The world was a mottled brown and white ball, the planetary terminator a slow curtain moving over rock and haze. Captain Grant twitched his finger and glanced at the cloud of data scrolling across his lower left visual field, bringing the ship’s survey report into focus. Carmon-4 was about the same mass as Earth with a thick atmosphere, low in oxygen and high in other gasses. The planners had claimed that an unprotected man could even breathe the stuff for a minute or two before his lungs fatally hemorrhaged.
Grant didn’t envy the colonists nestled in the Insertion Pods clinging to his ship. Passengers on his runs were always the most desperate souls humanity still held, people looking for damn near any option, even something as dicey as first contact colonization, if it meant they could escape the hell that Earth had become.
It was clear from the outset, when they had been granted settlement rights by Terra Ferma, that building a colony on Carmon-4 would take some doing. Bad air, high radiation, probably hostile life forms, and no guarantee that any ground the colonists tried to use would even grow anything. However, again thanks to the planners, the podders would be packed with enough food, equipment, and hired Professionals to at least establish the first domes and start generating breathable atmosphere by the time he returned. Depending on how the Wellness Check went Grant was 50/50 that Carmon-4 would join the long line of colonies that were making up what the Newsfeeds were calling “The Great Human Diaspora.”
Grant gestured and the survey data was replaced with hovering windows showing external cameras, telemetry, and live feeds from inside the three Insertion Pods.
“How’s the window looking?” he asked the bridge
“All teams report nominal,” said a calm voice to his left. “We should be in geosync in a few minutes. Reading heavy rad belts around this bastard but our shielding should be enough if we don’t overstay our welcome.”
“Enough to fry the cargo?”
“Hard to say for sure but I think they should fall through with minimal exposure unless something goes wrong. Might be some burns and some long term complications, but that’s why most of them sprung for the injections right?”
“Christ,” Grant moved a finger again and looked deep into the data floating in front of his eyes. “Who picked this landing site anyway? Whatever, get the timing as close as you can and let’s try to make sure none of their kids have three arms.”
There was a little laughter around the bridge but soon enough Grant’s displays read green and ready. He flipped on the shipwide and cleared his throat.
“Good morning folks, I hope you’ve all enjoyed a more or less pleasant ride so far, we’ve arrived at Carmon and Colony Insertion Carmon-4-1 through 4-3 will commence shortly. Please follow the safety instructions that will be playing for you after this announcement or risk serious injury and possible death. Terra Firma takes no responsibility for any physical or mental trauma, nor loss of life, that may result from not following required safety procedures.
“The weather looks clear and your landing site is free of obstruction. Please maintain environment suit protocols and listen to your Professionals, THEY WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE, as the air down there will be actively trying to kill you.
“In any case, Terra Ferma wishes you luck, and I personally hope to hear that you are living the life you dreamed of by the time we come back for the Wellness Check.
“Drop will trigger in...” Grant looked at a window counting down, “ten minutes starting from my mark in 3...2...1...mark.” Grant blinked and a counter appeared on every monitor the ship had.He cut shipwide, “and may God have mercy on your souls...”
On to Part 2!