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Spacehounds' Episode II “We Looked Up, and the Stars Called”


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“We Looked Up, and the Stars Called”



End of Winter 2099, Paris France, Earth

Headquarters of the ISC


Jassel Courdeer, Senior Councilor of the ISC, flicked through the reports and recommendations from the advisory board. The Polaris 2 was all but finished and her flight trials were scheduled to begin next month with a tentative launch date for her historic mission on January 1st, 2100. And they had not yet  finalized the crew.


He skimmed Dr. Greigg’s summation of the original Polaris’ crew and his judgment that all of them were sound. Then the suggestions of the board for a crew which excluded everyone but Dr. Langlois, and even then, her inclusion was with reservations about the possible loss to the overall scientific project if something were to happen.


Courdeer shut off the reader and turned the chair to look out on the campus sprawled below. All good points. It made sense not to send those who had returned from the first improbable journey, but at the same time, He found that  their miraculous return and the discoveries they had made to be all the reason to include them. That and other suspicions.


His mind made up the decision was after all his, to accept or reject the recommendations, with his authority he could assign the three little pigs and red riding hood if he wanted and no one could say no.


“Margaret,” He called out after turning back to his desk. His voice activated the direct link to his assistants  comms implant.


“Schedule an interview with the original crew for tomorrow morning and clear my itinerary for the rest of today, then get me Dr. Griegg.”

“All of them, sir?”

“Yes. Those still involved with the project, except Dr. Todd.”

“What about Miss Dawes?”


Courdeer frowned. Hmm, the medical technician had been essential to the survival of the crew on the original voyage but beyond that she had not been involved at all in the current project. As a reward the ISC was footing the bill for her advanced education. “Where is she in her schooling?”


“She graduated last fall and is serving her internship at a hospital in England.”


Where the armament testing was being conducted. “Is she and the soldier…”


“Yes sir.”


The Senior Council member steepled his fingers under his chin, “Better include her, make the arrangements to fly her over, please.”

“Yes sir, is that all?”


“That will be all for now, carry on.”



They, Ysuelt, Rachel, Ayato, Karen, and Carrie had been in each other’s company often during the last few years after all, except for Karen who was only here on ‘temporary’ duty, they all worked for the ICS in one way or the other. But this was the first time since their last awards presentation over four years before that all of them had been together for an official reason. A reason none of them knew.

After all the hellos and a brief period of catching up Margaret took them into the Councilors office where he stood and greeted them. After they were seated, he came around his desk to lean back upon the edge and crossed his arms.


“ Right, I shall get straight to the point for why I brought you all here. The Polaris II is finished and shall begin final flight trials in a few weeks. If she passes her trials, then preparations will get underway for her mission with a launch date of January 1st. That will give us six months roughly to train a crew. A crew, I will add, that we do not yet have.


That is why you are here. I think it appropriate considering all that has gone before that you lot have right of first refusal.


If offered, will any of want to join the crew of the Polaris II?”


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Life had been mostly kind to Ayato following the return, though there were some issues early on.  Still, the ISC had his contract, and as a veteran spacer, he'd head up several exploratory missions within the solar system for the ISC.  Never of a large ship, but he'd proven he had lost none of the skills he'd developed, and as before, every one of his missions were rated as being run with exemplary skill, and no complaints.

He had been happy to see everyone gathered together, and when Councilor Courdeer dropped his bombshell announcement, he smiled.  He looked to his crew, even now, he still couldn't think of them as something other than that, aside 'Friends"   and nodded.   

"Speaking only for myself, Yes, I'd like to be a member of the Polaris II's crew."  Admittedly he did find he wanted to be the Captain of this new ship, but they might have someone else in mind.  He wasn't keen on starting a power struggle before the ship was even ready.

"May I ask exactly what the mission of this new ship will be?  Clearly it's not just going to be a cargo hauler.   That is something I'm sure everyone would like to hear, to make their own decision."

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Courdeer shook his head, "No," he laughed, "not a cargo hauler. With the lid to the Pandora's box of interstellar travel thrown open, there is no stopping people from going out there. Already companies like Coriolis, Transcon, Epherite, and others are offering kits to convert ships already built to Sub-space ships. They are based on the original engine and are not as efficient as what we here at the project have accomplished in such short time. Even so, we have seen settlements rushed to the tri worlds at Proxima, eleven different nations are claiming territory there. Work outside the ISC is being done that will improve those engines and their own versions of the interface."


He paused to see if everyone was following him. "There are no laws governing this, no authority, yet to enforce those laws. To answer your question, the Polaris II and her sister ships are going to be pathfinders. Each will be sent to a series of prospective stars to make initial surveys in order to determine whether follow up exploration is warranted. We hope that success of our pathfinders will spur governments to curtail the irresponsible drive to be the first and to grab the most.


Your voyage proved that we are not alone. therefore we must be cautious. Polaris will launch at the first of the new year the other four ships, each larger than Polaris will follow on over the next two years. We estimate that that those nations and corporations not working with the ISC are closer to six  to ten years before they will be able to launch a safe reliable dedicated starship. By then we hope to have establish precedent that others will follow.


Success of Polaris is necessary. Five stars with likely Exo-planets will be selected for the Polaris to visit and make initial surveys. before returning. of course there will be leeway. In many ways this voyage will be like the first voyages of discovery in our early voyages of world discovery."

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Ayato looked at him and nodded.  "To boldly go where no one has gone before."  It was a reference to a television show from over a century ago, but the show had fueled the imaginations of many, developing into a cult classic, and indeed, the very mission they were being sent on was quite similar.  He looked at his friends/crew, and then back to the Councilor.   "Well, I'd certainly say we've got experience there.  It'd be nice this time around to be a bit better prepared."

He didn't want to influence the others unduly, they all had lives, but he suspected Rachel and Yesult at the very least were already involved with the project, given their areas of expertise.   "The New Year launch date doesn't give us alot of time.  The ship must be nearly complete and ready for a shakedown flight."   It wasn't the first ship he'd run through such a flight, though he imagined this would be much more involved than any previous one.

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"The Polaris Deux, it is almost finished contruction, yes," the elegant French-Canadian woman said with a satisfied curve on her lips. She couldn't keep a note of pride out of her voice. The Polaris II was the first ship designed specifically for use with a sub-space compression drive, and she'd been instrumental in the construction of the drive and the design of the starship itself.  The sense of proprietorship over the starship was perhaps conceited to a degree, if not entirely unwarranted.


Yseult's dark eyes turned back to Councilor Courdeer, a furrow blooming on her smooth, pale brow as she gave hard thought to his question, a finger tapping her pursed lips. She had never intended a career actually out among the stars. And since coming back from her terrifying and fantastic voyage, her professional path was set more on the course she had envisioned. She was engaged in both theorectical and empirical research on sub-space compression drives and starship design as well as direct engineering on the same. She consulted with various companies on their retrofitting efforts on behalf of the ISC, including her previous employer, Coriolis Systems.


After her return and discoveries, including the revelation of her true contribution to the development of the gravimetric transducer that Jakob Schwartz had stolen credit on, Coriolis had been so dismayed at losing her to the ISC, they had dismissed Schwartz immediately. She had taken bitter, viciously delight in his professional downfall. A bit regretful he'd found a position at Epherite, though it was much lower than what he had held at Coriolis.


Five long years, and only now was her personal life settling back down to something akin to normalcy with a new emotional equilibrium. Her son, Loric, now fourteen and already taller than his father, though skinny as a rail, had adjusted the most easily and swiftly to her return from her presumed death. His acceptance had been a great balm while Yseult re-established the relationship with her family.


The relationship with her precious daughter, Monique, sixteen, was still slightly strained. The look on her daughter's face when Yseult had returned, as though looking at a stranger, still cut her deep. Monique had a mild form of Autism Spectrum Disorder and had some issues with social cues and communication, though otherwise had her mother's intelligence and a very fine artistic hand from her architect father. The disruption to her routine had disturbed Monique greatly and there was a still a reserve to the close relationship she had once had with her mother. But it was getting better.


As was Yseult's relationship with her husband Dionne. It was almost back to what it once was, though there was a haunting to it they both kept deeply buried. Yseult told herself that she didn't fault him for seeing another woman when he had thought her dead for more than a year, overwhelmed with caring for two children on his own and a single salary, though her insurance policy had eased the financial strain greatly. The insurance policy and her return had resulted in other issues that had taken longer to resolve than it should have, in her opinion.


Yseult told herself that, bit there was still a spike of resentment that Dionne hadn't waited longer. A spike that had dulled, but hadn't been worn away with his continued friendship with the woman, Vivienne. She couldn't in good conscious bar her husband from continuing to see the woman - she was sure Dionne wasn't cheating on her with the buxom blonde - and having met her, Vivienne seemed a genuine and pleasant person. Her children both liked her. But it still galled her that she felt like she was sharing her husband with another woman.


All that went through her thoughts as she considered putting everything in jeopardy to go out to the stars once more. She knew some of what was out there now. The yearning to find out more burned strongly now, to bring back discoveries that could elevate everyone, to see more of who, what, had come before them, and help lead her kind into the future...


It was an ache that could cost her everything.


Yseult dropped her hands to the side of her professional, charcoal grey dress, balling them into small fists as she took a deep breath. She nodded at the ISC Councilor. "Monsieur Courdeer, tentatively, I would accede and join the crew of the Polaris Deux, me, though I will have to be speaking with my family before giving a definitive answer you are understanding?"


Jassel Courdeer nodded, his eyes empathetic, though otherwise, his expression remained neutral. "Of course, Dr. Langlois, I would expect nothing else."


Yseult nodded curtly in reply. "Though there are other academics, researchers, engineers,  and VIs (virtual intelligences) to carry on our research, and I can understand the optics of collecting the crew of the original Polaris for the maiden voyage of its successor and humanity's first true starship, the ISC, is it having another reason for risking the institutional knowledge and specific skills I and Rachel are possessing, as well as Karen with her unique and singular bond with the Alien Artifact, being all on a single ship?" She flashed her crewmates and colleagues a quick, muted smile. "Not that there is being anyone else I would be rather flying with, bien sûr."

Edited by Asarasa
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Ysuelt saw the astonished look that flashed across Courdeer's face only for a moment before resuming his normal pleasant countenance. But that wasn't what cause her to catch her breath. In the space of time of that astonished look was a jumble of...images and feeling that were not hers. Meetings with people she didn't know and many she did now, high ranking members of the ISC, computer reports on her and the crew, images of video of her and her crew-mates telling their stories individually and together, Discussions of the complexity of the compression engine, and Rachel's Interface. Arguments.  The impossibility of the math that had to be redefined to make both understandable.


Ysuelt only kept from showing her own shock because this was not the first time she had such incidents although it was the first time of this magnitude and clarity. She had had similar flashes, mostly around her family and of much less things easily put off as intuition. She had spoken to no one of these flashes especially not the ISC psychologist


The councilor started to speak and stopped then nodded as if coming to some internal decision, “Yes there is a reason. I do not believe it was a coincidence that it was the Polaris and this crew that was taken on this journey. This is not a view shared by many but a few of us, believe you were chosen.

There are just too many coincidence to account for randomness in my opionion.


Yes, there I have said it now.”

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Ayato avoided actually chuckling at the revelation, that would have been quite rude.   He simply nodded.   "I'll admit, there have been times I felt that way as well.  We had the exact mix of knowledge and skills to handle the original incident, and everything that followed afterwards.   I believe that any other crew composition at the time would not have succeeded where we did."  He looked to each of them in turn.  "It was the sum of all our efforts that allowed us to succeed.  There is certainly great risk in the entire crew venturing out into the unknown again, but I believe the gains we could make, the knowledge we could bring back, to be worth it."

Ayato smiled,  "Having said that, we all must choose how we live our own lives.   I can understand anyone's decision to remain behind.   I would be happy to serve with any of you, or all of you on any ship, anytime."  It was a somewhat rare display of emotion from the Captain of the Polaris.   He was unsure of whether or not he'd helm this new ship, but he wanted to.   "Have you decided on who will to Captain the Polaris II, Councilor?"   

"I would respectfully submit my application, if you haven't."    It was one thing Ayato didn't do when he made a decision, he went with it.   He was aware that he didn't know the new ship like he had the original, but there was time, and likely he wasn't the only one who'd undergo intensive training if they agreed and signed on.


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Keeping his eye on Ysuelt but sparing a glance around the group, Courdeer gave a small smile, "Of course we have. It is my intention, if all of you decide to take this mission to have you remain in your positions with only the filling of a few new places and replacing those who decide not to return to space duty. As it is the mission has an expected duration of no more than twelve months."

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Yseult pinched the bridge of her nose, then let out a long, silent exhalation as she schooled her expression to smoothness. She was a woman of sound logic, science, and mathematics. While pure randomness and coincidence was almost always derived from previous events and as such, was anything but, if beyond the human mind to follow and calculate, she did not believe in 'destiny', pre-destination.


Which did mean these... 'insights' that went beyond mere intuition were troubling to her. She tried to tell herself that they were instead educated supposition, her subconscious mind connecting disparate facts into a possible whole she had no actual concrete way of knowing were factual. Considering the other issues she and her family had reason to speak with ISC psychologists and therapists, it was not something she'd been willing to bring up, especially if it risked her continuing work she greatly enjoyed and took vast pride in.


Yseult nodded at Ayato, offering him a faint smile, before turning back to Councilor Courdeer. "Bien, good. Twelve months, this is being good. My daughter, son, and husband, they may understand this."


It was much longer than the typical runs she'd taken on Polaris - barring their extraordinary incident, of course. But a year was not as long as she had thought the maiden mission on the Polaris II might be. With frequent communication, her relationship with her husband and children would hopefully stay strong during that time.


"As for us having been chosen..." Her faint smile turned into an equally reserved frown. "This we are agreeing to be disagreeing with, I am thinking. Without there is being more evidence. Perhaps chosen as subjects of opportunity, I can be seeing. I am admitting, after witnessing what is truly out there in the vastness between stars, I finding myself wanting to see what else may be out there, wondrous and terrifying as it may be."

Edited by Asarasa
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Dressed in her service uniform, Karen held her tongue, not so subtly keeping one eye on Carrie's reaction to all this. Constant contact with the armor the past 4 years had hammered home their survival and return hadn't been entirely on their own merits, far from it, so this venturing out back out into the void under the ISC flag... Felt right. And presumably the Corps had agreed to her going on this trip, so had their blessing. Still, things were more... complicated now in a distinctly unofficial way, something more than her own desire to see what the horizon looked like from the top of the next cliff face pushing her.


Dawe's face, in lovely profile, turned slightly, enough to allow the newly-minted MD to spot Karen watching her, and her lips quirked slightly before she gave The Minute Nod of Approval that Karen was learning to read almost like her rashes of deja vu.


"I'm in, Sir," she volunteered cheerfully, quirking her lips back, "Someone's going to need to keep your over-engineered tin can in the air, and the rest of the crew safe if we meet more carnivorous aliens."

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"I'll sign on as well." Cassie spoke rapidly as soon as Karen finished. Everyone glanced at her and she blushed, "Well we all started this together," she cut her eyes at Karen hoping no one else noticed, "we should all see it through."


The senior councilman suppressed a chuckle, "Wonderful, you will have a place on the ships medical staff and I will see to it that you get full credit towards your internship."


Rachel had sat in thought while the others had agreed, or at least partial agreed, after all she didn't want to appear too eager, but now it was time. "I also will volunteer.' She smiled, "I wouldn't miss it for the world."


"Good then it is all but settled," the councilman gave Ysuelt a nod, "You will have your orders and transfer to the training facility in Baikonur by the end of the week." He moves his head in a gesture that most are now familiar with, activating his internal communication implant, "Marion will you send in Dr Greigg, please." Almost immediately the door opens and the slight man all of them know, enters the office. He nods to them.


"Dr Griegg will be joining the mission as first contact specialist. His expertise in psychology and negotiation, we think will prove invaluable should any new civilizations be encountered. Once you are in Baikonur, you will meet up with the rest of the crew and commence training for the mission. I am very pleased to have all of you aboard. Would you all join me in a toast."


He stands, goes to his small bar and pours champagne for every one. When everyone has a glass he raises his and says, "To the future!"


After the meeting the reconstituted crew of the Polaris II agrees to meet for dinner that evening before returning to their homes to prepare.



Dr Greigg is played by Dozer. His character is a diplomat /psychologist . your characters know him because until recently he was you ISC assigned therapist.


I set up the dinner to give you some interaction time. If you don't want to do that let me know and I will move ahead.




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Once it was established they'd all be meeting for Dinner, Ayato asked Suzuka to make the arrangements.  It would be a nice dinner for all of them.   Graciously the ISC would foot the bill, in the name of teambuilding.   Ayato made his own preparations, dressing nicely, and Suzuka herself would be coming with him.    He imagined the others would be bringing their spouses, and they weren't sworn to secrecy.   While they'd be training together, this might be the last time they could all be together with their families due to the crash training they'd be doing.   

Once the two were ready, she drove the them to the restaraunt.   She'd managed to reserve a private room for them, one large enough to accommodate everyone who'd probably be coming, and Ayato smiled.  "Excellent choice."   

"I know you're a food snob."   

"The term is Gourmand."    

"Is, it?   Well the other fits you better sometimes."    She teased him, and he chuckled.   They were shown to the reserved room, and brought water,  waiting for the others to arrive.

"So you knew about the ship?"


Ayato smiled.  "I see."

"Are you mad?"  She seemed to be forcing a neutral tone.

"Not really.   I am happy.   After I came home, I wanted time to just enjoy the life I wasn't sure I'd ever enjoy again.   Now, when I was asked, all I could think was how much I wanted to go back, to explore again."   Ayato answered quietly.

"I'm glad you're not mad, it wasn't easy keeping it from you.  I didn't know if you'd take it, you all could have died out there." 

Ayato smiled when he answered.  "I wasn't sure everyone would rejoin, some of them have spouses, children and such.    Family can be a powerful motivator to remain against going on a trip like this."   He met her gaze.    "It's an even better motivator to come home from a mission like this."  

"That said, with your expertise, I'd me somewhat surprised if you hadn't been asked to come along."

Suzuka smiled at her elder cousin, and simply took a sip of her  water.

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The dinner went well and the old crew got reacquainted and caught up on old time. Dr Greigg had joined them but sensing a somewhat distancing from his new crew mates probably because of his role in their evaluations he opted to make an early night. The festivities went on into the next morning and a lot of liquor was consumed.


A little more than two weeks had passed when they arrived in Baikonur in Russia where their training for the mission would commence. The first order of business after being shown to their quarters was to meet the new members of the crew.


They met in a spacious briefing office in a square grey building that had been built in the middle of the last century and looked as if it had never been renovated. The room was drab inside just like the outside. The old Russian flag had been removed replaced by the new UN flag. There was a long table with chairs on either side and a modern view screen filled the wall at one end of the room.


The first up was Luke Travis, an Australian. Luke would be the Polaris II main pilot. His background was in military and aerospace. 







Luke Travis


The mission’s chief surgeon is  Dr. Berrol Kintati. Dr. Kintati was a Martian, originally from South Africa but had migrated, as a young teen, to Mars when the first colony had opened in the 2050s. He was an established leader in space medicine and surgery.





Dr. Berrol Kintati


Joining Doctors Kintati and Dawes would be medical technician Yong Wu, a member of the Chinese Space Brigade who had served until recently as a corpsman on the Chinese Space Frigate Dingyuan, what to date is the largest armed space craft built by any earth force.





Yong Wu


Joining Chief McKenna would be Specialist Technician David Cooper. Cooper was born in space on one of the L5 stations built in the ‘70s and has worked in the civilian space sector for his whole career. When the UN announced the formation of its own space agency under the ISC. He was one of the thousands who applied. And was selected to serve on the first ISC starship.





David Cooper


Joining Dr Langlois in the Science department was Dr Suzanne Herbert an accomplished Planetary and Environmental Scientist from the United States.  





Doctor Suzanne Herbert


Taking over as ships engineer from Dr Langlois is Master Sergeant Calvin Reno of the United States Space Force who has served on various Military space craft as a drive specialist and engineer for the last twenty years.





Master Sergeant Calvin Reno


Rounding out the Crew is Major Liv Olsen of the Norwegian Navy. She has served both at sea, on land with the FSK and in space with the ESA. She would be serving as the ship’s military advisor and tactical officer as well as second in command.





Major Liv Olsen


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Ayato nodded, not quite fully into Captain mode.   The ship itself wasn't finished, so they'd all be spending alot of time in simulators.    The gathering of people represented the sum total of the crew of this ship, and he knew he'd have to trust them, not just with his life, but with everyone else's life as well.    Once everyone was seated, their boss, the director who'd recruited them all for this, made the Introductions of everyone, along with short bios.   "Now, before I sign off I'm going to introduce one more person.   She is not going to be a crewmember of the Polaris II, but she will be working closely with you in the lead-up to the launch."  The door opened one last time to admit Ayato's cousin, Suzuka.    "Ladies and Gentlemen, some of you have met Suzuka Nishima before, but for those who haven't, allow me to introduce your official ISC Liaison, Suzuka Nishima.   She will handle any logistics requests, administrative needs, and work to facilitate whatever is required to help all of you during your training period.  She is one of our best, so I know you're all in good hands."  With that the screen went blank, and Suzuka smiled.   "Hello everyone, before anyone asks, yes, Captain Nishima and I are relatives, he is my cousin.     It is my pleasure to work alongside all of you to ensure things go smoothly.  If you have any needs, please let me know, and I will see to it that they're met within reason."

Ayato looked slightly surprised,  looking at his cousin.   "You were right, it is a pleasant surprise."   He'd recalled a conversation before he left for Russia, about her still having a surprise.   He had half-expected that she'd tell him she was coming along as part of the crew, but that wasn't it.   Given how well she'd seen to things since he came home, he knew they were in good hands.


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She'd be having a nice long heart to heart with David Cooper to get on the same page with him. She had gotten spoiled in being a one woman maintenance crew on the Polaris I, and the only thing worse than not having enough hands was having hands who put the tools in the Wrong Damn Drawer. Hammer out a system before hand and you'd avoid a lot of fan room counciling after hours. All those niceties that hammered military procedures to fit what was needed. 


Settling down in her temporary quarters had been an interesting exercise, a corner of her mind noting the best route between her and Dawes' quarters. Their relationship was an open secret at best, but there was no profit in ruffling any feathers rubbing that in her crewmate's faces. Dawes was here because she was a damn fine Doctor,  McKenna was here because she was... lucky in all brutal-three-am-insomnia-honesty, and that was that far as she was concerned.


"I'm good, Cap'n," the Marine offered with a nod of greeting, "In fact, soon as I get the green light, I'm eager to start going over our inventory of spare parts and buffing out any scratches the Suit may have picked up while they were uncrating her. Anyone curious to get a first hand look before we take off is welcome to join me."

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Training has and for the foreseeable future been the main stay of preparation in every space agency since the days of flight-testing experimental aircraft before NASA even existed. Every nation which has ventured into space as had the highest regimen of training possible for their spacemen and women. This new International Space Agency/Service was no different.


The crew of the Polaris II trained ceaselessly over the next 5 months, in class rooms, in simulators, in the field. Often the trained together but sometimes only in small sections or even individually. They often spent sixteen to eighteen hours a day  with only a day or two off a month. It was intense. Eventually they were given access to the actual ship, and the training continued. Finally, a few weeks before the scheduled mission launch, they put the ship through several test jumps to Alpha Centauri and back.


The ship functioned perfectly, the crew as well. Training was over, they were ready.


The Mission itself was a sort of test. Fundamentally it was to see how well the exploration of the cosmos could be made with manned ships as opposed to robots. It was also being done to cement the ISD as the premier earth explorations body in an attempt to stave off a potential disastrous diaspora as ships equipped with  interstellar capability went out in every direction with no guidance and no rules. We know there is intelligent life out there. And considering that the one alien ship so far encountered bore arms it had to be assumed that there were dangers the earth and the human race might not be prepared to face.


There had been some disagreement among the scientists who designed the parameters of the mission; should the mission be to the nearest habitable stars or those most likely to be habitable? After much debate it was decided that the nearest stars would likely be visited by non ISS ships and that the five most promising planets were still outside the range of the first generation starships which were converted vessels. And so it was decided that the five most likely star that had verified exo-planets that could possible prove habitable would be the target.


These stars were TOI 700d at 101 ly, Kepler 186f at 490 ly, Kepler 62f at 990ly, Kepler 442b at 1206ly, and Kepler 452b at 1402 ly. All five had rocky planets in the habitable zones and were determined to be the likeliest candidates for a habitable biosphere. The order in which the stars were to be visited was up to the discretion of the Mission commander.


The mission was audacious and complicated. The Polaris was to voyage to each star, locate and do an orbital survey of the planet. If the new world had a measurable atmosphere and detectable water  two Survey drones were to be dropped as well as an orbital satellite. The drones equipped with contra-grav drive would proceed to survey the planet taking sample mapping and so forth. Data taken by the drones would be relayed to the satellite and stored for recovery by follow on missions. If the world had no atmosphere  a second type of drone was to be deployed singly along with a satellite to do a different set of survey and sampling. The Polaris caried ten of the orbital satellites, twelve of the first type of survey drones and six of the second type.


Planetary landfall was at the discretion of the mission commander. Extensive guidelines were given for the conducting of everything, but it was emphasized that these were not regulations but guidelines, as those on the scene would have to make decisions based on the facts not theory. The same was made for possible contact. The only strict order that they were given was to under no circumstances reveal the location of Earth to any aliens they may encounter.


In the weeks leading up to the launch the crew were once again thrust into the limelight in a carefully orchestrated media blitz that capitalized on the original crew’s adventure and the new ship mission to open the doors to the stars. It was trying to say the least but then before they knew it the day came; they were boarded, and the ship was prepped and under the watchful gaze of the world the Polaris II was officially launched on her fist mission to the stars.




Dozens of ships followed the Polaris as she left Earth, media, well-wishers, the curious. All stay a good distance away under the watchful eyes of two warships of the one Chinese and one EU, set to escort the out of the system plane. No one expected trouble but there were those who felt that earth should not draw attention to itself.


Travis had already input the course and was driving the ship to a position above the plane of the solar system as directed by the navigator, Rachel Eisley. The course she had dictated would take them out of all but the most miniscule of gravitational effects which would make calculating the… jump, dive, bubble, whatever they were calling this week, easier and safer. Behind him and to his left sat the Xo and on his right Eisley while Captain Ayato Noshima was directly behind and one ‘deck’ above. It had taken a bit of getting used to this new flight deck arrangement, not to mention the fact that it was almost as if he were sitting, hanging out in space his view completely unobstructed when the forward section was  un-shielded, like it was now. It was awe inspiring and a bit scary.


“On course and at one twenty-five accel. Thirty minutes to up thrust.” Travis spoke clearly but his accent still flavored his words with that distinctive outback drawl.

“Good, nothing like a smooth launch to set the pace.” Ayato glanced to his left at void outside. Faraway, to far to make out the ship, he could see the gravity flare of the escort ship ESFS Emden, she and the Chinese ship on the other side would be with them for another thirty minutes then once we hit up-thrust and our accel goes to 550 gravities we would leave them behind. We would be alone.


He hit the button and his chair retracted back to the deck behind, out of the forward bubble, “You have the conn Luke, keep us on course and notify me before we hit the up- thrust line. Everyone else lets meet in the Briefing room time to decide on our first destination.”



Polaris is off!  the ship is one the way to the stars. it is up to y'all to tell me where you are going. the stars lited above are all real. you can read up on them and the possible world that orbits it. take off make it y'all story. i'll fill in the blanks.





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Ayato had reviewed the data on the five stars, and he smiled.  they ranged from a hundred lightyears away, to over fourteen hundred, in various stellar directions.   He knew the base travel times, as well as how far they could cut that down, but even so, he was cautious.

Once everyone was in  the Briefing room, he brought up each of the five stars and their relative distances from Earth, and each other.  "So we've an important decision to make, and yes, I could simply make it myself, but we've all been through alot together, both on our previous voyage together, and during the training leading to this one.   I'd like to hear your thoughts on which of these five we should visit first, and why you think we should."

He nodded.  "In that vein, I think we should start with TOI 700d at 101 ly.  It is by far the closest to Earth, and everyone knows you don't make your first trip in a new ship that's far away.  We have checked and rechecked the ship, but this will be the first time we fully engage all systems and travel beyond as far as we are planning.  We know from the shakedown trips to Alpha Centauri things appear to all be working fine, but I think a cautious approach is best.  Perhaps that approach could be seen as cowardly, but I say it is right to be cautious in space.   We don't have to venture so far out, so I think it prudent that we don't.   I admit, I do feel it's also proper to take a bold first step into the stars beyond our own again, but I want to hear what you all have to say."

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"If we really want to just do a systems check, we could always start with Alpha Centauri," commented Rachel. " I know we have made several jumps there and back but just over four light years. And we have tons of data about the system we collected from Earth, so it'd be easy to calibrate our observations against expected values."


With a wave of her hand, she rotated and adjusted the starmap's display.


"We dont need to even go into the inner system, but for a shakedown jump it will give us the perfect chance to try and calibrate a jump from another system besides Sol. From Alpha Cen, assuming we don't shake anything loose in the drive, and if we arn't wedded to the schedual the ISC set out, we can get to any number of nearby exoplanets. My personal favorite is Beta Canum Venaticorum...but even though it's much closer, we still don't have the kind of solid observations of an Earth-sized mass there like we do TOI 700...so it's a bit more of a shot in the dark."


She shrugs.


"All that said, I'd like to have a shorter jump before we try for a hundred light years in a single bound. Alpha Cen, Beta Canum...loads of possibilities."

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  • 2 weeks later...

A slight furrow to her pale brow, Yseult tapped her tight lips with a slender finger as she studied planets assigned for their mission. Though her husband had said he was agreeable to her going on the year long survey mission, the extensive time training for the mission and making sure the Polaris II was in top order had still put a strain on their marriage that only slowly recovered over the last five years. Loric seemed excited for her, even understanding she would be away for a year, demanding he be sent pictures of the new planets and any extraterrestrial life they encountered - she had to be a bit vague on her promises on that part - but she still worried how her daughter would deal with another long absence from her, even though she would call and send messages as often as she could.


But that was a mother's constant worry that always occupied some percentage of her thoughts. She perused the data collected on the exo-planets, musing on their potential viability versus their proximity before she shook in her at the thought. Even with bringing the compression drive to humanity, she was still used the old way of thinking. With the new drive, distance didn't correlate to the time needed to get there, not to a degree substantial enough to really account for.

"If you are insisting, we can be jumping to Alpha Centuri, and then be jumping from there, though we are having done so jumping back to Sol," Yseult replied in her reserved accented contralto. "But the Polaris II, it is all being in good order." 

Master Sergeant Calvin Reno of the United States Space Force may have taken over for her as Engineer and Drive Specialist for the Polaris II, but she couldn't help her sense of proprietorship and she knew she'd be closely scrutinizing his work for the coming weeks despite herself.

"And for the closer exoplanets, private sector and third party concerns can be looking at them. Our time and superior capabilities of the Polaris, I am thinking are better served looking towards exoplanets who are being more likely to be habitable. To that, I am thinking Kepler-442b and Kepler-452b are the highest of the candidates. 452b is likely to be having a much more drastic increase in surface gravity, so I am suggesting we are starting with Kepler-442b, despite 452b otherwise being much closer to Earth in its other parameters." With a rueful curve to her lips, she belatedly added, "Captain."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ayato nodded once.  "Alright, we might as well go the distance, Kepler-442b it is..  I mean after last time, is really all that far?"  He chuckled, looking around at the members of his crew.   "If Anyone has anything further to add, any further arguement, or reason to go somewhere else, we'll head back run that last system check and set out into the stars beyond our own again."

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Sixteen weeks later…

The Polaris sailed through the outer reaches of the Kepler 62 system towards it target and for the first time since their first jump a sense of hope and accomplishment was brightening up the atmosphere in the ship.


Their first two jumps had proven fruitless. The jumps themselves were flawless, but the supposed planets were not what they had expected. At Kepler 442b the ‘exo-planet’ which had shown such promise turned out to be a compact asteroid field which, due to its size and position, had captured numerous comets which accounted for the detected presence of water. But there were no habitable planets.


Kepler 452b was next and while the planet was there it was an inhospitable hell planet. Slightly smaller than predicted the rocky planet was extremely active volcanically, it thick atmosphere, consisting mostly of sulfuric gases was a tumultuous morass of storms ripping across the worlds rocky mountainous surface.


Drones were left in each system to conduct remote surveys and the Polaris moved onto the third system, Kepler 62. Within an hour of exiting the C-space, Rachel had located the outer most planet, their target, Kepler 62f, and from what the long range telescopes  were showing, it was promising.


K 62f was large with a planetary diameter of 47,861.891 kilometers, which is slightly smaller than Neptune. The planet has a visible atmosphere with huge amounts of cloud cover. Presence of liquid water was verified by observation of vast oceans glimpsed through breaks in the extensive cloud cover. The planet appeared to be warmer than predicted. Three moons were identified, two about the size of Ceres, and irregularly shaped, probably asteroids caught by the planet. The third moon was larger about a third greater than Luna, and showed signs of an atmosphere!


So with this promising discovery of their first real possible habitable planets spirits were high. But not for everyone.


Calvin Reno closed his tablet and sighed. This should not be happening but there it is. He got up and stepped to the small elevator which would carry him up to the main deck. Once up top he walked down the tight corridors passed the medical section and toward the science labs. When he arrives, he glanced in the little observation window in the door before knocking. Good looked like Lanlois was alone.


Yseult looked up from her screen at the sound of a knock at the door. “Come in.”


Reno stepped in as the door slid aside. “Hi Dr. Langlois, we might have a problem.”

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So far, the mission had been going well, in Yseult's estimation. The findings at Kepler 442b and Kepler 452b were disappointing, to be sure, but not totally expected, in the general outcome, if not their specifics. The ship seemed in fine order, the compression drive working as expected. There didn't appear to be any serious issues among the crew, between the members of the original Polaris and the new civilian crew and those drawn from various military and space organizations.

Yseult was reviewing the information and readings they had for the Kepler-62 system and planetary body Kepler-62f, though Dr. Herbert would be able to glean more than she could. Atmosphere not only on K 62f, but potentially on its third moon was very intriguing. She added some points and notes she wanted to bring up with Dr. Herbert when there was a knock at the door.

On 7/20/2021 at 10:59 AM, Spacehound Command said:

“Come in.”


Reno stepped in as the door slid aside. “Hi Dr. Langlois, we might have a problem.”

The raven-haired scientist arched a brow at the man. The large man had endured her hovering about the engine compartment with relaxed aplomb, not offended by the woman keeping an eye on the drive she considered hers, and the man now in charge in seeing to its maintenance. She'd found nothing to fault in the man nor in his skills and so had, if perhaps a touch reluctantly, eased herself away from any micromanaging.

"Monsieur Reno," Yseult replied with a nod. "What problem are you thinking we might be having? This last jump, all is seeming to be well, and Kepler 62f, it is appearing to be very promising."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Reno nodded "That's what i thought, Ma'am, but after this last jump I been doing a full systems diagnostic, to get a good clear picture of everything, ya know." he paused waiting for the scientist to acknowledge which she did with a  nod.


He held out his data tablet to her. "We're using more fuel mass, than we projected, a lot more, about twenty percent. And for the life of me I don't know why." 

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