They inherited their mother's legendary powers of telepathy. But Damia's children will need more than psionic Talent to face the enemy's childrenan alien race more insect than human...
About the Author
Anne McCaffrey was the multi-award winning bestselling author of more than fifty books, including the Dragonriders of Pern series, the Freedom series, and the Tower and the Hive series.
Read an Excerpt
“A reason for rejoicing.”
—The Washington Times
“One of the best McCaffrey novels.”
“The Rowan introduces readers to the Gwyn-Raven dynasty . . . complete with an interstellar love affair steamy enough to attract those not usually interested in science fiction.”
“A well-told tale . . . McCaffrey’s popularity is immense and justified.”
“Charming . . . a warm and vivid picture of a struggling frontier society.”
“McCaffrey weaves believable characters with a well-written story to produce this entertaining science fiction romance.”
—School Library Journal
“[H]olds the reader spellbound [with an] artful weave of romance and humor that infuses her characters.”
“McCaffrey interweaves an engrossing romance with a coming-of-age story as she examines the issue of responsibility in a society where survival depends on the abilities of a gifted few.”
“McCaffrey is in fine form . . . interesting . . . amusing . . . tempestuous.”
“[A] well-crafted universe . . . [Damia] both refines and extends characterizations, especially in interrelationships and the use of mental powers . . . a winning choice for the author’s legion of fans.”
“Well-written . . . McCaffrey has created another memorable, independent female protagonist and fully fleshed-out secondary characters who behave in a believable manner . . . a superb science fiction romance.”
—School Library Journal
“Anne McCaffrey has created worlds whose elements elude the imaginations of most other writers . . . [Damia] is a perfect example of what makes McCaffrey’s writing so much fun.”
—The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“McCaffrey’s special talent is creating sympathetic and endearing characters.”
—The Toronto Star
“Winning, carefully developed young characters, an attractive alien society, and an enemy drawn with more than a touch of mystery.”
“McCaffrey’s fans won’t be disappointed . . . hugely enjoyable . . . fascinating in its exploration of the brain’s potential and untapped powers.”
—The Calgary Sun
“Another exciting episode in the thrilling epic of the Rowan . . . Read and enjoy!”
“Readers looking for intelligent, heroic adventure will find it here, and Rowan fans will be especially pleased at this felicitous closing of a popular SF series.”
“McCaffrey maintains the high quality of characterization of humans and aliens alike, and, once again, she skillfully interweaves the plot threads, making it easy to follow the action on all fronts. A rousing conclusion to a most satisfying series.”
“Fans of the series will plunge right in.”
Ace Books by Anne McCaffrey
The Tower and Hive Series
THE TOWER AND THE HIVE
The Freedom Series
Table of Contents
LARIA reined Saki in at the curve, to let Tlp and Hgf catch up. She deliberately kept her eyes forward, curbing Saki’s intention to gallop up the last hill to home, because she knew the ’Dinis would have dropped to four legs to make the steep climb. Tlp and Hgf were awfully sensitive about being caught on all fours. Like Humans, the Mrdinis assumed bipedal stance as soon as their back muscles were well enough developed to support the long trunk. Her father said that he thought the ’Dinis had been much relieved to learn that Human children also had to learn how to walk upright.
When Saki’s twitching ears and a waft of a musky leathery scent on the breeze announced their arrival, she acknowledged them with a whistle/click. She couldn’t quite make the sound as well as her brothers Thian and Rojer, but she did better than Zara who hadn’t the hang of it at all yet. Kaltia wasn’t even trying though she signed well enough to be understood by the ’Dinis, as Morag did. Her youngest siblings, Ewain and Petra, were too young to have more than the most rudimentary contact with their pairs.
Despite saddle bags full of the day’s catch, Saki marched vigorously uphill, careful not to tread on the flipper feet on either side of her. Tip and Huf—which were Laria’s mental tags for her ’Dinis—had taken holds on Laria’s stirrups to assist them up this steepest part of the climb. Well accustomed to hauling ’Dinis, Saki accepted the additional burden.
Dropping the reins now that Saki was behaving, Laria had hands free to sign to her companions in excitement over their success hunting. They’d never hear her well enough over the clopping of Saki’s hoofbeats if she spoke aloud. Tlp and Hgf clicked and clacked happy sounds which echoed in their skulls. They could produce any number of identifiable noises that way, ranging from fear to bravado, agreement, dislike, curiosity, concern, enjoyment, and what passed for ’Dini laughter.
Neither species could quite manage the varied sounds needed to reproduce the subtler nuances of the other’s speech, but Human body language could add emphasis to words and so could ’Dini body movements. Their five fingers were as dextrous in reproducing arbitrary patterns as their oral cavities were in producing understandable pitched noises that Humans could copy. Both languages, as spoken by the other species, were refined to somewhat limited vocabularies that fortunately could be extended into quite a few technical areas: such as space travel, basic engine design, biological and meteorological sciences, metallurgy, and mining.
Laria’s mother and father, Damia and Afra Raven-Lyon, had spent the past fifteen years developing and refining this communications bridge—apart from the Dreamings—with Mrdini colleagues. Laria had been the earliest Human test subject. Constantly surrounded from birth by adult Mrdinis, and then young Tip and Huf, she had absorbed posture and sounds just as any child learns another language from early exposure. By the time she was six months old, she had had Tlp and Hgf as cribmates and had dreamed the pleasantest dreams in their company at naptime and at night. All the Raven-Lyon offspring had been similarly paired when they were six months old with ’Dini young.
On Iota Aurigae, such partnering had become normal. Even before much interspecies communication had become viable, miners—who were so overworked they were glad of any assistance—had taken adult pairs of ’Dinis into the pits and shafts when the Mrdinis had “dreamed” their willingness to do so. The tough and suspicious Aurigaen miners had discovered that the ’Dinis were instinctive colliers, hard workers, and unusually strong.
“Hey-YO,” cried someone behind her. Turning, Laria saw her brother Thian, his white lock flopping across his face, round the bend on his chunky black pony, Charger, Mrg and Dpl trudging along beside him.
Not for the first time did Laria regret that the conformation of the ’Dini made it impossible for them, with their stout short legs and stumpy tail, to straddle the hardy little Denebian hybrid ponies that Humans employed. When they were younger, she’d occasionally put Tip and Huf up on Saki, Tip in front where she could hold on to it, and Huf riding pillion behind, its fingers latched tightly to her belt. But it wasn’t the most comfortable way to travel and now her mates were too heavy to ride Saki with her.
“Good hunting, Thian?” Laria called back.
“Plenty for pot and spit,” her brother yelled, grinning hugely. “Rojer’s right behind us, with their bag. He must have some secret source of scurriers, the amount he’s bringing in.”
Hunting was a weekend occupation for the three oldest Raven-Lyon children, who were good archers while the ’Dinis were clever with traps. With such a big household to feed, small avian species and burrowing animals, scurriers, and the variety of rabbit that had adapted well to Aurigae were welcome additions to protein requirements, not always as well satisfied by the huge gardens.
The Tower could, of course, have brought in any supplies needed but it had become a matter of family pride and honor for this household to supply its own needs—Human and Mrdini—either from the high plateaus and valleys behind Aurigae City or from their fields.
Saki was too eager for her warm stable and supper to be held back to wait for Thian so Laria let her walk out, her tired young ’Dini mates hauled alongside.
As they finally reached the terrace level, lights were already beginning to augment the dimming day and illuminate the broad courtyard. Saki’s hooves clattered across it, summoning the resident pets: Coonies, Darbuls, and what Laria had termed slithers, the Mrdini equivalent of a pet.
Neither reptile nor bird, neither furred nor feathered, but loving, affectionate, dependent on assistance to survive anywhere, slithers had—to everyone’s great astonishment—become accepted by Coonies, ignored by Darbuls, and endeared themselves to the Humans as useful household creatures. Their existence and nurture by Mrdinis had been a curiously important factor in the acceptance of the aliens: “Any critter that cares for a pet—even one as repulsive as that slithery reptiloid er . . . ah . . . entity,” the Fleet Commander had remarked, “can’t be all bad.”
As slither diet consisted of Aurigaen insects and small bugs unappetizing to other life forms, the creatures kept the large sprawling Raven-Lyon residence and neighboring fields clear of pests that often caused humans on Aurigae considerable discomfort or nuisance when they fed on the crops.
* * *
Laria was already giving Saki a rub-down when first Thian and then Rojer arrived in the stable, to tend their own beasts. While one ’Dini brought the catch up to the kitchen wing, the other helped with hay and feed for the horses. That set the already stabled animals to stamping and snorting.
Have all the ponies been fed? Laria asked, broadcasting her thought more than directing it to either parent.
Please, darling? Had some late Tower traffic, replied Damia. What splendid hunting you’ve all had!
Laria ’ported the feeds into the mangers, adding the special vitamins and salts that two of the newest ponies required until their digestions altered to Aurigaen grasses. As usual, the four ’Dinis clacked in loud appreciation of her kinetic skill.
WE FEED PONIS, WE MAKE PONIS ’APPY, Tip and Huf chanted, although they themselves had done nothing, but as Tip and Huf were hers, any of her achievements were also theirs. Laria gave a small, almost inaudible sigh of resignation: for all their years in a Talented household, the ’Dinis were always more charmed by small teleportations like this than any of the major workings from the Tower. Cargo and ships just disappeared from or appeared in cradles, whereas now the ’Dinis could see the movement from one place to another.
WE FEED PONIS PLUS, Thian’s pair, Mur and Dip added.
WE FEED FIRST, Tip began, turning its poll eye back over itself to pin Mur with a steely glance.
She signed it quickly not to be so silly and tlocked with her tongue a disapproving note. Tlp shrugged that off, swaying its upper body and head in reaffirmation.
As her parents had cautioned her as soon as she began to experiment with her telekinetic abilities Laria was careful in its usage. The young Raven Lyons did ’path more than most Talented parents would recommend for family communications but then the circumstances were unusual. Conversations between Humans—when the ’Dinis could not follow verbal speech—would be rude, so they often ’pathed rather than discourteously speak what their guests could not understand.
The entire Raven-Lyon family, including eight-month-old Petra, was considered by the Governmental Authority to be acting as official liaison representatives to Mrdini. Telepathy allowed the family the privacy and ease to discuss intimate matters which might have to exclude the ’Dinis.
As soon as Laria, Thian, and Rojer had seen to the comfort of their ponies, they and the other ’Dinis went up the ramp from the stable complex to the Hall where most of the combined household’s activities took place. With their ’Dinis’ help, Morag was already plucking, skinning, and eviscerating the catch. Zara, who would not butcher animals, was washing and preparing vegetables and greens. Afra and Flk were trussing bird and scurrier beast for the spit while Damia and Trp were doing multiple tasks with the rest of the meal. The ’Dinis were also carrying on a voluble conversation with their returning young. Despite the differences in shape and origin, there were many similarities between Mrdini and Human in the care, education and nurture of their progeny.
Laria caught only half of what Flk and Trp were saying to the younglings but the sounds merrily ranged up and down the pitches available to ’Dini vocal cords so she knew that nothing was amiss. ’Dinis might not use body-language supplements when speaking to their own but tone could be interpreted in this home of sensitive Talents.
Anything new? Laria asked.
Nothing at all, darling, Damia said. Can you do some more carrots? You know how Flk and Trp adore them but they haven’t got the hang of using scrapers.
Vitamin A! Laria replied with a mental grin, and ’ported two more bunches from the storeroom, holding them up for her mother to approve the quantity. A nod sufficed and Laria began preparing them.
Tlp and Hgf immediately came to her assistance, their single poll eyes glittering for they were as fond of carrots as the adults. Once she had scraped, they sliced, Tip and Huf twitching their upper torsos happily, their “heads” bent so that their single poll eyes were focused on what their hands were doing. Ordinarily, ’Dinis brought whatever they were working on up to eye level but when attempting a Human task, they tended to adopt Human postures.
Some people said they couldn’t tell one ’Dini from another but that’s because they didn’t work closely with a pair. Laria recognized, and knew the names, of every pair living on Aurigae. ’Dini Pairing itself was another mystery that hadn’t been adequately explained, though biologists were trying. They had had to accept the fact that Mrdini always came in pairs. Laria did not know if Tip and Huf were the young of her parents’ Flk and Trp: she didn’t know if Flk and Trp were birth pairs, or had paired off by mutual choice when mature. There were still gaps in communication levels.
The Mrdinis Dreamed explanations but these did not explain their biology. Mrdinis reproduced during their annual hibernations. Whether mating occurred before or during was still debatable: the Mrdinis did not seem to understand “gestation” as a concept of time or even a process. They did not understand “abort” or “impotence” as a reason why not all “pairs” reproduced. Nor why there were always twin births. Diplomatic courtesy denied Humans the right to observe in the hibernatory. No one was certain that these were live births, or if the Mrdinis might be oviparous. But the young were born “adult,” in that they understood the basics that all ’Dinis instinctively knew. They had to wait until their muscles strengthened to walk upright but they needed only to be “reminded,” Laria thought, of sounds—words—to reproduce them properly. As Damia once said, ’Dini young went from “oh” to “oration” in nothing flat. And they left the hibernatory “house-trained” and with mouths full of sharp teeth.
Mrdini builders had constructed the special hibernation facility well up in the hills behind the sprawling Raven-Lyons home. To this all the Aurigaen Mrdini retired for their two-month long period of inactivity. Not all pairs reproduced in that time. Not all remained for only two months. When all had left the facility, it was scrupulously clean and ready for the next hibernation period.
Laria was both relieved and lonely during the absence of Tip and Huf: relieved because she didn’t have that extra worry about doing or saying something misleading; lonely because she enjoyed their company and the fun they could get up to. ’Dinis had whimsical humor and a special rippling wheeze that was their amused noise: not quite a laugh, not a sputter, but definitely laughter. Fortunately ’Dinis and humans had comparable notions of comedy.
Though she had learned to get tongue around the vowelless Tlp and Hgf, Laria used Tip and Huf: Thian called Mrg and Dpl, Mur and Dip. Her parents called Flk, Fok, and Trp, Tri. Evidently ’Dini made do without vowel sounds, though they certainly had innumerable consonant sounds, glottal stops, and fricatives to produce all those clicks, clacks, dongs, bongs, tlocks, and infinite varieties of whistle. Laria had become so deft at interpreting, that her parents often asked her to verify their understanding of conversations with Flk and Trp.
Then dinner was ready and served with rapidity to the hungry horde. ’Dinis had clever blades that served as spoon, fork, and knife. Laria was adept with the instrument and kept one on her belt as Tip and Huf did. Fingers were permissible at home, Morag and Ewain employing theirs to good use, even remembering to use finger-bowls and napkins. Zara was even more fastidious at nine and her ’Dinis tended to imitate her. The fact that the ’Dinis were also accustomed to finger-bowls and napkins had at first astonished Humans. Afra had carved the first bowls from Denebian hardwoods, decorated with the first Dream which the ’Dinis had sent him and Damia. While he still entertained everyone in the household with his paper folded origami designs, he had added wood-working to his leisure time.
He had done ’Dinis in origami. Fok and Tri carried theirs in their belt pouches and would often exhibit them to ’Dini guests. While all the family liked to watch him create his animals and forms, only Rojer and Zara showed enough interest to learn to do the intricate paper folding. Fok and trihad attended the first two lessons and then retired. Their digits were too powerful for the delicate movements needed and they tore more paper than they folded.
Mrdini mental processes apparently differed from Human—though the results might be similar—but areas of mutuality were in constant development, and double households like the Raven-Lyons contributed hugely to interspecies understanding. It wasn’t their Talent that was exercised so much as their innate empathy and objectivity.
“Dad,” Thian began when he had assuaged the first edge of hunger, “we’ve about hunted out the nearby ranges. Aren’t I old enough to use a sled?”
Afra thoughtfully regarded his eldest son, all bony ribs, elbows and knees in his latest growth spurt and likely to match his father’s height soon.
It would be useful, considering the fact that we may not ’port our friends about the place.
Laria held her breath, for while she didn’t begrudge Thian the opportunity . . .
Both Laria and Thian are responsible youngsters, Afra went on, nodding at them in the manner both knew was cautionary as well as challenging. I shall apply to the City for licenses. You two will have to qualify on your own merits but I’ll arrange with Xexo a time to give you trial runs . . . Study the operation manuals.
Sure, Dad, both Laria and Thian chorused, delighted. Considering both had the family eidetic memory, they’d be through that requisite in an hour or more. And Xexo, the resourceful T-8 Tower engineer, who kept all the machinery running smoothly, had known them since their births and was a special friend.
Then, as Thian turned to Mur and Dip, Laria signed to Tip and Huf that soon they wouldn’t have to climb the hill: transport was going to be arranged. They would be able to reach new hunting grounds without effort. The ’Dinis clicked and wriggled enthusiastically—Tip almost falling off its bench in its exuberance.
Laria, you must also become familiar with the management of Mrdini ground effects machines, Damia added, cocking her head in her daughter’s direction. I’ll arrange that with the Coordinators.
Then I will be going to Mrdini?
Damia nodded, a resigned twitch to her lips. That has always been the plan. Thian will follow when he reaches sixteen. You will be the first young Human to go. She sent a flood of pride and encouragement to her eldest child. Then she, in turn, felt the warmth of love and reassurance from Afra, salving the ache of that separation.
Sixteen is old enough for one of us, Afra said in the very tight focus that meant his thought was for her alone. She was also aware of his mental caress.
I was no older when I was sent to Altair, she answered as discreetly.
The difference being that Laria does not resent the duty.
I think we’ve done what we could to be sure she wouldn’t, Damia added with a resigned sigh. You’ve made such a good father.
Afra grinned openly, his smile including every child at the table. They’ve had their mother’s help.
I shall miss her, though.
Why? She’ll be only a thought away.
It’s the thought that she will BE away. Damia diverted herself by ’porting the dirty dishes from the table and extracting the final course from the larder.
With the exception of Terran bee honey, the Mrdinis did not find sweets palatable. Honey was, however, a luxury item when it was available. So, while the Humans ate fruit, the ’Dinis cracked nuts and picked the meats out of the shells or nibbled at the unsweetened mealy crackers, made of imported ’Dini flour that Damia baked for them. From time to time, ’Dini delicacies were shipped to the exchange personnel but today was not an occasion.
DAMIA! Keylarion called and the Aurigaen Tower’s T-6 managed to cram excitement and alarm into her shout for the Prime.
Damia and Afra immediately excused themselves and ’ported down the slope to the Tower control center where the generators were beginning their upward climb to full power.
“Earth Prime ordered me to get you both here,” Keylarion said.
Father? Damia sent across the vastness of space, her thought boosted by gestalt with the generators and Afra’s immediately accessible T-2 thrust.
Mrdini scouts have crossed the path of three Hive Ships! Jeff Raven said.
Three? the Damia-Afra link cried in an almost fearful tone.
Three! The theory is that these must have originated from the Home System for their directions began to diverge just as the Mrdini scout ship crossed their ion trail. Fortunately the scout was well out from any Alliance colonies or worlds. The Hivers are heading even further out.
The Damia-Afra link let out a cheer, all apprehension dissolved at this tremendous news. For fifteen years both Mrdini and Nine Star League ships, now called the Alliance, had been probing systems to locate the homeworld of the Hive Culture, aliens whose prime directive of ruthless propagation of their species had once attempted to invade the Mrdini colony in its Sef solar system. The attack had been repulsed but only with the extreme sacrifice of ’Dini ships and personnel. The colony had been devastated and had to be rebuilt and repopulated. Thereafter ’Dini had kept ships in constant patrol about their colonized worlds and sent out squadrons to patrol nearby space and make sure no Hive ship ever got so close to a ’Dini world again. Over two centuries they had maintained such a vigil, constantly expanding the parameters of “safe space,” their whole culture dominated by the dire threat of Hive penetration.
The Mrdinis had also searched vainly for allies of sufficient spatial sophistication to aid them. The resources of their home and colony planets had been stretched to the utmost in the constant vigilance.
As desperately, the Mrdini sought new weapons to destroy the predatory Hive ships. The effective tactic was to use a suicide ship which would plunge midships in the spherical Hive ship and detonate itself in order to achieve total destruction of the Hiver. Not every suicide mission was successful, for the Hive gunners were skillful and often six suicide ships had to attack to be sure one got through. Such punitive losses had naturally used up tremendous materiel as well as ’Dinis whose genes should be perpetuated.
But still elements of the ’Dini fleet searched and would track down any Hive ion trail located in the vastness of space.
Then both a marauding Hive ship and the ’Dini ship following its ion trail discovered the Denebian system.
Jeff Raven, an unexpectedly Talented telepath and teleporter, had single-mindedly held off three scouts from an intruding Hive. With the assistance of the Primes of Earth, Altair, Procyon, Capella, Betelgeuse, and the Rowan on Callisto Moon, the mind-merge focusing in Jeff Raven had destroyed two of the scouts and sent the third back to its mother ship. Two years later, the Mother Hive had been on a collision course with Deneb which had been thwarted when the Rowan, leading the female minds, had paralyzed the dominant Hive “Many.” Then Jeff Raven, being the focus for the male Talents, had diverted the Hiver into the blazing whiteness of the Deneb primary star.
Alarmed, the Nine Star League had prepared distant early warning devices around all its inhabited systems to forestall another incursion by this dangerous species. The Mrdini had been able to circumvent the device, by staying just beyond its sensor range and inserting instructive dreams in the sleeping minds of Damia, Afra, and four other Denebian Talents. The Mrdini were not only triumphant to find a species that could destroy a Hive ship with no loss of life and without collecting a flotilla of space vessels and suicide crews to do so, but who would also be Allies in their long struggle against the depredations of the Hivers. Deneb had been unknowingly selected as an excellent Hive colony society. The press for acceptable worlds on which to propagate themselves meant the annihilation of any life form they encountered. Sadly not all emerging species had the weapons to counter such tactics and the method which the Talents had used—telepathy and teleportation—had seemed magical to the Mrdinis. While the ’Dinis had no “Talents” as the Nine Star League understood it, they were able to superimpose their Dreams on susceptible human minds.
Through these Dreams, they had communicated an outline of their history and their hopes, and the Nine Star League, with the help of all Talents, began to establish a viable communication level: starting with the most pliable and least resistan Humans . . . children of both Talented and unTalented families.
* * *
Damia and Afra had been one of the first families to accept Mrdini youngling pairs in order to establish a useful form of communication between the species. As it happened, Talent was an unimportant factor since the Mrdini mind could not be read even by as powerful a Talent as Jeff Raven, or his wife, Angharad Gwyn-Raven, the Rowan. But when Damia realized she was pregnant, shortly after the first ’Dini contact was made, she was one of the first to suggest that the young of each species, brought up together from infancy, might absorb the others’ language as easily as their own.
So Laria had had cribmates from the time she was six months old, as had each of her siblings.
Almost as prolific as her Denebian grandmother, the Healer Isthia, Damia had had no problems with pregnancies, though, unlike her mother, the Rowan, she had been careful to space her children two or two and a half years apart. Then, too, her duties at the Iota Aurigaen Tower had not been as demanding as her mother’s responsibilities at Callisto Moon Station. And Afra, being partnered in the Tower with his mate, had been able to devote as much time as required to his increasing family.
If Jeff Raven twitted his son-in-law about overdoing paternity, Afra would merely shrug and remind his friend that he himself had urged the Capellan to marry and have children.
Maternity had mellowed Damia as much as paternity had relaxed Afra. If his family never understood why their Talented son had had to leave Capella and the promise of a good position in Callisto Prime Tower, he could at least find alternative Towers for those nieces and nephews of his that might also wish for a life unrestricted by Capella’s methody ways.
He did, however—and often smiled as he did so—insist that his children behave with the courtesy protocols in which he had been raised. But he did not fall into the error of his own parents—in believing that they knew best for their children.
Consequently the Raven-Lyon home was easy going, friendly, and totally unselfconscious in the practice of Talent and the inclusion of an alien species into their familial structure.
That life-style might undergo drastic change with the Mrdini discovery of the putative route to the Hive Home System. Damia had no precognitive Talent but she didn’t need any to recognize that a new era had just begun: an era that would—hopefully—eradicate the threat of the Hive Species for both Human and Mrdini.
So, what happens now? Damia and Afra asked Earth Prime.
Well, and there was a wry note to Jeff’s tone, your mother and I are to send all available Fleet ships of Galaxy and Constellation class to a rendezvous with the Mrdini scout. They’re sending as many of their own heavyweights as possible.
Afra snorted. And what good is that going to do without Talent support, Jeff? We all know the extrapolations of confrontation. Who’s going to supply sufficient power to overwhelm them?
We may follow, Jeff replied in a droll fashion.
You AND mother? Damia’s concern and alarm flowed out of her despite Afra’s tight reassuring embrace.
When you consider how much larger a Talented population we can draw on now than we could twenty-odd years ago, daughter dear, stop being negative. Much has to be decided. But we cannot deny the use of Talent when it can be of tactical advantage.
First the Hive Home System has to be found.
And every other one they have overpowered, Jeff added, seemingly unconcerned at the monumental task facing the Allies.
How in the universe can we do that? Damia demanded, appalled at the prospect.
That is what must be discovered. The strength of resolve in her father’s voice provided Damia with fortitude. The event which we have entertained for long has occurred. We cannot be lacking in courage now.
No, Dad, of course not. Aurigae Tower supports you one hundred percent.
The warning has been limited to those who need to know, of which Aurigae Tower is one. The official position will be announced in due course but prepare yourselves and the Tower for unusual activity.
The Hive System is near Aurigae?
No, but the mine production will be increased as fast and as soon as possible. Expect to transmit huge and continuous ore drones.
And what explanation is to be given? Damia asked for she knew they’d be interrogated by the mine syndicates.
Tell them a new design of interstellar transport has been approved and production of the units is a top priority. Jeff chuckled. That won’t be a falsehood, either, for our people have just commissioned a prototype long-range Constellation-class vessel, the Genesee. There are four more in construction and they’ll be finished as fast as possible. Your miners don’t have to know where their ore goes, only that they’ll be paid for it. How good are your eldest two in Tower disciplines?
Laria and Thian? Damia asked, once again experiencing that stab of irrational maternal concern.
They’re steady enough for anything we can handle, Afra replied. Why?
You may have to lob big daddies about the League again.
What a blessing my eldest are both T-1’s then, isn’t it?
Jeff Raven chuckled over his daughter’s sardonic remark. Then his mental tone abruptly altered to one of great pride and dignity. The Allies will be made fully aware of how blessed we are with Talent. There was a pause and then one of Jeff Raven’s inimitable chuckles reached their ears. Gwyn-Ravens and Lyons to the rescue yet again! Then his mental tone disappeared from their minds.
Damia was guyed up by Jeff’s imperturbable optimism but she looked to Afra for further reassurance. Tenderly he pulled her into a deeper embrace, gently pressing her head into his shoulder. With one hand he pushed back the vagrant silver lock of her hair that always seemed to fall into her face when she was distressed. Patting it into place, he kissed her, making contact on every level that bound them to each other. She felt herself respond, as much out of habit as need.
I didn’t raise children to fight Hives. Does Laria have to go to Mrdini?
We have promised the exchange. We have intrinsically benefited by the exchange. We will make it as planned. Don’t fret. Laria’s a well-balanced, sensible and responsible chi . . . young woman, nearly—as we both know. She is in no more danger on Clarf than she would be here.
Especially if she has to help us shift big-daddy drone pods, and Damia tried to sound facetious. Afra knew she was not and tightened his arms about her in appreciation of the attempt.
The daughter of the girl who overwhelmed Sodan will not fail in whatever she is required to do.
Damia shivered in recollection of her battle with the Sodan mind which had been dangerous to her, fatal to her beloved younger brother, Larak, and had come very close to destroying the other Talents in that focus. The Hive menace was even more dangerous to the Allies.
“Damia,” Afra said aloud, releasing her enough to tip her head up so she made eye contact, “count—if you can—just how many more Talents are available now than there were thirty-eight years ago? Between your brothers and sister, and David of Betelgeuse, Mauli and Mick, Torshan and Saggoner. Why, the uncles, aunts, and second cousins on Deneb alone constitute a brigade!”
Damia allowed herself to be comforted because she couldn’t refute Afra’s logic. And definitely there was safety in the numbers of Talented minds that could be counted in Federated Telepathy and Teleportation alone: not to mention the higher Talents in every other occupation that made use of psionic abilities. Only how to bring such a mental weapon against a far distant enemy homeworld? As clever and powerful as a massed mind focus of Talent had proved itself, there were different parameters now that did not favor such use of Talent.
“Consider also that our Allies have certainly not been idle in the past twenty-five years, always with the goal of defeating the Hive ships.”
“But they died to defeat a Hiver!”
“Yes, they did die, but that was before we Dreamed!”
Damia felt Afra’s conviction. Was it just a masculine certitude? Her father’s mind had been colored with it as well! Damia wondered if she should ask her mother what she felt. No, she decided, she should solve this confusion within herself. And soon! Her doubts must not impinge on her children’s confidence and courage. They might all need those soon enough.
“Yes,” she said aloud, looking calmly into her mate’s yellow eyes, sparkling with purpose, “that was before we Dreamed Mrdini.”
THE very next day Aurigaen Tower accepted a message, containing an immense order for tonnes of metal ore from the Allied Commands. Afra forwarded it to the Miners Main Office and sat back, waiting for the explosion.
Within minutes of receiving the message, Segrazlin, Master Miner and head of the various mining organizations on Aurigae, requested an urgent meeting with the Prime to discuss transportation requirements. His manner was a combination of gratification for the quantities ordered and astonishment and concern for the delivery dates expected, trepidation over how to approach the Prime on the matter of the tonnage to be shifted, all mingled with intense curiosity as to the finished form of such massive quantities of metal.
Damia grinned at his promptness and told him he could come along right then, as the morning’s traffic had been despatched.
Segrazlin arrived with his personal assistant and the owners of the major mines to be involved.
“All very well to want this kind of delivery, Prime,” Segrazlin said, nervously folding and unfolding the message sheet, “but one, we don’t have enough miners, even working flat out, to supply the ores within the delivery frame and two, there aren’t enough small and medium carriers to deliver half of what’s required. Now, we don’t want to lose such a contract, but first off, we’ll need more miners.” He was hedging around asking her to transport the big daddy drone containers. “And my principals,” at which point the five owners nodded their heads, “want to be sure that the metal’s being properly used.”
“Ah,” Afra said, broadcasting reassurance, “I asked Earth Prime that myself. Some new Constellation class vessel has been designed, long journey capability, and enough for a squadron has been authorized. Replacing some of the older space vessels. And not before time, I understand. FT&T may cut down on the normal wear and tear of space vehicles, but the problem of metal fatigue is still vexing.”
Damia sent a mental smirk to her husband for that smooth explanation.
“There is also the happy fact that the Tower is now in a position to transport bigger drones,” Damia went on, “a good training exercise for our oldest children. Having standardized the size and shapes of most containers, any Prime, given the mass within, can shift it anywhere within the Alliance. It’s new and unfamiliar objects that cause problems, because they have to be seen and preferably touched by a Prime before ’portation can be guaranteed. However, we can shift most anything you need to send because your drones are standard. As you know, both Laria and Thian are T-1’s . . .”
“But are they old enough?” Segrazlin asked, his eyes protruding in surprise. Having expected resistance, he’d lost his prepared stance.
“They are old enough and will be under our guidance, but their assistance will make it possible to lift such weight. Linkage is good training for their future duties.” Damia inclined her head graciously.
“That still leaves us with the worst problem, Prime,” one of the mine owners said, clearing his throat, and glancing at his colleagues for reassurance. They nodded their heads and murmured agreement. “Enough workers.”
“I thought your work force was up to strength, Yugin,” Damia said, frowning in well-practiced surprise.
Yugin snorted. “For normal production, yes, but the last quota of immigrants haven’t been trained for deep seam work and that’s what we’d need. Also more qualified, and experienced, engineers. We’ll have to open more shafts . . .” He trailed off.
“We can’t supply those prodigious quantities,” Mexalgo said, “from existing facilities.”
“Would you accept more ’Dinis?” Afra asked.
Mexalgo looked dubious but the others brightened considerably.
“Mex, you treat ’em right, they do you proud,” Yugin said. “My ’Dinis work like they grew up digging ore.”
“Workers aren’t the main problem, Yugin,” Mexalgo said. “Engineers with the pit experience if we’re starting new seams is what we really lack.”
“Would you accept ’Dini engineers?”
Mexalgo made a grimace. “I would if I could understand them.”
“What’s to understand?” Segrazlin asked. “You show ’em where the lode is, give ’em the materials they need, and they dig. They’re as well trained, by their standards, as any of our men, and besides,” a grin broke across Segrazlin’s craggy features, “they’re built better for underground work!”
“Aye, that’s a fact,” Mexalgo said, though reluctantly. “But how can we be sure, with those little holidays of theirs, that we’ll have a work force all the time? We can’t make these shipments with part-time help.”
“The Mrdinis don’t all hibernate at the same time,” Damia said. “The hibernation period apparently depends on the continent of origin. The ’Dinis presently on Aurigae all happen to come from the northern Great continent. Or so Fok told me. Should I inquire, on your behalf, if additional ’Dini engineers and workers are available and would be willing to come to Aurigae to work?”
The four miners conferred briefly by nods, hand, and head gestures.
“Yes, Prime, we would appreciate your inquiring on our behalf.”
“You will of course pay according to experience and training?” Afra asked.
“Of course,” Segrazlin said, slightly indignant. “And provide the sort of quarters, and hibernation facilities, that they prefer. We haven’t had any complaints from ’em yet.”
That was true enough because Damia and Afra made certain that the specifications given them by the ’Dinis were carried out.
“I’d like to see the engineering qualifications, though,” Mexalgo said, always cautious. “In translation.”
“Of course,” Afra replied with a smile. “Oddly enough translating scientific data is easier than, say, literature or art forms.”
“Earth Prime agrees to forward your request to Clarf Tower,” Damia said, having spoken to her father during Afra’s part of the conversation. “He’ll forward the answer within the current day.”
What Jeff Raven had told his daughter was that, not only were the ’Dinis willing, they were eager. Their own mines were nearly depleted, even those on their colony worlds, and miners, pit men as well as engineers, were as desperate to find work as to supply their homeworld with the commodities it needed.
When Segrazlin and the mine owners had left, Damia was not so sedate that she didn’t give a little dance of jubilation for the success of the interview. There had been some criticism—expressed through Flk and Trp to Damia and Afra—that ’Dinis were disappointed that their out-world workers were not given the positions of authority that their experience and training should qualify them for. What the mining community didn’t realize was that there were fully trained and professionally able engineers among the ’Dini workers already on Aurigae. Now, with such massive orders, was the chance the ’Dinis had been hoping for to show their true colors. The ’Dinis had been very patient and now would have the opportunity they had long deserved. Damia and Afra had reason to rejoice.
As soon as the miners had boarded their vehicles to return to Aurigae City, Afra went in search of Flk and Trp to inform them of the good news. They clacked, clicked, and whistled their joy and then departed toward the city, to spread the news.
“I think we must insist that some of the new pits be ’Dini managed and run,” Afra said.
“We had to go slow or jeopardize the integration,” Damia said.
“I know, I know. We can be extremely grateful for ’Dini patience.”
Damia grinned up at her lover. “We should really learn more from them. Flk said that it took them nearly ten generations to implant the philosophy of patience in the ’Dini temperament.”
It was again fortunate that ’Dinis were difficult to identify, for when the first shipment of new workers arrived, the ’Dini engineers amazed the mine owners by their grasp of the mining methods currently in use on Aurigae and their incredible dexterity with human-designed equipment. They had also brought tools of their own, including large borers to be assembled. The first consultation to organize ’Dini-managed pits erased any reluctance or hesitation the mine owners, and their engineers, might have had about ’Dini professionalism.
“I was impressed,” Mexalgo told Damia, “very impressed. They clicked and clacked when we showed them where we’d located the new lodes, and the next thing they had adit, shafts, and quotas all drawn out for us, and the quantities of materials they’d need for shoring, what track, carts, cranes, stuff they evidently knew they didn’t have to bring. They’ve asked permission to send for more of their own mining equipment and I can’t fault ’em on that. Showed us schematics of some of the heavy stuff they use and I have to say it looks very efficient. Then, too, they’ll be handier with their own mechanicals but they sure understood fast.” He kept shaking his head. “Now,” he added quickly, “I always knew the critters were smart. I just didn’t realize how smart.”
Damia and Afra managed to respond appropriately.
Wouldn’t he have a fit if he knew the “new” ’Dini engineers had been working in his mines for the past sixteen years! Damia said, her mental tone rocking with laughter at the deceptions.
Later. We’ll confess to Mexalgo later, Afra promised.
The ’Dinis were also impressed by the quality of accommodation supplied by the mine owners, including a ’Dini-staffed medical facility. That had been an extra which Segrazlin had insisted on providing.
“You house and feed a man and his family decently,” the miners’ rep said, “and you make pits as safe as possible, but you damn well better have emergency facilities available, too. Man works better because he knows he’s valued. Same has to apply to ’Dinis. They got feelings, too.”
During the settling-in period, Laria, Thian, and even Rojer did translating duty. Zara, though only nine, wanted to have some part in the family activity and thought of donating the young eggs from her slither’s latest lay to the new arrivals.
“To make ’em feel at home,” she’d said very solemnly as she signed to Tip and Huf, explaining her gift. All the Raven-Lyon ’Dinis took turns expressing how grateful they were for her generosity. They had slither nestlings, too, and so an expedition was planned.
“I think this ought to come from the young of Humans to the young of Mrdini, Laria,” Damia said, “so you can drive—carefully—” and Damia reinforced that caution mentally—“and make it an outing.”
She’s fully competent to drive that sort of sled, Damia, Afra told his wife when she began to regret her suggestion. You’ve driven with her enough to know she’s well able. And we’ve got to let her have some experience on her own. Not that she’s exactly on her own right now.
I know, I know, Affie, Damia said, unable to suppress all her maternal agitation, despite his logical reassurances. It’s just that . . .
I trust her and I’ll be with her every kilometer of the way.
If you really trusted her, you wouldn’t be with her all the way, Damia added, darkly accusatory.
Afra laughed and ruffled her hair as they watched Laria load her passengers into the big sled. The girl kept looking over her shoulder at her parents.
See? She expects you to renege, Damia. Smile, wave, encourage her!
Excerpted from "Damia's Children"
Copyright © 1994 Anne McCaffrey.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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