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Headfirst For Halos

Posted on Fri Feb 14th, 2020 @ 6:11pm by Captain Mrazak & Lieutenant JG Ryland Dedeker & Ferrofax

Mission: S1E4: The Hills Have Eyes
Location: Venus
Timeline: MD 1

"You want me to fly through what?"

Mrazak strummed his fingertips over the top of his command chair as he stared down his helmsman. "You will ferry us to the primary settlement of Concordia in the far northern hemisphere."

The atmospheric scans were hellish. Every starfighter told stories about the elite training on Venus, but truth be told Ryland was scared shitless. "And what next? Take a dive into Jupiter on the way back to base?"

"You are here to pilot my ship," Mrazak said tersely. "If you cannot or will not do that, then I will find you other accommodations."

"Fine." Ryland swiveled around and brought up the helm controls. "The locals don't take trips to the surface very often, you know. They restrict shipments and traffic to monthly rotations and make the most out of each trip." He made a disgruntled snort. "It's that fucking dangerous."

Mrazak said nothing. His eyes said it all.

With a sigh of reluctance, Ryland plotted a downward trajectory with the intention to penetrate the literal hurricanes between high orbit and the surface below. Once they punched through it, it would be more or less smooth sailing--at least for Venus--but he'd need at least a quarter impulse velocity to keep from getting whipped about all over the hemisphere. Doing that in-atmo with a Defiant was tempting fate at best since 4 seconds at quarter-impulse would smash them into the ground. The trick would be pulling up in time with reverse thrusters, but not so soon that the stratosphere's gale force winds could grab them and pull them all over the northern hemisphere. "I suggest you have everybody strap in. The inertial dampeners might not hold out."

Having seated himself at last, Mrazak punched in a ship-wide communique. "This is Captain Mrazak. All hands, brace for a steep descent and sudden stop." He closed the broadcast and nodded for Ryland.

"Here we go."

At first the nose dive into the swirling orange mush felt no different. After the first second, though, the electrical storms and violent winds at perpetual war with themselves threatened to seize the Phantom and rip it apart. The main deflector's output shot to maximum, but even so the bridge rattled and shook like a dinghy in a hurricane--a simile far more literal than anyone cared to consider. Two seconds went by, and the sensation only worsened since the view screen was plunged into pitch darkness. With no data in the visual spectrum to display, the sense of flying blind became only too real. Three seconds passed, and--


A rumble passed through the entire ship that was felt more than heard.

"What was that?!" Mrazak shouted.

Before the words were spoken, though, Ryland was already pulling up the stick. And none too soon. The Phantom had cleared the troposphere with less than kilometer to spare. All Ryland could do was gape at the instrumentation panel--he dare not look at the view screen.

"Well, I'll be... " Mrazak spared a moment to grin at the hab dome embedded in the ruffled terrain called a tessera--the special geological landforms unique to Venus that had the appearance of ocean waves frozen in stone form. "So this is Concordia."

"We're at an altitude of 855 meters and holding," he reported. "Don't... don't ask me to do that twice."

"If we do our jobs right, we won't have to," Mrazak said. "Set us down as close to the vault coordinates as possible." He got up from his chair and made for the turbolift. "I've got an away team to lead, Lieutenant. The conn is yours." As he stepped onto the lift, Mrazak looked back over his shoulder and pointedly said, "Do not move without my explicit orders. We may need to pack up in a hurry."

Coming from any other captain, Ryland would take umbrage at the order not to up and leave, but coming from Mrazak? Well, it was understandable. Ryland daydreamed about leaving him behind in all manner of inhospitable environments.

"You got it, skipper."

After Mrazak left the bridge, Ryland's thoughts returned to the inexplicable and unmistakable rumble that had shot through the entire ship. Checking the flight logs was useless. It was difficult to isolate a legitimate reading from all of the scrambled ones.

"Ferrofax," he said slowly, "did you... I dunno... feel that...whatever it was... at the three-second mark?"

"Feel might not be the best word for it. But you are right, there was something there. An infrasonic pulse, a blast of data-rich ripples not unlike seismic waves. But being able to be transmitted through the thick Venusian atmosphere, and into the ship itself...well I'm analysing them. But pinpointing a location would require us to run through at least one more pulse phase." Ferrofax said thoughtfully. "All I can say with clarity is that the signal was of an artificial nature."

"Huh." Ryland clicked his tongue. "Wonder what that could be..."


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