Go to Prologue
"Open launch doors." Kacey ordered. The doors that separated the hanger from the vacuum of space opened. Kacey taxied into position. "Shuttle two and Stingers one through five you are with us. Six through twenty one, map out the mass. Take as many readings as you can. We will look for a good location to land. Good journey everyone. Lets go." Kacey pushed the throttle forward and released the brake. She moved the shuttled into launch position. Kacey pushed the throttle forward again. "Hang onto your hats everyone. Here we go." She let up on the brake. The shuttle shot out of the hanger .
"Nice take off Colonel." One of the Marines stated.
"Thanks. Sit back and relax Ladies and Gentlemen and thank you for flying Air Shamrock." Kacey said as she checked her readouts. She went into a holding pattern while waiting for the rest of the ships to launch. As soon as the last ship left the hanger she set the coordinates for the mass and grabbed a smoke stick.
"Thought you didn't use them anymore?" Kate asked.
"Only when I fly. It is a tradition Kate."
"All the pilots do that Captain. Sort of a good luck charm. As soon as a pilot hits open space we grab one."
"Good luck Charm? It did not seem to be too lucky on your last mission."
"It was a quake, Kate. I consider it lucky I survived. So yeah they are a good luck charm."
"You do have a point."
"We have about a forty five minute ride, break out that coffee Kate."
"Yes ma'am" Kate said and saluted her. She poured coffee for Kacey, Rhea and herself. Anya and the Marines declined.
"What are the sensors showing Anya?"
"The life forms are still in the South and East. North and West still clear. There is a cloud cover developing in the Southern section. We may experience some turbulence."
Kacey keyed the mike. "This is Shamrock. Be advised that there is a cloud cover developing with possible turbulence. Be careful we do not know what is under that cloud cover." She keyed the mike again. "Anya do the sensors show any source of water?"
"None on the surface. There may be water underground."
"We have plenty of water on board in the storage tanks. Besides all the rock drilling equipment is back on Andromeda. Lucky us." Kacey joked. "We have coffee, food, water, and other comforts of home including this." She pulled a disc out of the holder and put it in the player. "Bear with me, I am trying to figure out what is wrong with this piece." She hit play. Soft strains of violin music filled the shuttle. They all listened.
"That is new isn't it?" Kate asked.
"Yes, but there is something that is not quite right with it." Kacey stated. "I have been working on it for about two weeks. I have not been able to figure out what is wrong."
"Does not sound as if there is anything wrong, Colonel."
"Wrong was not the word I should use. It is more like just not right. There is something wrong with the flow."
"Does it have a name Colonel?" Rhea asked.
"Maybe if you named it, you would be able to figure out the problem with the flow. I think it is beautiful." Rhea stated.
"Colonel we will reach the cloud cover in two minutes." Anya said.
"Do the sensors show anything under the cloud?"
"No but the cloud is much denser than it was before. Now about four miles thick."
Once again Kacey keyed the mike. "All ships do not, I repeat do not try to go through the cloud. We will head to a clear area."
Kacey changed the vectors in navigation to change the shuttles course. The clouds moved as they did.
"That is very weird?" Kate stated.
"Andromeda to Shuttle Shamrock."
"Go ahead Andromeda." Kacey answered the hail.
"Kacey we are watching that cloud cover grow in length and depth. It seems to be following you."
"I am getting that same reading." Anya responded.
"All ships go into holding pattern Epsilon." Kacey ordered.
The ships hovered above the mass. Kacey studied the mass. "Anya can you filter out the worms life signs and see if there are any others?"
"Yes but it will take a few minutes." Anya responded.
"What are you thinking Kacey?" Kate asked.
"I am thinking that those worms had to come from somewhere. What if that rocky section is not rock?"
"I think a little more explanation is needed." Kate said.
"It is more like a feeling I have, Kate"
"How about you share your feeling?"
"I have it Colonel. The is one life sign" Anya said.
"All ships back off ten thousand kilometers." Kacey ordered.
She turned the shuttle around and led the ships away from the mass where they resumed their holding pattern.
"Now would you like to explain that feeling?" Kate demanded.
"Those worms had to come from somewhere. They did not just materialize in space. The rocky area is not rock but the worm's mother or host, or what ever. That cloud cover is a protection mechanism."
"How can you be sure?"
"What if we send a mild electrical charge into the cloud to see what happens."
"It could see that as an attack and fight back." Rhea stated.
"That is a possibility." Kacey agreed.
"We also do not know if that thing will move or how fast it can move." Kate stated. "It could even attack us."
"True. All ships move back another ten thousand Kilometers and hold." Kacey ordered. "Lets get an mild charge ready to go. We will move back as soon as the charge is sent."
"Charge ready to send colonel." Rhea stated.
"Send it." Kacey ordered. As soon as the charge was sent, Kacey quickly backed the shuttle off away from the mass. They watched the charge hit the cloud. They saw the mass shudder and moved away from them. In seconds the mass had disappeared from their screens.
"Does that feed your adventurous streak or do you want to follow it?" Kacey asked.
"Hell no. Whatever that was, we should leave it alone." Kate said. "That sent my weird o meter off the scale."
"Egg heads will not be happy. We got them out here for nothing."
"Could not be helped. There was no rocks for them to collect. That was a living organism."
"All ships return to Andromeda. We apologize to all the geologists for the wasted trip. There will plenty of other opportunities to gather samples." Kacey turned the shuttle around and followed the stingers back to Andromeda at a leisurely pace.
"What made you think about checking for other life signs?" Kate asked.
"Something Lieutenant Minor said about that movie with the giant worms. That made me think that the mass was the mother of all those little worms."
"Good thinking." Kate stated.
"Here is another thought. We had better finish that coffee, because if there is any left, we may not get it for the next mission."
"We can not have that happen." Kate joked. Drink up everyone."
To be continued...
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