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Not Ours to Reason Why

Posted on Mon Mar 2nd, 2020 @ 7:24pm by Captain Mrazak & Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake & Gunnery Sergeant Roderik Kos & Ferrofax & Sergeant Alexander Bradley & Corporal Angela Hsu
Edited on on Mon Nov 9th, 2020 @ 2:26pm

Mission: S1E4: The Hills Have Eyes
Location: Regio Phoebe mining shaft interior/exterior
Timeline: MD 1

"I've made arrangements with a Tiburonian named Korvin," Mrazak had said at the Llorona Station's shuttle bay. "He is the colony's maintenance chief, and he will be your escort to Regio Phoebe. From there, you will be on your own." He toed the heavy subspace transponder on the ground between him and the men. "Don't forget this. The Phantom's comms won't be able to penetrate the atmosphere without it, which means neither will Ferrofax. May fortune's star shine on you."

The moment was very nearly sentimental, and then Mrazak walked away, eager to be about his own objective.

Storr stood motionless, dumbfounded. Did...did the Vulcan-without-logic just give them a sentimental sendoff? He almost forgot to bend down and grasp one of the grab-handles alongside Bradley when Rodi's voice crackled over the intercom system, breaking his reverie.

The two junior marines turned their gaze to their Gunny. Rodi shrugged, "Nothing we're not trained for." He locked eyes through the opened faceplates with both his second in command, Bradley, and his demo expert Hsu. "Keep your eyes open and your sensors live."

Before long, they were approached by the same mirthless and slightly hunched Tiburonian from the colony administrator's office. "Gentlemen," he said gruffly. "If you'll come with me."

The marines followed. Hsu raised an eyebrow at Bradley. The sergeant just grinned, "You cut an imposing figure in that armor."

"Cut the chatter, can finish playing kiss-up back on the ship. Now let's lug this thing onto that shuttlepod." Hsu and Bradley chuckled as the four continued to follow the Tiburon along the rickety catwalk.

The shuttlepods were barely big enough to fit everyone. Korvin chose one seemingly at random and input his access code. "After you," he said with an outstretched hand to the open door.

Heavy clanks rattled the tiny craft as four pair of heavy atmo-rated armored marines stepped in. "Cozy." Bradley commented, leading Rodi to grin and Hsu to chuckle. Storr simply sat still unable to nod, his head wedged up against the ceiling panel.

"The shuttlepods aren't rated for low atmospheric flight," Korvin said as he assumed the helm. "Just short hops between the solar diffuser here on Llorona that bends sunlight around the planet and the aerial platforms in the upper atmosphere. We're headed for the Phoebe Space Elevator right there which pokes up from the exosphere. Damned thing is bored halfway through the crust and flexes like a rubbery strand, all to keep from snapping in twain." He either laughed or coughed. "It'll be quite a ride."

It really was only a short hop from Llorona Station to Phoebe Space Elevator. The turbulent atmosphere swirled below like a pressure cooker, which made it difficult at first to see their target. An adjusted eye could just make out several space elevators struggling against the raging pressure systems like candles in the wind. The Phoebe elevator was near the equator, which put it almost dead ahead in orbital descent. Refraction from the atmosphere almost seemed in reverse, though, due to daylight being largely circumvented around Venus by Llorona Station's vast solar diffuser.

"Here's our stop," Korvin said as the shuttlepod initiated its automated docking procedures. A dull hum and vibration sent a slight, constant trembling into the shuttlepod. "Fortunately the space elevator is a bit roomier, but you'll want to strap in anyhow." His throat rattled with another coughing chuckle.

With a hiss, the hatch opened. As before, Korvin deferred to the Marines, allowing them to debark first.

Four pairs of magnetic boots released their grip on the deck. Rodi lead their way off the shuttle and looked out at the scenery, taking it all in for a moment. "I was looking at this place with an old fashioned telescope. And now I'm plummeting into its depths." the Irishman mused for out loud, smiling at it all. "Okay, marines, move in." He then gestured to the elevator.

Storr waited for the other three to enter before he followed, the last to be strapped in; it was a habit he had developed as a team leader and had continued through to this day.

Once everyone was strapped down, Korvin took his seat near the control pad like an elevator doorman of centuries past. "Hold on to your butts," he said glibly.

With no further warning, the release was pulled, and away they went.

The marines were strapped down, but the minimal space they had in the suit gave a singular moment of weightlessness. Then suit g-forces pulled them down and the suits compensated. "Don't these things usually have some kind of inertial dampeners?" Hsu half-grunted.

Storr grasped the armrests with such force that he swore there would be fingermarks after they landed, his stomach threatening to forcibly exit his body through his hair follicles no matter how hard he swallowed. The sensation of falling was so great that he had to look down and ensure that there was indeed floor beneath him though it did little to overcome the feeling. While he might have laughed at Hsu's comment, he dared not break squelch for fear of his voice betraying the utter terror that coursed through his veins.

After a seemingly endless free fall, the space elevator reversed its pressurization, forcing hundreds of millions of pascals of compressed atmospheric pressure to shoot against the rapidly descending elevator car. The burn-off sent off lightning discharges from the space elevator shaft. Yet they had arrived. They drifted to a stop far below ground.

Lacking the EV suits that the Marines wore, Korvin opened the door and retrieved a bright yellow hard hat complete with a torch. "This here tram services every lode beneath the regio," the Tiburonian explained. The regio was essentially a high plateau surrounded by lower volcanic plains dotted with the ruffled stone ridges called tesserae. "We'll bypass the operations and take you straight to the south exit. Mostly used for waste disposal, but it will get you going in the direction of that downed aerial platform."

As he spoke, the automated tram rolled up along the mainline station near the elevator doors. The distance between the tram and elevator was actually quite minimal. Evidently the miners didn't like having to move much of their materials themselves, preferring to let their infrastructure do the work.

"Marines going down the shit chute?" Hsu joked over the marine comms, "Why am I not surprised?" Rodi could hear the snickers coming from Bradley over the same comms link. Rodi switched his comms to a private link with Hsu. "Corporal, we have a bird colonel on comms. Keep it private." Hsu promptly replied with an affirmation.

Flipping back to the group channel Rodi gestured to the next vehicle. "Let's get moving." he then glanced at Storr, "After you, sir."

Storr stepped aboard with a nod but not a word. Rodi's gesture was plain to him, even if he couldn't hear the private reprimand.

Lurching and chugging along, the tram began its slow acceleration down the southern line. "Starts slow, she does, thanks to the hydrocarbon engines," Korvin said. "Ancient tech, sure, but it's easy to fix and plenty of fuel out there in the oceans of dry ice." He gave the control panel a loving pat. "Plus it also guarantees life support since the engines can be set to emergency mode where it pulls oxidized carbon from the atmosphere. Won't budge the drivetrain much above a crawl in that setting, especially with the grav sled hitched to the back of our engine cart, but at least nobody's will suffocate in a pinch."

The tram twisted and turned through the underground tunnels just as slowly as Korvin had promised. Several track junctions and switches came and went without incident or remark from Korvin. As far as he was concerned, this expedition was just another day in the mines. After a particularly harrowing S-curve at high speed, the single car tram went up on one rail for a few seconds before slamming back down.


Something about the way he said that single word seemed to project ominous foreboding. As the tram came about into an extended straightaway, the object of Korvin's frustrations became realized. With the rapid acceleration of the tram well exceeding 100kph and the grav sled airborne and twisting around on its chain, unable to maintain contact with the track whatsoever, the conclusion was inescapable: they were on a runaway tram.

"If anyone is interested this antique combustion driven conveyance does not have a single computer-controlled system that I can access," Ferrofax stated. "I am also unable to reach my central processing kernel. So...I think I'm along for the ride. At least this instantiation of myself is."

"Brake controls are out," Korvin told the squad, yelling to be heard over the speeding tram. "On the back end of the cart is a master release switch that will drop the e-brake. One of you needs to trip that switch. Break that shit off if you have to!"

"Copy." Rodi simply replied. The cool, professional tone had sunk into his voice as adrenaline triggered. Keeping his knees bent to compensate for any possible shocks, he quickly made his way to the large switch. The quiet whir of his articulated joints was the only sound coming from him.

Bradley and Hsu watched as Rodi moved. Bradley looked at Hsu, "If this goes wrong, you grab the colonel and the other guy, and try and jump off. I'll try to help the sergeant with the break."

Hsu nodded, and glanced back towards Storr and Korvin, wondering if Korvin was going to survive that jump, let alone the atmosphere.

Rodi's gauntlet clasped the break and forced the lever down. The entire e-brake mechanism broke off and went clattering away back down the tramline. Up ahead, the southern exit loomed in sullen defiance of the tram's malfunction. "Now the remote door release ain't respondin'!" If Korvin had lost his cool before, he was completely panicked now. "Brace for high-speed impact with the exterior doors in ten seconds!"

With the tram's speedometer topped out, that was little more than a formality.

After a half breath of stunned confusion, Korvin's words clicked. "Mag boots on full, hands around your legs!" Rodi ordered, crouching in a ball and locking his hands around his ankles. The deckplating itself would tear free before the boots would release from it. He just prayed that it would be enough to survive.

"Mind the gap," the Tram's automated safety system stated flatly.

Red-hot sparks flew up from the tram's passing like a boat's wake. The squeal of metal-on-metal that echoed through the tunnels reached a crescendo just before the tram collided with the pressurized exterior doors. In an explosive crash, the tram tore the doors off their mountings in a flaming tangle of twisted metal and went spinning off into the dark Venusian planetscape.


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