Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Day 4 for Hypnale
One plus to be revived so late I discovered was that time flew much faster. After four days out of the pod, Venture Star was making its closest approach to Hypnale. They would not arrive anywhere near orbit, for their destination was a Lagrange point between the star and its third planet. They needed a place with plenty of raw material as well as open space for the warp gate. The asteroids there lacked heavier elements, but there should be more than enough aluminum, titanium and other light metals for the Spacers’ desires.
The whole system was low in metals; hardly surprising given the low metalicity of Lalande. Though Hypnale was much larger than Earth in respect to volume, it was far less dense. Surface gravity would not be too alien for my Terran origins. It will feel much more like home than the half-gravity on the ship. Beyond that—Hypnale will prove to be a very alien world. As my time for launch approached, I begin to wonder if my time studying tubeworms on Europa has adequately prepared me to launch a major expedition over the surface of an entire planet. Eight light-years from home and a couple hours from landing was poor timing for a case of cold feet.
Venture Star’s crew aided me in preparing the lander for its departure. Or rather they aided in preparing my own departure. I never did fit in on this ship. Even if I had not been born and raised on the surface of Earth, I doubted I could have fit int. Spacers were such a close-knit and closed off society. I could spend a lifetime amongst them and I have the suspicion that my grandchildren would be considered outsiders.
The Captain was kind enough to visit me before I departed. “We’ll have the gate functioning within three months. If you’re not back in space by then, you can wait for the next ship to pick you up.” I do enjoy a good pep-talk.
I wonder when the next ship will arrive. One thing was certain, it would not be the shipload of colonists I feared when I first set forth on this decades’ long journey. I suppose it could be worse. If this were an earlier epoch of history, the ship would be full of refugees, and they would not care how toxic the planet is, as long as their neighbors did not try to kill them. Months will probably pass before the next ship arrives. If academia decided to move at an even more glacial pace than usual (I should know, being part of it) then it might even be years.
Months I could probably manage. I packed more than enough supplies onboard my lander to last for the three month period the Captain so graciously granted. As for years—the only way I could survive for years is if life on Hypnale were metabolically compatible with me. Euroforms have proven most incompatible with terraforms, and I see little reason why hypnalaforms would be any different. I wonder if I could grow any crops in Hypnale’s soil. Obviously I would have to bring it into the ship and a safer environment before I could make any attempt.
One of the bonuses of living on my lander is that I never have to worry about packing. While on Venture Star, I do not have to worry about keeping the place tidy for company either. The few visitors to bless my dwellings did so for business, not pleasure. As the technicians left, I thanked them for their services. Their only response was a simple nod of acknowledgement. I gave up trying to get additional heating units installed. The lander was always chilly, having not fully warmed up after years at interstellar lows. I suppose having it the same temperature as space did prevent the fuel from boiling away. Unlike a starship, I am not blessed with infinite (or as near to infinite as to make little difference) energy. Sooner or later, Spacers will put vacuum-fluctuation generators on their city-ships and will then up and leave the Sol System for good.
Their constructions last so long that the only thing I can think of holding them back is fuel. Surely they would not need any replacement parts until they reached a new star. My own people pride themselves in building to last. Though it took centuries to build, the orbital towers and ring around Earth have lasted for over a thousand years, and with little need or replacement. City-ships, on the other hand, we designed to last tens of thousands of years. Excessive perhaps, but it made more sense than say building a dam upriver from a major population center and design it to last only fifty to a hundred years.
The order to launch came shortly after lunch. Launch might be too strong of a word. My lander was crammed into one of the Venture Star’s holds, so when the time comes, I am simply jettisoned like so much refuge. As the clock ticked away (Spacers do not believe in countdowns, something about them being a melodramatic waste of time) the only thing I could think about was weightlessness. I fervently hoped that the gravity field would not fail. I have only been weightless a handful of times in my life, and each time my stomach did its best to turn inside-out. It even succeeded on occasion, resulting in my last meal floating around the cabin.
Since what was once a command deck is as near spotless as I can make it, I really do not feel like cleaning off the consoles during my flight to Hypnale. As I said, it was once a command deck where several crewmen were needed to operate the ship. Since all I was planning to do was take-offs and landings, I only need a single console to control the ship. Even then, I am pretty much telling the ship what to do, and the software takes care of the rest. I remind myself to be careful of what I tell the ship since AIs are known to be stupid at times. Do not misunderstand me, the AI has a vastly greater processing power than the human mind, but the old boys have such narrow minds.
The ‘launch’ was even less dramatic than the lack of countdown. With my own space drive already powered up, I did not even feel the kick my lander was given. On the display screen, I watched as the interior of a cargo hold quickly gave way to the blackness of space. Stars are so much easier to see here than they are back home. The red dwarf sitting at the heart of the system is so faint that a planet at one A.U. might well be as cold as Neptune. Once I am clear of the ship, and by it, I give the order for the lander to fly towards Hypnale. As slow as the lander lumbers forward, I reckon I should be in orbit early tomorrow morning.