Of all the negatives associated with long-range mining exploration, the restoration process was the worst. Every inch of Drake's body burned and
stung, like being bathed in a pool of sea nettles.
He tried to raise his hand but the feminine voice demanded, “Please remain stationary until restoration is complete, Commander. You wouldn’t
want to lose anything, would you?”
Smart-ass. Why the hell did they give the computer such a bossy female voice?
He ignored the warning and manually released the canopy to his suspension cocoon. The pump hissed as it extracted the blue gas. He popped the
vacuum seal, lifted the lid, and slowly pressed up from the form filled platform. “Oh, crap.”
Drake’s muscles cramped from being inanimate too long, and because he shortcut the electroshock phase of the recovery process.
“I told you, Commander. I know the electro-stimulation hurts, but it prevents the muscles from cramping. Maybe next time you’ll…”
“Yes, Commander?”
“Shut up!”
The computer huffed. “Fine.”
Drake stood and limped toward the adjacent capsule. He staggered, tried to kneel, but fell on the platform. “Damn after affects.” He wobbled to the
command console, switched the screen into navigation mode and studied the astro charts. “Christ. We’re really off our planned trajectory. Beth,
where the hell are we?”
There was no response.
Damn temperamental female.
Drake clinched his teeth and capitulated. “Sorry, Beth. Please tell me where we are.”
“Oh, do you need me again, Commander? Am I permitted to speak now?”
Why the hell did they give her a feminine personality?
“Yes, I need you, Beth. Why did you revive me and where the hell are we?”
“Long range sensors detected high concentrations of non-random EM emissions in the high band.”
“Maybe it’s a deep relay communication beacon that got sucked off its trajectory by a gravity well?”
“Negative. I checked the modulation protocols. It’s not one of ours.”
“You think it’s a new class three alien civilization?”
“Negative. Waveform is too focused. Side lobes are too orthogonal.”
Drake’s eyes widened. “Crystal lattice emissions.”
“That’s my guess. Probability 87%.”
Drake turned toward the navigation screen. “Beth, show me the source origin mapped against our current location.”
A red and green blinking dot appeared on the screen. “Holy shit. You detected the emissions this far away? Are you sure, did you check…”
“Twenty three measurements, all profiled the same.”
“With the attenuation over that distance, it would have to be one massive load. The only material that could…”
“That’s correct, Commander. A high concentration of Tallium with 92% purity would achieve those readings.”
“My God, that would be…”
“Again, you are correct, Commander. It registers as the largest Tallium source ever recorded.”
“Yes commander?”
“Please let me finish my sentences, all right?”
“Beth, what would you estimate the finder’s fee would be for…”
“Two million credits.”
Drake huffed. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome, Commander.”
“Beth, assume we added an extra hundred pounds to our gross weight once we got there. If we accelerate to warp fifteen, will we have enough
fuel to get there and then divert to Avalon 2?”
“Yes commander, with a six percent reserve.”
“Then do it.”
Beth released the sedation gas and Drake was out.

“Wake up, Commander.”
Drake cracked his right eye first, then his left. After several seconds, he pushed up in his chair. “Are we there, Beth?”
“Yes, Commander. We’re in orbit above the source planet."
Drake returned to the forward viewing screen. “What are all those glimmers of light in the atmosphere?”
“Not sure, Commander.”
“Maybe static discharge. But they appear to almost have a…”
“Yes, I noticed the pattern, too.”
Drake sighed and grabbed the manual controls. “All right. Give me a descent path, Let’s go see what’s down there.”
“Can I…”
He smiled and released the controls. “Sure, Beth. You can take us in this time.”
“Thanks, Commander. Magnetic shielding activated. Starting our descent.”
As they entered the teal tinted atmosphere, the glimmers became more pronounced. Half way down the glide slope, they took form in the shape of
two tightly entwined neon colored coils, one green, one blue. They weren’t stationary, but rather moving in what appeared to be a determined
path, almost like a dance.
“Beth, is it possible…could those sparkling coils be some form of life?”
“Not sure, Commander. I am picking up a low Rf signal exchange tuned to each pair, Might be…”
The ship jerked starboard in an attempt to miss a coiled pair that sailed into their glide path, but it was too late. The hull of the ship crackled as if
hit by an electrical charge. The coil pair split in two with the blue link becoming locked in the magnetic shield. The entrapped coil spasmed
violently, like it was being shocked.
“Shit! Rear viewer on.” Drake saw the green link arc in a semi circle and beeline in the direction of the ship. No. It was headed directly for the
green coil gyrating inside the magnetic field surrounding the hull.
“Damn it, they are alive. It’s coming back for its…Beth, are we deep enough in the atmosphere to shut down the shield?”
“I think so, Commander.”
Drake gripped the manual controls. “Then switch to manual and turn off the shield before…” The green coil crashed into the magnetic cone
surrounding the ship. A discharge of blinding green light burst around the ship and nullified the magnetic shield. The blue coil broke free from the
hull at the same instant a spider web of green electrical discharges ricocheted inside the ship, up the manual control and into Drake’s body.
Copyright 2010 by Michael W. Davis
On a deep space mining exploration, Drake is exuberant to discover the largest source of Tallium
ever recorded, until he's forced to make a desperate choice of how far he'll go to stay alive.
How far would you go?
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