ESS Lore Volume 1: Eternal Winter
Lore Links Tree
The story so far: 500 years after the civilisation on Pollux is destroyed, the Droo Alliance ship New Frontiers is on a mission to investigate the outer Juno system. After gaining a new crew member at Cylero and hosting a dinner party at which strange tales are told, the ship has reached the outer system. Dr Ogmaz and Kalfr have gone on a trip to explore the huge Phoebe impact crater. However, the situation quickly becomes serious, leaving the crewmates in need of evacuation…
Chapter 6, Juno Date 055.2167:
Captain Hodiyah stood behind Xanadu, who was desperately trying to determine Kalfr and the doctor’s position before the New Frontiers exited their communication window.
“We have a reading on the shuttle’s location,” she was saying to Dr Ogmaz. “But can you confirm where you are in relation to that?”
“We’re approximately half a kilometre from the shuttle landing site” the doctors voice crackled through the static. “The level of the lake is rising; we don’t have much time before the beach is flooded!”
The captain turned to Maintenance Officer Deimos. “To the shuttle bay!” she called to him, then turned to Xanadu. “You are now in command, please send the exact coordinates as soon as you have them, I will launch immediately and remain within coms range.”
Hodiyah and Deimos ran to the rear bay and quickly put on their spacesuits. Within a few minutes they were seated in the DAC-29’s second shuttle, watching the huge doors swing open to outer space. The captain engaged the ion thruster, and the craft slowly nosed its way out of the bay into the weak sunlight. Phoebe’s rocky surface dominated their view as the shuttle descended towards the surface. After a short delay, Xanadu uploaded the doctor’s location to their navigation system and the engines hummed even louder as course corrections were applied. The time seemed to pass slowly for the anxious captain and officer, but eventually the mysterious crater filled with dangers loomed over the moon’s horizon and it was time to prepare for landing.
“I will drop you off at the first shuttle’s landing spot.” She explained to Deimos. “It appears there may be some radioactive contaminant present at this site so minimising your time on the surface is essential. Return to the ship as quickly as possible and then request Xanadu to run a scan of the shuttle before entering the rear bay.”
The craft dropped lower over the mountains, but unlike the previous shuttle trip to this region its occupants had no heart for enjoying the view. As they crossed the inner mountain ring both crew members immediately saw the shuttle, standing near the top of the rocky slopes leading down to the centre of the crater. Footprints lay around the abandoned craft, where Kalfr and Dr Ogmaz had set off on their treacherous walk down the scree just a short time before. Hodiyah brought them down to the surface just a few metres from this point, and Deimos sprinted out of the side door towards the other shuttle. As soon as he was clear the captain increased throttle again and the chunky craft lifted from the ground, moving forwards toward the edge of the crater. As she crossed the rim, Hodiyah sent out a radio call to Dr Ogmaz, who was now within direct communication range with the shuttle.
“Doctor, can you hear me?” she called urgently.
“I am reading you captain,” responded the doctors voice after a moment’s delay. “The situation is getting bad down here though, we don’t have much longer.”
The cryo-lava lake had now appeared in Hodiyah’s view, and she gasped as she saw the terrifying scene before her. The centre of the lake was disturbed by some great force, boiling upwards and sending off great waves which surged outwards with slow, deliberate force onto the beaches and sloping cliffs surrounding the lava. Turning to one side she could just make out her two crew members, perched precariously on a huge boulder on one of the ramps of scree. Carefully she reduced altitude until the craft was hovering a few metres from them.
“I am worried the thruster wash will cause a landslip.” She called to the doctor. “Can you give me signals as I land?”
The doctor could barely hear the captain due to exhaustion and dizziness from the shaking ground, but he balanced himself on the rock and gave arm signals to direct the shuttle onto the slope. It gradually descended and then rested with a bump at a steep angle on the loose debris. As soon as the dust began to settle, he turned to Kalfr who was attempting to rise to his feet.
“Kalfr is unwell!” he called to Hodiyah. “I need help to get him onto the shuttle.”
The captain left the controls and scrambled towards the main hatch. She leaped down to the loose regolith and knelt to look through Kalfr’s helmet visor. He was semi-conscious, and his eyes were staring straight ahead, bloodshot.
“I think he may be suffering from radiation poisoning.” Dr Ogmaz told her. “He picked up a piece of rock or some other material which had a very high reading!”
This was very concerning news to the captain. “We must get him into the medical bay as quickly as possible.” she observed.
Together they dragged Kalfr’s limp body towards the shuttle. As they were pulling him into the door a huge tremor shook the rock and Hodiyah glanced in horror at the lake. A tall wave of lava was flowing sluggishly along the beach towards them, knocking pieces off the cliffs and surging around the low hills leading to the scree slope. With one final effort she dragged Kalfr onto the floor of the shuttle and grabbed the controls. Without waiting for the doctor to close the door, she engaged the main thruster and accelerated away from the ground, only slowing their ascent once she was sure that they were out of the reach of any lava or flying debris. Then, leaving the craft to hover, she returned to the rear cabin.
“That was close!” Dr Ogmaz exclaimed from the floor, where he had been flung by the suddenness of their departure. He staggered to his feet and assisted the captain with closing the main door and securing unconscious Kalfr on an emergency stretcher.
“We need to be screened for contaminants by the ship,” Hodiyah explained to the doctor as they took their seats again. “Deimos retrieved the other shuttle and should be docking with New Frontiers by now.” Ogmaz nodded in understanding and the engines hummed into life once more.
Once both shuttles were docked with their mother ship and the bay doors were closed, Kalfr was rushed to the medical bay. Lethe was waiting beside the life support bed and with Dr Ogmaz he connected the unconscious crew hand to the machines. News of Kalfr’s condition had spread quickly through the crew and a group of off duty members were gathered outside the bay awaiting further news with concern. Lethe’s face was strangely set, and the doctor noticed that he had tears welling in the corners of his eyes. However, Ogmaz himself was feeling unwell from exhaustion and stress, in addition to his bruises from the fall in the shuttle, so he did not have time to dwell on the matter. Lethe recommended that he rest in his quarters until the next day, to ensure that he recovered fully from the experience.
“However, before you go, I must ask more about how the patient got into this condition.” He asked the doctor gravely. “You mentioned that he picked up material which you believe gave him a large dose?”
“That is correct,” Dr Ogmaz confirmed. “I didn’t see the item in detail, but it looked different to any of the ice or regolith on the beach. Kalfr seemed excited by the discovery but I was distracted by my experiment setup and didn’t notice anything more. How serious do you believe his condition is?”
Lethe looked very serious. “I cannot say for certain, but I have rarely seen a person survive this sickness once the symptoms become so advanced. I have worked with patients exposed to similar doses in the past, and his condition is concerning.”
Dr Ogmaz was escorted to his quarters and made comfortable, while Lethe remained in the sick bay attending to Kalfr. Hodiyah returned to the shuttle bay and found Deimos there at a maintenance station with his eyes glued to a monitor. The captain walked over to see what he was finding so absorbing and realised that he had downloaded Kalfr’s helmet camera data.
“I had forgotten the helmet cams!” she exclaimed. “Maybe this will help Lethe determine what caused the sickness?”
Deimos turned to her and pointed to the screen. “It doesn’t explain much but it certainly raises some questions. Take a look at this section of the recording!” he said breathlessly. Hodiyah leaned on the desk and took in the video. The grainy cam footage showed the beach and lava lake, with the top of Kalfr’s helmet just visible at the bottom of the frame. He was walking slowly towards the shoreline when the camera seemed to shake suddenly as if he had tripped. The view then changed as he bent over to pick something up. For just a moment, the camera caught his hand brushing ice dust off the object. Deimos paused the playback and magnified the noisy image. “It looks like metal of some sort to me. Look at those markings, I’m sure we’ve seen them before.”
Hodiyah looked closer at the grainy image. The object in Kalfr’s hand had sharp edges and had a shiny appearance. The carving was difficult to make out but as she studied the picture a chill went down her spine. The shard had a part of a crooked hourglass etched into its surface…
@Hermes01000100 I don't think there would be one, as the shuttles are very small and only carry two or three crew at a time. I think they are capable of depressurising and depressurising using valves and tanks, so that the entire craft can be open to vacuum when exploring the surface.