Chapter One: The Caged Pheonix

He that lives long & desires death much is ever the King among the Kings.

The land to the immediate southwest of Osirus is a natural hotspring slowly winding down in activity; a fading reminder of the disasterous tectonic upheaval that created the new continant. Although lush and brimming with the buds of what will in a few generations become a magnificant forest, the ground is still craggy and treacherous. These conditions drove Reid Magnuson to choose a ten mile path through it as his training grounds in the months leading up to the mission.

With only three miles left on his current circuit his muscles screamed with fatigue as his lungs churned out steam and his veins pumped acid. A feeling he was more than used to, but never thought he would welcome it. Fifteen years ago this feeling would never have occured without a disciplined subduing sense of panic, the deafening concussion of a thousand ane one different kinds of explosions, the crack of cumbustion firearms and even louder railguns, the shrill sound of splitting air from laser fire, and the symphony of niose made by thousands upon thousands of humans in a battlefield. This time though, it was so serene and with such purpose as to make Reid all the more nervous and driven to finish his run. This was a rare and bizzare sort of masochism only seen in old, battle-hardened soldiers.

The end of the trail was coming up. Reid could spot Colonel Rogers in the jeep at the bottom of the hill. By this time it was time to turn the body off of auto-pilot and begin slowing down. for the last twenty minutes he hadn't even felt the ground slip rythmically beneath his feet and it was always more effort trying to stop. but he managed to a few dozen yards before the jeep, gulping in barrels of air at a time, and feeling his age catch up to him.

Col. Rogers shook his head as he stopped the timer. "Jesus, Reid. Twenty-nine minutes and fourty-two seconds." he said with scolding disbelief.

"Yeah..." Reid managed to say between gasps. "I'm not as... young as I... used to be." He concluded before drenching a fresh towel.

"Yeah, no ****. Keep this up and you'll kill yourself before the launch."

Reid stood up, his exhaustion seeming to vanish. "I don't think I could be killed." He said as he climbed in the jeep. "Even if I wanted to be."

"Heh, well try not to think like that on the mission."

"No way. As much as i love this ball of dirt i see the is whole Apollo thing as a well deserved vacation."

"That's not what I had in mind."

Reid remained silent, temporarily lost in one of his doldrums of thought for the majority of the ride back to the base.

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(This message has been edited by Sargatanus (edited 03-02-2004).)

Marissa Engels Pharris had been extremely surprised when she had been selected to ride on the UNSS Apollo. It was not completely beyond the realm of possibility, She was one of only six biochemists in the world who had gotten and MD and three PhDs before she was thirty. She was older than Pharris, older by several years. They had met while he was in the miliatry hospital where she was a resident during the war.
Her last fifteen years had been spent researching in Europe, and had won the first nobel prize in Biology given out after the war, for her research. She was not sure how to deal with this new job. She had initially been upset --Osirus University had given her a several hundred million dollar grant to found their biology department, and she was surrendering her tenure, and the possibility of huge advances in her research in order to go and explore the nature of an entire alien biosphere and explore the completely new biochemical makeup of a whole new process of evolution. Now, of course, she was setting up her lab space aboard the Apollo, mixing microgravity and centrifuged spaces to give her maximum flexibility. This, coupled with the constant training in spaceflight, firefighting and other emergency situation responses. There was a lot of work to do, launch was scheduled in a few short months, and while everyone knew there would be delays, there was a very strong impetus to get the Apollo moving as fast as possible.

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NEW NAME FOR THE DREADNOUGHT
The Hard-Boiled Egg
Why?
Because she cant be beaten!

"Final computer checkout... green."

"Three more systems to go."

The Apollo was scheduled to launch in 20 minutes. Outside, sails the size of a metropolis awaited a laser using up more power than a country. Reid glanced at the progress bar as he finished his manual inspection of the oxygen systems.

"Atmosphere green."

"Nav green."

"Sails green."

Reid pressed the send on his headset. "Reid to SOLC. We have confirmed ship green. Positioning for departure."

The ship rocked with the "whump whump whump" of massive maneuvering thrusters aiming it precisely. The sounds faded as the adjustments became finer and finer.

"This is SOLC. We confirm green. Continue countdown."

Final checks would continue being made by the automated systems until departure, but now the humans simply sat nervously. There would be no grand acceleration, no violent kick. They would, however, have the constant acceleration of the ship to provide a modicum of gravity to them.

The minutes ticked by. "L minus one minute and counting." "L minus thirty seconds and counting." "L minus fifteen seconds and counting." "L minus ten ... nine ... eight ... seven ... six ... five ... four ... three ... two ... one."

"Launch."

The laser snapped on, reflecting off the gigantic sail and pushing the craft forwards inexorably. On the ship, the crew and passengers felt themselves drift towards the floor. 150 years to go.

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Darkk sighed. "There they go."

Grithia leaned against him. "How long do you think they have?"

"A hundred, hundred and fifty years maybe. It's gonna be over like stepping on a bug."

"Well, it's time to head back to Ishima, Red Crew is waiting."

Darkk looked forwards to his vacation. He'd have a chance to go home and do a bit of hunting with Grithia...

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"In literature as in love we are astounded by what is chosen by others." Andre Maurois
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(This message has been edited by Fleet Admiral Darkk (edited 07-29-2004).)

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