/ Language: English / Genre:sf_space / Series: Mars

Blue Mars

Kim Robinson

Red Mars, the kickoff to Robinson's epic Mars trilogy, won the Nebula for best SF novel of 1992; its follow-up, Green Mars, won the parallel Hugo for 1994. The conclusion to the saga is not unlike the terrain of Robinson’s Red Planet: fertile and fully developed in some spots, vast and arid in others but, ultimately, it’s an impressive achievement. Using the last 200 years of American history as his template for Martian history, Robinson projects his tale of Mars’s colonization from the 21st century, in which settlers successfully revolt against Earth, into the next century, when various interests on Mars work out their differences on issues ranging from government to the terraforming of the planet and immigration. Sax Russell, Maya Toitovna and others reprise their roles from the first two novels, but the dominant “personality” is the planet itself, which Robinson describes in exhaustive naturalistic detail. Characters look repeatedly for sermons in its stones and are nearly overwhelmed by textbook abstracts on the biological and geological minutiae of their environment. Not until the closing chapters, when they begin confronting their mortality, does the human dimension of the story balance out its awesome ecological extrapolations. Robinson's achievement here is on a par with Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and Herbert’s Dune, even if his clinical detachment may leave some readers wondering whether there really is life on Mars. (Piblishers Weekly)

Blue Mars

by Kim Stanley Robinson


Peacock Mountain

Mars is free now. We’re on our own. No one tells us what to do.

Ann stood at the front of the train as she said this.

But it’s so easy to backslide into old patterns of behavior. Break one hierarchy and another springs up to take its place. We will have to be on guard for that, because there will always be people trying to make another Earth. The areophany will have to be ceaseless, an eternal struggle. We will have to think harder than ever before what it means to be Martian.

Her listeners sat slumped in chairs, looking out the windows at the terrain flowing by. They were tired, their eyes were scoured. Red-eyed Reds. In the harsh dawn light everything looked new, the windswept land outside bare except for a khaki scree of lichen and scrub. They had kicked all Earthly power off Mars, it had been a long campaign, capped by a burst of furious action following the great flood on Terra; and they were tired.

We came from Earth to Mars, and in that passage there was a certain purification. Things were easier to see, there was a freedom of action that we had not had before. A chance to express the best part of ourselves. So we acted. We are making a better way to live.

This was the myth, they had all grown up with it. Now as Ann told it to them again, the young Martians stared through her. They had engineered the revolution, they had fought all over Mars, and pushed the Terran police into Burroughs; then they had drowned Burroughs, and chased the Tenons up to Sheffield, on Pavonis Mons. They still had to force the enemy out of Sheffield, up the space cable and back to Terra; there was work still to be done. But in the successful evacuation of Burroughs they had won a great victory, and some of the blank faces staring at Ann or out the window seemed to want a break, a moment for triumph. They were all exhausted.

Hiroko will help us, a young man said, breaking the silence of the train’s levitation over the land.

Ann shook her head. Hiroko is a green, she said, the original green.

Hiroko invented the areophany, the young native countered. That’s her first concern: Mars. She will help us, I know. I met her. She told me.

Except she’s dead, someone else said.

Another silence. The world flowed under them.

Finally a tall young woman stood up and walked down the aisle, and gave Ann a hug. The spell was broken; words were abandoned; they got to their feet and clustered in the open space at the front of the train, around Ann, and hugged her, or shook her hand — or simply touched her, Ann Clayborne, the one who had taught them to love Mars for itself, who had led them in the struggle for its independence from Earth. And though her bloodshot eyes were still fixed, gazing through them at the rocky battered expanse of the Tyrrhena massif, she was smiling. She hugged them back, she shook their hands, she reached up to touch their faces. It will be all right, she said. We will make Mars free. And they said yes, and congratulated each other. On to Sheffield, they said. Finish the job. Mars will show us how.

Except she’s not dead, the young man objected. I saw her last month in Arcadia. She’ll show up again. She’ll show up somewhere.

At a certain moment before dawnthe sky always glowed the same bands of pink as in the beginning, pale and clear in the east, rich and starry in the west. Ann watched for this moment as her companions drove them west, toward a mass of black land rearing into the sky — the Tharsis Bulge, punctuated by the broad cone of Pavonis Mons. As they rolled uphill from Noctis Labyrinthus they rose above most of the new atmosphere; the air pressure at the foot of Pavonis was only 180 millibars, and then as they drove up the eastern flank of the great shield volcano it dropped under 100 millibars, and continued to fall. Slowly they ascended above all visible foliage, crunching over dirty patches of wind-carved snow; then they ascended above even the snow, until there was nothing but rock, and the ceaseless thin cold winds of the jet stream. The bare land looked just as it had in the prehuman years, as if they were driving back up into the past.

It wasn’t so. But something fundamental in Ann Clayborne warmed at the sight of this ferric world, stone on rock in the perpetual wind, and as the Red cars rolled up the mountain all their occupants grew as rapt as Ann, the cabins falling silent as the sun cracked the distant horizon behind them.

Then the slope they ascended grew less steep, in a perfect sine curve, until they were on the flat land of the round summit plateau. Here they saw tent towns ringing the edge of the giant caldera, clustered in particular around the foot of the space elevator, some thirty kilometers to the south of them.

They stopped their cars. The silence in the cabins had shifted from reverent to grim. Ann stood at one upper-cabin window, looking south toward Sheffield, that child of the space elevator: built because of the elevator, smashed flat when the elevator fell, built again with the elevator’s replacement. This was the city she had come to destroy, as thoroughly as Rome had Carthage; for she meant to bring down the replacement cable too, just as they had the first one in 2061. When they did that, much of Sheffield would again be flattened. What remained would be located uselessly on the peak of a high volcano, above most of the atmosphere; as time passed the surviving structures would be abandoned and dismantled for salvage, leaving only the tent foundations, and perhaps, a weather station, and, eventually, the long sunny silence of a mountain summit. The salt was already in the ground.

A cheerful Tharsis Red named Irishka joined them in a small rover, and led them through the maze of warehouses and small tents surrounding the intersection of the equatorial piste with the one circling the rim. As they followed her she described for them the local situation. Most of Sheffield and the rest of the Pavonis rim settlements were already in the hands of the Martian revolutionaries. But the space elevator and the neighborhood surrounding its base complex were not, and there lay the difficulty. The revolutionary forces on Pavonis were mostly poorly equipped militias, and they did not necessarily share the same agenda. That they had succeeded as far as they had was due to many factors: surprise, the control of Martian space, several strategic victories, the support of the great majority of the Martian population, and the unwillingness of the United Nations Transitional Authority to fire on civilians, even when they were making mass demonstrations in the streets. As a result the UNTA security forces had retreated from all over Mars to regroup in Sheffield, and now most of them were in elevator cars, going up to Clarke, the ballast asteroid and space station at the top of the elevator; the rest were jammed into the neighborhood surrounding the elevator’s massive base complex, called the Socket. This district consisted of elevator support facilities, industrial warehouses, and the hostels, dormitories, and restaurants needed to house and feed the port’s workforce. “Those are coming in useful now,” Irishka said, “because even so they’re squeezed in like trash in a compactor, and if there hadn’t been food and shelter they would probably have tried a breakout. As it is, things are still tense, but at least they can live.”

It somewhat resembled the situation just resolved in Burroughs, Ann thought. Which had turned out fine. It only took someone willing to act and the thing would be done — UNTA evacuated to Earth, the cable brought down, Mars’s link to Earth truly broken. And any attempt to erect a new cable could be balked sometime in the ten years of orbital construction that it took to build one.

So Irishka led them through the jumble that was east Pavonis, and their little caravan came to the rim of the caldera, where they parked their rovers. To the south on the western edge of Sheffield they could just make out the elevator cable, a line that was barely visible, and then only for a few kilometers out of its 24,000. Nearly invisible, in fact, and yet its existence dominated every move they made, every discussion — every thought they had, almost, speared and strung out on that black thread connecting them to Earth.

When they were settled in their camp Ann called her son Peter on the wrist. He was one of the leaders of the revolution on Tharsis, and had directed the campaign against UNTA that had left its forces contained in the Socket and its immediate neighborhood. A qualified victory at best, but it made Peter one of the heroes of the previous month.

Now he answered the call and his face appeared on her wrist. He looked quite like her, which she found disconcerting. He was absorbed, she saw, concentrating on something other than her call.

“Any news?” she asked.

“No. We appear to be at something of an impasse. We’re allowing all of them caught outside free passage into the elevator district, so they’ve got control of the train, station and the south rim airport, and the subway lines from those to the Socket.”

“Did the planes that evacuated them from Burroughs come here?”

“Yes. Apparently most of them are leaving for Earth. It’s very crowded in there.”

“Are they going back to Earth, or into Mars orbit?”

“Back to Earth. I don’t think they trust orbit anymore.”

He smiled at that. He had done a lot in space, aiding Sax’s efforts and so on. Her son the spaceman, the Green. For many years they had scarcely spoken to each other.

Ann said, “So what are you going to do now?”

“I don’t know. I don’t see that we can take the elevator, or the Socket either. It just wouldn’t work. Even if it did, they could always bring the elevator down.”


“Well — ” He looked suddenly concerned. “I don’t think that would be a good thing. Do you?”

“I think it should come down.”

Now he looked annoyed. “Better stay out of the fall line then.”

“I will.”

“I don’t want anyone bringing it down without a full discussion,” he told her sharply. “This is important. It should be a decision made by the whole Martian community. I think we need the elevator, myself.”

“Except we have no way to take possession of it.”

“That remains to be seen. Meanwhile, it’s not something for you to take into your own hands. I heard what happened in Burroughs, but it’s different here, you understand? We decide strategy together. It needs to be discussed.”

“It’s a group that’s very good at that,” Ann said bitterly. Everything was always thoroughly discussed and then always she lost. It was past time for that. Someone had to act. But again Peter looked as if he were being taken from his real work. He thought he would be making the decisions about the elevator, she could see that. Part of a more general feeling of ownership of the planet, no doubt, the birthright of the nisei, displacing the First Hundred and all the rest of the issei. If John had lived that would not have been easy, but the king was dead, long live the king — her son, king of the nisei, the first true Martians.

But king or not, there was a Red army now converging on Pavonis Mons. They were the strongest military operation left on the planet, and they intended to complete the work begun when Earth had been hit by its great flood. They did not believe in consensus or compromise, and for them, knocking down the cable was killing two birds with one stone: it would destroy the last police stronghold, and it would also sever easy contact between Earth and Mars, a primary Red goal. No, knocking down the cable was the obvious thing to do.

But Peter did not seem to know this. Or perhaps he did not care. Ann tried to tell him, but he just nodded, muttering “Yeah yeah, yeah yeah.” So arrogant, like all the greens, so blithe and stupid with all their prevaricating, their dealing with Earth, as if you could ever get anything from such a leviathan. No. It was going to take direct action, as in the drowning of Burroughs, as in all the acts of sabotage that had set the stage for the revolution. Without those the revolution wouldn’t even have begun, or if it had it would have been crushed immediately, as in 2061.

“Yeah yeah. We’d better call a meeting then,” Peter said, looking as annoyed at her as she felt at him.

“Yeah yeah,” Ann said heavily. Meetings. But they had their uses; people could assume they meant something, while the real work went on elsewhere.

“I’ll try to set one up,” Peter said. She had gotten his attention at last, she saw; but there was an unpleasant look on his face, as if he had been threatened. “Before things get out of hand.”

“Things are already out of hand,” she told him, and cut the connection.

She checked the news on the various channels, Manga-lavid, the Reds’ private nets, the Terran summaries. Though Pavonis and the elevator were now the focus of everyone on Mars, the physical convergence on the volcano was only partial. It appeared to her that there were more Red guerrilla units on Pavonis than the green units of Free Mars and their allies; but it was hard to be sure. Kasei and the most radical wing of the Reds, called the Kakaze (“fire wind”), had recently occupied the north rim of Pavonis, taking over the train station and tent at Lastflow. The Reds Ann had traveled with, most of them from the old Red mainstream, discussed moving around the rim and joining the Kakaze, but decided in the end to stay in east Pavonis. Ann observed this discussion silently but was glad at the result, as she wanted to keep her distance from Kasei and Dao and their crowd. She was pleased to stay in east Pavonis.

Many Free Mars troops were staying there as well, moving out of their cars into the abandoned warehouses. East Pavonis was becoming a major concentration of revolutionary groups of all kinds; and a couple days after her arrival, Ann went in and walked over compacted regolith to one of the biggest warehouses in the tent, to take part in a general strategy session.

The meeting went about as she expected. Nadia was at the center of the discussion, and it was useless talking to Nadia now. Ann just sat on a chair against the back wall, watching the rest of them circle the situation. They did not want to say what Peter had already admitted to her in private: there was no way to get UNTA off the space elevator.

Before they conceded that they were going to try to talk the problem out of existence.

Late in the meeting, Sax Russell came over to sit by her side.

“A space elevator,” he said. “It could be … used.”

Ann was not the least bit comfortable talking to Sax. She knew that he had suffered brain damage at the hands of UNTA security, and had taken a treatment that had changed his personality; but somehow this had not helped at all. It only made things very strange, in that sometimes he seemed to her to be the same old Sax, as familiar as a much-hated brother; while at other times he did indeed seem like a completely different person, inhabiting Sax’s body. These two contrary impressions oscillated rapidly, even sometimes coexisted; just before joining her, as he had talked with Nadia and Art, he had looked like a stranger, a dapper old man with a piercing glare, talking in Sax’s voice and Sax’s old style. Now as he sat next to her, she could see that the changes to his face were utterly superficial. But though he looked familiar the stranger was now inside him — for here was a man who halted and jerked as he delved painfully after what he was trying to say, and then as often as not came out with something scarcely coherent.

“The elevator is a, a device. For … raising up. A … a tool.”

“Not if we don’t control it,” Ann said to him carefully, as if instructing a child.

“Control…” Sax said, thinking over the concept as if it were entirely new to him. “Influence? If the elevator can be brought down by anyone who really wants to, then …” He trailed away, lost in his thoughts.

“Then what?” Ann prompted.

“Then it’s controlled by all. Consensual existence. It’s obvious?”

It was as if he were translating from a foreign language. This was not Sax; Ann could only shake her head, and try gently to explain. The elevator was the conduit for the metanationals to reach Mars, she told him. It was in the possession of the metanats now, and the revolutionaries had no means to kick their police forces off of it. Clearly the thing to do in such a situation was to bring it down. Warn people, give them a schedule, and then do it. “Loss of life would be minimal, and what there was would be pretty much the fault of anyone so stupid as to stay on the cable, or the equator.”

Unfortunately Nadia heard this from the middle of the room, and she shook her head so violently that her cropped gray locks flew out like a clown’s ruff. She was still very angry with Ann over Burroughs, for no good reason at all, and so Ann glared at her as she walked over to them and said curtly, “We need the elevator. It’s our conduit to Terra just as much as it’s their conduit to Mars.”

“But we don’t need a conduit to Terra,” Ann said. “It’s not a physical relationship for us, don’t you see? I’m not saying we don’t need to have an influence on Terra, I’m not an isolationist like Kasei or Coyote. I agree we need to try to work on them. But it’s not a physical thing, don’t you see? It’s a matter of ideas, of talk, and perhaps a few emissaries. It’s an information exchange. At least it is when it’s going right. It’s when it gets into a physical thing — a resource exchange, or mass emigration, or police control — that’s when the elevator becomes useful, even necessary. So if we took it down we would be saying, we will deal with you on our terms, and not yours.”

It was so obvious. But Nadia shook her head, at what Ann couldn’t imagine.

Sax cleared his throat, and in his old periodic-table style said, “If we can bring it down, then in effect it is as if it already were down,” blinking and everything. Like a ghost suddenly there at her side, the voice of the terraforming, the enemy she had lost to time and time again — Saxifrage Russell his own self, same as ever. And all she could do was make the same arguments she always had, the losing arguments, feeling the words’ inadequacy right in her mouth.

Still she tried. “People act on what’s there, Sax. The meta-nat directors and the UN and the governments will look up and see what’s there, and act accordingly. If the cable’s gone they just don’t have the resources or the time to mess with us right now. If the cable’s here, then they’ll want us. They’ll think, well, we could do it. And there’ll be people screaming to try.”

“They can always come. The cable is only a fuel saver.”

“A fuel saver which makes mass transfers possible.”

But now Sax was distracted, and turning back into a stranger. No one would pay attention to her for long enough. Nadia was going on about control of orbit and safe-conduct passes and the like.

The strange Sax interrupted Nadia, having never heard her, and said, “We’ve promised to … help them out.”

“By sending them more metals?” Ann said. “Do they really need those?”

“We could … take people. It might help.”

Ann shook her head. “We could never take enough.”

He frowned. Nadia saw they weren’t listening to her, returned to the table. Sax and Ann fell into silence.

Always they argued. Neither conceded anything, no compromises were made, nothing was ever accomplished. They argued using the same words to mean different things, and scarcely even spoke to one another. Once it had been different, very long ago, when they had argued in the same language, and understood each other. But that had been so long ago she couldn’t even remember when exactly it was. In Antarctica? Somewhere. But not on Mars.

“You know,” Sax said in a conversational tone, again very un-Sax-like but in a different way, “it wasn’t the Red militia that caused the Transitional Authority to evacuate Burroughs and the rest of the planet. If guerrillas had been the only factor then the Terrans would have gone after us, and they might well have succeeded. But those mass demonstrations in the tents made it clear that almost everyone on the planet was against them. That’s what governments fear the most; mass protests in the cities. Hundreds of thousands of people going into the streets to reject the current system. That’s what Nirgal means when he says political power comes out of the look in people’s eye. And not out of the end of a gun.”

“And so?” Ann said.

Sax gestured at the people in the warehouse. “They’re all greens.”

The others continued debating. Sax watched her like a bird.

Ann got up and walked out of the meeting, into the strangely unbusy streets of east Pavonis. Here and there militia bands held posts on street corners, keeping an eye to the south, toward Sheffield and the cable terminal. Happy, hopeful, serious young natives. There on one corner a group was in an animated discussion, and as Ann passed them a young woman, her face utterly intent, flushed with passionate conviction, cried out “You can’t just do what you want!”

Ann walked on. As she walked she felt more and more uneasy, without knowing why. This is how people change — in little quantum jumps when struck by outer events — no intention, no plan. Someone says “the look in people’s eye,” and the phrase is suddenly conjoined with an image: a face glowing with passionate conviction, another phrase: you can’t just do what you want! And so it occurred to her (the look on that young woman’s face!) that it was not just the cable’s fate they were deciding — not just “should the cable come down,” but “how do we decide things?” That was the critical postrevolutionary question, perhaps more important than any single issue being debated, even the fate of the cable. Up until now, most people in the underground had operated by a working method which said if we don’t agree with you we will fight you. That attitude was what had gotten people into the underground in the first place, Ann included. And once used to that method, it was hard to get away from it. After all, they had just proved that it worked. And so there was the inclination to continue to use it. She felt that herself.

But political power … say it did come out of the look in people’s eye. You could fight forever, but if people weren’t behind you…

Ann continued to think about that as she drove down into Sheffield, having decided to skip the farce of the afternoon strategy session in east Pavonis. She wanted to have a look at the seat of the action.

It was curious how little seemed to have changed in the day-to-day life of Sheffield. People still went to work, ate in restaurants, talked on the grass of the parks, gathered in the public spaces in this most crowded of tent towns. The shops and restaurants were jammed. Most businesses in Sheffield had belonged to the metanats, and now people read on their screens long arguments over what to do — what the employees’ new relationship to their old owners should be — where they should buy their raw materials, where they should sell — whose regulations they ought to obey, whose taxes they ought to pay. All very confusing, as the screen debates and the nightly news vids and the wrist nets indicated.

The plaza devoted to the food market, however, looked as it always had. Most food was grown and distributed by co-ops; ag networks were in place, the greenhouses on Pavonis were still producing, and so in the market things ran as usual, goods paid for with UNTA dollars or with credit. Except once or twice Ann saw sellers in their aprons shouting red-faced at customers, who shouted right back, arguing over some point of government policy. As Ann passed by one of these arguments, which were no different than those going on among the leaders in east Pavonis, the disputants all stopped and stared at her. She had been recognized. The vegetable seller said loudly, “If you Reds would lay off they would just go away!”

“Ah come on,” someone retorted. “It isn’t her doing it.”

So true, Ann thought as she walked on.

A crowd stood waiting for a tram to come. The transport systems were still running, ready for autonomy. The tent itself was functioning, which was not something to be taken for granted, though clearly most people did;Tjut every tent’s operators had their task obvious before them. They mined their raw materials themselves, mostly out of the air; their solar collectors and nuclear reactors were all the power they needed. So the tents were physically fragile, but if left alone, they could very well become politically autonomous; there was no reason for them to be owned, no justification for it.

So the necessities were served. Daily life plodded on, barely perturbed by revolution.

Or so it seemed at first glance. But there in the streets also were armed groups, young natives in threes and fours and fives, standing on street corners. Revolutionary militias around their missile launchers and remote sensing dishes — green or red, it didn’t matter, though they were almost certainly greens. People eyed them as they walked by, or stopped to chat and find out what they were doing. Keeping an eye on the Socket, the armed natives said. Though Ann could see that they were functioning as police as well. Part of the scene, accepted, supported. People grinned as they chatted; these were their police, they were fellow Martians, here to protect them, to guard Sheffield for them. People wanted them there, that was clear. If they hadn’t, then every approaching questioner would have been a threat, every glance of resentment an attack; which eventually would have forced the militias from the street corners into some safer place. People’s faces, staring in concert; this ran the world.

So Ann brooded over the next few days. And even more so after she took a rim train in the direction opposite to Sheffield, counterclockwise to the north arc of the rim. There Kasei and Dao and the Kakaze were occupying apartments in the little tent at Lastflow. Apparently they had forcibly evicted some noncombatant residents, who naturally had trained down to Sheffield in fury, demanding to be reinstated in their homes, and reporting to Peter and the rest of the green leaders that the Reds had set up truck-drawn rocket launchers on the north rim, with the rockets aimed at the elevator and Sheffield more generally.

So Ann walked out into Lastflow’s little station in a bad mood, angry at the Kakaze’s arrogance, as stupid in its way as the greens’. They had done well in the Burroughs campaign, seizing the dike very visibly to give everyone a warning, then taking it on themselves to breach the dike after all the other revolutionary factions had gathered on the heights to the south, ready to rescue the city’s civilian population while the metanat security were forced to retreat. The Kakaze had seen what had been needed and they had done it, without getting bogged down in debate. Without their decisiveness everyone would still be gathered around Burroughs, and the metanats no doubt organizing a Terran expeditionary force to relieve it. It had been a perfectly delivered coup.

Now it seemed that success had gone to their head.

Lastflow had been named after the depression it occupied, a fan-shaped lava flow extending more than a hundred kilometers down the northeast flank of the mountain. It was the only blemish in what was otherwise a flawlessly circular summit cone and caldera, and clearly it had come very late in the volcano’s history of eruptions. Standing down in the depression, one’s view of the rest of the summit was cut off — it was like being in a shallow hanging valley, with little visible in any direction — until one walked out to the drop-off at rim’s edge, and saw the huge cylinder of the caldera coring the planet, and on the far rim the skyline of Sheffield, looking like a tiny Manhattan over forty kilometers away.

The curtailed view perhaps explained why the depression had been one of the last parts of the rim to be developed. But now it was filled by a fair-sized tent, six kilometers in diameter and a hundred meters high, heavily reinforced as all tents up here had to be. The settlement had been home mostly to commuter laborers in the rim’s many industries. Now the rimfront district had been taken over by the Kakaze, and just outside the tent stood a fleet of large rovers, no doubt the ones that had caused the rumors about rocket launchers.

As Ann was led to the restaurant that Kasei had made his headquarters, she was assured by her guides that this was indeed the case; the rovers did haul rocket launchers, which were ready to flatten UNTA’s last refuge on Mars. Her guides were obviously happy about this, and happy also to be able to tell her about it, happy to meet her and guide her around. A varied bunch — mostly natives, with some Terran newcomers and old-timers, of all ethnic backgrounds. Among them were a few faces Ann recognized: Etsu Okakura, al-Khan, Yussuf. A lot of young natives unknown to her stopped them at the restaurant door to shake her hand, grinning enthusiastically. The Kakaze: they were, she had to admit to herself, the wing of the Reds for which she felt the least sympathy. Angry ex-Terrans or idealistic young natives from the tents, their stone eyeteeth dark in their smiles, their eyes glittering as they got this chance to meet her, as they spoke of kami, the need for purity, the intrinsic value of rock, the rights of the planet, and so on. In short, fanatics. She shook their hands and nodded, trying not to let her discomfort show.

Inside the restaurant Kasei and Dao were sitting by a window, drinking dark beer. Everything in the room stopped on Ann’s entrance, and it took a while for people to be introduced, for Kasei and Dao to welcome her with hugs, for meals and conversations to resume. They got her something to eat from the kitchen. The restaurant workers came out to meet her; they were Kakaze as well. Ann waited until they were gone and people had gone back to their tables, feeling impatient and awkward. These were her spiritual children, the media always were saying; she was the original Red; but in truth they made her uncomfortable.

Kasei, in excellent spirits, as he had been ever since the revolution began, said “We’re going to bring down the cable in about a week.”

“Oh you are!” Ann said. “Why wait so long?”

Dao missed her sarcasm. “It’s a matter of warning people, so they have time to get off the equator.” Though normally a sour man, today he was as cheery as Kasei.

“And off the cable too?”

“If they feel like it. But even if they evacuate it and give it to us, it’s still coming down.”

“How? Are those really rocket launchers out there?”

“Yes. But those are there in case they come down and try to retake Sheffield. As for bringing down the cable, breaking it here at the base isn’t the way to do it.”

“The control rockets might be able to adjust to disruptions at the bottom,” Kasei explained. “Hard to say what would happen, really. But a break just above the areosynchronous point would decrease damage to the equator, and keep New Clarke from flying off as fast as the first one did. We want to minimize the drama of this, you know, avoid any martyrs we can. Just the demolition of a building, you know. Like a building past its usefulness.”

“Yes,” Ann said, relieved at this sign of good sense. But it was curious how hearing her idea expressed as someone else’s plan disturbed her. She located the main source of her concern: “What about the others — the greens? What if they object?”

“They won’t,” Dao said.

“They are!” Ann said sharply.

Dao shook his head. “I’ve been talking to Jackie. It may be that some of the greens are truly opposed to it, but her group is just saying that for public consumption, so that they look moderate to the Terrans, and can blame the dangerous stuff on radicals out of their control.”

“On us,” Ann said.

They both nodded. “Just like with Burroughs,” Kasei said with a smile.

Ann considered it. No doubt it was true. “But some of them are genuinely opposed. I’ve been arguing with them about it, and it’s no publicity stunt.”

“Uh-huh,” Kasei said slowly.

Both he and Dao watched her.

“So you’ll do it anyway,” she said at last.

They continued to watch her. She saw all of a sudden that they would no more do what she told them to do than would boys ordered about by a senile grandmother. They were humoring her. Figuring out how they could best put her to use.

“We have to,” Kasei said. “It’s in the best interest of Mars. Not just for Reds, but all of us. We need some distance between us and Terra, and the gravity well reestablishes that distance. Without it we’ll be sucked down into the maelstrom.”

It was Ann’s argument, it was just what she had been saying in the meetings in east Pavonis. “But what if they try to stop you?”

“I don’t think they can,” Kasei said.

“But if they try?”

The two men glanced at each other. Dao shrugged.

So, Ann thought, watching them. They were willing to start a civil war.

People were still coming up the slopes of Pavonis to the summit, filling up Sheffield, east Pavonis, Lastflow and the other rim tents. Among them were Michel, Spencer, Vlad, Marina, and Ursula; Mikhail and a whole brigade of Bogdanovists; Coyote, on his own; a group from Praxis; a large train of Swiss; rover caravans of Arabs, both Sufi and secular; natives from other towns and settlements on Mars. All coming up for the endgame. Everywhere else on Mars, the natives had consolidated their control; all the physical plants were being operated by local teams, in cooperation with Separation de I’Atmosphere. There were some small pockets of metanat resistance, of course, and there were some Kakaze out there systematically destroying terraform-ing projects; but Pavonis was clearly the crux of the remaining problem — either the endgame of the revolution or, as Ann was beginning to fear, the opening moves of a civil war. Or both. It would not be the first time.

So she went to the meetings, and slept poorly at night, waking from troubled sleep, or from naps in the transit between one meeting and the next. The meetings were beginning to blur: all contentious, all pointless. She was getting tired, and the broken sleep did not help. She was nearly 150 years old, after all, and had not had a gerontological treatment in 25 years, and she felt weary all through, all the time. So she watched from a well of growing indifference as the others chewed over the situation. Earth was still in disarray; the great flood caused by the collapse of the west Antarctic ice sheet was indeed proving to be the ideal trigger mechanism for which General Sax had waited. Sax felt no remorse for taking advantage of Earth’s trouble, Ann could see; he never thought once about the many deaths the flood had caused down there. She could read his face thought by thought as he talked about it — what would be the point of remorse? The flood was an accident, a geological catastrophe like an ice age or a meteor impact. No one should waste time feeling remorse for it, not even if they were taking advantage of it for their own purposes. Best to take what good one possibly could from the chaos and disorder, and not worry. All this was right on Sax’s face as he discussed what they should do next vis-a-vis Earth. Send a delegation, he suggested. Diplomatic mission, personal appearance, something about throwing things together; incoherent on the surface, but she could read him like a brother, this old enemy! Well, Sax — the old Sax anyway — was nothing if not rational. Therefore easy to read. Easier than the young fanatics of the Kakaze, now that she thought of it.

And one could only meet him on his own ground, speak to him on his own terms. So she sat across from him in the meetings and tried to concentrate, even though her mind seemed to be hardening somehow, petrifying right inside her head. Round and round the arguments went: what to do on Pavonis? Pavonis Mons, Peacock Mountain. Who would ascend the Peacock Throne? There were potential shahs everywhere — Peter, Nirgal, Jackie, Zeyk, Kasei, Maya, Nadia, Mikhail, Ariadne, the invisible Hiroko…

Now someone was invoking the Dorsa Brevia conference as the framework for discussion they should use. All very well, but without Hiroko among them the moral center was gone, the one person in all Martian history, aside from John Boone, to whom everyone would defer. But Hiroko and John were gone, along with Arkady, and Frank, who would have come in useful now, if he had been on her side, which he wouldn’t have been. All gone. And they were left with anarchy. Curious how at a crowded table those absent could be more visible than those present. Hiroko, for instance; people referred to her frequently; and no doubt she was somewhere in the outback, deserting them as usual in their hour of need. Pissing them out of the nest.

Curious too how the only child of their lost heroes, Kasei the son of John and Hiroko, should be the most radical leader there, a disquieting man even though he was on her side. There he sat, shaking his gray head at Art, a small smile twisting his mouth. He was nothing like either John or Hiroko — well, he had some of Hiroko’s arrogance, some of John’s simplicity. The worst of both. And yet he was a power, he did what he wanted, and a lot of people followed him. But he was not like his parents had been.

And Peter, sitting just two seats away from Kasei, was nothing like her or Simon. It was hard to see what blood relationships meant; nothing, obviously. Though it did twist her heart to hear Peter speak, as he argued with Kasei and opposed the Reds at every point, making a case for some kind of interplanetary collaborationism. And never in these sessions addressing her, or even looking at her. It was perhaps intended as some kind of courtesy — I will not argue with you in public. But it looked like a slight — I will not argue with you because you don’t matter.

He continued to argue for keeping the cable, and agreed with Art about the Dorsa Brevia document, naturally, given the green majority that had existed then and persisted now. Using Dorsa Brevia as a guide would assure the cable’s survival. Meaning the continued presence of the United Nations Transitional Authority. And indeed some of them around Peter were talking about “semiautonomy” in relation to Terra, instead of independence, and Peter went along with that; it made her sick. And all without meeting her eye. It was Simon-like, somehow, a kind of silence. It made her angry.

“We have no reason to talk about long-term plans until we have solved the cable problem,” she said, interrupting him and earning a very black look indeed, as if she had broken an understanding; but there was no understanding, and why should they not argue, when they had no real relationship — nothing but biology… ?

Art claimed that the UN was now saying that it would be willing to agree to Martian semiautonomy, as long as Mars remained in “close consultation” with Earth, and an active aid in Earth’s crisis. Nadia said she was in communication with Derek Hastings, who was now up in New Clarke. Hastings had abandoned Burroughs without a bloody battle, it was true; and now she claimed he was willing to compromise. No doubt; his next retreat would not be so easy, nor would it take him to a very pleasant place, for despite all the emergency action, Earth was now a world of famine, plague, looting — breakdown of the social contract, which was so fragile after all. It could happen here too; she had to remember that fragility when she got angry enough, as now, to want to tell Kasei and Dao to abandon the discussions and fire away. If she did that it very likely would happen; a strange sensation of her own power came over her then, as she looked around the table at the anxious angry unhappy faces. She could tip the balance; she could knock this table right over.

Speakers were taking five-minute turns to make their case one way or the other. More were in favor of cutting the cable than Ann would have guessed, not just Reds, but representatives of cultures or movements that felt most threatened by the metanat order, or by mass emigration from Earth: Bedouins, the Polynesians, the Dorsa Brevia locals, some of the cannier natives. Still, they were in the minority. Not a tiny minority, but a minority. Isolationist versus interactive; yet another fracture to add to all the others rending the Martian independence movement.

Jackie Boone stood up and spoke for fifteen minutes in favor of keeping the cable, threatening anyone who wanted to bring it down with expulsion from Martian’society. It was a disgusting performance, but popular, and afterward Peter stood and spoke in the same way, only slightly more subtle. It made Ann so angry that she stood up immediately after he had finished, to argue for bringing the cable down. This got her another poisonous look from Peter, but it scarcely registered — she talked in a white heat, forgetting all about the five-minute limit. No one tried to cut her off, and she went on and on, though she had no idea what she was going to say next, and no memory of what she had already said. Perhaps her subconscious had organized it all like a lawyer’s brief — hopefully so — on the other hand, a part of her thought as her mouth ran on, perhaps she was just saying the word Mars over and over again, or babbling, and the audience simply humoring her, or else miraculously comprehending her in a moment of glossolalic grace, invisible flames on their heads like caps of jewels — and indeed their hair looked to Ann like spun metal, the old men’s bald pates like chunks of jasper, inside which all languages dead and living were understood equally; and for a moment they appeared all caught up together with her, all inside an epiphany of red Mars, free of Earth, living on the primal planet that had been and could be again.

She sat down. This time it was not Sax who rose to debate her, as it had been so many times before. In fact he was cross-eyed with concentration, looking at her open-mouthed, in an amazement that she could not interpret. They stared at each other, the two of them, eyes locked; but what he was thinking she had no idea. She only knew she had gotten his attention at last.

This time it was Nadia who rebutted her, Nadia her sister, arguing slowly and calmly for interaction with Earth, for intervention in the Terran situation. Despite the great flood, Earth’s nations and metanationals were still incredibly powerful, and in some ways the crisis of the flood had drawn them together, making them even more powerful. So Nadia spoke of the need to compromise, the need to engage, influence, transform. It was deeply contradictory, Ann thought; because they were weak, Nadia was saying, they could not afford to offend, and therefore they must change all Terran social reality.

“But how!” Ann cried. “When you have no fulcrum you can’t move a world! No fulcrum, no lever, no force — ”

“It isn’t just Earth,” Nadia replied. “There are going to be other settlements in the solar system. Mercury, Luna, the big outer moons, the asteroids. We’ve got to be part of all that. As the original settlement, we’re the natural leader. An unbridged gravity well is just an obstruction to all that — a reduction in our ability to act, a reduction in our power.”

“Getting in the way of progress,” Ann said bitterly. “Think what Arkady would have said to that. No, look. We had a chance here to make something different. That was the whole point. We still have that chance. Everything that increases the space within which we can create a new society is a good thing. Everything that reduces our space is a bad thing. Think about it!”

Perhaps they did. But it made no difference. Any number of elements on Earth were sending up their arguments for the cable — arguments, threats, entreaties. They needed help down there. Any help. Art Randolph continued energetically lobbying for the cable on behalf of Praxis, which was looking to Ann like it would become the next transitional authority, metanationalism in its latest manifestation or disguise.

But the natives were being slowly won over by them, intrigued by the possibility of “conquering Earth,” unaware of how impossible this was, incapable of imagining Earth’s vastness and immobility. One could tell them and tell them, but they would never be able to imagine it.

Finally it came time for an informal vote. It was representative voting, they had decided, one vote for each of the signatory groups to the Dorsa Brevia document, one vote also to all the interested parties that had arisen since then — new settlements in the outback, new political parties, associations, labs, companies, guerrilla bands, the several red splinter groups. Before they started some generous naive soul even offered the First Hundred a vote, and everyone there laughed at the idea that the First Hundred might be able to vote the same way on anything. The generous soul, a young woman from Dorsa Brevia, then proposed that each of the First Hundred be given an individual vote, but this was turned down as endangering the tenuous grasp they had on representative governance. It would have made no difference anyway.

So they voted to allow the space elevator to remain standing, for the time being — and in the possession of UNTA, down to and including the Socket, without contestation. It was like King Canute deciding to declare the tide legal after all, but no one laughed except Ann. The other Reds were furious. Ownership of the Socket was still being actively contested, Dao objected loudly, the neighborhood around it was vulnerable and could be taken, there was no reason to back off like this, they were only trying to sweep a problem under the rug because it was hard! But the majority were in agreement. The cable should remain.

Ann felt the old urge: escape. Tents and trains, people, the little Manhattan skyline of Sheffield against the south rim, the summit basalt all torn and flattened and paved over… There was a piste all the way around the rim, but the western side of the caldera was very nearly uninhabited. So Ann got in one of the smallest Red rovers, and drove around the rim counterclockwise, just inside the piste, until she came to a little meteorological station, where she parked the rover and went out through its lock, moving stiffly in a walker that was much like the ones they had gone out in during the first years.

She was a kilometer or two away from the rim’s edge. She walked slowly east toward it, stumbling once or twice before she started to pay proper attention. The old lava on the flat expanse of the broad rim was smooth and dark in some places, rough and lighter in others. By the time she approached the edge she was in full areologist mode, doing a boulder ballet she could sustain all day, attuned to every knob and crack underfoot. And this was a good thing, because near the rim’s drop-off the land collapsed in a series of narrow curving ledges, the drops sometimes a step, sometimes taller than she was. And always the growing sense of empty air ahead, as the far side of the caldera and the rest of the great circle became visible. And then she was climbing down onto the last ledge, a bench only some five meters wide, with a curved back wall, shoulder-high: and below her dropped the great round chasm of Pavonis.

This caldera was one of the geological marvels of the solar system, a hole forty-five kilometers across and a full five kilometers deep, and almost perfectly regular in everyway — circular, flat-floored, almost vertically walled — a perfect cylinder of space, cut into the volcano like a rock sampler’s coring. None of the other three big calderas even approached this simplicity of form; Ascraeus and Olympus were complicated palimpsests of overlapping rings, while the very broad shallow caldera of Arsia was roughly circular, but shattered in every way. Pavonis alone was a regular cylinder: the Platonic ideal of a volcanic caldera.

Of course from this wonderful vantage point she now had, the horizontal stratification of the interior walls added a lot of irregular detail, rust and black and chocolate and umber bands indicating variations in the composition of the lava deposits; and some bands were harder than those above and below, so that there were many arcuate balconies lining the wall at different elevations — isolated curving benches, perched on the side of the immense rock throat, most never visited. And the floor so flat. The subsidence of the volcano’s magma chamber, located some 160 kilometers below the mountain, had to have been unusually consistent; it had dropped in the same place every time. Ann wondered if it had been determined yet why that had been; if the magma chamber had been younger than the other big volcanoes, or smaller, or the lava more homogenous… Probably someone had investigated the phenomenon; no doubt she could look it up on the wrist. She tapped out the code for the Journal of Analogical Studies, typed in Pavonis: “Evidence of Strombolian Explosive Activity Found in West Tharsis Clasts.” “Radial Ridges in Caldera and Concentric Graben Outside the Rim Suggest Late Subsidence of the Summit.” She had just crossed some of those graben. “Release of Juvenile Volatiles into Atmosphere Calculated by Radiometric Dating of Lastflow Mafics.”

She clicked off the wristpad. She no longer kept up with all the latest areology, she hadn’t for years. Even reading the abstracts would have taken far more time than she had. And of course a lot of areology had been badly compromised by the terraforming project. Scientists working for the metanats had concentrated on resource exploration and evaluation, and had found signs of ancient oceans, of the early warm wet atmosphere, possibly even of ancient life; on the other hand radical Red scientists had warned of increased seismic activity, rapid subsidence, mass wasting, and the disappearance of even a single surface sample left in its primal condition. Political stress had skewed nearly everything written about Mars in the past hundred years. The Journal was the only publication Ann knew of which tried to publish papers delimiting their inquiries very strictly to reporting areology in the pure sense, concentrating on what had happened in the five billion years of solitude; it was the only publication Ann still read, or at least glanced at, looking through the titles and some of the abstracts, and the editorial material at the front; once or twice she had even sent in a letter concerning some detail or other, which they had printed without fanfare. Published by the university in Sabishii, the Journal was peer-reviewed by like-minded areologists, and the articles were rigorous, well researched, and with no obvious political point to their conclusions; they were simply science. The Journal’s editorials advocated what had to be called a Red position, but only in the most limited sense, in that they argued for the preservation of the primal landscape so that studies could be carried on without having to deal with gross contaminations. This had been Ann’s position from the very start, and it was still where she felt most comfortable; she had moved from that scientific position into political activism only because it had been forced on her by the situation. This was true for a lot of areologists now supporting the Reds. They were her natural peer group, really — the people she understood, and with whom she sympathized.

But they were few; she could almost name them individually. The regular contributors to the Journal, more or less. As for the rest of the Reds, the Kakaze and the other radicals, what they advocated was a kind of metaphysical position, a cult — they were religious fanatics, the equivalent of Hi-roko’s greens, members of some kind of rock-worshiping sect. Ann had very little in common with them, when it came down to it; they formulated their redness from a completely different worldview.

And given that there was that kind of fractionization among the Reds themselves, what then could one say about the Martian independence movement as a whole? Well. They were going to fall out. It was happening already.

Ann sat down carefully on the edge of the final bench. A good view. It appeared there was a station of some kind down there on the caldera floor, though from five thousand meters up, it was hard to be sure. Even the ruins of old Sheffield were scarcely visible — ah — there they were, on the floor under the new town, a tiny pile of rubble with some straight lines and plane surfaces in it. Faint vertical scorings on the wall above might have been caused by fall of the city in ‘61. It was hard to say.

The tented settlements still on the rim were like toy villages in paperweights. Sheffield with its skyline, the low warehouses across from her to the east, Lastflow, the various smaller tents all around the rim… many of them had merged, to become a kind of greater Sheffield, covering almost 180 degrees of the rim, from Lastflow around to the southwest, where pistes followed the fallen cable down the long slope of west Tharsis to Amazonis Planitia. All the towns and stations would always be tented, because at twenty-seven kilometers high the air would always be a tenth as thick as it was at the datum — or sea level, one could now call it. Meaning the atmosphere up here was still only thirty or forty millibars thick.

Tent cities forever; but with the cable (she could not see it) spearing Sheffield, development would certainly continue, until they had built a tent city entirely ringing the caldera, looking down into it. No doubt they would then tent the caldera itself, and occupy the round floor — add about 1,500 square kilometers to the city, though it was a question who would want to live at the bottom of such a hole, like living at the bottom of a mohole, rock walls rising up around you as if you were in some circular roofless cathedral … perhaps it would appeal to some. The Bogdanovists had lived in moholes for years, after all. Grow forests, build climber’s huts or rather millionaires’ penthouses on the arcuate balcony ledges, cut staircases into the sides of the rock, install glass elevators that took all day to go up or down … rooftops, row houses, skyscrapers reaching up toward the rim, heliports on their flat round roofs, pistes, flying freeways … oh yes, the whole summit of Pa-vonis Mons, caldera and all, could be covered by the great world city, which was always growing, growing like a fungus over every rock in the solar system. Billions of people, trillions of people, quadrillions of people, all as close to immortal as they could make themselves…

She shook her head, in a great confusion of spirits. The radicals in Lastflow were not her people, not really, but unless they succeeded, the summit of Pavonis and everywhere else on Mars would become part of the great world city. She tried to concentrate on the view, she tried to feel it, the awe of the symmetrical formation, the love of rock hard under her bottom. Her feet hung over the edge of the bench, she kicked her heels against basalt; she could throw a pebble and it would fall five thousand meters. But she couldn’t concentrate. She couldn’t feel it. Petrification. So numb, for so long… She sniffed, shook her head, pulled her feet in over the edge. Walked back up to her rover.

She dreamed of the long run-out.The landslide was rolling across the floor of Melas Chasma, about to strike her. Everything visible with surreal clarity. Again she remembered Simon, again she groaned and got off the little dike, going through the motions, appeasing a dead man inside her, feeling awful. The ground was vibrating—

She woke, by her own volition she thought — escaping, running away — but there was a hand, pulling hard on her arm.

“Ann, Ann, Ann.”

It was Nadia. Another surprise. Ann struggled up, disoriented. “Where are we?”

“Pavonis, Ann. The revolution. I came over and woke you because a fight has broken out between Kasei’s Reds and the greens in Sheffield.”

The present rolled over her like the landslide in her dream. She jerked out of Nadia’s grasp, groped for her shirt. “Wasn’t my rover locked?”

“I broke in.”

“Ah.” Ann stood up, still foggy, getting more annoyed the more she understood the situation. “Now what happened?”

“They launched missiles at the cable.”

“They did!” Another jolt, further clearing away the fog. “And?”

“It didn’t work. The cable’s defense systems shot them down. They’ve got a lot of hardware up there now, and they’re happy to be able to use it at last. But now the Reds are moving into Sheffield from the west, firing more rockets, and the UN forces on Clarke are bombing the first launch sites, over on Ascraeus, and they’re threatening to bomb every armed force down here. This is just what they wanted. And the Reds think it’s going to be like Burroughs, obviously, they’re trying to force the action. So I came to you. Look, Ann, I know we’ve been fighting a lot. I haven’t been very, you know, patient, but look, this is just too much. Everything could fall apart at the last minute — the UN could decide the situation here is anarchy, and come up from Earth and try to take over again.”

“Where are they?” Ann croaked. She pulled on pants, went to the bathroom. Nadia followed her right in. This too was a surprise; in Underbill it might have been normal between them, but it had been a long long time since Nadia had followed her into a bathroom talking obsessively while Ann washed her face and sat down and peed. “They’re still based in Lastflow, but now they’ve cut the rim piste and the one to Cairo, and they’re fighting in west Sheffield, and around the Socket. Reds fighting greens.”

“Yes yes.”

“So will you talk to the Reds, will you stop them?”

A sudden fury swept through Ann. “You drove them to this,” she shouted in Nadia’s face, causing Nadia to crash back into the door. Ann got up and took a step toward Nadia and yanked her pants up, shouting still: “You and your smug stupid terraforming, it’s all green green green green, with never a hint of compromise! It’s just as much your fault as theirs, since they have no hope!”

“Maybe so,” Nadia said mulishly. Clearly she didn’t care about that, it was the past and didn’t matter; she waved it aside and would not be swerved from her point: “But will you try?”

Ann stared at her stubborn old friend, at this moment almost youthful with fear, utterly focused and alive.

“I’ll do what I can,” Ann said grimly. “But from what you say, it’s already too late.”

* * *

It was indeed too late. The rover camp Ann had been staying in was deserted, and when she got on the wrist and called around, she got no answers. So she left Nadia and the rest of them stewing in the east Pavonis warehouse complex, and drove her rover around to Lastflow, hoping to find some of the Red leaders based there. But Lastflow had been abandoned by the Reds, and none of the locals knew where they had gone. People were watching TVs in the stations and cafe windows, but when Ann looked too she saw no news of the fighting, not even on Mangalavid. A feeling of desperation began to seep into her grim mood; she wanted to do something but did not know how. She tried her wrist-pad again, and to her surprise Kasei answered on their private band. His face in the little image looked shockingly like John Boone’s, so much so that in her confusion Ann didn’t at first hear what he said. He looked so happy, it was John to the life!

“…had to do it,” he was telling her. Ann wondered if she had asked him about that. “If we don’t do something they’ll tear this world apart. They’ll garden it right to the tops of the big four.”

This echoed Ann’s thoughts on the ledge enough to shock her again, but she collected herself and said, “We’ve got to work within the framework of the discussions, Kasei, or else we’ll start a civil war.”

“We’re a minority, Ann. The framework doesn’t care about minorities.”

“I’m not so sure. That’s what we have to work on. And even if we do decide on active resistance, it doesn’t have to be here and now. It doesn’t have to be Martians killing Martians.”

“They’re not Martian.” There was a glint in his eye, his expression was Hiroko-like in its distance from the ordinary world. In that sense he was not like John at all. The worst of both parents; and so they had another prophet, speaking a new language.

“Where are you now?”

“West Sheffield.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Take the Socket, and then bring down the cable. We’re the ones with the weapons and the experience. I don’t think we’ll have much trouble.”

“You didn’t bring it down first try.”

“Too fancy. We’ll just chop it down this time.”

“I thought that wasn’t the way to do it.”

“It’ll work.”

“Kasei, I think we need to negotiate with the greens.”

He shook his head, impatient with her, disgusted that she had lost her nerve when push came to shove. “After the cable is down we’ll negotiate. Look Ann, I’ve gotta go. Stay out of the fall line.”


But he was gone. No one listened to her — not her enemies, not her friends, not her family — though she would have to call Peter. She would have to try Kasei again. She needed to be there in person, to get his attention as she had Nadia’s — yes, it had come to that: to get their attention she had to shout right in their faces.

The possibility of getting blocked around east Pavonis kept her going west from Lastflow, circling counterclockwise as she had the day before, to come on the Red force from its rear, no doubt the best approach anyway. It was about a 150-kilometer drive from Lastflow to the western edge of Sheffield, and as she sped around the summit, just outside the piste, she spent the time trying to call the various forces on the mountain, with no success. Explosive static marked the fight for Sheffield, and memories of ‘61 erupted with these brutal bursts of white noise, frightening her; she drove the rover as fast as it would go, keeping it on the piste’s narrow outside apron to make the ride smoother and faster — a hundred kilometers per hour, then faster — racing, really, to try to stave off the disaster of a civil war — there was a terrible dreamlike quality to it. And especially in that it was too late, too late. In moments like these she was always too late. In the sky over the caldera, starred clouds appeared instantaneously — explosions, without a doubt missiles fired at the cable and shot down in midflight, in white puffs like incompetent fireworks, clustered over Sheffield and peaking in the region of the cable, but puffing into existence all over the vast summit, then drifting off east on the.jet stream. Some of those rockets were getting nailed a long way from their target.

Looking up at the battle overhead she almost drove into the first tent of west Sheffield, which was already punctured. As the town had grown westward new tents had attached to the previous ones like lobes of pillow lava; now the construction moraines outside the latest tent were littered with bits of framework, like shards of glass, and the tent fabric was missing in the remaining soccer-ball shapes. Her rover bounced wildly over a mound of basalt rubble; she braked, drove slowly up to the wall. The vehicle lock doors were stuck shut. She put on her suit and helmet, ducked into the rover’s own lock, left the car. Heart pounding hard, she walked up to the city wall and climbed over it into Sheffield.

The streets were deserted. Glass and bricks and bamboo shards and twisted magnesium beams lay scattered on the streetgrass. At this elevation, tent failure caused flawed buildings to pop like balloons; windows gaped empty and dark, and here and there complete rectangles of unbroken windows lay scattered, like great clear shields. And there was a body, face frosted or dusted. There would be a lot of dead, people weren’t used to thinking about decompression anymore, it was an old settlers’ worry. But not today.

Ann kept walking east. “Look for Kasei or Dao or Marion or Peter,” she said to her wrist again and again. But no one replied.

She followed a narrow street just inside the southern wall of the tent. Harsh sunlight, sharp-edged black shadows. Some buildings had held, their windows in place, their lights on inside. No one to be seen in them, of course. Ahead the cable was just visible, a black vertical stroke rising into the sky out of east Sheffield, like a geometric line become visible in their reality.

The Red emergency band was a signal transmitted in a rapidly varying wavelength, synchronized for everyone who had the current encryption. This system cut through some kinds of radio jamming very well; nevertheless Ann was surprised when a crow voice cawed from her wrist, “Ann, it’s Dao. Up here.”

He was actually in sight, waving at her from a doorway into a building’s little emergency lock. He and a group of some twenty people were working with a trio of mobile rocket launchers out in the street. Ann ran over to them, ducked into the doorway beside Dao. “This has to stop!” she cried.

Dao looked surprised. “We’ve almost got the Socket.”

“But what then?”

“Talk to Kasei about that. He’s up ahead, going for Arsiaview.”

One of their rockets whooshed away, its noise faint in the thin air. Dao was back at it. Ann ran forward up the street, keeping as close as she could to the buildings siding it. It was obviously dangerous, but at that moment she didn’t care if she was killed or not, so she had no fear. Peter was somewhere in Sheffield, in command of the green revolutionaries who had been there from the beginning. These people had been efficient enough to keep the UNTA security forces trapped on the cable and up on Clarke, so they were by no means the hapless pacifistic young native street demonstrators that Kasei and Dao seemed to have assumed they were. Her spiritual children, mounting an attack on her only actual child, in complete confidence that they had her blessing. As once they had. But now —

She struggled to keep running, her breath hard and ragged, the sweat beginning to flood through all over her skin. She hurried to the south tent wall, where she came on a little fleet of Red boulder cars, Turtle Rocks from the Acheron car manufactory. But no one inside them answered her calls, and when she looked closer she saw that their rock roofs were punctured by holes at their fronts, where the windshields would have been, underneath the rock overhang. Anyone inside them was dead. She ran on eastward, staying against the tent wall, heedless of debris underfoot, feeling a rising panic. She was aware that a single shot from anyone could kill her, but she had to find Kasei. She tried again over the wrist.

While she was at it, a call came in to her. It was Sax.

“It isn’t logical to connect the fate of the elevator with terraforming goals,” he was saying, as if he was speaking to more people than just her. “The cable could be tethered to quite a cold planet.”

It was the usual Sax, the all-too-Sax: but then he must have noticed she was on, because he stared owlishly into his wrist’s little camera and said, “Listen Ann, we can take history by the arm and break it — make it. Make it new.”

Her old Sax would never have said that. Nor chattered on at her, clearly distraught, pleading, visibly nerve-racked; one of the most frightening sights she had ever seen, actually: “They love you, Ann. It’s that that can save us. Emotional histories are the true histories. Watersheds of desire and devolution — devotion. You’re the — the personification of certain values — for the natives. You can’t escape that. You have to act with that. I did it in Da Vinci, and it proved — helpful. Now it’s your turn. You must. You must — Ann — just this once you must join us all. Hang together or hang separately. Use your iconic value.”

So strange to hear such stuff from Saxifrage Russell. But then he shifted again, he seemed to pull himself together. “… logical procedure is to establish some kind of equation for conflicting interests.” Just like his old self.

Then there was a beep from her wrist and she cut Sax off, and answered the incoming call. It was Peter, there on the Red coded frequency, a black expression on his face that she had never seen before.

“Ann!” He stared intently at his own wristpad. “Listen, Mother — I want you to stop these people!”

“Don’t you Mother me,” she snapped. “I’m trying. Can you tell me where they are?”

“I sure as hell can. They’ve just broken into the Arsiaview tent. Moving through — it looks like they’re trying to come up on the Socket from the south.” Grimly he took a message from someone off-camera. “Right.” He looked back at her. “Ann, can I patch you into Hastings up on Clarke? If you tell him you’re trying to stop the Red attack, then he may believe that it’s only a few extremists, and stay out of it. He’s going to do what he has to to keep the cable up, and I’m afraid he’s about to kill us all.”

“I’ll talk to him.”

And there he was, a face from the deep past, a time lost to Ann she would have said; and yet he was instantly familiar, a thin-faced man, harried, angry, on the edge of snapping. Could anyone have sustained such enormous pressures for the past hundred years? No. It was just that kind of time, come back again.

“I’m Ann Clayborne,” she said, and as his face twisted even further, she added, “I want you to know that the fighting going on down here does not represent Red party policy.”

Her stomach clamped as she said this, and she tasted chyme at the back of her throat. But she went on: “It’s the work of a splinter group, called the Kakaze. They’re the ones who broke the Burroughs dike. We’re trying to shut them down, and expect to succeed by the end of the day.”

It was the most awful string of lies she had ever said. She felt like Frank Chalmers had come down and taken over her mouth, she couldn’t stand the sensation of such words on her tongue. She cut the connection before her face betrayed what falsehoods she was vomiting. Hastings disappeared without having said a word, and his face was replaced by Peter’s, who did not know she was back on-line; she could hear him but his wristpad was facing a wall, “If they don’t stop on their own we’ll have to do it ourselves, or else UNTA will and it’ll all go to hell. Get everything ready for a counterattack, I’ll give the word.”

“Peter!” she said without thinking.

The picture on the little screen swung around, came onto his face.

“You deal with Hastings,” she choked out, barely able to look at him, traitor that he was. “I’m going for Kasei.”

Arsiaview was the southernmost tent, filled now with smoke, which snaked overhead in long amorphous lines that revealed the tent’s ventilation patterns. Alarms were ringing everywhere, loud in the still-thick air, and shards of clear framework plastic were scattered on the green grass of the street. Ann stumbled past a body curled just like the figures modeled in ash in Pompeii. Arsiaview was narrow but long, and it was not obvious where she should go. The whoosh of rocket launchers led her eastward toward the Socket, the magnet of the madness — like a monopole, discharging Earth’s insanity onto them.

There might be a plan revealed here; the cable’s defenses seemed to be capable of handling the Reds’ lightweight missiles, but if the attackers thoroughly destroyed Sheffield and the Socket, then there would be nothing for UNTA to come down to, and so it would not matter if the cable remained swinging overhead. It was a plan that mirrored the one used to deal with Burroughs.

But it was a bad plan. Burroughs was down in the lowlands, where there was an atmosphere, where people could live outside, at least for a while. Sheffield was high, and so they were back in the past, back in ‘61 when a broken tent meant the end for everyone in it exposed to thfe elements. At the same time most of Sheffield was underground, in many stacked floors against the wall of the caldera. Undoubtedly most of the population had retreated down there, and if the fighting tried to follow them it would be impossible, a nightmare. But up on the surface where fighting was possible, people were exposed to fire from the cable above. No, it wouldn’t work. It wasn’t even possible to see what was happening. There were more explosions near the Socket, static over the intercom, isolated words as the receiver caught bits of other coded frequencies cycling through: “ — taken Arsiaviewpkkkkkk — ” “We need the AI back but I’d say x-axis three two two, y-axis eightpkkkkk — ”

Then another barrage of missiles must have been launched at the cable, for overhead Ann caught sight of an ascending line of brilliant explosions of light, no sound to them at all; but after that, big black fragments rained down on the tents around her, crashing through the invisible fabrics or smashing onto the invisible framework, then falling the last distance onto the buildings like the dropped masses of wrecked vehicles, loud despite the thin air and the intervening tents, the ground vibrating and jerking under her feet. It went on for minutes, with the fragments falling farther outward all the time, and any second in all those minutes could have brought death down on her. She stood looking up at the dark sky, and waited it out.

Things stopped falling. She had been holding her breath, and she breathed. Peter had the Red code, and so she called his number and tapped in a patch attempt, heard only static. But as she was turning down the volume in her earphones, she caught some garbled half phrases — Peter, describing Red movements to green forces, or perhaps even to UNTA. Who could then fire rockets from the cable defense systems down onto them. Yes, that was Peter’s voice, bits of it all cut with static. Calling the shots. Then it was only static.

At the base of the elevator brief flashes of explosive light transformed the lower part of the cable from black to silver, then back to black again. Every alarm inside Arsiaview began ringing or howling. All the smoke whipped away toward the east end of the tent. Ann got into a north-south alley and leaned back against the east wall of a building, flat against concrete. No windows on the alley. Booms, crashes, wind. Then the silence of near airlessness.

She got up and wandered through the tent. Where did one go when people were being killed? Find your friends if you can. If you can tell who they are.

She collected herself and continued looking for Kasei’s group, going to where Dao had said they would be, and then trying to think where they would go next. Outside the city was a possibility; but having come inside they might try for the next tent to the east, try to take them one by one, decompress them, force everyone below and then move on. She stayed on the street paralleling the tent wall, jogging along as fast as she could. She was in good shape but this was ridiculous, she couldn’t catch her breath, and she was soaking the inside of her suit with sweat. The street was deserted, eerily silent and still, so that it was hard to believe she was in the middle of a battle, and impossible to believe she would ever find the group for which she was looking.

But there they were. Up ahead, in the streets around one of the triangular parks — figures in helmets and suits, carrying automatic weapons and mobile missile launchers, firing at unseen opponents in a building fronted with chert. The red circles on their arms, Reds —

A blinding flash and she was knocked down. Her ears roared. She was at the foot of a building, pressed against its polished stone side. Jaspilite: red jasper and iron oxide, in alternating bands. Pretty. Her back and bottom and shoulder hurt, and her elbow. But nothing was agonizing. She could move. She crawled around, looked back to the triangle park. Things were burning in the wind, the flames little oxygen-starved orange spurts, going out already. The figures there were cast about like broken dolls, limbs akimbo, in positions no bones could hold. She got up and ran to the nearest knot of them, drawn by a familiar gray-haired head that had come free of its helmet. That was Kasei, only son of John Boone and Hiroko Ai, one side of his jaw bloody, his eyes open and sightless. He had taken her too seriously. And his opponents not seriously enough. His pink stone eyetooth lay there exposed by his wound, and seeing it Ann choked and turned away. The waste. All three of them dead now.

She turned back and crouched, undipped Kasei’s wrist-pad. It was likely that he had a direct access band to the Kakaze, and when she was back in the shelter of an obsidian building marred by great white shatterstars, she tapped in the general call code, and said, “This is Ann Clayborne, calling all Reds. All Reds. Listen, this is Ann Clayborne. The attack on Sheffield has failed. Kasei is dead, along with a lot of others. More attacks here won’t work. They’ll cause the full UNTA security force to come back down onto the planet again.” She wanted to say how stupid the plan had been in the first place, but she choked back the words. “Those of you who can, get off the mountain. Everyone in Sheffield, get back to the west and get out of the city, and off the mountain. This is Ann Clayborne.”

Several acknowledgments came in, and she half listened to them as she walked west, back throtfgh Arsiaview toward her rover. She made no attempt to hide; if she was killed she was killed, but now she didn’t believe it would happen; she walked under the wings of some dark covering angel, who kept her from death no matter what happened, forcing her to witness the deaths of all the people she knew and all the planet she loved. Her fate. Yes; there was Dao and his crew, all dead right where she had left them, lying in pools of their own blood. She must have just missed it.

And there, down a broad boulevard with a line of linden trees in its center, was another knot of bodies — not Reds — they wore green headbands, and one of them looked like Peter, it was his back — she walked over weak-kneed, under a compulsion, as in a nightmare, and stood over the body and finally circled it. But it was not Peter. Some tall young native with shoulders like Peter’s, poor thing. A man who would have lived a thousand years.

She moved on carelessly. She came to her little rover without incident, got in and drove to the train terminal at the west end of Sheffield. There a piste ran down the south slope of Pavonis, into the saddle between Pavonis and Arsia. Seeing it she conceived a plan, very simple and basic, but workable because of that. She got on the Kakaze band and made her recommendations as though they were orders. Run away, disappear. Go down into South Saddle, then around Arsia on the western slope above the snowline, there to slip into the upper end of Aganippe Fossa, a long straight canyon that contained a hidden Red refuge, a cliff dwelling in the northern wall. There they could hide and hide and start another long underground campaign, against the new masters of the planet. UNOMA, UNTA, metanat, Dorsa Brevia — they were all green.

She tried calling Coyote, and was somewhat surprised when he answered. He was somewhere in Sheffield as well, she could tell; lucky to be alive no doubt, a bitter furious expression on his cracked face.

Ann told him her plan; he nodded.

“After a time they’ll need to get farther away,” he said.

Ann couldn’t help it: “It was stupid to attack the cable!”

“I know,” Coyote said wearily.

“Didn’t you try to talk them out of it?”

“I did.” His expression grew blacker. “Kasei’s dead?”


Coyote’s face twisted with grief. “Ah, God. Those bastards.”

Ann had nothing to say. She had not known Kasei well, or liked him much. Coyote on the other hand had known him from birth, back in Hiroko’s hidden colony, and from boyhood had taken him along on his furtive expeditions all over Mars. Now tears coursed down the deep wrinkles on Coyote’s cheeks, and Ann clenched her teeth.

“Can you get them down to Aganippe?” she asked. “I’ll stay and deal with the people in east Pavonis.”

Coyote nodded. “I’ll get them down as fast as I can. Meet at west station.”

“I’ll tell them that.”

“The greens will be mad at you.”

“Fuck the greens.”

Some part of the Kakaze snuck into the west terminal of Sheffield, in the light of a smoky dull sunset: small groups wearing blackened dirty walkers, their faces white and frightened, angry, disoriented, in shock. Wasted. Eventually there were three or four hundred of them, sharing the day’s bad news. When Coyote slipped in the back, Ann rose and spoke in a voice just loud enough to carry to all of them, aware as she never had been in her life of her position as the first Red; of what that meant, now. These people had taken her seriously and here they were, beaten and lucky to be alive, with dead friends everywhere in the town east of them.

“A direct assault was a bad idea,” she said, unable to help herself. “It worked in Burroughs, but that was a different kind of situation. Here it failed. People who might have lived a thousand years are dead. The cable wasn’t worth that. We’re going to go into hiding and wait for our next chance, our next real chance.”

There were hoarse objections to this, angry shouts: “No! No! Never! Bring down the cable!”

Ann waited them out. Finally she raised a hand, and slowly they went silent again.

“It could backfire all too easily if we fight the greens now. It could give the metanats an excuse to come in again. That would be far worse than dealing with a native government. With Martians we can at least talk. The environmental part of the Dorsa Brevia agreement gives us some leverage. We’ll just have to keep working as best we can. Start somewhere else. Do you understand?”

This morning they wouldn’t have. Now they still didn’t want to. She waited out the protesting voices, stared them down. The intense, cross-eyed glare of Ann Clayborne… A lot of them had joined the fight because of her, back in the days when the enemy was the enemy, and the underground an actual working alliance, loose and fractured but with all its elements more or less on the same side…

They bowed their heads, reluctantly accepting that if Clayborne was against them, their moral leadership was gone. And without that — without Kasei, without Dao — with the bulk of the natives green, and firmly behind the leadership of Nirgal and Jackie, and Peter the traitor…

“Coyote will get you off Tharsis,” Ann said, feeling sick. She left the room, walked through the terminal and out the lock, back into her rover. Kasei’s wristpad lay on the car’s dashboard, and she threw it across the compartment, sobbed. She sat in the driver’s seat and composed herself, and then started the car and went looking for Nadia and Sax and all the rest.

Eventually she found herself back in east Pavonis, and there they were, all still in the warehouse complex; when she walked in the door they stared at her as if the attack on the cable had been her idea, as if she was personally responsible for everything bad that had happened, both on that day and throughout the revolution — just as they had stared at her after Burroughs, in fact. Peter was actually there, the traitor, and she veered away from him, and ignored the rest, or tried to, Irishka frightened, Jackie red-eyed and furious, her father killed this day after all, and though she was in Peter’s camp and so partly responsible for the crushing response to the Red offensive, you could see with one look at her that someone would pay — but Ann ignored all that, and walked across the room to Sax — who was in his nook in the far corner of the big central room, sitting before a screen reading long columns of figures, muttering things to his AI. Ann waved a hand between his face and his screen and he looked up, startled.

Strangely, he was the only one of the whole crowd who did not appear to blame her. Indeed he regarded her with his head tilted to the side, with a birdlike curiosity that almost resembled sympathy.

“Bad news about Kasei,” he said. “Kasei and all the rest. I’m glad that you and Desmond survived.”

She ignored that, and told him in a rapid undertone where the Reds were going, and what she had told them to do. “I think I can keep them from trying any more direct attacks on the cable,” she said. “And from most acts of violence, at least in the short term.”

“Good,” Sax said.

“But I want something for it,” she said. “I want it and if I don’t get it, I’ll set them on you forever.”

“The soletta?” Sax asked.

She stared at him. He must have listened to her more often than she had thought. “Yes.”

His eyebrows came together as he thought it over. “It could cause a kind of ice age,” he said.


He stared at her as he thought about it. She could see him doing it, in quick flashes or bursts: ice age — thinner atmosphere — terraforming slowed — new ecosystems destroyed — perhaps compensate — greenhouse gases. And so on and so forth. It was almost funny how she could read this stranger’s face, this hated brother looking for a way out. He would look and look, but heat was the main driver of terraforming, and with the huge orbiting array of mirrors in the soletta gone, they would be at least restricted to Mars’s normal level of sunlight, thus slowed to a more “natural” pace. It was possible that the inherent stability of that approach even appealed to Sax’s conservatism, such as it was.

“Okay,” he said.

“You can speak for these people?” she said, waving disdainfully at the crowd behind them, as if all her oldest companions were not among them, as if they were UNTA technocrats or metanat functionaries…

“No,” he said. “I only speak for me. But I can get rid of the soletta.”

“You’d do it against their wishes?”

He frowned. “I think I can talk them into it. If not, I know I can talk the Da Vinci team into it. They like challenges.”


It was the best she could get from him, after all. She straightened up, still nonplussed. She hadn’t expected him to agree. And now that he had, she discovered that she was still angry, still sick at heart. This concession — now that she had it, it meant nothing. They would figure out other ways to heat things. Sax would make his argument using that point, no doubt. Give the soletta to Ann, he would say, as a way of buying off the Reds. Then forge on.

She walked out of the big room without a glance at the others. Out of the warehouses to her rover.

For a while she drove blindly, without any sense of where she was going. Just get away, just escape. Thus by accident she headed westward, and in short order she had to stop or run over the rim’s edge.

Abruptly she braked the car.

In a daze she looked out the windshield. Bitter taste in her mouth, guts all knotted, every muscle tense and aching. The great encircling rim of the caldera was smoking at several points, chiefly from Sheffield and Lastflow, but also from a dozen other places as well. No sight of the cable over Sheffield — but it was still there, marked by a concentration of smoke around its base, lofting east on the thin hard wind. Another peak banner, blown on the endless jet stream. Time was a wind sweeping them away. The plumes of smoke marred the dark sky, obscuring some of the many stars that shone in the hour before sunset. It looked like the old volcano was waking again, rousing from its long dormancy and preparing to erupt. Through the thin smoke the sun was a dark red glowing ball, looking much like an early molten planet must have looked, its color staining the shreds of smoke maroon and rust and crimson. Red Mars.

But red Mars was gone, and gone for good. Soletta or not, ice age or not, the biosphere would grow and spread until it covered everything, with an ocean in the north, and lakes in the south, and streams, forests, prairies, cities and roads, oh she saw it all; white clouds raining mud on the ancient highlands while the uncaring masses built their cities as fast as they could, the long run-out of civilization burying her world.



To Sax it looked like that least rational of conflicts, civil war. Two parts of a group shared many more interests than disagreements, but fought anyway. Unfortunately it was not possible to force people to study cost-benefit analysis. Nothing to be done. Or — possibly one could identify a crux issue causing one or both sides to resort to violence. After that, try to defuse that issue.

Clearly in this case a crux issue was terraforming. A matter with which Sax was closely identified. This could be viewed as a disadvantage, as a mediator ought ideally to be neutral. On the other hand, his actions might speak symbolically for the terra-forming effort itself. He might accomplish more with a symbolic gesture than anyone else. What was needed was a concession to the Reds, a real concession, the reality of which would increase its symbolic value by some hidden exponential factor. Symbolic value: it was a concept Sax was trying very hard to understand. Words of all kinds gave him trouble now, so much so that he had taken to etymology to try to understand them better. A glance at the wrist: symbol, “something that stands for something else,” from the Latin symbolum, adopted from a Greek word meaning “throw together. “Exactly. It was alien to his understanding, this throwing together, a thing emotional and even unreal, and yet vitally important.

The afternoon of the battle for Sheffield, he called Ann on the wrist and got her briefly, and tried to talk to her, and failed. So he drove to the edge of the city’s wreckage, not knowing what else to do, looking for her. It was very disturbing to see how much damage a few hours’ fighting could do. Many years of work lay in smoking shambles, the smoke not fire ash particulates for the most part but merely disturbed fines, old volcanic ash blown up and then torn east on the jet stream. The cable stuck out of the ruins like a black line of carbon nanotube fibers.

There was no sign of any further Red resistance. Thus no way of locating Ann. She was not answering her phone. So Sax returned to the warehouse complex in east Pavonis, feeling balked. He went back inside.

And then there she was, in the vast warehouse walking through the others toward him as if about to plunge a knife in his heart. He sank in his seat unhappily, remembering an overlong sequence of unpleasant interviews between them. Most recently they had argued on the train ride out of Libya Station. He recalled her saying something about removing the soletta and the annular minor; which would be a very powerful symbolic statement indeed. And he had never been comfortable with such a major element of the terraforming’s heat input being so fragile.

So when she said “I want something for it,” he thought he knew what she meant, and suggested removing the minors before she could. This surprised her. It slowed her down, it took the edge off her terrible anger. Leaving something very much deeper, however — grief, despair- — he could not be sure. Certainly a lot of Reds had died that day, and Red hopes as well. “I’m sorry about Ka-sei,” he said.

She ignored that, and made him promise to remove the space minors. He did, meanwhile calculating the loss of light that would result, then trying to keep a wince off his face. Insolation would drop by about twenty percent, a very substantial amount indeed. “It will start an ice age,” he muttered.

“Good,” she said.

But she was not satisfied. And as she left the room, he could see by the set of her shoulders that his concession had done little if anything to comfort her. One could only hope her cohorts were more easily pleased. In any case it would have to be done. It might stop a civil war. Of course a great number of plants would die, mostly at the higher elevations, though it would affect every ecosystem to some extent. An ice age, no doubt about it. Unless they reacted very effectively. But it would be worth it, if it stopped the fighting.

It would have been easyto just cut the great band of the annular mirror and let it fly away into space, right out of the plane of the ecliptic. Same with the soletta: fire a few of its positioning rockets and it would spin away like a Catherine wheel.

But that would be a waste of processed aluminum silicate, which Sax did not like to see. He decided to investigate the possibility of using the mirrors’ directional rockets, and their reflectivity, to propel them elsewhere in the solar system. The soletta could be located in front of Venus, and its mirrors realigned so that the structure became a huge parasol, shading the hot planet and starting the process of freezing out its atmosphere; this was something that had been discussed in the literature for a long time, and no matter what the various plans for terraforming Venus included, this was the standard first step. Then having done that, the annular mirror would have to be placed in the corresponding polar orbit around Venus, as its reflected light helped to hold the soletta/parasol in its position against the push of solar radiation. So the two would still be put to use, and it would also be a gesture, another symbolic gesture, saying Look here — this big world might be terraformable too. It wouldn’t be easy, but it was possible. Thus some of the psychic pressure on Mars, “the only other possible Earth,” might be relieved. This was not logical, but it didn’t matter; history was strange, people were not rational systems, and in the peculiar symbolic logic of the limbic system, it would be a sign to the people on Earth, a portent, a scattering of psychic seed, a throwing together. Look there! Go there! And leave Mars alone.

So he talked it over with the Da Vinci space scientists, who had effectively taken over control of the mirrors. The lab rats, people called them behind their backs, and his (though he heard anyway); the lab rats, or the saxaclones. Serious young native Martian scientists, in fact, with just the same variations of temperament as grad students and postdocs in any lab anywhere, anytime; but the facts didn’t matter. They worked with him and so they were the saxaclones. Somehow he had become the very model of the modern Martian scientist; first as white-coated lab rat, then as full-blown mad scientist, with a crater-castle full of eager Igors, mad-eyed but measured in manner, little Mr. Spocks, the men as skinny and awkward as cranes on the ground, the women drab in their protective noncoloration, their neuter devotion to Science. Sax was very fond of them. He liked their devotion to science, it made sense to him — an urge to understand things, to be able to express them mathematically. It was a sensible desire. In fact it often seemed to him that if everyone were a physicist then they would be very much better off. “Ah, no, people like the idea of a flat universe because they find negatively curved space difficult to deal with.” Well, perhaps not. In any case the young natives at Da Vinci Crater were a powerful group, strange or not. At this point Da Vinci was in charge of a lot of the underground’s technological base, and with Spencer fully engaged there, their production capability was staggering. They had engineered the revolution, if the truth were told, and were now in de facto control of Martian orbital space.

This was one reason why many of them looked displeased or at least nonplussed when Sax first told them about the removal of the soletta and annular mirror. He did it in a screen meeting, and their faces squinched into expressions of alarm: Captain, it is not logical. But neither was civil war. And the one was better than the other.

“Won’t people object?” Aonia asked. “The greens?”

“No doubt,” Sax said. “But right now we exist in, in anarchy. The group in east Pavonis is a kind of proto-government, perhaps. But we in Da Vinci control Mars space. And no matter the objections, this might avert civil war.”

He explained as best he could. They got absorbed in the technical challenge, in the problem pure and simple, and quickly forgot their shock at the idea. In fact giving them a technical challenge of that sort was like giving a dog a bone. They went away gnawing at the tough parts of the problem, and just a few days later they were down to the smooth polished gleam of procedure. Mostly a matter of instructions to AIs, as usual. It was getting to the point where having conceived a clear idea of what one wanted to do, one could just say to an AI, “please do thus and such” — please spin the soletta and annular mirror into Venusian orbit, and adjust the slats of the soletta so that it becomes a parasol shielding the planet from all of its incoming insolation; and the AIs would calculate the trajectories and the rocket firings and the mirror angles necessary, and it would be done.

People were becoming too powerful, perhaps. Michel always went on about their godlike new powers, and Hiroko in her actions had implied that there should be no limit to what they tried with these new powers, ignoring all tradition. Sax himself had a healthy respect for tradition, as a kind of default survival behavior. But the techs in Da Vinci cared no more for tradition than Hiroko had. They were in an open moment in history, accountable to no one. And so they did it.

Then Sax went to Michel. “I’m worried about Ann.” They were in a corner of the big warehouse on east Pavonis, and the movement and clangor of the crowd created a kind of privacy. But after a look around Michel said, “Let’s go outside.”

They suited up and went out. East Pavonis was a maze of tents, warehouses, manufactories, pistes, parking lots, pipelines, holding tanks, holding yards; also junkyards and scrap heaps, their mechanical detritus scattered about like volcanic ejecta. But Michel led Sax westward through the mess, and they came quickly to the caldera rim, where the human clutter was put into a new and larger context, a logarithmic shift that left the pharaonic collection of artifacts suddenly looking like a patch of bacterial growth.

At the very edge of the rim, the blackish speckled basalt cracked down in several concentric ledges, each lower than the last. A set of staircases led down these terraces, and the lowest was railed. Michel led Sax down to this terrace, where they could look over the side into the caldera. Straight down for five kilometers. The caldera’s large diameter made it seem less deep than that; still it was an entire round country down there, far far below. And when Sax remembered how small the caldera was proportional to the volcano entire, Pavonis itself seemed to bulk under them like a conical continent, rearing right up out of the planet’s atmosphere into low space. Indeed the sky was only purple around the horizon, and blackish overhead, with the sun a hard gold coin in the west, casting clean slantwise shadows. They could see it all. The fines thrown up by the explosions were gone, everything returned to its normal telescopic clarity. Stone and sky and nothing more — except for the thread of buildings cast around the rim. Stone and sky and sun. Ann’s Mars. Except for the buildings. And on Ascraeus and Arsia and Elysium, and even on Olympus, the buildings would not be there.

“We could easily declare everything above about eight kilometers a primal wilderness zone,” Sax said. “Keep it like this forever.”

“Bacteria?” Michel asked. “Lichen?”

“Probably. But do they matter?”

“To Ann they do.”

“But why, Michel? Why is she like that?”

Michel shrugged.

After a long pause he said, “No doubt it is complex. But I think it is a denial of life. A turning to rock as something she could trust. She was mistreated as a girl, did you know that?”

Sax shook his head. He tried to imagine what that meant.

Michel said, “Her father died. Her mother married her stepfather when she was eight. From then on he mistreated her, until she was sixteen, when she moved to the mother’s sister. I’ve asked her what the mistreatment consisted of, but she says she doesn’t want to talk about it. Abuse is abuse, she said. She doesn’t remember much anyway, she says.”

“I believe that.”

Michel waggled a gloved hand. “We remember more than we think we do. More than we want to, sometimes.”

They stood there looking into the caldera.

“It’s hard to believe,” Sax said.

Michel looked glum. “Is it? There were fifty women in the First Hundred. Odds are more than one of them were abused by men in their lives. More like ten or fifteen, if the statistics are to be believed. Sexually violated, struck, mistreated … that’s just the way it was.”

“It’s hard to believe.”


Sax recalled hitting Phyllis in the jaw, knocking her senseless with a single blow. There had been a certain satisfaction in that. He had needed to do it, though. Or so it had felt at the time.

“Everyone has their reasons,” Michel said, startling him. “Or so they think.” He tried to explain — tried, in his usual Michel fashion, to make it something other than plain evil. “At the base of human culture,” he said as he looked down into the country of the caldera, “is a neurotic response to people’s earliest psychic wounds. Before birth and during infancy people exist in a narcissistic oceanic bliss, in which the individual is the universe. Then sometime in late infancy we come to the awareness that we are separate individuals, different from our mother and everyone else. This is a blow from which we never completely recover. There are several neurotic strategies used to try to deal with it. First, merging back into the mother. Then denying the mother, and shifting our ego ideal to the father — this strategy often lasts forever, and the people of that culture worship their king and their father god, and so on. Or the ego ideal might shift again, to abstract ideas, or to the brotherhood of men. There are names and full descriptions for all these complexes — the Dionysian, the Persean, the Apollonian, the Heraclean. They all exist, and they are all neurotic, in that they all lead to misogyny, except for the Dionysian complex.”

“This is one of your semantic rectangles?” Sax asked apprehensively.

“Yes. The Apollonian and the Heraclean complexes might describe Terran industrial societies. The Persean its earlier cultures, with strong remnants of course right up to this day. And they are all three patriarchal. They all denied the maternal, which was connected in patriarchy with the body and with nature. The feminine was instinct, the body, and nature; while the masculine was reason, mind, and law. And the law ruled.”

Sax, fascinated by so much throwing together, said only, “And on Mars?”

“Well, on Mars it may be that the ego ideal is shifting back to the maternal. To the Dionysian again, or to some kind of postoedipal reintegration with nature, which we are still in the process of inventing. Some new complex that would not be so subject to neurotic overinvestment.”

Sax shook his head. It was amazing how floridly elaborated a pseudoscience could get. A compensation technique, perhaps; a desperate attempt to be more like physics. But what they did not understand was that physics, while admittedly complicated, was always trying very hard to become simpler.

Michel, however, was continuing to elaborate. Correlated to patriarchy was capitalism, he was saying, a hierarchical system in which most men had been exploited economically, also treated like animals, poisoned, betrayed, shoved around, shot. And even in the best of circumstances under constant threat of being tossed aside, out of a job, poor, unable to provide for loved dependents, hungry, humiliated. Some trapped in this unfortunate system took out their rage at their plight on whomever they could, even if that turned out to be their loved ones, the people most likely to give them comfort. It was illogical, and even stupid. Brutal and stupid. Yes. Michel shrugged; he didn’t like where this train of reasoning had led him. It sounded to Sax like the implication was that many men’s actions indicated that they were, alas, fairly stupid. And the limbic array got all twisted in some minds, Michel was going on, trying to veer away from that, to make a decent explanation. Adrenaline and testosterone were always pushing for a fight-or-flight response, and in some dismal situations a satisfaction circuit got established in the get hurt/hurt back axis, and then the men involved were lost, not only to fellow feeling but to rational self-interest. Sick, in fact.

Sax felt a litle sick himself. Michel had explained away male evil in several different ways in no more than a quarter of an hour, and still the men of Earth had a lot to answer for. Marsmen were different. Although there had been torturers in Kasei Vallis, as he well knew. But they had been settlers from Earth. Sick. Yes, he felt sick. The young natives were not like that, were they? A Marsman who hit a woman or molested a child would be ostracized, excoriated, perhaps beaten up, he would lose his home, he would be exiled to the asteroids and never allowed back. Wouldn’t he?

Something to look into.

Now he thought again of Ann. Of how she was: her manner, so obdurate; her focus on science, on rock. A kind of Apollonian response, perhaps. Concentration on the abstract, denial of the body and therefore of all its pain. Perhaps.

“What would help Ann now, do you think?” Sax said.

Michel shrugged again. “I have wondered that for years. I think Mars has helped her. I think Simon helped her, and Peter. But they have all been at some kind of distance. They don’t change that fundamental no in her.”

“But she — she loves all this,” Sax said, waving at the caldera. “She truly does.” He thought over Michel’s analysis. “It’s not just a no. There’s a yes in there as well. A love of Mars.”

“But if you love stones and not people,” Michel said, “it’s somehow a little … unbalanced? Or displaced? Ann is a great mind, you know — ”

“I know — ”

“ — and she has achieved a great deal. But she does not seem content with it.”

“She doesn’t like what’s happening to her world.”

“No. But is that what she truly dislikes? Or dislikes the most? I’m not so sure. It seems displaced to me, again. Both the love and the hate.”

Sax shook his head. Astounding, really, that Michel could consider psychology any kind of science at all. So much of it consisted of throwing together. Of thinking of the mind as a steam engine, the mechanical analogy most ready to hand during the birth of modern psychology. People had always done that when they thought about the mind: clockwork for Descartes, geological changes for the early Victorians, computers or holography for the twentieth century, AIs for the twenty-first… and for the Freudian traditionalists, steam engines. Application of heat, pressure buildup, pressure displacement, venting, all shifted into repression, sublimation, the return of the repressed. Sax thought it unlikely steam engines were an adequate model for the human mind. The mind was more like — what? — an ecology — a fell-field — or else a jungle, populated by all manner of strange beasts. Or a universe, filled with stars and quasars and black holes. Well — a bit grandiose, that — really it was more like a complex collection of synapses and axons, chemical energies surging hither and yon, like weather in an atmosphere. That was better — weather — storm fronts of thought, high-pressure zones, low-pressure cells, hurricanes — the jet streams of biological desires, always making their swift powerful rounds … life in the wind. Well. Throwing together. In fact the mind was poorly understood.

“What are you thinking?” Michel asked.

“Sometimes I worry,” Sax admitted, “about the theoretical basis of these diagnoses of yours.”

“Oh no, they are very well supported empirically, they are very precise, very accurate.”

“Both precise and accurate?”

“Well, what, they’re the same, no?”

“No. In estimates of a value, accuracy means how far away you are from the true value. Precision refers to the window size of the estimate. A hundred plus or minus fifty isn’t very precise. But if your estimate is a hundred plus or minus fifty, and the true value is a hundred and one, it’s quite accurate, while still being not very precise. Often true values aren’t really determinable, of course.”

Michel had a curious expression on his face. “You’re a very accurate person, Sax.”

“It’s just statistics,” Sax said defensively. “Every once in a while language allows you to say things precisely.”

“And accurately.”


They looked down into the country of the caldera.

“I want to help her,” Sax said.

Michel nodded. “You said that. I said I didn’t know how. For her, you are the terraforming. If you are to help her, then terraforming has to help her. Do you think you can find a way that terraforming helps her?”

Sax thought about it for a while. “It could get her outdoors. Outdoors without helmets, eventually without even masks.”

“You think she wants that?”

“I think everyone wants that, at some level. In the cerebellum. The animal, you know. It feels right.”

“I don’t know if Ann is very well attuned to her animal feelings.”

Sax considered it.

Then the whole landscape darkened.

They looked up. The sun was black. Stars shone in the sky around it. There was a faint glow around the black disk, perhaps the sun’s corona.

Then a sudden crescent of fire forced them to look away. That was the corona; what they had seen before had probably been the lit exosphere.

The darkened landscape lightened again, as the artificial eclipse came to an end. But the whole sun that returned was distinctly smaller than what had shone just moments before. The old bronze button of the Martian sun! It was like a friend come back for a visit. The world was dimmer, all the colors of the caldera one shade darker, as if invisible clouds obscured the sunlight. A very familiar sight, in fact — Mars’s natural light, shining on them again for the first time in twenty-eight years.

“I hope Ann saw that,” Sax said. He felt chilled, although he knew there had not been enough time for the air to have cooled, and he was suited up in any case. But there would be a chill. He thought grimly of the fellfields scattered all over the planet, up at the four– or five-kilometer elevation, and lower in the mid and high latitudes. Up at the edge of the possible, whole ecosystems would now start dying. Twenty percent drop in insolation: it was worse than any Terran ice age, more like the darkness after the great extinction events — the KT event, the Ordovician; the Devonian, or the worst one of all, the Permian event 250 million years ago, which killed up to ninety-five percent of all the species alive at the time. Punctuated equilibrium; and very few species survived the punctuations. The ones that did were tough, or just lucky.

Michel said, “I doubt it will satisfy her.”

This Sax fully believed. But for the moment he was distracted by thinking how best to compensate for the loss of the soletta’s light. It would be better not to have any biomes suffering great losses. If he had his way, those fellfields were just something Ann was going to have to get used to.

* * *

It was Ls 123, right in the middle of the northern summer/southern winter, near aphelion, which along with higher elevation caused the south’s winter to be much colder than the north’s; temperatures regularly dipped to 230 K, not much warmer than the primal colds that had existed before their arrival. Now, with the soletta and annular mirror gone, temperatures would drop further still. No doubt the southern highlands were headed for a record winterkill.

On the other hand, a lot of snow had already fallen in the south, and Sax had gained a great respect for snow’s ability to protect living things from cold and wind. The sub-nivean environment was quite stable. It could be that a drop in light, and subsequently in surface temperature, would not do that much harm to snowed-over plants, already shut down by their winter hardening. It was hard to say. He wanted to get into the field and see for himself. Of course it would be months or perhaps years before any difference would be quantifiable. Except in the weather itself, perhaps. And weather could be tracked merely by watching the meteorological data, which he was already doing, spending many hours in front of satellite pictures and weather maps, watching for signs. It made for a useful diversion when people came by to remonstrate with him for removing the mirrors, an event so common in the week following the event that it became tiresome.

Unfortunately weather on Mars was so variable that it was difficult to tell if the removal of the big mirrors was affecting it or not. A very sad admission of the state of their understanding of the atmosphere, in Sax’s opinion. But there it was. Martian weather was a violent semichaotic system. In some ways it resembled Earth’s, not surprising given that it was a matter of air and water moving around the surface of a spinning sphere: Coriolis forces were the same everywhere, and so here as on Earth there were tropical easterlies, temperate westerlies, polar easterlies, jet-stream anchor points and so on; but that was almost all one could say for sure about Martian weather. Well — you could say that it was colder and drier in the south than in the north. That there were rain shadows downwind of high volcanoes or mountain chains. That it was warmer near the equator, colder at the poles. But this sort of obvious generalization was all that they could assert with confidence, except for some local patterns, although most of those were subject to lots of variation — more a matter of highly analyzed statistics than lived experience. And with only fifty-two m-years on record, with the atmosphere thickening radically all the while, with water being pumped onto the surface, etc., etc., it was actually fairly difficult to say what normal or average conditions might be.

Meanwhile, Sax found it hard to concentrate there on east Pavonis. People kept interrupting him to complain about the mirrors, and the volatile political situation lurched along in storms as unpredictable as the weather’s. Already it was clear that removing the mirrors had not placated all the Reds; there were sabotages of terraforming projects almost every day, and sometimes violent fights in defense of these projects. And reports from Earth, which Sax forced himself to watch for an hour a day, made it clear that some forces there were trying to keep things the way they had been before the flood, in sharp conflict with other groups trying to take advantage of the flood in the same way the Martian revolutionaries had, using it as a break point in history and a springboard to some new order, some fresh start. But the metanationals were not going to give up easily, and on Earth they were entrenched, the order of the day; they were in command of vast resources, and no mere seven-meter rise in sea level was going to push them off stage.

Sax switched off his screen after one such depressing hour, and joined Michel for supper out in his rover.

“There’s no such thing as a fresh start,” he said as he put water on to boil.

“The Big Bang?” Michel suggested.

“As I understand it, there are theories suggesting that the — the dumpiness of the early universe was caused by the earlier — dumpiness of the previous universe, collapsing down into its Big Crunch.”

“I would have thought that would crush all irregularities.”

“Singularities are strange — outside their event horizons, quantum effects allow some particles to appear. Then the cosmic inflation blasting those particles out apparently caused small clumps to start and become big ones.” Sax frowned; he was sounding like the Da Vinci theory group. “But I was referring to the flood on Earth. Which is not as complete an alteration of conditions as a singularity, by any means. In fact there must be people down there who don’t think of it as a break at all.”

“True.” For some reason Michel was laughing. “We should go there and see, eh?”

As they finished eating their spaghetti Sax said, “I want to get out in the field. I want to see if there are any visible effects of the mirrors going away.”

“You already saw one. That dimming of the light, when we were out on the rim…” Michel shuddered.

“Yes, but that only makes me more curious.”

“Well — we’ll hold down the fort for you.”

As if one had to physically occupy any given space in order to be there. “The cerebellum never gives up,” Sax said.

Michel grinned. “Which is why you want to go out and see it in person.”

Sax frowned.

Before he left, he called Ann.

“Would you like to, to accompany me, on a trip to south Tharsis, to, to, to examine the upper boundary of the areobiosphere, together?”

She was startled. Her head was shaking back and forth as she thought it over — the cerebellum’s answer, some six or seven seconds ahead of her conscious verbal response: “No.” And then she cut the connection, looking somewhat frightened.

Sax shrugged. He felt bad. He saw that one of his reasons for going into the field had to do with getting Ann out there, showing her the rocky first biomes of the fellfields himself. Showing her how beautiful they were. Talking to her. Something like that. His mental image of what he would say to her if he actually got her out there was fuzzy at best. Just show her. Make her see it.

Well, one couldn’t make people see things.

He went to say good-bye to Michel. Michel’s entire job was to make people see things. This was no doubt the cause of the frustration in him when he talked about Ann. She had been one of his patients for over a century now and still she hadn’t changed, or even told him very much about herself. It made Sax smile a little to think of it. Though clearly it was vexing for Michel, who obviously loved Ann.

As he did all his old friends and patients, including Sax. It was in the nature of a professional responsibility, as Michel saw it — to fall in love with all the objects of his “scientific study.” Every astronomer loves the stars. Well, who knew. Sax reached out and clasped Michel’s upper arm, who smiled happily at this un-Sax-like behavior, this “change in thinking.” Love, yes; and how much more so when the object of study consisted of women known for years and years, studied with the intensity of pure science — yes, that would be a feeling. A great intimacy, whether they cooperated in the study or not. In fact they might even be more beguiling if they didn’t cooperate, if they refused to answer any questions at all. After all if Michel wanted questions answered, answered at great length even when they weren’t asked, he always had Maya, Maya the all-too-human, who led Michel on a hard steeplechase across the limbic array, including throwing things at him, if Spencer was to be believed. After that kind of symbolism, the silence of Ann might prove to be very endearing. “Be careful,” Michel said: the happy scientist, with one of his areas of study standing before him, loved like a brother.

Sax took a solo roverand drove it down the steep bare southern slope of Pavonis Mons, then across the saddle between Pavonis and Arsia Mons. He contoured around the great cone of Arsia Mons on its dry eastern side. After that he drove down the southern flank of Arsia, and.of the Tharsis Bulge itself, until he was on the broken highlands of Daedalia Planitia. This plain was the remnant of a giant ancient impact basin, now almost entirely erased by the uptilt of Tharsis, by lava from Arsia Mons, and by the ceaseless winds, until nothing was left of the impact basin except for a collection of areologists’ observations and deductions, faint radial arrays of ejecta scrapes and the like, visible on maps but not in the landscape.

To the eye as one traveled over it, it looked like much of the rest of the southern highlands: rugged bumpy pitted cracked land. A wild rockscape. The old lava flows were visible as smooth lobate curves of dark rock, like tidal swells fanning out and down. Wind streaks both light and dark marked the land, indicating dust of different weights and consistencies: there were light long triangles on the southeast sides of craters and boulders, dark chevrons to the northwest of them, and dark splotches inside the many rimless craters. The next big dust storm would redesign all these patterns.

Sax drove over the low stone waves with great pleasure, down down up, down down up, reading the sand paintings of the dust streaks like a wind chart. He was traveling not in a boulder car, with its low dark room and its cockroach scurry from one hiding place to the next, but rather in a big boxy areologist’s camper, with windows on all four sides of the third-story driver’s compartment. It was a very great pleasure indeed to roll along up there in the thin bright daylight, down and up, down and up, down and up over the sand-streaked plain, the horizons very distant for Mars. There was no one to hide from; no one hunting for him. He was a free man on a free planet, and if he wanted to he could drive this car right around the world. Or anywhere he pleased.

The full impact of this feeling took him about two days’ drive to realize. Even then he was not sure that he comprehended it. It was a sensation of lightness, a strange lightness that caused little smiles to stretch his mouth repeatedly for no obvious reason. He had not been consciously aware, before, of any sense of oppression or fear — but it seemed it had been there — since 2061, perhaps, or the years right before it. Sixty-six years of fear, ignored and forgotten but always there — a kind of tension in the musculature, a small hidden dread at the core of things. “Sixty-six bottles of fear on the wall, sixty-six bottles of fear! Take one down, pass it around, sixty-five bottles of fear on the wall!”

Now gone. He was free, his world was free. He was driving down the wind-etched tilted plain, and earlier that day snow had begun to appear in the cracks, gleaming aquatically in a way dust never did; and then lichen; he was driving down into the atmosphere. And no reason, now, why his life ought not to continue this way, puttering about freely every day in his own world lab, and everybody else just as free as that!

It was quite a feeling.

Oh they could argue on Pavonis, and they most certainly would. Everywhere in fact. A most extraordinarily contentious lot they were. What was the sociology that would explain that? Hard to say. And in any case they had cooperated despite their bickering; it might have been only a temporary confluence of interests, but everything was temporary now — with so many traditions broken or vanished, it left what John used to call the necessity of creation; and creation was hard. Not everyone was as good at creation as they were at complaining.

But they had certain capabilities now as a group, as a — a civilization. The accumulated body of scientific knowledge was growing vast indeed, and that knowledge was giving them an array of powers that could scarcely be comprehended, even in outline, by any single individual. But powers they were, understood or not. Godlike powers, as Michel called them, though it was not necessary to exaggerate them or confuse the issue — they were powers in the material world, real but constrained by reality. Which nevertheless might allow — it looked to Sax as if these powers could — if rightly applied — make a decent human civilization after all. After all the many centuries of trying. And why not? Why not? Why not pitch the whole enterprise at the highest level possible? They could provide for everyone in an equitable way, they could cure disease, they could delay senescence until they lived for a thousand years, they could understand the universe from the Planck distance to the cosmic distance, from the Big Bang to the eskaton — all this was possible, it was technically achievable. And as for those who felt that humanity needed the spur of suffering to make it great, well they could go out and find anew the tragedies that Sax was sure would never go away, things like lost love, betrayal by friends, death, bad results in the lab. Meanwhile the rest of them could continue the work of making a decent civilization. They could do it! It was amazing, really. They had reached that moment in history when one could say it was possible. Very hard to believe, actually; it made Sax suspicious; in physics one became immediately dubious when a situation appeared to be somehow extraordinary or unique. The odds were against that, it suggested that it was an artifact of perspective, one had to assume that things were more or less constant and that one lived in average times — the so-called principle of mediocrity. Never a particularly attractive principle, Sax had thought; perhaps it only meant that justice had always been achievable; in any case, there it was, an extraordinary moment, right there outside his four windows, burnished under the light touch of the natural sun. Mars and its humans, free and powerful.

It was too much to grasp. It kept slipping out of his mind, then reoccurring to him, and surprised by joy he would exclaim, “Ha! Ha!” The taste of tomato soup and bread; “Ha!”

The dusky purple of the twilight sky; “Ha!” The spectacle of the dashboard instrumentation, glowing faintly, reflected in the black windows; “Ha! Ha! Ha! My-oh-my.” He could drive anywhere he wanted to. No one told them what to do. He said that aloud to his darkened AI screen: “No one tells us what to do!” It was almost frightening. Vertiginous. Ka, the yonsei would say. Ka, supposedly the little red people’s name for Mars, from the Japanese ka, meaning fire. The same word existed in several other early languages as well, including proto-Indo-European; or so the linguists said.

Carefully he got in the big bed at the back of the compartment, in the hum of the rover’s heating and electrical system, and he lay humming to himself under the thick coverlet that caught up his body’s heat so fast, and put his head on the pillow and looked out at the stars.

The next morning a high-pressure system came in from the northwest, and the temperature rose to 262 K. He had driven down to five kilometers above the datum, and the exterior air pressure was 230 millibars. Not quite enough to breathe freely, so he pulled on one of the heated surface suits, then slipped a small air tank over his shoulders, and put its mask over his nose and mouth, and a pair of goggles over his eyes.

Even so, when he climbed out of the outer-lock door and down the steps to the sand, the intense cold caused him to sniffle and tear up, to the point of impeding his vision. The whistle of the wind was loud, though his ears were inside the hood of his suit. The suit’s heater was up to the task, however, and with the rest of him warm, his face slowly got used to it.

He tightened the hood’s drawstring and walked over the land. He stepped from flat stone to flat stone; here they were everywhere. He crouched often to inspect cracks, finding lichen and widely scattered specimens of other life: mosses, little tufts of sedge, grass. It was very windy. Exceptionally hard gusts slapped him four or five times a minute, with a steady gale between. This was a windy place much of the time, no doubt, with the atmosphere sliding south around the bulk of Tharsis in massed quantities. High-pressure cells would dump a lot of their moisture at the start of this rise, on the western side; indeed at this moment the horizon to the west was obscured by a flat sea of cloud, merging with the land in the far distance, out there two or three kilometers lower in elevation, and perhaps sixty kilometers away.

Underfoot there were only bits of snow, filling some of the shaded crack systems and hollows. These snowbanks were so hard that he could jump up and down on them without leaving a mark. Windslab, partially melted and then refrozen. One scalloped slab cracked under his boots, and he found it was several centimeters thick. Under that it was powder, or granules. His fingers were cold, despite his heated gloves.

He stood again and wandered, mapless over the rock. Some of the deeper hollows contained ice pools. Around midday he descended into one of these and ate his lunch by the ice pool, lifting the air mask to take bites out of a grain-and-honey bar. Elevation 4.5 kilometers above the datum; air pressure 267 millibars. A high-pressure system indeed. The sun was low in the northern sky, a bright dot surrounded by pewter.

The ice of the pool was clear in places, like little windows giving him a view of the black bottom. Elsewhere it was bubbled or cracked, or white with rime. The bank he sat on was a curve of gravel, with patches of brown soil and black dead vegetation lying on it in a miniature berm — the high-water mark of the pond, apparently, a soil shore above the gravel one. The whole beach was no more than four meters long, one wide. The fine gravel was an umber color, piebald umber or… He would have to consult a color chart. But not now.

The soil berm was dotted by pale green rosettes of tiny grass blades. Longer blades stood in clumps here and there. Most of the taller blades were dead, and light gray. Right next to the pond were patches of dark green succulent leaves, dark red at their edges. Where the green shaded into red was a color he couldn’t name, a dark lustrous brown stuffed somehow with both its constituent colors. He would have to call up a color chart soon, it seemed; lately when looking around outdoors he found that a color chart came in handy about once a minute. Waxy almost-white flowers were tucked under some of these bicolored leaves. Farther on lay some tangles, red-stalked, green-needled, like beached seaweed in miniature. Again that intermixture of red and green, right there in nature staring at him.

A distant wind-washed hum; perhaps the harping rocks, perhaps the buzz of insects. Black midges, bees … in this air they would only have to sustain about thirty millibars of CO2, because there was so little partial pressure driving it into them, and at some point internal saturation was enough to hold any more out. For mammals that might not work so well. But they might be able to sustain twenty millibars, and with plant life flourishing all over the planet’s lower elevations, CO2 levels might drop to twenty millibars fairly soon; and then they could dispense with the air tanks and the face masks. Set loose animals on Mars.

In the faint hum of the air he seemed to hear their voices, immanent or emergent, coming in the next great surge of viriditas. The hum of distant voices; the wind; the peace of this little pool on its rocky moor; the Nirgalish pleasure he took in the sharp cold… “Ann should see this,” he murmured.

Then again, with the space mirrors gone, presumably everything he saw here was doomed. This was the upper limit of the biosphere, and surely with the loss of light and heat the upper limit would drop, at least temporarily, perhaps for good. He didn’t like that; and it seemed possible there might be ways to compensate for the lost light. After all, the terraforming had been doing quite well before the mirrors’ arrival; they hadn’t been necessary. And it was good not to depend on something so fragile, and better to be rid of it now rather than later, when large animal populations might have died in the setback along with the plants.

Even so it was a shame. But the dead plant matter would only be more fertilizer in the end, and without the same kind of suffering as animals. At least so he assumed. Who knew how plants felt? When you looked closely at them, glowing in all their detailed articulation like complex crystals, they were as mysterious as any other life. And now their presence here made the entire plain, everything he could see, into one great fellfield, spreading in a slow tapestry over the rock; breaking down the weathered minerals, melding with them to make the first soils. A very slow process. There was a vast complexity in every pinch of soil; and the look of this fellfield was the loveliest thing he had ever seen.

* * *

To weather. This whole world was weathering. The first printed use of the word with that meaning had appeared in a book on Stonehenge, appropriately enough, in 1665. “The weathering of so many Centuries of Years.” On this stone world. Weathering. Language as the first science, exact yet vague, or multivalent. Throwing things together. The mind as weather. Or being weathered.

There were clouds coming up over the nearby hillocks to the west, their bottoms resting on a thermal layer as levelly as if pressing down on glass. Streamers like spun wool led the way east.

Sax stood up and climbed out of the pool’s depression. Out of the shelter of the hole, the wind was shockingly strong — in it the cold intensified as if an ice age had struck full force that very second. Windchill factor, of course; if the temperature was 262 K, and the wind was blowing at about seventy kilometers an hour, with gusts much stronger, then the windchill factor would create a temperature equivalent of about 250 K. Was that right? That was very cold indeed to be out without a helmet. And in fact his hands were going numb. His feet as well. And his face was already without feeling, like a thick mask at the front of his head. He was shivering, and his blinks tended to stick together; his tears were freezing. He needed to get back to his car.

He plodded over the rockscape, amazed at the power of the wind to intensify cold. He had not experienced wind-chill like this since childhood, if then, and had forgotten how frigid one became. Staggering in the blasts, he climbed onto a low swell of the ancient lava and looked upslope. There was his rover — big, vivid green, gleaming like a spaceship — about two kilometers up the slope. A very welcome sight.

But now snow began to fly horizontally past him, giving a dramatic demonstration of the wind’s great speed. Little granular pellets clicked against his goggles. He took off toward the rover, keeping his head down and watching the snow swirl over the rocks. There was so much snow in the air that he thought his goggles were fogging up, but after a painfully cold operation to wipe the insides, it became clear that the condensation was actually out in the air. Fine snow, mist, dust, it was hard to tell.

He plodded on. The next time he looked up, the air was so thick with snow that he couldn’t see all the way to the rover. Nothing to do but press on. It was lucky the suit was well insulated and sewn through with heating elements, because even with the heat on at its highest power, the cold was cutting against his left side as if he were naked to the blast. Visibility extended now something like twenty meters, shifting rapidly depending on how much snow was passing by at the moment; he was in an amorphously expanding and contracting bubble of whiteness, which itself was shot through with flying snow, and what appeared to be a kind of frozen fog or mist. It seemed likely he was in the storm cloud itself. His legs were stiff. He wrapped his arms around his torso, his gloved hands trapped in his armpits. There was no obvious way of telling if he was still walking in the right direction. It seemed like he was on the same course he had been when visibility had collapsed, but it also seemed like he had gone a long way toward the rover.

There were no compasses on Mars; there were, however, APS systems in his wristpad and back in the car. He could call up a detailed map on his wristpad and then locate himself and his car on it; then walk for a while and track his positions; then make his way directly toward the car. That seemed like a great deal of work — which brought it to him that his thinking, like his body, was being affected by the cold. It wasn’t that much work, after all…

So he crouched down in the lee of a boulder and tried the method. The theory behind it was obviously sound, but the instrumentation left something to be desired; the wristpad’s screen was only five centimeters across, so small that he couldn’t see the dots on it at all well. Finally he spotted them, walked awhile, and took another fix. But unfortunately his results indicated that he should be hiking at about a right angle to the direction he had been going.

This was unnerving to the point of paralysis. His body insisted that it had been going the right way; his mind (part of it, anyway) was pretty certain that it was better to trust the results on the wristpad, and assume that he had gotten off course somewhere. But it didn’t feel that way; the ground was still at a slope that supported the feeling in his body. The contradiction was so intense that he suffered a wave of nausea, the internal torque twisting him until it actually hurt to stand, as if every cell in his body was twisting to the side against the pressure of what the wristpad was telling him — the physiological effects of a purely cognitive dissonance, it was amazing. It almost made one believe in the existence of an internal magnet in the body, as in the pineal glands of migrating birds — but there was no magnetic field to speak of. Perhaps his skin was sensitive to solar radiation to the point of being able to pinpoint the sun’s location, even when the sky was a thick dark gray everywhere. It had to be something like that, because the feeling that he was properly oriented was so strong!

Eventually the nausea of the disorientation passed, and in the end he stood and took off in the direction suggested by the wristpad, feeling horrible about it, listing a little uphill just to try to make himself feel better. But one had to trust instruments over instincts, that was science. And so he plodded on, traversing the slope, shading somewhat uphill, clumsier than ever. His nearly insensible feet ran into rocks that he did not see, even though they were directly beneath him; he stumbled time after time. It was surprising how thoroughly snow could obscure the vision.

After a while he stopped, and tried again to locate the rover by APS; and his wristpad map suggested an entirely new direction, behind him and to the left.

It was possible he had walked past the car. Was it? He did not want to walk back into the wind. But now that was the way to the rover, apparently. So he ducked his head down into the biting cold and persevered. His skin was in an odd state, itching under the heating elements crisscrossing his suit, numb everywhere else. His feet were numb. It was hard to walk. There was no feeling in his face; clearly frostbite was in the offing. He needed shelter.

He had a new idea. He called up Aonia, on Pavonis, and got her almost instantly.

“Sax! Where are you?”

“That’s what I’m calling about!” he said. “I’m in a storm on Daedalia! And I can’t find my car! I was wondering if you would look at my APS and my rover’s! And see if you can tell me which direction I should go!”

He put the wristpad right against his ear. “Ka wow, Sax.” It sounded like Aonia was shouting too, bless her. Her voice was an odd addition to the scene. “Just a second, let me check!… Okay! There you are! And your car too! What are you doing so far south? I don’t think anyone can get to you very quickly! Especially if there’s a storm!”

“There is a storm,” Sax said. “That’s why I called.”

“Okay! You’re about three hundred and fifty meters to the west of your car.”

“Directly west?”

“ — and a little south! But how will you orient yourself?”

Sax considered it. Mars’s lack of a magnetic field had never struck him as such a problem before, but there it was. He could assume the wind was directly out of the west, but that was just an assumption. “Can you check the nearest weather stations and tell me what direction the wind is coming from?” he said.

“Sure, but it won’t be much good for local variations! Here, just a second, I’m getting some help here from the others.”

A few long icy moments passed.

“The wind is coming from west northwest, Sax! So you need to walk with the wind at your back and a touch to your left!”

“I know. Be quiet now, until you see what course I’m making, and then correct it.”

He walked again, fortunately almost downwind. After five or six painful minutes his wrist beeped.

Aonia said, “You’re right on course!”

This was encouraging, and he carried on with a bit more speed, though the wind was penetrating through his ribs right to his core.

“Okay, Sax! Sax?”


“You and your car are right on the same spot!”

But there was no car in view.

His heart thudded in his chest. Visibility was still some twenty meters; but no car. He had to get shelter fast. “Walk in an ever-increasing spiral from where you are,” the little voice on the wrist was suggesting. A good idea in theory, but he couldn’t bear to execute it; he couldn’t face the wind. He stared dully at his black plastic wristpad console. No more help to be had there.

For a moment he could make out snowbanks, off to his left. He shuffled over to investigate, and found that the snow rested in the lee of a shoulder-high escarpment, a feature he did not remember seeing before, but there were some radial breaks in the rock caused by the Tharsis rise, and this must be one of them, protecting a snowbank. Snow was a tremendous insulator. Though it had little intrinsic appeal as shelter. But Sax knew mountaineers often dug into it to survive nights out. It got one out of the wind.

He stepped to the bottom of the snowbank, and kicked it with one numb foot. It felt like kicking rock. Digging a snow cave seemed out of the question. But the effort itself would warm him a bit. And it was less windy at the foot of the bank. So he kicked and kicked, and found that underneath a thick cake of windslab there was the usual powder. A snow cave might be possible after all. He dug away at it.

“Sax, Sax!” cried the voice from his wrist. “What are you doing!”

“Making a snow cave,” he said. “A bivouac.”

“Oh Sax — we’re flying in help! We’ll be able to get in next morning no matter what, so hang on! We’ll keep talking to you!”


He kicked and dug. On his knees he scooped out hard granular snow, tossing it into the swirling flakes flying over him. It was hard to move, hard to think. He bitterly regretted walking so far from the rover, then getting so absorbed in the landscape around that ice pond. It was a shame to get killed when things were getting so interesting. Free but dead. There was a little hollow in the snow now, through an oblong hole in the windslab. Wearily he sat down and wedged himself back into the space, lying on his side and pushing back with his boots. The snow felt solid against the back of his suit, and warmer than the ferocious wind. He welcomed the shivering in his torso, felt a vague fear when it ceased. Being too cold to shiver was a bad sign.

Very weary, very cold. He looked at his wristpad. It was four P.M. He had been walking in the storm for just over three hours. He would have to survive another fifteen or twenty hours before he could expect to be rescued. Or perhaps in the morning the storm would have abated, and the location of the rover become obvious. One way or another he had to survive the night by huddling in a snow cave. Or else venture out again and find the rover. Surely it couldn’t be far away. But until the wind lessened, he could not bear to be out looking for it.

He had to wait in the snow cave. Theoretically he could survive a night out, though at the moment he was so cold it was hard to believe that. Night temperatures on Mars still plummeted drastically. Perhaps the storm might lessen in the next hour, so that he could find the rover and get to it before dark.

He told Aonia and the others where he was. They sounded very concerned, but there was nothing they could do. He felt irritation at their voices.

It seemed many minutes before he had another thought. When one was chilled, blood flow was greatly reduced to the limbs — perhaps that was true for the cortex as well, the blood going preferentially to the cerebellum where the necessary work would continue right to the end.

More time passed. Near dark, it appeared. Should call out again. He was too cold — something seemed wrong. Advanced age, altitude, CO2 levels — some factor or combination of factors was making it worse than .it should be. He could die of exposure in a single night. Appeared in fact to be doing just that. Such a storm! Loss of the mirrors, perhaps. Instant ice age. Extinction event.

The wind was making odd noises, like shouts. Powerful gusts no doubt. Like faint shouts, howling “Sax! Sax! Sax!”

Had they flown someone in? He peered out into the dark storm, the snowflakes somehow catching the late light and tearing overhead like dim white static.

Then between his ice-crusted eyelashes he saw a figure emerge out of the darkness. Short, round, helmeted. “Sax!” The sound was distorted, it was coming from a loudspeaker in the figure’s helmet. Those Da Vinci techs were very resourceful people. Sax tried to respond, and found he was too cold to speak. Just moving his boots out of the hole was a stupendous effort. But it appeared to catch this figure’s eye, because it turned and strode purposefully through the wind, moving like a skillful sailor on a bouncing deck, weaving this way and that through the slaps of the gusts. The figure reached him and bent down and grabbed Sax by the wrist, and he saw its face through the faceplate, as clear as through a window. It was Hiroko.

She smiled her brief smile and hauled him up out of his cave, pulling so hard on his left wrist that his bones creaked painfully.

“Ow!” he said.

Out in the wind the cold was like death itself. Hiroko pulled his left arm over her shoulder, and, still holding hard to his wrist just above the wristpad, she led him past the low escarpment and right into the teeth of the gale.

“My rover is near,” he mumbled, leaning hard on her and trying to move his legs fast enough to make steady plants of the foot. So good to see her again. A solid little person, very powerful as always.

“It’s over here,” she said through her loudspeaker. “You were pretty close.”

“How did you find me?”

“We were tracking you as you came down Arsia. Then today when the storm hit I checked you out, and saw you were out of your rover. After that I came out to see how you were doing.”


“You have to be careful in storms.”

Then they were standing before his rover. She let go of his wrist, and it throbbed painfully. She bonked her faceplate against his goggles. “Go on in,” she said.

He climbed carefully up the steps to the rover’s lock door; opened it; fell inside. He turned clumsily to make room for Hiroko, but she wasn’t in the door. He leaned back out into the wind, looked around. No sight of her. It was dusk; the snow now looked black. “Hiroko!” he cried.

No answer.

He closed the lock door, suddenly frightened. Oxygen deprivation — He pumped the lock, fell through the inside door into the little changing room. It was shockingly warm, the air a steamy blast. He plucked ineffectively at his clothes, made no progress. He went at it more methodically. Goggles and face mask off. They were coated with ice. Ah — possibly his air supply had been restricted by ice in the tube between tank and mask. He sucked in several deep breaths, then sat still through another bout of nausea. Pulled off his hood, unzipped the suit. It was almost more than he could do to get his boots off. Then the suit. His underclothes were cold and clammy. His hands were burning as if on fire. It was a good sign, proof that he was not substantially frostbitten; nevertheless it was agony.

His whole skin began to buzz with the same inflamed pain. What caused that, return of blood to capillaries? Return of sensation to chilled nerves? Whatever it was, it hurt almost unbearably. “Ow!”

He was in excellent spirits. It was not just that he had been spared from death, which was nice; but that Hiroko was alive. Hiroko was alive! It was incredibly good news. Many of his friends had assumed all along that she and her group had slipped away from the assault on Sabishii, moving through that town’s mound maze back out into their system of hidden refuges; but Sax had never been sure. There was no evidence to support the idea. And there were elements in the security forces perfectly capable of murdering a group of dissidents and disposing of their bodies. This, Sax had thought, was probably what had happened. But he had kept this opinion to himself, and reserved judgment. There had been no way of knowing for sure.

But now he knew. He had stumbled into Hiroko’s path, and she had rescued him from death by freezing, or asphyxiation, whichever came first. The sight of her cheery, somehow impersonal face — her brown eyes — the feel of her body supporting him — her hand clamped over his wrist… he would have a bruise because of that. Perhaps even a sprain. He flexed his hand, and the pain in his wrist brought tears to his eyes, it made him laugh. Hiroko!

After a time the fiery return of sensation to his skin banked down. Though his hands felt bloated and raw, and he did not have proper control of his muscles, or his thoughts, he was basically getting back to normal. Or something like normal.

“Sax! Sax! Where are you? Answer us, Sax!”

“Ah. Hello there. I’m back in my car.”

“You found it? You left your snow cave?”

“Yes. I — I saw my car, in the distance, through a break in the snow.”

They were happy to hear it.

He sat there, barely listening to them babble, wondering why he had spontaneously lied. Somehow he was not comfortable telling them about Hiroko. He assumed that she would want to stay concealed; perhaps that was it. Covering for her…

He assured his associates that he was all right, and got off the phone. He pulled a chair into the kitchen and sat on it. Warmed soup and drank it in loud slurps, scalding his tongue. Frostbitten, scalded, shaky — slightly nauseous — once weeping — mostly stunned — despite all this, he was very, very happy. Sobered by the close call, of course, and embarrassed or even ashamed at his ineptitude, staying out, getting lost and so on — all very sobering indeed — and yet still he was happy. He had survived, and even better, so had Hiroko. Meaning no doubt that all of her group had survived with her, including the half dozen of the First Hundred who had been with her from the beginning, Iwao, Gene, Rya, Raul, Ellen, Evgenia… Sax ran a bath and sat in the warm water, adding hotter water slowly as his body core warmed; and he kept returning to that wonderful realization. A miracle — well not a miracle of course — but it had that quality, of unexpected and undeserved joy.

When he found himself falling asleep in the bath he got out, dried off, limped on sensitive feet to his bed, crawled under the coverlet, and fell asleep, thinking of Hiroko. Of making love with her in the baths in Zygote, in the warm relaxed lubriciousness of their bathhouse trysts, late at night when everyone else was asleep. Of her hand clamped on his wrist, pulling him up. His left wrist was very sore. And that made him happy.

The next day he drove back upthe great southern slope of Arsia, now covered with clean white snow to an amazingly high altitude, 10.4 kilometers above the datum to be exact. He felt a strange mix of emotions, unprecedented in their strength and flux, although they somewhat resembled the powerful emotions he had felt during the synaptic stimulus treatment he had taken after his stroke — as if sections of his brain were actively growing — the limbic system, perhaps, the home of the emotions, linking up with the cerebral cortex at last. He was alive, Hiroko was alive, Mars was alive; in the face of these joyous facts the possibility of an ice age was as nothing, a momentary swing in a general warming pattern, something like the almost-forgotten Great Storm. Although he did want to do what he could to mitigate it.

Meanwhile, in the human world there were still fierce conflicts going on everywhere, on both worlds. But it seemed to Sax that the crisis had somehow gotten beyond war. Flood, ice age, population boom, social chaos, revolution; perhaps things had gotten so bad that humanity had shifted into some kind of universal catastrophe rescue operation, or, in other words, the first phase of the postcapi-talist era.

Or maybe he was just getting overconfident, buoyed by the events on Daedalia Planitia. His Da Vinci associates were certainly very worried, they spent hours onscreen telling him every little thing about the arguments ongoing in east Pavonis. But he had no patience for that. Pavonis was going to become a standing wave of argument, it was obvious. And the Da Vinci crowd, worrying so — that was simply them. At Da Vinci if someone even raised his voice two decibels people worried that things were getting out of control. No. After his experience on Daedalia, these things simply weren’t interesting enough to engage him. Despite the encounter with the storm, or perhaps because of it, he only wanted to get back out into the country. He wanted to see as much of it as he could — to observe the changes wrought by the removal of the mirrors — to talk to various terraform-ing teams about how to compensate for it. He called Nanao in Sabishii, and asked him if he could come visit and talk it over with the university crowd. Nanao was agreeable.

“Can I bring some of my associates?” Sax asked.

Nanao was agreeable.

And all of a sudden Sax found he had plans, like little Athenas jumping out of his head. What would Hiroko do about this possible ice age? That he couldn’t guess. But he had a large group of associates in the labs at Da Vinci who had spent the last decades working on the problem of independence, building weapons and transport and shelters and the like. Now that was a problem solved, and there they were, and an ice age was coming. Many of them had come to Da Vinci from his earlier terraforming effort, and could be talked into returning to it, no doubt. But what to do? Well, Sabishii was four kilometers above the datum, and the Tyrrhena massif went up to five. The scientists there were the best in the world at high-altitude ecology. So: a conference. Another little Utopia enacted. It was obvious.

That afternoon Sax stopped his rover in the saddle between Pavonis and Arsia, at the spot called Four Mountain View — a sublime place, with two of the continent-volcanoes filling the horizons to north and south, and then the distant bump of Olympus Mons off to the northwest, and on clear days (this one was too hazy) a glimpse of Ascraeus, in the distance just to the right of Pavonis. In this spacious sere highland he ate his lunch, then turned east, and drove down toward Nicosia, to catch a flight to Da Vinci, and then on to Sabishii.

He had to spend a lot of screen time with the Da Vinci team and many other people on Pavonis, trying to explain this move, reconciling them to his departure from the warehouse meetings. “I am in the warehouse in every sense that matters,” he said, but they wouldn’t accept that. Their cerebellums wanted him there in the flesh, a touching thought in a way. “Touching” — a symbolic statement that was nevertheless quite literal. He laughed, but Nadia came on and said irritably, “Come on, Sax, you can’t give up just because things are getting sticky, in fact that’s exactly when you’re needed, you’re General Sax now, you’re the great scientist, you have to stay in the game.”

But Hiroko showed just how present an absent person could be. And he wanted to go to Sabishii.

“But what should we do?” Nirgal asked him, and others too in less direct ways.

The situation with the cable was at an impasse; on Earth there was chaos; on Mars there were still pockets of meta-national resistance, and other areas in Red control, where they were systematically tearing out all terraforming projects, and much of the infrastructure as well. There were also a variety of small revolutionary splinter movements that were taking this opportunity to assert their independence, sometimes over areas as small as a tent or a weather station.

“Well,” Sax said, thinking about all this as much as he could bear to, “whoever controls the life-support system is in charge.”

Social structure as life-support system — infrastructure, mode of production, maintenance … he really ought to speak to the folks at Separation de 1’Atmosphere, and to the tentmakers. Many of whom had a close relation to Da Vinci. Meaning that in certain senses he himself was as much in charge as anyone. A bad thought.

“But what do you suggest we do?” Maya demanded; something in her voice made it clear she was repeating the question.

By now Sax was closing in on Nicosia, and impatiently he said, “Send a delegation to Earth? Or convene a constitutional congress, and formulate a first approximation constitution, a working draft.”

Maya shook her head. “That won’t be easy, with this crowd.”

“Take the constitutions of the twenty or thirty most successful Terran countries,” Sax suggested, thinking out loud, “and see how they work. Have an AI compile a composite document, perhaps, and see what it says.”

“How would you define most successful?” Art asked.

“Country Futures Index, Real Values Gauge, Costa Rica Comparisons — even Gross Domestic Product, why not.” Economics was like psychology, a pseudoscience trying to hide that fact with intense theoretical hyperelaboration. And gross domestic product was one of those unfortunate measurement concepts, like inches or the British thermal unit, that ought to have been retired long before. But what the hell — use several different sets of criteria, human welfare, ecologic success, what have you.”

“But Sax,” Coyote complained, “the very concept of the nation-state is a bad one. That idea by itself will poison all those old constitutions.”

“Could be,” Sax said. “But as a starting point.”

“All this is just sidestepping the problem of the cable,” Jackie said.

It was strange how certain elements of the greens were as obsessed by total independence as the radical Reds. Sax said, “In physics I often bracket the problems I can’t solve, and try to work around them and see if they don’t get solved retroactively, so to speak. To me the cable looks like that kind of problem. Think of it as a reminder that Earth isn’t going to go away.”

But they ignored that, arguing as they were over what to do about the cable, what they might do about a new government, what to do about the Reds who had apparently abandoned the discussion, and so on and so forth, ignoring all his suggestions and getting back to their ongoing wrangles. So much for General Sax in the postrevolutionary world.

Nicosia’s airport was almost shut down, and yet Sax did not want to go into the town; he ended up flying to Da Vinci with some friends of Spencer’s from Dawes’s Forked Bay, flying a big new ultralight they had built just before the revolt, in anticipation of the freedom from the need for stealth. As the AI pilot floated the big silver-winged craft over the great maze of Noctis Labyrinthus, the five passengers sat in a chamber on the bottom of the fuselage which had a large clear floor, so that they could look over the arms of their chairs at the view below; in this case, the immense linked network of troughs which was the Chandelier. Sax stared down at the smooth plateaus that stood between the canyons, often islanded; they looked like nice places to live, somewhat like Cairo, there on the north rim, looking like a model town in a glass bottle.

The plane’s crew started talking about Separation de 1’Atmosphere, and Sax listened closely. Although these people had been concerned with the revolution’s armaments and with basic materials research, while “Sep” as they called it had dealt with the more mundane world of mesocosm management, they still had a healthy respect for it. Designing strong tents and keeping them functioning was a task with very severe consequences for failure, as one of them said. Criticalities everywhere, and every day a potential adventure.

Sep was associated with Praxis, apparently, and each tent or covered canyon was run by a separate organization. They pooled information and shared roving consultants and construction teams. Since they deemed themselves necessary services, they ran on a cooperative basis — on the Mondra-gon plan, one said, nonprofit version — though they made sure to provide their members with very nice living situations and lots of free time. “They think they deserve it, too. Because when something goes wrong they have to act fast or else.” Many of the covered canyons had had close calls, sometimes the result of meteor strike or other drama, other times more ordinary mechanical failures. The usual format for covered canyons had the physical plant consolidated at the higher end of the canyon, and this plant sucked in the appropriate amounts of nitrogen, oxygen and trace gases from the surface winds. The proportions of gases and the pressure range they were kept at varied from mesocosm to mesocosm, but they averaged around five hundred millibars, which gave some lift to the tent roofs, and was pretty much the norm for indoor spaces on Mars, in a kind of invocation of the eventual goal for the surface at the datum. On sunny days, however, the expansion of air inside the tents was very significant, and the standard procedures for dealing with it included simply releasing air back into the atmosphere, or else saving it by compressing it into huge container chambers hollowed out of the canyon cliffs. “So one time I was in Dao Vallis,” one of the techs said, “and the excess air chamber blew up, shattering the plateau and causing a big landslide that fell down onto Reullgate and tore open the tent roof. Pressures dropped to the local ambient, which was about two hundred and sixty, and everything started to freeze, and they had the old emergency bulkheads,” which were clear curtains only a few molecules thick but very strong, as Sax recalled, “and when they deployed automatically around the break, this one woman got pinned to the ground by the supersticky at the bottom of the bulkhead, with her head on the wrong side! We ran over to her and did some quick cut and paste and got her loose, but she almost died.”

Sax shivered, thinking of his own recent brush with cold; and 260 millibars was the pressure one would find on the peak of Everest. The others were already talking about other famous blowouts, including the time Hiranyagarba’s dome had fallen in its entirety under an ice rain, despite which no one had died.

Then they were descending over the great cratered high plain of Xanthe, coming down on the Da Vinci crater floor’s big sandy runway, which they had just started using during the revolution. The whole community had been preparing for years for the day when stealthing would become unnecessary, and now a big curve of copper-mirrored windows had been installed in the arc of the southern crater rim. There was a layer of snow in the bottom of the crater, which the central knob broke out of quite dramatically. It was possible they could arrange for a lake in the crater floor, with a central knob island, which would have as its horizon the circling cliffy hills of the crater rim. A circular canal could be built just under the rim cliffs, with radial canals connecting it to the inner lake; the resulting alternation of circular water and land would resemble Plato’s description of Atlantis. In this configuration Da Vinci could support, in near self-sufficiency, some twenty or thirty thousand people, Sax guessed; and there were scores of craters like Da Vinci. A commune of communes, each crater a city-state of sorts, its polls fully capable of supporting itself, of deciding what kind of culture it might have; and then with a vote in a global council of some kind… No regional association larger than the level of the town, except for arrangements of local interchange… might it work?

Da Vinci made it seem like it might. The south arc of the rim was alive with arcades and wedge-shaped pavilions and the like, now all shot through with sunlight. Sax toured the whole complex one morning, visiting one lab after the next, and congratulating the occupants on the success of their preparations for a smooth removal of UNTA from Mars. Some political power came out of the end of a gun, after all, and some out of the look in the eye; and the look in the eye changed depending on whether a gun was pointed at it or not. They had spiked the guns, these people the saxaclones, and so they were in high spirits — happy to see him, and already looking for different work — back to basic research, or figuring out uses for the new materials that Spencer’s alchemists were constantly churning out; or studying the terraforming problem.

They were also paying attention to what was going on in space and on Earth. A fast shuttle from Earth, contents unknown, had contacted them requesting permission to make an orbital insertion without a keg of nails being thrown in its way. So a Da Vinci team was now nervously working out security protocols, in heavy consultation with the Swiss embassy, which had taken an office in a suite of apartments at the northwest end of the arc. From rebels to administrators; it was an awkward transition.

“What political parties do we support?” Sax asked.

“I don’t know. The usual array I guess.”

“No party gets much support. Whatever works, you know.”

Sax knew. That was the old tech position, held ever since scientists had become a class in society, a priest caste almost, intervening between the people and their power. They were apolitical, supposedly, like civil servants — empiricists, who only wanted things managed in a rational scientific style, the greatest good for the greatest number, which ought to be fairly simple to arrange, if people were not so trapped in emotions, religions, governments, and other mass delusional systems of that sort.

The standard scientist politics, in other words. Sax had once tried to explain this outlook to Desmond, causing his friend for some reason to laugh prodigiously, even though it made perfect sense. Well, it was a bit naive, therefore a bit comical, he supposed; and like a lot of funny things, it could be that it was hilarious right up to the moment it turned horrible. Because it was an attitude that had kept scientists from going at politics in any useful way for centuries now; and dismal centuries they had been.

But now they were on a planet where political power came out of the end of a mesocosm aerating fan. And the people in charge of that great gun (holding the elements at bay) were at least partly in charge. If they cared to exercise the power.

Gently Sax reminded people of this when he visited them in their labs; and then to ease their discomfort with the idea of politics, he talked to them about the terraforming problem. And when he finally got ready to leave for Sabishii, about sixty of them were willing to come with him, to see how things were going down there. “Sax’s alternative to Pavonis,” he heard one of the lab techs describe the trip. Which was not a bad thought.

Sabishii was located on the western side of a five-kilometer-high prominence called the Tyrrhena massif, south of Jarry-Desloges Crater, in the ancient highlands between Isidis and Hellas, centered at longitude 275 degrees, latitude 15 degrees south. A reasonable choice for a tent-town site, as it had long views to the west, and low hills backing it to the east, like moors. But when it came to living in the open air, or growing plants out in the rocky countryside, it was a bit high; in fact it was, if you excluded the very much larger bulges of Tharsis and Elysium, the highest region on Mars, a kind of bioregion island, which the Sabi-shiians had been cultivating for decades.

They proved to be severely disappointed by the loss of the big mirrors, one might even say thrown into emergency mode, an all-out effort to do what they could to protect the plants of the biome; but it was precious little. Sax’s old colleague Nanao Nakayama shook his head. “Winterkill will be very bad. Like ice age.”

“I’m hoping we can compensate for the loss of light,” Sax said. “Thicken the atmosphere, add greenhouse gases — it’s possible we could do some of that with more bacteria and suralpine plants, right?”

“Some,” Nanao said dubiously. “A lot of niches are already full. The niches are quite small.”

They settled in over a meal to talk about it. All the techs from Da Vinci were there in the big dining hall of The Claw, and many Sabishiians were there to greet them. It was a long, interesting, friendly talk. The Sabishiians were living in the mound maze of their mohole, behind one talon of the dragon figure it made, so that they didn’t have to look at the burned ruins of their city when they weren’t working on it. The rebuilding was much reduced now, as most of them were out dealing with the results of the mirror loss. Nanao said to Tariki, in what was clearly the continuation of a long-standing argument, “It makes no sense to rebuild it as a tent city anyway. We might as well wait, and build it in open air.”

“That may be a long wait,” Tariki said, glancing at Sax. “We’re near the top of the viability atmosphere named in the Dorsa Brevia document.”

Nanao looked at Sax. “We want Sabishii under any limit that is set.”

Sax nodded, shrugged; he didn’t know what to say. The Reds would not like it. But if the viable altitude limit was raised a kilometer or so, it would give the Sabishiians this massif, and make little difference on the larger bulges — so it seemed to make sense. But who knew what they would decide on Pavonis? He said, “Maybe we should focus now on trying to keep atmospheric pressures from dropping.”

They looked somber.

Sax said, “You’ll take us out and show us the massif?”

They cheered up. “Most happy.”

The land of the Tyrrhena massif was what the areologists in the early years had called the “dissected unit” of the southern highlands, which was much the same as the “cratered unit,” but further broken by small channel networks. The lower and more typical highlands surrounding the massif also contained areas of “ridged unit” and “hilly unit.” In fact, as quickly became obvious the morning they drove out onto the land, all aspects of the rough terrain of the southern highlands were on view, often all at once: cratered, broken, uneven, ridged, dissected, and hilly land, the quintessential Noachian landscape. Sax and Nanao and Tariki sat on the observation deck of one of the Sabishii University rovers; they could see other cars carrying other colleagues, and there were teams out walking ahead of them. On the last hills before the horizon to the east, a few energetic people were fell-running. The hollows of the land were all lightly dusted with dirty snow. The massif was centered fifteen degrees south of the equator, and they got a fair bit of precipitation around Sabishii, Nanao said. The southeast side of the massif was drier, but here, the cloud masses pushed south over the ice in Isidis Planitia and climbed the slope and dropped their loads.

Indeed, as they drove uphill great waves of dark cloud rolled in from the northwest, pouring over them as if chasing the fell-runners. Sax shuddered, remembering his recent exposure to the elements; he was happy to be in a rover, and felt he would need only short walks away from it to be satisfied.

Eventually, however, they stopped on a high point in a low old ridge, and got out. They made their way over a surface littered with boulders and knobs, cracks, sand drifts, very small craters, breadloafed bedrock, scarps and alases, and the old shallow channels that gave the dissected unit its name. In truth there were deformational features of every kind to be seen, for the land here was four billion years old. A lot had happened to it, but nothing had ever happened to destroy it completely and clean the slate, so all four billion years were still there to be seen, in a veritable museum of rockscapes. It had been thoroughly pulverized in the Noachian, leaving regolith several kilometers deep, and craters and deformities that no aeolian stripping could remove. And during this early period the other side of the planet had had its lithosphere to a depth of six kilometers blasted into space by the so-called Big Hit; a fair amount of that ejecta had eventually landed in the south. That was the explanation for the Great Escarpment, and the lack of ancient highlands in the north; and one more factor in the extremely disordered look of this land.

Then also, at the end of the Hesperian had come the brief warm wet period, when water had occasionally run on the surface. These days most areologists thought that this period had been quite wet but not really very warm, annual averages of well under 273° Kelvin still allowing for surface water sometimes, replenished by hydrothermal convection rather than precipitation. This period had lasted for only a hundred million years or so, according to current estimates, and it had been followed by billions of years of winds, in the arid cold Amazonian Age, which had lasted right up to the point of their arrival. “Is there a name for the age starting with m-1?” Sax asked.

“The Holocene.”

And then lastly, everything had been scoured by two billion years of ceaseless wind, scoured so hard that the older craters were completely rimless, everything stripped at by the relentless winds strata by strata, leaving behind a wilderness of rock. Not chaos, technically speaking, but wild, speaking its unimaginable age in polyglot profusion, in rimless craters and etched mesas, dips, hummocks, escarpments, and oh so many blocky pitted rocks.

Often they stopped the rover and walked around. Even small mesas seemed to tower over them. Sax found himself staying near their rover, but nevertheless he came upon all kinds of interesting features. Once he discovered a rover-shaped rock, cracked vertically all the way through. To the left of the block, off to the west, he had a view to a distant horizon, the rocky land out there a smooth yellow glaze. To the right, the waist-high wall of some old fault, pocked as if by cuneiform. Then a sand drift bordered by ankle-high rocks, some of them pyramidal dark basaltic ventifacts, others lighter pitted granulated rocks. There a balanced shat-tercone, big as any dolmen. There a sand tail. There a crude circle of ejecta, like an almost completely weathered Sto-nehenge. There a deep snake-shaped hollow — the fragment of a watercourse, perhaps — behind it another gentle rise — then a distant prominence like a lion’s head. The prominence next to it was like the lion’s body.

In the midst of all this stone and sand, plant life was unobtrusive. At least at first. One had to look for it, to pay close attention to color, above all else to green, green in all its shades, but especially its desert shades — sage, olive, khaki, and so on. Nanao and Tariki kept pointing out specimens he hadn’t seen. Closer he looked, and closer again. Once attuned to the pale living colors, which blended so well with the ferric land, they began to jump out from the rust and brown and umber and ocher and black of the rock-scape. Hollows and cracks were likely places to see them, and near the shaded patches of snow. The ctoser he looked, the more he saw; and then, in one high basin, it seemed there were plants tucked everywhere. In that moment he understood; it was all fellfield, the whole Tyrrhena massif.

Then, coating entire rockfaces, or covering the inside areas of drip catchments, were the dayglow greens of certain lichens, and the emerald or dark velvet greens of the mosses. Wet fur.

The diversicolored palette of the lichen array; the dark green of pine needles. Bunched sprays of Hokkaido pines, foxtail pines, Sierra junipers. Life’s colors. It was somewhat like walking from one great roofless room to another, over ruined walls of stone. A small plaza; a kind of winding gallery; a vast ballroom; a number of tiny interlocked chambers; a sitting room. Some rooms held krummholz bansei against their low walls, the trees no higher than their nooks, gnarled by wind, cut along the top at the snow level. Each branch, each plant, each open room, as shaped as any bonsai — and yet effortless.

Actually, Nanao told him, most of the basins were intensively cultivated. “This basin was planted by Abraham.” Each little region was the responsibility of a certain gardener or gardening group.

“Ah!” Sax said. “And fertilized, then?”

Tariki laughed. “In a manner of speaking. The soil itself has been imported, for the most part.”

“I see.”

This explained the diversity of plants. A little bit of cultivation, he knew, had been done around Arena Glacier, where he had first encountered the fellfields. But here they had gone far beyond those early steps. Labs in Sabishii, Tariki told him, were trying their best to manufacture topsoil. A good idea; soil in fellfields appeared naturally at a rate of only a few centimeters a century. But there were reasons for this, and manufacturing soil was proving to be extremely difficult.

Still, “We pick up a few million years at the start,” Nanao said. “Evolve from there.” They hand-planted many of their specimens, it seemed, then for the most part left them to their fate, and watched what developed.

“I see,” Sax said.

He looked more closely yet. The clear dim light: it was true that each great open room displayed a slightly different array of species. “These are gardens, then.”

“Yes … or things like that. Depends.”

Some of the gardeners, Nanao said, worked according to the precepts of Muso Soseki, others according to other Japanese Zen masters; others still to Fu Hsi, the legendary inventor of the Chinese system of geomancy called feng shui; others to Persian gardening gurus, including Omar Khayyam; or to Leopold or Jackson, or other early American ecologists, like the nearly forgotten biologist Oskar Schnell-ing; and so on.

These were influences only, Tariki added. As they did the work, they developed visions of their own. They followed the inclination of the land, as they saw that some plants prospered, and others died. Coevolution, a kind of epigenetic development.

“Nice,” Sax said, looking around. For the adepts, the walk from Sabishii up onto the massif must have been an aesthetic journey, filled with allusions and subtle variants of tradition that were invisible to him. Hiroko would have called it areoformation, or the areophany. “I’d like to visit your soil labs.”

“Of course.”

They returned to the rover, drove on. Late in the day, under dark threatening clouds, they came to the very top of the massif, which turned out to be a kind of broad undulating moor. Small ravines were filled with pine needles, sheered off by winds so that they looked like the blades of grass on a well-mowed yard. Sax and Tariki and Nanao again got out of the car, walked around. The wind cut through their suits, and the late-afternoon sun broke out from under the dark cloud cover, casting their shadows all the way out to the horizon. Up here on the moors there were many big masses of smooth bare bedrock; looking around, the landscape had the red primal look Sax remembered from the earliest years; but then they would walk to the edge of a small ravine, and suddenly be looking down into green.

Tariki and Nanao talked about ecopoesis, which for them was terraforming redefined, subtilized, localized. Transmuted into something like Hiroko’s areoformation. No longer powered by heavy industrial global methods, but by the slow, steady, and intensely local process of working on individual patches of land. “Mars is all a garden. Earth too for that matter. This is what humans have become. So we have to think about gardening, about that level of responsibility to the land. A human-Mars interface that does justice to both.”

Sax waggled a hand uncertainly. “I’m used to thinking of Mars as a kind of wilderness,” he said, as he looked up the etymology of the word garden. French, Teutonic, Old Norse, gard, enclosure. Seemed to share origins with guard, or keeping. But who knew what the supposedly equivalent word in Japanese meant. Etymology was hard enough without translation thrown into the mix. “You know — get things started, let loose the seeds, then watch it all develop on its own. Self-organizing ecologies, you know.”

“Yes,” Tariki said, “but wilderness too is a garden now. A kind of garden. That’s what it means to be what we are.” He shrugged, his forehead wrinkled; he believed the idea was true, but did not seem to like it. “Anyway, ecopoesis is closer to your vision of wilderness than industrial terra-forming ever was.”

“Maybe,” Sax said. “Maybe they’re just two stages of a process. Both necessary.”

Tariki nodded, willing to consider it. “And now?”

“It depends on how we want to deal with the possibility of an ice age,” Sax said. “If it’s bad enough, kills off enough plants, then ecopoesis won’t have a chance. The atmosphere could freeze back onto the surface, the whole process crash. Without the mirrors, I’m not confident that the biosphere is robust enough to continue growing. That’s why I want to see those soil labs you have. It may be that industrial work on the atmosphere remains to be done. We’ll have to try some modeling and see.”

Tariki nodded, and Nanao too. Their ecologies were being snowed under, right before their eyes; flakes drifted down through the transient bronze sunlight at this very moment, tumbling in the wind. They were open to suggestion.

Meanwhile, as throughout these drives, their young associates from Da Vinci and Sabishii were running over the massif together, and returning to Sabishii’s mound maze babbling through the night about geomancy and areo-mancy, ecopoetics, heat exchange, the five elements, greenhouse gases, and so on. A creative ferment that looked to Sax very promising. “Michel should be here,” he said to Nanao. “John should be here. How he would love a group like this.”

And then it occurred to him: “Ann should be here.”

So he went back to Pavonis,leaving the group in Sabishii talking things over.

Back on Pavonis everything was the same. More and more people, spurred on by Art Randolph, were proposing that they hold a constitutional congress. Write an at least provisional constitution, hold a vote on it, then establish the government described.

“Good idea,” Sax said. “Perhaps a delegation to Earth as well.”

Casting seeds. It was just like on the moors; some would sprout, others wouldn’t.

He went looking for Ann, but found she had left Pavonis — gone, people said, to a Red outpost in Tempe Terra, north of Tharsis. No one went there but Reds, they said.

After some thought Sax asked for Steve’s help, and looked up the outpost’s location. Then he borrowed a little plane from the Bogdanovists and flew north, past Ascraeus Mons on his left, then down Echus Chasma, and past his old headquarters at Echus Overlook, on top of the huge wall to his right.

Ann too had no doubt flown this route, and thus gone by the first headquarters of the terraforming effort. Terraforming… there was evolution in everything, even in ideas. Had Ann noticed Echus Overlook, had she even remembered that small beginning? No way of telling. That was how humans knew each other. Tiny fractions of their lives intersected or were known in any way to anybody else. It was much like living alone in the universe. Which was strange. A justification for living with friends, for marrying, for sharing rooms and lives as much as possible. Not that this made people truly intimate; but it reduced the sensation of solitude. So that one was still sailing solo through the oceans of the world, as in Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, a book that had much impressed Sax as a youth, in which the eponymous hero at the conclusion occasionally saw a sail, joined another ship, anchored against a shore, shared a meal — then voyaged on, alone and solitary. An image of their lives; for every world was as empty as the one Mary Shelley had imagined, as empty as Mars had been in the beginning.

He flew past the blackened curve of Kasei Vallis without noting it at all.

The Reds had long ago hollowed out a rock the size of a city block, in a promontory that served as the last dividing wedge in the intersection of two of the Tempe Fossa, just south of Perepelkin Crater. Windows under overhangs gave them a view over both of the bare straight canyons, and the larger canyon they made after their confluence. Now all these fossae cut down what had become a coastal plateau; Mareotis and Tempe together formed a huge peninsula of ancient highlands, sticking far into the new ice sea.

Sax landed his little plane on the sandy strip on top of the promontory. From here the ice plains were not visible; nor could he spot any vegetation — not a tree, not a flower, not even a patch of lichen. He wondered if they had somehow sterilized the canyons. Just primal rock, with a dusting of frost. And nothing they could do about frost, unless they wanted to tent these canyons, to keep air out rather than in. “Hmm,” Sax said, startled at the idea.

Two Reds let him in the lock door on the top of the promontory, and he descended stairs with them. The shelter appeared to be nearly empty. Just as well. It was nice only to have to withstand the cold gazes of two young women leading him through the rough-hewn rock galleries of the refuge, rather than a whole gang. Interesting to see Red aesthetics. Very spare, as might be expected — not a plant to be seen — just different textures of rock: rough walls, rougher ceilings, contrasted to a polished basalt floor, and the glistening windows overlooking the canyons.

They came to a cliffside gallery that looked like a natural cave, no straighter than the nearly Euclidean lines of the canyon below. There were mosaics inlaid into the back wall, made of bits of colored stone, polished and set against each other without gaps, forming abstract patterns that seemed almost to represent something, if only he could focus properly on them. The floor was a stone parquet of onyx and alabaster, serpentine and bloodstone. The gallery went on and on — big, dusty — the whole complex somewhat disused, perhaps. Reds preferred their rovers, and places like this no doubt had been seen as unfortunate necessities. Hidden refuge; with windows shuttered, one could have walked down the canyons right past the place and not known it was there; and Sax felt that this was not just to avoid the notice of the UNTA, but also to be unobtrusive before the land itself, to melt into it.

As Ann seemed to be trying to do, there in a stone window seat. Sax stopped abruptly; lost in his thoughts, he had almost run into her, just as an ignorant traveler might have run into the shelter. A chunk of rock, sitting there. He looked at her closely. She looked ill. One didn’t see that much anymore, and the longer Sax looked at her, the more alarmed he became. She had told him, once, that she was no longer taking the longevity treatment. That had been some years before. And during the revolution she had burned like a flame. Now, with the Red rebellion quelled, she was ash. Gray flesh. It was an awful sight. She was somewhere around 150 years old, like all the First Hundred left alive, and without the treatments… she would soon die.

Well. Strictly speaking, she was at the physiological equivalent of being seventy or so, depending on when she had last had the treatments. So not that bad. Perhaps Peter would know. But the longer one went between treatments, he had heard, the more problems cropped up, statistically speaking. It made sense. It was only wise to be prudent.

But he couldn’t say that to her. In fact, it was hard to think what he could say to her.

Eventually her gaze lifted. She recognized him and shuddered, her lip lifting like a trapped animal’s. Then she looked away from him, grim, stone-faced. Beyond anger, beyond hope.

“I wanted to show you some of the Tyrrhena massif,” he said lamely.

She got up like a statue rising, and left the room.

Sax, feeling his joints creak with the pseudo-arthritic pain that so often accompanied his dealings with Ann, followed her.

He was trailed in his turn by the two stern-looking young women. “I don’t think she wants to talk to you,” the taller one informed him.

“Very astute of you,” Sax said.

Far down the gallery, Ann was standing before another window: spellbound, or else too exhausted to move. Or part of her did want to talk.

Sax stopped before her.

“I want to get your impressions of it,” he said. “Your suggestions for what we might do next. And I have some, some, some areological questions. Of course it could be that strictly scientific questions aren’t of interest to you anymore — ”

She took a step toward him and struck him on the side of the face. He found himself slumped against the gallery wall, sitting on his butt. Ann was nowhere to be seen. He was being helped to his feet by the two young women, who clearly didn’t know whether to cheer or groan. His whole body hurt, more even than his face, and his eyes were very hot, stinging slightly. It seemed he might cry before these two young idiots, who by trailing him were complicating everything enormously; with them around he could not yell or plead, he could not go on his knees and say Ann, please, forgive me. He couldn’t.

“Where did she go?” he managed to say.

“She really, really doesn’t want to talk to you,” the tall one declared.

“Maybe you should wait and try later,” the other advised.

“Oh shut up!” Sax said, suddenly feeling an irritation so vehement that it was like rage. “I suppose you would just let her stop taking the treatment and kill herself!”

“It’s her right,”‘the tall one pontificated.

“Of course it is. I wasn’t speaking of rights. I was speaking of how a friend should behave when someone is suicidal.

Not a subject you are likely to know anything about. Now help me find her.”

“You’re no friend of hers.”

“I most certainly am.” He was on his feet. He staggered a little as he tried to walk in the direction he thought she had gone. One of the young women tried to take his elbow. He avoided the help and went on. There Ann was, in the distance, collapsed in a chair, in some kind of dining chamber, it seemed. He approached her, slowing like Apollo in Zeno’s paradox.

She swiveled and glared at him.

“It’s you who abandoned science, right from the start,” she snarled. “So don’t you give me that shit about not being interested in science!”

“True,” Sax said. “It’s true.” He held out both hands. “But now I need advice. Scientific advice. I want to learn. And I want to show you some things as well.”

But after a moment’s consideration she was up and off again, right past him, so that he flinched despite himself. He hurried after her; her gait was much longer than his, and she was moving fast, so that he had to almost jog. His bones hurt.

“Perhaps we could go out here,” Sax suggested. “It doesn’t matter where we go out.”

“Because the whole planet is wrecked,” she muttered.

“You must still go out for sunsets occasionally,” Sax persisted. “I could join you for that, perhaps.”


“Please, Ann.” She was a fast walker, and enough taller than him that it was hard to keep up with her and talk as well. He was huffing and puffing, and his cheek still hurt. “Please, Ann.”

She did not answer, she did not slow down. Now they were walking down a hall between suites of living quarters, and Ann sped up to go through a doorway and slam the door behind her. Sax tried it; it was locked.

Not, on the whole, a promising beginning.

Hound and hind. Somehow he had to change things so that it was not a hunt, a pursuit. Nevertheless: “I huff, I puff, I blow your house down,” he muttered. He blew at the door. But then the two young women were there, staring hard at him.

* * *

One evening later that week, near sunset, he went down to the changing room and suited up. When Ann came in he jumped several centimeters. “I was just going out?” he stammered. “Is that okay with you?”

“It’s a free country,” she said heavily.

And they went out the lock together, into the land. The young women would have been amazed.

He had to be very careful. Naturally, although he was out there with her to show to her the beauty of the new biosphere, it would not do to mention plants, or snow, or clouds. One had to let things speak for themselves. This was perhaps true of all phenomena. Nothing could be spoken for. One could only walk over the land, and let it speak for itself.

Ann was not gregarious. She barely spoke to him. It was her usual route, he suspected as he followed her. He was being allowed to come along.

It was perhaps permissible to ask questions: this was science. And Ann stopped often enough, to look at rock formations up close. It made sense at those times to crouch beside her, and with a gesture or a word ask what she was finding. They wore suits and helmets, even though the altitude was low enough to have allowed breathing with only the aid of a CO2 filter mask. Thus conversations consisted of voices in the ear, as of old. Asking questions.

So he asked. And Ann would answer, sometimes in some detail. Tempe Terra was indeed the Land of Time, its basement material a surviving piece of the southern highlands, one of those lobes of it that stuck far into the northern plains — a survivor of the Big Hit. Then later Tempe had fractured extensively, as the lithosphere was pushed up from below by the Tharsis Bulge to the south. These fractures included both the Mareotis Fossae and the Tempe Fossa surrounding them now.

The spreading land had cracked enough to allow some latecomer volcanoes to emerge, spilling over the canyons. From one high ridge they saw a distant volcano like a black cone dropped from the sky; then another, looking just like a meteor crater as far as Sax could see. Ann shook her head at this observation, and pointed out lava flows and vents, features all visible once they were pointed out, but not at all obvious under a scree of later ejecta rubble and (one had to admit it) a dusting of dirty snow, collecting like sand drifts in wind shelters, turning sand-colored in the sunset light.

To see the landscape in its history, to read it like a text, written by its own long past; that was Ann’s vision, achieved by a century’s close observation and study, and by her own native gift, her love for it. Something to behold, really — something to marvel at. A kind of resource, or treasure — a love beyond science, or something into the realm of Michel’s mystical science. Alchemy. But alchemists wanted to change things. A kind of oracle, rather. A visionary, with a vision just as powerful as Hiroko’s, really. Less obviously visionary, perhaps, less spectacular, less active; an acceptance of what was there; love of rock, for rock’s sake. For Mars’s sake. The primal planet, in all its sublime glory, red and rust, still as death; dead; altered through the years only by matter’s chemical permutations, the immense slow life of geophysics. It was an odd concept — abiologic life — but there it was, if one cared to see it, a kind of living, out there spinning, moving through the stars that burned, moving through the universe in its great systolic/diastolic movement, its one big breath, one might say. Sunset somehow made it easier to see that.

Trying to see things Ann’s way. Glancing furtively at his wristpad, behind her back. Stone, from Old English stdn, cognates everywhere, back to proto-Indo-European sti, a pebble. Rock, from medieval Latin rocca, origin unknown; a mass of stone. Sax abandoned the wristpad and fell away into a kind of rock reverie, open and blank. Tabula rasa, to the point where apparently he did not hear what Ann herself was saying to him; for she snorted and walked on. Abashed, he followed, and steeled himself to ignore her displeasure, and ask more questions.

There seemed to be a lot of displeasure in Ann. In a way this was reassuring; lack of affect would have been a very bad sign; but she still seemed quite emotional. At least most of the time. Sometimes she focused on the rock so intently it was almost like watching her obsessed enthusiasm of old, and he was encouraged; other times it seemed she was just going through the motions, doing areology in a desperate attempt to stave off the present moment; stave off history; or despair; or all of that. In those moments she was aimless, and did not stop to look at obviously interesting features they passed, and did not answer his questions about same. The little Sax had read about depression alarmed him; not much could be done, one needed drugs to combat it, and even then nothing was sure. But to suggest antidepressants was more or less the same as suggesting the treatment itself; and so he could not speak of it. And besides, was despair the same as depression?

Happily, in this context, plants were pitifully few. Tempe was not like Tyrrhena, or even the banks of the Arena Glacier. Without active gardening, this was what one got. The world was still mostly rock.

On the other hand, Tempe was low in altitude, and humid, with the ice ocean just a few kilometers to the north and west. And various Johnny Appleseed flights had passed over the entire southern shoreline of the new sea — part of Biotique’s efforts, begun some decades ago, when Sax had been in Burroughs. So there was some lichen to be seen, if you looked hard. And small patches of fellfield. And a few krummholz trees, half-buried in snow. All these plants were in trouble in this northern summer-turned-winter, except for the lichen of course. There was a fair bit of miniaturized fall color already, there in the tiny leaves of the ground-hugging koenigia, and pygmy buttercup, and icegrass, and, yes, arctic saxifrage. The reddening leaves served as a kind of camouflage in the ambient redrock; often Sax didn’t see plants until he was about to step on them. And of course he didn’t want to draw Ann’s attention to them anyway, so when he did stumble on one, he gave it a quick evaluative glance and walked on.

They climbed a prominent knoll overlooking the canyon west of the refuge, and there it was: the great ice sea, all orange and brass in the late light. It filled the lowland in a great sweep and formed its own smooth horizon, from southwest to northeast. Mesas of the fretted terrain now stuck out of the ice like sea stacks or cliff-sided islands. In truth this part of Tempe was going to be one of the most dramatic coastlines on Mars, with the lower ends of some fossae filling to become long fjords or lochs. And one coastal crater was right at sea level, and had a break in its sea side, making it a perfect round bay some fifteen kilometers across, with an entry channel about two kilometers across. Farther south, the fretted terrain at the foot of the Great Escarpment would create a veritable Hebrides of an archipelago, many of the islands visible from the cliffs of the mainland. Yes, a dramatic coastline. As one could see already, looking at the broken sheets of sunset ice.

But of course this was not to be noted. No mention at all of the ice, the jagged bergs jumbled on the new shoreline. The bergs had been formed by some process Sax wasn’t aware of, though he was curious — but it could not be discussed. One could only stand in silence, as if having stumbled into a cemetery.

Embarrassed, Sax knelt to look at a specimen of Tibetan rhubarb he had almost stepped on. Little red leaves, in a floret from a central red bulb.

Ann was looking over his shoulder. “Is it dead?”

“No.” He pulled off a few dead leaves from the exterior of the floret, showed her the brighter ones beneath. “It’s hardening for the winter already. Fooled by the drop in light.” Then Sax went on, as if to himself: “A lot of the plants will die, though. The thermal overturn,” which was when air temperatures turned colder than the ground temperatures, “came more or less overnight. There won’t be much chance for hardening. Thus lots of winterkill. Plants are better at handling it than animals would have been. And insects are surprisingly good, considering they’re little containers of liquid. They have supercooling cryoprotectants. They can stand whatever happens, I think.”

Ann was still inspecting the plant, and so Sax shut up. It’s alive, he wanted to say. Insofar as the members of a biosphere depend on each other for existence, it is part of your body. How can you hate it?

But then again, she wasn’t taking the treatment.

The ice sea was a shattered blaze of bronze and coral. The sun was setting, they would have to get back. Ann straightened and walked away, a black silhouette, silent. He could speak in her ear, even now when she was a hundred meters away, then two hundred, a small black figure in the great sweep of the world. He did not; it would have been an invasion of her privacy, almost of her thoughts. But how he wondered what those thoughts were. How he longed to say Ann, Ann, what are you thinking? Talk to me, Ann. Share your thoughts.

The intense desire to talk with someone, sharp as any pain; this was what people meant when they talked about love. Or rather; this was what Sax would acknowledge to be love. Just the super-heightened desire to share thoughts. That alone. Oh Ann, please talk to me.

But she did not talk to him. On her the plants seemed not to have had the effect they had had on him. She seemed truly to abominate them, these little emblems of her body, as if viriditas were no more than a cancer that the rock must suffer. Even though in the growing piles of wind-drifted snow, plants were scarcely visible anymore. It was getting dark, another storm was sweeping in, low over the black-and-copper sea. A pad of moss, a lichened rockface; mostly it was rock alone, just as it had ever been. Nevertheless.

Then as they were getting back into the refuge lock, Ann fell in a faint. On the way down she hit her head on the doorjamb. Sax caught her body as she was landing on a bench against the inner wall. She was unconscious, and Sax half carried her, half dragged her all the way into the lock. Then he pulled the outer door shut, and when the lock was pumped, pulled her through the inner door into the changing room. He must have been shouting over the common band, because by the time he got her helmet off, five or six Reds were there in the room, more than he had seen in the refuge so far. One of the young women who had so impeded him, the short one, turned out to be the medical person of the station, and when they got Ann up onto a rolling table that could be used as a gurney, this woman led the way to the refuge’s medical clinic, and there took over. Sax helped where he could, getting Ann’s walker boots off her long feet with shaking hands. His pulse rate — he checked his wrist-pad — was 145 beats a minute — and he felt hot, even lightheaded.

“Has she had a stroke?” he said. “Has she had a stroke?”

The short woman looked surprised. “I don’t think so. She fainted. Then struck her head.”

“But why did she faint?”

“I don’t know.”

She looked at the tall young woman, who sat next to the door. Sax understood that they were the senior authorities in the refuge. “Ann left instructions for us not to put her on any kind of life-support mechanism, if she were ever incapacitated like this.”

“No,” Sax said.

“Very explicit instructions. She forbade it. She wrote it down.”

“You put her on whatever it takes to keep her alive,” Sax said, his voice harsh with strain. Everything he had said since Ann’s collapse had been a surprise to him; he was a witness to his actions just as much as they were. He heard himself say, “It doesn’t mean you have to keep her on it, if she doesn’t come around. It’s just a reasonable minimum, to make sure she doesn’t go for nothing.”

The doctor rolled her eyes at this distinction, but the tall woman sitting in the doorway looked thoughtful.

Sax heard himself go on: “I was on life support for some four days, as I understand it, and I’m glad no one decided to turn it off. It’s her decision, not yours. Anyone who wants to die can do it without having to make a doctor compromise her Hippocratic oath.”

The doctor rolled her eyes even more disgustedly than before. But with a glance at her colleague, she began to pull Ann onto the life-support bed; Sax helped her; and then she was turning on the medical AI, and getting Ann out of her walker. A rangy old woman, now breathing with an oxygen mask over her face. The tall woman stood and began to help the doctor, and Sax went and sat down. His own physiological symptoms were amazingly severe, marked chiefly by heat all through him, and a kind of incompetent hyperven-tilation; and an ache that made him want to cry.

After a time the doctor came over. Ann had fallen into a coma, she said. It looked like a small heart-rhythm abnormality had caused her to faint in the first place. She was stable at the moment.

Sax sat in the room. Much later the doctor returned. Ann’s wristpad had recorded an episode of rapid irregular heartbeat, at the time she fainted. Now there was still a small arrhythmia. And apparently anoxia, or the blow to the head, or both, had initiated a coma.

Sax asked what exactly a coma was, and felt a sinking feeling when the doctor shrugged. It was a catchall term, apparently, for unconscious states of a certain kind. Pupils fixed, body insensitive, and sometimes locked into decorticate postures. Ann’s left arm and leg were twisted. And unconsciousness of course. Sometimes odd vestiges of re-sponsiveness, clenching hands and the like. Duration of coma varied widely. Some people never came out of them.

Sax looked at his hands until the doctor left him alone. He sat in the room until everyone else was gone. Then he got up and stood at Ann’s side, looking down at her masked face. Nothing to be done. He held her hand; it did not clench. He held her head, as he had been told Nirgal had held his when he was unconscious. It felt like a useless gesture.

He went to the AI screen, and called up the diagnostic program. He called up Ann’s medical data, and ran back the heart monitor data from the incident in the lock. A small arrhythmia, yes; rapid, irregular pattern. He fed the data into the diagnostic program, and looked up heart arrhythmia on his own. There were a lot of aberrant cardiac rhythm patterns, but it appeared that Ann might have a genetic predisposition to suffer from a disorder called long QT syndrome, named for a characteristic abnormal long wave in the electrocardiogram. He called up Ann’s genome, and instructed the AI to run a search in the relevant regions of chromosomes 3, 7, and 11. In the gene called HERG, in her chromosome 7, the AI identified a small mutation: one reversal of adenine-thymine and guanine-cytosine. Small, but HERG contained instructions for the assembly of a protein that served as a potassium ion channel in the surface of heart cells, and these ion channels acted as a switch to turn off contracting heart cells. Without this brake the heart could go arrhythmic, and beat too fast to pump blood effectively.

Ann also appeared to have another problem, with a gene on chromosome 3 called SCN5A. This gene encoded a different regulatory protein, which provided a sodium ion channel on the surface of heart cells. This channel functioned as an accelerator, and mutations here could add to the problem of rapid heartbeat. Ann had a CG bit missing.

These genetic conditions were rare, but for the diagnostic AI that was not an issue. It contained a symptomology for all known problems, no matter how rare. It seemed to consider Ann’s case to be fairly straightforward, and it listed the treatments that existed to counteract the problems presented by the condition. There were a lot of them.

One of the treatments suggested was the receding of the problem genes, in the course of the standard gerontological treatments. Persistent gene recodings through several longevity treatments should erase the cause of the problem right at the root, or rather in the seed. It seemed strange that this hadn’t been done already, but then Sax saw that the recommendation was only about two decades old; it came from a period after the last time Ann had taken the treatments.

For a long time Sax sat there, staring at the screen. Much later he got up. He began to inspect the Reds’ medical clinic, instrument by instrument, room by room. The nursing attendants let him wander; they thought he was distraught.

This was a major Red refuge, and it seemed likely to him that one of the rooms might contain the equipment necessary to administer the gerontological treatments. Indeed it was so. A small room at the back of the clinic appeared to be devoted to the process. It didn’t take much: a bulky AI, a small lab, the stock proteins and chemicals, the incubators, the MRIs, the IV equipment. Amazing, when you considered what it did. But that had always been true. Life itself was amazing: simple protein sequences only, at the start, and yet here they were.

So. The main AI had Ann’s genome record. But if he ordered this lab to start synthesizing her DNA strands for her (adding the recodings of HERG and SCN5A) the people here would surely notice. And then there would be trouble.

He went back to his tiny room to make a coded call to Da Vinci. He asked his associates there to start the synthesis, and they agreed without any questions beyond the technical ones. Sometimes he loved those saxaclones with all his heart.

After that it was back to waiting. Hours passed; more hours; more hours. Eventually several days had passed, with no change in Ann. The doctor’s expression grew blacker and blacker, though she said nothing more about unhooking Ann. But it was in her eye. Sax took to sleeping on the floor in Ann’s room. He grew to know the rhythm of her breathing. He spent a lot of time with a hand cradling her head, as Michel had told him Nirgal had done with him. He very much doubted that this had ever cured anybody of anything, but he did it anyway. Sitting for so long in such a posture, he had occasion to think about the brain plasticity treatments that Vlad and Ursula had administered to him after his stroke. Of course a stroke was a very different thing than a coma. But a change of mind was not necessarily a bad thing, if one’s mind was in pain.

More days passed without a change, each day slower and blanker and more fearful than the one before. The incubators in the Da Vinci labs had long since cooked up a full set of corrected Ann-specific DNA strands, and antisense rein-forcers, and glue-ons — the whole gerontological package, in its latest configuration.

So one night he called up Ursula, and had a long consultation with her. She answered his questions calmly, even as she struggled with the idea of what he wanted to do. “The synaptic stimulus package we gave you would produce too much synaptic growth in undamaged brains,” she said firmly. “It would alter personality to no set pattern.” Creating madmen like Sax, her alarmed look said.

Sax decided to skip the synaptic supplements. Saving Ann’s life was one thing, changing her mind another. Random change was not the goal anyway. Acceptance was. Happiness — Ann’s true happiness, whatever that might be — now so far away, so hard to imagine. He ached to think of it. It was extraordinary how much physical pain could be generated by thought alone — the limbic system a whole universe in itself, suffused with pain, like the dark matter that suffused everything in the universe.

“Have you talked to Michel?” Ursula asked.

“No. Good idea.”

He called Michel, explained what had happened, and what he had in mind to do. “My God, Sax,” Michel said, looking shocked. But in only a few moments he was promising to come. He would get Desmond to fly him to Da Vinci to pick up the treatment supplies, and then fly on up to the refuge.

So Sax sat in Ann’s room, a hand to her head. A bumpy skull; no doubt a phrenologist would have had a field day.

Then Michel and Desmond were there, his brothers, standing beside him. The doctor was there too, escorting them, and the tall woman and others as well; so everything had to be communicated by looks, or the absence of looks. Nevertheless everything was perfectly clear. Desmond’s face was if anything too clear. They had Ann’s longevity package with them. They only had to wait their chance.

Which came quite soon; with Ann settled into her coma, the situation in the little hospital was routine. The effects of the longevity treatment on a coma, however, were not fully known; Michel had scanned the literature, and the data were sparse. It had been tried as an experimental treatment in a few unresponsive comas before, and had been successful in rousing victims almost half the time. Because of that Michel now thought it was a good idea.

And so, soon after their arrival, the three of them got up in the middle of the night, and tiptoed past the sleeping attendant in the medical center’s anteroom. Medical training had had its usual effect, and the attendant was sound asleep, though awkwardly propped in her chair. Sax and Michel hooked Ann up to the IVs, and stuck the needles in the veins on the backs of her hands, working slowly, carefully, precisely. Quietly. Soon she was hooked up, the IVs were flowing, the new protein strands were in her bloodstream. Her breathing gre’w irregular, and Sax felt hot with fear. He groaned silently. It was comforting to have Michel and Desmond here, each holding an arm as if supporting him, keeping him from falling; but he wished desperately for Hiroko. This was what she would have done, he was certain of it. Which made him feel better. Hiroko was one of the reasons he was doing this. Still he longed for her support, her physical presence, he wished she would show up to help him like she had on Daedalia Planitia. To help Ann. She was the expert at this kind of radically irresponsible human experimentation, this would have been small potatoes to her…

When the operation was finished, they took out the IV needles and put the equipment away. The attendant slept on, mouth open, looking like the girl she was. Ann was still unconscious, but breathing easier, Sax felt. More strongly.

The three men stood looking down at Ann together. Then they slipped out, and tiptoed back down the hall to their rooms. Desmond was dancing on his toes like a fool, and the other two shushed him. They got back in their beds but couldn’t sleep; and couldn’t talk; and so lay there silently, like brothers in a big house, late at night, after a successful expedition out into the nocturnal world.

The next morning the doctor came in. “Her vital signs are better.”

The three men expressed their pleasure at this.

Later, down in the dining hall, Sax had a strong urge to tell Michel and Desmond about his encounter with Hiroko. The news would mean more to these two than anyone else. But something in him was afraid to do it. He was afraid of seeming overwrought, perhaps even delusional. That moment when Hiroko had left him at the rover, and walked off into the storm — he didn’t know what to think of that. In his long hours with Ann he had done some thinking, and some research, and he knew now that Terran climbers alone at high altitude, suffering from oxygen loss, not infrequently hallucinated companion climbers. Some kind of doppelganger figure. Rescue by anima. And his air tube had been partially clogged.

He said, “I thought this was what Hiroko would have done.”

Michel nodded. “It’s bold, I’ll hand you that. It has her style. No, don’t misunderstand me — I’m glad you did it.”

“About fucking time, if you ask me,” said Desmond. “Someone should have tied her down and made her take the treatment years ago. Oh my Sax, my Sax — ” He laughed happily. “I only hope she doesn’t come to as crazy as you did.”

“But Sax had a stroke,” Michel said.

“Well,” Sax said, concerned to set the record straight, “actually I was somewhat eccentric before.”

His two friends nodded, mouths pursed. They were in high spirits, though the situation was still unresolved. Then the tall doctor came in; Ann had come out of her coma.

Sax felt that his stomach was still too contracted by tension to take in food, but he noted that he was disposing of a pile of buttered toast quite handily. Wolfing it down, in fact.

“But she’s going to be very angry at you,” Michel said.

Sax nodded. It was, alas, probable. Likely, even. A bad thought. He did not want to be struck by her again. Or worse, denied her company.

“You should come with us to Earth,” Michel suggested. “Maya and I are going with the delegation, and Nirgal.”

“There’s a delegation going to Earth?”

“Yes, someone suggested it, and it seems like a good idea. We need to have some representatives right there on Earth talking to them. And by the time we get back from that, Ann will have had time to think it over.”

“Interesting,” Sax said, relieved at the mere suggestion of an escape from the situation. In fact it was almost frightening how quickly he could think of ten good reasons for going to Earth. “But what about Pavonis, and this conference they’re talking about?”

“We can stay part of that by video.”  .

“True.” It was just what he had always maintained.

The plan was attractive. He did not want to be there when Ann woke up. Or rather, when she found out what he had done. Cowardice, of course. But still. “Desmond, are you going?”

“Not a fucking chance.”

“But you say Maya is going too?” Sax asked Michel.


“Good. The last time I, I, I tried to save a woman’s life, Maya killed her.”

“What? What — Phyllis? You saved Phyllis’s life?”

“Well — no. That is to say, I did, but I was also the one who put her in danger in the first place. So I don’t think it counts.” He tried to explain what had happened that night in Burroughs, with little success. It was fuzzy in his own mind, except for certain vivid horrible moments. “Never mind. It was just a thought. I shouldn’t have spoken. I’m…”

“You’re tired,” Michel said. “But don’t worry. Maya will be away from the scene here, and safely under our eye.”

Sax nodded. It was sounding better all the time. Give Ann some time to cool off; think it over; understand. Hopefully. And it would be very interesting of course to see conditions on Earth firsthand. Extremely interesting. So interesting thatjio rational person could pass up the opportunity.



-A New Constitution


Ants came to Mars as part of the soil project, and soon they were everywhere, as is their way. And so the little red people encountered ants, and they were amazed. These creatures were just the right size to ride, it was like the Native Americans meeting the horse. Tame the things and they would run wild.

Domesticating the ant was no easy matter. The little red scientists had not even believed such creatures were possible, because of surface area-to-volume constraints, but there they were, clumping around like intelligent robots, so the little red scientists had to explain them. To get some help they climbed up into the humans’ reference books, and read up on ants. They learned about the ants’pheromones, and they synthesized the ones they needed to control the soldier ants of a particularly small docile red species, and after that, they were in business. Little red cavalry. They charged around everywhere on antback, having a fine old time, twenty or thirty of them on each ant, like pashas on elephants. Look close at enough ants and you’ll see them, right there on top.

But the little red scientists continued to read the texts, and learned about human pheromones. They went back to the rest of the little red people, awestruck and appalled. Now we know why these humans are such trouble, they reported. Humans have no more will than these ants we are riding around on. They are giant meat ants.

The little red people tried to comprehend such a travesty of life.

Then a voice said No they’re not, to all of them at once. The little red people talk to each other telepathically, you see, and this was like a telepathic loudspeaker announcement. Humans are spiritual beings, this voice insisted.

How do you know? the little red people asked telepathically. Who are you? Are you the ghost of John Boone?

I am the Gyatso Rimpoche, the voice answered. The eighteenth reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. I am traveling the Bardo in search of my next reincarnation. I’ve looked everywhere on Earth, but I’ve had no luck, and I decided to look somewhere new. Tibet is still under the thumb of the Chinese, and they show no signs of letting up. The Chinese, although I love them dearly, are hard bastards. And the other governments of the world long ago turned their backs on Tibet. So no one will challenge the Chinese. Something needs to be done. So I came to Mars.

Good idea, the little red people said.

Yes, the Dalai Lama agreed, but I must admit I am having a hard time finding a new body to inhabit. For one thing there are very few children anywhere. Then also it does not look like anyone is interested. I looked in Sheffield but everyone was too busy talking. I went to Sabishii but everyone there had their heads stuck in the dirt. I went to Elysium but everyone had assumed the lotus position and could not be roused. I went to Christianopolis but everyone there had other plans. I went to Hiranyagarba but everyone there said we’ve already done enough for Tibet. I’ve gone everywhere on Mars, to every tent and station, and everywhere people are just too busy. No one wants to be the nineteenth Dalai Lama. And the Bardo is getting colder and colder.

Good luck, the little red people said. We’ve been looking ever since John died and we haven’t even found anyone worth talking to, much less living inside. These big people are all messed up.

The Dalai Lama was discouraged by this response. He was getting very tired, and could not last much longer in the Bardo. So he said, What about one of you?

Well, sure, the little red people said. We’d be honored. Only it will have to be all of us at once. We do everything like that together.

Why not? said the Dalai Lama, and he transmigrated into one of the little red specks, and that same instant he was there in all of them, all over Mars. The little red people looked up at the humans crashing around above them, a sight which before they had tended to regard as some kind of bad wide-screen movie, and now they found they were filled with all the compassion and wisdom of the eighteen previous lives of the Dalai Lama. They said to each other, Ka wow, these people really are messed up. We thought it was bad before, but look at that, it’s even worse than we thought. They’re lucky they can’t read each other’s minds or they’d kill each other. That must be why they’re killing each other — they know what they’re thinking themselves, and so they suspect all the others. How ugly. How sad.

They need your help, the Dalai Lama said inside them all. Maybe you can help them.

Maybe, the little red people said. They were dubious, to tell the truth. Theyhadbeen trying to help humans ever since John Boone died, they had set up whole towns in the porches of every ear on the planet, and talked continuously ever since, sounding very much like John had, trying to get people to wake up and act decent, and never with any effect at all, except to send a lot of people to ear nose and throat specialists. Lots of people on Mars thought they had tinnitus, but no one ever understood their little red people. It was enough to discourage anyone.

But now the little red people had the compassionate spirit of the Dalai Lama infusing them, and so they decided to try one more time. Perhaps it will take more than whispering in their ears, the Dalai Lama pointed out, and they all agreed. We’ll have to get their attention some other way.

Have you tried your telepathy on them? the Dalai Lama asked.

Oh no, they said. No way. Too scary. The ugliness might kill us on the spot. Or at least make us real sick.

Maybe not, the Dalai Lama said. Maybe if you blocked off your reception of what they thought, and just beamed your thoughts at them, it would be all right, fust send lots of good thoughts, like an advice beam. Compassion, love, agreeableness, wisdom, even a little common sense.

We’ll give it a try, the little red people said. But we’re all going to have to shout at the top of our telepathic voices, all in chorus, because these folks just aren’t listening.

I’ve faced that for nine centuries now, the Dalai Lama said. You get used to it. And you little ones have the advantage of numbers. So give it a try.

And so all the little red people all over Mars looked up and took a deep breath.

Art Randolph was having the time of his life.

Not during the battle for Sheffield, of course — that had been a disaster, a breakdown of diplomacy, the failure of everything Art had been trying to do — a miserable few days, in fact, during which he had run around sleeplessly trying to meet with every group he thought might help defuse the crisis, and always with the feeling that it was somehow his fault, that if he had done things right it would not have happened. The fight went right to the brink of torching Mars, as in 2061; for a few hours on the afternoon of the Red assault, it had teetered.

But fallen back. Something — diplomacy, or the realities of battle (a defensive victory for those on the cable), common sense, sheer chance — something had tipped things back from the edge.

And with that nightmare interval past, people had returned to east Pavonis in a thoughtful mood. The consequences of failure had been made clear. They needed to agree on a plan. Many of the radical Reds were dead, or escaped into the outback, and the moderate Reds left in east Pavonis, while angry, were at least there. It was a very uncomfortable and uncertain period. But there they were.

So once again Art began flogging the idea of a constitutional congress. He ran around under the big tent through warrens of industrial warehouses and storage zones and concrete dormitories, down broad streets crowded with a museum’s worth of heavy vehicles, and everywhere he urged the same thing: constitution. He talked to Nadia, Nir-gal, Jackie, Zeyk, Maya, Peter, Ariadne, Rashid, Tariki, Na-nao, Sung, and H. X. Borazjani. He talked to Vlad and Ursula and Marina, and to the Coyote. He talked to a few-score young natives he had never met before, all major players in the recent unrest; there were so many of them it began to seem like a textbook demonstration of the polycephalous nature of mass social movements. And to every head of this new hydra Art made the same case: “A constitution would legitimate us to Earth, and it would give us a framework for settling disputes among ourselves. And we’re all gathered here, we could start right away. Some people have plans ready to look at.” And with the events of the past week fresh in their minds, people would nod and say “Maybe so,” and wander off thinking about it.

Art called up William Fort and told him what he was doing, and got an answer back later the same day. The old man was at a new refugee town in Costa Rica, looking just as distracted as always. “Sounds good,” he said. And after that Praxis people were checking with Art daily to see what they could do to help organize things. Art became busier than he had ever been, doing what the Japanese there called nema-washi, the preparations for an event: starting strategy sessions for an organizing group, revisiting everyone he had spoken to before, trying, in effect, to talk to every individual on Pavonis Mons. “The John Boone method,” Coyote commented with his cracked laugh. “Good luck!”

Sax, packing his few belongings for the diplomatic mission to Earth, said, “You should invite the, the United Nations.”

Sax’s adventure in the storm had knocked him back a bit; he tended to stare around at things, as if stunned by a blow to the head. Art said gently, “Sax, we just went to a lot of trouble to kick their butts off this planet.”

“Yes,” Sax said, staring at the ceiling. “But now co-opt them.”

“Co-opt the UN!” Art considered it. Co-opt the United Nations: it had a certain ring to it. It would be a challenge, diplomatically speaking.

* * *

Just before the ambassadors left for Earth, Nirgal came by the Praxis offices to say good-bye. Embracing his young friend, Art was seized with a sudden irrational fear. Off to Earth!

Nirgal was as blithe as ever, his dark brown eyes alight with anticipation. After saying good-bye to the others in the outer office, he sat with Art in an empty corner room of the warehouse.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Art asked.

“Very sure. I want to see Earth.”

Art waggled a hand, uncertain what to say.

“Besides,” Nirgal added, “someone has to go down there and show them who we are.”

“None better for that than you, my friend. But you’ll have to watch out for the metanats. Who knows what they’ll be up to. And for bad food — those areas affected by the flood are sure to have problems with sanitation. And disease vectors. And you’ll have to be careful about sunstroke, you’ll be very susceptible — ”

Jackie Boone walked in. Art stopped his travel advisory; Nirgal was no longer listening in any case, but watching Jackie with a suddenly blank expression, as if he had put on a Nirgal mask. And of course no mask could do justice to Nirgal, because the mobility of his face was its essential characteristic; so he did not look like himself at-all.

Jackie, of course, saw this instantly. Shut off from her old partner… naturally she glared at him. Something had gone awry, Art saw. Both of them had forgotten Art, who would have slipped out of the room if he could have, feeling like he was holding a lightning rod in a storm. But Jackie was still standing in the doorway, and Art did not care to disturb her at that moment.

“So you’re leaving us,” she said to Nirgal.

“It’s just a visit.”

“But why? Why now? Earth means nothing to us now.”

“It’s where we came from.”

“It is not. We came from Zygote.”

Nirgal shook his head. “Earth is the home planet. We’re an extension of it, here. We have to deal with it.”

Jackie waved a hand in disgust, or bafflement: “You’re leaving just when you’re needed here the most!”

“Think of it as an opportunity.”

“I will,” she snapped. He had made her angry. “And you won’t like it.”

“But you’ll have what you want.”

Fiercely she said, “You don’t know what I want!”

The hair on the back of Art’s neck had raised; lightning was about to strike. He would have said he was an eavesdropper by nature, almost a voyeur in fact; but standing right there in the room was not the same, and he found now there were some things he did not care to witness. He cleared his throat. The other two were startled by his noise. With a waggle of the hand he sidled past Jackie and out the door. Behind him the voices went on — bitter, accusatory, filled with pain and baffled fury.

Coyote stared gravely out the windshield as he drove the ambassadors to Earth south to the elevator, with Art sitting beside him. They rolled slowly through the battered neighborhoods that bordered the Socket, in the southwest part of Sheffield where the streets had been designed to handle enormous freight-container gantries, so that things had an ominous Speeresque quality to them, inhuman and gigantic. Sax was explaining once again to Coyote that the trip to Earth would not remove the travelers from the constitutional congress, that they would contribute by vid, that they would not end up like Thomas Jefferson in Paris, missing the whole thing. “We’ll be on Pavonis,” Sax said, “in all the senses that matter.”

“Then everyone will be on Pavonis,” Coyote said ominously. He didn’t like this trip to Earth for Sax and Maya and Michel and Nirgal; he didn’t seem to like the constitutional congress; nothing these days pleased him, he was jumpy, uneasy, irritable. “We’re not out of the woods yet,” he would mutter, “you mark my words.”

Then the Socket stood before them, the cable emerging black and glossy from the great mass of concrete, like a harpoon plunged into Mars by Earthly powers, holding it fast. After identifying themselves the travelers drove right into the complex, down a big straight passageway to the enormous chamber at the center, where the cable came down through the socket’s collar, and hovered over a network of pistes crisscrossing the floor. The cable was so exquisitely balanced in its orbit that it never touched Mars at all, but merely hung there with its ten-meter diameter end floating in the middle of the room, the collar in the roof doing no more than stabilizing it; for the rest, its positioning was up to the rockets installed up and down the cable, and, more importantly, to the balance between centrifugal force and gravity which kept it in its areosynchronous orbit.

A row of elevator cars floated in the air like the cable itself, though for a different reason, as they were electromagnetically suspended. One of them levitated over a piste to the cable, and latched onto the track inlaid in the cable’s west side, and rose up soundlessly through a valve door in the collar.

The travelers and their escorts got out of their car. Nirgal was withdrawn, already on his way; Maya and Michel excited; Sax his usual self. One by one they hugged Art and Coyote, stretching up to Art, leaning down to Desmond. For a time they all talked at once, staring at each other, trying to comprehend the moment; it was just a trip, but it felt like more than that. Then the four travelers crossed the floor, and disappeared into a jetway leading up into the next elevator car.

After that Coyote and Art stood there, and watched the car float over to the cable and rise through the valve door and disappear. Coyote’s asymmetrical face clenched into a most uncharacteristic expression of worry, even fear. That was his son, of course, and three of his closest friends, going to a very dangerous place. Well, it was just Earth; but it felt dangerous, Art had to admit. “They’ll be okay,” Art said, giving the little man a squeeze on the shoulder. “They’ll be stars down there. It’ll go fine.” No doubt true. In fact he felt better himself at his own reassurances. It was the home planet, after all. Humans were made for it. They would be fine. It was the home planet. But still…

Back in east Pavonisthe congress had begun.

It was Nadia’s doing, really. She simply started working in the main warehouse on draft passages, and people started joining her, and things snowballed. Once the meetings were going people had to attend or risk losing a say. Nadia shrugged if anyone complained that they weren’t ready, that things had to be regularized, that they needed to know more, etc.; “Come on,” she said impatiently. “Here we are, we might as well get to it.”

So a fluctuating group of about three hundred people began meeting daily in the industrial complex of east Pavonis. The main warehouse, designed to hold piste parts and train cars, was huge, and scores of mobile-walled offices were set up against its walls, leaving the central space open, and available for a roughly circular collection of mismatched tables. “Ah,” Art said when he saw it, “the table of tables.”

Of course there were people who wanted a list of delegates, so that they knew who could vote, who could speak, and so on. Nadia, who was quickly taking on the role of chairperson, suggested they accept all requests to become a delegation from any Martian group, as long as the group had had some tangible existence before the conference began. “We might as well be inclusive.”

The constitutional scholars from Dorsa Brevia agreed that the congress should be conducted by members of voting delegations, and the final result then voted on by the populace at large. Charlotte, who had helped to draft the Dorsa Brevia document twelve m-years before, had led a group since then in working up plans for a government, in anticipation of a successful revolution. They were not the only ones to have done this; schools in South Fossa and at the university in Sabishii had taught courses in the matter, and many of the young natives in the warehouse were well versed in the issues they were tackling. “It’s kind of scary,” Art remarked to Nadia. “Win a revolution and a bunch of lawyers pop out of the woodwork.”


Charlotte’s group had made a list of potential delegates to a constitutional congress, including all Martian settlements with populations over five hundred. Quite a few people would therefore be represented twice, Nadia pointed out, once by location and again by political affiliation. The few groups not on the list complained to a new committee, which allowed almost all petitioners to join. And Art made a call to Derek Hastings, and extended an invitation to UNTA to join as a delegation as well; the surprised Hastings got back to them a few days later, with a positive response. He would come down the cable himself.

And so after about a week’s jockeying, with many other matters being worked on at the same time, they had enough agreement to call for a vote of approval of the delegate list; and because it had been so inclusive, it passed almost unanimously. And suddenly they had a real congress. It was made up of the following delegations, with anywhere from one to ten people in each delegation:






Harmakhis Vallis



Bogdanov Vishniac


Mauss Hyde

New Clarke

Bradbury Point

Sergei Korolyov

DuMartheray Crater

South Station

Reull Vallis

southern caravanserai

Nuova Bologna

Nirgal Vallis



Senzeni Na

Echus Overlook

Dorsa Brevia

Dao Vallis

South Fossa


New Vanuatu




Burroughs refugees


Libya Station

Tharsis Tholus


Margaritifer Plinth

Great Escarpment


Da Vinci

The Elysian League

Hell’s Gate

Political Parties and Other Organizations:






Free Mars



Qahiran Mahjari League

Green Mars

United Nations Transitional Authority


Editorial Board of The Journal ofAreological Studies

Space Elevator Authority

Christian Democrats

The Metanational Economic Activity Coordination


Bolognan Neomarxists

Friends of the Earth


Separation de l’Atmosphere

General meetings began in the morning around the table of tables, then moved out in many small working groups to offices in the warehouse, or buildings nearby. Every morning Art showed up early and brewed great pots of coffee, kava, and kavajava, his favorite. It perhaps was not much of a job, given the significance of the enterprise, but Art was happy doing it. Every day he was surprised to see a congress convening at all; and observing the size of it, he felt that helping to get it started was probably going to be his principal contribution. He was not a scholar, and he had few ideas about what a Martian constitution ought to include. Getting people together was what he was good at, and he had done that. Or rather he and Nadia had, for Nadia had stepped in and taken the lead just when they had needed her. She was the only one of the First Hundred on hand who had everyone’s trust; this gave her a bit of genuine natural authority. Now, without any fuss, without seeming to notice she was doing it, she was exerting that power.

And so now it was Art’s great pleasure to become, in effect, Nadia’s personal assistant. He arranged her days, and did everything he could to make sure they ran smoothly. This included making a good pot of kavajava first thing every morning, for Nadia was one of many of them fond of that initial jolt toward alertness and general goodwill. Yes, Art thought, personal assistant and drug dispenser, that was his destiny at this point in history. And he was happy. Just watching people look at Nadia was a pleasure in itself. And the way she looked back: interested, sympathetic, skeptical, an edge developing quickly if she thought someone was wasting her time, a warmth kindling if she was impressed by their contribution. And people knew this, they wanted to please her. They tried to keep to the point, to make a contribution. They wanted that particular warm look in her eye. Very strange eyes they were, really, when you looked close: hazel, basically, but flecked with innumerable tiny patches of other colors, yellow, black, green, blue. A mesmerizing quality to them. Nadia focused her full attention on people — she was willing to believe you, to take your side, to make sure your case didn’t get lost in the shuffle; even the Reds, who knew she had been fighting with Ann, trusted her to make sure they were heard. So the work coalesced around her; and all Art really had to do was watch her at work, and enjoy it, and help where he could.

And so the debates began.

In the first week many arguments concerned simply what a constitution was, what form it should take, and whether they should have one at all. Charlotte called this the meta-conflict, the argument about what the argument was about — a very important matter, she said when she saw Nadia squint unhappily, “because in settling it, we set the limits on what we can decide. If we decide to include economic and social issues in the constitution, for instance, then this is a very different kind of thing than if we stick to purely political or legal matters, or to a very general statement of principles.”

To help structure even this debate, she and the Dorsa Brevia scholars had come with a number of different “blank constitutions,” which blocked out different kinds of constitutions without actually filling in their contents. These blanks did little, however, to stop the objections of those who maintained that most aspects of social and economic life ought not to be regulated at all. Support for such a “minimal state” came from a variety of viewpoints that otherwise made strange bedfellows: anarchists, libertarians, neotraditional capitalists, certain greens, and so on. To the most extreme of these antistatists, writing up any government at all was a kind of defeat, and they conceived of their role in the congress as making the new government as small as possible.

Sax heard about this argument in one of the nightly calls from Nadia and Art, and he was as willing to think about it seriously as he was anything else. “It’s been found that a few simple rules can regulate very complex behavior. There’s a classic computer model for flocking birds, for instance, which only has three rules — keep an equal distance from everyone around you — don’t change speed too fast — avoid stationary objects. Those will model the flight of a flock quite nicely.”

“A computer flock maybe,” Nadia scoffed. “Have you ever seen chimney swifts at dusk?”

After a moment Sax’s reply arrived: “No.”

“Well, take a look when you get to Earth. Meanwhile we can’t be having a constitution that says only ‘don’t change speed too fast.’ “

Art thought this was funny, but Nadia was not amused. In general she had little patience for the minimalist arguments. “Isn’t it the equivalent of letting the metanats run things?” she would say. “Letting might be right?”

“No, no,” Mikhail would protest. “That’s not what we mean at all!”

“It seems very like what you are saying. And for some it’s obviously a kind of cover — a pretend principle that is really about keeping the rules that protect their property and privileges, and letting the rest go to hell.”

“No, not at all.”

“Then you must prove it at the table. Everything that government might involve itself in, you have to make the case against. You have to argue it point by point.”

And she was so insistent about this, not scolding like Maya would have but simply adamant, that they had to agree: everything was at least on the table for discussion. Therefore the various blank constitutions made sense, as starting points; and therefore they should get on with it. A vote on it was taken, and the majority agreed to give it a try.

And so there they were, the first hurdle jumped. Everyone had agreed to work according to the same plan. It was amazing, Art thought, zooming from meeting to meeting, filled with admiration for Nadia. She was not your ordinary diplomat, she by no means followed the empty vessel model that Art aspired to; but things got done nevertheless. She had the charisma of the sensible. He hugged her every time he passed her, he kissed the top of her head; he loved her. He ran around with that wealth of good feeling, and dropped in on all the sessions he could, watching to see how he could help keep things going. Often it was just a matter of supplying people with food and drink, so that they could continue through the day without getting irritable.

At all hours the table of tables was crowded; fresh-faced young Valkyries towering over sunbaked old vets; all races, all types; this was Mars, m-year 52, a kind of de facto united nations all on its own. With all the potential fractiousness of that notoriously fractious body; so that sometimes, looking at all their disparate faces and listening to the melange of languages, English augmented by Babel, Art was nearly overwhelmed by their variety. “Ka, Nadia,” he said as they sat eating sandwiches and going over their notes for the day, “we’re trying to write a constitution that every Terran culture could agree to!”

She waved the problem away, swallowed. “About time,” she said.

* * *

Charlotte suggested that the Dorsa Brevia declaration made a logical starting point for discussing the content that would fill the constitutional forms. This suggestion caused more trouble than even the blanks had, for the Reds and several other delegations disliked various points of the old declaration, and they argued that using it was a way of pist-ing the congress from the start.

“So what?” Nadia said. “We can change every word of it if we want, but we have to start with something.”

This view was popular among most of the old underground groups, many of whom had been at Dorsa Brevia in m-39. The declaration that had resulted remained the underground’s best effort to write down what they had agreed on back when they were out of power, so it made sense to start with it; it gave them some precedent, some historical continuity.

When they pulled it out and looked at it, however, they found that the old declaration had become frighteningly radical. No private property? No appropriation of surplus value? Had they really said such things? How were things supposed to work? People pored over the bare uncompromising sentences, shaking their heads. The declaration had not bothered to say how its lofty goals were to be enacted, it had only stated them. “The stone-tablet routine,” as Art characterized it. But now the revolution had succeeded, and the time had come to do something in the real world. Could they really stick to concepts as radical as those in the Dorsa Brevia declaration?

Hard to say. “At least the points are there to discuss,” Nadia said. And along with them, on everyone’s screen, were the blank constitutions with their section headings, suggesting all by themselves the many problems they were going to have to come to grips with: “Structure of Government, Executive; Structure of Government, Legislative; Structure of Government, Judicial; Rights of Citizens; Military and Police; Taxation; Election Procedures; Property Law; Economic Systems; Environmental Law; Amendment Procedures,” and so on, in some blanks for pages on end — all being juggled on everyone’s screens, scrambled, formatted, endlessly debated. “Just filling in the blanks,” as Art sang one night, looking over Nadia’s shoulder at one particularly forbidding flowchart pattern, like something out of Michel’s alchemical combinatoires. And Nadia laughed.

The working groups focused on different partsof government as outlined in a new composite blank constitution, now being called the blank of blanks. Political parties and interest groups gravitated to the issues that most concerned them, and the many tent-town delegations chose or were assigned to remaining areas. After that it was a matter of work.

For the moment, the Da Vinci Crater technical group was in control of Martian space. They were keeping all space shuttles from docking at Clarke, or aerobraking into Martian orbit. No one believed that this alone made them truly free, but it did give them a certain amount of physical and psychic space to work in — this was the gift of the revolution. They were also driven by the memory of the battle for Sheffield; the fear of civil war was strong among them. Ann was in exile with the Kakaze, and sabotage in the outback was a daily occurrence. There were also tents that had declared independence from anyone, and a few metanat holdouts; there was turmoil generally, and a sense of barely contained confusion. They were in a bubble in history, a moment only; it could collapse anytime, and if they didn’t act soon, it would collapse. It was, simply put, time to act.

This was the one thing everyone agreed on, but it was a very important thing. As the days passed a core group of workers slowly emerged, people who recognized each other for their willingness to get the job done, for their desire to finish paragraphs rather than posture. Inside all the rest of the debate these people went at it, guided by Nadia, who was very quick to recognize such people and give them all the help she could.

Art meanwhile ran around in his usual manner. Up early, supply drinks and food, and information concerning the work ongoing in other rooms. It seemed to him that things were going pretty well. Most of the subgroups took the responsibility to fill in their blank seriously, writing and rewriting drafts, hammering them out concept by concept, phrase by phrase. They were happy to see Art when he came by in the course of the day, as he represented a break, some food, some jokes. One judicial group tacked foam wings on his shoes, and sent him with a caustic message along to an executive group with whom they were fighting. Pleased, Art kept the wings on; why not? What they were doing had a kind of ludicrous majesty, or majestic ludicrousness — they were rewriting the rules, he was flying around like Hermes or Puck, it was perfectly appropriate. And so he flew, through the long hours into the night, every night. And after all the sessions had closed down for the evening, he went back to the Praxis offices he shared with Nadia, and they would eat, and talk over the day’s progress, and make a call to the travelers to Earth, and talk with Nirgal and Sax and Maya and Michel. And after that Nadia would go back to work at her screens, usually falling asleep there in her chair. Then Art would often go back out into the warehouse, and the buildings and rovers clustered around it. Because they were holding the congress in a warehouse tent, there was not the same party scene that had existed after hours in Dorsa Brevia; but the delegates often stayed up, sitting on the floors of their rooms drinking and talking about the day’s work, or the revolution just past. Many of the people there had never met before, and they were getting to know each other. Relationships were forming, romances, friendships, feuds. It was a good time to talk, and learn more about what was going on during the daytime congress; it was the underside of the congress, the social hour, out there scattered in concrete rooms. Art enjoyed it. And then the moment would come when he would suddenly hit the wall, a wave of sleepiness would roll over him and sometimes he wouldn’t even have time to stagger back to his offices, to the couch next to Nadia’s; he would simply roll over on the floor and sleep there, waking cold and stiff to hurry off to their bathroom, a shower, and back to the kitchens to start up that day’s kava and Java. Round and round, his days a blur; it was glorious.

In sessions on many different subjects people were having to grapple with questions of scale. Without any nations, without any natural or traditional political units, who governed what? And how were they to balance the local against the global, and past versus future — the many ancestral cultures against the one Martian culture?

Sax, observing this recurring problem from the rocket ship to Earth, sent back a message proposing that the tent towns and covered canyons become the principal political units: city-states, basically, with no larger political units except for the global government itself, which would regulate only truly global concerns. Thus there would be local and global, but no nation-states in between.

The reaction to this proposal was fairly positive. For one thing it had the advantage of conforming to the situation that already existed. Mikhail, leader of the Bogdanovist party, noted that it was a variant of the old commune of communes, and because Sax had been the source of the suggestion, this quickly got it called the “lab of labs” plan. But the underlying problem still remained, as Nadia quickly pointed out; all Sax had done was define their particular local and global. They still had to decide just how much power the proposed global confederation was going to have over the proposed semiautonomous city-states. Too much, and it was back to a big centralized state, Mars itself as a nation, a thought which many delegations abhorred. “But too little,” Jackie said emphatically in the human-rights workshop, “and there could be tents out there deciding slavery is okay, or female genital mutilation is okay, or any other crime based on some Terran barbarism is okay, excused in the name of ‘cultural values.’ And that is just not acceptable.”

“Jackie is right,” Nadia said, which was unusual enough to get people’s attention. “People claiming that some fundamental right is foreign to their culture — that stinks no matter who says it, fundamentalists, patriarchs, Leninists, metanats, I don’t care who. They aren’t going to get away with it here, not if I can help it.”

Art noticed more than a few delegates frowning at this sentiment, which no doubt struck them as a version of Western secular relativism, or perhaps John Boone’s hyper-americanism. Opposition to the metanats had included many people trying to hold on to older cultures, and these often had their hierarchies pretty well intact; the ones at the top end of the hierarchies liked them that way, and so did a surprisingly large number of people farther down the ladder.

The young Martian natives, however, looked surprised that this was even considered an issue. To them the fundamental rights were innate and irrevocable, and any challenge to that struck them as just one more of the many emotional scars that the issei were always revealing, as a result of their traumatic dysfunctional Terran upbringings. Ariadne, one of the most prominent of the young natives, stood up to say that the Dorsa Brevia group had studied many Terran human-rights documents, and had written a comprehensive list of their own. The new master list of fundamental individual rights was available for discussion and, she implied, adoption wholesale. Some argued about one point or another; but it was generally agreed that a global bill of rights of some kind should be on the table. So Martian values as they existed in m-year 52 were about to be codified, and made a principal component of the constitution.

The exact nature of these rights was still a matter of controversy. The so-called political rights were generally agreed to be “self-evident” — things citizens were free to do, things governments were forbidden to do — habeus corpus, freedom of movement, of speech, of association, of religion, a ban on weapons — all these were approved by a vast majority of Martian natives, though there were some issei from places like Singapore, Cuba, Indonesia, Thailand, China, and so on, who looked askance at so much emphasis on individual liberty. Other delegates had reservations about a different kind of right, the so-called social or economic rights, such as the right to housing, health care, education, employment, a share of the value generated by natural-resource use, etc. Many issei delegates with actual experience in Terran government were quite worried about these, pointing out that it was dangerous to enshrine such things in the constitution; it had been done on Earth, they said, and then when it was found impossible to meet such promises, the constitution guaranteeing them was seen as a propaganda device, and flouted in other areas as well, until it became a bad joke.

“Even so,” Mikhail said sharply, “if you can’t afford housing, then it is your right to vote that is the bad joke.”

The young natives agreed, as did many others there. So economic or social rights were on the table too, and arguments over how actually to guarantee these rights in practice continued through many a long session. “Political, social, it’s all one,” Nadia said. “Let’s make all the rights work.”

So the work went on, both around the big table and in the offices where the subgroups were meeting. Even the UN was there, in the person of UNTA chief Derek Hastings himself, who had come down the elevator and was participating vigorously in the debates, his opinion always carrying a peculiar kind of weight. He even began to exhibit symptoms of hostage syndrome, Art thought, becoming more and more sympathetic the more he stood around in the warehouse arguing with people. And this might affect his superiors on Earth as well.

Comments and suggestions were also pouring in from all over Mars, and from Earth as well, filling several screens covering one wall of the big room. Interest in the congress was high everywhere, rivaling even Earth’s great flood in the public’s attention. “The soap opera of the moment,” Art said to Nadia. Every night the two of them met in their little office suite, and put in their call to Nirgal and the rest. The delays in the travelers’ responses got longer and longer, but Art and Nadia didn’t really mind; there was a lot to think about while waiting for Sax and the others’ part of the conversation to arrive.

“This global versus local problem is going to be hard,” Art said one night. “It’s a real contradiction, I think. I mean it’s not just the result of confused thinking. We truly want some global control, and yet we want freedom for the tents as well. Two of our most essential values are in contradiction.”

“Maybe the Swiss system,” Nirgal suggested a few minutes later. “That’s what John Boone always used to say.”

But the Swiss on Pavonis were not encouraging about this idea. “A countermodel rather,” Jurgen said, making a face. “The reason I’m on Mars is the Swiss federal government. It stifles everything. You need a license to breathe.”

“And the cantons have no power anymore,” Priska said. “The federal government took it away.”

“In some of the cantons,” Jurgen added, “this was a good thing.”

Priska said, “More interesting than Berne might be the Graubunden. That means Gray League. They were a loose confederation of towns in southeast Switzerland, for hundreds of years. A very successful organization.”

“Could you call up whatever you can get on that?” Art said.

The next night he and Nadia looked over descriptions of the Graubunden that Priska had sent over. Well… there was a certain simplicity to affairs during the Renaissance, Art thought. Maybe that was wrong, but somehow the extremely loose agreements of the little Swiss mountain towns did not seem to translate well to the densely interpenetrated economies of the Martian settlements. The Graubunden hadn’t had to worry about generating unwanted changes in atmospheric pressure, for instance. No — the truth was, they were in a new situation. There was no historical analogy that would be much help to them now.

“Speaking of global versus local,” Irishka said, “what about the land outside the tents and covered canyons?” She was emerging as the leading Red remaining on Pavonis, a moderate who could speak for almost all wings of the Red movement, therefore becoming quite a power as the weeks passed. “That’s most of the land on Mars, and all we said at Dorsa Brevia is that no individual can own it, that we are all stewards of it together. That’s good as far as it goes, but as the population rises and new towns are built, it’s going to be more and more of a problem figuring out who controls it.”

Art sighed. This was true, but too difficult to be welcome. Recently he had made a resolution to devote the bulk of his daily efforts to attacking what he and Nadia judged to be the worst outstanding problem they were facing, and so in theory he was happy to recognize them. But sometimes they were just too hard.

As in this case. Land use, the Red objection: more aspects of the global-local problem, but distinctively Martian. Again there was no precedent. Still, as it was probably the worst outstanding problem…

Art went to the Reds.The three who met with him were Marion, Irishka, and Tiu, one of Nirgal and Jackie’s creche mates from Zygote. They took Art out to their rover camp, which made him happy; it meant that despite his Praxis background he was now seen as a neutral or impartial figure, as he wanted to be. A big empty vessel, stuffed with messages and passed along.

The Reds’ encampment was west of the warehouses, on the rim of the caldera. They sat down with Art in one of their big upper-level compartments, in the glare of a late-afternoon sun, talking and looking down into the giant silhouetted country of the caldera.

“So what would you like to see in this constitution?” Art said.

He sipped the tea they had given him. His hosts looked at each other, somewhat taken aback. “Ideally,” Marion said after a while, “we’d like to be living on the primal planet, in caves and cliff dwellings, or excavated crater rings. No big cities, no terraforming.”

“You’d have to stay suited all the time.”

“That’s right. We don’t mind that.”

“Well.” Art thought it over. “Okay, but let’s start from now. Given the situation at this moment, what would you like to see happen next?”

“No further terraforming.”

“The cable gone, and no more immigration.”

“In fact it would be nice if some people went back to Earth.”

They stopped speaking, stared at him. Art tried not to let his consternation show.

He said, “Isn’t the biosphere likely to grow on its own at this point?”

“It’s not clear,” Tiu said. “But if you stopped the industrial pumping, any further growth would certainly be very slow. It might even lose ground, as with this ice age that’s starting.”

“Isn’t that what some people call ecopoesis?”

“No. The ecopoets just use biological methods to create changes in the atmosphere and on the surface, but they’re very intensive with them. We think they all should stop, ecopoets or industrialists or whatever.”

“But especially the heavy industrial methods,” Marion said. “And most especially the inundation of the north. That’s simply criminal. We’ll blow up those stations no matter what happens here, if they don’t stop.”

Art gestured out at the huge stony caldera. “The higher elevations look pretty much the same, right?”

They weren’t willing to admit that. Irishka said, “Even the high ground shows ice deposition and plant life. The atmosphere lofts high here, remember. No place escapes when the winds are strong.”

“What if we tented the four big calderas?” Art said. “Kept them sterile underneath, with the original atmospheric pressure and mix? Those would be huge wilderness parks, preserved in the true primal state.”

“Parks are just what they would be.”

“I know. But we have to work with what we have now, right? We can’t go back to m-1 and rerun the whole thing. And given the current situation, it might be good to preserve three or four big places in the original state, or close to it.”

“It would be nice to have some canyons protected as well,” Tiu said tentatively. Clearly they had not considered this kind of possibility before; and it was not really satisfactory to them, Art could see. But the current situation could not be wished away, they had to start from there.

“Or Argyre Basin.”

“At the very least, keep Argyre dry.”

Art nodded encouragingly. “Combine that kind of preservation with the atmosphere limits set in the Dorsa Brevia document. That’s a five-kilometer breathable ceiling, and there’s a hell of a lot of land above five kilometers that would remain relatively pristine. It won’t take the northern ocean away, but nothing’s going to do that now. Some form of slow ecopoesis is about the best you can hope for at this point, right?”

Perhaps that was putting it too baldly. The Reds stared down into Pavonis caldera unhappily, thinking their own thoughts.

“Say the Reds come on board,” Art said to Nadia. “What do you think the next worst problem is?”

“What?” She had been nearly asleep, listening to some tinny old jazz from her AI. “Ah. Art.” Her voice was low and quiet, the Russian accent light but distinct. She sat slumped on the couch. A pile of paper balls lay around her feet, like pieces of some structure she was putting together. The Martian way of life. Her face was oval under a cap of straight white hair, the wrinkles of her skin somehow wearing away, as if she were a pebble in the stream of years. She opened her flecked eyes, luminous and arresting under their Cossack eyelids. A beautiful face, looking now at Art perfectly relaxed. “The next worst problem.”


She smiled. Where did that calmness come from, that relaxed smile? She wasn’t worried about anything these days. Art found it surprising, given the political high-wire act they were performing. But then again it was politics, not war. And just as Nadia had been terribly frightened during the revolution, always tense, always expecting disaster, she was now always relatively calm. As if to say, nothing that happens here matters all that much — tinker with the details all you want — my friends are safe, the war is over, this that remains is a kind of game, or work like construction work, full of pleasures.

Art moved around to the back of the couch, massaged her shoulders. “Ah,” she said. “Problems. Well, there are a lot of problems that are about equally sticky.” “Like what?”

“Like, I wonder if the Mahjaris will be able to adapt to democracy. I wonder if everyone will accept Vlad and Marina’s eco-economics. I wonder if we can make a decent police. I wonder if Jackie will try to create a system with a strong president, and use the natives’ numerical superiority to become queen.” She looked over her shoulder, laughed at Art’s expression. “I wonder about a lot of things. Should I go on?”

“Maybe not.”

She laughed. “You go on. That feels good. These problems — they aren’t so hard. We’ll just keep going to the table and pounding away at them. Maybe you could talk to Zeyk.”


“But now do my neck.”

Art went to talk to Zeyk and Nazik that very night, after Nadia had fallen asleep. “So what’s the Mahjari view of all this?” he asked.

Zeyk growled. “Please don’t ask stupid questions,” he said. “Sunnis are fighting Shiites — Lebanon is devastated — the oil-rich states are hated by the oil-poor states — the North African countries are a metanat — Syria and Iraq hate each other — Iraq and Egypt hate each other — we all hate the Iranians, except for the Shiites — and we all hate Israel of course, and the Palestinians too — and even though I am from Egypt I am actually Bedouin, and we despise the Nile Egyptians, and in fact we don’t get along well with the Bedouin from Jordan. And everyone hates the Saudis, who are as corrupt as you can get. So when you ask me what is the Arab view, what can I say to you?” He shook his head darkly.

“I guess you say it’s a stupid question,” Art said. “Sorry. Thinking in constituencies, it’s a bad habit. How about this — what do you think of it?”

Nazik laughed. “You could ask him what the rest of the Qahiran Mahjaris think. He knows them only too well.”

“Too well,” Zeyk repeated.

“Do you think the human-rights section will go with them?”

Zeyk frowned. “No doubt we will sign the constitution.”

“But these rights … I thought there were no Arab democracies still?”

“What do you mean? There’s Palestine, Egypt… Anyway it’s Mars we are concerned with. And here every caravan has been its own state since the very beginning.”

“Strong leaders, hereditary leaders?”

“Not hereditary. Strong leaders, yes. We don’t think the new constitution will end that, not anywhere. Why should it? You are a strong leader yourself, yes?”

Art laughed uncomfortably. “I’m just a messenger.”

Zeyk shook his head. “Tell that to Antar. Now there is where you should go, if you want to know what the Qah-irans think. He is our king now.”

He looked as if he had bit into something sour, and Art said, “So what does he want, do you think?”

“He is Jackie’s creature,” Zeyk muttered, “nothingmore.”

“I should think that would be a strike against him.”

Zeyk shrugged.

“It depends who you talk to,” Nazik said. “For the older Muslim immigrants, it is a bad association, because although Jackie is very powerful, she has had more than one consort, and so Antar looks…”

“Compromised,” Art suggested, forestalling some other word from the glowering Zeyk.

“Yes,” Nazik said. “But on the other hand, Jackie is powerful. And all of the people now leading the Free Mars party are in a position to become even more powerful in the new state. And the young Arabs like that. They are more native than Arab, I think. It’s Mars that matters to them more than Islam. From that point of view, a close association with the Zygote ectogenes is a good thing. The ectogenes are seen as the natural leaders of the new Mars — especially Nirgal, of course, but with him off to Earth, there’s a certain transfer of his influence to Jackie and the rest of her crowd. And thus to Antar.”

“I don’t like him,” Zeyk said.

Nazik smiled at her husband. “You don’t like how many of the native Muslims are following him rather than you. But we are old, Zeyk. It could be time for retirement.”

“I don’t see why,” Zeyk objected. “If we’re going to live a thousand years, then what difference does a hundred make?”

Art and Nazik laughed at him, and briefly Zeyk smiled. It was, the first time Art had ever seen him smile.

In fact, age didn’t matter. People wandered around, old or young or somewhere in between, talking and arguing, and it –would have been an odd thing for the length of someone’s lifetime to become a factor in such discussions.

And youth or age was not what the native movement was about anyway. If you were born on Mars your outlook was simply different, areocentric in a way that no Terran could even imagine — not just because of the whole complex of areorealities they had known from birth, but also because of what they didn’t know. Terrans knew just how vast Earth was, while for the Martian-born, that cultural and biological vastness was simply unimaginable. They had seen the screen images, but that wasn’t enough to allow them to grasp it. This was one reason Art was glad Nirgal had chosen to join the diplomatic mission to Earth; he would learn what they were up against.

But most of the natives wouldn’t. And the revolution had gone to their heads. Despite their cleverness at the table in working the constitution toward a form that would privilege them, they were in some basic sense naive; they had no idea how unlikely their independence was, nor how possible it was for it to be taken away from them again. And so they were pressing things to the limit — led by Jackie, who floated through the warehouse just as beautiful and enthusiastic as ever, her drive to power concealed behind her love of Mars, and her devotion to her grandfather’s ideals, and her essential goodwill, even innocence; the college girl who wanted passionately for the world to be just.

Or so it seemed. But she and her Free Mars colleagues certainly seemed to want to be in control as well. There were twelve million people on Mars now, and seven million of those had been born there; and almost every single one of these natives could be counted on to support the native political parties, usually Free Mars.

“It’s dangerous,” Charlotte said when Art brought this matter up in the nightly meeting with Nadia. “When you have a country formed out of a lot of groups that don’t trust each other, with one a clear majority, then you get what they call ‘census voting/ where politicians represent their groups, and get their votes; and election results are always just a reflection of population numbers. In that situation the same thing happens every time, so the majority group has a monopoly on power, and the minorities feel hopeless, and eventually rebel. Some of the worst civil wars in history began in those circumstances.”

“So what can we do?” Nadia asked.

“Well, some of it we’re doing already, designing structures that spread the power around, and diminish the dangers of majoritarianism. Decentralization is important, because it creates a lot of small local majorities. Another strategy is to set up an array of Madisonian checks and balances, so that the government’s a kind of cat’s cradle of competing forces. This is called polyarchy, spreading power around to as many groups as you can.”

“Maybe we’re a bit too polyarchic right now,” Art said.

“Perhaps. Another tactic is to deprofessionalize governing. You make some big part of the government a public obligation, like jury duty, and then draft ordinary citizens in a lottery, to serve for a short time. They get professional staff help, but make the decisions themselves.”

“I’ve never heard of that one,” Nadia said.

“No. It’s been often proposed, but seldom enacted. But I think it’s really worth considering. It tends to make power as much a burden as an advantage. You get a letter in the mail; oh no; you’re drafted to do two years in congress. It’s a drag, but on the other hand it’s a kind of distinction too, a chance to add something to the public discourse. Citizen government.”

“I like that,” Nadia said.

“Another method to reduce majoritarianism is voting by some version of the Australian ballot, where voters vote for two or more candidates in ranked fashion, first choice, second choice, third choice. Candidates get some points for being second or third choice, so to win elections they have to appeal outside their own group. It tends to push politicians toward moderation, and in the long run it can create trust among groups where none existed before.”

“Interesting,” Nadia exclaimed. “Like trusses in a wall.”

“Yes.” Charlotte mentioned some examples of Terran “fractured societies” that had healed their rifts by a clever governmental structure: Azania, Cambodia, Armenia … as she described them Art’s heart sank a bit; these had been bloody, bloody lands.

“It seems like political structures can only do so much,” he said.

“True,” Nadia said, “but we don’t have all those old hatreds to deal with yet. Here the worst we have is the Reds, and they’ve been marginalized by the terraforming that’s already happened. I bet these methods could be used to pull even them into the process.”

Clearly she was encouraged by the options Charlotte had described; they were structures, after all. Engineering of an imaginary sort, which nevertheless resembled real engineering. So Nadia was tapping away at her screen, sketching out designs as if working on a building, a small smile tugging the corners of her mouth.

“You’re happy,” Art said.

She didn’t hear him. But that night in their radio talk with the travelers, she said to Sax, “It was so nice to find that political science had abstracted something useful in all these years.”

Eight minutes later his reply came in. “I never understood why they call it that.”

Nadia laughed, and the sound filled Art with happiness. Nadia Cherneshevsky, laughing in delight! Suddenly Art was sure that they were going to pull it off.

So he went back to the big table, ready to tackle the next-worst problem. That brought him back to earth again. There were a hundred next-worst problems, all small until you actually took them on, at which point they became insoluble. In all the squabbling it was very hard to see any signs of growing accord. In some areas, in fact, it seemed to be getting worse. The middle points of the Dorsa Brevia document were causing trouble; the more people considered them, the more radical they became. Many around the table clearly believed that Vlad and Marina’s eco-economic system, while it had worked for the underground, was not something that should be codified in the constitution. Some complained because it impinged on local autonomy, others because they had more faith in traditional capitalist economics than in any new system. Antar spoke often for this last group, with Jackie sitting right next to him, obviously in support. This along with his ties to the Arab community gave his statements a kind of double weight, and people listened. “This new economy that’s being proposed,” he declared one day at the table of tables, repeating his theme, “is a radical and unprecedented intrusion of government into business.”

Suddenly Vlad Taneev stood up. Startled, Antar stopped speaking and looked over.

Vlad glared at him. Stooped, massive-headed, shaggy-eyebrowed, Vlad rarely if ever spoke in public; he hadn’t said a thing in the congress so far. Slowly the greater part of the warehouse went silent, watching him. Art felt a quiver of anticipation; of all the brilliant minds of the First Hundred, Vlad was perhaps the most brilliant — and, except for Hiroko, the most enigmatic. Old when they had left Earth, intensely private, Vlad had built the Acheron labs early on and stayed there as much as possible thereafter, living in seclusion with Ursula Kohl and Marina Tokareva, two more of the great first ones. No one knew anything for certain about the three of them, they were a limit-case illustration of the insular nature of other people’s relationships; but this of course did not stop gossip, on the contrary, people talked about them all the time, saying that Marina and Ursula were the real couple, that Vlad was a kind of friend, or pet; or that Ursula had done most of the work on the longevity treatment, and Marina most of the work on eco-economics; or that they were a perfectly balanced equilateral triangle, collaborating on all that emerged from Acheron; or that Vlad was a bigamist of sorts who used two wives as fronts for his work in the separate fields of biology and economics. But no one knew for sure, for none of the three ever said a word about it.

Watching him stand there at the table, however, one had to suspect that the theory about him being just a front man was wrong. He was looking around in a fiercely intent, slow glare, capturing them all before he turned his eye again on Antar.

“What you said about government and business is absurd,” he stated coldly. It was a tone of voice that had not been heard much at the congress so far, contemptuous and dismissive. “Governments always regulate the kinds of business they allow. Economics is a legal matter, a system of laws. So far, we have been saying in the Martian underground that as a matter of law, democracy and self-government are the innate rights of every person, and that these rights are not to be suspended when a person goes to work. You” — he waved a hand to indicate he did not know Antar’s name — “do you believe in democracy and self-rule?”

“Yes!” Antar said defensively.

“Do you believe in democracy and self-rule as the fundamental values that government ought to encourage?”

“Yes!” Antar repeated, looking more and more annoyed.

“Very well. If democracy and self-rule are the fundamentals, then why should people give up these rights when they enter their workplace? In politics we fight like tigers for freedom, for the right to elect our leaders, for freedom of movement, choice of residence, choice of what work to pursue — control of our lives, in short. And then we wake up in the morning and go to work, and all those rights disappear. We no longer insist on them. And so for most of the day we return to feudalism. That is what capitalism is — a version of feudalism in which capital replaces land, and business leaders replace kings. But the hierarchy remains. And so we still hand over our lives’ labor, under duress, to feed rulers who do no real work.”

“Business leaders work,” Antar said sharply. “And they take the financial risks — ”

“The so-called risk of the capitalist is merely one of the privileges of capital.”

“Management — ”

“Yes yes. Don’t interrupt me. Management is a real thing, a technical matter. But it can be controlled by labor just as well as by capital. Capital itself is simply the useful residue of the work of past laborers, and it could belong to everyone as well as to a few. There is no reason why a tiny nobility should own the capital, and everyone else therefore be in service to them. There is no reason they should give us a living wage and take all the rest that we produce. No! The system called capitalist democracy was not really democratic at all. That is why it was able to turn so quickly into the metanational system, in which democracy grew ever weaker and capitalism ever stronger. In which one percent of the population owned half of the wealth, and five percent of the population owned ninety-five percent of the wealth. History has shown which values were real in that system. And the sad thing is that the injustice and suffering caused by it were not at all necessary, in that the technical means have existed since the eighteenth century to provide the basics of life to all.

“So. We must change. It is time. If self-rule is a fundamental value, if simple justice is a value, then they are values everywhere, including in the workplace where we spend so much of our lives. That was what was said in point four of the Dorsa Brevia agreement. It says everyone’s work is their own, and the worth of it cannot be taken away. It says that the various modes of production belong to those who created them, and to the common good of the future generations. It says that the world is something we all steward together. That is what it says. And in our years on Mars, we have developed an economic system that can keep all those promises. That has been our work these last fifty years. In the system we have developed, all economic enterprises are to be small cooperatives, owned by their workers and by no one else. They hire their management, or manage themselves. Industry guilds and co-op associations will form the larger structures necessary to regulate trade and the market, share capital, and create credit.”

Antar said scornfully, “These are nothing but ideas. It is utopianism and nothing more.”

“Not at all.” Again Vlad waved him away. “The system is based on models from Terran history, and its various parts have all been tested on both worlds, and have succeeded very well. You don’t know about this partly because you are ignorant, and partly because metanationalism itself steadfastly ignored and denied all alternatives to it. But most of our microeconomy has been in successful operation for centuries in the Mondragon region of Spain. The different parts of the macroeconomy have been used in the pseudo-metanat Praxis, in Switzerland, in India’s state of Kerala, in Bhutan, in Bologna Italy, and in many other places, including the Martian underground itself. These organizations were the precursors to our economy, which will be democratic in a way capitalism never even tried to be.”

A synthesis of systems. And Vladimir Taneev was a very great synthesist; it was said that all the components of the longevity treatment had already been there, for instance, and that Vlad and Ursula had simply put them together. Now in his economic work with Marina he was claiming to have done the same kind of thing. And although he had not mentioned the longevity treatment in this discussion, nevertheless it lay there like the table itself, a big cobbled-together achievement, part of everyone’s lives. Art looked around and thought he could see people thinking, well, he did it once in biology and it worked; could economics be more difficult?

Against this unspoken thought, this unthought feeling, Antar’s objections did not seem like much. Metanational capitalism’s track record at this point did little to support it; in the last century it had precipitated a massive war, chewed up the Earth, and torn its societies apart. Why should they not try something new, given that record?

Someone from Hiranyagarba stood and made an objection from the opposite direction, noting that they seemed to be abandoning the gift economy by which the Mars underground had lived.

Vlad shook his head impatiently. “I believe in the underground economy, I assure you, but it has always been a mixed economy. Pure gift exchange coexisted with a monetary exchange, in which neoclassical market rationality, that is to say the profit mechanism, was bracketed and contained by society to direct it to serve higher values, such as justice and freedom. Economic rationality is simply not the highest value. It is a tool to calculate costs and benefits, only one part of a larger equation concerning human welfare. The larger equation is called a mixed economy, and that is what we are constructing here. We are proposing a complex system, with public and private spheres of economic activity. It may be that we ask people to give, throughout their lives, about a year of their work to the public good, as in Switzerland’s national service. That labor pool, plus taxes on private co-ops for use of the land and its resources, will enable us to guarantee the so-called social rights we have been discussing — housing, health care, food, education — things that should not be at the mercy of market rationality. Because la salute non si paga, as the Italian workers used to say. Health is not for sale!”

This was especially important to Vlad, Art could see. Which made sense — for in the metanational order, health most certainly had been for sale, not only medical care and food and housing, but preeminently the longevity treatment itself, which so far had been going only to those who could afford it. Vlad’s greatest invention, in other words, had become the property of the privileged, the ultimate class distinction — long life or early death — a physicaliza-tion of class that almost resembled divergent species. No wonder he was angry; no wonder he had turned all his efforts to devising an economic system that would transform the longevity treatment from a catastrophic possession to a blessing available to all.

“So nothing will be left to the market,” Antar said.

“No no no,” Vlad said, waving at Antar more irritably than ever. “The market will always exist. It is the mechanism by which things and services are exchanged. Competition to provide the best product at the best price, this is inevitable and healthy. But on Mars it will be directed by society in a more active way. There will be not-for-profit status to vital life-support matters, and then the freest part of the market will be directed away from the basics of existence toward nonessentials, where venture enterprises can be undertaken by worker-owned co-ops, who will be free to try what they like. When the basics are secured and when the workers own their own businesses, why not? It is the process of creation we are talking about.”

Jackie, looking annoyed at Vlad’s dismissals of Antar, and perhaps intending to divert the old man, or trip him up, said, “What about the ecological aspects of this economy that you used to emphasize?”

“They are fundamental,” Vlad said. “Point three of Dorsa Brevia states that the land, air, and water of Mars belong to no one, that we are the stewards of it for all the future generations. This stewardship will be everyone’s responsibility, but in case of conflicts we propose strong environmental courts, perhaps as part of the constitutional court, which will estimate the real and complete environmental costs of economic activities, and help to coordinate plans that impact the environment.”

“But this is simply a planned economy!” Antar cried.

“Economies are plans. Capitalism planned just as much as this, and metanationalism tried to plan everything. No, an economy is a plan.”

Antar, frustrated and angry, said, “It’s simply socialism returned.”

Vlad shrugged. “Mars is a new totality. Names from earlier totalities are deceptive. They become little more than theological terms. There are elements one could call socialist in this system, of course. How else remove injustice from economy? But private enterprises will be owned by their workers rather than being nationalized, and this is not socialism, at least not socialism as it was usually attempted on Earth. And all the co-ops are businesses — small democracies devoted to some work of other, all needing capital. There will be a market, there will be capital. But in our system workers will hire capital rather than the other way around. It’s more democratic that way, more just. Understand me — we have tried to evaluate each feature of this economy by how well it aids us to reach the goals of more justice and more freedom. And justice and freedom do not contradict each other as much as has been claimed, because freedom in an injust system is no freedom at all. They both emerge together. And so it is not so impossible, really. It is only a matter of enacting a better system, by combining elements that have been tested and shown to work. This is the moment for that. We have been preparing for this opportunity for seventy years. And now that the chance has come, I see no reason to back off just because someone is afraid of some old words. If you have any specific suggestions for improvements, we’ll be happy to hear them.”

He stared long and hard at Antar. But Antar did not speak; he had no specific suggestions.

The room was filled with a charged silence. It was the first and only time in the congress that one of the issei had stood up and trounced one of the nisei in public debate. Most of the issei liked to take a more subtle line. But now one of the ancient radicals had gotten mad and risen up to smite one of the neoconservative young power mongers — who now looked like they were advocating a new version of an old hierarchy, for purposes of their own. A thought which was conveyed very well indeed by Vlad’s long look across the table at Antar, full of disgust at his reactionary selfishness, his cowardice in the face of change. Vlad sat down; Antar was dismissed.

But still they argued. Conflict, metaconflict, details, fundamentals; everything was on the table, including a magnesium kitchen sink that someone had placed on one segment of the table of tables, some three weeks into the process.

And really the delegates in the warehouse were only the tip of the iceberg, the most visible part of a gigantic two-world debate. Live transmission of every minute of the conference was available everywhere on Mars and in most places on Earth, and although the actual realtime tape had a certain documentary tediousness to it, Mangalavid concocted a daily highlights film that was shown during the timeslip every night, and sent to Earth for very wide distribution. It became “the greatest show on Earth” as one American program rather oddly dubbed it. “Maybe people are tired of the same old crap on TV,” Art said to Nadia one night as they watched a brief, weirdly distorted account of the day’s negotiations on American TV.

“Or in the world.”

“Yeah true. They want something else to think about.”

“Or else they’re thinking about what they might do,” Nadia suggested. “So that we’re a small-scale model. Easier to understand.”

“Maybe so.”

In any case the two worlds watched, and the congress became, along with everything else that it was, a daily soap opera — a soap opera which however held an extra attraction for its viewers, somehow, as if in some strange way it held the very key to their lives. And perhaps as a result, thousands of spectators did more than watch — comments and suggestions were pouring in, and though it seemed unlikely to most people on Pavonis that something mailed in would contain a startling truth they hadn’t thought of, still all messages were read by groups of volunteers in Sheffield and South Fossa, who passed some proposals “up to the table.” Some people even advocated including all these suggestions in the final constitution; they objected to a “statist legal document,” they wanted it to be a larger thing, a collaborative philosophical or even spiritual statement, expressing their values, goals, dreams, reflections. “That’s not a constitution,” Nadia objected, “that’s a culture. We’re not the damn library here.” But included or not, long communiques continued to come in, from the tents and canyons and the drowned coastlines of Earth, signed by individuals, committees, entire town populations.

Discussions in the warehouse were just as wide-ranging as in the mail. A Chinese delegate approached Art and spoke in Mandarin to him, and when he paused for a while, his AI began to speak, in a lovely Scottish accent. “To tell the truth I’ve begun to doubt that you’ve sufficiently consulted Adam Smith’s important book Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.”

“You may be right,” Art said, and referred the man to Charlotte.

Many people in the warehouse were speaking languages other than English, and relying on translation AIs to communicate with the rest. At any given moment there were conversations in a dozen different languages, and AI translators were heavily used. Art still found them a little distracting. He wished it were possible to know all these languages, even though the latest generations of AI translators were really pretty good: voices well modulated, vocabularies large and accurate, grammar excellent, phrasing almost free of the errors that had made earlier translation programs such a great party game. The new ones had gotten so good that it seemed possible that the English-language dominance that had created an almost monoglot Martian culture might begin to receue. The issei had of course brought all languages with them, but English had been their lingua franca; the nisei had therefore used English to communicate among themselves, while their “primary” languages were used only to speak to their parents; and so, for a while, English had become the natives’ native tongue. But now with the new AIs, and a continuing stream of new immigrants speaking the full array of Terran languages, it looked like things might broaden back out again, as new nisei stayed with their primary languages and used AIs as their lingua franca instead of English.

This linguistic matter illustrated to Art a complexity in the native population that he hadn’t noticed before. Some natives were yonsei, fourth generation or younger, and very definitely children of Mars; but other natives the very same age were the nisei children of recent issei immigrants, tending to have closer ties with the Terran cultures they had come from, with all the conservatism that implied. So that there were new native “conservatives,” and old settler-family native “radicals,” one might say. And this split only occasionally correlated with ethnicity or nationality, when these still mattered to them at all. One night Art was talking with a couple of them, one a global government advocate, the other an anarchist backing all local autonomy proposals, and he asked them about their origins. The globalist’s father was half-Japanese, a quarter Irish, and a quarter Tan-zanian; her mother had a Greek mother and a father with parents Colombian and Australian. The anarchist had a Nigerian father and a mother who was from Hawaii, and thus had a mixed ancestry of Filipino, Japanese, Polynesian and Portuguese. Art stared at them: if one were to think in terms of ethnic voting blocks, how would one categorize these people? One couldn’t. They were Martian natives. Nisei, sansei, yonsei — whatever generation, they had been formed in large part by their Martian experience — areoformed, just as Hiroko had always foretold. Many had married within their own national or ethnic background, but many more had not. And no matter what their ancestry, their political opinions tended to reflect not that background (just what would the Graeco-Colombian-Australian position be? Art wondered), but their own experience. This itself had been quite varied: some had grown up in the underground, others had been born in the UN-controlled big cities, and only come to an awareness of the underground later in life, or even at the moment of the revolution itself. These differences tended to affect them much more than where their Terran ancestors had happened to live.

Art nodded as the natives explained these things to him, in the long kava-buzzed parties running deep into the night. People at these parties were in increasingly high spirits, as the congress was, they felt, going well. They did not take the debates among the issei very seriously; they were confident that their core beliefs would prevail. Mars would be independent, it would be run by Martians, what Earth wanted did not matter; beyond that, it was detail. Thus they went about their work in the committees without much attention paid to the philosophical arguments around the table of tables. “The old dogs keep growling,” said one message on the big message board; this seemed to express a general native opinion. And the work in the committees went on.

The big message board was a pretty good indicator of the mood of the congress. Art read it the way he read fortune cookies, and indeed one day there was one message that said, “You like Chinese food.” Usually the messages were more political than that. Often they were things said in the previous days of the conference: “No tent is an island.” “If you can’t afford housing then the right to vote is a bad joke.” “Keep your distance, don’t change speed, don’t run into anything.” “La salute non si paga.” Then there were things that had not been said: “Do unto others.” “The Reds have green roots.” “The Greatest Show on Earth.” “No Kings No Presidents.” “Big Man Hates Politics.” “However: We Are the Little Red People.”

So Art was no longer surprised when he was approached by people who spoke in Arabic or Hindi or some language he did not recognize, then looked him in the eye while their AI spoke in English with an accent from the BBC or Middle America or the New Delhi civil service, expressing some kind of unpredictable political sentiment. It was encouraging, really — not the translation AIs, which were just another kind of distancing, less extreme than teleparticipation but still not quite “talking face-to-face” — but the political melange, the impossibility of block voting, .or of even thinking in the normal constituencies.

It was a strange congregation, really. But it went on, and eventually everyone got used to it; it took on that always-already quality that extended events often gain over their duration. But once, very late at night, after a long bizarre translated conversation in which the AI on the wrist of the young woman he was talking to spoke in rhymed couplets (and he never knew what language she was speaking to start with), Art wandered back through the warehouse toward his office suite, around the table of tables, where work was still going even though it was after the timeslip, and he stopped to say hi to one group; and then, momentum lost, slumped back against a side wall, half watching, half drowsing, his kavajava buzz nearly overwhelmed by exhaustion. And the strangeness came back, all at once. It was a kind of hypnagogic vision. There were shadows in the corners, innumerable flickering shadows; and eyes in the shadows. Shapes, like insubstantial bodies: all the dead, it suddenly seemed, and all the unborn all there in the warehouse with them, to witness this moment. As if history were a tapestry, and the congress the loom where everything was coming together, the present moment with its miraculous thereness, its potential right in their own atoms, their own voices. Looking back at the past, able to see it all, a single long braided tapestry of events; looking forward at the future, able to see none of it, though presumably it branched out in an explosion of threads of potentiality, and could become anything: they were two different kinds of unreachable immensity. And all of them traveling together, from the one into the other, through that great loom the present, the now. Now was their chance, for all of them together in this present — the ghosts could watch, from before and after, but this was the moment when what wisdom they could muster had to be woven together, to be passed on to all the future generations.

They could do anything.That, however, was part of what made it difficult to bring the congress to a close. Infinite possibility was going to collapse, in the act of choosing, to the single world line of history. The future becoming the past: there was something disappointing in this passage through the loom, this so-sudden diminution from infinity to one, the collapse from potentiality to reality which was the action of time itself. The potential was so delicious — the way they could have, potentially, all the best parts of all good governments of all time, combined magically into some superb, as-yet-unseen synthesis — or throw all that aside, and finally strike a new path to the heart of just government… To go from that to the mundane problematic of the constitution as written was an inevitable letdown, and instinctively people put it off.

On the other hand, it would certainly be a good thing if their diplomatic team were to arrive on Earth with a completed document to present to the UN and the people of Earth. Really, there was no avoiding it; they needed to finish; not just to present to Earth the united front of an established government, but also to start living their postcrisis life, whatever it might be.

Nadia felt this strongly, and so she began to exert herself. “Time to drop the keystone in the arch,” she said to Art one morning. And from then on she was indefatigable, meeting with all the delegations and committees, insisting that they finish whatever they were working on, insisting they get it on the table for a final vote on inclusion. This inexorable insistence of hers revealed something that had not been clear before, which was that most of the issues had been resolved to the satisfaction of most of the delegations. They had concocted something workable, most agreed, or at least worth trying, with amendment procedures prominent’in the structure so that they could alter aspects of the system as they went along. The young natives in particular seemed happy — proud of their work, and pleased that they had managed to keep an emphasis on local semiautonomy, institutionalizing the way most of them had lived under the Transitional Authority.

Thus the many checks against majoritarian rule did not bother them, even though they themselves were the current majority. In order not to look defeated by this development, Jackie and her circle had to pretend they had never argued for a strong presidency and central government in the first place; indeed they claimed that an executive council, elected by the legislature in the Swiss manner, had been their idea all along. A lot of that kind of thing was going on, and Art was happy to agree with all such claims: “Yes, I remember, we were wondering what to do about that the night when we stayed up to see the sunrise, it was a good thought you had.”

Good ideas everywhere. And they began to spiral down toward closure.

The global government as they had designed it was to be a confederation, led by an executive council of seven members, elected by a two-housed legislature. One legislative branch, the duma, was composed of a large group of representatives drafted from the populace; the other, the senate, a smaller group elected one from each town or village group larger than five hundred people. The legislature was all in all fairly weak; it elected the executive council and helped select justices of the courts, and left to the towns most legislative duties. The judicial branch was more powerful; it included not only criminal courts, but also a kind of double supreme court, one half a constitutional court, and the other half an environmental court, with members to both appointed, elected, and drawn by lottery. The environmental court would rule on disputes concerning terraforming and other environmental changes, while the constitutional court would rule on the constitutionality of all other issues, including challenged town laws. One arm of the environmental court would be a land commission, charged with overseeing the stewardship of the land, which was to belong to all Martians together, in keeping with point three of the Dorsa Brevia agreement; there would not be private property as such, but there would be various tenure rights established in leasing contracts, and the land commission was to work these matters out. A corresponding economic commission would function under the constitutional court, and would be partly composed of representatives from guild cooperatives which would be established for the various professions and industries. This commission was to oversee the establishment of a version of the underground’s eco-economics, including both not-for-profit enterprises concentrating on the public sphere, and taxed for-profit enterprises which had legal size limits, and were by law employee-owned.

This expansion of the judiciary satisfied what desire they had for a strong global government, without giving an executive body much power; it was also a response to the heroic role played by Earth’s World Court in the previous century, when almost every other Terran institution had been bought or otherwise collapsed under metanational pressures; only the World Court had held firm, issuing ruling after ruling on behalf of the disenfranchised and the land, in a mostly ignored rearguard and indeed symbolic action against the metanats’ depredations; a moral force, which.if it had had more teeth, might have done more good. But from the Martian underground they had seen the battle fought, and now they remembered.

Thus the Martian global government. The constitution then also included a long list of human rights, including social rights; guidelines for the land commission and the economics commission; an Australian ballot election system for the elective offices; a system for amendments; and so on. Lastly, to the main text of the constitution they appended the huge collection of materials that had accumulated in the process, calling it Working Notes and Commentary. This was to be used to help the courts interpret the main document, and included everything the delegations had said at the table of tables, or written on the warehouse screens, or received in the mail.

So most of the sticky issues had been resolved, or at least swept under the rug; the biggest outstanding dispute was the Red objection. Art went into action here, orchestrating several late concessions to the Reds, including many early appointments to the environmental courts; these concessions were later termed the “Grand Gesture.” In return Irishka, speaking for all the Reds still involved in the political process, agreed that the cable would stay, that UNTA would have a presence in Sheffield, that Terrans would still be able to immigrate, subject to restrictions; and lastly, that terra-forming would continue, in slow nondisruptive forms, until the atmospheric pressure at six kilometers above the datum was 350 millibars, this figure to be reviewed every five years. And so the Red impasse was broken, or at least finessed.

Coyote shook his head at the way things had developed. “After every revolution there is an interregnum, in which communities run themselves and all is well, and then the new regime comes in and screws things up. I think what you should do now is go out to the tents and canyons, and ask them very humbly how they have been running things these past two months, and then throw this fancy constitution away and say, continue.”

“But that’s what the constitution does say,” Art joked.

Coyote would not kid about this. “You must be Very scrupulous not to gather power in to the center just because you can do it. Power corrupts, that’s the basic law of politics. Maybe the only law.”

As for UNTA, it was harder to tell what they thought, because opinions back on Earth were divided, with a loud faction calling for the retaking of Mars by force, everyone on Pavonis to be jailed or hanged. Most Terrans were more accommodating, and all of them were still distracted by the ongoing crisis at home. And at the moment, they didn’t matter as much as the Reds; that was the space the revolution had given the Martians. Now they were about to fill it.

Every night of the final week, Art went to bed incoherent with cavils and kava, and though exhausted he would wake fairly often during the night, and roll under the force of some seemingly lucid thought that in the morning would be gone, or revealed as lunatic. Nadia slept just as poorly on the couch next to his, or in her chair. Sometimes they would fall asleep talking over some point or other, and wake up dressed but entangled, holding on to each other like children in a thunderstorm. The warmth of another body was a comfort like nothing else. And once in the dim predawn ultraviolet light they both woke up, and talked for hours in the cold silence of the building, in a little cocoon of warmth and companionship. Another mind to talk to. From colleagues to friends; from there to lovers, maybe; or something like lovers; Nadia did not seem inclined to romanticism of any kind. But Art was in love, no doubt about it, and there twinkled in Nadia’s flecked eyes a new fondness for him, he thought. So that at the end of the long final days of the congress, they lay on their couches and talked, and she would knead his shoulders, or him hers, and then they would fall comatose, pounded by exhaustion. There was more pressure to ushering in this document than either one of them wanted to admit, except in these moments, huddling together against the cold big world. A new love: Art, despite Nadia’s unsentimentality, found no other way to put it. He was happy.

And he was amused, but not surprised, when they got up one morning and she said, “Let’s put it to a vote.”

So Art talked to the Swiss and the Dorsa Brevia scholars, and the Swiss proposed to the congress that they vote on the version of the constitution currently on the table, voting point by point as they had promised in the beginning. Immediately there was a spasm of vote trading that made Terran stock exchanges look subtle and slow. Meanwhile the Swiss set up a voting sequence, and over the course of three days they ran through it, allowing one vote to each group on each numbered paragraph of the draft constitution. All eighty-nine paragraphs passed, and the massive collection of “explanatory material” was officially appended to the main text.

After that it was time to put it to the people of Mars for approval. So on Ls 158, October llth, m-year 52 (on Earth, February 27, 2128), the general populace of Mars, including everyone over five m-years old, voted by wrist on the resulting document. Over ninety-five percent of the population voted, and the constitution passed seventy-eight percent to twenty-two percent, garnering just over nine million votes. They had a government.


Green Earth

On Earth, meanwhile, the great flood dominated everything.

The flood had been caused by a cluster of violent volcanic eruptions under the west Antarctic ice sheet. The land underneath the ice sheet, resembling North America’s basin and range country, had been depressed by the weight of the ice until it lay below sea level. So when the eruptions began the lava and gases had melted the ice over the volcanoes, causing vast slippages overhead; at the same time, ocean water had started to pour in under the ice, at various points around the swiftly eroding grounding line. Destabilized and shattering, enormous islands of ice had broken off all around the edges of the Ross Sea and the Ronne Sea. As these islands of ice floated away on the ocean currents, the breakup continued to move inland, and the turbulence caused the process to accelerate. In the months following the first big breaks, the Antarctic Sea filled with immense tabular icebergs, which displaced so much water that sea level all over the world rose. Water continued to rush into the depressed basin in west Antarctica that the ice had once filled, floating out the rest of it berg by berg, until the ice sheet was entirely gone, replaced by a shallow new sea roiled by the continuing underwater eruptions, which were being compared in their severity to the Deccan Traps eruptions of the late Cretaceous.

And so, a year after the eruptions began, Antarctica was only a bit over half as big as it had been — east Antarctic like a half-moon, the Antarctic peninsula like an iced-over New Zealand — in between them, a berg-clotted bubbling shallow sea. And around the rest of the world, sea level was seven meters higher than it had been before.

Not since the last ice age, ten thousand years before, had humanity experienced a natural catastrophe of such magnitude. And this time it affected not just a few million hunter-gatherers in nomadic tribes, but fifteen billion civilized citizens, living atop a precarious sociotechnological edifice which had already been in great danger of collapse. All the big coastal cities were inundated, whole countries like Bangladesh and Holland and Belize were awash. Most of the unfortunates who lived in such low-lying regions had time to move to higher ground, for the surge was more like a tide than a tidal wave; and then there they all were, somewhere between a tenth and a fifth of the world’s population — refugees.

It goes without saying that human society was not equipped to handle such a situation. Even in the best of times it would not have been easy, and the early twenty-second century had not been the best of times. Populations were still rising, resources were more and more depleted, conflicts between rich and poor, governments and metanats, had been sharpening everywhere: the catastrophe had struck in the midst of a crisis.

To a certain extent, the catastrophe canceled the crisis. In the face of worldwide desperation, power struggles of all kinds were recontextualized, many rendered phantasmagorical;. there were whole populations in need, and legalities of ownership and profit paled in comparison to the problem. The United Nations rose like some aquatic phoenix out of the chaos, and became the clearinghouse for the vast number of emergency relief efforts: migrations inland across national borders, construction of emergency accommodations, distribution of emergency food and supplies. Because of the nature of this work, with its emphasis on rescue and relief, Switzerland and Praxis were in the forefront of helping the UN. UNESCO returned from the dead, along with the World Health Organization. India and China, as the largest of the badly devastated countries, were also extremely influential in the current situation, because how they chose to cope made a big difference everywhere. They made alliances with each other, and with the UN and its new allies; they refused all help from the Group of Eleven, and the metanationals that were now fully intertwined into the affairs of most of the Gl 1 governments.

In other ways-, however, the catastrophe only exacerbated the crisis. The metanationals themselves were cast into a very curious position by the flood. Before its onset they had been absorbed in what commentators had been calling the metanatricide, fighting among themselves for final control of the world economy. A few big metanational superclusters had been jockeying for ultimate control of the largest industrial countries, and attempting to subsume the few entities still out of their control: Switzerland, India, China, Praxis, the so-called World Court countries, and so on. Now, with much of the population of Earth occupied in dealing with the flood, the metanats were mostly struggling to regain what control they had had of affairs. In the popular mind they were often linked to the flood, as cause, or as punished sinners — a very convenient bit of magical thinking for Mars and the other antimetanational forces, all of whom were doing their best to seize this chance to beat the metanats to pieces while they were down. The Group of Eleven and the other industrial governments previously associated with the metanats were scrambling to keep their own populations alive, and so could spare little effort to help the great conglomerates. And people everywhere were abandoning their previous jobs to join the various relief efforts; Praxis-style employee-owned enterprises were gaining in popularity as they took on the emergency, at the same time offering all their members the longevity treatment. Some of the metanats held on to their workforce by reconfiguring along these same lines. And so the struggle for power continued on many levels, but everywhere rearranged by the catastrophe.

In that context, Mars to most Terrans was completely irrelevant. Oh it made for an interesting story, of course, and many cursed the Martians as ungrateful children, abandoning their parents in the parents’ hour of need; it was one example among many of bad responses to the flood, to be contrasted to the equally plentiful good responses. There were heroes and villains all over these days, and most regarded the Martians as villains, rats escaping a sinking ship. Others regarded them as potential saviors, in some ill-defined way: another bit of magical thinking, by and large; but there was something hopeful in the notion of a new society forming on the next world out.

Meanwhile, no matter what happened on Mars, the people of Earth struggled to cope with the flood. The damage now began to include rapid climactic changes: more cloud cover, reflecting more sunlight and causing temperatures to drop, also creating torrential rainstorms, which often wrecked much-needed crops, and sometimes fell where rain had seldom fallen before, in the Sahara, theMojave, northern Chile — bringing the great flood far inland, in effect, bringing its impact everywhere. And with agriculture hammered by these new severe storms, hunger itself became an issue; any general sense of cooperation was therefore threatened, as it seemed that perhaps not everyone could be fed, and the cowardly spoke of triage. And so every part of Terra was in turmoil, like an anthill stirred by a stick.

So that was Earth in the summer of 2128: an unprecedented catastrophe, an ongoing universal crisis. The antediluvian world already seemed like no more than a bad dream from which they had all been rudely awakened, cast into an even more dangerous reality. From the frying pan into the fire, yes; and some people tried to get them back into the frying pan, while others struggled to get them off the stove; and no one could say what would happen next.

An invisible viseclamped down on Nirgal, each day more crushing than the last. Maya moaned and groaned about it, Michel and Sax did not seem to care; Michel was very happy to be making this trip, and Sax was absorbed in watching reports from the congress on Pavonis Mons. They lived in the rotating chamber of the spaceship Atlantis, and over the five months of the trip the chamber would accelerate until the centrifugal force shifted from Mars equivalent to Earth equivalent, remaining there for almost half the voyage. This was a method that had been worked out over the years, to accommodate emigrants who decided they wanted to return home, diplomats traveling back and forth, and the few Martian natives who had made the voyage to Earth. For everyone it was hard. Quite a few of the natives had gotten sick on Earth; some had died. It was important to stay in the gravity chamber, do one’s exercises, take one’s inoculations.

Sax and Michel worked out on exercise machines; Nirgal and Maya sat in the blessed baths, commiserating. Of course Maya enjoyed her misery, as she seemed to enjoy all her emotions, including rage and melancholy; while Nirgal was truly miserable, spacetime bending him in an ever more tortuous torque, until every cell of him cried out with the pain of it. It frightened him — the effort it took just to breathe, the idea of a planet so massive. Hard to believe!

He tried to talk to Michel about it, but Michel was distracted by his anticipation, his preparation. Sax by the events on Mars. Nirgal didn’t care about the meeting back on Pavonis, it would not matter much in the long run, he judged. The natives in the outback had lived the way they wanted to under UNTA, and they would do the same under the new government. Jackie might succeed in making a presidency for herself, and that would be too bad; but no matter what happened, their relationship had gone strange, become a kind of telepathy which sometimes resembled the old passionate love affair but just as often felt like a vicious sibling rivalry, or even the internal arguments of a schizoid self. Perhaps they were twins, who knew what kind of alchemy Hiroko had performed in the ectogene tanks — but no — Jackie had been born of Esther. He knew that. If it proved anything. For to his dismay, she felt like his other self; he did not want that, he did not want the sudden speeding of his heart whenever he saw her. It was one of the reasons he had decided to join the expedition to Earth. And now he was getting away from her at the rate of fifty thousand kilometers an hour, but there she still was on the screen, happy at the ongoing work of the congress, and her part in it. And she would be one of the seven on the new executive council, no doubt about it.

“She is counting on history to take its usual course,” May a said as they sat in the baths watching the news. “Power is like matter, it has gravity, it clumps and then starts to draw more into itself. This local power, spread out through the tents — ” She shrugged cynically.

“Perhaps it’s a nova,” Nirgal suggested.

She laughed. “Yes, perhaps. But then it starts clumping again. That’s the gravity of history — power drawn into centers, until there is an occasional nova. Then a new drawing in. We’ll see it on Mars too, you mark my words. And Jackie will be right at the middle of it — ” She stopped before adding the bitch, in respect for Nirgal’s feelings. Regarding him with a curious hooded gaze, as if wondering what she might do with Nirgal that would advance her never-ending war with Jackie. Little novas of the heart.

The last weeks of one g passed, and never did Nirgal begin to feel comfortable. It was frightening to feel the clamping pressure on his breath and his thinking. His joints hurt. On the screens he saw images of the little blue-and-white marble that was the Earth, with the bone button of Luna looking peculiarly flat and dead beside it. But they were just more screen images, they meant nothing to him compared to his sore feet, his beating heart. Then the blue world suddenly blossomed and filled the screens entirely, its curved limb a white line, the blue water all patterned by white cloud swirls, the continents peaking out from cloud patterns like little rebuses of half-remembered myth: Asia. Africa. Europe. America.

For the final descent and aerobraking the gravity chamber’s rotation was stopped. Nirgal, floating, feeling disembodied and balloonlike, pulled to a window to see it all with his own eyes. Despite the window glass and the thousands of kilometers of distance, the detail was startling in its sharp-edged clarity. “The eye has such power,” he said to Sax.

“Hmm,” Sax said, and came to the window to look.

They watched the Earth, blue before them.

“Are you ever afraid?” Nirgal asked.


“You know.” Sax on this voyage had not been in one of his more coherent phases; many things had to be explained to him. “Fear. Apprehension. Fright.”

“Yes. I think so. I was afraid, yes. Recently. When I found I was… disoriented.”

“I’m afraid now.”

Sax looked at him curiously. Then he floated over and put a hand to Nirgal’s arm, in a gentle gesture quite unlike him. “We’re here,” he said.

Dropping dropping. There were ten space elevators stranding out from Earth now. Several of them were what they called split cables, dividing into two branching strands that touched down north and south of the equator, which was woefully short of decent socket locations. One split cable Y-ed down to Virac in the Philippines and Oobagooma in western Australia, another to Cairo and Durban. The one they were descending split some ten thousand kilometers above the Earth, the north line touching down near Port of Spain, Trinidad, while the southern one dropped into Brazil near Aripuana, a boomtown on a tributary of the Amazon called the Theodore Roosevelt River.

They were taking the north fork, down to Trinidad. From their elevator car they looked down on most of the Western Hemisphere, centered over the Amazon basin, where brown water veined through the green lungs of Earth. Down and down; in the five days of their descent the world approached until it eventually filled everything below them, and the crushing gravity of the previous month and a half once again slowly took them in its grasp and squeezed, squeezed, squeezed. What little tolerance Nirgal had developed for the weight seemed to have disappeared during the brief return to microgravity, and now he gasped. Every breath an effort. Standing foursquare before the windows, hands clenched to the rails, he looked down through clouds on the brilliant blue of the Caribbean, the intense greens of Venezuela. The Orinoco’s discharge into the sea was a leafy stain. The limb of the sky was composed of curved bands of white and turquoise, with the black of space above. All so glossy. The clouds were the same as on Mars but thicker, whiter, more stuffed with themselves. The intense gravity was perhaps exerting an extra pressure on his retina or optic nerve, to make the colors push and pulse so hard. Sounds were noisier.

In the elevator with them were UN diplomats, Praxis aides, media representatives, all hoping for the Martians to give them some time, to talk to them. Nirgal found it difficult to focus on them, to listen to them. Everyone seemed so strangely unaware of their position in space, there five hundred kilometers over the surface of the Earth, and falling fast.

A long last day. Then they were in the atmosphere, and then the cable led their car down onto the green square of Trinidad, into a huge socket complex next to an abandoned airport, its runways like gray runes. The elevator car slid down into the concrete mass. It decelerated; it came to a stop.

Nirgal detached his hands from the rail, and walked carefully after all the others, plod, plod, the weight all through him, plod, plod. They plodded down a jetway. He stepped onto the floor of a building on Earth. The interior of the socket resembled the one on Pavonis Mons, an incongruous familiarity, for the air was salty, thick, hot, clangorous, heavy. Nirgal hurried as much as he could through the halls, wanting to get outside and see things at last. A whole crowd trailed him, surrounded him, but the Praxis aides understood, they made a way for him through a growing crowd. The building was huge, apparently he had missed a chance to take a subway out of it. But there was a doorway glowing with light. Slightly dizzy with the effort, he walked out into a blinding glare. Pure whiteness. It reeked of salt, fish, leaves, tar, shit, spices: like a greenhouse gone mad.

Now his eyes were adjusting. The sky was blue, a turquoise blue like the middle band of the limb as seen from space, but lighter; whiter over the hills, magnesium around the sun. Black spots swam this way and that. The cable threaded up into the sky. It was too bright to look up. Green hills in the distance.

He stumbled as they led him to an open car — an antique, small and rounded, with rubber tires. A convertible. He stood up in the backseat between Sax and Maya, just to see better. In the glare of light there were hundreds of people, thousands, dressed in astonishing costumes, neon silks, pink purple teal gold aquamarine, jewels, feathers, headdresses — “Carnival,” someone in the front seat of the car said up to him, “we dress in costumes for Carnival, also for Discovery Day, when Columbus arrived on the island. That was just a week ago, so we’ve continued the festival for your arrival too.”

“What’s the date?” Sax asked.

“Nirgal day! August eleven.”

They drove slowly, down streets lined with cheering people. One group was dressed like the natives before the Europeans arrived, shouting wildly. Mouths pink and white in brown faces. Voices like music, everyone singing. The people in the car sounded like Coyote. There were people in the crowd wearing Coyote masks, Desmond Hawkins’s cracked face twisted into rubbery expressions beyond what even he could achieve. And words — Nirgal had thought that on Mars he had encountered every possible distortion of English, but it was hard to follow what the Trinidadians said: accent, diction, intonation, he couldn’t tell why. He was sweating freely but still felt hot.

The car, bumpy and slow, ran between the walls of people to a short bluff. Beyond it lay a harbor district, now immersed in shallow water. Buildings swamped in the water stood in patches of dirty foam, rocking on unseen waves. A whole neighborhood now a tide pool, the houses giant exposed mussels, some broken open, water sloshing in and out their windows, rowboats bobbing between them. Bigger boats were tied to streetlights and power-line poles out where the buildings stopped. Farther out sailboats tilted on the sun-beaten blue, each boat with two or three taut fore-and-aft sails. Green hills rising to the right, forming a big open bay. “Fishing boats still coming in through the streets, but the big ships use the bauxite docks down at Point T, see out there?”

Fifty different shades of green on the hills. Palm trees in the shallows were dead, their fronds drooping yellow. These marked the tidal zone; above it green burst out everywhere. Streets and buildings were hacked out of a vegetable world. Green and white, as in his childhood vision, but here the two primal colors were separated out, held in a blue egg of sea and sky. They were just above the waves and yet the horizon was so far away! Instant evidence of the size of this world. No wonder they had thought the Earth was flat. The white water sloshing through the streets below made a continuous krmr sound, as loud as the cheers of the crowd.

The rank stench was suddenly cut by the smell of tar on the wind. “Pitch Lake down by La Brea all dug out and shipped away, nothing left but a black hole in the ground, and a little pond we use locally. See that’s what you smell, new road here by the water.” Asphalt road, sweating mirages. People jammed the black roadside; they all had black hair. A young woman climbed the car to put a necklace of flowers around his neck. Their sweet scent clashed with the stinging salt haze. Perfume and incense, chased by the hot vegetable wind, tarred and spiced. Steel drums, so familiar in all the hard noise, pinging and panging, they played Martian music here! The rooftops in the drowned district to their left now supported ramshackle patios. The stench was of a greenhouse gone bad, things rotting, a hot wet press of air and everything blazing in a talcum of light. Sweat ran freely down his skin. People cheered from the flooded rooftops, from boats, the water coated with flowers floating up and down on the foam. Black hair gleaming like chitin or jewels. A floating wood dock piled with several bands, playing different tunes all at once. Fish scales and flower petals strewn underfoot, silver and red and black dots swimming.

Flung flowers flashed by on the wind, streaks of pure color, yellow pink and red. The driver of their car turned around to talk, ignoring the road, “Hear the duglas play soaka music, pan music, listen that cuttin contest, the best five bands in Port a Spain.”

They passed through an old neighborhood, visibly ancient, the buildings made of small crumbling bricks, capped by corrugated metal roofs, or even thatch — all ancient, tiny, the people tiny too, brown-skinned, “The countryside Hindu, the cities black. T ‘n T mix them, that’s dugla.” Grass covered the ground, burst out of every crack in the walls, out of roofs, out of potholes, out of everything not recently paved by tarry asphalt — an explosive surge of green, pouring out of every surface of the world. The thick air reeked! Then they emerged from the ancient district onto a broad asphalt boulevard, flanked by big trees and large marble buildings. “Metanat grabhighs, looked big when they first built, but nothing grab as high as the cable.” Sour sweat, sweet smoke, everything blazing green, he had to shut his eyes so that he wouldn’t be sick. “You okay?” Insects whirred, the air was so hot he couldn’t guess its temperature, it had gone off his personal scale. He sat down heavily between Maya and Sax.

The car stopped. He stood again, with an effort, and got out, and had trouble walking; he almost fell, everything was swinging around. Maya held his arm hard. He gripped his temples, breathed through his mouth. “Are you okay?” she asked sharply.

“Yes,” Nirgal said, and tried to nod. They were in a complex of raw new buildings. Unpainted wood, concrete, bare dirt now covered with crushed flower petals. People everywhere, almost all in Carnival costume. The singe of the sun in his eyes wouldn’t go away. He was led to a wooden dais, above a throng of people cheering madly.

A beautiful black-haired woman in a green sari, with a white sash belting it, introduced the four Martians to the crowd. The hills behind bent like green flames in a strong western wind; it was cooler than before, and less smelly. Maya stood before the microphones and cameras, and the years fell away from her; she spoke crisp isolated sentences that were cheered antiphonally, call and response, call and response. A media star with the whole world watching, comfortably charismatic, laying out what sounded to Nirgal like her speech in Burroughs at the crux point of the revolution, when she had rallied and focused the crowd in Princess Park. Something like that.

Michel and Sax declined to speak, they waved Nirgal up there to face the crowd and the green hills holding them up to the sun. For a time as he stood there he could not hear himself think. White noise of cheers, thick sound in the thicker air.

“Mars is a mirror,” he said in the microphone, “in which Terra sees its own essence. The move to Mars was a purifying voyage, stripping away all but the most important things. What arrived in the end was Terran through and through. And what has happened since there has been an expression of Terran thought and Terran genes. And so, more than any material aid in scarce metals or new genetic strains, we can most help the home planet by serving as a way for you to see yourselves. As a way to map out an unimaginable immensity. Thus in our small way we do our part to create the great civilization that trembles on the brink of becoming. We are the primitives of an unknown civilization.”

Loud cheers.

“That’s what it looks like to us on Mars, anyway — a long evolution through the centuries, toward justice and peace. As people learn more, they understand better their dependence on each other and on their world. On Mars we have seen that the best way to express this interdependence is to live for giving, in a culture of compassion. Every person free and equal in the sight of all, working together for the good of all. It’s that work that makes us most free. No hierarchy is worth acknowledging but this one: the more we give, the greater we become. Now in the midst of a great flood, spurred by the great flood, we see the flowering of this culture of compassion, emerging on both the two worlds at once.”

He sat in a blaze of noise. Then the speeches were over and they had shifted into some kind of public press conference, responding to questions asked by the beautiful woman in the green sari. Nirgal responded with questions of his own, asking her about the new compound of buildings surrounding them, and about the situation on the island; and she answered over a chatter of commentary and laughter from the appreciative crowd, still looking on from behind the wall of reporters and cameras. The woman turned out to be the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago. The little two-island nation had been unwillingly dominated by the metanat Armscor for most of the previous century, the woman explained, and only since the flood had they severed that association, “and every colonial bond at last.” How the crowd cheered! And her smile, so full of a whole society’s pleasure. She was dugla, he saw, and amazingly beautiful.

The compound they were in, she explained, was one of scores of relief hospitals that had been built on the two islands since the flood. Their construction had been the major project of the islanders in response to their new freedom; they had created relief centers that aided flood victims, giving them all at once housing, work, and medical care, including the longevity treatment.

“Everyone gets the treatment?” Nirgal asked.

“Yes,” the woman said.

“Good!” Nirgal said, surprised; he had heard it was a rare thing on Earth.

“You think so!” the prime minister said. “People are saying it will create all kinds of problems.”

“Yes. It will, in fact. But I think we should do it anyway. Give everyone the treatment and then figure out what to do.”

It was a minute or two before anything more could be heard over the cheering of the crowd. The prime minister was trying to quiet them, but a short man dressed in a fashionable brown suit came out of the group behind the prime minister and proclaimed into the mike, to an uproar of cheers at every sentence, “This Marsman Nirgal is a son of Trinidad! His papa, Desmond Hawkins the Stowaway, the Coyote of Mars, is from Port of Spain, and he still has a lot of people there! That Armscor bought the oil company and they tried to buy the island too, but they picked the wrong island to try! Your Coyote didn’t get his spirit from out of the air, Maestro Nirgal, he got it from T and T! He’s been wandering around up there teaching everyone the T and T way, and they’re all up there dugla anyway, they understand the dugla way, and they have taken over all Mars with it! Mars is one great big Trinidad Tobago!”

The crowd went into transports at this, and impulsively Nirgal walked over to the man and hugged him, such a smile, then found the stairs and got down and walked out into the crowd, which clumped around him. A miasma of fragrances. Too loud to think. He touched people, shook hands. People touched him. The look in their eyes! Everyone was shorter than he was, they laughed at that; and every face was an entire world. Black dots swam in his vision, things went darker very abruptly — he looked around, startled — a bank of clouds had massed over a dark strip of sea to the west, and the lead edge had cut off the sun. Now as he continued to mingle the cloud bank came rolling over the island. The crowd broke up as people moved under the shelter of trees, or verandas, or a big tin-roofed bus stop. Maya and Sax and Michel were lost in their own crowds. The clouds were dark gray at their bases, rearing up in white roils as solid as rock but mutable, flowing continuously. A cool wind struck hard, and then big raindrops starred the dirt, and the four Martians were hustled under an open pavilion roof, where room was made for them.

Then the rain poured down like nothing Nirgal had ever seen — rain sheeting down, roaring, slamming into sudden broad rivering puddles, all starred with a million white droplet explosions, the whole world outside the pavilion blurred by falling water into patches of color, green and brown all mixed in a wash. Maya was grinning: “It’s like the ocean is falling on us!”

“So much water!” Nirgal said.

The prime minister shrugged. “It happens every day during monsoon. It’s more rain than before, and we already got a lot.”

Nirgal shook his head and felt a stabbing at his temples. The pain of breathing in wet air. Half drowning.

The prime minister was explaining something to them, but Nirgal could barely follow, his head hurt so. Anyone in the independence movement could join a Praxis affiliate, and during their first year’s work they were building relief centers like this one. The longevity treatment was an automatic part of every person’s joining, administered in the newly built centers. Birth-control implants could be had at the same time, reversible but permanent if left in; many took them as their contribution to the cause. “Babies later, we say. There will be time.” People wanted to join anyway, almost everyone had. Armscor had been forced to match the Praxis arrangement to keep some of their people, and so it made little difference now what organization one was part of, on Trinidad they were all much the same. The newly treated went on to build more housing, or work in agriculture, or make more hospital equipment. Trinidad had been fairly prosperous before the flood, the combined result of vast oil reserves and metanat investment in the cable socket. There had been a progressive tradition which had formed the basis of the resistance, in the years after the unwelcome metanat arrival. Now there was a growing infrastructure dedicated to the longevity project. It was a promising situation. Every camp was a waiting list for the treatment, working on its own construction. Of course people were absolutely firm in the defense of such places. Even if Armscor had wanted to, it would be very difficult for its security forces to take over the camps. And if they did they would find nothing of value to them anyway; they already had the treatment. So they could try genocide if they wanted to, but other than that, they had few options for taking back control of the situation.

“The island just walked away from them,” the prime minister concluded. “No army can stop that. It is an end to economic caste, caste of all kind. This is something new, a new dugla thing in history, like you said in your speech. Like a little Mars. So to have you here to see us, you a grandchild of the island, you who have taught us so much in your beautiful new world — oh, it is a special thing. A festival for real.” That radiant smile.

“Who was the man who spoke?”

“Oh that was James.”

Abruptly the rain let up. The sun broke through, and the world steamed. Sweat poured down Nirgal in the white air. He could not catch his breath. White air, black spots swimming.

“I think I need to lie down.”

“Oh yes, yes, of course. You must be exhausted, overwhelmed. Come with us.”

They took him to a small outbuilding of the compound, into a bright room walled with bamboo strips, empty except for a mattress on the floor.

“I’m afraid the mattress is not long enough for you.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

He was left alone. Something about the room reminded him of the interior of Hiroko’s cottage, in the grove on the far side of the lake in Zygote. Not just the bamboo, but the room’s size and shape — and something elusive, the green light streaming in perhaps. The sensation of Hiroko’s presence was so strong and so unexpected that when the others had left the room, Nirgal threw himself down the mattress, his feet hanging far off the bottom edge, and cried. A complete confusion of feeling. His whole body hurt, but especially his head. He stopped crying and fell into a deep sleep.

He woke in a small black chamber.It smelled green. He couldn’t remember where he was. He rolled onto his back and it came to him: Earth. Whispers — he sat up, frightened. A muffled laugh. Hands caught at him and pressed him down, but they were friendly hands, he could feel that immediately. “Shh,” someone said, and then kissed him. Someone else was fumbling at his belt, his buttons. Women, two, three, no two, scented overpoweringly with jasmine and something else, two strands of perfume, both warm. Sweaty skin, so slick. The arteries in his head pounded. This kind of thing had happened to him once or twice when he was younger, when the newly tented canyons were like new worlds, with new young women who wanted to get pregnant or just have fun. After the celibate months of the voyage it felt like heaven to squeeze women’s bodies, to kiss and be kissed, and his initial fright melted away in a rush of hands and mouths, breasts and tangled legs. “Sister Earth,” he gasped. There was music coming from somewhere far away, piano and steel drums and tablas, almost washed out by the sound of the wind in the bamboo. One of the women was on top of him, pressed down on him, and the feel of her ribs sliding under his hands would stay with him forever. He came inside her, kept on kissing. But his head still pounded painfully.

* * *

The next time he woke he was damp and naked on the mattress. It was still dark. He dressed and went out of the room, down a dim hallway to an enclosed porch. It was dusk; he had slept through a day. Maya and Michel and Sax were sitting down to a meal with a large group. Nirgal assured them he was fine, ravenous in fact.

He sat among them. Out in the clearing, in the middle of the raw wet compound, a crowd was gathered around an outdoor kitchen. Beyond them a bonfire blazed yellow in the dusk; its flames limned the dark faces and reflected in the bright liquid whites of their eyes, their teeth. The people at the inside table all looked at him. Several of the young women smiled, their jet hair like caps of jewels, and for a second Nirgal was afraid he smelled of sex and perfume; but the smoke from the bonfire, and the steamy scents of the spiced dishes on the table, made such a thing irrelevant — in such an explosion of smells, nothing could be traced to its origin — and anyway one’s olfactory system was blasted by the food, hot with spices, curry and cayenne, chunks of fish on rice, with a vegetable that seared his mouth and throat, so that he spent the next half hour blinking and sniffing and drinking glasses of water, his head burning. Someone gave him a slice of candied orange, which cooled his mouth somewhat. He ate several slices of bittersweet candied orange.

When the meal was over they all cleared the tables together, as in Zygote or Hiranyagarba. Outside dancers began to circle the bonfire, dressed in their surreal carnival costumes, with masks of beasts and demons over their heads, as during Fassnacht in Nicosia, although the masks were heavier and stranger: demons with multiple eyes and big teeth, elephants, goddesses. The trees were black against the blurry black of the sky, the stars all fat and swinging around, the fronds and leaves up there green black black green, and then fire-colored as the flames leaped higher, seeming to provide the rhythm of the dance. A small young woman with six arms, all moving together to the dance, stepped behind Nirgal and Maya. “This is the dance of Ramayana,” she told them. “It is as old as civilization, and in it they speak of Mangala.”

She gave Nirgal a familiar squeeze on the shoulder, and suddenly he recognized her jasmine scent. Without smiling she went back out to the bonfire. The tabla drums were following the leaping flames to a crescendo, and the dancers cried out. Nirgal’s head throbbed at every beat, and despite the candied orange his eyes were still watering from the burning pepper. And his lids were heavy. “I know it’s strange,” he said, “but I think I have to sleep again.”

He woke before dawn, and went out on a veranda to watch the sky lighten in a quite Martian sequence, black to purple to rose to pink, before turning the startling cyanic blue of a tropical Terran morning. His head was still sore, as if stuffed, but he felt rested at last, and ready to take on the world again. After a breakfast of green-brown bananas, he and Sax joined some of their hosts for a drive around the island.

Everywhere they went there were always several hundred people in his field of vision. The people were all small: brown-skinned like him in the countryside, darker in the towns. There were big vans that moved around together, providing mobile shops to villages too small to have them. Nirgal was surprised to see how lean people werq, their limbs wiry with labor or else as thin as reeds. In this context the curves of the young women were like the blooms of flowers, not long for this world.

When people saw who he was they rushed up to greet him and shake his hand. Sax shook his head at the sight of Nirgal among them. “Bimodal distribution,” he said. “Not speciation exactly — but perhaps if enough time passed. Island divergence, it’s very Darwinian.”

“I’m a Martian,” Nirgal agreed.

Their buildings were placed in holes hacked into the green jungle, which then tried to take the space back. The older buildings were all made of mud bricks black with age, melting back into the earth. Rice fields were terraced so finely that the hills looked farther away than they really were. The light green of rice shoots was a color never seen on Mars. In general the greens were brilliant and glowing beyond anything Nirgal could recall seeing; they pressed on him, so various and intense, the sun plating his back: “It’s because of the sky’s color,” Sax said when Nirgal mentioned it. “The reds in the Martian sky mute the greens just a bit.”

The air was thick, wet, rancid. The shimmering sea settled on a distant horizon. Nirgal coughed, breathed through his mouth, struggled to ignore his throbbing temples and forehead.

“You have low-altitude sickness,” Sax speculated. “I’ve read claims that it happens to Himalayans and Andeans who come down to sea level. Acidity levels in the blood. We ought to have landed you someplace higher.”

“Why didn’t we?”

“They wanted you here because Desmond came from here. This is your homeland. Actually there seems to be a bit of conflict over who should host us next.”

“Even here?”

“More here than on Mars, I should think.”

Nirgal groaned. The weight of the world, the stifling air — “I’m going running,” he said, and took off.

At first it was its usual release; the habitual motions and responses poured through him, reminding him that he was still himself. But as he thumped along he did not ascend into that lung-gom-pa zone where running was like breathing, something he could do indefinitely; instead he began to feel the press of the thick air in his lungs, and the pressure of eyes from the little people he passed, and most of all the pressure of his own weight, hurting his joints. He weighed more than twice what he was used to, and it was like carrying an invisible person on his back, except no — the weight was inside him. As if his bones had turned to lead inside him. His lungs burned and drowned at the same time, and no cough would get them clear. There were taller people in Western clothes behind him now, on little three-wheeled bicycles that splashed through every puddle. But locals were stepping into the road behind him, crowds of them blocking off the tricyclers, their eyes and teeth gleaming in their dark faces as they talked and laughed. The men on the tricycles had blank faces, and they were looking at Nirgal. But they did not challenge the crowd. Nirgal headed back toward the camp, turning down a new road. Now the green hills were blazing to his right. The road jarred up through his legs with every step, until his legs were like tree trunks aflame. That running should hurt! And his head was like a giant balloon. All the wet green plants seemed to be reaching out for him, a hundred shades of green flame melding to one dominant color band, pouring into the world. Black dots swimming. “Hiroko,” he gasped, and ran on with the tears streaming down his face; no one would be able to tell them from sweat. Hiroko, it isn’t like you said it would be!

He stumbled into the ochre dirt of the compound, and scores of people followed him to Maya. Soaking as he was, he still threw his arms around her and put his head down on her shoulder, sobbing.

“We should get to Europe,” Maya said angrily to someone over his back. “This is stupid, to bring him right to the tropics like this.”

Nirgal shifted to look back. It was the prime minister. “This is how we always live,” she said, and pierced Nirgal with a resentful proud look.

But Maya was unimpressed. “We have to go to Bern,” she said.

They flew to Switzerland in a small space plane provided by Praxis. As they traveled, they looked down on the Earth from thirty thousand meters: the blue Atlantic, the rugged mountains of Spain, somewhat like the Hellespontus Mon-tes; then France; then the white wall of the Alps, unlike any mountains he had ever seen. The cool ventilation of the space plane felt like home to Nirgal, and he was chagrined to think that he could not tolerate the open air of Earth.

“You’ll do better in Europe,” Maya told him.

Nirgal thought about the reception they had gotten. “They love you here,” he said. Overwhelmed as he had been, he had still noticed that the welcome of the duglas had been as enthusiastic for the other three ambassadors as for him; and Maya had been particularly cherished.

“They’re happy we survived,” Maya said, dismissing it. “We came back from the dead as far as they’re concerned, like magic. They thought we were dead, do you see? From sixty-one until just last year, they thought all the First Hundred were dead. Sixty-seven years! And all that time part of them was dead too. To have us come back like we have, and in this flood, with everything changing — yes. It’s like a myth. The return from underground.”

“But not all of you.”

“No.” She almost smiled. “They still have to sort that out. They think Frank is alive, and Arkady — and John too, even though John was killed years before sixty-one, and everyone knew it! For a while, anyway. But people are forgetting things. That was a long time ago. And so much has happened since. And people want John Boone to be alive. And so they forget Nicosia, and say that he is part of the underground still.” She laughed shortly, unsettled by this.

“Like with Hiroko,” Nirgal said, feeling his throat constrict. A wave of sadness like the one in Trinidad washed through him, leaving him bleached and aching. He believed, he had always believed, that Hiroko was alive, and hiding with her people somewhere in the southern highlands. This was how he had coped with the shock of the news of her disappearance — by being quite certain that she had slipped out of Sabishii, and would show up again when she felt the time was right. He had been sure of it. Now, for some reason he could not tell, he was no longer sure.

In the seat on the other side of Maya, Michel sat with a pinched expression on his face. Suddenly Nirgal felt like he was looking in a mirror; he knew his face held the same expression, he could feel it in his muscles. He and Michel both had doubts — perhaps about Hiroko, perhaps about other things. No way of telling. Michel did not seem inclined to speak.

And from across the plane Sax watched them both, with his usual birdlike gaze.

They dropped out of the sky paralleling the great north wall of the Alps, and landed on a runway among green fields. They were escorted through a cool Marslike building, downstairs and onto a train, which slid metallically up and out of the building, and across green fields; and in an hour they were in Bern.

In Bern the streets were mobbed by diplomats and reporters, everyone with an ID badge on their chest, everyone with a mission to speak to them. The city was small and pristine and rock solid: the feeling of gathered power was palpable. Narrow stone-flagged streets were flanked by thickly arcaded stone buildings, everything as permanent as a mountain, with the swift river Aare S-ing through it, holding the main part of town in one big oxbow. The people crowding that quarter were mostly Europeans: meticulous-looking white people, not as short as most Terrans, milling around absorbed in their talk, and always a good number of them clustering around the Martians and their escorts, who now were blue-uniformed Swiss military police.

Nirgal and Sax and Michel and Maya were given rooms in the Praxis headquarters, in a small stone building just above the Aare River. It amazed Nirgal how close to water the Swiss were willing to build; a rise in the river of even two meters would spell disaster, but they did not care; apparently they had the river under control that tight, even though it came out of the steepest mountain range Nirgal had ever seen! Terraforming, indeed; it was no wonder the Swiss were good on Mars.

The Praxis building was just a few streets from the old center of the city. The World Court occupied a scattering of offices next to the Swiss federal buildings, near the middle of the peninsula. So every morning they walked down the cobbled main street, the Kramgasse, which was incredibly clean, bare and underpopulated compared with any street in Port of Spain. They passed under the medieval clock tower, with its ornate face and mechanical figures, like one of Michel’s alchemical diagrams made into a three-dimensional object; then into the World Court offices, where they talked to group after group about the situations on Mars and Earth: UN officials, national government representatives, metanational executives, relief organizations, media groups. Everyone wanted to know what was happening on Mars, what Mars planned to do next, what they thought of the situation on Earth, what Mars could offer Earth in the way of help. Nirgal found most of the people he was introduced to fairly easy to talk with; they seemed to understand the respective situations on the two worlds, they were not unrealistic about Mars’s ability to somehow “save Earth”; they did not seem to expect to control Mars ever again, nor did they expect the metanational world order of the antediluvian years to return.

It was likely, however, that the Martians were being screened from people who had a more hostile attitude toward them. Maya was quite certain this was the case. She pointed out how often the negotiators and interviewers revealed what she called their “terracentricity.” Nothing mattered to them, really, but things Earthly; Mars was interesting in some ways, but not actually important. Once this attitude was pointed out to Nirgal, he saw it again and again. And in fact he found it comforting. The corresponding attitude existed on Mars, certainly, as the natives were inevitably areocentric; and it made sense, it was a kind of realism.

Indeed it began to seem to him that it was precisely the Terrans who showed an intense interest in Mars who were the most troubling to contemplate: certain metanat executives whose corporations had invested heavily in Martian terraformation; also certain national representatives from heavily populated countries, who would no doubt be very happy to have a place to send large numbers of their people. So he sat in meetings with people from Armscor, Subarashii, China, Indonesia, Ammex, India, Japan, and the Japanese metanat council; and he listened most carefully, and did his best to ask questions rather than talk overmuch; and he saw that some of their staunchest allies up to that point, especially India and China, were likely in the new dispensation to become their most serious problem. Maya nodded emphatically when he made this observation to her, her face grim. “We can only hope that sheer distance will save us,” she said. “How lucky we are that it takes space travel to reach us. That should be a bottleneck for emigration no matter how advanced transport methods become. But we will have to keep our guard up, forever. In fact, don’t speak much of these things here. Don’t speak much at all.”

During lunch breaks Nirgal asked his escort group — a dozen or more Swiss who stayed with him every waking hour — to walk with him over to the cathedral, which someone told Nirgal was called in Swiss the monster. It had a tower at one end, containing a tight spiral staircase one could ascend, and almost every day Nirgal took several deep breaths and then pushed on up this staircase, gasping and sweating as he neared the top. On clear days, which were not frequent, he could see out the open arches of the top room to the distant abrupt wall of the Alps, a wall he had learned to call the Berner Oberland. This jagged white wall ran from horizon to horizon, like one of the great Martian escarpments, only covered everywhere with snow, everywhere except for on triangular north faces of exposed rock, rock of a light gray color, unlike anything on Mars: granite.

Granite mountains, raised by tectonic-plate collision. And the violence of these origins showed.

Between this majestic white range and Bern lay a number of lower ranges of green hills, the grassy alps similar to the greens in Trinidad, the conifer forests a darker green. So much green — again Nirgal was astounded by how much of Earth was covered with plant life, the lithosphere smothered in a thick ancient blanket of biosphere. “Yes,” Michel said, along one day to view the prospect with him. “The biosphere at this point has even formed a great deal of the upper layer of rock. Everywhere life teems, it teems.”

Michel was dying to get to Provence. They were near it, an hour’s flight or a night’s train; and everything that was going on in Berne seemed to Michel only the endless wrangling of politics. “Flood or revolution or the sun going nova, it will still go on! You and Sax can deal with it, you can do what needs doing better than I.”

“And Maya even more so.”

“Well, yes. But I want her to come with me. She has to see it, or she won’t understand.”

Maya, however, was absorbed in the negotiations with the UN, which were getting serious now that the Martians back home had approved the new constitution. The UN was turning out to still be very much a metanat mouthpiece, just as the World Court continued to support the new “co-op democracies”; and so the arguments in the various meeting rooms, and via video transmission, were vigorous, volatile, sometimes hostile. Important, in a word, and Maya went out to do battle every day; so she had no patience at all for the idea of Provence. She had visited the south of France in her youth, she said, and was not greatly interested in seeing it again, even with Michel. “She says the beaches are all gone!” Michel complained. “As if the beaches were what mattered to Provence!”

In any case, she wouldn’t go. Finally, after a few weeks had passed, Michel shrugged and gave up, unhappily, and decided to visit Provence on his own.

On the day he left, Nirgal walked him down to the train station at the end of the main street, and stood waving at the slowly accelerating train as it left the station. At the last moment Michel stuck his head out a window, waving back at Nirgal with a huge grin. Nirgal was shocked to see this unprecedented expression, so quickly replacing the discouragement at Maya’s absence; then he felt happy for his friend; then he felt a flash of envy. There was no place that would make him feel so good to be going to, not anywhere in the two worlds.

After the train disappeared, Nirgal walked back down Kramgasse in the usual cloud of escorts and media eyes, and hauled his two and a half bodies up the 254 spiral stairs of the Monster, to stare south at the wall of the Berner Ober-land. He was spending a lot of time up there; sometimes he missed early-afternoon meetings, let Sax and Maya take care of it. The Swiss were running things in their usual businesslike fashion. The meetings had agendas, and started on time, and if they didn’t get through the agenda, it wasn’t because of the Swiss in the room. They were just like the Swiss on Mars, like Jurgen and Max and Priska and Sibilla, with their sense of order, of appropriate action well performed, with a tough unsentimental love of comfort, of predictable decency. It was an attitude that Coyote laughed at, or disdained as life-threatening; but seeing the results in the elegant stone city below him, overflowing with flowers and people as prosperous as flowers, Nirgal thought there must be something to be said for it. He had been homeless for so long. Michel had his Provence to go to, but for Nirgal no place endured. His hometown was crushed under a polar cap, his mother had disappeared without a trace, and every place since then had been just a place, and everything everywhere always changing. Mutability was his home. And looking over Switzerland, it was a hard thing to realize. He wanted a home place that had something like these tile roofs, these stone walls, here and solid these last thousand years.

He tried to focus on the meetings in the World Court, and in the Swiss Bundeshaus. Praxis was still leading the way in the response to the flood, it was good at working without plans, and it had already been a cooperative concentrating on the production of basic goods and services, including the longevity treatment. So it only had to accelerate that process to take the lead in showing what could be done in the emergency. The four travelers had seen the results in Trinidad; local movements did most of it, but Praxis was helping projects like that all over the world. William Fort was said to have been critical in leading the fluid response of the “collective transnat,” as he called Praxis.

And his mutant metanational was only one of hundreds of service agencies that had come to the fore. All over the world they were taking on the problem of relocating the coastal populations, and building or relocating a new coastal infrastructure on higher ground.

This loose network of reconstruction efforts, however, was running into some resistance from the metanats, who complained that a good deal of their infrastructure, capital and labor were being nationalized, localized, appropriated, salvaged, or stolen outright. Fighting was not infrequent, especially where fights had already been ongoing; the flood, after all, had arrived right in the middle of one of the world’s paroxysms of breakdown and reordering, and although it had altered everything, that struggle was often still happening, sometimes under the cover of the relief efforts.

Sax Russell was particularly aware of this context, convinced as he was that the global wars of 2061 had never resolved the basic inequities of the Terran economic system. In his own peculiar fashion he was insistent on this point in the meetings, and over time it seemed to Nirgal that he was managing to convince the skeptical listeners of the UN and the metanats that they all needed to pursue something like the Praxis method if they wanted themselves and civilization to survive. It did not matter much which of the two they really cared about, he said to Nirgal in private, themselves or civilization; it didn’t matter if they only instituted some Machiavellian simulacrum of the Praxis program; the effect would be much the same in the short term, and everyone needed that grace period of peaceful cooperation.

So in every meeting he was painfully focused, and fairly coherent and engaged, especially compared to his deep abstraction during the voyage to Earth. And Sax Russell was after all The Terraformer Of Mars, the current living avatar of The Great Scientist, a very powerful position in Terran culture, Nirgal thought — something like the Dalai Lama of science, a continuing reincarnation of the embodiment of the spirit of science, created for a culture that only seemed to be able to handle one scientist at a time. Also, to the metanats Sax was the principal creator of the biggest new market in history — not an inconsiderable part of his aura. And, as Maya had pointed out, he was one of that group that had returned from the dead, one of the leaders of the First Hundred.

As all these things, his odd halting style actually helped to build the Terrans’ image of him. Simple verbal difficulty turned him into a kind of oracle; the Terrans seemed to believe that he thought on such a lofty plane that he could only speak in riddles. This was what they wanted, perhaps. This was what science meant to them — after all, current physical theory spoke of ultimate reality as ultramicro-scopic loops of string, moving supersymmetrically in ten dimensions. That kind of thing had inured people to strangeness from physicists. And the increasing use of translation AIs was getting everyone used to odd locutions of all types; almost everyone Nirgal met spoke English, but they were all slightly different Englishes, so that Earth seemed to Nirgal an explosion of idiolects, no two persons employing the same tongue.

In that context, Sax was listened to with the utmost seriousness. “The flood marks a break point in history,” he said one morning, to a large general meeting in the Bundeshaus’s National Council Chamber. “It was a natural revolution. Weather on Earth is changed, also the land, the sea’s currents. The distribution of human and animal populations. There is no reason, in this situation, to try to reinstate the antediluvian world. It’s not possible. And there are many reasons to institute an improved social order. The old one was — flawed. Resulting in bloodshed, hunger, servitude, and war. Suffering. Unnecessary death. There will always be death. But it should come for every person as late as possible. At the end of a good life. This is the goal of any rational social order. So we see the flood as an opportunity — here as it was on Mars — to — break the mold.”

The UN officials and the metanat advisers frowned at this, but they listened. And the whole world was watching; so that what a cadre of leaders in a European city thought was not as important, Nirgal judged, as the people in their villages, watching the man from Mars on the vid. And as Praxis and the Swiss and their allies worldwide had thrown all their resources into refugee aid and the longevity treatments, people everywhere were joining up. If you could make a living while saving the world — if it represented your best chance for stability and long life and your children’s chances — then why not? Why not? What did most people have to lose? The late metanational period had benefited some, but billions had been left out, in an ever-worsening situation.

So the metanats were losing their workers en masse. They couldn’t imprison them; it was getting hard to scare them; the only way they could keep them was to institute the same sorts of programs that Praxis had started. And this they were doing, or so they said. Maya was sure they were instituting superficial changes meant to resemble Praxis’s only in order to keep their workers and their profits too. But it was possible that Sax was right, and that they would be unable to keep control of the situation, and would usher in a new order despite themselves.

Which is what Nirgal decided to say, during one of his chances to speak, in a press conference in a big side room of the Bundeshaus. Standing at the podium, looking out at a room full of reporters and delegates — so unlike the improvised table in the Pavonis warehouse, so unlike the compound hacked out of the jungle in Trinidad, so unlike the stage in the sea of people during that wild night in Burroughs — Nirgal saw suddenly that his role was to be the young Martian, the voice of the new world. He could leave being reasonable to Maya and Sax, and provide the alien point of view.

“It’s going to be all right,” he said, looking at as many of them as he could. “Every moment in history contains a mix of archaic elements, things from all over the past, right back into prehistory itself. The present is always a melange of these variously archaic elements. There are still knights coming through on horseback and taking the crops of peasants. There are still guilds, and tribes. Now we see so many people leaving their jobs to work in the flood-relief efforts. That’s a new thing, but it’s also a pilgrimage. They want to be pilgrims, they want to have a spiritual purpose, they want to do real work — meaningful work. They won’t tolerate being stolen from anymore. Those of you here who represent the aristocracy look worried. Perhaps you will have to work for yourselves, and live off that. Live at the same level as anyone else. And it’s true — that will happen. But it’s going to be all right, even for you. Enough is as good as a feast. And it’s when everyone is equal that your kids are safest. This universal distribution of the longevity treatment that we are now seeing is the ultimate meaning of the democratic movement. It’s the physical manifestation of democracy, here at last. Health for all. And when that happens the explosion of positive human energy is going to transform the Earth in just a matter of years.”

Someone in the crowd stood and asked him about the possibility of a population explosion, and he nodded. “Yes of course. This is a real problem. You don’t have to be a demographer to see that if new ones continue being born while the elderly are not dying, population will quickly soar to incredible levels. Unsustainable levels, until there will be a crash. So. This has to be faced now. The birth rate simply has to be cut, at least for a while. It isn’t a situation that has to last forever. The longevity treatments are not immortality treatments. Eventually the first generations given the treatment will die. And therein lies the solution to the problem. Say the current population on the two worlds is fifteen billion. That means we’re already starting from a bad spot. Given the severity of the problem, as long as you get to be a parent at all, there is no reason to complain; it’s your own longevity causing the problem after all, and parenthood is parenthood, one child or ten. So say that each person partners, and the two parents have only a single child, so that there is one child for every two people in the previous generation. Say that means seven and a half billion children out of this present generation. And they are all given the longevity treatment too, of course, and cosseted until they are no doubt the insufferable royalty of the world. And they go on to have four billion children, the new royalty, and that generation has two, and so on. All of them are alive at once, and the population is rising all the time, but at a lower rate as time passes. And then at some point, maybe a hundred years from now, maybe a thousand years from now, that first generation will die. It may happen over a fairly short period of time, but fast or slow, when the process is done, the overall population will be almost halved. At that point people can look at the situation, the infrastructure, the environments of the two worlds — the carrying capacity of the entire solar system, whatever that might be. After the biggest generations are gone, people can start having two children each, perhaps, so that there is replacement, and a steady state. Or whatever. When they have that kind of choice, the population crisis will be over. It could take a thousand years.”

Nirgal stopped to look outside of himself, to stare around at the audience; people watching him rapt, silent. He gestured with a hand, to draw them all together. “In the meantime, we have to help each other. We have to regulate ourselves, we have to take care of the land. And it’s here, in this part of the project, that Mars can help Earth. First, we are an experiment in taking care of the land. Everyone learns from that, and some lessons can be applied here. Then, more importantly, though most of the population will always be located here on Earth, a goodly fraction of it can move to Mars. It will help ease the situation, and we’ll be happy to take them. We have an obligation to take on as many people as we possibly can, because we on Mars are Terrans still, and we are all in this together. Earth and Mars — and there are other habitable worlds in the solar system as well, none as big as our two, but there are a lot of them. And by using them all, and cooperating, we can get through the populated years. And walk out into a golden age.”

That day’s talk made quite an impression, as far as one could tell from within the eye of the media storm. Nirgal conversed for hours every day after that, with group after group, elaborating the ideas he had first expressed in that meeting. It was exhausting work, and after a few weeks of it without any letup, he looked out his bedroom window one cloudless morning, and went out and talked to his escort about making an expedition. And the escort agreed to tell the people in Bern he was touring privately; and they took a train up into the Alps.

The train ran south from Bern, past a long blue lake called the Thuner See, which was flanked by steep grassy alps, and ramparts and spires of gray granite. The lakeside towns were topped by slate roof tiles, dominated by ancient trees and an occasional castle, everything in perfect repair. The vast green pastures between the towns were dotted by big wooden farmhouses, with red carnations in flower boxes at every window and balcony. It was a style that had not changed in five hundred years, the escorts told him. Settling into the land, as if natural to it. The green alps had been cleared of trees and stones — in their original state they had been forests. So they were terraformed spaces, huge hilly lawns that had been created to provide forage for cattle. Such an agriculture had not made economic sense as capitalism denned it, but the Swiss had supported the high farms anyway, because they thought it was important, or beautiful, or both at once. It was Swiss. “There are values higher than economic values,” Vlad had insisted back in the congress on Mars, and Nirgal saw now how there were people on Earth who had always believed that, at least in part. Werteswandel, they were saying down in Bern, mutation of values; but it could as well be evolution of values, return of values; gradual change, rather than punctuated equilibrium; benevolent residual archaisms, which endured and endured, until slowly these high isolated mountain valleys had taught the world how to live, their big farmhouses floating by on green waves. A shaft of yellow sun split the clouds and struck the hill behind one such farm, and the alp gleamed in an emerald mass, so intensely green that Nirgal felt disoriented, then actually dizzy; it was hard to focus on such a radiant green!

The heraldic hill disappeared. Others appeared in the window, wave after green wave, luminous with their own reality. At the town of Interlaken the train turned and began to ascend a valley so steep that in places the tracks entered tunnels into the rocky sides of the valley, and spiraled a full 360 degrees inside the mountain before coming back out into the sun, the head of the train right above the tail. The train ran on tracks rather than pistes because the Swiss had not been convinced that the new technology was enough of an improvement to justify replacing what they already had. And so the train vibrated, and even rocked side to side, as it rumbled and squealed uphill, steel on steel.

They stopped in Grindelwald, and in the station Nirgal followed his escort onto a much smaller train, which led them up and under the immense north wall of the Eiger. Underneath this wall of stone it appeared only a few hundred meters tall; Nirgal had gotten a better sense of its great height fifty kilometers away, in Bern’s Monster. Now, here, he waited patiently as the little train hummed into a tunnel in the mountain itself, and began to make its spirals and switchbacks in the darkness, punctuated only by the interior lights of the train, and the brief light from a single side tunnel. His escort, about ten men strong, spoke among themselves in low guttural Swiss German.

When they emerged into the light again they were in a little station called the Jungfraujoch, “the highest train station in Europe” as a sign in six languages said — and no wonder, as it was located in an icy pass between the two great peaks the Monch and the Jungfrau, at 3,454 meters above sea level, with no point or destination but its own.

Nirgal got off the train, trailed by his escort, and went out of the station onto a narrow terrace outside the building. The air was thin, clean, crisp, about 270 K — the best air Nirgal had breathed since he left Mars, it brought tears to his eyes it felt so familiar! Ah, now this was a place!

Even with sunglasses on the light was extremely bright. The sky was a dark cobalt. Snow covered most of the mountainsides, but granite thrust through the snow everywhere, especially on the north sides of the great masses, where the cliffs were too steep to hold snow. Up here the Alps no longer resembled an escarpment at all; each mass of rock had its own look and presence, separated from the rest by deep expanses of empty air, including glacial valleys that were enormously deep U gaps. To the north these macro-trenches were very far below, and green, or even filled with lakes. To the south, however, they were high, and filled only with snow and ice and rock. On this day the wind was pouring up from this south side, bringing the chill of the ice with it.

Down the ice valley directly south of the pass, Nirgal could see a huge crumpled white plateau, where glaciers poured in from the surrounding high basins to meet in a great confluence. This was Concordiaplatz, they told him. Four big glaciers met, then poured south in the Grosser Aletschgletscher, the longest glacier in Switzerland.

Nirgal moved down the terrace to its end, to see farther into this wilderness of ice. At the far end he found that there was a staircase trail, hacked into the hard snow of the south wall where it rose to the pass. It was a path down to the glacier below them, and from there to Concordiaplatz.

Nirgal asked his escorts to stay in the station and wait for him; he wanted to hike alone. They protested, but the glacier in summer was free of snow, the crevasses all obvious, and the trail well clear of them. And no one else was down there on this cold summer day. Nevertheless the members of the escort were uncertain, and two insisted on coming with him, at least part way, and at a distance behind — “just in case.”

Finally Nirgal nodded at the compromise, and pulled on his hood, and hiked down the ice stairs, thumping down painfully until he was on the flatter expanse of the Jung-fraufirn. The ridges that walled this snow valley ran south from the Jungfrau and the Monch respectively, then after a few high kilometers dropped abruptly to Concordiaplatz. From the trail their rock looked black, perhaps in contrast to the whiteness of the snow. Here and there were patches of faint pinkness in the white snow — algae. Life even here — but barely. It was for the most part a pure expanse of white and black, and the overarching dome of Prussian blue, with a cold wind funneling up the canyon from Concordiaplatz. He wanted to make it down to Concordiaplatz and have a look around, but he couldn’t tell whether the day would give him enough time or not; it was very difficult to judge how far away things were, it could easily have been farther than it looked. But he could go until the sun was halfway to the western horizon, and then turn back; and so he hiked swiftly downhill over the firn, from orange wand to orange wand, feeling the extra person inside him, feeling also the two members of the escort who were tagging along some two hundred meters behind.

For a long time he just walked. It wasn’t so hard. The crenellated ice surface crunched under his brown boots. The sun had softened the top layer, despite the cool wind. The surface was too bright to see properly, even with sunglasses; the ice joggled as he walked, and glowed blackly.

The ridges to left and right began their drop. He came out into Concordiaplatz. He could see up glaciers into other high canyons, as if up ice fingers of a hand held up to the sun. The wrist ran down to the south, the Grosser Aletschgletscher. He was standing in the white palm, offered to the sun, next to a lifeline of rubble. The ice out here was pitted and gnarly and bluish in tone.

A wind picked at him, and swirled through his heart; he turned around slowly, like a little planet, like a top about to fall, trying to take it in, to face it. So big, so bright, so windy and vast, so crushingly heavy — the sheer mass of the white world! — and yet with a kind of darkness behind it, as of space’s vacuum, there visible behind the sky. He took off his sunglasses to see what it really looked like, and the glare was so immediate and violent that he had to close his eyes, to cover his face in the crook of his arm; still great white bars pulsed in his vision, and even the afterimage hurt in its blinding intensity. “Wow!” he shouted, and laughed, determined to try it again as soon as the afterimages lessened, but before his pupils had again expanded. So he did, but the second attempt was as bad as the first. How dare you try to look on me as I really am! the world shouted silently. “My God.” With feeling. “Ka wow.”

He put his sunglasses back on his closed eyes, looked out through the bounding afterimages; gradually the primeval landscape of ice and rock restabilized out of the pulsing bars of black and white and neon green. The white and the green; and this was the white. The blank world of the inanimate universe. This place had precisely the same import as the primal Martian landscape. Just as big as it was on Mars, yes, and even bigger, because of the distant horizons, and the crushing gravity; and steeper; and whiter; and windier, ka, it pierced so chill through his parka, even windier, even colder — ah God, like a wind lancing through his heart: the sudden knowledge that Earth was so vast that in its variety it had regions that even out-Marsed Mars itself — that among all the ways that it was greater, it was greater even at being Martian.

He was brought still by this thought. He only stood and stared, tried to face it. The wind died for the moment. The world too was still. No movement, no sound.

When he noticed the silence he began paying attention to it, listening for something, hearing nothing, so that the silence itself somehow became more and more palpable. It was unlike anything he had ever heard before. He thought about it; on Mars he had always been in tents or in suits — always in machinery, except for during the rare walks on the surface he had made in recent years. But then there had always been the wind, or machines nearby. Or he simply hadn’t noticed. Now there was only the great silence, the silence of the universe itself. No dream could imagine it.

And then he began to hear sounds again. The blood in his ears. His breath in his nose. The quiet whir of his thinking — it seemed to have a sound. His own support system this time, his body, with its organic pumps and ventilators and generators. The mechanisms were all still there, provided inside him, making their noises. But now he was free of anything more, in a great silence where he could actually hear himself quite well, just himself on this world alone, a free body standing on its mother earth, free in the rock and ice where it had all begun. Mother Earth — he thought of Hiroko — and this time without the tearing grief that he had felt in Trinidad. When he returned to Mars, he could live like this. He could walk out in the silence a free being, live outdoors in the wind, in something like this pure vast lifeless whiteness, with something like this dark blue dome overhead, the blue a visible exhalation of life itself — oxygen, life’s own color. Up there doming the whiteness. A sign, somehow. The white and the green, except here the green was blue.

With shadows. Among the faint lingering afterimages lay long shadows, running from the west. He was a long way from Jungfraujoch, and considerably lower as well. He turned and began hiking up the Jungfraufirn. In the distance, up the trail, his two companions nodded and turned uphill themselves, hiking fast.

Soon enough they were in the shadow of the ridge to the west, the sun now out of sight for good on this day, and the wind swirling over his back, helping on. Cold indeed. But it was his kind of temperature, after all, and his kind of air, just a nice touch of extra thickness to it; and so despite the weight inside him he began to trudge on up the crunchy hardpack in a little jog, leaning into it, feeling his thigh muscles respond to the challenge, fall into their old lung-gom-pa rhythm, with his lungs pumping hard and his heart as well, to handle the extra weight. But he was strong, strong, and this was one of Earth’s little high regions of Marsness; and so he crunched up the firn feeling stronger by the minute, also appalled, exhilarated — awed — it was a most astonishing planet, that could have so much of the white and so much of the green as well, its orbit so exquisitely situated that at sea level the green burst out and at three thousand meters the white blanketed it utterly — the natural zone of life just that three thousand meters wide, more or less. And Earth rolled right in the middle of that filmy bubble biosphere, in the right few thousand meters out of an orbit 150 million kilometers wide. It was too lucky to be believed.

His skin began to tingle with the effort, he was warm all over, even his toes. Beginning to sweat. The cold air was deliciously invigorating, he felt he was in a pace that he could sustain for hours; but alas, he would not need to; ahead and a bit above lay the snow staircase, with its rope-and-stanchion railing. His guides were making good time ahead of him, hurrying up the final slope. Soon he too would be there, in the little train station/space station. These Swiss, what they thought to build! To be able to visit the stupendous Concordiaplatz, on a day trip from the nation’s capital! No wonder they were so sympathetic to Mars — they were Earth’s closest thing to Martians, truly — builders, terraformers, inhabitants of the thin cold air.

So he was feeling very benevolent toward them when he stepped onto the terrace and then burst into the station, where he began immediately steaming; and when he walked over to his group of escorts and the other passengers who were waiting next to the little train, he was beaming so completely, he was so high, that the impatient frowns of the group (he saw that they had been kept waiting) cracked, and they looked at each other and laughed, shaking their heads as if to say to each other, What can you do? You could only grin and let it happen — they had all been young in the high Alps for the first time, one sunny summer day, and had felt that same enthusiasm — they remembered what it was like. And so they shook his hand, they embraced him — they led him onto the little train and got going, for no matter the event, it was not good to keep a train waiting — and once under way they remarked on his hot hands and face, and asked him where he had gone, and told him how many kilometers that was, and how many vertical meters. They passed him a little hip flask of schnapps. And then as the train went by the little side tunnel that ran out onto the north face of the Eiger, they told him the story of the failed rescue attempt of the doomed Nazi climbers, excited, moved that he was so impressed. And after that they settled into the lit compartments of the train, squealing down through its rough granite tunnel.

Nirgal stood at the end of one car, looking out at the dynamited rock as it flashed past, and then as they burst back into sunlight, up at the looming wall of the Eiger overhead. A passenger walked by him on the way to the next car, then stopped and stared: “Amazing to see you here, T must say.” He had a British accent of some kind. “I just ran into your mother last week.”

Confused, Nirgal said, “My mother?”

“Yes, Hiroko Ai. Isn’t that right? She was in England, working with people at the mouth of the Thames. I saw her on my way here. Quite a coincidence running into you too, I must say. Makes me think I’ll start seeing little red men any second now.”

The man laughed at the thought, began to move on into the next car.

“Hey!” Nirgal called. “Wait!”

But the man only paused — “No no,” he said over his shoulder, “didn’t want to intrude — all I know, anyhow. You’ll have to look her up — in Sheerness perhaps — ”

And then the train was squealing into the station at Klein Scheidegg, and the man hopped out an opening door in the next car, and as Nirgal went to follow him other people got in the way, and his escorts came to explain to him that he needed to descend to Grindelwald immediately if he wanted to get home that night. Nirgal couldn’t deny them. But looking out the window as they rolled out of the station, he saw the British man who had spoken to him, walking briskly down a trail into the dusky valley below.

He landed at a big airportin southern England, and was driven north and east to a town the escorts called Faversham, beyond which the roads and bridges were flooded. He had arranged to come unannounced, and his escort here was a police team that reminded him more of UNTA security units back home than of his Swiss escort: eight men and two women, silent, staring, full of themselves. When they had heard what he wanted to do, they had wanted to hunt for Hiroko by bringing people in to ask about her; Nirgal was sure that would put her in hiding, and he insisted on going out without fanfare to look for her. Eventually he convinced them.

They drove in a gray dawn, down to a new seafront, right there among buildings: in some places there were lines of stacked sandbags between soggy walls, in other places just wet streets, running off under dark water that spread for as far as he could see. Some planks were thrown here and there over mud and puddles.

Then on the far side of one line of sandbags was brown water without any buildings beyond, and a number of row-boats tied to a grille covering a window half awash in dirty foam. Nirgal followed one of the escorts into one big row-boat, and greeted a wiry red-faced man, wearing a dirty cap pulled low over his forehead. A kind of water policeman, apparently. The man shook his hand limply and then they were off, rowing over opaque water, followed by three more boats containing the rest of Nirgal’s worried-looking guards. Nirgal’s oarsman said something, and Nirgal had to ask him to repeat it; it was as if the man only had half his tongue. “Is that Cockney, your dialect?”

“Cockney.” The man laughed.

Nirgal laughed too, shrugged. It was a word he remembered from a book, he didn’t know what it meant really. He had heard a thousand different kinds of English before, but this was the real thing, presumably, and he could hardly understand it. The man spoke more slowly, which didn’t help. He was describing the neighborhood they were rowing away from, pointing; the buildings were inundated nearly to their rooflines. “Brents,” he said several times, pointing with his oar tips.

They came to a floating dock, tied to what looked like a highway sign, saying “OARE.” Several larger boats were tied to the dock, or swinging from anchor ropes nearby. The water policeman rowed to one of these boats, and indicated the metal ladder welded to its rusty side. “Go on.”

Nirgal climbed the side of the boat. On the deck stood a man so short he had to reach up to shake Nirgal’s hand, which he did with a crushing grip. “So you’re a Martian,” he said, in a voice that lilted like the oarsman’s, but was somehow much easier to understand. “Welcome aboard our little research vessel. Come to hunt for the old Asian lady, I hear?”

“Yes,” Nirgal said, his pulse quickening. “She’s Japanese.”

“Hmm.” The man frowned. “I only saw her the once, but I would have said she was Asian, Bangladeshi maybe. They’re everywhere since the flood. But who can tell, eh?”

Four of Nirgal’s escorts climbed aboard, and the boat’s owner pushed a button that started an engine, then spun the wheel in the wheelhouse, and watched forward closely as the boat’s rear pushed down in the water, and they vibrated, then moved away from the drowned line of buildings. It was overcast, the clouds very low, sea and sky both a brownish gray.

“We’ll go out over the wharf,” the little captain said.

Nirgal nodded. “What’s your name?”

“Ely’s the name. B-L-Y.”

“I’m Nirgal.”

The man nodded once.

“So this used to be the docks?” Nirgal asked.

“This was Faversham. Out here were the marshes — Ham, Magden — it was mostly marsh, all the way to the Isle of Sheppey. The Swale, this was. More fen than flow, if you know what I mean. Now you get out here on a windy day and it’s like the North Sea itself. And Sheppey is no more than that hill you see out there. A proper island now.”

“And that’s where you saw…” He didn’t know what to call her.

“Your Asian grandma came in on the ferry from Vlis-singen to Sheerness, other side of that island. Sheerness and Minster have the Thames for streets these days, and at high tide they have it for their roofs too. We’re over Magden Marsh now. We’ll go out around Shell Ness, the Swale’s too clotted.”

The mud-colored water around them sloshed this way and that. It was lined by long curving trails of yellowing foam. On the horizon the water grayed. Bly spun the wheel and they slapped over short steep waves. The boat rocked, and in its entirety moved up and down, up and down. Nirgal had never been in one before. Gray clouds hung over them, there was only a wedge of air between the cloud bottoms and the choppy water. The boat jostled this way and that, bobbing corklike. A liquid world.

“It’s a lot shorter around than it used to be,” Captain Bly said from the wheel. “If the water were clearer you could see Sayes Court, underneath us.”

“How deep is it?” Nirgal asked.

“Depends on the tide. This whole island was about an inch above sea level before the flood, so however much sea level has gone up, that’s how deep it is. What are they saying now, twenty-five feet? More than this old girl needs, that’s sure. She’s got a very shallow draft.”

He spun the wheel left, and the swells hit the boat from the side, so that it rolled in quick uneven jerks. He pointed at one gauge: “There, five meters. Harry Marsh. See that potato patch, the rough water there? That’ll come up at midtide, looks like a drowned giant buried in the mud.”

“What’s the tide now?”

“Near full. It’ll turn in half an hour.”

“It’s hard to believe Luna can pull the ocean around that much.”

“What, you don’t believe in gravity?”

“Oh, I believe in it — it’s crushing me right now. It’s just hard to believe something so far away has that much pull.”

“Hmm,” the captain said, looking out into a bank of mist blocking the view ahead. “I’ll tell you what’s hard to believe, it’s hard to believe that a bunch of icebergs can displace so much water that all the oceans of the world have gone up this far.”

“That is hard to believe.”

“It’s amazing it is. But the proof’s right here floating us. Ah, the mist has arrived.”

“Do you get more bad weather than you used to?”

The captain laughed. “That’d be comparing absolutes, I’d say.”

The mist blew past them in wet long veils, and the choppy waves smoked and hissed. It was dim. Suddenly Nir-gal felt happy, despite the unease in his stomach during the deceleration at the bottom of every wave trough. He was boating on a water world, and the light was at a tolerable level at last. He could stop squinting for the first time since he had arrived on Earth.

The captain spun his big wheel again, and they ran with the waves directly behind them, northwest into the mouth of the Thames. Off to their left a brownish-green ridge emerged wetly out of greenish-brown water, buildings crowding its slope. “That’s Minster, or what’s left of it. It was the only high ground on the island. Sheerness is over there, you can see where the water is all shattered over it.”

Under the low ceiling of streaming mist Nirgal saw what looked like a reef of foaming white water, sloshing in every direction at once, black under the white foam. “That’s Sheerness?”


“Did they all move to Minster?”

“Or somewhere. Most of them. There’s some very stubborn people in Sheerness.”

Then the captain was absorbed in bringing the boat in through the drowned seafront of Minster. Where the line of rooftops emerged from the waves, a large building had had its roof and sea-facing wall removed, and now it functioned as a little marina, its three remaining walls sheltering a patch of water and the upper floors at the back serving as dock. Three other fishing boats were moored there, and as they coasted in, some men on them looked up and waved.

“Who’s this?” one of them said as Ely nosed his boat into the dock.

“One of the Martians. We’re trying to find the Asian lady who was helping in Sheerness the other week, have you seen her?”

“Not lately. Couple of months actually. I heard she crossed to Southend. They’ll know down in the sub.”

Ely nodded. “Do you want to see Minster?” he said to Nirgal.

Nirgal frowned. “I’d rather see the people who might know where she is.”

“Yeah.” Ely backed the boat out of the gap, turned it around; Nirgal looked in at boarded windows, stained plaster, the shelves of an office wall, some notes tacked to a beam. As they motored over the drowned portion of Minster, Ely picked up a radio microphone on a corkscrewed cord, and punched buttons. He had a number of short conversations very hard for Nirgal to follow — “ah jack!” and the like, with all the answers emerging from explosive static.

“We’ll try Sheerness then. Tide’s right.”

And so they motored right into the white water and foam sloshing over the submerged town, following streets very slowly. In the center of the foam the water was calmer. Chimneys and telephone poles stuck out of the gray liquid, and Nirgal caught occasional glimpses of the houses and buildings below, but the water was so foamy on top, and so murky below, that very little was visible — the slope of a roof, a glimpse down into a street, the blind window of a house.

On the far side of the town was a floating dock, anchored to a concrete pillar sticking out of the surf. “This is the old ferry dock. They cut off one section and floated it, and now they’ve pumped out the ferry offices down below and reoc-cupied them.”

“Reoccupied them?”

“You’ll see.”

Ely hopped from the rocking gunwale to the dock, and held out a hand to help Nirgal across; nevertheless Nirgal crashed to one knee when he hit.

“Come on, Spiderman. Down we go.”

The concrete pillar anchoring the dock stood chest-high; it turned out to be hollow, and a metal ladder had been bolted down its inner side. Electric bulbs hung from sockets on a rubber-coated wire, twisted around one post of the ladder. The concrete cylinder ended some three meters down, but the ladder continued, down into a big chamber, warm, humid, fishy, and humming with the noise of several generators in another room or building. The building’s walls, the floor, the ceilings and windows were all covered by what appeared to be a sheet of clear plastic. They were inside a bubble of some kind of clear material; outside the windows was water, murky and brown, bubbling like dishwater in a sink.

Nirgal’s face no doubt revealed his surprise; Ely, smiling briefly at the sight, said, “It was a good strong building. The what-you-might-call sheetrock is something like the tent fabrics you use on Mars, only it hardens. People have been reoccupying quite a few buildings like this, if they’re the right size and depth. Set a tube and poof, it’s like blowing glass. So a lot of Sheerness folk are moving back out here, and sailing off the dock or off their roof. Tide people we call them. They figure it’s better than begging for charity in England, eh?”

“What do they do for work?”

“Fish, like they always have. And salvage. Eh Kama! Here’s my Martian, say hello. He’s short where he comes from, eh? Call him Spiderman.”

“But it’s Nirgal, innit? I’ll be fucked if I call Nirgal Spiderman when I got him visiting in me home.” And the man, black-haired and dark-skinned, an “Asian” in appearance if not accent, shook Nirgal’s right hand gently.

The room was brightly lit by a pair of giant spotlights pointed at the ceiling. The shiny floor was crowded: tables, benches, machiner-y in all stages of assembly: boat engines, pumps, generators, reels, things Nirgal didn’t recognize. The working generators were down a hall, though they didn’t seem any quieter for that. Nirgal went to one wall to inspect the bubble material. It was only a few molecules thick, Ely’s friends told him, and yet would hold thousands of pounds of pressure. Nirgal thought of each pound as a blow with a fist, thousands all at once. “These bubbles will be here when the concrete’s worn away.”

Nirgal asked about Hiroko. Kama shrugged. “I never knew her name. I thought she was a Tamil, from the south of India. She’s gone over to Southend I hear.”

“She helped to set this up?”

“Yeah. She brought the bubbles in from Vlissingen, her and a bunch like her. Great what they did here, we were groveling in High Halstow before they came.”

“Why did they come?”

“Don’t know. Some kind of coastal support group, no doubt.” He laughed. “Though they didn’t come on like that. Just moving around the coasts, building stuff out of the wreckage for the fun of it, what it looked like. Intertidal civilization, they called it. Joking as usual.”

“Eh Karnasingh, eh Bly. Lovely day out innit?”


“Care for some scrod?”

The next big room was a kitchen, and a dining area jammed with tables and benches. Perhaps fifty people had sat down to eat, and Kama cried “Hey!” and loudly introduced Nirgal. Indistinct murmurs greeted him. People were busy eating: big bowls of fish stew, ladled out of enormous black pots that looked like they had been in use continuously for centuries. Nirgal sat to eat; the stew was good. The bread was as hard as the tabletop. The faces were rough, pocked, salted, reddened when not brown; Nirgal had never seen such vivid ugly countenances, banged and pulled by the harsh existence in Earth’s heavy drag. Loud chatter, waves of laughter, shouts; the generators could scarcely be heard. Afterward people came up to shake his hand and look at him. Several had met the Asian woman and her friends, and they described her enthusiastically. She hadn’t ever given them a name. Her English was good, slow and clear. “I thought she were Paki. Her eyes dint look quite Oriental if you know what I mean. Not like yours, you know, no little fold in there next the nose.”

“Epicanthic fold, you ignorant bugger.”

Nirgal felt his heart beating hard. It was hot in the room, hot and steamy and heavy. “What about the people with her?”

Some of those had been Oriental. Asians, except for one or two whites.

“Any tall ones?” Nirgal asked. “Like me?” None. Still… if Hiroko’s group had come back to Earth, it seemed possible the younger ones would have stayed behind. Even Hiroko couldn’t have talked all of them into such a move. Would Frantz leave Mars, would Nanedi? Nir-gal doubted it. Return to Earth in its hour of need… the older ones would go. Yes, it sounded like Hiroko; he could imagine her doing it, sailing the new coasts of Terra, organizing a reinhabitation…

“They went over to Southend. They were going to work their way up the coast.”

Nirgal looked at Ely, who nodded; they could cross too.

But Nirgal’s escorts wanted to check on things first. They wanted a day to arrange things. Meanwhile Ely and his friends were talking about underwater salvage projects, and when Ely heard about the bodyguards’ proposed delay, he asked Nirgal if he wanted to see one such operation, taking place the next morning — “though it’s not a pretty business of course.” Nirgal agreed; the escorts didn’t object, as long as some of them came along. They agreed to do it.

So they spent the evening in the clammy noisy submarine warehouse, Ely and his friends rummaging for equipment Nirgal could use. And spent the night on short narrow beds in Ely’s boat, rocking as if in a big clumsy cradle.

The next morning they puttered through a light mist the color of Mars, pinks and oranges floating this way and that over slack glassy mauve water. The tide was near ebb, and the salvage crew and three of Nirgal’s escorts followed Ely’s larger craft in a trio of small open motorboats, maneuvering between chimney tops and traffic signs and power-line poles, conferring frequently. Ely had gotten out a tattered book of maps, and he called out the street names of Sheer-ness, navigating to specific warehouses or shops. Many of the warehouses in the wharf area had already been salvaged, apparently, but there were more warehouses and shops scattered through the blocks of flats behind the seafront, and one of these was their morning’s target: “Here we go; Two Carleton Lane.” It had been a jewelry store, next to a small market. “We’ll try for jewels and canned food, a good balance you might say.”

They moored to the top of a billboard and stopped their engines. Ely threw a small object on a cord overboard, and he and three of the other men gathered around a small AI screen set on Ely’s bridge dash. A thin cable paid out over the side, its reel creaking woefully. On the screen, the murky color image changed from brown to black to brown.

“How do you know what you’re seeing?” Nirgal asked.

“We don’t.”

“But look, there’s a door, see?”-


Ely tapped at a small keypad under the screen. “In you go, thing. There. Now we’re inside. This should be the market.”

“Didn’t they have time to get their things out?” Nirgal asked.

“Not entirely. Everyone on the east coast of England had to move at once, almost, so there wasn’t enough transport to take more than what you could carry in your car. If that. A lot of people left their homes intact. So we pull the stuff worth pulling.”

“What about the owners?”

“Oh there’s a register. We contact the register and find people when we can, and charge them a salvage fee if they want the stuff. If they’re not on the register, we sell it on the island. People are wanting furniture and such. Here, look — we’ll see what that is.”

He pushed a key, and the screen got brighter. “Ah yeah. Refrigerator. We could use it, but it’s hell getting it up.”

“What about the house?”

“Oh we blow that up. Clean shot if we set the charges right. But not this morning. We’ll tag this and move on.”

They puttered away. Ely and another man continued to watch the screen, arguing mildly about where to go next. “This town wasn’t much even before the flood,” Ely explained to Nirgal. “Falling into the drink for a couple hundred years, ever since the empire ended.”

“Since the end of sail you mean,” the other man said.

“Same thing. The old Thames was used less and less after that, and all the little ports on the estuary began to go seedy. And that was a long time ago.”

Finally Ely killed the engine, looked at the others. In their whiskery faces Nirgal saw a curious mix of grim resignation and happy anticipation. “There then.”

The other men started getting out underwater gear: full wet suits, tanks, face masks, some full helmets. “We thought Eric’s’d fit you,” Ely said. “He was a giant.” He pulled a long black wet suit out of the crowded locker, one without feet or gloves, and only a hood and face mask rather than a complete helmet. “There’s booties of his too.”

“Let me try them on.”

So he and two of the men took off their clothes and pulled on the wet suits, sweating and puffing as they yanked the fabrics on and zipped up the tight collars. Nirgal’s wet suit turned out to have a triangular rip across the left side of the torso, which was lucky, as otherwise it might not have fit; it was very tight around the chest, though loose on his legs. One of the other divers, named Kev, taped up the V split with duct tape. “That’ll be all right then, for one dive anyway. But you see what happened to Eric, eh?” Tapping him on the side. “See you don’t get caught up in any of our cable.”

“I will.”

Nirgal felt his flesh crawl under the taped rip, which suddenly felt huge. Caught on a moving cable, pulled into concrete or metal, ka, what an agony — a fatal blow — how long would he have stayed conscious after that, a minute, two? Rolling in agony, in the dark…

He pulled himself out of an intense recreation of Eric’s end, feeling shaken. They got a breathing rig attached to his upper arm and face mask, and abruptly he was breathing cold dry air, pure oxygen they said. Ely asked again about going down, as Nirgal was shivering slightly. “No no,” said Nirgal. “I’m good with cold, this water isn’t that cold. Besides I’ve already filled the suit with sweat.”

The other divers nodded, sweating themselves. Getting ready was hard work. The actual swimming was easier; down a ladder and, ah, yes, out of the crush of the g, into something very like Martian g, or lighter still; such a relief! Nirgal breathed in the cold bottled oxygen happily, almost weeping at the sudden freedom of his body, floating down through a comfortable dimness. Ah yes — his world on Earth was underwater.

Down deeper, things were as dark and amorphous as they had been on the screen, except for within the cones of light emanating from the other two men’s headlamps, which were obviously very strong. Nirgal followed above and behind them, getting the best view of all. The estuary water was cool, about 285 K Nirgal judged, but very little of it seeped in at the wrists and around the hood, and the water trapped inside the suit was soon so hot with his exertions that his cold hands and face (and left ribs) actually served to keep him from overheating.

The two cones of light shot this way and that as the two divers looked around. They were swimming along a narrow street. Seeing the buildings and the curbs, the sidewalks and streets, made the murky gray water look uncannily like the mist up on the surface.

Then they were floating before a three-story brick building, filling a narrow triangular space that pointed into an angled intersection of streets. Kev gestured for Nirgal to stay outside, and Nirgal was happy to oblige. The other diver had been holding a cable so thin it was scarcely visible, and now he swam into a doorway, pulling it behind him. He went to work attaching a small pulley to the doorway, and lining the cable through it. Time passed; Nirgal swam slowly around the wedge-shaped building, looking in second-story windows at offices, empty rooms, flats. Some furniture floated against the ceilings. A movement inside one of these rooms caused him to jerk away; he was afraid of the cable; but it was on the other side of the building. Some water seeped into his mouthpiece, and he swallowed it to get it out of the way. It tasted of salt and mud and plant life, and something unpleasant. He swam on.

Back at the doorway Kev and the other man were helping a small metal safe through the doorway. When it was clear they kicked upright, in place, waiting, until the cable rose almost directly overhead. Then they swam around the intersection like a clumsy ballet team, and the safe floated up to the surface and disappeared. Kev swam back inside, and came out kicking hard, holding two small bags. Nirgal kicked over and took one, and with big luxurious kicks pulsed up toward the boat. He surfaced into the bright light of the mist. He would have loved to go back down, but Ely did not want them in any longer, and so Nirgal threw his fins in the boat and climbed the ladder over the side. He was sweating as he sat on one bench, and it was a relief to strip the hood off his head, despite the way his hair was yanked back. The clammy air felt good against his skin as they helped him peel the wet suit off.

“Look at his chest will you, he’s like a greyhound.”

“Breathing vapors all his life.”

The mist almost cleared, dissipating to reveal a white sky, the sun a brighter white swath across it. The weight had come back into him, and he breathed deeply a few times to get his body back into that work rhythm. His stomach was queasy, and his lungs hurt a little at the peak of each inhalation. Things rocked a bit more than the slosh of the ocean surface would account for. The sky turned to zinc, the sun’s quadrant a harsh blinding glare. Nirgal stayed sitting, breathed faster and shallower. “Did you like it?”

“Yes!” he said. “I wish it felt like that everywhere.” They laughed at the thought. “Here have a cup.”

Perhaps going underwater had been a mistake. After that the g never felt right again. It was hard to breathe. The air down in the warehouse was so wet that he felt he could clench a fist and drink water from his hand. His throat hurt, and his lungs. He drank cup after cup of tea, and still he was thirsty. The gleaming walls dripped, and nothing the people said was comprehensible, it was all ay and eh and lor and da, nothing like Martian English. A different language. Now they all spoke different languages. Shakespeare’s plays had not prepared him for it.

He slept again in the little bed on Ely’s boat. The next day the escort gave the okay, and they motored out of Sheer-ness, and north across the Thames estuary, in a pink mist even thicker than the day before.

Out in the estuary there was nothing visible but mist and the sea. Nirgal had been in clouds before, especially on the west slope of Tharsis, where fronts ran up the rise of the bulge; but never of course while on water. And every time before the temperatures had been well below freezing, the clouds a kind of flying snow, very white and dry and fine, rolling over the land and coating it with white dust. Nothing at all like this liquid world, where there was very little difference between the choppy water and the mist gusting over it, the liquid and the gaseous phasing back and forth endlessly. The boat rocked in a violent irregular rhythm. Dark objects appeared in the margins of the mist, but Ely paid them no attention, keeping a sharp eye ahead through a window beaded with water to the point of opacity, and also watching a number of screens under the window.

Suddenly Ely killed the engine, and the boat’s rocking changed to a vicious side-to-side yaw. Nirgal held the side of the cabin and peered through the watery window, trying to see what had caused Ely to stop. “That’s a big ship for Southend,” Ely remarked, motoring on very slowly. “Where?”

“Port beam.” He pointed to a screen, then off to the left. Nirgal saw nothing.

Ely brought them into a long low pier, with many boats moored to it on both sides. The pier ran north through the mist to the town of Southend-on-Sea, which ran up and disappeared in the mist covering a slope of buildings.

A number of men greeted Ely — “Lovely day eh?” “Brilliant” — and began to unload boxes from his hold.

Ely inquired about the Asian woman from Vlissingen, but the men shook their heads. “The Jap? She ain’t here, mate.” “They’re saying in Sheerness she and her group came to Southend.”

“Why would they say that?” “Because that’s what they think happened.” “That’s what you get listening to people who live underwater.”

“The Paki grandma?” they said at the diesel fuel pump on the other side of the pier. “She went over to Shoebury-ness, sometime back.”

Ely glanced at Nirgal. “It’s just a few miles east. If she were here, these men would know.” “Let’s try it then,” Nirgal said.

So after refueling they left the pier, and puttered east through the mist. From time to time the building-covered hillside was visible to their left. They rounded a point, turned north. Ely brought them in to another floating dock, with many fewer boats than had been moored at Southend pier.

“That Chinese gang?” a toothless old man cried. “Gone up to Pig’s Bay they have! Gave us a greenhouse! Some kind of church.”

“Pig’s Bay’s just the next pier,” Ely said, looking thoughtful as he wheeled them away from the dock.

So they motored north. The coastline here was entirely composed of drowned buildings. They had built so close to the sea! Clearly there had been no reason to fear any change in sea level. And then it had happened; and now this strange amphibious zone, an intertidal civilization, wet and rocking in the mist.

A cluster of buildings gleamed at their windows. They had been filled by the clear bubble material, pumped out and occupied, their upstairs just above the foamy waves, their downstairs just below. Ely brought the boat in to a set of linked floating docks, greeted a group of women in smocks and yellow rain slickers mending a big black net. He cut his engine: “Has the Asian lady been to see you too then?”

“Oh yeah. She’s down inside, there in the building at the end.”

Nirgal felt his pulse jarring through him. His balance had left him, he had to hold on to the rail. Over the side, onto the dock. Down to the last building, a seafront boarding-house or something like, now much broken up and glimmering in all the cracks; air inside; filled by a bubble. Green plants, vague and blurry seen through sloshing gray water. He had a hand on Ely’s shoulder. The little man led him in a door and down narrow stairs, into a room with one whole wall exposed to the sea, like a dirty aquarium.

A diminutive woman in a rust-colored jumpsuit came through the far door. White-haired, black-eyed, quick and precise; birdlike. Not Hiroko. She stared at them.

“Are you the one came over from Vlissingen?” Ely asked, after glancing up at Nirgal. “The one that’s been building these submariners?”

“Yes,” the woman said. “May I help you?” She had a high voice, a British accent. She stared at Nirgal without expression. There were other people in the room, more coming in. She looked like the face he had seen in the cliffside, in Medusa Vallis. Perhaps there was another Hiroko, a different one, wandering the two planets building things…

Nirgal shook his head. The air was like a greenhouse gone bad. The light, so dim. He could barely get back up the stairs. Ely had made their farewells. Back into the bright mist. Back onto the boat. Chasing wisps. A ruse, to get him out of Bern. Or an honest mistake. Or a simple fool’s errand.

Ely sat him down in the boat’s cabin, next to a rail. “Ah well.”

Pitching and yawing, through the mist, which closed back down. Dark dim day on the water, sloshing through the phase change where water and mist turned into each other, sandwiched between them. Nirgal got a little drowsy. No doubt she was back on Mars. Doing her work there in her usual secrecy, yes. It had been absurd to think otherwise. When he got back he would find her. Yes: it was a goal, a task he gave himself. He would find her and make her come back out into the open. Make sure she had survived. It was the only way to be sure, the only way to remove this horrible weight from his heart. Yes: he would find her.

Then as they motored on over the choppy water, the mist lifted. Low gray clouds rushed overhead, dropping swirls of rain into the waves. The tide was ebbing now, and as they crossed the great estuary the flow of the Thames was released full force. The gray-brown surface of the water was broken to mush, waves coming from all directions at once, a wild bouncing surface of foamy dark water, all carried rapidly east, out into the North Sea. And then the wind turned and poured over the tide, and all the waves were suddenly rushing out to sea together. Among the long cakes of foam were floating objects of all kinds: boxes, furniture, roofs, entire houses, capsized boats, pieces of wood. Flotsam and jetsam. Ely’s crew stood on the deck, leaning over the rails with grapnels and binoculars, calling back to him to avoid things or to try to approach them. They were absorbed in the work. “What is all of this stuff?” Nirgal asked Bly.

“It’s London,” Bly said. “It’s fucking London, washing out to sea.”

The cloud bottoms rushed east over their heads. Looking around Nirgal saw many other small boats on the tossing water of the great rivermouth, salvaging the flotsam or just fishing. Bly waved to some as they passed through, tooted at others. Horn blasts floated on the wind over the gray-speckled estuary, apparently signaling messages, as Ely’s crews commented on each.

Then Kev exclaimed, “Hey what’s that now!” pointing upstream.

Out of a fog bank covering the mouth of the Thames had emerged a ship with sails, many sails, sails square-rigged on three masts in the archetypal configuration, deeply familiar to Nirgal even though he had never seen it before. A chorus of horn blasts greeted this apparition — mad toots, long sustained blasts, all joining together and sustaining longer and longer, like a neighborhood of dogs roused and baying at night, warming to their task. Above them exploded the sharp penetrating blast of Ely’s air horn, joining the chorus — Nirgal had never heard such a shattering sound, it hurt his ears! Thicker air, denser sound — Ely was grinning, his fist shoved against the air-horn button — the men of the crew all standing at the rail or on it, Nirgal’s escorts as well, screaming soundlessly at the sudden vision.

Finally Ely let off. “What is it?” Nirgal shouted.

“It’s the Cutty Sarkl” Ely said, and threw his head back and laughed. “It was bolted down in Greenwich! Stuck in a park! Some mad bastards must have liberated it. What a brilliant idea. They must have towed it around the flood barrier. Look at her sail!”

The old clipper ship had four or five sails unfurled on each of the three masts, and a few triangular ones between the masts as well, and extending forward to the bowsprit. It was sailing in the midst of the ebb flow, and there was a strong wind behind it, so that it sliced through the foam and flotsam, splitting water away from its sharp bow in a quick succession of white waves. There were men standing in its rigging, Nirgal saw, most of them out leaning over the yard-arms, waving one-armed at the ragged flotilla of motorboats as they passed through it. Pennants extended from the mast tops, a big blue flag with red crosses — when it ca’me abreast of Ely’s boat, Ely hit the air-horn trigger again and again, and the men roared. A sailor out at the end of the Cutty Sark’s mainsail yard waved at them with both hands, leaning his chest forward against the big polished cylinder of wood. Then he lost his balance, they all saw it happen, as if in slow motion; and with his mouth a round little O the sailor fell backward, dropping into the white water that foamed away from the ship’s side. The men on Ely’s boat shouted all together: “NO!” Ely cursed loudly and gunned . his engine, which was suddenly loud in the absence of the air horn. The rear of the boat dug deep into the water, and then they were grumbling toward the man overboard, now one black dot among the rest, a raised arm waving frantically.

Boats everywhere were tooting, honking, blasting their horns; but the Cutty Sark never slowed. It sailed away at full speed, sails all taut-bellied when seen from behind, a beautiful sight. By the time they reached the fallen sailor, the stern of the clipper was low on the water to the east, its masts a cluster of white sail and black rigging, until it disappeared abruptly into another wall of mist.

“What a glorious sight,” one of the men was still repeating. “What a glorious sight.”

“Yeah yeah, glorious, here fish this poor bastard in.”

Ely threw the engine in reverse, then idled. They threw a ladder over the side, leaned over to help the wet sailor up the steps. Finally he made it over the rail, stood bent over in his soaking clothes, holding on to the rail, shivering. “Ah thanks,” he said between retches over the side. Kev and the other crew members got his wet clothes off him, wrapped him in thick dirty blankets.

“You’re a stupid fucking idiot,” Ely shouted down from the wheelhouse. “There you were about to sail the world on the Cutty Sark, and now here you are on The Bride ofFaver-sham. You’re a stupid fucking idiot.”

“I know,” the man said between retches.

The men threw jackets over his back, laughing. “Silly fool, waving at us like that!” All the way back to Sheerness they proclaimed his ineptitude, while getting the bereft man dried and into the wind protection of the wheelhouse, dressed in spare clothes much too small for him. He laughed with them, cursed his luck, described the fall, reenacted coming loose. Back in Sheerness they helped him down into the submerged warehouse, and fed him hot stew, and pint after pint of bitter beer, meanwhile telling the people inside, and everyone who came down the ladder, all about his fall from grace. “Look here, this silly wanker fell off the Cutty Sark this afternoon, the clumsy bastard, when it was running down the tide under full sail to Tahiti!”

“To Pitcairn,” Ely corrected.

The sailor himself, extremely drunk, told his tale as often as his rescuers. “Just took me hands off for a second, and it gave a little lurch and I was flying. Flying in space. Didn’t think it would matter, I didn’t. Took me hands off all the time up the Thames. Oh one mo here, ‘scuse me, I’ve got to go spew.”

“Ah God she was a glorious sight she was, brilliant, really. More sail than they needed of course, it was just to go out in style, but God bless ‘em for that. Such a sight.”

Nirgal felt dizzy and bleak. The whole big room had gone a glossy dark, except in the exact spots where there were streaks of bright glare. Everything a chiaroscuro of jumbled objects, Brueghel in black-and-white, and so loud. “I remember the spring flood of thirteen, the North Sea in me living room — ” “Ah no, not the flood of thirteen again, will you not go on about that again!”

He went to a partitioned room at one corner of the chamber, the men’s room, thinking he would feel better if he relieved himself. Inside the rescued sailor was on the floor of one of the stalls, retching violently. Nirgal retreated, sat down on the nearest bench to wait. A young woman passed him by, and reached out to touch him on the top of the head. “You’re hot!”

Nirgal held a palm to his forehead, tried to think about it. “Three hundred ten K,” he ventured. “Shit.” “You’ve caught a fever,” she said. One of his bodyguards sat beside him. Nirgal told him about his temperature, and the man said, “Will you ask your wristpad?”

Nirgal nodded, asked for a readout. 309 K. “Shit.” “How do you feel?” “Hot. Heavy.”

“We’d better get you to see someone.” Nirgal shook his head, but a wave of dizziness came over him as he did. He watched the bodyguards calling to make arrangements. Ely came over, and they asked him questions.

“At night?” Bly said. More quiet talk. Ely shrugged; not a good idea, the shrug said, but possible. The bodyguards went on, and Bly tossed down the last of his pint and stood. His head was still at the same level as Nirgal’s, although Nirgal had slid down to rest his back against the table. A different species, a squat powerful amphibian. Had they known that, before the flood? Did they know it now?

People said good-bye, crushed or coddled his hand. Climbing the conning-tower ladder was painful work. Then they were out in the cool wet night, fog shrouding everything. Without a word Bly led them onto his boat, and he remained silent as he started the engines and unmoored the boat. Off they puttered over a low swell. For the first time the rocking over the waves made Nirgal really queasy. Nausea was worse than pain. He sat down beside Bly on a stool, and watched the gray cone of illuminated water and fog before their bow. When dark objects loomed out of the fog Bly would slow, even shove the engines into reverse. Once he hissed. This went on for a long time. By the time they docked in the streets of Faversham, Nirgal was too sick to say good-bye properly; he could only grasp Ely’s hand and look down briefly into the man’s blue eyes. Such faces. You could see people’s souls right there in their faces. Had they known that before? Then Bly was gone and they were in a car, humming through the night. Nirgal’s weight was increasing as it had during the descent in the elevator. Onto a plane, ascending in darkness, descending in darkness, ears popping painfully, nausea; they were in Berne and Sax was there by his side, a great comfort.

He was in a bed, very hot, his breathing wet and painful. Out one window, the Alps. The white breaking up out of the green, like death itself rearing up out of life, crashing through to remind him that viriditas was a green fuse that would someday explode back into nova whiteness, returning to the same array of elements it had been before the pattern dust devil had picked it up. The white and the green; it felt like the Jungfrau was shoving up his throat. He wanted to sleep, to get away from that feeling.

Sax sat at his side, holding his hand. “I think he needs to be in Martian gravity,” he was saying to someone who did not seem to be in the room. “It could be a form of altitude sickness. Or a disease vector. Or allergies. A systemic response. Edema, anyway. Let’s take him up immediately in a ground-to-space plane, and get him into a g ring at Martian g. If I’m right it will help, if not it won’t hurt.”

Nirgal tried to speak, but couldn’t catch his breath. This world had infected him — crushed him — cooked him in steam and bacteria. A blow to the ribs: he was allergic to Earth. He squeezed Sax’s hand, pulled in a breath like a knife to the heart. “Yes,” he gasped, and saw Sax squint. “Home, yes.”


Home At Last

An old man sitting at sickbed. Hospital rooms are all the same. Clean, white, cool, humming, fluorescent. On the sickbed lies a man, tall, dark-skinned, thick black eyebrows. Sleeping fitfully. The old man is hunched at his head. One finger touches the skull behind the ear. Under his breath the old man is muttering. “If it’s an allergic response, then your own immune system has to be convinced that the allergen isn’t really a problem. They haven’t identified an allergen. Pulmonary edema is usually high-altitude sickness, but maybe the mix of gases caused it, or maybe it was low-altitude sickness. You need to get water out of your lungs. They’ve done pretty well with that. The fever and chills might be amenable to biofeedback. A really high fever is dangerous, you must remember that. I remember the time you came into the baths after falling into the lake. You were blue, fackie jumped right in — no, maybe she stopped to watch. You held Hiroko and me by the arms, and we all saw you warm up. Nonshivering thermogenesis, everyone does it, but you did it voluntarily, and very powerfully as well. I’ve never seen anything like it. I still don’t know how you did it. You were a wonderful boy. People can shiver at will if they want, so maybe it’s like that, only inside. It doesn’t really matter, you don’t need to know how, you just need to do it. If you can do it in the other direction. Bring your temperature down. Give it a try. Give it a try. You were such a wonderful boy.”

The old man reaches out and grabs the young man by the wrist. He holds it and squeezes.

“You used to ask questions. You were very curious, very good-natured. You would say Why, Sax, why? Why, Sax, why? It was fun to try to keep answering. The world is like a tree, from every leaf you can work back to the roots. I’m sure Hiroko felt that way, she probably was the one who first told me that. Listen, it wasn’t a bad thing to go looking for Hiroko. I’ve done the same thing myself. And I will again. Because I saw her once, on Daedalia. She helped me when I got caught out in a storm. She held my wrist. Just like this. She’s alive, Nirgal. Hiroko is alive. She’s out there. You’ll find her someday. Put that internal thermostat to work, get that temperature down, and someday you’ll find her…”

The old man lets go of the wrist. He slumps over, half-asleep, muttering still. “You would say Why, Sax, why?”

If the mistral hadn’t been blowinghe might have cried, for nothing looked the same, nothing. He came into a Marseilles train station that hadn’t existed when he left, next to a little new town that hadn’t existed when he left, and all of it built according to a dripping bulbous Gaudi architecture which also had a kind of Bogdanovist circularity to it, so that Michel was reminded of Christianopolis or Hiranyagarba, if they had melted. No, nothing looked familiar in the slightest. The land was strangely flattened, green, deprived of its rock, deprived of that je ne sals quoi that had made it Provence. He had been gone 102 years.

But blowing over all this unfamiliar landscape was the mistral, pouring down off the Massif Centrale — cold, dry, musty and electric, flushed with negative ions or whatever it was that gave it its characteristic katabatic exhilaration. The mistral! No matter what it looked like, it had to be Provence.

Praxis locals spoke French to him, and he could barely understand them. He had to listen hard, hoping his native tongue would come back to him, that the franglaisation and frarabisation he had heard about had not changed things too much; it was shocking to fumble in his native tongue, shocking too that the French Academy had not done its job and kept the language frozen in the seventeenth century like it was supposed to. A young woman leading the Praxis aides seemed to be saying that they could take a drive around and see the region, go down to the new coast and so on.

“Fine,” Michel said.

Already he was understanding them better. It was possibly just a matter of Provenfal accents. He followed them around through the concentric circles of the buildings, then out into a parking lot like all other parking lots. The young woman aide helped him into the passenger seat of a little car, then she got in on the other side, behind the steering wheel. Her name was Sylvie; she was small, attractive, stylish, and smelled nice, so that her strange French continuously surprised Michel. She started the car and drove them out of the airport. And then they were running noisily over a black road across a flat landscape, green with grass and trees. No, there were some hills in the distance; so small! And the horizon so far away!

Sylvie drove to the nearest coast. From a hilltop turnout they could see far over the Mediterranean, on this day mottled brown and gray, gleaming in the sun.

After a few minutes’ silent observation, Sylvie drove on, cutting inland over flat land again. Then they were stopped on a levee, and looking over the Camargue, she said. Michel would not have recognized it. The delta of the Rhone River had been a broad triangular fan of many thousands of hectares, filled by salt marshes and grass; now it was part of the Mediterranean again. The water was brown, and dotted with buildings, but it was water nevertheless, the flow of the Rhone a bluish line out there crossing the middle of it. Aries, Sylvie said, up at the tip of the fan, was a functioning seaport again. Although they were still securing the channel. Everything in the delta south of Aries, Sylvie said proudly, from Martiques in the east to Aigue-Mortes in the west, was covered by water. Aigues-Mortes was dead indeed, its industrial buildings drowned. Its port facilities, Sylvie said, were being floated and moved to Aries, or Marseilles. They were working hard to make safe navigational routes for ships; both the Carmargue and the Plaine de la Crau, farther east, had been littered with structures of all kinds, many still sticking out of the water, but not all; and the water was too opaque with silt to see into. “See, there’s the rail station — you can see the graineries, but not the out-buildings. And there’s one of the levee-banked canals. The levees are like reefs now. See the line of gray water? The levees are still breaking, when the current from the Rhone runs over them.”

“Lucky the tides aren’t big,” Michel said.

“True. If they were it would be too treacherous for ships to reach Aries.”

In the Mediterranean tides were negligible, and fishermen and coastal freighters were discovering day by day what could be safely negotiated; attempts were being made to resecure the Rhone’s main channel through the new lagoon, and to reestablish the flanking canals as well, so that boats wouldn’t have to challenge the flow of the Rhone when returning upstream. Sylvie pointed out at features Michel couldn’t see, and told him of sudden shifts of the Rhone’s channel, of ships’ groundings, loose buoys, ripped hulls, rescues by night, oil spills, confusing new lighthouses — false lighthouses, set by moonlighters for the unwary — even ordinary piracy on the high seas. Life sounded exciting at the new mouth of the Rhone.

After a while they got back in the little car, and Sylvie drove them south and east, until they hit the coast, the true coast, between Marseilles and Cassis. This part of the Mediterranean littoral, like the Cote d’Azur farther east, consisted of a range of steep hills dropping abruptly into the sea. The hills still stood well above the water, of course, and at first glance it seemed to Michel that this section of the coast had changed much less than the drowned Camargue. But after a few minutes of silent observation, he changed his mind. The Camargue had always been a delta, and now it was a delta still, and so nothing essential had changed. Here, however: “The beaches are gone.”


It was only to be expected. But the beaches had been the essence of this coast, the beaches with their long tawny summers all jammed with sun-worshiping naked human animals, with swimmers and sailboats and carnival colors, and long warm thrilling nights. All that had vanished. “They’ll never come back.”

Sylvie nodded. “It’s the same everywhere,” she said matter-of-factly.

Michel looked eastward; hills dropped into the brown sea all the way to a distant horizon; it looked like he might be seeing as far as Cap Sicie. Beyond that were all the big resorts, Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Antibes, Nice, his own little Vil-lefranche-sur-mer, and all the fashionable beach resorts in between, big and small, all drowned like the stretch under them: the sea mud brown, lapping against a fringe of pale broken rock and dead yellow trees, with the beach roads dipping into dirty white surf. Dirty surf, washing up into the streets of deserted towns.

Green trees above the new sealine tossed over whitish rock. Michel had not remembered how white the rock was. The foliage was low and dusty, deforestation had been a problem in recent years, Sylvie said, as people had cut trees for firewood. But Michel barely heard her; he was staring down at the drowned beaches, trying to recall their sandy hot erotic beauty. Gone. And he found, as he stared at the dirty surf, that in his mind he couldn’t remember them very well — nor his days on them, the many lazy days now blurs, as of a dead friend’s face. He couldn’t remember.

Marseilles however had of course survived — the only part of the coast one could not care about, the ugliest part, the city. Of course. Its docks were inundated, and the neighborhoods immediately behind them; but the land rose quickly here, and the higher neighborhoods had gone on living their tough sordid existence, big ships still anchored in the harbor, long floating docks maneuvered out to them to empty their holds, while their sailors flooded the town and went mad in time-honored fashion. Sylvie said that Marseilles was where she had heard most of the hair-raising tales of adventure from the mouth of the Rhone and elsewhere around the Med, where the charts meant nothing anymore: houses of the dead between Malta and Tunisia, attacks by Barbary corsairs… “Marseilles is more itself than it has been for centuries,” she said, and grinned, and Michel got a sudden sense of her nightlife, wild and perhaps a bit dangerous. She liked Marseilles. The car lurched in one of the road’s many potholes and it felt like his pulse, he and the mistral rushing around ugly old Marseilles, stricken by the thought of a wild young woman.

More itself than it had been for centuries. Perhaps that was true of the entire coast. There were no tourists anymore; with the beaches gone, the whole concept of tourism had taken a knife to the heart. The big pastel hotels and apartment buildings now stood in the surf half-drowned, like children’s blocks left at low tide. As they drove out of Marseilles, Michel noted that many of these buildings appeared to have been reoccupied in their upper stories, by fishermen Sylvie said; no doubt they kept their boats in rooms downstairs, like the Lake People of prehistoric Europe. The old ways, returning.

So Michel kept looking out the window, trying to rethink the new Provence, doing his best to deal with the shock of so much change. Certainly it was all very interesting, even if it was not as he remembered it. New beaches would eventually form, he reassured himself, as the waves cut away at the foots of sea cliffs, and the charged rivers and streams carried soil downstream. It was possible they might even appear fairly quickly, although they would be dirt or stones, at first. That tawny sand — well, currents might bring some of the drowned sand up onto the new strand, who knew? But surely most of it was gone for good.

Sylvie brought the car to another windy turnout overlooking the sea. It was brown right to the horizon, the offshore wind causing them to be looking at the back sides of waves moving away from the strand, an odd effect. Michel tried to recall the old sun-beaten blue. There had been varieties of Mediterranean blue, the clear purity of the Adriatic, the Aegean with its Homeric touch of wine… now all brown. Brown sea, beachless sea cliffs, the pale hills rocky, desertlike, deserted. A wasteland. No, nothing was the same, nothing.

Eventually Sylvie noticed his silence. She drove him west to Aries, to a small hotel in the heart of the town. Michel had never lived in Aries, or had much to do there, but there were Praxis offices next to this hotel, and he had no other compelling idea concerning where to stay. They got out; the g felt heavy. Sylvie waited downstairs while he took his bag up; and there he was, standing uncertainly in a small hotel room, his bag thrown on the bed, his body tense with the desire to find his land, to return to his home. This wasn’t it.

He went downstairs and then next door, where Sylvie was tending to other business.

“I have a place I want to see,” he said to her.

“Anywhere you like.”

“It’s near Vallabrix. North of Uzes.” She said she knew where that was.

It was late afternoon by the time they reached the place: a clearing by the side of a narrow old road, next to an olive grove on a slope, with the mistral raking over it. Michel asked Sylvie to stay at the car, and got out in the wind and walked up the slope between the trees, alone with the past.

His old mas had been set at the north end of the grove, on the edge of a tableland overlooking a ravine. The olive trees were gnarled with age. The mas itself was nothing but a shell of masonry, almost buried under long tangled thorny blackberry vines growing against the outer walls.

Looking down into the ruin, Michel found he could just remember its interior. Or parts of it. There had been a kitchen and dining table near the door, and then, after passing under a massive roof beam, a living room with couches and a low coffee table, and a door back to the bedroom. He had lived there for two or three years, with a woman named Eve. He hadn’t thought of the place in over a century. He would have said it was all gone from his mind. But with the ruins before him, fragments of that time leaped to the eye, ruins of another kind: a blue lamp had stood in that corner now filled with broken plaster. A Van Gogh print had been tacked to that wall, where now there was only blocks of masonry, roof tiles, drifts of leaves. The massive roof beam was gone, its supports in the walls gone as well. Someone must have hauled it out; hard to believe anyone would make the effort, it had to have weighed hundreds of kilos. Strange what people would do. Then again, deforestation; there were few trees left big enough to provide a beam that large. The centuries people had lived on this land.

Eventually deforestation might cease to be a problem. During the drive Sylvie had spoken of the violent flood winter, rains, wind; this mistral had lasted a month. Some said it would never end. Looking into the ruined house, Michel was not sorry. He needed the wind to orient himself. It was strange how the memory worked, or didn’t. He stepped up onto the broken wall of the mas, tried to remember more of the place, of his life here with Eve. Deliberate recall, a hunt for the past… Instead scenes came to him of the life he had shared with Maya in Odessa, with Spencer down the hall. Probably the two lives had shared enough aspects to create the confusion. Eve had been hot-tempered like Maya, and as for the rest, la vie quotidienne was la vie quotidienne, in all times and all places, especially for a specific individual no doubt, settling into his habits as if into furniture, taken along from one place to the next. Perhaps.

The inside walls of this house had been clean beige plaster, tacked with prints. Now the patches of plaster left were rough and discolored, like the exterior walls of an old church. Eve had worked in the kitchen like a dancer in a routine, her back and legs long and powerful. Looking over her shoulder at him to laugh, her chestnut hair tossing with every turn. Yes, he remembered that repeated moment. An image without context. He had been in love. Although he had made her angry. Eventually she had left him for someone else, ah yes, a teacher in Uzes. What pain! He remembered it, but it meant nothing to him now, he felt not a pinch of it. A previous life. These ruins could not make him feel it. They scarcely brought back even the images. It was frightening — as if reincarnation were real, and had happened to him, so that he was experiencing minute flashbacks of a life separated from him by several subsequent deaths. How odd it would be if such reincarnation were real, speaking in languages one did not know, like Bridey Murphy; feeling the swirl of the past through the mind, feeling previous existences … well. It would feel just like this, in fact. But to reexperience nothing of those past feelings, to feel nothing except the sensation that one was not feeling…

He left the ruins, and walked back among the old olive trees.

It looked like the grove was still being worked by someone. The branches overhead were all cut to a certain level, and the ground underfoot was smooth and covered by short dry pale grass, growing between thousands of old gray olive pits. The trees were in ranks and files but looked natural anyway, as if they had simply grown at that distance from each other. The wind blew its lightly percussive shoosh in the leaves. Standing midgrove, where he could see little but olive trees and sky, he noticed again how the leaves’ two colors flashed back and forth in the wind, green then gray, gray then green…

He reached up to pull down a twig and inspect the leaves close up. He remembered; up close the two sides of an olive leaf weren’t all that different in color; a flat medium green, a pale khaki. But a hillside full of them, flailing in the wind, had those two distinct colors, in moonlight shifting to black and silver. If one were looking toward the sun at them it became more a matter of texture, flat or shiny.

He walked up to a tree, put his hands on its trunk. It felt like an olive tree’s bark: rough broken rectangles. A gray-green color, somewhat like the undersides of the leaves, but darker, and often covered by yet another green, the yellow green of lichen, yellow green or battleship gray. There were hardly any olive trees on Mars; no Mediterraneans yet. No, it felt like he was on Earth. About ten years old. Carrying that heavy child inside himself. Some of the rectangles of bark were peeling down. The fissures between the rectangles were shallow. The true color of the bark, clean of all lichen, appeared to be a pale woody beige. There was so little of it that it was hard to tell. Trees coated in lichen; Michel had not realized that before. The branches above his head were smoother, the fissures flesh-colored lines only, the lichen smoother as well, like green dust on the branches and twigs.

The roots were big and strong. The trunks spread outward as they approached the ground, spreading in fingerlike protrusions with holes and gaps between, like knobby fists thrust into the ground. No mistral would ever uproot these trees. Not even a Martian wind could knock one down.

The ground was covered with old olive pits, and shriveled black olives on the way to becoming pits. He picked up one with its black skin still smooth, ripped away the skin with his thumb and fingernails. The purple juice stained his skin, and when he licked it, the taste was not like cured olives at all. Sour. He bit into the flesh, which resembled plum flesh, and the taste of it, sour and bitter, unolivelike except for a hint of the oily aftertaste, bolted through his mind — like Maya’s deja vu — he had done this before! As a child they had tried it often, always hoping the taste would come round to the table taste, and so give them food in their play field, manna in their own little wilderness. But the olive flesh (paler the further one cut in toward the pit) stubbornly remained as unpalatable as ever — the taste as embedded in his mind as any person, bitter and sour. Now pleasant, because of the memory evoked. Perhaps he had been cured.

The leaves flailed in the gusty north wind. Smell of dust. A haze of brown light, the western sky brassy. The branches rose to twice or three times his height; the underbranches drooped down where they could brush his face. Human scale. The Mediterranean tree, the tree of the Greeks, who had seen so many things so clearly, seen things in their proper proportion, everything in a gauge symmetry to the human scale — the trees, the towns, their whole physical world, the rocky islands in the Aegean, the rocky hills of the Peloponnese — a universe you could walk across in a few days. Perhaps home was the place of human scale, wherever it was. Usually childhood.

Each tree was like an animal holding its plumage up into the wind, its knobby legs thrust into the ground. A hillside of plumage flashing under the wind’s onslaught, under its fluctuating gusts and knocks and unexpected stillnesses, all perfectly revealed by the feathering leaves. This was Provence, the heart of Provence; his whole underbrain seemed to be humming at the edge of every moment of his childhood, a vastpresque vu filling him up and brimming over, a life in a landscape, humming with its own weight and balance. He no longer felt heavy. The sky’s blue itself was a voice from that previous incarnation, saying Provence, Provence.

But out over the ravine a flock of black crows swirled, crying Ka, ka, ka!

Ka. Who had made up that story, of the little red people and their name for Mars? No way of telling. No beginnings to such stories. In Mediterranean antiquity the Ka had been a weird or double of a pharaoh, pictured as descending on the pharaoh in the form of a hawk or a dove, or a crow.

Now the Ka of Mars was descending on him, here in Provence. Black crows — on Mars under the clear tents these same birds flew, just as carelessly powerful in the aerators’ blasts as in the mistral. They didn’t care that they were on Mars, it was home to them, their world as much as any other, and the people below what they always had been, dangerous ground animals who would kill you or take you on strange voyages. But no bird on Mars remembered the voyage there, or Earth either. Nothing bridged the two worlds but the human mind. The birds only flew and searched for food, and cawed, on Earth or Mars, as they always had and always would. They were at home anywhere, wheeling in the hard gusts of the wind, coping with the mistral and calling to each other Mars, Mars, Mars! But Michel Duval, ah, Michel — a mind residing in two worlds at once, or lost in the nowhere between them. The noos-phere was so huge. Where was he, who was he? How was he to live?

Olive grove. Wind. Bright sun in a brass sky. The weight of his body, the sour taste in his mouth: he felt himself root right into the ground. This was his home, this and no other. It had changed and yet it would never change — not this grove, not he himself. Home at last. Home at last. He could live on Mars for ten thousand years and still this place would be his home.

Back in the hotel room in Arles, he called up Maya. “Please come down, Maya. I want you to see this.”

“I’m working on the agreement, Michel. The UN-Mars agreement.”

“I know.”

“It’s important!” ,  “I know.”

“Well. It’s why I came here, and I’m part of it, in the middle of it. I can’t just go off on vacation.”

“Okay, okay. But look, that work will never end. Politics will never end. You can take a vacation, and then come back to it, and it will still be going. But this — this is my home, Maya. I want you to see it. Don’t you want to show me Moscow, don’t you want to go there?”

“Not if it was the last place above the flood.”

Michel sighed. “Well, it’s different for me. Please, come see what I mean.”

“Maybe in a while, when we’ve finished this stage of the negotiations. This is a critical time, Michel! Really it’s you who ought to be here, not me who ought to be there.”

“I can watch on the wrist. There’s no reason to be there in person. Please, Maya.”

She paused, caught finally by something in his tone of voice. “Okay, I’ll try. It won’t be for a while though, no matter what.” “As long as you come.”

After that he spent his days waiting for Maya, though he tried not to think of it like that. He occupied every waking moment traveling about in a rented car, sometimes with Sylvie, sometimes on his own. Despite the evocative moment in the olive grove, perhaps because of it too, he felt deeply dislocated. He was drawn to the new coastline for some reason, fascinated by the adjustment to the new sea level that the local people were making. He drove down to it often, following back roads that led to abrupt cliffs, to sudden valley marshes. Many of the coastal fishing people had Algerian ancestry. The fishing wasn’t going well, they said. The Camargue was polluted by drowned industrial sites, and in the Med the fish were for the most part staying outside the brown water, out in the blue which was a good morning’s voyage away, with many dangers en route.

Hearing and speaking French, even this strange new French, was like touching an electrode to parts of his brain that hadn’t been visited in over a century. Coelacanths exploded regularly: memories of women’s kindnesses to him, his cruelties to them. Perhaps that was why he had gone to Mars — to escape himself, an unpleasant fellow it seemed.

Well, if escaping himself had been his desire, he had succeeded. Now he was someone else. And a helpful man, a sympathetic man; he could look in a mirror. He could return home and face it, face what he had been, because of what he had become. Mars had done that, anyway.

It was so strange how the memory worked. The fragments were so small and sharp, they were like those furry minute cactus needles that hurt far out of proportion to their minuscule size. What he remembered best was his life on Mars. Odessa, Burroughs, the underground shelters in the south, the hidden outposts in the chaos. Even Underbill.

If he had returned to Earth during the Underbill years, he would have been swamped with media crowds. But he had been out of contact since disappearing with Hiroko, and though he had not attempted to conceal himself since the revolution, few in France seemed to have noticed his reappearance. The enormity of recent events on Earth had ineluded a partial fracturing of the media culture — or perhaps it was simply the passage of time; most of the population of France had been born after his disappearance, and the First Hundred were ancient history to them — not ancient enough, however, to be truly interesting. If Voltaire or Louis XIV or Charlemagne had appeared, there might be a bit of attention — perhaps — but a psychologist of the previous century who had emigrated to Mars, which was a sort of America when all was said and done? No, that was of very little interest to anyone. He got some calls, some people came by the Arlesian hotel to interview him down in the lobby or the courtyard, and after that one or two of the Paris shows came down as well; but they all were much more interested in what he could tell them about Nirgal than in anything about he himself. Nirgal was the one people were fascinated by, he was their charismatic.

No doubt it was better that way. Although as Michel sat in cafes eating his meals, feeling as alone as if he were in a solo rover in the far outback of the southern highlands, it was a bit disappointing to be entirely ignored — just one vieux among all the rest, another one of those whose unnaturally long life was creating more logistical problems than le fleuve blanc, if the truth were told…

It was better this way. He could stop in little villages around Vallabrix, like Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie, or Saint-Victor-des-Quies, or Saint-Hippolyte-de-Montaigu, and chat with the shopkeepers, who looked identical to the ones who had been running the shops when he had left, and were probably their descendants, or even possibly the same people; they spoke in an older more stable French, careless of him, absorbed in their own conversations, their own lives. He was nothing to them, and so he could see them clearly. It was the same out in the narrow streets, where many people looked like gypsies — North African blood no doubt, spreading into the populace as it had after the Saracen invasion a thousand years before. Africans pouring in every thousand years or so; this too was Provence. The young women were beautiful: gracefully flowing through the streets in gangs, their black tresses still glossy and bright in the dust of the mistral. These had been his villages. Dusty plastic signs, everything tatttred and run-down…

Back and forth he oscillated, between familiarity and alienation, memory and forgetfulness. But ever more lonely.

In one cafe he ordered cassis, and at the first sip he remembered sitting in that very same cafe, at that very same table. Across from Eve. Proust had been perfectly correct to identify taste as the principal agent of involuntary memory, for one’s long-term memories settled or at least were organized in the amygdala, just over the area in the brain concerned with taste and smell — and so smells were intensely intertwined with memories, and also with the emotional network of the limbic system, twisting through both areas; thus the neurological sequence, smell triggering memory triggering nostalgia. Nostalgia, the intense ache for one’s past, desire for one’s past — not because it had been so wonderful but simply because it had been, and now was gone. He recalled Eve’s face, talking in this crowded room across from him. But not what she had said, or why they were there. Of course not. Simply an isolated moment, a cactus needle, an image seen as if by lightning bolt, then gone; and no knowing the rest of it, no matter how hard he tried to recollect. And they were all like that, his memories; that was what memories were when they got old enough, flashes in the dark, incoherent, almost meaningless, and yet sometimes filled with a vague ache.

He stumbled out of the cafe from his past to his car, and drove home, through Vallabrix, under the big plane trees of Grand Planas, out to the ruined mas, all without thinking; and he walked out to it again helplessly, as if the house might have sprung back into being. But it was still the same dusty ruin by the olive grove. And he sat on the wall, feeling blank.

That Michel Duval was gone. This one would go too. He would live into yet further incarnations and forget this moment, yes even this sharp painful moment, just as he had forgotten all the moments that had passed here the first time. Flashes, images — a man sitting on a broken wall, no feeling involved. Nothing more than that. So this Michel too would go.

The olive trees waved their arms, gray green, green gray. Good-bye, good-bye. They were no help this time, they gave him no euphoric connection with lost time; that moment too was past.

In a flickering gray green he drove back to Aries. The clerk in the hotel’s lobby was telling someone that the mistral would never stop. “Yes it will,” Michel said as he passed.

He went up to his room and called Maya again. Please, he said. Please come soon. It was making him angry that he was reduced to such begging. Soon, she kept saying. A few more days and they would have an agreement hammered out, a bona fide written agreement between the UN and an independent Martian government. History in the making. After that she would see about coming.

Michel did not care about history in the making. He walked around Aries, waiting for her. He went back to his room to wait. He went out to walk again.

The Romans had used Aries for a port as much as they had Marseilles — in fact Caesar had razed Marseilles for backing Pompey, and had given Aries his favor as the local capital. Three strategic Roman roads had been constructed to meet at the town, all used for hundreds of years after the Romans had gone, and so for those centuries it had been lively, prosperous, important. But the Rhone had silted its lagoons, and the Camargue had become a pestilential swamp, and the roads had fallen into disuse. The town dwindled. The Camargue’s windswept salt grasses and their famous herds of wild white horses were eventually joined by oil refineries, nuclear power plants, chemical works.

Now with the flood the lagoons were back, and flushing clean. Aries was again a seaport. Michel continued to wait for Maya there precisely because he had never lived there before. It did not remind him of anything but the moment; and he spent his days watching the people of the moment live their lives. In this new foreign country.

He received a call at the hotel, from a Francis Duval. Sylvie had contacted the man. He was Michel’s nephew, Michel’s dead brother’s son, still alive and living on Rue du 4 Sep-tembre, just north of the Roman arena, a few blocks from the swollen Rhone, a few blocks from Michel’s hotel. He invited Michel to come over.

After a moment’s hesitation, Michel agreed. By the time he had walked across town, stopping briefly to peer into the Roman theater and arena, his nephew appeared to have convened the entire quartier: an instant celebration, champagne corks popping like strings of firecrackers as Michel was pulled in the door and embraced by everyone there, three kisses to the cheeks, in the Proven9al manner. It took him a while to get to Francis, who hugged him long and hard, talking all the while as people’s camera fibers pointed at them. “You look just like my father!” Francis said.

“So do you!” said Michel, trying to remember if it were true or not, trying to remember his brother’s face. Francis was elderly, Michel had never seen his brother that old. It was hard to say.

But all the faces were familiar, somehow, and the language comprehensible, mostly, the phrases sparking image after image in him; the smells of cheese and wine sparking more; the taste of the wine yet more again. Francis it turned out was a connoisseur, and happily he uncorked a number of dusty bottles, Chateauneuf du Pape, then a century-old sauternes from Chateau d’Yquem, and his specialty, red premier cru from Bordeaux called Pauillac, two each from Chateaux Latour and Lafitte, and a 2064 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild with a label by Pougnadoresse. These aged wonders had metamorphosed over the years into something more than mere wine, tastes thick with overtones and harmonics. They spilled down Michel’s throat like his own youth.

It could have been a party for some popular town politi-can, say; and though Michel concluded that Francis did not much resemble Michel’s brother, he sounded exactly like him. Michel had forgotten that voice, he would have said, but it was absolutely clear in his mind, shockingly so. The way Francis drawled “normalement,” in this case meaning the way things had been before the flood, whereas for Michel’s brother it had meant that hypothetical state of smooth operation that never occurred in the real Provence — but exactly the same lilt and drawl, nor-male-ment…

Everyone wanted to speak with Michel, or at least to hear him, and so he stood with a glass in his hand and gave a quick speech in the style of a town politician, complimenting the women on their beauty, managing to make it clear how pleased he was to be in their company without getting sentimental, or revealing just how disoriented he was feeling: a slick competent performance, which was just what the sophisticates of Provence liked, their rhetoric quick and humorous like the local bullfighting. “And how is Mars?

What is it like? What will you do now? Are there Jacobins yet?”

“Mars is Mars,” Michel said, dismissing it. “The ground is the color of Arlesian roof tiles. You know.”

They partied right through the afternoon, and then called in a feast. Innumerable women kissed his cheeks, he was drunk on their perfume and skin and hair, their smiling liquid dark eyes, looking at him with friendly curiosity. Native Martian girls one always had to look up to, inspecting their chins and necks and the insides of their nostrils. Such a pleasure to look down on a straight part in glossy black hair.

In the late evening people dispersed. Francis walked with Michel over to the Roman arena, and they climbed the bowed stone steps of the medieval towers that had fortified the arena. From the little stone chamber at the top of the stairs they looked out small windows at the tile –oofs, and the treeless streets, and the Rhone. Out the south windows they could see a portion of the speckled sheet of water which was the Camargue.

“Back on the Med,” Francis said, deeply satisfied. “The flood may have been a disaster for most places, but for Aries it has been a veritable coup. The rice farmers are all coming into town ready to fish, or take any work they can get. And many of the boats that survived have been docked right here in town. They’ve been bringing fruit in from Corsica and Mallorca, trade with Barcelona and Sicily. We’ve taken a good bit of Marseilles’s business, although they’re recovering quickly, it has to be said. But what life has come back! Before, you know, Aix had the university, Marseilles had the sea, and we had only these ruins, and the tourists who came for a day to see them. And tourism is an ugly business, it’s not fit work for human beings. It’s hosting parasites. But now we’re living again!” He was a little bit drunk. “Here, you must come out on the boat with me and see the lagoon.”

“I’d like that.”

That night Michel called Maya again. “You must come. I’ve found my nephew, my family.”

Maya wasn’t impressed. “Nirgal went to England looking for Hiroko,” she said sharply. “Someone told him she was there, and he left just like that.”

“What’s this?” Michel exclaimed, shocked by the sudden intrusion of the idea of Hiroko.

“Oh Michel. You know it can’t be true. Someone said it to Nirgal, that’s all it was. It can’t be true, but he ran right off.”

“As would I!”

“Please, Michel, don’t be stupid. One fool is enough. If Hiroko is alive at all, then she’s on Mars. Someone just said this to Nirgal to get him away from the negotiations. I only hope it was for nothing worse. He was having too much of an effect on people. And he wasn’t watching his tongue. You should call him and tell him to come back. Maybe he would listen to you.”

“I wouldn’t if I were him.”

Michel was lost in thought, trying to crush the sudden hope that Hiroko was alive. And in England of all places. Alive anywhere. Hiroko and therefore Iwao, Gene, Rya — the whole group — his family. His real family. He shuddered, hard; and when he tried to tell the impatient Maya about his family in Aries, the words stuck in his throat. His real family had all disappeared four years before, and that was the truth. Finally, sick at heart, he could only say, “Please, Maya. Please come.”

“Soon. I’ve told Sax I’ll go as soon as we’re finished here. That will leave all the rest of it to him, and he can barely talk. It’s ridiculous.” She was exaggerating, they had a full diplomatic team there, and Sax was perfectly competent, in his way. “But okay, okay, I’m going to do it. So stop pestering me.”

She came the next week.

Michel drove to the new train station and met her, feeling nervous. He had lived with Maya, in Odessa and Burroughs, for almost thirty years; but now, driving her to Avignon, she seemed like a stranger sitting there beside him, an ancient beauty with hooded eyes and an expression hard to read, speaking English in harsh rapid sentences, telling him everything that had happened in Bern. They had a treaty with the UN, which had agreed to their independence. In return they were to allow some emigration, but no more than ten percent of the Martian population per year; some transfer of mineral resources; some consultation on diplomatic issues. “That’s good, really good.” Michel tried to concentrate on her news, but it was hard. Occasionally as she spoke she glanced at the buildings shooting past their car, but in the dusty windy sunlight they looked tawdry enough in all truth. She did not seem impressed.

With a sinking feeling Michel drove as close as he could to the pope’s palace in Avignon, parked, and took her for a walk along the swollen river, past the bridge that did not reach to the other side, then to the wide promenade leading south from the palace, where sidewalk cafes nestled in the shade of the ancient plane trees. There they ate lunch, and Michel tasted the olive oil and the cassis, running them luxuriously over his tongue as he watched his companion relax into her metal chair like a cat. “This is nice,” she said, and he smiled. It was nice: cool, relaxed, civilized, the food and drink very fine. But for him the taste of cassis was unleashing its flood of memories, emotions from previous incarnations blended with the emotions he felt now, heightening everything, colors, textures, the feel of metal chairs and wind. While for Maya cassis was just a tart berry drink.

It occurred to him as he watched her that fate had led him to a companion even more attractive than the beautiful Frenchwomen he had consorted with in that earlier life. A woman somehow greater. In that too he had done well on Mars. He had taken on a bigger life. This feeling and his nostalgia clashed in his heart, and all the while Maya swallowed mouthfuls of cassoulet, wine, cheeses, cassis, coffee, oblivious to the interference pattern of his lives, moving in and out of phase inside him.

They talked desultorily. Maya was relaxed, enjoying herself. Happy at her accomplishment in Bern. In no hurry to go anywhere. Michel felt a glow like omegandorph all through him. Watching her he was slowly becoming happy himself; simply happy. Past, future — neither was ever real. Just lunch under plane trees, in Avignon. No need to think of anything but that. “So civilized,” Maya said. “I haven’t felt so calm in years. I can see why you like it.” And then she was laughing at him, and he could feel an idiot grin plastering his face.

“Would you not like to see Moscow again?” he asked curiously.

“Ah no. I would not.”

She dismissed the idea as an intrusion on the moment. He wondered what she felt about this return to Earth. Surely one could not be completely without feelings about such a thing?

But to some people home was home, a complex of feeling far beyond rationality, a sort of grid or gravitational field in which the personality itself took its geometrical shape. While for others, a place was just a place, and the self free of all that, the same no matter where it was. One kind lived in the Einsteinian curved space of home, the other in the Newtonian absolute space of the free self. And while he was one of the former type, Maya was one of the latter. And there was no use struggling against that fact. Nevertheless he wanted her to like Provence. Or at least to see why he loved it.

And so, when they were done eating, he drove her south through Saint-Remy, to Les Baux.

She slept during the drive, and he was not displeased; between Avignon and Les Baux the landscape consisted mostly of ugly industrial buildings, scattered on a dusty plain. She woke up at just the right time, when he was negotiating the narrow twisting road that wandered up a crease in the Alpilles to the old hilltop village. One parked in a parking lot, then walked up into the town; it was clearly a tourist arrangement, but the single curving street of the little settlement was now very quiet indeed, as if abandoned; and very picturesque. The village was shuttered for the afternoon, asleep. On the last turn to the hill’s top, one crossed open ground like a rough tilted plaza, and beyond that were the limestone knobs of the hilltop, every knob hollowed out by some eremite of the ancient hermitage, tucked above Saracens and all the other dangers of the medieval world. To the south the Mediterranean gleamed like gold plate. The rock itself was yellowish, and as a thin veil of bronzed cloud lay in the western sky, the light everywhere took on a metallic amber cast, as if they walked in a gel of years.

They clambered from one tiny chamber to the next, marveling at how small they were. “It’s like a prairie-dog nest,” Maya said, peering down into one squared-out little cave. “It’s like our trailer park in Underbill.”

Back on the tilted plaza, littered with limestone blocks, they stopped to watch the Mediterranean shine. Michel pointed out the lighter sheen of the Camargue. “You used to see only a bit of water.” The light deepened to a dark apricot, and the hill seemed a fortress above the oh-so-spacious world, above time itself. Maya put an arm around his waist and hugged him, shivering. “It’s beautiful. But I couldn’t live up here like they did, it’s too exposed somehow.”

They went back to Aries. As it was a Saturday night, the town center had become a kind of gypsy or North African festival, the alleys crowded with food and drink stands, many of them tucked into the arches of the Roman arena, which was open to all, with a band playing inside it. Maya and Michel walked around arm in arm, bathed in the smells of frying food and Arabic spices. Voices around them spoke in two or three different languages. “It reminds me of Odessa,” Maya said as they made their promenade around the Roman arena, “only the people are so little. It’s nice not to feel dwarfed for once.”

They danced in the arena center, drank at a table under the blurry stars. One star was red, and Michel had his suspicions, but did not voice them. They went back to his hotel room and made love on the narrow bed, and at some point it seemed to Michel that there were several people in him, all coming at once; he cried out at the strange rapture of that sensation… Maya fell asleep and he lay beside her awake, in a tristesse reverberating somewhere outside time, drinking in the familiar smell of her hair and listening to the slowly diminishing cacophony of the town. Home at last.

In the days that followed, he introduced her to his nephew and to the rest of his relatives, rounded up by Francis. That whole gang took her in, and through the use of translation AIs asked her scores of questions. They also tried to tell her everything about themselves. It happened so often, Michel thought; people wanted to seize the famous stranger whose story they knew (or thought they knew), and give them their story in return, to redress the balance of the relationship. Some kind of witnessing, or confessional. The reciprocal sharing of stories. And people were naturally drawn to Maya anyway. She listened to their stories, and laughed, and asked questions — utterly there. Time after time they told her how the flood had come, drowning their homes, their livings, throwing them out into the world, to friends and family they hadn’t seen in years, forcing them into new patterns and reliances, breaking the mold of their lives and thrusting them out into the mistral. They had been exalted by this process, Michel saw, they were proud of their response, of how people had pulled together — also very indignant at any counterexamples of gouging or callousness, blots on an otherwise heroic affair: “Can you believe it? And it did no good, he was jumped one night in the street and all that money gone.”

“It woke us up, do you see, do you see? It woke us up when we had been asleep forever.”

They would say these things to Michel in French, watch him nod, and then watch Maya for her response as the AIs told their tale in English to her. And she would nod as well, absorbed as she had been in the young natives around Hellas Basin, focusing their stories by the look on her face, by her interest. Ah, she and Nirgal, they were two of a kind, they were charismatics — because of the way they focused on others, the way they exalted people’s stories. Perhaps that was what charisma was, a kind of mirror quality.

Some of Michel’s relatives took them out on their boats, and Maya marveled at the rampaging Rhone as they ran down it, at the strangely cluttered lagoon of the Camargue, and the efforts people were making to rechannelize it. Then out onto the brown water of the Med, and farther still, onto the blue water — the sun-beaten blue, the little boat bouncing over the whitecaps whipped up by the mistral. All the way out of the sight of land, on a blue sun-beaten plate of water: amazing. Michel stripped and jumped over the side, into cold water, where he sloshed the salt down and drank some of it too, savoring the amniotic taste of his old beach swims.

Back on land they went out on drives. Once they went out to see the Pont du Card, and there it was, same as ever, the Romans’ greatest work of art — an aqueduct: three tiers of stone, the thick lower arches foursquare in the river, proud of their two thousand years’ resistance to running water; lighter taller arches above, then the smallest on top of them. Form following function right into the heart of the beautiful — using stone to take water over water. The stone now pitted and honey blond, very Martian in every respect — it looked like Nadia’s Underbill arcade, standing there in the dusty green and limestone gorge of the Card, in Provence; but now, to Michel, almost more Mars than France.

Maya loved its elegance. “See how human it is, Michel. This is what our Martian structures lack, they are too big. But this — this was built by human hands, with tools anyone could construct and use. Block and tackle and human math, and perhaps some horses. And not our teleoperated machines and their weird materials, doing things no one can understand or even see.”


“I wonder if we could build things by hand. Nadia should see this, she would love it.”

“That’s what I thought.”

Michel was happy. They ate a picnic there. They visited the fountains of Aix-en-Provence. Went out to an overlook above the Grand Canyon of the Card. Nosed around the street docks of Marseilles. Visited the Roman sites in Orange, and Nimes. Drove past the drowned resorts of the Cote d’Azur. Walked out one evening to Michel’s ruined mas, and into the middle of the old olive grove.

And every night of these few precious days they returned to Aries, and ate in the hotel restaurant, or if it was warm out, under the plane trees in the sidewalk cafes; and then went up to their room and made love; and at dawn woke and made love again, or went down directly for fresh croissants and coffee. “It’s lovely,” Maya said, standing one blue evening in the tower of the arena, looking over the tile roofs of the town; she meant all of it, all of Provence. And Michel was happy.

But a call came on the wrist. Nirgal was sick, very sick; Sax, sounding shaken, had already gotten him off Earth, back into Martian g and a sterile environment, inside a ship in Terran orbit. “I’m afraid his immune system isn’t up to it, and the g doesn’t help. He’s got an infection, pulmonary edema, a very bad fever.”

“Allergic to Earth,” Maya said, her face grim. She made plans and ended the call with curt instructions to Sax to stay calm, then went to the room’s little closet and began to throw her clothes out onto the bed.

“Come on!” she cried when she saw Michel standing there. “We have to go!”

“We do?”

She waved him off, burrowed into the closet. “I’m going.” She threw handfuls of underwear into her suitcase, gave him a look. “It’s time to go anyway.”

“It is?”

She didn’t reply. She was tapping at her wristpad, asking the local Praxis team to arrange transport into space. There they would rendezvous with Sax and Nirgal. Her voice was cold, tense, businesslike. She had already forgotten Provence.

When she saw Michel still standing motionless, she exploded — “Oh come on, don’t be so theatrical about it! Just because we have to leave now doesn’t mean we won’t ever come back! We’re going to live a thousand years, you can come back all the time if^you want, a hundred times, my God! Besides how is this place so much better than Mars? It looks just like Odessa to me, and you were happy there, weren’t you?”

Michel ignored that. He stumbled by her suitcases to the window. Outside, an ordinary Arlesian street, blue in the twilight: pastel stucco waHs, cobblestones. Cypress trees. Tiles on the roof across the street were broken. Mars-colored. Voices below shouted in French, angry about something.

“Well?” Maya exclaimed. “Are you coming?”



Ann in the Outback

Look, not choosing to take the longevity treatment is suicide.


Well. Suicide is usually considered to be a sign ofpsychological dysfunction.


I think you’ll find it’s true more often than not. You’re unhappy at least.

At least.

And yet why? What now is lacking?

The world.

Every day you still walk out to see the sunset.


You claim the destruction of the primal Mars is the source of your depression. I think the philosophical reasons cited by people suffering depression are masks protecting them from harder, more personal hurts.

It can all be real.

You mean all the reasons?

Yes. What did you accuse Sax of? Monocausotaxophilia?

Touche. But there’s usually a start to these things, among all the real reasons — the first one that started you down your road. Often you have to go back to that point in your journey in order to start off in a new way.

Time is not space. The metaphor of space lies about what is really possible in time. You can never go back.

No no. You can go back, metaphorically. In your mental traveling you can journey back into the past, retrace your steps, see where you turned and why, then proceed onward in a direction that is different because it includes these loops of understanding. Increased understanding increases meaning. When you continue to insist that it is the fate of Mars that concerns you most, I think it is a displacement so strong that it has confused you. It too is a metaphor. Perhaps a true one, yes. But both terms of the metaphor should be recognized.

I see what I see.

But the way it is, you are not even seeing. There is so much of red Mars that remains. You should go out and look! Go out and empty your mind and just see what is out there. Go out at low altitude and walk free in the air, a simple dust mask only. It would be good for you, good at the physiological level. Also it would be reaping a benefit of the terraforming. To experience the freedom it gives us, the bond with this world — that we can walk on its surface naked and survive. It’s amazing! It makes us part of an ecology. It deserves to be rethought, this process. You should go out to consider it, to study the process as areoformation.

That’s just a word. We took this planet and plowed it under. It’s melting under our feet.

Melting in native water. Not imported from Saturn or the like, it’s been there from the beginning, part of the original accretion, right? Outgassed from the first lump that was Mars. Now part of our bodies. Our very bodies are patterns in Martian water. Without the trace minerals we would be transparent. We are Martian water. And water that has been on the surface of Mars before, yes? Rupturing out in artesian apocalypse. Those channels are so big!

It was permafrost for two billion years.

Then we helped it back onto the surface. The majesty of the great outbreak floods. We were there, we saw one with our own eyes, we nearly died in it —

Yes yes —

You felt the car as that water swept it away, you were driving —

Yes! But it swept Frank away instead.


It swept the world away. And left us on the beach.

The world is still here. You could go out and see.

I don’t want to see. I’ve seen it already!

Not you. Some previous you. Now you’re the you living now.

Yes yes.

I think you’re afraid. Afraid of attempting a transmutation — a metamorphosis into something new. The alembic stands out there, all around you. The fire is hot. You’ll be melted, you’ll be reborn, who knows if you’ll still be there afterward?

I don’t want to change.

You don’t want to stop loving Mars.

Yes. No.

You will never stop loving Mars. After metamorphosis the rock still exists. It’s usually harder than the parent rock, yes? You will always love Mars. Your task becomes seeing the Mars that always endures, under thick or thin, hot or cold, wet or dry. Those are ephemeral, but M.ars endures. These floods happened before, isn’t it true?


Mars’s own water. All these volatiles are Mars’s own volatiles.

Except the nitrogen from Titan.

Yes yes. You sound like Sax.

Come on.

You two are more alike than you think. And all we volatiles are Mars’s own.

But the destruction of the surface. It’s wrecked. Everything’s changed.

That’s areology. Or the areophany.

It’s destruction. We should have tried living here as it was.

But we didn’t. And so now being red means working to keep conditions as much like the primal conditions as possible, within the framework of the areophany — the project of biosphere creation that allows humans the freedom of the surface, below a certain altitude. That’s all being a Red can mean now. And there are a lot of Reds like that. I think you worry that if you ever change in even the slightest degree, then that will be the end of redness everywhere. But redness is bigger than you. You helped start it and define it, but you were never the only one. If you had been no one would ever have listened to you.

They didn’t!

Some did. Many did. Redness will go on no matter what you do. You could retire, you could become someone entirely different, you could become lime green, and redness would always go on. It might even become something more red than you ever imagined.

I’ve imagined it as red as it can get.

All those alternatives. We’ll live one of them and then go on. The process of coadaptation with this planet will go on for thousands of years. But here we are now. At every moment you should ask, what now is lacking? and work at some acceptance of your current reality. This is sanity, this is life. You have to imagine your life from here on out.

I can’t. I’ve tried and I can’t.

You should go have a look around, really. A walkabout. Look very closely. Take a look even at the ice seas, a close look. But not just that. That is in the nature of a confrontation. Confrontation is not necessarily bad, but first just a look, eh? A recognition. Then you should think about going up into the hills. Tharsis, Elysium. A rise in altitude is a voyage into the past. Your task is to find the Mars that endures through all. It’s wonderful, really. So many people don’t have such a wonderful task as that, you can’t imagine. You’re lucky to have it.

And you?


What is your task?

My task?

Yes. Your task.

…I’m not sure. I told you, I envy you having that My tasks are… confused. To help Maya, and me. And the rest of us. Reconciliation… I would like to find Hiroko…

You’ve been our shrink for a long time.


Over a hundred years.


And never any results at all.

Well. I like to think I have helped a little.

But it doesn’t come naturally to you.

Perhaps not.

Do you think people get interested in studying psychology because they’re troubled in the mind?

It’s a common theory.

But no one has ever been shrink to you.

Oh I’ve had my therapists.


Yes! Quite helpful. Fairly helpful. I mean — they did what they could.

But you don’t know your task.

No. Or, I… I want to go home.

What home?

That’s the problem. Hard when you don’t know where home is, eh?

Yes. I thought you would stay in Provence.

No no. I mean, Provence is my home, but…

But now you’re on your way back to Mars.


You decided to come back.


You don’t know what you’re doing, do you?

No. But you do. You know where your home is. You have that, and it’s precious! You should remember that, you shouldn’t be throwing away such a gift, or thinking it’s a burden! You’re a fool to think that! It’s a gift, damn you, a precious precious gift, do you understand me?

I’ll have to think about that.

She left the refugein a meteorological rover from the previous century, a high square thing with a luxurious window-box driver’s compartment up top. It was not unlike the front half of the expedition rover in which she had first traveled to the North Pole, with Nadia and Phyllis and Edmund and George. And because she had spent thousands of days since then in such machines, she at first had the impression that what she was doing was ordinary, contiguous with the rest of her life.

But she drove northeast, downcanyon, until she was in the bed of the little unnamed channel at sixty degrees longitude, fifty-three degrees north. This valley had been carved by a small aquifer outbreak during the late Amazonian, running in an earlier graben fault, down the lower slopes of the Great Escarpment. The scoring effects of the flood were still visible on the rims of the canyon walls, and in the lenticular islands of bedrock on the floor of the channel.

Which now ran north into a sea of ice.

She got out of the car wearing a fiberfilled windsuit, a CO2 mask, goggles, and heated boots. The air was thin and cold, though it was spring now in the north — Ls 10, m-53. Cold and windy, ragged lines of low puffy clouds racing east. It was either going to be an ice age or, if the greens’ manipulations forestalled it, then a year-without-summer, like 1810 on Earth, when the explosion of the volcano Tambori had chilled the world.

She walked the shore of the new sea. It was at the foot of the Great Escarpment, in Tempe Terra, a lobe of ancient highlands extending into the north. Tempe had probably escaped the general stripping of the northern hemisphere by being roughly opposite the impact point of the Big Hit, which most areologists now agreed had struck near Hrad Vallis, above Elysium. So; battered hills, overlooking an ice-covered sea. The rock looked like a red sea’s surface in a wild cross chop; the ice looked like a prairie in the depths of winter. Native water, as Michel had said — there from the beginning, on the surface before. It was a hard thing to grasp. Her thoughts were scattered and confused, darting this way and that, all at the same time — it was like madness, but not. She knew the difference. The hum and keen of the wind did not speak to her in the tones of the MIT lecturer; she suffered no choking sensations when she tried to breathe. It was not like that. Rather her thinking was accelerated, fractured, unpredictable — like that flock of birds over the ice, zigzagging across the sky in a hard wind from the west. Ah the feel of that same wind against her body, shoving at it, the new thick air like a great animal paw…

The birds struggled in it with reckless skill. She stood for a while and watched: they were skuas, out hunting over dark streaks of open water. These polynyas were just the surface signs of immense pods of liquid water under the ice; she had heard that a continuous channel of under-ice water now wrapped the globe, winding east over old Vastitas, tearing frequent polynyas in the surface, gaps which then stayed liquid for an hour or a week. Even with the air so cold, the underwater temperatures were warmed by the drowned Vastitas moholes, and rising heat from the thousands of thermonuclear explosions set off by the meta-nats around the turn of the century. These bombs had been placed deep enough in the megaregolith to trap their radioactive fallout, supposedly, but not their heat, which rose in a thermal pulse through the rock, a pulse that would continue for years and years. No; Michel could talk about it being Mars’s water, but there was little else that was natural about this new sea.

Ann hiked up a ridge to get a wider view. There it lay: ice, mostly flat, sometimes shattered. All as still as a butterfly on a twig, as if the whiteness might suddenly lift off and fly away. The birds’ wheeling and the clouds’ scudding showed how hard the wind blew, everything in the air pouring east; but the ice remained still. The wind’s voice was deep and huge, scraping over a billion cold edges. A strip of gray water was striated by windchop, the strength of each gust precisely registered by the flayed cat’s paws, each brush of harder wind feathering the larger waves with exquisite sensitivity. Water. And below that brushed surface, plankton, krill, fish, squid; she had heard they were producing in hatcheries all the creatures of the extremely short Antarctic food chain, and then releasing them to the sea. Teeming water.

The skuas wheeled overhead. One cloud of them whirl-pooled down onto something along on the shore, behind some rocks. Ann hiked toward them. Suddenly she saw the birds’ target, lying in a cleft at the edge of the ice: the mostly eaten remains of a seal. Seals! The corpse lay on tundra grass, in the lee of a patch of sand dunes, sheltered by another rocky ridge running down into the ice. The white skeleton emerged from dark red flesh, ringed by white blubber, black fur. All torn open to the sky. Eyes pecked out.

She hiked on past the corpse, up another little ridge. The ridge made a kind of cape extending into the ice, and beyond it was a bay. A round bay — a crater, infilled by ice. It had happened to lie at sea level, had happened to have a breach in its rim on its seaward side, so that water and ice had poured in and filled it. Now a round bay, perfect for a harbor. One day it would be a harbor. About three kilometers across.

Ann sat down on a boulder on the cape, and looked out at the new bay. Her breath heaved in and out of her in an involuntary motion, her rib cage moving violently, as during labor contractions. Sobs, yes. She pulled aside her face mask, blew her nose using her finger, wiped her eyes, all the while still weeping furiously. This was her body. She recalled the first time she had stumbled onto the flooding of Vastitas, in a solo trip ages ago. That time she had not cried, but Michel had said that was only shock, the numbness of shock, as in any injury — withdrawal from her body and her feelings. Michel would call this response healthier, no doubt, but why? It hurt — her body, spasming in a seismic trembling. But when it was over, Michel would say, she would feel better. Drained. A tension gone — the tectonics of the limbic system — she scorned such simplistic analogies as Michel offered, the woman as planet, it was absurd. Nevertheless there she sat, sniffling, looking out at the ice bay under scudding clouds, feeling drained.

Nothing moved except for clouds overhead, and cat’s paws on a patch of open water, gust after gust, shimmering gray, mauve, gray. Water moved but the land was still.

Finally Ann stood and walked down a rib of hard old shishovite, now forming a narrow divide between two long beaches. To tell the truth, above the ice there was not that much that had changed from the primal state. Down at the waterline it was a different story. Here the daily trade winds over the open water of the summer bay had created waves large enough to break the remaining chunks of ice into what they called brash ice. Lines of this flotsam were now beached above the current ice level, like ice sculptures depicting driftwood. But in the summer this ice had helped to rip up the sand of the new beaches, tearing it into a slurry of ice and mud and sand, now frozen in place like brown cake frosting.

Ann walked slowly across this mess. Beyond it there was a little inlet, crowded with ice boulders that had grounded in the shallows and then been frozen into the sea surface. Exposure to sun and wind had rendered these boulders into baroque fantasias of clear blue ice and opaque red ice, like aggregates of sapphire and bloodstone. The south sides of the blocks had melted preferentially, the meltwater frozen in icicles, ice beards, ice sheets, ice columns.

Looking back at the shore she saw again how the sand was furrowed and torn; the damage was terrific, the gouges sometimes two meters deep — incredible force, to plow such trenches! The sand drifts must have been loess, made of loose light aeolian deposits. Now a no-man’s-land of frozen mud and dirty ice, as if bombs had devastated some sad army’s trenches.

She continued outward, stepping on opaque ice. On the surface of the bay. Like a world covered in semen. Once the ice cracked under her boot.

When she was well out on the bay she stopped and had a look around. Tight horizons indeed; she climbed a flat-topped berg, which gave her a larger view over the expanse of ice, out to the circle of the crater rim, just under the running clouds. Though cracked and jumbled and lined by pressure ridges, the ice nevertheless clearly conveyed the flatness of the water beneath it. To the north the gap to the sea was obvious. Tabular bergs stuck out from the ice like deformed castles. A white waste.

After struggling to come to grips with the scene, and failing, she clambered off the berg and hiked back to the shore, then back toward her car. As she was crossing the little ridge cape, movement down at the edge of the ice caught her eye.

A white thing moved — a person in a white walker, on all fours — no. A bear. A polar bear. Walking along the edge of the ice.

It spotted the dust devil of skuas over the dead seal. Ann crouched behind a boulder, went prone on a patch of frosty sand. Cold all along the front of her body. She looked over the boulder.

The bear’s ivory fur yellowed on its flanks and legs. It raised a heavy head, sniffed like a dog, looked around curiously. It shambled to the corpse of the seal, ignoring the column of squealing birds. It ate from the seal like a dog from a bowl. It raised its head, muzzle dark red. Ann’s heart pounded. The bear sat on its haunches and licked a paw, rubbed its face until it was clean, catlike in its fastidiousness. Then without warning it dropped to all fours and started up the slope of rock and sand, toward Ann’s hiding place behind the boulder. It trotted, moving both the legs on one side of its body in the same motion, left, right, left.

Ann rolled down the other side of the little cape and got up and ran up the trough of a shallow fracture, leading her southwest. Her rover was almost directly west of her, she reckoned, but the bear was coming from the northwest. She clambered up the short steep side of the southwest-trending canyon, ran over a strip of high ground to another little fracture canyon, trending a bit more to the west than the previous one. Up again, onto the next strip of high ground between these shallow fossae. She looked back. Already she was panting, and her rover was still at least two kilometers away, to the west and a little south. It was still out of sight, behind ragged hillocks. The bear was north and east of her; if it made directly for the rover it would be almost as close to it now as she was. Did it hunt by sight or by smell? Could it plot the course of its prey, and move to cut it off?

No doubt it could. She was sweating inside her windsuit. She hustled down into the next canyon and ran in it for a while, west southwest. Then she saw an easy ramp and ran up to the next intercanyon strip, a kind of wide high road between the shallow canyons on both sides. Looking back she found herself staring at the polar bear. It stood on all fours, behind and two canyons over, looking like a very big dog, or a cross between a dog and a person, draped in straw-white fur. It amazed her to see such a creature out there, the food chain couldn’t possibly support such a large predator, could it? They must surely be feeding it at feed stations. Hopefully so, or else it would be very hungry. Now it dropped into the canyon two over, out of sight, and Ann started to run down the strip toward her rover. Despite her running around, and the tight rugged horizon, she was confident of her sense of the car’s location.

She kept to a pace she thought she could sustain for the whole distance. It was hard not to let loose and sprint at full speed, but no, no, that would lead to a collapse eventually. Pace yourself, she thought, gasping in short pants. Get down off the high ground into a graben so you’re out of sight. Keep oriented, are you passing south of the rover? Back up to the higher ground, for just a moment to look. There behind that low flat-topped hill, which was a small crater, with a hump on the south end of the rim — she was certain — though the rover was still out of sight, and the jumbled land was easy to get confused in. A thousand times she had gotten briefly semilost, unsure of her exact location in relation to some fixed point, usually her parked rover — not a big deal usually, as her wrist’s APS could always lead her back. As it could now too, but she was sure it was over there behind that bump of a crater.

The cold air burned in her lungs. She recalled the emergency face mask in her backpack, and stopped and yanked off the backpack and dug, pulled off the CO2 mask and put on the air mask; it contained a short supply of compressed oxygen in its frame, and with it pulled over her mouth and nose and turned on, she was suddenly stronger, faster, could hold a better pace. She ran along a strip of high ground between canyons, hoping to get a sighting of the rover round the slope of the crater apron. Ah, there it was! Panting triumphantly she sucked down the cool oxygen; it tasted lovely, but was not enough to stop her gasping. If she went down into the trough to her right it looked like it would run straight to the rover.

She glanced back and saw the polar bear running too, legs now in a shambling kind of gallop — lumbering — but it ate up the ground with that run, and the shallow canyon walls seemed no impediment to it, it flowed over them like a white nightmare, a thing beautiful and terrifying, the liquid flow of its muscles loose under thick yellow-tipped white fur. All this she saw in a single moment of the utmost clarity, everything in her field of vision distinct and acute and luminous, as if lit from within. Even running as hard as she could, focusing on the ground to make sure she didn’t trip over anything, she still saw the bear flowing over the red slope, like an afterimage. Pounding, running hard, boulder ballet; the bear was fast and the terrain nothing to it, but she too was an animal, she too had spent years in the back country of Mars, many more years in fact than this young bear, and she could run like an ibex over the terrain, from bedrock to boulder to sand to rubble, pushing hard but perfectly balanced, in control of the dash and running for her life. And besides the rover was near. Just up one last canyon side, and the slope of the apron, and there it was, she almost ran into it, stopped, reared up and pounded the curved metal side with a hard triumphant wham, as if it were the bear’s snout, and then with a second more controlled punch to the lock door console she was inside, inside, and the outer-lock door closed behind her.

She hurried upstairs to the driver’s aerie to look back. Through the glass she saw the polar bear below, inspecting her vehicle from a respectful distance. Out of dart-gun range, sniffing thoughtfully. Ann was sweating hard, still gasping hard for air, in and out, in and out — what violent paroxysms the rib cage could go through! And there she was, sitting safe in the driver’s seat! She only had to close her eyes and she saw again that heraldic image of the bear flowing over the rock; but open them and there the dashboard gleamed, bright and artificial and familiar. Ah so strange!

She was still in a kind of shock a couple of days later, able to see the polar bear if she closed her eyes and thought about it; distracted. By night the ice in the bay boomed and groaned, sometimes cracked explosively, so that she dreamed of the assault on Sheffield, groaning herself. By day she drove so carelessly that she had to put the rover on automatic pilot, instructing it to make its way along the shore of the crater bay.

While it rolled she wandered around the driver’s compartment, her mind racing. Out of control. Nothing to be done but laugh and endure it. Strike the walls, stare out the windows. The bear was gone but it wasn’t. She looked it up: Ursus maritimus, ocean bear; the Inuit called it Tomassuk, “the one who gives power.” It was like the landslide that had almost caught her in Melas Chasma, now a part of her life forever. Facing the landslide she had not moved a muscle; this time she had run like hell. Mars could kill her, no doubt it would kill her, but no big zoo creature from Earth was going to kill her, not if she could help it. Not that she was so enamored of life, far from it; but one should be free to choose one’s death. As she had chosen in the past, twice at least. But Simon and then Sax — like little brown bears — had snatched her death away from her. She still didn’t know what to make of that, how to feel about it. Her mind was racing so fast. She held on to the back of the driver’s seat. Finally she reached forward and punched Sax’s old First Hundred number on the rover’s screen keyboard, XY23, and waited for the AI to route the call to the shuttle returning Sax and the others to Mars; and after a while there he was, with his new face, staring into a screen.

“Why did you do it?” she shouted. “It’s my death to choose as I please!”

She waited for the message to reach him. Then it did and he jumped, the image of him jiggled. “Because — ” he said, and stopped.

Ann felt a chill. That was just what Simon had said, after he had pulled her back in out of the chaos. They never had a reason, only life’s idiot because.

Sax went on: “I didn’t want — it seemed like such a waste — what a surprise to hear from you. I’m glad.”

“To hell with that,” Ann said.

She was about to cut the connection when he started speaking again — they were in simultaneous transmission now, alternating messages, “It was so I could talk to you, Ann. I mean it was for myself — I didn’t want to be missing you. I wanted you to forgive me. I wanted to argue with you more and — and make you see why I’ve done what I’ve done.”

His chatter stopped as abruptly as it had started, and then he looked confused, even frightened. Perhaps he had just heard “To hell with that.” She could scare him, no doubt of that.

“What crap,” she said.

After a while: “Yes. Um — how are you doing? You look…”

She cut the connection. I just outran a polar bear! She shouted in her mind. I was almost eaten by your stupid games!

No. She wouldn’t tell him. The meddler. He had needed a good referee for his submissions to The Metajournal of Martian History, that was what it came down to. Making sure his science was properly peer-reviewed — for that he would crash around in a person’s most inward desires, in her essential freedom to choose life or death, to be a free human being!

At least he hadn’t tried to lie about it.

And — well — here she was. Rage; remorse without cause; inexplicable anguish; a strangely painful exhilaration: all this filled her at once. The limbic system, vibrating madly, spiking every thought with contradictory wild emotions, disconnected from the thoughts’ content: Sax had saved her, she hated him, she felt a fierce joy, Kasei was dead, Peter wasn’t, no bear could kill her, etc. — on and on and on. Oh so strange!

She spotted a little green rover, perched on a bluff over the ice bay. Impulsively she took over the wheel and drove up to it. A little face peered out at her; she waved through the windshields at it. Black eyes — spectacles — bald. Like her stepfather. She parked her rover next to his. The man gestured for her to come over, holding up a wooden spoon. He looked vague, only half pulled out of his own thoughts.

Ann put on a down jacket and went through the lock doors and walked between the cars, feeling the shock of the frigid air like a dousing in cold water. It was nice to be able to walk between one rover and another without suiting up, or, to get to the crux of the matter, risking death. Amazing that more people hadn’t been killed by carelessness or lock malfunction. Some had been, of course. Scores, probably, if you added them all up. Now it was just a dash of cold air.

The bald man opened his inner-lock door. “Hello,” he said, and offered a hand. “Hello,” Ann said, and shook it. “I’m Ann.” “I’m Harry. Harry Whitebook.” “Ah. I’ve heard of you. You design animals.” He smiled gently. “Yes.” No shame; no defensiveness. “I was just chased by one of your polar bears.” “Were you!” His eyes opened round. “Those are fast!”

“So they are. But they’re not just polar bears, are they.”

“They’ve got some grizzly genes, for altitude. But mostly it’s just Ursus maritimus. They’re very tough creatures.”

“A lot of creatures are.”

“Yes, isn’t it marvelous? Oh excuse me, have you eaten? Would you like some soup? I was just making soup, leek soup, I guess it must be obvious.”

It was. “Sure,” Ann said.

Over soup and bread she asked him questions about the polar bear. “Surely there can’t be a whole food chain here for something that huge?”

“Oh yes. In this area there is. It’s well-known for that — the first bioregion robust enough for bears. The bay is liquid to the bottom, you see. The Ap mohole is at the center of the crater, so it’s like a bottomless lake. Iced over in winter of course, but the bears are used to that from the Arctic.”

“The winters are long.”

“Yes. The female bears make dens in the snow, near some caves in dike outcroppings to the west. They don’t truly hibernate, their body temperatures drop just a few degrees, and they can wake up in a minute or two, if they need to adjust the den for heat. So they den for as much of the winters as they can, then live in there and forage out till spring. Then in spring we tow some of the ice plates through the mouth of the bay out to sea, and things develop from there, bottom to top. The basic chains are Antarctic in the water, Arctic on the land. Plankton, krill, fish and squid, Weddell seals, and on land rabbits and h’ares, lemmings, marmots, mice, lynx, bobcat. And the bears. We’re trying with caribou and reindeer and wolves, but there isn’t the forage for ungulates yet. The bears have been out just a few years, the air pressure hasn’t been adequate until recently. But it’s a four-thousand-meter equivalent here now, and the bears do very well with that, we find. They adapt very quickly.”

“Humans too.”

“Well, we haven’t seen too much at the four-thousand-meter level yet.” He meant four thousand meters above sea level on Earth. Higher than any permanent human settlement, as she recalled.

He was going on: “… eventually see thoracic-cavity expansion, bound to happen…” A man who talked to himself. Big, bulky; white fur in a fringe around his bald pate. Black eyes swimming behind round spectacles.

“Did you ever meet Hiroko?” she said.

“Hiroko Ai? I did, once. Lovely woman. I hear she’s gone back to Earth, to help them adapt to the flood. Did you know her?”

“Yes. I’m Ann Clayborne.”

“I thought so. Peter Clayborne’s mother, isn’t that right?”


“He’s been in Boone recently.”


“That’s the little station across the bay. This is Botany Bay, and the station is Boone Harbor. A kind of joke. Apparently there was a similar pairing in Australia.”

“Indeed.” She shook her head. John would be with them forever. And by no means the worst of the ghosts haunting them.

As for instance this man, the famous animal designer. He clattered about the kitchen, pawing at things shortsightedly. He put the soup before her and she ate, watching him furtively as she did. He knew who she was, but he did not seem uncomfortable. He did not try to justify himself. She was a red areologist, he designed new Martian animals. They worked on the same planet. But that did not mean they were enemies, not to him. He would eat with her without malice. There was something chilling in that, overbearing despite his gentle manner. Obliviousness was so brutal. And yet she liked him; that dispassionate power, vagueness — something. He bumbled around his kitchen, sat and ate with her, quickly and noisily, his muzzle wet with the clear soup stock. Afterward they broke pieces of bread from a long loaf. Ann asked questions about Boone Harbor.

“It has a good bakery,” Whitebook said, indicating the loaf. “And a good lab. The rest is just an ordinary outpost. But we took the tent down last year, and now it is very cold, especially in the winter. Only forty-six degrees latitude, but we feel it as a northern place. So much so that there is some talk of putting the tent back up, in winter at least. And there are people who say we should leave it on until things warm up.” “Till the ice age is over?”

“I don’t think there will be an ice age. This first year without the soletta was bad, of course, but various compensations ought to be possible. A cold couple of years, that’s all it will be.”

He waggled a paw: it could go either way. Ann almost threw her chunk of bread at him. But best not to startle him. She controlled herself with a shudder.

“Is Peter still in Boone?” she asked.

“I think so. He was a few days ago.”

They talked some more about the Botany Bay ecosystem. Without a fuller array of plant life, animal designers were sharply limited; it was still more like the Antarctic than the Arctic in that respect. Possibly new soil-enhancement methods could speed the arrival of higher plants. Right now it was a land of lichen, for the most part. The tundra plants would follow.

“But this displeases you,” he observed.

“I liked it the way it was before. All Vastitas Borealis was barchan dunes, made of black garnet sand.”

“Won’t some remain, up next to the polar cap?”

“The ice cap will go right down to the sea line in most places. As you say, kind of like Antarctica. No, the dunes and the laminate terrain will be underwater, one way or another. The whole northern hemisphere will be gone.”

“This is the northern hemisphere.”

“A highland peninsula. And it’s gone too, in a way. Botany Bay was Arcadia Crater Ap.”

He looked at her through the spectacles, peering. “Perhaps if you lived at high altitude, it might seem like the old days. The old days, with air.”

“Perhaps,” she said cautiously. He was circling the chamber, shambling about with heavy steps, cleaning big kitchen knifes at the sink. His fingers ended in short blunt claws; even clipped they made it hard for him to work with small objects.

She stood up carefully. “Thanks for dinner,” she said, backing toward the lock door. She grabbed her jacket on the way out and slammed the door on his look of surprise. Out into the hard cold slap of the night, into her jacket. Never run away from a predator. She walked back to her car and climbed in without looking back.

The ancient highland of Tempe Terrawas dotted by a number of small volcanoes, so there were lava plains and channels everywhere; also viscous creep features caused by ground ice, and the occasional small outflow channel that had run down the side of the Great Escarpment; all this along with the usual collection of Noachian impact and deformational features, so that on the areological maps Tempe looked like an artist’s palette, colors splashed everywhere to indicate the different aspects of the region’s long history. Too many colors, in Ann’s opinion; for her the smallest divisions into different areological units were artificial, remnants of sky areology, attempting to distinguish between regions that were more cratered or more dissected or more etched than the rest, when in the field it was all one, with all of the signature features visible everywhere. It was simply rough country — the Noachian landscape, none rougher.

Even the floors of the long straight canyons called the Tempe Fossa were too broken to drive over, so Ann made her way indirectly, on higher land. The most recent lava flows (a billion years old) were harder than the disaggregated ejecta they had run over, and now they stood on the land as long dikes or berms. On the softer land between there were a lot of splosh craters, their aprons clearly the remnants of liquid flow, like drip castles at the beach. Occasional islands of worn bedrock stuck up out of all this debris, but by and large it was regolith, with signs everywhere of water in the land, of the permafrost underfoot, causing slow slumps and creeps. And now, with the increase in temperatures, and perhaps the heat coming up from the Vastitas underground explosions, all that creep had speeded up. There were new landslides all over the place: a well-known Red trail had been wiped out when a ramp into Tempe 12 had been buried; the walls of Tempe 18 had collapsed on both sides, making a U-shaped canyon into a V-shaped one; Tempe 21 was gone, covered by the collapse of its high west wall. Everywhere the land was melting. She even saw some taliks, which were liquified zones on top of permafrost, basically icy swamps. And many of the oval pits of the great alases were filled with ponds, which melted by day and froze by night, an action that tore the land apart even faster.

She passed the lobate apron of Timushenko Crater, buried on its northern flank by the southernmost waves of lava from Coriolanus Volcano, the largest of the many little volcanoes in Tempe. Here the land was extensively pitted, and snow had fallen, melted and then refrozen in myriad catchment basins. The land was slumping in all the characteristic permafrost patterns: polygonal pebble ridges, concentric crater fill, pingos, solifluction ridges on hillsides. In every depression an ice-choked pond or puddle. The land was melting.

On sunny south-facing slopes, wherever there was a bit of protection from the wind, trees were growing, over un-derstories of moss and grass and shrub. In the sun-filled hollows were krummholz dwarf trees, gnarled over their matted needles; in the shaded hollows, dirty snow and firn. The ruination of so much land. Broken land, empty but not empty, rock and ice and boggy meadow all lined by shattered low ridges. Clouds puffed out of nothing in the afternoon heat, and their shadows were another set of patches on things, a crazy quilt of red and black, green and white. No one would ever complain of homogeneity on Tempe Terra. Everything perfectly still under the rapidly moving shadows of the clouds. And yet there, one evening in the dusk, a white bulk slipping behind a boulder. Her heart jumped, but there was nothing further to see. But she had seen something; because just before full darkness, there was a knocking at the door. Her heart shuddered like the rover on its shock absorbers, she ran to a window, looked out. Figures the color of the rock, waving hands. Human beings.

It was a little group of Red ecoteurs. They had recognized her rover, they said after she let them inside, from the description given by the people at the Tempe refuge. They had been hoping they might run into her, and so they were happy; laughing, chattering, moving around the cabin to touch her, young tall natives with stone eyeteeth and gleaming young eyes, some of them Orientals, some white, some black. All happy. She recognized them from Pavonis Mons, not individually, but as a group; the young fanatics. Again she felt a chill.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“To Botany Bay,” a young woman replied. “We’re going to take out the Whitebook labs.”

“And Boone Station,” another added.

“Ah no,” Ann said.

They went still, looked at her carefully. Like Kasei and Dao in Lastflow.

“What do you mean?” the young woman said.

Ann took a breath, tried to figure that out. They were watching her closely.

“Were you there in Sheffield?” she asked.

They nodded; they knew what she meant.

“Then you should know already,” she said slowly. “It’s pointless to achieve a red Mars by pouring blood over the planet. We have to find another way. We can’t do it by killing people. Not even by killing animals or plants, or blowing up machines. It won’t work. It’s destructive. It doesn’t appeal to people, do you understand? No one is won over. In fact they’re put off. The more we do things like that, the more green they become. So we defeat our purpose. If we know that and do it anyway, then we’re betraying the purpose. Do you understand? We aren’t doing it for anything but our own feelings. Because we’re angry. Or for thrills. We have to find another way.”

They stared at her, uncomprehending, annoyed, shocked, contemptuous. But riveted. This was Ann Clayborne, after all.

“I don’t know for sure what that other way is,” she went on. “I can’t tell you that. I think … that’s what I think we have to start working on. It has to be something like a red areophany. The areophany has always been understood as a green thing, right from the start. I suppose because of Hi-roko, because she took the lead in defining it. And in bringing it into being. So the areophany has always been mixed up with viriditas. But there’s no reason that should be. We have to change that, or we’ll never accomplish anything. There has to be a red worship of this place that people can learn to feel. The redness of the primal planet has to become a counterforce to viriditas. We have to stain that green until it turns some other color. Some color like you see in certain stones, like jasper, or ferric serpentine. You see what I mean. It will mean taking people out onto the land, maybe, up into the highlands, so they can see what it is. It will mean moving there, all over the place, and establishing tenure and stewardship rights, so that we can speak for the land and they will have to listen. Wanderers’ rights as well, areologists’ rights, nomads’ rights. That’s what areoformation might mean. Do you understand?”

She stopped. The young natives were still attentive, now looking perhaps concerned for her, or concerned at what she had said.

“We’ve talked about this kind of thing before,” one young man said. “And there are people doing it. Sometimes we do it. But we think an active resistance is a necessary part of the struggle. Otherwise we’ll just get steamrolled. They’ll green everything.”

“Not if we stain it all. Right from the inside, right from their hearts too. But sabotage, murder; it’s green that springs out of all that, believe me I’ve seen it. I’ve been fighting just as long as you and I’ve seen it. You stomp on life and it just comes back stronger.”

The young man wasn’t convinced. “They gave us the six-kilometer limit because they were scared of us, because we were the driving force behind the revolution. If it weren’t for us fighting, the metanats would still rule everything here.”

“That was a different opponent. When we fought the Terrans, then the Martian greens were impressed. When we fight the Martian greens they’re not impressed, they’re angry. And they get more green than ever.”

The group sat in silence, thoughtful, perhaps disheartened.

“But what do we do?” a gray-haired woman said.

“Go to some land that’s endangered,” Ann suggested. She gestured out the window. “Right here wouldn’t be bad. Or somewhere near the six-k border. Settle, incorporate a town, make it a primal refuge, make it a wonderful place. We’ll creep back down from the highlands.”

They considered this glumly.

“Or go into the cities and start a tour group, and a legal fund. Show people the land. Sue every change they propose.”

“Shit,” the young man said, shaking his head. “That sounds awful.”

“Yes it does,” Ann said. “There’s ugly work to be done. But we have to get them from the inside too. And that’s where they live.”

Long faces. They sat around and talked about it some more; the way they lived now, the way they wanted to live. What they might do to get from one to the other. The impossibility of the guerrilla life after the war was over. And so on. There were lots of big sighs, some tears, recriminations, encouragements.

“Come with me tomorrow and take a straight look at this ice sea,” Ann suggested.

The next day the guerrilla group traveled south with her along the sixtieth longitude, kilometer by difficult kilometer. Khala, the Arabs called it; the empty land. On the one hand it was beautiful, a Noachian desolation of rockscapes, and their hearts were full. On the other hand the ecoteurs were quiet, subdued, as if on a pilgrimage in some uncertain funereal mode. Together they came to the big canyon called Nilokeras Scopulus, and dropped into it on a broad rough natural ramp. To the east lay Chryse Planitia, covered by ice: another arm of the northern sea. They had not escaped it. Ahead to the south lay the Nilokeras Fossae, the terminal end of a canyon complex that began far to the south, in the enormous pit of Hebes Chasma. Hebes Chasma had no exit, but its subsidence was now understood to have been caused by the aquifer outbreak just to the west, at the top of Echus Chasma. A very great amount of water had gushed down Echus against the hard western side of Lunae Planum, carving the steep high cliff at Echus Overlook; then it had come to a. break in that stupendous cliff, and had rushed down and through, tearing the big bend of Kasei Vallis, and cutting a deep channel out onto the lowlands of Chryse. It had been one of the biggest aquifer outbreaks in Martian history.

Now the northern sea had flowed back into Chryse, and water was filling back into the lower end of Nilokeras and Kasei. The flat-topped hill that was Sharanov Crater stood like a giant castle keep on the high promontory over the mouth of this new fjord. Out in the middle of the fjord lay a long narrow island, one of the lemniscate islands of the ancient flood, now islanded again, stubbornly red in the sea of white ice. Eventually this fjord would make an even better harbor than Botany Bay: it was steep-walled, but there were benches tucked here and there that could become harbor towns. There would of course be the west wind funneling down Kasei to worry about, katabatic onslaughts holding the sailing ships out in the Chryse Gulf…

So strange. She led the group of silent Reds to a ramp that got them down onto a broad bench to the west of the ice fjord. By then it was evening, and she led them out of the rovers and down to the shore for a suhset walk.

At the moment of sunset itself, they found themselves standing in a tight unhappy cluster before a solitary ice block some four meters tall, its melted convexities as smooth as muscle. They stood so that the sun was behind the ice block and shining through it. To both sides of the block brilliant light gleamed off the glassy wet sand. An admonition of light. Undeniable, blazingly real; what were they to make of it? They stood and stared in silence.

When the sun blinked out over the black horizon, Ann walked away from the group and went alone up to her rover. She looked back down the slope; the Reds were still there by the beached iceberg. It looked like a white god among them, tinted orange like the crumpled white sheet of the ice bay. White god, bear, bay, a dolmen of Martian ice: the ocean would be there with them forever, as real as the rock.

The next day she drove up Kasei Vallisto the west, toward Echus Chasma. Up and up she drove, on broad bench after bench, making easy progress, until she came to where Kasei curved left and up onto the floor of Echus. The curve was one of the biggest, most obvious water-carved features on the planet. But now she found that the flat arroyo floor was covered by dwarf trees, so small they were almost shrubs: black-barked, thorny, the dark green leaves as glossy and razor-edged as holly leaves. Moss blanketed the ground underneath these black trees, but very little else; it was a single-species forest, covering Kasei Vallis from canyon wall to canyon wall, filling the great curve like some oversized smut.

By necessity Ann drove right over top of the low forest, and the rover tilted this way and that as the branches, tough as manzanita, stubbornly gave under its wheels and then whipped back into place when they were freed. It would be nearly impossible to walk through this canyon anymore, Ann thought, this deep-walled canyon so narrow and rounded, a kind of Utah of the imagination — or so it had been — now like the black forest of a fairy tale, inescapable, filled with flying black things, and a white shape seen scuttling in the dusk… There was no sign of the UNTA security complex that had once occupied the turn of the valley.

A curse on your house to the seventh generation, a curse on the innocent land as well. Sax had been tortured here, and so he had sown fireseed in the ground and torched the place, causing a thorn forest to sprout and cover it. And they called scientists rational creatures! A curse on their house too, Ann thought with teeth clenched, to the seventh generation and seven after that.

She hissed and drove on, up Echus, toward the steep volcanic cone of Tharsis Tholis. There was a town there, tucked on the side of the volcano where the slope leveled off. The bear had told her Peter was headed there, and so she avoided it. Peter, the land drowned; Sax, the land burned. Once he had been hers. On this rock I will build. Peter Tempe Terra, the Rock of the Land of Time. The new man, Homo martial. Who had betrayed them. Remember.

On she drove south, up the slope of the Tharsis Bulge, until the cone of Ascraeus hove into view. A mountain continent, puncturing the horizon. Pavonis had been infested and overgrown because of its equatorial position, and the little advantage that that gave the elevator cable. But Ascraeus, just five hundred kilometers northeast of Pavonis, had been left alone. No one lived there; very few people had ever even ascended it. Just a few areologists now and then, to study its lava and occasional pyroclastic ash flows, which were both colored the red nearest black.

She drove onto its lower slopes, gentle and wavy. Ascraeus had been one of the classic albedo feature names, as it was a mountain so big it was easily visible from Earth. Ascraeus Lacus. This was during the canal mania, and so they had decided it was a lake. Pavonis in that era had been called Phoenicus Lacus, Phoenix Lake. Ascra, she read, was the birthplace of Hesiod, “situated on the right of Mount Helicon, on a high and rugged place.” So though they had thought it a lake, they had named it after a mountain place. Perhaps their subconscious minds had understood the telescope images after all. Ascraeus was in general a poetic name for the pastoral, Helicon being the Boetian mountain sacred to Apollo and the Muses. Hesiod had looked up from his plow one day and seen the mountain, and found he had a story to tell. Strange the birth of myths, strange the old names that they lived among and ignored, while they continued to tell the old stories over and over again with their lives.

It was the steepest of the big four volcanoes, but there was no encircling escarpment, as around Olympus Mons; so she could put the rover in low gear and grind on up, as if taking off into space, in slow motion. Lean back in her seat and take a nap. Head on the headrest; relax. Wake up on arrival, up at twenty-seven kilometers above sea level, the same height as all the other three big ones; that was as high as a mountain could get on Mars, basically, it was the isostatic limit, at which point the lithosphere began to sag under the weight of all that rock; all of the big four had maxed out, they could grow no higher. A sign of their size and their great age.

Very old, yes, but at the same time the surface lava of Ascraeus was among the youngest igneous rock on Mars, weathered only slightly by wind and sun. As the lava sheets had cooled they had stiffened in their descent, leaving low curved bulges to ascend or bypass. A distinct trail of rover tracks zigzagged up the slope, avoiding steep sections at the bottoms of these flows, taking advantage of a big loose network of ramps and flowbacks. In any permanent shade, spindrift had settled into banks of dirty hard-packed snow; shadows were now a filmy blackened white, as if she drove through a photographic negative, her spirits plummeting inexplicably as she drove ever higher. Behind her she could see more and more of the conical northern flank of the volcano, and north Tharsis beyond that, all the way to the Echus wall, a low line over a hundred kilometers away. Much of what she could see was patchy with snowdrifts, windslab, firn. Freckled white. The shady sides of volcanic cones often became heavily glaciated.

There on a rockface, bright emerald moss. Everything was turning green.

But as she continued to ascend, day after day, up and up beyond all imagining, the snow patches became thinner, less frequent. Eventually she was twenty kilometers above the datum — twenty-one above sea level — nearly seventy thousand feet above the ice! — more than twice as high as Everest was above Earth’s oceans; and still the cone of the volcano rose above her, a full seven thousand meters more! Right up into the darkening sky, right up into space.

Far below scrolled a smooth flat layer of cloud, obscuring Tharsis. As if the white sea were chasing her up the slope. Up at this level there were no clouds, at least on this day; sometimes thunderheads would tower up beside the mountain, other days cirrus clouds could be seen overhead, slashing the sky with a dozen thin sickles. Today the sky above was a clear purple indigo suffused with black, pricked with a few daytime stars at the zenith, Orion standing faint and alone. Out to the east of the volcano’s summit streamed a thin cloud, a peak banner, so faint she could see the dark sky through it. There wasn’t much moisture up here, nor much atmosphere either. There would always be a tenfold difference between the air pressure at sea level and up here on the big volcanoes; pressure up here must therefore be about thirty-five millibars, very little more than what had existed when they had arrived.

Nevertheless she spotted tiny flecks of lichen in hollows on the tops of rocks, in pits that caught some snow and then a lot of sun. They were almost too small to see. Lichen: a symbiotic team of algae and fungus, working together to survive, even in thirty millibars. It was hard to believe what life would endure. So strange.

So strange, in fact, that she suited up and went out to look at them. Up here one had to employ all the old careful habits: secure walker, lock doors; out into the bright glare of low space.

The rocks that harbored the lichen were the kind of flat sunporches on which marmots would have sunbathed, if they could have lived so high. Instead, only little pinheads of yellow green, or battleship gray. Flake lichen, the wrist-pad guide said. Bits of it torn away in storms, blown up here, falling on rocks, sticking like little vegetable limpets. The kind of thing only Hiroko could explain.

Living things. Michel had said that she loved stones and not men because she had been mistreated, her mind damaged. Hippocampus significantly smaller, strong startle reaction, a tendency toward dissociation. And so she had found a man as much like a stone as she could. Michel too had loved that quality in Simon, he told her — such a relief in the Underbill years to have even one such charge, a man you could trust, quiet and solid, that you could heft in your hand and feel the weight of.

But Simon wasn’t the only one in the world like that, j Michel had pointed out. That quality rested in the others as well, intermixed and less pure, but still there. Why could she not love that quality of obdurate endurance in other people, in every living thing? They were only trying to exist, like any rock or planet. There was a mineral stubbornness in all of them.

Wind keened past her helmet and over the shards of lava, humming in her air hose, drowning out the sound of her breath. The sky more black than indigo here, except low on the horizon, where it was a hazy purple violet, topped by a band of clear dark blue … oh who could believe it would ever change, up here on the slope of Ascraeus Mons, why hadn’t they settled up here to remind themselves of what they had come to, of what they had been given by Mars and then so profligately thrown away.

Back to the rover. She continued on up.

She was above silver cirrus clouds, just west of the volcano’s diaphanous summit banner. In the lee of the jet stream. To ascend was to travel into the past, above all lichen and bacteria. Though she had no doubt they were still there, hiding inside the first layers of the rock. Chasmoendolithic life, like the mythic little red people, the microscopic gods who had spoken to John Boone, their own local Hesiod. So people said.

Life everywhere. The world was turning green. But if you couldn’t see the greenness — if it made no difference to the land — surely it was welcome to the task? Living creatures. Michel had said to her, you love stones because of the stony quality that life has! It all comes back to life. Simon, Peter; on this rock I will build my church. Why could she not love that stony quality in every thing?

The rover rolled up the last concentric terraces of lava, working less strenuously now as it curved over the asymptotic flattening of the broad circular rim. Only slightly uphill, and less so every meter; and then onto the rim itself. Then to the inner edge of the rim.

Overlooking the caldera. She got out of the car, her thoughts flicking about like skuas.

Ascraeus’s nested caldera complex consisted of eight overlapping craters, the newer ones collapsing down across the circumferences of the older ones. The largest and youngest caldera lay out near the center of the complex, and the older higher-floored calderas embayed its circumference like the petals of a flower design. Each caldera floor was at a slightly different elevation, and marked by a pattern of circular fractures. Walking along the rim changed perspective so that distances shifted, and the floors’ heights seemed to change, as if they were floating in a dream. Taken all in all, a beautiful thing to witness. And eighty kilometers across.

Like a lesson in volcano throat mechanics. Eruptions down on the outer flanks of the volcano had emptied the magma from the active throat of the caldera, and so the caldera floor had slumped; thus all the circular shapes, as the active throat moved around over the eons. Arcing cliffs: few places on Mars exhibited such vertical slopes, they were almost true verticals. Basalt ring worlds. It should have been a climbers’ mecca, but as far as she knew it was not. Someday they would come.

The complexity of Ascraeus was so unlike the single great hole of Pavonis. Why had Pavonis’s caldera collapsed in the same circumference every time? Could its last drop have erased and leveled all the other rings? Had its magma chamber been smaller, or vented to the sides less? Had Ascraeus’s throat wandered more? She picked up loose rocks on the rim’s edge, stared at them. Lava bombs, late meteor ejecta, ventifacts in the ceaseless winds… These were all questions that could still be studied. Nothing they did would ever disturb the vulcanology up here, not enough to impede the study. Indeed the Journal ofAreological Studies published many articles on these topics, as she had seen and still occasionally saw. It was as Michel had said to her; the high places would look like this forever. Climbing the great slopes would be like travel into the prehuman past, into pure areology, into the areophany itself perhaps, with Hi-roko or not. With the lichen or not. People had talked of securing a dome or a tent over these calderas, to keep them completely sterile; but that would only make them zoos, wilderness parks, garden spaces with their walls and their roofs. Empty greenhouses. No. She straightened up, looked out over the vast round landscape, held up and offering itself to space. To the chasmoendolithic life that might be struggling up here, she waved a hand. Live, thing. She said the word and it sounded odd: “Live.”

Mars forever, stony in the sunlight. But then she glimpsed the white bear in the corner of her eye, slipping behind a jagged rim boulder. She jumped; nothing there. She returned to the rover, feeling that she needed its protection. She climbed inside; but then all afternoon on the screen of the rover’s AI, the vague spectacled eyes seemed to be looking out at her, about to call any second. A kind bear of a man, though he would eat her if he could catch her. If he could catch her — but then none of them could catch her, she could hide in these high rock fastnesses forever — free she was and free she would be, to be or not to be if she chose that, for as long as this rock held. But there again, right at the lock door, that white flash in the corner of her eye. Ah so hard.


Making Things Work

An ice-choked sea now covered much of the north. Vastitas Borealis had lain a kilometer or two below the datum, in some places three; now with sea level stabilizing at the minus-one contour, most of it was underwater. If an ocean of similar shape had existed on Earth, it would have been a bigger Arctic Ocean, covering most of Russia, Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Scandinavia, and then making two deeper incursions farther south, narrow seas that extended all the way to the equator; on Earth these would have made for a narrow North Atlantic, and a North Pacific occupied in its center by a big squarish island.

This Oceanus Borealis was dotted by several large icy islands, and a long low peninsula that broke its circumnavigation of the globe, connecting the mainland north ofSyrtis with the tail of a polar island. The north pole was actually on the ice ofOlympia Gulf, some kilometers offshore from this polar island.

And that was it. On Mars there would be no equivalent of the South Pacific or the South Atlantic, or the Indian Ocean, or the Antarctic Ocean. In its south there was only desert, except for the Hellas Sea, a circular body of water about the size of the Caribbean. So while ocean covered seventy percent of the Earth, it covered about twenty-five percent of Mars.

In the year 2130, most of Oceanus Borealis was covered by ice. There were large pods of liquid water under the surface, however, and in the summer, melt lakes scattered on top of the surface; there were also many polynyaps, leads and cracks. Because most of the water had been pumped or otherwise driven out of the permafrost, it had deep groundwater’s purity, meaning it was nearly distilled: the Borealis was a freshwater ocean. It was expected to become salty fairly soon, however, as rivers ran through the very salty regolith and carried their loads into the sea, then evaporated, precipitated, and repeated the process — moving salts from the regolith into the water until a balance was reached — a process which had the oceanographers transfixed with interest, for the saltiness of Earth’s oceans, stable for many millions of years, was not well understood.

The coastlines were wild. The polar island, formally nameless, was called variously the polar peninsula, or the polar island, or the Seahorse, for its shape on maps. In actuality its coastline was still overrun in many places by the ice of the old polar cap, and everywhere it was blanketed by snow, blown into patterns of giant sastrugi. This corrugated white surface extended out over the sea for many kilometers, until underwater currents fractured it and one came on a “coastline” of leads and pressure ridges and the chaotic edges of big tabular bergs, as well as larger and larger stretches of open water. Several large volcanic or meteoric islands rose up out of the shatter of this ice coast, including a few pedestal craters, sticking up out of the whiteness like great black tabular bergs.

The southern shores of the Borealis were much more exposed and various. Where the ice lapped against the foot of the Great Escarpment there were several mensae and colles regions that had become offshore archipelagoes, and these, as well as the mainland coastline proper, sported many beetling sea cliffs, bluffs, crater bays, fossa fjords, and long stretches of low smooth strand. The water in the two big southern gulfs was extensively melted below the surface, and, in the summers, on the surface as well. Chryse Gulf had perhaps the most dramatic coastline of all: eight big outbreak channels dropping into Chryse had partly filled with ice, and as it melted they were becoming steep-sided fjords. At the southern end of the gulf four of these fjords braided, weaving together several big cliff-walled islands to make the most spectacular seascapes of all.

Over all this water great flocks of birds flew daily. Clouds bloomed in the air and rushed off on the wind, dappling the white and red with their shadows. Icebergs floated across the melted seas, and crashed against the shore. Storms dropped off the Great Escarpment with terrifying force, dashing hail and lightning onto the rock. There were now approximately forty thousand kilometers of coastline on Mars. And in the rapid freeze and thaw of the days and the seasons, under the brush of the constant wind every part of it was coming alive.

When the congress endedNadia made plans to get off Pavonis Mons immediately. She was sick of the bickering in the warehouse, of arguments, of politics; sick of violence and the threat of violence; sick of revolution, sabotage, the constitution, the elevator, Earth, and the threat of war. Earth and death, that was Pavonis Mons — Peacock Mountain, with all the peacocks preening and strutting and crying Me Me Me. It was the last place on Mars Nadia wanted to be.

She wanted to get off the mountain and breathe the open air. She wanted to work on tangible things; she wanted to build, with her nine fingers and her back and her mind, build anything and everything, not just structures, although those would be wonderful of course, but also things like air or dirt, parts of a construction project new to her, which was simply terraforming itself. Ever since her first walk in the open air down at DuMartheray Crater, free of everything but a little CO2 filter mask, Sax’s obsession had finally made sense to her. She was ready to join him and the rest of them in that project, and more than ever now, as the removal of the orbiting mirrors had kicked off a long winter and threatened a full ice age. Build air, build dirt, move water, introduce plants and animals: all that kind of work sounded fascinating to her now. And of course the more conventional construction projects beckoned as well.

When the new North Sea melted and its shoreline stabilized, there would be harbor towns to be inlaid everywhere, scores of them no doubt, each with jetties and seafronts, channels, wharves and docks, and the towns behind them rising into the hills. At the higher altitudes there would be more tent towns to be erected, and covered canyons. There was even talk of covering some of the big calderas, and of running cable cars between the three prince volcanoes, or bridging the narrows south of Elysium; there was talk of inhabiting the polar island continent; there were new concepts in biohousing, plans to grow homes and buildings directly out of engineered trees, as Hiroko has used bamboo, but on a bigger scale. Yes, a builder ready to learn some of the latest techniques had a thousand years of lovely projects ahead of her. It was a dream come true.

Then a small group came to her and said they were exploring possibilities for the first executive council of the new global government.

Nadia stared at them. She could see their import like a big slow-moving trap, and she tried her best to run out of it before it snapped shut. “There are lots of possibilities,” she said. “About ten times more good people than council positions.”

Yes, they said, looking thoughtful. But we were wondering if you had ever thought about it.

“No,” she said.

Art was grinning, and seeing that she began to get worried. “I plan to build things,” she said firmly.

“You could do that too,” Art said. “The council is a part-time job.”

“The hell it is.”

“No, really.”

It was true that the concept of citizen government was written everywhere into the new constitution, from the global legislature to the courts to the tents. People would presumably do a good deal of this work part-time. Nadia was quite sure, however, that the executive council was not going to be in that category. “Don’t executive council members have to be elected out of the legislature?” she asked.

Elected by the legislature, they told her happily. Usually fellow legislators would be elected, but not necessarily.

“Well there’s a mistake in the constitution for you!” Nadia said. “Good thing that you caught it so soon. Restrict it to elected legislators and you’ll cut your pool way down — ” Way down —

“And still have lots of good people,” she backpedaled.

But they were persistent. They kept coming back, in different combinations, and Nadia kept running toward that narrowing gap between the teeth of the trap. In the end they begged. A whole little delegation of them. This was the crucial time for the new government, they needed an executive council trusted by all, it would be the one to get things started, etc. etc. The senate had been elected, the duma had been drafted. Now the two houses were electing the seven executive council members. People mentioned as candidates included Mikhail, Zeyk, Peter, Marina, Etsu, Na-nao, Ariadne, Marion, Irishka, Antar, Rashid, Jackie, Charlotte, the four ambassadors to Earth, and several others Nadia had first met in the warehouse. “Lots of good people,” Nadia reminded them. This was the polycephalous revolution.

But people were uneasy at the list, they told Nadia repeatedly. They had become used to her providing a balanced center, both during the congress and during the revolution, and before that at Dorsa Brevia, and for that matter throughout the underground years, and right back to the beginning. People wanted her on the council as a moderating influence, a calm head, a neutral party, etc. etc.

“Get out,” she said, suddenly angry, though she did not know why. They were concerned to see her anger, upset by it. “I’ll think about it,” she said as she shooed them out, to keep them moving.

Eventually only Charlotte and Art were left, looking serious, looking as if they had not conspired to bring all this about.

“They seem to want you on the executive council,” Art said.

“Oh shut up.”

“But they do. They want someone they can trust.”

“They want someone they’re not afraid of, you mean. They want an old babushka who won’t try to do anything, so they can keep their opponents off the council and pursue their own agendas.”

Art frowned; he had not considered this, he was too naive.

“You know a constitution is kind of like a blueprint,” Charlotte said thoughtfully. “Getting a real working government out of it is the true act of construction.”

“Out,” Nadia said.

But in the end she agreed to stand. They were relentless, there were a surprisingly large number of them, and they would not give up. She didn’t want to seem like a shirker. And so she let the trap close down on her leg.

The legislatures met, the ballots were cast. Nadia was elected one of the seven, along with Zeyk, Ariadne, Marion, Peter, Mikhail, and Jackie. That same day Irishka was elected the first chief justice of the Global Environmental Court, a real coup for her personally and the Reds generally; this was part of the “grand gesture” Art had brokered at the congress’s end, to gain the Reds’ support. About half the new justices were Reds of one shade or another, making for a gesture just a bit too grand, in Nadia’s opinion.

Immediately after these elections another delegation came to her, led this time by her fellow councillors. She had gotten the highest ballot total in the two houses, they told her, and so the others wanted to elect her president of the council.

“Oh no,” she said.

They nodded gravely. The president was just another member of the council, they told her, one among equals. A ceremonial position only. This arm of the government was modeled on Switzerland’s, and the Swiss didn’t usually even know who their president was. And so on. Though of course they would need her permission (Jackie’s eyes glittered slightly at this), her acceptance of the post.

“Out,” she said.

After they had left Nadia sat slumped in her chair, feeling stunned.

“You’re the only one on Mars that everyone trusts,” Art said gently. He shrugged, as if to say he hadn’t been involved, which she knew was a lie. “What can you do?” he said, rolling his eyes with a child’s exaggerated theatricality. “Give it three years and then things’ll be on track, and you can say you did your part and retire. Besides, the first president of Mars! How could you resist?”


Art waited. Nadia glared at him.

Finally he said, “But you’ll do it anyway, right?”

“You’ll help me?”

“Oh yes.” He put a hand on her clenched fist. “All you want. I mean — I’m at your disposal.”

“Is that an official Praxis position?”

“Why yes, I’m sure it could be. Praxis adviser to the Martian president? You bet.”

So possibly she could make him do it.

She heaved a big sigh. Tried to feel less tight in her stomach. She could take the job, and then turn most of the work over to Art, and to whatever staff they gave her. She wouldn’t be the first president to do that, nor the last.

“Praxis adviser to the Martian president,” Art was announcing, looking pleased.

“Oh shut up!” she said.

“Of course.”

He left her alone to get used to it, came back with a steaming pot of kava and two little cups. He poured; she took one from him, and sipped the bitter fluid.

He said, “Anyway I’m yours, Nadia. You know that.”


She regarded him as he slurped his kava. He meant it more than politically, she knew. He was fond of her. All that time working together, living together, traveling together; sharing space. And she liked him. A bear of a man, graceful on his feet, full of high spirits. Fond of kava, as was obvious in his slurping, in his squinched face. He had carried the whole congress, she felt, on the strength of those high spirits, spreading like an epidemic — the feeling that there was nothing so fun as writing a constitution — absurd! But it had worked. And during the congress they had become a kind of couple. Yes, she had to admit it.

But she was now 159 years old. Another absurdity, but it was true. And Art was, she wasn’t sure, somewhere in his seventies or eighties, although he looked fifty, as they often did when they got the treatment early. “I’m old enough to be your great-grandmother,” she said.

Art shrugged, embarrassed. He knew what she was talking about. “I’m old enough to be that woman’s great-grandfather,” he said, pointing at a tall native girl passing by their office door. “And she’s old enough to have kids. So, you know. At some point it just doesn’t matter.”

“Maybe not to you.”

“Well, yeah. But that’s half of the opinions that count.”

Nadia said nothing.

“Look,” Art said, “we’re going to live a long time. At some point the numbers have to stop mattering. I mean, I wasn’t with you in the first years, but we’ve been together a long time now, and gone through a lot.”

“I know.” Nadia looked down at the table, remembering some of those times. There was the stump of her long-lost finger. All that life was gone. Now she was president of Mars. “Shit.”

Art slurped his kava, watched her sympathetically. He liked her, she liked him. They were already a kind of couple. “You help me with this damned council stuff!” she said, feeling bleak as all her technofantasies slipped away.

“Oh I will.”

“And then, well. We’ll see.”

“We’ll see,” he said, and smiled.

So there she was, stuck on Pavonis Mons. The new government was assembling up there, moving from the warehouses into Sheffield proper, occupying the blocky polished stone-faced buildings abandoned by the metanats; there was an argument of course over whether they were going to be compensated for these buildings and the rest of their infrastructure, or whether it had all been “globalized” or “co-opted” by independence and the new order. “Compensate them,” Nadia growled at Charlotte, glowering. But it did not appear that the presidency of Mars was the kind of presidency that caused people to jump at her word.

In any case the government was moving in, Sheffield becoming, if not the capital, then at least the temporary seat of the global government. With Burroughs drowned and Sabishii burned, there was no other obvious place to put it, and in truth it didn’t look to Nadia like any of the other tent towns wanted to have it. People spoke of building a new capital city, but that would take time, and meanwhile they had to meet somewhere. So around the piste to Sheffield they retired, inside its tent, under its dark sky. In the shadow of the elevator cable, rising from its eastern neighborhood straight and black, like a flaw in reality.

Nadia found an apartment in the westernmost tent, behind the rim park, up on the fourth floor where she had a fine view down into Pavonis’s awesome caldera. Art took an apartment in the ground floor of the same building, at the back; apparently the caldera gave him vertigo. But there he was, and the Praxis office was in a nearby office building, a cube of polished jasper as big as a city block, lined with chrome blue windows.

Fine. She was there. Time to take a deep breath and do the work asked of her. It was like a bad dream in which the constitutional congress had suddenly been extended for three years, three m-years.

She began with the intention of getting off the mountain occasionally and joining some construction project or other. Of course she would perform her duties on the council, but working on an increase in greenhouse gas output, for instance, looked good, combining as it did technical problems and the politics of conforming to the new environmental regulatory regime. It would get her out into the back country, where a lot of the feedstocks for the greenhouse gases were located. From there she could do her council business over the wrist.

But events conspired to keep her in Sheffield. It was one thing after another — nothing particularly important or interesting, compared to the congress itself, but the details necessary to get things rolling. It was somewhat as Charlotte had said; after the design phase, the endless minutiae of construction. Detail after detail.

She had to expect this, she had to be patient. She would work through the first rush and then get away. In the meantime, along with the start-up process, the media wanted her, the new UN Martian Office wanted her, very interested in the new immigration policies and procedures; the other council members wanted her. Where would the council meet? How often? What were its rules of operation? Nadia convinced the other six councillors to hire Charlotte to be council secretary and protocol chief, and after that Charlotte hired a big crew of assistants from Dorsa Brevia. So they had the start of a staff. And Mikhail also had a great fund of practical experience in government from Bogdanov Vishniac. So there were people better suited than Nadia to do this work; but still she was called in a million times a day to confer, discuss, decide, appoint, adjudicate, arbitrate, administrate. It was endless.

And then when Nadia did clear time for herself, forcibly, it turned out that being president made it very difficult to join any particular project. Everything going on was now part of a tent or a co-op; very often they were commercial enterprises, involved in transactions that were part nonprofit public works, part competitive market. So to have the president of Mars join any given co-op would be a sign of official patronage, and couldn’t be allowed if one wanted to be fair. It was a conflict of interest.

“Shit!” she said to Art, accusingly.

He shrugged, tried to pretend he hadn’t known.

But there was no way out. She was a prisoner of power. She had to study the situation as if it were an engineering problem, like trying to exert force in some difficult medium. Say she wanted to build greenhouse-gas factories. She was constrained from joining any factory co-op in particular. Therefore she had to do it some other way. Emergence at a higher level: she could perhaps coordinate co-ops.

There seemed to her good reasons to promote the building of greenhouse-gas factories. The Year Without Summer had extended to include a series of violent storms that had dropped off the Great Escarpment into the north, and most meteorologists agreed these “Hadley cross-equatorial storms” had been caused by the orbital mirrors’ removal, and the resulting sudden drop in insolation. A full ice age was deemed a distinct possibility; and pumping up greenhouse gases seemed to be one of the best ways to counter it. So Nadia asked Charlotte to initiate a conference to come back with recommendations for forestalling an ice age. Charlotte contacted people in Da Vinci and Sabishii and elsewhere, and soon she had a conference scheduled to take place in Sabishii, named, by some Da Vinci saxaclone no doubt, the “Insolation Loss Effects Abatement Meeting M-53.”

Nadia, however, never made itto this conference. She got caught up by affairs in Sheffield instead, mostly instituting the new economic system, which she thought important enough to keep her there. The legislature was passing the laws of eco-economics, fleshing out the bones drawn up in the constitution. They directed co-ops that had existed before the revolution to help the newly independent metanat local subsidiaries to transform themselves into similar cooperative organizations. This process, called horizontalization, had very wide support, especially from the young natives, and so it was proceeding fairly smoothly. Every Martian business now had to be owned by its employees only. No co-op could exceed one thousand people; larger enterprises had to be made of co-op associations, working together. For their internal structures most of the firms chose variants of the Bogdanovist models, which themselves were based on the cooperative Basque community of Mondragon, Spain. In these firms all employees were co-owners, and they bought into their positions by paying the equivalent of about a year’s wages to the firm’s equity fund, wages earned in apprentice programs of various kinds at the end of schooling. This buy-in fee became the starter of their share in the firm, which grew every year they stayed, until it was given back to them as pension or departure payment. Councils elected from the workforce hired management, usually from outside, and this management then had the power to make executive decisions, but was subject to a yearly review by the councils. Credit and capital were obtained from central cooperative banks, or the global government’s start-up fund, or helper organizations such as Praxis and the Swiss. On the next level up, co-ops in the same industries or services were associating for larger projects, and also sending representatives to industry guilds, which established professional practice boards, arbitration and mediation centers, and trade associations.

The economic commission was also establishing a Martian currency, for internal use and for exchanges with Terran currencies. The commission wanted a currency that was resistant to Terran speculation, but in the absence of a Martian stock market, the full force of Terran investment tended to fall on the currency itself, as the only investment game being offered. This tended to inflate the value of the Martian sequin in Terran money markets, and in the old days it would probably have blown the sequin’s value right through the roof, to Mars’s disadvantage in trade balances; but as the fracturing metanats continued to struggle against cooperativization back on Earth, Terran finance remained in some disarray, and did not have its old house-on-fire intensity. So the sequin ended up strong on Earth, but not too strong; and on Mars it was just money. Praxis was very helpful in this process, as they became a kind of federal bank for the new economy, providing interest-free loans and serving as a mediated exchange with Terran currencies.

So given all this, the executive council was meeting for long hours every day to discuss legislation and other government programs. It was so time-consuming that Nadia almost forgot there was a conference she had initiated going on at the same time in Sabishii. On good nights, however, she spent a last hour or two on-screen with friends in Sabishii, and it looked like things were going fairly well there too. Many of Mars’s environmental scientists were on hand, and they were in agreement that massively increasing greenhouse-gas emissions would ease the effects of the mirror loss. Of course CO2 was the easiest greenhouse gas to emit, but even without using it — as they were still trying to reduce it in the atmosphere to breathable levels — the consensus was that the more complex and powerful gases could be created and released in the quantities needed. And at first they did not think this would be a problem, politically; the constitution legislated an atmosphere no thicker than 350 millibars at the six-kilometer contour, but said nothing about what gases could be used to create this pressure. If the halocarbons and other greenhouse gases in the Russell cocktail were pumped out until they formed one hundred parts per million of the atmosphere, rather than the twenty-seven parts per million that were currently up there, then heat retention would rise by several degrees K, they calculated, and an ice age would be forestalled, or at least greatly shortened. So the plan called for production and release of tons of carbon tetrafluoride, hexafluoroethane, sulfur hex-afluoride, methane, nitrous oxide, and trace elements of other chemicals which helped to decrease the rate at which UV radiation destroyed these halocarbons.

Completing the melting of the North Sea ice was the other obvious abatement strategy most often mentioned at the conference. Until it was all liquid, the albedo of the ice was bouncing a lot of energy back into space, and a truly lively water cycle was somewhat capped off. If they could get a liquid ocean, or, given how far north it was, a summer-liquid ocean, then any ice age would be done for, and terraformation essentially complete: they would have robust currents, waves, evaporation, clouds, precipitation, melting, streams, rivers, deltas — the full hydrological cycle. This was a primary goal, and so there was a variety of methods being proposed to speed the melting of the ice: feeding nuclear-power-plant exhaust heat into the ocean, scattering black algae on the ice, deploying microwave and ultrasound transmitters as heaters, even sailing big icebreakers through the shallow pack to aid the breakup.

Of course the increased greenhouse gases would help here as well; the ocean’s surface ice would melt on its own, after all, as soon as the air stayed regularly above 273 K. But as the conference proceeded, more and more problems with the greenhouse-gas plan were being pointed out. It entailed another huge industrial effort, almost the equal of the meta-nat monster projects, like the nitrogen shipments from Titan, or the soletta itself. And it was not a onetime thing; the gases were constantly destroyed by UV radiation in the upper atmosphere, so they had to overproduce to reach the desired levels, and then continue producing for as long as they wanted the gases up there. Thus mining the raw materials, and constructing the factories to turn those materials into the desired gases, were enormous projects, and necessarily a largely robotic effort, with self-guided and replicating miners, self-building and regulating factories, upper-atmosphere sampler drones — an entire machine enterprise.

The technical challenge of this was not the issue; as Nadia pointed out to her friends at the conference, Martian technology had been highly robotic from the very beginning. In this case, thousands of small robotic cars would wander Mars on their own, looking for good deposits of carbon, sulfur, or fluorite, migrating from source to source like the old Arab mining caravans on the Great Escarpment; then when new feedstocks were found in high concentrations, the robots could settle down and construct little processing plants out of clay, iron, magnesium, and trace metals, providing the parts that could not be constructed on-site, and then assembling the whole. Fleets of automated diggers and carts would be manufactured to haul the processed material in to centralized factories, where the material would be gas-sified and released from tall mobile stacks. It wasn’t that different from the earlier mining for atmospheric gases; just a larger effort.

But the most obvious deposits had already been mined, as people were now pointing out. And surface mining couldn’t be done the way it used to be; there were plants growing almost everywhere now, and in many places a kind of desert pavement was developing on the surface, as a result of hydration, bacterial action, and chemical reactions in the clays. This crust helped greatly to cut down on dust storms, which were still a constant problem; so ripping it up to get to underlying deposits of feedstock materials was no longer acceptable, either ecologically or politically. Red members of the legislature were calling for a ban on just this kind of robotic surface mining, and for good reasons, even in terraforming terms.

It was hard, Nadia thought one night as she shut down her screen, to be faced with all the competing effects of their actions. The environmental issues were so tightly intertwined that it was hard to tease them out and decide what to do. And it was also hard to stay constrained by their own rules; individual organizations could no longer act unilat-erally, because so many of their actions had global ramifications. Thus the necessity for environmental regulation, and for the global environmental court, already faced with a caseload running out of control. Eventually it would have to rule on any plans coming out of this conference as well. The days of unconstrained terraforming were gone.

And as a member of the executive council, Nadia was restricted to saying that she thought increased greenhouse gases were a good idea. Other than that she had to stay out, or appear to be impinging on the environmental court’s territory, which Irishka was defending very vigorously. So Nadia spent time visiting on-screen with a group designing new robot miners that would minimally disrupt the surface, or talking to a group working on dust fixatives that might be sprayed or grown over the surface, “thin fast pavements” as they called them; but they were proving to be a knotty problem.

And that was the extent of Nadia’s participation in the Sabishii conference that she herself had initiated. And since all its technical problems were enmeshed in political considerations anyway, it might have been said that she hadn’t missed it at all. Not a bit of real work had been done there, by her or anyone else. Meanwhile, back in Sheffield, the council was facing any number of problems of its own: unforeseen difficulties in instituting the eco-economy; complaints that the GEC was overstepping its authority; complaints about the new police, and the criminal justice system; unruly and stupid behavior in both houses of the legislature; Red and other types of resistance in the outback; and so on. The issues were endless, and spanned the gamut from the profoundly important to the incredibly petty, until Nadia began to lose all sense of where on that continuum any individual problem lay.

For instance, she spent a good deal of her time involved in the council’s own internal struggles, which she considered trivial, but couldn’t avoid. Most of these struggles involved resisting Jackie’s efforts to put together a majority that would vote with Jackie every time, so that Jackie could use the council as a rubber stamp for the Free Mars partyline, or in other words for Jackie herself. This meant getting to know the rest of the councillors better, and figuring out how to work with them. Zeyk was an old acquaintance; Nadia liked him, and he was a power among the Arabs, their current representative to the general culture, having defeated Antar for that position; gracious, smart, kind, he was in agreement with Nadia on many issues, including the core ones, and this made it an easy relationship, even a growing friendship. Ariadne was one of the goddesses of the Dorsa Brevian matriarchy, and acted the part to a tee: imperious and rigid in her principles, she was an ideologue, probably the only thing that kept her from being a serious challenge to Jackie’s prominence among the natives. Marion was the Red councillor, an ideologue also, but much changed from her early radical days, although still a long-winded arguer, not easily beaten. Peter, Ann’s little boy, had grown up to be a power in several different parts of Martian society, including the space crew at Da Vinci, the green underground, the cable crowd, and to an extent, because of Ann, the more moderate Reds. This versatility was part of his nature, and Nadia had a hard time getting a fix on him; he was private, like his parents, and seemed wary of Nadia and the rest of the First Hundred; he wanted a distance from them, he was nisei through and through. Mikhail Yangel was one of the earliest issei to follow the First Hundred to Mars, and had worked with Arkady from very early on. He had helped to start the revolt of 2061, and Nadia’s impression was that he had been one of the most extreme Reds at that time — which fact sometimes made her angry at him still, which was silly, and impeded her ability to talk to him — but there it was, despite the fact that he too was much changed, a Bogdanovist willing to compromise. His presence on the council was a surprise to Nadia — a gesture toward Arkady, one might say, which she found touching.

And then there was Jackie, very possibly the most popular and powerful politician on Mars. At least until Nirgal got back.

And so Nadia dealt with these six every day, learning their ways as they made their way through item after item on their daily agendas. From the important to the trivial, the abstract to the personal — everything seemed to Nadia part of a fabric, where everything connected to everything. Not only was the council not part-time work, it ate up the entirety of every waking day. It consumed her life. And yet at this point she had only gotten through two months of a three-m-year term.

Art could see that it was getting to her, and he did what he could to help. He came up to her apartment every morning with breakfast, like room service. Often he had cooked it himself, and always it was good. As he came in, platter held aloft, he called up jazz on her AI to serve as the soundtrack of their morning together — not just Nadia’s beloved Louis, though he sought out odd recordings by Satch to amuse her, things like “Give Peace a Chance” or “Stardust Memories” — but also later styles of jazz that she had never liked before, because they were so frenetic; but that seemed to be the tempo of these days. Whatever the reason, Charlie Parker now skittered and zoomed around most impressively, she thought, and Charles Mingus made his big band sound like Duke Ellington’s on pandorph, which was just what Ellington and all the rest of swing needed, in her opinion — very funny, lovely music. And best of all, on many mornings Art called up Clifford Brown, a discovery Art had made during his investigations on her behalf, one he was very proud of, and advocated constantly to her as the logical successor to Armstrong — a vibrant trumpet sound joyous and positive and melodic like Satch, and also brilliantly fast and clever and difficult — like Parker, only happy. It was the perfect soundtrack for these wild times, driving and intense but as positive as one could be.

So Art would bring in breakfasts, singing “All of Me” in a pretty good voice, and with Satchmo’s basic insight that American song lyrics could only be treated as silly jokes: “All of me, why not take all of me, Can’t you see, I’m no good without you.” And call up some music, and sit with his back to the window; and the mornings were fun.

But no matter how well the days began, the council was eating her life. Nadia got more and more sick of it — the bickering, negotiating, compromising, conciliating — the dealing with people, minute after minute. She was beginning to hate it.

Art saw this, of course, and began to look worried. And one day after work he brought over Ursula and Vlad. The four of them had dinner together in her apartment, Art cooking. Nadia enjoyed her old friends’ company; they were in town on business, but getting them over for dinner there had been Art’s idea, and a good one. He was a sweet man, Nadia thought as she watched him moving about the kitchen. Canny diplomat as guileless simpleton, or vice versa. Like a benign Frank. Or a mix of Frank’s skill and Arkady’s happiness. She laughed at herself, always thinking of people in terms of the First Hundred — as if everyone was somehow a recombination of the traits of that original family. It was a bad habit of hers.

Vlad and Art were talking about Ann. Sax had apparently called Vlad from the shuttle rocket on its return to Mars, shaken by a conversation with Ann. He was wondering if Vlad and Ursula would consider offering Ann the same brain plasticity treatment that they had given him after his stroke.

“Ann would never do it,” Ursula said.

“I’m glad she won’t,” Vlad said. “That would be too much. Her brain wasn’t injured. We don’t know what that treatment would do in a healthy brain. And you should only undertake what you can understand, unless you are desperate.”

“Maybe Ann is desperate,” Nadia said.

“No. Sax is desperate.” Vlad smiled briefly. “He wants a different Ann before he gets back.”

Ursula said to him, “You didn’t want Sax to try that treatment either.”

“It’s true. I wouldn’t have done it to myself. But Sax is a bold man. An impulsive man.” Now Vlad looked at Nadia: “We should stick to things like your finger, Nadia. Now that we can fix.”

Surprised, Nadia said, “What’s wrong with it?”

They laughed at her. “The one that’s missing!” Ursula said. “We could grow it back, if you wanted.”

“Ka,” Nadia exclaimed. She sat back, looked at her thin left hand, the stump of the missing little finger. “Well. I don’t need it, really.”

They laughed again. “You could have fooled us,” Ursula said. “You’re always complaining about it when you’re working.”

“I am?”

They all nodded.

“It’ll help your swimming,” Ursula said.

“I don’t swim much anymore.”

“Maybe you stopped because of your hand.”

Nadia stared at it again. “Ka. I don’t know what to say. Are you sure it will work?”

“It might grow into an entire other hand,” Art suggested. “Then into another Nadia. You’ll be a Siamese twin.”

Nadia pushed him sideways in his chair. Ursula was shaking her head. “No no. We’ve done it for some other amputees already, and a great number of experimental animals. Hands, arms, legs. We learned it from frogs. Quite wonderful, really. The cells differentiate just like the first time the finger grew.”

“A very literal demonstration of emergence theory,” Vlad said with a small smile. Nadia saw by that smile that he had been instrumental in designing the procedure.

“It works?” she asked him directly.

“It works. We make what is in effect a new finger bud over your stump. It’s a combination of embryonic stem cells with some cells from the base of your other little finger. The combination functions as the equivalent of the homeobox genes you had when you were a fetus. So you’ve got the developmental determiners there to make the new stem cells differentiate properly. Then you ultrasonically inject a weekly dose of fibroblast growth factor, plus a few cells from the knuckle and the nail, at the appropriate times… and it works.”

As he explained Nadia felt a little glow of interest spread through her. A whole person. Art was watching her with his friendly curiosity.

“Well, sure,” she said at last. “Why not.”

So in the following week they took some biopsies from her remaining little finger, and gave her some ultrasonic shots in the stump of the missing finger, and in her arm, and gave her some pills; and that was it. After that it was only a matter of weekly shots, and waiting.

Then she forgot about it, because Charlotte called with a problem; Cairo was ignoring a GEC order concerning water pumping. “You’d better come check it out in person. I think the Cairenes are testing the court, for a faction of Free Mars that wants to challenge the global government.”

“Jackie?” Nadia said.

“I think so.”

Cairo stood on its plateau edge, overlooking the northwestern-most U-valley of Noctis Labyrinthus. Nadia walked out of the train station with Art onto a plaza flanked by tall palm trees. She glared at the scene; some of the worst moments of her life had occurred in this city, during the assault on it in 2061. Sasha had been killed, among many others, and Nadia had blown up Phobos, she herself! — and all just a few days after finding Arkady’s burned remains. She had never returned; she hated this town.

Now she saw that it had been damaged again in the recent unrest. Parts of the tent had been blown, and the physical plant heavily damaged. It was being rebuilt, and new tent segments were being tacked onto the old town, extending west and east far along the plateau’s edge. It looked like a boomtown, which Nadia found peculiar given its altitude, ten kilometers above the datum. They would never be able to take down the tents, or go outside without walkers on, and so Nadia had assumed it would therefore go into decline. But it lay at the intersection of the equatorial piste and the Tharsis piste running north and south, the last place one could cross the equator between here and the chaoses, a full quarter of the planet away. So unless a Trans-marineris bridge were built somewhere, Cairo would always be at a strategic crossroads.

And crossroads or not, they wanted more water. The Compton Aquifer, underlying lower Noctis and upper Marineris, had been breached in ‘61, and its water had poured down the entire length of the Marineris canyons. This was the flood that had almost killed Nadia and her companions during the flight down the canyons, after Cairo was taken. Most of the floodwater had either frozen in the canyons, creating a long irregular glacier, or had pooled and frozen in the chaoses at the bottom of Marineris. And some water had of course remained in the aquifer. In the years since, the water in the aquifer had been pumped out for use in cities all over east Tharsis. And the Marineris Glacier had slowly dropped downcanyon, receding at its upper end where there was no source to replenish it, leaving behind only devastated land and a string of very shallow ice lakes. Cairo was therefore running out of a ready supply of water. Its hydrology office had responded by laying a pipeline to the northern sea’s big southern arm in the Chryse depression, and pumping water up to Cairo. So far, no problem; every tent town got its water from somewhere. But the Cairenes had lately started pouring water into a reservoir in the Noctis canyon under them, and letting a stream out from this reservoir to run down into lus Chasma, where eventually it pooled behind the upper end of the Marineris Glacier, or ran by it. Essentially they had created a new river running right down the big canyon system, far away from their town; and now they were establishing a number of riverside settlements and farming communities downstream from the city. A Red legal group had gone to the Global Environmental Court to challenge this action, asserting that Valles Marineris had legal consideration as a natural wonder, being the largest canyon in the solar system; if left alone the breakout glacier would eventually have slid down into the chaos, leaving the canyons again open-floored. This was what they thought should happen, and the GEC had agreed with them, and issued an order (Charlotte called this a “gecko”) against Cairo, requiring them to halt the release of water out of the town reservoir. Cairo had refused to desist, claiming that the global government had no jurisdiction over what they called “vital town life-support issues.” Meanwhile building new downstream settlements as fast as they could.

Clearly it was a provocation, a challenge to the new system. “This is a test,” Art muttered as they walked across the plaza, “this is only a test. If this were a true constitutional crisis, you would hear a beep all over the planet.”

A test; exactly the kind of thing for which Nadia had lost all patience. So she crossed the city in a foul mood. No doubt it did not help that the awful days of ‘61 were called back so vividly to mind by the plaza, the boulevards, the city wall at the canyon rim, all just as they had been back then. They said one’s memory was weakest from one’s middle years, but she would have lost those memories happily if she could have; fear and rage, however, seemed to function as some kind of nightmare fixative. For it was all still there — Frank tapping madly away at his monitors, Sasha eating pizza, Maya shouting angrily at something or other, the fraught hours of waiting to see if they would be passed over by the falling pieces of Phobos. Seeing Sasha’s body, bloody at the ears. Clicking over the transmitter that had brought Phobos down.

Thus it was very hard to keep her irritation in check as she went into the first meeting with the Cairenes, and found Jackie there among them, supporting their position. Jackie was pregnant now as well, and had been for some time; she was flushed, glossy, beautiful. No one knew who the father was, it was something she was doing on her own. A Dorsa Brevia tradition, by way of Hiroko — and just one more irritant to Nadia.

The meeting took place in a building next to the city wall, overlooking the U-shaped canyon below, called Nilus Noctis. The water in dispute was actually visible downcanyon, a broad ice-sheeted reservoir stopped by a dam not visible from up here, stopped just before the Illyrian Gate and the new chaos of the Compton Break.

Charlotte stood with her back to the window, asking the Cairene officials just the questions Nadia would have asked, but without the slightest trace of Nadia’s annoyance. “You will always be in a tent. Opportunities for growth will be limited. Why flood Marineris when you won’t benefit from it?”

No one seemed to care to answer this. Finally Jackie said, “The people living down there will benefit, and they’re part of greater Cairo. Water in any form is a resource at these altitudes.”

“Water running freely down Marineris is no resource at all,” Charlotte said.

The Cairenes argued for the utility of water in Marineris. There were also representatives of the downstream settlers, many of them Egyptians, claiming that they had been in Marineris for generations, that it was their right to live there, that it was the best farming land on Mars, that they would fight before they would leave, and so on. Sometimes the Cairenes and Jackie seemed to be defending these neighbors, at other times their own right to use Marineris as a reservoir. Mostly they seemed to be defending their right to do whatever they wanted. Slowly Nadia got angrier and angrier.

“The court made its judgment,” she said. “We’re not here to argue it again. We’re here to see it enacted.” And she left the meeting before she said anything inexcusable.

That night she sat with Charlotte and Art, so irritated that she could not focus on a delicious Ethiopian meal in the train-station restaurant. “What do they want?” she asked Charlotte.

Charlotte shrugged, mouth full. After swallowing: “Have you been noticing that being president of Mars is not a particularly powerful position?”

“Hell yes. It would be hard to miss.”

“Yes. Well, the whole executive council is the same, of course. It’s looking like the real power in this government is in the environmental court. Irishka was put in charge there as part of the grand gesture, and she’s done a lot to legitimate moderate redness by staking out a middle ground. It allows for a lot of development under the six-k limit, but above that, they’re very strict. That’s all backed by the constitution, so they’ve been able to make everything stand — the legislature is laying off, they haven’t overturned any judgments yet. So it’s been an impressive first session for Irishka and that whole group of justices.”

“So Jackie is jealous,” Nadia said.

Charlotte shrugged. “It’s possible.”

“More than possible,” Nadia said grimly.

“And then there’s the matter of the council itself. Jackie may think this is something she can get three of the others to back her on, and then the council becomes that much more hers. Cairo is an arena where she might hope that Zeyk will vote with her because of the Arab part of town. Then only two more. And both Mikhail and Ariadne are strong localists.”

“But the council can’t overturn court decisions,” Nadia said, “only the legislature, right? By legislating new laws.”

“Right, but if Cairo continues to defy the court, then it would be up to the council to order the police to go down there and physically stop them. That’s what the executive branch is supposed to do. If the council didn’t do that, then the court would be undermined, and Jackie would take effective control of the council. Two birds with one stone.”

Nadia threw down her bit of spongy bread. “I’ll be damned if that happens,” she said.

They sat in silence.

“I hate this stuff,” Nadia said.

Charlotte said, “In a few years there will be a body of practices, institutions, laws, amendments to the constitution, all that. Things that the constitution never addressed, which translate it into action. Like the proper role of political parties. Right now we’re in the process of working all these things out.”

“Maybe so, but I still hate it.”

“Think of it as meta-architecture. Building the culture that allows architecture to exist. Then it’ll be less frustrating for you.”

Nadia snorted.

“This one should be a clear case,” Charlotte said. “The judgment has been made, they only have to abide by it.”

“What if they don’t?”

“Time for the police.”

“Civil war, in other words!”

“They won’t push it that far. They signed the constitution just like everyone else, and if everyone else is abiding by it, then they become outlaws, like the Red ecoteurs. I don’t think they’ll go that far. They’re just testing the limits.”

She did not seem annoyed by this. That was the way people were, her expression seemed to say. She did not blame anyone, she was not frustrated. A very calm woman, this Charlotte — relaxed, confident, capable. With her coordinating it, the executive council’s work had so far.been well organized, if not easy. If that competence was what growing up in a matriarchy like Dorsa Brevia did for you, Nadia thought, then more power to them. She couldn’t help but compare Charlotte to Maya, with all Maya’s mood shifts, her angst and self-dramatization. Well, it was probably an individual thing in any culture. But it was going to be interesting to have more Dorsa Brevia women around to take on these jobs.

At the next morning’s meeting Nadia stood and said, “An order against dumping water in Marineris has been issued already. If you persist in the dumping, the new police powers of the global community will be exerted. I don’t think anyone wants that.”

“I don’t think you can speak for the executive council,” Jackie said.

“I can,” Nadia said shortly.

“No you can’t,” Jackie said. “You’re only one of seven. And this isn’t a council matter anyway.”

“We’ll see about that,” Nadia said.

The meeting dragged on. The Cairenes were stonewalling. The more Nadia understood what they were doing the less she liked it. Their leaders were important in Free Mars; and even if this challenge failed, it might result in concessions to Free Mars in other areas; so the party would have gained more power. Charlotte agreed that this could be their ultimate motive. The cynicism of this disgusted Nadia, and she found it very hard to be civil to Jackie when Jackie spoke to her, with her easy cheerfulness, the pregnant queen cruising around among her minions like a battleship among row-boats: “Aunt Nadia, so sorry you felt you needed to take time for such a thing as this…”

That night Nadia said to Charlotte, “I want a ruling where Free Mars gets nothing at all out of this.”

Charlotte laughed briefly. “Been talking to Jackie, have you?”

“Yes. Why is she so popular? I don’t understand it, but she is!”

“She’s nice to a lot of people. She thinks she’s nice to everyone.”

“She reminds me of Phyllis,” Nadia said. The First Hundred again…“Maybe not. Anyway, isn’t there some sort of penalty we can invoke against frivolous suits and challenges?”

“Court costs, in some cases.”

“See if you can lay that on her then.”

“First let’s see if we can win.”

The meetings went on for another week. Nadia left the talking to Charlotte and Art. She spent the meetings looking out the windows at the canyon below, and in rubbing the stump of her finger, which now had a noticeable new bump on it. So strange; despite paying close attention, she could not recall when the bump had first appeared. It was warm and pink, a delicate pink, like a child’s lips. There seemed to be a bone in the middle of it; she was afraid to squeeze it very hard. Surely lobsters didn’t pinch their returning limbs. All that cell proliferation was disturbing — like a cancer, only controlled, directed — the miracle of DNA’s instructional abilities made manifest. Life itself, flourishing in all its emergent complexity. And a little finger was nothing compared to an eye, or an embryo. It was a strange business. With that going on, the political meetings looked really dreadful. Nadia walked out of one having heard almost none of it, though she was sure nothing significant had happened, and she went for a long walk, out to an overlook bulging out of the western end of the tent wall. She called Sax. The four travelers were getting closer to Mars; transmission delays were down to a few minutes. Nirgal appeared to be healthy again. He was in good spirits. Michel actually looked more drained than Nirgal; it seemed that the visit to Earth had been hard on him. Nadia held up her finger to the screen to cheer him up, and it worked. “A pinky, don’t they call it that?” “I guess so.”

“You don’t seem to believe it’s going to work.” “No. I guess I don’t.”

“We’re in a transitional period, I think,” Michel said. “At our age we can’t really believe that we’re still alive, so we act as if it will end at any minute.”

“Which it could.” Thinking of Simon. Or Tatiana Durova. Or Arkady.

“Of course. But then again it might go on for decades more, or even centuries. After a while we’ll have to start believing in it.” He sounded like he was trying to convince himself as much as her. “You’ll look at your whole hand and then you’ll believe it. And that will be very interesting.” Nadia wiggled the pink nub at the end of her hand. No fingerprint yet in the fresh translucent skin. No doubt when it came it would be the same fingerprint as the one on the other little finger. Very strange.

Art came back from one meeting looking concerned. “I’ve been asking around about this,” he said, “trying to figure out why they’re doing it. I put some Praxis operatives on the case, down in the canyon and back on Earth, and inside the Free Mars leadership.”

Spies, Nadia thought. Now we have spies.

“ — appears that they are making private arrangements with Terran governments concerning immigration. Building settlements and giving places to people from Egypt, definitely, and probably China too. It’s got to be a quid pro quo, but we don’t know what they’re getting in return from these countries. Money, possibly.”

Nadia growled.

In the next couple of days she met on-screen or in person with all the other members of the executive council. Marion was of course against pumping any more water into Mari-neris, and so Nadia needed only two more votes. But Mik-hail and Ariadne and Peter were unwilling to bring the police to bear if it could be avoided in any other way; and Nadia suspected they were not much happier than Jackie at the relative weakness of the council. They seemed willing to make concessions, to avoid an awkward enforcement of a court judgment they weren’t adamantly behind.

Zeyk clearly wanted to vote against Jackie, but felt constrained by the Arab constituency in Cairo, and the eyes of the Arab community on him; control of land and water were both important to them. But the Bedouin were nomadic, and besides, Zeyk was a strong supporter of the constitution. Nadia thought he would support her. That left one more to be convinced.

The relationship with Mikhail had never improved, it was as if he wanted to be closer to Arkady’s memory than she was. Peter she didn’t feel she understood. Ariadne she didn’t like, but in a way that made it easier; and Ariadne had come to Cairo as well. So Nadia decided to work on her first.

Ariadne was as committed to the constitution as most of the Dorsa Brevians, but they were localists as well, and were no doubt thinking about keeping some independence of their own from the global government. And they too were far from any water supply. So Ariadne had been wavering.

“Look,” Nadia said to her in a little room across the plaza from the city offices, “You’ve got to forget about Dorsa Brevia and think about Mars.” “I am, of course.”

She was irritated that this meeting was taking place; she would rather have dismissed Nadia out of hand. The merits of the case weren’t what mattered to her, it was just a matter of precedence, of not having to listen to any issei. It was power politics and hierarchy to these people now, they had forgotten the real issues involved. And in this damned city; suddenly Nadia lost her patience, and she almost shouted, “You’re not! You’re not thinking at all! This is the first challenge to the constitution, and you’re looking around for what you can get out of it! I won’t have it!” She waved a finger under Ariadne’s surprised face: “If you don’t vote to enforce the court ruling, then the next time something you really want comes up for a council vote you’ll see reprisals, from me. Do you understand?”

Ariadne’s eyes were like billboards: first shocked, then a moment of pure fear. Then anger. She said, “I never said I wasn’t going to vote for enforcement! What are you going ballistic for?”

Nadia returned to a more ordinary argument mode, although still hard and tense and unrelenting. Finally Ariadne threw up her hands: “It’s what most of the Dorsa Brevia council wants to do, I was going to vote for it anyway. You don’t have to be so frantic about it.” And she hurried out of the room, very upset.

First Nadia felt a surge of triumph. But that look of fear in the young woman’s eyes — it stuck with her, until she began to feel slightly sick to her stomach. She remembered Coyote on Pavonis, saying “Power corrupts.” That was the sick feeling — that first hit of power used, or misused.

Much later that night she was still sick with repulsion, and almost weeping, she told Art about the confrontation. “That sounds bad,” he said gravely. “That sounds like a mistake. You still have to deal with her. When that’s the case, you have to just tweak people.”

“I know I know. God I hate this,” she said. “I want to get away, I want to do something real.”

He nodded heavily, patted her shoulder.

Before the next meeting, Nadia went over to Jackie and told her quietly that she had the council votes to put police down at the dam to stop any further release of water. Then in the meeting itself, she reminded everyone in an offhand remark that Nirgal would be back among them very soon, along with Maya and Sax and Michel. This caused several of the Free Mars group on hand to look thoughtful, though Jackie of course showed no reaction. As they nattered on after that, Nadia rubbed her finger, distracted, still upset with herself about the meeting with Ariadne.

The next day the Cairenes agreed to accept the judgment of the Global Environmental Court. They would cease releasing water from their reservoir, and the settlements downcanyon would have to exist on piped water, which would certainly pinch their growth.

“Good,” Nadia said, still bitter. “All that just to obey the law.”

“They’re going to appeal,” Art pointed out.

“I don’t care. They’re done for. And even if they aren’t, they’ve submitted to the process. Hell, they can win for all I care. It’s the process that counts, so we win no matter what.”

Art smiled to hear this. A step in her political education, no doubt, a step Art and Charlotte seemed to have taken long ago. What mattered to them was not the result of any single disagreement, but the successful use of the process. If Free Mars represented the majority now — and apparently it did, as it had the allegiance of almost all the natives, young fools that they were — then submitting to the constitution meant that they could not simply push around minority groups by force of numbers. So when Free Mars won something, it would have to be on the merits of the case, judged by the full array of court justices, who came from all factions. That was quite satisfying, actually; like seeing a wall made of delicate materials bear more weight than it looked like it could, because of a cleverly built framework.

But she had used threats to shore up one beam, and so the whole thing left a bad taste in her mouth. “I want to do something real.”

“Like plumbing?”

She nodded, not even close to a smile. “Yes. Hydrology.”

“Can I come along?”

“Be a plumber’s helper?”

He laughed. “I’ve done it before.”

Nadia regarded him. He was making her feel better. It was peculiar, old-fashioned: to go somewhere just to be with someone. It didn’t happen much anymore. People went where they needed to go, and hung out with whatever friends they found there, or made new friends. It was the Martian way. Or maybe just the First Hundred’s way. Or her way.

Anyway, it was clear that doing this, traveling together, was more than just a friendship, more even perhaps than an affair. But that was not so bad, she decided. In fact not bad at all. Something to get used to, perhaps. But there was always something to get used to.

A new finger, for instance. Art was holding her hand, lightly massaging the new digit. “Does it hurt? Can you bend it?”

It did hurt, a little; and she could bend it, a little. They had injected some knuckle zone cells, and now it was just longer than the first joint of her other little finger, the skin still baby pink, unmarred by callus or scar. Every day a little bigger.

Art squeezed the tip of it ever so gently, feeling the bone inside. His eyes were round. “You can feel that?”

“Oh yes. It’s like the other fingers, only a bit more sensitive maybe.”

“Because it’s new.”

“I suppose.”

Only the old lost finger was implicated, somehow; the ghost was calling again, now that there were signals coming from that end of the hand. The finger in the brain, Art called it. And no doubt there really was a cluster of brain cells devoted to that finger, which had been the ghost all along. It had faded over the years from lack of stimulus, but now it too was growing back, or being restimulated or reinforced; Vlad’s explanations of the phenomenon were complex. But these days when she felt the finger, it sometimes felt just as large as the one on the other hand, even when she was looking right at it. Like feeling an invisible shell over the new one. Other times she felt the little thing at its proper size, short and skinny and weak. She could bend it at the hand knuckle, and just a little at the middle knuckle. The last kuckle, behind the fingernail, wasn’t there yet. But it was on its way. Growing. Again Nadia joked about it growing on and on, though it was a creepy thought. “That would be good,” Art said. “You’d have to get a dog.”

But now she felt confident that wouldn’t happen. The finger seemed to know what it was doing. It would be all right. It looked normal. Art was fascinated by it. But not just by it. He massaged her hand, which was a bit sore, and then her arm and shoulders too. He would massage all of her if she let him. And judging by how her finger and arm and shoulders felt, she certainly ought to. He was so relaxed. Life for him was still a daily adventure, full of marvels and hilarity. People made him laugh every day; that was a great gift. Big, round-faced, round-bodied, somewhat like Nadia herself in certain aspects of appearance; balding, unpretentious, graceful on his feet. Her friend.

Well, she loved Art, of course. She had since Dorsa Brevia at least. Something like her feeling for Nirgal, who was a most beloved nephew or student or godchild or grandchild or child; and Art, therefore, one of her child’s friends. Actually he was a bit older than Nirgal, but still, those two were like brothers. That was the problem. But all these calculations were being progressively thrown off by their increasing longevity. When he was only five percent younger than her, would it matter anymore? When they had gone through thirty years of intense experience together, as they already had, as equals and collaborators, architects of a proclamation, a constitution, and a government; close friends, confidants, helpers, massage partners; did it matter, the different number of years past their youths they were? No it did not. It was obvious, one only had to think about it. And then try to feel it too.

They didn’t need her in Cairo anymore, they didn’t need her in Sheffield right that second. Nirgal would be back soon, and he would help to keep Jackie in check; not a fun job, but that was his problem, no one could help him there. It was hard when you fixed all your love on one person. As she had with Arkady, for so many years, even though he had been dead for most of them. It made no sense; but she missed him. And she still got angry at him. He had not even lived long enough to realize how much he had missed. The happy fool. Art was happy too, but he was no fool. Or not much. To Nadia all happy people were a bit foolish by definition, otherwise how could they be so happy? But she liked them anyway, she needed them. They were like her beloved Satchmo’s music; and given the world, and all that it held, that happiness was a very courageous way to live — not a set of circumstances, but a set of attitudes. “Yes, come plumbing with me,” she said to Art, and hugged him hard, hard, as if you could capture happiness by squeezing it hard enough. She pulled back and he was bug-eyed with surprise, as when holding her little finger.

But she was still presidentof the executive council, and despite her resolve, every day they bound her to the job a little more tightly, with “developments” of all kinds. German immigrants wanted to build a new harbor town called Blochs Hoffnung on the peninsula that cut the North Sea in half, and then dig a broad canal through the peninsula. Red eco-teurs objected to this plan, and blew up the piste running down the peninsula. They blew up the piste leading to the top of Biblis Patera as well, to indicate they objected to that as well. Ecopoets in Amazonia wanted to start massive forest fires. Other ecopoets in Kasei wanted to remove the fire-dependent forest that Sax had planted in the great curve of the valley (this petition was the first to receive unanimous approval from the GEC). Reds living around White Rock, an eighteen-kilometer-wide pure white mesa, wanted it declared a “kami site” forbidden to human access. A Sabishii design team was recommending that they build a new capital city on the North-Sea coast at 0 longitude, where there was a deep bay. New Clarke was getting crowded with what looked suspiciously like metanat security snoopertroopers. The Da Vinci techs wanted to give control of Martian space over to an agency of the global government that didn’t exist. Senzeni Na wanted to fill their mohole. The Chinese were requesting permission to build an entirely new space elevator tethered near Schiaparelli Crater, to accommodate their own emigration, and contract out to others. Immigration was growing every month.

Nadia dealt with all these issues in half-hour increments scheduled by Art, and so the days passed in a blur. It got very difficult to stay aware that some of these matters were much more important than others. The Chinese, for instance, would flood Mars with immigrants if they got half a chance… and the Red ecoteurs were getting more outrageous; there had even been death threats made against Nadia herself. She now had escorts when she left her apart> ment, and the apartment was discreetly guarded. Nadia ignored that, and continued to work on the issues, and to work the council to keep a majority on her side in the votes that mattered to her. She established good working relations with Zeyk and Mikhail, and even with Marion. Things never went quite right with Ariadne again, however, which was a lesson learned twice; but learned well because of that.

So she did the job. But all the time she wanted off Pa-vonis. Art saw her patience get shorter by the day; she knew by his look that she was becoming crochety, crabby, dictatorial; she knew it, but could not help it. After meetings with frivolous or obstructionist people she often unleashed a torrent of vicious abuse, in a steady low cursing voice that Art obviously found unnerving. Delegations would come in demanding an end to the death penalty, or the right to build in the Olympus Mons caldera, or a free eighth spot on the executive council, and as soon as the door closed Nadia would say, “Well there’s a bunch of fucking idiots for you, stupid fools never even thought about tie votes, never occurred to them that taking someone else’s life abrogates your own right to live,” and so on. The new police captured a group of Red ecoteurs who had tried to blow up the Socket again, and in the process killed a security guard out of his position, and she was the hardest judge they had: “Execute them!” she exclaimed. “Look, you kill someone, you lose your right to live. Execute them or else exile them from Mars for life — make them pay in a way that really gets the rest of the Reds’ attention.”

“Well,” Art said uneasily. “Well, after all.” But on she raged. She couldn’t stop until she felt less angry. And Art could see that it was getting harder every time.

Flailing a bit himself, he recommended she start another conference, like the one in Sabishii she had missed; and make sure she made this one. Organizing the efforts of different organizations for a single cause; this was not really building, Nadia thought, but it looked like it would have to do.

The fight in Cairo had gotten her thinking about the hy-drological cycle, and what would happen when the ice began to melt. If they could set up some kind of plan for a water cycle, even only an approximation, then it might go far toward reducing conflicts over water. So she decided to see what could be done.

As often happened these days when she thought about global issues, she found herself wanting to talk to Sax about it. The travelers to Earth were almost back now, close enough that transmission delay was insignificant, it was almost like having a normal wrist conversation. So Nadia spent evenings talking with Sax about terraforming. More than once he surprised her utterly; he did not hold the opinions she had imagined he would hold, he seemed always to be changing. “I want to keep things wild,” he said one night.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

His face took on the puzzled expression it wore when he was thinking hard. It was considerably longer than the transmission delay before he replied: “Many things. It’s a complicated word. But — I mean — I want to maintain the primal landscape, as much as possible.”

Nadia could censor out her laughter at this; but still Sax said, “What do you find amusing?”

“Oh nothing. It’s just you sound like, I don’t know, like some of the Reds. Or the people in Christianopolis, they’re not Reds, but they said almost the same thing to me, last week. They want to keep the primal landscape of the far south preserved. I’ve helped them to set up a conference to talk about southern watersheds.”

“I thought you were working on greenhouse gases?”

“They won’t let me work, I have to be president. But I am going to go to this conference.”

“Good idea.”

The Japanese settlers in Messhi Hoko (which meant “self-sacrifice for the sake of the group”) came to the council to demand that more land and water be dedicated to their tent high on south Tharsis. Nadia walked out on them, and flew with Art down to Christianopolis, in the far south.

The little town (and it seemed very little after Sheffield and Cairo) was set in Phillips Rim Crater Four, at latitude sixty-seven degrees south. During the Year Without Summer the far south had experienced many severe storms, dropping about four meters of new snow, an unprecedented amount; the previous record for a year had been less than one. Now it was Ls 281, just after perihelion, and high summer in the south. And the various abatement strategies for avoiding an ice age seemed to be working well; most of the new snow had melted in a hot spring, and now there were round lakes on every crater floor. The pond in the center of Christianopolis was about three meters deep, and three hundred meters across; this was fine with the Christians, as it gave them a nice park pond. But if the same thing happened every winter — and the meteorologists believed that the coming winters would drop even more snow, and the coming summers get ever warmer — then their town would quickly be inundated by snowmelt, and Phillips Rim Crater Four become a lake full to the brim. And this was true for craters all over Mars.

The conference in Christianopolis had been convened to discuss strategies to deal with this situation. Nadia had done what she could to get influential people down to it, including meteorologists, hydrologists, and engineers, and the possibility of Sax, whose return was imminent. The problem of crater flooding was to be only the initial point of discussion for the whole question of watersheds, and the planetary hydrological cycle itself.

The crater problem specifically was to be solved as Nadia had predicted: plumbing. They would treat the craters like bathtubs, and drill drains to empty them. The brecciated pans under the dusty crater floors were extremely hard, but they could be tunneled through robotically; then install pumps and filters and pump the water out, keeping a central pond or lake if one wanted, or draining it dry.

But what were they going to do with the water they pumped out? The southern highlands were everywhere lumpy, shattered, pocked, cracked, hillocky, scarped, slumped, fissured, and fractured; when analyzed as potential watersheds, they were hopeless. Nothing led anywhere; there was no downhill for long. The entire south was a plateau three to four kilometers above the old datum, with only local bumps and dips. Never had Nadia seen more clearly the difference between this highland and any continent on Earth. On Earth, tectonic movement had pushed up mountains every few-score million years, and then water had run down these fresh slopes, following the paths of least resistance back to the sea, carving the fractal vein patterns of watersheds everywhere. Even the dry basin regions on Earth were seamed with arroyos and dotted with playas. In the Martian south, however, the meteoric bombardment of the Noachian had hammered the land ferociously, leaving craters and ejecta everywhere; and then the battered irregular wasteland had lain there for two billion years under the ceaseless scouring of the dusty winds, tearing at every flaw. If they poured water onto this pummeled land they would end up with a crazy quilt of short streams, running down local inclines to the nearest rimless crater. Hardly any streams would make it to the sea in the north, or even into the Hellas or Argyre basins, both of which were ringed by mountain ranges of their own ejecta.

There were, however, a few exceptions to this situation. The Noachian Age had been followed by a brief “warm wet period” in the late Hesperian, a period perhaps as short as a hundred million years, when a thick warm CO2 atmosphere had allowed liquid water to run on the surface, carving some river channels down the gentle tilts of the plateau, between crater aprons diverting them this way and that. And these watercourses had of course remained after the atmosphere had frozen out, empty arroyos gradually widened by the wind. These fossil riverbeds, like Nirgal Vallis, Warrego Valles, Protva Valles, Patana Valles, or Oltis Vallis, were narrow sinuous canyons, true riverine canyons rather than grabens or fossae. Some of them even had immature tributary systems. So efforts to design a macro-watershed system for the south naturally used these canyons as primary watercourses, with water pumped to the head of every tributary. Then there were also a number of old lava channels that could easily become rivers, as the lava, like the water, had tended to follow the path of least resistance downhill. And there were a number of tilted graben fractures and fissures, as at the foot of the Eridania Scopulus, that could likewise be turned to use.

In the conference, big globes of Mars were marked up daily to display different water regimes. There were also rooms full of 3-D topo maps, with groups standing around different watershed systems, arguing their advantages and disadvantages, or simply contemplating them, or fiddling with the controls to change them, restlessly, from one pattern to another. Nadia wandered the rooms looking at these hydrographies, learning much about the southern hemisphere that she had never known. There was a six-kilometer-high mountain near Richardson Crater, in the far south. The south polar cap itself was quite high. Dorsa Brevia, on the other hand, crossed a depression that looked like a ray cut out from the Hellas impact, a valley so deep that it ought to become a lake, an idea that the Dorsa Brevians naturally did not like. And certainly the area could be drained if they cared to do it. There were scores of variant plans, and every single system was strange looking to Nadia. Never had she seen so clearly how different a gravity-driven fractal was from impact randomness. In the inchoate meteoric landscape, almost anything was possible, because nothing was obvious — nothing except for the fact that in any possible system, some canals and tunnels would have to be built. Her new finger itched with the desire to get out there and run a bulldozer or a tunnel borer.

Gradually the most efficient, or logical, or aesthetically pleasing plans began to emerge from the proposals, the best for each region being patched together, in a kind of mosaic. In the eastern quadrant of the deep south, streams would tend to run toward Hellas Basin and through a couple of gorges into the Hellas Sea, which was fine. Dorsa Brevia accepted a plan to have their town’s lava tunnel ridge become a kind of dam, crossing a watershed transversely so that there was a lake above it and a river below it, coursing down to Hellas. Around the south polar cap, snowfall would remain frozen, but most of the meteorologists predicted that when things stabilized there wouldn’t be much snowfall on the pole, that it would become a cold desert like Antarctica. Eventually of course they would end up with a largish ice cap, and then part of it would pool down into the huge depression under the Promethei Rupes, another partially erased old impact basin. If they didn’t want too large of a southern ice cap, they would have to melt and pump some of the water back north, into the Hellas Sea perhaps. They would have to do some similar pumping in Argyre Basin, if they decided to keep Argyre dry. A group of moderate Red lawyers was even now insisting on this before the GEQ arguing that one of the two great dune-filled impact basins on the planet ought to be preserved. It seemed certain this claim would receive a favorable judgment from the court, and so all the watersheds around Argyre had to take this into account.

Sax had designed his own southern watershed plan, which he sent to the conference from their rocket as it aerobraked into orbital insertion, to be considered with all the rest. It minimized surface water, emptied most craters, used tunnels extensively, and channelized almost all drained water into the fossil river canyons. In his plan vast areas of the south would stay arid desert, making for a hemisphere of dry tableland, cut deeply by a few narrow river-bottomed canyons. “Water is returned north,” he explained to Nadia in a call, “and if you stay up on the plateaus, it will look like it always did, almost.”

So that Ann would like it, he was saying.

“Good idea,” Nadia said.

And indeed Sax’s plan was not that much different than the consensus being hammered out by the conference. Wet north, dry south; one more dualism to add to the great dichotomy. And to have the old river canyons running with water again was satisfying. A good-looking plan, given the terrain.

But the days were long gone when Sax or anyone else could choose a terraforming project and then go out and do it. Nadia could see that Sax hadn’t fully understood this. Ever since the beginning, when he had slipped algae-filled windmills into the field without the knowledge or approval of anyone but his accomplices, he had been working on his own. It was an ingrained habit of mind, and now he seemed to forget the review process that any watershed plan was going to have to go through in the environmental courts. But the process was there, inescapable now, and because of the grand gesture, half the fifty GEC justices were Reds of one shade or another. Any watershed proposal from a conference including Sax Russell, even as a teleparticipant, was going to get close and suspicious scrutiny.

But it seemed to Nadia that if the Red justices looked carefully at the proposal, they would have to be amazed at Sax’s approach. Indeed it represented a kind of road-to-Damascus conversion — inexplicable, given Sax’s history. Unless you knew all of it. But Nadia understood: he was trying to please Ann. Nadia doubted that was possible, but she liked to see Sax try. “A man full of surprises,” she remarked to Art.

“Brain trauma will do that.”

In any case, when the conference was done they had designed an entire hydrography, designating all the future major lakes and rivers and streams of the southern hemisphere. The plan would eventually have to be integrated with similar plans for the northern hemisphere, which were in considerable disarray by comparison, because of the uncertainty about just how big the northern sea was going to be. Water was no longer being actively pumped up out of permafrost and aquifers — indeed many of the pumping stations had been blown up in the last year by Red ecoteurs — but some water was still rising, under the weight put on the land by the water already pumped. And summer runoff was flowing into Vastitas, more every year, both from the northern polar cap and the Great Escarpment; Vastitas was the catchment basin for huge watersheds on all sides. So a lot of water was going to pour into it every summer. On the other hand, a lot of water was always being stripped off by the arid winds, eventually precipitating elsewhere. And water would evaporate much faster than the ice currently there was subliming. So calculating how much was leaving and how much coming back was a modeler’s field day, and estimates were still all over the map, literally so in that differences in prediction led to putative shorelines that were in some cases hundreds of kilometers apart.

That uncertainty would delay any GECO on the south, Nadia thought; in essence the court had to try to correlate all the current data, and evaluate the models, and then prescribe a sea level, and approve all watersheds accordingly. The fate of Argyre Basin in particular seemed impossible to decide at this point, before there was a northern plan; some plans called for pumping water up into Argyre from the northern sea if the northern sea got too full, to avoid flooding the Marineris canyons, South Fossa, and the new harbor towns being built. Radical Reds were already threatening to build “west-bank settlements” all over Argyre to forestall any such move.

So the GEC had yet another big issue to solve. Clearly it was becoming the most important political body on Mars; with the constitution and its own previous rulings to guide it, it was ruling on almost every aspect of their future. Nadia thought that was probably as it should be; or at least that there was nothing wrong with it. They needed decisions with global ramifications reviewed globally, that was what it came down to.

But come what may in the courts, a provisional plan for the southern hemisphere had at least been formulated. And to everyone’s surprise, the GEC gave the plan a positive preliminary judgment very soon after it was submitted — because, their ruling said, it could be activated in stages as water fell on the south, and it proceeded in much the same fashion through its first stages no matter what the eventual sea level in the north became. So there was no reason to delay beginning.

Art came in beaming with the news. “We can begin plumbing,” he said.

But of course Nadia couldn’t. There were meetings in Sheffield to go back to, decisions to be made, people to be convinced or coerced. Doggedly she did that work, stubbornly doing her duty whether she liked it or not, and as time passed she got better and better at it. She saw how she could subtly pressure other people to get her way; saw how people would do her bidding if she asked or suggested in certain ways. The constant stream of decisions honed some of her views; she found that it helped to have at least some consciously held political principles, rather than judging each case by instinct. It also helped to have reliable allies, on the council and elsewhere, rather than being a supposedly neutral and independent person. And so by degrees she found herself joining the Bogdanovists, who, to her surprise, conformed more closely to her political philosophy than anything else on Mars. Of course her reading of Bogdanovism was relatively simple: things should be just, Arkady had insisted, and everyone free and equal; the past didn’t matter; they needed to invent new forms whenever the old ones looked unfair or impractical, which was often; Mars was the only reality that counted, at least to them. Using these as her guiding principles, she found it easier to make up her mind about things, to see a course and cut for it directly.

Also she became more and more ruthless. From time to time she felt freshly how power could corrupt, felt it as a slight nausea within her. But she was getting habituated. She clashed often with Ariadne, and when she recalled the remorse she had felt after her first wrangle with the young Minoan, it seemed to her ridiculously overfastidious; she was far tougher than that every day now on people who crossed her, she showed the knives in meeting after meeting, in calculated microbursts of brutality that put people in line very effectively indeed. In fact the more she allowed herself to release little outbursts of fury and scorn, the more certainly she could control them and put them to some use. She was a power; and people knew it; and power was corrosive. Power was powerful, in more ways than one. And now Nadia felt very little remorse about that; they deserved a pop on the nose, generally; they had thought they were going to get a harmless old babushka to sit in the big chair while they worked their games on each other, but the big chair was the power seat, and she was damned if she was going to go through all this shit and not use some of that power to try to get what she wanted.

And so less and less often did she feel how ugly it was. Once when she did, after a particularly hard-nosed day, she thumped down in a chair and almost cried, sick with disgust. Only seven months of her three m-years had passed. What would she become by the time her stint was done? Already she was used to power; by then she might even like it.

Art, worried by all this, squinted at her over their breakfast table. “Well,” he said once, after she explained what was bothering her, “power is power.” He was thinking hard. “You’re the first president of Mars. So in a way you define the office. Maybe you should declare you’re only going to work the one month and not the two months, and delegate the two months to your staff. Something like that.”

She stared at him, mouth full of toast.

Later that week she abandoned Sheffield and went south again, joining a caravan of people working their way from crater to crater, installing drainage systems. Every crater had variations, but essentially it was a matter of picking the right angle to emerge from the crater apron, and then setting the robots to work. Von Karman, Du Toit, Schmidt, Agassiz, Heaviside, Bianchini, Lau, Chamberlin, Stoney, Dokuchaev, Trumpler, Keeler, Charlier, Suess… they plumbed all of those craters, and many more unnamed ones, although the craters were taking on names even faster than they drilled them: 85 South, Too Dark, Fool’s Hope, Shanghai, Hiroko Slept Here, Fourier, Cole, Proudhon, Bellamy, Hudson, Kaif, 47 Ronin, Makoto, Kino Doku, Ka Ko, Mondragon. The migration from one crater to the next reminded Nadia of her trips around the south polar cap during the underground years; except now everything was out in the open, and through the nearly nightless midsummer days the team luxuriated in the sun, in the glary light off the crater lakes. They traveled across rough frozen bogs brilliant with sunny meltwater and meadow grass, and always of course they crossed the rust-and-black rockscape breaking out into the light, ring after ring, ridge after ridge. They plumbed craters and laid watershed pipes, and attached greenhouse-gas factories to the excavators whenever the rock had any gas feedstocks in it.

But hardly any of that turned out to be work in the sense Nadia meant. She missed the old days. Of course operating a bulldozer had not been hand labor, but one’s touch with the blade had been a very physical skill, and the repeated gearshifts physically taxing; and it was all around a higher level of engagement than this “work,” which consisted of talking to AIs and then walking around and watching humming and buzzing teams of waist-high robot diggers, city-block-sized mobile factory units, tunnel moles with diamond teeth that grew back like sharks’ teeth — everything made of bioceramic/metallic alloys stronger than the elevator cable, all of it out there doing it all by itself. It just wasn’t what she had in mind.

Try again. She went through another cycle; return to Sheffield, engagement in the council work, increasing disgust, merging with despair; look around for anything to get her out of it; notice some likely project and seize on it. Run off to check it out. Like Art had said, she could call her own shots. There was that in power too.

The next time out it was soil that drew her. “Air, water, earth,” Art said. “Next it’ll be forest fires, eh?”

But she had heard that there were scientists in Bogdanov Vishniac trying to manufacture soil, and this interested her. So off she went, flying south to Vishniac, where she had not been for years. Art accompanied her. “It’ll be interesting to see how the old underground cities adapt, now that there’s no need to hide.”

“I don’t see why anyone stays down here, to tell you the truth,” Nadia said as they flew down into the rugged southern polar region. “They’re so far south their winters last forever. Six months with no sun at all. Who would stay?”


“No Siberian in his right mind would move here. They know better.”

“Laplanders, then. Inuit. People who like the poles.”

“I suppose.”

As it turned out, no one in Bogdanov Vishniac seemed to mind the winters. They had redistributed their mohole mound in a ring around the mohole itself, creating an immense circular amphitheater facing down into the hole. This terraced amphitheater was to be the surface Vishniac. In the summers it would be a green oasis, and in the dark winters a white oasis; they planned to illuminate it with hundreds of brilliant streetlights, giving themselves a stage set day, in a town contemplating itself across a round gap in things, or from the upper wall looking out at the frosted chaos of the polar highlands. No, they were going to stay, no question of it. It was their place.

Nadia was greeted at the airport as a special guest, as always when she stayed with Bogdanovists. Before joining them this had struck her as ridiculous, and even a bit offensive: girlfriend of The Founder! But now she accepted their offer of a guest suite located on the lip of the mohole, with a slightly overhanging window that gave one a view straight down for eighteen kilometers. The lights on the mohole’s bottom looked like stars seen through the planet.

Art was petrified, not at the sight but at the very thought of the sight, and he would not go near that half of the room. Nadia laughed at him, and then when she was done looking, closed the drapes.

The next day she went out to visit the soil scientists, who were happy at her interest. They wanted to be able to feed themselves, and as more and more settlers moved south, this was going to be impossible without more soil. But they were finding that manufacturing soil was one of the most difficult technical feats they had ever undertaken. Nadia was surprised to hear this — these were the Vishniac labs, after all, world leaders in technologically supported ecologies, having lived for decades hidden in a mohole. And top-soil was, well, soil. Dirt with additives, presumably, and additives one could add.

No doubt she conveyed some of this impression to the soil scientists, and the man named Arne leading her around told her with some exasperation that soil was in fact very complex. About five percent of it by weight was made of living things, and this critical five percent consisted of dense populations of nematodes, worms, mollusks, arthropods, insects, arachnids, small mammals, fungi, protozoa, algae, and bacteria. The bacteria alone included several thousand different species, and could number as high as a hundred million individuals per gram of soil. And the other members of the microcommunity were almost as plentiful, in both number and variety.

Such complex ecologies could not be manufactured in the way Nadia had been imagining, which was basically to grow the ingredients separately and then mix them in a hopper, like a cake. But they didn’t know all the ingredients, and they couldn’t grow some of the ingredients, and some that they could grow died on mixing. “Worms in particular are sensitive. Nematodes have trouble too. The whole system tends to crash, leaving us with minerals and dead organic material. That’s called humus. We’re very good at making humus. Topsoil, however, has to grow.”

“Which is what happens naturally?”

“Right. We can only try to grow it faster than it grows in nature. We can’t assemble it, or manufacture it in bulk. And many of the living components grow best in soil itself, so there’s a problem providing feedstock organisms at any faster rate than natural soil formation would provide them.”

“Hmm,” Nadia said.

Arne took her through their labs and greenhouses, which were filled with hundreds of pedons, tall cylindrical vats or tubes, in racks, all holding soil or its components. This was experimental agronomy, and from her experience with Hi-roko Nadia was prepared to understand very little of it. The esoterica of science could go right off her scale. But she did understand that they were doing factorial trials, altering the conditions in each pedon and tracking what happened. There was a simple formula Arne showed her to describe the most general aspects of the problem:

5 = f(PM,C,R,B,T),

meaning that any soil property 5 was a factor ( f ) of the semi-independent variables, parent material (PM), climate (C), topography or relief (R), biota (B), and time (T).Time, of course, was the factor they were trying to speed up; and the parent material in most of their trials was the ubiquitous Martian surface clay. Climate and topography were altered in some trials, to imitate various field conditions; but mostly they were altering the biotic and organic elements. This meant microecology of the most sophisticated kind, and the more Nadia learned about it the more difficult their task seemed — not so much construction as alchemy. Many elements had to cycle through soil to make it a growth medium for plants, and each element had its own particular cycle, driven by a different collection of agents. There were the macronutrients — carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, potassium, calcium, and magnesium — then the micronutrients, including iron, manganese, zinc, copper, molybdenum, boron, and chlorine. None of these nutrient cycles was closed, as there were losses due to leaching, erosion, harvesting, and outgassing; inputs were just as various, including absorption, weathering, microbial action, and application of fertilizers. The conditions that allowed the cycling of all these elements to proceed were varied enough that different soils encouraged or discouraged each cycle to different degrees; each kind of soil had particular pH levels, salinities, compaction, and so forth; thus there were hundreds of named soils in these labs alone, and thousands more back on Earth.

Naturally in the Vishniac labs the Martian parent material formed the basis for most of the experiments. Eons of dust storms had recycled this material all over the planet, until it had everywhere much the same content: the typical Martian soil unit was made up of fine particles of mostly silicon and iron. At its top it was often loose drift. Below that, varying degrees of interparticle cementation had produced crusty cloddy material, becoming blocky the lower one dug.

Clays, in other words; smectite clays, similar to Terra’s montmorillonite and nontronite, with the addition of materials like talc, quartz, hematite, anhydrite, dieserite, clacite, beidellite, rutile, gypsum, maghemite and magnetite. And everything had been coated by amorphous iron oxy-hydroxides, and other more crystallized iron oxides, which accounted for the reddish colors.

So this was their universal parent material: iron-rich smectite clay. Its loosely packed and porous structure meant it would support roots while still giving them room to grow. But there were no living things in it, and too many salts, and too little nitrogen. So in essence their task was to gather parent material, and leach out salt and aluminum, while introducing nitrogen and the biotic community, all as fast as possible. Simple, when put like that; but that phrase biotic community masked a whole world of troubles. “My God, it’s like trying to get this government to work,” Nadia exclaimed to Art one evening. “They’re in big trouble!”

Out in the countryside people were simply introducing bacteria to the clay, and then algae and other microorganisms, then lichen, and then halophyllic plants. Then they had waited for these biocommunities to transform the clay into soils, through many generations of living and dying in it. This worked, and was working even now, all over the planet; but it was very slow. A group in Sabishii had estimated that when averaged over the planet’s surface, about a centimeter of topsoil was being generated every century. And this had been achieved using genetically engineered populations designed to maximize speed.

In the greenhouse farms, on the other hand, the soils used had been heavily amended by nutrients and fertilizers and inoculants of all kinds; the result was something like what these scientists were trying for, but the quantity of soil in greenhouses was minuscule compared to what they wanted to put out on the surface. Mass producing soil was their goal. But they had gotten into something deeper than they had expected, Nadia could tell; they had the vexed absorbed air of a dog gnawing on a bone too big for its mouth.

The biology, chemistry, biochemistry, and ecology involved in these problems were far beyond Nadia’s expertise, and there was nothing she could do to make suggestions there. In many cases she couldn’t even understand the processes involved. It was not construction, nor even an analog of construction.

But they did have to incorporate some construction into whatever production methods they tried, and there Nadia was at least able to understand the issues. She began to concentrate on that aspect of things, looking at the mechanical design of the pedons, and also the holding tanks for the living constituents of the soil. She also studied the molecular structure of the parent clays, to see if it suggested anything to her about working with them. Martian smectites were aluminosilicates, she found, meaning each unit of the clay had a sheet of aluminum octahedrals sandwiched between two sheets of silicon tetrahedrals; the different kinds of smectites had different’amounts of variation in this general pattern, and the more variation there was, the easier it was for water to seep into the interlayer surfaces. The most common smectite clay on Mars, montmorillonite, had a lot of variety, and so was very open to water, expanding when wet, and shrinking when dry to the point of cracking.

Nadia found this interesting. “Look,” she said to Arne, “what about a pedon filled with a matrix of feeder veins, which would introduce the biota all through the parent material.” Take a batch of parent material, she went on, and get it wet, then let it dry. Insert into the crack systems the feeder vein matrix. Then pour in whatever important bacteria and other constitutents they could grow. Then if the bacteria and other creatures could eat their way out of their feeder veins, digesting that material as they emerged, they would all suddenly be there together in the clay, interacting. That would be a tricky time, no doubt many trials would be necessary to calibrate the initial amounts of the various biota needed to avoid population booms and crashes — but if they could get them to settle into their usual communities, then they would suddenly have living soil. “There are feeder-vein systems like this used for certain quick-setting construction materials, and now I hear that doctors feed apatite paste into broken bones the same way. The feeder veins are made of protein gels appropriate to whatever substance they’re going to contain, molded into the appropriate tubular structures.”

A matrix for growth. Worth looking into, Arne said. Which made Nadia smile. She went around that afternoon feeling happy, and that evening when she joined Art she said, “Hey! I did some work today.”

“Well!” Art said. “Let’s go out and celebrate.”

Easy to do, in Bogdanov Vishniac. It was a Bogdanovist city, all right, as buoyant as Arkady himself. A party every night. They had often joined the evening promenade, and Nadia loved walking along the railing of the highest terrace, feeling that Arkady was somehow there, had somehow persisted. And never more so than on this night, celebrating a bit of work done. She held Art’s hand, looked down and across at the crowded lower terraces and their crops, orchards, pools, sports fields, lines of trees, arcuate plazas occupied by cafes, bars, dance pavilions — bands battling for sonic space, the crowds chugging around them, some dancing but many more simply making the night’s promenade, like Nadia herself. All this still under a tent, with tenting that they hoped to remove someday; meanwhile it was warm, and the young natives wore an outlandish array of pantaloons, headdresses, sashes, vests, necklaces, so that Nadia was reminded of the video footage of Nirgal and Maya’s reception in Trinidad. Was this coincidence, or was there some supraplanetary culture coming into being among the young? And if there was, did that mean that their Coyote, the Trinidadian, had invisibly conquered the two worlds? Or her Arkady, posthumously? Arkady and Coyote, culture kings. It made her grin to think of it, and she took sips of Art’s cup of scalding kavajava, the drink of choice in this cold town, and watched all the young people moving like angels, always dancing no matter what they did, flowing in graceful arcs from terrace to terrace. “What a great little town,” Art said.

Then they came upon an old photo of Arkady himself, framed and hung on a wall next to a door. Nadia stopped and clutched Art’s arm: “That’s him! That’s him to the life!”

The photo had caught him talking with someone, standing just inside a tent wall and gesturing, his hair and beard lofting away from his head and blending into a landscape exactly the color of his wild curls. A face coming out of a hillside, it seemed, blue eyes squinting in the glare of all that red glee. “I’ve never seen a photo that looked so much like him. If he saw a camera pointed at him he didn’t like it, and the picture came out wrong.”

She stared at the photo, feeling flushed, and strangely happy; such a lifelike encounter! Like running into someone again after years of not seeing them. “You’re like him, in some ways, I think. But more relaxed.”

“It looks like it would be hard to get much more relaxed than that,” Art said, peering closely at the photo.

Nadia smiled. “It was easy for him. He was always sure he was right.”

“None of the rest of us have that problem.”

She laughed. “You’re cheerful like he was.”

“And why not.”

They walked on. Nadia kept thinking of her old companion, seeing the photo in her mind’s eye. There was still so much she remembered. The feelings connected to the memories were fading, however, the pain blunted — the fixative leached out, all that flesh and trauma now only a pattern of a certain kind, like a fossil. And very unlike the present moment, which, looking around, feeling her hand in Art’s, was real, vivid, brief, perpetually changing — alive. Anything could happen, everything was felt. “Shall we go back to our room?”

The four travelers to Earth returned at last, coming down the cable to Sheffield. Nirgal and Maya and Michel went their ways, but Sax flew down and joined Nadia and Art in the south, a move which pleased Nadia no end. She had come to have the feeling that wherever Sax went was the heart of the action.

He looked just as he had before the trip to Earth, and was if anything even more silent and enigmatic. He wanted to see the labs, he said. They took him through them.

“Interesting, yes,” he said. Then after a while: “But I’m wondering what else we might do.”

“To terraform?” Art asked.


To please Ann, Nadia thought. That was what he meant. She gave him a hug, which surprised him, and she kept her hand on his bony shoulder as they talked. So good to have him there in the flesh! When had she gotten so fond of Sax Russell, when had she come to rely on him so much?

Art too had figured out what he meant. He said, “You’ve done quite a bit already, haven’t you? I mean, at this point you’ve dismantled all the metanats’ monster methods, right? The hydrogen bombs under the permafrost, the so-letta and aerial lens, the nitrogen shuttles from Titan — ”

“Those are still coming,” Sax said. “I don’t even know how we could stop them. Shoot them down I guess. But we can always use nitrogen. I’m not sure I’d be happy if they were stopped.”

“But Ann?” Nadia said. “What would Ann like?”

Sax squinted again. When uncertainty squinched his face, it reverted to precisely its old ratlike expression.

“What would you both like?” Art rephrased it.

“Hard to say.” And his face twisted into a grimace of uncertainty, indecision, split motives.

“You want wilderness,” Art suggested.

“Wilderness is a, an idea. Or an ethical position. It can’t be everywhere, it’s not that kind of idea. But…” Sax waggled a hand, fell back into his own thoughts. For the first time in the century she had known him, Nadia had the sense that Sax did not know what to do. He solved the problem by sitting down before a screen and typing instructions into it. He appeared to forget their presence.

Nadia squeezed Art’s arm. He enfolded her hand, and squeezed the little finger gently. It was almost three quarters size now, but slowing down as it got closer to full size. A nail had been started, and on the pad, the delicate whorled ridges of a fingerprint. It felt good when it was squeezed. She met Art’s eye briefly, then looked down. He squeezed her whole hand before letting go. After a while, when it was clear Sax was fully distracted, and going to be off in his own world for a long time, they tiptoed off to their room, to the bed.

They worked by day, went out at night. Sax was blinking around as in his lab-rat days, anxious because there was no news of Ann. Nadia and Art comforted him as best they could, which wasn’t much. In the evenings they went out and joined the promenade. There was a park where parents congregated with their kids, and people walked by as if passing a little open zoo enclosure, grinning at the sight of the little primates at play. Sax spent hours in this park talking to kids and parents, and then he would wander off to the dance floors, where he danced by himself for hours. Art and Nadia held hands. Her finger got stronger. It was almost full size now, and given that it was the littlest finger anyway, it looked full grown unless she held it against its opposite number. Art nibbled it gently sometimes when they were making love, and the sensation drove her wild. “You’d better not tell people about this effect,” he muttered, “else it could get grisly — people hacking off body parts to grow them back, you know, more sensitive.”


“You know how people are. Anything for a thrill.”

“Don’t even talk about it.”


But then it was time to get back to a council meeting. Sax left, to find Ann or hide from her, they couldn’t be sure; they flew back up to Sheffield, and then Nadia was back into it again, every day parsed into its thirty-minute units of trivia. Except some of it was important. The Chinese application for another space elevator near Schiaparelli had come up for action, and it was only one of many immigration issues that were facing them. The UN-Mars agreement worked out in Bern stated explicitly that Mars was to take at least ten percent of its population in immigrants every year, with the hope expressed that they would take even more — as many as possible — for as long as the hypermal-thusian conditions obtained. Nirgal had made this a kind of promise, had spoken very enthusiastically (and Nadia felt unrealistically) about Mars coming to the rescue, saving Earth from overpopulation with the gift of empty land. But how many people could Mars really hold, when they couldn’t even manufacture topsoil? What was the carrying capacity of Mars, anyway?

No one knew, and there was no good way to calculate it scientifically. Estimates of Terra’s human carrying capacity had ranged from one hundred million to two hundred tril-. lion, and even the seriously defensible estimates ranged from two to thirty billion. In truth carrying capacity was a very fuzzy abstract concept, depending on an entire recom-binant host of complexities such as soil biochemistry, ecology, human culture. So it was almost impossible to say how many people Mars could handle. Meanwhile Earth’s population was over fifteen billion, while Mars, with almost as much land surface, had a population a thousand times as small, at right around fifteen million. The disparity was clear. Something would have to be done.

Mass transfer of people from Earth to Mars was certainly one possibility; but the speed of the transfer was limited by the size of the transport system, and the ability of Mars to absorb the immigrants. Now the Chinese, and indeed the UN generally, were arguing that as a beginning step in a process of intensified immigration, they could build up the transport system very substantially. A second space elevator on Mars would be the first step in this multistage project.

Reaction on Mars to this plan was mostly negative. The Reds of course opposed further immigration, and while conceding that some would have to happen, they opposed any specific development of the transfer system just to try to keep the process slowed down as much as possible. That position fit their overall philosphy, and made sense to Nadia. The Free Mars position, however, while more important, was not so clear. Nirgal had come out of Free Mars, and had gone to Earth and issued a general invitation to Terrans to shift as many people over as they could. And historically Free Mars had always argued for strong ties with Earth, to attempt the so-called tail-wagging-dog strategy. The current party leadership, however, no longer seemed very fond of this position. And Jackie was in the middle of this new group. They had been shifting toward a more isolationist stance even during the constitutional congress, Nadia recalled, arguing always for more independence from Earth. On the other hand, they had been apparently cutting deals in private with certain Terran countries. So the Free Mars position was ambiguous, perhaps hypocritical; and seemed designed mainly to increase its own power on the Martian scene.

Even setting aside Free Mars, though, there was a lot of isolationist sentiment out there besides the Reds — anarchists, some Bogdanovists, the Do