Even when my mind wanders


Upon a sea of sign and symbol,

I am there

Beside you in my dreams.


Even when the conscious mind

Is storm-tossed

And god-struck

Battling with the Cyclops of the future,

Conversing with the shades of heroes,

Steering between the Scylla

And Charybdis

Of unbelief and superstition,

Listening to the Sirens' voices in the stars

Distracted (Let it be said)

By Circes

And Calypsos,


Always, in the depths of that mind-sea

My deeper self

Is holding hands with yours,

Its sea-weed fingers intertwined

With yours

Like the threads you knit,


And knit again

While all the suitors sleep.


--Ali Karil

Down and Out on Callisto and Ganymede








Rising from the clouds,

Poseidon Earthshaker looms.

Fragile sails collapse.


At the sound of the man's voice, the girl turned her eyes away from the Martian landscape stretched out below and glanced up at him. She saw a middle-aged officer with iron-grey hair and a pleasant smile and was about to smile back when she noticed the uniform of the Quasi-Police. She turned away and ignored him.

"So that's Mars," he repeated.

"I heard you."

He was not offended by her rudeness. She was really only a child, and he knew, perhaps better than anyone, how Martians felt about the High Companies.

"That must be the Mariner Valley." He pointed to the long scar that stretched across the equatorial badlands. The valley floor was obscured by early morning fog, but the high deserts on either side had already been burned clear by the perihelion sun, and the feature stood out clearly.

The girl continued to stare out through the viewport.

"Those three volcanoes must be Ascraeus, Pavonis, and Arsia, and that would be Mount Olympus, on the horizon. It doesn't look so impressive from here, does it?"

"There's certainly nothing on Earth like it," she snorted.

He smiled to himself. "That's true. Twenty-seven kilometres high, five hundred wide at the base. Isn't that right? And the Valley is 5,000 kilometres long. Have you ever seen the African Rift?"

The girl appeared to regret having spoken to him. She was silent.

"It's not that different, really, though it doesn't stand out so clearly from orbit because of the colours--white cloud, green savannah and forest, blue lakes. Everything is so stark here."

"If you think it's so beautiful there," the girl said, "why don't you go back?" She bounded off across the observation deck and he watched her, admiring the perfect grace of the born Martian in one-third gravity. Then he turned back to the port and watched the planetscape rolling up over his head as the ship revolved.

"God-damn sand-pile," he said.


The girl returned to her cabin and gathered up her luggage, such as it was. She made her way to the shuttle bay and stood in line for boarding. A Quasi-Police officer was checking identities and debarkation passes at the head of the line--the usual bureaucratic delay.

When it came her turn, the girl placed her palm on the panel and stared into the retinagraph. The machine hiccupped and the officer glared at her.

"Your records are not in order," he snapped. "Stand aside."


"Sit over there. Next?"


"I said, sit over there! You got sand in your ears, girl?"

For an instant she stood glaring back at him, her tiny fists clenched, but she began to tremble and quickly stepped aside. Losing her temper would hardly help matters, and she would probably end up bursting into tears and make a complete fool of herself.

She sat in a chair, her small bag by her side, while the rest of the passengers filed past. A second officer appeared with two bulbs of coffee. He sat on the desk and engaged the first officer in conversation. Their laughter and whispers echoed in the now empty room. They ignored her.

She could hear the slamming of hatches somewhere down the corridor. A few hours before, the Grey-Eyed Athena had rung with the sound of human voices and activity--music and dancing, the clatter of food preparation and dining, conversation in a dozen languages. Now, despite the padded bulkheads, it echoed like a great steel cavern.

Surely the computer must have found her records by now. She rose and approached the desk. The first officer glanced up at her, startled.

"What are you doing here?"

"You told me to..."

"You've missed the last shuttle."

"But you..."

"Now what are we going to do with you?"

The second officer looked her up and down. "If she was a few years older..."

He was interrupted by a voice with the ring of command. "Is there some problem here, Lieutenant?"

The officers snapped to attention and saluted smartly. The girl turned and recognized the officer from the observation deck, a spacer's duffle on his shoulder. For the first time she noticed the captain’s bars on his shoulder.

"This girl's missed the last shuttle, Sir."

"He told me to wait!" she blurted out. Tears began to form in her eyes, and she berated herself silently.

"Is this true, Lieutenant?"

"Her records were not in order, Sir."

"Did you tell her to wait?"

"Yes, I did, Sir."

"And then you forgot her."

"Yes, Sir. There were so many..."

"You're a fool, Lieutenant--a perfect example of why these people dislike us so much." He turned to the girl. "I'm headed sandside now. You can come with me."

"Sir, she has incomplete records. We can't..."

"Step aside, Lieutenant." The captain dropped his duffle, stepped around behind the desk, placed his palm on the plate and tapped out a code on the keyboard. "All right. What's your name, Miss?"


"Last name first, please. No, I forgot. You don't have last names here. Commune?"

"Margaritifer Five."

He glanced up at her sharply, then dropped his eyes to the desk again. "Returning from...?"


"There's your explanation, Lieutenant. She didn't come aboard in Earth orbit. You could have determined that fact in two seconds, if you'd bothered. Purpose of visit to Luna?"

"What business...?" The girl sighed. "School. Returning for Perihelion Days."

"There," the captain said, picking up his duffel. "Your records are now complete. Follow me."

He shuffled off down the corridor--in the awkward gait that marked all but the born Martian in one-third gee--without bothering to see if she was behind him. She retrieved her own bag and bounced after him, stopped and turned, flipped her finger at the Customs Officers, and continued on her way. She caught up with her benefactor quickly, but once they had taken the elevator to the axis and entered free-fall, he darted ahead of her down the central well, swinging from handgrip to handgrip with spacer expertise.

At the end of the well, a saluting ensign ushered the captain into a small Quasi-Police cruiser, where he strapped himself into the pilot's couch.

"This is Johanna Margaritifer, Ensign," he called over his shoulder as she caught up. "She's accompanying me to the surface. Please log her off the ship." He turned to her as she drifted wonderingly into the tiny vessel and flashed her a smile. "Stow your bag in there and strap yourself in. This ride won't be as comfortable as the shuttle, but a damn sight more fun, I'll wager."

He began flipping switches and she watched the lights wink on as the ensign secured the airlock behind them. The hum of the engines rose to a whine. She was peering out the port at the planetscape below when the cruiser was catapulted suddenly into space. Johanna clutched the couch-arms but refused to allow her panic to register on her face.

"Next stop, Pavonis Spaceport," the captain said.

The 14-kilometer-high volcanic cone, situated precisely on the equator, was the site of the main spaceport. Johanna's fear gave way to delight as she watched the surface rush toward them. The captain whistled a tune to himself as his hands darted expertly over the controls.

"You're not a newcomer here," she said. "What was all that bullshit at the observation port?"

He grinned. "Just making conversation. I've found that the best way to draw out a Martian is to pretend to be ignorant about Mars."

"No matter how often you've been here, you're still ignorant about Mars."

The captain laughed. "I daresay you're right."

They dropped into the crater and settled on a docking pad. The pad sank into the mountain, a hatch irised shut over them and the lock was pressurized with a rising hiss. They climbed out and shuffled down the corridor to the elevator, then dropped into the mountain's heart with stomach-churning speed. The doors opened onto an accelerator platform, where a train was waiting.

"I know my way from here," Johanna said. Her thanks would be perfunctory; commune life had taught her to be polite, but it had also taught her to hate Earth and those who ruled her.

"I'm going down the Scar myself, as it happens," the captain said.

They took their seats and in a moment the train began to slide down the tunnel, rising on a cushion of magnetic levitation as the walls flashed by, then erupted from the mountainside and shot across the landscape on tall, slender pylons. In the thin, nearly frictionless air, the train accelerated across the Tharsis plateau toward the head of the Mariner Valley.

"There certainly have been a lot of improvements since I was here last," the captain said. "The public spaceport, the zippers to Olympus, north to Arcadia, down the Mariner to Chryse and the Marge..."

She ignored him, gazing out the window at the sandscape.

"You don't seem terribly impressed," he went on jovially. "But you must admit projects like this have been a great help to the farmers and miners."

"They've been a great help to the Quasi-Police," she said. "They used to get ambushed all the time in the Labyrinth of Night."

He grinned. "Well, if you don't care for my Roman Roads, how about my aqueducts? If we can melt the polar caps and bring the water south and north to the settlements, surely that will..."

"Look," the girl said. "The High Companies never lifted a finger for us before the Rebellion. Now we've got spaceports and zippers everywhere. So, don't try and tell me you did it for us. You did it so you can put down the next rebellion more efficiently."

"That's where you're wrong, Johanna. We did it to prevent another rebellion. I'll admit the High Companies exploited and neglected Mars for a long time, and it took a rebellion to point out our mistakes. But if we can improve commerce..."

"Is that what you think the Rebellion was about? Improved commerce?"

"What was it for, then, if not better living conditions, better...?"

"It was for freedom. Do you know that word on Earth?"

"Do they teach you anything about Terran history? I love my world as much as you love yours, you know. That's why I wear this uniform--to protect it. I'm not about to let politics interrupt the flow of material from the Belt. Our ancestors didn't leave us a hell of a lot of natural resources on Earth, and I'm not going to see a planet this close to the Belt fall into the hands of a lot of starry-eyed revolutionaries, if I can help it."

"What you don't understand," Johanna said, "is that Martians are different. We don't have reminders of world famine, ecological disaster, and economic collapse all around us--most of which were created by your fantasy-class masters, incidentally.  We're not willing to give up freedom for stability, as Earth always has. We're pioneers here, or descendants of pioneers. And convicts. We need our freedom more than we need your water. What we don't need is a police-state administered from 100 million kilometres away."

"You're very well-spoken..."

"For a seven-year-old?"

"Seven? Oh, yes..."

"Martian years, remember? I suppose your next question is: who's been filling your little head with these ideas?"

"No," he laughed. "I may be Terran, but I'm not that stupid. Actually, my next question would be: do you want a drink? If you'll drink with your oppressor." He rang for a steward and ordered a scotch and water.

"I'll have a Utopian Ale," she said defiantly, expecting to be refused.

The captain laughed. "Make that two of hers."

The steward did not bat an eye at serving a minor; either he misjudged her age because of her Martian height, or he did not care to refuse a Quasi Captain. When the drinks came, the officer lifted his glass. "To political debate. Let's call this one a draw for now, shall we?"


The walls of the canyon were no longer visible on the horizon and the dunes stretched interminably. There was little sense of movement as the train sped onward, hovering a few centimetres above its magnetic track, supported on pylons a half-dozen meters above the shifting sands, unless one glanced at the ground below and saw it streaking by at nearly 242 kph--the Martian speed of sound. Thus, it was not the train's fault that Johanna's hand was unsteady as she offered the captain her picture-cube.

"This is Terry, our First Mother." Her speech was somewhat slurred now, but her tone had finally become friendly. "She's my natural mother too. She gave birth to me herself, even though she's Clan Mother and very busy."

The picture was of a handsome woman, middle-aged, with extraordinarily long golden hair and green-gold eyes. Though Johanna had brown hair and grey eyes, there was a resemblance in the high cheekbones and the wide mouth.

"On this side is one of my brothers--Shagrug. We have the same mother and father, though my Second Mother Brandy carried him to term."

Shagrug obviously favoured his natural mother, with his golden mane and green eyes. He was a handsome lad, perhaps seventeen in Earth-years.

"This is the Professor, a friend of the family, and this..."

"That's Professor Kelley, of the Titan Institute."

"Yes, Terry was one of his students. So was my father."

"I thought I recognized him. I'm impressed." He turned the cube. "And who's this? They look familiar too."

It was a man and a woman, both dark and dressed in spacer attire. The man was Afro-Arab and woman Indian. They were shown on Earth, under blue skies, and behind them was a small ship of the free-trader type--flying-wing design, built for both space and atmospheric flight.

"They're friends of the family too," Johanna said a little too quickly. "On this side is Jay."

The captain was dissembling. He knew that last picture had been of Loris and Karil, and their ship Atalanta. Judging by the slight greying of Karil's beard and the lines on Loris's striking face, the picture had been taken many years after the Rebellion, which meant that there was still contact between the smugglers and the Clan Mother. But he dared not press the girl for information.

He studied Jay's picture. A slim, ascetic figure, white-skinned but dark of hair and eye, he glanced up from a computer keyboard as the captain moved the hologram. The momentary scowl of irritation at the interruption and the sardonic smile and flash of amusement in his eye as he made some inaudible comment were familiar--the Captain had seen the identical change of expression on Johanna's face.

"You favour your natural father, don't you? He's obviously an intelligent man."

"He was. He's dead. Killed in the Rebellion."

The captain knew this too. His first impulse was to say he was sorry, but he thought better of it.

"He was helping evacuate the Tharsis commune. One of the last to leave. He was killed when the Quasi-Police cracked the dome. They always suspected the attacks in the Labyrinth of Night were coming from there." Johanna had suddenly sobered. She put away the cube and turned back to the blood-red landscape outside. "It wasn't true, you know," she said at last. "Tharsis is where Progeny founded the Martian Resistance Movement. We kept it free of involvement in the later stages of the Rebellion so it would be safe. It was like a holy place to us."

The captain knew this, as well. But that was why it was destroyed, in the last hours of the Rebellion.


Aeons before the first Terran ice-age, torrents that dwarfed Earth's glacial-melt run-off to insignificance had poured from the mouth of the Mariner Valley and spread across the Margaritifer and Chryse plains. Now the dunes marched to the horizon, frozen yet bone-dry beneath the pale, small sun. The train decelerated to a stop at Margaritifer Central Terminal. Johanna and the Captain disembarked and bounded into the high, echoing dome.

"This is where I leave you," Johanna said.

"I have a buggy waiting. I'll drop you off." The captain snatched up both their bags and shuffled down the corridor.

For an instant, Johanna was tempted to deliver a swift kick to his shins but decided against it. She followed him to the air-lock bay, where he punched out a code and a hatch irised open to reveal a Martian Security dune-buggy. They climbed in, sealed the hatches, and in a moment the buggy was bouncing across the desert on its huge balloon tires.

It was dusk and Phobos and Deimos were dancing by each other in the dark purple sky. The buggy passed illuminated domes, green and inviting in the gloom. The captain touched on the headlamps and overlapping ovals of red sand appeared on the ground before them and the tail-light beams stabbed like green searchlights through the dust kicked up by their passage.

Soon the domes of Johanna's warren appeared on the horizon. The buggy rolled to a halt before the air-lock igloo and the hatch slid open at a word from Johanna. They slipped into the interior and were enveloped in mist as warm air struck cold steel in the pressurizing lock. A second hatch opened, and they rolled down a ramp into the subarean parking cavern.

"Thanks for the lift, Captain," Johanna said as she popped the hatch and climbed out.

The captain followed her. "I should give my regards to the Clan Mother," he said.

Damn! Now she was obliged to offer him the family's hospitality. Didn't he have somewhere to be? She saw a crowd approaching--clan-members in their homespun robes and several of the Quasi troops that had been quartered with them, the latter marching in formation, and in full dress uniform. Before Johanna could speak, the lead officer clicked to attention, saluted smartly, and snapped:

"Captain Solla, Sir. Welcome to Margaritifer Five. Surrendering command. Sir!" He removed his dress-sword, still in its scabbard, and presented it, hilt first.

"Thank you, Lieutenant. At ease." The captain took the scabbard and sword and handed it to an ensign who had stepped up beside him. "Hang this in my office, Ensign."

"Yes, Sir!"

Johanna stared at the ritual with open mouth. "This was your destination all the time!"

"I've been assigned to take command of the Margaritifer District. The fact is: I didn't want to spoil..."

Johanna turned on her heel and bounded away. The captain stared after her, his face a mask, then turned abruptly to his second-in-command and left with him. As the family gathered about Johanna, welcoming her with typical Martian warmth, she pushed through the crowd, responding distractedly. Whispers trailed after her down the corridor.

A hand fell on her shoulder, and she turned to see Shagrug looking down at her. "Why the police escort, Lilliput? You blow up a spaceship?"

"I wish I had. Where's Terry?"

"Southwest dome. Having a swim. What's the matter?"

"Come on."

They made their way through the maze of caverns, stopping now and then so Johanna could greet clan-members in the corridors. They passed a group of children in the company of their sheepdog nanny. The dog was beside itself with joy at seeing her, so she stopped for a quick pat and nuzzle as the children scattered, then the dog tore itself away from her and raced off to herd his charges down a side corridor. Outside the communal dining hall, they ran into Niner, the household robot of the main tunnel complex. It swivelled to face her as they passed.

"Welcome home, Miss Johanna," it chirped. "I hope you had a pleasant journey."

"Mostly, Niner. I'll talk to you later. I have to see Terry now."

"Of course, Miss Johanna. I shall look forward to it." Niner swivelled away and trundled off on its errand.

Shagrug and Johanna climbed a ramp into the dome, where a waterfall splashed among orchid-draped tropical trees and artificial light almost recreated terrestrial moonlight. Terry was nowhere to be seen for a moment, and then she surfaced like a blond mermaid, swam to the shore of the pool, and climbed out onto the mossy bank, making no effort to cover her body.

Johanna embraced her and was enveloped in wet, fragrant tresses.

"What's the matter, Jo?"

"It's that Captain Solla, Mother..."

"He's arrived too, has he? I suppose I'd better get dressed for a courtesy call."

"Courtesy! He doesn't deserve courtesy!"

Terry laughed, glancing over her head at Shagrug. "What did he do?"

Johanna told her, breathlessly, of all the events since her arrival in Martian orbit, though she left out certain details--like showing a picture of Loris and Karil to the Captain.

"Oh, I see." Terry sat on the bank and took up the comb lying there, handed it over her shoulder to the girl. Johanna knelt behind her to comb out her hair and Shagrug sat nearby, both children oblivious to their mother's nudity.

"Well?" Johanna said finally.

"Well, what?"

"Well, what are you going to say to him?"

"I suppose I'll thank him for seeing you safely home and express my hope you didn't bend his ear too much."


"But I will lecture him about offering alcohol to a seven-year-old."

"That's not the point, Mother. He tricked me. He used me to gather information about the family."

"I'm sure you couldn't tell him much he didn't know already, Jo. Actually, it's a good sign. If he thought your impressions worth gathering after all the intelligence reports he must have read..."

"Mother, it's bad enough they force their soldiers on us, and pay us a pittance for their upkeep. Do we have to be civil to them?"

"Of course we do. At least, I do. I'm First Mother now that Esther's gone, and I have to think of the family first. Antagonism in the warren is not going to help morale. If the Captain is polite and considerate--as I'm sure he will be with his diplomatic training--and sees to it that his men..."

"How do you know he has diplomatic training?" Shagrug asked.

"I have my sources too. He started out in the Diplomatic Corps, joined the Quasi-Police and was assigned to Mars, hand-picked to track down Progeny during the early days of the Rebellion, served as a prison-guard on Venus..."

"That hell-hole? That's punishment detail. What did he do?"

Terry laughed. "He failed to catch Progeny, that's what. Or more precisely, he caught him and then lost him. Twice. That was before you were born. It's not a widely known tale because it implicates Karil and Loris, but maybe you can get Karil to tell it to you someday. I'm sure he'll make it an extremely entertaining story. Anyway, there was an incident on Venus. They proclaimed Solla a hero and restored his rank, but some kind of emotional reaction set in, and he was given psychiatric leave, then assigned here. Nice quiet duty in a Martian commune."

"I wonder what happened on Venus."

"I couldn't find out. The details were hushed up. But it wasn't pleasant." Terry rose and slipped on her robe. "I've only met him once, briefly," she said, "I hear he's a dedicated Quasi agent, but a fair man--strict with his troops, able to listen to reason. So, until he proves undeserving, I'm going to give him every consideration. If you can't be pleasant, yourself, I suggest you avoid him."

Terry left and Johanna turned to Shagrug with a conspiratorial air. "We've got to do something about this man, Shag. He's entirely too charming. If his men follow his example, before too long they'll be part of the family."

"You may be right. Some of the girls are already fraternizing."

"Jesus, I knew it."

"They started out teasing some of the officers, and before too long they were flirting in earnest."

"You know what you've got to do, Shag? You've got to find Karil."


For a moment, upon awakening, Karil did not know where he was.

The room was bathed in shimmering blue light and there was a warm body in bed with him. As he lifted his head, the body stirred, and a white hand caressed his dark chest in sleep. Opposite the bed, a wall-screen showed the depths of the Europan sub-surface sea, shafts of sunlight descending from cracks in the ice-crust above and vanishing into the darkness below.

Karil looked down at Natalie's dark hair upon the pillow. In the light from the screen, it had blue highlights and her skin seemed blue and cold. He slipped out of bed and padded over to the screen, reached out and touched a sensor.

The ocean depths vanished, and Europa's surface appeared on the screen--an endless plain of ice, criss-crossed with cracks that became great chasms in the foreground. Jupiter filled the sky, a great bow of light in the black of space as the sun appeared around its limb.

Karil saw his reflection--small, hard body, curly beard and unruly black mane touched with grey, a face lined with both smiles and experience.

He turned and saw the bed now bathed in golden sunlight, Natalie's body glowing with warmth. A memory of Terry flashed through his mind.

"Computer," said a voice.

"Oh, damn," Natalie murmured. "What is it?"

"Excuse me, Mistress. You asked to be informed when the Master was on his way. He has just lifted from Ganymede."


"Shall I connect you?"

"No!" Then, more calmly: "That will not be necessary, Computer. Break contact."

"Thank you, Mistress."

Natalie sat up and smiled, the covers falling from her breasts. "You'd better leave now, Karil. I've got some files to erase."

"If I remember my Boccaccio, this is where I climb out the window and fall in the flower-bed. Right?" He approached and sat beside her on the bed.

"Karil, I have no idea what you're talking about half the time." She laughed and kissed him. For a moment they were locked in an embrace, and then she pushed him away. "Get out of here. It'll take you hours to get out of orbit."

Karil left, bounding down the corridor past the empty lab and kitchen to the hangar. In a moment he was arcing skyward in his rental's emergency shuttle, swinging into orbit over Europa's cracked-glass globe.

The yacht had begun to drift as sunlight, no longer eclipsed by Jupiter, struck the sail. He could see the great fabric hexagon sliding across the gas giant's banded face, the tiny gondola with its solar-panel dragonfly wings like an insect caught in a spider-web of guywires. He closed with it, corrected, corrected again, and mated with a clang, then cracked the lock with a hiss and pulled himself into the main cabin.

Karil was starving. He grabbed himself a sandwich from the picnic lunch he and Natalie had not gotten around to consuming and punched up Atalanta's number. In a moment, her empty bridge appeared on the screen.

"Hi, Atty. Is Loris there?"

There were a few seconds of delay before the ship's response arrived. Ganymede was over a million kilometres away.

"Good evening, Karil," the ship purred. "Loris is just going to bed. Shall I connect you?"

"Please. And it's morning here, you know. Sunrise on Jupiter. Lovely." He glanced out the port as he sucked on a bulb of hot coffee. The Great Red Spot was sliding into view, high white cirrus adrift over the crimson maelstrom.

Loris appeared in close-up on the screen, the interior of her cabin visible behind her. In the light of the screen her body was highlighted--high, hard breasts with wine-dark nipples, muscles rippling under skin like dark chocolate. Her hair, dyed to match her skin in the latest Ganymede style, tumbled over her shoulders. She sat down to brush it.

"Well, if it isn't Sinbad the Sailor."

"Hi, Lor. Miss me?" He grinned.

"Why the call? Don't tell me you've wrecked that thing already."

"Not yet."

"Humph. If the rent-a-yacht people find out you've been leaving it untended on orbit, after sailing it onto close Jovian orbit in the first place, they'll have your balls on a plate."

"How did you know that?"

"I told her,” said Atalanta. "Did you think I would fail to monitor you in that fragile device?"

"I know what I'm doing, Atty," he laughed. "I'm becoming an expert at this. Listen, Lor, have you been in touch with the Professor?"

"Yes. I'll tell you about it later. Are you returning to port or what?"

"On my way. Accelerating at a breathtaking one-ten-thousandth gee."

"Then sign off. I've spoken to every lowlife in the Rim today. Had to convince most of them to talk to me and some required a great deal of convincing. I'm tired and I'm going to bed."

"Aye aye, Sir."

"And be careful in that contraption, will you, Karil? If that's not too much to ask."

"I will, Lor. Sleep tight."

With infinite leisure, the ship drifted out of Europan capture and swung onto its own Jovian orbit. Karil did some calculating on the little shipboard computer and decided he could save a few hours by tacking closer to Jupiter and picking up a little gravity assist, rather than simply drifting out to Callisto, where the rental marina was located.

He set to work adjusting the sail with the guy-tensing motors. Jupiter and Europa seemed to swing about him. The solar wind was rough here in Jupiter's wake, but the turbulence slowed the ship so that it began to fall toward the gas giant.

Gradually, then more swiftly, Jupiter grew to fill the cosmos. Karil watched the cloud-patterns forming and re-forming below. Something caught his eye--a glint of sunlight on titanium. A glider-shuttle, perhaps, returning to orbit from some hydrogen-mining aerostat adrift below. For a while he watched it playing hide-and-seek with him among the ammonia cirrus, and then he switched on the ship's recorder and began a poem:


One of us is of the sky:

Ideas dart like zephyrs

and cat's-paw thoughts caress

the surfaces of things;

dust-devil theories whirl,

proceeding nowhere, and

great castles of cloud-stuff


are piled to heaven, then

dismantled and re-formed.

And one of us is of the sea:

a mermaid-creature

stirring in the depths

beneath the chuckling waves;

The moon sails overhead

and unseen currents ebb and flow...

He was interrupted by the insistent beeping of the radar, as the yacht overtook something on orbit, out of sight behind the sail. He dove for the instrument panel.

The radar gave him a clear picture. It was a super-tanker--probably the mother ship of the fuel-shuttle he had seen below--and it was approaching quickly. According to space-law, solar-sailers, being less manoeuvrable than powered ships and therefore the burdened party, have the right of way on orbit, but when another ship outweighs yours by 60,000 tonnes, it is best to be circumspect.

Karil touched on the comm and punched up the emergency-message frequency. There was only static. At first, he thought it might be Jupiter's emissions causing the problem, but then the truth struck Karil like one of the super-bolts in the clouds below. The bridge-crew of the tanker would have detected the great aluminized sail long ago and could have avoided a collision if they wanted to. They were jamming his communications and trying to run him down.

Karil began to heave to. The great ship appeared, drifting into view from behind the sail, already so close that he could read the name on the bow—Poseidon Earthshaker. It was coming at him broadside, to present the greatest target. It must have been a full kilometre in length, and though it was dwarfed by the four-square-kilometre sail, there was no doubt which could more easily survive an impact: the sail was about as substantial as a smoke-ring, and as for the passenger-gondola...

It was a nightmare in slow-motion. Karil had done his best, but the sailer was so slow to respond that it was not until a moment before impact that he realized he had just barely failed. The sail itself was clear, but the gondola was going to strike one of the tanker's huge radiator fins. He clung to the crash-webbing and watched in helpless horror.

It felt like riding the clapper of an enormous bell. Karil was catapulted across the cabin into pain and unconsciousness.


He came to, groggy and aching but miraculously alive, some time later. The tanker was gone, and Jupiter was falling away behind him. Thankful that the gondola had not actually split open like an egg, he drifted to the instrument panel and switched on the comm.

The screen remained blank. For an instant he stared at it in equally blank disbelief, then pricked up his ears and looked about. The mayday signal, which should have kicked in automatically on impact, was silent. Except for his pounding heartbeat and the singing of the guys reverberating through the hull, there was not a sound in the cabin. He began checking systems. The running lights around the sail's perimeter and along the gondola's flanks were out. The guy-tensing motors and attitude-control thrusters failed to respond to command. The air-conditioning system, judging by the staleness of the air, was also inoperative. And the emergency-escape shuttle had somehow been released by the impact, to fall no doubt onto Jupiter orbit somewhere behind him.

The ship was just plain dead. It was accelerating under solar pressure, uncontrollable, without communications, without life-support, without a lifeboat, outward through the Jovian system, toward the distant stars.

He was drifting, Karil thought, like Ishmael on the coffin at the end of Moby Dick. But it wasn't Queequeg's coffin; it was his own.


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