She perked up only slightly and gauged the reactions of her coworkers, each illuminated in a dull blue light from each of their own holograph interfaces.
“Found, as in discovered?” asked Aeng, the skeptic. “Or found as in targeted?”
A dull roll of chuckles made its way through the room.
“Both, I think,” came another voice, echoing Jjuna’s own thoughts.
With that announcement, chatter began to fill the room. The SR—standard recruit—who had come in with the news branched off and began discussing it with someone she apparently knew. Jjuna returned her attending to get holograph for only a second before Reijja’s face popped up behind her desk.
“What about that?” she asked, her eyebrows raised, almost seductively.
Jjuna shrugged. “I hardly know anything about it.”
“You think their going to start terraforming a new planet?”
Jjuna assured her, once again, that she had no way of knowing.
“You're no fun at all. Speculating without any information is half the fun of being alive.”
Jjuna couldn't help but smile a little bit; no phrase could better sum up Reijja as a person. “That's not exactly what they pay me to do.”
“Right. I forgot. You're paid to be a boring slod.”
“No…I'm paid to be a scientist.”
Reijja raised one brow, a sideways grin contorting her smart-ass face. “Isn't that what I said?”
Feeling like a genius, no doubt, Reijja dismissed herself back to her own work space. The chatter in the rest of the office had not subsided. Gossip and unfounded speculation. Jjuna immediately opened her mail box on the holograph. It was empty, which wasn’t entirely surprising. So instead, she clicked on her ear piece and entered her SO’s extension on the screen.
Yes, Parrai? Her tone was short.
“Tauf. You know the gossip had already started. What's actually going on?”
I don't have time right now. She also sounded out of breath.
“If there's a boat going out to this place, I want to be on it.”
I seriously have no information on it yet, Parrai. I'll call a meeting once I do. But she didn't hang up.
“Tell me who to contact, then,” Jjuna insisted. “I'll apply, do whatever paperwork I need to do. I don't want to miss this one.”
Tauf sighed. You're our best science tech. You really are. But there's no telling what is actually going on upstairs right now. If someone starts looking for a tech, I'll drop your name all over the place. But until then…
“But there is a team going out to this place, yeah?”
She hesitated. So far as I know.
Jjuna accidentally squealed.
Keep your mouth shut, Parrai. Hirai plijja…
“All right, all right. Keep me in the loop.”
Tauf clicked off.
Jjuna switched her own ear piece off, but hadn’t even put her hand back to the holograph when the console began to beep softly in her ear. “Commander Kerin” flashed across the interface.
You've been asked to report to the sub docking bay. Be there in ten minutes.
“Ten—sub--I'll be there, sir.”
Kerin disconnected instantly. Jjuna didn't have even a moment to recover from sounding like an idiot. She stood up, knocking her chair back with her legs.
“Where are you going?” Reijja demanded.
Jjuna thought about making something up, but decided instead to be vague. “Kerin called for me,” she replied in haste. That was true, wasn't it? Any mention of the docking bay or Kerin's urgency and Reijja’s imagination would run wild. Jjuna smiled awkwardly and hurried to leave before her nosy friend could ask another question. Reijja watched her leave with a furrowed brow. She wasn't fooled. Jjuna was a terrible liar.
It was just under a ten minute walk to the docking bays with a quick pace, so Jjuna had no time to waste. She power-walked down the hall to the elevator where one other person was already getting on.
Jjuna smiled. “I am, Warnn. Thank you.”
The AR smiled cordially, then stood in silence facing the door as the elevator began its decent.
Like Warnn, Jjuna was an AR, or advanced recruit. It was basically the highest rank one could be while still having no real subordinates. Not the kind you could order around, anyway. And while Jjuna and Warnn had gone through orientation together, they were stationed in different departments and were barely more than acquaintances. She couldn't remember just then which department he was in, either.
Warnn stood there with his hands behind his back, rocking back and forth on his toes. Silence was really top be expected, but the way he was acting, swaying there like a loading screen, made it awkward.
“Do you know something?” Jjuna asked, raising her tone in suspicion.
He half-turned his head toward her. “Do you know something?”
Jjuna slowly shook her head just as the elevator stopped, its doors opening up to the docking bay’s lowest level.
Directly across the narrow hall from the open elevator doors was a running holograph, the voice of a reporter filled the small space. The image was of a long piece of machinery that Jjuna had seen before, but couldn't place.
While we reached out to the head of the PED, we have received no comment. The leaked images suggest that last year's launch was not the observatory satellite that it was originally believed to be. According to retired head technician for the PED, Ru Ronjj, the “satellite” is actually a TR-3 planetary engineering probe. Before his retirement, Ronjj aided in developing the TR-1, which was the initial probe that began the terraformation of Gallrun, a now completely successful terraformed planet which boasts an ajjarian population of over three million.
So the question is: had the PED began terraforming a new planet? And if so, why has it been kept a secret for over a year? Stay with us as answers unfold here on the Trivun News Network.
“That's just like them, isn't it?” Warnn scoffed. “The media knows more than us and now so does everybody else.”
Jjuna shrugged. “I think technically we know as much as everybody else now, too.”
Warnn grumbled and turned away. Jjuna followed.
The low ceiling of the narrow hall ended and the space around them opened up into the enormous docking bay. It was the bottom-most bay on the station and so the slotted walkway on which Jjuna stood was the only thing between her and the city far below. The cold wind whipped up under the open bottom of the bay, ruffling her clothes and chilling her skin. A single boat was anchored in the bay and near the gangway stood a group of eight people. From this distance, and with her heart racing, Jjuna could only recognize Kerin. She took a few shaky steps forward, trying not to look down past the thin layer of clouds to the metropolis of Trivun below.
“Ah, good. You're here,” Kerin said, interrupting himself. He turned to gave the two approaching ARs.
They were quick to stop in their tracks and salute.
“Sir,” Warnn barked.
Karin pulled two holotags out of his shirt pocket. “ARs, it's you're lucky day. As of this moment, you are reassigned.”
Jjuna took one of the small holotags on her hand, a tiny pin-sized stick of metal with a projection the size of a business card protruding from it. Her name strolled across the top on red letters. Beneath that, it read simply: D3-b45, SO: Frey, Allra.
“Good, everyone is present,” Karin continued. “ARs Zuna and Warnn, you are to report to the main deck, to your new SO. Agents Thorin, Karva, and Eoin, report to Deck Two, room 8b for your assignments. AR Jjuna, your new SO is waiting for you on Deck Three, the tech lab at the rear of the boat. All of your questions will be answered once you arrive at your station. The rest of you are to report to me down in the forward battery.” He took a breath and glanced down at the holotag in his hand. “You have a quarter hour before you're expected to report. Use that time to wrap up any unfinished business via your holo-comm. This bay is sealed, so you will not be permitted to leave.”
What? Jjuna wanted to demand. Not leaving? Wrap up unfinished…
She glanced up at the ship. Across the bay, a team of people was loading the cargo hold with crates and crates of supplies.
It was one of the other ARs that spoke up first. “Commander Kerin, sir…I wasn’t aware—I mean—”
Jjuna felt her own heart began to race. The expanse just below her feet was no longer on her mind, only the commander’s unexpected orders. She'd left her holograph running. She had not even said “See you later,” to her best friend. In fact, she'd lied. How could she have known?
“Once again, all your questions will be answered by your SO.” Then his stance softened considerably and he looked almost sympathetically around at the group of wide-eyes. “But yes. You will be leaving today on this ship. The length of this mission is not yet known. Take this time to say your goodbyes. You have a quarter hour.”