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TRITON

By Brigham Sherlock All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Scifi

Blurb

What was supposed to be an easy supply mission for Aaron Keynes, a deckhand on the clipper Triton, has turned into a nightmare. After a deadly crash, Keynes is miraculously left unscathed. But the rest of his crew are not so lucky. Stranded on an unknown desert planet, the crew of Triton battle for their very lives, enduring numerous challenges, coping with extreme isolation, deadly elements, dwindling supplies, and a damaged ship. Perhaps the most unnerving prospect of their miserable existence is the remains of another ship, well equipped and much better off than Aaron, whose crew perished, and not by natural causes. As their situation worsens, Aaron must figure out a way to escape the hold of the desert planet, and soon, or die trying.

Chapter 1

Aaron Keynes lifted the heavy supply case into the hold of the chartered merchant ship. He wiped the sweat off of his forehead with his sleeve, going back for the last crates. His work was mundane, and taxing, but Keynes was glad he at least had a job. Two point seven billion other people couldn’t say that much, the poverty rate was high on the planet Corinth. Lifting the next crate with a grunt, Keynes glanced over at all the other ships on the docks. Shiny new Androids loaded their cargoes, faster than Keynes ever could. Placing the crate in the hold, he saw the captain looking at the Androids, with a smug grin on his face as he glanced over at Keynes. Keynes knew that he would be replaced, it was only a matter of time.

Androids could lift things four times heavier than him and clean twice as fast as him without complaint. They could also perform medical procedures, repair broken parts and do the complicated equations required for space travel in a few minutes. He couldn’t do any of that. The only factor keeping him employed was the huge up-front cost of an Android, but even that would be negated over time, because Androids don’t need to eat.

He cursed under his breath, lifting the final crate.

Captain Jonas Williams climbed up the ladder into the ship, then opened the door into the hall. He brushed past Jason Lee, their engineer, who was doing final systems checks.

“How is everything Lee?”

“Great, just great, my wife just delivered, it’s a boy--”

“I was talking about the ship.”

“Oh,” He sighed. “the ship’ll do fine. But remember it’s scheduled for an overhaul after this voyage.”

“Alright, just make sure nothing blows up.”

“Okay.”

“Oh, and remember to lock down the habitat, I don’t want anything bumping around when we launch.”

Lee put down his PDA.

“Gotcha, I’ll get on it in a sec.”

“Good man.”

The captain walked through the short corridor, into the cockpit, where the pilot was seated. Paul Cade was an excellent pilot, probably the best that Jonas had ever worked with. He was surprised he even took the job of piloting a third-class merchant ship. Jonas knew that Cade could have gotten a better job, but he was grateful nonetheless.

“Is Keynes done yet?” the captain asked, leaning over Cade’s shoulder to check the cargo-bay monitor screen.

“Yeah, he’s done, he’ll just be a minute. He’s getting a case of juice and a sandwich” Cade answered.

“Why? We’re launching in twenty.”

“He hates the ration packs. ’says they rot his bowels.”

“I swear I’ll leave without him if he’s not back in two minutes… Ugh. He ticks me off.”

“You tick him off too. If I were Keynes, I woulda’ beat the crap out of you months ago.”

“Thanks Cade, get back to work.”

Cade leaned forward, looking at another fancy screen.

“Yes sir.” he said, with a mocking salute.

Keynes ran out of the spaceport store, clutching his sandwich, chips, and twelve pack of peach juice cans. He ran up the cargo bay ramp, and kicked the control switch to ‘close’ with his boot. He shoved the rest of the crispy chicken sandwich in his mouth, packed the chips into his pocket, and struggled up the ladder with the case of juice in his left hand.

“Mmmuhh!” he grunted, which either meant ‘who wants a juice?’ or ‘I’m back!’, but his mouth was still full of sandwich.

“Hey Aaron, I’ll take a juice.” Jim Hawkins said. He was Triton’s doctor. Jim had graduated med school only a couple years earlier, and the young doctor was saving up to open his own practice. For now, he was stuck on a merchant ship with a grumpy captain, a nerdy engineer, and an annoying pilot. But he liked Keynes, and considered him fairly normal. Keynes tore open the package and passed Jim a can. Finally swallowing the sandwich, Keynes asked,

“When are we going to launch?”

“Ten minutes--” then the ship lurched forward, and Jim stumbled back, falling on his butt. He switched on his mag-boots, and got back up, rubbing his bum.

Keynes chuckled.

Jim continued,

“That’s probably the carryall now, taking us to the launch pad,” He remarked, “We should suit up.”

Jim walked away, his stride a little awkward from the active magnetic soles of his boots.

Keynes stuffed the chips into his mouth, a little bummed that he couldn’t savour one of his last good meals. He could swear the ration packs were engineered to rot his insides.

Keynes put his bag of personal belongings and the juice into his locker, and suited up for the launch. The suit was blue, with a grey and white helmet, a face visor, and a small black life support pack that could keep him alive for days. It was light, flexible, and tough, but it gave him a wedgie. Still, it was a long way away from the first bulky spacesuits from Old Earth. He had a lot of respect for the first astronauts.

As everyone strapped themselves in, the ship was raised up to a steep angle. The voice of the ship’s computer spoke through a set of speakers,

“Final systems check. No issues detected. Launch angle check. no issues detected. Crew vitals check. No issues detected. Boosters locked on decouplers. We are go for launch, captain.”

“Glad to hear it, computer,” the captain said, “Initialize launch sequence.”

The ship rumbled.

“Fifteen… fourteen… thirteen… twelve… eleven… ten… nine… eight… seven… six… five… four… all systems go… three…two… one… launch.”

Four and a half g’s pushed Keynes into his seat, he began to do breath exercises he had been taught during his brief months of training. He regretted eating so soon before, he struggled to keep the food down as the g forces rose to seven, then eight, then nine before suddenly dropping.

“Man. Those boosters are powerful,” Keynes remarked. The vacuum of space lay outside now, speckled with a myriad of stars.

“Fun, huh?” Cade said, he was all giddy from the adrenaline.

The captain was unusually excited himself,

“She’s a fast ship. How long was that? A minute?”

“Forty-seven seconds,” Jim said, groaning. He felt sick.

Lee undid his belt, and gently pushed himself up. He kicked a wall lightly, drifting to a console at the back of the cockpit.

“Artificial gravity coming online in three, two, one… and… now.”

A pleasant sensation washed over Keynes, as he felt a slight downward pull, which grew more powerful until it reached one g. He undid his belt as well, and took off his helmet. Everyone else did the same.

Keynes took a moment to look out the window. The rocky surface of Corinth lay below, blanketed in vegetation, deep blue oceans and lakes covering around forty percent of the planet. Above, the spiral arms of the milky way brushed across the vast canvas of space. He would have gazed longer but Lee tapped him on the shoulder,

“Hey, Aaron?”

“Yeah?” he turned, facing him now.

“The captain wants us in the med bay. We’re being briefed on the mission.”

“Oh, yeah, I’m coming.”

In the med bay, the crew were all gathered. The med bay was lined with cases of medicines, bandages, surgical equipment, and a lot of other expensive looking things, Keynes wasn’t sure what they were for. The captain cleared his throat, and pulled up a holo-map projection on the table in the center of the room.

“Alright, everyone’s here. As Keynes probably knows, we’ve taken on a lot more cargo than usual. Most of it is food, tools, spare parts, shelter kits, medical supplies, and some other things. All of it is for a colony in its infancy, which still needs to organize its industries. Until then they’ll have to rely on Space Guild supply runs. In short, they need essentials from the Guild until they can produce their own.”

Cade spun the holo-map with a flick of his wrist, saying,

“So, where are we headed, exactly?”

“I was getting to that, if you’ll let me,” He scowled at Cade for interrupting.

“We’ll be headed to the Fomalhaut system, to the second planet, Janus. We don’t have to worry about the cargo, we only need to get there. Prep the hibernation chambers, the reactor, the bulk-drive, all of it. Let’s get to work! Dismissed!”

The captain, Cade, and the computer plotted the course required to navigate the bulk, Keynes decided to help Lee do another systems check. Jim made sure the hibernation chambers were in order. They fell into a familiar routine, activating systems and checking equipment, preparing for the plunge into the void.

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