The firm voice silences my thoughts, and I immediately straighten to refocus on Wergen. She stands straight, arms folded behind her back, and scans her gaze across the room with a serious expression on her face. A moment passes like that, and then she smiles warmly.
“Welcome, everyone, to Archeiah. I am Reyla Wergen, the primary administrator of our activities here. You can call me Reyla if you like.” She waves a hand, and a large holographic screen appears behind her. It displays the Celeis logo, the word CELEIS with the C replaced with concentric C-shaped arcs and a circle at the center. “We are here to represent the interests of the Celeis research company, which primarily entails investigating this planet in order to understand and harness the power of starlight, the energy emitted from the core and captured within all the organisms here.” Reyla flicks her hand, and the screen transitions to an image of Archeiah from space.
“As you likely know, we measure the days here based on Earth. A year here is calculated to take approximately one-hundred-and-eight days, with a leap year every three. This means that it’s been almost an Archeian year since the first Celeis team landed on this planet.” She starts walking to one side, arms folded behind her back. “The days here are not like Earth days, however. It’s almost always at least somewhat cloudy, and you’ll be seeing twilight the entire day.” She turns around, walking the other way. “Of course, this is only because we are in the ‘twilight belt,’ where most of the organic life here resides. Half of this planet is in eternal day, and the other half is in eternal night.”
I remember reading about this—I think the article stated that the nature of day and night on Archeiah is due to the planet orbiting a white dwarf star, Xiron. There are a few other terrestrial planets and gas giants in this solar system, but only Archeiah is in the habitable zone, which is much closer to Xiron than the Sun’s habitable zone. Apparently, Archeiah is close enough to experience tidal locking, like Earth’s moon.
“Now,” Reyla says, standing back at the center of the desk, “Each of you belongs to one of seven divisions, save for division leaders.” She lifts her hand in a swiping gesture, and the image on the screen is replaced by a display of different rectangles. They’re labeled with Administration, Field, Laboratory, Computation, Communications, Health, and Operations. “More details about what you’ll be doing will be given in your division meetings. I will give a simple overview here.”
She makes a beckoning motion at the Administration rectangle, and it fills up the screen with an image of Reyla gathered around a table with a few others. “The Administration division is in charge of making decisions and approving various requests. The leaders of each division are also a part of the Administration division.”
Reyla makes a swiping motion and the image shrinks, replaced by the Field rectangle. The image is a scene in an Archeian forest, with someone kneeling above a plant in a fully activated exosuit—the helmet is deployed, hiding the individual’s features behind dark glass, and the black suit covers all parts of the body not already covered by the exosuit’s gloves and boots.
“The Field division is responsible for going out into the wilds of Archeiah,” Reyla continues, “whether to observe organisms, gather specimens, or set up any devices that might be used for purposes such as scanning or surveillance.”
I nod, mostly to myself. That’s what I’ll be doing here.
Reyla moves on, displaying an image of the stark white laboratories at this base. They all look like they have a window taking up the outer wall, which is nice—I’d imagine working in a lab with no windows can be fairly depressing. I think they might be simulated ones, though. “The Laboratory division will study specimens collected by the Field division. Any requests you have for materials can be sent through your exosuit’s access to the Celeis network. Certain types of requests can be pre-approved and will thus be directly sent to a member of the Field division, but others will need to be approved by your division leader or, in some cases, myself.”
Next is the Computation division, which Reyla represents with an image of someone working at a holographic desk, various screens and figures displayed around them. “The Computation division will analyze the theory of how things work on Archeiah—the math, the physics, that sort of thing. You will also analyze planetary patterns, including the astronomical, meteorological, and geological behavior of Archeiah.”
Communications is next, and Kendra shoots me a subtle fingergun as Reyla pulls up the image of someone working at a monitor with various holographic screens. “Those in the Communications division will monitor and handle communications to and from other locations, including the orbital station and the Earth base.”
Health follows, and the image depicts an individual in a completely white exosuit uniform in a brightly lit room, presumably a medical bay. “Those in the Medical division are responsible for our health and well-being, whether for injuries, illnesses, or just regular checkups,” Reyla says. “We also provide mental health services and resources, the full details of which should be in the Celeis handbook. Archeiah is an alien planet, and there will very likely be a significant change in your lifestyle. Please, don't hesitate to seek any help if you need it.”
“Finally, we have Operations,” Reyla says, pulling up an image of the Agricultural Center. I remember seeing it during the Celeis Crash Course—it’s where most of the food that we’ll be eating is grown or otherwise produced. “Members in this division are in charge of making sure everything at this base is running smoothly: the Agricultural Center, the generators, the intranet, and the function of other various things across the research base.”
Reyla folds her hands behind her back. “There will be much overlap in various divisions. You are expected to work with each other, and you should maintain clear lines of communication to do so. All of you are able to call each other using your exosuits, so please do not hesitate to contact any of us at any time. We’re a small team, relatively speaking, and I’d like for us to not only be able to work together, but also be able to live together.”
She smiles again. “All of you have quite a bit of free time allotted to you. Whether you use it to relax on your own or socialize with others is up to you, but we will be organizing various social company events. While not everyone will be available at any given moment, I hope you’ll all join us if you can.”
Social events, huh? I suppose I can give it a try, though I’m not the greatest with crowds. Hold a conversation with one person? No problem. Socialize in a group? Easier said than done, for me.
As I consider this, I receive a message. The mental ping is still a strange sensation, despite my training course—while I did have to practice sending and receiving messages, the course was more of a “slightly more than the minimum” sort of deal, given that acclimation tends to happen over time. I think about opening it, then, and see in my mind’s eye a line of text: Kendra: I’ll go if you go.
Well, fair enough. I reply with a simple, Sure. There’s another ping in my mind as the message is sent, and Kendra throws me a quick smile in response.
“As I’m sure you are all aware,” I blink and refocus on Reyla as she continues, “You have all been outfitted with neurally-linked exosuits. There are four variations: a field variation, a lightweight variation, a minimal variation, and a lab-medical variation. You must have an exosuit projector with you at all times, though you may switch to the minimal variation during rest hours if you like. All of them can deploy a full exosuit.” Reyla lifts a hand, and hexagonal light fragments spread across her body, coalescing into a black suit. A helmet forms over her face, an almost-ellipsoidal form of dark glass. “You can deploy the exosuit at will, but it will also automatically deploy when any possibly life-threatening conditions are detected.” Her voice sounds a bit different, projected through the exosuit’s speakers. “I recommend deploying your suit before you go out of the base’s shield, though. Archeiah’s atmosphere is primarily composed of denser gases such as argon, and it doesn’t have much oxygen. Breathing it in will cause the heavier gases to settle at the bottom of your lungs, and you can suffocate even if you go back into an oxygenated system.” Reyla’s exosuit recedes, and then she smiles wryly at us. “That said, we do have beds in the infirmary that can tip you upside-down so you can get it all out of your lungs.”
That’s a strangely amusing thought: having to go upside-down in order to prevent yourself from suffocating.
“One more thing,” Reyla says. “Gravity on Archeiah is approximately zero-point-eight times the gravity on Earth. On base, Earth gravity is replicated for health, but if you go outside the shield, you’ll certainly notice the difference.” She waves her hand in a circular motion, and the screen shuts off. “Now, does anyone have any questions?”
She gives us a few seconds, scanning the crowd, but with no questions forthcoming, she nods. “Alright. After this, you are to gather in your division meetings. Consult the task list in your exosuit for relevant locations. Dismissed.”
I rise out of my seat, pulling up my task list in my mind’s eye. FIELD DIVISION MEETING. LOCATION: EXCURSION BAY. TIME: 1700.
“I’m headed to the Communications Center,” Kendra says from beside me, pushing her hair behind an ear. “How about you?”
“The Excursion Bay,” I answer. “Probably to prepare us for going out into the field.”
Kendra nods solemnly. “Makes sense. I’ll see you around, then?”
I laugh lightly, more a huff than anything. “Yes, I’ll be seeing you.”
Kendra and several other employees make their way to one of the side doors of the conference room; the Communications Center must be in the observation deck, too. The rest of us go to the docking room, taking the pods to wherever we need to go. I do need to wait a bit, though—the downside of the pod system is that only one person can go in each pod. At least it’s fast.
As I wait, I take note of the others standing along with me. I recognize the other two members of the Field division I’ll be working with, but I haven’t spoken to them yet—Kendra was the first one to talk to me, and, honestly, introducing myself to Alion had taken the rest of my energy for initiating social interaction with others. Despite the two-week long space travel in between now and then. To be fair, I was in stasis.
I suppose it doesn’t matter, since we’ll be getting to know each other in the division meeting anyways. I’m more anxious to actually get out in the field, so I fold my arms behind my back and do my best to quell the anticipation that’s been growing ever since I was recruited for the job.
Soon. Soon I’ll be out there, and I can see the wonders of this planet myself.