Draco, Vorpis, Phoenix, 3172
A world has so much in it, on it—
—while a moon, Katin thought as they left the spacefield by dawn-blazed gates, a moon holds its gray glories miniatured in rock and dust.
“… Vorpis has a day of thirty-three hours, a gravity just high enough to increase the pulse rate by point three of Earth normal over an acclimating period of six hours…”
They passed the hundred-meter column. Scales, burnished under the dawn, bled the mists scarfing the plateau: the Serpent, animated and mechanical, symbol of this whole sequined sector of night, writhed on his post. As the crew stepped onto the moving roadway, an oblate sun rouged away night’s bruises.
“…with four cities of over five million inhabitants. Vorpis produces fifteen per cent of all the dynaplasts for Draco. In the equatorial lavid zones, more than three dozen minerals are quarried from the liquid rock. Here, in the tropic polar regions, both the arolat and the aqualat are hunted by net-riders along the inter-plateau canons. Vorpis is famous throughout the galaxy for the Alkane Institute which is located in the capital city of its Northern Hemisphere, Phoenix…”
They passed the limit of the info-service voice, into silence. As the road buoyed them from the steps, Lorq, among the crew, gazed-on the plaza.
“Captain, where we now go?” Sebastian had brought only one of his pets from the ship. It swayed and stepped on his ridged shoulder.
“We take a fog crawler into the city and then go to the Alkane. Anyone can come with me who wants, wander around the museum, or take a few hours leave in the city. If anybody wants to stay back on the ship—”
“—and miss a chance to see the Alkane?—”
“—doesn’t it cost a lot to get in?—”
“—but the captain’s got an aunt working there—”
“—so we can get in free then,” Idas finished.
“Don’t worry about it,” Lorq said as they jogged down the ramp to the slips where the fog crawlers moored.
Polar Vorpis was set with rocky mesas, many of them several square miles in area. Between, heavy fogs riled and slopped, immiscible with the nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere above. Powdered aluminum oxide, and arsenic sulfate in vaporized hydrocarbons expelled from the violent floor, filled the space between mesas. Just beyond the table that held the spacefield was another with cultivated plants, indigenous to a more southern latitude of Vorpis but kept here as a natural park (maroon, rust, scarlet); on the largest mesa was Phoenix.
The fog crawlers, inertial-drive planes powered by the static charges built up between the positively ionized atmosphere and the negatively ionized oxide, plowed the surface of the mist like boats.
On the concourse, the departure times drifted beneath the transparent bricks, followed by arrows directing the crowds to the loading slip: