Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Another Saturday night wound down as the cargo loader deposited the last of the shipping containers in the hold of the space elevator. It was just a few hours before midnight as he parked and shut his rig down for the night. Despite the delays clearing that last crate, the lift would go up to Ver Punt Station on schedule.
Inside, the doors had no sooner sealed than the lock on that last container released, and a handful of light balls were thrown out onto what little floor space remained.
“Move, move, move. Liftoff in less than five.”
A dozen suited figures clambered out of the container carrying helmets, air tanks and molded launch cushions.
They spread out evenly along the clear aisle, maglocked the cushions to the floor and then donned their helmets. They punched into their air supplies and strapped themselves into the forms on the floor, their helmets crackling with encrypted short wave signals as each of them sounded off their readiness.
There was a rumble, then a deafening roar and they were pushed hard into the floor. As the car raced up the tether, the crushing force began to ease, until after what seemed an age, the car slowed and shuddered to a stop, cradled as it was now in the arms of the orbiting station.
“Ok. Jasper, get the doors. Jupiter and Jade, lock and load and make sure nobody’s putting in overtime. Marcus, get a loader and run our kit up to the OEM.” David, the leader, barked out instructions.
As he spoke, each of the crew was already moving to the carefully choreographed plan. Jasper patched into the door panel on the run, overriding and opening the bay doors without slowing down and unlocking and firing the engines on the loader as Marcus was climbing into its driver’s seat.
As the heavy machine trundled into the cargo area, the lithe point guards slipped past on either side to sprint across the docks. By the time they reached the elevator that would haul the crew and their supplies up into the Orbital Escape Module, Jasper had opened its doors as well. They confirmed the car was empty before continuing up the neighboring stairwell, snub nosed weapons at the ready.
Marcus scooped their cargo container and began hauling it across the loading dock. As he rolled, the remaining crew jumped and mag locked a boot and glove to the side, catching a ride. Marcus ran the loader flat out, slowing only to avoid crashing through the back wall of elevator.
David dropped to the ground as the vehicle slowed, and was joined by Jasper, still gesturing with wild purpose at the suspended display only she could see. The cargo lift shuddered into motion, beginning the slow and less dramatic ascent to their next destination.
“OEM is fired, cargo bays are open, Jay and Jay are onboard and the coast is clear.”
Marcus pushed the throttle forward as the elevator leveled off with the upper deck, and steered without hesitation towards the gaping maw of the craft at the end of the corridor.
Seven figures peeled off and made for the crew cabin as their supply cache was rolled into the hold. David walked patiently beside Jasper as she cracked the station’s systems and authorized a launch, then headed for the cockpit as Marcus locked down the container, abandoned the loader on the dock behind them and secured the cargo bay doors.
From the cockpit David patched into the ship’s intercom.
“Class, I think you’ve earned a passing grade today, with honors.”
There was a rumble as the OEM’s engines came to life and the craft unmoored, beginning its slow ascent from the station.
“It was once written ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’, but I say,” David paused as the craft cleared the superstructure and the expanse of space spread out unbroken before him, “I say the meek can have the earth, we’ll take our place in the stars.”