asher63 (asher63) wrote,


The Queen's Courtesan

En-Qhoi feels the wave of nausea wash over her and subside, as the planet swims into view in the overhead window. She's over Voha's nightside, with the planet interposed between her ship and the planet's sun, allowing her to look at the planet without being dazzled by the sun's glare. She studies the texture of the planet's surface in the starlight: at first glance, it looks like the kind of rough, mountainous terrain you'd expect on a planet with a thin atmosphere and no liquid oceans. But under a closer look, the features don't appear completely natural - not geometrical, but yet purposeful, like the brushstrokes in a piece of abstract art.

She takes readings of the atmospheric data and adjusts the small reconnaissance craft's attitude for descent and landing. She selects a landing site on a plateau near the area designated on her orders. By the time she touches down, the area will be passing into evening and the big red disk of Voha's sun will be sinking below the horizon.

The recon craft Termination Shock has one of the best AI navigation systems in the Kathrite fleet, being built for landings in hostile environments like this one. Even so, she's going to be seriously challenged by this landing: the atmospheric currents are like nothing she's seen before, swift and fickle. But it's not her place to question orders - Second Law and all that - so she dutifully flashes a couple of warning signals for the benefit of the crazy organic at the controls, applies retrograde thrust, and grits her metaphorical teeth.

But in the end, it's not up to En-Qhoi or Termination Shock. The currents of the thin but active atmosphere seem to have a mind of their own. En-Qhoi finally directs Termination Shock to stop fighting it, and to go where the winds take her.

They end up in the bottom of a canyon. There is almost no starlight, and it's too dark even for Gilkesh eyes to see. En-Qhoi slips into the tactical pressure suit (at this planet's low gravity, the weight of the armor plating won't be a hindrance, although its inertia will make her movements awkward) and steps through the airlock, turning on the helmet lamp as she descends to the surface of Voha.

If she were spiritually inclined, the opening in the rock face would remind her of a temple.

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