"We will initiate main thrusters and change course for Alpha, Alpha, Four, in approximately 18, Terran, seconds." Announced the cool, feminine voice of the onboard AI as the Martian Admiral reclined comfortably in his command chair, his penetrating gaze fixed upon the countdown timer on the HUD. "17, 16, 15…"

"So there is no turning back after this…" inquired the young cadet, his voice nervous yet unafraid. "Sir?"

"14, 13, 12, 11 …"

The massive fusion engines returned to life with a deafening rumble as super-heated plasma rushed through the containment chamber, the invisible but powerful walls of magnetic field preventing them from slagging through the thin metallic linings. A tremendous influx of heat instantly vaporized parts of the enormous ice heat sink anchored to the ship's mid-sector, blowing clouds of water vapor out into space before they condensed into halos of ice crystals. Before the heat could completely consume the heat-sinks, a pair of gargantuan radiators activated to share its burden, their enormous titanium blades opening as sluggishly as the raindrop laden leaves of a touch-me-not following a rainstorm.

"10, 9, 8. 7…"

Rapid bursts of compressed nitrogen swung the gigantic, dragonfly-like flag-ship about its horizontal and vertical axes until its nose properly aligned with the computed trajectory. Plasma monsters growled ominously as they hurled themselves uselessly against the containment field, gaining momentum under the very forces denying their freedom. Free fall returned to the command module as the centrifuge came to a gradual halt, the angular momentum of its stoppage broken by precise firing of maneuver thrusters. A smirk appeared on the Admiral's pale, battle-weathered face as a loose silver button broke free of his tattered uniform. The tiny article drifted aimlessly across the room until it was captivated by a sudden draft from a nearby ventilation port.

"6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. We are now leaving lunar orbit."

The button spun helplessly as it accelerated towards the ventilation grids and connected with the fine aluminum mesh with a tiny, inconsequential "click". A nerve wracking tremor soon ensued. The plasma monsters, finally relinquished by their captors, gushed through the main thruster nozzles toward the cool, silent embrace of the void…

"No," the Admiral finally replied. "There is no turning back."