“God, so many people.” I sat against the wall opposite the door. “It must have been half the complex or more. So many. Dead? Mutated?”
I leaned my head against the wall behind me, and looked up at the shiny grated ceiling. The pale, almost-blue light from behind the grating soothed my mind for a brief moment of thoughtlessness.
My head rocked to the right, where I could see down the long white hallway to the Main Complex Junction. The MCJ was the hub of the five winged complex design. Each wing’s walls bore long striped lines with segmented arrow tips, leading residents back to the hub. In this complex, Complex Alpha, our stripes were red. I was told Beta and Gamma had either blue or orange, but I’d never been granted travel permission to go see for myself.
My stump throbbed. I raised it, to finally take a better look at it. Black pus-seeping crust sealed the terminal edge of my arm. Comparing it to my right, it looked like I cut it about two inches below my wrist.
“Fuck this hurts. At least it’s not a mutated tentacle, I guess.”
Glancing back toward the MCJ, the thought occurred to me, There has to be medical staff in the infirmary. Maybe the tissue regenerate can- do something? I don’t think it can regrow a limb, but, maybe something to close it up, and stop the pain.
Leaning on my right arm, I pushed myself up. As I began down the long path toward the MCJ, memories flooded my mind of my arrival, and the first time I had seen the complex.
It was seven years ago. I stepped off the transport ship’s shuttle with fifty other workers. We were the first of three shuttles in the delivery, and after we had all touched down, we brought the planet Wright up to a staggering population of nine hundred colonists.
I could barely grasp being here. Waking up from cryosleep on the transport ship, I was told our twenty light-year trip was done. It felt like we had only just left Mars, and there we were, orbiting a strange rocky world.
At seventeen, I was the youngest Mechanical Systems Engineer on the ground, maybe the youngest resident on Wright. And no one let me forget it.
Our team finished the complex’s construction by building out the last two wings of the complex, Ground Support and Communications and Terraform Control. Six months later, as we put the finishing touches on CTC’s internal systems, the gear arrived to begin work on the next-gen terraforming systems. There were parts to install I didn’t recognize, and wouldn’t have had a clue how they worked, but Lyssa, the newly arrived Terraform Technician did.
We began tearing down the old Benally rigs, which split oxygen away from the planet’s abundance of carbon dioxide, and installed this new tech. I could have sworn, the new systems put out so much oxygen, you could stand under one without an EPS suit and breathe like you were back home on Mars.
Those days seemed to fly by. After installing three of the revamped terraform towers, I had convinced Lyssa to eat dinner with me. After three more, we were a couple, and I thought inseparable. But once we had ten of the new towers online, Command pulled Lyssa, and sent her to Complex Gamma.
We continued on, tearing down the old, and throwing up the new. We did it another eighty-nine times, until our third of the planet had been updated. With each one, I thought about Lyssa, and dreamed that one of these days we’d be assigned to the same complex again.
I would think back to how excited she was, when telling me about the origins of the Mars terraforming project, and how the world used to be as rocky as Wright. That always blew my mind. But she was right about timing. As we neared the ninetieth install we got to see the first images of crops peeking through the soil- our crops, life that had traveled across the stars, now establishing a new home.
The images inspired me with awe. They made me feel like more than I was, more than a runaway who had fled the solar system to start a new life, free from the harsh eyes and criticisms I’d felt back there. Instead, Wright could be home, a real home.
I was almost to the MCJ. Through the threshold at the end of the corridor, I saw the Commissary’s door and the hundred tables that sat outside the Mess.
“God, I hope she’s OK. Maybe after the infirmary, I can stop by CTC and send her a message.”
Taking my final steps in the Ground Wing, I turned into the Junction. I froze, as I found myself face to face with a brown haired woman.
“Hamal?” She jumped and stared into my eyes.