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Phantasy Star Zero

Chapter 1: Colony Ship TCS-347


SC 337.01 / EY 1873 / BW 212

Stephen Ossale fell onto the titanium flooring, vomiting up cryogenic oxygen solution, his lungs purging themselves of the now unnecessary liquid. His ears were ringing, and he attempted to stand, staggered, and fell knee first into a puddle of puke from one of the other awakening crew members. Dazed, unsure as of yet who he was and where he was, he quickly glanced around, wild-eyed. What was going on? Why did his ears keep hearing that incessant ringing? Something in the back of his mind awoke, and he realized that it wasn't his ears ringing. Those were warning klaxons!

This thought led to many others, and within a few minutes Captain Stephen Ossale stood up and remembered. It all came rushing in at once, so fast that the confused shouts of the rest of the crew and the warning sirens became merely ambient noise. He was the captain of a colony ship, one of the first to attempt to use the dangerous hyper drive system to colonize the stars. Their destination was the Andromeda Galaxy, but the ship’s computer was instructed to attempt another hyper drive if no habitable planets had been found. That meant... the mission was a success! He stood erect, giddy with excitement and still some melting confusion, and strode as fast as he dared on unsteady legs toward the bridge. He had to sidestep several recovering colonists, and noticed with sudden consternation that some of the cryogenic pods were filled with bones; the cryogenic life support system was apparently not as flawless as originally promised. Well, he had survived, and below decks, in the massive colony pod, ten thousand desperate volunteers still slept in stasis, ready to be awakened when planet fall was actually made. Recalling the failed cryogenic pods, he fervently hoped as few of the actual colonists as possible shared that same fate. Absentmindedly he wondered whether or not they were still in cryogenic sleep when they died.... he shivered the unpleasant thought away as he finally reached the bridge. It was small but functional, more box-shaped than anything else. There was a blank viewscreen, but no actual windows of any kind. Images and data of the new system would be transmitted by cameras and sensors mounted on the ship's exterior.

The warning klaxons were still blazing in his ears, and judging from the disoriented shouts behind him, were panicking the still confused crew. Operating controls more on trained instinct than actual memory, he called up a full ship diagnostic on the viewscreen, and almost jumped from shock; the TCS-347 had barely survived her journey. A quick glance at the data showed that only seventy-two percent of the colonists were still alive below, and the colony pod’s structural integrity was at sixty-four percent! The feeble sublight engines were barely functional, and the ship was caught in the gravitational pull of the solar system's star. Things were not looking good.

"Melissa! Melissa!” he yelled, not really remembering who she was or why he needed her, only that he did. A lithe woman with short blonde hair half crawled into the co-pilot's seat aside his, and only then did Stephen realize that he was still standing. He quickly sat down in the Captain's chair, and turned to look at her. She returned his gaze silently. In a moment of brief self-consciousness, he realized that he must be a mess. His medium length brown hair was probably sticking in all directions, and his face and certainly his jumpsuit must be covered in bits of vomit. He was pouring sweat, and felt weak and limp. He was of average height, and at least before the mission had been in good physical condition. The cryogenic system was definitely hell on the body, Stephen decided.

"Melissa," he spoke, croaking slightly,” we’re caught in the gravitational pull of this system's sun. Our ship is barely staying together and engine power is almost nil."

"Not to worry," she replied, coughing a little, then spitting into some corner of the bridge,” I’ll reroute power from life support to engines and get us out of here-"

"LIFE SUPPORT?" Ossale exclaimed, interrupting her, “but the colonists-"

It was her turn to cut him off," With all due respect, sir, according to the data readout, roughly a third of the colonists didn't make it. The compromised hull integrity involves a series of small hull breaches near sectors three and two of the colony pod, however I’m reading various cryogenic pods with zero life signs throughout the entire colony module. The ship is still trying to supply power to the cryogenic pods of the dead colonists. If I reroute that power to impulse engines, we might just have enough."

Stephen sighed, “Ok, then, let's do it." He was greatly relieved he thought to call for her. His job was making command decisions, not technical ones. Melissa Maxim was one of the best pilots in the entire Terran Federated Alliance. Still, her casual disregard for the dead was extremely unsettling. They seemed to be just facts to her. Hull breaches…the lack of pressure must have compromised the local cryogenic life support system for those two sections. Good thing the colony pod was compartmentalized or it would just be his crew of twenty or so trying to create a new colony….

After a few minutes, the ship began rumbling slightly, and the sirens died away. The confused shouts of the rest of the awakening crew had also quieted down; he hoped they all remembered whom they were and were now going about their various duties. He offered a silent prayer for those that didn't make it, and another one for the ship's immediate survival.

His concerns were unfounded, however, as under Melissa's gentle yet expert touch, the TCS-347 gradually broke free from the sun's tenuous gravitational grasp and made for the first habitable planet in range.

"Wait...," Stephen couldn't believe it as he perused the readouts of the upcoming world," It's a class ten planet!? That's.. that's amazing! What luck! Not only did we survive the trip to Andromeda, we found a pristine planet as good if not better than Earth!" He chanced a quick laugh. The training he had received before leaving Terra had him expecting some class three wasteland that needed massive terraforming to be hospitable. But a class ten! And they had survived! Barely, but still! He was almost euphoric from the realization. Glancing over again at his pilot, he was slightly disappointed that she showed no emotion. But then he remembered she never showed emotion. Relaxing again, he began checking on less critical diagnostics, and seeing exactly which crew members had survived. Hmm... only Johnson and Eulis had died. One was a tech and the other a science officer... well, he considered with a little guilt, he had more than one of each. Things should be just fine now! Now all that remained was to successfully land the colony module onto the paradise planet.

Something caught his eye in the corner of the diagnostic readout. Again, Stephen started, and it took him a moment to comprehend the implications. According to the ship's computer, the year on Earth was Eighteen-Seventy Three!!!! Back on Terra, the automobile hadn't even been invented yet! The World Wars of the nineteenth century had yet to occur! This sense of awe had him considering these facts for some time when he remembered his training again; the hyper drive moved many thousands of times faster than light, in fact their journey had only taken three years for them, but warping space also warped time, and always in reverse, never forward. At least until they figured out something more stable. Apparently, the farther the distance traveled, the farther back in time the ship traveled. Idly he pondered how far back in time the TCS-326 had traveled, as she was destined for a far distant galaxy across the universe. Probably back to the Mesozoic. He didn't exactly understand the mathematics behind hyper drive, in fact he doubted anyone truly did, even the experts. That's why he was told the success rate for this mission would be less than five percent. Why did he sign on for this again...? He couldn't remember. The TCS-326 probably hadn't made it... she was equipped with an experimental unit that should've helped with long-range hyper drive stability, but he highly doubted it worked.

Captain Stephen Ossale never knew how right he was. Of the first seven colony ships launched, only his had survived. The rest disintegrated in their highly unstable journey through hyperspace.

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