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The Next Flight of the Icarus

by Rudi Dornemann

You had to know where it was -- and when, because it was just solid rock if you missed the moment. But, with a good map and a watch set right, you'd find it: the door in the side of the rocky hill. And inside, the wreckage of the slipship.

That's what we called it, because we figured it must have been made to pass through solid objects, maybe phase between universes or something. We used to argue about whether it was made by aliens or time-travelers from the future. I argued time-travelers. Everything was human-sized -- the chairs at the right height, the buttons not too big or too small, and the screens mostly at eye-level.

"Could be alien time-travelers," said Dhalya

"Could be," I said, even though I didn’t think so.

We named everything -- so we could find our way around; so it seemed more cool than eerie. There was the glass altar, the dentist chairs, master control, and the room full of sinks. The whole ship, for obvious reasons, we called the Icarus.

We'd never noticed the lump in the middle of one of the desk-shelves. It must not have had glowing symbols on it before.

"It's a clock," said Dhalya. She pressed buttons, held her own wrist up near it.

Shapes flowed and flickered over the lump. They blinked once, again.

"I think it's on," I said. The numbers weren't quite in time to the second hand on Dhalya’s watch, but they were shifting with a regular pulse.

And then I looked up. Some kind of multicolored melting nebula special effect was happening out of the window that we’d always thought was just another wall.

We weren't alone. Creatures were everywhere on the multi-level deck, hurrying from one station to another on their too-many-jointed legs. It was hard to know if they were always this frantic, or if they realized they'd just been uncollided with a large rock.

"Hah," said Dahlya, barely squeaking out the words. "Not human."

One of them stopped to look at us with spinning, faceted eyes.

"No," it said. "Not for a long time."

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