Casual Play Astrogation

Sigma Rubsam Rayne-Fox 88A (Eudoxus)

Between-space yields to stars, and in a moment, you're cradled in the serenity of the silent cosmos again. Drifting, losing yourself in the peace, you slide into meditation, or something like it, float for the sake of floating, and wonder at the stars that flicker red, blue, green and pale hundreds of light years distant. Every one of those stars has a name, and you know that in an instant, you could call up a data file on any one of them, pull the name and survey stats from the network for each of them, have that curiosity sated instantaneously.

But in an age when every bit of information is available on demand, there is a certain solace in not knowing. There is a certain excitement and comfort in wondering, in imagining, in letting little mysteries remain mysteries, at least for a moment.

The presence of a single terrestrial world in an orbit relatively devoid of ice and rock calls your attention back to the system you're floating in. It's a stalwart little planet, turns slow through Sigma Rubsam Rayne-Fox 88's habitable zone, its surface and curving path protected by two prominent gas giants that patrol the system further out. Local codes come in over the network as you investigate the trio, find that the first of the gas giants, a grand, jade-green world, has been tagged with the name Ilium, while the second, standing out brilliant and blue, bears the surveyer tag of Wolf.

It's the terrestrial planet which intrigues you most, though, and sending out a mote-probe to investigate, you catch the first signs of a breathable atmosphere almost immediately. Serene skies perfect for gliding, for soaring. Feathery clouds rush around the part of your consciousness nested in the tiny probe as you descend, stop just short of the surface and cut a course maybe a meter off the dusty, alkaline soil that spreads out in massive, flat desert plains between the jagged peaks of mountains and the thrashing, wild surf of seas rich in minerals, in tiny diatom-like life just starting to blossom. Tiny patches of some species of hardy, woody scrub brush poke from the soil here and there, reach toward the sky with crooked fingers.

And then, as you watch, a storm builds in the currents around a mountain peak, and as those darkening clouds descend suddenly, moving so quickly, scattering rain across the plains, you rush in toward that already dissipating storm, reach it just as the last wisp of cloud whispers away on a breath of wind. You miss the rain, but what comes in its wake is still stunning– the brush, the little scrub-weed sticks poking from the desert dust shiver and bloom suddenly, and then there are insects, luminous and quick as lightning. In the space of seconds, the ground is dry again, and what would have taken an entire season on Earth passes in less than a minute. Insects settle back into the dust, dig their way underground as flowers turn to seed pods, expel their winged spores to the sky where they get caught on currents of wind, helicopter away toward other fields, other patches of open soil waiting to be colonized by scrub. The speed, the efficiency of it is wondrous to behold, and you send the footage you capture back to the network as you follow one of the spores skyward, pass it on the ascent back to your ship. Smiling, you replay the footage of that dance of nature a few more times, watch how the brush comes alive, thrives and blossoms in the wake of that momentary rain. You let the images of it linger in your mind even as you turn back toward open space, trigger your ship's phasedrive and prepare to make the jump to between-space, eager to see what other wonders still wait to be discovered amongst the countless stars of the universe. There's always something new to see, but every world, every wonder you behold is special, is unique, will stick with you through all of the days of your life, and perhaps even beyond.


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