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   Chapter 5 No.5

Beyond the End of the World, Lokians 1 By AaronDennis Characters: 5837

Updated: 2018-01-10 12:02


"Sir, " Nandesrikahl replied with a salute.

****

Back at the dig site, the recovery team stood outside the danger zone. Furtive glances went around. Mickelson pushed his glasses back onto his face. He gave the soldiers a puzzled look. DeReaux didn't pay him much attention, but Fitzpatrick arched a brow.

"Are you going, or what?" she sniped.

"Uh, I guess, " the scientist replied, meekly.

DeReaux chuckled, and said, "A minute ago you weren't even worried."

The scientist smiled, shrugged in resignation then sauntered over to the site proper in order to get his samples. There was a slight incline to the southwest of that area. Fitzpatrick thought it provided a better perspective. She elbowed DeReaux and pointed with her face. He nodded accordingly. In no time, they were posted up. The sniper was keeping an eye on Mickelson through his rifle scope, Fitzpatrick observed through binos.

They watched the weird geologist amble off towards the perfect, dusty circle. Fricasseed machines were strewn about the area, probes and rovers, mostly. Finally, Mickelson took off his pack and sat down. Fitzpatrick was no longer able to watch him; the visual stimuli overwhelmed her.

Wind blew the foliage of small, golden trees, and the orange light of the suns was rather dim. The purple sky overhead made it difficult to distinguish shapes. Swooning shadows mixed into swirling colors. She closed her eyes for a moment, inhaled and opened them again. With an exhale to calm herself, she was ready.

Mickelson had already opened his pack. After removing a small spade and a mason jar, he collected a scoop of dirt, closed the jar, put everything in his pack, and looked back to his two escorts. He smiled then pushed his glasses back onto his face, before waving.

"Get out of the radiation, " DeReaux howled at him.

"What is wrong with that man?" Fitzpatrick laughed.

Once they regrouped, they marched back to the Geiger counter, where Mickelson took readings. Awkwardly, the geologist stood for a moment, holding the counter over the dirt pile; he was one of those guys that just didn't know how to use his body. He leaned one way, bent the other, and everything came up clean.

"Excellent, " DeReaux replied, nonchalantly, "A return trip is in order then."

With that, they commenced a speedy jog directly to the circle of dirt. The Geiger counter had again been left behind due to magnetic interference. That time, the dirt was scooped by digging down a foot beyond the topsoil. Mickelson wanted to get as far below as his tools allowed. Once the boring ordeal ended, they made back for camp, stopping only to pick up the counter along the way.

When they arrived, they found everyone was either eating or tinkering with equipment, except O'Hara, who seemed to just be standing there. Mickelson approached him from the side. He was so nervous, he didn't know what to do.

"Uh,

Captain, " he eventually whispered. O'Hara turned to face him. Mickelson scratched his lip anxiously before speaking again "Um, Captain, " he said as he pushed his glasses back onto his face, "We've collected two samples directly from the center of the dig site. They're clean."

"Good, good. What's next then?"

Smearing dirt on his forehead, Mickelson replied, "I'll run tests on the samples. Decipher the composition and pH of the soil. I'll Carbon scan for age. We should know everything there is to know within twelve hours."

The geologist lumbered off to his storage trunk, where he prepared all his equipment. O'Hara gently shook his head, wondering if he had even realized how filthy he was. He smelled like camel butt, too, he thought. Tests ran for the better part of the night. Swain, Phoenix Crew's own, resident nerd, and the remaining scientists flocked around Mickelson to help with whatever he needed. Nandesrikahl and Zakowski were taking pictures of the area while Martinez shot vids on a digital recorder to send back to Alpha-6.

"Zak, make sure you get some pics of the tests, " O'Hara ordered.

"Sure, of course, Captain, " he said, snapping a salute.

Chief Warrant Officer Zakowski was a slight man of Jewish descent. His curly, brown hair was thinning in the front and a little in the back. Zakowski never had dirt under his nails or food in his teeth, and the crew had a running joke that he had never done manual labor or gotten dirty a day in his life, but he was there for a reason; everyone entrusted their lives to him. He was a fantastic medic. Between him and Ensign Nandesrikahl, no one had reason to worry, not even on a foreign world.

For the most part, the entire crew had been in the same classes and graduated around the same time; Day was a little younger, Swain was a little older, but the rest were all between twenty four and twenty six and had been under the command of then Captain, now Rear Admiral, Shaw, until two years ago, when O'Hara was promoted to captain, thus taking over the squad. Since O'Hara's promotion, they gathered data, prepping for manually surveying Eon. While they were all organized to some degree, the excitement of being on real terra firma was a bit overwhelming. The captain, however, remained unfazed. The man was all business outwardly.

Certainly, he let the crew have their fun, but he had to remain alert. It was his first, real mission, and nothing was going to screw it up. He checked the time, it was closing on 17:00 hours, but the light of Eon hadn't changed since their arrival. He smiled to himself and planned to eat, check his equipment, maybe do a little number two, and then get some R and R. The rest of the gang had similar plans except they had four hour shifts in which two at a time kept an eye on the scientists. Swain offered to take first shift. His calculating mind was overly intrigued by the tests.

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