As the scout ship lifted clear of the hellzone that had become the crater, bushes begin to catch fire and the air outside filled with dust and ash. The radio became suddenly active, with two transmissions on similar bands.
The first transmission was coming in from the capital at Central Lake by way of the starport orbital beacon. Chamberlain Melzhett was demanding to know what was happening.
“We have garbled reports of smoke from the mountain and a tremor.” he barked, “What the hell is going on? What is the situation?”
As Will relayed the information he knew the Chamberlain became more and more frantic. As Will struggled to calm him Taeva opened up the second transmission.
“Hmm it’s the mayor’s office at Salbarii” she said to WIll. “He’s a little worried about the tremors and the the clouds of ash coming from the mountain. Frankly I don’t blame him”
“Well we could run now” suggested Will, “We will be ok at least.”
“I doubt that would win us many brownie points with these Vargr” said Grim, “And this ship just isn’t safe enough to refuel and try a sneaky jump out system.”
“We need to do the minimum possible to appear helpful” said Taeva, “Without risking our own necks overmuch.”
“I’ll relay the data through for now” said Will, “That should shut them up for a bit.”
For now they circled the area, allowing the sensors to update and relay new information. As they did so they learned that the world’s handful of grav vehicles were en route to Mount Salbarii, and a special train full of security personnel, fire and rescue workers, and the like, was being hurredly assembled. But for now it seemed that the ShakenVacc was the only effective rescue resource in the area.
Under instruction from the Chamberlain the ship made another flyby of the whole mountain and the surrounding region, and a direct video feed via the starport beacon was relayed to the capital.
There was a lot of thick haze caused by smoke and ash from the mountain, and the odd rock flung into the air made the trip exciting if nothing else. The ship’s radar and sensors made it possible to map the ground easily enough through the haze even though visual range was very short. A circuit of the mountain revealed that there was a small amount of lava in the crater itself, and some leaking from outlets on the higher slopes. Will realised that this was not a significant hazard beyond the immediate area.
There was also a major eruption much lower down, where part of the mountainside had collapsed. A veritable river of lava was pouring out of the southwestern side of the volcano. Here the land sloped generally down to the sea from the erupting side of the volcano, offering the lava flow a direct path to the sea.
At present it seemed that the town of Salbarii, some 20km north, was not in any real danger at present or in the foreseeable future. There were however some small settlements, mainly just farms and a couple of hamlets, in the path of the lava flow. Within hours at most these would be swamped. The only settlement of any size in the danger zone had a population of about 60 people and was on the coast.
Another transmission from Chamberlain Melzhett reported that the fishing submarine Ocean’s Bounty had surfaced and was transmitting her intent to run into the coastal hamlet of Barvinn where she would take off as many people as she could. The mayor’s office at Salbarii was also broadcasting instructions for all inhabitants of threatened settlements to make for Salbarii where they would be looked after unless the town was in danger, in which case they would be evacuated by rail.
After a while the a general broadcast from Prince Agzzrgh came on the air; from the poor quality of the transmission it seemed that he was aboard a fast-moving vehicle. His instructions to the people repeated those of the mayor of Salbarii – head for the town where a rescue plan was being put in place. Those that could not get to Salbarii should make a run for Barvinn on the coast and await rescue.
Minutes later a direct communication also arrived from the Prince.
“I’m on a grav car heading for Salbarii, one of only three we have.” said the Prince. “There is a road – more of a dirt track really – up to Salbarii but it runs close to the mountain and may already be cut. There is also a singletrack rail link down the coast to Barvinn which will stay open for a while. A train has already been sent to pick up the town’s population. However, it is likely that some people will arrive after the train has departed. The sub can take a handful off; the remainder will have to wait for a second run by the same train.”
“I’m setting up a command post at Salbarii and sending the grav vehicles to pick up anyone who is stranded. Our scientists are asking you to get an estimate of the lava flow rate. Then we’ll know how long Barvinn has before it is endangered. Ideally we’d also like to know if the road is still open”.
“Ok” replied Will, “Will do.” Once more the ShakenVacc headed back towards the disaster area.