(9) Probing The Atmosphere

The Mora Campaign (260-1119 to 264-1119)

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260-1119 : Gorram / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    The HMS Third Eye and the Extraordinary Circumstances are in position orbiting Gorram.

    The engineers on the Extraordinary Circumstances fix the umbilical that was damaged when the two ships separated yesterday.

    On the Third Eye, Priorities for the repair work are set: Mich Saginaw will fix up a new probe while he recovers from his injuries, while David Markland starts on the gcarrier.  Once Mich has recovered, he'll spacewalk to investigate what's causing turbulence in the area of the air/raft bay door.

    Mich and Robert Morris prepare the new probe.  It's a replacement for the one that was lost on the island near the equator.
    Avon launches the probe.  It fires off successfully, but when it enters the upper atmosphere it start oscillating, gets sideways, and breaks up.  It burns up in the atmosphere.

    The first probe that's already in position (B) is operating perfectly.  There's nothing to see but snow, of course...
    The three orbiting relays are working perfectly too.

    Marquis Marcus Crestworthy sets the new priorities: fix the gcarrier, fix the skin of the Third Eye, build all the probes they can, and only then mess with the air/rafts.

    At the end of the day, to everyone's surprise, David announces that his fixed the internal components of the gcarrier.  All it needs is patching the hull and it'll be in perfect shape.  It's usable now provided they don't want to go fast in atmosphere (or submerge in water).

    During the day, the working probe has picked up a small flying creature, about 1 kg in size.  The beast is quite hot, and flies on by.

    Mich and Robert have been working on building more probes.  They have one working by dinner.

    Vonish Kehnaan has been practicing all day on grav craft simulations.  He's starting to pick up the techniques quite well.  He still finds time to prepare an excellent meal.

    After dinner, Avon launches the new probe.  It does almost exactly what the last one did, breaking up in the atmosphere.  There are no clues from the telemetry as to what happened.  Apparently the probe was functioning normally until it broke up.  Something throws it into an unstable oscillating mode, and when it gets sideways enough it breaks up.  The regular probe is not sending back enough telemetry to make further diagnosis.
    The Marquis does his part by taking the photo of his eye off the ship and replacing it with a Moravian anti-evil symbol.
    Mich and Robert respond by setting up a probe to monitor what happens to it on the way down.  The information this one sends back should give them enough information to work out what's happening.  This takes them only about three hours, so it's ready to go before the evening is out.

    Avon fires off the new probe.  Same target, same trajectory.  This one descends perfectly on track and crashes into the ground (it wasn't expected to reach the ground, after all).
    Everyone brainstorms the problem.  Vonish suggests it might have something to do with the time of day.  The probes were all spread out across the local day, and there's nothing special about the last one that would make it any different.
    Perhaps someone's jamming the control?  It's a very unlikely scenario, especially as there's not supposed to be anyone else here, and why would the last one have worked, then?  The probe control channel is tight-beam, encrypted, channel-spread, and almost undetectable -- even the telemetry data -- so having someone take control of the probe is incredulous.  As Robert says, "Only I could do that, and I didn't do it."

    The next plan will be to prepare a larger probe capable of both the scientific work and the engineering telemetry.  This one will probably be too large for the launcher, so they'll push it out the back door in the tail of the ship.

261-1119 : Gorram / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    While Mich concerns himself with the probe issue, David starts work on the air/rafts.  Vonish continues to train in gravcraft.  Akim challenges him to a game of "Super Mario Raft" with the simulators.

    Marquis Marc has decided that despite losing three probes, they need to continue and sort out that problem.  He adds that he has one more piece of additional equipment that he will want mounted on a probe.  It's to do with his own personal area of research, somewhat of a far-out subject.  The unit will be about a cubic meter, with connectors for power input and data output.

    Mich and Robert put the probe together.  This is a much more difficult project than the earlier ones, and it takes them most of the day to put it together.  As soon as it's ready (in the evening), they go ahead with the launch.
    Mich and Teri suit up and take the probe back to the tail on a cargo lifter.  They cycle the air and shove the probe out the back.
    Avon takes charge of the probe.  He sets it off on course just fine, but when it hits the upper atmosphere it starts a bit of oscillation -- some unstable air currents seem to upsetting it -- but with the larger size and mass, it comes through without breaking up.
    The probe takes up station successfully.
    There are now two working probes observing at low altitude.  The original one is at location C, the landing site of the free trader Donsharid in the rumor (it's just snowing there); the new multi-purpose one is at location D, over the forest on the equatorial island.

    The Marquis prepares his special equipment.  He checks it out on board ship, getting a background reading, and making sure it's all in order before deploying it tomorrow.  He gives Mich and Robert the details they need to mount it in the probe.  The target will be near one of the villages, and there should be room in the probe for at least a video feed.  Marquis Marc's data module requires very little bandwidth.
    Marc explains to Sagan that it's for his own unfunded research, and he's not ready to tell anyone about it until his studies are publishable.  (Of course, Robert knows, but no-one else knows that Robert knows...)

262-1119 : Gorram / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    Mich and Robert fit the Marquis' module into a probe, modified to cope with atmospheric disturbances.  Avon sends it out to one of the reported intelligent life settlement sites -- location A, near a mid-latitude northern inland sea.  It takes up station according to plan, and reads normal background levels as the Marquis had estimated.

    Mich and Robert ready two more regular probes in case they're needed.

    David continues work on the air/raft.

263-1119 : Gorram / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    By mid-morning, David announces that he has repaired the air/raft.  There is now one apparently perfect vehicle, plus a pile of assorted parts (including three spare lifter modules).

    Mich has finished his work on the probes and so is free to work on the gcarrier.  It's a fairly simple task, with some vacuum welding to fix up the hull in the evacuated vehicle bay.  David comes up with all the parts he needs.  By late afternoon the work is complete -- the Third Eye now has a fully repaired gcarrier.

    All that remains now is to check the hull of the ship.  Mich spacewalks from the air/raft hangar.  He soon determines that there's a slight warping in the mating surface of the bay door.  He'd really need to get out there with portable fine machining equipment -- but of course nothing like that is on board.  So he improvises by distorting the door itself to compensate -- rather a staggering task, but with Mich's skill he has no problem with it.

    So after four days of downtime caused by the various mishaps and failures, everything's ready to go again.

    Helia is bored.  She'd love to take the Third Eye into the atmosphere and play with it, but simulated grav craft races hold no interest for her.

    Robert would love to continue his studies of hiver computer systems, but without any traffic to piggyback, it's pretty much impossible.  So he continues with his Sensor Ops studies.

    The Marquis plans to wait for three days to see what comes in from the probes, and aside from that do nothing much.  He does have a brief private conversation with Sagan that evening.
    Misha has little to do; Akim and Vonish are studying grav craft.

Private conversation between Marquis Marcus Crestworthy and Sagan
(referee and those players only) (TO BE ADDED)

264-1119 : Gorram / Lunion / Spinward Marches

    The equatorial probe (location D) is providing a vast amount of information for the zoologists.  There's abundant flying, water, and ground life.

    At the village (location A) it's snowbound.  There are mounds under the snow, but no sign of any movement.  The anthropologists speculate that the mounds might be buildings connected underground or something, but they have no real data on which to base their speculations.

    Marquis Marc's probe spikes.  There's one significantly high spike, as compared with known activity, and is accompanied by no other apparent activity.  The Marquis is surprised by the strength of the reading.
    The sensor can't be made directional, so the location of the source is unknown.  The strength would indicate that it must surely be within 50m..  Marc wants another probe to help him monitor the activity -- he hands the schematics to Mich and says "shrink it."  He doesn't tell Mich what it does, just that he wants another one, but smaller.
    The Marquis would like to put together a sensor package to detect underground activity, but it seems unlikely that it could be fit into a probe.  Sonic, seismic, radar...  Could the creatures detect that?  The surface has been subjected to radar before, so it shouldn't violate the non-interference regulations.

    The probe at the free trader landing site (location C) is starting to see some signs of life.  The snow has cleared up a little.  There is a turtle-like object in sight, but it's not moving -- it looks dormant, or waiting, or something.  It is consistent with the description in the rumor.