ON VENUSIAN CLOUD COLONY NUMBER NINE
CHAPTER 1 SCENE 1
Barney closed his eyes as tightly as possible, trying to ignore the slowly increasing light illuminating his room. A soft-spoken female voice joined the assault on his senses.
“Good morning, Barnaby. This is your wake-up call. Report to the Surface Mining office in thirty minutes.”
He groaned as he opened his eyes, ran a hand through his curly black hair and rose to sit on the edge of his bed. Looking out his window, Barney saw the ever present yellow haze that continued in all directions. The noxious mix of carbon dioxide and sulphuric acid destroyed anything it came into contact with, and Barney sometimes sensed that the caustic atmosphere itself knew it.
Turning from the depressing view of his outside world, he looked to the wall opposite him. It was covered in faded pictures of his family and friends back home on Earth. He smiled sadly at the pictures of his brothers and sisters, and nephews and nieces, all running around joyfully in the beauteous bushland they called home.
“I hope that my time here will not have been in vain. I will save our home.”
He rose and went into his ensuite to prepare for his day on the Venusian surface. After answering nature’s call and having a brief shower, he dressed in a black singlet and grey cargo pants. Barney knew that his supervisor would likely tell him off for his laid-back attire, but was also aware that it would be a half-hearted scolding. He was the most prolific diamond finder on the team, and the wealth and reputation he brought to Colony Number Nine was of more importance.
The doors to his room slid open, and he turned right to make his way to the common room. As he entered, the team returning from their visit to the surface were entering from the opposite door. The men and women moved straight to the kitchen, where the cook stood ready to serve their meals. Barney walked over to join the line.
“Morning, Barney. You’ll be happy to know the surface is nice today. It’s a cool 850 degrees.”
Barney gave the speaker a wink. “All good, bud. Sounds like a standard Worlmamirri season back home.”
Diedric Barnato was the joker of his crew, always offering some choice words to get a laugh from his team and others around him. Another, similar-sounding voice just behind him was heard talking to others in the line.
“There wasn’t any need to even go into the pits. There were some choice eruptions in the last rotation, and the diamonds were strewn on the ground.”
Diedric’s twin brother, Arnoldus, was always the most boastful of the pair. He and his brother came from an Earth family renowned for its diamond connections in South Africa, going as far back as the late 1800’s.
Barney looked to Diedric. “The way your brother tells it, all he needs to do is fart and the diamonds come flying.”
Diedric’s blue eyes flickered with good humour as he ran a hand through his straight blonde locks. “True, but that’s always been Arnie. Mother paid him so much attention he thinks that he’s the centre of the Universe.”
“Me and my sister were like that when we were kids. We just stirred up as much trouble as possible, to see who could get the biggest punishment from Mum. I won once when I rocked up home with a King Brown snake in each hand. Went walkabout for a week, cause I sure couldn’t sit down.”
The pair laughed as they collected their meals, and joined the returning crew as they sat at the table. There was plenty of excitement regarding the area they had been assigned to explore, with many saying that they were walking ankle-high in the precious jewels.
Barney looked to Diedric. “I hope that there will still be good pickings me and my crew get down there to keep looking.”
“You’ll have no trouble at all, I promise you. From what we’ve seen, there’ll be enough diamonds to keep those greedy sods on Earth happy, even after we take what we need to maintain the ship and its atmospheric shield.”
“Sounds good to me. Claudio will probably be expecting one last big haul from me and the team before we finish our assignment and get sent back to Earth.”
Arnoldus looked across the table as he heard Barney’s words. “You get to head back?”
Barney nodded. “Sure do. Today starts the last fortnight of my two-year assignment, then I’ve got a year back on Earth.”
An envious look crossed Arnoldus’ face. “You’re a lucky man. Will you be heading into the cities to spend up your earnings?”
“Nah mate,” Barney said with a shake of his head. “Been saving up for a special project. I’ll be heading up to Arnhem Land to catch up with the family, and just travel about. The beauty of the place will fix my soul up, after living in the yellow fog and scouting volcanoes.”
“That is true. Even when you’re walking on the surface, you still feel claustrophobic. But when you’re in a place that has over ninety times more atmospheric pressure, that’s bound to happen.”
A bell peal sounded on the announcement speaker. “The surface crew under command of Barnaby Puyngu is expected in the Surface Mining office in five minutes.”
“Sorry bud, gotta go,” Barney said as he finished his last bit of breakfast. “Rest up well, fellas.”
The returning crew waved as Barney ran towards the door through which they had entered. It was time for another visit to the well-paying hell that was the Venusian mountain ranges.
– X –