The first interstellar starship, John Glenn, fled a Solar System populated by rogue AIs and machine/human hybrids, threatened by too much nanotechnology, and rife with political dangers. The John Glenn's crew intended to terraform the nearly pristine planet Ymir, in hopes of creating a utopian society that would limit intelligent technology.
But by some miscalculation they have landed in another solar system and must shape the gas giant planet Harlequin's moon, Selene, into a new, temporary home. Their only hope of ever reaching Ymir is to rebuild their store of antimatter by terraforming the moon.
Gabriel, the head terraformer, must lead this nearly impossible task, with all the wrong materials: the wrong ships and tools, and too few resources. His primary tools are the uneducated and nearly-illiterate children of the original colonists, born and bred to build Harlequin's moon into an antimatter factory.
Rachel Vanowen is one of these children. Basically a slave girl, she must do whatever the terraforming Council tells her. She knows that Council monitors her actions from a circling vessel above Selene's atmosphere, and is responsible for everything Rachel and her people know, as well as all the skills, food, and knowledge they have ever received. With no concept of the future and a life defined with duty, how will the children of Selene ever survive once the Council is through terraforming and have abandoned Selene for its ultimate goal of Ymir?
"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.
LARRY NIVEN is the multiple Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of the Ringworld series, along with many other science fiction masterpieces. His Beowulf's Children, co-authored with Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes was a New York Times bestseller. He lives in Chatsworth, California.
BRENDA COOPER has published many short stories, including a collaboration, Ice and Mirrors, with Larry Niven in Scatterbrain. She lives in Kirkland, Washington.
Chapter One: Teaching Grove
Rachel reached for the seedling. Her long fingers found the pliant trunk, thin as her pinkie, buried inside the furled branches. She unwrapped gauzy material from the root ball with her free hand, separating the roots by spreading them down and out in the air. Bits of soil fell through her hands as she settled roots and tree onto a mound of nutrient-enriched dirt. Still steadying the gangly cecropia, she swept anchor soil to cover the roots, tamped it down, and then tied the trunk very loosely to a long thin stake. Rachel sat back on her heels and admired the little tree. A warm breeze rustled its leaves and the smell of damp dirt filled the air.
A banana palm went in next, then a set of three heliconias near the path. Rachel's crate stood empty. The distant sun, Apollo, hung low in the sky, illuminating beads of sweat as she stretched.
The other students had all finished more than twenty minutes ago. Rachel nodded to herself, checking to be sure the plot matched the picture in her head. Harry's plot was well designed, and cleaner since he had gone back and raked the soil after watering. But she could do that too. Water first. She sighed and got up to get a rake.
"Nice job." Gabriel's voice behind her sounded flat, far away, even if the words approved.
Rachel turned around and looked back at him. Gabriel stood an inch taller than Rachel, but wider and stronger, carefully dressed in brown pants that tied at the ankles, high boots, and a tight-fitting shirt that showed muscles. He looked serious, like he'd gotten lost in his head. She wrinkled her nose at him and smiled. He didn't smile back. He looked outward, higher than the horizon, fingering the bright metal and bead sculptures twisted into the long red-brown braid of his hair.
Rachel ran her fingers through her own short red hair, wondering if such a long braid was heavy. And what was he looking at?
Diamond patterns in a thousand shades of white and red: a gibbous world, huge and fully risen, brilliant across more than half its arc, sullen red where the sunlight didn't fall. Harlequin. A broad straight band ran blazing white across its face, and disappeared where Harlequin's shadow fell across it. A ring, Gabriel called it, but nothing ever showed but that thick white slash.
What fascinated Gabriel about Harlequin and its ring? It was a feature of the sky, changeable, but not of great interest. Tiny fiery-looking storms on Harlequin might affect weather on Selene, Gabriel had said once, but (he admitted) not by much.
A mystery. Council was always a mystery. Rachel knew Gabriel would wait there until she finished. Another mystery---Council always knew where they were---they could see everything on Selene. So he didn't have to stay. Maybe I shouldn't rake since I'm last, she thought. But the test is tomorrow!
She watered and raked anyway, perversely determined to spend time with each tree as she finished for the evening. Perfect, it might please Gabriel. (He still hadn't moved.)
She put the rake away and stood as near Gabriel as she dared, and looked up too. Harlequin rose as Apollo rode low in the sky and then disappeared. Softer illumination replaced the red-gold sunlight, tinged by the oranges and reds of the gas giant. The planet covered a huge portion of the sky. Rachel could cover Apollo, the distant sun, with the width of her thumb held half an arm's length in front of her. Harlequin took both palms to blot from view.
The gas giant made its own dim red light, shed by the intense heat in its constantly churning surface. Apollo's reflection brightened Harlequin's inner light, and the combined glow bathed Selene's summer, making the night barely dusky.
Selene's orbit around Harlequin defined seasons based on the amount of light available. "Summer" was the seven weeks when Selene orbited closest to Apollo, "winter" the seven weeks they were farthest away, and fall and spring filled in the time between. Summer hid most of the stars in its steady light. In full winter, night fell black enough to detail the galaxy spread around them.
Rachel watched her two shadows merge as Apollo set fully, and then put the tools away and strapped arm and leg sets on. She waved at Gabriel, and said "Good night" out loud, alert for a response from Gabriel. None came.
A few hundred yards from the edge of Teaching Grove, she pushed hard on the balls of her feet, straining upward with every step, taking ten-foot strides along the flat path back to Aldrin. She gained speed and height, finally leaping all-out. As she began the fall after the apogee of her leap, she snapped her leg and arm wings down just before the ground could catch her foot webs. Three strong kicks, a rhythm, and she was flying.
Rachel flew low in the treacherously soft light of Harlequin's evening until she reached two tall poles that marked the outside of the colony's first home. Her father had told her the poles once supported a great tent of air that Council built their first homes in. No longer needed, the tall stakes still marked the boundaries of home. She swung her legs from behind to just in front of her, braking, snapping her leg wings closed at exactly the right moment, landing with just one extra little hop that she expertly turned into a bounding walk as she folded her arm wings in.
Rachel followed a well-worn path past Council Row and its large lighted homes, sparing them hardly a glance. They were beautiful, iridescent, and closed to Moon Born. The faultless layout seemed like a wall to Rachel as she slipped along its outside edge toward the friendly chaos of tents she called home. The base color of the tents was a metallic shimmering light gray; fabric that repelled rain and heat alike. Colorful cloths were thrown and sewn onto the walls, covering and making windows, proclaiming family personalities. In the common areas between tents, children played skip-stones, studied, or sat in groups talking. Rachel waved at her friend Ursula's brothers and some of the kids from her class.
In two more minutes she was truly home, ducking through a delicate blue fabric doorway. The inside of the tent was simple. Hangings divided it into four rooms---two sleeping rooms, a combination living room and kitchen, and a small workroom. They shared bathroom facilities with four other families.
Her father was already there, his boots off, his feet resting on an embroidered ottoman she had made him. Dark circles spread like stains under his eyes, and his long arms draped by his side.
"The other kids have been back more than an hour," Frank said, smiling at her.
"I wanted my trees to be perfect."
"Your work is always good." Her father's voice sounded warm, if tired. "I've got dinner on."
Rachel went to the tiny kitchen and ladled vegetable soup into a smooth metal bowl. She'd cut the beans and carrots up that morning before going to the grove. "I'll have to study."
"You'll pass," Frank said. "Did you get any information about when they plan to start the planting for this season?"
"It'll be soon. It has to be. Gabriel will be gone after the test, and I guess we'll stay and take care of things at the grove. Gabe downloaded a bunch of new stuff for us this afternoon, so I better study."
"Better call him Gabriel," Frank said.
"And you'd better get some sleep."
"I know. I'll sleep after I read the new stuff he beamed me." Rachel flipped open the wrist pad she'd been given when Gabriel chose her for the planting class. She commanded it to create a window in front of her. Numbers and descriptions flowed through the air. When her eyes blurred and the data stopped making sense, she slipped off to sleep, snuggling deep into a nest of blankets and pillows.
Apollo's rise woke her. Her father had already gone. Rachel reviewed her notes again until she heard Ursula call from outside.
"Coming." Rachel grabbed up some carrots and a hunk of bread for lunch, and grinned to see her willowy friend bouncing impatiently up and down in the path. Ursula was even thinner than Rachel, light-colored everywhere, with freckles and blue eyes. The light morning rain slicked the girls' hair down so it hung in wet strings, and they shivered in the cool air. Ursula worried them up the path, keeping them from flying so she could practice vocabulary answers out loud until Rachel wanted to scream at her. If anyone besides Ursula babbled on so, Rachel would have stopped it, or walked ahead, but Ursula covered insecurities with noise. Ursula had been her friend as long as she could remember, the only other girl her age in the immediate circle of tents. They'd helped each other learn to walk, and then to fly.
Halfway up, two shadows flew over them. Rachel nudged Ursula in the side. "Hey, look, it's Ice and Silence." They heard the clank of bald Andrew's homemade cable armbands against his wings. Harry flew quietly and expertly, pacing but not following Andrew. Ursula grimaced and made as if to duck.
"Hey," Rachel said. "They won't throw anything today. Even Andrew's not stupid enough to risk making Gabe angry on test day."
"Quit calling him Gabe! You'd think you were friends!"
"No Moon Born is a friend with Council. My brother Rich says they're just using us."
"Nah," Rachel said. "Sure, they have a plan, and sure, we're part of it. But they're teaching us how to be what we want to be anyway. At least, I want to work with plants! Besides, who made Selene? Where does all our tech come from? Why fight something you have to have? It would be like fighting air."
"Don't think too hard. You'll break your head. Think about tests. Let's review pod functions again..."
When they finally arrived, Harry and Andrew were already bending over their plantings from the afternoon before. Rachel grimaced at Ursula, whispering, "Of course, those two are looking good to Council." The rain had stopped, and the grove smelled fresh and clean.
"Always," Ursula whispered back, making small k...
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