Author : Andrew Evans

Dane was in a panic. He breathed in a short rhythmic tempo. Cold blue desert surrounded him, as vast as the Sahara and just as deadly. The mercenary’s breath shown in the slight dawn light. The only hope, a small outpost, lay visibly in the distance, painted a warm glow by the suns fiery radiance.

‘It would be a shame to die here, so close, so far from home.’ He thought in dismal desperation.

Somewhere nearby, footsteps in the dunes heightened his sense of panic. Their thud could only come from an animal large enough to be audible as its feet sank in the cushioning sands of Gliese 580 now known by its inhabitants as Adelphus.

‘Keep running.’ Dane’s feet grew heavier as sand filled his boots. ‘This was supposed to be routine.’

He was only alive out of some horrible fluke. His companions had all been taken by these creatures. Perhaps they made camp next to its burrow in the dangerous desert. Surely, nothing this large could live here. Dane’s heartbeats grew louder, his breath even more labored as his muscles screamed in agony. He felt the sting of sweat in his eyes. Only the fear of death kept him going in its dull, aching longing for life.

Dane’s means of protection turned to a chew toy in the clutches of these aberrations. The screams of his fellow mercenaries had woken him in the night. One of the beasts must have spotted him as he escaped. Now he was surely dead.

As he tired, his resolve grew as wide as his pupils and as bright as the sun which now bathed the desert a diluted bloody red. He was on a mission with laser focus.

The colony wall was a few hundred yards away.

He started yelling for help.

His slogging started to slow even as the ground grew more stable.

At last the heat from a large wall mounted laser cut through his pursuer.

He became instantly aware of his weary state through the shear terror of being the prey.

‘Those damn cretons have us surrounded.’

‘What?’ Dane managed.

‘They’re a pack of damn wolves. Migrated from the mountains behind the colony.’

‘Why?’ Dane asked impulsively.

‘Because the road has more prey.’

Dane could take no more. He collapsed into a pillow of sand and dust. Pitch black.

It was dusk before the fluttering sounds of an exhaust fan gradually woke the weary mercenary. A slow swoosh turned to a cantankerous thud.

‘Wolves,’ a dull voice cackled. ‘Right off the new ship and the poor sapling thinks of wolves.’