Author : L. Hall

Martin’s hand waved lazily at the string of scented smoke that hung in the air. The tent smelled of sand and hot breezes, mixed with heady aromas of spices and metal. The mines on Cypress 304 provided the Wan Military with their massive ships, but the aboriginal people provided the metal. The taste, the smell, the heaviness of metal hung about the planet… enveloping the adapted vegetation.

The government had showed the cadets countless films; reels upon reels of warnings of contamination. Degradation of humanity was the most highly punishable crime; the human element could not be soiled by other planets. The military emphasized that non-Terran planets were inhospitable and beneath human consideration.

All the new recruits were psychologically tested after every third film, until it was ground in and concrete the contempt the men would have for other worlds. This was standard Wan protocol, to prevent AWOL and keep their people focused. A very young cadet Dremmel had measured his responses to the psychological tests, slowed his heart rate and answered appropriately; ensuring an assignment off world. Those who could not were doomed to a life in the lush but identical offices in a Terran bio-dome.

Deserts were non-existent on Terra-Earth and when a burgeoning Captain Dremmel arrived on Cypress 304, his senses exploded with unfamiliar sights and sounds. With watchdog mechanical eyes following everything the crew did, it was a rare occasion when Dremmel’s eyes would stray from his work. But when they did stray, he drank in the sepia desert and held it close to his heart.

After three years of active duty, Captain Dremmel’s crew boarded the “SC Bounty” to return to Terra-Earth. As the ship rose toward the upper atmosphere, there was a hissing sound as a piece of the extended cargo bay ripped off. Some distance away, three figures watched as the “SC Bounty” shuddered and fell apart, falling back into the lower atmosphere and eventually, the planet’s surface. The records of the Wan Military recorded no survivors… certainly not the Captain, his first officer nor his navigator.

Two years later, Martin breathed in the intoxicating scent of spice and metal. The taste of the Cypressian woman lingered on his lips. He stroked her dusky skin, following the ridges along her back. She chuckled and at the heavy sound, Martin’s skin tingled. Looking up at him with her golden eyes, she hummed contently. “You Terrans… You have such a hunger for desolate places…”

Captain Dremmel had gone native.

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