1. Sorry, we're currently trying to recover from a system failure.
    Hopefully this is resolved soon -melbo

New writings

Discussion in 'Survival Reading Room' started by Grand58742, Sep 6, 2019.


Tags:
  1. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    Anyone want a sneak peak at something I've been messing around with for a couple of years, but got serious about a couple of months ago? I'm a few dozen chapters into it, but feel it's mature enough to get an initial feel from the Monkey Masses.

    I'm calling it Terra Spes. I'll post the first couple of chapters and see if anyone wants the rest. PM me your email if you would like to read more.
     
  2. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    PROLOGUE – TERRA SPES

    New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings. Lao Tzu

    The year is 2121 Earth Time and our planet is failing. Even though mankind had managed to travel beyond the solar system and became a multi-planet species, our home world was in a downhill spiral. And the sad thing is, we did it to ourselves. Scientists created a device which would solve global pollution and control the ecosystem. They sold it to the world as the final solution and we would never have to worry about the ecosystem or pollution or global climate change or anything like that ever again. Imagine farmland in the middle of what was the Sahara Desert. A return of the full polar ice caps. Four seasons with mild temperatures. Rainfall that could be predicted down to the second. And the world bought off on it.

    But it didn’t quite work as expected…

    After activating the machine, it literally wreaked havoc on our planet’s ecosystem. Scientists tried to explain that this widget or this code was off which caused the machine to falter. And they claimed they knew what was wrong and could fix it. The same scientists that created the “cure” created the “cure for the cure.” And made things even worse by completely unbalancing the ecosystem that was already in an unstable condition. It was like the Earth was fighting back against humans and accelerating the demise of the ecosystem in order to kill us off to stop meddling with it. Call it the normal evolution of things as species came and went on our home planet, but we certainly didn’t help our own demise by speeding up the process of destroying the delicate ecosystem we relied on.

    Perhaps the imminent demise of the ecosystem of our planet was the Earth’s way of telling us our time was up and it was time to start over again. Could we stop it? No, nothing we could do, no draconian measures we could take would stop the utter and complete collapse of our ecosystem. No technology would stop the downfall. There was just nothing we could do. The scientists eventually had to admit they had no way of stopping the imminent demise of the planet and could only say they were sorry. The planet had to heal itself is what they told us. It looked that by the middle of the 22nd Century, the planet’s ecosystem was going to fail and be unable to easily sustain life outside of protected areas. And it was going to take the eleven billion inhabitants with it. Roughly a billion and a half would be saved by not living on the Earth, but still, our home, the cradle of our civilization and our species, would be dead. It appeared there was no hope left; but three major breakthroughs happened that might keep our species alive.

    The first major discovery was we were not alone in this universe. While we had yet to meet a species as advanced as we were in terms of cognitive ability, several planets hosted life outside of ours. The most advanced species found to date had about the same intelligence level as an ordinary dog. While that might be a subjective description, it’s the closest comparable intelligence level the scientists could come up with. And while as intelligent as a dog, it certainly didn’t look like one. Kind of a cross between a cat and an armadillo. Funny looking creature, but reasonably docile. And plant life. Some worlds looked remarkably like areas of the Earth before we destroyed it, others looked extremely foreign to what we were used to. Some plants were deadly to humans, others started supplementing our food supplies. So, the great question of “are we alone” was finally answered.

    The second major breakthrough was the advent of terraforming. Great idea in concept and appeared to work reasonably well depending on the location. It sort of worked on Mars, but not enough for people to be able to live outside the domes just yet. Plus, there still wasn’t an active magnetosphere to shield the residents from the Sun’s radiation, so people still had to live under the domes for protection. And the terraforming didn’t quite work as well on planets in the outer edge of the “habitable zone” as scientists would have liked. It did work, just took a whole lot longer than they would really like. Normally, for an Earth like planet it takes about ten years or so for the majority of the process to be complete. For Mars that started the process in 2098? About 75 Earth years give or take a decade. And by that time the vast majority of the population of Earth would be dead from carbon monoxide poisoning or the heat waves that struck or the cold snaps that temperatures went down well below freezing in the space of a half hour. There were quite a few ways our planet was trying to kill us in not so subtle ways.

    So, why not terraform the Earth one might ask. It’s been talked about, but the problem comes from the process replacing all existing life with what the nanotechnology was programmed to replace it with. Essentially, every living thing on Earth would be destroyed as the process first “cleans the slate” so to speak before starting new. We couldn’t create life yet, but we certainly could set the conditions just right for whatever life we wanted to put down. While some advocated the position of terraforming the Earth since, in their words, “the population is already dead, they just don’t know it”, the majority decided to allow people to live out their lives in the wasteland the planet was quickly becoming. Plus, you have over five hundred million people lucky enough to live under controlled biosphere domes that would have to be evacuated prior to initiating the terraforming process. Finding a home for them in the Solar System wasn’t going to be easy, but massive stasis chambers were being built to help counter the increased population growth.

    The final major discovery. Scientists had been studying faster than light propulsion on spacecraft for the better part of a century without as much as even a minor breakthrough. That’s when two scientists stumbled across what became known as the Alvarado-Singleton Drive or ASD as we call them. Kristina Alvarado and Wayne Singleton discovered the technology that could and quite possibly would save our species and allow us to live our lives on Earth like planets in other solar systems. I won’t get into the technical details, but it created artificial windows and doorways in the space-time continuum that “warped” space and allowed far faster transport to other stellar locations. As they explained it to me, it would be like opening the backdoor to your house and traveling to the neighbor’s house directly behind you by going through the two backyards instead of going all the way around the block. Or sneaking out the side window to visit the girl next door. But you had to create the temporary door or window before being able to open it. Which is what the two of them learned how to do as well as building the technology that could make it go while in that portal. Suddenly nearby planetary systems outside the Sol System that were decades and centuries away with our faster propulsion systems were within our reach in weeks and months. And far more of them were habitable than we originally thought. But, that’s where the next set of problems came into play. This one was entirely controllable, entirely avoidable, but at the same time, was going to happen no matter how much our species was about to die.

    We started wrecking those new worlds as well with pollution, meddling in the ecosystems and a good old fashioned “they have it, we want it and we’re going to fight for it” mentality. Planets that were habitable or could be terraformed quickly that were reasonably close to the Terran Solar System quickly became battle grounds for the various corporations and nations that sent colonists. It didn’t matter there were entire planets involved, greed took over as nations and corporations fought for land rights. Or the planets were strip mined to send the resources back to Earth to attempt to stave off the demise of our home planet. It seemed no matter how much we should have known from the past, we… just… couldn’t… learn and still tried to kill each other. One planet in particular around the Alpha Centauri Binary System was completely uninhabitable for the next thousand years or more due to the nuclear exchanges between the various colonies. Weapons designs had gotten a lot more advanced, but still the long-term radiation hazard from the enhanced nuclear weapons was present on the surface and created completely toxic conditions for those on the surface. So, instead of having a reasonably decent new home world reasonably close to our own home planet that could be colonized quickly, human emotion took over and turned it into a nuclear wasteland. And it should have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, but the nations and corporations doing the colonization didn’t heed the warning. Which is where the Novus Group finally came about.

    The Novus Group was started as an idealistic group of smaller corporations that decided to pool their resources and look beyond the traditional locations for a new home. A place where they could live and hopefully learn the mistakes of the past before repopulating the human species. They launched countless probes into the cosmos before finally finding an untouched planet. A planet almost identical to the Earth. And in what appeared to be an untouched portion of the galaxy. The problem? It would take seven and a half years to get there even with the most advanced ASD systems. But still, they knew it was the best option to push for before our planet failed. Massive colony ships were built in the outer Sol System and colonists carefully selected from the human population. None were told about it beforehand since the corporate leaders wanted the location to remain a secret until they got there, but dossiers for thousands of individuals were created and carefully picked to help colonize this new planet. Additional probes were sent to study the world in far more depth than the initial probe, but from the data, the planet showed great promise. It was only marginally smaller in diameter than the Earth at 200 kilometers less diameter. It already has plant and animal life to include intelligent animal life. The atmosphere was similar to Earth’s before we wrecked it, but with slightly more oxygen at nearly 22% rather than the 20% our planet historically had. There were oceans, rivers, lakes, mountains, grasslands, woodlands, deserts, jungles, polar ice, wetlands… it was perfect. Some of the older religious folks called it Divine Providence. Others simple called it a miracle. But regardless, it would hopefully be a new start for us.

    Ten colony ships would eventually be built and launched for the new planet, the first of which would carve out the initial base for the follow-on colonists. The first ship, aptly named the Santa Maria, would set out with five hundred specialists on board and a crew of two hundred. The majority of the colonists would be placed in extended stasis while on the journey and some woken from time to time in order to receive updates or to study the data being sent back by the follow-on probes, but for the majority of the journey, they would be in peaceful slumber as not to over tax the environmental systems on the ship. The initial colonists were mainly single and in a word, brilliant. Some of the best minds in the world were quietly approached and informed of the new planet. Some of them were obviously skeptical until they were shown the data that the initial probe sent back. And after? They quickly jumped at the proposal and left the Earth behind to start a new life. Where do I come into play? I was not a doctor or a scientist or an engineer, but rather a career military man. I’ve been told I’m far smarter than most gave my profession. Now, I don’t know if that’s true, but I always tried to bind common sense with a touch of analytical thinking. But I also have the unique leadership ability to guide people into getting what was needed done without argument. My interview couldn’t have been easy as I had fought against the Novus Group from time to time before calling it quits and deciding to live out the remainder of my years on Mars. But, I quickly decided my retirement was getting a little bland when approached by the corporate headhunters…
     
    techsar, Zimmy and hitchcock4 like this.
  3. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    CHAPTER 1




    “So, you’re telling me this planet is untouched? Never had any interest from anyone else?” he asked as he leaned forward on his couch. “Nobody has ever seen it?”

    “We are almost entirely positive we are the first,” said the corporate Vice President as he folded his hands in his lap. “Our probe has been monitoring the system and has not detected any additional probes or ships.”

    “And you want me on this little camping trip?” asked retired Colonel Benjamin Nash, who asked the pair to call him Ben not long after they started the “interview.” He had retired from the military about five months before and had settled into the easy life on Mars in a smaller colony where his military pension would permit him to not have to work unless he wanted to. However, after the first couple of months of relaxing, he found himself utterly bored and looking for something to do. The offer from the two senior members of the Novus Group was tempting.

    “We don’t want you on the expedition,” said the Vice President after a brief pause. “We want you to lead it.”

    Ben sat back at that announcement and looked at the pair. There were very few times in his life he was genuinely speechless, but this certainly counted as one of them. But it begged the question.

    “Why me?” he asked.

    “We’re getting the best,” said the assistant to the Vice President. “You served for twenty-five years, well since you were sixteen years old, in the military. Conscripted into service during the New Civil War in North America. Fought on Alpha Centauri Five, at Wolf Prime and in the Trappist System before the nuclear exchanges, fought on Mars, Ganymede, Pluto and Titan against the rebels and likely a few other places we don’t know about and fought countless engagements on Earth. But mainly we wanted you because everyone you’ve ever served with said you were a natural leader. That your negotiation skills were unparalleled. But when negotiations fail, you have the ability to win the battles in the aftermath.”

    “Basically, you have this uncanny ability to get people to do what needs to be done and they feel good about it while doing it. Whether that’s through negotiations or fighting. In short, you are the person that can pull this off when times get tough,” said the assistant.

    “And they will get tough,” said the Vice President. “We’ve seen other colonies fail because the leadership just isn’t there. Or the so-called leaders allow petty bickering to take over and the colony to become divided. You, on the other hand, have always had the ability to bring people together and bring out the best in them.”

    “Because we generally had an enemy we were fighting,” said Ben. “Unity of purpose and all that. It’s easy to focus your troops on the task at hand when they are getting shot at.”

    “And the dangers a new colony will face can’t provide a unity of purpose?” asked the Vice President. “We’re still studying the data, but the planet is wild and untamed. There is animal life present, but we haven’t determined if they will be a threat or not. No matter what, we have to have a man like you to unite the teams we are sending to prepare for the follow-on colonists.”

    “How many colonists are we talking about?” asked Ben as he contemplated the idea.

    “First ship out will have around five hundred and a ship’s crew of two hundred or so,” said the Vice President. “The ship will carry nearly everything you need to survive and create an outpost for the follow-on ships. Each additional ship, nine total, will carry supplies as well as another fifteen hundred colonists in stasis. A little over fourteen thousand people.”

    “No more?” asked Ben.

    “That’s more than enough for a viable gene pool to start out. The trip takes seven plus years and we won’t even think about follow on colonists until the first batch is settled,” said the assistant.

    “But you are thinking of more,” said Ben.

    “Possibly,” said the Vice President. “Nothing is ever for certain in this life.”

    “Can’t argue that point,” said Ben. “And a security staff?”

    “The first ship will have a little over a hundred,” said the Vice President. “Plus, the ship’s crew will be younger and they can augment after the arrival.”

    “You don’t plan on sending them back?” asked Ben.

    “No, it’s a one-way trip,” said the assistant. “The ship will be dismantled by you and the colonists for building materials.”

    “With no hope of coming home?” chuckled Ben.

    “No, the second ship will carry additional stasis pods in case you need to be evacuated,” said the Vice President. “We aren’t sending you out there to die. Plans are in the works for the second ship to make a round trip in case it doesn’t work out.”

    “Undoubtedly, some of the people you send will die,” said Ben. “On the other worlds, we’ve found new diseases, animal and plant life that just isn’t friendly to us invading humans and other risks that can kill you before you wake up. This place will be no different.”

    “We know,” said the Vice President with a sigh. “But you know what’s happened in other places and on other worlds. Fighting takes over eventually. Nations and Corporations fight over the most trivial items. We just want a new start.”

    “How do you know this place will not end up like that?” asked Ben.

    “Because we’ve gone to great lengths to keep it off the charts,” said the Vice President. “There are additional factors at stake here that I do not wish to discuss until we get a firm commitment from you in leading this camping trip as you call it.”

    “This won’t be easy,” said Ben. “This isn’t like Alpha Centauri where you can evacuate and end up back in the solar system in a week.”

    “We know,” said the assistant.

    “I get to pick my security command staff,” said Ben. “That’s not negotiable.”

    “We already have some of the security positions picked, but we left the leadership spots open for you to fill them,” said the Vice President. “And I have copies of the dossiers of the ones we picked already.”

    “I’d like them please,” said Ben.

    “Does this mean you accept the position?” asked the Vice President as he handed over a memory crystal with the appropriate files.

    “I want all the info you have on this world,” said Ben. “I don’t care about star charts or locations or anything like that. But I want the data itself.”

    “We need an answer today,” said the Vice President.

    “I’m a pretty quick reader,” said Ben with a smile. “So, if you have it with you…”

    The Vice President pulled a small tablet and handed it to Ben. The data on the planet were the only files on the tablet and he quickly scanned through them as well as the attached pictures. It did seem very Earth like, at least Earth from two hundred years before in pictures. The land masses obviously were different and the oceans had a deep blue color, but overall, the planet looked very peaceful from the photos.

    “Salinity factors in the oceans?” asked Ben.

    “Comparable to Earth before pollution took hold,” said the assistant, who was also a scientist.

    “These large inland lakes?” asked Ben. “Are they saltwater too?”

    “No, we don’t think so,” said the assistant. “We haven’t been able to drop a probe into them yet, but from the orbiting sensors, some are freshwater.”

    “So, possibly an unlimited source of water?” asked Ben. “They look rather large from the pictures you’ve got here.”

    “It’s not unheard of,” said the assistant. “One of the Gliese planets had inland seas that were non-saline. However, on a far smaller scale.”

    “Interesting…” said Ben. “How about radiation levels?”

    “The planet doesn’t seem to receive as much as Earth,” said the Vice President. “As much sunlight, yes, but the solar radiation is kept out by a very active magnetosphere.”

    “Solar weather?” asked Ben.

    “Comparable to the Sun,” said the assistant.

    “You mentioned wildlife?” asked Ben.

    “Additional probes are being sent to the planet with landers,” said the assistant. “We can only tell so much from orbit, but it does appear there is some rather large wildlife that appears to be herbivorous from what we can tell.”

    “And no carnivores?” asked Ben.

    “Again, unsure at this time, but you can naturally assume where there are herbivores, there will be carnivores,” said the assistant. “The data is still being collected and the more advanced probes won’t be there for another year as a minimum. But I couldn’t imagine there wouldn’t be a carnivore species or two given the animal population there already.”

    “But the atmospheric readings show no toxins, no significant carbon monoxide and no major pollutants that would put anyone at risk,” said the Vice President. “That’s the most important piece of the puzzle. No pollution, no need for filtered air, no domes and most importantly, no fighting over limited resources.”

    “But you launch the first ship before you complete the surveys?” asked Ben.

    “Yes,” said the Vice President with a sigh. “I don’t think we can wait.”

    Ben knew some of the scientists said the death of the Earth was accelerating rather than being slowed. It seemed like the planet was going out of its way to kill the infestation of humans despite their best efforts to survive. While the majority of scientists said the data was inconclusive, Ben knew a psychological operation when he saw one and knew they weren’t telling the whole truth. He saw that much in their faces each and every time they were in front of a camera. He also knew the Vice President likely had better data than the average bear.

    “Still, you’re sending in seven hundred people to an unknown planet with unknown animal life and unknown weather conditions and seasons,” said Ben. “Risky.”

    “Riskier than waiting to die in this solar system or on another colony?” asked Vice President. “You know what’s going to happen on Earth when society breaks down. You know what will happen to the other colonies like Mars when a mass exodus happens from the Earth. People will fight, panic will ensue and that’s the ball game.”

    “A second chance,” said Ben under his breath.

    “Yes,” said the Vice President. “Overall, it’s a chance for the human race to start fresh without outside influence. Without the bickering and fighting we see at each and every stop. Frankly, this is our planet, our find and our realistic chance at continuing the species.”

    “You won’t be contacting us?” asked Ben.

    “No, too much of a risk. There will be a single Earth transmitter on the ship in case of extreme emergency. Otherwise, you’re on your own,” said the Vice President.

    Ben sat back once again before looking at the data on the tablet. But his mind was made up already. He was deep in thought over the situation rather than reading the data.

    “When?” he finally asked before handing the tablet back over.

    “Next month,” said the Vice President as he entered a command which electronically shredded every file on the tablet.

    “Paranoid?” asked Ben.

    “Very much so,” said the Vice President as he put the now dead tablet back into his attaché case. “When can you have your list of names?”

    “The guys I’ll pick will want a face to face meeting to know I’m serious,” said Ben. “Or as a minimum a 3-D conference link. And some are in the employ of your rivals.”

    “Are they motivated by money?” asked the Vice President.

    “No, they’ll be motivated because I ask them to be,” said Ben. “Money might not hurt even though we won’t have anything to spend it on. These will be smart folks that know that. And likely the ones with family will ask to bring them along.”

    “Possibly in the later Expeditions,” said the Vice President.

    “Might want to make room for a couple,” said Ben. “While there are some that are soldiers to the bone, they are married to some smart folks that might come in handy. Or have children that can help advance your gene pool.”

    “Get us your list and we’ll consider it,” said the Vice President. “When can we expect it?”

    “A week, maybe ten days depending on where some are,” said Ben.

    “The ship leaves in exactly 32 days,” said the Vice President. “We have to know by then.”

    “How do I contact you?” asked Ben.

    “This is brand new and the only contact programmed in is mine,” said the Vice President as he handed over the communications device. “You’ll only deal with me from now on.”

    “I have no problems with that,” said Ben. “One more thing though, the science and engineering folks…are they going to have a problem working for a former soldier?”

    “No,” said the Vice President.

    “Simple as that?” asked Ben.

    “Believe it or not, you are fairly well known in circles outside the military,” said the Vice President. “And they understand you aren’t all kinds of gung-ho, so, that’s a feather in your cap. Having said that to say this, they run their departments as legitimate heads themselves. They know they answer and report to you as Expedition Leader, but the day to day stuff they will be in charge of.”

    “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Ben. “Just you know scientists and military don’t always play well together.”

    “Perhaps not,” said the Vice President. “However, they value intelligence over chosen profession and realize you are their equal in that regard.”

    “Fair enough,” said Ben.

    “So, you officially accept the position?” asked the Vice President.

    “Why not?” asked Ben.

    “Just like that?” asked the assistant.

    “Did you want complicated? Haggling over the fine details of a contract where the lawyers you employ get to play with words?” asked Ben.

    “I’d like to keep the lawyers out of it,” chuckled the Vice President.

    “You have a contract with you?”” asked Ben.

    “We have a generic contract that puts you in our employ,” said the Vice President. “We do try to keep things a little less complicated for the moment. However, I will list the duty title as ‘Expedition Leader’ just so you know we’re serious.”

    “Works for me,” said Ben as the assistant brought out the contract and Ben scanned over it before signing the last page.

    “Anything else?” asked the Vice President as he took the contract and slid it inside his jacket pocket after folding it and giving Ben his copy.

    “Nope, I’ll be in touch,” said Ben as he escorted the pair to his door. They shook hands before departing and once they were out of the building and away from any possible surveillance device they started speaking again.

    “I want him followed,” said the Vice President as the small security detail fell in behind them, ever vigilant for possible threats. “Bug all his known communications devices and install listening devices in his home if possible.”

    “You don’t trust him?” asked the assistant.

    “I don’t trust anyone,” said the Vice President. “Novae Spes is too important to the survival of our species to trust anyone fully.”

    “Including me?” asked the assistant with a chuckle.

    “Including you,” said the Vice President. “You see that guy in front of us, about a half a block away with the brown jacket on?”

    The assistant looked casually before noticing the man standing there. “Yeah, what about him?”

    “Part of corporate intelligence,” said the Vice President. “We’re being watched as well. I’ve picked up on two so far. But, there’s probably at least a half a dozen we haven’t seen.”

    “Oh,” said the assistant. “They consider us a threat?”

    “No, they are there as counter-espionage and watching for the watchers,” said the Vice President.

    “We went to great lengths to keep this meeting secret,” said the assistant.

    “I’m wasn’t joking when I said this is important,” said the Vice President. “I know you were only recently read into the program, but if word of this leaks out the risk the future of the human race resides on whichever other national leader or corporate boss is least stable.”

    “Least stable?” asked the assistant.

    “We very well could get along with several other nations or corporations in colonizing this planet,” said the Vice President. “But simply put, we cannot take the chance of radical elements taking over those companies and sending in armed forces to take over as we’ve seen in every other case of colonizing a new planet.”

    “The definition of insanity,” said the assistant.

    “Repeating the same process over and over and expecting a different outcome,” said the Vice President with a nod. “Which is why this one is going to stay secret and internal. And also why we brought Colonel Nash on board. He is a known winner on the battlefield and we need to be prepared for every eventuality we could envision.”

    “It’s probably better to be paranoid in this situation,” said the assistant. “I hope he’s up to the task and understands the magnitude of what’s going on.”


    ********************


    Ben watched the pair depart from his residence from a window and let out a sigh at thinking of what he had just committed to. As noted by the Vice President, he was far sharper than many people knew and thought about the new job he had been offered as well as where they were heading. He had served enough death and destruction on humanity and he knew this was a chance to actually build something for a change. It would be a monumental undertaking, not only getting the colony off the ground to survive, but also the continued existence of humanity and washing away the sins of their past. Ben realized he was in the position to chart a new course for an entire planet and potentially even mankind as a whole. The weight of those thoughts hadn’t occurred to him while they were meeting, but he was finally getting the chance to digest the information and think it through fully.

    He trusted the corporate Vice President at his word they would be selecting people willing to take a great risk in starting and continuing a colony on this new world as he sat down and started thinking of the group he wanted for his security staff. Ben wondered if the others the Novus Group was picking would hold the same ideals as he did in striving for peace and prosperity rather than conflict. He knew there would be arguments and disagreements, but whether or not the team could eventually set aside their differences and work to the common goal was on his shoulders. He knew it would be a challenge unlike anything he had done before but felt himself up to the task as he started listing some names on a sheet of paper.

    It took almost a half an hour to narrow down his list to a viable set of candidates, dismissing some while underlining others. People he had worked with or knew through experience would have the skill sets needed to accomplish what they were moving towards. And some he had mentored and molded into his own image over the years that had carried on his legacy in the military after his retirement. He finalized the list and thought about each as he grabbed a bite to eat and sat in silent thought over the situation as a whole. After finishing, he added one name and subtracted another, realizing he had the power of life and death in his hands right then. But he realized, much like the Vice President did, this mission was too important to fail and he would require the best of the best.

    Ben went to his communications system and started putting in contact into from memory. He realized the magnitude of such communications and also realized the Corporate personnel might have been followed. Luckily, he still had secure communication access since he was still listed as “Inactive Reserve” in case of all out warfare and was also occasionally called for off the books consultation on matters he knew about. Taking in a deep breath, he engaged the secure system and entered the first number on his list, a person he considered critical to the overall effort and realistically had no other name for his security chief. He waited patiently as he sipped at a cup of coffee for the connection to be made…
     
    Motomom34, Bandit99, techsar and 2 others like this.
  4. Merkun

    Merkun furious dreamer

    info?
     
  5. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    Good catch.
     
  6. Bandit99

    Bandit99 Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    Sure! I would give it a look if you want...as long as it's only a couple of chapters and you can tolerate a bit of criticism. I recently proof read a book for a new author and realize that I enjoyed the process. PM me...I can read pdf, word, mobi and azw, of course, as I got Kindles. And, no, I will not read it on the internet...it's just abnormal to read a book in that manner for me. I will PM you now...
     
    Zimmy likes this.
  7. Zimmy

    Zimmy Wait, I'm not ready! Site Supporter++

    I like it and would like more of it.
     
    Motomom34 likes this.
  8. Bandit99

    Bandit99 Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    Easy reading, story line is interesting, not enough to judge characters or if story flows, seems okay... I am interested in what the 'New World' will be like and obviously the conflicts that follows the human species like a plague.
     
    Zimmy likes this.
  9. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    I've been asked to upload a few more chapters to gauge interest. I'll post a few more, but as a reminder, this is a work in progress.
     
    Motomom34 and Zimmy like this.
  10. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    CHAPTER 2



    “Hey, old man,” said the woman in a combat uniform at the other end of the screen from Ben. Even though she was in her headquarters office, she appeared ready to strap on body armor, a helmet and grab a rifle to head out if called. “It’s been far too long since we talked.”

    “It’s been like three months,” said Ben with a laugh.

    “Like I said, far too long,” said the woman with a laugh. “How are you, Colonel?”

    “Not bad,” said Ben. “How’s Tasha these days?”

    “Getting all old and stuff,” she said with a smile.

    “Yeah, thirty-four is ancient,” laughed Ben.

    “As you used to say, it ain’t the age, it’s the mileage,” said the woman named Tasha Hayden. She had been assigned with him since she was a young Private in the North American Army when she was recruited at 16 years old and practically followed him around to every assignment. Along the way, he mandated she get her commission and become an officer, serving as his second in command on more than one occasion as well as being one of his most trusted officers. She was still serving in the North American Army and performed her fair share of espionage and covert operations against a multitude of nations and companies. And she was good at her job. Considered young for the responsibility, she had a flawless record and most that worked with her knew Colonel’s Eagles or General’s Stars were certainly in her future.

    “Well, if you aren’t feeling too old, you up for a job?” asked Ben.

    “I already have a job,” she said in a puzzled tone.

    “Yeah, but this job will be fun,” said Ben.

    “What kind of job are we talking about?” she asked.

    “The fun kind I can’t talk about,” said Ben.

    “Very mysterious,” she grinned. “You know I’m a sucker for the secret stuff.”

    “Probably why you were my best undercover operative,” said Ben.

    “Well, that and you said I was hot,” she laughed.

    “I said no such thing!” he protested with a laugh.

    Au contraire, my dear Colonel,” said Tasha with a twinkle in her eye. “Word got back to me that you said I was the best because of my nosey streak and hotness. That people naturally opened up to me because of said hotness and they underestimated me.”

    “Those words…might have been said before,” he answered with a laugh. “You still married?”

    “Nah, back to being single,” she replied.

    “Divorced again?” he asked with a scoff. “Seriously?”

    “Hey, married and divorced three times isn’t that many,” she protested.

    “Of course not,” he laughed and knew it would take a hell of a man to keep up with her as well as her lofty expectations of what a “man should be.”

    “So, seriously, what kind of job?” she asked. “And aren’t you retired?”

    “I can’t say,” he replied. “I can say it could be dangerous and it’s probably one way.”

    “And about that retirement?” she prodded.

    “I’m bored,” he sighed. “Need something to do with my life and this popped up.”

    “Sounds like a colony security position,” she said. “Normally, I’d tell someone to piss off with that kind of offer, but that’s not the job you tend to do.”

    “It is not,” said Ben.

    “It’s not a colony security position or it’s not something you tend to do?” she asked, prodding for more information.

    “It’s something I can’t talk about, but I think you might like,” said Ben with a chuckle at her attempts to gather information. “You in?”

    “When do you need to know by?” she asked.

    “If I don’t get a yes answer by the time this call is over, I don’t want you,” he replied.

    “That’s so not fair,” she laughed. “Of course, I’m in. First, you wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. Second, you’ve saved my life like three times so I owe you.”

    “Four times,” he replied with a grin.

    “I don’t count that time in Minsk,” she laughed.

    “I do,” said Ben with a laugh. “I don’t know exactly when we’re leaving, but be ready to go when I call next.”

    “How am I packing?” she asked.

    “Pack your underwear and teeth cleaner,” he replied. “The rest I don’t know about yet.”

    “I have to wear underwear?” she asked with another twinkle in her eyes. “What a bummer.”

    “Might even make you change it every week,” he laughed.

    “Getting might close to a deal breaker,” she laughed. “You looking for anyone else in particular for this job? And how long are we talking for?”

    “Maybe,” he replied. “You have someone in mind?”

    “Young kid I’ve got working with me now, but sharp,” said Tasha. “Very intelligent. Was an engineer, but wanted to shoot and blow stuff up instead. I snagged him as soon as he came out of Selection Training and had him assigned.”

    “Single?” asked Ben.

    “Married to a doctor,” she replied.

    “What kind?” asked Ben.

    “Pediatrician,” said Tasha. “At least, I think. Or obstetrician. One or the other.”

    “Send me his file,” said Ben. “But this would be an offer to the both of them.”

    “Very curious,” she replied.

    “Don’t even think about asking me any more questions,” he laughed. “I will say this on the length of tour…I stress the one way trip as much as I can. You sure you have nothing holding you back?”

    “My parents are gone, don’t keep in touch with any of the ex-husbands and they can rot for all I care and I’m an only child,” she replied. “But you bought into this?”

    “I did,” he replied. “No more questions.”

    “I wouldn’t dream of it,” she grinned. “I’ll be waiting on your call.”

    “I do have one more favor to ask,” said Ben. “You at a secure computer terminal?”

    “I am,” she replied.

    “Look up a contact number for me,” he stated as gave a name.

    “Kinda a little out of our area, you know?” she asked as he saw her typing.

    “It’s that kinda mission,” he said.

    “I’ve got the last known contact from the intel files,” she said as she looked. “I won’t go out on a limb and say it’s still current.”

    “It’s worth a shot,” he stated as he copied down the number she gave him. “Appreciate it.”

    “Let me know travel arrangements,” she stated.

    “I’ll be in touch,” said Ben as he already marked off the first of a dozen names he would be recruiting. He put out the next call and waited on the line to connect, thinking of additional factors he might face along the way and added a few more names to his list. As he waited on the connection, he scanned over the file she had just sent him and saw the younger man she recommended was sharp. His wife appeared to be first class as well, graduating at the top of her class in medical school as well as completing her residency in record time. Ben figured they already had doctors on their list, but he knew from hard earned experience good medical staff was something you could never have enough of. And he knew that went double for going into an unknown planet where all sorts of unseen dangers lurked. The connection completed to the next name on his list.

    “What in the hell, you aren’t dead!” exclaimed the man on the other end. It was just a voice at the moment until the secure connection kicked in and the face of a large black man was seen.

    “Hell wouldn’t have me, Sergeant Major,” laughed Ben. “Enjoying retirement?”

    “Had to get a part time job,” said the man on the other end whose name was Kendrick Whitaker. “Wife is working too.”

    “Interested in a full-time position?” asked Ben.

    “Maybe,” said the man. “I still do the odd one-off contract here and there, so I’m not entirely out of practice. What kind of job?”

    “Back to being a Sergeant Major,” said Ben. “First Sergeant as a minimum.”

    “I’m retired,” said Whitaker.

    “Un-retire yourself,” said Ben.

    “Not that easy,” said Whitaker. “Gale will give me hell about it.”

    “What does she do again?” asked Ben.

    “Right now? Legal assistant with the Lodestone Corporation,” said Whitaker.

    “And if we could find her a position consummate with her skills?” asked Ben.

    “It would soften the blow,” said Whitaker. “You’re being kind of cryptic. Spill it.”

    “I got a job offer,” said Ben. “Get to pick my command team on the security side. You are the only name I’ve got for the senior enlisted side of the house. I want and need the best.”

    “What kind of job offer?” asked Whitaker.

    “The kind I really can’t talk about,” said Ben. “I honestly would love to tell you, but I have to get you in before I can break the news.”

    “It’s convincing me to say no,” said Whitaker.

    “What if I called in a favor?” asked Ben.

    “That’s a pretty big favor to up my family and move,” said Whitaker.

    “Who said anything about moving?” asked Ben.

    “You did without saying it,” said Whitaker. “Else we wouldn’t be talking over this thing.”

    “You’re still as sharp as ever,” said Ben.

    “Yeah, they wanted to make me an officer, but found out I actually liked working for a living,” he laughed. “Seriously though, off world?”

    “Yes, and that’s as far as I go,” said Ben.

    “Colony security position,” said Whitaker as a matter of fact.

    “I can’t say,” said Ben.

    “You don’t have to,” said Whitaker with a sigh. “Gale likes it here even though we’re under a dome. She’s set, I’m somewhat set. I’m not sure either one of us want to start over.”

    “It’s your choice,” said Ben who had pushed as far as he was comfortable with.

    “I’m going to go out and ask you something,” said Whitaker. “I don’t expect you to answer; maybe you will, maybe not. Anyway, my son got a job offer too. Said he would be leaving in about a month or so and wouldn’t tell me where he was going. Very secretive about the whole thing. Are the two related?”

    “Who’s he working for?” asked Ben.

    “The Novus Group just contracted him,” said Whitaker. “And my daughter as well and she’s coming over tonight with ‘some big news’ as she put it.”

    “Both joined the military?” asked Ben who considered the Whitaker children as much his own as their real parents.

    “Took after their old man in that regard,” said Whitaker. “Lifers.”

    “There might be a connection,” said Ben as he was making a large assumption on their new assignment. But if they followed in Kendrick Whitaker’s footsteps, they likely would be at the top of any headhunter’s list of top-notch personnel.

    “Then I’m in,” said Whitaker. “And Gale as well.”

    “Simple as that?” asked Ben.

    “Does it need to be complicated?” asked Whitaker.

    “Guess not,” said Ben. “They are both officers, right?”

    “Yep, still junior-junior officers,” said Whitaker. “Sold them their first salutes.”

    “You might end up working for them,” said Ben.

    “Cold day in hell!” laughed Whitaker. “But it would be an honor. They got Gale’s brains and my brawn. Best of both worlds.”

    “I’ll be in touch with transport details,” said Ben. “But just that you know, it’s a one-way trip.”

    “Never coming back?” asked Whitaker.

    “Probably not,” said Ben.

    “But you bought off on it?” asked Whitaker who asked the question that appeared to be a recurring theme with those he talked to.

    “There’s a lot of backstory, but yeah, I sure did,” said Ben.

    “The high points of my career were spent working with you,” said Whitaker. “No good reason not to go once more unto the breach with dear friends.”

    “Even if Gale gives you hell?” asked Ben.

    “She’d give me even more hell if we never saw our kids again and I had a chance to go where they were going,” said Whitaker.

    “I wouldn’t want to be the one to break that news,” laughed Ben. “She’s a fiery one.”

    “Best woman I’ve ever met,” said Whitaker. “She’d love to see you eventually.”

    “As soon as I can get paperwork drawn up for you to sign, we’ll meet up,” said Ben.

    “She’ll be asking you all kinds of pointed questions about this job,” said Whitaker.

    “Try to soften the blow and let her know I can’t answer everything,” said Ben. “You’re a soldier and you know Opsec. It applies and convince her of that.”

    “I’m a retired soldier,” said Whitaker.

    “Not anymore,” said Ben. “I’ll be in touch in a few days.”

    Ben went down his list, finding everyone accepted his offer even though he was extremely cryptic about the conditions. Most of the personnel knew he wouldn’t be asking if it wasn’t important, even as he was retired and stated they would wait patiently for additional reporting information. As he came to the end of his list, he thought long and hard about the next number, especially given the circumstances it was under. However, he wanted and needed the best and decided a polite “no” was better than wondering for the rest of his life if he made a mistake in overlooking someone. Dialing the number, he hoped Tasha’s files were up to date as it connected with the receiving end. He was rewarded with the figure he was looking for in the computer screen as a somewhat familiar face appeared.

    Da, kto tam?” asked the voice as he finally looked into the screen to see who was calling. His face registered not only surprise, but recognition. “Kak…how did you get this number?”

    “We have good files,” said Ben. “Can you go secure?”

    “I have that ability,” said the man as he was seen reaching off screen and flipping a switch. The monitor wavered for a moment before showing “SECURE” at the bottom. Even though it was a lower form of security, it would still take the codebreakers at least a month to break the encryption on the lines.

    “I would hope this is a social call, Colonel,” said the man on the other end. “You know I must report it to my superiors. Though if we are going secure, I doubt that it is purely social.”

    “I’d hope you wouldn’t until you have at least heard what I have to say,” said Ben.

    “I would hope you are not asking me to defect like so many others have tried,” said the man.

    “Nope, furthest thing from my mind,” said Ben. “Sort of.”

    “We will talk about food recipes and vacation spots, perhaps?” asked the man.

    “How about a job opportunity?” asked Ben.

    “I have a job, thank you,” said the man, but didn’t end the call. It was highly intriguing for a man of Ben’s reputation to be calling him out of nowhere and offering a job.

    “New job,” said Ben. “Not working against your country either.”

    “You have my attention, Colonel,” said the man. Ben went on to explain but did not give any additional details. The man sat wondering exactly why him before asking the question.

    “Because I want the best,” said Ben simply. “Your name is on a lot of lists out there.”

    “For various reasons some of which are not good,” chuckled the man. “How long?”

    “Forever,” said Ben simply.

    “I cannot and will not leave my family behind,” said the man.

    “They are invited too,” said Ben.

    “Most curious, Colonel,” said the man. “You are retired, no?”

    “I was,” said Ben. “In or out?”

    “I must think on this,” said the man.

    “I haven’t accepted that as an answer,” said Ben.

    “Then allow me to be the first to say no,” said the man. “You will not force me into a decision regardless of your reputation.”

    “You have four hours to decide,” said Ben, relenting slightly.

    “One hour is sufficient,” said the man. “This number is good to contact you?”

    “It is,” said Ben. “I know your security procedures mandate you reporting this conversation to your superiors; but I do ask you wait to do so until we have talked again. My offer is fair and you know it.”

    “The only reason we are still talking is because it is fair,” said the man. “But if I decide against it, I will have to report it to my superiors. I will give you the courtesy of at least letting you know I will be doing so.”

    “I wouldn’t expect anything less,” said Ben. “One hour.”

    “Until then,” said the man as he signed off. Ben sat back in his chair, realizing it was a huge leap asking this man on. But again, reminded himself he was already taking the biggest leap in his lifetime by accepting the position. He started looking around his apartment, trying to decide what to bring and what to leave and realized he hadn’t even gotten instructions on that yet. However, he figured being in charge might give him a bit more leeway and started organizing things in his head. Before long, his videophone link rang and he found the man he had spoken to earlier after answering it.

    “You’re a bit early,” said Ben as he looked at his watch.

    “It was a simple decision to make,” said the man.

    “That means no,” said Ben.

    “On the contrary, it is a yes,” said the man. “I will require additional details.”

    “I have given you everything I can,” said Ben.

    “Reporting details, Colonel,” said the man.

    “You have a clean email address I can send them to?” asked Ben.

    “Yes,” said the man as he gave an unmonitored address to Ben.

    “I won’t know for a while what the reporting instructions are, but I will send them as soon as I know and try to give you as much notice as possible,” said Ben.

    “I would only need three days’ notice,” said the man.

    “I will be in touch,” said Ben as he ended the call. Before the night was over, he had his command team in place and was already looking over the files the Vice President had left for the security staff pre-selected. He saw they were all good people and even recognized several of the names as people he’d worked with or heard of before. In addition, he saw the two names of Kendrick Whitaker’s children as junior officers in the security detachment. He knew there were obviously good choices and figured he’d let the corporate leadership pick and choose the depth of the security personnel.

    However, he reached several names that jumped out at him as well. And certainly not for good reasons. He looked over the list again and had to do some in depth checking of the backgrounds and what he found he wasn’t comfortable with in the least. He made notes of them to have them replaced and started a new list of personnel that would be ideal in their spots and even improved the initial group of colonists somewhat. As well as a secondary list he would present in case some of the initial list didn’t pan out. However, as he looked over the initial list again and noticed something he had missed the first time around.

    In a second reading, he saw most he knew of were highly competent in their jobs, but all younger…and a mix of female and males. He didn’t know the scientific staff, but likely figured there would be a mix of the sexes there as well as starting and repopulating a species would be first and foremost in their thinking. He also knew he needed to start thinking on that level as well and get out of the mindset of just the military matters. He revised his list slightly in keeping with the male and female split, but taking the names he dropped and putting them on the secondary list and hopefully for consideration on the second Expedition.

    While Ben figured the Vice President was likely already off world, he sent him a message anyway for when he arrived. He was surprised when the communicator rang and answered it with a simple “hello.”

    “I know I shouldn’t be surprised at hearing from you this quickly, but I am surprised at hearing from you this quickly,” said the Vice President.

    “I have a list of the command team I’m looking for,” said Ben.

    “Can you send it to this account?” asked the Vice President.

    “I’ll type it up and send it,” said Ben. “When do you want to meet to go over them?”

    “I’m already back on Earth,” said the Vice President. “It’s going to be a couple of days.”

    “Already?” asked Ben.

    “One of the perks of being in my position is fast transportation,” said the Vice President.

    “Yeah, that must be nice,” said Ben.

    “I’ll tell you what, I’ll send a ship to pick you up in…two days,” said the Vice President. “It’ll give us time to look over your list.”

    “How long am I staying?” asked Ben.

    “We have additional items to go over with you, like the remainder of the command staff, so plan on at least three days,” said the Vice President. “Maybe up to a week.”

    “Formal? I know how you guys love your suits,” chuckled Ben.

    “You’ll find I’m just as casual as everyone else when I want to be,” said the Vice President. “Just another perk of the position.”

    “I’ll see you then,” said Ben as he ended the communication and got the file ready to send to the Vice President. After typing it up, he transmitted it and received a reply it had been received.

    Ben looked around the small condo and wondered exactly what he had gotten himself into. He felt the mission he would be undertaking was certainly worthwhile, but it was a big leap of faith to leave everything…and everyone behind and travel to a new world untouched by humans. And furthermore, be ultimately responsible for the lives of those under his charge. But not even that as he knew the way humanity was going, they very well could be the last chance for mankind as a whole.

    Heading off to bed, his mind was racing at what was to come and sleep didn’t come easy.
     
    Bandit99, Zimmy and techsar like this.
  11. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    CHAPTER 3



    Ben was nervous about the meeting as the ship came towards the domed area built on top of the old city of Nashville. The city held almost three million inhabitants and living space was strictly controlled for those lucky enough to earn a place inside. He looked out the window at the barren desolation of a once green planet as they approached the city and entered the traffic pattern for landing. Once they passed through the electronic grid that kept the dust and pollution out of the dome, they headed for a private landing area on top of the Novus Corporation facility and came in for a soft touchdown. Ben saw the Vice President was waiting for him dressed down in blue jeans and a Henley shirt that was untucked. He felt slightly overdressed and removed the tie he hated with a passion before stuffing it inside his baggage. He decided to keep on the suit jacket for the moment and left it unbuttoned as he unbuttoned the top button on his white shirt. The hatch opened and he departed, carrying his bag and a medium sized pack slung over his shoulder. The Vice President nodded at an orderly who went over and took the bag from Ben.

    “You weren’t joking about dressing down,” chuckled Ben as he shook the Vice President’s hand.

    “I’m an old software engineer,” said the Vice President. “This is about as formal as I want.”

    “I was always more comfortable in fatigues and boots than my dress uniform,” said Ben.

    “We can let you change if you want,” said the Vice President. “I have a private bathroom you can use to change into something more comfortable.”

    “That’ll be fine,” said Ben as they headed inside. “This is my first time on Earth since I retired. I forgot how bad it’s getting.”

    “We know,” said the Vice President.

    “You’ve had me followed?” asked Ben.

    “Yes, we did,” said the Vice President. “As well as backtracking your movements since you retired. No offense, but this place is too important for us.”

    “I understand,” said Ben as they arrived at his spacious office and took a seat away from the desk. Ben grabbed a set of khaki pants and a polo shirt before heading to the bathroom and quickly changing. Coming out, he replaced the dress shoes with a set of boots that appeared to have some serious mileage on them, but still in good condition. An orderly offered coffee and it was accepted by both before he departed after filling the cups and leaving the carafe on a small table.

    “You’re retired and still wear boots?” asked the Vice President.

    “I’m still in that mindset that things can go sideways before you know it,” said Ben as he stowed the holstered pistol inside his bag along with the spare magazines and a large folding knife.

    “You’re armed?” asked the Vice President.

    “And legally allowed to carry in North America and far more places,” stated Ben. “If it bothers you, I can check it into your armory.”

    “No, I just wasn’t…I should have expected it,” said the Vice President.

    “The mindset takes a long time to go away,” said Ben.

    “I’m glad we could have this meeting,” said the Vice President as he moved on. “We wanted to talk over the leadership team we have assigned.”

    “No problem,” said Ben. “I have some concerns as well with the security staff.”

    “Oh?” asked the Vice President.

    “We’ll get to that,” said Ben with a wave of his hand. “So?”

    “Let’s go down the list of the leadership we’ve selected if that’s okay,” said the Vice President.

    “I’d like to know who I’m working with,” said Ben as the Vice President uploaded the files onto a large 3D screen next to the desk.

    “Okay,” said the Vice President as he loaded the first file. “First off is your Chief Science Officer or Director. Whatever you want to term your section heads.”

    “I think Director would be appropriate,” said Ben.

    “Okay, the name is Doctor Javier Santiago, from South America originally, State of Columbia and the Bolívar Region specifically, but lived in North America since going to college at 15. Double Doctorate, accolades, off world research, published a few times per year, the whole package so to speak,” said the Vice President as he also handed over an old style paper dossier. Ben looked through and noted his distinctive accomplishments over his career.

    “Very good,” said Ben. “Young though.”

    “But damn good,” said the Vice President. “He’s consulted with us in the past and was eager to get a look at what we had on the planet.”

    “You told him the specifics?” asked Ben.

    “No, just selected data,” said the Vice President.

    “Does he have a specialty?” asked Ben. “Specific area of science?”

    “Not really, he’s well versed in most of the biology fields and crossed over into zoology, botany, earth sciences…pretty much all of them he’s dabbled in,” said the Vice President. “Next is his co-director, more or less, your Chief Astrophysicist Doctor Angeline Weber. She’s just as qualified as Doctor Santiago, but we literally flipped a coin to see who would take lead. She’s made a career in astrophysics and came highly recommended by nearly everyone in the community. She studied meteorology as a hobby and will be in charge of that as well.”

    “Was age not taken into account when deciding team leads?” asked Ben, noting she was almost ten years older than Santiago as he looked through the next file.

    “It came down to team leadership and team dynamics,” said the Vice President. “She doesn’t have as much time under her belt leading complete science teams and had a narrower focus on her career path. We felt Doctor Santiago was better suited to leading since he’s dabbled in a number of areas over the years. A position she strongly agreed with.”

    “Just that she knows,” said Ben. “Chief Engineer?”

    “A man named Grady Stafford,” said the Vice President as he located the next dossier and handed it over. “He’s built or upgraded eight different off world colonies including the Australian colony on Gliese 581C. He’s picked his own crew for the most part and each and every one are recognized experts in the engineering world. If there’s anyone out there with better qualifications, I have yet to find him.”

    Ben studied the dossier closely and found he not only had set up five colonies from scratch, but had made a business on Earth of building domes and habitable areas. He had made a small fortune as his prices were high, but he gave the highest quality product in the galaxy. Ben informally knew the name but had never met him personally.

    “And what’s he charging you?” asked Ben. “I know his work by reputation only but never met him. But I know he doesn’t come cheap.”

    “Not a penny,” said the Vice President.

    “Oh?” asked Ben. “What’s motivating him?”

    “The excitement of building something from scratch on an untouched world without anyone else around trying to tear it down,” said the Vice President. “As well as the chance to live. He knows, much like you do, the Earth is collapsing far quicker than scientists are letting on.”

    “Nice to know some folks aren’t motivated by greed,” said Ben.

    “He picked his own team for the most part,” said the Vice President.

    “I’m not really in a position to pick and choose the individual teams,” said Ben. “Save the security side of course where I know what we need.”

    “Next up is your chief agriculturist,” said the Vice President. “Doctor Kurt Sweeney. Graduated college and moved back to the family farm in Oklahoma before it turned into a dust bowl. But contracted his services out to a dozen different companies and nations to setting up agricultural works on off world colonies. The man could grow corn out of a rock I believe.”

    “Some fresh stuff is always nice,” said Ben, who knew little of farming. Reading through the file, he saw the man had impeccable talents and was a recognized expert. Ben was under the impression the Novus Group was sparing no expense to get the best they could find.

    “Your Services and Infrastructure leader is a woman named Rachelle Marchand,” said the Vice President as he handed over the next dossier. “In a word, brilliant. I hate to use that term, but she graduated with a double Masters from Cornell at age 16 and can speak six languages. Programs code like you and I would type out a letter.”

    “Obviously, you’ve never seen me type,” chuckled Ben as he looked it over. “IQ?”

    “Around 180 or so,” said the Vice President. “But doesn’t act like it. Kind of carefree. Mix of intelligence, common sense and just…well, carefree.”

    “Not in a bad way I hope?” asked Ben.

    “No, she knows when serious is serious and play is play,” said the Vice President. “Just a free-spirited kid for lack of a better term without the emotional baggage.”

    “I can deal with that,” said Ben.

    “Your Chief Medical Officer is Doctor Mary Blevins,” said the Vice President. “Graduated at the top of her class from Johns Hopkins and has done work in some large hospitals around North America. She had just accepted a position to Atlanta Memorial when we talked her out of it.”

    Ben again looked over the file and saw she was rather young, a fact he pointed out.

    “She’s another one who’s in a league of her own,” said the Vice President. “I’ve talked to career physicians and they say she’s destined to be one of the premier specialists in her time.”

    “And her specialty?” asked Ben.

    “Internal medicine for the most part with quite a few areas she’s had training in,” said the Vice President. “But also a trauma surgeon.”

    “Those can come in real handy when you need them,” said Ben.

    “And your ship’s Captain,” said the Vice President. “A man named Allen Smith. He’s an engineer by trade originally and came up through the Novus Group ranks. This will be his third command and final one as it is. I let him pick his own staff with the exception of his Chief Engineer, a man named Cyrus Hendrix. Hendrix helped design and build the ship from the keel up and came on board as a last-minute request.”

    “His First Officer?” asked Ben.

    “I don’t know much about her, I’m afraid,” said the Vice President. “But Captain Smith thinks very highly of her. Name is Charity Steele and she’s also served with him over her career minus a stint in the North American Space Fleet. Did her time, got out and came to work for us.”

    “And who’s my deputy?” asked Ben.

    “Your deputy?” asked the Vice President.

    “My second in charge?” asked Ben. “Who minds the store when I’m not there or if I was to get sick? I need a second in command.”

    “We…hadn’t really thought of that,” said the Vice President. “You have a talented staff, I’m sure one of them could pull that duty.”

    “It needs to be a dedicated number two,” said Ben. “It’s going to be hard enough running the individual sections like agriculture and science, much less worrying over them all.”

    “I might assume you would be able to pick a suitable second?” asked the Vice President.

    “I believe I could see what they are capable of,” said Ben.

    “Then the decision will be left up to you,” said the Vice President.

    “Sounds good,” said Ben. “You got the list of names I sent over?”

    “We did and were able to initially vet some of them, but we do have some questions,” said the Vice President. “One or two in particular.”

    “Okay,” said Ben.

    “This Major Tasha Hayden,” said the Vice President. “She’s always been in a secondary capacity in her leadership roles until you retired. This is her first command and it’s peacetime at the moment. Can she hack it?”

    “I wouldn’t have picked her otherwise,” said Ben. “She’s matured into a leader in her own right and I feel utterly confident in her ability to lead those in either a hostile environment or through normal operations. I’m going to be the one ultimately responsible, so yes, she’s your girl.”

    “Young enough to be my daughter, certainly,” chuckled the Vice President. “Okay, Captain Jerome Irwin? We weren’t able to track down much on him. A lot of blank spaces on his official record.”

    “Because he’s spent a considerable amount of his adult life deep undercover and in Special Operations,” said Ben. “But he’s good. Natural leader and has the basic command course while still in the Marines.”

    “We kept hitting a brick wall with his data,” said the Vice President. “I can see why now.”

    “Was that everyone?” asked Ben.

    “No…” said the Vice President. “We have serious concerns about Kendrick Whitaker.”

    “Okay,” said Ben with a wave of his hand.

    “How well do you know him?” asked the Vice President.

    “I’d trust him with my life or the lives of my family if I had one,” said Ben. “Why?”

    “Well, we saw he followed you around for the majority of his career and he retired about a year before you,” said the Vice President. “It’s his activities in retirement that have us concerned.”

    “Such as?” asked Ben.

    “As little as a month ago, he ran an operation against one of our facilities,” said the Vice President. “And stole some valuable data from us.”

    “Nobody was hurt?” asked Ben.

    “No, he managed to get in and out undetected,” said the Vice President. “However, he left enough DNA traces for us to get a match.”

    “And the data was…?” asked Ben.

    “Proprietary formulas for certain alloys,” said the Vice President. “Nothing life threatening.”

    “You obviously didn’t go to the authorities,” said Ben.

    “The research was very loosely related to our information on the planet,” said the Vice President. “They could start asking questions that we couldn’t easily provide answers to.”

    “I’ll inquire, but I know the answer in advance without even talking to him,” said Ben.

    “What possible reason would he have?” asked the Vice President.

    “He’s inside a dome and as you know, that’s not cheap for the common man,” said Ben. “His wife works, he draws a military pension, but even that is pitifully small compared to what he was owed from his time in the service. Anyway, he readily admitted to doing side jobs to help make ends meet and this likely was one of them.”

    “Still, he stole from us,” said the Vice President.

    “So, offer him a job and take that avenue away,” said Ben.

    “He’s a mercenary,” said the Vice President.

    “Look, the man made a career out of breaking into high security facilities just like I did,” said Ben. “And he was probably having trouble making ends meet. The only job inside the dome he was able to pull down was a low wage security guard. He was bound to get bored and put his training to use to help pay the bills. You just happened to be the target. Next time it could be the North American Army or the Euro Defense Consortium.”

    “So, he’s loyal to no one?” asked the Vice President.

    “No, he’s loyal to whomever happens to be paying his bills,” said Ben. “And he’ll be loyal to me because we’re loyal to each other. I trust that man with my life, have trusted that man with my life and will continue to trust him with my life. In a just world, he would have been an officer and you would have made him the same offer you made me.”

    “You…admire him?” asked the Vice President.

    “No, I respect him and his capabilities,” said Ben. “And furthermore, I know he’s the best person in or out of the military to take charge of the enlisted side of the house.”

    “Honestly, we didn’t realize there was as much to that side of things,” said the Vice President. “One of the reasons I pushed to have you brought in a bit earlier. It didn’t happen.”

    “You did seem to have an overabundance of officers,” said Ben. “Lot of Chiefs, not many Indians.”

    “The military side of things has always been something we shied away from,” said the Vice President. “We typically use third party contractors for that kind of work.”

    “You need that senior enlisted leadership,” said Ben. “And you need the experience of Kendrick Whitaker. He’s the best I have to offer and the best you’re ever going to get. Plus, you recruited his children, why not the parents as well?”

    “His wife as well?” asked the Vice President. “On Expedition 1?”

    “Behind every good soldier is a great spouse keeping up things at home,” said Ben. “He was only one of the best in the field because he didn’t have to worry about the home life. And furthermore, she’s a natural whiz at a great many things in the corporate world.”

    “Yes, she works for the Lodestone Corporation,” said the Vice President. “Legal assistant.”

    “That’s just for starters,” said Ben. “I’d have a look in her background if you haven’t already. What you find will surprise you.”

    “Truth be told, we originally looked at him and discarded him because of age,” said the Vice President. “The operation against our facility was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

    “You have to have some experience that comes with age on this Expedition,” said Ben. “It’s all well and good you’re getting youngsters capable of breeding and carrying on the torch, but you need the wisdom of those that have been there, done that.”

    “And you think Whitaker is the right choice?” asked the Vice President.

    “I think he’s the only choice,” said Ben.

    “Okay, you sold me,” said the Vice President. “And on to youngsters, what about this Lieutenant Nicholas Griggs?”

    “A recommendation from Tasha Hayden,” said Ben. “And I looked at his file and found he is an outstanding officer and was a promising young engineer. Top 5% of his class at MIT, Masters from Georgia Tech. And has a wife that’s a doctor.”

    “Maybe we can get her into Expedition 2, but the medical team is already picked for Expedition 1,” said the Vice President.

    “She’s a pediatric and obstetric specialist,” said Ben. “That’s kind of a nice thing to have around. And before you say anything, I saw nobody is qualified in that particular field from the list you provided.”

    “The physicians we picked have a wide variety of skills,” said the Vice President.

    “But none are a pediatrician or obstetrician as a primary field,” said Ben. “Look, if the security personnel are any indication of the relatively even split of males and females, we’re going to have children. Because when you put single boys and girls together, they will do what boys and girls do when they get together. We’re going to be on the planet for what? 15 months until Expedition 2? We will need that kind of specialist work because I can flat guarantee you before six months is out, someone is going to get pregnant.”

    “You could lay down some ground rules,” said the Vice President. “Make it illegal.”

    “Yeah, I’ve been places like that before where the leadership says, ‘don’t have sex or else.’ And guess what? They still end up doing the deed by finding creative ways of hiding,” said Ben. “You can’t put together over 700 men and women in their prime so to speak and not expect a few, or a lot, of them to have sex. It’s natural and it’s going to happen. Make no mistake, hormones, emotions, loneliness or a combination of all three will make Novae Spes a hotspot for social interaction and intercourse during that first Expedition.”

    “They would disobey you?” asked the Vice President.

    “No, because I’m not dumb enough to make a rule like that to begin with,” said Ben. “Look, we’re only talking about an extra doctor, a specialist at that. We will need that kind of specialty if what I think will happen happens. We are talking about the continuation of our species.”

    “So, you are demanding a seat on Expedition 1 for them both?” asked the Vice President with a sigh.

    “I’m not demanding anything,” said Ben with a semi-frown. “But if you want me leading this thing, you have to allow me some inputs on the personnel we are bringing. You can’t sit behind a desk, hand me a loaded deck and tell me to make it work. I built one of the premier special operations units in the world because I hand picked the members. The same applies here.”

    “I keep forgetting you’re smarter than your comrades in arms,” said the Vice President. “Anyone else you’d like to add to the list?”

    “Can’t think of a soul if those other names are acceptable to you,” said Ben.

    “Again, we vetted them save Jerome Irwin and Kendrick Whitaker,” said the Vice President. “They all cleared and are assigned to spots on this or later Expeditions.”

    “Now, on to the other portion of vetting,” said Ben. “Have you vetted and contacted that entire list of security personnel?”

    “Not all of them were contacted,” said the Vice President. “Maybe half. We’ve deliberately waited on many since there is an unknown loyalty on some to their companies or nations.”

    “These six?” asked Ben as he handed over a handwritten list. The Vice President looked it over and compared to the computer list to his front.

    “No, it appears they have yet to be contacted,” said the Vice President.

    “Scratch them off the list,” said Ben. “And add these six.”

    “There are some people with good resumes on here,” said the Vice President.

    “Trust me, that resume has baggage with it,” said Ben. “A lot of baggage you might not see.”

    “You know this for a fact?” asked the Vice President.

    “A leopard doesn’t change its spots,” said Ben. “You really don’t want those six.”

    “And I’m to trust you on this?” asked the Vice President.

    “Yep,” said Ben simply. “I don’t trust them and I’m going to be the man on the ground. You want to keep this place a secret? You don’t even talk to them.”

    “You think they’d give it up?” asked the Vice President. “Even if we are allowing them to bring families?”

    “In a heartbeat,” said Ben. “You asked before if some of the people I’d suggest would be motivated by money. That’s all those guys are motivated in. And if selling out the coordinates to this planet meant they’d get another credit in their pocket, they’d do so without hesitation.”

    “They’re that bad?” asked the Vice President.

    “I don’t trust them and you certainly shouldn’t trust anyone that works for that outfit,” said Ben.

    “We’re almost through with the vetting,” said the Vice President.

    “Well, save yourself the time and check these guys out instead,” stated Ben as he tapped the paper to the front of the Vice President.

    The Vice President sighed before looking over the list. He saw six replacement names and the identifying data needed to start the vetting process. It appeared Ben had done some ground work for them in advance and all that was needed was a check.

    “An Australian, a German, a Russian, a South American and two North Americans?” asked the Vice President. “What’s so special about them?”

    “I trust them even though I fought against a couple of them,” said Ben. “There is honor among soldiers and those folks are honorable.”

    “And keeping with the male and female split, I see,” said the Vice President.

    “The German lady is also a combat medic, damn good one too. The Australian is in the Special Air Service where he’s performed admirably. The Russian has pilot training. One of the North Americans also is an instructor,” said Ben. “Want me to outline the other two as well?”

    “No,” said the Vice President with a sigh. “We’ll do the heavy work.”

    “If you need more, let me know,” said Ben as he handed over another sheet. “In fact, here’s an additional list of personnel to consider if one or more don’t pan out.”

    “Should I just replace who’s on there already?” asked the Vice President in an annoyed tone.

    “No, I trust you won’t deal me a completely horrible hand,” said Ben. “But just in case.”

    “We’ll take it under advisement,” said the Vice President.

    “But under no circumstances are Rich personnel to be involved,” said Ben. “Period.”

    “They aren’t all bad,” said the Vice President.

    “Period,” said Ben. “I won’t have them because I don’t trust them and neither should you.”

    “If we have the time to properly vet other ones,” said the Vice President.

    “Look, you’re going to be here on Earth and I’m going to be there,” said Ben. “And I can flat guarantee you one or all will have a fatal accident before we reach that planet. Bet on it.”

    “You are quite serious?” asked the Vice President, horrified at the thought of Ben taking someone’s life so easily.

    “I’m telling you right now you risk everything you’re trying to accomplish if you bring them on board,” said Ben. “Yeah, I’m that serious. They will give you up, they will do so without hesitation and this whole new start will come to a crashing halt if you include them.”

    “I’m having second thoughts about you at the moment,” said the Vice President.

    “You have that luxury,” said Ben. “But I can’t. Once we hit the ground I have to be able to trust each and every one of the people I have with me. And I can’t perform my job by looking over my shoulder wondering if one is secretly communicating the location back to Earth. I’m telling you right now, one or six, the risk multiplies exponentially if you add them.”

    The Vice President sat back in his chair and looked at Ben with his hands folded. He knew they were placing a lot of blind faith and trust in sending this man to lead the initial Expedition. But they also knew he typically did not fail and had good people working for him. And generally, those handpicked from a select group. There was something to be said about personal loyalty over greed.

    “I will make the adjustments,” said the Vice President after thinking the matter over.

    “And for future expeditions as well,” said Ben.

    “We’re trying to be as selective as we can,” said the Vice President. “I cannot guarantee they won’t be in later expeditions.”

    “Again, everything you wish to accomplish can and will come tumbling down if they are involved,” said Ben. “Look, you hired me for my expertise and experience. You trust me to go in and keep everything calm and running smoothly? You cannot risk what you are trying to accomplish by hiring these guys. You. Do. Not. Need. This. Kind. Of. Trouble.”

    “You are adamant about this,” said the Vice President.

    “They can and will stab you in the back as soon as they get the chance,” said Ben. “Just ask the Johnson Alliance how they feel about them.”

    “That’s a low hit,” said the Vice President. “I worked for Darius Johnson early in my career.”

    “Then you know what will happen if you take them on,” said Ben. “The whole outfit is corrupt, has no soul and would stab their mother in the neck if it meant getting ahead.”

    “I’ll see to it they aren’t even considered in the future,” said the Vice President.

    “Thank you,” said Ben.

    “Should I even worry about vetting the others?” asked the Vice President.

    “Yes, you should,” said Ben. “Just to cross your T’s and dot your I’s. Some I’ve had contact with in the last few years, others it’s been a while. Here’s the thing…”

    “We are going to a new place where we can’t think of former national or corporate rivalries. We have to put that behind us if we are going to build a new civilization. We cannot think of ourselves as North Americans or members of the Lockheed-Boeing Alliance. We have to think of ourselves as one team, one fight instead of what drove us there,” said Ben.

    “We’ve been fairly good about picking the personnel,” said the Vice President.

    “However, I still see national rivalries in your lists. Not a lot of Asians, Russians or Europeans on that list from what I’ve seen,” said Ben. “It’s time to unlearn what we have practically ingrained in our DNA about nationalistic and corporate approaches.”

    The Vice President let out a sigh and reminded himself, once again, Ben was far smarter than he considered. He believed that was why the man was so successful in his career since many would have underestimated him on the field of battle. However, the Vice President saw it wasn’t just on the field of battle people could underestimate him.

    “I’ll see a more diverse mix is included,” said the Vice President.

    “I’m not specifically looking at diversity, but rather the best you can find in any nation or any corporation,” said Ben. “Overall, I’d rather you make the personnel decisions since I seem to have worn out my trust factor. But look beyond our borders.”

    “You’re still the leader,” said the Vice President. “That trust is still there.”

    “And if I was to make any last-minute changes?” asked Ben.

    “To the personnel?” asked the Vice President.

    “Yes,” said Ben.

    “I would prefer you not,” said the Vice President. “Like you said, we have to have trust. And we have to properly vet these people before boarding.”

    “I’m thinking if a spouse or something shows up at the last minute,” said Ben.

    “Case by case basis,” said the Vice President. “If the person selected has been vetted, there is a good chance we checked out their family as well.”

    “Just wondering,” said Ben.

    “You can call me with changes,” said the Vice President. “But I do not want you shooting from the hip and picking up extra people without us having the chance to check them out.”

    “That’s fair,” said Ben. “Now, on to equipment.”

    “I felt you might bring this up,” said the Vice President as he retrieved another file. “As you know, we don’t have our own security force assigned, or very minimal as it is, but we do manufacture arms and equipment. This is a list of everything we produce that can be included on short notice. Some is already packed away, some I felt you would want some input on.”

    Ben looked over the list and saw most were fairly advanced weapon designs, but he had his own thoughts on the matter.

    “I’d suggest this instead or if we have the space, include it with what you packed away already,” said Ben as he pulled out a handwritten list. The Vice President looked it over and had almost zero idea what some of the items were. But those he did recognize were dated pieces.

    “This is…unusual,” said the Vice President.

    “We’re going in unsupported for the most part,” said Ben. “I want weapons we can use off the grid if it comes down to it. Furthermore, those designs are mature and proven. I’m not knocking your designs, but we are going to need items I know are going to work.”

    “I can’t promise anything,” said the Vice President. “Especially since we’re talking about manufacturing some of these from scratch.”

    “If you have lines already producing small arms, it’s a piece of cake,” said Ben as he handed over a memory crystal with the production data installed.

    “I wish we’d brought you on sooner,” said the Vice President. “Things like this could have been easier if we knew about it a couple of months ago. I do have to ask about some of the larger designs though.”

    “Why?” asked Ben. “We’re going into the untamed wilderness for lack of a better term. I’d like to be prepared for anything up to and including large creatures we haven’t encountered before.”

    “You think they are there?” asked the Vice President.

    “I can’t afford not to plan for the worst case,” said Ben.

    “Prudent,” said the Vice President. “I think we’ll be able to get everything you are looking for by the time the ship departs. If we have the space, we’ll also pack in some equipment to produce new ammunition if you need it.”

    “That would be great,” said Ben.

    “The problem is, or if memory serves, much of the other weaponry is already packed away on the ship,” said the Vice President. “Our Corporate Security Chief selected what he thought was best and had it loaded already.”

    “No space?” asked Ben.

    “No, we should have sufficient space for what we are looking at,” said the Vice President. “Luckily enough, this equipment won’t take up much more room. We’ll likely just keep both and add what you requested here.”

    “No soldier ever complains about having too many weapons,” said Ben with a smile.

    “I have another meeting in about a half an hour, so what I’ll do is transfer the remainder of the dossiers to your quarters for you to look over,” said the Vice President as he stood up. “We’ll do dinner tonight if you’re okay with that and go over any additional concerns you have.”

    “That sounds good,” said Ben. “Where am I staying anyway?”

    “We have some quarters here at the headquarters,” said the Vice President.

    “But I’m free to wander if I want?” asked Ben.

    “We won’t lock you up here,” said the Vice President.

    “But I will be followed?” asked Ben.

    “If you prefer, I’d like to assign you a security officer while you’re on Earth,” said the Vice President. “Again, prudence demands it.”

    “I understand,” said Ben. “And yes, might as well have one with me rather than trying to follow me around.”

    “I’ll let them know,” said the Vice President. “Say around 1830 for dinner?”

    “I’m sure your aide will show me the right place to go,” said Ben. The two shook hands and another aide showed Ben to his quarters as well as carrying his luggage where he found fairly comfortable accommodations. Heading inside, he heard another aide outside delivering the additional files he would review before the meeting. The banker’s boxes were placed near the door and he grabbed the first one, seeing it was the medical staff and started looking through the files, making additional notes, but finding everyone was an expert in their field and highly qualified. Before long, he saw the time had slipped away and he got ready for the dinner with the Vice President. Locking up his quarters, he was escorted by his security officer to the dinner location which was in the city itself.

    As they headed out, Ben wondered how many of the people would be alive in the next fifty years and wondered again about all those he was leaving behind. But he knew human nature would take its toll if they opened the floodgates to a new world and had anyone and everyone move there. He was pragmatic enough to realize how the situation would go and fighting would break out eventually over resources, living space or just because people tended to fight. And it was something he wanted to avoid if at all possible as they built a new civilization.
     
    techsar and Zimmy like this.
  12. techsar

    techsar Monkey+++

    Well, I must say this has piqued my interest...but then again, your past works have been quite entertaining - even educational in some cases.

    Glad to see some new material from you and hope you have been doing well.
     
  13. oldman11

    oldman11 Monkey+++

    Good, dry good,
    [flag]
     
  14. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    I read the first chapter and really enjoyed the story. Thanks for posting a few more chapters.

    I admit the way you wrote about the scientists in the prologue was humorous. Scary true of what could be and how much we destroy to save something. Very well written.
     
  1. DKR
  2. sharkman6
  3. 3M-TA3
  4. sarawolf
  5. Halvist
  6. sarawolf
  7. DarkLight
  8. UncleMorgan
  9. RightHand
  10. KJ_Jones
  11. Grand58742
  12. RightHand
  13. melbo
  14. melbo
  15. ghrit
  16. melbo
survivalmonkey SSL seal        survivalmonkey.com warrant canary
17282WuJHksJ9798f34razfKbPATqTq9E7