“Dancer… Dancer I don’t like this. What is going on, man? It’s like you said earlier, with the rock formations, and the unbroken earth… we aren’t in the right place. Rodriguez must have overridden the sat-com, rigged it to send out a false position… I dunno, I’m no radio technician, but… ah, man, where the hell are we going?”
Dancer was silent, staring out the viewfinder. Making every effort to remain as calm as possible, he lifted the radio and, through gritted teeth, hissed “Yugo base. This is Dancer in Roller Twelve. Do you receive me. Over. I say again, Yugo base, this is Dancer. Are you receiving me? Hello? Is anybody receiving me at Yugo base? Rodriguez, Jenkins, will someone respond?”
The channel cracked and hissed, but no response came. Dancer switched to the general emergency channel, just in case there was another Roller nearby – he knew there wasn’t, but anything was worth a try now. Again, there was no response.
“Steffens, we have no choice, we are going to have to ride it out until dawn and see for ourselves where in the hell we are when the sun comes up. We’ve been off course for more than four hours, and we could easily be in unmapped territory by now. God damned company! You know buddy, the first couple of years out here were great, really great. We got all the training, all the support, all the spare parts you needed and then some. If anything went wrong, even the slightest niggle with the Roller, there’d be support vehicles despatched from multiple locations to guide you home. There weren’t any decommissioned relief bases, or comm stations with only one technician on duty. There were three men to each Roller, and they even made some of the more important runs by dropship. Now though, it’s like this whole place is falling apart. I can’t believe they actually gave me a co-driver for this run now that I think about it; I’ve been running solo out here for, oh, the last two or three work cycles. Some of the guys I joined up with back at the beginning, lifers like me, just stopped coming back after their off time back on Earth. When I tracked a couple down back home, they told me they got laid off! You’ve seen all the raw materials we’re carrying around out here, right Steffens? No way anybody should be getting laid off, this planet is an embarrassment of riches. Then they replace them with… no offence kid, but, well, you new guys just don’t get the training we got. When they first planned this expedition, we were signed up to three years training – yeah, that’s right, three years! Toughest part was the acclimatisation simulators. You see that rebreather you carry around there? Well us old timers don’t need them because we spent months cooped up in pressurized chambers, to teach our bodies to breathe the atmosphere here on 296e. But you new guys, you get six weeks training, and then get sent out here with no clue what you’re doing, unable to breathe the atmosphere, and barely getting paid enough to make coming all the way out here worthwhile! I mean, Steffens, you’re alright buddy, don’t take it personally, but I really miss some of those guys, you know? Ah hell, forget about it. Sorry to go on about it, it just gets to me. But hey, it passes the time, eh?”
“Erm, yeah, sure thing Dancer. Thanks for the history lesson. I’ve, er, got some news feeds I’d like to take a look at if you don’t mind…”“yeah, whatever, I’ll shut up for a while. Have at it, kid.”