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Theophyllis had many ways to work on the first item on his list, which was merely to look at the stars. He could take the spiral railway or the hubwards railway out to one of the Domes that was only based around the great observatories, or he could go to one of the Domes that served for ports outwards, fly out into a low orbit. But it had been a while since he had left the house, and he felt like staying closer to Dome 27. Dome 27 itself had subdomes, alpha, beta, gamma, delta, in a subspiral a few miles out. The telescope, or even the open sky, in Dome 27 Beta would be, he knew, ideal at this time of year.

So the next day, when Madeline brought the tea and soup and madeleines, he walked with her, across the gang plank, through the open awnings and supports, and downwards, until they met an elevator. Downward they went, far below the lacework at the top, down to the brick and wood buildings of main street. He saw a person or two he knew: it had been a while since they had talked, but for some of them, he had been exchanging messages in the the tubes every day, or every week. Some of them were only nodding acquaintances. One or two were new. A tiny blond woman sat on a stool, at an open, roadside cafe, wearing a bright magenta cape. Madeline explained that she was from The Beach and had only come here recently. For a change of scenery. And then, he is walking alone, Madeline off to deliver somewhere else, the empty buildings around him seeming so large after so much time alone. Out of the gate, on the mini-rail out to the observatory.

There is no one at the observatory. It is winter. Dark outside. Icechalk has an almost completely oblique axis, spinning on its side, so it has two seasons of twilight, and two seasons of even night and day. Dome zero is built almost exactly on that equator, but the domes spiralling out from it are on both sides. Right now for Dome 27 it is winter. And the south pole of Icechalk is pointing back home. Of course, he could just view things through a viewscreen, but he gets behind the telescope. He could see what he is looking for with his naked eye, but he zoomed in, scanning on the three objects that interested him. The Milky Way, the Large Magellanic Cloud, and the Small Magellanic Cloud. He zoomed in, panned, changed the settings to look into different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. Of course, if there was anything happening, it would be automatically detected and the news would travel across the 37 domes. There was nothing to see. If he zoomed far, far in on the part of the Milky Way where Earth was located, or supposed to be located, he would be waiting for a long time, before it would be tens of thousands of years before anyone on the Earth managed to make radio waves. And yet, it reminded him of his mission, why he was studying history. The vast empty sky, with only a few scattered local stars, and then the three main galaxies, where all the events had happened tens of thousands of years ago. Or, looking at it in a different way, tens of thousands of years in the future.

There was a lot to see in the sky, just like there was a lot to read in his histories. But both of them were empty and naked for his purposes. Nothing there could tell why Icechalk had lost all contact with the rest of the human race for several thousand years.

Theophyllis was new at being back in action, so he spent a brief twelve hours scanning the sky, wondering if there was anything that could be a possible clue in the distant white clouds that hung in the sky, a constant, if not pressing reminder to the residents of The Domes of just how far they were from home.


Dome 27 Was Always the Coldest<--A Winter's Night next to an Oblique Equator --> Footfall after footfall, out to the pingo

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