Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Jovian Rebel

Part of Land Leave, a short story:

The sun was little more than a pebble held at arms length. It was much further than the sun of Earth. Gregory squinted at the bright light. A yellow haze passed in front of the sun scattering the light and making the barren landscape just a bit colder.

That didn’t matter much; Ganymede was always cold. The solar arrays that kept the tiny Jovian moon from killing the hardy colonists were always only functioning at 70 percent. Gregory checked his wrist panel; 80% filter failure. At 90% he would feel the effects of increased blood toxicity, by 95% he would go crazy and have permanent brain damage. At 100% he would--he didn’t want to think about that.

He still had some time to get to the station; plenty of time. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do when he got there. He could surrender and give up the fight in exchange for oxygen. He could try to fight his way through to the supply room where he could restock and make an escape. He could sneak into the side panel, hope the codes hadn’t changed.

Who was he kidding? He grasped the pistol in his hand, there were only four bullets left and he was storming a checkpoint. A unit of AmU soldiers was guarding one of the few access points to the central city. They would be heavily armed and possibly have several robotic turrets as force multipliers.

The turrets were easy to distract with some rocks and a nice enough gust. An idiotic procurement officer on Earth had asked for all the best human killing features but none of the necessary sensory equipment to withstand the climate of the Jovian colonies. Unless they were cleaned every hour, a turret would register the reflective dust as a human and empty its entire ammo store in less than a minute. Reloading could take another thirty seconds.

Gregory thought about that tiny window of time as he arrived at the crest of the hill, he could see the smoke stacks pumping out sulfuric acid high into the atmosphere. Ganymede’s thin atmosphere was being thickened and slowly warmed by the actions of man. In another two hundred years it would rain acid and the average temperature would move to just above 1.1C.

Who cared though? Nothing lived on this god forsaken moon except for the nearly starving miners. They could tear the place apart and never worry about environmental consequences. That didn’t make it any less of a home for Gregory. He had a wife, two lovely daughters, and a dog. It would have been picturesque if it weren’t for the 80 hour work weeks, the mangy qualities of the dog, and the malnourished faces of his two daughters. The low gravity also wreaked havoc on the body. No matter how much exercising one could do in the grav trainers, the day to day would still atrophy the muscles. If he were to go back to Earth his eyes would be unaccustomed to the bright sun. His lungs the clean air. His heart and blood the gravity. If he were to return he would be an alien. Ganymede was the last place he’d ever live.