned this crimson daylight at their peril. Night on this planet rivaled space for darkness.
As she scanned the motley landscape for any sign of threats or pitfalls, Pez plodded past her carrying a parasol. Despite herself, Mixie grinned at her companion. “You know, Pez, you really didn’t need to come out with me. This could be dangerous.”
“Well, I couldn’t let you roam out here by yourself! I’m both touched by your concern and unconcerned about my wellbeing. And even if I was, I wouldn’t be. … Concerned that is. Sorry if that’s a bit of a tangle.” Pez waved and stared into the distance.
“No, I get it. And that is…”
“Because I am the selfless embodiment of love.”
Mixie pointed at Pez. “Yeah, gotcha. That’s how you roll. Ship should be over that way, I think.”
“Yes, good. Dead reckoning and all that.” Pez looked over at Mixie as they walked side by side. “You know, there is the not insignificant matter of your not giving yourself adequate time to heal from your injuries. I can’t believe you didn’t tell me right away how hurt you were.”
Mixie shrugged. “Didn’t really know until I took off the suit. Got hit in the thigh and the hip. Didn’t really want you gawking.”
“How…“ Pez shook with the effort of finding the word. “…Puritanical! Really! And here I thought you were this practical soldier and all and you couldn’t let someone help you with your wounds without being all shy. Be glad that silliness didn’t kill you. There are still infectious organisms on this planet that I highly doubt you’ve had your shots for.”
Rolling her eyes, Mixie said, “Yes mother.”
“I am not your mother.” Pez smirked. “If I were, you’d still be convalescing not hopping about the dunes after only a few days.”
“Yeah but… I thought you said that the geckos were a top predator here.”
“Predator yes, but a rockslide or a cave-in or a bad storm will make you just as dead.”
Mixie pressed her side. “I’m fine. I’m as mobile as I ever am, even if I’m not happy about it.”
They pressed on in silence, passing the edge of the plains and the strange rock columns. The frozen bodies of the robos could be seen already being steadily eroded and covered by the sticky red dust and the corrosive white sand. Past the pillars lay the shallow canyons and broken landscape in which she took refuge immediately following the crash. Compared to that time of hiding from cover to cover, they made excellent time.
They came to a box at the end of one of the canyons and decided to climb up the dozen-odd meters to higher ground. Mixie learned two things upon standing on this strange plateau. One is that it was noon. The other was that she was not the only thing the Robos had troubled on this planet.
“Well, there she is. Fuck!” She dropped her binoculars. “I sorta figured the robos would mess with the old girl, but this…”
“Is not entirely space-worthy,” Pez finished for her. The ship was still a good way off but it was obviously partially disassembled.
Mixie shook her head. “To say the least. Fucking Flange!”
For a moment the two just stood, surveying the damage from afar, and then Pez used the folded parasol as a cane and precariously started across the precarious landscape to the ship.
“Come on, bitching will not help. You may as well see exactly how bad it is.”
“Is that some sort of love thing?”
Pez smiled up at her as she continued to pout. “I believe you’d call it tough love, but not really. I just understand that if you didn’t work on the ship you’d be simply miserable company. Intolerable!”
[Author’s note: I had a “great idea” for a piece that went before this one that, upon reflection, sucked with the power of a supermassive black hole. Sorry it broke the string of posts for the people following this in real time.
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