Pre-Gundam SEED: Galilean Discovery

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Pre-Gundam SEED: Galilean Discovery

Post by Sabersonic » Sat Feb 01, 2014 8:29 pm

Obviously this is my first foray into posting fanfiction upon this forum so if the layout seems odd, I apologize.

Anyway, a brief summary is that during the Jupiter Exploration Mission of one George Glenn Evidence 01 is found. But in this instance, it's not the Space Whale but rather something else more sinister. Also a brief warning that setting-wise it's a crossover with another franchise, but I won't tell what it is to keep the surprise. Though I think that a good number would know what the other franchise is by the end of this story.

Additionally, I tried to give the story a kind of hard sci-fi feel to it. The operative word being "tried" so it'll probably be iffy in certain aspects of the yarn as this was done largely in a single sitting rather then refined over a period of time. Again, not my best work but then again probably not my best.

-------------(Story Start)----------------

It had already been a month since the two kilometer long interplanetary exploration spacecraft Tsiolkovsky had arrived in the Jovian system after its seven year journey from the International Space Station Yggdrasil in the first Lagrange Point of the Earth Sphere to the largest of the solar system planets. Already the Jupiter Exploration Mission, comprised of the crew of the Tsiolkovsky have made great strides in the gathering of data unprecedented even during the early space exploration age when all science and technology could only afford to launch probes into deep space. They have launched several thermonuclear ice burrowers upon Callisto and distant Ganymede to map and explore the subsurface oceans theorized to exist within the icy moons, data that would be useful in the discovery of extraterrestrial life.

As the Tsiolkvosky waited for the signal to indicate that the probes have reached the long dreamed subsurface ocean, the deputy Guidance, Navigation and Control Systems Engineer or System, Johan Hildenberg had noticed an unusual blip in the sensor data.

"MCOM 1…?" The Deputy System called out to the MCOM or Mission Commander. "Glenn?"

The first coordinator George Glenn, who just now awaited the signal of ice crust breakthrough with baited breath, turned towards Hildenberg. "What is it System 2?"

"I got something on scope over at Europa." Hildenberg reported. "Something that earlier probes missed."

"Huh…? Well this is new." Glenn smirked as he floated next to Hildenberg. "I guess there are still more surprises after all."

"What's going on?" The senior Flight Commander, or Flight 1, Edward Maxwell asked as he maneuvered towards the MCOM and Deputy System.

"It looks like we might have found a kind of subsatellite around Europa." Glenn mused.

"It doesn't look too large though." Hildenberg noted. "About three kilometers at its widest."

"It would be interesting to have a closer look." Glenn mused.

"We're not due for Europa for two more weeks." Maxwell advised. "FASA barely was able to time the launch just right for our arrival to coincide with Ganymede and Callisto this close to each other and make a perfect parking orbit. Besides, we already got Samuel and Jorje working on the Callisto basecamp." Flight 1 mentioned of the Senior Payload Deployment and Retrieval Officer or Padro 1 and Maintenance, Mechanical Arms, and Crew Systems or MMACS 1 respectively. The Callisto basecamp would become the planned foundation of a central outpost station of the Jovian system not unlike McMurdo Station of Ross Island in Antartica, especially in consideration the length of time the one-way trip to Jupiter had taken alone.

"Europa's well within our DeltaV budget."

"You do remember that a good chunk of the extra Jovian DeltaV budget is for emergencies, right Glenn?" Hildenberg reminded the self-declared coordinator.

"Like I said, all within our DeltaV budget." Glenn stated. "Besides, it extremely rare that we would discover something earlier probes have missed. It' almost seemed romantic in a sense to find something no one has found before."

"Yeah, but we're kinda doing that with the oceans on Callisto and Ganymede." Maxwell corrected.

"It would still be three hours at best before the diggers break through to the slush lithosphere or at least that's what the GPR modules suggest. Plenty enough time to swing around Europa and explore the asteroid. We might even deploy ice diggers onto Europa as well while we're out there."

"Not a good idea to rush the schedule."

"No harm done in changing things up a little."

"Well, we ARE here for two years so why the rush?"

"Child-like curiosity as usual." Hildenberg nearly groaned as he answered for Glenn. "It's gonna get us into trouble one of these days, I just know it."

"What's going on?" The MCOM 2, Zoe DeJorge, asked as she floated towards Glenn, Maxwell, and Hildenberg.

"MCOM 1 here want's to divert to Europa two weeks ahead of schedule." Maxwell answered.

"What the hell for?" DeJorge cursed in confused curiosity as she raised an eyebrow.

"A possible subsatellite in orbit around Europa." Glenn answered. "Something earlier probes have missed."

"How?" DeJorge questioned. "FASA's been sending probes to Jupiter for the past twelve years and even before the Reconstruction War, old NASA had an extensive probe presence in Jovian space for a good century."

"It's plausible that the asteroid was captured recently."

"Plausible, but not very likely." DeJorge noted. "You do realize the gravitational mess it is over here right?"

"Which makes it even more exciting." Glenn stated in almost child-like glee, which made the others almost groan in annoyance.

"Don't tell me that-" DeJorge began when Maxwell answered.

"Yep."

"For the love of- I'm starting to think that the doctor who made you might have made a mistake." DeJorge questioned Glenn, in reference to his earlier broadcasted confession seven years prior. "Either way, Samuel and Jorje can't say on Callisto while we're at Europa. The ice vaults for Arcadia's expansion would have to wait until we get back."

"Can the 'bots handle themselves alone?" Maxwell asked.

"They do have an emergency AI for such emergencies." MMACS 2 Emanuel Zim answered as he approached the group. "So long as the base layout and instructions are basic enough, they'll do fine without human intervention, but why are we going to Europa anyway?" Almost unanimously, Dejorge, Maxwell, and Hildenberg pointed towards Glenn.

"Glenn here wants to take a look at an orbital anomaly at Europa." Maxwell answered.

"What? What for? It's not like whatever's there is gonna leave anytime soon. It's got the entire lifespan of the bloody solar system to stay where it is!" Zim exclaimed. He then turned toward the deputy flight engineer, or Chief 2, Naomi Durandal as she manned her terminal. "Are you hearing this Durandal? Glenn here wants us to head towards Europa two weeks ahead of schedule for a- What are we looking at again?"

"A three kilometer asteroid." Hildenberg answered.

"A bloody three kilometer asteroid orbiting Europa!" Zim turned back towards Durandal.

"Well I think that it's kind of cute and adorable." Durandal answered.

"Thank you for the compliments. I think…. So do-" Glenn began when Chief 2 interrupted.

"And also childish for an In Vitro, designer test tube baby." Durandal countered.

Glenn groaned in frustration and annoyance at Durandal before he answered. "For the last time, I am NOT a test tube baby! I was a Zygote when I was genetically modified for crying out loud."

"That still makes you a designer baby." Durandal refuted just before Glenn sagged his shoulders in defeat. He may be genetically enhanced, but he had the same vulnerabilities when it came to human interactions as any other individual.

Just then the senior Integrated Communications Officer or INCO 1, Edward Hawke, floated towards the group. "MMACS 1 is reporting that one of the ice diggers hit a snag. He estimates that it'll take about five hours before they even reach the site of the jammed digger."

DeJorge then turned towards Glenn. "Looks like you'll have to wait just a little bit longer Glenn."

"For what?" Hawke questioned.

"Some asteroid around Europa that Hildenberg found." Dejorge waved the question away. "Is there anything else?"

"Yes, the Trojan Solar Observation Satellite at SJL-5 spotted a CME." Hawke reported on the data from the satellite probe that was launched to and now orbited the L5 "Trojan" point of the Sun-Jovian Lagrangian system to detect space weather such as the Coronal Mass Ejection or more technically called a solar proton event. "The radiation'll take approximately two hours, nine minutes and thirty-five point seventeen seconds to arrive."

DeJorge then turned towards Durandal. "Chief 1, will the Rad Field hold?"

"Calculating the data now." Durandal had just received the data on the Solar Proton Event to use the variable to discern if the artificial magnetosphere would be able to protect the sensitive astrionics, aeroponics, and onboard crew. The artificial magnetosphere device is a piece of technology which allowed interplanetary expedition in terms of payload allowance which, in the coming decades of nuclear engineering, would be the forerunner of the strategic gamechanger known as the Neutron Jammer. It took just a few minutes for the computer algorithms to calculate the imputed data. "It'll hold, but barely. I suggest that we orient the shadow shield towards the sun so that it's between us and the CME for maximum radiation protection and we evacuate to the biowell just to be safe."

"Two hours should be enough time to bunker down aeroponics for the storm." Glenn thought out loud before he turned towards INCO 2, Victoria Canaver, at her station. "Canaver, get Leitner and Elsman to aeroponics to ready the plants for the radiation storm." Morgan Leitner and Theodore Elsman were the Closed-Ecology Life-Support Systems or Senior and Deputy Cells respectively to ensure that the onboard aeroponics and algae tanks were healthy enough to provide for the crew of the Tsiolkovsky throughout its entire expedition.

"What about Yamato and Waltfelt?" Canaver asked. Ken Yamato and Heine Waltfelt were the Environmental Consumables Managers, or Senior and Deputy ECM respectfully, who were in charge of life support and consumable supplies to keep the crew alive during the voyage.

"Better alert them as well. I'd rather not fall back on MREs while I wait for harvest just yet. Also, get Jesek and White to make sure all non-essential circuits are powered down to make sure that we don't have an electrical overload." Zelda Jesek and Orville White were respectfully the Senior and Deputy Electrical Engineers or EE 1 and EE 2 whose duty was to ensure that the onboard fission reactor, fuel supplies, and radiation were controlled and that all electrical systems were fully operational.

"So what about Jorje and Samuel?" Hawke asked.

"I'd rather not risk them on a shuttle trip back to the Tsiolkovsky. The biowell vault they built at Arcadia should be adequate enough for them and the 'bots to weather out the storm." As Hawke floated back to his station, Glenn sighed. "And I was hoping for Europa too…"

"What can I say?" DeJorge began. "In deep space exploration, ZOINKS happens epically."

------------

Thirty-five hours after the Coronal Mass Ejection had passed and the ice digger on Callisto was unjammed, the Tsiolkovsky arrived at Europa with a matched orbital velocity to the recently discovered asteroid and possible subsatellite after a slow approach to the object. Systems 1 officer Eliza Joule had observed the recent sensor data gathered from the Europan asteroid. A part of the data caused her to raise an eyebrow. "That doesn't look natural…."

"What is it?" Victor Johnson, Fight 2 of the Tsiolkovsky and the Jupiter Exploration Mission, asked.

"Let me put it upon the main monitor." Joule replied as she struck a few keys to command the data to be displayed upon the primary data viewing screen near the front of the Primary Spacecraft Information Center, SIC 1 or what is commonly referred to as the bridge of the Tsiolkovsky. The entire command crew looked onto the data with confused awe from the LIDAR data of the asteroid, particularly a specific part of the asteroid that had an unnaturally smooth surface.

"Are we reading this correctly?" DeJorge asked Natashia Ramius, the senior Guidance Procedures Officer or Guidance 1.

"Everything checks out fine software wise." Ramius answered.

"From what I can tell by the LIDAR resolution of the image we're looking at," Guidance 2 Dianna Gladys began. "That metallic bump in the asteroid is too smooth. Unless I'm wrong, the metal surface appears to be refined." The words Gladys spoke of were not given lightly. The very idea that the bump, possibly something buried from eons of debris collection, composed of refined metal suggests an intelligence behind its creation; an alien intelligence.

"Are you sure of this?" Glenn asked Gladys.

"Like looking at an O'Neil wall." What followed was a paradigm shattering silence amongst all assembled; an awe of alien horror that was broken by the arrival of Joseph Rogan, the Senior Flight Surgeon or Doc 1 to SIC 1.

"You guys won't fuckin' believe what Clyne had for that military-class encryption- What's going on?" Rogan asked the assembled group.

The Senior Payload Officer Richard Zala, or Payload 1, answered the Doc 1. "I think we found a UFO."

"Are you shitting me?"

"I wouldn't exactly call it a 'UFO' but it seems like it might be extrasolar in origin." Glenn answered.

Rogan took a look at the data of the asteroid upon the main monitor and asked "You mean THAT rockpile?"

"More like what's buried inside." Ramius answered. "I can only guess that it's been collecting orbital debris for who knows how long."

"Long enough to be nearly buried and turn it into a three kilometer asteroid, that's for sure." Hawke added.

"So what are we gonna do?" Rogan asked.

"First we'll deploy rover drones down there to plant GPR modules so we can get a good idea of how big the object and its shape exactly." Glenn answered; he planned to use the technology of ground penetrating radar to generate a three-dimensional image of the unknown construct buried deep within the recently discovered asteroid.

"So get Jorje and Zim on the horn?" Canaver asked.

"And also Samuel and Daleville." Glenn added. Daleville was the Assistant Payload Deployment and Retrieval Officer or Padro 2. "They'll need to organize the deployment of the GPR."

"We'll have to use them wisely." DeJorge advised. "We nearly spent the entire GPR Module payload on Callisto, Ganymade and just now Europa."

"I know. We'll have to strategically place the remaining GPR Modules in these locations." Glenn typed in a command to highlight the areas upon the rendered digital model of the asteroid. "We'll get the best coverage with the number of modules we have left."

"The rover drones don't travel fast and they have to cover an area of about four point seven megameters." DeJorge reminded Glenn. "It'll take three hours just for the rovers to place the modules even if we use the orbital delivery drones."

"We'd better get started then." Glenn mused humorously.

It was at that time when Maxwell turned towards Rogan. "So what was in Clyne's military-encrypted message?"

"What?" Rogan raised an eyebrow in confusion before he quickly remembered why he came to the SIC. "Oh right. Apparently he's gonna be an uncle."

"Are you serious?" Maxwell inquired in disbelief. "That military-encrypted message, the kind that is used almost exclusively by the Royal Scandinavian Aerospace Force and can only be decrypted by an actual key code flash drive, is about his sister-in-law being pregnant?"

"Yeah, no idea why."

"Maybe the baby's a coordinator like Glenn?" Joule suggested. "There have been stories from back home about the filthy rich having their kids genetically modified despite the international protocol against it."

"Not to mention that story about arson on that one Hospital in Chicago." Durandal recalled. Though the news report was about five years old, the video was saved in the Tsiolkovsky media archive server. Since it takes a signal from the Earth Sphere as much as forty-five minutes and eighteen seconds to reach the Jupiter Exploration Mission crew, there were little recreational choices outside pre-recorded media and the crew have more often than not watched these recordings more than once. "You know, the one that was making designer babies?"

"I remember." Maxwell answered. "You think that could be it?"

"Well what else?" Joule replied. "When one is breaking international law, it's kind of a good idea to keep it a secret."

"Yeah but why tell Clyne then?" Rogan asked. "It's supposed to be a secret so why risk it even with military-grade encryption?"

"Family thing I guess." Maxwell then shrugged.

--------------------

Hours later, after the ground penetrating radar had been collected; Canaver analyzed the data and began to filter out the junk data to allow the computer to generate a digital model of the unknown object within the asteroid. Glenn then approached her as she worked at her station. "What did we get?"

"The computer is doing a model render right now. I had to filter out the return signals of the rest of the asteroid to get it, which is no easy task itself mind you, and it'll take just a second or two for it to be finished." Canaver then turned towards Glenn. "Display it on the main monitor?"

"If you could be so kind." The self-declared coordinator replied in a playful tone. A moment later the generated image was displayed upon the monitor and the gathered crew looked upon the image with near mind-numbing horror. The strange object was nearly eighteen hundred kilometers in length and had a bulky, semi-cylindrical main body with a tapering plate towards what is assumed to be the rear of the mass. Near the front was what appeared to be a mass of feelers commonly found upon cephalopod fauna within the oceans of the earth and the overall structure of the object resembled a large, metallic Cuttlefish.

Zala had a simple statement of the ground penetrating radar data gained. "I say that it's Cthullu's starcraft."

The deputy Flight Commander or Flight 2, Victor Johnson, turned towards Zala in disbelief. "…What?"

"Look at the thing! It definitely looks like a spaceship that the Old Ones would have used. The geometry just screams 'lovecraftian' and I am of the opinion that we should be nowhere closer than drones to that thing."

"You REALLY spend too much time reading that Gothic ZOINKS." Johnson replied.

Glenn then turned towards Jorje at his station. "Is there a rover drone near where the object is exposed?"

"Yeah…. Number Sixty-Nine, why?" the Senior MMACS asked after he recovered from the unnatural shock he felt from just the rough digital rendition of the object within the asteroid.

"I want to see if there's an airlock that we can use-"

"YOU WANT TO GO INSIDE OF IT?" Zala exclaimed.

"I don't see why not?" Glenn shrugged. "If we can find an airlock and figure out how to open it, we can get Yamato up here to do an atmospheric spectral analysis to see if the atmosphere within is breathable. He is the only expert in such a field onboard."

"But…why do we even need to go in there ourselves?" Zala questioned. "Drones were designed to go to places we don't want to risk ourselves."

"It wouldn't be as intriguing as a first-hand experience rather than watching a monitor. Besides, it never hurts to step inside a spacecraft so there's no point in being so paranoid."

"You want me to put that on your gravestone?" Zala rebutted. "As for my paranoia, we are at least seven years from any aid to come from the Earth Sphere. During that time period we are on our own so I have every right to be paranoid!"

"He does have a point." Johnson agreed. "We really shouldn't be too reckless since we have no idea what we're dealing with here."

"Your right." Glenn sighed in defeat before he turned back to Jorje. "Do we have a TeleOp Android available?"

"Just one." Jorje answered. "The rest are undergoing maintenance. I mean it took a lot out of the Androids to fix that one- BITCH!"

"What is it?" Maxwell asked as the rest of the assembled crew was anxious to know what caused Jorje's outburst.

"Oh uh….It's nothing. Just that Europa Ice Digger number Forty-Two just hit a rock deposit." Jorje answered. "What a waste."

"Don't' scare us like that!" Ramius chastised Jorje.

"Well Yamato still needs to get up here." Glenn concluded. "An atmospheric analysis might give us an idea as to what these extrasolar intelligences might be like biologically."

----------------------

Once rover drone sixty-nine had located a possible airlock, a teleoperated humanoid drone was sent to the site. Zim was down below in the Robotics Maintenance level of the Tsiolkovsky in a master-slave exoskeleton and virtual reality helmet. The image of what Zim saw through the TeleOp Android was displayed upon the main monitor of SIC 1 and what was observed was how truly alien and foreboding the airlock was architecturally designed.

"All hope abandon ye who enter here." Zala mused.

"Funny!" Zim growled through the speakers as he maneuvered the android into position and looked upon the presumed airlock to see if there was any way to manipulate its opening after he placed a signal booster relay device at the foot of the entrance. With the drone as well was an instrument designed to analyze atmospheric composition.

Eventually, with unexpected aid from Hawke, the hellgate-like airlock dilated and allowed the android to enter, carrying the atmosphere analytical equipment. "Just be careful with the instrument," Yamato warned. "We don't have too many to spare."

"I know!" Zim complained as he performed a radio check. "Signal seems clean, but I better place another signal booster relay just to be safe. No idea how much the inside might screw it up and I really don't want to try and get it back myself. I saw that old Alien movie last week."

"We all do eventually." Hawke added. "Besides, this isn't a movie, its real life."

"Whatever." Zim mildly complained. "I'm doing a signal test, how strong is it?"

"The signal's good so far-WHOH!" Joule exclaimed as she looked over the data. "It's probably a good thing we brought all those signal relay boosters; I'm getting all sorts of chaos in the feed and it ain't stataic."

"How bad is it?"

"Just don't go too far from a signal relay booster."

"That bad eh?" Zim replied as he operated the android to carry the duffel bag full of relay signal boosters in addition to the atmosphere analyzer instrument. "Now closing the hatch how's my signal?"

"It could be better, but it'll do for now. Better drop another signal booster once you get through."

"Wilco." Zim answered as he manipulated the drone to operate the airlock controls to flood the chamber with atmosphere so that the pressure on either side of the inner lock would be equal enough for it to dilate and allow entry into the unknown craft. Once the inner locks were disengaged, the teleoperated android dilated the inner airlock door and stepped into the interior proper.

The interior architecture of the unknown craft was even more horribly bizarre than the exterior would suggest. It looked less like the interior of a machine and more like the anatomy of an arthropod, as if inside an actual living creature. "You guys are seeing this right?"

"And having a hard time believing it like you." DeJorge answered.

"It almost seemed….biomechanical…" Glenn commented.

"I am seriously getting slasher flick vibes from this place and I'm not even inside the damned thing!" Zim complained with a touch of anxious worry. "So what kind of atmosphere do we have Yamato?"

"The data says that the internal atmosphere is about a thousand millibars of pressure, two thirds of the atmosphere is Nitrogen, almost twenty-one percent oxygen, and nearly a percent of Argon."

"So it's like back home?" Ramius asked.

"Too much like it." Yamato replied. "The only difference is that the humidity is virtually non-existent. Almost no water vapor to speak of."

Glenn then rubbed his chin. "Almost as if tailor made for us…."

"Planting another signal relay booster." Zim reported. "This place is still giving me the creeps and I have no idea why, nor do I really need to know."

"But you're not really there." William reminded Zim.

"Which is the only comfort I have right about now: I can get the ZOINKS outta this harness anytime I want and I'm getting really antsy with the idea too."

Glenn thought about the statement for a while as Zim continued to explore the inner corridors and chambers of the unknown craft. Just then, a thought occurred to him as he turned towards Canaver. "INCO 2, can you get the computer to isolate all sounds the TeleOp Android is getting?"

"Easily, but why?" Canaver asked.

"A hunch." Glenn answered. Soon enough the computer had isolated all the sounds that was captured by the drone. At first, there was nothing out of the ordinary as most of the noise was generated by the android and the equipment it carried within. However, the computer found an isolated sound data that was not audible enough for the human ear to detect yet those assembled within the SIC felt unnerved.

"Increase the volume of that sound." Glenn ordered and Canaver complied. She increased the isolated sound until a slow paced, but horrendously recognizable rhythm was heard. All knew what it was but were too terrified to admit the fact at first until the MCOM 1 had declared "That sounds like a heartbeat!"

"Nothing human, but it is clearly a heartbeat." Clyne answered and Rogan agreed.

"Where is it coming from?" Zim asked once he had gotten over his initial shock.

"Calculating right now." Hildenberg stated as he analyzed the data before him. It took a few minutes for the analyzed data to reveal the truth. "It may sound surreal, but from what I can gather, it seems that the hearbeat is coming from everywhere…."

A horrible, terrible silence fell upon the crew of the Tsiolkovsky.

----------------

Hours earlier, a transmission was sent to Yggdrasil back at the Earth Sphere along with relevant data on the biomechanical cuttlefish starcraft. The crew of the Tsiolkovsky awaited the reply from FASA as they occupied themselves with their duties to distract themselves from this discover above the Galilean moon of Europa. They tried their best to ignore the reality that not only had they discovered evidence of extrasolar life, but a biomechanical creature that was in hibernation.

Just then, the Senior and Assistant Propulsion Engineers or Prop 1 and 2 respectfully, Philip Yonders and Vladimir Amalfi, entered SIC 1. Hawke was the first to notice their arrival. "Well isn't this a rare treat? Usually you guys spend most of your time in engineering."

"Yeah well Glenn called us up here." Amalfi answered.

"Something about some big announcement for the entire crew." Yonders added.

"What about?" Hawke asked.

"I'll give the full details once everyone is here." Glenn answered as he floated into the SIC. "But suffice to say that we got a reply from FASA."

"Must be a big one." DeJorge noted as the crew began to assemble into the now snugly confined SIC.

"Well, as you all know, I finally got FASA's response regarding what we found here above Europa." Glenn continued as the crew waited with baited breath. "We're ordered to return to Yggdrasil immediately," many of the crew exclaimed in surprise, knowing that the current planetary alignment would make such a trip difficult even under ideal circumstances "With the asteroid and the spacecraft contained within-"

"Are they insane?" Yonders exclaimed in shock and disbelief. "We can't just 'return' to Yggdrasil like that! It took us seven fuckin' years to get here with the Tsiolkovsky alone! It's not like this is Star Opera where we can heat up the Hyperphotonic Drive and be back to the Earth Sphere in an hour!"

"And even if we could escape Jupiter's gravity well while towing a three kilometer asteroid, the aeroponics and life support was only meant to last to the ride here, plus the two year layover, and the ride back. It'll take too long with the extra mass for us to even make it back to the Earth Sphere." Waltfelt warned. "All four of the Thermonuclear Pulse Engines can't do any better with just the Tsiolkovsky."

"Do they even know what they're saying?" DeJorge asked in disbelief. "The mathematics involved is just too much! We're supposed to stay here for two years for a reason!"

"I assume that they have an idea how we're supposed to fuckin' do this plan of theirs?" Zala cursed. "Or are they expecting us to do all the dirty work for them as usual?"

"It's gotta be that fucking senator Alden!" Rogan accused. "It reeks of the dipshit's insanity, no fuckin' idea how space even fuckin' works!"

"How are we supposed to lug an asteroid larger than the Tsiolkovsky?" Johnson then turned towards Maxwell. "You got any bright ideas?"

"Nope." Maxwell answered. "And even if I did, I wouldn't like 'em and neither would the rest of us. It's flat out insane!"

"Guess that'll explain why WE'RE up here." Amalfi nodded in self-reflection.

"I feel sick…." Daylond complained as the very thought of what FASA wanted the Tsiolkovsky to perform.

"Well we could use the Solid Fusion Booster Rockets in a novel fashion…" Glenn thought out loud as a plan began to formulate in his enhanced grey matter.

"How exactly?" Daleville asked in a disbelieving tone. "They're meant for one thing and one thing only: To break out of Jupiter's Gravity Well. It's engineered precisely enough to pop the Tsiolkovsky out of Jovan space alone! It doesn't have enough DeltaV to accommodate the asteroid!"

"Not if we use a gravitational assist maneuver with Jupiter." Glenn answered. "However, to make sure that both we and the asteroid are flung out with reasonable velocity to not only return to the Earth Sphere on schedule but to make sure we don't fly past and back out into interplanetary space, we'll have to get uncomfortably close to the gas giant."

"How 'close'?" Johnson asked, almost deathly afraid of what the coordinator implied.

"Close enough that we might have to add in atmospheric drag into the equations." The moments of deathly silence were Glenn's response before Maxwell exclaimed.

"Are you out of your patchwork mind? The Tsiolkovsky was never meant to stay intact in such stresses!"

"Well I did design the craft-"

"To what was on the original mission profile, not for something insane like this!"

"It is possible," Glenn reassured the crew. "We would have to be very cautious on the verge of paranoia, but we can do it!"

"'Very Cautious' he says," Daleville mocked. "THAT'S putting it lightly."

"Well if anyone can do it, it'll be Glenn." DeJorge stated, but then added "Even if the basic idea itself is beyond madness. Why FASA can't wait for us to come back in nine years I'll never know…."

"So what's the plan Ahab?" Canaver asked.

"Despite appearances, I'm not THAT insane." Glenn countered. "The swing-by, plus a well-timed ignition of the Solid Fusion Booster Rockets, will give us the additional velocity that we'll need to meet our unfortunate deadline with the biomechanical spacecraft intact and meet up with Yggdrasil. We would have to be uncomfortably close to Jovian clouds but that's the only way we can get the maximum amount of DeltaV needed to return to the Earth Sphere safely. The real variable would be the asteroid we'll have to tow since it's basically a rockpile, but we can use that to our advantage since it would allow us to easily access stable anchor points upon the spacecraft itself. And since it IS a rockpile, the loss of mass during the swing-by could even give us an additional boost. The downside is that we might lose data on when the spacecraft arrived in the solar system but I think we can bring a few onboard for the trip home for analysis. Zala and Daylon would have to manage the Laser Brooms and the EMAGs to keep the debris away from the Tsiolkovsky." The EMAGs that Glenn mentioned in this plan, or rather the Electromagnetic Acceleration Guns, were in effect kinetic impactors not unlike the conventional ballistic weaponry found within the militaries of the Earth Sphere. The only real difference was that the individual rounds are accelerated at a high velocity and that these velocities could be varied to meet with various debris threats and were strategically scattered across the Tsiolkovsky's hull for the very purpose of deflecting potential debris threats.

"And I'll assume that you have an idea on what we'll use for a tow line?" Ramius asked.

"If I remember correctly, there is enough spare carbon nano-tube cables so that the asteroid would only be about eight hundred meters behind the Tsiolkovsky and we wouldn't have to angle the thruster nozzles too far, using makeshift heat shields upon the cables themselves and a sloped shield upon the asteroid to make up the rest." Glenn then turned towards Yonders. "Can it be done?"

"I severely wouldn't recommend it, but it'll work." Yonders then added. "Barely."

"Let's not forget the acceleration stresses the Tisolkovsky, the cable, and the spacecraft will be experiencing during the gravity assist maneuver you got planned." Johnson noted. "The Tisolkovsky alone was only designed to resist the thirty Gees of acceleration from the Solid Fusion booster Rockets in a shallow curve, not for something this steep and especially without the additional mass of the asteroid."

"Then we'll have to reinforce key structural support throughout the Tisolkovsky with whatever materiel we can get our hands on." Glenn advised. "We have a micro foundry for the repair of the robots. It's small, but it should barely be enough to get most of the metal we salvaged from the asteroid. Naturally it should be temporary since they're only there for the initial acceleration phase."

"And what about the ReMass tree?" Amalfi warned. "That deep into the Jovian thermosphere would surely burn them off, if not causing them to explode due to the heat, let alone the antennas and sensors."

"We'll have to roll the Tisolkovsky on its side so that we don't risk damaging them and we'll have to retract the antennas and armor up the other sensors. We'll be blind once we enter the swing-by, but it's a momentary blindness compared to the potential loss of sensors for the rest of the trip." Glenn then looked at the rest of the crew. "We can do this; we can pull off this miracle."

"Doesn't mean we have to like it." Maxwell argued.

---------------

Nearly sixty hours had passed and the crew of the Tisolkovsky had readied both the interplanetary spacecraft and the biomechanical vessel for transport as best as they could for the highly risky maneuver proposed by Glenn. The success of the gamble would be the safe return of the entire crew and the alien derelict to the Earth Sphere in a timely manner, failure would be a hellish decent into the Jovian atmosphere and a no-return sojourn into the interior of Jupiter.

Directly beneath SIC 1, SIC 2 and in strategic positions throughout the Tisolkovsky was Acceleration Pod Chamber for the crew to occupy while under the high acceleration of the Solid Fusion Booster Rockets. Within each Acceleration Pod was a full body rest harness, customized and liquid-proof computer controls that were easily accessed to the occupant as they lid within the harness, an oxygen mask to allow the occupant to breath in the liquid filled pod with a built-in microphone to allow communication with the rest of the crew that were also within the Acceleration Pod, and a Heads Up Display upon the glass window just within the cone of vision of the occupant. The Acceleration Pod utilized the nature of a specially engineered liquid medium to counter the calculated acceleration to a degree so that the occupant within does not suffer detrimental damage from high gees.

The crew has spent numerous drills, practicing the planned maneuver in virtual simulation until the procedures could be performed on near-instinct; a single mistake made by one of the crew within the Acceleration Pod would spell doom to all.

Once the crew has boarded their assigned Acceleration Pod, Glenn opened a communication channel to all. "Alright people, this is it. There are no second chances. You know what to do by know, report 'Go Flight' or 'No Flight'. Flight 1?"

"Go Flight!" Maxwell answered.

"INCO 1?"

"Go Flight!" Hawke answered.

"Chief 1?"

"Go Flight!" Durandal answered.

"Guidance 1?"

"Go Flight!" Ramius answered from the Communication and Astrogation, or Comast, Acceleration Pod Chamber.

"System 1?"

"Go Flight!" Joule answered from the Comast Acceleration Pod Chamber.

"Prop 1?"

"Go Flight!" Yonders answered from the Engineering Acceleration Pod Chamber.

"ECM 1?"

"Go Flight!" Jesek answered from the Life Support Acceleration Pod Chamber.

"EE 1?"

"Go Flight!" Yamato answered from the Engineering Acceleration Pod Chamber.

"Cells 1?"

"Go Flight!" Leitner answered from the Life Support Acceleration Pod Chamber.

"Doc 1?"

"Go Flight!" Rogan answered from the Life Support Acceleration Pod Chamber.

"Payload 1?"

"Go Flight!" Zala answered from the Payload Acceleration Pod Chamber.

"Padro 1?"

"Go Flight!" Samuel answered from the Payload Acceleration Pod Chamber.

"MMACS 1?"

"Go Flight!" Jorje answered from the Payload Acceleration Pod Chamber.

"Senior Crew all reports Go Flight!" Glenn stated for the onboard data-recording device. "MCOM 2?"

"Assistant Crew all reports Go Flight!"

"All Crew report Go Flight, maneuver is a go!" Glenn stated as the crew began to fulfill their assigned and well drilled roles for the maneuver as Maxwell and Johnson jointly maneuvered the Tsiolkovsky towards the pre-calculated vector for the gravitational assist maneuver with Jupiter. The timing and execution of each step was life gambling crucial.

Excruciatingly soon enough, the interplanetary spacecraft and its towed cargo reached the calculated point in the orbit and the Solid Fusion Booster Rockets were timely ignited. The booster rockets, in addition to the slingshot effect of the swing-by maneuver accelerated the Tsiolkovsky near thirty-five gees of acceleration despite the drag from the jovian clouds below. Upon the asteroid, large chunks of the rockpile broke away and burned into the alien depths below, revealing more and more of the biomechanical vessel.

The planned and calculated maneuver took over three hours and twenty-eight torturous minutes of just the Jovian atmosphere alone as the slightly charred Tsiolkovsky and alien vessel were catapulted out of the steep gravitational well of Jupiter and into interplanetary space. With the sensors fully deployed, Hawke reported "We're clear! Now on a Hohmann trajectory back to the Earth Sphere!" The rest of the crew cheered in jubilation, glad that the worst challenge of the entire mission had just past. However, it'll be some time before they can evacuate themselves from the Acceleration Pod and innovate new ways to occupy the next seven years on this interplanetary cruse back to the Earth Sphere.

---------------

When George Glenn concluded the return sojourn to the Earth Sphere on the twenty-ninth year of the Cosmic Era calendar with the strange biomechanical spacecraft, it was dubbed "Evidence 01". Its existence along with abandoned, technologically advanced ruins upon the red planet first found by the one of many Naturals decades later, allowed for the bans against "excessive" genetic engineering to be lifted and the era known as the Coordinator Boom had begun. Some might argue that it was a golden age of human ingenuity and innovation while others would counter that it was a fall from grace not unlike the archangel Lucifer.

Yet, to the galaxy at large, the spacecraft was an ill omen to any sapient species. The spacecraft humanity has called Evidence 01 was but one of many who sleep in the dark corners beyond civilized space, whose truth known to all but a few as fanciful fairy tales of a bygone era. Those who knew the truth of the spacecraft's origins gave them a different name, one that inspires fear and woe to those who truly understood the gravity of the term.

They were known as "Reapers"….

-------------(Story End)----------------

And that'll be my submission. And yes, I know that my attempts at suspense are... sub-par at best. I have little, if any, experience with such storytelling.

Credit to the crew design, and subsequent explanation, goes to the Atomic Rockets website.
Though he may have his flaws and faults, he was a husband and a father without equal. May the Angels welcome and accept him with open arms.

Rest in Peace, Dad

"If I had seen farther than others, it has been by standing on the shoulders of giants." - Sir Issac Newton

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