New Faces

Life Beyond
6 min readMar 20


[ Excerpt from Columbus1 Crew Log | Confidential | DEEP ]

[ Log ID: 27522 | Crewmember ID: 3145 | 17–02–2096 ]


Sometimes you’ve just got to admit when you’re wrong.

Sorry, I know that’s a little bit more serious than my usual entries, but just bear with me.

When I got orders to clear out a space in the Columbus1’s starboard observation decks for use by “new guests”, my heart just about dropped through my stomach. Nothing to do with the work, of course, I’ve been a Crewman for long enough that I’ve learned to embrace the odd bit of heavy lifting.

No, I was dreading the civvies.

In my experience, civilians are bad luck. At best, they’re a distraction; there’s a million and one things to do when you’re shipside, and the last thing you want is some soft-skinned, bright-eyed journalist asking questions or going places that they’ve been told to leave damn-well alone. At worst though, they’re an absolute liability. Dolos has shown anyone with a brain that this expedition needs to be treated as a military operation, not a tourist’s retreat. This place is dangerous. Even at the best of times, hovering in-atmosphere like this puts immense strain on the ship’s superstructure, meaning that things are going to break and they are going to need fixing immediately if we don’t want to make friends with the ground. Then you’ve got to deal with the freak magnetic storms cropping up out of nowhere, and worst comes to worst those things come at you like they did at the base and…and…


Anyway, what I was saying is that you need to stay focused around here, and civilians just get in the way.

So, yeah. I was a little “apprehensive”. But, orders are orders. The deck specified for “The Hub” (whatever that means) turned out to be quite the nice space, all things considered. Lots of open areas, big observation ports, even some space for plants if you can believe it.

Anyway, the place was filled with junk, as you can imagine. Random storage crates, stacks of pallets, empty boxes, all sorts. So, I cleared it all out, cleaned all the surfaces, and made sure everything was sparkling. Of course, it turns out that might have been a little premature, as it was only after that that I checked the equipment requirements and realised I’d be shifting a whole bunch of crates around and scuffing up all my hard work. Tell you what, one day I’ll learn to read the full brief before starting…

Here’s where it gets really interesting though. Each of those crates was carrying some kind of console that I’d never seen before. Looked pretty customisable as well, all sorts of ports to plug bits into, screens, all that sort of stuff. I’m not a tech guy, but I’m pretty sure some of the bits were meant for simulation. You know, like the stuff they use for training back at enrolment. Got me wondering exactly what I was setting up for these people, since that tech is expensive even if you’re talking about the basic stuff, and these were state of the art. Then there was this box of tiny round what-looked-like holo emitters… honestly at that point I stopped trying to work out things.

Anyway, I got everything set up and finally sat down to take a breather. I wasn’t slacking, I swear! I know you guys record all this stuff for “psych eval” or whatever, so just- everything was done and I had a couple minutes.

Then from behind me I hear, “Wow, they really fixed up the place for us.”

I jumped out of my skin. Let me tell you, I’m usually pretty observant. Like I said, you have to be around here. The door didn’t open, no footsteps, nothing. Just suddenly a voice right freaking behind me.

So I nearly fall on my face, spin around and there’s this guy just standing there like it’s nothing. Clearly not enlisted, no ship uniform or anything. So I ask who the hell he is, and he just says he’s one of the people I’ve been preparing the space for. Let me tell you, I was this close to running for the alarm button. But then I took a look at what he was wearing, and realised I’d seen his kind of clothes before.

Back at the base attack.

Well, getting that delightful spike of recognition definitely didn’t calm me down, but it at least explained who he was. They’re an eclectic mix, the Agents, so it didn’t surprise me that he was acting all weird and sneaking around. Meaning no disrespect of course, they saved my skin before and I’m sure they’ll do it again, even if I don’t find out about it.

Anyway, I composed myself a little. He waved off my apology with a smile and walked over to the viewing port to take a look outside, and I joined him for a bit. Not every day you get to speak with one of them, so I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity.

“Well, it’s certainly one hell of a view,” he said.

That got a smile of sorts out of me. “Yea,” I said, “if nothing else it’s definitely that.”

At that point I realised that this was a chance to work out what this place was actually going to be used for, so I asked him as much.

“It’s the start of everything,” he muttered. He must have caught the look on my face at that though, because thankfully he didn’t leave it at that.

“You’re right. Standing here, like this… it’s hard not to get hit with the sheer gravitas of it all,” he said. “This will be where all of the prospective pioneers come to get tested. It’s not much at first, of course; just somewhere out-of-the way where we can make sure they’re capable of amicable conversation.”

He walked over to one of the consoles. “Later though, we’ll be using these things to run them through their paces, see what they’re made of. Combat at first, of course, but then building, economics, agriculture… all of them can be simulated. We’re pulling data directly from what we’ve collected on Dolos, so those simulations should evolve based on the situation on the ground.”

Which was good; I commented that at least they’d get a little bit of training before they ran into the meat grinder.

He raised an eyebrow. “Oh, don’t worry about that. This isn’t just training, it’s a proving ground.” At my confused look, he continued. “Only the very, very best will ever step foot on Dolos. As I think you know, we can’t afford to have people without a useful skill set getting in the way of people who do.”

I moved past him, looking out again at the planet’s surface. “You know, I was kind of dreading it. It wouldn’t be the first time we had to get suited up to save someone in way over their head.”

“Well, I wouldn’t get too relaxed. Some of these newcomers, though very talented in their field, won’t be military or ex-military. We’re talking architects, farmers, scientists- now, now, don’t give me that look, they’re all going to be way more competent in a dangerous situation than most of the people you and I know. They can all fire a weapon, they’re all combat trained.” He sighed. “But, yes, there will likely be times that we’ll have to step in.”

“They have no idea what they’re getting into.” I sighed.

“I disagree. It might take a near-scrape or two for them to really understand, but if they’re incompetent, they’ll never make the trip,” he said.

I frowned. “I thought we were expecting the first of them in the next couple hours? They must be on the ship already if that’s the case.”

He grinned, turning and walking over to one of the boxes I’d opened earlier. “You’d think so, right?”

I walked over, and looked down at the box of holo-emitters I’d seen before. He pointed. One of them was missing from its packaging cradle.

Seeing my blank face, his smile widened. “You haven’t realised, have you?”

“Realised what?”

He chuckled. “The wonders of modern technology.”

And with that, he vanished.

In his place floated a holo emitter, bobbing slightly in the air. It glided over to the box, landed in its packaging cradle, and turned off with a click.

What can you do in that situation?

Me? I just started laughing.


[ Excerpt from Columbus1 Crew Log | Confidential | DEEP ]

[ Log ID: 27522 | Crewmember ID: 3145 | 17–02–2096 ]



Life Beyond

Life Beyond is the next generation of Play&Earn MMO, set on the mysterious planet Dolos! Discover our adventure on your website: