Nautilus by Vonda N. McIntyre

Nautilus by Vonda N. McIntyre

Author:Vonda N. McIntyre [McIntyre, Vonda N.]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: biotechnology, nautilus, alien contact, Starfarers Quartet, Vonda N. McIntyre
ISBN: 9781611380941
Publisher: Book View Cafe
Published: 2012-07-14T07:01:13+00:00

Chapter 9

“Look,” J.D. whispered.

She gazed not at the fading sunset but in the opposite direction, where the huge full disk of Smallernearer loomed over Largernearer’s horizon.

Smallernearer was larger than Earth’s moon. Its face was nearly twice the moon’s diameter, the color of tarnished silver, old mother of pearl. Beautiful and ghostly, it cast an opalescent radiance across the sea.

J.D. urged the glass boat forward. She approached Orchestra head on, avoiding the loops and whorls of seaweed that flanked the whale-eel with her own private Sargasso.

Orchestra let her body sink. Her seaweed drifted and floated upright from her sides, feathering against her rippling back fins. Flowers grew up her snout, spread into a rolling field between the fins, and stretched toward her distant tail. The blossoms luminesced orange and yellow. Mist collected in the hollow of her back.

One huge eye projected above the water, now and again blinking with its disconcerting backwards snap.

J.D. slipped over the side of the boat. Zev dove in after her. They swam toward the whale-eel through phosphorescent plankton. A glowing arrow of ripples lit each wake.

Zev turned over and looked back at Stephen Thomas.

“Come on! Aren’t you coming?”

Stephen Thomas vaulted over the boat’s rail, cannonballed into the water, and swam after Zev and J.D.


J.D. approached Orchestra’s snout. The seaweed fronds reached upward, tickling her toes and stroking her legs. Here, outside the harbor, the sea was wilder. Echoes of the long planetary swells passed by, creating a pattern of surf against the island of Orchestra’s body. On her sheltered side, a bay formed against her flank. On the seaward side, whitecaps piled against her, trailing spumes of spray.

Trying to keep her mind off the huge mouth and the sharp teeth just below her, J.D. wondered if one type of plant and animal grew on the lee side of Orchestra’s body, different types on the exposed side. Did the alien, when she was on the surface, habitually place her body in the same orientation to the waves?

“Go onto my back, where you can rest,” Orchestra said.

J.D. reached the cleft where Orchestra’s back fins swept forward and disappeared against the side of her snout. J.D. touched the whale-eel for the first time.

Orchestra’s body radiated heat; J.D. felt the warmth like a pressure through a handsbreadth of water. The warm layer covered a profusion of creatures, plant and animal — or plant and animal, or some type of life never found or imagined on Earth — that lived in symbiosis with the whale-eel.

J.D. found a bare spot that she believed was Orchestra’s skin. She placed her hand flat on the smooth hot surface.

“Hello, Orchestra Largernearer,” she said.

“Hello, Sauvage Earth,” Orchestra replied. “And welcome.”

J.D. pushed her mask to the top of her head and scrambled up the living gully. A school of scuttling creatures fled beneath slick leaves. She avoided a row of sharp-edged rocky lumps like split geodes. In the hollows of the geodes, whiskery fibers waved slowly, catching the mother-of-pearl light of Smallernearer.

She glanced over her shoulder.

Zev sidestroked


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