The crew of the star ship Terra - the last hope to avoid extinction for the human race - are nearly two years from the dying planet Earth, when their four thousand year long journey, to reach the first possible habitable world, is unexpectedly halted.
The woman moved away from the cabin and hurried across the plain towards the valley at the far side.
Bones, baked in the unbridled sun, littered the landscape and the desiccated soil, now nothing more than clay and dust, was cracked and bare.
On the horizon, the receding moon silhouetted the shadows of lost lives as it dipped behind the skeletal remains of a once majestic forest and to the right a deep depression marked the position of a lake, now dry and barren, its former fertility validated by the shriveled husks strewn across the base.
She stopped to catch her breath. The thin air made periods of exertion impossible and anything other than a casual walk was becoming increasingly difficult. Once recovered, she again checked she was not being followed before making her way to the edge of the valley and around the ravine.
The cave was close by and shielded, from the top, by densely packed shrubs. She pushed against the branches then, as the dried withered leaves crumbled in her hand, slid between wood and rock until she slipped into the cool dark interior of the cliff.
Every day she feared the worst and every day she was relieved to find they still had not been discovered. She dropped to her knees and checked the contents of the first.
This small cavern, cut out of the rock thousands of years ago by wind and rain, provided the perfect environment for her water-gathering devices. The cave, slightly cooler than the outside air, accumulated moisture in the depths of night, which was then collected in small jugs beneath plastic sheets. A number of such devices scattered around the floor provided just enough water for the two of them to survive.
She sat back and rested a moment before amassing her yield.
The sharp corner of a folded sheet of paper, nestled inside her clothing like a baby in a pouch, pressed uncomfortably against a rib. She looked down and slipped her hand inside the fabric to retrieve the document.
It had started to come apart some time ago and was now held together with a great deal of tape. It was yellow and frayed, and she only looked at it occasionally as a rare treat. Carefully, she opened out the sheet, as though it were the most pure gold, until it was spread across her lap. This was more valuable than gold, though, especially now, and she would kill to protect it, as it was all that remained of a decimated life.