Casual Play Astrogation

Tau Segrelles Gow 221b (Lycaeus)

Stars rise and bloom into your eyes as you leave between-space, slide through the darkness toward a pair of gas giants that slowly circle one another lightyears from the nearest star. Rogue dancers, they orbit only each other, exchange heat and moons like trinkets and treasures. Not long into your visit, someone pings you from somewhere nearby and you pick up the call, find yourself face-to-face with the holographic features of a man dressed in grimy overalls.

The conversation is quick but satisfying. The man is the leader of an operation sent to recover an old survey vessel which has been missing for over a hundred and fifty years. Presumed lost in Lambda Tulloch, it was only recently tracked to this pair of rogue giants, only today dredged out of the deep atmosphere, an imploded wreck, the logs and scant remains recovered, all relevant data uploaded to the network. Curious, you follow links to the data the man mentions, find an incredibly comprehensive entry on the worlds, on their composition, the high winds and high pressures near their cores. There are pages and pages of information on the ship too, on the IKV Eisenborn, as it was called, but one particular entry draws your attention, intrigues you. A single file– a multi-point feed labeled simply “last moments.”

Data falls away to darkness as you access the file, retrieve it from the network. Cameras, you realize. Two dozen old fashioned digital video feeds compressed and collated into a single film visible only in the mind, too complex for the eyes. Men and women, the crew of the Eisenborn, all eighty-three of them– they seem to know what's about to happen. A woman turns to another woman. A young recruit raises a sleek pistol in a shaky hand. Someone half seen bursts into tears.

And then it happens. The cameras catch the moment from all angles, catch every room, every shocked, terrified and uncertain expression in the split second between breach and death. Immolation– that's how it starts. The heat of pressure, the air igniting, searing skin and plastic and steel to glowing in the instant before the near-liquid gases of the giant rush into every hold and corridor, crush everything under the weight of the atmosphere above. It's quick– so quick, horrifying. You doubt any of them felt anything, doubt they even perceived the moment of their death. The cameras all go dark immediately. All but one, and that single myopic lens picks up little but the creak of steel, the flash of sparks amidst an ocean of deep orange glow before it too flickers, dies in static.

Coming back, you take a moment to breathe, to orient yourself inside your body again, inside your ship amidst the void and the stars. There's more about the Eisenborn in the network, but you don't dig into it, are too shaken by the video feed to do more than thank the recovery crew, wish them luck and spin up your ship's phasedrive for a jump back to between-space.


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