Monday, April 27, 2015

Story Seed - Cruise

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"Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Warren again. I'd like to direct your attention to some of the more exceptional visual activity available during our cruise. For those of you located on our port side or in one of the aft viewing rooms there is some spectacular inter-cloud lightning. This is caused by the different ionization levels of the cloud layers. For those of your on starboard side, you may be able to make out the crimson swirl of the Great Red Spot near the horizon. We'll be coming around and taking some elevation over the next hour and you should have a grand view of the storm from the lower dining halls as dinner is served."

Captain Warren hung the microphone on the hook and stepped up to the thick glass of the viewing window. Beyond it he could see the cloudscape of Jupiter. The small fleet of passenger liners was drifting between two of the cloud layers. The space between the strata was surprisingly clear, and under the best of conditions one could see dozens of miles to the Jovian horizon. "Course to heading zero-six-zero, elevation climb at ten degrees," he called out to the helm. She repeated the new heading back and the ship began to turn toward starboard and climb gently upwards. He looked over to the network systems display and verified that the other three ships were adjusting course to match.

This was their sixth day in the Jovian atmosphere. The ships had nearly covered one tenth of planet's massive circumference. They were scheduled to pass the Great Red Spot this evening, using the powerful cyclone to slingshot the ships into the upper atmosphere where they would rendezvous with the docking station in three more days. The Captain was pleased that this voyage had proved uneventful, his last two tours had gotten caught in powerful storms, and he'd had to apologize to more than a few cranky and motion sick passengers.

If all went well this trip would continue to go smoothly, providing the passengers with awe inspiring sights. Captain Warren was about to go to his quarters and take a late lunch when the sensor station called for his attention. Sighing, he moved to the sensor station, "What is it Lieutenant?"

"Sir, I'm getting radar contacts. Six of them, ten miles out on bearing two-two-five. Sir, they aren't registering on the ident network."

"Launch an relay probe, get me a visual."

"Yes sir launching now," the young man said. "Time to visual ... thirty seconds."

"Bring it up on main viewer," Warren said moving toward the large screen. An image resolved itself, the Jovian cloudscape was unmistakable. The view was moving rapidly, as the probe sped through the atmosphere. At the center of the screen a half dozen spots began to resolve, growing slowly as the the distance between they and the probe shrank. "What am I looking at?" the captain asked.

"I ... I don't know sir ..."