Celestial Landfall can be found in

ISFDB.org Magazine Entry

REN should have expected it. He should not have been surprised when Challon, the Executive Chief, took over command of the exploration party. After all, there was a great deal of glory connected with this first planet-landing in over a century.

The Executive Chief stood at the gunwales of the gravity boat, just behind Ren and the controls. His voice was metallic. Each overtone in it reminded Ren of the ping of metal cracking with cold. Even Challon's pale blond hair and unblemished skin seemed metallic, although his movements were lithe enough. He was in superb physical shape—all aboard the spaceship Alpha were, for that matter.

Ren worked the controls automatically. He was steeped in a curious thing today—an emotion—a prescient feeling without any logic or two-and-two in it, and he had been feeling this in his marrow ever since descending to the surface of this new and unknown planet.

And, now, for some reason—part of this queer emotion probably-he turned to glance at Jana, who sat along the gunwales with the other scientists and with the men of the Protec Guard. She saw him, and smiled at him. He smiled back, and felt a little better.

Challon's metallic voice cut in. "All right, mister, let's pay attention to the controls."

Ren obeyed, but he felt a surge of something—it seemed to start just below his lungs and come up through the shell of his body. Another new emotion. He kept his stare on the control panel and threw his squarish brows into a deep scowl. This was anger, he felt. Anger was a primitive trait, and forbidden—but it seemed to come so easily on this world.

The gravity car passed over a density fault and bumped. Ren corrected; he kept the long, boatlike vehicle skimming, following the contour of Ismarus.

Ismarus. They'd named it after Ulysses' first port of call—and they'd been lucky, all right, to find it. Te scanners had picked it out of space after analyzing only a few thousand others. It met all the requirements: it was of the same mass as Earth, it had an atmosphere, Earth's temperature, one satellite and a similar rotation and orbit period. It was a jack-pot find, no question of it. Now the Alpha had landed upon this planet, and they had taken the gravity boat to explore in a wide radius from the big spaceship. There would be long days and nights of waiting while the Alpha was remassed—they would get to know Ismarus better. Maybe too well before it was all over.

Ren glanced occasionally at the landscape all about them. He had difficulty in seeing it as a pure sight—his mind kept wandering into reason and analysis. The people of the Alpha, after all, were conditioned to analyze and reason from birth; in this they were probably superior even to the revered Ancestors who had launched the Alpha. Ren concentrated so that he wouldn't have to think so hard.

A queer place, Ismarus. In some ways similar to the minifilm reader pictures of Earth that every Alphan child studied—but in other ways subtly different. Very little vegetation for one thing. Mostly rolling stretches of hard-packed red and ochre sand, lacerated here and there with rock. Sharp rock, grey rock. The rocks became more frequent as they neared the mountain chain. Tortured, cactuslike plants began to appear.

"Spectro, please, Captain," pinged Challon's voice. He was still behind Ren's shoulder.

Ren ticked the scanner. The screen glowed with white light, then flashed and jiggled 'before it came to life. Bands of color appeared and floated until Ren stilled them by dialing. Challon leaned forward and studied the image.

Ren looked at Challon's profile. Strong, handsome, confident face—as befitted an Executive Chief. Immense I. Q., superb physique and very low Emotional Index. Naturally. No other kind of man could hold the community together as the Alpha took its warping path through the universe. Science was the Supreme Being and Challon was Its prophet. These days you could hardly whisper "E equals mc square" without a slight feeling of having committed blasphemy.

Challon was reading the spectro off the cuff. "Soil relatively fertile on the slopes ahead. Some vegetation. Might be inhabitants there."


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