Penn scampered across the desert, the blistering wind nipping and scratching at her pale, chapped skin and hand-me-down robe. Arriving at the planet Sandcodi had been her first mistake. It had been described as a sacred, living and breathing planet and as a haven for those escaping the Everlast wars, but Penn had found it to be quite the opposite.
An orphan, she had landed alone and 5 years later she was lonelier than ever. Penn had only bargained her way to the planet by using her bilingual abilities as an opportunity to increase trade for the other species wanting to go there and communicate with the native Codi.
Sandcodi is a dusty, sand filled planet with small non-intellectual reptiles and rodents and the Codi. The Codi are a race of camel-like animals that walk on two hind legs, have humps on their front and are notoriously hostile. The language of the Codi is a difficult one, but this only gives Penn an advantage, or so she thinks.
Penn is running, but not from the Codi. The truth is, Penn doesn’t know what she’s running from, or how she has even managed to survive so long, but she knows someone or something is after her.
When Penn had flown here, she wasn’t the only one on the ship. There had been humans, the cat-people, martians and the cyborg space crew on board too. Within the five years Penn had survived here, they had all disappeared, she hadn’t seen or heard from anything but a Codi in 2 years. This meant Penn was stuck. The Codi couldn’t fly or build ships and other species disappeared just as soon as they landed. Flying a ship was something Penn couldn’t do alone.
Sandcodi isn’t an easy planet to live on, with hardly any water, boiling temperatures and a lack of crops, but this doesn’t explain it. If it had been the heat or starvation there would be bodies but the Codi had looked and they hadn’t found a thing. The Codi themselves seemed to be safe, Despite Penn not being able to tell them apart, according to their records none of them had simply disappeared. Penn knew, and has experience of, how unpleasant the Codi could be, but they had some of the lowest crime rates in the galaxy and were civilised in their own way, if a little rude at times.
Penn had been trekking through the sand-dunes for the past 6 months, stopping only to rest and catch food when she could. She was unsure as to what she was looking for or heading towards, but she believed living with the Codi to be unsafe. None others had survived in their small communities, so why would she? She needed a way off this planet and the answer to that clearly didn’t lie with the Codi.
Penn glimpsed a blue-cave in the distance and headed towards it. They were fairly rare in the desert, they provided not only shelter from the blazing 3 suns above, but also a water source which gave them that familiar shade of sky blue that reflected on their ceilings, giving them their names. Penn decided she could stop and rest here for a couple of hours.
Penn ran straight in, aching for the coolness and refreshments the cave would provide and in her ignorance, she failed to notice the boy crouched in the corner. He spoke, startling her as it has been years since she had heard another human voice. Penn was about to ask him what he had said, when she realised all he had said was the word ‘dust’.
“What?” she asked.
“Dust… The dust” was all he muttered in response.
“What about it?” she replied, her voice beginning to shake as a chill went down her spine. Oddly, she was trembling and then she realised it was due to the unusualness of this encounter. She thought she was the only human left on this planet, so why was she asking this boy what he meant by the word ‘dust’, rather than where he’d been living on Sandcodi or who he was?
“How are you not dust?” the boy mumbled.
At first, this only added to Penn’s confusion and then, it dawned upon her.
Sandcodi’s levels of sand and dust had been increasing year by year, She knew this because the Codi themselves had been so excited by it, thriving in this environment. The correlation had never occurred to her before. The Codi had always been safe and had low levels of crime because this was their home planet and their home planet had been protecting them. The reason no other species had been able to successfully communicate with the Codi or develop and create new technologies or systems on this planet, was because the planet had never let them. It is also the reason no species had ever been able to leave Sandcodi.
It had turned them all to dust before they had the chance.