“May!” The Colonel called through the headsset. Mission specialist May had gotten ahead of the group on approach to sector 2-1-19 and with the plaza within sight, she had cut off at a faster clip and he had lost sight of her in the darkness and the odd snowflake effects of the radiation fallout [confirm fallout and whatever has an effect like this, yeah… nope, will need to rephrase). The giant dust flakes had been nearly fatal tot he first groups to touch down here, when the began clogging the ventillation intake valves on their suits. A few orbits of the strange moon, and their techs on the Orbiter name had come up with a crude, but effective solution — they’d taken the [something, maybe make the vents fuzzier]. The scientists under his command continued to impress him, in spite of what he’d been lead to believe about htem growing up, continually coming up with solutions to problems they ran into.

Except when they were getting excited about some discovery and causing new problems for him and his squadrons. Like now, with Mission Specialist May nearly a half click ahead, but he only knew that from the personel readout along the periphery of his view glass. The dark here… was something unlike anything he’d ever encountered. Even in sensory deprivation chambers, the darkness didnt’ seem quite soso … absolute. His twin head mounted lights cut vainly at the syrupy-thick darkness ahead of him, mostly serving to illuminate the drifting flakes of ash ahead, giving the scene an oddly …feeling of nostalia for winters. Snow. [blep].

The planetary system was weird. There was no doubt about that. The massive super-earths all seemed to have signs of advanced civilizations that all seemed ot have been wiped out around the same time — many exhibited signs that survivors of wahtever initial conflagration had taken them out had attempted to rebuild… something… in the ruins, before disappearing for god knows where.

Moon 5b was perhaps the oddest of them all, odd even comparitively to the rest of the system. It’s orbit was tidally locked with it’s planet in such a way that it would orbit Planet 5 at exactly the rate that Planet 5 orbited Stellar Object 47delta, leaving it permanently in shadowed darkness. This far on the galactic rim, even the far side of the moon saw hardly any stars in the night sky for most of the ‘year’, and here, on the side facing Planet 5; the only hint of stars clung to the hazy horizon, distorted and muted by the thick atmosphere. Strange.

Finally, a response back from the wayward missino specialist

“Colonel” May’s voice crackled in his ear. “This is it! this is the plaza the survey orbiters imaged; the one that lined up with the map we found on Planet 4.”

“Affirmative” he murmed back. He glanced around. Jutting probes of light from his marines cut at various angles as they surveyed the wide street around them. “Specialist, I do wish you’d keep within sight.” Her line cut on, but there was a momentary silence.

“Sorry Colonel” she uttered. She knew her exuberance for these finds sometimes gave him anxiety for the safety of the team, even though they’d yet to encounter so much as a cockroach living anywhere in the system. He felt bad for chastizing, in spite of himself.

“just try to be safe. What did you find?” He thought he could see her hazy spacesuited form catchign and reflecting his faint headlamps up ahead as he and the other marines advanced into the wide open plaza. He turned and made eye contact with Delgancy to his right, then held up two fingers to his faceplate, and pointed down the one side of the open area.

“It’s hard to see in this damned darkness” May crackled back. “But I think there’s definitely something decorating the middle, which we werent’ able to see from the survey. If we were on Earth, I’d say it’s like a… fountain?”

The hazy relfecting ahead of him slung something off her back, and propped it on the gorund. A massive spotlight clicked on — with a click and a thunk he could more feel through the skin of his suit rather than hear. He wasn’t ready for what it shone on.

In the middle of the square, just as the Specialist had described, was something that unmistakably resembled an earth fountain. A large basin of stone surrouned a central pedestal. On the pedestal were a pair of figures. He couldn’t quite make them out in the haze of giant dust flakes and harsh shadows, so he waved his hand in front of him, mostly in vain, to clear away the snow-like precipitation.

“Oh my god.” May came crackling at him. Then the figures resolved in his vision. It was one giant form, definitely human, shirt ripped, muscles bulging — the colonel immediately flashed to Captain Kirk’s preposterous space captain shirt ripping from the ancient Star Trek; ‘whew… if only the galaxy had turned out to be like that, eh?’ he quickly thought to himself before taking in the rest of the statue.

The alrge figure had one fist raised, as if ready to punch something. Hard. Grasped in his other hand, was a smaller man, also human. He was clearly much frailer than his attacker, who had him by the scruff of the shirt, and was holding both hands in front of his face, and was turned to the side, as if to block and avoid the coming blow, respectively.

“What the fuck.” the Colonel couldn’t hold back — vox box on his suit picking the sound and broadcasting to the whole squad, though he had meant to subvocalize. They had found some confusing stuff in this system, but such a display of outright physical dominance and violence was alarming, even for the marine.

May turned toward him, eyes looking frightened through her viewport. She nodded, an ungainly, full-torso’d nod, as best could be done in the surface suits.

“Whoever… whatever… lived on this moon. They chose to make a statue of this.” The Colonel stared. “Like, here’s a great moment from history, or mythology… or whatever they had.”

The Colonel was scared, for the first time, truly scared, to find out what was at the bottom of all these ruins they found.

What neither the Colonel nor the Specialist, nor any of the expedition’s scientists would know for several dozen solar cycles — was that this moment commemorated the moment when an uprising had finally unseated Dictator Rhulah, who, in spite of small physical size, had held the system in fear, his will carried out across the planets by means of an army of mechanical terrors holding all nine planets hostage for nearly a decade. This statue captured a moment of freedom for the entire planetary system.