Mustered Out on Mertactor

296-1107

The Test Flight

Just after dawn they were almost ready. While Grim and Taeva snatched a few hours of sleep the others packed up their gear and prepared breakfast.

“Not everything will be perfect” said Grim, “So we should make a dry run using the onboard training-mode simulators, and run some low and then full power tests on the ground. It will take a few hours but it’ll iron out the worst of the faults before takeoff.”

“Fine” sighed Max, “Bloody hop to it then”

The next hour or so was spent as they ran a few initial tests. Max had little to do and so he was the first to notice a gentle pinging from the sensor data processing suite.

“’Ere Will!” he called, “What’s going on?”

“Um listen everyone” called Will over the intercom, "The suite has revised it’s eruption prediction based on new data. To the computer. It’s…ah…. showing some new tables and models which, err, seem to be showing a 3D model of the mountain with a lava plume smashing through the plug " There was a moments total silence.

“How long Will?” asked Taeva finally.

“About 6 minutes”. A brief panic ensued as the crew cleared for immediate takeoff. Four minutes later they were ready. Will didn’t share his information that he didn’t think they had sufficient time to get clear of the eruption anyway. And then the sensor started pinging again.

Once again the suite was issuing revised data. The models were showing a much reduced lava plume pouring out into the crater and down the sides of the mountain, accompanied by a cloud of hot gas and ash. As they started to rise the first wisps of smoke could be seen coiling up from the lava tubes and the lake bed fissure. What water remained was beginning to boil. An eruption was obviously imminent, and the ground began to shake to confirm this.

As the call finally came through from Grim the powerplant rose to full power, as a plume of smoke started to rise from the southwestern side of the mountain, well outside the crater. The ground shuddered and the ship’s radar began warning of incoming missiles. Outside chunks of rock started to rain down on the ship.

Will realised that the lava plume had found a way out, through a path that was too far down the mountain to appear on their survey.

“Well at least we won’t be incinerated then” was his first thought. Even so the air in the crater would be becoming too hot and too laden with volcanic gases to breathe. As the ship finally lifted off, lava began to boil out of the lake bed fissures.

Taeva cursed intermittantly as minor electronic systems failed, and she ran about the ship replacing panels. Clearly this wasn’t going to be easy.

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