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A Story by
Jim Haege

GMS Member and Cobb County Gem and Mineral Society Past Field Trip Chair


(Chapter 1, Published in Cobb-L-Stones, Volume XXVII, No. 1, January 1997, Page 6 and 7)

Dawn broke clear and warm as the twin suns of Eros V cut through the celisium fog. I checked the 02 supply in my liquid gravity suit and packed up a lunar days rations for my long anticipated trip to the Vallnor System to collect articulate (Jrl2lbiqr3). Found only on Vallnor 111, articulate forms large, sometimes spectacular, geniculated twins (Balnoors Law) found perched on a matrix of bright red mercoric elaskite. Articulite's brilliant orange metallic luster, unique in this galaxy, would be enough to make it the quadrant's most sought after specimen, but when coupled with the appearance of clear, blue cubes of smarbite to 8mm on an edge running up the striations of the articulate crystals, the effect is stunning.

Articulite fluoresces a brilliant blue under shortwave ultraviolet light. This is probably due to the presence of argon, which serves as the activator. Articulite has a very low specific gravity of only .24. This is due to the high content of Jerilium in the molecular structure. Jerilium is currently the lightest metal on the inter-galactic atomic spectrum, replacing lithium, which was the lightest metallic element until the new charting system based on nutrino burst was accepted by the council.

As I lifted off in my omega class shuttle, I planned my strategy for the upcoming dig. First, I had to penetrate the Vallnorium security grid. This I planned to do by using holographic imaging to disguise my ship as an old Erosian freighter transporting pyrocene ore. With that much pyrocene on board, they wouldn't dare fire on my ship. The resulting explosion would take out half the system. Once in Vallnorium territory, it would be a simple matter to jump to hyper-space and power down on the dark side of Vallnor III.

My plan worked perfectly, and seven hours later, I was unloading my gear on the planets cratered surface. The map I had been given by an old mineral dealer from Darvos was less than perfect. The landing coordinates were right on target, but it was useless from there. I was supposed to head into the canyon 110 meters to the left of the largest meteor crater as you face the mountains, but a meteor shower had left the area with several craters all about the same size. Valnor III had very little atmosphere, so a fresh crater looked identical to a crater formed eons ago. During the formative years of the planet, Jerilium bearing liquid nitronium vented to the surface through cracks in the planet's crust, forming the articulate bearing ore veins I now sought. The canyons that exposed the articulate veins were formed by erosion from the fall of nitroniun rain millions of years later. As the planet cooled, the nitronium crystallized on the surface, forming large flat plains of worthless, platelike crystals, some exceeding 90 meters in diameter. Since nitronitan had comprised much of the young planet's atmosphere, weathering was no longer a factor in the planet's geology.

I chose the widest canyon and headed in. After about a dozen kilometers, I came across an ancient alluvial fan that had traces of blue ore fluorescing in the float on the surface. I set down my gear and started up to the outcrops that produced the ore. One might think that, after traveling that far with 250 kilos of gear, you would be worn out, but Vallnor III was a very low mass planet and only produced .09G's. Geologic theory held that the inner core was molten Jerilium, which is a pretty good bet considering most planets this size pulled more than 7 Gs.

As I neared the canyon wall, fresh drill blasts were scattered on the ground and in the dim purple light of the loniun Nebula, the blue streaked veins ran like lightning bolts up to the canyon rim. Collectors have been digging here illegally for centuries, so it did not surprise me to find that every vein at ground level had been dug out. Fortunately, I had recently purchased a used fusion laser drill and I had enough extra tips to do some serious tunneling. Set on wide beam, the drill can remove twelve cubic meters of rock per solar hour and also fuses the walls as you go, shoring the tunnel. Set on narrow beam at minimum power, even the most delicate specimens can be removed without any damage. However, heat was a major problem since I would be clearing the debris out by hand. Even with my elbow length crysotile gloves which I had imported from Earth (asbestoform minerals, while common on earth, occur nowhere else in the known universe), I still had to be careful. One wrong move and I could bun a hole in my liquid gravity suit and Splat!, you're history.

I picked one of the larger tunnels and scaled the walls. Previous prospectors had used old fashioned electron drills, leaving the sides and roof crumbly and dangerous. Cretans! I blasted a standard stairstep spiral pattern, widening the slope as I went. Some of the drill blast rolled clear, but I still had to spend most of my time mucking. I had followed the vein up about 8 meters when the tunnel became too hot and I gave up for the day. Working in a liquid gravity suit is no picnic, even in zero gravity. When I got back to the ship I ate and fell out on my bunk, exhausted.

When I awoke, I ate double rations and hurried back to the canyon. I entered my hole and immediately felt something was amiss. On one side of the wall a 30cm section had caved in. Vallnor III was basically a geologically dead planet, what could have caused this? I examined the hole and, in a cavity just inside, were seven, egg-shaped, white crystals. I picked one up and, at first, it appeared to be a clittorite crystal, with 27 even rhombohedral faces.

As I held it up to my sidelight and looked through it, something moved inside. $%*4t! . Here I was on a lifeless planet 10 light years from the nearest exterminator and the second day out I had gardasion borewomis in my mine! They must have hitched a ride on some unscrupulous prospector's landing gear and found the minerals here to their liking. Cretans! I always dewormed my ship before moving to a new location.

While I was familiar with the nasty critters, I had never seen a nest before. The female must have been attracted by the heat from the drill. Boreworms eat solid rock and everyone knows what a newborn can do to a mineral collection. Boreworms have even been known to develop a liking for a certain mineral and systematically eradicate it. The tolasite digs on Salene V had produced for centuries, but ever since gardasion boreworms were introduced on the planet, not a single tolasite crystal has been found.

Well, I didn't have any borium nitrate with me, so I blasted the eggs and sealed up the wormhole. Going back to work, I paralleled the vein for a couple of meters and had just started to break back to it when a portion of the vein wall collapsed. Black dust, mixed with tiny orange crystals, was pouring out on the ground. I had hit a vug! I scooped out the dust, enlarged the hole, and took my first look inside. The vug was almost three meters long and four meters tall. At the center, it was more than half a meter wide and the whole inside was covered in articulate crystals.

The largest specimen was a beautiful twin, 8cm in diameter and 40cm along the length of each crystal. Perfectly formed knees ran up the inside of each twin. The articulate crystals were splashed with clusters of water clear smarbite hoppers, and individual cubes over 3cm on an edge. The elaskite matrix had formed clear red blades that were sprinkled with chalky white hexagonal prisms of thernon and silvery balls of mercury. The base of each articulate crystal was surrounded by fuzzy, yellow tufts of radiating, acicular grebnite crystals, 4cm in length. Not only did I have a galaxy class specimen, but a new association that was for all practical purposes chemically impossible. This was undoubtedly the best single specimen to ever be recovered from this location, if not this quadrant!

It took well over five solar hours to dissect the vug. I inflated all of my conformaflats and filled every one. On my third trip back to my ship, I had to stop and relieve myself

Immediately, I was being hailed. It was a Vallnorium battle cruiser and they had scanned my ship on the planets surface! Thinking fast, I replied that I was on a research mission to study boreworms and had official sanction of the tribunal. They wanted to board the ship but I explained that I was just finishing my studies and needed to recover the rest of my gear They gave me one solar hour to rendezvous with them in orbit so they could 'review' my findings. Cretans!

I thought all would be lost when I remembered that part of my on board collection included a large tolasite specimen. I carried it with me back to my dig and reopened the wormhole. I made a wire snare from the accelerator cable on my drill, looping it around the tolasite. Within 10 milibytes, I had my worm! The dam thing was almost four meters long descended, and it was all I could do to wrestle it out of its hole. I packed up my gear and rushed back to the ship.

As soon as I was in orbit, I hailed the Vallnoriums. Draping the worm in plain view around my neck, I invited them aboard for a closer look. As we spoke, the worm did what boreworms do best and expelled its most recent meal. "What is that?' their commander asked. "Poop', I replied. 'More technically known as halosium oxide. I believe the bulkheads of your ship are constructed of halosium, are they not? You know, a gardasion boreworm can eat its weight in halosium in just one solar hour. Shall I bring her aboard for a closer look?" I will not repeat what their commander said here for fear of censure, but they did grant me permission to proceed. As soon as they were gone, I jettisoned the worm and headed home.

I blasted through the security grid without being detected and was soon in free space. As I landed on Eros V, I knew my booth would finally be voted best in show at the 108th annual intergalactic mineral symposium. Now, where did I put the number for that darn exterminator?


Garnot, A. Das Norid, Principles of Planetary Systems,,218 3

karad, Et Med, The Valinorium System; Genesis and Geology, Vallnor.seLGEO. web.EFM.@2318

Jones, Bob W., VI, The Complete Mineral Universe, @h. minspeaLcom,2298


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