The lean and lanky Ryan Connor jumped out the back of the 4-ton truck and landed in the wet mud with a soft thud. It sucked at his wellies as he moved off toward a large pit, and the reason they were all there. He turned just in time to see his Corporal, Jack Blase, a man in his late 20s, man-handle himself out of the truck like a 60 year-old. Working bomb disposal did that to a person.
“Come on, Old Man, you’ll be late for the party.”
Jack flashed him a look that said, ‘don’t mess with me.’
Ryan cocked his head to one side, fixed his Service-issue woollen hat further back on his head at a jaunty angle, and grinned. He waited for Jack, William ‘The Bagman’ Herschel and their lieutenant, Sandy ‘Shingle’ House, to catch up with him. He turned back toward the gapping maw of the pit. Workers had been hand digging the area up until yesterday when, as happened all too often in this area of Hanover, a perfectly preserved and unexploded 1000 pounder had been unearthed.
It started, as these things always do, with some bright spark saying, “Yeah, no problem, I can do that.” This particular bright spark was named Clark Kent, a wunderkind in biology. His specialty? Spiders. Big spiders. Kent thought he was accompanying his buddy, Dwight Eisenhower, to Bill Wiley’s presentation. Dwight, though, had other ideas, big ideas with Bill Wiley, who started in on his presentation to the NASA engineers and scientists.
“I give you the Space Elevator,” Wiley began. And, with a flick of the wrist, a slide appeared illuminating one wall. Wiley had skipped the usual pulldown screen wanting to showcase Mark Rotherham’s fabulous artwork on an entire wall. He hoped to dazzle the assemblage. They had seen it all before. Weary scientists who had heard it all before too and would need something spectacular to elicit even mere interest.
SHE FELT A BEAD OF SWEAT trickle down her back, while others formed ready to soak her clothes beneath her encounter suit. The overwhelming urge was to scratch at the irritation from the carbon that leached out from the suit, but she couldn’t. Couldn’t because of the large rubber gloves covering her hands. Hands that rested either side of the communications rig, waiting. Waiting for a signal. A word. Anything that would tell her what was happening in her own little sphere of the war.
She had not taken her eyes from the leader board, out front, in over ten minutes. Concentrating on the ever changing data, as the lettered tiles flipped over, relaying the alarming truth of their situation. The battle was not going well. Four squadrons had flown out in the early hours of the morning to engage the enemy, through the thick fog that covered the tiny hamlet. The base lay hidden, nestled in the sheltering cover of trees. All but the runway that is. A thin ribbon of concrete that gave away their position like a lit beacon flashing, ‘look we’re here!’
— 1 —
“Gods and monsters come in many shapes and form, but none more deadly than the many-armed human kind who can both create life,
and just as quickly, destroy it.”
The dwarf planet Chandra, designate EL10 or hell by some, was simply called the Rock by the residents of Vikram’s Landing. The ramshackle shanty town—that had started out life as nothing more than a cluster of miner’s survival pods sheltered in a maze of interconnecting gullies—had grown exponentially the minute a pocket of the highly prized, and much sought after, crystals had been discovered. To the Ceres mining company, however, Vikram’s Landing was nothing short of a pustulant boil and no matter how much they squeezed, the damn place refused to give-up, let alone die. Vikram’s Landing, against all the odds, steadfastly clung to life just like those who populated it.
The independent miners had set up camp well before the Company had arrived and had found ways to survive in Chandra’s harshest of conditions. And whether or not Company employees, indentured or not, were bound to fork over their hard-earned credit to the Company for everything from their accommodation to their over-priced utilities, residents of Vikram found inventive ways to makes ends meet.