"The undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns, puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we have, than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all." Hamlet
Everyone headed off to their respective departments to tend to things. Venus went to her station on the bridge to look over the status of the different departments, and then went about to inspect the well being of the vessel with Mr. MacFarlane alongside her. Mercury went first into the medical deck to make sure that all was what it should be, and then she headed to engineering to inspect the drives. She was still awed by the fact that she was able to discover the feasibility of cold fusion, allowing for the matter/antimatter reaction for warp speed. Such things also made the weapons of the kingdom feasible as well. She looked over the engine, and heard her purring like a kitten. One of the crew in his crackerjacks, marked in the light blue of science and engineering, "Don't worry, your highness, the shakedown cruise only seemed to make her run better. She's the fastest thing in the galaxy at this point."
She smiled at the statement, knowing that it was just him trying to keep her calm, happy, and encouraged. Mars entered the SEALs deck, and an immediate, "Attention on deck!" was heard thundered throughout. "At ease, as you were," responded Mars, and she began to walk the deck. Normal military decorum would have called for everyone to be before their quarters, ready for inspection. However, these were top paramilitary troops, expert in asymmetrical warfare and demolitions. They had enough discipline to keep all their quarters to proper military standards. However, due to the nature of their mission, despite the ranks that many held, that only mattered mission-wise. They were more like a big family, knowing that conditions like this were good for the kind of team cohesion that they needed for their kind of mission. With the exception of Princess Admiral Mars, things were a bit looser. However, she often dropped that stiff guise with them, though she kept a respectable distance in order to maintain respect for her authority.
This was not a luxury provided to the Marines and the Greenbacks in Security. All the sailors were either dressed like the senshi, but a bit more subdued, or they were dressed in the crackerjacks if they were men, unless they were doing some kind of manual labor. Everyone wore the color scheme on their neckerchiefs and their crackerjack flaps, (and skirts if they were women,) as well as on their footgear, that matched the senshi underneath whom they worked. The term "greenback" went to the security because of that color scheme, marking them out for the most dangerous position onboard ship. The Greenbacks and Marines were used for security on ship, and the Marines had the Greenbacks' aid planetside if the situation called for it. This gave both branches the shortest life expectancy in the military. Because of that, discipline was tight, because they had to be that tough.
The admiral and general came on deck as"Attention on deck" was called, and everyone snapped to. They were all in formation, the Greenbacks to one side, and the Marines to the other, all carrying their weapons. The captain in charge when General Ceres was not there called, "Company," to which all the platoon lieutenants called, "Platoon," in response. Captain DeKlerk then called "Present...ARMS!"
Everyone then saluted with their weapons, bringing them all to "present arms" position. Ceres, who had his saber at right shoulder arms brought the flat side of the hilt to his eyes, and then swung the blade to his side, pointing the blade down and to the right. Jupiter rendered a hand salute, considering that she was not carrying a weapon at that time. The guideon bearer brought up the guideon, and then snapped it down, point facing straight out. After the salute was returned, the unit was ordered back to "order arms," as Ceres resheathed his saber, and Captain DeKlerk gave the command for them to prepare for inspection. All the platoons then separated into inspection formation, and the troops prepared for the walkthrough. Lieutenant Inchardi came astride Jupiter as Captain DeKlerk came astride Ceres. The two pairs separated and headed to their respective sides of the room.
Each of the sailors and Marines was armed with the same saber and Meteor Shower but they also had a standard assault weapon. This was suggested centuries ago by the general himself, stating that such things would be useful in a standard fight. The Meteor Shower could only do so much, and it was terrible at range. Therefore, a rifle was sought. All the worlds put in bids, but never so much more than those of Earth. Even though mankind had interbred into one race, with exceptions, they were still somewhat culturally diverse to either the worlds they now occupied, or the cultures that had existed on Earth prior to the Cataclysm. After much had been done in research and bidding, it was the Kalashnikov Arms Company that came up with the accepted weapon, being the first to combine the cold fusion technology to ahandheld size. This allowed for electromagnetic pulse to propel the bullet, thus making for caseless ammunition, and allowing the average foot soldier to carry seemingly endless ammo. The round itself was a special tungsten/titanium/steel alloy considering the tremendous speeds the round could achieve-nearly the speed of light. This was the same concept behind the rail guns that the UES Artemis bore, (using the same kind of round, but one that is highly explosive,) but on a much smaller scale. The designation became the Automatic Kalashnikov 3001, (or the AK-01.) They could be fired at semi or fully automatic, with absolutely no recoil, considering that the pulse flung the round rather than pushed it, (and thus allowing for Newton's third law to fall into play.) If it pushed the round, the recoil would be impossible to restrain. This became the standard assault rifle for the Marines and the Army. However, the SEALs and the Sea Bees decided on another design that fell just behind the AK-01. This was a particle accelerator created by Springfield Armory done in a bullpup design, semi or fully automatic. This was preferred by the two aforementioned groups due to the nature of their missions, and they bore the designation of the M-7 bullpup assault rifle.
The two pairs went down the ranks of the platoons of their respective companies, stopping before each sailor or Marine. As they did, that one would perform "inspection arms," and then they would go over the person before them, occasionally snatching a weapon by the barrel to inspect its cleanliness and fitness. As they did, they would occasionally ask aquestion: what is general order such and such, what is the maximum effective range of the weapon, what is the Code of Conduct, and so forth. Sometimes acompliment would be given, and occasionally a minor correction on their uniforms or weapons was mentioned. No one, however, was so far off mark that it called for any harsh correction. These two companies were well disciplined and trained. After that was done, the ranks were called to close together and the pair of flag officers took their position on the platform that overlooked the troops. Since Jupiter was in high command of both the Marines and the Greenbacks, she was the one to take occasion to speak. She took to the lectern and began to speak: "Welcome one and all to the greatest mission of your lives."
The sailors all responded with a "hooyah," while the Marines all responded with "Oorah!"
Once they had settled down, she began to speak again: "As you know, we are heading off into deep space, making the first visit of our solar system to another planetary system ever attempted. This does bear some meditation to the weight that such a mission carries. We are literally heading for worlds unknown, and that would also include possible intelligent life. We know not what life we might face, to what level of advancement that life has achieved, or if they will even be friendly with us. Understanding this, we must then face this with the gravity it deserves. We are not there to conquer or to exploit. If they are a race that is not nearly as advanced as us, then we are to respect that and leave them alone unless our intervention helps prevent the extinction of a sentient race whose extinction was not of their making. If, say, because of war, a dictatorial government, foolish science gone awry, they have fated themselves for this, then we will make an assessment to intervene on one certain group or another to remove them from their home worlds if it is determined that their fates were caused by the fools in charge, quarantine them from our technology, and resettle them on a new world to face their own fates. If after that, they fail, then, in reality, we must not interfere, no matter how much suffering there is, because they were given the chance to survive, and the squandered the chance. As much as that hurts to let something like that happen, we must not come to the place where we feel it is our place to force things on them for which they are not ready. There would be far more disaster and death caused by our actions then if we tried to interfere as little as possible. The lessons of history in the area of exploration of Earth itself teach us much in that regard.
"Having said all that, it should drive home the point that the mission we face will be dangerous. We have no idea what kind of wildlife we face, the nature of the environments there, the dangers of the wilderness, or what we shall face should there be sentient life there. It could be that some of you will not be going home. However, I am led to understand that this was a risk all of you were willing to take, for the formation of these units were done strictly on a voluntary basis, with full understanding of everything I just said. With that in mind, always remember you represent the UES Artemis, and the United Worlds of Sol, and that calls for the highest in professionalism, discipline, toughness, but at the same time, it calls for the highest in compassion, respect for others and other cultures, and a willingness to always see justice done, thought the heavens fail. Company commanders, we now turn it over to you, and let us begin our standard ship duties. Let's have a great mission, and let's do all we can to make sure everyone comes home."
Another salute was given, and it was given to the commanders, who then gave it to the lieutenants, who then gave it to the platoon sergeants. Jupiter then said, "Officers, we will meet tomorrow at 0800 hours for a staff and status meeting. See you then."
The officers saluted, and the couple went their way, straight to their quarters.
They made their way along the halls to their chamber, running into Venus along the way. After exchanging a few pleasantries, the three of them found themselves in the Reichmann's quarters, talking about old times. Before long, the instruments were out, and they were singing their old hits and favorite songs. They finished off with "Sloop John B," and they began to discuss putting on a show for the crew on their return trip as a way to celebrate a successful mission. In truth the Ark Juban Trio were technically still a group, but because of their duties, they rarely ever performed together. Thus, they decided that it was long overdue for such athing, and they decided to transmit the show back to the Sol system as areunion concert. After Venus excused herself to meet with the operations department officers, the couple sat quiet for a time. Then, Jupiter eased herself into his lap putting her arms around his neck, as he put his arms around her waist. They kissed passionately, and Jupiter said, "Five hundred years, and I still love you just as much as back when we were just kids in high school."
"Girl, you are so much a part of me now, I could not bear to live without you," responded Ceres, and they kissed again. She then let down her hair, and they began to cuddle. She then said, "I could not live without you, and I am so glad you came with me."
"To explore the unknown is something I would not want to miss," he said, "I know that Captain DeKlerk could have handled it, but I just could not bear to be without you."
"Just keep saying that," she said, "and I shall be yours forever."
She held him tighter as they kissed, and he picked her up as they headed towards the bedchamber. Knowing how their duties might prevent them being together often without being exhausted, this moment, they felt, was needful, because it would be a while before they could be this intimate again. Besides, they were still that passionate for one another, and they really did not need an excuse, but because of the way things were, they did what they could to make it a memorable evening.
Hours later, Serenity and Venus were again on the bridge when it was announced that Lalande was approaching. The command was given to come out of warp and to full impulse power. There sat the red dwarf in all its splendor. As they scanned, the science department stated that there were about five planets orbiting the star, and the second planet out was class M. It was about one half an AU from the star, and Serenity told the ship to pull into orbit around it. Once done, a full scan of the surface was done. The planet was about a 57 to 43 percent ratio between water and land. The atmosphere was earthlike, about the size of Venus, but with a heavier oxygen concentration and less nitrogen proportionally. The surface had the standard artic, sub-artic, temperate, and tropical zones. There were initial signs that showed the season variation was not as severe as on Earth, due to the fact that the planet only tilted about 12 degrees off center axis. The planet teemed with life, but the initial scans showed that the planet had no signs of sentient life. It was a wilderness on the surface, and it was decided that athorough exploration of the surface was needed to determine if it was fit for colonization, considering that there was no civilization they could disrupt. Serenity then called for a meeting of the inner scouts with the department heads to discuss strategy. As they headed off, Serenity lingered, looking out at the world below them. "So much like Earth," she said, "And yet it could be so different."
She felt a knot form in her throat, now suddenly feeling the anxiety that such endeavors create. She was now not certain if she had made the right decision to go, considering that she had every intent to go on shore herself once it seemed safe enough. Venus came up and gently put ahand on her shoulder, saying, "Come on, we have work to do. Don't worry, because the ship will be down there soon enough. Say, are you trembling?"
Serenity smiled and said, "That's just a little of the girl I was coming up again."
"Hey, that's okay," responded Venus, "Remember the old saying: the conscience does make comrades of us all."
Serenity shook her head, and said, "After five hundred years, and you still can't get the sayings right!"
They both laughed, but the point was still valid. They could only become closer as they went through this mission.