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ChaptEr 3

frozen sleep

The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay,

Sat by the fire, and talked the night away

Wept o’er his wounds, or tales of sorrow done

Shouldered his crutch, and show’d how fights were won.

—Oliver Goldsmith, “The Deserted Village”

Geographic was one of the largest mobile objects ever created by human engineering. Seen from below as the shuttle rose to meet her, the ship looked like a gigantic flashlight with a silver doorknob attached to the end. The aft end was a ring of laser fusion reactors, a flaring section twice the diameter of the trunk. The trunk, over a hundred and fifty meters in length, was the cylinder that housed the life-support systems and cryogenic suspension facilities. Minerva Two was approaching the fore end: the laboratories and the crew quarters, where Cadmann had spent five waking years of his life. The dock was a conical cagework at the end of a protruding arm, barely visible even this close.

Minerva Two slowed as she rounded the fuel balloon. Bobbi Kanagawa was a cautious pilot. Cadmann’s fingers itched and twitched. His touch would have been surer, his approach would have been faster.

But he wasn’t flying Minerva Two.

Geographic’s fuel balloon was shrunken, spent, and half its original size. Only a breath of gas remained of a half-kilometer sphere of deuterium ice. The Colony could not produce deuterium, not yet. We were Homo interstellar, Cadmann thought. We will be again.

Some of the external paneling had been stripped away from Geographic and shuttled down to Tau Ceti Four for building material. The shuttle maneuvered past a drifting mass. The tightly wrapped cylinder, scores of kilometers of superconducting wire, waited to be loaded in Minerva Two’s bay by robot limpet motors. These would become part of the fusion plant. Its completion meant limitless power.

Eventually the Orion craft would be a skeleton, just an orbiting splinter of light in the sky. Perhaps she might survive in smaller form, with most of the life-support cylinder removed: an interplanetary vehicle, a gift of space to grandchildren yet unborn.

Bobbi Kanagawa counted softly to herself as Geographic loomed on the screen, the onboard computer continually checking her approach pattern. “Almost home,” she said without looking back at her passengers.

Sylvia reached over and pinched Cadmann’s arm. “Are you all right?”

“I’ve never liked dockings,” Cadmann muttered. Geographic was half the sky now; more, as the silver wall of the fuel balloon slid past and the conical cagework opened like a mouth. “And if you’re a Freudian, I don’t want to hear it.”

The shuttle’s nose grated along the cagework and nuzzled into the lock at its base: click-thump. Cadmann sighed in relief and released his shoulder straps. Bobbi made her last-minute checks, then swung out of her seat with practiced ease. “All right, folks, this is a two-hour turnaround. Hope you don’t need more time.” Some of her straight black hair had escaped its binding, and drifted out at disconcerting angles when she moved.

“Two should do it.” Sylvia strapped on her backpack.

The door at the rear of the shuttle hissed open, and Stu Ellington’s voice chuckled at them from the control module. “It’s about time. Swear to God that’s just like a woman. Two-tenths of a second late again.”

Bobbi glared at the speaker, drumming her fingernails against the console. “Just keep talking, Stu,” she said sweetly. “You need all the friends you can get—the last vote was dead even for leaving your worthless carcass up here another month.”

“Oops. Tell you what. Drop your friends in the lab, come on up to Command, and we’ll discuss my carcass for an hour or so.”

Bobbi’s pale cheeks reddened. She ran her hand over her hair, discovering the flyaway strands. “I . . . uh, well—” she looked at Sylvia, who winked sagely. “I’ll see you in a month, huh?” She scurried to be the first through the hatch.

She disappeared down a narrow connective hallway as Sylvia led Cadmann to the central corridor and back to the biolab section. Cadmann clucked in puritan disgust. “Sex. I remember sex. Highly overrated.”

“Great attitude for a biologist.”

“Just a Bachelor’s, and it was marine biology,” he sniffed. “Fish are damned civilized about it. She lays ’em, and he swims over ’em.”

“You’re a romantic, that’s what you are.” Sylvia worked her way along the handrails gingerly and seemed ill at ease. “All this time,” she said, so softly that he wondered if she had intended for him to hear.


“After all this time, I still get a little claustrophobic in here.” She laughed uneasily.

“You’re not the only one.” He slammed the flat of his palm against one of the steel-and-plastic panels that lined Geographic. The vibration thrummed along the hexagonal corridor, damping out before it reached the first corner. “This place was home and prison to all of us for a long time. Some of the colonists won’t come back up at all.”

“It doesn’t make sense, really. Just forget it.”

He leaned up behind her and whispered in her ear. “It’s return-to-the-tomb syndrome.” A Karloffian leer lurked just behind his solemn expression. “All of us spent at least a hundred and five years asleep in a little coffin-shaped box, awakened from the dead by a trickle of electricity through our brains.”

“Lovely. We’ll put you in charge of bedtime stories. I’ll manage the sedative concession.”

The door to the biolab was sealed to protect both the life within and the crew without. Some of the substances and microscopic life-forms were extremely vulnerable, and others extremely dangerous. Sylvia punched in her four-digit personal code, and the door opened inward. In case of a loss of atmosphere in the main section of the ship, air pressure alone would keep the door sealed. “We’ll have this reprogrammed to admit you.”

The lights came up automatically as the door closed behind them. The room was the second largest on Geographic. Its floor space was crowded with medical and analytical equipment, its walls completely lined with cryogenic vaults. There were hundreds of the dark plastic rectangles, and they held the future of Tau Ceti Four.

Sylvia sighed, shucked her backpack onto a wall hanger and pulled herself over to a rack of Velcro slippers. She handed him a pair. “One size fits all.”

“I was hoping for something in a wing tip.”

She led him to the nearest bank of cases. “Look,” she said contentedly, triggering one of the dark panels into translucence. Within, barely discernible as canine, were dozens of dog embryos. Their dark eyes were filmed with transparent lids, tiny naked paws drawn up to their gauzy bodies in peaceful cryosleep. Each hung in its individual sack, connected by its umbilical to an artificial placenta.

“So.” She studied the temperature and pressure gauges on the door of a sealed cabinet, nodded and opened it. “Alfalfa seeds. Check. Swiss chard. Check. Tomatoes. Check.” She closed the cabinet. “Now for the embryos. The carriers are in that case over there. Inflate three for me, will you?”


She busied herself at the cryosleep carrier console.

“You don’t trust the computer?” Cadmann asked.

“Not anymore. Not since Ernst. Not since eight of us never woke up. Barney says it’s fine, but I’m a woman of little faith these days.”

“Good thinking.”

She typed in the last commands. “There. So we lost one of the dogs. We’ve got over a hundred more.”

“And thousands of chickens, I suppose?” His voice was too flat, too distanced from his feelings.

“Look, Cad—I don’t care what anyone says, it’s not your fault. Sheena got loose a week ago. So—she came back last night and broke into one of the chicken cages. Fine. We’ll either catch her or kill her. Nothing to worry about.”

He heard her words, but his mind was still on the chicken cage as they had found it that morning, its wire mesh ripped out and mangled, the wooden frame shattered, blood and feathers and little clotted chunks of raw chicken littering the ground like the aftermath of a ghoulish picnic.

“That is what you’re worried about, isn’t it?”

Annoyed with himself, Cadmann derailed the morbid train of thought. “Sure. That’s it.”

Although he had worked the biolab before, she gave him the grand tour. There was a complete assortment of dairy and work animals, as well as millions of earthworms, ladybugs and “friendly” insect eggs. “We have to have quadruplication of any needed form. There are going to be failures,” Sylvia said bluntly. “The alfalfa crop, for instance. We don’t know why yet.” Her eyes glittered, and the sudden determination in her face cubed her attractiveness. Cadmann’s chest tightened.

“But I guarantee you we’ll know. And soon. We’re going to lose more animals, and we’ve got to be ready for that, too. That’s where you’ll come in. Routine checks, Cad—any emergencies, and we’ll hustle up Marnie or her husband, Jerry. We’ve got to be ready for anything.”

She darkened the panels and took his hand, leading him to the other side of the room. The vaults were identical to those opposite, but he could feel her increased excitement. “Look,” she whispered, and illumined the panels. “Our children.”

They hung in rows, lost in endless dream. (Cadmann was startled at the thought. Were there dreams in cryosleep? The neurologists said no, but his memory said yes. Perhaps it was only that before the drugs took hold and the blood chilled there was one final thought that remained locked in a frozen brain, a thought that unthawed along with the body. Just a wisp of dream at the beginning of sleep and one at the end, linked by decades of silence and darkness.)

One of Sylvia’s hands strayed unconsciously to her own belly, its roundness barely noticeable beneath her jumpsuit.

There were hundreds of the embryos, frozen at ten weeks of age. They were thumb-sized and milky pale, heads as large as their bodies, with their fluid-filled amniotic sacs billowing about them.

Cadmann came up close to the glass, counting the tiny fingers and toes, gazing at the gently lowered eyelids, the amber umbilicals attached to artificial placentas.

“They’re all perfect,” Sylvia said. “Every one of them certified perfect, genetically and structurally.”

His breath had fogged the glass. He patted her stomach. “Not like Jumbo here, who has to take his chances.”

Sylvia drew away from him, face troubled. She shut off the light in the embryo bank. “Cad . . . if you’d try to be a little nicer to Jumbo’s father, things would be easier for all of us.”

There was nothing in her face he could feel angry with. His hand still tingled from the contact. “I knew it. A nice trip for old Weyland. Find him a useful job. Then try to civilize him a little, before he gets sent to the outback where he belongs. Cadmann Weyland. First of the Great White Abos.”

She shook her head and gave him a hug. “We know things aren’t easy for you—but at least you know why you’ve got problems. Terry just knows that when he thawed out he wasn’t quite the same anymore. Terry and Ernst . . . Carolyn . . . Alicia . . . Mary Ann . . . ”

“What? Mary Ann Eisenhower?”

“Well, she’s not one of the bad ones.”

“She seems—”

“Sure, she’s normal. Cad, she lost some brain cells in frozen sleep. She isn’t stupid, but she used to be brilliant, and she remembers, Cad. She and Hendrick Sills were the top bridge players, and they shared a bed too, before we put the colonists to sleep. Tom Eisenhower woke up dead, and Hendrick gets very uncomfortable if he’s in the same room with her. He remembers. So Hendrick is with Phyllis now, and Mary Ann cries on Rachel’s couch.”

Cadmann touched her hand.

“But she’s a normal, healthy, sexy woman if you didn’t know her before. These changes can be very subtle, Cad. Carolyn McAndrews was second in command to Zack. Nobody wants to work with her now. She didn’t turn stupid, but she goes into hysterics.”

“And maybe there’s a dead place in old Cadmann’s brain too.”

“Not that we can tell—like I said, you’ve got reasons to feel out of place. The others just know that the cryogenics weren’t perfect. That the nightmares are a little darker. Maybe it isn’t quite as easy to remember a favorite poem, or extract a cube root, or run the Twelve-Fourteen Convention in bridge.” She paused, and her voice dropped. “Or make love. We don’t know what it is yet. It’ll be twenty years before we get any answers from Earth. In the meantime, there are mood stabilizers, and make-work projects. And there’s hope. Most of us are fine. Our genes are good. We’ll do everything humanly possible to keep you on the team. Can you blame us?”

He took her shoulders, gazing down into her eyes. The air was tart with disinfectant and dehumidifier; her perfume was a wisp of citrus and crushed rose petal, the only thing in the ship that smelled alive. “What ‘us’? What about—?”

The intercom crackled, and Stu Ellington said, “We’ve got a message for you, Weyland. Development landside. Something about some chickens.”

Sylvia disengaged herself from him gently, triggering the nearest intercom phone with an unsteady finger. Her eyes were still locked to Cadmann’s. “D-don’t worry. We’ll be bringing down more embryos.”

“It’s not that.” It was Bobbi who spoke this time, and her voice was excited. “Mits Kokubun found some tracks.” She paused. “They might be tracks, anyway.”

“Paw prints?” Sylvia frowned.

“Don’t know. Zack said that they just didn’t look like anything he’d seen. Wants Cadmann to take a look at them. Soonest.”

“Pipe it in.”

“They didn’t send pictures.”

“Think you two can cut your snuggle session down so Stu can give us a ride home?”

Stu groaned massively. “Oh, if I must—” and dropped off the line.

Cadmann cleared his throat, backing up a half-step. “Was there anything else you wanted to show me?”

She retrieved her backpack, fumbled out a handful of dark plastic cartridges and held them before her like a shield. “You’ve used the computer. You’ll be running some programs for me, and I . . . ” Her eyes dropped. “Oh, hell, Cad. I don’t know what I wanted. We . . . I just want everything to work out for you. We don’t want you closing up, Cad. I don’t want to lose you.” Suddenly she seemed very small and awkward. “I love you. You’re my friend.”

The moment that followed was uncomfortably long and painfully silent. Then Cadmann’s lips curled in a smile. “Tell you what. Let’s go roust Stu’s ass and get a lift home. How’s that?”


The chicken coops were nestled next to the single-story sheet-metal structure of the machine shop, and the ground around them was well trodden. It had never been plowed, and was the same burnt, packed earth that lay beneath most of the Colony.

When Cadmann got there, a fifteen-by-thirty-meter block of ground had been marked off with rope to protect the footprints. A score of colonists were still huddled around the periphery. Joe Sikes’s wife, Evvie, held her baby tightly against her breast, the child’s reddish scalp shining through thin, limp blond hair. The baby gurgled, unconcerned, but the woman looked stricken. Their baby was the colony’s second. The first, April Clifton, was still in intensive care.

Carlos stood with Mitsuo Kokubun and Harry Siep, and they were grinning. Harry preened his heavy growth of beard, hiding his mouth behind his fingers as he whispered something to Mits. All three choked on repressed laughter.

Zack ran his fingers through black hair that had been noticeably thicker only months before. When Cadmann broke through the ring of spectators and squatted to take a close look at the tracks, Zack punched him lightly on the shoulder, relief and gratitude tattooed across his face in bold strokes.

“Glad you’re here,” Zack said. “What do you make of this?”

Cadmann hitched his trousers and bent, peering closely at the depressed ridges of the footprint. It was just broader than his hand, with four distinct, roughly triangular toes. He ran his finger along it lightly.

He asked, “Have we taken a cast of this?”

“Marnie did. We’re reinforcing the fences, and we can put the power back through them if we have to.”

There were eight of the prints, some faint, some clear and sharp. One in front of the chicken coop was smeared. He stood and looked back along the path the tracks had taken—they led in the direction of the mountains, but disappeared long before they reached the plowed ground. Suspicion niggled at the back of his mind.

“You know,” Cadmann said finally, “I could have sworn there weren’t any tracks here when I left this morning.”

Zack shook his head. “Beats me. There was someone here all the time, Cad. The overcast was pretty bad. Maybe the sun had to be just so high before we could spot them.”

The crowd had thinned a bit.

“Hola, amigo. Any ideas?”

Cadmann studied the ground, then Carlos’s overeager smile. Little Rick Erin, standing next to Carlos, was having trouble managing his face.

Cadmann walked slowly up to the historian-carpenter. “Yes. I do have an idea. I think it was made by something that was highly skilled, bipedal, not overly intelligent, and weighed about—” he looked Carlos over carefully. “About seventy kilos, I’d guess. We’ll call it illegitimus estúpido for the time being. I’m mixing languages there, but I think you get my drift.”

He turned on his heel.




As he walked away, Cadmann heard sniggers and the sound of back-slapping. Idiots. He doused the flare of anger as he came back to the ruined coop.

“What do you think, Cad?” Zack looked puzzled.

“This was a hoax. This was.” Cadmann’s face was still burning. “I like the idea of checking the fences. Get them ready.” He looked out over the flat ground, past the fluffy cultivated rows, past the ring of thorn trees to the mountains and jungle beyond. “Listen, Zack, maybe the footprints were a hoax, but these chickens are still dead. I don’t think we’ve got anyone dumb enough to murder a bunch of our chickens for a joke. I don’t much care who laughs at me; let’s be ridiculously cautious for a while, eh?”

Cadmann stepped on the nearest print. If he had strapped, say, a rubber cutout to the bottom of his shoe, he could walk carefully back and forth, making those goddamn prints right in front of everyone’s nose, and then stand back and watch the fun . . .

Behind him someone made a doglike yipping sound. He didn’t turn to look.

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