ESS Lore Volume 1: Eternal Winter

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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 make a disastrous trip to an impact crater on Phoebe, which results in Kalfr being admitted unconscious to sick bay. Analysis of his helmet cam footage leaves Deimos and the Captain shocked.

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Chapter 7, Juno Date 056.2167:


Captain Hodiyah awoke the next morning and reviewed her schedule for the day. The first item on the agenda was a ship-wide meeting to discuss the implications of yesterdays’ incident and review a plan for renewing the New Frontiers’ mission. The previous evening, she had spent several hours in conversation with mission control on Droo. After much discussion, their decision had been to allow her complete freedom to investigate the hourglass mystery alongside completing the original mission objectives, or to return to Droo immediately.

“It is crucial that your first concern is the safety of your crew, and the Droo Alliance fleet can offer no assistance at present.” the president of DA Fleet Command had told her. “The scientific objectives are of great importance, but you will face no criticism for returning to Droo if the situation should further deteriorate.”

Mission control had also showed much concern about Kalfr’s medical condition, but Hodiyah reassured them that he was in the best care. She had notified the fleet command of Lethe’s temporary role as medical assistant and explained that he had experience in dealing with radiation sickness. While she had provided Droo with a briefing on the salient points of the incident on Cylero, she had omitted the finer details about the situation surrounding Lethe. The captain suspected that he was hiding a lot from herself and the rest of the crew, but in all her contact with the old man could detect no ill-will or danger in him. He had showed integrity in all his other actions, she observed, and was confident that he would reveal the truth when the right time came.

Nav-comms officer Xanadu was already waiting in the briefing room attached to the captain’s quarters, deep in conversation with crew hand Columba. As Hodiyah entered the room they stood respectfully, and she greeted them warmly.

“It has been a stressful time for us all,” she observed. “I want everyone to feel that they can speak freely in this meeting, as our safety may be at stake.”

One by one the rest of the crew entered the room from their various places around the ship. Some of them had been on bridge duty during the night and looked tired, and others were still drinking their morning coffee. Maintenance officer Deimos, crew hand Mitra, scientific officer Dr Ogmaz, and finally Lethe, who had been given the temporary role of medical assistant. Hodiyah felt a warm glow of community spirit in the room—the events of the previous day had only served to strengthen bonds between the crew and deepen their resolve to complete this dangerous mission. Once everyone was present, the captain stood and announced that the briefing was convened.

“First I want to thank everyone for your excellent service yesterday.” Hodiyah began. “Confronted with a ground-team emergency and medical crisis you all remained calm and fulfilled your duties to the highest standard while under great strain. The second announcement I wish to make is that Kalfr’s condition has stabilised thanks to the efforts of our friend Lethe. While he remains unconscious, I understand that his life signs are returning to normal and there is hope for his recovery. But to move on to the main item of today’s meeting, we are here today to discuss the future of this mission. I went over the situation yesterday with mission control and they have given full authorisation to continue with our objectives or to return to Droo. As we are a unified crew, I wish this decision to be taken collectively. Everyone may speak freely, and only the result of this meeting will be recorded in the official log.”

A murmur of approval went around the room. It was Droo Alliance policy for the ship’s captain to record detailed log entries including the minutes of all meetings with crew. While the protocol was important to fully analyse all incidents and resolve conflicts, it was sometimes seen as heavy-handed by crew members who wished to speak freely without fear of future reprimand.

Dr Ogmaz spoke first. He looked much better after resting but was still a little distressed. “While I share the captain’s sentiment of thanks to the rest of the crew, I fear I have to answer personally for the situation which I placed Kalfr and the entire ship’s company in. My insistence in completing the mission’s scientific goals clouded my judgement when it came to safety on the surface. The situation went out of control so quickly, my lack of care became catastrophic before I could correct it. For this I am deeply sorry.”

The rest of the crew were touched by the doctor’s selfless honesty, and Deimos put his hand on Ogmaz’s shoulder. Deimos had become especially close to Ogmaz over the last few weeks while they were working on sensor system upgrades, and it pained him to see his friend so downcast. “We are exploring the unknown, and with such a venture we will always encounter unexpected dangers. Yesterday’s incident was a learning experience for us all because no training can fully prepare for something like it. I am sure the rest of the crew are with me when I say that your prompt action in warning Kalfr of the radiation and calling for assistance has outweighed any errors in judgement you made.”

The rest of the crew nodded in agreement with Deimos’ words. While it was true that the doctor could be very absorbed in his work, he was also loved by the crew for his care towards them and his rather eccentric interest in their career paths.

“I see no reason why we should not continue in our mission.” Xanadu stated. “The real question in my mind is this. What can we learn from yesterday, and how can we use these lessons to ensure that it does not happen again?”

Columba rustled some notes which she had brought into the meeting, and everyone turned to her expectantly. She was slightly nervous with all this attention but cleared her throat and began. “I spent some time last night thinking through the events and have a few suggestions to make. Firstly, all crew on EVAs should carry a full personal sensor array attached to their suit. This should include radiation, temperature, and basic spectroscopy equipment to warn of any hostile conditions. Next, off-ship teams should always be comprised of more than two persons, one of whom should remain at the shuttle in case of emergencies. Finally, the ship should enter a high elliptical orbit to maintain continuous radio communication with the ground team.”

Hodiyah and the other officers were visibly impressed by the crew hand’s recommendations. Columba was the least experienced of the official crew but several times over the past weeks she had demonstrated great promise of speedy promotion. “It is clear that you have put a lot of thought into the matter,” the captain said. “Would you be willing to spend some time after this meeting to draft edits to our procedures manual?”

“Of course, I would be honoured to!” Columba agreed.

“I think that our ability to learn from situations like this is proof that this crew can continue its mission.” Lethe spoke. “While I am not familiar with all detail of Droo Alliance values and protocols, it would seem most noble to press on against all these problems we encountered and accomplish your original goals.”

The crew all nodded again, and Dr Ogmaz looked a lot brighter. “If the crew and captain are willing to continue our exploration, I would be very happy to produce an action-plan for the most beneficial EVAs and run them past the new procedures.”

Captain Hodiyah looked around at the gathered crew and smiled. “It seems that we are all of the same mindset on this matter! We will be entering a high elliptical orbit this afternoon, so pending the procedure changes and the doctor’s EVA roadmap, we will be returning to action later today. In the meantime, I would like the bridge crew to complete full radiation and surface composition models of this moon so that we have a full picture of conditions at any location.”

The on-duty crew returned to their stations and the remaining members stayed for a short time to talk and admire the views of Phoebe from the observation window. Lethe announced he would return to sick bay, and Xanadu requested that she accompany him to visit Kalfr.

“By all means my child.” Lethe said kindly. “His situation is serious, but with each hour I have more hope that he will recover.”

Together they walked down the main corridor towards sick bay, and the remaining crew members returned to their quarters.


It was a busy morning for the crew of the DAC-29 New Frontiers. Dr Ogmaz worked with Deimos to produce an updated roadmap for ground exploration of Phoebe. Initially the doctor was keen to continue his investigation of the northern hemisphere crater, but Deimos cautioned him.

“Maybe it would be most advisable to test the new protocols on a safer region of the surface?” he suggested. “For example, the tholin highlands near the equator. I remember you wished to examine the deposits and obtain samples from both this body and Pollux for comparison?”

“That is a good idea,” the doctor concurred. “This environment should be less challenging than that which we encountered at the crater, and it will be a good opportunity to regain our footing. Once we have gained more experience on this moon, we may be able to revisit the crater with less risk. I believe that the bridge crew are finishing the high detail map of the surface, so that will provide the final information needed to plan out the EVAs. We can land the shuttle at the lowest point in the area to prevent difficulties in scaling terrain.”

Once the final details of the mission were decided, Dr Ogmaz took the plans to Hodiyah for her approval. She was pleased to see that the doctor’s enthusiasm had been somewhat tempered by Deimos’ practical mindset. After a short discussion and review of the ship’s sensor maps the captain signed off the plan for the afternoon’s tholin highlands exploration, and preparations could begin. Her next task was to assign crew to the mission and ensure that all essential duties were still fulfilled by crew members during their time away. ‘Most important is ensuring that Kalfr can be observed and treated without interruption.’ she thought. ‘Lethe does not show signs of fatigue like the other crew, but his age must reduce his ability to remain on duty for long shifts.’

However, the old man would hear nothing of it. “My place is at this sick man’s side.” he said firmly. “With all respect captain, I am most qualified on this ship to care for Kalfr, and I must be allowed to look after him uninterrupted. I will contact you or the duty officer if I need any assistance. At present his situation is very fragile and I need to be at his side whenever possible.”

The captain reluctantly agreed to his firm demands and sat by Kalfr’s bed for a while to discuss the unconscious crew hand’s condition with Lethe. “I do not think he is in any immediate danger,” he reassured her. “However, it may be some time before he regains consciousness. The life support system which you have in this sick bay is the best I have seen in my career; you are very fortunate to have such a well-equipped ship to command.”

“I am confident that you will be able to deal with anything that occurs.” The captain said, standing to leave. “We have not had much opportunity to speak over the past weeks, but my officers cannot speak highly enough of your care and love towards the crew.”

“I have seen much suffering in my time captain,” he replied gravely. “It is my duty to spread love now to the hearts of those around me.”

They shook hands warmly and the captain returned to the bridge ready for the afternoon’s shuttle launch.


After much preparation, the mission was ready to depart. All crew were briefed on the risks which they could expect when on the surface, and the doctor gave a full lecture on the scientific objectives of their EVA. By mid-afternoon, the shuttle was nosing out of New Frontiers’ rear bay and out into the weak sunlight.

The shuttle gradually descended over the rough surface of Phoebe. Dr Ogmaz, Deimos, and Columba gazed in awe at the harsh landscape before them. The grabens which had looked so unremarkable from orbit now showed as dark, shadowy slits deep into the moon, with further ridges in their floors between vast rubble slopes where the valley walls had collapsed. Their target was a small basin next to one of the darkest patches of tholin deposits. Dr Ogmaz was piloting, and he brought the small, blunt-nosed craft past the landing site at low speed and altitude several times to ensure that no obstacles or unexpected hazards were present. Everything seemed to be in order, so he gently brought the shuttle down to a rest at the centre of the depression.

“Shuttle One to New Frontiers, we have a safe landing.” He reported to the bridge, and then set to work unloading the scientific equipment.


Meanwhile, on the mother ship, Captain Hodiyah was checking over her log when the sound of an alarm came from the medical bay down the corridor. She quickly handed command to Xanadu and sprinted through the door to find a most bizarre scene.

Lethe was standing beside Kalfr, with his hands above the crew hand’s body, a blanket discarded on the floor. Behind him the life support machine was flashing a red warning light. Hodiyah stared in disbelief at Kalfr’s body, which seemed to be levitating while Lethe moved his hands above his chest in a rhythmic way. The old man turned his head towards the captain.

“Please, do as I say!” he exclaimed. “The life support machine has stopped working! I can keep Kalfr’s heart beating for only a short time!”

Hodiyah ran to the machine and checked over its main screen. She immediately saw the fault—the power supply was unstable, and the reserve batteries had drained. She quickly connected the machine to another electrical point and ran a diagnostic to ensure that the issue was resolved. “Everything is working again.” she called to Lethe.

He relaxed and with a subtle movement of his hands seemed to cut the force holding Kalfr in the air above the bed. The unconscious body dropped gently onto the mattress again and Lethe carefully covered him with the blanket. As Hodiyah took a step towards him he sunk with exhaustion into the bedside chair.

The captain pulled up another seat and faced him. “There is something which you are not being truly honest about.” she said seriously. “No medical doctor from Droo could perform such a procedure, and you clearly saved Kalfr from harm in this situation, but I need to know the truth. And this time Lethe, it must be the entire truth.”

The old man nodded slowly. “You are correct, I am not from Droo. I know more of this mission than you may realise, and I think I can explain some of the events you have found so puzzling in the past weeks—the hourglass, for example. Forgive me for hiding my story for so long. I promise you that it was with your safety and best interests in mind.”


Next Chapter

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7 Comments

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  • Profile image

    @Tarian I could definitely see Lethe dressed like Gandalf, staff and everything.

    3.0 years ago
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    Amazing, Loving the cliffhangers.

    3.0 years ago
  • Profile image

    Keep it up!

    +1 3.0 years ago
  • Profile image

    Wowza

    +1 3.0 years ago
  • Profile image
    2,407 Tarian

    @JastroOne1 no, this is more than entertainment this is LORE!!!!

    +1 3.0 years ago
  • Profile image
    11.1k JastroOne1

    @Tarian the story is for entertainment purposes only lol

    3.0 years ago
  • Profile image
    2,407 Tarian

    I can see the Kalfr is in a perfectly good condition only having received like a million times background radiation for a few seconds is now stable as he legit died for a bit there.
    Oh also levitation, in a spacecraft. Look Lethe maybe Gandalf but i’m still clueless how you can make something moving at equal velocity with equal acceleration levitate when in a microgravity environment anyway.
    good story.

    +2 3.0 years ago

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