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Friday, October 23, 2020

F³ Ice Diving

“All hands secure for maneuver, in five minutes.” Flynn announced.

“Um, sir,” Steph questioned over the comms, “did we enter combat or come across something in this system I was not made aware of?”

“No, XO. We are indulging Ann’s whimsical mood.”

Ann gave a maniacal laugh as she tapped out a course.

A few more moments went by before Steph commed again. “So we are expecting extreme maneuvers.”

“Mwa ha ha!” Ann commed.

“I’d say that’s likely,” Flynn answered.

At the exact second the time expired, Flynn felt Calypso kick, sending them hurtling forward. The kinetic struts and gravnet didn’t like the treatment, but held the ship and crew together. Flynn noticed that Ann was controlling the ship manually, her screen blinking urgently that she should engage the autopilot.

On a ship Calypso’s size, even Flynn could handle piloting manually to these extremes, so he knew Ann had no trouble with it. The ship dove, suddenly. Instead of skipping over one of the smaller moons in the system, they were now kissing its atmosphere, which was so thin as to not even produce resistance to their speed. In open space, their colossal speed was meaningless, but now the plains, valleys, and mountains of the moon blurred by. Flynn focused forward, finally understanding Ann’s target.

A mountain, taller than the others they had gone by, stood alone in the distance, but for the first time, something occluded the view of the stars behind the mountain. The mountain was erupting, sending a giant plume of material into the moon’s barely-there atmosphere.

Flynn had just enough time to key a control as Ann took the ship straight through the plume. Impacts registered on the forward shields and on the hull in places. Here in the cockpit, it sounded like hail or rain bouncing off. Instead of a normal volcano with hot, liquid magma, this was a cryovolcano, which erupted water ice, methane, ammonia, and other ices, most of particles the size of dust.

“Happy, now?” Flynn asked.

“Soon. This was just the first sister. We’ve got a slalom course.” She brought up the flight plan to show a weaving course that would take them to a series of six more cryovolcanoes.

Flynn checked the readout from the atmospheric skimmers, which had scooped up a chunk of the eruption. It was a paltry amount, and much of the material would be vented back into space since they had no use for it, but the small amount of water and sodium chloride made it worth it.

And it is fun, something we haven’t had a lot of, recently.

“All hands,” Flynn commed, “report to the cockpit for R&R. Oh, and we are opening the betting pool as to the time Ann completes this course.”

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