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Green Mars Kim Stanley Robinson HarperCollins Voyager Classics GREEN MARS KIM STANLEY ROBINSON For Lisa and David CONTENTS Cover (#ueaa33aa2-a083-5d5a-87a9-1cbbd2cd60ed) Title Page (#u2e01f72b-1611-5ede-856e-7322afee8458) Copyright (#litres_trial_promo) PART ONE Areoformation (#ufa6ed500-2821-5be7-b94e-cf1852071dd3) PART TWO The Ambassador (#ue3b72d9e-be35-5c2b-a351-2bb269f15de3) PART THREE Long Runout (#u9a988b3d-d698-5615-8632-d3fcd4144334) PART FOUR The Scientist As Hero (#ucdf7257a-cb5e-5a33-ac93-8229b8fd8074) PART FIVE Homeless (#litres_trial_promo) PART SIX Tariqat (#litres_trial_promo) PART SEVEN What Is To Be Done? (#litres_trial_promo) PART EIGHT Social Engineering (#litres_trial_promo) PART NINE The Spur of the Moment (#litres_trial_promo) PART TEN Phase Change (#litres_trial_promo) Keep Reading (#litres_trial_promo) Chronology (#litres_trial_promo) Acknowledgements (#litres_trial_promo) Voyager Classics (#litres_trial_promo) The Voyager Classics Collection (#litres_trial_promo) About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) PART ONE Areoformation (#ulink_c188ddd0-844f-5f80-ae63-3c12bffa8488) The point is not to make another Earth. Not another Alaska or Tibet, not a Vermont nor a Venice, not even an Antarctica. The point is to make something new and strange, something Martian. In a sense our intentions dont even matter. Even if we try to make another Siberia or Sahara, it wont work. Evolution wont allow it, and at its heart this is an evolutionary process, an endeavour driven at a level below intention, as when life made its first miracle leap out of matter, or when it crawled out of sea onto land. Again we struggle in the matrix of a new world. Of course all the genetic templates for our new biota are Terran; the minds designing them are Terran; but the terrain is Martian. And terrain is a powerful genetic engineer, determining what flourishes and what doesnt, pushing along progressive differentiation, and thus the evolution of new species. And as the generations pass, all the members of a biosphere evolve together, adapting to their terrain in a complex communal response, a creative self-designing ability. This process, no matter how much we intervene in it, is essentially out of our control. Genes mutate, creatures evolve: a new biosphere emerges, and with it a new noosphere. And eventually the designers minds, along with everything else, have been forever changed. This is the process of areoformation. One day the sky fell. Plates of ice crashed into the lake, and then started thumping on the beach. The children scattered like frightened sandpipers. Nirgal ran over the dunes to the village and burst into the greenhouse, shouting, The sky is falling, the sky is falling! Peter sprinted out the doors and across the dunes faster than Nirgal could follow. Back on the beach great panes of ice stabbed the sand, and some chunks of dry ice fizzed in the water of the lake. When the children were all clumped around him Peter stood with his head craned back, staring at the dome so far above. Back to the village, he said in his no-nonsense tone. On the way there he laughed. The sky is falling! he squeaked, tousling Nirgals hair. Nirgal blushed and Dao and Jackie laughed, their frosted breath shooting out in quick white plumes. Peter was one of those who climbed the side of the dome to repair it. He and Kasei and Michel spidered over the village in sight of all, over the beach and then the lake until they were smaller than children, hanging in slings from ropes attached to icehooks. They sprayed the flaw in the dome with water until it froze into a new clear layer, coating the white dry ice. When they came down they talked of the warming world outside. Hiroko had come out of her little bamboo stand by the lake to watch, and Nirgal said to her, Will we have to leave? We will always have to leave, Hiroko said. Nothing on Mars will last. But Nirgal liked it under the dome. In the morning he woke in his own round bamboo room, high in Cr?che Crescent, and ran down to the frosty dunes with Jackie and Rachel and Frantz and the other early risers. He saw Hiroko on the far shore, walking the beach like a dancer, floating over her own wet reflection. He wanted to go to her but it was time for school. They went back to the village and crowded into the schoolhouse coatroom, hanging up their down jackets and standing with their blue hands stretched over the heating grate, waiting for the days teacher. It could be Dr Robot and they would be bored senseless, counting his blinks like the seconds on the clock. It could be the Good Witch, old and ugly, and then they would be back outside building all day, exuberant with the joy of tools. Or it could be the Bad Witch, old and beautiful, and they would be stuck before their lecterns all morning trying to think in Russian, in danger of a rap on the hand if they giggled or fell asleep. The Bad Witch had silver hair and a fierce glare and a hooked nose, like the ospreys that lived in the pines by the lake. Nirgal was afraid of her. So like the others he concealed his dismay as the school door opened and the Bad Witch walked in. But on this day she seemed tired, and let them out on time even though they had done poorly at arithmetic. Nirgal followed Jackie and Dao out of the schoolhouse and around the corner, into the alley between Cr?che Crescent and the back of the kitchen. Dao peed against the wall and Jackie pulled down her pants to show she could too, and just then Bad Witch came around the corner. She pulled them all out of the alley by the arm, Nirgal and Jackie clutched together in one of her talons, and right out in the plaza she spanked Jackie while shouting furiously at the boys. You two stay away from her! Shes your sister! Jackie, crying and twisting to pull up her pants, saw Nirgal looking at her, and she tried to hit him and Maya with the same furious swing, and fell over bare-bottomed and howled. It wasnt true that Jackie was their sister. There were twelve sansei children in Zygote, and they knew each other like brothers and sisters and many of them were, but not all. It was confusing and seldom discussed. Jackie and Dao were the oldest, Nirgal a season younger, the rest bunched a season after that: Rachel, Emily, Reull, Steve, Simud, Nanedi, Tiu, Frantz, and Huo Hsing. Hiroko was mother to everyone in Zygote, but not reallyonly to Nirgal and Dao and six other of the sansei, and several of the nisei grownups as well. Children of the mother goddess. But Jackie was Esthers daughter. Esther had moved away after a fight with Kasei, who was Jackies father. Not many of them knew who their fathers were. Once Nirgal had been crawling over a dune after a crab when Esther and Kasei had loomed overhead, Esther crying and Kasei shouting, If youre going to leave me then leave! He had been crying too. He had a pink stone eyetooth. He too was a child of Hirokos; so Jackie was Hirokos granddaughter. That was how it worked. Jackie had long black hair and was the fastest runner in Zygote, except for Peter. Nirgal could run the longest, and sometimes ran around the lake three or four times in a row, just to do it, but Jackie was faster in the sprints. She laughed all the time. If Nirgal ever argued with her she would say, All right Uncle Nirgie, and laugh at him. She was his niece, although a season older. But not his sister. The school door crashed open and there was Coyote, teacher for the day. Coyote travelled all over the world, and spent very little time in Zygote. It was a big day when he taught them. He led them around the village finding odd things to do, but all the time he made one of them read aloud, from books impossible to understand, written by philosophers, who were dead people. Bakunin, Nietzsche, Mao, Bookchinthese peoples comprehensible thoughts lay like unexpected pebbles on a long beach of gibberish. The stories Coyote had them read from the Odyssey or the Bible were easier to understand, though unsettling, as the people in them killed each other a lot and Hiroko said it was wrong. Coyote laughed at Hiroko and he often howled for no obvious reason as they read these gruesome tales, and asked them hard questions about what they had heard, and argued with them as if they knew what they were talking about, which was disconcerting. What would you do? Why would you do that? All the while teaching them how the Rickovers fuel recycler worked, or making them check the plunger hydraulics on the lakes wave machine, until their hands went from blue to white, and their teeth chattered so much they couldnt talk clearly. You kids sure get cold easy, he said. All but Nirgal. Nirgal was good with cold. He knew intimately all its many stages, and he did not dislike the feel of it. People who disliked cold did not understand that one could adjust to it, that its bad effects could all be dealt with by a sufficient push from within. Nirgal was very familiar with heat as well. If you pushed heat out hard enough then cold only became a sort of vivid shocking envelope in which you moved. And so its ultimate effect was as a stimulant, making you want to run. Hey Nirgal, whats the air temperature? Two seventy-one. Coyotes laugh was scary, an animal cackle that included all the noises anything could make. Different every time too. Here, lets stop the wave machine and see what the lake looks like flat. The water of the lake was always liquid, while the water-ice coating the underside of the dome had to stay frozen. This explained most of their mesocosmic weather, as Sax put it, giving them their mists and sudden winds, their rain and fog and occasional snow. On this day the weather machine was almost silent, the big hemisphere of space under the dome nearly windless. With the wave machine turned off, the lake soon settled down to a round flat plate. The surface of the water became the same white colour as the dome, but the lake bottom, covered by green algae, was still visible through the white sheen. So the lake was simultaneously pure white and dark green. On the far shore the dunes and scrub pines were reflected upside-down in this two-toned water, as perfectly as in any mirror. Nirgal stared at the sight, entranced, everything falling away, nothing there but this pulsing green/white vision. He saw: there were two worlds, not onetwo worlds in the same space, both visible, separate and different but collapsed together, so that they were visible as two only at certain angles. Push at visions envelope, push like one pushed against the envelope of cold: push! Such colours! Mars to Nirgal, Mars to Nirgal! They laughed at him. He was always doing that, they told him. Going off. His friends were fond of him, he saw that in their faces. Coyote broke chips of flat ice from the strand, then skipped them across the lake. All of them did the same, until the intersecting white-green ripples made the upside-down world shiver and dance. Look at that! Coyote shouted. Between throws he chanted, in his bouncing English that was like a perpetual song: You kids are living the best lives in history, most people just fluid in the great world machine, and here youre in on the birth of a world! Unbelievable! But its pure luck you know, no credit to you, not until you do something with it, you could have been born in a mansion, a jail, a shanty town in Port of Spain, but here you are in Zygote, the secret heart of Mars! Course just now youre down here like moles in a hole, with vultures above all ready to eat you, but the day its coming when you walk this planet free of every bond. You remember what Im telling you, its prophecy my children! And meanwhile look how fine it is, this little ice paradise. He threw a chip straight at the dome, and they all chanted Ice Paradise! Ice Paradise! Ice Paradise! until they were helpless with laughter. But that night Coyote spoke to Hiroko, when he thought no one was listening. Roko you got to take those kids outside, and show them the world. Even if its only under the fog hood. Theyre like moles in a hole down here, for Christs sake. Then he was gone again, who knew where, off on one of his mysterious journeys into that other world folded over them. Some days Hiroko came in to the village to teach them. These to Nirgal were the best days of all. She always took them down to the beach; and going to the beach with Hiroko was like being touched by a god. It was her worldthe green world inside the whiteand she knew everything about it, and when she was there the subtle pearly colours of sand and dome pulsed with both worlds colours at once, pulsed as if trying to break free of what held them. They sat on the dunes, watching the shorebirds skitter and peep as they charged together up and down the strand. Gulls wheeled overhead and Hiroko asked them questions, her black eyes twinkling merrily. She lived by the lake with a small group of her intimates, Iwao, Rya, Gene, Evgenia, all in a little bamboo stand in the dunes. And she spent a lot of time visiting other hidden sanctuaries around the South Pole. So she always needed catching up on the village news. She was a slender woman, tall for one of the issei, as neat as the shorebirds in her dress and her movement. She was old, of course, impossibly ancient like all the issei, but with something in her manner which made her seem younger than even Peter or Kaseijust a little bit older than the kids, in fact, with everything in the world new before her, pushing to break into all its colours. Look at the pattern this seashell makes. The dappled whorl, curving inward to infinity. Thats the shape of the universe itself. Theres a constant pressure, pushing toward pattern. A tendency in matter to evolve into ever more complex forms. Its a kind of pattern gravity, a holy greening power we call viriditas, and it is the driving force in the cosmos. Life, you see. Like these sand fleas and limpets and krillalthough these krill in particular are dead, and helping the fleas. Like all of us, waving a hand like a dancer. And because we are alive, the universe must be said to be alive. We are its consciousness as well as our own. We rise out of the cosmos and we see its mesh of patterns, and it strikes us as beautiful. And that feeling is the most important thing in all the universeits culmination, like the colour of the flower at first bloom on a wet morning. Its a holy feeling, and our task in this world is to do everything we can to foster it. And one way to do that is to spread life everywhere. To aid it into existence where it was not before, as here on Mars. This to her was the supreme act of love, and when she talked about it, even if they didnt fully understand, they felt the love. Another push, another kind of warmth in the envelope of cold. She touched them as she talked, and they dug for shells as they listened. Mud clam! Antarctic limpet. Glass spongewatch out it can cut you! It made Nirgal happy just to look at her. And one morning, as they stood from their dig to do more beachcombing, she returned his gaze, and he recognised her expressionit was precisely the expression on his face when he looked at her, he could feel it in his muscles. So he made her happy too! Which was intoxicating. He held her hand as they walked the beach. Its a simple ecology in some ways, she said as they knelt to inspect another clam shell. Not many species, and the food chains are short. But so rich. So beautiful. She tested the temperature of the lake with her hand. See the mist? The water must be warm today. By this time she and Nirgal were alone, the other kids running around the dunes or up and down the strand. Nirgal bent down to touch a wave as it stalled out next to their feet, leaving behind a white lace of foam. Its two seventy-five and a little over. Youre so sure. I can always tell. Here, she said, do I have a fever? He reached up and held her neck. No, youre cool. Thats right. Im always about half a degree low. Vlad and Ursula cant figure out why. Its because youre happy. Hiroko laughed, looking just like Jackie, suffused with joy. I love you, Nirgal. Inside he warmed as if a heating grate were in there. Half a degree at least. And I love you. And they walked down the beach hand in hand, silently following the sandpipers. Coyote returned, and Hiroko said to him, Okay. Lets take them outside. And so the next morning when they met for school, Hiroko and Coyote and Peter led them through the locks and down the long white tunnel that connected the dome to the outside world. At its far end were located the hangar, and the cliff gallery above it. They had run the gallery with Peter in the past, looking out the little polarised windows at the icy sand and the pink sky, trying to see the great wall of dry ice that they stood inthe south polar cap, the bottom of the world, which they lived in to escape the notice of people who would put them in jail. Because of that they had always stayed inside the gallery. But on this day they went into the hangar locks and put on tight elastic jumpers, rolling up sleeves and legs; then heavy boots, and tight gloves and last, helmets, with bubble windows on their front side. Getting more excited every moment, until the excitement became something very like fright, especially when Simud started crying and insisting she didnt want to go. Hiroko calmed her with a long touch. Come on. Ill be there with you. They huddled together speechlessly as the adults herded them into the lock. There was a hissing noise, and then the outer door opened. Clutching the adults they walked cautiously outside, bumping together as they moved. It was too bright to see. They were in a swirling white mist. The ground was dotted with intricate ice flowers, all aglint in the bath of light. Nirgal was holding Hiroko and Coyote by the hand, and they propelled him forward and let go of his hands. He staggered in the onslaught of white glare. This is the fog hood, Hirokos voice said over an intercom in his ear. It lasts through the winter. But now its Ls 205, springtime, when the green force pushes hardest through the world, fuelled by the suns light. See it! He could see nothing but it: a white coalescing fireball. Sudden sunlight pierced this ball, transforming it into a spray of colour, turning the frosty sand to shaved magnesium, the ice flowers to incandescent jewels. The wind pushed at his side and rent the fog; gaps in it appeared, and the land gaped off into the distance, making him reel. So big! So bigeverything was so bighe went to one knee on the sand, put his hands on his other leg to keep his balance. The rocks and ice flowers around his boots glowed as if under a microscope. The rocks were dotted with round scales of black and green lichen. Out on the horizon was a low flat-topped hill. A crater. There in the gravel was a rover track, nearly filled with frost, as if it had been there a million years. Pattern pulsing in the chaos of light and rock, green lichen pushing into the white Everyone was talking at once. The other children were beginning to race around giddily, shrieking with delight as the fog opened up and gave them a glimpse of the dark pink sky. Coyote was laughing hard. Theyre like winter calves let out of the barn in spring, look at them tripping, oh you poor dear thingsah ha haRoko, this is no way to make them live! cackling as he lifted kids off the sand and set them on their feet again. Nirgal stood, bounced experimentally. He felt he might float away, he was glad the boots were so heavy. There was a long mound, shoulder-high, snaking away from the ice cliff. Jackie was walking its crest and he ran to join her, staggering at the incline, at the jumbled rock on the ground. He climbed onto the ridge and got into his running rhythm, and felt as if he were flying, as if he could run forever. He stood by her side. They looked back at the ice cliff, and shouted with a fearful joy; it rose up forever into the fog. A shaft of morning light poured over them like molten water. They turned away, unable to face it. Blinking away floods of tears, Nirgal saw his shadow cast against the fog scraping over the rocks below them. The shadow was surrounded by a bright circular band of rainbow light. He shouted loudly and Coyote raced up to them, his voice in Nirgals ear crying, Whats wrong? What is it? He stopped when he saw the shadow. Hey, its a glory! Thats called a glory. Its like the Spectre of the Brocken. Wave your arms up and down! Look at the colours! Christ Almighty, arent you the lucky ones! On an impulse Nirgal moved to Jackies side, and their glories merged, becoming a single nimbus of glowing rainbow colours, surrounding their blue double shadow. Jackie laughed with delight and went off to try it with Peter. About a year later Nirgal and the other children began to figure out how to deal with the days when they were taught by Sax. He would start at the blackboard, sounding like a particularly characterless AI, and behind his back they would roll their eyes and make faces as he droned on about partial pressures or infrared rays. Then one of them would see an opening and begin the game. He was helpless before it. He would say something like, In non-shivering thermogenesis the body produces heat using futile cycles, and one of them would raise a hand and say, But why, Sax? and everyone would stare hard at their lecterns and not look at each other, while Sax would frown as if this had never happened before, and say, Well, it doesnt use as much energy as shivering does. The muscle proteins contract, but instead of grabbing they just slide over each other, and that creates the heat. Jackie, so sincerely the whole class nearly lost it: But how? He was blinking now, so fast they almost exploded watching him. Well, the amino acids in the proteins have broken covalent bonds, and the breaks release what is called bond dissociation energy. But why? Blinking ever harder: Well, thats just a matter of physics. He diagrammed vigorously on the blackboard: Covalent bonds are formed when two atomic orbitals merge to form a single bond orbital, occupied by electrons from both atoms. Breaking the bond releases thirty to a hundred k cals of stored energy. Several of them asked, in chorus, Butwhy? This got him into sub-atomic physics, where the chain of whys and becauses could go on for a half hour without him ever once saying something they could understand. Finally they would sense they were near the endgame. But why? Well, beginning to go cross-eyed, atoms want to get to their stable number of electrons, and theyll share electrons when they have to. But why? Now he was looking trapped. Thats just the way atoms bond. One of the ways. But WHY? A shrug. Thats how the atomic force works. Thats how things came out And they all would shout, in the Big Bang! They would howl with glee, and Saxs forehead would knot up as he realised that they had done it to him again. He would sigh, and go back to where he had been when the game began. But every time they started it again, he never seemed to remember, as long as the initial why was plausible enough. And even when he did recognise what was happening, he seemed helpless to stop it. His only defence was to say, with a little frown, Why what? That slowed the game for a while; but then Nirgal and Jackie got clever at guessing what in any statement most deserved a why, and as long as they could do that, Sax seemed to feel it was his job to continue answering, right on up the chains of because to the Big Bang, or, every once in a while, to a muttered We dont know. We dont know! the class would exclaim in mock dismay. Why not? Its not explained, he would say, frowning. Not yet. And so the good mornings with Sax would pass; and both he and the kids seemed to agree that these were better than the bad mornings, when he would drone on uninterrupted, and protest, This is really a very important matter as he turned from the blackboard and saw a crop of heads laid out snoring on the desktops. One morning, thinking about Saxs frown, Nirgal stayed behind in the school until he and Sax were the only ones left, and then he said, Why dont you like it when you cant say why? The frown returned. After a long silence Sax said slowly, I try to understand. I pay attention to things, you see, very closely. As closely as I can. Concentrating on the thisness of every moment. And I want to understand why it happens the way it does. Im curious. And I think that everything happens for a reason. Everything. So, we should be able to tease these reasons out. When we cant well, I dont like it. It vexes me. Sometimes I call it he glanced at Nirgal shyly, and Nirgal saw that he had never told this to anyone before I call it the great unexplainable. It was the white world, Nirgal saw suddenly. The white world inside the green, the opposite of Hirokos green world inside the white. And they had opposite feelings about them. Looking from the green side, when Hiroko confronted something mysterious, she loved it and it made her happyit was viriditas, a holy power. Looking from the white side, when Sax confronted something mysterious, it was the Great Unexplainable, dangerous and awful. He was interested in the true, while Hiroko was interested in the real. Or perhaps it was the other way aroundthose words were tricky. Better to say she loved the green world, he the white. But yes! Michel said when Nirgal mentioned this observation to him. Very good, Nirgal. Your sight has such insight. In archetypal terminologies we might call green and white the Mystic and the Scientist. Both extremely powerful figures, as you see. But what we need, if you ask me, is a combination of the two, which we call the Alchemist. The green and the white. Afternoons the children were free to do what they wanted, and sometimes they stayed with the days teacher, but more often they ran on the beach or played in the village, which lay nestled in its cluster of low hills, halfway between the lake and the tunnel entrance. They climbed the spiralling staircases of the big bamboo treehouses, and played hide and seek among the stacked rooms and the daughter shoots and the hanging bridges connecting them. The bamboo dorms made a crescent which held most of the rest of the village inside it; each of the big shoots was five or seven segments high, each segment a room, getting smaller as they got higher. The children each had rooms of their own in the top segments of the shootswindowed vertical cylinders that were four or five steps across, like the towers of the castles in their stories. Below them in the middle segments the adults had their rooms, mostly alone but sometimes in couples; and the bottom segments were living rooms. From the windows of their top rooms they looked down on the village rooftops, clustered in the circle of hills and bamboo and greenhouses like mussels in the lake shallows. On the beach they hunted shells or played German dodgeball, or shot arrows across the dunes into blocks of foam. Usually Jackie and Dao chose the games, and led the teams if there were teams. Nirgal and the younger ones followed them, cycling through their various friendships and hierarchies, which were honed endlessly in the daily play. As little Frantz once crudely explained it to Nadia, Dao hits Nirgal; Nirgal hits me; I hit the girls. Often Nirgal got tired of that game, which Dao always won, and for better fun he would take off running around the lake, slowly and steadily, falling into a rhythm which seemed to encompass everything in the world. He could circle the lake for as long as the day lasted when he got in that rhythm. It was a joy, an exhilaration. Under the dome it was always cold, but the light was perpetually changing. In summer the dome glowed bluish white all the time, and pencils of lit air stood under the skylight shafts. In winter it was dark, and the dome flared with reflected lamplight, like the inside of a mussel shell. In spring and autumn the light would dim in the afternoon to a grey and ghostly dusk, the colours only suggested by the many shades of grey, the bamboo leaves and pine needles all ink strokes against the faint white of the dome. In those hours the greenhouses were like big fairy lamps on the hills, and the kids would wander home criss-crossing like gulls, and head for the bathhouse. There in the long building beside the kitchen they would pull off their clothes and run into the steamy clangour of the big main bath, sliding around on the bottom tiles feeling heat buzz back into their hands and feet and faces as they splashed friskily around the soaking ancients, with their turtle faces and their wrinkled hairy bodies. After that warm wet hour they dressed, and trooped into the kitchen, damp and pink-skinned, queuing up and filling their plates, sitting at the long tables scattered among the adults. There were one hundred and twenty-four permanent residents, but usually about two hundred people there at any given time. When everyone was seated they took up the water pitchers and poured each others water, and then they tore into the hot food with gusto, downing potatoes, tortillas, pasta, tabouli, bread, a hundred kinds of vegetables, occasionally fish or chicken. After the meal the adults would talk about crops or their Rickover, an old integral fast reactor they were very fond of, or about Earthwhile the kids cleaned up and then played music for an hour and then games, as everyone began the slow process of falling asleep. One day before dinner a group of twenty-two people arrived from around the polar cap. Their little dome had lost its ecosystem to what Hiroko called spiralling complex disequilibrium, and their reserves had run out. They needed sanctuary. Hiroko put them in three of the newly-mature treehouses. They climbed the staircases spiralling up the outsides of the fat round shoots, exclaiming at the cylindrical segments with their doors and windows cut into them. Hiroko put them to work finishing construction on new rooms, and building a new greenhouse at the edge of the village. It was obvious to all that Zygote was not growing as much food as they now needed. The kids ate as modestly as they could, imitating the adults. Should have called the place Gamete, Coyote said to Hiroko on his next time through, laughing harshly. She only waved him away. But perhaps worry accounted for Hirokos more distant air. She spent all her days in the greenhouses at work, and seldom taught the children any more. When she did they only followed her around and worked for her, harvesting or turning compost or weeding. She doesnt care about us, Dao said angrily one afternoon as they walked down the beach. He directed his complaint at Nirgal. She isnt really our mother anyway. He led them all to the labs by the tunnel hill greenhouse, chivvying them along as he could so well. Inside, he pointed to a row of fat magnesium tanks, something like refrigerators. Those are our mothers. Thats what we were grown inside. Kasei told me, and I asked Hiroko and its true. Were ectogenes. We werent born, we were decanted. He glared triumphantly at his frightened, fascinated little band; then he struck Nirgal full on the chest with his fist, knocking Nirgal clear across the lab, and left with a curse. We dont have parents. Extra visitors were a burden now, but still when they came there was a lot of excitement, and many people stayed up most of the first night of a visit, talking, getting all the news they could of the other sanctuaries. There was a whole network of these in the south polar region: Nirgal had a map in his lectern, with red dots to show all thirty-four. And Nadia and Hiroko guessed that there were more, in other networks to the north, or in complete isolation. But as they all kept radio silence, there was no way to be sure. So news was at a premiumit was usually the most precious thing that visitors had, even if they came laden with gifts which they usually did, giving out whatever they had managed to make or obtain that their hosts would find useful. During these visits Nirgal would listen hard to the nights long animated conversations, sitting on the floor or wandering and refilling peoples teacups. He felt acutely that he did not understand the rules of the world; it was inexplicable to him why people acted as they did. Of course he did understand the basic fact of the situationthat there were two sides, locked in a contest for control of Marsthat Zygote was the leader for the side that was rightand that eventually the areophany would triumph. It was a tremendous feeling to be involved in that struggle, to be a crucial part of the story, and it often left him sleepless when he dragged off to bed, his mind dancing through to dawn with visions of all he would contribute to this great drama, amazing Jackie and everyone else in Zygote. Sometimes, in his desire to learn more, he even eavesdropped. He did it by lying on a couch in the corner and staring at a lectern, doodling or pretending to read. Quite often people elsewhere in the room didnt realise he was listening, and sometimes they would even talk about the children of Zygotemostly when he was actually skulking out in the hall. Have you noticed most of them are left-handed? Hiroko tweaked their genes, I swear. She says not. Theyre already almost as tall as I am. Thats just the gravity. I mean look at Peter and the rest of the nisei. Theyre natural born, and theyre mostly tall. But the left-handedness, thats got to be genetic. Once she told me there was a simple transgenic insertion that would increase the size of the carpus callosum. Maybe she fooled with that and got the left-handedness as a side-effect. I thought left-handedness was caused by brain damage. No one knows. I think even Hiroko is mystified by it. I cant believe she would mess with the chromosomes for brain development. Ectogenes, rememberbetter access. Their bone density is poor, I hear. Thats right. Theyd be in trouble on Earth. Theyre on supplements to help. Thats the g again. Its trouble for all of us, really. Tell me about it. I broke my forearm swinging a tennis racket. Left-handed giant bird-people, thats what were growing down here. Its bizarre if you ask me. You see them running across the dunes and expect them to just take off and fly. That night Nirgal had the usual trouble sleeping. Ectogenes, transgenic it made him feel odd. White and green in their double helix For hours he tossed, wondering what the uneasiness twisting through him meant, wondering what he should feel. Finally, exhausted, he fell asleep. And in his sleep he had a dream. All his dreams before that night had been about Zygote, but now he dreamed that he flew in the air, over the surface of Mars. Vast red canyons cut the land, and volcanoes reared nearly to his unimaginable height. But something was after him, something much bigger and faster than him, with wings that flapped loudly as the creature dropped out of the sun, with huge talons that extended toward him. He pointed at this flying creature and bolts of lightning shot out of his fingertips, causing it to bank away. It was soaring up for another attack when he struggled awake, his fingers pulsing and his heart thumping like the wave machine, ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk. The very next afternoon the wave machine was waving too well, as Jackie put it. They were playing on the beach, and thought they had the big breakers gauged, but then a really big one surged over the ice filigree, knocked Nirgal to his knees and pulled him back down the strand with an irresistible sucking. He struggled, gasping for air as he tumbled in the shockingly icy water, but he couldnt escape and was pulled under, then rolled hard in the rush of the next incoming wave. Jackie grabbed him by the arm and hair, pulled him back up the strand with her. Dao helped them to their feet, crying, Are you okay, are you okay? If they got wet the rule was to run for the village as fast as they could, so Nirgal and Jackie struggled to their feet and raced over the dunes and up the village path, the rest of the children trailing far behind. The wind cut to the bone. They ran straight to the bathhouse and burst through the doors and stripped off their stiff garments with shaking hands, helped by Nadia and Sax and Michel and Rya, who had been in there bathing. As they were being hustled into the shallows of the big communal bath, Nirgal remembered his dream. He said, Wait, wait. The others stopped, confused. He closed his eyes, held his breath. He clutched Jackies cold upper arm. He saw himself back into the dream, felt himself swimming through the sky. Heat from the fingertips. The white world in the green. He searched for the spot in his middle that was always warm, even now when he was so cold. As long as he was alive it would be there. He found it, and with every breath he pushed it outward through his flesh. It was hard but he could feel it working, the warmth travelling out into his ribs like a fire, down his arms, down his legs, into his hands and feet. It was his left hand holding onto Jackie, and he glanced at her bare body with its white goosepimpled skin, and concentrated on sending the heat into her. He was shivering slightly now, but not from the cold. Youre warm, Jackie exclaimed. Feel it, he said to her, and for a few moments she leaned into his grip. Then with an alarmed look she pulled free, and stepped down into the bath. Nirgal stood on the edge until his shivering stopped. Wow, Nadia said. Thats some kind of metabolic burn. Ive heard of it, but Ive never seen it. Do you know how you do it? Sax asked him. He and Nadia and Michel and Rya were staring at him with a curious expression, which he did not want to meet. Nirgal shook his head. He sat down on the concrete coping of the bath, suddenly exhausted. He stuck his feet in the water, which felt like liquid flame. Fish in water, sloshing free, out in the air, the fire within, white in the green, alchemy, soaring with eagles thunderbolts from his fingertips! People looked at him. Even the Zygotes gave him sidelong looks, when he laughed or said something unusual, when they thought he wouldnt see. It was easiest just to ignore it, and pretend he didnt notice. But that was hard with the occasional visitors, who were more direct. Oh, youre Nirgal, one short red-haired woman said. Ive heard youre bright. Nirgal, who was constantly crashing against the limits of his understanding, blushed and shook his head while the woman calmly surveyed him. She made her judgement and smiled and shook his hand. Im glad to meet you. One day when they were five Jackie brought an old lectern to school with her, on a day when Maya was teaching. Ignoring Mayas glare, she showed it to the others. This is my grandfathers AI. It has a lot of what he said in it. Kasei gave it to me. Kasei was leaving Zygote to move to one of the other sanctuaries. But not the one where Esther lived. Jackie turned the lectern on. Pauline, play back something my grandfather said. Well, here we are, said a mans voice. No, something different. Play back something he said about the hidden colony. The mans voice said, The hidden colony must still have contacts with surface settlements. Theres too many things they cant manufacture while hiding. Nuclear fuel rods for one, I should think. Those are controlled pretty well, and it could be that records would show where theyve been disappearing. The voice stopped. Maya told Jackie to put the lectern away, and she started another history lesson, the nineteenth century told in Russian sentences so short and harsh that her voice shook. And then more algebra. Maya was very insistent that they learn their math well. Youre getting a horrible education, she would say, shaking her head darkly. But if you learn your math you can catch up later. And she would glare at them and demand the next answer. Nirgal stared at her, remembering when she had been their Bad Witch. It would be strange to be her, so fierce sometimes and so cheerful others. With most of the people in Zygote, he could look at them and feel what it would be like to be them. He could see it in their faces, just like he could see the second colour inside the first; it was that kind of gift, or like his hyper-acute sense of temperature. But he didnt understand Maya. In the winter they made forays onto the surface, to the nearby crater where Nadia was building a shelter, and the dark ice-spangled dunes beyond. But when the fog hood lifted they had to stay under the dome, or at most go out to the window gallery. They werent to be seen from above. No one was sure if the police were still watching from space or not, but it was best to be safe. Or so the issei said. Peter was often away, and his travels had led him to believe that the hunt for hidden colonies must be over. And that the hunt was hopeless in any case. There are resistance settlements that arent hiding at all. And theres so much noise now thermally and visually, and even over the radio, he said. They could never check all the signals theyre getting. But Sax only said, Algorithmic search programs are very effective, and Maya insisted on keeping out of sight, and hardening their electronics, and sending all their waste heat deep into the heart of the polar cap. Hiroko agreed with Maya on this, and so they all complied. Its different for us, Maya said to Peter, looking haunted. There was a mohole, Sax told them one morning at school, about two hundred kilometres to the north-west. The cloud they sometimes saw in that direction was its plumebig and still on some days, on others whipping off east in thin tatters. The next time Coyote came through they asked him at dinner if he had visited it, and he told them that he had and that the moholes shaft penetrated to very near the centre of Mars, and that its bottom was nothing but bubbling molten fiery lava. Thats not true, Maya said dismissively. They only go down ten or fifteen kilometres. Their floors are hard rock. But hot rock, Hiroko said. And twenty kilometres now, I hear. And so they do our work for us, Maya complained to Hiroko. Dont you think we are parasites on the surface settlements? Your viriditas wouldnt get far without their engineering. It will prove to be a symbiosis, Hiroko said calmly. She stared at Maya until Maya got up and walked away. Hiroko was the only one in Zygote who could stare Maya down. Hiroko, Nirgal thought as he regarded his mother after this exchange, was very strange. She talked to him and to everyone else as an equal, and clearly to her everyone was an equal; but no one was special. He remembered very keenly when it had been different, when the two of them had been like two parts of a whole. But now she only took the same interest in him that she took in everyone else, her concern impersonal and distant. She would be the same no matter what happened to him, he thought. Nadia, or even Maya, cared for him more. And yet Hiroko was mother to them all. And Nirgal, like most of the rest of the regulars in Zygote, still went down to her little stand of bamboo when he was in need of something he couldnt find from ordinary peoplesome solace, or advice But as often as not, when he did that he would find her and her little inner group being silent, and if he wanted to stay he would have to stop talking. Sometimes this lasted for days at a time, until he stopped dropping by. Then again he might arrive during the areophany, and be swept up in the ecstatic chanting of the names of Mars, becoming an integral part of that tight little band, right in the heart of the world, with Hiroko herself at his side, her arm around him, squeezing hard. That was love of a sort, and he cherished it; but it was not as it had been in the old days, when they had walked the beach together. One morning he went into the school and came on Jackie and Dao in the coatroom. They jumped as he entered, and by the time he had got his coat off and gone into the schoolroom he knew they had been kissing. After school he circled the lake in the bluewhite glow of a summer afternoon, watching the wave machine rise and pulse down, like the clamping sensations in his chest. Pain curved through him like the swells moving over the water. He couldnt help it, even though it was ridiculous and he knew it. There was a lot of kissing going on among them these days in the bathhouse, as they splashed and tugged and pushed and tickled. The girls kissed each other and said it was practice kissing that didnt count, and sometimes they turned this practice on the boys; Nirgal had been kissed by Rachel many times, and also by Emily and Tiu and Nanedi, and once the latter two had held him and kissed his ears in an attempt to embarrass him in the public bath with an erection; and once Jackie had pulled them away from him and knocked him into the deep end, and bit his shoulder as they wrestled; and these were just the most memorable of the hundreds of slippery wet warm naked contacts which were making the baths such a high point of the day. But outside the bathhouse, as if to try to contain such volatile forces, they had become extremely formal with each other, with the boys and girls bunched in gangs that played separately more often than not. So kissing in the coatroom represented something new, and seriousand the look Nirgal had seen on Jackie and Daos faces was so superior, as if they knew something he didntwhich was trueand it was that which hurt, that exclusion, that knowledge. Especially since he wasnt that ignorant; he was sure they were lying together, making each other come. They were lovers, their look said it. His laughing beautiful Jackie was no longer his. And in fact never had been. He slept poorly in the following nights. Jackies room was in the shoot beside his, and Daos was two in the opposite direction, and every creak of the hanging bridges sounded like footsteps; and sometimes her curved window glowed with flickering orange lamplight. Instead of remaining in his room to be tortured he began to stay up late every night in the common rooms, reading and eavesdropping on the adults. So he was there when they started talking about Simons illness. Simon was Peters father, a quiet man who was usually away, on expeditions with Peters mother Ann. Now it appeared that he had something they called resistant leukaemia. Vlad and Ursula noticed Nirgal listening, and they tried to reassure him, but Nirgal could see that they werent telling him everything. In fact they were regarding him with a strange speculative look. Later he climbed to his high room, got into bed and turned on his lectern, and looked up Leukaemia and read the abstract at the start of the entry. A potentially fatal disease, now usually amenable to treatment. Potentially fatal diseasea shocking concept. He tossed uneasily that night, plagued by dreams through the grey bird-chirp dawn. Plants died, animals died, but not people. But they were animals. The next night he stayed up with the adults again, feeling exhausted and strange. Vlad and Ursula sat down on the floor beside him. They told him that Simon would be helped by a bone marrow transplant, and that he and Nirgal shared a rare type of blood. Neither Ann nor Peter had it, nor any of Nirgals brothers or sisters or halves. He had got it through his father, but even his father didnt have it, not exactly, just him and Simon, in all the sanctuaries. There were only five thousand people in all of the sanctuaries together, and Simon and Nirgals blood type was one in a million. Would he donate some of his bone marrow, they asked. Hiroko was there in the commons, watching him. She rarely spent evenings in the village, and he didnt need to look at her to know what she was thinking. They were made to give, she had always said, and this would be the ultimate gift. An act of pure viriditas. Of course, he said, happy at the opportunity. The hospital was next to the bathhouse and the school. It was smaller than the school, and had five beds. They laid Simon on one, and Nirgal on another. The old man smiled at him. He didnt look sick, only old. Just like all the rest of the ancients, in fact. He had seldom said much, and now he said only, Thanks, Nirgal. Nirgal nodded. Then to his surprise Simon went on: I appreciate you doing this. The extraction will hurt afterward for a week or two, right down in the bone. Thats quite a thing to do for someone else. But not if they really need it, Nirgal said. Well, its a gift that Ill try to repay, of course. Vlad and Ursula anaesthetised Nirgals arm with a shot. It isnt really necessary to do both operations now, but its a good idea to have you two together for it. It will help the healing if you are friends. So they became friends. After school Nirgal would go by the hospital, and Simon would step slowly out the door, and they would walk the path over the dunes, to the beach. There they watched the waves ripple across the white surface and rise up and crumple on the strand. Simon was a lot less talkative than anyone Nirgal had ever spent time with: it was like being silent with Hirokos group, only it never ended. At first it made him uncomfortable. But after a while he found it left time to really look at things: the gulls wheeling under the dome, the sandcrab bubbles in the sand, the circles surrounding each tuft of dune grass. Peter was back in Zygote a lot now, and many days he would come with them. Occasionally even Ann would interrupt her perpetual travelling, and visit Zygote and join them. Peter and Nirgal would race around playing tag, or hide and seek, while Ann and Simon strolled the beach arm in arm. But Simon was still weak, and he got weaker. It was hard not to see this as some kind of moral failing; Nirgal had never been sick, and he found the concept disgusting. It could only happen to the old ones. And even they were supposed to have been saved by their ageing treatment, which everyone got when they were old, and so never died. Only plants and animals died. But people were animals. But they had invented the treatment. At night, worrying about these discrepancies, Nirgal read his lecterns whole entry on leukaemia, even though it was as long as a book. Cancer of the blood. White cells proliferated out of the bone marrow and flooded the system, attacking healthy systems. They were giving Simon chemicals and irradiation and pseudoviruses to kill the white blood cells, and trying to replace the sick marrow in him with new marrow from Nirgal. They had also given him the ageing treatment three times now. Nirgal read about this too. It was a matter of genomic mismatch scanning, which found broken chromosomes and repaired them so that cell division error did not occur. But it was hard to penetrate bone with the array of introduced auto repair cells, and apparently in Simons case little pockets of cancerous marrow had remained behind every time. Children had a better chance of recovery than adults, as the leukaemia entry made clear. But with the ageing treatments and the marrow transfusions he was sure to get well. It was just a matter of time and of giving. The treatments cured everything in the end. We need a bioreactor, Ursula said to Vlad. They were working on converting one of the ectogene tanks into one, packing it with spongy animal collagen and inoculating it with cells from Nirgals marrow, hoping to generate an array of lymphocytes, macrophages, and granulocytes. But they didnt have the circulatory system working right, or perhaps it was the matrix, they werent sure. Nirgal remained their living bioreactor. Sax was teaching them soil chemistry during the mornings when he was teacher, and he even took them out of the schoolroom occasionally to work in the soil labs, introducing biomass to the sand and then wheelbarrowing it to the greenhouses or the beach. It was fun work, but it tended to pass through Nirgal as if he were asleep. He would catch sight of Simon outside, stubbornly taking a walk, and he would forget whatever they were doing. Despite the treatments Simons steps were slow and stiff. He walked bowlegged, in fact, his legs swinging forward with very little bend to them. Once Nirgal caught up to him and stood beside him on the last dune before the beach. Sandpipers were charging up and down the wet strand, chased by white tapestries of foaming water. Simon pointed at the herd of black sheep, cropping grass between dunes. His arm rose like a bamboo crossbar. The sheeps frosted breath poured onto the grass. Simon said something that Nirgal didnt catch; his lips were stiff now, and some words he was finding hard to pronounce. Perhaps it was this that was making him quieter than ever. Now he tried again, and then again, but no matter how hard he tried Nirgal couldnt guess what he was trying to say. Finally Simon gave up trying and shrugged, and they were left looking at each other, mute and helpless. When Nirgal played with the other kids, they both took him in and kept their distance, so that he moved in a kind of circle. Sax admonished him mildly for his absent-mindedness in class. Concentrate on the moment, he would say, forcing Nirgal to recite the loops of the nitrogen cycle, or to shove his hands deep into the wet black soil they were working on, instructing him to knead it, to break up the long strings of diatom blooms, and the fungi and lichen and algae and all the invisible microbacteria they had grown, to distribute them through the rusty clods of grit. Get it distributed as regularly as possible. Pay attention, thats it. Nothing but this. Thisness is a very important quality. Look at the structures on the microscope screen. That clear one like a rice grain is a chemolithotroph, Thiobacillus denitrificans. And theres a chunk of sulphides. Now what will result when the former eats the latter? It oxidises the sulphur. And? And denitrifies. Which is? Nitrates into nitrogen. From the ground into the air. Very good. A very useful microbe, that. So Sax forced him to pay attention to the moment, but the price was high. He found himself exhausted at midday when school was over, it was hard to do things in the afternoon. Then they asked him to give more marrow for Simon, who lay in the hospital mute and embarrassed, his eyes apologising to Nirgal, who steeled himself to smile, to put his fingers around Simons bamboo forearm. Its all right, he said cheerily, and lay down. Although surely Simon was doing something wrong, was weak or lazy or somehow wanted to be sick. There was no other way to explain it. They stuck the needle in Nirgals arm and it went numb. Stuck the IV needle in the back of his hand and after a while it too went numb. He lay back, part of the fabric of the hospital, trying to go as numb as he could. Part of him could feel the big marrow needle, pushing against his upper arm bone. No pain, no feeling in his flesh at all, just a pressure on the bone. Then it let up, and he knew the needle had penetrated to the soft inside of his bone. This time the process did not help at all. Simon was uselesshe stayed in the hospital continually. Nirgal visited him there from time to time, and they played a weather game on Simons screen, tapping buttons for dice rolls, and exclaiming when the roll of one or twelve cast them abruptly onto another quadrant of Mars, one with a whole new climate. Simons laugh, never more than a chuckle, had diminished now to just a little smile. Nirgals arm hurt, and he slept poorly, tossing through the nights and waking hot and sweaty, and frightened for no reason. Then one night Hiroko woke him from the depths of slumber, and led him down the winding staircase and over to the hospital. He leaned groggily against her, unable to wake fully. She was as impassive as ever, but had her arm. around his shoulders, holding him with surprising strength. When they passed Ann sitting in the hospitals outer room something in the slope of Anns shoulders caused Nirgal to wonder why Hiroko was here in the village at night, and he struggled to wake fully, touched by dread. The hospitals bedroom was overlit, sharp-edged, pulsing as if glories were trying to burst out of every thing. Simon lay with his head on a white pillow. His skin was pale and waxy. He looked a thousand years old. He turned his head and saw Nirgal. His dark eyes searched Nirgals face with a hungry look, as if he were trying to find a way into Nirgala way to jump across into him. Nirgal shivered and held the dark intense gaze, thinking okay, come into me. Do it if you want. Do it. But there was no way across. They both saw that. They both relaxed. A little smile passed over Simons face, and he reached over with an effort and held Nirgals hand. Now his eyes darted back and forth, searching Nirgals face with a completely different expression, as if he were trying to find words that would help Nirgal in the years to come, that would pass across whatever it was that Simon had learned. But that too was impossible. Again they both saw it. He would have to give Nirgal to his fate, whatever it was. There was no way to help. Be good, he whispered finally, and Hiroko led Nirgal out of the room. She took him through the dark back up to his room, and he fell into a deep sleep. Simon died sometime during the night. It was the first funeral in Zygote, and the first for all the children. But the adults knew what to do. They met in one of the greenhouses, among the work benches, and sat in a circle around the long box holding Simons body. They passed around a flask of rice liquor, and everyone filled their neighbours cup. They drank the fiery stuff down, and the old ones walked around the box holding hands, and then they sat in a knot around Ann and Peter. Maya and Nadia sat by Ann with their arms around her shoulders. Ann appeared stunned, Peter disconsolate. Jurgen and Maya told stories about Simons legendary taciturnity. One time, Maya said, we were in a rover and an oxygen canister blew out and knocked a hole in the cabin roof, and we were all running around screaming and Simon had been outside and he picked up a rock just the right size, jumped up, dropped it in the hole and plugged it. And afterward we were all talking like crazy people, and working to make a real plug, and suddenly we realised Simon still hadnt said anything, and we all stopped working and looked at him, and he said, That was close! They laughed. Vlad said, Or remember the time we gave out mock awards in Underhill, and Simon got one for best video, and he went up to accept the award and said Thank you, and started to return to his seat, and then he stopped and went back up to the podium, as if something had occurred to him to say, you know, which got our attention naturally, and he cleared his throat and said Thank you very much! Ann almost laughed at that, and stood, and led them out into the frigid air. The old ones carried the box down to the beach, and everyone else followed. It was snowing through mist when they took his body out and buried it deep in the sand, just above the waves high water mark. They slid the board out of the top of the long box and burned Simons name onto it with Nadias soldering iron, and stuck the board in the first dune. Now Simon would be part of the carbon cycle, food for bacteria and crabs and then sandpipers and gulls, thus slowly melting into the biomass under the dome. This was how one was buried. And sure, part of it was comforting; to spread out into ones world, to disperse into it. But to end as a self, to go away And here they all were walking under the dim dome, having buried Simon in suffocating sand, trying to behave as if reality had not suddenly ripped apart and snatched one of them away. Nirgal couldnt believe it. They straggled back into the village blowing on their hands, talking in subdued voices. Nirgal drew near Vlad and Ursula, longing for reassurance of some kind. Ursula was sad, and Vlad was trying to cheer her up. He lived more than a hundred years, we cant go around thinking his death was premature, or it makes a mockery of all those poor people who died at fifty, or twenty, or one. But it was still premature, Ursula said stubbornly. With the treatments, who knows? He might have lived a thousand years. Im not so sure. It looks to me like the treatments are not in fact penetrating to every part of our bodies. And with all the radiation weve taken on, we may have more troubles than we thought at first. Maybe. But if we had been at Acheron, with the whole crew, and a bioreactor, and all our facilities, I bet we would have saved him. And then you cant say how many more years he might have had. I call that premature. She went off to be by herself. That night Nirgal could not sleep at all. He kept feeling the transfusions, seeing every moment of them and imagining that there had been some kind of backwash in the system, so that he had been infected with the disease. Or contaminated by touch alone, why not? Or just by that last look in Simons eye! So that he had caught the disease they could not stop, and would die. Stiffen up, go mute, stop and go away. That was death. His heart pounded and a sweat broke through his skin, and he cried with the fear of it. There was no avoiding it; and it was horrible. Horrible no matter when it happened. Horrible that the cycle itself should work the way it didthat it should go round and round and round, while they lived only once and then died forever. Why live at all? It was too strange, too horrible. And so he shivered through the long night, his mind gone cyclonic with the fear of death. After that he found it extremely hard to concentrate. He felt as if he was always at a remove from things, as if he had slipped into the white world and could not quite touch the green one. Hiroko noticed this problem, and suggested he go with Coyote on one of his trips out. Nirgal was shocked by the idea, having never been more than a walk away from Zygote. But Hiroko insisted. He was seven years old, she said, and about to become a man. Time he saw a bit of the surface world. A few weeks later Coyote dropped by, and when he left again Nirgal was with him, seated in the copilots seat of his boulder car, and goggling out the low windshield at the purple arch of evening sky. Coyote turned the car around to give him a view of the great glowing pink wall of the polar cap, which arced across the horizon like an enormous rising moon. Its hard to believe something that big could ever melt, Nirgal said. It will take a while. They drove north at a sedate pace; the boulder car was stealthed, and a no-track device on the front bumper was reading the terrain and passing the information to the back bumper, where scraper-shapers were ploughing their wheel tracks, returning the sand and rock to whatever shape they had had before their passing. For a long time they travelled in silence, though Coyotes silence was not the same as Simons had been. He hummed, he muttered, he talked in a low sing-song voice to his AI, in a language that sounded like English but was not comprehensible. Nirgal tried to concentrate on the limited view out the window, feeling awkward and shy. The region around the south polar cap was a series of broad flat terraces, and they descended from one to the next by routes that seemed programmed into the car, down terrace after terrace until it seemed the polar cap must be sitting on a kind of huge pedestal. Nirgal stared into the dark, impressed by the size of the things, but happy too that it was not absolutely overwhelming, as his first walk out had been. That had happened a long time ago, but he could still remember the staggering astonishment of it perfectly. This was not like that. It doesnt seem as big as I thought it would, he said. I guess its the curvature of the land, it being such a small planet and all. As the lectern said. The horizon isnt any farther away than one side of Zygote to the other! Uh huh, Coyote said, giving him a look. You better not let Big Man hear you say such a thing, he kick your ass for that. Then"Whos your father, boy? I dont know. Hiroko is my mother. Coyote snorted. Hiroko takes the matriarchy too far, if you ask me. Have you told her that? You bet I have, but Hiroko only listens to me when I say things she wants to hear. He cackled. Same as with everyone, right? Nirgal nodded, a grin splitting his attempt to be impassive. You want to find out who your father is? Sure. Actually he was not sure. The concept of father meant little to him; and he was afraid it would turn out to be Simon. Peter was like an elder brother to him, after all. Theyve got the equipment in Vishniac. We can try there if you want. He shook his head. Hiroko is so strange. When I met her you would never have guessed it would come to this. Of course we were young thenalmost as young as you are, though you will find that hard to credit. Which was true. When I met her she was just a young eco-engineering student, smart as a whip and sexy as a cat. None of this mother goddess of the world stuff. But by and by she started to read books that were not her technical manuals, and it went on and on and by the time she got to Mars she was crazy. Before, actually. Which is lucky for me as that is why Im here. But Hiroko, oh my. She was convinced that all human history had gone wrong at the start. At the dawn of civilisation, she would say to me very seriously, there was Crete and Sumeria, and Crete had a peaceful trading culture, run by women and filled with art and beautya Utopia in fact, where the men were acrobats who jumped bulls all day, and women all night, and got the women pregnant and worshipped them, and everyone was happy. It sounds good except for the bulls. While Sumeria on the other hand was ruled by men, who invented war and conquered everything in sight and started all the slave empires that have come since. And no one knew, Hiroko said, what might have happened if these two civilisations had had a chance to contest the rule of the world, because a volcano blew Crete to kingdom come, and the world passed into Sumerias hands and has never left it to this day. If only that volcano had been in Sumeria, she used to tell me, everything would be different. And maybe its true. Because history could hardly get any blacker than it has been. Nirgal was surprised at this characterisation. But now, he ventured, were starting again. Thats right, boy! We are the primitives of an unknown civilisation. Living in our own little techno-Minoan matriarchy. Ha! I like it fine, myself. Seems to me the power that our women have taken on was never that interesting to begin with. Power is one half of the yoke, dont you remember that from the stuff I made you kids read? Master and slave wear the yoke together. Anarchy is the only true freedom. So, well, whatever women do, it seems to go against them. If theyre mens cows, then they work till they drop. But if theyre our queens and goddesses then they only work the harder, because they still have to do the cow work and then the paperwork too! No way. Just be thankful youre a man, and as free as the sky. It was a peculiar way to think of things, Nirgal thought. But clearly it was one way to deal with the fact of Jackies beauty, of her immense power over his mind. And so Nirgal ducked low in his seat and stared out the window at the white stars in the black, thinking, Free as the sky! Free as the sky! It was Ls 4, 2 March 22nd, M-year 32, and the southern days were getting shorter. Coyote drove their car hard every night, over intricate and invisible paths, through terrain that got more and more rugged the farther they got from the polar cap. They stopped to rest during the daylight, and drove the rest of the time. Nirgal tried to stay awake, but inevitably slept through part of every drive, and through part of every days stop as well, until he became thoroughly confused in both time and space. But when he was awake he was almost always looking out the window, at the ever-changing surface of Mars. He couldnt get enough of it. In the layered terrain there was an infinite array of patterns, the stratified stacks of sand fluted by the wind until each winglike dune was cut like a birds wing. When the layered terrain finally ran out onto exposed bedrock, the laminate dunes became individual sand islands, scattered over a jumbled plain of outcroppings and clusters of rock. It was red rock everywhere he looked, rock sized from gravel to immense boulders that sat like buildings on the land. The sand islands were tucked into every dip and hollow in this rockscape, and they also clustered around the feet of big knots of boulders, and on the lee sides of low scarps, and in the interiors of craters. And there were craters everywhere. They first appeared as two bumps rolling over the skysill, which quickly proved to be the connected outer points of a low ridge. They passed scores of these flat-topped hills, some steep and sharp, others low and nearly buried, still others with their rims broken by smaller later impacts, so that one could see right in to the sand drifts filling them. One night just before dawn Coyote stopped the car. Something wrong? No. Weve reached Rays Lookout, and I want you to see it. Sunll be up in a half hour. So they sat in the pilots seats and watched the dawn. How old are you, boy? Seven. Whats that, thirteen Earth years? Fourteen? I guess. Wow. Youre already taller than me. Uh huh. Nirgal refrained from pointing out that this did not imply any great height. How old are you? One hundred and nine. Ah ha ha! You best shut your eyes or theyll pop out of your head. Dont you look at me like that. I was old the day I was born and Ill be young the day I die. They drowsed as the sky on the eastern skyline turned a deep purply blue. Coyote hummed a little tune to himself, sounding as if he had eaten a tab of omegendorph, as he often did in the evenings at Zygote. Gradually it became clear that the skysill was very far away, and also very high; Nirgal had never seen land so far away, and it seemed to curve around them as well, a black curving wall that lay an immense distance off, over a black rocky plain. Hey Coyote! he exclaimed. What is this? Ha! Coyote said, sounding deeply satisfied. The sky lightened and the sun suddenly cracked the upper edge of the distant wall, blasting Nirgals vision for a while. But as the sun rose, the shadows on the huge semi-circular cliff gave way in wedges of light that revealed sharp ragged embayments, scalloping the larger curve of the wall, which was so big that Nirgal simply gasped, his nose pressed right against the windshieldit was almost frightening it was so big! Coyote, what is it? Coyote let out one of his alarming laughs, the animal cackle filling the car. So you see it isnt such a small world after all, eh, boy? This is the floor of Promethei Basin. Its an impact basin, one of the biggest on Mars, almost as big as Argyre, but it hit down here near the South Pole, so about half of its rim has since been buried under the polar cap and the layered terrain. The other half is this curved escarpment here. He waved a hand expansively. Kind of like a super-big caldera, but only half there, so you can drive right into it. This little rise is the best place I know for seeing it. He called up a map of the region, and pointed. Were on the apron of this little crater here, Vt, and looking northwest. The cliff is Promethei Rupes, there. Its about a kilometre high. Of course the Echus cliff is three kilometres high, and the Olympus Mons cliff is six kilometres high, do you hear that Mister Small Planet? But this baby will have to do for this morning. The sun rose higher, illuminating the great curve of the cliff from above. It was deeply cut by ravines and smaller craters. Prometheus Sanctuary is in the side of that big indentation there, Coyote said, and pointed to the left side of the curve. Crater Wj. As they waited through the long day Nirgal looked at the gigantic cliff almost continuously, and each time it looked different, as the shadows shortened and shifted, revealing new features and obscuring others. It would have taken years of looking to see it all, and he found he could not overcome the feeling that the wall was unnaturally, or even impossibly huge. Coyote was rightthe tight horizons had fooled himhe had not imagined the world could be so big. That night they drove into Crater Wj, one of the biggest embayments in the giant wall. And then they reached the curving cliff of Promethei Rupes. The cliff towered over them like the vertical side of the universe itself: the polar cap was nothing compared to this rock mass. Which meant that the Olympus Mons cliff that Coyote had mentioned would have to be he didnt know how to think it. Down at the foot of the cliff, at a spot where unbroken rock dropped almost vertically into flat sand, there was a recessed lock door. Inside was the sanctuary called Prometheus, a collection of wide chambers stacked like the rooms of a bamboo house, with incurving filtered windows overlooking Crater Wj and the larger basin beyond. The inhabitants of the sanctuary spoke French, and so did Coyote when talking to them. They were not as old as Coyote or the other issei, but they were pretty old, and of Terran height, which meant they mostly looked up to Nirgal, while speaking very hospitably to him, in fluent but accented English. So you are Nirgal! Enchant! We have heard of you, we are happy to meet you! A group of them showed him around while Coyote did other things. Their sanctuary was very unlike Zygote; it was, to put it plainly, nothing but rooms. There were several large ones stacked by the wall, with smaller ones at the back of these. Three of the window rooms were greenhouses, and all the rooms throughout the refuge were kept very warm, and filled with plants and wall hangings and statuary and fountains; to Nirgal it seemed confining, and much too hot, and utterly fascinating. But they only stayed a day, and then they drove Coyotes car into a big elevator, and sat in it for an hour. When Coyote drove out of the opposite door they were on top of the rugged plateau that lay behind Promethei Rupes. And here Nirgal was once again shocked. When they had been down at Rays Lookout, the great cliff had formed a limit to what they could see, and he had been able to comprehend it. But on top of the cliff, looking back down, the distance was so great that Nirgal could not grasp it at all. He had trouble focusinghe saw nothing but a blurry vertiginous mass of blobs and patches of colourwhite, purple, brown, tan, rust, whiteit made him queasy. Storm coming in, Coyote said, and Nirgal saw that the colours above them were a fleet of tall solid clouds, sailing through a violet sky with the sun well to the westthe clouds whitish above and infinitely lobed, but dark grey on their bottoms. These cloud bottoms were closer to their heads than the ground of the basin, and they were all on a level, as if rolling over a transparent floor. The world below was nothing so even, mottled tan and chocolateahthose were the shadows of the clouds, visibly moving. And that white crescent out in the middle of things was the polar cap! They could see all the way home! Recognising the ice gave him the final bit of perspective needed to make sense of things, and the blobs of colour stabilised into a bumpy uneven ringed landscape, mottled by moving cloud shadows. This dizzying act of cognition had only taken Nirgal a few seconds, but when he finished he saw that Coyote was watching him with a big grin. Just how far can we see, Coyote? How many kilometres? Coyote only cackled. Ask Big Man, boy. Or figure it out for yourself! What, three hundred k? Something like that. A hop and a jump for the big one. A thousand empires for the little ones. I want to run it. Im sure you do. Oh, look, look! Therefrom the clouds over the ice cap. Lightning, see it? Those little flickers are lightning. And there they were, bright threads of light, appearing and disappearing soundlessly, one or two every few seconds, connecting black clouds with white ground. He was seeing lightning at last, with his own eyes. The white world sparkling into the green, jolting it. Theres nothing like a big storm, Coyote was saying. Nothing like it. Oh to be out in the wind! We made that storm, boy. Although I think I could make an even bigger one. But a bigger one was beyond Nirgals ability to imagine; what lay below them was cosmically vastelectric, shot with colour, windy with spaciousness. He was actually a bit relieved when Coyote turned their car around and drove off, and the blurry view disappeared, the edge of the cliff becoming a new skysill behind them. Just what is lightning again? Well, lightning shit. I must confess that lightning is one of the phenomena in this world that I cannot hold the explanation for in my head. People have told me, but it always slips away. Electricity, of course, something about electrons or ions, positive and negative, charges building up in thunderheads, discharging to the ground, or both up and down at once, I seem to recall. Who knows. Ka boom! Thats lightning, eh? The white world and the green, rubbing together, snapping with the friction. Of course. There were several sanctuaries on the plateau north of Promethei Rupes, some hidden in escarpment walls and crater rims, like Nadias tunnelling project outside Zygote; but others simply sitting in craters under clear tent domes, there for any sky police to see. The first time Coyote drove up to the rim of one of these and they looked down through the clear tent dome onto a village under the stars, Nirgal had been once again amazed, though it was amazement of a lesser order than that engendered by the landscape. Buildings like the school, and the bathhouse and the kitchen, trees, greenhousesit was all basically familiarbut how could they get away with it, out in the open like this? It was disconcerting. And so full of people, of strangers. Nirgal had known in theory that there were a lot of people in the southern sanctuaries, five thousand as they said, but it was something else again to meet so many of them so fast, and see that it was really true. And staying in the unhidden settlements made him extremely nervous. How can they do it? he asked Coyote. Why arent they arrested and taken away? You got me, boy. Its possible they could be. But they havent been yet, and so they dont think its worth the trouble to hide. You know it takes a tremendous effort to hideyou got to do all that thermal disposal engineering, and electronic hardening, and you got to keep out of sight all the timeits a pain in the ass. And some people down here just dont want to do it. They call themselves the demi-monde. They have plans for if theyre ever investigated or invadedmost of them have escape tunnels like ours, and some even have some weapons stashed away. But they figure that if theyre out on the surface, theres no reason to be checked out in the first place. The folks in Christianopolis just told the UN straight out that they came down here to get out of the net. But I agree with Hiroko on this one. That some of us have to be a little more careful than that. The UN is out to get the First Hundred, if you ask me. And its family too, unfortunately for you lads. Anyway, now the resistance includes the underground and the demi-monde, and having the open towns is a big help to the hidden sanctuaries, so Im glad theyre here. At this point we depend on them. Coyote was welcomed effusively in this town as he was everywhere, whether the settlement was hidden or exposed. He settled into a corner of a big garage on the crater rim, and conducted a continuous brisk exchange of goods, including seed stocks, software, light bulbs, spare parts, and small machines. These he gave out after long consultations with their hosts, in bargaining sessions that Nirgal couldnt understand. And then, after a brief tour of the crater floor, where the village looked surprisingly like Zygote under a brilliant purple dome, they were off again. On the drives between sanctuaries Coyote did not explain his bargaining sessions very effectively. Im saving these people from their own ridiculous notion of economics, thats what Im doing! A gift economy is all very well, but it isnt organised enough for our situation. There are critical items, that everyone has to have, so people have to give, which is a contradiction, right? So I am trying to work out a rational system. Actually Vlad and Marina are working it out, and I am trying to implement it, which means I get all the grief. And this system Well, its a sort of two-track thing, where they can still give all they want, but the necessities are given values and distributed properly. And good God you wouldnt believe some of the arguments I get in. People can be such fools. I try to make sure it all adds up to a stable ecology, like one of Hirokos systems, with every sanctuary filling its niche and providing its speciality, and what do I get for it? Abuse, thats what I get! Radical abuse. I try to stop potlatching and they call me a robber baron, I try to stop hoarding and they call me a fascist. The fools! What are they going to do, when none of them are self-sufficient, and half of them are crazy paranoid? He sighed theatrically. So, anyway. Were making progress. Christianopolis makes light bulbs, and Mauss Hyde grows new kinds of plants, as you saw, and Bogdanov Vishniac makes everything big and difficult, like reactor rods and stealth vehicles and most of the big robots, and your Zygote makes scientific instrumentation, and so on. And I spread them around. Are you the only one doing that? Almost. Theyre mostly self-sufficient, actually, except for these few criticalities. They all got programs and seeds, thats the basic necessities. And besides, its important that not too many people know where all the hidden sanctuaries are. Nirgal digested the implications of this as they drove through the night. Coyote went on about the hydrogen peroxide standard and the nitrogen standard, a new system of Vlad and Marinas, and Nirgal did his best to follow but found it hard going, either because the concepts were difficult or else because Coyote spent most of his explanations fulminating over the difficulties he encountered in certain sanctuaries. Nirgal decided to ask Sax or Nadia about it when he got home, and stopped listening. The land they were crossing now was dominated by crater rings, the newer ones overlapping and even burying older ones. This is called saturation cratering. Very ancient ground. A lot of the craters had no raised rims at all, but were simply shallow flat-bottomed round holes in the ground. What happened to the rims? Worn away. By what? Ann says ice, and wind. She says as much as a kilometre was stripped off the southern highlands over time. That would take away everything! But then more came back. This is old land. In between craters the land was covered with loose rock, and it was unbelievably uneven; there were dips, rises, hollows, knolls, trenches, grabens, uplifts, hills and dales; never even a moments flatness, except on crater rims and occasional low ridges, both of which Coyote used as roads when he could. But the track he followed over this lumpy landscape was still tortuous, and Nirgal could not believe it was memorised. He said as much, and Coyote laughed. What do you mean memorised? Were lost! But not really, or not for long. A mohole plume appeared over the horizon, and Coyote drove for it. Knew it all along, he muttered. This is Vishniac mohole. There were four moholes started around the 75 latitude line, and two of them are no longer occupied, even by robots. Vishniac is one of the two, and its been taken over by a bunch of Bogdanovists who live down inside it. He laughed. Its a wonderful idea, because they can dig into the side wall along the road to the bottom, and down there they can put out as much heat as they want and no one can tell that its not just more mohole outgassing. So they can build anything they like, even process uranium for reactor fuel rods. Its an entire little industrial city now. Also one of my favourite places, very big on partying. He drove them into one of the many small trenches cutting the land, then braked and tapped at his screen, and a big rock swung out from the side of the trench, revealing a black tunnel. Coyote drove into the tunnel and the rock door closed behind them. Nirgal had thought he was beyond surprise at this point, but he watched round-eyed as they drove down the tunnel, its rough rock walls just outside the edges of the boulder car. It seemed to go on forever. Theyve dug a number of approach tunnels, so that the mohole itself can look completely unvisited. We have about twenty kilometers to go. Eventually Coyote turned off the headlights. Their car rolled out into the dim aubergine black of night; they were on a steep road, apparently spiralling down the wall of the mohole. Their instrument panel lights were like tiny lanterns, and looking through his reflected image Nirgal could see that the road was four or five times as wide as the car. The full extent of the mohole itself was impossible to see, but by the curve of the road he could tell that it was a big hole, perhaps a kilometre across. Are you sure were turning at the right speed? he said anxiously. I am trusting the automatic pilot, Coyote said, irritated. Its bad luck to discuss it. The car rolled down the road. After more than an hours descent there was a beep from the instrument panel, and the car turned into the curving wall of rock to their left. And there was a garage tube, clanking against their outer lock door. Inside the garage a group of twenty or so people greeted them, and took them past a line of tall rooms to a cavernlike chamber. The rooms that the Bogdanovists had excavated into the side of the mohole were big, much bigger than those at Prometheus. The back rooms were ten metres high as a rule, and in some cases two hundred metres deep; and the main cavern rivalled Zygote itself, with big windows facing out onto the hole. Looking sideways through the window Nirgal saw that the glass seen from the outside looked like the rock face; the filtered coatings must have been clever indeed, because as the morning arrived, its light poured in very brightly. The windows view was limited to the far wall of the mohole, and a gibbous patch of sky abovebut they gave the rooms a wonderful sense of spaciousness and light, a feeling of being under the sky that Zygote could not match. Through that first day Nirgal was taken in hand by a small dark-skinned man named Hilali, who led him through rooms and interrupted people at their work to introduce him. People were friendly You must be one of Hirokos kids, eh? Oh, youre Nirgal! Very nice to meet you! Hey John, Coyotes here, party tonight! and they showed him what they were doing, leading him back into smaller rooms behind the ones fronting the mohole, where there were farms under bright light, and manufactories that seemed to extend back into the rock forever; and all of it very warm, as in a bathhouse, so that Nirgal was constantly sweating. Where did you put all the excavated rock? he asked Hilali, for one of the convenient things about cutting a dome under the polar cap, Hiroko had said, was that the excavated dry ice had simply been gassed off. Its lining the road near the bottom of the mohole, Hilali told him, pleased at the question. He seemed pleased with all Nirgals questions, as did everyone else; people in Vishniac seemed happy in general, a rowdy crowd who always partied to celebrate Coyotes arrivalone excuse among many, Nirgal gathered. Hilali took a call on the wrist from Coyote, and led Nirgal into a lab where they took a bit of skin from his finger. Then they made their way slowly back to the big cavern, and joined the crowd lining up by the kitchen windows at the back. After eating a big spicy meal of beans and potatoes, they began to party in the cavern room. A huge undisciplined steel drum band with a fluctuating membership played rhythmic staccato melodies, and people danced to them for hours, pausing from time to time to drink an atrocious liquor called kavajava, or join a variety of games on one side of the room. After trying the kavajava, and swallowing a tab of an omegendorph given to him by Coyote, Nirgal ran in place while playing a bass drum with the band, then sat on top of a small grassy mound in the centre of the chamber, feeling too drunk to stand. Coyote had been drinking steadily but had no such problem; he was dancing wildly, hopping high off his toes and laughing. Youll never know the joy of your own g, boy! he shouted at Nirgal. Youll never know! People came by and introduced themselves, sometimes asking Nirgal to exhibit his warming toucha group of girls his age put his hands to their cheeks, which they had chilled with their drinks, and when he warmed them up they laughed round-eyed, and invited him to warm other parts of them; he got up and danced with them instead, feeling loose and dizzy, running in little circles to discharge some of the energy in him. When he returned to the knoll, buzzing, Coyote came weaving over and sat heavily beside him. So fine to dance in this g, I never get over it. He regarded Nirgal with a cross-eyed glare, his grey dreadlocks falling all over his head, and Nirgal noticed again how his face seemed to have cracked somehow, perhaps been broken at the jaw, so that one side was broader than the other. Something like that. Nirgal gulped at the sight. Coyote took him by the shoulder and shook him hard. It seems that I am your father, boy! he exclaimed. Youre kidding! An electric flush ran down Nirgals spine and out of his face as the two of them stared at each other, and he marvelled at how the white world could shock the green one so thoroughly. They clutched each other. I am not kidding! Coyote said. They stared at each other. No wonder youre so smart, Coyote said, and laughed hilariously. Ah ha ha ha! Ka wow! I hope its okay with you! Sure, Nirgal said, grinning but uncomfortable. He didnt know Coyote well, and the concept of father was even vaguer to him than that of mother, so he wasnt really sure what he felt. Genetic inheritance, sure, but what was that? They all got their genes somewhere, and the genes of ectogenes were transgenic anyway, or so they said. But Coyote, though he cursed Hiroko in a hundred different ways, seemed to be pleased. That vixen, that tyrant! Matriarchy my assshes crazy! It amazes me the things she does! Although this has a certain justice to it. Yes it does, because Hiroko and I were an item back in the dawn of time, when we were young in England. Thats the reason Im here on Mars at all. A stowaway in her closet, my whole fucking life long. He laughed and clapped Nirgal on the shoulder again. Well, boy, you will know better how you like the idea later on. He went back out to dance, leaving Nirgal to think it over. Watching Coyotes gyrations, Nirgal could only shake his head; he didnt know what to think, and at the moment thinking anything at all was remarkably difficult. Better to dance, or seek out the baths. But they had no public baths. He ran around in circles on the dance floor, and later he returned to the same mound, and a group of the locals gathered around him and Coyote. Like being the father of the Dalai Lama, eh? Dont you get a name for that? To hell with you man! Like I was saying, Ann says they stopped digging these 75 moholes because the lithosphere is thinner down here. Coyote nodded portentously. I want to go to one of the decommissioned moholes and start up its robots again, and see if they dig down far enough to start a volcano. Everyone laughed. But one woman shook her head. If you do that theyll come down here to check it out. If youre going to do it, you should go north and hit one of the 60 moholes. Theyre decommissioned too. But the lithosphere up there is thicker, Ann says. Sure, but the moholes are deeper too. Hmm, Coyote said. And the conversation moved on to more serious matters, mostly the inevitable topics of shortages, and developments in the north. But at the end of that week, when they left Vishniac, by way of a different and longer tunnel, they headed north, and all Coyotes previous plans had been thrown out the window. Thats the story of my life, boy. On the fifth night of driving over the jumbled highlands of the south, Coyote slowed the rover, and circled the edge of a big old crater, subdued almost to the level of the surrounding plain. From a defile in the ancient rim one could see that the sandy crater floor was marred by a giant round black hole. This, apparently, was what a mohole looked like from the surface. A plume of thin frost stood in the air a few hundred metres over the hole, appearing from nothing like a magicians trick. The edge of the mohole was bevelled so that there was a band of concrete funnelling down at about a 45 angle; it was hard to say how big this coping band was, because the mohole made it seem like no more than a strip. There was a high wire fence at its outer edge. Hmm, Coyote said, staring out the windshield. He backed up in the defile and parked, then slipped into a walker. Back soon, he said, and hopped in the lock. It was a long, anxious night for Nirgal. He barely slept, and was in an intensifying agony of worry the next morning, when he saw Coyote appear outside the boulder car lock, just before seven a.m. when the sun was about to rise. He was ready to complain about the length of this disappearance, but when Coyote got inside and got his helmet off it was obvious he was in a foul temper. While they sat out the day he tapped away at his AI in an absorbed conference, cursing vilely, oblivious to his hungry young charge. Nirgal went ahead and heated meals for them both, and then napped uneasily, and woke when the rover jerked forward. Im going to try going in through the gate, Coyote said. Thats quite the security they have on that hole. One more night should see it either way. He circled the crater and parked on the far rim, and at dusk once again left on foot. Again he was gone all night, and again Nirgal found it very difficult to sleep. He wondered what he was supposed to do if Coyote didnt return. And indeed he was not back by dawn. The day that followed was the longest of Nirgals life without a question, and at the end of it he had no idea what he was going to do. Try to rescue Coyote; try to drive back to Zygote, or Vishniac; go down to the mohole, and give himself up to whatever mysterious security system had eaten up Coyote; all seemed impossible. But an hour after sunset Coyote tapped the car with his tik-tik-tik, and then he was inside, his face a furious mask. He drank a litre of water and then most of another, and blew out his lips in disgust. Let us get the fuck out of here, he said. After a couple of hours of silent driving Nirgal thought to change the subject, or at least enlarge it, and he said, Coyote, how long do you think we will have to stay hidden? Dont call me Coyote! Im not Coyote. Coyote is out there in the back of the hills, breathing the air already and doing what he wants, the bastard. Me, my name is Desmond, you call me Desmond, understand? Okay, Nirgal said, afraid. As for how long we will have to stay hiding, I think it will be forever. They drove back south to Rayleigh mohole, where Coyote (he didnt seem to be a Desmond) had thought to go in the first place. This mohole was truly abandoned, an unlit hole in the highlands, its thermal plume standing over it like the ghost of a monument. They could drive right into the empty sand-covered parking lot and garage at its rim, between a small fleet of robot vehicles shrouded by tarpaulins and sand drifts. This is more like it, Coyote muttered. Here, weve got to take a look down inside it. Come on, get into your walker. It was strange to be out in the wind, standing on the rim of such an enormous gap in things. They looked over a chest-high wall and saw the bevelled concrete band that rimmed the hole, dropping at an angle for about two hundred metres. In order to see down the shaft proper, they had to walk about a kilometre down a curving road cut into the concrete band. There they could stop at last, and look over the roads edge, down into blackness. Coyote stood right on the edge, which made Nirgal nervous. He got on his hands and knees to look over. No sign of a bottom; they might as well have been looking into the centre of the planet. Twenty kilometres, Coyote said over the intercom. He held a hand out over the edge, and Nirgal did too. He could feel the updraught. Okay, lets see if we can get the robots going. And they hiked back up the road. Coyote had spent many of their daytime hours studying old programs on his AI, and now with the hydrogen peroxide from their trailer pumped into two of the robot behemoths in the parking lot, he plugged into their control panels and went at it. When he was done he was satisfied they would perform as required at the bottom of the mohole, and they watched the two, with wheels four times as tall as Coyotes car, roll off down the curving road. All right, Coyote said, cheering up again. Theyll use their solar panel power to process their own peroxide explosives, and their own fuel as well, and go at it slow and steady until maybe they hit something hot. We just may have started a volcano! Is that good? Coyote laughed wildly. I dont know! But no ones ever done it before, so it has that at least to recommend it. They returned to their scheduled travel, among sanctuaries both hidden and open, and Coyote went around saying We started up Rayleigh mohole last week, have you seen a volcano yet? No one had seen it. Rayleigh seemed to be behaving much as before, its thermal plume undisturbed. Well, maybe it didnt work, Coyote would say. Maybe it will take some time. On the other hand if that mohole was now floored with molten lava, how would you be able to tell? We could tell, people said. And some added: Why would you do something as stupid as that? You might as well call up the Transitional Authority and tell them to come down here to look for us. So Coyote stopped bringing it up. They rolled on from sanctuary to sanctuary: Mauss Hyde, Gramsci, Overhangs, Christianopolis At each stop Nirgal was made welcome, and often people knew of him in advance, by reputation. Nirgal was very surprised by the variety and number of sanctuaries, forming together their strange world, half secret and half exposed. And if this world was only a small part of Martian civilisation as a whole, what must the surface cities of the north be like? It was beyond his graspalthough it did seem to him that as the marvels of the journey continued, one after the next, his grasp was getting a bit larger. You couldnt just explode from amazement, after all. Well, Coyote would say as they drove (he had taught Nirgal how), we may have started a volcano and we may not have. But it was a new idea in any case. Thats one of the greatest things about this, boy, this whole Martian project. Its all new. They headed south again, until the ghostly wall of the polar cap loomed over the horizon. Soon they would be home again. Nirgal thought of all the sanctuaries they had visited. Do you really think well have to hide forever, Desmond? Desmond? Desmond? Whos this Desmond? Coyote blew out his lips. Oh, boy, I dont know. No one can know for sure. The people hiding out here were shoved out at a strange time, when their way of life was threatened, and Im not so sure its that way anymore in the surface cities theyre building in the north. The bosses on Earth learned their lesson, maybe, and people up there are more comfortable. Or maybe its just that the elevator hasnt been replaced yet. So there might not be another revolution? I dont know. Or not until theres an elevator? I dont know! But the elevators coming, and theyre building some big new mirrors out there, you can see them shining at night sometimes, or right around the sun. So anything might happen, I guess. But revolution is a rare thing. And a lot of them are reactionary anyway. Peasants have their tradition, you see, the values and habits that allow them to get by. But they live so close to the edge that rapid change can push them over it, and in those times its not politics, but survival. I saw that myself when I was your age. Now the people sent here were not poor, but they did have their own tradition, and like the poor they were powerless. And when the influx of the 2050s hit, their tradition was wiped out. So they fought for what they had. And the truth is, they lost. You cant fight the powers that be anymore, especially here, because the weapons are too strong and our shelters are too fragile. Wed have to arm ourselves pretty good, or something. So, you know. Were hiding, and theyre flooding Mars with a new kind of crowd, people who were used to really tough conditions on Earth, so that things here dont strike them so bad. They get the treatment and theyre happy. Were not seeing so many people trying to get out into the sanctuaries, like we did in the years before 61. Theres some, but not many. As long as people have their entertainments, their own little tradition, you know, they arent going to lift a finger. But Nirgal said, and faltered. Coyote saw the expression on his face and laughed. Hey, who knows? Pretty soon now theyll have another elevator in place up on Pavonis Mons, and then very likely theyll start to screw things up all over again, those greedy bastards. And you young folks, maybe you wont want Earth calling the shots here. Well see when the time comes. Meanwhile were having fun, right? Were keeping the flame. That night Coyote stopped the car, and told Nirgal to suit up. They went out and stood on the sand, and Coyote turned him around so that he was facing north. Look at the sky. Nirgal stood and watched; and saw a new star burst into existence, there over the northern horizon, growing in a matter of seconds to a long white-tailed comet, flying west to east. When it was about halfway across the sky the blazing head of the comet burst apart, and bright fragments scattered in every direction, white into black. One of the ice asteroids! Nirgal exclaimed. Coyote snorted. Theres no surprising you, is there boy! Well, Ill tell you something you didnt know; that was ice asteroid 2089 C, and did you see how it blew up there at the end? That was a first. They did that on purpose. Blowing them up when they enter the atmosphere allows them to use bigger asteroids without endangering the surface. And that was my idea! I told them to do that myself, I put an anonymous suggestion in the AI at Gregs Place when I was in there messing with their comm system, and they jumped on it. Theyre going to do them that way all the time now. Therell be one or two every season like that, theyre thickening the atmosphere pretty fast. Look at how the stars are trembling. They used to do that all the nights of Earth. Ah, boy Itll happen here all the time too, someday. Air you can breathe like a bird in the sky. Maybe that will help us to change the order of things on this world. You can never tell about things like that. Nirgal closed his eyes, and saw red afterimages of the ice meteor score his eyelids. Meteors like white fireworks, holes boring straight into the mantle, volcanoes He turned and saw the Coyote hopping over the plain, small and thin, his helmet strangely large on him as if he were a mutant or a shaman wearing a sacred animal head, doing a changeling dance over the sand. This was the Coyote, no doubt about it. His father! Then they had circumnavigated the world, albeit high in the southern hemisphere. The polar cap rose over the horizon and grew, until they were under the overhang of ice, which did not seem as tall as it had at the start of the journey. They circled the ice to home, and drove into the hangar, and got out of the little boulder car that had become so well-known to Nirgal in the previous two weeks, and walked stiffly through the locks and back down the long tunnel into the dome, and suddenly they were among all the familiar faces, being hugged and cosseted and questioned. Nirgal shrank shyly from the attention, but there was no need, Coyote told all their stories for him, and he only had to laugh, and deny responsibility for what they had done. Glancing past his kin, he saw how small his little world really was; the dome was less than five kilometres across, and 250 metres high out over the lake. A small world. When the homecoming was over he walked out in the early morning glow, feeling the happy nip of the air and looking closely at the buildings and bamboo stands of the village, in its nest of hills and trees. It all looked so strange and small. Then he was out on the dunes and walking out to Hirokos place, with the gulls wheeling overhead, and he stopped frequently just to see things. He breathed in the chill kelp-and-salt scent of the beach; the intense familiarity of the scent triggered a million memories at once, and he knew he was home. But home had changed. Or he had. Between the attempt to save Simon and the trip with Coyote, he had become a youth apart from the rest; the distinguishing adventures that he had so longed for had come, and their only result was to exile him from his friends. Jackie and Dao hung together tighter than ever, and acted like a shield between him and all the younger sansei. Quickly Nirgal realised that he hadnt really wanted to be different after all. He only wanted to melt back into the closeness of his little pack, and be one with his siblings. But when he came among them they went silent, and Dao would lead them off, after the most awkward encounters imaginable. And he was left to return to the adults, who began to keep him with them in the afternoons, as a matter of course. Perhaps they meant to spare him more of his packs hard treatment, but it only had the effect of marking him even more. There was no cure for it. One day, walking the beach unhappily in the grey and pewter twilight of an autumn afternoon, it occurred to him that his childhood was gone. That was what this feeling was; he was something else now, neither adult nor child, a solitary being, a foreigner in his own country. The melancholy realisation had a peculiar pleasure to it. One day after lunch Jackie stayed behind with him and Hiroko, who had come in for the day to teach, and demanded to be included in her afternoon lesson. Why should you teach him and not me? No reason, Hiroko said impassively. Stay if you want. Get out your lectern and call up Thermal Engineering, page 1050. Well model Zygote Dome for example. Tell me what is the warmest point under the dome? Nirgal and Jackie attacked the problem, competing and yet side by side. He was so happy she was there that he could hardly remember the problem, and Jackie raised a finger before he had even organised his thinking about it. And she laughed at him, a bit scornful but also pleased. Through all these enormous changes in them both there remained in Jackie that capacity for infectious joy, that laughter from which it was so painful to be exiled Here is a question for next time, Hiroko said to them. All the names for Mars in the areophany are names given to it by Terrans. About half of them mean fire star in the languages they come from, but that is still a name from the outside. The question is, what is Marss own name for itself? Several weeks later Coyote came through again, which made Nirgal both happy and nervous. Coyote took a morning teaching the children, but fortunately he treated Nirgal the same as all the rest. Earth is in very bad shape, he told them as they worked on vacuum pumps from the liquid sodium tanks in the Rickover, and it will only get worse. That makes their control over Mars all the more dangerous to us. Well have to hide until we can cut ourselves free of them entirely, and then stand safe to the side while they descend into madness and chaos. You remember my words here, this is a prophecy as true as truth. That isnt what John Boone said, Jackie declared. She spent many of her evening hours exploring John Boones AI, and now she pulled out the box from her thigh pocket, and with only the briefest search for a passage, the friendly voice from the box was saying, Mars will never be truly safe until Earth is too. Coyote laughed raucously. Yes, well, John Boone was like that, wasnt he? But you note he is dead, while Im still here. Anyone can hide, Jackie said sharply. But John Boone got out there and led. Thats why Im a Boonean. Youre a Boone and a Boonean! Coyote exclaimed, teasing her. And Boonean algebra never did add up. But look here, girl, you have to understand your grandfather better than that if you want to call yourself a Boonean. You cant make John Boone into any kind of dogma and be true to what he was. I see other so-called Booneans out there doing just that, and it makes me laugh when it doesnt make me foam at the mouth. Why if John Boone were to meet you and talk to you for even just an hour, then at the end of that time he would be a Jackie-ist. And if he met Dao and talked to him, then he would become a Daoist, maybe even a Maoist. Thats just the way he was. And that was good you see, because what it did was put the responsibility for thinking back onto us. It forced us to make a contribution, because without that Boone couldnt operate. His point was not just that everyone can do it, but that everyone should do it. Including all the people on Earth, Jackie replied. Not another quick one! Coyote cried. Oh you girl, why dont you leave these boys of yours and marry me now, I got a kiss like this vacuum pump, here, come on, and he waved the pump at her and Jackie knocked it aside and shoved him back and ran, just for the fun of the chase. She was now the fastest runner in Zygote bar noneeven Nirgal with all his endurance could not sprint the way she didand the kids laughed at Coyote as he skipped after her; he was pretty swift himself for an ancient, and he turned and jinked and went after them all, growling and ending up at the bottom of a pile-on, crying, Oh my leg, oh, Im going to get you for thatyou boys are just jealous of me because Im going to steal your girl away, oh! Stop! Oh! This kind of teasing made Nirgal uncomfortable, and Hiroko didnt like it either. She told Coyote to stop, but he just laughed at her. Youre the one thats gone and made yourself a little incest camp, he said. What are you going to do, neuter them? He laughed at Hirokos dark expression. Youre going to have to farm them out soon, thats what youre going to have to do. And I might as well get some of them. Hiroko dismissed him, and soon after that he was off on a trip again. And the next time Hiroko taught, she took all the kids to the bathhouse and they got in the bath after her and sat on the slick tiles in the shallow end, soaking in the hot steamy water while Hiroko spoke. Nirgal sat next to Jackies long-limbed naked body which he knew so well, including all its dramatic changes of the past year, and he found that he was unable to look at her. His ancient naked mother said, You know how genetics works, Ive taught you that myself. And you know that many of you are half brothers and sisters, uncles and nieces and cousins and so forth. I am mother or grandmother to many of you, and so you should not mate and have children together. Its as simple as that, a very simple genetic law. She held up a palm, as if to say, This is our shared body. But all living things are filled with viriditas, she went on, the green force, patterning outward. And so it is normal that you will love each other, especially now that your bodies are blooming. There is nothing wrong with that, no matter what Coyote says. He is only joking in any case. And in one thing he is right; you will soon be meeting many other people your age, and they will eventually become mates and partners and co-parents with you, closer to you even than your tribe kin, whom you know too well to ever love as an other. We here are all pieces of your self; and true love is always for the other. Nirgal kept his eyes on his mothers, his gaze blank. Still he knew exactly when Jackie had brought her legs together, he had felt the minute change in temperature in the water swirling between them. And it seemed to him that his mother was wrong in some of what she had said. Although he knew Jackies body so well, she was still in most ways as distant as any fiery star, bright and imperious in the sky. She was the queen of their little band, and could crush him with a glance if she cared to, and did fairly often even though he had been studying her moods all his life. That was as much otherness as he cared to handle. And he loved her, he knew he did. But she didnt love him back, not in the same way. Nor did she love Dao in that way, he thought, at least not any more; which was a small comfort. It was Peter she watched in the way that he watched her. But Peter was away most of the time. So she loved no one in Zygote the way Nirgal loved her. Perhaps for her it was already as Hiroko had said, and Dao and Nirgal and the rest were simply too well known. Her brothers and sisters, no matter the genes involved. Then one day the sky fell in earnest. The whole highest part of the water ice sheet cracked away from the CO , collapsing through the mesh and into the lake and all over the beach and the surrounding dunes. Luckily it happened in the early morning when no one was down there, but in the village the first booms and cracks were explosively loud, and everyone rushed to their windows and saw most of the fall: the giant white sections of ice dropping like bombs or spinning down like skipped plates, and then the whole surface of the lake exploding and spilling out over the dunes. People came charging out of their rooms, and in the noise and panic Hiroko and Maya herded the kids into the school, which had a discrete air system. When a few minutes had passed and it appeared that the dome itself was going to hold, Peter and Michel and Nadia ran off through the debris, dodging and jumping over the shattered white plates, around the lake to the Rickover to make sure it was all right. If it werent it would be a deadly mission for the three of them, and mortal danger to everyone else. From the school window Nirgal could see the far shore of the lake, which was cluttered with icebergs. The air was aswirl with screaming gulls. The three figures twisted along the narrow high path just under the edge of the dome, and disappeared into the Rickover. Jackie chewed her knuckles in fear. Soon they phoned back a report: all was well. The ice over the reactor was supported by a particularly close-meshed framework, and it had held. So they were safe, for the moment. But over the next couple of days, spent in the village in an unhappy state of tension, an investigation into the cause of the fall revealed that the whole mass of dry ice over them had sagged ever so slightly, cracking the layer of water ice and sending it down through the mesh. Sublimation on the surface of the cap was apparently speeding up to a remarkable degree. During the next week the icebergs in the lake slowly melted, but the plates scattered over the dunes were still there, melting ever so slowly. The youngsters werent allowed on the beach any more: it wasnt clear how stable the remainder of the ice layer was. The tenth night after the collapse they had a village meeting in the dining hall, all two hundred of them. Nirgal looked around at them, at his little tribe; the sansei looked frightened, the nisei defiant, the issei stunned. The old ones had lived in Zygote for fourteen Martian years, and no doubt it was hard for them to remember any other life; impossible for the children, who had never known anything else. It did not need saying that they would not surrender themselves to the surface world. And yet the dome was becoming untenable, and they were too large a group to impose themselves on any of the other hidden sanctuaries. Splitting up would solve that problem, but it wasnt a happy solution. It took an hours talk to lay all this out. We could try Vishniac, Michel said. Its big, and theyd welcome us. But it was the Bogdanovists home, not theirs. This was the message on the faces of the old ones. Suddenly it seemed to Nirgal that they were the most frightened of all. He said, You could move further back under the ice. Everyone stared at him. Melt a new dome, you mean, Hiroko said. Nirgal shrugged. Having said it, he realised he disliked the idea. But Nadia said, The cap is thicker back there. It will be a long time before it sublimes enough to trouble us. By that time everything will have changed. There was a silence, and then Hiroko said, Its a good idea. We can hold on here while a new dome is being melted, and move things over as space becomes available. It should only take a few months. Shikata ga nai, Maya said sardonically. Of course there were other choices. But she looked pleased at the prospect of a big new project, and so did Nadia. And the rest of them looked relieved that they had an option which kept them together, and hidden. The issei, Nirgal saw suddenly, were very frightened of exposure. He sat back, wondering at that, thinking of the open cities he had visited with Coyote. They used steam hoses powered by the Rickover to melt another tunnel to the hangar, and then a long tunnel under the cap, until the ice above was three hundred metres deep. Back there they began subliming a new round domed cavern, and digging a shallow lakebed for a new lake. Most of the CO gas was captured, refrigerated to the outside temperature, and released; the rest was broken down into oxygen and carbon, and stored for use. While the excavation went on they dug up the shallow runner roots of the big snow bamboos, and cantilevered them out of the ground and hauled them on their largest truck down the tunnel to the new cave, scraping leaves all the way. They disassembled the villages buildings, and relocated them. The robot bulldozer and trucks ran all hours of the day and night, scooping up the battered sand of the old dunes and carting it back down into the new cave; there was too much biomass in it (including Simon) to leave behind. In essence they were taking everything inside the shell of Zygote dome along with them. When they were done, the old cave was nothing but an empty bubble at the bottom of the polar cap, sandy ice above, icy sand below, the air in it nothing but the ambient Martian atmosphere, 170 millibars of mostly CO gas, at 240 Kelvin. Thin poison. One day Nirgal went back with Peter to take a look at the old place. It was shocking to see the only home he had ever had, reduced to such a shellthe ice all cracked above, the sand all torn up, the raw root holes of the village gaping like horrible wounds, the lakebed scraped clear even of its algae. It looked small and ramshackle, some desperate animals den. Moles in a hole, Coyote had said. Hiding from vultures. Lets get out of here, Peter said sadly, and they walked together down the long bare poorly-lit tunnel to the new dome, stepping along the concrete road Nadia had built, now all ratcheted with treadmarks. They laid out the new dome in a new pattern, with the village away from the tunnel lock, near an escape tunnel that ran far under the ice, to an exit in upper Chasma Australe. The greenhouses were set nearer the perimeter lights, and the dune crests were higher than before, and the weather equipment was set right next to the Rickover. There were any number of small improvements of that sort, which kept it from being a replica of their old home. And every day they were so busy with the work of constructing it that there was no time to think much about the change; morning classes in the schoolhouse had been cancelled since the fall, and now the kids were merely a rotating work crew, assigned to whoever needed help the most on that particular day. Sometimes the adult overseeing them would try to make their work into a lessonHiroko and Nadia were especially good at thisbut they had little time to spare, and only added an explanatory sentence to instructions that were too simple to need explanation in any case: tightening wall modules with alien wrenches, carrying around planters and algae jars in the greenhouses, and so on. It was just workthey were part of the work force, which was too small for the task even so, despite the versatile robots that looked like rovers stripped of their exteriors. And running around, doing the work, Nirgal was for the most part happy. But once as he left the schoolhouse and saw the dining hall, rather than the big shoots of Cr?che Crescent, the sight brought him up short. His old familiar world was gone, gone forever. That was how time worked. It sent a pang through him that brought tears to his eyes, and he spent the rest of that day somewhat stunned and distant, as if always a step or two behind himself, watching everything that happened drained of emotion, detached as he had been after Simons death, exiled to the white world one step outside the green. There was nothing to indicate that he would ever come out of such a melancholy state, and how could he know if he ever would? All those days of his childhood were gone, along with Zygote itself, and they would never come back, and this day too would pass and disappear, this dome too slowly sublime away and crash in on itself. Nothing would last. So what was the point? For hours at a time this question plagued him, taking the taste and colour out of everything, and when Hiroko noticed how subdued he was, and asked him what was wrong, he simply asked her outright. There was that advantage to Hiroko; you could ask her anything, including the fundamental questions. Why do we do all this, Hiroko? When it all goes white no matter what? She stared at him, birdlike, her head cocked to one side. He thought he could see her affection for him in that cock of the head, but he wasnt sure; as he got older he felt he understood her (along with everyone else) less and less. She said, It is sad the old dome is gone, isnt it? But we must focus on what is coming. This too is viriditas. To concentrate not on what we have created, but what we will create. The dome was like a flower which wilts and falls, but contains the seed of a new plant, which grows and then there are new flowers and new seeds. The past is gone. Thinking about it will only make you melancholy. Why, I was a girl in Japan once, on Hokkaido Island! Yes, as young as you! And I cant tell you how far gone that is. But here we are now, you and me, surrounded by these plants and these people, and if you pay attention to them, and how you can make them increase and prosper, then the life comes back into things. You feel the kami inside all things, and that is all you need. This moment itself is all we ever live in. And the old days? She laughed at that. Youre growing up. Well, you must remember the old days from time to time. They were good ones, werent they? You had a happy childhood, that is a blessing. But so will these days be good. Take this moment right here, and ask yourself, What now is lacking? Hmmm? Coyote says that he wants you and Peter to go along with him on another trip. Maybe you should go and get out under the sky again, what do you say? So preparations for another trip with Coyote were made, and they continued to work on the new Zygote, informally rechristened Gamete. At night in the relocated dining hall the adults talked for a long time about their situation. Sax and Vlad and Ursula, among others, wanted back into the surface world. They couldnt do their real work properly in the hidden sanctuaries, they wanted back into the full flood of medical science, terraforming, construction. Well never be able to disguise ourselves, Hiroko said. No one can change their genomes. Its not our genomes we should change, but the records, Sax said. Thats what Spencer has done. Hes got his physical characteristics into a new record identity. And we did cosmetic surgery on his face, Vlad said. Yes, but it was minimal because of our age, right? We none of us look the same. Anyway, if you do something like what he did, we could take on new identities. Maya said, Did Spencer really get into all the records? Sax shrugged. He was left behind in Cairo, and had the chance to get into some of the ones being used now for security purposes. That has been enough. Id like to try something similar. Lets see what Coyote says about it. Hes not in any records at all, so he must know how he did it. Hes been hidden from the beginning, Hiroko said. Thats different. Yes, but he might have some ideas. We could just move into the demi-monde, Nadia pointed out, and stay off the records entirely. I think Id like to try that. Maya nodded. Night after night they talked these matters over. Well, a little change of appearance might be in order, you know Phyllis is back, we have to remember that. I still cant believe they survived. She must have nine lives. In any case we were on too many news shows. We have to take care. By day Gamete was slowly completed. But it never seemed right to Nirgal, no matter how much he tried to focus on the making of it. It wasnt his place. News came from another traveller that Coyote would be by soon. Nirgal felt his pulse quicken; to get back under the starry sky again, wandering by night in Coyotes boulder car, from sanctuary to sanctuary Jackie stared at him attentively as he talked about it to her. And that afternoon, after they were dismissed from the days work, she led him down to the tall new dunes and kissed him. When he recovered his wits he kissed back, and then they were kissing passionately, hugging each other hard and steaming all over each others faces. They knelt in the trough between two high dunes, under a pale thin fog, and then lay together in a cocoon made of their down coats, and kissed and touched each other, peeling down each others pants and creating a little envelope of their own warmth, huffing out steam and crackling the frost on the sand underneath their coats. All this without a word, merging in one great hot electric circuit, in defiance of Hiroko and all the world. Under the strands of her black hair grains of sand gleamed like jewels, as if minute ice flowers were contained within them. Glories inside every thing. When they were done they crawled up to glance over the dune crest, to make sure no one was coming their way, and then returned to their nest and pulled their clothes over them, for the warmth. They huddled together, kissing voluptuously and without haste. And Jackie prodded him in the chest with a finger and said, Now we belong to each other. Nirgal could only nod happily and kiss the long expanse of her throat, his face buried in her black hair. Now you belong to me, she said. He sincerely hoped it was true. It was how he had wanted it, for as long as he could remember. But that evening in the bathhouse Jackie sloshed across the pool, and caught up Dao and gave him a hug, body to body. She pulled back and stared at Nirgal with a blank expression, her dark eyes like holes in her face. Nirgal sat frozen in the shallows, feeling his torso stiffen as if preparing for a blow. His balls were still sore from coming in her; and there she stood draped against Dao, as she hadnt been in months, staring at him with a basilisk stare. The strangest sensation swept over himhe understood that this was a moment he would remember all his life, a pivotal moment, right there in the steamy comfortable bath, under the osprey eye of the statuesque Maya, whom Jackie hated with a fine hate, who was now watching the three of them closely, suspecting something. So this was how it was. Jackie and Nirgal might belong to each other, and he certainly belonged to herbut her idea of belonging was not his. The shock of this knocked his breath out, it was a kind of collapse of the roof of his understanding of things. He looked at her, stunned, hurt, becoming angryshe hugged Dao all the moreand he understood. She had collected both of them. Yes, it made sense, it was certain; and Reull and Steve and Frantz were all equally devoted to herperhaps that was just a holdover from her rule over the little band, but perhaps not. Perhaps she had collected all of them. And clearly, now that Nirgal was a kind of foreigner to them, she was more comfortable with Dao. So he was an exile in his own home, and in his own loves heart. If she had a heart! He didnt know if any of these impressions were true, didnt know how to find out. He wasnt sure he wanted to find out. He got out of the bath and retreated into the mens room, feeling Jackies gaze boring into his back, and Mayas too. In the mens room he caught sight of an unfamiliar face in one of the mirrors. He stopped short and recognised it as his own face, twisted with distress. He approached the mirror slowly, feeling the strange sensation of momentousness sweep through him again. He stared at the face in the mirror, stared and stared; it came to him that he was not the centre of the universe, nor its only consciousness, but a person like all the rest, seen from the outside by others, the way he saw others when he looked at them. And this strange Nirgal-in-the-mirror was an arresting black-haired brown-eyed boy, intense and compelling, a near twin to Jackie, with thick black eyebrows and a a look. He didnt want to know any of this. But he felt the power burning at his fingertips, and recalled how people looked at him, and understood that for Jackie he might represent the same sort of dangerous power that she did for himwhich would explain her consorting with Dao, as an attempt to hold him off, to hold a balance, to assert her power. To show they were a matched pairand a match. And all of a sudden the tension left his torso, and he shuddered, and then grinned, lopsidedly. They did indeed belong to each other. But he was still himself. So when Coyote showed up and came by to ask Nirgal to join him on another trip, he agreed instantly, very thankful for the opportunity. The flash of anger on Jackies face when she heard the news was painful to see; but another part of him exulted at his otherness, at his ability to escape her, or at least to get some distance. Match or not, he needed it. A few evenings later he and Coyote and Peter and Michel drove away from the huge mass of the polar cap, into the broken land, black under its blanket of stars. Nirgal looked back at the luminous white cliff with a tumultuous mix of feelings; but chief among them was relief. Back there they would burrow ever deeper under the ice, it seemed, until they lived in a dome under the South Polewhile the red world spun through the cosmos, wild among the stars. Suddenly he understood that he would never again live under the dome, never return to it except for short visits; this was not a matter of choice, but simply the way it was going to happen. His fate, or destiny. He could feel it like a red rock in his hand. Henceforth he would be homelessunless it be that the whole planet someday became his home, every crater and canyon known to him, every plant, every rock, every personeverything, in the green world and the white. But that (remembering the storm seen from the edge of Promethei Rupes) was a task to occupy many lives. He would have to start learning. PART TWO The Ambassador (#ulink_90718d72-f0fe-5fef-bfbe-93848f595835) Asteroids with elliptical orbits that cross inside the orbit of Mars are called Amor asteroids. (If they cross inside the orbit of Earth they are called Trojans.) In 2088 the Amor asteroid known as 2034 B crossed the path of Mars some eighteen million kilometres behind the planet, and a clutch of robotic landing vehicles originating from Luna docked with it shortly thereafter. 2034 B was a rough ball about five kilometres in diameter, with a mass of about fifteen billion tons. As the rockets touched down, the asteroid became New Clarke. Quickly the change became obvious. Some landers sank to the dusty surface of the asteroid and began drilling, excavating, stamping, sorting, conveying. A nuclear reactor power plant switched on, and fuel rods moved into position. Elsewhere ovens fired, and robot stokers prepared to shovel. On other landers payload bays opened, and robot mechanisms spidered out onto the surface and anchored themselves to the irregular planes of rock. Tunnellers bored in. Dust flew off into the space around the asteroid, and fell back down or escaped forever. Landers extended pipes and tubes into each other. The asteroids rock was carbonaceous chrondrite, with a good percentage of water-ice shot through it in veins and bubbles. Soon the linked collection of factories in the landers began to produce a variety of carbon-based materials, and some composites. Heavy water, one part in every six thousand of the water-ice in the asteroid, was separated out. Deuterium was made from the heavy water. Parts were made from the carbon composites, and other parts, brought along in another payload, were brought together with the new ones in factories. New robots appeared, made mostly of Clarke itself. And so the number of machines grew, as computers on the landers directed the creation of an entire industrial complex. After that the process was quite simple, for many years. The principal factory on New Clarke made a cable of carbon nanotube filaments. The nanotubes were made of carbon atoms linked in chains so that the bonds holding them together were as strong as any that humans could manufacture. The filaments were only a few score metres long, but were bundled in clusters with their ends overlapping, and then the bundles were bundled, until the cable was nine metres in diameter. The factories could create the filaments and bundle them at speeds that allowed them to extrude the cable at a rate of about four hundred metres an hour, ten kilometres a day, for hour after hour, day after day, year after year. While this thin strand of bundled carbon spun out into space, robots on another facet of the asteroid were constructing a mass driver, an engine that would use the deuterium from the indigenous water to fire crushed rock away from the asteroid at speeds of two hundred kilometres a second. Around the asteroid smaller engines and conventional rockets were also being constructed and stocked with fuels, waiting for the time when they would fire, and perform the work of attitude jets. Other factories constructed long-wheeled vehicles capable of running back and forth on the growing cable, and as the cable continued to appear out of the planet, small rocket jets and other machinery were attached to it. The mass driver fired. The asteroid began to move into a new orbit. Years passed. The asteroids new orbit intersected the orbit of Mars such that the asteroid came within ten thousand kilometres of Mars, and the collection of rockets on the asteroid fired in a way that allowed the gravity of Mars to capture it, in an orbit at first highly elliptical. The jets continued to fire off and on, regularising the orbit. The cable continued to extrude. More years passed. A little over a decade after the landers had first touched down, the cable was approximately thirty thousand kilometres long. The asteroids mass was about eight billion tons, the cables mass was about seven billion. The asteroid was in an elliptical orbit with a periapsis of around fifty thousand kilometres. But now all the rockets and mass drivers on both New Clarke and the cable itself began to fire, some continuously but most in spurts. One of the most powerful computers ever made sat in one of the payload bays, co-ordinating the data from sensors and determining which rockets should fire when. The cable, at this time pointing away from Mars, began to swing around toward it, as in the pivoting of some delicate part of a timepiece. The asteroids orbit became smaller and more regular. More rockets landed on New Clarke for the first time since that first touchdown, and robots in them began the construction of a spaceport. The tip of the cable began to descend toward Mars. Here the calculus employed by the computer soared off into an almost metaphysical complexity, and the gravitational dance of asteroid and cable with the planet became ever more precise, moving to a music that was in a permanent ritard, so that as the great cable grew closer to its proper position, its movements became slower and slower. If anyone had been able to see the full extent of this spectacle, it might have seemed like some spectacular physical demonstration of Zenos paradox, in which the racer gets closer to the finish line by halving distances but no one ever saw the full spectacle, for no witnesses had the senses necessary. Proportionally the cable was far thinner than a human hairif it had been reduced to a hairs diameter, it would still have been hundreds of kilometres longand so it was only visible for short portions of its entire length. Perhaps one might say that the computer guiding it in had the fullest sensation of it. For observers down on the surface of Mars, in the town of Sheffield, on the volcano Pavonis Mons (Peacock Mountain), the cable made its first appearance as a very small rocket descending with a very thin leader line attached to it; something like a bright lure and a thin fishing line, being trawled by some gods in the next universe up. From this ocean bottom perspective the cable itself followed its leader line down into the massive concrete bunker east of Sheffield with an aching slowness, until most humans simply stopped paying attention to the vertical black stroke in the upper atmosphere. But the day came when the bottom of the cable, firing jets to hold its position in the gusty winds, dropped down into the hole in the roof of the concrete bunker, and settled into its collar. Now the cable below the areosynchronous point was being pulled down by Marss gravity; the part above the areosynchronous point was trying to follow New Clarke in centrifugal flight away from the planet; and the carbon filaments of the cable held the tension, and the whole apparatus rotated at the same speed as the planet, standing above Pavonis Mons in an oscillating vibration which allowed it to dodge Deimos, controlled still by the computer on New Clarke, and the long battery of rockets deployed on the carbon strand. The elevator was back. Cars were lifted up one side of the cable from Pavonis, and other cars were let down from New Clarke, providing a counterweight so that the energy needed for both operations was greatly lessened. Spaceships made their approach to the New Clarke spaceport, and when they left they were given a slingshot departure. Marss gravity well was therefore substantially mitigated, and all its human intercourse with Earth and the rest of the solar system made less expensive. It was as if an umbilical cord had been retied. He was in the middle of a perfectly ordinary life when they drafted him and sent him to Mars. The summons came in the form of a fax which appeared out of his phone, in the apartment Art Randolph had rented just the month before, after he and his wife had decided on a trial separation. The fax was brief: Dear Arthur Randolph: William Fort invites you to attend a private seminar. A plane will leave San Francisco airport at9a.m., February 22nd 2101. Art stared at the paper in amazement. William Fort was the founder of Praxis, the transnational that had acquired Arts company some years before. Fort was very old, and now his position in the transnat was said to be some kind of semi-retired emeritus thing. But he still held private seminars, which were notorious although there was very little hard information about them. It was said that he invited people from all subsidiaries of the transnat; that they gathered in San Francisco, and were flown away by private jet to somewhere secret. No one knew what went on there. People who attended were usually transferred afterward, and if not, they kept their mouths shut in a way that gave one pause. So it was a mystery. Art was surprised to be invited, apprehensive but basically pleased. Before its acquisition he had been the co-founder and technical director of a small company called Dumpmines, which was in the business of digging up and processing old landfills, recovering the valuable materials that had been thrown away in a more wasteful age. It had been a surprise when Praxis had acquired them, a very pleasant surprise, as everyone in Dumpmines went from employment in a small firm, to apprentice membership in one of the richest organisations in the worldpaid in its shares, voting on its policy, free to use all its resources. It was like being knighted. Art certainly had been pleased, and so had his wife, although she had been elegiac as well. She herself had been hired by Mitsubishis synthesis management, and the big transnationals, she said, were like separate worlds. With the two of them working for different ones they were inevitably going to drift apart, even more than they already had. Neither of them needed the other any more to obtain longevity treatments, which transnats provided much more reliably than the government. And so they were like people on different ships, she said, sailing out of San Francisco Bay in different directions. Like ships, in fact, passing in the night. It had seemed to Art that they might have been able to commute between ships, if his wife had not been so interested in one of the other passengers on hers, a vice-chairman of Mitsubishi in charge of East Pacific development. But Art had been quickly caught up in Praxiss arbitration programme, travelling frequently to take classes or arbitrate in disputes between various small Praxis subsidiaries involved in resource recovery, and when he was in San Francisco, Sharon was very seldom at home. Their ships were moving out of hailing distance, she had said, and he had become too demoralised to contest the point, and had moved out soon afterward, on her suggestion. Kicked out, one could have said. Now he rubbed a swarthy unshaven jaw, re-reading the fax for the fourth time. He was a big man, powerfully built but with a tendency to slouch uncouth his wife had called him, although his secretary at Dumpmines used the term bearlike, which he preferred. Indeed he had the somewhat clumsy and shambling appearance of a bear, also its surprising quickness and power. He had been a fullback at the University of Washington, a fullback slow of foot but decisive in direction, and very difficult to bring down. Bear Man, they had called him. Tackle him at your peril. He had studied engineering, and afterward worked in the oilfields of Iran and Georgia, devising a number of innovations for extracting oil from extremely marginal shale. He had got a masters degree from Tehran University while doing this work, and then had moved to California and joined a friend who was forming a company that made deep-sea diving equipment used in offshore oil drilling, an enterprise which was moving out into ever-deeper water as more accessible supplies were exhausted. Once again Art had invented a number of improvements in both diving gear and underwater drills, but a couple of years spent in compression chambers and on the continental shelf had been enough for him, and he had sold his shares to his partner and moved on again. In quick succession he had started a cold environments habitat construction company, worked for a solar panel firm, and built rocket gantries. Each job had been fine, but as time passed he had found that what really interested him were not the technical problems but the human ones. He became more and more involved with project management, and then got into arbitration; he liked jumping into arguments and solving them to everyones mutual satisfaction. It was engineering of a different kind, more engrossing and fulfilling than the mechanical stuff, and more difficult. Several of the companies he worked for in those years were part of transnationals, and he got embroiled in interface arbitration not only between his companies and others in the transnats, but also in more distant disputes requiring some kind of third party arbitration. Social engineering, he called it, and found it fascinating. So when starting Dumpmines he had taken the technical directorship, and had done some good work on their SuperRathjes, the giant robot vehicles that did the extraction and sorting at the landfills; but more than ever before he involved himself in labour disputes and the like. This trend in his career had accelerated after the acquisition by Praxis. And on the days when work like that went well, he always went home knowing that he should have been a judge, or a diplomat. Yesat heart he was a diplomat. Which made it embarrassing that he had not been able to negotiate a successful outcome to his own marriage. And no doubt the break-up was well-known to Fort, or whoever had invited him to this seminar. It was even possible that they had bugged his old apartment, and heard the unhappy mess of his and Susans final months together, which wouldnt have been flattering to either of them. He cringed at the thought, still rubbing his rough jaw, and drifted toward the bathroom and turned on the portable hot water heater. The face in the mirror looked mildly stunned. Unshaven, fifty, separated, mis-employed for most of his life, just beginning at his true callinghe was not the kind of person that he imagined got faxes from William Fort. His wife or ex-wife-to-be called, and she was likewise incredulous. It must be a mistake, she said when Art told her about it. She had called about one of her camera lenses, now missing; she suspected that Art had taken it when he moved out. Ill look for it, Art said. He went over to the closet to look in his two suitcases, still unpacked. He knew the lens was not in them, but he rooted loudly through them both anyway. Sharon would know if he tried to fake it. While he searched she continued to talk over the phone, her voice echoing tinnily through the empty apartment. It just shows how weird that Fort is. Youll go to some Shangri-La and hell be using kleenex boxes for shoes and talking Japanese, and youll be sorting his trash and learning to levitate and Ill never see you again. Did you find it? No. Its not here. When they had separated they had divided their joint possessions: Sharon had taken their apartment, the entertainment centre, the desktop array, the lectern, the cameras, the plants, the bed, and all the rest of the furniture; Art had taken the teflon frying pan. Not one of his best arbitrations. But it meant he now had very few places to search for the lens. Sharon could make a single sigh into a comprehensive accusation. Theyll teach you Japanese, and well never see you again. What could William Fort want with you? Marriage counselling? Art said. Many of the rumours about Forts seminars turned out to be true, which Art found amazing. At San Francisco International he got on a big powerful private jet with six other men and women, and after takeoff the jets windows, apparently double polarised, went black, and the door to the cockpit was closed. Two of Arts fellow passengers played at orienteering, and after the jet made several gentle banks left and right, they agreed that they were headed some direction between southwest and north. The seven of them shared information: they were all technical managers or arbitrators from the vast network of Praxis companies. They had flown in to San Francisco from all over the world. Some seemed excited to be invited to meet the transnationals reclusive founder; others were apprehensive. Their flight lasted six hours, and the orienteers spent the descent plotting the outermost limit of their location, a circle that encompassed Juneau, Hawaii, Mexico City and Detroit, although it could have been larger, as Art pointed out, if they were in one of the new air-to-space jets; perhaps half the Earth or more. When the jet landed and stopped, they were led through a miniature jetway into a big van with blackened windows, and a windowless barrier between them and the drivers seat. Their doors were locked from the outside. They were driven for half an hour. Then the van stopped and they were let out by their driver, an elderly man wearing shorts and a T-shirt advertising Bali. They blinked in the sunlight. They were not in Bali. They were in a small asphalt parking lot surrounded by eucalyptus trees, at the bottom of a narrow coastal valley. An ocean or very big lake lay to the west about a mile, just a small wedge of it in sight. A creek drained the valley, and ran into a lagoon behind a beach. The valleys side walls were covered with dry grass on the south side, cactus on the north; the ridges above were dry brown rock. Baja? one of the orienteers guessed. Ecuador? Australia? San Luis Obispo? Art said. Their driver led them on foot down a narrow road to a small compound, composed of seven two-storey wooden buildings, nestled among seacoast pines at the bottom of the valley. Two buildings by the creek were residences, and after they dropped their bags in assigned rooms in these buildings, the driver led them to a dining room in another building, where half a dozen kitchen workers, all quite elderly, fed them a simple meal of salad and stew. After that they were taken back to the residences, and left on their own. They gathered in a central chamber around a woodburning stove. It was warm outside, and there was no fire in the stove. Fort is a hundred and twelve, the orienteer named Sam said. And the treatments havent worked on his brain. They never do, said Max, the other orienteer. They discussed Fort for a while. All of them had heard things, for William Fort was one of the great success stories in the history of medicine, their centurys Pasteur: the man who beat cancer, as the tabloids inaccurately put it. The man who beat the common cold. He had founded Praxis at the age of twenty-four, to market several breakthrough innovations in antivirals, and he had been a multi-billionaire by the time he was twenty-seven. After that he had occupied his time by expanding Praxis into one of the worlds biggest transnationals. Eighty continuous years of metastasising, as Sam put it. While mutating personally into a kind of ultra-Howard Hughes, or so it was said, growing more and more powerful, until like a black hole he had disappeared completely inside the event horizon of his own power. I just hope it doesnt get too weird, Max said. The other attendantsSally, Amy, Elizabeth and Georgewere more optimistic. But all of them were apprehensive at their peculiar welcome, or lack of one, and when no one came to visit them through the rest of that evening, they retired to their rooms looking concerned. Art slept well as always, and at dawn he woke to the low hoot of an owl. The creek burbled below his window. It was a grey dawn, the air filled with the fog that nourished the sea pines. A tocking sound came from somewhere in the compound. He dressed and went out. Everything was soaking wet. Down on narrow flat terraces below the buildings were rows of lettuce, and rows of apple trees so pruned and tied to frameworks that they were no more than fan-shaped bushes. Colours were seeping into things when Art came to the bottom of the little farm, over the lagoon. There a lawn lay spread like a carpet under a big old oak tree. Art walked over to the tree, feeling drawn to it. He touched its rough, fissured bark. Then he heard voices; coming up a path by the lagoon were a line of people, wearing black wetsuits and carrying surfboards, or long folded birdsuits. As they passed he recognised the faces of the previous nights kitchen crew, and also their driver. The driver waved and continued up the path. Art walked down it to the lagoon. The low sound of waves mumbled through the salty air, and birds swam in the reeds. After a while Art went back up the trail, and in the compounds dining room he found the elderly workers back in the kitchen, flipping pancakes. After Art and the rest of the guests had eaten, yesterdays driver led them upstairs to a large meeting room. They sat on couches arranged in a square. Big picture windows in all four walls let in a lot of the mornings grey light. The driver sat on a chair between two couches. Im William Fort, he said. Im glad youre all here. He was, on closer inspection, a strange-looking old man; his face was lined as if by a hundred years of anxiety, but the expression it currently displayed was serene and detached. A chimp, Art thought, with a past in lab experimentation, now studying Zen. Or simply a very old surfer or hang-glider (which had he been carrying?), weathered, bald, round-faced, snub-nosed. Now taking them in one by one. Sam and Max, who had ignored him as driver and cook, were looking uncomfortable, but he didnt seem to notice. One index, he said, for measuring how full the world is of humans and their activities, is the percent appropriation of the net product of land-based photosynthesis. Sam and Max nodded as if this were the usual way to start a meeting. Can I take notes? Art asked. Please, Fort said. He gestured at the coffee table in the middle of the square of couches, which was covered with papers and lecterns. I want to play some games later, so theres lecterns and workpads, whatever you like. Most of them had brought their own lecterns, and there was a short silent scramble as they got them out and running. While they were at it Fort stood up and began walking in a circle behind their couches, making a revolution every few sentences. We now use about eighty percent of the net primary product of land-based photosynthesis, he said. One hundred percent is probably impossible to reach, and our long range carrying capacity has been estimated to be thirty percent, so we are massively overshot, as they say. We have been liquidating our natural capital as if it were disposable income, and are nearing depletion of certain capital stocks, like oil, wood, soil, metals, fresh water, fish, and animals. This makes continued economic expansion difficult. Difficult! Art wrote. Continued? We have to continue, Fort said, with a piercing glance at Art, who unobtrusively sheltered his lectern with his arm. Continuous expansion is a fundamental tenet of economics. Therefore one of the fundamentals of the universe itself. Because everything is economics. Physics is cosmic economics, biology is cellular economics, the humanities are social economics, psychology is mental economics, and so on. His listeners nodded unhappily. So everything is expanding. But it cant happen in contradiction to the law of conservation of matter-energy. No matter how efficient your throughput is, you cant get an output larger than the input. Art wrote on his note page, Output larger than inputeverything economicsnatural capitalMassively Overshot. In response to this situation, a group here in Praxis has been working on what we call full world economics. Shouldnt that be overfull world? Art asked. Fort didnt appear to hear him. Now as Daly said, manmade capital and natural capital are not substitutable. This is obvious, but since most economists still say they are substitutable, it has to be insisted on. Put simply, you cant substitute more sawmills for fewer forests. If youre building a house you can juggle the number of power saws and carpenters, which means theyre substitutable, but you cant build it with half the amount of lumber, no matter how many saws or carpenters you have. Try it and you have a house of air. And thats where we live now. Art shook his head and looked down at his lectern page, which he had filled again. Before clicking to a new one he read it: Resources and capital non-substitutablepower saws/carpenterslumberhouse of air. Fort was looking out the west window, down to the beach. A few minutes passed, and he did not go on. Excuse me? Sam said. Did you say natural capital? Fort jerked, turned around to look at Sam. Yes? I thought capital was by definition manmade. The produced means of production, we were taught to define it. Yes. But in a capitalist world, the word capital has taken on more and more uses. People talk about human capital for instance, which is what labour accumulates through education and work experience. Human capital differs from the classic kind in that you cant inherit it, and it can only be rented, not bought or sold. Unless you count slavery, Art said. Forts forehead wrinkled. This concept of natural capital actually resembles the traditional definition more than human capital. It can be owned and bequeathed, and divided into renewable and nonrenewable, marketed and nonmarketed. But if everything is capital of one sort or another, Amy said, you can see why people would think that one kind was substitutable for another kind. If you improve your manmade capital to use less natural capital, isnt that a substitution? Fort shook his head. Thats efficiency. Capital is a quantity of input, and efficiency is a ratio of output to input. No matter how efficient capital is, it cant make something out of nothing. New energy sources Max suggested. But we cant make soil out of electricity. Fusion power and self-replicating machinery have given us enormous amounts of power, but we have to have basic stocks to apply that power to. And thats where we run into a limit for which there are no substitutions possible. Fort stared at them all, still displaying that primate calm that Art had noted at the beginning. Art glanced at his lectern screen. Natural capital human capital traditional capital energy vs. matter electric soil no substitutes please He grimaced and clicked to a new page. Fort said, Unfortunately, most economists are still working within the empty world model of economics. The full world model seems obvious, Sally said. Its just common sense. Why would any economist ignore it? Fort shrugged, made another silent circumnavigation of the room. Arts neck was getting tired. We understand the world through paradigms. The change from empty world economics to full world economics is a major paradigm shift. Max Planck once said that a new paradigm takes over not when it convinces its opponents, but when its opponents eventually die. And now they arent dying, Art said. Fort nodded. The treatments are keeping people around. And a lot of them have tenure. Sally looked disgusted. Then theyll have to learn to change their minds, wont they. Fort stared at her. Well try that right now. In theory at least. I want you to invent full world economic strategies. Its a game I play. If you plug your lecterns into the table, I can give you the starting data. They all leaned forward and plugged into the table. The first game Fort wanted to play involved estimating maximum sustainable human populations. Doesnt that depend on assumptions about lifestyle? Sam asked. Well make a whole range of assumptions. He wasnt kidding. They went from scenarios in which Earths every acre of arable land was farmed with maximum efficiency, to scenarios involving a return to hunting and gathering; from universal conspicuous consumption, to universal subsistence diets. Their lecterns set the initial conditions and then they tapped away, looking bored or nervous or impatient or absorbed, using formulas provided by the table, or else supplying some of their own. It occupied them until lunch, and then all afternoon. Art had always enjoyed games, and he and Amy always finished well ahead of the others. Their results for a maximum sustainable population ranged from one hundred million (the immortal tiger model, as Fort called it) to thirty billion (the ant farm model). Thats a big range, Sam noted. Fort nodded, and eyed them patiently. But if you look only at models with the most realistic conditions, Art said, you usually get between three and eight billion. And the current population is about twelve billion, Fort said. So, say were overshot. Now what do we do about that? Weve got companies to run, after all. Business isnt going to stop because theres too many people. Full world economics isnt the end of economics, its just the end of business as usual. I want Praxis to be ahead of the curve on this. So. Its low tide, and Im going back out. Youre welcome to join me. Tomorrow well play a game called Overfull. With that he left the room, and they were on their own. They went back to their rooms, and then, as it was close to dinner time, to the dining hall. Fort was not there, but several of his elderly associates from the night before were; and joining them tonight was a crowd of young men and women, all of them lean, bright-faced, healthy-looking. They looked like a track club or a swim team, and more than half were women. Sam and Maxs eyebrows shot up and down in a simple Morse code, spelling Ah ha! Ah ha! The young men and women ignored that and served them dinner, then returned to the kitchen. Art ate quickly, wondering if Sam and Max were correct in their suppositions. Then he took his plate into the kitchen and started to help at the dishwasher, and said to one of the young women, What brings you here? Its a kind of scholarship programme, she said. Her name was Joyce. Were all apprentices who joined Praxis last year, and we were selected to come here for classes. Were you by chance working on full world economics today? No, volleyball. Art went back outside, wishing he had got selected to their programme rather than his. He wondered if there was some big hot tub facility, down there overlooking the ocean. It did not seem impossible; the ocean here was cool, and if everything was economics, it could be seen as an investment. Maintaining the human infrastructure, so to speak. Back in the residence, his fellow guests were talking the day over. I hate this kind of stuff, said Sam. Were stuck with it, Max said gloomily. Its join a cult or lose your job. The others were not so pessimistic. Maybe hes just lonely, Amy suggested. Sam and Max rolled their eyes and glanced toward the kitchen. Maybe he always wanted to be a teacher, Sally said. Maybe he wants to keep Praxis growing ten percent per year, George said, full world or not. Sam and Max nodded at this, and Elizabeth looked annoyed. Maybe he wants to save the world! she said. Right, Sam said, and Max and George snickered. Maybe hes got this room bugged, Art said, which cut short the conversation like a guillotine. The days that followed were much like the first one. They sat in the conference room, and Fort circled them and talked through the mornings, sometimes coherently, sometimes not. One morning he spent three hours talking about feudalismhow it was the clearest political expression of primate dominance dynamics, how it had never really gone away, how transnational capitalism was feudalism writ large, how the aristocracy of the world had to figure out how to subsume capitalist growth within the steady-state stability of the feudal model. Another morning he talked about a caloric theory of value called eco-economics, apparently first worked out by early settlers on Mars; Sam and Max rolled their eyes at that news, while Fort droned on about Taneev and Tokareva equations, scribbling illegibly on a drawing board in the corner. But this pattern didnt last, because a few days after their arrival a big swell came in from the south, and Fort cancelled their meetings and spent all his time surfing or (it turned out he did both) skimming over the waves in a birdsuit, which was a light broad-winged bodysuit, a flexible fly-by-wire hang-glider that translated the proper motions into successful flight. Most of the young scholarship winners joined him in the air, swooping around like Icaruses, and then dropping in and planing swiftly over the cushions of air before every breaking wave, air surfing just like the pelicans who had invented the sport. Art went out and thrashed around on a body board, enjoying the water which was chill, but not so much as to absolutely require a wetsuit. He hung out near the break that Joyce surfed, and chatted with her between sets, and found out that the other ancient kitchen workers were good friends of Forts, veterans of the first years of Praxiss rise to prominence. The young scholars referred to them as the Eighteen Immortals. Some of the Eighteen were based at the camp, while others dropped by for a kind of ongoing reunion, conferring about problems, advising the current Praxis leadership on policy, running seminars and classes, and playing in the waves. Those who didnt care for the water worked in the gardens. Art inspected the gardeners closely as he hiked back up to the compound. They worked in something resembling slow motion, talking to each other all the while. Currently the main task appeared to be harvesting the tortured apple bushes. The south swell subsided, and Fort reconvened Arts group. One day the topic was Full World Business Opportunities, and Art began to see why he and his six fellows might have been chosen to attend: Amy and George worked in contraception, Sam and Max in industrial design, Sally and Elizabeth in agricultural technology, and he himself in resource recovery. They all worked in full world businesses already, and in the afternoons games they proved fairly good at designing new ones. Another day Fort proposed a game in which they solved the full world problem by returning to an empty world. They were to suppose the release of a plague vector which would kill everyone in the world who had not had the gerontological treatment. What would the pros and cons of such an action be? The group stared at their lecterns, nonplussed. Elizabeth declared that she wouldnt play a game based on such a monstrous idea. It is a monstrous idea, Fort agreed. But that doesnt make it impossible. I hear things, you see. Conversations at certain levels. Among the leadership of the big transnationals, for instance, there are discussions. Arguments. You hear all kinds of ideas put out quite seriously, including some like this one. Everyone deplores them, and the subject changes. But no one claims that they are technically impossible. And some seem to think that they would solve certain problems that otherwise are unsolvable. The group considered this thought unhappily. Art suggested that agricultural workers would be in short supply. Fort was looking out at the ocean. Thats the fundamental problem with a collapse, he said thoughtfully. Once you start one, its hard to pick a point at which one can confidently say it will stop. Lets go on. And they did, rather subdued. They played Population Reduction, and given the alternative they had just contemplated, went at it with a certain amount of intensity. Each of them took a turn being Emperor of the World, as Fort put it, and outlined their plan in some detail. When it was Arts turn, he said, I would give everyone alive a birthright which entitled them to parent three-quarters of a child. Everyone laughed, including Fort. But Art persevered. He explained that every pair of parents would thus have the right to bear a child and a half; after having one, they could either sell the right to the other half, or arrange to buy a half from some other couple, and go on to have a second child. Prices for half children would fluctuate in classic supply/demand fashion. Social consequences would be positive; people who wanted extra children would have to sacrifice for them, and those who didnt would have a source of income to help support the one they had. When populations dropped far enough, the World Emperor might consider changing the birthright to one child per person, which would be close to a demographic steady state; but given the longevity treatment, the three-quarters limit might have to be in effect for a long time. When Art was done outlining the proposal he looked up from the notes on his lectern. Everyone was staring at him. Three-quarters of a child, Fort repeated with a grin, and everyone laughed again. I like that. The laughter stopped. It would finally establish a monetary value for a human life, on the open market. So far the work done in that area has been sloppy at best. Lifetime incomes and expenditures and the like. He sighed and shook his head. The truth is, economists cook most of the numbers in the back room. Value isnt really an economic calculation. No, I like this. Lets see if we can estimate how much the price of a half child would be. Im sure there would be speculation, middlemen, a whole market apparatus. So they played the three-quarters game for the rest of the afternoon, getting right down to the commodities market and the plots for soap operas. When they finished, Fort invited them to a barbecue on the beach. They went back to their rooms and put on windbreakers, and hiked down the valley path into the glare of the sunset. The trail led around the south side of the lagoon, and there on the beach under a dune was a big bonfire, being tended by some of the young scholars. As they approached and sat on blankets around the fire, a dozen or so of the Eighteen Immortals landed out of the air, running across the sand and bringing their wings slowly down, then unzipping from their suits, and pulling wet hair out of their eyes, and talking among themselves about the wind. They helped each other out of the long wings, and stood in their bathing suits goose-pimpled and shivering: centenarian flyers with wiry arms outstretched to the fire, the women just as muscular as the men, their faces just as lined by a million years of squinting into the sun and laughing around the fire. Art watched the way Fort joked with his old friends, the easy way they towelled each other down. Secret lives of the rich and famous! They ate hotdogs and drank beer. The flyers went behind a dune and returned dressed in pants and sweatshirts, happy to stand by the fire a bit longer, combing out each others wet hair. It was a dusky twilight, and the evening onshore breeze was salty and cold. The big mass of orange flame danced in the wind, and light and shadow flickered over Forts simian visage. As Sam had said earlier, he didnt look a day over eighty. Now he sat among his seven guests, who were sticking together, and stared into the coals and started talking again. The people on the other side of the fire continued in their conversations, but Forts guests leaned closer to hear him over the wind and waves and crackling wood, looking a bit lost without their lecterns in their laps. You cant make people do things, Fort said. Its a matter of changing ourselves. Then people can see, and choose. In ecology they have what they call the founder principle. An island population is started by a small number of colonists, so it has only a small fraction of the genes of the parent population. Thats the first step towards speciation. Now I think we need a new species, economically speaking of course. And Praxis itself is the island. The way we structure it is a kind of engineering of the genes we came to it with. We have no obligation to abide by the rules as they stand now. We can make a new species. Not feudal. Weve got the collective ownership and decision-making, the policy of constructive action. Were working toward a corporate state similar to the civic state theyve made in Bologna. Thats a kind of democratic communist island, outperforming the capitalism around it, and constructing a better way to live. Do you think that kind of democracy is possible? Well have to try playing at that one of these afternoons. Whatever you say, Sam remarked, which got him a sharp glance from Fort. The following morning it was sunny and warm, and Fort decided the weather was too good to stay indoors. So they returned to the beach and set up under a big awning near the firepit, among coolers and hammocks strung between the awning poles. The ocean was a deep bright blue, the waves small but crisp, and often occupied by wetsuited surfers. Fort sat in one of the hammocks and lectured on selfishness and altruism, taking his examples from economics, sociobiology, and bioethics. He concluded that strictly speaking, there was no such thing as altruism. It was only selfishness taking the long view, acknowledging the real costs of behaviour and making sure to pay them in order not to run up any long-term debts. A very sound economic practice, in fact, if properly directed and applied. As he tried to prove by means of the selfish-altruism games they then played, like Prisoners Dilemma, or Tragedy of the Commons. The next day they met in the surf camp again, and after a meandering talk on voluntary simplicity, they played a game Fort called Marcus Aurelius. Art enjoyed this game as he did all the others, and he played it well. But each day his lectern notes were getting shorter; for this day they read, in their entirety, Consumption appetite artificial needs real needs real costs straw beds! Env. Impact = population x appetite x efficiency in tropics refrigerators not a luxury community refrigerators cold houses Sir Thomas More. That evening the conferees ate alone, and their discussion over dinner was tired. I suppose this place is a kind of voluntary simplicity, Art remarked. Would that include the young scholars? Max asked. I dont see the Immortals doing very much with them. They just like to look, Sam said. When youre that old I wonder how long he plans to keep us here, Max said. Weve only been here a week and its already boring. I kind of like it, Elizabeth said. Its relaxing. Art found that he agreed with her. He was getting up early; one of the scholars marked every dawn by striking a wooden block with a big wooden mallet, in a descending interval that drew Art out of sleep every time: tock tock tock tock tock tock, tock tock toc- toc-toc-toc-to-to-to-t-t-ttttttt. After that Art went out into grey wet mornings, full of bird calls. The sound of the waves was always there, as if invisible shells were held to his ears. When he walked the trail through the farm he always found some of the Eighteen Immortals around, chatting as they worked with hoes or pruning shears, or sat under the big oak tree looking out at the ocean. Fort was often among them. Art could hike through the hour before breakfast with the knowledge that he would spend the rest of the day in a warm room or on a warm beach, talking and playing games. Was that simple? He wasnt sure. It was definitely relaxing; he had never spent time like it. But of course there was more to it than that. It was, as Sam and Max kept reminding them, a kind of test. They were being judged. The old man was watching them, and maybe the Eighteen Immortals as well, and the young scholars too, the apprentices who began to look to Art like serious powers, young hotshots who ran a lot of the day-to-day operations of the compound, and perhaps of Praxis too, even at its highest levelsin consultation with the Eighteen, or perhaps not. After listening to Fort ramble, he could see how one might be inclined to bypass him when it came to practical matters. And the conversations around the dishwasher sometimes had the tone of siblings, squabbling over how to deal with incapacitated parents Anyway, a test: one night Art went over to the kitchen to get a glass of milk before bed, and passed a small room off the dining hall, where a number of people, old and young, were watching a videotape of the mornings session with Fort. Art went back to his room, deep in thought. The next morning in the conference room Fort circled the room in his usual way. The new opportunities for growth are no longer in growth. Sam and Max glanced at each other ever so briefly. Thats what all this full world thinking comes down to. So weve got to identify the new non-growth growth markets, and get into them. Now recall that natural capital can be divided into marketable and nonmarketable. Nonmarketable natural capital is the substrate from which all marketable capital arises. Given its scarcity and the benefits that it provides, it would make sense according to standard supply/demand theory to set its price as infinite. Im interested in anything that has a theoretically infinite price. Its an obvious investment. Essentially its infrastructure investment, but at the most basic biophysical level. Infra-infrastructure, so to speak, or bio-infrastructure. And thats what I want Praxis to start doing. We obtain and rebuild whatever bio-infrastructure that has been depleted by liquidation. Its long term investment, but the yields will be fantastic. Isnt most bio-infrastructure publicly owned? Art asked. Yes. Which means close co-operation with the governments involved. Praxiss gross annual product is much larger than most countries. What we need to do is find countries with small GNPs and bad CFIs. CFI? Art said. Country Future Index. Its an alternative to the GNP measurement, taking into account debt, political stability, environmental health and the like. A useful cross-check on the GNP, and it helps tag countries that could use our help. We identify those, go to them and offer them a massive capital investment, plus political advice, security, whatever they need. In return we take custody of their bio-infrastructure. We also have access to their labour. Its an obvious partnership. I think it will be the coming thing. How do we fit in? Sam asked, gesturing at the group. Fort looked at them one by one. Im going to give each of you a different assignment. Ill want you to keep them confidential. Youll be leaving here separately in any case, and going different places. Youll all be doing diplomatic work as a Praxis liaison, as well as specific jobs involved with bio-infrastructure investment. Ill give you the details in private. Now lets take an early lunch, and afterward Ill meet with you one at a time. Diplomatic work! Art wrote in his lectern. He spent the afternoon wandering around the gardens, looking at the espaliered apple bushes. Apparently he was not early in the list of personal appointments with Fort. He shrugged at that. It was a cloudy day, and the flowers in the garden were wet and vibrant. It would be tough to move back to his studio under the freeway in San Jose. He wondered what Sharon was doing, whether she ever thought of him. Sailing with her vice-chairman, no doubt. It was nearly sunset, and he was about to go back to his room and get ready for dinner, when Fort appeared on the central path. Ah, there you are, he said. Lets go down to the oak. They sat by the big trees trunk. The sun was cutting under the low clouds, and everything was turning the colour of the roses. You live in a beautiful place, Art said. Fort didnt appear to hear him. He was looking up at the underlit clouds billowing overhead. After a few minutes of this contemplation he said, We want you to acquire Mars. Acquire Mars, Art repeated. Yes. In the sense that I spoke about this morning. These nationaltransnational partnerships are the coming thing, theres no doubt about it. The old flag-of-convenience relationships were suggestive, but they need to be taken further, so that we have more control over our investment. We did that with Sri Lanka, and weve had so much success in our deal there that the other big transnats are all imitating us, actively recruiting countries in trouble. But Mars isnt a country. No. But it is in trouble. When the first elevator crashed, its economy was shattered. Now the new elevator is in place, and things are ready to happen. I want Praxis to be ahead of the curve. Of course the other big investors are all still there too, jockeying for position, and that will only intensify now that the new elevator is up. Who runs the elevator? A consortium led by Subarashii. Isnt that a problem? Well, it gives them an edge. But they dont understand Mars. They think its just a new source of metals. They dont see the possibilities. The possibilities for For development! Mars isnt just an empty world, Randolphin economic terms, its nearly a non-existent world. Its bio-infrastructure has to be constructed, you see. I mean one could just extract the metals and move on, which is what Subarashii and the others seem to have in mind. But thats treating it like nothing more than a big asteroid. Which is stupid, because its value as a base of operations, as a planet so to speak, far surpasses the value of its metals. All its metals together total about twenty trillion dollars, but the value of a terraformed Mars is more in the neighbourhood of two hundred trillion dollars. Thats about one third of the current Gross World Value, and even that doesnt make proper assessment of its scarcity value, if you ask me. No, Mars is bio-infrastructure investment, just like I was talking about. Exactly the kind of thing Praxis is looking for. But acquisition Art said. I mean, what are we talking about? Not what. Who. Who? The underground. The underground! Fort gave him time to think it over. Television, the tabloids and the nets were full of tales of the survivors of 2061, living in underground shelters in the wild southern hemisphere, led by John Boone and Hiroko Ai, tunnelling everywhere, in contact with aliensdead celebritiescurrent world leaders Art stared at Fort, a bona fide current world leader, shocked by the sudden notion that these Pellucidarian fantasies might have some truth to them. Does it really exist? Fort nodded. It does. Im not in full contact with it, you understand, and I dont know how extensive it is. But Im sure that some of the First Hundred are still alive. You know the TaneevTokareva theories I talked about when you first arrived? Well, those two, and Ursula Kohl, and that whole biomedical team, they all lived in the Acheron Fin, north of Olympus Mons. During the war the facility was destroyed. But there were no bodies at the site. So about six years ago I had a Praxis team go in and rebuild the facility. When it was done we named it the Acheron Institute, and we left it empty. Everything is on-line and ready to go, but nothing is happening there, except for a small annual conference on their eco-economics. And last year, when the conference was over, one of the clean-up crew found a few pages in a fax tray. Comments on one of the papers presented. No signature, no source. But there was some work there that Im positive was written by Taneev or Tokareva, or someone very familiar with their work. And I think it was a little hello. A very little hello, Art thought. But Fort seemed to read his mind: Ive just got an even bigger hello. I dont know who it is. Theyre being very cautious. But theyre out there. Art swallowed. It was big news, if true. And so you want me to I want you to go to Mars. We have a project there that will be your cover story, salvaging a section of the fallen elevator cable. But while youre doing that, Ill be making arrangements to get you together with this person who has contacted me. You wont have to initiate anything. Theyll make the move, and take you in. But look. In the beginning, I dont want you to let them know exactly what youre trying to do. I want you to go to work on them. Find out who they are, and how extensive their operation is, and what they want. And how we might deal with them. So Ill be a kind of A kind of diplomat. A kind of spy, I was going to say. Fort shrugged. It depends on who youre with. This project has to remain a secret. I deal with a lot of the other transnat leaders, and theyre scared people. Perceived threats to the current order often get attacked quite brutally. And some of them already think Praxis is a threat. So for the time being there is a hidden arm to Praxis, and this Mars investigation has to be part of that. So if you join, you join the hidden Praxis. Think you can do it? I dont know. Fort laughed. Thats why I chose you for this mission, Randolph. You seem simple. I am simple, Art almost said, and bit his tongue. Instead he said, Why me? Fort regarded him. When we acquire a new company, we review its personnel. I read your record. I thought you might have the makings of a diplomat. Or a spy. They are often different aspects of the same job. Art frowned. Did you bug my apartment? My old apartment? No. Fort laughed again. We dont do that. Peoples records are enough. Art recalled the late-night viewing of one of their sessions. That and a session down here, Fort added. To get to know you. Art considered it. None of the Eighteen wanted this job. Nor the scholars, perhaps. Of course it was off to Mars, and then into some invisible world no one knew anything about, maybe for good. Some people might not find it attractive. But for someone at loose ends, maybe looking for new employment, maybe with a potential for diplomacy So all this had indeed proved to be a kind of interview process. For a job he hadnt even known existed. Mars Acquirer. Mars Acquisition Chief. Mars Mole. A Spy in the House of Ares. Ambassador to the Mars Underground. Ambassador to Mars. My oh my, he thought. So what do you say? Ill do it, Art said. William Fort didnt fool around. The moment Art agreed to take the Mars assignment, his life speeded up like a video on fast forward. That night he was back in the sealed van, and then in the sealed jet, all alone this time, and when he staggered up the jetway it was dawn in San Francisco. He went to the Dumpmines office, and made the round of friends and acquaintances there. Yes, he said again and again, Ive taken a job on Mars. Salvaging a bit of the old elevator cable. Only temporary. The pay is good. Ill be back. That afternoon he went home and packed. It took ten minutes. Then he stood groggily in the empty apartment. There on the stovetop was the frying pan, the only sign of his former life. He took the frying pan over to his suitcases, thinking he could fit it in and take it with him. He stopped over the cases, full and shut. He went back and sat down on the single chair, the frying pan hanging from his hand. After a while he called Sharon, hoping partly to get her answering machine, but she was home. Im going to Mars, he croaked. She wouldnt believe it. When she believed it she got angry. It was desertion pure and simple, he was running out on her. But you already threw me out, Art tried to say, but she had hung up. He left the frying pan on the table, lugged his suitcases down to the pavement. Across the street a public hospital that did the longevity treatment was surrounded by its usual crowd, people whose turn at the treatment was supposedly near, camping out in the parking lot to make sure nothing went awry. The treatments were guaranteed to all US citizens by law, but the waiting lists for the public facilities were so long that it was a question whether one would survive to reach ones turn. Art shook his head at the sight, and flagged down a pedicab. He spent his last week on Earth in a motel in Cape Canaveral. It was a lugubrious farewell, as Canaveral was restricted territory, occupied chiefly by military police, and service personnel who had extremely bad attitudes toward the late lamented, as they called those waiting for departure. The daily extravaganza of takeoff only left everyone either apprehensive or resentful, and in all cases rather deaf. People went around in the afternoons with ears ringing, repeating What? What? What? To counteract the problem most of the locals had earplugs; they would be dropping plates on ones restaurant table while talking to people in the kitchen, and suddenly theyd glance at the clock and take earplugs out of their pocket and stuff them in their ears, and boom, off would go another Novy Energia booster with two shuttles strapped to it, causing the whole world to quake like jelly. The late lamented would rush out into the streets with hands over their ears to get another preview of their fate, staring up stricken at the Biblical pillar of smoke and the pinpoint of fire arching over the Atlantic. The locals would stand in place chewing gum, waiting for the time out to be over. The only time they showed any interest was one morning when the tides were high and news came that a group of party-crashers had swum up to the fence surrounding the town and cut their way inside, where security had chased them to the area of the days launch; it was said some of them had been incinerated by take-off, and this was enough to get some of the locals out to watch, as if the pillar of smoke and fire would look somehow different. Then one Sunday morning it was Arts turn. He woke and dressed in the ill-fitting jumper provided, feeling as if he were dreaming. He got in the van with another man looking just as stunned as he felt, and they were driven to the launching compound and identified by retina, fingerprint, voice and visual appearance; and then, without ever really having managed to think about what it all meant, he was led into an elevator and down a short tunnel into a tiny room where there were eight chairs somewhat like dentists chairs, all of them occupied by round-eyed people, and then he was seated and strapped in and the door was shut and there was a vibrant roar under him and he was squished, and then he weighed nothing at all. He was in orbit. After a while the pilot unbuckled and the passengers did too, and they went to the two little windows to look out. Black space, blue world, just like the pictures, but with the startling high resolution of reality. Art stared down at West Africa and a great wave of nausea rolled through every cell of him. He was only just getting the slightest touch of appetite back, after a timeless interval of space sickness that apparently in the real world had clocked in at three days, when one of the continuous shuttles came bombing by, after swinging around Venus and aerobraking into an EarthLuna orbit just slow enough to allow the little ferries to catch up to it. Sometime during his space sickness Art and the other passengers had transferred into one of these ferries, and when the time was right it blasted off in pursuit of the continuous shuttle. Its acceleration was even harder than the takeoff from Canaveral, and when it ended Art was reeling, dizzy, and nauseous again. More weightlessness would have killed him, he groaned at the very thought, but happily there was a ring in the continuous shuttle that rotated at a speed which gave some rooms what they called Martian gravity. Art was given a bed in the health centre occupying one of these rooms, and there he stayed. He could not walk well in the peculiar lightness of Martian g; he hopped and staggered about, and he still felt bruised internally, and dizzy; but he stayed on just the right side of nausea, which he was thankful for even though it was not a very pleasant feeling in itself. The continuous shuttle was strange. Because of its frequent aerobraking in the atmospheres of Earth, Venus and Mars, it had somewhat the shape of a hammerhead shark. The ring of rotating rooms was located near the rear of the ship, just ahead of the propulsion centre and the ferry docks. The ring spun, and one walked with head toward the centreline of the ship, feet pointing down at the stars under the floor. About a week into their voyage Art decided to give weightlessness one more try, as the rotating ring was without windows. He went to one of the transfer chambers for getting from the rotating ring to the non-rotating parts of the ship; the chambers were on a narrow ring that moved with the g ring, but could slow down to match the rest of the ship. The chambers looked just like freight elevator cars, with doors on both sides; when you got in one and pushed the right button, it decelerated through a few rotations to a stop, and the far door opened on the rest of the ship. So Art tried that. As the car slowed, he began to lose weight, and his gorge began to rise in an exact correspondence. By the time the far door opened he was sweating and had somehow launched himself at the ceiling, where he hurt his wrist catching himself before hitting his head. Pain battled nausea, and the nausea was winning; it took him a couple of caroms to get to the control panel and hit the button to get him moving again, and back into the gravity ring. When the far door closed he settled gently back to the floor, and in a minute Martian gravity returned, and the door he had come in re-opened. He bounced gratefully out, suffering no more than the pain of a sprained wrist. Nausea was far more unpleasant than pain, he reflectedat least certain levels of pain. He would have to get his outside view over the TVs. He would not be lonely. Most of the passengers and all of the crew spent the majority of their time in the gravity ring, which was therefore fairly crowded, like a full hotel in which most of the guests spent most of their time in the restaurant and bar. Art had seen and read accounts of the continuous shuttles which made them seem like flying Monte Carlos, with permanent residents made up of the rich and bored; a popular vid series had had just such a setting. Their ship, however, the Ganesh, was not like that. It was clear that it had been hurtling around the inner solar system for a good long time now, and always at full capacity; its interiors were getting shabby, and when restricted to the ring it seemed very small, much smaller than the impression one had of these kinds of ships from watching history shows about the Ares. But the First Hundred had lived in about five times as much space as the Ganeshs g ring, and the Ganesh carried five hundred passengers. Flight time, however, was only three months. So Art settled down and watched TV, concentrating on documentaries about Mars. He ate in the dining room, which was decorated to look like one of the great ocean liners of the 1920s, and he gambled a bit in the casino, which was decorated to look like one of the Las Vegas casinos of the 1970s. But mostly he slept and watched TV, the two activities melting into each other so that he dreamed very lucidly about Mars, while the documentaries took on a very surreal logic. He saw the famous videotapes of the RussellClayborne debate, and that night dreamed he was unsuccessfully arguing with Ann Clayborne, who, just as in the vids, looked like the farmers wife in American Gothic only more gaunt and severe. Another film, taken by a flying drone, also affected him deeply; the drone had dropped off the side of one of the big Marineris cliffs, and fallen for nearly a minute before pulling out and swooping low over the jumbled rock and ice on the canyon floor. Repeatedly in the following weeks Art dreamed of making that fall himself, and woke up just before impact. It appeared that parts of his unconscious mind felt that the decision to go had been a mistake. He shrugged at this, ate his meals, and practised his walking. He was biding his time. Mistake or not, he was committed. Fort had given him an encryption system, and instructions to report back on a regular basis, but in transit he found there was very little to say. Dutifully he sent off a monthly report, each one the same: Were on our way. All seems well. There was never any reply. And then Mars swelled up like an orange thrown at the TV screens, and soon after that they were there, crushed into their g couches by an extremely violent aerobraking, and then crushed again in their ferrys chairs; but Art came through these flattening decelerations like a veteran, and after a week in orbit, still rotating, they docked with New Clarke. New Clarke proved to have only a very small gravity, which barely held people to the floor, and made Mars appear to be overhead. Arts space sickness returned. And he had a two-day wait before his reservation for an elevator ride. The elevator cars proved to be like slender tall hotels, and they ran their tightly packed human cargo down toward the planet over a period of five days, with no gravity to speak of until the last couple of days, when it got stronger and stronger, until the elevator car slowed and descended gently into the receiving facility called the Socket, just west of Sheffield on Pavonis Mons, and the g came to something like the g in the Ganeshs g ring. But a week of space sickness had left Art completely devastated, and as the elevator car opened, and they were guided out into something very like an airport terminal, he found himself scarcely able to walk, and amazed at how much nausea decreased ones desire to live. It was four months to the day since he had got the fax from William Fort. The trip from the Socket into Sheffield proper was by subway, but Art would have been too miserable to notice a view even if there had been one. Wasted and unsteady, he tip-toed bouncily down a tall hallway after someone from Praxis, and collapsed thankfully on a bed in a small room. Martian g felt blessedly solid when he was lying down, and after a while he fell asleep. When he woke he could not remember where he was. He looked around the little room, completely disoriented, wondering where Sharon had gone and why their bedroom had got so small. Then it came back. He was on Mars. He groaned, and sat up. He felt hot and yet detached from his body, and everything was pulsing slightly, though the room lights appeared to be functioning normally. There were curtains covering the wall opposite the door, and he stood and walked over, and opened them with a single pull. Hey! he cried, leaping back. He woke up a second time, or so it felt. It was like the view out an aeroplane window. Endless open space, and a bruise-coloured sky above, the sun like a blob of lava; and there far below stretched a flat rocky plainflat and round, as it lay at the bottom of an enormous circular cliffextremely circularremarkably circular, in fact, for a natural feature. It was difficult to estimate how distant the far side of the cliff was. Features of the cliff were perfectly clear, but structures on the opposite rim were teensy; what looked like an observatory could have fit on a pinhead. This, he concluded, was the caldera of Pavonis Mons. They had landed at Sheffield, so really there could be no doubt about it. Therefore it was some sixty kilometres across the circle to that observatory, as Art recalled from his video documentaries, and five kilometres to the floor. And all of it completely empty, rocky, untouched, primordialthe volcanic rock as bare as if cooled the week beforenothing at all of humanity in itno sign of terraforming. It must have looked exactly like this to John Boone, a half century before. And so alien. And big. Art had looked into the calderas of Etna and Vesuvius, while on vacation from Tehran, and those two craters were big by Terran standards, but you could have lost a thousand of them in this, this thing, this hole He closed the curtains and slowly got dressed, his mouth imitating the shape of the unearthly caldera. A friendly Praxis guide named Adrienne, tall enough to be a Martian native but possessing a strong Australian accent, collected him and took him and half a dozen other new arrivals on a tour of the town. Their rooms turned out to be on the citys lowest level, though it wouldnt be lowest for long: Sheffield was in the process of burrowing downward these days, to give as many rooms as possible the view onto the caldera that had so disconcerted Art. An elevator took them up nearly fifty storeys, and let them out in the lobby of a shiny new office building. They walked out its big revolving doors and emerged on a wide grassy boulevard, and walked down it past squat buildings faced with polished stone and big windows, separated by narrow grassy side streets, and a great number of construction sites, as many buildings were still in various stages of completion. It was going to be a handsome town, the buildings mostly three and four storeys tall, getting taller as they moved south, away from the caldera rim. The green streets were crowded with people, and the occasional small tram running on narrow tracks set in the grass; there was a general air of bustle and excitement, caused no doubt by the arrival of the new elevator. A boom town. The first place Adrienne took them was across a boulevard to the caldera rim. She led the seven newcomers out into a thin curving park, to the nearly invisible tenting that encased the town. The transparent fabrics were held in place by equally transparent geodesic struts, anchored in a chest-high perimeter wall. The tenting has to be stronger than usual up here on Pavonis, Adrienne told them, because the atmosphere outside is still extremely thin. Itll always be thinner than the lowlands, by a factor of ten. She led them out into a viewing blister in the tent wall, and looking down between their feet they could see through the blisters transparent deck, straight down onto the caldera floor some five kilometres below them. People exclaimed in delicious fright, and Art bounced on the clear floor uneasily. The width of the caldera was coming into perspective for him; the north rim was just about as far away as Mt Tamalpais and the Napa hills when one descended into the San Jose airport. That was no extraordinary distance. But the depth below, now, the depth; over five kilometres, or about twenty thousand feet. Quite a hole! Adrienne said. Mounted telescopes and display plaques with map drawings enabled them to spot the section of the previous version of Sheffield, now lying on the caldera floor. Art had been wrong about the calderas untouched primeval nature; an insignificant pile of cliff-bottom talus, with some shiny dots in it, was in fact the ruins of the original city. Adrienne described with great gusto the destruction of the town in 2061. The falling elevator cable had, of course, crushed the suburbs east of its socket in the very first moments of the fall. But then the cable had wrapped all the way around the planet, delivering a massive second blow to the south side of town, a blow which had caused an undiscovered fault in the basalt rim to give way. About a third of the town had been on the wrong side of this fault, and had fallen the five kilometres to the caldera floor. The remaining two-thirds of the town had been knocked flat. Luckily the occupants had mostly evacuated in the four hours between the detachment of Clarke and the second coming of the cable, so loss of life had been minimised. But Sheffield had been utterly destroyed. For many years after that, Adrienne told them, the site had lain abandoned, a wreck like so many other towns after the unrest of 61. Most of those other towns had been left in ruins, but Sheffields location remained the ideal place for tethering a space elevator, and when Subarashii began organising the in-space construction of a new one in the late 2080s, construction on the ground had rapidly followed. A detailed areological investigation had found no other faults in the southern rim, which had justified rebuilding right on the edge, on the same site as before. Demolition vehicles had cleared the wreckage of the old town, shoving most of it over the rim, and leaving only the easternmost section of town, around the old socket, as a kind of monument to the disasteralso as the central element of a little tourist industry, which had clearly been an important part of the towns income in the fallow years before an elevator had been reinstalled. Adriennes next point on the tour led them out to see this preserved bit of history. They took a tram to a gate in the east wall of the tent, and then walked through a clear tube into a smaller tent, which covered the blasted ruins, the concrete mass of the old cable facility, and the lower end of the fallen cable. They walked a roped path that had been cleared of wreckage, staring curiously at the blasted ruins, the foundations and twisted pipes. It looked like the results of saturation bombing. They came to a halt under the butt end of the cable, and Art observed it with professional interest. The big cylinder of black carbon filaments looked nearly undamaged by the fall, although admittedly this was the part that had hit Mars with the least force. The end had jammed down into the Sockets big concrete bunker, Adrienne said, then been dragged a couple of kilometres as the cable had fallen down the eastern slope of Pavonis. That wasnt that much of a beating for material designed to withstand the pull of an asteroid swinging beyond the areosynchronous point. And so it lay there, as if waiting to be straightened up and put back in place: cylindrical, three storeys high, its black bulk encrusted by steel tracks and collars and the like. The tent only covered a hundred metres or so of it; after that it ran on uncovered, east along the wide rounded plateau of the rim, until it disappeared over the rims outer edge, which formed their horizonthey could see nothing of the planet below. But out away from the town they could see better than ever that Pavonis Mons was hugeits rim alone was an impressive expanse, a doughnut of flat land perhaps thirty kilometres wide, from the abrupt inner edge of the caldera to the more gradual drop-off down the volcanos flanks. Nothing of the rest of Mars could be seen from their vantage point, so it seemed they stood on a high circular ring world, under a dark lavender sky. Just to the south of them, the new Socket was like a titanic concrete bunker, the new elevator cable rising out of it like an elevator cable, standing alone as if in some version of the Indian rope trick, thin and black and straight as a plumb line dropping down from heavenvisible for only a couple of tall skyscrapers worth of height, at mostand, given the wreckage they stood in, and the immensity of the volcanos bare rocky peak, as fragile-looking as if it were a single carbon nanotube filament, rather than a bundle of billions of them, and the strongest structure ever made. This is weird, Art said, feeling hollow and unsettled. After their tour of the ruins, Adrienne took them back to a plaza caf in the middle of the new town, where they had lunch. Here they could have been in the heart of a fashionable district in any town anywhereit could have been Houston or Tblisi or Ottawa, in some neighbourhood where a lot of noisy construction marked a fresh prosperity. When they went back to their rooms, the subway system was likewise familiar to the eyeand when they got out, the halls of the Praxis floors were those of a fine hotel. All utterly familiarso much so that it was again a shock to walk into his room and look out the window and see the awesome sight of the calderathe bare fact of Mars, immense and stony, seeming to exert a kind of vacuum pull on him through the window. And in fact if the window pane were to break the pressure blowout would certainly suck him immediately into that space; an unlikely eventuality, but the image still gave him an unpleasant thrill. He closed the curtains. And after that he kept the curtains closed, and tended to stay on the side of his room away from the window. In the mornings he dressed and left the room quickly, and attended orientation meetings run by Adrienne, which were joined by a score or so of new arrivals. After lunching with some of them, he spent his afternoons touring the town, working earnestly on his walking skills. One night he thought to send a coded report off to Fort: On Mars, going through orientation. Sheffield is a nice town. My room has a view. There was no reply. Adriennes orientation took them to a number of Praxis buildings, both in Sheffield and up the east rim, to meet people in the transnationals Martian operations. Praxis had much more of a presence on Mars than it did in America. During Arts afternoon walks he tried to gauge the relative strengths of the transnationals, just by the little plates on the sides of the buildings. All the biggest transnats were thereArmscor, Subarashii, Oroco, Mitsubishi, The Seven Swedes, Shellalco, Gentine, and so oneach occupying a complex of buildings, or even entire neighbourhoods of the town. Clearly they were all there because of the new elevator, which had made Sheffield once again the most important city on the planet. They were pouring money into the town, building submartian subdivisions, and even entire tent suburbs. The sheer wealth of the transnats was obvious in all the constructionand also, Art thought, in the way people movedthere were a lot of people bouncing around the streets just as clumsily as he was, newcomer businessmen or mining engineers or the like, concentrating with furrowed brow on the act of walking. It was no great trick to pick out the tall young natives, with their catlike co-ordination; but they were in a distinct minority in Sheffield, and Art wondered if that were true everywhere on Mars. As for architecture, space under the tent was at a premium, and so the completed buildings were bulky, often cubical, occupying their lots right out to the street and right up to the tent. When all the construction was finished there would only be a network of ten triangular plazas, and the wide boulevards, and the curving park along the rim, to keep the town from being a continuous mass of squat skyscrapers, faces with polished stone of various shades of red. It was a city built for business. And it looked to Art like Praxis was going to get a good share of that business. Subarashii was the general contractor for the elevator, but Praxis was supplying the software as they had for the first elevator, and also some of the cars, and part of the security system. All these allocations, he learned, had been made by a committee called the United Nations Transitional Authority, supposedly part of the UN, but controlled by the transnats; and Praxis had been as aggressive on this committee as any of the others. William Fort may have been interested in bio-infrastructure, but the ordinary kind was obviously not outside Praxiss field of operations; there were Praxis divisions building water supply systems, train pistes, canyon towns, wind power generators, and areothermal plants. The latter two were widely regarded as marginal endeavours, as the new orbiting solar collectors and a fusion plant in Xanthe were turning out so well, not to mention the older generation of integral fast reactors; but local energy sources were the speciality of the Praxis subsidiary Power From Below, and so that was what they did, working hard in the outback. Praxiss local salvage subsidiary, the Martian equivalent of Dumpmines, was called Ouroborous, and like Power From Below it was also fairly small. In truth, as the Ouroborous people were quick to tell Art when they met one morning, there was not a large rubbish output on Mars; almost everything was recycled or put to use in creating agricultural soil, so each settlements dump was really more of a holding facility for miscellaneous materials, awaiting their particular use. Ouroborous therefore got its business by finding and collecting the garbage or sewage that was somehow recalcitranttoxic, or orphaned, or simply inconvenientand then finding ways to turn it to use. The Ouroborous team in Sheffield occupied one floor of Praxiss downtown skyscraper. The company had got its start excavating the ruins of the old town, before the ruins had been so unceremoniously shoved over the side. A man named Zafir headed the fallen cable salvage project, and he and Adrienne accompanied Art to the train station, where they got on a local train and took a short ride around to the east rim, to a line of suburb tents. One of the tents was the Ouroborous storage facility, and just outside it, among many other vehicles, was a truly gigantic mobile processing factory, called the Beast. The Beast made a SuperRathje look like a compact carit was a building rather than a vehicle, and almost entirely robotic. Another Beast was already out processing the cable in west Tharsis, and Art was slated to go out and make an onsite inspection of it. So Zafir and a couple of technicians showed him around the inside of the training vehicle, ending up in a wide compartment on the top floor, where there were living quarters for any humans that might be visiting. Zafir was enthusiastic about what the Beast out on west Tharsis had found. Of course just recovering the carbon filament and the diamond gel helixes gives us a basic income stream, he said. And we are doing well with some brecciated exotics metamorphosed in the final hemisphere of the fall. But what youll be interested in are the buckyballs and buckytubes. Temperatures and pressures in the west Tharsis zone turned out to be similar to those used in the arc-reactor-synthesis method of making fullerenes, and so there is a hundred-kilometre stretch out there where carbon on the bottom side of the cable consists of buckyballsmostly sixties, but also some thirties, and a variety of superbuckies and buckytubes of all lengths. And some of the superbuckies had formed with other elements trapped inside their carbon cage. These full fullerenes were useful in composite manufacturing, but very expensive to make in the lab because of the high amounts of energy required. So they were a nice find. And its sorting out the various superbuckies where your ion chromatography will come in. So I understand, Art said. He had done work with ion chromatography during analyses in Georgia, and this was his ostensible reason for being sent into the outback. So over the next few days Zafir and some Beast technicians trained Art in dealing with the Beast, and after these sessions they had dinner together at a small restaurant in the suburb tent on the east rim. After sunset they had a great view of Sheffield, some thirty kilometres around the curve of the rim, glowing in the twilight like a lamp perched on the black abyss. As they ate and drank, the conversation seldom turned to the matter of Arts project, and considering it, Art decided that this was probably a deliberate courtesy on his colleagues part. The Beast was fully self-operating, and though there were some problems to be solved in sorting out the recently discovered full fullerenes, there must have been local ion chromatographers who could have done the job. So there was no obvious reason why Praxis should have sent Art up from Earth to do it, and there had to be something more to his story. And so the group avoided the topic, saving Art the embarrassment of lies, or awkward shrugs, or an explicit appeal to confidentiality. Art would have been uncomfortable with any of these dodges, and so he appreciated their tact. But it put a certain distance in their conversations. And he seldom saw the other Praxis newcomers, outside of orientation meetings; and he didnt know anyone else in town, or elsewhere on the planet. So he was a little lonely, and the days passed in an increasing sense of uneasiness, even oppression. He kept the curtains closed on his window view, and ate in restaurants away from the rim. It began to feel a bit too much like the weeks on the Ganesh, which he now understood to have been a miserable time. Sometimes he had to fend off the feeling that it had been a mistake to come. And so after their last orientation lecture, at a reception luncheon in the Praxis building, he drank more than was his custom, and took a few inhalations from a tall canister of nitrous oxide. Inhalation of recreational drugs was a local custom, apparently fairly big among Martian construction workers, he had been told, and there were even little canisters of various gases for sale from dispensers in some public mens rooms. Certainly the nitrous added a certain extra bubbly quality to the champagne; it was a nice combination, like peanuts and beer, or ice cream and apple pie. Afterward he walked down the streets of Sheffield bouncing erratically, feeling the nitrous champagne as a kind of anti-gravitational effect, which, added to the Martian baseline, made him feel altogether too light. Technically he weighed about forty kilos, but as he walked along it felt more like five. Very strange, even unpleasant. Like walking on buttered glass. He nearly ran into a young man, slightly taller than hima black-haired youth, as slender as a bird and as graceful, who quickly veered away from him and then steadied him with a hand to his shoulder, all in one smooth flow of movement. The youth looked him in the eye. Are you Arthur Randolph? Yes, Art said, surprised. I am. And who are you? Im the one who contacted William Fort, the young man said. Art stopped abruptly, swaying to get back over his feet. The young man held him upright with a gentle pressure, his hand hot on Arts upper arm. He regarded Art with a direct look, a friendly smile. Perhaps twenty-five, Art judged, perhaps youngera handsome youth with brown skin and thick black eyebrows, and eyes that were slightly Asian, set wide over prominent cheekbones. An intelligent look, full of curiosity and a kind of magnetic quality, hard to pin down. Art took to him instantly, for no reason he could tell. It was just a feeling. Call me Art, he said. And I am Nirgal, the youth said. Lets go down to Overlook Park. So Art walked with him down the grassy boulevard to the park on the rim. There they strolled the path next to the coping wall, Nirgal helping Art with his drunken turns by frankly seizing his upper arm and steering him. His grasp had an electric penetrating quality to it, and was really very warm, as if the youth had a fever, though there was no sign of it in his dark eyes. Why are you here? he askedand his voice, and the look on his face, made the question into something other than a superficial enquiry. Art checked his response, thought about it. To help, he said. So you will join us? Again the youth somehow made it clear that he meant something different, something fundamental. And Art said, Yes. Any time you like. Nirgal smiled, a quick delighted grin that he only partly overmastered before he said, Good. Very good. But look, Im doing this on my own. Do you understand? There are people who wouldnt approve. So I want to slip you in among us, as if it were an accident. Thats okay with you? Thats fine. Art shook his head, confused. Thats how I was planning on doing it anyway. Nirgal stopped by the observation bubble, took Arts hand and held it. His gaze, so open and unflinching, was contact of another kind. Good. Thanks. Just keep doing what youre doing, then. Go out on your salvage project, and youll be picked up out there. Well meet again after that. And he was off, walking across the park in the direction of the train station, moving with the long graceful lope that all the young natives seemed to have. Art stared after him, trying to remember everything about the encounter, trying to put his finger on what had made it so charged. Simply the look on the youths face, he decidednot just the unself-conscious intensity one sometimes saw on the faces of the young, but moresome humorous power. Art remembered the sudden grin unleashed when Art had said (had promised) that he would join them. Art grinned himself. When he got back to his room, he walked right to the window and opened the curtains. He went over to the table by his bed, and sat and turned on his lectern, and looked up Nirgal. No person listed by that name. There was a Nirgal Vallis, between Argyre Basin and Valles Marineris. One of the best examples of a water-carved channel on the planet, the entry said, long and sinuous. The word was the Babylonian name for Mars. Art went back to the window and pressed his nose against the glass. He looked right down the throat of the thing, into the rocky heart of the monster itself. Horizontal banding of the curved walls, the broad round plain so far below, the sharp edge where it met the circular wallthe infinite shadings of maroon, rust, black, tan, orange, yellow, redeverywhere red, all the shades variations of red He drank it in, for the first time unafraid. And as he looked down this enormous coring into the planet, a new feeling leaped into him to replace the fear, and he shivered and hopped in place, in a little dance. He could handle the view. He could handle the gravity. He had met a Martian, a member of the underground, a youth with a strange charisma, and he would be seeing more of him, more of all of them He was on Mars. And a few days later he was on the west slope of Pavonis Mons, driving a small rover down a narrow road that paralleled a band of disturbed volcanic rubble, with what looked like a cog railway track running right down it. He had sent a final coded message to Fort, telling him that he was taking off, and had got the only reply of his journey so far: Have a nice trip. The first hour of his drive held what everyone had told him would be its most spectacular sight: going over the western rim of the caldera, and starting down the outer slope of the vast volcano. This occurred about sixty kilometres west of Sheffield. He drove over the southwest edge of the vast rim plateau, and started downhill, and a horizon appeared very far below, and very far awaya slightly curved hazy white bar, like the view of Earth as seen from a space planes window. This made sense, as the peak of Pavonis was about as far above Amazonis Planitia as space planes often flew over Earth in their jet phasesome 85,000 feet high. So it was a huge view, the most forcible reminder possible of the stupendous height of the Tharsis volcanoes. And he had a great view of Arsia Mons at that moment, in fact, the southernmost of the three volcanoes lined up on Tharsis, bulking over the horizon to his left like a neighbouring world. And what looked like a black cloud, over the far horizon to the northwest, could very possibly be Olympus Mons itself! An amazing view. So the first days drive was all downhill, but Arts spirits remained high. Toto, there is no chance we are in Kansas any more. Were off to see the wizard! The wonderful wizard of Mars! The road paralleled the fall line of the cable. The cable had hit the west side of Tharsis with a tremendous impact, not as great as during the final wrap of course, but enough to create the interesting superbuckies Art had been sent out to investigate. The Beast he was going down to meet had already salvaged the cable in this vicinity, however, and the cable was almost entirely gone; the only thing left of it was a set of old-fashioned-looking train tracks, with a third cog rail running down the middle. The Beast had made these tracks out of carbon from the cable, and then used other parts of the cable, and magnesium from the soil, to make little self-powered cog rail mining cars, which then carried salvage cargo back up the side of Pavonis to the Ouroborous facilities in Sheffield. Very neat, Art thought as he watched a little robot car roll past him in the opposite direction, up the tracks toward the city. The little train car was black, squat, powered by a simple motor engaging the cog track, filled with a cargo of carbon nanotube filaments, and capped on top by a big rectangular block of a diamond. Art had heard about this in Sheffield, and so was not surprised to see it. The diamond had been salvaged from the double helixes strengthening the cable, and the blocks were actually much less valuable than the carbon filament stored underneath thembasically a kind of fancy hatch door. But they did look nice. On the second day of his drive, Art got off the immense cone of Pavonis, and onto the Tharsis bulge proper. Here the ground was much more littered than the volcanos side had been with loose rock, and meteor craters. And down here, everything was blanketed with a drift of snow and sand, in a mix that looked like equal shares of both. This was the firn slope of west Tharsis, an area where storms coming in from the west frequently dumped loads of snow, which never melted but instead built up year by year, packing down the snow on the bottom. So far the pack consisted only of crushed snow, called firn, but a few more years of compaction and the lowest layers would be ice, and the slopes glaciers. Now the slopes were still punctuated by big rocks sticking out of the firn, and small crater rings, the craters mostly less than a kilometre across, and looking as fresh as if they had been blasted the day before, except for the sandy snow now filling them. When he was still many kilometres away, Art caught sight of the Beast salvaging the cable. The top of it appeared over the western horizon, and over the next hour the rest of it reared into view. Out on the vast empty slope it seemed somewhat smaller than its twin up in East Sheffield, at least until he drove under its flank, when once again it became clear that it was as big as a city block. There was even a square hole in the bottom of one side which looked for all the world like the entrance to a parking garage. Art drove his rover right at this holethe Beast was moving at three kilometres a day, so it was no trick to hit itand once inside, he drove up a curving ramp, following a short tunnel into a lock. There he spoke by radio to the Beasts AI, and doors behind his rover slid shut, and in a minute he could simply get out of his car, and go over to an elevator door, and take an elevator up to the observation deck. It did not take long to realise that life inside the Beast was not the essence of excitement, and after checking in with the Sheffield office, and taking a look at the ion chromatograph down in the lab, Art went back out in the rover to have a more extensive look around. This was the way things went when working the Beast, Zafir assured him; the rovers were like pilot fishes swimming around a great whale, and though the view from the observation deck was nice and high, most people ended up spending a good part of their days out driving around. So Art did that. The fallen cable out in front of the Beast showed clearly how much harder it had been coming down here than it had back at the start of its fall. Here it was buried to perhaps a third of its diameter, and the cylinder was flattened, and marked by long cracks running along its sides, revealing its structure which consisted of bundles of bundles of carbon nanotube filament, still one of the strongest substances known to materials science, though apparently the current elevators cable material was stronger yet. The Beast straddled this wreckage, about four times as tall as the cable; the charred black semi-cylinder disappeared into a hole at the front end of the Beast, from which came a grumbling, low, nearly subsonic vibration. And then, every day at about two in the afternoon, a door at the back of the Beast slid open over the tracks always being excreted from the back end of the Beast, and one of the diamond-capped train cars would roll out and glide off toward Pavonis, winking in the sunlight. The trains disappeared over the high eastern horizon (into the apparent depression now between him and Pavonis) about ten minutes after emerging from their maker. After viewing the daily departure, Art would take a drive in the pilot fish rover, investigating craters and big isolated boulders, and, frankly, looking for Nirgal, or rather waiting for him. After a few days of this, he added the habit of suiting up, and taking a walk outside for a few hours every afternoon, strolling beside the cable or the pilot fish, or hiking out into the surrounding countryside. It was odd-looking terrain, not only because of the even distribution of millions of black rocks, but because the hard blanket of firn had been sculptured into fantastic shapes by the sand-blaster winds: ridges, boles, hollows, tear-shaped tailings behind every exposed rock, etc. Sastrugi, they were called. It was fun to walk around among these extravagant aerodynamic extrusions of reddish snow. Day after day he did this. The Beast ground slowly westward. He found that the windswept bare tops of the rocks were often coloured by tiny flakes that were scales of fast lichen, a kind that grew quickly, or at least quickly for lichen. Art picked up a couple of sample rocks, and took them back into the Beast, and read about the lichen curiously. These apparently were engineered cryptoendolithic lichens, and at this altitude they were living right at the edge of the possiblethe article on them said that over ninety-eight percent of their energy was used simply to stay alive, with less than two percent going toward reproduction. And this was a big improvement over the Terran template species. More days passed, then weeks; but what could he do? He kept on collecting lichen. One of the cryptoendoliths he found was the first species to survive on the Martian surface, the lectern said, and it had been designed by members of the fabled First Hundred. He broke apart some rocks to have a better look, and found bands of the lichen growing in the rocks outer centimetre: first a yellow stripe right at the surface, then a blue stripe under that, then a green one. After that discovery he often stopped on his walks to kneel and put his faceplate to coloured rocks sticking up out of the firn, marvelling at the crusty scales and their intense pale coloursyellows, olives, khaki greens, forest greens, blacks, greys. One afternoon he drove the pilot fish far to the north of the Beast, and got out to hike around and collect samples. When he returned, he found that the lock door in the side of the pilot fish would not open. What the hell? he said aloud. It had been so long that he had forgotten that something was supposed to happen. The happening had taken the form of some kind of electronic failure, apparently. Assuming this was the happening, and not something else. He called in over the intercom, and tried every code he knew on the keypad by the lock door, but nothing had any effect. And since he couldnt get back in, he couldnt turn on the emergency systems. And his helmets intercom had a very limited rangethe horizon, in effectwhich down here off Pavonis had shrunk to a Martian closeness, only a few kilometres away in all directions. The Beast was well over the horizon, and though he could probably walk to it, there would be a section of the hike where both Beast and pilot fish would be over the horizon, and himself alone in a suit, with a limited air supply Suddenly the landscape with its dirty sastrugi took on an alien, ominous cast, dark even in the bright sunshine. Well hell, Art said, thinking hard. He was out here, after all, to get picked up by the underground. Nirgal had said it was going to look like an accident. Of course this was not necessarily that accident, but whether it was or it wasnt, panic was not going to help. Best to make the working assumption that it was a real problem, and go from there. He could try walking back to the Beast, or he could try getting into the pilot fish rover. He was still thinking things over, and typing at the keypad of the lock door like a champion speed-typist, when he was tapped hard on the shoulder. Aaa! he shouted, leaping around. There were two of them, in walkers and scratched old helmets. Through their faceplates he could see them: a woman with a face like a hawks, who looked as if she would be happy to bite him; and a short thin-faced black man, with grey dreadlocks crowding the border of his faceplate, like the rope picture frames one sometimes saw in nautical restaurants. It was the man who had tapped Art on the shoulder. Now he lifted three fingers, pointing at his wrist console. The intercom band they were using, no doubt. Art switched it on. Hey! he cried, feeling more relieved than he ought to, considering that this was probably Nirgals set-up, so that he had never been in danger. Hey, I seem to be locked out of my car? Could you give me a lift? They stared at him. The mans laugh was scary. Welcome to Mars, he said. PART THREE Long Runout (#ulink_9a5ed0b3-6e75-5a60-b8cb-c6680722efeb) Ann Clayborne was driving down the Geneva Spur, stopping every few switchbacks to get out and take samples from the roadcuts. The Transmarineris Highway had been abandoned after 61, as it now disappeared under the dirty river of ice and boulders covering the floor of Coprates Chasma. The road was an archaeological relic, a dead end. But Ann was studying the Geneva Spur. The Spur was the final extension of a much longer lava dike, most of which was buried in the plateau to the south. The dike was one of severalthe nearby Melas Dorsa, the Felis Dorsa farther east, the Solis Dorsa farther westall of them roughly parallel, all perpendicular to the Marineris canyons, and all mysterious in their origin. But as the southern wall of Melas Chasma had receded, by collapse and eolian removal, the hard rock of one dike had been exposed, and this was the one named the Geneva Spur, which had provided the Swiss with a perfect ramp to get their road down the canyon wall, and was now providing Ann with a nicely exposed dike base. It was possible that it and all its companion dikes had been formed by concentric fissuring resulting from the rise of Tharsis; but they could also be much older, remnants of a basin-and-range type spread in the earliest Noachian, when the planet was still expanding from its own internal heat. Dating the basalt at the foot of the dike would help answer the question one way or the other. So she drove a little boulder car slowly down the frost-covered road. The car would be quite visible from space, but she didnt care. She had driven all over the southern hemisphere in the previous year, taking no precautions except when approaching one of Coyotes hidden refuges to resupply. Nothing had happened. She reached the bottom of the Spur, only a short distance from the river of ice and rock that now choked the canyon floor. She got out of the car and tapped away with a geologists hammer at the bottom of the last roadcut. She kept her back to the immense glacier, and did not think of it. She was focused on the basalt. The dike rose before her into the sun, a perfect ramp to the clifftop, some three kilometres above her and fifty kilometres to the south. On both sides of the Spur the immense southern cliff of Melas Chasma curved back in huge embayments, then out again to lesser prominencesa slight point on the distant horizon to the left, and a massive headland some sixty kilometres to the right, which Ann called Cape Solis. Long ago Ann had predicted that greatly accelerated mass wasting would follow any hydration of the atmosphere, and on both sides of the Spur the cliff gave indications that she had been right. The embayment between the Geneva Spur and Cape Solis had always been a deep one, but now several fresh landslides showed that it was getting deeper fast. Even the freshest scars, however, as well as all the rest of the fluting and stratification of the cliff, were dusted with frost. The great wall had the coloration of Zion or Bryce after a snowfallstacked reds, streaked with white. There was a very low black ridge on the canyon floor a kilometre or two west of the Geneva Spur, paralleling it. Curious, Ann hiked out to it. On closer inspection the low ridge, no more than chest-high, did indeed appear to be made of the same basalt as the Spur. She took out her hammer, and knocked off a sample. A motion caught her eye and she jerked up to look. Cape Solis was missing its nose. A red cloud was billowing out from its foot. Landslide! Instantly she started the timer on her wristpad, then knocked the binocular hood down over her faceplate, and fiddled with the focus until the distant headland stood clear in her field of vision. The new rock exposed by the break was blackish, and looked nearly vertical; a cooling fault in the dike, perhapsif it too was a dike. It did look like basalt. And it looked as if the break had extended the entire height of the cliff, all four kilometres of it. The cliff face disappeared in the rising cloud of dust, which billowed up and out as if a giant bomb had gone off. A distinct boom, almost subsonic, was followed by a faint roaring, like distant thunder. She checked her wrist; a little under four minutes. Speed of sound on Mars was 252 metres per second, so the distance of sixty kilometres was confirmed. She had seen almost the very first moment of the fall. Deep in the embayment a smaller piece of cliff gave way as well, no doubt triggered by shock waves. But it looked like the merest rockfall compared to the collapsed headland, which had to be millions of cubic metres of rock. Fantastic to actually see one of the big landslidesmost areologists and geologists had to rely on explosions, or computer simulations. A few weeks spent in Valles Marineris would solve that problem for them. And here it came, rolling over the ground by the edge of the glacier, a low dark mass topped by a rolling cloud of dust, like timelapse film of an approaching thunderhead, sound effects and all. It was really quite a long way out from the cape. She realised with a start that she was witnessing a long runout landslide. They were a strange phenomenon, one of the unsolved puzzles of geology. The great majority of landslides move horizontally less than twice the distance they fall; but a few very large slides appear to defy the laws of friction, running horizontally ten times their vertical drop, and sometimes even twenty or thirty. These were called long runout slides, and no one knew why they happened. Cape Solis, now, had fallen four kilometres, and so should have run out no more than eight; but there it was, well across the floor of Melas, running downcanyon directly at Ann. If it ran only fifteen times its vertical drop, it would roll right over her, and slam into the Geneva Spur. She adjusted the focus of her binoculars for the front edge of the slide, just visible as a dark churning mass under the tumbling dustcloud. She could feel her hand trembling against her helmet, but other than that she felt nothing. No fear, no regretnothing, in fact, but a sense of release. All over at last, and not her fault. No one could blame her for it. She had always said that the terraforming would kill her. She laughed briefly, and then squinted, trying to get a better focus on the front edge of the slide. The earliest standard hypothesis to explain long runouts had been that the rock was riding over a layer of air trapped under the fall; but then old long runouts discovered on Mars and Luna had cast doubts on that notion, and Ann agreed with those who argued that any air trapped under the rock would quickly diffuse upward. There had to be some form of lubricant, however, and other forms proposed had included a layer of molten rock caused by the slides friction, acoustic waves caused by the slides noise, or merely the extremely energetic bouncing of the particles caught on the slides bottom. But none of these were very satisfactory suggestions, and no one knew for sure. She was being approached by a phenomenological mystery. Nothing about the mass approaching her under the dustcloud indicated one theory over another. Certainly it wasnt glowing like molten lava, and though it was loud, there was no way of judging whether it was loud enough to be riding on its own sonic boom. On it came in any case, no matter what the mechanism. It looked as though she was going to get a chance to investigate in person, her last act a contribution to geology, lost in the moment of discovery. She checked her wrist, and was surprised to see that twenty minutes had passed already. Long runouts were known to be fast; the Blackhawk slide in the Mojave was estimated to have travelled at 120 kilometres per hour, going down a slope of only a couple of degrees. Melas was in general a bit steeper than that. And indeed the front edge of the slide was closing fast. The noise was getting louder, like rolling thunder directly overhead. The dustcloud reared up, blocking out the afternoon sun. Ann turned and looked out at the great Marineris glacier. She had almost been killed by it more than once, when it was an aquifer outbreak flooding down the great canyons. And Frank Chalmers had been killed by it, and was entombed somewhere in its ice, far downstream. His death had been caused by her mistake, and the remorse had never left her. It had been a moment of inattention only, but a mistake nevertheless; and some mistakes you never can make good. And then Simon had died too, engulfed in an avalanche of his own white blood cells. Now it was her turn. The relief was so acute it was painful. She faced the avalanche. The rock visible at the bottom was bouncing, it seemed, but not rolling over itself like a broken wave. Apparently it was indeed riding over some kind of lubricating layer. Geologists had found nearly intact meadows on top of landslides that had moved many kilometres, so this was confirmation of something known, but it certainly did look peculiar, even unreal: a low rampart advancing across the land without a rollover, like a magic trick. The ground under her feet was vibrating, and she found that her hands were clenched into fists. She thought of Simon, fighting death in his last hours, and hissed; it seemed wrong to stand there welcoming the end so happily, she knew he would not approve. As a gesture to his spirit she stepped off the low lava dike and went down onto one knee behind it. The coarse grain of its basalt was dull in the brown light. She felt the vibrations, looked up at the sky. She had done what she could, no one could fault her. Anyway it was foolish to think that way; no one would ever know what she did here, not even Simon. He was gone. And the Simon inside her would never stop harassing her, no matter what she did. So it was time to rest, and be thankful. The dustcloud rolled over the low dike, there was a windBoom! She was thrown flat by the impact of the noise, picked up and dragged over the canyon floor, thrown and pummelled by rock. She was in a dark cloud, on her hands and knees, dust all around her, the roar of gnashing rock filling everything, the ground tossing underfoot like a wild thing The jostling subsided. She was still on her hands and knees, feeling the cold rock through her gloves and kneepads. Gusts of wind slowly cleared the air. She was covered with dust, and small fragments of stone. Shakily she stood. Her palms and knees hurt, and one kneecap was numb with cold. Her left wrist felt the stab of a sprain. She walked up to the low dike, looked over it. The landslide had stopped about thirty metres short of the dike. The ground in between was littered with rubble, but the edge of the slide proper was a black wall of pulverised basalt, sloping back at about a 45 angle, and twenty or twenty-five metres tall. If she had stayed standing on the low dike, the impact of the air would have thrown her down and killed her. God damn you, she said to Simon. The northern border of the slide had run out onto the Melas glacier, melting the ice and mixing with it in a steaming trough of boulders and mud. The dustcloud made it hard to see much of that. Ann crossed the dike, walked up to the foot of the slide. The rocks at the bottom of it were still hot. They seemed no more fractured than the rock higher in the slide. Ann stared at the new black wall, her ears ringing. Not fair, she thought. Not fair. She walked back to the Geneva Spur, feeling sick and dazed. The boulder car was still on the dead-end road, dusty but apparently unharmed. For the longest time she could not bear to touch it. She stared back over the long smoking mass of the slidea black glacier, next to a white one. Finally she opened the lock door and ducked inside. There was no other choice. Ann drove a little every day, then got out and walked over the planet, doing her work doggedly, like an automaton. To each side of the Tharsis bulge there was a depression. On the west side was Amazonis Planitia, a low plain reaching deep into the southern highlands. On the east was the Chryse Trough, a depression that ran from the Argyre Basin through the Margaritifer Sinus and Chryse Planitia, the deepest point in the trough. The trough was an average of two kilometres lower than its surroundings, and all the chaotic terrain on Mars, and most of the ancient outbreak channels, were located in it. Ann drove east along the southern rim of Marineris, until she was between Nirgal Vallis and the Aureum Chaos. She stopped to resupply at the refuge called Dolmen Tor, which was where Michel and Kasei had taken them at the end of their retreat down Marineris, in 2061. Seeing the little refuge again did not affect her; she scarcely remembered it. All her memories were going away, which she found comforting. She worked at it, in fact, concentrating on the moment with such intensity that even the moment itself went away, every moment a burst of light in a fog, like things breaking in her head. Certainly the trough predated the chaos and the outbreak channels, which were no doubt located there because of the trough. Tharsis had been a tremendous source of outgassing, all the radial and concentric fractures around it leaking volatiles out of the hot centre of the planet. Water in the regolith had run downhill, into the depressions on each side of the bulge. It could be that the depressions were the direct result of the bulge, simply a matter of the lithosphere bent down on the outskirts of where it had been pushed up. Or it could be that the mantle had sunk underneath the depressions, as it had plumed under the bulge. Standard convection models would support such an ideathe upwelling of the plume had to go back down somewhere, after all, rolling at its sides and pulling the lithosphere down after it. And then, up in the regolith, water had run downhill in its usual way, pooling in the troughs, until the aquifers burst open, and the surface over them collapsed: thus the outbreak channels, and the chaos. It was a good working model, plausible and powerful, explaining a lot of features. So every day Ann drove and then walked, seeking confirmation of the mantle convection explanation for the Chryse trough, wandering over the surface of the planet, checking old seismographs and picking away at rocks. It was hard now to make ones way north in the trough; the aquifer outbreaks of 2061 nearly blocked the way, leaving only a narrow slot between the eastern end of the great Marineris glacier, and the western side of a smaller glacier that filled the whole length of Ares Vallis. This slot was the first chance east of Noctis Labyrinthus to cross the equator without going over ice, and Noctis was six thousand kilometres away. So a piste and a road had been built in the slot, and a fairly large tent town established on the rim of Galilaei Crater. South of Galilaei the narrowest part of the slot was only forty kilometres wide, a zone of navigable plain located between the eastern arm of the Hydaspis Chaos and the western part of Aram Chaos. It was hard to drive through this zone and keep the piste and road under the horizons, and Ann drove right on the edge of Aram Chaos, looking down onto the shattered terrain. North of Galilaei it was easier. And then she was out of the slot, and onto Chryse Planitia. This was the heart of the trough, with a gravitational potential of 0.65; the lightest place on the planet, lighter even than Hellas and Isidis. But one day she drove onto the top of a lone hill, and saw that there was an ice sea out in the middle of Chryse. A long glacier had run down from Simud Vallis, and pooled in the Chryse low point, spreading until it became an ice sea, covering the land over the horizons to north, northeast, northwest. She drove slowly around its western shore, then its northern shore. It was some two hundred kilometers across. Near the end of one day she stopped her car on a ghost crater rim, and stared out across the expanse of broken ice. There had been so many outbreaks in 61. It was clear that there had been some good areologists working for the rebels, finding aquifers and setting off explosions or reactor meltdowns precisely where the hydrostatic pressures were the greatest. Using a lot of her own findings, it seemed. But that was the past, banished now. All that was gone. Here and now, there was only this ice sea. The old seismographs she had picked up all had records disturbed by recent tremblors from the north, where there should have been very little activity. Perhaps the melting of the northern polar cap was causing the lithosphere there to rebound upward, setting off lots of small marsquakes. But the tremblors recorded by the seismographs were discrete short-period shocks, like explosions. She had studied her cars AI screen through many a long evening, mystified. Every day she drove, then walked. She left the ice sea, and continued north onto Acidalia. The great plains of the northern hemisphere were generally referred to as level, and they certainly were compared to the chaoses, or to the southern highlands. But still, they were not level like a playing field, or a table topnot even close. There were undulations everywhere, a continuous up-and-downing of hummocks and hollows, ridges of cracking bedrock, hollows of fine drifts, great rumpled boulder fields, isolated tors and little sinkholes It was unearthly. On Earth, soil would have filled the hollows, and wind and water and plant life would have worn down the bare hilltops, and then the whole thing would have been submerged or subducted or worn flat by ice sheets, or uplifted by tectonic action, everything torn away and rebuilt scores of times as the eons passed, and always flattened by weather and biota. But these ancient corrugated plains, their hollows banged out by meteor impact, had not changed for a billion years. And they were among the youngest surfaces on Mars. It was a hard thing to drive across such lumpy terrain, and very easy to get lost when out walking, particularly if ones car looked just like all the other boulders scattered about; particularly if one were distracted. More than once Ann had to find the car by radio signal rather than visual sighting, and sometimes she walked right up to it before recognising itand then would wake up, or come to, hands shaking in the aftershock of some forgotten reverie. The best driving routes were along the low ridges and dikes of exposed bedrock. If these high basalt roads had connected one to the next, it would have been easy. But they commonly were broken by transverse faults, at first no more than line cracks, which then got deeper and wider as one progressed, in sequences like loaves of sliced bread tipping open, until the faults gaped and were filled with rubble and fines, and the dike became nothing but part of a boulder field again. She continued north, onto Vastitas Borealis. Acidalia, Borealis: the old names were so strange. She was doing her best never to think, but during the long hours in the car it was sometimes impossible. At those times it was less dangerous to read than it was to try staying blank. So she would read randomly in her AIs library. Often she ended up staring at areological maps, and one evening at sunset after such a session, she looked into this matter of Marss names. It turned out most of them came from Giovanni Schiaparelli. On his telescope maps he had named over a hundred albedo features, most of which were just as illusory as his canali. But when the astronomers of the 1950s had regularised a map of the albedo features everyone could agree onfeatures that could be photographedmany of Schiaparellis names had been retained. It was a tribute to a certain power he had had, a power evocative if not consistent; he had been a classical scholar, and a student of Biblical astronomy, and among his names there were Latin, Greek, Biblical, and Homeric references, all mixed together. But he had had a good ear, somehow. One proof of his talent was the contrast between his maps and competing Martian maps of the nineteenth century. A map by an Englishman named Proctor, for instance, had relied on the sketches of a Reverend William Dawes; and so on Proctors Mars, which had no recognisable relations even to the standard albedo features, there was a Dawes Continent, a Dawes Ocean, a Dawes Strait, a Dawes Sea, and a Dawes Forked Bay. Also an Airy Sea, a DeLaRue Ocean, and a Beer Sea. Admittedly this last was a tribute to a German named Beer, who had drawn a Mars map even worse than Proctors. Still, compared to them Schiaparelli had been a genius. But not consistent. And there was something wrong in this mlange of references, something dangerous. Mercurys features were all named after great artists, Venuss were named after famous women; they would drive or fly over those landscapes one day, and feel that they lived in coherent worlds. Only on Mars did they walk about in a horrendous mishmash of the dreams of the past, causing who knew what disastrous misapprehensions of the real terrain: the Lake of the Sun, the Plain of Gold, the Red Sea, Peacock Mountain, the Lake of the Phoenix, Cimmeria, Arcadia, the Gulf of Pearls, the Gordian Knot, Styx, Hades, Utopia On the dark dunes of Vastitas Borealis she began to run low on supplies. Her seismographs showed daily tremblors to the east, and she drove toward them. On her walks outside she studied the garnet sand dunes, and their layering which revealed the old climates like tree rings. But snow and high winds were tearing off the crests of the dunes. The westerlies could be extremely strong, enough to pick up sheets of large-grained sand and hurl them against her car. The sand would always settle in dune formations, as a simple matter of physics, but the dunes would be picking up the pace of their slow march around the world, and the record they had made of earlier ages would be destroyed. She forced that thought from her mind, and studied the phenomenon as if there were no new artificial forces disturbing it. She focused on her work as if clenching her geologists hammer, as if breaking apart rocks. The past was spalled away piece by piece. Leave it behind. She refused to think of it. But more than once she jerked out of sleep with the image of the long runout coming at her. And then she was awake for good, sweating and trembling, faced with the incandescent dawn, the sun blazing like a chunk of burning sulphur. Coyote had given her a map of his caches in the north, and now she came to one buried in a cluster of house-sized boulders. She restocked, leaving a brief thank-you note. The last itinerary Coyote had given her said he was going to be dropping by this area sometime soon, but there was no sign of him, and no use waiting. She drove on. She drove, she walked. But she couldnt help it; the memory of the landslide haunted her. What bothered her was not that she had had a brush with death, which no doubt had happened many times before, mostly in ways she had not noticed. It was simply how arbitrary it had been. It had nothing to do with value or fitness; it was pure contingency. Punctuated equilibrium, without the equilibrium. Effects did not follow from causes, and one did not get ones just deserts. She was the one who had spent too much time outdoors, after all, taking on far too much radiation; but it was Simon who had died. And she was the one who had fallen asleep at the wheel; but it was Frank who had died. It was simply a matter of chance, of accidental survival or erasure. It was hard to believe natural selection had made any way in such a universe. There under her feet, in the troughs between the dunes, Archae bacteria were growing on sand grains; but the atmosphere was gaining oxygen fast, and all the Archae bacteria would die out except those that were by accident underground, away from the oxygen they themselves had respired, the oxygen that was poisonous to them. Natural selection or accident? You stood, breathing gases, while death rushed toward youand were covered by boulders, and diedor covered by dust, and lived. And nothing you did mattered in that great either/or. Nothing you did mattered. One afternoon, reading randomly in the AI to distract herself between her return to the car and her dinner hour, she learned that the Czarist police had taken Dostoevsky out to be executed, and only brought him back in after several hours of waiting for his turn. Ann finished reading about this incident and sat in the drivers seat of her car, feet on the dash, staring at the screen blindly. Another garish sunset poured through the window over her, the sun weirdly large and bright in the thickening atmosphere. Dostoevsky had been changed for life, the writer declared in the easy omniscience of biography. An epileptic, prone to violence, prone to despair. He hadnt been able to integrate the experience. Perpetually angry. Fearful. Possessed. Ann shook her head and laughed, angry at the idiot writer, who simply didnt understand. Of course you didnt integrate the experience. It was meaninglessness. The experience that couldnt be integrated. The next day a tower poked over the horizon. She stopped the car, stared at it through the cars telescope. There was a lot of ground mist behind it. The tremblors registering on her seismograph were very strong now, and appeared to be coming from a bit to the north. She even felt one of them herself, which, given the cars shock absorbers, meant they were strong indeed. It seemed likely there was a connection with the tower. She got out of her car. It was almost sunset, the sky a great arch of violent colours, the sun low in the hazy west. The light would be behind her. She wound between dunes, then carefully made her way to the crest of one, and crawled the final metres of the way, and looked over the crest at the tower, now only a kilometre to the east. When she saw how close its base was she kept her chin right on the ground, among ejecta the size of her helmet. It was some kind of mobile drilling operation, a big one. The massive base was flanked by giant caterpillar tracks, like those used to move the largest rockets around a spaceport. The drill tower rose out of this behemoth more than sixty metres, and the base and lower part of the tower clearly contained the technicians housing and equipment and supplies. Beyond this thing, a short distance down a gentle slope to the north, was a sea of ice. Immediately north of the drill, the crests of the great barchan dunes still stuck out of the icefirst as a bumpy beach, then as hundreds of crescent islands. But a couple of kilometres out the dune crests disappeared, and it was ice only. The ice was pure, cleantranslucent purple under the sunset skyclearer than any ice she had ever seen on the Martian surface, and smooth, not broken like all the glaciers. It was steaming faintly, the frost steam whipping east on the wind. And out on it, looking like ants, people in walkers and helmets were ice-skating. It had come clear the moment she saw the ice. Long ago she herself had confirmed the big impact hypothesis, which accounted for the dichotomy between the hemispheres; the low smooth northern hemisphere was simply a superhuge impact basin, the result of a scarcely imaginable collision in the Noachian, between Mars and a planetesimal nearly as big as it. The rock of the impact body that had not vaporised had become part of Mars itself, and there were arguments in the literature that the irregular movements in the mantle which had caused the Tharsis bulge were late developments resulting from perturbations originating with the impact. To Ann that wasnt likely, but what was clear was that the great crash had happened, wiping out the surface of the entire northern hemisphere, and lowering it by an average of four kilometres relative to the south. An astonishing hit, but that was the Noachian. An impact of similar magnitude had in all probability caused the birth of Luna out of Earth. In fact there were some anti-impact holdouts arguing that if Mars had been hit as hard, it should have had a moon as big. But now, lying flat looking at the giant drilling rig, the point was that the northern hemisphere was even lower than it first appeared, for its bedrock was amazingly deep, as much as five kilometres beneath the dunes. The impact had blown that deep, and then the depression had mostly refilled, with a mixture of ejecta from the big impact, windblown sand and fines, later impact material, erosional material sliding down the slope of the Great Escarpment, and water. Yes, water, finding the lowest point as it always did; the water in the annual frost hood, and the ancient aquifer outbreaks, and the outgassing from the blistered bedrock, and the lensing from the polar cap, had all eventually migrated to this deep zone, and combined to form a truly enormous underground reservoir, an ice and liquid pool that extended in a band all the way around the planet, underlying almost everything north of 60north latitude, except, ironically, for a bedrock island on which the polar cap itself stood. Ann had discovered this underground sea many years before, and by her estimates between sixty and seventy percent of all the water on Mars was down there. It was, in fact, the Oceanus Borealis that some terraformers talked aboutbut buried, deeply buried, and mostly frozen, and mixed with regolith and dense fines; a permafrost ocean, with some liquid down on the deepest bedrock. All locked down there for good, or so she had thought, because no matter how much heat the terraformers applied to the planets surface, the permafrost ocean would not thaw any faster than a metre per millenniumand even when it did melt it would remain underground, simply as a matter of gravity. Thus the drilling rig before her. They were mining the water. Mining the liquid aquifers direct, and also melting the permafrost with explosives, probably nuclear explosives, and then collecting the melt and pumping it onto the surface. The weight of the overlying regolith would help push the water up through pipes. The weight of water on the surface would help push up more. If there were very many drilling rigs like this one, they could put a tremendous amount on the surface. Eventually they would have a shallow sea. An ice sea to start with, but between atmospheric warming, sunlight, bacterial action, increased windsit would melt eventually. And then there would be an Oceanus Borealis. And the old Vastitas Borealis, with its world-wrapping garnet barchan dunes, would be sea bottom. Drowned. She walked back to her car in the twilight, moving clumsily. It was difficult to operate the locks, to get her helmet off. Inside she sat before the microwave without moving for more than an hour, images flitting through her mind. Ants burning under a magnifying glass, an anthill drowned behind a mud dam She had thought that nothing could reach her any more in this preposthumous existence she was livingbut her hands trembled, and she could not face the rice and salmon cooling in the microwave. Her stomach was a small stone in her body. In the random flux of universal contingency, nothing mattered; and yet, and yet She drove away. She couldnt think of anything else to do. She returned south, driving up the low slopes, past Chryse and its little ice sea. It would be a bay of the larger ocean, eventually. She focused on her work, or tried. She fought to see nothing but rock, to think like a stone. One day she drove over a plain of small black boulders. The plain was smoother than usual, the horizon its usual five kilometres away, familiar from Underhill and all the rest of the lowlands. A little world, and completely filled with small black boulders, like fossil balls from various sports, only all black, and all faceted to one extent or another. They were ventifacts. She got out of the car to walk around and look. The rocks drew her on. She walked a long way west. A front of low clouds rolled over the horizon, and she could feel the wind pushing at her in gusts. In the premature dark of the suddenly stormy afternoon, the boulder field took on a weird beauty; she stood in a slab of dim air, rushing between two planes of lumpy blackness. The boulders were basalt rocks, which had been scoured by the winds on one exposed surface, until that surface had been scraped flat. Perhaps a million years for that first scraping. And then the underlying clays had been blown away, or a rare marsquake had shaken the region, and the rock had shifted to a new position, exposing a different surface. And the process had begun again. A new facet would be slowly scraped flat by the ceaseless brushing of micron-sized abrasives, until once again the rocks equilibrium changed, or another rock bumped it, or something else shifted it from its position. And then it would start again. Every boulder in that field, shifting every million years or so, and then lying still under the wind for day after day, year after year. So that there were einkanters with single facets, and dreikanters with three facetsfierkanters, funfkantersall the way up to nearly perfect hexahedrons, octahedrons, dodecahedrons. Ventifacts. Ann hefted one after another of them, thinking about how many years their planed sides represented, wondering whether her mind might not reveal similar scourings, big sections worn flat by time. It began to snow. First swirling flakes, then big soft blobs, pouring down on the wind. It was relatively warm out, and the snow was slushy, then sleety, then an ugly mix of hail and wet snow, all falling down in a hard wind. As the storm progressed, the snow became very dirty; apparently it had been pushed up and down in the atmosphere for a long time, collecting fines and dust and smoke particulates, and crystallising more moisture and then flying up on another updraught in the thunderhead to do it again, until what came down was nearly black. Black snow. And then it was a kind of frozen mud that was falling, filling in the holes and gaps between the ventifacts, coating their tops, then dropping off their sides, as the keening wind caused a million little avalanches. Ann staggered aimlessly, pointlessly, until she twisted an ankle and stopped, her breath racking in and out of her, a rock clutched in each cold gloved hand. She understood that the long runout was still running. And mud snow pelted down out of the black air, burying the plain. But nothing lasts, not even stone, not even despair. Ann got back to her car, she didnt know how or why. She drove a little every day, and without consciously intending to, came back to Coyotes cache. She stayed there for a week, walking over the dunes and mumbling her food. Then one day: Ann, di da do? She only understood the word Ann. Shocked at the return of her glossolalia, she put both hands to the radio speaker, and tried to talk. Nothing came out but a choking sound. Ann, di da do? It was a question. Ann, she said, as if vomiting. Ten minutes later he was in her car, reaching up to give her a hug. How long have you been here? Not not long. They sat. She collected herself. It was like thinking, it was thinking out loud. Surely she still thought in words. Coyote talked on, perhaps a bit more slowly than usual, eyeing her closely. She asked him about the ice-drilling rig. Ah. I wondered if you would run across one of those. How many are there? Fifty. Coyote saw her expression, and nodded briefly. He was eating voraciously, and it occurred to her that he had arrived at the cache empty. Theyre putting a lot of money into these big projects. The new elevator, these water rigs, nitrogen from Titan a big mirror out there between us and the sun, to put more light on us. Have you heard of that? She tried to collect herself. Fifty. Ah, God It made her mad. She had been angry at the planet, for not giving her her release. For frightening her, but not backing it up with action. But this was different, a different kind of anger. And now as she sat watching Coyote eat, thinking about the inundation of Vastitas Borealis, she could feel that anger contracting inside her, like a pre-stellar dustcloud, contracting until it collapsed and ignited. Hot furyit was painful to feel it. And yet it was the same old thing, anger at the terraforming. That old burnt emotion that had gone nova in the early years, now coalescing and going off again; she didnt want it, she really didnt. But damn it, the planet was melting under her feet. Disintegrating. Reduced to mush in some Terran cartels mining venture. Something ought to be done. And really she had to do something, if only just to fill the hours that she had to fill before some accident had mercy on her. Something to occupy the preposthumous hours. Zombie vengeancewell, why not? Prone to violence, prone to despair Whos building them? she asked. Mostly Consolidated. Theres factories building them at Mareotis and Bradbury Point. Coyote wolfed down food for a while more, then eyed her. You dont like it. No. Would you like to stop it? She didnt reply. Coyote seemed to understand. I dont mean stop the whole terraforming effort. But there are things that can be done. Blow up the factories. Theyll just rebuild them. You never can tell. It would slow them down. It might buy enough time for something to happen on a more global scale. Reds, you mean. Yes. I think people would call them Reds. Ann shook her head. They dont need me. No. But maybe you need them, eh? And youre a hero to them, you know. You would mean more to them than just another body. Anns mind had gone blank again. Redsshe had never believed in them, never believed that mode of resistance would work. But nowwell, even if it wouldnt work, it might be better than doing nothing. Poke them in the eye with a stick! And if it did work Let me think about it. They talked about other things. Suddenly Ann was hit by a wall of fatigue, which was strange as she had spent so much time doing nothing. But there it was. Talking was exhausting work, she wasnt used to it. And Coyote was a hard man to talk to. You should go to bed, he said, breaking off his monologue. You look tired. Your hands He helped her up. She lay down on a bed, in her clothes. Coyote pulled a blanket over her. Youre tired. I wonder if it isnt time for another longevity treatment for you, old girl. Im not going to take them any more. No! Well, you surprise me. But sleep, now. Sleep. She caravanned with Coyote back south, and in the evenings they ate together, and he told her about the Reds. It was a loose grouping, rather than any rigidly organised movement. Like the underground itself. She knew several of the founders: Ivana, and Gene and Raul from the farm team, who had ended up disagreeing with Hirokos areophany and its insistence on viriditas; Kasei and Dao and several of the Zygote ectogenes; a lot of Arkadys followers, who had come down from Phobos and then clashed with Arkady over the use value of terraforming to the revolution. A good many Bogdanovists, including Steve and Marian, had become Reds in the years since 2061, as had followers of the biologist Schnelling, and some radical Japanese nisei and sansei from Sabishii, and Arabs who wanted Mars to stay Arabian forever, and escaped prisoners from Korolyov, and so on. A bunch of radicals. Not really her type, Ann thought, feeling a residual sensation that her objection to terraforming was a rational scientific thing. Or at least a defensible ethical or aesthetic position. But then the anger burned through her again in a flash, and she shook her head, disgusted at herself. Who was she to judge the ethics of the Reds? At least they had expressed their anger, they had lashed out. Probably they felt better, even if they hadnt accomplished anything. And maybe they had accomplished something, at least in years past, before the terraforming had entered this new phase of transnat gigantism. Coyote maintained that the Reds had considerably slowed terraforming. Some of them had even kept records to try to quantify the difference they had made. There was also, he said, a growing movement among some of the Reds to acknowledge reality, and admit that terraforming was going to happen, but to work up policy papers advocating various kinds of least-impact terraforming. There are some very detailed proposals for a largely carbon dioxide atmosphere, warm but water-poor, which would support plant life, and people with facemasks, but not wrench the world into a Terran model. Its very interesting. There are also several proposals for what they call ecopoesis, or areobiospheres. Worlds in which the low altitudes are arctic, and just barely liveable for us, while the higher altitudes remain above the bulk of the atmosphere, and thus in a natural state, or close to it. The calderas of the four big volcanoes would stay especially pure in such a world, or so they say. Ann doubted most of these proposals were achievable, or would have the effects predicted. But Coyotes accounts intrigued her nevertheless. He was a strong supporter of all Red efforts, apparently, and he had been a big help to them from the start, giving them aid from the underground refuges, connecting them up with each other, and helping them to build their own refuges, which were chiefly in the mesas and fretted terrain of the Great Escarpment, where they remained close to the terraforming action, and could therefore interfere with it more easily. YesCoyote was a Red, or at least a sympathiser. Really Im nothing. An old anarchist. I suppose you could call me a Boonean, now, in that I believe in incorporating anything and everything that will help make a free Mars. Sometimes I think the argument that a human-viable surface helps the revolution is a good one. Other times not. And the Reds are such a great guerrilla pool. And I take their point that were not here to, you know, reproduce Canada for Gods sake! So I help. Im good at hiding, and I like it. Ann nodded. So do you want to join them? Or at least meet them? Ill think about it. Her focus on rock was shattered. Now she could not help but notice how many signs of life there were on the land. In the southern tens and twenties, ice from the outbreak glaciers was melting during summer afternoons, and the cold water was flowing downhill, cutting the land in new primitive watersheds, and turning talus slopes into what ecologists called fellfields, those rocky patches that were the first living communities after ice receded, their living component made of algae and lichens and moss. Sandy regolith, infected by water and nitrobacteria flowing through it, became fellfield with shocking speed, she found, and the fragile landforms were quickly destroyed. Much of the regolith on Mars had been superarid, so arid that when water touched it there were powerful chemical reactionslots of hydrogen peroxide release, and salt crystallisationsin essence the ground disintegrated, flowing away in sandy muds that only set downstream, in solifluction rims, and frosty new proto-fellfields. Features were disappearing. The land was melting. After one long days drive through terrain altered like this, Ann said to Coyote, Maybe I will talk to them. But first they returned to Zygote, or Gamete, where Coyote had some business. Ann stayed in Peters room, as he was gone, and the room she had shared with Simon had been put to other uses. She wouldnt have stayed in it anyway. Peters room was under Daos, a round bamboo segment containing a desk, a chair, a crescent mattress on the floor, and a window looking out at the lake. Everything was the same but different in Gamete, and despite the years she had spent visiting Zygote regularly, she felt no connection with any of it. It was hard, in fact, to remember what Zygote had been like. She didnt want to remember, she practised forgetting assiduously; any time some image from the past came to her, she would jump up and do something that required concentration, studying rock samples or seismograph read-outs, or cooking complex meals, or going out to play with the kidsuntil the image had faded, and the past was banished. With practice one could dodge the past almost entirely. One evening Coyote stuck his head in the door of Peters room. Did you know Peter is a Red too? What? He is. But he works on his own, in space mostly. I think that his ride down from the elevator gave him a taste for it. My God, she said, disgusted. That was another random accident; by all rights Peter should have died when the elevator fell. What were the chances of a spaceship floating by and spotting him, alone in areosynchronous orbit? No, it was ridiculous. Nothing existed but contingency. But she was still angry. She went to sleep upset by these thoughts, and sometime in her uneasy slumber she had a dream in which she and Simon were walking through the most spectacular part of Candor Chasma, on that first trip they had taken together, when everything was immaculate, and nothing had changed for a billion yearsthe first humans to walk in that vast gorge of layered terrain and immense walls. Simon had loved it just as much as she had, and he was so silent, so absorbed in the reality of rock and skythere was no better companion for such glorious contemplation. Then in the dream one of the giant canyon walls had started to collapse, and Simon said, Long runout, and she woke up instantly, sweating. She dressed and left Peters rooms and went out into the little mesocosm under the dome, the white lake, the krummholz on the low dunes. Hiroko was such a strange genius, to conceive such a place and then convince so many others to join her in it. To conceive so many children, without the fathers permission, without controls over the genetic manipulations; it was a form of insanity, really, divine or not. There along the icy strand of their little lake came a group of Hirokos brood. They couldnt be called kids any more: the youngest were fifteen or sixteen Terran years old, the oldestwell, the oldest were out scattered over the world, Kasei was probably fifty by now, and his daughter Jackie nearly twenty-five, a graduate of the new university in Sabishii, active in demi-monde politics. That group of ectogenes were back in Gamete on a visit, like Ann herself. There they were, coming along the beach. Jackie was leading the group, a tall graceful black-haired young woman, quite beautiful and imperious, the leader of her generation no doubt. Unless it might be the cheery Nirgal, or the brooding Dao. But Jackie led themDao followed her with doggy loyalty, and even Nirgal kept an eye on her. Simon had loved Nirgal, and Peter did too, and Ann could see why; he was the only one among Hirokos gang of ectogenes that did not put her off. The rest cavorted in their self-absorption, kings and queens of their little world, but Nirgal had left Zygote soon after Simons death, and had hardly ever come back. He had studied in Sabishii, which is what had given Jackie the idea, and now spent most of his time in Sabishii, or out with Coyote or Peter, or visiting the cities of the north. So was he too a Red? Impossible to say. But he was interested in everything, aware of everything, running around everywhere, a kind of young male Hiroko if such a creature was possible, but less strange than Hiroko, more engaged with other people; more human. Ann had never in her life managed to have a normal conversation with Hiroko, who seemed to her an alien consciousness, with entirely different meanings for all the words in the language, and, despite her brilliance at ecosystem design, not really a scientist at all, but rather some kind of prophet. Nirgal on the other hand seemed intuitively to strike right to the heart of whatever was most important to the person he was talking toand he focused on that, and asked question after question, curious, assimilative, sympathetic. As Ann watched him trailing Jackie down the strand, running here and there, she recalled how slowly and carefully he had walked at Simons side. How he had looked so frightened that last night, when Hiroko in her peculiar way had brought him in to say goodbye. All that business had been a cruel thing to subject a boy to, but she hadnt objected at the time; she had been desperate, ready to try anything. Another mistake she could never repair. She stared at the blond sand underfoot, upset, until the ectogenes had passed. It was a shame Nirgal was so hooked by Jackie, who cared so little for him. Jackie was a remarkable woman in her way, but much too much like Mayamoody and manipulative, fixated on no man, except, perhaps, for Peterwho luckily (although it had not seemed so at the time) had had an affair with Jackies mother, and was not the least bit interested in Jackie herself. A messy business that, and Peter and Kasei were still estranged by it, and Esther had never been back. Not Peters finest hour. And its effects on Jackie oh yes, there would be effects (there, watch outsome black blank, there in her own deep past) yes, on and on and on it went, all their sordid little lives, repeating themselves in their meaningless rounds She tried to concentrate on the composition of the sand grains. Blond was not really a usual colour for sand on Mars. A very rare granitic stuff. She wondered if Hiroko had hunted for it, or else got lucky. The ectogenes were gone, down by the other side of the lake. She was alone on the beach. Simon somewhere underneath her. It was hard to keep from connecting with any of that. A man came walking over the dunes toward her. He was short, and at first she thought it was Sax, then Coyote, but he wasnt either of these. He hesitated when he saw her, and by that motion she saw that it was indeed Sax. But a Sax greatly altered in appearance. Vlad and Ursula had been doing some cosmetic surgery on his face, enough so that he didnt look like the old Sax. He was going to move to Burroughs, and join a biotech company there, using a Swiss passport and one of Coyotes viral identities. Getting back into the terraforming effort. She looked out at the water. He came over and tried to talk to her, strangely un-Saxlike, nicer-looking now, a handsome old coot; but it was still the old Sax, and her anger filled her up so much that she could hardly think, hardly remember what they were talking about from one second to the next. You really do look different, was all she could recall. Inanities like that. Looking at him she thought, He will never change. But there was something frightening about the stricken look on his new face, something deadly that it would evoke, if she did not stop it and so she argued with him until he grimaced one last time, and went away. She sat there for a long time, getting colder and more distraught. Finally she put her head on her knees, and fell into a kind of sleep. She had a dream. All the First Hundred were standing around her, the living and the dead, Sax at their centre with his old face, and that dangerous new look of distress. He said, Net gain in complexity. Vlad and Ursula said, Net gain in health. Hiroko said, Net gain in beauty. Nadia said, Net gain in goodness. Maya said, Net gain in emotional intensity, and behind her John and Frank rolled their eyes. Arkady said, Net gain in freedom. Michel said, Net gain in understanding. From the back Frank said, Net gain in power, and John elbowed him and cried, Net gain in happiness! And then they all stared at Ann. And she stood up, quivering with rage and fear, understanding that she alone among them did not believe in the possibility of the net gain of anything at all, that she was some kind of crazy reactionary; and all she could do was point a shaking finger at them and say, Mars. Mars. Mars. That night after supper, and the evening in the big meeting room, Ann got Coyote alone and said, When do you go out again? In a few days. Are you still willing to introduce me to those people you talked about? Yeah, sure. He looked at her with his head cocked. Its where you belong. She only nodded. She looked around the common room, thinking goodbye, goodbye. Good riddance. A week later she was flying with Coyote in an ultralite plane. They flew north through the nights, into the equatorial region, then onward to the Great Escarpment, to the Deuteronilus Mensae north of Xanthewild fretted terrain, the mensae like an archipelago of stack islands, dotting a sand sea. They would become a real archipelago, Ann thought as Coyote descended between two of them, if the pumping to the north continued. Coyote landed on a short stretch of dusty sand, and taxied into a hangar cut into the side of one of the mesas. Out of the plane they were greeted by Steve and Ivana and a few others, and taken up in an elevator to a floor just under the top of the mesa. The northern end of this particular mesa came to a sharp rocky point, and high in this point a large triangular meeting room had been excavated. On entering it Ann stopped in surprise; it was jammed with people, several hundred of them at least, all seated at long tables about to start a meal, leaning over the tables to pour each others water. The people at one table saw her, and stopped what they were doing, and the people at the next table noticed that and looked around, and saw her and likewise stoppedand so the effect rippled out through the room, until they had all gone still. Then one stood, and another, and in a ragged motion they all rose to their feet. For a moment everything was as if frozen. Then they began to applaud, their hands flailing wildly, their faces gleaming; and then they cheered. PART FOUR The Scientist As Hero (#ulink_67865168-2a96-5691-9118-d9eedb6a66a9) Hold it between thumb and middle finger. Feel the rounded edge, observe the smooth curves of glass. A magnifying lens: it has the simplicity, elegance and heft of a palaeolithic tool. Sit with it on a sunny day, hold it over a pile of dry twigs. Move it up and down, until you see a spot in the twigs turn bright. Remember that light? It was as if the twigs caged a little sun. The Amor asteroid that was spun out into the elevator cable was made up mostly of carbonaceous chondrites and water. The two Amor asteroids intercepted by groups of robot landers in the year 2091 were mostly silicates and water. The material of New Clarke was spun out into a single long strand of carbon. The material of the two silicate asteroids was transformed by their robot crews into sheets of solar sail material. Silica vapour was solidified between rollers ten kilometres long, and pulled out in sheets coated with a thin layer of aluminium, and these vast mirror sheets were unfurled by spacecraft with human crews, into circular arrays which held their shape using spin and sunlight. From one asteroid, pushed into a Martian polar orbit and called Birch, they teased the mirror sheets out into a ring a hundred thousand kilometres in diameter. This annular mirror spun around Mars in a polar orbit, the mirror ring facing the sun, angled in so that the light reflected from it met at a point inside Marss orbit, near its Lagrange One point. The second silicate asteroid, called Solettaville, had been pushed near this Lagrange point. There the solar sailmakers spun the mirror sheets out into a complex web of slatted rings, all connected and set at angles, so that they looked like a lens made of circular Venetian blinds, spinning around a hub which was a silver cone, with the cones open end facing Mars. This huge delicate object, ten thousand kilometres in diameter, bright and stately as it wheeled along between Mars and the sun, was called the soletta. Sunlight striking the soletta directly bounced through its blinds, hitting the sun side of one, then the Mars side of the next one out, and onward to Mars. Sunlight striking the annular ring in its polar orbit was reflected back and in to the inner cone of the soletta, and then was reflected again, also on to Mars. Thus light struck both sides of the soletta, and these countervailing pressures kept it moving in its position, about a hundred thousand kilometres out from Marscloser at perihelion, further away at aphelion. The angles of the slats were constantly adjusted by the solettas AI, to keep its orbit and its focus. Through the decade that these two great pinwheels were being constructed out of their asteroids, like silicate webs out of rock spiders, observers on Mars saw almost nothing of them. Occasionally someone would see an arcing white line in the sky, or random glints by day or by night, as if the brilliance of a much vaster universe were shining through loose seams in the fabric of our sphere. Then, when the two mirrors were completed, the annular mirrors reflected light was aimed at the cone of the soletta. The solettas circular slats were adjusted, and it moved into a slightly different orbit. And one day people living on the Tharsis side of Mars looked up, for the sky had darkened. They looked up, and saw an eclipse of the sun such as Mars had never seen: the sun bit into, as if there were some Luna-sized moon up there to block its rays. The eclipse then proceeded as they do on Earth, the crescent of darkness biting deeper into the round blaze, the sky going a dark violet, the darkness taking over the majority of the disc, leaving only a crescent of blaze until that too disappeared, and the sun was a dark circle in the sky, edged by the whisper of a coronathen entirely gone. Total eclipse of the sun A very faint moir pattern of light appeared in the dark disc, unlike anything ever seen in any natural eclipse. Everyone on the daylight side of Mars gasped, squinted as they looked up. And then, as when one tugs open Venetian blinds, the sun came back all at once. Blinding light! And now more blinding than ever, as the sun was noticeably brighter than it had been before the strange eclipse had begun. Now they walked under an augmented sun, the disc appearing about the same size as it did from Earth, the light some twenty percent greater than beforenoticeably brighter, warmer on the back of the neckthe red expanse of the plains more brilliantly lit. As if floodlights had suddenly been turned on, and all of them were now walking a great stage. A few months after that a third mirror, much smaller than the soletta, spun down into the highest reaches of the Martian atmosphere. It was another lens made of circular slats, and looked like a silver UFO. It caught some of the light pouring down from the soletta, and focused it still further, into points on the surface of the planet that were less than a kilometre across. And it flew like a glider over the world, holding that concentrated beam of light in focus, until little suns seemed to bloom right there on the land, and the rock itself melted, turning from solid to liquid. And then to fire. The underground wasnt big enough for Sax Russell. He wanted to get back to work. He could have moved into the demi-monde, perhaps taken a teaching position at the new university in Sabishii, which ran outside the net and covered many of his old colleagues, and provided an education for many of the children of the underground. But on reflection he decided he didnt want to teach, or remain on the peripheryhe wanted to return to terraforming, to the heart of the project if possible, or as close as he could get to it. And that meant the surface world. Recently the Transitional Authority had formed a committee to co-ordinate all the work on terraforming, and a Subarashii-led team had got the old synthesis job that Sax had once held. This was unfortunate, as Sax didnt speak Japanese. But the lead in the biological part of the effort had been given to the Swiss, and was being run by a Swiss collective of biotech companies called Biotique, with main offices in Geneva and Burroughs, and close ties with the transnational Praxis. So the first task was to insinuate himself into Biotique under a false name, and get himself assigned to Burroughs. Desmond took charge of this operation, writing a computer persona for Sax similar to the one he had given to Spencer years before, when Spencer had moved to Echus Overlook. Spencers persona, and some extensive cosmetic surgery, had enabled him to work successfully in the materials labs in Echus Overlook, and then later in Kasei Vallis, the very heart of transnat security. So Sax had faith in Desmonds system. The new persona listed Saxs physical ID datagenome, retina, voice, and finger printsall slightly altered, so that they still almost fit Sax himself, while escaping notice in any comparative matching searches in the nets. These data were given a new name with a full Terran background, credit rating, and immigration record, and a viral subtext to attempt to overwhelm any competing ID for the physical data, and the whole package was sent off to the Swiss passport office, which had been issuing passports to these arrivals without comment. And in the balkanised world of the transnat nets, that seemed to be doing the job. Oh yeah, that part works no problem, Desmond said. But you First Hundred are all movie stars. You need a new face too. Sax was agreeable. He saw the need, and his face had never meant anything to him. And these days the face in the mirror didnt much resemble what he thought he looked like anyway. So he got Vlad to do the work on him, emphasising the potential usefulness of his presence in Burroughs. Vlad had become one of the leading theoreticians of the resistance to the Transitional Authority, and he was quick to see Saxs point. Most of us should just live in the demi-monde, he said, but a few people hidden in Burroughs would be a good thing. So I might as well practise my cosmetic surgery on a no-lose situation like yours. A no-lose situation! Sax said. And verbal contracts are binding. I expect to come out handsomer. And for a wonder he did, although it was impossible to tell until the spectacular bruising went away. They capped his teeth, puffed his thin lower lip, and gave his button nose a prominent bridge, and a little bit of a bend. They thinned his cheeks and gave him more of a chin. They even cut some muscles in his eyelids so that he didnt blink so often. When the bruises went away he looked like a real movie star, as Desmond said. Like an ex-jockey, Nadia said. Or an ex-dance instructor, Maya said, who had faithfully attended Alcoholics Anonymous for many years. Sax, who had never liked the effects of alcohol, waved her off. Desmond took photos of him and put them in the new persona, then inserted this construct successfully into the Biotique files, along with a transfer order from San Francisco to Burroughs. The persona appeared in the Swiss passport listings a week later, and Desmond chuckled when he saw it. Look at that, he said, pointing at Saxs new name. Stephen Lindholm, Swiss citizen! Those folks are covering for us, theres no doubt about it. Ill bet you anything they put a stopper on the persona, and checked your genome with old print records, and even with my alterations I bet they figured out who you really are. Are you sure? No. They arent saying, are they? But Im pretty sure. Is it a good thing? In theory, no. But in practice, if someone is on to you, its nice to see them behaving as a friend. And the Swiss are good friends to have. This is the fifth time theyve issued a passport to one of my personas. I even have one myself, and I doubt they were able to find out who I really am, because I was never IDd like you folks in the First Hundred. Interesting, dont you think? Indeed. They are interesting people. They have their own plans, and I dont know what they are, but I like the look of them. I think theyve made a decision to cover for us. Maybe they just want to know where we are. Well never know for sure, because the Swiss dearly love their secrets. But it doesnt matter why when youve got the how. Sax winced at the sentiment, but was happy to think that he would be safe under Swiss patronage. They were his kind of peoplerational, cautious, methodical. A few days before he was going to fly with Peter north to Burroughs, he took a walk around Gametes lake, something he had rarely done in his years there. The lake was certainly a neat bit of work. Hiroko was a fine systems designer. When she and her team had disappeared from Underhill so long ago, Sax had been quite mystified; he hadnt seen the point, and had worried that they would begin to fight the terraforming somehow. When he had managed to coax a response out of Hiroko on the net, he had been partly reassured; she seemed sympathetic to the basic goal of terraforming, and indeed her own concept of viriditas seemed just another version of the same idea. But Hiroko appeared to enjoy being cryptic, which was very unscientific of her; and during her years of hiding she had indulged herself to the point of information damage. Even in person she was none too easy to understand, and it was only after some years of coexistence that Sax had become confident that she too desired a Martian biosphere that would support humans. That was all the agreement he asked for. And he could not think of a better single ally to have in that particular project, unless it was the chairperson of this new Transitional Authority committee. And probably the chair was an ally too. There were not too many opposed, in fact. But there on the beach sat one, as gaunt as a heron. Ann Clayborne. Sax hesitated, but she had already seen him. And so he walked on, until he stood by her side. She glanced up at him, and then stared out again at the white lake. You really look different, she said. Yes. He could still feel the sore spots in his face and mouth, though the bruises had cleared up. It felt a bit like wearing a mask, and suddenly that made him uncomfortable. Same me, he added. Of course. She did not look up at him. So youre off to the overworld? Yes. To get back to your work? Yes. She looked up at him. What do you think science is for? Sax shrugged. It was their old argument, again and always, no matter what kind of beginning it had. To terraform or not to terraform, that is the question He had answered the question long ago, and so had she, and he wished they could just agree to disagree, and get on with it. But Ann was indefatigable. To figure things out, he said. But terraforming is not figuring things out. Terraforming isnt science. I never said it was. Its what people do with science. Applied science, or technology. What have you. The choice of what to do with what you learn from science. Whatever you call that. So its a matter of values. I suppose so. Sax thought about it, trying to marshal his thoughts concerning this murky topic. I suppose our our disagreement is another facet of what people call the factvalue problem. Science concerns itself with facts, and with theories that turn facts into examples. Values are another kind of system, a human construct. Science is also a human construct. Yes. But the connection between the two systems isnt clear. Beginning from the same facts, we can arrive at different values. But science itself is full of values, Ann insisted. We talk about theories with power and elegance, we talk about clean results, or a beautiful experiment. And the desire for knowledge is itself a kind of value, saying that knowledge is better than ignorance, or mystery. Right? I suppose, Sax said, thinking it over. Your science is a set of values, Ann said. The goal of your kind of science is the establishment of laws, of regularities, of exactness and certainty. You want things explained. You want to answer the whys, all the way back to the Big Bang. Youre a reductionist. Parsimony and elegance and economy are values for you, and if you can make things simpler thats a real achievement, right? But thats the scientific method itself, Sax objected. Its not just me, its how nature itself works. Physics. You do it yourself. There are human values imbedded in physics. Im not so sure. He held out a hand to stop her for a second. Im not saying there are no values in science. But matter and energy do what they do. If you want to talk about values, better just to talk about them. They arise out of facts somehow, sure. But thats a different issue, some kind of sociobiology, or bioethics. Perhaps it would be better just to talk about values directly. The greatest good for the greatest number, something like that. There are ecologists who would say thats a scientific description of a healthy ecosystem. Another way of saying climax ecosystem. Thats a value judgement, I think. Some kind of bioethics. Interesting, but Sax squinted at her curiously, decided to change tack. Why not try for a climax ecosystem here, Ann? You cant speak of ecosystems without living things. What was here on Mars before us wasnt an ecology. It was geology only. You could even say there was a start at an ecology here, long ago, that somehow went wrong and froze out, and now were starting it up again. She growled at that, and he stopped. He knew she believed in some kind of intrinsic worth for the mineral reality of Mars; it was a version of what people called the land ethic, but without the lands biota. The rock ethic, one might say. Ecology without life. An intrinsic worth indeed! He sighed. Perhaps thats just a value speaking. Favouring living systems over non-living systems. I suppose we cant escape them, like you say. Its strange I mostly feel like I just want to figure things out. Why they work the way they do. But if you ask me why I want thator what I would want to have happenwhat I work toward He shrugged, struggling to understand himself. Its hard to express. Something like a net gain in information. A net gain in order. For Sax this was a good functional description of life itself, of its holding action against entropy. He held out a hand to Ann, hoping to get her to understand that, to agree at least to the paradigm of their debate, to a definition of sciences ultimate goal. Net gain in information. They were both scientists after all, it was their shared enterprise But she only said, So you destroy the face of an entire planet. A planet with a clear record nearly four billion years old. Its not science. Its making a theme park. Its using science for a particular value. One I believe in. As do the transnationals. I guess. It certainly helps them. It helps everything alive. Unless it kills them. The terrain is destabilised, there are landslides every day. True. And they kill. Plants, people. Its happened already. Sax waggled a hand, and Ann jerked her head up to glare at him. Whats this, the necessary murder? What kind of value is that? No, no. Theyre accidents, Ann. People need to stay on bedrock, out of the slide zones, that kind of thing. For a while. But vast regions will turn to mud, or be drowned entirely. Were talking about half the planet. The water will drain downhill. Create watersheds. Drowned land, you mean. And a completely different planet. Oh, thats a value all right! And the people who hold the value of Mars as it is We will fight you, every step of the way. He sighed. I wish you wouldnt. At this point a biosphere would help us more than the transnationals. The transnats can operate from the tent cities, and mine the surface robotically, while we hide and concentrate most of our efforts on concealment and survival. If we could live everywhere on the surface, it would be a lot easier for all kinds of resistance. All but Red resistance. Yes, but whats the point of that, now? Mars. Just Mars. The place youve never known. Sax looked up at the white dome over them, feeling distress like a sudden attack of arthritis. It was useless to argue with her. But something in him made him keep trying. Look, Ann, Im an advocate of what people call the minimum viable model. Its a model that calls for a breathable atmosphere only up to about the two or three kilometre contour. Above that the air would be kept too thin for humans, and there wont be much life of any kindsome high altitude plants, and above that nothing, or nothing visible. The vertical relief on Mars is so extreme that there can be vast regions that will remain above the bulk of the atmosphere. Its a plan that makes sense to me. It expresses a comprehensible set of values. She did not reply. It was distressing, it really was. Once, in an attempt to understand Ann, to be able to talk to her, he had done research in the philosophy of science. He had read a fair amount of material, concentrating particularly on the land ethic, and the factvalue interface. It had never proved to be of much help; in conversation with her, he had never seemed able to apply what he had learned in any useful manner. Now, looking down at her, feeling the ache in his joints, he recalled something that Kuhn had written about Priestleythat a scientist who continued to resist after his whole profession had been converted to a new paradigm might be perfectly logical and reasonable, but had ipso facto ceased to be a scientist. It seemed that something like this had happened to Ann, but what then was she now? A counter-revolutionary? A prophet? She certainly looked like a prophetharsh, gaunt, angry, unforgiving. She would never change, and she would never forgive him. And all that he would have liked to say to her, about Mars, about Gamete, about Peterabout Simons death, which seemed to haunt Ursula more than herall that was impossible. This was why he had more than once resolved to give up talking to Ann: it was so frustrating never to get anywhere, to be faced with the dislike of someone he had known for over sixty years. He won every argument but never got anywhere. Some people were like that; but that didnt make it any less distressing. In fact it was quite remarkable how much physiological discomfort could be generated by a merely emotional response. Ann left with Desmond the next day. Soon after that Sax got a ride north with Peter, in one of the small stealthed planes that Peter used to fly all over Mars. Peters route to Burroughs led them over the Hellespontus Montes, and Sax gazed down into the big basin of Hellas curiously. They caught a glimpse of the edge of the icefield that had covered Low Point, a white mass on the dark night surface, but Low Point itself stayed over the horizon. That was too bad, as Sax was curious to see what had happened over the Low Point mohole. It had been thirteen kilometres deep when the flood had filled it, and that deep it was likely that the water had remained liquid at the bottom, and probably warm enough to rise quite a distance; it was possible that the icefield was in that region an ice-covered sea, with telltale differences at the surface. But Peter would not change his route to get a better view. You can look into it when youre Stephen Lindholm, he said with a grin. You can make it part of your work for Biotique. And so they flew on. And the next night they landed in the broken hills south of Isidis, still on the high side of the Great Escarpment. Sax then walked to a tunnel entrance, and went down into the tunnel and followed it into the back of a closet in the service basement of Libya Station, which was a little train station complex at the intersection of the BurroughsHellas piste and the newly-rerouted BurroughsElysium piste. When the next train to Burroughs came in, Sax emerged from a service door and joined the crowd getting on the train. He rode into Burroughss main station, where he was met by a man from Biotique. And then he was Stephen Lindholm, newcomer to Burroughs and to Mars. The man from Biotique, a personnel secretary, complimented him on his skilful walking, and took him to a studio apartment high in Hunt Mesa, near the centre of the old town. The labs and offices of Biotique were also in Hunt, just under the mesas plateau, with window walls looking down on the canal park. A high-rent district, as only befitted the company leading the terraforming projects bioengineering efforts. Out the Biotique offices windows he could see most of the old city, looking about the same as he remembered it, except that the mesa walls were even more extensively lined by glass windows, colourful horizontal bands of copper or gold or metallic green or blue, as if the mesas were stratified by some truly wonderful mineral layers. Also the tents that had topped the mesas were gone, their buildings now standing free under the much larger tent that now covered all nine mesas, and everything in between and around them. The canal park, and the broad grass boulevards that climbed away from the park and between the mesas, were now strips of green, cutting through orange tile rooftops. The old double row of salt columns still stood beside the blue canal. There had been a lot of building, to be sure; but the configuration of the city was still the same. It was only on the outskirts that one could see clearly how much things had changed, and how much larger the city really was; the city wall lay well beyond the nine mesas, so that quite a bit of surrounding land was sheltered, and much of it built upon already. The personnel secretary gave Sax a quick tour of Biotique, making introductions to more people than he could remember. Then Sax was asked to report to his lab the next morning, and given the rest of the day to get settled in. As Stephen Lindholm he planned to exhibit signs of intellectual energy, sociability, curiosity and high spirits; and so he very plausibly spent that afternoon exploring Burroughs, wandering from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. He strolled up and down the wide swards of streetgrass, considering as he did the mysterious phenomenon of the growth of cities. It was a cultural process with no very good physical or biological analogy. He could see no obvious reason why this low end of Isidis Planitia should have become home to the largest city on Mars. None of the original reasons for siting the city here were at all adequate to explain it; so far as he knew, it had begun as an ordinary way station on the piste route from Elysium to Tharsis. Perhaps it was precisely because of its lack of strategic location that it had prospered, for it had been the only major city not damaged or destroyed in 2061, and thus perhaps it simply had had a head start on growth in the post-war years. By analogy to the punctuated equilibrium model of evolution, one might say that this particular species had accidentally survived an impact that had devastated most other species, giving it an open ecosphere to expand in. And no doubt the bowl-like shape of the region, with its archipelago of small mesas, gave it an impressive look as well. When walking around on the wide grassy boulevards, the nine mesas appeared evenly distributed, and each mesa had a slightly different look, its rugged rock walls distinguished by characteristic knobs, buttresses, smooth walls, overhangs, cracksand now the horizontal bands of colourful mirror windows, and the buildings and parks on the flat plateaux crowning each mesa. From any point on the streets one could always see several of the mesas, scattered like magnificent neighbourhood cathedrals, and this no doubt gave a certain pleasure to the eye. And then if one took an elevator up to one of the mesas plateau tops, all about a hundred metres higher than the city floor, then one had a view over the rooftops of several different districts, and a different perspective on the other mesas, and then, beyond those, the land surrounding the city for many kilometres, distances larger than were usual on Mars, because they were at the bottom of a bowl-shaped depression: over the flat plain of Isidis to the north, up the dark rise to Syrtis in the west, and to the south one could see the distant rise of the Great Escarpment itself, standing on the horizon like a Himalaya. Of course whether a handsome prospect mattered to city formation was an open question, but there were historians who asserted that many ancient Greek cities were sited principally for their view, in the face of other inconveniences, so it was at least a possible factor. And in any case Burroughs was now a bustling little metropolis of some 150,000 people, the biggest city on Mars. And it was still growing. Near the end of his afternoons sightseeing, Sax rode one of the big exterior elevators up the side of Branch Mesa, centrally located north of Canal Park, and from its plateau he could see that the northern outskirts of town were studded with construction sites all the way to the tent wall. There was even work going on around some of the distant mesas outside the tent. Clearly critical mass had been reached in some kind of group psychologysome herding instinct, which had made this place the capital, the social magnet, the heart of the action. Group dynamics were complex at best, even (he grimaced) unexplainable. Which was unfortunate, as always, because Biotique Burroughs was a very dynamic group indeed, and in the days that followed Sax found that determining his place in the crowd of scientists working on the project was no easy thing. He had lost the skill of finding his way in a new group, assuming he had ever had it. The formula governing the number of possible relationships in a group of people was n(n1)/2, where n is the number of individuals in the group; so that, for the thousand people at Biotique Burroughs, there were 499,500 possible relationships. This seemed to Sax well beyond anyones ability to comprehendeven the 4,950 possible relationships in a group of one hundred, the hypothesised design limit of human group size, seemed unwieldy. Certainly it had been at Underhill, when they had had a chance to test it. So it was important to find a smaller group at Biotique, and Sax set about doing so. It certainly made sense to concentrate at first on his lab. He had joined them as a biophysicist, which was risky, but put him where he wanted to be in the company; and he hoped he could hold his own there. If not, then he could claim to have come to biophysics from physics, which was true. His boss was a Japanese woman named Claire, middle-aged in appearance, a very congenial woman who was good at running their lab. She had greeted him on his arrival, and put him to work with the team designing second and third generation plants for the glaciated regions of the northern hemisphere. These newly hydrated environments represented tremendous new possibilities for botanical design, as the designers no longer had to base all species entirely on xerophytes. Sax had seen this coming from the very first moment he had spotted the flood roaring down Ius Chasma into Melas, in 2061. And now forty years later he could actually do something about it. So he very happily joined in the work. First he had to bring himself up to date on what had already been put out there in the glacial regions. He read voraciously in his usual manner, and viewed videotapes, and learned that with the atmosphere still so thin and cold, all the new ice released on the surface was subliming until its exposed surfaces were fretted to a minute lacework. This meant there were billions of pockets large and small for life to grow in, directly on the ice; and so one of the first forms to have been widely distributed were varieties of snow and ice algae. These algae had been augmented with phreatophytic traits, because even when the ice started pure it became salt-encrusted by way of the ubiquitous windblown fines. The genetically-engineered salt-tolerant algae had done very well, growing in the pitted surfaces of the glaciers, and sometimes right into the ice. And because they were darker than the ice, pink or red or black or green, the ice under them had a tendency to melt, especially during summer days, when temperatures were well above freezing. So small diurnal streams had begun to run off the glaciers, and along their edges. These wet morainelike regions were similar to some Terran polar and mountain environments. Bacteria and larger plants from these Terran environments, genetically altered to help them survive the pervasive saltiness, had first been seeded by teams from Biotique several M-years before, and for the most part these plants were prospering like the algae had. . . , (https://www.litres.ru/kim-stanley-robinson-2/green-mars/?lfrom=390579938) . Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, , , , PayPal, WebMoney, ., QIWI , .