Aldebaran

PERSONAL LOG -- Sebastian O'Connor

PERSONAL LOG ENTRY 212-B S.H.A.R.P. Agent Sebastian O’Connor ETC (designation ‘ALDEBARAN’) Quinmont 5

After a restless two weeks in orbit above designation ‘Aldebaran,’ our team was given clearance to shuttle to the planet’s verdant surface. Thundering through the upper atmosphere, the shuttle broke the dense cloud cover to reveal our long awaited prize, the ‘new world.’

Drop point ‘Alpha,’ as is been deemed, is situated in the equatorial jungles of a currently undesignated land mass. Our pre-fabricated HQ building was placed prior to our drop. The choice was a clear, grassy expanse bordered by mountains to the north and fresh natural reservoirs to the south. Forested regions of varying density surround the site, which should provide excellent lumber yields.

About an hour after touchdown, I organized the team. Overall morale was variant. Some we’re excited, smiling, weeping and hugging. Others we’re nervous, displaced.

The military units I had enlisted some months prior to the voyage remained implacably stoic, holding their weapons low, but holding them still, as if expecting the enemy at any moment. The scientists and engineers of my retinue were unnerved by the soldiers’ grim attitudes, by their precision and attentiveness. I quickly took their eyes and minds from the guns with a playful joke, nudge, or handshake; whatever I felt was needed.

As if on cue, our first sighting of life on Aldebaran came. ‘Up high!’ Spence had shouted. Christopher Spence, my second-in-command, is the oldest person I can call friend; both in the sense that I have known him a long time and that he’s an old bastard on the worse side of thirty. Still, the man has eyes like a hawk.

I looked up to see a silhouette against the yellow sun; my heart sank. The soldiers leveled their weapons to the sky. I forced my own fear down, in an attempt to set an example for the rest. I spoke with a calm yet forceful tone. ‘Hold fire, it is too high.’

‘What is it?’ Whispered my talented protégé Mimi Morishi. There was no sense in lying to the crew. The reptile shrieked, it was flying north at an altitude of 600-800m.

‘A pterosaur, or ptero-dac-tyl as it’s sometimes mentioned in older texts. Bones of these flying reptiles were found on Earth and coveted as relics of a prehistoric time. Perhaps this planet supports a topography and climate like that of Earth those hundreds of millions of years prior to our evolution.’

At this point, I finally took my eyes off the sailing raptor to realize the entire crew was staring at me. ‘What? Just a theory.’ I had said with a smile. That got a good laugh, even the soldiers couldn’t help but smirk.

I smacked my lips a few times, over-dramatized for effect. ‘I’m parched, let’s see what we can do about some fresh water.’

They cheered to oblige.

PERSONAL LOG ENTRY 213-B S.H.A.R.P. Agent Sebastian O’Connor ETC (designation ‘ALDEBARAN’) Quinmont 5

At that point, I began to assign duties. The skinny, shifty soldier with ice-blue eyes named Daniel Hodges, my most experienced and confident engineer Ethan Sparks, and Spence would accompany me south to the pond. The remainder of the crew would remain at base. I gave Mimi authority over the scientist/engineer elements, and left the soldiers to handle their own structure. The barrel-chested mammoth of a man with a thick brown beard appeared to be their commander. His light machine-gun hung loosely in his hands, like a child’s toy. From what I’ve seen, he is quiet, serious, and imposing; still the other soldiers act on his whims almost instinctively, definitely a commander of men. I have yet to learn his name but he is a dutiful soul, that much is clear.

The four of us left base headed south in our A.T.O.M. transport, towards the reservoirs we had viewed from orbit. Weather was a temperate 82°F, with little cloud cover but a sticky level of humidity hovering just above 70%. Small, curious reptiles like feather-less chickens raced alongside the truck. Occasionally, they ran in front of the truck and their lives ended in a squeak under the machine’s heavy treads. I laughed uncontrollably each time. Spence gave me a disdainful look. ‘Loosen up you old hard-ass! Enjoy the little things!’ I had shouted over the roar of the engine. He scoffed at me. I laughed harder.

PERSONAL LOG ENTRY 214-B S.H.A.R.P. Agent Sebastian O’Connor ETC [designation ‘ALDEBARAN’] Quinmont 5

When we finally reached the pond, there were more challenging beasts than the prancing road kill we encountered on the journey. Armored giants, quadruped tanks of an unfamiliar variety were munching vegetation on the opposite shore. They looked up to register us as a non-threat, before turning back to their pruning. Spence grinned at me like he’d won a bet. ‘Try and run that over O’Connor,’ he said.

I regarded him with a big smile before responding. ‘Oh you are such a downer old man. Sparks! Get me water and soil samples! And tell me what we’re dealing with here!’

‘Right away sir.’ He scooped a hefty lump of soft dirt from the shore and deposited in the back of the A.T.O.M. I imagine I was eyeing him quite quizzically. ‘Soil sample taken sir,’ he said with a grin.

‘Very good Sparks. Hodges, hold fire. I don’t want you spooking those armored bovines.’

He eyed the beasts across the pond with a focused stare. ‘You’ll hear no complaint from me,’ he replied quietly.

About ten minutes later Sparks gave me his report; it was unfortunate news.

‘Problems are commander, one: digging trenches for the tubing will take hundreds of man hours, and two: we don’t have near enough tubing.’

‘We’ll have to jury-rig it. Dig a shallow trench, then we’ll install a wooden aqueduct until resources can be acquired and construction scheduled.’

The answer did not suit him. ‘Yes sir,’ he responded flatly.

‘Cheer up my friend, we’ll work in shifts, and I’m pretty good with a spade myself. This is vital work.’

‘I understand sir,’ he responded smartly. ‘I’d be honored to take the first shift.’

‘That’s the spirit, consider it yours.’

After the pep-talk with Sparks, I left him to start drawing up plans for the aqueduct with Hodges as protection should more aggressive beasts show and delay the project. Spence and I drove back to base. On arrival, I was exhausted. After explaining the situation to the base crew and scheduling the work shifts, I was absolutely bushed. I retired to my room, searched for the rum I’d smuggled with me. And here I sit drinking it. Tomorrow’s a new day. O’Connor signing off.

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