Saturday, October 4, 2014

Shadows (Mission Impossible - 8)

Raven had been loaded with the instructions for the route to the next star system which Fenie had built into the route map. The jumps had been automatically recalculated by the computer on-board systems and Dranke had finally signed off on the parameters for the jumps. The mission was progressing on the darkmatter starcraft and Dranke was cautiously optimistic that things were looking up.

The Raven, the newly named darkmatter starcraft, and the Captain and his crew had been exploring the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy in hope of finding clues to the Hnnet, who had been on a mining expedition which had come close to Sol before traversing the galactic disk of the Milky Way. They had played a cat-and-mouse game with the alien fleet in hope of learning about them, but had been confronted by the vastly advanced extraterrestrials who had beaten them at their own game. An alien calling himself 'Ed' had met with them, leaving both the crew of Raven as well as spacecommand with more questions than answers.

Fenie and Piteer were arguing about something, just out of earshot, and Dranke saw multiple starmaps being pulled up and marked with different colored tracer lines which were route maps which were based on the current overlay. There was a lot of gesticulating from Piteer. Dranke sighed "What is it?" They looked up, surprised. They were in their own world. Piteer shrugged "We can't be sure if we want to jump and stop and scan the area or scan the area without jumping." Dranke grinned "Whatever is faster. Run the simulations." Vaxe walked in and without missing a beat said "Sette is already on it. And Dex is running the scans. But it's taking time." Dranke thought about it "In the meantime do you have a candidate? Instead of waiting around, maybe we can stretch our legs on a planet." 

Fenie pulled up another starmap.... It was beginning to look crowded with all the holograms jostling for space and getting overlaid on the bridge. She pointed "We got this planet.... it's not Earthlike, but it has an atmosphere, mostly liquid methane. We can't see any EM, but the planet is bathed in methane clouds. It's worth a look." Dranke stood "There you are. Lets take a look around."

The crew had gotten much better at looking at potential planets where alien life could exist. They had shortlisted them by type, emissions, suspicious megastructures or moons and any clues they could find in the neighborhood. Size and temperatures were also inputs, but secondary. Fenie thought nothing of it as she and Vaxe kitted up. Piteer would stay near The Raven and the captain would stay with the ship this time around. They kitted up.

After visiting over thirty planets, the protocols had got much smoother. They were ready in a few minutes and the ship was at alert as the planet came into view. It was beautiful. The methane gave the planet a bluish green appearance. And they quickly went through the outer clouds. Fenie sampled the atmosphere. "As expected, it has a high methane concentration. All other gases are trace." They waited for the ship to drop. The pinging told them they were close to the planet surface. It was a gooey muck of blue-green, with very little visibility. Dranke checked "Can't find solid ground, we are going to have to land in the methane sea. Use the amphibious craft for planetside exploration." They listened and adjusted their apparatus. They had seen all this before. It has been a long time since they had first set foot on an extraterrestrial planet.

Fenie and Vaxe were in their amphibious outfits and the craft closed over them like a skin. They waited for Piteer to step into the airlock and they closed the hatch for the air to cycle out. Without much ado, they were floating on the methane sea. It was surreal. The 'water' was methane. The sky had thick methane clouds, and in the sea, there were methane-bergs... it was over a hundred and fifty degrees below freezing. They looked around and scanned the horizon. Nothing. 

Piteer looked like a dot on the huge darkmatter starcraft. He was precariously positioned near the hatch, but Fenie knew he was securely stationed there. She waved out and scanned him. Just behind him was a shadow... and then it was gone. It had been fleeting. She told him to look and they started back to where Piteer was lashed to Raven.

When they reached him, he looked nonplussed. "Can't see anything around, and the sensors are not recording any activity. What did you see?" Fenie described it. They waited... In a few minutes, they saw another shadow. It would not resolve. This time Dranke said "I saw that too, but nothing on the sensors. What is it?" They did not see the shadow again....

Pic courtesy: Charles Strebor (Photographer and Artist)
Via and linked post

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