As the disc of the sun rose above the horizon of Deimos, it flooded the control room with bright harsh daylight. Lilleth lowered the shades and checked the energy levels of the Stargate for the tenth time as the radio crackled into life.
“This is Freighter 952...please confirm if Gate 010 is ready...”
“Standby Freighter 952...” Lilleth responded.
The Stargate was located in an orbit around the strange Martian moon of Deimos and controlled from a small base dug deep into the rocky surface, well shielded from the radiation. The flow of metal from the mines of Mars went through the network of Stargates to systems all across the Empire of the Anuk.
The Empire needed Gold and Iron, Lithium and Uranium. They had many mines across the Martian deserts and thousands of miners in each. The conditions were harsh and dusty, the cold and low atmospheric pressure kept the miners imprisoned effectively in the settlements.
The energy spike on the output began to reach maximum. “Stargate 010 energised in 5...4...3...2...1...mark.”
The waiting ship was drawn in and vanished from view. Lilleth finished filing the flight logs and sat down with a sigh.
A colleague asked her , “how are you doing? It’s been a few months since the accident now.”
“Ah thanks, I’m ok I think,” Lilleth smiled briefly. “My transfer to Hydroponics should come through soon though.”
Her colleague replied, “oh...I had no idea you were moving on.”
“I thought it would be for the best. Get away from here and do something different.”
It was almost the end of the shift and bed was calling. Ever since her partner Llamech had died a few months ago, life had been lonely, so Lilleth occupied herself with work.
Llamech had been an Anuk engineer on board one of the mining transport ships that frequently stayed in orbit around Deimos. He had got to know Lilleth when he occasionally stayed in the small settlement that maintained the Stargate.
Lilleth remembered their many conversations about the Anuk Empire and its problems. As the stars and pink Martian surface drifted beneath them, they used to meet in the canteen and drink coffee together. They had become close and often talked at great length about the troubles in life.
Once, Llamech asked her, ” How do you feel about working for the Empire? Stuck here on a moon above a desert planet. Wouldn’t you rather be closer to the action in the larger systems?”
“Life is good enough up here on Deimos, it’s quiet.” Lilleth replied, “we have it easy, much easier than everything those Miners have to go through.”
“It’s a tough life, they don’t last very long either. I think the Empire is too vast and it consumes so much energy. The freighters are old, I have to repair them constantly.”
“What can we do though? We’re just small cogs in a huge machine.”
“I have a few ideas...we could escape, start again somewhere else perhaps...”
“Shush, don’t let anyone over hear, its too risky!”
A few months later, Llamech was at Deimos again for more repairs. One afternoon, he came over to Lilleth and showed her a storage capsule that he kept in a hidden pocket at all times. He opened it and carefully pulled the central rod out.
“This cylinder contains plans for a new start. This other part is the receiver that reads it and I’m going to leave it with you for safe keeping.”
Lilleth took it and held his hand tightly. “I will look after it with my life Llamech.”
That was the last time she saw him. Later on that day, Llamech was working on hull repairs when the accident happened.