Go to Prologue
7 August 2176
Personal journal Colonel Kirsten C. O'Malley,
Sensors picked up a mass about two hundred million kilometers away. We will be going to investigate. It may be an undiscovered planetoid. Anya can not find it an any of her star charts. If she can not find it, it is a new one.
Doc cleared me to fly this morning. I managed to get Kate's okay to go on this mission. But as always there were conditions. Her one condition is that she gets to pick my crew. Does not take a crystal ball to know who will be on my crew. Thankfully, regulations state that the Captain and First Mate cannot both be off the ship at the same time. They have probably have a deal in place that dad will be on the next mission. Get my brains knocked around a bit once and suddenly I need a baby sitter. Certainly glad mom is a cook and not an officer or I would have her in the mix also. Commander Rhea Torino, who goes wherever the Captain goes will be added. Then as Chief Science Officer, Anya will round out my crew. But maybe not. That would leave their girls alone. They could have asked mom to babysit. With Kate along, I will not have to worry about that damn video lock she just loves to put on me. I know why she does it, but damn I would hate to have myself recorded going to the bathroom, farting or doing something private.
Tonight I will break the news to Natalia. If she had been issued an away outfit, I have no doubt she would come along. Maybe she can help mom with the rug rats. She is so good with them. They love their Aunt Natty as they now call her.
There will be twenty three ships going on this mission. Gamma squadron will be coming with us. I hope that any life forms we find will not be mistaken as an invasion force.
All this will be for nothing is the air is not breathable, the ground unstable so that we are unable to land. If for whatever reason the ships can not land, only a few people will actually be able to walk on something other that carpet covered steel. The rock collectors are anxious to get down on the surface to collect their samples to study.
We will find out tomorrow when we are closer and can get readings.
The pilots stood around Kacey in the hanger. They looked at the mass and studied the readings that had just started coming in. Kacey gave them their orders.
"You will be mapping the mass and taking readings. Two shuttles will be going with the Gamma crew Stingers. Captain Taggart, you will pilot the second shuttle. More than likely you will have the geologists on board as well as an armed guard for their protection. I will pilot the second shuttle. Got clearance from the Doc yesterday."
"Long time coming Colonel. Just be careful on the surface. Captain Jensen will pitch a royal fit if anything were to happen to you on the surface. You should have heard her when you were on Marcus Prime and she could not get down there to help you."
"So I have heard. I believe she will be with me this time. Make sure to hide all the bubble wrap." They all laughed. "Gamma crews check your Stingers. Make sure your recording equipment is working. Also make sure your on board and hand weapons are fully charged. We will not know what we will be flying into."
Kate sat in her Ready Room going over the list of people assigned to the away mission. She spoke out loud. "Two shuttles, twenty one Stingers. Geologists and scientists in one shuttle. There are seventeen aboard. Should take a few marine and security also for their protection. We do not know what we will find down there.
"Commanders Rhea Torino, Anya Jensen and Colonel O'Malley come to the Ready Room."
"Right away Captain." Rhea answered.
"Be there shortly Kate." Kacey stated.
Within seconds the door chimed. "Come in." Kate called out. Shortly after Kacey arrived.
"If all conditions are right the three of us will be going to the surface of that mass. Rhea bring along a few security. Kacey assign a few extra Marines. Five of them will be with us." They both nodded. "Each person will be issued a phasic rifle as well as side arm. We do not know how long we will be on the surface so make sure every one has provisions and plenty of water. We three will be with the Colonel." Kacey had to stop herself form rolling her eyes.
"Are the extra Marines necessary Kate" Kacey asked.
"Until we know if anything lives on that mass, yes they are very necessary."
"All right. There will be total of twenty three ships. I have told the stingers who will not be guarding us to map out the area."
"Good, the more we know about that mass, the better off we will be. As soon as we have more readings, we can finalized the plans. Anya, I will ask mom and Liam to watch the girls while we are gone."
"They will like that."
"I will ask Natalia if she will help them out, when I meet her for lunch, which I will be late for if I do not leave right now." Kacey stated. Is there anything else, Kate?"
"No that will be all for now. If you wait a minute Kacey I will walked down with you."
The women filed out of the Ready Room. Anya and Rhea returned to their posts. Kate and Kacey headed for the lifts.
Next morning the ship was less than one million kilometers from the mysterious mass. Still not close enough to get any readings. Within the hour the first blips came over Anya's console. All eyes were on the screen. The mass came closer and closer. Anya studied the blips that came across her screen. She relayed the information to Kate. Kacey joined the bridge crew to watch the mass and learn as much as possible about it.
"The mass has an oxygen rich atmosphere. We should feel the gravitational pull at ten thousand kilometers."
"How strong is it. We do not need the shuttles or Stingers pulled into a tail spin and crash on the surface."
"Should not be a problem. It is slightly below the pull of Earth's gravity."
"Just starting to come in. Lots of life signs. Mostly invertebrates."
"I would say they are equal to earth worms."
"For lack of a better term, yes. They are in the Southern and Eastern regions where the ground is sandy. North and West are clear. The mass is divided into two different types of ground cover. Where the South and East is sandy, North and West has a rock cover."
"That sounds like a really old movie which had giant worms that could move through sand but not rocks." Lieutenant Minor stated.
"What it sounds like Lieutenant is a very bad science fiction movie." Kate stated.
"Probably, but what was science fiction in the twentieth century is fact in the twenty second." He debated
"So what exactly did these giant worms do that merited them a movie?"
"Not much actually, but eat every thing that moved. Then in the second movie it changed into another creature altogether."
"There was more that one movie?"
"Four, plus a television show. It lasted only one season. Never understood why."
"Who thought giant worms could be so interesting?"
"I have the discs, Captain. Maybe we can have a movie night in the Gym."
"That is a conversation for another time Lieutenant. Anya are these worms gigantic?"
"No. Sensors show them to be regular sized worms."
"So we will go under the assumption that these are normal space worms. Distance Lieutenant?"
"Two hundred fifty thousand kilometers, Captain.
"Is the mission a go Kate?" Kacey asked
"It is a go." She push a button on the console on the arm of her chair. Her voice went out to everyone on the ship. "Attention, this is Captain Jensen. All Geologists and scientists chosen for this mission please be suited up and in the hanger in one hour.
She turned off the speaker. All right people lets get ready to go. Commander you have the Bridge."
"Aye Katie. You girls be very careful down there."
"We will Liam." Kate said. "Right Kacey?"
"Right. We will be careful dad." Kacey left the Bridge. Kate leaned over and whispered to Liam. "Video lock"
"Ahh, Katie. Kacey will not be liking that."
"She can hate it but we need to have proof of everything we find and do on any mission. This is the best way to get the proof we need.
"Good luck down there Katie."
"Lets get changed and ready to go. It would not do to give the scientists a time limit and make them wait for us." Kate said to Anya and Rhea. The left the bridge to change into their flight suits and get the equipment they needed.
Kacey, dressed in her flight suit, side arm in place. Her rifle was already stowed away on the ship. She gave final instructions.
"Make sure you have provisions and plenty of water. Survival packs loaded and ready. Check your weapons to make sure they are working. Get all on board weapons charged now. You all have your sections that need to be mapped. Be on the lookout for any signs of life. If for some reason you have to land, do so in the North or West section. Do not attempt to land in the South or East The sand in those areas may be to soft to land on without sinking. Also the life forms are in that area. We do not know if they are dangerous at this time. We will try to collect a few remotely for the egg heads to study. Two Stingers will stay with each shuttle."
"Colonel, you have company." Captain Taggart stated. Kacey turned to see Natalia and her mother near the office.
"Get your final checks done." Kacey ordered. Be ready to leave as soon as the egg heads get here." Kacey walked to the office. She opened the door for them. "What brings you both done here?"
"To see you off of course." Natalia answered.
"Of course. What is your excuse mom."
"I am your mother, I do not need an excuse. But in this case I wanted to bring you this." She handed Kacey a large thermos.
"Okay. What is it?"
"Coffee of course."
"You know us so well mom. Kate and I both thank you."
"You both will be careful down there won't you? Please do not do anything crazy down there." Patricia hugged her daughter's taller form. "Promise me you will both be careful and look after each other."
"I promise mom. I will bring everyone back safely." Kacey promised.
Kate and Anya entered the office . "This is new. We usually do not get a going away committee."
"Mom brought us some liquid gold, Kate."
"Thank you. Depending on what we find down there we might not be back tonight."
"Natalia offered to help with the girls, so they will be fine." She hugged Kate and Anya, while Kacey went to Natalia and kissed her.
"You promised your mother, now promise me that you will be careful."
"I certainly will." Kacey said and kissed her again.
"You girls take care of each other. I want you all home safely. Please." Patricia said.
"Try not to worry mom. I will not take any chances." She hugged and kissed Natalia again then kissed her mother's cheek. I have to get the pre flight check done. Kacey walked to her shuttle. She placed the container of precious coffee in the rack by the copilot's seat. She check that all their supplies were stored safely. Their food and water supply, tents, blankets, inflate a cots, flashlights and shock sticks. She even checked her supply of smoke sticks. She then went outside to check the shuttle's frame. She made sure everything was tight. Lastly she checked the seal on the new ramp to make sure they did not lose their precious oxygen due to a leak.
Kacey started her preflight check on the shuttle systems Sensors, check, landing systems, check, weapons charged and ready, guidance, check, auto pilot, check.
"Commander O'Malley to Captain Jensen."
"Go ahead Commander."
"Katie we are forty thousand kilometers away from the mass."
"Have a good journey lass. Do not make your mother worry."
"Will do Liam."
Kate, Anya, Rhea and four Marines entered. They all stowed their gear, took their seats and strapped in. Kacey sat in the pilots seat. Kate in the copilots chair. Anya took her place at the Science console and Rhea at the weapons console. The Marines would have little to do until they landed. Their jobs would be to check the area before anyone exited the shuttles. Kacey put the head set on and adjusted the volume on the radio.
"All ships do radio check." The ships started to count off. "Everyone ready? Close air lock doors." The large doors slowly closed. They heard the doors clang shut. A green light came on "Start engines." The ships came to life around the hanger. "Lower atmosphere." The hiss of air escaping could be heard. Kacey taxied into position. "Open launch doors."
To be continued...
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