keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 114: Brown 231
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Slade 204
“What?” Vashti said.
“Strap yourself in?” Derek repeated. “Buckle up? Seat belt? No, of course, you don’t know any of that. No powered vehicles in your world. The seat has a belt for you to wear, to hold yourself in the seat.”
“Why do I want to hold myself in the seat?”
“Well, a lot of things could happen. We could make a tight turn, or an abrupt stop, and you could be thrown from the seat by your momentum.”
“Momentum,” she repeated.
“Yeah. Or the gravity might fail, and you would float out of the seat, could hit your head on something.”
With a bit of what might have been panic, she said, “Gravity might fail?”
“Well, it is artificially generated, and it does have to do a lot of work to compensate for the movement of the ship. There are a lot of ways that you could become separated from that seat, even if we don’t crash into something.”
“Well, I’d say don’t worry, I don’t expect to crash. But then, usually people don’t. That’s why they call them accidents. Anyway, if you have trouble figuring out the seat belt, ask.”
She apparently figured it out by the time Derek had managed the startup sequence and moved into the launch bay airlock. The bay depressurized, and the onboard computer confirmed atmospheric seal, so as the bay doors opened he moved forward into open space.
“I put The Wanderer in geosynchronous orbit above an area I think is a good bet,” he said. “It’s on a continent spanning the subtropical and temperate zones, near a lake not too close to any ocean, so it should be pretty decent in terms of climate conditions. But let’s take a look around before we land.”
Part of why Derek said this is he was enjoying flying a real spaceship that actually felt like flying. It was small enough that maneuvering it was something you could see happen in real time. But his excuse wasn’t entirely without merit. After all, knowing what was around the area where you were camped was an important consideration. He mentally plotted the location of rivers and streams, the rising ground in various directions, and the wooded areas. Then he set down on open grassland.
“The robot has to go first, he said. “Our instruments tell us that the air is breathable, but there’s no way to know whether the vegetation out there would harm us.”
“Yeah, it looks like grass, but it isn’t, probably. It’s something of a space colonization conundrum. You need soil to grow crops, but it’s rather difficult to import soil in adequate quantities for a colony, and the only way to get it otherwise is for plants to have grown, died, and decayed. But the odds are against those plants having the same DNA structure, proteins, vitamins, the necessary nutrients for life of our sort, and also not having anything that would be poisonous to us. We don’t know whether walking on the grass would release acids that would burn our feet, or toxins we would inhale, or spores, or drugs—some plants on earth produce opiates. So we need the robot to make the first investigation, to let us know whether it’s safe for us to walk on the grass.”
“That sounds silly,” she said, “but I get it.”
“Robot, prepare for initial survey of planetary surface for survivability and hazards. Opening hatch. Proceed.”
The robot headed out onto the plane outside the ship.
“Hungry?” Derek asked. “Might be a good time to eat something.”
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #452: Versers Ready. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: