The approaching horizon was crimson from sand whipping in the windstorm. Petra hit the button to the hoodlocks for the ports. Mechanical gears engaged and the steel doors began to close. Caden watched the dust blot out the sun as the doors sealed.
The leading edge of the storm was nearly upon them. Winds buffeted the pod. Caden worried. The destruction of Galor’s pod in the last storm plagued him. Galor’s body was boneless as a ragdoll.
“Caden!” Petra called from the galley. “Strap in. Damned thing’s about to hit hard.” She was never wrong. He slid into the chair. Wrapped in the webbing, he clicked the buckles shut. Petra moved so quickly to web in, he stared.
The wall of wind and sand slammed into the pod. The structure shook and swiveled on gyrogears. “Don’t fight it. Breathe and relax. Don’t want you too sore to be useful when it’s done.” Her voice was tight. He tried to relax. A glance at her white knuckles didn’t help.
The lights went out. Petra cursed. The generators’ shields failed. A gust twisted the pod hard. A grinding whine shuddered through it. Snapped forward and slammed back, Caden’s muscles screamed. Galor wasn’t strapped in when they found his body. Caden stayed put.
“Almost past now, we’re through the worst of it.” He didn’t hear her unbuckling, though. She was probably just trying to make him feel better. Didn’t work. It made it worse. It wouldn’t be so bad except for the darkness. Couldn’t see his hand, much less Petra’s face.
“Lot of work to do, Caden,” she continued. “Grab lanterns, open the hoodlocks. Lots of sand against the hatch. Might have to wait for folks to dig it out.” He’d done it for others enough. Part of the deuteroxide farmer’s lot.
“Get help with the gennies. They’re covered with sand. If they don’t start, check the air intake and try again. They’ll hold up for years yet.” The pod was settling down. So was he. Why was she telling him about the gennies? She always took care of them.
“Then look to the gyrogears. They took a beating and one is off-track. Get Kennard’s help fixing it and it’ll be fine. Got all that?”
“Yeah, smooth. We’ll get out, get the gennies back up and fix the gyrogears.” The wind died down. The pod hardly moved.
“Good, Caden. Now get those lanterns.”
He felt his way, limping in the darkness. The lanterns flickered on. The hoodlocks opened the ports. Light filtered in. The hatch gears ground. Too much sand, like Petra said.
He carried a lantern to the galley. She’d have rations ready. His eyes narrowed. She was still webbed in. “Petra?” He dropped the lantern. Her head was at an awkward angle. Eyes open, unseeing. Dead as Galor.
“I’ll stay with you as long as I can, Caden. Kennard’s got a crew digging you out. Grab some kaff and get ready.”
© 2010 Jessica Rosen