Location - Planet Orcantus - Migrik Conflux
The north hemisphere ocean was marked by what could only be described as great blue holes. On his first flyover he had noted dozens of these dark blue roundish spots darker than the surrounding waters. Quick scans of the area indicated them to be some form of sinkholes. Openings on the ocean floor that indicated the existence of an massive underwater cave network system.
The Pathfinder had never seen so many sinkholes and trenches in one planet's ocean before. The nanos had registered a huge biological life form around the edges of one of these.
The hole in question was circular in shape, over 950 ft across and thousands of feet deep. He had learned that holes such as these usually were formed during several episodes of quaternary glaciation when sea levels were much lower. Today he hoped that these caves were used by some gigantic sea creature.
A small atoll not far from his target provided an advance base and most likely his last camp on this planet. He would give himself another 7 or 8 orbits to try and locate this creature. Even if it wasn't the Albino Leviathan it would most likely pay handsomely to discover such a large beast living in the ocean of this anonymous world.
He spent several hours checking and re-cheking his equipment. Pressure at such depths was always a concern as was air. Cave diving and its preparation always reminded him of Zero G-walks.
As a child in the Pathfinder program you were trained almost as fast in space walks as you were in piloting ships. Everyone was expected to have the necessary set of skills to keep sailing the voids.
Endless check of your personal equipment were drilled into you until it was second nature. He always felt cave diving was very similar. Cave diving was one of the most challenging and potentially dangerous kinds of diving or caving.
In an emergency a diver cannot swim vertically to the surface due to the cave's ceilings, and so must swim the entire way back out. The underwater navigation through the cave system may be difficult requiring the diver to have sufficient breathing gas to make the journey.
Visibility can vary from nearly unlimited to low, or non-existent, and can go from one extreme to the other in a heartbeat.
True cave diving can involve penetrations of many thousands of feet, well beyond the reach of sunlight. The level of darkness experienced creates an environment impossible to see in without an artificial form of light. Caves often contain sand, mud, clay, silt, or other sediments that can further reduce underwater visibility in seconds when stirred up.
Strong water currents are also a massive concern. Most cave networks are complex and have some tunnels with out-flowing currents, and other tunnels with in-flowing currents. If currents are not properly managed, they can cause serious problems during a dive.
He performed his 5 main safety checks in the beach of the atoll going over it as mantra while "Everymans Sky" blared in the background. A few jumps back he had discovered another signal embedded in the beacons that he could patch into via his ship's comms, when he was in a planet in this part of the Galaxy.
He could not understand everything that it was said, but it seemed to be some sort of informative bulletin that one could hear across many systems with updates on ships, trading routes, crew conditions, politics, levels of security, radiation warnings and the like.
The big difference was that it appeared to play something called "music" as well.
He had never heard "music" before. Now he knew that his people had lost more than just their home so many cycles ago.
The first time he accessed the signal he was stunned. A complex amalgamation of sounds, harmony, rhythm, timbre and silence in such unusual structures, blared in his helmet. Nothing that he had ever heard before could prepare him for the experience It was awe inspiring. An awakening he felt deep in the pit of his soul.
And since that day he enjoyed the companionship this "music" brought him. Even if he could not hope to comprehend must of what was being said. Or why others felt the need to express themselves this way.
He smiled. It was times like this that justified his pilgrimage. He had to find a away to access that signal while in space.
He went over his safety mantra one last time.
Suit systems; guide beacon; depth rules; air management; lights...
He switched the sound off from his helmet comms and moved to the tumultuous sea. He dived and disappeared from sight...