Chapter 2 - Season 3, Episode 2, Water World I: Tsunami

Lieutenant Commander Carl Hedley Executive Officer
Lieutenant Commander Ezekiel “Zeke” Pride Flight Controller
Lieutenant Elli-Navine Chief Engineer
Lieutenant Alexander Artopolis Chief Medical Officer
Lieutenant Reeza Ral Chief Operations Officer

After a week at the station, the crew finally gets a job that isn’t just menial labour! Hurrah! It does seem to just be transportation, though. Boo!

Taking a team of scientists to some habitable seeming planet somewhere in the Expanse. We get some fancy new toys, a bunch of delta flyers and aquatic shuttles. In case of accidents, presumably. Also a disassembled submarine! That’s fun, but the research team get to keep it, so sucks to be us.

So this planet, right, has a dense and unpredictable ring system, probably a broken moon, or a moon that wasn’t meant to be. Lots of fun floating rocks. It’s pretty soggy, too, with seas ranging from 1.6km at the shallowest to 12+. Water ships should be able to go even deeper than that, so no big deal. Pretty tantalising, though!

Boring, sol-type star, nothing interesting there, but the planet is pretty attractive. Lovely blue-green seas, and not much else. A particularly whimsical person might call it a pearl. Weird delineation between the different seas, though. Mysterious.

It’s at a wonky angle, too. Screw you, ecliptic, this planet rolls along at 45 degrees. Some pretty big pebbles, too, starbase sized at least. Ship ducks under it easily enough, so no big deal.

Landmass covers about 1%, so it’s still pretty reasonable to describe it as great tracts of land. Teeming with life, too, all in all, a pretty pleasant seeming place. It’s even got an alright atmosphere, though Carl decrees spacesuits after last time. Pride doesn’t listen and goes down in a swimsuit, but he signed the liability waiver, so we’re all good if something does happen to him.

Ral gets the sub down well enough, and the robots get to work welding it all together. Doesn’t take too long, either. Ral and Elli get it started up, and it hovers itself over to the ocean without any trouble, heading off with its new crew to do submarine things. Any rumours that one of the Potemkin’s crew locked its designation to ‘Subbadubba’ are entirely fabricated.

Set up some prefabs on the land for monitoring, a base of operations for the sub, and crazy shore-leave beach parties. Unfortunately, a big ol’ meteor smashes into the planet and makes an even bigger, ol’er tsunami, and we all get beamed back to the Potemkin. Nothing seems to really happen, but it is pretty weird. Instead of propagating properly, the wave just stops. Strange. Where did all that energy go? That’s a lot of energy. Damn. Also, hehe, ‘suck’.

Obviously we need to go work out how that happened, so down we go again. Sensors don’t pick anything up, but they can only see about 14.4km deep, so we need to go deeper. As for the weird delineation, looks like we’ve got some serious salt concentration causing it, and there isn’t any life in the super salty bit. It also has an integer volume, which seems incredibly improbable for a naturally occurring phenomenon.

Science squad doesn’t seem to have picked up anything interesting, but when Ral transports a cube of the salty water, it stays cubic and slowly makes its way back to the rest. Which isn’t at all weird, not at all.

Hanging around for a bit, we watch the boundary into the salty goo for a while. There’s a pod of not-whales swimming around, and an old one swims into the goo for whatever reason. Then it dissolves. Wonderful. Molecularly disassembled, according to the sensors.

Dump a probe into the centre of the goo, and it turns out that the salt is, in fact, a sodium-based lifeform, not just salt. It seems to be intercommunicating, like some kind of hive mind, using some kind of quantum entanglement. Some electrical impulses, too. Fancy. Looks like they’re all clones, too. Maybe it’s a single organism? Exciting. And apparently dangerous.

Since that seems to be everything there is to work out about the goo, aside from trying to talk to it, the crew decide to take a dip. Down they go, split between the delta flyer and the atalanta, deeper and deeper, into the dark. Very spooky.

All sorts of fun aquatic life going on, stranger and stranger the deeper they get. Bioluminescence for days! Takes about an hour to reach the seafloor. We got some heat vents on the ocean floor, spewing out minerals and heat for the gribblies to enjoy. Away from the vents, it seems to be pretty chilly, around the -20s. Definitely a little brisk, but not too inhospitable. There are some big lads, too, circling around in the distance. Ranging from 3-16ish metres. They look kinda like dolphins, except for the gills. Don’t seem to be a threat, though.

There are a bunch of space rocks from the rings littering the floor, too, high in organic compounds. Maybe they’re being eaten? Also, ruins! Time to go have a looksie! It’s a pretty hazardous trip, what with the geysers, but the shuttles just fly over them in the end.

Ooh, exciting! This is a serious ruined city, all skyscrapers and stuff. Tallest building is over a kilometre high! Wing shaped, too, which is kinda neat. Could maybe have been above water once? Who knows? But sensors do pick up pockets of atmosphere. An old transit station and some basements/bomb shelters.

Interest piqued, beam a drone into the station to take a peek. Looks, as expected, like an underground station, about 100m long, 25 wide. Flooded lower section, but the water looks trapped, not connected to the ocean, perhaps. There are the traditional underground adverts, too, featuring humanoid aliens. Looks like they’ve got 4 fingers and 2 thumbs, plus backwards knees. Also, the floor is covered in skelingtons, which have clearly been around for a while. Not too long, though, because the clothing hasn’t disintegrated.

Smartphones haven’t, either. Elli finds one, boots it up and hacks in. Seems pretty standard, but a news app’s cache seems to be talking about some kind of self-inflicted disaster. Maybe a grey goo type deal? Who knows?

Head out to one of the other pockets, under a building with a fancy logo on the side. Seems like a bunker, and the stuff it’s built from doesn’t really want to be transported through. Not a problem, though, just boost the power a little. Drone ends up inside a big square room, looks like part of a larger complex. Looks like the rest is flooded, though.

This one seems to be a control room. Big square table with a cutout in the middle, loads of chairs, and a bunch of workstations around it. More skellingtons, some still sitting in their chairs, computers lying around, general control room things.

Check another phone, ith much better encryption. It’s still archaic technology, though, so no big deal. Lots of memory, though, several terabytes. Lots of official reports are encoded, and the computer’s being kinda slow, but it looks like they had a nice, greenery covered moon before, but they were doing some reckless mining. Then they blew up the moon. Not very smart.

No seeing what the computers interface with from the shuttle, so Elli, Carl and Ral beam into the room. Atmosphere is pretty high pressure, but we’ve got the suits on and they seem pretty fine. Computers, it turns out, are linked to a big database, which seems to still be active and powered, somehow. Military/government, definitely, quite secure, but no match for the computer twins.

Looks like they were experimenting with fusion technology on the moon, but they messed something up and lost containment. Shouldn’t have been a big deal, but it caused some problem with a previously unknown material in the moon’s core, and they found it out too late. Runaway reaction hit the core, and it exploded. Made a surprisingly planar shockwave which vapourised the planet’s core, released a bunch of greenhouse gases, permafrost melted, so on and so on. Deep crust ocean plugged by permafrost flooded the planet. Only took about a year.

Copy all the data, then, while it’s analysed, CLIFFHANGER!