Under the Suns

Chapter One

It was the sharp roar and the deep thump rattling along the ground of the settlement that woke Laramie. Another crash. She sat up in bed, long black tresses gathering into a pile behind her. While standing, her hair was long enough to drag on the ground. She wiped her hands over her eyes trying to clear some of the fog of sleep. No time for being tired. Not this morning at least.

Laramie had come to this planet with her peasant, servant parents. They'd come to work on the settlement for minimum pay and the promise of two meals per day. Not much, but compared to what they'd had before that, it was plenty. She'd been three then and had grown up here for another 4 years before the first eclipse.

She shook her head, clearing the last few remnants of the nightmare she'd had and stood. Lazy was the manner in which she got dressed. Old ship crew clothes. They were the only one's left that were more that pathetic shambles now. Worker's boots, five sizes too big but she laced them up tight. Militia duffel strapped to her back. At 4'10, the bag was almost longer than she was.

These ship crashes were an almost weekly routine. She found them as fast as she could and took all that she could carry because the sand and gravel blew in and buried everything else. Every time a ship crashed she found a new piece to add to the small ship in the equip bay. Those last two years she'd spent enough time following the mechanics around all starry-eyed to know her way around one of these things.

All it needed was power cells but all she ever found was food and dead bodies. She left her small, ramshackle hut crafted from unused sheet metal and set off to the west, the prickly warmth of the blue sun at her back. Her thoughts drifted off as she ambled along. Suddenly the passing buildings were littered with rushing people. The sounds of machines, the smell of fuel and make shift coffee. It was almost real, almost tangible. Almost enough to make her turn back, wide-eyed, and look for her parents.

The musings were chased away by the distant sound of voices, calling out in a strange language. She followed the soft echoes into the place that she called the valley of the fallen. The skeletons of the massive animals that had roamed wild here before lay scattered across the ground, reaching up into the sky like a macabre art museum.

The sound of conversation floated from just over the hill that she'd come to stand at the base of. She frowned, an expression that had never sat well on her childlike features. "Hello," she called, "Who's there?"

"Show yourself," someone yelled back.

She pressed forward up the steep incline. They stood just over the crest of the hill and eyed her with some emotion she couldn't decipher. The sight of them seemed surreal. As if, at any moment, she'd realize she was still dreaming. Solitude does a number on the mind

"Who are you," a man demanded. He was tall enough to shade her from the yellow and orange suns behind them and almost broad enough to block her view of the other people.

"Who are YOU," she pressed back. Her eyes darted towards the others. A man, three younger boys, and a woman, not much taller than herself stood with mutual a look of exhaustion on their faces. They didn't look harmful. In fact, the pale sunlight made them look fragile.

"Johns," the man said, thrusting a hand out to her, "William Johns."

She nodded slowly and looked the hand over with a brief puzzled look. "Laramie Shores," she replied, "I take it the sound from earlier was your ship crashing." They all nodded. She smiled at them; it was sweet, ginger, and left her large doll eyes completely bare. "Lucky you. And exactly where do you think you're headed?"

"No where specific," the woman spoke up, stepping closer, "Looking for water and any other supplies we can get."

Laramie frowned. There was only about 40 hours until the next eclipse began and she wasn't sure she had the room on the ship to fit these new comers. If she spent to much time socializing then she wouldn't have to worry about it. They'd all get caught in the dark and they'd all die together…like the others had.

She nodded and turned away from them, "Right this way. You haven't named one thing that there's not plenty of on the settlement…if you know where to look, that is." She led them back through the valley of the fallen.

The carcasses had been there when the previous eclipse finally ended. It had taken Laramie days to climb up out of the pit they'd all huddled into. By then she was covered in dried blood and chunks of things much more solid than that. The large corpses were almost picked clean to the bones and rotting in the sun. The stench had lingered for what felt like, and very well may have been, years.

The silent man and the three younger boys ran past her and into the settlement, yelling things at the empty buildings. "There's no one here," she said softly, but her voice carried.

"Where'd they go," Johns spoke this time, stepping up to fall into stride behind her. His gun hung idle in his hand and away from her. Awful distrusting of him.

"They're dead," she said, "They have been for quite some time." He stopped and the faint sound of the blonde woman's footsteps died abruptly with him. Laramie turned to look at them and found them staring at her, faces riddled with a new emotion. The only face she was accustomed to seeing was her own. The difficulty of interpreting emotion on the face of others was catching her a bit off guard.

A slow wind came through and blew a thin lock of her hair across her face. She brushed it away in irritation. No matter how tight she tied it, it always managed to come loose. It was a small annoyance, but an annoyance all the same.

They glanced at each other and continued staring at her. She stared constantly between the both of them. "What," she asked, annoyed by the staring game.

"How did they die," Johns asked, "And why the hell didn't you go with them?" He was eyeing her more suspiciously now, hand gripping his gun much tighter now than a moment ago. She stood where she was, face utterly peaceful.

"You don't even know where you are do you," she frowned, the slight lilt of laughter in her voice. The two shook their heads. "This is Hades. A small moon rotating around a planet whose name I can't pronounce." She turned to continue her trek, not turning back to see if they were following. They were.

"It rotates around a planet that rotates around three suns," she continued, her tone flat, almost bored. "It gets constant sunlight with the exception of an eclipse every twenty-two years."

"Lack of sunlight," the blonde said, "Everything native here must be used to the light. That's what killed them, I'm guessing." Laramie shook her head briskly and opened her mouth to correct the woman.

"Water," one of the young boys rounded a building in a full out sprint. "Water." He was pointing back in the direction of the 'tap' with more zeal than she'd ever seen. Laramie nodded and stood to the side, motioning for the others to go first. As they passed her up and strolled out of sight she turned and headed off towards her small hut instead.