The Raging Sandwich

My book "Outpost" [UPDATE: Chapter 18: The End] Completed!

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So you might have seen one of my previous posts in Science and Spaceflight "Designing a Galaxy." Even though that forum is still open, I've already gotten started on the book as you might know. I'll be posting all the chapters I create here as I create them. Keep in mind these are just the rough drafts! Tell me what you think! :)



September 5, 1977

            The huge Titan IIIE rocket rose into the air with a deafening roar. Billowing flames shot out of the main stage and the two giant solid-rocket boosters. It began its roll program, twisting in the air sending flames in multiple directions. It then began to pitch downwards into a trajectory like a parabola with an arch of flames behind it.

            Within two minutes, the two solid rocket boosters were jettisoned. They continued to trail the still continuing Titan rocket for a couple seconds until they completely ran out of fuel. As it reached the top of the atmosphere, the two aerodynamic fairings popped off of the top of the rocket exposing the payload.

            As it kept ascending into the clouds, it reached orbital speeds. Its trajectory looped around in a circle around Earth. Explosive bolts separated the rocket, leaving only the second stage, Centaur, and the payload.

            The two large engines fired, accelerating the spacecraft even more. It began to go faster than any spacecraft before. It burned for a few minutes until it was going as fast as it needed. The engines stopped spewing their flames. The probe popped off of the rocket; Voyager 1 was heading for Jupiter.


Edited by The Raging Sandwich

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Hope you don't mind if I post comments on Chapter 1 here, rather than the 'building a galaxy' thread.

First of all - I like the writing. It's easy to read and flows pretty well given the amount of detail you've included. As a reader I'm also left wanting to know more at the end of the chapter, so it's definitely working as a 'hook' to get me to read more!

Lots of questions immediately spring to mind - what year are we in? How did NASA ever get out here anyway? Why was NASA tasked with getting out here? Domestic news is still fairly grim, so we're clearly not in a Star Trek style utopia here. Lots of good stuff to be picked up on later in the story if you feel so inclined. 

One thing I would say is that a little more background research might help, although I get that this is a first draft. :) Still, taking the first chapter as an example - Thallium is nasty stuff. Industrially it's very useful but Thallium salts are also highly toxic. Neither point is a problem - a planet rich in an industrially important metal is an obvious place to put a mining base and there's all sorts of mileage to be had describing life in a toxic wasteland. Not least the technical details of decontamination and dust control. It might give the first chapter a darker tone though.

If I was being pedantic, there are also a couple of places where the numbers don't seem quite right. -20 C is cold for example but not so obviously cold that it would impede night time EVAs. Decent hobby grade hiking and mountaineering gear could probably cope, although admittedly they don't need to be airtight too. :)

Anyhow, these are all first draft quibbles and in story terms, Planet 1 seems to be there primarily as a place for the protagonists to escape from! Let's see where the story goes - I look forward to finding out.


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5 hours ago, KSK said:


Hope you don't mind if I post comments on Chapter 1 here, rather than the 'building a galaxy' thread.

First of all - I like the writing. It's easy to read and flows pretty well given the amount of detail you've included. As a reader I'm also left wanting to know more at the end of the chapter, so it's definitely working as a 'hook' to get me to read more!

Lots of questions immediately spring to mind - what year are we in? How did NASA ever get out here anyway? Why was NASA tasked with getting out here? Domestic news is still fairly grim, so we're clearly not in a Star Trek style utopia here. Lots of good stuff to be picked up on later in the story if you feel so inclined. 

One thing I would say is that a little more background research might help, although I get that this is a first draft. :) Still, taking the first chapter as an example - Thallium is nasty stuff. Industrially it's very useful but Thallium salts are also highly toxic. Neither point is a problem - a planet rich in an industrially important metal is an obvious place to put a mining base and there's all sorts of mileage to be had describing life in a toxic wasteland. Not least the technical details of decontamination and dust control. It might give the first chapter a darker tone though.

If I was being pedantic, there are also a couple of places where the numbers don't seem quite right. -20 C is cold for example but not so obviously cold that it would impede night time EVAs. Decent hobby grade hiking and mountaineering gear could probably cope, although admittedly they don't need to be airtight too. :)

Anyhow, these are all first draft quibbles and in story terms, Planet 1 seems to be there primarily as a place for the protagonists to escape from! Let's see where the story goes - I look forward to finding out.


Even though I'll probably never say the years in the book, it's probably somewhere between 2100 and 2200. It will explain later how NASA got out here later on, probably in chapter 2 (which I'm almost done with). It will also explain later why NASA did send the astronauts there.

I'll most definitely incorporate the toxic thallium. I also forgot to explain in the first chapter how the suits were pretty cheep, so not a lot of thermal equipment was put into them. It was also -20 Fahrenheit instead of Celsius. Although the astronauts most of the time don't EVA at night, in rare occasions they do. Also, the suits can handle -20 F, it would just be hard to with their faceplates frosting over.

Thanks! :)

Chapter 1 is here!


Imagine yourself on a distant world far away from home. A desolate world with no water. You fled there on NASA’s journey exploring the stars. You spend most of your free time in your quarters trying to get some rest after a long day of scouting the area. Your only source of food is the lander outside base supplying you with freeze-dried stuff NASA engineered to never go bad.

I don’t have to imagine it. That is a stark reality for me. I got sucked in by NASA to join their journey across the nearest galaxy to the Milky Way, the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy. Home to about 1 billion stars, about 23% of the stars here are estimated to be home to a solar system, and I’m on one of them, a blue planet called CO 174805a.

CO 174805a (everyone here calls Planet 1 because it is the only planet orbiting its red dwarf sun) is home to 3 tiny moons; the biggest one with a diameter of about 460 miles. Planet 1 is blue because of the amount of Thallium that makes up the majority of its surface. The hottest it gets here is only up to 65 degrees Fahrenheit while the coldest it gets at night is about -20 degrees. Our low budget suits mean we normally don’t go outside at night a lot.

Planet 1 has 20% more gravity on it than Earth, meaning it’s very hard to walk around. Planet 1’s smallest moon sometimes comes up really close to the atmosphere at the shortest point in its elliptical orbit. Its surface is covered completely in ice that reflects almost all light coming to its surface. If the time is just right, normally right before sunrise or just after sunset, the light from the moon reflects into the atmosphere causing the daylight to appear slightly longer.

NASA and the 6 crew aboard this base both agree this planet sucks. That’s why they’re relocating us. In reality, they’re ordering us to move and we’re relocating ourselves. A few years before this planet was discovered, NASA discovered an Earth-like planet they dubbed CO 123572b.

CO 123572b, which they call “Earth’s baby brother,” is about 79% fresh water. That means the planet might harbor life as we know it. Of course, that excites the nerds all over planet Earth, including myself and the crew. It mostly excites us because that means we’ll finally be able to leave this god-forsaken world we call “home.”

Our base, Outpost 3, happens to be located on hydrogen-rich ore. Our ship, Explorer 3, uses liquid hydrogen as fuel, just like in the days of Apollo and the Shuttle. After we mine the ore, trace amounts of hydrogen are converted into fuel for us to use for landing and course corrections.

Normally a typical mining-refueling session takes about an Earth week. Since we used most of our fuel to deorbit and land, the mining-refueling session needed to fully refuel will take about a whole Earth month. After that, our lander will fly back up to the Explorer 3 mothership.

I’ll worry about that when the day comes. NASA gave me the orders to go EVA first thing in the morning (32 hours from now) and start up the mining station. Each day and each night on this planet is about 37 hours long, meaning each full day on Planet 1 is 74 hours long. That means we each get adequate sleep and sometimes even get to sleep in every night.

Sleep schedules will change, however, when we get to CO 123572b. According to NASA planetary scientists, each day and night on Earth’s baby brother is only 9 hours long, opposed to the average 12 hours on Earth.

However, I get to sleep now after a long day of digging up thallium samples all around the Outpost. Because of the long nights, I sleep two times a night for 5 hours. I should write back in the morning.


So I woke up today for the second time to light flooding in my window from sunrise. The sunrises and sunsets are really the only thing I like about this planet. They remind me that even in the worst circumstances that something good can happen. But I got up after building up the willpower to get out of the bed and actually do things.

I would have to do the EVA in about an hour according to NASA’s schedule. They hate it when you don’t play by the rules and do exactly as they say. I have no time to deal with any of that so I just suck it up and follow the boss back home.

I walked into the lounge and sat down right next to the bullet-proof window so I could eat some freeze-dried lemon squares. It’s weird eating lemons without the juice in them. Then again, I’m not entirely sure they’re actually lemons. As I was sipping some hot water, my crewmate Edens came into the room.

“Mornin’, Johnson,” she said. She would be joining me on the EVA this morning to make sure everything would go as planned and nobody would screw up. I said “Mornin’” back and gulped down the rest of the hot water. I don’t like the taste of coffee but hot water always gets me going, too.

I went back into my private quarters and changed back into my undersuit. Normally I would’ve changed into my everyday clothes but I would be doing an EVA soon. It wouldn’t make sense to change into something then change into something else immediately after.

The small speaker on the wall near the door crackled to life suddenly. “Johnson, you up and running?” the voice said.

“Yeah, I’m up. I just had ‘breakfast’ and now I’m in the undersuit,” I replied.

“Good, go ahead and don your full suit on.”

To avoid conundrum, I did as they said and put on the EVA suit. It wasn’t the big bulky suit of fifty years ago. NASA devised and created a light-weight EVA suit that you could easily move around in. That’s a must-have when the gravity on this planet is constantly fighting against you.

I sat there on my bed with the suit on and the helmet next to me until Edens would contact me through the room speaker. I was checking the lights on the helmet when the speaker crackled to life once more. “I’m by the airlock and I’m gonna leave without you,” Edens said. “I have no problem with that!” I said with a yawn.

I heard my crewmate Shor yell “Will you be quiet!” from the room next to me. Apparently Edens accidentally pressed the “call all” button on the intercom. “Sorry,” she replied. I stood up and walked out my door.

I turned the corner after I exited the lounge and found Edens activating the airlock depressurization. Fans sucked up all the air in the airlock to leave us in a vacuum-filled tin can. She undid the latch on the outer airlock door and opened it up to meet a windy blue landscape.

Rocks littered the ground. Small pebbles were blowing along the surface with the strong gusts of wind. Because of the denser atmosphere on Planet 1, wind here can get about 20% stronger than even the strongest gusts of wind on Earth.

Thallium dust was blowing all over us and got on our visors. It was still really cold because the red dwarf sun just rose. Normally we would use jets of water to wash away the dust from the visors. Because the red dwarf sun just rose, it was still way below freezing. The water jets would freeze over on our visors leaving us blind. We just used our gloves to wipe away the blue dust.

We can’t take off our helmets for many reasons. The air on this planet is composed mainly of carbon dioxide which would poison us almost instantly. The dust constantly blowing would get into our lungs. The wind might blow a rock into our face so fast that it might fracture our skull.

We trudged carefully to the other side of the Outpost where the mining station was. The excavation arms were stowed away, of course. I got up to the control panel and grabbed ahold of the two bars on either side of it.

I let go of one of the bars and set the time limit- 30 days. That would give the machine enough time to mine enough ore. I selected the “overheat monitor” option that would set the machine to work slower in case the electronics got too hot. Next I grabbed ahold of one excavation arm and pulled it down so it was just above the ground. I did the same thing to the other three.

I got back to the control panel and hit the lever. The four excavation arms lowered a bit more. The drill bits started to spin. It through more blue dust into the air in all directions but the wind blew all of it eastward. It all got on my visor so I had to wipe it off.

The progress screen said “Nominal” showing that everything was working as planned. The wind was picking up even more now. To be safe, Edens hooked up a cable to my life-support pack and connected us together just in case one of us blew away in the wind.

We made it back to the airlock and opened the outer door. We got in (rather a gust of wind pushed us in) and shut the door behind us. We re-pressurized the airlock. Immediately through our helmets we could hear something. Something like the air being sucked out slowly.

“There’s a leak in here,” Edens said.

“Yeah, we need to find it.”

We got to searching the airlock walls for a hole. We didn’t take off our helmets just in case the airlock busted open from the leak or if all the air was sucked out before we could find it. I found a small pebble on the floor. I looked up from where it was and saw a small hole in the wall.

“Edens, I found it.”

“Show me.”

I pointed out the tiny hole as she got out the emergency patch kit off the wall.

“Thanks to God that this isn’t in a quilted area,” she said. She opened the small box and took out a roll of Duct Tape. We were happy the hole wasn’t on a quilted area because the air would still be leaking through the seams on the wall. We could stick the whole piece of tape on the wall to stop the leak entirely. As we stuck the tape over the leak the sound went away.

“That must’ve been some wind to bust through the metal outside and the cloth inside,” Edens said.

“You never know with this planet.”

We opened the inner door, took off our helmets, and went our separate ways. The whole EVA took about thirty minutes. I opened my door and walked in my quarters. The door automatically shut behind me.

I unlatched the life support and took it off, making sure I unplugged all the tubing out of my suit first. I set it all neatly in the rack where it belonged. Next I took off the shoulder pads on the suit exposing the zippers. I put them on the rack as well. I put away the helmet too. Next I unlatched my boots and put them away.

I undid the zippers on my shoulders and the one on the back of my neck near my collarbones. My arms slipped out and I took my head out of the top of the suit. I slipped myself out of the outer suit and hung it on the rack. I took off the inner layer as well which left me just in my undersuit. I switched that out for my regular clothing.

            I had the whole day to myself as the rest of the crew did their EVAs as well. I sat down at the lounge. NASA brought a TV here on the base as well. They streamed every show live to it. I switched on the news.

            “We’re live here in Oklahoma where another terrorist attack unfolded here late last night…” the reporter said. “That’s the third one this week!” I said to no one.

            “The third what?” I heard my crewmate Shor say as he walked into the room. “Terrorist attack?”

            “Yeah! This one was in Oklahoma. The US really needs to step up security. They’ve had three attacks just this week alone.”

            Shor went over to the coffee maker and started it up. “NASA gave me the orders to check on the mining system in a couple hours,” he said. “How was your EVA?”

            “It went well. NASA really took the wind on this planet lightly,” I responded.

            “How’s that?”

            “Well, the wind was so strong that it made a pebble burst through the airlock wall causing a leak. Edens fixed it, though.”

            And that was the end of that conversation. Shor sat down at the small table by the coffee maker. There was a small computer-sized TV on the wall next to him. I continued watching the news. Man, I thought to myself, they only show the bad things that happen in the world.

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Chapter 2 is out!


The outer door opened so Jackson and I could step out. The wind was strangely calm today. Only the dust was blowing around on the ground making the surface look enveloped in fog. We knew it wasn’t actually fog.

            We came out here to turn off the mining system. Sometimes I wonder why NASA didn’t produce it so that we could turn it on and off from the outside. Jackson and I trudged through the dusty fog to the other side of the Outpost. I looked over to the East and saw the red dwarf sun peeking out over the surface, causing about a third of the sky to be a dark-orange color.

            We had the lights on our helmets on because it was still pretty dark out. We got to the mining system and heard the familiar whir of the mining arms. I pushed the lever back to the off position and the whirring stopped. The drill bits pulled up just above the surface. They were all caked in blue dust.

            We both worked together to stow away the mining arms. As Jackson stowed the last mining arm, I checked out the huge fuel drum on the side of the system. I hit it a couple times with my glove and heard the slosh of liquid hydrogen moving around. The lander was parked about a hundred feet away. The hazy dark blue atmosphere made even the close-by lander look faint.

            A hose was held onto the side of the mining system by a couple clamps. Jackson undid the clamps and the hose fell to the ground. He took one end of the hose and connected it to the small port on the fuel drum. I took the other end and took it to the lander.

            As I put each foot on the ground, it sent small clouds of the thallium dust moving in every direction. I got up to the lander and saw the landing legs were completely blue. Dust had settled into every crevice on the spacecraft. The windows were covered in frost. They would thaw out once the red dwarf gets high enough in the sky.

            I found the small connector port under where the fuel is located and plugged it in. I flashed my lights twice to tell Jackson to initiate fuel transfer. He pressed a button and I could feel the liquid hydrogen fuel moving throughout the hose. It took about 2 minutes to completely fill the fuel tank completely.

            I came back after taking a few pictures. Jackson and I got back to the airlock and closed ourselves in. The air was pumped back in and the airlock was pressurized again. The inner door opened and our work was complete.

            I am really looking forward to traveling through space again. Tomorrow, I’ll get to start up the lander and fly back up to the orbiting mothership. Advanced computer systems monitor everything that happens inside the spacecraft while we’re down on the surface of a planet.

            It monitors they fuel levels in case there’s a leak. If that happens, we’d immediately go up and fix the problem to the best of our abilities. If communications suddenly gets disconnected, we’d know. If there was any sort of electrical failure, we’d know.

            Anyways, unless something happens worth writing about, I’ll be back tomorrow.


            We all woke up at the same time, about an hour after day-break. We all got out of our private quarters and limped along to the lounge like zombies, except Edens. She’s always up and awake somehow.

            I got my hot water as everyone else waits for their coffee. I plopped down in my regular seat by the big window and looked out over the morning horizon outside. I already ate three “lemon” squares before Jackson even sat down.

            Shor sat at his table in the corner. Edens sat with Jackson down in the couches to see what was happening in the world. A memorial service was being held for the victims in an Israel terrorist attack a few days prior. Mikhail sat at the table in front of me, also right next to the big window. Hernandez sat on the tall bar stool facing the counter.

            Jackson was the first one to get up and leave after chugging his coffee. I always wonder how he does it because he makes his extra-hot. Of course he did that, because he’s the troll that he is, turned on the intercom for the lounge and shouted something nasty.

            It made everyone jump. It made Mikhail spill his hot chocolate all on his clothes as he cursed in Russian, his native language. I was ready for it and laughed as Mikhail started to wipe of his shirt with a dish towel. Jackson peeked around the corner and I gave him thumbs up.

            We all finished our “breakfast” and went our separate ways. I got dressed into my everyday clothes because we wouldn’t have to suit up for a couple hours. I passed the time by looking at all the messages sent to me from Earth. I normally check my messages every few days and spend hours at a time doing it.

            The time eventually came for me to suit up. I did so and walked out my door to see Hernandez slouching in his suit on the couch watching a kids’ cartoon show. He saw me and quickly switched to a sports network and gave me a nervous grin. I shrugged it off and sat down in the chair next to him and waited for the others.

            They all trudged into the lounge one by one and stood there. Shor got another bite to eat. “You’re gonna regret that later, comrade!” said Mikhail.

            “Let’s go people!” I yelled and we all walked single file through the airlock and out to the windy planet that awaited us. Dust and small rocks pelted us as we walked to the lander. I could barely see it through the blue dust blowing in every direction. I remotely activated the flood light on the lander. A bright light spun around in all directions like a small lighthouse. The lander was much more visible now.

            The wind was blowing hard against us, causing us to lose our footing at times. Because of the above-freezing temperatures, we were able to use the water jets to clean our visors of the dust. We all made it to the lander without casualties, which is always a big plus. I turned off the flood light after we all made it.

            I activated the door to the lander and a panel above us opened up to reveal a ramp leading up inside. We all got in and Hernandez closed the door behind us. The ramp led us into a tiny space that happened to be the airlock. The air around us pressurized and we all stepped into the cramped lander.

            We all opened or visors and felt the freezing air around us. Shor, the lander pilot, started up the systems. Lights around us turned on illuminating the interior. We heard the humming of the air-filters as the climate-control system kicked in. A blast of heat blew throughout the airliner-like cockpit warming up the freezing environment. Frost on the inside of the windows began to melt. We had to put towels underneath all the windows to keep the melting water from short-circuiting.

            We all sat down in our assigned acceleration couches. I sat in the Commander’s seat next to Shor. Mikhail sat next to Edens in the second row behind Shor and I. Hernandez and Jackson sat behind them.

            Shor started up the two engines on the back of the lander. A tiny burst of the engines sent dust flying out into the open air. However, we would only use the hind engines for orbit insertion. Four fuel-efficient engines would lift us off the surface like a VTOL.

            Shor also started up the four bottom engines, also sending a plume of dust in every direction. “Three, two, one… we have lift!” Shor said as a tiny amount of lift was felt. I looked out the front windows as the blue surface was disappearing beneath us. G-forces built up and pushed us into our seats.

            The automated systems inside the lander detected the g-forces building up and pushed the chair back slowly into a horizontal position, facing us towards a whole array of windows on the roof of the lander. The front control panel leaned backwards with the motion of the seats so Shor could continue to control the ascent.

            “We’re pitching!” Shor announced. The lander began to move so that its nose would continually star to point towards the ground. The sky shifted above us. G-forces also began to become greater as the chairs shifted some more. Shor continued to pilot the lander effortlessly. Extensive training has led him to be one of, if not, the best pilot on Earth.

            As we got high enough, the sky seemed to fade to black. We saw no stars because we were still on the daylight side of the planet. “Engine shutoff,” Shor said. The engines stopped spewing hot gasses beneath us and we were relieved of the g-forces. The nose pitched up so we were facing horizontal to the surface.

            Shor completely shut down the bottom engines rendering them useless for now. We coasted up to the apogee- the highest point in the orbit, or in our case, suborbital trajectory. Our trajectory soon changed, however. The hind engines roared to life and started propelling us forward into an orbit.

            The orbital insertion burn didn’t take long and we were soon soaring above the surface in an orbit 80 miles above the blue horizon. We orbited a bit lower than the Explorer 3 so we could easily do a Hohmann Transfer.

            We orbited a couple times to get the mothership and our lander in a good position. A short burst of the hind engines made us intercept the mothership. We got close enough to where we could see it and matched the two spacecraft’s velocities. Our orbit now completely matched that of the mothership’s.

            A few bursts of the RCS motors maneuvered us right in front of the spacecraft. Two curved doors opened up in front of us. More bursts of the RCS moved us inside the doors where a docking port awaited. The lander and the mothership docked together to form a single spacecraft. The giant doors closed behind us. We sat there in darkness until the lights inside the docking hangar flooded the entire room with light.

            We exited through the small door in the docking port into the Explorer 3 spacecraft, which we’ve dubbed the Nighthawk. “Man, it sure does feel good to be back in here!” said Edens. We made our way through the airlock separating the hangar from the Nighthawk. The climate control was on, blowing cool air throughout the spacecraft.

            I checked on the communications systems and everything was good. In case anyone who will read my log in the future is wondering, communications are a big deal on this mission.

It would take years to communicate back and forth even one single transmission to the smart people on Earth because of our distance. As we’ve gone along hopping from planet to planet, we’ve set up complicated, high-powered communication system on every third place we stop at. Those advanced transmitters actually send messages back in forth at 50 times the speed of a regular transmission.

We all checked on the rest of the systems onboard the Nighthawk and they all were in nominal condition. I’ll write back whenever, I need to get ready for tomorrow when we head out of here.

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Apart from what @KSK said about mentioning Thallium contamination control, everything seems to be in order. I feel like you could have contributed to the atmosphere to a greater extent by having the crew run some system checks in the lander. They probably had the indication that everything was in order at the system boot, but even a few lines like "fuel pressurised" or "gimbaling test ok" to use as filler is fine to shows that they have the all clear.

But that's all I have to say about your writing. It's a pleasing start.

As for the illustrations, some of those moons look awfully close to their parents. You might have used a not-to-scale version so we can see the objects clearer, but it's good to be mindful of where you place these things due to Roche limit fragmentation. I'm not sure how big these planets are but below a certain point, objects that wander too close will be broken apart by their parent's gravity and form rings.

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16 hours ago, The Raging Sandwich said:

The crew's third stop on their interstellar journey will be another gas giant Tycho 1282e which orbits a blue supergiant star.urepDkN.jpg

if it's an O/B class star, a planet like that may not be able to form in the first place (Unless you're not going for full on realism, then continue) I recommend you place it around an A type star at the very least, those stars are likely the maximum size for a star, before it becomes impossible for planets to form, although, regardless of how far the planet is from the star, it's likely a pretty hot place.

Edited by Spaceception

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Chapter 3:


We all took our seats in the Nighthawk command center. The command center was a small hump sticking out at the top of the spacecraft near the front. A large ring circled the center of the Nighthawk, the Alcubierre Drive. It was our main system of transportation.

            I sat in front with Shor, this time me in the Pilot’s seat. He sat to my right. Edens and Mikhail sat behind us with Hernandez and Jackson sitting behind them. The Alcubierre Drive started up with a loud noise.

            Alcubierre Drives work by moving space around the spacecraft instead of moving the spacecraft itself. We all saw space warp around us. Stars started to appear as we got far enough away from Planet 1 and they started to warp, too. Jackson got a great view of Planet 1 moving away from us quickly and shot a quick video from his window.

            Our next destination is a smaller gas giant, Tycho 12c, which is about 1.5 lightyears away from Planet 1. That is only about a thirty minute trip for the Nighthawk. We’re using the gas planet to up our velocity speed to save some energy for the Alcubierre Drive. Unlike the liquid hydrogen fuel, the Alcubierre fuel is irreplaceable.

            The automatic systems onboard the Nighthawk were keeping track of our position every second of the way there. I kept my eye on the star Tycho 12 which was in the middle of the front window. The white star, which is actually a yellow-dwarf star like the Sun, slowly kept getting bigger and bigger.

            Tycho 12 is home to four planets; 3 rocky and 1 gas giant. The gas giant isn’t one of the biggest out there; in fact, it’s rather small. At only 22,500 miles in diameter, it’s one of the smallest gas giants out there. NASA has found so many of these small gas giants that they fall in their own categories, dubbed gas miniatures. Any gaseous planet found that’s smaller than Neptune (about 30,000 miles in diameter) is labeled a gas miniature.

            We were about a minute away from our destination when we could see a bright dot. We knew it was Tycho 12c because it was slightly shinier than all of the stars we could see. As we got closer, we could see the gas miniature’s small red rings and its 12 tiny moons. Tycho 12c’s largest moon was only 862 miles in diameter but incredibly reflective.

            We stopped the Alcubierre Drive when we got close enough. It seemed like we were moving incredibly fast until the Drive was shut off. It felt like we were going at a sluggish pace at normal speed, but we were still going very quickly. Our closest approach to Tycho 12c was about 15 minutes away.

We waited for 15 minutes as we watched the thick bands of brown and yellow clouds zoom past us. The closest approach to Tycho 12c was close enough for us to pass through its red tube-shaped rings. We all crowded around the windows to see the redness of the rings to engulf the Nighthawk. Our encounter with the rings only occurred for about five seconds and will take another four seconds when we’re outbound.

“OK, we are at our closest approach to Tycho 12c at 10,500 miles,” I said looking down at the data-feed monitor. I saw the speed data on the monitor start to go up tremendously. “Our speed is increasing 2% a second.”

We watched again as we passed through the rings, faster than when we approached the planet. Edens took pictures of a larger moon appear over the Tycho 12c’s dark horizon.

“When are we going to activate the Alcubierre Drive again, Commander?” asked Hernandez.

“We’ll wait to when we wake up in the morning. We’re all tired, right?” I asked. Everyone nodded their heads; Shor looking especially tired.

We all floated out of the command module and into the main chamber in the center of the Nighthawk. The main chamber constantly spins around within the outer walls of the spacecraft creating artificial gravity.

A small hallway gives everyone access to a whole variety of rooms. Crew quarters, the lounge, a kitchen, exercise room, science lab, airlock, and a maintenance closet can all be accessed inside the main chamber. Inside the maintenance closet are EVA suits, tools, and a bunch of other stuff that we can use in case of emergency.

I’ll write back when I wake up, because I’m tired.


After about ten minutes of writing, I was called over to the kitchen because Mikhail was having problems with the fresh-water machine. He said that the water was vending out at a lot slower rate than it should have. There are only two reasons it would do that; either something was broken or the water levels were low.

I checked on the water levels first and sure enough, the amount of water was only about 30% of what it should be. “How could it go from 78% to 30% in just a couple hours?” Mikhail asked.

“It’s probably a leak in the water tank,” I responded. Sure enough, the water levels dropped to 29%. My only solution was that the water tank was leaking out into space via the cooling vent. The cooling vent cooled the water tank by exposing the cold vacuum of space to a stack of thermal panels connected to the tank. The thermal panels would warm up the cold temperatures enough to not freeze all of the systems inside the Nighthawk. It was a low-budget way of cooling our drinking water.

“Follow me to the maintenance closet,” I said as we walked out of the room. We went into the maintenance closet and donned on our EVA suits. After our suits were fully assembled, we fumbled over to the airlock and closed the inner door behind us. Two sets of MMUs were attached to the walls.

I put one of them on as he depressurized the airlock and opened the outer door exposing the outside. We were facing the horizon of the gas miniature. Mikhail connected himself with a short tether to the outside the spacecraft so he could observe me and make sure nothing went wrong. I maneuvered myself out of the door into the nothingness of space.

One short burst got me going to where I wanted to go: the cooling vent. I stopped myself and observed a tiny but consistent stream of ice flow out of the vent. There were small holes going through every one of the thermal panels. A small recess above the panels exposed them so someone can easily remove and replace them in case of an event like this.

I got out the spare thermal panels from my EVA kit. I popped out the panel closest to the water tank and quickly replaced it with a new one. Then I replaced the other five with new, fresh panels. No more leak! I made sure I kept the old ones so we could examine them closely inside. I gave Mikhail the thumbs up and started to head is way.

As I got near the door, Mikhail untethered himself and got out of my way. I got into the airlock and he closed the outer door behind me. “Successful?” he asked.

“Yep, all six thermal panels had a pebble-sized hole in them. Must have been a micro-meteor or something.”

We got back inside and took off our spacesuits. “All I wanted was some water!” he said jokingly. He stayed in the kitchen as I went back to my crew quarters and finally got some sleep after a long day of space travel.

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Yessir - travellin' faster than light, fixin' holes in that old water cooler. Just another day out in space. :) 

I liked the vibe of that last chapter and I liked your take on the Alcubierre Drive, as in you can actually see where you're going with the Drive engaged. Very Elite: Dangerous (which is a good thing in my book) and well set up for some sightseeing!

And Tycho 564b sure is pretty. Can't wait to find out what's down there.

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42 minutes ago, KSK said:

Yessir - travellin' faster than light, fixin' holes in that old water cooler. Just another day out in space. :) 

I liked the vibe of that last chapter and I liked your take on the Alcubierre Drive, as in you can actually see where you're going with the Drive engaged. Very Elite: Dangerous (which is a good thing in my book) and well set up for some sightseeing!

And Tycho 564b sure is pretty. Can't wait to find out what's down there.

Thanks! You'll see!

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Chapter 4!


We all got up about the same time. I changed into actual clothes instead of those scratchy NASA-given pajamas. Those things are evil! After I opened my door to the spinning corridor, I saw Jackson and Edens lumbering out towards the kitchen. I opened up the door to see Shor, Hernandez, Jackson, and Edens. Mikhail must have been really tired after last night’s unscheduled EVA.

            I got some freeze-dried “eggs” and some hot water. (Ironic, right?) By the time I was finished, Mikhail had woken up. But as I was finishing up, Shor had said that he got an update from Mission Control back in her quarters. NASA told us that sensors detected multiple panels on the Nighthawk’s hull are either broken or completely missing.

            They said that they were probably damaged when we passed through Tycho 12c’s rings. Small rocks and dust zooming through space had punctured the panels. We don’t have any spare panels onboard the Nighthawk. However, the nearby planet Tycho 564b, another Earth-like planet, did.

            A couple months ago, the Explorer 2 set up an Outpost on the planet. Tycho 564b is abundant in titanium, the metal the panels are made of. The crew there had harvested some of the titanium nearby. NASA had already told them to start processing it into the correct sizes of panels that we had damaged and missing.

            Tycho 564b is about 3 lightyears away, an hour-long trip away for the Nighthawk. We all got finished eating and suited up. We don’t wear the full spacesuits for when we use the Alcubierre Drive. Instead, we just wear the first layer and the helmet.

            We all strapped into the seats. Once again, the Alcubierre Drive started up with a mighty roar. What was once a still view of thousands of stars ended up as a fast moving blur in our windows. Everyone passed the hour by sightseeing, listening to music, or reading books, but I didn’t. I had to keep a constant eye on the data readings.

            After a good hour of passing by countless stars, we were in sight of the yellow-dwarf star Tycho 564; home of 4 rocky planets and 1 gas miniature. Tycho 564b was far enough from the star to be a pleasant 67 degrees almost year-round. The majority of its surface is organic material, only about 40% of it is water. It is much larger than Earth, about 2,00 miles wider in diameter.

            As we got even closer, we could see the biggest planets, even though they were just shiny dots. As we got closer to Tycho 564b, I cut off the Alcubierre Drive. That left us in a trajectory pulling us into the planet. We could see the planet’s advanced ring system and its two moons. A short burst of the Nighthawk’s liquid-fuel engines raised the perigee to about 200 miles.

            “We’ll get to perigee in about 6 days,” I said, “We’ll do the circularization burn there.” We all got up and went to our quarters to change into regular clothes. I did so and walked over to the lounge.

            Inside were couches, a TV, mini fridges, tables, and bookshelves packed tight with thousands of books, selected according to our individual preferences. I sat down and watched the news. Because it was morning in America, there wasn’t any real news on. The only “news worthy” thing was how to take the shell off a crab so you can cook it.


            “All systems nominal.”



            The two engines on the Alcubierre ring exploded to life slowing us down around the planet. We got into a slightly raised orbit to avoid the rings. The Nighthawk was slowed down enough by its engines that it fell into orbit. The radio system in the module crackled with static. Eventually, we heard a voice through it.

“Explorer 3, do you copy?”

It was the voice of astronaut Bill Quick, the commander of Explorer 2. “We copy, loud and clear!” I replied.

“Welcome to 564b!” he said. “Judging by your orbit, you can deorbit in your lander in 3.5 orbits. We’re looking forward to seeing you here!”

“Yep, we are too, see you there!”

It was a good thing that they were tracking our orbit, too, just in case of a systems failure here.


After 2.8 orbits, we all crowded into the lander. The giant hangar doors opened, flooding light from the planet in. The docking port detached. A few short bursts of the RCS boosted us away from the Nighthawk.

The lander cleared the hangar. We waited for a third of an orbit so we could get far enough away from the Nighthawk. Shor pointed the lander retrograde and burned the hind engines to slow us down.

That burn is the only time the hind engines are used in the landing sequence. Outpost 2 is located right next to a large river. It’s also much larger than Outpost 3 back on Planet 1 because it’s on a habitable planet.

We got closer and closer to the surface. Its atmosphere is less dense than Earth’s and its gravity is a lot lighter than Planet 1. The bottom engines fired up to slow us down even more, like a piece of paper fluttering to the ground. We could see Outpost 2 from 3,000 feet. We got closer where we could see the individual features, including the crew outside looking up at us.

“100 feet,” Shor said. He lowered the thrust of the engines and brought us down to a flawless touch-down on the surface. The engines were deactivated and all was silent except for the beeping of the systems.

“We have landed!” Shor said. We all were looking around. The Explorer 2 crew, who had their helmets off, waved at us. We put our helmets on just in case as Shor lowered the ramp. We passed through the airlock and were welcomed by the pleasant temperatures.

Quick greeted us and we all shook hands. “You can take your helmets off now,” Quick said, “The air may be less dense here, but it’s still breathable.”

We all took our helmets off and took a deep breath of the cool air. I hadn’t been able to do that in about a year, so it felt good! “Welcome to Outpost 2. We have a great view over the river. This is the most Earth-like planet ever discovered,” Quick said.

“Even more than CO 123572b?” Jackson asked.

“Well, Tycho 562b is slightly more. There’s salty and fresh water here. CO 123572b has only fresh water and very little land. The hurricanes there are worse than Earth’s and ours. We have complex mountain systems here, were the climate changes drastically.”

We engaged in more conversation for a while and went inside. They showed us around a bit inside the Outpost, including the extra crew quarters where we would stay. Inside were a lounge with a separate kitchen, 10 crew quarters (some of us will have to sleep in the same room), and a maintenance closet full of supplies, including our new titanium panels.

Outside were large orange fuel tanks filled with different kinds of fuel including liquid hydrogen and the RCS fuel which were available for us for refueling. Also, a metal hut that was an empty semi-circle housed two rovers including EVA tools. Scientific experiments were littered everywhere. A tall flag pole with the American flag fluttered in the soft breeze.

We had a bite to eat, too. The food here is a bit different from ours. Most of it isn’t freeze-dried. Just like on Earth, you can actually cook it! (Or microwave it, if you don’t feel like cooking) I had a good actual meal for the first time in about a year. I wish I can live on Outpost 2, but fate put me in Explorer 3.

I just have to enjoy it while it lasts! 

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Chapter 5!


I’m writing this from the planet CO 167849c. It’s a long story.

I woke up to the loud sound of an air horn filling my ears. “Get up Johnson!” said Ryan with a laugh, a crewmember of Explorer 2 who was a known prankster.

                “What is wrong with you, man?” I said.

                “Here on Outpost 2, we take waking up very seriously,” Ryan said jokingly.

                I got up completely awake now and chased him down until we got to the kitchen. I didn’t even put on daytime clothes. “What are you guys doing?” asked Quick.

                “This butthole woke me up with an air horn! Did you not hear it?”

                “Oh I heard it. I hear it every morning! You’ll get used to it over the next few days.”

                “Yeah, great,” I said as I went back to my own guest quarters to put on some daytime clothes. I went back to the kitchen to make myself some actual eggs. These weren’t the best eggs, mind you, but they were a lot better than the dry yellow squares back on Planet 1 and the Nighthawk. Commander Quick and I walked back to the lounge and sat on the white chairs to eat there.

                “So how come you guys get actual food and we don’t?” I asked.

                “Because NASA likes us better,” he joked. “But in all seriousness, NASA found it too costly to send up tons of actual food for each mission. Freeze-drying it reduced the weight of the food making it cost and weigh a lot less.”

                We sat there in silence for a while as we watched the TV. The news reporter was yelling over the loud crowd behind here. It really annoyed me because she had a microphone on and the crowd noise was being edited to be a lot quieter. She was reporting on the live results of the presidential election.

                As we were watching, eating our breakfast, Edens came in the room. “There you guys are!” she said. “We were wondering where you were. Everyone is up, ready to start the day.” She left for the kitchen.

                We finished every single bite of food on our plates. “So tell me a little bit more about this planet,” I said. We put our plates down on the table between our chairs.

                “Well,” Quick started, “Tycho 562b has two moons. The largest moon is 1,600 miles in diameter while the other one is a measly 400. We dubbed them B1 and B2. B1 is the large one and B2 is the smaller. B1 is extremely volcanic. Not as active as Io back at Jupiter, however.

                “During the few months we’ve been here, we’ve counted at least 30 volcanoes on B1. We’ve actually seen some eruptions! Our observations have uncovered something unsettling, however. Thermal scans indicate vast amounts of magma are building up underneath its surface.

                “Soon, the magma building up inside B1 will cause a cataclysmic eruption. The amount of magma inside the moon will pretty much cause the whole thing to explode. We’re estimating that it can even happen within a couple months.

                “NASA has known about this for a while and so have we. We’ve gone through the evacuation procedures many, many times.  We’re just worried it may happen sooner than we thought. God forbid it happens while you guys are here.”

                I sat there listening as he explained. We sat there without talking for some seconds; the only noise was the TV and the other crewmembers talking in the other room. I finally asked, “Well, what’s the evacuation procedure?”

                “Well, first we stop whatever we’re doing, whatever it may be, and get inside the lander. If it happens while you’re here, you’ll do the same. We’ll know if it happens. The sound of B1 exploding will be deafening. If a chunk of B1 falls down to the planet, it’ll at least take a minute or two to get here.

                “The lander doesn’t take long to start up, as you know. By the time a chunk of it gets here, we’ll be long gone. We’ll get to our ship in no time. To save time and effort, you’ll come with us. We’ll book it to the nearest planet, Tycho 564c.”

                “So tell me something else about here,” I said.

                “Well, the ring system is something to think about. How did they get there? How did they form? NASA thinks another moon went through the same process B1 will go through soon. The chunks of the moon congregated into rings around the planet. If B1 explodes, the rings here will get bigger and denser, probably rivaling Saturn’s back home.”

                “I bet that would be a great sight.”

                “Also, Tycho 564b isn’t on a tilt around its axis. That means no seasons. It’s a pleasant 64 degrees average here on this place on the planet all year long. The average nighttime temperature is about 52. It only snows up north and down south were there isn’t as much light.”

                We sat there still worrying about B1. On the TV, the woman was interviewing the brand new president of the United States.

                “So now that you’re going to be the official president at the end of January, do you have any doubts about your foreign policies and promises?” she asked.

                “Well, I have to admit, I’m a little less nervous. The lopsided vote for me gives me a little more confidence going into office. As for my campaign promises, I have no doubts. I’m going to put an end to terrorism once and for all.”

                The new president went off to do some more interviews as the picture changed from the reporter to the news anchor. We got up and went back to the crowded kitchen. Everyone was up and talkative. The two crews were telling each other about their adventures.


                We opened the hatch and felt the fresh outside air. We were taking the two rovers for a drive over to a titanium repository. A large circular chunk of ground made up of titanium-rich rock about 3 miles away waited for us. The Explorer 2 crew were showing it to us when it happened.

                Our two crews split up. 3 crewmembers of one mission and 3 of another went in one rover. I shared a rover with Edens, Mikhail, Ryan, and two other crewmembers of Explorer 2; Walker and Roberts. We closely followed the other rover to the repository.

                B1 was in view and I stared in wonder at it, occasionally taking in my other surroundings. We seemed to be driving in the middle of a wide opened canyon, the entrance of it being a mile away from Outpost 2.

                We finally got there after a few minutes of driving. Shiny gray spots littered the area around us. We got out of the rover to see the tall rocky walls on either side of us, each reaching up about 700 feet. I followed Ryan and Walker out of the hatch with Edens, Mikhail and Roberts behind me.

                We looked down to the ground. Small particles of titanium dust were getting on our boots. We walked over to the other crewmembers that were also inspecting the dust on their boots.

                “These particles are very fine,” said Hernandez.

                “Yes, on rare occasions, the bottom of this canyon will flood over with rainwater eroding the titanium ore,” explained Reed, one of the two scientists of Explorer 2.

                “How often does that happen?” I asked.

                Reed looked over at us and said, “Usually once every two years or so.”

                I bent down and ran two fingers over the gray dust. The fingertips of my gloves were covered in the titanium dust. “How did you guys mine this?” I asked.

                Torres, the head engineer on Explorer 2 went over to a rover and pulled down a mining arm, similar to the ones at Outpost 3 on Planet 1.

                “See the small, jagged holes in the ground?”

                I looked down and saw a few holes in the gray surface. “Yeah.”

                “We mine the ore in the best spots. These mining arms break down the ore into little chunks. They get fed up the mining arm in this tube and gets stored in this small tank here. We take it back to the processor back at base and melt it into molten titanium.

                “We then pour the molten titanium into molds of various sizes. We let them cool and take them out of the molds and paint them. We stacked them up in the maintenance closet. When you leave tomorrow, you will take the panels with you.”

                As he finished talking, I looked back up at B1 where something caught my eye. A small chunk of the edge seemed to be missing! Sure enough, I looked over and saw a tiny chunk of the moon.

                “Woah, guys look!” I said pointing to B1. Everyone looked up at the moon. The crewmembers all started murmuring. Quick cursed under his breath.

                “Everyone get in the rovers now! Let’s get back to base!” he said. We all started running to the rovers. We all got in whichever one was closest to us. I’m pretty sure more crewmembers were in one rover than the other. I got in with Mikhail, Hernandez, and Quick. I sat up front with Quick as he drove.

                “Radio in the others,” Quick said.

                I turned on the Com system and called in the other rover. “You guys follow us and drive as fast as you can!” I said.

                We booked it out of the canyon in no time, driving at nearly 60 miles an hour. Hernandez finally asked, “What in God’s name is going on?”

                “A moon is exploding, no time to explain!” I said.

                “Well how come we haven’t heard a boom yet?”

                All of a sudden, the whole planet shook. A loud rumbling noise similar to that of an atomic explosion filled our ears. Large rocks started falling down the mountainsides.

                “There it is,” said Mikhail.

                Our eyes were all wide with fear. I looked back to see the other rover trailing us close behind. I looked closer to see a large rock falling above them, and then CRASH, the whole entire rover was flattened!

                “Holy crap!” I said. We all looked behind us except for Quick who was still driving. I tried calling them on the radio.

                “Come in; do you read me? Hello! Do you read? Hello! Come in!” I yelled frantically. No reply, just static. “They’re gone.”

                We all sat there in silence, taking in what just happened.

                “We’re here! Everyone get out!” Quick yelled. We all hopped out of the rover and ran for the lander.

                I stopped momentarily after getting out looking at the carnage behind us. It was faint, but I could see a large rock on top of a nearly flat piece of metal. More rocks were falling, nearly burying the wreckage.

                “The panels!” I yelled.

                “No time, Commander, get in the lander!” said Hernandez. I ran off as fast as I could towards the lander where the other crewmembers awaited. It was Explorer 2’s lander by the looks of it.

                “VTOL engines startup,” said Quick calmly.

 I looked out the windows at the moon for a second time. About half the moon was gone. Chunks of rocks were flying in all directions. The giant chunk that blew off B1 first seemed to be falling back to the planet quickly. I estimated it must have been at least 50 miles top to bottom. The results of it crashing into the planet would be catastrophic.

With a roar of the engines, the lander took off into the air.

“Can you pilot this thing?” I asked Quick.

“Oh please! I could fly this thing better than your Nighthawk.”

Tiny rocks from the explosion were blasted into space so quickly that some of them were falling through the atmosphere already. Chunks of B1 were falling all around us, some with trails of fire behind them.

“C’mon, Quick, we need to go faster!” I said.

“The throttle won’t go any faster!”

Hernandez and Mikhail were praying in the seats behind us. As a Lutheran person at heart, I said a short frantic prayer myself. The chunks just kept coming. As the VTOL engines began to shut off, a large chunk of B1 about a mile across fell through the air just about a hundred feet away.

“Skipping coastal faze, activating main engines!” said Quick.

The hind engines roared to life. We were thrown back in our seats as the G-forces built up. Looking behind the lander, the 50 mile wide chunk was about halfway between B1 and the planet.

“Circularization burn completed; main engine cutoff,” confirmed Quick.

The main engines cutoff and we were lifted out of our seats by the forces of microgravity. The launch had good timing, too; the Nighthawk was only a few miles above us.

“Hurry up, Quick, we don’t have all day!” I said.

“Alright, Hohmann transfer burn in 3… 2… 1…”

The hind engines came alive once more. The extra burn sent us flying towards the Nighthawk. After about a minute of near collisions with falling rocks, we made it to the Nighthawk. Luckily, everything seemed to be intact. A small burn of the hind engines matched the velocities of the two spacecraft.

“Opening the hangar doors,” said Quick with a press of the button.

The two large doors at the front of the ship opened revealing a docking port. A few bursts of the RCS ports sent us going in the direction we wanted to go. The lander entered the hangar bay and docked to the port inside. The two doors closed again enveloping us in darkness. Lights came on inside illuminating the hangar.

“Opening the hatch,” I said.

The doors opened letting us inside the spacecraft. We took off immediately towards the command module.

“Since this is my ship, I get to fly it,” I told Quick.

Quick and I sat up front with Hernandez and Mikhail in the two seats behind us.

“Everyone buckle up!” I said as I activated the Alcubierre Drive. With a loud hum, the Drive sent us careening forward into space. The first giant chunk of B1 started to get too close to comfort to the planet.

“Guys, the first chunk is starting to reenter,” Mikhail informed us.

I looked out the window and sure enough, yellow flames were enveloping the bottom of the space rock. Looking at other spots in space, other huge chunks of B1 were flying in all directions.

I pushed the throttle as high as it could go. As the Nighthawk escaped the planet’s gravity, the impact happened. The side of the planet flattened out, sending huge chunks out into space. The size of the planet enveloped the moon. Giant waves of destruction spread throughout the planet, causing the outer layer to break into millions of pieces.

The rings of the planet were disrupted by the collision as well. Individual rings flew off in all directions. Other parts fell back to the surface, causing more destruction. Giant clouds of rocks and water flew out over the impact site, enveloping the moon.

I couldn’t help but watch. We all gathered by the windows as the destruction of the planet unfolded. Random chunks started to orbit closely, forming new moons that would soon be sucked in by the planet’s gravity, causing more destruction.

“So what happens now?” asked Hernandez.

“We need to make a plan,” I responded.

“Don’t forget about the missing panels. The explosion likely caused more damage to the ship,” Quick pitched in.

“True, I did see some more panels had been punctured,” said Mikhail.

“So we need to have a fix to it soon. Luckily, a nearby star system has a planet that surface is covered completely in crystalized titanium,” I said, “However, its highly elliptical orbit to its star causes the titanium to melt over into a molten hell.”

“We’re going to the planet, yes?” asked Mikhail.

“It’s our best hope to fix the Nighthawk. The planet is only 5 lightyears away.”


VTOL engines activated,” I said.

The bottom lander engines came to life and slowed us down to a halt on the surface. The titanium crystals crunched underneath the landing legs.

“We’ll EVA tomorrow. As of now, we need to get some rest,” I commanded.

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@The Raging Sandwich

A pretty action packed chapter 5 but I only have one pick at it. Shouldn't it be that sound cannot travel through a vacuum? I was wondering how the explosion from the moon managed to reach the surface of the planet the team is residing on, considering it was space in between the two objects and sound requires a medium to travel through. Either that or I have some kind of crazy misconception.

Space. Violent yet silent.

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7 hours ago, SyzygyΣE said:

@The Raging Sandwich

A pretty action packed chapter 5 but I only have one pick at it. Shouldn't it be that sound cannot travel through a vacuum? I was wondering how the explosion from the moon managed to reach the surface of the planet the team is residing on, considering it was space in between the two objects and sound requires a medium to travel through. Either that or I have some kind of crazy misconception.

Space. Violent yet silent.

I totally forgot about that! I'll fix it in future drafts. I just needed something that would cause an avalanche to crush one of the rovers. Thanks! Working on Chapter 6 now!

Edited by The Raging Sandwich

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Chapter 6 is here, however, this will be the last time I post any chapters here. It wouldn't really make sense if I post every chapter here (even though this is only a rough draft) and let everyone read the whole thing. Once I finish the entire book, I'll try to publish it. I'll leave a link on this thread for anyone who wants to read the whole thing. Below, tell me what you think about the book so far. If you have any ideas for future chapters, post them down below. I may just use them in the final draft! :)

I deactivated the lander. The only thing that was running was the climate control systems and the whir of the CO2 scrubbers. We fell asleep in the seats we were sitting in. It was nighttime on the planet.

            We woke up some hours later. The red dwarf star was starting to peak over the horizon. The lander flooded with the dim light of the sunrise. I shook Quick awake. Hernandez and Mikhail woke up at about the same time.

            “Hey Hernandez, what food do we have back there?” asked Quick.

            Hernandez looked behind the seat and opened the pantry. Small packets of various freeze-dried foods tumbled out. He tossed us all some of the food.

            “Freeze-dried eggs? How does this taste?” Quick asked.

            “Nothing like real eggs, I’ll tell you that,” I responded.

            He opened the package and ate its contents. We did the same. That was our breakfast for this morning.

            “Johnson, how are we going to make more panels here? Your lander has a drilling arm but no smelter! We also forgot our helmets!” said Quick.

            “Mikhail, open the closet door,” I commanded. He opened a small door next to him. Inside were six backup suits and helmets.

            “But how are we going to make panels?” he repeated.

            “We don’t have to use a smelter or even the drilling arm. We have surface tools, right?”

            Mikhail opened another small door to a compartment full of electric saws, collection bags, and other things.

            “We’ll cut around a flat area the size of a panel we need. That’s what we’ll use. I counted a total of 23 missing panels before we landed here. We’ll cut 23 panels according to the size of panels that were missing on the Nighthawk.”

            “But the makeshift panels will be more brittle than the other ones on the ship,” said Quick.

            “Well it’s either that or an enhanced risk of micrometeoroid damage. Now let’s get out there.”

            We collected our tools and helmets and exited the airlock onto the ramp and into the barren land outside. The sun was still barely rising, making it still dark on the planet. We all turned the internal and external helmet lights on, illuminating the ground in front of us.

            “Mikhail and Hernandez, you guys cut the 6 by 4 panels we need. We need 11. Quick and I will cut the 8 by 7 panels.”

            I took one of the electric saws and dug the blade into the brittle crystal titanium ground about an inch and a half deep. Tiny shards of the gray metal were flying everywhere, leaving scratches on my faceplate. I moved the blade over some leaving an incision on the ground. Quick was by me cutting another panel.

            It took about 15 minutes to cut one panel. By the time I was done with the first one, the red dwarf star had raised enough for us to turn off our helmet lights. I was sweating even though the outside temperature only measured about 31 degrees.

            We spent hours cutting the panels. Of course, we messed up a couple times and had to cut more. The days and nights on this planet are only about 7 hours long each. We were only about three quarters of the way done when the star started to set again.

            We were exhausted when all the light went away, but we turned our helmet lights back on and continued cutting away at the ground. We had to replace several blades after they got worn out from the constant cutting of the titanium.

            We finally got finished cutting all 23 panels. Each 6 by 4 panel weighed about 20 pounds. Each 8 by 7 panels weighed about 25 pounds. We hauled them into the lander one by one because of how tired our arms were. The entire stack of all the panels weighed a total of 5200 pounds.

            We went back into the lander, took off our helmets, and immediately fell asleep in the seats.


            We once again woke up to the light of the rising red dwarf flooding inside the lander. We all fluttered awake at the same time. Mikhail tossed us all the food that fell out of the door first. I was so tired that I didn’t even bother to catch it. I picked it up and we started eating.

            As we ate, Quick took a look at the lander info screen. “Guys, the lander is almost out of fuel,” he said. We all took a look at the screen. Fuel levels were down to 30%. Just enough to get back to the Nighthawk, but that’s it.

            “We must have used it all rushing to get back to the Nighthawk from Outpost 2,” I said. “We’ll have just enough to get back to the Nighthawk with fuel to spare, but not enough to do anything else, not even land. We can’t mess around during rendezvous.”

            “Then how will we get more hydrogen if we can’t even land?” asked Hernandez.

            “Once we get back to the Nighthawk we’ll think of something. As of now, finish up eating. We’ll be lifting off soon.”

            We all finished eating and waited for about 40 minutes. We didn’t want to risk sickness during ascent. After the 40 minutes were up, I started up the onboard systems.

            VTOL engines activated.”

            A green light turned on in front of Quick signifying a go for ascent.

            “Go for ascent, Johnson,” Quick said.

            “Throttling up.”

            The lander lifted up off the brittle ground slowly at first. I stowed the landing legs as it began to speed up.

            “Systems are nominal.”

            The acceleration couches leaned us back as the lander pitched forward, giving us a view to the windows above. The atmosphere faded and stars started to appear.

            “Throttling down,” I said as the apogee reached our desired distance. “Engines off. Activating hind engines.”

            The hind engines activated with a loud shriek. The acceleration couches leaned forward again as we coasted upward.

            “Hind engines throttling up,” I said. We were thrown backwards into the couches again, but they don’t lean back during orbital insertion so we maintain a forwards view. I throttled the engines down as the perigee matched the apogee. “Orbit achieved.”

            “Our planes match that of the Nighthawk’s. We are go for Hohmann Transfer,” said Quick.

            “Optimal transfer point is about forty minutes away. Let’s not rush things here; we need to save as much fuel as possible,” I responded. We waited for the 40 minutes. The Nighthawk’s orbit was higher than ours, so I pointed the lander prograde to burn upwards. The burn was short, just about 3 seconds.

            “We’re coasting to intercept. Closest approach in 25 minutes,” Quick said.

            We got nearer and nearer to the Nighthawk. We began to see it about 5 miles out. At about 2 miles it began to take shape. At 1 mile away we could see the lights on inside.

            I pointed the lander away from the Nighthawk so the hind engines were facing towards it. “Matching velocities,” I said as the engines fired. We appeared to slow down to a halt but we were still going the same speed around the planet. The burn matched the speed of that of the Nighthawk’s, so it appeared as we completely stopped in front of it.

            “Rendezvous completed. Engines off. Beginning docking sequence.” I said. I deactivated the hind engines. The RCS thrusters were the only things moving us.

            “Opening bay doors,” said Quick. The giant doors in front of us opened up like a cardboard box. The docking port was visible inside.

            “Moving forward.” A short burst of the RCS thrusters sent us carefully forward into the docking bay.

            “Coming in at 3 feet a second,” said Quick. “10 feet away.”

            The lander slid slowly inside the docking bay until it connected firmly with the docking port.

            “Hard dock achieved.”

            “Bay doors closing.”

            The large doors clamped shut behind us and flood lights came on inside. The hatches opened letting us inside the Nighthawk.

            I’ll write back once we fixed all the panels. As of now, I need to lie down for a bit.

Edited by The Raging Sandwich

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So I'm finally getting back to writing this after taking a month-long break. But, to provide more info for the planets, I'll be putting (in order) the characteristics, descriptions, and updated pictures for the planets. (Book cover coming soon too)

CO 174805b                                                                                      


Three Moons: largest diameter- 460 mi

Diameter- 2645 mi

Atmosphere- yes: 24 mi

Gravity- 1.2 g

Main color- blue

Surface temp- Average 53 F

Surface majority- Thallium

Solar orbit- 3.5 million mi

When this blue planet was first photgraphed by telescopes, planetary scientists believed that its blue color came from water. As research progressed with the planet, it was discovered that over 94 percent of its surface was covered in a thick thallium dust. The occasional heavy winds pick up thallium dust from the surface and throws it into the air at high speeds making whispy clouds in the lower atmosphere. Thallium is very toxic, so specialized suits are needed to live there. It is an interesting target for its strange surface mineral. The discovery of thallium changed the way scientists think about what a planet can be made of. Its largest moon orbits far away from the planet, about 145,000 miles away; something that's not normal for a planet of its size. Its smallest moon (diameter of 32 miles) is covered entirely in reflective ice and orbits in a very elliptical orbit. Its closest approach to the planet barely misses the top of the atmopshere by about 67 miles. Tidal forces by the moon causes regular volcanic activity near the planet's equator. The timing of the planet's spin and the closest approach of the moon causes light from the star to reflect back to the surface, causing every few days to be about 30 minutes longer than the rest. A rim of craters leads to a tall mountain near the planet's equator that nearly reaches space; its peak at 5 miles below the top of the atmosphere.





Edited by The Raging Sandwich

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