Fatal discovery, p.1
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       Fatal Discovery, p.1
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           Christopher R. Davis
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Fatal Discovery
Prologue

  Orbiting Mars

  0500 Hours

  April 7th, 2167

  The United Earth Cruiser Excelsior drifted into orbit around the planet Mars, ending it's four month journey from its home planet.

  The great red planet below, speckled with craters and rocks, looked perfectly peaceful.

  On the surface, in the shape of a star, was Mars Base One. The base sat ten kilometers from Olympus Mons, the tallest known mountain in the solar system.

  The base was now empty, but would soon be filled with the men and women that had spent the past four months of their lives on the Excelsior.

  The ship itself looked like an over grown coffee bean. It was mostly flat on the bottom, with the upper portion forming an ovular dome. Two massive duetronium-powered engines protruded from either of the ship's sides.

  Inside the men and women began waking, preparing for the task that awaited them on the surface of planet.

 

  Section One

  Orbiting Mars

  0523 Hours

  April 7th, 2167

  Alyssa...

  Alyssa was starring into blackness. She knew someone was calling her name, but she couldn’t bring herself out of the serene bliss that she called sleep.

  Alyssa...

  There it was again. The voice sounded familiar. She decided to force herself to get up.

  I can do this, she though, I’ll count to three. One... Two... Three...

  Alyssa sat up in her bed, if it could be called a bed. It was only a few centimeters thick... or, more accurately, a few centimeters thin.

  “Alyssa Anderson!”

  She smiled. The voice coming from the communications panel belonged to her long-time friend, Captain Avery Fletcher.

  Actually he was more than a friend, as they had been engaged at one point in time. Their relationship was at best, complicated. They remained “friends” for the time being. Although Alyssa hoped they could one day resume their romantic relationship. They had broken off their engagement because of the demands of their respective jobs, but Alyssa was willing to work passed that.

  She reached over and pressed a green button on the comm panel, “Sorry about that Fletch, I couldn’t sleep last night so I took some a sedative. I didn’t realize we were going to be arriving this soon.”

  “I didn’t think we would be either, but it seems that weather men are just as bad at predicting weather on the surface of the Sun as they are at predicting weather on Earth.”

  Fletcher was of course talking about a solar flare. As far as mankind had come technologically, it would seem that this would be no big deal, but a single solar flare, tens of millions of kilometers away would still knock out all communication in the system and reek havoc on navigational computers.

  "The flare subsided sooner than they thought so the navi-computer compensated for lost time and got us here sooner than expected.

  Alyssa smiled, “Well I suppose it is for the better. I’ll be up in ten minutes.”

  “Right.” The comm panel beeped softly as the transmission terminated.

  Alyssa stood and quickly dressed in her standard uniform (navy blue with a zipper in the back) brushed her teeth and washed her face, as was the norm for her. She looked in the mirror as she pulled her shoulder length, fiery red hair back with a hairband. She thanked god everyday there were no regulations on hair length. She had had long hair since she was young and she didn’t want to part with it anytime soon.

  She brushed a hair off of the small gray patch on her upper right arm that identified her as Director Alyssa Anderson, Science Division.

  She looked around her room for what would almost be the last time. She would come back once more to gather her things before moving down to the surface. Her “spacious” living quarters were only fifty square meters, but this was considered larger than normal because most other people on the Excelsior only had twenty-five square meters. One of the perks of being Chief Scientist was an extra twenty-five square meters in living space, but Alyssa would gladly have traded the space for a simpler task on this mission.

  The Division of Off Planet Mining had selected Alyssa from a list of twelve others qualified for this mission. Of course she had been honored, but that still didn’t make the job any easier.

  Three years ago a research team of ten people had come to Mars in search of deutronium, a major source of fuel for space vessels. The team discovered, as they had expected, a rich deposit of deutronium and set up what was now called Mars Base One. The mission of the Excelsior’s crew was to complete Mars Base One and begin excavation of the deutronium.

  Alyssa turned to the door and pressed a small silver button next to it. In response, the door slide open with an obnoxious hiss and granted passage to the hallway it guarded.

  The hallways on the Excelsior were actually rather disturbing. They were all exactly six feet tall and four feet wide. They were covered, floor, walls and ceiling, with a metal alloy only broken by doors every few meters. Each door was adorned with a small black plate with white lettering identifying the occupant and the suite number. The halls were lit by extremely bright halogen lights every ten or fifteen feet. Oddly, the lights gave no reflection in the metal alloy that was covering everything.

  The space program needs an interior decorator, she thought as she walked out the door and down the hallway. As she rounded the corner she passed someone she knew and stopped to converse for several minutes. Finally, she reached the door of the turbo-lift, pressed the button next to the door and leaned against the metal wall as the lift sped toward her.

  As she stood waiting, a rather tall and well built man walked up.

  “Going up?”

  “Yes I am.”

  “Thank goodness. I was going to be late if I had to wait on the next lift. Name’s Derek, Derek Hollister.”

  “Nice to meet you Derek Derek Hollister,” She smiled as she proffered her hand and he shook it, firmly. “I’m Alyssa Anderson”

  The lift arrived and the two stepped on to it. They pressed their respective buttons and were on their way.

  “So your the leader of this whole crazy goose chase, huh?”

  Alyssa laughed, “I guess you could say that. Why do you call it a goose chase?”

  “Well I know for a fact that scientist found out years ago that the Greyson comet it full of deutronium and it’s a heck of a lot closer than here.”

  “But New Russia has already claimed the Greyson comet.”

  A strange look came over Derek’s face. “Well I think...”

  But before he could say what he thought, the lift reached his floor and he bade her goodbye. The door slid closed behind him and the lift resumed its accent.

  Alyssa thought she knew where he had intended to go with his comment. In 2132, when Earth United had formed, Russia had been the only nation to refuse to sign the peace treaty. To prevent a war from breaking out, the United Earth Counsel decided to give the moon to Russia for population. With modern technology, the Russians were able to produce their own food and water in airponics labs on the moon, and, according to satellite intelligence, they had begun to tera-form parts of it.

  By 2137 the moon became officially know as “New Russia” and Old Russia became part of England and joined United Earth. But in resent years, New Russia had been doing some questionable things, including sending spies to the United Earth Counsel meetings.

  Earth responded in kind by sending it’s own spies to New Russia. There were groups now that opposed New Russia and held the opinion that United Earth should declare war and take over New Russia.

  After the comet, named after it's discoverer Marcus Greyson, was discovered on a direct collision course with Earth, The Co
unsel formed the United Earth Defense Force. The Defense Force safely altered the path of the comet and brought it into orbit around Earth. New Russia quickly took possession of this comet, angering the people of Earth even more, but Earth still refused to take any action against them.

  Many spies from Earth had mysteriously disappeared in New Russia, but the Counsel had tried to cover this up to keep the people of Earth from panicking. The Counsel had decided not to officially disband the Defense Force, for obvious reasons, leaving a fleet of over fifty armed space vessels docked with a massive space station several kilometers from earth.

  The lift finally reached the main bridge of the Excelsior and the door slide open. The bridge was rather spacious and was surrounded by space-glass that could withstand just about anything. The glass also served as the main computer monitors for the bridge. The bridge crew sat in front of the glass tapping it and sliding holographic icons back and forth, keeping the ship operating at maximum efficiency.

  Standing close to the glass at the front of the bridge was the captain.

  Alyssa walked over and put her arm around his shoulder and they together looked out at the amazing sight. They could see the entire planet below them, bright, red and barren of life.

  “It’s beautiful,” Alyssa said softly.

  Fletcher turned to her and smiled, “I agree, but mark my words, you’ll hate it by the time we leave.”

  She smiled as he walked over to a comm panel and pressed a button. “Senior staff members to the briefing room.”

  Alyssa followed Fletcher to the back side of the bridge and stood with him inside of a yellow square. He tapped an icon on the screen and the floor descended into the briefing room below the main bridge. Another piece of metal replaced the flooring, closing the hole that had been left.

  A long table filled most of the room. In the center of the table was a gleaming black sphere. Within the minute, the rest of the senior crew arrived through the sliding door on the right side of the room and took their seats.

  The captain took a seat at the head of the table and Alyssa, the one to his right.

  Fletcher typed out a series of commands on the touch-pad in front of him and a pale blue beam of light shone from the sphere in the center of the table. The beam shone on one of the empty chairs to Fletcher's left. Gradually, the beam began to display the outline of a body and after several seconds, there appeared to be a man sitting in the chair.

  Fletcher addressed the crew, “Mr. Jackson Pillar, the Minister of Off Planet Mining will be joining this meeting via holocam today.” The man nodded his head and the image flickered ever so slightly. “As you all know, our mission here is to complete the job of setting up Mars Base One and to begin excavation of the deutronium. There is not room for the entire crew to move to the surface just yet, so it will be up to the department chiefs to organize construction teams.” Fletcher looked at the holographic Minister. “Mr. Pillar, do you have anything to add?”

  There was a slight delay in the Ministers response due to the vast distance the transmission was traveling.

  When he finally spoke, his words cracked at first and then the audio became clearer, as if the speakers had needed to warm up. “Yes captain. The mining team that established Mars Base One did do several test drills around the area, but the main drilling will take place several kilometers away from the drill site that is set up now. Your first priority will be setting up the new site.”

  “Thank you Minister.” Fletcher looked at Alyssa, “Dr. Anderson?”

  Alyssa hated speaking in front of other people, but she tried her best not to sound nervous. “The unprocessed deutronium ore is extremely radioactive so Haz-Mat suits must be worn at all times. There are several caverns beneath the surface, so make sure your teams consult their maps before drilling, we don’t want anyone falling into one of those caverns.” She looked at Fletcher.

  “Thank you doctor. We will begin shipping down the necessary parts and equipment at 0600 hours tomorrow. The shipping will be overseen by the Chief Architect, William Okuda. Are there any questions?” There was a silent pause. “Alright then, you’re dismissed.” Everyone stood, including the holographic Minister, who vanished halfway between sitting and standing. The black sphere on the table gave three soft beeps and flashed a dull red color, telling all who would pay it attention that the transmission had been ended.

  All of the crew, except for Fletcher and Alyssa, left through the same doors they had entered. As the doors slid closed Alyssa turned to Fletcher. “It’s kind of scary to think of how are we are from Earth, floating helplessly over a desolate planet millions of kilometers away from anyone.”

  “I would hardly say we are helpless out here. This ship is equipped with fifteen Class-Seven fighter-pods and the ship it’s self is equipped with several nuclear war heads and most cutting edge laser weaponry available. We’re hardly a sitting duck.”

  “Why would they arm the ship so heavily? Are they expecting trouble?”

  Fletcher frowned, “No, they just wanted to take every precaution, what with all of the disappearances and all.”

  “I see, well the sooner we get this mission over with, the better. The relief ship will be arriving in three months and I have a feeling that these are going to be the longest three months of my life."

 

  Section Two

  Orbiting Mars

  0500 Hours

  April 8th, 2167

  Alyssa had not gone back to her cabin the previous night, she had spent it in Cargo Bay Twelve preparing equipment and sundry other items for transport to the surface.

  A soft alarm chirped from the speakers, letting those listening know that it was five o’clock.

  One more hour, thought Alyssa. She had finished packing everything into her shuttle-pod and was now heading for the door.

  She went back to her cabin, gathered her things and made her way back to the cargo bay.

  After loading her things into the shuttle, she leaned against a crate marked Support Beams, 3-Alpha and fell into a deep sleep for the remaining forty odd minutes.

  At six o’clock, on the dot, the cargo bay doors hissed open and a group of men and women walked in, still partially comatose. It appeared that the excitement of the arrival had kept the entire ship up for most of the night.

  Alyssa started as a tall, slender man nudged her.

  “O!” She rubbed her eyes, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to go to sleep, I was just trying to rest my eyes.”

  The man smiled, “It’s quite alright,” he said with a thick British accent, “I’m William Okuda.” He extended his hand to her

  “Nice to formally meet you.” Alyssa tried to to stifle a yawn, but to no avail.

  “Its still beyond me, how there are so many on this ship that I haven’t come into contact with.” He seemed impossibly energetic considering the hour.

  “I guess three hundred people is more than most people think. I’ve got all of my gear loaded into Shuttle Three.”

  “Spot on! As soon as the rest of your team is ready, you can take the shuttle to the surface. I believe your team is working from the part of the base already in place?”

  “That’s right.” Alyssa walked over to the group. “Beta Team meet at shuttle three,” she said loudly. She smiled as she said this, relishing the power she commanded.

  Within five minutes, all of Beta Team was assembled and loaded on to the shuttle except for one member, Lieutenant Junior Grade Tom Nelson. Alyssa was sure Tom would be late for his own funeral, but she put up with him because his programming skills were better than anyone she knew. And because she liked him. Well, she thought she liked him anyway. Actually she wasn't quite sure how she felt about him.

  She smiled as she pulled a thin piece of glass from a holster and slid her index finger over the top of it. The screen flashed to life and she tapped several icons in quick succession. She pushed her head forward ever so slightly and said, “Locate Lieutenant Tom
Nelson.” Just as the last syllable slid off of her tongue, the cargo bay doors slid open and Tom ran through them.

  “Sorry I’m late,” he panted, “I had to...”

  “Don’t explain Tom just get in the shuttle.” Alyssa smiled at him. “How is she?”

  “Oh she’s doing gre...” He caught himself, “Very funny Alyssa.”

  “That’s Director Anderson to you.”

  “Very funny, Director.” He saluted her sarcastically and and boarded the shuttle.

  Alyssa knew that Tom had been spending a lot of time with a young botanist from the airponics section and had assumed this is what delayed him.

  She made one last look around the cargo bay and signaled Mr. Okuda that she was leaving. He gave her a friendly wave and she climbed into the shuttle.

  The shuttle had just enough seats for her and the eight other members of Beta Team and the pilot. There were two seats at the front and four along each side of the shuttle. At the back was a small door that led into the cargo room.

  As the pilot started the engine, Alyssa pulled a box from the floor and turned to address the team. “Good morning every one, I just have a few things to go over while we wait for take off. First, I am going to pass around communicators, make sure you have one of these on at all times.” She began distributing communication bands from the box and finally slipped one on to her own wrist. “These will provide you with mission stats and allow you to communicate with anyone on or off the planet.”

  She set the box on the floor and continued, “Second, you have all already been issued standard scanners, but these will have to be re-calibrated before you can use them on the surface, so when we get settled in, make sure you preform the update marked Mars-1. I put it on the server last night to save a little time.”

  She tuned to the pilot who gave her a thumbs up, then turned back to the group and said, “Well Gary says we are ready so everyone strap in.”

 
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