Episode II: Part VII - Stargazer arrives at Luyten b / Leia disappears
Stardate: Nov. 28, 2096
“Status, Lt. Roberts,” Foxwell requested, he and Beta stepping out of the turbo lift onto the bridge. Beta continued in the direction of her science station.
“Orbital path around Luyten b established; impulse engines engaged; atmospheric probes have been launched,” the navigator confirmed.
Beta swiveled her chair and gazed at Foxwell. “Probes and sensor scans confirm the exoplanet is Class M, Captain.”
Foxwell returned a confirming nod, then stood in front of the main viewing screen. “It’s a beautiful planet,” he proclaimed. He described the planet’s atmosphere as orange, with bands of copper and cyan, highlighted by random cloud cover. “The surface topography appears balanced; blue with water, a rocky terrain, and a sprinkling of vegetation,” he continued. Smiling, the captain turned in the direction of the helmsman. “Maintain standard orbit, direct hull sensor arrays to surface coordinates provided by Galactic Fleet Command.”
“Aye Captain, the helmsman replied. “Maintaining standard orbit, data accessed and entered; hull sensors locked on coordinates.”
Foxwell walked to the science station. “Beta, analyze the sensor data received for the most suitable landing area; we’ll be setting the Stargazer on the surface for closet access to the rildium ore deposits. Notify all departments we’ll be on the surface in one hour.”
“Acknowledged, Captain.” Department heads alerted, Beta swiveled her chair in the direction of the sensor viewer.
Foxwell walked back to the command chair, standing next to the arm containing the comm panel. He tapped the engineering key.
“Engineering, O’Donovan here.”
“POD, notify Doctor Veillon and the Chief Mining Engineer to prepare for a familiarization survey. Initial mining and geology surveyors will be organized into two teams of four personnel. You, Beta, Chief Security Officer Warwick and myself will accompany the surveying parties. All personnel will meet in the shuttle bay within the first hour of setting down on the exoplanet. Contact Lieutenant Warwick and Chief Geologist Zara Veillon and make them aware.”
“Aye, Captain, Beta just informed me we’ll be on the planet’s surface within the hour.”
Foxwell sat in his command chair. He tapped the Starship’s PA system key. “All personnel — this is the Captain — standby and brace for atmospheric entry.”
Beta swiveled her seat in the direction of the command chair. “Captain, suitable landing area located; approximately two kilometers from primary site of rilidium ore deposits.”
“Acknowledged - transfer data to the navigational system.”
“Transfer completed,” Beta replied.
“Helmsman, let’s take her down; initiate landing sequence.
“Aye Captain, impulse engines disengaged; all descent and landing systems online.”
“Switch to manual control.”
“Aye Captain. Engaging reaction control thrusters, landing pylons extended and locked.”
“Commence landing - steady as she goes,” Foxwell calmly directed.
Using the joystick, the helmsman carefully piloted the Stargazer toward the designated landing area. Adjusting the diverted thrust characteristics of the RCS engines, the Stargazer was maneuvered into position until it hovered directly over the site coordinates provided by Beta.
“Bringing her down in five …, four …, three …, two …, one …., Stargazer has landed,” the Helmsman announced. The starship’s enormous structure buffeted softly, its supporting pylons gripping the undisturbed soil of the heralded earth-like planet.
Foxwell stood and walked behind his command chair.
An applause combined with a loud cheer from the bridge crew seemed to echo around the circular platform. Affirming smiles and gazes followed the Stargazer’s successful arrival, lifting the spirit of the crew previously dampened by sabotage and murder.
Good job everyone,” the Captain announced, beaming proudly. “He patted the navigator and helmsman on the shoulder before turning and locking eyes with the Communication’s Officer.
“Xuriya, notify Galactic Fleet Command Stargazer has touched down on Luyten b.
He pivoted and walked to the science station. “Beta, confirm basic weather and atmospheric conditions.”
“Temperature outside the Stargazer is currently 66°F, humidity 56%. Winds are negligible, no precipitation. The troposphere of Luyten b is comprised of 76% nitrogen, 22% oxygen. The remaining 2% is argon, water vapor, and carbon dioxide; almost identical to Earth.”
“Forward those stats to all departments, then accompany me to the shuttle bay.”
“Acknowledged, Captain,” Beta replied.
“Xuriya, you have the bridge until relieved per the duty roster.”
Confirming the presence of all designated personnel, Captain Foxwell led the two groups of surveyors and Galactic Fleet Officers to A deck. Newly appointed Chief Geologist Zara Veillon took charge of selecting two surveying teams. Communicators and fusion laser pistols were issued to accompanying Galactic Feet Personnel. Entering the unlock code on an access control panel, the Chief Engineer proceeded to deploy the Stargazer’s access ramp, observing through a portal the ramp’s simultaneous unfolding and extension.
“Ramp deployed and secure on the planet’s surface, Captain,” the Chief Engineer reported.
Beta studied the external environmental control screen on the bulkhead next to the starship’s crew access plug door. “Atmospheric conditions on the planet’s surface are earth-like, Captain; suitable for humanoid life.”
“Excellent,” Foxwell replied. “Let’s get down there and find out what we’re dealing with.”
Beta entered the door’s unlocking code; she enabled the servo drive mechanism, then tapped the ”open door” icon on the interface control panel. The door responded with a low frequency whirr and sharp hiss, the pressure inside the Starship equalizing with the outside environment in response to the door unsealing and cycling through its opening program.
Captain Foxwell stepped forward and peered outward, leaning and completing a panoramic visual before stepping out and onto the angled ramp. Desiring a look at objects more distant, he removed the vortex field viewer from his utility belt, scanning from left to right several times before reattaching it to his belt.
“First impressions, Captain?” Beta curiously asked.
Foxwell smiled followed by a thumbs-up. Exiting the Stargazer, he led a procession of Starship senior officers followed by the Galactic Fleet surveying teams. Coming to the end of the ramp, he stopped, the column of personnel stopping behind him. The Stargazer’s Commanding Officer stepped gently onto the surface of Luyten b, the first human from planet earth to do so. Captain Foxwell turned around and faced his crewmates and surveyors, the line of eager explorers extending all the way back to the starship’s reciprocal plug door. He scrolled over the face of every person preparing to step onto the soil of Luyten b. They waited for him to say something.
Foxwell smiled again. “If there is magic on this beautiful planet,” he began, “it is contained in its soil, its water, its botany, its atmosphere,” he proclaimed.
He gazed at his colleagues. They were quiet, contemplative as they remained stationary on the ramp, immobile as if someone had hit the pause button on a video replay.
“We are here to explore this planet for the element rilidium,” he continued, “necessary for Starship propulsion and as ordered by Galactic Fleet Command. Every necessary precaution will be taken not only for the safety of our Galactic Fleet scientists, engineers, and Starship personnel, but for the care and safety of this planet’s ecological system. I want that clearly understood.”
There was no doubting the seriousness of Foxwell’s command. All personnel on the ramp nodded in unison, some quietly uttering acknowledgment. Eagerness to begin the mission was written on the face of every surveyor and Starship crewmember.
Convinced his order was understood, Foxwell threw down the welcome mat. “On behalf of planet Earth, Galactic Fleet Command, and the SS Stargazer, ‘Welcome to Luyten b,’” the Captain happily announced. And with that, he stepped away from the end of the ramp, motioning with his arm for all personnel to join him on the surface of the exoplanet.
Captain Foxwell stood aside, smiling, shaking hands, exchanging short pleasantries as each person stepped off the ramp and onto the soil of the earth-like planet. The Geologists and Mining Engineers were carrying only the field equipment and supplies required for their initial examination and survey. Findings would be roundtabled later regarding more extensive or invasive studies.
The captain’s communicator chimed its signature beep. “Foxwell, here,” he responded, stepping away from the ramp.
“Captain, Doctor Rivera. I need you back onboard.”
“Why, what’s happened?” Foxwell replied, his previous elation now a mixture of concern and confusion.
"It’s Leia -- she’s nowhere to be found.”