Monday, 20 July 2009

Travelogue VI: The wreck of the Aidolate

The wind howls like a woman mourning her lover, tugging at the sand and occasionally flinging small handfuls of it into the air. The grains scatter down again, pattering like dry rain on the orange desert below. The scent of cinnamon is strong here, and the orange sand is stained darker and darker, shading almost to brown, as the wreck is approached. Scrubby plants cling to life, mostly bare brown branches with tiny buds of olive green leaves tucked on the underside to hide them from the wind.

The Aïodolate crashed down almost vertically, and its speed caused it to embed over two-thirds of its length into the ground. There is speculation that it stopped because it met bedrock, and more speculation that it stopped only because the engines gave out. Either way, the wreck resembles an iceberg, both in that most of it is hidden below the surface, and in its general outline.

The engine housing is cratered and craggy, standing proud like a burnished metallic mountain. A few hardy souls each year attempt to climb it, and so far routes have been found to half-way up but no further. The metals used for the engine housing were commonplace save for a small amount of exotic bonding material, and that reduces friction and toughens the alloy. This makes climbing harder, and hammering in pitons almost impossible.

All of the access doors are below the surface somewhere. The engine housing stands proud of the desert, but the eighty metres between the start of the engine and the desert sand are either smooth metal panels or docking junctions for probes. The Aïodolate was known to have launched many probes shortly before starting its cataclysmic descent, and conspiracy theories about them abound. There are telemetry stations set up at regular intervals around the Aïodolate to watch for the return of any of the probes, in the hope that they might have some information that would explain the crash.

No-one knows if anyone survived the crash. No-one has emerged from the Aïodolate in over one-hundred and fifty years, but it did have a number of experimental stasis generators aboard. People could be asleep in there, waiting for rescue.

The political climate has changed at last, and there is talk; quiet, not-quite-insurrectionist talk of attempting to dig down to an access hatch and investigating the wreck at last. Our plans are being drawn up, and people are silently hoping that it's been long enough that if anyone crashed it for a purpose, that purpose is long gone.

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