0051: The Weight of History

With What Strange Eyes? #24

“Steady your—” Carter began to say, but he was interrupted by a chorus of groans and muttered oaths. Lamont suddenly felt as if a suit of chainmail had been dropped on his shoulders, accompanied by a wave of nausea.

There was a shuffle of activity as the space lift drew ever nearer to the level of the horizon, until the mountains loomed over the portholes like petrified ocean waves. The contents of bags were triple-checked, buttons were snapped, jackets were closed. 

Ed’s voice was once again heard over the intercom. “Pairing with the anchor in five, four, three, two…”

There was a slight jolt accompanied by a deep metallic clanking sound beneath the passengers’ feet.

“Ding,” Quipped Lamont. “Ground floor.”

Captain Carter stepped to the intercom unit on the wall and thumbed the microphone button. “Ed, I’d like you to deactivate the artificial gravity before lowering the hatch. We don’t want anyone stumbling on their way down the gangplank.”

“Okay, captain,” Came Ed’s response.

“Steady your—” Carter began to say, but he was interrupted by a chorus of groans and muttered oaths.

Lamont suddenly felt as if a suit of chainmail had been dropped on his shoulders, accompanied by a wave of nausea. The other expedition members swayed on their feet, groping for nearby objects or people on which to steady themselves. Clifford dropped to his hands and knees, sheepishly accepting the hand that Theresa offered to help him back up.

“Artificial gravity has been deactivated in the passenger ring,” Ed stated over the intercom.

Lamont staggered to the unit and punched the button. “We noticed, Spratt. A bloody countdown would have been useful.”

After a few heartbeats, Ed replied impassively: “I’ll make a note of that for next time.”

Lamont took a few deep breaths and straightened up. The others were also beginning to acclimate to their increased weight, taking hesitant steps or experimentally lifting their bags. After a few moments, everyone seemed more or less adjusted. Carter took his place next to the control panel for the metal-grated hatch.

“This is a survey expedition,” He reminded the party, who had assembled in a loose lineup in front of the gangplank. “We’ll take photographs, make observations, collect samples. We can split into two or three groups, but radio contact must be maintained at all times. Our wrist radios will function within a 300 yard radius around the elevator, so that’s our maximum range. Anything else?”

Rosemary lifted a hand. “Don’t be forgetting to check your dosimeters,” She said, tapping the small rectangular unit strapped to the forearm of her silver jacket. “Blue is safe, purple means danger. If it starts looking red, sound the alarm and get out fast. Also, mind your supplemental oxygen. Take a whiff if you’re feeling light-headed.”

“You forgot to tell us not to eat anything,” Lamont reminded her.

“I’m your medic, not your mum,” Wells retorted.

“If everyone is ready…” Captain Carter said, lifting his hand to the activation lever beside the hatch. 

“Ready, captain!” Theresa exclaimed with a grin. Despite the extra weight, she was bouncing on the heels of her white boots as if she planned to start jogging the moment she touched the ground.

Carter nodded and, with a slight smile, lowered the control lever for the hatch. “Let’s make some history,” He said.