Kalyah woke up on the pile of polycloth scraps that served as her bed. She stretched and yawned to greet the morning, then reached out for her comm device. Her hand froze after touching it, and she pulled away, letting the device sit, and instead she climbed up out of the makeshift bed.
Kalyah’s movements were enough to activate the light’s sensors and light flood her cramped little home. Besides the bed, there was a crude table and chair taken from the various wrecks in the valley down below, including the remains of her own ship, so it wasn’t the most comfortable thing, but it was useful in the occasions when it was storming outside. The rest of the space was devoted to crates full of her supplies and the things that she had salvaged. Most of it would be considered junk, but junk could be salvaged, or to jury rig fixes as things continually broke down.
Breakfast was half a ration bar and a stick of mystery meat jerky that came from some of the local fauna. It was edible, and it was better than solely living off the ration bars, but she would kill for at the very least some teriyaki flavoring to make it more interesting. After that she had her fill of water that came from the air condenser, then changed into her outside gear, put on her mask and opened up the airlock and stepped outside.
Outside, the sun was unusually bright, the sky mostly clear of clouds. It was already hot out, and Kalyah could almost immediately feel herself starting to sweat through the layers. The air was more clear than usual; she probably didn’t need the mask at the moment to keep out the gritty material that usually travelled on the wind. Her little camp was undisturbed, the solar generator seemed to be humming along, but shed could hear that she wasn’t alone because of the incessant meowing.
“Are you here today, Mr. Nibbles?” Kalyah asked loudly, looking around the camp.
More meowing greeted Kalyah, and a large cat ran up and rubbed against her legs, purring happily.
Kalyah knelt and gave Mr. Nibbles the scritches he deserved. Mr. Nibbles was a yellow tabby cat who had just wandered into her camp one day a few months after she had been stranded. He came and went as he pleased, so sometimes it would be weeks between visits, and sometimes he wouldn’t leave for days. He didn’t have any interest in her food or drinks, but he certainly liked the attention. In fact, on occasions, he brought her some food, some kill that he dragged up to her camp, usually with a few bites taken out of it, hence the name. Mr. Nibbles was good company and helped Kalyah keep herself centered.
The thing was that Kalyah was almost certain that Mr. Nibbles was not a real cat. He looked the part perfectly in appearance and mannerisms, but she was not convinced. While there were a few wrecks around that he could have come in on, it seemed unlikely. The most recent wrecks had been there for years before here, and while the atmosphere was survivable, breathing the particles in the air without a mask would do a lot of damage in a short time, and he seemed to have no issues at all. And besides that, he seemed have no issues dragging corpses long distances to bring them to her, because there was no life besides them that lived on the mountaintops. And maybe it was just the isolation, but there where times when she was sure that he was acting uncatlike, even comprehending her.
“Today’s going to be a lazy day, Mr. Nibbles. If the weather holds, I think that I’ll hike down into the valley to that lake I found a while back. Maybe even take the gear off for a bit and pretend that I’m relaxing on some resort and drinking some fancy cocktails. Does that sound fun for you? I still don’t have any treats for you, but company is always nice.
Mr. Nibbles seemed to respond by jumping up into Kalyah’s arms, far more affectionate than usual.
Eventually Kalyah did her daily sweep of the camp. Mostly it was just making sure that the tech was still functioning. At this point it was held together by scraps and wishful thinking, but it was still enough for her to have some chance of escape. No new problems had developed overnight, but in the meantime, the skies had darkened, and the winds had started to blow again, likely ruining her chances for a relaxation.
“Looks like I won’t get the chance to have the best day I could,” Kalyah said sadly, sitting down on a bench in her camp, “What do you think of a plan B, Mr. Nibbles?”
Kalyah looked around for the cat, finding him up on top of an outcrop, staring up into the sky, tail lowered, teeth bared. “What’s wrong buddy?”
A few seconds later, Kalyah heard the roar of the engines nearby, looked and saw a pair of ships flying across the horizon, so close to hear. It took her a moment to react, but once she did, she stood up so fast that she almost fell, slammed the kill switch on the generator, then dashed inside for her comms device.
Kalyah’s heart was pounding as she activated the scanner. The ships were well within range, so whatever beacon they flew with, she should be able to receive it. Numbers flashed across the screen, then the device updated with three signals – all of them with unknown beacon signatures.
Kalyah sighed, crushed, and tears ran down her face into her mask. That meant either pirates or enemy craft were the most likely options. She glanced around her pitiful little camp, admitting to herself just how exhausted of it she was. She drifted back towards the generator. The other switch on it – covered by a protective case, would drain the entire battery in an instant, giving an obvious signal to anyone who was listening. She stared at it for so very long, trying to decide which fate would be worse. Finally, shamefully, she opened the case and pressed the button.
With nothing to do but wait, Kalyah walked into her little home and dug into her crate of rations to the bottom, digging out the package that simply said “Birthday” on it. She went back outside and sat down, taking off her mask, then opened the ration. Almost immediately, Mr. Nibbles jumped into her lap, giving her rare attention.,
“I guess I’ll never figure out what you really are,” Kalyah said, as she tried the ‘Birthday” ration. It was cake. Not good cake, but adequately mediocre. Mr. Nibbles took an interest, and he seemed to enjoy the cake just as much as she did, which made her laugh.
“Real cats don’t like sugar,” Kalyah said in between bites. But for the moment, neither of them really cared as they waited.