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The Descent
Writer TechieInAK
  • G: General Audiences
  • PG: Parental Guidance Suggested
  • PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • R: Restricted
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The Descent
A - A - A
Chapter 1 - The Discovery
Sep 15, 2017
8 Mins Read
No Plagiarism!LuHsALW7uzZ9ynYpcifAposted on PENANA

Denton Staxx ran through the door to his office and threw his uniform jacket on the couch across from his desk. "Hold all calls, Marty," he shouted to the office AI. "Full privacy. Also, turn on the video feed, sports channel. Quickly." The holographic broadcast appeared above his desk with a curt acknowledgment from Marty as Denton rounded his desk and sat down in his chair. He leaned forward, watched and listened intently to the commentators shown in the feed, then smiled and leaned back. He'd made it, just in time. They were in the middle of the preliminaries; the race hadn't started yet. The last few years, he had missed The Descent, the premier sports event of the year, because of last minute assignments. This year, he had been determined to plan better and find a way to be otherwise occupied during the race.copyright protection18PENANAmCKPXOH5ij22Please respect copyright.PENANA5nMtfAewXU

Denton Staxx leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up on the corner of his desk. A half-eaten sandwich from earlier in the day quickly made an appearance while a bottle of glacial water imported from Earth found its way to his lips. As the chilled water disappeared down his throat, he sighed and smiled. Fresh water, a good sandwich, and the best sports event in the universe broadcast live. What else could a man ask for?copyright protection18PENANA63OOwpAtx422Please respect copyright.PENANA79ozJEnMGI

A few minutes later, Denton was engrossed in the Olympic broadcast when he heard the familiar chirp in his ear. He knew what it meant and hesitated. He had received a new assignment, a new case. Was it important? Would it need his immediate attention? With his eyes glued to the screen, he acknowledged receipt of the case by tapping an area just behind his left ear. The assignment system would mark the case as received and if he was lucky, it wasn't important.copyright protection18PENANA2wdBUc07vf22Please respect copyright.PENANALTMrCQZTSo

His full attention returned to the holographic broadcast hovering over his desk. The commentators were arguing back and forth about what to expect this year. It was, after all, the first time humans from Earth had been invited to participate in The Descent. Could they adapt to conditions that were different than what they were used to on Earth? Would the differences in gravity between Earth and Proxima b affect them? Would the proximity of Proxima Centauri, the sun of the planet, be a distraction? The Descent was, after all, the highlight of the Interplanetary Olympic Games and Denton knew that the organizers would have done everything to ensure the Terran athletes would have a level playing field. Accusations of cheating had to be avoided. copyright protection18PENANAIRStHPhpUz22Please respect copyright.PENANA1YLNs1nHxk

Denton usually paid little attention to sports. In fact, he hadn't watched any of the other events of the Olympic Games. He had heard that some of the athletes from Earth had struggled with the Twilight Marathon. Spread out over three days, it was one of the most challenging events of the Olympics. The contestants spent a day in each of the three distinct geographical zones of Proxima b. In the northern frozen zone, they had to navigate snow, ice, and subzero temperatures as they ran with heavy winter gear. The following day, they ran through the temperate twilight zone. They started in the Shadowlands on the northern edge and worked their way through the various temperate areas rich in vegetation and wildlife. The last day took them through a variety of obstacles in the southern desert-like Wastelands. Denton had heard that the Earthlings were able to keep up most of the time, but some had dropped out from exhaustion. The rumors were that the extreme temperature variations were to blame.copyright protection18PENANAJ0DyO9XoCu22Please respect copyright.PENANACFu0edFC0l

To Denton, The Descent was the only event that mattered. He leaned forward with anticipation as the commentators shifted their attention to the Descent Pods. The official reveal was just minutes away. It would be the viewer's first taste of what to expect during the race and, more importantly, a first glimpse of the unique design of each pod.copyright protection18PENANAtF1HgWUh3p22Please respect copyright.PENANAkLe6cQWcJP

A double-chirp in the notification module implanted behind his ear interrupted his focus. He grunted and ran his hands through his hair as he leaned back in his chair. A double-chirp meant the case was a matter of urgency. Most likely, it required his immediate attention. He sighed, put down his sandwich and acknowledged the notification. Continued ignorance of the case would only draw attention. A personal visit from the Captain in the middle of the Pod Reveal would be hard to explain away. Not that it mattered. He'd have to watch it later now anyway.copyright protection18PENANAwMhpfZewo822Please respect copyright.PENANAALOlzgnXYU

He swept the broadcast to the side of his desk. With a flick of a finger, he initiated the recording functionality. The Pods would have to wait. The half-eaten sandwich ended up in the trash, and he swiftly collected the papers about The Descent strewn across the desk into a pile and shoved them into a drawer. The Captain wouldn't be fond of his divided attention if he made a surprise visit. Not to mention the uproar over the wasted paper.copyright protection18PENANA589JGYSDnv22Please respect copyright.PENANAiAzMBO0gq0

Moments later, the case file hovered in front of him. The collection of files that made up the case file included a variety of documents. Several of them contained technical jargon outside of his area of expertise. He saw circuit board drawings and 3D models of various components. There was also what appeared to be a single, small executable file. He sighed and opened the case brief document. He was about to start reading when an incoming call interrupted. The Captain's head swept away the files hovering in front of him.copyright protection18PENANA8Rb9yr5tI922Please respect copyright.PENANACKLQQYHNar

"Have you read the file yet?" he asked without greeting Denton.copyright protection18PENANATfVaEa9THy22Please respect copyright.PENANACLcq6LHuIF

Denton threw his hands in the air and rolled his eyes.copyright protection18PENANA1NGbwm9p0w22Please respect copyright.PENANAo1gYNRMN8c

"Sir, I literally just opened the case brief. "copyright protection18PENANAU8n5iWxnqg22Please respect copyright.PENANANKXzBOxjBI

"So what's the plan?"copyright protection18PENANAxjwsuaDD3k22Please respect copyright.PENANAKetXFAJn4s

"The plan? I haven't read the brief yet."copyright protection18PENANAb57RgEeq3e22Please respect copyright.PENANA2ttjrgbe4j

"Staxx, you do realize this is important? "copyright protection18PENANAWYmk3EhB2I22Please respect copyright.PENANAqS4nsFcZYN

"Of course, sir. I'll get right on it."copyright protection18PENANARA1n2vyG9C22Please respect copyright.PENANAHJ2bGHLq4P

"Good. I need results, quickly. The Colonel wants answers."copyright protection18PENANA1lH9cYNqoQ22Please respect copyright.PENANAS7ilqKCBYG

The Captain vanished, and the case files moved back to their original place in front of Denton. He shook his head. The Colonel. He always wanted answers before the was any practical way to provide any. Even he should understand that hounding his best case officer just seconds after he was assigned to help wasn't going to solve the case any quicker.copyright protection18PENANAFlP2GSHYuK22Please respect copyright.PENANAVozZM1EY1D

He returned his attention to the case brief and started reading. Something about a software patch, over-the-air, autonomous. Servers and clients. Then, there was navigational data and more technical jargon. He grunted and scrolled through to the last page. Who had written this document? Tanner? The IT analyst? Seriously?copyright protection18PENANAGmkIJmei3n22Please respect copyright.PENANAMJnOU3vFtA

He closed the document and called Tanner. He had some explaining to do. Moments later, the holographic head of Tanner appeared above Denton's desk.copyright protection18PENANAU4ICdVB0mZ22Please respect copyright.PENANAvmHNH8xjJw

"Tanner," the analyst answered. Before Denton could open his mouth, Tanner looked away, took his glasses off and wiped them off with a cloth. Denton smiled. Tanner was trying to annoy him. He must have been expecting the call. He had been in enough briefings with Tanner to recognize his unique habits.copyright protection18PENANAR2lG41zLZ322Please respect copyright.PENANA0EUAEHCiGD

"Mr. Staxx," Tanner responded as he put his glasses back on his nose. Why Tanner bothered with these ancient contraptions, Denton had never understood.copyright protection18PENANAwGqQoadDsg22Please respect copyright.PENANAWsmjghnMWR

"How can I help you?" Tanner continued, visibly irritated by the interruption.copyright protection18PENANA1nkJ0yFBz222Please respect copyright.PENANAmrd4fUcNeW

"Tanner, did you write this case brief?" Denton said as he pulled the brief into view.copyright protection18PENANABq4W78YHUY22Please respect copyright.PENANAjfBePfWsxC

"You have to be more specific than that, Staxx. I'm not psychic."copyright protection18PENANALqEbg3luGN22Please respect copyright.PENANA5u5sNmJa8G

Denton gave him the case number.copyright protection18PENANAKHb5rbD7Nc22Please respect copyright.PENANA2v8fznaMbo

"Yes, yes, of course, I did. I'm the only one here that could possibly understand that one. It's a software patch."copyright protection18PENANA9pDdmKmksh22Please respect copyright.PENANAIvEjJuyGW6

"Ok?"copyright protection18PENANAidIXoZ0JtH22Please respect copyright.PENANAi1AnuoJdzS

"Well, you do know what a software patch is, right?" Tanner said as he peered at Denton over the rim of his glasses.copyright protection18PENANAxdpIjQUWXH22Please respect copyright.PENANATBo2QXp0JB

"Of course I do, I'm not stupid."copyright protection18PENANA976MlsxINZ22Please respect copyright.PENANAps63LQykwu

"Of course not," Tanner said and smirked. "Look, I'm kind of busy here with the Olympics going on and all. The Captain's got me verifying background checks. Important stuff." Tanner rolled his eyes.copyright protection18PENANAZ6cH3BG4ka22Please respect copyright.PENANAqPw1d0qXeZ

"The background checks will have to wait. The Colonel wants results yesterday on this one. It's a Class I case."copyright protection18PENANAMRnbzG1tDZ22Please respect copyright.PENANAP8AearbAsV

Tanner suddenly perked up. "Class I? It didn't seem like that big of a deal when it came through."copyright protection18PENANAbN7iAsL7by22Please respect copyright.PENANAbSoiV98tuF

"Well, apparently it's of Interplanetary security importance."copyright protection18PENANA7aFkSJVzNg22Please respect copyright.PENANAYVuuWHvnEK

"Yes, yes, of course, that's what Class I means. I know."copyright protection18PENANAJz77LHONbr22Please respect copyright.PENANAmuSXI2pUDR

"So what does it mean? Your brief, I can't understand any of it. Haven't we been over this before, about writing briefs that non-technical personnel can actually understand? I'll have more chirps in my ear here in a minute if I'm not moving fast enough."copyright protection18PENANANmfUFPnqXy22Please respect copyright.PENANAQOJe7Fof9S

Tanner ignored his comment and pointed to the brief floating in the air in front of both of them. "As I said, it's a software patch. It's not specific to any device that I've seen before. The code gives some clues but nothing definite."copyright protection18PENANAZ4JEpBnlbb22Please respect copyright.PENANAV7NpCK787M

"Like what? Talk to me, Tanner."copyright protection18PENANABULJ2wqQjB22Please respect copyright.PENANASugKrZNRTq

"Well, it seems to be for some sort of navigational system. The patch changes navigational parameters once it's executed. The destination coordinates in the target system are modified to those within the patch."copyright protection18PENANAi6Yx1Dmo4j22Please respect copyright.PENANAIKfsYm8mCh

Denton flipped through the brief. "I don't see the coordinates in here."copyright protection18PENANAX3oGHOh59s22Please respect copyright.PENANAfxp2X2M5aU

"They're in the appendix, with the translation of the code and schematics."copyright protection18PENANAgLn1upyVfS22Please respect copyright.PENANAR2o8NP7BH0

Denton was about to argue about putting the important information in the case brief but changed his mind.copyright protection18PENANAxyYv5Z9sod22Please respect copyright.PENANA2pKhSJE06h

"Can you pull them up? Please?"copyright protection18PENANALlga1YYj4822Please respect copyright.PENANAhlOHnMJaSU

"Sure." Tanner shifted his attention away from Denton. Moments later, a map of the planet appeared in front of Denton instead of Tanner. "Umm, let me see. Ah, here, let's see what the new destination is."copyright protection18PENANAMkT9mozVjP22Please respect copyright.PENANA4JXsRKiYmZ

The map in front of Denton shifted and zoomed in towards the surface of the planet. He had to look away momentarily to avoid the nausea that always surfaced when Tanner showed off his holomap. He had a feeling Tanner knew about his discomfort and used the zoom function on purpose.copyright protection18PENANANRnMmtMvVa22Please respect copyright.PENANAZopKGhukiA

Moments later, he found himself looking at the Olympic Stadium on the surface. He frowned. Why would the Olympic Stadium be the new destination?copyright protection18PENANAJHw0RyYQR322Please respect copyright.PENANABAVqhjd1t5

"Tanner, can you take us to the original coordinates?"copyright protection18PENANAYDnSNKgnGA22Please respect copyright.PENANAVxOS0GDjF0

"Sure." Tanner again did something Denton couldn't see, and the map zoomed out and then back in. The landscape had changed to that of a random desert location. The desert? Who in their right mind would want to land in the desert?copyright protection18PENANActrzfO31kY22Please respect copyright.PENANAiFoIq40Uoi

A preview of the upcoming Descent caught Denton's attention. It showed the Descent Pods leaving their stations in space, rushing towards Proxima b's surface and landing at their desert destinations. The desert. It was the destination of the Descent pods. Denton felt the color of his face drain.22Please respect copyright.PENANAu0SqqaJEbc
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