Casual Play Astrogation

Tau Savalas Jong 11b (Eudoxus)

The phasedrive spins down as you pop back into normal space. Sensors come online a moment later, sweep the void ahead of you, start kicking back readings on a shining emerald sphere that sits between you and an ordinary yellow-orange star.

The first results are promising– no records of this world exist in the database. It's uncolonized, unclaimed, with a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere that's comparable to Earth's. Deeper scans reveal high heat and high humidity, but both are within acceptable levels for human habitation. It's a hothouse, a jungle, but if you wanted to, you could stand on the surface, take a deep breath of air, go swimming in the warm lakes that dot the surface in place of oceans.

A mote-probe dispatched by your ship's integrated intelligence slides smoothly into the atmosphere, starts taking readings of the plant life, sends back data on the fauna it observes. Quick vid-frames of majestic flying beasts with wide, colorful wings of glittering, knotted fur fill your mind. Smaller fliers fill other frames– creatures like hawks, their wings all dull and wooly. They cruise slow, drop like stones to snatch crimson fish from the boggy waters. Glimpses of tiny, stick-thin lizard-monkeys with long, spindly limbs come next, but these creatures are hard to see, move so quickly that they are like fleeting shadows amidst the vining roots of the pulsing, leathery trees that dominate this jungle world.

You spend an hour or so just observing the fauna through the myriad senses of the mote-probe, listening to the breathing trees as they draw wet air into their vacuous lungs. Like an insect hitchhiker, you ride with the planet's greatest hunters, knot yourself up in their woolen wings and watch as they soar into the sky, tear apart their smaller, screaming prey, grapple in the throes of wild, orgiastic sky-mating. This planet is alive. It's amazing, refreshing, incredible, and you can't help but revel in every minute you spend in the midst of it.

When the time at last comes to move on, you transfer a solid chunk of notations and readings on the world to your ship's database, spin up the phasedrive and smile as you bid farewell to Tau Savalas Jong 11b. So few worlds like this out there. So few gems, all so precious, all so special, as if each was meant to be appreciated, savored by visitors who have seen the void, seen how hellish, how empty it can be.


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