“Program complete. Enter when ready”
The air inside was dry with a distinct chill and a slight smell of dust. The platform was barely 5 meters across and there was no sign of the ground, just a red horizon fading to midnight blue overhead. The winds howled and twisted around the platform
It wasn’t historically accurate, it wasn’t completely physically accurate either. The atmosphere was ship-normal, but a high-altitude Martian atmosphere, a high-altitude, pre-terraforming Martian armosphere would have required an EVA suit and sometimes comfort took precedence over physical accuracy.
Stephan regarded the primitive craft standing on the edge of the platform. A light-weight metal frame with a several meter wingspan covered with fabric, no propulsion of any kind. It was a far cry from modern atmospheric craft. Just getting this far had required months of research. First with the shuttle’s limited computer while in the Gamma Quadrant, then with the main historical archives at Utopia Planitia. Either the early Martian expedition hadn’t recorded the complete schematics of the glider or the details had been lost during the Eugenics wars.
‘No time like the present.’ He climbed into the glider’s framework and pushed it off the platform.
Stephan fought for control as the wind tossed the glider around like a toy. After several long minutes he managed to wrestle the flimsy craft in-line with the wind. The ground, now just visible far below, raced past at an incredible speed and the howling of the wind faded away.
Stephan tilted the wing very slightly downwards, dropping altitude would make the view of the ground clearer and with all the dust he couldn’t make out the features of the terrain below. Noctis Labyrinthus was to the North-West, but that left a lot of margin for error. He tilted the glider left, aiming it for a NNW trajectory. As he did so, an errant gust of wind caught the glider and spun it out of control. The fabric on one of the wings ripped away and the glider plummeted towards the surface. A second later the wind ceased, the wide expanse of the planet’s surface was replaced by the yellow and grey grid of the holodeck and Stephan fell 10cm to the floor of the holodeck.
“Damn it.” He pushed himself to his feet and leant against the nearest wall, willing his hands to stop shaking. “Computer, analyse the last 5 minutes of the flight, identify the cause of the structural failure.”
“Back to the drawing board…” Stephan muttered to the empty room as he left.