Chapter 24: To the surface!

The engines growled. Slowly the ship took off and hovered about 2 meters above ground. The main drives launched and the ship started to move towards the open wall. Gently the hull pushed the gel layer away, which closed after them again, not letting anything but their ship leave the hangar. Soon the wall was closing again and nobody would ever have imagined that there had been a huge hole only moments ago.

"Hey, that's fun. Now let's try a looping."

Douglas pulled the flight stick towards him and the ship did a looping.

"And now let's check how fast we can actually go."

He adjusted the speed control somewhere between a dozen look-alike buttons. The control panel had been a bit confusing at first but actually it was quite easy to use and highly configureable.

"Hey, that's pretty fast."

He reduced the speed.

"Didn't Erik say we have guns on board?"

"Yes," Fire said, "where do you want the trigger? It isn't set up yet."

"What about that button on the flight stick?"

"Wait a second... Should work now. What about a test?"

Douglas pushed the button and two light bolts shot out of the ship's side.

"Great. And now let's blow up some TIEs. - Erm, never mind..."

"Next stop: planet surface." Douglas said and did a sharp turn.

"Do you see something very big directly ahead, Doulas?" Gold asked.

"Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" Douglas, Maki and Fire cried. Douglas pushed the flight stick away as far as possible.

"Can't you just answer the question?" Gold demanded still looking at the sreen in front of her.

"Gold," Maki said with a far too sweet voice, "we", no she was nearly shouting and emphasizing every word seperately, "nearly crashed into the Albian Explorer."

"Um, well, the sensors are working then..."

Some time later they reached the atmosphere of the planet. A strong wind was blowing, carrying with it orange dust. Now the flight was everything else but pleasant. They were shaken through every few seconds and Douglas needed all his concentration to stabilize the ship. Gold was carefully watching the scanners and Maki kept a line open to Rain and Erik in case something happened. Only Fire didn't seem to be affected at all. Since there was nothing to do for him he carefully checked the equipment for a second and third time.

"We are approaching the surface to quick. Adjust the angle a bit."

Gold said.

"Better now?"

"Perfect. We are close enough to get useable data by now. I'll try to project it on the screen."

"Which Screen?"

"You'll see." Gold pushed a few buttons and on the window light green lines appeared forming a wire frame image of the surface. There were mountains, valleys, canyons. A few minutes later the turbulences dissapeared and now the ship glided smoothly through the air.

"Did you activate something? I can't feel the storm anymore." Douglas said.

"No, we left the storm zone." Gold answered.

"Did you look out of the window lately? I can't see anything a bit than before."

"According to the sensors you are wrong. Sight is perfectly clear."

"But look yourse... Oh my god! Do you see that over there? The sight *is* clear. What a desolate planet."

The ground had the same orange colour as the dust above them and the diffuse light, filtered through the atmosphere, drew no shadows. The only thing visible was something blinking at the horizon.

"Can you see what it is, Gold?" Maki asked.

"Too far away. We have to get closer."

Time passed.

"I have it on the sensors now. It's a group of hemispheres sitting on the ground and penetrating each other. Different sizes. The largest one has a diameter of roughly 2 kilometers, the smallest only a few meters."

"Biospheres." said Douglas and Maki at the same time.

Chapter 25