Posted on Sun Mar 5th, 2023 @ 5:52pm by Captain Samuel Woolheater
Mission: Season 6 : Episode 1: Circinus
Location: Planet P for ‘Popsicle One’ – The Tundra
Timeline: MD07 – 0745
2903 words – 5.8 OF Standard Post Measure
[ON: MD07 – 0745 – Sunrise – The First Day]
Captain Woolheater had left the warmth and safety of the ice caves hours ago. His vehicle, an anti-grav motorbike had been hardened against the wind and the cold thanks to the ministration of the Engineers. It was equipped with a heater that warmed the seat and the handlebars and to de-ice the windshield. It was enhanced with extra power packs and a long range comm array. Regrettably, the computer uplink to the Elysium had to be sacrificed in favor of extra power pack for range. Instead, the hoverbike was equipped with a cartography suite to help Sam map the area and provide better data to the command team. Attached to the vehicle was a carrier for sample collection. Andrinn Orin had suggested to him that since he was out and about, collecting plants, ice, rock and anything that could help the planetary sciences team as well as any other science area would be helpful. On his back was water, closest to his armored EVA suit for warmth and extra power to keep the suit from freezing up and to aid in keeping the suits human occupant alive and warm. Sam had a pair of long range bionoculars that could take hi-res pictures. He also came armed with his sniper’s rifle and scope.
It was dark and cold when Samuel left this morning. The headlights on the hoverbike seemingly did very little to light the way ahead of him. He was driving by sensors and not visual. When the sun came up; things would be better. At least easier to see. Sam had travelled for two hours. He wanted to make for a mesa that had been identified, visually, by a shuttle off in the distance. The hoverbike performed well in the snow and the wind which was constantly blowing against the hoverbike. Up ahead, was his target, his first waypoint on his scout and survey mission.
The hoverbike climbed the slight hill and then even out on the mesa. Up ahead was where he would stop. One what the sensors were telling Sam in his HUD on the helmet was a cliff face high and above a prominent valley. It would be light soon. He drove the bike close to the edge and then, before him, in the pale light of dawn was the edge. Beyond the edge, falling off into a purple and rose hues of dawn was a valley. Smooth and icy, it was cold blue. Sam stopped the hoverbike and looked out across the edge, over into the valley floor below. It was only a few hundred meters. He certainly wouldn’t want to go jumping off it.
Far and away, the valley floor met the horizon. The rosy hues of dawn were just gathering themselves for a new day. The purple colors and dark black of night receded with the dawn. The air cleared and the sky, momentarily gave way so that Sam had a stunning, absolutely stunning view of dawn. All about him, with solitude the land and the ice on the mesa waited. In anticipation they waited. Then, a beam of light, the first light of morn broke across the valley. Then another and then another. The tops of the clouds, their pink color reminded him of Ensign Derani’s hair color. The length and breadth of the light slowly broadened and warmed the clouds up.
Sam dismounted from the hoverbike and looked at his surroundings as they lit up. He saw the morning light land on the valley floor. Bright, shiny rivers of ice glinted back their joy. Their waters within danced as the sun kissed them as a mother might kiss her child to wake up. More light beams fell across the valley and now climbed the face of the cliff. Puffs of vapor trapped gas in the ice and snow gave the cliff face a mist. So gentle, so faint, it slowly rose. As if the spirits trapped so long in the ice were free again with the daylight. The sunlight touched his helmet, it shimmered off his armored suit and raced along the mesa and back towards where he had come. Then, all around him flashed a brilliantly, bright green light.
“Computer?” Sam addressed the onboard EVA computer, “What was that flash?”
The monotone voice of the suit computer answered, “The visual phenomena you just experienced is caused by atmospheric refraction or lensing. A green colored flash occurs because the atmosphere causes the light from the Sun to separate, or refract, into different frequencies. Green flashes are enhanced by mirages, which increase refraction.”
Then, Sam looked up, and the sky was clear all around him in. Very high clouds were coming in but for the moment, a clear spot was to be had. Sam said to no one in particular, but addressing the suits computer, “Well, this place deserves a name. What a hopeful view. I think I’ll call this place…’Sullivan Mesa’. Named after Lieutenant Tate Sullivan. Because she helps us see things more clearly…and in a new light. Please note the time and the latitude and longitude and save the name.”
Taking images with his EVA suit and looking for anything to take back as a sample, and finding none, he mounted the hoverbike again and travelled along the mesa ridge until there was a spot where he could safely travel down to the valley floor.
Ice was everywhere. Snow, like sand dunes in a desert, was piled high in snow drifts. The sensors told him that the snow covered some jagged rocks that were jutting out from the glacier water frozen solid. It would be bad to crash into them and so he stayed very clear of them. He slowed his speed, taking everything in. For many kilometers, the valley stretched out. Like a blanket. It was smooth, puffy in places and perfectly white with snow. The clouds were back and so was the wind. Sam decided to alter his course just a bit and investigate some dark patches off to his ten o’clock.
The hoverbike zipped along the snowy valley floor and Samuel noticed that the dark patches were larger now and more of them. Up ahead, there was some vapor rising from the ground. He slowed the hoverbike and when stopped, dismounted and used the tricorder on his armor to examine the vapor. It was CO2. Carbon dioxide. And there were some other trace gases here. Nothing to be worried about. Sam used his binoculars to look around the area before proceeding. When he was satisfied that there was nothing here, he gathered a sample kit from the hoverbike and scooped up some of the hard, crusty ground. It had the same consistency as million-year-old Neapolitan ice cream with sever freezer burn. Only this time, someone had eaten all the vanilla and strawberry and left the chocolate. He put it in a container, sealed it tight and labelled it with the lat & long. Naming the sample from an area he chose to name this part of the valley after the Arten Snowrunner Warrant Officer CrystalCliff. She was rock-solid in her performance and was one of those people you can always count on being there. Just like the ground beneath his feet.
After another hour or so of riding, Sam decided to stop and eat a food ration. There was an unusual ringed area up ahead of him that he thought was worth checking out.
REDAL IMPACT CRATER
Stopping the hoverbike and scanning the area with his tricorder in his suit, Sam was satisfied. He dismounted and started taking images. From the rear of the hoverbike, the aerial drone lifted out and took off and up into the sky to get an aerial shot of the ringed structure. As Sam scanned, the tricorder could detect a metal object, mostly iron and nickel a kilometer below. Judging from the mass, he guessed it was a meteor that had long since crashed into the surface of planet ‘Popsicle One’. The amazing thing was that, from the aerial view, there were these perfectly formed, concentric circles from where the meteor must have made waves in the ice. Heating just hot enough to liquify it some and not long enough for it to return to a smooth state. His tricorder was telling him other information that he did not know how to interpret. Everything he scanned went into the computer record that he would download back at the camp. This reminded him of when Lieutenant Myne Redal stepped on Sam’s face in his private ‘holladeck’ program. He was not happy to later learn that some cadets had gained access to his private program. He remembered how much of an impact that made on the rest of his day…and week. And it seemed that an impact crater with ripples frozen in time was fitting.
Woolheater had constantly been scanning for any form of vegetation or for plant life. There was none detected with the range of his EVA suits enhanced tricorder. No grass, no bushes, no trees of any kind. Just endless ice and snow. He had about four hours left before he needed to turn back and return to the encampment. The wind was picking up and even though the EVA suit said it was fully heating, Sam could still feel the cold just dying to get in and freeze his blood cold. As he was calculating his next waypoint, the sensors detected vegetation. He altered course and turned towards a mountain ridge.
It looked very ominous. There were dark clouds all around the highest peaks. They were craggy and Sam could see the rocks. Down the slopes. The snow was packed and built up thick. ‘Popsicle One’ would be a great place to ski. He steered the hoverbike towards the detected vegetation and saw ahead a crack in the ice. He slowed and stopped the hoverbike and looked down into a canyon.
It was wide and it looked very old. It looked old because it was clearly part of the glacier that had cracked and then frozen again. There was no danger, so he thought, of new cracking or new openings. Sam proceeded slowly on his hoverbike towards the sensor reading when the canyon got lower and lower. Soon, the whipping, chilly winds were high above him and here, it was relatively calm.
Sam noted that the glaciated ice had tunnels in it, looking a bit like frozen Swiss cheese. And he wondered what made those tunnels. He checked the tricorder for life signs and there were none. Up ahead, he saw some unusual ice structures. He pulled out the binoculars and scanned the area. Then he proceeded down the canyon a half kilometer before arriving at this amazing structure.
LALOR-RICHARDSON ICE CATHEDRAL
Parking the hoverbike and breaking out the digital cameras on his EVA suit, Sam took many pictures. There was a length of the canyon here that narrowed. Just enough that dripping water from above and from freezing rain formed these large, stalagmite-like columns. They were enormous and they were so tall. He could not even put his arms around them. Higher and higher they rose until they reached a point where a lattice like archway was formed. Both by constant winds and icy rain. Beneath his feet, the ice was smooth and solid, just like a clear marble of a cathedral floor. And, the most amazing thing was that on the side that received light from the sun, was soil. And in that unfrozen soil, protected by an overhand were a whole garden of small, budding flowers. They were tiny buds, about the size of peas. They were white and yellow. Protected from the wind but getting sunlight and the moisture from the air and from what the sun warmed. These plants were hardy and thriving. And that reminded Sam of the Commodore and of her husband Captain Mattias Richardson. Both strong willed people and growing in the most unusual and trying circumstances. Sam gathered a few specimens. Gathered some of the soil and the ice. Took pictures and then named the structure after the Commodore and her husband. He also noted the location of the canyon and named that after the Executive Officer of the ship. Describing it as a place of refuge and the calm in the storm. Befitting our XO Captain Taylor. ‘Taylor Canyon’.
Deciding to press forward, Sam travelled the length of Taylor Canyon and saw that there was an opening up the mountainside where he could exit. Stopping along the way to get another soil and rock sample, he noticed that he was climbing again in elevation. There ahead was another mesa where he could exit back to the surface and was immediately blasted with cold wind that buffeted him and the hoverbike. The machine whined at him as the batteries protested the strain they were having to endure.
Sam slowed and stopped. It was so eerie. He knew exactly what this was as he slowly drove the hoverbike through the penitente field of snow. Usually found in very windy areas, it is strikingly unusual because the snow piles up into these little rows. Into these triangular looking piles that have these pointed tops. Snow formations like this are found at high altitudes. They take the form of elongated, thin blades of hardened snow or ice, closely spaced and pointing towards the general direction of the sun.
The name comes from the resemblance of a field of penitentes to a crowd of kneeling people doing penance. The formation evokes the tall, pointed habits and hoods worn by brothers of religious orders in the Processions of Penance during Spanish Holy Week. In particular, the brothers’ hats are tall, narrow, and white, with a pointed top. Samuel remembered seeing this when he visited Earth with Emily. But he thought that the person now doing “penance” for her imagined crimes was Ensign Miraj Derani. The soil here was bright red. Probably had a lot of iron in it. It contrasted with the white snow. It went on like this for a quarter of a mile. A whole “penitente field”. Notating it on the log with the lat & long. He turned his bike around to look one more time at the canyon and the field for a glamor shot of the whole thing. That’s when he saw it.
MOUNT ORIN TALLEST PEAK IN THE ANDRINN MOUNTAIN RANGE
There, with a trail of white snow being blown off the top was a tall, rough, solid mountain. It stood taller than the rest of the peaks and according to Sam’s HUD, it was coming in at over 18,000 feet (5.4km). Sam took measurements but the wind here was too strong. His EVA was getting frozen over. He took another look ad then named the tallest mount for his friend.
Turning the hoverbike back to the encampment, Sam set for the long journey back to their temporary home.
1800 HOURS – BACK AT THE ELYSIUM CAMP
Woolheater’s hoverbike gave out about two miles from the camp at the ice caves. Colonel Azhul had given him permission to do a twelve-hour shift to get the scouting missions done. But the hoverbike had issues being out for so long in the cold. The hover part was still working, so Sam could pull it behind him with all the samples and the data he collected. But the motivator that actually propelled the hoverbike in a direction of travel had crapped out (technical term).
Sam hauled it back to camp and asked for help getting the hoverbike in for repairs. His EVA suit looked like it was frozen solid. And when he retracted the helmet away, steam came out from the suit near the neck. He was glad to be home. Everything about him ached and was cold. He was hungry and tired and everything felt frozen.
Sam’s beard was filling in and he needed a shower and a shave. He hoped there was some hot water left and he hoped Andrinn wasn’t too busy. He wanted to see him again as soon as he reported into the Marine command field tent. There, he would upload the data, sensor scans, images and field data to the mobile computer network that they were using. All this scouting was going to give them the telemetry from the ground to match what they could see from the air.
The Colonel was busy now. So was Captain Tonelly. Sam delivered the sample specimens to the Geology tent. And the plants to the Biology tent. Then he finished uploading all of the data to Colonel Azhul and the Command Team.
Then he checked on the hoverbike for repairs and then, finally, Sam made his report and then signed off for the day to get some rest, some food but most of all to see Andrinn again. Tomorrow he would head out at 0600 and this time he would head Westerly.
Captain Samuel Woolheater
“Saepius Exertus, Semper Fidelis, Frater Infinitas”
Division VI, MARDET 62nd Company “Spartans”, 1st Platoon CO
=/\= USS ELYSIUM – NCC-89000 =/\=