Author: Mickey Hunt

Their rozière dirigible’s month-long flight from the eiderdown coasts to the Annual Gathering coordinates would demand precise maneuvering.

“Once we find the northern jet stream,” Rho Aquilae’s father said, crisply, “we’ll journey to the proper longitude, then work south. We cross the Pacific for the Andes riding low-altitude westerly winds.”

Rho settled into a routine of zoogeography study, chores, and listening to histories and courting his betrothed when the ionosphere allowed shortwave radio connections.

Lyra’s anemia had worsened. “I look forward to seeing the Physicians at the Gathering, but to our wedding much more,” she said in a serene, musical voice.

Her family began their inexpert navigation from above middle Africa. Because Storytellers seldom touched the surface, and the Merchants intercepted them, they usually drifted at random, maneuvering only to hunt easy weather.

One night Rho with an oxygen kit ventured from the toasty cabins to the dirigible’s top. Wearing a puffy, down overcoat, he’d elude hypothermia for eighteen minutes. No moon, yet. He gazed over the cloudscape flowing below and up toward the blazing cosmos. A meteor cruised by: ancient junk. Desperately hoping Lyra would reach the Gathering and live, he absorbed calm from the celestial beacons—especially Vega, in the Harp—radiating through the dark, incomprehensible vastness.