Globe picture of the solar system.


A few minutes later, the elevator came to an abrupt halt. It shook ominously and made a creaking sound that Rob never liked when he was getting off the thing. He had asked Dino to check it on several occasions and he was sure that it was safe, but something always bothered him about the sound. He opened the gate and let Jonah out before stepping off himself into the main crew area of hanger bay eight. The first thing he always noticed when coming out of the main mining area was the smell. The filtered O2 had a different smell to it than the main drilling platforms. It was sweeter somehow, the same odour as the surface of the planet. It was the first thing he had noticed when they had landed a year earlier. The eggheads had said something about a highly charged ionosphere being the cause, although fuck knew what that meant. The hanger bay was alive with activity. Someone was working on a terrain buggy, welding what looked like an upper support to the engine cowling. He could not tell who it was because they were wearing a face mask but by the size of them, it was either Leonard Foster or James Gallico. They were both tall and lanky and both were trying to get that damn buggy to work correctly. He figured it was Foster with the way he was handling the welder. Gallico was a little clumsy with it and had nearly burnt his hands off the previous week while trying to get a sensor array unhooked from one of the upper pylons from the main habitat ring. They began walking across the deck when Rob saw Dino coming towards them. At only five foot nine, he was much smaller than Rob but what he lacked in height he made up for in muscle. His nickname was The Tank and with arms the size of small tree trunks, it was well earned. He was a workhorse and took no crap from anybody. He had thick black hair and large round face. He was a tough New Yorker and knew every inch of the base. He was the only one that Rob had really known before the trip to the planet. They had worked tough jobs together on some of the most unforgiving terrain that man had explored from the cold depths of the moon, to Mars to the highly enriched platinum asteroids in the Kuiper belt. He marched towards the pair with a scowl on his face. Rob turned to Jonah.

“Whatever you do don’t piss him off today Kid, that’s the third drill bit we’ve lost inside of a week,” Rob said looking back at Dino as he walked up to him.

“Seriously?” Dino said with arms wide, “you’re kidding me right? Tell me this is a joke?”

Rob shrugged his shoulders and put his hands in the air.

“Take it easy Tank, this wasn’t my fault, not this time anyway,” Rob said.

“And who’s fault was it?” Dino said looking at Jonah.

“Don’t take it out on the kid either, he save my ass down there. We’d probably both be dead if he hadn’t reacted so quickly and cut the power lines,” Rob said.

Dino rolled his eyes in the back of his head and turned around.

“That’s great kid thanks a bunch. Now we not only have to retrieve ANOTHER downed drill shaft but replace an entire power unit. Stalland is going to have a field day with this,” Dino said.

Jonah coughed suddenly from behind Rob.

“Look Dino, we can talk about it after we’ve seen the doc alright? Don’t worry about the bit; I’ll get it back. The important thing is we’re not dead, your concern is touching by the way, and that power generator was fucked. We both know it so no harm no foul,” Rob said slapping Dino on the shoulder.

Dino frowned and glared at Rob.

“I swear to God, sometimes I could just punch you, you know that?” Dino said.

Rob smiled knowing that while Dino was stocky and did have a hell of a right hook, in an actual brawl they both knew he didn’t really stand a chance, not that he didn’t try, mind you. There was a fearless spirit in Dino that Rob admired.

“You could try my friend,” he said punching him on the arm and walking past him.

“What did you hit anyway?” Dino said shouting after him.

“Probably an Iron Ferrite plate, too soon to be sure, I’ll check the readings when the smoke has cleared,” replied Rob walking towards the rear of the platform and entering another elevator.

“It just one disaster after another on this goddam planet,” Dino shouted at him as the doors to the elevators closed, “Foster, get your ass away from that buggy and get moving on the O2 storage tanks on deck five, Jesus Christ!” he said moving over to Foster.

“I knew it was Foster,” Rob said to himself smiling as the doors sealed shut.

“He seems a little pissed,” said Jonah.

Rob looked at him.

“You think he’s pissed? Wait till Stalland has his turn, I’m giving you a pass on this one kid you’re gonna be in sick bay when the heat comes down from the top,” Rob said.

“Don’t worry about me Rob I can stand my own ground,” Jonah said.

“Sure you can kid, but not today,” Rob said.

“But…” Jonah started to say.

“But nothing, you’ll do what I tell you to do until I’m replaced or dead, you got me?” Rob said frowning at him.

“Got you,” replied Jonah.

The lift sped quickly upwards five levels before coming to an abrupt stop. The doors opened onto a long hallway with blue running lights embedded into the walls. Rob led the way as they got out. They reached the med lab and Rob stopped at the door, taking a breath. There was only one other thing on this base that made him nervous and it was behind this door. He activated it and the pair stepped inside. Doctor Katherine Turnham looked up from her desk and pushed her long brown hair back behind her ears. She folded her arms and raised one of her eyebrows. Even from this distance, Rob could see how striking her green eyes were. His heart quickened and he puled back his lips into a sealed smile tipping his index finger off his forehead in a casual salute. She did not look impressed.

“Well then, what the fuck have you two done now?” she said leaning back in her chair.

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