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Chapter 1 "That's the ship," Marla Sukhoi told her husband. She pointed to the white needle on the spaceport's flight pad. "The Temenus. It launches in eight hours." Lee nodded. "Eight hours. They changed their plan. Do you think they suspect?" Marla shook her head. The midnight air had made her black hair damp, and it clung to her forehead in loose strands. "Central's always suspicious, but it doesn't have a reason to suspect us." Lee grinned crookedly, white teeth in a dark broad face. "I'm just nervous." "You'd damned well better be," Marla said. Security around the spaceport was good, and Lee carried a half-dozen thumbnail bombs in his pocket. "Too many things can go wrong." "Cheerful tonight, aren't you?" He reached out and stroked her cheek. " 'So lovely fair, that what seem'd fair in all the world seem'd now mean.' I'll be back for you." "I know." The quote from Milton -- Adam's description of Eve, another type of firstborn -- warmed her as it always did. She kissed him. "Now get going." "Right." Lee hurried down the slope. Despite his words Marla did not think she would see him again. His chances of sabotaging the Temenus were good, but his chances of survival were poor. A sense of loss and sorrow welled up in her, only to fade out before it could overwhelm her. Damn the originators, she thought. The changes that the genetic engineers had made in her people made it all but impossible for the people of Hera to sustain an intense emotion. She was able to view Lee's impending death with a sense of detachment that seemed to reduce the love she felt for him. Marla turned away and jogged back to town. She was not afraid of being observed. Central Security had decided that extra surveillance would only alert the subversives to the start of Operation Unity, so Central had gambled by not increasing its activities around the spaceport. By the same token, only the people who had to know about Captain Blaisdell's secret orders had been told about Unity. Marla Sukhoi, who ran the Olympus Spaceport, was one of those people. And now I'm a traitor and a murderer, she thought. So be it. When she had learned about Unity she had discussed its implications with Lee. They had concluded that if Unity succeeded it would provoke the primals into destroying Hera, and that would lead to the loss of their family, along with everything else. They could not count on the resistance movement to stop Unity, so they would have to do it themselves. Logic left them no other course. Even so, she did not want to kill the Temenus' crew. She wished that she were smart enough to think of an alternative. Marla reached her home as the sun rose. She woke the children and got their breakfast ready. Gregor, the younger of her two boys, waited until Marla had her hands full before he brought up a problem. "I didn't finish my math homework last night." Marla wondered why six year olds liked to leave their problems for the worst possible moment. "Anna, can you take care of this?" she asked. "Okay. Come on, Geeker." Anna took her younger brother by the ear -- a maneuver she had picked up in her aggression classes -- and pulled him over to the dining room table. Marla watched in disapproval; the classes were supposed to teach children to suppress their aggressive instincts, not give in to them. Anna put the boy's school pad in front of him and called up his calculus assignment. "What's the problem?" "This one," Gregor said, jabbing a finger onto the pad. "Gotta integrate e to the minus x squared. I can't do it." "Nobody can," Anna said. She spoke with all the authority of a ten year old. "It's an undefined operation. You have to sneak up on it. Write the Taylor polynomial for e to the x, substitute minus x squared for x, and integrate the polynomial." "Teacher said we had to do it as an integral," Gregor protested. Joachim, the older boy, blew air out of his cheeks. "Then write down that it's a trick question, and solve it as a sigma series. They want you to learn to look at the questions, not just the answers." Marla put breakfast on the table while her children squabbled over Gregor's homework. At least the talk kept them from noticing that their father was missing. It was not unusual for Lee to leave early; he was a field geologist, and the children probably reasoned he was out testing another new piece of equipment. After they had eaten, Marla bundled the children off to school, then went to the neighborhood tube station. The capsule that took her to the spaceport was empty, which suited her mood. The capsule brought her to the spaceport entrance, where she nodded to the guard and walked to her office. On her way across the green she passed the marble column that commemorated the spaceport workers killed in a primal attack three years ago. A damaged freighter had made an emergency landing at the spaceport, and while repairs were made to the ship its crew had realized what the Herans were. The primals had gone berserk and killed several people with their phasers before they were stamped out. Once inside her office Marla settled into her daily routine. The computer delivered reports to her in order of importance. Combat Operations had spotted a Romulan ship outside the Heran system; analysis suggested it was heading home after a routine exploratory flight. A primal ship was en route to the sector to lay a series of communication and navigation beacons; Operations wanted a warship readied to shadow it, in case the primals made trouble. The three robot warships of the Special Reserve were to be activated and deployed for maneuvers in deep space. The Hephaestos Institute needed to borrow a courier for a test of its long-range transporter system. Marla ground her way through the work, half-expecting to see a security report. She found none, but that meant nothing. Central Security kept a tight lid on reports of sabotage and other forms of dissidence. Lee might have been caught at once, and her first hint would come when she was arrested. A glint of light caught Marla's eye, and when she looked out her office window she saw the white needle that was the Temenus rising into the clear morning sky. A wave of guilt made her look away. If all went well, Lee's bombs would go off in six days and the ship would vanish. But if all went well, Central Security would never know if Temenus had been lost to an accident, or sabotage -- or an attack by the primals. The uncertainty should make them hesitant about trying Unity again. Or so she hoped. She didn't understand the Modality. Over the past few years the Heran government had grown more secretive, more authoritarian. It had revived the originators' dream of conquering the old human race, and that threatened to bring down destruction on Hera.