Voyage From Yesteryear

“But doesn’t this kind of thing upset the kids when it happens?” Hanlon had asked uneasily.

“Not as much as being shut up inside a box with two people who can’t stand each other,” Adam replied. “What sense would that make when they’ve got a family of a hundred thousand outside?”

“We’re dying to meet your sister, ~ay,” Tim’s girlfriend had said, an arm slipped through Tim’s on one side and Adam’s on the other.

“Her mother’s dying too,” Jay had replied dryly. Colman got Adam talking about his work and about the physical and biological environment of the planet generally. Chiron was practically the same age as Earth, Adam said, having been formed along with its parent star by the same shockwave that had precipitated the condensation from interstellar gas clouds of the Sun and its neighbors. It

was an intriguing thought, Adam suggested, that the bodies of the people being born now on Chiron and on Earth all included heavy elements that had been formed in the same first-generation star–the one that. had triggered the shock wave when it exploded a~ a supernova. “We might have been born light-years apart,” he told Colman. “But the stuff we’re made of came from the same place.”

Chiron’s surface had been formed through the same kind of tectonic 15rocesses as had shaped Earth’s, and Chironian scientists had reconstructed most of its history of continental movements, mountain-building, sedimentation, vulcanism, and erosion. Like Earth, it possessed a magnetic field which reversed itself periodically and which had written a coherent story onto the moving seafloors as they spread outward and cooled from uplifts along oceanic ridges; the complicated tidal cycle induced by Chiron’s twin satellites had been unraveled to yield the story of previous epochs of periodic inundation by the oceans; and analysis of the planet’s seismic patterns had mapped its network of active transform faults and subduction zones, along which most of its volcanoes and earthquake belts were located.

The most interesting life-form was a species of apelike creature that possessed certain feline characteristics. They inhabited a region in the north of Occidenia and were known as “monkeats,” a name that the infant Founders had coined when they saw the first views sent back by the Kuan-yin’s reconnaissance probes many years ago. They were omnivores that had evolved from pure carnivores, possessed a highly developed social order, and were beginning to experiment with the manufacture of simple hand tools. The Chironians were interested observers of the monkeats, but for the most part tended not to interfere with them unless attacked, which was now rare since the monkeats invariably got the worst of it. Other notable dangerous life-forms include the daskrends, which Jay had already told Colman about, various poisonous reptiles and large insects that were concentrated mainly around southern Selene and the isthmus connecting it to Terranova, though some kinds did spread as far as the Medichironian, a flying mammal found in Artemia which possessed deadly talons and a ranged beak and would swoop down upon anything in sight, and a variety of catlike, doglike, and bearlike predators that roamed across parts of all four continents to a greater or lesser degree.

Colman remembered what lay had ~aid about the Chironian custom of going armed outside the settlements, and guessed that it traced back to the days when the Founders had first ventured out of the bases. Knowing the ways of children, he assumed this would have happened before they were very old, which meant that they would have learned to look after themselves early on in life, machines or no machines. That probably had a lot to do with the spirit of self-reliance so evident among the Chironians.

“How else could it be?” Adam said when Colman asked him about it. “Sure they had to learn how to use a gun. You know what kids are like. The machines couldn’t be everywhere all the time. Ask my mother about it, no1 me.”

Kath smiled on the other side of the room. “I was from the first batch to be created. There were a hundred of us. Leon -he’s Adam’s father–was another. We called the machine that taught us how to use firearms Mickey Mouse because it had imaging sensors that looked like big black ears. I shot a daskrend when I was six… or maybe less. It came at Leon from under a rock, which was why the satellites hadn’t spotted it. He’s still got a limp today from that.” She emitted a soft chuckle. “Poor Leon. He reminds me of Lurch.”

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