173 - slope
kip felt the ground beneath him grumble. A small tremor, but it felt like it was coming from directly below him. His legs swayed under the extra gravity, and he had to be careful to maintain his balance.
"Another one," he spoke out loud into his visor.
"Are you sure? I didn't feel a damn thing. Did someone sneak some magic mushrooms in the Captain's lunch rations?" Eva's voice crackled over the comm in his ear. Though she was currently two kilometers away, Skip could still see the smirk on her face.
"No, I just picked it up on the sensors," a second, more serious voice chimed in. Skip was the highest ranking member of this team, but Marcella most often represented the austere authority figure among them. She constantly had to reel in her two buffoonish children.
"Well, who knows what kind of hallucinogens you're on up there," Eva continued to play. Ignoring her, Skip asked a serious question. "Overwatch, can you tell me where the activity was localized?"
"I was just looking at that. Hold on, I'll let you see for yourself," Marcella responded. Skip understood that she was sending down the coordinates to his augmented visor display.
His visor went completely red.
"Whoa! What the hell is this?!" Skip shouted. "I can't see anything!" He wasn't quite panicking, but the sudden loss of his vision was disconcerting. Then, the image cleared, and everything went back to normal.
"Sorry, Captain. I guess your overlay opacity must be set pretty high," Marcella said.
"That's the only way the old geezer can see any of the waypoints through his cataracts," Eva just had to interrupt.
If all three of them were together on the ship, Marcella would have rolled her eyes so hard into the back of her head that Skip would be wondering if they could ever come back around.
"What I was trying to show you was that the tremor's epicenter was essentially right where you're standing," Marcella explained. Skip found it hard to believe. "Right where I'm standing? Depth?" he asked.
"Depth reading is basically at surface level, sir. Error tolerance could have it as deep as half a meter, though," she answered.
"So that has to be a mistake, then. I'm tripping the sensors or otherwise interfering with their readings," Skip speculated.
"Maybe it wasn't the hallucinogens in your rations, just too many high-calorie snacks? You're getting chubby, Captain, but enough to cause quakes? We're getting you back on a strict regiment when we dock at port," Eva continued, like a middle child desperate for attention.
"Overwatch?" Skip asked, wanting to hear Marcella's thoughts on his guesswork.
"I was waiting for the stand-up to run through her material. It's extremely unlikely that the telemetry is wrong. No sensors are reporting errors, and even if one or two were faulty, the rest of the monitoring network would compensate," Marcella explained stoically.
Skip had no problem with Eva's constant attempts to add levity to the situation. She was as intelligent as anyone else on the team. She knew what they knew. This rock was not seismically active. It had been monitored and studied for years before the first manned missions were ever conceived of.
Even if all the previous studies were wrong, why now? Why here? Skip tried to calculate the odds. Something wasn't right.
"I'm making the call to cease surface operations until we figure this out," Skip said suddenly. "Eva, rendezvous at the ranger as soon as possible."
She sighed, and radioed in an uncharacteristically curt, "Okay." No more jokes. She wouldn't have made the same decision, but that was also why she wasn't the leader of the mission.
"I'll begin to prep the docking bay," Marcella said.