New York Times bestselling fantasy author Anne McCaffrey “interweaves an engrossing romance with a coming-of-age story”(Publishers Weekly) in this novel in the Tower and Hive series.
Damia is the daughter of Prime Talents The Rowan and Jeff Raven. Her own telepathic and telekinetic abilities manifested at an early age, unimaginable powers even greater than her parents’, challenging to wield much less control. As willful as her mother ever was, Damia defies her family’s attempts to tame and train her—only to bond with Afra Lyon, a Talent who serves The Rowan, and who becomes the object of her affection.
When she comes of age, Damia learns that a Prime of her capabilities and temperament has no time for love. Assigned to serve the farthest human colonized world from Earth, Damia leads a lonely existence until she telepathically connects with an alien presence in another galaxy—a potential threat not only to Damia, but to the love Afra wants to share with her...
About the Author
Anne McCaffrey, one of the world’s most popular authors, is best known for her Dragonriders of Pern® series. She was the first woman to win the two top prizes for science fiction writing, the Hugo and Nebula awards. She was also given the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement in Young Adult Fiction, was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and was named a Science Fiction Writers of America Nebula Grand Master. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1926, McCaffrey relocated to Ireland in the 1970s, where she lived in a house of her own design, named Dragonhold-Underhill. She died in 2011.
Read an Excerpt
AFRA felt his sister’s mental touch and told his mother that Goswina had returned to Capella. Cheswina regarded her six-year-old son with her ineffable serenity.
“Thank you, Afra. You always could hear farther, and Goswina better, than the rest of us. But don’t intrude,” his mother added, as Afra jiggled about in his eagerness to make contact with his beloved sister. “Capella Prime will wish to debrief her on her training at Altair Tower. You may continue with your exercises.”
But Goswina’s excited about something. Something that has to do with ME! Afra insisted, for he wanted to make sure that his mother heard him.
“Now, Afra,” and his mother waggled a stern finger at him, “you’ve got a tongue AND a voice. Use them. No one is to accuse this family of bringing up a discourteous and ill-mannered Talent. You have your lessons and you are not to ’path your sister until she comes in that door.”
Afra scowled because, when Goswina came in the door, he wouldn’t need to ’path her.
“You won’t ever be chosen for Tower duty if you cannot obey,” Cheswina went on. “Please assume a cheerful face.”
If Afra had heard those admonitions once, he had heard them several thousand times. But he stifled his vexation because what he wanted more than anything else in the world was to be in a Prime Tower, part of the vast FT&T network that handled communications and transportation between the star systems that comprised the Federation. His parents and his older brother and sisters were either part of or working toward being in that great network.
The family were also lucky enough to live in the Tower Complex. As a baby, he had been lulled to sleep by the throb of the enormous generators with which the Prime Talent made the gestalt to perform her miracles of transportation. His first mental effort at fourteen months had been a cheerful greeting to Capella’s Prime, who had taken the professional name of her posting. Although she had been addressing the Earth Prime with her “good morning,” Afra had heard her voice so clearly in his mind that he had responded. His parents had been shocked by his impudence.
“He was not impudent at all,” Capella had reassured them with one of her rare laughs. “It was really quite charming to be greeted by a sweet, chirping ‘good morning.’ Quite sweet. We will encourage such a strong young Talent. Though it would be as well if you can make him understand that he is not to interrupt me.”
Cheswina was a T-8 telepathic sender and her husband, Gos Lyon, a T-7 kinetic. Every one of their children had Talent, but Afra’s was not only apparent early but was also the strongest, possibly even a double—telepath and teleport. This did not keep his parents from being considerably embarrassed by their youngest son’s precocity. So they immediately initiated gentle methods of curbing him without inhibiting his potential Talent.
Either father, mother, or Goswina, the eldest sibling, had to be sure to awaken before Afra did and curb a repeat of that performance. For several months, this was a splendid new game for the toddler: to see if he could wake up first so he could chirp “good morning” to the velvet voice that invaded his mind . . . Capella. Whoever was minding him that morning had to engage his attention in an alternative occupation—like eating. For young Afra loved to eat.
Not that it showed. Like the rest of his family, he was a healthy but lean baby; ectomorphic with the sort of energy levels that burn up calories. Placing a rusk or a piece of fruit in his hand would instantly divert him. As most tots, he had a very short attention span, and these ploys worked until he was old enough to understand that his “good mornings” should be limited to his immediate family.
Goswina, a loving and caring sister, had not an ounce of meanness in her temperament and never found this duty a chore. She adored her clever brother, and he reciprocated so warmly that a strong tie was established between them. The mental exercises his Gossie used to divert her lively brother had a salutary effect on her own Talent and she was upgraded to a T-6 by the time she was sixteen. That made her eligible for the special training courses that Earth Prime Reidinger initiated on Altair.
This was a very mixed blessing, for sixteen-year-old Goswina had developed such a deep attachment for a T-5, Vessily Ogdon, that both families had earnestly discussed a possible alliance. However, Goswina was asked to put aside her personal plans for the chance to participate in the Altair course. Only Afra knew how painful that choice was for his sister. Once Gos Lyon invoked family honor, she had complied, demonstrating an obedience that seemed genuine—except to her brother who howled loudly at Goswina’s departure.
Afra missed his slender, gentle sister dreadfully. Altair was so very far away that he could not maintain the light mental touch that reassured him through his daily trials. Afra was not a natural conformist and trouble seemed to seek him out at school, and even at home. He was not as biddable as his brother and sisters had been, and his parents found his impetuosity and often “wild” or “aggressive” behavior a trial.
Aware of young Afra’s problems, the Capella stationmaster, Hasardar, tactfully had the boy doing small “jobs” for him, jobs which the worried parents could not take exception to as they were aimed at developing his potential. Afra willingly did the “errands,” delighted to be considered—for once—capable of doing something properly.
One of these errands took him to a large freighter with a packet, requested by the captain. Afra was agog with the prospect of actually meeting spacemen. He’d seen ships come and go from Capella all his short life but had never actually encountered off-worlders.
As he trotted up to the open hatch, he saw big burly space-tanned men lounging within. He also heard a babble of sound which made no sense at all to his ears. His mind, however, translated the meaning.
“This is no place for leave, boys. Straight as dies, these folk. Methody believers, and you know what that means.”
“Sure, chief, no hanky-panky, no funsies, no drink, no smokings. Hey, what’s coming here? A pint-size greenie! Don’t they grow ’em a decent size?”
“Ah, it’s a kid.” And one of the men swung down the ramp, grinning. “Good morning,” he said in good Basic.
Afra stared up at him.
“You got a package for the Captain, boy? Stationmaster said he’d have it hand-delivered.”
Afra continued to stare, extending the package with both hands, puzzled by the strange words and especially by the description of himself.
“What does ‘pint-sized greenie’ mean, please, sir?”
Afra flinched at the laughter from the lock and then from the angry glare the chief directed at his crewmen.
“Don’t be offended, laddie,” the chief said in a kind tone. “Some spacers have no manners. You understand more than Basic?”
Afra wasn’t sure what response to make. While he knew some people could not ’path, he didn’t know that there were many different forms of language in the galaxy. However, as his family would expect him to give a courteous answer to a friendly question, he gave a nod.
“I understand what you say,” Afra replied. “I don’t understand ‘pint-sized greenie.’”
The chief hunkered down, being conscious that it was wise not to offend locals, even a kid. And a kid would be more likely to repeat what had been said to the Stationmaster. It was also smart for freighter crew to be on the best possible terms with Tower Stationmasters.
“It’s like this, lad,” and he rolled back his sleeve, showing a brown-skinned arm, then he pointed to Afra’s hand. “My skin is brown, your skin is green. I’m a brownie,” and he ignored the hoots from his crew, “and you’re a greenie. Just a matter of what color we got born with. Now, ‘pint-sized’ means small, and I’d be gallon-sized, ’cause I’m much bigger. Get me?”
“More like barrel, Chief!” one of the crew chortled, again using the different sounds, though his mind made the comment clear to Afra.
Afra cocked his head at the chief, noticing other differences between himself, a Capellan, and these visitors. The man had brown skin, streaky gray hair, and brown eyes. He was the widest man Afra had ever seen, with forearms twice the size of his father’s, or even Stationmaster Hasardar’s.
“Thank you for explaining to me, Chief. It was kind of you,” Afra said, giving a respectful bow.
“No problem, lad. And here’s something for your trouble,” the chief said, reaching for Afra’s right hand and closing the fingers around a metallic object. “Put that by for a rainy day. If it rains on Capella.”
Afra looked at the round object, ’pathing from the chief that this was a half credit, a reward for delivering the package. He had never seen credit coins before, and he liked the feel of its edges in his palm. He gleaned from the chief that a “tip” was normal procedure, so he bowed again.
“Thank you, Chief. It was kind of you.”
“Tell you one thing, they teach manners on this planet,” the chief said in a loud voice, trying to overwhelm the rude comments his crewmen were making about Afra’s courtesies.
Afra didn’t catch the meanings behind some of the strange words.
“Off you go, lad, before you become contaminated by this sorry lot of spacers. Ain’t any of you guys got some couth? Back inside, the lot of you. You’ve had your smoking time.”
As Afra trotted across the plascrete back to the Stationmaster, he decided that he wouldn’t tell anyone about the coin. It had been given him in return for completing his errand. It was for him, not Stationmaster Hasardar who had said nothing to him about collecting any sort of payment or to expect a tip. If Goswina had been home, he would have confided in her as a matter of course, but his other sisters considered him a nuisance, and his brother, Chostel, felt that he was too old to associate with kids. So Afra decided he didn’t need to say anything about his coin. He would save it, but not for a rainy day. When it rained on Capella, no one went anywhere.
This was yet another occasion when Afra found himself deprived by Goswina’s absence. And why, now that she had returned to Capella, that he simply had to renew contact as soon as he could. So, despite his mother’s stricture, he reached out his mind to his sister in the main Tower building.
Not now, Afra, Capella said but not unkindly as his mind linked to Goswina’s in their conference mode.
Oh, mercy, Afra, not now, was the simultaneous message from a mortified Goswina.
Fearful that his parents might receive official reprimands from the Prime herself, Afra shrank away and coiled so tightly into his own mind that he genuinely didn’t “hear” Goswina until she opened the door of their quarters an hour later.
OH, GOSSIE, Afra cried, tears of joy streaming down his face, as he jumped into her arms.
Theirs was not a physically demonstrative family, as much because they enjoyed a sufficient mental rapport that touch was redundant as because tactile contact between Talents allowed deeper readings, sometimes an inadvertent invasion of the private mind.
Today, Goswina ignored such considerations as she hugged her young brother tightly. Through that close contact, she also managed to convey many things such a reserved girl would find difficult to say out loud. Afra caught rapid shifts through scenes of her landing on Altair, the forested mountains behind the Port City, the raw look of the Altairian Tower, the faces of her fellow students in a hectic montage, with one face dominating the group, rapidly scrolling through schoolroom sessions, meals, the room Goswina had shared with two girls, then pausing at a musical interlude which was abruptly deleted, overlaid with her excitement at returning to the home she had missed, and her Vessily.
I missed you terribly, Afra.
More than you missed Vessily?
As much, though not quite the same way, Afra, and Goswina’s gentle thought teased him. But it was a splendid trip. I met so many marvelous people. And oh, Afra, how you’ll love the Rowan when you meet her. She said that she would consider you when you have finished your training, because you are my brother and because we two knew our temperaments weren’t complementary. But I told her that you would be because you’re so clever and understanding. I missed you terribly, Afra. Just wait ’til you see the trees they have on Altair. Whole forests of trees, darling . . . big trees and small ones, different shades of green and blue and many different shapes of trunk, branch, and leaf. All of them fragrant. Altair’s not as large as Capella, but it is a good place. I did so well in my course that Capella said that she will definitely place me in this system, and, as she held Afra from her to peer into his face, “to work in a Capellan Tower.”
Did you . . .
“Aloud, please, Afra,” she said, hearing her mother come into the room.
“. . . know that Stationmaster Hasardar gave me some special training, after school hours? He said I had Tower potential, too!” He offered that praise as a homecoming present for her, but he didn’t mention the credit coin aloud. Or even in his mind.
“How very good of Hasardar. How clever of you, Afra dear,” she said, releasing him from her embrace and rising to greet her mother more formally. “Mother, Capella was very pleased both with my course of study on Altair and with the report Siglen of Altair sent her of me.”
Cheswina smoothed her daughter’s hair in a brief, loving gesture and smiled.
“You bring honor to our family.”
“Afra will bring more,” Goswina said, looking fondly down at him.
“That remains to be seen,” Cheswina said, her expression bordering on the severe, for she did not believe that it was right to praise a child for what he or she could be expected to do. Reward should never be a consideration of effort. However, Goswina did merit some special indulgence for having brought honor to the family, so her favorite dishes were served at dinner that evening and she’d be allowed a visit from Vessily Ogdon.
On returning from his Tower shift that evening, Gos Lyon smiled in benign approval at his daughter. When everyone had eaten a sufficiency of the excellent meal, he handed her an official note. He contained his pride as his overjoyed firstborn communicated to everyone at the table that Capella had appointed her to the staff of the southern Tower, one of the busier local FT&T facilities.
That means you’re going away again! Afra cried out in distress.
Silly! I won’t be so far that we can’t keep in touch all the time. “Forgive me, Father, Mother,” Goswina added hastily, blushing for such a gross social lapse, “but Afra was so disturbed . . .”
“Afra must learn to control his feelings,” Gos Lyon said, bending a stern gaze on his youngest. “Tower staff must always contain their emotions. To splash about personal reactions exhibits a woeful absence of discipline and an abysmal lack of courtesy and consideration. I’ll have no child of mine so ill-mannered. One can never learn respect too early in life.”
Later, dear. Goswina shot the very private thought tightly to her brother, so fast her parents would not have caught it, being less telepathically Talented than herself. But she had to do something to relieve the woeful expression on Afra’s face and unwind the tension of his small, thin body. Shriveled by the parental disapproval, he had curled in on himself, arms clasped tight across his chest, head down.
Prior to her course at Altair, she would never have dared even think of criticizing her parents. She didn’t entirely approve of Altair’s social manners but she had also seen a different sort of society that apparently worked quite well. And Afra was so very sensitive to his father’s disapproval and, sometimes, very privately, Goswina thought her parents could be a trifle more lenient and understanding. After all, he was the most Talented of them all and needed extra, specially astute handling.
“Now, now,” Gos Lyon said, realizing that perhaps he had been too severe with Afra, “I know you meant neither disrespect nor disobedience, Afra. Tonight is a time for rejoicing.”
His soft words and gentle tone, as well as the shaft of love and reassurance directed at his son, had the desired effect on Afra and he was soon smiling when Goswina began her almost day-by-day accounting of her Altairian sojourn.
Afra also “heard” unfinished sentiments and, once, caught her remembered alarm. He fervently hoped that her “later” would come soon so he’d find out all those bits and pieces she left out of the public recital.
“Later” was going to really be later, for Vessily Ogdon arrived at the door, on time as usual, palpably eager to see his betrothed. Afra didn’t like staying in the same room with Vessily and Goswina because he was acutely aware of their attachment. Since Vessily was a T-6 and even older than Goswina, Afra thought that he ought to know how to control himself. He was amazed that his father didn’t say anything about leaking emotions to Vessily.
As Afra retired to his room, he heard the depth of Vessily’s discontent with Goswina’s posting to the Southern Station. But he heard Goswina’s telepathic reassurance—and Gos Lyon, who was chaperoning the couple, said nothing about that! Afra was also vexed to hear Goswina say exactly the same things to Vessily that she’d said to him—only her tone was much different.
Afra puzzled over that. How could the same words sound so different coming from the same mind? Goswina loved him, but he knew that she also loved Vessily. Afra understood that everyone should have love enough to give special friends, even many special friends. Goswina loved him and she had a special tone for him, but she also loved Vessily—and hadn’t wanted to leave Capella for Altair because of Vessily, or so she’d said out loud—and she had anotherspecial tone for Vessily. That was very strange, and Afra went to sleep pondering that mystery.
Goswina kept her word to him, even if “later” was the next morning at first light. He woke the moment he felt her mind brush his. Of course, she no longer slept in with him as she had when he was a baby, but her room was adjacent to his. As had long been their custom, he put his hand up on the wall that separated them, knowing that she did the same thing. Not that they needed contact, but it was a friendly remnant of childish habit.
What bothered you, Gossie, that you couldn’t tell Father and Mother? He shot her a glimpse of the scene of her panicky flight to the parking lot.
Well, it wasn’t anything . . .
Huh? That’s not what you really think.
Well, one evening, we got permission to go to a concert in Altair Port. She showed him a picture of them all driving off together, but she was still concealing something. You don’t need to know every cross on the t’s and the dots on the i’s, Afra.
It’s just that Altairian concerts are different from ours. And I don’t mean the music they played. I mean, they have a much more . . . flamboyant way of performing.
How? Since his encounter with the freighter chief, Afra had taken every opportunity his duties afforded him to meet other crews, with their variety of skin shades and physical attributes. He also liked hearing the different languages, and the odd things crews said from time to time, most of which he didn’t exactly understand. It was often hard to find someone willing to explain variations to his inquiring mind. Some Talents had a way of wriggling past public shields to the real truths, but he didn’t expect to be able to do that for some years to come. Now that Goswina was back, maybe she’d tell him. But he wouldn’t interrupt her with his questions now.
They are . . . far more demonstrative than we would be, and Afra could tell that she was carefully editing the thoughts she let him see. She was falling into his parents’ habit of “protecting” him. He wasn’t a sissy. He was over six—nearly seven.
No, you’re not a sissy, Afra, and you’re a very clever nearly seven or Hasardar wouldn’t let you run errands for him. It was an adult concert, Affie, and not something you would understand or enjoy. Afra caught her mental disgust.
It’s not as if I’d start acting like a nutty Altairian, Gossie. Please let me see!
Oh, don’t push me around, Afra. I have absolutely no intention of contaminating an impressionable young mind like yours. I said, and Goswina’s mental touch unexpectedly firmed against him, don’t probe, or I won’t tell you anything else.
Afra projected compliance because he couldn’t bear for Goswina to shut him out and not tell him the exciting thing that was at the edge of her mind.
So Goswina did tell him about her dismay at what she would only term a lewd public display of affection, her mind so tightly shielded that he couldn’t catch a glimpse of what had made her leave the concert arena so abruptly. Afra hadn’t heard “lewd” before, but it couldn’t be an acceptable word, considering the way she colored it in her mind—a slimy muddy yellow brown.
The music had been wonderful. Music always is, Goswina continued, and then they had to spoil it. Rowan left with me. I was glad because she was much too young to see that sort of thing, even if it is her native planet and she might be accustomed to such displays. That’s when I found out that she was the reason so many Talents were invited to go to Altair. You see, the Rowan is really a Prime, so of course she couldn’t leave Altair, what with the way space travel sickens Primes, so FT&T set up the course to introduce possible Tower crew to her, when she’s old enough to have her own Prime Tower.
You didn’t get space sick, did you? Afra would have been disgusted, even with his beloved Gossie, if she had.
Of course not, but I’m a T-6. The sickness only affects Primes. All of us on the course thought the Rowan was just a T-4. Goswina’s thought brightened with delight at having been the first to learn the truth. She’s not much younger than I am but ever so much stronger. She’s being trained in her duties by Siglen, just as our Capella was. I suppose all Primes were young once, like the Rowan, Goswina added thoughtfully. She’s an orphan. All her family, everyone who knew her, were killed in an avalanche when she was only three years old. They said that the whole planet heard her crying for help. Goswina did not add the other things she’d heard about how Siglen had behaved at that time because it wasn’t proper to criticize a Prime for any reason whatsoever. But the Rowan is very strong, and so clever, and generous, and brave. I could have never done what she did when those awful boys attacked us.
ATTACKED YOU? There’re indent gangs on Altair? So that was what Goswina hadn’t told the parents. Not that Afra blamed her. They’d’ve been very upset at the insult to their daughter and there could have been embarrassing repercussions. What sort of a barbaric place is Altair?
Now, Afra, it isn’t barbaric. It’s really very—very sophisticated; much more worldly than Capella is with no Method to guide them. And I wasn’t hurt. I was scared. Anyway, the Rowan took care of them. Afra could hear something akin to righteous satisfaction tingeing Goswina’s thoughts. She just flicked them out of the way as we’d brush sandflies, and without any gestalt to help her. Then cool as you please, she ordered a cab and we got back safely to the Tower complex. That’s when I told her all about you.
Yes, dearest brother of them all, you. Because your minds will match. I just know they will. Afra heard her hand slap the wall for emphasis. And she has promised me that she will see that you take the course at Altair, too, when you’re old enough.
She will? But I’d have to be away from you . . .
Afra, dearest, Talents like us aren’t more than a thought away.
I couldn’t think at you when you were on Altair.
Well, I’m home now . . . and the Southern Station is well within your range, brother dear. Now, it’s time for us to be up. And for you to study hard so you’ll be ready when the Rowan needs you.
* * *
As Afra grew up, that promise began to assume more and more significance—mainly as the passport off Capella and the strict, almost stifling, code of conduct expected of him by his parents. His interactions with freighter and passenger crews, with occasional visitors whom Hasardar had him conduct from their personal capsules to the Tower, had broadened his experience of different cultures and systems.
He encountered the gallon-sized brown chief on a regular basis over the next nine years. Chief Damitcha liked the odd dignity of the pint-sized greenie, though that description rarely crossed the chief’s mind after he learned Afra’s name. It was Damitcha who introduced Afra to the art of paper folding, origami, which had been part of his ancestors’ culture.
Afra had been fascinated to see Damitcha’s thick fingers deliberately and delicately creasing, folding, and producing the most elegant creatures, objects, and flowers from colored sheets.
“Old-fashioned sea sailors used to carve things in their off-duty hours,” Damitcha explained, deftly making a bird he called a heron, with outstretched wings, long legs, and neck. “Scrimshaw, they called it. Have museums of the stuff on old Earth, and I seen it once on leave there. But spacemen gotta watch weight, and so paper’s perfect. Beats the hell outa watching fractiles or such like. Keeps my fingers supple for finicky board repairs, too.”
When Afra begged to be taught how to do origami foldings, Damitcha produced an instruction tape for him and even gave him several sheets of his special colored papers. Afra told Goswina about this hobby, but Goswina was so involved with being a new Tower technician and wife that her response was more automatic than enthusiastic: all part of her detachment from her previous ties. Afra did understand that she had other claims on her time, that she still loved him but that working in the Tower was far more exciting than listening to her little brother. Hasardar was handier and could be relied on for approval and amazement at what Afra could create out of a sheet of paper. He pinned samples of Afra’s handiwork on his bulletin board and took the manipulable ones home to amuse his children.
On his next trip into Capella, Damitcha presented Afra with a box of origami papers, all sizes and many beautiful shades and patterns. He brought historical tapes about Oriental arts and even a small paper book on Japanese brush calligraphy.
As Afra grew older, and assumed other duties, Damitcha would join him in Hasardar’s office for chats, for meal breaks, for long evening discussions. So Afra learned far more details about other systems than were taught in his classroom.
Damitcha retired from active service with the freighting company and, though he frequently sent messages to his “pint-sized greenie” to which Afra usually responded, the boy did not find another so congenial. The curiosity that Damitcha had generated in the young Afra would never fail, and the boy continued to make far more contact with other cultures than his parents knew, or would consider advisable for their impressionable son.
However, that same curiosity troubled Afra, for it made him uncomfortably aware that he found great interest in matters his family considered quite trivial or useless. Afra spent hours in his early teen years examining his inner self, trying to find the flaw in him that wanted more than he could have on Capella; that was fascinated by “otherworldly notions”; that resented the loving supervision of his parents and the path they had chosen for him to follow. The fact that he knew they loved him burdened him in his striving to be different. Their main concern was to keep the family’s honor unsullied, which meant adhering to proven ways. With their love, wisdom, and (they thought) insight into the characters and abilities of their children, Gos Lyon and Cheswina were convinced that they knew what was best. Especially for Afra.
From Goswina on down, his siblings were quite willing to have their lives ordered by their parents. As minor Talents, they each moved serenely into secure careers in the service of FT&T and that was as far as any of them looked. Goswina’s happy marriage and her skills as a technician made her conclude that following parental example would also lead Afra to happiness. So she did not understand his rebellion, nor that he had been exposed to different standards over the years.
Certainly his interest in “other-worldly” things extended to unusual species, like the barque cats on the linerBucephalus. Damitcha had told him about these strange, space-faring variants of Terran felines.
“We don’t have one, but next time the old Buc cradles down here, ask the chief—a woman named Marsha Meilo—if you can see theirs. They gotta new litter, but—sorry, lad, they’re not planet beasts. They stay in space.”
Afra looked up “barque cat” and the screen showed the current prize-winning sire, Garfield Per Astra, a magnificent beast of tawny brown with his undercoat a tan, with black stripes, and face markings that made him look both benign and exceedingly wise. His eyes were yellow, like Afra’s, but that wasn’t what endeared him to the boy as much as his air of arrogant independence did.
There were many holos of the unusually marked felines, long histories of their pedigrees, breeding, and nurture, their deftness in finding tiny holes in hulls and giving warning to the crew, their almost incredible talent for survival in spacewrecks. FIND THE BC! was the motto of every space salvage group. Any vessel harboring a barque cat would have BC ABOARD in huge letters in various positions on the hull.
The next time the Bucephalus rocked into a Capellan cradle, Afra deserted his immediate task and was in the group hovering by the crew gangway.
“Whatcha got, kid?” a spaceman asked, noticing Afra who was almost dancing about in his anxiety to get someone’s attention.
“Chief Damitcha of the freighter Zanzibar gave me a message for your Chief Marsha Meilo.”
The crewman vacillated between annoyance and curiosity.
“Yeah? What’s the message?”
“I’m to give it to her, he said.”
“Oh, he did, huh? Didn’t know he knew . . . What’s the matter, kid?”
For Afra had just seen the barque cat, who strolled indolently to the gangway to peer out in as supercilious a manner as the highest Methody preacher.
“Oh, that’s Treasure Island Queen,” and the crewman’s pride in the beast was obvious.
Afra extended his hand to the cat, for they were on a level, Treasure on the ship and Afra on the ground. The crewman kicked his hand away and Afra jumped back in alarm and hurt.
“Sorry, kid, we don’t like our barquie picking up any planetary germs. No touchee. Just lookee. She is a beauty, ain’t she?” and the crewman, rather ashamed of his defensiveness, hunkered down to pet the cat.
Afra, hands clasped tightly behind his back, could not tear his eyes off the sleek and elegant creature. Treasure, luxuriating in the crewman’s caresses, murmured her appreciation and turned her aristocratic face toward the wide-eyed boy.
“Hmmmmrow!” she said, plainly addressing Afra.
“Hey, kid, you rate. She don’t usually speak to landlubbers.”
Afra listened with all his heart and heard the satisfaction of Treasure’s mind for the caresses she was enjoying. Delicately she sniffed, as much in Afra’s direction as in general at the atmosphere of Capella, but he took it as a personal accolade and desperately wanted to be able to stroke her, to have such a lovely creature for his own.
You are the most beautiful creature I have ever seen, Afra dared to say.
There seemed to be no mental equivalent for that except pleasure. Abruptly she leaped away from the door and out of his sight. Just then a group of uniformed men and women emerged and quickly the crewman gestured for Afra to make himself scarce as he stood to attention, saluting those who filed out of the ship.
Afra mulled over that incident for several days before he asked Hasardar about barque cats.
“Them? Well, for one thing, they’re not allowed planetside. Those spacers keep them pretty much to themselves. Oh, they trade them between ships, to avoid inbreeding . . .”
“Too close a blood tie—weakens the strain, they say.”
Afra didn’t have a chance to ask more questions. He knew without asking that his parents would not permit him to have any kind of an animal. Not in the Tower enclosure. But that didn’t keep him from checking with all the bigger ships to see if they had barque cats. Spacemen were only too happy to brag about their beasts, and if Afra couldn’t touch, he could admire, and ’path them. Mostly they responded, which tickled him and actually improved his relations with all ships’ crews. “That yellow-eyed greenie that the barquies talk to” became his informal designation in Capella Port. His fascination with the animals helped ease his loneliness and he studied pedigrees, and asked questions of any barque cat crew, until he probably knew the lineage and distribution of the animals as well as any spacefarer. His most precious treasure was a packet of holographs of various dignified barquies given him by their proud owners.
But, as Afra grew older and his Talent strengthened, he became less tolerant of the parochial attitudes of his parents despite his love for them. Reared as he had been to restrain his emotions, he mentally chafed against the loving bonds and the parental assumption that he would be delighted to take a place—more exalted than theirs as a T-4 which they did not resent—in Capella Tower.
By his fifteenth year, he had begun to find ways of sliding away from his family’s supervision—first mentally when he attended the Capella training sessions and met Talents from nearby systems. Then, physically, when he would clandestinely join his student friends in the few innocent and mild diversions available on his methodistic planet: diversions his peers regarded as kid stuff. Then, psychologically, when he had the chance to add more adult tapes and disks to those Damitcha had given him. He learned vicariously what “diversions” could be had on other planets. He began to appreciate just how unsophisticated Capella was, how narrow its moral code, how much more diverse and rich other life-styles were.
He knew, as all Talents did, that the Rowan had left Altair to become Prime on the new FT&T installation on Callisto, Jupiter’s moon. He heard, for he made certain that he did, of all the personal shifts and changes required to suit the Rowan. Older members of the Capella team criticized her for such vacillation.
“Much too young to be made a Prime. That needs a mature, stable, responsible personality. What is FT&T coming to?” was the consensus. No one mentioned what was so obvious to Afra: that there were far too few Prime Talents to wait until the Rowan was “old” enough—whenever that would be—to accede to a Prime’s duties.
Afra was also perversely excited by such reports of hiring and firing. That sort of thing never happened on Capella. Once drafted to the Tower, that’s where a Talent stayed—until he or she retired after a suitable length of service.
Young Afra, now an apprentice in Capella’s Tower, was in a position to learn that the Rowan had a powerful thrust, never dumped capsules into cradles, hadn’t damaged cargo or passengers, and expedited both in- and out-system traffic despite the handicap of great Jupiter occluding Callisto at irregular intervals.
Of all the Talents surrounding the young Afra, only Hasardar seemed to appreciate his restless disquiet. Yet Afra could not bring himself to apply even to him for advice on how to break out of the stultifying future that had been arranged for him.
When he gained manly status at sixteen, he felt it was time to remind Goswina about the Rowan’s promise.
“Oh, Afra dear, you are only sixteen,” and though Afra could not doubt that she still loved him, he felt that she regarded him as little more than a child. Certainly he was no longer as important a love for her. But a mother should favor her sons above a brother. Which, sadly, he had to accept, knowing more of human relationships than he had ten years before.
“Callisto’s one of the most important Stations in the Federation,” Goswina went on, her thought backing up a tone that said she didn’t feel he should complain about his obvious future. “Besides, now that the Rowan has her own Tower, they don’t give the courses at Altair anymore.”
“But you’ve heard how often staff gets changed at Callisto. And you said that I’d complement her. You must remember that, Goswina! Maybe it’s me she’s looking for?”
Goswina gently smiled at her brother’s fervor. “Now, dear, I hear that Ementish will retire in two years. You’d do very well in that posting. In the meantime, I’ll see if you can’t work at one of the southern subsidiary links. You’d be young to be on your own in some of those isolated waystations, but you’d be getting such good practice at catching and sending.”
“Sending drones?” Afra was contemptuous. He’d been catching drones at Hasardar’s bequest for two years. The novelty had long since worn off. For his dear Goswina to recommend such a posting was a blow to his self-esteem. He was a T-4, ’path and ’port. He could do better than that for himself.
“You did rather let the family down, you know, Affie,” she went on, sweetly chiding. “Father expected you to get highest honors, not just a mere First . . .”
“Mere First?” Afra was appalled, for he had worked very hard to achieve that standard. No student in his year had been given a highest honors degree, and he had been one of only three Firsts. But, once again, he sensed that her deeper thoughts were distracted by what scholastic achievements her young sons were likely to make. “Thanks,” Afra said, trying not to sound bitter and, before she could ask him to mind his nephews, excused himself from her neatly kept house.
So he began to look at the other job opportunities for T-4’s. As all his training, all his background, had been to prepare him for the Tower, he was woefully short of the requirements for other sorts of assignments and would have to go through an apprentice year to refocus his Talent. Besides which, he wanted to get off Capella.
He toyed with the idea of asking Capella’s help: she was always pleasant to him when he encountered her in the Complex gardens or in the leisure facilities. But Capella might think him ungrateful, wanting to leave his native planet, and his request would most certainly embarrass his family.
His chance came when he heard that the Rowan had fired yet another T-4 from Callisto Station. It took every bit of credit he had in the meager personal account he had started with Damitcha’s coin to courier his profile to Callisto in the mailbag. He had spent almost a full day composing the accompanying note, and several hours before he was satisfied with the slanting lines of his calligraphy, much influenced by Damitcha’s book. The note was brief enough, mentioning only that his sister Goswina remembered the Rowan most fondly from the course at Altair and would the Rowan consider his application to Callisto Tower.
He endured suspense greater than when he had awaited his test results, and he’d thought that period had been nearly insupportable. He figured that he couldn’t expect an answer for several days, despite the speed with which FT&T mail packets were flipped about the galaxy.
Therefore, he was totally surprised when Hasardar called him on the vid.
“You’ve lucked out, lad,” Hasardar said, waving a red transport chit, the kind that meant priority handling. “Soon’s you can throw some things together, you’re to find a capsule to fit your long bones.”
“A capsule? Where’m I being sent?”
“Callisto, you lucky dog. The Rowan’s looking for a T-4 and you’re to get a trial.”
Afra stared at Hasardar, momentarily paralyzed by news he had candidly never thought to receive.
“You’re to go to Callisto, Afra?” his mother demanded in a feeble tone, as stunned as he was.
Having had no inkling as to the nature of the stationmaster’s call, Afra had not activated a privacy setting, so his parents had heard every word.
“Yes, indeed, Cheswina,” Hasardar repeated, rather surprised by the Lyon family’s muted reaction to their son’s great good fortune, “Afra’s been ordered to Callisto.”
“But how would Callisto have known of Afra?” Gos asked, staring at his son as if the young man had changed shape.
Afra affected a shrug, keeping a very tight control on his thoughts, even though he knew his father couldn’t, as well as wouldn’t, stoop to probing.
“Maybe the Rowan Prime remembered her promise to Goswina,” Afra said, delighted that his voice didn’t crack with excitement. “Which is very good of her, you must admit. A promise made a decade ago. Who’d expect a Prime to remember?” He knew he was babbling as much from jubilation as a sudden fright that, in surprise, his parents might deny him the right to go.
“A Prime is exactly the person who would remember,” his father told him reproachfully. “Our family is indeed honored. But didn’t I hear that you were to be assigned to a substation? I know you’re being considered as a replacement for Ementish in our Tower.” There was a wistful emphasis on the possessive pronoun.
“Father, I can hardly refuse to go to Callisto, can I?” Afra said, pretending a reluctant obedience to a Prime directive, but he could scarcely shout out his inner joy when his parents were so distressed at his news. “I must gather travel necessities.”
“Come when you’re ready, Afra. You can be dispatched any time in the next hour,” Hasardar said. “It is only an interview,” he added tactfully and disconnected.
Cheswina was trying hard to control her dismay at the prospect of her youngest child’s abrupt departure. She did not feel that Afra was ready to meet the world on his own, though she had started looking for a suitable wife for him. There were plenty of girls who’d look favorably on her tall, thin son because he was T-4.
Gos Lyon rose from the breakfast table. “I am deeply concerned, Afra, about your being sent to such an unstable Tower situation.”
“It is just an interview,” Afra said, reinforcing his aura of dutiful compliance.
“I have heard,” Gos Lyon continued, both expression and mind radiating an anxiety that even a T-10 would have sensed, “that the Rowan is a very difficult Prime to work with. Her station personnel are constantly being changed. You would be foolish to risk . . .”
“Humiliation?” and Afra hooked the unspoken word out of Gos Lyon’s mind. “Father, there would be no shame, or blame, if the Rowan did not find me acceptable.” Afra felt every fiber of his being denying his words, every ounce of his strength shielding his true thoughts from his distraught parents. “There would, however, I feel, be an implied insult if I didn’t at least appear for this interview. I will pack a few things . . .” Indeed there was little in his room that he could not leave behind—with the exception of his holos of barque cats, his origami flock, his supply of paper, and Damitcha’s book. “. . . and report as requested to the Rowan on Callisto. It is so generous of her to remember her promise to Goswina.”
Before his control on his real feelings weakened, Afra strode from the room. As he tossed a change of clothing, Tower shoes, holos, origamis, and the book into a carisak, he probed deftly at his parents. His father was clearly stunned and most perturbed, uncomplimentarily concerned that his youngest could handle the courtesies involved. His mother’s mind was running about in circles: would Afra present himself properly, would he be restrained and mannerly, would this Rowan person appreciate that he came from a good family and had been raised to the high standards demanded of Tower personnel, would he . . .
Afra closed the sak and returned to say farewell to his parents. This moment was far harder for him than he realized—especially when he wished so fervently that he would not be back in the few days his parents felt he’d be gone.
“I shall bring honor on the family name,” he said to his father, lightly touching Gos Lyon’s chest over his heart. “Mother, I shall be extremely well-behaved,” and he caressed her cheek softly.
His throat suddenly closed and he felt an unexpected burning behind his eyes. He hadn’t anticipated such a reaction when he had wanted so desperately for so long to leave home. Much too abruptly for courtesy, he flung himself out of the house and strode as fast as his long legs would take him to the personnel launch cradles of the Station.
He’d seen the procedure often enough to know exactly what to do. The personnel carrier was comfortable enough; certainly, no different from any of the drills or the few short distances he’d been teleported. A T-10 he knew checked him, grinned as he closed and locked the cover, slapped it in casual farewell, and only then did Afra remember that he hadn’t contacted Goswina.
Gossie . . .
Afra! You have a genius for picking the most awkward moments . . .
Gossie, I’m going to Callisto . . .
Afra, Capella’s firm mental voice interrupted him then, on the count of three . . . I wish you good luck, Afra.
The next moment he knew he was being ’ported across the incredible spatial distance to Callisto. That didn’t take as long as he had somehow assumed it would. He was aware of the ’portation, the sensation of disorientation that he knew he was expected to feel. Small wonder Primes, being so sensitive, had problems even on passenger liners. He was certainly aware when the changeover was made, when Capella released his capsule into the Rowan’s control.
Afra? Did you tell your sister that the Rowan kept her promise?
The Rowan’s mental tone, so different from Capella’s, from anyone else’s he had ever encountered in his lifetime, chimed silverly in his mind. The contact had a brilliance, a vivacity, and a resonance which immediately enthralled him.
I told her I was coming to Callisto.
Well, you’re here. Come to the Tower. You are welcome, Afra. A silvery laugh shivered in his mind. You know, I think Goswina was right. We’ll see.
The cover was unlocked and a rather anxious-looking man, wearing Stationmaster’s tabs on his collar, extended a hand.
“Afra? Brian Ackerman.” The man’s anxiety began to fade as they clasped hands. “Capella grows ’em long, doesn’t it?” he said, grinning as Afra got to his feet, standing centimeters taller than the stockier stationmaster. “The Rowan can play games, but don’t let ’em get to you, huh?” he added in the tight, low tones that suggested to Afra that Brian had his mental shields in place to deliver that brief advice.
Afra nodded soberly and followed the stationmaster to the Tower. It was only then that he noticed, and swallowed against his surprise, that Callisto Tower was a domed facility. In fact, a combination of domes plus the big ship launch area with cradles that ranged from the single he’d been landed in to the immense complex metal affairs that accommodated large passenger liners or naval vessels. Above them loomed Jupiter. Afra controlled the instinct to hunch away from the giant planet. No doubt he would get accustomed to its dominating presence.
He also found himself breathing shallowly, and controlled that reaction as well: there was plenty of air on this moon.
“You get used to it,” Brian Ackerman said with a grin.
“Is it that obvious?” Afra asked.
Brian grinned. “Everyone feels the old man and, sometimes, the whole alien feel”—he made a sweep of his arm to include the domes—“can really get to the planet-bred.”
They had reached the facility by then, a Tower more by grace than fact, for there was only the one raised section that could be termed a tower. The administrative building was compact, three-storied, the only windows the clear Plexiglas that wrapped around the tower portion, giving the Prime three hundred sixty degrees of visibility. Lights under the fascia boards of the roof beamed down on the plantings, counterfeiting sunlight enough to encourage growth. Luminous Jupiter’s light did not suffice earth vegetation. To Afra’s surprise, he saw a small copse of trees at the back of the terrain-hugging residence off to the right of the Tower complex.
“The Rowan’s,” Brian said, noticing his glance, and then palmed the door open. “She lives here. Primes don’t travel much, you know, but she’s good about sending us downside on leave.”
Inside the main room, consoles and work tables were placed along the walls, neat enough now as personnel were apparently closing down operations. There was a buzz of friendly chat and considerable interest in Ackerman’s companion.
Afra caught mental buzz that identified him as the Capellan T-4. No longer a pint-sized greenie, Afra thought very quietly and grinned. If he suited the Rowan, he might even be able to see old Damitcha, who had retired downside to Kyoto.
Vague reassurances were aimed in his direction, some of them wistful, some of them pessimistic about his chances, but there were smiles enough to make him feel welcome.
“You were the last shipment in today,” Brian said. “Coffee?”
“Coffee?” Afra was surprised. That was a caffeinated substance which was, of course, unavailable on Capella. Something to do with the expense of it. “I wouldn’t mind a cup.” He fished that phrase out of Brian’s mind.
“D’you like it black, white, sweetened?”
“How do you like it?”
“Never had any?”
“No,” and Afra smiled ruefully.
“Well, try it black and see if you like it. Then we can add milk and sweetener to your taste.”
Afra was trying not to probe around for the Prime. There were so many people milling about, some of them flustered with the day’s tasks, some hoping to leave for home pretty soon, that he wondered if she were down here. No one matched the vivid mental picture Goswina had given him so long ago. Then he realized that the Rowan would be ten years older and more mature than that mischievous girl.
Just as Brian handed him a mug with an opaque black liquid, he knew the Rowan was in the room. He turned slightly to his left, toward the beverage dispenser that Brian had just left. Three people, a man and two women, were serving themselves. Afra’s attention fell on the slenderer female figure, a mane of unexpectedly silver hair falling to her shoulders although her face was young, and oddly attractive, though not in a classic style of beauty. He felt the first spurt—and ruthlessly suppressed that sense—of strong affinity.
Although the girl wasn’t very tall and had a pale rather than slightly greenish skin tone, she had the lean look of a Capellan. But there was no doubt in his mind that she was the Rowan.
Full marks to you, Goswina’s brother Afra, she said and, audibly excusing herself from her companions, she jerked her head toward the steps to the Tower level. If you’ll join me?
Her very casual manner was quite a change from Capella’s formality.
I had my craw full of protocol and elaborate convention on Altair, Afra. I run a Tower, not a tea party. I also don’t usually ’path conversations. For Goswina’s brother I’ll make an exception today.
He followed her up the winding metal steps, a bit surprised that she didn’t have a ramp as Capella did.
“You’ll find I’m not at all like Capella, or Siglen, or any of the other Primes you might have met.”
“Capella’s the only one I’ve ever met.”
They were in the Tower room now, with her conformable couch, the various monitors and consoles that were standard furniture for a Prime’s domain. Great Jupiter was visible, and the stark moonscape beyond the FT&T domes. The Rowan gestured for him to take the seat by the auxiliary console. Then she leaned back against the outer wall and cocked her head. He felt no contact from her mind, but, unless he was completely mistaken, there was a bond growing between them. He hoped so, for he had never met anyone like her before—so radiant, so vital, so vivid. Strength was an almost visible aura about her. And his father had always maintained that Primes contained themselves?
“I’d take you for Goswina’s brother. You’ve the look of her. Sort of.” She smiled, an expression that only increased his attraction for her. “What did they say when you got my message?”
“They were surprised. Then my father said that a Prime would remember a promise.”
“Ah!” Her grin was mischievous. “So your family didn’t know you had applied to me directly?”
Afra shook his head, unable, however, to break eye contact. So he gave a rueful shrug and attempted a self-deprecating smile.
“Aren’t you supposed to take up a position at Capella Tower?”
“When Ementish retires.”
Her gray eyes danced. “And that fills you with so much elation that you had to give me first refusal?”
“Capella is a good planet . . .”
“Goody good, I’d’ve said . . .”
Afra cocked an eyebrow at her qualification. “When we took the Tower course, I met Talents from other systems.” He shrugged again, not willing to belittle his home world.
“And you wanted to see more of the galaxy?”
“One doesn’t see much of the galaxy as a T-4 in a Tower, but I thought that it might be . . . challenging to spend some time elsewhere.”
She gave him a curious look. “What are those odd shapes in your carisak?”
It was the last question he expected of her, but he also realized that the Rowan would be unpredictable.
“Origami. The ancient art of paper folding.” Not at all certain he should act brashly, he ’ported his favorite swan—in a silvery white paper—into his hand and offered it to her.
With a wondering smile on her face, she took it from him, turning the bird this way and that, delicately opening its wings.
“How charming! And you just fold paper into that shape.”
“What’s your favorite color?” he asked.
“Red. Crimson red!”
He extracted a red sheet from his supply and, when he had it in his hands, he rapidly folded a flower, which he offered her with a little bow.
“Well, that’s not a mental exercise at all, is it?” she said, examining the flower. “Flip, flop and you’ve got a small masterpiece. Is that what people do on Capella for entertainment?”
Afra shook his head. “A freighter chief named Damitcha taught me—while Goswina was on Altair. I missed her, you see. Origami helped.”
The Rowan’s expression altered to one of compassionate apology—and he felt the lightest mental touch, reinforcing it.
“She missed you, too, Afra. I heard all about you.”
“And you remembered your promise.”
“Not quite, Afra,” she said, propelling herself toward her chair and whirling around to seat herself. “Because there’s no course on Altair anymore and you’re already trained. So let’s see if Goswina was right, that our minds will complement each other in the running of this Tower!”
She let him hear what she then said. Reidinger, I’ve found me another T-4. Afra of Capella. He folds paper! Which is at least original. And he keeps holos of barque cats.
So she’d seen those, too, in her mental sorting of his belongings.
Afra winced as the bellow singed his mind edges. The Rowan grinned mischievously at him and signaled that he wasn’t to mind the noisiness.
Well, he can’t be any worse than the one who was certain that Jupiter would fall on her. Or that absolute dork from Betelgeuse who couldn’t take the least bit of teasing. Much less that martinet you thought was just the sort to steady me while I was learning my job! No, this time, Reidinger, I get to pick one. And that’s that!
Then she winked at Afra. “I had an illegal barque cat once. I named him Rascal and he was, but the ungrateful feline deserted me on the liner that brought me here.” She gave a little shrug and a wry grin. “Not that I blamed him, the way I carried on.”
“They hear us, you know,” Afra said, thinking that a safe enough remark.
She looked surprised. “I suspected Rascal did. We enjoyed a friendly empathy, but has one spoken to you?”
The Rowan threw back her head and laughed with delight.
“You’re one up on me then, Afra.”
“Not for long, I think,” he replied, pure relief at surviving these initial moments jolting the uncharacteristic retort from mind to mouth.
She laughed again, idly swinging the chair from side to side. “Shall we keep score?”
“How much can I lose before you fire me out of here?” He didn’t believe it was himself answering a Prime like this.
“Well, I just don’t know, Afra. The problem hasn’t come up before,” she said, winking. “The others have been such blockheads, they couldn’t have capped a phrase if I’d handed them the hat! And,” she waggled a finger at him, “if you hold your own against Reidinger when he vets you, you’ll do yourself a favor there, too. Enough of this! I’ll show you your quarters.” She slid gracefully to her feet and beckoned him to follow. “We’re off for the next six hours, you know, so there’s time for you to settle in before the Station’s operational again. Then we’ll just see how good Goswina’s little brother Afra is!”
CALLISTO personnel had better quarters than Afra expected for a moon installation. He was frequently told that Callisto had been state-of-the-art when it was constructed eight years ago. Every new safeguard device since then was immediately incorporated into Callisto’s dome. FT&T was not risking its Callisto Prime, and her station crew benefited.
Married personnel had quarters with their own garden and recreations area under their secondary dome. Single staff had two-room apartments plus a large dining and recreational lounge. A well-fitted gymnasium center used by everyone occupied another secondary dome, reached by a short tunnel, though the locks on both ends were standing open. The Tower facility, small capsule cradles plus the generators, fuel tanks, and main water storage, was mainly underground with access in a third small dome: the passenger and naval vessel size cradles under a fourth with airlocks and auxiliary tunnels to the main facilities. The Rowan’s private residence with its small copse and garden, off to one side of the main complex, was under a fifth, while the main dome offered primary shielding to all. Emergency upright shelters were strategically situated in case of a major strike penetrating the first and second domes, and each living unit automatically sealed and had emergency oxygen supplies for twenty-four hours: the maximum time estimated for help to arrive from other stations in the system.
Afra found his apartment more than adequate, even to an imitation fire on a hearth in the lounge room, flanked by two conformable chairs and a rather battered low table. To one side of the mantel was a complicated orological device that displayed Earth time and Callisto’s time in terms of revolutions about its primary, and a second orery depicting Callisto’s orbit around immense Jupiter as well as the erratic orbits of the other moons. If he read it correctly, he had another five hours and fifteen minutes before he should report back to the Tower.
Although there were cupboards, shelving for tape, vids, gamescreens, and far more closets than he needed for his one pitiful carisak, there was plenty of space for other furniture, suggesting he could make his own choices of additional pieces.
The ubiquitous communications desk was exceedingly well appointed with a patently brand-new console and auxiliaries. When he turned it on, an introductory message filled the screen, inviting him to initiate personal codes and install any programs. He was informed that he had a monthly limit of free calls to his home system, that he could order necessities from Earth on the weekly supply drones at no cost or immediately at a special rate for FT&T employees. Facetiously keying a query on his credit balance, he gasped in surprise at the amount of draw he was permitted for an out-of-system transfer, the allowance provided for redecorating and furnishing his quarters, and how to obtain downside authorization and credit facilities for FT&T personnel.
“Another matter no one ever explained to me,” he murmured. “Or maybe the parents expected to manage my credit for me, too.”
He placed the barque cat holos on one shelf above the console and his flock of origamis on the next, fussing over their placement. He leaned the calligraphy book against the side of the third shelf and snorted. Well, he suspected that he’d find plenty to fill out those shelves.
He investigated the bathroom, noticing the warning of daily personal water allotment, peeked into the tiny refreshment cabinet, which included many exotic choices for a Capellan methody lad, and went on into the sleeping room. The bed was as firm as he liked it and big enough for several bodies the size of his. That opened up another vista for him, heretofore scrupulously unmentioned, even if his parents had been considering the stabilizing influence of a nice girl for him. He grinned. Earth was not that far away and Brian Ackerman had mentioned that downside trips were possible. Tempting!
Then he noticed the second orological display.
“They don’t risk your forgetting the time around here, do they?” Even in this privacy, he felt a trifle silly talking to himself. “I need some music.”
If you will name your preferences, these can be supplied on a select or random basis, said a velvet alto, which could be either male or female.
Delighted to have a voice address in-room system, Afra rattled off a list of his favorites and the soft string instrumental opus began the moment he paused to decide what else he’d like to have on tap.
Courtesy is not required.
“It was where I was reared,” Afra replied bluntly.
Is a response required?
“It would be appreciated. I promised my parents to remember my manners.” Then he covered his mouth against a laugh. All those drills on courtesy and he had a v.a. system to use them on? Even Goswina wouldn’t be amused by the irony.
Thank you, the alto voice responded.
“You’re welcome,” Afra said.
Excerpted from "Damia"
Copyright © 1993 Anne McCaffrey.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love this series, just wish they had the first book in ebook format since I have the others that way, I don't want it in paperback or hardback because I would just wear it out.
Love this series! Damia Gwyn-Raven is the third child of Jeff Raven and The Rowan. Unlike her older brother and sister, Damia is a handful. When The Rowan is pregnant for a fourth time and the pregnancy is not going well and after several shenangians by Damia it is decided that raising Damia on Callisto Station is not a good idea, so she, Jeran and Cera go to live with their paternal grandmother, Isthia, on Deneb VIII. There Damia thrives and grows into a young woman. After a lot of training she takes over as Aurigae Prime and lives a lonely life until she senses a brilliant mind light years away. Will Soran be the one to ease her loneliness? This book starts out with Afra Lyon, his childhood and how he came to work in Callisto Tower as the Second in Charge to The Rowan giving us excellent insight into his life. While I truly enjoyed this book, Damia is not one of my favorite characters until the end. I found her to be self-centered, selfish and really not very likeable. It takes a terrible tragedy to finally mature her even though she should have matured years before. The ending is a nice surprise and leaves plenty of fodder for the next book in the series. My reread was every bit as enjoyable this go ‘round even though it’s been about 20 years since I read it. *Book source ~ My home library.
Please E-book the full series
I really love this book, it is one of my favorites. I just wish I could get it and the rest of the talent series on my nook. I have gone through at least 4 or 5 copies of the book because of my enjoyment of it.
Damia is a favorite from my preteen years. Yes, it is horribly cheesy and the science fiction is weak at best, but there is something endearing about the style and the loving detail to the charchter's childhoods.
Continuation of really bad series. Don't bother...I don't know why I did.
I love the series but I have them in paper. I won’t purchase the ebook until the whole series is available.
Love them all
Loved the series .
I have always loved Anne McCaffery. I can say nothing but good things about this book. For those people that that are not fans of sci-fi and fantasy, this is a great book to read. It deals with thoughts that people have today, how munch can our brains do someday and just what will we be able to do then. This is agreat book. I encourage you to read it and many more by Anne McCaffery.
I loved this book (and all of Mrs. McCaffrey's)! But I think I like this one more than the others because I tend to understand Damia's more... egregious mistakes, having made some of the same...(though I had to muddle through withOUT Talent!) But this is DEFINATELY one of the best in the Talent series.
I love this book, because they use telepathy to communicate. This is a great book.
I think this book was the best in the Rowan series. It covered such a large time span effortlessly, from Afra's childhood to his meeting the Rowan to Damia's birth to her first date to all the trials she goes through and finally to their marriage. I can't remember if it also includes their first child, but I don't think so. I marvel at how Anne McCaffrey was able to do this without excluding any elements or making it at all drawn out or boring. Of course, there are the steamy parts of the book which appeal to another facet of my personality, as well. I think this book contained the most of that out of any of the books in the series. heehee... well anyway, I love McCaffrey's writing style, it resembles my own at times which is just really neat. Also, because of this, I think it appeals to me more. Another thing I also really like is how the books can be read out of order since there is a mini-summary in the beginning of each. At first, there may be some terms unfamiliar to a reader of anything but the first book, The Rowan, but you'll get everything eventually. Plus, it's so much fun going back and seeing how things started in previous books that you read about in a later book that already happened. (Get what I'm saying?) In other words, in 'The Tower and the Hive', two people are married and happy, and then 'Lyon's Pride', I read about the relationship between them starting and developing. also applies to seeing the reason things happened. This is a must-read if you like sci-fi, fantasy, and romance (both love and lust).
This is one of my very favorite books, and one of the best I think exist! ^_^ It's really an awesome series, but I love this one because it focuses on my Aful.. err, Damia's Afra to you all. Anyway, it comes highly reccomended!