Building Atmosphere by Alexander Mandradjiev
14.7 ± 0.3 psi, surface, Earth standard, milspec, per contract.
It was a lofty goal, but one that is drummed into us by the Triocracy on every terraforming colony, from Gliese all they way out here to Beta Arae. Never once have we actually hit that target, but we never stop trying. In all truth none of us have ever breathed Earth standard anyway, so milspec be damned. Earth had its atmosphere stripped away 320 years ago. The closer we get to 14.7 the bigger the bonus … and the more Infinispace time we can buy. Heart attacks drop dramatically the closer we get to Earth standard atmospheric pressure. Hél 13 is no exception. We’d been here for twenty years: melting ice caps, vaporizing subsurface water, spewing dust into the atmosphere, seeding the skies with organic accelerants, cracking the crust with nukes and asteroids to release carbon dioxide, essentially using every trick in the book to warm up this small ball of shit.
14.7 ± 0.3 psi, surface, Earth standard, milspec, per contract. It was a lofty goal, but one that was drummed into us by corporate on every terraforming colony.
Military ops and expansion of course. Hél 13 is the final stellar bridgehead in a long line of bridgeheads stretching back to the smoldering remains of Earth. The invasion of the D’zarak homeworld waits for no one, or no planet. Five years from now Hél 13’s sulfur rich atmosphere will be scrubbed free and ready to accept the first ships of the invasion force. I have maybe one more forming operation in me before retirement. Who knows, maybe the war will be over by then and I can retire early. Fat chance.
After hundreds of years of this slow war of attrition, the one thing humans finally learned to be proficient at is … patience. Wars are no longer fought in years, but centuries; they are no longer fought for the control of borders, but for the control of star systems. We’ve adapted and fallen into the tedious doldrums of the long war. It will happen tomorrow, or in a hundred years … but the inevitability of it kept us going.
Humans are very proficient in that as well. Someone once said it’s a dish best served cold. It’s also said to be best served unexpected and without remorse.
Words © 2020-2021, Neal Ulen. All rights reserved.
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