Chapter 2. Now and then
Marte was a similar size to Max’s home world but there was no life other than the researches. It was not always the case as the researches had found some fossils indicating that there was some sort of life on this red planet at some time in the past.
A few hours out from Marte Max’s work load increased as he had to slow the ship and make preparations for a stationary orbit over the research station. Only the transport ship would be landing, Toby and Max would stay in orbit for two days while the transport ship was unloaded of all its supplies and equipment. The incoming personal would be briefed on their work and the departing personal would prepare for the trip home.
But before the trip home two engineers had to be taken to the far side of the planet to repair an automated Early Warning Station. Toby and Max would escort the transport ship during this trip.
The transport ship lifted off Marte and set course for the other side of the planet. They stayed inside the atmosphere travelling at a relatively slow speed scanning the planet service as they went. This was part of a plan to map the surface of the planet in detail. Toby and Max followed their progress from orbit but it was slow progress.
About half way through their journey Toby increased speed with the intent of arriving at the Early Warning Station first. As he came up on the location his sensors could not detect anything on the surface other than debris. As he got closed he could see that the Station had been destroyed possibility by an astroid hitting it.
Toby took up a stationary orbit above the Early Warning Station or what was left of it, he turned his ship so that it was facing out into space, set all his sensors to maximum and radioed to Max.
“How long before you get here?” radioed Toby.
“Five minutes,” replied Max.
Toby directed one sensor beam towards the Early Warning Station and a few seconds later a warning sounded.
Toby radioed, “the Station was destroyed by an energy weapon.”
“Recommendations,” radioed Max.
One of Marte’s moons, known as Z12 was not that far away, which represented a blind spot in Toby’s sensor sweep.
“I’m going to have a look behind Z12,” radioed Toby.
“Wait till I get there, I’m only three minutes out,” replied Max, he then radioed the transport ship. “Jenson, land at the Early Warning Station and gather as much data as you can on its destruction.”
“What will you be doing?” asked Jenson.
“Toby and I are going to have a look behind Z12,” radioed Max, there was a pause before he continued, “if you don’t hear from us in two hours return to the Research Station.”
As Max arrived above the Early Warning Station Toby was not there.
“Computer, where is Toby?” Max asked the ships computer.
“He’s on a heading to Z12, two minutes thirty two seconds ahead of you,” replied the computer.
Max set course and followed Toby.
“Slow down and let me catch up, if there is something behind Z12 we will need to work as a team,” radioed Max.
“Your right, slowing,” replied Toby.
It would take about twenty two minutes to get to Z12 so Toby and max had time to work out what to do. They decided to fly under Z12 close to the moon’s surface. As they emerged from under Z12 they turned on their sensors but they did not need sensors to tell them there was an Alien ship in orbit. It was enormous and its shape was hard to make out due to its colour, it blended in to the back ground space.
As per his training Toby radioed, “this is the space defence ship,” but before he could continue the Alien ship fired on them, hitting both of them but their defensive shields held.
Toby and Max both then took evasive action but to no avail the Alien ship fired again hitting both of them.
“The next hit will destroy us,” warned the computer in Max’s ship.
“Any ideas,” replied Max.
“We are too predictable, we need to be more random, go full manual,” said the computer.
“What,” replied Max as he bushed the full manual button.
He lost all control of the ship as the Alien fired again missing Max but hitting Toby and destroying his ship. Max did not see this as he was experiencing extreme g-forces as his ship darted all over the place completely out of control. The Alien fired again but missed, max pushed the full automatic button and the ship came under control. He lined up on the Alien and fired all weapon systems before bushing the full manual button again. The ship again went completely out of control as the Alien fired again and missing by a tiny margin.
Max did not expect to do any damage to the Alien ship with his weapons but he must have hit something vital as the Alien ship exploded sending debris and a shock wave in all directions. Max struggled against the
g-forces to press the full automatic button doing so just before the shock wave and debris hit. Systems started failing all over the ship as it was thrown at high speed into open space. The last thing Max could remember was the computer saying, “activating cryogenic system.”
Max and his ship were now travelling at high speed out into uncharted space. His ship was badly damaged and he was in cryogenic suspension. The self repair systems worked around the clock slowly repairing the ship but it took a long time. The small robots worked to a pre determined priority list, repairing the ships integrity first, followed by operating systems.
The ship was still loaded with items destined for the research station, among them being a large number of small robots. This helped speed up the repairs but it was still slow going. Raw martials were gathered from the debris field to repair the ships hull and once the ship was structurally sound the small robots turned there attention to the operating systems.
It was a long time before the ships clock was repaired and time since the battle could be recorded. It took many more years before the ship was repaired to close to full operations. There were still some systems not working but without resources they could not be repaired. One of those systems needed some EL32 which was an integral part of the take of system. Navigation was one of the last systems repaired which meant the computer had no idea where they were. The computer could extrapolate back by the direction they were travelling but without knowing the time and speed they had travelled it could not work out how far it was to get back to where they started.
The computer would not wake Max from cryogenic suspension until a number of criteria were met. He would only be woken if; one, there was a planet near that could sustain his life or two, the ship was under attack.
An unknown time had passed with Max and his ship travelling at an unknown speed through space all the time getting further away from his home world, when the ship passed a planet. The ships sensors scanned the planet and determined that it could support life.
The ships computer activated the wake program in the cryogenic system and put the ship into orbit around the planet.
Waking Max from his cryogenic sleep was a slow process but after a few hours Max opened his eyes for the first time in a long time. It was another few hours before he could walk around and talk coherently.
After the computer brought him up to date and given the fact that the cryogenic system was a one use piece of equipment he ruled out turning around and heading back the way he came. And with no other planets in scanner range Max did not have a lot of options. Landing on the planet was a one way trip as without EL32 the ship would not be able to take of again.
He scanned the planet looking for the best location and after a short time found a suitable spot. He left the landing to the computer as he was still feeling the effects of all that time in cryogenic sleep. The computer executed the landing without fault and as soon as they had touched down a number of small robots exited the ship and took up defensive positions around the ship. The computer then scanned the area for any danger before saying, “the area is secure and safe for you to exit the ship.”
Max was still trying to take it all in, from his perspective it was only a few minutes ago that he had destroyed an Alien Space ship and now he was about to set foot on an Alien Planet. He saw no reason to leave the ship at this time, instead he asked the computer for a status report.
The computer started giving its report in great detail and after a few minutes Max interrupted the computer.
“Stop,” said Max, and then continued, “how long will it take for you to give your report?”
“Approximately Fourteen hours, three minutes, 45 seconds,” replied the computer.
“Lets cut to the chase, give me the survival problems in order of importance,” said Max.
The computer gave its report, “The planets atmosphere is 77% nitrogen and 20% oxygen which is close to what you are use to. There is a stream five hundred metre to our north, a small robot it checking it now, I am waiting on its report. There is a water purifier if needed. There is enough food for twelve months, I have ten small robots surveying the area for possible food sources. Going by the plant life I believe the weather will be within parameters for life. The ship can be used as shelter from the elements. The small robots defence barrier around the ship should keep any native animals out. I have sent small robots to survey an area of ten kilometres in all directions, as well as a team to survey further a field.”
“So with a bit of luck I should be alright for both the short term and long term as far as survival is concerned,” replied Max.
“Yes,” replied the computer.
“What about the ship?” asked Max.
“The ship requires repairs to,” but before the computer could continue Max said, “how long?”
“All repairs except for the trigger valve will be repaired in twenty nine days if the same number of small robots are used,” replied the computer.
“What about the trigger valve?” asked Max.
“Without EL32 the trigger valve can not be repaired and without the trigger valve the ship can not reach orbit,” replied the computer.
“Is there any EL32 on his planet?” asked Max.
“The small robot team surveying further a field are scanning for EL32,” replied the computer.
“How long?” asked Max.
“To survey the whole planet will take approximately four hundred days,” replied the computer.
“How much is needed?” asked Max.
“Twenty eight grams,” replied the computer.
“You can’t take it from somewhere else on the ship?” asked Max.
“No,” replied the computer.
“How long to repair the trigger valve once you have some EL32 asked Max.
“Six point two hours,” replied the computer.
“If they don’t find any, then this is home for the rest of my days,” said Max.
“Yes,” replied the computer.
“I will hear your full report at eight tomorrow morning, thank you computer, said Max.
“One more thing,” said the computer and then continued, “it may be a good idea to deploy the SDS.”
“Remind me just what is the SDS?” asked max then adding, “I must of missing that part of the briefing.”
“SDS stands for, ‘Surveillance Defensive System,’ when deployed it will give us sensor and video for up to one hundred kilometres around our position,” replied the computer.
“Yes, yes, deploy the SDS,” said Max.
Max climbed out of the ships cock pit and made his way to the ships recreation area. He sat down on a large soft lounge chair and wondered about his home world. Did he save the world? Or was it destroyed by the Aliens? What happened to his friends? Did Ralf live a long and happy life or did the Aliens kill him? For Max it was all just a few days ago but it more than likely all happened hundreds of years ago. Even if he could get back it would very different. He found himself overwhelmed by it all and wishing he had died like Toby in a ball of flames.
But the situation was, he was here and would have to make the best of it, he had shelter, food, water and so far nothing was trying to kill him.
Over the next few months Max settled into his new home, got into a daily routine and made the best of his life on this planet. The results of the survey of the surrounding ten kilometres showed that there were no native animals that presented a threat. Food was proofing to be no problem with a number of the plants being eatable. The ship was now fully repaired, except for the trigger valve, so it would not take long to get the ship fully operational once some EL32 was found.
Max was finding the isolation a bit challenging with only the computer to talk to and the pointlessness of life. He had great hopes that the small robots surveying the planet for EL32 would return with some, which would enable the ship to be repaired. Of course he had no where to go but the thought that he could go if he wanted to gave him some comfort.
After four hundred and thirty six days the small robots surveying the planet for EL32 returned. There was no EL32 on this planet so Max would have to come to terms with life on this plant.
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