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saros five

PART ONE

After six whole days of rain, the cloud formation was beginning to break and disperse, revealing Saros 5's wondrous view of its sister planets; large spheres of differential size and colour silhouetted against a blanket of stars.

Sterne viewed the scene from the comfort of his living quarters, as the largest of the three planets continued to move through its orbital path to reveal a light-emitting mass of gas - a star, bright in all its glory, yet small in appearance, the centre of the force in which all the planets moved. The view impressed him, but his thoughts were elsewhere - of Earth, its natural air, the every day bustle of the busy city in which he had lived with his family.

Music carried through the air of his room soothing his senses and having obtained himself a drink from the dispense machine set within the wall, he continued to view the scene before him, allowing the sights and the soft orchestral music to wash over him, soothin away his tensions and anxieties.

At a single verbal command the lights went out allowing the light from Saros 5's star to filter through the windows, casting long shadows along the floor and wall of his room.

Sterne took a mouth full of his drink allowing its taste to linger on his tongue, before swallowing and allowing the liquid to gently burn his throat, pleasently, reminding him again of Earth and of home, and the nights he had enjoyed down his local with some of his mates.

His thoughts were interrupted by the door to his room sliding open.

Brent, another engineer and it seemed, only friend entered. He paused momentarily in the doorway as his eyes became acustomed to the dark interior. He saw the starlit figure of Sterne standing, looking out at the view.

Brent moved over to the table, centered within the room, the door closed fast as he sat down and took a swig from the can of coke he was carrying: as Sterne had just finished his shift, Brent was about to go on and therefore found it unwise to allow himself the two units of

alchohol that each crew member was allowed when they were off duty.

'What's on your mind?' he asked.

Silence followed.

Sterne didn't acknowledge the fact that Brent was there and continued to stare out at the barren landscape that lay beyond the boundries of the base and the total contrast of the night sky.

Brent, however was a friend and knew what was bothering him: Sterne was beginning to miss his wife and kids back home on Earth, something which wasn't easy to discuss with anyone as it was strict Company policy that all personnel were unattached as insurrance premiums were too high to payout in the event of accident or loss of life - but like everybody else, Sterne needed the money and therefore needed to keep such information quiet, or it meant instant dismissal and a heavy fine and the bounty for this job was just too good to miss out on. Nothing exciting ever happened here, he thought, and a little excitement was what he needed right now. People had begun to notice his moody behaviour and found him to be unapproachable.

Brent was about to speak but Stene anticipated this and cut in, 'I know, you don't have to say anything.'

'Look, Sterne, you've got to lighten up. You're going to have to forget about the folks back home or someone's going to find out.'

'It's easy for you to say, Brent.'

'Not as easy as you think.'

Sterne turned his head slightly to face Brent. 'You too?' he asked.

'Well, not quite - almost.' Leaving his half empty can of coke on the table, Brent moved over to Sterne's side and pulled out his wallet from his overals that he was wearing and from it produced a photograph of his girl-friend and their son.

'Your wife?' asked Sterne.

‘Not yet, we were due to get married when this job came up, and like most I needed the money. Sam will almost be nine now.’ Brent put the photograph back and smiled, patted Sterne firmly on the back and said, ‘Come on, lighten up, we've only got another three days on this lump of rock and we'll be on our way home.’

Sterne smiled. In one way it pleased him that he wasn't the only one thinking of their family nor the anticipation of going home on the next shuffle. He turned back to the window at which point something caught his eye: ‘What?’ he exclaimed and leaning against the window he stared into the darkness beyond.

There it was again.

What appeared to be a burning lump of rock pierced the darkness descending towards the surface of the planet and upon impact, it sent debris into the air.

‘A meteor?’

Brent stared hard out of the window. ‘Where? I can't see…’ He was interrupted at the sight of another as it cut through the thin atmosphere of the planet, down towards its surface.

‘It's not often there's a meteor shower on Saros 5,’ said Sterne as they watched more meteorites fall to the ground, too numerous to count but one thing that they were both clear about, was that they appeared to be of equal size and each had a bluish glow about them as they entered the planets atmosphere.

They watched as one of the meteorites hurtled towards the planet and hit the edge of the landing platform, the impact of which shook the whole base. The can of cake fell to the floor and both Brent and Sterne had to steady themselves as they grabbed each other by the arm as an explosion ensued from the impact.

The lights in Sterne's quarters flickered as did all the lights on the base and within seconds an emergency siren sounded throughout the complex. The base was now on full alert. The sound of running could be heard passing his door as other crew members made their way to their emergency building up within him.

Brent moved to the door which slid open. He turned to look back at Sterne who continued to look out as the meteorite fall came to an end.

‘Well?’ shouted Brent, ‘What are you waiting for? Isn't this the excitement you've been waiting for?’ and with that, Brent ran out into the corridor towards the action, ducking beneath the metal beams that formed the structure of the base.

Sterne turned, and followed.

Within moments, Brent and Sterne arrived at one of the airlocks to the surface of the planet. They quickly readied themselves to embark on their exploration of the damage to the landing platform.

Brent grabbed one of several oxygen masks that were enclosed in small lockers near the airlocks and handed it to Sterne, who took it, and in turn checked that the pack that the mask was connected to via a series of tubes and wires were okay.

‘Did you see the bluish glow on those things?’ asked Sterne.

Brent was already thinking about the meteorites and was keen to investigate them than rather see what damage the platform had sustained by their impact. But he knew that the repairs were important. ‘We can check that later,’ he said and keyed in a sequence on a panel which opened the door into the airlock.

Once kitted up with their oxygen masks and various pieces of equipment needed for the repairs, they both stepped into the airlock. A red light flashed all around them, as it had done since the emergency began. As the door closed behind them, a second door opened to reveal to them the harsh, rough landscape of Saros 5.

~~~

There was a light drizzle in the air as the last of the clouds finally dispersed. The sodden ground was quite hazardous to maintain their balance as they made their way across the planets surface towards the platform. It was clear to them that it was easier to walk as they came across a land vehicle bogged down in the mud and which had been abandoned by other crew members when the rain fall came.

They both made their way towards the platform surface cautiously, stopping every once in a while to check their surroundings. Even though the platform was only yards away it seemed like miles as they trudged their way through the muddy landscape.

Brent looked ahead of them, and could clearly see, from the other lights that were still working that the damage wasn't as bad as they had first thought, judging by the impact. They could quite clearly see that several of the landing lights were completely gone altogether. They both climbed several steps to the platforms surface and could see exactly where the meteor had hit. Large chunks of twisted metal hung over the edge, a small fire burned amongst the debris scattered around them and sparks fizzled from the wires and electronics that the impact had revealed.


Brent peered over the edge of the platform his foot slipped and Sterne instinctively grabbed him by his suit, preventing him from falling over the edge. ‘Look!’  cried Brent. He indicated below them. An eerie blue glow had caught his attention which was emitting from beneath the platform. Sterne removed a set of binoculars from one of his packs strapped to his side and through them he could see the blue emission clearly.

‘What can you see?’ asked Brent.


‘Not sure, whatever it is, it's either behind some rocks or buried beneath the surface.’ Sterne paused as he studied the view a little longer. ‘The glow appears to be more of a pulse. Like a heart beat?’ he suggested.


‘Here, let me take a look.’ Sterne handed Brent the binoculars. ‘yes, I see what you mean but wait, it's stopped!’ declared Brent.


Sterne snatched back the binoculars and quickly focusing he viewed the landscape beneath them. He scanned the area from left to right and back again, but could see nothing. ‘Whatever it was had gone.’ he said.


‘Come on, let's take a closer look!’ shouted Brent, who was already making his way down a ladder, down towards the surface of the planet beneath the platform.


Sterne replaced his binoculars in his side pack. Well, this is different from the usual routine, he thought and quickly followed Brent.



~~~