Story #10: The Brethren

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When the Ousoon arrived, descending through the clouds in their impressive ships, we never saw the truth. Not at first. It was those Jovian freaks that saw them for what they were. I guess I shouldn't really call them freaks, they wound up being our saviours. They're just ... odd.

The first Jovian outposts were established in 2025. They were put in place to monitor the mining routes that humanity had begun using in its first off-world commercial endeavour. After the events on Mars, humanity exploded into the interstellar reaches. The Jovian planets' gasses became the primary elements of the large chemical rockets used in our foray to the stars. Those same gasses eventually became the mainstay of environmental systems from Ganymede to Lysithea. Those solitary, one person monitoring stations, were the birthplace of the Brethren. Seventy-two of those stations were setup, for one person each. The minimum commitment? Ten years.

The original program developers were gobsmacked at how many applications they received. They were further surprised by how many of those applicants actually passed the mental screening processes. I couldn't even begin to tell you what was in the minds of those applicants. I sure as hell wouldn't want to spend ten years of my life, hundreds of millions of miles from everything, living in a space no bigger than my first bachelor apartment.

Jovian Mining Corporation was the company that first went out to mine the gas giants and the ice giants. One department was placed in charge of the whole outpost program. The outposts weren't there to prevent interlopers from other companies, the outposts were there simply to ensure the various companies, taking their first steps into space, didn't crash into each other. They were outer space lighthouses, for want of a better term. Beacons, if you will, in more ways than one. Jovian Mining Corporation, Department 37, tried to make life as comfortable as possible for these people, though comfort was a tertiary consideration. When you are that far from home and depending on unproven technology, comfort isn't the first priority. The first priority is survival.

Pastor David, non-denominational, worked for Department 37. He spent most of his life dedicated to the outpost inhabitants. He talked to many of them every day, all of them at least once a week when he could. Using the ERB technology that the Eben had provided, before the events on Mars, made instantaneous communication possible with the outposts. However, it was affected by solar flares and such. Therefore it wasn't always available.

Pastor David always had spiritual advice readily on hand, but his degrees in psychology also allowed him to offer other mundane advice as well. He found that by the second year of the outpost inhabitants contract, it was the spiritual advice they wanted most of all. All but one of the seventy-two outpost inhabitants turned to religion, to aid them and soothe them in their solitary existence.

In 2035, the unthinkable happened. Seventy-one of the outpost inhabitants indicated their desire to "re-up" for another ten years. When asked why, they all responded, "Because we're not done yet."

What it was that they were not "done" with, was a mystery that none of them would answer. Given the cost of retrieving the people and delivering a replacement, Jovian Mining Corporation was happy to let them stay. Pastor David let his protests be known, but he didn't abandon his dispersed flock. He stuck with them through the easy times, the hard times, and the terrifying times.

He had always been vocal that the ten-year commitment was too long. However, he also knew it was the most fiscally responsible term of commitment by those selected. When the seventy-one said they didn't want to leave, he was concerned that their psychological make-up had been compromised by the isolation. Number seventy-two, Richard Collingswood of outpost #64, was not one of the ones that wanted to stay. He was chomping at the bit to return to Earth: it's food, it's booze, it's women, it's sunlight. Pastor David wound up with the unpleasant task of informing him that since none of the other outpost inhabitants wanted to return home, Jovian Mining was not going to pay the incredible cost of the planned operation to return just one outpost monitor. Richard had not developed the smiling sanguinity that the seventy-one had developed. Upon learning he was being forced into a second ten-year term, he took the only option he felt that he had available to him. Richard nodded once at Pastor David over the video feed. He then stood up, walked to the other side of the room, and entered a command system override in the airlock controller. He then opened both inner and then outer airlock doors; at the same time.

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