Section 1. Darkness.
A weed of melancholy that destroyed everything.
It invaded him, all around. One could say he had a cold soul, but he was numb beyond his ability to describe the feeling of sadness.
Outwardly he feared nothing, riding in the mobile emergency room towards, arguably, the capital of violence in the industrialized planet systems. This planet orbited a dwarf red star only a few dozen light-years from the home planet from where the first humans moved out into space.
His name, you might wonder? Colonel Safsy Gliese.
His father named him after the great explorer Safsy Riggs from earth that used the, then new, type-d Alcubierre drive. His father used a common last name when they left the planet for another brown proto-star for a mining colony.
Since then, Safsy had moved to the copper world of the orange-dwarf star called the planet Sapphire, in the constellation Sappho as seen from the planet in the stellar nursery fifty-light years distant.
A planet composed of high concentrations of copper, so much so that some mountain ranges had outcroppings of the metallic element. Beryllium rich outer planets in the system made for a natural industry and trade hub for the farmers of the other planets in the region.
Then the discovery of energy to mass conversion on the Gliese systems all but collapsed the economy of the Sapphire.
Right in the back yard of the Colonel’s work as Search and Rescue.
He looked out the window of the ship Seraph, captained by his friend and companion through frequent adventures over the years. Wings on the nose of the ship were against the protocols of the company, but the regional directors looked the other way as it was a gift of peace between two warring parties.
On the hull of the ship, solid gold wings, welded in place and then sparkled without diminishing over time was no easy feat, as the hull of the Seraph was of metastable metallic hydrogen. Tough and superconducting, the simple element as a gas in space, came from the ship yards ready for any kind of action. Ship rescues near stars, high energy waves just slid over the hull, protecting everything within its walls. But such energies were wearing on even a noble metal as gold.
Today, they were putting down on Sapphire. Riots had broken out over austerity programs imposed by the government to survive had forced miners out of work as the new technology had turned to converting hydrogen — the most common element in the known universe — into copper.
The once prestigious university of New Antarctica at the pole of the planet now sat in decay. Only the sciences seemed to stick it out for the duration, trying to create some alloy that would be a Sapphire Only creation.
Traversing the side of the green soiled hill, the team used a high-speed land-crawler to travel into the downtown area of Solstice, a large metropolitan area on the polar sea. A body of water ten-percent larger than the Terran Pacific Ocean and growing with the planetary tectonics.
“Medic-One, your victims are at school street and Twelfth Boulevard. Reporting two people stabbed. We have other units en route, law enforcement is also dispatched but have an ETA of half-hour. You will be first on scene, unknown location of suspects involved. Stage before arriving on scene at least five-hundred meters.”
“Copy, thank you for the information.” The Colonel specialized in off-ship rescues. The land crawler was capable of handling up to a dozen patients and have a surgical suite in the core with a team operating on victims.
“Medic-One, fire departments on scene report a riot on scene, stage at the one kilometer mark until law enforcement arrive.”
“Are they able to handle a riot?” Kimberly Suthlinder asked. “Maybe they should send out the peace force to stop this?”
Kimberly was a great surgeon, but this was her first tour and was fresh out of the University of the Sciences on Threshold, so named as it the planet that bordered deep space settlements.
“No, likely it is those peacekeepers that are fighting. They haven’t been paid for months.”
“Oh yes. It’s all about food now. These people would hunt the indigenous life, except the only life native here, is lichen. The economy fell to the technology replacing their primary export. The two planets have teamed up, one processes beryllium, Sapphire process produces an uncommonly pure copper with a minimum of energy input. There’s abundant hydrogen, but they don’t have the process technology to do anything with it. Not difficult to obtain, this system is in the middle of a dark-matter cloud of nearly pure hydrogen, it has agglomerated into non-reactive particles, but is easy to collect. The government here just has no way to process it.”
“Oh, crap on a cracker. This will leave the area as a ghost town.”
“It will, for all intents and definitions, be a ghost town. We are witnessing the death of a society if they cannot beg, borrow or steal tech to improve their position.”
“What about the University here?”
“They are working around the clock to come up with something. But so far, the Gleise consortiums are keeping tight wraps on technology, they can produce copper that is five-nines pure with less energy that they use here— and they produced copper here cheaply, but not cheap enough.”
“Arrival.” The pilot’s voice came over the speakers in their chairs.”
“Arrival?” The Colonel blinked. “Colonel to bridge, we were to post away from the event.”
“Negative, my display shows green for entry.”
Taptaptap echoed in the hull of the crawler, punctuating the pilots comments — someone had taken shots at the moving emergency department.
“Pilot, move us out of here.”
Silence for a heartbeat.
“I’m hit! Help me, ohmygod!”
Tapping on his smooth panel control module, the Colonel alerted the surgical and rescue teams.
“Trauma teams to the bridge, pilot has been hit. Trauma teams to the bridge.”
The Colonel wished they had shot him, six surgeons on board, with two gas-passers and trauma medics that can operate in the field to bring the victims in. But they only had two pilots, now one. If the second pilot was hit, Safsy had only a passing knowledge of this transporter, he could drive them back to the Seraphim, but not as smoothly as with a trained pilot of this tank-treaded/hovercraft hybrid craft.
He did not want any harm to come to his team and would challenge anyone to shoot him if it drew the danger away from anyone or anything.
Nodding to himself, the Colonel was looking for a chance to commit suicide by proxy. He did not always recognize it, but he knew he was coming to the end of his career.
Anyone that was looking to die in the line of duty did not belong on duty. He knew it was only time before he would stumble and begin to have serious, self-destructive personal and professional effects.
He did not know if it would be ethanol or perhaps beating someone who would then need treatment in the Seraph.
Such was the melancholy soul that deeply worried about his position in the grand scheme of things.