Secrets Unknown by Timothy Bellas and Kevin Bellas by Timothy Bellas and Kevin Bellas - Read Online

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Secrets Unknown - Timothy Bellas

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PART 1

Late in 2047 A.D., astronomers looked into the sky and noticed something odd in the heavens, so they did what most humans do.

They began to look closer.

Chapter 1: Astronomers

Lindsey leaned back on the office chair and thought about the last few days. She wondered how it was even possible that planet Jupiter should be slowing down in its orbit. The NASA science team had calculated a sizeable decrease in the planet’s orbital speed by at least a factor of 1/2. That meant that the twelve year cycle it would normally take for Jupiter to orbit once around the sun had now become twenty-four years. At least that’s what she had been hearing from the NASA staff, and that’s what the long and not so boring conference meetings had plainly told her and the rest of the space agency team.

It seemed impossible, but a decrease of that magnitude wasn’t something that could easily be overlooked or go unnoticed; the planet Jupiter was definitely slowing down.

Over the intercom, Lindsey heard a voice echoing: Lindsey Croffer, please report to room 205. Lindsey Crof fer, please report to room 205. Lindsey pulled herself to her feet and hurried towards the briefing room. On her way she thought about the Jupiter pictures collected from the mission satellite/rover (S/R). And here was the kicker: the inspecting S/R being nothing special in its design and dual functionality; after completing its mission of scanning and photographing its target, it had, upon one last circle of the gas giant, detected something of an oddity. Of course, calling it an oddity" was an understatement at best. In its last pass of the planet, the probe had detected planet-wide discrepancies; inconsistencies against its own comparison database; and upon noting them it promptly proceeded to record its findings. In fact, the ‘inconsistencies’ were new planet-wide I.D. readings contained in its last scan of the globe that previously weren’t in its database. Upon finishing recording the new data, it immediately highlighted the discrepancies and transmitted that information back to earth.

The new data readings did more than just astound its audience. It floored them. It was as if Jupiter’s known planetary profile were some type of data overlay sitting on top of the planet itself, somehow superimposed on it. A ruse. The probe had read what was supposed to be there, meaning the planet’s contents of hydrogen, helium, water and nitrogen, but at last moment’s check before its final prescheduled departure to return to earth, it had detected a mismatch pushing through just beneath its normal readings. Even more surprisingly, from that mismatch a landmass could be detected. Not just the tiny core scientists knew existed at the center of Jupiter, but a real landmass—a prominent one!

The sensor data had contained images of the landmass; ones that showed vast canyons and what seemed to be a stark red sandy wasteland. But that couldn’t be possible, and it sent the science community to warring against one another! From that moment the S/R was re-tasked, peremptorily ordered back and cued into a landing sequence with the specific directive to hit the surface and begin investigating…and to investigate on its own if necessary, even if its remote pilots on earth were unavailable!

In those few short weeks Jupiter had become the celebrity of the scientific community, at least in hushed tones, because NASA and all other space agencies abroad had had the gag-order slapped on them immediately. They were under the strictest orders by their governments not to divulge any information about their findings and definitely not to arouse the awareness of the general public until a more appropriate time.

There was another oddity of a sort in all this business: a certain college student who happened to be in the right place at the right time. One of the scientist’s nephews had been visiting at the time of the discovery and had been (through sheer luck or elevated privilege) in on viewing the photos that were beamed back from the Rover. The Rover had beamed tons of sensor data back to earth along with hundreds of pictures. The examining scientists in their amazement had eagerly combed through the photos, scrutinizing every shadow, every crevice and detail, but apparently none had happened upon what this lone untrained college student had.

In their own examination and estimation, the photos revealed nothing but the supposedly new surface and dry harsh canyons of Jupiter…a place littered with lots of rocks…or so they believed.

But they had missed something.

Chapter 2: Undiscovered Treasure

Lindsey stepped into the briefing room and sat down near Sergeant Johnson. Johnson, an African American man in his forties wore a well-trimmed mustache and a short army crew cut. He was dressed in khaki-colored field fatigues and didn’t bother to acknowledge her. The briefing presentation had already begun and the mission advisor was recapping the Jupiter Rover mission.

Across the overhead projector, screen shots of mission photos replayed. Over in the right hand corner of the room, Lindsey noticed the now somewhat famous geeky college student looking smug and staring starry-eyed at the screen. Because of this kid we have quite a bit more to investigate she thought, but college student or not, he really needs to seriously think about getting a haircut. As she continued to look around, she noticed that Commander Jim Hex was in the room, standing against the back wall with his arms folded across his chest. She had briefly seen him just before he graduated as a senior classman back in her freshman academy days. That was…all of five years ago? As a senior classman he had been well spoken of as one likely to succeed.

I never got to meet him in person though, she thought.

Nowadays everyone just called him Hex, Commander Hex. She smiled to herself and thought, looks like he made it. In the immediate two rows in front of her sat three soldiers she had never seen before. Back on the screen the mission advisor was showing and pointing to a few tiny rocks in the picture’s background. As he zoomed in on one of the rocks the advisor introduced the college student as Brandon Morgan, the young man responsible for this remarkable discovery.

As you can see on closer inspection of these rocks… He used a laser pointer to encircle one of the enlarged images. There are symbols and what appear to be markings that would have gone unnoticed if not for Mr. Brandon Morgan.

Lindsey tried not to seem transfixed by Brandon’s bird nest-like hairdo as she looked over to see him grinning from ear to ear. The simple fact and truth was this; a single seemingly unimportant picture out of hundreds had nearly been overlooked by the agency’s professional staff. Even upon close inspection, it really looked no different from the other hundred or so. If it had not been for this visiting college student and his obsession with the photos, it indeed would have gone unnoticed.

The advisor continued, Immediately we sent the Rover back to the location to retrieve this small treasure but quickly found it to be immobile! We couldn’t move it. We now believe much of the object is hidden beneath the surface and is much larger than what is seen from our photos. Which, he cleared his throat, brings us to you.

At that moment a weary-looking scientist opened the rear door, stuck his head in and frantically signaled the advisor to come over.

Chapter 3: Mission Team

Mission Commander Jim Hex leaned over the guardrail on the bridge of the newly christened starship Infinity. He had been staring at the main view screen while in deep thought. This new ship was quite impressive, he thought to himself, both in size and capabilities. It was a vast twenty steps up from any ship class he had ever seen or had the opportunity to serve on. It was a colossus at 356.76m x 228.6m x 84m. From a layman’s view, it was at least four football fields in length, two and half wide, and almost twenty-four and a half stories high. It was four hundred thousand metric tons of composite steel, molded plastics and titanium alloy. And if memory served correctly, it was currently the largest in the fleet, a star cruiser second to none.

At any time she carried a bare minimal skeleton crew of 625, but in actuality for this rushed mission she had launched with considerably less. On board was a complement of two troopships: the Jaguar and its sister ship Serenity. And then there was Salvation, a new ship prototype on board as well with no official classification as of yet. But to Hex the Salvation seemed to be an extremely condensed starship, possibly on par with Infinity at least in its sophistication and capabilities. At a length of seventy-five meters, it was easily twice the size of the troopships. So why the space agency had unofficially penned Salvation as a small transport shuttle was beyond him. There was nothing dull and shuttle-like about it, not in the least. As far as Hex was concerned, it was clearly a starship, and an elegant one at that.

With a silent sigh, Hex dismissed his musings and refocused on the one subject that really should have been at the forefront of his thoughts: his new team. He had never worked with, met, or known any of this new team before the conference room meeting. Well, that wasn’t entirely accurate, he thought. He knew of Lindsey, or more correctly Lieutenant Croffer by her service record. Her piloting accomplishments wasn’t something that could easily be ignored by anyone. She had piloted some of the military’s elitist ships, and her record spoke for itself, that she was one of the best. And to tell the truth, Sergeant Johnson’s military record caught his eye as well: a career soldier, decorated numerous times. But as for the others, they were all new to him, and all untested. And now here he was in command of the mission with them as the bulk of his team. Untested ship, and an untested crew. Things could be better.

Back on earth, the mission advisor had had each one of the team members stand while he introduced them. Robert Crown, aka Cage security specialist. Ron Shells, aka CS demolition expert. Shawn Michaels, aka Fixer computers and wetware systems expert, and then there was Sergeant Melvin Johnson, communications and infiltration specialist. And finally, Lindsey Croffer, pilot and navigation officer. Hex recalled how towards the end of the meeting the tension in the air was so thick that he could have literally cut it with the proverbial knife. Everyone was a little too quiet and on edge about the upcoming mission. Of course it didn’t help any when the meeting had been interrupted with further news of Jupiter’s landmark being reported missing. First the planet’s orbit had slowed, then as far as he knew a newly confirmed landmass, and now they were saying the Red Eye of Jupiter–Jupiter’s perpetual storm was missing? What would be next?

Well, whatever was next would have to wait until they arrived, Hex thought. Any more surprises would definitely have to be put on the ‘backburner’ as far as he was concerned, because for now he needed to keep his mind and thoughts focused on what little he knew of his mission. He needed to find the pictured glyphs from the Rover’s photos and, if possible locate the source of Jupiter’s deceleration.

From the command deck Hex called out, Report!

Mission clock at 16:30 and counting. We’ve got another 3 and a half hours before we reach Jupiter’s orbit, Commander, said Lindsey.

Very well, Lieutenant, Hex replied. Keep me informed. Carry on.

Chapter 4: Odd Discoveries

At 20:00 hours, Infinity rolled into orbit with all sensors in full scan on the planet.

Hex had turned in, figuring that he needed all the rest he could get since the mission time was getting short. He slept quietly until a burst of noise came through the intercom in his cabin.

Commander Hex, report to the bridge immediately. Repeat: report to the bridge immediately.

Still groggy, Hex rolled out of bed and struggled to his feet. After donning his uniform and clipping his insignia in place, he headed to the bridge. As he approached the bridge Hex kept wondering what was so urgent to wake him out of sleep ‘before’ the mission time. They could have at least given him a preliminary synopsis in his cabin before he got there. Lucky for him he wouldn’t have to wait long for that report. Being the senior Commander on the ship had both its advantages and disadvantages, such as having his quarters located way too close to the main bridge. For all intents and purposes, work was practically just outside his front door. Two corridors down and a short jaunt later, and he was already on the bridge.

As he arrived one of the deck officers quickly snapped to attention and announced, Commander on the bridge!

Straight away, all standing crewmembers came to attention and snapped off salutes as he walked by. Hex walked to the front of the bridge, mostly ignoring the offered salutes. But because of them he was thinking about the origin of the salute. In the days of knights and armor it was an absolute necessity to raise your visor with your hand to determine whether the oncoming person was friend or foe, simply because you couldn’t see the other person’s face while they wore their helmet; hence, the origin of the salute. But surely out here on an isolated spacecraft, flying out to a distant planet, if you didn’t already know who was with you and on your side, well…not overly amused, he cocked an eyebrow at military traditions and shenanigans.

Near the main view screen, Hex keyed in his I.D. and watched as a slew of information and updates filled the console. To his surprise and slight embarrassment, he discovered they were already in Jupiter’s orbit. Had he been so tired and preoccupied that he hadn’t bothered to look up at the main view screen when he walked in? Those last three hours on the mission clock that he hoped to sleep through had somehow fast forwarded on him, leaving him still groggy. But nevertheless here they were already in orbit. And now a quick glance up at the main view screen and around at the anxious and awaiting faces suggested that it was time to get this mission off the ground.

One of the engineers spotting him and making eye contact, quickly made his way over and immediately began bringing him up to speed on the issues they were facing with the ship’s sensor array. According to the engineer the array had malfunctioned and wasn’t performing correctly. At that Hex eyed him in suspicion.

What do you mean the sensors aren’t reading right? We checked them and rechecked before the launch. They seemed to be fine, he said.

The engineer shook his head.

"I mean a deep scan of the