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Phantasy Star Zero

Chapter 2: Planet Fall

SC 337.01 / EY 1873 / BW 212

After almost two weeks the TCS-347 was finally in orbit around the class ten planet. Scans had shown there was also a class six desert planet, and a class four ice ball, but those could always be colonized and terraformed later, Stephen thought almost greedily. Oddly enough, there were no gas giants, or molten rock planets orbiting close to the sun. Having only three planets in the solar system, and all of them habitable, was highly irregular. He was no Astrologist but that much he did know. Something was special about this solar system... he just had a suspicion. Naturally, Stephen didn't share these particular thoughts with the rest of the crew, but he figured several of them also shared his feelings.

The time to enter planet fall was near. The TCS-347 was about as aerodynamic as a rock, but part of the ship was never meant to enter the atmosphere. The Colony pod was equipped with a limited shielding system and a thruster network that would protect the pod during the fiery descent into the planet's atmosphere, and guarantee safe landing. Both systems seemed to be functioning normally, and fortunately were not seriously damaged during their tumultuous hyper drive journey.

The green planet had three continents, all separated by thin rivulets of ocean where they came closest together. Gregory Young, his Chief Science Officer, had provided detailed information about their new home. Scans indicated the land was fertile and biosign forms were off the chart. Apparently the planet followed an almost even circular orbit around the sun, and the axial tilt was only one degree, meaning very mild seasons. There weren't even frozen icecaps! The average temperature was a balmy twenty-six degrees Celsius, and gravity was only point-six percent less than Terra's. This was almost too good to be true. There must be a catch to all of this, Stephen mused to himself.

There was no intelligent life, at least on this planet, as there were no incoming transmissions of any bandwidth, and no recognizable sentient habitats.

A planet such as this should eventually develop intelligent life, as Young blatantly pointed out the day before. Well, Stephen Ossale decided that intelligent life was coming to this planet whether it was ready or not. Young had also informed him that there was some sort of anomaly on the Northwestern continent, but could not determine what it could be, and visual scans showed nothing extraordinary. Without knowing exactly why, Captain Ossale found this information unsettling.

A name for the planet had still not been chosen, and it was decided by Stephen that once the remaining colonists awoke then a name would be voted upon. His crew had encouraged their Captain to name the planet, but he was not a vain man and hated that kind of responsibility. Assuming he ever had a wife and children, she would get to name them.

After finishing the last preparations for colony pod separation, he and the rest of the crew clambered into the pod's cramped bridge and crew quarters.

"Are we ready?" came the calm, almost monotone voice of Melissa. Stephen found it very reassuring at this point.

"Yes," he declared in a commanding tone,” Disengage." Melissa quickly pressed a few buttons and pulled a lever, and suddenly the universe seemed to drop. Had anyone been standing, they would have dropped to the floor, but everyone was following protocol and strapped or buckled into something. Stephen’s stomach seemed to try and leap up his throat, but the sensation quickly passed as the colony pod stabilized itself under its own power. The seemingly huge green and blue planet filled the viewscreen, and rapidly became larger..

"Engaging atmospheric shields," Melissa said. Stephen just watched, occasionally checking a diagnostic or two, or glancing around to make sure the rest of the crew was doing what they were supposed to. Suddenly a shockwave rocked the pod, and a crimson light began emanating from the front of the ship. The glow quickly spread and thickened, and the ship jerked and shook like a baby wrestling a toy. Ossale stared at the shield diagnostics, making sure they held. The rocking became worse, and Stephen almost became panicky remembering that the structural integrity of the pod was compromised by almost a third. However, a reassuring glance from Shea Keller, the chief engineer, helped calm his nerves. He was surprised to find himself thinking that if the pod did disintegrate in the atmosphere, at least he got a good look at Shea's well-shaped chest. Even through her jumpsuit her assets managed to make every male in the room uncomfortable regardless the gravity of the situation. Shea had long, green hair, dyed of course, and a figure that would make any supermodel jealous. She was the rare package of both beauty and brains, and had only remained single through her love of engineering. It was said that even though she dated men, her true passion was for engines, machines, and spaceships. What a waste...

Ossale stood up a little straighter. Unprofessional thoughts did not cross his mind often; maybe it was a subconscious reaction to the fear he felt through this chaotic descent. Yes, that must be it. He gulped.

Suddenly the pod shook as if struck by a great fist, and red light filled the cabin. Another alarm, higher pitched than before, began wailing. Holding onto the armrests of his command chair with a white-knuckle grip, Stephen instinctively began shouting, trying to make himself heard over the deafening alarm and jolting of the colony pod.

“Maxim! What the hell is going on?” he had to almost scream the words to make himself heard.

“We’ve had a partial shield failure,” even her normally even voice was panicky,” we need to reroute more power!”

“We don’t have any more power!” This time it was Shea, frantically punching buttons and tapping com-boards, “I’m compensating by rerouting shields to the weakened areas, but I don’t know if it’ll hold!”

The shields were designed to surround the ungainly colony module with a relatively aerodynamic, protective shell during atmospheric re-entry. Losing part of the shields was like an aircraft losing a wing, and the colony pod was beginning to turn on its side, exposing the widest part of the craft to the deadly high-altitude friction.

“Shields are down to fourteen percent!” Melissa snapped, trying in vain to keep the descending pod steady, her hands in a death grip around the controls.

“No good! We have to rotate the remaining shields!” Stephen bellowed, not needing to elaborate. Shea hastily nodded, even though she was probably already making sure the shields were projected where the friction was at its worst.

“Five percent!” Melissa again.

“Almost through!” Stephen yelled, “just a few mores seconds!”

Sure enough, the crimson glow faded as the thrusters began to kick in. The slowly rotating colony pod righted itself and Melissa brought the module back on course. The shields finally wore themselves out, but they had done their job. Barely. Breathing a sigh of relief, Stephen looked up to see their intended destination: of the three continents, he had chosen the biggest, and nearest the equator. It would also be relatively near to where the other two continents all came close together. Gregory Young had pointed this location out as being potentially the best, and presented a wide variety of facts as to why. Stephen understood most of them but felt just about anywhere but the oceans or mountains would do. Or nearby the anomaly, of course. Whatever it was.

The rest of the crew were slowly recovered from their ordeal, and Shea was dripping in sweat. Young was positively shaking. Only Melissa, concentrating on guiding the colony pod to its destination, seemed unperturbed by the near-fatal atmospheric re-entry.

As the verdant fields of green, gentle rolling hills, picturesque forests and streams gradually came into view, the crew had calmed down almost completely. The pod slowed, and began rumbling again, but this time at a higher pitch. Stephen felt a strange tickling in the back of his mind. He quickly looked around and saw confused looks on the faces of his entire bridge crew; even the stoic Melissa was frowning. Was something wrong? He hastily glanced back at the diagnostics, but everything was exactly as it should be.

The landing was smooth, with only a small jarring to announce the actual landing. Automatically, the hull of the pod peeled away like the petals of a flower, creating a makeshift habitat for the new settlers. The hum of the thrusters slowly died down, and then stopped completely.

"The colonists are being awakened," Melissa finally said after a moment of silence. It was almost anticlimactic. Against all obstacles they had finally made it, and all anyone could do was simply look around in amazement, as if in a daze.

"Ok, then..." for the first time, Captain Stephen Ossale was speechless. He felt he should say something particularly memorable appropriate to this historic moment, but could only mutter," I guess we should disembark."

Mentally slapping himself in the forehead, he followed the rest of the crew single file, down through the colonist's cryogenic pod storage. Already there was the same coughing, vomiting, and confused rambling and shouting that he himself had experienced. He shivered slightly, remembering his own unpleasant experience awakening from cryogenic sleep. Hopefully later colony ships had improved technology where freezing humans alive was concerned. Carefully he stepped through the dazed colonists, ignoring the few pods hew saw out of the corner of his eye that had remained shut. The corpses inside would stay there for now. Nearly three thousand of them...Ossale trembled again and forced himself to walk toward the exit.

Before he knew it, he had stepped onto alien soil. He was not the first; several crew members preceded him, but he didn't care. Stephen Ossale took a deep breath of fresh air, and it made him almost lightheaded. Gone was the heavy, polluted air of Terra. Gone was the stale, recycled air of the colony ship. He felt euphoric.

Everyone had been inoculated with a specific, beneficial nanovirus that would protect them from local bacteria and disease, as well as a genetically-engineered bacterium residing in the digestive tract that would allow the colonists to consume local food and water. Both capable of multiplying, these essential microscopic allies would be passed down to any offspring the colonists had. Ironically enough, Stephen mused, both had been developed to help humans survive on their polluted, diseased home world. At the time of their launch, a solution to Earth’s problems was promised, but somehow Stephen doubted he would be here were that true.

Pushing the unpleasant images of Terra out of his head, Ossale turned and simply stood, basking in the majestic beauty of this unspoiled world. The grass and the trees seemed to beckon to him. Everything was just...perfect. However, that damn tickling sensation in the back of his head just would not go away...

There was little celebration. Everyone knew they had a lot of work to do setting up the colony pod into a proper makeshift habitat. The theory went that the central pod was to eventually become the hub of the colony, presumably even part of its Capitol when other settlements were later founded. But first things first; better see to the habitat.

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