As the raging storm clouds moved away towards Florida, Sam and Laura looked down at the ant-like fleet that sailed miles below the Athena’s Horn.
“Blast the scurvy bastards!” muttered Sam, and then she yelled towards midship: “Straight ahead, Flier. Don’t drop us until I say the word.”
Astrogator Lyall came on deck.
“Captain,” he said, “What’s happening?”
“Be shot in a dead zone if I know. Speaking of which, can we use the cannon? We may have to fight some.”
“We’ll be over the Atlantic Dead Zone for the next two hours, hour and a half at least.”
“Well, if we can’t shoot them, at least they can’t shoot us either.”
“Roc’s Nest!” she cried to the watchman, “Who are they?”
“Spanish, Captain Smith! Thirty-two ships, none flying! Thirty of them warships.”
The watchman returned to scanning the far-away ocean with his spyglass.
“I don’t like this, Sam,” Laura said. “They’re sailing faster than we’re flying! Coming after that hurricane, they’ll hit Florida like a dragon in heat.”
Sam turned to Lyall.
“How long, Astrogator?”
“Before they reach Florida? I reckon a day-twenty to thirty hours.”
“It’s taken us nearly two days!”
“They’ve got the wind: under those conditions, sailing is faster than flying. Mage Smith is right. They’re moving a good clip faster than we are.”
“Is there nothing we can do? We have to at least warn Florida.”
“We can’t outrun them,” Laura said. “It’s out of our hands, Sam.”
“I feel so… ”
Sam looked at Laura.
“From the Earth to the Moon!”
“The book! In From the Earth to… ”
“to the moon!? Sam, have you completely lost your mind?”
“No, no, we don’t go to the moon. We go just high enough to see the entire Earth. Then, we can come back down again, right at Florida… ”
“And this happened in a book.”
“No, it didn’t happen, so much, he mentioned it might be possible.”
“A writer mentions it might be possible? Sam… ”
Astrogator Lyall spoke up.
“While we stand here, they’re moving further and further away.”
Laura threw her hands in the air.
“Well, according to Sam, we’ve got all the time in the world.
She looked at Lyall, and then to Sam, and realized she had no say in this.
“Fine. It can’t hurt. Make sure you call me if Daltrey gets tired. I’ll be in my cabin. Some of us have to sleep to dream.”
She left, muttering to herself.
“Well, Astrogator,” Sam asked, “what do you think?”
“I think… I’d better check my charts… ”
He left also.
“Flier!” she cried. “Bring us straight up, as fast as you can!”
Daltrey shivered. He knew she’d been wanting to do this for a while. He, also. They’d talked about it, organizing a real expedition to the moon.
Well, he thought, this will make a good test. He started bringing the ship up. It hovered for a moment in the air, then shot straight to the sky. It was one of the oddities of fliers; flying perpendicular to the Earth’s surface was faster than flying horizontal. He’d read recently that a European experimenter, Isiolkovski, had done some tests on this, with surprising results.
But that was on the ground for now. Daltrey felt the planet move away from him, slowly, feeling the ponderous weight of the ship as his body. He sighted on the moon, as the best landmark in the sky, and fought off sleep.
Sam looked over the side. At first, she didn’t think anything was happening. But as minutes passed, her vision seemed to blur. The minutes grew, and she realized there were clouds gathering far below her. Things began to look strange.
After nearly an hour, something happened that almost made her nauseous.
She could see the edges of the Earth. The entire disk was below her.
And then, suddenly, the Earth shot away. And now she really did become nauseous, and Captain Sam heaved over the side of the Athena’s Horn.
“Stop!” she said after regaining her balance, and then yelled it louder. “Daltrey, stop! Stop the Horn!”
First Officer Mahoney had just come out on deck, and was staring behind in horror at something behind Sam. Sam turned around and almost lost herself to vertigo.
Gravity was just a concept. She’d read that somewhere. And now, gravity suddenly, horribly, switched. The ship was upside down, above the huge and horrible moon. She started falling up, off the ship, and quickly grabbed hold of the side, trying desperately to get a good hold. She heard the watchman scream, and she heard the scream fade into the distance. Mahoney also screamed, but out of the corner of her eye she saw him grab onto a sail. No one else, fortunately, was above deck. She heard yelling and cursing below decks. She tried to put the watchman’s scream out of her mind.
“Daltrey! Turn us around! We’re upside down!”
Daltrey, too, had felt the nauseating twist as down reversed itself, and he fought to get his bearings.
The ship twisted back around, and Sam fell loudly against the side of the ship, then pulled herself back aboard. Mahoney was still swinging from the sail, but now he swung towards the deck. After opening his eyes, he clambered to the rigging and down the pole. The crew began to rush above deck. Laura ran to her sister.
“Sam, what’s happened? Why is the moon… ?”
“I don’t know, Laura. As soon as I could see the edges of the Earth, we sped up. It was incredible! I just don’t know. Nobody predicted… Laura, you’ve got a nasty bump on your forehead.”
“Gods! I woke up falling towards the ceiling! Has anyone been really hurt?”
“The watchman… by all the golden apples, that was horrible.” Sam looked over the side of the ship, to the dull, pasty white surface of the moon.
“Gods, how far to fall… Charon guide him.”
The Astrogator and First Officer joined them looking onto the moon’s pock-marked surface.
Their cries echoed that of the rest of the crew.
“Look at the Earth! It’s so small… ”
And they marvelled at the surface of the moon. All the mountains and craters, the plains and seas.
“We have to land,” Sam said.
“Daltrey!” she cried, “Bring us in! Set us down on the Lunar sea!”