In my novel, The Rags Of Time, travel to the outer edges of Earth’s solar system has been accomplished. But the Moon still holds its sway – literally.
To celebrate the space outing of fifty years ago. Here is the group of segments of my written ascent through the heavens. My crew are returning from their trip to the outer reaches of our solar system. and something goes awry. There is no Huston to contact, but there is a problem.
And, finally, is the connection to the spiritual/supernatural aspect of the novel, where the Druids of the old religion become a conduit to what is happening in outer space.
It is a navigator’s moon.
That is how Eric the Red thinks of it, as his space craft enters Earth’s solar system. He is called Eric the Red for his facial hair, and his ancestry. But behind his back, his romantic notions of the ancient ways is more the reason for his name.
Even when they fly past it, Earth’s moon generates little influence upon their return. A minor compensation of the thrusters, and its only effect on the ship, is the ritualistic kiss which crew members bestow against the aft window for the man in the moon. However, as soon as his gravity sensors register the distant presence of Pluto, Eric the Red enhances their output to catch the faintest twinge of the Earth’s moon.
His navigator’s moon.
Tomorrow, Eric will alter course to sweep past Pluto’s satellite, Charon. He plans to use the combined gravity as a sling to amplify his own trajectory, although he will lose some directional control to achieve speed.
Opportunities to observe this unknown planet are still scarce, and he makes adjustments to confront the dual gravity. He decides to attempt the `Film Technique’, which met with success among the moons of Jupiter. The Technique is named after the way film had been threaded in the antique movie projectors of the Twentieth Century.
He plans to wind through the gravities of the various moons, in such a manner that each helps accelerate his ship around the next. There are many factors to consider which affect the interplay of gravities between solar bodies. And they will, in turn, exert their control over his vessel. At times like this Eric wonders how much really has been learned since the existence of gravity was acknowledged.
Eric the Red decides to get back to business. He keys the delay coordinates for the radioscope, and checks his map.
“Follow through on your consoles.”
“I’ll admit, Malcolm, the surprises of Pluto will be inconvenient to experience. Until the surface is accurately defined, I agree it’s too dangerous for a landing.”
“Transfer at fifty percent, sir.”
“Acknowledged.” The captain glances at the various instruments. “As you know, our probes to Pluto can not be retrieved.”
“That might not be due to the surface, sir.”
“True. There seems to be an electro-gravitational bind.” Eric the Red looks intently at his view screen. “Reason enough to keep our distance.” He magnifies the image in front of him. “Personally, I feel as uncomfortable attempting a landing on Pluto, as I would setting out to explore Iris.”
“The mysterious tenth planet.” Malcolm whistles softly into his microphone. “That might be for our children, sir. The scientists don’t even understand the orbital path of Iris. I don’t imagine I’ll ever get to look at its surface.”
“You sound interested.”
“Iris is intriguing. During its centuries of orbit, it has penetrated space far more deeply than we ever have.”
The Captain turns to again look at Pluto.
“If it’s not internal, then it must be external.”
He shifts the image of Pluto to a larger screen.
“Although, quite frankly, that concept isn’t much better than its alternative.”
He tries to sharpen the focus on the large screen. After a minute of adjusting the controls, he shrugs his shoulders in failure.
“That indistinct picture is not due to our sensors. Have the other stations turn their view screens to Pluto. See if they get the same results.”
While Malcolm checks with the other observation officers, Eric the Red again runs a sweep of his instruments. As he thoroughly goes over each one, he pays attention to the responses received by his first officer. It is quickly apparent the same fuzzy image appears over the whole ship.
“Any ideas, Number One?”
“I think our movement is being disrupted.” Malcolm looks at the same sequence of instruments. “I’d guess there’s agitation in our centrifugal rotation.” He peers closely at the view screen. “It can’t be much. Our artificial gravity doesn’t seem affected.”
“You don’t look in danger of floating away.” The captain smiles. “So I doubt this explains my `light-headedness’.”
“No, sir.” Malcolm can not tell how serious the older man is. “The rotation alteration is minimal. It is just enough to make our cameras waver.” He taps the view screen. “Considering how sensitive they are, I would judge this force to be weak.”
“Any guess what it is?”
“No data suggests a malfunction within the ship.” Malcolm moves a dial a millimetre. “Which leaves an outside cause.”
“Well.” The captain leans so close his nose touches the view screen. “I think we’re being influenced by the mysterious Tenth.”
“Yes.” He turns back to his first officer. “With Pluto and Charon positioned the way they are, and our attempt to execute the Hohmann-ellipse to take advantage of the Film Technique, we may have added the weight of Iris to our backs.”
“The alignment shouldn’t be intense enough to – ”
“Iris is so perversely inconsistent, it doesn’t have to fit into our ideas of alignment to make itself felt.” The captain makes some inclusions into the library computer. “After all, we’re the ones entering its sphere of influence.”
“It is a minor influence.” The first officer makes some quick calculations in his head. “We could accept a reduction of our artificial gravity for the duration of the manoeuvre.”
“That’s a viable option.” Eric the Red looks up co-ordinates to enter into the computer. “But we can negate the problem without weakening our reserves.” He inserts a bar of information into the computer. “Run an evaluation of our solar cells.”
Malcolm walks to the banks of light-activated monitors surrounding the doorway. He takes a laser probe from his instrument pouch, and traces it across a screen. As the figures appear, he reads them aloud. Most are at full capacity.
“Do you see what I’m getting at, Number One?”
“Yes, sir. We use some of this power to counter the effect of Iris.”
“Exactly.” The captain smiles. “We don’t touch our reserve fuel, and we replenish the solar storage during our last month of earth approach.”
The captain pauses to read a number off his computer screens. He performs some equations on his hand-calculator, then turns to look at his first officer.
“If the Film Technique is successful, we’ll save nine to fourteen days.”
Eric takes a binder from under his work station, and flips through its pages. He enters data into both his computer and his calculator, and talks over his shoulder.
“If we use solar packs A7, A12, A17, K12, K13, O2, O5, S37, then form a Perpetual Loop between the GOT Terminal and the S37 Positive Outtake, we’ll only exhaust 252 of the solar cells. The depletions will be uniform, and restricted to known sectors.”
Malcolm is also doing calculations from the laser screens. He doesn’t look up as he speaks.
“That will give us more excess power than necessary to confront the drag from Iris.”
“Yes.” The captain closes the binder. “But with the Loop, we have the option of creating a surge to replenish some used cells, instead of venting the surplus.” He swivels around in his chair. “We should begin the manoeuvre at the first opportune time.”
“That will be five hours and thirty-seven minutes.” Malcolm crosses the floor to stand beside the captain.
“Advise the crew, and have them double monitor until we correct the interference of our rotation.”
Ogma has never been to the moon.
He takes a certain satisfaction in the fact. He is the object of some good-natured banter by the other members of the council, although most of them have not made the trip either.
Ogma has been told such a voyage is expected of him, since he is the scientist of the group. Even the Head Druid, who has not only gone to the moon, but far beyond, occasionally jokes about it. Because the Head Druid has a quiet sense of humour, Ogma is never sure how serious the laughter is.
Ogma does not fear the travel, nor is he disinterested. The descriptions of the Head Druid make such a trip sound appealing. However, Ogma has a strong affinity for tradition – and the weight of tradition centres on the earth. According to Ogma, these two centuries of travel from earth are a drop in the bucket of the universe.
He often refers to examples from the past to explain his own reasoning. This causes the comment to be made that he should have been the historian of the council, instead of the expert on the sciences. His response is acute, and often times lengthy.
“You don’t realize who actually goes to these places.” If the Head Druid is present, Ogma always makes an exaggerated nod in his direction. “Male and female of the Homo Sapiens species enter their protective suits, and board an extravagant machine. They put themselves at the far end of a cylinder of all-consuming fuel.” Here Ogma will pause and look quizzical. “Then these inquisitive – and sometimes reckless – people, leave their terrestrial or lunar surfaces, and set out on a quest of knowledge or commerce.”
Now Ogma will stroke his beard.
“They use magnified eyes, and radio-wave ears. Every particle of information is ingested by computers.” Here Ogma leans forward, his eyes moving from face to face. “But what makes sense of these sensors and compilers? What is the final arbiter of all this knowledge?” A wink – one of Ogma’s knowing winks. “The irreplaceable human brain.”
Out of Ogma’s hearing, the Head Druid agrees with him totally. He points out that the anomaly of having a scientist so interested in the ways of the past, adds strength to the continuance of their traditions. Without traditions and beliefs, they can not be part of the order – the progression – which their religion and knowledge has shaped through the ages. They must never make the mistake of living in the past, but they must never make the error of forgetting the past.
If Ogma is present however – particularly at one of the full council meetings – the Head Druid allows this banter at Ogma’s expense to continue. He realizes Ogma can well use balance to his own opinionated attitude. Although Ogma listens carefully to what others say, he has no patience with unfounded speculation. He is vicious with those found in error.
It is not just travel to the moon, or any of the stations and colonies beyond, which draws Ogma’s ire. Although he ranges extensively over all parts of the earth, he does not even like the fuss and upheaval these trips cause. As he so often states: “Man can move through the air only so quickly – and it is never quickly enough.”
Ogma has not moved `quickly enough’ on his present trip, though it has taken him as close to the moon as one can get, and still be on planet earth. He is in the mountains – the familiar mountains of the Druids’ traditions and tales.
He is here because he is certain this is the place where a conjunction of knowledge, space, and elusive time will occur. If it is not already occurring. Or has always been occurring, ever since time itself became a concept.
As A Bonus – here is a link to:
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