Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The North Pole of Danera VIII and Other Ice Worlds

Most of my empyrean infrastructure is based in the Royal Khanid Navy place orbiting the inner moon of Danera IV. This is where I live. It's my home system. I have an excellent relationship with the RKN and they leave me to it (the thing with the mercenaries and strippers was so last year).



The Danera system has two 'ice planets' at its outer frontier - Danera VII and VIII. Residents of the townships on Danera V know them by other, much older and more traditional names associated with their extremely high albedo which renders both planets visible to the naked eye from V when their distance combined with their small size as rocky terrestrials should render them invisible. It's all that ice. The brightest light is the coldest.

Light without heat.

A few months back, I experimented with a token level of resource-extracting in the Danera system by setting up an ice-mining facility on Danera VIII, just to see how it worked. I bought the equipment and had it shipped down to the surface. I have no idea who installed the facility, which can't have been an easy job, or what ran it beyond caretaker servitor robots. In that environment though, with an ambient temperature that makes ice indistinguishable from solid rock, machinery wears out quickly. Which is worse, the frozen surface of an ice world, the crushing depths of a gas giant's atmosphere, or hard vacuum itself?

The returns from mining on worlds in high security space are acknowledged to be inferior. This is evident in Danera because even though it has two of what are supposed to be only 5% of all planets in New Eden, my facility on VIII is the only one on the entire planet.

I shut down my facility after a couple of production runs late in YC117 and had it mothballed. I didn't dismantle it because I knew karma would require me to restart it at some point, maybe years from now; and if I didn't restart it, then the environment would ensure its preservation for the lifetime of the Danera primary itself. My ice mine would bear witness to the G5 star's evolution and eventual transition to the white dwarf state, billions of years from now. Danera VIII's distance from the primary - 31 AU - would ensure its immunity from being engulfed by the star's red giant phase. At that distance, would the ice melt? I doubt it. Danera VIII is probably going to remain locked in icy stasis for all eternity.


However, last month I reactivated my ice mine because I've started producing combat boosters on an experimental basis. I have a tower orbiting the fifth moon of [classified] where I've become a producer, a supplier, and a dealer of performance-enhancing drugs.

I am a drug dealer. A producer of contraband. I have taken one more step down the slippery slope...

The boosters I'm producing all require large quantities of water as a key component in the chemical reaction. This is what I meant by karma earlier: I needed water and I happen to have an ice mine ready to produce it.

Fast-forward a month: the mine has come out of mothballs intact, it is producing water for my drugs and it launches that water into low orbit around VIII in those standardized disposable rocket-powered cargo pods that everybody uses. The timing of these launches is at my discretion and the inclination of the cargo pod's orbit depends on the position of the facility on the surface, so the pod could basically be anywhere when I intercept and retrieve it.

This one time I found the cargo pod above the planet's polar regions. It was an unusual and arresting perspective - most of the time our ships are programmed to arrive in near-equatorial orbits around any given world as a result of the intersection between orbital mechanics and starship design. Cargo pod interceptions are the rare exception.


This was another one of those cosmic alignments I'm into. Perfect geometry and karma. The light of Danera, close to the planet's horizon at this latitude, caused specular reflections off mirror-smooth ice plains; light that diffuses through VIII's tenuous atmosphere that is nothing more than sublimated surface material.

It would be worth exchanging the capsuleer's conditional immortality for a short time, for the ability to look upon these worlds with my own eyes instead of through the filtering firmware of the cam drone that gives everything in space a uniform luminosity. I want to go down there in a lander and an environment suit and stand at Danera VIII's pole, where I would see ice crystals in the thin atmosphere forming sundogs that would follow the star as it tracked around the horizon with the planet's rotation, slowly marking the passage of an elongated time (VIII's 'year' is 22 of ours). The Vapor Sea Nebula would also be a permanent presence, albeit barely visible.



I didn't realise I have a thing for ice planets and their unchanging states, until now. Desert worlds are also my thing because the Ni-Kunni homeworld is in my ancestral DNA. What is it with the desire to seek remoteness?

Escape?

From what?

The noise of the cluster - the oppressive instantaneousness of the fluid router which makes Anoikis no further away than next-door; capsuleer conflict and the constant threat thereof; Sansha, the Drifter enigma, monosyllabic Minmatar terrorists, the Covenant; the ridiculous bias of Amarr Certified News etc. etc...

If everybody looked the same, we'd get tired of looking at each other, but sometimes you have to get away from it all and recharge. Looking at the view - the awesome visual wealth of New Eden - from time-to-time, is also good for one's perspective.

Shut off your overview occasionally and just look out of the 'window'. Remind yourself of why you do this.


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