Nice to see so many people checking into my blog tonight so I decided to give you a treat especially since I just crossed the 1,000 word mark in “Lost Contact”. I am enjoying my new phone making all this noise with alert after alert. So here you go:
(A Work in Progress)
He couldn’t breathe! The suit should be providing enough oxygen but it just wasn’t making a difference. Emergency alarms were buzzing in his ears along with a synthetic voice trying to calm him down, which coupled with his panic made things worse. He tried clawing at his helmet; unfortunately, fingers softened by thick suit gloves were useless this way.
Air … open, unrestricted breathing had to happen now! Wheezing frantically, Jack desperately tried to collect his thoughts to operate the release on his helmet’s seal ring. His hands fumbled uselessly. Blazing anger and sickening fear slammed like waves on the shores of his mind, clouding all rationality as he began to hammer his head on the rocky ground. The first few hits almost jarred him enough to stop but the effect did not last. He started again, harder and harder until a jagged crack formed in his faceplate and with one more powerful blow the glass shattered. Carson immediately breathed deeply only to chock as a strong dose of sulfur dioxide entered his mouth. Retching horribly he fell to the ground, finally out of strength, his eyes bulging and throat closing from the abuse. His motions became nothing more than tremors as he began to lose consciousness. On the edge of death a voice entered his mind, somehow familiar.
Two Weeks Earlier
Jack Carson passed Tom Watson’s office heading for the company locker room after a long day of babysitting a rich politician making campaign rounds. Jack worked for Terra Novae Security Inc., which was a polite way of saying mercenary force – soldiers for hire. Almost past the door, Tom called him into the office. Jack’s ever present voice of doubt and fear whispered from the deep pool of his damned up personality; his stomach gave him a jolt of acid.
Tom Watson was a bear of a man. Six foot four out of fatigue boots with shoulders as wide as a normal man’s leg length and not an ounce of fat on his body. Of course, the build made him look silly in his business suite. His hair was a close cut dirty blonde just starting to grey at the temples. Watson leaned back in his chair as Jack came in, putting his hands behind his head.
“How was the Haverson gig,” asked his boss?
“Boring,” Jack replied quickly. “The man is so low on the food chain no one cares enough to even remember his name. Why he feels he needs a body guard is beyond me but as long as he is paying the bills I got no problem. At least the food is good.”
“Yeah, Haverson is a real paranoid. My guess is he has some skeleton in his attic with some muscle still on it. Well he was pleased with your work anyway.”
“Wow, I never expected him to mention me,” Jack replied, genuinely surprised.
“He did and that is why I am going to offer you a lucrative long term assignment,” Watson said as he motioned Jack to sit.
Jack sat in the hard wooden chair that was the only seat available other than Tom’s comfortable but well-worn desk chair. Tom’s desk was neat and well maintained but like his chair old and traveled. Jack had herd from some of the original members that the desk was a relic of Tom’s military career with the Antioch Marine Corps of Galina colony. Tom had a falling out with a political backer there and chose not to reenlist when his tour was over. Shortly thereafter he founded Terra Novae Security, Inc. with several of his command staff.
“Okay, what’s the gig?”
“I have a long time client putting together an off-world expedition who has lost a security expert on short notice and asked me if I could fill the void by tomorrow. They are paying top dollar and a completion bonus of ten percent” Tom said.
Jack hesitated for a minute as the whisper in the pool turned into wails. In his two years with the company he had never been asked to do off-world work, which was to his liking since he was more of a homebody. However, the money sounded good with his debt being heavy from finally buying a house that was maybe a little more than he ought to have purchased.
“What’s the pay?”
“3500 credits a day plus food and board for the duration of the expedition plus the 10% per day bonus upon completion of the project. Let me tell Jack, this is a sweet deal. Have you ever been on an expedition before?”
“No, I have been content with planetary security,” Jack replied, sweat trickling down his neck under his shirt.
“Then you have been missing out. The egg heads that you will be riding herd over are spoiled teachers and scientists with all the pretentiousness of movie stars. They get catered meals to keep them happy and productive for the corporations funding the research and the company behind this mission spares no expense on their people.”
“So what happened with their other expert?”
“I think they said some kind of personal business came up, lucky for you though. Think about it; spend a week or two on some exotic planet getting catered meals three times a day just to watch the backs of some brainy scientists. Oh, hey, did I mention that the planet has no known predators, just plants as far as the eye can see.”
Jack was wary of this deal but he was desperate for a big paycheck. Also, considering he passed up almost off world work for so long, he was afraid to turn down a gig the boss recommended him; his future employment might be at stake.
“Can I think it over,” Jack stalled for time.
“Unfortunately, this space need filled today because the expedition leaves in a week. Are you in or out Jack? If not, I got to see who else wants this sweet deal.”
Butterflies started dancing the rumba in his stomach as his cheeks became flushed. Tom’s words made it sound like no sweat off his back if Jack said no, but his tone said he had better step up or find himself with much less work in the future. Damn! He was comfortable doing what he did. The money wasn’t great but the responsibility level was just what he could handle. Jack wondered how he could have let himself get so in debt.