In Version; Chapter 77, Beam 179

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Stories from the Verse
In Version
Chapter 77:  Beam 179
Table of Contents
Previous chapter:  Slade 233

The ride was a bit bumpy, but Beam thought whatever created the sensation of gravity in an orbiting ship must have absorbed some of the turbulence.  Still, there was a feeling of acceleration, and although the floor still felt like ‘down’ the view made it evident that the ship was now tilted and headed toward the sphere below.

Surely it was normal to feel acceleration when coming out of orbit, right?  After all, gravity would pull the ship forward.  No, he realized, that was wrong.  The same gravity that pulled the ship forward would pull him forward at the same rate, and he should feel like he was in freefall.  This was a feeling of engines pushing them forward--and that was all wrong.  A ship descending from orbit needed to decelerate, first to drop out of orbit, then to soften the landing.  If engines were used, they would have to be used to slow the descent, not hasten it.

Maybe the pilot was trying to slingshot, using the planetary gravity to accelerate the ship enough to shoot into space faster than the engines could push it.  It was frightening to watch, as the ground below approached at ever-increasing velocity.  Beam expected that at any second the pilot would pull up, using that momentum to escape the gravity well and head for the stars.  It wasn’t happening.

The view below was now water, and getting increasingly close.  No, he decided, this was the craziest landing imaginable.  They were going to hit the water at high speed; he wondered if the hull could take it.  More pointedly, he wondered if the dome could take it.

“Brace yourselves!” he shouted unnecessarily.  “We’re going to crash!”

The seconds ticked past, and then there was an abrupt braking as the nose of the ship apparently reached the water.  It was difficult to get any perspective, with nothing near but miles of water, but it struck him that at the moment of initial impact he was still a good twenty miles from the surface, and the splash almost reached the edge of the dome and spread out an incredible distance around them.  It occurred to him that that collision should have killed them all, were it not for whatever created this inertia-free gravity environment.

Steam shot up outside in vast billows that quickly obscured the ocean near the ship.  It was rising quickly, but even at great speeds, many miles took time.  Beam guessed that the oceans around the ship were boiling.

The engines apparently cut out; the ship leveled in the water and began to sink, not like a stone but like a sinking ship, buoyant enough to slow its own descent into the depths but certain eventually to reach the ocean floor below.  The Titanic had nothing on this.


“Yes, Dawn?”

“Sir, the verser who was below us and moving with us has vanished.  The other verser appears to be on the planetary surface, sir.”

Unflappable Dawn, always alert to everything.  “Thank you, Dawn.  Bob, anything?”

Near human minds have left.  Two distant human minds are calling for them.

That was interesting.  “You mean, like, telepathically?”


So apparently the other versers aboard did not anticipate the crash and were killed in the impact.  Well, it might have been helpful to learn something from them; but his track record with other versers was a bit sketchy.

The waterline rapidly climbed the sides and reached the dome.  The steam had reached it already, and then cooled enough that rain fell on the dome. As the ship became fully submerged Beam looked into the increasing darkness of the underwater world.  He noticed for the first time that there were no lights here.  Why would there be?  It was undoubtedly intended as a place to come watch the stars.  There might be some exterior lights on the ship, but these would probably be used only when the captain wanted to see something that didn’t show up on the instruments.

“We had better get to the elevators while we still have a bit of light.”

“Are we going to go down?” Bron asked.  He pondered this for a moment.  The obvious sarcastic answer would be yes, with the ship, but he knew, or at least hoped, that’s not what Bron was asking.

“I’m not decided.  I don’t like heading into the unknown below, but frankly it will very soon be completely dark here, and we don’t know whether it will ever be daylight again.”

He stood, and as he began walking toward the bank of small buildings he hoped were elevators, or at least stairway or ramp entrances, he pondered whether the pilot intended this landing.  It was possible that whoever ran this ship lived under the kind of liquid atmospheres humans considered oceans.  No, he realized; if that were the case, this deck would be flooded.  They must be air breathers, and they must find roughly one grav comfortable both for their bodies and for the atmospheric pressure.  Also, from the shape of the chairs they sat similarly to people, but were smaller--shorter legs, shorter thighs, shorter backs were all indicated by that.  This did not make them humanoid, but, as he considered it, probably upright and bipedal.

He reached the elevator and considered for one last time whether to camp here under the dome.  One last time he rejected that.  “Let me know if anything is coming,” he said to everyone generally.

The small buildings each had a button of sorts off center on one wall.  He selected one and pushed the button.  It lit up.  Good, he thought, realizing that it might have been possible that the ship had lost power from damage from the crash.  It took considerably less time for the door to open than he might have expected, given the apparent size of the ship, but everyone boarded.  Ashleigh was a bit uncertain.

“It’s an elevator,” Beam said.  “Some people call it a lift.  It carries people and things up and down the floors in tall buildings, or in this case on a huge now submerged spaceship.”  Perhaps not totally reassured, she entered carefully.

The panel had a lot of buttons marked with unfamiliar symbols, but there was an array of twelve rows of four columns with two more at the bottom.  Those would be the floors.  He counted down the right side to the seventh row, and pushed the left-hand button.  The door closed.

There was no sensation of movement, no descent, no falling.  Beam wondered whether it had suddenly ceased working and they were now trapped in this box.  However, within a couple minutes the door opened and he looked out.

It was as if they were outside.  A grassy space stretched around the bank of elevators, beyond which were trees, and a meadow surrounding a lake, the blue sky showing a setting sun toward one side.  They may have lucked out here.

“O.K., let’s move away from the elevators and look for a secluded place to camp.”

Next chapter:  Chapter 78:  Kondor 239
Table of Contents

There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eleven other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #489:  Battle Worlds.  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

Re Verse All

In Verse Proportion

Con Verse Lea
Stories from the Verse Main Page

The Original Introduction to Stories from the Verse

Read the Stories

The Online Games

Books by the Author

Go to Other Links

M. J. Young Net

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