The Blue People of Cloud Planet
fluorescence of the previous dawn when Zec-1 announced that the diamonds behind them were starting to heat up.
    Olivia and Scott watched the display on the dome as it showed the same pattern of red, then orange and finally white as the two leading crystals exploded in a flash of light which reached up to the clouds behind them. The spectacle, as further diamonds lit up, made the hairs on the back of their necks stand up. The light sheath enveloped them from both sides and slowly closed around the octagon.
    Then the last of the diamonds ignited and they were encompassed by the sheath of light and two extraordinary things happened. Firstly deep red shadows cast themselves from the structures and the walls,
     and then.......
    ......... the sun shone!..... illuminating the inside of the octagon, lander and its occupants in its glorious warm rays.
     What a transition!
     Olivia and Scott sat dumbfounded. They looked at each other, the excitement gleaming in their eyes.
    They then noticed sunlight glinting from small areas in the clay floor,
    ‘What are those reflections Zec-1?’ Olivia broke the silence.
    ‘They are similar diamonds but laid flat in various positions in the clay floor. I presume that they admit light underneath the octagon. I have counted 3 lots of 6 crystals.’
    ‘Gee! It’s incredible!’ Scott cried, ‘Look at the way the light sheath is shimmering particularly near the base where the steam is rising, have you ever seen anything so astonishing.’
    ‘Water temperature exiting the rim is now 80 degrees and starting to displace the cold water in the upper pools and most remarkably I have been able to switch off the force field and have applied only minimal darkening to the dome. It appears that the significant interference from outside the light sheath is not apparent inside. I can offer no explanation of this.’
    Zec-1 continued,
     ‘Air temperature 25 degrees and rising, humidity nearly 100 per cent. Temperatures in upper pools steady at 45 degrees, large pool now at 40 degrees and fourth pool at 70 degrees – I can only assume there must be some mixing of hot and cold streams. Temperature below ground is 5 degrees and I am detecting some movement but imprecise as temperature differentials are small. Significant water flow underground from numerous sources.’
    ‘Scott!’ cried Olivia. She grasped his shoulder and pointed to the large black wooden structure.
    ‘It’s rising! It’s moving upwards!’


Chapter 21
    Warming Up
    ‘I can imagine the astronauts’ mounting excitement. Back in 2050 I remember the euphoria when microbial fossils were found in the sub crust of Mars and since then a variety of simple life forms have been discovered. More recently, on Titan, sophisticated multi-celled forms have been identified in the underground seas. And these are living!
    ‘Now on a planet at another star, life is about to reveal itself.’
    The black structure was rising slowly from the red clay and revealed an angled flat ledge about 1 metre wide. This ran around and upwards at an angle of approximately 30 degrees, giving the impression of a huge wooden screw whose flights were about 2 metres apart. Then the huge mass of black wood came to rest with about two and a half metres showing above the clay level.
    ‘It’s completely square in cross section and every angled cut is a straight line!’ Scott explained. ‘It must be some sort of ramp connecting underground with the outside.’
    ‘Correct, and it has been lifted into place hydraulically and now I can detect movement at the base of the wooden ramp – the forms are indistinct because they are the same temperature as underground but they are moving upwards very slowly.’
    ‘Scott!’ cried Olivia, shaking with anticipation, ‘This is every astronaut’s dream – to witness life on

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