Ptolemy I

The rocket takes them up, balanced on a ravening column of indescribable, Hellish fury, a fury measured and adjudged to the finest degree. For an instant they hover at the interface, not really a part of either sphere, then all at once they’re up and out and floating. The music is louder here; Anne makes a note of it in the ship’s log, and reminds herself to get an accurate decibel reading just as soon as possible.

“How long to aphelion?”

Anne checks the Book. “Five hours thirty seven minutes,” she reads, voice smooth with reverence. “Plus or minus margin of error.”

There’s a smile in the answer: “To err is human.” Anne nods, too familiar with the truth of the maxim to laugh at the joke. She unfolds the great fins that will move the ship against the turning of the sphere and starts them working. As the ship rolls and rights itself the Earth swings through her window; even with the ship giving the illusion of movement she can feel its utter immobility. Off in the distance – too far to see, really, but close enough to guess at – she can just make out the glow of one of the corners. “Look,” she says, and points. She keeps her voice cool and professional and humble, but still there’s that little bit of awed pride running through her like a vision. The glow shifts suddenly as the great being turns to watch them; even from half a sphere away the glory of its regard sweeps across them all. “Holy, holy, holy,” breathes Anne.