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Bathysphere HN::2268B, Pt 2 of 3

Panaoramic view-windows show a desolate landscape, looking rather moonlike but of course with a much more distant horizon. Lifeless. But, odd structures, groups of columns reminscent of giant coral reefs. Short shadows as the local sun was overhead, pitch black sky due to no atmosphere. Red Screen indicators pointed out high concentrations of flexalite on the horizon, so Alendra instructed our 'Sphere to go find it.

"OK, everybody" I said, "we have anywhere from 2 to 6 hours before the action starts. Now's a good time to for personal prep routines. Remember to consume at least 2 bars of energy & electrolyte supply. As we get near the harvest point we'll drop the cabin temp down, but that won't do much to stop the exertion when we're in the heat of things." The veterans, of course, knew this, but rookies sometimes thought they needed to demonstrate how tough they were by not bothering. But this always hurt their performance, and since the Harvesting process could easily become drawn out and extended, long-term performance became critical.

Everyone quietly set about to prepare themselves...harvesting the flexalite was a lot like going into some heavy battle...flexalite swarmed around the outside of the 'sphere while energy guns fired to contain it and keep it from destroying our 'Sphere, and us with it. Over the next few hours tension levels would slowly rise, and this was basically a good thing. During the year and a half of training, all rookies were trained to respond in a split second to a huge variety of different situations. Flexalite was like no other material ever encountered and could present a team with a huge array of predicaments and problems. Team members were drilled in several dozen different scenarios and taught to respond intelligently and creatively using their knowledge. Training was therefore like a combination of training for the olympics and advanced firefighting. Some of us lived for this, the adrenaline, the thrills, and then (as a cherry on the top) the reward. But the rookies weren't in a position to get that part of it...for this this would be their first encounter and I could even smell their sweat.

As for the flexalite, because the portion visible in our universe was apparently just a small piece of it's fullest extent, most of which was on the higher dimensions of an M-brane, assessing its precise distance was practically impossible. The direction in which it lay was clear, but distances could fluctuate greatly. But we did have enough certainty to prepare. I noticed that Alendra, a veteran, was doing some lite calisthenics in the workout room, followed by a shower. That was pretty close to my routine as well, to burn off anticipatory energy and prepare the body for 'battle'. As for the two rookies I noticed that, after the required preparations (such as eating) they were both fixated on their instruments and communicating in hushed, serious tones. Which was just as well. If nothing else, the training made you take a flexalite encounter very seriously.

Orange alert tones sounded, signaling that a flexalite encounter was likely no more than 15 minutes away. Crew members strapped in and performed last-minute routine checks of chair positioning, water supplies and personal control ergonomic settings. We sat silently, apparently motionless due to the smooth motion of the sphere over the landscape.

BWAH BWAH BWAH BWAH went the red alarm. Windows showed a large swarm of flexalite emerging like fat arrows from between two columns. We held tight, waiting for the swarm to cluster near the 'Sphere. In the windows the flexalite moved so quickly it was rendered as a blur...something about that blur was not precisely the same as one might see through real windows. This was one of the rare reminders that we were looking at a reconstruction.

"OK, this is looking alright," I say...the flexalite swarm is moving in such a way as to make it relatively easy to cluster through the containment fields. "Alright rookies, try to bunch it up...yes, nice hyperboloid!" I coach as they establish the field. I start tweaking their field with small puckers and adjustments that can increase the odds of it holding as well as increase our yield.

View windows now show the hyperboloid, appearing as a shaded purplish cloud around the flexalite, which is swarming and darting around that part of the 'Sphere like frenzied Piranas. There are occasional blurs as the reconstruction is unable to sustain a high enough sampling rate. And now, audio systems are generating a sound like countless large hail pellets pounding on sheetmetal. Of course, due to the 'Sphere's plating we can't actually hear anything, but audio systems are programmed to generate a realistic rendering of what's going on outside.

And then, BWAH BWAH BWAH BWAH...another swarm, completely unanticipated, from the opposite direction. The rookies seem to have the first one so I switch over to help Alendra form another containment field. No hyperboloid will do it here, however, the flexalite is issuing from numerous gaps and cracks in a set of outcroppings. "I'm going to bloat out a cardioid!" Alendra shouts, and I work with her to shape it according to instrumental indications. It's a big load, not unprecendeted, but one of the largest I've yet encountered. Add to that the original swarm and this was already an unusual haul.

BWAH BWAH BWAH BWAH...a third swarm? How could detectors have been so innacurate? And this swarm was of a completely different configuration...we could not bifurcate one of the existing fields to contain it. No 'Sphere team had yet engaged three distinct swarms and the 'Sphere was not designed for it. We'd have to drop one of the fields and try to merge them into 2 or 3 generic fields. In the process, we'd probably die, but the rookies didn't realize that yet.