Year three in the Voyage of Andromeda. The adventure that started in Among the Stars, and Beyond the Farthest Planet continues in Far From Home.
Captain log 1 August 2178
What wonders await us as we begin our third year. We are now in the fourth week of that third year. The area we are travelling through now is devoid of planets. The Vernans we helped have advised us on those regions we should avoid. We will follow their advice to avoid warring civilizations.
Life here in space can be dangerous enough without getting into the middle of an intergalactic pissing contest between warring planets.
We spent several days studying a nebula. The colors were spectacular to view. We have hours of footage recorded as we circled the nebula. The drones were sent into the heart of the nebula to take readings and recording from the inside. As far as we know, we are the first to be able to do this. The scientists are having a field day studying all the information gathered.
The stars outside our windows and more brilliant that any we have seen so far on our journey. So far our scanners are quiet. Sensors show a group of planets one hundred million kilometers away. On Earth that distance is unimaginable, but here in space it is but a few weeks journey. On Earth we are first taught to think in hundreds or thousands of kilometers. In space the smallest amount is millions. At our present speed we will arrive at the first in the group in about three weeks.
Kacey and her pilots are out around the clock. Seeing those small fighters buzzing around Andromeda still reminds me of David and Goliath.
I estimates we have another six months of exploring before we turn around and head back to Earth. The consensus of the crew and residents were to go for the fourth year. The journey back will not take as long. All the towers were upgraded on our way out here. There will be no need to spend weeks or months on any one planet.
We can only guess at what the next few months will hold for us.
CHAPTER 1 A
Kacey sat behind her desk working on her never ending reports. Hours spent working on reports were hours that she was not able to be out with her pilots. She had a stack of envelopes containing the promotions many of her people were due. Included in the stack we the promotions for her top three officers that had finally reached Andromeda. The replicator provided the stripes and insignias she would give those being promoted.
She leaned back in her chair as she sipped her coffee. Her gaze strayed to the line of photographs that she kept on her desk. Her parents, Kate and Anya's wedding picture flanked by their girls. The newest set was her and Natalia each holding one of their children. That was flanked with one of Caitlyn on the right and Patrick on the left.. Their wedding picture sat closest to her computer. Kacey found her eyes shifting from the screen to that picture several times a day. Each time bringing a smile to her face. The pictures helped center her when the weight of her responsibilities to her family, troops and Andromeda began to push her down. One glance at that picture reminded her of why she was doing this job.
Kate sat in her command chair as they headed toward their next adventure. The crew went about their duties that after two full years were now second nature to them.
"How far away is the next planet?" She asked.
"Do you want the nearest 'M' class planet?" Anya inquired.
"Seventy three million kilometers is the next 'M' Class planet."
"Estimated time until we get there?"
"At the very least two months if we do not stop at any other planets."
"Are there others?" Kate asked.
"On screen." Kate ordered.
The star charts lit up the view screen.
"This one" Anya highlighted the planet is a 'Y' class planet due to a poisonous atmosphere, with no life signs noted is twenty million kilometers from our present location. The next planet is another 'Y' class due to excessive volcanic activity is thirty two million kilometers away. The planet after that is another 'Y' class due to the average surface temperature is minus two hundred thirty degrees which is fifty one million kilometers away. Then the 'M' class planet at seventy three million kilometers. According to the information in the star charts, this planet is the closet to Earth as we will have seen. Shall I continue Kate?"
"Can we learn anything from those 'Y' class planets?"
"We can always learn something new."
"I think the Marines will be happy to have something other to do beside guard flights even if we can not land." Lieutenant Minor stated.
"You are probably right lieutenant." Kate stated. "Time until we get to the first 'Y' class planet?"
"Two weeks tops, Captain."
"How long will the mapping take?"
"Only Kacey can give you an accurate time frame."
"Lieutenant set our course for the first planet. I will go talk to Kacey." Kate stood up.
"Course laid in Captain."
"Commander Torino you have the Bridge. I will be on Colonel O'Malley's office if you need me."
Kate looked around the Hanger at the activity. Mechanics crawled all over the stingers that were not on guard duty. The Marines were meticulous in their duties. They had to be. Their lives depended on every nut, bolt and clamp being properly tightened. Even the smallest part coming loose in space meant instant death to the pilot. Kate was happy to see they ignored her as they paid more attention to their duties than to her. She made her way to Kacey's office and rang the bell.
"Come in." The door opened allowing Kate to walk into the office. "Hey Kate. What brings you down into the trenches? Are you bored again?"
"Bored? In a way. We have two weeks until we get to the next planet. It is a 'Y' class. So are the two after that." She helped herself to a coffee.
"Why bother with them at all. We are supposed to search for planets that can sustain life."
"The more we know about all the planets, the better we will be."
"Why are they classified as 'Y's"
"One has a poisonous atmosphere, another volcanic activity and the third is in the deep freeze."
"Do you want the Stingers to map those planets?"
"Can it be done?"
"Depends. It could be very tricky."
"Take the first, you said it has a poisonous atmosphere." Kate nodded. "That one might be doable if the atmosphere does not corrode the stingers. The one with the volcanic activity will depend on how high the ash cloud is. The ash could clog the engines. That would be extremely dangerous. The third one, the one in the deep freeze, how cold is it?"
Kate touched her communicator. "Anya how cold was that third planet?"
"Minus two hundred thirty degrees." Anya replied.
"Then the third one is out. The cold would freeze the engines within seconds."
"The next 'M' class is three months away."
"We could try to map those others."
"No not if it mean putting any of your pilots in danger."
"We could try the drones. Of course the mapping would take longer as we only have three drones. That is as long as the poison or ash clouds are not so bad that they distort the remote control frequencies."
"In your opinion, should we give up on those first three?"
Kacey thought before she answered. "My first reaction would be to say yes, but..." She stopped.
"That decision could be put off until we get closer and the sensors can tell us the chemical make up of the atmosphere."
"That is a good point."
"You sound surprised. Once in awhile I have been known to make valid points."
"Not surprised in the least. You make valid points quite often."
"So I take it that we are on our way to the first planet?"
"We are. When will you be going out again?"
"Tomorrow morning. Why? Do you want to come with me?" Kacey asked. "What do the regs say about the Captain going out on patrol? Do Rhea and Anya have to go also if we are not landing?"
"No they do not. That is a very tempting invitation."
"So do it." Kacey stated. "Do you need permission? Who does the Captain go to for permission to leave the ship?"
"My wife." Kate answered.
"The boss." Kacey joked "I just thought of something. Do any of these planets have moons?"
"I am not sure. Why?"
"We will be out of range of the Brin tower long before we reach the 'M' class planet."
"That is correct."
"We can not place any towers on the next three planets."
"Also correct. I see where you are going with this." Kate stated. Let's go to the Bridge and look at these on the view screen."
Kacey locked her computer and pushed out from behind her desk. She pressed her communicator. "Major Anderson, I will be on the Bridge."
CHAPTER 1 B
They walked out of Kacey's office and headed to the Bridge. Within seconds they stepped off the lift.
"Would you put the star charts back on the view screen, please?" Kate asked.
The screen lit up. "Do any of those planets have moons or satellites or even cloud covers?"
"The first two have moons." Any said. "They also have thick cloud covers."
"So we could possibly put towers on those moons." Kacey stated.
"Any information on the moons?" Kate asked.
"No atmosphere on either, with sub zero temperatures." Anya replied. "Minus one hundred twenty degrees and one hundred forty degrees."
"The engineers would have to wear EVA suits. There are no protective domes to protect them from the cold. What is the lowest temperature the EVA's can handle." Kate asked.
"No where near that temperature." Anya answered.
"Do we continue on this course knowing we can not set up any sort of communications towers, or change course and hope a new direction would offer better possibilities?" Kacey asked.
"You want to give up on this area?" Natalia asked
Kacey was silent for a long time as she studied the star charts on the view screen. She walked closer to the screen and scanned the enlarged chart. "It will take three months to get to the "M" class planet, if we do not take the time to map the other three." She stated.
"That is correct." Kate answered.
"We have no way of knowing if we can even map them. The cloud covers could interfere with using the drones. I would say we bypass the first three planets and head directly to the fourth." Kacey stated as she turned to look at Kate.
"Captain if we have only a few months left before we have to turn around, I agree with Colonel O'Malley." Lieutenant Minor offered.
"I agree also, especially if there is no way we can get through any sort of cloud covers on those other planets." The Navigator added.
"What if there was a way to get through the cloud cover?" Natalia asked.
"Why waste our last few months on planets that no one could survive on? Ones that we can not erect towers on." Kacey argued.
"But just giving up on planets does not seem right." Natalia countered.
"We do not have to fully give up on them. What if Andromeda went into a high orbit and recorded what ever we can. Give each planet a day or two, then move on." Lieutenant Minor offered.
"How high are the cloud covers?"
"Twelve and nineteen kilometers." Anya stated.
"That in my opinion, will not show us anything and would be a waste of time and resources."
"We really should not just give up on them." Natalia stated.
"What could we possibly learn from these planets that we can not even see, or even get close to."
"Maybe nothing, but on the other hand, the clouds could contain valuable information or new chemicals."
"We are explorers and out here to learn as much as we can about the planets." Kate stated. "We will give each planet a day. Do a high orbit around the planet and see if our sensors can pick up anything useful."
"What about the patrols?"
"When we get within fifty thousand kilometers, pull in all the shuttles and stingers. There is no telling how the surrounding area will affect the smaller ships." Kate stated. "Maintain course and speed."
Andromeda flew off through the stars heading to the last planets they would explore before they turned around and headed home. The weeks flew by now that they were on the back side of their mission. Andromeda flew around the first three planets they came across. The poison gas cloud on the first planet raised havoc with the ship. They could not go within a thousand kilometers without doing irreparable damage to the ship. A move that could strand them so very far from home.
The volcanic ash from the second planet rose up and blocked any view of the planet. The cloud did keep the sensors busy analyzing all the chemicals in the ash and steam.
The third planet, was easier to view and they were able to spend time observing the frozen planet before they continued on. The Earth like planet was a month away.
Guard flights were resumed after they left the frozen world. Kacey sat in her shuttle as she scouted the area ahead of Andromeda. The Bridge crew followed her progress. The music she listened to while she flew, filtered onto the Bridge. She had her usual smoke stick clamped between her teeth.
"How far out is she?" Kate asked.
"Twelve thousand kilometers."
"Captain, does the Colonel ever listen to anything but classical music?" Lieutenant Minor asked.
"Do you have a request, Lieutenant?"
"I am partial to the twentieth century do wop music and early rock and roll."
"Music that was extremely popular in the 1950's and 60's. It was called that because of the back ground sounds."
"Andromeda to Shamrock." Kate said.
"Go ahead Andromeda. Is there a problem?"
"Lieutenant Minor has a musical question for you."
"Really? What would you like to know?"
"Do you have any music from the 1950's and 60's"
"The early rock and roll years? I have several discs, although not with me."
"Do you listen to that music, Colonel?"
"Occasionally, I use it when I work out. I also listen to rock. My favorites as you can tell is classical. I will try to vary the music."
"Anything to report?"
"I am picking up quite a few propulsion signatures."
"How many and how old?"
"Hundreds and some only a few hours old."
"Are any masked?"
"None. This could be the trade route to that Earth like planet."
"Trade route. Who in the world would they trade with out here?"
"Could be other planets or civilizations that are not on the star charts. We have no way of knowing their origins." Kacey stated.
"Or if they are friendly." Kate added. "I hope your shields are up." Kacey could not keep from rolling her eyes. "I saw that."
"Yes Captain, my shields are raised and weapons fully charged."
"It is time to return, Kacey."
"Shortly. My supply of coffee is almost gone." The Bridge crew laughed. Kacey could hear their laughter in her headphones. "Hey I am a creature of habit. What can I tell you."
"Do you time your flights by how long the coffee holds out?"
"Not really, but after three years, I know how much I will need for my four hour flights." Kacey replied. "Maybe I should put in a replicator so I can stay out longer." She joked.
"I do not think that would be a good idea, Kacey. You would be breaking your own rule." Kate stated. "Time to come home Kacey."
"On my way. All stingers return to Andromeda, our time is up. ETA thirty minutes.
They watched Kacey turn her shuttle around and head back to Andromeda.
To be continued...
Return to the Academy