Corday draws the short straw, so up she goes, past windows and minarets, past comforting shroud of night’s rocky dome, out and into the terrifying light of space. She circles the globe in seven whirling hours, looking modo huc, modo illuc for cracks, chinks, weaknesses.
She tongues the radio on. “First pass, clear. Second pass, clear. Cove 1, clear, Cove 2, clear.” Aliens throng the slopes, their awful, aping eyes running in wonder after her arc’s fiery ascent.
“Any problems?” Control is laconic; she doesn’t have anything to worry about.
“They’ve seen me.”
“Suck it up, Lieutenant. They can’t even touch you.”
She tongues her mic off, swears, tongues it back on. “Yes, sir.”
Etna’s quiet and solid as ever, which isn’t very much of either. She retreats into the green room and passes through the plume. Outside her detectors go crazy, but the plants do what they’re supposed to and her personal reader stays mum. Everything’s on the green, but her nerves are scraped raw. Too bright, too noisy. She longs for the muted beauty of home, for her asphodel bed and Enyo’s soft voice.
“All right, that’s all we need.” Control’s voice is surpassing gently. “You did good, Lieutenant. Bring it on home.”