We spent the whole day falling off the Bookshelf.

Those wonderful folks at Head of Zeus have reissued the Star Svensdotter trilogy in new digital editions featuring eye-popping new cover art. Excerpt–

“Okay, I’m going to take a short test flight, check out the equipment and the conditions.  You stay put.”

“No fair,” somebody muttered.

“Stay put,” I repeated, “and watch me.”  I circumvented further discussion by the simple expedient of stepping to the edge and falling off.  I fell straight forward, arms/wings straight out, as I fell hooking my boots into the toe controls almost by habit, as if I were back on Orville on Terranova, as if I’d never left.  It was like riding a bike; once you’ve mastered the technique, you never forget how.

At seven millibars pressure there wasn’t much immediate lift, but at one-third my Terranovan weight there didn’t need to be.  I didn’t fall for long, with pressure gathering beneath my wings even in that skinny Martian air.  I grabbed for all I could get and banked right, swooping for a dark patch of ground I’d spotted earlier, and grabbed the first thermal of the day to spiral rapidly up and over the Bookshelf.  The controls responded like they were my own nerve endings.  I pulled rudder and came in low and clean, a meter over the top of the little butte, scattering twins before me.

“Whoopee!” somebody yelled over my headset.  “Ride ’em cowgirl!”

These kids had never seen a bird in flight before and I got a little cocky, pulled up too sharply and stalled.  Nose down and around and around I went, pulling up well before impact but considerably chastened in spirit.  Not chastened enough not to come in hot on final, though, and the expression on the twins’ faces, even through their visors, was worth it.

“Wow, Mom, that was cool!”

Sean didn’t waste time with words, shrugging into his harness and stepping to the edge.  I grinned over at him.  “Ready?  Okay, go!”

We spent the whole day falling off the Bookshelf.  Atmosphere wasn’t vacuum, and a rudder wasn’t a vernier jet, but in spite of their unfamiliarity with atmosphere the twins had been on friendly terms with the basic principles of flight since first-grade science.  They caught on fast, and before dark Paddy had taught herself to snap roll, reminding me so sharply of Elizabeth and all the hours spent in the air off the North Cap of Terranova that the memory was like an actual physical pain.  This time I didn’t run and hide.  Where was Elizabeth now?  What was she doing?  Was she happy?  Was she lonely?  Did she miss us?  We, the both of us, had in the space of ten minutes trusted the Librarian to provide for her every need, halfway across the galaxy from the globe that gave her birth, so far away from everyone and everything that was familiar to her.  Had they?

“Hey, Mom, watch this!”  Sean stalled and recovered, all in one smooth movement, homesteaded a thermal and began a smooth, circular climb.  In an instant Paddy was on his tail, and I on hers.

The sun was setting by the time I called a halt.  We barely made it back inside the Kayak before the last light failed.  We were all sore through the shoulders and our calf muscles ached from the stretch it took to operate the rudder, but we assembled huge sandwiches and ate two apiece, slept ten hours straight through and were back in harness an hour after daybreak the following morning.  I declared a school holiday and cut back our daily chores to the absolute, basic, must-do life support minimum.   For the next week, we flew.

It was the best week of my life.

We’re going to Mars, guys, and when we get there some entrepreneurial genius is going to put together a Martian travel package featuring flying vacations. It won’t be as Star and the kids experience it, but it will be glorious. No competition from birds, either.

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Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

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