Landfall - Part 2

In this episode, the crew of the Ilmatar prepare to land on their new home planet. While anxiety and nerves are high. Will the modules that have kept them safe all these years see them to the surface safely?

3 months ago

Latest Post Infoslate #8 - April update by Kirk Bushell public

Before reading this piece, if you haven't read the previous article, it is highly recommended that you do so. Episode 2 continues from where the previous story left off:

Landfall - Episode 1: As the Arks approach their destinations, the Ilmatar begins it’s deceleration, as the personnel onboard prepare for their future home.

Jannick had a nasty habit of chewing the inside of his mouth during stressful moments. His current situation could only be considered controlled panic. The metallic taste of blood entered his mouth and he squeezed the railing tightly, watching his knuckles turn white, before looking up to assess the rest of the room. 

Everyone was equally tense, frozen in place and waiting for the next set of instructions to come through. Everything in the room had been secured, stowed away, with Jannick having completed his checks to make sure the room had been made ready. He could hear his own heart beat as they waited.

The newfound silence was a clear sign that they had now reached orbit successfully and indicated that their long journey would soon be coming to an end. Jannick pondered, however, that perhaps this was the beginning of a much longer and more difficult journey.

"All team leaders prepare for Landfall!"

Jannick closed his eyes and took the largest breath he could.

"All team leaders prepare for Landfall!" came through the speakers a second time.

He spun on his heel and walked over to a wall panel. Jannick entered in his code and the panel opened, revealing a handset and lever. He pulled the lever, as an artificial female voice came to life in the room.

"Landfall procedures are about to begin… seats dropping in ten…nine…eight… seven...

At the end of the count, seats contained in the wall began opening up around the entirety of the room. He could already see one or two jamming, but that didn’t matter, they had lost some people and had no need for them all.

His team sprang to life, checking their neighbours as they began taking their seated positions. Whilst surveying the room, Jannick lowered himself into his assigned seating position next to the panel. He picked up the handset and pressed it to his ear.

Jannick was the team leader for Room Four of this module. Each module was a self-contained landfall vessel and comprised four to ten rooms depending on their size and purpose. For an agriculture module like his, they had only five rooms: the operations center, two dorms, storage and the lab he was currently in. For landfall, everyone had to know their module and room. As Ilmatar was far too big to enter the atmosphere, she would remain in orbit around the planet as a beacon and satellite, while the gravity ring that housed her population would break apart and launch modules down to the surface in waves. There was no return - this was a one-way trip and everyone of the Ilmatar was now faced with the reality and weight of this historic undertaking.

"Rooms report," came through the handset. It was Juha, the Captain of the module. Jannick had always liked Juha, from the first week they’d set out from Earth years ago. The two had found common interest and often exercised and ate together. 

"Room two, ready."
"Room three, ready."

Jannick quickly checked his room, all were seated with thumbs raised. "Room four, ready", he confirmed.

"Room five, ready."
"Room one, ready."

The artificial voice came back "Module eight is now ready for landfall", it repeated three times. The fluorescent lighting of the room switched off and was replaced by a comforting blue glow. Jannick slid his heels back until he heard a click, confirming his boots were locked in. Placing his free hand on his chest, he was mesmerized by the fact that his fingers were shaking and rapidly twitching as the adrenaline surged through him.

Juha came through the handset again, "Alright everyone, we’re about to go. Strap in and goodluck! See you on the ground… Room One out". 

There was an audible click as he disconnected and Jannick twisted to the side, hung up his own handset and closed the panel before finally strapping himself in. A buzzing sound like an electronic bell came through the speaker three sharp times. 

"30 seconds!" Jannick yelled to the room.

He had never wanted to go into space and hated the very idea of it, but being alive was much preferable to the alternative and after all this time, he had to admit, the idea of seeing this new world had sparked something in him.

The bell sounded twice more.

He thought about Periscope, the purpose-built AI that for the past few months had been taking images and scans as they approached the planet. A few weeks ago it had identified designated landing zones, sending this data to each of the modules for landfall. Jannick couldn’t help but think of the seats that had failed to open - if the AI, the data it provided or the module's autopilot had similar issues, it would mean they could end up crashing into the side of a mountain or dropping into the sea.

The bell sounded a long, monotonous tone, as the faux-female voice came through the speakers once again, beginning the countdown from nine.

Jannick tried to push his boots back again, just to make sure they had properly clicked into place and grabbed onto the harness strapping him in. The modules were set up to help the colony with initial successes, such as acting as temporary hospitals or water filtration plants until more permanent infrastructure could be created. An agriculture module such as his was designed to house a lab, stockpiles of equipment and a team that would be ultimately responsible for establishing reliable food sources on their new found home. They weren’t the only agriculture module of course and every module had sister modules  to ensure the colony would have the best chance at surviving.

Two… One…

The voice trailed off and the blue light switched to an ominous red throughout the room. Immediately he felt the loss of gravity as the module departed the gravity ring - a different voice came through the speakers, this time a male voice and without the tinge of artificiality that accompanied the previous.

"Attention all modules, this is Captain Vauhkonen. The first wave of modules has been cleared to depart. Throughout our journey, you’ve faced down all challenges, from the isolation of deep space to the complexities of this self-sustaining mission. The command crew and I are all deeply proud and thankful for your efforts. Now, we come to the moment we've all been waiting for, the culmination of decades in space. The planet before us, our new home, beckons us to approach. We've come to understand its climate, its terrain, and its potential for sustaining life. Our ship, our faithful companion, Ilmatar, has brought us here safely, and now, as we say our farewells to her, I’d ask everyone to give their thanks to her for carrying us across the cosmos. I am filled with awe, wonder and melancholy, but I am comforted by the thought that she will continue to look after us from above.

As we step onto this alien world, let us remember the values that have guided us through this incredible journey. The values of courage, collaboration, and curiosity. The bonds we've forged and the knowledge we've gained have forever altered the course of human history. Together, let us go forth and continue to explore, to dream, and to build a future beyond our wildest imagination, a future our ancestors would be proud of.

Thank you, and may the stars shine brightly upon our new world."

Oddly enough, Jannick found his hands had stilled and he allowed his arms to float up in front of him. He looked at the relic of a timepiece strapped to his arm, its mechanical insides had ceased working shortly after leaving Earth, but he found it a source of comfort and had continued to wear it every day. The automated announcer had begun counting down their launch - module eight was part of the first wave, which was as much of a privilege as it was terrifying. At least they didn't have to remain in their seats waiting for hours, as some would. A wave was due to depart roughly every few Earth-hours as the Ilmatar completed its orbits around the planet. 

After what seemed like an eternity, the module's clamps that kept it attached to the Ilmatar were released, causing it to drift slowly away from the craft that had sustained it for so long. Once it was at a safe distance, the module’s rocket boosters fired and the module began its trajectory toward the surface. The G-forces from the rockets paled in comparison to the intensity experienced when the module began slicing through the plasma of the atmosphere. The force was immense, slamming into Jannick and driving him backward, pressing him firmly against the wall. It felt as though the weight of four fully grown adults bore down on his chest, causing time to slow as he struggled to draw air in and out of his lungs with considerable effort.

Room Four had no windows, making it impossible to see what was happening outside. Jannick imagined the orange glow, the incredible heat and the image of all the first wave of modules being propelled through the sky. This lack of visibility made the fall toward the planet even more terrifying. The module was shaking violently and loudly, then there was a loud cracking and boom, as though they were about to explode - Jannick was thrown to the side of his chair as the module seemed to jolt sideways and spin. He assumed this was the rockets firing to slow their descent, but the spin and sideways motion was unexpected.

Again a booming sound, although this time more noticeable as the rockets roared to life, the slight spin and sideways motions stopped all at once and brought with it that unique feeling of his stomach dropping that one would experience as a plane lost sudden altitude. The horrible shaking and violent noise outside reduced considerably, as they passed through the upper atmosphere. The module’s rockets continued to fire in long bursts as their free-fall slowed.

The robotic voice returned with an announcement:

Impa- in f..-een min..tes.

She was breaking up this time. “Impact in fifteen minutes,” she repeated. The boosters continued to fire.

The fifteen minutes felt longer than expected, with nerves and anxiety high across the crew members. The impact was hard and hurt Jannick more than he expected, though not enough to cause injury. Several people in his room began cheering, and someone on the other side of the room tried to stand up, before immediately collapsing onto the floor.

"We have successfully landed on the surface. Please remain in your seats until your Team Leader comes to help you", Juha commanded over the module's speaker. 

Jannick started to undo his straps and tried to stand up, his first attempt failed and he immediately collapsed to one knee, a rush of nausea and dizziness falling over him. This was something the drugs they were provided back on Ilmatar were supposed to help with, but it still took all his strength to rise to his feet, legs shaking the entire way. Years in space, even with artificial gravity would make the next few weeks a formidable challenge for the planet’s new inhabitants, as they adjusted to their new reality, fighting the atrophy that had plagued their musculature.

He made his way around the room, one seat at a time, helping everyone in the room find their feet and checking for injuries, physical or mental. The man that had tried to stand up early had vomited on himself and the floor, but was otherwise in good condition. After 30 minutes or so, they began to make their way out of the lab. Juha was waiting for all the team leaders at the module’s main door.

When the five team leaders were gathered, they each took a turn to report their rooms status to the rest of the modules, as all the people of the module continued to make their way out of the rooms and toward the primary exit. Once all were gathered, Juha grabbed Jannick’s shoulder, flashing a tired smile. With his other arm he released the front door and the mechanisms within began to do their work, cranking and turning until a hissing sound signaled the door was opening. Light flooded in, blinding and covering them in a warmth they had not felt in decades.

"Let’s go Jannick" he said, as the crew of Room 4 bathed in the light of an alien star.

Samuel Tucker

Published 3 months ago