Sunset Over the Frontier

MantaManta Join Date: 2005-01-12 Member: 35056Members Posts: 255
Sunset Over the Frontier

Since the Expansion, Frontier Mining & Logistics, Inc. has been at the forefront of the effort to meet the needs of our ongoing exploration and growth. We provide the resources, infrastructure, and networks that form the basis of new organizations. We make this side of the galaxy safer and more civilized for you.
-- "About FML," from ptp://tsn.ngc6494.fml.com

[...] "I worked for the Family for a year," says "Jacob", a former employee of FML, called "the Family" - ironically - by insiders. "Smart businessmen, and ruthless as hell. You could end up anywhere in space with them. I'll take my chances handling toxic waste on the Inner Planets."
-- Excerpt from "The Face of the Frontier," by Jan Zheng

< 1 >

Lee awoke to the hissing of the transport's docking mechanisms locking in. He was in the ship's passenger quarters, a wide compartment crammed with bunks. Most of the others were already awake, some milling around in what open space there was. The monochrome wall at the end of the compartment bore the logo of Frontier Mining & Logistics: a stylized depiction of the Pleiades, suspended over an open hand.

The hissing stopped and gave way to a low grinding. The wall bearing the logo detached itself from the ceiling and began lowering itself into a ramp. One of the passengers sitting next to Lee scoffed. "The main exit is inside the quarters? We could've been sucked out into space or exposed to radiation. Unbelievable, these corporations..."

Lee shrugged, as if to ask, What did you expect?. He had never worked for FML before, but he had been a paramedic on Elythius - his home planet and a former mining colony - and was familiar with the maladies often incurred in working for such companies, usually as the result of cost-reducing measures on the companies' part.

"Let me guess," he met her eyes searchingly. "You're a science officer here?"

She nodded and opened her mouth to speak, but the door-ramp hit the metal floor with a reverberating clang, and then everyone around them was standing up to leave. The passengers wove around the bunks and left the transport in an unbroken wave, Lee and the woman causing nearly imperceptible ripples in the sea of moving bodies.

It was most cost-effective to have everyone leave as quickly as possible. Coop them up for a few days, then provide a wide-open exit.

The woman got to her feet and extended a hand to Lee, who took it. Might as well get to know someone on this base, he thought. They followed everyone else into what looked like a large cave with a metal floor. It was the reception area. Passengers were still pouring into the room. Those who had already found a place to sit or lean were talking amongst themselves. At the front of the room, standing on a dais, were a few official-looking, nicely-dressed men and women looking noticeably out of place. They were waiting for the rest of the passengers to disembark so they could begin orientation.

Lee turned to his companion, taking a moment to notice her wavy, black hair - unusually cared-for, considering the roughshod nature of Frontier Mining's work - and the inquisitive spark in her eyes. "So, what's your name?"

"Rina. I'm new to the base, in case you couldn't tell."

He nodded, understanding. "Me too. I'm Lee."

"And what are you here for, Lee? You don't look like a miner, but you don't look like a foreman, either."

Lee was bemused, but couldn't help but smile. She was sharp. It would suit her well in her work. He supposed that miners all looked the same to outsiders: grubby and fatigued. He was neither. "No, I'm not. I'll be - I guess, I am - the station's medic."

"Well, if the base is as safe as that transport, I'm going to bet we'll be glad to have you," Rina replied with a dry smile.

Again, he couldn't help but smile back. Orientation hadn't even started and he had already made a friend, albeit a very investigative one. He wanted to shoot a question back at her, but didn't get the chance. More people left the transport and jostled between himself and Rina, and before he could return to her side, the ramp clamped itself shut like a metal jaw gnashing its teeth, and the suits on the dais began their speeches.

A handsome man with streaks of grey on his temples stepped up first, shuffling his feet and clearing his throat like he was one of the people gathered before him, in a way that only a practiced professional can do so. It worked. Heads turned and the crowd, like a human spotlight, diverted its collective attention to the speaker. "Welcome, everyone, to Proceus Base. My name's Emil Cameron, and I'm the head of operations here. You are the first employees of Frontier Mining to begin our work in this newly-discovered section of the great frontier, and I'm proud to have every single one of you..."

Lee drifted off and noticed large windows on the wall beside him, opening up to a view of the vast openness of space. He realized that they were in an asteroid field. The distant light of stars flecked the blackness, occluded only by the silhouettes of asteroids turning and drifting across the dark. Past the asteroids was a thick stream of stars - an arm of the Milky Way - flecked with red and purple nebulae. Through another window, he could see the silent glare of the nearest system's star, mitigated only by the polarized nano-glass.

The silent view was soothing. It stood in stark contrast to the soulless meld of metal and rock that surrounded them. Yet Lee knew that working in a mine separated from space only by the very rock they were carving out would be far from idyllic and safe. But ultimately, he was on the base because he needed the work, and Frontier Mining had provided it, and with a fairly large paycheck to boot, so safety had to take a backseat. Evidently, experienced paramedics who were willing to work in such dangerous environments were a rarity among the systems. To the company, he was pure gold.

Looking around curiously, he noticed several distinctly statue-like people standing around the edges of the room. They wore caps and multi-pocketed vests over jackets, all in the same dark blue shade. And they all had guns. Despite this, nobody else seemed to pay them much notice, likely owing to the lighting and the charismatic speaker.

There was something the workers weren't being told. Rina's remark about the base's safety echoed back to him. If the company felt the need to heavily arm its security on a desolate asteroid, then it concerned him. He was, after all, partially responsible for the well-being of everyone on the base.

Cameron finished off his speech, rousing a smattering of applause that seemed to resonate in the cavernous room, giving everyone gathered there the illusion that there was a general feeling of greater enthusiasm.

Comments

  • MantaManta Join Date: 2005-01-12 Member: 35056Members Posts: 255
    "Mineral-rich asteroids discovered near Ariadne"

    PROCEUS V, NGC 6494 (TSMN) -- Faced with an ever-increasing strain on the Proceus system's natural resources, the local governments have focused their efforts on efficiency.

    Until recently, they've been facing the inevitable depletion of their mineral supplies. Last week, astrosurveyors on Proceus IV and V discovered an asteroid field orbiting a star within one parsec of the Ariadne Arm, which is only eight parsecs away from the system itself.

    "Initial analysis has shown that these asteroids contain enormousamounts of the elements vital to our manufacturing," says Gene Brenton, spokesman for Messier Manufacturing Co., the system's main source of both employment and manufactured goods, as well as the corporate government on Proceus III.

    A system-wide referendum approved the construction of a mining base on one of the asteroids, despite the presence of hostile aliens in the Ariadne - a fact made public only last month.

    Brenton says that they have contracted Frontier Mining & Logistics, Inc. for security as well as labor. He says that the people of Proceus "can rest assured that their safety will be the foremost priority."

    -- October 23 (Standard), Trans-System Media Network

    < 2 >

    Two weeks later, Lee had finally settled into his position as the medical officer. Nobody had managed to injure themselves seriously so far. Deep mining hadn't commenced yet. He was relieved at his luck, because he had realized by the second day that there were only a few other qualified medical staff on the station.

    The miners were on their weekly day off. It freed Lee up from his duties as well, giving him time to roam the complex and investigate some unanswered questions. Mainly, he hovered around the research wing. He had a feeling that Rina was searching for the same answers. He also felt that she knew more than she had let on.

    Proceus Base's research facilities were spartan, equipped mainly to explore geology. Lee could only guess at the specific purpose of each machine. He was a fish out of water in the labs, wandering aimlessly. To further complicate things, Rina was nowhere in sight and apparently unknown by name to most of the scientists.

    He tapped on the shoulder of a man in a lab coat. "Hey, do you know where Rina is?"

    The researcher shook his head. "Who?"

    Lee sighed and described her once again. "About your height, wavy, black hair." He paused and thought for a second. "Probably asks a lot of questions."

    Realization bloomed on the researcher's face. "Oh, yeah. I know who you're talking about, but I have no idea where she is or what she's doing here. She passes through occasionally and asks questions, but I've only seen her using the labs a few times. I think she's usually over towards the miners' quarters."

    Lee tried not to let his confusion show, voicing his thanks instead. So far, his investigation had only spun into a labyrinth of questions, leaving him adrift. Who was Rina, really? Still, he wasn't ready to give up, yet. He wasn't just responsible for his life, but also for those of everyone else on the base.

    On his way back to the miners' quarters, he stopped to gaze through the windows on the outside walls of the station. Despite the starry tranquility, he found it eerie and unsettling, a feeling that reached deep into his core and clenched his gut with its icy fist, but he couldn't figure out why.

    Waking him from his contemplation like a splash of cold water, an alarm flashed and wailed over his head. A moment later, his emergency pager lit up: "SCRTY STA NOW." Security station now. He was already close, so he started running.

    He passed through the miners' quarters on his way, his search for Rina forgotten for the moment. As he entered the security station, he noticed an unmistakeable red streak from the wall to the floor next to one of the wall terminals. It looked like no other medical staff had arrived yet. As he knelt down to check how fresh the blood was, a head poked out from an adjacent doorway. "Lee, get your ass in here!"

    Lee stood up and checked out the next room. It was in complete disarray. A desk in the center had been cleared hastily, its contents scattered in all directions. On top of the desk was a woman in a miner's uniform, moaning weakly and clutching at her stomach, surrounded by armed guards. A light fixture on the ceiling focused on her, and Lee noticed that she was already pale from blood loss. He stepped forward, pushing aside a few security guards. "What did you shoot her for? It might be too late to stop the bleeding."

    One of the guards, a man whom Lee recognized as the officer in charge of the miners' quarters, spoke up first. "She, uh - someone spotted her by that terminal in the other room. She was messing with the internal systems, and we told her to stop, but she reached for something. We think it was a weapon."

    Lee turned to glare as he pushed the woman's hands away from the wound to clean it. "You think? You do know that miners' uniforms are made to have no room for weapons, right? I mean, you - she's got at least six wounds here!"

    Nobody answered for a moment. He finished cleaning the wound, then opened his first aid kit. He drew a syringe filled with what looked like a translucent, greenish liquid. It was a medical nanite fluid. It wasn't quite what the Frontiersmen had, but it usually served its purpose. He injected it into the woman's side, below the largest wound. In moments, it began to close up.

    Another guard walked in from the other room, addressing another officer with a patch on his uniform. "Sir, she's not one of the miners. We checked her ID."

    Patch paused for a moment. "Then that means she's an intruder. We'll need to find out how she got onto the base." He turned to Lee. "And she might have a fake uniform. A replica. We're going to scan her for weapons."

    Lee was at a loss. He couldn't argue with the facts, despite his momentary authority. Now that the woman had been saved, his job was done. The guards ushered him out of the security station like he had never been there. A maintenance crew was already cleaning up the mess.

    As he left to return to the miners' quarters, he spotted Rina standing in the shadows by a wall near the entrance to the security station. Finally, he thought. "Hey, I've been looking all over for you!"

    She didn't seem to respond.

    He got closer and noticed that she had a strange expression on her face, a mixture of shock and worry. She looked like she had seen the incident. "What's wrong? Did you know her?"

    Rina blinked and seemed to wake from her stupor. Instantly, a mask of composure replaced her previous mien. "Oh, nothing. I just heard the gunshots."

    Lee frowned at her. She was dodging his question. "I just can't get any answers in here, can I? I guess I was wrong about you. Maybe you're not any different."

    A look of hurt flitted across her face, but disappeared as soon as he had noticed it. He turned to leave, but felt her hand on his shoulder. "Wait. You're right. I knew her. I'll tell you the whole story, but you have to keep it between us."

    He stopped and looked back at her. All her masks had dropped, leaving only a piercing gaze, as if she were trying to figure out if he had any masks himself. He nodded. "Okay. I'm listening."
  • koko11koko11 Join Date: 2007-02-20 Member: 60029Members Posts: 16
    Interesting please continue
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