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ChaptEr 1


They do not preach that their god will rouse them,

a little before the nuts work loose.

—Kipling, “The Sons of Martha”

“Cadzie! Wait up!”

Cadmann Weyland chuckled to himself and dug his heels into the slope, slowing his descent.

He politely busied himself, adjusting the rangefinder on his camera. After months on Avalon he still found the shadows too sharp and the sunlight too blue, subtle things, noticed only when he used familiar equipment like the camera.

The Colony sprang into high relief, and the recorder in his backpack vibrated noiselessly to make a holotape recording of the network of buildings and plowed fields and animal pens that stretched out in the valley below. The Colony was ten kilometers farther on, but the electronically enhanced lenses brought its low buildings close enough to touch.

The image jolted as Sylvia slid into him. She caught herself with a palm against his back. “Ouch. Sorry.”

“Here.” He handed her the camera. “See what we’ve built.” She gratefully accepted the excuse to rest. Her short brown hair was plastered to her forehead with sweat, and her freckled cheeks were flushed.

Six miles, downhill, and Sylvia was tiring. In the last hour she’d found a dozen reasons to stop. Stones in her walking shoes. Burs inside her blouse.

Cadmann chuckled inwardly. The Colony’s biologist was tough, and as stubborn about admitting fatigue as he. She’s also three months pregnant. Won’t admit there are real differences between the sexes. So be it.

Ernst loped down the slope. A brace of the large silver fishlike creatures the Colony had dubbed “samlon” slapped against his muscular back. His grin split his broad face from ear to jug ear. “Tiring out, Sylvia! You ought to work out! Exercise! I can show you.”

Sylvia laughed. “Not right now, thanks, Ernst.”


Poor bastard. Ernst Cohen had been the solar system’s leading authority on reproductive biology, and brighter than hell. You could watch it at cocktail parties: everyone else talking, and suddenly Ernst would say maybe two sentences, and half the room would go silent as the rest of them digested the implications. That was ten lightyears ago. Ernst had come out of frozen sleep with the mind of a child.

Sylvia scanned the valley, gave a sigh of pleasure.

“Terrific shot, isn’t it?” Cadmann’s voice, ordinarily a hoarse rumbling sound, was quietly thoughtful. “National Geographic will love it.” He squatted next to her. “Are you all right?”

“Just fine,” she murmured. She turned, warming him with her smile. “But I’ll be happy to get back home.”

She was almost twenty years younger than he. Sylvia was all quick wit and golden eyes that glowed with life above a galaxy of freckles. Her pregnancy changed nothing. It was wonderful, it was frustrating: being with her made him forget the years and the aches. It’s the eyes. She’s plain except for the eyes. God help me.

The pass they traversed was at the base of the tallest mountain on the island. The highest of its double peaks was just above thirty-two hundred meters. Both were shrouded with mist. The delicate bat shapes of the pterodons glided in and out of the cloud cover with barely a flutter of their membranous wings. Ernst stared up at them, his face a mask of puzzled concentration. What would Dr. Ernst Cohen have made of them? They aren’t really pterodons. There are other oddities. He’d have loved it here—

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