Mission to the Tenth Planet Continuation, and Potential Mars Story

by Dylan
(Illinois, Wisconsin)

To Zendexor the 1930's editor,

I have here my next proposed contribution to "Mission to the Tenth Planet", for your considertion! I have also finished what I hope will by my final draft of my first Mars story, although I fear I began it before "Peril on Pallas" and it may unintentionally share some similarities to that story. Therefore, I offer to email it to you, for you to decide whether or not to publish here.

Without further ado, "Mission to the Tenth Planet, Part 3"

“Astrogators are in high demand, Mr. Hernandez.”

“I’m glad to hear it, Ma’am.”

Scott had driven out to the GIA campus that morning in his only suit, carrying with him his meager resumé and Occator diploma. Before long he was in the office of Abha Patel, Director of Exploratory Projects and President of the Ganymedean Planetary Society. She had looked over his papers quickly and efficiently, then set them down.

“If I may say so without being rude, your work history is rather… open. Why didn’t you seek extraplanetary work after college?”

Scott grunted uncomfortably. “My, uh, family needed me on the farm.” he explained.

Abha nodded. “Too bad.”

“I know my rocketry is a little out of date.” Scott said nervously. “I’m a quick learner, if that’s a problem.”

“Oh no, your rocketry is exactly what we need. You’ve probably heard that we acquired a vessel produced back during the first Uranian missions. It’s designed to rely largely on analog mechanisms, with very simple onboard computers, and all systems can be controlled manually if need be. The whole ship is meant to be self sufficient in a crisis.”

“Oh.” said Scott.

“Modern Rockets are not like that at all. It’s true that foregoing emergency manual systems altogether is illegal on most planets. Despite this, many modern spacers would, I think, be lost without automation. When I saw that you were trained for ships of an older make, I was quite pleased.”

“Um, good. I’m glad to have what you’re looking for!”

The interviewer smiled. “Is there anything you’d like to ask me about the mission?”

Scott thought for a moment. He hadn’t considered that the interviewer might ask him for his questions, he had been so nervous about hers. “Well… what model rocket is it, exactly?”

“It’s a Caelus Deep Space Explorer Mark Three. It’s designed, as its name implies, for long journeys, with a nuclear pulse drive, remote controlled exploration drones, and a hibernation chamber we’ve been busy bringing up to date for health reasons.” {note from Zendexor: I deleted the name of the computer; mythologically apt for any Ganymedean connection in the story, it nevertheless would have unfortunate connotations for some scholarly or etymologically learned readers}

“Nuclear pulse? Not a fusion drive?”

Abha nodded. “Remember, it’s an old ship. Being pushed along by a series of nuclear explosions isn’t the most savory way to travel, but it is fast. You should reach Persephone in about fifteen years.”

Scott gasped. “Fifteen years? I knew Persephone was far, but I didn’t imagine more than ten.”

“It’s enormously far, more than eighteen billion miles from the Sun. Thus the updated hibernation chamber.”

“But it’s so far,” Scott insisted, “Why not go to Neptune first, or the Kuiper Belt?”

“For the same reason you signed a nondisclosure agreement when you sat down. A GIA probe orbiting Makemake was outfitted with a gravity wave detector, and a few months ago it detected waves on a repeating pattern coming from Persephone. We don’t know what’s causing it, but… given the proliferation of alien life in the Solar System, we think it’s possible a civilization exists there that’s trying to send a signal. Even if it’s a natural phenomena, it’s a damn strange one, and could put our names in the history books forever. So far, no one else seems to have noticed the pattern, so it’s possible we’re the only ones who know about it, but I count that as highly unlikely. We’ve got to get a ship out there, right now, before someone else beats us to it and steals our discovery. There’s no time to go to Neptune first. This will be what we are remembered for.”

Scott could hardly take it all in. Fifteen years in hibernation… his brother would be older than he was when he got home. If he got home. Eighteen billion miles was as distant as it got in the Solar System, out beyond Neptune, the Kuiper Belt, Pluto, Sedna, Eris… farther than anyone had ever gone before.

He could go farther than anyone had ever gone before.

“I would be extremely interested in making that journey, if you’ll have me.”

Abha smiled and extended her hand. “Mr. Hernandez, we would be extremely interested in having you make it.”

Seven years later, the central computer woke a crew member from hibernation for a routine maintenance check. It was Scott’s turn, and he climbed from his stasis pod stiffly, all sore muscles and cracking joints, to float his way down to the engine room. As he went he passed through the observation deck, and the spectacle without made him double back.

Neptune was a great dark orb of churning indigo dominating the viewport. Moons made their rounds just as they did back home, but they were alien moons, never before directly observed by human eyes. Colossal aurora crowned the planet, dancing at each pole with electric intensity. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, and although the automatic cameras and sensors would collect a treasure trove of data, he felt sorry that they wouldn’t have time for more than a flyby of the glorious Neptunian System.

After a few hours, the computer reminded him that he was required to do a maintenance check. He finally pulled himself away from the viewport and on to the engine room.

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Jul 09, 2016
I'm Excited!
by: Dylan

I hope the story is well received! It was fun to write, anyways. Truthfully, this entire site has been a source of great enjoy for me. So I say thank you for the opportunity to publish my first story, and thank you for the site!

{note from Zendexor: thank you likewise for adding enormously to the site's content and popularity - and to my knowledge of the contemporary scene. I have the virtues and drawbacks of the dinosaur mentality, good on nostalgia but not well up on the latest developments!}

Jul 07, 2016
Wanderers of Mars to be displayed
by: Zendexor

Have read the story; it gains in power as it goes on - a good take on the Breathable-Air Mars, in the tradition of the "it's dangerous to mistreat the Martians" theme, as exemplified in tales by John Wyndham, Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson. Also, on a planet of dwindling natural resources, it makes sense for biological science to have developed more than in Terran-style tech culture.

I intend to post the story up on site today.

Jul 06, 2016
Mars Story and Mission
by: Dylan

The Mars story ought to be in your mailbox, if all worked correctly. I attached it, as well as provided an entire transcript in the email, just in case. It's only a little over a dozen pages, so not terribly long, but then, it is my first solo attempt at such a tale.

In regards to Mission, please don't feel that I will judge you harshly if your next contribution is not prompt. I certainly took my time! [Thanks - glad you understand - we Overlords of the Solar System have a lot on our plates]

Jul 04, 2016
by: Dylan

I was unaware that Ganymede's Latin equivalent had such unpleasant connections! You learn something new every day, I suppose. I probably should have seen that coming though, what with Ganymede's role in the Pantheon. Won't happen again, I assure you. Thanks for removing it.

In regards to the direction of the story- while I wouldn't think to tell you what to do with your characters, some possibilities do come to mind.

I think Scott's motivation, once he gets to Persephone, will be to get home again. So maybe the native's motivations could frustrate that. Perhaps Zutilex 1-Radd, wary after being warned by Gtilx, immediately moves his ponderous form to destroy our explorer's landing craft when it reaches the planetary surface. However, "immediately" for Zutilex leaves plenty of time for our explorers to leave the craft and survive the attack. From there our heroes might be forced to work with Gtilx's people to destroy Zutilex and make it safe for the backup lander to descend, despite the language barrier.

Or perhaps Zutelix is the true native, and Gtlix's people otherworldly invaders.

Regardless, whatever you decide, I'm sure it will be top-notch. I'm already really enjoying that we've taken alternate perspectives, and I don't think I could make the weird as compelling as you have! Should you ever decide to write a solo story, realistic or weird, I'd love to read it.

{comment from Zendexor: I think Persephonean life branched at the beginning of its evolution, into two directions: the One (Zutelix) and the Several (the others) - both equally native, but implacably opposed because the One cannot abide plurality. Gtilx had the idea of signalling to the inner solar system for help against Zutelix, and I can conveniently link the gravitational wave detection you mention to this. But Gtilx was a bit of a loner, and he now being dead, it falls to his offspring to explain his strategy. The other Several need to be persuaded; there's scope for tension here. Time is short because, as you say, Zutelix will move to pose a threat to the Terran expedition.

By the way, I'm looking forward to your email of your Mars story. I take it you will be sending it to heritageofdreams@aol.com. I confess to considerable curiosity regarding the Dylan Mars, and how it relates to the array of other Marses in literature.}

Jul 04, 2016
excellent continuation
by: Zendexor

So - just the ticket, this, but now let me ask your advice: should I continue it from the Persephone end, continuing the alternation of author with the alternation of episodes, or do you, Dylan, have an idea how it should go? Let me know what you think. I confess that at the moment I don't have a strong preconceived idea of how it should go.

And by all means email me the Mars story. The more the merrier. Repetition of theme doesn't matter a hoot; consider all the repeated tropes in ERB's stuff. I'm a repetitive guy; I have the same thing for breakfast every morning - and enjoy it each time.

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