The Artifact - Lyonesse

Relief would come in just a few days. Captain Miles Mason wasn’t looking forward to it. He knew what it would mean. It would mean he and his team had failed. Failed, like the six teams before them.

Mason lifted another of the mykor tubs from the excavation pit and turned to ­carry it to the sorting station. The sunlight made it difficult to see the way. He turned a dial on the side of his suit. ­The screen across the front of his helmet instantly darkened. His vision improved.

He surveyed his surroundings. Thompson and Clark were working the excavator behind him. Up ahead, Neicroft, his second in command, was tapping the screen of her autodater, logging each tub that entered the sorting station, assigning it a bar code, printing and slapping the little, lined stickers on their sides. Inside, Watson and Coleman would scan them when they began sorting through their contents and then again when they finished. It was a smooth operation.

Still, no one was feeling good. The temperatures had been high the last several days, even for Hadon. Mason was still amazed that a planet that was nearly desert everywhere could have seasons. He remembered with longing that time months ago, when winter temperatures were as low as the mid-80’s.

Lately, the cooling systems on everybody’s suits had been struggling to keep up. They’d all be taking more breaks lately, retreating to the living quarters to strip off their support suits, shower, and get a few breaths of oxygen that didn’t come through the little vent in their helmets.

The certainty of failure haunted them all. For 350 days, they had been on this blazing planet, searching for any sign of a civilization long gone. Fifteen more days, and their tour would be up, and they would all go down as one more team who had failed to produce even the tiniest bit of evidence.

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