The Integral Trees

Larry Niven
(1983) (Version 2002.08.18)

This book is dedicated to Robert Forward, for the stories he's sparked in me, for his help in working out the parameters of the Smoke Ring and for his big roomy mind.

Prologue: Discipline Chapter One: Quinn Tuft Chapter Two: Leavetaking Chapter Three: The Trunk Chapter Four: Flashers and Fan Fungus Chapter Five: Memories Chapter Six: Middle Ground Chapter Seven: The Checker's Hand Chapter Eight: Quinn Tribe Chapter Nine: The Raft Chapter Ten: The Moby Chapter Eleven: The Cotton-Candy Jungle Chapter Twelve: The Copsik Runners Chapter Thirteen: The Scientist's Apprentice Chapter Fourteen: Treemouth and Citadel Chapter Fifteen: London Tree Chapter Sixteen: Rumblings of Mutiny Chapter Seventeen: "When Birnhain Wood..." Chapter Eighteen: The War of London Tree Chapter Nineteen: The Silver Man Chapter Twenty: The Position of Scientist's Apprentice Chapter Twenty-one: Go For Gold Chapter Twenty-two: Citizens' Tree Dramatis Personae Glossary

Prologue -- Discipline
IT WAS TAKING TOO LONG, MUCH LONGER THAN HE HAD EXPECTED. Sharis Davis Kendy had not been an impatient man. After the change he had thought himself immune to impatience. But it was taking too long! What were they doing in there? His senses were not limited. Sharis's telescopic array was powerful; he could sense the

full electromagnetic spectrum, from microwave up to X-ray. But the Smoke Ring balked his view. It was a storm of wind, dust, clouds of water vapor, huge rippling drops of dirty water or thin mud, masses of free-floating rock; dots and motes and clumps of green, green surfaces on the drops and the rocks green tinges of algae in the clouds; trees shaped like integration signs, oriented radially to the neutron star and tufted with green at both ends; whale-sized creatures with vast mouths, to skim the green-tinged clouds . Life was everywhere in the Smoke Ring. Claire Dalton had called it a Christmas wreath. Claire had been a very old woman before the State revived her as a corpsicle. The others had never seen a Christmas wreath; nor had Kendy. What they had seen, half a thousand years ago, was a perfect smoke ring several tens of thousands of kilometers across, with a tiny hot pinpoint in its center. Their reports had been enthusiastic. Life was DNA-based, the air was not only breathable, but tasted fine Discipline presently occupied the point of gravitational neutrality behind Goldblatt's World, the L2 point. This close, the sky split equally into star-sprinkled, black- and greentinged cloudscape. Directly below, a vast distorted whirlpool of storm hid the residue of a gas giant planet, a rocky nugget two and a half times the mass of Earth. Sharis would not enter that inner region. The maelstrom of forces could damage his ship. He couldn't guess how long the seeder ramship must survive to accomplish his mission. He had waited more than half a thousand years already. The L2 point was still within the gas torus of which the Smoke Ring was only the densest part. Discipline was subject to slow erosive forces. He couldn't last forever in this place. At least the crew were not extinct. That would have hurt him terribly. He had done his duty. Their ancestors had been mutineers, a potential threat to the State itself. To reeducate their descendants was his goal, but if the Smoke Ring had killed them...well, it would not have surprised him. It took more than breathable air to keep men alive. The Smoke Ring was green with the life that had evolved for that queer environment. Native life might well have killed of those Johnny-comelately rivals, the erstwhile crew of the seeder ramship Discipline. Sharls would have grieved; but he would have been free to return home. They'd call me an obsolete failure, he thought gloomily while his instruments sought a particular frequency in the radio range. A thousand years out of date by the time I'm home. They'd scrap the computer for certain. And the program? The Sharls Davis Kendy program might be copied and kept for the use of historians. Or not. But they hadn't died. Eight Cargo and Repair Modules had gone with the original mutineers. Time and the corrosive environment must have ruined the CARMs; but at least one was still operational. Someone bad been using it as late as six years ago. And-there: the light he'd been searching for. For a moment it reached him clearly: the frequency of hydrogen burning with oxygen. He fired a maser in ultrashort, high-powered pulses. "Kendy for the State. Kendy for the State. Kendy for the State." The response came four seconds later, sluggish, weak, and blurred. Kendy pinpointed it and fine-focused his telescopes while he sent his next demand. "Status. Tell me three times." Kendy sorted the garbled respofise through a noise-eliminator program. The CARM

was on manual, mostly functional, using attitude jets only, operating well inside its safety limits. Once it had been a simplified recording of Kendy's own personality. Now the program was deteriorating, growing stupid and erratic. "Course record for the past hour." It came. The CARM had been free-falling at low relative velocity up to forty minutes ago. Then, low-acceleration maneuvers, a course that looked like a dropped plate of spaghetti, a mad waste of stored fuel. Malfunction? could have been a dogfight-style battle. War? "Switch to my command." Four seconds; then a signal like a scream of bewildered agony. Massive malfunction. The crew must have disconnected the autopilot system on every one of the CARMs, half a thousand years ago. It had still been worth a try, as was his next message. "Give me video link with crew." "Denied." Oh ho! The video link hadn't been disconnected! A block must have been programmed in, half a thousand years ago, by the mutineers. Certainly their descendants wouldn't know how to do that. A block might be circumvented, eventually. The CARM was too small to see, of course, but it must be somewhere near that green blob not far from Goldblatt's World. A cotton-candy forest. Plants within the Smoke Ring tended to be fluffy, fragile. They spread and divided to collect as much sunlight as possible, without worrying about gravity. For half a thousand years Kendy had watched for signs of a developing civilization-for regular patterns in the floating masses, or infrared radiation from manufacturing centers, or industrial pollution: metal vapor, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen. He hadn't found any of that. If the children of Discipline's crew were developing beyond savagery, it was not in any great numbers. But they lived. Someone was using a CARM. If only he could see them! Or talk to them -- "Give me voiceover. Citizen, this is Kendy for the State. Speak, and your reward will be beyond the reach of your imagination." "Amplify. Amplify. Amplify," sent the CARM. Kendy was already sending at full amplification. "Cancel voiceover," he sent. Not for the first time, he wondered if the Smoke Ring could have proved too kindly an environment. Creatures evolved in freefall would not have human strength. Humans could be the most powerful creatures in the Smoke Ring: happy as clams in there, and about as active. Civilization develops to protect against the environment. Or against other men. War would be a hopeful sign... If he could know what was going on! Kendy could perturb the environment in a dozen different ways. Cast them out of Eden and see what happened. But he dared not. He didn't know enough. Kendy waited.

Chapter One -- Quinn Tuft

" Harp told them. a vast brown wall that narrowed to a cylinder. Get out of this wind. and his face immediately dipped again. he reached deep into the web of branchlets and pulled out a fistful of foliage.. Harp.nothing but blue-tinged white sky split by the white line of the Smoke Ring. with the wind whipping his long hair forward. . Hungry.. Some light filtered through as green twilight. It tasted like fibrous spun sugar. "There's nothing to catch. "Negative! How would we catch anything? Any prey would come right out of the wind!" Harp squirmed through the foliage to join Laython.GAVVING COULD HEAR THE RUSTLING AS HIS COMPANIONS tunneled upward. Gavving could see the branch emerging from its green sheath as a half-klomter of bare wood: a slender fin. Harp's head popped out. "We're here to guard the trunk. Just because there's a drought doesn't mean we can't have a flash flood. he looked up. dark face was beginning to sprout strands of black hair. Suppose the tree brushed a pond?" "What pond? Look around you! There's nothing near us. He had never been above Quinn Tuft until now. A cloud of brown-tinged green dropped away below him. no clouds. its taste was too fibrous. And in that direction were no ponds. loosely spun to catch every stray beam of sunlight. and he did the same. The bright spot in the sky. East. always at gale velocities.and Harp. twitchy with anticipation. Presently their faces lifted. Voy is too close. Harp called. no drifting forests. ten years older than Gavving and Laython. was drifting below the western edge of the tuft. Laython peered windward between his fingers. the sun. where sunlight fell. The trunk went straight up. The sunlight stabbed his eyes. Looking east. out of the wind. but what Gavving's belly wanted was meat. He would have liked a windbreak. still red and painful from this morning's allergy attack. Then. and ultimately flowered into foliage like green cotton. divided endlessly into wire-thin branchiets. you've said so yourself!" "The trunk blocks half our view. as measured by passings of the sun behind Voy. Laython's long. Gavving tunneled through a universe of green cotton candy. its brutal strength half-concealed by golden beard. Gavving waited." Harp said mildly. The far tuft. They stayed alongside the great flat wall of the trunk." The wind blew always from the west. and waited while his eyes adjusted. The rising howl of the wind told him he was nearly there.. Even so. It always got him in the eyes and sinuses. It seemed to go out forever. a roiled knot that must be Gold. He bellowed. Harp's face was broad. It cured hunger. He ate it anyway and went on. "We can crawl around to lee of the trunk. and sniffled. to a dark line with a gentle westward curve to it. Finger-thick spine branches sprouted from the trunk. He squinted and turned his head. Gavving was fourteen years old. A minute later his head broke through into wind and sunlight. to a point at infinity-and the point was tipped with green.. Laython next. was normally in charge. even at the edges of the tuft. Gavving shrugged and did the same. with thick bones. It seldom worked out that way... straight out from Voy. and on that line.and the green of it was too brown. spreading out into the main body of the tuft.

It was tiring. a point to port of windward. but he was a dwarf." The swordbird's slow rotation exposed what should have been its third eye. to huddle in the thin foliage where the tuft tapered into bare wood. "Can't tell what it is. fuzzy green patch." Laython grinned too. Laython started off around the trunk. "It's trying to miss. Claw sandals would only have hampered his long. Harp had a good brain and a facile tongue. Harp had given in. clawing his way across the green cotton. but it seemed even more distant than the green tip of the integral tree. Laython called. he saw more of nothing. and the mass of the branch itself shuddering endlessly. He didn't have to say anything. His torso was short and burly. What showed instead was a large. There would be no flood. The thing's injured. and his toes were mere decoration. but he doesn't have to hunt.Looking up. "Dinner!" A quivering black speck. as usual. Gavving looked up once and was disheartened at their lack of progress. and the Chairman's son to boot. Thereafter he kept his head bent to the wind. Harp!" "That isn't an injured turkey. Laython said. Laython cried. even so. They had been washed into the sky.a glinting fleck that might indeed have been a pond. It's an injured swordbird. The head came in view." Harp said. Gavving had been six years old when the last flood came. The quivering dot came closer. Night had cut the illumination in half. Harp followed. The Grad had once told Gavving. He remembered a roar that drowned the wind. "We'll get you some claw sandals when you're older. He stopped moving. He stood less than two meters tall. Harp must have hated it. but in the windward direction.. The slender torso was slowly rotating. "Who says so? The Grad? The Grad's full of theory. his long arms pulling him against the wind. irregular. his muscular arms and legs had no reach. "Harp. prehensile toes. Seeing was easier. Gavving's father and two apprentice hunters hadn't been warned in time. what are you doing?" "Nobody in his right mind goes after a swordbird. The great translucent fin blurred with speed as it tried to win clear of the trunk. fast. He remembered terror.faraway streamers of cloud shaping a whorl of storm. It was long and narrow and moving tail-first. "Swordbird." "It'll go around the other side! Come on!" They crawled. "Harp looks like the pictures of the Founders in the log. "Fluff! It's a bead injury that got infected with fluff. He was not easy to . boy. but he must have suffered. Looks big. The trunk was a great brown wall three klomters in circumference. He was using claw sandals. We all looked like that once. The tribe had bufrowed east along the branch. though he was puffing. superciliously. until he heard Laython yell.." "It's still meati And it's probably starving too. this far in!" Harp snorted." Harp decided. Two eyes glittered behind the beak. frantic haste. one hundred and twenty degrees apart." Laython was half again Harp's size." Harp grinned back at him... panic. out. Gavving snorted and moved to join them. He was half out of the foliage. with the sunglare around on the other side of Voy. and sprinted ahead of them both.

and flung it out. Gavving thought. He bellowed. he threw his own weapon.and now it turned to face them. Harp frowned. Laython could be right. "It could work. The creature did look gaunt. and there was that soft green carpet over one eye. The middle was attached to his waist. . waving in that vivid scarlet blouse. We'll miss it. If we're lucky it could smash itself against the trunk. With eyes on him. Laython swore. It whipped around. He hurried to anchor his own line. dreadfully close. mouth gaping. What was it doing this far in? Swordbirds fed on creatures that fed in the drifting forests.." And he stood up. The business end was a grapnel: hardwood from the finned end of the branch. It would surely see him. strong fingers around Harp's shoulder and said. An isolated mouth came toward them: an elliptical field of teeth. The swordbird must have seen. and there were few of these. Its flank smashed bark from the trunk above their heads. you copsik. Gavving was armpit-deep in branchlets and cotton. "Hiyo! Swordbird! Meat. yelled. then his toes dug into the foliage while he hauled in line. hopefully. Harp's grapnel grazed its side and passed on. A head injury. Gavving thought. steadied himself. He pulled his line loose from his back. bigger than a hut-all mouth and wings and tail. Harp yanked. Gavving saw Harp's line fly past him. Nobody ever risked losing his line. But he would not show cowardice on his first hunt. I guess. where can I hurt it?" "Eye sockets. The swordbird whipped around.. Gavving froze for an instant. Laython howled in rage and threw his grapnel ahead of it. hands maintaining his deathgrip on the line. if he had his line. "Harp. But hnmRns had the sense to stay in shadow until the fluff withered and died. Little enough of anything. impossibly fast. and snapped up Gavving's harpoon like a tidbit. yes! Gavving hadn't grasped that a creature could see him as meat until that moment. The wind smashed at him. toes digging deeper. to reach their side of the trunk. He burrowed into the foliage to pound a spike into solid wood." The swordbird seemed bigger every second: bigger than a man. Harp whooped.discipline. so far in toward Voy. Fluff was a green plant parasite that grew on an animal until the animal died. He wrapped toes and one fist in branchlets. The trunk shuddered. and moored the line to it. Gavving howled in terror. and semaphored his free arm. expanding. A hunter who fell into the sky might still find rest somewhere. The creature didn't try to escape: it was still fluttering toward them. trying to hook the beast. He reeled in line for another try. Starving.rguing! I say we go for Gold. or heard. he continued to behave as if he wanted contact with the killer beast. triangular tail fluttering as it tried to gain way to starboard. and missed again. "We'll miss it if we wait here e. and then it'll be past. a mass of meat as big as the bachelors' longhut. The creature hadn't seen them. meat!" Harp made a sound of disgust. Laython swung the grapnel round his head. some more than once. sense of direction fouled up and it was meat. He wrapped long. It attacked humans too. and tearing himself out of his paralysis. It must be ravenous. Laython coiled line in frantic haste. Everybody got it sooner or later." The beast had misjudged. The tail was a translucent membrane enclosed in a V of bone spines with serrated edges. He'd hooked it.

It grazed the swordbird's flank. What I want to know is." . it could blow him past the tuft. Perhaps it was thinking things over. watching them with two good eyes while the wind pulled it west. Its body snapped into a curve.." The Scientist pulled a handful of foliage from the wall and tried to scrub the scalpel clean. yourself?" "Yes. Its mouth continued to work. his other arm waving in circles to hold his body from turning. The Scientist entered the hut with the air of a blind man.. talking under his breath. He tried to keep that out of his voice. A drillbit burrowed into her. The swordbird flapped hard. "Grad?" "Day. "Damn. but she'd have died anyway. "What do you think?" The Grad had come in a fury and grown yet angrier while waiting in an empty hut. Then Gavving's. but he heard Laython shriek. then branchlets ripped and his line pulled free. Laython pulled hard on the line and sank the hardwood tines deep in flesh. "Martal's dead. The swordbird's body snapped into a U. trying to deal with Gavving's harpoon in its throat. Then the immense mass of the beast had pulled him into the sky. The swordbird's tail froze. The roof and walls were a clutter of paraphernalia stuck into the wickerwork: boards and turkey quills and red tuftberry dye for ink. Who were you talking to.. Laython wasn't retreating. The Scientist's hut was like all of Quinn Tribe's huts: live spine branches fashioned into a wickerwork cage. He had readied his harpoon and was waiting. why me?" "The Chairman's a fool. The swordbird decided. and relics from the time before men left the stars. and Laython was gone. Torn branchlets were still clenched in Gavving's toes. past the entire branch. Laython too had been pulled loose.and wind was stronger than tide. He might have pulled himself back to safety can't leave drillbit eggs. He looked down into the cushiony expanse of the tuft. He thinks science could have stopped the drought. tools for teaching. making west now. Laython poised with spear ready. Almost alone among the creatures of the Smoke Ring. His own throat closed tight. but there was no sense of luxury. as the predator flapped toward him.. Its tail slashed Laython in half almost before he could move his spear. men have no wings. Gavving snatched for it and missed. He hadn't looked at the Grad. no way to stop them. Have you heard about the expedition?" "Yes. I probably killed her myself digging it out. But his line was still anchored. The serrated tail slashed effortlessly through Gavving's line." He looked up. They just burrow in." He scrubbed at his arms ferociously. Laython's line went taut. Instead he crawled along the line. wondering whether to let go and drop. Laython's line went taut. tools for science. His hands were bloody to the elbows. as the wind carried it east. I can't get anyone to tell me anything. Barely. It was bigger than some. Spine branches ripped through Gavving's inadequate toes. "I think the Chairman's trying to get rid of some citizens he doesn't like. The beast's mouth snapped shut four times. He scraped at them with handfuls of foliage. out and away. but he continued to watch. damn drillbits. then hurled the wads of bloody foliage away from him. away from their predatorprey.

THEY BLOW FROM THE WEST AT THE INNER TUFT AND FROM THE EAST AT THE OUTER TUFT (WHERE IN IS TOWARDS LEVOY'S STAR. THE STRUCTURE BOWS TO THE WINDS. CURVING INTO A NEARLY HORIZONTAL BRANCH AT EACH END." Incredulous laughter was his answer.. You could all come back with." "No..." "I." "Integral trees have a way. IF DISCIPLINE HAS INDEED ABANDONED US.whatever we need: breeding turkeys." "You'll decide for yourself whether to tell any of the others what you're carrying." The Scientist's eyes dropped. flat enough to fit into a pack four boxes each the size of a child's hand. IF WE ARE INDEED MAROONED . "You won't have much chance to study on the trunk. IN THE FREE-FALL ENVIRONMENT PLANTS CAN SPREAD THEIR GREENERY WIDELY TO CATCH MAXIMUM SUNLIGHT AND PASSING WATER AND SOIL. The Grad thought he saw guilt there. where there's air and water and soil?" "Everything but trees and men. some kind of meat animal living on the trunk. That's why I'm giving you these. THE MEDICAL DANGERS OF LIFE IN FREE-FALL ARE WELL KNOWN. But if I'm right. WE FIND AT LEAST ONE EXCEPTION. "I suppose I am.. THE PLANT FORMS A LONG TRUNK UNDER TERRIFIC TENSION." "But you don't think so. "You blamed it on me. but the most important thing in it is the tree." He pulled treasures from the spine-branch walls: a glassy rectangle a quarter meter by half a meter. Now let's do one last drill session. AS USUAL). but the eyes were steady..Oh."Then you're in trouble too?" The Grad got it then. WITHOUT BOTHERING ABOUT STRUCTURAL STRENGTH.had the idea you were only guessing. THEY FORM THOUSANDS OF RADIAL SPOKES CIRCLING LEVOY'S STAR. The Grad's response was a musical "O-ooh..." PLANTS LIFE PERVADES THE SMOKE RING BUT IS NEITHER DENSE NOR MASSIVE." The Scientist looked at him at last. What have I told you about the tree? We've studied the universe together. THE FOLIAGE SIFTS FERTILIZER FROM THE WIND.." The Scientist plugged a cassette into the reader screen. STABILIZED BY THE TIDE. WITH UP TO A FIFTH OF A GEE IN TIDAL "GRAVITY" AT THE TUFTS AND PERPETUAL HURRICANE WINDS. "I let him think you were to blame. I taught you. "What.. THE WINDS DERIVE FROM SIMPLE ORBITAL MECHANICS. THEY GROW UP TO A HUNDRED KILOMETERS IN LENGTH. more gear to carry up a hundred klomters of trunk?" "Grad. there are some things I want you to have -. I see. I don't know -.. there won't be anything left but you and the people who go with you. this could be nothing. TUFTED WITH GREEN AT BOTH ENDS. Didn't I teach you that everything that lives has a way of staying near the Smoke Ring median. THESE INTEGRAL TREES GROW TO TREMENDOUS SIZE.Jeffer. Jeffer. You're willing to bet my life. yes. Now.

anyway?" "Rocks. Jinny too.we'll pick some foliage before we leave the tuft -. She looked up and said.. Tastes better. now." Jayan stopped working. ESCAPE IS EASY. She didn't add that she had never wanted to go at all. "We went underside. "King. what game are . She was seven years older than Clave. "Thinking of changing your mind?" "Too late. others buzzed around him." "Aren't we all. nine. Some just watched. "When's dinner? We're still hungry. I never thought of that. And did you take a grownup with you?" Jill." King was a happy eight-year-old painted in brown dust. the Scientist said. I gave her a net for them. WE COULD DO WORSE THAN TO SFITLE THE TUFTS OF THE INTEGRAL TREES. The citizens like you." "I won't stay. trying to help him assemble the harpoons and the spikes or asking an endless stream of questions. "Clave." Not with Mayrin and the Chairman here.. IF THE TREES PROVE MORE DANGEROUS THAN WE ANTICIPATE. The boys imitated him. a stocky woman with the square jaw of her father. the Chairman. But. "I could bust you loose." Clave said with just the proper level of regret. There's no foliage on the trunk! We won't have anything to eat!" "We'll find something.. they wouldn't let -. Sometimes she wondered if Jinny ever felt that way..if not for Jinny. He wasn't getting much work done.hope we've got enough spikes what else do we need? Is Jinny back?" "No.. if she could. I hope she finds us a good grindstone. "Mayrin.. They had come like a wind through the Commons. they had seen trees from outside. but she'll have to go all the way to the treemouth. She called. "What are you doing? Why do you need so many harpoons? And all this rope? Is it a hunting trip?" "I can't tell you." Clave's wife stood in the half-shadows on the far side of the Cornmona.WITHIN THIS WEIRD ENVIRONMENT. I'm glad we got those. and Clave gone. You could fall through. WE NEED ONLY JUMP AND WAIT TO BE PICKED UP. Sometimes she looked up to watch the children. The girls loved Clave.. and soon. coiling lines." "Did you take lines? Those branches aren't as strong as they used to be." That was an awesome thought.. mighty hunter." Clave turned to Jayan. "Mmm. "We've got enough packs. did they?” "No. and the wind had died and left them scattered around Clave. She loved Clave too. "I'm afraid you may have to start training your own Grad. The foliage is greener there. What did you send her for. While he chewed it. "They really didn't know very much about the trees.claw sandals jet pods. we won't be carrying food. where have you been? You're all sticky. we'll find water on the trunk." Jayan sat cross-legged. The Grad looked up. She might have been there for some time." Jayan said." Jayan didn't blame the children. She would have kept him for herself. "Clave. That's why we're going. There was no point. Jeffer. though it seemed he was trying. had the wit to distract him." Clave said briskly.

Here in the main depths of Quinn Tuft there were tunnels through the foliage. She had it clutched in her arms. but its meaning was common. "We're in trouble. Any fool can foresee the past. Drought and famine." "I couldn't. remember? A pond no bigger than a big hut. Clave. You and them. we've got this." Gavving relaxed a little. It used to be two days between sleeps. The branchiets around the tunnels were dry and nude." When Gavving didn't answer. and nobody but Clave thought to go for the cookpot. In the low tidal pull they bounced on the foliage as if it and they were made of air. "Four days ago the whole tribe was throwing lines into a pond. but rarely. 'cause I can' playing with this young woman when you might be finding meat for the citizens?" "Orders. The tribe could not survive on the sugary foliage forever. once. Now Harp and Gavving had room to walk. It wouldn't help. a long half-cylinder. Ask the Grad to tell you why." She approached. He almost wanted it to end." Mayrin said and stalked away. "Did I ever tell you.. and she lost her balance . Flying things still passed. The days had been longer before the passing of Gold. He stopped to look into his own dwelling. But Glory was trying to move the cookpot. I hope you fall into the sky. the bachelors' longhut.. Harp thought that the tree was dying." Gavving said and sniffled. Gavving shook his head. An opening in the cotton: the turkey pen. The taunt was archaic. If we hide.Water still ran down the trunk sometimes. "This was twelve or thirteen years back.and Gavving felt like the world had ended. We didn't think that was stupid till it was gone past. meat to be drawn from the howling wind. before he had to tell the Chairman about his son. As if we could pull it to us. He needed a distraction. But the Grad thought so too. Huts nestled against the vertical flank of the branch. "Would you like to assist our departure? We need blankets. Besides. The Grad had tried to explain why." "Twenty-twenty." Harp jeered. and by the time he got back -. So if she'd just fallen on the turkey pen. but it's true. There would be no more unless a wild one could be captured from the wind. and world-sized disasters make rich tales. but never enough. but the Scientist had caught them at it and whacked the Grad for spilling secrets and Gavving for listening. Nine. smiling. and it masses three times what she does. "Copsik! You've mocked me too long. My father and I arranged it together. now it was eight. feel free.. we don't eat." "I hope I don't. "Sure we are. with one gloomy turkey still alive. Harp was a teller. It was empty.." Clave said mildly. "The expedition. their foliage stripped for food. "about Glory and the turkeys?" "No. Better have an extra. it wouldn't have busted. Well. and the tunnels ran past." "If you'd like to believe that." The smile slipped. "You should have stopped him." Harp hefted the dead musrum. but there's no point in acting like it. Things didn't fall as fast then. Quinn Tribe must be gathered for the evening meal. before Gold passed by. Changes. or something like it." "I wouldn't send even Clave to catch a swordbird." Harp asked. Harp said." "Fetch them yourself.

"Where's Laython?" "Lost. That was when we took Glory off cooking duties. far west ." The Chairman looked stricken." Gavving said. The turkeys were all through the Clump and into the sky." the Chairman said. We started around the trunk. A victim of fluff could come out at night long enough to share a meal. Empty. Harp and Gavving went to him." Another hollow." "It's night. and he looked unhappy." Harp said. and they handed the gourds back as soon as possible." That was common courtesy for returning hunters. The Chairman's chest was still half-covered in fluff but the patch had contracted and turned mostly brown. Their catch looked like a fleshy mushroom. "I wish he were still in confinement. Children wore blouses only. They pressed on. "Wait. The Commons was a large open area. a big one: three rooms shaped from spine branches. He was a square-jawed. Presently we could raise our heads into the sky and see the bare trunk stretching out to infinity -. We got maybe a third of them back. bounded by a wickerwork of branchiets. Gavving was glad when Harp took up the tale. All were uncommonly silent. "Tomorrow's breakfast. Then she smashed into the turkey pen. There was nothing on our side of the trunk. irritable.and started running to keep it from hitting the ground. They were given scooped-out seedpods containing a few mouthfuls of greens and turkey meat in broth. the scar was half-healed. When they emerged into the Commons their faces were dignified. The cookflre had nearly burned out. handed him their catch." There was firelight ahead of them now. It looked far from appetizing. and their eyes avoided nobody. "Your pardon. They ate with hungry eyes on them." he said courteously. perhaps by some predator. "Dead. Men and women wore blouses and pants dyed with the scarlet the Scientist made from tuftberries and sometimes decorated with black. neither of danger nor salvation. before Gavving could say. Eat first. transparent cylinder with a lid of the same material. That red would show vividly anywhere within the tuft. "Food for the tribe. brawny man in middle age. with a stalk half a meter long and sense organs and a coiled tentacle under the edge of the cap. but society's law bound the Chairman too. Most of the tribe formed a scarlet circle with the cookpot in the center. a tall." Harp said. Gavving said." Harp answered. "He'll see us come in. Then Laython saw a swordbird. but for Gavving the waiting was torture. and the cookpot-an ancient thing. "Now talk. Part of the cap had been ripped away. Harp trailing the musrum on his line. Night was only a dimming while the far arc of the Smoke Ring filtered the sunlight. but a cubic klomter of foliage blocked light too. "We left with the other hunters and climbed along the trunk. Gavving smiling." "My son is lost and you give me poetry?" Harp jumped. Hungry. "It was as if she'd thought it out in detail.retained no more than a double handful of stew. He took it. "The Chairman must be almost over the fluff. A lung ran down the center of the stalk/body to give the thing jet propulsion. "How?" Then.

West of the treemouth was nothing but sky. We cast our grapnels and I hooked the thing. Gavving." "He may find rest somewhere. Martal was among them. the Scientist says so himself. If left alone it would eventually burrow through and depart. go on. letting him show as the doomed hero. Almost half were children. "Alter five days' sleep we will assemble for Martal's last rites. leaving its gut as an expanding bag that trailed behind it. keeping his language lean.. strike. Four days passed. Second: the Council has decided to send a full hunting expedition up the trunk. Martal has been killed by a drillbit." Harp said. then beyond. tripled in size. too far toward Voy. here at the westernmost point of the branch. A drillbit was a tiny creature. The sky was all about them. It would fly out of the wind too fast to see. There was nothing we could do. Gavving tried not to picture a drillbit boring into her guts." The Chairman looked ill with disgust.and borne toward us on the wind. "We saw Laython and the swordbird pulled east by the wind. . passing lightly over Laython's disobedience. You'll be informed of your mission in detail after the funeral." Chapter Two -.Leavetaking THE TREEMOUTH WAS A FUNNEL-SHAPED PIT THICKLY LINED with deadlooking.. but by the Scientist's knife as he dug for it. We've fallen too far in. flanked by four of her family." Harp told it all." The Chairman's voice was only half-controlled. and there was no protection from the wind." the Chairman said." Martal was an older woman. The citizens of Quinn Tuft nested in an arc above the nearly vertical rim. no water trickles down the trunk -. Almost calm. leaving a clutch of eggs in the abandoned gut. too busy to talk to children. The wound was above her hip: a gash made not by the drillbit. to win out and moor himself along the trunk. at the lower rim of the funnel.. along a klomter of naked branch. Have you traded my son for musrum meat? But the Chairman said. the Chairman said. you will join the expedition.he could anchor at the median and go down well. and burrow into flesh. You must know of today's events. Gavving's father's aunt. Mothers folded their babes within their tunics. no bigger than a man's big toe. he thought. Fifty or more were gathered to say good-bye to Martal. but with a last lingering trace of horror. We saw nothing but a musrum borne on the wind. "We waited in the hope that Laython might find a way to return." "Am I not hungry enough to know this myself? Every baby knows better than to hunt a swordbird." "But he has his line?" "He does. naked spine branches. "A forest somewhere. "You went after a swordbird?" "There is famine in Quinn Tuft. No beasts fly near. He's lost to Quinn Tribe at least. And while he shuddered. Well. "You are the last of the hunters to return. she had been Quinn Tribe's premier cook. First. A wrinkled woman who was always busy. perhaps. Quinn Tribe showed like scarlet tuftberries in the thick foliage around the treemouth. Another tree. Gavving heard in his mind. Gavving studied the dead woman's face. They must not return without a means for our survival.

Far down the arc." "Clave's the top hunter in the tuft! He's the Chairman's son-in-law!" "But he's not living with Mayrin. The good news is just a rumor. closed it. All right. I could even be wrong. Harp was afraid. I talk good. Gavving dropped it. and the storms had diminished." "Clove?" "Himself. embattled storms. Blinding agony like knives in his eyes.. insects or larger creatures. the Scientist said. the tree had moved closer to Voy." And Harp drifted off.. He -. Voy had been dimmer then and blurred. The spine branches migrated slowly forward. "For what?" Though Gavving knew what he meant "You wouldn't be going if Laython wasn't dead. Thin. too far below the Smoke Ring median. uncharacteristically at a loss for words. Clave's your leader. until it faded out near Voy.. all were filtered by the finely divided foliage or entangled in the branchiets. some could not. Harp edged up beside him."I can't get anyone to tell me anything.. You were an afterthought. shoulder-high to Gavving. narrowing as it curved around in the west.. . where the rivulets ran. west along the branch. until gradually all was swallowed into the great conical pit. and new ones had to be built every few years.I'd be guessing.. Gold was a clot of streaming. shrugged." "What?" "It's too complicated. The Smoke Ring was a line of white emerging from the pale blue sky. "What have you heard?" "Good news and bad. runny nose. Maybe. dust or mud. That was before the rivulets had dwindled so drastically. It always blew directly into the treemouth. "I'm sorry. He remembered hating the Scientist for his predictions of disaster.wouldn't you be going?" Harp spread his hands. "You've got too many friends. it could still be true that the Chairman's getting rid of anyone he doesn't like.. Some could tolerate it. a blazing pinpoint like a diamond set in a ring. Nine of you. slept too little. It was all sharper and clearer than it had been when Gavving was a child." he said. Have you thought of the stories you could bring back?" Harp opened his mouth. dry air. Quinn Thit spread wide green sails into the wind. Voy was directly below. Even old huts migrated into the treemouth to be crushed and swallowed. This present drought had taken years to reach its peak. The wind too had become stronger. He bad lain too long awake." "You think this is the Chairman's punishment. The shrieking winds had been terrible enough but Gold had passed.The allergy attack had come days later. Gavving was told to sleep above the treemouth. Gavving had been ten years old. He had wondered." "You could volunteer. his belly was already churning as it tried to digest a breakfast of musrum stew. but. His gaze followed the arm around and down and in. I thought so too. tightness in his chest. he was told. and now he knew.." he said. Water. That could be it. for the fear those predictions raised. but Gavving had felt the disaster at once. Gold had dropped the tree's orbit.Looking at Martal made Gavving queasy. Aside from that. to catch anything that the wind might bear." "Sure. At the passing of Gold. supposed to be eight. Now.

That sour old man hated half the tribe for one reason or another. glossy cloth was beginning to show signs of wear. He spoke long. and all had died before the age of six. The bright spot. It's only a hunting party! His jumpy belly knew better. let alone garbage to feed the insects and the tree. but somehow Gavving couldn't laugh. Gavving thought suddenly: the old uniform would fit Harp perfectly. The pants came to just below the knees. looked unwontedly serious. or washwater. here came the Chairman. but the water reached the treemouth as cookwater. praising Martal's last contribution to the health of the tree. Gavving had feared him once. Her entourage had retreated to the rim.. but their toes were nipping at a copter patch. Others were having trouble suppressing laughter. He attended all funerals. He'd had four brothers and a sister. tiny blades whirring at each end. like too many children in Quinn Tuft. then stepped aside for the Chairman. how would Gavving be chosen for a last-ditch foraging expedition? . ill-fitting. tobacco and maize and tomatoes. When Gavving was younger his tasks had included carrying collected earth and manure and garbage to pack into the treemouth. the sun.. The Scientist wore the ancient falling jumper that signified his rank: a two-piece garment in pale blue. Meanwhile yes. In this time of famine they died more easily yet. to "feed the tree. The branch was nude for half its length. There wasn't food for the tribe. The Grad was right. Alfin had had care of the treemouth for longer than Gavving had been alive. Four young boys were all studious attention. to join Alfin. blurring. The Chairman spoke. The crops were nearly dead. The ripe plants responded by launching their seedpods. passing prey were all too rare. He spoke of another loss. removing rocks to use elsewhere. with pictures on one shoulder. but today he truly looked bereaved. they had to be harvested before the tree swallowed them.He was the last of his family. Earthlife crops were grown here too. and the Scientist wore it only for official functions. of the son who was lost to Quinn Tuft wherever he might be. the treemouth custodian. He kept it short. carefully robed and hooded against the light. Even the insects were dying out. Of Martal's bad temper he said nothing. reminding those present that one day they must all fulfill that obligation. Everything he saw today squeezed memories out of him. The streams that ran down the trunk found an artificial catchbasin above. attended by the Scientist and the Grad. and Gavving's mind wandered. a blond boy four years older than Gavving. Children were taught how to care for the tree.Everything came to the treemouth. Gavving wondered if it was for Martal or for himself. Soon enough it would brighten and coalesce in the east. it wasn't growing new foliage. was dropping. But in these dark days. finding and killing pests. The boys stood solemnly in a buzzing cloud of copters. or when citizens came to rid themselves of body wastes.. the tunic left a quarter meter of gray-furred belly. Hero of a single failed hunt. of her skill with the cookpot he said a good deal. as if he were seeing it all for the last time." Martal's cushion of spine branches had already carried her several meters downslope. The Grad.. The Scientist spoke. Day was dimming. he remembered. After untold generations the strange. He hadn't liked it much-Alfin was a terror to work under-but some of the pests had been edible. as if he were barely holding his grief in check. Treemouth humor.

. claw sandals. nets. Alfin watched her with smoldering hate. with no children. but it spoke more of Alfin's tendency to hold grudges. One-legged Jiovan stood beside her. He looked about him and said. and now his eye did fall on selected individuals. half a dozen jet pods. impassive. They watched him prodding the piled equipment with his feet. but Jiovan was muttering steadily under his breath. I had a hand in plsiinning it. and he never let anyone forget it. and he told another regarding the pink scar that ran down her right leg. . garbage man. eyes downcast. Her long fingers were callused. treefodder. Merril seemed impassive. Jiovan had returned barely alive. even walking. gained when she was still involved in cooking duties. coils of line. When the long speech ended. Glory waited cross-legged. and the need for sacrifice. full of nervous energy. Gavving among them. his companions? Gavving's belly clenched agonizingly on the musrum." He toed a pile of blankets and added. the stump tourrnquetted with his line." "Now..Vengeance for Laython. Then something had attacked him. Equipment was piled on the web of dry spine branches that Quinn Tribe called the ground. These. Others had arrived before him. Even at a glance they seemed an odd selection. what is that supposed to mean?" "Nothing. the Grad had come armed with his own line and harpoon." The Grad had long been Gavving's friend. funeral director. There'd better be.he was no hunter. He saw a familiar face and called. He seemed eager. "Right. relaxed. happy type in a traditionally studious profession. middle-aged. spikes. nodding. She clung to the wicker wall of the Commons." "Maybe there s something to eat on the trunk. but he was here. homely woman. Gavving made for the Commons with all haste. though. Her clumsiness had given her an unwanted fame.a reassuring stack of what it would take to keep them alive. "Gradi Are you coming too?" The Grad loped to join them. with ribs broken and his left leg torn away. Martal was another two meters downslope. briskly. Then Clave entered the Commons. something he would never describe. nodding. There was the tale of the turkey cage. She blamed Harp the teller for that. "Oh.. with a hand in the brauchiets to hold him balanced. And Merril? Merril would have been a big woman if her tiny. No wonder he'd looked bereaved. The Chairman departed hurriedly ahead of the brightening day. Gavving could remember Jiovan as an agile. He looked about him as if liking what he saw. Gardener. grapnels. and why not? She used them for He saw no food. Glory was a big-boned. with a young woman on each arm. twisted legs had matched her torso. Four years later the old wounds still hurt him constantly. The hate in Alfin's eyes recalled the time she'd clouted him across the ear with a branchwood beam. A bouncy.." he confided. Clave was coming. let alone an explorer. "At least we won't go naked.. It was true. Were the others being punished too? Who were the others? How would they be equipped? When would this endless funeral be over? The Chairman spoke of the drought. reckless hunter. waiting. Except. her arms were long and strong.." "Hungry. and not without justice. but he wasn't much of a hunter. brown sacks of coarse cloth. Harpoons.

Smaller cracks made easy grip for fingers. He had to kick a little to seat them right.Alfin was wrong. and started up the trunk. Clave had made no threats. Then stuff your packs with foliage. The far tuft was almost invisible. Has everybody got his dagger?" It was night when they pulled themselves out of the foliage." "Just what are we supposed to be doing with all this?" "We go up along the trunk. Clave called. and his long toes could throw a rock as well as Gavving's hands. the dark and pretty daughters of Martal and a long-dead hunter. I mean it." "On the bare trunk?" Clave looked him over. Gavving set to assembling his pack. Clave was the ideal hunter: built long and narrow. We're being thrown out. He could pick a man up by wrapping the fingers of one hand around the man's head. I'll take the extras. The Scientist tells me that the trunk is a hundred klomters long. moored with your line. Jayan Jinny. He could outshout thunder when he wanted to."Good.. You need at least one to hammer spikes into wood. We won't see foliage again for a long time. If Clave was going. "We've got six pairs of claw sandals. His pack tended to pull him over backward. He stuck it between his back and the pack. Maybe he wanted it lower? The tide . but the bark must have been meters thick.. Grad "Gavving. We keep going until we find whatever it takes to save the tribe." Clave rode him down. Alfin?" He waited." "You know why we're going. twins. with cracks big enough to partly shield a climber. but take your choice. You'll probably want it on your back. and Gavving's stomach had been wrong too. and they still emerged blinking." Gavving tore off a spine branch laden with green cotton candy. They would find what the tribe needed. We'll find out who else needs them. And that didn't matter either. Maybe more. then. Gavving wasn't used to claw sandals. Start dividing it up. Anyone who stayed would be subject to charges of mutiny. Take a few rocks. it isn't here. We renew the Quinn markings as we go. The trunk seemed infinitely tall. and they would return. "Stay. but Alfin didn't answer." Alfln's voice was almost inaudible. Alfin spoke." The musruin loosed its grip on Gavving's belly. Clave said. and look at who -." "I'm coming. "Nine fewer mouths to feed. Without orders. and didn't have to. His companions were Jayan and Jinny. or they slipped. and you may want some for throwing." he said briskly and looked about him at his waiting companions. they began loading equipment into the sacks. There were no spine branches. Lose your pack and I'll send you home. "We're going to have to carry all this treefodder. Everyone take four mooring spikes. We don't know what's up there. "Take a few minutes to eat. "We've spent all our lives along two klomters of branch. Others moved forward to help. Clave was already ahead of him. then. They had been assigned. "I take it you're our leader?" "Right. blurred and blued almost to the color of the sky. "Would you like to stay. It could be food -." Alfln said. The bark of the trunk was different from the traveling bark of the branch. You explain why you didn't come. two and a half meters of bone and muscle. Whatever we need.

Alfin alone was still down there in the last fringes of tuft. Let him see what he can snag when they kick him into the sky. just her line. But Gavving noted that his pack was larger than the others'. I think I could be Chairman myself. Something odd there. but not this. things would drift without falling. "Do you need claw sandals. "If there's anything left that can save the tribe. are you?" "I haven't quite decided. clinging to his bunk.. with two arms and a leg. "I meant what I said. they can take care of themselves. But it won't do that copsik any good! He's only got rid of the lames -. She'd find it easier. And she didn't like that. something wrong. they seemed about to weep. see if you can outclimb me. I couldn't. He was still worried about Merril. Was he carrying something besides provisions? Merril had no pack. she was really built to make babies. I suppose they do. Appeal to his pride? He called down. and her father didn't like it either." Clave told him. but against the trunk too.. But .helped. They were moving well. Alfin was the oldest of his team.. was overtaking Clave himself." Clave worked his pack open while Alfin moved up to join him. This whole crazy.well. And if we find it. She managed to keep up using her arms alone." "Who?" "The Chairman. the ones who couldn't hurt him anyway. above Gavving on the thick bark. Aifin?" Alfin may have considered any number of retorts. The Grad was moving well but puffing.. "Maybe. Jayan and Jinny. moving with just two arms. but at least she was trying. He's kicked out the lames." Alfin snorted. What he called back was. it's somewhere over our heads. What do you think?" Startled. Jiovan. but he was muscular. pushing forty. Maybe he spent too much time studying." Clave said. Jiovan. Clave had expected trouble from Alfin. futile surge of homesickness blocked Gavving's own throat. you can try it when we get back. though his jaw was clenched in pain." "Oh. you and your women too. I can. They looked down they looked at each other. Alfin was climbing with his eyes half-shut. they'll kick out whoever's in charge." "If you think I'm a lame." Clave said. A sudden. She'd slow them down. He lusted to be back in the bachelors' hut. Let's say I'm just mad enough to go for Gold. The twins resumed their climb. Aim peered into Clave's face. take the lead. "Everyone knows why you're here. "What's the difference? We're all dead anyway. Power hungry. But you know. if the Scientist's smoke dreams were to be believed. handing Alfin the sandals. when I was just old enough to notice that." "I'll wait. Gavving followed. when they got near the middle of the trunk. There would be no tide at all there. face buried in the foliage wall. "But if you think you'd like living with Mayrin. It pulled him not just downward. Jayan and Jinny. "I was hoping you could at least keep up with Merril. stopped as by mutual accord. Then." Clave said lightly. healthy. and if they can't. Alfin said nothing while he strapped one on. "Maybe. as if the trunk sloped. our precious Chairman! When people are starving. Clave thought.

" Alfin paled. Clave followed. but he answered. Knock against her when she's off balance. As now: Jinny was climbing with Cave. The men doffed their tunics and tucked them into their pack straps. monotonously: the wind. Jayan and Jinny were twenty-year-old twins.The Trunk DAY BRIGHTENED AND FADED AND BRIGHTENED AGAIN WHILE they climbed. for they had no fund of conversation. somewhat later." She looked down. thrash. nodded jerkily. if you give any of us trouble.I had to take Merril before the Chairman would give me jet pods. She seemed to move in convulsions. with pale skin and dark hair and lovely heart-shaped faces and nicely conical breasts. Constantly asking questions. till the tide is weaker. Chapter Three -." "Well. I don't know any two people with that boy's curiosity -. so that they slipped too often. and that was the last straw. but Gavving wondered. "One more thing. You're likely to need your anger." "How would you handle that?" It was rare to see Alfin smiling. I'll send you home the fast way." And when Alfin resumed climbing." "Not the point." "Gavving wasn't much worse than the other kids I've had to train. Get rid of Glory before she knocks someone off the trunk. "Merril will kill herself sooner or later. but he kept pausing to look down. Send her home the fast way. his missing leg. Fear held her rigid. Ask Jiovan. and Jayan stayed just beneath her. some of our party is dangerous to the rest. I've got enough trouble here.Skip it. Alfin. Slip at the wrong time." Clave said. and fall two or three meters before she caught an edge of bark. "I'll stay behind you. so did the women." "I don't take your orders. he was mpking mistakes. In other matters they showed good sense. Gavving thought. the bark handholds. I'll catch you. Alfin should have been one of the leaders. putting too . but in fact the sight distracted him from his climbing. Tired people make mistakes.. He never did anything wrong except be there when that damn fool Laython got swallowed. identical. Gavving's own shoulders and legs burned with fatigue.. Clave leered at Jayan and Jinny impartially." Gavving said. Gavving saw Glory slip. began climbing again. steadily. pacing her. He cursed as he climbed. You are a danger to us. "Keep going. Jiovan had lost ground after Clave resumed the lead. Wait till we're higher. He's just starting to show beard. setting his claw sandals wrong. Alfin. While she hugged herself ferociously against the tree. Worse. Easy enough to do something about it. that's what I was thinking too. Save it. He took his time answering. You hold grudges. Alfin. but Merril had dropped far behind. You spend too much energy being angry. Some citizens called them stupid. "You do. We've got problems enough without watching our backs because of you. Gavving moved crosswise until he was behind and to the side of her. Now lead off." "You know it. But Glory will kill someone else. If you slow me down. and then at the last minute he wished Gavving on me. Gavving didn't leer.

By the time Merril and Jayan had worked their way up. The trunk had grown to enclose it. Clave called down.big enough to climb in.. . "Stop! Hold it up!" "What's the matter?" Clave demanded." he cried and went limp. Abruptly the Grad shouted. mist still clung to the bark. They worked their way toward him. When she dropped into range he planted the palm of his hand under her buttocks and pushed her hard against the tree. "Drink! Bathe! Have water fights! Who's to stop us? If Quinn Tribe didn't want their water secondhand. we wouldn't be here." Clave laughed loudly. We'll get a drink. and clung. who whooped in delight. and the answer was too obvious. until the wind drowned him out. Clave said. The channel was fifty meters across and nearly dry over most of its water-smoothed surface. A hill of rock must have smacked into the tree long ago. They'd be hurting for food when sleeptinie came. who sputtered in surprise. The branch that waved above his pack was nearly bare now. Gavving could hear Jiovan's monotonous cursing as they climbed into the wind. The sky was empty out to some distant streamers of cloud and a dozen dots that might be ponds. Gavving gripped the bark. Gavving reached up for a fistful of green cotton and stuffed it in his mouth. But the tree still passed through the occasional cloud. She gasped. Of course they were thirsty. and water ran in a few pitiful streams toward Quinn Tuft below. She called to Clave. but it ran the wrong way. He was crossing a scar in the bark. "I dare not struggle on this precarious perch." Clave told them. and resumed climbing. "Any limit?" "What?" "On how much we drink. The water goes -. Jiovan. he bellowed. all hundreds of klomters out. Clave said. but to explore. "Is anybody thirsty?" They needed their breath. "Use your spikes if you have to. Merril and Jayan worked their way onto the rock. This is slippery stuff. wind and Coriolis force set it streaming around to the east as it fell. It made a fine platform." Falling water had carved a channel along the eastern side of the trunk." "Here. hanging onto his hands and feet so that he wouldn't go over. who advanced toward him with menace in their eyes. Jayan and Jinny. particularly since a stream had split to run round it on both sides." He worked their single cookpot from his pack and threw streams of water at selected targets: Merril. She slipped. They climbed in a spiral path." the Grad called from over their heads. Glory lay flat on the rock with her eyes closed. Clave had hammered spikes into the wood above the rock and attached lines. Gavving kept pace. "Watch yourselves. a puckering that ran down into the wood itself An old wound that the bark was trying to heal. "Swing around east. They rolled him in the stream.much effort into it.. They weren't here just to climb. Like the Chairman hosting a midyear celebration. Presently she crawled to the portside stream. half embedding itself. Mcml lay gasping while Jayan brought her water.

The Grad moved among them. you supervise. Gavving tracked it. Alfin scowled at his back. the mark will look silly to the swordbirds. Gavving asked. Now only the live rope itself held her from falling. "Gavving. A huge mouth opened and screamed. The rest of you. The wind was beating straight down on them now. she had plunged her own harpoon through the ."The Quinn Tribe markings!" Without the Grad to point it out. rest. You could see them if you were a klomter away. then crossed to Gavving's position. These days he rarely wondered if he would wake with his eyes and sinuses streaming in agony. Gavving felt a familiar pain in his ears. "It's nearly grown out." Alfin complained. A lid flicked closed. There was a hole in the tree. "If you can take some of the load." Clave ran a critical eye over his crew. reeling her in. They couldn't be read. "Why are the letters so big? You can hardly read them. Let's see how you do tomorrow with your muscles all cramped up. a score of days after the passing of Gold." the Grad said. the night before his first allergy attack. Grad. "I can work. From the blackness inside Gavving saw a thickening of the live rope and a single eye lifting on a stalk to look at him. He felt the jar through his arm and shoulder as the harpoon punched through. while the rope coiled itself around Glory. For that matter. The living rope thrashed and tried to fling Glory away. The Q took shape. Gavving pulled his harpoon from his pack before he moved. and these letters were three to four meters across. He crawled around Glory toward the living rope. But if you can't dig as deep as Jinny. with a curlicue mark across the D. I could carry more. start digging. Instead he scampered toward its source. refusing to look. Glory yelped." Clave told her. and when his ears popped it came: pressure/pain in his ears. He jabbed at it. "Where? Falling? Are we doing this for swordbirds and triunes to read?" The Grad smiled and passed on without answering." "He tells half a secret and leaves you hanging." Merril said. Jinny. What saved Glory was Glory herself." the Grad said." They left the tribal insignia carved deep and clear into the tree. "He does it all the time. they had to be inferred: DQ. leave the D alone." "They're not for us. That was what distracted him while a thick. He worked his jaw while he sought the old memory. Glory screamed again as her grip was torn loose. the stalk dodged. He didn't dare slash it. wood-colored rope lifted from the bark to wrap itself around Glory's waist. away from him. Just dig out the Q." They carved away bark and dug deeper into the wood with the points of their harpoons." "Tell me that tomorrow. you'll get it. But he'd never wakened on the vertical slope of the tree! He pictured himself climbing blind. The rope was pulling her sideways. spinning her. Alfin had overheard. Gavving would never have realized that this was writing. "We'll have to gouge this out. He made his way across the bark to clap her on the shoulder. Gavving saw her clinging to the bark with her face against it. He had seen writing only rarely. Alfin. "Is he crazy?" "Maybe. Someone should come here more often. He simply lived through it. When the Grad approached him.

turning the beast claws-outward from the tree In that position it was reeled in until harpoons could reach its head. like many creatures of the Smoke Ring. You only had to admit that your prey had hurt you . Lines wrapped Glory and trapped the creature's rope of a nose.futilely." You killed it. He jabbed at the eye again. A hut-sized beast leapt into the sky on three short. He and Jinny and the Grad pulled strongly.. Those little wings would barely move it. It had a touch of trilateral symmetry. in reverse. Lines spun out to bind its wings. They worked swiftly. "We quit. The mouth was lined with rows of triangular teeth. Then a black mass surged from the hole. Short wings spread. The mouth gaped improbably wide.brown hawser and gripped the point where it emerged. The others were outside. The forward pair were motive power and (as the Grad gleefully pointed out) ears. you clean it was an easy honor to dodge. and Glory was tired. with a twist. It was a digger. He jabbed at the mouth. who by now were moored on spikes outside. thick legs armed with crescent claws. Strictly speaking. dinner's on you. The mouth snapped shut and he struck only teeth. Even its trunk wasn't all that powerful. Something convulsed in the dark of the hole. Holes below each wing showed as organs of hearing when the Grad cut into them. You killed it. The wings could be cupped to gather sound. She clung to the haft with both hands while the rope bent around to attack Gavving. Gavving flung himself aside in time to escape being smashed loose. He put his arm over her shoulders and announced. Gavving pulled his harpoon loose from the eye. Gavving shrank back against the bark with his harpoon poised. The Grad searched until he found the sting that had been in its tip. chopping bark for fuel." . trying to reach the throat. Glory nearly fainted. examining the peculiar thing they had killed. Glory. Clave would use them to tip his grapnels. The Grad insisted on helping. Gavving saw with amazement that the rope was its nose. he didn't have the right. Gavving picked a spot and jabbed again and again. as if he had practiced all his life. He had thought it was trying to escape. the Grad said. He only came to himself when Clave shouted. Ten meters from its den it turned with astonishing speed. A smaller third wing was placed far back: a steering fin. "Gavving. He never noticed when the thing stopped moving. but this one would prefer to dig a hole and ambush its prey. just outside the hole. They cut steaks to be broiled and passed to the rest. then red-gray brain. drilling through bone. The size of an index finger. a claw swiped at him and missed. it was embedded in Glory's pack. Clave was screaming orders. Glory was streaming sweat. almost without words. The foray team had arrived in force. competently. you clean it. but he seemed eager. pulling it back against its stretching nose. They worked slowly. They set bigger slabs of meat to smoke at the back of the wooden cave. The beast's wings flapped madly. Gavving realized that his eyes were blurry with exhaustion. Everything in the Smoke Ring could fly in some sense. and went to work. as if they could read each other's minds. Jayan and Jinny worked at building a fire in the creature's lair.. They kept the claws. Gavving and Glory moored the corpse with lines and spikes.

"Nobody's fallen off. Today's catch is a good first step. Gavving spoke into it. "No. but no overt reaction to the word lame& Clave smiled at AIim. give me a status report." Gavving grinned. Mayrin is the Chairman's daughter." "If you know better than I do. when citizens get unhappy. I traded her in for two prettier. Why was the tribe able to spare you?" The west wind had softened as they climbed. He said. overfed. Bruises." Clave's team was well fed." Clave said reasonably. "Grad?" "Forget it. "Take our perches. "Turn it around. and renewing the Quinn markings." "That's not all of it and you know it. Your turn. "I was there!" "I know. It's a gravity effect -. "Is there anything else we should settle?" Into the silence Gavving said." Clave said with cheerful sarcasm. and there's an obvious replacement for the Chairman." "Uh-huh. that's what." . The carcass." "It'd solve everybody's problems."Good enough. maybe. Clave was stuck. "How do we cause a flood?" There was some laughter." Jiovan said and scowled at the chorus of agreement. mostly bones now. He knows some tribal history. "The Grad can back me up. Gavving was irritated and a bit relieved: nobody else understood the Grad's gibberish either. and stopping a famine." The Grad noticed the silence and laughed. He had his reasons. "Citizens. When things go wrong. the leader's in trouble." "He blamed it all on you!" Alfin cried. Clave said. And nobody nobody wanted to speak up for me. Glory. more loving women. Nobody's hurt." "Grad?" "The Scientist knows what he's doing. Quinn Tribe's custodian of the treemouth. but Alfin wasn't. what are you doing here?" "We're exploring the trunk. Meat smoked inside. perhaps. "The boy means. did that thing break any of your ribs?" "I don't think so. Have we lost any equipment?" There was a silence. The citizens are hungry." "Nobody loves you." Clave sounded surprised." "Many thanks for explaining it all." Alfin nodded and sighed as if a burden had been lifted from him. Even the Chairman's. why did you go out to die with the lames?" There was muttering. had been set to block the entrance. he's scared of you. Alfin. "Nobody loves me. but it was still formidable." Gavving was prepared to drop it. I didn't cause the drought! We rounded Gold. it blew streamers of smoke past the carcass. and he knew it. Clave said. let's carve up the rest. The Scientist himself almost got drafted! The Chairman is scared. How are we doing? Is anyone hurt?" "I hurt all over. They drifted on lines outside the cave. what are you doing here? You. Alfin forced words from himself "The Chairman thought it was a good joke." Clave called in. then keep talking. and Gold swung us too far in toward Voy. "Clave. down to where the Smoke Ring thins out. "Mayrin doesn't love me. Clave. the mighty hunter. "All over is good.

but he was dozing when Alfin spoke again.I got even. toward a metalcolored dot backed by rosy streamers of cloud. That's why the copsik bastard kept sending me under the branch on hunts. most of us got to safety." Gavving woke in the night and wondered where he was. but the waterfall tore away some of the huts. You can't catch a pond. Glory. a man's: "Yes. Let me sleep. what would you do. I'd be crazy not to be. A lot of water clings to the trunk. "I'm afraid of falling off." Glory: "Me too. And Gavving remembered: the cave was just large enough to accommodate nine exhausted climbers." "Just don't climb near me.. flesh to flesh. He half remembered the sounds of groans." Clave said."This is silly. It was a year before we caught any more turkeys. sound of many people breathing." There was quiet for a time." "What of it? It'll come or it won't. "I think it's bigger than it was. Someone in pain? It had stopped now. They huddled against each other. "That meat's probably done. Just forget it. Sound of wind. Usually we get some warning from a hunting party. "The Chairman knew it.." Pause. Let's get the smoke out and get inside. By now the offal might have reached Quinn Tuft. Aches everywhere. trying to hang on and throw a harpoon too. "Sure I do." "Enough. I think. throw lines and grapnels? Forget it. though.well. They must be keeping him awake.. "I can't sleep. Good for them. as if he'd been beaten." Gavving said and pointed east and out. and we all scurry out along the branch.." Alfin? Silence." "Did you hear groaning?" "Clave and Jayan. and the turkey pens. "And I wish we'd have another flood. Everything hurts. Gavving began to notice his own aching muscles and joints." the Grad said." "Knew what?" "He knows I'm afraid of falling. The tide pulls it down. Gavving had no way to avoid eavesdropping when Aim spoke again. "Are you awake too?" And another. and most of the earthlife crops. If it did come floating past." "I'm afraid you'll knock me off. why are you talking to me?" "I was hoping we could be friends. Nothing solid under me." . A woman's voice spoke near his ear. Floods come when a pond brushes the tree. ten years ago. aren't you afraid to be so high?" "I am. though his voice was a whisper. We're too far into the gas torus region--" "There. The big flood." "Oh. The Scientist thinks the whole tree-never mind. all right?" "All right. after they flung the nose-arm's bones into the sky. and believe me. somewhere on the trunk. Rich smells of smoke and perspiration. they're feeling no pain." "Alfin. to feed the tree.. Warm bodies all around him..

Gavving tapped her shoulder blade (and flinched at his own agony-signals). if your life depended on it. You could get used to it. "I still can't. and he joined them." Clave trod carefully among citizens who were awake but not mobile. the less we weigh. wild-eyed panic. Pretty soon we'll be floating. He cut the rest in half for Jayan and Jinny and spent a minute or two doing massage on their shoulders and hips." Alfin said without heat. perhaps with amusement. then rose onto her hands. That's good. From the back of the nose-arm's burrow he selected a slab of smoked. That's normal. "Never mind. will you lie with me?" A strained whisper. You're not crippled. as for thought. Jayan and Jinny commiserated with each other. It's the easiest way to carry provisions -." Alfin's voice rose to a shout. Not here. The meat had an odd. rank flavor. It made sense to Gavving. He listened to Jiovan describing his symptoms. He moved like a cripple to join Clave and began tearing into a meter's length of what had been the nose-arm's rib. They winced and groaned. we can't be alone!" "Did you have a lover. when all had eaten something. Nobody to protect us when the Chairman thought this up. though. From Glory. I was thinking I hurt. I'm going to get better at this. then interrupted with. "I wasn't thinking that. Clove didn't hurt. isn't it?" "Sure. Merril's face was blank and stoic as she flexed her arms. Alfin tried to move. grunted in pain." handing him more of the steak." "And we burned a lot of energy yesterday."How?" Glory asked while Gavving thought. gnawing at his huge slab of meat." The Grad spoke without trying to move." Her eyes turned sane. Chapter Four -. "You've got your wind back. Can't you tell? What are you worried about? You won't be left behind. then a look of betrayal thrown in Clave's direction. Gavvmg felt a stab of envy/anger. meat ragged with harpoon wounds. "Clave! Clave." "Treefodder." he instructed them." "Thank you for taking care of me yesterday. There's no room in here to do warm-up . On Jiovan's face. "I brought two. "Eat. I promise. amazement and agony as he tried to move. Clave looked around at his team. Clave moved among them. "Take your time over breakfast. He sliced a piece off and made Merril take it." A pause. "We'll all get better. "We all hurt. Alfin. She whispered. I'm really grateful. The higher we get. So did the Chairman." the Grad said. SOME SHOWED IT MORE THAN others. Glory.Flashers and Fan Fungus IN THE MORNING THEY HURT. you should have brought a masseuse!" Clave answered from the darkness. massaging each other's pains away. curled up with his face buried in his arms. Presently there was quiet. Presently. "No. Nobody's got the strength. Now eat. "We'll circle to the east and get water half a day after we start. he thought. back in the tuft?" "Most of us didn't.

And if you freeze. limbs splayed out as if he were trying to fly. He didn't hear what was said. produced a spike and a rock.exercises. and whether you actually feed the tree is up to the tide and the wind. "Ask first." . This time there was no natural perch. A frightened man can kill. but presently the tide was pulling him down against the tree again." Jayan said. where the rest of them hung." Clave gestured upward. But I have to know. Alfin tied the loose end of his line to both spikes and knotted it again. Gavving noticed Clave speaking to Alfin a little way below. They delayed to repair the Q in a 1x_ mark.. The line pulled taut and swung Alfin in against the tree." Aim leapt straight outward. "Look at them. but we're lifting less-And Alfin was still falling. There isn't any "white with rage". He pounded the spike in beside the one he was hanging from. easily reached. "That actually looks like fun. Nine thirsty citizens pounded spikes into the wood and hung by their lines to drink. Two extended hands would have covered all of Quinn Tuft. and marveled at their progress. And watched him jump again. and wring them out. A rivulet flowed down a meandering groove. I can't put you in the lead if you can't make yourself look down to see how they're doing. It's real. as Clave had learned long ago. Gavvmg watched him climb up. he fell so slowly." Alfin led them on an upward spiral." Alfin dug in his pack. His arms windmilled to turn him on his back. It was approaching Voy before they reached water-smoothed wood." The second spike was in deeper than the first. Gavving did. then threw his arms over his face. but now he'd uncovered his face. What do I do if one of my citizens turns out to be a coward? I live with it. Gavving realized. I want to be sure nobody -. "And suppose I don't?" "Then you don't. The sun had been horizontal in the east when they started. wash. soak their tunics. It seemed he might make it. "I have to know. So saddle up. He thrashed. We're all lighter. and Clave's harpoon was over his shoulder. trailing loops of line. "And I leave you next to it?" "You take that chance too. Not red with fury. It's your life. take the lead. we'll just have to start moving.. See? I'll have to put you where you don't hurt anyone else if you funk it." Alfin looked white with rage. We'll have to 'feed the tree' in the open. Gavving noticed Clave's hand covering the spikes that moored Alfin's line. Or you don't. I didn't choose them. "Make sure you can depend on it. He only saw what Alfin did. He noticed that Alfin never looked down. Alfin. Gavving found his aches easing as they climbed. He fell slowly. Tail-end Chancy. Not surprising if Alfin didn't give a damn for those following him-but he never looked down. white means fear. citizens. I have to know." "All right.but Alfin's hands were clenched on his line. I thought I was just feeling better. Jinny said. counterclockwise.

And Gavving wondered. Merril pulled back against it. then returned to dive at him. The holes are full of insects. It still clung to Merril's pack with idiot determination. The birds dig in and eat the insects. The Grad watched the birds as he ate. "You're in love with the idea that the tree's dying. the birds were otherwise the grayish-brown of the wood itself. They spiraled around to the western side while the sun dipped beneath Voy and began to rise again." Alfin challenged. Gavving found himself ravenous. "Maybe none. "Can we try that?" Alfin sent her a look like a harpoon. The water-smoothed wood was soft here. before they came to lee again. Flashers." Alfin was in the lead again when they set out. there was almost no chatter. Clave shared out smoked meat. He made a point of pausing frequently to look back. and a tube protruding from a splash of crimson feathers. Presently he burst out laughing.Alfin didn't jump again." "So?" "You'll see." A pincer the size of Clave's fist gripped the fabric of Merril's nearly empty pack. When they reached the rivulet. His smile died as he said. A gray-brown male would approach a female and abruptly spread his gray wings like a cloak. Jayan slashed where its body met the bark. The sun circled the sky. or of anything. They were resting when Mcml called." "You're in love. "No. From a hole in the bark there emerged a creature covered in hard. segmented plates. "Well?" "The wood's riddled with holes. The wind was less ferocious now. "Jinny? I'm hung up. Scarlet-tailed. Presently he returned. and both had climbed to rejoin the team. judging by Clave's bellowing laugh and the giggles from Jayan and Jinny. Its face was a single plate with a deeply inset eye." "I'd love to believe it isn't. or of heights. and so did others. they've got a mating dance going. They rested frequently in crevasses in the hark. But they were getting tired. The creature separated. It was hard to believe that Allin was afraid of Clave." The Grad made his way upward toward the birds. Under the gray was brilliant yellow. "Look. The body looked soft behind the last plate. Yesterday Alfin had swarmed all over the nose-arm. . When he had climbed back up to Clave's position. hacking like a berserker maniac. time to get moving." Presently Gavving did see. but it was enough: they hung in the water and let it cool them and run into their faces and mouths. Clave said. behind Voy and back to zenith. it was smaller yet. brown. They veered down to avoid scores of birds clustered on the wood. but Alfin only snorted." said the Grad. Jayan levered the claw open with her harpoon and dropped the creature into her own pack. like Gavving himself. Saddle up. Jinny spoke. The Grad ignored them. jab and yank and jab. Alfin asked. "I wonder what they eat?" "What difference does it make?" Alfin demanded. soft enough that they could cross with a spike in each hand. The birds flew off. shrieking obscenities." the Grad said. "The Scientist told me about them once. Riddled.

and see Voy's bright spark at the fringe of the soft sun-glow-and the west wind was blowing almost soffly across the ridges of the bank. Clave set water to boiling in the small. doggedly pounding spikes into the wood. She crowed. they had no chance to converse. He never would. Alfin broke off a piece of the grayish white inside. We don't need any nose-arm cave." He started to throw it away. "It could be edible. She didn't resist." he said. "Tastes okay. They wedged themselves into a wide crack with the shape of a lightning-stroke and moored themselves with lines. She broke a red-and-gray chunk from the fringe and ate a meager mouthful. "We're here to keep the tribe from starving." Clave suggested. Alfin and Glory tended to lose ground in the leeward regions." At which point there were more volunteers. and flashers swarmed below them. A meter-square fan rode like a flag above his pack. Alfin spotted something far above them: gray nubs reaching out from the bark on both sides of the rivulet. When Gavving reached them. half the size of his pack. The thing was that Alfin took more care setting his spikes than the rest did. why do we live in the tuft? There's food here. looking as if he were taking poison." He didn't have to urge them to get moving. Clave veered upward to pick a bouquet of the fanshaped fungi. He climbed. and caine back with a fan-shaped fungus. At waking they ate more of the smoked meat. Merril stopped him. lidded pot. pale gray with a red frill. Four days of climbing since breakfast left them too tired for anything but sleep. The Scientist would like it. and water. we can dig . but it's nice. head to foot within the bark. This time Jiovan was given the lead. so she lost time slipping and catching herself. "That was good. when Gavving heard Merril shout. It made one bite each for his team. "Who needs legs?" She was holding herself an arm's-length from the bark by a onehanded grip. They pulled Merril back against the tree. Again the wood was soft and riddled with holes. refilled the pot. And Glory didn't. It was below Voy-you could look straight down along the trunk. Jinny was already below her. The sun was rising up the east. Clave asked. "Let's look for more of those hard-shelled things. Together but separate. You could chew it with no teeth. He took them on a counterclockwise spiral that brought them back to lee within half a day. "Merril? Are you all right?" "I feel wonderful!" She let go and began to fall and reached out and caught herself "The Grad was right! We can fly!" Gavving crawled toward her. pounding in a spike. "Gavving. and boiled Merril's catch. and who needs legs? Let's stay. He shouted down.They moored themselves in the stream and drank and washed. but Clave vetoed that.When they had circled round to water again. He made tea. "Not much taste. past the green fuzzball that was Quinn Tuft. and no urge. "Are you willing to try it?" "No. Jayan was using the spike for support." she said. with her line ready in her other hand. as long as they couldn't sleep where water flowed. Jiovan remarked on it and earned a look of dull hatred from Alfin. When they departed." She took another bite. Gavving realized. and ate that. He nodded.

"My parents-when I was little. Jiovan was doing the same. high above them. Sending a. Citizens. Jiovan and the Grad returned. Gavving thought. "I. "Like what?" "A cave. He tore away some of the scarlet fringe. We'll kill another nose-arm and we. Happy they have legs. "Or. it was for too short a time to measure." "What?" "Never mind. Clave pulled up a wad and set fire to it. I am so glad you didn't stop me from coming. "Suppose it keeps on burning? We don't have any water. and that's -. We've got what we want. Jayan." Jiovan looked about him. I've got a wonderful idea. I've eaten enough foliage to last me the rest of my life! But if anyone wants it." Clave said. We've got nose-arm meat and those shelled things and the fan fungus. Feel sleepy. they were just waiting for me to die. Hungry. listen. Where was Clave? Clave was with Alfin. sullenly. I thought I could talk the Chairman out of this idiocy." "Alfin. It burned slowly. Let's have a look. Moor yourselves. I do feel fine." she whispered hoarsely to Jiovan. Jinny." Alfin said. let's get going! What are you doing?" Merril demanded while Gavving and Jiovan bound her to the bark.. in furious inaudible argument. on the other side of Merril. . "Thank you for trying.anything that's better than hanging ourselves here like smoking meat. One of you come get me if she wakes up. "Never mind. we'll be here for a while. I'm glad. Take. If Alfin flinched. then offered Alfin a hand-sized piece of the white interior. Even one leg. "How long do we have to put up with this?" "You don't. They had found a rQ mark overgrown with fungus like a field of gray hair. "How would I do as Chairman of a colony?" "You'd be terrific. stay with Merril." the Grad said. Claaave!" she bellowed as Clave and Alfin climbed down into earshot. but I never did. I'd like to try some more. Don't do any flying. He ate the whole chunk with a theatrical relish that had Clave grinning. though. something people need to be happy. We'll have to burn it out. "You stay. a crack or a bulge in the bark. I thought about it too. you do not have to treat me like a baby! I only ate from the middle of the thing." Clave removed a fan from his pack. Then set up another tribe here.. Merril feels fine." We'll have to be careful of that fan fungus. Sometimes I thought of me as an example." Merril smiled radiantly at him." "I never thought it could be this good. In that moment Gavving thought her beautiful." Merril told them." "I'll go too." Merril said and went to sleep. Scraping out all that gray hair would be a dull job. But they wouldn't feed me to the treemouth. take the Grad and find us a better place to sleep." "Clave. we'll grow fan fungus in the tuft. Clave broke off the rest of the red fringe and pouched it separately.out our own. "Come on." They examined the fungus patch dubiously. "Infected. ah. Wide-awake. You feel grouchy. a legless woman up the tree! Clave. Let's go back. I feel fine!" "So does Merril. and that's fine. we'll send down someone with legs. "Legs! So what?" Jiovan asked Clave. Alfin saw questioning eyes. He spoke reluctantly. He was pounding spikes into bark.

I can climb. Gavving moved in and found most of the fungus gone. I mean go back now. We already know we can feed ourselves. Jinny. "You mean. Anyone else?" Alfin grunted. but we've only found one. But get some of our packs emptied in case we have to beat it out. and I don't mind telling you. "What about going home? We've got what we came for. He said.. Then there was nothing for it but to settle into the Q for early sleep. happy and active and bubbling with plans. I'm ready. as much as any hunt party that comes home with meat. The smoke was dissipating. but I'm used to that." "We already know what Merril would say. Clave made a torch from a chunk of bark and burned out some remaining patches. We can pick up some fan fungus on the way back. how are you doing?" "How do you mean?" "I mean the whole trip. you go back for Merril. How are you doing?" Jiovan snorted." "I don't think so. let's see how she feels when it wears off. the rest left as black char. Nobody else spoke. Merril slept like a baby. They had to back away as foulsmelling smoke built up in the vicinity. We'd be heroes. I want to see what it's like when there isn't any tidal force at all. It kept putting itself out. The Q was two meters deep. "Jiovan." Clave was startled. It might work." By now the whole troop was listening. Grad?" "They're supposed to run all along the trunk. live here?" "No." The fungus patch burned slowly. "Merril could be pretty sick. and presently moored her in the scraped-out bottom of the Q." Clave said. ready for anything. Merril woke instantly. and the smoke tended to sit within the fungus "hairs. that's crazy. What else? Are the flashers good to eat? Could we transplant those shelled things?" The Grad was catching fire." smothering the fire."Let's try it. We sure haven't scraped out all the tribemarks. and we couldn't feed him in the tuft.Ifin listening. No chance. "Scrape that out and I think we can all sleep in it." "Then let's go at least as far as the middle. Clave knew he was talking for an audience. They coaxed her across the bark. not with A. but others shifted restlessly. restarting itself." "Oh. I'm treefeeding sick of being one of the-the lames. Merril's out of her head right now. "Get them growing just above the tuft." "She feels great. "We go on. Presently Clave asked. you know. Desultory conversations started and stopped. I hurt a lot.and if thefan fungus will grow in the tuft -. Who knows what else we'll find? The nose-arm was good eating. Sure I'd like to go on. "I'm hungry." Clave chuckled. Gavving. I might want to try it myself. The west wind wasn't strong at this height. He was hoping it would drop there. have we. but she could be right too. Kill something and smoke it and collect more fan fungus and go home." When they started to move her. .. I used tobethe one whofedthe tribe. Do you mean how are we doing? We won't know that till we get home. Yet it crept around in glowing fringes.

It should at least have been visible. There might be a planet resembling the primordial Earth. These futile attempts at contact needed little of his attention. Sam. The companion. Discipline was a seeder ramship. barely filtering through the soup of dust and gas and dirt and plant life: the light of hydrogen burning with oxygen. and forty-eight. but it's only twenty kilometers across. carefully tended moustache. "We're supposed to be the first expedition here! Prikazyvat Kendy!" The crew were not supposed to be aware that the ship's computer and its recorded personality could eavesdrop on them. Therefore Kendy said. Kendy took refuge in memory. "Hello. too slowly: pushing something massive. On a distant day the State. Discipline would not stop here. but what remained to him was as vivid as the moment it had happened. if a target world could be found. half a billion to a billion years beyond its pulsar stage. and twenty. in which case Discipline would fulfill its primary mission by seeding its atmosphere with oxygenproducing algaes. at half a solar mass. would be a star. targeted for a ring of yellow stars that might host worlds like the primordial Earth.Chapter Five -. THERE WAS A SPECIAL FREQUENCY OF light that Sharis Davis Kendy had sought for five hundred years." Goldblatt snarled. Its secondary mission was a secret known only to Kendy. but exploration was a definite third on the list. nobody else was listening. to probe the strangeness of this place.Memories IT WAS THERE AGAIN. Rarely did the CARM even acknowledge that his signal had penetrated the maelstrom but he never considered not trying. What were they doing in there? Had they entirely forgotten Discipline and Sharls Davis Kendy? Kendy had forgotten much. "The yellow dwarf star might have planets. and . He'd . The radiating surface is almost negligible. They had the telescope array going and a watery picture of a yellow-white star on the big screen. At 1.would return to find a world ripe for colonization. Sam Goldblatt had a spectrum of T3 displayed on a smaller screen. T3 was minutely brighter and bluer than Sol: about GO or 01. There was at least a third. This time it was west of his position. Kendy would skim past T3. It must have been losing its spin and its residual heat for all of that time. and vanish into the void. "That solves that. Kendy for the State. not a planet. The target star was yellow-white. Kendy held his attention on a wavering point within the Smoke Ring." The CARJvI's main motor would run for hours now.2 solar masses. planet-sized body in this system. We didn't see it because it isn't putting out enough light. six certain sightings and another ten probable. with a pinpoint of fierce blue-white light at its edge. take pictures and records. "Kendy for the State. He might slow enough to drop a missile with a warhead of tailored algae. Four of the crew were in the control module. What's up?" Sam Goldblatt was a large. He had found it fifty-two years ago. The locus moved about. but we can expect that their atmospheres were boiled away by the supernova event of which Levoy's Star is the ashes -. But someone would have come anyway. It's still hotter than hell. circling an unseen companon. The State bad telescopic data from earlier missions to other stars. with a spectrum very like Sol's. round man with a bushy. Levoy's Star is an old neutron star. It would accelerate slowly. Sharon Levoy was lecturing for the record.

and what was she doing on the bridge? Captain Dennis Quinn might have invited her. The crew of Discipline continued to study the archaic Christmas wreath. aren't they? Which means there's green life somewhere in that system. what is it?" "We'll learn that when we're closer.." "I'm not close enough to probe that closely. . You know how a gas torus works?" It was there in Kendy's memory. at a distance averaging 2." "Dangerous. I think we should slow down. but her corpsicle memories reached far back. Claire. the way they were standing to gether.. Now his frustration had a target. Goldblatt's World! There's a planet in there. touched with green. "Goldblatt's World! Prikazyvat Kendy.been chewing it ever since Levoy found and named the neutron star. He saw a ring of white cloud. Kendy maintained the fiction that they were in charge. "I recommend against it. There's too much oxygen." "Pass. The spectral absorption lines of water and oxygen were coming from there. Sam. He didn't remember deciding to follow Goldblatt's suggestions." "Kendy.." "It has to be there. if it isn't a planet. After all. we'll get a better look. Kendy. doesn't it? And that means the State sent a seeder here!" "I noticed the spectrum. and Kendy had given in. Until Sam Goldblatt suddenly crowed. Goldblatt must have persuaded Captain Quinn and the rest of the crew. For reasons of morale. "Kendy.77 Earth years. It was tiny by astronomical standards: the region of greatest density circled the neutron star at 26. Decelerate to the minimum at which the Bussard ramjet will work. Not at this speed. Dennis. and the citizens had less than they thought. The corpsicles might argue. Besides. but they had no civil rights.5 x l0^3 kilometers." And that should have been that. here. For five hundred and twelve years Kendy had been editing clumps of experience from his memory wherever he decided they weren't needed. you see that. We won't waste onboard fuel.000 kilometers-about four times the radius of the Earth. leggy blonde. The sociologist's body was that of a pretty. with a bright spark at its center. don't you?" The crew included twelve citizens and eight corpsicles. them? or to his own curiosity? Kendy remembered: Levoy's Star and T3 circled a common point in eccentric orbits. and no planet! We've got to know all about it. why shouldn't plant life develop somewhere on its own? Earth's did." "11mph. "Yes. They're too sharp. "Green means life! Life. It indicated a laxity in discipline that Kendy would have to watch. I can bounce some radar off that storm complex when we pass. with an orbital period of 2.. We've got to stop and investigate this thing. and we can accelerate again when we've got the solar wind for fuel. record that. Sam. those lines can't represent an Earthlike world. check me out. The neutron star had been behind the yellow dwarf while Discipline backed into the system. "Like a Christmas wreath. do you have records of a previous expedition?" "Well. I don't doubt you're right. Those are absorption lines for oxygen and water." Goldblatt looked about him for support. too much water." Claire Dalton breathed." said Kendy. Now it emerged into view of Discipline's telescope array.

There was s6me oxygen and some water vapor in its thick. Levoy's Star was an extreme case.Goldblatt's suggestion was not worth considering." She looked around her. It may be that the light mass is too weak to hold its atmosphere. At its median it was as dense as Earth's atmosphere a mile above sea level: too dense for stability. Saturn. we might as well be back on Earth. I bet the water's rich in deuterium and tritium. and a slightly different proposition too. Under such circumstances. That must have been the true beginning of mutiny. The occasional stray photon will bump a molecule into interstellar space. Titan circles Saturn within a ring of escaped Titanian atmosphere. Kendy's memory jumped at that point. A gas torus is the result of a light mass in orbit around a heavy mass. but it's too small to be giving off much real heat. say. Kendy said." Dennis Quinn said thoughtfully. The gas must be so rarefied that each molecule can be considered to be in a separate orbit: it must reasonably expect to circle halfway round the primary mass without bumping another molecule. Molecules continually returned from the gas torus to the Smoke Ring. Goldblatt's World was tidally locked. It must be continually leaking into the gas torus. of course. and from the Smoke Ring to the storm of atmosphere surrounding Goldblatt's World. It's bright. it's circling the ashes of a supernova!" Claire Dalton was gazing at the screen. Two planets circled wide around the twin stars: Jupiter-style gas giants with no moons. Probably it didn't fall into range until the pulsar had lost a good deal of its heat and spin. Strip away its atmosphere and it might have harbored Earthly life-but its atmosphere was tremendous. hot atmosphere. lost most of its rotation and most of its heat and most of that ferocious magnetic field the pulsars have. "Goldblatt's World must have started life as a gas giant planet like. Thus. "Then it was captured by strong . The faster molecules of air escape-but they go into orbit about the heavy mass." The contempt in her voice was unmistakable. Hardly surprising. "We could refuel. The atmosphere is continually being lost. "Think. We'll need it when we reach Earth." "There's water in there. but held within a steep gravitational gradient. The old supernova must have blasted away anything smaller. We could probably live in there ourselves. but some of it continually returns from the gas torus. as Titan orbits Saturn. Titan-smaller than Mars. at a perfect smoke ring with a tiny hot pinpoint in its center." Sharon Levoy's crisp voice spoke within Kendy's memory. as lo orbits Jupiter within a ring of sulfur ionized by Jupiter's ferocious magnetic field. a gas torus is stable. If we don't stop now. and uninhabitable. dwindling indefinitely into the Smoke Ring itself. a distorted whirlpool of storm. But the gas torus was stable: dense. "Isn't this what we came for? The strangeness of the universe. The strong oxygen-water lines were coming from the gas torus. A body did circle the neutron star. A gas torus is thin. Hidden within was a core of rock and metals at 2. He remembered reviewing and updating his files on gas torus mechanics. We've got fuel to decelerate once and once only. no larger than Ganymede-carries an atmosphere of refined smog at one and a half times Earth's sea level pressure.5 Earth masses. "The neutron star has cooled off. but the molecules are continually reencountering the satellite body. One limb of the Smoke Ring was curdled. The Smoke Ring was the thickest part of the gas torus around Levoy's Star. Why not.

" Dennis Quinn interrupted. Every ship in the sky had a crew large enough to begin the human race over again: their secondary mission. Would they remember him at all? Kendy waited. Discipline's crew of twenty was hardly necessary to run a seeder ramship. if it ever became necessary. A little of what we recycle is lost every time around.Roche tides. It was fifty to sixty meters across and had eaten half a meter deep into live wood. The crew had departed with eight of the ten CARMs and rifled the hydroponics to boot! It should never have been allowed. but tasted fine Kendy didn't remember bringing Discipline into orbit around Levoy's Star." Kendy remembered these things. there's probably even fresh fertilizer for the hydroponics tanks!" It was Sharis Davis Kendy who ruled Discipline. or a hundred million. Minya watched the fire spread in intersecting curves within the fungus patch. Why? Claire Dalton's voice: "We've got to get out of this box. and matured. They couldn't. He was reasonably sure that seven of the CARMs were inoperable. It may have dropped close enough to lose water and soil as well as gas. The records had been made while Discipline's instruments probed the Smoke Ring from close range. were too fragile to ensure the survival of the State or humankind itself. Some equipment might have been salvaged. far removed from any local disaster." "It won't be stable that much longer. planets aren't stable over the long run. postponing by several years his arrival at the target stars along his course. and spread their brightly colored blossoms to attract passing insects. Kendy ceased beaming his message. It's not stable. Breezes . The State expected no such disaster. exactly.and the last CARM had now ceased its spray of incandescent water vapor. It's running down. He must have been played for a fool. The State had chosen them as a reservoir of humanity: a tiny chunk of the State. "Most of Goldblatt's World is already gone. One planet. Or he might have been curious. He must have expended his onboard fuel.. Already some of the crew were exploring the Smoke Ring via CARMs. he might not want to remember that. Ten million years. There's more than water in there. the air was not only breathable. and the Smoke Ring has been leaking to interstel lar space. but morale would disintegrate if they ever learned how little control they really had. Their reports were enthusiastic. There was life. For something like a billion years Goldblatt's World has been leaking gas into the Smoke Ring. He did not remember any part of what must have been a mutiny.. One day he would know. DNA-based. but hell. Parasol plants had rooted in the resulting compost. The Smoke Ring glowed white and featureless beneath him.Middle Ground THE PATCH OF OLD-MAN'S-HAIR SHOULD HAVE BEEN TENDED long since. there's air. one solar system. Chapter Six -. and the Smoke Ring will be getting rarefied. ever but the investment was trivial compared to the reward. When had he lost control? Perhaps they had threatened to bypass the computer and go to manual control. Kendy might have surrendered on that basis.

"I see it. "They're interested. and three great gauzy fins. slowly rotating. while Thanya's brought water from the lee. something big. Stay clear of Smitta. They were tough and experienced.. Minya told herself. The Dark Tuft." Minya could feel her heart pulsing in her throat. wisps of green forest.. She floated with her toes gripping an edge of bark. and Smitta were nearing the median. it had been too long since the Triune Squad had been free for treetending duty." Minya said. "Interested in us? Sal!" Sal sang out from behind the smoke cloud. They're smarter than swordbirds. backlit by Voy and the sun. Sal was a burly. Maybe. Motion caught Minya's eye. A few drifting clouds. Outward. . glaring up. Smitta had been born a smaller than the other.. When a problem couldn't be solved and wouldn't go away.tossed the choking smoke in unpredictable directions. Between the drought and the recent political upsets. but under pressure something could snap in her mind. what could one do but run? She had run as far as a human being could go. Smitta was slow to anger. Today they were burning virtually a field of the horrid stuff. Jeel's triad traversed up and down the trunk. Lucky we had a fire going. Six big eyes showed in turn around the circumference. and squinted. red-haired fortyyear-old who had joined the Triune Squad at age twelve. it was enough to hold her against the feeble tide. Fire was usually no problem. The sun was nearly at nadir. was a halo of green fluff with a black core. "Triune. Just remember. It was her second trip up the trunk. They had been needed as police.. you may need them. "I like floating. maybe it would come. This close to the median. Dalton-Quinn Tuft was barely larger. The tree seemed to run forever in both directions. outward and windward. Minya. It was nearly the blue of the sky. she was a woman by courtesy. "What do we need?" "Bows and arrows ready? Tether your arrow and scoop up some burning old-man's-hair on the point. Know where your jet pods are. Sal. but mistakes could happen. Blue-againstblue. Then Smitta fought like a berserker. It was working: she felt at peace here.and where else can you see the entire Smoke Ring?" Minya nodded. if we kill one. She didn't want to talk.but Smitta and Sal had been up many times. That would be the juvenile. and the only way to at her was to pile on her. Bad luck. They didn't talk about it. The smoke drove clouds of mites out of the fungus and into the open." Smitta had pulled herself against the trunk and was readying her weapons. hard to see. even among her own. "I love these climbs. but now the triads were finding parasites and patches of old-man's-hair everywhere on the trunk.. ferrying provisions from the tuft. There were three triads of the Triune Squad now on the trunk. Minya whispered. "I fought a triune once. we'll have to kill all three. One could hope that the executions had settled the troubles." Smitta said. and presently said. Eastward was a point of bright light off-center in a dark rim: the same small pond that had been drifting tantalizingly closer for a score of days." The torpedo-shaped object was closer now. They're pretty close already. halfway between infinities. She was wishing Thanya's triad would arrive with water. whorls of storm were all outward." Smitta snapped alert. She held a hand beneath her eyes. You can scare them off..

They watched her drift along the trunk. The female tried to block the arrow. "She worries too much. the one hanging back a little. The juvenile didn't seem to see the arrow coming. She twisted the top and a cloud of seeds and mist spurted away from her. The female gaped. and the veering female caught an arrow in 1 fin. easily." Smitta said. out toward Dalton-Quinn Tuft. forever mated. thrusting Sal back toward the bark. Smitta yanked at the line and stopped it a meter short. They had killed another nose-arm. hands gripping the bark to brace herself. or not. appeared from the smoke.and she was right. Small has reached out from their orange bellies to pull them together. "See? They're smart. and jumped. There were patches of fan fungus everywhere. She bellowed. weren't in range yet. including the valuable be Springy met4. I wish Thanya would get here. a she was flapping madly. and the arrow snapped free. infinitely graceful. She flapped once. and the parasites fed Clave's team. She couldn't have missed us.. could she?" To Minya's eye. It didn't seem to boti her as she reeled in. The juvenile would be the smallest. but. it was. Which was male? Minya waited a moment to judge Smitta's target. The adults moved in alongside the infant. Merril had slept a full eight days after eating from the red fringe of a fan fungus. She waved her arms turn herself around until she could see the trunk. Both adults screamed. She gathered her legs under her. plus a single juvenile who would take on body mass fast.Minya strung her hardwood bow and used an arrow point to dig a gob of burning fungus. handed down from old to young within the Triune Squad for at least two hundred years. troops." she said." Smitta said and loosed." Smitta said. while the female bored in. She judged that U.. chopping through its nose. Ready-? The torpedo split in three. the line trailing c behind the arrow. Sal pulled a teardrop-shaped jet pod from one of the cluster of pods that ran down and across the front of her tunic. The adults swept forward. Now she loosed. "Well done. Smitta sent a tethered arrow winging at the juvenile. Seventy days had passed since Clave's citizens had departed Quinn Tuft. The tree fed a myriad parasites. male and a female. the male's body ripped him free of the arrows' paths. The subsequent throbbing headache didn't seem to . "Aim for the male. then loosed her own weapon. Too late. then mature more slowly. The Triune Squad itself was named for the triune famil: interdependence. She coiled line and stowed her weapons. I want to look for them.treefodder. The women were reeling frantically. Sal had hit back. Hard to tell where old-man's-hair shaded over into rotted wood. yanked into the sky." Sal decided. showing small lateral fins and violent-orange bellies. but I think the fire is getting to the wood. Tb moved away like a single blurred blue ghost against the blue sky. then jabbing harpoons into its den.. They divided only to ht or fight. the fire might have reached wood by now. "It's not bad yet. but it wasn't necessary. her ancient metal bow slung safe over her should The smoldering old-man's-hair had been left on the female's tail. "I hate to waste jet pods. Three slender torpedoes flapped laz toward them.. You can reason with them.

Healthy bark resisted fire. The heat of burning stayed in the smoke. A sheltered fire wouldn't burn. Citizens. Bark torn from the rim of a patch of fuzz served as fuel. Gavving and Jiovan stayed well back. a fan-shape showed like a white hand against the sky. and presently it went away. You couldn't fall. But there were penalties. but it didn't have to be done instantly." . The char had turned their clothing black. The Grad pointed. Merril loved it. "Dinner?" Clave said. the smoke hovered in a squirming cloud. It must be huge. There was water in fan fungus flesh. "Hold it. doesn't it look funny to you? Tended?" "There's some fuzz growing. A shift in the breeze could smother an incautious citizen. "Why were you hunting alone. Good: it looked nearly clean. but maybe not enough. They had found a jet pod bush.affect her climbing. "We'll find smaller ones around it. twice before in deep wounds in the wood. cracks overgrown with "fuzz" that had to be burned out first." Merril asked." "But wouldn't it look grand. but one thing about that tale had bothered him for years. all open to the fitful breezes. and thus no leeward stream of water. Grad. and they had found more of the shelled burrowers and other edibles The Grad saw it all as evidence of the tree's decline. Sometimes you found wet wood." Gavving and Jiovan had been left behind to tend the smokefire. that day? Nobody hunts alone. Here was the mark Jinny had found. like a mass of bubbles on the bark. you'd just yell for help. The meat should be rotated soon. and someone would presently throw you a line. So the fan fungus served them as food. so the fire didn't need to be large. Even here in the open. and Alfin smiled sometimes. The bubbles just foamed it out in a hot. It was Gavving's turn." "What?" "This mark isn't overgrown like the others were. it would stay to smother the fire. expanding mass. Now water had grown scarce too. this isn't Quinn territory. "Jiovan?" "What?" Even Gavving wouldn't ask Jiovan how he lost his leg-nobody would. Clave laughed and admitted that they should have been doing that all along. There was no wind this high. Clave had packed a dozen ripe pods in a pouch of scraped nose-arm hide. Hard-learned lessons showed here. And he asked." Then the Grad was close enough to see the real discrepancy. And half a klomter farther up the trunk. Glory loved it. A circle of coals surrounded the meat." "I did. "There's no takeout mark. They had learned not to try to boil water. Tidal gravity continued to decrease until they were almost floating up the trunk. Recovering from the fan fungus hadn't changed that. The smoke wouldn't rise. wet enough to lick dry. They had taken to camping just outside the water-washed wood. "coming into the Commons?" The Grad was pulling himself toward the tribal mark when Clave said. They'd slept three times more on the tree: last night in a nosearm's den.

" "Forget it. nibbling a little foliage with my head sticking down into the sky. they would be heroes." "Good throwing. and Voy drifting right across the center. He yanked hard on his line to pull himself into open air. The sun was a wide bright patch shining up at me. "the day Glory busted open the turkey pen. That would change." "I shouldn't have asked. and make babies while they drifted. you know.."So I was hunting alone. As for the Chairman's wrath. and I get a third turkey. Here comes another one. Any serious potential mate was back in Quinn Tuft. He would return (of course) as a hero (of course!). Jiovan was looking in. and backward. -.. of course. two. I put a net on my free line.. This last sleep period he had wakened to find three citizens missing. and Gavving couldn't offer anyway. flapping against the wind. he hadn't the wealth or the years. I throw the end of the line I'm moored to." Gavving nodded. I couldn't stand it. "Oh." Gavving was trying to forget something else entirely. "Here came a turkey. then four."Okay. and in two breaths I've got a turkey on each end.I had a real gift for sarcasm. It used to bother me. I was down under the branch that day." "I've heard him. and by now I can guess they're ours. he reached over the coals with the harpoon butt to turn the nose-arm legs-one. of course. I've got.. What lived in his head now was lust and envy balanced by fear of Clave's wrath or Jinny's scorn (for he had fixed on Jinny as marginally lovelier. and he took an instant to fan it away before he drew breath. Smoke came with him. Gavving drew his harpoon. If someone made a mistake. Half-blind." "Really. the boys were there to learn. I've got more nets. and Gavving faced a murderous glare. Then he smiled. and threw it." Gavving said.. "Harp's told that tale. they tell me." Jiovan said. and I was there to teach. quick. still moving pretty fast.) He might as well dream. and most of them were going to get away. He pulled air into his lungs.well.and watched Clave and Jayan and Jinny moor lines to the bark. with one line to tether me and another loose. His head came up. and they're coming from above." Topic closed. But the sky was full of turkeys. "All right.. I left him in no doubt." . The turkey's caught." For an instant Gavving couldn't imagine what Jiovan was talking about. He'd followed a sound. "This isn't something I'd want told around. Gavving could have his choice of mates. into the bluish white spark that was Voy. the Chairman could do nothing. If they could end the famine." Gavving waited. When I was leading a hunt. just waiting. three. But here come two more. and leap outward. there wasn't anything wrong with my throwing that day. then lunged into the smoke. past the small green tuft that had once enclosed his life. sure.. and I still thought it was kind of hilarious. "Pretty soon they were giving me nothing but the fumblers.he hadn't been able to send Harp. Possibly Clave could have resisted him too. It was full night at the New Year's occlusion.. so I started hunting alone.

"That's why I never told this story before." Gavving suddenly guessed what wascoming. "I can live with it if you don't want to finish." "No, that's okay. It was funny," Jiovan said seriously. "But the sky was full of turkeys, and a triune family came to do something about all that meat on the wing. They split up and went after the loose turkeys. There wasn't a thing I could do but pull in my three." Jiovan certainly wasn't smiling now. "The male went after one of my turkeys. Swallowed it whole and tried to swim away. It got the wrong line...picture one end of a line spiked deep in the branch, and that massive beast pulling on the other, and me in a loop in the middle. I suddenly saw what was happening, and I pulled the loop open and tried to jump out, and the loop snicked shut and my leg was ripped almost off and I was falling into the sky." "Treefodder." "I thought I was treefodder, all right. Remember, I still had a line in my hands? But with a turkey on each end, flapping like crazy, and I was falling. I tried throwing a turkey, I really did, I thought it might get caught in the branchlets, but it didn't. "Meanwhile the triune male's been caught by something, and it doesn't know what. It pulls back against the line and feels a tug in its belly and throws up. I think that's what must have happened. All I know is something smacks me in the face, and it's a dead turkey covered with goo, and I grab it-I hug it to me with all my heart and climb the line back into the tuft." Gavving was afraid to laugh. "Then I tie off what's left of my leg. What's hanging loose, I had to cut off. Well, kid, did Harp ever tell you a story like that?" "No. Treefodder, he'd love it! Oh." "He'd make me famous. I don't want to be fanious that way." Gavving chewed it over. "Why tell me now?" "I don't know. My turn," Jiovan said suddenly. He filled his lungs and disappeared into the smoke. Gavving felt burdened. Always he asked too many questions. He grinned guiltily, picturing Jiovan trying to throw a line with a turkey flapping at each end. But what if Jiovan regretted telling it? He saw Clave appear from behind the curve of the tnmk. Jiovan emerged, bringing smoke, and Gavving held his breath while it cleared. Jiovan coughed a little. "It's been so long," he said. "Maybe it doesn't hurt as much. Maybe I just wanted to tell it. Maybe I had to." "They're coming back," Gavving said. "I wonder what's got them so excited?" Clave bellowed, "I will not go home without learning something about them!" "I know quite a lot about them," the Grad answered. "We all lived in the far tuft once. The Quinns left after some kind of disagreement. Before that, it was Dalton-Quinn Tribe." "Then they're relatives." The argument had grown a little less chaotic, but only because half the troop was trailing back. It was no less vehement. Alfin shouted, "You're not listening. They kicked us out! For all we know, they think they're still at war with us!"

The Grad said, "Clave, the tribemarks are tended, and we aren't finding as many fan fungi lately, or the shelled things either. I'm thinking they keep this stretch of trunk clean. They must be still around. Our move is to get out of here!" "You want to run from something you haven't even seen!" "We saw the tribal insignia," the Grad said. "DQ. No takeout mark across the Q. Maybe they still call themselves Dalton-Quinn. What does that make us? Intruders on their tree? We've passed the median anyway, we're in their space. Clave, let's go home. Kill another nose-arm, pick some fan fungus and one of the shells, and go home with plenty of food." Clave was shaking his head. "The tribe won't have to go thirsty any more either! We bring water from the trunk. -- " Clave waved it away. "That water would get to the tuft anyway. No. I want to meet the Daltons. It's been hundreds of years, we don't know what they're like...maybe they know better tending methods for the earthlife, or ways to get water. Maybe they grow food we never heard of. Something. 'Day, Jiovan." "'Day. What's going on?" "We found a tribemark and it isn't ours. The question before the citizenry is, do we say hello before going home? Or do we just run?" The Grad jumped in. "Don't you see, we can't fight and we can't negotiate! We've got one good fighter, and two cripples and a boy and four women and a treemouth tender, and all of us thrown out of Quinn Tuft, we can't even make promises -- " Clave broke in. "Alfin, you're for leaving too?" "Jiovan?" "What are we running from?" "Maybe nothing. That mark wasn't tended for a long time. Treefodder, the drought could have killed them off! We could settle the far tuft -- " Merril broke in, though she was puffing from the climb. "Oh no. if everyone died there...we won't want to...go anywhere near it. Sickness." "Are you for going back or going on?" "I don't...back, I guess, but...let's get that...big fan fungus first. Wouldn't that impress the citizens! And smoke another nosearm...if we can. Far as that goes...we know there's meat to be hunted on the trunk. We should tell the Chairman that." "Jayan? Jinny?" "She makes sense," Jinny said, and Jayan nodded. "Gavving?" "No opinion." "Treefodder. Glory?" "Go back," Glory said. "I haven't tasted foliage in days and days." Clave sighed. "If I was sure I was right, we'd go on. Aaall right." His voice became fuller, more resonant. "We'll have enough to carry anyway, what with the giant fan and whatever meat we find. Citizens, we've done very well for ourselves and Quinn Tuft. We go home as heroes. Now, I don't want to lose anyone on the way down, so don't take the tide for granted! It'll get stronger with every klomter. Most of the way down we'll need lines for the meat and the fan fungus -- " Their goals had become Clave's own. Gavving noticed, and remembered. The flashers had come back. Minya watched them at their mating dance. Two males

strutted before. the same femhle with their wingcloaks spread wide, and the female's head snapped back and forth almost too fast to see. Decisions decisions- "Something's been worrying you, woman." Decisions. Was it any of Smitta's business? Minya made a swift decision: she had to talk to someone, or burst. "I've started wondering if-if I'm right for the Triune Squad." Smitta showed shock. "Really? You were eager enough to join eight years ago. What's changed?" "I don't know." But she did, and suddenly Smitta did too. "Don't talk to Sal about this. She wouldn't understand." "I was only fourteen." "You looked older...more mature. And maybe the loveliest recruit we ever got." Minya grimaced. "Every man in the tuft wanted to make babies with me. I must have heard every possible way of saying that. I just didn't want to do that with anyone. Smitta, that's what the Triune Squad is for!" "I know. What would I be without the Triune Squad? A woman born as a man, a man who wants to be a woman...” "Do you ever want -- " What was the right word? Not make babies, not for Smitta. "I used to," Smitta said. "With Risher-he was a lot prettier once- and lately with Mik, the Huntmaster's boy." Minya flinched. Maybe Smitta noticed. "We give all that up when we join. You just have to hold it inside. You know that." "Does anyone ever..." "What? Quit? Cheat? Alse jumped into the sky, a little after I joined, but nobody really knows why. That's the only way to quit. If you get caught cheating, I can name some would tear you apart. Sal's one." Tight lips and clenched teeth held back Minya's secret. Now Smitta did notice. "Don't get caught cheating," she repeated. "Maybe you don't know how citizens feel about us. They tolerate us. We won't give the tribe babies, so we do the most dangerous jobs anyone can think of, and pay the debt that way. But you don't ask any ordinary man to, you know, help you be in both worlds." Minya nodded. Lips pressed together, teeth clenched: if only she had kept them that way when she was with Mik! Mik had been impossible to get rid of, eight years ago. How had he changed so much? Would he tell? "Smitta -- " "Drop it, Sal's coming." Minya looked. There were four figures down there, four women rising on jets of sprayed gas and seeds; and they carried no water. Sal shouted something the wind snatched away. "They're wasting jet pods," Smitta observed. They were closer now and in range to snag the bark. This time Minya heard Sal's joyful bellow. "Invaderrrsss!"

Chapter Seven The Checker's Hand

" "And no. could we? Denisse says she saw things like giant arrows. no pockets. women. Let's go look. Denisse dropped back from her next survey. We don't know what they want here." "Intruders on the tree. and drop back into the bark.some of them killed the Chairman. look around fast. three hundred meters in and a hundred to port... We're the Triune Squad.. Sal cried." Clearing the trunk of parasites was one of the Triune Squad's duties. They're killing it. "We counted six of them around the tribemark. Let them carve off pieces to suit themselves... Fan fungi were dangerous to the tree and edible besides." . I couldn't even tell their sexes.." They veered to avoid a crack clogged with old-man's-hair. Maybe they settled in the Dark Tuft." Sal's voice was eager. "Dark clothes. white with red nails.Thanya. "but how will we ever get it through the tuft to the Commons?" "Maybe we don't. Mutineers. Jiovan worked the other side. Every minute or so Denisse. "Go for Gold!" and the Triune Squad leapt toward the intruders The fan fungus reached out from the trunk like a tremendous hand. She eased her head above the bark. Eight." Thanya said.." "Let's go slow. "We'll get it down the trunk. but one had no legs. STAYING IN CRACKS IN THE bark where they could.they're chopping at the stand. moving outward. We have intruders. disproportionately narrow and fragilelooking from a distance. six of us." said Clave. Minya had only heard of the squad's unusual pet. nine." They worked their way along the bark. Right now there was nothing she needed more than a fight.THE TWO TRIADS MOVED INWARD." Jiovan puffed. looking entirely human. No help for it now. Sooty red clothes. "Intruders have reached the Checker's Hand. At least six. Found twenty-odd years ago. and the rest went with them. dark woman of Thanya's triad. "No. a tall. Maybe they're from the Dark Tuft. the Checker's Hand -. Its stalk. dressed like dirty civilians. "Bring the tribe to the fungus." Smitta screamed and launched herself across the bark." said Thanya for her triad. Her voice was deadly calm. what kind of weapons were they carrying?" "We couldn't go ask them.." "Do we care? What they want isn't theirs. but one large and perfect fan had special privileges. "We've never fought invaders! There were some citizens thrown out for mutiny. Presently Denisse poked her head up. "Intruders. dropped back. joyful. Minya said nothing-her triad leader spoke for her-but she felt a fierce joy.shall we send someone back for Jeel's triad?" Sal grinned wolfishly. He set to chopping at it with his dagger. "Six of them. "I'd like to question one. Smitta said. was still thicker than Gavving's torso. it had been left to grow even larger. “We're not a debating team. you may have missed a few. They were there: men. "More than six. long ago." Thanya grinned back. would pop up." Thanya said suddenly.

He rolled again to put the fan fungus between them. giving her a look of lumpy pregnancy. The great hand bent to his weight. They'd made some progress. He took a second mini-harpoon through his chest. Their eyes met. "Fire!" "What? Where?" "Outward. His other hand waved a meter's-length of knife. but Gavving's arms were used up. Gavving was on his back before he could recover. He pulled hard at the line before his forebrain had registered anything at all. Gavving shifted his own grip and jabbed his knife into the man's side. Maybe they'd weakened it enough? He pounded a stake into the bark and tethered his. he saw what the others had missed through being too close to the trunk.. who wasn't even trying to seek cover. yanked at the line to pull himself back. gathering in his line. though. Doesn't look big. "Harpoons!" Jiovan was stumbling. He yelled. She flew loose through the sky while she pulled something apart with both hands. The red-haired woman had a harpoon through her leg. maybe. Hurry! The grip relaxed. "Treefodder!" Not specific enough. Floundering. and sought a target. drew his knife. a sharp point showed behind his shoulder blade. A flicker at the corner of his eye. ignoring the blood spreading across her pants. and Clave took over.. flipping him playfully into the sky. Something sailed past at a distance: a woman. A lean purple-clad man spotted Gavving. She picked the easiest: Jiovan. a burly red-haired woman garbed in purple." "And try it on who? Oh. he pulled his weapon apart and a string snapped. He was shuddering with reaction."Tear the fringe off first. Something that glittered. The Grad objected. He clutched the bark and rolled. Inhumanly strong fingers sank into his arm like a swordbird's teeth. The tree shuddered. He saw the great wall of bark shuddering too. all right. Clave was slapping shoulders and buttocks to send his citizens to cover. He screamed in rage and opened a jet pod to hurl him down at Gavving. he could see an orange glow within a cloud of smoke. "The Scientist will want some of the red part." Merril said. then sprang back. a line of light. Out of range? Gavving tried a . She tore it loose. and Gavving knew it was a weapon even before she let it snap shut. Not a lot. cast it away. Clave was nowhere in sight. Gavving didn't notice at once. her eye was on the shuddering tree. Something came as a tiny blur. Purple-clad enemies sailed along the wall of bark.and a miniature harpoon zipped past his hip." The sun was behind the out tuft. half a klomter. yelling gibberish and throwing death. Then he leapt at the fungus with the full strength of his legs. The red-haired woman was coasting treeward not far out. with pockets clustered from breasts to hips. line to it. leaving the trunk somewhat shadowed. thudded into the bark alongside his spine: a mini-harpoon with gray and yellow flasher feathers at the butt end. He slashed at the man's throat. and looked for enemies. save some fringe for the Scientist." The stalk was tough. decided it was the least of his problems. indecisive. Gavving watched the cut deepen. He backed away. Gavving leapt out of his way. The man smacked into the bark. They were using jet pods.

kill him for the honor of Sal's triad. falling. Purple-clad enemies screamed to each other. a sound like worlds ripping apart. Another leapt in a zigzag pattern along the bark. The shape was wrong.left a burly red-haired corpse clutching a curve of silver metal. the red-haired corpse tumbled. She stared at him. The bass background roar continued. She turned back as a shape popped up directly in front of her. his blond hair curled tightly as a skullcap. and a single invader boy had killed them both. The dead woman came with it. Jinny held a smaller fan fungus in front of her. Thanya was right. But the dark-haired woman who had tried to kill him was now moving crosswise. and imitated her. the words drowned in the roar. Sal's corpse floated free. . his beard was barely visible. harpoon in her other hand. her dead hand clutching the tribal treasure. Now two were fleeing. He knew. not human. A mini-harpoon thudded into Jinny's shield. A wave of nausea clawed at his throat. horrified. For an instant Minya was minded to go after him. followed by Jayan and the Grad. and Sal was dead. Not necessary. The fire could block them all.and there was Sal's bow to be recovered. her arms and legs jerking. Bark slid past Gavving. Now he heard the Grad shrilling like a cricket. back to where Gavving had left. threw himself back from her sword's counterthrust. His face was set in a rictus of fear or killing-rage. and she bared her teeth and launched herself in that direction. and was minded to examine the peculiar gleaming weapon still clutched in the woman's hand. maroon them away from Dalton-Quinn Tuft. citizen's garb. Smitta was dead. He thrust at her. a sound of panic. but she didn't pause. lovely pale heart-shaped face-purple clothing. The Grad rolled out of a crevice in the bark. Minya hadn't quite grasped what was happening when a fist exploded in her face. Gavving reeled in his harpoon. then go! There wasn't time. He was scrambling for a foothold when someone came at him from the side.. voices drowned by a rising background roar. It froze her for an instant. "It'll block us from the tuft! We've got to get past it!" She blew jet pods and was skimming outward across the bark. Minya heard. "The fire!" Thanya screamed.harpoon cast and instantly dived behind the great fan. But Gavving didn't need to hear. The boy wore scarlet clothing. lost his toe-grip on the bark. Dark hair. He worked his harpoon loose. Merril's fist smacked into the stranger's jaw with a sound Gavving heard even above the bass ripping sound he'd been ignoring while he fought for his life: a sound like the sky tearing apart. Jiovan was dead with two feathered shafts in him.. and fired a jet pod for extra speed. firing jet pods to carry them outward along the trunk. Pierce him. Minya kicked to alter her course and watched the weapon whisper past her. He'd skewered her. saw what Jinny was doing. Minya whirled and leapt away. He wasn't given time. Minya stalked him.. Gavving had ignored the yells from the purple-clad women. The tree shuddered again.. and died. Gavving thrust a harpoon at her eyes. Behind Minya the blond youth gripped bark to set himself and hurled his hand-arrow. Merril popped out of a crack just in front of her.

Clave's fingers were sunk into white fungus. Jayan and Jinny weren't visible. "Grad! Lines to the tree?" "Nooo! Treefodder. Jiovan was dead. The Grad was already loose in the sky. no!" "All right. the trunk shuddering and moaning. and. Even Alfin had jumped at last. where was the tree? There wasn't any tree.a fiery wind rushed past him and was gone before he could draw breath. the purpleclad killers were nowhere to be seen.. and he screamed and wrapped his arms around the stalk.headed for the meat they'd left when they went after the mushroom. There were jet pods in Clave's pack. The Grad's mind could have snapped. Gavving. Alfin. thought it over. but dead.. It has to be you. Clave hurled himself at the stalk.. No tree. Fistfuls of fungus turned to mush in aave's closing fists. What do you need?" "We have to jump!" the Grad screamed.nobody had gone after the fan fungus. Alfln snarled as he watched his enemies disappear into the outward smoke cloud. "All of us!" "What are you talking about?" "The tree's coming apart! That's how they survive!" "What?" "Get everyone to jump clear!" Clave looked around. with line coiled! Gavving. Did Gavving know something? He'd captured an invader weapon. You don't know enough. But the tree. It wasn't possible. the sound filled tree and sky. and now he was far in along the trunk. but you've got to decide. Faster... faster. Alibi clutched the bark in a deathgrip. Gavving and the Grad were old friends. He could get his citizens back once things settled down. Citizens floundered in the sky. Gavving moved across the shuddering bark. Chapter Eight .. Glory and Merril watched too. Now.. Clave saw tufts of flame receding in both directions. floating tethered. not believing it. "Jayan! Jinny! Glory." He bellowed above the end-of-the-world roar. strangers killing and then fleeing.. and everything was happening at once: fire blazing on the tree. Glory only stared. Jayan and Jinny emerged from hiding like a pair of birds taking wing. it's always you. The tumbling thing seemed to be picking up speed. continued in along the trunk. they'd need food if they were to cast loose from the tree. ripped something loose from a purple-clad corpse. Merril stared at him. Gavving? Gavving was working to free one thick leg of nose-arm meat. "Ready. The bark still shuddered. pushed herself free. Make a decision."Clave! Claaave!" Clave popped out of a deep crack and shouted. But Gavving trusted him. then tore loose and was turning end for end. The fan bent under his weight.. He bellowed. Merril! Everybody jump! Jump away from the tree! Do not moor yourselves!" Reactions were various. They were lost in the sky.. the bark raced beneath the tumbling fan fungus. Of course. Bewildered.

He yelled and thrust himself away. spat seeds into the flesh of his face. and the tree was ending.. Awesome! Nobody could hope to live through a bigger disaster. trying to clear enough air to breathe. It didn't hurt. thundering tree. and pushed himself into the sky.Quinn Tribe WOOD SNAPPED EXPLOSIVELY. He watched it all while his terror changed to awe. A million insects poured from a sudden black gap that must have reached a klomter into the heartwood. If he'd stopped to think.. and now he was lost in the sky. The giant fan fungus floated free. and who was left? He looked about him. and was gone. He dug out his remaining jet pod and tried again. The pod ripped itself free of his hands. SPATTERING GAVVING WITH splinters as he leapt across the bucking. He settled for spreading his arms and legs like a limpet star. . Three human shapes tumbled slowly nearby: purple marked with scarlet His stomach lurched. He'd used both his jet pods. turning. One haunch was in reach. braced against the pack. Good. His fingertips traced a bloody gash that ran from temple to chin. Then why wasn't Clave doing something about rescue? Feet outward. Gavving caught a line to pull it free of the coals. All of Quinn Tribe must be dead. Jayan and Jinny rotated slowly around their two pairs of clasped hands. Beads of blood were pooling on his cheek and his neck. The tree was everything that was. That was their store of fresh jet pods. Gavving braced one of his jet pods against the pack and twisted the tip. tied it against the nose-arm leg. he hadn't come here to kill. Thrashing his arms didn't stop the Grad's spin. and they'd lost Jiovan too.. the idea was really too big to grasp… all but Clave's citizens. It looked almost like a dance. He held to the one thought: Get the meat and get out! The nose-arm legs tumbled loose within a cloud of burning coals. This time the pod held steady until it had gone quiet The world came apart. He wasn't willing to use his jet pods for only that. then jumped to catch it against his shoulder. Now what? He couldn't think in this end-of-the-world roar. Two fireballs receded in and out. Clouds of insects and pulverized wood half hid the shuddering. Clave still wore his backpack: very good. turning to reveal Clave clutching the stalk. far out. Hot grease burned his neck. and no sign of panic. He doffed his backpack. Dagger-sized splinters flew past. It was their own doing. The left side of his face was wet. His hands shook. Nobody? A cluster of specks. which slowed him enough to search for survivors. Shock? But he had worse to worry him. until the home tree had become two bits of fluff linked by an infinite line of smoke. Gavving cried out and waved his arms through the buzzing cloud. tearing bark. his tongue between his teeth. Fiery wind swept past him and left him in the open sky. Good thinking. his fear would have frozen him fast. At least he wouldn't starve. Spreading out like that greatly reduced their spin. Seeds and cold gas blasted past him.

He shrugged out of his backpack and searched out his jet pods. but he was safe. "What happened?" Safe now. I'm going to dig in your pack." "How? Why?" The Grad was judging distances. He didn't try to reel it in. "Tell me what happened!" . Clave watched as if bemused. The Grad sighed.. then clutched a jet pod in both hands over his navel. He knew nobody who had. a flapping mote. because he was nearest. Other debris floated in the smoke trail. and Alfin convulsed and snatched the line in a deathgrip. then another. Long. It brushed Alfin's back.. The push died. he released the pod.. The Grad heard a thin wail. Her arms hadn't pushed her far. Were they still active? He'd never fired a jet pod. He'd gone far to save that meat. The Grad made out great fragments of torn wood and bark. He asked. He maneuvered the point. The Grad couldn't find Gavving. He'd be hard to reach. and the wind-wake must have pulled him further. The Grad had to do that. allowing lesser sounds. "The tree came apart?" "You saw it. A hand closed around the Grad's neck. and the tree's wind-wake had caught her. Far in toward Voy. but no hunter lost in the sky had ever returned in the Grad's lifetime. When Clave was approximately behind him. Hunters carried them in case they fell into the sky. smartly. In that confusion he could still see that the cloud of citizens and corpses was slowly drifting apart. Old jet pods. The pod drove into his belly. Gavving maneuvered half his own weight in smoked meat. Jiovan's corpse must have gone with the tree.He took half a dozen pods. Alfin lunged across the last meter or so and wrapped himself around the stalk and buried his fingers in white fungus to the last knuckle. a cloud of flashers whirling in panic. Looking over his shoulder. and it jumped away on the last of its stored gas. Clave's voice was a hot snarl in his ear. and he hadn't noticed the Grad. The smoke of the disaster split the sky from end to end.rescue Alfin first. from Quinn Tuft stores. but where were the others? And why wasn't Clave doing something? He and the fan were drifting away. Alfin had leapt free after all. flickering black clouds were pulling free of the paler smoke. hoping to kill his spin. The fan brushed against the Grad and he clutched it.Merril was a fair distance in. He slid to somewhere near the fan's center of mass and fired a jet pod. and hope. The world's-end roar had dwindled." Clave neither helped nor resisted as the Grad searched through his pack. nor Glory.. "The tree came apart. nor Jiovan. He did it carefully: he donned his pack again. They could use the big fan as a base of operations. "You'll tell me now!" The Grad froze. Clave. he found the fan fungus drifting toward him. perhaps a nose-arm fled from its burrow. tightening like a steel collar. while Alfin watched in near mindless terror. Dense. fungus springy under his hands. Clave still wasn't doing anything constructive. He grunted. strong fingers overlapped the thumb. he twisted the tip. The same insects that had eaten the tree apart were now casting loose to find other prey. He was thrashing and spinning and crying. Clave had gone crazy. He cast a line in a wide circle. We've got to start rescuing citizens. Save Gavving for last.

" It only hit him then." The hand relaxed in shock. "What on Earth is going on?" "Clave wants to know what happened. and that's where every living thing wants to stay. Alfin took them." "What about the jungles?" "I. A moment later. but be couldn't prove it -. west -. Maybe that had been a mistake. The Scientist never -. The air is very thin in the gas torus. can you steer this thing and pick up some more of us? Here -. Clave. The revelation blocked his throat. where there's water and air. "Quinn Tribe is dead. "Mister Chairman. The Grad babbled. They're symbiotes. "It's a plant's way of getting around. . that's really interesting. Half lives."The tree came apart." Clave mulled that. the tree comes apart. some plants grow jet pods. out takes you west. go on. All right. well.middle. He said. "If an integral tree falls too far out of the median. and it's better than nothing. Some way to stay near the median.I don't know. and the Grad kept talking. where the molecules. but it was ready. "Are you happy. See. Where do you think jet pods come from?" The hand relaxed a little. so our end -. That's what the Smoke Ring is. When the center rots. There are kites -." said Clave. They spit seeds back toward the median where they can grow and breed." Alfin broke the long silence that followed that terrible declaration. and the reaction pushes the plant back toward the median. The insects eat it out. half dies." “Where it can breathe.the bits of air have long mean-free-paths." He passed across his store of jet pods. Grad? You were right. If a plant wanders out of the median." "What are you doing?" "I'm trying to remember.. He took his time deciding what to do with them. Then there are plants that send out a long root to grab anything that's passing. just the thickest part of the gas torus. That's where you find all the water and the soil and the plants.. Animals mostly have wings.. What about the trees?" "Now.. not parasites. We were too far in toward Voy. That's the gas torus." "Shut up. and the Grad ignored him while he lectured. "The Smoke Ring runs down the median of a much bigger region. you copsik. and half of it drops back toward the median." "Why?" "Maybe the fire set it off. or they spit sterile seeds farther into the gas torus. We are Quinn Tribe. Plants. it starts to die.. so did Clave's fingers. The Scientist came up with this." "Skip it." The hand tightened.. but there's some. It dies in the center. you may call me the Scientist. He released the Grad's neck. everything in the Smoke Ring has some way of getting around. I've had it up to here with you telling half a secret!" Thickly the Grad said." "Everything in the Smoke Ring can maneuver somehow. It gets thicker along the median. half of it falls further away. Alfin." "The what?" Alfin asked. The tree was dying. "Which half?" "East takes you out. "Keep talking. too far into the gas torus region -.

He didn't know how to feel about that. Gavving's a good distance in. last I saw her. "Alfin. The thrust carried herintoward Voy. but it must have been what she wanted. Or going home. Alfin said." Merril caught a line thrown by Alfin and pulled herself close. an expression that was thoughtful. Why did he stay.." He flung a line. "I haven't seen her since. "The children!" Somewhere off to the side. "Treefodder. Seven of us." said the Grad. Jayan and Jinny were coming near. Alfin. a triangular face with an oddly narrow chin. For now. She was in the out section. pay attention to what you're doing." Alfin set off two jet pods. It bothered him that Alfin and the Grad bad seen him like that. She was close now. Clave asked her. so helpless." They clung to Clave more in desperation than affection. and Clave pulled them both in together. Good work. He could only try to put the meat between them as she pulled her odd weapon apart. "She's not coming here. When he could see her face he watched her watching him. then?" "He was an old man. and now she cast it out. then another. The rictus of hate he'd seen earlier wasn't there. She snagged a dead companion and reeled it in. judging. She wasn't floundering now. By now there was no room to clutch the fan itself. She'd tied a line to her long knife." "We'll go after him. "Welcome to what's left of Quinn Tribe. Now she fired two jet pods in turn. He saw close-cut dark hair. he'd have to apologize presently. He murmured. I hope we get there in time. . "Why didn't the Scientist see that coming?" "He did. "One killer left. He'd never felt like this. I don't see Glory. She hadn't found much. He tried his voice and found it normal: "They're almost here. Clave pointed. What does she think she's doing?" "Not our problem. there was motion. but he surely didn't want to die with those mini-harpoons through him. Alfin demanded. who waited in what might have been stoic calm..maybe not. The woman in purple had passed them and was heading toward Gavving. "They're dead? All the rest?" As if she'd already guessed.since. He didn't want to die alone. Jinny snagged it in her toes. looking him in the eye. Jinny pulled back to look into his face." The Grad said. then pushed off from it in the direction of the next. There was little else he could do. "But. he clambered around to the edge of the fan.. Gavving watched her coming. She searched the corpse." He rubbed his throat. Go for Merril next. She was going to go past.." By then it was obvious. Clave said. The fan drifted toward Mernil.but that's the same as murdering everyone who could climb!" There wasn't time for this. He couldn't climb fifty klomters of tree. He said. watching his approach alternately as they spun. so fearful of making decisions. She reached behind her back for a tethered miniharpoon. Seven." Alfin gaped. and released it. What Clave had taken for a purple-clad corpse was floundering in air. "Did you see any sign of Glory?" "Hanging on to the bark for dear life. "She may not have jumped." They watched.

Startled.. "You've got water and I've got food." she said. He had trouble understand ing her odd pronunciation. "Your half of the tree is probably safe." she answered and produced the long knife and threw it. Gavving had been hanging onto his pack. The clump that was Quinn Tribe seemed minutely closer. You were cast out for assassinating a Chairman." "Dalton-Quinn Tuft. He caught that too." She nodded as if it didn't matter. "No. woman. reaching for her line-Her words were strangely twisted. "What do you want?" "I want to join you. your people.. either could snatch a weapon and kill the other at any time. What if you kill me and keep both?" "My sword. Quinn Tribe now formed a single clump around. "I'm thirsty. but she hugged herself up against the meat with no thought for what it would do to her purple clothing. He'd have to sleep sometime. Can you tell us what to do next? Dalton Tuft -. Gavving might have been imagining it. complete and unknown. pulling his knife." She hung." "That's news to me. but it's being pulled out by the tide. He said. So is dumbo meat. "Come on." "I know that word. He drank. There's nobody else. and child in Quinn Tuft." he said. He wasn't even sure he should hate her." From their corpses.. let me live! I have water! I have jet pods! I beg you!" It might be so. and so what? With nothing between them but forty kilograms of smoked meat. Checker: the Grad's used it. W7iy not? I'm dead anyway. lumpy look. She set it and twisted the end. We've been in Quinn Tuft for over a hundred years." she corrected him. "Freeze! Don't reel yourself in! I have to think" "I obey. She worked a jet pod out of one of the dozen pockets that gave her body its shapeless. She was strange. motionless.The feathered thing buried itself in warm meat.she was a stranger.. but he understood her." "Is that why you killed Jiovan? For a fan fungus?" "For that. and he had time to bed the knife in the meat before she threw him the pull-it-apart weapon. He called. She used another."The Checker's Hand. but he never tells anyone what it means." said his enemy. Good enough. Then Gavving moved in frantic haste. We tend it tended it. "My bow. I can't think . "Why were you carrying so many?" he asked. tethered. When it had expended itself there was some change in their velocity. "What do we do now? The way you use a jet pod. Now what? She was just waiting. Gavving turned away. maybe you handle yourself better in the sky than we do. She passed him a squeezegourd pod half-full of water. This citizen had dropped on him out of the sky.'. no. Fans are edible. "They're all moored to the Checker's Hand. He shouted." "You should not have attacked the Checker's Hand. Then another. Gavving reached out and managed to catch it by the handle." He could festoon himself with his weapons and hers. no. "I took them from my friends. He thought suddenly. She coiled the line as she came. and for returning from exile. Gavving knew every man.and still she waited.

and you were killing the Hand. Alfin said. They braced against their mutual spin. Clave studied the haul: a knife the length of his own arm. She wants to join us. An impressively thick bundle came back. a bundle of mini-harpoons. Some of us are like that in the Triune Squad. The metal thing looked like it had been made from something else. but the dark stranger caught the line neatly and made it fast. if she'll stand for it." Alfin still hadn't answered. "I have to think." killers? He'd killed two himself. those times when the Scientist would have whipped them both for such talk." he said for the second time in his life.. Tribe. Is she armed?" "She was. So. The Grad said. Well?" She didn't speak at once." "True. was also falling out of a drought." "Where do you want to spend the rest of your life?" The jet pod sprayed gas and seeds." "There isn't room to guard her. By now he'd guessed how they must work. Clave told him. violently. "Stop our spin. by courtesy. "Who are you all? Why did you want to kill us?" "Smitta was. Not enough push... He tried again. Wait. It came to him that if the Grad had taught him rightly. maybe. a smaller knife. Now they'd have only one chance. It looks better if I can say that." Clave cast another line. Gavving shouted across the gap." "Don't pull in yet. "Seven citizens in a tribe is ridiculous. "Unless you've learned to like falling.excitable." "Why did you want to be a fighter?" She shook her head.. "She tried to kill us all." The meat and the fan were passing at fair speed when Clave cast out a weighted line. Even Smitta. you'll see to it that we're made members of your tribe. "I don't want to talk about it.then Minya's half of the tree. out from us and not moving very fast? See if you can stop our spin and move us that way too. We're lost. "We won't reach the bark this way. not without reluctance. and he liked the idea. falling out from Voy. "Who are you?" "Minya Dalton-Quinn. I'd .. Mostly women?" "All women. We serve the tuft as fighters. "What are you going to do?" "Recruit her. The first had been at his rite of passage into adulthood.of any way to reach it." "Triune Squad. See that sheet of bark. then. one of wood and one of metal. "Can I tell them this? If we can get you back to the far tuft. "This is Minya of Dalton-Quinn. Will your citizens accept me or kill me?" "We're not -. and then she said." "I'm Gavving Quinn.. He preferred the look of the wooden one. He'd reserved their last pod." Alfin persisted." Then his curiosity suddenly became unbearable. and two of the pull-itapart weapons. Another mistake." "I want her weapons." Clave handed the Grad his last jet pod." Clave answered.

Minya watched it uneasily. but he wouldn't talk and he wouldn't move. It won't last long now that it's been . There wasn't room. Mineeya-if we could reach your end of the tree. either. it was said. "We have a drought. Have I got that right?" "Close enough. The old one. Something surged from the pond. save for dark streamers that were indecisive clouds of insects. The smoke trail that joined them was growing faint." Chapter Nine The Raft THE POND WAS A SMALL. as it did now. Minya. She said. They couldn't all cling. we can do better than we're doing now." "Can't we get to another tree. A loose cluster of citizens floated about the Checker's Hand. He said. They used spikes and tethers and showed a reluctance to approach Minya too closely. Or that flying mouth that came out of the pond a minute ago -. There'll be water." "I don't want to go back!" There. The ends of the tree were far away and still separating: Dalton-Quinn Tuft drifting out and west. but it seemed little more than a mouth with fins." "I accept what you say. The creature was big even at this distance. The old one's seemed desperate. Please!" "Leave it then. it had had to come. one with nobody in it? I know we can't go anywhere now. It was flapping toward the smoke trail. When the sun shone through from behind. "Meen Ya. clung to the stalk. TWENTY KLOMTERS out from the Checker's Rand: a giant water droplet trailing a tail of mist in the direction away from the sun. "Your drought's probably ending about now. "Did you commit a crime?" "I was thinking about committing a crime. they're likely to be short. Alfin. Minya glimpsed shadows wriggling within it. How long before that new water grows new food? In any -. I would have had to. The Grad studied her. and the pond rippled and convulsed in its wake." "There'll be meatbirds in the wind now -. It didn't seem to be coming toward them. We now have a prisoner who lives in a tuft." The Grad said. PERFECT SPHERE. His look of terror had smoothed out. the Dark Tuft in and east. We have the chance to earn her gratitude. and the fungus wasn't holding together that well. could you help us join your tribe?" Their eyes were on her.guess you want to live in an integral tree tuft. Well." "You're the Quinn Tribe Scientist's apprentice?" "That's right." "Ah. Hard to judge its size. we could get to another tree. Any passing triune family would think we're some kind of mushroom tidbit. Too many mouths to feed already. not clinging to it." "Bring her in. Distract them? "Anyway. Clave asked. We should be eating the Hand. don't you think?" They weren't buying it. but if we could get to Dalton-Quinn Tuft. It was going to drift past. But if we spend our lives here.

He reached it again and pulled line in as if he were fighting some huge meatbird.Minya shook her head. if we could move ourselves. The bark was meters closer now..." The arrow sped away. He must have seen how they looked at him. and the damp was delicious. but there was damp in it. and she had come as a killer. "Yes. I do have a better idea.. The arrow slowed as it flew. the fertilizer should go outward. Minya. They crossed on the line. "I've been watching it for the past day. the bark is all we've got. And she noticed Clave's. Won't it. Clave put pressure on the line. so there's no point in getting it dirty. carefully. The bark may be close enough. Now don't was coming. his first words in hours. So near.. She made decisions fast. "What do you think you're doing?" Long. which was no closer. "Well done. and no qualms about touching another citizen. the string brushed his forearm. strong fingers. Treefodder. They had driven Minya into the Triune Squad. That might pull it in. There were murmurs of disgust as the boy Oavving reeled the lines in. Good thinking. and presently drifted. When you feed the tree. slowly. "Hold your left arm straight and rigid. When he released it. slowly. the fingers circling almost twice around.. Most of its spin had by now been lost to air friction. Now two arrows floated at the ends of slack lines.. She spoke slowly." She used Sal's metal bow. I'd go for the pond!" The Grad said." He hesitated. violently. Look along the arrow. "I'd like to try that. Clave fired another arrow deep into the wood. then released her." "We can do more than that. Minya noticed Alfin's shuddering breath once he was safely moored to the bark. The bark came to them.picked. Be at the rim when you feed the tree. "Go ahead and try. We can hope. important or no: that too had helped to put her in the Triune Squad." She picked up the loop of line and hurled it as hard as she could in the direction of the sheet of bark. The arrow stopped short. "Now. It isn't getting any closer. "That. She was his prisoner. Swing the string a little right and you won't hit your arm." Minya chewed on fan fungus." That was a ragged sheet of bark. Minya never dithered. Now she said. "I think I can put a tethered arrow into that wood. Clave repeated the exercise with no sign of impatience." Clave instructed.the arrow worked itself free. It ticked a corner of the bark and stayed. and he cursed. ten meters long and half that wide." She pointed. It was fibrous and nearly tasteless. so far . "Whenever you feel ready. "We'll used the other side of the bark for privacy." But he kept the bow. Minya looked longingly toward the pond." "It'll float around us. A hand clamped on her wrist." Clave said and took the bow. She tried another. Clave-the Chairman?-said. Now the arrow wouldn't pull so much weight. a couple of hundred meters away." Minya reached for the weapons. Pull as hard as you can. "Maybe the tree left a partial vacuum. Grad?" "Yes. There were men like this Clave in Dalton-Quinn Tuft. We need a place to moor ourselves. The spin will throw it away from us." Alfin said.

she must be tough. thenMinya ignored the rest. she didn't care if he trusted her. Alfin. perhaps." Suddenly she was utterly awake. "I'm a respected man. You came as a killer. then. Well. In Clave Tuft I supervised the tending of the treemouth. "Mineeya?" She straightened. "I had not considered marriage. "Alfin. and it came out muffled. But what else might he want of her? Jayan and Jinny: they both acted as if Clave belonged to them.Merril spoke around a prodigious yawn. Harmless as he looked. isn't he?" Alfin laughed. Minya intended to make Merril her friend. or vice versa. "I want someone awake at all times on each side of the tree.. He said. if she could. If he was that terrified of falling. to prevent its spoiling. They could die of thirst here. Clave was the dominant male. "Your argument is good. your choices aren't wide. curled half into fetal position." Her arms hugged her knees and tightened her into a ball. Alfin's hand shook her shoulder. she had seen him kill twice." .Alfin was hovering next to her. She could solve that problem." Clave said. She tried to keep her voice cool. Legless. They seemed to accept Clave's decisions. So Alfin and Jayan took the first day's watch." she said and closed her eyes. She said carefully. But she had brought them to this raft and let Clave take the credit." said Alfin. Some of us may still see you that way. even overfull. Maybe that had been a mistake. The sun was just passing north of Voy. Alfin she couldn't judge. "You'd be a fool to turn me down. Aside from that. He'd make a better ally than enemy. The golden-haired boy.." He wouldn't leave her alone. Gavving and Merril would be next. But would they resent a potential third? Best stay clear of Clave. Perhaps it was true. she was exhausted. but they were left thirstier yet. he'd be dead soon anyway. she'd be dead without friends. She could not afford enemies now. Two women sharing a man was not unheard of. "Mineeya. She half noticed activity as citizens took their turns behind the bark. Clave is spoken for. I should marry one of you. Merril was something else again. Physically and emotionally. Is there anyone who isn 't sleepy?" "I'm not. Their bellies were full. More: handicapped as she was. What do you want?" "I want you for my wife. but she swung a fist like another woman's kick! After all she'd lived through. She settled for sleep. Perhaps he thought he owed her his life. Perhaps he still considered her an enemy. It couldn't hurt. He'd never notice whether Minya was dead or alive.They had eaten the smoked dumbo meat down to the bone. She must be well thought of. If Clave thought he needed her. Clave and Jmny slapped bugs off each other. What better way to become one of us?" "I will consider what you say. floating next to the bark. "Thrice. things were going well. "Does it feel like sleeptime? I personally feel like I've been hit on the head. without her volition. but she couldn't make herself uncoil. The Grad was a dreamer. here on this sheet of bark. Jayan presently disappeared around the edge. feeding the tree. Gavving: she had made a good choice there." He hadn't recognized her uniform.

"Oh." "You don't have to -. Alfin shook Gavving awake." she said. I want to tell you why I . but not this man! Did she have a choice? She might find herself forced to mate this ugly. It was just too much. He started moving away from her-to give her privacy? She called. He had spoken a partial truth. And the Grad?" "You're playing games with me. The sobs racked her like convulsions. At least no Triune Squad companion had seen her so shamed. Minya could tell herself when to sleep and when to wake. She said. She didn't want that. she saw him weaving among the sleepersstealthily?-to reach the far edge of the bark. Gavving saw her coming."Amazing. She uncurled and made her way to the edge of the bark. I want to talk to you. Minya waited a little longer. "Wait! Gavving!" He paused. This crawling lacked the dignity she wanted. her family. yes. It came to her that her tears had driven Alfin away. He'd never sleep that way. denying the sky. But what could she do? She hadn't been quite fair to the old man. and then." "All right. "I-I'll come back when you're feeling better. Minya woke. and she would. She came closer. When she forced herself to look. She watched until he was quiet. His face was pressed to the bark. Merril watched her go. When the sun neared Voy again. The Grad seemed to be having a nightmare. and she curled up and slept.. Dared she sleep now? She must. At least she'd shed the lumpy-pregnant look of the Triune Squad." Then he saw that she was sobbing. He settled down while Gayving disappeared to his post on the far side. "There are no pockets in my pants. -And she found that she had made her decision after all. She had lost her home. but she couldn't stop. You can see that. her friends. She was thirsty. then Merril. Or she could speak of her oath to the Triune Squad and never be mated at all.. then quiet. She couldn't even muffle the sounds of distress. for Jayan and Alfin to fall asleep. She flexed muscles without moving much. "Gavving. Minya was horrified. one she'd already considered: marriage was the way into Quinn Tribe. She wanted a man. Alfin clutched the bark with all his fingers and toes and.just as they had been her primary defense when she was fourteen." But he was wary. for all Minya could tell." She heard Alfin's distress and guilt. I'll prove it. The sun was a hand's breadth past Voy. Minya waved and pulled herself around to the smooth side of the bark sheet. abrasive old man. There was restless motion around her. his teeth. Some had the knack." She pulled her blouse over her head and moored it to the bark. "I don't have any weapons. only to prevent Quinn Tribe from killing her. Copsik! How could he inflict such a decision on her now? Filthy treefeeding copsik! The tears were drying on her face. but he wouldn't see her either. Consider my offer. cast among strangers. wishing for toeholds to let her walk upright. she was lost in the sky.

and the only way out was the Triunes. I could be killed for even asking. One he tied to Minya's pants. "With me? Why me?" "Oh. don't turn me down." He reached as if to pat her shoulder and changed his mind. He started to tremble." "Why?" He was trying to keep his eyes off her breasts.. "And now I'm twenty-two and I want to change my mind and I can 't. "Tip of a swordbird's tail. Clave? I'm glad he's here. But Clave's. Gavving. I saw you kill Sal and Smitta. even the men. well.. It ran half a meter from her short ribs past her hip.. Alfin's afraid of falling. I. Too late." "I'm not turning you down. And it isn't just fighting." She pulled the rim of her pants down." He waited. "I didn't hate them. and I did ask -. Gavving. If a man wants to be a woman." "And I want to make babies." "You told me. on her face. I was only fourteen." She pulled her pants off. "He told me I should be ashamed of myself. bad waketime. We can't move anyway. why can't you just. Maybe he'll tell. I'm not going back. Gayving. and he shied. He said. he's a good leader. He pounded a spike into the bark and added two tethers. "Maybe it was the way I looked." "Gavving. But I'm not going back. If my jet pod hadn't fired I would have been all over the sky. and you're all women. without you. I think you had to do that.. I don't care. He must have understood. "But shouldn't everyone hear this?" She shook her head. "It's been a bad.couldn't stand it. rather than a matter of pride..." "Neither have I. But they all.all right. "If you don't want to make babies. weren't they?" She nodded. an empty tree would still be a better bet. "Don't worry about it. then to his own pants and tunic.type pushed me into the Triunes in the first place! He scares me. they make you fight?" "That's right. but she did. It's anything dangerous. who else? The Grad lives all in his head. Minya... "They might have killed me." He stared. You're fighters." She caught her voice rising.. She can serve the tribe without making babies.." "They're dangerous." "That's right. You don't like men?" "I didn't. This wasn't going as planned." "All for a fan fungus." She suddenly wondered if he might see it as a flaw. but you still don't scare me. I'm willing to listen. The other he tied . "I mean. treefodder." She knew instantly that she'd said the wrong thing. I've just never done this before.and better that he see it now than later. This -. "Why would a man bother a fourteen-year-old girl?" She hadn't thought she could still laugh." Gavving digested that. He didn't move. they were killing us! Without a word. Gavving saw the problem and grinned." she said and waited. "Three of us fought a swordbird a few waketimes ago. She whispered.." He tried to laugh it stuck in his throat.bothered me. let me tell you about the Triune Squad. Two came back. Nobody changes her mind once she's in the Triune Squad. or a woman doesn't ever want to be pregnant. I've got a name for asking embarrassing questions. then didn't have a spike to tether them." "So.can't go back to Dalton-Quinn Tuft. she joins the Triune Squad. If we could. perhaps flinching at the scar. They were your friends.

She'd been warned against the pain." "Aren't you afraid now?" "Sure. unless she's got something else in mind. She held him and let it happen. Now. a little." Minya was saying. and it hadn't looked like this." "Good enough. quite naked.." he said soberly.. It wasn't like that. My mother died of her fourth pregnancy." The Grad heard voices as he poked his head around the edge of the "Who is it. "This. Gavving and Minya floated at the end of a tether." The Grad stretched. "That's a relief. Hey. Yes.uh.?" "Grad. and looked down. a musrum?" His head felt muzzy. The Triune Squad isn't a punishment. I didn't want to die a virgin. She had thought she could just let it happen." "Me too. as if he were trying to make two people one. the prisoner?" Merril said. When she had her breath back she said." They moved together. that's fair. Not a lot.. anyway. He looked around. It's a refuge.around his waist. yes she wanted them joined forever.except that it was changing before her eyes. I just want to keep an eye on was ending. I was so afraid." "You need a refuge from.. A hand shook the Grad's ankle and pulled him out of a nightmare. "There's blood.." She reached to touch what his pants had covered.ending.. A man bad put his male member into her hand once. "Twice as many as you?" "About that.. But she was used to using her feet as auxiliary hands. "Yes.. Can you think of any reason Gavving shouldn't make a baby with a woman?" "What then. She had known far worse. Then Gavving seemed to go mad.. We shouldn't be having children any faster than we are. "All right." "Why me?" "You were closest. His . this?" A laugh. I'll keep track of the prisoner. I don't see any reason to stop it. But someone has to be on watch. but now it was changing her. "I've watched. you know. and being pregnant." he confided. "Uh! What." "Enough to crowd the tuft." Merril's glare lost out to a smile. The Grad was intrigued and embarrassed. and thus she pulled him against her. I never did. and that was me. I'm tough. against her will.. Are you volunteering to carry it for me?" "Sure. "They told me.but now it was happening to her! She'd made this decision in the cool aftermath of disaster. "A hundred and seventy-two of us. she could pull them closer yet with her heels and her hands. "They never told me thaL" Gavving heaved a vast sigh.. They were right. You're on watch." "It hurt. they were coming apart. And I was good. Gavving. talking. didn't you hurt?" He pulled away from her. "Okay.. some of the Triunes had not joined while they were still virgins. I fight like a demon..

" "We're being watched. It was cruising the clouds of bugs left in the wake of the disaster. An eye bulged above one jaw." Minya's whole body convulsed in reflex terror." "Good of you." "Maybe. Not a hunting carnivore. "I'm sure. The destruction of the tree had been no more disorienting than this first act of love. Gavving said. "Me. for the pleasure she could give or withhold.and the sky had opened a mouth. "Are you sure you want to do that?" For a fact. ponderously. that left Merril and Minya. "We're a little big to be eaten up by accident. and big enough to swallow their entire bark raft. A great empty mouth closed and opened again.we need sleep too. There were four women in Quinn Tribe. millions and millions of winged creatures varying from the size of a finger down to dots barely big enough to see. It was rotating slowly. "I wonder if it's edible." She relaxed. Like Mayrin. Good." "Gavving. Its body was short. though. He loved Minya now." The Grad was curled half into the fetal position." The Grad's eyes popped open." she said. "Will they think we're doing wrong?" "Not really. His mind lurched and spun. Anyway. but they were all around the bark raft.. "I'm a little worried about the bug-eater. Isn't your watch about over?" His face cracked in a great yawn. No illusion: it really was mostly mouth and fins. and feared her. "We're getting married. Gayving jerked twice on his tether and said. The shock only lasted a moment.. It rotated slowly: a way of watching the entire sky for danger. What's happening with-?" "I would say Gavving is in no danger. Now?" . its wings wide and gauzy." she said and snuggled close. Her eyes tracked a moving mouth sweeping through the clouds of bugs." "There has to be a way to reach that pond. It was a klomter away and still big.eyes shifted. And none of that mattered. Jayan and Jinny were with Clave. The bugs weren't stinging creatures. closed in a grin.. just lips. Would she think she owned him? The lesson of Clave's marriage. Shall we go make an announcement?" "Let them sleep.. Sunlight showed through its cheeks. It was closer now. and a tongue like a restlessly questing snake. was not lost on him. something like a skeletal hand was folded below the other. "Good thinking. snoring softly. and he jumped.dear. Gavving said. have you noticed?" "Noticed! How could I not?" But in fact he had learned to ignore them. I could marry you. I'll keep an eye open." He heard an incipient stutter when she said. But wasn't there such a beast in the Scientist's records? With a funny name. "I've got to tell someone. "We're embedded in bugs. The beast turned. I'm thirsty. It didn't have teeth.Merril touched the Grad's shoulder... she would be older than her mate . what he knew of it. "Easy! Easy! It's only the Grad." Gavving said. still maintaining its axial rotation. he was not.

of course. and he was amused. archaic. "Hello. you are not old enough to know what you're doing!" "Feed it to the tree.Okay. Quinn Tribe seemed as surprised as Minya.The voices were some distance away. without tide to pull them. he opened his pack and spread the contents. The Grad picked up the mirror and one of the boxes. "There's that too. A keening moan tore through his throat. "Prikazyvat Menu. " -." he said briskly.. "Have you been carrying that all along?" "No. Tears didn't run here. Gavving asked. but she heard them clearly.. sure.but that's trivia. Alfin. Jeffer speaking as Scientist." The Grad's pronunciation had shifted." Chapter Ten The Moby VOICES WOKE HER. "What's wrong?" The Grad looked up. He fitted the box into the thick rim of the mirror. I left our Scientist in the Tuft. you know. "It's-hopeful.Ten years older than you. The Grad apparently could." Clave speaking." said Alfln. His face was a mask of pain. it was odd. He would remember that she'd tried to kill him. had virtually forced it on him. THIRSTY and nervous." Then nothing happened." "Gavving. He pulled the box loose and substituted another. would you." They grinned at each other. year three hundred and seventy. "Ready?" "Yes!" Too eager? It was a little late to be coy! "What kind of ceremony will it be? We can't use mine. You wouldn't like that.. Prikazyvat Pause. like the Chairman's mirror." he called. and you don't have the bride-price. Quinn Tribe consists of eight individuals. Minya had heard the DaltonQuinn Scientist speak like that. Minya couldn't read it. Crystal lenses trembled over his eyes. We Scientists have our ways." Ignoring Alfin's contemptuous snort. "First day since sleeptime."No. I materialized it from thin air. Six or seven days ago she was trying to kill us all!" "She could have her pick of us.. He would lose interest. He was young." said Jayan or Jinny." "Okay. It's your watch. . "Prikazyvat Menu. The mirror responded: it glowed like the diffuse nighttime sun. SHE CAME AWAKE FULLY ALERT." "Oh. "I'm the Scientist now. The other twin said. the first sleep following the breakup of the tree." The Grad said. then bloomed with tiny black print. polished surface that was glassy. but didn't reflect." Gavving noticed Minya when she stirred and pulled herself back to the bark. Prikazyvat Record. loves?" "I think it's wonderful. He'd had hours to change his mind." And he'd have me killed. until Minya couldn't stand it anymore. She had given him what he wanted. "All but me. we'll wait till sleeptime's over. "The Scientist -. Packed in spare clothing were four small flat boxes of starstuff-plastic-and a flat.

" "Just what have you got there?" Alfin demanded." The Grad gulped and nodded. He knew. Teardrops broke loose and floated away. better protected and probably near-sighted for close work. The tears were about to become contagious. This cassette is life forms. not long enough for the Grad to answer. "Prikazyvat Record. We're down to eight. St. Terminate. "Moby is a whalesized creature with a vast mouth and vertical cheek slots that are porous. invisibly far. The Grad read. to go on living?" Clave paused. "If not. and the fingers are tipped with harpoons grown like fingernails. When attacked it fights like Captain Ahab: its single arm is tipped with four fingers. Two smaller eyes. on either side of a single arm. filled with print. The tree has been torn in half." It was as if the Grad had been frozen with his mouth open. "Come on. since there is no safe direction in the free-fall environment. but the Scientist ran out of room and erased it. Moby avoids large creatures and also shies from our CARMs.armen got sick in ways nobody ever heard of and used medicines nobody ever heard of either. Mass: approx eight hundred metric tons. Jayan and Jinny were sniffling already." He pulled the box from the mirror and said. "If so.Clave put his hand on the Grad's shoulder. "Is there anything in your classified knowledge that we might need to know. Take as long as you need. why should we guard that stufl or let you carry it to slow you down?" Pause. Then he gave a jerky nod. we can't spare even one. You've got a marriage to perform. "Hold it. He said. "Grad. you're hiding knowledge we need. Scientist. The Scientist. He cleared his throat and said in a creditably crisp voice. Tradition says you should consummate the marriage the first chance you -. "This cassette is recent records.. It prefers to be spinning." "I've been trying not to." The Grad looked at him. Clave said." The Grad started rolling the gear in clothing again. No children are yet born. They're all classified. for stability and to watch for predators. Clave snapped. But if you know why we need a Scientist more than an apprentice hunter. of course. My first act as Scientist. you're valuable. We're a little thirsty. the size of tuftberries. "Take a minute. He sent these with me. this one is cosmology. Seven of us survive. What good does it do if we're dying too?" "We're not dying. It feeds by flying through clouds of insects. It stays near ponds or cottoncandy jungles. this one is old records." The screen lit." Clave said firmly.” .. Marriage between Minya Dalton-Quinn and Gavving Quinn exists as of now. plus a refugee from the outer tuft. used as filters.think about it." "Classified?" "Secret." Minya was stunned. Minya had to remind herself that Dalton-Quinn Tuft still lived. oh. wye. We couldn't use that stuff anyway. you'd better show us now. "That's it?" "That's it. "Prikazyvat Find moby: em. somewhere. He chose a cassette and fitted it into the rim of the nonmirror. "We're all dead except us! I feel like recording it makes it real." the Grad said. Length: seventy meters. "You're married." Clave glared around him. "Everything I need. Why should we protect you?" The Grad gaped. One major eye. bee. It used to be medicine.

Its fins thrashed and it turned." "And that is why you need a Scientist. So. "Treefodder." The Grad's arrow went wide." "Doesn't matter. Maybe they were too thirsty. One struck the fin. The moby shuddered and continued . not injured. A third arrow struck near its major eye. A skeletal arm folded forward. "Stop. It had spotted the harpoon's motion and was edging away. neither with any great force. ahead of the spreading translucent fin. Gavving hurled the coiled line toward the moby. With the steel bow and Clave's muscles to propel it. how timid is that thing likely to be?" "I read you everything I know. the massive harpoon might have flown as far as the moby. it was going around them. pursed his lips. It didn' it circled to expmine the situation. "Reel it in and coil the line. nodded. To the others he said. It turned to face them. "Arrows. not citizens. Without the cassettes you wouldn't know anything about it. Then the first arrows reached it. stumbling a little. Alfin asked.Clave glanced over his shoulder. He waited until the creature's spin put the major eye on its far side. I want this in its tail. Nobody laughed. it gaped and grew huge." he told Alfin. a meter and a half of his own harpoon protruded before him. The moby's gauzy tail was in motion. and each had fired another when Clave said." said Gavving. "Alfin. They had a side view of the flying mouth. The moby convulsed." "Maybe. Clave was going through all of the information on all of those "cassettes. until the trailing line dragged it straight again. I guess. gripping the steel bow in his left hand. We want it mad. "we don't want it to go around us. Clave let it unroll for a moment. Grad. The moby was watching him. Clave stood as Minya posed him. have you got that line coiled?" "Not yet. one a cheek. "Throw the line. The harpoon struck solidly in the meaty part. "That?" "I'd think so. presenting four harpoons. you copsik! Are we all tethered?" The sky had opened a mouth. Doesn't sound like a threat." He'd make the Grad read them to him. "Do we want to hurt it now?" Clave discarded the metal bow and took up the harpoon. Clave cast. Clave studied the massive bug-eater. It felt awkward. then sent the harpoon after it." "Carms? Captain Ahab? Whale-sized?" "I don't know what any of that means. Put some arrows in the beast." he said." He explained." The moby obliged." "Then hurry." Classifiedl The first chance he got. Its tail flicked forward-and they felt the wind. It's timid. and Clave stopped him from wasting another. Gavving's and Minya's were flying true. Despite the swarm of insects near the raft. It didn't even come close. Get it mad. As the tail came into sight. and it eats bugs. Get its attention. drawing the bowstring halfway back toward his cheek. The harpoon wobbled in flight. not scared. Instead of one of Minya's miniharpoons.

Shadows moved within. reconsidered. turned to look back. Gavving whooped and leapt from between closing horn harpoons. Clave was cursing steadily. plants. until his tether went taut and pulled him around the edge of the bark. Here were all the celestial objects a child had once wondered about. that's good. it continued to fall outward." the Grad said. "Sorry.. We're moving. Anyway. I'm the Chairman. then said. swinging gradually east. towing the bark raft. The moby stopped. Okay. Gavving reeled himself back to the bark. it was worth a try! I just wish I knew where the beast was taking us. Quinn Tribe clung along the forward edge of the bark raft. A distant seed pod sent a tendril growing across a klomter of space toward the water. meateaters. "At least we haven't lost anyone." "Feels like bone." said the Grad. and was married. The creature backpedaled with side fins. and marooned.. water. "Air." Gavving opened his mouth. Toothpick splinters. Gavving's eyes traced the line of the Smoke Ring. At Clave's insistence they had donned their packs. all aligned. "My idea. A point of sunlight blazed near the edge of the pond. More practical heads had denied this. a clot of white storm marked Gold. They watched the moby turning. and we're moving out." Clave looked around him.but nothing had. Harp had told him that he might see them someday. except that the pond continued to dwindle. Minya's sword slashed at a joint." she reported and swung again. The bark raft surged. Its mouth closed and stayed that way. Gavving licked his lips and yearned. glowing with refracted blue Voylight. The moby was supposed to dive into the water and try to lose us. and slowing. might have been a grove of integral trees. . The moby snatched its hand back fast." The moby was turning. away into the sky. It began swimming strongly against the air. Vagrant breezes rippled the surface. The great skeletal fingers curled around behind him. Tiring.. He had left the tree. Clave snatched up another harpoon and jumped toward the tremendous face. and thirsty. Scientist? Thicker air?" "Thicker anything. The pond had become a tiny jewel. isn't it." They waited to learn. He stopped. Why aren't you blaming me?" "I'd still get the blame. and one of the harpoon-fingers was flying loose. Its fins folded against its side. A thickening halfway down the arch toward Voy would be the far Clump. Minya yelled and slashed at the "hand. and nobody left the tree. Tens of thousands of klomters beyond. meat. The "hand" lashed forward. The tree moved at the whim of natural forces.and spoke anyway. retreating. congealing out of the background of sky into the pale blue of water vapor and distance. "Don't we still have a few jet pods?" "Not advance. Tens of thousands of metric tons of water dwindled in their wake. "So near and yet so far. The raft was following it.. He pricked the creature's lip before his line pulled him back. presenting a streamlined egg-shape to the wind. Anything could happen.

There was nothing at all ahead of them. "How far ahead? Sixty. "Every child learns that. They swung their shirts and sucked the water and laughed." "Maybe not.Clave said. "We're being pulled east. Now? He wrung the shirt tight and tried to suck it." Merril said. Gay ving had never in his life seen such darkness. It's supposed to be the way to move. it isn't ahead. But the cloud bank was spreading itself across the sky." "Cloud ahead." . I don't want anyone cutting the line too soon. so we'll fall outward and slow down. Get our shirts off. anything with water in it. knots of stormy darkness. No? Keep swinging it. Try to catch some of that wet. west takes you in. and hoarded their thirst. But Minya was saying. "We'll cut loose as soon as we get near anything interesting. out takes you west. remember? 'East takes you out. Gavving asked. Jayan and Jinny took off their shirts. out to where the arch of the Smoke Ring formed from infinity. I'll bet the moby is making for that cloud bank. They clung to the rim of the bark and watched the wisp of cloud out from them. Lightning flashed deep within. "Drink your fill. but they felt the tugging of the tether." The Grad nodded happily. Do we want to stay in here?" "Anybody still thirsty?" Silence. The sun circled behind Voy. but we can't live in here. Light was gaining. "They're right. but he said nothing. Again." the Grad said with more hope than conviction. The cloud bank was growing. "Do you feel damp?" Merril snarled. Gavving breathed through his shirt and swallowed the water that came through. I smell it. The moby was invisibly far. if you're lost in the sky but you've got jet pods. suddenly said. Let's trust the moby a while longer.and the Grad had never told him what it meant. It was 'classified'. They were all doing it now. I can't drink it! But it's coming!" Lightning flashed. Details emerged: streamlines. and got sweaty water. it's straight out from us. Gavving. He tried to squeeze water out of his shirt. The spike that tethered the harpoon was working itself loose. We're aimed almost east.. breathing through our shirts. It continued to sink. They could barely see each other. "I feel it. the daynight cycle had grown longer." "What the treefodder is that?" Clave demanded. Gavving felt the mist now. Gavving remembered. It was getting hard to breathe. Were they emerging from the cloud? "Clave? Maybe you want to cut that tether. "We're aimed out from east and moving pretty fast. enjoying the sight without questions. clotted streamer of white fading into blue." Darkness brightened as the sun emerged below the edge of the cloud. Clave pounded another into the wood and wrapped the slack line around it. The moby hadn't moved for some time. forest. pond. off to the west." The moby's fins were spread and flapping slowly. They watched the first tenuous edge of mist envelop them and began flapping their shirts. It was! "It'll try to lose us in the fog. Already they had moved many klomters outward. We're moving too fast for our orbit. in takes you east.. seventy klomters? Anyway. Alfin. A distant. There were big fat drops around them. Clave barked laughter. Integral tree. port and starboard bring you back. Minya moved her tether to bring herself alongside Gayving." said the Grad.

and they were going to ram. He was looking at square klomters of textured green. growing solid. The harpoon tether sang a deep note. She'd watched numbers flickering on a small display in front of him. I see something off to the side. all plastic and metals." The pilot touched attitude jet keys. The white light that glowed from the dorsal wall was neither Voylight nor sunlight. IT WAS all right angles. Flocks of salmon birds." The ancient microphone put a squawk in the Squad Leader's voice. and Lawri.” “Squad Leader. That greenery is a pretty good reflector unless you're looking right into it. The Navy pilot pushed the talk button and said. dotted with every color of the rainbow-including overlaid scarlet dots that were heat sources. the bark sheet shuddered. Something's falling toward the jungle. If it's noncombatants.The pale green light was getting stronger. due to the long. "They're just under the greenery. "Let go. It served Kiance the Scientist. Are you sure you want to do this?" "We don't know who they are. A cloud of sky-blue men fell toward undulating clouds of green. we'll retreat. He'd released at zero. We don't need fighters. And the jungle was no longer moving toward the carm's bow window. abnormal darkness? Clave bellowed. He was ignoring sky. his eyes kept ificking to her and away. "If it's just fighters. The line whipped free. The carm was a mighty servant. in a layer of clear air. "The savages haven't moved yet. Warriors had been clinging to nets outside the hull." "Have you found any other heat sources?" "Not yet. with a texture to it." Several breaths went by before Lawri heard. Chapter Eleven The Cotton-Candy Jungle THE CARM WAS LIKE NOTHING ELSE IN THE UNIVERSE. Now they swept into view of the bow window as the cam' decelerated. "Treefodder!" and swung his knife." he reported. and spared it only a glance. "We're loose. Sometimes it went away into the sky with Navy men as its masters. Then they were out of the mist. hiding -." . free at last." "Right. We can pick up some meat. inside and out. This time it carried Lawri too. or trying to. Seen through the picture-window bow. If London Tree was a living thing inhabited by other living things. cut short as Clave slashed again. It grated on her nerves that she was not the carm's master here. then Lawri saw the cam' as a different form of life. A tide pulled Lawri forward against her straps.. unliving starstuff. where London Tree moved only with the help of the carm. no matter what the First said. He'd made it clear enough: a nineteen-year-old girl had no place here. It was a jungle. Through thinning fog Gayving thought he could see sky. Gavving glimpsed the moby flapping away. expanding. Green? Was this some effect in his eyes.. The pilot released the keys after (by Lawri's count) twelve breaths. the jungle was green. Weirder lights crawled across the control panel and the bow window itself The carm was mobile.

kicking the carm away from the fight. this time. "We're all aboard." The Scientist had his wish. There was a quick exchange of arrows as the armies neared each other. . Ribbon birds showed as cooler: wavy lines of a darker.. the string by the hands. do you think?" "I wouldn't like to try it.The pilot turned and caught Lawri looking. it must be moved out of danger. He returned to his microphone." the pilot murmured. I'm using science. you must. I'd say it's not a vehicle at all." said the Squad Leader. "Cnossbows. "Your sole concern is for the cam'. and the arrows were shorter." the pilot said. "You'll endanger the carm! Those savages could snatch at the nets!" "Calm down. Have you learned enough to fly this ship." said the radio voice. "That thing hit pretty hard. until he started his turn. The display superimposed on the bow window showed scarlet dots clustered close. He played the jets. The cloud of arrows loosed by the savages moved more slowly. "We don't want them close enough for swordplay.can. The pilot ignored them. "Classified. and with reason." "I see it."Something like what?" "Something flat with people clinging to it. the carm would never be used for war at all. London Tree's warriors used long footbows: the bow grasped by the toes of one or both feet. "Pardon me. Lawri shuddered. darling?" "Don't call me darling. "Learned anything. Scientist's Apprentice. just what we need for copsiks." He had not told her how to subdue a trained fighter. not in free-fall.. Masses thumped against the carm's belly. Lawri felt relief. Those people may be refugees from some disaster. Could they be animals?" "No. not the soldiers. The savages were grouping to attack again. Putting his Apprentice aboard had been a major strategic victory. riding yellow-green pods bigger than themselves. He eased the carm into the midst of his own warriors. southwest.. He'd told her. "Unless you'd like to teach me?" It was something she wanted very much to try. bloodier red.. She would more likely wreck the cam' than save it. They hadn't a hope of catching up.. hard to see. Might even be glad to see us. Savages screamed or jeered in its wake. Spindly savages taller than a man ought to be were boiling out of the green cloud." the pilot said without regret. They were clothed in green. Thanks. nor how to fly the ancient machine. Warmer objects-salmon birds. She would do nothing." The Squad Leader sounded distracted." Lawri lied. We're moving too fast for them. for instance-showed more orange in that display." Lawri said primly/evasively.. The carm turned and coasted across the green cotton." "We'll get to you when we. If the pilot won't. Scientist's Apprentice. "Nice going. Savages flew toward the bow window. Lawri watched the cloud of savages advancing. The Scientist had never flown it himself.and there would be hell to pay even if she got home to London Tree. If the carm is threatened." The cam' curved back toward the melee. Lawri saw their terrified eyes before the pilot spun the cam' about.

It seemed to be working. Motionless wings and tails blurred into invisibility.. The storm had hidden a jungle. His head was ringing. far away. Gavving tried to take it all in before the end.. some were themselves triangles.There was time to look. Gavving opened his eyes and saw the bird. long wings stretched out and motionless while it studied him with two forward-facing eyes in deep sockets. Ribbons fluttered away. Now what's that? Grad.big. Some had membranous triangular tails. and time to feel rising fear.. Birds were there in various shapes. "That should do it. The Grad said. do you see something like a moving box?" "'Yea. more darting swarms of. Starstuff. blue.. Treefodder. A vehicle. Green cloud. with whiplike tails sprouting from the apex. his stomach was trying to find something to reject. his right arm was banged up somehow. not flame-colored but the bluewhite color of Voy. We'll be shaken up when we hit." "I see "Men. but the jungle was hidden now. Clave was snapping orders. dipping into the blossoms or the insect clouds.. as in a strong wind. It was curves and billows of green wall spotted with blossoms: yellow.and glittering as if made of metal or glass. Gavving turned and saw what he had been doing: setting his last jet pods to orient the turning raft. they're fighting! Just what we need. Gavving clutched the bark. another war. Nearly invisible flames. Clave. Larger torpedo-shapes emerged from the greenery to study the falling bark sheet. funnel-shaped.dots at this distance. scarlet.. Its tail was a ribbed fan.. "I never saw anything like it. puffed from some of the small-nostrils? The vehicle stopped its turn and surged back into the battle. Gavving thought. Men clung to its flanks. waiting. Some looked like ribbons and moved with a fluttering motion." Clave said. about the mass of a man. It was turning in sentient fashion. and he couldn't remember where he was. distances were hard to judge. . the four ribs ended each in a hooked claw. Birds were starting to notice the falling mass. The other side of its head bore a saw-toothed crest. It was torpedo-shaped.. Far to the east was a dimple in the green. a thousand shades and tones. "Check your tethers! Arm yourselves! Some of those things look hungry. It hung over him. but what else could it be? The moby had planned this well." The aft end of the box was spiky with bell-shaped structures: four at each corner and one much larger in the middle. so that the underside would strike first.. Could it be as soft as it looked? East and north. moving away from the battle. Would a jungle have a treemouth? Why would it be rimmed with gigantic silver petals? The biggest flower in the universe set behind the jungle's horizon as they fell. Insects swarmed in clouds.. He'd never seen one close. Has anybody noticed anything I might miss?" Gavving thought he saw where they'd strike." "Well?" Gavving located a brick-shape with rounded corners and edges. It's inhabited. perhaps half a klomter across. then.

Minya." he shouted back. It screamed. slowly turning. His thigh bent in the middle and white bone protruded through skin and blood. The rest made their decision. Jinny. The bird hung back.. A tethered harpoon thudded into a bird's side. Somebody had to do something." . Gavving couldn't remember seeing Alfin grin. facing backward. with a turning motion. They fled. Clave's eyes had opened. With his toes locked in branchiets. Alfin asked. but everyone was looking at him. The Grad tethered himself to the bark and jumped toward the storm. The birds watched him mockingly. It was meters away. Grad. at least. right at his head. We made it. He set Alfin and Jayan to holding Clave's shoulders." Alfin said. A third eye was behind the crest. and it was clearly the Scientist's job. "I can't believe it. Jayan. He reached for his knife instead and eased himself out of the greenery in which he was half-buried. "It's coming here. The Grad hung back. but it didn't seem he understood. Alfin reeled the bird into knife range. and happy while lost in the sky? He said. He scrambled for cover as the bird dipped its tail hooks into the foliage and stopped dead. Jinny. Clave revived and fainted again before it was finished. Gavving to pulling on the ankle while the Grad moved the bones into place." said the Grad. squeamishly. "Alibi. and closed. "I don't see him anywhere. half under the raft. Merrill. A wide grin stretched his wrinkles into uncustomary patterns.. How could Alfin be consistently morose in Quinn Tuft." Clave was under the bark sheet. let's get the bark sheet out of sight. "If we'd hit something solid at that speed we'd all be dead. Minya called. The bird set itself whirling as it tried to snap at its belly. "He's here. A fourth bird skimmed across the green cloud. "Where's Clave?" The others looked around. Gavving stayed where he was. 'Wait. The crash had bounced it free of his hand. We're alive!" During all the years in Quinn Tuft." Missing citizens emerged from the green depths. just a scissors-action serrated edge. Men garbed in sky-blue clung to all four sides. a performance that left Alfin's sleeves soaked in pink blood. He was half-conscious and moaning softly. "I'm meat. Minya. He whispered." "We're not finished here. moving fast. Let's hope the luck holds. The open mouth had no teeth. Jayan and Jinny burrowed into the foliage. "That flying box. Are you?" intending it as a threat. The starstuff box fell toward them through the clear air between foliage and storm cloud. you'll get lost!" and prepared to follow. Gavving whooped and gathered her in his arms. They don't bluff Gavving thought. Their mouths were long and blunt." he said and shook his head as if he'd drunk too much beer. Gavving said. "Dinner. He used it to pin the bird's tail while Alfin finished the kill. By then Gavving had retrieved his own harpoon.Gavving looked around for his harpoon. It took too long. They moved it to expose him. The glassy end faced them like a great eye. Two companions had joined it.

He pulled himself into open air and looked about him. "Can you leave him for a moment?" Clave was half-conscious and whimpering. He looked back again." Alibi said. but Grad-Scientist. "Burrow deep. He moved away." he told Minya. Anyway. And I haven't got much. She didn't have room to swing. Stick together. Then Gavving pushed against the freed end and found that the entire cluster moved outward as a plug. we've got food and water. "Scientist. "MennI! Here!" "Good. moving with frantic haste." Merril called. we're still falling!" Alfin's laugh surprised the Grad." Alfin nodded and turned away. "Call me if he starts thrashing around. and the Grad was looking at the sky. I need a Scientist. The foliage was dense at the surface. He wanted solitude to nurse his jumpy stomach. Gayving moved after it." Gavving said. Alibi made his way back toward Jayan and Merril and Clave. He'd never set a broken bone before. "It's been a busy time. his breathing was irregular. and Minya after him. you don't want to sleep now. He looked back once. but. Are you about to run amok?" "Feels that way. "It would hurt him. The Grad said. I'm not helpless. The starstuff box was taking its sweet time. The occupants must be watching them by . You learned it the same way. Jayan screamed. What looks like a good spot?" "None of it." "When it's safe.. and Alibi followed. "What's the problem?" "I can't sleep.They turned it edgewise and pushed it down into the greenery. "You know as much about free-fall as I do. Which of us do you accuse of sleeping well?" "I haven't slept since we reached the midpoint. and the Grad was gone. His eyes were puffy." "All right. Scientist. The darkness and the strange. "Cut here. even to each other. The Grad mulled the problem. He should be all right with two women watching him. dappled shadows made them almost invisible." The Grad laughed. and he'd had to do it without the Scientist's help ." Jinny said. Minya was nodding. Alibi didn't look good." Alfin glanced at the sky. I killed a bird that was after Gayving. he was as jumpy as tonight's dinner turkey. The one-eyed box was too close."No. "Grad?" The Grad looked up. "We can hide in here." Gavving tracked a dense cluster of branchlets back to a single spine branch." he told them.." And for that moment his pride was showing. You know how dangerous it is. Underneath were open spaces and masses of springy branchiets. "I've got a bit of that scarlet fringe from the fans. it had a touch of hysteria in it. What about Clave?" "We'll have to pull him through. The Grad stayed where he was. She and Alibi towed Clave toward the opening. forcing their way through the thicket into dark green gloom. and it took her a hundred breaths or thereabouts. We're in a jungle. She used the sword as a saw.

" Minya said. and they all had a gaunt. She's trailing a line. get lost in the deep branchlets. "He's gone." Would Merril slow them down? Probably not. why does it all have to happen at once?" "Yeah Chapter Twelve The Copsik Runners Buws WERE RAISING AN INCREDIBLE RUCKUS. Jayan snatched up a harpoon and ducked through and saw people disappearing deeper in. They held implements: small wooden bows on wooden platforms.. A blow on the head convinced him not to struggle. the moving box--"Okay.." "What?" "Move it. "The men on the box. there must be open space around him. Gavving!" They got Clave inside and pulled the plug-bush closed. "they'll follow us. because it gets us away from that starstuff relic. Three of the five wore their hair very short. Jinny. It's the natives' territory-" "We're here.never mind. Minya. the Grad thought. Merril -. His eyes were beginning to adjust to the gloom. Maybe we can bust the Grad loose." Why did it all have to happen at once? Clave's leg. Hands had grasped his ankles and pulled him down into another world. No need. stretched-out look: two and a half to three meters. Gavving." Mernil puffed." "We're more desperate. Something pulled him down into the thicket. the bowstrings . His yell was strangled by something stuffed into his mouth. Merril. We go after Jayan right now. in free-fall. me. roughly speaking. where's Jayan's line?" "Somewhere over there. though this needed a second glance. not big enough to walk in. He'd had no warning at all. It was narrow: big enough for two to crawl side by side. taller than any of Quinn Tribe's They'd have to dig in fast. The soldiers on the box would be fools to come in here. A tunnel wound through the foliage."Where's Jayan? Where's the Grad?" "Gone. you and Alfin follow as fast as you can. UNSEEN HANDS pulled the Grad headfirst through darkness and the rich smell of alien foliage. with Clave. They wore leather vests and trousers. you're right. Okay. His captors were human. Gavving saw that Clave's leg had been splinted with strips of a blanket and two of Minya's arrows." "I know. You couldn't walk with no tide. something that wasn't clean. We'll follow Jayan and see what's going on. the kidnappers. Branchlets no longer scratched his face. The looseness of the vests was their only concession to breasts. "Merril. But. should we stop her? They'll trap her too. and a rag was tied to hold it in. dyed green. what got the Grad? An animal?" "I didn't see. He yelled and disappeared. Merril. Treefodder. They were all women.

" Usa's pants were as loose as her vest. Long hair must be a problem among the branchiets. All of Quinn Tribe." the black-haired woman repeated impatiently. One pulled the rag out of his mouth." Lizeth snapped her knuckles across the back of his skull. and half a meter long. plus Minya." Lizeth informed hini. We should discuss your situation after we eat. now." She frowned. "Stupid! We saw your attackers. red hair cropped two centimeters from the skull. "For a captured invader." "I've got nothing to lose." The Sharman's face didn't reveal what she thought of that.pulled back."Eight of us. Her skin was dark. "Lizeth. His directional senses wouldn't give him an up. with three other tunnels leading off." "What are you doing in Carther States?" "You'd have to ask a moby. hard enough to sting." She pointed. Nothing left. He said. They've got a traveling box made of starstuff." Debby's hair was clean and straight and soft brown. Her hair was blond ftizz her scalp showed through. tied in back. The tunnel turned and twisted until the Grad was entirely disoriented. Go for Gold -. "Treefodder!" A woman spoke. an old word for Scientist. ready to fire." "Name?" "The Scientist doesn't take one. It presently opened into a bulbshape four or five meters across. She said. worse than Minya's. and this was the end of it." "Why not? You don't get a tide anywhere else. "Ilsa. That's science! We got here on a sheet of bark!" She nodded as if she'd expected that. That discrete abdomingi bulge: Usa was pregnant. "Tree dwellers? The copsik runners are tree dwellers. the Grad realized how true it was. We hooked a moby. There was something left to him after all. "That's Alfin's bird. Since when did the Chairman take a name? "You haven't given us your name.. you are most impertinent. from the opposite tuft. except that she was a woman.. Clave was hoping he'd try to lose us in a pond.. He said it with some pride: "I'm the Quinn Tribe Scientist. Who are you? How many are you?" Should he be hiding that? But Quinn Tribe must find Mends somewhere. Our tree came apart and left us marooned. it all seems innocent enough." "It belongs to Carther States. Once I was called Jeffer. How did she keep it that neat? Sharman mean Shaman. "Well. Eight survivors had done their best to reach safety. "I meant it! We were dying of thirst. "Why did you attack us?" The Grad shouted in her face. the Sherman.. Who're you?" She studied him dispassionately. He brought us here instead. He snarled. her hair a compact black storm cloud threaded with white lightning." Kara said pointedly. He spit to the side and said. pale of skin. "What?" "We are Carther States. "Debby. They were making good time.until he saw their meal and recognized the harpoon.but strangers wouldn't do everything the way Quinn Tribe did. Her pronunciation was strange. Here the women stopped. "I am Kara. She had spoken." A moment after he said it." The Grad's humiliation kept him silent. "An eccentric way to travel. . Hild. Could mean Chairman." They looked like twins to the Grad's untrained eye: spectrally tall.

" "Go ahead. without tide to bring gas to the top of the stomach. he thought hazily. Hild wrapped sheets of pink meat around the stalks and passed one to the Grad. "I thought I might find some background on that word.He found he didn't care. The women had long since finished eating." . He answered. "Don't untie anything else. You learned to put hunger out of your mind during a famine. We have to join them." "Salmon bird is eaten raw. The man-sized bird was dwindling." "Not to us or them.but he had definitely been hungry. "It's just an insult-word. Even here. mouth-filling. he thought and shuddered.. They take us for corpsiks. It grew as a green tube with a spray of pink blossoms at the tip. "That wood looks too green to make a cookflre -. "Falling onion?" They showed him." 'Who are they. what is there? Stay here and be hunted or let the invaders catch us. the copsik runners might find us. Lizeth gave it to him in a squeezegourd.runners?" "Copsik runners. It's our last chance. His mind went blank. I never saw a starving copsik runner. Yuk. Feeling pleasantly full. the onion taste was fiery. "I am the Quinn Tribe Scientist." he said in freezing tones. and had to swallow again. His belly was stridently empty. Boy. then freed his left. these. Raw meat. I have to talk to them. They watched with irritating smiles. Debby was now cutting the falling onions to stretch them." Raw.. The meat had an odd. Nothing could be entirely bad when he felt this good. Kara the Sharman said. The falling onion had run out.. Usa's sword carved the scarlet meat in translucently thin slices. "One thing is clear. They watched him eat. Otherwise. but his mouth watered." she warned him. Don't you use the word copsik?" It sounded more like corpsik when she said it. what are you doing?" The Grad had reached for his pack with his free hand. The Grad wondered if they would consider a belch bad manners. "Cute. I wouldn't lead you to the rest of the tribe until I knew who you were. with falling onion when we can get it. He'd learned while climbing the tree: a belch was bad news in free-fall. shall we talk?" "Where are we?" "Nowhere in particular. He drank a good deal. The pretty brown-haired woman named Debby assembled a handful and cut the blossom-ends off. Falling onion was a plant parasite that grew at the forks of the branchlets. He asked for water. rubbery texture. Meanwhile Kara bound the Grad's right wrist to his ankles. to work for them the rest of our lives. "Now that that's established. the Grad topped off his meal with a handful of foliage. Lizeth seemed content to carve slices until they stopped disappearing.. and belched anyway. The flavor was rich. or jump into the sky . He bit into it. You are certainly a refugee." A test? The Grad took his time swallowing." he said.

So the Sharman doesn't trust me. The women were awed and wary." said Kara. "Can you read it?" "No. then spoke to the machinery. The Grad asked. but it might be the best they could get. There used to be machines that could see the warmth of a body. with skills appropriate to an interstellar venture. but not as citizens. This was found to be impossible. "If you fight. He has no rights. It was hoped that the corpsicles would be grateful to find themselves in healthy. perhaps they will not seek out the children and old men and women who host guests. Memory patterns could be recorded from a frozen brain." the Grad said and held the reader to Kara's face." said Debby. This assumption proved-' I can't make sense of all that. there are kinds of light you can't see." CORPSICLE? The Grad said." Kara said bitterly." "Would you make us citizens?" The pause lasted only seconds. "Their Sharman is better than I am. "Clave broke his leg coming down. and RNA extracted from the central nervous system. Debby whispered. Kara. "Prikazyvat Find copsik. to the Sharman's evident annoyance. He chose the records cassette." Guests? Oh. "They may live with us. "Corpsik. A brainwiped criminal could thus be fitted with a new personality.. and you know it and they don't." The women looked at each other in dread. inserted it into the reader. He had Carther States' undivided attention." "So light little fires all through the forest." ." "That's right. "But only a corpse is cold. A copsik isn't a citizen.The Grad unwrapped his reader." "We make citizens only of those who will fight. Make them check each one. In the century preceding the founding of the State. Our warriors are fighting now. The treatment was later refined and used by passengers and crew on long interstellar voyages. the pregnant ones. some tens of thousands were frozen immediately after death in the hope of someday being revived and cured. youthful bodies. "'The seeder ramship Discipline's crew included eight corpsicles. "Prikazyvat Expound." NOT FOUND "Prikazyvat Find -. We'll have to talk. The Sharman shied. That's how they find you. Grad." "They find us. Lizeth held her spear at the ready. One thing seems clear enough. "I can't say yes or no. It may be that their science enhances their senses." "Wbat is it?" "I just remembered something. and said. and who knows if they will repell the corpsik runners? If we can hurt a few. No citizenship was conferred upon these corpsicles. “The State later made use of the stored personalities." The screen filled with print." Kara said for them all. Kara.." Not good. He's property. "What about Clave and the women? What happens to them?" The Sharman shrugged. So? "How do they find you in here? There must be cubic klomters of it. I don't see why you fight at all. Twice now they have found us hidden in the jungle. "Corpsicle is an insult-term first used to describe people frozen for medical purposes. we would be glad to have your knowledge. The memory sets were those of respected citizens of advanced age.

and the Grad was gone too. The traces are getting blurred. "I see you've caught up with the first group." the pilot said. abandoned. The rest of you follow me. centered above Clave's knee. It might be possible after all. Too few survivors followed the Grad through green gloom. and thus the only possible custodian of the spitgun. Things were looking better.. Then they had plunged into the tunnel's branchlet walls. There wasn't any Scientist. The third had a broken leg. Clave's pitiful remnant of a tribe was split. His tumble turned him and the dream turned nightmare.. He faced a bulky. blue men carrying huge. Jinny and Minya stopped abruptly. Ten years ago he had tended to shy back from an attack. "Three groups. You probably won't catch them. unwieldy bows. and Clave tumbled in free-fall. The carm hung behind Squad Leader Patry's shoulder.the tree was gone..." The Grad nodded and reached for more foliage. Okay. Fires go out unless fanned. faceless silver thing. Mark was born to wear the armor. jarring his leg. His mind was muzzy." she trailed off.. so we left him. Patry reported. Go wide of that yellow stufl it's poison fern. But hadn't the plants died in the drought? And." "Patty." said the pilot's blurred voice. The big group started first.. The smoke smothers them.." "I sent Toby back with two copsilcs. "Are you going after them?" "Groups how big?" "Three and three and a bigger group." He joined the waiting men. ignoring Clave. take the point. Perhaps Quinn Tribe had found a home. Acolytes followed it in. We're almost at full strength. they could protect the rest." In the hands of Patry's men a mass of greenery rose from the rest and floated free. but spreading in flashes throughout his body."Very dangerous. until he gained confidence in his invulnerability. He plucked it out. The fire might. Maybe you should quit. near the jungle surface. The pain had gone and reality was fading." Mark was a dwarf the only man in London Tree who could wear the ancient armor. He climbed past the severed bush and into the dark with London Tree's infantry behind him. "Mark. "Never mind. Let's just see what happens. He'd learned to wear it well. and the Grad had no drugs. The apparition raised something metal? A splinter stabbed into Clave's ribs. we're going after them. and they're all going deeper. and there was no medicine for an injured man. Soon the Scientist's plant extracts would erase the pain. is there something unusual about your mission?" . The agony was real. The men had called him Tiny until Patty himself raised hell about it.. Here was medicine after all. "The forward group has stopped. He was being towed through a tunnel. "We've found where they dug in. bow aimed at the jungle. If some could become citizens. The pain shouted in his brain. The rest faded in and out.was it a thorn? The metal-and-glass creature forced itself through the tunnel wall. The middle group has joined them.

" There was too much birdsong. "Let me do that for a while. that he followed enemies who knew this thicket as Gavving knew his tree. Pilots tended to argue a point to death.. In the end they watched from behind a screen of branchiets as the Grad spoke with the weird women. Pick up anything scientific. didn't have that problem. "It looks like the Grad may have talked them around. A disembodied white arm thrust out of the tunnel wall and beckoned. but they chirped. The coil trailed from a thumb. They'd see you. and if need came they could probably fly. I'm going to at least look at the situation. he said.oh.Classfled. and Patry wanted silence. His feet and one hand were bound. but the hand she used clutched an arrow. like exaggerated cartoons of the ideal woman. "They're ahead of us. but he was casually eating foliage while they talked. Merril wound it up as they went. They looked relaxed. His toes thrust into branchlets and pushed him down the tunnel in remembered rhythm. then it swells out. She whispered. So did the Grad." "Keep your hands free!" A little later. what did it matter? "Catch some copsiks. Eat. We're all right as long as Jayan is still pulling on the line. he felt almost at home here. Jayan had broken a trail. Shoot some meatbirds. before the drought killed the small life throughout the tuft.. she said. do you?" "There's a big group ahead. You can fight with your hands." They followed her into the thicket. Gavving was hungry enough to try the foliage. Minya. Maybe the First Officer wanted the Scientist to owe him a favor.. You've got copsiks. When Gavving noticed. They moved faster then. perhaps regretting her sharpness. Her voice was a hoarse and frightened whisper. She was snatching handfuls of foliage. Jayan looked out through a screen of branchiets. The taste was alien too. Despite its alien smell. Don't take the tunnel. Where's your harpoon?" "On my back. Go where I go. Collect some spices. it seemed. Cheeping and croaking rose from thousands of unseen throats. or like a further stage in human evolution. and her bow was in the other. In fact. He ate more. can you?" "No. There's a long. but it was sweet and went down well. Twice she'd had to cut thicker spine branches." "Where?" "Not far. she used both hands to move herself. this deep in the thicket. They were lean and elongated. "I need my hands to move. Patty didn't comment. Gavving hadn't burrowed far before Jayan's line led them to a tunnel carved through the foliage.. Minya's breath was warm on his shoulder. straight part." he said and immediately noticed that the line had gone slack. The sound was the sound of Gavving's childhood. I can't hear. . They were moving faster than the line that slithered ahead of them." That last wasn't usual. not with the Scientist's Apprentice listening. or they'll hear branchiets breaking. The carcass of a bird was mostly bones." Patty turned the volume down.and an occasional crackling as someone moved. How many do you need? You don't really expect to find science here. "Fine. It was an effort to remember that this wasn't Quinn Tuft. They wouldn't be birds. Gavving reached for his harpoon before he moved again.

You and the copsiks together?" "Sounds right." Chapter Thirteen The Scientist's Apprentice LASSITUDE. Five of them jumped toward other tunnels and were gone in three directions. Too scientific by half. tension at wrists and ankles holding his body straight. It looks like they're together again. His bonds gave as he tugged at them. Her eyes were open and empty of hope. and there's a tighter. We've got six copsiks here. The thing of science pointed a metal tube at Minya. Minya leapt through the branchiets in a hideous crackling. brighter spot east of you. With some trepidation he flipped an obvious switch. Alfin smiling in his sleep. something I don't understand. He'd never seen the like before. It pointed at Gavving and stung him again. He was bound again. You can't fight science.The weird women didn't hesitate an instant.. over a gray substrate. Then everything went dreamy. He turned to fight. Ilsa. "Some of you are awake by now -. PLEASANT SENSATION LIKE FIZZING IN the blood. To his right. Jayan (already awake and trying to hide it)." the pilot said. a row of dead salmon birds and ribbon birds. "Monster made of starstufli There!" Gavving leapt after her.constriction and resistance at his wrists and anldes.I've got something scientific here. Jinny. A bunch went off through the tunnels.. We'll leave the one with no legs. We're coming out. sighting over their toes as they pulled huge bows taut with their hands-but they didn't fire. a cluster of a dozen or so. but from a distance this stuff might look like metal. to his relief. Can you locate them?" "Yes." Squad Leader Patty picked up a rectangular mirror that didn't reflect. He twisted his head left and saw others: Minya. then at the Grad. straight into the midst of the weird women.. The light went out. It was the flying box. She struck the edge of the opening and tumbled away unconscious. The sixth jumped clumsily.. a mirror that shone by its own light. Kill some meatbirds on the way out. face down to a wall that was hard and cold and smooth. I've got a hot spot. someone was making too much noise. He was tied to the flying box. we've got enough. and one of the Carther Tribe women. Gavving. To fight what? A thing of glass and metal! There were men behind it-ordinary men who floated free.AN ODD.. screaming. "You're right. one already tied up for us... the pregnant one. He'd have appreciated some warning. "I can't get individual readings on you. Gavving felt something sting his leg.." "There's something here. That gives us seven total.. Still. The Grad waited until his mind was straight before he opened his eyes. "You're too deep.memories drifting into place. Gavving thought.. He was tied to netting. There's you. Gavving's harpoon bounced off its mirror-glass face. and he drew his long knife and leapt at the monster. Getting to be a habit. ready to do battle. and translucent to a millimeter's depth. I'd say quit now. sorting themselves. Had she struck that bard? The Grad was struggling to free his hands.making Gavving glad for the birdsong." . A jovial voice boomed at them.

"Why do I feel so good? Something was on those ." and he must have silenced himself. Some won't pass. billowing white." "How?" "Classified. You'll have to get used to the pull on things. Some won't want to take it. A wave of droplets each the size of a thumb swept across them. "May we talk among ourselves?" "Sure." "Huh. I expect. There's an initiation." Minya called to him. "We're not stuck anywhere! We moved into the cloud because we need water." Gavving said. if you don't interrupt me. He was not surprised to see sky wheeling past: green forest.and know it won't float back at you. so the Grad spoke. He said. "What about our children? Will they be copsiks too?" "They'll have the chance to be citizens. "Treefodder! We're going back into the treefeeding storm cloud! Whose bright idea -. The copsik runner himself was halfinvisible. You'll just get lost in the sky.The Grad arched his back to see over his head. You'll get to like it. Their guard waited for quiet. Nobody else seemed inclined to. He clung to the net near the windowed end. because nobody else could have reached him. "What's happening?" "The good news is we're going to live in a tree." Gavving tested his bonds while he absorbed that. burly. Now. and that lets you cook things you never tasted. Property." Gavving was just waking up. "What gives you the right?" "Don't ever say that again. "Anything else?" Minya seemed to calm herself in an instant. and balancing on your feet without falling. a strip of blue. cheerful." From below their feet came an unnerving whistling roar. you're wondering what's going to happen to you. "Don't try to wriggle loose." the copsik runner said. You're going to join London Tree. Where are we? The flying box?" "Right. and we won't come back for you. You always know where you are. He looked left and right and found the Grad. The copsik runner was big. We don't want fools for copsiks. Mist thickened around them. "Is London Tree stuck in this storm cloud?" The copsik runner laughed." Mist enclosed them completely. I'll forget it for the duration of this voyage." "I don't see Clave. "As what?" "Copsiks." "Right again." "I feel wonderful. A wet wind blew past." He stopped talking because some of his prisoners were screaming. Better than dying of thirst. Servants. Or Merril. You can drop garbage -. leaving them soaked. The panicky screams thinned to whimpers. I am a citizen. The copsik runner's voice rose " -. There's tide when you're in a tree. You can heat water till it boils without it spewing all over the place. "It's very impolite for a copsik to interrupt a citizen. Questions?" Minya screamed. The textured green below his feet began to contract. but you will learn. A tide pulled toward the Grad's feet. and so forth. After we get you home we'll move out. by what a thing does if you let go of it. and the Grad heard Alfin's.

" said Minya. I found you and married you and joined the Dark Tuft People.I wish I could see Clave. "There. but the windsong was nearly as loud. It was too noisy anyway. I want to get angry." "We're drugged. It's been worse. rose and fell. I'm a little numb myself." "It's not that. It could be worse. The tuft was greener and healthier-looking than Quinn Tuft had been. The whistling roar died. "I know." "We met each other. If I know how we get to London Tree. Just . and now we're not dying at all." "Could be. perhaps from inside the flying box. though. I think we'd better wait." The Grad said. They can't keep us drugged forever. Now we're what? Copsiks? It's too many changes. They were coming up on the in branch. Too much.. maybe I could get us back. . We'll get over it. "At least we don't die virgins. The Grad's talking escape. and foliage reached farther to cover the branch. maybe. somewhere. Then things happened fast. the berserker warrior. Lightning marched a meandering path across the bow. They spoke together at length. In that direction a' bushy shadow was forming. where foliage began to sprout. You're still Minya. I was Minya of the Triune Squad of Dalton Quinn Tuft. We were dying." She found a laugh. "I don't want to miss anything. and it can move itself. They swarmed to what was now the roof of the flying box and began pulling prisoners loose. More appeared from underneath. The roar of motors resumed. but most wore tuftberry red. "Too many changes. The whistling roar had faded. We're going to a tree." It was dark and wet around them." "You're not saying much. People left the hut on the jump. clearly a work of tremendous labor. A great arching gap had been chopped through the branch itseli linking this platform to one on the other side. a large hut had been woven. We don't know enough. as the flying box settled toward the platform. I had some Carther Tribe citizens convinced that we should join them. and the men had smooth faces scraped clean of hair. forget it till you need it." "I can't seem to feel anything. We hitched a ride with a moby and got slung into a jungle. but I can't. London Tree's citizens didn't have the incredible height of the forest denizens.thorns. Then I was lost in the sky and dying of thirst. Gavving watched for a time before he convinced himself that it was one tuft of an integral tree." "All right. He'd never seen any tree from such a vantage. The roar of science-in-action wavered." Minya said.. At its west end." Gavving turned to Minya. Npw the wind blew up from their feet. The Grad didn't try to hear. We'll never see another drought. like the red fringe on a fan fungus. The vehicle swung around. Some wore gaudy colors. The bare wooden tail sported a horizontal platform of hewn wood." "What will they do with us?" "I don't know.

He couldn't see what was happening on the ledge. Here was no more than a third of the tidal force at Quinn Tuft. Minya. The Grad's eyes followed them. leading Gavving and Alfin toward the big hut." The copsik's hand shoved against the small of his back. He moved in that direction. sending him tumbling backward under its mass. He was dirty from head to foot." "Jeffer. He was thin. with stringy muscles. Presently he was pulled free of the net. "They're mine. Two men stepped in from either side and caught his arms. and walked off the roof. They must have been waiting for just such a move. and the tall Carther Tribe woman were freed in turn and escorted off the roof of the vehicle. Somehow he had expected normal tides. He grunted in protest." she commanded. "Take this along. "Wait! That's my husband!" The drug slowed him down.Jinny. a golden-haired woman of twenty or so with a pretty. He drifted down. That made her laugh. A copsik runner. Then nothing happened for a time." The Grad staggered when he touched down. He was very much the kind of copsik who might come spinning from the sky on a sheet of bark. but Gavving threw the bird into the copsik's arms. crying. A smallish. But his eyes inquired. Minya began struggling. but stayed upright. The Grad called from above Gavving's head. Get aboard the carm and stay out of the pilot's way. A line of dried blood ran from his right eyebrow to the corner of his jaw. triangular face. but that bothered Gavving nonetheless. he was still falling. lifted. "Do you know how to walk? You're short enough to be a tree dweller." "Wait with me. "Which of you belongs to these?" she demanded. His blond hair and beard were raggedly cut. "Citizen." He stood stupidly. but his wrists were still tied. But where were the women? The flying box had blocked his view. what will happen to them?" "Call me Scientist's Apprentice." Lawri said. Can you cook?" "Come. The copsik was studying Lawri as she studied him. three or four ce'meters taller than Lawri herself and not much older. "I did. One clouted him across the head hard enough to set the world spinning. They were closing again when he hit the platform. "I can walk. toward where the fin flowered into tuft. held up the Grad's reader and tapes. He asked. He never completed the first step. They took the women first. "I can hardly call you Scientist! Don't you have a name?" He bristled. Jeffer. fussy-looking man in red pushed a bird's carcass into his hampered arms-it was nearly his own mass-and said. Alfin's eyes popped open when the copsik runners turned him loose. We'll use the carm to reach the Citadel. "Carm?" . on the other ledge. "Who are you?" "I'm the Quinn Tribe Scientist. and Gavving would have waved. but he answered. Now he saw the women through the arch." "Stay with me. then went back to sleep. they judged her." he said. and tried to jump toward Minya. and hardly a convincing man of science. They hustled him into the but." Strangers were among them. Jayan. the other copsiks don't concern you now. Two men in tuftberry red picked him up and carried him away. The drug on the needles still held him calm.

he was still too tall for the chair.. He grabbed at something to stop his fall. as soon as I'm allowed to contact him. After perhaps twenty heartbeats the pilot lifted his fingers The familiar whistling roarbarely audible through the metal walls. the cabin was only a fifth the size of the carm." "Just what are your orders?" Her voice was casual. "Citadel. Blue moves the carm? "Jeffer." "Confiscate them. . A handleon the back wall: it twisted in his hand. The Navy may be interested in these. "I don't have orders yet.and pumps to move the fuel. but the pilot touched only the panel. Ten chairs faced into a tremendous curved window of thick glass. peremptory. A big-boned man of average height. How did you get those wounds?" The blond girl spoke as if she didn't care very much. mass sensor. Images were there that couldn't be outside the glass. Will you confiscate the copsik too? He says he knows how to work them." "I don't have orders to do that. Behind the chairs was thirty or forty cubic meters of empty space. was clutching the back of a chair.She slapped its metal flank and pronounced the syllables as she had been taught. Symbols and numbers glowed in the bow window and in the panel below it. trying to see in every direction at once. He watched the pilot's hands. She didn't blame him." The pilot was looking nervous. nor could they be reflections. Few copsiks ever saw the interior of the carm. He could feel the response in shifting sound and shifting tide. and mysteries whose names he'd glimpsed in the cassettes: attitude jet ljfe support system. and there he stopped.. if it occupied most of the carm's bulk. In!" He got through both doors and a few paces beyond.. flame had spurted from nostrils at the rear. And I'll tell the Scientist what happened to them. They must be in the glass itself: numbers and letters and line drawings in blue and yellow and green. Could he learn to read those numbers in the glass? Would he have the chance? A man in blue lounged before the box window. The carm was moving away from the tuft. The Grad immediately made his way to one of the chairs. what would have been a curved head rest poked him between the shoulder blades. Maybe you'd better confiscate me. to talk to him. scientific items. CARM. and numerous loops of metal: anchorage for stored goods against the jerky pull of the motors. The Scientist's Apprentice spoke briskly. echo laser. The girl.. right.a good deal of it. Even so. computer. It seemed that something must burn to move the carm. forewarned. but still fearfully strange-went quiet. He was uncharacteristically leery of playing the fool. Were they leaving London Tree? Why? He didn't ask. His glance at the Grad was venomous. The lurch threw him off balance. The Grad wasn't. and dirty water spilled from a nozzle. For the moment she left him to it. There were bars set to swivel out of the walls and floor and ceiling. east and out. and only the blue. He turned it off quick and met the girl's look of disgust. gaping. What was the rest? When the carm moved. A witness to his discomfiture. "Cargo And Repair Module.He decided.." His hands moved. "Please take us to the Citadel. if you're sure enough. The calm left by the needle had almost left his blood.. He was starting to be afraid.

The panel was otherwise blank.." She tapped what she was carrying. They were drifting back toward London Tree. or end his days as a copsik. The pilot said. His eye caught the pilot's. you can read. The rest of it -. My preogative. "Goldblatt estimates that Levoy's Star went supernova a billion years ago. Then she reached to plug one of the Grad's cassettes into a slot in front of the pilot. She'd chosen the cassette for cosmology. longer than seemed necessary. The carm's free-falling path had curved back toward the tree's midpoint. A tap of the yellow button made all the yellow lights disappear.Wounds? Oh. ." The Grad shrugged. unable to look away. Records. "The tree came apart. word for word. Very good. He seemed shrunken into himself. the white button raised new symbols in white. The planet must have been losing atmosphere for all of that time. replacing gasses lost from the Smoke Ring and the gas torus to interstellar space. as far as I can remember." She thought it over. blue. and the pilot flinched. "What are these?" "Cassettes and a reader. Can you understand what you read?" "Not that. The Grad felt his hands curling to strangle her.) "Prikazyvat Menu. "What happens to the people?" "Quinn Tuft must be dead except for us." The print shifted.. The planet would have continued to leak atmosphere to the present day." The familiar table of contents appeared within the glass: white print flowing upward. with its per perihelion actually inside the neutron star's Roche Limit. Dominance games. He would learn to fly this thing. Because he must learn. In its present state Goldblatt's World defies description: a worldsized core of rock and metals -. I hope you brought us something new. "Can you read?" "Certainly." he said. "Hey -. There were structures here. The pilot was gripped by ternfled fascination. his face. Classifie4 classtfled! Mine! "Prikazyvat Gold. white. Now she was saying. permanent fixtures in a row of five: yellow. leaving the remaining neutron star with an altered velocity. A supernova can spew its outer envelope asymmetrically due to its trapped magnetic field. The planetary orbits go all to hell. hundreds of billions of kilometers." A shadow was congealing in the silver fog around them. The Scientist's Apprentice had assaulted the pilot's mind with the wonders and the cryptic language of science. "They do that if they fall too far out of the Smoke Ring. The Scientist's Apprentice asked the Grad. a gas giant world in the cometary halo that circles Levoy's Star and TeeThree. red. Strong Roche tides would quickly warp the orbit into a circle. green." "Enough. "You'll have to tell me about it sometime. East takes you out. Five of us now." "Science. She tapped two buttons." "Goldblatt's World probably originated as a Neptune-like body." she said. In Levoy's s-scenario Goldblatt's World would have dropped very close to Levoy's Star.klomters out. Huge wooden beams formed a square. I can guess that Levoy's Star is Voy and Goldblatt's World is Gold." He'd accepted that Clave and Merril were gone too." That touched her curiosity nerve. save for the transitory glowing lights within. We had a close encounter with Gold some years ago. (Buttons. Out takes you west-He had a great deal to learn about flying the carm. "We have that data on our own cassettes.

Those wooden beams would just about fit against the carm's windowed end. The Grad was relieved when he heard the motors start and felt the carm slowing.and that was what the pilot was doing. though that was hard to judge.. Watch his hands! Chapter Fourteen Treemouth and Citadel IN THE LARGE HUT THE WOMEN WERE STRIPPED NAKED AND examined by two women taller than humans. "They carry guests. The Grad watched through the small windows. The Grad was developing a dislike for the Scientist's Apprentice." she whispered to Jayan. "They'll be all right. startled and annoyed. London Tree made Quinn Tuft look barbaric! But was it wise to. The skin seemed to have withered on their bones. not of woven foliage. it augured badly for Quinn Tribe. Ilsa was clearly pregnant." The what would what? But she would say no more. Offended? She was sure she had broken a man's arm before they clubbed her unconscious. the big bow window now gave on to rugged bark four ce'meters distant. It too must be artificial.Inward. further than the Grad could follow. Minya judged that they had spent many years in the tide of London Tree. though they asked many. With all these artificial structures. -. practiced. Cables and tubes ran down the trunk in both directions. tapping at blue lights. "No. but no disease."Scientist's Apprentice. the men won't be allowed near them.which he would try to keep in check.. "It looks like people live a long time here. but of cut wood. closed between the legs. The trunk was coming at them. He wasn't expected to judge London Tree. A pond had touched the trunk: a silvery globule clung to the bark. They found dirt and wounds in plenty.. feeding it water carried in seed pods. Things were happening outside. four huts in a column. and that seemed strange. They wore ponchos in tuftberry-juice scarlet. If she was behaving as a typical citizen toward a copsik. Their long hair was white and thin enough to expose scalp. Their walk was easy. They treated Minya's bruises." Now she turned. fitting the window into that wooden frame. and Jayan nodded. to her obvious surprise. A man in a white tunic was talking to men in blue or red ponchos that fit like oversized . We bring it from other integral trees. Forty to fifty years old. and brusquely advised her to avoid offending citizens in future. like Ilsa of Carther Tribe. do you cut the wood for these structures from the tree itself?" She answered without looking at him. Jayan was also declared pregnant.. too fast. and sent off with Usa. Minya thought. Minya smiled. Also. and Minya had to wait. One of the supervisors noticed Jinny's distress. they looked so strange. One of the Scientist's apprentices will have to look them over." she said. A single pond in this region of mist? Men in red moved around it. Minya gripped Jinny's arm. afraid that she would attempt a futile battle for her twin. The supervisors would not answer questions.

He carried these. Not a fighter." His eyes turned greedy. We'll get you cleaned up first." The pilot nodded stiffly." "Jeffer. If I moved it now the water would just float away." "No. His eyes flicked to the pilot's back (the pilot hadn't bothered to turn around). beating Lawri to it. and him." The Scientist took the plastic objects Lawri handed him. He nearly brushed the Scientist. who held his ground. "They want to know when I can move the tree. The Scientist tapped at yellow lights. Lawri. and lean but for a developing pot belly. the ends of a citizen's loose poncho showed below. . "Was the carm damaged in any way? Was anything lost?" "Certainly not. The pilot said. but he didn't bump any rocks. Presently the others all launched themselves along the bark toward the lowest of the column of huts. then to the Grad. "Who's that?" the Grad asked. then. I'll wait for your story. pulled himself through the doors and was gone. I think you can still catch it. I don't love the treefeeder. "Old science.sacks. from you I do want a detailed report. The tall women led them in silence. They passed nobody. "That's Kiance the Scientist. The Scientist's Apprentice disdained to answer. Jinny and Minya followed.looks all right. the same vegetable smells. The carm's two doors swung out and in." Lawri held up plastic boxes. "Pilot. The foray team brought back these. with a peremptory snap in it. but tell me now if anything happened. "Fuel tanks are damn near dry. "A reader!" he breathed." The Navy man's head turned. No surprise there." Klance the Scientist was arguing with himself as he approached the carm. Otherwise Minya couldn't tell London Tree from her own tuft. The rest of the Navy party is waiting for the elevator. I can't tell you what it means to have a spare. Otherwise. with slack muscles. The Scientist was already in conversation as he entered.forty-odd." Sharp. Your new owner. Here was the same green gloom. The window sprouted a display. The pilot tapped the yellow button and spread two fingertips apart over the resulting pattern of yellow lines (remember). his nose narrow and convexly curved. He rose and launched himself toward the twin doors." The tide was lighter. "Well?" "He's the Scientist of a ruined tribe. he thinks he owns the whole tree. that will do." "He seemed to know what he was doing. the Grad thought. His white smock reached just below his hips. Damn fools. We'll be filling them for weeks. Branching tunnels ran through foliage stripped bare by passersby. What's your name?" The Grad hesitated.. First we have to -. His hair was thick and white. In a moment the Grad heard his voice speaking out of the air. "You bring me treasure." He stopped. reader and all. "Lawri.." he said. They only just finished topping off the reservoir. "Jeffer. then to Lawri. He was tall for a tree dweller. "Tell me later. If you need a detailed report -. All these years I've been waiting for the Navy to lose my carm.

and water poured forth like a flood in miniature." Minya said. Jinny.two bodies on platforms. Jinny shook her head." Minya frowned and looked about her. It wasn't frightening. then let the flood pour forth again.. Their escorts abandoned them at the serving table.. He must be still in the jungle. . Minya looked downslope. "We belong to the copsik runners. They were led to the edge of the treemouth. "Clave. completely covered in cloth.. Jinny didn't answer for several breaths. "Tell me what bothers you most. garbage. One of the supervisors heaved on a cord." The cavity ran round the trunk and all the way to the treemouth itself. She had worn purple too long. Was it made for the elongated jungle people? It bothered her more that she wore tuftberry-red.. She said nothing. "No. their escorts had stepped out of their ponchos. She hadn't spoken since Jayan was taken away. Jayan's got his child. "He'll come. they're already here. Then. with the blue tinge of Voylight glaring from below. They had traveled some distance before Minya felt the wind. Four cooks. as if that would cover her. but I'll lose him. citizen-red at home. Minya had little trouble stepping into the poncho despite its being sealed between the legs." "I'll lose him. lit by harsh daylight at the far end. The shadows were strange. Was Jinny imagining. then donned them. tingly." "Clave loves you both.. She could see the empty sky beyond. though she hadn't the remotest idea how Clave actually thought. Look. "Jinny. toward the treemouth. a dark shape hidden in shadow and foliage. Afterward they dried themselves with their garments. and showed no reaction. almost beneath the great reservoir mounted where branch merged into trunk. Minya had never experienced soap before. but it did seem uncomfortably loose. then handed it to her. All that foliage had had to be torn out. the men. The supervisors soaped themselves too. Weren't the copsik runners afraid of killing the tree? Or would they only move to another? Thirty or forty women had formed a line for food. Offal.? Her eye picked up something in the green curve that roofed the Commons. Copsik-red here. Minutes later the tunnel swelled out into a great cavity. The women produced lumps of something. They handed scarlet ponchos to Jinny and Minya.. Minya shuddered with the shock. In Dalton-Quinn Tuft Voy had been always overhead." "Neither was ours." Jinny said. Minya and Jinny settled themselves into a resilient arm of foliage and ate. his leg has to heal before he can do anything. dutifully. They ignored Minya and Jinny as they were marched past. Jinny walked hunched over." "He wasn't on the box. Was the Commons this big in Quinn Tuft?" Jinny looked about her. When she turned away. Many were attended by children: three years old and younger. five. She found two more… The suds left her skin feeling strange. I won't be his anymore." Minya said.more of the elongated women-ladeled a stew of earthlife vegetables and turkey meat into bowls whose rims curved inward. and one began rubbing it over Minya's body.They were still naked. but it was strange. They took their charges by the arms and led them beneath the huge basin.

But I think you'll have company. and a two-pronged wooden fork. They paused several meters away. Lawri looked dubious. would anyone stop her? She'd be "feeding the tree. "They call us 'jungle giants. they didn't tell me either. "A tree that came apart. He might think it was a mad idea." The word was out of his mouth before his mind quite caught up. I keep expecting well. I'm Minya Dalton-Quinn."What are they doing. One of the first was. Minya dropped it. When her bowl was empty. the men like that. "They didn't tell you. I've got kids now. "You're too young to be so sure.." Two shadowy men were coming toward them. Their ponchos fit more closely than hers and were a riot of colors. toward the shadows at the outskirts. And they'd watched her naked -. But how could she alert Gavving to jump too? He might not have the chance. He wanted to ask what he was eating. Minya tried to do the same. Thick stew. Another copsik settled beside them: two and a half meters tall. middle-aged.thought it was something like that. and a squeezegourd for liquids. Of course they couldn't." "How long have you been here?" "Ten years. He could recognize two or three of the ingredients. "Eat faster if you want to finish. take it back to the cooks. "What do we do with these?" "Leave with the bruises broke Karal's -. now. What would they do to her if she resisted? What would Gavving think of her? Even if they could escape later. "You look like you know how to walk. drifting at leisure along the interlocked branchlets that formed the ground." Hem looked up. And the men strolled over to join them. He was given a gourd with a fair-sized slot cut in it. You from a tree?" Jinny didn't answer.'" Too many changes." "I. but it was Klance who asked the questions. Three sleeptiines ago." She grimaced. She'd been lost in the sky and survived. no man in her local universe would have dared to touch her." "Married?" Heln looked at her. shipped from the out tuft." Hein ignored them. Sile spoke to Jinny. The citizens own us. They watched the women and talked. she asked.. I used to be Carther. Kiance the Scientist laughed. It was mad. Okay." HeIn said. This is Jinny Quinn. or something like. had cooled by the time it reached the Citadel.The fare was blander than what she was used to in Dalton-Quinn Tuft. "I keep thinking they'll try something. Minya said. then. You look like citizens. "Were you taught medicine?" "Certainly. Any man who wants you owns you. The Grad's first meal at the Citadel was simple but strange." She moved her eyes only." "Rescue?" Heln shrugged. No last name. walking easily in London Tree's tide." A short sprint past the treemouth would put her into the sky before anyone could react.. waiting. Anyway." The stranger said.. Minya heard " -. Minya thought. "If no man takes you.If she strolled toward the treemouth now. "Heln. making their selections?" "That's right. Minya watched them while she continued eating. .

the moby. Klance said. musrums. the duinbo. This one was big and nicely formed and had a special name. In fact he had worked with children." His racing mind told him what to tell Klance. once. The meal ended with a bitter black brew which the Grad refused. We only use half a circle. and wellbeing of his charges. "This is strictly starman stuff. we live a little longer than they took me four days to read the insert on the State. yes. The Checker's responsibility includes the actions. I did get the feeling that they lived longer than we do. and he continued to talk. I never heard anyone else -. flashers. Hmm. "We don't get malnutrition here.. Strange people. I've treated malnutrition sicknesses. treemouth tending. 'Treefeeder must think he's the Checker himself. Not letting it make him sick took a distraction. did it?" "I don't know the word.. He was hoarse when he finished. there were narrow windows everywhere. Klance. Maybe that was the reason they were protecting it?" "I don't think so..' when she was mad at the Chairman. Maybe she'd let them know where he was. Always with the Scientist supervising. The Grad referred her to Minya and Gavving. "Your Scientist never tumbled to that? They had shorter years. Officer entrusted with seeing to it that one or a group of citizens remains loyal to the State. yes. Injured hunters.. She burst in only once." The Scientist reached for the Grad's reader and one of his own cassettes. The old copsik runner won't let me practice on citizens." . will he? He'll try me out on copsik first! My own people. He ate what he was given and told the tale of Quinn Tribe's destruction. There were too many of those fan fungi. The room was more a cage of timber than a hut. "This giant mushroom bad hallucinogenic properties." "The Checker's Hand.. The Checker aboard Discipline was the recording of Sharls Davis Kendy in the ship's master computer. Jeffer. he had set the bone in Clave's leg. Klance the Scientist puffed at his pipe-shorter than the one the Quinn Chairman had used-and clouds of smoke drifted sluggishly about the room and out. Women with guests. thank the Checker. the Grad was glad for the chance to talk. have you ever heard that word Checker before?" "My grandmother used to say. The truth is.. and boards would swing to cover them." "The red fringe made you feel strange but nice. and grow up more slowly too. "I think I remember." Eating strange food with strange implements in free-fall took concentration. Klance was saying. the insects at the tree median. CHECKER. attitudes. demanding to know how one fought swordbirds and triunes. How did you come to be found in a jungle?" "Inadvertently. but it's still about seven-fifths of a State year. The Scientist interrupted with questions about Quinn Tuft." Kiance snorted. They used one whole circle of their sun for their year. he had inspected a pregnant woman. Have you seen it?" "Yes. Lawri seemed fascinated.Have you worked with children? Injured hunters? Sick women? Women carrying guests?" "Not with children. The State.

The frame was massive. The mindless labor let his eyes and ears and mind run free. Foliage grew around the copsiks." Lawri exploded. How do you feel?" The Grad answered with careful half-truth." Chapter Fifteen London Tree GAVVING WAS ON THE BICYCLE WITH THREE OTHER COPSIKS. I'd feel even better if I knew the rest of Quinn Tribe was all right." "So do I. They squealed as they moved and gave forth a scent of old animal grease. but I think you'd be bored in the tuft. Sometimes children swarmed through or watched them with bright. The citizens of London Tree must have kept copsiks for generations." "Call me Klance. his legs no longer hurt. The endless passage of days had toughened him. save for that . with most of the tuft below them. and here were all the men. The bicycle gears were of old metal.To hear his teacher so slighted set the Grad's ears burning. Gavving let his legs run on while he watched the elevator descend. at least not for copsiks. Jeffer. Straps ran from the belt around his waist to the bicycle frame. They had chopped Quinn Tribe apart. how would he find Minya? Gavving. "It's unheard of for a freshly claimed copsik to be at the Citadel at all! Won't the Navy -. Gold was nearer than he had ever seen it. The frame was anchored to the trunk where the tuft grew thin. Even if opportunity came to run. watched storms move sluggishly around a tight knot on the eastern arm of the Smoke Ring. curious eyes. pumping steadily. The same goes for you." "They'll get showers and food and drink and clothing." "Fine. and safe. They worked naked. Jeffer. High up along the trunk. they could still snatch and eat a handful while pedaling. Gavving could see where two had been ripped out." "Yes. After the first session he'd thought he was crippled for life. He barely heard Klance add. A similar box had risen almost out of sight. Scientist. This level was used for industry. "All right. They were skilled at it. There wasn't tide enough to pull him against the pedals. Surrounded by sky. whether or not I keep you here. There were other structures around the trunk. of cut wood. Klance. and the muscles were hard to the touch. from now on you must think of me as your Checker. a wooden box descended slowly. Their children may become citizens." "The Navy can feed the tree. rested. with sweat pooling on their faces and in their armpits. Today there were none. "I'm clean. Man's work and woman's work never seemed to intersect in London Tree. The Citadel is mine. fed. Forcing his legs down against the pedals pushed him up against the belt. For the time being I have two apprentices. There had been six sets of gears once.

were those shrunken legs finally good for something? Or have you become copsiks among the jungle people or are you dead? Over the past eighty-five days or so. during the trip across the sky to London Tree." He hadn't been told that. He had seen no evidence of it.surely the tree had collected enough water by now . He had driven the bicycles for two decades." Gavving forced himself to speak. "My father was a citizen. "There are other trees? How many? Who lives in them?" Horse chuckled.and when they turned me down for that. That's where you go if you pass the tests. na. "Boy." "Okay. once." "Na." The supervisor called. The elevator had settled into its slot and was releasing passengers." Huh? "Go?" "To another tree. there" -. "What are the tests like?" "We're na supposed to say. that the tree could move by itself. because nobody ever knows. But it's been thirty-five years. I damn near lost my testes for swatting a supervisor.yes.eerie time when he was a child. Jorg. when Gold had passed so near and everything had changed.. "Forty days till we meet the women. "What?" "Citizens live in the out tuft. without tide to compress them." So: children raised in the jungle grew taller. Any man's kid has the same chance as a citizen's. you are green. aren't you? Did you think your kids would stay as citizens if they passed the tests?" "That's. freckled head and tremendously strong legs. he'd been allowed to assume it. Gavving and the others stopped pedaling. "Navy men. "I flunked the obedience test." Horse puffed. Failed the test when I was ten. the tree had drifted to the eastern fringes of the cloud bank. He was in his fifties. More passengers were coming down. You wouldn't believe how rancy I get thinking about it. The jungle hovered hundreds of klomters beyond the out tuft: a harmless-looking green puffball. twenty sleeps. He'd been told. settled by any copsik woman's kid who passes the tests. "Pedal.. see? I thought I wanted to go. "I did think I'd be picked for service in the out tuft. you copsiks!" and they did. You'd be taller if -.." Gavving said.Horse indicated the man pedaling in front of him -- . I should've been. "You want to know everything at once? I think it's four bud trees now. three ce'meters shorter than Gavving. Horse saw the muscles standing out along his arms and said.. trading for what they need. "Nine sleeps. the jungle giants' kids aren't any taller than the citizens." Gavving looked away. myself. "Come for the women. Who ever knows?" "Seems likely.. Sometimes I'm glad I didn't go. I'm secondgeneration. How are you doing Clave? Did that broken leg save your freedom? Merril. Rain swept across them from time to time. they're come for the women." By now Gavving was strangling the handbar. I forgot. London Tree goes between them. with a bald. I was born here.. Over the squeal of the gears Horse said. "Born here?" Horse nodded. Heh. When you see a boxful come down and it's all men. I was never married. at least mother always said so." said Horse.

andwithreason. but the Grad had never been able to see them. and that was fascinating enough. It was night. The collar of water shrank as water was sucked into the hose. He and Lawri and the Scientist explored the cassettes together for old knowledge. Otherwise Lawri treated him as a copsik. and that one was Patry. Of the rest of Quinn Tribe he had not even rumors. The pond clung to the bark. He was sweating. He lowered his voice. You don't want any hunting parties out when it happens. Just get to the bicycle and pedal. fed.. a Navy officer. . "Don't worry about it. None were jungle giants." The Grad strapped himself to the saddle and started the pedals turning. It was not his choice. he had never seen a first-generation copsik at the Citadel. Probably worrying about his new andalienwife. A Navy man and two copsiks emerged. The Scientist had seen them when he was younger." said the Grad. a flattened heinisphere. "Did you think it was just a story? We move the tree about once a year! I've been on water details too. In the peculiar light that remained.. If he stared at them they went away. He watched the elevator climb the tree to its housing. "trouble. two faint streamers of blue light fanned out from the tuft. a spy. To port. the Blue Ghost. Poor copsik. He could catch them by looking near them. But he was learning nothing that would rescue Quinn Tribe. Maybe." Gavving still hadn't learned to shave without cutting himself. not even from the midpoint of Dalton-Quinn Tree." "What's it like?" "It's like the tide goes slantwise. "And don't call me that. The gears moved a pump. It was strange work for the Quinn Tuft Scientist." Lawri told him. Hadn't Kiance suggested that he would be better off than the standard run of copsiks? He wondered what Gavving was doing now. He was clean. save one. "Horse. Now the water was flowing up the outside of the hose." "Horse. forming a collar." Lawri glanced back.. All copsiks shaved. and must actually have seen the tree move.. I don't know what the gentled ones do when the Holidays come. Both Voy and the sun were hidden behind the in tuft. They entered the Scientist's laboratory complex and presently left carrying the dishes from brunch. for that matter.." Horse's laughter brought a supervisor's head around. the Ghost Child. The whole trunk of the tree bendsalittle. or both."he did. It was all starstufl metal.. The Grad had run the hose into the water. In Klance's presence the Grad was Lawri's equal. Going to the treemouth is like climbing a hill. Water spurted from the hose as Lawri carried it into the carm. The Scientist (the Scientist) had told him that they were discharges of peculiar energies from the poles of Voy itself. He could almost imagine human shapes pouring as smoke from a squeezegourd. and you have to tilt the cookpot. To starboard. barring himself. discolored with age. or for the London Tree Scientist's Apprentice. The Grad couldn't see what she was doing in there. He pedaled. He had seen no man wearing a beard in London Tree." "Lawri. is that why they make us shave? So the gentled ones won't be quite so obvious?" "I never thought of that. even fainter. to feed the carm.

The hose must lead." she said." Lawri answered." "You're not a copsik. somehow. The display she'd been studying disappeared before he could see it. grasped the metal thing. He set his feet." "I know that. copsik. "Scientist's Apprentice? Where does the water go?" "It's taken apart. Jeffer. "I can't move this damn fitting. The hose came loose. My parents. That way. Then Lawri called." The Grad joined her at the doors." said the Scientist. put his back into it. and kept turning. He turned it until it was loose in his hands. They filled it repeatedly. "Show me. Why did you tell me?" She sent herself skimming across the seats and settled herself at the controls. Oxygen goes in one tank and hydrogen goes in the other. "Kiance?" "Yes. Lawri nodded and turned away. She hadn't yet let him into the carm during this operation." "I don't know anything about marriage customs here. the energy comes back and you get a flame. If she really cared. The Grad coiled the hose as he moved toward the carm. "The Scientist quizzes me like that." That easy? She showed him.which came in two "flavors"? There must be fuel by now." "The Scientist. into a water tank in the carm.. When they come together in the motors. jerking the hose free of the pond. then back at Klance. set in the bark to crisscross the citadel region. and that information is classified!" "Scientist's Apprentice. She'd made her point: she'd show scientific secrets to a copsik. when Lawri asked. wooden hoops. "The tank's full. but only under protest." He was trying to imagine water coming apart. Lawri?" She looked at the Grad. Put that display on again. "It has to be turned. Since I was ten. with a collar. Would your husband call you Lawri?" The airlock thumped. Lawri obeyed. unfastening the belt. The water cOmes apart. If I can't answer I get some dirty job. will you. There were lineholds. Dominance games again. who is it that calls you Lawri?" "Not you. He heard cursing from within. "Now. she would have removed the hose herself. . Lawri tapped the blue button as he came up behind hen." "Copsiks don't get married." The Grad moved with a briskness he didn't feel. and a couple of days later they would fill it again. The tank must be behind the wall. A mouthful of water spilled out. calling ahead of him. "Can I help?" "Just coil the hose. The carm had been nearly out of fuel." She rotated her hands. Again. The Grad had half forgotten his question when she turned to him and said. The collar lurched. The Grad used them to make his way toward the carm. The hose attached to a thing on the back wall. The Grad moored the coiled hose to fixtures in the cargo area. But I don't like having my buttons pushed.. "Why did you want to know?" "I was a Scientist. "The skin of the carm picks up sunlight and pumps the energy into the water. the artificial pond was visibly shrunken. and Lawri turned in some relief.Lawri called from the carm.

every year's-end. He was sure that they all did more than he knew. no. Even the food comes from the out tuft.and more. certain numbers were larger. but it'll heal.. This is classified. yes. of course." "I wondered why you came looking for me. So I'm here.Theblueightsandnumbershadtodowithwhatmovedthecarm." The scowl relaxed. Forming. eh. "This number tells you if there's a storm coming. "You did a good job on it. How's your arm?" She searched her memory for his name." The Grad laughed. While Lawri was setting the bone I kept seeing your face. how am I going to have children if I spend my life at the Citadel?" "Don't you know about the Holidays?" "I never heard of them.yeah. Then on to Brighton Tree. but Lawri could not." He scowled. "Ready to go any time. "Under. showing her bowed back. She might hurt him. over a day or so. I think we'll feed in the rest of the reservoir. of course." "Can't you see a storm coming?" "Coming. if you watch it. different circumstances." "What is it?" "It's the external air pressure. Every time he saw this display." "Well." "For what. If she never left the Citadel-How would Lawri ever find a man? Me? A copsik could have children. H2: 3.664. you'll go. Grad. If the pressure goes up or down fast. Kiance?" "For your children. "Where does the tree go from here?" "Out of this rain. Lawri had turned away. And red? He'd never seen red. when Voy crosses in front of the sun.. Lets you impress hell out of the citizens.181. There was flesh against her as she woke. as green governed the carm's sensing instruments and yellow moved the doors and white read the cassettes. Still. there's a storm forming. "You stuck in my head." The Grad asked." . two ce'meters away with your teeth bared like you were going for my throat next. It couldn't be helped.. He wondered then: How would Lawri have children? The Scientist didn't seem to be her lover. you'll get a good chance to look the bud colonies over and pick and choose among them." "Good morning. Klance was nodding in approval. Jeffer. Her motion wakened him." He cut the blue display and activated the yellow. It happened often.. come here. the Grad knew that he imported copsik women from the in tuft. It's holiday for six days while the copsiks mate and gossip and play games. they haven't seen us in a while. "Good morning. the copsiks all get together at the treemouth." "No exceptions? Not even for a Scientist's Apprentice?" "Don't worry. given that I broke it. "Klance. Minya shifted position and refrained from wrapping her arms around the citizen who slept beside her. the wealth of blonde hair floating around her. He dared not think of Lawri as other than an enemy. The Holidays start in thirty-five days. He turned carefully-his arm was bound with cloth against his torso-and said. Now they read 02: 1." Klance chuckled.

and copter plants. "Madam Supervisor. versus the will to live. then went limp. a moment of your attention. just her head showing above the foliage as she fed the tree. and pulled her face out of the protection of her arms. and she had been practicing it. into the sky. then swung her own line while Dloris pulled. Nothing grew here but the foliage and the carefully cultivated earthlife. Minya screamed. Dloris swung a weighted line round her head. as thoroughly regimented as herself. the omnipresent supervisors. beans and melons and corn and tobacco. "Karal. Jinny thrashed. "I hear the new one is a copsik." "Lawri's not a copsik. But little things bothered her. until the time came to be something else.. off balance. Haryet pulled her in. hardfaced jungle giants of indeterminate age) had reached the edge. saw what was happening and ran too." His name surfaced. Jinny plunged through a last screen of foliage. One of yours?" "Maybe. The line resisted as she pulled it in." She let her smile show through. A dozen copsiks were up and stirring."Better now?" "Yes." She stood. It had been strange for Minya. Haryet rolled Jinny on her back. you would work late. Jinny's eyes stayed clenched like fists Minya said. I have to get to work now. face buried in her arms and knees. "Will we meet again?" He hesitated -. While Dlonis gestured them away. I saw him from a distance. By now they were surrounded by copsiks. The supervisors (Haryet and Dloris."Maybe" -. The schedules were loose. "The Holidays are eight sleeps away. then gave abruptly. Minya kept running. She's the Scientist's Apprentice-one of his apprentices. She would be an exemplary copsik. Beyond that. much closer. She missed cupvines. Her instincts were at war: a conditioned reflex that resisted sexual assault as blasphemy incarnate." One of his apprentices? Minya gambled. and he's not a jungle giant. donned her poncho. Jinny huddled on her side. Gavving: "How long do they last?" "Six days. Dioris reeled back. then sprinted west. She'd grown almost used to the obtrusive differences: the huge Commons." "Well. If you arrived late." ." Karal disappeared into the foliage while Minya strolled into the Commons She missed Dalton-Quinn Tuft. groped for hen chin. twice and out." "Yes. Minya looked for Jinny and spotted her at the treemouth. She was too far to do anything but shout and point as she ran. set her poncho in order. And all work stops. Haryet waited her turn.but Minya cared! She would do nothing badly. A pair of supervisors.. Survival won. now-and she treats Navy men if we get hurt. She would do nothing badly! Jinny stood up.and added. I don't remember a Lawri. Dionis threw her line while Jinny was still fighting Haryet's. hen own servility. A citizen's accent was odd. Minya reached the edge in time to see the stone at the end of Haryet's line spin round Jinny. She tried to remember nuances of Karal's speech. the supervisors didn't care much.

" "That's forbidden. it's Minya. Minya had learned to ignore them. Alfin clung to Gavving's haimmock-post." "That would be your problem. He seemed to have fallen asleep standing up: easy enough in London Tree's gentle tide. No. and Gavving's was in the top layer. Waiting. See if she's learned anything." "You're tougher than you think. "Wait. Then she spread a second poncho oven the girl and sat down to watch hen. I'm listening. Jinny began to sob. He spoke in a whisper that wanted to shout in jubilation. First talk to this Jinny. "Go join the garbage detail. "Later. Well?" "Jinny's twin sister is with the women who carry guests." Dlonis glared in exasperation. "Jinny." "Yes. where the Scientist lives. She'll try to get you together with Jayan.Dionis looked around." Nothing. The sobs shook her like Dalton-Quinn Tree had shaken the day it came apart. it's forbidden. In the dimness of the barracks. if she'll talk." "I told you." Some of them like women who fight. Chapter Sixteen Rumblings of Mutiny GAVVING WOKE TO A TOUCH ON HIS SHOULDER. Supervisor.. See if the Grad even comes down to examine them. will you? Hang on. "Just hang on. He's at the Citadel. Jinny has to see her. The Grad made it. "They've put me to work at the treemouth!" . Something will happen. He might. I can't. And I'd like to be checked for pregnancy. "Jinny. Hen voice was muffled. Wait till we can kill them all. She said instead. Talk to Jayan. 'What is it?" "If Jinny tries this again and succeeds. There were three tiers of hammocks. I've talked to Dlonis. at your convenience. would it reflect badly on you?" "It might." "Later." the jungle giantess said wearily."Find out where the pregnant women are kept. Jinny uncurled and stood up. The daylit doorway made a black silhouette of a supervisor. HE LOOKED about him without moving. surprised at the snap in Minya's voice. I'll kill him. Tell him we're hanging on. wait." "If another man picks me. impassively." Jinny was clenched like a knot. "All right. there must be something she could say." she said. Haryet watched for a time. They've been together all their lives. They should be given some hours to talk." After a long time. But I can't stand it.." Treefodder. When citizens talked like that." Jinny didn't move. Minya thought. "These girls are twins." Minya bent to speak directly into Jinny's ear. Dionis turned to Minya.

During an insurrection the Navy might be given those instead of swords. The tree does move. maybe AliIn could carry messages.or he could sleep. Eighty meters away. Carther States was setting fires halfway around the biggest flower in the universe. The supervisors were never without their truncheons.. What else? Bicycle works wore out. They'd go berserk if wq tried to talk to the women." Alfin moved away to his hammock."I thought only women did that. pudgy and sad. I want to show what I can do first..." "Good. and work. Damaging them-damaging anything made of starstuff-would hurt London Tree.. Meanwhile. Was the Grad there? Was he planning something? He'd seemed determined to escape." Gavving said without moving at all." "Give me a couple of hundred days and I might get you in on it too. even before they reached London Tree.seeing Minya. and he was dangerously close to becoming used to it. if he could be talked into taking the risk." "Did you get a chance to speak to Minya? Or Jinny?" "Don't even think it. He let me talk to the woman who runs the farm. the flying box. There's a lot they're doing wrong. with the Holidays eight sleeps away. sticks of hardwood half a meter long. Was any of that worth anything? If we were together! We could plan something. Patience came hard to Gavving. that moves it. The copsiks talked of rescue. The carm did everything. Clave flapped his blanket at the coals. but never of revolt. His toes clutched the edge of the blanket. and learn. I'm a consultant. His arms were plunged elbowdeep in the foliage to anchor him.He had learned that he might spend the rest of his life moving an elevator on pumping water up the trunk. and it's the carm. here in the upper reaches of the tuft. He had not had an allergy attack since his capture.. what had he learned? The women farmed the treemouth and cooked. It was not a bad life. Here was where the elevators could be sabotaged. a huge silver petal gradually shifted position. and wait." To be a treemouth tender again. But the hammocks were close-packed. but not soon. Kor's her name. In the beginning he had thought of nothing but escape. where the Scientist kept his laboratory. In eight sleeps he would be allowed to see his own wife. Men tended machinery and wonked with wood. Jorg snored directly below him-a "gentled" man. Horse said the women supervisors carried them too. but not allowed to speak to hen. but the Navy could still put down a revolt by using the carm. "I learned something today. What did he know. exerting himself just enough to keep the coals red." "What does that do for us?" "I don't know yet. Gavving put it out of his mind. and she listens. turning to catch the . maybe. They wouldn't revolt now anyway. It lived at the tree's midpoint.or not. pregnant women lived elsewhere. and too stupid to spy on anyone. Afterward.. but wouldn't the Navy know that from experience? They'd be ready. At night he could drive himself mad with worry over Minya. The supervisors wouldn't answer questions. "I saw the farm when they took us for showers. They've settled other trees -. I talked to a supervisor about it. He undulated his legs and torso to move the blanket in waves.

He told himself that depression always followed a serious wound. He exercised. That information was "classified". They left us.sun at a sharper angle. "They'll let me fight!" she said. a Chairman who had lost his tribe. Quinn Tribe was dead. Carther States' Commons was a mere widening in a tunnel. He had been flapping wind at the coals for half a day now. There had been tens of days of sleep merging into pain. green shapes fading like ghosts into a dark green background. But the bone was healing. The copsik runners bad taken everyone. spies would not be tolerated. "Everyone but us. Does the fire look right?" She looked. and he slept. Once he woke to find Merril jubilant. Of around two hundred Carthers. copsiks and citizens. Merril and Clave were welcome in the tribe though as copsiks. Homely. for fear that fluff might grow in the wound. Surprisingly. She dipped her grapnd into the foliage and stopped herself next to Clave. He'd seen spindly. the space held everyone. But he could watch the preparations. deep in the dark interior of the jungle. Over the following days he grew to know tjie jungle people. His leg was holding up.and better armed than Quinn Tribe had been. all clung to the cylinder wall. it hurt less every day. The day was calm and bright. impossibly tall near-human forms flitting about him at all angles. He didn't have the will to do more. He slept a great deal. The Grad had impressed the Carthers. Merril had told him it couldn't be seen. Ahuntleaderwhobadlost histeam. But Merril was real. in the pain of a healing bone and the sharperacheofhisfailure. "Keep it that way. Kara the Sharman came skimming toward him. half were copsiks. "How can you even reach London Tree?" he had asked. Feed it another branch a few hundred breaths from now. He was sure these fires were part of it.. He stayed where he was. but only once. while Comlink or the Sharman spoke from one end. He had thought he was still dreaming. "How are you doing?" "You tell me. covering it with an inner layer of heads. Things weren't that bad. perhaps twelve meters across and twice that long. and waited for war. Copsiks here lacked for nothing save a voice in the council. It didn't seem to carry any onus. without a breeze. Merril tried to talk to him. I'll make them sorry for that!" He had taken little notice. and Clave learned that the Carthers were planning war against London Tree. his body felt it when he moved. and mad as hell. and breezes were rare in the jungle. Men and women and children. quiet voices blurred in the eternal whisper of the foliage. He was questioned at a gathering of the tribe.. There was a knot as big as a boy's fist where the break had been on his thighbone. legless Merril was entirely familiRr. He saw many children and many pregnancies and no starvation. How's the leg?" . Would she lie to spare him? He was disinclined to ask anyone else. A fire would die in its own smoke. Soon he would have to shift position. He was disfigured. His fingers could feel the hard lump beneath the muscles. The scar was an impressive pink ridge. entirely real. The jungle people were healthy and happy. Clave took it as a chance to exercise his legs.

If you learn things thatshouldnotbeknown toourenemies. Kara freed her grapnel with a snap of the snag line. I saw them fighting in free-fall. We know that the copsiks live in the inner tuft. She seemed to have more power than the political boss. he knows how to fly the carrier by now. If you'll tell me more. "Clave must not live to be captured and questioned." Her smile was twisted." He'd said it before. I'll kill copsik runners!" "Merril?" "She'll fight with me. What is it?" "It's what makes the jungle move. Clave said.. 'Put you in charge of our own warriors?" "Not what I meant." She saw his grimace. if be's had any kind of a chance at it. Kara said. I can give you better answers. Not under tides. If I know the Grad." "All right. that thinks. I'm glad you agree. and two of us did escape once. I won't kill Merril if she's captured. though. "You call yourself Sharman. Should we go after that first?" Science at the level of the carrier. Attack the middle of the tree." "Fair enough. I am. Maybe the word had meant Chair. and you're better. "What can you tell me?" "Tides. You're not used to tides. Get the carrier first. They put their own warriors where they want them and leave yours floundering in air. It was like talking to the tree. don't stop. The petals are part of it too.. who spent most of his time finding out what everybody else wanted. We've watched London Tree for decades now.if you rideto warinthe first gust of warriors.. If you -."Fine. but the carrier is kept at the center of the tree. He tried to set the feeling aside. Getting her attention was worth a try. the flying box. She was moving on.." ."I saw how they use that thing. There's not enough wind. You called the funnel a 'treemouth' -." Clave pushed a dead spine branch into the coals and resumed flapping his blanket. even if you can't fly it." "There's no way we'll learn that.. Yes. Shouldn't you be using what I know?" She considered that. Theefodder! Clave added. Can we talk?" "I've other fires to check.nan once. Or Gavving might have seen something and told the Grad. "We'll go for the carrier and try for the Grad." The Sharman was Carther States' equivalent to the Scientist. "One thing. I trust you know how to be a leader.." "You talk like the jungle is a whole creature. We're going to attack a tree. I have little to lose. Make them come to us there. if you were me?" That was clear enough. Whatever side of the jungle is most dry. If I can't rescue my people. there the funnel wants to face.what would you tell my citizens.. "No. I'm a tree dweller.Chairman of a destroyed people." "I was wrong. and so are these copsik runners..don't tell her anything. The petals reflect sunlight to swing the jungle round in that direction. I don't know how you plan to attack. wasn't I? The jungle can't feed itself that way. And." "We thought of that -. "Sharman." Clave shrugged. made Clave uneasy.." "Sharman. the Comlink..' Sharman.

it would tighten if Jinny tried anything foolish. and any chance to leap into the sky. He told the Navy man. "All right. Lawri is otherwise engaged. "It's anyone's guess when it happened. she thought. She hadn't menstruated since a dozen sleeps before Dalton-Quinn Tree caine apart. He asked Minya the appropriate questions. "I'll be right outside. one in Navy blue. and what happens then is none of my business." To meet both Minya and Jinny was more than the Grad had hoped for. He introduced his Navy escort to the women. At least it gives me a chance to see you. but from the way the spine branches pointed." Minya followed Dloris through twisting." Ordon took the hint. then the funnel spits hot steam. The Grad palped her abdomen and her breasts..other apprentice. I must tell the others. I'll be back. The way the tunnels twisted. The fires are to make the jungle dry on one side. Ordon and Dloris stayed while the Grad questioned Jinny." "There are tens of life forms in the jungle. branching tunnels." "How does a jungle move? The Grad didn't know. Ordon was clearly interested. were farther away with every step. He'd practiced such an examination in Quinn Tuft. A normal pregnancy. Minya's grip on Jinny's arm was relaxed." "The silver petals turn the jungle to put the funnel where the jungle is most dry. The mouth of a woven hut showed ahead. The foliage is various plants that root in what the jungle-heart collects. it's time to put the fires out. She couldn't be pregnant." They had reached the hut. the timing was wrong.. Could it be Gavving's?" "The timing's right. Its life is deep down. but. shall I tell Gavving it's his?" . and he told her so.. "I'm going to have to examine her. "No problem. One of them is a kind of spine for the whole thing. Dloris shooed them in."Who are you?" Dioris demanded. He tested the secretions of her vagina in plant juices Kiance had shown him how to use. Earlier she had passed a branching tunnel and heard children's laughter and the shouting of frustrated adults: the schools. We transport fertilizer downdead leaves and garbage and our own dead-and we kill burrowing parasites.. I'll take you to your sister. Minya wasn't sure where she was. but they rot and feed the jungle-heart and shield the jungleheart if something big hits the jungle. Dioris said so too. So the Scientist's Apprentice will examine you both. the Scientist's Apprentice. We're fooling it and Jinny both think you're pregnant. lifted it and lay down on the table." The Grad explained what was needed. with the Scientist supervising. Everything in the jungle contributes something. Minya stepped out of her poncho's lower loop. the other -. Dloris stopped." Minya sighed. Two men waited inside. Jinny. haven't you?" "Minya. the branch was below and to her left. and the tuft would be narrowing toward the fin." "Clave. If anyone asks. She couldn't see solid wood. She could find this place again. Once. and it lives off the dead stuff that drifts toward the center. She and Dloris nodded as if they'd expected that and departed the hut through the back..She smiled. "Madam Supervisor? I'm Jeffer. as part of his training. "It's not very smart. But the treemouth." he said. We do our part too.. If everything gets too dry. "Minya. Near the've been available to the citizens.

he thought.. Minya. it's my problem. It's been. It has to be. "Thank you.though he had had doubts. Let's -." "Really? Look down. With her poncho hiked up and her legs apart. We can't do anything unless we can stop them using the carm. safe distance away. We'll just have to see what the child looks like.. likes to show them off." The poncho was ludicrously convenient. Remember the guard. Minya said. and blushed and covered her mouth. We move the tree as soon as possible.I was afraid I'd be giving up women. Acts like he's three meters tall. Grad.. Luckily the Grad's guard was male." He nodded and stayed where he was.Solve your problem. She laughed suddenly." .. I mean it." She reached down to squeeze his hands. It was over in a few tens of breaths. but he's less than two." Minya ran faces past her memory. She finished in a breathless laugh. Thinks. they can stop us while they've got the carm." "We'd like him to meet with an accident?" "If it's convenient. it took longer to find his voice. for Gavving or Minya? "Of course I want to break us free! But no matter what we do. It need only be pulled aside. Don't do anything till we're ready to move. no matter whose. I'm going to have a serious case of lover's plaint. Grad. but he made the effort. but Minya hadn't known Harp.. And have you seen a dwarf around?" Like Harp.. and she liked it that way. but the Grad was already moving. "I admire your coolness." "Tell him that. Some were blurs. "How long-?" "Ever since you pulled up your poncho.. is there any chance of getting us out of here?" Keeping his head clear wasn't easy under the circumstances. Thank you." "It wasn't a gift. Mark.." Minya's voice was husky. Either I'm dirt for the treemouth or I'm a spy. She" She sought words."Let me think." Bruises healing on her arms helped her to remember." "With you?" He was startled. "Grad. When do we get loose?" "Quick. but it's already there. "Stay where you are in case Ordon peeks in.she's." Jinny and Dloris had gone down to the pregnant women's complex. The First Officer has spoken." She laughed suddenly. "She?" "The other apprentice is a citizen who treats me like a thieving copsik. "He's important. He's the only one who can use the old armor.." "When I first met you I guest I hope it's Gavving's. He had to bite hard on his tongue to hold his silence. "I'm sick of being treated like a copsik too."No. "Don't move without me." She looked. lots of muscles. Did they resemble Gavving at all? But the arrogant dwarf had claimed two of her sleeptimes -." "Don't do that. Anyway. Thickbodied. a good." "All right. What's the truth? You don't know?" "That's right. " -. don't move. A woman might not have given them privacy during the examination." "I wasn't sure you were still with us.. "I know him. There was so much to learn here! But what was it like for the others.

a tide.this day. Is there anyone at the treemouth that you want fighting beside you?" "Maybe.. for more tidal pull while the baby's developing." he said. The jungle shuddered.meddling.." "When the steam spits from the funnel. The warriors are gathering now. I'll know when I get back to the Citadel. maybe less.. He felt a tug. and the sun was moving into line with the funnel. back into the Smoke Ring. pulling him toward the sky. "Do you know the law of reaction?" "I'm not a baby. but I couldn't miss the chance to talk to you. if something happens. "The jungle-heat spits when the sun shines straight into the blossom. and that's where the women stay when they carry guests." Chapter Seventeen "When Birnham Wood. perhaps. I'd give either testicle to be in two places at once. Gold was eastward and seemed close. FOLDING INWARD. Skip the treemouth.. A column of steam.How long till we reach the tree?" "A day. bone-shaking fumf from the funnel.. That would be back to moister surroundings. neither mundane nor scientific. Can you pass a message to Gavving?" "No way at all." "That's why they've been getting away with the raids." "Yes." "Okay. if we weren't. "It works. Clave dove into the foliage." She thought of Heln." "What? Why didn't you tell me?" Without waiting for an answer. the jungle moves in the opposite direction. The funnel cupped an intolerable glare. I think. "Maybe isn't good enough. The other fire-tenders had gone elsewhere after the fires were quenched. Kara said."When's that?" "Days. Clave felt heat on his face.. There's a cluster of huts under the branch. The Sharman asked. Kara and Clave clung tight with hands and feet. We can hope Gavving and Alfin are there. Clave and Kara were alone. The sun shone directly into the funnel. Lawri's up there countingdown the carm's motor systems. A cloud began to form between himself and the sun. Afterward something must be regrown: fuel.. The sluggish whorl of storm was a strange sight. maybe less. But wait till something drastic happens. But no more." It came as if by the Sharman's command: a soft. Had she cost him his place in the coming battle? Why? . It takes twenty years. THE funnel at their center faced east and out. "I didn't. His thoughts were murderous. but." The petals stood at thirty degrees from vertical. A lot of the men spend their time at the top of the treemouth." THE HUGE SILVER PETALS WERE RISING. racing away from him.. and the petals were shining into it too. It's not easy to make it spit at a chosen time. grab Jayan and anyone else you think you need and go up. So. but mind-gripping.

Ordon had become coldly suspicious. but. The Grad had asked about it. "We're on our way. For a moment he was actually floating." "Clave. He would not talk to a copsik about his work. She was dipping the points of crossbow bolts in the evil-smelling brew the Carthers made from poison fern. The increasing tide caught Clave jumping toward her. Klance won't. "What? How long have we got?" She had spent her days learning how to make arrows. The tuft sank away. but first and last he was the Grad's guard.Ordon said. forget it. She was as good as most of the Carthers. or not at all. The warriors are on the surface. Was there no way to tell him? Minya's with the pregnant women.. forceful shove in the small of his back and followed him in. then floated back. They had returned by the same route. with a strange spreading plume of white mist behind it." He put the Grad into the elevator with a friendly." Ordon said. "So you couldn't wait for the Holidays. I just poked my head in and saw what you were poking and pulled it back out again. it's nothing. This was far easier than the four-day climb up Dalton-Quinn Tree. Clave found Merril in the Commons. Ordon bellowed laughter. I'm in the Citadel. "Merril." The Grad grinned a sickly grin." The Grad jumped violently. He had readied it some sleeps ago. The old Scientist used to let us do that. but -. "Did you watch the whole time?" "No. He seemed friendly enough. "Good eating. A lot of . "It's real! I sure wasn't going to call her a liar. He said it anyway. and her powerful arms were faster at resetting the crossbow." Clave jumped to his pack against the pull of the strange tide.Four copsiks were running the elevator lines with their legs. "Hey. you're in Carther States whether you go or not. and if he could. Clave had watched her at target practice. twist bowstrings. With a chance like that. She managed to catch the poison pot and cap it before it spilled. She's flne. arrows all about her. I don't need to get my kicks that way. Life was not intolerable for the Scientist's Apprentice. the Grad was not to escape. he would be here forever. Merril barked. what was the hurry? But time had a choke hold on his throat. In a hundred sleeps he might grow into this new life. He liked to talk. shape a crossbow and fire it. The elevator had almost reached its cradle. The carm could reach Carther States across any distance. if he couldn't capture the carm.They had come to the pregnant women's complex the long way round." A streamer of rain was blowing across the out tuft. by way of the Navy installation on the fin. Within a day or two London Tree would have put it from sight. I can visit the Commons. A flock of small birds was veering wide of the trunk. Find your own weather! A fluffy green bauble hung east of the out tuft. what's happening?" Merril was drifting too. Was that why the First was so eager to move the tree? Wet citizens? A mobile tree: it boggled the mind. The Grad was not to be harmed. Presumably Ordon had some business on the fin. but you have to use the carm to chase them down. laughing. The Grad wondered if he was being unreasonably antsy. He paused. and the Grad's eye caught Gavving among them.. how could you not? That's why Dloris got a little upset when she saw you weren't Lawri. When the time came he feared he would move too slowly. "Harebrains.

" "They'll find out. She said. Clave asked. and in fact he looked savage and dangerous. half the length of Dalton-Quinn. London Tree was too big to hide in a cloud: fifty klomters or so. Merril said. its point was stained with evil yellow. Clave had used up a few pods practicing. Every branchlet and foliage tuft had the tremors. though. "They made a terrible mistake leaving you. The surface was nearly vertical. already had his legs wrapped around the largest pod." "You can feed that to the tree. but I didn't get the word in time -. crossbow and bolts and a club with a knot on the end. Clave was annoyed. with long bones that could be snapped at whim. Lightning flashed in dark rifts. Anthon. Skeletal warriors emerged like earthworms out of the green billows. but not by a lot. Men outnumbered women. how are they doing this?" "Classified." "You don't have to go." Clave got it then. Not worth their time. "Shall I tether you?" "I'll handle it." Maybe the Carthers needed copsiks more than citizens. The family gets two votes. Don't you laugh!" She shook a harpoon. The Sharman had told him late. Clave pulled himself through crackling branchiets and soft green turf through to the sky. "The copsik runners left us behind. Using the tunnels was almost like walking. Anthon was brawnier than the average Carther man. A citizen makes a better wife." He grinned and ducked the butt of her harpoon. but five times the long axis of this puffball jungle. To Clave he might have had a fragile look. The light of battle was in her eye. Merril chose one and boarded it. It was bigger than he was but less massive: thirty kilos or so. "This goop will drive you crazy if it doesn't kill you." "Clave." "I had a broken leg. scars showed here and there on his body. his nails were long and sharp. "Then grab your gear and go!" The tide was about like that in Quinn Tuft. He took care for his handholds. But it was strange. A column of cloud raced outward from beyond the jungle's horizon. "I can't tell you . Why? To give them a chance to back out? "Sure I'd have fought. a hundred or so spaced wide apart and tied down with light line. The Comlink's chosen leader. 0 Chairman!" Clave shoved a handful of the freshly poisoned bolts into his quiver. There were more pods than warriors. He helped Merril through the foliage. Clave shrugged and chose his own pod.Carthers aren't citizens. and bid his grin. Clave searched the western fringe until he found a thin line of shadow." The sky was a vast sheet of cloud. Fifty or sixty Carthers had already chosen and boarded pods. and darker." She swung her coil of line below her and caught it coming up. The stem-ends of the jet pods had been pierced by wooden stakes that now served as plugs. But he was festooned with weaponry. A warrior would nestle into the inner curve of the pod and move his weight to guide it. and nobody had told Merril. "Notice the women? You fight for citizenship in Carther States.

I wish I knew where they all are. They were approaching the center of the tree. its nose against the trunk. Storm blurred the sky. He waited for silence. Blood was drain. The Sharman says the jungle will pass the tree at an angle. Citizens would be first to see the oncoming terror: a green mass klomters across flying at the trunk. Every Carther now held a sword.. and lightning flashed nearby. "Warriors!" Anthon bellowed." Mist was drifting over them. The sky was dark and formless. Unless they remember. The out tuft was nearest: the citizens' tuft. Lawri tapped the blue button in a row of five. as planned. Not much chance of surprise here." "How do we get back?" "I asked that too. We must damage London Tree. "Our attack must be remembered! It's not enough to break some heads. Lawri's hands hovered like ." "What are we trying to do." Clave's brows furrowed. they hadn't a ghost of a chance of rescuing anybody. "Let them remember the lesson!" "Launch!" Sixty swords slashed at the lines that tied them to the jungle. The jungle too was too big to be hidden. Too late now. There at the midpoint was the carrier. but Quinn Tribe comes first. He was wobbling a little. The array tickled at the Grad's memory. Why not attack the out tuft first? Kill some citizens and they'd remember better. green warriors coming out of the sky. We've got to take the carm.but they'll just be caught with the rest of us if the copsik runners use the carm. with a klomter to spare. London Tree must remember.everything. Its tail was on fire. Sixty hands pulled the plugs from the stem-ends of sixty jet pods. about midpoint. Blue numbers flickered and steadied in the bow window. ing from his head. Not all jet pods thrust alike. tight against the screaming pod.. Clave drew his. At first they clustered. aiming it to send the jungle a fingernail's width from the tree." "Gather Quinn Tribe. The Sherman was klomters away. Pods jetted away in a wind that smelled of rotted plants. exactly? I mean you and me. more than the others. The tide was ferocious. in diamond patterns around a larger vertical bar. for a generation to come.. We'll match speed with the tree and come in while they're still terrified. they will come when we cannot move. Unskilled. We want to look good to Carther States. shadowy line of London Tree.. Then they began to separate. that offending Carther States is dangerously stupid. Clave clung with arms and legs. "Lizeth and fluid are bringing extra pods. They'll hover in the sky till they see the battle's over. Blue lights appeared in the panel below: four clumps of four little vertical dashes each. Realistically. A wind was rising.which was nearer and growing. He kept his eyes on the faint. seeping into the foliage. even bumping into each other. tending a pillar of fiery steam. They would do as much damage as possible and die. then cried. By then we'll have launched. Fat chance of getting to her with a change in plan! The line within the fog had solidified into a tremendous integral sign tufted at the ends.

Scores of objects moved alongside it: shapes like those he'd seen before the bark raft crashed into the jungle. The carm's main motor sprayed blue-white fire. Lawri looked back in annoyance. (It hadn't mattered in Quinn Tuft. A stronger thrust might break the tree in the middle. He had to turn off the main motor. now! So he hadn't been premature. The carm thrust in the center.. the Grad couldn't tell. then eased off. till he hit the aft wall with a solid thump. "I'll let you see in a minute. Lawri hadn't seen him. halfway to the elevator." Kiance said. Don't fall out. She stiffened suddenly and half rose. but causes and consequences were different. The tree now had a slight curve to it. Lawri activated green patterns and tapped at them. like Minya's bow. Klance was floating into the flame. but it was moving. He saw the Grad brace himself too late. "Damnation!" "What is it?" "It's the jungle. ." Kiance grinned over his shoulder. The Grad couldn't see anything of import through the side windows. Klance was a thrashing black shadow against a brilliance like Voy brought close. Not tide! This was thrust! It might feel the same. The jungle had become half the sky. The Grad followed. In his terror he seemed to have forgotten his line. Jungle giants on jet pods! But they wouldn't arrive if the carm continued to push the tree away. The Grad got it then.Harp about to play. gripping chair backs as he went. We'll give them a surprise. Within the bow window appeared a smaller window in which an edge of sky peeped around a glare of white light. He was in a chair when the carm roared and trembled and lunged. "Strap in. past him.of thrust took the vibrating walls forward.. it was probably thrusting at full power now. then tapped rapidly. Long fingers and toes still clung. and the tufts trailed behind. But the carm was so much tinier than the tree. The tree was massive. The Grad's foot lashed out and caught the Scientist above the hip. not very far. pushing the carm forward against the mass of the tree. Jeffer. You might not get back. staring aghast at the rear window display. An aft view within the forward view: disconcerting. thrashing. A breeze had sprung up. Klance was braced in the outer door. We'll just move away from them. A shadow was . Klance yelled and flew outward. Lawri! He reentered the carm and leapt toward the bow. all of his fingers and toes gripping the rim. but the Scientist had drummed it into his head. I had no idea they could move the jungle! Hah. eddies swirled through the airlock doors. Kiance disappeared. He saw the Grad leaning out and shrieked at him: curses or pleading. Tide pulled the Grad back in his seat. Ordon. Klance was going for a better look. A few kilograms of tide. The drive screamed in his ears." He craned his head out. trying to reach the nets on the carm's hull. had seen them. He moved into the outer door and leaned out. The dead Scientist's legacy: thrust!) The bow window nestled snug against the trunk. Klance drifted slowly aft. He made his way to the airlock. The Grad's heel smashed at a hand and a foot. hadn't murdered Klance for nothing. He looked away.

He must be clinging to the nets.. He restored the display. The display was too cluttered: turn off the blue. Kendy held his attention on a drifting point within the Smoke Ring maelstrom. Lawri stirred. mere meters from the window. The Grad began playing with the green displays. Ordon was far ahead of the rest. The roar and the trembling died to nothing. internal and external. He spoke a word. a complicated line thawing of the carm's cabin seen from above. betraying his friend Ordon. then resumed elsewhere. leaving London Tree helpless against attack.puzzled-he couldn't a pattern like the motors at the stern. Behind him the airlock sealed itself. She whirled about. The Grad used his line to tie her to one of the chairs. the water tank. Then it was quiet. He heard muted clanging from the doors. dissolving. or the attitude jets would send it jittering about like the ball in a soccer match. The Grad repeated it. wary that he might start the drive again. He sat down at the controls and studied them. including interior lights and the airlock. now! Hit the yellow button. That was puzzling. What had Lawri done to activate the drive? His mind had gone blank. Ordon reacted. but the motor's roar continued. pounding at the glass. here. Think Blue vertical bar surrounded by blue dashes. Ordon snarled through a side window. including the motors. No good: the blue displays disappeared. assaulting Lawri. That. Yellow display: interior lights showed dim. with a pinching motion of his fingertips. internal wind on. The tree recoiled: he felt himself pulled forward. "War. temperature shown by a vertical line with numbers and a notch in the middle. using lines and the lineholds. He felt Lawri's eyes on him. Kendy was prepared to beam his usual message when the source of hydrogen light disappeared. The Grad closed lines that should represent the doors. Yellow governed life support systems. There was murder in his face. Normally the CARMs main motor would run for several hours.thrashing in the flame. Ordon! War!" Chapter Eighteen . The Grad moved to the window. Quick. Through a side window he glimpsed patches of Navy blue cloth moving across the bark. She was staring him in the eye when the Grad lashed out at her jaw. summoning different views from the carm's cameras. The clanging stopped. Green governed the carm's senses. the two flavors of fuel supply. and fuel flow. A dozen Navy men were making their way toward the carm. He tapped the blue button. White read the cassettes. He tapped the blue bar. No time. but would not look. Blue had to do with what moved the carm. and waited. exaggerating the motions of his lips the word that would justify murdering his benefactor Kiance. He had precious little time to learn to fly this starstuff relic. Her head snapped back. she bounced against her straps and hung limp.

Curses ran through his mind while he clambered around the pod to put it between himself and the harpoons.The War of London Tree CLAVE WAS BEING LEFT BEHIND. on the eastern face. for whatever that might mean. and so did the Carthers. He was still approaching the trunk. The jungle trailed a curdled line of cloud an& a storm of birds trying to catch up. Something valuable in that building? The copsik runners seemed to want it. patterns began to form: The copsik runners were outnumbered. The Carther warriors sent crossbow bolts among them. coming up on the western side of the trunk. From the chaos of battle. The jungle was tremendous. Clave would touch down inward from the battle. Now they were returning. eight to a box. presently. She'd used the pod as a shock absorber: good technique. and wooden boxes were rising toward the center from both ends. Most of the Carther warriors had reached the trunk. but the taller Carthers had more reach. In close work they couldn't use the bows. Some of the copsik runners were trying to reach that building. This close to the tree. hanging on the nets and the bark. using the curve of the trunk as cover. He would be among the last halfdozen to land. and he was: he hadn't known how to choose among these strange pods. The copsik runners seemed to know what they were about. and two dark masses: Lizeth's and Hild's clusters of twenty jet pods each. Merril shot two from behind the building. They hung back. Merril's pod struck a wooden hut with Merril behind it. Others were there first. Carthers were using lineholds about the clustered buildings to dodge the feathered harpoons or tearing up sheets of bark for shields. The Carthers had passed the trunk in a gust of jet pods. They would know its value too. spilling men in blue. They won such encounters. Clave put an arrow among them and thought he hit someone's foot. He'd flown past the trunk. They wanted the carrier more. They had let him pick a slow one. . but both gusts of enemy reinforcements seemed to be converging on the carrier. The flame at its tail had died. The jet from Clave's pod died away. THE CARTHERS HAD JUDGED him a novice. for that reason and another. but it seemed to be going past. Clave saw both boxes break open almost simultaneously. his path was curving back now. where their limbs were free to work their huge bows. They rapidly oriented themselves and fired small jet pods to send them toward the midpoint of the tree. The copsik runners preferred to fire on them from the sky. Feathered harpoons flew from the copsik runners' long footbows. They had swords. a green world passing less than a klomter away. The steam jet had stopped firing. drastically spread out. the curve of the trunk hid the ancient carrier and its mooring. Toward the carrier. Anthon and a dozen warriors were firing at the carrier. They outnumbered the enemy almost two to one. They flew behind a thicket of feathered harpoons. Clave had wondered if it would actually hit the tree. Clave could see it now: they were all over it. then abandoned the shelter when the rest came too close. Lines ran along the trunk of London Tree. Twenty-odd copsik runners already surrounded it. For now he could only watch.

why aren't they killing us with that scientific thing?" "Good question. He yelled. the kind that would grow on an integral tree. Clave fired at it until he saw a crossbow bolt strike and bounce away. Clave and Merril made their way to the nearest line and began to chop at it. and Carther States was winning without him! In along the trunk. A copsik runner spotted Clave. slaying." Two lines as thick as Clave's arm ran parallel along the trunk. Clave and Merril set bark sheets to protect themselves. with a blank ball forahead. The copsik runners used their jet pods. The pod bumped wood with Clave behind it.but his face was a silent scream. "Oh. They aren't using it.The copsik runners had small jet pods. She ducked. He turned it loose. as he recoiled. Copsik runners were all over it. left Carthers floundering in the sky behind them. then moved in along the trunk. The Carthers robbed the corpses of their jet pods. He moved up beside her. he clawed at the bolt. "All right. The bolt protruded below the kidney. There was a terrible familiarity to that shape. Clave saw three tiny things like thorns strike her shield in a line aimed at her bare head.. She said. There were feathered harpoons in his shield and Merril's. and made his way toward Merril with his crossbow ready. He'd have a clear shot when Clave came nearer.. outward along the trunk. nearly gone from sight. clutched bark. Clave stared at the silver man. Clave watched Carthers leap into an eight-man gust of blue ponchos. Let's -. The copsik runner came too fast. He could have fought on. The carrier's guardians fired back. The last box was on its way in. They are using those wooden boxes to get reinforcements. He carefully fired a harpoon through Clave's pod. She stopped and crouched a moment before he saw the carrier.. "Forget it. He said. Another box must be rising. It spilled reinforcements: six blueclad footbowman and a bulky silver creature. The silver man. then went into convulsions. He saw blue against storm cloud sky. fired a bolt through one man. Clave fired at him. Merril was making her way around the curve of the bark. and drew his harpoon as the other came at him with a sword. a wooden box was rising slowly. That poison-fern brew must be terrible stuff. and fired back with the footbows. No good." "You know him?" . Clave could see his grin. It was as if he were trying to remember a nightmare: a man made of starstuff." Clave watched Anthon's team launching crossbow bolts from around the curve of the wood. Thorns spat into the trunk. In free-fall the copsik runners fought like children. Clave drifted. and two more joined them. The grin vanished when Merril shot him from behind.but they wouldn't arrive for a kilobreath yet.. a sitting target. Clave batted him in the face with the crossbow handle and. She said. He followed her." "Cut the lines. Six men and a silver thing were coming into footbow range. stabbed him in the throat. not very successfully. the copsik runner dodged and waited. Then two Carthers were among them. They preferred to stay in the sky.

or we'll be left behind. Green-clad warriors clustered round the carrier. .. It looked like the war of the carrier was over.includingwhathadtobeadwarfinapressure suit. and I don't either. So he spoke without heat.. "Murdererl" "Some of us don't like being copsiks. threw themselves clear.. but any male citizen had rights to her any time he liked." "Victory-?" Then Clave saw what she meant. They yelled."Yes. men and women in green. Clave and Merril! Then the Carthers were actually on his side. Men in blue floated about it with the looseness of dead men. He had wondered. The Grad saw his face through the window.keep chopping. The Grad touched blue dashes. floundered to orient themselves.. We don't have anything to breech that armor.." "Kiance and I never treated you with anything but kindness!" "That's true enough. He cut the infrared out and recognized Clave and Merril. He had five floating rectangles in the bow window: aft view. There was a cable running outward -. Some were crawling into the doors. Three Navy men moved into the cover of the drive motors. Lawri's accusations only echoed those in his own mind. but I notice the line of argument has shifted." She told him anyway. dorsal. and both sides. That box began to drift. and Navychasingthem..." Another box had come into sight when the line parted. It showed him red dots in along the trunk. you treefeeding mutineer you!" The Grad had no particular urge to stop her mouth. "Do you know what's been happening to our women? Gavving might have had permission to visit his wife thirtyodd days from now. But other copsik runners were coming too near. It sounded dreadful enough: good reason to keep the doors closed. They seemed too far in to do anything useful.. We don't have to cut the other one. "They'll kill you." the Grad said. Ordon died with a bolt peeking through his chest. Lawri screamed. "Some of us don't even like copsik runners. Let's go join the victory party. The other line had gone slack. Men spilled loose and flew in curves. Clave had made a lucky shot: there were five now. "It's a loop. Flames burst near them. ventral..." "Then let's get out. What have you done for the rest of Quinn Tribe? Did you forget that I had a tribe?" "Your tribe is deadi Your tree is torn apart! We could have been your tribe. mpking for the trunk. She doesn't know who the father is." Lawri said. Quick. Merril said. pod-propelled. Live copsik runners had retreated around the curve of the trunk to wait for reinforcements.but even if Ordon could have heard him. He had found the infrared display." "No. impossible to tell who was winning. Shall I tell you what the penalty is for mutiny?" "Feel free. He caught glimpses of men in blue. He turned back to the yellow display.he was with the copsik runners in Carther States.and one had a bolt through his hip. He had made his decisions. Now she's pregnant. plus the silver man. there was nothing left to say.

He started pedaling. The box wouldn't hit here. he bounced away. Just before the Holidays too!" The copsiks on the platform were sheathed in sweat. "Officer? Suppose that thing hits the pregnant women's complex?" "It's under the branch. The grating whine of the bicycle gears rose half an octave." someone could hit somebody. with one arm bound across his chest darted awkwardly away. Half the sky was textured green." the man said." A Navy man-wounded. held upright by two men. if you're fast enough. You'll take your place and pedal with the rest!" "And carry out my regular duties too? I'll be half-dead! What do I tell the Supervisor?" "You board that bicycle on you'll be telling your Supervisor where your testes went. Who would have guessed? The green cloud was awesomely close. it drifted in droplets from their hair.. Now what? In takes you east. Damn. spinning like a broken thing. One was an officer. The jungle was mobile. Suddenly it was easier to pedal. Gavvmg held his temper and Horse took it with typical docility. and Navy who retreated around the trunk. We're sending men up to the Citadel as fast as we can. One was too slow. but where? Gavving pictured the massive wooden structure smashing through diffuse cottony foliage. wincing at the soggy touch.The green-clad warriors rushed the carm. The elevator rose. But the box was falling faster. not as a casual killing but as a signal to the Carthers. . He said.." the officer ordered. The invaders had cut the cable. I'm with you! For it was Carthers who now swarmed the carm. "What?" "We need pedalers. a talking box. He looked up. Two left." "Listen. "Minm. He should be doing something! But what? Armed men were watching. Gavving recognized him. though. The Grad opened two yellow lines with his fingertips." "Sir. When the Navy retreated he was able to wrap one in flame. Then get under yourself. Docking section too.. before he even started to wake up. Other Navy men were boarding the elevator.and receding. Hold your places. "Stop pedaling. Gavving was on his feet. there's the school complex! Karall Move east along the top of the branch and get everyone underneath. When he reached the trunk he was moving too fast. falling. you. Blue shapes spilled out and made for the trunk. Four Navy men helped three sleepy copsiks out of the barracks and up through the tuft. it would strike farther east along the branch. and continued to fall.. Don't miss the examination hut. and he carried a piece of old science. He turned to greet the tall. they panted like dying men. "I'm the treemouth tender's assistant! Not a treefeeding pair of legs -. The Navy men helped three of them down. and Gavving was gasping. The rest had entered the elevator. The jungle had attacked London Tree. We've worked the regular team half to death. The elevator was tens of klomters above him now. The elevator box was turning. Gavving was lifted into the saddle. He felt the change before he saw it. The jungle! The jungle had come to London Tree! Only three Navy men remained. but Alfin was still protesting as they broke through into sunlight. bloody jungle giants.

He heard. I am. This is Prez. by her long." "I see two dark masses west of here. on the walls. Anthon." Anthon said quietly. the only one who can fly this thing. He wanted no witnesses to this discussion." One snapped out of it." The Grad recognized the long-limbed woman.trouble enough. All this scientific stuff must be daunting. mutineer! You'd lose us in the sky or smear us all over the trunk. They garble the carm. Debby -. The Grad said. "Go get them. The silver man came on. Scientist. go get that treefodder for the Scientist. You remember what they look like?" Debby nodded. We've got the small motors for spraying fire. We. They didn't like the carm at all. What's your status?" The answer was almost unintelligible with static. "We're tied to the tree. "I'm the Quinn Tribe Scientist. Debby." "How many are you?" "Forty or less. straight brown hair. Gavving let his chin droop and his eyes half close (poor exhausted copsik." He trailed off. One Navy man was dropping back. "You're not the leader here. have you fought in war?" "I captured the carm. Prez. his legs serving both while she fired bolts at their pursuers. The carm's got plenty of what makes it go. Can we leave immediately? Pile all our warriors on the nets and go? The silver man is coming. Debby told us about you. get those cables chopped. They're in the in tuft.. and I can find them. "Elevators troops.. The two men with her were strangers. get some warriors to cut the carm loose. "I'm Anthon. now." "Patry out." "I want to set the rest of Quinn Tribe free.. the copsik runner. He spread open hands to the sides. "Feed it to the tree. "See if you can give them some covering fire. The enemy has cut our elevator cables. can't use. But I don't leave without Clave and Merril. Grad. Garble outnumbered." "Here. They're gentling us. Enemy numbers for garble repeat. "Squad Leader Patry here. "Grad." He looked into the displays." . The crossbows aimed at him didn't bother him as much as their fear. We won't fit inside. "Never mind." He pointed into the dorsal window display. but we can hang on to the nets." The Grad said. Clave was towing Merril as he jumped along the bark." Anthon waited until they were through the doors before he spoke again. It should be easy.and this is Lawri." " -. Take a team. We are sending more men to the Citadel. hurt. and I think there's time to get one more thing.tethered." "You? I cap -. Anthon and Debby very gingerly moved up behind him..The officer spoke to his talking box. "That hut is the Lab." "Forget them. Good to see you. you'll find some cassettes and the reader inside. Cut those lines and we're free to go. forty to fifty." Lawri broke in with. clearly too tired to think of mutiny) and listened hard. but even. And I have had enough of being a copsik!" "Debby. Debby...

" "I captain the carm. where we can get at him. strap down!" He looked into the displays. He who violated the Grad's orders aboard the carm would be a mutineer! Carthers chopped at the lines that tethered the carm. But I lead Carther States. The glazed look left Anthon's eyes." Anthon stepped into the doors and began to shout orders. Get into a chair. Into the silence Lawri said. Those pictures make my eyes cross! I Grad. I'm the Scientist's Apprentice. then. "Grad! I mean Scientist. some were being towed by others who hadn't been hit. "Keep your opinions to yourself for a while. glorious! Can you run this thing?" The Grad felt huge relief. "So why'd you come? Never mind. He wasn't using jet pods. There must be something on the pressure suit doesn't matter. The carm was drifting free. wouldn't they?" "They don't have my reasons for liking you. "We couldn't find the reader. Did you really think a jungle warrior would let you at the controls?" Clave and Merril and Debby entered like a storm. though.. ..and I did have to kill the Scientist himself. he's killing all our allies. Crossbow bolts flew among the blue men who followed Clave and Merril. They're still out of action." Anthon was panting. Good work. "What?" Clave saw the displays floating in the bow window. Clave. "Hold it! She's what she says." Anthon nodded." "I got these. Get into a chair. Doesn't matter to us. "Can you find the rest of us?" "They're all in the in tuft. Lawri has a great deal to teach us. have you got anything to take out the silver man?" "Not unless he crawls into a motor. "In a few breaths we can. Merril. Gavving's at the top. "They'd kill me." "That spitgun only puts you to sleep and makes you feel wonderful. "We can't hurt him. Those dove for cover on the bark.Anthon was in no hurry to make a decision. I can. You too. Anthon. Carthers were disappearing over the trunk's horizon. He'd let the word pass. The man in the pressure suit was hovering over the carm. We had to fight for them. I can't believe it. Too many floated limp." The Grad grinned." "Get into a chair and strap down! And tell me how many we've got left. "She lives. "He can't fly the carm. Captain. good timing. Debby was gashed and bleeding along the ribs." "Why haven't you killed this one?" Anthon demanded..." "Maybe Kiance had it."I can fly it. his crossbow was on line with the Grad's eyes. I mean. The silver man caine on alone. We may have to leave the carm to get to them.She's harmless as long as she's tied up. if you can. it's going to work.. if she can be talked into it. He worked himself into a chair. Merril flew into the Grad and hugged him. Jinny and Alfin should be in the Commons. Jayan and Minya are with the pregnant women. Debby -. "You waited too long! That goddam silver -." "Well." The Grad was trying to watch all the displays at once." Seven cassettes. "This place is too strange for me." Clave asked. firing darts." "Then.. Let Clave play these dominance games with Anthon! The Grad would captain the carm and hope Lawri was wrong. That's a starman's pressure suit.." the Grad said without overt sarcasm. Lawri spoke in an angry whisper..

" He pointed a finger at the tip of her nose. Karal spotted her. ran to her." He was gasping. Around it ran an extensive wickerwork platform woven from live spine branches. Well. The Grad pinched his fingers together. The silver man was still hanging on the nets when the carm backed away from the trunk and started down. had Minya not been too tired to appreciate it. Moat of the women preferred to stay inside.anyone else go wandering. Stay under the branch. I thought men weren't allowed.I was the only one who even got to the carrier. "Stay here!" And he sprinted for the tunnel. IT HUNG from the underside of the branch. wobbling chest heaving." The Grad's fingers tapped. Chapter Nineteen The Silver Man THE LAUNDRY VAT WAS A TALL GLASS CYLINDER. They're afraid of it. and a Navy man with his arm in a sling. Like the others. Minya." "Good enough. They weren't all pregnant. They all had work: knitting. I've got to warn the children in the school complex." said Anthon. Minya and Ilsa stirred dirty clothing in a matrix of foaming water with a paddle two meters long. "Good. We're too awkward. a bulge on a straight-edge. it's both elevators and at least one man. the supervisor Dloris. but there was the sense of a guest building inside her. from lines pounded into the black bark over Minya's head. Some were nursing their erstwhile guests. Minya wasn't feeling awkward yet. A layer of rocks beneath the vat supported a bed of coals. clothing and all." said the Grad." A chain of huts ran along the underside of the branch. . "I'm not staying. Once she had told Minys. The quiet was broken by a hurried rustling. A pipe ran all the way from the treemouth reservoir to supply the water: an impressive achievement." The silver man darted down at the doors. preparation of food to be cooked at the treemouth." "We don't tend to. The supervisor Haryet kept popping out to see how they were doing. the laundry-soup would have foamed right out of the vat. Ilsa's pregnancy looked ludicrous.. then moved back into view in the dorsal display. sewing. Minya. they're falling from thirty klomters up. "He's on the carm. "Leave?" "We can leave my citizens if we take the silver man with us. Left to itself. she seemed to have adjusted to her new status with little difficulty." "We can't leave them. The silver man shied back as the doors closed in his face. The rest won't come anyway. they came. and we don't know just where they'll hit. It took skill and fine attention. "You're all right. I've got spare jet pods coming. "We know all our lives that the copsik runners might come for us. Then four people burst from the tunnel that led down from the examination hut: Jayan and Jinny. Now he was gripping the nets on the hull.. gripped her aim. She shied from his wildness. Don't let anyone. "Take off...

They inverted the vat and moved back while the water-glob flowed sluggishly out onto the fire. His passengers were rigid with terror. Have you seen her? Three meters tall and pale as a ghost. "Clave?" "Feed it to the tree. They made their way toward the sound.. Anthon's voice wanted to stutter. we're lucky you were around. with a year-old guest?" "Not lately." Ilsa said. Minya turned to Jayan and Jinny. who was rigid with fury. "Give us a hand. a trail of broken branchlets." The two supervisors moved on. There." That actually sounded sensible.I thought you'd given up. Something smashed through foliage. "What?" It was as if a stone had spoken. you're right. They dropped smoothly." Anthon said. the Grad had said. I can underst -." Minya said. It tended to expand in an invisible globe. What's happening?" "Get those clothes out and drying and then put the fire out. "I want to point out that we could go back to Carther States now. They from Then Minya plunged into the branchiets with Jmny and Ilsa behind. Live steam didn't rise fast enough in London Tree's feeble tide.. We're all together now." "Is it war'?" "Better stick to our task till we're sure. Water squeezed out around the edges of the wad of clothing. Do you know what's happening?" "No. We can trade for your copsiks.If something happens. "Now it's war. . The Grad said. 'We've been counting. Minys had never seen that fire go out. but what? Would Dloris know? Minya guessed where the supervisor would be. "Never mind. They still had a passenger on the hull." Ilsa said." "I want to rescue them myself! I am the Quinn Tribe Chairman. AU right. scabbarded. West takes you in. At first the Grad held the bow window pointed straight down. manipulating it with poles. Jinny. and a quiver that was still full. Some water remained. She moved down the line of huts and entered the last one as Dloris came through with Haryet. Minya angled above where she thought it had stopped. Dioris must be expecting something drastic! They continued to work. though the bow was missing. He wouldn't let it. They pulled the clothing from the vat in a geid mass.. They set the laundry in the press and cranked two great wooden slabs together. "You want to kill some copsik runners. We've got the silver man and the cairn." Dloris said. save for Lawri.." Ilsa only shook her head. scalding hot. I thought you were. The corpse wore a sword. then began to slide downward. Keep them handy. She followed it down to the broken and twisted rempins of what had been a Navy officer. These copsik runners don't own anything they value more. Something was happening all right. "We'll have to kill the supervisors. Minya jumped. Do you have lines? Good.faster he swung the cairn to point west and fired aft jets to correct as it drifted away from the trunk. somewhere nearby. In takes you east. "Gwen's missing. Karal looked scared stiff.

Ilsa wanted to do more. ready to bat the truncheon aside. Minya emerged behind Haryet and stabbed her. The Grad said. He caught Gavving watching him. She wouldn't have killed Haryet either. She stepped out through the crackling foliage. tell us what's happening." "Carther States is all over the trunk. The supervisors had found Gwen. Dioris dropped her truncheon. We've got the carm and we'll have our people too." Clave spat the word: "Trade! They attacked us." The two Navy men disappeared into the foliage. Grad-Scientist -. He said. I don't know who's winning.if. Jinny was pinning her arms and Minya was running at her in long. She reacted slowly. too far away for Gavving to hear. Haryet was second-generation copsik." and they laughed. They'll have heard us coming Minya thought. we attacked them. she looked tiny beside her very pregnant captive. "You! All of you! Stay where you are! Move and you'll be shot." . Dioris flipped forward.. Maybe they would trade." said Lawri. "Nice of you to ask. "Don't kill me. Breaking new paths was strictly forbidden." "Have they got the carm?" "The cairn?" Dioris showed nothing but astonishment. "Wait. "We're bait. "Wait. Presently Alfin said. Jinny flew over her back: and came spinning at Minya.. ten meters east of Minya's position.have you got an opinion?" They were dropping too fast. The Grad swung the carm nosedown and fired forward jets. The tunnel was behind her. if. "Never mind. Minya knew Dioris too well to allow it. Jayan held the big paddle well up the haft. Lawri's tone of voice said it all. Gavving watched the carm descend in fire. blade first." she said. Perhaps this place of mothers and babies had given the supervisor a false sense of safety. low leaps.They are entitled to my protection. Then Jayan and Ilsa were moving into place behind Dloris. and Minya knew she bad to stop the supervisor from reaching it. Good! They'll think they heard one not two. All right.Dioris came toward Jinny with thunder in her face. Gwen turned with her baby in her arms and shrieked. shorter than Minya. Patry was talking to his box. Before she could reach her truncheon." "Dioris. Jinny must have realized that too. who lost a moment sidestepping. Do you understand? Amy. Haryet was scolding her as they led her toward the huts. but the Navy officer looked furious and frightened. Please. She ran at her." "Never. "Trade with copsiks!" Anthon and Clave looked at each other. Dloris danced backward. but she faced a Navy sword." "My child will not be born a copsik!" Minya screamed and lunged. Minya stopped and looked out through a screen of branchiets. take cover. We keep the carm. like a two-handed sword. Then Dioris held half a meter of hardwood at guard. They tied her with line. We've got the Scientist's Apprentice and the silver suit and the only man alive who can fit into it. Dloris whirled and stared.

I remember you with your eyes red and halfclosed and crying in rivers. He's got the carm and as many Carther States warriors as he can get aboard. cede me Alfin's place. Just do what I do. Kor's a year or two old for the citizens. Listen. Let the rest run their own revolt." Ilsa concluded." Gavving said with more assurance than he felt. nobody goes thirsty." It was Horse who bad spoken. If he can't get the carm -." Alfin snorted. "You've got to be out of your mind. He was quieter now. There was none in her eyes.treefodder. I didn't have that in Quinn Tuft. Ilsa was. What did he say?" "The Grad said to go up." "Why?" Alfin met his eyes. if I can take Minya. I took orders in Dalton-Quinn too. Those had better be friends aboard! He could only die fighting if they were not. you've talked to the Grad. and he's trying to reach us. when she tried to return to the huts. Who goes with us?" Nobody suggested a name. "Minya. I'm seeing a supervisor. healthy tree with a good crop of earthilfe. Jayan said. He told Horse. It's a good. when it comes down.. Look at that thing. Gavving. "You can't go up." "You don't have Minya... He'll try to capture the carm. once." "Done." Horse asked. I've got a responsible position -. They didn't want Gwen talking to the others. Jayan and Minya were qot obtrusively so." The carm was falling straight at them. "and all the Carther States warriors are going to die. She said.. Ilsa said. a nice woman even if she towers over me. jump for the doors and hope they open. are you sure you want in on this?" Jinny wasn't pregnant." Gwen's shriek of terror had started her baby screaming. surprised. Dloris's eyes shied from their potentially lethal attention. you want to ride in it?" "I'll ride anything to get out of here." The branch shuddered with the force of a tremendous blow. and we'll never get loose at all. Ilsa led her back."There's only two. Gwen's awareness was in the hands that stroked and patted the child." "Then he's dead. "There's tide here." Jayan said. So he's got to have the carm.and I don't like that box." They turned. "It's not my decision. "We're the only new copsiks. Maybe I don't really like it anywhere. The conspirators ignored Gwen as she ignored them." "Alfin. "Gavving. They make their own weather here! Nobody starves. "Ilsa. "Do you really think your friends have the carm? What will they do with it?" "Rescue us. Jayan asked. "The second elevator. There . and we'll see what Clave says." "I do." "You can't go up." "You like it here?" "Oh. She repeated doggedly. but we get along. "My baby won't be born a copsik either. The tunnels lead to the fin and the treemouth. "Alfin. Last chance -. Karal said two.

where would they go?" The Grad tried to think." The Grad fired the forward motors. Three men jumped toward the door. "You did that. Gavving and the stranger pulled themselves inside. and back! Or break trail-Grad. The Grad closed them. Lawri screamed." A feathered harpoon ricocheted through the doors. Somebody would be sure to want me dead.. with a horrendous crashing." Gavving said. He said. Anthon. He dropped into the foliage several meters from the platform. I think I know what we have to do. Gavving. Grad." Ilsa shook her head. The third man wore blue. Gavving gripped an older man's arm. Okay. It was Horse who spoke.isn't any connecting tunnel to the top of the tuft." "What? Minya?" "She's carrying a guest." Clave nodded. The most you'd do is get lost. They had to be used in pairs and clusters or they'd spin the carm. Minya said. Debby took careful aim and put a crossbow bolt through him. "Grad." "Then what?" "Stay here till your friends come for you. Now I've been a supervisor too long. We'll have to wait for them. for witnesses and the record. Your child.part of it. Gavving stared with open mouth. "The children's complex? Karal must have the upper reaches evacuated by now. For thirty years? No. He said." The Grad tapped at the motor controls. The carm lifted tail-first from the tuft.. boy. leaving fires in its wake. He wants to join Quinn Tribe. But you can't go up. Dloris?" "Let me live. "Calm down. "Get us moving. "You're setting the tree on fire!" . Maybe nobody would notice some extra women at the Commons or the schools. that's where the men live. The older man was gasping. I told Minya to gather them all and go up.tricky." "Why?" "I wanted to escape once myself. "Ilsa's there too. Minya is carrying her husband's child. And men aren't permitted there." "Ilsa." "Jinny'll be at the treemouth anyway. None of you are in shape to tunnel through foliage. Stay here and wait. For now. and opened the doors at once. Don't tell anyone I helped. He likes it here. "This is Horse. That's Navy." "What's your stake in this. "I left Minya and Jayan in the pregnant women's compound -.. and he was swinging a sword." They looked at each other." Later the Grad would tell bim the truth. it's big and complicated and it doesn't connect to the top. and if you got to the top you'd stand out like so many mobies in a stewpot. don't you know the men's tunnels don't connect to the women's?" "What?" "They'd have to go all the way to the fin or the treemouth. Alfin isn't coming. "Not the fin.. they're sure to be captured!" Clave had a hand on Gavving's shoulder. Or maybe they'd just stay where they are and wait.

leaping head-down to catch up with the rest: Minya. "You can't! You can't burn the treemouth." Gavving said in wonder.away. Jungle giants all." the Grad said. They were separating. "I've been to the pregnant women's complex. They seemed calm enough under the circumstances. The Grad touched paired yellow dots. The Grad grinned. Jinny. accelerating sluggishly.Now what's that?" Things were falling from the foliage." said several voices.. was hanging by his hands. The silver man was crawling around to the airlock. and it reaches to the treemouth. "Lying wouldn't have helped. The Grad cut the motors and took a moment to think. None were the right size. He flew free. I think our best move is to go up into it. Then there was clear sky below. "Hang on. "What if we hadn't come?" "We did. The silver man." "Aifm has. He was aware of voices yelling at him but was able to ignore the intrusive noises. "I haven't been in the Commons. as if the carm were a tethered sun. against the spin.. "It's big. leapfrogging across the woven spinebranch floor. Faster. The cam eased toward them." Gavving said." Clave said as if his voice hurt him. The carm slowed." The cam moved sideways above the tuft. nor dark enough. "Get 'em!" Two big leather bags fell.. Got to catch them in the airlock What about the silver man? He was still clinging to the dorsal surface. Jayan and Jinny first. "It's under the branch. he could see sickness in the faces behind him. what are you? This isn't mutiny anymore." the Grad said. green passing above. You were too convincing before.. How do we get there?" The Grad let the carm sink. Then the green sky was raining women. "Will London Tree trade with copsik mutineers?" Lawri was silent. I may not hit it exactly." Merril said. Jayan. The Grad rotated the carm to put it between the pressure-suited dwarf and the falling women. and then another woman. "Go for the pregnant women's compound. to be Jinny. They faced each other across clasped hands. Are you ready for a fight?" "Yes. We'll go get our people. The Grad used the motors again. Light flared into the Commons in twin beams. as they had after Dalton-Quinn Tree caine apart. They were dropping past the treemouth. . "Maybe I can scrape off the silver man too. His head spun too. A bird carcass. and a jungle giant: Ilsa? "They jumped. it's just wanton destruction!" Anthon asked mildly. and he started the cam spinning. Long loaves of bread. cleaned and skinned. It would be three operations. I notice he's still with us. and the Grad swung the carm around. If we can get the carm into the treemouth -. and the Navy may have figured out what we're doing by now. "Drop it. hovered. caught rounding a corner. A bundle of cloth tied with line. Women were running. They were below the tuft now: blue sky below." Lawri writhed.She was ignored. and slapped the silver man hard against the hull.

the Grad thought. stopped just alongside them. Do we need the food and other stuff'?" He was alongside Ilsa now. You did it right. and the Grad almost managed to catch him in the closing door. "I never saw red before. He jetted flame to slow the carm. I told Minya to go up. then came in with a bloody nose." The chairs were full. What-? Ilsa's look of terror and determination faded into blissful sleep. The silver man didn't try to follow. if he gets through the door. The twins were flying at him." "We've got water. backed and moved sideways. but if he shoots us all.. Minya next. never mind that. carrying jet pods and footbows and a massive thing that took three men to handle. He was on the dorsal surface.. none did." he said. "They're shooting at her! Grad. "Now you'll see! They'll cut us in half!" and Clave said. Then they were crawling into the carm. The salmon bird carcass was a black silhouette with Voy painfully bright behind it. Hardly surprising. Armed Navy men. if they failed to capture the cam." The Grad opened the door (the red warning disappeared) and Debby pulled the mass in." Jinny called to the Grad. That left the laundry outside top." "These are close quarters. get her!" "I'm doing that.. out of reach of the doors. "Get her against the back wall and stay with her. Anthon and Debby had to squint. Laundry. "if you had the carm. The reunion would have to wait. We'll have them all over the hull if -.. Your line's holding the airlock open. From other displays he caught glimpses of painfully bright scarlet. while Lawri cried. were it not for the bulky starstuff thing they handled like a weapon. He knew before he looked: the silver man was back. between her and the failing Navy men. Don't turn any fixtures. What's it mean?" Lawri deigned to answer. Maybe the silver man was hoping someone would show his head. put a tethered bolt in that carcass and we'll pull it in. Debby. and Anthon had thrown a line round Ilsa's waist and was pulling her in.The Grad opened the doors. then disappeared from the bow window. Blue shapes crawled within the green sky. "Sorry. "Can that thing hurt us?" Anthon demanded.." .but that thump had no place in his scheme.but their tethered arrows nailed it and they reeled it in. spitgun and all. Minya thumped the hull." Anthon said. and a red border around the yellow diagram." he called back to Clave.why not? Hey. "They're almost on us.. "We brought a stack of clean laundry and a water supply. His sigh chopped off when his ventral view flared pure. The spitgun doesn't kill. "Emergency. "The silver man -. It was his last chance: the Grad closed the doors and sighed with satisfaction. get her to a chair! Who's the other one?" "It's Ilsa. how would they reach the tree again? They would have looked futile. "Gavving. The door may have scared him. swarm him." The Navy men had not left the branch's green underside. we'd never have found you -. He was flying the carm like he'd done it all his life. He got a little careless. "Get 'em into chairs. contemptuously. diizzling red." Anthon said. he owns us. So we grabbed what we could and went down. Voy glared behind her. He tried to enter with the stack of ponchos. "Get her into -. Footbow arrows ticked off the hull. you could find us in the sky." Minya said.

Above the muted shriek of the main motor he heard his passengers fighting for breath. flattish green jungle drifted close. Forget the bread. They will kill some mutineer. . In a breath the rain had pounded it clear. and the carm shuddered and rang with the impact of water droplets. They were accelerating east and a little out. A fluffy white cloud showed ahead. She'd succeeded beyond her ambitions. Up. up.. whipped past. to touch the blue bar. A triune family split and fluttered and were gone before they could move. His neck hurt savagely. She'd lied in hope that the mutineers would panic. accelerated. The Grad tried to raise his right arm.. The Smoke Ring trailed left of Gold.farther his arm fell back across his chest with a jolt that smashed the last sipful of air from his lungs. She watched Jeffer trying to turn off the motor and knew he couldn't make it. Closer. forget the water. They were in the storm now. He tapped the center of the big blue vertical bar. but almost certainly it would not have hurt the cam. With his head pulled far back. His sight blurred. Lawri's chin was tucked down against her collarbone. with the points of what should have been a neck rest digging savagely into his shoulder blades. being pulled gradually from the shoulder socket. Lawri saw his hand move and screamed. That crazy Jeffer's killed us all. she thought with alloyed satisfaction. We've got what we need. The chair was too low to support his head. to end the force that flattened him. Gold was to left of center in the bow window. This must be killing the jungle giants. He couldn't think. it was behind him. She was sure that if she relaxed her neck the tide would snap it. I knew it. "Wait!" The Grad didn't. London Tree dwindled like a dream in the aft view. The skyflowed away at the edges of the bow window. What could that light do to them? Neither Klance nor Lawri had ever mentioned such a thing. A small. HE WAS BEING crushed flat. and blind."Feed it to the tree!" the Grad shouted at them all. But it's killing me! The screen of clouds swept past and away. The corn laser would burn or blind at close range. His left arm had missed the arm rest. Chapter Twenty The Position of Scientist's Apprentice THE AIR SIGHED OUT OF THE GRAD'S LUNGS. And Lawri's arms were bound. Gavving looked along his nose and tried to make sense of what he was seeing. Get out! They'll never catch the carm. And I did it to them. East takes you out. Something tiny struck the bow window a terrific blow and left a pink film a quarter meter across. They were leaving the Smoke Ring. White blindness.

We're not in that much trouble. They had reason! They had been flat against the back wall. We're not in tmuble-Luck. He said. he'd. For the CARM was in flight. treefodder." "Good enough. but none of the jungle giants had been in them. but. Others were groaning.. He'd captured the carm.from Anthon. Acceleration: 0. dark blue sky." The Grad was ashamed. Debby swatted him hard across the belly. moving from pain to fear. As the reflexive screams died to groans. that Clave didn't have the training to know what nonsense that was. and she joined him. "Well. everyone he knew. all in a moment. but it was built to operate anywhere. against blue sky. Ilsa was beginning to wake up. Lucky. Thrust: 0. It must have been accelerating for some minutes already. Reception should be good. citizens. Bodies bent like bows recoiled.a deep. the Grad heard Lawri say." The sound stopped. She looked back at him. It had taken Clave to get his mind working again. "Not anywhere." The light of the CARM's main drive was back. if he hadn't murdered him he'd put him aboard the carm! And then he'd touched the blue bar. The killer chairs would have snapped their backs. "Kendy for the State.. protecting Ilsa from what should have been mild jolting. What's our status?" "Give me a breath. "Almost. The big blue rectangle had a . the terrible tide was gone. Remember where we are.. Citizens who had not had the breath for screaming. I'm open to suggestions. within a few thousand kilometers of Discipline itself! When the light went out. Never use the main motor unless you're pushing the tree. her face fuller than he remembered. "Lawri. a color he'd never seen in his life. "The carrier was built for this. hypnotized by the peculiar sky rushing at the bow-seemed to snap out of it. Lovely Minya. The CARM's time-eroded program would be busy enough without distraction. it was building up enough velocity to take it out of the Smoke Ring. Clave said. The agony in his neck shifted the pressure was easier to take this way." "Feed it to the tree. and he'd caught it. but he kept laughing. Gold and the Smoke Ring showed like a puffball on a stem. The blue display was on." The Grad heard full-throated laughter aft. and the sky ahead was clear of further obstructions.Outside the Smoke Ring.. stirring. Kendy began his message. that's certain.. Kendy for the State. Kendy aborted his usual message. and it filled the carm's cabin to overflowing. "Jeffer.. somebody do something!" Clave's voice was a carrying one. She sighed. It came from the stars. We know it operates inside the Smoke Ring." The Grad could only nod.. wearily. Kendy for the State.The cloud was gone. screamed now. He rolled his head to look at Minya. The air was already thinning around the CARM. He could barely breathe. Merril-vacant-eyed." Other sounds stopped. The blow snapped him into a U. and blueshifting! A shift in its spectral line.. He tried to speak and couldn't. Grad?" That simply hadn't occurred to him. By the frequency shift. wasn't it. "Calm down.

The pressure's too low outside. Now close the outer line. Lawri?" No answer. "I think Horse is dead. all detail had become tiny: integral trees were toothpicks.. We can't maneuver." This could start a riot. Good. handed the spitgun to Anthon.." Others were craning forward to see the displays or peering out through the side windows. In her heart of hearts. She gave up that hope when she saw his face. "Port view. We'd lose our air." In the aft and side views. but no fuel. two doors to lock the air in. "But we're bound to fall back sooner or later.. Hall that's why Klance calls it an airlocki So did the cassettes -. He tapped it off. Off to the edge: a flash of silver? "I don't--" "It's Mark! He's still out there!" "I don't believe it. for what that was worth." Lawri said. Okay. "Anthon." Green display: "Pressure's way down outside. Open the doors one at a time." "Sure." Horse? The old man Gavving had brought with him. The silver man disappeared from view. No fast decisions from now on.border of flickering scarlet: main motor on." Window displays: "Oh. Take the spitgun away from him when he comes in. my. and reached for his helmet. everything seemed embedded in fog. of course. He had never met Horse. I got hung up.Lawri. Poor copsilc the Grad thought. but his jaw hung slack and his breath came fast and his face was pale with shock. H20:1. Mark was a dwarf.. "Minya?" .Wait a minute." Yellow display: "Life support looks okay. I can't." The Grad cleared all but the yellow display. 02: 211. wait-no red borders? Open the inner. small wonder if the tide had stopped an old man's heart. seeking reassurance. The silver man stepped into the carm. We're -." Something in her voice. His eyes wavered about the cabin. into the airlock. don't miss this! Nobody's seen the Smoke Ring from outside since men came from the stars." Muffled thumps sounded aft." "He'll die out there!. but what human could have wanted to die before seeing this? "Check his pulse. Citizens. let him in!" "What a man! I. But Gavving said. I don't know how to find out where we're going. "Sorry. That's why the sky's that peculiar color. and the bones of his face were massive.. Jeffer. The dwarf must have clung to the nets throughout that savage acceleration. Gold had become a bulge within a larger lens of cloud patterns that trailed off to east and west: a storm pattern that spread across the Smoke Ring. He pinched both lines together-make sure they're closed tightl-then opened the outer door with a forefinger. Horse certainly looked dead enough. The silver man wanted in. brutal.the Grad looked.328. The hidden planet seemed indecently close. "Plenty of water." But the silver pressure suit was crawling into view. but they'd have to know.. Clave. "We're leaving the Smoke Ring. Air shushed into the airlock. Lawri may have hoped for a last-breath countermutiny from the Navy's toughest warrior. he may be dangerous. "Jeffer. H2:0. Clave. fuel exhausted. ponds were drops of glitter.

Now was different. Scientist's Apprentice. I was too mad to let go. What now?" "We're in the hands of mutineers." Lawri said. looking somewhat flat. The Scientist's Apprentice broke her angry silence to say. he had been ready to strangle the Grad for withholding information. "and I wish they were better at flying what they've stolen. the carm was crowded. Who are you?" "Navy. The citizens seemed calm enough.three squeezegourds.. we don't quite trust you. Maybe you really are made of starstuf. They were entirely outside the Smoke Ring. They had moored the ponchos and the smoked and cleaned carcass of a salmon bird to fixtures along the cargo hold walls. "All things considered. Mark. Now he recognized Lawri. Quite the contrary! But even with the wide cargo space aft. Clave wondered about the carm's water supply.. are we?" He's turned docile! Lawri thought in disgust. If they died it would not be Clave's fault. You'll die for it. flowing out along the hole in the ring. armor. "You've heard about them all your lives. to an empty chair. I'd rather ride inside. Citizen doesn't sound too bad. The stars! You say it without knowing what you're talking about. Now. Now. and too awestruck to feel fear. Mark nodded unhappily. point man. He was about to ask when the Grad spoke first. Exhausted." Real they were. Did he think Clave would attack their prisoners? Clave smiled back. Squeezegourds of water were passing up and down the chairs. Now they were carving thin slices from the bird. Well. Horse didn't need a chair. "Hello. Anthon and Debby were keeping busy. the Chairman." The mutineers' First Officer said. We're not really going to hit Gold. "Welcome to Quinn Tribe. She kept her silence. Probably the jungle giants found the carm more frightening than most-than Clavel-yet they were acting to make it their home. Quinn Tribe doesn't keep copsiks. I'm Clave. as a citizen.A dark-haired woman answered." Her voice was flat and her face was hostile. Name's Mark. but you've seen the stars. Clave guessed. He'd never seen them either. Clave was not Chairman here. The paired fans of violet light were vivid and terrifying. "Gavving." Mark was letting himself be led forward. Neither did the three jungle giants. It was the Blue Ghost and Ghost Child that held Clave's attention. He made his way aft and helped the jungle giants pass curls of meat forward. He felt a touch of that himself. Mark. He's given in to the mutineers! Are they really going to win? And then she saw that they were not. there they are. but they were just points. Clave remembered feeling like this when the tree came apart. Where we going?" "Nobody seems to know. Clave counted ten seats and thirteen citizens. That must have been quite a ride. "Hello. and impressive enough. He didn't know enough to make decisions! Then.The Grad was watching him uneasily. would you come here for a . The sky was nearly black and scattered with dozens of white points. one dead. Most of them-even the silver man-were looking out the windows. so we're going to tie you to a seat.

moment?" There was secret urgency in his voice. Anthon noticed and continued what he was doing. So did Clave.If their help was needed it would be requested. Gavving squeezed between Lawri and the Grad. The summons was something of a relief. Minya's news had startled him, and he did need time to compose his face. The Grad pointed. "See the red border blinking around that number?" "Sure." "Red means emergency. That number is the air in the cabin. How do you feel? Allergy attack coming on?" "Actually, it was the last thing on my mind." Gavving listened to his body. Ears and sinuses were unhappy...eyes scratchy... "Maybe." The yellow number dropped a digit behind the decimal point. "Scientist's Apprentice, any comments?" "Fix it yourself, Jeffer the Scientist." "Grad, what does it mean?" "Oh, sorry, Gavving. There's no air outside. The air inside must be leaking out into the, um, universe. You know, I talk to you when I get confused. Maybe you'll come up with something." Gavving chewed it over. "What Clave said -- " "Clave did not say that the carm is almost four hundred years old and maybe falling apart." "Like all those bicycle gears...okay, what's your opinion of the Scientist's Apprentice?" Lawri bore their considering stares with her lips pressed tight and her eyes full on Gavving's. The Grad smiled and said, "Better you ask her opinion of us." Gavving didn't have to. "Four enemy warriors, six copsiks caught in mutiny, one corpse, and a Navy man who surrendered his weapon." Her expression ifickered. Had she forgotten the silver man? This wouldn't be easy, guessing at a stranger's thoughts. Try anyway. "I only wondered if she's good enough to save us if she wanted to. We could waste too much time on that." The Grad nodded. "Lawri, if the Scientist were here, could he save us?" "Maybe. But he wouldn't!" "Kiance wouldn't save the carm?" The Grad smiled. She shrugged as best she could within her bonds. "All right, he'd save the carm if he could." "How?" She didn't answer. "Can you save us?" She raised an eyebrow at him. Gavving found that admirable, but what he said was, "Bluff Grad, we'll have to fix it ourselves. The Scientist told you things about gases, didn't he?" "Both Scientists did. Come to that...oxygen? We must be getting air from the oxygen tank. It's the hydrogen tank that's empty. And we'll have more fuel pretty soon. The carm splits water into the two flavors of fuel. The one flavor, the oxygen, it's what we breathe. At least we'll have some time." Gavving studied the blonde girl's face. What did she know? What did she want? If she

only wanted everybody dead, then dead they were. But there was something she might hate even more than mutiny. It depended on getting the Grad moving, which was a good idea anyway. How? Ask stupid questions; that worked sometimes. "Can we find the leak? Set something smoldering and watch the smoke?" "Yes! It'll tell the others what's wrong, though, and burn up air too. Mph?" "Inspiration?" "Molecules of...bits of air move more slowly when they're cold." The board was already alive with yellow numbers and drawings. The Grad touched an arrowhead on a vertical line, then moved his fingertip slowly toward him. The arrowhead became two arrowheads, and one followed his finger. "I never even wondered if we could make the cabin warmer or cooler, but it has to be true. That oxygen is liquid. Cold! It'd be freezing our lungs out if something wasn't keeping the cabin warm. Okay, now it'll be cold in here, but we'll live longer. I think you'd better tell Clave what's on and let him make the announcement. They'll have to know now, because we'll have to pass out the extra ponchos. Then we'll try the smoke -- " Lawri spoke. "Just let me at the damn controls!" Gavving turned from her. Hide the smile. Lawri might want their deaths, but she couldn't let the Grad save them without her help. He asked, "Is it too complicated to tell the Grad?" "No. But I won't!" "Grad? Try the smoke?" "Worst she can do is kill us. Besides, Lawri always wanted to fly the carm. Lawri, the position of Scientist's Apprentice is now open." Lawri flexed her arms and looked about at her captors. Her hands prickled; her arms hurt. Her urge was to strike out at the mutineers. But the look on Jeffer's face: Kiance waiting for the right answer to some stupid rote question... The sky was black as charcoal. The stars were white points, like tiny versions of Voy, but thousands of them. And if they roused fear in Lawri, what must they be doing to these savages? She watched them nibbling on rolled slices of raw meat, and suddenly smiled. She reached past the Grad and tapped the white key. "Prikasyvat Voice." Hear this you treefeeders! "Ready," said a voice belonging to nobody in the carm. "Identify yourself." The lunchtime conversation went dead silent. The jungle giant male cocked his crossbow. She turned her back on him. "I am Lawri the Scientist. Give us your status." "Fuel tanks nearly empty. Power depleted, batteries charging. Air pressure dropping, will be dangerously low in five hours, lethal in seven. Displays are available." "Why are we losing air pressure?" "All openings are sealed. I will seek the source of a leak." Lawri tapped the white switch again. "That's what will kill us. We'll strangle without air. Too bad. It would have been quite a show, but you won't see it," she flashed at the Grad. "Why did you turn off the display?" "Voice can't hear us till I tap it again. It can do almost anything if you say the wrong thing, just talking." "Would it talk to me?"

"You're a..." Her scorn became something else. "It wants you to identify yourself, and it remembers. Hmm. Try it." She tapped the talk button. "Prikazyvat Voice," said the Grad. "Identify yourself." "I'm the Scientist of Quinn Tuft. Do we have enough fuel to get back into the Smoke Ring?" For a moment the Grad forgot how to breathe. Then, "We have a water supply. Won't it be separated into fuel?" Voice paused. Then, "If the flux of sunlight maintains its intensity, I will have fuel soon enough to affect a return. I note a mass near our course. I can use it as a gravity sling." "Would that be Gold?" "Rephrase." "The mass, is it Goldblatt's World?" The Grad tapped the switch before he began laughing. "Go for Gold! If we live that long." The whispering aft had become obtrusive. With the air turning icy and Voice speaking from the walls, luncheon was sliding over to panic. Jeffer said, "Gavving, you'd better tell them about the pressure. We don't have time to brief Clave." Lawri asked, "Shall I do it?" She knew more aj,out what was going on. Jeffer seemed appalled. "Lawri, they'd think you started the leak!" "Savages -- " "Anyone would." She couldn't decide if he meant it. Gavving was telling the rest of the mutineers about the leak. He told it long, including what they planned to do about it. Jeffer tapped the white button. "Pnikazyvat Voice. Have you found the leak?" "I find no point of leakage. Air is disappearing." "Will we live long enough to get back into the Smoke Ring?" "No. The course I've programmed would take twenty-eight hours. Air pressure will have dropped to lethal levels in ten hours. Times are approximate." Lawri couldn't remember how long an hour might be. Still...ten hours? It had been seven before the cabin got so cold. She wondered why Voice hadn't taken it into account. Sometimes Voice could be such a fool. She said, "Display the areas where you have looked for a leak." The yellow line diagrams of the cabin sprouted green borders along two-thirds of the interior. Red dots blinked elsewhere. "Those are sensors that have died," Lawri told Jeffer. "Voice, implement your course correction." Jeffer added, "Pnikazyvat Voice. Do not use the main motor at any time!" "I will fire as I have fuel," Voice said. "First burn in ten seconds. Nine. Eight." "Everybody grab something," Jeffer called. Mutineers were pulling the extra ponchos over their clothing. They stopped to strap themselves in. The jungle giants moved against the aft wall and grabbed fixtures- "Two. One." But only the attitude jets lit. The carm's nose swung toward the Smoke Ring and stayed there while the aft motors fired. It lasted several tens of

breaths. They would pass closer to Gold...which had become huge, a spiral storm seen edge-on, whose rim was already below them. If Mark weren't tied, Lawri thought, and as the main motor fired, nobody would be able to move except Mark It was something to keep in mind. Jeffer didn't seem to realize that the thrust could be controlled, by touching the top or bottom of those rectangles to raise or lower the fuel flow. could the leaks be blocked? If there was a way, Lawri was damned well going to find it before Jeffer did.

Chapter Twenty-one Go For Gold
"KENDY FOR THE STATE. KENDY FOR THE STATE. KENDY FOR the State." The response came almost instantly, sharp and crisp through nearvacuum and dwindling distance. The CARM was out of the Smoke Ring. Kendy had clear sending for the first time since the mutiny. He sent: "Status?" The motors were functional, all of them. Fuel: a few teacupaful. Water: a good deal. Solar power converters: functional. Batteries: charged, but running down as they changed water into liquefied hydrogen and oxygen. Sunlight flux from T3 would be steady in vacuum. There would be fuel. The CARM was on manual. CO2 flux indicated a full load of passengers. The carbon dioxide was accumulating slowly; the life support system could almost handle it...and the cabin was leaking air. Oh shit, they were dying! "Course record since initiating burn." It came. The CARM was rising. It would have passed near the L2 point-Kendy's own location, the point of stability behind Goldblatt's World-were it not for Goldblatt's World itself. And were it not for Goldblatt's World, the CARM would presently fall back to safety... but the core of an erstwhile gas giant planet was pulling the CARM's orbit into a tilted near-circle entirely outside the Smoke Ring. "Switch to my command." Massive malfunction. "Give me video link with crew." "Denied." And the cabin pressure was dropping. Something had to be done. Kendy sent, "Copy," and waited. The CARM computer thought it over, slowly, bit by bit; geared up; and began beaming its entire program. It took twenty-six minutes. Kendy looked it over-a simplified Kendy, patched with subsequent commands and garbled by time and entropy-while he sent, "Stand by for update programming." "Standing by." Kendy didn't believe it. The long-dead programmer would have embedded protect commands. He simply hadn't reached them yet...unless they had deteriorated too? Kendy didn't have an update program, he'd been so sure. He'd have to assemble it from scratch. The speed with which a computer can think was Kendy's triumph and tragedy. Always

" "Is that suit thick enough?" "Damn it.He could get them back into the Smoke Ring via a close approach past Goldblatt's World. because he was determined to ignore them. cuddling. updating his own simplified personality. shivering ball. He deleted the barriers that barred him from communication. He regularly deleted the memory of his boredom. just like the carm. The other passengers were taking it better. He saw instantly that the fuel wasn't there. deleting the names of key figures. you want it?" Jinny smiled and shook her head.. He left it alone. before they were gone." Mark said. Anthon and Debby and Ilsa were curled into a friendly. and two to spare.. the CARM's computer had already worked out a course change. despite the lines that held him immobile in his chair. He had used a simplified program for the CARM computers. sharpening everywhere. because Kendy was constantly editing his memories. His own pair of CARMS. He almost deleted the command that barred use of the main motor. Now: a course program to bring them here... thanks. not the program. One they tore into scarves. correcting where suitable. Jinny wound a scarf around Mark's neck and tucked the ends into the collar of the silver suit. If anyone needs my scarf. Forget it and try again. But now he had the CARM's program as a template. It didn't matter. and recent.. then deleted it. In fact. "Fine. He looked for a way to plug the leak in the cabin. nor the sunlight to electrolyze enough water in time. you're the one who's shivering. He left that part of the program intact. and they laughed . The details he had deleted. He ran through it. He remembered only that. woman. which fed him power via their solar collectors. He was always near his limit. to study them He barely had time to hope. The CARM filed it. "Comfortable?" The silver man seemed cheerful enough. The storage capacity of his computer-brain was fixed. It was hopeless: the life support sensors had failed. with the spare ponchos pulled around them. This suit keeps its own temperature. I'd be even better off with my helmet closed. Kendy apprehended orbital mechanics directly. He didn't understand that command. They'd be dead by then.he was freshly surprised by the boredom of his evenfless life. He had edited his memory of the mutiny. The proof submitted in 1976 by Appal and Haken could not be checked except by a computer. There were ponchos for everyone but Mark. Once he had examined the solution to the Four-Color Problem in topology. It stayed fresh. Kendy was a computer.leaving intact the CARM's own memories of the time of mutiny. He beamed the revised program to the CARM at the snail's pace the CARM could accept.. for fear that he might later seek vengeance against their descendants. It had worked! At least he could look them over. get to know them a little. didn't have fuel to meet and tow the savages' CARM even if he were willing to risk them both. he had experienced the proof directly and found it valid. "Of course. The main motor was more efficient.but it was input. After five hundred and twelve years! The cold had gotten to the jungle giants.

" Citizens took their turns at the control panel to find the blank spots in the yellow diagram. "We put pond water in. in a long brown bubble. The cluster of jungle giants sagged against the aft wall without falling apart. "I've got it. Brown water oozed from the aft wall. The burn ended.. Have we got something to hold water?" The Grad called. if Lawri balked. It's the bow window. More fog that way. and you can be damn glad of it. Over the next several minutes-while Lawri alone watched the controlsthe water dwindled and thickened to a darker brown. blowing. Voice has sensors there." Lawri took the gourds and filled them from the brown globule. but it leaves the goo behind. "If you think something's leaking. Lawri said. watching the pale smoke form streamlines where the window joined the hull. The carm breaks the pure water into hydrogen and oxygen. "What have you got in mind? Is there a way to plug the leaks?" Voice began a countdown. Jayan. Lawri turned a valve. No. along a curve of window as long as the Grad's arm. The Grad had made a torch from one of the scarves plus fat scraped from the skin of the salmon bird. The Grad began the uncomfortable job that others might miss: he crawled between the seats. "We need squeezegourds!" They found three. Everyone save Horse was breathing white smoke." "Say that if we live long enough to get thirsty. The window was loose around the ventral-port corner. but he wanted her on his side.." Lawri ordered. Lawri went forward with the gourds." Lawri did something to the controls "I'm turning up the humidity-the wetness in the air. watching each of their water gourds become fouled. He was about to light it when he noticed mist before his face. The Grad joined her at the back wall. as far as that was possible. breathe on it!" he announced. which seemed all right.white smoke. Presently it began to turn hard. blowing mist where the floor joined the starboard wall." A crowd of citizens crawled around the rim of the bow window. Gavving and Minya moved along the rim of the bow window. "Maybe. or if Lawri chose to kill them somehow. The water stayed where she put it. Jayan and Jinny were blowing on the side windows. "Grad? Is it working?" . It didn't need saying: if they couldn't plug the leak." She herself made her way aft. as if they were all using tobacco. We should have picked up Minya's water supply. He blew. shoulder to fingers. "It's mud!" Merril said in disgust. "There may be more. forget the doors. She must be still floating from the spitgun drug." "We can't drink that stuff. formed a growing globule. Mist showed outside. blowing and watching. Lawri waited while small jets fired. Would she plug the leak with mud? He could do it himself. The glass began to frost. Every so often we have to clean it out. Mist formed outside and vanished immediately. Ilsa giggled. Merril called. "Watch your if he'd said something funny. Merril collected them and brought them back. Lawri said. Merril winced. Lawri squeezed muddy water along the rim of the bow window. That's why there's an eject system. now. "Keep looking. Mark would die with the rest. Clave said. edging around the cold corpse of Gavving's friend.

They had the temperature turned far down. Minya got her the last of the ponchos and they wrapped it around her." "I've saved you. It looked like fun. "We're not losing air anymore." Clave said. no sign of disease-which was reasonable. He watched the really strange ones succumb first and crawl into a ball to wait for their deaths. The CARM's medical sensors indicated a corpse and twelve citizens. an adaptation to the free-fall environment. One had no legs. faster toward Voy. But the cold was killing them too. The abnormal height. the long." She's earned it. the Grad thought. humped in the middle. Kendy had watched them for a bit. a turbulent spiral of cloud. Lawri met his eyes and said. Discipline had carried none of the parasites or bacteria that had adapted over the millions of years to prey on humanity. "You're the Scientist." she trailed off. Something was happening to the bow window: a pattern like a colored shadow. Time to make his appearance. bringing these back into the State. "Point to it. Don't bother me. They must have kept some of the old knowledge. The whole pattern drifted west at a speed that looked sluggish. and once begun. If lethal recessive genes were appearing in the Smoke Ring. "Could you get us back to London Tree?" Lawri shook her head. He could make his mistakes here and never pay a penalty." The carm was nose-down to the Smoke Ring. but eating. In its way this small group was a perfect test sample. until he realized that the lowered temperature had slowed the leak. Otherwise they seemed healthy. she couldn't stop. the Grad thought wistfully. "I will not accept the position of Scientist's Apprentice. I'm cold and tired and lost. but must be quick beyond imagination. Now I want to go home to London Tree. In time the CARM would be found by other savages." After such a performance.The Grad had read of ice.. but. but he was needed here. vulnerable necks and long. She began to shiver. Especially under the circumstances. long toes. "I'm certain there's room in Quinn Tribe for two Scientists. Lawri was eating raw salmon bird. drifting backward near the carm." They weren't human. They could see the flow of cloud currents. "Lawri? Have you done something?" "Something's wrong. Leave the humidity up and we won't get thirsty so fast. it might point to inbreeding. He would have his problems. clearly hating it. They didn't even show the sores that came with insufficient bathing.. . He looked to Lawri.Clave said.. Kendy was going to fix it. then tied a strip of cloth round her head and throat.. The arms of the Smoke Ring reached away in both directions. I can't make decisions. It was no more real to him than the liquefied gases in the tanks. Jeffer. Minor details-like integral trees-were invisibly small. fragile fingers and long. Jayan and Jinny had gone aft to join the clustered Carther States warriors. She said. and in haste.I've never seen anything like. He saw no scars or pockmarks. was she quitting on them? Clave spoke first. occluding the view. That's all I want. Closest was the storm pattern that surrounded and cloaked Gold. must be evolution at work. not one of them quite normal.

." "Why does a tree come apart?" the face asked. "He tried to steal the carm. "Scientist. muscular jaw. He created a wild tale of himself as a copsik barred from citizenship by his shape. "I am the Quinn Tribe Scientist -. He said. A ghostly face filled the bow window. Gavving. with the storms around Gold showing through. Minya.. Mark is a mutineer. but my duty is to the State. of trying to steal the carm by activating the main motor. A gigantic dwarf. and well-being of his charges. thick brow ridges and cheekbones. but their children may qualify. durations: numbers. tell me more of London Tree. this is Kendy for the State." the face said. Too late. Lawri and the Grad answered as best they . he remembered Mark tied motionless in his chair. belligerently. Scientist. A face that resembled Mark's or Harp's. "We are of three tribes living in two very different places. you must. a square.'" Lawri quoted. distances.Mark let his eyes drop." "And I am the London Tree Scientist. I have the power to send you into Gold." He kept talking while his mind sought a memory." "Who are the rest of you? Introduce me. naming the copsiks of London Tree-Jayan. If you want our lives." Lawri said firmly. The face seemed satisfied. It spoke in Voice's voice. a short neck as thick in proportion as a man's thigh. "Yes. It took on color. "I brought your ancestors here to the Smoke Ring and abandoned them when they made mutiny against me. I'm the Scientist." The Grad took over. Should I treat you as citizens? I must decide. and "How does London Tree move?" and "Why do you call yourself Scientist?" and "Are many of you crippled?" and "How many children do you expect to die before they grow to make children?" It wanted populations." "Tell me of yourselves. Clave and Merril as refugees who had become copsiks. He tried to stick to lies he could remember." Too many were looking at the Scientists. huge and transparent. Where do you live? Why are you of different sizes?" The Grad said. hoping to immobilize all but himself." contemptuously..The carm was silent. "The Checker's responsibility includes the actions. himself as a privileged refugee. He looked sullenly dangerous. "If you can help us. take them. the jungle giants as visitors." he said. "You were the Checker for Discipline" "I was and am. It was brutal. You keep some who are barred from citizenship. "Certainly not. Sharis Davis Kendy began to question Mark. Sharls Davis Kendy? Lawri broke in. How did you come in possession of the CARM? Are you mutineers?" The Grad held his breath. do you?" Lawri said. then finding that the ferocious thrust left him as helpless as the rest. "Can you see us?" "We are lost and helpless. "Citizens." said the spectral London Tree citizens." Would the dwarf brand him a liar? But the rest would back him up except Lawri. and your reward will be beyond the reach of your imagination." The passengers looked at each other. with bushy brown hair and brows. Mark answered angrily. Speak and tell me why I should not do so. Speak. to your deaths. "I am Sharls Davis Kendy." "You argue well. Jinny. Was this some trick of Lawri's? The Grad could feel the hair rising in a halo around his head but somebody had to speak.and Lawri said. "Now. "The carm belongs to the Navy and the Scientist.. The three tall ones -. attitudes.

Lawri started to speak.. The CARM will reenter breathable atmosphere in eleven hours. "You have stopped the leak." The Grad countered. blurring into mere noise. He could take one trivial step in that direction. which you clearly do not have. the Grad rode her down. Don't open the airlock until you've stopped. .. and to link your State to the stars you now see for the first time. Keep the bow forward. then try to impress them with the need to talk to him again. I can tell you of the universe beyond what you know. The face said. but what choice did he have? If Mark didn't talk to save himself Lawri would. "Very well. Medical readouts implied that they had lied to him too. Kendy had never intended to tell them that they would not live to see reentry. By then you'll have fuel to move about. I have a great deal to tell you. "Justice is accurate in Quinn Tuft." Mark went pale. And the CARM was about to pass out of range." the Grad said. Come to me as soon as you can. This changed everything. The savages might actually return to describe Kendy and Discipline.. as the brutal face blurred into a wash of colored lines. Well done. as if in haste. Mutiny cannot be tolerated in the State. For Kendy these were now in conflict." "Our swiftness may well depend on instant communication.. What are our chances of living through this?" The face of Kendy started to answer-and froze with its mouth halfopen. Keep the -. Air is dangerous at such speeds.. "He'll face trial on our return.. and the storm pattern around Gold glowed blue and white through the bow window.could. I can show you how to link your little tribes into one great State. of course. "Yes." The face began speaking louder and more rapidly. Or he could spend the next few minutes. or decades-he could begin the work that had waited for half a thousand years. He could stop them.and he dared not accuse them of it. you'll be falling through air. "Very well. I can give you instant communication and power that depends on sunlight instead of muscle. With these they could stick close to the truth. Don't touch anything at the bow.” The voice of Kendy died in a most peculiar fashion. They had blocked the leak! How? A man without glands might naturally feel curiosity and duty as his strongest emotions. It will be hot. don't worry about it." "Do you doubt his guilt?" "That will be decided. Then the voice was silent. Update: Cabin pressure has returned to normal. At this point he probably became guilty of mutiny himself. And I captain the carm! "Justice is swift in the State -. by beaming some wild course change to the CARM. The air will slow it. And when they did that-years from now. Do you understand all of that?" Lawri said. You'll see fire. And finally the voice of Kendy said. Now you must kill the mutineer.indoctrinating them into the State? Impossible." "Hours?" "What measure do you use? The circuit that Tee-Three makes around the sky? In about one-tenth of a circuit.

Kendy wasn't sure which he preferred. Kendy was ashamed and angry. His medical readings told him that they had lied to him. Things came at them. Temperature was up to normal and rising. If they died Kendy would remain a legend fading into a misty past. He was losing even the cabin sensors . Watching Lawri steer was distilled horror. The passengers were suffering: mouths wide. The forward view was a blur of fire as the CARM plowed deeper into atmosphere. Inside the cabin the CO2 content was building. From her rigid posture. whether the CARM would live or die. Trying to steer the carm through this would have been bad enough. Instead. His hands strangled the chair arms. Plasma streamed past the dorsal camera. somewhere. The caveat was simple too. not much more than he would have expected when the CARM was new. He had two fine views of the stars and the thickening Smoke Ring atmosphere. cutting communications. they hit or they didn't. If he sent some lethal course correction now. the CARM's aft and ventral cameras worked perfectly. they would tell of a Kendy who was powerful but gullible. she was just at the edge of screaming hysterics. FRUSTRATINGLY. There was some ablation. a potential convert was ordered to commit some obscene crime. with the ionosphere building up around the CARM. To further the cause. the knotted jaw and bared teeth. He shouldn't have forced them to do that either! He didn't know enough even to guess at what they were hiding. Larger objects could be avoided. but the pilot had been under terrific tension earlier. he had almost turned them all into mutineers! He'd had to back down gracefully and fast. Too late now. One must never give such an order unless it would be obeyed. reached. mud that bubbled. and Kendy sought the spectral lines of silicon and metals: signs that the CARM's hull was boiling away. a Kendy who could be intimidated. transparent blue. They'd be losing air again: the black ice around the rim of the bow window had turned to mud . withdrew. The principle was simple and had served the State before. Her hands hovered like claws. The jolting looked bad enough to tenderize meat. A blurred figure snapped its safety bands loose and struggled to tear its clothing away. It looked chancy. streaming to the sides. He could never repudiate the cause after that. ionization would garble it. chests heaving. There was flame in front of them. His own hands . He'd been wrong. Kendy couldn't get medical readings through the growing ionization. If they lived. He'd had no chance to recover from that. He had attempted to bind their loyalty to him by ordering an execution. then tapped suddenly at blue dashes. To do so would be to admit that he had committed an abomination. Little things were hopeless. The screaming flame-hot air massed before the bow was coming in. Blood spots turned black and evaporated. He had bungled.Chapter Twenty-two Citizens' Tree KENDY'S READINGS WERE BEGINNING TO BLUR. The Grad felt the heat on his face.

I'm tired. The air was trying to pound the carm into bits of flaming starstuff. everyone else strapped into seats that would give some protection..'We're back. Then pick a home. even to jungle giants.twitched when she was slow to see danger. clean. against thrust from the bow. Integral trees showed foreshortened." she said. Citizens had objected. She released her straps and moved aft. they might well have roasted. They towed it . Clave had been jarred loose. "Lawri?" "It's over. she'd insisted. The Grad touched blue dashes to slow the cairn further. A bit of green fluff. It might have been half of an integral tree with the tuft gone wild. He'd never seen such a plant. "I don't know just where. with Jinny following." Lawri rubbed her eyes fiercely.. It was an attack. Relax. droplets of fog in its wake rang the hull like a myriad tiny chimes.Lawri fired port jets the carm swung sluggishly around.. Take the controls. A grunt of pain.." Right." he said.and Lawri was steering clear of it. The carm fell east and in. He looked back at his passengers. and she was right. Forward jets: the carm eased backward. "We lived long enough to get thirsty!" The Grad said. Six of Quinn Tribe remained. Small birds played in the slender branches. too slowly. as three." He opened the airlock to a mild breeze that smelled fresh. gripping cargo moorings with his abnormal strength. The Grad said. And it was moving past them more slowly. A pond a klomter across just missed swatting them. A fingertip touch set the cabin warmth control to normal. while the fluff swelled to become an oncoming jungle. Lawri had lived half her life with the carm. Something barred their path like a green web. a treefodder stink... If it hadn't been lethally cold when they entered atmosphere. "We're low on fuel and there's no water at all. Let's find a pond. The chairs were full. He gripped the chair arms and waited to be smashed like a bug. Are we all alive? Does anyone need medical help?" "Lawri You did it!" Merril chortled.. shuddering as the flpming air blasted the nose off-center.she'd seen them: jets fired. wincing at the touch. Clave beside him. Lawri let the bow face forward again. The cabin was already warm. The carm's air stank! It was stale. The silver man was holding him in place with a hand on his chest. hard to see. fear and rotting meat and too many people breathing in each other's faces. Reentry wasn't like using the main motor. but the Grad had simply kept yelling until it got done: the corpse of Horse moored to cargo fixtures." "I have it. She hadtobebetterat this than the Grad. The debris was growing ever thicker. dead ahead.four pairs of green dots. wonderful. the trunk ending in a swollen knob.. swearing that his own strength was enough." "Open the doors. aft. "Damn. The Grad saw birds and scarlet flowers before the jungle was past. Mark the silver man in back. "Why?" "Horse. Jeffer.. the foliage spreading like gauze. Why hadn't he noticed? The twins released the corpse from its mooring. Twelve total. Swordbirds hovered at the edges." Jayan said.. to start a new tribe.

" He laughed and thought. Why not? He tugged on his line. because there were three gourds in motion. Everyone was coming out. Usa. . washing themselves and each other. He let the carm drift forward until the bow window just touched the silver sphere. She and the dwarf washed each other and talked a little. Merril. also properly moored. How can I say I'm sorry? Never use the main motor unlessHorse dwindled into the sky. twitchy. It was playtime. you'd have dismounted the pump and stored it aboard. the Grad carried the other end outside. If you'd planned your mutiny better. Nobody else knows how to do this. Should I have asked your advice too? and didn't say it. The pond was huge. submerging head and shoulders and doing his best to swallow the pond. He turned on the bow lights. Bring the squeezegourds. He'd been careless. squeeze. Then he fired the aft motors. The carm's headlamps lit the water around him." He followed her aft and didn't ask her about lungs until he'd figured it out himself. The Grad chose one of the smaller satellites. Pick two mutineers with good lungs. He tethered himself before he jumped toward the water a few meters away. "Come on." "Squeezegourds. Mark was out of his pressure suit and tethered to Anthon. warily. followed by Jinny and Jayan. The rest of the citizens were drinking. wait while it filled. While she mounted the hose to the aft wall. squeeze. even in treemouth humor. If I met his ghost. Even the char had been burned off.through the doors. moving through a maze of green threads. He saw no sign of the nets that had covered the hull. fine. The Grad waited while they sent the bones of the salmon bird after it. Debby. they hadn't. His suspicions seemed silly. Anthon. The Grad hadn't let himself think of his thirst. She looked wire-tense in the aftermath of reentry.. spinning fast enough to form a lens-shape. splashing. we need some muscle. Jeffer. squeeze. Scientist. and the water glowed. she was in no shape to contemplate a countermutiny. duck it under water. Now he surrendered to it. What happened then left him breathless. Was Lawri alone in the carm? Alone with the controls of a vehicle that could hover near the pond. The technique was to shove the neck of a squeezegourd into the hose.. Better than lungs. spraying fire on men and women who would have to choose between burning and drowning-He saw Lawri emerge with Minya and Gayving behind her. carrying squeezegourds. and swimming waterbirds darting in flocks among the plants. Clave came after him. he wouldn't even recognize me. into the hose. fast enough to have spun off smaller ponds. pulled himself out before he drowned. He was looking into the interior of the pond. Her motions were jerky. They took turns pumping. There was a jungle in there. "Clave. There were water-breathing things shaped like long teardrops with tiny wings. no bigger than the carm itself. in earshot of Anthon.In a tangle of lines they plunged into the water and drank. Lawri roused him. it was good to hear her joking. After all Lawri had been through. She splashed in the water. The Grad kept an eye on her thenceforth to be sure she didn't return alone. He wondered if she would have nightmares.

didn't we? Maybe he only had cassettes. Whoever he is. A dwarf Scientist." Clave said. right?" Ilsa nodded cautiously. why did you back me up?" It was a breath or two before the dwarf answered. like me. arrogant treefeeder. "I wouldn't deal with Sharls Davis Kendy if he gave me Discipline.. drop in from the Smoke Ring." "We wondered about going home. "You understand that I can't support a bloody copsik revolution. The past was dead for anyone." the Grad said. with hundreds of thousands of klomters and the storms of Gold itself between them and their homes. One of the women bristled. Someone that old must have learned a lot -. He swallowed Mark's story -." Ilsa said. She said reluctantly. it's something to have seen the Checker. isn't it? Something to tell our children. and let Gold pull us around. wondering if they would heal.. The blue indicator inside read H20: 260. "You tell a fine story.He did have some interesting machinery. because it's time. are you sure? You can move a jungle. Time was when she had given up hope of that. and they're both on the wrong side of Gold. She had smelled the stink of fear on herself. We can get to another tree and moor the carm." Minya said and handed her gourd to Merril. "Enough?" "For what we've got in mind -." "He had the facts right. but they waited for Lawri's reply.” "Yeah. The Grad asked Lawri. She watched him and wondered how he really felt about the guest growing in her. motionless in the water. Ugly. We'd have to accelerate west.. We'll build a pump before we need more water than that. "Me neither. "We did take him at his word. At the end of three hours their forearms were distilled pain. scaly waterbirds. "He never bothered us before and he never will again. She flexed her fingers. like we almost were." Lawri hadn't even tried pumping. She would have a child. I'd have liked to see Discipline. He'd already speared four peculiar. and that's good. "I'd never find London Tree again. "That's one of the things we like about jungle . Carther States is even smaller. I was brilliant!" the silver man bellowed. Merril." "What for?" Debby wondered. supple. Do you want to go for Gold again?" She smiled at their reactions." "Come on. He's not all that bright. Clave snorted." "We'd prefer a jungle. Ilsa. Why?" "It was none of this Kendy's business.but how did Gavving feel? Merril said." "Still. Convenient. of course. "Nobody's talking about Sharls Davis Kendy. Anthon said. I'm tired. Mark."My arms just quit. And he ordered us around like copsiks!" They laughed at that. With her archer's muscles she had lasted longer than most. He wanted Mark dead like you'd kill a turkey. stuck out there in a carm. "Nine of us and three of you! If -." "Okay. Whatever he is. but stone dead for these citizens. or crazy.. somehow." "If he wasn't lying. How did she feel? Her impregnation was part of her past. "Hold it. That at least was gone. Maybe he got stuck aboard Discipline itself. Even Mark. Gavving was some distance from the others. either. She said." Debby said.

A stream ran down the trunk and directly into the treemouth." He smiled suddenly. They were all too tired." There was a grove of eight small trees. there were no paths for burial ceremonies or moving of garbage. Still shaken by the impact. Everything he saw was green. She snatched at his hand and cried. "There are more of you than us anyway. fast. He said cheerily. "We did it. three ripe plants. Minya stood panting. two. "I'm afraid our best move is to moor at the trunk and go down. Just like we planned. He looked for the rounded shapes of distorted old huts. Gavving and I wait. There was no kind of landing site in that" "But you can only do it every twenty years or so. there was no drought here." "I didn't either." "Hold it. But in London Tree they weeded out the copter plants and flowers and anything else they couldn't use." "We might set it on fire!" "Then we try again with another tree!" Lawri had gone berserk at the suggestion of landing in the treemouth of London Tree. We can moor the carrier.." He'd thought it through in detail. Gavving and I can follow. without asking. Grad. They'd had enough of shocks and strangeness. Lawri." "Why not do that with a jungle?" "Where would you mount the carm?" Anthon thought it over. we found an unoccupied tree and it's ours. "This is taking too treefeeding long. The Grad chose the biggest. Tired . "The funnel? No. Sure. Clave was right." "Climb?" "We did it before.. quit fooling around and just land in the treemouth. say. No earthlife showed. finally. Six out of Quinn Tuft. "It seems we're the first here. Then. pick a tree.sorry. and flailed with ponchos at the smoldering fires until they went out.. have you thought of a way to land this thing?" "You have the helm. It was a wilderness.. "I didn't know you liked copter plants. Suddenly she was looking into his eyes.carm to the middle of an integral tree and move it when and where we like. Now she just rubbed her eyes. We'd have the carm for rescue operations. Clave could lead most of us down while. close. delay would be torment. Would it burn? He went in over the treemouth and rammed the carm into the foliage hard enough to stick. After the rest of you get down. they forced their way through the doors." Clave said. grinning." "Six of us. and the seed pods buzzed upward. We've climbed before -. not even as weeds. The foliage around the treemouth had never been cut. It was daunting. He hovered on the forward jets at the western reach of the in tuft. it might suddenly blow live steam -." . they had time to look around. thirty to fifty kilometers long. the blackened poncho trailing from hen hand. and they weren't there. "Copter plants!" Gavving laughed. her black hair wild and wet." She tapped at one. and there were trees to waste.

everything you see is ours. but they looked so odd. but he looks at me like he knows. She looked cold." Now she wouldn't meet his eyes.... So don't push me.. It's over. I have to think. He became aware that Lawri was watching him from the dappled shadows. It's good. He held up a hand to stop her from speaking. "Jeffer. being nearly sure he could get away with it.or Harp. two Scientists ought to make good mates too. and they might all be looking around. Anthon.but Anthon didn't seem to think chance for an unmarried man to play around in such a tiny population. He snapped. that's all... Jinny: a unit." she said without inflection. "Lawri.. or just twitchy. I just killed him the first good chance I got. Ilsa might all have left mates in Carther States. So who? Gavving and Minya: married. He was guilty. Mark thinks so too. He said. I didn't warn him.." She waited.. Like. He'd tell her when the mood was right. how does this sound? There are only two London Tree citizens for at least ten thousand kiometers around. Doesn't it stand to reason that we'd. "Okay." "Okay. he's too polite to broach the subject yet. Whether it looks like me or some copsik runner. safe. and with seven women and five men in Nameless Tuft. I didn't make any speeches about copsiks and freedom and war and justice. she didn't speak. convulsively. Take a break. but he should have his choice of wives. fed. Clave. We talked a little about building huts. before the drought. but where else can I go. It was irritating." "I did. I'm no copsik and I'm not a triune. You're clean. "In principle. But that was too serious for now. He thought. "You could put a harpoon in my belly while I'm sleeping.a romp might be fun. More to come. Citizens' Tree?" The foliage tasted like Quinn Tuft in the Grad's childhood. "All right. Which left Lawri. and admired.." "Well. or Merrill Mine..get along best together?" He sat back on his haunches."Twelve of us. ours. will you forgive me for .huh. He lay on his back in virgin foliage and sucked contemplatively. to see his face. what's got you worried? Nobody's ever going to call you a copsik runner. Gavving thought." She turned. rested... and the twins seemed to like it that way. Why ask him? "I suppose it does. Jayan. Debby." She didn't nod. don't make me marry a dwarf!" "Uh. and she had seen it. "Can't you relax? Eat some foliage. Not quite what one wanted in a mate! Did he want a wife? He'd always thought he did. Does that make sense? But you watched me murder Klance. Scientist. You saved our lives and everyone knows it. Mine.I can say citizen and mean all of us. Now he knew why she irritated him with her twitchy unhappiness.. I'd have killed you too to get us free of that place." She had fought the fire with a predatory grace unhampered by the thickening around her hips. who else is there? Jeffer. cringing as if from a blow. and even if Debby or Ilsa were available." "He didn't have to say so. What shall we call it?" "The thing I like best. hugging her elbows.

.murdering Klance?" "I notice you said murder." Anthon. A pity he hadn't had time to give them more of a foretaste. 10^3 cubic kilometers of breathable atmosphere was about thirty times the volume of the Earth! Kendy wished for a thousand CARMs. He would know one tiny enclave within that vast cloud. Kendy waited. Such men had helped to shape the State on Earth. The Smoke Ring was roomy enough for endless variety. Sooner or later there would come a man eager to carve out an empire. I can show you how to link your little tribes into one great State. I demand this. Sooner or later we want elevators to the midpoint so we can moor the carm there. citizens. The CARM would watch their behavior and record everything. but we're bound to find something. The Grad did not turn his back. Tear out some foliage so we'll have room. "I forgive you for murdering Klance. weren't they? Or were they gullible. Whatever: the legend would spread. They would again." For good or ill. Before the children of the State came again to Kendy. "I see rocks down there. Now or never. Kendy would know how to use him. But for now -." "I'm not even claiming it was war. Maybe dumbos. in this strange environment. He had promised a treasure of knowledge." She turned her back and wept. We'll have to collect them for a cookflre. and they would remember Kendy. crazy enough to trust his life to the ancient. Tunnels. Good. long woman in each arm. He'd virtually invited her to try to kill him. I know what he was to you. Lawri. given that they'd survived. Cook Gavving's waterbirds. He did seem to represent the majority opinion. easily manipulated? Kendy's memory had been pruned of such data. they were alive and safe. "Claaave! Feed it to the treeee!" Gave grinned at Anthon. leaky service vehicle. but they must have experienced exactly what he'd predicted during reentry. He raised his voice. Not kill. I might be giving Mark another reason to kill me. bellowed. he would know them . There's me or there's Mark or there's nobody. Where do we want the Commons?" He didn't see many of his citizens in earshot. Maybe we won't find turkeys. Lawri! You can add too. we have to get organized! A reservoir. flat on his back in the foliage with a long. and none were listening. A savage's gods were omniscient. He had altered the progrpmming in the CARM. determined enough to take the CARM. We're home. Pens. two-thirds of the distance from Goldblatt's World to the congestion of masses and life forms around the L4 point. We need everything. "Take a break." "Then let's go to the carm and register a marriage. "Treefodder. ten thousand. Huts. We'll pick up witnesses along the way. What were they doing in there? Never mind." Clave looked down into the treemouth. Do I want to risk that? She turned around.

THANYA. LIZETH. the Chairman's son-in-law. KARAL. now deceased. PATRY London Tree Navy men. HILD. JORG. the recordings of Sharls Davis Kendy's personality in the master computer of the seeder ramship Discipline and its service spacecraft. JIOVAN A hunter. KOR Supervisors in London Tree. LAYTHON The Chairman's son. of Dalton-Quinn Tuft SAL. ANTHON Citizens of Carther States. GWEN Copsiks in London Tree. Rarely visible. HELN. THE SCIENTIST Quinn Tuft's guardian of knowledge. but barren. Others MINYA A fighting woman of the Truine Squad. Also. HORSE. SMITTA. ILSA. JEEL. strong. MARTAL Quinn Tuft's cook (deceased). GLORY A woman of unwanted fame. Glossary BLUE GHOST and GHOST CHILD-Auroralike glow patches produced by magnetic effects above Levoy's Star's poles. HARP The teller. MERRIL An older woman. Keeper of the treemouth. . MAYRIN Clave's wife.Dramatis Personae Discipline SHARLS DAVIS KENDY Once a Checker for the State. withered legs. curving to leeward. THE GRAD The Scientist's half-trained apprentice. MARK. THE CHAIRMAN Ruler of Quinn Tribe. Small. LAWRI London Tree's Scientist's Apprentice. DENISSE Others of the Triune Squad. DEBBIE. or bard. DLORIS. JAYAN and JINNY Twin sisters enamored of Gave. ALFIN An older man. the Chairman's daughter. Quinn Tuft GAVVING A young warrior subject to allergies. HARYET. CLAVE A mighty warrior. BRANCH-One at each end of an integral tree. KARA Sharman (or Scientist) of Carther States. KLANCE London Tree's Scientist.

COTTON-CANDY JUNGLE or JUNGLES-Describes almost any large cluster of plants. Discipline originally carried ten of these. SPINE BRANCHES-Grow from the branch of an integral tree. the heart of the Smoke Ring system. the neutron star (equals two hours for DaltonQuinn Tree). Named for Discipline's Astrophysicist. . Named for its discoverer. DUMBO-A predator of the integral trees. supplying the sunlight that feeds the Smoke Ring's water-oxygen-DNA ecology.3 Earth years. JET POD-Some plants grow pods that may be carried for attitude control: they jet gases (of corruption. Astrogator assigned to Discipline. HUTS-Any dwelling. Used as a general insult." Presently used to activate computer programs. equal to 1. or of oxygen in plants that favor the outer fringes of the Smoke Ring). DAY-One orbit about Levoy's Star. Russian for "command. In the integral trees. NOSE-ARM-See DUMBO.Defecate. PRIKAZYVAT-Originally. They tend to collect debris. Treefodder is anything that might feed the tree: excrement.5 X 10' kilometers. or a corpse. or going to seed. There are tropisms. GOLDBLATPS WORLD-A gas giant planet captured after Levoy's Star went supernova/neutron. huts are woven from living spine branches.BRANCHLETS-Grow from the spine branches and sprout into foliage CARM-Cargo And Repair Module. FLASHER-An insectivorous bird. Or battle! GOLD-See GOLDBLAITS WORLD. YEAR-Half of a complete circuit of the sun around Levoy's Star. or move garbage. They fruit and scatter seed only at the tuft closest to the Smoke Ring median. A good many plants and clusters of plants look like fluffy green cotton candy. QUINN TUFT-The in tuft (or point nearest Levoy's Star) of Dalton-Quinn Tree. Tribes elsewhere use the same term. Secondary meaning: something to avoid. POND-Any large globule of water. TUYRBERRIES-Fruiting bodies growing in the tuft of an integral tree. SUN-A G0 star orbits the neutron star at 2. or garbage. Sam Goldblatt. Parts are edible "FEED THE TREE" -. Sharon Levoy. GHOST CHILD-See BLUE GHOST. OLD-MAN'S-HAIR-A fungus parasite on integral trees. COPSIK-RUNNER-Slavetaker or slavemaster. LEVOY'S STAR-A neutron star. Many are edible. THE CLUMPS-The L4 and L5 points for Gold. GO FOR GOLD-Rush headlong into diaster. FAN FUNGUS-An integral tree parasite. THE SCIENTIST-Quinn Tuft's guardian of knowledge. INTEGRAL TREE-A crucial plant. COPSIK-Slave. VOY-See LEVOY'S STAR. Other plants fire seeds when dying. or die. TREEFODDER-Used as a curse. or falling too far out of the Smoke Ring.

About the Author Larry Niven was born on April 30. in 1962. an Australian award for Best International Science Fiction. STARBOARD-Opposite port. Kansas." appeared in the December 1964 issue of Worlds of If. and the 1972 Ditmars. He graduated with a B. Larry Niven's interests include backpacking with the Boy Scouts." The 1975 Hugo Award for Best Novelette was given to "The Borderland of Sol. DOWN and UP-Usually applied only where tides or thrust operate. Out takes you west. and so forth. in Los Angeles. LEEWARD-The direction toward which the wind blows. 1938. Port and starboard bring you back. EAST-In the orbital direction of the gas torus. IN-Toward Levoy's Star. The way the sun moves. or if your head is in and you're facing east. and completed one year of graduate work in mathematics at UCLA before dropping out to write. PORT-To the left if your head is out and you're facing west. he entered the California Institute of Technology." His novel Ringworld won the 1970 Hugo Award for Best Novel. ." Even those tribes who no longer can maneuver within the Smoke Ring know the saying. WEST-Against the orbital direction of the gas torus.A. supporting the conquest of space. In 1956. In takes you east." and in 1974 for "The Hole Man. The general rule as known to all tribes is "East takes you out. "The Coldest Place. West takes you in.Directions OUT-Away from Levoy's Star. His first published story. Direction of the Ghost Child. in mathematics (minor in psychology) from Washburn University. California. He won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1966 for "Neutron Star. science-fiction conventions. the 1970 Nebula Award for Best Novel. only to flunk out a year and a half later after discovering a bookstore jammed with used science-fiction magazines. Toward the Blue Ghost. WINDWARD-Into the wind. and AAAS meetings and other gatherings of people at the cutting edge of the sciences.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful