Just over three million miles from Earth, ninety degrees above the planet's orbital path around the sun, a group of ships is holding postion around a piont in space.
Moving closer it becomes apparent that there are five different sizes of ships. Four large ships of different types, two that look very much like warships of some kind,two that look like some kind of research vessal, and six small ships that are in constant motion around the others.
Even closer it can be seen that the other ships are surrounding an eleventh ship of yet another type, that seems familar yet different. A voice comes form this vessal.
"Time: T-minus twenty minutes and counting.MARK... And I still don't see why we're doing this"
"Check...Well, you did once say that you that the Galaxy Rangers' would be the ideal people to test some of Longshots' new hardware."
"So how was I suppose to know that anyone would actually pay attention to that? They never listened any of my suggestions before."
"Maybe because you never suggested anything that made sense before?" A tining sounding male voice replied from seemingly nowhere.
"Ha Ha ha, very funny Goose" answered the first voice, now sounding like something that would come from a grumpy teenager instead of the professional adult that it did.
"And I can hear that smile from here lady, so watch it!"
"I don't know what..." the second voice started to say.
"That's enough you three." A stern voice interupted."This is dangerous work so pay attention to what you're doing and knock off the jokes."
"Yes Captain" chroused all three vioces.
"I assure you ,Captain Fox, that this test is just a formality.The new drive is perfectly safe. All of the previous laboratory test,on both Andor and Earth, went perfectly." A dignified Andorian voice could be heard saying over the speaker.
"I don't doubt that Vondor, but everything is perfectly safe until it blows up the first time, And I don't want it happen to my people if I can prevent it." Captain Zachery Fox replied.
"Oh thank you, My Captain. Which is besides the point that if it is 'perfectly safe' why are we testing it millions of miles from anywhere?"
"Doc, be nice" the female voice said.
"Yes ma'm" Doc said with a grin on his face.
"Enough jokes you two. Systems check." Captain Fox's voice said.
"T-minus ten minutes and counting..Mark. GW, download all systems data to the Larado's computer and mantian a constant data link of all Ranger 6's sytems to her as well as to the Amstrong's and Seeker's computers"
"Yes ma'm" the floating blue and silver eyeball on the screen replied.
"And it's Niko, not ma'm" the lady said with some exasperation. "Yes ma'm" GW replied.
"Doc, I thought you said you would fix that two weeks ago." Niko asked as she continued to check her insterments.
"I did say that, but I have't had the time with all of the work we needed to do to get ready for this test."Doc replied.
The cabin of Ranger 6 then became quiet for several minutes as Doc and Niko contined to check and recheck everything on the new drive they were about to test.
"Niko you never did say why we are doing this." Doc asked.
"I told you, You suggested it to Longshot.." Niko started to say.
"I know that." Interputed Doc. "But why Project Icarus, why this drive? We're not exatly the most qualified for this. I mean, Goose is the hot shot pilot in this outfit,not you our me." He contiued.
"I heard that." said the Hot shop pilot in question.
"Don't interupt Goose." Niko said with a grin on her face." And,Doc, we are the most qualified for this because Project Icarus is our doing, in a way."
"What do you mean by that?" A suprised Walter Hartford asked.
"You do remember how we first meet Chief Pawnee and his people, don't you?"
After seeing his mystified nod she continued."Well the data that we gathered on the forces that pulled us off course to Chief Pawnee's world led directly to drive that is the heart of Project Icarus. So the people on Andor and Earth working on the drive decided that we would be the best people to test it."
"But we couldn't do anything about that!" Doc said,very startled at what he was hearing.
"I beg to differ Ranger Hartford" Vondor said from the Andorian science ship Seeker were he was monitoring the test."The actions of both you and Ranger Niko were vital to the information we gathered to build the Icarus drive. Your actions,indeed your very presents on the vessal during the incid ent were a very important part of the data we gatherd."
"But that still dosen't make any sense. We couldn't do anything to change what was happening." Doc started. Then stopped suddenly with a thougtful look on his face. "You said are 'Very presents' were important. You mean our implants, don't you."
"Bingo!" Said Qball's voice. As head of the Earth's effort in Project Icarus he was monitoring the test from the science ship Armstrong for BETA and Longshot."I thought you knew that already Doc. Niko asked me about weeks ago and I told her that was the reason you two were to be the test pilots."
"Well thanks for letting me know" Doc said.
"I thought you already knew Doc,and just didn't want to talk about it, Or I would have said something before now." Niko said.
"Well it's to late to do anything about it now Niko, but next time ask me OK?" Doc said, sounding a little angry.
"OK and I'm sorry Doc, but I really thought you knew." Niko said, turning to were he sat next to her in the cockpit of Ranger 6.
"Don't worry about M'lady," Doc said gallantly, then continued with "I'm not mad at you, just my self for not figuring it out earlier or at least asking someone!" Doc finished with his usual good humour.
Niko smiled at him then turned back to the panels in front of her and said:
"T-minus two minutes and counting..Mark."
"Check" Doc said, while checking his own instrument and then muttered under breath "Reason 97 why wished never joined the Galaxy Rangers."
"Starting final check list. Life support check" Niko said with a smile, having over heard what Doc had said.
"Green across the board. Backups on line and read green."
"Main power check."
"Green across the board, reading one hundred and two percent output available. Secondaries online and read green. Back-up batteries green."
"Thank you Doc, GW, data link status?"
"Link is on-line and data flow is optimal, secondary link on-line and data flow is optimal as well Ma'm"
"Thank you GW." Niko said with a small sigh.
"All navigation fuctions set at station keeping" Niko said after checking her own panels. Then continued with the check list.
"Larado, what is your status?"
"All data links are firm and all sensors on-line and recording. Distance from Ranger 6 fifty miles off the port stern, down thrity degrees." Came Zachery's reply.
"Acknowledged Larado, Seeker what is your status?"
"All data links are firm and all sensors on-line and recording. Distance from Ranger 6 sixty miles off starboard." came Vondor's quick answer.
"Acknowledged Seeker, Armstrong what is your status?"
"All data links are firm and all sensors on-line and recording. Distance from Ranger 6 sixty-five miles off the port bow, up thrity degrees." Qball replyed to Niko.
"Acknowledged Armstrong. All ship clear of saftey zone, Doc you may start powering up the drive." Niko said offically.
For amoment nothing seemed to happen, then Ranger 6 seemed to have gained a rainbow colored halo.
"Drive at ten percent power." Doc anounced.
"All readings within expected parameters." Zachery said, answering for all three ship monitoring the test.
"Increase power flow to the drive." Niko ordered.
"Check. Power at fifteen percent, Twenty percent, Twenty-five percent..." Doc anounced as each mark was reached.
"All reading within expected parameters." Zachery replyed at each anouncememt.
As all this was happening the only visible clue that anything was happening was the increasing brightness and size of the halo surrounding Ranger 6. When...
"Power to drive at one hundred percent." Doc finally anounced.
Outside of the ship the rainbow halo was now about twice the size of the ship.
"All readings within expected parameters." Zachery said, " And congratulations everyone it looks like it works."
"I told you this test was just a formality Captain." Vondor said.
"Wait a minute," Niko said " Drive output is still increasing."
"What?!?!?...." came over the speckers from three differernt people.
"I said drive output is increasing, now reading one hundred and fifteen percent output." Niko said in the sudden silence that followed eveyones surpised outburst.
"Drive output reading 120,122, 125, 128 percent output. Doc cut back on the main power to the drive."
"Check Niko, cutting back power to 90 percent."
"No good, drive output still climibing at 130, 133, 136, 139, 143 percent."
"That's not posible" came from a dazed Vonder.
"Not posible or not it's happining. Niko, Doc keep cuting back the power supply to the drive." Zachery ordered.
"All ready on it Captian." came from Doc on Ranger 6.
"It not having any effect Captian. Doc has the power input down to 50 percent but the drive output is still climbing. It just passed 200 percent." An amazed Niko said.
Out side of Ranger 6 things had changed as well. The halo was still there but was four times the size of the ship and now mostly a silver white color not the rainbow it was suposse to be.
"Doc cut the power to the drive completely. We have to shut this thing down now!" Niko orderd Doc urgently.
"I'm on it Niko but I don't think it will work. Either the controls don't work or this thing is getting power form some where else!"
"Hurry Doc drive output at 195, 210, 240, 275 percent."
"Main power cut to drive. I'm going to shut it down completely and go to battery back-up for life support." Doc replyed.
"Drive output at 300, 350 , 425... it just went off the scale."
"Damn..All power reads dead, and it's still going. All right you tweakers get out here and see what you can do to shut this thing down."
"Doc, No the ship's computer is shielded from them! You know that because you did it yourself to protect the system during the test."
"I know that Niko, but I have to try. Besides I put the guards in so I know how to get around them. I hope."
"All right you have one minute, if nothing happens then were ejecting in the cockpit. I'll try to tell Zach, but the comm went down when the drive hit 200."
"Right we're on it." Doc said as his Pathfinder and Firefly disappered in to the panels in front of him.
Mean while out side things have changed drasticly.
The halo around Ranger 6 had stopped growing just after all communcations with the ship stoped. But it continued to increace it brillence.
All attempt by the surrounding ship to get any kind of reading from Ranger 6 were completely disrupted by the energy field emitted by the bright silver/white glow.
Suddenly and without any change in it's appearence the silver/white glow disappeared. Taking with it Ranger 6 and Ranger's Niko and Hartford.
What happens next????? THAT is up to YOU!!!