Kaleidoscope is an alien world that is like one huge set of ruins that covers every continent. There are even ruins covering every ocean floor. From all the research we knew that at least twelve different species lived on the planet. For the most part only the tiny area around what we believe was a starport has been explored.
I was born here and both my parents were archeologists. Of course they were among a thousand others with a couple thousand more adventurers. Then there were the tourists and the thousand support people and ... Altogether there were around ten thousand people on the planet at any one time.
Before I was sixteen I had a degree in archeology and another in anthropology. Of course after watching my parents and all the others I became more of a salvager. I took tourists or adventurers into the ruins to search for artifacts and trinkets. Sometimes what I or we found was valuable and brought in a lot of credits.
I lived a hundred kilometers from the port on the top floor of an ancient ten story building. All the walls were gone thousands of years before. The beams and floors were all made from a special ceramic matrix that was stronger than most metal. Of course the floor was covered in a thick carpet of moss and I had sonic barriers on every level to keep wild animals out.
I landed at the port and did a check before shutting down. I climbed out and looked at the six people I would be taking further than anyone had ever gone. Five were adults and one was a teenage girl with long green hair. I helped them load their packs and the grav sled. I checked around the large vertical landing flyer while they climbed in.
We were going almost two thousand kilometers east and a little south. It was in the mouth of a large river and the ruins seemed to flow back and forth over the river. I climbed in and turned to look at them, "alright pay attention. These are the rules..."
One man cleared his throat and I glanced at him, "interrupt and you can get out now."
He blushed and I looked at the others, "okay the ruins are not safe so do not get in a compliant mood. Floors can break and drop you several levels or walls and ceiling can fall on you. There will be lots of animals, some will look dangerous and will not be. Others will look safe or cute and will be extremely dangerous."
I looked at them to see they were listening, "the gosmar flying squirrel is an example. It looks small and cute but travels in flocks. It has fangs to inject a neurotoxin that will paralyze you while they eat."
I turned and started the flyer and lifted, "the sat scan shows herds of Gibbin's apes. They are not apes or even mammals. They are furred reptile herbivores but will attack you or throw any and everything they can if threatened. Last is migrant herds of pony sized Centaurs. They look like herbivores but are pack hunters and carnivores."
I glanced back while flying, "there will be others both dangerous and interesting to see. Stay together and do not stray out of the camp barriers to go to the bathroom and seek privacy. We will be searching several large building complexes beside and over a river so be prepared to be roped together."
I let them talk and look out the window for the rest of the trip. I circled the area we would explore before dropping down to land. It was on a flat pile of rubble and I tested the weight before shutting the flyer down. I climbed out with my rifle and carefully searched the bushes and trees and then turned to gesture.
They got out and stretched while talking and I moved to bring out the grav sled and all the packs and slipped mine on. I kept looking around before closing up the flyer, "one of you get the sled. Stay together and keep your eyes open. Once we set up camp we can explore a little."
I had already picked an intact building to set up in. If it was sound it would provide a safe base to operate from. I led the way down into the bushes and trees while keeping my eyes open. We went a block to a building that was six stories tall. It was one of the buildings that spanned the river and had a ceramic matrix like my building.
I checked the ramp that led to the upper floors and stopped on the one below the top. I moved out and had them wait as I searched the thick moss covered empty floor. Like my building the walls were long gone but this place had a few bushes. I returned and we set up the sonic barriers and then the tents and collapsing chairs.
Once we were done I led the way out and down and then diagonally across to a building that was easily thirty stories tall. I checked the floor carefully as we walked in, testing each step. The men started looking around at rooms that were still there. Most were only glass and metal with everything else decayed into dust.
I slipped into a large glass enclosed space and glanced at the girl as she followed me. I knelt to brush dust and debris away from a pile. I stared at an array of glass like gems in a black metal setting. I took vid images before I carefully lifted what looked like a type of necklace. I smiled at the girl and held it out, "what is your name?"
She grinned as she squatted and accepted the necklace, "Mandy."
She looked at it carefully and I gestured to the chest pouch she wore and she slipped it into the pouch. We began to comb through the debris and found dozens of different types of jewelry. We rejoined the others and climbed to the next floor. They had each found something below and we split up into pairs again.
Mandy stayed with me as we searched and found three different types of comp screens. These had been found before but the scientists had not yet been able to pull any data off one. When I found the ceramic matrix case it was sealed. I secured it to my pack before we went back to searching. Mandy had several devises she had found and most were something unknown.
I checked the time before calling the others and leading them back to camp. Next was a search in the building until I found a hole in a floor that went down to the river below. From that we were able to lower a collapsible hose to get water. I set up the long table in front of my tent and set out a ration for each person.
After eating we began to carefully clean and record what we had found. I had split the jewelry with Mandy and knew it would bring in a lot of credits. The case is what I began to work on and it took an hour to find the hidden lock. Mandy was beside me and reached over to push and pull at the tiny protuberance and there was a click.
That right there told me this case would be extremely valuable by itself. When I opened the case I stared at what looked like a brand new alien comp screen. There were several other things inside the case. Something with wires and a tiny hand devise I recognized from another find as a possible comm.
I hesitated before I gestured to Mandy and the vid camera. She started recording as I carefully lifted the comp screen and searched it for a power switch or button. On the lower left corner it gave a tiny bit and suddenly the screen came to life. I looked at the alien characters and touched one and froze as I was suddenly looking at a detailed map.
There were symbols all over the map's screen and I touched and slid my finger and the map image moved. I grinned as I quickly used my comp to annotate the symbols and where they were around us. I shut the ancient comp down and carefully set it in the case before I began pulling up symbol references.
I glanced around as it grew dark and looked at the men cleaning what they had found, "finish and store everything. We need to shut the lights off before they attract attention. We can go back out after the sun is up."
Mandy slipped away as I closed the case and carried it to the sled. I set it in and carefully put the jewelry in another small case. I waited for the men before going to shut off the chem lights and slipping into my tent. I undressed in the dark and slipped under my insulated blanket. I froze when I felt flesh and Mandy pulled on me.
.... There is more of this story ...