And I’m heading into the same abyss as he did. I’m becoming my father! Alex squeezed his eyes shut. No! That’s not me, he said to himself. That’s not me. But a voice in his head told him, That will be you. Eventually. Inevitably.

His sweat-soaked shirt sticking to his skin, Alex pulled himself to his feet and staggered out of the grotto. The metal partition slid upward, releasing him.

“That’s not me,” he whispered to himself. “And it never will be.”

Yuan rushed to him.

“Are you all right?” he asked. “The partition closed. You were sealed in there for more than an hour.”

“An hour?”

“More. Are you okay?”

“I’m okay,” Alex said shakily, fighting off the urge to collapse into Yuan’s arms. He forced himself to stand steadily on his own feet. “It was…” He tried to smile. “It was pretty intense.”

He leaned his back against the rough rock wall and slid down to a sitting position. I should have waited, he said to himself. I shouldn’t have turned her over to Bolestos so soon.

Then he noticed Yuan looking at the beckoning glow beyond the open partition.

“Can I go in now?” Yuan asked.

Alex waved a weak hand at him. “Sure. Go ahead.”

Yuan bounded through the open partition and disappeared into the artifact’s inner chamber.

He wants to see it again, Alex thought. He’s not afraid of it because he has nothing to be afraid of. I do. I’m heading along a path that will make me exactly like my father.

“I’ve got to change,” Alex murmured. “Let my father run the corporation if he wants to. There are better things for me to do.”

Yuan came back out of the artifact’s grotto in what seemed like a few minutes, grinning hugely, happy with what he saw.

“When we get back to Selene,” Alex said, his voice weak, strained as if he’d just run ten kilometers, “you go build your restaurant. I’m quitting Humphries Space Systems.”

“Quitting?” He seemed shocked.

With a faint smile, Humphries said, “I’ve got better things to do.”

“What better things?”

“There’s still a lot of rebuilding that needs to be done on Earth. There’re millions of people who need help, need a chance to pull themselves out of poverty and misery.”

Yuan looked puzzled. “You want to help them?”

Alex’s smile grew stronger. “If I can,” he said. “It’s better to build than to destroy.”


Theo said his goodbyes to his family at their quarters in Chrysalis II. His mother and sister teared up as they embraced him. He promised to stay in touch and they both said they would message him every week, once he arrived at Jupiter station. His father shook his hand solemnly, his face frozen into immobility.

Before he himself started sniffling, Theo slung his slim travel bag over his shoulder and left them there, striding down the passageway to the docking port where Hyades was set to depart for Jupiter.

There were forms to fill out before they would allow him to board the fusion torch ship. Theo tapped out his information blindly, automatically, wanting to get aboard the ship as quickly as he could, wanting to stay with his family at the same time.

Can’t have both, he told himself as he pecked away at the keyboard. At last the security program was satisfied and granted him clearance to board Hyades.

As Theo stepped through the spongy access tunnel connecting the ship to the habitat he saw that there was a ship’s officer at the open hatch, checking credentials with a handheld scanner. And another man, just in front of the hatch. His father.

“How’d you get here ahead of me?” Theo asked, astonished.

Victor grinned at his son. “The old man can still outrun you,” he said. Then he added, “I didn’t have to go through all the busy-work you had to fill out. I saw you at the console, tapping away.”

Theo nodded. “I… I guess I ought to get aboard, Dad.”

“I know,” Victor said. “I just wanted to… well, I just want you to know that I respect you, Theo. You saved your mother and sister. You’ve grown into a real man.”

Blinking at the tears that sprang up in his eyes, Theo stood there dumbfounded, not knowing what to say.

Victor wrapped his strong arms around Theo, who dropped his travel bag and embraced his father.

“I love you, son.”

“I love you too, Dad.”

“Good luck. Good voyage.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

He picked up the bag and hurried past the waiting officer and through the hatch. Turning, Theo waved once to his father, then stepped through the inner hatch into the ship’s main passageway.

Dorn was standing there, arms folded across his chest.

“Welcome aboard,” he said gravely.

“Thanks,” said Theo, brushing at his eyes.

“Today we begin our new lives,” said Dorn.

“Yeah. Guess we do.”

With a hint of a smile, Dorn said, “I have a message for you from the ship’s medical officer.”


“Altai Madagascar. She wants to see you in the infirmary as soon as you’ve stowed your bag in your quarters.”

Theo broke into a happy smile. A new life, he said to himself, looking forward to it.

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