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PostPosted: Mon Aug 9, '10, 4:49 pm
Part 5: Ryucross

Looking confident once more, Freeman took a step forward, raised his hand and placed the Aeroprism in a socket built to power it up and pressed the appropriate controls.

The small relic started to glow and shot a beam of light through the ship's haul. Some of the crewmen were startled; a hull breach in space means death. But since the light revealed to be non-threatening, none of them panicked, they simply waited.

Colonel Sandy Ryan walked toward her husband. He was intensely staring at the main monitor while she did not give much attention to it. She preferred to watch him, confident that he was right and that Ryucross would be there, just as he said. She could not help but wonder what sort of trials would await them but she felt reassured by the idea that she would be with him to guard his life with hers.

"There it is!"

The captain's voice snapped Sandy out of her reverie. She first looked at the monitor and saw a beam of light emanating from somewhere. She quickly realized that it was the same one shooting from the Aeroprism. The beam of light stopped abruptly and a spherical celestial object slowly appeared at the end of the beam's course.

She looked at Freeman, he was still staring at the monitor, but his face was now showing a large grin of satisfaction.

In front of them appeared Ryucross. A planet much smaller than Algo's other planets. It looked like it was entirely made of glass and it reflected shades of blue, pink and yellow, as if it was made with quartz crystal.

Realizing that their planetary system had a fourth planet, the bridge crew was silenced by awe.

Freeman's voice finally broke the silence. "Helm, take us in closer, ¼ speed. Scan for breathable air. Also look for water and life sings, I want to learn everything I can before we take any other course of action. Try to determine if the gravity pull is sufficiently low so it would be possible to land a Nova supercruiser on that shiny ball of glass."

The captain's answer was fast. "With all due respect, general, Nova class ships are technically not designed to land." Freeman turned around to face the ship's second in command. The captain regretted her words almost as soon as the spoke them. The general's face however did not display any contempt. He answered her with a voice as calm as ever. "I do not need to be reminded of what my ships can and cannot do captain, just get me the information I ask of you." "The captain's voice was resolute but there was a note of shame. "Yes general, apologies general." Freeman smiled at his subordinate. "Unnecessary captain. As I was implying, if this planet has a small enough gravity pull, it should be possible to land. It will be tricky but nothing you and your competent crew can't accomplish I'm quite sure." The captain nodded.

A few seconds passed until the scanning results started coming in. The officer in charge of science readings started his report.

"Scanners show that the planet has a diameter of 1437 KMs. Its gravity is about 1/9th of Mota's, so it may indeed be possible to land if we find a large enough flat surface.” Freeman nodded: “We’ll make some if needed.” The science officer went on: “I however detect no trace of water or any signs of life on the planet but… what the…" Freeman looked at the officer. "Yes lieutenant?" The lieutenant's voice was hesitating but he kept on: "…according to those scans, Ryucross has no tangible atmosphere, which is understandable for a planet this small, yet, all scanners indicate more than sufficient amounts of breathable air." Freeman nodded. "It is the protector's influence." He explained. His crew looked at him with puzzled eyes. "I know some of you didn't study mythology much in your young years so allow me to enlighten you."

"From what we know", Freeman explained, "or what we think we know, the protectors are all that remains of the original race that created life throughout the Algo planetary system. According to the Esper manuscripts, only four protectors still exist on Ryucross. They possess powers that do not translate as technology and we cannot explain them with our current knowledge." The science officer spoke once more. "Scanners still indicate no life signs, general." Freeman nodded once more. "Of course. The scanners are programmed to look for life forms as we understand them. Lieutenant, conduct a geographical scan and tell me if there are any major structures."

As the lieutenant scanned, Freeman continued. "As for other life signs, know that Ryucross is not only inhabited by protectors. It undoubtedly hosts legions of creatures, servants of darkness. We will try and avoid them if at all possible." Sandy looked at him and immediately inquired. "Creatures such as the Darksides like the one Aaron Kurtz encountered on Gaira?" She asked with a calm and cool voice, aware that her question made a few of her crewmembers' skin crawl. "No." Answered Freeman. "The creatures found on Ryucross were created to keep the protectors from leaving their sanctuaries. They are not designed, like those on Gaira, to possess spirit but to wreak physical destruction. This is why I did not bring Espers here, but an army of competent soldiers, able to defend themselves where prayers would be useless." His crew was used to fighting pirates, the Palman military or even cultists, but the idea of fighting legendary minions of darkness clearly let them shaken. Freeman embraced them with a look. "If all goes well, we will not have to face them." Sandy quietly said to herself "We all know that nothing ever goes well when the Dark Force is even remotely involved…" Freeman feigned to ignore her, decided not to undermine the morale of his troops.

A few more seconds passed until the lieutenant reported. "General, scanners indicate four large structures. There appears to be a central building flanked by two towers, one on each side, distanced by approximately 30 KMs from the main building. The fourth structure is another tower, closer to the northern pole, 273 KMs from the central building." "One for each protector, just as you said the scriptures said." Colonel Ryan answered. Freeman nodded towards her and spoke. "Excellent. Captain, prepare to move the ships directly above the northern…"

General Freeman could not finish his sentence. A massive bolt of energy blasted from the planet's surface and struck the three Nova cruisers, violently rocking them in all directions as if there were mere toys. Most of the crew managed to brace themselves or hold their ground but many fell and some were grievously injured. As sparks of energy exploded from burning consoles and objects flew in every direction, Freeman's voice yelled orders, covering the growing chaos on the bridge of the Aeroprism.

"Red alert! Raise shields! Power up main weapons! Prepare to launch fighters! All scanners on, tell me what the hell is happening to my ships!" Captain Sardos's voice was calm, although she looked like she was trying to be everywhere at once. "General, shields are not responding. Weapon systems are down. Fighter bay doors are not responding. Scanners, however, still operate at 50% efficiency. The Hammer and Firestorm report suffering almost the exact same problems." As the crew of the three cruisers tried to regain control of their ships, a few minutes passed.

The energy bolt finally stopped and the three cruisers looked like they were drifting. The Aeroprism’s captain spoke again. "Engines are working at 25% efficiency, just enough to maneuver. Scanners report that the bolt came from the north hemisphere but not from one of the main structures." Freeman helped a young officer to get up and answered. "How long till we can fire the main guns?" Sandy Ryan was replacing the tactical officer who was lying unconscious on the bridge's floor, blood trickling from a wound on his forehead. She inquired on the computer and answered. "Impossible to tell general. We have no idea what just hit us, it's a type of energy we have never encountered." "Blast!" Freeman cursed. "We should have approached with our shields up." Sandy grinned. "If it makes you feel any better, this is the first really serious operation we conduct with fleet ships since the war. We're not exactly used to them." Freeman shook his head. "No excuses. And nevermind that. We need to go forward now. Are we moving at all?" Sandy nodded. "Yes general. We should be above the source of that beam within seconds." "Excellent." Freeman answered. "We will have to disable or destroy it if we want any hope of leaving this place." The ship's captain intervened. "General, we do not have guns and our fighter bay doors are not usable. What do you suggest?" Freeman looked at her and asked. "Are the regular cargo bay doors usable?" The captain interrogated her console. "Yes general, we can open them."

Freeman turned toward Sandy. She knew what he was about to say and to be honest, she was yearning for it. "Colonel, prepare your troops for ground assault."
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