Fram Seismological Survey

15 05 2007

Geologist

A44-10 Module Operations Guide: P4.C2 – the A44-10 requires two operators to install. Position A44-10 Module with [-12-.12a.12b.12c.12d] foot-plates unlocked. Select [-on.ini.fireDpin.deploy…y/n]. Once Drillpins have been deployed, select [ -ini.bore.deploy…y/n]. Once Bore [13d.13f1.13.f2] has been deployed, select [ -ini.seis/sen.deploy…y/n]. Once Seismic Sensor has been deployed, the A44-10 can be used immediately.

See >A44-10 Monitoring System

One of the footplates wouldn’t unlock properly, which saw Mierhof and myself, one on each side of the rig, rocking it back and forth until the whole thing settled into the regolith. Mierhof was breathing heavily and swearing, which cracked and distorted the link between his e-suit and mine. He told the rig to get “frammed”, which was turning out to be one of the first linguistic divergences from our home – that bright yellow spark that had attached itself to Cassiopeia, which we still called “Home”, despite being here for the long run.

The drill bits and bore deployed just fine, though the regolith, blasted by micrometeorites for longer than there had been a human race, offered no real resistance. There was a thump thump thump we felt through our boots but couldn’t really hear: this was the bore hammering down through the soil.

It had been three weeks since planetfall: the four colonisation pods of Quoqasi had settled and begun to expand into small, pressure-locked towns, and even now we looked over the horizon and saw a pair of KOVTARs walking in their ungainly gait under the double crescents of Sverdrup and Nansen.

Mierhof was glad to get away from those things for a few days. He was adjusting the rig, but all I could hear was the shift of dust over the ground. That dust had thus far been a nightmare – it was incredibly abrasive, and we hadn’t brought enough spare parts to replace all the seals and gaskets the stuff wore down, much less the foot actuators of our KOVTARs.

The survey showed up much of what the eggheads back Home had expected, when the first probes to Alpha Centauri had returned their information packets to Earth. It was very similar to Luna, Earth’s Moon: the regolith was only a few dozen meters thick, composed of comminuted rock formed by regular impacts; underneath this was fractured bedrock, kilometers thick. Some of this bedrock was exposed, in places on Fram’s surface, like the deeper craters, or sublimated beneath basalt plains formed by the heat of great impactors.

What was beneath the megaregolith the A44-10 would not tell us, though if we were right, the upper mantle would compose silicone, magnesium, aluminium, iron, calcium, and oxygen, baked into the rocks. This was the stuff we needed, both to expand our colony and to open up our closed-loop life support systems.

Nothing on the rig gave us a clue about the core or mantle. Somewhere down there, buried deep, was a massive ball of iron, larger than Mercury. We knew this because Fram had a magnetosphere, a magnetic field almost as strong as Earth’s, despite being a much smaller world. We settled here because the magnetosphere protected us from the charged particles pumped out by Alpha A and B. Without that iron core, Mierhof would be more than frammed.

But the rig did show us that nothing was moving down there, no superheated magma ocean or asthenosphere, no plate tectonics or lithosphere. Not that anything would be moving, if the iron core hypothesis was right. Everything that could happen to Fram, geologically, had already happened: now it was still and silent, waiting for the next impactor.

Mierhof ran the subterranean radar pulses for a while longer, though we hadn’t found anything unexpected and nor had any of the other seismological survey teams. We didn’t have to worry about earthquakes or volcanoes, nor did we have to worry about high-energy electrons and protons destroying Fram’s crappy atmosphere and giving us cancers. But we did have to worry about the basics: air, food, water, warmth, and spare parts…

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