MicroWorld #19. The adventure continues.
Within a picosecond their visors had reacted,protecting them from the blinding flash as the nearest of the suns exploded in a cataclysmic outburst of energy. Already the neutrinos had passed both through them and the planet and were now well on their way deep into the MicroWorld planetary system. But it was the high energy x-rays and gamma rays now heading towards them that concerned them most. They estimated that they had twenty minutes left to reach the craft; their only hope of safety now was being inside with the force shields deployed.
Their faithful craft shone like a beacon,reflecting the light from the death throes of the sun, as it beckoned them across the rocky terrain. The ship had been their companion on all their adventures as they faced, and overcame, many perils together. It, like them, was now getting old and although sturdy it did not have the sophistications of the newer vessels in the fleet. It had protected them before but now its most demanding challenge was but minutes away.
They began to sweat as the cooling coils in their suits began to fail. The ambient temperature was now rising fast and the physical effort in trying to hurry was beginning to take its toll. Their visors began to mist up but they could still, for the moment at least, see where they were supposed to be heading. As they stumbled nearer the craft it seemed strange, it's colour was different. Their first thoughts were that the illumination from the suns had changed but, as they approached the main hatch they could see that the outer skin was etched and pitted. Although only moderate pitting was evident it was enough to change the reflectivity of the foamed silicon nitride insulation panels giving a somewhat duller appearance. The strange snow that had etched the mountains had also etched their craft!
They transmitted a signal to open the hatch - nothing! They tried again - still nothing! They began to sweat even more as their heart rates began to rise - they were now beginning to panic! Although they could not see them, the streams of high energy particles from the nuclear explosion that was once a sun, were now only a few minutes away. No way could they survive out in the open once these arrived. A desperate third attempt was as successful as the other two, the door remained closed. Their only chance was to manually open the bolts and locks of the emergency hatch, but these too were seized up. In desperation they struck the levers with rocks which simply shattered and disintegrated. One of them fumbled about in his rucksack and, with his geological hammer pounded at the levers. Quickly the others joined in, their hammers clanging at the metal like frenzied blacksmiths. Slowly the levers began to turn and, after some fearful moments, the first two locks gradually opened. The remaining two were easier and with all their combined efforts they managed to swing open the outer door and collapse into the air lock. The door slammed behind them with a thud accompanied by the reassuring whine of the pumps as the air pressure began to automatically equalize.
Outside, through the hatch window they could see strange things happening in the sky, but they concentrated in getting through the air lock into the relative safety of the main control room. The force shields must work first time for them - there would be no second chance!
To be continued...
For new readers, if you want to read the whole story it begins here or you can dip in anywhere into the adventure in this MicroWorld set.
This image is from one of my earliest photograms of the refraction patterns from a piece of glass, taken in the 1960's in b/w directly on to film