The Terra Core

A young man is forced from his home to the stars after a terrible crime (inspired by a dream I had!)

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10. Day Two

~~We'd tidied up then gone to bed at ten. Miguel and I had talked for a bit, unable to sleep as we were both pretty pumped for the days ahead. We agreed that Miss Wilson (we assumed she wasn't married, which maybe wasn't fair) was going to be pretty hard on us, and we talked about the lives we were living behind. I mentioned the death of my father (I didn't mention that I'd killed his killer- I figured I didn't need that news spreading any further than it already had), and Miguel told me his father was an officer in the UWAN. A major aboard a cruiser. I told him I thought that was cool- he told me it was actually quite stressful, never knowing if his mother and him would get word of a tragic battle.

Our conversation had slumped after that, though we did briefly argue over whether soccer should be called football. We also reminisced over our former girlfriends- Miguel had left behind not one but two broken hearts- dirty dawg!

After a little while the intensity of the day got to us. We settled into our bunks, and let sleep take us.

****

I discovered that we don't control the alarms- the Team Leader does. Everyone's alarm started blaring at 7am, much to the chagrin of us all. Surely we'd get eased in to all this?

We quickly got dressed, throwing on whatever we could. People were scrambling for the bathroom, and we hastily tried to look vaguely presentable and ready. I don't think any of us could stop yawning,and I'd never queued for so long to use the toilet before.

Miss Wilson had her own personal room, and she strolled out of it at 7.30, looking completely immaculate. The scary thing was the way she stood there, arms folded, watching us all. I could feel her eyes on me- they made the hairs on my neck stand up. The rest of us were still trying to get ready- breakfast was on the agenda but so far I don't think any of us had managed to get any.

"Is this what you people call organised? I can see I have a lot of work to do." Miss Wilson shook her head. "It's clear we need to set up a rota." I didn't like the sound of that."

"Sort yourselves out, quickly, then we'll discuss what's going to happen today."

****

Breakfast was a bowl of Cheerios wolfed down, and a lukewarm cup of coffee. I felt sick from eating too fast, but I managed to be the first person finished with my morning routine! Go me! I don't think Miss Wilson was too impressed though. When I sat down in the little living room in one of the three rows of chairs we had, she gave me a cold stare. I smiled weakly and didn't even attempt to make eye contact.

More and more of us started to gather. Carla sat down next to me and shot me a funny look. I didn't want to make eye contact with her either. The tight-fitting tank top she chosen to wear made that task easier.

Gasparo distracted Carla from me (thank God!) by sitting next to her. Miguel and Sandro sat directly in front of me, and slowly but surely the rest of us sat ourselves down, under the auspices of Miss Wilson's never-ending watch.

"8.15. That's thirty minutes slower than I expect. We run on tight schedules and don't have time to fart around. I am going to draw up a rota that we'll be following from this point on. It will cover use of the bathroom, breakfast, and general tidying up. That will speed up this sorry mess of a process."

I think we all let out silent groans.

"Now, to business. Today we start learning what our duties are, and how to carry out those duties. You'll learn how to conduct yourselves aboard this ship, and you'll start developing into fine members of the crew, as opposed to the chaotic gaggle you currently are." She paused, scanning us, as if to make sure we were taking it all in.

"Our first order of business is to check out the cargo hold we'll be working from when aboard ship. We'll have duties to help maintain that cargo. We'll be ensuring important equipment is looking after. It's vital you know what it all does. To that end, we're to report to Cargo Bay Hotel to begin our work, but, before we do that, there is one last thing." Miss Wilson stepped to her left, and from behind a table picked up a small duffel bag. "In here is something I expect you to keep on your person at all times." She reached in, and pulled out a small round badge. We all leaned forward to see more.

"This is not only to show what team you belong to, it's a badge of honour. Wear it with pride. Other teams and shifts will be doing this and I'll be damned if we're going to be shown up. I want you to be the best and I want the rest of the crew to know who the best are. Come forward and take a badge- don't worry about sewing it- they're self-sewing."

We sidled past to collect our badges, and I saw they were quite detailed. I wondered if Miss Wilson made them herself? The ship was on the badge, against a starry background, and the initials HB- Hotel Beta- in red lettering. I figured we'd have more than one, since we'd hardly be wearing the same clothes for the next five years!

I slapped it on my left arm, and it wove itself neatly into my shirt.

****

We filed out of our dorm, walking past other teams that were no doubt off to their own assignments. I felt quite excited now. We were ready to begin our mission!

After what felt like an age of marching down corridors (plus an elevator ride), we arrived a huge set of grey doors. What we noted was that we weren't alone.

Team India Charlie (assuming I'd read the badge correctly) was here too. Their Team Leader (an Asian guy) nodded curtly at Miss Wilson, who nodded back. There were a few 'hellos' between the two groups but communication was at a minimum.

We shuffled on our feet, a little uncomfortable with the silence. No one was willing to break it though.

The silence remained until the doors slid open, revealing one of the most carnivorous rooms I've ever seen.

What must have been hundreds of crates of various sizes were stacked upon one another and hovercranes were parked neatly to our left. Vehicles resembling luggage trollies nestled with them. A couple of guys in TerraCore uniforms were already present, bustling about with data pads.

"Ok, follow me." Miss Wilson led us toward the cranes. The other team were heading in the same general direction, but kept their distance.

"Form up." She wheeled around on her heel and we hastily organised ourselves into a line. Miss Wilson started to march up and down in front of us.

"When we are on a mission, every second counts. We will need to get this equipment loaded onto the trollies and transferred to the shuttle bay in as little time as humanly possible. We will then need to stow the cargo in the shuttles securely before heading down to whatever planet we're sent to. To that end, we are here to practice this procedure. You will learn how to operate the cranes, you will learn how to use the trollies, and you will learn what cargo is required for any given situation. I do not expect you to master this process at the first time of asking, but I do expect you to get better with each run-through. You will each learn every step of the process, so that any of you can perform each function as and when required. First of all, you will learn to use these cranes."

We peered behind Miss Wilson. The cranes looked pretty intimidating.

Bright yellow always seemed to be a popular colour for heavy machinery. I'd love to know why. The repulsor pads were huge; the driver's cab seemed cramped from the outside.

A gigantic six-limbed claw was mounted upon the articulated cab. I didn't look forward to trying to use it.

"We'll start alphabetically..." Why did it have to be that? "... Adams, Barett, Bergmann, you three are up first."

I suppressed a nervous cough. I exchanged glances with Barett and Bergmann. This wasn't going to be good.

Up we climbed, into the cabs of three different cranes. My first thought upon seeing the controls was 'fuck'.

There was a steering wheel. Yes, a wheel. Who used a physical wheel these days? At least the accelerator was simple enough- a pair of sensor depressions marked 'accelerate' and 'brake' made that clear.. Two levers- one horizontal and one vertical- were probably the controls to steer the crane part of this beast.

A panel on my right was marked clearly as 'brake'. It all seemed easy enough.

"Do not try to turn too sharply or quickly when driving these things. They can and will tip over, especially if you're carrying heavy cargo. I have personally seen several serious injuries and a fatality because people thought they could push the cranes harder than they were designed to. First job is to release the brake, which is easily done, but make sure you're set to standby before you do."

So far so good. The accelerator was set at zero. I pressed the brake button and felt a clunk from somewhere in the guts of the crane.

Next up came maneuvering. We needed to steer left, whilst slowly accelerating. My foot went down on the accel pad- and as it did I heard a shriek.

I nearly- nearly- pressed down harder out of fright, but somehow I retained enough good sense to hit the brake. I- and everyone else- looked over to the source of the scream.

Someone from India Charlie was underneath one of the cranes that group were working with. They were crying out in pain- I couldn't see what exactly was going on but it looked serious. The more experienced staff already within the cargo bay came running, and the Team Leader had whipped out his communicator to summon medics.

"Barett, Bergmann, hit the brakes!" Barked Miss Wilson. They'd traveled slightly further than me and came to an abrupt halt.

"All of you, stay here, do not touch anything, and wait for me to come back." She trotted off to the scene of the accident. Was she just being nosey?

"Holy shit man." I heard Francis Barett pipe up. I hadn't spoken to him yet. I was surprised he'd managed to fit into the cab though. He was pretty wide, but made of muscle from the looks of it. His dark complexion could not hide the stunned fear from his eyes.

"What happened?" Asked Carla nervously. All eyes were cast in the direction of the other team.

"We'll know in a minute I think." Replied Kameyo.

I sat in the cab, waiting and wondering, listening to the whimpers of the injured crew member. By now the medics had arrived with a gurney and medical kit. Their white uniforms stood out in the big dreary grey hold.

After a few more minutes and some careful maneuvering of the crane, the injured crew member was freed. They were gently placed on the gurney which immediately sped off with the medics. Miss Wilson was talking to the Team Leader of India Charlie.

"Will she hurry up? This is getting boring now." Remarked Carla. That pissed me off a little.

"She's probably concerned that someone's been hurt right at the start of our mission." I said. I wish I'd kept my mouth shut.

"Well, you'd know about people getting hurt." Carla shot back.

I gave her my angriest look. "Don't. Just don't." The rest of the group looked back and forth between us.

"Oh come on. The kid's been picked up and she's just yapping. What about us? We're her team, not them!" Well, at least Carla was leaving that topic alone.

"Someone's been hurt sis." Said Miguel. "She probably wants to know how so it doesn't happen to us."

"I'm not your 'sis'. And I'm not gonna be that stupid."

"You don't even know what happened." I said evenly. "How can you be prepared for something if you don't know what it is?"

Carla gave me another hot look (in more ways than one), but kept her mouth shut. She didn't have an answer to that one.

Miss Wilson was coming back. We'd have some answers. And we'd learn a thing or two more before the day was out.

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