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Minus Two Fifty Three

Novel By: Howlingwolf214
Science fiction



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Triton, a moon of Neptune. Normally uninhabitable, until a research team, with the help of a Terraforming ship, begin to build a base there. With the ship's help they can resist the temperature of the Moon's surface, which peaks around -253. All of a sudden, however, the terraforming ships shuts off, before the base is finished. With limited heating and oxygen, the team are trapped. It's Minus Two Fifty Three outside and time is running out.
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My word, certainly took me a while to get around to posting this!

This is the Novel I wrote for the 50,000 word competition back in November. Back then, I had dreams of grandeur, dreams of publishing! But then schoolwork and Christmas presents descended and I grew lazy. Now I lack motivation to continue.

But, that aside, I thought I might as well post the Unedited version here. There are bound to be typos here and there as I was writing this quickly.

I will be posting a new chapter to it every three or so days, to create a semblance of suspense. That may seem unnecessary, but I think it's nice.

Enjoy! Please comment and tell me what you think. If enough people like it, might even write more. Who knows? View table of contents...


Chapters:

1 2 3 4 5

Submitted:Jan 19, 2011    Reads: 24    Comments: 1    Likes: 0   


Chapter 1: Calm
Boreas Research Log #00023
Triton, Neptune
  1. Brooke
Head of Research
***
Oxygen tanks have been installed and are working fine. Oxygen link from the Prometheus has yet to be severed though; we need at least a week to test the tanks to prevent any leak. Kilbourn says that the pipes may crack under the cold if we are not careful, so we need to see about some heavy duty insulating.

Water processing is going well. The local ice found on Triton is being melted and converted into a drinkable water supply. The abundance of ice on the surface means that we can stay here for as long as we need. We have ceased the water supply from the Prometheus because of this. Food supplies are stocking up as well; we are getting more than we need. We have asked the Prometheus not to send any more down for at least three weeks, as our stores are becoming too full. Blake jokingly says that we will all be fat before this research is finished, which is probably not far from the truth.
Preliminary studies of the moon aren't telling us much, apart from what the ice is made from. Halbard thinks that
***
The research log ended here as the writer, Alexander Brooke, had long since fallen asleep. His head lay to one side of the keyboard indicating that he had fallen asleep in the process of writing. His hair, which always seemed too long for him however many times he cut it, was sprawled across his face. An empty cup of coffee, that had clearly failed to keep him awake, was lying next to his head. Next to it was a framed picture of Brooke and another man, seemingly a friend of his, standing by a lake desperately trying to keep hold of a large fish. The room itself was pretty bare apart from this, with only a bed in the corner to break up the dull steel walls.
For a while there was silence in the room apart from the deep breathing of Brooke. This was soon broken by a loud knocking on his door. Brooke started awake and knocked the coffee cup off his desk. Thankfully there was no coffee in but even so Brooke quickly dived for it. "Come in" he said, brushing his hair out of his eyes. The door opened slowly and head poked around the door. It was Matthias, his junior research assistant. He was the newest member of the research team and as such was rather shy. "Yes, Perl?" Brooke asked. He always addressed the team by their last names, however much they complained. He knew he probably shouldn't be so formal but it was an old habit he couldn't shake off. Matthias summoned his courage and said, "Breakfast". He withdrew his head and quickly closed the door. Brooke stared at the closed door for a few seconds before getting up and stretching. It wasn't surprising he had fallen asleep, he'd been up for Seventy-Two hours straight and had only survived thanks to Caffeine.
He exchanged his clothes for some that were cleaner and made his way to the dining hall. As he entered he looked around. It was a fairly large hall considering that the research term was rather small at the moment. He spotted Matthias alone in a corner, his mousy hair completely covering his face, slowly eating a bowl of cornflakes. His attention was mostly drawn to the large argument that was happening in the middle of the hall. It seemed to be between Theia Kilbourn, the Head Engineer, and Frederick Halbard, the Geologist. Halbard kept taking off his glasses and polishing them every time Kilbourn started shouting at him. Jason Blake, the team's Medic, was sitting on the sidelines, evidently enjoying himself. Brooke got closer so that he could hear what each was saying.
"How am I supposed to concentrate with you hammering and sawing every day and night?" Halbard said, glasses now firmly back in place. He took his job as a Geologist extremely seriously and was prone to snap at anyone who disturbed him during his work. Everyone on the team, apart from Matthias, had asked Brooke why Halbard was on the team. Brooke gave them all the same answer: 'This moon is a recently formed moon and its geology may yield useful clues as to how moons and planets are fully created'. Not a very interesting answer, granted, but it seemed to stop the complaining. Kilbourn was now ready with a counter-argument, which she delivered at the top of her voice. "It's my hammering and sawing that ensures everyone stays alive in this place! Shall we see how well you concentrate without any Oxygen?!" Off came Halbard's glasses again and he nervously began to polish them. He did this for some time, seemingly unable to think of a suitable argument to throw back. "Yes… Well… Just try to keep the noise down", he said before storming out of dining hall. Kilbourn, now with an air of triumph, returned to her breakfast. "Your third argument this week" Brooke commented, "You're on a winning streak". Kilbourn looked up from her toast and grinned, "I know. I may be able to beat my record set, oh, the week before last." Half laughing Brooke got up and get his breakfast.
After a few rounds of toast Brooke went to his office. In actuality it was a main research centre as well as a small control centre for the entire facility but he spent more time in there than anyone else, so the team just called it his office. The first thing he did was pour himself a cup of coffee from the pot nearby and then sat down on his favourite swivel chair. He stuck his feet up on a desk and glanced over at the monitors. These monitors recorded everything from the oxygen supply, the food stores as well as the ever important temperature. The oxygen monitor revealed that they had full oxygen supplies with no leakages: Kilbourn had seen to that. The food supply monitor had a flashing light that indicated it was full. Blake was the only member of the team that could cook and not burn everything, so he was forced to cook most of the time. It was him that had indicated the overcrowded food stores. Brooke turned his attention to the temperature monitor. The temperature inside was recorded as a pleasant 25°C but outside the conditions were much less favourable. Right now the temperature was
-249°C. Thank Heavens for the Prometheus up above, which kept the temperature stable. There were plans to try and heat the base from down here, but these were far away from being completed. Next, he checked on their water supplies. These were also full, mostly thanks to the water purification system Kilbourn had built. While around 15 - 35% of Triton was speculated to be frozen water, no one was prepared to drink it straight out of the ground. Nothing bad had happened yet though, so hopes were high.
Brooke sat at his desk for a few more hours with nothing really to do. He was waiting for orders to come through from the captain in the ship above and until then he didn't really have anything more to do. He played a few games of Solitaire on his computer while he waited. After quite a while someone pushed open the door to his office and called him. It was Thane Stanton, the Junior Engineer, who insisted that most rules didn't apply this far from Earth. As such he referred to the team by their first names only. "Alex", he said spotting Brooke at his desk, "They're ready for you in the briefing room." Brooke took his legs off the desk and got up from his chair. He finished off his coffee before replying. "Thank you, Stanton. I'll be there right away." Stanton smirked and left the room. Brooke tried his best to sort his hair out before making his way to the briefing room. He spoke to the Captain three times a week and they were practically on first name terms these days, but still he felt the need to sort his hair out.
Brooke entered the briefing room to find it deserted. Instead a computer screen crackled on the right hand side. The starkness of this room made him realise how bland this base really was. It was made out of steel and that's really all you could see. He was no interior designer, but a carpet might have been nice. He walked over to the computer and tapped in a password that only he knew. He felt it was rather over the top to have a password for communications as it was a video link. If someone appeared who wasn't the right person, they could just terminate the link. There were a few seconds of static before the Captain of the Prometheus' face appeared. It looked nothing like the stereotypical view of the captain of a spaceship. When many people say 'Space Captain' they think of some grizzled war veteran barking orders. Instead, what appeared was the face of a woman in her early twenties, with short blonde hair and striking blue eyes. Many people thought she seemed more like an air hostess. Those people clearly hadn't seen Captain Chloe Nyx fly a spaceship.

"Anything new to report?" She asked, foregoing a greeting. These reports had become so common that neither of them bothered with a 'Hello' anymore. Mentally stopping his hand from jumping to his hair, Brooke replied "No Ma'am. Oxygen, food and water supplies are stable. There has been no change in temperature inside or outside the base." This was pretty much the same answer he had given last time, except the request to stop sending food. Nyx, on the other hand, seemed to have some news of her own. She tapped out a few commands on her computer and pulled up a stream of data. "This is the analysis we have on the various ice samples you have sent us. It seems you landed in the perfect spot. You're right on top of a large quantity of frozen water. Anywhere else and you'd have probably set up shop right on top of a load of frozen nitrogen." She tapped a few more keys, "Our scans show that the mantle of Triton is made up of the frozen water, which you have now tapped in to. However underneath this is a layer of rock and metal. We are compiling plans for the future where we will try to drill down to this layer, which is where your geologist will be put to his best use. There may even be a layer of liquid water there, which could even mean the presence of life." More tapping of keys and the data disappeared, "Until then try to keep everything together. See you at the next briefing. Nyx out." That was it, the screen died down and Brooke was left pondering.
They were already stretched thin as it was with Kilbourn and Stanton working hard to keep the place stable. The prospect of drilling was not a pleasant one and would almost certainly mean more sleepless nights. Brooke sighed and made his way towards his bedroom. He felt that he should really finish the research log he had fallen asleep completing. He entered his room, sat down at his desk and after a moment's hesitation, set to work. Meanwhile, in the Base's Medical Laboratory Jason Blake was also hard at work. He was pretty relaxed most of the time but when his studies presented a problem he could not simply ignore it. This was, therefore, why he had been hard at work for the past several hours. His problem was that water that the rest of the team were content to drink. He had seen far too many poisonous compounds in his life to simply drink something that he had not fully studied. His first tests had shown that the majority of the water was just that: water. Hydrogen, Oxygen and a few harmless waste products. However there was one problem that kept resurfacing. There was something in the water that he couldn't identify. He had run through all his computer data but couldn't find anything remotely like it. Part of him knew that he shouldn't worry so much as they had all been drinking the water for a long time now and nothing had happened, but as a scientist he couldn't ignore an anomaly like this.
He got up off his chair and rubbed his eyes, they were sore from staring down the lens of the microscope for too long. He looked around at his lab and realised how messy it had become. He had been engrossed in his work that he tended to leave things strewn around the place. He ran his fingers through his hair and decided he might as well go and get a cup of coffee. He walked towards the dining hall, checking his watch. He had an appointment with Matthias in a few minutes. It wasn't anything serious, just a regular check-up, but he didn't want to be late. On the way he passed by Kilbourn, who was hard at work insulating an oxygen pipe. She nodded to him as he passed and he gave her a wave in return. He entered the dining hall, which was deserted for the time being, and made his way over to the coffee pot in the corner. He poured himself a cup of coffee and rubbed his eyes. He'd been awake for over Forty-Eight hours now and sleep deprivation was starting to kick in. He knew he probably wouldn't be able to sleep for another day though: he was far too engrossed in his work. His watch started beeping to indicate that it was time for Matthias' appointment. Hastily scooping up his cup of coffee he made his way back to his lab.
Sure enough Matthias was already there, sitting on the chair reserved for his patients. "Good Afternoon", Matthias said as he noticed Blake entering the room. He was still noticeably shy as he was never able to maintain eye contact for more than a few seconds. "Afternoon", Blake said in return and walked over to his computer. He tapped a few keys and brought up Matthias' medical details. His last check-up showed him to be in almost perfect health. Matthias suffered from Asthma, though, but it had been kept mainly under control. Blake glanced once more over the details of the last check before performing the current check-up. Opening a drawer he took out a stethoscope and began to measure Matthias' heart rate. Matthias flinched at little as the cold stethoscope touched his skin, but remained silent.
"Well, that all seems fine", Blake said, after a pause, "How has your breathing been?"
"Fine"
"No wheezing?"
"Not for some time"
Blake nodded and put the stethoscope back in his drawer. He then took a reading of Matthias' blood pressure, which was also fine. Lastly he took a sample of Matthias' blood, which he would analyse for any foreign compounds. This was a requirement for any interplanetary missions as no one had any idea what could be lurking in the air. Or in the water, Blake thought, glancing over at the samples on his desk. Matthias got up and thanked Blake. Appointments were made every fortnight so there was no need to hang around to book another one. As Matthias was leaving, Blake inserted the vial of his blood into a machine that would analyse it completely. This took a while though so Blake decided to go and start cooking dinner.

On his way out of Blake's lab, Matthias bumped into Halbard, almost knocking him over. "Watch it!" Halbard snapped, once he had righted himself. Halbard then bustled off in the direction of his office. Matthias stared after him for a while before making his way to his own office. His office was more of a small bedroom, with a tiny desk crammed into one end. He had tried his best to make it seem homely, however, with posters covering the walls. Still, it still didn't feel like home to him. He was treated by an outsider by most of the team. He supposed it was only natural, as he was the newest member, but it was hard to work like this. It probably didn't help matters that he didn't have the confidence needed to take his research to anyone to see what they thought. He had been enormously excited by the thought of coming to another planet, as he wanted to research the possibility of life. Once he had got here though, and found himself on a planet made out of mostly Ice, he had lost a lot of that excitement. He had still poured over every sample he could get his hands on, hoping to find a glimmer of life. No luck so far though, but he wasn't giving up hope.
He had just begun to work when Kilbourn stuck her head around his door.
"Matt, can you give me a hand with something?"
"Um, Sure."
Kilbourn was a very good engineer but she was all but hopeless with computers. She usually got someone else to handle it, but this was the first time she had called on Matthias. Feeling secretly pleased, he followed her to a computer bank. This was the central computer bank that controlled the oxygen flow throughout the base.
"I've finished installing all the pipes now", she explained, "I just need to do a test to make sure there are no leakages anywhere. Do you mind?" She asked, indicating the computer.
"No problem", Matthias replied. He was quite handy with computers and after a few key taps initiated the test. A map of all the pipes was brought up on all of the screens. Areas began to fill up with a red glow to indicate that oxygen was running through them. An area of lower pressure would indicate a leak and not glow red. The entire pipe network flooded with red except…
"There", Matthias said, pointing to the screen, "Section 3C's oxygen pipe has a leak."
"Damn. I better get on that", Kilbourn replied, staring at the screen. She clapped Matthias on the shoulder as a gesture of thanks and ran off towards the leaking pipe. Feeling considerably happier, Matthias returned to his work.
In the office next to his, Brooke got up out of his chair and stretched. He had finally completed the pesky Research Log, which would be sent off to the Prometheus for studying, and then stored to be sent back to Earth at a later date. Most of the Research Logs were pretty similar, as it was still early days and they hadn't found all that much yet. His coffee cup was once again empty and, as it was almost time for dinner, he decided to call it a day and get something to eat. The footsteps walking past his door indicated that at least three other people felt the same way. The smell of something cooking indicated that Blake had started cooking dinner, so Brooke made his way to the Dining Hall. Halbard, Stanton and Matthias were all there, waiting for the food to be finished cooking. Brooke walked over to where Blake was busying himself in the kitchen.
"What's on the menu tonight?" Brooke asked, a smile on his face.
"Lasagne", Blake replied, over his shoulder, "An old favourite of mine."
"I love Lasagne!" Stanton called from his table.
"Good to know", Blake said, turning round with the completed Lasagne in a dish. "Get it while it's burning hot."
He dished up the first portion to Brooke who thanked him and sat down at a table. Next, Halbard and Stanton sat down on the same table, opposite him. However, for the first time, Matthias chose to sit next to Brooke. Usually he ate by himself at a table in the corner. He must be in a good mood, thought Brooke, but decided not to question Matthias about it. The lasagne was delicious, like most of Blake's cooking, and Blake had to refuse Stanton a second helping, reminding him that he and Kilbourn still had to eat. Kilbourn was rarely on time for Dinner, so Brooke asked what she was doing.
"She's fixing a leaking oxygen pipe", Matthias said, which again was strange as he barely ever said anything.
"Well, she'll be a while then", said Blake who had caught Matthias' answer. He sat down next to Brooke and began to eat his helping. "If she turns up late, she gets cold lasagne, fair's fair." Brooke laughed and finished off his serving.
"Good work as always", he said, indicating the clean plate.
"I know, they should be paying me extra for this", Blake remarked. Grinning Brooke took his plate over to the sink and began to wash up.
After Dinner was finished, those that had been up for a long time decided to turn in for the night. Brooke was feeling pretty tired himself, having only had a few hours of sleep on a computer keyboard. Deciding that it would probably do him good to get some more sleep, he said goodnight and went to his room. There he got changed into cloths more suited for sleeping in and got into bed. He lay there for a while, thinking about what the others were doing right now. Blake never seemed to sleep; he was probably back at work in his lab. Halbard slept every day, the only member of the team that did, as he said it was unhealthy to stay awake for long periods of time. Matthias was probably hard at work as well, as he took his research seriously. He was a good researcher and it made Brooke annoyed when other members of the team picked on him, especially Halbard. Stanton was probably tinkering with something in his workshop; he enjoyed making things even if they had no purpose. Kilbourn was still probably hard at work fixing the leaking pipe. For some reason that image stayed in his head. The image of her short dark hair and welder's goggles over her deep brown eyes. It was to that image that he fell slowly asleep.




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