Written in 365 Parts: 104: Time To Exchange

The air was thin on the high plateau but it still had enough body to carry the dust high into the air. It was worse when the winds blew. They lifted particles from across the plateau and scurried about. The dust travelled with it to coat new parts of the world. In this way the landscape was constantly shifting. It was a slow moving ocean that would drown anything that stayed still for any length of time. Hiding it under a unity of emptiness.

After sixty hours on the plateau the small survival tent had been coated with the dust. On one side the winds had built up a small mound, while tendrils of sand stretched out on the other as the particles crashed and tumbled to the ground. From above it looked as if some desert creatures had breached the waves of the land leaving a small wake showing its passage. Soon the desert creature would disappear below the all encompassing ocean, and all traces of the breach would be slowly blown away by the wind.

Inside the person slept. They were used to waiting, it came with the job and so they had practice. They had a library of favourite entertainment on internal storage and enough rations to last for weeks. They could wait here for a long time if they really needed. For some strange reason they took a perverse fascination in the voices that seemed to carry on the wind. It reminded them of past conversations. It was easy to let the mind wander and to have the wind howl out a reply. It was easy to rewrite old losses with the help of a gentle breeze.

The meeting point had been chosen well. Few came to this desolate plateau. There was some mining to be had in the hills and valleys to the west. There were some small farmsteads in meadow valleys to the south. But the only close visitor to this place was the occasional robot drone that flew over at a great height. They would be supply or freight vehicles for the few commercial concerns. But the closeness of these visitors was a deception. Even they were distant specs to be seen in the far distance.

The dawn was a slow affair. The skies lightened in the distance behind the mountains that ringed the whole plateau throwing peaks into sharp silhouette. It took greater than an hour for the sun to breach the lowest peak and cast a grey light upon the dusty land. Then the sun would slip and hide behind the taller peaks throughout the morning, like a child playing seek with a friend. When it was joined by its sibling, who had at least the good grace to rise late and stretch higher in the sky, mixing bright blues into the grey light.

The bright of the afternoon, though, was merely a tease for how quickly the light would fail. Sunset seemed to be a race for the suns to get below the high horizon leaving the plateau dark with the shadows of the mountains casting deep scars on the world. The skies above quickly fell to black even while the sharpness of the twilight cast the rising peaks in a harsh relief.

It was at dusk that the person in the tent heard a gentle crunching of soft steps approaching outside. The tent had been set to stop light escaping to prevent an easy discovery. To find the tent one had to know it was there. The organic waited, a small signal flare on an encrypted screen of their short range comms unit showed a message. They quickly used the public encryption key they had been given to decipher the message. It was their contact. It was time to exchange.

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