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.


11. What you leave Behind

"That boy got his leg caught in the repulsor field. Why? Because the guy driving the crane was going too fast and paying absolutely no attention to the area around him. Fortunately, the damage is relatively minor and the medical bay will get that kid patched up in a few days." Miss Wilson paused, turning her beady eyes on each of us in turn.

I'd climbed out of my crane. We were getting an impromptu safety briefing whether we wanted one or not.

"The lesson here is simple. Pay attention! Be aware of what's around you. These are common sense factors when controlling heavy machinery, yet already, thanks to someone's lack of said sense, a team is a man down for a few days. We should be thankful it was only his leg caught in the field; had that been his chest the medics would be wheeling away a corpse."

I shuddered. You'd think, since I had already been acquainted with death, that I wasn't going to be fazed by it. Nope.

"Back to training. Adams, Barett, Bergmann, back into the cranes. The rest of you..."

The rest of the morning proceeded relatively ok. We took turns learning to drive the cranes and then moved on to the trollies. We learned how to use the grapples to secure cargo and lower it gently upon the trollies. As small groups we took turns driving the trollies down specially-designed corridors to the shuttle bays, and took it in turns to secure the cargo for transport.

All in all, none of the processes were too bad. The key was to master them quickly and then improve at them. I had no idea if I was showing any sort of improvement.

We were all so engrossed in our task that the alarm bell made us all jump. Miss Wilson though, simply folded her arms.

"Lunch time folks. Time for your first taste of ship food. We'll be heading to Dining Room Four from here. Follow me."

The short walk from the cargo hold to the dining area was a corridor filled with all sorts of aromas that made my stomach growl at me. New York was pretty diverse when it came to food, but out here, on a ship crewed by people from dozens of different nations, I would learn the true meaning of good food.

Whereas the cargo bay was pretty bland, the dining room certainly wasn't. Bold reds and vivid blues were the colours of the day- red walls, with pictures of different crews hung in frames upon them, blue tables and chairs (both round and rectangular, based on your preference), and each table had a small vase of flowers on it! It seemed a bit over the top, and I looked nervously in Miss Wilson's direction.

As if she knew I had a question, she spoke up.

"Ok ladies and gentlemen, we will be working hard for five years. We will therefore be rewarded for our hard work with fine treatment by the TerraCore. They feed us well, so long as we work well."

The smells. Oh the smells! Another group walked in behind us- I didn't know who they were- and their reaction was the same as ours.

All along the far wall was a scene not unfamiliar to anyone used to school dinners. Big metal trays held the food and a big stack of plates was to our left, as well as trays. We were all sidling to the left.

Mind you, when I glanced up at the sign above the cafeteria, I did find myself a little uncertain. I'd never eaten Thai food before.

"You've got forty-five minutes. When you're done, we'll return to training." Well, that deflated us a little. It was time to get started!

I choose a Khao na Pet as my meal- roasted duck with rice and a duck broth, and served with chillies in soy sauce. I'd never had anything so exotic and I loved it.

I would have loved it more if Carla hadn't sat next to me. Why did she seem so determined to pester me!?

"Hey." She seemed happy as she set her tray of prawns down next to mine. I was instantly wary.

"Um, hi."

"Whatcha eatin'?" She was peering at my plate with intrigued eyes.


"Hmm. I like a word that rhymes with duck." Was she flirting with me now??? "So you looking forward to spending the next five years together?"

"Um, yeah, it should be pretty cool." Other people were starting to fill the seats. I hoped she'd get bored of me and talk to someone else.

"So, about earlier. You got a little testy with me." Her demeanor was still quite lighthearted. "You had quite the spark in yer eyes."

"Yeah well, I thought you were a little out of line, that's all." I kept my tone as neutral as I could.

"So will you always keep me on the straight and narrow?" Was I imagining it, or was there another meaning to what she said? "Or will the bad buy 'punish' me?" Now I knew she meant something else.

"Uh, you know I'm sixteen right?" Not only that, but I couldn't believe a babe like Carla would be remotely interested in me. It had to be a trick. Besides, Chloe was still weighing heavily on my mind.

She gave me a peculiar look. "Sixteen? You don't seem sixteen. You act older."

"Well, I had to grow up quicker than I'd hoped." I met Carla's eyes. "You know, because..."

"Yeah. Got a tough streak in ya don't ya?" Her voice was light again.

"I wouldn't say so. I just... had to learn to be an adult."

"All grown up."

I didn't know why she was going on. Was she flirting? Was she making fun of me somehow? Other guys were taking seats next to us, but none of them distracted Carla from me. I wasn't sure whether to feel pleased or annoyed.

The food was good. I'd never eaten duck that virtually melted in the mouth before. The sauce had a little kick to it, but I liked that.

"You leavin' behind a girl?" Carla asked.

"Yeah." I hoped that would convince her to leave me alone.

"She pretty?"

"Yeah, very." I replied cautiously.

"You love her?"

"Yes." I kept my answers short and sweet.

"You fuck her?" Well, that was blunt.

"We ah..." I wasn't sure how best to answer.

Carla seemed to know exactly how to take my hesitation. "You gave her one didn't you?" She grinned. I gulped nervously. My hunger wasn't so strong anymore, and it wasn't because I was full.

"A bad boy with a past and sexually experienced. A little shy to boot. I like you." She looked like a predator stalking her prey.

I was saved from further interrogation by the Captain's Call- a traditional signal to gain the attention of the ship's company.

"This is Captain Zabat speaking." A female voice spoke out. "On behalf of the TerraCore and the UWA, I welcome you all, new recruits and returning officers, to the La Salle, the newest ship in our fleet. We will shortly be leaving drydock and setting a course for the fringes of UWA territory. Once at the frontier, we shall be helping to establish no less than seven new colonies for the UWA, as well as expanding nine others. I look forward to our mission, and I hope to meet as many of you as I can over the next five years. I invite you all now to access the ship's external cameras, and watch as we depart earth and the Sol system. Godspeed to you all."

Silence fell over the room. This was it. We were leaving our homes behind.

There were screens in the cafeteria and one by one they switched on. Almost as soon as they did we felt the clunks and clicks as docking clamps unlocked and umbilical corridors retracted. Next we felt the rumble of thrusters firing up, slowly moving the ship clear of the dock. The beautiful pearl that was the earth slipped into sight as the metal of the drydock was cleared. Our home, that many of us would never have left before. I don't mind admitting to a tear or two. My friends, Chloe... my mom... I mouthed a silent goodbye to all of them.

Once clear of the docking bay, we felt a bigger kick as the ship's ion drive came online. Earth began to slip away, fading slowly into the background. It wouldn't be long before we were far enough away to switch on the Van Rompay field.

"Wow..." I heard Carla whisper the word. Earth was indeed an amazing sight, even as it shrunk. The smaller ball of rock that was the Moon briefly came into view, before we came to the point of departure.

"All hands, prepare for Van Rompay activation." The captain's voice announced.

This was it. The ship started to rumble, and we exchanged nervous looks. It was, to put it in the only way I knew how, a quiet crescendo, that built to what felt like a critical level- and then with a pop we were off.

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