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ChaptEr 4

rainy night

Cruelty has a human heart,

And Jealousy a human face;

Terror the human form divine,

And Secrecy the human dress.

—William Blake,

Appendix to the “Songs of Innocence

and Experience: A Divine Image”

Six weeks after the incident at the coops, a mild eruption on the northwest side of the island shook the ground. Three days later, threadlike wisps of ash still drifted from the air. The mists that enshrouded the mountain peaks had dropped in a gray blanket, diffusing the light of Tau Ceti.

Streamers of light flashed within the cloud banks, and thunder echoed distantly onto the plain. Cadmann slipped his tractor into neutral and watched the clouds cautiously. The engine’s hum strummed his spine.

“Don’t worry,” Mary Ann called to him. “That’s just a little mountain storm. It doesn’t care about us.” She moved between knee-high rows of plants, checking the slender soil-meter rods for moisture and pH.

The alfalfa replanting was being cautiously hailed as a success. Failure of the first crop was attributed to the thorn trees which had once dominated the plain. When the trees were burned away their taproots remained alive underground, leaching moisture from the soil. Alfalfa, with a potential yield of ten tons per acre, requires tremendous amounts of water. Omar Isfahan and Jon van Don, two of the Colony’s engineers, had planned and installed a more extensive irrigation system.

“We could use the water, either way. But if it’s going to rain, I’m wasting my time up here.”

“Practice. Practice. We all take rotation in the fields.” Mary Ann’s smile was as brilliant as her hair, and it warmed him. They had grown closer in the weeks since his talk with Sylvia aboard Geographic.

Hibernation Instability. He saw her differently now. She wasn’t bright . . . and yet she had been. Wounded in the war to capture Avalon; wounded in his war.

The electrified fences had been expanded and strengthened. When there was no additional trouble, the animals were turned out into the northern pasture. Some of the older lambs and calves were already grazing contentedly.

No additional trouble . . .

Cadmann liked the sound of that, even if there was a part of him that didn’t quite believe it. (Didn’t want to believe it?)

He had returned twice to Geographic. He liked that. Checking the embryos was sheer routine; but one side of the crew lounge was a wide window. Cadmann could sit and look up at Avalon, and feel peace.

So beautiful. Spirals of white storm, blazing white of polar caps, the spine of jagged white-capped mountain range along the single continent . . . white against the rich blue of a water-and-oxygen atmosphere, a world that men could take and tame.

Zack had been right. Their grandchildren would conquer this world, and the first hundred and sixty colonists would be remembered for all time.


At what price? A century of sleep? Brain damage for a few; Ernst and Mary Ann and Carolyn and, yes, Terry, were paying the price for all. But for the rest: bruises and sprains, and maybe a few bad dreams? He had to laugh. The pilgrims who had founded the American continent had paid far more dearly to accomplish less.

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