The feeling walking through a teleportation gate never quite left you, but luckily it was so foreign to the human mind that you quickly forgot most of the particulars. At least that’s how Adam justified it to himself as he set foot on his new home. The disorientation of traveling one meter and yet in reality millions of light years with that same step made you appreciate the awesomeness of the technology, but Adam always preferred to be in a spaceship going through a wormhole. Something about the vessel doing the same thing while you stayed still spoke to Adam’s sensibilities.
Ruckblau’s gravity hit him a bit harder than he had expected. Weighing one fifth more would take some getting used to. Adam had lived on some higher gravity planets, but it was always a struggle in that first week. Adam looked over at Liam just in time to catch Liam tripping over his own feet. Adam caught Liam and managed to not fall over himself. “Watch that first step. It’s always a doozy,” Adam said.
Liam stood on his own and gave Adam a quick nod. Adam let him go and breathed in deep. The air smelled of peat and an organic wetness that promised agricultural gold. Adam loved that new planet smell. There was so much you could tell just from a quick sniff. The gravity might suck here, but the air was wonderfully not sterile unlike his cell for the past five months.
The gate was situated in the center of a small compound. There were a number of small buildings that immediately surrounding the teleportation gate’s landing zone. They were the type of portable building that was easily disassembled, moved through a gate, and then reassembled. As a matter of fact Adam would be willing to bet these buildings had been moved to numerous worlds so far in their lifetime. He wondered if he looked close enough he would find his name on one or more of them. Adam liked to leave his autograph on each world he worked on. It was always a thrill for the lesser xenobiologists who followed to find. At least the ones he had had to interact with while they were doing follow up verification of his work, or so they had told him. Lucky fools.
Low walls could be seen in distance on three sides. The fourth wall to their left was much taller. Adam pointed at it. “The prison?” he asked.
Liam shrugged his shoulders. “Probably? They usually don’t put up big walls on penal worlds,” Liam said. He pointed his thumb back where they had walked through. “That gate is the only wall that really matters. If someone tried to go back without permission they would be shot on sight. Not many people try to escape.”
A female voice came from one of the small buildings that had an open door. “Yeah, but that threat of death doesn’t stop those murders marooned here.” A blond woman dressed in the uniform of the FBC walked out of the building and toward the two of them.
Adam noticed that she walked like she owned the place, so she must be some sort of higher ranking official. He also noticed her green eyes and how they glittered in the sunlight. They reminded him of this species of lizard he had found on Maximi-4. That lizard was a high level predator who used its ability to change color quickly to this emerald green color to mesmerize its prey before quickly making the killing strike.
“That is the wall that keeps the general population out of our hair,” she said. “Otherwise rape and pillage would be a full time endeavor. Those idiots haven’t figured out that they need to start working on building something here, since they are not going back there.” She pointed at the gate.
“How many of them are lifers?” asked Adam.
“All of you,” she said. Adam flinched at the remark. The woman smiled at that flinch. “But you get to live on this side of the wall. At least until you screw it up. Then I’ll be there when they throw you over the wall. For now I’ll let you play in my little garden here. Now what brings you planetside Liam? This isn’t your normal operating procedure.”
Liam smiled and held out his hand, which the woman took and shook professionally. “I needed to get out and stretch my legs. I’ve been behind a desk too long. A real xenobiologist gets out in the field,” Liam said. He looked at Adam. “Or at least that’s what I’ve been told. I figured why not.”
“So you’re staying?” asked Adam.
Liam laughed. “Oh hell no. I’m just getting a taste of it. Beside, this far away, the gate can’t be too stable.”
“Thanks for reminding me of that,” Adam said.
“Well you don’t have to worry about that Dr. Durst since you are now a permanent resident,” she said.
Adam held out his hand. “Please call me Adam. And your name is?” Adam asked.
The woman ignored his hand and began walking away from the gate. Liam and Adam had to hurry to catch up. “I am Dr. Eve Kaztner, the head of the scientific detail and defacto governor of this little pocket of hell,” Eve said. “I am your boss and your jailer. As long as you remember your place we will be okay.”
Adam hurried to get in front of her and stopped, forcing Eve to momentarily slow before she ran into him. “And where exactly is my place?” he asked.
“Currently on my shit list for getting in my way,” Eve said. She then pointed at the small building they were closest to. “That is your lab. Do your job, don’t get in my way, and keep your nose clean and you might get to like this dump. Cross any line and you will find yourself so quickly on the other side of that wall that you will think walking through the teleport gate took forever.” She turned to Liam. “Enjoy your visit, but I will assume you are going back tonight.”
Liam nodded. “That’s the plan. I will be visiting every standard week instead of waiting for data transmissions. This is an awesome opportunity and I plan to learn from the best.”
“Yeah, we’ll see about that. Enjoy the rest of your day, gentlemen. I have too much work to do to waste anymore time today,” Eve said as she turned on her heel and walked away without waiting for a response.
“She is a force of nature,” Liam said, “but she has a reputation of being fair.”
“Then why is she out here then?” asked Adam. “It doesn’t sound like she begged for the assignment.”
“Don’t know. Maybe you should ask her that,” Liam said.
Adam opened the door to the lab and looked inside. “Yeah, I’m sure that will be a pleasant conversation. I’m sure it will end with me on the other side of the wall,” he said.
“If you want I suppose I could ask. She can’t do that to me,” Liam said.
Adam walked into the lab and shook his head. “You won’t have time. You need to go back right now. There is no time to lose,” he said.
“Why do you say that?” Liam asked. “Are you worried about the gate collapsing?”
“No, I’m worried about this equipment,” Adam said. “You promised to try and get me something I can work with. This,” he said as he gestured around at the packed lab, “is not that. Go to work young man. Show me you are an equal partner in this endeavor.”