I awoke the next morning by a crunching sound approaching my tent. I didn’t know what to make of it and I thought it was a beast crunching on some bones, getting ready to eat me next.
I jumped up from by sleeping bag, ready to bolt if I had to. The warped shadow stopped right outside my tent.
“We’re getting ready to leave Sarth” said Kiko from where the crunching was coming from.
“Kiko?” I asked sounding relieved.
“Yeah what’s wrong?” she asked in a concerned tone. The shadow made a movement like it turned to face me from outside the tent.
“Nothing,” I said as I opened my tent door. “I thought I heard-”
Cold air flooded my tent when I opened my tent door but what threw me off was that everything was covered in a blanket of white.
“Why is everything white??” I asked looking surprised and cold.
“Oh, you’ve never seen snow have you?”
“N-no” I answered starting to shiver from the sheer cold air outside.
“Close this,” she closed my tent door from outside. “And change into your cold wear. It’s only going to get colder from here on out.”
“I-it gets c-colder than this?” I quickly went under my blankets again. “I didn’t think it was possible to get this cold. I don’t think I packed anything for this kind of weather.”
“There should be a setting for snow on your rain jacket.”
Another shiver shook through my body, “Ok-kay, I’ll change and come out s-soon.”
I didn’t want to get out from under my warm blanket but I did anyway to change and it took me a moment to figure out how to change the setting from rain to snow on my jacket. I put on my pants and boots and five minutes after talking to Kiko, I took my first steps on this new stuff called snow.
It crunched underneath my boots. Now I knew where the sound was coming from. I could also see my breath in the air as it left my mouth. At first I thought it was going to freeze my lungs but it never did. How does it get this cold? Isn’t there a sun here? I couldn’t see one now because of the clouds in the sky but I know I’ve seen one before, but only one… was that why?
Everyone was packed up and we all started up the mountain again once I finished packing all my stuff together.
I didn’t like the snow. It was harder to walk through and sometimes my feet would sink really low and it took more energy to lift my legs through it. It was getting harder to keep up with the group but I made sure to not fall behind.
We walked for hours like this with only a few short breaks. Most of the time it was quiet as we trudged up the mountain but occasionally we would hear Rei burst out laughing, no doubt she was soul linking with Pippa.
Soon it began to get dark again and we stopped to make camp. My toes were freezing and the first thing I did after setting up my tent was take my boots off and warm my toes at the fire. No one else seemed to have a problem with the cold, not even Pippa who sat on Shihon’s back most of the time… maybe that’s why.
“I have boots made out of a material that emits heat.” She said to me when I asked if her feet were cold. She did have a rosy red nose though.
“You know…” Breccan started saying, “I’ve been on planets made almost entirely out of ice. I was made king of the most populated city there!”
Kiko scoffed, “King of ice. You should’ve stayed there.”
Breccan laughed. “Well at least I had meaning somewhere!”
It was quiet. Rei looked saddened by his comment and stood up to go to her tent.
I wasn’t sure what just happened but then Kiko spoke.
“Let’s talk over there.” She demanded to Breccan.
“Alone?” he stood up, “Of course!”
They walked away from the camp. Lux shook her head with disappointment and the other Breccan crewmembers stared into the fire.
A moment later we heard a grunt and Breccan came flying and landed face up by the fire. He was about a foot deep in the snow. Then Kiko walked over to her tent to join Rei.
“No warning huh?” he wheezed from his spot.
“We hope it’ll help you learn from your mistakes” responded Lux.
“Well at least someone is amused.” Breccan grunted while getting back up. He brushed the snow off of himself. “I’m going to bed,” was the last thing he said before leaving the camp fire.
After he left, Lux took Pippa to their tent.
“Come on lets go to bed.”
“Aww I don’t wanna!” Pippa pleaded.
Lux took her by the hand and practically dragged her away to their tent. All that remained was Shihon, Tobiah and I.
“You should get some rest too.” Shihon said to me.
It was the first time he spoke directly to me.
“Yeah, you’re probably right.” I said thinking about it.
I got up to walk to my tent. “What about you?”
“I’m on watch tonight.” He said looking up at the moons.
“I didn’t know we made shifts…” I wondered aloud.
“We haven’t. I’m just being cautious.”
I looked around to see if I could sense and danger from anywhere. All I saw was snow. We passed the last of any green life half a day ago.
“Don’t worry about it. Just get some sleep.” He assured.
I nodded to him and glanced at Tobiah who completely ignored me. Then I crunched my way back to my warm tent.
That was the great thing about these tents; they were made to maintain a certain temperature. The only bad thing about them was they ran off batteries that didn’t have its usual power since Tammy had to quickly convert them to work on this planet. We had barely enough for the trip, if we used any more of it we’d run out. Everyone had their own battery. It was usually strapped around our waists and hidden under our jackets; well at least that’s where mine was.
I didn’t think I’d fall asleep easily, but the next thing I remember was waking up from a strong howling wind. My tent was shaking furiously and I was afraid that I’d be blown away. I wasn’t sure how long I was asleep but there was no way I could go back to sleep now.
I changed into warmer clothes and attempted to open my tent door. That was a horrible idea. The wind blasted through along with flakes of snow that stung after hitting your bare face. I flew back from a strong blast of wind and snow unable to see anything outside.
Apparently someone came in and closed the tent door before I could make it back to it.
I looked to see who it was after shielding my eyes. I couldn’t tell because they were wearing a face mask as well as being fully covered head-to-toe. They grabbed another face mask from inside their jacket and tossed it to me. I looked at it and the person pointed to their face, instructing me to put it on.
It was a sleek, simple mask that stuck on your face by suctioning to it. It was a weird feeling, plus right after I put it on I started hearing voices.
“Pippa, are you almost done configuring the direction?”
“Yep yep five more seconds.”
“We’re almost ready to go, Rei where’s Sarth?”
“I just gave him the mask. We’ll start packing up now.”
I could hear everyone’s conversation through the mask, and with it on I felt like I could breathe easier somehow.
“Sarth, we should get going…” came Rei’s voice from the mask.
“Uh, yeah” I responded, remembering I still needed to pack up.
Rei helped me pack up and got my first feeling for being outside in this new weather. It was horrible. The wind was constantly blowing snow and it seemed to get colder and colder. It went on like this for two days straight. I was getting nervous because the further up we went, the higher I seemed to be adjusting my battery to keep me at least thawed enough to keep moving forward. I hesitated each time I adjusted it, afraid I wasn’t going to have enough battery power for the journey back but I didn’t wish to freeze to death.
“Something wrong?” Kiko asked me through her mask on the seventh night. I was on my way to my tent. Since we no longer had any material to burn for a community fire, everyone just went to their tents at night now.
“No,” I lied. I didn’t want to hinder the group any more than I already was.
She didn’t press the matter but still showed concern.
“Here,” she took something out of her jacket. “I have this for you.” It was a few pieces of dried meat.
“Where’d you get this?” I asked excitedly through my mask.
“Don’t worry about that, just eat it.”
I would normally question her further but the meat looked too good to pass up, especially since I couldn’t eat the nourishing capsules.
“Thanks!” I said happily.
I couldn’t see her face through her mask. “No problem… well good night.” She said before turning around to walk to her own tent.
The next morning Breccan was less enthusiastic than usual. I wasn’t quite sure why, but I was surely in a happier mood. The dried meat Kiko brought me last night sure hit the spot. I wish I could’ve had more.
We were walking in a line and Rei was behind me today, and out of nowhere she came up beside me all giggly.
“How was your meat last night?” she asked.
Was surprised she knew about that, but then I realized that Kiko must’ve told her. “Oh. It was great actually.”
Rei and Pippa, who was on Shihon’s back in front of us, started laughing. I was confused because I didn’t see how that was so funny.
Suddenly a large snowball came flying from the front of the line and smacked Rei right in the mask. She had no idea it was coming and fell backwards from the impact. Pippa was now laughing uncontrollably and I held back my laughter to ask if she was alright while she was sprawled on the snow.
She wiped the snow off her mask and I helped her up.
“Ughh! You didn’t have to throw it so hard!” She vented to the thrower.
There was no response except for Pippa’s continuous laughter and I was still very confused.
“What’s going on?” I finally asked.
Pippa’s laughter died down as Lux’s voice answered me.
“Kiko stole that dried meat from Breccan and gave it to you.” I abruptly stopped walking. Did I hear that right? “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. It was emergency food anyway and I’m glad you ate it before Brecccan did because he doesn’t need it.”
I was still kind of dazed from what I just heard. Rei was now pushing me forward as I was still processing what had happened last night.
So everyone heard our conversation last night? I had forgotten that everyone can hear each other because it was just Kiko and I when we spoke to each other but we were wearing our masks… I knew I should’ve questioned her more about the meat! Now I felt guilty and bad for Breccan. No wonder he seemed down today.
We all walked in silence for a while until Pippa cried out, “Wait!”
Everyone stopped in their tracks while she jumped off Shihon’s back and ran to Kiko to adjust something on the PSL. Then she pointed to a spot on the mountainside.
“We can go through there.”
“Through the mountain?” Breaccan asked as he made his way toward where she was pointing.
“There’s just an ice wall blocking this opening, if we break through it was can just walk through the mountain.”
Breccan dug through the snow revealing the thick ice wall she was talking about.
“I can get through that” said Kiko who was circuling her arm, preparing to break down the wall.
Breccan held up his hand to stop her. “That’s not so wise gorgeous. Simply breaking it down with brut force could cause an avalanche and cover us up along with the entrance.” He said in his charming voice.
“Then what do we do?” she asked in an irritated tone. Lux walked up to the wall.
“We’ll let her handle it” Shihon answered.
Lux took off a glove on one of her hands and placed it on the ice wall. We watched curiously as she took a deep breath and exerted an invisible force at the wall. Instantly, parts of the wall turned into water and sloshed to the ground leaving a large entrance to walk through the cave.
“Whoa” I whispered but everyone could hear.
Breccan laughed. “That’s not all she can do kid. Just don’t get on her bad side.”
We all walked inside the dark cave. Luckily our masks had lights on them, but we couldn’t leave them on forever. It didn’t take long to reach another dead end, this time it was rock.
Shihon and Pippa examined the rock wall. “It looks like a rock slide covered this side.” Shihon said.
“Kiko, we now require your assistance” said Breccan.
“Oh, now you need me” she grumbled as she made her way to the wall.
Everyone stood back as she pulled her arm back and gave one strong punch through the largest rock that was blocking the entire entrance. There was a loud boom as the large rock shattered and rocks began falling down, clearing away the exit. A cloud of dust blocked our vision, but soon sunlight hit our eyes.
We all looked towards the light in disbelief. Once the dust cloud cleared up it revealed a whole new world. It was like this area had been unaffected by the Vo stone breaking through the protective layer. There was no snow and the sun was shining through the many trees as wildlife wandered around like nothing wrong was happening.
“What is this place?” Rei asked in awe as we all took in our surroundings.
Pippa snorted with a smile on her face, “It seems Tammy’s prediction was correct.”