Happy Pioneer Day


Utah snuck a second holiday into July so I’m sharing a second special holiday flash fiction with you all. In honor of the theme and the 50th anniversary of several notable achievements in space, this longer flash fiction looks as future pioneers. Happy Pioneer Day!

Elrin shifted his footing again as the sands shifted. Even the bulk of their ship offered no protection from the wind and only marginal from the heat. He squinted into the distance, but golden dunes were all he could see. No plants. No life. No shelter. And certainly no rescue ships would find them here. He raised his arm and whipped the sweat from his eyes.

“Coolers are working.” Jilleane Knowles stood in the hatchway, pad in her hand. Her hair was tied up, somewhat successfully. A few curls had escaped to apply their damp selves to her skin.

Elrin grunted and turned toward his first chief. She extended the pad as he approached. He nodded taking it and examined the report. “Flights a wreck,” he mumbled. Not a surprise. Not the way control had burned after they’d crashed into the dune. All the control equipment was well charred or cinders.

Brows raising, he paused reaching the end of the report. Elrin glanced at Jilleane for confirmation. She stood still a moment with her hands clasped primly behind her back. A grin crept across her face. Huh, perhaps they weren’t so doomed after all.

Bracing himself in his seat, Elrin watched the crew chiefs filter into the mess. Each finding, and struggling, to keep a seat. The ship was at an angle and there wasn’t much they could do about the bolted furniture. Maybe they could dig it a bit more even after the sun set. The last found their seat and Elrin cleared his voice.

Head turned toward him like they were bobbles. Giana squeaked losing her balance. Chuckles, the first since their crash, spread through the room. Elrin didn’t doubt she’d done it on purpose. He smiled. “Now that we’re all settled…” He paused watching as Giana waived her hand in agreement. “I wanted you all here because there’s new. Both good and bad.”

Pausing, Elrin waiting for the rumble of voices to quiet. He scanned the crowd. Alexin and Vaessa leaned toward each other both wearing expressions of indifference. If they actually were, Elrin would eat the sand. He shifted his tongue rolling the grit in his mouth. Not that he wasn’t already. That stuff got everywhere.

“From observations made last night, we’re too off course to have a chance of being found. Even Giana can’t determine where we are.” Giana made a face. “And we aren’t taking off again. But coolers are working–”

“What about reactivating the drive from control in engineering,” Alexin broke in.

Elrin shook his head slowly. “Wouldn’t work. Haul’s too damage. We’re burn in atmo.” Another rumble followed this outburst.

“We could cannibalize other areas,” Vaessa said. Her neutral expression had been replaced with a glower. Elrin had known the protest would come from them. Fixing things was part of an engineer’s genetics.

Elron stared at them as he spoke. “Everything right now points to trying will end in failure.”


“No. It will expend too many resources. Resources we will need here.” He shifted slightly, adjusting a foot lost traction on the deck.

Alexin stood crossing his arms. “You want to give up. To stay here and die? Dust will get in the equipment soon enough. There’s not enough resources,” he slurred the word, “to survive until someone lucks on us.”

“I wasn’t suggesting waiting for some one to luck on us.” Elrin ground his teeth and growled. “I’m suggesting we complete our mission here.” Heads bobbled again and the conversations rose above a muted murmur. Rapping the table, Elrin called the room back. “We’re enough resources, and the planets compatible enough we could start terraforming here.”

Giana sat with her elbows braced on her legs. “Even if they find us then, we’d still never leave here. Once we start expending, they won’t be able to just scoop us up and take us elsewhere.”

“No,” Jilleane responded before Elrin could, “They won’t be able to. We’d be trying ourselves to the planet.” The room fell silent with everyone watching Giana.

Giana turned and stared at the wall and in the silence of the room Elrin could hear it too. Sand beat against the side of the ship in a stead rhythm. Ever present even when they couldn’t see it. A presence they’d have to adjust to.

“We could make it a paradise.” Elrin dropped his head as he spoke. “No, this planet is harsher than where we’d intended, but there’s enough. There’s enough to make ourselves a paradise. But this has to be all our decisions. Talk to your departments, your families. We’ll meet again tomorrow.” The room stayed silent.

Brack cleared his throat and rose from his seat, one arm still in a sling from the injuries he’d gotten preventing the fire spreading through the whole ship. He paused beside Elrin and clapped a hand on his should. Elrin looked up. With a nod, Brack let go and walked out.

As if his departure had broken a spell, rumbles of conversation filled the room again and trailed outward as the chiefs headed out. Soon only Elrin, Jilleane, Vaessa, and Alexin remained. The door swished closed behind the last person.

“I don’t like it. You’re trading escape for years of” Alexin tailed off and waived his hand sharply. His mouth opened to protest more.

Elrin spoke before Alexin could get the words out. “Then find me a proposal that gives us better odds. Give me a choice, not just an argument. Right now, this is the only one I’ve got.”

Alexin glanced at Vaessa. Alexin might outrank her officially, but their months of travel had already shown who was truly in charge, paper be damned. He watched as her cheek dented in, as if she was chewing on it in thought. She nodded at Alexin still watching Elrin.

“Fine, we’ll get you that option.” Alexin rose and followed Vaessa from the room.

“Don’t forget to tell your department,” Elrin called after them. The door swished shut and he turned to Jilleane. “Do you think you can convince them?”

She turned and looked toward the door. “No.” Jilleane turned back to Elrin. “But I can contain them.”

“Then contain them.” Elrin rose and stretched, his back popping. “We’ve got enough to deal with without internal arguments. Jilleane nodded. Rising she left the chamber leaving Elrin alone.

Elrin moved over to the haul and pressed his hand against a panel. A portion of the wall became transparent. Outside the sun was setting staining the sky the color of old blood. Yes, they had a whole planet to deal with.

Enjoy the story? Take a moment to share it with your friends using the links below or sign up for the email list to receive updates.

0 thoughts on “Pioneers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *