Mintaka, also known as Delta Orionis, is a blue giant multi-star system. In the first orbit, there’s a hot “rockball” world. The second and fourth orbits contain asteroid belts. The third orbit is empty.

The fifth orbit contains an Earth-like terrestrial world some 6,000 miles in diameter with about .5 Earth gravity, 15 degrees of axial tilt, a near 24-hour day. It’s got standard atmospheric pressure and an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere. Climate is very cold with icy terrain covering most of the planet. Life forms on the planet include lower animals – varieties of insects, fish, and amphibians. Resources are largely limited to radioactives, with ample supplies of uranium, radium, and thorium (among others)  and industrial metals such as iron, tin, copper, and zinc. Scarce gemstones, no rare/special minerals, no light metals, and no organics such as carbon or fossil fuels.

The sixth and final orbit contains a gas giant.

“Coming up on Mintaka, Captain,” Meuc Sionnach calls out over the intercom as he brings the Pride out of FTL. The star explodes into view, its blue light taking up most of the viewport. The Pyracani puts the vessel into a solar orbit as he looks over what sensor readouts are available to him.

“Anything promising?” Prague asks as he gazes out at the blue giant.

“The second planet seems like one we could walk around on without six spacesuits each,” the pilot says wryly, “No evidence of civilization. In fact I’d say life is a pretty new thing down there.”

“OK,” the captain replies. He fumbles in the pocket of his trenchcoat for a crumpled pack of cigarettes and a scuffed silver lighter. “Lay in a course. Let’s see what’s what.”

The Pyracani fires off the engines to whip the vessel around the star’s gravity. “Slowing for orbit in five minutes, boss,” Sionnach replies, “What exactly are we looking for there?”

“Stuff worth money to someone else, I guess,” Prague says with a shrug as he lights a cig and pokes it into his mouth. He returns the pack and lighter to his coat pocket. The cig bobs between his lips as he speaks: “Figure if we make a rich find, it’ll be worth setting up a stake planetside. Make a claim.”

“Fun times,” Meuc says, “Well, hopefully, we don’t have to dig the whole place up. Some radioactive material, metals, the odd gemstone deposit. Might be able to get some scratch off of plant and animal specimens.”

Prague frowns. “Radioactive? That sounds like a pain in the ass. And maybe profitable. Huh.” Another shrug. He puffs on the cigarette, then looks out the viewport as the Pride passes the gas giant while traveling farther in-system. “Don’t call me captain, by the way. Never been in the military. Hate uniforms. Just call me Vech.”

“Vech it is, then,” Meuc replies grinning as he begins to slow the vessel’s approach to the second planet, “Not a great fan of uniforms myself. Fortunately, the Pyracan military’s uniform is not particularly restrictive.”

“What made you sign up as a soldier, anyway?” Prague asks.

“To prove that I could,” Sionnach says with a grin, “I may not be the biggest and the strongest warrior, but the sky is mine.” Even as he says that, he slips the Pride into orbit. “Anyplace in particular you’d like her put down?” he asks.

“See any warm beaches with cocktails and lounge chairs?” Prague asks.

“That depends,” Sionnach asks, grinning from ear to ear, “Did you bring a bar and some lounge chairs? Oh, and a terraforming crew?”

That gets a smirk from Vechkov. “Maybe our engineer can whip up a decent climate.” He shakes his head, then says, “Pick a decent spot along the equator. Surprise me.”

“Will do,” Meuc replies as the ship begins to enter the atmosphere, making for a point in the late morning sunlight. Not long after, the vessel finds itself nestling into a valley, sheltered from the prevailing wind.

“Good job getting us down without landing sideways,” Sharpers quips via intercom from engineering. “I’ve run diagnostics on the atmosphere suits. They’re, uh, not top of the line, but they should keep us alive for a few hours if you decide to EVA. Y’all knock yourselves out with that. I’ve found some calibration issues in the baffle manifolds for the drive system. Unless one of you wants to tweak that, in which case maybe I will go sightseeing.”

“Want to take a walk, Vech?” the Pyracani asks, fiddling with some of the controls before clambering out of the pilot’s couch. “I could certainly do with a stretch of the legs, myself,” he adds.

Prague shakes his head. “You think I’m leaving my ship in the hands of a near total stranger so I can roam around on this ice bucket? No, thanks.” He takes out another cigarette and lights it. “Take a short EVA. Get some readings of the immediate area.”

The Pyracani smirks faintly at this. “Not afraid of the cold, are you, boss?” he asks, “Well, I’m no scientist, but I’ll do what I can.”  He heads below to get to the job of adjusting the suit to his frame.

“Yeah,” Prague grumbles. “Forgot to pack a scientist. Maybe they’ll have one on the Rucker when we head back for a re-stock.”

Down below, Sharpers watches as Sionnach works his way into the atmosphere suit. “Not too tight, I hope,” she says, approaching to check the seams and seals.

“Seems ok,” the caninoid replies, “Don’t think it was designed with me in mind, though.” When he snaps the helmet in place, his muzzle nearly touches the faceplate. “Think I’ll survive?” he asks, jokingly. Mostly.

“Sure,” Sharpers says with a wry smile. “Unless you die.” She glances up the ladder. “Boss not tagging along?”

“Best part about being the boss, I guess,” Meuc says with a grin as he grabs a scanner and looks it over. Satisfied he can operate at least its basic functions, the pilot steps into the airlock. “Wish me luck,” he calls out as he triggers the hatch cycle.

The icy landscape seems fairly forboding, although the horizon is hemmed in by a ridge of snow-capped mountains to the west. The sky is a pale pinkish-blue. Hard-packed snow waits at the bottom of the Pride’s departure ramp.

Before getting too far from the ship, Sionnach makes a quick scan for any megafauna worth being wary of.

Nothing living in the immediate vicinity raises any sorts of alarm. Just small creatures – nothing bigger than an adult Earth mastiff. Also some mossy fungal patches on the sun-facing cliffs of an eastern ridge. Sensors on the PDA detect mineral resources behind those fungal patches, though – veins of industrial metals, most likely.

Sionnach makes his way over to the cliffs and begins to take some scans of the metals therein. He takes some of the moss in a sample container from his belt.

The cliffs contain rich veins of iron, with some smaller caches of copper and zinc.

“Sionnach to Ekaterina’s Pride,” the caninoid says into his comm, “I’ve picked up some moss samples. There’s a good amount of iron ore here, some trace metals. I’m sending my readings in. Anything you want?”

The response via comms: “Pride here.” It’s Prague. “Complete your scans and head back. We’ll return to Rucker and send word back to the Consortium that we’re staking a claim to the mineral rights on this world. I’ll share if they’re willing to help develop the claim.”

“Acknowledged,” Sionnach says, putting away the sample container as he finishes his scans as well as he can. Once he has done what he is able, he begins to move back towards the ship.

As the Pyracani returns to the Pride, he finds the ramp still down and waiting for him. Prague’s voice comes across the hatch intercom: “All aboard. Sharpers says she’s done with her calibrations. Ready for launch.”

“On my way up, boss,” says the Pyracani as he cycles the airlock and squirms his way back out of the suit.

“Was it as exciting as you imagined?” Sharpers asks. She’s waiting in the corridor next to the airlock as Sionnach returns.

“No, thankfully,” the pilot says with a chuckle, “I don’t suppose you need a whole lot of iron ore downstairs. What do you make of this?” He tosses the sample container of moss to the woman.

She frowns at the container in her hand. “I look like a botanist?” She tosses it back to Sionnach. “Show it to some egghead on the Rucker. Maybe they can sort it out.”

“Fair enough,” the Pyracani says, tossing the container into a storage compartment. “Better get strapped in, going airborne in a second,” he calls back as he bounds up the ladder towards the cockpit.

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By Brody

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