I counted 12 stars. Yesterday, there were only 11. I checked my goggles, maybe some sand had broken the seal during the storm. No sand, no breaks. And twelve more hours before the comm sat was overhead again and I could get a message back to base.
Checking and rechecking didn't change that there were now 12. The implications were too vast...
The Trollers move had begun. This was only the 1st star of a billion to be moved from their galaxy to ours. Slowly at first, they said, the first of many trials... and then the real 'invasion' would begin.
I couldn't think about that now. The task at hand was to pack up and get back to base. With three hours to go before the next storm, the chances of getting back were slim. They weren't expecting me back, either. And I wasn't certain the shuttle left to me would get off the ground.
There was, of course, always the beacon. No one had used it yet. I'd read the manual but it was only supposed to be used if my life was in danger. Which is wasn't. I just wanted out.
The choice. Use the beacon and be court-martialed or die trying to get back to base in the storm. What was that my mother used to say?
"Always wear clean underwear." No, not that one. Underwear was the least of my problems.
I would ask her when I got back. So yeah, I flipped up the beacon's outer control panel and hit the power on. Damn the High Commission, damn Officer Trappet and his shiny blue buttons. This information needed to be delivered from my outpost on our galaxy's far edge.
The beacon's light flashed indicating success. All I could do was sit back and wait. There was nothing more to do than look on and wonder at what the night sky would look like from any corner of the galaxy before long. A few moments later the comm came to life with an automated message.
"Control 472 Sector 7, Base has been notified of emergency status. Rescue and return drone on approaching your location. Do you need medical assistance?"
Medical assistance? How was I to reply? Perhaps these messages were salvaged from a defunct system.I pressed the button to acknowledge the message with no response. The only thing left to do was...wait. The small screen above my comm system flickered to life. I'd never seen the thing work. A pixelated face appeared. Only half the data bits were getting through, but I still recognized the face as that jackass Dilby. A couple of ranks higher up the ladder and he thought he owned the solar system.An annoyance not helped by the fact that he did indeed own 7 of the 12 planets and a handful of moons.
"472, our sensors indicate that other than a little cholesterol and 3lbs overweight, you are inno medical danger. Are there outside threats?"
"Yes," I responded, providing no details. They would have to delve a bit deeper than that. Besides, I wanted that drone to go past the halfway point, about the time I'd have my stuff packed up. Dilby's pixelated face snorted.
"Fine, when you get back we'll debrief you of all necessary information. 2 seconds left on this message. See you...” The screen image broke up for a brief moment. The last word I heard before Dilby's face disappeared was "forget."
I looked up at the cluster of stars in the sky once more before putting away my essentials. Yes, I was looking forward to getting off this rock earlier than planned. And I knew what I'd say to Meesha, if she would allow me to get a word in before her usual gush of greetings from being away for so many years. Even though I knew she'd forgive me I'd say "I'm sorry. I know where I went wrong." Sitting in this damn box of an outpost for one. But the offer was too good to miss.
In hindsight, I should have stayed my post on Comm Ops 5. I could have asked her to marry me there. We could have been living the family life. In poverty with the majority of the State's citizens but at least life would be simple. None of this thankless work monitoring dead outposts watching for signs of Trollers.
Contrary to belief, there are no sounds in space, but the clang of metal against metal rang clearly through the thin atmosphere surrounding my outpost. I put on my helmet and opened the small window portal. It was a common occurrence that small metallic crystals from the nearby orbiting rings magnetised...
This is up-to-date as of 20 Feb 2015. This is a rough draft... we haven't gone back to edit or anything like that.
To Be Continued...!