Log:Array Consortium: Tripping the Rift, Part One: OH GOD WHAT I THAT
Kalarba! Land of enchantment, land of mountainous and other large, isolated land fixtures! Though it has changed hands many times over the last ten thousand years, the planet has been largely unsettled; Hosk Station hangs overhead, a station that has metastasized from an ancient Old Republic transfer site to a complex that covers one of Kalarba's moons, but only in the last few centuries were did colonists come to live here. Hardy souls, strong of spirit, high of opinion of themselves, they forged Kalarba City in the shadow fo the Three Peaks of Tharen, where they can pat themselves on their backs and congratulate themselves on how great they are.
On the other side of the planet, where no development has occured, the Voidhome enters the atmosphere like a great whale making planetfall through some bizarre probabilatistic contrivance. However, the ship is not out of control, and has its blessings to enter from Kalarba City traffic control; thus, sun-kissed and gleaming in the afternoon sky, the ship plummets gracefully from the clouds and smashes into the water, disappearing into the depths of the Great Sea without so much as an explosion.
This is, of course, because the Voidhome is a Mon Calamari design, and so it is built to navigate the ocean, even when Adhar Gann is at the controls and potentially terrifies his Bith compatriot by making for the water like a maniac; he is not a maniac, however (lies) and makes the transmission very smoothly, for though he cannot stop making a fool of himself in front of people of late, he is a damned good pilot.
"There," says Adhar as the ship begins its descent toward the distant seafloor, "I told you it would work."
Mandl *poik-poik* the seatcushion with those bizarre triple-jointed marvels akin to your mere 'fingers.' "I may have soiled your cushion." Mandl shrugs, it'll come out of the paycheck. "... our destination is where?"
"That's all right," says Adhar, "It's waterproof." Because sea creatures, man! Sea creatures built this thing! At Mandl's question, Adhar looks over his shoulder from the pilot's seat and touches a few keys, which projects a holographic map just off to the right and behind him, toward the back of the pilot's wraparound station; there, a crackling topographic projections appears, based on the data Adhar provide previously.
Turning around in the pilot's chair, Adhar gestures to a deep fissure just off the edge of one small rocky island. "This is the Datyum Massive," he says. "Based on a mineral survey the Old Republic did a few centuries ago, there's supposedly a fairly large concentration of deuterium-saturated water in the deepest layers of the fissure. That is where we're going."
Mandl nods. "Centuries are of no concern to geologists, barring undersea earthquakes. Lead on."
"Right," Adhar says. "So the sensors on this boat can still work in the water with very good resolution, so we're gonna park the Voidhome over the trench so you can do your initial scan. Then, assuming you find something, we can use your sensor array to get the data that you need." He looks back over his shoulder at Mandl and says, "Do we need to put this thing out into the water, or can you scan through the hull?"
Mandl says, "Mandl would prefer to drop the sensors, but not if they cannot be recovered." Mandl says, "... if we must keep them, Mandl will do Mandl's best."
Adhar considers. "Do you have to drop them into the fissure?"
Mandl shrugs? "Mandl's preference is for precision. Adjustments would most-efficiently occur as the data arrives. These are not built for long-range, require ... tuning ... as data is collected. Mandl is saving for a dish on the 'Liquid Diet?' Healthier for all concerned than a missile-launcher. Bith eyes and long distances are ... not friends."
"No, I understand," replies Adhar. "Guess we'll have to drop them manually. The hold's empty, save for your sensors...so we'll just drop them through the loading elevator using the cargo tractors. Short-ranged, but it'll be better than trying to do it with a suit. Then we can come back and pick them up with a loading rig."
Outside, the water grows darker as the ship glides toward the ocean floor; through the cockpit glass, shoals of silver fish drift past, and the distant 'islands' are shown to be the peaks of vast mountains long buried beneath the planet's waves. It's a slow slog toward the fissure, even with the ship's powerful drives in action - but not /too/ powerfully. Can't upset the ecology, after all.
Mandl prepares the sensors for their swim, as best it can.
Eventually, the twilight of the depths gives way to the darkness of the lower depths. Adhar activates the ship's searchlights, spilling great shafts of blue-white light through the darkness, illuminating the craggy wasteland of the ocean bottom. Here, the freakish shapes of deep-sea creatures flicker and bloat through the water, monstrous things feeding upon gossamer ribbons of bioluminous flesh, bioluminous, gossamer monsters feeding on them in turn. The sensors indicate that the rift is close, but the lights have not yet found it.
"I still don't see it," Adhar says as he peers over the pilot's console; the ship's hull is largely in the way, of course. "How close are we?"
Mandl reports: "Three hundred meters and closing? It should be over the next crest," Mandl's reply comes. A quick check of instrumentation, double-check for water-tightness. "... the sensors can be dropped at will. Mandl is moving further away from the cargo-bay, and also possibly using the seatbelt."
"Right, so just open the elevator, and push 'em out with the tractor beam." Adhar, frowns as he squints at the scanners, almost wondering for a moment if the readings might be false - but then, as he sweeps the lights forward, the earth opens before him. There, a mile deep, the Massive is a wound in the earth that leads into even deeper darkness - the lights cannot penetrate the deepest reaches of that night, and he heaves a soft sigh as the ship parks over the mouth of the crevasse.
"Suns below, that's deep," he breathes. "Right, we are in position. Sensor control transferred to you, output switched to the lounge holoemitter. I'm coming down."
Mandl brings the sensors online, and there is a massive *crrreee-aaak,* and then *THUMTHUMTHUM-gasplash!* followed by: "They're transmitting normally... Mandl is collating."
Adhar Gann descends the stairs from the cockpit into the lounge, where the table and its holoprojector and the sensor controls have been set up. Projected in the low light of the lounge, the three-dimensional topographical wireframe appears, shaded and studded with indicators as to mineral composition and densities. The scanners are livid red orbs spilling down into the massive; they fall deep, landing in various places among the rocks, transmitting merrily.
"Right," says Adhar, who frowns at the holographic display. "What are we seeing?"
Mandl says, "Ahhh, yes. Typical hydrothermal vent output. Trace minerals in... frightening quantities. Mandl would not want to meet the worms that feast on these? If pressure and density readings are correct, deuterium concentration will happen-- right. on. target. Adhar's heavy water springs, nine ninety-nine a soak. Fifteen minute limit." Mandl adjusts knobs. Flips switches. Turns ... dials! Gradually the mineral composition color-gradients light up in the display, like the dawning of a new profitable age...
"Fifteen minute limit, what does that mean." Adhar watches as the data proceeds to update, shuddering into being as new bands of color, new motes of light. "What does that mean?" Mandl says, "Mandl jokes. Meant, 'Ten credits for fifteen minutes. Ten credits for fifteen minutes /more./'"
Adhar Gann makes a grim face, then the joke triggers in his head and he laughs. "Right, I see," he says with a snort. "Reminds me of a holofeed service I used when I was lad." He doesn't go into detail - mostly because as he's staring at the holographic analysis, lights begin to go out...and with them, the sensor data.
"Uhhhhhh," Adhar says as the pinnacle of worldly repartee. "Are the probes -supposed- to do that?"
Mandl says, "No, Adhar, scientists who use probes who refuse to feed them data are /terrible at being scientists./ This is unanticipated."
"That's what I thought," Adhar said, and the words die in his throat - for something is coming up now, a vast, horrible shape, something organic, aquatic, and, though as of yet identified, very /angry/ in its speed of ascent.
"Oh, /kriff/," Adhar gasps. "Come on, Mandl!" Up the stairs he goes.
Mandl rushes to follow Adhar! Sensors ... I 'unno, *later!*
By the time the two of you get to the cockpit, the stirring of water beneath the ship has started to cause it to shudder; though the repulsors keep the ship in place, it's no surprise that things are starting to go badly very soon. "I don't know what that is," Adhar says as he practically dives into the pilot's seat, "But I have the feeling we don't want to be here when it comes out. Mandl! Can you take the guns?"
At the secondary station, the shape is rising out of the mouth of the crevasse - a vast, terrible worm-like thing, with equally vast structures along its dorsal surface that look very much like combs. The turret can be controlled from there, which is a good thing, for its speed picks up as it approaches the ship.
Mandl says, "Mandl is a *geologist!*"
"Dammit, Mandl," Adhar barks as he engages the ship's drives, "Just think of 'em as drills! Otherwise we might end up doing our survey from the belly of that gods-damned thing!"
Though the ship moves quickly from the mouth of the Massive, the worm-thing turns to follow. Through the back of the cockpit canopy, Mandl can see it: a vast, dark shape, illuminated by a faint haze of light like spectral fire. It rears back as it emerges from the crevasse that is its home, and it spreads its combs like a set of titanic wings - and there, suddenly, a crazy-quilt of luminous patterns, matrices of blue and violet, pulse along those cylopean sails, so bright as to illuminate the ocean floor with their spectral glory. It is beautiful as a oncoming storm, glittering with light and impending violence...and as its blunt muzzle splits into a six-lobed set of jaws, it demonstrates thousands of luminous teeth as long as a man's leg in a silent roar.
Well. That's what you get when you poke mother nature, is it? Amazing anyone survives on this rock at all.