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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
Intro 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Chapter 1 - The Discovery
Sep 15, 2017
8 Mins Read
No Plagiarism!iIRSkZUXY7VzfnozI9Ktposted 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 protection51PENANAcvubNgEp0U55Please respect copyright.PENANANEaVDvaStw

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 protection51PENANA0jDRbYR6VQ55Please respect copyright.PENANAN1ObBkqO1R

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 protection51PENANAeRqteO3XYN55Please respect copyright.PENANAFP4ggbp0v6

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 protection51PENANArbiVm5c1vd55Please respect copyright.PENANAEjLOeokohN

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 protection51PENANAWwwAnIyfOu55Please respect copyright.PENANAU5PIhq2He4

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 protection51PENANA52lwwAkzyj55Please respect copyright.PENANAzUTEa9Qzal

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 protection51PENANAmZuFVRL8Tg55Please respect copyright.PENANAGPEsESQYh8

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 protection51PENANAlQMSqaAZpo55Please respect copyright.PENANALbdAUu1Xcf

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 protection51PENANAtvrP1XqmxY55Please respect copyright.PENANA1M9Urk4hTe

"Have you read the file yet?" he asked without greeting Denton.copyright protection51PENANAFUYazT2k1V55Please respect copyright.PENANACA4g2I9TGq

Denton threw his hands in the air and rolled his eyes.copyright protection51PENANAAnLnfcyPbY55Please respect copyright.PENANA1sCe2wJ3tV

"Sir, I literally just opened the case brief. "copyright protection51PENANAeFuFvvDVSa55Please respect copyright.PENANAjuHtp8NtpH

"So what's the plan?"copyright protection51PENANAUy5SIELLYN55Please respect copyright.PENANAI2hNjkvtdb

"The plan? I haven't read the brief yet."copyright protection51PENANAGzasXpEvfQ55Please respect copyright.PENANATfEwuG2dKw

"Staxx, you do realize this is important? "copyright protection51PENANAutwY91uMXm55Please respect copyright.PENANA931QwqZkUp

"Of course, sir. I'll get right on it."copyright protection51PENANAXRV2KEHwpG55Please respect copyright.PENANA1DriqLDWeR

"Good. I need results, quickly. The Colonel wants answers."copyright protection51PENANAj5fuydTcJ955Please respect copyright.PENANA886MEBtHPd

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 protection51PENANA3dCAcLBGyz55Please respect copyright.PENANAdYhfOOGO8A

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 protection51PENANA3wrYzbChH155Please respect copyright.PENANAd9eEsFp6BE

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 protection51PENANAX07dvFqoSa55Please respect copyright.PENANAXJM4vqFY7u

"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 protection51PENANAyWnawAW8gv55Please respect copyright.PENANAclsuAhig5r

"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 protection51PENANAHk28iBjVS155Please respect copyright.PENANARjB5Y4Lnam

"How can I help you?" Tanner continued, visibly irritated by the interruption.copyright protection51PENANAXQ243xKtWC55Please respect copyright.PENANA276OcCeRBm

"Tanner, did you write this case brief?" Denton said as he pulled the brief into view.copyright protection51PENANADuy1F4BBcS55Please respect copyright.PENANAmNHPii6Ayc

"You have to be more specific than that, Staxx. I'm not psychic."copyright protection51PENANA7Uc92vLmqE55Please respect copyright.PENANA1pvCvtGhRR

Denton gave him the case number.copyright protection51PENANAnoupsyWc1S55Please respect copyright.PENANAETYKIbnW2Y

"Yes, yes, of course, I did. I'm the only one here that could possibly understand that one. It's a software patch."copyright protection51PENANAPFnnH2sjDF55Please respect copyright.PENANAjpM1e4jlFR

"Ok?"copyright protection51PENANAcLzpUCUGZl55Please respect copyright.PENANAyGh4jNy04q

"Well, you do know what a software patch is, right?" Tanner said as he peered at Denton over the rim of his glasses.copyright protection51PENANAlmJQMcoJpp55Please respect copyright.PENANARIkQt21QZ4

"Of course I do, I'm not stupid."copyright protection51PENANACe5ZBN147F55Please respect copyright.PENANAPitBjIGD4l

"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 protection51PENANAJjrjImWD2V55Please respect copyright.PENANAvC2MGmAemF

"The background checks will have to wait. The Colonel wants results yesterday on this one. It's a Class I case."copyright protection51PENANAYniId4UCOj55Please respect copyright.PENANAEenZ4R16I0

Tanner suddenly perked up. "Class I? It didn't seem like that big of a deal when it came through."copyright protection51PENANA1qy7q9Vse255Please respect copyright.PENANAaxjE9DnPgr

"Well, apparently it's of Interplanetary security importance."copyright protection51PENANA8Ylzh4VdHY55Please respect copyright.PENANAbL3dyKz8YW

"Yes, yes, of course, that's what Class I means. I know."copyright protection51PENANA8GmqoAvjcj55Please respect copyright.PENANANDabCf2EmK

"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 protection51PENANADeKblblhDz55Please respect copyright.PENANAEwiYbrBygS

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 protection51PENANAjLxFlPJg2q55Please respect copyright.PENANAZrD3FbNekM

"Like what? Talk to me, Tanner."copyright protection51PENANAeb6ACvb8Pn55Please respect copyright.PENANAa7qlj3BmHX

"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 protection51PENANAssBdEXo0e155Please respect copyright.PENANA7mtpkFQWe7

Denton flipped through the brief. "I don't see the coordinates in here."copyright protection51PENANAzxN7c8XWp055Please respect copyright.PENANAOdzrheD4tX

"They're in the appendix, with the translation of the code and schematics."copyright protection51PENANAmDcteOZpXP55Please respect copyright.PENANAQD5hZpkAL1

Denton was about to argue about putting the important information in the case brief but changed his mind.copyright protection51PENANAMphoDWl1Wz55Please respect copyright.PENANAxSo1iIG9FV

"Can you pull them up? Please?"copyright protection51PENANA3w7QEkZBgo55Please respect copyright.PENANAgt8PVq4yux

"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 protection51PENANACD2O7gD7GA55Please respect copyright.PENANAwlbCCa1WLM

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 protection51PENANAWs0eQDacF755Please respect copyright.PENANAYiFmkY507L

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 protection51PENANALIDTzidyUt55Please respect copyright.PENANAVoe4d9uiIZ

"Tanner, can you take us to the original coordinates?"copyright protection51PENANAWw7YkefYlV55Please respect copyright.PENANAPfl0RXbTUW

"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 protection51PENANAyiozwecGrR55Please respect copyright.PENANAGTflgzjmAr

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.55Please respect copyright.PENANA7wPlB3v6le
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