Who but I to look?

The craters dictated the route he took. With their upheaved and unweathered edges, as he’d discovered when he was first dispatched here, shortcuts weren’t worth the risk of a depressurizing boot-tear.

The guiding beep was loud in his ears, but he kept it that way to be heard over his breathing in the confinement of the exosuit. Once every 3 seconds now. Close. Just over the horizon, and the horizons were small on a rock like this. He remembered the impact that had snapped him awake in his bunk an hour ago. Nothing to do but go look. Every 2 seconds now. Like a pulse.

Don’t be so dark, he told himself.

1. Fast. Now a quick high pitched ding-ding and silence. He lets his low-G skipping gait bounce to a halt.

It was there in the center of a fresh valley, the lines of impact etched with precision in the dusty rock. It was raised and motionless, like it had been growing there for years. Leaves, or scales, overlapping in a narrow column higher than him.

Nothing to do but stare, then run.

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