AP Wire story, originally published in the Sunward Observer, Bitter Sea City, Mercury.
of five earth humans were found today in a newly discovered shadowland
sunward of the Salt Desert. Judging by the skeletal structures, all five
were males, the youngest under the age of majority - possibly the child
of one of the others. Analysis of evidence at the site showed copious
ammunition expended, yet no sign of anything actually being hit.
of the skeletal remains indicates the bones were gnawed clean, as if by
hordes of giant rodents. A nearby abandoned lander may have been the
vehicle used to bring them to this remote site far from any inhabited
area. The lander appeared to have been damaged in landing, and the five
may have been marooned. The lander had apparently been subject to an
abrasive sandstorm at some point, because all serial numbers and other
identifying marks had been ground off. The skeleton of a large snake
was also found, possibly the pitiful survivors' last meal.
Kladeny Jorikov of the University of the Bitter Seas, who headed the
expedition which found the remains, theorizes the five men may have been
survivors of an accident in orbit who came down in the wrong lace.
"They had obviously been blinded by the katabatic winds, or possibly a
glimpse of the sun," explained Dr. Jorikov, "As despite being well
armed, the men seemed to have been firing at random. The only creature
they injured was the snake, which appears to have been strangled.
Perhaps they encountered it by touch?"
Ample provisions appear to
have been available in the lander, but being blinded, they may have
been unable to find it once they had left. The details may forever
remain a mystery. Were they fleeing some unknown space battle? Had their
ship been struck by a sunward meteor? We may never know. For now, their
bones hold the only testimony.