“It’s our destiny, Gilead. And our duty. It’s what we’re meant to do.” My sister, Ilea, tugs at my sleeve for my attention. I know she’s right, but it’s still difficult to watch the others prepare to leave us.
Our shipmates are moving on. Our race can’t survive on this plateau and no one is coming to rescue us. A vote was taken. This world is as good a place as any to settle, they believe, if a more hospitable location can be found before the rains come.
Ilea and I won’t leave the crash site. Our SARGE is still here, damaged and immovable. We need to guard the remains of our ship, we need to try and get word of our plight offworld … somehow. If we’re to have any hope of making contact with our parents so they can find us, we must do this. Ilea has a strange way about her. She speaks to our gods. So we know what we must do. We need to construct a mobile platform to move SARGE to shelter in the caves nearby. Then when we’re protected, we can work to restore the emergency signal.
I start at the sound of footsteps beside us. Ilea’s childhood friend, Luciel has broken away from the others. “Won’t you reconsider?” She faces Ilea but her words are meant for me. I’m the oldest. If I tell Ilea we must go, she will do as I say. Ilea shakes her head sadly.
“I’ll miss you. Be safe.” Tears well in Luciel’s eyes, and in Ilea’s. Luciel gathers her friend in a brief embrace and then turns and races away.
“Be well,” I murmur, knowing she won’t hear me.
We watch the others set off for an unknown future. They move as one, a single breathing entity. They draw farther and farther away, towards the horizon. And then we can see them no more. We continue our work on the mobile platform in peace. I begin to harbor doubts, but Ilea encourages me with her innocent smile.
It is near sunset on the seventh night since our comrades left. The light is dim so I reach for the switch to illuminate our temporary workstation. As the lamps flicker on, there’s a loud crack overhead. A jagged fork of lightning flares against the dark velvet sky. I gasp, and Ilea jumps back. The temperature has dropped suddenly and the skies are gray and angry.
“Is it …?” my sister leaves the words unspoken.
I nod. “The storms have come early. We must get to shelter.” I reach for her hand.
Our SARGE lies inert on the ground. There is nothing we can do. The platform isn’t ready.
“Here!” I snatch up all the blankets and tarpaulins I can find strewn about the worksite, which isn’t many. The others didn’t leave much for us, and we have already moved all we could manage into the cave. I throw a handful of the covers to Ilea, “Do the best you can.”
We work hastily to shield the SARGE from the elements as the thunder rolls closer. The lightning is brighter than our lamps. Raindrops pummel us, bruising our limbs and soaking us to the skin. I grab Ilea’s hand and drag her to the cave where we take up a position just inside the opening. We are as protected as possible while still maintaining a lookout.
The storm is unremitting. It batters our lamps until they lie shattered and broken on the ground. Then a streak of lightning pierces the heart of our worksite and hits the SARGE full force. The protective covers spark and crackle. An explosion rocks the ground. Charred remains of our work scatter in all directions.
“Gods!” Ilea begs, covering her eyes. She crumples against my chest, her body wracked with sobs. I hold her tight, trying in vain to quell the shivering in my own limbs. Ilea is muttering something to herself that sounds like, “I don’t understand. It was our destiny.”
In the morning I awake to a cramping sensation in my side. We have fallen asleep in each other’s arms. The weight of Ilea’s body is pressing me into the jagged wall of the cave. Overnight, her sobs have been replaced by exhausted snores, her hands clutching the folds of my shirt. Prying her limbs free as gently as I’m able, I scramble to my feet, blinking against the harsh morning sunshine.
Making as little noise as possible, I pick my way across the soggy ground to what’s left of our site. Winds have scattered the detritus. I fail to notice Ilea’s approach until I feel her chin against my shoulder, her soft breath puffing across my cheek. She slips her arms around my waist and leans into me. “Is there nothing we can do?”
I shake my head, trying to hold back tears of my own. I have condemned us to wandering this strange world in search of our lost comrades. I don’t mind so much for myself, but I promised our parents I would take care of Ilea. I’ve failed.
“This isn’t your fault.” Her deep blue eyes meet mine, “It was my decision. Our destiny.”
“But how…?” I start.
“I don’t know how.” She puts a finger to my lips, “I just know.”
Then I notice a faint light blinking from the mud at my feet. I kneel to examine it. It’s emanating from a small metal box, charred around the edges but still intact. It seems strangely familiar. Prying the box from the ground, I rub the grime from its surface. I gasp when I make out the letters embossed on it – SARGE (E.R.). Now I remember. The Search and Rescue Guidance Entity had an Emergency Retrieval module. This is our destiny. We will call for help. And the gods willing, our people will find us.