Dust To Dust

Crossing the dunes was dangerous enough during the daylight hours. Trying to traverse the sand soaked wasteland in the twilight hours was a fool's errand. 'Then perhaps a fool I am’, thought Dinague, though without such eloquence. Besides, the battered Orion disrupter rifle at his side was more than enough to keep man and beast at bay.

The stars pointed him in the right direction, on a line more or less parallel to the canyon. The cliffs served as a guide as well, their arid brown hues rendered in deep blues and hollow darkened black. This was the route that little scab had claimed to travel, and if what she said was true the brat was about to give Dinague his ticket off this sandy ball of heat and hatred. He could almost feel his feet lifting from the sands with each step, and once he was certain he wasn't simply standing on an Aehallh worm he let himself ride out the fleeting feeling of freedom.

Even before he crested the last dune he could see it; his salvation, his fortune. The insect-like prongs of the Ferengi shuttle buried in the sand, it's rear hatch open and its cargo spilled out across the sands. Gleaming gold shimmered even in the darkness, each strip and bar and brick promising a wealth beyond Dinague's most fevered fantasy. Without a thought beyond his forever-changed fortunes he vaulted the sandy peak and slid down into the sheltered pit in the sand.

The gold glittered all around him, loose slips nestled in the sands, bars strewn about an overturned crate, and a handful of bricks neatly arranged next to the shuttle door. Dinague hefted his rifle, the weight of the cobbled together weapon reassuring enough that he dares to step through the threshold into the derelict. The darkness was erased in a sudden burst of light, and without thinking Dinague fired. A ceiling panel fell from within the shuttle, clattering and smoking on the floor plate. The Nimbosian stared slack jawed at the debris for a few moments, and then with a self conscious laugh he carried on.

Inside the ship was… clean. More than clean. The orange-tan panels of the walls seemed almost factory fresh, crisp and spotless. For Dinague it was stunning enough after a lifetime spent among welded scraps and battered sheet metal that he barely noticed how barren the shuttle was. The hallways were devoid of dust, the beds neatly made, the bridge chair immaculate. But it was immaculate, and so far as Dinague could tell unclaimed.

And it was his. All his.

His good fortune came to an end when he saw the figure on the dunes. No more than a mass of flittering fabric standing in the darkness, but far more than Dinague had seen thus far. With the crate of latinum in his hands, a full three paces from the shuttle, the stranger had him dead to rights. If they were another scavenger they would shoot him dead and claim his treasure for themselves. If they were a slaver they would stun him, sell him, and claim his treasure for themselves. And yet they just stood there, staring, holding Dinague in place with their invisible eyes until the weight of the crate hurt his arms.

“You have not earned that,” the figure said. Their voice was a growl of static, a garbled electronic rasp.


The figure raised a hand, high enough to show the device on their hand, and pressed a key. Dinague could hear the shuttle door closing behind him, cutting off his one route of escape.

“You have not earned that,” the figure repeated, letting their hand fall slowly to their side.

“Y’ain takin’ mah treshure!” Dinague shrunk backward, wrapping himself around the box he held so covetous in his arms.

He began to retreat, and the figure matched his pace. “You will have your treasure,” the figure said. Even as it grew closer it stayed little more than a tangle of dark fabric in the black of night. “And you will have this ship. But you will earn it.”

“Whaddayamean?” Dinague was backed right up to the shuttle now, his arms straining to support the box of heavy metal. The figure drew closer, one pace at a time, inexorably closing the gap between them… and when they reaches Dinague they turned, and slowly moved up the side of the pit. Dinague knew they could shoot the stranger, take their device and leave with the treasure and the ship. He saw that very scene play out in his mind in such detail that it frightened him. But instead of that the Nimbosian set the crate down and followed the figure to the rim of the pit.

The figure swept an arm across the horizon, this perpetual enigma gesturing to something off in the distance. Some thought it a heat mirage, some were certain it was another Orion camp. But Dinague knew the truth. He had been there, watched the Romulans that worked there through the cracks in the rocks. He had watched when they had worn checkered uniforms, and he watched now that they had their colorful jackets.

“In the day you will go there. And at night you will come here. You will tell me what you see. And I…” The figure reached into their robes, and came away with a gleaming golden canteen. Dinague stared in slack jawed awe as the figure opened the canteen, tipped it forward, and spattered the sand with water. Dinague scrambled to take the thing from the figure, feeling the cool, wet metal in his hands. He brought the canteen to his lips and filled his gullet with crisp, clean, icy water.

“You will be rich. You will live well. And you will tell me what you see.”

Dinague was still drinking from the flask when the figure opened the shuttle door, stepped inside the brightly lit hold, and sealed the door.