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Authors: Martin Wilsey

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The Outer Ring

BOOK: The Outer Ring
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The Outer Ring

By Martin Wilsey

 

 

T
his
is a work of Fiction. All Characters and events portrayed in this
novel are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events is purely
coincidental.

The Outer Ring

Copyright © 2015 by Martin
Wilsey

All rights reserved,
including rights to reproduce this book, or portions
thereof
, in any form.

Cover Art by Jessica
E.

For more
information:

Blog:
http://wilseymc.blogspot.com/

Web:
http://www.baytirus.com/

Email:
[email protected]

The Solstice 31
Saga:

Still Falling
(2015)

The Broken Cage
(2015)

Blood of the Scarecrow
(2016)

 

 


The
Ventura
was a deep space survey ship with a crew of over
2,000 men and women. When we entered the orbit of the planet
Baytirus that day, we never expected the
Ventura
to be immediately destroyed.
We didn’t know we weren’t the first people to find that planet.
But, someone knew.”

--Solstice 31 Incident
Investigation Testimony Transcript: Logs of Master Engineer Wes
Hagan, senior surviving engineering member of the Ventura's crew.
Recorded on 26291010, over three decades ago, and stored in the
data being analyzed.

<<<>>>

Barcus woke two hours
early, as usual, before the Pal’s alarm. Pal was the personal
assistant layer of the
Ventura’s
central artificial intelligence system. Nobody
ever called them by those words, though. Everyone called
them
Pal
and
Caisy
.


Good morning, Pal. What’s
the plan for the day?” Barcus said, stretching, as he sat up in his
bunk. At these
words,
Pal shifted the walls of the 3x5
meter room to a predawn mountain scene. It was majestic in its
ultrahigh definition beauty. It also conveyed data. Barcus knew
when the sun peeked
from behind those mountains
it would be
time to go. The light increased on the clouds above, as that time
approached. Barcus didn’t need any visual clues because he had a
digital clock, always visible, in his personal Heads-Up Display
(HUD). Computer display windows hung in the mountain scene, showing
the day’s
work
orders
and his personal calendar. His
messages were prioritized, quickly reviewed and promptly
answered.

Pal’s
voice imitated a professional
female today. “Today, you meet the heavies for a morning run,
beginning at Chen’s STU on the outer ring’s flight deck. Jack will
be joining you, again, so you’ll need to take your pack
along,”
Pal
told him. “After that, shower, chow, and then
prep for
tomorrow's
work orders that you’ll do
after we drop out of FTL.” The days after faster-than-light runs
were always hectic. “Jimbo will arrange for shore leave, if the
planet doesn’t suck.” Barcus enjoyed this AI’s sense of
humor.


Jack is really joining
us, again?” Barcus asked, laughing to himself, as he donned his
running shorts and shirt. “I swear, he almost died after that lap,
last time.”


Your pack still has the
twenty kilos of replacement gel
packs,

Pal
said. “You
know that’s crazy, don’t you? Running the outer ring, at 2G, with
an extra twenty kilos that
feels
like forty
kilos.”


The pack slows us
down
enough
so that, one day, Jack might be able to keep up.”
Barcus smiled. Not many people tried. “That day won’t be
today.”

Pal
asked, “Did you know he has applied
for a berth in the outer ring?” There was a
slightly
amused
tone in her voice.


Excellent. It’s really
the only way to do it. If he gets past the first month, it’ll be
easy.”

***

Barcus arrived on the
flight deck first. It was empty at 0520 hours.
He already wore his pack, but he had made
the 3K run so many times with it on, he moved like it wasn’t
there.
He strolled in the heavy gravity,
stretching his limbs as he went. The outer ring’s flight deck was
huge. At the point where he stood, the ship measured a kilometer in
diameter. The rotation of the ring gave it the feel of
2G,
but there were no grav-plates in use. It saved a massive
amount of power. A wide, central taxiway looked like it sloped
uphill, in both directions. It was just over three kilometers for
one lap.

He smelled
coffee
.

Chen was already up and working on her
shuttle. She always made the best coffee.

Even though Chen was a
pilot, she took total ownership of her Shuttle Transport Unit and
its systems. She called the
onboard
AI by the nickname
Stu. It was an old habit from her flight training days. Another old
habit was to soup up her assigned vessel, for maximum performance.
She was also a highly regarded AI
programmer
in the
fleet.

Barcus knew
that, today,
she had to get everything back together in time
for the drop out of FTL, tomorrow. No one knew how long they would
be in orbit around the next surveyed planet, so they had to be
ready for long days.


Morning, Chen. What the
fuck do you think you’re doing?” Barcus said, with an amused
tone.


Don’t just stand there,
asshole. Lift that end and set it in those lock points. Or, is it
too heavy for you and your skinny little arms?” Chen
taunted.

Barcus didn’t ask why she
was mounting a 10mm canon inside the belly of her Emergency Module
(EM), a
spider-like
all-terrain
vehicle. As he muscled the
receiver end into the sockets, he saw there were ammo belt feed
cases already installed.


Where the hell did you
find this hellish lead storm?” he asked, referring to the massive
gun. He moved to the muzzle end, helping her snap it into place.
“Fixed forward fire, I see. Do you have a targeting module in the
EM’s AI yet?” he asked.

Chen answered with a roll of her eyes.
She laid the belt of ammo across the receiver, as she said, “Em,
cycle the 10mm and then close it up.” The first round cycled into
the chamber, as the access panels closed so tight there was no
visible seam.


Aren’t you worried that
Captain Everett might get pissed off that you armed the transport?”
Barcus asked. “Besides, who gave you the weapons mounts?
Sweet
setup
. Can we try it in the vacuum,
tomorrow, while we’re out?”


The STU-1138 class
shuttles are just big enough to have their own parts fabricators.
Can I help it if I have friends with access to design specs?” She
smiled, wiping the lubricant from her hands with a dry
rag.


Morning, all,” said Jack
Miller. He was already out of breath. The 2G outer ring did that to
most people. Barcus worked with hundreds of maintenance guys on a
ship this size. Many, like Jack, had just started their tours four
months ago. Barcus had been there longer than any of them. Just
over twelve years.

A security squad of sixteen men ran
by. They were in full combat gear, including Frange carbines. They
were also followed by a couple of unit drones that scanned
everything as they ran by.

Chen patted Jack’s belly. “Don’t
worry. They won’t eat you.”

Jack was a good guy. He was a hard
worker. He was great at detail work, especially the really fine
schematic work that sometimes left Barcus unable to see the big
picture of his project. ‘First tour spread’ often haunted people
when the gravity was low and the food was good. Jack was determined
to be physically fit when he returned to Earth in three years,
eight months.


Rumor has it you’re
joining us heavies in the outer
ring,
” Chen stated, as she
rolled the toolbox to the far side of the EM. Barcus saw Jack look
at the piling that was Chen’s artificial left leg.


Good-looking, on you. The
chicks will dig it, right Barcus?” Chen said.


The chicks will dig
what?” Rand asked, as she walked up. She chugged from a water
bottle. She noticed Jack, just then. “Mr. Miller has come back for
more. We need to requisition this man a backpack!”


He’s even moving to the
outer ring,
soon,
” Barcus said, before he chugged
water from the bottle Rand tossed to him. Rand was part of the
security team. Not only did she run with a
weighted
pack, she
wore two handguns in thigh holsters and a
Frange
carbine on a
strap that hung from her shoulder.

Jack, breathing easier now, said, “Did
you know all the quarters out here are singles and are way bigger?
No waiting list. I move in tomorrow.”


Jimbo!” the heavies said,
all at once.

Another voice said, “Don’t tell
anyone, but we also have our own kitchen down here.”

Barcus added, “Good morning, Commander
‘shirking your duty’ Worthington. What the hell, man? Your shift
isn’t over until 0800 hours.” He slapped backs and shook everyone’s
hands. “Jimbo, this is Jack Miller, our latest victim.”


Nice to meet you, Jack.
Don’t listen to these asswipes. Down here, I’m just Jimbo.” He
shook Jack’s hand. Jack liked him, immediately. It wasn’t often
that someone from the lower decks got to meet anyone from the
command crew.


You coming today, Chen?”
Jimbo asked, as he adjusted the straps of his backpack.


Not today, man,” she
said, as she looked up and another access panel opened. “I gotta
finish up this shit before tomorrow’s orbit.”


I hear that.” Jimbo drank
his own water. “All three shifts are on duty, tomorrow. That’s why
I can come down here and run you weaklings into the
grav-plating.”

With that said, they ran.
Jimbo’s surprise start caught no one, except Miller, off guard.
After a
bit,
the heavies slowed, so he could catch up. They
ran
in
formation around him, encouraging him all the way
around the outer ring.

It was a ‘lucky day’. That’s what the
heavies called it when all the bay doors were open.

Jack made it the whole way around
without stopping once, for the first, and the last time…

***


I miss real eggs,” Barcus
said, not for the first time.

Jack said, “It’s because the eggs are
dehydrated, made with reclaimed water. You ever get the pancakes?
Why get the eggs, if you don’t like them?”

Chen looked up from her
eggs with a raised eyebrow, the precursor to the death stare. She
sat just to Jack’s right. Barcus sat
directly
across from him,
with Jimbo and Rand on either side. All of them ate eggs and
bacon.


Because you get real
bacon with these eggs. Not even dehydrated,” Barcus said, in a
gesture of worship, as he held up a perfectly crispy strip of
thick-cut bacon. Rand and Jimbo both attempted a snatch. Both lost
out to the speed of Barcus’s hand to his mouth.


It’s probably because the
reclamation system extracts the water from your shit when yo—” Jack
stopped,
suddenly,
as Chen delivered a right jab
to his face. “What the fuuu—!”

Chen patted him on the back in a
perfect, nothing personal, gesture.


House rules,
Jack,
” Jimbo said. “Never mention the human waste reclamation
system during chow. You are allowed, no required, to
face-punch
any heavy that does it. Even me. Especially
me.”

BOOK: The Outer Ring
11.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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