1 - A New World

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He took a breath.

The first breath ever taken on his new world.

His suit's expensive helmet lay in the grass beside his foot. He had already unzipped the suit's chest-piece down about the length of his hand, letting the cool air of a new world waft between the radiation shielding material and his bare chest.

Morning dew already clung to his collar, and tiny rivulets of water were dripping down the contours of his chest as he stared up at the distant sun. His fingers itched to drop the rest of the irritating, confining suit to the dirt and run. But he wasn't alone yet.

Not quite yet.

"Mister Cardego, your suit is recording a breach! Please respond," his secretary called, her normally very sultry voice straining with the stress of her panic. He grinned, her voice taking his thoughts back to warm and heady memories of nights well spent.

He turned back to the shimmering distortion in spacetime that he had walked through, a perfectly round wormhole that lead to the mission control room back on Earth. As much as he didn't want to respond, if he ignored them, they'd send someone after him and spoil the moment.

Reluctantly, he picked up the helmet and put his mouth near the radio. "Viviana, honey, I haven't heard that tone of voice in hours," he said softly, barely more than a husky whisper. "And if it's just the two of us, you're allowed to call me Luca. Honey was fine. Calling me master last weekend was a bit much, though."

A chorus of laughter roared over the radio, and he could practically hear his secretary blush. Before she could respond, Luca continued. "I took off my helmet. The air's perfect, and the radiation levels here are lower than on Earth. Our little terraforming project worked beautifully."

"Little? You've spent like a quadrillion dollars on it!" Viviana exclaimed over the radio.

"Is that actually a word?" Luca asked incredulously. "Because it sounds like the kind of nonsense you make up when you don't know the name of a big number. Like zillion, or google."

"It comes after a trillion. And it's the estimated value of Mars now that your terraforming project has worked. An entire world made up of pristine virgin landscape. The board is ecstatic. We're already making plans for a Scrooge McDuck money vault," Viviana said.

Quieter, she added, "And I expect to wear the most expensive bikini in existence to the celebration, Mister Cardego. My wardrobe malfunction should cost more than your last yacht."

"Pristine virgin landscape. I haven't had that in months," Luca mused wistfully. He then grinned wolfishly, a sly thought dredging up mirth he had to share. "I wonder how long I should wait to tell the board that I'm not parcelling it up and selling it?"

"What?" Viviana shrieked. Not a new experience for Luca, but the tone was quite a bit more distressed than he was used to hearing. "You're not..."

"It's my planet. Why on Earth would I sell it?" Luca asked. He chuckled, and added, "Wow, that expression works even better when you're not on Earth."

"Luca, honey, there must be something in the air. You're not making sense," Viviana pleaded, clearing terrified by the horror of not recouping the cost of this project.

"Making cents, I see what you did there. Clever one, Viviana. No, I just never intended to let a bunch of stuffy, entitled billionaires who have never done a day of work in their lives plunder this virgin world."

"Have you looked in the mirror? Because the day you spend at nothing but work is the day the Earth ends," Viviana retorted.

"Good thing I have my own planet. I wasn't going to announce it for a few days, but I think I'd like to be a lord," Luca admitted.

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