Saving The World

“You boys ready?”

Madrid cleared her throat in the background. Rio glanced her direction. “I mean, people. You people ready?”

“Why can’t you get used to that?” Madrid asked, still buckled in.

Rio shrugged. “Habit, I guess.”

Dakota jumped in. “Give him a break, there’s a lot going on.”

“Yeah, but we’ve had months together, not to mention all the training, right?” Madrid said.

“Does it really matter?” Del jumped in. “We’re going to save the world, who gives a shit if we’re inclusive?”

Madrid unbuckled her restraints and stood. “That’s the whole point, right? A bunch of diverse team members? Tasked with planting a robust life on this new planet?”

“Still weird we don’t know each other’s names.” Shan added from the back.

Dakota nodded. “S’posed to be the mark of a new world, right? Cities only. Semi-anonymous?”

“Whatever,” Rio muttered. “Let’s get strapped and prepped.”

“We’re not waking everyone else?” Del asked.

Madrid shook her head. “We were given a 1-day head start. Clear the area. Setup camps. We wake them now, with none of that done, they’ll all freak out.”

“Supposedly,” Dakota said. “I think they’d be fine.” He slung his gun over his shoulder. “But, whatever.”

“That’s more in my territory, isn’t it?” Madrid asked.

Dakota skulked to the door.

“Besides,” Shan added. “We only get the extra reserves after that window, too. If we pull the trigger now, Rio’ll just eat them all up.”

Everyone but Rio laughed.

“Very funny,” Rio said, inspecting his gun. “But we have important things to do and everyone is wasting time. Dakota, we almost ready?”

Dakota was still by the door, running his inspections. “Five minutes, boss,” he said.

Rio exhaled loudly. “Any issues on weapons checks so far?” There was a collective grunt from the room. “I’m assuming that means no, otherwise, let me know.”

“Hey Rio,” Shan said. “What if we find something out there?”

“What do you mean? Area’s been scanned. Nothing out there but rocks.”

Shan shrugged. “I know, I read the report, was at the briefings. But… what if…”

“Spit it out,” Madrid said.

“What if… they missed something?”

Rio guffawed. “The smartest people in the world? Shit son, if they missed something, we’re all screwed anyway.”

“I don’t think it’s time for a doomsday crisis to infiltrate our heads, huh?” Madrid said, heading over and patting Shan on the back. Shan tended to be shy and quiet, and her training wasn’t as extensive as the others. “If we start going down that path…” Madrid trailed off, leaving her hand on Shan’s. “You just follow me, right?” Madrid and Shan exchanged looks, until Shan nodded. “Good,” Madrid said. “Dakota, how’s it coming along?”

“Two minutes,” he said.

“You forget your training, or what?” Rio asked.

“You want to be safe? You wait two minutes.”

“Fine,” Rio gave up. There wasn’t anything he could do anyway. They were all experts in their own area, and their success depended on working together as a team. As the leader, Rio, of all people, knew that best. “Del, you alright back there?”

Del looked up, a smile across his face. “I’m fine, just nervous.”

“Yeah, join the club, man.”

“One minute!” Dakota called out from the door.

Rio stepped forward. “Alright everyone, helmets on.” He reached for the white bowl grasped between his elbow and his hip, and threw it on over his head. The display in his visor highlighted the other team members. Dakota, Delhi, Shanghai, and Madrid all had an orange outline, with vitals displayed beneath them. He walked up to each team member for confirmation, receiving a thumbs-up as he passed.

Dakota called out again. “Thirty seconds.”

“Alright, last-minute checks.” Rio’s voice now boomed in the helmet speakers, and in his own, each member gave an affirmative to proceed. He walked over behind Dakota. “Line up,” he said, and each team member walked behind him in a single-file queue.

“Ten seconds,” Dakota shouted in everyone’s helmet. Silence befell the ship. The world was about to change. A new world was before them and, in less than ten seconds, they would rest their eyes, for the first time ever, on the planet that would save humanity. When the timer hit 0, a green light flashed, and the doors slid open vertically.

“What the hell is that?” Dakota, being at the front of the line, was the first to speak up. His question hung in everyone else’s helmets.

Their line dispersed, and everyone stepped closer to the opening, letting their weapons dangle at their side. Rio didn’t know what to say. Madrid gasped.

“Are those… buildings?” Shan finally asked the obvious, peeking her head around Madrid.

Rio finally found the words he was looking for. “They… appear to be, yes.”

“I thought you said there were only rocks,” Shan added.

“I know what I said,” Rio said.

“Technically,” Del intervened, “they said there are no life forms. They didn’t say ‘rocks’ or anything else.”

“Shut up, Del.” Dakota stepped onto the soil, which was mostly a fine, red-tinted dust, and a few scattered large rocks. The rest of the group shuffled behind him. “What’s the protocol for this?” He asked.

Madrid shook her head. “Nothing. We’re in unchartered territory.”

“I don’t understand,” Rio said. “If aren’t any lifeforms… who built this?”

“Well it ain’t exactly like they’re shiny, new buildings,” Dakota added.

“Yeah,” Madrid said. “These have been abandoned for a while.

“A while?” Dakota sounded surprised. “I’ve seen ghost towns livelier than this.” A chunk of rubble fell from a nearby building and slammed into the ground, sending a red dust cloud into the air.

“We just have to make sure it’s safe,” Rio said. He was trying to sound confident, but the words came out like he was reassuring himself. “Let’s go.” He marched ahead of everyone before pausing. “Come on,” he said. “The world depends on us.”

“He’s right,” Madrid finally jumped in, taking a step forward and addressing the group. “We’ll run an extensive recon and still plan to setup as many camps as we can before the others wake up.” She turned back around. “Now let’s go.”

With the weight of the world on their shoulders, they all walked forward.

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