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says it's because the methane weighs less too, which sounds as though it might
be reasonable." Dondragmer did not answer; he simply glanced, with an
expression equivalent to a complacent smile, at the tough wood sprifag balance
and weight that formed one of the ship's principal navigating instruments. As
that weight began to droop, he was sure, something that neither his captain
nor the distant Flyer had counted on would happen. He did not know what it
would be, but he was certain of the fact.
file:///F|/rah/Hal%20Clement/Mission_of_Gravity_v1.1.html (61 of 109) [8/31/03
4:54:33 PM]
The canoe, however, continued to float as the weight slowly mounted. It did
not, of course, float as high as it would have on Earth, since liquid methane
is less than half as dense as water; its "water" line, loaded as it was, ran
approximately halfway up from keel to gunwale, so that fully four inches was
invisible below the surface. The remaining four inches of freeboard did not
diminish as the days went by, and the mate seemed almost disappointed. Perhaps
Barlennan and the Flyer were correct after all.
The spring balance was starting to show a barely visible sag from the zero
position it had been made, of course, for use where weight was scores or
hundreds of times Earth-normal when the monotony was broken. Actual weight was
about seven Earths. The usual call from Toorey was a little late, and both the
captain and mate were beginning to wonder whether all the remaining radios had
failed for some reason when it finally arrived. The caller was not Lackland
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but a meteorologist the iMesldinites had come to know quite well. "Barl," the
weather man opened without preamble, "I don't know just what sort of storm you
consider too bad to be out in I suppose your standards are pretty high but
tiiere seems to be one coming that I certainly wouldn't want to ride out on a
forty-foot raft. It's a tight cyclone, of what I would consider hurricane
force even for Mesklin, and on the thousand-mile course I've been observing so
far it has been violent enough to stir up material from below and leave a
track of contrasting color on the sea."
"That's enough for me," Barlennan replied. "How do I dodge it?"
"That's the catch; I'm not sure. It's still a long way from your position, and
I'm not absolutely sure it will cross your course just when you're at the
wrong point. There are a couple of ordinary cyclones yet to pass you, and they
will change your course some and possibly even that of the storm. I'm telling
you now because there is a group of fairly large islands about five hundred
miles to the southeast, and I thought you might like to head for them. The
storm will certainly strike them, but there seem to be a number of good
harbors where you could shelter the
Bree until it was over."
"Can I get there in time? If there's serious doubt about it I'd prefer to ride
it out in the open sea rather than be caught near land of any sort."
"At the rate you've been going, there should be plenty of time to get there
and scout around for a good harbor."
"All right. What's my noon bearing?"
The men were keeping close track of the
Bree's position by means of the radiation from the vision sets, although it
was quite impossible to see the ship from beyond the atmosphere with any
telescope, and the meteorologist had no trouble in giving the captain the
bearing he wanted. The sails were adjusted accordingly and the
Bree moved off on the new course.
The weather was still clear, though the wind was strong. The sun arced across
the sky time after time without much change in either of these factors; but
gradually a high haze began to appear and thicken, so that the sun changed
from a golden disc to a rapidly moving patch of pearly light. Shadows became
less definite, and finally vanished altogether as the sky became a single,
almost uniformly luminous dome. This change occurred slowly, over a period of
many days, and while it was going on the miles kept slipping beneath the
Bree's rafts.
They were less than a hundred miles from the islands when the minds of the
crew were taken off the matter of the approaching storm by a new matter. The
color of the sea had shifted again, but that bothered no one; they were as
used to seeing it blue as red. No one expected signs of land at this distance,
since the currents set generally across their course and the birds which
warned Columbus did not exist on Mesklin. Perhaps a tall cumulous cloud, of
the sort which so frequently forms over islands, would be visible for a
hundred miles or more; but it would hardly show against the haze that covered [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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