Down to Earth

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Militia Lieutenant
Militia Lieutenant
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu May 19, 2016 12:58 am
Location: Was destroyed by a Phobos-class dreadnought in the Eridani system

Chapter 1

There is a lot of ice in Antarctica. Well, at least there used to be, thought Marlow as he stood on an iceberg, adjusting a small tablet device to its surface. The item - A blue cylinder labeled “Solid Scanner” - beeped for a few moments as it scanned and calculated the volume of the iceberg. The readings blinked on a red seven-segment display: the estimate was ten thousand and a few hundred cubic feet, a little less than it was last week. Marlow wrote down the number in his journal and looked to the ocean to scout out his next measurement. There were lots of icebergs to jump to, here. He could jump there, or there, or to that one, or maybe there. As long as he didn’t fall into the water between the icebergs.

The ocean was a murky, opaque blue. What was really in it anyway, Marlow wondered. He knew that it would certainly be cold. But he also feared it because he knew that falling into it, like falling into a quicksand pit, would mean getting sucked into the black unknown below. There would be no way out of the frigid, grim void-like goop; Marlow had no concept of swimming and he would freeze to death rather quickly. Not even his Warmwater Armor would save his body temperature from falling asymptotically close to zero Celsius.

He pointed his feet to some ice floating twenty feet away, and pushed the ground down with his legs. The ground pushed him into the air, and the springs in his boots pushed him even more. Marlow flew over the water and landed onto another, smaller iceberg. He scanned this one too, and wrote down another number. Then he jumped on and on, inspecting each frozen mass that he landed on and also becoming a little closer with the sky with every leap.

The sky was a light, seemingly translucent blue. The sun was low and the moon was visible in the sky. He wondered what he would really see if he were to fly into the unknown beyond the apparent veil; would there be a new world of light, or would it just be the same blackness that swirled below his own world? Still, there would be no way into that mythical blue ether; Marlow had no concept of flying and he would freeze to death rather quickly. Not even his Warmwater Armor would save his body temperature from falling asymptotically close to absolute zero.

In either case, the icy patches that floated on the ocean’s surface served as stepping stones along the middle ground that lead to the unreachable horizon ahead. Marlow never knew what lay beyond the horizon, because the icebergs only went so far. With just one or two more hours of jumping, he could reach the edge of his icy homeland - Antarctica - and all he would see would be water. And he would feel the air noticeably warmer, too. No more ice; just water.

Marlow noticed a rough ice sculpture on a large frozen pedestal floating calmly on the ocean. He retrieved it and, with a blunt hammer, struck a large fracture down the center of the ice block. Splitting in half, it revealed a roll of laminated paper from its center. Marlow unrolled the paper and stared at it in confusion. It said... something. Something about seeing Marsian UFOs invading the planet, and ruining the air, and dumping trash into the ocean, and discovering iceberg colonies, and destroying everything they touch.

Marlow didn’t worry about it right now. He didn’t really know what Marsian UFO were because he had never seen one in person. His home was a colony in the heart of Antarctica, a giant spread of tunnels and rooms carved into the ice mountain making up whatever was left of the continent. Except for the entrance, it was all under the surface and between ice and water. Whatever Martian UFOs there were would not be able to find it, because they would surely have never seen anything like it before. Besides, Marlow had to finish his scanning duty soon. It was getting late, and he would need to get back home in time for dinner.

He opened the cyan titanium front door of Antarctica Ice Colony, Module 5. High-efficiency lightbulbs illuminated the wide entrance tunnel and hung from the scaffold-like steel frame that lined the floors and ceilings. At the end of the tunnel was the expansive seating area of the Main Hall; to the north of that was the Central Office. Marlow went to a counter next to the reinforced steel door of the Central Office and gave the Solid Scanner, journal and roll of paper to the attendant. Then he went through the east hallway and met his parents at the dining hall. Tonight’s dinner was Antarctic fish, polar chicken, iceberg lettuce, and frosty fruit.

To be continued...
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