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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 128: Brown 237
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Approaching twenty hours, and the wait had been tiresome. There had been a couple minor corrections to velocity and vector he had had to oversee during the descent, but these were anticipated, and they were on course. At any minute they should touch the edge of the outer atmosphere, and feel the friction against the hull. He had a clock counting down the seconds (ship’s time), but had realized that the same tidal forces that had changed the shape of the oceans would also pull on the air, and he did not know by how much this number, what he now called his estimated reentry time, could vary.
“Prepare to engage descent control engines,” he said.
There was a brief pause, a couple seconds, before Vashti said, “I’m sorry, what?”
“Falling asleep over there, Vash?”
“No--I mean, yes, but I’m all right.”
“Descent engines. We’re about to--”
At that moment he felt the ship lurch. They had hit the atmosphere. Hopefully they had calculated the impact trajectory properly--he would hate to skip off the surface back into space.
“Descent engines activated.”
He hoped they worked. There had been no way to test them, and they had been in mothballs for millennia. “Engage.”
He felt the ship begin to stabilize under his control. Focusing on his instrument readings, he began what it occurred to him was the most important video game of his life thus far. He heard Vashti’s voice.
“Ship level and descending. Forward momentum slowing. Descent velocity increasing.”
Right. At near orbital velocities, the distance to the ground remained fairly consistent. As they decelerated, although the rate at which they were falling would not increase appreciably, they were no longer outrunning the curvature of the planetary surface, and thus were closing the distance to it rapidly. He adjusted the thrust on the descent engines, trying to maintain stability while bringing their descent velocity under control. When they reached the ground they would have to be very nearly hovering--but they had to reach the ground at the right coordinates.
The descent continued, terrain passing below them at incredible speed, but he continued to decelerate on both vectors.
Estimated time to touchdown now five minutes.
“Deploy landing gear.”
“Sir, we still have almost five minutes.”
“Check your altimeter, Commander. That ground is closer than we calculated.”
“Oh! I’m sorry sir.”
“My fault, Commander. I didn’t give you full information for the calculations.”
“But I should have--”
“Right. Landing gear deployed.”
“Activate landing lights.”
“Landing lights activated.”
His camera screens showed a dim view of the world below. He slowed more. It took a lot of power to control a ship this massive, but it was working.
“Hovering above intended position,” Vashti said, “One hundred--whatever these units are called.”
Yes, something like meters or yards, about half the height of their roughly four-foot-tall indigs. He hadn’t bothered to program a conversion into the computer. It hadn’t much mattered before now.
“Descending,” he said, and slowly lowered the giant colony spaceship onto its four huge landing legs and the curved bottom of its belly.
“Touchdown. Landing secure.”
Vashti hit several buttons, then said, “Confirm landing secure.”
“Extinguish landing lights.”
“Landing lights extinguished.”
“Deploy land survey robots. Let’s start the process.”
“Captain,” he said, “permission to leave the bridge.”
“Permission granted, both of you, and may I add, well done.”
Surprised, Derek said, “Thank you, Captain.”
“Yes,” Vashti echoed, “thank you, Captain.”
As they passed out the hatch, Derek said, “Dinner, shower, sleep?”
“You’ve omitted something,” Vashti said.
Derek smiled and nodded. “Lead on, princess.”
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 #456: Versers Prepare. 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: