• Published 1st Mar 2012
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Arrow 18 Mission Logs: Lone Ranger - AdmiralTigerclaw

A mission to investigate a far off world takes an interesting twist.

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Archive One: Arrival

- Courtesy Kovabomb/Indubitably Ponified: Nimbus Productions

Mission Log:
July 15th, 2257

After 22 weeks of travel, I have finally arrived in orbit around planet Omega Centauri II. It’s strange, being the only person on a vessel originally designed for a crew of thirty. But the mission required an arrow class transport.

OCIV, or ‘Opposite World’ as I call it (OW for short), is an unusual curiosity to say the least. It was first noticed by astronomers working at the Hawking Observatory. Omega Centauri was one of many candidate stars that were listed as potentially orbiting a black hole due to its unusual and rapid orbital oscillations. Not particularly unusual, but a curiosity to be studied nonetheless.

However, when the GSA turned the Trans Neptunian Long Range Telescope on the system for observation, they were shocked at what they found. According to the images produced the star was orbiting, not a black hole, but a planet. And we’re not talking a super-Jupiter either. According to spectral analysis, the planet was terrestrial, contained an atmosphere similar to Earth, and seemed to have a temperature in the same range.

It was at first dismissed as equipment error until three other sources confirmed the original speculation. OW was seemingly an Earth-like planet.

An Earth-like planet... With a star orbiting it.

I need not go into the amount of fuss that the scientific community put up in this matter. Or the resulting clamor for a long range mission. The recent introduction of the subspace displacement device has rekindled a dying interest in space travel thanks to the ability to reduce multi-thousand year voyages to a few months. Unfortunately, politics nearly killed the mission, and what was supposed to be a full crew compliment had dwindled in a manner of months down to just one person…

I won’t go into all the boring details about what happened there. Not with OW gleaming silently below me.

It’s strange, in an amusing sort of way. From this orbit it’s the size of my fist, and so much like Earth it’s uncanny. Sure, the continents are different, but I’d swear I was home again.

Mission Log:
July 17th, 2257

After two measured Earth days, I can conclude the observations of Tanlert (TNLRT). The local star is indeed orbiting the planet. It is a velocity consistent with a stellar body orbiting one of much higher mass. Yet, as I confirmed during my descent all the way into the system’s gravity well, celestial masses are normal and consistent for the objects they ‘appear’ to be. I do not understand how this system can function, as it goes against physics itself.

Planetary rotation is near non-existent. One sidereal day I calculate is thirteen months long. The sun orbits the planet in exactly 24 hours. The planet’s local lunar body also orbits at a similar rate.

There are unusual quirks in the lunar pattern not discernible from a distance as well. The lunar orbital period seems to vary almost from one hour to the next. At two points in the orbit, it appears to linger as if slowed down, then lurch on at an accelerated rate for a short time. The effects are so dramatic that I imagine that an observer in the right spot on the surface would be witness to the most unusual, if not spectacular moon rises. Yet from an astronomical standpoint it makes absolutely no sense.

However despite these quirks, orbital mechanics for other objects such as Arrow 18 seem to be unaffected. I will be progressing to a lower orbit to perform radar scans at 1900 hours.

Mission Log:
July 23rd, 2257

After continued observation of this system, I have determined it safe to perform a surface excursion. Radar mapping has gone without incident and provided valuable data on several potential landing sites. One particular valley in question would prove to be an excellent surface vantage with which to observe the unusual orbital eccentricities of the system. The location is the exact midpoint in which one can observe the unusual moonrise I described in a previous log.

It’s strange... Something’s been bothering me for the last few days but I can’t put my finger on it. Perhaps the time alone has been getting to me.

Mission Log:
July 24th, 2257

I am ill at ease. Despite knowing I’m alone on this craft, I feel like I’m being watched. I find myself looking over my shoulder constantly. This feeling intensified when I opened the docking bay for the Ravenstar. The sensation was so tangible that I had to postpone my departure due to being unable to focus on the checklist. Maybe after 22 weeks at superluminal velocities, cramped alone in this ship, the idea of actually leaving its relative safety is messing with my head.

Mission Log:
July 25th, 2257

It’s back again…

I woke up and the feeling had faded well enough for me to finish final checks on the Ravenstar and undock. However, shortly after clearing the Arrow, I found that same nagging sensation resurfacing. I KNOW I’m alone up here, and REALLY alone in the Raven, but I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m being watched. It may sound unscientific to form a theory based on such a thing, but it may be possible that there are living things on the surface of this planet. It’s Earth-like, which means there’s the potential for life, however slim. And if they have been observing my craft, that would explain the feeling of being watched.

I have concluded that before I attempt planetfall I will observe the surface from low orbit. If there is life capable of observing me, I do not want to trigger a conflict.

Mission Log:
July 26th, 2257

After careful surface observation, I conclude that not only is there life, but there appears to be intelligent life of some kind. It is scattered and light, but it exists. I have been able to identify surface structures consistent with roads and settlements. However, I have not located the telltale signs of highways such as those found back home, major sea ports, or airports. The civilization on the surface appears to have electricity if overnight views of the surface are accurate. It is an unusual twist.

After careful consideration, I have decided to continue with my plan to touch down at point alpha. The settlements in that area seem to be small, and thus I should draw only limited attention on my approach, if at all. I’m already plotting atmospheric entry so as to approach with as minimal a disturbance as possible. If done right, I should be of little more interest than a meteor to the settlements along my trajectory.

I will begin deorbit procedures after a night’s rest.

Mission Log:
July 27th, 2257

I did not expect this…

Deorbit was as successful as I had desired. Reentry lasted ten minutes and I managed to approach at such a shallow angle that the Raven’s hull temp did not exceed twenty five-hundred degrees centigrade for more than two minutes. I had plotted an approach that allowed me to bleed off most of my speed while still at very high altitude. Thanks to that, I came in nearly invisible just after moonrise when I unexpectedly passed over a small, dense settlement nestled on the side of a mountain the radar mapping hadn’t noticed. It was so high up, I thought for a moment it might be clouds. However, I’m sure the life forms that lived there were startled from their sleep (if they sleep) after having a spacecraft travel overhead at Mach two.

Because of that, I decided to alter my landing location. The original idea was to approach, as best as I could on a glide, to an area of terrain that radar maps indicated was level enough for the Raven to land like an aircraft on. The new plan was for a powered touchdown in what appeared to be a woodland-like geographical feature.

Imagine my surprise when I clicked on the landing lights and the woodland-like geographical feature really WAS woodland. Trees everywhere! The landing almost had to be aborted for lack of a safe spot to settle the Raven. Luckily a clearing proved to be just large enough to land using VTOL.

If anything is out there, it knows I'm here.

Mission Log:
July 28th, 2257

If the locals know I'm here, they've shown no signs of such.

I spent the planetary ‘day’ observing the local wildlife around my spacecraft. And yes, there's lots of it. I still can't believe what I'm seeing. I've seen what appeared to be birds. Birds of varying shapes and sizes. So much like the birds back on Earth that I for a moment I thought I might have gotten turned around somewhere. And of course the plant life! It looks just like home! I've been tempted to open the hatch and get a better view, but one glance at the interlock has reminded me not to let looks deceive.

While I've been observing, the ship’s microbiology lab has been doing its job. The atmosphere has checked out as almost identical to Earth, though with a significantly lower CO2 level. So far, microbe analysis is looking promising. Given the strangely identical nature of this world, I am optimistic that I may be able to venture outside without a suit, and without having to decontaminate. I will not know until tomorrow afternoon however. Until then, I must wait.

Mission Log:
July 29th, 2257

There’s something out there. I saw it last night. That feeling that I was being watched woke me up. I’m not sure what I saw when I looked out the Raven’s viewport. Something dark, bluish. It glittered and vanished in a blur before I could get a good look at it. Likely one of the more exotic animal life forms. Or perhaps one of the ‘locals’ had found me?

Either way, I don’t feel threatened, not yet anyway. It would take more than a hungry predator or one curious local to get to me through the hull of this spacecraft.

I spent another day staring out viewports, observing the animals brave enough to approach the strange vehicle. There were bunnies! Rabbits! You know the kind, hop-along little balls of fluff known for multiplying as fast as cockroaches. There was no mistaking it. I’m insanely curious to investigate this world at this point. It’s so much like Earth.

The microbiology lab has come up clear. Which means I can finally get out of this steel coffin and stretch!

Mission Log:
July 30th, 2257

There are eyes in the woods. They watched me for two and a half hours as I cleared the hatch for the first time. I could see them, reflecting yellow like a cat’s. The creature that belonged to them was neither afraid, nor aggressive, but it was cautious. It never moved to where it could be seen but made no effort to disguise its presence. I could hear it circling the clearing from time to time. It would lurk in a shadow; I would stare at its eyes. Then it would back slowly away and return elsewhere. If it's a predator, I'm probably safe. Predators tend not to attack organisms that differ from their normal diets unless they're desperate. And things look pretty stable in the local ecosystem.

Tomorrow I’ll chance exploring.

Mission Log:
July 31st, 2257

The sensation returned again last night. It's different from the eyes I saw, that much I know. It’s strange to describe this feeling of being watched. It’s the same one that’s been bugging me since I entered orbit. The eyes in the woods did not have this effect on me. The eyes did not make me feel like I was putting on a stage production in front of a packed audience. I don’t feel scared. I just feel… scrutinized.

I tried to look out the viewport without moving but I just couldn’t turn my head enough. I definitely noticed something glittering from the corner of my eye this time. It was wavy and blue. It observed me for some time. I figure it would remain until morning, keeping me awake. So I spooked it by sitting up, hoping that I might be able to catch a clear look at it. But just like before it was fast and vanished without a trace.

Once the ‘Sun’ rose... And boy, did it rise. I’ve never seen such an odd, almost dramatic sunrise before. Once it rose I set out on my first excursion on foot.

I went out armed, seeing as only a fool would travel alone on a strange planet with help being many, many light-years away. The Raven’s beacon would guide me back if I got lost, and I used it as a marker to identify my location on a portable surface map the ship’s navigational computer had created. I met nothing dangerous, and made my way in the direction of the settlement I’d seen on approach. The one perched in the mountains.

I did not find any mountains where the settlement should have been. Only plains, plains that I had originally intended to set down on beyond the edge of the forest. Perhaps it was an illusion generated by the moonlight, the clouds I noticed overhead, and the fact that the Ravenstar was doing mach 2 at the time.

I felt the sensation again, different than before. It didn’t last long. But I felt someone, something was watching.

Mission Log:
August 1st, 2257

My second trek into the wilderness around the Raven led me in the direction of the settlement I had confirmed from orbit. I reached the edge of the forest once more without incident, where I could make my first substantial observation.

The location I found was most certainly artificially constructed, or at least, tampered with. It appeared to be a tree crossed with a cottage or other small human abode. I recognized the doors and windows almost instantly. The area around it seemed to have been landscaped to a small degree. Mostly it was left wild, but there was at least a few small flower patches. There were also animal shelters, many of them. Some of the creatures moving about seemed to take notice of me, but did not make to hide as long as I kept within the tree line.

What came next, I had to observe very carefully.

A creature emerged from the main abode. By the looks of things, likely to be an example of the dominant life form.

It was short… Perhaps a meter high, a meter and a half long. At the distance I was at, I couldn’t tell if it had fur, scales, or was bare-skinned. However, I could tell the color. It was a pastel off-yellow tone that was rather jarring to witness on a living thing other than a canary, but not unsettling. There was pink on its head and back, as well as what appeared to be a tail. I could only assume at this range that the material was hair or fur the way it moved. When the creature moved, it spent most of its time in locomotion on all fours in such a way that I was immediately reminded of a small, slightly deformed horse.

Its eyes were large enough to be clearly visible at a distance, a fact I realized when it froze and looked directly at me. It didn’t immediately see me because of the underbrush I was laying in, but I suspect it knew something was ‘out there’, as it were.

Rather than further spook the ‘resident’ in its own home, I started to back away on my stomach. Slowly, but not completely silent. It could definitely hear my movement, if the way the ears I could see on its head were moving was any indication.

Mission Log:
August 2nd, 2257

After my brief observation of what I’m sure was one of the locals yesterday, I decided to find another route out of the forest in an attempt to get closer to the settlement. This time I moved with more surveying gear than before and tried a route that didn’t immediately drop me in what I suspected was one of the local’s back yards.

This time, I emerged from the woods into an area of trees that were highly organized. Much like an orchard back home. Given the similarities, I was more than willing to start identifying things by their appearance and function. I started identifying more items quickly as I moved along. I spotted fences, fields of plants being grown systematically, a building that could only be described as a barn.

The overall location I quickly identified as a farm. And it was a rather nice farm at that. Which meant I might be able to observe the creatures of this planet in the role of a farmer, perhaps gain some insight as to what types exist, and their numbers.

It had not taken long to find some. I had been attracted to the sound of objects being struck repeatedly over the crest of a shallow hill. With my surveying equipment, I found it easier to keep distance while being able to make far better observations.

The creature producing the noise was like the previous one. Just under a meter tall, a little over a meter long, features strikingly similar to that of a small horse. But it seemed, somehow… more.

Aside from the obviously equine build and physical body structure, the similarities ended. The creature was a bright orange color, with a blond ‘mane’ and tail. Its legs were much thicker and heavier than that of an Earth horse or pony, and seemed to have a wider range of motion as it went about its business. This was most evident when it stopped to wipe its forehead. The motion to perform that would require the ball and socket joint of the human shoulder to pull off.

Although it appeared to have hooves, something about their dexterity indicated they weren’t entirely solid. It seemed equally at home walking on them, as it was stopping to tie a rope on a small cart. In fact, it seemed to make use of all its appendages quite readily. It would kick the trees (which appeared to be apple trees mind you) with its hind legs. When it was doing tasks requiring dexterity, it seemed to make even use of its mouth, its tail, and its two front legs.

I was content to watch the creature work for some time, observing the smooth agility in which it performed its tasks. I didn’t even notice at first that it was wearing a hat, and that its ‘mane’ was tied near the tip to prevent it from flying everywhere. However, those observations were pushed to the back of my mind when another of the creatures, a much LARGER specimen approached. It was very much tomato red in appearance and looked to be using a device much like a harness.

I was of course too far away to hear any of the dialogue. But it was obvious from the way the orange one began to express itself animatedly that they were communicating. It was fascinating to watch the way it would alternate between an all-fours position and rearing up on its hind legs in order to express certain things.

My observations ended abruptly when it dropped to all fours, turned, and pointed up the hill at me. Seems I’m not as stealthy or clever as I might think I am. Then again, I'm wearing an orange flight suit. (Not that I had much choice there.) The larger one followed the indication of its younger acquaintance up to me, and although I knew I was barely visible on my stomach, it could tell I was there.

Mission Log:
August 3rd, 2257

I sensed ‘it’ watching me again during the night. And this time it didn’t go away. It continued to watch me all morning as I made my way back to the settlement. Whatever and wherever it was, the animals seemed to sense it too. The forest sounds on my approach had been suppressed.

I was aware at this point that I was likely to be spotted as I emerged from the woods. Already, two separate ‘ponies’ as I had come to most easily recognize them have managed to spot me. One did so while I was hiding in the underbrush of the forest, while other had been busy working its orchard and has seen me on the hillside. I decided thanks to this to simply forego any more sneaking tactics and start moving about openly.

However, I chose to keep my distance, observing the settlement proper from a hillside under a tree. I wasn’t as close as my first two encounters, but the environment was rich and rewarding. The ‘ponies’ appeared to have a kind of small town country culture to them. I observed many things that I could easily match to towns back on Earth. The similarities were again, striking to the point that it was uncanny.

This time, I knew that I was the observed, as well as the observer. I had kept my distance, but made no effort to even lie on my stomach and conceal my presence to any degree. I could see ‘ponies’ stop and stare up the hill. Some of them would point and communicate animatedly with each other. None approached, but neither did they run.

I allowed myself to remain visible until late in the afternoon. About this time, a violet specimen with what appeared to be a short, plump lizard of some kind made to approach my spot. Rather than risk a confrontation with these ‘ponies’, I decided that one getting brave enough to approach was one too many. So I returned to the Raven.

Mission Log:
August 4th, 2257

I returned to my spot to continue observations a little more discretely, noting the interactions of the ‘ponies’ as they went about their business. I had started to notice three distinct types this time around. There were the plain-ol'-ponies as I called them. They were the most basic. Then there were ‘winged’ ponies, much like the Pegasus of mythology. And likewise, there were ‘horned’ ponies, similar to unicorns.

This last category was most fascinating to watch. Mostly due to what appeared to be their ability to lift and manipulate objects without touching them at all. Telekinesis! How did it work? I wish I knew. However, observation suggested that their TK abilities varied as much as physical strength varied in humans. Of the examples observed, most carried nothing of any particular mass, and none of them appeared to manipulate any mass that was a significant portion of their own.

These observations continued until a glint of sunlight off a tree near the center of the town caught my attention. Much like the tree where I had made my first encounter, this one seemed to be halfway to being a building. But that wasn’t the important part. The important part was the object the sunlight had reflected off of appeared to be a kind of telescope. And on the far end appeared to be that same violet ‘pony’ that had approached me the day before.

It was an interesting experience, knowing we both knew we were watching each other. I chose to remain in my spot until the evening, as did the pony. We would observe each other, but I knew that it was observing me far more closely.

Mission Log:
August 5th, 2257

An interesting find when I approached my observation spot early this morning. There was a basket containing two ‘apples’, two bottles of some sweet smelling liquid (all of which had to be tested for safety reasons), a roll of some kind of dried up paper, a bottle of dark liquid which I assumed was ink, and a ‘quill’. An actual, feather pen.

It was interesting enough that I halted my observations before they started and returned to the Ravenstar. The paper itself had a simple, scraggly drawn image on it that looked like the ‘pony’ that had been observing me. I decided to reciprocate in kind, but in the spirit of one-upmanship, printed out a copy of the famous Vitruvian Man.

I returned by noon and replaced the basket, lighter its food content, where I had found it. In place of the dried paper, I left the printout and another sheet of paper. It was a simple diagram that depicted the numbers one through ten and equated them to dots representing their values. Another sheet had a simple key that depicted how the numbers were used in equations. The third and final sheet was a sheet of paper with a set of basic arithmetic questions on them. I’m curious to know if this ‘pony’ can get anywhere with it, let alone solve basic math in this manner.

Mission Log:
August 6th, 2257

The yellow eyes were watching me again today. This time they followed me through the woods.

When I returned to my observation spot, I found the basket had once again been filled with food. The diagram was gone, so were the math sheets. However, in their place, I found another dried up paper. It only took a few seconds to figure out what it was. The dot diagram was an exact copy of what I had left the day before. However, the familiar numbers of human language were replaced with a strange, flowing script. The ‘pony’ had obviously solved the printouts I had given it, and reciprocated in an attempt to exchange information.

Observation of the paper back at the Ravenstar revealed that while the ‘test’ was the same, the numbers returned to me had been made more complex, as if to challenge me. The sheet I had given the ‘pony’ had been basic arithmetic with simple, even whole numbers. What it had given me was similar, but required the use of fractions to answer. I wrote my answers in human, and drew circles, filling them in to represent the meanings of the fractions ½, ¼, and so on.

Mission Log:
August 7th, 2257

I did not make it to the observation point today. An unidentified creature, apparently a predator attacked and struck me today. I must be more wary of my surroundings. Its build was similar to a large cat, but looked strangely like a scorpion. I want to call it a 'manticore', because that’s what it looked like. Luckily, the animal did not make use of the scorpion-tail-like appendage it had and only gave me a minor gash on the leg. A shot from my weapon sent it fleeing in terror.

Mission Log:
August 8th, 2257

‘It’ was watching me once more. This time the sensation was the strongest it’s ever been. From sunset to sunrise, I could feel it on the edge of my mind. And it continued to watch as I limped my way to the observation point.

I found a first aid kit there. It was a crude form of one, but its contents were distinct enough that its purpose was clear. I am unsure as to how the purple ‘pony’ had learned of my injury. It also seemed to be expecting other things, as I also found what appeared to be an umbrella in the mix.

I had not been paying much attention to the weather beyond checking with satellite maps from Arrow, but as I sat and observed the town, I noticed that its residents systematically started clearing the streets.

That was about the time I noticed how busy the ‘pegasus’ types were in the air. They appeared to be moving entire sections of cloud the same way a man would handle moving empty boxes. Despite the seeming physical improbability of this, I was quickly learning that this entire system was full of physical conundrums.

It was fascinating to watch. Groups, or rather, teams of the ‘pegasi’ would stack banks of clouds against each, systematically working to cover the sky. Despite its vastness, they were efficient, and impossibly quick. Especially this particular blue one I noticed zipping about with the speed of a jet aircraft. The umbrella proved useful, as the rain seemed to start all at once. It was like turning on a faucet.

Mission Log:
August 12th, 2257

I’ve continued my intellect exchange with the ‘pony’ I’ve come to nickname ‘Smarty Pants’. She- I’ve begun to recognize gender in their physiology- is a rather brilliant creature, which explains her seeming fascination with me. I guess it doesn’t matter what species you are. Smart people like to talk about smart things.

I’ve found her understanding of trigonometry to be top notch. Based on the equations we exchanged, she appears to be able to understand some of the principles governing the Ravenstar. Though it seems her calculus is a little lackluster. I would chalk that up to age though. Judging by the examples I’ve observed, she’s either an adolescent, or a young adult.

Author's Note:

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Arrow 18's title track is "Harlock's Passage" which is part of my album "Trans-Atmosphere: The Cosmic Concert". 12 tracks at 7 USD (Or more if you so wish). This way, everyone wins!

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