The ground hisses. Green sludge drips from a pipe. Thick noxious fumes rise. Without their masks they’d be dead within seconds. Not from the fumes, but the lack of breathable air. The process is still a long way from done.
“Bottom layers rotting already? Shit, man. That’s no good.” Mike steps closer to the leaking pipe, looks over Ray’s shoulder at the mess. “Was the core bad? Did they say? You hear anything?”
“No. Nothing about that, only that we need to fix this.” Ray tugs on the pipe, repositioning the flow.
Mike scoffs. “Fix this. Okay, sure.” He stomps, “If the damn core is bad, there’s nothing we can do. Nothing anyone can do. Best to pull up and jump to a new system—see if we can find another.”
“Well I’m getting paid to do this, so this is what I’m going to do. You want to help, or you just want to complain?” Ray goes to the pack-drone, pulls a popup basin off its back.
“How much will that hold?” asks Mike.
“At this rate? A day’s worth.”
“Then we’ll just have to come back tomorrow?”
“That’s the job, man.”
“Should have gone to flight school. Got blinded by that fat bonus.”
“There’s a chance this works. If the rot burns out soon.”
“How often does that happen?”
“Not much. Seen it once. Bellen. You ever been there? Beautiful beaches. I helped make those. That’s the cool thing about this terraforming business. When you finish a planet—when it works—you can look back and see what you helped make.”
“Yeah, that’s cool I guess.” Mike helps Ray with the basin and wonders what this planet will look like once it’s finished.