Strange finds in the word hoard

Very occasionally I look through my folders on the computer and open old files to try and find out what they are.  I was doing that this morning and came across a file called “Explorer5.doc” which I could not remember at all.  Now I’m kicking myself.  I have this lovely opening, and no idea what this story was supposed to be about.  I strongly suspect it’s another elves in space one, but that’s all I remember.  Who Neil and Chris are, I have no idea.

“Explorer five, recalling you to base.  Come on in Neil, your time is up.”

Neil leaned forward, tracking the blip of darkness that tumbled slowly across the hopper’s viewscreen, gloved hands flexing on the controls of the collecting arm.  “Give me a moment, control.  I promised Jeannie a rock.”

Carbon-dioxide hissed from the little craft’s jets as he gentled her into the path of the pebble, reaching out for it with robotic fingers.  Saturn’s sandy curve swung into view, filling the cockpit with pale gold light.

His earpiece crackled, Lieutenant Tanner’s voice tinny and breathless with annoyance.  “Pick one out of the hopper.  I repeat, come in now.  You’re too close to the rings, Neil, don’t piss about.”

As he sank down into the ring plane, chasing the dark meteorite as it fell into Saturn’s grasp, the sun slid out from beneath his feet, and light beat upwards through the spinning tumble of ice.  He gasped in a breath of recycled air, smelling sweat and awe.

The rings stretched before him like the surface of an alien sea, light lancing through the interstices between boulders, shimmering through the boulders themselves, their hearts alight as they tossed in their strange tides.  Caught up in the wonder, he laughed out loud, cutting over Tanner’s “I’m going to make sure you never fly again…” with “No, listen Chris, you should see it.  I’m above the Keeler gap.  The spiral density waves are like something out of a Celtic manuscript.  Illumination, literally!  Plaited ice and those trefoils you get like… like the legs on the Isle of Man flag.  All done in golden light.  It’s fantastic!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Chris’s metallic voice squawked, unimpressed.  “That’s the propeller moonlets.  You’re running out of air, and my patience.”

“I’m just chasing this one dark pebble – something that isn’t going to melt on her, Chris.  I’ve been away three years, I’ve got to take something back!”

“You’re not a tourist, Neil you… what the…!”
What happened next?  I don’t know.  Anyone want to finish it?  I don’t think I ever will.

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