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an extract from the novel
by Ian McDonald

'The wind is in from Africa,
Last night I couldn't sleep...'

Joni Mitchell: Cary

New Moon in Saturn

The dark was almost gone now. Morning clung to the horizon, a line of amber on ocean edge. As the woman watched, the line deepened, revealing interlaced fingers of cloud, darker on dark. Weather systems were moving far from land; ripples of indigo cloud spun out from the slow, vast spiral of the monsoon. The sun was still deep under. The beach was a plane of sound; surf ponderous on the reef, running high on the fringe of the healing rains; pipe and flute of beach birds lighting and running a few quizzing steps and lifting again as easily as thought; impatient language of the breeze that was turning around to come in off the sea in the revenant palms and the tall, slim spires of the land corals. The music from the party ebbed and ran, now soft, now thudding, as if confounded finding a path to the shore between the trees.

In the place between the sown and the sand, the woman stopped and lightly, fearfully, touched her hands to the baby slung between her breasts. She touched it as if to bid it cease baby-things for even a moment.

"Listen," the woman said.

Impossible that the child should understand her, yet in the gaining light she saw her daughter fold up her face and fists to squeal; then relax, fall silent and still. In the same instant the wind from the ocean caught the music and blew it back in through the door of the bar. The woman and the child stood enfolded in presence. The moment stretched, the moment broke.

"Nothing," the woman said. She smiled for herself, "You'll learn."

She went on to the sand. There was light enough to make out the shapes of the crabs scuttling, as they had scuttled all night in the dark under the stars, but not enough to avoid them. They burst under her boots in crisp, kicking thrashes. The small white beach birds came sliding off the ocean wind to pick and tear at the agonized footprints.

"Look, there goes Mr Crab!" she told her daughter, who was now frowning because it felt good. "And here comes Master Crab; will we get him? Yes!"

The baby gulped air. The birds lifted and settled to rip and heave with their orange beaks.

"Woa Mrs Crabby, woa Mrs Crabby!" the woman said, running as fast after the big mother of a hen crab as fast as a woman with a baby at her breasts may run in soft, tide-wet sand. Mrs Crabby hid herself beneath the lap of tide foam.

All but the brightest stars of the southern hemisphere had faded. The moon was still up, a day past new; the crescent moon of Africa, lying on its back, cradled by the open palms of the hand-trees. The moon held a star between its horns. The woman knew that a pair of binoculars could open up that big, soft star so that you could see that it was not a star at all. It was a cylinder, passing through the same phases and occultations as the true moon. It was an artifact, a hollow world three hundred kilometres long, one hundred and fifty across its faces. It hung midway between earth and moon. Such truth put a catch in the breath and needle of cold in the sense of mystery.

"Hey," Gaby McAslan said to the baby who happened to have tilted her head back and turned her face to the moons. "Wave a fist to daddy"

The anger was so sudden, so acid and smoking that she was paralyzed for a moment. She gave a small, soft cry. Crabs hurried around her feet. Only a moment: she walked on. Tidewater seeped out of the sand into her boot prints.

Second moon in the arms of the first. An auspice: a time of journeys undertaken, endeavours embarked upon, courses changed, lives turned to a different wind. Astrology was among the least of human activities to have been transformed by the advent of the BDO.

They should rename it, Gaby thought. It's Big, it's undoubtedly an Object, but it is no longer Dumb. We just do not know what it is saying to us.

"Born with the BDO in Cancer," Gaby whispered to her daughter. Tide lap swirled around her soles. "A journey begun. Death and rebirth."

Saturn and the new mysteries unfolding among its satellites were below the western horizon. They would be partying with one eye on the monitors at the Mermaid Café. Gaby hoped she would not have to be there to see whatever happened out there. Her life had been tied to those far, cold moons by forces more subtle and powerful than astrology. Twelve years ago it had been a different shore, a different continent. Ireland. The Watchhouse. The Point. Home. A different person: the kid that had wished on a star and become Gaby McAslan, SkyNet television journalist. Gaby McAslan, exile. A different moon: Iapetus. She had gone out on to the Point that evening to be caressed by mystery, to be impregnated with sign and seal. From twelve years up with her child in her arms, she could look back at that gangly kid with the long straight mahogany hair that she was so proud of, as if it were a banner of her womanhood, and see that was not looking for a true sign, for that could have as easily pointed away from as to her heart's desire. She had looked only for confirmation of what was already certain. Iapetus had turned black; then Hyperion had vanished in a flash of energy, but it was decided somewhere surer than in the stars that she would become a network journalist.

"The older you get the more you learn, the more you learn the less certain you are, bub," she told the daughter slung between her breasts. Twelve years higher, might she look down astonished at the self-assurance of this thirty year-old?

The upper limb of the sun was fountaining light out of the sea into the undersides of the clouds; staining them purple, crimson, black. Another vast, miraculous day. The headland was still in shadow but highlights and glints lit Gaby's track up through the fan-cover. She shifted the leather sack so it would not dangle and trip her. She feared slipping and crushing the baby. She went more cautiously than the gentle climb deserved. The way was well trodden; the headland was a popular viewpoint for the people of Turangalila. You could see twenty kays up and down the reef. On the clearest of days you could make out the great breaches where the ships had passed through into the port of Mombasa. Now the only ships on the sea were the low, grey hulls of the quarantine fleet, pressed low on the horizon, afraid of infection. But the news from down the coast was of a great, vibrant culture growing from the stumps of dead Mombasa. The infection the quarantine ships feared was a disease of nation. It had killed Kenya, it was killing Tanzania by the minute, but the people of this coast were Africans before they were people of any nation. They were fecund and inventive as the slow-breaking wave of alien life that was transforming their land, fifty metres every day.

But Mombasa is gone, Gaby thought. The Mombasa I knew in those final, frantic days of the nation formerly known as Kenya. I loved that nation, I loved that land, and the chaga took it apart. I loved a man there, far away, and it took him. Everything I loved has been taken apart by the chaga: the place I drew power from, the people I loved and tormented, the ambitions and abilities that defined me. Changed into something I cannot recognise.

She paused on a steeper section of the slope.

"Woo. Still haven't got over having you, bub."

Her daughter blinked at the sky. Tiny, tiny red living thing. Gaby continued up the path. The sun continued up the sky.

"You knocked me right out of condition, you know? If I'm going to play in the Kanamai game, I have to get back into serious training. Do some running, bit of swimming. I'm going to have to teach you the true faith. United! United!"

She paused again, out of breath.

"Jesus, bub."

The spine of the headland was thickly wooded in a mixture of alien and reconstructed terrestrial vegetation, but at the very tip opened into a sun-burned nose of bare earth. Here Gaby set down the leather bag . She took her daughter to the edge. The headland tumbled in laps of coral rock to a low shelf where the sea ran dangerously. Over her shoulder the moons set; their brief conjunction broken.

Good, Gaby thought. I do not want you with your eyes full of moon. I do not want another life tied to the powers in the sky.

Gaby unlaced the papoose. Her two hands held her daughter up to the light.

"Serena," she said, blocking out the sun with her child.

Gaby hesitated. She needed to say something elemental, but the growing light of day embarrassed her little ritual. "You are my Serena," she said weakly. The baby kicked in her hands and she looked at her and suddenly saw that it would the easiest thing in the world to open those hands. To let her fall. To let the waves slide the thing off the coral platform into the sea.

Serena kicked again. Gaby shook her daughter.

"You bitch!" she shouted. "You little bitch! Do you know what you've done to me?"

Serena began to cry.

"Shut up, shut up, just shut up you little, fucking, bitch!" Gaby shook Serena to the rhythm of her rage but she could not shake silence into the baby. Serena screamed.

"It's because of you I'm here, because of you I can't go back, because of you they won't let me out. All. Because. Of. You."

Do it. Be free. Have it all like it used to be. She's not perfect. She's not true. There are still tribes expose the ones it touches and changes. Just open your hands. A fumble, a slip. It could happen. It would be dreadful, but only for a time. She's not perfect.

Gaby felt her hands tremble. Light filled her eyes. The sun had risen over Serena. With a cry she snatched the baby girl out of the sun and her pressed her close, enfolded her in her long, mahogany hair.

"Oh my wee thing, my wee thing; oh Jesus oh God, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, my wee thing." She sank to the earth, rocked the screaming red blob, terrified by what the light had lit up within her. "Oh Jesus bub, oh Christ, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. What was I thinking?"

She remembered what she was thinking, and wailed.

When the chaga fell from the stars to spread across half the planet, it had changed more than geography. No one had ever seen the intelligence that had conceived and constructed the biological packages that had fallen for fifteen years --it was accepted now that the Chaga-makers were unrecognisable and unintelligible to human chauvinisms on life and intelligence-- but their intentions could be surmised. Not conquest, not colonisation --though the chaga, converting all in its path to its matrix, was a particularly voracious imperialism-- but discourse in the only way the Makers understood; through mutual evolution. Earth's southern hemisphere was a voice in a dialogue that crossed eight hundred light years and five hundred million years to the complex fullerene clouds in the Scorpius loop. Evolution, and the expansion of sentience into new ecological niches. The Makers wrote their dialectics in human DNA.


There was an irony to this.

In that other life, when she had been Gaby McAslan, east African Correspondent for SkyNet satellite news, she had been the one who exposed that truth to the planet. Still a shudder when she thought of Unit 12, and what the United Nations had tried to hide in its labyrinth of levels and chambers. She had only escaped with the news because friends in powerful places had pulled for her.

Thanks, Shepard, she thought at the place where the BDO had set. And I treated you like Satan's shit. But I do that. That's the way I am. And where were you the next time I ran up against the UN quarantine force and its long memory for grudges? You probably don't even know what happened, up there in that big tin can. You probably don't even know you have a daughter named Serena. You certainly will never know what they said about her, when they brought me out of decontam that time, when there was no one there, and they showed me the results of the tests and stamped the papers and gave me over to the troops.


They could not, or would not, say what the nature of the change would be. Only that the cluster of rapidly dividing cells in Gaby's womb would be a girl, and it had been touched by the alien.

Gaby closed her eyes as she touched her lips to the crown of Serena's soft skull.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, my wee thing."

She hooked Serena into the sling. Breast-warmth and heart-rhythm soothed her screams to a burble, to silence. Gaby carefully unfastened the unitool. A twist of the shaft locked it into a short shovel. She dug until she hit cliff rock. She hoped the scrape would be deep enough to discourage scavengers.

The leather satchel had not leaked. There were still a few soft ice crystals on the afterbirth's liver-dark surface. Dr. Scullabus's freezer had kept it whole. Such an alien thing to keep inside you. Beautiful and repulsive, like something chaga-grown. But she did not tip it into the hole, not yet. That would be to give part of herself to the land. She had always drawn her power from the land: her childhood expeditions to the hidden places of the Point; the wide places of Kenya, before the chaga swept across them, now this promontory overlooking the sea. You gave yourself to the land and it let you put your roots down into it and suck its power and become definite. It made you a person. But she did not know if she wanted to be the person Turangalila would make her. To bury the afterbirth would be to bury Gaby McAslan. She was afraid she would not recognise the life that was reborn.

"Give me a sign," she said. The sun stood three fingers above the ocean. Light filled up the land, casting new shadows and definitions with every second. The deep water was restless, all glitter and urgencies; from the headland she could see the line of the reef like the knuckles of the earth pulling itself back from the dissolving sea. The air from off the ocean was clean and cool and smelled of the big deep. That had always been the most evocative of smells to Gaby; restless and yearning. The elements were strong here in the southern half of the world, but they had no sign to give her.

The tide was high after moonset, lapping under the sagging shore palms. Turangalila's boats were beached high. Turangalila itself blended with the canopy of pseudo-fungus and land corals to give no indication of human presence on this coast. In the early gold the chaga-growth and the coconut palms and occasional baobabs did not seem mutually hostile, but symbiotic products of an alternative evolution track, taken back in the pre-Cambrian.

Not such a fanciful notion, if the theories were true that this was merely the latest in a series of interventions in terrestrial evolution by the Chaga-makers.

The tide and the trees and boats hugging them and the settlement folded into them had no sign for Gaby McAslan.

She turned inland, to Africa, to the place where the ragged carpet of the coastal ecology lifted and tore into the stunning uplift of the Great Wall. There trees, or things that seemed like trees, rose sheer for a kilometre and a half before unfolding into a canopy of immense interlocking hexagons. The roof of the world. From here you could see that the Great Wall curved gradually inland to north and south. The formation was a curtain wall one hundred and fifty kilometres across. It occupied the whole of what had once been East Tsavo game reserve.

Beyond the Great Wall you could not see. From experience she knew that it contained many landscapes and ecosystems nested like babushka dolls. But it was changing; everything was changing from what she had known, evolving, adapting, moving towards humanity as humanity moved towards it. It was the evolutionary dialogue: the reconstructed palms, the neo-baobabs, the chaga plants that were drifting towards terrestrial species, the animals that were creeping back through the coastal forests exploiting new ecological niches: symbiosis. Growing together.

The trees and the Great Wall and the landscapes hidden behind it and the creeping animals of the coast had no sign for Gaby McAslan.

"Shit," Gaby McAslan said.

Serena's fingers seized and tugged a coil of her hair.

"Ah! Fuck!" Gaby said, and understood, and laughed, and tipped the quivering blood thing into the hole and quickly covered it with earth.

As Gaby went carefully back down the path to the beach she sang her daughter Motown soul classics that were old before Gaby had been born. The beach crabs were all down under the high water. The white birds that had pecked at the bloody footprints rested on the surface, top-heavy, as if the next gust might capsize them. The ribbons of dawn cloud had broken up into soft black beads, moving fast inshore under a strong wind running at a thousand metres. There would be rain on the coast before noon.

Gaby clambered over the slumped palm trunks, splashed through the sea-run around the thick red wrists of the hand-trees. She heard Hussein's radio before she saw him at his boat, pulled up under the wall of the dead hotel. He was tuned to one of the new stations beaming out of Malindi. It played morning music, bright, intricate guitar sounds and funk-Swahili DJ-babble. Hussein was scraping polyps from his hull. He liked his boat smooth and straight and lean and long. He was a tall, hairless Giriama with a streak of mission-widow Masai, and a devout Moslem in the way that all men who go on the sea are devout. They respect God, but not religion.

"Gaby. And Gaby's child."

He spoke hotel-English and hotel-German. Before the hotels were swept away he had run glass-bottom boats and snorkel tours to the reef. Soft tourist rumps upturned to the sun.


"So, did you do this thing?"

Gaby shrugged, half-apologetically.

"My uncle's people, who used to trade with India; their way was to fry it with onions and curry spices and eat it in chapattis," Hussein said.

"That," Gaby McAslan said, "is disgusting. Is the Mermaid still open?"

"There was noise coming out of it when I went past half an hour ago, and if there is still noise, Scullabus will not close."

"You don't know if the Phoebe thing has happened yet?"

"Gaby, I sail boats."

"Yeah, yeah. You're taking her out today?"

"Every day there are wetbacks and raft people want to come here, I go out."

And they will have brought small handfuls of their treasures with them and you will ask for a something here, a something there, a token or favour to be repaid sometime never, Gaby thought. Not because you need these things --no one needs anything any more, but because freedom has a price. As if they have not already paid it to the freighter captains that put them over the side outside radar range, and pay again as they paddle and kick and swim past the blockade ships, and pay the sharks and the Portuguese Men-o'-war, and pay the waves and the reef as they try to make it over into the lagoon. But they have not paid you.

"You are a God-damn pirate, Hussein," Gaby said amicably.

"I like to think of myself as an immigration service. An underground railroad in the ocean."

"I think the word is submarine," Gaby said. Hussein smiled, accepting the compliment. He fed syrup to the putti-putti. The biomotor burped and began to beat, pumping air. Hussein adjusted the pulse, then disconnected the cell battery. "But you be careful, right?" Gaby continued. "One of these days those bastards are going to blow you right out of the water."

"I am Captain Stealth, I sail under their guns and they cannot see me."

"You put too much trust in that radar transparent hull of yours. They may be Saudis, but they have eyes in their heads."

"God's will, Gaby and Gaby's child."


"Ah. That is a good name for this country."

"God's will, Hussein."

Yes, Gaby thought as she went up the path that had once taken tourists to the beach and the glass-bottomed boats. That is it, that is why you laughed on the headland when Serena gave you the sign you had not been expecting. It was God pulling your hair. He was saying, hey, listen, after all those years of wanting and trying, you are an African. A white-skinned, green-eyed, red-haired African. And what makes you African is that you finally accept My will, whether you stay or go, whether you sit or walk, whether you drop your baby from the cliff or bury your afterbirth in the earth. What is taken is taken. This is the world you have to live in, now, here. Ismillah. So laugh, because there is nothing you can do about it.

The path was not the most direct way to the Mermaid Café but the chaga kept rearranging the shortcuts and the crumbled ruins of the hotel were treacherous. The empty swimming pool waited in there somewhere; a blue tiled pit trap. Gaby stepped through the place where the chain link fence had fallen under the weight of sulphur-yellow moulds into the tennis courts. The far service area had been colonized by bulbous blue and white growths like over-sized Chinese vases that exuded a strangely alluring musk. Clusters of minute orange crystals infecting the tramlines crunched like crabs shells beneath Gaby's boots.

The carved mermaid was nailed to a palm behind the pile of scabrous machinery that had once chlorinated the pool. She had a sluttish leer and pointed along a track that meandered between palms and crown corals. The Mermaid Café was one of those unawares buildings that you are at before you realise. Six months on the coast and Gaby was still taken in by it every time. When you learned the trick of picking it out of the visual chaos of vegetation what you saw was something ludicrously like an enormous straw sombrero propped up on short stilts. It was very much more alien and clever than that: its thatch was a fine solar fur that cooled the building in the heat of the day, warmed it by night, and generated electrical current in every fibre. When you ducked under the brim and your eyes adjusted to the bioluminescent shade that is best for contemplative drinking you saw that it was more like a tree than a hat, for a thick central trunk held up the roof. Branch-ribs ran down to the brim and became the strong, bone-like stilts. Tree-hat-hut.

The Mermaid Café smelled of warmth and things growing from deep soil, sweat and the urinous hum of spilled beer. Most of the tables were still full. There were some seats at the bar that circled the trunk. The main biolumes clinging under the canopy were dull; the bar was lit by table lamps and television. The screens hanging from the central trunk were all full of stars.


Sunpig was a short podgy white American woman of middle years. She wore more than one ring on each finger. Illustrated cards lay in various patterns across her table. They bore the wide eyes, seraphic faces and blessing hands of Ethiopic icons. Sunpig's work at Turangalila was to develop an uniquely cha-African tarot. Everyone at Turangalila had a work; that was the dream of the place, the expression of the transforming potential of the chaga into every field of human activity. Like most experimental artistic communities, these expressions tended to end up in the bar.

"I did it."


"There's an 'and'?"

Sunpig shrugged expansively in the way that those who can see and are rich despair for the poor and blind.

"Shuffle your saints," Gaby said.

"Woman with child!" With a flick of his forefinger, Dr. Scullabus directed his patrons to make way for Gaby. "Sit." She sat. "Drink." She drank the house beer set in front of her. The Doctor was tall, with bad skin but good jaw-length bleached dreads. Gaby could never see the happy swing of those dreads without wanting to suck them. She liked Dr. Scullabus hugely. He was that age when men like to give themselves names, but he had her respect. He had used the chaga to remake himself. Before it came sweeping down the coast from the impact at Kilifi he had been a beach boy. He had worn good muscles, lycra shorts, no body hair, and fucked tourists and let them spend their money on him. When the tourists stopped coming, he fucked journalists and UN workers instead, and let them spend on him however much it took to stop them feeling guilty. He had never had any money so he lost nothing when the chaga took the hotels away. His skills at getting what he wanted from people it could not change; they had earned him the Mermaid Café and his place behind the bar as supreme pontiff.

Gaby lay Serena on the bar. She blinked at the star-filled screens. The bar's thermal fur had not woken up yet; it was hot hot under the sombrero; Gaby's shorts and vest stuck to her. But the beer was cold. She drank it down in one go. The Doctor brewed it himself but the bottles were many many times recycled, scavenged from the overgrown trash heaps of the lost hotels of his youth.

"You missed it, Gab."

I intended to, she did not say.

"Was it cosmic?"

"The man on the satellite news was very stupid."

"Probably one of my dearest former colleagues."

"He did not have any idea what he was talking about. You would have done it right, Gaby. You would have made us feel the size of the thing, and the bigness of space, and how far away it is, and how cold, and how wonderful."

"Doc, it's no wonder you got so many rides."

"It is true Gaby. This man, it could have been monkey shit for all he cared. If you had been there, I am telling you, you would have given us such big awe that it would have made our balls go tight."

"But I'm not." Gaby rolled the much-washed beer bottle between her palms. "I'm here. And this another one on my endless account."

Chaga-nomics. Quid pro quo: with Andre the Doctor would trade beer for a day's fishing beyond the reef; for a song from Harrison, for a reading from Sunpig, for a dinner from Marilynne, for a restyle of those dreads from Musta. But from Gaby McAslan, former SkyNet East Africa Correspondent, what has she to sell? Not even her ass, like the Doctor had done in the other time, shaking it up and down the white coral sand.

Gaby banged the empty bottle on the bar. Serena gave a small gurgle but thought sleep better. New beer was delivered. Gaby drank it down. Breakfast of champions.

Those amputees who suffered phantom pains in lost limbs, how long before the twinges faded? Ever?

She looked at the screens. Since the dark side of Iapetus had engulfed the bright and Hyperion vanished, heralding the advent of the chaga, a steady stream of space probes had been sent to Saturn's moons. The arrival of the Big Dumb Object, reconstituted from the fragments of Hyperion, in earth orbit had eclipsed the unmanned missions --why go to Saturn when Saturn has come to you? Then Phoebe had disappeared in the same quantum black hole explosion that had destroyed Hyperion, and the powers in the sky were moving again. Saturn satellite mission twenty two, Wagner, had been retasked for a ring-side seat to whatever the Chaga-makers had willed for Phoebe.

It had arrived in the Phoebe Rift three weeks ago, two days after Serena's birth. It had unfolded its antennae, uncoiled its sensor booms like a luna moth hatching and seen slender arcs ten of kilometres long tumbling slowly in trans-lunar space. At three thirty five GMT the will of the Chaga-makers had become manifest: the arcs joined. The processed images from the orbital telescopes had sketched a ring three and half thousand kilometres in diameter. Ground control's computers gave Wagner its target: the probe burned the last of its reaction mass to roll on to a new course. Camera pods swung to target the still invisible object.

They had a name for this one too. The arcs had not even joined and they were calling it Éa. Enigmatic Artifact.

One minute to fly-by. Wagner would pass through the ring within one hundred kilometres of the inner surface. The terrestrial long-baseline interferometers could resolve with greater discrimination than the space telescopes: Éa was a thread, a hoop two kilometres wide by five hundred metres deep. Wagner would have to look hard to see anything.

Expert voices were opining that Éa did not account for all Phoebe's mass.

And suddenly there it was, swimming out of the dark as it caught the distant sun, like a bracelet of light. Somewhere, Gaby was aware that Serena was hungry. She slipped a tit out of her loose vest and picked up the grizzling child. Wagner swept through the hoop of light like a weasel through a wedding ring. Gaby glimpsed coiling white ridges, like twined intestines, valleys between bristling with still quills. Then stars. Wagner brought its rear camera booms to bear.

Every screen in the Mermaid Café went white.

"Hey, Scullabus!" someone shouted from the far side of the bar.

"My televisions are fine," the Doctor said. "Look."

The probe cameras had pulled out and stopped down. Éa was a disc of white light. The dazzling screens threw unfamiliar shadows into the recesses of the Mermaid Café. Darkness. Where the light had been, precisely framed by the huge ring, was a moon.

Many of the Doctor's bottles that were more precious than what he sold in them hit the floor and shattered.

Not even the expert voices knew what to say.

The moon was a monster: rust-red, cratered and rayed. Dark mares were cracked and faulted like Japanese glaze. The satellite had a satellite. Hovering beyond the new moon's Roche limit was a curved disc eight hundred kilometres in diameter. Its radius curvature matched the moon: its dark side trailed floes and stalactites of frozen gas tens of kilometres long. Moon and disc were in motion. Wagner control was plotting trajectories. Gaby found it impossible to resist the notion that the disc was pushing the moon.

Rain beat sudden and hard on the roof. Gaby grimaced, Serena was gumming hard.

"Bastards are fucking playing with us," the man on Gaby's left said angrily.

The Expert Voices found they had something to say at last. Their simulations drew curves on the solar system Like its predecessor, this even bigger dumber object was inbound. But its destination was not earth. In twelve years Venus would have a moon, orbiting every twenty days.

Serena was growing uncomfortable again. She probably needs winded, Gaby thought. The incongruity of that thought with the wonder stuff on the screens almost made her laugh aloud. All it was was one dead rock going to another, but this was a human child. That was mechanics. This was the future.

What a universe you're going to grow up in kid.

What a kid you're having grow up in you, universe.

She couldn't quite convince herself of that equation.

Rain threw itself heavy and suicidal at the roof of Scullabus's Mermaid. The sudden hammer distracted Gaby a moment. That was how she missed the first of fifteen hundred comets come out of the glowing mouth of Éa.

© Ian McDonald 1997

Kirinya is published in the UK by Victor Gollancz.

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