The planets


asteroids, a sparse and narrow ring


HOGUN in Volstaag's trailing Trojan point

HE LA, black giant or brown dwarf

inner comets

Missing school was not a problem for the Bloocher kids, nor for the Warkans either. Computers had infinite patience. A teacher wasn't usually needed. Kids who didn't make up lost lessons would get a reputation, but delays would have been more serious at harvest time.

The Hann Farm was one loop inward from the Bloochers'. It was smaller than most. Maybe the first Hanns had been cheated. Maybe not. The land was fantastically fertile, and Hahn machines must have been among the best that had come from the sky.

Or else the Hanns made things grow by using intensive care, treating each separate plant as an individual; and maybe their machines lived longer than others because they were kept clean inside and out. There were things Jemmy would never learn, things nobody knew. He was already beginning to resent that.

Nine children trooped into the Hann front yard in late afternoon. The yard was a rich lawn with islands in it: round patches of dark soil three feet across marked with a big, strangely shaped rock and two or three Destiny plants, or driftwood and a cluster of multicolored irises, or. .

Deborah Hann had a Julia set growing on a dwarf. redwood. The Destiny vine wound around the straight Earthlife tree, spraying out green spines that bifurcated in fractal fashion into a nearly invisible lacework. Mrs. Hann smiled at the children and started to get up, but Junior had plenty of time to wave her back down. Deborah and Takumi were old. Their knees were going.

They entered the Hann house via the airlock.

Curdis Hann, at sixteen, fancied himself a teacher. 'Hi, Sandy. Do you know why these double-door things are called airlocks?'

Sandy Warkan, the oldest boy and nominally in charge of the boys, said, 'Keeps the wind out.'

Curdis grinned. 'In. Look it up.'

The kids separated inside the airlock. Junior went with Marion and Lisette Warkan downstairs to the cellar. Sandy and Hal Warkan went upstairs to join Toma and Curdis Hann. Jemmy had never been up there.

That left Jemmy in charge of the younger ones, in the company room. Jemmy let Greegry log in. The kid was getting good at that. The rest read over his shoulder as he typed, find: airlock.

Diagrams, etymology....irlocks were for spacecraft. They held air in against the vacuum of space, as long as both doors couldn't open at the same time. The first settlers had built airlocks into their houses against the ferocious coastal winds. Curdis had scored a point.

Jemmy asked, 'Brenda, what've they got you studying? Path of the Cavorite, isn't it?'


Greegry said, 'Hey, I'm supposed to be doing algebra.'

Jemmy asked, 'You like algebra?'

Greegry grinned over his shoulder. ''Sorry, Dad, Jemmy wanted to know where the caravans came from.' Okay?'

'If he asks. I just want something to catch Curdis. Brenda, see what you can get.'

Brenda reached past Greegry and typed, find: Cavorite*caravan*Road.


'I think these records are older than the caravans. Let me try.' Thonny typed, find: Cavorite*Road*map.

The screen lit with visuals, and Thonny got up to give Brenda his seat. Jemmy crossed to the smaller screen. 'Greegry, let's get you going on algebra. Have you got a lesson on file?'

Greegry worked. Jemmy watched because he could use the brushup. The program was a good one, and Greegry wasn't stumbling much. Jemmy's attention strayed.

On Brenda's screen, Cavorite and Columbiad settled on pillars of flame: huge squat cylinders with flared skirts and bullet noses. Jemmy had seen this lesson before. It looked real, then and now, but Jemmy thought it must be a computer-generated cartoon. How could a camera have watched these first ships land?

Probes had been leaving Earth since the 1950s. Over the centuries they ranged farther, past the gas-giant worlds, over the sun's poles, out among the comets, ultimately to the nearer stars.

Humanity knew the local neighborhood well, long before they could build a starship.

Tau Ceti was a yellow dwarf star not far from Sol. One of its planets showed the blue of an oxygen atmosphere. Only living things can maintain an oxygen atmosphere.

Apollo was a star eight to ten billion years old, redder and smaller than Sol. There the probes found another blue world. They named it Norn. Norn, Apollo 4, held life... but Tau Ceti 3 was closer to Sol, and that world-Avalon- became the first interstellar colony.

The colonists aboard Geographic had settled on a great island and called it Camelot. Whatever lethal surprises waited on an unknown world, they could be restricted by choosing an island. That decision must have saved the Avalon colony from destruction, for a time.

Cryogenic sleep didn't quite work. Ice crystals formed in the brains of the first colonists. Some died of it. Some woke brain-damaged. Some lasted a few years, then died of strokes. Survivors faced local predators and weird weather cycles. Whether Avalon survived was in doubt: over the decades the broadcasts had slowed, then ceased.

The launching of Geographic had nearly broken Sol system's economy. All things considered, it was no wonder that Sol system waited two hundred and twenty years to send forth another colony ship....

'She's blowing smoke,' Jemmy decided.

Brenda tapped to pop up a window. The author of the teaching program was-'Allison Berkeley, Ph.D... . string of letters. You think she's lying?'

'More like confused. It bothers her. She's looking for reasons herself.' Brenda tapped, and the lesson's headings disappeared. She didn't need to say We'll never know. Allison Berkeley string-of-letters must have died centuries ago, light-years away.

In 2490 AD. Argos arrived in Apollo system. The starfarers had already renamed the blue world. No longer Norn: Destiny was waiting.

They chose a narrow-necked peninsula with a ridge of weathered mountains, like Malaya in size and shape. As on Avalon, so on Destiny:

they would isolate the problems.

Cavorite and Columbiad, the landers, were massive spacecraft designed to explore a solar system or a world. They sat low on groundeffect skirts. Riding the fusion drive alone, either ship could hover a meter high until the land beneath turned to lava; or above a lake, until the water boiled and rivers downstream ran steaming. It was thus that they cleared the Crab for farming and ranching.

Argos had been long in the building. The Apollo Project had sixty years to breed plants and animals of Earth for life on Destiny. Probes had shown them a shorter year, redder sunlight, a circular orbit and a mere ten degrees of axial tilt, stable wind patterns and no ice caps, a small moon that moved too fast to pick up much of a tide. Weather would not be a persistent problem. They got that wrong! But the dimmer, reddened sunlight would. The Apollo Project planners tried to breed plants to survive that.

Cavorite and Columbiad settled high on the wider, southwestern side of the Crab Mountains, fifteen miles inland. The settlers wanted easy access to the sea, but not too easy. There might be Bay of Fundy tides, despite the little moon, or amphibious sea monsters.

They dredged the sea for Avalon seaweed and used it to fertilize Earthly crops.

And Argos disappeared.

'I can see why Argos's crew got bored,' Brenda said, greatly daring.

Вы читаете Destiny's Road
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату