Excerpt, Predictive Copyright © L.V. Lane 2021
Definition: Predictive insight, Of the past—fact.
Definition: Predictive truth, A Proven fact.
I hated military bases with a passion. They were noisy, crowded, offered barely adequate accommodation, and by nature, housed bawdy military personnel. It was the nearest location to Edson-46, my final destination, and I was due to transfer on at the end of the week, so as choices went, this was it. I waited to exit the shuttle, a shiny titaliua carry-all at my side, which contained my personal possessions. It was a large carry-all, but I did have a lot of possessions.
The ship’s captain had accompanied my shuttle ride down to the Irra base; that incident with the brigadier doubtless behind his over attentiveness.
As the exit ramp lowered, I was greeted by—absolutely no one.
There should be someone.
There was always someone.
Usually, there were several someones.
Red dust blew around the sprawling compound that filled my view as the ramp touched down. I had watched the approach from the sky as we descended; the base was the typical hub and spoke design, with internal shuttle docks on the east and a cluster of residential and administrative pods on the west. A dozen substantive storage cylinders that must have reached half a mile high sat to the north surrounding an ore processing plant. And here, south of the main docks, were the overflow docks.
The compound before me housed a dozen smaller storage structures. Movers, people, and bots beat a path between the transports in the overflow dock, the storage pods, and the central base.
The breeze increased, ruffling my hair and clothing. I smoothed out my sky-blue tunic, blinked against the flying grit, and failed to stifle a scowl. “He’ll be along presently, I’m sure,” the ship’s captain said. He shielded his eyes with a hand and radiated ‘uncomfortable’ as he walked down the ramp at my side. “It’s been busy here by all accounts,” he said conversationally.
My return smile was frosty. I wanted to get out of this hellish environment and into a cool air-conditioned room. It seemed ludicrous that the base didn’t have sufficient internal shuttle docks. I could almost feel the waves of radiation on my skin.
“Trouble at Nammu—they say production has stopped,” the captain continued.
“I didn’t hear about that?” That would be sure to frustrate the government. I kept abreast of news since it facilitated predictions, but I had heard nothing of stopped production. I had been waylaid at New Earth for six days. Yet more trouble with insurgents at Rendeen, and I’d been ordered to look into that. The analysis had yielded nothing, and finally, those niggling concerns about the research station Edson-46 had driven me to demand I be given license to investigate without further delay.
I had taken the first ship here, a dilapidated cargo vessel whose owners had invested in cutting-edge engines and very little else. Both the vessel and the occupants had made my skin crawl. Finally, at New Eden, I had transferred to the frigate under the command of Captain Sven, which had brought me here to Irra.
“Report came through as we were docking at the space station, three standard-hours ago. Communication has become sporadic in some sectors during transit.”
“Federation?” We couldn’t afford the space fleet to be out of communication, and fresh worries surfaced to join old ones.
He nodded—trigger: he was lying; he did not believe it was the Federation.
From my right, billowing clouds of red dust in its wake, came a small All-Terrain Vehicle. I’m going to destroy someone’s career if that’s for me.
It pulled up to a screeching halt amid a shower of grit.
And out stepped Landon followed by a nervous young man, whom I placed as a civilian admin from his uniform, and whom I immediately dismissed.
I enjoyed looking at Landon, he was an attractive man in a refined sort of way, and he wasn’t bulky as so many military types, including my brother, were. I often wondered how my brother, Eric, didn’t break things while going about everyday life.
Landon was also innately calm and eminently polite, both of which were in his favor—his tardiness was not. He walked over at a steady pace, seeming impervious to the swirling dust. No hint that he might be rushing knowing he was late, nor any indication that he might offer an apology.
He nodded at the ship’s captain. “Captain Sven, a pleasure to have you here.”
“No,” I said.
Landon’s face swung my way—everyone’s face swung my way. The ship’s captain mumbled about “incoming storms” as he beat a hasty retreat. The young admin shuffled from foot to foot.
“No?” Landon’s face was perfectly neutral, but I was a predictive, and I wasn’t buying that. “You don’t wish to ride in the Toad?” He made a sweeping motion with his arm. “It will be my pleasure to walk you to your quarters.”
Toad? The ATV was certainly ugly enough. Behind me, the ramp began rising. Captain Sven was making good on his escape.
“No.” I realized I had stamped my foot when I noticed both Landon and the admin were staring at it. The admin’s face had lost all color. Landon wore a poker face.
“How would you like to proceed to your room?” Landon asked in a reasonable tone.
The central residential pods had to be half a mile away across…chaos, and through a dust-saturated environment and questionable air quality. I gave my head the briefest incline toward the ATV. The admin wilted with relief, and Landon threw the nearest door open.
“Gordon, please deliver Ms. Lowe’s baggage to her quarters, promptly.”
“Yes, sir! It will be waiting when Ms. Lowe arrives.”
My glance at the admin revealed disappointment, but he was enthusiastic in leaping to the task. And he was an android, I noticed, so he wasn’t boasting that he would deliver the luggage ahead of me.
Landon stood by impassive as I clambered into the vehicle. Copious amounts of dust had either just blown in, or were merely there by default. I tried to sit without actually sitting—I deigned to touch as little of the vehicle as was possible. Dragging my gaze away from the filthy interior, I realized the door was so massive that I couldn’t reach the handle. Who would design something this way?
Sighing, I gave a pointed look from the door to Landon. His neutral face didn’t so much as twitch.
“Can I close the door for you?”
“Yes, yes, please. I would really like you to close the door.”
“My pleasure.” He slammed it shut and circled the vehicle, climbed in beside me, and shut his own door with ease.
I inspected his arms—they did not appear to be freakishly long.
“Eric sends his regards. He wanted to be here, but as you know, duty calls and all that.”
“He did not,” I scoffed in disbelief
Landon cracked a smile at my expense. “No, he did not,” he agreed.
There was a base map in the dashboard, but he shoved it into manual and took off at a steady pace; after his abrupt arrival, I’d half expected to be clinging to my seat. Battered wipers screeched back and forth across a windshield scoured by many such iterations as they sought to displace the red dust. How can he see where he’s going?
“You enjoy driving a…” That nickname had to be a joke? “Toad?”
This time Landon’s smile was genuine. “I do enjoy driving a Toad.” He was usually guarded with his emotions—it was one of the reasons I found him so fascinating—and the warmth in his voice and smile held a mesmerizing quality.
“You drove fast because you were late.” This realization mollified me.
I frowned. What did he mean by partly?
We stopped to allow a procession of movers to cross.
“My admin feared our lateness might be—career limiting. While I’d love to see you try and have me stood down, Gordon is not blessed with the same level of confidence.”
I studied his profile. Predictive insight. “You know Brigadier Jadison.”
The movers cleared from our path, and the ATV pulled off.
“A personal friend of mine.”
“So that’s what this is about?”
“I’m amazed you didn’t know instantly what this was about. Aren’t you a predictive?” He cut a glance my way.
“It doesn't work like that. In fact, this entire encounter is going nothing like I predicted.”
Turning away, I stared out the side window but snapped my head back at his laugh. It had a pleasant quality, and I was irritated with myself for acknowledging this when he was clearly laughing at my expense, again.
“So, how did you predict this encounter would go? Was I supposed to swoon because you cracked the Federation player?”
A shower of substantial rocks peppered the side of the vehicle. Was this safe to be out in? “Never mind,” I looked away and tried to ignore the continuing rattle of rocks against the vehicle. “It’s unprofessional of you to treat me this way because of an incident you did not even witness. I didn’t request his dismissal. If the man recognized his own incompetence and decided to rethink his career choice after meeting me, I would say I did him a favor.”
“You just roll around the universe, doing people favors,” he said, not bothering to mask his sarcasm. “What an upstanding citizen you are.”
My retort was curtailed by our arrival at the base entrance. I hated space travel and was delighted to be planet side. Even this remote military base was sufferable after weeks in transit.
Relieved to be out of the appalling environment, I was escorted into my temporary accommodation. The apartment consisted of a single living space, with a bed against the left wall, a seating area and desk before the window to my front, and a compact facility area on the right. Other than a door right of the bed, which I presumed to be a robe, and bathroom, that was it. While spacious, clean, and fastidiously neat, it was basic at best—the wall display only covered half the wall. The window, which was presently covered in a sheen of red dust, was scratched and rutted from the harsh weather.
And it was gray, every single piece of furniture and furnishing was gray—except the floor—the floor was dark gray. This was why I hated military bases.
I glanced back at Landon, noting his gray fatigues—it must be so easy for one to lose clothing and their sanity in this room. “Is this it?” Was this further ‘punishment’ for wronging his associate?
“These are my quarters. I’ve moved out so you could have them. They are the best you are getting here.”
Predictive truth. The words were a simple statement of fact and held no malice.
“What? No, come back.”
“You’re telling the truth.” It was hard to find fault in a person who had donated his room.
“Good to know that mountainous brain decided to kick in.”
“You’re being very difficult…and judgmental.”
His eyebrows shot up.
I sighed. “You think I’m the difficult one.” I supposed I had been somewhat—aloof—with him in the past, and I was the first person to admit my reputation was well founded. “I’ve slept in worse. I was delayed at New Earth, and the two hellish weeks I spent on a cargo vessel was a personal trial. I should have been at Edson-46 by now.”
“You were taking a vacation?”
I thought he didn’t believe me to have been taking a vacation, but he was curious about the delay. “Insurgent troubles at Rendeen,” I said sadly. “It’s bad enough we have the Federation biting at our heels without internal strife. The trouble was localized and unstructured, and the delay while I investigated it wasted valuable time.” I was not one for explaining myself, and rarely did I need to, but Eric had fought under Landon’s command for more than a decade, and my brother had colorful views.
“I know what happened with Jadison,” he said, surprising me.
“My complaint with Brigadier Jadison wasn’t with his provided quarters, although it was dreadful, and I did voice this opinion.”
Landon smiled. “Yes, I know.” His smile faded. “His subordinate failed to deliver an urgent report to you. The consequence of which proved to be extreme.”
“When I fail to receive information, people can die. The responsible man was stood down. Jadison took accountability for the incident as the commanding officer.”
“Yes, that would be Jadison,” Landon said.
“There is a war. We can’t afford to be sloppy. Every decision must be weighed. Every moment is precious.” Why had I ever thought him polite? He had been extremely impolite ever since I got here. “So why did you behave so—” I struggled to find a politically correct term for his abhorrent behavior, and coming up blank, gestured in his general direction.
“I tried to persuade him not to resign. He wasn’t bitter about it and admitted he had allowed poor behavior on his watch.” Landon shrugged. “But mostly because he did say you were the most unreasonable person he had ever met.”
Yes, it was hard to dispute a fact. “That’s probably true.”
His laughter followed him out of the room.
Alone, I connected to my account and brought the latest information to view. Edson-46 was never far from my mind. There was something I was missing. Something wrong. Something I needed to uncover about that secret research base. Feeling tired, but determined to review my latest updates, I collected a glass of water and made my way toward the seating area.
An alarm blared, and the blast shields slammed down, sealing my window against the outer world. The glass of water dropped from my numb fingers and shattered against the floor.
“The base is secure,” Landon’s voice came through my communicator. “The shields are a precaution until we get the full status report.”
Trigger. My heart stuttered. I didn’t need the full report.
“Edson-46.” An entire moon lost.
Hundreds of people lost.
“Yeah.” He sounded tired. “It’s been—destroyed. I’ll give you a live feed of what we have.”
The communication closed and an image appeared on wall display, I presumed from a satellite around the lost station that had somehow survived.
I sank to my knees as grief consumed me. I should have been there, should never have allowed them to delay me. Had I been at Edson-46, I might have stopped this.
“Edson-46 is only the beginning, and I can’t stop this,” I whispered to myself. “This is what I predicted.”
It’s over. I put my head in my hands and cried. For Edson-46, for Aterra, and for our civilization, it is over.