The shuttle Intrepid had left the Earth's? The pilots were now in the process of dialing the shuttle's intercept course into the ships navigation system. This process only took five to ten minutes, then the pilots would only have to check their course periodically. With the location of Mars this time of year, the journey would take them around two weeks to complete. Two weeks seemed like a lot of time wasted for such a rushed mission, but this was the best that could be achieved.
The length of time it was taking to pull every one together for this mission just proved to Monica that Earth still had a long way to go to be considered veterans of space. In fact, it would not surprise her if Earth's inexperienced space program contributed to the reason for the Alien's seemingly avoidance of them. She thought it was somewhat the same for them as it was for humans. We had actually spent very little time and money on exploring or communicating with species of our own world! The cultural differences between the people on this planet brought about so many wars and the destruction of entire races, that meeting life forms from another planet would have an immense impact on Earth (and her future.) One example that stuck out in Monica's mind was when the Europeans had ventured to America to eventually devastate the Indians; not just in number of people but their culture and religion as well. Monica often reflected back to this point in Americans history, for it showed two things about the people of Earth. One being that growth and change of a nation depended on over powering many adversities, dealing with other countries, working with various people, and even a civil war. The second thing was being the clash of two completely different people, the Europeans and the Indians. The Imperialist one, with a complete sense of justification, dismantled the other. Monica considered it one of God's greatest tests; the bringing together of two completely different people. European Americans had failed. She looked forward to meeting another race, but she dreaded telling them about human history. Monica found it embarrassing to say the least. America was a country built on broken promises, the destruction of hundreds of cultures, and the death of thousands. Worst of all, the government claimed they we're doing what was "best" for both people with a self righteousness that was bred from utter ignorance. This worried Monica. What would happen if they discovered another world that was still in their seventeenth century? Would Earth's leaders say "Oh we should help these people, there's so much for us both to gain. We would be stupid to pass up such an opportunity. "
The thought sickened Monica. Despite our "advanced society", our governments were still run by much of the same ideas. Monica was certain that humankind had destroyed enough of their own people and cultures already and they didn't need to find another planet to desecrate.
Ms. Tanner continued to ponder at some of these ideas. 'What would meeting new worlds and beings bring?' She contemplated this while gazing out her window into the vastness of space. It occurred to Monica that all her thinking had been quite negative. She realized this stemmed from the growing frustration of not knowing just who the hell the Captain of this historical mission was. This had been eating away at her the entire trip. The worst of it being that she wasn't going to get any answers for the next two weeks. She'd questioned every one on the shuttle and still she found herself back at square one, but she wasn't alone. After discussing with the rest of the crew what little information she had found, the crew had elected her to find out more on behalf of everyone. Monica was suspecting that the Captain was of military origin. Some of the marines on board had mentioned to her that when the higher officers wanted to keep something a secret from everyone, including other officers, they would intentionally suppress all information on the given mission or project. This was of course against regulations, unless a superior, like the President of the United States, Secretary of Defense, or the Director of the CIA gave such orders. The marine explaining this to her was from the Fort Alantis Base off the coast of Massachusetts. The soldier's name was Mason, Lieutenant Corporal Hashim Mason. He was twenty five and had entered the military at age fifteen, through a private military school. Moving up the ranks in the marines to his current rank of O-5. L.C. Mason stood a strong six feet one inches, with dark blue eyes, short brown hair, with a tan Middle East complexion he got from his father's side of the family. One outstanding feature was a three inch scar below his right-ear where searing hot shrapnel had been embedded from a Zanger grenade. It was comforting to Monica that she wasn't to be the youngest on board after all.
L.C. Mason had described to her that for one of his missions against some third world country, commanding officers had kept this kind of secret. The second in command was informed about the mission, not his commanding officer. The reason was later revealed that the mission would have been jeopardized by the commanding officer of that platoon. The mission had been classified suicidal and the commanding officer was a family man. L.C. Mason reminded Monica that this secrecy was not a common practice and that she would never find any records or officers willing to acknowledge such a practice.
Monica thanked L.C. Mason, then returned to her seat were she preceded to look over old military records. She discovered that the U.S. Military had pumped a lot of money into their space program, most of that money and ship activity was directed to the base on Mars. Monica was able to access some of the files on what kind of military shipments were going to Mars. In the past six months there had been several transport ships with high ranking Generals and government officials, and their names had not been entered into the ship's log. The rest of the shuttles carried standard military cargo. She went back to Mr. Mason to find out what kind of cargo was on the shuttles. The Lieutenant Corporal read over the cargo list naming off various kinds of ammo, guns, equipment, and food rations. The only thing Monica got from this information was that the base on Mars had enough fire power to shoot down a small star.
Monica tried once again to get her mind off the questions that seemed to roll over forever in her mind. She got up and walked back to were Dekel sat alone in the back.
"Say, your awfully quiet back here," Monica started off.
"I don't suppose we're there yet, being isolated with nothing to do is growing a bit tedious".
"Actually I came back to ask you for a favor," Monica raised an eyebrow letting him know there was only one answer.
"Still hunting for clues about the mysterious Captain?" Dekel found Monica to be arrogant on the topic. Just because she didn't know him, she seemed to think somebody was hiding something from her.
"Actually I've given up for now, I need to take a break. I don't suppose you remember a conversation we had some years ago?"
"Am I going to have to apologize for something else now?" Dekel rolling his eyes.
"No, it's something you said when I was playing a game of Solar Market. How did you put that? Ah, yes I remember. If I was going to fill my free time playing games, I should at least play something that doesn't lower my moral and mental standard's".
"Yes, well Solar Market is designed for six and up," Dekel reminded her.
"What was that other game you thought I should be playing."
"I actually said there's another game you should be learning," corrected Dekel.
"Ah, yes, learning. Well then, here I am! Since you've got nothing to do, your going to teach me how to play." This came across as more of an order than a request.
Dekel sat for a bit, giving the idea some thought.
"The game is called Ares Seven," Dekel straightened his back saying the name with a certain pride.
"Okay, Ares Seven", repeated Monica, "I've got that what's next."
A smile playing across his face, Dekel motioned for her to sit down were the two began going over the rules of the strategic board game.
It took several hours till they had actually started their first game. Dekel found Monica to be a quick learner, though strategy would only come with time. Still she had memorized all seven pieces and their moves. Ares Seven had originated from the game of Chess, though the rules and pieces were much different. Like chess, it was the type of game you can play for days. Most importantly, to Monica it got her mind off of what was eating her up.
Sakae K. Tazu sat quietly, though her thoughts were spinning like a cyclone from the South East United States. Ms. Tazu had only been off the planet a couple of times and though she welcomed this adventure, Ms. Tazu left behind much unfinished business. Not only with her profession, but with her personal life. The man she had been dating for the past three years had been pushing for marriage, while she was hesitating with doubt. She had been in a serious relationship once before that had almost ended her career. When the opportunity from NASA came at incredibly short notice, she found herself with the choice of a lifetime. She opted for the mission, putting her personal life on hold. Sakae loved representing her country. She resented the American's butting in like they so readily do and she was not about to go on some American mission. Her country later convinced her that she was not only to be the ship's Doctor, but Japan's intergalactic representative as well. This cheered her up for a time. Then she noticed to her disappointment, that there were to be twenty five American marines joining the mission aboard the Concord as well. She had seen some of the Marines handy work on her operating tables, whenever some mysterious missing persons occurred or she'd been flown into some third world country to try to patch up what they had destroyed.
Sakae didn't realize it at the time, but her negative opinion of the Marines was shared by many. This was something the Marines knew. Their part in the mission was not to only provide security and support for the rest of the crew, but they were also going along to show they had many other talents, (not just how to shoot a gun). One of their main objectives was to establish a more positive image with the rest of the world. They also wanted to demonstrate that they could be friendly, caring, or helpful, not just trained insensitive killers. Lieutenant Corporal Mason knew this to be part of the mission. He was excited to be a part of the historical event, but glad he was not to be the one in charge. However he feared that with his L.C. Rank he might be placed in second of command or in charge of an important mission. Not that he disliked being a commanding officer, it was that all the missions he had commanded on Earth were covert. He did not have to worry about rules, or having to look good to his fellow officers. The Marine's motto was shoot to kill, and eliminate any potential hazards or threats. The term "threats" back on Earth was used loosely for anything that appeared to potentially threaten a mission. This was one of the many reasons the American Marines, and the other Armed Forces were so good at accomplishing their mission. They didn't recognize the concept of "we can't" or "that's in the way". Most of all they always came into situations over powered.
This also worried Lieutenant Corporal Mason. The last thing anybody wanted was for the first Alien encounter to be a hostile one. The other thing that worried L.C. Mason was that Brigadier General Ryne M. Dooley was going to be his commanding officer. Mason had served under General Dooley during his Pacific fleet training with the Navy. General Dooley was by far one of the best he had seen at over all tactical. For not only did General Dooley know the abilities of each weapon, soldier, attacking maneuver, to defensive maneuver's. General Dooley specialized in how to us what he had too it's most effective use. Still Dooley had also been one of the most brutal commanders he had ever served under. L.C. Mason hoped that the unknown captain that the NASA commander Ms. Monica Tanner had mentioned wasn't some kind of a green horn or the General would walk all over him.
He had thought to mention this to Monica, but feared if he did bring it up that the Marines would get the blame if the mission turned sour . So Lieutenant Corporal Mason chose to not be the bearer of bad news, besides Ms. Tanner seemed to be busy enough. Not to mention L.C.. Mason hated to see the attractive lady upset.