Chapter 21 A Dying Planet
"Tell me what we're looking for again?" asked Dustin as he looked down on the planet below them.
"Well, it doesn't really have a name, that I know of," said Sherry, glancing over at Walter.
"They're highly radioactive crystals that fuel the jump engines. We didn't create them, we just use them."
"I think the alien race we got them from was something like the Iolite's or something."
"Huh. That's a weird name," said Dustin.
Trey would be staying with the ship when they landed, so if he needed to move it, he could. The planet below them was pretty active with volcanoes and earthquakes. Dustin had tried to convince Walter that they could just let him go look for the crystals, but he was determined that Sherry and he needed to go. Dustin finally gave in, because he didn't know what the blasted things looked like.
He stood by the airlock after landing, waiting impatiently as they suited up. The atmosphere was too hostile for them to go without their suits, but the PED had already assured him that he could evolve quickly enough to survive whatever it had.
"I still can't believe how you can change so easily," said Walter as he finished the last of his connections and tested his communications.
"I've been told my kind is known as changelings," said Dustin, checking his fingernails for dirt.
"I could believe that."
As the door opened, the full scale of how harsh this planet was, hit Dustin in the face, literally.
(INITIATING EVOLUTION FOR SURVIVAL.)
Dustin found himself covered in scales. His form was almost the same as the one he had in space. The skies were thick with clouds from the erupting volcanoes, and the temperature was low. As Dustin stepped outside, quickly followed by the other two, he noticed immediately that the ground was constantly rumbling. This area wasn't stable. They needed to move quickly.
Heading off at a fast pace, he started looking for the telltale signs of crystal formation, that Sherry was looking for as well. The ground was smooth in places; an obvious lava bed that had cooled and solidified.
Spying a green section, he steered towards it. The crystals were small, but Sherry rushed over to them with a special tube to collect them carefully. He wasn't sure how many they would need, so he continued looking.
"This is enough to get us home," called Walter over the communications system.
Dustin turned to head back to the ship, when he spied movement off to his side. The other two were hurrying back with the crystals. A small crystal person, moved from behind a rock, peeking at him. It reminded him of the crazy crystal child he had met in the underground caves of the Josagn hunter world that had tried to kill him and Olivia.
After a moment of thought, he decided to check it out. This world was dying, it was apparent to anyone who paused to look around. Volcanoes were erupting everywhere. While he wasn't sure what they ate or how they survived, he was pretty sure this race couldn't survive if their planet died.
Just before he got to the rock, the ground gave a lurch, and there was a huge explosion behind him, away from the ship thankfully. He half turned to check it out, and was almost thrown to the ground when the earthquake hit. Steadying himself, he turned back to check on the crystal child, but a large crack had formed in the ground. The rock and everything around it, was gone.
With a sour taste in his mouth, he ran to catch up to the others as they were entering the airlock. Maybe he had imagined seeing someone. The thought made his stomach settle down a little. Besides, even if there had been someone, what was he supposed to do with them? They probably couldn't survive off planet anyway.
"What's wrong?" asked Walter as Dustin arrived shortly.
"Nothing. I was just looking at something."
"These are some of the best crystals I've ever seen!" exclaimed Sherry as she struggled out of her suit.
"Get them installed as soon as possible. We need to get off this planet before it breaks itself apart."
She nodded, clutching the cylinder holding the crystals and ran off. Dustin evolved back to his normal form and followed Walter back to the bridge.
"How long before we can get back on track?" asked Dustin, sitting down at his previous console.
"It will take Sherry only a few minutes to install the cylinder into the engine. I'm already programming our next jump."
"Good." Sitting back, he couldn't help but wonder if they would encounter enemy ships when they left the planet. Would the jump misfire again, and send them into the middle of a battle field? As his mind wondered to all the insane possibilities, he couldn't help but feel as if someone had it out for him.
"Whose space will we be entering next?" asked Dustin as they started to leave the planet's atmosphere.
"I'm aiming for a section claimed by humans. I believe there may be an old military base there. The area is pretty inhospitable, so I'm not sure there will be anyone left, but it should provide us an opportunity to re-calibrate the engines to the new fuel crystals."
"How long will that take?" he asked.
"Maybe a couple hours. We might be able to make the jumps back home without doing it, but if the engine is not calibrated well enough, we could find ourselves in a strange location or we could just blow up."
"Wonderful. So, do I get to explore the military base while we wait?" Dustin was curious to see if he could find out anything about himself. He wasn't sure he wanted to ask Walter about it, in case Walter decided to become an enemy instead of a friend. The 'Lady Killer' wasn't really the title he wanted to carry with him, moving forward.