Episode III: Part III Foxwell & Rivera acclimate to the deadly environment on Titan
Star Date: Dec 14, 2096
Confirming arrival with Provisional Colony authorities, Foxwell, Rivera, and Roberts donned spacesuits as they prepared to depressurize the shuttlecraft.
“Doctor, Ensign Roberts — can you read me?” Foxwell asked, checking communications after helping one another secure the polycarbonate helmet to the neck ring on their suits.
Roberts turned in the direction of Foxwell and rendered a thumbs-up.
“Give me a verbal, Ensign,” Foxwell ordered.
“I read you loud and clear, Captain,” Roberts replied.
“Doctor — how about you? Did you hear the communications check between Roberts and myself?”
“That’s affirmative,” Rivera responded.
Foxwell pivoted toward Roberts. "Ensign, prepare to depressurize the shuttle.”
“Aye, Captain,” Roberts acknowledged, moving forward and occupying the pilots seat. “Ready when you are,” Roberts said, turning in the direction of Foxwell.
“Begin depressurization sequence,” Foxwell ordered.
Roberts flipped the depressurization enable switch, then slowly turned the pressure relief valve. A hissing sound followed, indicating atmosphere and pressure within the shuttlecraft was equalizing with the Martian atmosphere outside. Viewing internal and external indicators on the Shuttle’s cockpit monitor, the hissing sound finally stopped, both gauges displaying the same readings. Roberts turned and gazed at Foxwell. “Depressurization complete, Captain.”
“Open rear access ramp,” Foxwell directed.
“Aye sir,” Roberts replied, activating the hatch release.
The rear access door fully extended, Roberts exited the command seat and assisted with the removal of bags, equipment and supplies loaded in the rear cargo area of the shuttle prior to departure from Stargazer. Moving everything within a few feet of the Colony’s primary access airlock, Captain Foxwell turned and glanced at Rivera.
“That appears to be everything, Doctor."
”Rivera starred somberly at Foxwell. “You sure you want to do this, Captain? It’s enough I’m risking my own neck — why in the name of Orions Belt do you want to risk yours as well?”
Ignoring his question, Foxwell scanned the Martian surface and horizon. The open sky appeared as a light blue, its tone and shade eerily transitioning to a faint red as he followed the sky downward toward the horizon. Rust colored dirt blanketed the rocky surface, with numerous canyons, craters, hills, and dry lake beds all visible in the distance. Clouds dotted the sky. The Martian wind created dust whirls which skipped along the hard surface like a breeze that rippled the liquid surface of a pond.
Foxwell turned toward his Chief Medical Officer. “What was it you were saying, Doctor?”
Rivera frowned, then sighed deeply. “Forget it. Is someone planning to open the airlock before our oxygen supply is depleted?”
“Captain Foxwell, Doctor Rivera, this is Titan Colony Security; we’re monitoring your communications; we’re preparing to depressurize the airlock. Let us know when you’re ready.”
Foxwell glanced at his Chief Medical Officer and smiled. “Looks like you just received your answer, Doctor -- Titan Colony Security….. standby,” Foxwell replied.
Roberts turned in the direction of Foxwell. “Captain, is there anything else I can help you and Doctor Rivera with?”
“That’s a negative, Ensign.” Foxwell reached over and patted the shuttle co-pilot on the shoulder. “Appreciate you help, Roberts. You are cleared to return to the Stargazer. Have a safe return.”
The young officer fidgeted. “Sir, uh, if you don’t mind. I’d like to …….”
Noticing his hesitancy, Captain Foxwel, pivoted in the direction of his Navigation Officer. “Something on your mind, Ensign?”
Starring alternately at Foxwell and the Chief Medical Officer, Roberts nervously blurted, “The crew sends best wishes to you and Doctor Rivera for a safe and successful outcome. He paused before continuing -- “to be honest, we’re dammed worried about the both of you.”
Foxwell and Rivera exchanged glances. “Well wishes and support of the crew is appreciated, Ensign,” the Captain noted, rendering another pat on Roberts shoulder. Please let everyone know.”
“Aye sir, will do.”
Doctor Rivera walked up to Roberts. “You want to know how you can show your appreciation, Ensign?”
“Uh, yes sir — name it,” Roberts answered.
“When this mission is complete and you return with the shuttlecraft for the Captain and yours truly, I don’t want to feel like I’m on an amusement park ride during the return trip to the Stargazer. You think you can make that happen?”
Roberts grinned. “Count on it, Doctor," he nodded.
Walking through the airlock’s primary access door, Foxwell and Rivera stopped. The plug door closed, sealing itself as a result of the pressure difference on both sides.
“Captain, Doctor Rivera, this is Titan Colony security. Please lower your helmet’s gold visor.”
“Acknowledged,” Foxwell replied.
“Standby for decontamination,” a computer message alerted.
Horizontal and vertical rows of positron charged ultraviolet diodes ‘swept’ the chamber in a series of pulsed waves, covering every square inch of the small cell to include the visitors from the Stargazer. Thirty seconds later a steady burst of UV light emanated upward from the floor, a vacuum activating to remove all traces of dust from the spacesuits and boots of the visitors.
“Captain Foxwell and Doctor Rivera, this is Titan Colony security, atmosphere and pressure readings inside the chamber are within normal limits and breathable.” A panel near the second access door opened followed by a rail extending with an attachable flat tray. “Please remove your spacesuits, leave them on the floor and exchange for the colony manufactured jumpsuits and footwear provided on the tray.”
Donning the light blue jumpsuits, Foxwell and Rivera proceeded through a sealed hatch and into the second chamber. “Close and seal the hatch, place a pair of the dark lensed goggles attached to the bulkhead over your eyes — then stand on the footprints imbedded in the floor,” a computer voice directed.
Acknowledged, Foxwell confirmed again.
Extend your arms, look up toward the overhead,” the computer voice continued. Following compliance with the instructions, another wave of ultraviolet light illuminated the chamber. “Decontamination procedures complete,” the computer generated voice affirmed.
“Welcome to Mars, and to our Colony, Titan, the first interplanetary settlement in our Solar System,” an unknown humanoid voice announced, the sealed door of the second chamber opening subsequent to the greeting. Walking into what appeared to resemble a small auditorium, Foxwell and Rivera were met by a team of medical personal pushing a small portable tray. Two hypo sprays and several vials sat on top of the blue covered tray. Two security personnel flanked a third unknown party standing to the side of the medical team. They approached The Starship Captain and his Chief Medical Officer.
“Captain Foxwell, Doctor Rivera,” the unidentified man began, “I am Provincial Governor Jetson Duelow, the voice that welcomed you just moments ago. Smiling and sporting a full head of immaculately groomed gray hair and matching beard, the diminutive elderly leader of the first Martian Colony greeted his new arrivals. “I cannot begin to tell you what your presence here means. We are keenly aware you are risking your lives. You’ll have our full cooperation. I’ve instructed our medical, scientific, and security personnel to cooperate and provide whatever support is needed.”
“Thank you, Governor,” Captain Foxwell responded. “On behalf of Galactic Fleet Command, we’ll do everything we can to assist in beating this disease. You have the full resources of the Stargazer at your disposal, beginning with Doctor Rivera and myself.”
The Governor extended his hand, first to the Captain. Foxwell appeared reluctant. He quickly glanced at Rivera,
“It’s okay, Captain, we were infected the moment we stepped into this chamber in spite of the decontamination procedure just completed — that was a precaution to preclude introducing anything new into the colony.”
Foxwell smirked. “I was going to quote the phrase, 'old habits die hard,' but I don’t want to jinx what we’re here to do," the Captain replied, reaching for and shaking the Governor’s hand, followed by Doctor Rivera.
“Speaking of which, you never answered my previous question regarding exactly why you’re here, Captain?” Rivera threw out again. Why are you so reluctant to ……”
“Sorry to interrupt," a colony physician interrupted, "but we do need to administer the anti-viral and anti-cytokine injections before you exit our orientation room." Other medical technicians approached Foxwell and Doctor Rivera, unzipping the jumpsuit on their right and left shoulder. Hypo sprays were delivered into both arms of the Stargazer’s Captain and Chief Medical Officer.
“These injections will impede the progression of the virus of which you are both now infected,” a medical assistant reminded Foxwell and Rivera while re-zipping their sleeves.
Duelow turned and gazed at Rivera. “Doctor, the medical assistants will gather your equipment, supplies, and personal affects. Quarters will be assigned after which you’ll be taken to our laboratory and introduced to our chief virologist, epidemiologists, and titan colony physicians all working around the clock to stop this virus."
Rivera understood the inference. “I’m ready,” he acknowledged. Following the medical personnel, Governor Duelow waited until the Stargazer’s senior physician had exited the orientation room. Duelow pivoted in the Foxwell’s direction. “I understand the security one priority message transmitted to your private channel was read and understood, Captain?”
“That’s affirmative, Governor. The only other Stargazer personnel privy to the message contents are my Science Officer and Second-in-Command, Beta, Chief Engineer O’Donovan, and Chief Weapons Officer and Head of Security, Warwick.”
“Doctor Rivera is not aware of the situation ..... as we understand it. Is that correct, Captain?”
Foxwell's face twisted with irritation. “Rivera is only aware that an unknown virus is ravaging the Colony; that his job is to work with your team of scientists and medical professionals." Foxwell paused. "He’s also aware, as I am, that we'll both die, along with you and every human and vulcan in this colony if their combined efforts are not successful. Does that answer your question, Governor?”
Duelow exhaled a despairing sigh. “It does, Captain.”
Click to read Episode III Part IV "Star Voyagers: "THE MARS PLAGUE""