Pulling Away...

The creature shifted slightly, sending a cascade of real sand off its' flank.  It waddled up closer, and extended something--Carl thought it was an antenna--closer...

Carl watched, transfixed as, slowly, Natalie and the giant sand-crab came closer and closer to the wall.  It was a like a stately pavane, he thought.   Carl wondered if they were communicating somehow.  His own micro cephalic transceiver was down, but if this were some sort of trap...  Carl growled and stuffed the thought away.  If he went that route, paranoia would eat at him before anything else.

Natalie heard the growl and stopped, glancing over her shoulder.  "No, is okay.  I do not think it is... hostile." She cocked her head to one side.  "Is afraid, curious... nervous."

"Natalie."  Carl said slowly.  "It's a crab. They don't feel..."

"You are a biologist?"  Natalie said archly.

Carl stopped.  "No."  he shrugged.  "How do you know?"

"We performed The Littlest Aquamorph on Europa."  Natalie said with a half-smirk.  "The Chancellor was an avid collector."

"This isn't helping us."  Carl said.  As interesting as native life here might be--wherever we are--it doesn't give us a way out.  We should continue moving.  Dehydration will do us in soon enough."

Natalie frowned then, after a moments thought, she nodded.  She moved to Carl's side and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Do you need help?"  she asked.  He was starting to sweat already.  Grumpily, he noted that Natalie hadn't.

Together, they made their way along the blue wall for another three or four miles.  The quality of light had not changed.  Slowly, Carl started doing the math.  If, after a few hours and several miles, the light had not changed and the wind had not changed, it was reasonable to assume they were in a climate-controlled environment.  They had not seen evidence of any other life outside of the alien crab.

It was possible that they were basically specimens in a jar somewhere, under observation.  There was not enough evidence to suggest that the crab might not be free, also.  It might be another specimen.  Carl would have entertained the idea that it wasn't all about him if Natalie wasn't so obviously a Red Duncanite, and if he hadn't just finished testifying against one of their families on an infection of illegal speedware biomods that burnt out the recipients' nervous system.

The wall was large enough that it had to be nanoformed--built organically by nano-robots from the raw material.  The sand was red.  But once deconstructed to it's base molecular components, it could be made any color, any shape. 

"Carl?"  Natalie said after trudging on in silence behind him for some time.

"Yeah?"  he said, his mind still on the big picture.

"It's followed us."  Natalie said quietly.

The End

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