Alcatraz came up on screens green and golden in bright noonday sun. It was a vibrant, growing moon with a rich ecosystem. It’s use as a penal colony baffled the mind given it’s rich resources, until you realized the colony was most likely used as slave labor and the planet’s probably vast mineral reserves were mostly finished. The marks of ancient mining operations could be seen from above.
The Redemption’s cargo hatch opened onto a golden summer day. From the back of the Redemption, Hopper watched as the shuttle was away into the brilliant sunlight carrying the scientists and all their equipment followed by Cowboy in his ATgyro. The small squat vehicle sped off the ramp and hovered a moment before dropping gently into the atmosphere below. Atlas and Herc moved their mechs forward and jumped out into the blue, then he and Briar could go.
The sensation of a jump was unlike any other human emotion, and all the pilots had to get off on it just a little. There was that moment of flying, followed by the twist in your gut and drop of your stomach that told you you were falling. You had to ignore your instincts to stop the fall for a few heady seconds, then, there was the gentle glide of the mech as you hit thrusters and worked to keep the machine straight, ready to glide gently in like any skydiver, to end with, if done properly, a jarring landing and stomping run as you slow the impetus of twenty tons of man and machine. It was a high, and he admitted it. It took a certain kind of person to jump from a drop ship into enemy territory.
“Cowboy, you got the weather report?” Hopper asked it with his trademark calm.
“That I do, Boss. That I do. It is sunny and warm today on Alcatraz, and it looks like we might just have the beach all to ourselves.”
Hopper smiled. Finally, he thought. Something goes right. “Sounds beautiful, Cowboy. Run a field scan just to make sure and we’ll set up a camp.”
Hopper turned his attention to landing his light mech and avoiding a small pond. Alcatraz was positively beautiful, he realized as he took in a varied vista of hills, flats and forests as far as he could see. Why had no one ever settled here? It wasn’t as though it hadn’t been mapped on star charts and explored by locals. He’d even seen topography scans. Hopper would have to ask the scientists that question later. Something about it bothered him.