Intercosmic - Chapter 2 - Puke


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Travel between star systems isn’t for the weak. Most people go their entire lives without ever having done it. I don’t know if I envy them for not having the experience or pity them for never seeing the beauty of other galaxies. I remember the first time I touched solid ground after landing in another system, I puked until I cried. Maybe I cried until I puked, could have been both at the same time. Now, it isn’t a big deal for me; some momentary lightheadedness and I’m good to go. Everyone else isn’t so lucky, most people adjust after a few times, others never do. Some of the younger guys are vomiting, and others are evacuating from the other end. All of them seem to find a way to hug the ground despite the embarrassment they’re experiencing. There’s really nothing to be ashamed of, Creed tells always tells the story about turning his fatigues brown his first time.  

The Hafengdan are massive devices, some folks cause them gates. Ships pass through, and have the ability to move to other star systems. I don’t know how it works, science was never really my thing. A lot of other soldiers started calling them Bangbepunkt when I was first starting out. The words have the same meaning in the Revrell language but, Bangbepunkt is funnier. You hear the “bang,” as you arrive in another star system then you, “be punked,” as you try not to shoot all the fluid out of your body. After maybe the third time around, you’ll be just fine, at least I was. Supposedly the Revrell built them to expand their studies of the universe which is why they’re named in the Revrellian language. Other folks, think they found them, and God put them here for us to use. Then there’s people who think they were created by some ancient race that used to rule the universe. I had to repeat my science final twice in my last year of high school, so it isn’t for me to decide. 

I’ve heard rumors of a human supremacist group developing their own alternative in hopes of spreading out to the far reaches of the galaxy and colonizing them, reaching places nobody has gone. So far just rumors, and way above my pay grade and way out of the mission scope. Tonight, we’re here to get a good night’s sleep and then we’re off to the jungle. 

I’ve never been to Xioshaa before, but the first thing I notice is the heat. I read that the planet was hot across the surface, but this is ridiculous. I’m not sure how there’s anything here but deserts. Still, there’s oceans and most of the planet is covered with dense jungles of varying types. The average temperature at any given time here is 137 degrees, hotter in the deserts. Supposedly there’s an ocean that always boils and one that doesn’t despite the temperature. I guess that’s what happens when the sun never sets on a planet and it only takes nine hours to do a loop of the sun here.

My second thought, armor is going to be a pain in the ass; even with the temperature regulators. I usually go with heavy armor for the protection, but I’ll have to go with something light. Prioritize movement over armor for this one.

“Listen up,” Commander Creed calls us all over. “Synchronize your time, be at the hotel by 8pm. Enjoy the city, but remember that your lives are not your own.”

I always wanted to travel and see different planets, but most of what I see is just military outposts and combat zones. I have even seen most of the Solar System, and I was born there. I suppose retirement will offer a chance to do all of that stuff, but it is nice to have a day to explore things as they are now. The map on my wrist comp lets me know there’s an antique shop not too far from me. Most people have already moved to implants to replace phones, portable computers, translators and everything else. For some reason strapping the thin almost weightless piece of metal to my arm is preferable to a chip in my brain; no matter how safe and easy it is now. I’m just old fashioned and the watch and an earpiece has the ability to do anything the implant can do, but also the ability to project without some bonus feature requiring another implant in your wrist. If things aren’t broken, there’s no reason to fix them and don’t get any extra holes put in your body; good advice from my father that has served me well for 28 years. 

“Hey soldier, looking for a good time,” a hand reaches out and grabs my forearm.

“No ma’am,” I respond to the Vaznian woman that reached out to me.

I’ve met a few Vaznians before, but looking at their skin always trips me out. From a distance it may not be noticeable but up close the slow but constant changing of various blues is hard to miss. Supposedly some can even camouflage like Earth Chameleons, but I haven’t seen that before. They’re almost human, biggest difference that’s spotted right away are skin color and the fingers. Their fingers are long, more mushroom shaped. All of them are psionics, although low on the power scale, they’re masters of controlling other people’s pleasure centers. It’s one of the reason sex tourism is so focused on their planets at the moment. The other reason, they can change gender at will. From what I’ve learned it started as an evolutionary trait to increase population growth. Not enough males, someone changes, too many males, same deal. It’s interesting how their society doesn’t have the gender roles and sexual hang-ups we as humans have. I should have finished that sociology degree.

“Would you like something, different,” the Vaznian asks.

“No, I’m just not interested,” I slowly remove their hand.

“I’ll be here, if you change your mind,” they wink at me.

Within a block I find myself inside the small antique shop. I’m always curious what kind of antiques each civilization has. Specifically, their older music. Vaznian music genres, don’t seem to be genres as I know them. Genres seem to be the same songs, played with different instruments. Not much percussion, but rhythmic woodwind sounds. It has a sensual, but primal vibe to it for sure. Cross referencing it with current trends shows that their music has remained much the same. The difference, being new genres, or instruments. It doesn’t sound bad with human electric guitars, but not what I’m looking for. It was a reach, but I was hoping for some old human equipment. I haven’t had much luck on travels, but I haven’t had the chance to get out much either. 

I settle on a small lava globe as a souvenir. Most of the lava has hardened with time, but the small glasslike ball still remains warm to the touch and lava still flows through some of the trees inside. I wonder if that’s based on one of the forests around the planet. 389 credits isn’t a bad price for it, and it’ll look fine in my apartment. 

Making my way back towards the hotel I stop for some street food; no matter where I go, street food is the best food. They’ll serve us food at the hotel, but generally it’s a mix of human cuisine based on whoever the cook is that day. Trying food from different places is, an experience. Sometimes the food is great. Today, Ustrato Tacos are on the menu.

This might be the best meat I’ve ever had, spiced just right, a lot of kick with a sweet taste to follow it up. It just melts in your mouth. It takes forever to lick my fingers clean, and I don’t care who sees me. It’s truly incredible. The perfect meat.

“First time huh,” the vendor asks me.

“Yes, how can you tell?”

“You’ve been standing by my cart licking your fingers for two hours.”

“What?”

“You humans don’t take well to our food,” they chuckle. “But you’re great for business.”

I didn’t intend to go on a drug trip, but I still have time to make it to the hotel. Even if my legs aren’t as strong as they were two hours ago. Along the way I pass what appears to be a bar with several of my comrades laid outside in a drunken stupor. As their superior, I would usually stop to reprimand them for drinking in their colors, but I don’t have time to stop them.

“Sergeant Gray, I got something to say to you,” Casey blocks my way, obviously drunk.

“Walk with me back to the hotel,” I walk past him.

“I’m afraid Sergeant,” he tells me.

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want to die.”

“We protect each other, there’s nothing to fear.”

“Bullets, psionics, poison leaves. I heard they got a tree here that’ll make it feel like your flesh is on fire for six years,” he shakes his head at the ground.

“So, what do you think you should do about it?”

“Run away,” he says bluntly.

“That’s the coward's way out. You haven’t even finished your first mission,” I use my strict voice with him. 

“Is that what you think?”

“It’s what I know. We show no mercy, because the world will show us none. If you run now, you’ll run your entire life because you’ll be ruled by fear. That’s no way to live.”

“Don’t let me die tomorrow Sergeant,” seemingly sober he walks into the hotel ahead of me.

“I won’t,” I call back as he enters the oval shaped building. 

I can’t promise he won’t die with real certainty. Any mission can be your last one, nobody has to say it. I know this mission is probably more dangerous than Creed is making it out to be and that worries me.

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