Comet Forest

The gas giant loomed over the comet’s tiny horizon like the ground under a sky-diver’s head.

It was easy to see that death now, that splat. The planet wasn’t a pretty blue-and-green ball in the sky any more. It wasn’t even the sky, itself. The planet was down. It was the surface toward which this comet plummeted, taking the universe’s most unique ecosystem with it.

Even now, the vertical silver-black sheets of the flag-trees whipped in the outer edges of the gas giant’s atmosphere. Threads of superconductive hyphae lit the ground with spectral radiance, desperately trying to flush heat out of the comet’s leading edge. It wasn’t working. Already the surface of the comet was mushy under its organic crust, carbon monoxide and methane venting in miniature geysers. Soon the oxygen and water would sublimate, too. There might even be brief period where a human could turn off their space suit and breathe the air of this space-faring forest as it died.

Joon wouldn’t be here by that point. There wouldn’t be anything for him to stand on; that last gasp of breathable air would be part of the comet’s tail, already too deep inside the planet’s gravity well for him to escape.

Joon would have to leave soon, but not before he spent one last minute looking up (that is, down, far down) into the sky that was the ground of the gas giant.

It spun.

Joon looked down, controlled his nausea, and looked back up again. Yes, the blue gas giant was spinning above him. Or, he shifted his perspective, he was spinning above the giant. The whole comet was spinning. The gas venting from the geysers had taken on a distinct curve. So had the flag-trees. Could they be catching the planet’s atmosphere all the way out here?

The spin was so intense now that Joon could feel it in his inner ears. It was easily strong enough to overcome the comet’s minuscule gravity and fling him into space, but Joon was stuck to the ground. The reddish slime that covered the ground frothed, sealing over geysers, climbing over his boots. The superconductor hyphae glowed.

“Uh,” said Joon, and a tremendous force shoved him backward.

Boots still stuck to the ground, Joon found himself leaning back at an angle, his suit groaning as it tried to support his body. Above him, enormous purple geysers belched gasses into the sky above the gas giant. Gasses that acted as rocket engines, smashing the comet forward as it spun. Gasses laced with purple organics that polymerized as Joon watched, forming nets. Scoops.

The spin increased. They were drilling through the giant’s upper atmosphere now, flag-trees spinning like the blades of a windmill. Or a propeller? Flag trees were good conductors. It was how they caught solar wind. Now, though, might they be doing something else? Not sailing, but flying through the gas giant’s upper atmosphere? Skimming off vital nutrients with those huge purple scoops?

Soon, the curve of the gas giant’s horizon appeared. Above the forest-ship, stars appeared.


This story started with artapir’s speculation about giant tide pools in space, and got some more flesh from Exxos von Steamboldt. Go ahead and read about the places they took the ideas.

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