"Landing in 20 minutes," said the voice over the intercom. Gaige prepared themself for this new chapter of their life. Joining Terminus Base, they thought. Terminus base was the most successful colony in the quadrant. There were 14 other people of varying species on the shuttle. Thirty people were allowed to join the colony every year. Two sets of fifteen, twice a year. Wonder why it's like that. Before they had much time to ponder, the shuttle came to a halt.
"We hope you've enjoyed your trip with Bukryx Coalition: Travels. Please remember that anything you leave on the shuttle becomes legal property of the Bukryx Coalition. If anything you leave is illegal, you will be sued for defamation of the company." When the voice was done with her spiel, the doors opened. Gaige grabbed their travel bag and stepped of the shuttle.
It was bright. Terminus base was on Torbas V. Torbas V is one of 6 planets orbiting around 4 different suns. One of which was always visible. Each planet was entirely desert, with great mountains and deep valleys dotting the landscape. The space port of the Terminus was bustling with trade ships from outside the colonies. Most of them were delivering water. But there were a few smaller ships for other products. The shuttle was the only passenger ship and it was already leaving. A tall, thin man walked up to the group.
"You must be the new colonists," he exclaimed, "Welcome to Terminus! My name is Jester Smith. If you'll follow me, I'll give you a tour." He turned on his heel and began walking.
"So the port, you've seen. We like to call it the harbour, though obviously there isn't any water. Except for what comes in the ships." He chuckled to himself. "Leading to the harbour is the main street, it's got most businesses as well as the administrative office. You'll report there tomorrow."
A woman in the group spoke up in a nasally voice, "What are we doing there?"
"Ah, good question Nayli, you'll be assigned a job and a living space. Tonight, you'll stay in the rookie flats," he turned away from the group yet again, "We have arrived at the Plaza. The center point of Terminus." The plaza he was referring to was a circular area, with 4 streets heading off of it, including the main street.
"The main street, you know. Moving clockwise, you have the residential area, the industrial district, and leisure lane. Parks, arcades, that sort of thing. I wish I could give you a more extensive tour but we must begin finding your place here. DAD!" His shout caused the copper lines in the ground to vibrate. Suddenly, a robot popped out of the ground. It was mostly framework and wires with bits of plating keeping the wires together. It was affixed to some sort of rail underneath the copper. Jester turned to the automaton.
"DAD, I need the buzzers for the new guys."
"Right away, Mr. Smith." the robot sank back into the ground, leaving no trace of it having been there.
Jester turned to them, "DAD is our Digital Assistant and Delivery system. He only answers to high up administrative types like myself. But he will answer questions if he isn't busy."
"Shouldn't an AI be able to be in multiple places at once?" Gaige asked. Gaige was quite knowledgeable when it came to AI. They were also pretty good with most technology.
"Yes, Gaige, but DAD isn't wired into the colony, it's wired into that body, which is attached to that rail."
"So everything is in that framework body? What if he gets detached?"
"That could only happen if someone took it off. No one here has any real reason to do that. Except for it's routine maintenance. And I supervise that, so there isn't any chance of messing with DAD."
DAD popped back out of the ground. "The buzzers, sir." It outstretched a bit of metal with a bag at the end. Jester toot the bag and waved DAD off.
"The buzzers," he started inspecting and handing them out, "will go off when it's time for your assignment. Until then, feel free to enjoy the sights, get a lay of the land. Whatever it is you want to do." When he was finished passing them out, Gaige still hadn't received one.
"Yes, Gaige you're on now. So if you'd follow me." Jester started back down main street and gaige followed. The rest of the crowd dispersed.
They entered the administrative building. It's interior was very different from it's exterior. Everything was a stark white. The couches looked stiff and uncomfortable, The art on the wall was very tasteful, yet foreign like it knew it belonged on some other planet in a fancy museum. The receptionist, dressed in all white, looked up at them.
"Mr. Smith, your back. This must be one of the new colonists. Hiya, i'm Jodi."
"Gaige, it's a pleasure," they shook hands.
"Yes, great introductions but we have a schedule to keep so if we could get this show on the road."
"Right, sorry Mr. Smith," Jodi apologized.
Jester led Gaige down a hall, up some stairs and down a couple more halls. They stopped at an office. It had glass walls seeing into the hallway and onto the street. There were a few plants around the room but other than that it was bare. Jester gestured for Gaige to take a seat.
"So the first order of business is to tell you what you'll be doing. Our tech advisor is going to be retiring soon so we need a replacement. And you will be that replacement,"
"What exactly does a 'tech advisor' do?" Gaige asked.
"Well you'll be the top of the chain, any problems that can't be solved by our engineers will be brought to you. When they have everything under control, your job will be to keep the machines and mechanisms of Terminus up to date, replacing them when they need replacing. That kind of thing."
"Would I get to work on DAD?"
"Yeah, I guess. Is something wrong with it?"
"No, I've just always wanted to tinker with a proper AI"
"Well as long as you don't break him. Now there is something a bit more grave we must discuss."
"And that would be?" Gaige wondered what could be wrong here on terminus.
"Everyone else on the shuttle won't make it to the end of the week."
Gaige was taken aback, "I'm sorry?"
"Yeah, the details aren't important but every year we need to sacrifice 30 people to Hafcour Cave. 15 in the first half and 15 in the second half. For some reason this makes it so we can thrive and be profitable."
"For some reason?" Gaige was in disbelief. Jester talked about this like it was going to get some groceries.
"Well when we've tried to look into it, the research team became accidental sacrifices."
"How have you not been shut down yet? Doesn't Bukryx care?"
"Bukryx doesn't know and even if they did, they certainly wouldn't care. 30 people for a year of great profits. It wouldn't even be a question. I mean, they allowed this colony assuming it would just send 100 people to their death."
"I'm… I," Gaige was at a loss for words. The Bukryx Coalition controlled everything in his life. They owned everything: Banks, grocery stores, schools, parks. How could they do this.
"I understand that you might need some time to process this. You'll be working next door when you're ready. Preferably by the end of the week." As Gaige was about to leave, Jester added, "Oh and you can't tell any of the new guys. If you do, you'll have to join them."
Gaige left in a hurry. As they passed reception, Jodi called out a goodbye. Outside, the air seemed a little bit easier to breathe. They had to get out of this colony. They headed to the port. The same ships as earlier, all unloading water or other various supplies. But beside the massive supply ships was a smaller vessel. It was still quite large but next to the Bukryx coalition cargo ships, it seemed miniscule. It seemed older than the other ships but it didn't have any company logos. Perfect. As Gaige approached the ship, a man stepped out of it.
He was a little bit taller than Gaige. His messy brown hair was flecked with bits of grey. He had a gun on his hip. Gaige walked up to him and the man gave them a curious glance.
"Excuse me, sir. Is that your ship?"
"Who's asking?" His voice was gruff, almost threatening.
"Um, my name is Gaige. I'm one of the new colonists."
"Oh, you're a dockworker. I'll take my delivery myself." He started to walk away.
"No that's not it," Gaige said, following him.
"Then what do you want from me?" He stopped abruptly. His hand was at his holster and he was glaring at Gaige.
"A r-r-ide, that's all"
"I ain't a taxi, get a transport from Bukryx." The man was getting angry.
"I can't. Please, you're the only one I can trust," Gaige pleaded.
The man paused, "What'd you do?"
"Nothing but I can't stay here and can't tell them i'm leaving. Please, I'll do whatever you need me to just get me out of here."
The man looked contemplative, but eventually he agreed. He told Gaige to meet him in a half hour at his ship. The Avimion, he called it. Then he left to finish his business. Gaige had to think of something to do until then. They couldn't wait at the port. That would be too suspicious. Before he had much time to think before he was interrupted by a robotic voice behind him.
"Gaige, I was told you would like to see me." It was DAD, perfect.
"Hey yeah, is there like an office or somewhere with tools so I can check out your hardware."
"Do you think there is something wrong with me?"
"No-I mean-I didn't mean to-" Gaige took a breath, "I would just like to take a look at what i'm going to be working with."
A question marked flashed up on DAD's display, but it quickly disappeared.
"Your workspace is in the building next to administration."
"Great can you let everyone know you'll be out of commission for about an hour or so and then meet me there?"
"You are the new Tech Advisor, so I must comply with any request you make. What would you like me to tell the administrators?"
"Just tell them i'm getting a look at you for some basic maintenance."
"It will be done" And with that, the robot folded back onto the rail and zoomed off.
Gaige found their office fairly quickly and DAD was already there. He was shut off. Gaige quickly found the "brain" of DAD. Had they the time, Gaige would've liked to make a proper copy but they didn't. So they took his memory card. Maybe it was a good thing DAD wasn't wired into the colony. This would be significantly harder if he was. It was almost time so Gaige headed to The Avimion. As soon as They got there, there was an explosion at the administration building.
The man from earlier was sprinting away, towards Gaige. As he got closer, Gaige heard him yell,
"Get in the ship, let's go!"
So Gaige got on the ship. He only knew what they taught about escape shuttles in school. Which didn't seem to apply to this set up. Then they saw the ignition with the keys in. Gaige started up the ship and it's captain rushed in. He took control and was preparing to launch. Gaige didn't have any time to prepare before they launched.
"Hold onto something kid, I'm activating the catalyst. Gaige promptly grabbed a safety handle. He hit a big red button and everything started to feel light. Gaige closed his eyes. When gravity felt normal, they opened their eyes. Outside the ship was space, obviously. But it was different, there wasn't a sun. There was nothing, just the void. They weren't anywhere near anything.
"So, I think it's time for introductions. Name's Sterling Steele," He pointed to his gun, "This is Patricia."
"A female voice game from the weapon, "Hello"
Gaige was at a loss for words but after a minute they managed, "Gaige."
"Well kid, why did you run away from Terminus? Ain't it like a paradise?"
"They kill people there. As some kind of sacrifice."
"Called it." The gun lady said.
"Well that does explain a lot." Sterling said.
Gaige gave him a look of shock. "What could that possibly explain?"
"How they've stayed around for as long as they have, I suppose."
"How does that explain that? It doesn't make any sense."
"Kid, when you've been around the universe, you learn to just accept things as they are."
"You know what, I just don't want to think about it."
"That's the spirit, now where did you want to go?"
Gaige had to think for a moment, they couldn't go anywhere owned by Bukryx, probably. Which meant everything they had ever known.
"I don't know," Gaige told him solemnly.
"You could join my crew?"
"Well there's an extra bunk and I need someone who's a bit more technical. Patty keeps nagging me about it."
"I don't really have any other options, so-"
"Great, welcome to the crew. Let me show you your room."