Chapter 3: Arrival at Jadus
Jadus was a beautiful planet. The purple hues of its oceans reminded Captain Jarolds of the moons of Arashon. The main continent looked like an hourglass tilted and pouring an array of small islands. The poles were shrouded in a haze of white clouds that seamlessly faded into the clear atmosphere of the equator.
"God that’s a gorgeous planet,” said Lieutenant Amy Carington.
Jarolds just grimaced. Taking a seat at the helm, he called for a scan report. Lieutenant Mike Tebarr said, "We haven’t located any ships or debris around the planet. All communication satellites are missing as well.”
Muttering an inaudible curse, Jarolds ordered Tebarr to scan the planet.
Carington turned to Jarolds. "I wonder why we haven’t already built a colony here. The climate is about as perfect as any other habitable candidates, and the world is breathtaking.”
Jarolds grimaced and shrugged his shoulders. But he didn’t look to Carington… which she understood well from her years by his side. Jarolds had to know something he would not or could not share.
Carington walked to Tebarr and helped set scanning parameters. She launched several probes and relay satellites. It wasn’t long before an alert notified the officers of a relevant find. By the time Tebarr had brought in an image clear enough to discern, Carington had already turned to the Captain.
"We’ve found Rogue 7.”
The landing ships equipped on the Orion were not among the latest models. They were rugged and dependable. They had been around for half a century and well worth their cost. But there was one element to their design no one seemed to like.
Landing was rough.
Lander IV fired its final breaking rockets a mere hundred meters from the ocean. But the craft seemed intent on making a harsh landing. In the final second of decent, the crew grabbed onto braces with a sense of imminent disaster.
The ship crashed into the water and plummeted deep into the dark waters of Jadus. Immediately the cabin and passenger bay went dark, illuminated only by the dim, florescent blue lights that gave everyone an odd half-real look. The ship quickly lost its velocity until finally its plunge halted. Everyone remained quiet as the ship reversed and headed slowly to the surface. In an instant light poured back into the ship.
Carington called for an account of everyone’s status. Some were rattled, but everyone was fine.
Carington motioned the ship forward and the crew made their way to one of the islands scattered in this part of the world. Her destination on the console was the red blinking spot… which she equated to an island in a volcano rimmed archipelago halfway to the horizon.
The crew was required to keep their suits and helmets on when they left the ship and stepped onto the glassy shore. While the atmosphere contained enough oxygen to sustain them, there were other chemicals floating around that were hazardous.
The sand crunched under their feet. When Ensign Radock picked up a handful of it, his suit immediately sent an alarm warning him of the substance. Carington looked at him with concern, but Radock immediately smiled and waved.
"The sand is very sharp,” he said through the comlink.
Carrington surveyed the beach. The white and red sand seemed to soak up the dark water more quickly than it ought to. The large twisting trees seemed to bend over as if trying to greedily steal the water from the sand.
The scene was both exotic and disturbing. Carington had felt this way on several occasions. It was common to feel alarmed on an alien environment. She took a deep breath and suppressed the instinct to run with panic. Taking control of herself, she reminded herself that there was nothing to run from and nowhere to run to. She scanned the scene one more time before leading the team into the thick jungles. She noticed that the water was not so purple as it was dark blue from here… the hue from space must have been altered by the atmosphere.
The team of twelve wove their way through the alien jungle. There were few encounters with creatures. Almost all life was in the form of vegetation. The few creatures they ran across were comparable to insects. Most of the multi-legged creatures were armored with exoskeletons like insects… but many seemed to have less protected, almost fur-like exteriors.
Radock was amazed with all the creatures. Every time the team came across a colony of blue ant-like creatures, Carington had to literally command Radock to stay with the team.
"You’ll have more time later,” said Carington.
She envied Radock’s fascination. She felt all the beauty in this planet was its potential to mankind… what engineers and human colonies could do here. She did not really care about the fauna. She wished she could feel as excited and comfortable as the young exobiologist.
"There she is,” said Sergeant Burson.
The ship had not been built for landing. Like most interplanetary craft, it was built entirely for space. Burson was amazed that the hull seemed intact. He suspected the scene would not be so pristine when he got closer.
Carington said, "There won’t be any survivors, I’m sure. But be prepared to help anyone, just in case.”
The team hugged the rim of a small lake as they crossed the valley to the crash site. As he suspected, Burson found that the damage was more acute as he approached.
Burson said, "What was she doing here?”
"I don’t know,” said Carington. "The Captain only informed me that we had to find the ship and recover any information.”
Burson turned to his commander with a look of skepticism. "That’s all you know?”
Carington laughed. "I know it seems odd. But he wouldn’t talk to me. He wants me to think he’s just angry about this assignment—like he is with all other assignments. But I know there is something important about this… but it’s really hard to read him.”
She stopped when she noticed that Burson was no longer by her side. She turned back to find Burson staring intently at the wreck.
She pulled her pistol in instinctive alarm. Quickly scanning the area and finding nothing alarming, she said, "What is it?”
The others had pulled their weapons by now too.
"I’m not sure, Amy.” Burson looked at Carington, confusion written into his eyes.
Not moving, he said, "What ship are we looking for?”
"Rogue 7,” said Carrington.
Nodding, Burson switched his eyes to the broken vessel smashed into the alien soil. Turning to follow his line of sight, Carington scanned the hull. Her expectation caused her to miss it the first pass, but a moment later realization struck her.
She relaxed her grip on the pistol. The call sign of the fleet was followed by the ship’s name, miraculously unscathed: Rogue 5.