Casual Play Astrogation

Chi Eudicot Rabani 209f (Arctostaphy)

The normal flow of space-time rises, opens with the transition out of between-space. Stars glitter and swarm in the endless distances, and then your eyes settle on a world bathed in the flashing light of a pulsar.

Dark in the pauses, both the star and the planet seem to exist only in the light, are visible between flashes only in the darkness they create, the distant suns they displace. As you get closer, you notice the subtle blue-purple glow rippling and swarming through the atmosphere on the planet's perpetually sunward side– radiation from the pulsar, deadly and wondrous to behold. Curious, you send out a mote-probe to inspect it all closer, find something even more impressive on the planet's dark side than the glowing, scoured soils of the light.

At first, they seem to be little more than ridges, rounded mountains, but the deep folds sprawling across the dark side of the planet are too numerous, too regular. From far away, they look like the folds of some massive brain, like a fossil or cast of neural tissue millions or billions of years old, but as you get closer, you realize there is still more complexity to the ridges. Like coils of coral, they rise from the surface, reach toward the atmosphere in frozen, ropy towers that skim the radiation out of the indigo auras which pass from the sunward side. They form something like a jungle, read as rigid as something like stone or bone, yet they're alive in some way, alive and ancient, slow-moving to a degree that is almost incomprehensible to the human mind.

When you skim the thin atmosphere, descend into the darkness of the planet's frozen side, the knotwork, the tangle of icy towers becomes so incredibly dense that it's impossible to fly through. Only the ridges which separate layers or colonies of the towers open any space between them, and each of these is a dozen kilometers deep, maybe more, descends into frozen, glittering darkness that hasn't seen the light of any form of day in millenia. Marveling at it all, you send notes on to the network, study the spires around you, around the mote-probe while the pulsar fills the sky with shimmering aurora lights. It's unlike anything you've ever seen before. So much life, such a wondrous form of life, and all of it here, in one of the most inhospitable places in the universe. Radiation, darkness– and yet the life here has found a way to survive, to thrive, even.

It gives you a sense of hope as you withdraw from the feeds, set the mote-probe on a return course to your ship. In the pause that follows, you regard the world and its star with a smile, spin up your ship's phasedrive and turn away, turn toward other stars, other worlds, other places where other wondrous forms of life might wait for your eyes to set upon them. Only time will tell what you will see.

Only time, and there's plenty of that.


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