Welcome to Hassandri

J.L. Weinmeister

We reach the portal. Our transport vehicle that we drove here seven weeks ago is waiting for us. The vehicle’s long, cylindrical body reminds you of an airplane, though it doesn’t have wings. It travels by hovering over the ground. The scientists created these vehicles to allow travel on and off Kareena, as the portal on Hassandri is impossible to travel through otherwise. You’ll see what I mean momentarily.

You board the vehicle, and this time I give you permission to open the window coverings. On your way here, everything was a mystery.

Once everyone’s situated, I power up the transporter; and it lifts a few feet off the ground, its movements fluid. I drive it into the mountain crevice that serves as the portal. Like last time, everything goes dark and still for a moment. Then we’re on Hassandri. Welcome.

You look out the window to see a colorful hot spring surrounding us. Now you see why the transport vehicle is necessary. Without some form of protection, you would burn yourself into nothingness long before you reached the portal.

Hassandri is a hot planet. The average surface temperature is ninety degrees Fahrenheit. We’re just south of the equator, so temperatures in our current location are much higher. I expect most of you are unaccustomed to such heat, so we remain in the transporter. Most of you don’t complain, as you’re tired and sore from all the hiking we did on Kareena. The sea voyages allowed for some periods of rest, but we’ve spent the past few days hiking. The seats on the transporter are a row of cushioned benches on either side of vehicle. There’s enough of a gap between the walls and the benches that you can sit facing the windows.

As we drive through grasslands, hot deserts, temperate forests, and rainforests—the four most common biomes on the planet—I tell you what Hassandri looked like when it was first created.

As you know, the scientists made Hassandri a habitable planet, so their dragons would have someplace to live. I know you’ve been looking for them since we got here, but you won’t find any. They’re not here anymore.

Hassandri is the most unique of the nine planets we will be visiting on our journey, for it is the only one that isn’t inhabited by people. It’s a land of pristine wilderness. The nature here is untouched by development.

Near the portal are lots of geothermal formations, including a massive volcano. It isn’t tall and conical like the ones you normally think of. It’s a shield volcano, and it covers a vast expanse of land. The volcano has an interesting story behind it, but that story is best told when you’re not on Hassandri. You have a hard enough time sleeping as it is because of all the predators that roam the land at night.

The night watch is reestablished. I promise it won’t be necessary as often once we leave Hassandri and stay in locations more welcoming to visitors.

Because the creatures of Hassandri are unused to human visitors, you see few of them. They’re afraid of us. We’re strangers in this land. That doesn’t mean predators will leave us alone, but it does mean wildlife sightings are few and far between. At night you notice strange, glowing lights that float in the air like fireflies. You ask me what they are, but I refuse to tell you. That is another story that is best told when we’re not on Hassandri. Besides, the timing isn’t right. There are other parts of the universe’s history you must learn first.

There are two things you notice about Hassandri early on. One is that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. The other is that the days are only ten hours long. Because of this, you spend some days sleeping and some nights exploring the landscape. It cools off enough at night that it’s more comfortable to be outside during this time. It’s also more dangerous; so we stick together as a group, and we never wander far from the transporter.

We spend eight Hassandri days exploring this continent. The southern half is mostly desert and forested mountains. The western and eastern halves are a mix of rainforests and savannahs near the equator, and temperate forests and grasslands to the north. The eastern side is cut off by a mountain range, and there are long deserts beyond that.

Back when the dragons lived here, which was many, many centuries ago, you would see them flying high the sky, occasionally swooping down to snatch their prey. It was a glorious sight, seeing the metallic glimmer of their bodies in the harsh sunlight. But you wouldn’t want to get too close. They’ll just as happily eat you as any other creature here. They were effective guardians for the portal until the collision. The new guardians look far less menacing, but don’t be fooled. Their power is much greater, and they’re not afraid to use it.

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