World-devouring tree.

They are forever between the stars and the sun. Asail on cosmic wind. Roots to branches. They call themselves Ratatoskr, after the squirrel who runs the length of the world tree.

Four months out. They are busy-busy. Alecto is their gardener, and therefore their commander. She samples bark, roots, leaves, seeds, scampers from branch to trunk to pack, nibbling, tasting, measuring. Radiation, oxygen, salt accumulation, water levels. She breathes with the tree, beats her heart to its measured tread of sap. Megara, the mathematician, maps the arc of their course. Perihelion, aphelion against the sidereal clock.

Tisiphone waits for red landing. Rust-red, iron with blood. Waits.

Laughter as they drink, float, spin. Barkborn sisters in isolation. Work, exercise, pleasure. Alee of their tree looms Mars, bringer of war. Though they cannot hear them, his drums are pounding.