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December 12, 2006
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Riley hated coming out to the desert.  It wasn’t the vast stretches of endless wastes that would drive men to the brink of ennui, but rather it was the dust.  The dust the wind would pick up and deposit over everything.  He would have to deal with it, be in it, get covered with it.  It was inevitable, that when he got back to the safe confines of the city, he would be covered in several grams of fine red dust.  He adjusted his suit one more time, cursing his boss.

Mr. Blevins knew he hated the desert, yet whenever a problem arose, it was always Riley that had to go deal with it.  Every rancher, every farmer, every company that ran a remote drilling station, every damned person who lived out in the fucking desert who filed a claim, he had to come out and deal with it.  It was just too damned dirty out here, not to mention the people who lived and worked out here.  

“Ten minutes out, Mr. Fletcher.”

Riley looked up.  The co-pilot of the transport he was in had come out of the cockpit and was standing next to him, a hand gripped on the safety rail above her head.  She wore a flight suit that seemed to be a size or two, too small for her.  It hugged her hips and the swell of her chest rather tightly.  It was hard for Riley to force his eyes up to meet hers but he did, he saw her name on the tag on her chest.  Stone.

“The pilot also wanted me to let you know that the storm front is moving faster than projected.  The ride might get a bit bumpy, so you’d best strap yourself in.”  To reinforce her warning, the transport bucked once, tossed on the wind.  Riley’s hands went for the straps of his seatbelt, but his eyes could not help but to watch the lovely Miss Stone’s backside as she made her way back to the cockpit, moving hand-over-hand along the rail.

Riley sighed.  The co-pilot Stone did have quite a figure on her and in any other circumstance, he would’ve flirted with her.  But it was a long flight out here to the desert, not to mention the fact the didn’t exactly want to be out here.  It just kind of took the desire out of the whole situation.

The transport strained to keep steady and on course, despite the howling wind that picked up speed with surprising fury.  The engines were strong, but no pilot wanted to be out in a sandstorm for too long.  The dust and sand clogs intakes and ductfans and even seems to be able to seep its way into sealed engine compartments.  Normally the pilot would just fly above the storm, but they were close enough to the station to make a run for it.  It would just mean that the work crews would have to put in some extra work to make the transport fit for the flight back.

The wind kicked up and the transport hit the deck rather hard, jarring Fletcher and the two pilots hard enough to rattle their teeth.  Metal scrapped against metal before the transport settled its full mass against the landing deck.  The wind still tried to push it off the deck or at least roll it over onto its side.

Somewhere under the landing deck an engine fired to life spinning the landing pad and transport counter-clockwise.  The transport lurched, making Stone’s shapely hips sway as she steadied herself on the overhead safety rail.

“The storm has been upgraded to Class Three, Mr. Fletcher,” she informed Riley as she steadily made her way down the aisle.  “Winds are over two-hundred kilometers an hour so the station is spinning us in position to extend an umbilical shell to get us to the ‘lock.”

Riley just nodded staying seated.  He tried to look her in the eyes, but she had put on some shaded goggles, so he had to go back to staring at her ample chest and then back to her shapely ass when she passed him on the way back to the rear loading doors.  The ship rocked to a stop, once it was rotated into position and another set of motors growled to life.  Riley watched as Stone clipped a respirator mask onto her flight helmet and adjusted it so it fit well with her goggles.

A loud clang bounced off the hull of the transport and a green light lit above Stone’s head.  She punched the button beside it hard and the rear door lowered like a castle drawbridge.  The wind rushed in as soon as the door cracked open, turning into a swirling vortex of red sand and dust.  The ramp’s edge ground to a halt against the landing deck and Stone turned and waved to Riley.

He checked the seals on his environment-suit one more time.  Everything was airtight, temperature at a nice even 22 degrees Celsius with enough air in his tank for another three hours.  Normally a simple respirator was enough, the air was thin but breathable.  Wearing a full environment-suit was a bit overkill, but Riley just wanted to cut his exposure to the dust down as much as possible.

Unstrapping himself from the seat he made his way to Stone.  Inside the belly of the transport, the wind whipping outside wanted to suck everything out, as if the transport were a straw.  He got to where Stone was standing with both hands overhead on the rail.  It made Riley sigh, the way her breasts jutted out the way they did, as she hung from rail.  Outside, the ramp was covered with the shell.  It did not form an airtight seal to the airlock.  What it did was form a covered walkway that shielded people and equipment form the worst the winds had to offer, as they moved from the transport to the squat, bunker-like airlock.

“We’ll have your bags unloaded with the rest of the cargo, Mr. Fletcher.”  Stone had to yell to be heard over the howling wind, even then her voice was muffled by the mask she wore.  Riley was still able to hear her thorough the external mics in his suit.  He nodded, giving her a thumbs up and made his way down, under the shell.

The wind still whipped under the edge of the shell, that rested several inches up from the deck.  He could feel the sand and dust blast across his feet and ankles as the wind-blown particles were like a sandblaster.  He made it to the airlock and hit the open button.  The heavy doors slid open, sand grinding in its moving parts.  Once inside, the doors sealed shut behind him, he could hear compressors run.  A mild anti-static charge was sent through the floor as jets of compressed air hit him, shaking loose what dust and sand clung to him.  It was not 100% full proof but did eliminate much of the infuriating desert off of him.

Once the dusting cycle was complete, the inner doors opened and he was met by a haggard looking woman in her mid-thirties.  She had her dark blonde hair up in a bun, with a few strands escaping to hang loosely.  She wore thin data-glasses, that she kept at the end of her nose.  Her classic librarian look however, was spoiled by the rugged jumpsuit she wore.  Covered in a light coating of dust, she looked like any other prospector and not the Director of the survey station.

“Ahh, Mr. Fletcher,” she said extending her hand out to shake.  On her forearm was a computer gauntlet that fed info to the data-glasses she wore.  The glasses provided her with a Heads-Up Display of whatever data she was working on.  “I’m Director Megan Chang, welcome to Hephaestus Survey Station Four.”  Riley took off his helmet and then shook her hand.  “I will admit though I am surprised that (company) would send you out with the storm that was heading this way.  The windstorms do kick up a big mess here on the Hellas Planitia.”

“Believe me Director,” Riley said with a sigh.  “I’d rather be back in Valles Dome.”

“Rough ride?”

Riley frowned.  “Lets just say I am not a big fan of the desert.”

to be continued...
This is another story that came about from an exercise as proposed by my Thursday Night Writer's Group.
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