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Rated: E · Short Story · Sci-fi · #1951749
My last mission for Opal Eye Corporation takes me back to my youth. Literally.
Word Count 991

Sarnert Grate flashed its radiant purple magic in the darkest part of the Parmamite Galaxy, my galaxy. Sarnert Grate seemingly the most volatile planet in my galaxy was taunting me, mocking me. Only two of the six analyzers attached to the most advanced probing capabilities corporate could purchase were working and they were only registering temperature and seismic activity.

“What do you make of it Commander?” my navigator Lance Rice asked.

“It’s rocking itself apart right now,” I said, “and there is too much interference from the multiple eruptions or plate movements to ascertain the current situation on the surface with our Cisco probe.

“You may want to bypass this one Commander,” Lance said. “Surely corporate will understand our limited sources for getting in an out of some of these more volatile atmospheres.”

“I don’t think we can afford to back off now. Go ahead and send in the Delta probe,” I said.

“You’re going in?”

“It’s not too hard to figure out, Lance. I am not necessarily expendable but I am expected to take risks in these situations. I’ve got to turn in at least a high altitude scan of each planet, in this case good old purple gassed Sarnert Grate. Without it, despite all of our profound work on with the other twelve planets on this mission, corporate will consider this one a failure. The gases from atmosphere or the fire geysers from the crust are preventing a scan from space. I‘ll need to get below. Probably way below.”

“Is that why on these high risk exploration missions corporate sends out you old…der, well you know more senior officers?” Lance’s face was nearly as red as his Opal Eye corporate uniform and his shaggy red hair.

I laughed. I may have been old but I knew younger officers gossiped about the ages of corporate’s primary planet explorers. I gave him no ease from his stupidity or embarrasment.

“Decrepit old geezers I think is the term you’re looking for,” I said. “You can say it. I’ll be seventy-nine years old in just eighteen more minutes. I would have rather celebrated it with Colette at Opal Eye headquarters, but no, I’m stuck with you and this never ending mission.”

“Well, Happy Birthday anyway Commander,” Lance said, his focus returning to the reading of the six instruments that should have produced a flow of data from Sarnert Grate. Of the two working screens one delivered a constant graph of high level seismic activity in the double digits, the other ticked off constant fluctuations in atmospheric temperatures.

“From the bridge,” Lance said to the space around him.

A voice filled the cabin, “Ready bridge.”

“In fifty-one seconds launch a Delta probe.”

“Counting down,” the voice replied, “40, 30, 20…”

“Its on its way commander, should I ready the GOAT?”

“Ready the GOAT Navigator.” The GOAT, the Gravity Optimized Atomic Transport, typically could sustain the lives of four crew for twelve months anywhere in the universe, but corporate used them to blast into some of the most repelling atmospheres ever created.

A voice filled the cabin, “Delta probe on target to broadcast in 13 seconds.”

Lance commanded the readying of the GOAT.

“Don’t go commander. I don’t like the risk you are taking.”
I grabbed his arm as if needing him to focus on the dangerous mission ahead. He was surprised by the strength in my slightly palsied hand.

As the ranking navigation officer aboard the Silhouette, Opal Eye Corporation’s M class intergalactic cruiser, it was Lance’s job to prepare for GOAT launches, atmospheric scans, landing parties and if necessary the odd rescue party. But Lance was always over cautious. His zeal had potential to destroy two years of my planning, so I left him a holographic last will and testament timed to appear five minutes after my departure.

“GOAT’s up commander,” Lance said.

A new voice filled the bridge of the Silhouette. “Delta Report.”

“Go Delta,” Lance said.

“Known life forms detected. Preparing census. Preliminary indicators: They are known species in the intergalactic catalogue.”

“Continue analysis Delta,” Lance said.

From the bridge I saluted my Navigator. “The mission is yours Lance. Carry on.”

Several minutes later I was comfortably transported across the remaining miles into Sarnert Grate’s atmosphere, past the Delta probe where it had lodged itself in the planet’s primary atmosphere beaming the only signal I cared about. In another moment my craft and I entered the secondary atmosphere of the planet. Here no space cruiser’s scanning equipment could penetrate. I disabled the Delta Probe. Now that the Silhoutte’s crew had been informed by hologram of my unfortunate demise. The dead probe would keep the mystery of my disappearance in eternal silence.

She was waiting on an island like zone on the planet’s surface with her own GOAT. There was light like earth’s sun revealing sandy shores. Colette’s eighteen man GOAT sat in the middle of a garden of unique red, green and gray vegetation surrounded by water like streams. I parked next to the larger GOAT and ported into Colette’s habitat.

“Honey I’m home,” I said striding youthfully through the entry way to my getaway cottage. I embraced my sweet partner and kissed her with the longing only deep space can create in a man.

As our embrace ended I stared with reverence at the young girl in my arms. Though she was my age she appeared to be twenty-five.

“I can’t believe my eyes Colette, you look like a kid.”

She turned to the birthday cake on the counter and scooped a small bit onto her index finger. I gingerly tasted of the garnet red frosting.

“Happy birthday, darling,” she said, “Your youth is in the frosting my love. Compliments of Sarnert Grate’s sugar beets and Opal Eye’s fanatical research.”

“Would you like some coffee with your cake young man,” Colette’s smile was teasing and fresh.

“Yes,” I said, “With two lumps of that crazy red sugar.”
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