He shook his head for the hundredth time trying to clear the dizziness that had been plaguing him through his shift. The haze at the edges of his vision pulled back slightly but he could still feel a pressure in his skull as halos shimmered into existence around the blinking lights in his Suit HUD. The colony doctor had told him to take some pills and rest, it was only migraines she said, nothing serious.
Well he couldn’t exactly “rest” since he was the only one qualified to properly install the atmospheric scrubbers. 320 men, women, and children had dropped on the harsh surface of Carmon-4, 300 desperate people and 20 professionals hired on so the colony wouldn’t die in the first month. Of the “Pros” there had been three atmosphere specialists and the other two turned out to be a wife beating drunkard who couldn’t be bothered to actually show up for a shift and a fraud who couldn’t be trusted to turn a bolt the right way without a tutorial overlay.
Not for the first time that week Victor questioned the wisdom of answering that Terra Ferma contractor’s ad but in the end it was the fastest way for him and his family to get enough credits to secure their future.
Eventually, once the scrubbers were installed and the domes sealed, he’d get some of the colonials trained in maintaining the equipment. It was designed to be relatively simple to keep running but it was a real pain to set up. Rumor had it, at least in the Pro circuit, that there was an arrangement between Terra Nova and the trained monkeys who built the things to keep them complicated so that Pros would always be needed to install them.
He shook his head again as a wave of vertigo jolted him back to the open panel in front of him.
“S...Status...” he panted to the receiver in his helmet.
His HUD, reading the position of his eyes, drew into sharper focus and scrolled his vitals. In the center of the display was a large pulsing yellow radiation symbol, a constant companion to everyone working outside the relative shelter of the colony center. Victor had dosed himself with nano-rad before going out, standard protocol, and he thought he should still be fine for another few hours before needing to come in for a booster. He was fuzzy on the details of the little bots that swam through his bloodstream but he knew they somehow cleared his body of radiation as long as they were boosted. Everyone who worked outside the shelter had to take nano-rad if they liked the idea of their insides staying inside and not sloughing their intestines into a recycler during a morning constitutional.
“Stim...single,” he said as he moved his mouth to a small tube coming up around his right cheek. He sucked at the liquid that dripped from the tube, a personal cocktail of wake up juice and painkillers. The doc had grudgingly approved the mix but threw in the customary “the longer you do these the more likely your heart will explode” lecture.
“What the hell is wrong out there Vic?” a bead in his left ear pulsed with a woman’s voice.
“Nothing much, just my skull imploding again Sal, ya know, a Tuesday,” he tried to inject a chuckle with his final word but it came out more as a pant.
“Well suck it up buttercup. My board says you’ve been staring at the panel on Scrubber 3 for the better part of an hour...”
“An hour?” Victor moved his eyes through the HUD again and blinked a few times, trying to get the shimmery aura away from the clock display. “You sure? My readout says no more than five...” Victor watched the numbers melt and felt a cold shiver go up his spine as five minutes turned into an hour between blinks. “Ok, must be something wrong with my system. I’ll get the scrubber up and running ASAP and get back to base, get my equipment checked out.”
“Vic, don’t make me regret letting you back out there ok? You screw this up and we’ll have ‘you know who’ breathing ‘you know what’ and good luck getting any kind of work after that,” Sal clicked off the com and Vic was back to his own thoughts.
He’d never lost time before, never seen his HUD lie to him, but he convinced himself it was nothing. The stim shot was starting to work and things were getting clearer, though the pain in his skull remained as a dull reminder. He thought of his wife and kids back in their own corner of the central hab, waiting for dad to get home after a long day making the world breathable. They were expecting a dinner guest that evening, Vic had to stay awake and functional if he hoped to impress the superintendent and get a much needed bonus.
On to Part 3!
On to Part 3!