Long Cold Winter

I look out through the smart glass, taking in the vast expanses of snow that blankets the world around me. I hear the wind as it caresses the smooth parts of my enviroarmor, and rattles any lose baubles. I check the temperature display projected in the lower right corner of my view, negative fifty degrees Celsius. It is a warm day by recent standards. My enviroarmor effortlessly keeps me warm in these mild conditions.

Across the valley is our settlement. Most of our crew hunker down against the cold. At least what remains of them. These long winters are taking their toll on their psyches. Suicides are up. Something I don’t understand.

We have been marooned on this ice ball for ten years. There was an accident before the satellites could be deployed. The Constitution was in orbit, with a skeleton crew, preparing the satellites and deep space relay when the accident happened. That is why we only lost a dozen of our crew. Something sort of space junk tore through the Constitution and sent her careening into BA-23’s atmosphere. What little that crashed into the icy surface was not salvageable for much more than repairing shelters.

Most of our technology, our shelters, our provisions were already here, on BA-23’s surface. It was not hopeless. At least I didn’t think so. The rest of the crew disagreed. Refusing to even name this rock. Instead, sticking with the designation given by the astronomers who discovered this place with their long-range probes, BA (Breathable Atmosphere) -23. Twenty third such planet discovered. I could be down there, sulking in my home brewed yeast beer, just like so many of the rest. But you only live once. That is why we are out here. We wanted more than the overcrowded existence of a sick planet. We wanted adventure. We wanted to discover.

“Hell, we may even see another ship in our lifetime,” I mumbled, my voice echoing in my enviroarmors helmet.

Until then, I refused to give up. I look down at the piece of alloy strapped to my enviroarmors boots. It is salvage from the Constitution’s hull. Rounded on both ends, thin and flexible, about fifty-four centimeters from tip to tip. My way of dealing with being stranded on this eternal snow globe.

A particularly stiff gust almost starts me down the slope, but I rock back, digging the back edge into the powder.

Virgin powder, they used to call this on Earth. Throughout the later twentieth, and early twenty first century, affluent thrill seekers rode aircraft to the top of mountains, just so they could ride in snows unmarred by others.

There is no snow on Earth anymore. Except on the highest peaks, and those are off limits. Some, like Everest are so high, you need to carry oxygen. A practice the World Federation outlawed decades ago.

But here, on 23, we have all the powder a guy could want. I offered to show some of my crewmates how to snowboard. I had only one taker, but she walked out into the cold without her armor the day before her lessons would start. Froze to death before anyone could find her.

The ships psychologist said many of us are suffering from an exacerbated case of seasonal disorder. Something not uncommon on Earth before winters became rare, she said.

I don’t understand the psychosis. Life is what you make of it. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

“Or snowboards,” I lament, as I look down at the alloy holding me aloft on the white powder. The numbers 987 look back at me, part of the ship’s designation.

Some of my crewmates think I am morbid for using a part of the ship for my own entertainment. But isn’t this better than using it to repair a roof that was blown off in the last storm?

“I am celebrating life, they are only surviving…sort of.”

I shake my head, clearing my mind of the negatives. I look up to the sky, focus on the faint glow of that distant sun. So far away, its heat barely reaches this rock. Ice crystals forever blowing through the atmosphere halo the sun with sundogs, giving the sun more beauty than its lack of warmth suggest.

“We could be stuck on worse planets?” I lament, thinking of other missions that were never heard from again. “We have atmosphere, there are no locals trying to kick us off their planet.”

I shrug, jump up and turn my board down slope. The angle is steep, and I quickly pick up speed. With a sense of exhilaration, I cut hard on my heels turning across the face of the slope. As I reach the other side, I again cut, this time on the toe side in a wide arc, bleeding off speed. Music plays loudly in my helmet, and the only thing I feel is the boards undulations under my feet, it responding to a lean of one foot, a shift of my weight. I crouch in preparation for an approaching drift, then push off as I reach the top of the drift. I laugh in exhilaration as I sail through the arctic air.

My only regret is not feeling the rush of wind over my clothes. My only sensation of speed is the visual and the occasional whistle as the air catches a vent or ridge on my enviroarmor’s helmet.

At the bottom of the slope my momentum is arrested as gravity loses its hold. I look up to the top of the mountain, relishing in the line I cut across its face. Then I look towards our settlement, and frown. Finally, I look towards the distant sun framed by golden spikes of light.

“To early to go home,” I comment, and scan the ridges around me looking for a suitable slope. I settle on one to my right, turn to face it, and activate the armors jump jets.

Effortlessly I rise into the frigid air pointing myself towards the top of the peak.

“I could do this forever,” I say with a laugh as I accelerate towards my next adventure, “after all, if life give you lemons…”

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