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Continue To The Next Chapter - Chapter 3

Return To The Previous Chapter - Chapter 1


By ... Steve Lucky


TIME : November 18, 2000
PLACE : Cape Kennedy, Florida

Shawn Cobalt, Troy Marshal, and Gary Smith began several months of rigorous training that they would have to endure before starting on a journey they had been dreaming of for years. They had been chosen out of thousands of candidates to be on the first manned expedition to Mars. None of them could believe that they had been excepted, but they knew they shouldn't waste time asking why, they had to keep their positions first.

Shawn's position was the most secure. He was to be the commander of the expedition. Shawn was in his mid-thirties, but his inquisitive, piercing, hazel eyes make him look much more experienced than his age would allow. He had short, brown hair and an average height and build.

He walked into the exercise room and started stretching. He was always prepared to take charge at a moment's notice which is why he was chosen to lead such a dangerous expedition into the unknown.

Troy had arrived there shortly before Shawn did and gave his commanding officer a quick salute. Unlike Shawn, Troy's eyes gazed upward with the wonder and amazement of a child. He was in his late twenties. His wish was to fly into unexplored regions, beyond everything known to mankind. He would visit every star and planet in existence on his way to infinity beyond. Right now though his thoughts were on preparing for the trip to Mars. He knew it would be the adventure of a lifetime, little did he know how right he was.

Gary was the last to enter the room. He was slightly taller than the others with dark skin and brown eyes. He had a bad temper at times, but normally kept it in check. He imagined how famous he would become by being one of the first men to walk on Mars.

"Ready to get in shape?" Shawn asked Gary who looked like he should have stayed in bed.

"As ready as I'll ever be," groaned Gary wondering when it would all be over.

"Look on the bright side," Troy chirped in. "Once we leave Earth's atmosphere, you can have all the rest and relaxation you want."

"That's over six months away assuming there are no delays," grumbled Gary obviously having one of his bad days. "and there are bound to be some delays."

"It will get here sooner than you think," Shawn reassured him. "The only way it won't is if you stand around counting the days."

A faint smile spread across Gary's face.

"I hope your right," he sighed. "I want to go right away, the sooner the better."

"We all feel that way," Shawn agreed. "The best thing to do is take your frustration out on these machines. They can't fight back."

"It's about the only way you can win in life," added Troy. "Chose yourself as an opponent and compete against yourself. That way, you can continually improve."

The three of them waited patiently for the launch date to arrive.

TIME : August 3, 2001 8:00 A.M.
PLACE : The launch site

Shawn, Troy, and Gary boarded the Aries 1, the fastest manned craft ever built. It was the ultimate product of several generations of technology with gadgets that made most of its predecessors look like they belonged in an antique shop. Shawn glanced about what would be his new home for quite some time and nodded his head approvingly. The Aries 1 was truly a work of art.

Troy and Gary looked at the ship in awe. They had seen the ship, both inside and out, during their months of preparation, but, with only a few hours left to go, it looked even more incredible than ever. All three of them were starting to get nervous as every little detail was checked and double checked to make sure that nothing could possibly go wrong. However, there nervousness was only temporary as the quickly regained composure in anticipation of the launch.

"This is it!" Shawn declared trying to sound casual.

He got no verbal response. Troy and Gary just silently acknowledged that they had heard him and set to work on the final preparations. Shawn made preparations too knowing that life would never be the same for them again.

TIME : 11:32 A.M.
PLACE : Inside the Aries 1

The Aries 1 took off beautifully as it shot upward through the heavens. No one could ask for a more perfect takeoff, but the three astronauts knew their journey had only begun. Little did they know that, even at that moment, they were being observed by and the other members of the M.W.G.D. base on Mars.

Troy was the first to sense that something unusual was going on.

"Do you think we'll meet any little green men there?" he asked sounding more serious than he meant to sound.

Shawn and Gary looked at him, but Troy returned their gaze evenly.

"If we do, we can tell them about our leaders," Shawn remarked jokingly. "If we tell them the truth, it will keep them away for centuries."

Later on, Shawn and even Gary began to suspect that something out of the ordinary awaited them on Mars. However, even Troy knew not to believe in such nonsense as little green men.

TIME : August 20
PLACE : The M.W.G.D. base on Mars

Everyone at the base had known about Aries 1 for quite some time, but they had always put it off and said they would deal with it later. They kept putting it off until it could be put off no longer. The Aries 1 would arrive in Mars in only a few days and their seismic detectors could sense their presence from the other side of the planet. Back on Earth, the scientists were bound to get suspicious and the more suspicious they became, the more likely they were to be attacked by the Ruler. For the safety of Earth, their base had to remain a secret.

X was the first to make a suggestion. Being in command of the base, he felt it his responsibility to make sure the base ran smoothly which included external factors as well as internal ones. He reminded the others that it was for the people of Earth that they had come in the first place.

"I think we should bring them to the base," X stated simply. "If they choose to stay, we can simply stop their transmissions to Earth and they will assume that they were victims of a natural disaster. The three of them can tell us more about Earth than all our observations combined."

"What if they choose not to stay," protested one of the others.

From what he had learned about the three astronauts, X assumed they would stay, but he had considered the possibility that they would want to return to Earth and knew it would be brought up when he presented his view point.

"Then we let them leave," X replied. "making sure they don't have any scientific data to prove our existence."

"That's fine for only one ship, but what are we going to do when they send others. If we keep doing that, the people back on Earth will get more suspicious than they would from any mechanical seismic activity."

The last statement had come from Rynn Currlourt. He came from the planet Lougrah, a dry, mountainous planet which accounted for the vast number of tiny scales covering his body. In spite of his somewhat hideous appearance, he had a rather friendly and outgoing personality. It was Rynn that X counted on whenever he needed some fresh information on an old subject. Rynn was always willing to help out no matter what the surrounding circumstances, the kind of person one wanted in an emergency.

X responded to Rynn's objections as if he were a school teacher explaining something to the class. "We may travel between planets every day, but for them, the Aries 1 cost them a great deal of money," he explained. "It will be several years before they are capable of sending an Aries 2 and by then our seismic activity will have diminished to an acceptable level."

After that, most of them accepted X's plan, however, a few of them saw its one obvious flaw, it depended upon the cooperation of the astronauts. If they chose not to cooperate, there really wasn't much they could do about it. They could only hope that the Earthlings were friendly since they had never dealt with an Earthling first hand before.

TIME : August 23
PLACE : The landing site of the Aries 1 (Somewhere on Mars)

Aries 1 had lost all contact with Earth, but Shawn wasn't going to let that destroy such an historic moment. He stepped out onto the surface and said a few words on tape so he could play it back when he returned to Earth.

Gary followed close behind. Although he wasn't the first to walk on Mars, he could take pride and satisfaction out of the fact that he was the second. Troy brought up the rear not caring how many people had been there before him. It was the first time for him which is all that seemed to matter.

The three of them got their bearings straight and were about to explore their new environment when X appeared directly in front of them.

"Hello," said X holding up his hand in greetings.

The three of them stared at X in utter disbelief. They were stunned speechless.

"A-are you M-martians," Shawn managed to gasp at last.

"No," X replied. "We come from all over the galaxy."

"How many of you are there?" inquired Shawn still in shock.

"Almost four hundred," X responded trying to give them some time to adjust. "Our base is over in that direction some fifty kilometers away."

Shawn tried to look for the base, but all he could see was the Martian landscape. Gary and Troy were just beginning to come to their senses. They were not as adaptive as Shawn was and were still trying to deny that they saw before them.

"I would like the three of you to accompany me to our base," X stated bluntly. "It is entirely up to you whether to come or not. "If you don't, we will restore your communications with your home planet on the condition that you do not tell them about our presence; if you do, you will see things that are far beyond your imagination. The three of you must be in agreement before I allow one or the other, but you have all the time you need to decide. I will stay with you until you reach a decision."

"I think we should go with him," advised Shawn.

"And I think we should stay here," argued Gary.

Before of them turned to Troy as if to say, "Well, Troy, it's up to you."

Troy looked at Shawn and then Gary and then X. All of them were waiting for him to break the tie. It was the most important decision Troy had ever had to make and he didn't like the pressure that came with it.

He weighed the alternatives carefully. No matter what he chose to do, someone would be mad at him.

"I think..." Troy stammered. "that we should.. .go to the base."

Shawn was pleased. He knew that Troy liked to explore the unknown. If he could get Gary to feel the same way, there would be no problem. Gary was a little upset over how little control he had, but he knew that the three of them had better stick together. He reluctantly gave in and all four of them headed for the base.

"What's your name?" Shawn wondered trying to start a conversation with him.

"That's a long story," X told him. "Everyone calls me X."

"I might have known," Gary grumbled wondering when it would all be over.

"You'll get use to me," declared X somewhat humorously. "Everyone does eventually."

TIME : August 24 12:00 A.M. (0:00)
PLACE : Back on Earth

All contact with the Aries 1 was lost. They had lost contact with the crew less than twenty-four hours before, the instant they had entered the Martian atmosphere, and now, they had even lost contact with the homing beacon that let them know the Aries 1 was still there. There was no way for them to tell if the astronauts were still alive.

If contact wasn't reestablished in about a week, they would have to be presumed dead. Their hopes were growing fainter by the second as they studied the recordings trying to find out why they had lost contact.

TIME : 4:55 A.M.
PLACE : The Martian base

Shawn was the first to awake. The events of the previous day were like a blurred memory to him, so he had to readjust to the startling changes he had experienced. A few minutes later Troy and Gary woke up and looked to Shawn for help. They reminded Shawn that he was commander of the expedition, a fact that Shawn didn't care for much at the time.

"The first thing we need to do is find someone who can act as a guide," commanded Shawn. "The last thing we need is to get lost wondering about the base."

As the three of them looked around for a guide, they examined the rest of the base. They were amazed by the beauty of the place. It was a reflection of the cultures of thousands of other planets united in peace and harmony. There was no doubt in their minds that someday Earth would join them.

Suddenly they bumped into a scaly humaniod. It was Rynn who quickly introduced himself before they really started to panic. Shawn, Gary, and Troy did likewise.

"You feel asleep on your way here, so we brought you the rest of the way," Rynn explained. "You must have been awfully tired after your long journey."

Shawn nodded.

"Could you tell us some more about your history?" he asked. His curiosity was greater than his fear.

Rynn gave them a brief explanation about Altair 7 and the creation of M.W.G.D. Then, he told them why they had come to Mars.

"Tell me more about X," requested Troy.

"No one really knows that much about him," Rynn explained. "All I know is that he is the only one of us that has been able to do anything against the Ruler. If you want to know more, you'll have to ask X himself. He is in charge of all that happens on this base and is fairly easy to find. I will take you to him."

Rynn led them down a small corridor to where X would be waiting for them.