Title: Adventures of a Greenie
Category: Fiction » Sci-Fi
Author: Vanessa Ravencroft
Language: English, Rating: Rated: T
Published: 07-14-12, Updated: 12-11-12
Chapters: 24, Words: 128,060
Chapter 1: Intro
The Adventures of a Greenie (GC IV)
A Galactic Chronicles Story by Vanessa Ravencroft Copyright© 2012 by Vanessa Ravencroft
GALNET ENTRY: GREEN HELL
While there are many settled worlds that are classified as dangerous to standard humanoid life, there is a world that exceeds them all and is the only garden world in the known galaxy classified as a Type X planet: Green Hell.
While it is a first glance a lush green world with a standard NiOx atmosphere, liquid water and an abundance of native life forms that would warrant the Garden world classification A 1 it is those life forms that make it different.
There are worlds with tremendous storms, those that are tectonic very active. Worlds with dangerous life forms and other treacherous conditions; yet none are comparable.
Green Hell is covered to sixty percent with deep jungles and every life form, from the smallest bacteria to gigantic floating living clouds everything has an arsenal of natural weapons and all are extremely lethal. No known species, be it Pertharians, Nul or the massive Thala is able to survive unprotected for more than a few moments on this world. The strongest corrosive acid known is produced by local ants, the deadliest poisons; bio toxic compounds far lethally beyond even the poisons used and identified by the Shail are produced by animals and plants of that world.
Yet Green Hell has a small Union colony, mostly to support an Exobiology research outpost of the Union science council.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
"I think it was a very good party!" said Charles the Robot, dumping plates and cake leftovers in the Recycler.
Roy tried to remove some Sparkle Bright Neon Gum one of the guests had glued to one of his father's prized real wood book cases and said, "It was alright, I guess but I am not much for parties."
The robot observed Roy struggling with the bright purple glob and started to recite. "Sparkle Bright, Sticky Messes, Oil and Tar can easily be removed by using Rox-Scrub! Roxy-Scrub, Roxy-Scrub, even you can join the club!"
Roy laughed. "Charles I think you are the only Cerberus robot in the entire Galaxy that watches and recites commercials."
The machine responded with its deep modulated male voice. "I also am very likely the only Cerberus robot doing household chores! This unit watches commercials because they are part of a Holo show. 'As the Galaxy turns' One watches this program."
Roy grinned. "I do not see the attraction of these programs, but I guess everyone has different tastes."
"Robots do not have tastes. This unit observes it merely for information gathering."
Roy still grinned. "Yes that's a good excuse."
Eight years before, Uncle Sam had given Charles to Roy as a birthday present.
Charles was a genuine SII-Cerberus Type IV Robot, the very pinnacle of Terran Battle robot technology in its time.
Of course the military used Cerberus type IX now and Charles was decommissioned military surplus, but it was still an awesome machine. Everybody on Green Hell had robots and, due to the nature of the planet, all those robots were armed, but these were usually S-10 Multi function Bots with an added weapon arm.
Charles was designed as a weapon system from the ground up.
No one he knew had a Cerberus and that was not just because a Cerberus was incredibly expensive but it was almost impossible for a civilian person to get an Owners License for this sort of military hardware.
Somehow Uncle Sam had managed and Roy was one of only 25,000 civilians owning a Cerberus robot in the entire Union.
Roy finally managed to get the gum off and tossed it, along with the rag he had used, into the recycler and watched Charles direct the Hoover-Vac around the carpet. "Do you regret being my robot and doing household chores?"
"Roy, one is a machine. One does not have such emotions. It would be the same for me to stand in a corner for the next one hundred years and do nothing or execute whatever command you choose to give me."
"I know you are a machine, but you are more to me."
Charles' dome shaped neck-less head turned around, not that he needed to do that since he had Omni-directional optic sensors, but this side of the head was his 'face'. "You are more to me than a master. I dedicated much sub processing space to you that goes far beyond the standard loyalty program. One likes to mention that one is a Type IV and quite advanced. It is part of one's ability to alter my programming to adjust to new situations. Neuron pathways have been permanently burned with you as focus and it is the closest alternative one could define in terms of feelings towards you."
Roy hugged the massive machine. "I always knew you like me!"
The robot's dark red dimly glowing visual sensors flashed a little brighter for a short moment and Roy did not notice the machines massive Syntho-muscle powered right arm with the huge Ultronit fist that could crumble steel like tissue paper gently patting his shoulder.
The robot scanned the room by turning his head 360 degrees and said, "Besides, logic determines that household work is far less dangerous to a robot than being sent into battle, deemed too dangerous for live beings. So this unit prefers household chores."
Just then the voice of Roy's father called the boy's name. "Mister Roy Masters, would you please come to the study?"
Charles said, "Your father requires your presence. One is completely capable to can clean up the rest!"
Whenever Paul Masters, Roy's father, called him Mister, he knew he was in trouble. Paul never called him like this if he had good news.
Expecting the unavoidable, Roy crossed the living room of the dome shaped two storey home and entered his father's study.
Paul Masters was an avid collector and fan of everything Pre-Astro from Earth. Pre-Astro meant things Terran humans used before the ascent over 3000 years ago. Even though Paul Masters was born on Ribenna Colony, 763 light years from Terra and had visited Earth only during his University studies.
This was the reason that most of the furniture in the house was made of wood or pseudo wood and had no integrated tech at all.
Paul loved books, the ancient kind, made of an exotic material called paper. He had those books stacked and shelved everywhere in his study. Roy's father also had taken to the Terran habit of smoking. He smoked pipes and the sweet tobacco smell penetrated deep into the house, despite the best efforts of the air recycling system.
His father was thin and tall and his colleagues at the Institute often called him the stork, a nickname and a reference to some sort of Terran avian life form. Paul's nose, Roy agreed did almost have the appearance of a birds beak. His father had the same bright blue eyes as Roy, but Paul's hair was black and did not have the sandy blonde shade Roy and his mother shared.
To the boy's surprise his mother was present as well. She sat on the corner of his father's wooden work desk and they both looked at their son, their stares signaled he was in deeper trouble than he expected.
His mother was, so everyone told him, quite pretty. She had a very feminine body and wore her hair in a chin length bob-cut. Her eyes were dark pink as almost everyone from the planet Phantas had. His mother was born on this perpetual twilight world almost 2100 light years away at the other end of the Upward Sector. Like his father she was an exobiology scientist and they had met when they both were students on a famous university on Earth.
Mother never wore any make up, or dresses or anything like that and always wore the same one piece body suit almost everyone on Green Hell wore, the only difference to Roy's or Paul's Bio seal suit was that hers had red panels, while Paul's were blue and Roy's had a green jungle camouflage pattern, like any real native Greenie did.
Martha Masters did not really approve of this as she looked at her 16 year old teenage son. His hair cropped short in a regulation Marine Corps high and tight style. Roy wanted it that way because Uncle Sam wore it like that. Roy had grown visibly since his last birthday and was almost as tall as his father now, reaching 198 centimeters.
Roy filled out his camouflage patterned Bio suit with a peak athletic body and he had well developed muscular arms a rock hard six pack belly and muscular thighs. His face was angular and Martha saw much of her father in his features, Roy had the same chin, the same Roman nose as her Dad.
Paul pointed to the wooden visitor's chair before his desk. Roy was convinced his father had bought that chair for the sole purpose of making him uncomfortable while he interrogated or scolded his son.
Paul said with a stern tone. "Have a seat, Son! Your mother and I have to talk to you!"
Roy sat down and was sure he knew what was coming and why he had been called on the carpet. To speed things up he said. "I confess I was outside again, so spare me the lecture father and let us proceed to the punishment part."
Paul took the pipe out of his mouth and began to clean the bulb with a silvery spoon tool. "Roy, you are 16 years old, we hoped you would grow out of these ridiculous boyhood fantasies that you have been outside in the jungles."
He placed the cleaned pipe in a wooden pipe holder stand, which had been mother's Christmas present to her husband a few years back and continued. "I told you this sermon thousands of times and I will have to do it once again. We are on Green Hell, Roy and you know that! Nothing and no one can survive out there unless wearing the most advanced protection suits our technology can come up with. We are trained to do that and we never expose ourselves for long. We always have Marines in Destroyer suits along. This is what enables us to conduct research here!"
Roy crossed his arms in a defiant manner and glared at his father from under his eyebrows and said. "Because you are not Greenies, I am a Greenie! All that Armor-stuff is for ignorant Off-worlders."
His mother slowly shook her head." I am aware of the peer pressure you must experience in class by the other kids, but even tenth generation Greenies go nowhere near the Jungles and pretty much stay on Anthill Island. Yes you were born here, but that does not make you a Greenie. Not that I can even imagine why anyone would want to be one."
Paul played with his replica antique silver pipe lighter and pointed it at Roy. "I guess you went to Ma Swenson's boathouse in the school's armor floater and stepped a few seconds outside the door. I know some of the crazy tenth generation locals do that occasionally but her compound is under a force field bubble, still it is a crazy stunt and you know you should not do that!"
Mother sighed. "I can sense he actually believes his own lies and fantasies saying he walked from here to Ma Swenson's. Roy if you don't quit that soon we have to consider psycho surgery or at least serious counseling. Don't you realize that these are unhealthy fantasies for an almost grown man to have? You must admit and I know you do inside that no one could possibly do that!"
Hearing the increasingly sharp tone of his mother's voice he knew it was not a good idea to say something, but he did anyway and lowered his head. "That is what you think and there is no way I am going to argue with you about something you don't believe!"
Mother added." We are scientists, Son. You know that. You cannot expect us to believe the fantasies of a boy. Fantasies we really hoped would stay behind with your childhood days."
Father nodded in agreement and said: "Let us not talk about your five second adventure stepping out of Ma Swenson's house and come to the actual reason we have called you."
He turned to look at his wife and said with a proud look in his face. "The Science Council offered your mother the Science- Command over an Explorer ship. This is a rare opportunity and among the greatest challenges offered to a scientist. Such a posting shows that her work is recognized by the highest peer. It is very prestigious and the very peak of a scientific career. After such a posting a Professor title and a chair in the Science council is quite possible."
Roy simply listened it was nothing he was really interested in. Science and research always came first to them and he came in as a distant second consideration.
His father put his hand on her lap and with an admiring smile he continued to say. "Your mother accepted and asked the council to accept me as her second in Command and would you believe it, they accepted!"
Martha returned a warm smile to her husband and said. "We are leaving in a month from now. We will then fly half across the Galaxy to recently discovered planet in the mostly unexplored Downward Sector. The planet features a thermo energy channeling life form. I am as you know somewhat of an authority in this field."
Paul's said proudly, "Not just somewhat, my dear. They recognized your brilliance, most likely after all the buzz your paper on the Lightning Bolters created. "He turned to Roy and said. "Your mother's latest paper on the local living clouds had been published in the Neugruber magazine as the feature paper last month."
She touched Paul's cheek, "Because I married the best field assistant anyone could ask for."
Paul sighed and returned his attention to Roy, "You should really show a little more interest in our work.
Mother waved her hand, "As it may be all this means that your father and I will be gone for over two years and deep in unclaimed space."
Roy wasn't sorry to hear that. He liked his parents alright and he was certain they loved him to in their own way, but they were scientists first and he always was something like an unwelcome distraction, an accident that happened and an inconvenience taking time away from their one true passion.
Father begun to stuff another pipe and said, "We wish you would have had better grades and show more interest in our work so you could follow our path, but because of your rather mediocre grades we were unable to place you in one of the truly prestigious colleges, but we pulled a few strings in the academic world and we managed to get you accepted at Clarkson College on Triton. It's a second rate College, I know but it is still in the Sol System and that still carries weight even today when you later look for a good university."
Roy got angry." Why don't you ever ask me? I don't want to be a scientist. I want to join the Marines just like Uncle Sam and if that doesn't work out I try to become a Union Ranger like Mr. Solomon and my grades are fine for that!"
His mother made a face as if she just had looked at an extremely disgusting specimen under the magnifying viewer. "We haven't raised you, so you become one of these mindless brutes. Marines are necessary I agree, but I am sure there are others that can do that and not our son!"
Roy sneered with a defiant tone in his voice. "Those mindless brutes are always good enough to protect your high and mighty butts out there, and if one dies protecting you so what? It was just a brute and much more important is that you're valuable observations of the mating cycle of a Bone Gripper survived."
Roy referred to an incident that happened just over two weeks ago.
His parents looked at him as if he was a complete stranger and his father said. "The collection and evaluation of scientific data is more important than the life of a Marine. It's what they supposed to do, protect us so we are able to add to the body of knowledge that benefits society."
Martha shrugged with a cold expression in her eyes. "It matters not what you think or want at this point my son.
You are not an adult yet and we decide what's good for you. Maybe leaving this planet will finally help you to grow up. You will leave Green Hell in 4 month, when you graduate and that is the end of it."
Roy almost cried, "What about Charles and our House?"
She shrugged. "This is not our house; it belongs to the Science Institute, someone else will occupy it. We are going to sell Charles of course or give it back to that bad influence you call Uncle Sam."
The GalNet terminal beeped and interrupted the conversation. Paul answered and Roy recognized Ivan Harrow's voice, the Chief Scientist of the Biology research Institute and his parent's boss. He sounded excited and almost yelled."Martha, the team that went out with Evans yesterday found what they think is a Lightning Bolter mating ground and they are certain the mating is about to start and he thinks you might want to see that!"
His mother got excited and answered, "Yes Ivan maybe I can finally put the final pieces of information I need to complete my dissertation on the Lightning Bolters. Can you send a floater?"
"I anticipated your excitement and have already done that, the Institute floater should be there within the hour."
Roy's parents now truly forgot about him. Chattering excited, putting on heavy protection gear and gathering their instruments. Roy left the study totally unobserved and went upstairs into his room.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Martha Masters turned her head and watched her son Roy as he climbed the stairs to his room. She wondered for a brief moment if she made the right decission to have a child. A mother was supposed to love her child and if anone asked she would of course say that she did love him, but was she really capable of such maternal feelings?
Her husband was in the process of cycling through the air lock to enter the Institute floater and she prepared to do the same, but had to wait until the cylce of the decontamination process with superheated steam was complete. The airlock was simply too small for both of them while wearing Armor suits. Roy had reached his room and was out of sight, but despite the exicting news about the Bolters her mind kept returning to her son. His ridiculous fantasies of being outside was certainly some sort of teenager rebellion. While he was no genius, his IQ was not much less than hers or Pauls and yet the boy wanted to join the military, what a disapointment! Well he would change his mind once he was away from Green Hell in a propper College.
Now it was her turn and she cycled through the airlock, entered the flier and there she took a seat right behind Evans inside the big armored floater. "Good afternoon," she greeted the man who looked like a Terran turtle with its head halfway retracted into its shell, because Dr. Mortimer Evans was a small thin man and even the smallest size of the Sci-Corps issue AEGIS Suit barely allowed him to gaze above the suit helmet initiator ring.
The man behind the controls of the floater tried to turn his head, whit little success and returned the greetings and said. "Good afternoon, you two." Then he cursed silently and added. "You two make it look so easy moving around in these blasted armor suits. If this planet wasn't so damn fascinating, I'd find myself another world to study."
Martha nodded at her husband, who had climbed ahead of her into the floater and taken the seat next to Evans and said. "We both are here on Green Hell for almost sixteen years now and we wear these suits almost every day, we should be used to them by now. You will get the hang of it eventually."
Evans pulled the CHOPER into a steep climb and smirked at her. "I am here now for almost two years now and should not be such a noob when it comes to these suits."
Paul, who always was a bit of a nerd said. "The All Environment Intelligent System, which we call the AEGIS, is basically civilian version of the Marine Corps Quasimodo Battle Suit without the weapons of course and it is the only thing that will keep you alive out there."
Dr. Evans was a brilliant researcher and like Martha, specializing in bio-electric and bio- energy life forms, leveled the skimmer of far above the clouds, where even on Green Hell was nothing alive or dangerous and set the controls for a destination halfway across the planet, rolled his eyes at that comment, because of Paul stating the obvious.
Martha smiled at her husband as he, oblivious to the finer nuances of human interaction pulled pulled the eyepiece of the Omni-Eye periscope over his eyes. The system would give him an unobstructed view of the outside world and with simple intuitive eye movements he would be able to focus on anything around them, while a host of data was displayed right into his retina if he blinked at the small symbols at the edge of his vision field. Then she said to Evans. "I am very excited to see the Lightning Bolters actually mate. It will be fascinating to see how these gas filled leather bags choose their mates, an aspect of this life from still a complete mystery."
Evans failing to pantomime what he had seen earlier, partially because if the suit and partially because there was just no way a human could find the right gestures to describe how two huge cloud sized organisms, mostly gas, membrane thin skin and a tiny cell center for brains and nerves would mate, so he gave up and said. "It's like two drunken balloons, capable of unleashing electrical discharges strong enough to make the battle shields of a Union Battle ship flicker dance in a violent storm."
Without taking his eyes of the eyepiece, Paul said. "Not the combined discharges of all Lightning Bolters would make the shields of a Union Battle ship flicker. Not that I am any expert in these systems, but I am given to understand they could absorb the energies of a solar prominence, and that exceeds the energy output of any known bio-electrical discharge capable life form by magnitudes."
Martha looking at the shield generator controls of the Floater and said. "I am sure Dr. Evans was expressing himself in a metaphorical fashion, but I hope the energy shield of this floater is up to the task."
While Evans nodded at her comment, Paul did lean back to look at his wife. "We have been hit by Bolter lightning discharges before and these fliers are designed to descent into atmospheres of extreme worlds. We have not measured any bolts stronger than 40,000 amperes and transfers 15 coulombs of electric charge and 500 megajoules of energy."
Martha knew her own data just as well, said. "I still think we need to proceed with caution, we have never been hit by more than one bolt at the time and now we are flying towards a mating ground with dozens of them in an agitated state."
Evans said. "I will keep us at maximum observing distance, just to be safe."
There were a few moments o silence in the flier. Martha was trying to focus her mind on the task ahead. She was a scientist and the Lighting Bolters of Green Hell had been the focus of her studies now for more than five years. She had made some great observations and written several papers about them. Papers that had been reviewed very positively by her peer and the Hive of Minds. Leading to the dream assignment of any field researcher, the Mission Command over a Sci-Corps explorer ship. If she was successful as Mission Commander, completing perhaps two or three missions; they just might ask her to take a seat in the hallowed halls of the Science Councils headquarter on Pluribus. Her grandfather, Professor Aaron Berezovsky had been the ninth person in her family to hold a chair in what became known as the Hive of Minds. Only the finest minds of all the civilizations that made up the Union were invited to this elite of intellect, science and wisdom. The Science Council was the governing body of the Science Corps and advised the Assembly in all matters of science and it was her innermost dream and ambition to one day be the tenth member of her family line.
She had been so submerged in her thoughts that she only now realized, Evans was saying something to her, so she looked up from her PDD. "I am sorry Dr. Evans, I was just going over some notes of mine and did not pay any attention."
The small man said with a dry voice. "I was pointing out that our sensors just registered a bolt of positive lightning with a magnitude of ten times the average discharge we have ever measured before, reaching 300 kilo ampere and almost two terawatt with intense channel ionization. The source appears to be the largest Lightning Bolter we ever encountered."
Martha signaled that she had heard him this time pulled the optics of her Omni View Periscope close. She heard Paul talk via the Comm Unit with Dr. Harrow back at the Institute asking for reassurance that the fliers shields would withstand such energies; then the optic sensors slaved to her eye movements focused on the grayish green humongous, floating gas bladders. She zoomed in and the little number floating just at the edge of her field of view told her that the distance to the closest Lightning Bolter was still almost 14 kilometers. She made a few measurements and calculated that the biggest one of the nine Bolters she counted had a volume of 2322 cubic-meters. That was indeed the biggest one she had seen so far, only as she focused closer she realized it was two of them, attached, clinging to each other, barely distinguishable as two beings. The excellent optics of the fliers scientific instruments allowed her to zoom even closer making out details. She now observed pale pinkish almost transparent tentacles of the left one sliding over the center section where the animal had its nerve and brain cluster. The movement of the tentacles appeared almost tender and caring. Despite these being totally alien lifeforms and her being a scientist, the woman in her emotionally equated what she saw with a loving caring embrace.
Martha blinked at her own thoughts and remembered that she was a native of the planet Phantas after all and like everyone of that world, gifted with Psionic powers and the ability to sense thoughts and emotions. Due to the harsh Psionic Privacy Laws of the Union she suppressed her natural gift and had learned to push the constant whisper of other minds far in the background of her consciousness; to a point where she almost forgot that she still was a telepath.
This time she focused and reached out, usually touching the mind of a non sentient life form was like trying to tune into an old fashioned radio signal without ever getting the frequency dialed in and the result was something like garbled static. Especially since she was a weak Telepath and never schooled or trained her Psionic talent, she had long quit trying. But now as she reached out she felt the scientific curiosity and excitement of her husband, the barely contained fear of Dr. Evans and then she felt the strong garbled in cohesive whisper of a million animal minds from the surface below, but she could distinctively feel emotions emanating from the two clinging Bolters. Those alien beings did feel strongly for each other.
While she made this visual and Psionic observations she spoke rapidly into her PDD dictating notes of her findings.
Paul had often seen his wife in this state and he knew to leave her alone until she had completed her observations.
Dr. Harrow had reassured him that the Flier was quite safe and should be able to absorb a barrage of lightning bolts without any serious consequences. Even though Dr. Evans had heard what the Institute leader said, Paul could see that the pilot of the flier wasn't totally convinced.
Paul forgot about Evans and his concerned face as he also returned to watch and record the mating of the Lightning Bolters, several more started to form tightly unions in mid air and begin the tentacle caressing. To Paul the Lightning Bolters always looked somewhat like Terran Jelly fish. Specifically the Pacific Sea Nettle, except that the Lightning Bolters caps were proportionally much bigger than the cap of a jelly fish.
As a kid at Ribenna Colony he loved to go to the big Sea Aquarium in Town, where they kept a big collection of Terran Sea life and these visits were the reason he decided to become a biologist.
Bolters normally drifted with the winds across the skies of Green Hell, and compared to the abundance of other lifeforms they were comparably rare; Martha estimated that there were only about 20,000 - 30,000 Lightning Bolters on all Green Hell. But they could control their altitude by making areas of their skin more transparent or more opaque and thus controlling the temperature of their internal gases making themselves more or less buoyant. To change direction they could use their tentacles and spin them in a whipping motion, as they did right now to get close to each other.
Not all was harmony, sex and love as it became apparent. Two of the cloud like beings changed not only the transparency of their skin but managed to change the color from the usual pale green to a mustard yellow hue. The way they moved their tentacles it was clear there was some rivalry going on. Suddenly sun bright bolts of bright white energy emitted from them both.
While the bolt of the slightly smaller one singed and burned half a dozen tentacles of the bigger one, the electrical discharge of the bigger one had struck true at the nerve center of the smaller.
The reason why Bolters were not as abundant became quite apparent. A violent explosion and a fast expanding fire ball completely obliterated the smaller one. Bolters bio-electrogenesis abilities allowed them to produce Hydrogen from water, as a lifting gas, but also as it was apparent made them quite vulnerable.
The other Bolters took little notice of the fiery demise of one of their kind and continued with their aerial dance and embracing.
While he was making sure the events were recorded by the floaters equipment, he too was thinking about what the future would hold for them. He loved Martha and he knew of her ambition and goals. She wanted to climb proverbial Olympus and reach the Parthenon of science gods to take her place among them. He would support her in this quest as much as he could and Paul knew she would eventually reach that goal. He would be proud of her as he was proud of her already, being chosen to lead a Science expedition was quite an honor. However he had no such goals. While he was her research assistant he also was an accomplished Micro biologist and he would have been perfectly happy, staying on Green Hell. There were as many exciting discoveries to be made on the Micro biological level. Was it not bacteria and small insects that was the food the Bolters filtered out of the air? The Epulopiscium stomperoni, a huge bacterium he had found in the digestive tract of the massive Stompers; was so big it could be seen with the unaided eye and that was just the tip of the iceberg.
He much rather would spend the rest of his professional career right here than eventually ending up at Pluribus, perhaps as a lecturer or teacher while his wife sat in an Ivory tower, making policies and deciding where to spend funds and what to research, rather than actually researching anything herself.
As he was thinking about that, he remembered that their family was not just Martha, but that there was his son Roy.
While he was a little disappointed at his sons mental and academic development, it appeared that he still had Childhood fantasies and believed them to be true and his grades at Basic School were mediocre, he silently and deep down agreed with Roy's objections. No one had asked Roy and if truth to be told, Martha had not really asked Paul for his wishes or opinion in the matter of leaving Green Hell and going on an expedition lasting years.
It would mean very little contact to Roy, once the Explorer ship went past the Downward Horizon into Open and unexplored space, TransDim communication was no longer possible. While he made his decision, to support his wife's goals; was it really fair to leave their son more or less on his own?
Maybe it was their fault, not paying more attention to Roy that he sought refuge in ridiculous fantasies of being outside and voicing his wish to become a soldier?
He could not completely suppress the sigh that made its way past his lips.
Mortimer Jenkins nervously nibbled at his lower lip, wishing they could return to the safety of Ant Hill, the only town on this world, well protected by strong Ultronit walls and powerful force fields. It seemed a good idea to accept the invitation of the Science Corps to come to Green Hell, back then when his doctorate was still fresh and he was just one of many fellow researchers, at the Neugruber Bio Sciences Institute on Venus. It was after all his work on the electroplaxes cells used by the Shocker Frogs of Ulta for electrogenesis that made him aware of Dr. Martha Masters brilliant work on the largest known life form using electric organs; the Lightning Bolters of Green Hell. He mentioned his interest to his Professor and a while later he received an invitation to join the research team on Green Hell. The offer was great; double the salary, free Luxury apartment at Ant Hill, the potential of working with Dr. Masters and making a valuable contribution to science.
In moments like this, to close to these floating monsters and removed from the deadly conditions of this hellish world only by a few centimeters of Dura-Steel and weak shields of a vulnerable flier; he wondered if he made the right decision, coming here.
He cursed his boss, Dr. Harrow who insisted on actual hands on observation instead of sending probes or robots.
Despite all better judgment he steered the floater closer to the mating Bolters following Martha Masters impatient hand signals. "Dr. Masters don't you think we are close enough?"
She did not take her eyes of the optic interface and said. "We need to be under thousand meters for our Cyber-Nose sensors. I want to get a molecular scan of the air and see if there are any pheromones or scents aiding them in finding each other, or if it is purely electro location.
While Mortimer could not argue the scientific reason behind her request, he argued that the Bolters could also easily locate them at that distance and that they were much more agitated than usual was obvious.
He could not wait till they would leave Green Hell. He envied her for her academic success and seeing the woman's star rise to such prominence within the science community was a thorn in his side. He was firmly convinced, that as long as she was here, her shadow kept obscuring his work and his chances of recognition.
Recognition meant offers, especially offers from commercial operating corporations. The SII Bio Research foundation for example, had a dream lab facility at Harper's Junction. A planet only an orbit removed. But they have so far ignored his efforts to get hired there.
Dr. Harrow was quite correct, the armored flier was indeed designed to dive into the atmospheres of extreme planets. Able to withstand great temperature ranges, corrosive atmospheres and crushing gravitation, these fliers were used by the Explorer division of the Science Corps all over the Galaxy.
CHOPERS had a well earned reputation for being reliable, dependable and tough. However this particular Chrysler Hover Operations Platform for Exploration, Research and Science was not operated by a pilot with experience or the actual training necessary. Mortimer considered the mandatory training an insult on his intellect. These tests and the training was for uneducated and stupid techs and brutish soldiers, not for a man who held two PhD's. When he came to Green Hell, he was told it was the job of the most junior member of the Science Team to fly the Institutes vehicle and be at the beck and call to shuttle the other members around whenever they decided they needed a flight. He had flown fliers on Venus, Earth and even on Titan and felt he didn't need any additional training or instructions and so he simply lied and claimed he already received CHOPERS training, prior to coming to Green Hell.
For almost two years now he had been proven right and after 23 months without any accident he felt he was a good pilot.
Like most persons using a modern flier he was oblivious to the fact, that most flying was done by the on-board Computronic. All the minute adjustments to the Arti Grav lift generators, the automatic correction to the propulsion turbines, keeping the flier perfectly stable regardless of wind and weather were done for him, making the task of flying so easy a child could do it. The fliers shields were effective simple electromagnetic deflectors and not real battle shields.
It happened all very fast. Helen detected a hint of intelligence in the thought patterns of the Bolters. Not true sentient thought, but more like the mind of a smart dog and one of the minds out there was focused on them. The large Bolter flailed with his remaining tentacles waving an intricate pattern in the air. It was a signal, a signal to all the others and every Bolter reacted!
They all unleashed their electrical discharges at the slowly closing flier. This sudden onslaught, overwhelmed the shields and the electromagnetic energies were strong enough to disable the on board computronic, even the combined lightning bolts of the beasts did not kill the scientists inside but it send the flier with screaming, uncontrolled engines towards the planet's surface.
A trained pilot perhaps would have been able to divert the disaster, by cutting power to the thrusters and increase the lift energies to the Arti Grav, but Mortimer was neither a trained pilot nor a person who reacted well to crisis situations.
Mortimer simply screamed on the top of his lungs and then the armored Science institute flier crashed through the canopy of the Jungle trees, cutting through a Tantalus Oak, and moments later impacted with the ground.
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
The house he called home was a dome shaped Ultronit sphere; made out of the same material they made battle ship armor out of. The house had two levels and once had been a forward research outpost on Green Hell and served as his families' home ever since he was born. Roy switched on the outside visual sensor and waited for the Institute Floater that would take his parents away. The visual sensor was on a sturdy telescopic mast and inside a strong protective housing and could be steered and directed to look into any direction. On his view screen he saw the dense jungle around the house. There, a Pandora Swan attacking a flock of Gladiator Eagles. The silvery Pandora Swan attacked the much larger eagles with his razor sharp lower wings and cut one of the Eagles in mid-flight to pieces, while it evaded the barrage of arrow feathers the Eagles shot at it. The swan punctured a second with its long needle sharp beak. It was a spectacular display of raw nature. It did not matter what his parents thought, he was a Greenie!
He was very proud of this fact and he knew everything there was to know about his home planet. Green Hell was the second planet in the Maxwell System. A luscious green garden world that looked inviting like any other garden world when seen from space.
Long time ago, it had first been discovered by the old Saresii and they called it Mrtgtha in their language and it meant Murder-all. The Saresii never bothered to come back, thousands of years later the Sarans rediscovered the world and lost several exploration teams and called this world Imthe-Seth which meant Death World.
Then after Terra ascended and the Union was formed a Union explorer ship came this way and another attempt was made to explore this world. Garden world with a breathable Nitrogen Oxygen atmosphere were rare and valuable to any expanding society. Again the Planet proved deadly to those who landed on it, no one of the survey teams returned alive.
Unlike the Saresii or the Sarans however Terrans were much more stubborn and could not leave it at that. It was even suggested at one point to P Bomb the world from orbit and then Terra form it, but instead of doing that it was decided to research what it was that made this world so dangerous.
Instead of scientists and explorers they send Ultra Marines next and they managed after losing some men to clear an island of its vegetation and sterilize it of anything alive and establish a permanent base. Scientists returned and with them came technicians and service personnel, then their families and finally shop keepers and small businesses and the small island base grew first into a town and then a small city called Ant Hill. The Planet became known as Green Hell
Jungles covered sixty percent of the surface. Instead of real oceans the planet had an almost uncountable number of large and small lakes, vast swamps and slimy bogs. There were a few rugged mountain ranges and cool less overgrown poles.
What made Green Hell different from any other planet was its vast abundance of life forms. Every single living thing on this planet was a killer and had an array of body weapons deadlier than anything ever encountered. The strongest organic acid ever discovered was produced by the Dragon Ants of Green Hell; the deadliest organic poison ever encountered came from a flowering bush. Some clouds were actually living gas bags that attacked with aimed lightning bolts of pure energy.
There were tiny microscopic mites aggressive as battle nannites; insects able to fly as fast rifle bullets with inch long stingers as hard as steel. Everything alive on Green Hell was lethally dangerous. Even the local moss and grass was lethal.
He saw one of the heavily armored, yellow painted floaters of the Institute descent and dock at the air lock clamps on the north side of the house.
A few moments later, with his parents aboard it soared back into the sky.
Roy smiled and locked his door. Then he opened his closet and put his micro mesh jacket over his bio-barrier suit. The Bio-barrier suit everyone on Green Hell was wearing was a one piece garment that hermetically connected with his heavy all-terrain boots. The suit was to protect the wearer from the tiny Buzz-saw Micros and similar mite like mini life forms that feasted on any organic matter with tiny rotating mouths full of teeth. Real Greenies however, like most of the larger life forms on Green Hell had developed their own defenses against those tiny pests, Buzz-Saws never really bothered him and he knew how to evade their drop shaped cocoon like nests hanging between the branches of Plague trees. All you had to do was use the a few drops of Plaque tree sap and the Buzzers thought you were a Plaque tree then girded a belt around his hip with an attached holster, in it his Thompson E-Blaster. On his left he carried a Vibro-machete and also attached to the belt was his K-Bar combat chuckled while thinking about what his parents would think if they knew he had those things.
Green Hell had a natural gravitation of 2. 6 gees above standard and all Off-worlders carried a personal Gravi-Adjuster. A device that reduced the graviton influence on the body mass to standard level; until his sixth birthday he didn't have one as he was born here and adjusted to the natural gravitation. Uncle Sam told him that carrying one increasing the gravitation would make the body stronger and every single move was an exercise. So he did carry one and he dialed it up every year a little more and now didn't even feel the constant 4.5 gee the device created. He switched it off and left it behind. Then he crawled under his bed and snickered even more, imagining the shock his parents would get as he touched a hidden contact
Part of the wall slid open and he crawled in a secret air lock. His mother would probably faint if she knew it existed. Maria his friend who was a wizard with tools had cut the Ultronit and installed this small air lock some years ago, allowing him to leave the house unnoticed.
The inner door sealed and moments later the outer door opened. He slid over the smooth curved metal to get momentum then pulled his feet under him and pushed himself with one fluid motion of the wall. His now unrestricted muscles catapulted him almost 12 meters across the vegetation free area around the house. Charles maintained that area by burning everything that grew inside that area with his blasters and he had to do that every other day.
Roy grabbed the branch of a Tantalus Oak, with two only two fingers of each hand, avoiding the 5 inch long thorns; Thorns that were hard enough to pierce steel and drooled with a deadly nerve poison that paralyzed a human sized being in mere seconds.
He swung himself over to a Trappers Palm, oriented himself for a mere heartbeat crouching on a branch, just above the sticky substance that covered the trees trunk and its branches below. The Trapper Palm glue instantly bonded with anything that came into contact with the sticky goo on a molecular level and then tiny creatures akin to the Buzz-Saws would come and disassemble and devour whatever had been caught in the glue.
Roy filled his lungs deep with the warm almost hot steamy jungle air. He loved the musky, moist odor. The Jungle was full of smells and scents, some pleasant, some sweet and fragrant, yet others putrid and foul. Yet every smell signaled a different plant or animal and knowing the smells was part of being able to stay alive out here. For most of the things he had no names, and he was fairly certain his parents hadn't seen or cataloged a fraction of what he knew and seen.
Out here he felt alive and right as rain, there was no doubt, no hesitation. He was one with the Jungle and somehow he felt as if he was one with the planet. He used all of his senses to the extreme. He listened to all the noises and sounds, he felt and touched. Some of the deadly trees and lethal plants had parts that could be eaten. The flower butts of the Nightmare cactus were delicious and had a nutty fresh taste. All you had to do know was where to touch and not to be showered with tiny needles. A beautiful orchid like plant as big as a man, he had no name for it, had liquid nectar inside the funnel shaped leaves that tasted like a mixture of honey and orange juice, to get it without getting killed took some skill that was all.
Out here he could feast on a hundred things, without being poisoned, killed or paralyzed.
This was his true home and he knew how to act and behave. He didn't need an eight ton energy shielded Armor suit to stomp through the jungle only to sink into a mud bog and be cracked like and egg after the energy ran out. He was a Greenie.
There was a sense, a feeling of being certain without any doubt. This sense told him what to do, that alerted to imminent danger and told him on an instinctive level what to do and how to behave.
This sense, this knowledge he absorbed somehow by an unexplainable osmosis directly from the planet. Everything here was a deadly killer, but that didn't mean everything was constantly killing. It was more like a careful delicate balance and life and death kept itself in balance out here, just like anywhere else. Waltzing through all of this in an Armor suit disturbed that balance and directed everything on that intruder to kill it, to neutralize it so the balance was restored. All this he just knew, he didn't know how and it was not book knowledge or the knowledge cramped in his mind by Cerebral uploads in school, it was a knowledge that could not really be put in words or expressed in writing. It was different.
For most of his way he remained in the upper level of the jungle, far above the actual ground. The dense foliage provided a much safer route and he could pass over mud bogs, water holes and the burrows of Kill Diggers.
He estimated he had covered two or three kilometers from the house and was now deep in untouched jungle, when he heard the tromping sounds of a Stomper breaking through the thickets. Roy crouched on a thick branch and waited until he could see this magnificent eight legged beast with sixteen barbed tentacles on its front end that could plug anything eatable out of trees and a tough crystalline armor protecting it from most of the plants and attack modes of smaller creatures.
Roy put his hands before his mouth and mimicked the mating call of a Water-snake Bull and laughed silently as he watched the Stomper turn in panic and disappear back from where it came. Of course it was still five months till the Water snake mating season begun, but the Stomper didn't know that.
Greenies were split in the opinion what was the most dangerous life form on Green Hell. One side believed the Water Snakes were the undisputed kings of this world and had no real natural enemies.
Water Snakes spend most of their live in the huge fresh water lakes and only during mating season bulls would be driven out of the lakes by the strongest one and seek other water bodies for their home, slithering many miles through the jungles and fighting with other snakes over a water hole or lake. Then they would mate with a female and produce one or maybe two little snakes.
Water snakes reached tremendous size. Roy had seen bulls of over 45 meters and perhaps eight or nine meters thick. Water snakes had a scaled skin that was almost impervious to any attack; they could spit a Gelatin-like material and ignite it with a static discharge in their mouth. The stuff burned even in water. In addition to that Water snakes could spread their scales and eject small poisonous darts with the force of a high powered rifle. The darts made of the same diamond hard substance as their scales. Those darts were poison tipped and even a slight scratch could kill a fully grown Stomper
Roy once observed a Water snake shooting Arrow wasps out of the air just for fun, demonstrating its accuracy. Roy believed Water Snakes were at least as those Terran Dolphins he had to learn about in School.
Other Greenies he knew were convinced Dragon Ants were the undisputed kings of the jungles.
Among the many ant like species living on Green Hell, the biggest and most dangerous were the Dragon Ants. These little monsters grew up to 2 inches and their ant hills swarmed with millions of them. Biologically they had not much in common with Terran Ants of course, the Green Hell version had eight legs and had both an endo- and an exoskeleton to support their bodies in this higher gravitation. Their mandibles made of a biological carbon compound that was almost as hard as diamond and truly razor sharp.
The acid produced by these ants was strong enough to eat through any known material except Compacted Ultronit. The ants mixed two components of that corrosive liquid by spraying it out of two holes in their bodies, to prevent of being dissolved by their own acid.
When an ant colony was on the march to new grounds, nothing was spared or safe from their attacks and a battle between a Water snake or a Stomper caught by an ant colony was a horrible and fascinating spectacle.
One of the few places that was ant free on this world was an island almost in the center of the largest lake. It was there Union Marines established the first permanent base; over the years it grew into into the city Ant Hill, the only city on this world.
True Greenies were fiercely proud of their world and everyone had a favorite "monster". Water Snakes and Dragon Ants were the clear favorites and there was the Snake Fans and the Ant Lovers and the discussion just what lifeform was the most dangerous on Green Hell was a common subject for endless discussions and friendly banter.
Roy had not made up his mind and was of the opinion that there were many life forms on this planet yet to be discovered.
While he was musing about ants and snakes he ducked fast to avoid the net of a Moolax-Spinner, huge brown arachnoid beasts able to electrify their almost invisible nets with deadly voltage. The filaments of the net were only a few molecules thick and could cut through almost anything. He didn't even realize he had pulled and shot his blaster a few seconds later to kill a Vamp-Fly that came to close to be avoided until he had the weapon back in its holster.
Roy didn't shoot or kill for sport or fun, only when it was necessary. Everything on Green Hell had an arsenal of natural weapons, poisons and acids to their disposal. That did not mean that every life form was trying to constantly kill everything else. It was more of a careful co existence. Roy's blaster was his stinger and he used it only if necessary.
Three years ago, sponsored by a popular extreme sports magazine and a sports outfitter sixteen extreme sport athletes of the so called Top Toughs answered the challenge of a loudmouth GalNet host.
That host, a Takkian named Akrun Nokhar challenged Green Hell's reputation of being the deadliest worlds in the known Universe. He offered 5 million credits to anyone running from Ma Swenson's boat house to research-outpost seven. RO-7 was only ten kilometers from Ma Swenson's. There were twelve such outposts around the western hemisphere of the planet, the house Roy called his home was one of those and officially designated RO-9.
Despite warnings and the objection of the Ranger Service, Nokhar managed to get a federal court order allowing him to proceed. Two Pertharians, eight Saturnians, nine Takkians, two Stellaris, three X101, even a Nul and a dozen others participated.
It was a terrible disaster and loss of life. One of the Saturnians made it a whole kilometer but fell prey to a Burrow Digger.
One of the X101s had to find out that Dragon Ant acid was strong enough to eat his tough metal skin in seconds. Only a Pertharian survived but severely wounded when the Ranger found him.
Akrun Nokhar could not be held responsible, he was one of the Takkians participating in the race; his crystalline outer shell was later found and identified to be his.
Of course it was all the news GalNet wide for several weeks and no one questioned the dangers of Green Hell from that point on.
Sometimes Roy wished he could have participated, so he could have shown these arrogant Off-Worlders that Green Hell was as beautiful a world as any other, but then his parents would have found out that he really was outside almost every day and grounded him forever. They never knew that it was him however who found the Takkian's shell a few days later and told the Ranger where it was.
While the Galaxy had mostly forgotten about this event, it had cemented Green Hells reputation and prevented any further foolishness...
At Gillian's Pub, which was a local tavern at Ground level Plaza of Ant Hill, they still talked about that Extreme Sport challenge of course. While not openly admitting it, because the loss of live was not supposed to be a source of satisfaction; Greenies were glad it actually ended that way. It would keep Off-Worlders away. The non scientist community of Green Hell, those who called themselves Greenies, didn't care all to much for Off-Worlders, who always knew everything better than the locals and then died a few hours later.
Gillian's Pub was owned by Melissa's grandfather and Roy and his friends often went there after school to get a bag of fish and chips that were so delicious.
Only a few Greenies, mostly the Shop keepers and the two Hotel owners wished that Green Hell would grow and see more visitors and tourists.
He had reached a spot halfway between the house and the Shore rocks where he was going to meet his friends. This area had lots of Strangle veins and Buzz Saw nests and it was better to be on the ground.
He carefully avoided a Mortar Toad that hopped across his intended path so it would not shower him with hundreds of little flesh eating toads catapulted from pockets in its back.
Then he ducked and crawled under a dagger bush with its steel hard and needle sharp leaves. Every branch was under tremendous tension and would release at the slightest touch. A dagger bush branch had dozens of underarm long needle sharp barbed spikes and the force of the released tension was enough to drive those spikes in the though armored skin of a water snake and of course mortally wound a human.
Right after that bush he almost run head first into an all black huge beast. He panicked for the duration of a heartbeat. His sense of danger had failed him and did not warn him of this beast. He froze at the spot, not moving a muscle. The animal in front of him didn't look like any animal he had ever seen on Green Hell. No animal he knew was so completely black!
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
Dr. Ivan Harrow disconnected the Comm-Link with a forceful gesture, reflecting his feeling of annoyance. He really respected Paul Masters and he simply adored Martha, but he hated to be called while he was attending a lecture at the annual Galactic life-sciences Conference. This time it was being held on Earth (Terra) and the ancient hallowed grounds of the famous Cambridge University.
Even though he was unable to attend in person this year, and he was there only via GalNet tele-presence avatar, it was still a special kind of honor to be one of the featured lecturers.
Only moments before his Avatar projection proceeded to the lectern, Paul Masters called him to ask him about technical details on floater shields and ruined his concentration and state of mind. He expected Paul Masters to understand those things. He wasn't a Flier expert for Mozart's sake, but everyone knew CHOPERS were safe and there were only three incidents on Green Hell in which a flier was damaged. Besides both Paul and Martha weren't new to Green Hell and had been on Green Hell almost as long as he had.
Ivan gave the Comm Unit one more glance and then reclined on the new Virtu Presence Couch, that had been delivered only a month before. He told the Computronic to make sure he was not disturbed for any reason and then activated the direct neuro-connection to the GalNet terminal and reconnected the Avatar session.
He was a Botanist and had little interest in the fantastic technology that allowed him to bridge a distance measured in hundreds of light years without any noticeable delay. He was only interested in the fact that he connected and found himself standing in a conference room filled with distinguished colleagues, scientists and experts from all over the Union.
Field projectors created a form-field energy cocoon that simulated his body shape. A three dimensional image of him was projected onto the inside of that field. Gravitation and mass simulators gave the projection substance and allowed him to interact with objects and other beings. What his simulated senses experienced was fed directly into his brain. He could see, hear and feel what his avatar was feeling. Only smell and taste were still hard to simulate and therefore ignored in these non-entertainment Avatar GalNet units. Avatar Enabled GalNet terminals were still a new technology and incredibly expensive, but next to the Union Fleet, the Science Corps was the best funded government agency.
Right now Dr. Nalg Nokes, a fish faced Ult stood behind the lectern, wearing a semi transparent water circulation suit designed to keep the amphibian well hydrated. Dr. Nokes was an authority on the field of marine botany, a good friend of Ivan's and as the little silvery pyramid shaped emblem on his suit attested he was a member of the Hive of Minds.
The Ult gestured with his webbed hands towards Ivan and his slightly amplified voice carried to the last seat in the auditorium saying, "Without further ado let me introduce the lecturer of this hour, my esteemed colleague and dear friend Dr. Ivan Harrow, senior lead researcher of the Life sciences department at Ant Hill on Planet Green Hell. He and his fellow researchers risk life and limb every day to unravel the mysteries of this truly unique and dangerous world."
Ivan ignored the small blinking light that appeared in his field of view, signaling he had an urgent call. He blinked it away, thanked the Ult for the introduction and approached the lectern.
In the audience before him he saw ant-like Klack, olive skinned Sarans and four stately looking Pan Sarans. There was a Takkian sitting right next to a Pertharian giant. To his surprise he noticed an X101. These chrome skinned sentient machines were among the best engineers, to see one at a Bio sciences conference was something unexpected. The three silver haired beauties in the first row were of course Saresii and he wondered if one of them was actually a real female.
A humanoid shaped being, covered in a deep green tight-fitting suit and a helmet with a mirrored faceplate sitting right next to the Saresii must have been a Non-Corp. These beings without real bodies could only interact with others wearing special containment suits, the fact that they made the surface of a sun their home was something he could barely comprehend.
Without further ado, he began with his lecture on Trapper palms and their intricate symbiotic relation to microbial mites.
The audience was a knowledgeable assembly of scientists and they only interrupted his lecture with valuable questions and observations. As the last of his interactive three dimensional presentation images faded away and he had reached the end of his lecture, the audience applauded his efforts which gave him a deep sense of accomplishment and pride.
It was the faceless Non Corp who raised his arm and said with an artificial sounding voice, "Dr. Harrow. I am Nine-three-eight, which is the closest approximation to what my kind uses for names and I am the first Botanist PhD of Non Corp origin."
Ivan smiled at the alien entity and motioned him with a gesture to continue while he congratulated the being for his academic choice, "It is a rewarding field of study Dr. Nine-three-eight and I'm delighted to hear a Non corp made a similar career choice as I have done."
Other members of the audience also added similar sentiments and the Non Corp nodded gracefully and said, "My motivations to choose this field were many, but I did raise my simulated arm to ask your opinion, Dr. Harrow. I have read and studied Green Hell by reading as many papers and publications as I could process so far. There is a wealth of information on a host of fascin