Extraction

I maneuvered the snowcat into the valley and perched it atop the impact crater, the triangular ship looming in the distance, still stuck nose first into the ice. I killed the engine and reloaded the tranquilizer gun with a fresh vial of diazepam. What the hell did Buzz sense down there?

I sat in the cab for a while, staring at the ship and the remains of dish 20 through the dirty windshield. Whatever it was, if it wasn’t from around here, the tranq would probably just piss it off. I stroked the hammer on the Taurus .357 in the holster on my belt, then started the engine and pitched the snowcat over the edge.

The machine grumbled down the slope of the crater, the orange goo providing good traction, easily managing the slick surface of the densely packed ice. At the bottom I steered the cat around the ship and backed it up to within 20 feet of its position, got out, and grabbed the rope. I rounded the ship, looking for a loophole or hard edge of any kind, but the surface of the craft was far too smooth. I crouched down on the ice, thinking for a moment, then drew out a length of rope and fashioned a slip-knot. Holding the lasso in hand, I swung it around a few times above my head, then released. The rope slid over the ship and came to rest on the ice, about a meter above the buried nose. I tied the rope to the back of the cat, hopped in the cab, and slowly pulled forward until the rope was taut. Then I backed up a few inches, then got out and using the blunt end of a metal spear from the cat, shoved the rope about ten feet up the side of the ship so it was tight against the exterior. Then I hopped back in the cab, double checked the tranq gun, my sidearm, took a deep breath, then hit the gas.

The snowcat lurched forward, the engine straining, then suddenly the ice cracked and popped, and the ship came crashing down with a surprisingly quiet thud. I leaped out and circled the felled craft with the tranq in my left hand and the Taurus in the other. The rear of the ship was visible, flat and smooth like the rest of the exterior, with the exception of a large circular depression, roughly 3 feet in diameter, and flanked by a couple dozen tiny holes, each about the size of my little finger. There was no visible latch, handle, switch, lever, keypad, dial, or fastener of any kind. I kicked the hatch with my boot and backed up. There was no way I was getting this thing open down there.

I eyed the snowcat, and its thick steel sled, then removed the rope, and turned it around. The ship was only about 12 feet long. I wedged the sled underneath the ship and gave it a little gas. The engine purred and the craft slid forward on the ice with almost no effort. I pushed the thing up the side of the impact crater, out of the valley, and back to the station.