The Terra Core

Follow the adventures of a group of young men and women as they try to tame the final frontier.

This story will contain scenes of sexual and violent natures, so read at your own risk.

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17. New Porto

We were one of several shuttles that hurtled toward the world of New Porto. In fact, I thought I saw hundreds of shuttles, though I was reliably informed that wasn't the case. Shaking like a tin can, the shuttle shook and shuddered as it plunged into the atmosphere of this blue and green orb, looking so much like home yet so alien at the same time.

Our landing area was on the northern hemisphere, upon a continent with slightly lower land-mass than Africa and very much longer, stretching aross half the hemisphere, with patches that seemed to sweep upwards toward colder climates. I thanked my lucky stars we were headed for what looked like one of the warmer regions.

Though it was morning to us, to the citizens of New Porto, it was late afternoon. I had a feeling the time difference was going to mess with my head.

Sandro and Miguel looked pretty sullen as we jostled about, caught up in wind currents. Russell looked like he wanted to puke. Why did he have to sit next to me?

Our harnesses kept us from being shook up too much, and to be honest, the ride down was kinda fun. I would have enjoyed more if not for the way Russell kept moaning. I really didn't want to be barfed on.

After a few minutes, we finally came in to land. We felt the barest of bumps as we hit dirt, and almost at that precise second Miss Wilson was out of her harness.

"Right everyone, we are here to work, not to play. Our assignment, along with our colleagues from Hotel November, is to begin work on building new homes in this area. We will be laying foundations to begin with, and this process needs to be completed reasonably quickly. I expect you all to follow orders precisely- and that includes any orders you receive from Mr Donati, the leader of HN. Lets get to it."

We unlatched ourselves and piled out of the transport in a vaguely orderly fashion. We were greeted by the sight of a large landing area and a warm breeze. The grass was a darker shade of green than I was used to, but the rolling hills in the distance and the lines of trees looked so much like earth it was freaky.

"A word of advice. The soil on this planet contains very high alkaline levels. The local fruits cannot be eaten by human beings without undergoing significant processing. If you eat anything that hasn't been processed, it could kill you."

That wasn't reassuring!

Miss Wilson ordered us to line up. When we had, she began a proper briefing.

"As I said, we are here to build homes. Over there..." She gestured to her right, at a cargo lander. "Is the first batch of equipment and material needed to begin our work. We'll unload the lander, then make a start in cutting out the trenches needed for the foundations. Next, we'll start cutting bricks and laying down reinforced concrete and cement where appropriate. I remind you all to use the appropriate safety gear."

Off we went. Unloading the ships was just like loading them- the cranes were driven off and then we winched out all the stuff we needed. Hotel November were doing the same with another shuttle. I wondered just how closely we'd be working with them.

Several other teams were bustling around as well. They were unpacking all sorts of machinery, for who-knows-what purpose. I hoped we were all smart enough to keep out of each other's way.

I was ordered to climb aboard one of the trench cutters. These big yellow monstrosities are impressive to look at- they have twin laser cutters designed to accurate carve up lines in the earth, and a powerful suction scoop to take in all that loose dirt, which is then pumped into a hot and highly pressurised unit at the back of the machine. It compresses the dirt and mud until it takes on a concrete-like consistency, and is then sprayed with chemicals to ensure it retains it. The stuff can be used in construction, such is its strength.

The computer was programmed with the route I was to take so all I had to do was switch on the engine and make sure I fired the lasers at the right time. I looked over at one of the other cutters- Gasparo was firing up his own engine. Part of me wanted to shoot my lasers right at him!

I swallowed the thought and checked the computer to make sure the lasers were lined up properly. Then I fired them up.

Plumes of dirt and dust shot into the air. It was a good thing we were wearing oxygen masks- otherwise we would all inhale potentially deadly alkaline dust, and there was a lot of it. Several other cutters were contributing nicely to the scene, and red beams were shooting out in different directions, cutting deep trenches that would shortly become foundations.

Everyone else was preparing the cranes to start lowering reinforced heavy concrete into place. Thin yet incredibly strong metal poles ran through the concrete to provide extra strength- and they could also be used to conduct heat, should the winter be especially harsh.

The process wasn't especially long. The cutters plodded forward and began to draw in the loosened earth, compressing it into materials suitable for construction- these would help form the basis of the walls of many of the homes we would be building.

Hotel Beta and Hotel November were busy preparing the trenches and the foundations, whilst other teams were starting erect metal panels and temporary shelters. In the distance, we saw other dust clouds as yet more teams carried out similar duties to us.

It was hot, it was boring, and when we rotated jobs and I had the fun task of preparing foundations and lugging around heavy bits of metal, it became tiring as well. The thrill of setting foot on an alien world was quickly wearing off.

The worst part was, this was to become the routine. We started work at 8am, and finished at 7pm. We worked tirelessly, cutting trenches and filling them in. Day after day after day!

Even weekends were spent working. I had no idea how long we were to stay at New Porto but after two weeks we'd cut nearly four hundred trenches and laid the same number of foundations. We'd certainly put in the shifts and I was pleased to have achieved so much, but I needed a break!

Things weren't helped with the situation back on the ship. We were all tired, all fed up, and we were taking it out on each other. Carla was on her emotional rollercoaster as normal, Sandro had managed to break a toe when he tripped over a beam and was wincing non-stop, Helene had withdrawn even further into her shell and Kameyo got into a fight with Russell over the use of the shower. The atmosphere was, to put it mildly, poisonous.

I kept my head down but I had Carla bleating to me about her problems and then making puppy dog eyes at Gasparo. This wasn't helping my mood at all.

Francis landed himself into awkward waters as well. He'd been getting chummy with Fabin, and Fabin... well, he'd taken it in the wrong context. Fabin preferred guys to girls, so when Francis started being friendly, Fabin had thought... needlessly to say, that didn't end well.

So, we were starting to get at each other, we felt exhausted, and to top it off, Miss Wilson kept reminding us the hard work hadn't even begun yet! Needless to say, morale was low.

****

When we'd cut and filled some five hundred foundations, we were to begin actually constructing the houses themselves. Bricks, welded metals, walls, fittings for kitchens and power supplies- we'd have a hand in all of that. The process was tedious, and once again it involved long days.

It also involved, after a freak rain storm, mud. Lots of it. Potentially poisonous, sticky and wet mud. The tents that went up to protect the work site kept the embryonic houses dry but we still had to venture out onto the muddy fields to get from one house to another. The mood- already poor- was not helped by being covered in mud all day.

Carla especially did not like that. She'd been extremely reluctant to venture out and had tried to get out of it, but Miss Wilson had not tolerated the idea. 'What makes you so special that you get to stay clean when everyone else is literally mucking in?' Carla hadn't liked that.

Nor had Sandro, who was still bearing a grudge from the mysterious bar smashing incident. He got on with it, but he too kept shooting daggers at Miss Wilson. She shrugged it all off like a pro.

Sandro, like the idiot he was, wanted to do more than simply glare at her. I wish he'd never done it. I think the entire team wished he'd never done it. The consequences were... well, Iet's rewind and I'll tell you what happened.

****

It was a silly, simple prank. With the muddy piles of dirt everywhere, it was also pretty easy. And childish.

Sandro scooped up some mud, and smuggled it into a bag, bringing it back to the ship. I know he did this because I saw him do it. I gave him a funny look when I saw him packing it and he put his finger to his lips. I shook my head and carried on. I didn't want to get involved.

Back in our dorm, I made a point of not watching Sandro. If I didn't witness it, I couldn't be held responsible in any way, shape or form. Part of me wanted to talk him out of whatever it was he was planning, but I didn't. I just... I just couldn't bring myself to speak to him, for if I did, I'd officially know he was up to something stupid and if anyone asked me about it I'd get into deep shit if I denied it. So I gave myself plausible grounds for denying everything.

In the morning, we were all, as ever, struggling to cope with the early start. Personally, I found my body clock woke me up just prior to the alarm- as if I instinctively knew it was coming. On this occasion, I woke up, and did my customary job of laying here, bleary-eyed, when I heard a blood-curdling shriek from outside.

Miguel bolted upright and I nearly fell out of bed. We looked at each other with big shocked eyes and we shot out of our room.

The scream- which was now a serious of very loud cuss words- had come from the shower. There was only one person who was normally showering at this hour- and sure enough it was Miss Wilson's voice we heard.

A few minutes passed and more of us piled into the main part of the dorm. We all exchanged nervous glances. What had happened? Part of me already knew...

When Miss Wilson came out of the bathroom, she was looking as neat and tidy as ever, but her eyes- they burned with a fury that we hadn't witnessed before. Her voice though, was cold. It sent a chill down every spine.

"One of you is officially on the verge of being chucked off this ship. When I find out who had the clever idea of dumping toxic mud in the shower, and believe me, I will find out- I will advise the Supervisor to ditch you!"

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