In the far reaches of space, there exists a planet unlike any other. None of the recognizable planets have ever been able to support life. What exactly are the requirements to making a planet habitable? For starters, the planet must be a far distance from stars. Then said stars must have stability. The planet in question must revolve on it’s axis, it must have a molten core, and it must support an atmosphere.
Planet 671-Uniform Papa is one such planet.
Astronaut Gloria “Crazy Eyes” Highland stared at her map of the planet. The map is nothing more than a series of long-range scans from the newest generation of high-powered satellites. The Multi-National League of Space, Science and Exploration (MLSSE) spends billions of dollars per year on satellite launches into the deepest parts of space. “We go so you don’t have to!” is their motto. MLSSE is a private corporation. They have sought out planets capable of supporting life, explored said planets, and charted trails unknown or undiscovered to mankind. It’s a club for the rich and powerful. The chain of command consist of Finley Fitzgerald CEO of MLSSE. As the primary financial backer of the corporation, he holds 51% of the ownership. The board of MLSSE is also considered part of the chain of command. General Tiffany Williams is the lead military adviser. Her team consist of a handful of junior officers, and three enlisted personnel: Sergeant Major Gloria Highland, Tech Sergeant Alfred Miter, and Specialist Joanna Smith. The three enlisted soldiers have fought in every war since the 2055 Battle of New Vegas.
Gloria taped the photos to the wall of her barracks room. A soldier from her youth, Gloria was brought into the space program for her courage during battle. The Battle of New Vegas should be called a skirmish. Civilians had taken government personnel hostage and placed bombs around their necks. After successfully negotiating the release of the hostages, the civilians, detonated the hostages at the entrance of the casino. The explosion killed over 1000 people. In the chaos, they launched a surprise attack and killed 220 first responders’ and law enforcement personnel.
The group was named the Bushwhackers and deemed a threat to national security. In response to their brutality and tactics, President Viola Templeton, called in the 750th Parachute Regiment, 1 Special Forces Group to quell this insanity.
“This is War Chief Delta-Delta ! calling for First Group, over.”
“This is First Group, Delta-Delta 1. Send it.”
“Your orders are such: No one escapes alive. Over.”
“Understood, Delta-Delta. We copy all.”
With that understanding, the Bushwhacker party was eradicated from the planet. The entire uprising lasted three days. 900 civilians made up the Bushwhacker militia, only 150 soldiers were deployed to quell the rebellion. At the end of the battle, First Group lost no one in the skirmish, and all of the militia perished. This small skirmish set the standard for how the government would deal with insurgency, terrorism, rebellion, and general misbehavior. Highland, Miter, and Smith were involved in the battle. Highland had made Sergeant Major due to her bravery in storming the front of the Bushwhacker’s fortress. Her team consisted of Miter and Smith, plus two other grunts from Delta company. They charged into the foray with a shout, and when the killing was done, the five-man team had done the majority of the damage.
This trio of soldiers by year 2045 had seen enough blood and mayhem. They transferred to MLSSE to use their skill sets for less bloody work. Gloria Highland, a grunt with an affinity for weaponry, became the primary scout. She had deployed all over the world, usually on a moment’s notice, and always returned with minimal damage to her hardened body. At 34, her hazel eyes appeared to be as hard as her lean body. Gloria stands five feet, five inches tall, has her blond hair cut in the military high-an-tight fashion, and is rarely seen with a smile.
Tech Sergeant Alfred Miter is a computer guru, one could say he is a guru in most technology currently available in the 21st century. He specializes in satellites and computers. He has proven to be above proficient in the use of firearms. He is from Somalia, and has earned four degrees in his given field of study. At 6’4, he is the tallest of the trio. As is Gloria, his body is a finely honed weapon. Ripped musculature aside, Miter’s greatest asset is his mind.
Specialist Joanna Smith, a fifteen-year veteran is the jack-of-all-trades of the trio. Her skills range from transportation to acquisition. She is capable of ‘finding’ hard to get items in the field. Her affable personality allows her to network across all branches of the military. She stands 5’2, weighs 100 pounds, and is worth her weight in gold.
Together, this trio has survived the most brutal of wars. They have not only survived, but thrived. The bonds of war has forged them into a family. When Gloria had enough of war and left for MLSSE, the other two were hot on her trail. Gloria would never admit this, but she was thrilled to discover her friends had joined her on her grand adventure.
“Now, I don’t have to worry about them dying without me.”
The taped scans presented a planet with various terrain. Huge rocky crags gave way to deep canyons. Little signs pointed to the all-important element water. The satellite images showed a sun, but temperatures fluctuated with such frequency no one knew what to expect.
While she studied the scans, Smith came in and sat beside Gloria. They sat in silence, and brooded over the scans for a time. Smith realized something seemed off with her friend and elbowed her in the ribs.
“Ah, doing some recon. You know how it is, Smith.”
“Yeah. Do you think we are going to be sent to Planet 671? Or is it another ‘training exercise,’ Sergeant Major?”
“No. This seems to be the real deal this time. Have you heard anything?” Smith shook her head no. No one knew her natural hair color. Smith’s tanned skin gave the impression she was once a brunette. However, she shaved her hair off every weekend. Smith has often said her hairstyle went well with her tattoos.
“No. Every contact I have has gone radio silent. No one has any information to share, and if they do, they’re not letting it out.”
The silence made a return between the two friends. It’s not an uncomfortable silence. The two friend are lost in their thoughts.
“What do you think 671 will be like, Smith? Do you think we will find ET?” Gloria’s remark elicited a snarky grin from Smith. She giggled and punched her friend.
“Do I think inhabitants look like the cheesy graphics from that 20th century hokey film? No, I don’t think so.”
“I thought ET was cute.”
“I’ve seen what you’ve dated and mated with, Gloria. I understand why you would think that.”
“Screw you, Smith.” Both soldiers burst into laughter.
“What is going on in here?” Alfred Miter stood in the doorway, a knowing grin stretched across his face.
“Hey, Techie. Gloria here dished out some details on her secret crush, ET.” Miter joined in the laughter and slapped Gloria on the back.
“You might want to save a chuckle or two for when we get to the planet. We’ve got a meeting with the CO in 1-5 mikes. Our little trio is headed to scout out Planet 671.” The room filled with silence at the news of their newest mission.
“Are we the only ones going,” Smith asked. Her green eyes are steady but her voice quaked with the question.
“Yes, it’s only us. The operation is for three days. We will know more at the briefing.”
Gloria stood and straightened her appearance in the mirror. She tucked in her shirt, and placed her notebook in her right cargo pocket. Her red beret framed her face perfectly.
“Let’s get to it.”
As a single unit they filed into the conference room. The humor that was present minutes before is now displaced with a sense of professionalism. There are no smiles, nor frowns, instead a look of sternness is upon their faces. They each took a seat across from the panel members.
A bald man sat in the middle. He wore a black Armani suit, his jacket hung loosely on his frame, and it seemed to swallow him whole. His Marvin the Martian tie was tied with a single knot, and his trifocal glasses was pushed tightly against his face.
“I am Louis Richards, chairman of the board. We’ve convened here today to set forth the guidance for the scouting mission to Planet 671-Uniform Papa. Your mission is to gather intelligence. It will be broken down into three stages. Any questions so far?”
The trio stare at him for a moment and then shake their head no. Louis nods his bald head, his beady eyes never left the paperwork in front of him.
“We already know that 671-UP will support life. What is required now is actual proof that humanity cannot only survive on the planet, but humanity’s success on Planet Earth will in fact be able to replicated on 671.”
“You want us to do what exactly?” The panel members stared at Gloria, righteous indignation shone upon their pasty countenances. “How dare she interrupt the chairman?”
Chairman Richards stared at Gloria until silence filled the room. Once he was satisfied he was in control, he stood and turned on a projector.
“Please turn off the lights.” An assistant shut off the lights and the projector displayed an image of the planet on the backdrop.
“Stage one consists of your team bringing back soil samples, searching for a potable water source or sources, and providing us with a generalized layout of the terrain features. Any questions?”
Again, the trio shook their heads no.
“Stage two you will search for and catalog any wildlife you come across during your travels. We are specifically interested in anything that appears to be domesticated.”
“Stage three will consist of a layout of any civilizations you come across. For your team’s safety, you will not make contact with the indigenous people that you discover.”
“Will we be armed?” Louis Richards and the panel members stared at Gloria, but this time she doesn’t cower down from their self-inflated egos. Instead, she returned their stares with one of her own.
“No. We see no reason for your team to go in with weaponry.”
“Of course you don’t,” Gloria responded. “You’re not going to be deployed onto an undiscovered planet with a ‘honey do list’ to complete.”
“Now you listen here Serg-”
“No you listen little man. You and your squad of like-minded idiots sit there in your thousand dollar suits and make up a set of rules for us to play by while never leaving your office. You need us a lot more than we need you. You’ve lost your minds if you think for one moment that we are going into a danger zone without some way to protect ourselves. Now make your choice, and you better choose wisely.”
The panel members gathered around the chairman and they discussed Gloria’’s proposal in hushed tones. After several moments, they sat back in their seats and Richards stood to his feet.
“We have concluded that a deployment to Planet 671 can wait until we have had time to recruit a new team and train them to be obedient to our missives. You are all dismissed and will be transferred back to your last line units.”
“There’s no room in MLSSE for insubordination. Pack your gear, you’re going home.”
“You wormy piece of gar-” Miter started, but Smith clamped a hand on his shoulder.
“Let it go. We will fight this using their own tactics. Let’s go.”