Close to Critical by Hal Clement

By Hal Clement

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Almost visibly the robot’s attention shifted, and the whitish lump of synthetic material turned slowly. The metal skeleton framing it kept pace with the motion, and a set of stubby cylinders lined themselves up with the direction of fall. Nothing visible emerged from them, for there was still too little atmosphere to glow at the impact of the ions, but the tons of metal and plastic altered their acceleration. The boosters were fighting the already fierce tug of a world nearly three times the diameter of distant Earth, and they fought well enough so that the patchwork fabrication which held them suffered no harm when atmosphere was finally reached.

Anyway, a lot of the day is gone, and there probably won’t be much lost by letting you get a night’s sleep before you start. ” Nick gave no evidence of the uneasiness he felt at the prospect of meeting Swift again. He had known that savage for several weeks; Fagin had never met him. Still, the Teacher knew a lot; he had taught Nick virtually all he knew, and for a whole lifetime—at least, Nick’s whole lifetime—had been the final authority hi the village. Probably everything would come out as Fagin predicted.

The breeze was picking up slowly as the plants awoke to the new day. He could smell it. He watched eagerly for its effect on the lake—not waves, but the turbulent hollows hi the surface which would mark slightly warmer bodies of air passing over it. That would be the sign; trom then on, the surface would probably drop faster 4own the lake bed than he could travel. The breeze should keep the air breathable, as long as he didn’t follow the water too closely—yes, it couldn’t be long now; the very point where he was standing was below the surface level of some parts of the lake.

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