The Omicron Matter – The Drones Launch – Terra Alienus

A new entry in the Omicron Matter – The Drones Launch. The drones have launched and initiated the Omicron devices.  Charles drone is close enough that they receive a signal indicating the drone has arrived and begun exploration of the asteroid Ceres.  The image returned is as alien as anything John or Rachael have ever seen.  After a bit more time, the drones themselves return to orbit Earth and now images of Triton, Neptune’s moon are shown and the landscape is equally foreign.

For those who are new to the Omicron Matter – the book home page is a good place to start.

Author’s note

The outer planets are strange by any measure: hurricanes the size of earth, cores of metallic hydrogen. The temperatures boggle the mind – it so cold it snows ammonia. What is interesting is that the moons of some of our gas giants hold the potential for life.  This chapter doesn’t move things much forward. I just get to put science stuff in here. Wednesday’s is the real plot turner.

Thanks for your support and look for more on Wednesday.

Terra alienus[1]

John and Rachael sipped their brandies until, around 4pm the notebook said, “I have information.”

Rachael said, “Show me!”

The image showed up on the notebook was stark, unforgiving and very alien. The ground was grey, dark and strewn with equally dark angular rocks. The rocks themselves showed absolutely no evidence of rounding by any force.  Rachael passed the notebook around. Others in the room, other than Smith, seemed equally surprised and shocked at its starkness. Rachael asked, “Charles, compared to other locations, is this …normal?”

Charles replied, “Oh my dear, you will be finding your planet is the exception and not the rule.”

Rachael was trying grasp the strangeness when both Charles and Camille said, the drones are back.  Stanhope said, “Camille, our message to the drone was never acknowledged.”

Camille said, “And probably won’t.  The message we sent is still in transit to Neptune right now.”

The immensity of distances was finally beginning to sink in. Stanhope looked speculative. John looked satisfied as if some truth was proven. Brown and Carter-Frasier looked confused. Only Redman looked inscrutable.

Charles spoke,  “Our drones are now in orbit. It will take about 20 minutes for them to be in position to reenter. However, it is still daylight. I suggest we wait until dark. It will be more discreet. The drones will be hot and quite a show over water, but are easily explained as meteors or shooting stars.”

Rachael sighed and said, “Fine wait.”

Stanhope looked annoyed but Smith stared at her and said, “Avoiding unwanted exploration and attention is desirable at this point. Better to see a falling star destined for the ocean, than a fire ball that hovers and then heads to East Bristol.” He said to the others, “We have a few hours. Rest up. Dinner will be in order in an hour or so.”

The group spent the next two hours passing time. Smith’s group, for the most part, waited in the galley. John and Rachael went to the environmental lab and stared at the pictures from the drones.  John asked, “Camille is this natural color?”

John was sure he almost heard a sigh of exasperation, “As Charles said before, the colors or their lack is normal. The lighting has been enhanced because of the distance from the sun.  What you are seeing is rich in carbon, but consist of pyroxenes, olivines and various iron sulfide minerals. All of those, except the olivine will be dark or black.” John wished Simone had heard this with her knowledge of minerals.  Camille continued, “All very dull, grey and very old.  I am guessing this surface is hundreds of thousands if not millions of years old.”

Rachael snorted, “nothing is that old.”

Camille countered, “Even your own Charles Lyle says differently.  William Thompson recently published an estimate of the age of the earth at 20 million to 400 million years old. He is short by 1 to 2 orders of magnitude, but he begins to comprehend the venerable age of the Earth.”  There was a pause and then said, “How old do you think your cliffs of Dover are?”

John said, “I believe Lyell says they were laid down in the Cretaceous, but no one has put an actual date on them.”

Camille said in a sing-song voice, “My measures make it close to 100 million years old. Your species has only been upright for 4 Million. You’ve only had civilization for the last 10,000. I find your claim to the planet on such a short period of time absurd. Some of the Guild Members have been space bound longer than you have written history. Smith’s planet was destroyed 500 of your years ago.”

John said, “That’s absurd. He barely looks older than us.” But Rachael looked thoughtful and then asked, “This is one of those quirks of their travels, isn’t it?”

Camille said, “Charles said those notebooks were advanced…Yes…the faster you travel, the slower relative time moves. So they have not aged physically 500 years. Nevertheless, Smith and Morgaine are considerably older than their appearances.”

Rachael changed subjects and asked, “Do you have a picture from your drone yet?”

Camille said, “One moment…the drone has images stored. I’ve relayed some to your system.”

Rachael pulled one and had it displayed next to the one from Charles drone. It was equally stark, but the difference was breathtaking.

John mutters, “Blimey…that looks like ice…nothing…but ice.”

Charles joined the conversation, “38o Kelvin or -390o in that quaint Fahrenheit scale you use.”

Camille said, “You coddle them too much.”

Charles said, “It makes them loyal. Besides the real learning begins when we start travel.”

Rachael interrupted the argument, “The surfaces are smooth. Fewer edges. And I can’t see any stars.”

Camille said, “Triton’s surface is constantly changing. I have no way of knowing for sure how old this surface is but it may only be a few thousand years old.” The image shifted and a mountain in the background became clearer. Camille said, “That is an ice volcano. The crystals from that coat the local area and give it that smooth appearance. “

Charles added, “There is also a thin atmosphere which will blur the image of the stars.  We’ve enhanced the light to make it easier to see the surface.  Without that enhancement it would seem as dark as any night you’ve had here.”

Rachael and John stared at the strange ice landscape and did not hear Alfred Redman come in. He viewed the images and then said, “Gives a whole new meaning to ‘colder than hell’”

John said, “The party in the galley is slowing.”

Redman shrugged, “Smith left. I grew bored with the conversation.” He looked at the images and said, “I’ve seen the sights of Europe and Egypt. Ice in the north and sand dunes as high as the clock tower.” He said,  “The Stanhopes travel extensively, “ in explanation. “Nothing perplexed me as these pictures do. I have seen nothing of the like.”  He looked up and asked Camille, “When do the drones come back?”

Camille replied, “We will bring them down on the next pass. It will make the papers tomorrow with lovely etchings and everything. But we will have the flight paths point to the Bristol Bay to avoid unwanted visitors.”

Rachael rolled back and said, “Then let’s wait in the warehouse.  I’ve stared at enough strangeness for one day.”

[1] Terra alienus – foreign land


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