Title: Rainbow Moons
Author: Shenandoah Risu
Content Flags: language
Spoilers: SGU Season 1, up to "Faith"
Prompts: Andrea Palmer/ Moonlight
Word Count: around 1950
Summary: She thinks she might be the only one left, the only one who survived the frantic flight from Icarus Base.
Characters: Andrea Palmer, Sgt. Curtis
Author's Notes: Written for the LJ Comm Stargateland Writing/ Graphics Challenge: Little!Bang
Disclaimer: I don't own SGU. I wouldn't know what to do with it. Now, Young... Young I'd know what to do with. ;-)
Thanks for reading! Feedback = Love. ;-)
Vegetation. Water. Air.
It is a million times better than the desert planet.
Andrea wouldn't call it lush, but the snow-capped mountains close to the gate promise a somewhat steady supply of water, shade and shelter.
She turns, expecting to see Franklin step through the gate but instead the wormhole dissipates with a shriek, and there is silence.
Sergeant Curtis turns back to the gate, just as the ground begins to shake violently. She grabs a hold of him and together they tumble down the hill towards a small creek. A good-size rock slide follows, covering them with dust and debris.
Curtis ends up face down in the creek and Andrea rushes to his side and rolls him over.
Curtis gasps and nods. "What the fuck was that?"
Andrea squints in the bright light and notices a white cloud at the foot of one of the nearby mountains. "Avalanche, I guess," she points at the cloud.
"Why'd the gate shut down? Where is Franklin?"
"I don't know. Shit. He had the remote."
Curtis tries to get up and collapses with a strangled cry.
"I think my leg's broken. Ow, damn…"
She checks him over. It's a bad one – the last fall has caused the bone to pierce the skin, and the wound is now bleeding profusely. Curtis is doubled over in pain.
They will send help. The gate will activate any second now.
And it does. She fumbles for Curtis' radio and her heart sinks when she sees the broken wet and muddy mess that used to be a communication device. She tries to get it to work, but to no avail. Water has seeped in through a crack and discharged the battery, as well as the spare Curtis carried in his TAC vest.
The gate activates twice more but no one comes through. She sits and stares.
Curtis is running a slight fever and lies unconscious most of the time. She's glad. When she tried to set and bandage his leg he passed out from the pain after screaming his throat raw in agony. She's had plenty of wilderness first aid training, but an open fracture is way beyond her abilities.
Andrea gathers some dry brush and starts a fire. It's a warm night and she wants the fire more for the sense of safety than warmth. There are twelve moons in the sky, all in different phases, and their light is plenty bright for her to see by. She washes Curtis' leg carefully, trying not to jostle the bandages.
She looks up.
Destiny is gone. Whether the others have found the lime or not – the ship has jumped back into FTL a long time ago. They're on their own.
She dozes off eventually.
The sounds of crows wake her, in daylight. Well, not really crows, she thinks, but whatever this world's equivalent of crows are. They sure sounded like crows, though.
She drags Curtis across the creek and up the hill into a small stand of scraggly trees to shelter him from the sun. She tries to give him water. He spills most of it.
Later on she wanders off and finds a bush with plump red berries with vicious spikes. The berries are good to eat, she discovers, but it's hard work to dig out the soft fleshy core from the cactus-like spines. She mashes some and mixes them with water and feeds Curtis. He has the shivers and is burning up with a fever. She uses his helmet to fetch water, soaks her neckerchief and wipes down his face.
She watches the moons at night and notices they all have different colors.
The next morning Curtis is barely breathing, and the red stripe of the infection is well up his thigh.
He dies two nights later, shooting himself in the head with his sidearm while she's off in the woods peeing. It's overcast, a high altitude haze that is illuminated in patches by the different colors of the moons.
In the morning Andrea strips the body, oddly detached from what's happening. She will need the clothes. She takes Curtis' dog tags, vaguely remembering that that's what she's supposed to do. His first name was Bradley. She never knew. She cries as she drags the body back up to the Stargate and gathers rocks to pile on him.
The crows are circling overhead. She's determined they're not going to get what they want.
It takes her the whole day to pile up enough rocks to be sure they can't get to it. She places the broken radio on top.
And then she leaves.
The planet is pleasant enough, a bit on the dry side, but Andrea is careful and only moves on when she's found another source of food and water on her excursions.
She's tired and hungry but otherwise in good shape. She watches the local animals and eats what they eat. Surprisingly enough most of it is edible, if not exactly tasty. Slowly her digestive system gets used to it, and the initial bouts of diarrhea subside. She's quite relieved at that.
Her extensive survival training comes in very handy now. Food, water and shelter are her priorities, and Curtis had a lot of useful items in his vest – a pocket knife, a signal mirror, a magnifying glass and a rescue blanket, among others. There's a shake-up flashlight, too, and she thinks it's literally the coolest thing ever. His helmet makes a decent cooking pot – she remembers seeing that in those old war movies she watched as a kid. She washes one set of clothes once a week or so, and she goes naked more often than not, to save wear and tear on the fabric. She stuffs lichen into Curtis' boots and they fit her almost perfectly after that.
She sketches the moons at night, their different positions and phases.
It doesn't rain much in this place. Why Curtis had a rain poncho in his vest she can't quite figure out, but she's grateful for it, and the lightweight nylon tarp she brought along (old geologist habits die hard) makes a decent cover for her gear.
She gets used to sleeping on the bare ground again.
Andrea is no stranger to solitude. She's spent years of her life traipsing through remote regions of Earth and other planets, cataloguing rock formations and doing mineral surveys. And so she keeps doing what she's always been doing. When she runs out of paper a month or so later she finds that the dried leaves of a common plant make an adequate substitute, and she uses charcoal pieces from her fires to write.
She gets her period right on schedule, and remembering how some tribal women she met used dried moss to soak up the blood she finds it actually works quite well, and there is plenty of moss around. She's careful to burn the patches every night so as not to attract any predators, just in case, even though she hasn't seen any ground-dwelling animals larger than a rabbit.
Sometimes she stays in one place for a few days and scratches her scientific findings into rock surfaces, diligently signing them at the end. She smiles at the thought of her trail of geological observations that nobody will ever see. The whole point of a legacy is that you never know for sure what exactly is going to happen to it when you're gone, she thinks. So, it's okay.
She talks to herself.
She sings every song she can remember, and when she runs out she makes up new ones.
She gives names to all the moons. She talks to them, too.
One of them, the lavender one, actually lines up with her own cycle. She calls it Luna.
She enjoys hearing her own echo, and there is one place she stays at for several weeks, because the echo is so good that she can actually sing a round with herself.
And one day she realizes that she's oddly content with her life. She thinks she might be the only one left, the only one who survived the frantic evacuation from Icarus Base. She doesn't really care any more.
One thing is for sure, though: she hasn't found any lime in all those months – no evidence of fossils or sedimentary rock layers, either. So what, she thinks, it doesn't matter anyway.
She finally leaves the echo place when it seems to get a little colder day by day. She heads south from now on, always staying ahead of winter, and heading north again when the warmer days return.
The moons are her nightly companions, and she sings to them as well. She has special songs for all of them, for their different phases and eclipses.
She uses Luna to keep track of time.
The landscape never changes – mountains everywhere, small creeks, the occasional lake. But there are infinite variations in color and formations, a relatively young world, she thinks, or maybe one that emerged from an ice age not too long ago. The jagged mountains have not been worn down by eons of wind and weather, and sometimes she feels as if she's the oldest thing on this planet.
And then one day she steps over the crest of a mountain pass, and there before her, in the valley, is a giant black obelisk.
She drops her bundle of supplies and stares, open-mouthed.
So far there hasn't been any sign of civilization whatsoever, and the obelisk is clearly an artificial construct. It is huge – she estimates its height to be around 2000 feet at least. She makes camp near the ridge and just observes for a few days, but there are no indications of life anywhere.
Eventually she decides to approach it, tossing rocks on the ground in front of her, hoping to trigger any possible booby traps. But nothing happens and about a week later she has arrived.
She watches quietly from about a hundred feet away. The surface is shiny – the moons are multiplied in reflection at night. The next morning she walks right up to it and carefully places her palm on the smooth material.
It feels warm to the touch, glassy, like obsidian, but definitely not indigenous, and when she checks her compass the needle moves about erratically. She can feel that there is some static energy field by the way the hairs on the back of her hand stand up.
She backs away and slowly walks around it. On the opposite side of its base she stops short, the shock of recognition lancing through her with almost physical violence: there is an elongated pile of rocks, and a hand-sized black object on top of it.
She picks it up.
It's Curtis' radio, and it looks brand new. The battery indicator tells her it's in good working condition.
There's only static. She turns it off.
For the first time, Andrea Palmer doesn't know what to do. So she decides to make camp nearby, under a sheltering rock overhang. Perhaps the builders of the obelisk created the rock pile and the radio as a message for her. Maybe they've been watching her – are still watching her. She understands that this mystery is hers to solve.
The moons shine down on her at night, their subtle colors fractured into rainbows on the obelisk. And as she gazes at them she experiences a profound sensation of eternity, of being one with the universe that frightens and delights her at the same time.
She is not alone.
She doesn't know who they are or when they will return.
She can wait.