(There is no beginning and no end as this is a work in progress. I woke up and it was in my head. I think this will be my depository for it. Feedback is heartily encouraged.)

Calm of Darkness
He was cold; darkness covered his vision despite having his eyes open. He could hear his heart pumping violently; feel the blood racing through his body. An awful pain shot through his mind as if it was violently being torn apart. He lifted his hands and felt them strike a solid wall of cold metal. Panic gripped him as he tried to call out but only made a soft guttural gasping. He pushed but the wall would not give way. Buried alive his mind screamed, a muddled mess of panicked thoughts racing through his consciousness. He was buried somewhere deep under the cold embrace of the earth. Didn't they check for his vitals? Didn't they make sure he was actually dead? He weakly began to thrash about, hitting the wall with his fists, his head, and his tingling legs.

"Degraw, Calm yourself. You are disoriented by the thawing process, be calm. You could injure yourself." Chided the voice of Mother softly in his ear.

He had forgotten he was in cold sleep, an untold distance from his home searching for habitable worlds and Alien life. After a moment, the lid of his tomb lifted and a dim light grew in his vision. For moment he was blind but as he laid there blinking his sight began to slowly return to him. He could see the other Cryochambers against the far wall, all closed. He took a tentative step and yelped as his feet touched the cold metal floor. Mother chuckled and Degraw threw an icy glare at the ceiling.
"Why haven't you waked the others? Captain shoulda been awoken first." Degraw asked as he moved to his locker and began to dress himself, he was slowly beginning to gain feeling back in his extremities, though the pins and needles shooting through his limbs he could do without.
I wanted you to see it first. Was that wrong? I hope I didn't upset you. I just knew you would be excited by this..." Mother sounded worried, so he smiled softly knowing that despite the ship having no visible cameras, she could see him.

"No, no. I appreciate it. So what is it you want to show me?" He asked as he stepped out of the room and into the corridor beyond it.

"No hurry, shower and eat something. It's not going anywhere." She was being mysterious and that peeked his interest. Degraw sighed deeply, having no other alternative he headed to his quarters. The personal quarters of each crewmember were the only places in the entire ship that had carpeting. In fact the quarters where designed to appear as if they where a simply apartment or condo back on Earth. Each of the apartments were multi-roomed with a living room, a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. It even had a window that looked out over a bustling metropolis, carefully programmed to look like no town in particular but holding elements of each of their hometowns. People moved on the streets below. Cars zipped along and it looked like a parade was going on in the distance. Degraw smiled and quickly stepped into the shower. The warm water did him good, He felt completely refreshed and the grogginess had lifted. He even began to whistle as he quickly ordered from the menu posted above the food dispenser.

Soon enough a bell rang and Degraw opened the dispenser to find a plate with Eggs, Bacon and hash browns waiting. None of it was actually from earth it was all carefully constructed from the smallest particle up, designed to provide a balanced concoction of minerals and vitamins no matter what the choice. Fortunately, technology had progressed to the point where it was just like the real thing. He sat at the kitchen table and ate slowly watching the virtual world move beyond his window. When he finished he dumped the plate in the incinerator and made his way to the bridge. On most ships the bridge is near the front or nose of the vessel, providing the captain with a much needed viewpoint to orient himself by and watch for obstructions and challenges in his path. On Mother it was buried in the center of the ship. The bridge itself was the strongest point of the ship, able to withstand the strongest of weapons and function as a survival pod for some time. The rest of the ship was constructed out of a new experimental material; the hull actually was comprised of millions of microscopic robots. When ordered to by the ship they could become a solid or create openings, they could even if they wanted change the shape of the vessel.

He stepped through the doorway and studied the bridge. It was undecorated and the furniture was extremely sparse, the far end of the bridge housed a single control panel lit with various displays. A small room to the side housed the generator, algae pools and air recycler. The bridge also held a small projector in the center surrounded by steel colored chairs. Overall it was a very clinical and orderly room.

"Ok Mother, what is it you want to show me?" Degraw questioned as he moved towards the view screens.

"I have come across an object of unknown origin, made of an unknown material and exhibiting some curious characteristics." Mother explained in her soft soothing voice.

"Alright, let's see here..." Degraw poured over the various readouts, first order of business was to try to locate what system or point of space he was in. Degraw raised a brow looking over the map of the system. They were located in orbit around a gas giant much larger than any planet he had seen before which in itself was an interesting find. The system had three Suns, two connected by a tight band of solar gasses and the third sitting at the edge of the system. The system held four planets of varying sizes and composition. He checked the star charts and then turned to the visual monitor outside his ship. He panned the camera and soon had a three dimensional picture of the space around them mapped in his mind.

"Mother, I have no clue where we are, none of those stars are familiar and I see no constellations that I recognize." He sat back in his chair and tapped his chin.

"You have been in suspended animation for about fifty years. We have traveled outside the confines of the Milky Way and we are currently located in a rogue system, or a single solar system that is not part of any galaxy although this particular system is not that far from the very edge of a spiral arm of the Milky Way." Mother peered at Degraw as she explained this. She worried about the psychological impact of her words. Even though they had been warned that they would be in cold sleep for many years she did not know how they would react when they were finally confronted with it but Degraw just gave a low whistle and waited for her to continue.

"The system has some unique properties, besides the fact that it has three suns, two of which are slowly consuming each other and four planets there seems to be evidence of a past civilization here. There are very simple satellites orbiting the second planet which was at one point earth class, but its orbit is odd, I would conclude it broke from its orbit and moved into an orbit much too close to the sun. The reason I cannot fathom, perhaps a planetary sized comet or asteroid collided with it. That doesn't matter though the satellites hold no secrets and are unimportant; I have already looked over them in detail."

Degraw scoffed "No importance? Do you realize we just confirmed the existence of a civilization outside of our own? Besides the probe we found which because of its technological superiority means it was another race we...this proves there are..." Degraw trailed off letting the meaning sink in. “What could possibly top this, other than finding an active species not of earth?"

Mother spoke softly as she brought the hologram generator online. "This."

Degraw turned and practically fell out of his chair, before him was an orb of massive size. Mother had generated an image of earth to give a size comparison. This orb appeared at least a hundred times larger than earth, not only that but it was completely smooth and yet the surface moved like a liquid. Infact if Degraw didn't know better he would say the surface looked exactly like liquid mercury. "I bet it's a perfect sphere..." Degraw muttered under his breath.

"It is." Replied mother simply.

"Well where is it? I didn't see it when I looked about with the cameras." Degraw turned back to the controls and began scanning again although he knew he had mapped it all.

"We are orbiting it; the orb is surrounded by a thick atmosphere of gases, most likely to hide the sphere itself. I sent a probe down a few days ago, as I did with each of the planets in this system. The probe was destroyed by a large electrical discharge throughout the atmosphere. I then sent down another, unpowered accept for the camera and got a clear image of the sphere before the probe fell through the surface. I could still hear it as it moved through the thin layer and once it broke through...for only a moment I could read it, then nothing. The sphere itself only reacts to large power sources, but the cameras where undetected, so I sent down a few more probes each with only one system running at a time until I got a clear picture of the orb. It gives off no heat, no radiation, no electrical readings; it is as if it didn't exist. It's made of an unidentifiable material." Mother paused to change the image of the hologram; it was a cutout of the sphere showing the mile thick sphere and then an empty space. "Inside the sphere, I have no images but I did record an audio clip from the last probe I sent down before it was destroyed."

A few moments went by before Degraw grew impatient. "Come on with it." He snapped before he could catch himself.

"There is something...no never mind; I thought I detected a small object heading to the ship. Here is the clip now." The unseen speakers in the room came to life with a soft hiss of white noise. Nevertheless, deep below the white noise he could hear machinery moving, there was what sounded like hydraulics, or some kind of venting process. He could hear the harsh grinding sound of metal on metal, a steady almost rhythmic noise and then a large crackle and silence once more.

"Mother, you should wake the others." Degraw said as he turned to the computer and quickly began to pour over the data she had gathered on the sphere.

"As you wish."

Two hours later once everyone had been briefed on the situation and the sphere the control room was abuzz with discussion.

"Well it could be a ship right?" Brooke asked eyes scanning Degraw's face for an answer.

Pratt interrupted before Degraw could answer. "Perhaps it is. I doubt it; it could be some sort of artificial planet, stationary and without an orbit. It most likely generates its own heat."

Degraw scowled at Pratt a little upset that Pratt beat him to the punch. Brooke spoke once more a smile on her lips, eyes falling on Degraw. "Then maybe we should try to make contact?"

"We already tried probes, they were destroyed. No radio signal can penetrate that far down and I don't want to risk a manned ship down there until we know what it is we are dealing with." Captain answered as he paced the room, one hand scratching at his recently shaved chin. "No, we need another way."

The room fell into silence each person trying to figure out some way of penetrating the atmosphere of the orb. Every idea led to a dead end though. Finally, Tiffany jumped off the control panel where she had been sitting quietly and exclaimed. "We could throw a rock at it!"

Pratt turned to her with a frown on his face. "Don't be stupid... "

"Pratt!" Captain harshly exclaimed. "Let her speak. All ideas at this juncture are welcome." He turned to Tiffany and nodded his head. "Go on."

"So, I was thinking we could put some kind of message, in a solid container and just drop it down there. No electricity to bring on the ray guns and what not." She grinned at Degraw as he looked at her with a newfound respect. Truthfully, it was a brilliant plan. He walked over put his hand on her shoulder and spoke to the room.

"We could empty out a probe, throw the contents of the library on a Comp pad and toss it down there, if there is any intelligent life down there they should get it and be able to figure out relatively easy how to access the data."

"Won't work, the Comp pad generate power." Pratt said smugly. Tiffany shot him a look before speaking lowly. "Turn the pad off dick..." Pratt turned red and bent over his console pretending to go over data. "I'm sure if they can get to the data they would figure out what the on switch looks like...” Tiffany said with the biting edge of sarcasm in her voice.

"Come children...I detect hostility in your voices." Mother chided. "Shall I prepare a probe?"

Captain looked up at the ceiling and nodded. "Yes mother, Strip a probe and reinforce its hull to withstand a rather hard impact."

Brooke shook her head and frowned deeply concern etched on her face. "What if they see it as a hostile act, I mean if someone dropped a rock on my head I would be a tad bit upset."

This time when Pratt spoke he did so carefully. "What if we rigged a parachute, time to go off mechanically once it entered the atmosphere? Mother do you have data on the average decent time of the probes you already launched?"

For the next twelve hours they worked out the logistics of it, the probe would be shot into the atmosphere, sixty four seconds from the time it left the ship the parachute would deploy, the timing device simply a modified wind up watch attached to a spring loaded hatch on the probe. When the hatch fell away, the chute would unravel and slow it's decent. It would land softly on the surface. The only thing they could do at the point is hope someone saw it.