Among the Clouds

Scott Pearson

Geordi, behind you!” Worf’s urgent shout seemed to echo inside the helmet of La Forge’s environmental suit. It was not something you expected to hear while aboard an orbital elevator stopped in the lower stratosphere of a Jovian planet.
       La Forge adjusted his precarious position atop the elevator’s drive unit, several pairs of powered rollers on both sides of the support tether. The relatively thin ribbon stretched hundreds of kilometers up into space and down into Askaria’s mostly hydrogen atmosphere. Extending from the drive unit on one side of the tether was an oval passenger platform with twenty seats, while an aerodynamic stabilizer and counterweight extended from the other side.
       Billowing ammonia ice clouds, red with sulfur compounds, prevailed at this altitude, but La Forge had no trouble seeing the danger. Just a dozen meters away, a swarm of hundreds of scarflike creatures, some more than three meters long, undulated toward the away team. Railings around the platform and lap belts on the seats were the lift’s only safety features. Worf and Deanna Troi remained belted in, but La Forge, placing a communication relay, was perched a few meters above the railings, his safety line bonded to the tether by phased molecular adhesion.
       If they had not had a couple hundred kilometers of bone-crushingly dense atmosphere below them, La Forge would have found it difficult to be concerned about the approaching life-forms. . . .

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