Friday, June 29, 2007

Terraforming, Arc-Style (4781)

"Terraforming, Arc-Style"
Stardate 84490.4
(Following "Strat")
 
[On the planet Tarkova]
 
    "I love this part."
    Buck Hafez stood on Tarkova's plain, dark hair whipping in the wind.  He was letting it grow, along with his beard.  Others thought he was on a rebel streak, except Hafez wasn't the rebel type.
    Unfortunately, he didn't look good with so much hair (according to some opinions – though his ancestors on the Arab plains would have accepted it without question).  It came in thick and bushy, forming a mop around his head, rather than growing long and straight, which might have at least looked better.
    Beside him, Ensign Cheney Lucros watched figures on a holoscreen.  "Uniform edge.  Nominal cross."
    Around them, a small army of Arcadia and other Starfleet officers mixed with civilian engineers amidst white domes.  The domiciles dotted the landscape at regular intervals, laid out neatly in rows, stretching almost to the horizon.  It wasn't every day Arcadia got to be part of this: bringing a colony to life.  Though commonplace – new colonies sprung up every day – it was exciting, for some people.
    Like Hafez was excited.  In the blue sky over the settlement, a faint shimmer formed, from one horizon to the other, becoming a layer of transparent plasteel.  From orbit, ships beamed in lerdex, raw material, to separate locations planet-wide.  Nanites, released by the droves, one batch on top of another, took the lerdex, using it to construct the overdome, seemingly from thin air, as they did the domiciles.
    Rashid, the Arc's Egyptian engineer, came in over complant:
    ~Lieutenant Hafez, check your lattice.~
    Hafez opted for an armpadd, using it instead of his complant to monitor the nanites' progress.  He checked the instrument on his wrist, making a few adjustments, then looked up again.  The nanobots picked up the instructions and altered their work patterns.  In all, it didn't take long.  The overdome, like the domiciles it would soon cover, would be unbreakable, completely reconfigurable for shuttle transit, and it would last a million years.  And, it was quick and easy to build, with the proper materials.  New colonies could be set up and running within a single Earth-day, if they had the colonists to go with them... barring unforeseen environmental complications.
    Captain April appeared, standing beside Hafez.  "ETC, Mr. Hafez."
    "We'll finish in the next ten ship-minutes," Hafez reported.  "Just in time for lunch."
    "Make sure everyone gets back afterwards.  We have three more planets before the month's out."
    "Understood."
    "Impressive, isn't it, Captain?" Lucros said, new to this.  The kid was green, still in Academy training.
    "A marvel of engineering," April quipped.  He had seen it a hundred times.  At Lucros' look, April said, "Sorry, Ensign.  I don't have time to be impressed."  Setting up colonies took less time and hassle than dealing with bureaucracy, and he was up to his neck in it.  He liked staying busy, but to stay busy, one had to rush to keep up – a skill at which April was a master.  Unfortunately, it didn't leave a lot of room for small talk.
    Turning to go, he noticed Hafez.  "Lieutenant... is that regulation?"
    April was eyeing him like he would a bum.  Hafez reached up to finger his dark, unruly mop.  "Uh... no, sir, probably not."
    "Get a haircut.  And think about shaving while you're at it."
    Hafez nodded.  "Yes, sir."
    "Enjoy your lunch."  April took another look at the forming dome then walked away.  Hafez sighed, made a new set of armpadd adjustments, and observed his reflection (invisible to others) in the visual field of his comtacts.  He ran his hands over his hair a few times, then bent over and shook his head.  Loose hair fell off, dissolving, the cell walls breaking down as it touched ground.  By the time he stood up, he had a regulation hair-style, and his beard was gone.  He sighed again, satisfied.  Air felt good on freshly shaved skin.
    Carmen Reyd walked by, another Ops officer, noticing.
    "Hey... Lieutenant.  Fine freak."
    "Thanks, Lieutenant."  'Fine freak' = fine frequency; a slang term.  Reyd's way of saying he looked good.  She had a sweet voice – light in pitch, a sharp contrast to a rugged beauty.  She had a hard stare, but when she smiled, she was one beautiful woman, he thought.  Being bald made her more naturally attractive.
    "Free for lunch?"
    "Am I free for lunch..."  Hafez checked his virtual planner, marking time out for lunch.  He had planned to head back to the ship.  Setting up colonies?  Heck... having lunch with Carmen Reyd didn't happen every day.  "Meet me at the pavilion."
    "My man."  She walked off.
    Lucros glanced at Hafez.  "Is she Deltan?"
    Hafez heard that a lot about Reyd.  "Does she sound Deltan?"
    Lucros shrugged.  "She has an accent."
    "British."
    Lucros looked at him.
    "Earth," Hafez added – from which Lucros wasn't.  After a few seconds he started grinning, staring at the sky.  He had to thank the captain.  "I hope she likes chicken and biscuits."
    "Chicken?"
    "Meat product."
    "I thought chicken was a bird."
    "We stopped eating birds centuries ago."
    "Biscuits?" Lucros said.
    "You need to get out more," Hafez said.
 

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