The following opening paragraphs are from my extremely short science fiction novella The Guardian, another tale born out of one of my short stories…
“Why us?” Lynne grumbled, once they had arrived at the silent, empty space port, parked as it is in stationary orbit several thousand feet above the dusty surface of Mars, in the planet’s upper atmosphere. Even though she already realized the answer, she still needed to say it, if only to emphasise her extreme displeasure at being volunteered like this.
She had driven her new boss Adler to total distraction during their enforced time together aboard the Virtual Intelligence controlled solar wind powered transporter, to the point where he seriously contemplated strangling her, if only to give himself some much needed respite from her endless moaning and incessant questions throughout the entire month long journey in the cramped passenger space aboard the transporter. They both knew that this was likely a suicide mission. “What’s so all-fired important about a darned automated mining operation on Mars anyway?” she continued, “and why the hell did we have to put up with that stinking ancient garbage scow. Why didn’t the cheapskates at least get us accommodation on something more luxurious for the trip?”
“For Christ sake woman, for the last time, will you give it a rest. Quit bellyaching! At the moment I’m still presuming that the bastards down there have simply downed tools over pay and conditions. You’ve read the damned brief from Earth Corp’s CEO as well as I have. Therefore you know that we are here to establish why the Olivine mining operation has ceased production, and why the regular monthly consignments of ore are no longer being sent back to Earth. For your information, even though the mining is automated, techs are still required to live on site to keep an eye on the machinery, as well as establishing the location of the next profitable Olivine vein, and from time to time, fix things when they break. Plus, the ore has to be brought up here to the space port to be loaded aboard unmanned VI controlled transporters like the one we just arrived on, for the return journey to Earth. Which means that among the mine staff there has to be someone like you to fly the damned cargo shuttles back and forth. As there is no sign of either of the shuttle pilots, or anyone else up here, we need to get down to the mine. Until we do, we’re merely speculating about what has happened.
The first thing we have to do once we get there is to talk to the mine boss, David Malcolmson. He and his team are housed in an accommodation block just inside the mine, located in the Ganges Chasma, an eastern branch of that great scar you can see in the Martian landscape below us, known as Valles Marineris. It’s Mars’ equivalent of the Rift Valley that scars the African continent back on Earth. Before you open your damned mouth again, just in case you were wondering what Olivine is used for back at home, it is the principal component in the carbon dioxide sequester process. Even you must know how bad our atmosphere is, thanks to the pollutants still being belched out by heavy industry, even though rules were set in place to safeguard the environment. Just like always, industrialist couldn’t care less. What has always counted with them is profit. According to Earth Corp, the last load to arrive back home was six months ago. Before that, the mine was sending regular monthly consignments. Any more questions? No? Good. Now quit complaining, shut up, and get us the hell down there!”
Adler shook his head as he strapped himself into the seat behind Lynne. Why the hell he had to be saddled with this irritating female was totally beyond him.
Surely there must have been other pilots that Earth Corp’s CEO, Magritte Peneaux, could have chosen? Not as far as she was concerned! Former military personnel like Major Adler Stevens of the British Army’s Military Police, and Lieutenant Lynne Crawford, a veteran fighter-bomber pilot who previously served in the Canadian Airforce, were the obvious candidates for the job. She saw no good reason to look any further. Or for that matter, to send two of her own on such a hazardous mission. Besides which, this was likely not a job for civilians. If they managed to work out what had happened, fix it, and send back a report to say that everything was back to normal, all well and good. If not, someone else would soon be sent to replace them.
Since all types of warfare and its several causes, such as politics and financial greed, along with enforced poverty, coupled with mass starvation, and radical religious differences, were all declared illegal after the world’s business leaders had finally had enough and specifically set up Earth Corp to remove all control from the Earth’s former political, military and religious masters to become the first non-aligned World Government, there were now millions of unemployed soldiers, sailors and airmen just like Adler and Lynne to choose from. The pair had been given precisely one week after their arrival to conduct their investigation before they must send that report back to Earth Corp HQ in Geneva.
The guardian watched the shuttle’s entire trip from the space station, down towards the loading bay airlock inside the mine entrance, via its own monitor within the inner sanctum. Once the shuttle had arrived, through the monitor’s speaker, the guardian heard the unmistakeable sound of the outer door first open, then close, sealing off the mine accommodation complex from Mars’ deadly atmosphere, which being mostly carbon dioxide, is one hundred times thinner than that of Earth. Next it heard the hiss as the now sealed shuttle bay automatically re-pressurised as oxygen was automatically pumped in to allow whoever was inside the shuttle to enter the mine reception centre. Bemused, it continued to watch as Adler and Lynne walked across to the door connecting the shuttle bay with the living quarters.
“Ok. First of all I’m going to talk to Malcolmson to figure out what the hell the problem is,” Adler began. “While I’m doing that Lieutenant, be so kind as to find the techs.” Lynn stiffly saluted, glad for the chance to finally be away from him for the first time in a month. She had really begun to loathe the annoying by the book Englishman. On the plus side he had one thing going for him in her eyes, he was undeniably cute. Before carrying out his order, she watched him closely as he entered the lift for the short journey up to the administration level, just to make sure that he hadn’t changed his mind and was about to follow her. Satisfied, she began a systematic search of the living quarters.
Ten minutes later, she almost jumped out of her skin when Adler silently appeared behind her to casually enquire, “found anything yet Lieutenant?”
“God, don’t do that boss, you scared the living bejeezers out of me! If the technicians are still here they must be somewhere in the mine. What about Malcolmson, is he in his office?”
“Negative. It looks as if he left in a hurry. However, I did find a list of the staff, including ID photographs, and a map of the mine up in the control room. It looks like we will have to hunt them down one by one Lieutenant.”
“Before we go any further, can we please dispense with all this military formality bullshit? We’re civilians now whether we like it or not. My name is Lynne, not Lieutenant.”
“Sorry Lieu – Lynne,” he replied, “I’m Adler.”
“What kind of name is that for crying out loud?” she asked, with a bemused look on her beautiful face.
“My father was an eccentric who had a mania for unconventional names for his children. Despite my mother’s wishes, he insisted on naming my older sister, Osceola, a Creek Indian name that means black drink crier apparently. When I came along he insisted that I be named Adler, after an Austrian doctor and psychotherapist from the nineteenth century who he admired. I suppose he wanted our names to stand out from the crowd.”
“I’d say he achieved it wouldn’t you? So what’s next Adler?”
“Well, it looks like we have to investigate the entire mine. We’ll need our suits.”
“No breathable atmosphere inside the mine complex. The automated mining machinery doesn’t need it.”
“Fair enough. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get going boss,” Lynne replied with the merest hint of a grin on her face. If he made the mistake of annoying her in the future, which being a man, he probably would, she was going to get some mileage out of taunting him about his strange Christian name in the future.
The guardian watched them on its monitor as they climbed aboard one of the fusion powered quad bikes parked in a maintenance bay just beyond the airlock separating the accommodation, administration and mine control from the mine itself. Wherever they went, whatever they did, it would be watching their every move. If it looked like they might find a way into the inner sanctum, then it would immediately destroy them. In the meantime it was merely content to observe.
Adler drove the quad down the main tunnel for approximately a mile before stopping at the point where it divided into three. “Which way?” he asked.
Lynne briefly studied the map before tapping him on his right shoulder, indicating he should head in that direction. For the next six days the pair systematically searched every tunnel, every side space, maintenance and storage area they came across, looking for any sign of Malcolmson and his team of technicians. By the morning of the last day of their investigation they had clearly established that the mine was devoid of any sign of life.
“I don’t know about you, but this is really beginning to totally creep me out,” Lynne whispered as an involuntary shiver ran up her spine. She might be hardened to most things thanks to her front line service, but this totally spooky situation made her feel distinctly uncomfortable. If they had come across dead bodies, she could just about have handled that. But the fact that the entire mine staff had apparently vanished into thin air was hard to take.
Adler nodded in total agreement. “Come on, it’s time to send that report.”
“What happens next is all down to Earth Corp’s CEO. So while I’m preparing the report, before we head back to the space station to send it to her, perhaps you had better search everyone’s quarters for personal effects. At least that way we can offer some comfort to the families.”
“Good idea boss, I’m on it.”
It took three days to eventually receive a reply back from head office in Geneva. Magritte thanked them for what they had done, and told them to return home on the transporter which had just left the new International Space Station en route to Mars, containing the replacement mining crew. Meantime there was nothing else for them to do but wait, while trying not to annoy each other if at all possible.
A month later the guardian watched as the replacements descended from the space port moments after the transporter began its immediate return journey to Earth with its two passengers. Within a fortnight mining had recommenced. Once again the guardian eliminated the potential threat.
Adler sat in the bar of his local pub supping a much needed pint of bitter. After what had happened back on Mars, he needed some serious down time to recharge and rest, even if only for a couple of days. While the United Kingdom no longer existed since Earth Corp ended the former political union between England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, at least one thing hadn’t changed. There was no denying that the English were still the undoubted masters when it comes to brewing the finest bitter to be found anywhere in the world.
“Hi boss. God you are a hard man to track down.” When Adler looked up, for a brief moment he thought that he was either dreaming, or that he had been transported into the presence of a goddess.
Lynne stood before him wrapped in a knee length faux fur winter coat, which she now slowly opened to reveal herself to him for the first time. For what seemed like an absolute eternity, but in reality was probably only a few seconds, his eyes hungrily devoured every delicious morsel of this vision of undoubted feminine perfection. The first thing he noticed was how the makeup she wore accentuated her beautiful face. His eyes were then drawn to the top half of her body which was barely contained inside a figure hugging, flesh coloured, diaphanous tank top. It literally clung to her firm breasts like a gossamer thin outer layer of skin, leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination. He could be forgiven for thinking that Lynne’s breasts appeared on the point of bursting through the delicate material at any moment.
As if in answer to his unspoken thoughts, she next slowly turned around to briefly reveal what up until now had remained hidden from his gaze beneath the miniskirt she was wearing, when its hem rode up, revealing that apart from anything else she was not wearing any underwear, as she deliberately bent over to place her coat over the back of the chair. The thought occurred to him while feasting his eyes on the lower half of her exposed naked rear, that it was not so much covered by the Teal blue silk garment, as lovingly caressed by it; as indeed were her breasts by the tank top. Her long legs were clad in black fishnet stockings. On her feet she wore a pair of bright red designer leather stilettos. To complete the ensemble, she had an expensive Gucci bag slung over one shoulder, which she now proceeded to put down beside her.
In the twenty-second century, it is always the women who controls any relationship she enters into, unlike her far less sexually aggressive sisters in previous centuries. Having finally decided that she wanted Adler, despite his being a total pain at times, she had deliberately chosen the clothing as well as the heady perfume she wore, for one reason and one only, to attract the attention of the now wide eyed, open mouthed individual seated before her who was even now unconsciously licking his lips while a part of his anatomy rapidly engorged itself. She had bought every item of clothing from a boutique that specialises in top quality twentieth century second hand Italian labelled clothing, soon after she had arrived back in London from a quick trip home to Canada. If any of her clothing had been new, even the winter coat, no way could she ever have afforded them.
“Buy a girl a drink soldier?” she demanded rather than asked, giving him a smouldering look which made his heartbeat increase at an alarming rate when she sat down to face him, with her legs momentarily apart to briefly reveal another part of her anatomy, before it vanished from his sight when she demurely crossed her legs, while at the same time, readjusted the hem of her miniskirt. His very obvious physical reaction told her that her plan had worked. She now had his complete and undivided attention…
Well there you have it, another teaser just for you. As usual you can get your copy from the Amazon site you use. Here are the links to the two main ones: