Fun and Games in the ER

lfg0148xxSo. I missed last week’s #FlashFictionFriday thanks to an ER visit for a bad reaction to new medication. After days of feeling like a wrung-out dishrag run over by a tank, I’m almost back to (ab)normal.

I have nothing but appreciation for the doctor and nurses who talked me through the panic that accompanied feeling like my body was completely shutting down, even though it was the strangest ER setup I’ve ever seen. First, you go past a ‘reception’ area in the hallway, where you have to stand there to check in (I couldn’t). Next, you go into a waiting room to chill out until a triage nurse can evaluate you. Then, you finish dealing with registration at yet another reception counter (but with chairs there), and finally, you get shuffled off to the “yellow” or “green” ER area based on your symptoms.

They wheeled me off to “green” (I was shaking uncontrollably and my legs had given out), which was kinda nice in that it meant my reaction probably wasn’t life-threatening. They parked me in front of the nurses’ station, though, so they could keep an eye on me while waiting for an exam area to become available. They had limited exam cubicles, so they’d set up a couple of ‘waiting’ areas within the ER where more mobile people had to sit and wait after being examined. A bunch of people in those areas had IVs, which seemed a bit odd. If someone is in the ER and needs an IV, it seems like it’d be a good idea to keep them as stationary as possible…but who knows.

My doctor was fantastic. She’d clearly seen this type of reaction before, which was both reassuring and disquieting, but she went through a few tests to make sure nothing else was happening. They dealt with treatment fairly quickly, kept me for a while to make sure that the reaction had passed and I’d be okay, and then sent me off with a different prescription. All in all, a strange but decent experience with Canadian healthcare.

Now that I’ve mostly recovered and caught up on my workload, I’ll get more posting and writing done. Current plan is to refresh my knowledge of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style so I can work on streamlining my writing. If you haven’t read this style book, I highly recommend it.

The Numbers

CR-7853

Occator Crater on Ceres, courtesy of NASA

“Glaring at the display isn’t going to change the numbers.”

The surveyor settled back into his seat, struggling not to turn his glare on the pilot of the tiny survey vehicle. She was bringing them down inside Occator Crater, inching down slowly to keep from kicking up any planetary debris.

“This thing has already swallowed us,” he muttered. The jagged walls of the crater already rose up out of view, and they hadn’t landed yet.

“You’re not claustrophobic, are you? Bad time for something like that to come up,” the pilot replied, slowing descent so much that the craft seemed to hover in place. “Don’t worry. The numbers never really give a good idea what something will look like, we’ll touch down in a minute.”

Tel shrugged, but didn’t continue distracting Lyra’s attention. He knew life was circumscribed by numbers. They told him when to wake up, when to sleep, how long to sleep, how much to consume…and they controlled his work of determining whether mineral deposits were worth the expense of mining. They also controlled the pilot’s decisions related to speed, angle of descent, and where to land.

He felt the barest shudder as the survey vessel touched down. A small puff of dust welcomed them to the barren dwarf planet. Idly wondering how many specks of material they’d disturbed, he punched the controls for the survey ‘droid. Its operating ID flashed briefly on the screen, followed by its operating condition. All systems go.

“Okay, we’re good to begin,” Lyra told him as she locked down the board. “Be mindful of the gravity. If you do anything fast with the ‘droid or ramp, we might get knocked around a bit.”

“I know, gravity here’s less than half that of the Moon,” he replied absently, his attention focused on the panel. They were settled down about 300 meters from the shining deposits in the crater, and he was eager to begin his assessment of the material. The chemical analysis showed it was a type of salt, but it was like nothing on Earth.

They felt a stronger shudder as he lowered the aft ramp so the ‘droid could begin its survey. The heavy machine didn’t know it yet, but the numbers dictated that it was on a one-way mission. Gravity meant that heavy machinery would have an easier time staying on the surface, but limited fuel space meant that all extraneous weight had to be left behind if they were to lift off and return to the mining ship.

It’s always about the numbers, Tel thought as he watched the heavy treads of the mining ‘droid raising a haze that obscured the bright patches beyond it. The machine lumbered along, its slow pace geared to its weight and the uneven surface inside the impact crater.

“How much do you think is out there?” Lyra asked as she started laying in the instructions that would return them to the mining ship.

Tel shrugged. “I wasn’t able to get a direct measurement of how deep the deposits are, so it’s impossible to estimate.”

Two alarms went off simultaneously as Tel watched the ‘droid begin to sink into the edges of the white deposits.

Lyra looked over as Tel desperately began recall measures, trying to edge the ‘droid back towards the ship, sardonically asking, “Didn’t you run the numbers on what would happen to a machine that heavy if there wasn’t solid rock below the deposit zone?”.

“There’s no way. This is an ice world, the surface is solid under that…”

The ‘droid disappeared from sight. Lyra and Tel stared at where it had been, then looked at each other. “Are you still reading anything from it?” she asked.

“Yes, it’s fully online, just not…wait. Its descent stopped. According to the sensors, there’s solid metal under it.”

“There’s what?”

“Solid metal.” Perplexed, Tel refreshed the data feeds. “Not ore. A solid surface, seems to be an alloy of some sort. There’s no way manufactured material can be here…” His voice trailed off as he saw Lyra begin to shake her head.

“The survey data showed that this crater has gone undisturbed for about three million years,” she pointed out. “So…it’s not human. Now what?”

“Now this will either make or break my career,” he sighed. “We’ll either go down in history as the surveyors who found the first alien object, or I’ll just be known as the engineer who couldn’t get the numbers right.”

© Copyright 2016 Christine Clukey Reece

 

 

 

 

I. C. Ceres

Hi Ceres! You lovely little dwarf planet, you. You’ve spent the past few billion years just chillin’ in the asteroid belt, but NASA Dawn is closing in to survey you. We’ll find out how you’re flashing us from your surface soon.

an image of Ceres

Ceres, courtesy of NASA

In case you haven’t been following it, NASA’s Dawn mission set out to survey two baby planets (Vesta and Ceres) in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn visited Vesta from 2011-2012 (you can take a tour of Vesta here), and then headed for Ceres. The spacecraft uses a nifty ion drive that is low powered, so it takes a while for it to move between solar bodies.

Dawn reached Ceres in March of 2015, and is currently setting into a survey orbit pattern. Once the survey is complete, though, Dawn will be remaining at Ceres. NASA’s mission journal is available for view, if you’d like more info on what they’ve accomplished and the plans for the survey.

Great article by @aminawrite at the LA Times is available here.

For more entertainment and information on the mission, follow I_C_Ceres and Dwarf Planet Ceres on Twitter. Yes, there’s two, and they’re cute. They both post and reshare information on space exploration and events of interest. Check them out!

Variant Reflections – New R.L. Robinson Anthology

If you enjoy science fiction / speculative fiction / fantasy, I strongly encourage you to check out this anthology. Robinson’s newest collection of stories is priced at $0.99 and offers a range of worlds for you to experience. He’s fantastic at expressing the range of emotions (sometimes diffident or conflicted) that drive his characters through the story arcs, which does a wonderful job of pulling the reader further into a given world.

I truly enjoyed every story, but hoping he’ll eventually release separate anthologies based on “Mods and Rockers” and “Unremembered”.  “Mods and Rockers” added some punk flair to a dystopian future, and “Unremembered” was a haunting story of the aftermath of a war with beings and weapons that weren’t fully understood. The final story about the King in Yellow was wonderfully twisted.

Give it a read!

Variant Reflections – Digital Science Fiction Original Collection at Digital Science Fiction’s website

Jump to the Kindle edition on Amazon

Have you ever done a Google search and chuckled over the wording of the titles returned by the algorithm?

Our sun, dear Sol, has stellar siblings. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone who has a basic grasp of how solar systems form. The titles of various news articles proclaiming the discovery of one such sibling left me shaking my head in amusement:

Our Sun’s Long Lost Stellar ‘Sister’ Found

Astronomers find sun’s ‘long-lost brother,’ pave way for family reunion

Our Sun Has a Sister

Solar Siblings? The Sun’s ‘Long-Lost Brother’ Revealed

I’m not sure which is most amusing – the fact that everyone is shocked that multiple stars could form from one nebula, or that they couldn’t agree on whether a massive inanimate object should be a sister or a brother. Can’t we just call it a sibling and move on with our day?

Hooray for anthropomorphism! 

Hello Blog, We Meet Again

I’m returning to you after a long absence. No whiny explanations or self-pity, this time. Just straight up acknowledgment that not posting was incredibly lame and I need to do better in the future – especially since I want to publish more work.

Moving on.

Lots of cool space stuff happening lately, especially with the reemergence of “Cosmos”, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Check out The Wire’s write-up of the most recent episode. Tyson doesn’t sound stoned like Sagan did, but he has a direct and calm delivery style that suits the subject matter and educational aspects of the show. The writing is excellent – two thumbs up from this semi-evolved primate.

And on that happy note…back to work!

Space News Updates

There’s an amazing amount of astronomical stuff to check out this week. First off, if you haven’t seen Cassini’s pictures of Earth from Saturn’s orbit, you need to look at them now. Our pale blue dot is stunning and incredibly delicate as seen from a billion miles away.

Earth as seen from Saturn’s orbit

Next up, have a look at the stunning eclipse of an extrasolar planet, as seen by astronomers at the Chandra Observatory:

Chandra Observatory shows view of extrasolar gas giant eclipse

NASA found a giant hole in our sun:

NASA’s SOHO finds giant hole in the Sun

And then NASA decided to catch a thief. Er…asteroid.

NASA plans to catch asteroid and tow it to the Moon

In other news, a Canadian company plans to begin streaming a live feed from two cameras on the International Space Station. There will be one fixed viewpoint camera offering a panoramic view as the station cruises around the planet, and there’ll be a second camera that people can use to zoom in on objects as small as one meter. However, you’ll have to pay for the privilege of zooming in on something in particular…

BC company plans live feed from the International Space Station

And finally, we have a bunch of cool stuff visible in the night sky over the next month:

Sky charts for August 2013 – Jupiter and Mercury and Mars, oh my!

Hope you enjoy everything. More flash fiction coming this week!