Jason Crow

Chapter 11 – The News

“Acquiring signal…” and ten seconds later, the text, “Sending ping…” showed up on the radio’s control screen. This repeated every thirty seconds.

“Just a few more minutes, I guess,” I said to Nadia, who sat next to me.

My eyes roamed to her bare chest every now and then. Even though I saw her boobs almost constantly now, my eyes were still drawn to them every time I thought she wouldn’t notice me looking.

“Takes longer than I thought,” Nadia said.

She had logged on to another system and was browsing around on it. I noticed her going through the schematics of the suits, and on another window, she had some information about the med pods.

“Yeah. Usually, it’s a lot faster.”

“Do you think something’s wrong?” Nadia asked worriedly after a couple of moments.

“I… I honestly don’t know.”

“What if we’re the only humans left?”

“We’re not. And we can always try to contact the Zephyr. There’s still a skeleton crew on it.”

“But we need the main base’s radio to contact them, don’t we?”

“Yes…” I replied softly.

“But what if there’s no-“

“Don’t think like that. We’ll work something out if we have to,” I interrupted her.

“I’m not saying,”

At that moment, the screen showed, “Connection acquired. Securing channels.”

“YES!!” we simultaneously exclaimed.

“Data flow starting. Lemme check the systems,” Nadia said.

I looked over her shoulder and quickly realized it wasn’t good. It took us a while, but it was clear that the reason the connection took so long to start was that our dish had to failover to the tertiary connection. This could only mean the primary and backup radios were offline.

“Do you know why the primary radio is offline,” I asked cautiously after a while.

“Yes. I think I do. Look.”

Nadia opened a 3D model of the main base. The middle part, where the central hall and command center were located, was collapsed. The left part of the base showed some damage but was mostly still intact. The right side, where most of the sleeping and residential chambers were, looked unharmed.

“This is a generated model based on the CPU’s information. Looks like they suffered a catastrophic failure after the quake,” Nadia said softly.

“Well… shit!” I said, feeling bummed out.

“I’m trying to retrieve the logs, but the data is too scrambled. I tried all error corrections there are, but I can’t see anything useful.”

“So… we don’t know if they’re still inside, went into some shelter, or left?”

“No. As far as I can tell, it could be all three of these options.”

I thought about it for a moment. What should we do? What if Mom and Dad were in there? What if they were trapped? And after a moment, the realization hit… what if we were really only the last two people left?

Nadia slouched back into her chair and looked defeated. I felt the same as she looked, but I knew we had to move forward. Try to find out what happened and act on that.

I cleared my throat and said, “We need to go over there and check it out.”

“I know,” Nadia sighed, “but what if…”

“We don’t know anything,” I interrupted her, “and besides… not knowing is even worse than knowing what happened. Even when… well, you know…”

“You’re right. I know you’re right! But I wasn’t expecting anything this bad. And seeing the simulation about the base makes me… sad, I guess.”

I moved over to give Nadia a firm hug, which she eagerly returned. As I gently tried to break it after a short while, she pulled me close and hugged me even tighter.

“We’ll work it out. I promise!” I whispered in her ear.

“I know. And I’m glad you’re with me. I wouldn’t know what to do without you,” Nadia said as we broke the hug.

“All right! First things first. How do we get there?” I asked and looked at the monitors. 

“Good question,” she said.

Nadia looked thoughtfully at me. She turned her chair and faced her computer. She typed frantically, scrolled around, and nodded a few times. I felt useless but knew this was precisely what Nadia was good at, so I let her do her thing.

After a while, she said, “I think we’ve got three options. First, the rover. But we need to take that long detour because of…”

“I know…”

“Second, now that the coms are back, we can also use the low-altitude cruiser.”

“Good one! Didn’t think of that!” I said, “We can’t fly it, but it can fly on its own with the beaconing system back online.”

“Right. It’ll be quick, but we’d also need to recharge that old equipment for almost an entire day. But, I don’t think either the rover or the cruiser are our best options. We won’t know what we’ll find, so we need to be able to return here if needed.”

“Don’t we have enough daylight for a return trip in the rover?”

“It’ll be tight. And that’s without the time we need to check the main base.”

“Hmm. And the third option?”

“I saw a couple of dirtbikes in the garage. Those are fast, so we don’t need the detour, and we can go back and forth twice on a single charge. We just can’t take any big parts with us. We’ve only got our backpacks and the small storage compartments for the stuff we wanna take with us.”

I was genuinely impressed. This was a great idea! But then a thought struck. I couldn’t drive a dirt bike with my hands still in the braces.

Nadia must have seen my reaction because she said, “You can ride with me. Or…”

“Or what?”

“Those purple lights? I checked what they mean.”


“Yeah. According to this,” she said and opened up a window on her computer to show me, “it’s the final stage of recovery. The active reconstruction of the nerves and bones is completed, and now it’s just a precaution to stop your fingers from moving.”

“Why? If it’s cured, it’s cured, right?”

“There are known cases where patients lost the feeling in their hand. If that happens, it means an invasive surgery and at least six weeks of recovery. So that’s why those braces are on the safe side by default.”

“Well… shit!” I said.

“We can take off the braces. It’s just… a bit of a risk.”

How big is that risk?” I asked, feeling apprehensive about it. But the idea of regaining the use of my fingers was very appealing.

“A little less than five percent.”

I let this sink in for a moment. Five percent is pretty high. One in every twenty people. But this would make our trip a lot easier.

“I think it’s a risk worth taking, don’t you think?” I said.

“They’re your hands. So, I’ll leave it up to you, but it makes the trip to the main base a lot easier. And we managed just fine in here without the use of your hands, so I think we can also last six weeks if we have to.”

“I think we should take them off tomorrow before we head out. And you’re right. We did manage in here because of you.”

“Because of us,” Nadia said sternly, with an emphasis on ‘us’. And a moment later, she blushed and said, “But I DID like some things about helping you…”

“Yeah… me too. But that doesn’t have to stop,” I said, smiling broadly.


We talked about our plans for tomorrow. In the morning, my braces would come off, and we’d grab the two backpacks we were going to prepare this evening. Nadia had already checked the status of the bikes from her computer, and five of them were fully charged, so there was no problem there.

We’d head out early so we could use most of the available daylight. Our goal was to enter the main base through the emergency exit at the back of the compound. This exit/entrance was located in the section where the living quarters were. We’d have the best chance to enter the base there and see if the quarters were occupied.

After we made our plans, I helped Nadia with the backpacks. Although helping is kind of a stretch. I pointed out things she could put in there. We also prepared the suits for tomorrow and made sure everything was in working order.

As we entered the bedroom, Nadia went to the toilet. I crawled into bed, unsure what we’d do next. I really liked what we did so far and wanted nothing more than to do sexy stuff with my sister. But I just wasn’t in the mood at the moment. The tension about the trip and what we’d find tomorrow was at the top of my mind. Doing sexy stuff simply wasn’t.

Nadia looked all serious as she came out of the bathroom. Checking out her naked body never got old, and since Nadia didn’t seem to mind, I let my eyes roam. They went from her small boobs, over her tight belly, down to her small patch of pubes above her lovely slit, and ended up on her sweet ass as she lifted the covers to get in.

She immediately cuddled up to me, and as I was thinking about how I’d probably still join her with the sexy stuff if she’d started it, Nadia cleared her throat.

“Let’s just cuddle, okay?” she asked softly.


“I’m scared, Ay”, she said after a few minutes of silence.

“Me too. But as long as we’re together, I know we’ll be fine!”

“That sounds corny…” Nadia chuckled.

I also chuckled and had to admit it sounded really corny indeed. Nadia moved her hand down and cupped my balls.

“I just wanna hold you. Do you mind?”

“Of course not. Feels nice.”

She relaxed her hand and arm, and it was clear she had settled in for the night. I liked how her hand on my balls felt. And despite her thumb on the base of my dick and hand cupping my balls, I didn’t bone up. It was just an extremely lovely way to cuddle like this.

“I hope I can sleep,” Nadia softly said.

I just nodded and let tomorrow’s plans pass through my head again to make sure we weren’t overlooking something. After a couple of minutes, I heard Nadia’s breathing deepen and smiled inwardly.

“Ready?” Nadia asked as her hand hovered over the med pod’s computer panel.

I nodded and looked at my braces. A second later, a loud beep sounded, and the lights turned green. I felt a slight tingle in my wrists, and the braces opened. Nadia took them and laid them inside the med pod.

I tried wiggling my fingers and was glad to see them move. It didn’t hurt at all, and when Nadia brushed her fingers over the back of my hand, I felt them move.

“That’s some good news. According to that article I read, you’re not out of the woods yet. The numbness can still happen, but this is definitely a good start.”

“Bisque! Let’s grab the backpacks and head downstairs,” I said.

In the central control room, Nadia set the base to hibernation mode. This way, we could always return, and the base would continue to operate. After everything checked out, we grabbed the backpacks.

“It’ll be weird wearing clothes again,” I said as we approached the inner airlock.

“Yeah… but at least now I won’t be hypnotized all the time by your swaying dick anymore,” Nadia chuckled.

We both laughed at that and entered the first airlock. After we suited up and went through the second airlock, we headed over to the bikes. The bikes were about six feet long and about three feet high.

They weren’t anything like the vintage dirtbikes we saw in the movies. These wheels were smaller, and the tires were a lot bigger. They had the same tractor-like look as the tires on the rover and were as high as my hip. With the ten-inch width, they had loads of grip on rough terrain.

Under the big seat of the bike, there was a storage compartment. We placed the backpacks in there. We also checked the spare oxygen tanks, and after each of them hissed loudly after we opened the valves, we knew we were ready to go.

I mounted my bike, and the front and back wheels moved toward each other. The whole motorcycle rose higher, and my feet were now about two feet from the ground. This way, we had both excellent suspension and enough clearance to drive over almost every piece of terrain.

I rotated the throttle at the handlebars and drove toward the control panel of the garage door. I glanced over at Nadia, and she simply nodded. I pressed the button, and the door opened.

“Coms check.”

“Coms okay,” Nadia replied, “I’ll be right behind you.”

The rain wasn’t that heavy today, and the ground wasn’t muddy at all, so we made good progress. The AR navigation system in my helmet projected the ideal path to drive, and we were at our crash site in no time.

I glanced at the rock that killed our brother and was glad there were no signs of his body. The confrontation of his accident was bad enough as it was. But I didn’t want to dwell on it, so I drove toward the small opening between the canyon wall and the massive boulder in the middle of the road. It was a tight fit, but we could pass through it with our bikes without any significant problems.

“You okay?” I asked after we both passed through.

“Yeah. But it’s… you know?”

Yeah. But… we… you know, need to keep going. So, let’s roll.”

The electric engines hummed softly as we pulled away. As we drove through the canyon, the only signs that we were here before were the lights beside the road. The rain had washed away all other evidence. We had to drive around a couple more fallen rocks, but other than that, the trip through the canyon was uneventful.

After we had left the canyon behind us, it was smooth sailing toward the main base. No more fallen rocks or rugged terrain. Nadia pulled up next to me, and we drove next to each other for a while.

“If I wasn’t this worried about Mom and Dad, I’d say it’s a beautiful planet,” Nadia said.

“It sure is.”

We approached the top of a small hill, and I knew we had to be close to the base by now. But when I saw it appear in the distance, I was shocked by how it looked.

It was still a bit too far away to see much detail, but what I could see from here was that the 3D model was pretty accurate about the damage.

“Oh wow,” Nadia said as she stopped next to me.

We stood there for a couple of minutes, and I felt an incredible urge to check out the damage. Maybe there were still people inside!

“Come on,” I said, turning the gas handle fully open with rocks shooting away from under my tires.

As we came closer, I felt my stomach tighten. This was bad. The middle part of the base had collapsed completely, and the part where the labs and workshops were located was also damaged. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the central hub, but still.

“At least the airlock is still functional,” I said as I stepped off my bike and assessed the damage to the structure of the living quarters.

I looked at my sister as she grabbed her backpack. The look on her face showed it all. She was just as scared as I was, but I knew I couldn’t show it. I needed to be strong, but this wasn’t easy. I was so worried about what we’d find in there that I almost shitted myself.

“Grab the oxygen tank. We need to wear our masks inside, just to be safe.”

Nadia didn’t say anything but grabbed her stuff and stood next to me. After I grabbed my backpack and oxygen tank, we headed to the airlock.

“See you on the other side,” Nadia said and entered the airlock first.

As I entered the changing room, a hatch opened, and a bot appeared. It drove to the center of the room. Once there, it opened, and the clothes I took off when we left hung inside that bot.

A couple of minutes later, we stood, fully dressed in our own clothes, inside the living part of the main base. We both were wearing our oxygen masks, just to be sure.

This part of the base didn’t look too damaged. There wasn’t an alarm sounding, the ceiling hadn’t collapsed, no loud hisses of venting steam pipes, nothing like you’d see in the movies. There was just an eerie quietness around us.

Usually, people were walking and talking in this part of the building. But now, it was just the two of us.

“HELLO!?” I shouted, followed by an even louder, “ANYONE IN HERE?!”

We both yelled a couple of times, but after no one reacted, we stopped shouting and focused on other things. Nadia checked a control panel on the wall. After a few moments, she said, “The air seems okay, and there are no signs of a breach anywhere.”

“That must mean the automatic inner seals did their job. Let’s see if there’s a way left to go to the central control room.”

We both enabled our internal nav system. I was notified immediately that there wasn’t a standard route to that destination, and a loud, annoying beep sounded in my ear. But Nadia kept fiddling, and after a couple of moments, she said, “There might be a way, but I’m not sure if it’s still there.”

“Just lead the way, and we’ll see.”

We walked through parts of the base I’d never been to before. But eventually, we rounded a corner and had to stop at a glass door. Through the door, we saw the devastation of the central part of the base. The entire primary structure was gone.

The central hub where we had our first briefing, the command module, the garage, storage… everything was gone!

“This is bad…” I said softly.

“Do you think Dad was in the command center when it… happened?”

“Dunno. Let’s check their room. Maybe we’ll find something there. There’s nothing left on this side anyway.”

I entered my parent’s room as a destination in my nav, and before we knew it, we were standing in front of their door. I hesitated momentarily but eventually swiped my wrist over the lock pad. After a soft beep, the door slid open, and I walked in. Nadia decided to wait in the hallway, and I couldn’t blame her. We had no idea what to expect here. But as I looked around, nothing was shocking in there, so I called that she could come in.

She quickly looked around and whispered, “They’re gone…”

I didn’t want to hear this. Our parents wouldn’t abandon us. So, with a bit of fire in my voice, I said, “No, they’re not! They’re probably hiding-“

She interrupted me and pointed at the closet, “Their clothes are gone.”

Damnit! She was right! The closet door was open, and I could see the empty shelves. Why did they leave? What happened here? That’s when I noticed the holo cube on the main table. The small, blinking green light got my attention.

“Someone left a message,” I said as I hovered my finger above the small cube.

“Well?” Nadia said with an anxious look on her face.

I pressed the cube, and after it scanned my fingertips, it buzzed. In front of the table, a holographic image of our mom appeared. In the background, we could hear Dad say, “Okay, go!”

She nodded and looked directly at the cube, something we’ve told her dozens of times not to do and pretend people are standing around you. Mom never seemed to learn, and I felt stupid for thinking about something this unimportant at this moment.

“Aidan? Nadia? I know you’re still alive, and I just know you’ll see this! Listen very carefully because we don’t have much time to explain.”

Mom sniffed and blew her nose. She cleared her throat, looked at her feet, and was clearly trying to keep her act together. She was shifting her weight from left to right, took a deep breath, and continued.

“We constantly kept an eye on your sensors from here. I wanted to make sure that everything went well, so we had a monitor session open in here… Right before we got the quake announcement, Ethan’s sensors went offline. And that’s when the quake hit us. Thank God your father was in here with me when the quake hit. Otherwise, he’d also be…” Mom stopped talking, and we heard her choke up.

“Take a breath, Hon,” we heard Dad say.

Mom sighed deeply again and continued, “After the quake, there was a blind panic in here. Your father and I had to keep checking the monitors and sensors ourselves from the control panel in our room. When the monitor had power again, we noticed your sensors and the rover were offline. It was hard to reach people who knew all about these sensors, but we were told your rover must’ve been crushed or something. So, I called the technician who had talked to…”

“Uhm… a little faster, Hon,” Dad said in the background.

“Yes. Long story short… the Zephyr pointed a camera at your site, and it turned out to be a video feed that showed us almost nothing. Your last known location was empty but littered with big rocks and boulders. There was also a recording from that same camera that showed Ethan when he… But when the quake happened, that camera was pointed to the main base. After we rechecked your site, we couldn’t find the rover anywhere, and everyone assumed you were crushed. And that you were also…”

Another sniff and another deep breath. She focused on the cube and said, “But I just know you’re alive! I can feel it!!! And now…”

She started crying, and Dad walked into the picture. He put an arm around her shoulders and looked thoughtfully at us.

“Guys… we need to warn you. There’s no easy way to say this. The quake wasn’t even the worst thing that happened. When you see this, we’re going to the Zephyr because…” he sighed deeply, “because there’s a huge meteor coming our way.”

I looked at Nadia, and the stunned expression on her face matched my feelings of disbelief.

“This meteor,” Dad continued, “was spotted about ten minutes before the quake hit us. It is one of the planet-killing types. Even bigger than the one that killed the dinosaurs on Earth. We don’t know for sure if it’ll hit us because we don’t have all the necessary equipment to measure it precisely. But trust me, it’ll be close.”

“Holy moly,” I whispered.

Nadia walked over and put her arms around me. She pressed herself against me, and I heard her sniff. But the hologram kept talking.

“I promise we’ll keep scanning the planet to see if we can find you, but the Zephyr only has limited equipment for this. But please! When you see this, head down to the shelter in basement eight. It’s designed to withstand almost everything. If there’s any-“

Loud sirens and flashing lights started in the background. Dad looked at the cube and said, “We have to go now. PLEASE! Go to that basement! We WILL find you. I promise!”

A couple of guys appeared in the background and grabbed Mom. “We love you!” she shouted and was taken out of the room.

“Stay safe! I’m the commander, and I promise I’ll do everything I can to…” he looked up at the man and held up one finger of his hand. The man nodded, and Dad said, “Go to the basement! We love you!”

And with that, the holograms disappeared, and we were alone again. Nadia turned her body to hug me tightly, and she started crying. I comforted her but felt a wave of panic and hopelessness wash over me. What should we do?

After a couple of moments, Nadia stopped crying and looked at me. Her eyes were swollen, and her cheeks were wet. But I felt such a deep, intense love for my sister at that moment I knew I would do anything to protect her. We needed to seek shelter, and we needed to know how much time we had. And on top of that, we needed to let our parents know we were here.

“Mom and Dad are alive. At least that’s some good news, right?” Nadia smiled weakly.

I chuckled at that. This was precisely what I liked so much about her. She always tried to see the positive side of things.

“Yes. But they’re about three hundred miles above us. We need to let them know we’re here. And we need to know how much time we have until that meteor crashes.”

“But the control center is gone.”

“I know. And that’s a big problem because the primary and secondary antenna arrays are also gone.”

We sat down at the table, each lost in our thoughts. I tried hard to think of a way out of this. If the Zephyr had their cameras pointed to the base and was at the right place in orbit, they may have seen us going in. But what if the camera was pointed toward the Meteor? Or at some other big problem? And what if the orbit they were currently in meant that they could only see us every six hours or so? Then they’d definitely missed us. No. We needed to contact the Zephyr. That was our top priority. Finding out the time we had until impact was second.

“Do you think we can contact the Zephyr from here?” I asked Nadia.

“Dunno. The tertiary antenna rig is designed for on-planet communications only. The other antennas are gone.”

“And we don’t have the command center anymore, so there is no way to control the antenna…” I added, feeling defeated.

“We’d better head to the basement. Nothing we can do here,” Nadia said as she got up.

“Guess you’re right.”

End of chapter 11

Copyright 2024 – Jason Crow
All rights reserved

Mors proxima est. remanebunt?

Back to story page