A/N: Hey there everyone. Here is my first story on FictionPress. It's an idea I've had kicking around in my head for a couple years now, but I just got around to figuring it out enough to write it down. My inspiration and access to internet are both rather unreliable, so I make no promises for frequent or regular updates.
This is my first real attempt at writing in over three years, so any feedback is appreciated! Enjoy.
"Can you believe it?" Baz demanded, looking down at the palm-sized Screen in his hands once more before flicking it off and pocketing it. "We're going to Earth!"
"You don't know that" countered Corey, clearly unamused at his friend's excitedness.
The two friends were walking down a hall of Corporate District F12 of colony EGL3, the place they were both employed. "Don't know it? Are you kidding!" Baz responded, stretching his hands up behind his head. "I've done my research. That guy they want us to meet with, Gesner was his name, right?" He looked to his partner for confirmation, but received only a grunt in reply, but that didn't stop him. "They call him the Captain." he continued, "He's been to Earth at least five times from what I hear. What else could we possibly be doing?" He grinned and ran his fingers through his hair before lowering his hands back to his sides. "The timing couldn't be better, either. If I have to spend one more shift just supervising empty space, I might have to kill myself."
Corey rolled his eyes. He had been partnered with Basrick 'Baz' Stock ever since the two of them had been hired for the private security and exploration company six years earlier. In the six years he had known Baz he was sure the man hadn't aged a day. Actually, he was pretty sure Baz hadn't aged a day since puberty. Mentally, anyways.
"Even if we do go to Earth," Corey said, turning left and taking a quick glance at the numbers on the doors to ensure he knew where he was going, "It would be just as tedious as watching dead space. I don't know what's so exciting about scooping radioactive dirt into test tubes."
Baz sighed sadly and shook his head, "The ladies would be all over it, though." he grinned, "I thought even a party pooper such as yourself would be able to figure that out."
"I'm sure Vern would be thrilled to hear that."
"Who?" Baz asked, a fake look of confusion on his face. Corey brought his palm to his forehead. "Your girlfriend?" It was Baz's turn to introduce his hand to his face.
"Ex, man. Ex."
"You broke up?" Corey was surprised by this. As far as he knew they'd been doing rather well. They'd been dating for over a year, something which was unprecedented with Baz.
"You don't seem too torn up about it."
"She said the M word. I got out of there so fast I almost forgot my shoes."
Corey just looked at him. "You can't break up with a girl every time she mentions marriage!"
Baz flinched. "Don't say that word!" he demanded, "Or I'll have to break up with you, too."
Corey shook his head and stopped in front of door 1398A. "You're twenty four years old. Marriage is something you might want to start thinking about." He punched in a four-digit code and the door slid open revealing a room with eight chairs all facing the front, where a large glossy black screen was built into the wall. No one else was there.
"No way,' Baz objected, "I never go past 'L' in the Relationship Alphabet." He took a seat in one of the front chairs, sitting back in a relaxed manner.
"I'm surprised you're able to make it through the first eleven."
"No way. The Relationship Alphabet starts at 'K'."
"Oh?" Corey asked disinterestedly.
"Yeah. Kiss, Love, Ma—" he paused, unable to say it, "The M word."
"Neutering, Offspring, Pr—"
"How can you have offspring if you're neutered?" Corey inquired.
"Don't question the way it is." Baz answered, "Preschool."
Corey rolled his eyes, "Divorce doesn't start with Q."
"Nothing starts with Q." Baz countered. Corey shrugged, admitting defeat, not wanting to waste his time poking holes through the swiss-cheese of Baz's logic.
"But back to my point," Corey said, "You can't break up with a girl every time she mentions marriage. You've already dated half the girls on EGL."
"You're exaggerating." Corey said, sounding offended, "I've only dated half the girls on EGL2. If I run out on here, there are eight other EGL colonies I can go to."
"And if you run out of those, then what? Move to an RBN colony?"
Baz made a fake gagging sound. "If I can't find a single girl in all of EGL who isn't obsessed with marriage, I'll give up. I'd rather be without sex on EGL than with it on RBN."
Though all ruled by the same government, there was a rivalry of sorts between the two colony groupings of EGL and RBN. Each set was convinced they were better than the other.
Corey snickered, but said nothing, letting the silence fall around them. He took this opportunity to look around the room. The eight chairs were set up in two precise rows of four. Baz and Corey were sitting on the two chairs farthest to the right of the first row. The room itself was a sterile white colour, broken only by the screen in the front. Between the rows of chairs and the front of the room there was about a meter and a half of space, most likely room for someone to stand and explain their new positions to them.
There were no clocks in the room, so Corey glanced at his watched. 7:49am. Eleven minutes until the meeting was scheduled to start. Baz had been so excited about his 'call to Earth' as he'd put it that he'd insisted on coming as early as possible.
Corey pulled the thin rectangular Screen from his pocket and flicked it on, checking the note once again. In all honesty he was just as excited as Baz to get the transfer, but he had enough sense of professionalism to hide it.
The screen was about the size of his hand and about half a centimeter thick. Screens had started off as a military communications device, but as with most things, the civilian population had demanded access to it as well and, with a few modifications it had become a necessity for every person. Capable of text, sound and video communication, access to libraries and public entertainment networks, and keeping track of your location almost anywhere in the solar system, it had quickly become popular.
Corey was distracted from re-reading the note when the door hissed open and three more people stepped in. Two women, one with short cropped blonde hair, the other with a red bob, and the man with jet black hair entered and looked about, their eyes falling on Corey and Baz at almost exactly the same time. They looked to be about the same age as the boys.
"Hello", Corey greeted with a polite nod.
"Hey there" Baz said with a grin, obviously not caring about formality, though he tossed them a mock-salute. What did he think this was, the military?
"Hello." the blonde greeted quickly with a sharp nod as she moved to sit in the front row, leaving one seat free between her and the two men already there. The redhead offered a small wave before moving to sit in the back row. The man sat between Corey and the blonde, outright ignoring them. Concept Design, thought Corey. No other position created people with this kind of attitude. Though coming up with the latest in security software was important, anyone involved with it acted like they ruled the universe.
An awkward silence stretched between them for a few moments until the door slid open again and two more men walked in, looked around, nodded slightly to the others and sat down, not speaking.
Corey checked his watch again. 7:58. The door slid open once again and an older man, probably in his mid to late 50's walked in. Everyone sat up straight at once. This was, without a doubt, the guy who had called them all here. They had serious opportunity for advancement here, they all wanted to impress him. He was dressed in a crisp, black suit, something that had gone out of style decades ago because of the impracticality of it, though it was starting to make a comeback in the high classes for that very reason. Wearing something impractical and expensive showed you had the money to do it. His graying hair was long, pulled into a tight ponytail on the back of his neck. He was tall, with a strong build. His eyes were firm and cold, completing the no-nonsense feeling he projected.
The man didn't speak or acknowledge them until he was at the front of their small room where he turned to face them. He looked each of them over in turn before turning his hard gaze to the one empty chair, looked at his watch and frowned. The silence was tense, no one wanted to break it, but no one wanted it to continue. Corey chanced a look at his own watch. 8:03. Someone was late.
At that very moment the door hissed open once more and a woman, the same age as the others with short, flyaway brown hair came running in, stopping when she saw that everyone else was there. She didn't hesitate though. "I am so sorry." she gushed, though out of breath, "There was a malfunction in sector C6 and my replacement hadn't come in yet so I stayed to help reconfigure the cen—" she was cut off by a stern look from the old man.
"Ms. Charnock, is it?" he asked in a calm, deep voice. She was clearly nervous as she nodded. "You no longer work in maintenance. That was not your responsibility." She nodded silently. "I will make one exception for you today, as I know Simone was hesitant to part with you, however," he turned his attention to the entire group now, "from this point on tardiness will not be tolerated. You may have a seat." he finished, nodding at the girl again.
She nodded back and slipped nto the last remaining seat, looking like she wanted the ground beneath her to swallow her up.
"Now," the man said, offering them all a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes, "I am Jutras Gesner, as you all have probably figured out by now." There were a couple small nods but no one spoke. "Well then, let's just make sure I have the right people here." he said, looking them all over carefully, clapping his hands together once. Corey noticed with surprise that three fingers were missing. Two from his left and one from the right. A very strange thing considering the popularity and functionality of artificial replacements.
Gesner's gaze turned his gaze first to the short haired blonde. "Nyssa Paddock." she nodded. Next was the boy with black hair. "Payton Keys." Another nod. "Corey Tan" Corey sat up a bit straighter.
"Yes, sir." Gesner nodded once at him.
"Just Baz is fine." The captain had a faint twinkle of amusement in his eyes for a moment before he turned to the second row, starting with the redhead. "Gilla Yarrow." Another nod. A man with shaggy blonde hair sat next to her, "Tobin Duga."
"Toby, if you please." he replied a bit shyly. Gesner nodded once more. Next was the man who had come in with Toby, a man with straight brown hair that reached his just past his ears.
"That's me." he confirmed with a small nod.
"And we all already know Airi Charnock." he finished, gesturing once again to the girl who had stumbled in late. "Good, so now that we know everyone, let's move on to why you're here." Everyone was paying close attention now.
"You have all displayed excellent performance in your respective fields." he began, "and a strong loyalty to this company." Corey thought he heard a snicker from Jarred, but if it was, it was quickly covered with a cough. "As such, you eight have been selected for a very special task." Corey could feel Baz's excitement and had to fight to refrain from rolling his eyes though, in all honesty he was rather excited too.
"Before I go any further," Gesner went on, "I want to make it explicitly clear that anything said in this room is not, under any circumstances to be repeated. Is that clear?" A series of nods and a couple 'yes, sir's followed. "Good. Now, it is common knowledge that every five years a team of ours is hired by the government to go to earth. What is less known is the true reason for this." he paused for dramatic effect. "We do collect soil samples of course, but that is not our main purpose." He turned and tapped the screen once, causing it to flash to life immediately, revealing a photograph. It was of a woman standing in front of some trees –a forest? It couldn't be-, wearing strange clothing. She had dark red hair pulled back behind her head. It appeared she had makeup on, though instead of focusing on her eyes it was marking strange patterns on her cheeks.
After everyone had taken a few moments to take in the picture, Gesner went on. "After Earth was 'nuked' as the phrase is, it was quite logical for us to assume that life was completely destroyed. However, approximately fifty years ago we discovered human life." Everyone stared at him, "We believe that certain geological features along with special meteorological conditions created a few areas that managed to shelter people from the outfall of the nuke and left some alive. Not many, mind you, but enough to survive and reproduce." He paused now to let the information sink in. "As of now we have located eight tribes over three continents. We periodically go to study them, to learn how they have adapted to such conditions. We try to make contact as infrequent as possible so as to preserve their cultures and traditions. We visit on average two tribes every five years."
"Usually, we make our teams up of people experienced in Earth Sciences and use the same groups until retirement, so as to save us time and money on education and training. However, as you may have guessed, we're doing things a bit differently this year."
He tapped the screen again and it switched to an animated model of earth, the brown land and green water. Nothing that signified life was visible from such a distance. The globe rotated slowly and zoomed in on an area with a bit more red in it than most other places. As it grew closer, grey became visible. Perhaps a small mountain range, Corey mused.
"As I said, we know of eight tribes. For the past twenty-five years we have paid visits to them all at least once, and all meetings have gone very well, with one exception." The globe was continuing to zoom in, and a green area was becoming visible. Green? Was that possible? Gesner gestured to the screen. "Twenty five years ago we attempted contact with the tribe living in this area. However, due to some unforeseen circumstances it ended rather violently." He held up his left hand, where the index and middle fingers were missing. "I was present at that time." he lowered his hand, " Though their weapons are primitive, they coat them with a solution that kills cells off at an incredible rate. Reattachment was impossible. I'm lucky I have a hand left at all. Because of this, we have put off attempting contact again, but we feel it is time to try for a fresh start. That is where you come in."
The eight men and women looked around at one another, everyone showing different levels of nervousness and excitement. "We want you to go there and try to forge a positive relationship with the tribe there. As we want to come off as non-threatening as possible, we figured younger was better. We have done a risk assessment on the situation, and though there are many variables we cannot account for, we feel it will be well worth the risks. Are there any questions?" he finished. The room was silent.
"Good. Moving on then, we are scheduled to depart one week from today at 13:00 sharp. Prepare to be gone for six to eight weeks. In this coming week you will work on catching up with the history of our encounters, our research surrounding them and getting to know one another as well. Are there any questions?"
Again there was nothing but silence. "Very well. That is all. Be back here at 8:00 tomorrow. Don't be late." he added, giving Airi a pointed look. And with that he exited the room, leaving the others to their own devices. There was a brief silence before Baz turned around in his chair to look at the others.
"So, uh, hi?"