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   Chapter 2 No.2

Beyond the End of the World, Lokians 1 By AaronDennis Characters: 6127

Updated: 2018-01-10 12:02


He often talked to himself, especially in such a situation, griping about intestinal distress, which surfaced every time something major was at stake, but that was just the way it was. He chuckled. Maybe I'll just start putting on my chest plate, he thought, bet that'll get me going. A knock on the stall door broke his concentration.

"Ten minutes to landing, Cap, " Martinez said, his voice echoing in the steel latrine.

"Acknowledged, " O'Hara replied as he finished his business. "Now, number two is no longer my number one priority."

"Glad you told me, " Martinez snipped.

Ensign Martinez was an ordnance specialist and possibly the craziest member of O'Hara's crew. He was a tiny Puerto Rican who knew everything there was to know about explosives and demolition. Word was, he once rigged himself with some concussive, blast caps in order to blow his way through a training exercise. Naturally, he wound up in sickbay with a mild concussion. Martinez was barreling through the ship's steel corridors then, rounding up everyone needed for the mission. Shortly thereafter, they all met in conference room B. Oddly enough, there was no conference room A, a possible oversight about which the crew enjoyed asking the AMS.

The conversation usually proceeded as follows: AMS, we need to meet in conference room A, please confirm the room is available for use.

Searching, locating, error; room not found. Please, restate query.

Check conference room A for availability.

Searching…no scheduled usage for said location.

Good, give location please.

Searching, locating, conference room A is located 730 miles to the northeast.

That would place me outside the Phoenix. How can the room be outside the ship?

Error, checking logs, error…attempting to communicate with servos. No response.

Though the foolishness had simply been a device to break the monotony, Swain proposed reprogramming the AMS to reroute all requests for room A to room B, but they voted against him, so, in room B, they eagerly awaited their captain for mission objectives. O'Hara entered moments later, wearing his full, battle dress, gray and black armor with strategic plating to protect the vitals. All his men were lined up at attention, also in full gear. Battle dress was composed of a thick, airtight material. The suits not only provided strategic, defensive plating, they also provided an automated, life support system calibrated to their specific needs. O'Hara nodded to his crew and the scientists as he made his way to the lectern. The scientists, who also grew up on the same, militarized colonies, weren't Navy men, something their civies reflected.

Room B was a small room with a steel desk in the center bolted to the floor. A lectern with control panels stood opposite the door at the other end of the room, also bolted to the steel floor. There were many panels in the walls and ceilings, which either displayed images on a screen or projected some three dimensional schematics. Some panels were for sound or lighting.

"Roll call, " O'

Hara announced, "Becker, DeReaux, Fitzpatrick, Imes, Martinez, Nandesrikahl, Swain, Zakowski." They all replied, present, so he proceeded to call the civilians. "Chadwick, Levine, Mickelson, Nicholson, Royce." They, too, replied, present. "Alright, " O'Hara chirped. "Let's begin with the aerial photograph provided by Swain." He pressed a button on the lectern, causing a screen to lower from the ceiling. It stopped halfway, and he cursed under his breath. After gripping it and tugging while the others choked back laughter, he finally shook the piece of crap loose. He then dimmed the lights and pressed another button. The photograph displayed on the screen. "As you can see, we have a large circular area with no life signs. Our instruments haven't detected any radiation, but we'll try to see if we can pick up anything on the way there.

"Now, none of our equipment functions in this location, so we'll have to do everything by hand. The first thing we'll do is set up a mobile camp one mile from the dig site, which is far away enough from any possible exposure. Once the camp is set, DeReaux and Fitzpatrick will escort geologist Mickelson to the dig site where he'll collect surface samples. The three of them will promptly return and begin studies. Yes, Nicholson, " he asked when the nerd fidgeted, uncontrollably.

Nicholson awkwardly lowered his hand to shoulder level, looking ruffled. "Uh, Sir, I'm not a geologist."

O'Hara grumbled, "I said Mickelson, dude; that was Mickelson, DeReaux and Fitzpatrick. They'll return and begin studies on the soil sample. With any luck, we'll conclude zero danger of radiation. Should this not be the case then we employ Chadwick, Swain, and Nandesrikahl for a thorough cleaning.

"I guess we have an ionized compound or something Chadwick threw together. It's supposed to soak up any surface radiation. If, for whatever reason, it isn't necessary, we'll move straight to the second step—clearing away as much surface debris as we can to obtain further soil samples for composition studies. That'll probably round out the rest of the day, so we may as well move out."

****

Day had taken the helm, guiding the ship towards Eon. She slowly penetrated the atmosphere as Roberts, a young, black woman, gave out readings regarding angle of descent and deceleration speeds.

"Estimated time of landing, three minutes, " Roberts stated.

"Acknowledged. Adjusting for wind speeds. Decelerating, " Day replied.

****

Beyond the atmosphere's periphery, the AMS recalibrated for excessive wind speeds. By the end of the third minute, the Phoenix extended eight, hydraulic stands to evenly distribute its weight over brownish soil. The ship's hull was reminiscent of a red and silver bird. Its paint job made it look like a phoenix, a scaly phoenix, due to innumerable, tiny plates fashioned to allow for structural changes resulting from various, atmospheric pressures; it was a special vessel designed specifically to land on other planets, bodies exhibiting radically dissimilar environments.

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