It’s been a while since my last update, but it’s been a busy few months. Long story short, we’ve been dealing with immigration for my wife’s visa in Canada, and have decided when we’re moving to Canada. But on to the update.
I have now completed Journey to Ariadne parts 4 to 6. Critiquing is coming up next, and after that, I will edit and post the parts. Part 7 will commence soon. However, due to the fact that we’ll be busy preparing for our move to Canada over the next seven to eight months, writing will be slow. After the move, I should have more privacy and time to do my writing.
Outside of writing, I have more worldbuilding to work on, as well as character profiles to post. I have several written in a notebook, but I haven’t transferred them over to the website. I also have countries to work on and post those to the website. I think I’d like to be able to use better image editing software, though.
The newsletter is still not ready. But I’m thinking now is not the time for it, as I just don’t have enough to update people on. I will be working on getting it up and running after the move to Canada.
I’m going to resume monthly updates, and hopefully some other updates. There’s even a surprise coming. It’s something from April. Something I hope you’ll enjoy reading. Stay tuned for that!
It’s a new month, and progress is happening. I’ve been doing a lot of behind the scenes things recently, not just writing.
Parts 4 and 5 of Journey to Ariadne have been finished, of course. But part 6 is proving to be an interesting one to write. It may be a bit controversial, but we’ll see how it turns out. It’s not finished, but should be shortly.
Behind the scenes, I’ve been working on the world of Ariadne, as well as character profiles. I’m trying to flesh out the characters to make sure I’m consistent. They’ll also have profiles on this blog. As for the world, I’m going through the countries that I’ve already created and making sure they have appropriate names. It’s important because I want them to have some reasons for their names, and not just some random fantasy-like name. I’ll be working on the individual country maps, though only the physical maps for now. I’ll make an entry for each future country, but only discuss the physical aspects of the country.
The newsletter should be set up later this month. Haven’t gotten around to setting it up, though it is registered. Look for that soon.
For daily discussions and updates, check out my official blog, I Read Encyclopedias for Fun.
Welcome to January, and a resolution to do a lot of writing this year.
My schedule for the month is quite simple. Write for 15 minutes every day. While I don’t always stick to it, any time I miss, I try to make up the next day. As a result, I’m writing at a faster pace.
I have finished writing Part 4 of Journey to Ariadne, but I need to have it critiqued and edited. After that, it’ll be posted. Part 5 is currently being written. It’s a bit more heated that previous parts.
If things go according to plan, I’ll have a new part finished every two weeks, but it depends on many factors, such as family and other obligations. At this pace, I should finish all 26 parts before summer. However, that is an optimistic estimate, and I would more likely put that date back to sometime in summer. Once all 26 parts are finished, I’ll do a major rewrite. What you see on this website will not look remotely the same when the book is finished.
In the meantime, I’ll also be working on a nine part short story series about a dying man who has his wish fulfilled to see the solar system. But it’s not that straightforward, of course. I’m quite interested in writing this, and it’s likely to be my first published work sometime next year.
I am also going to be starting a weekly newsletter soon. I’ll announce it when it’s ready.
I’m a couple weeks late in doing an update for December. Honestly, it slipped my mind. But here’s what happening for December.
No schedule at all. I don’t think December is a normal month for anyone. There are holidays coming up and everyone’s schedules get all screwed up. However, I have started doing something new. When I have time at work, I write. In fact, I wrote most of Part 4 of Journey to Ariadne in a notebook during my breaks.
That brings us to Journey to Ariadne. Part 4 is close to finished, but I’m excited to get started on Part 5. Part 4 is a short one, but Part 5 should be significantly longer. At this stage in the story, things are changing a bit. This is where you get to meet the major players in the Ariadne world.
Journey to Ariadne isn’t a novel. I just want to remind everyone of this. It’s an online serial that provides a window into a bigger story. It isn’t showing everything, but is primarily an introduction to the world and some background. I will adapt it into a novel, and there is a lot of story to be filled in between the parts that you see on this website.
As always, please keep reading I Read Encyclopedias for Fun for a lot about writing and more.
May 21, 2163
Ariadne Project Mission Control
Hellas City, Hellas Basin, Mars
Paolo read the report for the third time. The news agencies on Earth confirmed it, an attempted coup on the ruling government. However, it had been crushed. People were desperate. I shouldn’t read bad news in the morning, he thought. He turned off the computer screen and saw his reflection. The past two months had been exhilarating, but the dark circles under his eyes reminded him of the stress he was under. He was thinner. He wondered if a person could die of exhaustion. He turned and walked out of the office.
“Breakfast is ready,” said Irina, as he joined her in the dining room. “This should give you the energy you need for today’s meeting.”
Paolo looked at the table and saw the porridge, buttered bread, and fried eggs with a cup of coffee. He smiled at his wife and said, “Thanks. Looks great.”
“Are you meeting Dave today?” she asked, her blue eyes focusing on Paolo’s.
“He’ll be at the meeting today. So will Jan,” he said and took a bite of his bread.
“Are you preparing the ship already?”
“We need Jan to get it ready to launch at any time. Hopefully, Dave will give us some good news. We don’t have nearly enough information as we want about Ariadne.”
Irina nodded. She sipped her coffee and they ate in silence for a few seconds. “What about the second ship?”
Paolo exhaled slowly. “I really don’t know yet. It looks like it’ll still be another six months until it can launch. That’s not enough time. The IEF ship will be here, we’ll be on our way to Ariadne, and then what? What happens to the other colonists? What happens to the other ship?”
“Paolo, I know you’re doing your best. Let’s just get the hell out of here as fast as we can and don’t look back. We have to concentrate on the colony.”
“I know. It’s just that I keep thinking about everyone else. Half of the colonists may not make it there. What do I say to them? We have to make an announcement soon about this.”
“Maybe Dave will have an idea,” said Irina. She unconsciously brushed aside her blonde hair as it fell toward her porridge. Irina, always the optimist, Paolo thought.
“We’ll see. I doubt he’ll have any say in what happens after we’re gone.”
* * *
Silence dominated the Control Centre, which normally buzzed with activity. Paolo saw the expectant faces of his colleagues. It’s time to make the announcement, he thought. The screen behind him displayed a static view of Ariadne. The peaceful image didn’t calm him. He felt every heartbeat in his head, pounding a consistent rhythm. The door opened.
“Dave, Jan, thanks for joining us,” said Paolo. Finally, we can begin. “Everyone, I’m sure most of you know Ambassador David Martin and Jan Goerz. They’ll be joining us for our meeting today.”
David and Jan took the empty seats between Mari Watanabe and William de Boer.
“Jan, what’s your best guess on how long it’ll take you to get the ship ready for departure?”
“It’s completely space-worthy, but as for testing all the systems, getting the cargo on, and having the colonists ready, it could be a month or six weeks,” he said.
“Dave, how long until the IEF get their ship here?”
“According to the latest intelligence, they’ll be ready to launch within a week,” he said. “However, with the current unrest on Earth, preparations may be interrupted. I can’t be certain. If they launch on schedule, they can be here before the colony ship launches.”
“Get the systems tested, Jan. We need to contact all the coordinators to be ready for launch. Send out video messages to inform them all of the news. But we need to stress that everything is normal. No need to have anyone panicking.”
“My wife’s the chief psychologist, so send anyone her way if they’re having trouble with that,” said Jan.
“Right. Thanks,” said Paolo. “What I need now is a presentation for the colonists. They need to know where they’re going.”
“I wish we had more time,” said William. “There are some unknowns that are a bit worrying. I’ve noticed a gas in the atmosphere we’ve never seen before. I don’t know where it comes from.”
“But the life on Ariadne seems unaffected by it, right?” said Paolo.
“Yes, but their biochemistry is a bit different than ours. There’s a chance the plants are inedible for us, though,” said Gary. “Dr. Patricia Knight thinks there shouldn’t be an issue. She’s the best geneticist we have, so I’ll trust her on this.”
“Okay, anything else?”
“Yes, but it may be nothing,” said Ben.
“Anything could be important,” said Paolo. “Go on.”
“Okay. I noticed some anomalies in the transmissions. It seems that the surface probes are losing power very briefly every few days or so. I thought it was just a result of being in space for so long and coming out of hibernation, but it’s happening to all three probes. There’s no pattern I could see. Just a power drop for half a second, then back to normal.”
“Why didn’t you come to me about this earlier?”
“I thought it was insignificant or noise in the telemetry data. It didn’t bother me until I noticed it kept happening. I did an analysis of the data only a couple days ago, and wanted to write up my report for you about this.”
“All right. Thanks for letting us know. We’ll check into it in the coming weeks.” Paolo smiled.
Ben nodded and cast his eyes down to his screen.
“I think the last thing we need to talk about is the landing site. Any suggestions?”
“I believe we’ve come up with the two best sites,” said Mari. “The primary site is near a river delta in the southern subtropical coastal plains of the main continent. It looks great for water, land, and it’s geologically stable. The secondary site is in the tropical rainforest on the coast of the large inland sea of the main continent. The site could be near the large river that connects the sea to the ocean.”
“The second site’s an unusual choice. Why there?” asked Paolo.
“The growing season is all year, it’s fertile, it’s central, and has great access to surrounding areas. It sounded good logistically.”
“Okay. Thanks. So, that’s it for this briefing. Let’s get to work on the information for the colonists and contact the coordinators.”
“I’d like to add one thing,” said David. “Don’t expect this to go smoothly. The Earth government wants this stopped, or at least delayed until their ship gets here. I don’t know how strict your security checks are, but I’d be on the lookout for anything suspicious. I know there are operatives on Mars, but I don’t know who.”
“We’ll check into all procedures. Jan, can you make sure that your people go over every millimeter of the ship? Report anything suspicious. That goes for all of you, make sure you report anything unusual, no matter how small it may be. I think we should start increasing the security, especially with the launch approaching. Let’s get back to work.”
David approached Paolo and said, “Can I have a moment alone with you and Jan?”
“Of course.” Jan nodded.
* * *
“I didn’t want to discuss this in front of the team. They have a lot of things to worry about for the time being,” said Paolo. He sat at his desk, while David and Jan were across from him.
“They’ll have to know soon, though,” said David.
Jan looked at David, his face showing an unasked question.
“Jan, as the Captain of the ship, you need to know how serious our security situation is. This isn’t going to be easy.”
“I understand,” said Jan. “What’s going on?”
Paolo nodded at David. “Go ahead.”
“As I said, the IEF ship is supposed to be launching in a week. What I didn’t say is that their target is the propulsion system in the ship. They want it badly. The situation on Earth is not going well for them. They’re thinking of escaping and taking over the Ariadne Project.”
“But,” said Jan, “that means—“
“That means,” Paolo said, “they want to replace all of us on the ship and get the hell out of the solar system. They want to start things over on their own terms on Ariadne.”
“It’s not that simple, though,” said David. “They have people on Mars who are trying to get into the project. They may already have done that. This is a dangerous situation, and you need to know that someone working on the ship may be a spy.” He looked at Paolo. “Any of your science team or any colonist could be a spy.”
“I can personally vouch for the senior scientists who were at the meeting,” he said.
“Of course. I wouldn’t have spoken before them if I didn’t know that already. I need to keep a low profile. The IEF cannot know what I’m doing here.”
“What kind of things are these spies capable of?” asked Jan.
“Almost anything. Sabotage, assassination, bombing. They’re unlikely to try to damage the ship, since that’s what they want. But keep your eye out anyway. Check life support systems, food supply, water supply, computer systems. Be thorough. The government is resorting to terrorism. They don’t care about the people, only their own goals.”
“We’ll be on it immediately. Thanks, Dave.” Paolo shook his hand firmly. “I’m glad you’re with us.”
It’s November, and that means NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Guess what I’ll be doing.
I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, though I’m not starting something new. I’ll be using it as an opportunity to push myself to write Journey to Ariadne. I won’t finish it, though. I have so many things going on.
However, this is what’s going to happen. I won’t be sticking to any weekly goals, most likely. Last month, I didn’t make any of my goals due to various reasons. But there are some things I will do.
- I will post Part 3. It’s been critiqued, and I have some editing to finish, but it’ll be done shortly.
- I will write Parts 4 and 5. Hopefully more. Instead of relying on my computer to write, I have been writing during my break at work. I am making progress.
And that is November. I won’t be doing any editing after Part 3 until December. I want to concentrate completely on writing. That means no posting of any parts after Part 3 until December. Look forward to that.
Journey to Ariadne is going to have a good month. I have submitted Part 3 to Critique Circle for critiquing after doing some editing. I’d had a brief delay thanks to a lot of things going on in September, but I also added a bit to the story that will help it mesh nicely with some main plot points in the future books after colonisation.
I’d like to start doing some weekly goals, so at the beginning of the month, I’ll post them here. The date shown is the final day of the week.
October 4th – Part 3 submitted for critiquing (this is finished)
October 11th – Writing of part 4 is completed.
October 18th – Part 4 is edited and submitted for critiquing. Part 5 begins.
October 25th – Critiquing of Part 3 is complete. Writing of Part 5 complete.
November 1st – Part 3 is published here.
I can’t say when Parts 4 and 5 will be critiqued, as it depends on how busy each week is on Critique Circle. But if I get into a good rhythm, I’ll have a new part published every two weeks, or possibly more frequently. Again, it depends on the scheduling of the critiques.
March 18, 2163
Ariadne Project Mission Control
Hellas City, Hellas Basin, Mars
The tension mounted in the room. The head scientists, technicians, and specialists occupied all forty terminals while facing the main screen. A three metre tall main view screen and forty smaller touch screen panels for each terminal crowded the large Mission Control centre. The lights reflected off the screens and the air recycling system hummed. Everyone focused on the main screen. Ben checked the antennas, trying to calm himself down.
TRANSMISSION INITIALIZED. THIS IS ENDURANCE. STAND BY. 1:00.
Another smaller screen counted down the time until the end of the stand by phase. Three minutes and forty-two seconds.
Paolo stood up at the front of the room and turned to face his colleagues. “In less than four minutes, we should be seeing one of the most amazing images we’ve ever seen. Following that, an incredible amount of data should be flooding our systems,” he said. “The data comes when it comes. We have no control over that. Gianni assures me that the computer will send you your requested data when it comes in.”
Ben’s heart raced and he wiped his sweaty palms, nervous, but anxious to see what Ariadne truly looked like. One minute and ten seconds.
The low hum of the air recycler dominated the room, broken only by the occasional throat clearing. A beeping terminal resulted in many heads turning in Ben’s direction.
“Incoming transmission,” said Ben. “Identity confirmed to be Endurance.” He paused before continuing. “The transmission is a single image, as expected. I’ll put it up on the main screen.”
Ben selected the received file and displayed it on the main screen. There were several sharp intakes of breath as they viewed the planet. Blue and white. “Beautiful.” “Incredible.” “It’s so much like Earth.” The comments continued for a few seconds until Paolo addressed the team.
“It’s a beauty,” he said with a touch of awe in his voice. “If I’m not mistaken, there’s a bit of green there.”
“Let me zoom in,” said Malika Said. Ben switched the main monitor to Malika’s. The image zoomed in on a cloudless patch of land in a tropical region that featured a large inland sea with a central island. “Confirmed. It’s green. Without a better image, I can’t be certain if it’s moss, grass, or a forest,” she said. “But it’s got to be plant life.”
Ben’s terminal began receiving more data, and he noticed that the others had focused on their own work.
“Initial data from the probe confirms the atmospheric content to be seventy-seven percent nitrogen and twenty-two percent oxygen. Slightly higher oxygen content than Earth,” said Jean Fourier.
“There are two moons!” said Mari. “One is about ten percent larger than the Earth’s moon. The other is only one hundred fifty-five kilometres in diameter. Based on their orbits, the mass of the planet is two point eight percent greater than Earth.”
“This is incredible! We have a continent that stretches from the Arctic to the Antarctic regions. It almost entirely fills the view,” said William de Boer with amazement. “There’s a major mountain chain along the centre of the continent and a large inland sea. I can see rivers!”
“There’s a hurricane on the eastern edge of the continent,” said Jean. “It appears to be summer in that hemisphere. Which way is north, by the way?”
“Based on the spin of the planet, north is in summer now,” said Mari.
“Are there any apparent hazards?” asked Paolo.
“Stellar activity looks normal,” said Mari. “I need to see more observations about comets and asteroids, though.”
“I”m not seeing any recent craters,” said William. “I can see a couple of volcanoes that are easily identifiable, but I’m sure there are more. Nothing unusual from what I can tell.”
“The higher oxygen content is interesting,” said Gary. “I don’t know how that would affect anything. I’m more worried about the age of Ariadne. If what Mari says is correct, it’s only three billion years old.”
“But would life evolve on another planet at the same rate as on Earth?” asked Carol. “If I’m not mistaken, the conditions on Ariadne seem perfect for life now. It’s even green.”
“That’s true. I’ve never dealt with exobiology in practice, so I can’t say if animal life is primitive or not,” said Gary.
“As far as the oceans go, I don’t see anything unusual,” added Carol.
Ben stared wide-eyed at the image on the screen as the discussions continued around him. A beep brought him out of his inattentive state. He looked at his screen and found an error.
“Gianni,” he whispered.
Gianni looked over at him. “What is it?” he asked.
“One of the satellites is no longer transmitting.”
Gianni cocked his head to the right. “Which one?”
“Mars Orbital Radio Telescope,” Ben answered.
“MORT? That one’s owned by the Earth government,” said Gianni, his eyes widening. “What did we lose?”
“Just two percent signal strength.”
“All right. I’ll tell Paolo.”
Ben watched Gianni stand and walk to Paolo. Through the buzz of the scientists’ chatter, one thing stood out. “MORT?” Paolo exclaimed, then shook his head.
Why is the MORT satellite so important? Ben wished he’d paid attention to the business deals of the project.
* * *
Paolo walked around the control centre and visited each scientist. He tried to keep himself busy, but his mind kept going back to MORT. Why did it suddenly stop transmitting? It was fully operational, but didn’t accept their access codes. This moment should have been awe-inspiring, but this problem nagged at him. The data came in steadily in the past six hours. Four major continents, ice caps, immense mountain ranges, and a breathable atmosphere. It was so much like Earth, but it wasn’t.
Gianni rushed up to him. “Paolo, there’s someone that wants to see you,” said Gianni.
“Who?” he asked. Who could be here at this time?
“It’s the IEF Ambassador, David Martin.”
“MORT,” said Paolo.
Paolo entered his office, a modest room with faux wood panels, a mahogany desk, and a flat screen on the wall opposite the window overlooking Hellas City.
Paolo smiled. “Dave, what brings you here?”
“Good to see you Paolo. I wish I were here under different circumstances,” the ambassador replied. “The International Earth Federation wants to know what you’re doing.”
“Why?” said Paolo, studying David Martin’s grave frown.
“They want to know what you were doing with their telescope.”
“Under our agreement with the IEF, that is none of their business, Dave. You know that,” said Paolo, unable to hide his irritation.
Dave paused a moment, brushing his hands through his brown hair. “I hate to bring you bad news, but the IEF no longer recognises any contract or treaty with any organisation on Mars. They’re planning a takeover.”
“What?” said Paolo, his hands shaking. “They can’t do that! Mars is an independent world. The UN recognised our independence seventy-four years ago. The IEF didn’t change that. What gives them the right now?”
“I know that, Paolo. They’ve decided not to honour the UN’s decisions. And they don’t want you to use MORT.”
Paolo and pulled up a file on his computer. “Look. Mars agreed to allow Earth to have MORT orbiting Mars in exchange for our organisation and any other on Mars to use it, no questions asked. You’ve seen this, right? What does the Mars Assembly say?”
“I haven’t spoken to them yet,” said Dave. “I came to you first because I know what you’re using it for. I didn’t tell the IEF. I’m not sure I will.”
“You’re defying your government?”
“Ever since the change of government two years ago, I’ve seen a significant shift in attitudes there. Honestly, they’re becoming desperate. Resources are extremely low, major coastal cities are being flooded, desertification is advancing rapidly. The people are becoming restless and want answers. They want the government to do something. The IEF has begun widespread police and military control. It’s a police state now. There are protests everywhere, people dying. Paolo, the government wants Mars. They want Ariadne.” He looked Paolo in the eyes. “They want your technology and this world you plan to go to.”
“They can’t be serious,” said Paolo.
“It’s all falling apart. The environment is ruined. They want a new world to shape.”
Paolo shook his head and closed his eyes. He opened them and looked at Dave. “How long do we have?”
Dave paused, then said, “With the current position of the Earth and Mars, they’ll launch a ship, maybe more, to Mars in about three months. That’s when the best launch window is. They’ll arrive here within a month. If everything goes smoothly there, including installation of weaponry to their ships, stability of the government, and barring any difficulties, they could be here in as little as four months.”
“That doesn’t give us much time.”
“Is your ship ready?” asked Dave.
Is he trying to get information? Paolo thought about his past with Dave. We’ve been friends since we were on Earth. Can I trust him completely? “Our first ship is ready for launch at any time,” he said finally. “But we need time to study Ariadne before we know if it’s habitable by humans.”
“The second ship?”
“Set to launch a year later,” said Paolo.
“That’s not good. There’s no telling what they’ll do if the IEF gets it.”
“Dave, is there any chance that they will be delayed?”
Dave thought a few seconds. “Maybe. But I wouldn’t bet on it.”
“You have to do something to stop them. They can’t jeopardise everything we’ve worked for. I left Earth because I was tired of dealing with the bullshit that goes on there. I don’t need it here.” Paolo sat down and put his face in his hands. “This has to stop.”
“Paolo, I’ll see what I can do, but I can’t promise anything. They’re going to come, and you’ll need to get this project going very fast,” said Dave.
“Why are you helping?” asked Paolo. “The IEF won’t like this.”
“I’m on your side.”
“Would you consider joining us?”
“Right now, I can’t answer that.” Dave smiled. “But it sounds nice.”
March 17, 2163
Ariadne Project Mission Control
Hellas City, Hellas Basin, Mars
A quiet alarm sounded in the mission control of the Ariadne Project and the main screen turned on.
TRANSMISSION INITIALIZED. THIS IS ENDURANCE. STANDBY. 24:00
Without looking at the screen, Ben Taylor, the system specialist working that night, turned off the alarm. He drew his thin lips downward in a frown and rolled his blue eyes. He quietly grumbled, hoping it wasn’t another false alarm. He turned toward the main screen and stared at the message. Ben hesitated a moment before finally tapping the intercom icon on his screen. “Gianni, you better get in here,” he said briskly.
“What’s going on?” a man said over the intercom.
“We have a message.”
“What kind of message?” There was a hint of impatience in Gianni’s voice.
“Endurance. It looks like it’s the real thing.”
“Shit. Are you kidding me? This better not be a joke.”
“No joke, Gianni. Get over here and see for yourself. It’s the standby message with the twenty-four hour countdown.”
“Got it. Be there in a moment.”
Ben looked at the screen again. TRANSMISSION INITIALIZED. THIS IS ENDURANCE. STANDBY. 24:00. It was a static message. Standby. It was giving them twenty-four hours to prepare for the deluge of surveillance information.
Gianni Marino, the night-time supervisor, strode into the room with heavy footsteps and fixed his brown eyes on the screen. His typical unkempt hair gave the impression that he had just woken up. He nodded at Ben and sat at the command terminal in the centre of the room, swiping the screen with his hand to unlock the security program.
”Status on the receiver?” he asked Ben.
Ben accessed the radio antenna network and called up the status report. “Fully operational. Directing all available receivers toward Beta CB.”
His eyes scanned the data as he scrolled down. “Forty-seven percent. Well within the expected range.”
“Incredible. Almost thirty light years away and we can hear it call home.” Gianni’s mouth slowly curved into a smile. “We did it, Ben! We’re going to another solar system!”
Gianni’s elation infected Ben immediately. Their ancestors’ dreams were being realised. Ben curbed his celebration before it started and went to work on the system checks.
“Data encryption key confirmed. It is Endurance. I’ll try get the signal strength above seventy-five percent by the time data starts coming in. I can’t guarantee it, though. I need to clear up some noise from satellites and other radio sources. The interstellar medium is likely to give us some data loss, but not significant.”
Gianni nodded. “Next transmission will be in forty-eight minutes. I’ll wake up Paolo and Mari. They’ll want to see this immediately.”
* * *
Ben had never imagined that he’d meet with the project’s head scientists to participate in a briefing of the mission status. He followed Gianni to the conference room’s plain door, wondering glancing around at the walls. He couldn’t think of what he was going to say when spoken to. The night shift suited him, as he worked alone.
“Are you ready?” asked Gianni with a lopsided smile.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” said Ben.
He’d met the scientists on several occasions, but had never had to speak with the entire group. He felt like he was about to enter an interrogation room.
Gianni opened the door and Ben followed him through. He glanced around at each of the scientists sitting around the table, talking with excitement. He recognised each of them. The conference room was a modest room with grey walls and a large white table in the centre. There were ten high-backed chairs around the table and a large view screen on the wall at one end. A window on the opposite wall was dark, but would have provided a view of the vast Hellas Basin during the day. At the head was the project leader Paolo Fernandes, a middle-aged man with greying hair and a neatly trimmed moustache.
“Thanks for joining us, gentlemen,” said Paolo as they entered. “Have a seat.”
Ben and Gianni sat next to each other, across from Malika Said, the head botanist. Ben glanced at her quickly, noticing her black hair was done up in a tight bun. She had olive skin that hinted at her middle eastern heritage.
“I’d like to start this briefing off by thanking Ben and Gianni for their tremendous work and patience on the night shift. It’s a lonely job while the rest of us are sleeping. It paid off very well.” Paolo looked around the room at the project members that attended the meeting. “Let’s get down to business. As you all know, we have received a message from Endurance. That was three hours ago.”
Ben looked around the table at some of the other scientists. Seated next to Malika was Gary Fitzsimmons, the exobiologist. He was a short man with round features. Ben found the man friendly in his past conversations with him. Gary briefly returned Ben’s gaze and smiled. He turned his attention back to Paolo.
Paolo turned the view screen on and switched to the feed from the control room’s main screen.
TRANSMISSION INITIALIZED. THIS IS ENDURANCE. STANDBY. 21:00.
“As you can see, Endurance transmits a standby message every hour. In twenty-one hours, we will begin receiving the main transmission from the probe, starting with an overview image of Ariadne. Then the real science begins,” said Paolo. “For now, if you have any updates that we don’t know about, please share what you have now.”
“I have something,” said the head astronomer. Mari Watanabe stood up and walked to the screen, her long black hair barely moving. She brought up a computer-generated animation of the system on the view screen. “I’ve been studying some recent observations that presents some very exciting information. I hope it’ll be confirmed tomorrow when we receive the data. It appears it may have a large moon.”
“Any idea how large?” asked Gary, his eyes wide with interest. “The size could have a large influence on how life could have evolved.”
“Sorry, Gary, the error in the data gives us anything between twenty-five percent of the size of Earth’s moon to fifty percent larger.”
Gary nodded. “Thanks. I’ll have to wait until the surface probe data.”
As Mari sat down, Paolo asked, “Anyone else? No? Okay, here’s our timeline for the next few days. In twenty-one hours, we’ll receive our first picture of Ariadne. I want all of you in the control centre an hour before then so we can prepare for analysis. Endurance will still be a couple days from orbit, but we should have plenty of data for everyone except Gary.” He nodded in the biologist’s direction. “Once it’s in orbit, the surface probes and weather satellites will be released. There are three probes, a high altitude flier and two low altitude hover-fliers. We should begin receiving data from those probes within a week, while the weather satellites will all be in position in three days. That’s a bit of waiting, and I’m sure you all want to discover something new right away. Do you have any special requests?’
“I’d like any solar data from Beta CB, as well as pictures of the moon as soon as possible,” said Mari.
“It’s likely we’ll see that moon of yours in the first few pictures,” said Paolo.
“Pictures would be nice,” said William de Boer, the lead geologist. “I’d also like to get some atmospheric data. We’ve already confirmed that there are volcanic gases, but some direct evidence would be great.”
“Same for me,” added Malika. “It should be easy to see the plant life from pictures. Since the star is similar to the sun, I’m assuming they’ll be green.”
“Me too, obviously,” said Jean Fourier. The meteorologist had a permanent smirk on his face.
“I’ll be very happy when the surface probes return pictures of animals,” said Gary.
“The first few days will just be observation for you,” said Paolo. “But I’m sure it’ll be exciting nevertheless.”
“It seems most of us want more direct atmosphere readings,” said Carol Parent. Ben saw the openness in the oceanographer’s smile.
“All right, I believe we’ll want pictures and atmospheric data first,” said Paolo. “Those will be our priorities. Now, on to some brief personnel matters, then we can be done for the night. Anything else?”
Silence. Gary and William shook their heads.
“So, our final business for the night has to do with Ben and Gianni,” said Paolo.
Ben looked up at the project leader. He’d anticipated giving a status report of the facility’s systems and the readiness of the antennas.
“Gianni, I’d like to move you to the daytime shift to aid with the operations of the mission control centre. It will be a very busy time, and we need all the help we can get,” said Paolo.
“It would be my pleasure,” he responded.
“And Ben, for the outstanding and reliable work you’ve done as system specialist on the night shift, you will now be working with us in the daytime. You’ll be a lot busier,” said Paolo, smiling.
“I look forward to it,” said Ben with a small smile. He wasn’t good at working with large groups, but he would share in everyone’s discovery.
Paolo smiled at everyone and said, “Well, let’s get some sleep. We have many months of hard work to do, but we need to be rested. See you back at the control centre in nineteen and a half hours.”
Ben stood up and walked to the door. He looked back at the screen. It showed the the countdown screen again.
TRANSMISSION INITIALIZED. THIS IS ENDURANCE. STANDBY. 21:00.
He felt a tingle in his spine and understood that he was going to be part of a historic mission. A member of the Ariadne Project. A colonist of the first Earth-like extrasolar planet ever explored. He smiled.