Retreat: Part 2

I don’t think that the colonists had ever seen a puppy before—not a “tiger terrier” puppy anyway. Maybe the adults didn’t bring them along and maybe it didn’t occur to them that the twenty or thirty-pound dog following us could possibly be related to the twelve-foot tall predators that lurked outside their fence.

The upshot of all this is that when the floating platforms came to take us all away, the dog was no problem. Even shoved into the corner of a platform with us and our luggage, it was friendly to the two families riding with us.

One of the kids, a blond-haired five-year-old boy asked, “What’s his name?” as the dog sniffed his hand.

Jaclyn ran her hand through the curly fur on the puppy’s back. “I’ve been calling him ‘Tiger’ after an animal on my world that also has stripes.”

I hadn’t noticed it before, but there were subtle stripes in its grayish-brown fur. They were only slightly darker than the fur around them and the curly fur made them jagged. They might look more tiger-like if he was shaved.

The platform floated through the air in the dark. Only my glasses allowed me to see where we were going. We were going up the hill that the colony had been built on, but not in the direction that I’d gone while walking with Kals. We went parallel to the shore of the ocean instead of away from it. After a few minutes of riding, we reached a hole in the rocky cliff that we were riding on.

“Hey Kals, what’s that?” Leaning her back on a pile of luggage, Cassie twisted her hand to point at the hole with her thumb.

Kals leaned against her own luggage. “That’s where we’re going to hide.”

We knew she had to be right because all the floating platforms ahead of us were disappearing into the hole.

“No shit.” Cassie straightened her back. “Where’d it come from? Did you people dig it?”

Kals shook her head. “It was here before we were. These tunnels are all over the coast. We think an animal dug them, but we haven’t seen one.”

I turned back to look at her. “Wait, how long have you known about these tunnels? Are you sure they’re unoccupied?”

Kals stared at me. “We’re not stupid. We’ve known about them since the beginning of the colony. They’re up and down the coast for hundreds of miles, maybe thousands. We think it predates the Abominators terraforming the world. A lot of creatures use the tunnels now, but we haven’t seen anything that can dig them.”

Our platform followed the other platforms inside and deeper into the rock. The walls were ribbed, narrowing a little and then widening a little, staying roughly the same width. It was as if whatever had created them had bunched up and then expanded, bunching up and then expanding again and repeating it as many times as necessary.

I wasn’t sure what could make tunnels like that. The only thing that came to mind was the sandworms from the book Dune, but even those had trouble with solid rock from what I remembered.

Kals reached out to pet Tiger and scratch under his chin. The dog growled at her when she stopped. “We’ve used force fields to set apart a space where we can live. It’s not bad as giant caves go.”

“You know what this place needs?” Marcus told Tikki.

Sitting next to him, Tikki turned to meet his eyes. “What?”

“A railway and mining carts.” He stopped.

Katuk turned to look at Marcus. “Why would that be an improvement over these floating platforms?”

I leaned toward Katuk. “It wouldn’t be an improvement. He’s saying that because many pieces of popular entertainment included mining carts and a railway. He’s wondering what it would be like  to try it in real life as opposed to watching it.”

Katuk’s big, black eyes pointed both at Marcus and me. “That seems like an inefficient mode of transportation.”

Marcus nodded. “Yeah, but that’s not why I’d want to try it.”

We were saved from finding out how Katuk would respond to that by the platform floating into a new room. This one appeared to have been carved out of the rock just like the tunnels, but unlike the tunnels, it was shaped like a circle. It was big, big enough that I felt comfortable with the idea of thousands of people living inside it.

And it was good that I felt that way because thousands of people were there whether I wanted that to be true or not. The egg-shaped buildings I’d seen on the surface had been used here as well, some of them fatter, some thinner, all of them in clusters and all of them reaching from the floor to the top of the room’s ceiling. Artificial lights lit the streets and the windows.

The glow of force fields blocked the cave’s exits.

I turned to Kals. “I never imagined you’d have something this big and… developed.”

She shrugged. “We’ve been expecting to have to hide for years.”

6 thoughts on “Retreat: Part 2”

Leave a Reply