Julie hated this, hated all of it. She tried to think of something, anything positive, but came up blank. She hated the camping, the shared toilet, the lack of running water and most of all, she hated that it had all been discovered and categorised already. Everything else she hated could be dealt with, could be made bearable by that thrill of discovery, but this time, this time there was nothing to discover. She kicked at a pebble and watched it bounce a few feet. She wanted to be out exploring, doing real work. Not this observational crap. Unfortunately, she was contractually obligated to do it. She looked down at the light blue grass. It was interesting, that was something, but she had seen things like this before, and had already seen pictures of this place. If she could have gone in blind she would have, but the company insisted she read through the entire dossier. There wasn’t even a slight chance of encountering some kind of dangerous animal. Nope. None at all. Julie looked around. Damn, that always worked on TV shows. She made her way back towards the camp, the others were off doing their jobs, but she felt she deserved a little break for now. Something to clear the cobwebs from her head. Perhaps tomorrow she’d go check out the abandoned city. There had to be stuff there that she could find. Hidden passage ways, a secret tribe of alien people, hiding underground. She sighed again. It was unlikely, the computers were scanning everything they could get their hands on, soon they’d have a translation of the language and most of the mysteries would be solved. It seemed like the people who had lived here had kept pretty good records of everything.
Julie took a sip of coffee, at least she had time to herself here. The last time she had to go on one of these there had been eight people crammed into one tiny tent. She liked her space. As she drank her coffee, Julie did what she always did on these expeditions, she questioned whether or not she wanted to do this for the rest of her life. It would take her a few minutes, but she would always come to the same conclusion that the other times, the times that weren’t life suckingly boring, made it worth while. She had catalogued over fifty planets since the start of her career, forty of which were discoveries, the rest were missions like this. Some were astounding, like this planet had been, before people who weren’t her started traipsing around it in their grubby little boots, massive buildings, crazy, spiralling architecture. Others were a little more dull, rocks, more rocks, maybe a cave painting or two. But the thrill of stepping onto a planet, not really knowing what to expect on ground level, nothing could compare to that thrill. Her life had been in danger on sixteen of the planets, several of which were due to hostile natives, the other times due to plant or animal life. The area they were in now had a perimeter set up, to keep the larger predators out, so they were safe as they could be. That was part of it too, this fake safety. They were “safe.” It enabled people to let their guards down, something which shouldn’t be done in the field, no matter how safe it was. In the history of the company, there had been few deaths, but there had been plenty of injuries, some horrifically disfiguring.
Julie stood and stretched, she was starting to fall further into her mood and she didn’t want to do that. She hated the way she became broody in places like this, but there was nothing to do. She left the tent, going right. There had been an old burial site near the tents, that was where she would go. See if they buried their dead with items, how they treated the bodies. It would pass the time.
When Julie was done, she was sweaty and streaked with dirt. She was frustrated, so far, there had been no bodies. There were flowers, there were what appeared to be a kind of headstone, but there was nothing else. Not even a box or some kind of indication that ashes had been placed down. Perhaps the civilisation disposed of bodies differently, or for sanitation reasons, but she was pissed. It was her own fault, realistically she could have scanned the ground, but she wanted that feeling of discovery. Well, the only thing she had gotten was a nice cut when a piece of sharp rock nicked her finger. Julie stretched, trying to work some of the pain out of her back, what she wouldn’t give for a hot shower. If only she had found something to make it worthwhile. She left the graves dug up, after all, it wasn’t like she was disrespecting the dead, there were no dead to disrespect.
Once she was clean she felt a little better, she was tired, good kind, and though she hadn’t found anything, it had been nice to do something active. The computers would be done with their scans soon, she could be the first person to read about the society, that would be something. She might even discover how their burial rites worked. It bugged her that they had a graveyard with nothing in it and if it was some kind of memorial she wanted to know what it was there for.
The next morning she had her blood tested, per protocol, the machine whirred gently as it worked. She didn’t expect there to be anything on it, it was just a cut, but it was better to be safe than sorry. The machine dinged and her results popped up on the screen, small anomaly, nothing too dangerous, a few pills and she’d be right as rain. She could feel it, in the pit of her stomach, the thrill of discovery. She’d have to take soil samples, it was a consciousness that was trying to take over her body, the blood test showed it quite clearly. She’d have to warn everyone else to be careful of course, but this was something interesting. She was tempted to let it run its course, until she was taken over, one of the others could talk to the being, ask it questions, but there was only a seventy percent chance that they’d be able to remove it and restore her to her full faculties. It wasn’t worth that kind of risk. She’d take a sample with them, find someone willing to do it. This expedition wasn’t turning out so bad after all.