Heads turned, but nobody spoke. Argos had betrayed them all, marooned the settlers and their descendants to the end of time. The crew of Argos had been tried and convicted of mutiny, in absentia. Later the lander Cavorite had abandoned Base One, Destiny Town. Lives that crossed between suns would drown in the mundane work of farming. Jemmy felt the same, some days.

Here is the farm, there is the Road. Take off go.

Thonny's screen showed something like an octopus made of clouds, curved arms, a body that bulged in the middle. An old view from orbit. Jemmy had seen that once and never found it again.

Greegry wasn't having fun. Nobody does algebra for fun. He kept leahng back through the text. There was a block to keep him from seeking the Answers file, but Jemmy had cracked that block long ago, and maybe Greegry had too.

The Hanns had once had a window like the one at Bloocher Farm. Eternal winds had finally cracked it. What they had now was brick set

into the Roadside wall, and four panes cut from the old window and set in the brick. And nothing much was going on out there.

This room was not where Jemmy Bloocher wanted to be.

He wanted to be where Cavorite was, at the far end of the Road.

Columbiad became the colony's power source. Cables ran into the base, with a tent to protect the join. (Jemmy and Brenda were amused. The tent by their time had become a thick-walled building.) Cavorite was kept ready for an emergency evacuation of the Crab.

Inevitably, some of the half-a-thousand first settlers thought more like interstellar explorers than like farmers. Forty of them followed an alternative path-'the path less traveled by,' in Groundcaptain Radner's words.

They waited eight years before the rest of the colonists had enough faith in their growing crops, and enough surplus to make the trip worthwhile. In 2498 A.D. there was a glut.

Cavorite had carried half the colony from orbit down to the Crab. Leaving Spiral Town, the same craft carried forty in roomy comfort along with a hydroponics garden, stores of seeds and fertilized eggs, considerable medical facilities and lab equipment. The animals were thriving too, but none would be left on this first trip. They'd have nothing to eat. The plan called for Cavorite to return, and eventually to make a second journey, scattering animals and birds along the path.

This trip, Cavorite would leave seeds and growing plants, and one thing more:

A road.

Sitting on the fusion drive alone, Cavorite would ride a meter in the air, with flame mushrooming out around the skirt, hot enough to melt rock. That was the idea. Cavorite would move off along the foothills of the Spine, the Crab's mountain ridge, leaving a snail's trail of cooling lava.

Jemmy recognized what was onscreen: a view from space taken ages ago from the mother ship, before Columbiad and Cavorite landed.

Water covered most of the planet. Destiny's core was deficient in radioactive elements. Its shell was thick. Ages ago it had cracked: an upwelling of magma had become a long, relatively narrow ridge of continent.

Most of the continent, Wrinkle, lay north, under the broad ice cap. One end reached south of the equator, then curled over. A constriction nearly split the end off from the main body. A spinal ridge ran along Wrinkle, along the constriction now called the Neck, and down the length of the Crab Peninsula, splitting the Crab into broad and narrow halves. That was the land that the settlers settled.

As he and Brenda watched, the computer drew the Road in neon pink. Down at the tip of the Crab, the Road curved out from Columbiad in a perfect little spiral. Where it got too big, where Bloocher Farm was now, it drew a tangent, a straight line that ran toward the mainland, parallel to the spinal ridge. As it approached the Neck it became a string of dots, then trailed off.

'Are those dots all we get?' Brenda asked him.

'They made the Road after everyone was down. There wasn't anyone in the sky to take pictures. Except Argos, and they don't talk.'

Now the computer was drawing in Spiral Town, filling in the curves of the spiral and spreading off down the straight section... and fuzzing out into terra incognita.

Brenda complained, 'Jemmy, it just trails off.'

'They never came back. They were going to, but they never did.' Everyone knew the Cavorite story. Nobody knew how it ended.

Brenda said, 'The caravans must know where Cavorite went. The Road goes there and so do they. Why not just ask?'

'Okay,' Thonny said obligingly, mocking her.

Jemmy tasted the idea. 'Traders wouldn't tell anyone anything. But Brenda's right. They know.'

The Road was a spiral, and Radner Street was a radial path, not quite straight. The straggling line of children crossed the Road's next inward arc, and saw the last wagon receding. They crossed the next arc ahead of the wagons. Soon thereafter they walked between fruit orchards. The Road curved more tightly now. The intersection ahead was Guilda's Place.

Guilda's Place sprawled like three or four buildings pushed together around an open space, a courtyard. Bird feeders stood in the corners, and the courtyard swarmed with little birds. The buildings were old, of poured stone, with every corner rounded by two hundred years of winds; but the roof of the biggest building was new Begley cloth sheeting, dark silver-gray. Walks led through the fruit orchards out back.

The orchard wasn't enough to keep Guilda's going. The family had to buy fruit from farms farther out. The Bloochers supplied her with melons and grapes; their neighbors supplied other produce. And everybody stopped at Guilda's.

It wasn't as if farmers couldn't make their own juice. But Guilda Smitt sold sherbet. Guilda had a working freezer, and a storage battery, and

a roof covered with Begley cloth to soak up the sunlight and turn it into electric power.

In the courtyard the boys and girls formed separate lines to get juice, then settled at four big round tables close enough for eavesdropping. Jemmy would have liked to listen to Junior reporting her conversation with the man who drove the second cart. But then his siblings wanted to hear about his conversation.

'She said, 'The Road's always been there.' And he laughed.'

Eight-year-old Thonny scoffed. 'We know better than that.'

'They did too,' Jemmy said.

Guilda's four daughters were replacing the juice. Junior stepped up and spoke to them. They listened, then moved briskly inside. Adults were gathering; the courtyard was filling up.

Other customers had gathered around Guilda's Place to hear Jemmy and Junior tell of the merchants. Turning heads and sudden quiet alerted Jemmy, and he saw what the rest had seen: a single chug pulling a small cart along the radial road, with a single merchant walking alongside.

He was more than twenty and less than thirty: hard to tell, with those pointed features. He had long black hair and a black beard trimmed short. Where other merchants wore several layers, this one wore only a woven vest, loose pants, and an elaborate cummerbund with a wide pocket in it. His feet were bare, and his arms and shoulders.

He seemed to speak to the chug, and the chug waited while he went inside. They saw him speak to a massive woman whose wealth of dark hair was piled into intricate curves: Guilda herself.

When the trader came out he was carrying a massive drum of sherbet. His arm and shoulder muscles rolled like boulders, and Jemmy envied him that. He didn't acknowledge the regard of the girls.

He set the big drum in the cart, all in one smooth motion, and drove back up along the Road.

Conversation started again when he was gone. 'He'll meet the rest of the caravan coming the long way,' an old man said.

Guilda herself came out. She clapped her hands for attention, then spoke rapidly. 'Sherbet and coins for any of you who helps me this day!'

Jemmy downed his juice and stood up. Sibs and friends were doing the same. A horde moved into the fruit orchards. Wagons were in motion too, bringing fruit from markets nearer the Hub. The Bloochers, sticking together, fetched chairs and tables from nearby houses.

Guilda's contract was good, stated and implied. Guilda's neighbors knew. When the caravan was in town,

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