Dead Planet Run

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Dead Planet Run

Out of pocket

Copyright © 2020 Adam Messer. All rights reserved.

Time was running short for the human race.  It always had. But this time things were on the line whether or not they would or would not survive total extinction.

Asmira opened her eyes. She became self-aware instantly, although she was not free to move, nor to make any other decisions. She only knew fear and loneliness, and could feel something moving inside her belly, cramping her back, causing her intense pain. She didn’t know it yet, but she was to be the first ever clone to give live birth.

An alarm sounded at the control panel. Nothing abnormal for the night shift. These clones were always going offline. A loose cable, an air valve leak in the pneumatic line, and the occasional fluid leak. After all, the pods were nearly 250 years old, so what would you expect anyway?

Riley punched the key and checked the monitor. Nothing looks funny, probably just the system acting up again. She was used to the annoying sounds of the alarm going off, interrupting her routine. She had to log every alarm in the system, why it wasn’t automated, she had no clue. As the night security watch guard, all she cared about was getting paid so she could finish her Space Engineering apprenticeship and get on with her life.

Space is where she wanted to be, not on some god forbidden excuse of an incubator planet.

The alarm blared over the comms. She hit override, but if it happened again, she would have to file a report, and she hated doing paperwork.

Riley grabbed her sling pouch and her flashlight and headed to Sector 109C-8 to visually inspect the pod. She waived her hand in front of the door, granting her access to the interior of Pod Bay. The scanners were all old as well, just like everything in the building. The owners only wanted to sink as little credits in the place as possible because they had been trying to sell it for a markup.

The thing was, they didn’t just own the facility; the pods, computers, ships, vehicles, and all the buildings for Pod Bay, they owned the entire planet. And for that matter, they owned the entire galaxy. Under normal circumstances, owning a galaxy would seem like a gem of a deal, but when the sector was on the outer rim, and the main business was producing a hush hush topic of discussion of a taboo subject, you didn’t want people to notice you.

Riley was stuck here because the owners had an agreement to use cheap labor from Space Engineering apprenticeship. Pod Bay wasn’t its real name, just the nickname Riley gave it, but the real name and the owners were not really important, because they changed hands every couple of years. Riley had seen three owners in the two and a half years she had been stationed here.

Folks said the place was haunted. Riley had never seen any ghosts. Just the annoying alarms sounding from a dilapidated and old tech facility on its way to a permanent shut down.

Every year that passed saw new sections completely abandoned and closed off. Riley’s job doubled as a pod engi and everything in one maintenance tech. She wanted to be in space, learning her craft, but she had little to no choice about the matter as the Space Engineering program assigned the kids wherever they were needed. She had signed the agreement to work as an indentured apprentice and had to do six years of labor and classwork.

She was all aces in class, but felt as if she were falling behind being stuck doing a maintenance job at Pod Bay. She worked for an old space engineer named Wally, who called it in most days. After he showed her the ropes for the first month or so, he was hardly around.

“Call me only if you have to,” Wally told her as he handed her a notebook. “This here’s the pod bible. This is everything I’ve had to fix over the last 30 years of working here. Everything you need to know is in this book.”

Riley never called Wally. He would show up occasionally, look around, ask her if she was making it in class, and then leave, only to show up a month or two later, or maybe not. Once she had not seen or heard from him for almost six months. Though the log in the system showed something entirely different.

On the books, Wally was a model employee. Completing work tasks daily, and performing maintenance work. Riley got a kick out of reading the reports of all Wally’s work he said he was doing, but never did. Riley was the one doing the work, and Wally knew it. But as an apprentice, she had no choice in the matter. If she spoke up, no one really would care anyway. Wally had a long-standing history as a member of the Space Engineer’s, and it would be her word against his.

It’s not that she didn’t like Wally, and it’s not as if she didn’t like the program. She felt like she had built up in her mind what being a Space Engineer was, and the expectation felt completely short from reality. Riley had learned to compromise her feelings about it by keeping her goal in mind of being the lead Space Engineer of an enterprise level fleet command ship. That was her goal.

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