The shuttle rumbled underneath Evan’s feet, churning what little was left in his stomach. Space flight was common, but not a pretty thing to endure unless of course you were the super rich. Evan was here with a different objective.
“Hey man, you okay?” The man with the shaggy blonde hair next to him nudged Evan.
Evan stirred awake.
“Yeah, I just get space sick. Especially when we get atmo-turbulence.” He doubled checked the straps securing him to the wall. “I am Evan.”
“Conner. What brings you to this circle of hell?”
“Contract. I have only a three years left. Been trying to get as close to retirement as possible.”
“Noble. Good cause. Got a someone special waiting for ya?”
“Yeah. My mother has been living alone ever since my brother got contracted a few years ago. Just want to make sure she isn’t alone when she finally goes.”
“Not what I meant man. You got a squeeze?”
“A squeeze? Oh! A girlfriend. Yeah, no. I am pretty much just making sure I do a good job. Maybe get to retire early if I work hard enough.”
“Early retirement eh?” The thought danced across Conner’s face. “Would be nice… Not going to happen though.”
The speaker in the center of the room blared with news.
“This is Captain Curtis. Atmosphere has been successfully breached. We will be landing in about six hours. Sky looks pretty clear until we hit landfall so you can move around, but you are restricted to your current cabins. If anything gets worse I will give you an update.”
The ship continued downward to the surface as the straps unlocked, freeing the eight passengers in the same cabin as Evan and Conner.
Evan stretched and Conner walked to the window.
“Damn. Can’t see anything yet.”
“Hey.” An older guy from across the isle walked over to both Conner and Evan. “I am Tony. You said you were getting space sick?”
He was bald with a scruff of a beard surrounding his mouth with brown eyes dotted with weariness.
“Yeah a little bit.”
“I got something for that.” The man reached into his pocket and shielded the exchange from the cameras using his shoulder. Evan faked a cough and swallowed the pill, hiding the action from the security cameras. Last thing he wanted to do was get caught taking illegal medication this close to retirement.
He could feel the medicine course through his body and he started to feel better.
“Thanks Tony. I’m Evan, that there is Conner.” Evan and Tony shook hand. Tony’s hands were extremely brittle and course. He had been mining for a while it felt like.
“Pleased to meet ya Tony.”
“So what brings you to this piece of space boys?” Tony had obviously been through a lot.
“Trying to retire.”
“Hehe retirement. The golden lining to this hell. Good luck on that Evan.” Tony pat him on the back accompanied by a hearty chuckle.
“And what about you my boy?” Conner was still peering out the window, no doubt trying to get a glimpse of the surface.
“Oh. I just want to see as much of the galaxy as I can.”
“The corp is a good place to that. I like you two. You are honest. I will watch your back.”
“What about you Tony? What are you doing here?”
Tony looked disturbed at the question and shrugged it off.
Tony looked disturbed at the question and shrugged it off.
“Still under contract.”
“The money just that damn good?” Evan joked. He liked humor, it helped him get through the day.
The three shared a laugh.
“Yeah something like that…”
The throttle started to shake from solar winds, but it wasn’t anything the old bird could handle. Vigilance was tough and had survived three tours. Erica herself had been captaining her for the past five years of Earth time.
Space travel was a gift to humanity but a boon to time keeping. Certain planets spun faster than others and some hardly moved through their orbits. This forced everything to be kept on Earth time via massive radio waves. Every clock that every human had was synchronized to the First International Space Station to what has since been dubbed Galaxy Time. Was it accurate? Hell no. Did it work? Perhaps too well. Everything ran on an exact schedule it bordered on creepy.
Erica shrugged off the thought and started to go through the motions of her pre-landing check. All of the mining equipment was still accounted for and locked up where it belonged. Laser drills, environmental suits, protein injectors and various first aid materials were all miners had.
Enforcers were a different breed. Tactical vision enhancers, rifles designed to kill from five miles away, a private communications system. All of those items were intact as well.
The cargo of the Vigilance this time out was eight miners, twelve enforcers, and Erica and her flight crew of three of her most trusted friends. Kale was the best damn engineer Erica had ever seen in action. During Erica’s first tour of the system Kale had single handedly saved half of a ship that had dipped too low into Venus’ toxic atmosphere. Of course Kale wouldn’t be worth a damn without his counterpart, William Sund. William was the pilot that was crazy enough to try anything twice. His theory was you had to try everything twice, because the first time might suck based on dumb luck. He was cocky and arrogant, but Kale was exact and methodical. The two provided a stable balance for each other nicely.
Valerie was the final piece of the puzzle, rounding out their little party of four. To be quite honest she scared the crap out of Erica. Her face tattoos just sent a shiver down Erica’s spine. Valerie was blonde and beautiful, but absolutely deadly. Her aim was always true. Erica couldn’t recall a single time Valerie missed a shot. Not to mention her skills with a blade. That was how Erica and Valerie met.
Erica was one of the few women under Contract for the company that actually tested better for mining than enforcing, but almost got raped when the Enforcers weren’t looking. Well, not all of the Enforcers. Erica couldn’t remember explicit details, but she remembered the aftermath. Valerie had killed one of the miners and skinned the body in front of the others to keep them in check. Three days later Erica was out of the mines and into flight school.
Erica found she didn’t really have a knack for anything in particular, but she excelled at seeing the big picture and forming a plan. She thought that no one respected her at all and only listened to her because Valerie was her protectorate, but she found that to be wishful thinking, as Valerie never spoke to anyone but Erica, and even then it was usually in hushed tones and only when the situation required it. She was a natural leader and her dedication is what finally made her Captain.
Vigilance roared to life as a face appeared on Erica’s view screen. She hadn’t accepted the call yet and used the time to put her brown hair into a regulation pony tail.
“This is Captain Erica Curtis of the Vigilance.”
“Greetings Captain, I see that your ship is scheduled to arrive planet side in three hours. I assume everything is accounted for?”
The corporation always called to check everything was in order before making a landing.
“Yes sir, General. All Enforcers and Miners accounted for. All equipment has been inventoried and recorded in the ships log.”
“And your crew?”
“Nothing abnormal reported. Vigilance will land on time and with all needs met.”
“Nothing abnormal reported. Vigilance will land on time and with all needs met.”
“Well done Captain. I expect your next report at 0700. General Franklin, over and out.”
The call went dead and Erica instantly let her hair down. Of course the cameras above were recording this, but her hair was a regulation length bob and as long as she looked professional when she needed to, the corp didn’t really care what she did on the deck of the ship.
She moved down to the engineering bay where Kale was making some adjustments to a part whose purpose eluded Erica.
“Something wrong Kale?” Kale didn’t usually work on something unless it needed fixing.
“Huh?” Her presence in the room surprised him. He was lost in his work. “Oh, nothing that needs dire attention. I am just working on getting this Protein injector back in working order. Don’t worry it isn’t from the cargo, this is William’s personal one.”
“Speaking of your better half where is he? We are close to landing.”
“He told me he set his alarm last night before we went to bed. I told him he wasn’t leaving enough time to get ready for the day before landing. But honestly? He sleeps like a rock anyway. Nothing short of beating him will wake him…”
“You. Here is your little toy. Try not to break it this time.” Kale tossed the injector to William, who eyed it intently before giving a nod of satisfaction.
“Thanks prick. So boss, what do you say we land this bird.” William stretched and had a spring in his step as he made his way to the deck.
“Kale, tell Valerie to get down to the Enforcers cabin and start gearing them up. I want boots on this rock as soon as we touch down.”
“Will do Captain.” Kale gathered his tools and quickly reorganized them on his belt as he grabbed for his walkie talkie.
“Miss Valerie, Captain wants you to suit up the Enforcers for first contact.”
Valerie’s only response over the device was a simple click used to signify the affirmative.
Kale didn’t mind having her around, but she sure gave him the creeps.
Valerie longed for the thrill of battle, but war had long since passed.
These Enforcers had never known true battle, only a version of control. They were cocky and arrogant and Valerie despised them. All they knew was how to dog sit the miners and step in incase the miners got out of control. These particular miners had been around long enough to know their place, so the Enforcers started slacking.
Still, she did as she was told.
The door in front of her shot open as she approached and most of the Enforcers didn’t seem to notice. One gave out a two-note whistle as she crossed the threshold into the cabin itself. Unlike the miners cabin, Enforcers had more space and more luxuries like a half kitchen, a private toilet and showers. But even though they had these things didn’t mean they used them. The stench coming off the twelve grown men confined to such a small space confirmed that.
Valerie didn’t even say a word and the men carried on like she wasn’t even there. A few in the corner sat at a table focused on a card game while a couple others were huddled around a simulation on the projection tablets.
Valerie walked over to the lockers and grabbed a pistol, firing a blank round into the ceiling. All of the men were instantly startled and gave her their full attention. She just simply pressed a green button on the wall that unlocked the cargo portion of the cabin and pointed at the suits of combat armor. The Enforcers didn’t wait to be told twice and started pushing their way towards their own personal armor, scared to death of the warrior woman standing in front of them.
Fricken psycho. Who does she think she is?!
Nathan didn’t voice his opinion out loud, but he knew his squad was thinking it. Nathan had led this group of Enforcers for three years now after his last commander retired. He was still getting the hang of it, but his squad mates respected him and knew what he was going through. He was the first to be completely suited up and pressed his thumb to identification pad.
His clean cut face appeared on the load out screen in front of him, showing him what weapons he was allowed to take with him to the surface. Being in charge of the entire squad of Enforcers of course gave him access to better equipment, but he liked using what he was familiar with. He picked up the E-14 Plasma Rifle that was standard to all Enforces, but settled on the G-26 High Impact side arm that only squad leaders had access to. It was heavier than the G-22 that everyone else used, but the exploding shells more than compensated for it.
“Think the Ice Queen will make it planet side this time?” The chatter was already lively. Enforcers were given a closed communications system that was independent of the flight crews radio to maintain privacy. Most flight crews weren’t contracted directly with the Sigris Corporation, even though all of the crew of the Vigilance was, and therefore were kept out of the loop on things. It was a catch twenty two though, as the Enforcers didn’t have the clearance to hack into the flight crews radio and doing so could end your career as an Enforcer.
“Cut the chatter. We still have to get the scum suited.” An audible groan escaped the mouth of a few Enforcers as Nathan turned to see that Valerie wasn’t standing watch anymore. She was silent as the grave and it crept Nathan out. Once all of his Enforcers confirmed their load outs and reported ready on all systems inside the combat armor, he advanced to the door connecting the miners cabin to the Enforcers cabin.
He pressed the button and counted to ten, waiting for the door to open. Pressing the button flashed a light in the miners cabin, alerting them to line up and to prepare them for being suited. As Nathan stepped into the other cabin he started to split his squad into teams to suit up the miners.
All in all it took about twenty minutes to get the miners prepared to make planet fall. As if on cue, the Captain’s voice boomed over the ships radio so loud that everyone could hear it, even with power armor helmets on.
“Initiating grounding procedure.”
The ship bellowed and moved beneath everyone feet as the landing gear crept out from hiding. Nathan could feel the artificial gravity dissipate and actual gravity take over. Vigilance jostled as it was hit by something, probably a dust storm, but straightened out almost immediately. The red light over head started blinking when the ship finally touched the surface. The cabin started to depressurize as all of the air got pumped out into the partially terraformed atmosphere. The light above the loading bay doors turned off and then glowed a bright green as the door opened.
Nathan stepped out onto the surface and scanned the vicinity with his vision enhanced helmet. He waved his squad and the miners down to the planet.
“Welcome to Mars.”