Day 46. 113 pages, 51,209 words.
It wasn’t just the drain on resources, although Old Man Lelhmak was arguably wasting less of everything while he lay in a clinically induced storage state. Sooner or later the sleep chamber would give out, and that would be that. Whether it was better to conserve their nutrients until absolutely necessary, or wake Lelhmak up and power down the sleeper just in case they needed that, was a common subject of debate between the two researchers.
Kedane Lelhmak was a phobe, which was a race – arguably a subspecies – which came with a certain number of complications. As long as they were inside nice sealed Buildings in Capital Mind, or aboard nice environment-controlled ships like the Speed’s Virtues (Curiosity), there were no problems.
Now that they were down, now that everything was sealed and self-contained again, and the moon had revealed itself to be pretty much sterile, Gyden and Predericon agreed that Old Man Lelhmak would probably be fine. And even if there were some impurities or unacceptably outside-of-parameter readings, he had his gear. It ran off independent power sources and would last him … well, at least another three or four hundred years, and that was all he had left anyway, wasn’t it? At the outside.
Still – and this was another enjoyable but ultimately rhetorical subject of debate between the two younger Molren – if they looked like being stuck on Lelhmak’s Moon for an extended period of time, was it kinder to leave him in storage for as long as possible, or let him out and make him live out his final years on this barren rock? If the chamber continued to degenerate at a rate of 2.5% a year, and didn’t accelerate as cascade failures set in, the dilemma would likely be solved for them in another fourteen or fifteen years anyway.
Gyden didn’t want to wait that long. Predericon didn’t want to be here that long.
Leaving Old Man Lelhmak to his rest, Predericon climbed and jogged back up to the viewing deck, where she stood and gazed out across the sharply-sloped scenery.
Calling it ‘scenery’ was a bit of poetic license. The angle at which the whole view was canted as a result of their resting point and the gravity plates was actually the most interesting thing about it. And it wasn’t even an honestly-acquired characteristic. Lelhmak’s Moon was about 3,100 kilometres across, and apparently as smooth and featureless as a kerunk ball. The Speed’s Virtues (Curiosity) was one of the most prominent landmarks on this side of the very intimate horizon, and had been since her dramatic arrival.
The combination of gravitational forces, tidal forces, composition, and Lelhmak’s Moon’s thin, freezing atmosphere apparently conspired to keep the astral body pretty much featureless, aside from a couple of areas where all the same variables came together to raise its crust up in spines and spires and broken slabs. It was in those places that Gyden hoped to find … something. Anything.
Predericon had to admit it was better than doing nothing. Her own contribution to their survival and eventual salvation was … rather more esoteric.
Specifically, none of what they could see outside could possibly be real.
It was all very well to say that Lelhmak’s Moon made perfect sense according to its immediate surroundings and prevailing physics. Of course, over time, the mostly-ice mantle of the little ballworld would shift and shatter in very specific ways. The gas giant nearby exerted a phenomenal tidal pull. There would be geysers. Salt formations. Everything, basically, that they’d seen in the last hectic moments before the crash, and the months of painfully slow EVA study they’d conducted since.
Over time. And that was the problem.
Predericon was convinced that Lelhmak’s Moon had not existed seven hundred and eighteen days ago.