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Universal Story

By K. T. Lyn

Personal Log: Astronaut Sandra Cartier

Beta-Earth Day 6

When I mentioned the Kintoc spring tale of relocating entire lakes using braided ropes, a herd of elk and sub-zero temperatures, I didn’t consider that I might soon be living all of it. Except the parts about land spirits. At least there’s none of that nonsense.

One of the water capsules that my ship toted across the galaxy carrying approximately 20,000 gallons of freshwater cracked on landing and its contents escaped into the native soil.

Not a big loss I thought, until the as-predicted temperate climate began trending toward arctic. Day one: 15 degrees Celsius. Days two, three, four: 10, 5, 0. Today: -14.

Originally, the ships needed for terraforming Beta-Earth were supposed to be unmanned. I could be blissfully ignorant of this right now. But then some genius suggested a few scientists go prior to the main colonization ship. Gather preliminary data, solve unforeseen problems, yada yada. Each ship carrying one terraforming component and one scientist, arriving every 30 days.

As we prepared, I mentioned the similarities between our mission and the story I begged my grandma to tell me every night until I finally learned about physics. S-command somehow thought this meant I should be the first person on the planet. And now I get the first problems too.

With no one expecting to land on ice and no communication until the next ship enters the solar system, I should probably try to fix this. Easy, right?

Beta-Earth Day 10

I can happily report the temperature has stabilized…at -15. With the next ship expected in 20 days, I need data, fast.

The terrain to the north appears level. I’ll take the rover out tomorrow and collect some core samples.

Grandma would probably tell me to start praying to land spirits too. Or are land spirits only on Alpha-Earth? Hmm, maybe I’ll test for those too.

Beta-Earth Day 12

Tests confirm that the soil of the planet is almost entirely inert. Good. Nothing to interact with the Alpha-Earth peculiarities we’re bringing in. But knowing that, the best theory for the weather change I can calculate is that the rapid water increase disturbed the planet’s pre-existing gaseous make-up.

Twenty thousand gallons of water isn’t much planetarily but locally it could shift temperature. This creates air disturbance which forms new wind patterns which redistributes heat. Add low atmospheric pressure and bing, bang, boom: ice planet.

The good news is it would likely be very easy for me to change the air currents again. The bad news is that I have no way of knowing whether it would make it better or…worse.

Hmm, choices…

Beta-Earth Day 20

With all my fancy science schooling coming up empty, I’ve been thinking more about the Kintoc story that got me here in the first place. As Grandma would say, “What are stories but the scientific papers of the past?”

When the Kintoc tribe needed to leave their wintering settlement, they pacified the local spirits before moving the frozen water. When they arrived at the new place, they prepared by asking permission from the spirits of this new land, giving them gifts and sometimes sacrificing one of the elk. Once they received whatever good omen signified approval, the Kintoc dug a new hole for the lake. Once completed, spring would arrive. Just that simple!

Perhaps the solution here is to give a better gift than 20,000 gallons of water. But what do I have to give? Meat substitute is hardly comparable to an elk.

I’ve got my ship, which is mostly stellar-powered now that I’ve landed. There’s still rocket fuel but I don’t know what the ship would do if I powered it up for a CO2 blast. Though that sure worked to heat up Alpha-Earth.

I think I need to get out again. Think outside the Earth box. I’ll collect more core samples and sacrifice a potato.

Beta-Earth Day 23

If S-Command had thought I was susceptible to space madness they never would have sent me first. But something’s different out there. When I first landed I wouldn’t have described the planet as hostile. How could I? It’s a chunk of rock. But now it’s…not?

The last two days on the rover have been different, felt different, from my previous excursions. It’s like how you can tell when a person is upset or indifferent or sympathetic. You can tell when their mood changes.

How can you tell when a planet goes from scowling to smiling? I don’t know, but it did.

Beta-Earth Day 24

Today’s temperature is only -14. Maybe I’ll wear shorts.

Beta-Earth Day 26

It’s warming. The planet is definitely warming! Today is -10. Readings indicate a steady rise over the hours, with nightly slowdowns. If it climbs to 0 degrees by day 30, I will bow down to whatever magical beings live here.

Beta-Earth Day 33

The Kintoc brought their own spring! Or at least they helped it along. By digging that new lake hole, they let air and water circulate underground, alleviated compaction and increased temperatures aka soil aeration. My core samples did the same thing. I should have put it together much sooner.

With the rapid rise in temperature I’ve stopped digging. This planet is proving fickle, which will be important to pass on when the others arrive.

Except, where’s Jackson? My timing could be off, but he should be here with the ore by now.

I can’t help going back to the story again. I didn’t appease the spirits here and I almost froze. We didn’t ask permission to take anything from Alpha-Earth and now no Jackson…

I wish I could talk to Grandma again.

K. T. Lyn lives in Maryland with her small but weird family. You can find her online on Twitter at @KTLynauthor.