K-7, the lone trooper stationed on SBX-14, watched Onea come to life.
With a pulse-rifle hanging across his torso, the trooper sighed deeply into the glass visor of his helmet. When the haze cleared out, the visor revealed the bearded man and his steely grey eyes. He was looking at the blue planet which was now embraced by the light emitted by stars near and far. There were many like him: nameless, raised and trained for the purpose of defending Onea and its outposts from extra-terrestrial threats. Yet there were none like him: silent, detached, and the only Trooper to have manned SBX-14.
He continued to gaze at Onea without intent, without thoughts, and hence liberated from the need for answers.
His suit tightened up automatically as a precaution against excessive Trona exposure. Instantly, he adjusted the controls on the small control panel affixed to his forearm. He knew the lights on his suit would beam red any moment now; the Orbit Wave was on its way to SBX-14. The Orbit Wave was nothing but a gust of pure, invisible energy. Generated by the Star Brights upon activation, the Orbit Wave moved in a clockwise direction at a great speed to literally crash into everything in its path. In reality, all it ever did to structures such as Galaxitra or even humble sized passenger shuttles was to create power fluctuations. However, a human body would not survive the same.
Switching on his jetpack, K-7 turned around and thrust his way above the grey terrain towards his military ship, an outdated Cobra-42.
The white spotlights installed around the ship began to flicker – a warning sign.
The lights on his suit beamed red.
He sped through the entrance door only to be engulfed in darkness.
The whirring sounds from the backup generator filled the ship.
It took a few minutes for the lights to become steady.
The flickering glow revealed how the interiors had been modified. The area that was meant for eight passenger seats now had a single fiber-sponge bed. The wide cabinet which held air cylinders was half-empty. Instead it held a rack of pulse-rifles, ammunition and two spare armors.
K-7 was seated in the cockpit, his visor disengaged and his fingers multi-tasking on the flight console. His grey eyes barely blinked as they shuffled between different screens while he tried to reroute the ship’s power supply. It would take another ten to fifteen minutes before the main generator would be available again.
A message beeped on one of the screens:
-Trona Harvesting Complete-
He pushed a button on his suit for the helmet to re-engage and within no time he was back outside. But something strange happened: a layer of frost had formed on his visor. K-7 stood unsure, like an android unable to decipher a code. It took a while before he decided to simply wipe it off with his hands.
First time in twelve years.
This was the first time he had experienced such a phenomenon. He knew there was a body cooling cylinder beside the oxygen tank attached to his back; had it malfunctioned? Did its batteries take a beating from the Orbit Wave?
Armed with his rifle and a poly-carbonate casing, he continued to walk alongside the thick red cable which was embedded into the grey land. It would lead him towards the hillock in the distance where the miniature Trona Harvesting Capsules had been drilled into its surface. Every Star Bright had reserves of this dark crystalline element; the only difference was that there were barely any on SBX-14. However, the EYE deemed it necessary to collect samples of Trona from every Star Bright, and it was K-7’s responsibility to deliver the capsules directly to the research facility located on SBX-11.
It was getting colder as he approached the hillock; the frost had enveloped his visor yet again, this time forming a thicker film. The chill began to creep in through the suit.
Something was terribly wrong.
He wiped off the frost and magnified the auto-lens in his visor into the distance, towards the hillock.
He stopped in his tracks.
For the first time in many years, he felt short of breath.