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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 117: Brown 232
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The robot was gone for what Derek guessed was at least an hour--one of his hours, longer than the ship’s hours. He was starting to worry, to wonder how long such a planetary survey should take. But then, he didn’t know, so there was no point worrying. He wondered whether there was a way he could set up his videogames to entertain them while they waited, but decided instead to see what he could learn from the ship’s instruments. Figuring that Vashti would also be a bit bored, he decided to share his findings with her.
“It appears the planet has roughly a thirty-hour period of rotation.”
“I guess the easiest way to define it is that it’s the time it takes to get from noon one day to noon the next day. Its orbit is slightly elliptical, which is typical, and its axis is tilted enough to create seasons but not so much that it would create absurdities. So they’ll have seasonal crop growth.”
“Axis?” Of course Vashti had had to learn about planetary orbits as part of astral navigation, but planetary rotation was not part of that unless you were planning to land, and even then it was a matter of following the movement of the equator, wherever it was.
“In my planetary system there was one planet--I don’t know which it was, Neptune, maybe--that was, how to describe it, sideways? One day a year its north pole pointed directly at the sun, and the entire northern half of the planet was in daylight while the southern half was in darkness. Gradually as the planet moved the light shifted further south until one quarter of the way through the year--and it had long years--the sun would rise in the east and set in the west. But it continued to shift so that at the half year point it was the southern hemisphere that was fully lit and the northern hemisphere fully in darkness, and then the light shifted north until it was again rising in the east and setting in the west, and ultimately returned to its original position. I wonder what it would be like to be on such a world?”
Vashti didn’t respond to that.
“It looks like the year is a bit long in terms of time, but short in terms of days--hard for me to figure that, because of course the computer works in the days and years of the planet from which The Wanderer comes, and their days are about twenty-one of our hours so their hours are shorter, but on board the ship they don’t have seasons so they don’t really keep track of years so well. I mean, the computer does, but it means nothing to the indigs. Anyway, because the planet has thirty-hour days and the ship has twenty-one-hour days, a day on the ship is only seventy percent as long as one on the planet. That means,” he calculated as he spoke, “every seven days of planetary time is equal to ten days of ship’s time. So a twenty-eight day month on the planet would be as long as forty days on the ship. They’ll have to adapt to that. We might be able to help, if we start shifting the ship’s day/night cycle toward the new schedule. Still, we’re asking them to adapt to a cycle almost half again as long. In their new lives, they’ll probably take a lot of naps.”
He looked over some other readings. “It appears that the planet has two moons, one rather near and the other at a significant distance. Their orbits are providing some rotational stability, so we can anticipate the planet maintaining its seasons for the foreseeable future. Overall everything looks good.”
“So, we can go back and tell the captain to land?”
“Well, not quite yet. For one thing, we haven’t received the robot’s report.”
“But then we can go?”
He thought a moment. “No, I think we need to stay here overnight, make sure that there isn’t something about the nighttime conditions that should concern us. But I would say that tomorrow morning we can go.”
The robot returned. Derek opened the hatch for it, and closed it behind it. “I guess we get our survey data now,” he said, patching the robot into the ship’s computer.
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: