Unprotected a fit and healthy human being will survive for approximately two minutes. If exposed quickly enough the poor unfortunates tissue swells and splits inflicting intense pain as well as catastrophic bleeding, and if theyre really lucky itll kill them. After the massive tissue damage it becomes a race between the cold, the radiation and the vacuum. The latter claims the most lives, the vast majority of unfortunates asphyxiate before becoming irradiated or their fluids freezing. Corpses of unfortunates retrieved by salvage operators have been described as chewy, crunchy purple-ish, knobbly things that ooze a lot once they thaw..
The survivor of the longest recorded exposure to hard space was Gliestner Vicks who miraculously survived for four minutes and twelve seconds before rescue in 127AC. He lived for a subsequent nine days and spent much of his time carving prophetic messages of doom into the casing of his life support unit using only his teeth. He finally died whilst on the operating table after the chief surgeon jammed his scalpel into Vicks brain upon deciding that the mess of tumours and assorted tissue damage proved too much of a challenge.
Space. Its a really fucking depressing place, just like the motorways of yore. In much the same way as those ancient humans who crawled across those stone land routes modern space farers attempt to spruce up the void with oddities and curios laid along the edges of popular routes. Famous examples of these include Proxima Centauris Planet of The Little Chef, Barnards Folly and Chiprekt's Great Big Fuck Off Horse.
Lanyard stopped reading the brief there. On a lot of these the style got a bit weird, there was some sort of tradition that dictated that official guidance documents sourced from Earth had to adhere to some degree of silliness. Apparently it was supposed to be uplifting, casting the dangers of space travel into a humorous light, but some of it was just in poor taste especially to someone who lived the affects of hard exposure on a daily basis.
He placed the display tablet back into its alcove beside the chair and turned to Lyn who had been waiting expectantly since shed handed him the Barnards Star brief five minutes ago. Well? she asked, her shoulders tightening up around her neck as she craned in at him. He pondered his response for a few moments, once or twice he came to a decision but each time his mouth opened it promptly shut again when orders came down from the brain to clean up the language. He finally settled on: Is it true they drip feed the writers drugs? Like directly into brain?
Psch. No, they use inhalants. But thats not important. The Folly, whadya think?.
I dont even know what it is.
The Aliens built it. Its a present for humanity.
Why? We havent made contact with them for more than fifty years.
Its probably a thank you for not nuking the shit out of them.
Lanyard conceded that this was probably true. When first contact had been made things really hadnt gone well for either side and the Mutual Isolation Agreement had to be drawn up. The first inter-species diplomatic solution, one that put all previous human achievements in conflict resolution to shame especially since neither side really understood what the other was saying.
Just wait till you see it, Lyns voice drew him away from his internal historical retrospective Youll shit out something important..
Kidney important or lung important?
Your whole goddamn torso.
I doubt very much that Im going to poo out the messiah in shock.
Stranger things have happened. I knew this girl once who-
Is this one of your sex stories? The one about that thing in Proxima makes my eyeballs itch still.
No. Honest to god its clean and wholesome.
And so Lanyard sat and listened. For many hours he was regaled with a tale of such impressive perversity and debauchery that to print it would result in a ban from the human race. So no, you dont get to read about the story that made Lanyards kneecaps feel awkward every time he saw pine furniture. But, quite conveniently, over the course of its telling the starship Cadfael arrives at its destination.
Lyn circled the display plinth, adjusting the controls here and there in-between making notes or taking references from her tablet. Lanyard was supposed to be helping but he was far too busy in the corner looking ill loitering around the waste disposal should he need it again. Every so often he would look up and mumble something along the lines of: And she
? Oh god., and then grip his knees tightly as if he thought they might in be in danger of abandoning their posts. Lyn wasnt bothered in the slightest, this was all part of the game. Lanyard would tell her freaky medical stuff and shed tell him about other things. It was a gross out contest of epic proportions even though Lanyard didnt know he was playing, which was just as well because he hated loosing and her lead was insurmountable. She smiled at that thought and gently eased the final dial into position, the air around the plinth sparked and popped as the machine molested the light into doing its bidding. Hey hey. Were in business. She beamed at Lanyard and beckoned him over.
The shape of the Folly gradually came into existence. Blobs of colour drew together to form strange but somewhat familiar shapes. It was like watching a backwards time-lapse film of fungal growth that kept shifting in and out of focus. Can you tell what it is yet? Lyn teased.
Some sort of sculpture? Like The Big Fuck Off Horse?
Sorta. Think bigger.
A light warp painting or projection?
Bigger. More mass..
Lanyard squinted into the messy display, trying to fathom exactly what was happening. He could recognise shapes, that bit looked like a head slightly and then that was possibly a wheel but the lines were weird. When the rendering software began to fill in the fine detail he practically leapt back away from it.
Oh sweet god. They didnt. Thats not
He could make out the faint blue haze of an atmosphere, the wrinkles of mountain ranges, the greens of vegetation and even water masses. It was a world. Theyd sculpted a whole world. He sat, he didnt technically collapse because a chair met him halfway. His hands clasped his face, and he peered out from between his fingers his eyes wide with horror. Never mind what it is, how the fuck did they do it?.
The Aliens left a diagram. We think they shot matter down some kind of super-FTL array which broke the atoms up into their basic components and then reassembled them somehow into a hyper-dense material with a strong enough gravitational field to something something the things. Which made the Folly.
And why did they do that for fucks sake?
Well, they reckon that they got the idea from our Culture Ark that we shot over to them after The Contact. They probably didnt understand what was inside very well so this is the best they could come up with. Apparently its like a Statue of Liberty or something. A present come peace offering.
Is that supposed to be Winston Churchill?
Yep. Down to the wrinkles. A lot of the detail work is done with variations in altitude. In some places the variations are so sharp that its in possible for anything to survive. Some of the peaks pierce the atmosphere and you get winds up past five hundred kilometres an hour down in the canyons. Its not a very nice place at all. The flora in the areas with vegetation basically eats people. Also the ambient magnetic fields drive people mad. So its a choice between going mad and then being blown into orbit or going mad and being eaten alive by vines.
Yeah. It is rather.
It was at least half an hour before Lanyard could muster the strength to stand, let alone even consider the Folly. Lyn had left it up and other longer serving crew members had come by to take a look, none had quite a strong reaction as Lanyard but there was a general consensus that it was fairly normal although the knee fixation was all new to them. He approached the plinth and leant against the controls panel, he stared at it hard and tried to get his head around it. Lyn materialised beside him. He didnt break eye contact with the giant celestial Prime Minister in case it turned around and beat him to death, Whats he supposed to be doing?.
We cant be sure. The Aliens grasp of our language and culture has always been rudimentary.
It looks like hes riding a bike.
More or less. We think that they got topiary mixed in some how.
Tree sculpture. Pruning them into shapes.
So that makes this what? A planet that looks like Winston Churchill trying to pedal a tree shaped like a bicycle?
There was a moment of silence and then Lanyard threw up on his knees.