"Aspiring to Be Gods . . ."
High over the
hemisphere the scoopship's hull began to sing. The cabinwas a sounding box for vibrations far below the threshold of hearing. Alex MacLeodcould feel his bones singing in sympathy.
was kissing high atmosphere.Planet Earth was shrouded in pearl white. There was no break anywhere. There weremountain ranges of fluff, looming cliffs, vast plains that stretched to a far distant convexhorizon, a cloud cover that looked firm enough to walk on. An illusion; a geography of vapors as insubstantial as the dreams of youth. If he were to set foot upon them . . . Theclouds did not float in free fall, as was proper, but in an acceleration frame that could hurlthe scoopship headlong into an enormous ball of rock and iron and smash it like anydream.Falling, they called it.Alex felt the melancholy stealing over him again. Nostalgia? For that germ-infested ballof mud? Not possible. He could barely remember Earth. Snapshots from childhood; achaotic montage of memories. He had fallen down the cellar steps once in a childhoodhome he scarcely recalled. Tumbling, arms flailing, head thumping hard against theconcrete floor. He hadn't been hurt; not really. He'd been too small to mass up enoughkinetic energy. But he recalled the terror vividly. Now he was a lot bigger, and he wouldfall a lot farther.His parents had once taken him atop the Sears Tower and another time to the edge of theMesa Verde cliffs; and each time he had thought what an awful long way down it was.Then, they had taken him so far up that down ceased to mean anything at all.Alex stared out of
windscreen at the cloud deck, trying to conjure thatfeeling of height; trying to feel that the clouds were
and he was
. But it had all been too many years ago, in another world. All he could see was distance. Living in thehabitats did that to you. It stole height from your senses and left you only with distance.He glanced covertly at Gordon Tanner in the copilot's seat. If you were born in thehabitats, you never knew height at all. There were no memories to steal. Was Gordonluckier than he, or not?The ship sang. He was beginning to hear it now.