0400hrs 22 Apr 3201
Location: Dobson Terminal
Planet: Orbiting Conversion
Log system booted, voice to text conversion commences...
I had been on Dobson Station for a few hours when I ran into an old friend of mine, Joe Delos of the Sirius Corporation. Delos had been with them for many years, moving his way slowly up the shaky spiral of corporate politics. Now he was having the sweats over a recent merger involving his branch and the chance he may be phased out in the consolidation.
Yup, it was one of the delights of the corporate world, and one of the reasons why any career like that never interested me. One minute you think you're doing fine; the next, you're pushing some mop on a station concourse. Joe was 50, over-paid and under-worked; totally ripe for the harvesting scythes of the Sirius head-choppers. Even his attempts at keeping his looks young with cosmetic surgery didn't seem to help. His only chance was a form of blackmail. He had a number of highly prized corporate accounts in his pockets, one of which was down on Conversion in the Fomalhaut System. He was on his way to have a pow-wow with the head-honchos of the Planetary Agricultural Consortium. If he could be sure he had them in his corner, he'd probably survive.
God, all that stink'in skullduggery of the corporate world - give me the peace of deep space any day; and a good beam laser at the ready. Joe asked if I was going down to Conversion - because he needed a ride to Francis Spaceport. I told him I wasn't too fond of those weird 'Corn Maiden' customs I heard happen down there, but if he didn't mind a side trip to Fomalhaut 5... he had a ticket. "Still dump'in radioactives", Joe chucked in his weird high pitched voice while shaking his head.
As we walked back to Docking Bay 6, he mentioned to me that if things didn't work out with Sirius... "the life" had always interested him. The guy was pussy-footing around the issue of coming right out and asking me if I thought he had the 'hutspa' to be a rogue driver like myself. Joe said he had a pretty hefty chunk of credits saved up, and could probably spring for a Constrictor, and some seasoned crewman to keep his butt in one piece - at least in Federal Systems...
Now the guy did help me out once big time - when I was just starting out and got mixed up with some execs that wanted a major corporate hit. I got in too deep and Joe greased the situation so I could blow the system without a bounty being put on my head. I wanted to level with the guy, but not insult him. "Joe", I said, " You're too far along in your career to blow it all now. Buddy, if I was you I'd try to play Sirius against one of the other corporations, perhaps even mention a couple of Imperial contacts. Now that should get them nervous." Joe developed a big smirk across his face, slapped my back, and said, "Think I'd be toasted that quick ! Aye hotshot?"
Joe could read people pretty well and at that point he just laughed it off as he walked though the hatch, twisting his neck around looking at the inside of the Spruce. "I'd probably go nuts in one of these things from the chlostrophobia, anyway." He said.
After a check of onboard systems we received clearance from Dobson Docking Control and were soon in the docking port exit sequence. Upon clearing the station I punched up the local system map and zoomed in on Fomalhaut 5. I had seldom been to sub-stellar objects and they could be interesting. That was my hope for Fomalhaut 5, not to mention a perfect place to dump my illegal cargo of radioactives!
Since Fomalhaut 5 was 48.66 AUs from Dobson, I took the precaution of grabbing an extra ton of military fuel before leaving the station. Nothing like running out of military fuel when you are out in the boonies, to ruin your day. Not more than a hour into the acceleration phase Delos was whining to be out of it with the star dreamer, so I plugged him in his couch and a few minutes later he looked like a two year old in his crib, fast asleep and dreaming with a big smile on his face. Hmmm, I wonder if it had something to do with that new batch of dream star encounter sequences I had programmed for the unit.
Acceleration continued and it was a good workout for Spruce's engines. At our highest velocity we were traveling at 18,000 Kilometers per second. On the navigation display Fomalhaut 5 was listed as a brown dwarf sub-stellar object - its mass about 4011 times that of Earth's. The upper atmosphere temperature was listed at 1000 degrees centigrade, of course it was much hotter in the interior. This remote object orbited Fomalhaut only once every 110 years. At more than 40 AUs from Fomalhaut, the bright white light of the primary was a distant jewel. Fomalhaut Five was essentially a system unto itself, complete with five moons, and one of them even had a moonlet! All of her moons were bathed in the eerie red hued light of the luminous gas giant.
I was in and out of the star dreams for the next couple of days as I checked on our approach. Then, the red firey glow of Fomalhaut 5 began to fill the screen. I had put Spruce into a coast mode (engines off) at 1041 kps and selected a trajectory that would take us through a nice swing-by at around 350,000 km down range on closest approach.
The proto-star was indeed beautiful, a red glowing object with a stunning ring system. Next it was time to dump the cargo, and with five pushes of the jettison button, Fomalhaut Five had some additional mass for conversion into energy.
One thing nice about dumping unwanted cargo this far out in a system was that enforcement sensors were never placed this distant from settlements - so the practice was pretty safe. However, there was always the small chance that dumped cargo canisters could accidentally collide with the ship's hull. Luckily, that did not happen on this occasion.
After dumping cargo and swinging around Fomalhaut 5, I went to the system console to set course for the inner planets again; thats when I noticed a faint radio signal spiking up in the local vicinity. Upon further investigation, it seemed to be originating from one of Fomalhaut 5's moons. Particularly, #4 or Fomalhaut 5d as it was named. I decided to have a look.
Good thing Delos was asleep or he would have been a bit pissed off to find out how much time had passed. It was now 02:21a 29 Apr 3201. So we had been out of Dobson for eight days now... Well, I did warn him I would be coming here before going down to Conversion; and this faint radio beacon from the fourth moon of this god-forsaken corner of the galaxy just got my curiosity up.
The moon Fomalhaut 5d was an interesting object, in that it had its own atmosphere. Initial sensors detected a world with a methane weather system with corrosive elements. Upon arriving in the vicinity of 5d, I was happy to see the nav computer go relative to the body, as there are some objects which raise havoc with the flight control instrumentation system. Though small, 5d seemed to have a curiously impressive gravity well.
Fomalhaut 5d had an distinct orange hue; its thick atmosphere hiding all planetary surface details from above. After establishing orbit, I began the de-orbit burn and atmospheric penetration at 31,000 kmh - slowing to 12,000 kmh when passing 3400m.
Deep within the atmosphere, at 2900m, the sky cleared up to show fluffy clouds and a mountainous terrain below. Spruce slowed to 635 kmh - our slow descent proceeding nicely.
Strange, the faint radio signal seemed to have ceased. I didn't have much time to mess with the radio... the gravitational attraction of this moon seemed very high, totally out of proportion with its size. As I looked for a suitable landing site, I noticed a broad plain between a series of mountain ranges, I lowered the landing gear and attempted to slow to landing profile on bottom thrusters.
The pull from this moon was overwhelming the landing thrusters and I had to use my piloting skills to orient Spruce into a risky vertical approach, utilizing the primary engines in a tricky landing technique. I had messed with this several months ago, but was a gamble to accomplish safely.
Essentially, what one had to do was to pull the ship orientation vertical to the planet and then apply just enough thrust to nullify the effects of gravity. By slewing the angle of the ship engines slightly forward of 90 degrees, the pilot could cancel out all forward velocity. Next, a small tilt forward establishes a slope downward and a very slow descent of approximately 1 meter per second will commence. Forward speed does jump up to about 30 kmh again, but this is acceptable. At about 10 meters altitude, the flight control is rocked back and forward slightly as the descent continues. If all goes well this will force the landing software into initiating a quick flip of the ship into horizontal attitude and a safe (rough) landing.
Luck was with us this day and an a minute later I was gazing out of Spruce's front viewer at the strange rust colored mountains and orange sky of Fomalhaut 5d from ground level. I took my hands off the controls and relaxed back into the seat with a huge sigh of relief... then the faint radio signal began again....
Continue on with Chapter Three
Hey, Feedback is needed. Its a ton of work putting all this stuff together. Why not try the clipboard and give me your thoughts... THANKS. Hope you enjoyed the story and graphics.
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