More Nano text

47,700 words now. In the home stretch, word-count-wise. Sto­ry-wise, too, I think.

du-Razh was a pale cir­cle, swelling even as he watched. Igraine was snooz­ing in her chair. Part of him won­dered if she want­ed to be wak­ened for this pass; the rest did­n’t care. Let her sleep.

The dis­play shift­ed a lit­tle, auto­mat­ic cor­rec­tions to their tra­jec­to­ry. He’d puz­zled out enough of the drift­ed Englisch to be able to toy with cer­tain aspects of the dis­play. du-Razh’s moons were labeled now, all of them tagged with numer­ic iden­ti­fiers; the Earth ship did­n’t have the names built into its data­base. They’d passed by IX‑4 and VIII‑4 already, and VII‑4, known local­ly as Shi­va, largest of du-Razh’s satel­lites, was approach­ing. They would pass below its tilt­ed orbit, no clos­er than one hun­dred thou­sand kilo­me­ters to the moon at any point.

And now the gas giant was near enough to make out the bands of atmos­phere, the murky swirls of hydro­gen and methane, nitro­gen and oxy­gen. Storms larg­er than worlds crawled across its sur­face, some of them old­er than human set­tle­ment in this sys­tem. A thin band of rings orbit­ed its equa­tor, tilt­ed thir­ty degrees to the eclip­tic, made up, it was the­o­rized, of a shat­tered moon, or per­haps a comet that had long ago strayed too near the giant world’s grav­i­ty well.

A world three-quar­ters the size of Jupiter, in the Home Sys­tem. A world whose grav­i­ty could tear apart less­er worlds.

They dove toward it, the lit­tle navette mak­ing cor­rec­tions as they fell.

Shi­va fell behind them, and then scarred, stony ViÅ¡nu, Lax­mi with its sul­fur-diox­ide vol­ca­noes. They crossed the orbit of ret­ro­grade Prana, a lit­tle wisp of cap­tured comet, and still they fell, still du-Razh swelled.

The bands swirled, yel­low and brown, ochre and tan. The world was huge now in the dis­play, tak­ing up near­ly half the land­scape the dis­play had to offer. A minor course cor­rec­tion swung the gas giant to the left, a lit­tle bit.

He was struck with won­der and awe. Nev­er had he seen images like this. Even in text­books, the pho­tos of du-Razh and Perse­phone were grainy blowups of images from ground-based tele­scopes. There was­n’t a lot of mon­ey for an explo­ration pro­gram; they’d become a large­ly ground-based soci­ety, the cities on King Moon notwithstanding.

And now it was spread across three-quar­ters of the dis­play, the whorls of its storms sharp and clear, the black­ness behind it absolute. It was bright enough to blot out the stars.

Anoth­er cor­rec­tion, and anoth­er. II‑4 swept behind them, named Brah­min by the local stan­dards. The last moon, Naras­in­ha, anoth­er cap­tured comet, orbit­ed pole-to-pole, once every ten hours.


So close now that the dis­play was filled with a roil­ing yel­low-brown plain, the limb at the edge of the world almost a straight line, and every sec­ond there was a minute cor­rec­tion. The stacked dis­plays showed count­down timers, hull-stress indi­ca­tors, mon­i­tors on elec­tri­cal per­mit­tiv­i­ty and gaseous heat­ing, none of which meant a damn thing to Yak­oub. He watched, eyes wide, as the world grew larg­er and larg­er still.


And around, accel­er­at­ing, steal­ing momen­tum from the vast world. It swelled so large that for a moment all there was on the dis­play was a slab of yel­low cloud, and Yak­oub could see fine detail with­in it, minute vari­a­tions in col­or and shade that were invis­i­ble in his text­books. Igraine turned on the snif­fer, and the navette was filled with the hiss and pop of du-Razh’s elec­tri­cal fields. A bright strike of light­ning arced between two clouds, a tril­lion volts bridg­ing a gap two hun­dred kilo­me­ters wide, and the snif­fer howled and keened with the inter­fer­ence. It went on and on, the light­ning last­ing for almost twen­ty sec­onds, con­tin­u­ous and sustained.

And then they were around, reced­ing, and the sun set on the limb of du-Razh, leav­ing the flick­ers of light­ning as the only light in a plain, a disc, a dot, a tiny spot of dark­ness, receding…