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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/1656613
by Jiltd
Rated: E · Draft · Fantasy · #1656613
A story on Space Exploration and other stuff
         Woken from a sleep that felt like it lasted for centuries rather than months we woke. Tired from the resting so long we were transferred to bunks to rest from resting so long, sort of like a holiday from a holiday, also this helped us adjust to reality. Though you never really dreamed when you were in cryo-sleep it still made a few of the dreamers try at least and end up a like a bunch of brain dead sheep for a few days after being woken. But that was now being slowly avoided by the medical personnel who woke a few days like the engineers to make sure that the waking process a more fluent deal.

         “Welcome to the Ship AE-Voyager 62-2175, we hope that your cryo-sleep was restful and undisturbed. For any troubles in waking or adjustment please refer to one of our medical staff so that you may helped, thank you,” bellowed the ship A.I. A few of the sleepers shouted back to the voice to shut up. It felt like a hangover to a few and I know what it felt like. I had a few of those on some of the other missions to other planets. Being a terraformer for the Planetary Habitation Programme, PHP, I moved more often than not. On some missions it felt like I had a hangover throughout the mission, and most cases it did, and the only way to get rid of it was Hair of the Dog, according to a Scottish person I met , and it worked so long as the whisky was from old earth and not from the new ones.

         The planet we were planning to colonise is number 10 for PHP and 11 for the human race, Mars being the first successful one. I was tired of it all; this is because I was part of all 12 colonisation programmes. The odd one being the rehabilitation of Earth after my ancestors buggered up the entire atmosphere. It felt like I was cleaning up the crap my parents made, well as they say “children of the present don’t need a future when they are still paying for the past.”

         It took 60 years to get even the single cells to work, normally it would take only 35 years these days, but cleaning and pumping air, not oxygen, from 3,000 terrastations is not easy when you have to clean up the surface first and then filter out the water systems. Mother Nature was pissed with good reason at us, but we managed to get it sorted. Also we had the task of taking down the century’s worth of constructions on it. It felt good in a sad way to take apart everything on it, felt like taking apart every mistake the human race has ever made, brick by brick. All was torn down, except the historic landmarks and we had to build Geo domes around them to make sure that they did not suffer any more. Small mercies we started calling those domes. All in all it was a monumental task for us, we are bioborgs now so age is never a bother anymore, our brains remain in a fluid that helps it work longer for less but we still age in some small ways.

         This planet we were coming to was one of the last ones needed. After that we disband and go about on our own paths, all 5 million of us. Most will be decommissioned and I envy those old timers but it was time to draw the curtain, or until the human race surpasses the 3 trillion mark. After this I go back to mining asteroids, which was far better, seeing that it was one of the few jobs available to bioborg like me. At least it was peaceful and remote. I preferred to work on my own.

         “We will be entering the planetary orbit in approximately 2 hours. We at Planetary Habitation Programme welcome you to Planet designation ET-N1095-2501, planetary gravity holds at 1.1345 graions, all other information has been uploaded in your mecha-memory chips. Please feel free to access and asses the information provided in details. Also please make sure that all your personal effects and tools are accounted for. Thank you.”

         Being a bioborg isn’t as bad as you would think, we are still 60% human, all the useless bits have been replaced, like our skeletons are now a quintilium and titanium alloy that is stronger and lighter than any other alloy, also all bodily chemicals are carefully regulated with the use of alien tech which regulated the likes of adrenaline and sleep. Our brains still function like most, and still get hungry because the brain needs nourishment. So we are still human but with extras. Expensive to re-create but a necessity because we don’t age as usual, just slowly over the years fade.

         I got up from the bunk and strolled over the monitors to look at the new planet, and other info I need that they don’t bother to upload, the agency sometimes forgets to update us on particular info we need before we start the process. Like for instance what are the asteroid projections on this planet, are expecting a shower sometime soon or are solar fluxes cycles around to bother our calibration of the station navigation and communications. I start with my login and proceed, greeted by Jennah the personification chosen for our ship looked at me with her warm smile that only serves to annoy me because it take minutes of loading smiles to get the simplest info. UNIX has become the OS of 2501 and it just so because it is simple and easy to manage, especially when the Ship has to calculate 400 quintibytes of equations per second. And now that engineers are hard at work trying to figure out where to start placing the terrastations they need the processors and memory for it. We on the other hand have to sit and wait to find out if 2+2 really equals 4 which in this case would take weeks.

         Tired of waiting I ambled of the communal lunch area to clear the cobwebs in my head. And there she was a planet denser and larger than any we worked on before. She was barren except for the meteor scars she bore, we always chose barren planets because in many ways it helped us to recreate Earth easier that way. Also the Interstellar Committee who governs most our galaxy bothers us less that way. They contacted us when we had colonised Mars and have continued to work with us. As humble as they seem they still hold the human race as a baby in front of their intellectual superiority. Still our soldiers have proven beyond their doubt to be more efficient at being ruthless than any so far. So we are safe that way. A representative was with us on the ship, coming from the planet Zerikon on the inner most cluster of our galaxy it is a remarkable creature, slim and tall with two hands [what they may appear as] and has four legs to move around with. Their speech pattern would sound to us as bird chirpings but with the new speech analysers and translators implanted make it easier to communicate.

         “It is a fitting place to start again, for you. From our analysis it should prove profitable as the minerals within are plentiful and vast. It is my thought that you may feel as though you are not being treated well because all you seem to get are flat planets,” It chirped to our head engineer and captain.

         “Not really, comrade Cillersas. At least we don’t have to worry out a race of creatures who will try and eat us alive and that. Also this gives us more opportunity to mould the planet to our liking and need. Besides what good is a planet if it is of no use,” Captain Ivan noted. He was of Russian decent and was proud of, not that countries held much in the light that it was abolished after the second colonisation and creation of PHP. Still some held on to territorial birth right like a flea to a dog. He was a prime example of that flea.

         “Nathan, I was looking for you. They are having problems down at the hangars trying to calibrate the miners to the gravity of the planets again,” came a voice from behind. I turned to see Julia standing with a wrench in one hand and a ship com on the other. My boss, she was tougher and rougher than all other dig engineers I knew. A diamond would look like a cheap shard of glass in front of her gaze as she bore it down to the back of my skull.

         “I came to look for something to drink and clear the fog boss,” I began and was immediately cut off.

         “Don’t give me that shite, you know very well you are to report to me as soon as you open those piggy little eyes, Nat. Besides you are the only one who knows how to work the new diggers, the others are still trying to figure out the which end of the diaper to cover their arses!”

         Captain Ivan looked over curiously, and smiled. “Julia, my friend, what brings you to the deck. Ah! Nathan, just woken up I see. I need to have a word with you both as soon as you are free please. There are some… new developments brought in by the probes we deployed beforehand. I would very much like to share your insights as to those developments.”

         Julia squinted at Ivan, and looked at me with a look that would have melted the transparent glass alloy behind me. At the moment, floating of space and dying a very disturbing death looked very attractive.

         “We’ll join you as soon as we have the calibrations completed Ivan, you know…”

         “No, no, it is very important. My deck please.” He cut her off immediately.

         I looked sheepishly at my feet as she turned her gaze back to me, “A fine mess indeed you brought me into. You will pay, Oi’m sure of it Nathan, you will pay.” This is the Scottish person who taught me everything I knew from the day I joined her band of one. Person because she loves only one thing and that is her job and nothing else, oh and making sure that I regret every mistake I make.



***



         We followed the captain to the bridge of the ship, along with Cillersas who remained silent in his mediation state throughout. I was last to enter the lift carriage as the captain commanded the A.I. to take us the bridge.

         “The reason I asked for you to join me comrades is that we found a few anomalies on the surface and below that raised a few alarms at the geo boys. It would seem that a new compound was found the surface that does not register on any database we have. The council has urged us to proceed with caution, that is where you come in, I know you are not soldiers on the frontline but I need a person with brains to go below and see what it really is. If it goes boom or not and the likes. I will show you what we have to far, and you can judge how to move forth.”

         “Wow, you know you could have added that to our memos so we could prepare. Talking of memos, Nathan have switched on your com?”

         I coughed and did so apologetically… I am going to be sorry for this. For sure as there is a sunrise on all planets we have been on. I was startled for a moment as a flood of memos from her and a few other people repainted my screen. And then the ringing voice saying, “you have 210,089 messages. Thank you.” It took me 2 minutes to clear my eye screen as we waited to reach the bridge.

         Julia has a slight smile as I managed to peak through the mails, and I knew this was her doing. Gone were those days when people had to carry computers with them to work, now they are implanted into you with a lens that acted like a screen. I hated it, spam had gotten worse and I was just got bombed by my own boss.

         We arrived and alighted from the carriage, this was the first time is come to this area of the ship, it was big. There was a central holotable that stood at the centre of the bride, surrounded by personnel who to a new person would look like they were trying to learn sign language, but in actuality were working with their hands rather than minds to run the ship. I was told that they had to relay the work like so to increase the processor power that was much more needed in interpreting the information that was being fed by the ship A.I and its sensors. There were close to 15 users surrounding the Holotable and a few were on the table working on it to visualise information so that there is minimum time for information lag. The old ways still held because practicality was something we excelled at.

         Ivan and Julia were already halfway when they turned to me and called me out of the wondering gaze. I snapped back to reality and ran after them, “please don’t be so harsh on him, after all you were much the same when you first entered here.”

         “Oh, please spare me that, there is time to stare and work, right now we are working.”

         We got to the holotable as the previous users shuffled off to their stations to make notes and briefs for the other users. Only the skipper remained to man the table as Cillersas finally made his made to us.

         “News from the council is not very new I should say, not much is happening. They are waiting for information on this new planet and compound also captain, we should be relaying more as soon as we attain it.”

         “Yes, yes, comrade we will do so when we land. We must not hurry into the situations lest we start something we will regret. Yes?”

         Cillersas remained impassive as it once again dove into thought. It had beady little eyes and a small head, no nose to be seen as had a gill like mouth that was never used to eat with, they absorbed their food through their hands. So trying to read what it was thinking about was impossible, then it rose out again.

         “I agree.”

         Ivan turned to the table as a holograph of the surface of this planet was brought to life. “As you can see there are no distinguishing features apart from the craters on this planet. The probe managed to get itself into a cavern explore further, this is what it found.” Another image came into existence, it was amazing. The cave depicted was aglow with a phosphorant kind of glow, colours ranging from yellow to red to blue, it was amazing to see. Julia shifted slightly as she tried to move in for a better look.

         “What are these things?”

         “I do not know, Julia. We brought a few samples to study and found that they have an unrecorded new compound that the council of scientist on board and on Circa-N195-85 are really interested in. This of course leads us to question why did this not come to light earlier when initial studies showed nothing of this kind.”

         “Captain we are being hailed by the council, should we patch them through?”

         “Yes, Yes please do.”

         Five figures came in to existence on the table who were the council of Eldars. The stood in line and spoke in unison.

         “We the council of eldars request an audience.”

         I signed, this was a tedious way to working but they like to keep everything formal to make sure that rules and etiquette is followed to the dot.

         “Hail, eldars, Hail to the council.” Replied Ivan.

         “We have contacted you to find out more on the progress of on this new development. Has a team been dispatched to investigate?” spoke one of the eldars.

         “We are in the process of doing so, it is will not be wise of me to send out people to without preparing for unfortunate incidences that may occur. The loss of even one explorer is equivalent to one of my engineers or soldiers.”

         “It is a wise decision Captain Ivan, we trust we will be updated as soon as data is available?”

         “Without hesitation Eldar Triossus, all information will be sent to you as it is presented to me.”

         “We are grateful for your honesty captain.”

         With that they vanished to be replaced with a 3d logo of the ship. The skipper then replaced that with the data we were discussing.

         “Wow, the council never really contacted us like that before,” noted Julia.

         Ivan grunted and placed his hands on the table to emphasise the importance of the statement we made. “This may very well change the course of this operation so we must proceed with caution, you Julia will take Nathan and one of the science boys with you. My recommendation would be Dr. Stullwarth, he is good with a gun and his head, and be sure to keep your eye open to all possibilities. I prefer having you and Comrade Nathan alive since you are the only ones who have any idea about the equipment we use.”

         “Yes, you must practise utmost caution. Such places always have a way to change the course of thought and work.” Cillersas spoke in a thoughtful manner.

         Julia looked carefully at the images in front of her and spoke. “Well if all goes well there will be no problem, however,” she paused mid-sentence and shifted her posture “should there be any problems I need to be sure that immediate evacuation is on standby.”

         “Done!” bellowed Ivan and turned to the skipper to give further instructions for the soldier forces to remain on high alert.

         We made our way back to the carriage and Julia paused before getting on, she turned to me and spoke “this does smells like a week old fish if you ask me but at least the buggers are taking fewer chances than usual.”

         With that we made our way to the hangar.



***



         The hangar was the largest part of the ship as it contained all the fighter ships and mining equipment in addition to the terrastations. Although we had an escort of a warship we still had to hold a few dozen for safety. The terrastations alone took 60% of the storage, the sight is unbelievable. Rows upon rows are set aside for the ready to deploy stations that start the atmosphere. All of these units are old, the fact that they mobile when needed made them invaluable. Also the price tag for one sits at 12 billion Inteplans. The mining equipment is small but almost all is A.I driven which saves the manpower for the other departments. We have about 300 miners within all the missions and from that only 10 will see the planet up close when working, the rest will be working from their station on the ship. The engineers also made sure we carried a few others machines that helps in other smaller or the gravity problems.

         Making my way to the main rows of terraformers I met up with Howard who was in charge of the storage and deployment of all out equipment. He looked like the way he always does before the deployment, and that was overworked and old. “Bloody hell! I told you not to touch the programing of that SamplerIV, idiot. Look if you have a problem then go back to CS and give the others a chance to do their jobs. Bloody twit.”

         “Nathan, about bloody time you showed up, hope the probe up yer behind was pleasant. We have work to do and need some sense in this senseless crew of babies!” he shout towards the end. The rest of the crew knew better than to challenge this old man. A friend and mentor when it came to running the machinery, he never gets to see the surface but knows what to deploy and when which saved lives of thousands.

         “Hello Howie, I see the rabbits are still looking for their holes, eh?”

         “You’re darn right, these buggers better move before I try my own probing! Oi you I told yer not to play with than panel..”

         The man trying to tinker with the Sampler was thrown off by the machine when he touched the wrong wire and landed with the thud on the wall and met the floor on his way down. The medical crew that was nearby ran to his assistance and defence because they knew the worst was yet to come. Howard was a new colour of crimson as he ran over. “Bloody twit… let me go I want to make that the SIV did its job!”

         The soldiers held him tightly as the medicals lifted the programmer off to the infirmary. And then just as flash he calmed down and walked back to us and looked around the remaining crew and barked a command that had all 400 crewmen running in a thousand different directions. I smiled slightly remembering my first mission with Howard; I almost pissed into my pants.

         Turning to see Julia, I was grabbed by the collar by hand from behind. “Where do you think you are going boyo? Go finish the job that halfwit screwed up.”

         I tumbled off to the SIV with a stumble and run. Jumping onto the platform that stood patiently next to the chest. I knew how to repair these machines by means of pressure of work. These were the real workers of the terraformers as they were heavy rigs that we used when placing and working with the terrastations, it was bipedal unless the terrain or distance forced us to fall to our knees to activate a tank treads. I was useful if the place we were going to was small. It was more of an exoskeleton to see, but it contained air tanks and emergency supplies and tools. There was a fuel tank mounted on the back to power the short burst thrusters located below the tanks. So far they proved be more than invaluable. The unit I was working on was Julia’s so whatever I did was made more important than usual because she was the most important person in the operation. She was the Lead Terraformers with more than 25 missions under her belt, the council periodically called her to help in neutralising the atmosphere of the unstable planets, she was my mentor and boss. She still treated me like I was a kid despite it being my 12 mission with her and 23 mission on my own.

         “Better not screw anything up there Nat, or you will be the first I will haunt after I die.”

         “Second being?”

         She looked with a smile on her face and cocked her head towards Howling Howard. I smiled and continued to work on the panel before figuring out that it was cracked by the accident the previous guy had. I signalled Howard to come over and steeled myself against abuses I will receive for wasting time on crap like this. “OH come on, Bergie get me another SIV panel and a SysDiag this minute!”

         Julia pop up from behind the unit and shouted at me for not informing her, I looked at her with utter shock to see where she was. Given the chaos and noise that surrounded me it can forgiven for not knowing where a person is half the time.

         Bergie came over with the equipment in a trolley. I was handed the task of removing the panel which took the better part of 3 hours. All the while the ship informed us via InCom this, “We have entered atmospheric orbit now and will maintain out speed. Communication satellites have been deployed which will take 4 hours to complete. Also all missions to the surface have been suspended till further notice of the captain and chief advisor from the council. Please be patient as further developments will be announced as soon as they are brought forward.”

         I looked at the rest of the crew that slowed their pace, eventually stopping work. A look of bewilderment quickly spread as the people looked around hopelessly for more information. Howard on the other hand bellowed right into our coms to get back to work that startled even Julia who bumped her head on the underside of the SIV. “Oi, Howard watch it, some of us are working.”

         “Sorry missy, the wee buggers would have soon started wandering around the place like lost sheep if didn’t do that.” Looking at Julia with sincere regret, she smiled at him slightly while shaking her head.

         I continued working on the panel. Julia continued working on the under hinges, we needed to make sure that they worked lest she froze mid-step while working on a dangerous place. I did not work with one of these, my department was support for Julia and that was the HeavyT65 now that was a heavy lifting tank that was used to carry supplies and the terrastations, also placing them where they are needed. My job was more important because I had to make sure that all placements were perfect, my margin of error was near zero because if it was not set properly the station will be belching out soil rather than air. Also I was the transport for Julia as we worked as team. There were 5 other teams like ours and they had their strong points but you needed a head like Julia’s to make sure everything went perfect and my calculated and steady hand to make things work.

         We art first transported to the surface by the military ferry that remains in place until the mission is done, then we load up and move to the next nest and continue. Each ferry holds about 5 stations and about 320 workers and my toy.

         Few hours later I managed to get the panel in and get the SysDiag to confirm that it was working in perfect condition. Julia on the other hand decided to take a few rounds and test the entire rig before wiping off the grease from her hands. I stood next to Howard for a few minutes and took to my T65 to see if it was working ok. I got in the switched on the main system and watched with a smile as all the panels started to flicker and come to life one by one. The screen blinked on and ran a thorough diagnosis, it stopped at the gas hydraulic shocks when the red light came on, I waited until it finished, another light came on and that was the communications antenna. Finally I swung out of the cockpit and walked over to the back and climbed onto the roof and inspected the antenna and noticed that a wire was singed, odd this never happened before. I looked over the side and called out for Bergie to get me a replacement for the antenna unit, better to change it entirely rather than risk another incident like this, especially if It happened while I worked.

         He used a lift and hoisted the new and updated unit, Howard was with him as a bargain. “What the heck happened to that on?” looking at me quizzically. “I have no idea Howie, the wire seems to burnt off, no idea how that would happen. Anyway about time I upgraded the unit, this one has rust on it to boot.”

         “Well then this one will be a beauty, I will be look up your nose if I wanted to see.” He smiled and returned to his running around. “Oi, you bugger what did I tell you about handling that oil…” he trailed off.

         I got back to my work and started to with melting off the titanium seal and unbolting the whole thing, “Is he always like that, I mean this is like a fifth mission and he still treats me like a kid.” Bergie looked at me shyly. I smiled as I hoisted the unit and placed it on its side to remove the anchored terminals, “don’t worry mate, he was crazier when he was younger. I am still treated like that though I am technically his boss, and so does Julia. He prefers it that way and so do we, if her wasn’t I would be dead by now.”

         Bergie thought for a moment and nodded, he lifted the old unit and gave me room to remove the more troublesome terminals. It took the better part of an hour to replace but we managed just before the Captain came on to my EyeScreen, “Comrades,” he began “I need to make sure that you will be deploying as soon as possible, the council is getting impatient. I am getting tired of discussing Borski recipies with them.” He laughed and stopped just as fast replacing it with a fierce face and continued “Cillersas is getting on my nerves and I really would like to get back to my job.”

         Julia came on screen, “no worries capitan we will deploying in the next 12 hours or so.”

         “Good, I will be on hand if anything, also General Smith wanted a word before you leave, maybe I can patch him through so we can sort this out.” Before Julia could protest the Generals face showed up crowding my view, I closed one eye and continued to work.

         “Good morning boys and girls, I wanted to discuss a few things before we jumped into this new shit hole. First and foremost I want to be absolutely clear in saying that I would prefer an army tank be used instead of that teapot of a lifter, second also instead of a SIV I would prefer we used a HeavyBolter. I am sure that you need a SIV to make sure that there is no room for error when some alien comes a knocking. Also what I want is that one of my personnel be allowed to join on the operation in case of any trouble.”

         Julia let of a small sign, “We will not have room if we let one of your trigger happy boys come along for the joy ride, if you insist that why not have one of the scout tanks join us instead. We are going there for poking around and observing not declaring war with the rocks and air.”

         “Listen here missy, I want make sure I am absolutely clear on this, I want to make sure that there are zero casualties when and if the whole thing hits the fan…”

         “Captain, Comrade, please there is no need for this war of words. Let’s do this, you can have a bolter join them…” Julia raised to object but was cut off by Ivan. “Julia, this way he will feel better and so will the council. Also do not worry I am sure the general has a man who a calm and level minded person like himself.” He nudged the general who twisted his face and spoke, “Okay, but everything needs to be done by the books, and any cock-up I will bear down on you worse than the enemy.”

         Julia almost sneered at the general before his feed was cut off. “Ivan, you well whom he will send and that guy with start another interstellar war before even saying Ooops! Listen just make sure he that if it does come to that I get first preference frying that dick…” she got cut off. “Nathan, Comrade, I feel that she will start it first then blame everyone else but herself. Please make sure that all they do is their jobs, you need to hold back you masculinity in check and remain calm. If something does happen then please make sure that you let me know, I will disable both their suits, then we proceed further sensibly.”

         I was always the one everyone picked on when it came to hold Julia down, somehow I knew exactly what to say when it came to that. With that Ivan logged off and I was left at the eye of the storm with nowhere to go. I sat back and looked up, seeing Howard’s face on top. “I see you had a word with the almighty, my condolences my friend.” Howard shook his head and walked away.

         Julia came back on the Screen with an expression of utter hatred. “Listen if they think we will…”

         “Please Julia, you know better than me, all he wants is to nuke the place first then think. Besides I thought I heard some chatter a few months ago before the voyage that he had lost his manhood in a battle at the outer ridges planets.”

         She smiled and looked at me with astonishment, “where in the name of everything holy did you hear that?”

         I shrugged and replied “the bars you never really approved of me going to. The soldier in question was a medic who had hoisted the dickless freak to the ship only to lose one of his hands to the rage of the freak. Poor guy lost his lively hood because he tried to do the right thing.”

         “I think, when this is over I am going to look for that guy and offer him a job, one or no. He deserves it.” She smiled at me.

         With that they left alone and I continued to sort out the hydraulics. They were fine only the sensor that was messed, it was the third time I changed it. When I get time I will replace the entire hydraulics or buy a new rig.

         Julia showed up as I cleaned off the last remnants of the oil from my hands. “Ready to go?”

         I nodded and looked at Howard to see if he approved of the early crew. He looked like he always does, totally angry from toe to scalp and ready to bash anyone who made an issue of it. “Hey Howie, are the supplies ready for loading?”

         “You bet yer behind they are, what took you?”

         “Hydraulics again mate, they seem to be bothering me a lot. After every mission they act up and fall apart, please have a look and see if you can find a solution that will not cause any problems in future or when there is a mission at hand like this.”

         I turned and made for the lockers to shower and change when Julia grabbed me by the collar. She looked pissed as always and this time looked about to rip my head off, “the panel you installed works, but the old settings I had are gone.” I blinked once in trying to figure out what went wrong and drew a blank. “Miss Julia.” Bergie hazarded, she turned and looked at him with a withering stare.

         “What?”

         “Well about you settings, they were not inserted into the new panel because the SysDaig we used is not the right one, I will have it sorted in a few minutes.”

         She looked at him thoughtfully and then at her rig, “do it and make sure Nathan triple checks the settings, if not both of you will be floating back to home base in a one man life pod.”

         With that she turned and made of to the lockers. I looked at Howard and he shrugged and went off to the other direction towards the fuel reactors. Howard remained and held up the old SysDiag. We went to work and reprogrammed the panel back to the old settings and I jumped into the cockpit and started her up. I had to fill in for Julia when we were in the field so I was much more used to her settings on the panel. Once you enter a SIV pit you are given a panoramic view of the front, your legs and hands are cover by the suit so they are protected in case a rock decided to get acquainted up close. The glass covers the user from chest up to that the pilot can use manual visual guides to work, “the eyes are better than the camera, cameras can fail and you pay for that with your life, eyes don’t.” Howard used to chant when we go them, he removed the metal protectors that came with them and replaced the stock glass with the quintilium bonded glass, much more stronger and better. Looking around I sent the command to start and watched the display on my ES fill up, all systems were accounted for and passed. I moved off the settings and imported the old settings and watched as they were implemented and refreshed. I tried a couple of manoeuvres and settled the SIV back into its place. Getting out of the SIV I gave a thumbs up to Bergie and made of to the lockers before Howard decided to catch up with me.

         Weaving my way past the catacombs the hangar ends up when people are going through the settings for the terrastations I met up with the hangar supervisor Wjortll who was not in her cheerful mood, she was a Sillartun, from the planet Sillarwok. A stocky being that looked more like a troll from out fantasy books than anything else. They were good workers and were quick intellects, which was surprising given the looks and size. She turned to me and called me over, I nodded and shrugged over. “          What I hear that all operations suspended?”

         “Yup, you know how it is when something new crops up that wasn’t found when they first scan the planets.”

         She looked at me stolidly and turned to look at her display, their type refused the EyeScreens so came to be that they were the only ones who used traditional screens any more. “I see, why Captain Ivan not inform me about this?” turning back to me.

         “Ask him yourself, looks like he is hailing you on the screen.” With that I left her to haggle with Ivan.

         They were seven feet tall, weighed about 200 pounds on the mid-weight side, and had a face that scared the hell out of kids. Sunken eyes, big nose and bigger mouth and a tooth sticking out at each corner. They had no visible ears so relied on implants because their ancestors figured that ears would not work well so opted to evolve their vibration sensory membranes that hindered their development. Apart from that they were the best supervisors money can buy because no one wants to argue with a face like theirs and when told to do something they will do just that till the last dot. Since they lacked an imagination they little need to exercise any of it.

         I finally go to the lockers and made my way to my bunk to gather some work clothes and shower. Julia was already there and I signed and sagged onto a wall. “You took your time, well you better hurry Ivan and the great and shitty general are getting tired of waiting.” I nodded and hurried through the ritual of shaving, showering and cleaning up.

         I looked at myself in the mirror and studied the few scars that I gained while on the job and ran my fingers through each one remembering the moment I stood at the doorway of death. I had few friends and that’s how I liked it, the fewer the more you can trust them with your life. There were times I had seen many die because their so called friends didn’t have the balls to act like one, on a side mission once I was assigned to sort out a rigging machine that would dive into a moon and scan for mineral deposits and frozen gasses. A straight forward mission by all standards but this one ended up like a nightmare, the on-board scientist was a drunk and miscalculated a trajectory of a small asteroid cluster that was found a few thousands of miles away. They rained down on the project obliterating everything in its path including half the crew, there was this one guy who got pinned to the floor by a falling beam, he SOSed to everyone who was there. I was 5 minutes away from him but sensors showed that a few other guys were near there, but they did not do a damn thing for the poor guy, they were too concerned about their own safety and scrambled to the ship leaving Jameson to die. I was manning a SIV so I jumped to the location and tried to help him, upon getting him out of the rubble a few more asteroids hit my rig ripping the glass leaving me exposed and bruised. The oxygen tanks were also ruptured so I was as good as dead. Jameson who I thought would run also remained behind and managed to get me free from the rig and jumped us to the ship. I was a mess, a couple of guy recounted seeing their guys getting ripped to shreds buy the shower, a comet the size of a pea moving at near speeds of light can go right through a guy and in space if that first one doesn’t kill you the vacuum will make sure you die.

         I got my scars and the scientist got his, they tied him up and threw him into the hold to be sent back to the council of scientist, who by all counts frown upon such incidences. Last I heard the guy was executed for murder. Just goes to show how mankind really progressed, which was none at all.

         I was hailed by the general and I accepted. “Hello Soldier, I heard that you were on the project so I thought I might want to talk to you. I read you record with the EP Brigade, nice. You seem more logical than your boss, make no mistake boy I will have the unpleasant bits brought up if you cross me so you sit tight and let my man do his job.”

         “What and destroy the planet because one stone wasn’t sitting in its place?”

         “Don’t talk smart boy, I will have you thrown into the prison moon for this, all I want is to make sure is that this doesn’t turn into a another fuck up like the last mission I was in. That Captain Jaork was an ass and I don’t have any higher hopes for Ivan so you be sure on my point. Got that?”

         “Crystal.”

         “Good, I hear that you were a better sniper than soldier. I might need one soon seeing that a war is brewing at the Primus D34 cluster.”

         “No, thanks general. Last time I went into war I was court martialed because I did my job better than the sergeant.”

         He smiled and signed out. I released a breath of relief and get myself together and made my way to the hangar.



***



         At the hangar it was silent now because most of the crew were back to their bunkers to relax and wait for further info on the job. Wjortll was standing next to Howard and Julia as the surveyed the ready gear for the mission, I was late by seconds from what I later understood.

         “Well hello sleeping ugly, prince charming stood you up again?” smiles Julia. I shook my head and turned to Wjortll and Howard, “all set?”

         “Yes, all clear to go. Captain Ivan informed me on this mission and so did General Smith. I do not like talking to General.” Spoke Wjortll.

         “Aye, sometimes I think to be a general you are put through prolonged constipation to get anywhere.” Laughed Howard.

         We waited for the scientist who I learnt was a soldier like myself previously so he came around with a rifle strapped to his back. “Great another trigger happy piglet,” muttered Julia under her breath and took to her rig.

         “Hi, my name is Dr. Elber Spol. Please call me El as everyone else does. We ready to proceed?”

         “Yes Dr. Elber Spol, we are ready to depart. Please make your way to the T65 and you will be departing soon.”

         “Right, then.”

         “Come with me El, I’ll get you suited and ready. You’ll be with me.” I motioned El to follow.

         Howard was helping Julia into her rig, it was fun to watch as both cursed each other for anything that looked off. But I did not have time for that now. I got to my T65 and opened it from my InCom, El followed me in, the cockpit only sat one but there was room at the back for 2 people which included seats but I had one removed for the extra space I got from that.

         I had worn my placement jump suit which was a toned down astronaut suit, and had little armour save for my chest, neck and head. The thick metal plates were light but my head could not move so all movements I made felt like I was paralysed hair down. The InCom utilised the camera mounted on the T65, both in and outside, to make sure that I would not need to move my neck. In case of an emergency though I could remove the brace around my neck, little blessings I thought sometimes.

         The hail came in from the soldier unit that was waiting for us in the designated transport. I replied to the soldier that we were on our way and I hailed Wjortll to have me lifted and placed near the cargo port to the transport.

         A Lifter crane floated to my position and then lifted and manoeuvred my T65 the transport take-off bay. El behind my had strapped himself in but kept on fiddling with some equipment he had brought with him. “You should stop that fiddling around there mate, it makes me nervous.”

         “I am sorry but I need to confirm I have everything… there confirmed. Sorry for that it helps to make sure about such things.” He smiled at the camera that was trained unto him.

         If I could move my head I would have shook it but now I need to concentrate and get my Rig stationed properly into the transport. The military soldier unit was standing next to it, it was roughly smaller than Julia’s and that’s because I has to be more agile when I comes to combat. I has one Gatling gun with 65mm rounds, coated with faded uranium for maximum effect, and a mini rocket launcher over the left wrist. I knew very little about those units but the little that I did was enough. They was used in peace keeping and assault missions all over the galaxy.

         “Took you guys long enough.”

         “Well you could have gone ahead and shot up everything.” Julia snapped back “why wait you lot like to just that.”

         The unit pilot remained silent and motioned for us to move. I got in first and Julia followed. The unit came in last and stationed next to the door. With a signal from Julia the transport took off.

         We all remained in our respective units as the transport flew us to the designated landing zone.

         “We will be experiencing some turbulence, the atmospheric storms are kicking into gear so visibility sits at 45.5% and speeds will be sitting at 3500kph.” The pilot chimed over our comms. The soldier was first to respond with a whoop of joy and a motion with a fist. Julia came on my screen and shook her head, “listen I don’t trust the General as you know so I need you to run surface scans more than usual. Lets not give hero boy here a reason to stretch his baby pinkie, ok? Also I will need to check if the planet will be able to handle the gravity shift that will be brought about by colonisation, so I need you send out a seismic probe to gather core info.”

         “Got it, my speeds on the surface will be slow as the shifting sand will cause some traction problems. I will have to run the scans at 75% power because of the EM disturbance brought about by the unknown subs.”

         “Understood, please make sure that the soldier is as bored as possible. There is no life detected here but I will not take the chance. My 50mm gun was loaded to make sure, also you should have checked on you laser too. I know that thing eats through your power but I would prefer that don’t have to think for your safety while fitting for mine.”

         “I changed the weapon a few missions ago, it’s now a sound fielder, also the battery was updated because of the hiccup we had at ET-R15874-2463. The bosses up there were not happy with what happened and gave me the new update for free.”

         “Wow, and you forgot to give me the memo,” Julia replied acidly.

         I looked at her and shrugged, she was informed but was busy cursing the General who was in charge of security for shooting down two transports in the basis of planetary security. The story later surfaced that a rookie misfired and ended up hitting one who then side lined another transport and crashed. The death toll sat about 5 pilots, 40 maintenance, and 500 civilians. The general lost his post and the rookie ended up at a prison planet. This was why General Smith wanted to nail us to the wall, and it seemed that he was getting a good start. They look out for their own despite the loss of life, I later learnt that General Smith wanted that incident to spark some sort of security debate that would have doubled his budget but since the real story surfaced he lost it and about a quarter more for that. Now pissed beyond anything he just wanted to nail Julia’s crew and dance on our graves.

         “What is a Sound Fielder?” asked El

         I turned to look at the fellow, “You lot developed it, and you don’t know?”

         He came on screen looking sheepishly at me. “Well the SF is kind of like a sound emitter that solidifies the sound into a kind of burst of power that does quite a bit of damage, good for mining in large places though, it is a short distance weapon so for me that’s good,” Julia interrupted “if you think I will be there for you,”

         I signed and checked on the hydraulics again to make sure that they were ok and sat back to wait.

***

         

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