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Welcome to Freedom, a Libertarian society, the only planet in the Coalition where genetic engineering is not only allowed but common. But that hasn’t changed things for the pupcats, with their drive to migrate yearly back to the ice from which they came. Shipped off planet, captured, sold, many suffer and die each year from being kept away, so Lukas has come to put a stop to it. Only his own connection to them and their suffering is far more personal than anyone else could imagine . . . Philip K. Dick Award nominee and multiple Hugo and Nebula winner Nancy Kress launches our journey together with a surprising errand.



The night before the Far Sun Princess made orbit around Freedom, First Officer David Bridges knocked on the door of Lukas’s cabin. Bridges, who had spent thirty years ferrying colonists and visitors to unimportant, hard-scrabble planets, had fantastically wrinkled skin, solitary habits, and kind eyes. Lukas puzzled him.

“May I come in?”

“Please, sir.” The boy, quiet and polite, stood aside to let him enter. Even with the bed folded up against the wall, most of the small space was filled with a miniscule table, one chair, and Lukas’s half-packed bag. He and Bridges filled the rest of it.

“Son, it may not be my place to say anything, but . . . you have family waiting for you on Freedom?”

“No, sir.”

“Then you’ve picked an odd place to emigrate to.”

The boy looked down at the deck and said nothing. Twenty or twenty-one, skinny, he had work-roughened hands and a sweet smile, which he was unaware of.

“I don’t mean just the planet itself. Is there a job waiting for you?” Lukas looked an unlikely candidate for the types of jobs on a pioneer planet.

“No, sir.”

“You understand that they don’t take care of indigents down there? That the Three Settlements are completely Libertarian?”

“I understand.”

“Is anyone going to meet you at the spaceport?”

“No, sir.”

A note of impatience crept into Bridges’s voice. “Well, do you even know where you’re going?”

Lukas raised his eyes to the officer’s. All at once he looked much older, and so much less sweet that Bridges was startled. “Yes, sir,” Lukas said. “I know exactly where I’m going.”


Only four people took the shuttle from the Far Sun Princess down to Freedom. The other three were immediately claimed by people awaiting them and whisked away in rovers. Lukas picked up his duffle and started walking. Just inside the door of the spaceport terminal, he stopped to stare at a cage of pupcats waiting export.

The animals, the largest native species on Freedom, were the size of Airedales and vaguely resembled a cross between the two Earth creatures for which they’d been named. Lukas studied their large heads, rounded bodies, huge dark eyes. It was an accident of evolution that their proportions echoed those of kittens even into adulthood. That large head held a specialized, though non-sentient brain. Those rounded bodies stored fat for life on the Ice. The big eyes evolved to see on Freedom’s dim farside. Popular as pets on the nearest Coalition worlds, they looked so cute that humans inevitably broke into smiles around them.

Lukas did not smile.

He picked up his duffle, left the building, and started walking toward Deoxy. The gravity, slightly higher than one gee, did not slow him down. A warm wind from the desert blew through his hair.

Freedom lay close to its red-dwarf sun. Tidally locked, one face lay in perpetual, baking sunshine; the other was the Ice. Constant winds blew from the warmth to the Ice, and a permanent rainstorm raged at the equator. Along the northern-hemisphere terminator, with its comparatively milder weather, lay Freedom’s three major settlements: Deoxy, Ribo, and Nucleic. Tourists thought the names were whimsical. They were not. Freedom, founded by serious Libertarians and so without government or laws, was the only planet in the Coalition where genetic engineering of humans, or the humans who resulted, was allowed. If you were born genemod on Freedom, you stayed on Freedom. There was no way to pass Purity Control at any spaceport on any other world.

Lukas trudged along the unpaved rover path, through scrub bushes of dull purple, and then among the foamcast buildings and bright holo signs of Deoxy. The glossy tourist hotels lay along the river; here was the frontier combination of crude structures and sophisticated technology. Without zoning laws, people built as they chose on land purchased from the Coalition charter company, which afterward left them alone. Capitalism on Freedom was a pure thing, even if genes were not.

An hour and a half later, Lukas pushed through the heavy door of Rosen’s Bar on the western edge of town. Rosen’s, whose door was supposed to keep out blowing grit and did not, was barely furnished with uncushioned foamcast chairs, plain tables, and unpainted concrete walls. The local color all came from the patrons.

“What’ll you have?” growled the bartender. His skin, light purple, might have been a genetic mistake or the fanciful genemod wish of a parent. Either way, he had obscured most of it with inlaid metals. The result looked like a robot with leprosy.

“Local beer,” Lukas said, and received a mug of some reddish liquid he didn’t drink. His back to the bar—usually the safest stance in a place like this—he surveyed the room.

Two women at a table, both preternaturally beautiful, absorbed in each other under the furtive, envious gaze of several men. The blonde had four arms. The redhead’s movements were so quick that she had to have augmented muscles and reflexes, which might be why they could drink here without being bothered.

The other people looked human standard, but of course most genemods didn’t show. That man ordering another beer, that couple laughing together, could have any number of physical or mental alterations. Lukas had read all he could, before leaving New Europe and Aunt Carrie, huddled on their living room floor between tears and rage, her gray hair as tangled as the explanations that Lukas would not, could not, give her.

He didn’t want to think about Aunt Carrie.

“Happen you going to actually drink that, boy?” said the big man beside him at the bar.

Lukas tensed. This was why he’d come.

“Yes, sir.” He took a tiny sip. “Buy you one?”


A mistake. The trapper’s blue eyes—for of course he was a trapper, with that fat-storing genemod build designed for endurance and insulation on the Ice—stared at him suspiciously. Lukas had read that suspicion was built into Freedom culture. With no laws, the only protection was personal vigilance.

“I’d like to hear about the Ice,” Lukas said.

It was evidently the right answer—direct, supplicatory, unthreatening—especially with Lukas’s slight build. An even trade, in a Libertarian society built on unrestricted trade. The trapper relaxed.

“Buy me two,” he said.

“All right.”

“So what do you want to know?”

“How many trips have you made onto the Ice?”

“Eleven. Eight mating seasons in a row, skip two years, then three more.”

“Did you capture many pupcats?”

“Happen thirty-eight in all.”

“A trip lasts four months, right?”

“It do.” The trapper drained his first beer and set the mug back on the counter. “You think you want to go onto the Ice.”

“Yes. I can—”

“You can’t do nothing. You think I’d take an untrained whelp? And you think the pupcat trade happen make you rich? Nobody don’t get rich except the export company!”

“I know,” Lukas said. “But I can do any grubby work you want. I’m stronger than I look, I can cook, I can haul, I have a lot of experience caring for baby pupcats.”

“We don’t like liars on Freedom, whelp.”

“I’m not lying. I was raised on New Europe, with pupcats as pets. Ask me anything about their care.” He did not say that, of course, both animals had died.

“Pets! And you think that fits you for the Ice?” The trapper threw back his head and gave a huge laugh, both artificial and sour. Then he gulped his second beer, shot Lukas a look of utter contempt, and walked off.

It was no more than Lukas had expected. So—back to the original plan.

He bartered with the bar owner to scrub the whole place in return for meals, for two nights sleeping on the floor, and for two hours’ use of the owner’s wife’s Link. The next two days, he scrubbed. Everything was filthy, the bathrooms beyond disgusting. Lukas worked meticulously. In the evenings, ignoring aches in muscles unaccustomed to the postures of cleaning floors and toilets, he spent his last few coins in other bars, buying others beers, asking questions, and listening listening listening.

By the time the bar shone like silky white fur, he had his information.


Deoxy was full of tourists; the migration was due in a few days. Pupcats spent half of the year on the Ice. The other half, they migrated east to the terminator, feeding on fish and plants until their bodies grew round and waddley as the plush toys they so much resembled. Nourished, they migrated back onto the Ice to spawn. Trappers needed to take them as babies; the adults were impossible to domesticate, and the teeth in those adorable pink mouths were sharp and efficient. But if taken right after birth, the infants would imprint on humans.

Lukas passed a roverbus of tourists about to set out for the pupcats’ feeding grounds. They were laughing and raucous, drinking redbeer, demanding from the driver to know if he was genemod—a seriously impolite question on Freedom but the other reason that tourists came at all. Lukas ignored them.

He found the clinic on Galt Street, among warehouses and motor depots. Small, shabby, the kind of place used by poorer people who’d saved hard to modify one embryo for the one child they could afford. From the stories Lukas had heard the last two days, Theobald Garner produced reliable results but invented a certain number of non-existent expenses along the way. His patrons, having started the genemod process, could not afford to switch clinics halfway through and so were stuck.

Lukas had heard other things, too. But, then, he’d already known them.

He lurked outside as, one by one, techs left the building. The staff, according to his Link research, numbered five. They all left. Lukas knew what Theobald Garner looked like. As the man, whistling, turned to e-lock his door, Lukas tackled him.

Garner was not genemod for strength, nor anything else. The attack bore him backwards into the clinic, and then Lukas straddled him, laser gun at his throat. “I want to talk to you. No, don’t move so much as a tendon.” The man might be able to summon private police, the only kind on Freedom.

Garner was still.

With his other hand, never taking his eyes from the man, Lukas undressed him down to his undershorts. If Garner had been braver, this would have been more difficult. He found the police call. “Does it activate if it’s away from skin? No, don’t wriggle—does it?”


Lukas tucked it into his own shirt. He’d been afraid Garner might have had a biological call: a tooth-tuck, for instance, activated by a touch from his tongue. In that case, the game would be over. But evidently Garner was as cheap as he was unscrupulous.

He gasped, “Who are you?”

“My name is Lukas Busch. Oh—I see you remember it. Why would that be?”

Garner began to babble. “It was an accident! I never intended—it was an accident, you must believe that!”

Now that the moment was actually here, Lukas marveled at himself. How many years had he dreamed, planned, worked and saved for this? Sometimes his anger had threatened to immolate him. Sometimes his despair had. Through all the sicknesses, one each year, with first his parents and then Aunt Carrie nursing him, sure each time he would die. Sometimes he’d wanted to. Yet here he was, and all he felt was an icy control. No—one more thing: contempt. If Garner had denied his act, there was no way Lukas could have proved it. But the man was that thing despised even more on a pioneer world than on a settled one: He was a coward.

Garner still babbled. “I was only experimenting, just to see if it could be done . . . DNA universal . . . scientists experiment, that’s what we do . . . panspermia . . . the wrong embryo implanted in the client . . . an accident I swear by everything that—”

“Shut up,” Lukas said. All at once, Garner sickened him. He stood up to remove himself from the man.

“How did you even get off-planet?” Garner said, still lying on the floor, not shutting up. “I mean you could get off Freedom, of course, nobody here checks anything, but to pass Purity Control anywhere else you—”

“I was still in my mother’s belly. They’re both dead now, those clients you ‘accidentally’ cheated.”

Garner switched to bluster, the other stupid weapon of stupid men. “But you’re alive! The genemod worked so nobody was cheated, and why are you complaining you’re here and alive and—”

Lukas fired. He aimed at the floor next to Garner’s head, but even so, his finger had seemed to move of its own volition, which scared him. Garner’s eyes went so wide that the irises seemed to disappear.

He whispered, “Are you going to kill me?”


“Why are you here?”

“Because I had no choice. Because of you, I had no choice.”

Garner’s eyes did the impossible and went even wider. In them crept a sly satisfaction (I did it!) that proved the greatest test yet to Lukas’s control. But he held both gun and voice steady.

“You’re going to give me what I want. All of what I want.”

“I can’t . . . . You must know that a genemod done in vitro can’t be undone in adulthood!”

“I do know that.”

“Then what do you want?”

Lukas told him.


There was no way to hide the purchase of the three holo projectors on Garner’s credit. They arrived mid-morning the next day, MoonDay, the staff’s day off. Lukas waited all night with Garner until the truck delivered the projectors and Garner gave the trucker his thumbprint. She saw Lukas standing beside a nervous Garner, and there was no way to hide that either.

“The export company will come after me!”

“You know what to say,” Lukas said. “I forced you at gunpoint. Damn it, it’s the truth. For once in your miserable life, just tell the truth. But if you call them before tonight, I’ll tell them everything. They’ll do a scan on me and then the Genemod Clinic Association will deal with you for scaring off prospective customers and wrecking trade. Is that what you want?”

Garner was too terrified to answer.

Lukas briefly tested all three projectors. When he glimpsed the recording, Garner actually began to howl. Lukas gagged and tied him, securely enough for everyone to believe he hadn’t been able to get free till evening. After loading the three projectors onto a clinic dolly, Lukas threw a tarp over them and set off.

The wind had shifted, bringing rare cold blasts from the Ice, and rain threatened. Lukas cursed and pushed the dolly faster. The projectors were heavy. He’d brought the recordings with him on the Far Princess, but the shuttle weight allowance could never have covered projectors, even if there had been a remote chance of his affording them.

The poor, his mother had always said, had to take what they could get. She was a simple person, and Lukas had never pointed out to her the double meaning of “take.”

He set up the first projector on the strut of a bridge over Deoxy’s small river. There was a lot of foot traffic here and many people would see the holo. He was less happy with the location of the second projector, behind a trash can on Keynes Street. Here, too, foot traffic was heavy, but the location was exposed enough that the machinery might be stolen before it was activated. But he was running out of time. With the third projector, he had a stroke of luck—a construction site right beside a glossy genemod clinic. The projector was easy to hide in the rubble. Someone had even scrawled a graffito on a half-finished wall: STOP THE PUPCAT TRADE!


Late afternoon, and the clinic closed for the day. All over Deoxy, workers were leaving their jobs and heading home, picking up their children at daycare, heading for restaurants and bars. Tourists in their roverbuses drove in from the pupcat feeding grounds, heading for their hotels. The evening was cold but the rain held off.

Lukas pushed the buttons on the remotes, and all three projectors shot out high-quality holos ten feet high.

A pupcat wearing a pink bow, outside a house in Kali City on the planet Lennox. Night, and Freedom’s red-dwarf star, only three light years away, hangs low on the horizon. The pupcat jumps toward the star, twisting and leaping, leaping and twisting, until it collapses in exhaustion. Quick dissolve to the same animal, thinner, its fur falling out in patches, still jumping toward the star. Another dissolve and the pupcat, emaciated and covered with sores, makes a final futile jump toward Freedom and dies.

A pupcat on the terrace of a high-rise somewhere in the Orion Arm; the center of the galaxy arches overhead in a curve of stars. The pupcat faces the other way, in the direction of the unseen planet Freedom, and jumps toward the sky. Two more jumps and it hurls over the edge of the terrace and disappears.

An exhausted, clearly dying pupcat, unable any longer to leap, raises one paw to claw toward the night sky. A child, crying, tries to comfort it. The pet bites the child. In the pupcat’s huge, non-human eyes is a very human despair.

Two more vignettes and the holo began to recycle, silently shouting its visceral message. The electromagnetic beam from the remote was, of course, clearly detectable. At the far end of the construction site, Lukas sat down on a pile of foamcast bricks and waited for the Freedom Export Company thugs to arrive and kill him.

They didn’t. Or if they did, they were too late. A flyer swept down from the sky; the door was flung open. A girl’s voice shouted, “Are you insane? Get in here, quick!”

Lukas hesitated only a moment. He climbed into the flyer, and it raced off.


“What the hell did you think you were doing?” the girl said.

Her name, she’d said, was Marianne. Her mother, who’d been piloting the flyer, was Eva. The three of them sat in the kitchen of a small, expensive apartment overlooking the river, not far from the strip of glossy tourist hotels. Three redbeers sat on the stone tabletop, but only Eva was drinking. She gazed at Lukas steadily, an unblinking assessment that he found unnerving. Both women were beautiful, with masses of dark hair and golden skin. He had no idea what he was doing there.

“I’m trying to stop the pupcat trade,” he said. “If people know what happens to the pupcats after they leave Freedom . . . You see, the migratory instinct is so strong, stronger than anything found genetically anywhere else in the galaxy, that the animals must obey it, and they die trying to get back to the Ice and—”

“We know,” Marianne said. “Haven’t you seen the graffiti? We’ve been trying for a year to stop it!”

“With graffiti? Are you insane? If you knew what happens to the pupcats off-world, why didn’t you just broadcast the recordings?”

“You don’t understand,” Marianne said.

Eva removed her gaze from Lukas to her handheld. “All three projectors destroyed. Thirty seconds, one minute, twenty-nine seconds.”

Lukas said, “So hardly anybody saw the holos?”

“No,” Eva said.

He did reach for his redbeer then, groping over the table in blind fury, blind despair. To die for nothing at all . . . .

“You’re not going to die,” Eva said, and his startled eyes swung toward her. She said, “That is what you were thinking, wasn’t it? Yes, I’m sure they can trace you. But I don’t think anybody saw us snatch you up, and so nobody knows you’re here. It may be possible to get you safely off planet.”

He said flatly, “I can’t go.”

Marianne, who seemed much bossier than her mother, snapped, “Of course you can! But—what did you say your name was? Luke?”


“Lukas—” she leaned forward, painful intensity on her face—“are there copies?”

“Of the recordings? Yes.”

Eva let out a long, reverent breath. She looked at her daughter. “Then maybe we still have a chance.”

Lukas said, “If you knew what happens to the pupcats, and if you think my recordings will help stop the trade, then why didn’t you just use them yourselves? I collected them off the Link—do you think someone like me has actually been to all those worlds? You have money—” he waved a hand around the apartment—“ so are you just cowards? Afraid to risk your lives for something you say you believe in?”

Marianne reached across the table and slapped him.

Shock spread through him—no woman had ever hit him before. He was too surprised to be angry. At the look on his face, Eva smiled and said gently, “You really don’t understand, Lukas. Link transmission from off-world is tightly controlled by the Export Company. They own the equipment, so there’s nothing to stop them from doing what they like with it. Their techs are so good that most people on Freedom don’t even realize the Link is censored. The Company knows that pupcats all die trying to migrate back to the Ice, but practically no one else here knows. We few trying to stop it simply aren’t believed. It’s not a large group of people involved in the trade: a few hundred trappers and the Export company. If everyone else on Freedom knew, we might be able to sway public opinion to shut down the trade. In a Libertarian society, public opinion counts for a lot because it mobilizes strikes, boycotts, and maybe even violence. At least, it does if not too many people’s livelihoods are involved. We’re not cowards—we just had no proof. But if you have copies of the recordings—please tell me they’re on your person right now!”

“Yes. But—”

Marianne said fiercely, “If people off-world know that the pupcats die, why hasn’t the Coalition stopped the trade?”

Lukas said, “It’s not that easy. The Company has sold only a few thousand pupcats, and they’re scattered over cities, over continents, over worlds. You have a pet, and it gets sick, and you take it to a vet. She says, ‘It’s an alien animal and I don’t know how to treat it.’ She Links to Freedom, and the Company denies knowledge of what’s wrong or how to cure the pupcat: ‘Could be something environmental where you are, could be an anomalous genetic defect, could be some sickness picked up that their immune system hasn’t evolved to handle.’ That sounds plausible, and the pupcat dies, and the case is closed. Nobody connects the dots. And when I did, nobody was interested in a crackpot kid with no medical credentials.”

After a moment, Eva nodded. Now it was Lukas who turned fierce. “I still don’t understand. You could have gone off-world and collected the proof. You could—”

Eva stared at him steadily, and then he understood.

“You can’t go to other worlds,” he said slowly. “You’re genemod.”

Marianne said, “I am.” She looked at her mother.

Eva’s eyes filled with tears and she left the room.

Lukas hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday. The redbeer muddled his head. He’d experienced too many emotions, in too rapid a succession. He put his hand in front of his eyes and mumbled something, not even he knew what.

Marianne’s voice suddenly turned as gentle as her mother’s. “Come with me, Lukas.” She tugged him from his chair and he stumbled after her to a bedroom. “Sleep,” she said, and he did.

He dreamed of Aunt Carrie, sobbing on the floor because he was leaving forever. Carrie, who had raised him after his parents died, who loved him. In his dream, she held a dying pupcat, who looked up at him and whispered in First Officer Bridges’s voice: “For nothing, nothing. All for nothing.”


When he woke in the morning, Eva sat beside his bed in the small guest room. Startled, Lukas sat up, clutching his blanket, under which he was naked. Eva didn’t seem to notice. Her voice sounded thick. “She’s ready.”

“Who’s ready? For what?”

“Marianne. Stay where you are.” Eva left.

Bewildered and becoming angry—why the weird mystery?—Lukas reached down to the floor for his pants. A moment later, he stopped dead, one arm dripping fabric.

Something was happening in his mind.

Blurry at first, the intrusion abruptly sharpened. Moving images, strong and clear—his images. The pupcat with a pink bow, jumping toward Freedom in the night sky until, emaciated and covered with sores, the animal died. The pupcat on the terrace, falling to its death in the futile attempt to leap toward home. The pupcat unable to leap any longer, biting a child from its total despair at not being able to migrate, as every instinct of its genes forced it to do.

Lukas jumped out of bed, heedless of his pants, and hurtled himself from the room. Marianne slumped in a chair in the corner of the living room, breathing hard, pale as dawn. A small holo player, switched off, sat on the floor beside a glass of sludgy green liquid. He gasped, “How . . .”

Silently Eva removed his recording cube from the machine, handed it to him, and left the room. Her face looked like a hillside ravaged by storm.

Marianne tried to speak, couldn’t, waited a few moments, and then got out, “Drink.”

Lukas raised the glass to her mouth. Whatever was in it revived her, and more. Color raced back into her face, and her eyes grew too bright. She sat up straight and put a hand on his arm.

“Don’t blame my mother.”

“For what?” But he had already guessed. “You’re genemod for telepathy.”

“No. I can only send, only over short range, and at great cost. Lukas—you know what that means. Even on Freedom.”

He did. Purity Control banned all genemods throughout the Coalition not because people with purple skin or augmented muscles represented a threat to society, but because genetic changes to the brain did. And among those changes possible, the most feared was anything that affected the electromagnetic field that both surrounded, and was, the human brain. Strengthen that field, extend it, manipulate it, and you created a tool to affect other fields, both machine and human. No one liked having their minds suddenly invaded with someone else’s images. Even less did they like having images read from their own minds. Before he knew he was going to move, Lukas took a step back from Marianne, and his face distorted into a grimace.

She noticed. Her smile was bitter. “I can’t read, only send, and that only for about twenty feet. No one knows. I would probably be killed.”

“I thought Freedom was the sanctuary for genemods!”

“For most, yes. And probably some ad hoc vigilante group would avenge me. That’s how it works here. But I’d still be dead, wouldn’t I?”


But whatever drug had revived Marianne kept her talking. “I said don’t blame my mother, and I meant it. I blamed her when I was younger. Oh, how I blamed her! But not since the—Lukas, do you know who emigrates to Freedom? Do you?”

Her intensity was making him uncomfortable. He wasn’t used to people more intense than he was. He shook his head.

“Three groups emigrate to a society without laws: criminals, idealists, and inventors. My parents were the last two. They had an idea that if the human race could be engineered to be more empathetic, more sensitive to each other’s suffering, that might create a society that was just and good and caring. Eva is a scientist in fluid dynamics—she knew how one little alteration in direction in the right place, at the right time, can end up producing huge changes in the system overall. I was supposed to be that little alteration. But genes are funny things, and we don’t really have control over their interaction, and it didn’t quite work out that way. But, then, you already know that, don’t you?”

Her eyes were very bright. Her whole body tensed toward him. Lukas, powerfully aware of her beauty, knew what she was asking. He knew, too, that she was his last chance. For many things. Could he trust her? No way to tell. But what other choice did he have?

Still, he hesitated; alone with his secret for so long, the idea of telling someone the truth seemed painful. But she didn’t let him evade.

“What was done to you?” she said. “What genemod? Where?”

“Here,” he said, and once he’d started, the rest came out more easily. “Here, on Freedom. I was an experiment, too, but not for an idealistic reason. I have pupcat genes in me.”

Her eyes widened and her hand went to her mouth.

“Why not? After all, it’s all just DNA, right? Only it wasn’t supposed to actually work. But it did.”

Marianne said, “You—”

“I’m compelled to migrate. Every year, to the Ice, like the pupcats. And since I couldn’t, I got sick, every year, like the pupcats. Very sick. The only difference is that I didn’t die.”

“You came here, instead.”

“I came here, instead,” he agreed. “To stop it. And to go out on the Ice.”

They stared at each other. Finally she whispered, “The migration starts in two days.”

“I know,” Lukas said.

“Can we—”

“I don’t know.”


There was a group of them, small and not rich, utterly dedicated to saving the pupcats. Did that crusade, Lukas wondered, take the place of the larger one that Eva had once envisioned, using genetics to free society from cruelty to and exploitation of humans? He didn’t ask. The group, led by a middle-aged man named Paul with eyes like lasers and an incongruous paunch, was well organized. Within a few hours they gathered in Eva’s apartment, and a few hours after that everything began.

They targeted the tourists first. Marianne walked through a roverbus terminal filled with tourists about to set out to the pupcats’ feeding grounds. She projected as hard as she could, and in their startled minds unwound the terrible images of pupcats dying as they tried to migrate home. Some people screamed. Marianne was one of them, pretending to be as shocked as the others, collapsing to the ground to cover her eyes and sob.

She walked along Freedom’s hotel strip at dinner time. People leaned into the wind, hurrying into restaurants and shops and bars. Into their minds came the same terrible images of instinct-driven migration ending in death for creatures helpless and appealing and loved.

She sent to a different batch of tourists, this time in a hotel dining room. Then one at the feeding grounds, with the adorable pupcats right in front of the minds into which she sent her terrible images.

“Is it true? Does this happen?”

“That’s not the point, John! There’s a sender here somewhere—ugh!”

“I’m leaving!”

“It shouldn’t be allowed!”

“This is Freedom, remember? Everything is allowed.”

“Well, I’m going to do something about it!”

“About the sender or the pupcats?”

“The pupcats, you idiot! Oh my God, those poor creatures . . .”

“Eleanor just bought one back home.”


Lukas, too, was silent. He couldn’t help. The Export Company would have traced the holo projectors to Theobald Garner, and both Garner and the delivery driver could identify Lukas. He stayed in Eva’s apartment with the windows opaqued and watched Marianne grow weaker after each sending. Eventually she would either give out or would be identified as the only person at each scene of telepathy. She stayed anonymous longer than he expected, disguised by the group’s masterly efforts with clothes, make-up, prosthetics, wigs, and fortified after each sending by stimulants. But she was growing weaker.

The protests were growing stronger.

A small rally, held at the spaceport, was easily dispersed by The Export Company’s crowd-control weapons. But the group had recordings—not, Lukas suspected, all of them true—of Company enforcers manhandling protestors. These found their way to the Link, before the Company techs could suppress them, as did the suppression attempts. All at once—and only then—did public opinion move violently in favor of the protestors. This was Freedom! How dare a corporation control any part of the Link that they did not own!

How dare they try to control rallies!

It wasn’t such a large step from there to: How dare they try to exploit the pupcats that bring tourism to Freedom!

Eva said, “Economics trumps liberty. As always.”

Paul, eyes glued to his handheld, said, “Well, not yet. There’ll be more skirmishes. People unconvinced by the recordings, people more outraged by the telepathy than the animal cruelty, people who’ll say that freedom to live however you want is more important than a bunch of dumb animals. The skeptics, the callous, and the fanatics. They are with you always, yea and verily.”

Lukas said, “Marianne can’t go out there anymore.”

Eva said, “She won’t have to. Look out the window.”

A huge crowd surged along the river toward the spaceport. Paul sent out a robocam and Lukas, holding Marianne’s hand, saw it all: the young people smashing the bars of pupcat cages, the older people talking to the press, Export Company security standing back, not interfering, under orders from managers who, true capitalists, could recognize a loss.

Eva, on the computer, said, “Company stock is plummeting. I think you’re wrong, Paul—it is over. The exporters will fold in a week.”

Marianne whispered, “The trappers . . .”

“Will hang on longer,” Paul said. “They’ll get furious, they’ll bluster, and then their numbers will thin down to just a few who will bring back pupcats for locals who will let them migrate each year. Or—oh, I’ll bet this is what happens!—the trappers who are left will organize tourist trips right out onto the Ice.”

Marianne raised her eyes to Lukas’s face. Too exhausted to speak again, she mouthed the single word, “When?”

He said, “Tomorrow.”


They had outfitted him. Lukas knew that the group had all contributed more than they could afford to buy him first the necessary gear, and second, a trapper willing to take Lukas with him. Lukas tried to feel grateful, but there was no real room for emotion left in him. He had become a single tsunami-like urge: Go. Go. Go now. The sensation was familiar; he’d felt it every year of his life, and every year, it had sickened him as he kept desperate eyes fastened on a part of the sky not even strewn with many stars.

“Happen you don’t keep up,” the trapper growled at him, “I leave you behind. That’s the deal I signed.”

“I understand.”

“You don’t understand nothing, boy. These damn protestors . . .” He was off on a rant, full of obscenities and anatomical impossibilities, which Lukas ignored.

The migration had begun.

Thousands of pupcats began walking away from the Three Settlements and out toward the Ice. Bellies full from a month at the feeding grounds, some of the females already pregnant, they frisked and barked; the younger ones ran in jubilant circles. Light from Freedom’s dim star played over their silky white coats. In a few more days, they would be deep enough into the farside that the star would have disappeared, and the only glow on the pupcats would be starlight. The pupcats would travel nearly 1,000 miles over the uneven and treacherous Ice, Ice riddled with crevasses and mountains and snow fields, and Lukas would be with them. Migration.

It filled his mind, his muscles, his vision, and would do so until the instinct engineered into him was satisfied. Even last night, saying goodbye to Marianne, it had been difficult to keep his mind off the Ice. But he had tried, pushing away both the exaltation and the deeper resentment that he must feel that exultation, without choice.

“It’s not really Freedom, is it?” Lukas said. “Not here any more than anyplace else. We’re still our biology. All of us, even the so-called human standards.”

“Yes,” Marianne said. She looked very small and weak, lying in her bed. All at once, she smiled and her eyes brightened. “But biology’s not always bad. You know I’ll be here when you get back from the Ice, right?”

“Yes,” he’d said, and brushed his lips across hers, and turned toward the barking outside.

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