I opened my eyes as I recognized the characteristic motion of our vessel touching down on solid ground. In a few moments, the lights inside our sleeping quarter would once again shine and our pilot telling us that we had landed. I sat up on my bed, strapping on my neck stabilizer and watched my fellow crewmembers still sleeping.
The dim light coming from lines in the floor, changed into a shine. The ship’s speakers cracked with static as they activated.
“RISE AND SHINE, EVERYONE! You should know this by now since its standard procedure but I am still going to tell you guys to wake up and head to the mess hall as soon as possible”
A few moments of static and the speakers went silent. The message has been sent and it was finally time to get moving. There, we should talk about today’s little expedition to the planet’s surface. I wonder what kind of planet it will be?
I faintly recalled a planet filled with deserts and wastes, nothing but sand and wind. Shuttered. I’d take the freezing cold over the searing heat any day.
I stood up as my companions slowly awoke from their well-deserved slumber. Into my locker I went and dressed. Stylish red and black uniform with fine silvery buttons.
My companions had quite not yet gotten ready to venture outside their comfortable beds but ready as I was, I went out our sleeping quarters and turned right, towards our mess hall.
The halls’ gray colors showed even better now when the lightning had turned on fully.
After some time we were all, a part from a specific few, sitting at the long table in our mess hall. Same dull gray walls filled this place. Gray was also the color of the chairs and tables, the floor and roof. Same generic color for everything. But thankfully, the color of the thing we were being served had a much different color. It was Green. Tasty and delicious.
Our chef, Tables, rolled his little cart around behind us. Dishware, both plates and spoons, and a large container filled with edible Green.
Everyone got served a large plate of the green paste. Tables knew I like this color of the paste the most, so it had provided me with a slightly larger than average portion. Grateful.
Like last night, I sat to the right of our enthusiastic pilot Rocket Monsoon, who sat opposite of our scout, Zlee-Zlee. To Rocket’s left sat Illegal Protocol Management, our crew’s only mechanical expert. It’s the one who keep our ship running at peak efficiency and also handles maintenance of the large amount of cybernetic augmentations and modifications present in our crew.
On the other side of the table, at the end just right to Zlee-Zlee sat Superstition Prototype. An old veteran Qwuedeviv with a lot of weapon experience. Its purpose onboard our vessel was mainly security, just like me, but also it was the one who was in charge of our weapon supply.
To Zlee-Zlee’s left sat the rookie soldier Perfect Relativity and its mentor, a former communications officer, High Mass Substitute.
Excluding Tables, there were two key characters missing from the table. But it came to no surprise as they rarely sat with us when we ate. Handle with Care, the scientist that this entire expedition followed, and its assistant Modules, who was a Qahrburboxis just like Tables.
Speaking of those two rascals. The mess hall door opened as Modules walked in. In its hands was its most prized possession, a digital notebook. It showed great wear and tear, as it had been present at all our expeditions up to date. The amount of scientific notes and raw data it carried must have been beyond belief.
“Hello all.” It said and swiftly waved its hand at us. “Sorry for our absence but Handle is getting ready for the big day today.”
Modules moved over to Tables and got itself two plates of Green, which it carried with the help of large tentacles. It quickly went back through the door and vanished in a blue haze.
Though this was nothing new and this very procedure happened every time we had landed. Although, now when I think of it, Handle kept to itself confined within its laboratory on the upper deck most of the time. Only time we really saw Handle was when it got out to do research in the field.
Handle never was the social type. It had a habit of spraying water from a pressurized containment device at us when we got too close without its permission. Its assistant, Modules, never had an issue with getting wet, so the effect of the watery sprays had no power on it so Handle eventually grew accustomed to its presence.
Our munition expert briefed us shortly about all the standard procedures we should follow just after everyone had enjoyed, or tried to, their breakfast of Green. I wonder what the color of tomorrow shall have?
Superstition informed that all active security personnel should venture to the armory, located on the other side of the ship, in order to get a hold of equipment for today’s expedition.
Tables passed by me with its cart stacked with dishes heading to the washed. It stopped and leaned over to me. “Tomorrow I am going to be serving Beige.” I gave it a nod. It must have read my wondering face.
Beige wasn’t that bad, certainly not good either.
- - -
Me, the rookie and the mentor joined up with Superstition in the armory. A dull room it was. Cabinets along the wall, heavily fortified and made out of dark metal with tough locks. It was a safety standard to protect the weapons and gear inside from deviant characters without proper clearance and inexperience handling said weapons.
Superstition went to a locker and opened it up with an oddly shaped key. A manual lock which could not be hacked and the key’s design made pick locking too hard to bother with.
The lock unlocked and the locker’s content saw the light of the room. Sadly, our munition expert blocked most of the view of the locker’s content.
Superstition already knew what equipment to take as it quickly remove the content from the locker and closed it shut and locked it again. It put the weapons on a nearby table. Two rifles, two pistols along with a holster for each and 8 magazines.
It took the two rifles and headed over to PR and Subs. Sleek design, white in color. It had an almost cylindrical shape with a short nozzle, small sight, a grip in the front and a connector underneath for the magazine. A red core was exposed at the sides of the weapon. Without any power, the core wasn’t brightly glowing and steaming with heat.
“No magazine?” PR quickly noticed. It got a sharp look from Superstition who eventually rolled its tired looking eyes. “What? It’s not like I am going to shoot anyone..” PR continued.
“In your hands is a LAZ-0R Rifle. These rifles use a battery as ammunition, effectively rendering the need of carrying extra ammo obsolete. It has the added benefit of the battery magazines recharging themselves when exposed to heat, so it lie in the design of the rifle to reach high temperature levels after repeated use, which in term allows the magazines to recharge quicker..” Superstiton started lecturing but it was interrupted by PR.
“Sorry, Tition but we already know all this. I mean, you tell us each and every time we..”
“Learn to stay silent when a superior officer is talking to you, Private.” PR’s mentor Subs cut in to interrupt its student. “It’s a bad habit and you might miss out on important information or cause you to end up in more trouble than you already are in!”
“But it tells us this every time! It is the same speech in the very same tone even. We know. It’s unnecessary.” PR continued. It noticed the tired yet awfully angry look on Superstition’s face and decided to shut up.
“If you two are done interrupting me..” Superstition said and gave both of them an extra hard look before glancing over at me and shaking its head quickly. It continued where it left of. “..to recharge quicker in combat scenarios.”
It took a deep breath, as if it had continued the long speech in one go without the interruption of the rookie in the middle. It had done this informational instruction many times before.
“The LAZ-0R Rifles a searing beam of concentrated light, fully capable of burning through a large variety of materials. The beam itself has no travel time but it does have a limited range to compensate for this advantage. The LAZ0R Rifle is best suited for short to medium range combat. “
Superstition ventured back to the table and picked up a holster and one of the pistol variants and returned them to me. The pistol looked just like the rifle, except in a smaller package and lacking the front grip and the magazine connector at the middle. Its connector was located in the handle.
“This is the LAZ-3R Pistol. Like its rifle version, it has the benefit of rechargeable batteries which are of the same size as the rifles. The smaller core does mean that it doesn’t generate as much heat as the rifles and that it has an even more limited beam but its small size allows for greater flexibility in close quarter situations.”
I simply nodded.
“I’d like you all to go to the firing range beyond that door.” Superstition pointed.
I could hear PR mumbling about the fun part coming up as we ventured into the firing range. A really long rectangular room, a long table heading from wall to wall just as we came in where you shall position yourself at the firing range. The table could be opened at either end. The walls themselves had been heavily fortified to withstand whatever weapons fired at them. That was so we don’t accidentally fatally damage the ship. None would want that.
Superstition followed us in with all the magazines in its paws. It had already equipped its pistol with the holster. I strapped on mine.
“Here you go, two magazines for each of you. Remember to keep spent magazines warm to help recharging them faster. Switch magazines only when the situation requires it as they do recharge from the excess heat from your rifles anyways.” Superstition said as it handed out two battery magazines to the mentor and rookie. Both proceeded to plug it in and the rifles both started humming quietly and the exposed cores shined once again.
“And here you go, Sergeant.” It handed me two battery magazines as well. I pulled my pistol and plugged one in and holstered it again.
The firing range room was pretty straight forward, literally. It was a long rectangular room with a waist high divider close to the entrance. The divider served as a bench to lay down gear after usage and also functioned as the firing line. Outfitted throughout the firing range were holographic projectors which caused targets for us to shoot at. If the armory was considered heavily fortified then, compared to the firing range, it was lightly armored. This room would survive the total destruction of this very space ship if the scenario ever were to happen.
At the behest of Superstition, our trio lined up at the divider.
“Sergeant Boombox, you are up first.” Superstition told us. A quiet grunt and short mumble came from PR about wanting to go first but we paid little attention to the wishes of the lowest ranked Qwuedeviv on the ship.
I drew my newly acquired firearm and readied myself for the challenge to come.
“10 targets. 60 seconds. Take your time. You can only hit a target once. Scoring hits in critical areas will yield more points and missing shots will result in point withdrawal so accuracy is important. Low score will result in regular training sessions.” Superstition had positioned himself near the far end of the divider and was typing at a terminal at that location. “Get ready. Start firing.”
A light blue transparent hologram of your average Qwuedeviv popped up in the far end of the room. I wonder why it was a Qwuedeviv anyway? I took aim and fired. A beam of bright crimson light met the hologram’s chest and it turned red and faded. There was no recoil. My gun smoked as its core vented off excess heat. Another hologram materialized and I fired. Hit the head. Another one came online as the previous one disappeared. Chest. Chest. Head. Shoulder. Miss. Head. Arm. Head. Chest. 11 shots on 10 targets. I don’t think I did badly. The pistol had grown hot in my hands, it deserved to rest within its holster once more.
“Sergeant. Out of 1000 possible points, you got yourself a final score of 550. You are above acceptable score. Private First Class Substitute, you are next.” Superstition told Substitute.
“Yes, sir.” Our communications specialist said and readied its rifle.
The soldier fired its beams of red much safer than I. It aimed for the chest area on everyone hologram. Making it easier for it to score decent points and not miss since the chest area is pretty large when compared to the head or arms and legs.
“Private First Class Substitute scored a pretty average 450 points. No misses. Private Relativity, you are next.”
“Finally!” The tall Qwuedeviv shouted. It readied itself by putting itself in a side-way stance and holding its rifle in just one hand as it was a small pistol.
“PR, we have talked about this. Rifles are meant to be used with two hands to help with accuracy and reduce recoil.” PR’s mentor Substitute lectured.
“Subs, these rifles don’t have any recoil and they are so light that it won’t matter.” It argued back. It made valid points but Substitute was right, the guns aren’t toys. “I tell you, I can score perfect. No problem.”
Our munition officer got tired over their arguing. “Just let’s get this over with. Get ready. Start firing.”
The private casually proceeded to, within a short 20-30 second time span, hit all targets with well-aimed shots. Confident over its performance in the firing range, it struck a pose and laughed proudly.
Its mentor and I glanced at each-other and looked over at Superstition who looked frustrated as it checked the results on its terminal.
“Private Relativity.. got 1000 out of 1000 possible.”
“HAH! I told you so.” The young private bragged as it looked down upon its mentor with a wide smirk. “I might be holding my rifle “wrong” but at least I shoot better than someone who is “right”.”
High Mass Substitute didn’t respond. It looked frustrated. It tried hard making its apprentice soak in the general know-how and lectures it gave but when things like this happened.. I guess it tried to fight of the feeling of all its efforts being in vain.
We regrouped in the armory.
“All of you..” Superstition gave the private a quick look which was returned with a grin. “..are ready for today’s expedition. When it’s time for departure off the ship, meet up in the cargo bay.”
The duo left the room before me. They were an odd pairing. The experienced Substitute was the second shortest member of our crew and next to it stood the very inexperienced pupil, towering over its mentor as the crew’s tallest member. The long antennae-like growths on its head dragged along the roof of the corridor as it walked.
I followed the corridor until our sleeping quarter’s door appeared to my right side. The duo had decided that they should run back and forth throughout the ship as today’s exercise so they had left me alone.
I went inside. Empty. Almost empty at least. I spotted a maintenance bot hovering above the floor, sucking in whatever dust particles that lingered in its path. Its design fit that of the rest of the ship. Light gray in coloration. A flat cylinder shaped design, almost like a tire, with a visible hover motor visible in the middle. A small metal eye with blue color scanned the floor ahead as it ventured forward in its hunt for dust to capture with its thin flexible tube-like arms. It paid no attention to me as I went straight for my locker.
I opened my locker and put on my coat. It followed the same coloration as my officer outfit. It was stylish black with a red rim along its edges. It had a shorter piece of cloth that covered shoulders.
Next was my pride. My voice. A large dark gray machine that was capable of making me speak again. It came in several pieces. The largest piece was to be put on first. It would be resting on my shoulders and on my back it had two large speakers mounted which faced forward. A smaller center piece was plugged in via a cord that connected to the port on my throat. I plugged it in and locked the piece into place. To avoid any kind of damage to my neck stabilizer from the large machine on my neck, I pulled up the collar on my officer uniform so it separated metal from the flexible cloth.
Third was the trigger. A hand-held device with a volume slider and button which was connected to the center piece by a long thick cord. It went in smoothly.
I shivered as I took up my trigger and looked at it. Its black handle and large red button gave it an ominous appearance. I turned the button, which also served as volume slider, to fairly low volume and pressed it.
“TESTING. TESTING.” I once again spoke and just in time too. Over the ship’s speakers our Pilot, Monsoon, told us to gather in the cargo hold.
It was finally time to get out and down on the planet. I grabbed my prod and tucked it into my coat before closing my locker and heading to our meeting spot.