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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12. The First Mission

~~Hyperspace is weird. It's a stream of pale blues and greens (and the occasional reds) zipping past the ship. We watched for a few moments as those streams shot by, before the screen changed. It was the image of a woman, a slightly portly woman with vivid green eyes, wearing a cap with the TerraCore logo on it. Four gold stripes ran over her left shoulder- she had to be the captain.

"We are now traveling at eleven light-years per hour. At this speed we shall reach our first destination- the colony of New Porto, a distance of nearly 3,168 light-years- in twelve days. During this time, we shall all prepare for our mission, which is to expand this colony. We shall be aiding in the construction of new homes, schools, hospitals and farms. We'll be building roads, and laying the foundations for new settlers. Take pride in this- we will be helping humanity to strengthen it's place in the universe. Captain Zabat out."

Construction work??? Did any of us have any clue how to build homes?

"Ok people. We'll carry on training with the cranes and trollies for the rest of the day. Tomorrow we start work on basic construction." I swear Miss Wilson was telepathic.

"How are we going to be qualified to build a house in twelve days?" Whispered Carla to me.

"I'll show you." Miss Wilson somehow heard her. "Everyone, back to the cargo bay."

****

We spent the remainder of the day continuing to operate the cranes and load trollies and shuttles. It wasn't especially difficult- though Sandro nearly tipped a crane when he swung a heavy load too quickly. Miss Wilson chewed him out a little for that.

Things were pretty uneventful besides that. We were learning, slowly improving, and most of all, we were feeling exhausted come the end of the shift.

It must have been gone 6pm by the time we were finally done. Would every day be that long? I hoped not.

Miss Wilson led us back to our dorm- we marched wearily inside, and I for one was ready to collapse.

"Well done today everyone." Miss Wilson walked to the kitchen. "I know you are not used to this sort of discipline, and there are certainly some rough edges, but you all worked hard and showed me you were willing to learn. If you can keep doing that, you'll be fine." She knelt down and opened up one of the cupboards, pulling out a crate- of beer!

"Don't get used to this. I won't be so kind in the future, not unless you've truly excelled at something, but seeing as this is your first proper day away from home, and seeing as you've worked hard, it's time for a reward."

She placed the crate on the kitchen table and like a pack of hyenas we started toward them. The older kids were jostling and I thought it wise to wait for a moment. Miss Wilson collared me in that moment.

"Mr Adams, I understand you're sixteen." She stood in front of me, giving me an impassive stare.

"Uh, yes Ma'am." I replied meekly.

"Hmm. This creates a problem. The legal drinking age on this ship is eighteen."

"Yes Ma'am."

She leaned in close to me. "Therefore, if anyone should ask- you are eighteen."

I smiled. I couldn't help myself. "Yes Ma'am!" I parroted once more.

"Go get yourself a beer." With that she was off, doing whatever she did when we were on down time. The rest of us... well, we'd worked hard all day, so we were gonna play hard.

Miguel, Sandro, Russell, Kameyo and I sat ourselves down together. Carla was looking at me but I ignored her, so she drifted off to pester Francis.

"Here's to Team HB! Miguel raised his bottle and we clinked. Other little groups saw us and did the same, and we felt a little bit more like a family than we had before. The little sofa we now occupied was comfy and we could unwind after a long day.

"So, what do you think of the La Salle so far?" Miguel asked us all.

"She is big senor, very big." Sandro replied with a grin.

"Great observation there Sandro." Remarked Kameyo with just a trace of sarcasm.

"I can't get over that cargo hold, and just think, that's just one of God knows how many." Russell piped up. He sounded so... English!

"Well, it sounds like we're gonna need it." I said. I took a sip of my beer. It tasted great. "When do you suppose dinner is?"

"Never even occurred to me to wonder that." Replied Russell. "But now you've mentioned food, I feel hungry."

"Yeah, me too." Sandro patted his stomach. "I could eat."

"Do you think we make dinner ourselves or do we go back to the canteen?" Miguel added.

"I think we have to make it ourselves." Kameyo looked in the direction of the kitchen. "We're well-stocked I think."

"Beer plus fine cooking. I can work with that." Miguel smiled. Sandro scoffed at him.

"You, cook? Remember when you tried to make chicken stew?"

"Hey, you're the one who told me to turn the heat up!" Miguel laughed and punched Sandro on the arm.

"I fancy something with cheese." I said. I loved cheese. I usually ate quite well but I felt like indulging. Deep-fried something with cheese. I'd earned it.

"Careful, you'll have strange dreams." Warned Russell. "I once dreamed I was married to the Crown Princess and she was trying to drown me in a royal toilet, and I'd eaten a cheese and ham sandwich just before bed."

We all laughed. I'd seen the Princess on the news and there was no way Russell could score such a babe.

"Well, I might as well settle in for strange dreams, it's gonna be a strange five years!" I took another, bigger draw from my beer.

"Amen to that." Said Miguel.

****

A couple of beers and a cheese and ham toasted sandwich later (thanks Russell for that idea!), the evening was winding down. Miss Wilson was making polite yet guarded conversation with the fourth female of our group, a French girl by the name of Helene. She was quiet, shy, wore her short red hair in curls, and had her head buried in books most of the time. Most of us had so far ignored her, which was kind of mean, but then, no one had exactly avoided her either.

Miguel and Sandro were on their tablets, dueling it out on War Monsters 2. Remember that old, old game called Pokemon? Well, think of that, only with more guns. Sandro kept cursing a lot. I think Miguel was kicking his ass.

I spent half the evening talking to Russell (who, like Miguel, wanted to call soccer 'football'- no no no), and also to Kameyo, who wasn't what I'd expected. She was definitely one of the guys, even after a couple of days, and she was living up to her Japanese heritage by being a black belt in karate.

"I could pin you down and you'd never get back up again." She warned. Russell whispered that he was already 'up' for her as I was trying to drink more beer, and I nearly snorted it out of my nose.

We were bonding nicely, but our relaxed, end-of-day unwind was coming to an end. The lights were dimming, which was Miss Wilson's way of hinting she wanted us to go to bed.

"Tomorrow we start work on assembling shelters and the foundations for buildings. This will form the basis of the next few days, and be prepared to get dirty." Time to dig out some old clothes then.

****

The next few days were uneventful. We trained, trained some more and, oh yeah, did some training. We carried on with training on the cranes and trollies, we had a go at erecting pre-fabricated shelters, and even started to dig trenches in patches of soil aboard ship. We learned how to carefully assemble buildings brick by brick, and learned how to use quik-cement to secure a house to its foundations.

Roof assembly was trickier- especially as Miss Wilson turned on a rain simulator to make our jobs just that much harder. "If you can cope with this in the wet you can cope with this in any weather." She had said.

It was reasonably smooth sailing, though I nearly dropped a cement pump on my foot, Russell nearly lost a finger in a buzz saw whilst cutting wood, and Sandro got his left arm stuck in the cement, requiring a laser cutter to free him. Carla whined about the rain, and Miguel had a spectacular coughing fit owing to the dust, so bad in fact that he hocked up his breakfast.

So we were doing well.

The days were ticking by, and after five days straight of solid work, we finally got something special- a day off!

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