Tom Kratman

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

Copyright © 2010 by Tom Kratman

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

A Baen Books Original

Baen Publishing Enterprises

P.O. Box 1403

Riverdale, NY 10471

ISBN-13: 978-1-4391-3346-0

Cover art by Kurt Miller

First printing, April 2010

Distributed by Simon & Schuster

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10020

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Printed in the United States of America


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What has gone before

(5,000,000 BC through Anno Condita (AC) 469):

Long ago, long before the appearance of man, came to Earth the aliens known by man only as the 'Noahs.' About them, as a species, nothing is known. Their very existence can only be surmised by the project they left behind. Somewhat like the biblical Noah, these aliens transported from Earth to another planet samples of virtually every species existing in the time period approximately five hundred thousand to five million years ago. Having transported these species, and having left behind various other, genengineered species, apparently to inhibit the development of intelligent life on the new world, the Noah's disappeared, leaving no other trace beyond a few incomprehensible and inert artifacts, and possibly the rift through which they moved from the Earth to the new world.

In the year 2037 AD a robotic interstellar probe, the Cristobal Colon, driven by lightsail, disappeared enroute to Alpha Centauri. Three years later it returned, under automated guidance, through the same rift in space into which it had disappeared. The Colon brought with it wonderful news of another Earth-like planet, orbiting another star. (Note, here, that not only is the other star not Alpha Centauri, it's not so far been proved that it is even in the same galaxy, or universe for that matter, as ours.) Moreover, implicit in its disappearance and return was the news that here, finally, was a relatively cheap means to colonize another planet.

The first colonization effort was an utter disaster, with the ship, the Cheng Ho, breaking down into ethnic and religious strife that annihilated almost every crewman and colonist aboard her.

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