Friday Flash Fics — Fifth Cohort

This is a first for me, with the Friday Flash Fics. It’s a sequel to last week’s piece, First Cohort. So, if you want, read that first.

Flash Friday

Fifth Cohort

“You wanted to see me?”

The screen on his wrist pad bore an amber icon when he’d woken. Despite it not being an emergency, he liked to start his day in the Colony Operations Office anyway. It was the start of his morning route. He eyed the displays behind the broad-shouldered woman manning the situation displays, and saw nothing but green.

“Good morning, Flood,” Flood said.

“Sorry,” he blushed. “Good morning, Flood.”

“Morning,” she said. “I have the update for the contingency protocols ready.”

He blinked in surprise. “Already?”

She shrugged. “It’s possible I was already working on them.” She tapped her pad, and his own chirped.

He eyed the plan. Even at a glance, it was obvious the various department heads had taken something already lean and streamlined it. No doubt Flood had worked with all of them.

“This is great,” he said, meaning it. The more he looked, the more he liked what he saw.

The cohorts had all come with redundancies. The Helios technology was new. They were flinging themselves to a distant star, with no way back. And while probes had reported a planet so perfect for their needs it had been so obvious a first choice, they understood there could be any number of unforeseen circumstances. Flexibility was key.

The first four cohorts had come with specific plans for how they would dismantle their rides and begin their colony. Each cohort was designed to fully prepare for the next—plus an ever-growing “extra.”

Adamson had been the first man to step on the planet. Another planet. In another star system. He’d been the one to lead the first team to decide that the probe had indeed been correct, and the site of the colony was confirmed. Their ship came down—never to fly again—and over the course of months, they’d followed the plan, though they’d adapted parts of the plan to reality multiple times.

They’d gotten the entire checklist completed—plus a couple of the optionals—when the second cohort had arrived.

It seemed like their only setback would be during the fourth cohort, and it had been an issue of the bedrock being more trouble than they’d expected. Even then, the hospital had been set up before the deadline, and the science labs expanded into the former medical centre.

Then the arrival day of the fifth cohort came.

But the fifth cohort didn’t.

They’d prepared for the fifth cohort on time, if only just. But when the satellite showed no sign of the Helios effect in the system over the next week it became clear that the fifth cohort wasn’t coming.

Thus the contingency protocols.

Every step of the plan involved self-sustainment. Even the first cohort could have—in theory—survived with what they’d brought. That was always the plan.

Looking at the points on the list Flood had put together, he saw just how much everyone was holding to the plan. An extra greenhouse. Tertiary tanked water power systems. And—in a move no doubt as much from optimism as anything else—as much of the prep work for the sixth cohort as possible.

It wasn’t insignificant. If the fifth cohort had suffered some sort of catastrophic failure, and the project leaders didn’t know, and the sixth cohort arrived on schedule, the damage to the colony project as a whole would be as minimized as possible.

“What’s this?” Adamson said, noting the last item on Flood’s aggregated list.

“Oh, that?” Flood leaned over him. “That’s a…suggestion…from Dr. Adebayo.”

“She’s got to be kidding.”

“You know, I don’t think she is.” Flood said.

Adamson sighed. He lifted his wrist pad and tapped the screen.

“That’s not going to work,” Flood said.

Adamson waited for the connection request to go through. “Trust me,” he said.


It didn’t work.

Dr. Adebayo had pointed out she could order him to take a leave of absence, had reminded him the fifth cohort had intended to include relief staff including the first arrival of an administrator who outranked him. Adamson hadn’t had time to point out the fifth cohort hadn’t arrived before she pointed out everything was running smoothly and she was serious about making it an order if she had to.

First he’d tried to just stay in his apartment, catching up on any number of tasks, but on the first day of his “vacation” Dr. Adebayo had shown up, handed him keys to one of the electric cars, and told him if she didn’t see him connected to the intranet at the coastal cottage, she’d lock him out of the network completely.

So here he was.

The small cottage had been a side-project he’d happily approved. Using local materials only, no time or resources removed from the project proper, build a “vacation cottage.” A project for the engineers and scientists both, and a resource that could be used thereafter by the colonists. They’d picked a place by the coast, near the future site of what was planned to be an observatory, and the end result?

Gorgeous. Not large, but built open and airy, a bedroom and sitting area and small kitchen, and at one end of the cottage there was a large white clay tub. He filled it, opened the sliding glass door, and listened to the sound of the gentle waves on the beach outside.

There were clay pots with some of the local plant life in them. He wondered who’d fired the pots—they were beautiful as well as functional, which probably meant his head of security, Patel, had had a hand in them. Whenever possible, they’d stacked the deck with colonists who had artistic talents, too. Flood was a talented musician. Dr. Adebayo wrote novellas.

His wrist pad connected to the cottage node, and to his amusement, a small icon of a thumbs-up appeared from Dr. Adebayo.

By the time he slipped into the tub, he’d decided Dr. Adebayo had been right to make him take a break. His mind was still spinning over all the variables he was juggling, but at least he was doing it from a heated tub, watching the slow sunset on this brave new world.

If the sixth cohort didn’t come?

He exhaled. The date was far enough away it wasn’t yet a colony-wide worry. But he knew the time would come faster than it seemed right now. The contingency protocols would buy them time. Redirect anxious energy on the part of the colonists.

They didn’t have a way home. That would arrive with the tenth cohort.

If the sixth cohort didn’t show…

Adamson sank into the water. This had been a one-way trip for him. People like him weren’t safe on Earth except in a few countries—and those countries were losing ground against the ever-evolving world government—and Mars and Luna were in the grip of corporations. Helios, his Helios, had been a way to escape.

His wrist pad chimed. He reached out one hand, snagged it with his mind, and telekinetically floated it across the room.

The message from Dr. Adebayo made him smile.

See how much easier it is when you just admit I’m always right?

He considered a response, then smiled. He tapped it out.

You were right. I surrender. Your turn next week. No arguments.

There was a long pause. He watched the sun sink on the horizon.

Finally, his wrist pad chimed again.

Jerk. Fine. My turn next.

He grinned. Now? Now he could relax.


9 thoughts on “Friday Flash Fics — Fifth Cohort

  1. There’s no way I’m the only one thinking about Manny after reading this…right? I mean, was he just an anchor husband for citizenship and now he’s out of the picture, or is he coming at some point? Like a lot of your short pieces, I’m left wishing for the rest of the story…


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