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       Snow Wonder, p.1

           Michael Carter
 
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Snow Wonder
WHEN IT SNOWS, IT POURS or SNOW WONDER

  A tale of the future, in letters,

  by Michael Carter (c) 2003

 

  Corporal Essex McGrain

  Field Research Corps.

  Noble Steed

  Wampet 6

  Fourth Spiral Arm

 

  Radio Comm. No. 67538578539b

  Major Reginald Thewlis

  Dragonfly Hotel

  Militario

  Durham

  England

 

  Radio Comm. No. 246637684a

  5th March 2413

  Dear Major Thewlis, my friend and cousin Reggie,

  Why you sent me here, you rascal, I`ll never know. It snows constantly although I am told that the Wampet sun generously gives a summer of 45 minutes or such like in the milder parts of July. The snow is strange. It is like a gel, and feels very viscous to the touch, like honey or treacle. Unlike snow on Earth, it is a muddy green colour and gives off an odour I can only approximate as onions. Jennson attempted to build a snowman last week, but the stuff just wouldn`t mould, wouldn`t set at all, and he quickly gave up. The children at home would have no fun with it at all.

  Reggie, I am sure this place is jinxed. The jetstream capacitator broke down only minutes after landing, and Greensleaves, our pilot {the one who you said I would get on with} managed to land this crate of aliminuium junk on some sort of natural gorge. Thus, we have a huge rip in the bottom of the hull which we`ve been trying to repair for days now. When the snow gets heavy it starts to run in, but we`ve covered it with MetalGlue for now, until we can regenerate the alloys to rebuild it. I tell you, Reggie, I sincerely wish you had chosen for me, the other path; as you pointed out, Krepton Three is a planet of deadly danger, but I believe I would have relished the adrenaline and old-fashioned jeopardy of attempting to catch for you one of the technological cyber-tigers that have usurped predatory control of that place. You know, Reggie, that I care for and respect you, but I will be sending a telepost to Grandfather at Militia HQ. I believe that he promoted you for your looks and connections; your majorship, in my opinion, was bestowed on you from only an aesthetic point of view. We can`t have a high-profile major with a lunky jaw and twisted nose now can we? That accident in Paris with the Techno-Tennis set has really destroyed my career, and it is too late in the day for me to have corrective surgery now. But, Reggie, all of this is perhaps best discussed face-to-face. Back to matters in hand...

  Your request for details on possible life on Wampet 6 is as follows:- seventeen crewman of Earthly origin [one with a lunk jaw, two with eye replacements], a form of bush that grows practically everywhere and for leaves has short crawling tentacles, and precious little else. Tests on the snow [which takes a remarkable amount of heat to melt it into water} show that nutrients necessary for life are below standard levels. Why the Tanglebush grows, how it feeds and replicates itself, I do not know. Stanley, our biologist is looking into it.

  That is it for now, my friend, but I will communicate again very soon. I hope you and your family are well, and everything back home is normal and safe. Perhaps you are still having snow there - it is only March after all - but I hope sincerely that it is white and cannot flow through hull ruptures and into your circuits.

  Yours,

  Essex McGrain

 

  Major Reginald Thewlis

  Dragonfly Hotel

  Militario

  Durham

  England

 

  Radio Comm. No. 246637684a

  Corporal Essex McGrain

  Field Research Corps.

  Noble Steed

  Wampet 6

  Fourth Spiral Arm

 

  Radio Comm. No. 67538578539b

  March 8th 2413,

  Corporal,

  I must say, cousin, your bitterness has really shown itself this time. I have spoken to Grandfather and he is expecting your contact. Don`t expect him to do anything about it though; the man is old, Essex, he is losing his influence as well as his hair. Thank you for the compliment regarding my crisp good looks, although I put my furtherance in the military down to quick faultless decisions and years of hard toil, rather than my handsomeness and charm. I`m sure if you had attacked each of your missions, however mundane, with the zeal and fervour that attracts you to the Cyber-Tyger planet, then you would have been promoted long ago.

  We are indeed still having snow here in England. Snowmen, women, animals, and even an adventurous brontosaurus adorn Needle Street outside the hotel. It is soft and fluffy, and pure white. You would love it, Reggie; and it doesn`t get into drive plates. Incidentally, could you bring a large sample of the strange viscous snow back with you. You may have to use a Cryobooth to keep it cool; this may mean leaving one of your crew behind, and I leave the decision as to who it will be, with you. He can perhaps be picked up at a later date if anything happens to be passing that way. Award a bonus of ten thousand credits to the man who stays behind.

  The Tangleweed, too, sounds interesting, and our bio-labs here would love to take a look. If you can bundle it in the booth with the snow, then bring one along, but don`t take up a separate booth with it; the Militia can only afford one bonus pay.

  Very sorry to hear about your botched landing, and your current situation. I am certain, though, that a crew of your experience should have the matter sorted out within days.

  Martha and the children send their regards, and wonder if you will be available for a dinner-party sometime in June. Martha would like it if you attended, but I`m afraid that your jaw may scare the kids. Think it over and let me know.

  Thinking of you, from far away,

  Cousin Reggie {Major Thewliss}

 

 
Corporal Essex McGrain

  Field Research Corps.

  Noble Steed

  Wampet 6

  Fourth Spiral Arm

 

  Radio Comm. No. 67538578539b

  Major Reginald Thewlis

  Dragonfly Hotel

  Militario

  Durham

  England

 

  Radio Comm. No. 246637684a

  9th March 2413

  Major,

 

  There appears to be life here after all! Though what form it takes, and where it comes from I have no idea. But after what we found it appears to be malevolent.

  When we awoke this morning [we all take rest together; I had deemed a night-watch pointless] we opened the front panels on the windows, and found that we were surrounded on all sides. A count informed us that there were seventeen individuals, motionless, standing an equal distance away from each other and about twenty yards from the ship. They were snowmen, Reggie; crude, limbless and with largely featureless faces. We later discovered that Hans Weiss, the botany fellow with the eye replacement, wasn`t on the ship. He was here last night but now has vanished. Some of the men think that he somehow built the snowmen during the night, as a joke, but I don`t think so, and just wait until I tell you why!

  The snowmen had just appeared overnight, through what agency we do not know, and cannot guess. We watched them for most of the morning but there was no movement. More snow fell and formed muddy green puddles but didn`t seem to affect the snowmen. Myself and three others, after lunch, decided to venture outside and examine them more closely. Boy, did we get a shock, for one of them, the one directly behind the ship, had something embedded into its head. Despite great fear and trepidation we had a closer look; Reggie, it was an electronic eye orb, with the nerve wires still attached, exactly like the one that Weiss wore. The four of us quickly reboarded the ship and sealed the hatches. A thorough search for Weiss aboard the ship turned up nothing; we scanned the surface for a three-hundred mile radius, too, but there were no life-signs.

  The men, and yes, Reggie, even me, are worried. I did not touch the snowman with Weiss` eye, but one man did, and he said it felt unnaturally solid. I fear that if this particular man melts, we may discover what gives the snow-statue its strange solidity.

  Your orders and guidance are sorely needed. Do I have your permission to leave the planet? I will be leaving two men on watch tonight, but do not like lingering here. Please be prompt.

  Yours,

  Corporal Essex McGrain

 

  Major Reginald Thewlis

  Dragonfly Hotel

  Militario

  Durham

  England

 

  Radio Comm. No. 246637684a

  Corporal Essex McGrain

  Field Research Corps.

  Noble Steed

  Wampet 6

  Fourth Spiral Arm

 

  Radio Comm. No. 67538578539b

  12th March, 2413

  Corporal,

  Your news indeed is disturbing and exciting. Unfortunately, trouble has recently flared up in the Scion sector; those damned insectivores are refusing our ships passage through their space again. It may lead to war again. This means that I cannot afford to send you another ship at the moment, or for the foreseeable future.

  Essex, despite your jealousy and your awkward features, I regard you very highly as a cousin, and know that you and your crew will have the courage and obedience to follow my next orders. I want you to remain there, Essex, and monitor the situation. It sounds like perhaps it could be a joke, perpetrated by this Weiss fellow, albeit in a very bad taste. Keep me informed regularly on its developments.

  I have had a word with some intelligence sources here, and they suggest that sentient snow is a very doubtful possibility. They believe that perhaps, if it is not all a joke, that the Tanglebush may have something to do with it. If anything intelligent is encountered remember the rules for first contact. Peace first, Essex, peace first; only use the disintegrators if absolutely necessary.

  Next time I contact you I will have news of Weiss. I am having his history checked.

 

  Stay safe,

 

  Major Thewliss

 

  Corporal Essex McGrain

  Field Research Corps.

  Noble Steed

  Wampet 6

  Fourth Spiral Arm

 

  Radio Comm. No. 67538578539b

  Major Reginald Thewlis

  Dragonfly Hotel

  Militario

  Durham

  England

 

  Radio Comm. No. 246637684a

  14th March 2413

  Major,

  Have just received your last two letters together. This communication system is useless to me, far too slow and unwieldy. But I will get to the point; I have lost four more men, in five nights, and the tempers of my men are fraying. Jones, our chief mechanic, Borden, our cook, and both linguistic men, Frame and old Roger Haydon are lost, their bodies presumably inside the snow-statues that still menacingly surround our ship. As you may remember, Haydon had a prized gold tooth that he adored; it now adorns one of the snowmen and when the low sun hits it, it projects an eerie gold glow across the greenish snow.

  My men are close to mutiny and few of us have slept since the third man was taken. On the night that Haydon left us, we all stayed together in the briefing room. Men left only br
iefly to use toilet facilities. Hayden left us, and never returned. Internal security tells us that nothing and no-one leaves the ship and nothing enters. My men just vanish. We fear for our lives, and I can only just hold my crew together as a unit. Unless I hear from you in the next two days, I am leaving this place. I need at least ten men to crew the ship to get us home and cannot risk staying any longer than that. If you are replying, make it snappy, Reggie. I would dearly love to attend that dinner-party.

  Oh, I almost forgot. Since men have been lost and we aren`t likely to see them again alive, there are plenty of free cryobooths. Before we leave I will fill one with the native snow and another with Tanglebush. It scares me, and one or the other is perhaps deadly, but it needs to be investigated. I will not let this mission or the deaths of my crew be in vain.

  Corporal McGee

 

  Major Reginald Thewlis

  Dragonfly Hotel

  Militario

  Durham

  England

 

  Radio Comm. No. 246637684a

  Corporal Essex McGrain

  Field Research Corps.

  Noble Steed

  Wampet 6

 
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