The shuttle jostled as it broke the atmosphere. It had been years since Myra had to pilot a landing craft on her own. She fumbled through the landing sequence, hitting switches with nothing more than a slight hope it was the correct action. Lights flashed, buzzers sounded and she could do little more than slap the control panel and hope it would all stop.
“Sorry about that, Myra,” Hudd’s voice came over the shuttle’s radio, “I had to sneeze. I’ll take control of the shuttle one again.”
“Again?” Myra angrily questioned. “When did you have control in the first place? I’ve been in free fall for five minutes.”
“You think just because we’re mounting an insurrection you get out of rookie hazing rituals? No one aboard the Crest escapes that,” Hudd teased.
Myra hoped her thoughts could be heard by Hudd, but she kept them to herself.
“Ok, you’re en route for splashdown in five…four…three,” Hudd counted down.
Myra was glad the shuttle’s windows were shuttered as seeing the water landing was near the bottom of her list of things to see before she died. The shuttle pierced through the water’s surface and slowed dramatically. She lurched forward, stopped abruptly by her seat’s restraints.
Platform 10 was in the middle of the largest lake in the solar system. From orbit, it appeared as a pristine blue, perfectly rounded circle. It was the jewel of the lead terraformer’s resume. Never before had such perfection been achieved, but on new Earth everything had to be perfect and crews worked diligently to ensure the process went flawlessly. The lake stretched from one horizon to the other. The Platform sat in the middle of it all, monitoring the water’s composition and the burgeoning sea life that ranged from tiny trilobites to fish bigger than capital cruisers.
Myra’s shuttle engaged its submarine protocols and sped toward the designated trigger spot. Once at the proper location, the Platform’s emergency protocols would sound and the Stalwart Crest would be obligated to make an appearance. Hudd was to stop the Platform’s area scanners from orbit as Myra entered the station from a docking bay well below the surface. It was a convoluted plan, but one that ensured the Platform personnel would go unharmed as the crew of the Crest put an end to the lake and an end to the Fleet’s plan for the people of the Perseus Arm.
As the shuttle made way for the target, the walls pinged and plopped as all manner of creature collided with the dark blue craft. Myra imagined the ship was practically invisible to the marine animals it was annoying.
The shuttle moved along nicely for miles, fish bouncing off the shell from time to time. The radio went silent following planet fall. No one wanted to run the risk of being overheard or intercepted. Myra was alone in the lake.
Half an hour into the voyage the shuttle unexpectedly stopped. The engines whirred as they tried to push the craft forward. Myra pulled herself from the floor. The stop came at the very moment she decided to get a snack from the shuttle’s storage. She was displeased.
She went to the front of the shuttle and disengaged the window’s shutters. The metal guards meant to deflect the potential harm of solar radiation folded in on themselves.
Myra recalled her first day aboard the Stalwart Crest. Rafe greeted her with a handshake, Aki handed her a cup of coffee and Hudd took her fingerprints so she could access the rest of the ship without needing an escort. She asked the team how they described themselves. The three laughed in unison, big belly laughs that would become common place throughout her time aboard the orbiting station. Rafe finished laughing and smiled at Myra. He told her, in his commanding voice that could not be replicated by any man or machine, that the crew described themselves as monster hunters.
Myra looked out the window of the submerged shuttle craft. The ship was stuck against the hide of an animal with scales bigger than the shuttle. Coral clung to the side of the beast, barnacles the size of her sleeping quarters poked out from the scales. She had never seen something so large. She watched the scales move up and down, moved by the enormous lungs of the animal.
She stood frozen in front of the window. She needed to get away from the monstrous animal that had blocked her path, but with her piloting skills limited and her teammates unreachable she was at a momentary loss for next moves. She felt her pulse race. On land she would have simply destroyed the monster and moved along. Of course, land creatures were not allowed to grow to this size.
She sat down, eyes still on the massive animal, and started to hit the buttons she thought could reverse the shuttle. She found the correct switch and the whirring sound of the engine ceased. Her heart beat settled some.
It was then, as the sound stopped and the rattling ended, the monster opened its eye.
Myra’s pulse hastened once more.
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