I'm kinda new around here, and this is my first fanfic (and maybe only fanfic if it takes me till SupCom2 is out) for Supreme Commander.
The prologue starts in 2005 when the time line which can be found here (http://uk.videogames.games.yahoo.com/pc/previews/supreme-commander-5c481a.html
I aim to cover a section of SupCom history which I don't think has been done in fanfic before.
Also, I will only have around a half an hour to an hour every night to write, so the chapters will be somewhat shorter than in The Kidimer Incident and Lython Dyggan stories (correct me if the spelling is wrong).
Also please correct any grammatical/spelling errors you find, and I will do my best to keep up to date.
Please also tell me if these stories are unnecessary, it would mean I won't be writing things people aren't enjoying
Space - Book 1 in the Fresh Start Trilogy
2005, October, the 18th
"Huston this is MMS, report status please."
"Course correct for the past fourteen hours, the last major flight correction was 12, 13.78, 45.1 to 1, 13.77, 45.1. Your speed is 19 km per second. You will shortly be entering the gravitational pull the comet Adornis, which will bring you onto the correct course to intercept the orbit of Mars, Huston out," rang the automated voice that responded to Refman's call. Having not heard a human voice from earth for seven months now.
In the USA's rush to put a man on Mars before China, the Russian Federation, and Japan, They had chosen to make the journey to Mars as soon as possible, meaning the shuttle would have to fly the farthest distance between Earth and Mars' orbits: more than 400 million km. This meant the journey there would take nearly eight months, although the return journey would be much quicker.
Bleep... Bleep... Bleep... Bleep... Kelyv pushed the dismiss button. Bleep... Bleep... Bleep... Refusing to be dismissed Kelyv had no choice but look at the display. "Sh*t," he swore to himself. "Guys we've got trouble, I need you all up here now!" he shouted down the hatchway. No answer. Just his own voice echoing down the metal hull of the rocket. He sounded the warning siren, and with a a start, all 9 dormant people on the rocket woke up. There was a mad scrambling for magnetic boots, clothes, and other equipment, and in 23 seconds all the personnel on the rocket were in the command centre.
"Huston has miscalculated," said Kelyv. The ships short range scanners have picked up that Adornis is not 12 hours away as expected. It is in fact only three minutes away, and our course is such that we are already being pulled in by it's gravitational field. If we do nothing, three minutes from now we'll be space junk."
A stunned silence followed this statement. "But sir, isn't there something we can do?" asked Jack Newton. "Yes, but it will be a very dangerous manoeuvre. It will require every man and women to play to the best of his or her abilities."
"What choice do we have?" said Kate Kelly.
"None." he answered simply.
2010, October, 28th
"Urgh, this is so boring," moaned Jeff Starbright. "Eight months of toothpaste food and non-fizzy drinks. How much worse can this get?"
"Urgh, this is soooooo booooriiiing," mimicked Kelly Clarke. "Eight months of Jeff Starbright, how much worse can this get? Jeff, when you signed up for this, you knew you wouldn't have any proper food, drink, or exercise for eight months, so quit moaning already." Jeff and Kelly had been friends since the were both picked out from an orphanage by the same person; Doctor Alex Brackman.
He was genius in every thinkable area in science. The old saying goes 'Experts know more and more about less and less'. Well at least it went like that until Dr. Brackman came onto the scene. He originated from Russia, but being a genius the USA were happy to have him without any fuss. Since 2006, every scientific breakthrough was thanks to Brackman. In his village in Russia, there was not much room for a science laboratory. He had two children of his own, both as talented as he was, but the spirit of adventure he had passed on to Jeff and Kelly. It was his influence and spirit that brought them to be on this rocket now, heading for Mars.
"This is Huston to Hercules Two, you are five minutes away from orbit, the designated personnel must board the lander and all others to remain on standby." Of course, every one had been ready since the first warning; 55 minutes ago, and this was the sixth. But better safe than sorry, said Huston. They weren't likely to change their mind either, not after the Mars Mission Shuttle tragedy in 2005.
This was Jeff's cue to get into the lander, and Kelly's to get mission control. "Bye Kelly," said Jeff. "I'll send you a postcard from Mars!"
"You'd better," said Kelly, and they embraced for one, two seconds, then she turned around and headed to mission control. Just before she rounded the corner, called over her shoulder; "Or big sister will beat you up!" and she was gone. The sad thing was, Jeff thought to himself, she probably would. She was four years older than him, twice as strong and two inches taller than his five foot ten. Also she had an annoying habit of being able to hypnotise people with those large green eyes of hers, or for most men, with two other large things, which were at their eye level, shortly before a smash in the nose.
Jeff however, was probably the weakest on the spacecraft, but was the best at quick thinking, and cool thinking in a tight spot. He had blue eyes but that didn't separate the brother sister bond between him and Kelly. His hair was curly blond, and hers was straight black. None of these differences broke their bond.
"Huston to Hercules Two, the lander leaves in 30." The other two pilots were now in the lander, and the doors were sealed - for them to open again, they would have to leave, and re-dock - there was no going back now. Suddenly it occurred to him, if there was a leak, this design floor would kill him and the other two pilots with him; James 'Helium' Dawson and Hassan Ahmed.
The same thought occurred to Kelly, as she sat in the command centre with eight other pilots, all with a specific job to do al of them working franticly to keep the three explorers safe. Even though Kelly and Jeff were not even related,they still could read each other's thoughts better than Dr. Brackman's identical twins. Her thoughts were interrupted though; "This is Huston to Hercules Two, you have 23 seconds let till the launch sequence begins. I'm patching Dr. Brackman through to you now."
"Good luck Jeff, be safe my child, be safe." The transmission from Dr. Brackman in he lander ended, but in the control room; "Keep him safe Kelly, oh yes."
This is Huston again to lander and command centre, sequence starts in 10. Prepare for launch sequence. 5. 4. 3. 2. 2. 0.
The giant doors on top of the shuttle that stretched from just behind the command centre to just before the tail fins opened slowly, so slowly it was almost impossible to tell if they were moving with the naked eye. Suddenly in the command centre, a warning light flashed, but for the first minute, everyone in the centre was unaware of it. Then the siren clicked on, and every person in the CC jumped and turned back to their monitors
and it was on Mozin Ahmed's screen that the problem was showing itself on. "The doors aren't working properly!" he shouted, "They've jammed!"
"Sh*t. Cancel the launch sequence, if it carries on the lander will leave at the time it should have if the doors had opened properly; they're on different systems." Kelly followed Captain Niel's order but; "It's no use; I can't! It says it can't be cancelled!"
"Well then one of us will just have go space walking."
"I'll go," said Kelly immediately, at the exact same time as Mozin. "Well seeing as it's your two brothers in the lander, you can both go," said Niel. "Suit up, you have half an hour before the doors should have finished opening and the lander leaves."
"Right," said Kelly and Mozin.
The space suits hadn't changed a bit in the last half a century, but for this mission, all the space suits were specially outfitted, and research was carried out specifically for new technologies to be in it. One of these was a jet pack. Well, Huston calls it a jet pack but it's nothing like one the ones Kelly had seen in Star Wars or the like kind of movie. It was just four simple rocket jets attached to the backpack which could blast in different directions, with a top speed of five miles per hour. Luckily, the exit hatch was right by the doors, so the minimal speed wasn't a problem.
The airlock hissed open; Kelly and Mozin flew out into space. Okay, let's get to work, thought Kelly. "You look at the rear opening hydraulics, I'll look at these ones here," said Through the radio. "Roger." When she got through the minimal gap at the top of the doors she took a quick check for any floating objects, and proceeded into the dark depths of the shuttle's belly. She looked a the hydraulics, and thought she saw a the figure of a human floating by it. "Command centre, light up the hangar please,"
"Right-o," and Niel flicked the switch for the flood lights to turn on. Inside the hangar, Kelly looked back at the hydraulics. "Argh!" yelled Kelly. There was a human all right, but he was dead, and trapped in the hydraulics. Heaven knows how he got there, but Kelly thought she had a rough idea too. He must have been doing maintenance in the hangar, when the shuttle took off, and had died slowly from the lack of oxygen, water and food. No that can't be right she thought. There was a haversack, a very large one, of food and water, so it must have been from the vacuum of when the doors started opening earlier, and then floated to wards them and jammed the system. But the supply of food and water... It was as though he meant to get on the rocket accidentally... Time to puzzle that later though.
She turned back to the body, and turned away again almost immediately. It was a gruesome sight. The pistons had crushed his chest, so that the pressure had split open on one side, and all the way down his side to just below the level of his belly button. His heart, his stomach and part of his small intestine were spilling out through the gap and floating in space in the hanger, and little round spheres of blood floated near him, draw together by their own gravity. "Mozin, mission control, I've found the fault and am removing it now. Have a body bag ready for when we get back in, you'll want to see this. You can reactivate the doors now, I've removed the jam."
When Mozin saw what the cause was, he almost vomited into his helmet. "Urgh..." he said when he had controlled the urge, as they flew back to the air lock." Was that seriously it?"
"No," said Kelly sarcastically. "I found a random body, with his chest crushed, and he wasn't jamming the only thing in the hangar powerful enough to crush him," she continued. "Jeez," said Mozin, then catching Kelly's furious glare he added "Ah... Uh... I mean... What a way to go..."
Niel did vomit. Then he asked many questions like how long could the provisions have lasted him, when do you think he died, was there any clue as to what he was doing there, and on, and on, and on. "Niel! I am as confused as you are! I have not got a clue! And right now, my brother is about to leave in a virtually untested lander, through a gap two meters smaller than planned because of the five minute delay in the doors, so if you'll excuse me, I'd like to get back to my console!"
"Yes, yes, of course," said Niel. And then he said "We should all get back to our consoles," trying to regain some authority. "Okay, lander this is control centre. You are going to disembark in 30. Good luck, and send me a postcard Jeff. 20. 19. 18. 17. 16. 15. 14. 13. 12. 11. 10."
"Good luck everyone," said Niel, giving the lander their commander's blessing.
"6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. 0." There was metallic clang as the electro magnets holding the lander in place slid away freeing it fro he hangar, and it started moving. Ever so slowly at first, then gradually picking up speed. "Ah crap," said Jeff steering further into the middle; he hadn't realised quite how small the exit was, although it was getting wider all the time. Up, up, up, and then... crunch. The lander was just too big for the gap. Jeff swore again, it was only a couple of centimetres to big but it was still too big. Then, suddenly, the doors opened the crucial millimetre, and the shuttle was through.
There was a loud cheer from the control room, and from within the lander as Jeff pulled away from the shuttle. "We're away!" said Jeff. "Okay we need a scan to find a suitable landing spot," he told the command centre. "Roger, commencing scan now. Okay, got one, three miles away, forwarding co-ordinates now."
"Right. Thanks Niel."
"Commander Niel to you Starbright."
"Yeah whatever Niel the real deal," and with that he closed the channel. He looked out the window, and his breath caught in his throat. The barren, red expanse of Mas stretched out before him, and in the distance, he saw the mountain christened Olympus by astronomers looking through the Hubble telescope; three times taller than Everest, with a flat plateau at it's top, 540 km wide. The extinct volcano stood proudly (if a little squatly) on the horizon. From that moment, Jeff knew if were ever possible he would live here. This was now his home. Coasting down he was only five kilometres high now, and getting lower all the time. Three kilometres, the lander started getting buffeted by Martian winds. Two kilometres, he could see boulders now. One kilometre. He couldn't see anything at all for the dust being blown up by the engines. 400 metres. 200. 100. 50. 25 metres.
"Touchdown," whispered Jeff.
Doctor Alex Brackman put his ingenious mind to work. What nobody knew however was that scans he had devised detected that he could use over 78% of his brain's processing power if he wanted to. This mean he could perform 78 trillion calculations per second. The normal human can only do one trillion. Unfortunately, this did not give him the power to see the future, although he could make very accurate predictions. What this meant however, was that in 2000 years time, one of his descendents would be exactly the same; hiding how clever he really was.
He was working on a machine that, would one day allow humanity to traverse the depths of space. It involved a vast understanding of quantum science. Essentially, the atom was to be broken down to its quantum components, then transported faster than the speed of light to its destination in a quantum 'tunnel', then re-assembled in the exact same way, so even memories would be retained, something which scientists did not even understand the storage of.
But that was just theory. The actual construction was a long way off. Right now he had pressing worries to take care of as well. "Jeff and Kelly," he thought to himself, "How are they faring? My god, how will I find peace with myself if something happens to one of them? Will the other forgive me?" While these questions were running through his mind, the other 77% of his brain he could use was devoted to the quantum tunnelling device.
Aided by his computer, which was many times more powerful than most due to the processor being coded in trinary code, as the computers in the Symbionts his descendant, Docter Gustaf Brackman would create.
The hatch door slid open, and Jeff looked out into partial darkness over the surface of Mars. The sun had set now, but the surface was lit up by Phobos and Deimos, the two moons of Mars. Olympus Mons was purple in the distance, lit up by he blue light of the moons and the red rock it was bade from. From down below Ahmed spoke into his radio; "I'm down!"
"Right. I'm just about to follow you and Helium will be coming next. "Hey!" squeaked James. "You'll never shake that name off Helium boy, now get ready to leave the lander."
"Right," squeaked James.
Once all three of them were down, Ahmed set up a video camera, with Olympus in the background. As soon as they had line of sight with Earth, they would film Jeff placing the American flag in Martian soil. "What do you wanna do in the meantime?" asked James. "Well, I'm going exploring," said Ahmed. "Just remember you've only three hours of oxygen Ahmed," warned Jeff. "Yeah yeah, I know," he replied. As Jeff looked out over the landscape, he knew he would never be at peace until he was living here, on Mars. The red planet was so beautiful in its rage. Its storms were uncontrollable, but at the same time, it felt as though the Roman god of war could do so much worse. And never again could he live under a night sky with just a single moon.
For the first time since the launch Dr. Alex Brackman wondered if he had done the right thing. 'How would the States react when they heard the crew of Hercules Two was coming back?' he thought to himself. He had acted with the best interests of Jeff, Kelly, the rest of the Hercules Two's crew, and even the whole of the USA at heart. 'But would the ruling power of the Americas, of the world even, see it his way? Would they even believe him?' Admittedly, he had not given the matter much thought, but then, he had not deemed it necessary.
Thinking about Jeff and Kelly made his mind drift. Again the thoughts of worry and concern floated around, also some guilt, but most of all, pride. He turned the two skinny and shy orphaned children that he knew when he was twenty, and turned one into a strong, headstrong woman and the other into a remarkably quick thinking and witty man.
As the car pulled up outside the converted manor, the driver knew this would not be a pleasant experience, but he knew it had to be done, he and the woman sitting in the passenger seat next to him had tried time and time again, but god, if there was one, refused to give in. For four years now, his wife could not get pregnant. How badly though they both wanted children, how they had both dreamed of it together, discussing what their ideal child would be.
However, this was not to happen. So eventually, after four years of failed attmepts, this was their only option. When the automobile had ground to a halt, the pair looked up at the sign on the wall. They both sighed and got out of their car. They then ran to the front door of the large building so as not to get soaked by the rain pouring relentlessly out of the night sky. The old fashioned doorbell rang twice at a press on the buzzer and it swung open.
An old lady, of what must have been nearly seventy had opened the door for them. "Ah, sir, ma'am, we've been expecting you. Come in"
October the 28th of the Interplanetary Age, Year Zero, as ordered by the US government on the US flag being planted in Martian soil
'Well, that went smoothly,' thought Jeff as he walked to the video recorder to turn it off. 'At least Helium didn't drop the flag.' As he thought this, he had subconsciously looked over to where Helium and Ahmed were sitting, looking at the Sun, which seemed much more, dead, than it did from Earth. As Jeff commented on this, Helium went into his nerd mode and began explaining, which was made even more laughable by his high voice.
“It’s due to the lack of a proper atmosphere,” he piped up. “The absence of which is caused by the mass of the planet in question, which is just over half that of Earth. On Earth, the stars, planets, the moon, and of course, the sun ‘shine’ becau-”
“Helium,” said Ahmed, “Shut up,” finished Jeff. “Yes, yes, of course,” he peeped. Jeff started to walk back towards the lander when Ahmed called out “Hey! Where are you going Jeff? You’re not leaving without us!”
“No,” smiled Jeff. “But we’ve only two and a half hours of oxygen left, and two hours of observation still do. “Come and help me unload the stuff.”
Two hours later, all three of them were back on board the lander, along with two hours worth of vital samples of rock, dust, ice, star readings, and the like things, and Ahmed contacted Hercules Two. “Hercules Two, this is Mars Lander, are you receiving me? Hercules Two this Mars Lan-”
“This is Hercules Two, receiving you load and clear, go ahead Lander,” replied Kelly from the orbiting shuttle. “We have finished recordings and samples, please be ready to collect us at 0500 hours Earth time, over,”
“Roger that, we will be above your current position at 0500, Hercules out.”
“Right, we’ve got twenty-five minutes to get up there, lets launch,” and without further ado, Jeff activated the powerful takeoff rockets on the belly of the Mars Lander, leaving only an American flag, a few pieces of equipment, and dusty footprints in their wake.
‘Well’ thought the commanding officer at Huston. ‘That didn’t go badly. In four months, they’ll be home again.’ And then he remembered what he’d been ordered to tell the public by the mysterious old man. ‘No,’ he thought to himself, ‘It hasn’t gone badly yet, but what I to say on their return?’ The public had already become suspicious after a hacker had managed to intercept and decode one of the encrypted messages from Hercules Two. It would only be a matter of time before they stopped believing the lies he would have to tell.
‘No,’ he thought to himself, ‘The lies the old man will have to tell.’ He would have no further part in this.
Alex Brackman had come to conclusion. He had acted wisely. This way, there would be no threat from any foreign powers, to either the Hercules or the USA. He had been justified. Suddenly, he remembered the Major General at Huston. ‘Arnold I think his surname was,’ he thought to himself. “Oh yes. We will have to bring him round to our point of view. Oh yes, our point of view,” he said absently to his computer.
“Expecting us?” asked the man at the door. “Yes, you called to say you were coming. It was you was it not?”
“Yes, yes it might have been, he could easily have forgotten,” cut in his wifr as she sensed her husband bristling. “Very well then I suppose you would like to see the stock,” she continued as though nothing had happened, saying it also as a statement, not a question. “The stock?” asked the woman, obviously puzzled. “Yes, of children. I presume that’s what you came to the orphanage for; children, not cattle?”
“Well yes, but-”
“Then come right this way,” she said in her brisk, Russian accent, although the Russian part was not too strange, they were all Russian the three of them after all. “Our Russian winter has been particularly harsh this year, leaving many more children orphaned than what we would normally expect. Here they are,” she said as she opened a door, and both of them took three steps back each, at the sheer number of children in one space.
“This is where we keep the best of the stock, at this table here,” she gestured to a table near the end of the hall, where a cook was standing, with a pot of some ghastly concoction before him. “I assume you want to look here first? Then let us proceed.” As they entered the hall, all eyes turned on the pair, including the cook, but his gaze was different, as though daring him to ask for some of the broth.
On the way to the table the woman had gestured to, the lady happened to catch the gaze of two children sitting next to each other. In their shy eyes, she saw not only the hope, and respectful fear for the newcomers they shared with the others all around them, their gazes had adventure and spirit in them. Then, the woman felt, if given the chance they could take on the solar system.
She called to her husband and the woman who she assumed to be the owner of the place, and then gestured towards the pair. Her husband immediately agreed, but the owner protested, “You don’t want those. They’re skinny little basta*ds. You want something like th-”
“No thank you,” said doctor to be. “But-”
“I said ‘No thank you,’ what part of this do you not understand?” said the man icily. The woman almost curtsied, but not quite. “Of course, I’ll see to it their possessions are moved to your car.”
“Come on you two, it’s time to go to your new home!” said his wife and she smiled sweetly. Immediately, the two children warmed to her and followed her out of the hall. The man tipped his hat to the owner, and told her the children’s possessions would not be needed.
As he moved the car off, Alex Brackman turned round to face his new children. Suddenly the car slipped as went round a corner he had only just noticed because he wasn’t looking; t skidded of the road, and into the ditch on the side of the road. There was a sickening crunch as metal hit wood, and braking glass as something went through a window.
Half an hour later, Alex Brackman finally awoke to the sound of small children in pain. He quickly looked round to find the source of the noise, and saw two children in the back of his car. ‘Children?’ he thought to himself. Then it all came rushing back to him in an instant. “Anne!” he said to himself, and looked to the passenger seat to find it empty. He looked around franticly, and saw a hole in the windscreen of the car. He quickly opened the door, but it was jammed. He clambered over to the passenger seat and got out that way.
Outside, he looked around for his wife, his vision drastically reduced by the rain, but it not take long to find her. Her body was crumpled up against a tree not five metres away from the car. “Anne!” he shouted as he ran over but when he got there he let out a roar fit for a boar hound and punched the tree leaving his knuckles bleeding the bone visible. Anne’s neck was broken.
Major General Taylor backed up against the wall of his office backing away from his own guards as they advanced towards him, M4 Carbines raised. “Wha-wha-why are you doing th-th-this? Wh-wh-what do you want f-f-f-f-from m-m-me?” The guards did not respond, but in answer to his question an old man walked through the door. He was slightly stooped, with a bristling moustache and blazing blue eyes. The General guessed he was of Russian origin. “Wh-wh-who are y-y-you?”
“Ah, how the mighty have fallen. Oh yes. You were so promising when I chose you to be promoted. ‘Always follows orders to the letter,’ the personnel report said. But now I find I have conveyed orders to you, and you are refusing to comply. Oh yes.”
“Oh yes, dear Major General,” the old man replied to his query. “Now, to business. Yes, to business. Will you carry out your orders and see things from my point of view?”
“I-I-I-,” The Major General steeled himself, “No,” he said defiantly. The old man sighed audibly and shook his head. Then he strode out of the office, his stoop gone, as casually as though he had struck an excellent business deal, and he closed the door behind him.
Inside the office, Taylor was still up against the wall. “Why would you do this? I have paid you well for fourteen years!” The gunmen hesitated, but not because of him. On the ceiling, the assassin did not hesitate. She had a bounty to collect.
As Lieutenant General Hawkeye walked down the alarmingly clean corridors of Dr. Brackman’s large laboratory, she wondered why she had been summoned to his office. What did he even have to do with NASA? ‘Well,’ she thought to herself, as she rounded the final corner, ‘I’ll soon find out.’
“Ah, Ms. Hawkeye, thank you for coming my dear, oh yes.”
“Pardon me Dr. Brackman, but who are you and, more importantly, who are you to order me around? I take my orders only from the General, and he gets his from the government.”
“Ah, all will become clear my dear, all will become clear. Please, follow me.” As she complied, she wondered for the second time, why was she was taking orders from this obviously elusive man she had never heard of. She certainly hadn’t meant to. She had meant to walk into his office, tell him she didn’t have time for his ramblings, and then walk straight out again.
Instead she was now following him to god knows where, which brought her back to her original question. ‘Why am I following this senile old basta*d around? I’ll be damned if I know.’
Not for the first time, the Doctor marvelled at his ability to influence people. Control them? No. But at influencing people he excelled. Perhaps it was extraordinary brain power. But that did not matter.
“Here we are.”
“Here we are where?”
“In my private work lab. Why am I bringing you here? Well, in this lab you can see my plans for NASA, for the next fifty years. Why am I showing you this? Well, I am asking you to become the General of NASA.”
“Sorry Doctor, I can’t do that. Firstly, there is already
a General of NASA. Secondly, who on earth are you to appoint a new head of NASA, and lastly, slightly off-topic, how on Earth did you know where I work?”
“Well in answer to your second and third questions, I can show you this;” Out of his breast pocket, he produced an official looking identity card. The first and most striking thing was the NASA insignia in the middle. The second was that the chevron was coloured purple. Every person assigned to NASA knew what that meant; complete authority over any personnel and decisions made. Underneath it said ‘This identity card certifies Doctor Alex Brackman has complete control over NASA, second only to the US President, by order of the US President’. On the other side of the card, it had the president’s signature, and what she assumed to be Brackman’s own. It also had a photograph of the Doctor on it.
“Oh...” she whispered.
“And to your first question, I am afraid to tell you, but the General is... Dead.”
“What? How? When did he die?”
“First. Please tell me if you will accept the promotion.”
“Yes of course but-”
“Rule number one is that I only answer questions I feel it is necessary to answer, on a need to know basis. Right now, you do not need to know, so normally I would not answer your question. In this case however, I will make an exception. The General was assassinated.”
“But... He had armed guards, 24/7...” she replied.
“It seems they turned on him too. Now, we get to business. As I have already told you, this room contains what I plan to do with NASA over the next fifty years. As you can see here, there is Hercules Two, which is currently orbiting Mars.” He pointed to a model of the rocket in a glass case.
“Here you can see I plan to send colonisation rockets to Mars. They will be specifically outfitted to contain colonists, supplies, or both. These colonists must be in peak physical condition for the journey and colonisation attempts. I want you to find these ideal colonists, and forward their identities to me, bearing in mind the first rocket will be sent in Year 8. I also want you to organise the necessary supplies, a list of which I will forward to you. That will be all for now.”
General Hawkeye snapped into a smart salute. “Yes Sir!”
“Thank you, General Hawkeye.”
“This is Mars Lander to Hercules Two. We are in position, over”
“Roger. Please adjust: four centimetres right, six centimetres down, over.”
“Copy. Corrections made, prepare for docking, Lander out.”
On the main screen in the control room of the Hercules, Kelly watched the large, fifty inch LCD screen that was the central hub, where everything important was shown. Currently displayed on the left hand half was a CGI skeleton representation of the Hercules and the Mars Lander. Here you could see that currently the Lander was directly on track for docking. On the other half of the screen there was a live video feed from one of the ship’s external cameras. She could just make out Jeff through one of the tiny windows on the Lander.
Jeff looked up from his controls for a second, and remembered that there would be a camera sending a video feed to the CC on the Hercules. Just in case Kelly was watching, he looked out the window and waved, then got back to steering the Lander into docking. Clunk. The Lander’s locking system had fixed on to the crane arm of the shuttle, which would then guide the Lander in to the hangar of the shuttle, the doors would seal shut, and air would be restored. It was all up to the crew of the Hercules from here.
As the doors of the Hercules Two sealed shut, a round of applause rose up for Mozin; it had been his job to manoeuvre the crane arm into the hanger. Almost everyone in the control room floated over to him to offer their congratulations. “Well done Mozin!” Kelly shouted over her shoulder before rushing off to where Jeff, Ahmed, and Helium would be entering the shuttle.
April the First, Year One of the Interplanetary Age
Earth. Home. Those were Kelly’s thoughts as she looked at the blue-green sphere in the vast expanse of space. Of course, there were other things as well. Stars, the sun, the Moon. But most f all, Kelly was homesick, and it was this that drew her gaze to the planet in the far distance. The fist men in space had been right. The Earth was beautiful from space. The video footage did not do it justice.
“I raise you two.”
“I’ll match you and raise you two.”
“And same to you sir!”
“I’ll match you.”
“Well I’ve got royal flush. What have you got?”
“Pair of frickin’ threes,” muttered Jeff. “How on earth do you do it Mozin? How?” Mozin had already played Ahmed and Helium out of the game, and Jeff was just about to go as well. “Ah well. Let’s get this over with.”
Once Jeff had dealt, he looked over his shoulder at Kelly while Mozin was contemplating his cards. “Are you alright?”
“Yes, yes,” said Kelly absentmindedly. “Well, I’ll go for one.”
“Match and raise you one.”
“Raise you two.”
“Match and raise you one, seeing as you haven’t got any more than that.”
“I suppose I’ll have to match then,” said Jeff. “I’ve got three aces and two kings.”
Mozin smiled. “Two words. Royal. Flush.”
“Sh*t...” muttered Jeff. “Well I’m out.”
“Let’s count the winnings!” shouted Mozin. “Thirty poker chips! With the value of no dollars each!”
“Yeah, well we haven’t got any money have we?”
“Such a shame...”
Jeff floated over to Kelly. “You sure you’re alright?” he asked. “I’m just homesick, okay Jeff?” she snapped back. “Yeah, whatever. I’ll leave you alone. I can see my witty comments will be wasted on you,” he said, and floated away to find other company.
Doctor Brackman settled down on his sofa, and turned on the plasma TV set into the wall itself, so as to be completely flush with it. He flicked to PBS and watched the finishing credits of a soap. ‘I really must watch TV more often,’ he thought. ‘With my brain I could keep up with hundreds of channels.’ The programme finished and the news started. ‘The announcement should be made today.’
Sure enough, the news reader was practically jumping around the room with excitement. “Later tonight we will cover the situation in Afghanistan, and also man who faked his death for the cause of climate change. But now the biggest story of perhaps all time. Yesterday, NASA managed to re-establish contact with Hercules Two.” Here the newsreader paused, to allow that piece of information to sink in. “Yes, you heard correctly, and right now, I bet you’re all so stunned I could call you lot anything I want and nothing would happen to me.”
‘I’m not stunned,’ Brackman chuckled to himself. “Fourteen months ago, NASA launched the most daring space mission ever attempted by mankind, funded by the US government. Their aim was to put a man on Mars. Three days after the launch, NASA lost contact with Hercules Two.
“However, despite this very unfortunate complication, the Hercules managed to proceed on their own. Nobody knew what happened to the Hercules or her crew, until the infamous group who call themselves CyberHand claimed to have intercepted and decrypted a message from Hercules Two to Huston. Even now, the FBI are investigating the case and are hot on the trail of the CyberHand.
“Although doubts are still high on the subject of NASA ever losing contact at all, the important thing is that the Hercules is coming back, and is just three days away. Before we tell you a little bit about the history of the mission and footage from their voyage, let me assure you. This is not an April Fools joke.”
Doctor Brackman sat back n the sofa as he turned the TV off. ‘Well that’s done and dusted,’ he thought. Not even the Secretary of Defence had known about the plan to protect the US in this way. Doctor Brackman had put the plan forward to President Obama, and he had accepted the suggestion.
Jeff and Kelly were coming home.
As Alex drove carefully round a bend of the winding road, he saw a sign that directed him to the summer camp where his two children would be waiting for him. He turned the corner, and pulled to stop outside the large building where hey had been staying for the past month.
“Ah Sir, I expect you have come to collect your children. If you come this way with me, we can check if they’re back yet.”
“Of course.” As he followed the man he assumed to be a manager of some sort, he looked around at the camp. Aside from the large building, there were several smaller buildings, each with a sign over the doorway, proudly proclaiming the activity that took place inside. One in particular caught his eye. It simply read ‘Bait’.
“Ah yes. In this activity the children are taken off into the woods, and they have to work as a team to eliminate the other team. One of the children is elected by the team to be bait.”
“Here we are.” Cut in his guide. As they approached a large set of double doors, they were flung open as they approached by some unknown person or persons from within. When they arrived at what could only be the reception desk, Alex’s guide went round the end of the makeshift counter and picked up a large book. He flipped to the front and looked down the page for second then said “Alex Brackman?”
“Yes.” After that he flipped to the back and said without remorse “They should be coming back from their activity any moment now.
“Bait.” Again the doors were flung open, and a large throng of children rushed through the doors, eager for food. “Kelly and Jeff. Please come here.” Two children broke away from the pack and walked towards the table, with their heads bowed and their postures sagging. “You’re not in trouble. Look who’s here.” They looked up and a split second later they both shouted “Alex,” and rushed towards their foster father. “Hey trouble and trouble. What were you playing?”
“We were playing Bait Alex,” said Jeff. “And what’s it like?”
April the Fourth, Year One (IA)
“Huston to Hercules Two do you copy? Over.”
“Receiving you loud and clear Huston. Awaiting instructions, over.”
“Copy, please make necessary adjustments. We are forwarding them to you now. Okay, the upload is complete.”
“Roger, making the adjustments. Okay, the adjustments have been made, over.”
“Right, Huston on standby, please keep the line open.”
“Copy, Hercules Two is on standby.” As the space shuttle came closer and closer into orbit around the planet, it created a very woozy feeling in Jeff’s stomach. “Hey Jeff. You alright?”
“No.” said Jeff. “Why?” asked Helium. “You know the speed at which a car wheel turns, and it looks as though it’s spinning backwards? When I look at Earth right now, I feel like I am the wheel.”
“What?” snapped Jeff. “I’ll go now...”
“Sorry Helium... We’ve been in the same very enclosed space for more than twelve months, and I think we’re all just getting on each other’s nerves. Sorry mate.”
“All hands to the control room. We are about to enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Repeat, all hands to the control room. We are about to enter the earth’s atmosphere.”
“Best get going,” said Helium.
In the control room, all seventeen astronauts were working like bees to create the smoothest landing possible, and it was Jeff’s job to actually steer Hercules Two into the atmosphere and onto the landing strip. “Okay Jeff, this is your time to shine.”
“Yes Commander!” Jeff took hold of the steering wheel and looked at the Commander. “Ready when you are Jeff.” Jeff gently tilted the steering wheel away from him to pitch the shuttle down. He locked it in place, and then his hands turned into a blur they were moving so fast over the switches and knobs that controlled various aspects of the rocket. “Okay guys, strap yourself in. This is gonna get rough.”
Slowly, very slowly, an orange glow began forming at the corners of the windows. It grew until it was so bright, nothing could be seen in the cockpit. “Sh*t,” muttered Jeff, and pressed a button on his console. Suddenly, instead of being blindingly bright, it was pitch black. The lights clicked on automatically, and normal vision was returned. Nothing could be seen out the windows now, there were only steel shutters.
“Huston to Hercules Two, you are right on course for the landing strip, and you are currently just over 1000km away from us.” A message flashed up on Jeff’s console, and he accepted it. The shutters opened, and it was clear the shuttle was past re-entry atmospheric friction, although they were still higher than any commercial plane would ever go.
A set of decreasing numbers popped up in the corner of Jeff’s console; 10893m. 9000m. They were going more slowly now, barely above Mach 2.
6000m. Jeff took hold of the steering wheel again, and brought it up by a barely noticeable increment.
2000m. Jeff began to decrease the throttle slightly, but more quickly by every second that passed.
1000m. Jeff’s concentration was fully on steering now; beads of sweat trickled down his forehead, but there was nothing he could except let them be stopped by his eyebrows.
500m. They were travelling just above Mach 1 now, and getting slower much faster.
At 250m small features in the landscape such as boulders and trees became obviously visible.
200m. Jeff brought the speed below the sound barrier, and anyone on the ground would have heard a very large sonic boom as the shuttle approached the invisible barrier.
150m. Jeff deployed the shuttle’s landing gear, and 30 seconds later there was a large jerk and a thump as the rocket finally returned to Earth. The parachute deployed and there was an even larger jerk. At last the shuttle slowed 15km/h, and Jeff guided it into the designated bay. Two loud clunks later, the exit gantries were in place, and the door of the shuttle slid open automatically.
The seventeen astronauts of the Hercules exited the rocket in single file; Commander Niel first, then Kelly, followed by Jeff and Ahmed, and then Mozin and Helium. After them, the other astronauts followed, but in every single one of them, they felt something was wrong.
Kelly was the first to realise it. The crowd of observers was not cheering. They were silent as the grave. All that could be heard was the wind rushing through the gantries attached to the space shuttle. They went into a designated building in which they would have fifteen minutes to go over the speeches they had prepared. Then they would go out to the top of the gantry where the President would welcome them back and talk about things to do with space, which generally he had no idea about.
“Did you guys notice anything?” said Niel. “It’s odd and I can’t explain it, but it felt like something was... wrong...”
“Yeah I got that feeling too.”
“The crowd wasn’t cheering, or clapping or anything,” said Kelly. “In fact, they weren’t just not cheering, they were dumbstruck, although I have no idea why.”
“Okay that’s it guys, we’ve gotta go.” As they walked back onto the gantry, the same nothing could be heard. It was eerie, and, unnatural; it was like someone had turned off the volume. Everywhere, all over the planet it felt as though the world had been frozen in place. Nobody moved as the astronauts rose to the Presidential platform in their elevator.
Only the televisions had any life to them, faithfully showing what was happening on the barren metallic wasteland of the structure that held the Hercules Two in place. The elevator came to a stop and all seventeen astronauts got out. They all lined up in front of the raised podium, and the president began to speak.
“Fellow citizens of the United States of America. No, fellow citizens of the world. Today marks a great step forward for mankind. On May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy of the USA said that humankind would put a man on the moon.
“One year ago, we launched a shuttle to take his vision one step further. Four months ago, that vision was realised. We put a man on Martian soil. Today, those heroes have returned to us.
“Only three days after they left us, we thought they had left us forever. We lost contact with them after only three days. However, they completed their mission faithfully, and have returned with a word from Mars. That word is peace.
“On Mars, I hope that all races of the human species will be able to live in harmony. I hope this colonization effort that is already being worked upon will bring the peace that we have strived for as a race for many millennia.
“To many of you here before me now, this idea may seem alien. But fret not, in the years to come, I hope this idea will become indigenous. In a moment, I will ask each of the astronauts here in front us to say something about their journey, but before I do this, I would like to announce the launch of Project Eutopia.”
Kelly stormed into the living room. When she entered it was like a tornado had broken out inside that small confined space. In fact the last tornado to hit that area had been called Kelly. Doctor Brackman shrank back into his armchair, as Kelly practically exploded.
“Why were the people told we were dead? What the Hell is going on Alex?” she shouted.
As Alex ran to the nearest place of safety, the ground shook again. ‘Outside,’ he thought to himself, ‘I need to get outside.’
“Kelly! Jeff! Come here quickly, I need you to follow me and do not leave my side!” As he ran to the exit, the shaking stopped. The preliminary earthquakes were over. The real thing was about to start. “Quickly! Follow me!”
They were in the open now, mostly away from any tall buildings that could fall on them, but still they were not safe; there was a multi-story block of apartments just 50 metres away from them.
Then the real earthquake began. The building to their left began shaking violently, it was visible to the naked eye, and it started screeching as the metal in its structure began distorting and grinding against the concrete.
Then the large building started falling. Slowly at first, but gathering speed all the time. But it was falling away from them. “What’s going on Alex?” Asked Kelly as she held his hand and watched the building fall. “What’s happening?”
“Nothing Kelly. It’s all over now.”
“Kelly... I can’t tell you now... But you will know one day... Please just calm down and play ball...”
“You never played ball with either me or Jeff... In either sense of the phrase.”
“Well then please, just do it this once. If you do not want to be killed by a foreign power, then please do as I ask Kelly.”
There was a knock on the door of the old man’s office. ‘Never any peace,’ he thought to himself, before calling out “Come in.” A tall, blonde and busty woman walked into his office, and stood in front of his desk. She had pale skin, she was possibly of Swedish origin. Her eyes were covered by sunglasses, and she was dressed in black flexible cloths. “Ah Ms Jenkins, how good of you to come, and what a pleasant surprise. Do sit down, oh yes.”
“No thank you. I prefer to stand.”
“Well then, please stand.”
“I am here to collect the bounty.”
“Ah down to business as always. But please remind me what the task was, my memory is going in my old age.”
It was not, in fact, but he wanted to check if she had done he right thing. “Contain the target if the security guards fail to do so. Once you have entered the room, you will speak to him, and then once you have left I was to follow one of two possible scenarios. If he complied with your wishes (which I would know because you would leave the doors open), I was to kill the guards who would still be trying to attack him. If you left the door closed I was to assassinate the target if the guards showed any hesitation in finishing off the target. The latter situation took place. Both rewards were worth $50000.”
“Ah of course. You performed admirably. You can collect your money in any way you wish from reception downstairs.”
“Goodbye Ms Jenkins.” He thought for a second and then just before se closed the door he called out “And feel free to deal with any guards giving you ‘looks’ because of your womanly figure.”
As Doctor Brackman settled back into his chair he awaited the screams that would inevitably come from somewhere within the building. ‘Men never learn do they?’ he thought to himself.
End of Book One
Now that you've finished, try Preparations - Book 2 in the Fresh Start Trilogy