It sat rock still, this large terraforming foundry with the dust of centuries on it’s skin. It should be moving as a part of it’s task, but instead it was unpowered. Wonder what she’d be like when she has power, the merchant marine third mate thought, as he yanked even harder on the cables. Attached to the big transformer that now sat alone on the skid dolly, the cables usually transferred the power to the unit, but not anymore. Or ever, the third mate thought—this terraformer had never even been turned on as far as anyone on his ship, the Scavenger, a merchant marine freighter, could tell. While this was their first trip to this terraformer, they’d already stripped one completely of everything salable in the past year and this was their number two foundry.
Pretty easy to tell, he said to himself as he jammed a foot against the edge of the cable port and worried the lines back and forth trying to get them to unhook. When you land a terraformer, it moves. And it leaves a very noticeable trail behind it as it did it’s job of turning an uninhabitable planet into one that you could colonize. This one had only unmarked grass and weeds around it; it had never ever moved for as long as it had been here on the planet Memories.
Probably part of it he thought as he chewed on his lip, he strained and then yanked and yanked harder again, is that this dumb planet, with no sentient s on it, was tucked in a pocked in the huge nebula that lay south of the RIM Confederacy. Between the RIM and the Pentyaan empire, the nebula was thick, heavily loaded with particulate matter—in fact a danger for most to enter. Not us, nor for that matter whomever had delivered all of these terraformers either; we found this planet almost a year ago. And we still raid the planet to steal equipment and rare earths and salvage whatever we can, time and time again.
The sound of the cables letting go somewhere behind the bulkhead was the first thing he felt as he stumbled over backwards and fell on the floor of the storage room. As he slowly got back up, he noted that the cables in his hand now ended with some kind of plugs that he’d been able to pull out of the connection hidden behind the bulkhead. He smiled as he coiled them up and then hung them on top of the transformer so that he’d be able to roll the dolly down the short corridor to his left and get it to where he could dump the whole thing out of the side port of the terraformer.
Once it hit the ground, some of the crew would drag it towards the Scavenger and then hoist it up and into the hold. This transformer he knew, had more than six thousand credits worth of rare earth magnetics in it that they’d strip out during the trip back to the RIM and sell on KappaD and space the junk.
Turning back towards the storage room, he looked inside and took a quick inventory of what was left. There were still three more of these transformers or whatever the hell they were called; three huge spools of some kind of fiber that he thought might have something to do with lasers maybe and more than dozens of some kind of bags of purple gel. No idea what it was for and they’d found out on KappaD on the last trip, no one wanted to buy them either. A huge round insulated column sat right in the middle of the floor that he knew was somehow connected to the laser and as he looked around it, he noticed something odd—a set of lights had suddenly lit up along one wall, in the ceiling. As he looked at that, the floor suddenly began to vibrate a little, then a little more.
He felt a lurch and that scared him.
A lurch meant—as any space man knew, that they were underway—but this was not a ship, it was a terraforming foundry.
Someone had started up this huge arena sized machine and as he pounded down that corridor once more towards the side door, he could now see the very slowly moving ground drifting by.
This thing is moving . . .he said as he knew it would soon be laser drilling down into the ground of Memories, with a laser that was more powerful than one might imagine. It had taken them almost six months to learn that they couldn’t salvage that on their first foundry they’d picked apart. They had learned that the laser was used to drill down up to three miles as it searched for what was on it’s AI list; ores of a certain type and radioactivity along with minerals that were needed for formation of atmospheric compounds that were also needed to get Memories ready for colonization.
They also had learned that all of the foundries had lain dormant for more than thousands of years until just a few moments ago at least for this one. He clicked on his PDA and the Scavenger’s on duty deck cadet sounded scared but did confirm that yes, the terraformer was underway at about six feet per second. He had no idea on the others that they’d already recorded location wise though. The third mate made a choice. He had to get out of this foundry and that meant that he’d have to go down the rope ladder as it was slowly swaying the thirty feet to the ground. It was something any able bodied seaman would be expected to be able to do—he just hoped he could too. He spun and slowly lowered a leg down so that his foot reached the first rung, and as he found it, he then lowered his other leg and slowly began to move down the ladder. He had already made three more rungs down wards when the terraformer stuttered to a halt and that made him miss a rung and he swung freely by only his hands.
No more than five feet away from him, an orange laser beam from above suddenly appeared, with it’s more than five petawatts of power, it was like the searing power of a sun almost close enough to touch.
It turned the third mate into a cinder in a millisecond as it drilled down deep into the planet below. It boiled everything it met and it read the chromatics of the ores that came back and then recording the location for later machines that were on their way to the planet.
Around the terraforming foundry, the air of course, was barely that; very high in carbon dioxide, it made the planet a hothouse but that didn’t matter much as it was uninhabited. Not a single sentient species on the globe though it was full of what could be called normal predator prey animals. Thick air, now horribly smelling of burned vegetation, peat, ores of unknown type and soil, rock and the third mate too.
The laser snapped off; it’s trillions of watts suddenly gone.
The foundry slowly started up it’s movements again. Ahead of it lay a continent’s worth of laser drilling and testing the ores it needed. They were quickly liquefied and the resulting up-welling of the gas billowed and behind it was now only one such vented hole.
This terraforming foundry had sat idle for thousands of years; now it would move along it’s path doing it’s job, making this planet a colonization candidate.