Blogs » Musings On Muses » Sensor Survey Sampling (pt.20)


King squeezed his eyes shut for a few moments as the lander shot away from 7574. With the landing zone just coming over the forward horizon the burn was calculated to cover maximum distance and create maximum braking. The G-forces were just shy of excruciating. His left hand on the throttle control and his right on the joystick, either control at the tip of the armrests, he held on white knuckled and waited for both to gently zero themselves in. For now they were slammed fully back under the power of the launch maneuver. Thin mirrors just outside the canopy showed 7574 falling away rapidly in a curve that soon removed it from view. The curvature of the planet ahead grew quickly and rolled from its forward vantage point to almost fully overhead and then back to forward.

Looking down at the screen he saw a small green bull’s eye just below the horizon. It hung there, waiting for him to arrive. As he focused on it the un-natural gravity subsided and the seat restraints lifted out of his skin. The marks in his black flight suit would have to be pressed out. The controls locked in along with a determined look on his face and he gently nudged the controls. Keeping the crosshairs in the box was no problem. Keeping his mind from wandering over 7574s’ state was altogether just shy of impossible. One inconsequential fact was that the target he was headed for was no longer broadcasting to either 7574, or the GPSBs.

In time a soft glow began to streak the canopy. He could have made a slower re-entry but he was in a hurry to get to 108106. He decided against trying to hail it or any of the 400 crickets since 7574 would certainly listen in. No, this would have to be a personal visit.

King looked over to the left tool panel and reached for a switch. As he threw it a small intake port on the nose opened. It let raw atmosphere into a filter system and separated out the methane and the unknowns. Some other trace gasses were also removed. The sample was then cooled to cabin temperature. With a click of another switch the sample was purged into the cabin and King took a deep breath. He couldn’t very well walk about down there without a sealed helmet, but just the same, it was a psychological boost to know what the place smelled like. He tasted a strong hint of things electrical, and metallic.

The glow dissipated and he found himself breaking thru a cloud bank. There was a hint of small heavy particles hitting the hull. There was no doubt to him that the sound came from heavy atoms of gold and the unknowns they were mixed with. Several soft shudders ensued as he broke into lower mach’s. With the final deceleration he was left with only the merest of whines from the air outside and the small engine that now burned a proper rocket mixture compatible with the current atmosphere. A quick glance at the tool panel told him that the outside air mixed with certain onboard reserves would let him fly around for days if he wanted to. For now, that was something he did not very much want to do.

King found himself over an undulating shore line. Even from 300 meters up the sand sparkled intensely. Lazy waves broke with a heavy mist that carried airborne ‘pixie-dust’ all the way to the foliage line. The graphic on the main screen appeared on the heads-up and there ahead was his destination. He initiated the hover transition and eased back in the throttle. The crosshairs vanished ahead. Looking down for a moment he saw that the same thing had occurred on the main display. He frowned. Looking quickly forward he eased out a sigh as he sighted 108106 upright and looking ‘nominal’. As he slowed forward motion he checked the gear-down-lock. It was green so, one less thing to worry about. As the pads hit sand he was sure he felt the abrasions all the way up and into his hands. He powered down the engine and then hit the helmet button. The clear poly-carbonite globe rolled over his head and clamped into place with a soft hiss of air, for him. Electrical connections completed it went opaque slightly to cool the sunlight outside.