Only a few seconds remain in the airlock cycle and then my first look at the worldsphere from the inside. I still can't really wrap my head around it, they say the surface area is something like three hundred quadrillion square kilometers, almost a billion times the area of earth. The human mind is simply not equipped to truly appreciate such immensity. Venting is complete, the airlock opens. A gentle push and I'm drifting out.
I've never been much for religion, but only someone who's stared into the face of God can imagine it. In every direction, a sky full of world. Never again will I see black sky or stars, yet I feel no sadness at this. In this instant I know that the wonder I feel right now will not fade in my lifetime. There is too much here for a hundred lifetimes to fully understand.
I don't know how long I floated there in awe of what I was witnessing, but eventually my reverie was disrupted by Juanita's voice asking if I was alright. After a few seconds to compose myself, I replied that I was fine and that I was about to turn on my helmet cam for video feed back to the bridge. The mike was still open when they received the first signal and I could sense the awe in their response. If only they could see it as I was right now. It was at this point that I noticed the sunblocks. I don't recall if I ever gave much thought to day and night cycles within Septimus or whether we would just be living in perpetual high noon. If I had, I probably would have thought such a thing would be difficult to get used to. As it turns out, the Septimus builders had thought of that. A giant ring of alternating plates and voids rotates slowly within the sphere, casting shadows across an equatorial band within the sphere. There is certainly plenty of landmass above and below the equator which never sees night, but for anyone living within the equatorial zone, it appears there is a normal (or whatever passes for normal inside Septimus) day-night cycle. Of course, reflected light from within the sphere would no doubt mean night isn't exactly dark, but I guess some sort of diurnal cycle is better than none at all. On the closest part of the sphere, I can just make out some detail. There are continents and oceans, mountain ranges and rivers, and clouds. From this distance, It's hard to tell the scale of these things, but they must surely be staggering when viewed from the ground. I thought Olympus Mons was breathtaking. I guess there are going to be a lot of people walking around in a daze for awhile once we land. Which reminds me, I'm out here for a reason. Time to get to work.
First, the optics array, I've got to get that online. I make my way over the hull, trying to avoid further distraction. However, I notice some strange scoring on the hull. Can't recall having seen anything quite like it, several sets of widely-spaced parallel scratchs criss-cross the outer surface of the ship. I've seen the effects of micrometeors and sandcasters, railguns and debris fields and they never looked like this. It definitely doesn't look like anything produced by lasers or plasma cannons either. Very weird, but it doesn't appear as though it caused any significant damage, whatever it was. Still, it gives me the creeps. Okay, the optics bay is just ahead. Yeah, as I suspected, the forward camera has be torn off. It probably caused a surge which burned out the rear camera as well. No big deal, I have a spare I can install for now to give us forward viewing. The rest of the system can be overhauled when we land.
It takes a half hour, but we have visuals. I only have a few minutes of EVA time left, so I'm just going to take a quick look at the impact shield. It's only a few meters, so I take it in one bounce. Damn, what a mess! I don't know if the scratchs on the hull and the hole in the impact shield are related, but something tore into us pretty good. Owww, my head is starting to hurt again. I'll have to ask Ramos for another shot of that painkiller he gave me. Looking at the hole, it's strange, narrow, but deep and unusually round. It almost looks like some kind of tool was used. No melting around the edges and no transfer from the object. Man, I'm starting get a bad feeling about this. Damn, this headache! What's that?
Right there, some sort of shimmering. Ahhhh, my skull feels like it's gonna explode. There, again.
"(static)...Pelham, we are picking up elevated gamma radiation. Please, respond!...(static)"
No, leave me alone! Get out of my head! No please, leave her alone! Leave them alone! They're just kids!
"Pelham, you're awake."
"Ramos, what happened?"
"You tell me."
"All I remember is seeing some kind of shimmer and my head was killing me."
"There was a radiation surge. We're not sure where it came from. When it stopped, Chevsky went out to find you. You were unconscious, but you still had air. Your suit was fine and you seem to have suffered no radiation exposure."
"Well, Juanita claims she heard you mumbling something about children just before your comm went dead, but she couldn't make it out too clearly. Anyway, you seem fine now and we have a bit of good news. Juanita has located the transponder frequency for the Rojas colony. As soon as we get a fix on their location, we're on our way."
"That's good to hear. I can't wait to breath some real air."
"Odd thing though, she says she was only able to detect about a half dozen transponder frequencies, besides the one Rojas is using. Every colony ship is supposed to be broadcasting one and there have been over two hundred ships going through so far. I guess a lot of people just want to be left alone."