In Verse Proportion; Chapter 126, Brown 236

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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 126:  Brown 236
Table of Contents
Previous chapter:  Kondor 216

As Derek began the gradual deceleration, he realized that there was almost no way at all that he could tell that it was working.  On the surface below, it was about five hours after midnight, and although Wanderer had already emerged from the planet’s penumbra and the star could be seen ahead, the crescent of illuminated planetary surface that constituted day below was still far enough ahead that any visual showed no detail, and their deceleration was gradual enough that the shift in any visible landmarks there--coastlines, mountain ranges--would be barely perceptible at this point.  Any feeling of descent or deceleration was compensated by the ship’s internal gravity system, since after all an orbit is already a timed fall that simply never reaches the ground.  His senses could tell him nothing; only his instruments could provide that information.  He trusted them, of course, and they were giving him the right readings.  That the encroaching line of dawn below had slowed that approach was not something he could perceive, but he was satisfied that it was happening.  In a couple hours, give or take, their landing zone would appear in the morning light somewhere ahead of them, as counterintuitively it raced away from them only to catch up from behind in about twenty hours when the ship itself would touch the atmosphere and have to make the final ride to the surface.

That’s when Derek realized his first mistake.

It was the fifth hour after midnight at their target location.  The planet had a thirty-hour day.  He had thought that it wouldn’t matter what time he began his descent, because the trajectory would always be the same and the relationship between Wanderer and the targeted landing point wouldn’t change.  However, they would effectively rendezvous with that landing point in twenty hours, when it was the twenty-fifth hour of the day--five hours before midnight.  It might be daylight that late on a long summer day, but this was early spring, and night would fall below well before then.  He would be landing in the dark.

He told himself that was inconsequential.  He trusted the math; Vashti knew what she was doing, and it had already worked in the simulator.  The targeted plane was vast, large enough that the footprint of the ship wasn’t going to cover more than a small patch.  An exact landing point was not essential, and they were certainly accurate enough for the purpose, more than accurate enough.  They would reach the target.  Then the landing lights would enable him to deal with the details.  He did not need daylight to land; this was not a problem.

He hoped.

There was nothing to do for the next twenty hours but monitor the descent.  Instruments showed the surface gradually getting closer--but not, Derek realized, consistently.  The irregularities were minor variations in the overall flow of the numbers, but the instruments were extremely sensitive.  When they crossed over mountains the ground got abruptly closer, and as they moved toward the ocean the decrease in distance slowed.  In fact, the rate shifted slightly when they were over the ocean, which bothered Derek because they should be approaching sea level at a consistent rate.  Then he realized that his concept of sea level was a bit illusory.  The planet had tides, so as the star and the moons pulled at the oceans below they rose, creating a slightly oblong shape to the surface.

Derek realized his second mistake.

Their landing calculations had been done for a target at sea level.  Obviously the plane, although relatively low ground, was going to be above sea level by hundreds, possibly thousands, of feet.  He had not included that in the simulation, or in the calculation.  That meant they were going to reach the ground sooner than the calculation projected--not much sooner, certainly, a matter of a minute or two max, he estimated, but given that they would be trying to control the freefall of reentry, he had to be aware of it.  Further, since it was going to be night, he was not going to be able to see the ground, and was going to have to make an instrument landing.

Well, he still had twelve hours to worry about it, and nothing really he could do but manage the best landing he could under the circumstances.  He couldn’t really return to orbit--well, he could, but it would be difficult, and he would probably lose the target and have to spend a couple days getting repositioned.  Was that worth it?

He could do this, he decided.  He could manage this landing.

Next chapter:  Chapter 127:  Slade 208
Table of Contents

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:

Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel

Old Verses New

For Better or Verse

Spy Verses

Garden of Versers

Versers Versus Versers

Stories from the Verse Main Page

The Original Introduction to Stories from the Verse

Read the Stories

The Online Games

Books by the Author

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M. J. Young Net

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