Elizabeth Bear


This book is for Stella Evans,

Liz Bourke, and Maddie Glymour.

And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.

And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.


As for ideology, the Hell with it. All of it.


God make thee good as thou art beautiful.



when the world ended

In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like

a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet, to me,

what is this quintessence of dust?

—WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Hamlet, Act II scene i

Danilaw Bakare was on a nightclub stage when the world ended.

His third-day job was as a classical musician. He held the lease on a baby blue electric fab bass, and two nights a nonce he joined up with two guitarists and a drummer to play the greats in a repro dive bar in Bad Landing, on the east rim of Crater Lake. They did all the classics—Buddy Holly, Buddy Guy, Gatemouth Brown, Page and Plant. Thompson, Hendrix, Li, Morris, Mitchell, Kaderli, Kasparyan, Noks, Hynde.

It was one hell of a relief from the first-day job where he spent five days out of nine, and it filled his arts requirement in style. The first-day job was as City Administrator for Bad Landing, which loaned the band a certain notoriety and filled his admin and service logs. He completed the nurturing requirement with volunteer work and babysitting his sister’s kids, half grateful that, given his other commitments, it was a tertiary and half worried he was never going to find the time himself to reproduce.

So he happened to be onstage before a crowd of about one hundred and seventy-five, holding up Therese while she laid fire through “Johnny B. Goode,” when the end began.

As poets had long suspected, it happened so subtly that Danilaw at first had no idea of the historic significance of events beyond a sensible level of unease. There was no drama. Just a brown-faced citizen in a suit and some discreet hardware, as out of place in mufti—and in the club crowd—as a dodecapus at a tea party. She slipped in through the kitchen, pausing behind the tables where the patrons were seated so only the musicians and staff would see her, planting herself at the end of the bar like she’d been carved there. When Danilaw caught her eye, across all those rapt faces, she frowned and nodded.

She had a round face, a straight nose, and a finely pointed chin. He imagined brown or amber eyes behind smoky lashes, and schooled himself to professional coolness.

Damn, he thought. There goes the second set.

His own security was out in the crowd, but he didn’t know who most of them were and he wasn’t supposed to try to find out. So the citizen must have come with a message too sensitive to transmit, even encrypted.

Thinking too much, he fluffed a chord change, but got it back before the progression fell apart on him. He turned over his shoulder and shot a signal to Chuck, the drummer, who threw in a special fill to let Therese know to end the set. She wrapped up the Chuck Berry in half the time it usually took—a minor tragedy. But as soon as she announced the break, he set his bass in the stand and jumped off the stage, landing between two tables surrounded by startled patrons.

“Sorry, Ciz.” He had to turn sideways to slip between them; the aisles were narrow, and Danilaw both broad and tall. When he got closer to the watcher, he began to realize the true depth of the problem. In addition to her suit and chrome—headwire and earset—the citizen wore a Captain’s crimson Free Legate jewel over her left eyebrow and a worried expression across the entirety of her face. When Danilaw came up, she didn’t hesitate and she did not mince words.

“Premier, I’m sorry.” Her voice was light and well modulated, but he would bet it could carry across a crowd if necessary. “I’m Amanda Friar. We haven’t met. I’ve been sent to inform you that the homeward perimeter registers a blip.”

Nothing was scheduled incoming for over four hundred days. And certainly nothing from Earth.

“Rogue ship?” he asked. “Pirates?”

There had been no reliable reports of piracy in Danilaw’s lifetime. But there was history, and there was always a new first time.

Captain Amanda shook her head, giving Danilaw an increment of relief. “She’s broadcasting an identity tag, one there would be no reason to fake.”

That relief faded as he watched her nerve herself.

“An antique tag. On antique equipment. We had to break open the original code files.”

He knew the answer. “The Jacob’s Ladder.

He might as well have said the Flying Dutchman. But, incredibly, she nodded.

Danilaw rocked restlessly from foot to foot, controlling his body’s desire to fidget by force of will. Floorboards of salvaged wood creaked under his weight, reprimanding him. “Wrack and waste, the Kleptocracy actually did it.”

“And only a thousand years late.” She took his elbow as she led him from the room, back the way she’d come. “Administrator Danilaw?”

“Captain Amanda?”

Her thin throat showed it when she swallowed. “Do you suppose anyone’s alive on it, sir?”

He shook his head, but he didn’t mean no. Something more like awe and incredulity. “I hate to guess. And if they are, what sort of condition do you suppose they’re in?”

   Danilaw collected his open security detail, and Captain Amanda brought him topside. Much of Bad Landing was underground—a compact, low-impact settlement burrowed out of the already-shocked earth surrounding Crater Lake. Surface paths shaded by native vegetation and foul-weather awnings threaded between the gentle slopes of constructed hills. Dwellings, gathering places, and the scattering of rare commercial buildings clustered around meadows and diversity zones. Solar leaves laid flat for the night scaled the water-grooved roofs of earthed buildings and, across the lake, ranks of solar-skinned wind turbines followed the arc of an artificial reef habitat.

Three smeeps and a robin hopped or flapped a few steps as Danilaw and his entourage stepped out of the biomimetic berm housing the nightclub, encouraging him to smile. The seventeen-year smeeps hadn’t been out much lately—it was coming up on one of their breeding and hibernation cycles—and he missed their dusty rose- violet plumage and trilling cries.

Tonight’s open security detail were well-known to both Danilaw and each other. Karen took point; Banko and

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