The servicemech moved to the next bay and repeated the cycle. It flipped the main circuit on, tested the pathways, affixed a time and location marker, activated the telemetry systems, and checked the power generation subsystems for stability.
Satisfied that all was well, it cleared the niche’s occupant for drop and moved to the next bay.
Punching planetward at hypersonic speeds, the bow shock went from invisibly dark to red to white in seconds. Ablative plates melted into fragmentary slag that cast off molten runnels and fluid drops that further aerosolized into the atmosphere. LIDAR monitored range, and at the defined value, initiated the descent thrusters.
More expensive models would have gravity surfed down using microgrips of the local brane deformation and not required the internal gyroscopic gimbals for payload stabilization, but this was a budget-conscious operation.
The peat was on fire now and would likely burn for centuries. A fish splashed nearby – an attempt upon a dragonfly that flew up and away from the brief, mirrored reflection of itself that it was investigating, pulled in a thermal away from the now rapidly cooling sphere.
The frogs resumed their chorus first, no longer seeing anything moving, and then their backing symphony quickly swelled to full volume within the naturally encircling amphitheater of conifer and deciduous trees. At least, what remained of it that wasn’t scorched to grey ash.
Sensing internal azimuth cardinal direction variance exceedence from local gravity, a panel located at the orb’s 0,0,0 location recessed open and slid away, fully exposing an opening. With a burp, a leaded weight crimped upon a line was ejected and landed in the mud five meters away.
The gossamer filiment of the line settled atop the muck, spectrum sparkling in the sun’s light, which now penetrated to the surface through the newly smashed hole in the canopy. The end of the line, now embedded within the humus, began to grow straight down into gravity’s well until it encountered bedrock.
Sensing the crystal matrix, the line split into a random radiating splay across the surface for nine meters before sending deep roots down into the rock across the radii. Thus securely anchored, the burrowed nanoline began to tension and solidify upwards, perpendicular to the plane of the local field. Once above the surface, the tensioning began to pull the capsule towards the bedrock anchor and it eventually began to climb up the line and sit atop it like a finial.
Achieving proper orientation, it began to eat itself down the line now and then settled back into the mud and revealed itself to be an errant, alloy palantír as its exposed surface danced through the spectrum as it cycled through reflection, absorption, and emission.
A sharp exhaled hiss accompanied the unscrewing and rotation up of the entire upper hemisphere as the internal, argon atmosphere mixed into the planet’s mostly nitrogen one. After being completely unfastened, hydraulic lifts elevated the dome until it toppled away.
Now fully exposed, the cargo activated and disengaged from the harness before clambering out of the probe, intent upon its mission.
Copyright 2012, Chris Kilbourn