Early morning day 1 (second guard watch, night after landing).
I’ll never forget my first step onto Alchibah. Our new home is so much like Earth and yet so, well… alien. The trees and plants almost seem like they would be at home in the old backyard in Vermont. Almost.
I looked up at the night sky, at the two brilliant moons, at the breathtaking starscape and milky asteroid belt. The night air was crisp and fresh in a way that not even the mountain air of northern Canada was. Humans haven’t had the chance to mess this planet up yet. I only hope that those of us here learn from the lessons of the past and don’t make the same mistakes our predecessors had. No, here we have the opportunity to make entirely new mistakes. I laughed ruefully.
Watching the surrounding forest I hefted the shotgun and silently hoped that it would be enough for what was out there. There were some very odd sounds coming out of the darkness, sounds that definitely came from animals of the predatory persuasion. The one that stood out the most to me was a loud hiss that ended in a sort of rasping growl/howl. It was the sort of sound you’d imagine coming out of the mouth of the grim reaper’s dog. Once though, far off in the hills, there was a booming, guttural roar that quieted the raspers for quite a while. The beast the belonged to that sound was the one that made me question the effectiveness of the otherwise trusty 12 gauge.
“Quite the thing, isn’t it?” Mariana came around the corner from my left. “Being the first humans to ever set foot on another planet with life?”
“That it is. I only hope we prove ourselves deserving of the honor. I think perhaps not all of us are.” I grimaced, thinking of Buchanan and Kurt.
“I’m sorry to say, but you’re probably right. I think time will separate those that are from those that aren’t.” She scanned her side of the tents, facing away from me. “Andy and I, for our part, just want the opportunity to start a new life away from all the death we were a part of back home.”
We were silent for a while, watching the night. I had been in this situation countless times, as I’m sure she had as well. Somehow, this was different.
“So, you’re really Angel’s ‘big brother’?” she asked.
“Gabe? You better believe it. Our parents adopted him when he was just a few days old. He never talked about SpecOps much, but given how much he was able to teach me, Jaisa and the gang you two must have been damn good trainers.”
She grunted. “We were given the best to work with. Angel though, he was something else. Never seen anyone come that close to Andy’s level. Hell, I’ve never seen anyone but your brother come at all close to Andy’s level. But even with all that, he’s not a killer. Some of the people in our line of work are a little… funny in the head, let’s say. The parts of them that make them really human aren’t always there.” She paused. “Did he ever tell you why we called him Angel?”
“When I found out that was his callsign, after he left the service, I just assumed it was because of his name being ‘Gabriel.’ There was more to it?” I asked.
“Oh yes, much more. I wasn’t there, but as I understand it he damn near got kicked out of the service for that little incident. Disobeying a direct order and all that” She laughed softly. I shook my head. It sure sounded like Gabe so far. I could never understand how he made it as long as he did in the ‘yes sir’ environment of the SSEALS. She continued.
“It was supposed to be a quick in/out mission. Torch a weapons depot, set some small delayed charges to finish the job and run. The bad guys end up with fewer weapons, it looks like accidental fire and no one gets hurt. Win-win-win. Only it wasn’t that simple: part of the building was being used as a makeshift orphanage. Whether the higher ups knew that or not is (and probably always will be) an open question, but Gabe sure as hell didn’t. The second he heard those kids yelling for help he was running full tilt back into the building while the rest of the team followed their orders and got the hell out of there. He was hauling the kids out of there in threes and fours. Man, that guy was built like a brick shithouse. He managed to get all fourteen kids out before the place blew. I’ve been told he jumped out of a third story window with the last one just before the charges went.” She grinned. “So, Angel it was.”
“Wow. I never knew. That’s Gabe all over, but he sure never said anything. But then, that’s Gabe too.” I sighed, “I hope I get to see him again. He’s the only living family I’ve got left, other than the girls.” I looked up into the night, towards Sol and Earth.
Mariana slapped me on the back. “You may yet. If there’s anyone that can pull off that stunt, it’s him.”
We stood, watching the night.
The quietness of the night surrounded us until my wrist comp began to vibrate. “Connor shifts almost over. I’ll go make sure the relief is awake.” Getting only a nod from him, I went to the corner of the tent the guards had cut off with a ground cloth. Stopping to pour a cup of coffee with triple a normal load of sugar, I went to the bunk Andy was softly snoring in. With an evil grin, I launched a kick square at his read end. This as usual was not there when my foot arrived. The reaction times those gene sequences give him are the reason he goes through so much sugar and alcohol (which was to him just one more source of blood sugar). “Just once I want that kick to land”
“Get faster, pretty Lady.”
As he was getting into his outdoor garb, he started talking. “I checked the overheads before I crashed. Found the perfect place to dig in the lab. Down on the Southwest corner of the big bluff to the South is a perfect place. Safe away from the first structures, away from the road Bart is talking about and with the mass overhead to bury it if necessary in an emergency.”
I noticed that he was concealing his weapons and not putting on the open holsters.
“Why the concealment we are home now?”
“Yep, and I guarantee you that there are going to be people coming down in the near future to whom only the Cops and the Bad Guys have guns. Not, that in the UNWG there was a lot of difference; but, lets forgo the questions in their minds as to which we are. We are not wolves anymore, we are sheepdogs, it’s time to hide the fangs and let the sheep settle in! Which I might add, could you talk to Connor and that girl of his? I’ll talk to Joe and Bart. Ash already hides his so he’s no problem, even if I could get him away from that lash-up computer rig.”
“What’s got into him any way and yes, I’ll talk to Connor and his brood. If we are going to calm this down maybe, I should back off a little on the DNA samples. We are probably starting to look like the UNWG there also! Until people realize we are not even looking at them till someone gets sick, they are probably a little nervous. Bet you someone thinks we are scanning for defectives or plants; as if we could if we wanted to! We only have control scans for eight people to compare to.”
“When does distrust of bureaucracy need fuel to feed it?”
I just nodded and said, “OK, you’re right. Let’s go make the shift swap!”