It hurtled through space. Though unmeasurable distances, past stars and worlds man has never reached, the living crystal traveled. The crystal sought out a host. It's species was a symbiotic life form, seeking to bond with whatever life it could find. No matter how long that search took, it would find a host cell or being.
Maj. Ned Ganton had spent the last few minutes directing his crew. They were aboard the Mars Orbital Lab, currently on the night side of the red planet. Soon as they were on the day side, the broadcast would begin.
" Ned, 30 seconds til we're clear," said Lt. Lisa Miller. She was the pilot.
Engineer John Filler aimed the camera at their commander. " Ready for your close up?"
" Just keep my face in focus," Ned answered.
" I'll try, sir. Of course, I don't think I'll have that problem with Diana." John gave the pretty botanist a grin.
" Flattery won't get you anywhere," Diana replied.
" Ten seconds," Lisa said.
Ned got the jibber jabber quiet, and Lisa gave the signal. It was time to let the tax payers know what their money was going for. " Greetings from the Mars Orbital Lab. It's month 3 of our long term mission, and we've made some important discoveries that may help us in terraforming the planet Mars. The most important step in this process is establishing a breathable atmosphere.For that, we've had to experiment with the Martian soil and various plant species. Dr. Diana Mayers will fully explain."
" Thanks. To create a breathable atmosphere in the lifetime of our children and grandchildren, we've been working on fast growing plants that will survive in the soil of Mars. We've proven that the lower gravity of Mars will allow plants to grow taller faster than on Earth." She gestured to two chambers. " The first chamber is set to Earth gravity. In four weeks, the plant has grown 5 inches. The second chamber is Martian gravity, and as you can see, the plant is 2 inches taller in the same time frame."
The broadcast went on. Ned knew most the scientific details wouldn't matter to people, but the hopes of making a new home on Mars was what excited the public. It excited Ned, too. He could remember seeing sci fi films and reading sci fi novels filled with space colonies and fantastic space adventures as a boy. It was why he became an astronaut. He wanted to be among the stars, and here he was, millions of miles from Earth and over a world not his own.
Now came the part that would surely interest people. Diana showed a glass box with a piece of skin. " We're not only studying plants, but also animals. This skin sample came from the creature known as Manda. The giant serpent may seem an odd choice of study material, but all we want to prove is that animals can be bred and survive in harsh conditions like we see here on Mars. Plants and animals go together, using eachother to survive. If we are to plant our vines and trees on Mars, we'll need animals, like insects, to polinate them.
" We've had this skin sample under Martian condition for two weeks, nurtured with water and oxygen, and the cells have stayed alive."
The camera turned back to Ned. " As you can see, we're only beginning to set the seeds for colonization, but it'll be a reality within a few years. I know the members of the press would love to ask questions, but the truth is that the time lag between question and answer would make that inconvenient. So, we ask that you let our work speak for us, and continue to support the space program. Maj. Ned Ganton reporting."
" And cut," John said. " That should put some viewers to sleep."
" Maybe, but....." Ned was interrupted by a warning alarm. " To stations! Report."
" Objects detected," said Lisa. " 10 miles and closing."
" Can you tell what they are?"
" Not on radar. I'd say they were asteroid fragments."
" How about the computer?"
John looked over the readouts. " They're not large, but still big enough to cause damage. We need to move."
Ned joined Lisa at the controls. " Get us out of the way."
The orbital lab's thrusters puffed away, shoving the lab to the left. Ned and Lisa watched the radar, nervously waiting to see that they were clear of the asteroid fragment's path. " A few more feet," Lisa said.
They didn't get that few feet. One fragment missed them, but the other two hit. The hull was punctured, and the baseball size fragments tore through the lab. Among the fragments was the crystal. It slammed straight into the chamber holding the skin cell. As the crew evacuated into their emergency craft, the crystal found what it had been looking for. It bonded with the skin, and dna and silicate mixed together. A new monster would be born.