The Illuna Paradox: Temporal Shift

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One by one, they each entered the docking terminal; lumbering along at a snail's pace whilst carrying a wide variety of supplies and equipment, eventually they caught a glimpse of the ’Procules’ in all of her glorious splendour as they turned the blind corner.

'Procules’ was a beautiful piece of technology for sure; yet she was more than that, she was a part of the crew, a living ship to a certain degree and a cherished treasure of the Republic.

The mere presence of the cruiser had demanded attention; the Republic had decided that it would be a beneficial cost cutting measure to retain the same cruiser hull size and type for the ’Procules’ as they had originally done with the militarised version before; therefore ensuring that the vessel was as durable as it's name made it sound.

That being said any space faring vessel was not impervious to the harshness of space; and so would still require a lot of upkeep to maintain it.

'Procules’ had been constructed with a careful precision; the outer composite panelling had worked perfectly for the purpose of stealth camouflage as it was smooth with no faults or breaks within the panel linkages.

When the ship was visible in space, it would appear to be purely metallic grey in colour; but when the light inevitably reflected off of her, she would almost appear to be a gleaming Pearlescent blue colour.

This was of course apart from the Jet black paint covering a variety of features across the outer hull of the vessel. These specific colours were in fact similar to the one's adorning any Cideen Republic's other ships.

The adoption of these specific colours Gable thought, were a good way of portraying the fact that his crew wholeheartedly supported the deep space government. Even if no one else noticed it; the crew were still proud to fly the colours belonging to the Naval Forces of the Cideen Republic.

Although the ship did not possess any weaponry, the ship’s ten fitted hard points, two of which were fitted at the front of the vessel, on the lower platform, below the bridge.

These two specialised turrets were the M1 Pulse Excavators; turrets which could then be used for the technologically advanced practices of mining, off-planet excavating, hauling and salvaging equipment.

Each of these unique pieces of equipment were designed by none other than the legendary Mickey Hicks. The ship had boasted two heavy shield generator arrays that were located on the forward and aft sides of the hull.

There were two communications arrays, and then there was of course the huge trans-warp propulsion system that was located at the rear of the vessel, on the topside.

This one-of-a-kind trans-warp propulsion system was also accompanied by four large thruster engines. There were two of these massive thrusters located on either side of the vessel which drastically increased the width of the aft section of the ship. Regardless of that single, tiny flaw, it was in fact an ideal location to fit them according to Hicks’s performance report of the ship which he had prepared only a few months ago.

‘Procules’ may be similar in design to her sister class vessels, but they are not equipped with an upgraded trans-warp drive like she is. The fitting of two thrusters on each side may have made sense before, with the increase in propulsion capability and all. No, it is more important now more than ever, I have since determined that they are able to draw on the excess energy from the trans-warp engine allowing her to move even faster. Additionally, the general length of the ship and her accumulative mass actually require the application of four large thruster engines so that she can manoeuvre properly. I fear that without them, she would not be able to hold a specific assigned vector for long enough, or change vectors efficiently when she needed to’. The report detailed.

It was apparent to anyone looking over the ‘Procules’ ship design, that her defence was indeed an integral part of her speed and manoeuvrability.

Along with dual-plated cruiser armour underneath those shields, the ship was very durable; it was because of this beneficial defensive feature that most of the other critical equipment was fitted inside of the vessel’s hull for protection.

This fitting would make the ship appear to be more compact and much less complex to an outside viewer. The interior of the ship on the other hand, had proven to be somewhat more of a technological enigma, with all of the installed prototype equipment, of which only Mickey Hicks knew how to manually repair or refit to the ship.

You could even see the almost rectangular looking bridge at the front of the ship where an inner set of stairs lead down to the forward heavy shielding console and the two nearby pulse emitting turrets. Then there was the uniquely constructed observation dome tower near to the centre of the ship, right in front of the trans-warp engine.

The more than adequate location of the observation tower provided it with a three hundred and sixty degree view of the surround area of space outside.

Following the typical request of Kenny Haynes, the observation tower had been outfitted with a mini-bar and a small games room; after all there were no restrictions on such an addition, unless you were in the military of course.

If ‘Procules’ had been a military ship in another life, then the mini-bar suggestion, or even the observation dome idea would be a ludicrous one; especially in the event that they faced combat.

Fortunately ‘Procules’ was not built for combat, since the last large scale war between the Deep Space Government and the Central Government of the Cideen Republic ended over two hundred years ago. ‘Procules’ was therefore not subject to the same strict ‘war-time’ rules.

In a sense, 'Procules' represented the embodiment of ‘freedom’, that is having the ‘freedom’ to do anything that you wanted to do out in space, and be anyone that you wanted to be.

Unlike this one towering section of the vessel, the rest of the rigid and finely detailed outer hull of the vessel continued forward and aft in an evenly constructed rectangular design for the most part.

That being said, the ship’s aft section, where the large synchronised thrusters and trans-warp engine were located appeared to be anything but evenly constructed. As a result of her advanced technological prowess, ‘procules’ became well known for being one of the most idiosyncratic vessels of this generation.

For anyone who did not know of ’Procules’’ intended purpose, the ship would appear as a spritely yet menacing beast regardless of her unthreatening, medium sized hull. That is with the frigate class being the smallest and the battleship class being the largest of vessel sizes within the Cideen Republic.

Everyone knew what civilian vessels looked like after all; but not everyone knew of the innovative ‘Procules’ design. This would no doubt benefit them significantly down the line.

The military had decided to maintain a similar streamlined design structure to what planetary ocean carriers had employed successfully for thousands of years. This design feature had resulted in the ship being able to move even faster; despite the already equipped propulsion and trans-warp units.

The ship was even fitted with outer lighting across the hull which was essential for tracking purposes and for retrofitting and repair activities; these illuminating lights even included sixteen heavy Duralum cores which had dramatically enhanced their strength as a result.

There were also search and rescue lighting systems that were fixed in two parallel rows that fitted across the ships topside and the bottom.

When activated, these wondrous devices would extend their scope of any given area, whether the given area was located in space or not and rotate repeatedly in a series of continuous three hundred and sixty degree turns as the ship traversed through a point of interest.

The Duralum fitted lighting systems were good enough for rescue operations in space, yet they were great for excavating or salvaging wrecks. All of the equipment that ’Procules’ was outfitted with had made for one mighty exploration vessel, that was for sure and the crew loved her.

After being aboard ’Procules’ once again the crew were hastily checking off items on what was aptly named the ‘long haul list’ ‘How are we looking down there? We nearly ready? Report,’ Gable asked, raring to leave Julos now.

‘It’s a go for the mining, salvage and excavation equipment’ Haynes reported a second later.

‘Go for surveying equipment,’ Dares replied.

It was now Landon’s turn to report ‘We are green lit for all essential and non-essential computer systems,’ she added for both herself and Dares.

‘All things looking good Professor...where are my manners, I mean Captain Gable sir!’ Hicks confirmed with a mocking bow as he belatedly acknowledged Gable's role change.

Haynes keyed back into the bridge almost immediately after Hicks did.

‘We are loading the last of the supplies into the ship’s cargo hold now boss, we have beans too? Yes!’ Haynes questioned as soon as he had identified the containers, greeting the discovery with sheer joy.

‘Hell yeah! Boss you are really treating us this time aren’t you?’ Hicks added triumphantly.

‘Well you know, I figured that we will need all of the good stuff on a mission like this right?’ Gable announced.

‘That’s us ready boss, cargo hold doors are sealing now’ Haynes reported to the bridge.

‘Nice job everyone! Let’s head down to the dome observation lounge for the briefing!’ Gable ordered.

The time had finally arrived, when the rest of the crew members would find out the truth, Gable was sure that they could handle it, but just in case he would have to make sure that he briefed them on the positives of the mission and not only the negatives.

It had only taken five minutes for the crew to arrive at the dome observation area which was located in the centre of the vessel, right below the bridge on the ship’s topside where it served the purpose of observing mysterious anomalies in space.

Warships were always equipped with a ‘war room’ whereas ‘Procules’ was instead equipped with this luxurious section of the ship. VIPs’ would often utilize the area whenever they insisted upon tagging along with the crew on one of their excavations, there truly was no ship like ‘Procules’ within the deep space sector of the Cideen Republic.

The crew were now sitting at attention around an old oak table, which was what Gable thought to be good idea, providing them all with a little something to remind them of home. One could literally look up into space from where they were sitting in the observation area, it was a serene experience.

‘Alright then guys, you all know the gist of our mission but let me go over the details once more’ Gable began. He could see their expressions change from interested to curious then to utter shock as he continued briefing them.

‘So we saw some mechanical creature thing back at Warden...It is so hard to believe, trust me I can check out the footage when you get a chance, I have uploaded the recording into the ship’s log,’ Gable took a short break to allow his crew the time to catch up.

‘Anyway, moving on, we experienced numerous random computer systems glitches; now if they had been sporadic and spread out over time, that would be one thing, but they had all happened almost simultaneously which was indicative of a pattern, these events may well be interconnected’ he added.

Gable had the crew’s full attention now, hangover or not, they just sat listening intently.

‘Aside to the creature and the system failures, there was the successful recovery of the forward section of an unknown mining vessel, of which, once again you need to check the probe raft footage to properly grasp the implications of the discovery!’ Gable admitted, fake tapping his data pad to emphasise the bewilderment of his point.

'Finally, that leaves the reason why we are here...there was one other miraculous event that occurred before we left, we received a distress signal from the ‘Ascendance’ cruiser which was reported lost in Warden star system eighty five years ago. The distress message was re-transmitted from an entirely different location, within one of the star systems that we have not even colonized yet, that’s where we’re headed right now, questions?’ he asked smiling, expecting there to be a chorus of questions ready to be fired at him.

The crew began talking all at once to Gable, something that he had been used to of course being the Captain of the ‘Procules’ and an archaeology teacher back in Julos.

Landon looked around at the seated crew before focussing back on Gable. ‘Professor did this mission come from the top? I mean it must be serious if the government is supporting us, right?’ she asked.

‘That’s exactly right! yeah, they want us to locate the ship, ultimately it had to of arrived there somehow...and that’s what the President wants us to find out, he asked me personally Keira!’ Gable announced, his eyes glazing over as he returned a worried look her way.

Drawing his attention away from Keira now, Hicks spoke up over the top of the others.

'So the government actually does care, they are definitely taking the whole ‘lost ships and their crews’ deal seriously after all. So where are the exploration files for this star system? And what route do we have to take to get there?’ Hicks asked, utterly confused about the lack of available data on their target destination.

Almost a minute passed by while Gable had begrudgingly admitted the ugly truth. ‘There are no files Mickey, or rather we were not provided with any, and according to what files we have that entire sector of space has pretty much been ignored!’.

The thought had almost hit the crew at the exact same time as they each looked ready to speak, when Haynes spoke for them. ‘What? No files, how the hell can a ship appear somewhere that we don’t even know about boss?’ he asked.

They each nodded in agreement as Kenny Haynes had just put their own worries into words.

‘Believe me I know Kenny! Me and Helena had this same discussion earlier on with the crew of the Odysseus station back in Warden. That is when I called the President to defer to his judgement on the matter. Our ship is the only one of its kind, right? And when it comes to exploration...we possess that new stealth tech of yours don’t we Mickey?’ Gable asked, already knowing the answer.

Hicks looked back at Gable, grinning widely which had made the rest of the crew perk up a bit at least.

‘You bet we do professor, I have been trying to test this baby out for a while but we have had no use for it lately, it has been the same with some of my other neat gadgets!’ Hicks was almost ecstatic now at the thought of him getting to test one of his new toys.

‘Well we need it now!’ Gable laughed, shaking his head. Mickey was already on his feet, pacing the room.

‘We do have a chance I guess, I mean if we can’t do it then who can, right?’ Dares beamed as her statement encouraged the crew to see the logic behind it.

‘We go then, to be honest I am incredibly curious about where we are going! I have a feeling that this place will have all of the answers for us’ Landon added as she began to search the ships database for the route that they would be taking.

‘That’s interesting’ Landon remarked.

‘What is?’ Gable asked.

‘According to the star mapping system, our journey will take us through five unknown star systems before we get to the supposed crash site. Luckily though, our warp drive will get us the whole way without having to stop after each star system, which is something' she reported.

'Yeah, looking at this data...It would apparently take us months if we had to travel through each star system like we had to back in the old days! And knowing our luck, we would run into something like that damn mechanical creature again! This ship truly is a beauty isn’t she?’ Landon praised, kissing the bulkhead wall next to her.

Gable patted the bulkhead next to him gently grinning back at Landon. ‘Damn right she is!’ he replied.

Landon began smiling at the praise that she was receiving for her admiration of the ship, while the others cheered her on.

‘Okay, okay, guys let’s get to it, prepare to take off, get everything secured, you know the drill, don’t forget to kiss the statue!’ Gable winked.

It was a custom on Julos to kiss the statue of Dominic Neelson since as far back as anyone could remember. Neelson had been the first person to traverse the entire star system with his crew of explorers back before the star system was colonized.

It therefore only seemed fitting to construct a statue within each transport station on Julos, the capital planet of the star system as well as each of the other planets, as a sign of faith and respect to the man and his accolades.

It was an ancient tradition that had been kept alive by in-system travellers and star farers alike; it was a ritual of one’s dedication to the exploration of space and safe travelling; a tradition that was well respected throughout the entirety of the Cideen Republic for certain but one that was utterly worshipped within the Julosso star system.

The crew had said their fond farewells to the station personnel before they sealed the hatch for what could very well be the final time; the crew were nervous, but it was the concept of exploration and discovery that would carry them through all of the dark times that lay ahead.

‘Everything secured professor, outer hatches sealed, and ready for lift off.’ They each took their seats in the bridge of ’Procules’ which was like any other military cruiser within the Republic having a rectangular room at the top of the bridge tower, below that were the ships mainframes and central command modules, basically the ships heart was located in that area below the bridge tower within the most protected section of the vessel.

The bridge was littered with consoles; there were consoles for communications, scanning, stealth equipment, mining systems, salvaging systems.

There was even an entire designated area on the bridge for the two new M1 Excavation Pulse Emitters, along with the associated surveying systems of which were connected to the turrets themselves down below in the under-belly of the ship.

Naturally Mickey Hicks did not hesitate to put his signature on the new piece of equipment; he did construct it after all.

The crew were securely harnessed into their seats ready for the departure since there had been no lengthily process for exiting a station as opposed to entering one.

The protocol was simply ‘up up and away’ which was something that every crew had loved. As ‘Procules’ began to exit the atmosphere under Gables control, the sky began to fade from a midnight blue to jet black in quick succession.

It had taken minutes to reach the outer atmosphere and finally there it was; they were sailing upon the glittering ocean of stars once more.

‘That is it professor we are clear of the planet's gravitational pull’ Dares announced as she sat monitoring the system surveillance panel.

‘Goodbye Julosso, keep the porch light on for us, we’ll be back soon!’ Gable promised, announcing as much to his own crew as he did the entire star system.

‘Initiating the trans-warp drive now!’ Neelson be with us he whispered shortly after.

The ship stirred and moaned as her warp coils began activating; ’Procules’ was amassing a huge amount of energy in her stern section, that energy was about to release any moment, taking them on a two week one day journey through the dark reaches of space.

There was a loud humming noise now that was steadily becoming an unbearable high pitched scream after only a few seconds; and then finally it ended with a near-deafening roar followed by an estranged whirring sound as the outside universe shifted into blackness, the ship entered warp space and now the crew breathed a sigh of relief as they congratulated each other for yet another successful departure.

Gable smiled as he cast his gaze over his crew. ‘Nice job guys two weeks and we are there so let’s try to learn as much as we can about that location okay!’ he ordered.

‘Were on it boss!’ Dares replied for the rest of the crew as they each climbed out of their still harnessed seats.

There was no need for the harnesses within warp space since they could not manoeuvre at all, which was probably for the best giving the uncertainties of the place. A slightest jilt in their course trajectory could send them anywhere, and nobody wanted to chance that happening. The fear of being lost in uncharted space had quelled any urge to alter the ship’s movement, something that had no doubt been keyed into the minds of every sailor when warp travel became possible.

It was now evening of the first ship day and the crew were each mulling over what information they had already gleamed from the briefing. This included Gable’s suggestion for them to watch the footage from Warden star system, which they had taken very seriously. Gable did not keep track of his crew at any time as he trusted them all implicitly, he loved his family and that is exactly what they were to him, especially Dares.

Taking a walk to the observation dome he saw Haynes lounging on one of the luxurious sofas that he thought would make for a better observation area, Haynes was in deep concentration whilst looking at his personal data pad and he did not hear or see Gable walking towards him.

‘Hey Kenny what are...’ Gable began.

‘Crap in hell don’t you knock?’ Haynes yelled.

The sudden outburst brought laughter to Gable as he looked back at him.

‘Geez, I’m sorry Kenny I thought that you saw me!’ Gable added swiftly.

Haynes began laughing nervously as his heart recovered from the shock.

‘Heh, you’ll kill me one of these days boss!’ Haynes admitted.

‘I hope not Kenny! You’re my drinking partner, and my best friend!’ Gable replied, barely managing to keep his laughter in check.

‘Wow I’m touched boss! Well at least you’re gonna buy me a drink first before you bed me!’ Haynes mocked, also laughing at the mere idea of it.

‘Hah you wish friend, I will buy the next round though, come on I have a private stash here somewhere!’ Gable promised.

Haynes looked as if he thought that Gable was joking about there being some hidden, expensive alcohol lying around, when he pulled out a bottle of prestigious and somewhat ancient whisky.

‘Boss, you shouldn’t have! Aged four thousand five hundred and forty one, twas a great year!’ Haynes mocked as he brought out two small, rounded glasses from the ship’s mini-bar, thrilled that being civilians they were permitted to have a bar onboard as long as they did not overuse it, a promise that Haynes could not hope to keep.

Gable poured the two of them a small glass of the forty six year old bottle of whisky as he made a toast.

'To the ‘Procules’ and her crew!’ Gable recited, smiling encouragingly as Haynes nodded recognition.

After taking in the moment, Haynes reciprocated the honour and raised his glass in kind.

‘To discovery friend!’ he said.

‘To discovery!’ Gable replied.

‘So what were you looking at before, anything interesting? You looked concerned buddy’ Gable added, lowering his glass as he changed the topic.

‘Well boss just looking over the Warden footage that’s all...something doesn’t add up!’ he cried.

‘What’s that? I know that the creature, the derelict mining vessel section and the signal transmission were a lot to take in, but you saw the footage right?’ Gable asked.

‘Yeah I saw the footage, it’s crazy...too crazy really!’ Haynes added.

'I’m thinking of the way that creature just disappeared, I get that the Warden systems ionic gas clouds could mask the disappearance sure...but why did we only just see that thing now and not anytime in the past? Also when we salvaged that mining vessel section...that thing is huge and does not match any known class of ship out there? You see a pattern boss?’ Haynes asked sombrely.

Looking off into the corner of the room now, Gable nodded in agreement.

‘Yeah no kidding, I see a pattern, a lot of uncertainties which I’m kind of hoping will get solved when we find the Ascendance!’ Gable confided.

Haynes began to speak once more when he flinched. ‘Only Kind of hoping boss?’ Haynes burst out, taking Gable by surprise.

‘Um yeah you know, we need to know what is going on no doubt, but I fear what explanations those answers may know what I mean?’ Gable pleaded in the hopes that Haynes would manage to understand his worries.

‘Yeah boss I see your point...I know that it’s going to be a long two weeks for one thing and then who knows what we will find there! Can you imagine if the crew had somehow survived that horrifying accident over eighty years ago? Are we ready for this kind of discovery you think?’ Haynes asked, showing worry himself now.

Gable smiled and pressed his hand firmly upon Haynes’ shoulder. ‘I know it Kenny, we have the best crew in the Republic and the best ship here with us, and we can handle it!’ Gable promised.

‘Now Kenny, one more glass before bed?’ he added.

Haynes chuckled out loud as Gable poured two more glasses of the potent liquid.

This time around Gable and Haynes had gotten an early night’s sleep and were spritely the morning after or at least as spritely as one could be within a space ship that was stuck, technically unmoving, in warp space for weeks. Gable strolled casually to the crew’s galley where he saw Dares already there with a kingly breakfast laid out before her, something that made him perk up even more.

‘Good morning Helena’ he announced as he took a seat himself and poured some coffee into his favourite blue mug.

‘Yes it is! We have all kinds cereal on board for a change along with bacon, sausages and eggs and pancakes...we should save the bacon though professor!’ Dares suggested.

‘Yeah I agree we will need anything we can get by late next week I think, oh and don’t forget the chicken it’s gorgeous...that’s right! I picked it myself you know?’ Gable smiled as did Dares soon after.

This morning it seemed, was most certainly going to be a good one.

It must have been the wonderful aroma of the home-grown coffee beans that Gable had bought back at the station on Julos that had lured the rest of the crew into the galley en-masse. They each walked straight over to the coffee blender to pour some of their own.

‘Wow boss, you really did go all out didn’t you? Home-grown coffee and a good aged’re spoiling us!’ Haynes said, bowing in appreciation of Gable’s outstanding efforts.

Dares shook her head in amusement at Haynes’ dramatic dance of appreciation. It only took Dares a moment to process what had actually been said, when she visibly flinched. ‘What whisky? You boys been at the whisky last night eh? Heh, I hope that there’s plenty to go around! I think we’ll need that more than we will the bacon by the end of this trip!’ she shouted.

‘Alright you have a point Helena! Everyone, tonight we’ll finish the bottle, all of us okay? Let’s say observation dome at eight?’ Gable asked, still laughing uncontrollably.

‘Deal boss! Keira, you guys in?’ Dares asked, turning to face the others. Landon acknowledged the request first though. ‘Damn straight we are! I’ll drink you lot under the table!’ Landon challenged, causing Hicks and Haynes to stand up and refute the challenge.

Tonight there would be a party.

It was something that certainly surprised Gable as he grinned back in response to Landon’s witty attitude; it was also something that Haynes was now especially looking forward to. There was going to be free alcohol. There would be no doubt that the remainder of his day would be used for the planning of drinking games for tonight, although he would never admit that.

The day had gone by fairly quickly, with the usual daily computer maintenance schedules, equipment testing and don’t forget the research that the crew were busying themselves with. The upcoming festivities were fun however, and they could afford to have fun especially given the fact that it may be some time before they could enjoy themselves like this again.

It was slowly approaching 8pm in the ship evening now as Gable started heading towards the observation dome area for the evening's festivities; when he arrived he noticed that Haynes was already there with an impossibly large selection of alcohol as opposed to the single bottle of whisky that they were originally planning on drinking.

‘What’s this Kenny? I thought we said one bottle! Someone has to fly the ship you know!’ Gable rounded out, unable to take Haynes’ smirking face seriously.

‘Ah there you are correct good sir! But...there is no flying to be done when we are in warp I right? It’s on autopilot is it not? So you sir have no excuse! You’re joining in!’ Haynes ordered, forcing Gable into the vacant seat next to him. I guess a few beers won’t hurt. He confided to himself.

After he got comfortable in his seat, Gable looked across the surface of large table and the myriad of gaming cards that lay across it in an organized fashion along with a chess board and a portable music system it would appear that Haynes did indeed spend his entire day thinking about tonight I can’t blame him with everything we are dealing with right now, thanks Kenny. Gable thought, smiling back at Haynes for a second.

'Alright Kenny Let’s do this! You have been planning this all day haven’t you? So got any good games in mind then?’Gable asked.

‘Ah you know it boss! We have some poker, black jack and some chess, I know you love your chess boss!’ Haynes acknowledged.

‘This is great Kenny, I do love my chess! Wait a second...what’s with the music system?’ Gable prodded.

‘Ah that something the girls were cooking up earlier on, don’t ask me it’s their idea!’ Haynes added, waving his hands out in ignorance of the so called idea that they had concocted.

It was about eight twenty two in the evening by the time the rest of the crew turned up; first it was Mickey who strolled in wearing a very much out of place tropical shirt and sunglasses ‘Well would you look at you, wishful thinking Mickey!, you worried about warp space burn?’ Haynes mocked as the three of them burst into laughter.

‘You can never be too careful Kenny! I wouldn’t want my better half worrying now would I?’ Hicks asked.

‘Good point! Now get your tropical ass over here and take a seat will you? Right here!’ Haynes emphasised, tapping the cushion of the seat.

As Hicks approached unaware of his surroundings for a moment, Kenny took that opportunity to get Mickey in a pretend headlock, loosening his grip immediately to show that it was in jest.

‘Hell Kenny, what happened to the bottle of whisky?’ Mickey asked in shock before turning to gaze upon the huge beverage selection that still covered up most of the table surface.

‘Never mind!’ Hicked added immediately, laughing hysterically.

‘Hey! We gotta be prepared don’t we?’ Haynes snorted, chuckling away to himself.

Approaching eight thirty in the evening, it had been almost half an hour of solid drinking now when the girls finally showed up. Only the boys did not see them arrive, they were too busy chugging down on shots of the dreaded ‘Parlo’ again, standing facing towards the mini-bar in the corner of the room.

‘Well, it appears we have a party! Again!’ Dares announced, making their appearance known. Gable turned first as he saw that there was a valid reason for the girls being late, Keira Landon had chosen to wear a slinky red dress for the occasion, and Gable appeared to be speechless.

This was no doubt something that Landon recognised straight away, and she was enjoying it.

Gable walked over to the girls, greeting them like a true gentlemen while the others stood at the bar and watched in admiration.

‘You...Keira you look beautiful, nice dress!’ Gable acknowledged, putting a lot of emotion into his words.

‘Hey thanks Benjamin, I thought that I might as well take the opportunity to wear my new dress before we get back into the thick of things, and it appears that Mickey is doing the same thing...what the hell is he wearing?’ Landon asked, unable to form coherent words right now. They both began laughing.

‘Ah, he is pretending that he’s on Nepos beach and his better half wants to make sure he is protected which is where the sunglasses come in!’ Gable explained, smiling. It took a moment for Landon to realise that Gable was in fact joking.

‘Well I do see the logic! Well why not, it may be a long time before we get to see a beach again, right?’ she added, smiling at Gable.

Gable caught the subtle smile as he gazed into her eyes damn I’m doing it again, quick change the topic! He panicked.

Hoping that the sudden topic change would not upset her, he continued to talk anyway. ‘Say Keira, what is the music system for?’ he asked, openly curious.

She had noticed the quick topic change but she did not mind. ‘Well me and Helena were talking, like girls do you know? And we have got another game in mind you see?’ she pointed at the small microphone, lying next to the music system.

Dares had chosen to stay back out of their brief conversation until now, just in case thing turned out to be a little more awkward than they actually were. That precaution was no longer necessary though; Gable and Landon appeared to be getting along fine, more than fine even.

‘That’s right professor...we are going to have some classic karaoke later on what do you think?’ Dares added, stepping into the conservation.

The others apparently heard Dares at that moment too; they each walked over greeting the girls with Gable, to find out more about this karaoke game that they had planned.

‘Looking good ladies! what did we here about karaoke?’ Haynes burst out after downing a glass of whisky.

‘You guys heard right! We are doing classic karaoke later...we...get to choose any music that we want from the past, any music! And if we’re especially lucky tonight...our fearless leader over here...may even do a song for us!’Landon giggled, looking directly at Gable now.

‘What?’t!’ Gable attempted to say.

‘Yeah you do! You sing pretty well in the shower!’ Landon mocked. Haynes then joined in to take it even further, as usual.

‘Oh no she didn’t! You good sir are getting up there to sing later!’ he promised, laughing as he did so.

There were ongoing card games all night long, through until the early hours in the morning. They had nowhere to go after all, they played chess too as the night paced on, gradually turning into day.

Gable and Dares played each other once again, which had been something that the crew thoroughly enjoyed as they cheered them on with screaming and laughter. Then there was the much anticipated classic karaoke of course, Landon did not lie about Gable’s singing talent, naturally they had all been far too drunk by that time anyway; still that did not stop them though.

It had been one of those events where you just had to be there, after all, it would be impossible to picture a grown man singing twentieth century pop music inside a spaceship; travelling through warp space into uncharted territory.

That music was not Gable’s choice of course, but the girls had revelled in the chance to sabotage his own choice of music, and instead queuing up one song that he would never listen too, not in a million years.

If this wasn’t enough, the one rule of the game had been that once your song began you had to sing it and then drink if you had got the words wrong.

This was something that Gable had done far too many times that night. This has to be the last time I drink, thanks a lot Kenny! Gable thought to himself when he finally managed to get back to his quarters, collapsing unceremoniously onto his bed.

Regardless of the consequences from the fun night the crew had still awoken early the next morning. They did have work to complete after all, but that night was something that they had all needed so that they could keep moving forward.

It had been the same daily routine for the rest of the week and with one week and one day to go now; the crew were getting more and more anxious of what awaited them when they eventually jumped out of warp.

The prolonging anxiety must have derived from the long length of time that they had spent in warp space already.

It was six in the evening now on board 'Procules’.

Gable walked around the ship restlessly, visiting other members of the crew. He even caught Hicks napping in the engineering compartment behind a locker, Hicks had done that sometimes, but Gable did not mind, the man could sleep on the bridge if he really wanted too, after all they would not be where they were without Hicks.

Smiling at the presence of Hicks curled up in a ball in the corner, Gable decided to move on. He began checking on equipment and supplies himself when he finally decided to head back to his own quarters.

A few of hours later, Gable sat staring out of the small portside viewing window of his cabin, not a glass window of course as that would be suicide given the pressures of space that the ship would encounter on a daily basis.

Gable was viewing the blue and white waves of warp space, as the ship parted its way through them on the way to its destination.

It had been something that he had loved to do; he would often relax and gather his thoughts when in this place. 'Procules’ had always been there for him to do so and he had the soothing ambient sounds of twentieth century country and blues music to help him along the way.

The music would of course echo throughout the ship, something that the crew did not mind at all, for one thing they also loved that music.

There was just something tranquil about the way the music sounded as it innovatively found its way out into the endless void of space, soothing everything that lay in its path.

In a sense, nobody would hear the music outside, but then the entire universe outside was also listening to it. There was also the case that the crew wanted to make sure that their leader was in good shape, mentally and physically.

Man I miss Keira, I have seen her around the ship but I haven’t been with her, hmm. I need to take another walk. Gable thought to himself, lying awake on his bed.

It was late during the ships night cycle now, and the rest of the crew were already sleeping, but Gable could not, he could still only think about her.

In response to this restlessness, he followed his feet as he more or less strolled casually back towards the observation tower. A few minutes later, he reached the entrance to the tower when he froze at the sight of another sleepless crew member, Keira Landon.

‘Hey Keira I didn’t expect to see you in here, everything okay?’ Gable asked, brushing aside everything that he had been thinking about earlier.

‘Yeah Benjamin just thinking I guess!’ she replied.

‘I know that feeling...been doing it all night!’ Gable confessed, pouting his lips together now as this had now become one of those all too familiar awkward moments between the two of them. They were silent for a short while now; they clearly had a lot to say to each other but the words would just not come forward.

‘So how’s your mom?’ Gable asked, unaware of what else he should say.

He’s asking about my mom? After all this time! That’s what he says! Landon thought to herself, shaking her head smiling.

‘She’s well, still living in Julos’ she replied swiftly. Landon’s mother had lived alone since the passing of her father over thirteen years ago.

Her father Colonel Michael Landon, had been a hero to the Republic. He died fighting off an armada of pirates in the notorious Telon star system that lay next to Cairnes, only on the wrong side of Cairns, some people would say.

Telon star system had repeatedly been ravaged again and again by pirates over the years, but the pirates only sent out small raiding parties at any given time.

Thirteen years ago the pirates launched a full scale incursion in the star system; the only defenders there were merely passing through; en route back to Cairnes. This included her father, the captain of the battleship, ‘Dumont’ along with the two cruisers, ‘Hail’ and ‘Bolt’.

All three ships were lost with all hands as they struggled to fight off the insistent attackers. The three brave ships had succeeded in the end, but at a great cost, almost every facility around the planet had been destroyed.

Both cruisers were obliterated immediately under the fire; it was ironic really that ‘Hail’ would be destroyed by an endless hail of fire.

The only thing that forced the smaller pirate vessels away was Michael Landon’s determination. He had limited the pirate's decisions to them only having two options; they could either stay or try their luck against the heavier reinforcements that had just appeared in the star system, or they could run.

By the time the pirates saw the huge defence fleet heading towards them in an effort to save ‘Dumont’, they fled the star system, but not before they hit ‘Dumont’ with everything they had left. Seeing no alternatives, Michael Landon ordered his crew to evacuate but the ship exploded before anyone managed to escape.

Keira Landon never spoke about her father much; she instead spoke about her mother all of the time in an effort to draw away from the traumatic topic of her father’s death.

Minutes had passed while Landon was stuck thinking about the memory of the attack all those years ago, she then shook off the bad memory before continuing to speak. Gable knew exactly what she was thinking about but he said nothing about it. Landon also noticed that.

‘Yeah my’s funny, we were talking about you the other day!’ Landon prodded smiling at him.

‘Really? What about?’ he asked.

‘Oh, you know! This and that...she misses you too’ she confirmed, laughing at the reaction on Gable’s face.

I love that smile. Gable thought to himself before turning to face her abruptly, unable to hold back. His inner feelings were about explode as he caught her eyes, those beautiful blue eyes while they more or less brightened the entire room.

Even with the ship lighting being dimmed in preparation for the night cycle he could not help but become dazzled at the sight. His heart began to flutter insistently as they slowly began to close the gap between them, as it would happen in that kind of situation.

After so long apart, it appeared that the feelings were most certainly still there, and they were just too hard to ignore. With an almost hesitant motion, they gently pressed their lips together as they kissed, holding it for some time.

‘Oh my..erm..nice to see you too Benj!’ Landon flushed.

They both chuckled, Gable noticing her sudden panic, as she lowered her head following the long awaited kiss. ‘Hey, I missed you okay...a lot Keira!’ he added.

She slowly turned back towards him now; truly beaming under the dimming light, as opposed to smiling. It would seem that Gable had known exactly what to say to her.

‘I know Benj, I could tell and I have too, leaving was the hardest thing I have ever done!’ she admitted.

‘So do you think that we can start over? I mean with everything that’s happening now and what’s going to happen, I didn’t want to leave things unsaid you know’ Keira added before smiling again.

It would appear that she must have shed a lot of the baggage that she had been carrying with her before this moment and damn did she look better for it.

‘Yeah, you bet we can sailor! You’re still a badass kisser! And that’s more than good enough for me!’ they both laughed, swiftly reaching for another kiss as they held each other in sweet embrace.

For the first time in about a year they were back together, they weren’t fighting, and they even had the romantic view of warp space, as they began to make up for the lost year. It was perfect.

The next morning came as they both lay on one of the lounging sofas that the observation dome boasted.

‘Good morning beautiful!’ Gable whispered gently in her ear as she began to wake; noticing Gable lying next to her she smiled once more looking to be the happiest that she had been for a long time.

‘Good morning you, what a night that was!’ she replied in the same gentle tone of voice.

‘If you say so princess!’ Gable chuckled as did she, as she gently punched his arm, pretending to be angry.

‘Hey be honest now! A lot could depend on your answer here Benj!’ she remarked attempting to appear serious in her comment, but failing miserably.

‘Heh, I see now! blackmail right?’ Gable asked, laughing.

Sobering himself to speak from the heart this time he began again. ‘No, no, last night was the best night that I have had in a long time Keira, thank you!’ He shared, kissing her on the nose.

Giggling away at the tickling sensation on her nose, she replied. ‘Yeah I couldn’t agree more! Well except for your karaoke jam! now that there was an epic performance! And we recorded it in the captains log honey!’ she announced, laughing.

‘What? You serious? Oh no...’ Gable almost shouted, looking traumatised.

‘Relax, it was great fun and we can add it into the crews’ vid album too okay?’ she replied, reassuring him with her intentions.

‘Yeah okay then...good times and all, we need to hold on to them!’ he added, finally agreeing with her.

‘Wow, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep like that in a long time, I guess that you were the missing touch after all! What time is it?’ Landon asked.

‘Oh crap! Well...we have time for a late breakfast I guess, then we need to be getting some work last night’s clothes...yeah the guys are going to love this aren’t they Benj? Lets hurry!’ she confessed.

It had only taken minutes to get to the mess hall that morning, they had hoped to avoid the crew entirely before breakfast but naturally there they were sitting, waiting for them as they both rushed to the entrance stumbling to a halt as the crew began cheering at the two of them.

‘Yeah, yeah guy’s, big cheers now, thank you!’ Gable and Keira looked back at each other, laughing at the praise.

The crew, or rather the family did not need to be told about their beautiful night together in the observation dome, they had already known that something was going to happen sooner or later, they had been partners for years after all. Dares on the other hand; she would no doubt interrogate Landon for the details later.

The members of the crew each stood up as Gable and Keira had both entered the room, finally and they were greeted with hugs and kisses.

‘Hey! Congrats you too! We knew that you would work it out, I mean what else is a space cruise for right?’ Dares announced for them. They all nodded and cheered louder this time following Dares’ little speech. Gable looked back at Landon once more, unable to shift his focus away for too long, just like it had used to be.

‘Thanks guys it means a lot! We are really going for it this more leave or separate work commitments; we are here together now after all and we work better as a team!’ Keira replied with a subtle wink to Gable.

‘Damn right you’re a good team, I mean you have us c’mon!’ Haynes mocked as he extended his arms around Dares and Hicks for a near bone crushing hug, since they were the unfortunate ones standing right next to him.

Another day had passed now as everything proceeded smoothly. The common idea among any space faring crew was to prepare for the worst during travel times which the ships automated systems had handled perfectly with no problems, this idea was most important when you where entering an area of space where no one had gone before.

It was of course a terrifying feeling; the fear of the unknown but the idea of being the first to explore a new star system had surpassed that.

It was that time now; they would still be travelling through warp space at an unfathomable speed but they would be doing so whilst traversing through what the crew had coined ‘the mysterious and untouched Hades sector’.

This was however, a sector of space that they still knew too little about. Only minutes now until they were officially beyond where the Cideen Republic had reached throughout their thousands of years of constant expansion.

‘Say Keira, did you find any more information on the Hades sector? Or does it look like the government were being honest in their reports?’ Gable asked to pass the time.

’Yeah well...I actually discovered two more reports, one of them just reiterates the fact that the Republic had to cease exploration and plans to colonize in that sector of space because of budget cuts...which still doesn’t make any more sense since we had continued to colonize in almost every other direction regardless of these so called budget cuts.

The other report was deemed classified but...your good friend the president forwarded it to the ’Procules’ database anyway; what can I say that guy is definitely on our side, which is some good news at least!’ Landon d.

‘Yeah he’s a good guy!’ Gable smiled reassuringly at her

‘So what’s the classified report say?’ Gable asked.

‘Well it’s actually a surveillance probe activity report...just one which is odd but it does show that someone was curious about that area of space!’.

Half an hour had passed while the crew continued to dig up some more research.

‘You’re not going to like this one bit but apparently four hundred and four years ago the drone was launched from the colony research cruiser 'Breach’, whose responsibility was to assess the habitability of planetary bodies and star systems as a whole. Now according to this report, the drone warped into the first star system which was fine, no habitable planets of course it entered the second star system there was a lot of static feedback on the probe and then it was just gone!’ Landon erupted, calming again before she continued with the strange report.

‘This is the interesting part! Says here that they only went and reported the discovery of that same probe at the bottom of the ocean, on Julos, five years ago...weird right?’ Landon added.

‘Crap, we better pray guys! Who knows what’s going to happen in this place!’ Gable announced to the crew who were looking back nervously.

The rest of the journey there was clearly going to be a potentially perilous one now, and they had to depend on each other to get through it.

‘We can do this! We’re almost there, a few more days’ right? Let’s get back to work, I want you to treble check your systems and equipment for anything unusual, as of this moment, we need to be ready!’ Gable ordered.

It was fortunate that the final week or so was passing by fairly quickly but there were no celebrations this time and there wouldn’t be while they were within the Hades sector but at least Gable had Landon.

In order to be closer to Gable, Landon decided that she would move into his quarters with him which was of great comfort; something that he desperately needed right now as they headed ever deeper into the Hades sector.

The crew were also panicking inside, but by using the oldest coping mechanism in the book they had instead busied themselves within their research in order to pass the time quicker which had worked to a certain extent.

With two days of travel time left the crew were teetering upon the edge of sanity yet again; silence was now becoming the norm on the bridge of the ‘Procules’. The terrifying memories and feelings that Warden star system had brought up were now back. Gable tried not to think about them, which of course had made him think about them even more.

The crew were more scared now than ever before as the ship began shudder violently for no apparent reason and had began to slam on the brakes at an alarming pace while they were still inside warp space which simply should not happen.

Alarms blared as the crew fought to secure themselves in their harnesses.

‘What the hell is this? Oh crap! Strap in! Strap in now!’ Gable tried to yell over the drowning thunderous groan of severe turbulence that ’Procules’ was now being subject to.

‘Got it boss! I checked everyone! Were good! Sort of’ Haynes shrieked.

‘Helena! This feels like Warden all over again doesn’t it?’ Gable shouted over the prolonging clamour of estranged whirring sounds that were now filling up the atmosphere of the ship.

Under the immense pressure that they were now facing which was far worse than what they had experienced at Warden star system; all that Dares could do was barely nod her head in agreement at his comparison as the turbulence ferociously pinned her back into her chair.

As minutes passed by; Gable could hear the excessive moaning from the outer hull of the ship as it was being put under an unsurmountable set of stresses that could very well be tearing the ship apart for all that he knew.

At least that is what the crew felt like at that moment, and if the ship was in fact screaming in pain, one could only imagine what would it be doing to the crew inside right now.

Seconds later with an instantaneous crash of what seemed to be space lightning; the phenomenon struck the bow of the ship as it was force to dive below their current trajectory, with a final combination of those same whirring sounds resulting in one very loud clatter the ship somehow exited warp space prematurely.

They suddenly appeared within the outer edge of what looked to be an Ion cloud; in the orbit of a blue giant star. Moments later the ship's interior lighting began to fluctuate along with the shields, engines and all primary systems, everything began to shut down in quick succession.

‘Sweet mother’n hell! I know that I wished we were out of warp space but...well this isn’t quite what I had in mind! What’s going on up there?’ Hicks yelled over the ships intercom.

‘Hey Mickey you down in engineering?’ Gable asked.

‘Where else boss!’ he replied instantly.

‘Right, how does it look down there?’ Gable asked immediately after.

‘Well boss, we have ourselves a full systems shut down...we are dead in the water!’ he yelled, louder than necessary.

‘Yeah I have the same readings here! It looks like the Ion radiation cloud we are entering now is causing all kinds of problems with our systems, even navigation is blown and we won’t survive long without shields either, especially with this kind of exposure!’ hecalled out sharply.

‘Copy that anyone got any suggestions?’ Gable asked, praying that someone did.

‘We need to at least get thrusters back online! We need to push up and get out of this mess of a cloud or we will be dead and deep fried in short order I’m afraid!’ Hicks replied, taking only a few seconds to come up with an idea, it was pretty self-explanatory, but it was something that they could work on nonetheless.

‘Copy, get on with that! I’m sending Kenny down there to help too!’ Gable announced down to the engineering section.

‘You heard, right Kenny? We need to push out of here while we still can, head down there and give him a hand will you?’ he asked.

‘I’m on it boss, we’ll get her out’ Haynes replied with supreme confidence.

‘Alright everyone, keep monitoring our systems, try to get them back online!’ Gable ordered.

‘No problem Professor!’ Dares replied with a grim smile and then she was focused back on to her own work station again, as were the rest of the crew.

This was it; they would either succeed in getting the systems back online or they would die trying. Please let us get out of this in one piece. Gable thought out loud, receiving a subtle nod from Landon as she secretly shared the sentiment.

Moments later, Haynes was running down stairs to the engineering section of the ship; as he did so, the others on the bridge heard him yelling obscenities, just a few meters down the corridor.

‘Crap did you see that flash? Damn lightning nearly took my head off!’ Haynes mocked, the crew turning at the sound of him running and yelling as he went. It would seem that only Haynes could find any trace of humour in this particular situation.

They were not so lucky with the next lightning strike though, the lighting smashed into the portside hull of the ship as a small explosion rattled the structure of ‘Procules’ along with the crew inside.

‘Ah hell it looks like it hit the portside communication array but we won’t know what state it is in until we get out of here!’ Dares reported, struggling to regain her composure.

‘Right, well, just keep trying the communications network one the way out of here! That’s all we can do for now!’ Gable replied. Ten minutes or so later a very haggard looking Mickey Hicks reported back to the bridge over the comm. Network.

'Looks like our comm’s are semi-working still, full of static interference of course, Kenny is here too and he is saying that he saw the second lightning strike hit the array at a glance [static] still there, it is sparking like a firework though! I guess that we should just be grateful that it didn’t fall off into space!’ Hicks added breathlessly.

Hicks then continued his report after allowing a minute for the crew to take the information in over the top of the interference.

'Also after analysing the trans-warp core readouts, it seems that we have been damn lucky boss... more lucky than we were with the communications array...when we fell out of warp space we were going quite fast already, regardless of the loss of power. The ship’s [static] momentum had caused it to splash into the Ion cloud and the sheer magnetic power within the cloud had resulted in it behaving like a net for us!’ Hicks reported, a small smile appearing on his face.

As Gable listened intently he began to broaden his smile a little too. Dares interjected in the conversation, causing Gable and Hicks to worry for a moment.

‘Yeah we are getting intermittent power over here, I have been able to identify the same result...the impact has significantly altered our trajectory, which is where the good news comes in!’ Dares announced for the entire crew to hear, and then waited an appreciative moment in order to build up to her much anticipated good news.

‘You see Professor, when we had first fell out of warp we dove bow first into the cloud which would have ended very badly for us, especially if we had actually been in normal space to begin with but...we were already going very fast and we were right at the edge of the cloud when we fell...our trajectory change will actually allow us to cruise right back out, and across the top of it!’ she finished.

‘Nice catch you guys! Mickey, Helena I owe you two another beer!’ Gable was breathing easier now for the moment at least.

Waiting for his attention, it was Landon’s turn to contribute now ‘Benjamin I have done the math...based on our current trajectory whilst cruising with no thrust it will take us three and a half hours...give or take a few minutes to get back out of here!’ she reported.

‘That’s also great news, nice one Keira! Alright then guys we can keep trying to restore power while we are on our way out; keep checking your systems for any updates too!’ Gable ordered again.

With everyone knowing what they needed to do; Gable began to check the damaged communications array systems to see if he could glean any new information yet, that is, additional information aside from the firework display that they were now witnessing where the damaged array was.

The emergency power supply had kicked in fortunately which was barely enough to maintain the life support, but if Landon’s math was correct they would only need to use up approximately three and a half hours of oxygen out of the twelve hour supply that they had remaining onboard.

‘This should be enough to keep us running until we get out of here!’ Landon concluded, checking and rechecking her calculations.

The next three and a half hours were unimaginably long, as the crew could do nothing but sit there waiting in hope for an end to the electrifying clouds.

Hicks called back up from engineering after about two hours.

‘Hey boss we aren’t having any luck down here yet! Whatever those clouds are composed of, the energy which they are emitting is far too powerful! They must be creating some kind of magnetic barrier around our ship which is disabling all of the electronics like a continuous EMP pulse. I wouldn’t even want to hazard a guess as to what would happen if we managed to jump back into warp from inside the cloud!’ Hicks sounded out.

‘I see your point there Mickey! Are you putting Kenny to good use?’ Gable asked, changing the topic slightly.

Hicks turned to face the now exhausted Haynes for a second, Haynes was hard at work, and with sweat dripping down the right side of his face he gave Hicks a thumbs up in reply.

‘Yeah he is helping me with the warp diagnostics!’ Hicks reported enthusiastically.

‘That’s good well I think that we should hold off on the warp repairs...for now anyway...just to be safe! Focus on our thrusters!’ Gable ordered in turn.

The last hour was the worst as they sat in the now dark and eerie bridge; which for an outsider would be unrecognisable without it boasting its usual bright interior. The ’Procules’ could now be considered as a candidate for one of those old space ghost stories, as it perilously sailed through the minefield of rampageous lightning.

Gable sat unmoved on the bridge with Landon and Dares as they stared at the never ending, rumbling cerulean blue and dim grey coloured clouds that were still enveloping the ship as it relentlessly searched for an exit.

It was as if the ship itself had realised the danger that it was in. Now eight minutes had passed since the calculated exit deadline and the crew began to think the worst. Would they be stuck within the lost clouds forever; with no accurate means of checking their trajectory.

It was entirely too possible that the constant pressure build up from the clouds could have forced yet another change in their path.

‘Oh come on, give us a chance you bastard!’ Dares screamed as panic set in on the bridge, not Gable though, he had to remain composed for the sake of the crew.

Come on, come on where is it. He thought to himself.

Eighteen minutes now, they must have been shifted onto a different trajectory; how bad of a trajectory was something that they could not know though.

‘Alright guys things are looking bad I’m not going to lie; keep trying to get the thrusters online, keep checking the systems, that’s all we... What now?’ Gable began to order, when something else happened.

A somewhat lighter turbulence now filled the air as the ship shook intermittently.

‘Wait, I’m seeing more and more black out there!’ Landon yelled across the bridge as she looked exasperated.

‘Confirmed, wait a second! Is that....’ ‘It is! Hell yeah! Boss I see stars!’ Dares discovered, yelling back as she too had been unable to contain her joy at having once again discovered the outside universe.

‘Say again, you see stars?’ Hicks and Haynes down in the engineering compartment asked excitedly over the communications network, unable to suppress a goofy, relieved grin, Gable replied right away.

‘You bet we do! It has never felt so good to see the endless black of space! Enough of those damn clouds!’ he managed to get out, a wave of relief flooding over him; just it was probably doing with the rest of the crew now.

With a final lunge to safety, the ship climbed out of the cloud with surprising ease compared to when they had first fell inside; the ship sailed majestically now, leaving a trail of sparkling dust behind them in their wake, but neither the crew or 'Procules’ herself were willing to risk looking back to see.

Minutes later, Gable appeared to be more restive and more visibly calm and collected as he gently pressed the ship communications key to call out to the others.

‘We’re out guys! Very nice work! But we have to get out there and check on the damage to the portside communications array, volunteers?’ Gable asked, knowing that he would likely have to go himself.

‘I’ll go boss, I wanna get out of here as soon as possible! If you don’t mind me saying so?’ Haynes confessed with a sigh, Gable definitely did not expect to receive such a request.

‘I don’t mind, believe me! Okay you get on with that and keep us patched in...Hicks you get on with the thrusters, but leave the warp systems until last, we wouldn’t want to accidently jump away with Kenny hanging on to the outside of the ship now would we?’ Gable mocked, immediately throwing a sincere look toward the man.

Gable continued to speak immediately after the humorous moment which was simply not possible earlier when they had still been lost ‘We will work on getting our primary systems online up here...good luck everyone!’ he said.

Climbing across the outside of the ship was not something to take lightly, certainly something that Haynes worked out for himself, as he struggled again and again to get his footing next to the damaged array.

‘Okay you guys hear me?’ Haynes tested.

‘We hear you...go ahead Kenny’ Landon replied.

‘Okay, looks like the explosion damaged the communication linkage but I can patch it up for now...It will need a good work out when we get back but it will be space worthy; just give me twenty minutes’ Haynes reported.

‘Copy that,’ Gable replied.

Everything was looking up once again as the primary power came back on.

‘We have lights again, yes!’ Dares announced triumphantly across the bridge as Gable nodded in acknowledgment

‘Good job’ Gable applauded.

‘Primary systems are back online too! That was relatively easy to complete without the damn cloud severing all of the electronic connections throughout the ship!’ Dares confirmed.

‘Yeah that’s right, surveying systems...check, mining and excavating operations...check, communications still down but repairs are going well!’ Gable agreed.

‘Let’s see, helm analysis complete, once the thrusters and warp are online we are good to go!’ Gable added to the mandatory checklist before placing a call down to Hicks in engineering.

‘Hicks, any update on the thrusters?’ he asked in earnest with an innate sense of hope about him.

‘Yeah we blew a couple of circuits down here as well but...thanks to your great insight boss, we have plenty of spares, give me forty minutes or so!’ Hicks praised.

‘I’m done guys, the arrays should be networked again, confirm?’ Haynes confirmed, trying to wipe away the sweat on his brow, before remembering that he was still inside of his space suit.

‘Yes! Brilliant work, they look good from here too, okay Kenny you head in back now, Mickey is nearly done with the thrusters so that we can build up enough speed when we get out of warp next time; that is rather, when we are supposed to exit warp!’ Gable said, reassuring Haynes.

‘Copy that boss, I’m heading back now!’ Haynes replied in a satisfied tone.

As soon as Haynes arrived back up on the bridge, he was greeted with handshakes and the excessive patting of his shoulders by the others.

‘Good work Kenny, take a seat!’ Gable pointed to one of the vacant chairs on the bridge. Somehow exactly forty minutes later the crew felt the thrusters’ spring to life as if the ship were a land vehicle receiving a primitive engine jumpstart.

‘And we’re off, thrusters are back online, moving to warp systems now, assessing...’ Hicks called up to the bridge.

‘The warp is perfectly fine structurally speaking; it merely shut down as a safety precaution when we began to experience violent turbulence...and then fall out into the Ion cloud;a few blown circuits as well but otherwise we are golden! Give me ten minutes boss!’ Hicks reported.

‘That’s it I’m strapping in down here, you can warp boss!’ Hicks said, calling back a shorter nine minutes later.

It had felt good to be back into warp for some strange reason, of course that was probably because of their near death experience which they had so desperately wanted to leave behind; they would finally arrive at the signal location in two more days.

Those two days had passed by fairly quickly; usually boredom would have set in during the first week of travel on a journey this long.

This time was different though; all of the research that needed to be conducted prevented that common period of sheer boredom from occurring in the first place.

The Ion cloud incident had also prevented this of course.

At long last, the two week one day journey had finally reached it's end; the crew of 'Procules' would soon discover previously uncharted space.

There would be no telling of what awaited them; the historic survey details regarding their destination were marginal at best.

The gruelling fact was that no one knew what to expect; the unprecedented appearance of temporal anomalies and the other horror's which had befallen Warden Star system had until this moment; remained an unsolved and somewhat unsettling mystery.

This would now change; and the moment where each of their questions would be answered, had finally arrived.

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