Lights were dim in the hallway Darian walked in after having left the Rec Facility, his food in hand and on his way to the observatory. Not sure that I’ve spent this many credits on one meal before Darian thought. There had been enough time to pass for him to forget the last hot meal he had, there were days that allowed for breaks long enough to sit down and relax with friends and good food, as good of food as you’ll get in this colony, but Darian never believed that he could afford the time. Rushing around and sorting out problems and repairing machinery had been his day in and day out for quite some time now.
The observatory wasn’t far from the Rec Facility, in fact Darian was sure to find a spot to sit down and start on his meal long before anyone else showed up, and long before his credits went to waste. The best thing about walking the tubes in this colony was the guaranteed power supply, not having to worry about black outs caused by Tokamak downtime was quite agreeable, it was all due to the new Geothermal plant, and it provided ample amounts of reliable power that would prove to be a good thing. Darian could vividly remember running into things right at the moment a brownout would show up and all the lights would disappear. As long as it had been since the last meal he sat down for, it was longer still since Darian stopped to think about things he was grateful for, power was one, holding the bag up in his hand food was nice he thought, and family that had just suddenly reappeared. Maybe life wasn’t as bad as he originally believed.
The Observatory door opened up to a cavernous interior holding a simply massive telescope at the center of the room. Connected to it were banks of data retrieval and processing systems used for information transfer to the meteor defense system, and that facility was up in the mountain range to the north far from the main colony. The energy build up and transfer from the Tokamak to the Laser system used by the defense station was on a simply massive scale all of its own. It had been assembled and setup their back before most of the colony relocations due to the blight accident, and when it was first built it was stationed far from any colony because of concerns with shielding and safety thus making placement in the northern hemisphere as the core reasons for its remote location. The building was largely inactive for the better part of a year as all personnel and resources were devoted to migration and spaceship construction, as such the Tokamak power station that was feeding it suffered equipment failure and had gone unrepaired until now.
Once the colony migrated close enough to the installation the maintenance crews were able to get out to the generator facility and conduct repairs. With power generation and the observatory providing telemetry data on the incoming meteors the defense station could finally operate again.
Darian found his spot in the gunner seat of the telescope and sat down. Setting the meal out in front of himself he stripped off his jacket and threw it onto the next chair beside him, when he did that the necklace and ring he pocketed before leaving his res unit fell out and onto the floor. Looking at it now laying on the shiny metal floor Darian was flooded again with emotions, more then he wanted to deal with at the moment so he picked the chain and ring up and set it on the chair next to his pile of food items and the large bottle of fruit drink he had standing there. Darian committed himself to dealing with the chain and what if anything he should do with the thing later, for now he grabbed the large enclosed tray of food, reclined back in the chair and began to eat. And as if on cue the first person walked thru the entrance door and stopped, ten meters away, the one he had just passed thru and looked over at him. It was Katherine.
“I remember you always being late” she yelled over to him.
“I remember you smiling more” he said back. Katherine walked over to him carrying a datapad and sat down in front of him.
“Food eh? Good idea, I haven’t ate anything in hours” and proceeded to grab a handful of long cut seasoned potato wedges of out of his tray.
“Help yourself?” Darian asked as a question more than giving permission for her to just dive in.
“What else do you got there?” she asked, he was starting to get the idea that maybe she was hungrier than she was inclined to admit.
“I thought they weren’t making those anymore” Katherine all but jumped out of her seat and lunged towards Darian’s face after the burger he was trying to cram in his mouth. The required ingredients for making a proper ‘Burger’ were not as easy to come across on New Terra and for that reason alone he had to pay extra to get one, much extra, so much so that he would not have shared this particular meal with anyone. Reluctantly Darian handed it over to Katherine and she immediately took a huge bite out of the side, relaxed a bit, closed her eyes, sat down, and enjoyed herself. It became apparent that Katherine was obliged to space out and eat all of his food when she started taking more bites and completely ignoring everything else going on around her, including Darian sitting there staring at her.
“Give me that” Darian reached out and snapped the burger up out of her hands before she finished it off “there may be more but you’ll have to go splurge for one yourself, and do it with your own credits”
“Fine” Katherine collapsed back into her chair and sighed. “So how are we getting off this planet?”
“Why don’t we start with how we’re going to survive this newest storm?”
“The colony has weathered bigger storms before” Katherine looked out the nearest view window as if looking for the distant storm itself, it was still miles out but creeping closer and closer as the hours passed.
“Jade, what’s the countdown to the storms arrival?”
“The current weather model puts it just under 14 hrs out.” The savant answered thru Darian’s transmitter attached at his belt.
“So that means we should go north than?” Katherine said.
“Oh? Care to explain how you drew up that largely random conclusion?” Darian looked at her quizzically.
Darian forced out his usual ‘that’s ridiculous’ noise out of his mouth just as he was rolling his eyes “The RLV what? All we know is one came down somewhere to the north, and in a electrical no scan zone. You wanna drive up there and go look?”
“Yes” Katherine stared him straight in the eye, serious and unflinching.
“When? When are you going to have the time to do that? Or where are we going to get the time to build another spaceship? That out there is a fairly large storm and I’m willing to bet the blight is tailing it if not ahead of it and causing it. When it gets here, we had better be long gone.”
“So let’s move everybody now”
“Good, I’m all for it. Where?” Darian finished off his meal, threw the packaging in the nearest reclamation bin and sat down again.
“North. It’s the only direction left to us. Blight encroachment modeling has shown that the northern hemisphere, namely the northern polar region of this planet and a few of the volcanic rock areas will be the last to be overtaken which probably means moving to the north will be the last place we’ll be able to relocate the colony to, after that the only place left is space.” Darian was shifting in his seat now, moving a colony was a lot of work, and as near as he can tell they hadn’t ever settled in the harsh tundra landscape of the north. “We still don’t have enough raw materials to build an entire ship, some of it sure but not all.”
At that moment a voice jumped in from across the room “ We have a few modules that are almost complete” it was Arlan making his way across to them “the storage modules for resources are complete, as are the outer hull sections, in fact there is a complete shell for another starship waiting for transport up to the skydock” Arlan sat down in one of the chairs next to Darian and Katherine. A much older man than the two of them with a dark green coat and black pants, he was wearing a worn out pair of shoes, and several bands and rings on his left hand and arm. Darian had no feelings one way or the other for Arlan, as of late Katherine may have been of the same mind, right until the spat about hoarding supplies. It didn’t look like Katherine was in the sporting mood for a fight, and if Arlan could just avoid being an idiot things should be fine, then again, he did just say there is a whole shell of a ship ready to use.
“Okay, now I have to ask, where is there an extra shell for a spaceship hiding? You don’t just hide one of those wherever.” Katherine asked
“Plymouth” Arlan said, smiling and quite pleased with himself, as if holding on to this all powerful information, and Darian was quite sure he was still hiding more. Darian looked over at Katherine “If we are to get off this planet we may need all the people and materials we can get.” Grumbling and groaning t o himself he started ticking off items aloud “Okay fine, Plymouth has a shell, there is a fusion drive sitting in the skydock apparently, we can have people and materials to get a ship going, what else?”
“Wait, there’s a what and where?” Arlan looked genuinely surprised for once.
“What’s the matter Arlan?” Darian smirked “something somewhere you didn’t know about? Welcome to the real world friend, a fusion drive is sitting in the skydock RLV right now.”
“A Fusion drive? Well, it didn’t come from us or Plymouth.” Arlan shifted uneasy, irritated more at not knowing things. He wasn’t upset at not knowing about mission information or rumors, but seemed to crave knowing what everyone had and then holding that as tradable information. The same way Vaughn does with people and gossip.
“The extra ship must be what Elena was on about earlier.” Darian thought.”But the fusion drive I don’t know either. What about that rogue group of Eden and Plymouth colonists that took off years ago, maybe they built one and put it up there. What were they called again, The Divine Order, Cryo Clan or something? I think they changed their names two or three times. Where did they end up?”
“They took off to the Northern hemisphere portion of the planet. No one has stayed in contact with them though” Vaughn said, having snuck up on all three of them and now standing looking at them.
“Oh good, everyone’s here now.” Darian rolled his eyes. “Well let’s get on with this than” Katherine eyed both Arlan and Vaughn in one gaze “How much cargo and how fast can we get packed up and out of here?” Vaughn and Arlan looked at each other and then back to Katherine, Arlan spoke first. “24 hours give or take; nothing is setup to move right now. 20 would be pushing it, 10 if we weren’t going to take anything at all, and that means no structure kits, no raw materials or refined, barely enough food to fill evac transports, if any of them even run now”
“So basically we go with nothing, or hope this storm isn’t nearly as bad as we think and wait it out and take everything” Katherine mulled over the ideas swimming in her head. While doing this Darian spoke up again “The only thing we can’t build if we move is another Command module. If I remember correctly, it requires at least one Savant, and a pile of boptronics hardware to create, the shell is easy enough to build though we could use some more magnesium stock piles for it and some of the other structures, including cryo pods.” Darian continued rattling on again aloud, “That just leaves some remedial stuff that even a half equipped spaceport could build. So unless somebody knows where we could find an extra command module we, and I strain use of the word probably, could build ourselves another ship.”
“What we need to know is if we can wait out this storm and figure out how far away the blight is” Katherine looked around the room at everyone in attendance.
“I might have something on at least one of those fronts” Vaughn said from his chair he found back in the corner.
“And? What?” Katherine asked.
“There is a prototype Command Module at the Aramo Facility.” Darian and Katherine looked at each other, even Arlan looked surprised again.
“I don’t know of any prototype” Arlan said
“Nor should you, it’s in the Advanced Lab there. Just like there are items in this Advanced Lab you don’t know about” Vaughn smiled. Darian was sure he was holding something back, and he had no idea what.
“Fine I’ll bite, why is the module still there, what makes you think we could even get to it seeing as its beyond where the Blight has already passed, and what in the hell is in this Advanced Lab?” Darian asked impatiently.
“I have the codes to get us in the Lab at Aramo, but I have no idea of a means for us to get there.”
“And what about this Lab?” Katherine jumped in irritated.
“I’m not at liberty to divulge that” Vaughn sat up straight and crossed his hands. Not willing to take no for an answer Katherine reached for her sidearm, and Darian caught that movement in the corner of his vision, he knew what she was planning to do so he reached out and put his hand on hers to stall her from pulling the weapon and pointing it at Vaughn. Darian looked back at Vaughn “We are not going to make you tell us what’s in that Lab, you are going to give that information to us willingly”
“Whatever makes you believe that?” Vaughn asked.
“You want to get off this planet as much as the rest of us. And I’m willing to bet you have a plan for what’s hidden in there but can’t use it now. Am I right?”
“Yes you’re correct. It won’t hover high enough to get past the Blight.” Vaughn stated. Again the other three looked at each other and then back to Vaughn. “What won’t hover?” They all asked. At that point Vaughn got up and started walking out of the observatory. Arlan was next and trailed after him. Katherine stood up and looked at Darian “Don’t suppose Vaughn is telling us everything do you?”
“Not even close.” Darian got up and started to clean up his pile of bags and wrappers he made a mess of on the chair next to him. Katherine had the same idea as him and before he remembered what he had left on the chair she found the ring and chain and picked it up to look it over.
“Is this” she started and took a breath before continuing “the chain I gave you?” she looked up at Darian and into his eyes. “You kept it all these years? Why?”
“I’m not really sure to be honest” He picked the chain out of her hands and put it back in his pocket. “Guess I felt bad in some way, like I couldn’t give those feelings back to you”
“And now?” Katherine asked.
“I don’t know.” Darian didn’t have anything else to say and was now stammering for anything to say “I, I really don’t know, something happened in the back of my brain, so I looked in the back of my locker and grabbed it. As for keeping it all these years…or why I decided to get it out now I don’t have an answer for you. I still don’t think I’m the person you want right now.”
She reached down and took his hand in hers “I don’t want anything right now other than to get off this planet and see my son, what I need is someone I can trust”
“Good” Darian said, letting go of her hand and threw his coat on “that’s about all I’m good for right now. Let’s find out what Vaughn is up to” he then turned and walked towards the door with Katherine in tow.