I felt severely disoriented and as I came to my senses again, I saw we were inside another building. “What the hell is going on now?” Timo wondered out loud. No one could answer what we all needed to know. We continued to mutter various statements of surprise and confusion until Timo spoke up again. “Looks like we’re in a Dreschner Corporation Customer Aftercare Center!”
He was right, but there were no customer service agents seated at any of the desks. It looked like everyone left in the middle of the day, as customers were waiting to be served. We were all dressed in indoor clothing instead of our spacesuits as well. “Are we in some kind of alternate reality?” I questioned.
“If it is, we must’ve made progress,” Rainyday pointed out, “and maybe they’ll come back.”
As the men began searching for useful items in a set of lockers at the back of the reception area, I studied the star map in my PDA. It was incomplete and unfamiliar. “This isn’t even the planet we crashed on,” I told them. “My PDA shows this is planet Rotindus, and it has a massive moon! Actually, this planet is massive.” We still were not in the star system we were meant to be in for our mission, but the data I could access revealed two additional planets with moons.
Timo handed me a small backpack that was a gift bag for customers who visit the Aftercare Center. The bag contained a survival tool, drinks and a snack, a strange looking seedling, a booster for armoured spacesuits, and an expensive Autominer Core. We couldn’t use anything except the tool, drinks and snacks at the time, but the gifts were a very nice touch. “At least they care, eh?” Timo joked as I put away my pack.
The building was located at the base of a hill, and a vast grassland was stretched out behind the Aftercare Center, to the west. We decided to explore the area and collect resources as we go. The plan was to find edible and medicinal plants–which is my specialty as the botanist in our pre-colonization mission. I found berries and a strange plant that looks like a bundle of corn dogs, that are even high in protein.
Timo and Rainy collected plants as well, and we found plenty of rocks we could break down with our survival tools. The whole time we walked, we knew we’d had many experiences together as a team, but our memories were nothing more than a thought about a distant dream. I felt like we’ve done this many times, and the only thing that remains the same is that we always help each other. Rainy served in engineering during the voyage on the Maristela, and is our Head of Mining Operations on the mission.
With enough ore to make some emergency survival devices, we decided to keep going west as far as we could before the evening, and return to the Aftercare Center by nightfall. As we reached the edge of a forest, my sensor found an iron deposit and an old piece of wreckage from a ship. Judging by the condition of the wreck, we guessed it had to have been there for several years.
We examined the crash site and were able to recover some Dreschner Corporation portable constructors we could use to make the items we need to survive on our own. It was a stroke of good fortune that added more questions for us. “Maybe it was one of ours,” Timo pondered out loud as he looked over the wreck. “Were there any reports of Explorers going missing, before we were sent out?”
“Not that I’m aware of,” I replied, “but it would make sense. That could be how the Corporation is here already.”
We made a temporary camp and worked at our constructors all evening, chatting about everything from the weather to the scenery. Despite the strangeness of all we’ve been through already, we were very at ease and in good spirits. We constructed drills and motorbikes, and had just enough resources left to make some detectors that would help us find the direction of resources and points of interest.
After a few hours, the men went to mine iron and silicon from deposits near the wreckage, and I explored on my motorbike. I had no intention of going very far from their location, but I wanted to study more plants. I found a swamp where medicinal plants grew abundantly, along with some grain and mushrooms. I traveled south a short distance and discovered a small lake with a beach on the eastern shore.
“This looks like a great spot to build a base,” I said to Timo and Rainy. “There’s a lot of good resources here, and solar panels would get a good amount of light–especially late in the day.” I marked the area on my map, then joined in the mining task. I located a copper deposit farther south from the beach. It was a little cold wearing my indoor suit outside at night, so I was grateful for the portable air conditioner I constructed. I set it up beside me and used my personal drone to drill, and the three of us continued to converse as we created mines.
By sunrise, we gathered enough resources to construct a small wooden cottage blueprint stored in my PDA files, and a two-seat hover vessel Timo had in his files. We arranged to meet up at the beach site, and as soon as I left the copper mine I made, I heard a raptor shrieking nearby. I quickly grabbed my shotgun and blasted it twice before it reached me, almost as if I’d done it hundreds of times before.
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