Halloween excerpt from Water

At the edge of the crevasse, Cas gave everyone another climbing lesson, this time incorporating the silent rope signals. One could never assume they would have comms.

“I will go down first to see if this thing takes us anywhere we want to go,” she said.

On this side of the crevasse, there were broken blocks they could use as belay anchors. Tony set up as before and Cas tied in. When she was ready, they exchanged their calls and Cas, once again, backed over the edge of a crevasse and descended into the darkness.

If this crack went as far as the one above, it should cross L6. It might even go to L7, near the location of the shelter, though they did not have enough rope to go that far in one pitch.

She slowly picked her way down. They had been in the mine long enough that she had become used to the eerie groans and pops of the ice. But as she dropped further and further from her friends above, into the darkness, into the unknown, she began to notice them again. Some, she could actually hear, as the sound waves in the thin air around her vibrated their way through her helmet and the thicker air inside. Most, she could only feel through her hands and feet where they touched the crevasse wall. She had been climbing for several minutes when she realized there was something different about those vibrations.

She paused at a small ledge, helmet pressed against the ice. She could hear a faint rhythmic thump. That’s weird, she thought. And it was. Everything she’d heard so far had been random noise made by the ice as it sorted itself out after the quake. The sounds were often startling, but they made sense. But this… she could not for the life of her think what would make such a regular thumping.

She realized she had been standing on the ledge for some time. She checked her O2 level. It was low but still safe. So, not hypoxia, she thought. I must just be tired. She shook her head and continued down. Several meters further, she paused again and leaned her helmet against the wall. The thumping was louder. Whatever was the source of that sound, she was apparently getting closer to it. She wasn’t exactly scared by this thought. More curious than anything. But she was also a little scared. She continued down.

Several more meters and she felt something touch her back. She jumped but did not lose her hold on the wall. She took a deep breath then turned to see what was touching her. She was surprised to see her helmet light reflected back by ice just centimeters from her visor. Between her concentration on the climb and rumination on the source of that thumping sound, she hadn’t notice that the crevasse had been getting narrower. She looked down. The crack continued to taper below her. She would not make much more progress there. She looked around. To her left, the crack widened a little. She climbed left and looked down. Still narrowing, but it looked like she could go a ways. She continued down.

A few meters more and she had to traverse left again. This time when she looked down her light was reflected up at her. Was that a bottom? Could it be L6? A wave of relief washed over her. She leaned her helmet against the wall to rest a moment and was greeted by the thumping, louder than ever. The relief vanished. Ok, she thought, time to face the thumper. She continued down.

When she reached the bottom, she realized she was in a grid tunnel. She had made it to L6! Shadows shifted in her light as she looked around. One of them moved differently than it should have. Her breathing froze and she backed away quickly, falling over an ice block. She scrambled to her feet and cast her light in the direction of the weird shadow. It was a figure. In a suit. Lying on the floor of the tunnel. In one hand was a block of ice. The figure dropped the ice and Cas felt the thump as it landed, just like the thumps she had been hearing. The figure raised the hand in the air and waved at her.

There was something wrong with the helmet the figure wore. It was smeared in black such that Cas couldn’t see a face and there was a thin stream of mist jetting out where nothing should be coming out, ever.

 

(excerpt from the first draft/WIP of Water: Generation Mars, Book Three)

image: created with Stable Diffusion

Ice sounds

Here’s the soundtrack I play in my office lately while I write. I don’t know how a collapsing glacier on Mars would sound to those stuck within, but I imagine it wouldn’t be too far from this.

The lights have gone out. The tunnels have broken and shifted around you. And these sounds constantly rumble and zing up through your feet and the thin atmosphere outside your helmet. Do you have enough air to find your way out?

My gosh, this book might be too scary for kids!

 

Shelter is now available

Readers of all ages,

Shelter: Generation Mars, Book Two is now officially released.

The family is on an away mission when a solar particle event forces them to seek shelter where they can. As conditions go from uncomfortable to desperate, it falls to the sisters to save the family. It’s a struggle for survival in which they learn the full meaning of shelter.

Available now on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733731040

 

Coronal mass ejection

Sometimes, twisting of magnetic fields within the corona gets so tight that the tension abruptly snaps, sending massive loops of plasma racing away from the Sun in an event called a coronal mass ejection (CME). Most of the time, these clouds of particles dissipate into space without causing any harm.

Sometimes, the cloud of particles is pointed straight at one of the inner planets. When this happens, the high-speed charged particles slam into the planet in what is called a solar particle event (SPE). For planets with thick atmospheres and strong magnetic fields, most of the energy dissipates far above the surface. Mars has neither a thick atmosphere nor a strong magnetic field. When an SPE occurs on Mars, the surface is flooded with high energy particle radiation.

Sometimes, two or more CMEs will happen in the same place on the Sun, one after another. When this happens, the first clears a path for the ones that follow, allowing them to race even faster out into the solar system.

Sometimes, two or more CMEs will happen in the same place on the Sun and point straight at one of the inner planets. When this happens, the SPE on the planet can go on for several days.

One time in particular, when a mother and father and their two children were on their first camping trip, that planet was Mars.

Shelter: Generation Mars, Book Two

Coming March 1st

(available for pre-order now: https://www.amazon.com/Shelter-Generation-Mars-Book-Two/dp/1733731040)

(image: Luis Peres)

Niger Vallis

“I’m open,” said Nyla. Cas looked up and saw that her mother was standing with knees slightly bent, ready to receive. Cas passed her the ball, and her mother trapped it and dribbled to another spot before passing it back. They continued this—laughing, dribbling, chatting, and passing—until their shadows grew long and the fat blue Sun fell behind the rim of Dao Vallis, far down-canyon from them.

Shelter: Generation Mars, Book Two
Coming in March
(image: Niger Vallis near confluence with Dao Vallis, composite from Google Earth Pro – Mars)

Dao Vallis

They walked along the bench a bit, looking for an easy way down. Eventually, they were able to scramble down to the bottom of the channel. The surface was looser here, and composed of various sized rocks. They walked along, each kicking at rocks and stopping occasionally to pick up one that looked interesting, as humans have since they first walked the Earth. Aedan felt completely happy in a way that only happens once in a while. The novelty of walking outside with his youngest daughter had still not worn off, and he loved it.

Shelter: Generation Mars, Book Two
Coming in March
(image: upper Dao Vallis, composite from Google Earth Pro – Mars)

In it

“Well,” said Nyla, “now we’re in it, huh?”

Cas smiled. “Yep,” she said. She looked around. They were alone on the surface with no shelter other than their suits and the tent strapped to the SD Rover. Cas’s smile grew broader. “This is cool,” she said.

Shelter: Generation Mars, Book Two
 
Coming in March
 
#mars #scifi #childrensbooks #middlegradebooks #kidlit #camping
 
(image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS, Perseverance, mission sol 136)

Parting ways

Everyone stood looking at each other. Cas realized that parting on the surface like this was different than parting when they went to school and their parents went to work. They were already separate, each in their own little world maintained by their suit. They couldn’t kiss each other goodbye. Even hugging was difficult with the helmets. But they hugged nonetheless.

Shelter: Generation Mars, Book Two

Coming in March (available for pre-order now: https://www.amazon.com/Shelter-Generation-Mars-Book-Two/dp/1733731040)

(image: Luis Peres)

Offroad challenge

“Well, this looks terrifying,” said their mother, looking out the front window of the LD at the slope their father intended to descend.

“The nearest alternative adds over 120 kilometers to our route,” said Aedan, also staring at the slope. It was steep. It was uneven. It was rocky. He smiled. “It looks like fun,” he said. Nyla gave him a look but said nothing.

“Yeah!” said Cas from behind. “Do it, Dad! It’ll be epic!”

Ori joined in: “EPIC!” she hollered.

Shelter: Generation Mars, Book Two

Coming in March

(image: Luis Peres)