Revi'i (TRAPPIST-1e), 6–7 Tishrei Planetfall (Exile Calendar)
It was a dark and stormy night.
"Dark" and "night" were not necessarily synonymous on Revi'i. The Chabad in Exile had, like the space-borne community from which they had been expelled, retained the measures of time that were culturally familiar. This meant a 24 hour day, with seconds defined according to the resonance of the cesium atom, and the rest of the measures defined in multiples of seconds. "Night" on the ship, and now on Revi'i, was defined by convention, not astronomy.
The planet itself had no day/night cycle, unless one chose to do a lot of walking. The planet was tidally locked, always showing the same face toward its tiny star. The habitable zones were a broad band of perpetual twilight on either side of the terminator. The small cluster of habitats they been gifted by their former brethren lay on the daylight side, the star always riding about a hand-height above the horizon.
So, it was dark because it was stormy. High winds were the norm, here, but this was an actual weather system, yielding up rain—good old dihydrogen oxide rain—and lightning such as no-one on Revi'i had experienced, nor their ancestors for seven generations.
The Thirty-one were, to put not too fine a point on it, terrified.
They had fought—literally fought—for the right to land here. They had known, intellectually, that the planet experienced natural weather such as their distant, Earth-bound ancestors had considered normal.
But they had been here only six days. The only rain they had ever experienced before was a gentle kind of drizzly mist that spiraled outward from the Spindle to water the fields and parks of the Inner Cylinder.
The mere sound of the rain pelting and the wind lashing their little habs was a trauma none of them would forget the rest of their lives.
They huddled together on the floor of their common room, comforting each other as best they could. They had not been a clan before their exile, but simply a group with a common purpose. After today, some of them might never again choose to sit so close to some of the others.
Tonight, in the face of sensory overload, they bonded together out of primal need for shelter.
When it faded, at last, after what seemed like weeks but was really only three hours or so, they all drifted off to sleep, emotionally exhausted, right where they were.
Rina was the first to awaken. Fortunately, she was near the edge of the pile, pinned down only by the arm of her friend Josie. She slid out from under and got to her feet slowly. They had been given training to adjust for full gravity, special drugs and exercises and all the rest, before they'd been dumped here...
She took a breath. No. That wasn't fair. This was what they'd wanted. It wasn't how they wanted it, but it was what they wanted.
Regardless, the planet boasted close to a full G. All of them were still getting used to being so heavy. Rina, smallest and lightest, still felt her muscles arguing as she stood. She also had a crick in her neck from sleeping on the floor snuggled up to Josie. Looking at the pile of assorted people, she imagined most of them would, as well.
She considered a painkiller, then rejected it. Until they had all their essential systems up and running, the ability to fabricate more was limited. Dream of Spring had promised to airdrop supplies as needed, and no-one doubted it. Still, everyone here was committed to using that offer sparingly. Instead, she used the nearest toilet cubicle, then grabbed a water bottle from a cabinet and filled it. Water, after all, was not in short supply, here. She drained the bottle, refilled it, and half-drained it again, feeling the positive effects of simple hydration take hold.
As often happens, her movement was the catalyst for others'. Josie was not long in extricating herself, and so was up and moving in time to join Rina in a series of stretching exercises which eased both their aches. Half-way through, two others had joined them—Richard and Anna, the red mark of Cain finally healing a bit on her forehead.
Rina was angry once again, as all of them became upon seeing that mark. The anger was complex and multi-directional. Anger at Anna, who went far beyond what any of them intended and made a martyr out of the Rebbe. Anger at the Community that had expelled them all for it. Anger at the Admiral, who had personally wielded the brand in what everyone, above and below, insisted and deeply hoped was a singular act of ancient barbarism, intended to make a singular point, and never to be repeated.
Anger at herself, for not doing more, although exactly what more she could have done, she was at a loss to say.
Anger had caused her stretching exercise to morph into a more vigorous workout. Some followed suit, others stuck with an easier routine, mostly depending upon their state of wakefulness. By the time Rina had burned off the worst of her anger, and yes, fear from the night before, only Seth was still asleep, snoring, curled on the floor, oblivious.
Wiping sweat from her brow, she went over and, not ungently, nudged him until he woke up. He smiled up at her, a smile she wasn't entirely sure she welcomed right now, although they had had their moments in the past. Still, she recognized she needed that lifeline before she plunged into darker thoughts. She took his hand, helped him up, accepted a long, close hug, then took her sweaty self off to a shower in one of the connected habs.
Throughout it all, from the moment the storm had made speech difficult until the moment she returned from her shower, no one had said a word. Their minds were still reverberating from the violence of the storm, their ears still faintly ringing, despite the return to a more normal ambient volume of white noise—the hab's air systems, the continual headwind outside.
It was another half-hour after she returned to the common room hab before a word was spoken. Everyone went through similar routines to herself, eventually emerging from showers, coming to the common room, grabbing more water, a meal bar, and sitting more conventionally in chairs rather than lying in a pile on the floor. Finally, when they were all gathered, Richard spoke.
"My friends, we have been reminded of some of what it means to live as we wanted, on a planet. We will certainly experience that again. We should consider ways to buffer the habs somewhat. I don't say this just because I don't want to be deafened again--I daresay we will all eventually get used to that, and learn to work around it. However, now that we know something of the energy the weather here imparts, we'll need to make sure these habs are protected better. When we begin to build our own structures, we will need to build them to take these things into account."
Rina relaxed, and could see everyone else relaxing as well. This was what they did—they solved problems. This was a habit the Community had bequeathed to them, 300 years in space. When catastrophe struck, you gave yourself space, and time, for your emotions, but you also focused on solving problems. People's lives depended on it.
Richard resumed, "Josie, what do we know about the weather patterns. How likely are we to get another storm like that soon?"
Rina's friend, sitting next to her, hand in her own replied, "The feed from Dream of Spring—" her voice was surprisingly free of rancor saying the name, "—predicts another storm four days from now, probably not as bad. They're still refining their algorithms from observation. Lieutenant Ari," that was their main technical contact back on the ship, the one narrow conduit of communication they permitted themselves right now, "says that they're about 30 days from being able to start fabricating a set of weather satellites that will keep us supplied with data once they move upwell to the Inner Belt."
Seth spoke up, "I don't like taking their tzedakah! Isn't there some way we can..." he trailed off, steam vented. He knew better.
Richard, nevertheless, voiced the answer, so all thirty-one would understand it. "There isn't. Oh, I have faith that some day, we'll be able to launch our own orbital infrastructure. We have all the same files they do. We know how. But we are still far too few, and we still have far too much to do, just to establish our baseline. That storm last night was a reminder. Today, before we break for Shabbat, we need to finish getting hydroponics online and get food growing. Ration bars we have in plenty, but they're going to get boring, fast. Rina, can we do that?"
Rina was ready with the answer. This was her specialty. "Unless the storm shook something loose, I think so. We had about four hours work left in the 'ponics hab. If we focus on it, we can get it done and be ready to plant as soon as Shabbat is done tomorrow."
"Excellent. Next: Scott, Elana, I know I just sprung it on you, but what do you think we would need to buffer against future storms?"
They looked at each other, gauging which one might have already thought that one through. Scott nodded, and Elana deferred to him. "I have an idea about that, actually, but I don't know if we can do it in four days. Some of the plants around here are very like bamboo—so close I did a double-take when I first saw them. We have piles and piles of spare hab-canvas in the storage caverns nearby. I think we could build a dome-frame from the quasi-bamboo. The prototype wouldn't be a long-term answer no matter what—we don't have time to properly cure the wood, and we're not even sure exactly how—right now I'm assuming we can do it like bamboo, because it seems so similar, but we might be wrong. So it will give us something, but we'd have to replace it regularly until we figured out how to build one of properly cured material, or else, have our fabs up and running to weave us carbon-fiber rods instead."
There were nods all around the room. Rivka, another engineer, said, "I like that idea, honestly. A mix of the primitive and the current. We'll need that kind of thinking going forward—solutions for now as well as solutions for later."
Richard said, "Exactly so. All right. I think we've got today's work cut out for us, given that we only have about six hours before Shabbat. Then we have only two days until Yom Kippur on our new calendar, and then the next storm hits. That means those two days are going to have to be focused, as well. Even so, I don't want anyone over-stretching themselves. We're too few to lose people to strain and injury if we can avoid it. Work smart and sustainably and get as far as we can with the tasks at hand. Any questions?"
Rina found her hand was up before she'd really thought about it.
She took a deep breath before she said what she had to say. "Richard...I...can we really do this? Have we doomed ourselves?"
Richard held her eyes several moments before he answered, and his voice carried absolute conviction. "Rina, I will not lie and say that it will be easy. I will not lie and say that it is certain. I will not lie and say G-d is on our side and we cannot fail, because I do not know that. I merely believe that. We all fought because we believed that original vision of Chayim, the First Rebbe, meant that we were intended to land here, live here, build a life here. Here on the planet, not up there in space.
"What I will tell you is that I believe we have a very real chance. The stories of the founding are just as far-fetched—a handful of dreamers in the dying embers of old Brooklyn, building a community that built a starship. Yet, here we all are. There's ground under our feet, water we can drink, food we can eat. The air is still canned, and what's outside, we can't breathe—that's true. But it can be brought in and filtered and made breathable, which makes expansion possible. Then the really hard part begins—the cloning, and raising our clones. Building a new society—based on our Community but tailored to new necessities..." He trailed off. His look was almost dreamy. Richard claimed he was no Rebbe, no visionary, but every now and then, he convinced them all that he was inspired. This was such a moment.
"Yes, Rina. We can do this. The same way the founders did 300 years ago. The same way our...cousins above will do, upwell in space. One careful step at a time, one problem solved and then another.
"We weathered one storm. We'll weather all the rest."
Prompt of, "It was a dark and stormy night." courtesy of Ellen Cutter; and of course, Edward Bulwer-Lytton.