The posters in the recruitment offices on Earth were brightly colored, depicting psychedelic landscapes and brandishing phrases like Adventure Awaits and See the Unseen! Abe couldn’t wait to sign up.
Then they sent him to oversee the auto-mines scraping niningerite from the regolith on DCKX1023. He was all alone, from one dark dead horizon to the other. His closest permanent neighbor was just a white spec only visible in his skies occasionally.
He trudged across a brown-gray landscape in a daze. He passed diggers and conveyors, tumblers and crushers, gantries and silos. They were all bulletproof. He’d never had to replace a single component. It had been two years.
There was an automated supply drop due in an hour or so. It was the closet thing Abe ever got to that long-ago promised adventure that supposedly still awaited him.
He entered the habitat and shed his EV suit after the sterilization and cleansing programs had each run their course. Abe needed a cleansing himself. He had a good deal more water than the suggested minimums, but he didn’t get it that way by being wasteful. He measured out a small ration of water and dampened a cloth. He wiped off the grime with the wet half and dried himself with the other half. It took a while and only sort of worked, but he had nowhere else to be and no one to impress.
He dressed and checked the monitors. It looked like the supply drop landed on time and on target. A rover was brining it in now. He went down to the inner cargo bay to receive it. The rover shuffled through the outer bay door and then waited for the atmosphere to equalize before entering the inner bay and setting down the large container before Abe. He unlocked it at the keypad and stepped back as the door unsealed and swung open.
It smelled foul, like baked fertilizer cakes and wet compost. Something inside moved, and Abe nearly jumped out of his skin. A gaunt figure wrapped in rags crawled out from the container. Just a boy, not even 20.
“Are they here?” he rasped.
Abe got down to the boy’s level and propped him up. “Who are you?”
“Are they here?” he repeated, his eyes wild.
“There’s no one here but me.”
The boy began to cry. “They’re coming then. But we have a little time.”
This was not the sort of adventure Abe had been hoping for.
Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page. Image by Henrik Ågren, used with permission.