Resources

Jun. 11th, 2011 05:23 pm
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[personal profile] doctorlit
Author's Note: This is the story I used as sample writing to get permission to write in the PPC.

Resources

Captain Janzen Peck sighed as he observed the image before him. The ship’s view-screen showed an average-sized, but beautiful, planet, wrapped in blankets of cloud. It was their next target, and he had been tasked with making sure the cargo vessels in his fleet had a safe landing and recovery effort. That meant locating any life forms able to pose a potential threat and destroying them from orbit.

“So. This is our next victim.”

The statement had been rhetorical, but the communications officer chose to respond anyway. “This planet’s surface is abundant in metals that haven’t been seen in our crust for decades now: iron, copper, even silicon. It’s a rare find. The Geologic Assessment Crew from the cargo ships estimates the planet may have formed over five billion years ago.”

“In other words, this planet is nearly as old as ours.” Captain Peck sighed again as he leaned against the metal railing that separated crew from the view-screen. “Today, we could be killing beings as evolved and complex as us.”

The communications officer, whose last name was Pryor, but whose first name Captain Peck couldn’t remember, gave him a weary glance. “We are quickly running out of natural resources. Our neighbors”—Lieutenant Pryor sneered as she said the word—“in the east are hoarding what materials they still have left, and have made it clear there will be no more exports or imports, no more loans. Our country can survive, but only if we keep bringing in new materials from other solar systems.”

Captain Peck had heard this many times before, though phrased differently each time. The government’s desperate attempts at maintaining order—and control—in the crumbling international climate had taken the form of survivalist xenophobia that focused on self-sufficiency. As times grew harsher, the populace as a whole clung to these messages more and more, ignoring the signs of the nation’s gradual slide into weakness and obscurity.

Lieutenant Pryor displayed many of the same signs of blind faith in the government as many other young officers Captain Peck had come to know in his time serving on the Alkaline Dream. It seemed that the mounting losses of resources and importance had instilled a deep fear in the populace, giving rise to overwhelming nationalism that left no room for discussion or dissent. Peck rarely met anyone who shared his misgivings, and he couldn’t help the feeling that his entire country was setting itself up for a disappointing failure.

Captain Peck felt that he had to try and voice his concerns, now, before he and his crew led another attack. “We're mining other systems with just as little restraint as we mined our own country's lands. Can we truly expect to rely on extraterrestrial materials forever? As it goes, we put half of what we collect back into ship repairs and fueling collection voyages.”

Pryor frowned. “What choice do we have?” she asked. “Our nation has led the world in aviation, military tech, communications and social welfare for almost our entire three centuries! Our economy is the world economy! We have a legacy to live up to, and we can’t simply give it up!”

“Why not?” Captain Peck pressed. “It’s a lot of pressure, always being the strongest, the best, at everything we do.”

“Don't you have any pride!” Pryor rose from her seat as she raised her voice, tingeing it with desperation. “Don’t you like having a right to say, 'We're the best! We're the strongest!'”

Peck stared hard at his subordinate, waiting for her to sit down again, which she soon did. Settling back into her seat, she masked her face in a blank expression. “My apologies, Captain.” She still couldn't hide the hardness in her eyes. “But we have a duty to our homeland—a duty we all swore to.”

“Don't inform me of my duty, please,” Captain Peck said calmly, but coldly. “We will all do as we have been ordered, Lieutenant. Nothing more and nothing less.”

Peck turned, sweeping the room with his eyes. Most of the bridge crew was ignoring the exchange, though not all were smart enough to avoid watching the Captain. Internally, Peck was disappointed with himself, not because of the argument, but because he had been so easily put on the defensive once his loyalty had been questioned. Was he, too, so easily swayed by the same blind nationalism that afflicted Pryor? Did Pryor herself have the same misgivings as the Captain, only to be too fearful to admit them?

Captain Peck turned back to the view-screen, and gazed at the planet there. Beneath the wispy clouds were massive oceans of pristine blue, wrapping tightly around what continents were visible from this angle. One was colored white, which probably signified proximity to a pole. The other landmasses were mottled with green and brown.

“What do we know about this planet?” Peck asked. “Besides its physical characteristics, I mean?”

“Well…” Pryor must have been looking through data on her computer screen. “Based on observations of various wavelengths used for communication or entertainment broadcasting, there appear to be at least one hundred twenty-five political states here, probably more. Thousands of differentiable languages, with multiple variations on each.”

“Translation progress?”

“We’ve made some headway in what seem to be the dominant tongues, mostly just to figure out central military locations.”

Peck paused for a moment. “And what is its name?”

“Sir?”

“The planet. What do the natives call it?”

“Some of the names we’ve come across include Ziemia, Jord, Aarde, de Erde, Tierra, Earth? The last two seem to be most commonly used.”

Captain Peck grasped the railing with his claws. “Well, Earth,” he mumbled quietly through the vocal slits on either side of his face, “I hope, for your sake, you’re better organized than we are. I hope you’re unified enough to stand a chance.”
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