Team Gamma,’ he paused, looking at Achernar, ‘will investigate the dry alluvial bed in s02’
‘Would someone mind filling me in on what’s this all about?’ said Paula. Between them, they gave a quick briefing of the events on Mobius 3 station.
‘A tight-beam has just come in from the lander. There’s an emergency and it’s nearly here to pick us up. We’re needed to help Team Alpha.’
Paula examined Capella but looked up and shook her head. ‘His ribcage is completely stove-in. He must have died instantly.’
Commander Mason briefed them in-flight back to s01. They had landed outside of a crater; the target of the mission was inside the crater. The Lander was still on the ground whilst Rachel and he did some system checks. The expedition ATV was entering a pass in the crater wall when there was an avalanche and the ATV was buried. They managed to get a landline to it; the crew are alive but trapped.
‘So it’s only part-buried?’ Achernar brightened a little. ‘Both I and Bella have some mining experience. Given enough time, we should be able to get them out. What?’
Mason was shaking his head. ‘Time might be something we don’t have. A relayed message from Aurora Control via a ship’s satellite has come in. That Class 2 region is developing into a Class 3; there is a strong possibility of a major flare.’
‘How come we’re getting all these messages?’ asked Etamin. ‘I thought radios didn’t work here?’
‘They don’t, only tight-beam transmissions. The ‘Oppenheimer’ has put a comms relay satellite in orbit for the duration of the mission. It won’t survive a flare; which is why the colony doesn’t do it; not cost-effective.’
Paula went to talk to Bellatrix and managed to talk her round a little.
‘Bella, we are all pioneers in a way; space is the High Frontier and we all know the dangers. Even with the modern tech at our disposal; things happen. Capella understood the risks of being out here; else he would have stayed on Earth.’
Approaching the site, on the horizon loomed a wall of rock, approximately ten kilometres across.
‘That’s the crater wall.’
‘Do we have time for a quick fly-over?’ asked Achernar. Mason nodded and instructed Rachel to overfly the site.
The crater was circular, ten kilometres in diameter. The interior walls were smooth; the outer walls were rougher and sloped up; they were about half a kilometre. In the centre was a low hump or dome, surrounding this were a series of faint radial circles spaced about a kilometre apart. There were four gaps (passes) in the crater wall, equidistant around the circumference. One of these was blocked by rubble.
‘That’s the spot’, said Mason. Do we land inside or outside?’
‘Outside. This place has obviously been constructed.’
‘It looks like a vinyl record’, commented Etamin. Achernar, Bellatrix and Rachel nodded; Mason and Paula looked bemused. ‘You’ve never seen a record? It’s like an optical disc but it only plays music. Some of them in collections are worth thousands.’
Achernar and Bellatrix took a look at the trapped ATV. It was part-buried under rocks that had fallen; the hexagonal cross-section of the rocks was all the same. They took a couple of samples.
A voice with a Spanish accent answered the landline: – ‘Team Leader Vivero. Who are you please? How long before our rescue please, for, although we are comfortable, we are getting bored.’
‘Alpha Team leader, this is Gamma Team Leader Achernar. We need to drag a few rocks off you to free up your door, then you will be able to leave.’
‘Then we shall play a few more hands of poker. Do you play poker my friend? Yes! Then you must join our weekly game on the ship.’
Clearing the rubble took a lot longer than expected; a lot of it was jammed and more fell at times. Bellatrix picked up one of these and looked closely at it.
‘Ach, look at this.’ She pointed; Achernar recognised them immediately from his mining days. ‘Those are shot holes! Someone has planted explosives and booby-trapped this pass. Okay, keep this secret and hide this piece of rock somewhere.’
Overhead, there came a blue-green flicker of an aurora, which began to pulse faintly.
‘Achernar.’ It was Mason; the signal was scratchy and he sounded worried. ‘We’ve lost contact with the satellite. You’d better hurry.’
They attached a cable to the Team Alpha ATV and tried to drag it out; the plan worked but there was a loud grinding noise from the Gamma ATV and it stopped.
‘Frack! We’ve blown the transaxle.’
The aurora was pulsing green and purple across the sky; there was no time to waste. They loaded the Alpha ATV and Team Alpha; leaving the Gamma ATV behind.
Mason made a command decision: – ‘Rachel, go sub-orbital back to the spaceport. The ‘Oppenheimer’ will have left and be in the planet shadow; we don’t have time for a rendezvous. We need to get into the port shelters stat.’
Etamin glanced back and down as the lander boosted for sub-orbit. He rubbed his eyes and looked again. It seemed that the aurora patterns were circling the crater!
To be continued …
A nice, relatively straightforward couple of evenings playing The Currents of Space.
The ruin/ site of interest was originally generated using SWN ‘Dead Names’ and modified by a few random rolls. However, at this point, I don’t know much more about it.
There is a horribly complex method of classifying sunspots; I just went with a version based on the Fujita Scale of 1 -5, where 5 is Extinction-Level (I’m currently re-reading ‘Sunstorm’ by Arthur C Clarke and Stephen Baxter; I love this book).