Daniel landed the single-man pod on the surface of the barren planet, and commenced depressurization without further discussion. Andromeda waited patiently in silence, planning what supplies she would need on her next journey and what she could do without. Finding the micro-planet where Ben had been lost had become her obsession, and she knew she was getting closer.
As Andromeda stepped from her pod her oversized boots pressed deeply into the soft sand. The lenses of her slender goggles rotated automatically to accommodate the piercing glare. The mountains ahead bathed their rocky faces in a warm solar glow as a pair of moons made their way lazily across the sky.
“Shall I ready the pod for your return?” the A.I. was always eager to plan ahead.
“How many shards do we have, Daniel?” she countered, seeming to be oblivious his question.
“In addition to the triple lattice that is now engaged in your suite, we currently have four harnessed shards in use in the pod; together worth 150 credits. 30 raw shards collected on our journey, which combined may be worth 1000 credits, and we have the… other shard.”
Shards were the cornerstone of modern technology. The energy they emitted was of such a nature that it could be channeled and focused into fields with unusual properties. Chief among these was the ability to interact with the subspace tachyon streams that flowed throughout the universe.
Andromeda turned back to the pod and began to collect her equipment. She hadn’t collected nearly as many shards from the deep regions of space as she could have in times past. Then again, much of her time had been spent searching in vain for that rogue planet amidst the billions of asteroids out on the rim.
“Dump the four in the pod and add them to the others. This pod can’t handle our next trip; we are going to need an upgrade.” She pulled a rail gun from the cockpit and slung the long rifle across her back.
“This is a good quality pod and is in good condition. May I ask where we are going?” again Daniel’s voice didn’t sound nervous, but his arguments belied his concern.
“You know where we’ll be going Daniel. Just dump those crystals and purge the system for the next buyer,” Andromeda loaded a few more necessities into her utility belt, and grabbed her two tachyon rods. As she turned to leave her faithful little pod she caught a glimpse of herself in the only patch of hull not dirtied by soot and wear.
Her heavy shoulder harness and oversized trek boots contrasted against her small frame outlined from knee sternum by her close fitting vapor suite. The soft glow of the triple shard lattice at the front of her chest reflected back to her as she stood in the shadow of the pod. Her long blond hair, now pulled back tightly, blew across her shoulder in the wind. Tach-ribbons, with small pendants tied to each, dangled from her wrist and listed in the opposite direction, defying the physical as they moved in the flow of unseen currents. In times past there would have been a glimmer in her eyes that could be seen through her goggles. But now they only projected a weary darkness.
Once ready, she clipped one tachyon rod across the soles of both boots while holding the other in her hand. Such tach-rods were used to focus shard emissions into the sail like fields that would harness subspace winds. The ground hissed as the sand shifted, quickly making room for the dull glowing aura of focused energy that manifested beneath her feet. Balancing on the length of the two meter pole her body rose above the ground and the concave oval of the field sharpened below as she closed the fist of her free hand.
Andromeda raised her second tach-rod and another field formed in front of it. Lifting her forward foot the glowing shape below her followed the attached tach rod and she began to drift gently forward. The field in front sharpened as her hand clenched tighter around the tach-rod. With a sudden burst of speed the glowing sails pulled her into the sky as they were caught by sub-atomic winds. The pod was quickly left behind and she sped toward the sunlit horizon and the flashing beacon projected in her goggles.
“I’m concerned about you,” her constant simulated companion commented into her ear-bud as her tousled ponytail trailed her in the wind.
“Thank you Daniel.”