Author : D’n Russler

“Quick! Someone get Raul some water, he’s nearly finished!”

The Survey team rushed to follow Hallie’s shouted command, as, verging on panic she checked her barely-moving team member’s vital signs.

Yahn, the team’s medic, slowly moistened the dark-haired Hispanic’s lips with water from her canteen as Hallie supported his head. “He’ll be ok, just needs to rehydrate and crash for a week.”

Raul murmured something unintelligible. “Don’t try to talk, Raul,” Hallie murmured. “We’ll get a full report from you when you’re feeling better.”

“No… you have to hear…” Raul struggled to say. “I managed to penetrate the shell of this planet — and…” He coughed, sputtering a bit on the water. “And… I expected caves, or rock, or something, but there was nothing there!”

“What do you mean,” Hallie asked, despite her concern for the explorer.

“We knew the planet was odd, having the size of Neptune, but a mass close to Earth’s. But this…”

They had begun their on-site survey as the end of a 30 light-year journey to the planet that just shouldn’t have been. Circling a white dwarf at a distance of 26 AU’s, the planet had an albedo of over 0.7, nearly twice Earth’s 0.37. It wasn’t till they landed that the reason was revealed: it was an artifact, created by some long-lost civilization.

“We were supposed to explore the low buildings in this grouping,” continued Raul. “Nothing higher than two stories anywhere on the surface, just didn’t make sense for remains of a civilization sophisticated enough to construct an entire planet.”

“And you HAD to open that portal, or door, or whatever it was,” responded Hallie, her frustration clear.

“Well, I *am* an explorer… that’s what we do, we explore!” replied Raul.

Hallie shook her tightly braided tawny mane in annoyance. “Explore, but we don’t stick our noses anywhere we don’t…”

“I opened the portal,” continued Raul, a strange rapture showing on his face. “It seems that they’d built a system of transport tubes inside the planet between points on the surface. Some sort of intercontinental rapid-transit system.”

“So you decided to try it out, eh?”

“No, even I am not that reckless. What I could see of the hollow interior was softly lit, some sort of glowing lines or tubes on the outer surfaces of the transport tubes. But that wasn’t the most shocking part.”

“And that was?”

“It seemed they had designed a planet-wide backup system in case the tubes went down. Everywhere, intertwining, great helixes, connecting every thing to every place. I was aghast when I realized what I was

“You mean –”

Raul’s eyes glazed over, seeing again what he beheld a short time

“My god… it’s full of stairs.”

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