kind of expected to be stopped either from leaving Fischer Island
or from landing on New Africa, but I was allowed to board the
spaceship on Fischer Island and then disembark from it when I
reached New Jo-Burg, no problem.
was met at the spaceport by Ben, a friendly chubby man who worked
for the New Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce. He made sure I got
my luggage and warned me I should put on a hat and sunscreen immediately.
sun is very strong here, Ms. Tremaine," he explained. "All
of us have to wear protection, no matter how dark we are, but
pale people like you have to be extra careful not to get burned,
especially here near the equator. In fact, the Continental Assembly
for Liberia Again once proposed a law requiring all inhabitants
of the continent to take sunscreen pills, but it was voted down
in the Upper House."
went on to tell me that there were three continents on New Africa:
Liberia Again, New Egypt, and Greater Namibia. Liberia Again was
the largest. Its capital was New Kenya, but New Jo-Burg was its
agricultural center. It was New Jo-Burg that was sending its products
to Novy Mir to be approved for Earth imports, and it was New Jo-Burg
that was supplying the Fischer City Vegetable Cooperative with
all its non-Terran genetic material for gene splicing.
have of course already provided the testing center on Novy Mir
with all the pertinent data regarding our products," said
Ben as we rode in a heavily-tinted car from the spaceport to my
hotel, "but we'll give it to you as well: the precise genetic
makeup of our products, the results of the medical, biological,
and ecological tests we did on them, and, naturally, our sales
figures and projections. I'm sure you'll find everything you need
to convince you our products pose no harm, but I would just like
to take this opportunity to point out to you, Ms. Tremaine, that
New Africans and residents of all the surrounding planets have
been consuming our products for decades with no ill effects. I
appreciate that back on Earth you need to be cautious, but really,
you Terrans have nothing to fear from New Africa or any of its
said I was glad to hear that, but I was there to act as an impartial
observer and didn't have the power to make any policy decisions
regarding import licenses, and we spent the rest of the ride talking
about our families.
spent the next two days being shown around various facilities
near New Jo-Burg, touring through dairy farms, vegetable farms,
fruit orchards, grain fields
Well, you get the picture.
It was hot. It was very hot. It was even hotter than a Tennessee
parking lot at the end of July. The sun beat down really hard,
too. The smell of ripening crops rose from the fields and filled
the air, so strong it made my head spin, with a faint aftertaste
of pesticide that caught in the back of my throat.
the afternoon of the second day, a wind picked up from the west.
I saw clouds sitting on the horizon and asked if it was about
to rain, but they told me no, those weren't rain clouds, those
were dust clouds, and we had to get inside. And sure enough, by
the time I'd been bundled back into my car and driven back to
the hotel, there was already dust whirling down the streets, covering
everything with dirt and forcing everyone inside.
of the dust storm, I had to eat in the hotel restaurant. All the
other hotel guests did too, so there was only room for me at the
bar. I sat on a slippery wooden barstool, tried to arrange my
elbows so they wouldn't bump into the people sitting next to me,
and looked at the posters behind the bar. There was a satellite
photo of Africa next to a satellite photo of Liberia Again. There
was also an aerial picture of Johannesburg next to an aerial picture
of New Jo-Burg. Since there was nothing else to look at, I became
very familiar with the layout of the two cities by the time my
did you get?" asked the man sitting on my left. "Is
that fried plantains?"
something with peanuts, and some kind of a fruit drink,"
I told him, poking at my dinner dubiously.
asked me my name, and I said Honey, and he said I must not be
from New Africa, and I said no I wasn't, I was from Earth, and
he said he was a businessman from New Kenya, and he'd had dealings
with a fair number of Terrans but had never been there, and then
he asked the woman sitting to my right where she was from, and
she said she was a schoolteacher from New N'Djamena, here for
a conference. She said she had a cousin in Little Cape Town and
she'd originally planned to stay with him, but he didn't have
any room for her so she'd ended up in the hotel.
businessman (whose name was Chad) asked the teacher, whose name
was Zama (short for Zambia), who her cousin was, and after a long
talk, while I slowly ate my not-very-tasty food, they discovered
her cousin was the next-door neighbor of Chad's next-door neighbor's
sister. Like all the colonized planets, New Africa doesn't have
a very large population.
and Zama ended their discussion with the decision to go to Little
Cape Town so Chad could show Zama around, since, he said, everyone
should see it at least once. At that point they remembered I was
there and invited me to go with them, saying a Terran should see
the sights of New Jo-Burg, even the less beautiful ones. Apparently
Little Cape Town was a slum.
about the dust storm?"
winked at me. "Underground streets," he explained. "Dust
storms blow up pretty often here in J-B, so there are underground
streets connecting all the different parts of town. They don't
tell visitors, because they don't want them getting lost down
there, but I know how to use them."
asked if there was much of a chance of getting lost, and Chad
said no, it was kind of dark down there but the streets were all
well-marked. Zama said she'd always wanted to walk the underground
streets of New Jo-Burg, and now that she had someone who was practically
a native guide to escort her she wouldn't be scared, and so very
soon we were taking the elevator down to the gym in the basement
of the hotel, and then Chad found an unmarked door next to the
treadmill, and instead of opening up into a supply closet, it
opened up to a set of stairs that led down to a dimly-lit concrete
held Chad's hand as she went down the stairs. Once down in the
passageway there was a sign pointing towards the city center in
one direction and Little Cape Town in the other.
walking no more than ten minutes, we came to an intersection.
Our passageway, which had been about the width of an ordinary
sidewalk, dead-ended into a much bigger street with a lane for
cars and sidewalks on either side. We turned left, following the
signs for Little Cape Town.
you know what to expect from Little Cape Town?" Chad asked
me as we walked down the empty tunnel.
said no, not really, and he said I might find it kind of dirty,
and also that some of the inhabitants were a bit unusual, although
he didn't specify in what way
about ten minutes on the big street we passed a woman walking
the other direction, and then a slow-driving car, and about ten
minutes after that we came to a sign saying "Little Cape
Town" and pointing to a dark tunnel off to the left.
keep stealing the light bulbs out of the lamps," explained
Chad. "The city council keeps discussing whether or not to
install those new lamps that don't need their bulbs changed, but
they always decide people will vandalize those lamps as well,
and they're very expensive, so they always choose not to waste
the city's money. Fortunately, I came prepared."
pulled a flashlight out of his pocket, and Zama said something
about how he was so clever to have thought of that, but was he
sure we would be safe, and he said yes, he'd done this lots of
times, and she said she guessed she could trust him, but she'd
need to hold onto his arm in case she tripped, and so we started
down the passageway, following the pool of light that glided along
in front of Chad and illuminated piles of trash.
climbed up a steep set of stairs that were missing their banister
and came to a rusty metal door. Chad pulled the door open and
we stepped into a storeroom full of musty-smelling sacks. There
were partly-rotted sweet potatoes in the room, along with something
much more rank. We started threading our way through the sacks.
I tripped over one in the dark. It groaned and moved.
I'm SO sorry," I said, jumping from fright.
ou'" mumbled the sack, proving itself to be human, although
I couldn't make its shape into anything human no matter how much
I strained my eyes. It seemed to be the source of the rank smell.
As we moved through the storeroom I noticed more sacks moving.
I had never smelled people so dirty. We climbed up a metal ladder
and came out a trapdoor into another storeroom.
were those people?" I asked Chad as soon as we were in the
who are hiding," he told me, shrugging. "People whose
families don't want to look at them."
climbed up more stairs and came out into a semi-lit ground-level
room full of more sacks that seemed to contain only food. Chad
moved confidently across the room and opened a door that led out
into a small store, also only semi-lit. I could hear the dust
scouring the walls and windows.
storm must have knocked the power out," Chad said quietly.
"It looks like they're running off the auxiliary generators."
More loudly he said, "Addis? Addis, you there? It's Chad;
I've come to show these lovely ladies the sights of Little Cape
very short man with dark olive skin, a large hooked nose, and
greasy black hair appeared from behind barrels of sweet potatoes
and came over to us. As he got closer I could see his natural
shortness was made worse by the severe stoop of his back. The
top of his head barely came to my elbow. He smelled like used
cooking oil and unfamiliar spices.
am I one of the sights of Little Cape Town?" he asked, his
voice harsh and grating. He gave both me and Zama a sharp look.
"I can assure you ladies that there are many sights much
more shocking than I in this city; indeed, you must have walked
past of some of them on your way upstairs."
come on, Addis," Chad started to say, but he was interrupted
by the little man. "I suppose you've come to gawp at us,"
he said sourly. "See the monsters of Little Cape Town! The
only place in the galaxy that could field its own freak show!
Ooh and aah over the mysterious ailments that afflict its residents!"
drew back so that Chad was shielding her from Addis, but I stepped
forward. "Really, I don't know very much about Little Cape
Town at all. Are there really many people here who are
there are many people here who are 'sick,' as you say, missy,"
said Addis. "Many who
" but just then a young woman
walked through an unseen door behind the onion and garlic barrels.
Lexie," said Addis.
Addie," she said. Her bright yellow turban and dress contrasted
with the strained expression on her face.
brother's downstairs," Addis told her. "He rolled in
just before the storm."
you, Addie," the young woman said gratefully. She made to
go to the stairs we had just come up, but Addis stopped her.
are some bad sorts down there, my dear," he warned her. "One-Eyed
Sfax and Legless Bamako, among others."
you Addie, I'll be careful," she promised, and disappeared
down the stairway.
brother is one of the ones who is 'sick,'" said Addis when
as she was gone. "No arms, no legs, a body no bigger than
mine. Her parents obeyed the law that the city council in its
infinite wisdom and compassion passed in '61, and tried to turn
him over to Our Lady of Mercy hospital, but Lexie was afraid of
what would happen and got him away. Now he begs by the North End,
but when a dust storm comes he takes shelter with me, and Lexie
comes to visit him, brings him food and things like that. She
tries to give him money, too, but she has to be careful, she can't
give him very much, because otherwise the stronger, meaner ones
will take it away from him. But you've spent enough time inside
with me: go out and see for yourself."
take them to the South End," said Chad. He steered Zama and
me around all the barrels to the door Lexie had just come through,
pulled it open, and led us down another concrete passageway.
there people like that all over New Africa, or is it just here
in Little Cape Town?" I asked.
here, as far as I know," he answered cheerfully. "Crazy,
poor things," said Zama, and I couldn't tell if she really
cared or if she was just trying to look nice in front of Chad.
seems funny they'd only be born here," I said. "What's
so special about this place? Is there a source of radiation nearby?"
knows?" I let Chad do all the talking until we got to the
South End, where we climbed a set of rickety metal stairs up to
a door that opened into a big dark empty space. Abstract patterns
seemed to wash in front of my eyes.
this?" I asked, while Zama clutched at Chad's arm.
South End Market," he answered. "It's glassed in, but
they shut it down anyway during a storm, to give these guys a
place to stay." I realized I was seeing dust swirling past
the transparent walls.
shone his flashlight around the market. It picked out forms huddled
on the market floor. One close to us sat up.
you?" it demanded. "Why you bothering us?" Chad
pointed the flashlight at it, and I saw a tiny rat-like face with
a mouthful of pointed teeth and eyes set much too close together.
'way!" moaned the person next to him. The beam from the flashlight
showed a disfiguring bulge on the back of his head, as if another
head were struggling to burst free.
and more of the shapes in the darkness were moving, rising, coming
towards us. I saw someone whose legs were fused together slither
along on her belly, someone with no legs scoot along on his hands,
someone whose head was kinked to the side staring at us through
eyes that were set almost vertically. No one looked friendly.
go," said Zama.
a minute, just a minute, let's see more of them," said Chad.
get out of here," said Zama, tugging at his sleeve. I was
already turning for the door. I scrabbled at it till it came open,
and ran down the stairs. Chad and Zama came close behind me. Chad
kept trying to make jokes all the way back to the store about
the people we'd seen, but Zama and I said nothing.
did you see the sights of Little Cape Town?" Addis asked,
appearing from behind a barrel as we came back into the store.
He was so short the barrels hid him completely.
many are there?" I asked.
sick ones? Maybe a thousand, maybe two, hard to tell: Mercy tries
to collect all of them, but we have more than five hundred here
in Little Cape Town. Sometimes the police come in and round them
up, but some always escape."
long has this been happening?"
shrugged, which looked strange with his hunchback. "Since
I was born," he said.
there an official explanation for it?" I asked.
you know, the vast majority of the settlers on New Africa came
from Old Africa, and people from that continent are much more
genetically diverse than people elsewhere. The official explanation
is that there was some event that caused unknown recessive genes,
which had stayed hidden for millennia back on Earth, to become
dominant, or to start manifesting themselves in unexpected and
unwanted ways. So say Mercy and the city council."
my parents worked in the New Johannesburg Gene Extraction Facility,
and so do Lexie's, and so, for that matter, did Legless Bamako's.
Most people who live in Little Cape Town have a family member
who works there: this area was originally built as housing for
Something banged against the door, and I jumped.
trash from the street," said Addis.
that where most of the genengineering work is done?" I asked.
"And where most of the genetic material exported to Fischer
Island is prepared?"
it is. And where the deer on Kalininskaya were first bred, and
where DragonFarms created its first embryos."
do you think that
?" The wind went still in the middle
of my sentence, and a long wail from a siren filled the silence
that had been left behind.
think that the police are coming, and I have people to hide. Go
out onto the street, turn right, and keep walking until you come
back to your hotel, tourists. Leave the sights of Little Cape
I won't," I said, but Chad and Zama had already pulled me
out the door before I could be heard.
The New Johannesburg Gene Extraction Facility
made no mention of my adventures when I met him the next morning,
so I figured he hadn't heard about them. I was glad. I guessed
he wouldn't approve, and he'd probably lie about what I'd seen.
afraid the dust storm has made it impossible to continue our crop
viewing," he told me. "Most of the crops must be under
half a meter of dust, and the roads are impassable anyway."
asked him if the crops had been ruined, and he said no, they were
genengineered to withstand dust storms like this. The farmers
had special dust-clearers they'd put on their combines, and by
the end of the day all the fields would be raked clean and the
crops would be upright again. But unfortunately, he said, the
roads wouldn't be clear in time for us to go out and see this.
a nice touristy day, Ms. Tremaine, and see all the beautiful sights
of New Jo-Burg," he suggested. "We could set up a guided
tour for you."
like to see the Gene Extraction Facility," I told him, but
he just frowned and said he thought that might be difficult. When
I asked him why, he frowned some more and said I wouldn't find
it very interesting.
would find it interesting because I'm here to inspect your agricultural
practices, so the place where the genengineering happens is important,"
I told him, but he just frowned some more and said I wouldn't
be able to understand anything that went on there. I told him
I would, and anyway I wanted to see it, and then he said something
about how they had strict security there and I hadn't been cleared
to visit yet, and it would take all day, and didn't I want to
enjoy myself and have a good time?
the Gene Extraction Facility is my idea of a good time,"
I told him, and then he wriggled his shoulders and repeated that
they had strict security, and when I tried to convince him to
arrange for me to get a special pass or something, he said, "Frankly,
Ms. Tremaine, I don't see why you're so keen to go there, as you're
not qualified to inspect a facility of that type. You should just
stick to something you understand, like cows." So I told
him in that case, fine, I'd spend the day walking around J-B and
I didn't need an escort and I'd see him tomorrow, and he left.
decided not to even try getting into the Gene Extraction Facility.
I thought about going to Mercy Hospital, but I figured I wouldn't
get very far with that either, so in the end I decided to try
and make my way back to Addis's shop and see if I could talk to
him some more.
had noticed some street signs the night before, so I knew more
or less where it was. I got a map from the hotel information desk
and started walking there. Automatic street cleaners were sweeping
up dust, and lots of people were hurrying here and there. A lot
of them were dressed in bright clothes and carrying baskets on
their heads, just like they might have five hundred or a thousand
years ago back on Earth. I was by far the palest person I saw
Cape Town wasn't very pretty by daylight. I didn't see any "sick"
people, but there were ordinary beggars with missing limbs or
missing teeth on street corners. Some of the ones with legs looked
like they might try and chase me down, but they didn't. Most of
the people on the street were wearing worn dull clothing, and
there was lots of trash, as well as at least 30 centimeters of
dust. The street cleaners must come to Little Cape Town last.
first I thought Addis's shop was closed, but when I pushed the
door it swung open. There were no customers. I walked around looking
for him until he surprised me by appearing from behind a barrel.
Terran," he said when he saw me. "I told you to go away."
told you yesterday I wasn't going to stop asking questions, and
I won't. This is my job. I don't want whatever problem you have
here in Little Cape Town coming back to Tennessee just because
someone threatened me."
have made such fine statements before," Addis told me.
Africa desperately wants to export its ag products to Earth,"
I said. "They might try to hide stuff from me, but I'm betting
they won't hurt me, because then I might send in a bad report."
tall thin man with white hair that contrasted shockingly with
his very black skin came in just then and began walking around
the shop, picking out items and putting them in his basket while
trying not to stare at me. He stopped by a barrel of sweet potatoes
and asked Addis where they were from.
from Otjomuise," Addis told him. "You know I only stock
food from over there."
look a bit funny," said the man, squeezing them. "A
funny shape. Are you sure...?"
I lie to you, Dee-Dee? You know I never sell anything I wouldn't
you're sure, Addie." He put a couple in his basket, paid,
this about Otjomuise?" I asked as soon as he was gone.
didn't want to tell me, and said I should leave and go tour around
the downtown and have a good time, so I told him my original plan
had been to spend the day at the Gene Extraction Facility, but
Ben had told me they wouldn't let me in, so I was here instead.
Samson is Legless Bamako's father," Addis said. "He
and his wife were both lab assistants at the Facility, just as
my parents were. Marakeche, his wife, was my mother's best friend.
They were the most beautiful women in Little Cape Town. They both
miscarried twice, and then they both conceived at the same time.
My mother gave birth to me, and Marakeche gave birth to Legless
Bamako. At first people said it was a punishment from Allah for
being so beautiful. Then their shift-mate Angola had a girl who
was born with her legs fused together. Then more and more of these
'sick' children were born, and Mercy began to round them up."
this must have started decades ago," I said.
At first they said that these women must have been taking unapproved
medicines to lessen their nausea when they were carrying. Then
they suggested that they had used hallucinogens and emetics while
taking part in witchcraft rituals from the old world. But my mother
and Marakeche only went to mosque. Then, as I told you last night,
they announced that it must be latent genes, resurfacing after
millennia of being lost amongst the richness that is Africa. But
here in Little Cape Town we had other ideas. Some people said
it was all the new food people were eating, and some people said
it was the work they were doing. For do you know what the shift
on which my mother, Marakeche, and Angola were working, was doing?"
were making dragons," he said.
bell at the door jangled, and Lexie walked in. "Everyone's
home safe, Addie," she said. She frowned when she saw me.
She frowned even more when Addis told her who I was.
do you think, Honey?" she asked me.
told her that with the dust storm I hadn't been able to see as
much as I would have liked, and they weren't letting me see the
Gene Extraction Facility, which is what I really wanted to see,
and people didn't seem very willing to tell me stuff. She looked
like she wanted to say something, but she left instead. I asked
Addis if she knew something I would want to know, and he said
I seemed to want to know everything, so I asked him to tell me
about the dragons.
Africa was the first planet settled in this part of the galaxy,"
he began, "so when people began inhabiting other planets,
our infrastructure was already in place, and we were able to provide
the facilities necessary to do most of the original R&D for
their products. DragonFarms, for example, came up with the idea
of making dragons, found a suitable planet, and colonized it,
but for the first decade of their existence they had to do their
gene extraction and splicing here in New Johannesburg. As you
can imagine, they pushed the boundaries of science and technology
farther than they had ever been pushed before, and some people
say they broke them."
does that mean?"
shrugged. "That's just what they say. I imagine they mean
they did things they should not have done, and created something
said the dragons certainly were dangerous, but as far as I knew
people on Draconia were not being born with terrible birth defects,
and they weren't on Fischer Island either.
you see," he said, "the dragons on Draconia have already
been created. Yes, they breed them in a lab, but it is still perfectly
normal in vitro fertilization. It was here at the New Johannesburg
Gene Extraction Facility that they took the blood of snakes and
lizards and those creatures on the savannahs of Draconia, and
knitted them together, and it was here that the FCFC combined
native and Terran DNA to make their purple fruit that will not
spoil even when cut open and exposed to air. Now, my mother claimed
it was the chemicals they used to extract the alien genes, and
her friend Marakeche claimed it was the loose bits of foreign
DNA, and their shift-mate Angola claimed it was a punishment from
Allah for meddling with things best left untouched, but whatever
it was, it happened here."
asked him if I could talk to any of these people, or anyone who
might know anything, but he said most of them were dead and the
rest wouldn't talk to a Terran or anyone else they didn't know,
and I had better go back to the hotel before my keepers figured
out where I was. I said I wanted to know more about Otjomuise
and why the food from there was supposed to be safer than other
food, but then Lexie came back in and said, "People are coming,
people?" he asked.
people who look after people like her," she said. Addis said
I had to leave right away, so I did. As soon as I went out onto
the sidewalk, a man and a woman in uniform-like dark blue suits
came up to me and told me very politely they had been looking
for me because they thought I might have gotten lost and asked
me what I'd been doing there. I told them I had decided to see
the sights of Little Cape Town, and I had gone into the shop to
cool off and ask the best way back to the hotel.
best come with us," they said, and led me back to the hotel
and up to my room. A few minutes later Ben showed up and said
he was afraid the dust storm had covered the crops and the roads
so thickly it would be days before I could see anything, so why
didn't I go visit Greater Namibia instead? He'd already arranged
for me to catch the evening flight to the Windhoek Intercontinental
Jetport, where I would be met by someone from the Windhoek Chamber
of Commerce and shown around. A driver would meet me in the hotel
lobby in half an hour to take me to the jetport. I couldn't think
of anything to do about it, so I said okay.
hours later I had been checked out of the hotel, driven to the
jetport, and flown across the ocean to New Windhoek, the capital
of Greater Namibia. A woman who introduced herself as Avoire met
me as I got off the jet.
don't get many visitors from Earth," she said, smiling and
showing that she had dimples in both cheeks, even though she was
very slender. "What are you doing here in New Africa, Ms.
told her I was an agriculture inspector. She said the area around
New Windhoek mostly had just small family farms that only sold
their produce locally and certainly weren't planning to export
still like to see them," I told her.
tell you what: you should talk to my sister Sassandra," she
told me. "She and her husband have a small farm up north
of the city, in Little Windhoek. I'll take you out there tomorrow."
said that would be great, and she drove me to my hotel and left
me to eat by myself in the hotel restaurant and go to bed early.
next morning Avoire met me in the hotel lobby, wearing her dimples
and a bright purple dress made of a single piece of cloth wrapped
around her body. She told me her boss at the Chamber of Commerce
had given her the day to show me around, so she was going to drive
me out to her sister's place and we could spend all day there.
She warned me it wouldn't be much compared with what I'd seen
around New Jo-Burg, and I said that was fine, since I'd gotten
pretty tired of looking at hundreds of hectares of millet with
nothing to break the monotony.
Windhoek was much smaller than New Jo-Burg. It was right on a
small bay and looked sort of like pictures I'd seen of San Francisco.
The buildings were mostly made of light-colored stone with pastel-colored
doors and trim, and lots of flowers on the porches and in flower
boxes on the front windows. There were palm trees at many of the
street corners. The streets were extremely clean. There were a
few cars, most of which were small and round just like the one
Avoire was driving, but most of the people walked or rode bicycles
or skateboards. There were lots of children wearing matching uniforms
and walking two by two. Unlike New Jo-Burg, where there had been
all different kinds of people, most of the people I saw there
were tall and slender like Avoire, with oval faces, high cheekbones,
and very dark skin.
so pretty and clean here," I said to Avoire.
pride ourselves on the attractiveness of our city," she told
me. "And we have the best weather in New Africa. It stays
like this practically year-round, except when we have rain storms,
but those pass quickly and wash everything clean."
was about 25 degrees and sunny, with a gentle breeze blowing off
the bay. I told her that compared with the dusty heat of New Jo-Burg,
this seemed like paradise, and she smiled and said many people
would agree with me.
we left the city we entered a rolling highlands covered with light
green grass. Whenever we came to the top of a rise, I could look
over my shoulder and see the ocean and the city, and when we dipped
down into a valley all I could see was sky. We drove for about
an hour without seeing any settlements and hardly any other cars,
and then we came to a small town. Some of the buildings were made
of the same light-colored stone as in New Windhoek, and some of
them were made of wood with leaf roofs.
is officially known Grootfontein," Avoire told me, "but
the people who live here normally call it Otjomuise. There is
another village a little ways down the road that people call Ai-Gams.
The two villages and the area around them are unofficially known
as Little Windhoek."
told her I had heard shopkeepers in New Jo-Burg advertising produce
from Otjomuise, and asked her why.
farmers here are famous for their natural methods," she told
me. "About twenty years ago Greater Namibia accused Liberia
Again of unfairly devaluing its currency, and trade between the
two continents shut down for a while. This included trade of anything
developed at the Facility in Little Cape Town. So the farmers
began raising things that didn't depend on help from the Facility.
Trading started up again after a couple of years, but the farmers
chose to continue growing things naturally. They can't produce
nearly so much, of course, and they can't grow the kinds of things
you can get over in New Jo-Burgmedicinal plants, for example,
such as those flowers whose pollen is used to cure leukemiabut
they make enough to get by, and there's a market for their produce
on the other continents now." She turned down a dirt track
that ran between two rows of spreading trees with shiny dark-green
were wheat fields with stalks higher than my waist on either side
of the trees. The track dipped down a little and stopped in front
of a wooden house that was just hidden from the main road by the
trees, the wheat, and the hollow in the ground. It was roofed
with the same giant leaves as the wooden houses in Otjomuise.
Behind it I could see clumps of plants that looked sort of like
the elephant ears we grew back home. Behind that there was a big
vegetable garden, a few rows of banana trees, and a large corn
field. The corn was only shoulder-high on me and still green,
and I realized I didn't know what the season was.
girls with corn-rowed hair and matching light-pink dresses were
playing in the front yard with a dog that looked like a Blue Healer.
They were throwing corn cobs through a swing hanging from a very
large spreading tree. I had seen pictures of similar trees in
documentaries about Africa, but I couldn't remember the name of
it. The Blue Healer was jumping the swing and catching the corn
cobs in midair.
the girls saw us, they dropped their corn cobs and ran over, screaming
"Aunty Avoire! Aunty Avoire!"
cried Avoire, picking up the smaller girl-about seven, I guessedand
twirling her around. I remembered that the spreading flat-topped
trees were acacias.
Mowana!" added Avoire, putting down Acacia and slinging the
older girlprobably about nineover her shoulder. I
remembered from the same documentaries that Mowana was another
name for the baobab tree.
woman who looked enough like Avoire to be her identical twin,
including the dimples, came out of the house. She was wearing
purple overalls and no shoes. I realized I didn't know what kind
of dangers in the way of snakes, hookworms, and stinging insects
lurked in the grass here. I guessed not very many, because judging
by the size of the place Avoire's sister could certainly afford
shoes if she wanted them.
invited us into the house and offered us lemonade and agreed to
show me around the farm and answer all my questions that she could.
She left Acacia and Mowana with her sister, and led me out into
the back yard.
elephant ears were used to make the roof, she told me. They had
been created on Earth and brought over to New Africa, where they
thrived. The corn had also been created on Earth to be nutritious
and hardy, and also thrived, as did the wheat. We picked some
ears of corn and some heads of wheat, and looked at them. They
looked normal to me. Sassandra said when they harvested the corn
and wheat they kept some for seed and food, traded some in Otjomuise
and Ai-Gams for other farmers' produce, and sold whatever was
left in New Windhoek. She didn't know what happened to it after
that, but she said in the past couple of years prices had risen
considerably, and she had been told it was because buyers from
Liberia Again were trying to buy everything up. The crops grown
around New Jo-Burg, she told me, normally had a dual purpose,
so once they were harvested they would first be processed to extract
useful enzymes, genes, and so on, and only then converted into
food, which meant that you never got anything fresh and unprocessed
asked her if she had heard of the deformed people being born in
Little Cape Town, and she said she'd heard rumors. When I described
some of them, she shuddered and said the idea of anything like
happening to her girls made her feel sick, and no wonder people
there were desperate for good clean food from Little Windhoek.
we got back to the house I turned my Perdie back on (I'd had it
off to save power) and Mr. Thwaite's face came looming up at me
out of the screen, which was impressive because the screen was
only 10 centimeters square. As soon as he saw me, he demanded
to know where I had been and why wasn't I in New Johannesburg
like I was supposed to be.
explained to him everything that had happened since I arrived
on New Africa. Mr. Thwaite looked like he wanted to say one of
those words that, being a Pentecostal, he's not allowed to, but
he didn't. Instead, he said, "Do you remember your itinerary
for the next few stops?"
told him sure, I was supposed to go to Pangea to check out their
birds (I was really looking forward to that), then to Gaia to
see their insect and pangolin breeding setup (I was looking forward
to that even more), and then to New Arctica to tour their fish-whale
breeding oceans (I was also looking forward to that, but not quite
as much as the pangolins).
Pangea and Gaia," he told me. "You can go back when
it's less urgent. The scientists on Novy Mir are getting strange
readings off some samples from New Africa."
asked him strange like how, and he said he didn't know exactly
but he'd be uploading everything he'd been sent onto my Perdie
and I could read about it on the journey there. He finished by
telling me to get back to New Windhoek as soon as possible and
to try and catch that evening's flight to the New African Moon,
because according to the schedule he'd found I could get a flight
with ITG to New Arctica the next morning.
about all the stuff I've found here on New Africa?" I asked
him. "It sounds pretty important; don't you think I should
stick around and try and find out what's going on?"
not going anywhere, and anyway it sounds like they're not going
to help you much, so go ahead and get out of there," he told
me. "New Arctica is the place to be right now. How's your
told him it was nonexistent, and he said that was too bad, but
probably they spoke a fair amount of English over there and Senator
Bryson's office was already working on contacting my guide and
warning her I'd be showing up early. Then he told me again to
leave as soon as possible.
soon as he cut the connection, I told Sassandra and Avoire what
had happened, and Avoire agreed she could drive me back right
away, and I thanked Sassandra and said goodbye to the girls and
got into the car and we sped away down the road, with New Windhoek
and the bay and the ocean appearing quickly before us.