Eyes creaked open to the black room. The dreaded alarm clock’s screeching beep, an undeniable call for Vitamin D. Kassinara popped two plastic bottles, one a pill, one a fruit juice, both combining for twice the daily value of Vitamin D.
In the dark room, no one cold see the face she made from tasting the fruit juice. What retched planet could produce such a foul food source, she couldn’t say. What she could say, was that it was brimming with vitamins and minerals. All the things a human would miss on a half terra-formed moon. Probably, the fruit came from a Drek world.
After a few moments of semi-consciousness turning to full lucidity, Kassinara stood from her bed to check the window. For reasons she wasn’t sure of, she’d still closed the blinds before going to sleep. Opening them revealed a sheet of darkness with a thumbnail of an orange glow peaking around the gas-giant Dyaus hundreds of thousands of miles away in the eastern sky. She checked her watch. Twenty-two hours. If she did her tasks fast enough, the next time she woke would be to the morning sun.
Quickly, though still dulled from waking, she donned the thick boots and layers she’d need to go outside the compound. As she reached for the last layer, a thick coat, she noticed the faintest glow from underneath her door. With a huff, then a scowl, she opened her door and nearly kicked down the adjacent door to Ezin’s room. A bulbous eyed, gray-blue skinned boy was sitting with his long legs crossed on the floor facing a bright screen in a dark room. Next to him was the slight, orangish-brown chitin covered form of his close friend Ket. Both were hunched over, both flinched at the sudden entrance.
“How long have you two been awake?” Kassinara struggled to hide her ire.
“I dunno….” Ezin, the bulbous eyed boy began. In the controlled environment of the compound, he did not need his specialized suit to protect his film-covered skin, but he needed twice the vitamin intake to prevent said skin from becoming irritated. “Only fifteen hours.”
Kassinara stared unblinking, brow furrowed.
Sheepishly, Ezin gave in. “Maybe closer to twenty.”
“Maybe over twenty. And what happens when we need either of you to do your jobs?”
Ket’s dexterous tendrils, which protruded from his hands, had begun to retreat back into his exoskeleton. His sunken form tore at Kassinara’s heart, but she knew if she wasn’t stern with the young Chemorian he’d follow Ezin’s irresponsible example.
“We checked everything already!” Ezin protested. “All running optimally. And nothing’s gone wrong since the sun set.”
“And machines never break randomly, right?” Kassinara’s arms crossed tight. “Nobody’s gonna press the wrong button? Accident’s don’t happen? All in the clear?”
“Aw c’mon!” Ezin groaned. “We just got a new game and we-”
“With the money from your job! That you swore you’d do to the best of your abilities when the Emperor brought us here. Our resources are limited at this time of the cycle! Everyone needs to be particularly prepared for anything to go wrong. That means-” Kassinara marched across the room, snatching an un-opened bottle of vitamins. “-being rested and healthy. Now go to sleep and take one of these in the m….when you wake up.”
“But we’re at a really good part-”
“Go. To. Sleep.”
After giving the boys a stare that dared them to protest, Kassinara marched from the room and finally donned her final layer before heading outside.
No wind in the chill air outside. Like the atmosphere itself was frozen. It wouldn’t get much better, even when fully terra-formed. At least the atmosphere was breathable in the city. First order of the day was to check the hydroponic building pumping said breathable air.
On her walk were a few UV lights that provided just enough illumination to see the path in front of her. Specialized plants, engineered and brought here specifically for their ability to survive this difficult environment, flourished around the lights. Their green providing one of the only spots of color on the dimly lit moon.
After a few minutes, she came to a tall-ish building that was normally all windows. With no sunlight and little atmosphere to protect from asteroids, the building’s reinforced layer had been put up as the sun had become obscured behind Dyaus. Kassinara opened the first door, stepping into a vestibule that was significantly warmer. She doffed her outer layer and heavy boots, slipping on some lighter shoes before advancing into the house of plants. The air here was thick with moisture, and warmer still than the vestibule. The bright lights caused her to squint, but in a few moments, her vision was filled with greens and an assortment of multicolored flowers and vines, all planted in a specially made and nutrient rich clay that floated on a pool of nutrient rich water. A pump system aerated the water, and the high nutrient content allowed the plants to consume little of the moon’s precious water.
This relaxing warmth was immediately paused for Kassinara when she saw Anya already working her way through an isle of vegetables. Her long arms easily reached past leaves and up branches grabbing a light brown, vaguely oval shaped, vegetable and placing it in the basket that her prehensile tail kept right at her waist.
“You haven’t been neglecting sleep too, have you?” Kassinara asked.
Anya glanced over her shoulder, just now taking notice of Kassinara.
“Nope. Early to bed, early to rise.” Anya grinned. “I like getting my stuff done early. No one to bother me.”
“Oh.” Kassinara glanced at the door.
“Not you though!” Anya quickly amended. “Gershen’s a bit chatty, and sometimes Ezin comes here to hide from you.”
They shared a brief laugh. Kassinara was sucked into the bright colors again, brought out only by Anya moving close enough to inspect her.
“Are you feeling okay?” asked Anya, close enough to smell each other’s breath, “You look pale.”
Kassinara glanced at her wrist device that immediately turned to it’s mirror function. In this light she could see that her normally light-caramel skin had taken a chalky white tone. Initially, she reeled at the sight, but quickly explained. “Probably just lack of sunlight. And the cold. And being underwater all the time.”
“Have you found out anything useful about the Dark Sharks yet?”
“All we’ve found out is that they have pointy teeth and I hate them.” Kassinara groaned.
Anya grinned, “I coulda told ya’ that.”
As much as she would have loved to stay here with Anya and the warmth and the colors, Kassinara knew there was much to do. After checking the stocks to be certain no one would go hungry anytime soon, Kassinara grabbed a crate full of veggies, re-donned her layers, and headed out.
No sooner had she deposited the food at the community building then her wrist began to beep. She huffed. It never beeped for anything good.
“Kass, one of our Thermal Batteries has gone down.”
Another huff. “Be there in a minute.”
Hustling through the cold air, Kassinara descended the moon’s third largest crater. Down here, where the sun hardly ever reached even in the bright part of the cycle, the air grew hot. Near a magma vent from the moon’s core were the Thermal Batteries turning heat into energy. Without any solar or wind, they had been the only source of energy for over six hundred hours.
Standing among, and towering over, a group of technicians was Ikshon, a bulky Drek whose hair was thick cords and whose skin sometimes cracked into jagged edges. She broke from the group to meet with Kassinara.
“The battery has completely stopped. None of them can fix it. Merkiel is off planet and I cannot reach Ezin or Ket.”
Kassinara huffed, this time so hard she almost deflated. “I turned off all their devices because they haven’t slept in over twenty-five hours.”
“Ah. And if we woke them now, they likely would make a mistake.”
“What shall we do then?”
Kassinara checked her wrist device. “We’ve got enough stored power to last until the bright cycle. Barely. Cut all power to out compound outside of atmosphere. And then….probably reduce power to the mines by eight percent.”
“That loss in revenue will not sit well with some.”
“I know. It doesn’t sit well with me either, but we don’t have a lot of options. Plus, maybe the guilt will be a better lessen to Ez than me yelling at him. Again.”
Ikshon grinned, a rare sight. “One can hope. Very well, I will inform the mine.”
“Thanks Ik, I gotta get to the docks.”
Hours later, hair damp and smelling of water long stagnant with no wind and a slow tide, Kassinara was returning to the compound. On her way, she walked past a number of obviously disgruntled miners, though none confronted her directly. She almost wanted one of them to. Giver her something to yell at. Not that that would help.
At a large solar panel, she stopped and checked her wrist. Just under twelve hours from it actually being useful. That damn Thermal Battery couldn’t have waited just a bit longer. In the sky above, the orange thumbnail was brightening and growing. Ever so slightly.
She continued home. Inside, she tossed aside her heavy layers and made for the shower. Reaching out for the hot water nozzle she recalled, with some dread, that she’d cut her own power. The air was cold, the water would be nearly freezing. Groaning, Kassinara settled with rinsing the smell from her hair, as much as she could, then flinging herself down on her bed. After bundling herself against the cold, she slept deeply.
Hands were pushing her. Riling her from sleep.
“Will you get up already?”
Kassinara grumbled, barely able to recognize that Anya was standing over her.
“Do you want to see the sun or not?”
This at last provided the motivation to get up. With some help and a little prodding, Kassinara layered up once more and followed Anya to the roof of the compound. There, Ezin, Ket, and Ikshon were waiting.
“Finally.” said Ezin, “You complain that I don’t get enough sleep, while you get too much.”
Kassinara grumbled, nearly growling. “I’m going to order clones of you so I can kill one every morning.”
Ezin recoiled, but the others shared a laugh.
Together they waited. Some used thick shades to look up as the sun crept around Dyaus, while others had eyes only for Prithvi. The moon was mostly dull. It’s soil gray-ish, most buildings a uniform gray. More and more, however, it was illuminated. What few colors there were, popped in contrast. Soon, more colors would join as the wilting plants too far from any light source would awaken. Solar panels would start making energy, and the heat would make wind for the turbines.
As the first rays began to warm her face, Kassinara breathed deep the warm air.