by S Shane Thomas

Listen to my narration here

“I’m sorry Dr. Jeffries,” an engineer offered, his worried expression confirmed sincerity. “Jianyu moved the first dozen containers without a problem, then I saw him loose footing and…”

Dr. Erin Jeffries peered out her high pressure suit’s face mask. Her engineer couldn’t even be visually identified; his near panicked breathing fogged his features. The magnet crane still swayed in the breeze. A breeze which the colonists likely found refreshing since their human bodies carefully blended with the DNA of one Earth’s strongest creatures, able to carry one hundred times its own body weight. Their ant traits clearly evident, since their human bones were reinforced by a sturdy exoskeleton. They also inherited the insect’s incredible body to brain ratio, an unexpected yet welcome side effect. Perhaps the scholars and scientists among the half million altered humans would bring advancements to science and scholarly pursuits to the rest of the League of Atlantis Reborn Colonies.

The ant genes proved a necessity for mankind to inhabit this world, swathed in lush vegetation and seemingly inexhaustible natural resources. The atmospheric pressure weighed nearly six times that found on Earth. Even with the aid of her hydraulic pressure resistant suit, the young geneticist struggled to simply move about the unloading area. Hundreds of engineers assisted the Antmen, as the starship crew referred to this planet’s colonists, in unloading freight containers and prefabricated buildings.  

Dr. Jeffries peered at the engineer’s name badge since his face was obscured. “Collins, you’re rattled. End shift early and get another machine operator down here right away.”

“Should I call for medical assistance?” Collins asked, his voice quavered on the brink of tears. “I didn’t mean to…”

“There, there, Collins. I saw the accident, we are both concerned for Jianyu’s wellbeing, but there is really no need to feel at fault. Your magnet crane has never been operated under these pressures or wind conditions before. Poor Jianyu certainly would not be crushed by this.” She indicated the steel structure, “If anything he may run short of oxygen, which is why I’d like for you to get a relief operator on the machine.”

Collins smiled at her attempts to reassure and turned for the cargo ship.

Even as the man trudged off the lithe young geneticist stepped cautiously back as the freight container Jianyu lay beneath began to creak and shift. Dr. Jeffries jumped in surprise for the first time since her last gene therapy induced youth. A groan could be heard and the room sized freight container slowly rose until the shiny burgundy physique of the gene enhanced man posed with the structure above his head; reminiscent of atlas holding the Earth.

“Good thing I was on the receiving end, instead of one of you soft humans” Jianyu said, flashing a smile at his creator. Human facial features still held form despite thick hard exoskeleton. Eyes the size of oranges shone bright blue and brilliant white teeth clenched as the Antman heaved and tossed the freight container into place nearby.

“Let me have a look at you” Dr. Jeffries said, lifting Jianyu’s thick arm to look for strains or cracks in his exoskeleton.

“I appreciate the mothering, but I’m fine really” the Antman said to the woman who had mothered him since birth from his fetal tube. Jianyu gazed up at his former home, the LARC3 colonial starship. From orbit around his new world the three mile long vessel looked like a small moon. “What’s next for you Doc, another batch of colonists? Will these guys have with flippers and gills?”

A mischievous twinkle lit Dr. Erin Jeffries’s eyes “Oh, whatever the next environment calls for. You know we go with the flow.”

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