The dust rolled towards Port Valhalla, sending sensors into a frenzy.
Evan hadn’t even begun to unload all of his required cargo into the safety of Port Olympus, the massive underground facility built into the side of the biggest volcano in the Solar System, Olympus Mon. The low gravity of Mars allowed the volcano to stretch to such heights that it dwarfed anything present on Earth. It was no Io as far as volcanic energy was concerned, but the volcanic turbines placed deep within the mountain generated enough power for the underground city of Olympus to be stable with little need for outside resources. The artificial intelligence could run the entire city by itself for 3 Earth years with little to no complications if the human race up and disappeared. Olympus was truly a testament of human tenacity and spirit.
But that didn’t change the fact that a dust turbine was headed straight for the Vigilance, who wasn’t protected by the huge volcano’s sheer size. The bird itself could take it, as it was tethered to the station itself, but Evan and the other Miners weren’t. And they still had three cargo crates outside the protection of the ship.
“Everyone inside. Step to it!” Tony was gung ho and a natural leader. Evan radiated toward him.
“Last one inside picks up the tab for the night!” Conner was a free spirit, excited to finally be on Mars. The tornado was fast approaching and he still had a grin of satisfaction on his face.
Tony was the first to the door but stood by helping the other miners inside before he would even put a toe through the gate. One of the closest miners still had a massive cargo load and was moving slowly. Tony pulled out his grapple gun and aimed it at the crate labeled only as medical supplies.
He fired, attaching the clawed end to the crate. The grapple gun wasn’t designed for pulling such a massive weight, but with the combined effort of the other miner pushing it while Tony pulled from the other side the crate moved fast enough to get it inside with little complication. Conner and two other miners pushed the second crate into the receiving cargo bay, but Evan and another miner named James were still working on getting the third crate to budge.
“Evan! Move your ass!” Conner was holding his hand out, reaching for his new found friend.
Evan turned over his shoulder and immediately regretted the action. The storm of red dust was fast approaching and there was no way he would be able to keep the cargo intact.
“James! Forget the cargo! Let’s move!”
James either didn’t hear him or didn’t want to leave the cargo just sitting, as he stayed put, his arms still exerting all of his weight on the crate. Evan was running with all the strength he had, but even with the amplification his mining power suit provided, he knew he wasn’t going to make it. But there was no way he was giving up.
“Tony! Tony! Give me your gun!” Conner was determined to save Evan. He grabbed the grapple gun and aimed it square at Evan in the chest.
Evan saw what Conner was doing and gave him a quick nod, pushing himself to his limits.
Conner pulled the trigger and the hook shot out at Evan, sticking onto his left shoulder. Conner activated the retraction system and Tony was helping him pull the extra strength wire to pull Evan in as fast as possible.
Evan jerked and spun dramatically, the gravity of the planet toying with the physics that would have worked perfectly on Earth. Evan’s spin placed his line of sight directly at the tornado. James and the cargo were scooped up as if they were mere feathers in its path.
Evan was next.
A sharp tug flung Evan through the door to Port Valhalla, landing with a thud on top of both Tony and Conner.
“So…” Evan tried his best to catch his breath. “I guess drinks are on me tonight, huh?”
The dust storm had come out of nowhere, with only one crate of cargo and a single miner lost. The Enforcers would be glad that they had one less person to baby sit, but Erica hated the fact that she had a single loss on her hands.
It did happen from time to time, but she always wanted to have a clean record. Even though both miners and Enforcers were under corporation contract and Erica wasn’t a corporate employee, she still took each death personally. In her entire career she had been under the command of five, make that six, people who met their demise on her watch. All of them were unfortunately unavoidable, but she tried to make sure that each person’s kin were apt aware of the circumstances of their death. She signed every letter personally.
A rasping came to the door of her private quarters, shattering her train of thought.
“Come on in.”
Valerie stepped forward, her custom made battle armor gleaming in the artificial light. Her sword still scared the crap out of Erica, even though she had known Valerie for years.
“What’s up Val?” Valerie rarely spoke to anyone else, but she answered to Erica.
“His name was James Fletcher. He had five years left on his contract and his closest kin is a brother in the middle of a two year stint on Io under the command of Enforcer Sean Casey.” Valerie was all about business and was straight forward. She respected the dead, even of those she didn’t know personally. “His contact information is on your desk.”
“And the lost cargo?”
“It was a rationed back up order for an emergency cache. Sigris had it insured and has already been made aware of the loss. A replacement cache has already been re-commissioned and is en route via the Herald. Since it was purely a backup we will still be receiving full payment for the shipment.” She spun on her heel and turned to exit Erica’s quarters.
“Who do I address the letter too?”
“Steven Fletcher. They were twins.”
Erica sat down and started writing on her tablet.
Dear Steven Fletcher,