Published by Thunder Valley Press
Copyright © 2013 by Annie Reed
Cover Art Copyright Michael Knight | Dreamstime.com
Dusty, windblown sand pelted Samuel in the face when he stepped off the shuttle.
Great. Just great. Welcome to Paradise. Another piece of shit town on a piece of shit planet at the edge of nowhere. The absolute perfect place for the latest in a long string of crappy assignments for a vid reporter who knew his star had risen about as far as it was ever going to go.
Samuel ducked his head and raised his gloved hands to protect his face. His travel gear protected his body from the worst of the scouring sand, but he hadn’t covered up his face before he stepped out of the shuttle in case someone from the outpost expected a little meet and greet. Over the years Samuel had discovered initial meetings worked best face to face. When he established a personal connection early on, his interviews had the comfortable feel of two old friends sitting down for a chat. Just the kind of vid shows his bosses wanted, and the kind of work that bored Samuel to death.
Only no one from Paradise had come out to meet the shuttle. Samuel moved fast to secure a breather mask over his nose and mouth and flip down his helmet’s clear plexi shield. The shield dimmed the glare from the system’s lone sun, hot and brilliant overhead even through the blowing sand. The oxygen system in his mask kicked in, and he breathed in air that tasted flat and vaguely metallic instead of like something had burnt to a crisp about a million years ago. Technically humans could tolerate the air on Paradise, but Samuel had no desire to breathe dust and sand and who knew what else. That nasty taste had to come from somewhere.
Part face guard, part heads-up display screen, the helmet’s shield kept the blowing sand out of Samuel’s eyes. Still, the dry air seemed to suck all the moisture right out of him. He wondered where the good citizens of Paradise hid their alcohol. Good way to get to know the locals, sharing a drink or two. Or ten. Samuel really needed a drink. The shuttle ride to the surface had been a bitch.
Samuel had a hard time seeing anything even with his shield’s visual enhancements. He caught sight of the ghostly outline of a low building, the distance difficult to judge in the storm. His heads-up display didn’t even try. When he tried to get a fix on the building, the display’s readout flashed double zeros.
A strong gust of wind buffeted Samuel, and he took a stutter step to the side to keep his balance. “Could have warned me,” he said.
The audio pickup in his mask transmitted Samuel’s voice to the pilot still safely inside the shuttle. The man’s responsive grunt sounded amused.
“Could have looked out the windows,” the pilot said. “You think all that fancy flying I did was for laughs? Turbulence, brother. On Paradise, the wind always blows. Or didn’t you read your prep?”
Samuel didn’t respond. He’d read just enough of the assignment folio his news syndicate had sent him to know he was supposed to dig up another human interest story about another group of hardy explorers in another star system on the edge of the Big Nothing.
Explorers. Right. Did anyone still believe that crap?
(end of sample)
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