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In the freezing night the great ship held mysterious secrets, secrets that the Piruts and the Hans wanted.

Wes Kirk shut his teeth together, hard. He turned his back on Ma Kirk and the five younger ones huddled around the box of heat-stones and went to the doorway, padding soft and tight with the anger in him.

He shoved the curtain of little skins aside and crouched there with his thick shoulders fitted into the angle of the jamb, staring out, cold wind threading in across his splayed and naked feet.

The hackles rose golden and stiff across Kirk's back. He said carefully.

"I would like to kill the Captain and the First Officer and the Second Officer and all the little Officers, and the Engineers, and all their families."

His voice carried inside on the wind eddies. Ma Kirk yelled,

"Wes! You come here and let that curtain down! You want us all to freeze?" Her dark-furred shoulders moved rhythmically over the socking child. She added sharply, "Besides, that's fool's talk, Jakk Randl's talk, and only gets the sucking-plant."

"Who's to hear it?" Kirk raised his heavy over-lids and let his pupils widen, huge liquid drops spreading black across his eyeballs, slicking the dim grey light into themselves, forcing line and shape out of blurred nothingness. He made no move to drop the curtain.

The same sandscape he had stared at since he was able to crawl by away from the box of heat-stones. Flat grey plain running and left to the little curve of the horizon. Rocks in it, and edible moss. Wind-made gullies with grey shrubs thick in their bottoms, guarding their sour white berries with thorns and sacs of poisoned dust that burst when touched.

Between the fields and the gullies there were huts like his own, sunk into the earth and sodded tight. A lot of huts, but not as many as there had been, the old ones said. The Hans died, and the huts were empty, and the wind and the earth took them back again.

Kirk raised his shaggy head. The light of the yellow star they called Sun caught in the huge luminous blackness of his eyes.

Beyond the Hans quarter, just where the flat plain began to rise, were the Engineers. Not many of them anymore. You could see the rusty lumps where the huts had been, the tumbled heaps of metal that might have meant something once, a longer time ago than anyone could remember. But there were still plenty of huts standing. Two hands and one hand and a thumb of them, full of Engineers who said how the furrows should be laid for the planting but did nothing about the tilling of them.

And beyond the Engineers - the Officers.

The baby cried. Ma Kirk shrilled at her son, and two of the younger ones fought over a bone with no meat on it, rolling and snapping on the dirt floor. Kirk shifted his head forward to shut out the sound of them and followed the line of the plain upward with sullen, glowing eyes.

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  • Print Length: 40 Pages
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