“Did the message buoy get dropped?” Someone in the back of the shuttle called out.
Rylan groaned and replied, “Yes, I dropped the buoy before we lost sight of the ship. When I dropped it, I made sure we could communicate, and they instructed us to stay the course.”
“Not what I asked,” the same voice called back.
Rylan ignored the comment and returned to his scan of the planet. Laria was just as dead as the other two worlds, and that stole the resolve from most everyone in the shuttle. Looking at the displays, Rylan called out to the shuttle, “Get all geared up we’re about thirty minutes from atmo. Then someone needs to get up here to let me do the same.”
Instead of a chorus of replies, the drawn and dour team started to dawn their hazmat suits. Rylan ignored the sparse muttering echoing from behind him and began to go through scans. Whatever devastated Laria was much, much worse than any of their previous stops. The open portals must have filtered out the most destructive aspect of the radiation because aside from the lack of life, the world appeared to have been wrecked by several large bombs.
Typically he could have guided the shuttle right to Laria’s platforms, but that was before he found the detonated carcass of the planet. Rylan shook his head and tapped at the console in time with its beeping. A chirp in his ear pulled Rylan’s attention from the scanner. He tapped the headset, and the line flared as the captain spoke, “Are those scans accurate?”
“Yes,” Rylan said as he closed his eyes.
“What happened?” The captain asked with a voice that threatened to fade out.
“That’s the point of our job,” Rylan said as he straightened his shoulders. “Isn’t that right Captain?”
The captain snickered, “True, but the other worlds didn’t suffer that level of destruction.”
Rylan swallowed the small lump in his throat as he looked down at the consoles. “The only thing I can think of is that the platforms were able to shield the other planets from the most dangerous aspects of the cataclysm.”
“We haven’t seen the scans for the radiation, what do they look like?” The captain asked.
Rylan’s fingers flew to a different section of the console and flipped a couple of switches and worked a couple of dials and then reported. “Surprisingly, the radiation appears to be the same as the other two planets.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” the captain stammered.
“Not based on all the devastation,” Rylan agreed. “But that’s what the readings are saying.”
“What could explain it?” The captain asked. But before Rylan could reply, the captain asked another question. “Never mind, we can work on that question later. Have you found the platforms?”
Rylan shook his head and muttered, “Not yet, I haven’t been able to locate the central…” And right then the scanner buzzed. Rylan’s eyes dashed right to the console and widened.
“Rylan, what was that?”
“The scanner found the platforms,” Rylan said as his fingers began flowing across the ship’s console. With a shout behind him, Rylan announced. “I’ve found the platforms, and I’m putting in the course. We’ll be touching down in about twenty minutes.”
Silence echoed from the rest of the team. After a moment, Rylan added, “Once one of you is finished get up here so I can get into my own hazmat suit!”
“That was a little loud, Rylan,” the captain said dryly.
“Sorry, captain but I need to hang up. I’ll report everything once we’re done. Rylan tapped at his headset ending the call and then dropped the small device to the console when a member of the team entered the tiny cockpit.
She placed her helmet on the consoles next to the spare chair and said, “Better go get your suit on, Rylan. How are the controls?”
Rylan chuckled as he stood up, “Haven’t experienced the issues that the other team reported when they got close to the atmosphere of their planet.”
“That doesn’t mean much, Rylan, not when we’re shy of the atmosphere.” The woman said as she took the seat Rylan vacated.
Rylan rested his hand on her shoulder and commented, “Annabel, we’re just inside the atmosphere. And we didn’t have any issue with the atmosphere.” With a gentle squeeze, he expanded, “The course has been set, you’ll just need to keep an eye on the controls.”
“Why am I here then?”
Rylan snickered as he walked out of the room as he added, “In case we do experience those kinds of issues.”
“Fun,” Annabel said scornfully.
Rylan quickly went to the back and silently got into his hazmat suit. The suits were designed for someone to be able to put it on when alone, which helped since Rylan kept to himself when he could. And now that isolation felt like a shield against the fear of the ghostly world.
He stepped into the suit and quickly got prepared for planetfall. With the hazmat suit sealed, Rylan grabbed his helmet and stalked back to the cockpit. He grabbed his headset and put it back on and said, “Thank you, Annabel, I’ll take it from here.”
“Don’t bother we’re already landing,” Annabel said as she got to her feet.
“Then let’s get the generators and figure out what happened to Laria,” Rylan declared as he went to the shuttle’s gangplank.
“Yes, sir,” Annabel muttered.
Rylan looked back at Annabel and admonished, “Don’t call me sir. We have jobs, I want you to find the Central Plexus and get whatever you can from the system.”
“Do you think it’ll actually work?” Annabel asked as she followed him.
“I don’t know,” Rylan muttered as the shuttle touched down on the planet. He touched the headset until it connected to the team’s network and put his helmet on. “That’s why your team is going to check on it.”