Capital City, Pangea
I've said before, landing with a spaceship isn't much fun. You
can't see anything, and the variations in the g-forces give you
a headache. But once you disembark and go through Customs and
Health it's much more interesting, especially in the case of Pangea.
like most of the planets around it, was settled a little less
than a hundred years ago. Originally it was supposed to be a multi-cultural
utopia, where everyone was free and equal and lived in harmony
with nature, like people were supposed to have done back during
prehistoric times. Only it didn't work out so well, and about
fifty years ago someone named Hernan Diaz put together an army
and held a coup. He was assassinated a year later but his wife
Esmerelda took his place and ruled as supreme dictator for more
than thirty years.
had a lot of visions, most of which involved birds talking to
her, so she started a cult worshiping birds. (I read all this
in the brochure on the spaceship). She had a pet parrot she'd
brought over from Earth, who had a bunch of baby parrots. Then
she approached the New Jo-Burg Gene Extraction Facility about
creating a race of super-parrots. Which they did. Then they started
making all kinds of super-birds, which were unusually large, intelligent,
hardy, long-living, etc. etc. Unlike all the other stuff I'd seen
so farthe novoleni, the dragons, the fish-whales, the fruits
and vegetables from Fischer Islandthe birds weren't nutritious
and didn't produce any useful enzymes or anything like that: they
were just pets.
I came out of customs and into the main terminal, I almost walked
into something that looked like an emu with peacock feathers.
I jumped back, it jumped back, and the person behind me said,
"Watch where you're going!" I was kind of afraid of
the pea-emu or emu-cock or whatever it was, but it wandered off
without paying any more attention to me, so I gathered up my things
again and continued through the terminal.
like the Fischer Island terminal had had fruits and vegetables
everywhere, the Pangean terminal had birds everywhere. There were
more of the pea-emus, ostriches, and regular peacocks and peahens
roaming around loose, along with parrots and brightly-colored
songbirds perched up in the rafters. The noise was incredible,
especially when the peacocks suddenly started screeching. Also,
I stepped in some bird droppings and smeared it all over my shoe.
However, none of the emus came up and attacked me.
hadn't had much time to arrange my visit, but there was someone
from the Worshipful Company of Bird Breeders there to meet me
anyway. I wasn't sure what to think of someone who worked for
the Worshipful Company of Bird Breeders, but she didn't seem too
weird. Her name was Joanna and she had blond hair and light blue
eyes and was kind of plump without being really fat. She wore
loose slacks that didn't do much for her figure, though.
so glad you could finally make it," she said. "We were
so sorry you had to pass us by earlier."
explained a little bit about New Arctica, although nothing really
important, and mentioned the quarantine, which had just been lifted
the day before.
yes, the Divinity has been kind," she said. "The plague
has been lifted from us."
said that was a good thing, and started thinking maybe Joanna
was weirder than I'd originally thought.
are so blessed to have you here," she said. "We hope
you will be able to experience the blessing that comes from communion
with our avian friends."
said that would be nice, and followed Joanna out of the terminal
and into a small bright yellow car parked on the street. There
was a canary in the car. This distracted me from all the extremely
bright cars whizzing past us, and the holo-pictures of birds above
went to sit in the front seat with the canary, but Joanna said
it would be better if I sat in the back, so that Joy (the canary)
could guide her more effectively. So I sat in the back. Joanna
pulled out into traffic, and I began to see why she would want
Joy's help to be as undiluted as possible, because everyone was
driving very fast and very close and not paying attention to each
hair-raising minutes later, Joanna pulled up to my hotel, which
was a shiny skyscraper with movies on the outside walls of tropical
birds flying around through tropical trees. There was a statue
of a pea-emu by the door. The name over the door said The Regent's
Rest. Over the front desk there was a more-than-life-sized still
picture of the Regent Esmerelda and her parrot, with the words
"Our Queen in Heaven" in English and Spanish underneath
said she would be back in an hour to take me to dinner, and left
me in the lobby. I took a clear glass elevator with a canary in
it to my room on the 23rd floor. My room had canaries on the wallpaper,
parrots on the bedspread, and peacocks on the shower curtain.
The entertainment center could play a variety of bird noises "to
bring guidance to my prayers," or show more scenes of birds
flying around, for the same reason.
was a brochure on top of the entertainment system. I flipped through
it. It suggested various aviaries to visit, and also told me canaries
gave guidance in the physical world, parrots gave guidance in
the spiritual world, emus gave you luck and strength, peacocks
brought happiness, and so on. The new hybrids that had been developed
on Pangea combined the traits of their original sources, so a
peamu, for example, gave you happiness and luck, while a canarabudgie
would give you good temper and guidance in the physical world.
The brochure told me Pangean birds were also intelligent and friendly
and made excellent pets, along with all their other benefits.
It also said that every aviary had a temple you could visit to
get more information on the spiritual aspects of Avianism. There
was nothing about the New Johannesburg Gene Extraction Facility.
came back to take me to dinner and said she was a non-ovarian
and she hoped that wouldn't be a problem. I said I didn't think
it would be, and asked what a non-ovarian was. It sounded like
someone with a birth defect, but I didn't think that's what she
explained there was a schism in Pangean society between the ovarians
and the non-ovarians. The ovarians believed eggs were the physical
manifestation of the blessed nature of birds and consuming them
brought you closer to the Divinity. The non-ovarians believed
eggs were the physical manifestation of the blessed nature of
birds and consuming them was an abomination in the sight of the
Divinity. So Capital City was divided into ovarian and non-ovarian
sections, each with their own restaurants, grocery stores, aviaries,
schools, and so on. Joanna was a non-ovarian and was planning
to take me to a non-ovarian restaurant.
said non-ovarian was fine, and we went down the glass elevator
and out onto the street. It was warm and tropical. There were
flowering trees on every street corner, and everything smelled
of mimosas. Flocks of brightly-colored birds lived in every tree
and twittered at us. Two peamus walked past us on the sidewalk
and stepped out onto a crosswalk. All the traffic came to a screeching
halt and let them proceed down the crosswalk to the far side of
they often run around loose?" I asked, and Joanna said the
peamus were considered to be especially sacred, so they were allowed
to go wherever they wanted. She added that they knew when and
how to cross the street, and accidents almost never happened.
restaurant, called The Parrot's Nest, served an entirely egg-free
menu, and also had no chicken. In fact, it was mostly fruit and
nuts. It was a low glass building with pictures of parrots on
the menus and parrot movies on the walls. Joanna told me she preferred
canaries but her mother was a parrot person and they'd come here
a lot when she was little. Her mother worked at a nearby aviary,
she said, and she hoped we could go visit it tomorrow.
said I would love to see an aviary, or several aviaries, and I
also needed all the breeding records and genetic information on
the bird lines they were hoping to export to Earth.
birds are sacred," she said. "No harm can come from
said I was sure that was true, but it was Terran policy to look
at the genetic makeup of everything exported to Earth.
does no good to gaze too deeply into the works of the Divinity,"
said I had no intention of offending the Divinity, but I had to
see those records. Joanna pointed out they'd already been given
to the people at Novy Mir, who were real experts, unlike me, and
I said I knew but I still had to see them, and the upshot was
that she agreed to give me the breeding records from her mother's
aviary when we went there in the morning, and see what she could
do to persuade the other aviaries to hand over their records.
mean no offense to the birds, Joanna, but we have to have those
records," I said. "There are seven billion people on
Earth, and who knows how many billion birds. Think what could
happen to them if a disease slipped past our quarantine. It could
be something that stays latent here on Pangea, but flourishes
on Earth. The results could be terrible."
said she could see my point, and Terran birds had to be protected,
that was true, and Pangea did have a different ecosystem than
Earth, even though it seemed a lot like Hawaii, and she promised
to cooperate as much as possible, and we ate our fruit salads.
Communion With Our Avian Friends
next morning Joanna, Joy, and I drove over to the aviary where
Joanna's mother worked, or, as Joanna put it, served. I didn't
see any evidence that Joy did anything concrete to guide us there,
but on the other hand we didn't crash into the bright green car
that shot through a red light.
aviary had a high screen of palms, mimosas, and other tropical-looking
trees I assumed were native plants, all grown over with what looked
like flowering wisteria. The smell of mimosa and wisteria made
me homesick. The parking lot was also surrounded by a similar
screen. There were only half a dozen cars in the lot. Everything
seemed much quieter and less glaringly bright, although the flowers
and the birds were plenty vivid.
entered the aviary through an arch covered in wisteria, and started
down a path. I had the impression of lots of greenery. I couldn't
see through the plants to other pathways or any other part of
the facility. Parrots flashed in the trees and darted here and
there, making screeching calls. A peamu came stalking down the
walkway, and we stepped to the side and let it pass unhindered.
what I guessed was the center of the garden we came to a pool
with a fountain in the shape of a parrot in the middle of it,
with water coming out of its open beak. Someone who looked a lot
like Joanna was sitting on the concrete edge of the pool with
a huge red-and-green parrot on her arm. The woman was talking
to the parrot.
came to stop a few paces away, and we waited until the woman was
done. Then she went forward and said, "Hi, Mom."
went through the introductions. Joanna's mother, whose name was
Samantha, asked me how I liked Pangea and the birds, and I told
her it was very pretty. Then she put the parrot on my arm. Sheit
was a female, named Antheahad large scaly talons that gripped
hard, and she was heavy enough my arm got tired right away from
said she was so happy I was there and would be able to experience
the blessing one received when communing with our avian brothers
and sisters. She said spreading the word of the Divinity to Earth
was her main purpose in life. I said that was nice and would she
mind showing me the birds, and also their breeding records, merely
as a formality, of course.
said she would be delighted, so for the next two hours we toured
around the aviary and I saw more parrots, parakeets, peamus, and
other birds I didn't recognize, than I could possibly count. Then
she took me to see Leah Jones, the head of the aviary.
used to be blonde before she turned gray. She had a vague friendly
smile and a gentle handshake. She said she'd heard I was coming
and she was so glad to see me. I asked if I could have the breeding
records, and she frowned and asked me why. I said it was merely
a formality, just part of the procedure. I said I'd been very
impressed with the birds, who had struck me as very beautiful
and intelligent, and I thought they would be very popular on Earth.
Leah said sure I could have the breeding records, and I uploaded
them onto my Perdie. I said thank you very much and Joanna and
I left, throwing some coins in the wishing well by the entrance
on the way out.
Joanna said we should go see the canary aviary, and I said sure,
and so we went. The traffic still scared me, and I was glad to
pull off the main road and into the parking lot, which was screened
by trees just like the other one. The canary aviary was also full
of trees and narrow pathways, like a secret garden. The canaries
were much smaller than the parrots, but they didn't screech so
horribly, so that was an improvement. Several people were kneeling
by the edge of the pool in the middle. Joanna went right over
and knelt down next to them, and motioned me to join her, so I
one said anything, but everyone had their eyes closed and their
hands folded, so I copied them, only I kept one eye cracked half-open
so I would know when to get up. I assumed everyone was praying
for guidance, so I prayed for guidance on what to do about Draconia,
Fischer Island, the problems on New Africa, the fish-whales, and
so on. I would have felt better about it if I hadn't been addressing
my prayers to a bunch of canaries.
a while Joanna and I got up and we walked away from the pool and
sat on a bench in an alcove surrounded by trees full of singing
canaries. None of them tried to attack us or seemed to notice
us at all.
feel so refreshed; do you feel refreshed?" asked Joanna.
said I felt refreshed. I didn't say that my knees hurt terribly
from digging into the gravel for what must have been at least
a quarter of an hour. Joanna said she was glad I'd gotten to have
that experience, and I said I was glad too. Then I asked if I
could have the breeding records for the canaries, since, I said,
they would probably be incredibly popular back home. So Joanna
took me to see Kevin, the head of the aviary. He was remarkably
similar to Leah. I uploaded the canary breeding records, and we
that we had lunch (seed cakes), and after that we went to a peamu
breeding facility outside of Capital City.
peamu breeding facility had a lot more barns and fewer trees than
the aviaries, but it wasn't like a factory farm. The head breeder
explained they had been genetically designed not to be subject
to normal breeding impulses, so all the breeding had to be done
for them in vitro. She said some people saw this as a sign of
purity and believed humans must try to emulate the peamus by adhering
to strict rules of chastity, but other people saw this as a big
weakness because it meant the peamus were dependent on humans
for the propagation of their race, and they would be better representatives
of strength and luck if they could reproduce on their own.
thought at least we could be pretty sure they wouldn't start taking
over the world if they did come to Earth, but I didn't say that.
Instead I asked if they were more like peacocks or emus, behavior-wise,
and how the enhanced intelligence had been caused.
see," said the breeder, whose name was Carrie, "for
centuries and centuries breeding for color has been a mystery,
as I'm sure you know. Even when other traits could be predicted
fairly accuratelysize, strength, speed, and so oncolor
was still very hard to control. There're just so many factors
affecting it. One of the main reasons the New Jo-Burg facility
wasand isso good was that they were the first to be
able to find, mark, isolate, and transplant the right combination
of genes with a high degree of success. Anyone could have combined
the DNA from Terran reptiles and the native fauna from Draconia
and made some kind of creature, but only the scientists at New
Jo-Burg could make real dragons, and real dragons that were green."
agreed their results had been very impressive, especially considering
how little time it took to achieve them.
with the peamus," Carrie continued, "they were able
to identify exactly which combination of genes caused the peacock
color patterns, extract them, and implant them into emu ova and
sperm in place of the ordinary color genes. They were also able
to cause peacock coloration in both male and female emus. And
all of this with an extremely low rate of non-viable eggs or biological
asked how common sports were, and how they had manifested themselves,
and Carrie told me they had only had two sports in the past ten
years and both of them had simply been ordinary emu-colored emus,
nothing more sinister than that. Then I asked how the high intelligence
had been achieved, and Carrie said something about dolphin DNA.
DNA?" I said.
are very intelligent," she told me, sounding slightly defensive.
"They possess many of the qualities we wanted in our birds:
cleverness, but also a sense of fun and a lack of malice."
agreed those were good qualities, and then Carrie toured me around.
breeding facilities were ordinary labs, very white and clinical.
Then we went to an incubation barn, which had lots of eggs on
tables under lamps. Unlike the dragon eggs, these were not in
cages. Then we went to the baby barn and saw lots of baby peamus
looking sad and featherless, although they did open their mouths
when they saw us and fix us with stares surprisingly like the
stares of baby humans.
adults are free to come and go as they will," Carrie told
us. "They have run-in sheds for shelter, and they are given
free range of the rest of the facilities, except for the labs,
which are restricted to everyone, humans included. They stay with
us until someone provides a home for them, or they decide to go
off on their own. If we go to the orchard we should find several
of them feeding."
sure enough, when we came into the orchard there were at least
a dozen of them. Some were pulling fruit off the trees, some were
scratching at the ground, and some were sunbathing. Carrie led
us over to a nearby one that was digging in the ground. When we
reached it, it held out a claw towards us, showing us a grub it
nice," said Carrie enthusiastically. "No thanks, you
go ahead and eat it." The peamu swallowed down the grub.
stopped and spoke with some of the peamus who were foraging from
the trees. They all offered us fruit, which we declined. Other
than that they paid very little attention to us, and after a while
most of them wandered off and left us, and we went back to the
was so wonderful," said Joanna. "A real blessing."
agreed Carrie, "I feel so blessed to spend so much time around
said they were wonderful creatures, and asked if I could have
their breeding records. I said my piece about how this was just
standard procedure and everyone had to do it in order to be able
to export to Earth and I was sure everything would work out fine
and they sure were wonderful animals and no doubt they'd be a
big hit back home, and Carrie finally said I could upload the
information from her workstation.
workstation had a P-to-P (Percy to Perdie) wireless connection,
meaning I didn't have to plug my Perdie in to upload everything.
So while Carrie and Joanna talked, I set up the connection and
got everything onto my Perdie. Then I thanked Carrie and we left.
offered to take me to The Parrot's Nest for supper again, but
I said thank you very much but I was tired and had a lot of work
to do, so I'd just have supper in the hotel restaurant, which
I did. Again, nothing with eggs or any kind of bird flesh. I think
everything was made out of soy. It was a lot better than the seed
Intelligence Improvements in Ratites
read the information on the aviary breeding lines over dinner,
and found out absolutely nothing interesting at all. My Perdie
was running low on power when I went back to my room, so I plugged
it in to power back up while I took a shower.
the middle of my shower everything suddenly went dark and the
water stopped running. Then it all came back on again. I leaped
out of the shower, ran over to my Perdie, and checked its contents.
Everything I had already read was still in the Saved Reading file,
but the data on the peamus, which was in the To Be Read file,
was gone. This is a problem that cheap Perdies like mine often
dried off feeling very annoyed with PRDTech, but then I remembered
the P-to-P connection I'd set up with Carrie's workstation. It
should still work from the other side of the city. Of course,
Carrie hadn't given me permission to re-access her system, but
I decided that since she'd let me do it once without making me
set up a one-time connection, I could do it again, and besides
I wanted that information and I was afraid she might rethink letting
me take it if I had to ask her again.
P-to-P connection still worked. It was an all-access connection,
meaning I could look at anything in Carrie's workstation. I couldn't
remember exactly how to find the file I wanted, so I ran a search
and came up with several files on breeding records. I thought
about it for a moment and then uploaded all of them onto my Perdie.
hotel had an Info&Comm room with lots of workstations and
printers, so I went down and printed off everything I'd gotten
from Carrie's workstation, so I could compare it side-by-side
and make notes. I ended up with a lot of paper, which was kind
of discouraging, but it wasn't very late yet.
evening I skimmed through all the files I'd printed off. Most
of them were straight genealogical records of the breeding lines,
which I decided probably weren't that important unless I found
something somewhere else that suggested otherwise. But there were
two files of information about the original project the New Johannesburg
Gene Extraction Facility had been commissioned to do, with descriptions
of the original failures, the final success, and all the genetic
combinations they'd tried.
thought it was interesting there were two files that appeared
to be identical, but by then the print seemed awfully small and
I was getting awfully tired, so I decided to go to bed and read
them in the morning.
next morning I put the two print-outs next to each other on my
table and compared them line-by-line. For a while nothing interesting
showed up, but then I got to the section labeled "Intelligence
Improvements in Ratites."
1 showed a list of attempts to insert dolphin DNA into emu genes,
with a number of failures followed by the one necessary success.
This was very normal for any kind of genengineering; I'd read
loads of reports like this. Normally it took just one tiny, tiny
manipulation to make a non-viable cell viable, or to get the desired
result. In this case the problem had not been non-viable cells,
but that the extra intelligence had either not appeared or had
had unwanted side-effects, like aggression or mental disturbances.
2, however, showed in tiny print that the last, successful attempt
had been made using a very, very small amount of the human gene
code combined with the dolphin DNA.
of course everyone knows, Earth has a blanket ban on mixing human
DNA with any non-human DNA. A couple of centuries back people
found they could often get good results from combining human and
non-human genetic material, but then other people started to worry
about the consequences and in the end it was banned and it's never
been allowed since then. Possible side effects in this case being
the transfer of specifically avian diseases to humans, for example.
packed the printouts in my suitcase while asking myself why Carrie
had had it on her computer. Wasn't she worried about people like
me coming across it? Then I reminded myself Carrie was responsible
for choosing the breeding pairs, and she would need to know their
true genetic makeup in order to do that. Still, it seemed very
careless to me. But in the few years I'd been working as an ag
inspector I'd come across lots of examples of carelessness, so
I decided not to be too surprised, just grateful. As anyone who's
ever done any investigation knows, a lot of the time you just
have to rely on dumb luck and the mistakes of others.
big worry was that Carrie would find out about me accessing her
files and cause some kind of a problem so that I couldn't leave
Pangea, so after I packed up the printouts I went ahead and packed
up the rest of my stuff and checked out of the hotel. I thought
I saw Joanna coming in one door of the lobby as I was going out
the other, so I walked quickly down the street and stopped a taxi
on the corner and had it take me to the spaceport.
the spaceport I realized I didn't know where to go to next, and
I had to leave Pangea immediately, because if Joanna and Carrie
and their bosses hadn't suspected me of anything before I left,
they would now, so I ran to the Info&Comm room and paid an
astronomical amount of money to be put through on a live call
to Senator Bryson. His secretary tried to convince me he was too
busy to talk to me without an appointment, so I had to shout at
her a little bit and say it was an emergency, and she finally
put me through.
Bryson seemed kind of surprised and not very pleased to have my
videoed face burst in on him, but when I told him I needed to
leave right away, it was very important, and I couldn't say more
right now but I'd tell him everything when I got a chance (I was
afraid they were monitoring calls, not that they're supposed to
do that), he said he'd heard things were going from bad to worse
on Draconia, and I should go there.
left the call booth and went to the ticket screen, where I found
out I could catch a shuttle flight to Fischer Island leaving in
two hours, spend the night there, and then catch another shuttle
flight to Draconia. I bought the tickets and ran to the shuttle
gate. I was glad I hadn't brought a lot of luggage, because the
printouts were heavy.
flights aren't very much fun. All you get is a small seat, like
on a jet. The pressure and gravity changes are pretty bad, too.
didn't throw up, though, and once everything got stabilized I
sent a long report to Senator Bryson, along with copies of both
sets of breeding records. He wrote back and said that was great,
in a negative way, and after I went to Draconia I should go to
Novy Mir and give everything I had to the people there, and by
the way a search had been launched for me on Pangea, and when
it had been discovered that I had left, a protest had been lodged
against me and they were requesting that Fischer Island return
me to them along with everything I had with me. He said so far
Fischer Island was refusing to cooperate, which was something
you could pretty much always count on with them, so hopefully
I wouldn't be extradited back to Pangea.
worried about that for the next 17 hours, but there was no one
there to meet me at the spaceport, and no one stopped me from
catching a taxi to Fischer City and checking into a hotel. No
one I knew or didn't know came to me that evening or the next
morning. At the spaceport before taking off I bought some freeze-dried
purple grapefruits and nutritionally enhanced zucchini, which
I was hoping to give to the people at Novy Mir, and then I took
off and spent the next 22 hours thinking about leg cramps and
blood clots and trying to get some sleep.
DragonFarmsInc, Part 2
was the same as I rememberedhot, and full of life, but none
of it friendly. This time I landed at the Pole, which is where
people preferred to live because of the cooler climate, and flew
down to the equator. Out of the jet window I saw the savannahs
and the animals that lived in them. From that height they looked
like every child's dream of dinosaurs, or dragons. I did not know
what they were really like, or how they thought, or how they felt
about the dragon farms, or the dragons. Whose nature was it that
had made #6 swallow Alan DeWitte wholetheirs, or the Terran
reptiles with whom their genetic material had been mixed?
Jackson met me at the jetport.
came back," he said.
said yes I had, and remarked on his cane.
#6," he said.
heard there were more disturbances," I said. "More dragons
dragons," he said, limping to the truck. "I don't know
what's gotten into them. They were never what you could call sweet-tempered,
but now... Two more broke out of their barns at Two, we've had
all kinds of trouble at One, and they've had killings at Three.
We're talking about putting them all down."
drove down the narrow road from the jetport to DragonFarm1. The
insects were very loud, and the jungle was a thick green wall.
have to tell you, I think you coming here is a bad idea,"
said Arnold as we pulled up to the farm. "The last thing
we need right now is some Terran investigator poking her nose
you pulled up the breeding records?" I asked.
told me they had, but he didn't see how that would do any good,
and would I please for the love of God stay out of the barns and
out of everybody's way and not cause any trouble, because they
had to do two takedowns that afternoon, both of animals that were
really getting out of hand, and he didn't want me getting in the
way and getting hurt.
wanted to abandon me as soon as we got out of the truck, saying,
"you remember where your room was? Good, go there,"
but I made him give me access to the breeding records first. He
said, "I don't have time for this," when I asked.
wasn't sent all the way from Earth to sit in my room," I
told him. "Just show me how to get them."
said he had important things to do, but eventually he found someone
to show me to the data room, and I was able to upload everything
I needed onto my Perdie. Then my escort abandoned me, saying he
had to help with the takedowns, and I went to my room.
room overlooked the barns, so even though I didn't want to, I
ended up watching out the window as half a dozen men in protective
equipment went into Barn 10. Barn 10, according to the information
I now had on my Perdie, housed a wingless green female just reaching
breeding age (five Terran years, or four Draconian years). Her
sire was from a new line that had been developed here on Draconia.
Its foundation sire was a genetic combination of grass snake,
iguana, and native, and it had been designed to produce beautiful
dam was from the original line that had been created back in New
Africa, from a combination of black snake, rattlesnake, komodo
dragon, and native DNA. It was a very versatile line and was often
bred to others.
was a whole lot of commotion in Barn 10, although no dragons came
bursting out through the roof, and then there were several shots
from something much bigger than a deer rifle, and a definite thud
I could sense even up in my third-story room, and then the men
in protective equipment came out and another half a dozen men
in rubber aprons and rubber boots went in.
takedown men came into the house. I could hear them walking around
downstairs, eating, drinking, and talking about how #10 had been
a real bitch of a takedown, and had gone right through the middle
divider of the barn and almost gotten Ben.
said he'd checked and his pants weren't brown yet, but it had
been a close thing, and when they did #16 could he please be up
in the observation post.
Jackson said sure, although with the way she'd lunged and reared
he didn't think there was anyplace safe, and added that she'd
died hard and he hoped she didn't slice someone in the cleanup
crew open with a reflex kick. Then he said they'd had enough fun
and it was time to go out and take care of #16, and I heard them
all troop out.
looked up #16 on my Perdie. He was a green winged male, venomous.
His dam was full sister to #10. So I looked up his dam. There
was a note in her file saying she had been unusually aggressive
from the egg, and had been slaughtered a year early because of
her difficult temperament. Despite this, her eggs had been harvested
and used for breeding, because of her large size, fine color,
and potent venom.
couldn't see Barn 16 from my window, but I could see how all the
barns within my field of vision shook as the dragons became agitated.
Except for Barn 10. Finally there were the shots that meant it
was all over, and then Arnold Jackson and the rest of the takedown
crew came inside, talking loudly.
swear to God, they get worse every day," said someone.
son of a bitch lunged at me after he'd been shot," said someone
I thought was Tom Massino, DF1's second shooter. "Did you
see that? He was lying there, big hole in his chest, blood everywhere,
and when I went over to check if he was dead, he snapped at me
and damn near bit me."
he wasn't dead then," said someone, and everyone laughed.
is now though, or if he isn't after I shot him in the eye, he
will be after the cleanup crew's done with him," Tom Massino
said with satisfaction, and everyone laughed again.
waited a little while to see if anyone would come up for me, but
no one did, so I went back to my Perdie.
found out #6 from DF2 was a first cousin to the #16 that had just
been taken down today. I also found out, after more than an hour
of painstaking research and notetaking, that all the dragons who
had exhibited unusual aggression and behavioral oddities had been
part of the original line created on New Africa. This was not
a big surprise but it was nice to see it right there in green
one came up to offer me supper, so eventually I went down and
searched around until I found Arnold Jackson and the rest of the
takedown crew sitting in the kitchen and drinking beer.
you are," said Arnold, unusually jolly. "Sit down and
have a drink. Boys, this is the Terran I was telling you about."
the boys looked at me. I said hi and that I was looking for something
to eat, and Tom Massino and someone who turned out to be Ben got
up and said they'd fix supper for all of us. It would have been
just like on a farm back home, except that the spots of blood
the men had on their clothes had a more chemical-ly smell than
cow or pig blood.
where have you been, Earthling?" said Arnold Jackson, and
laughed. I realized he was a good way towards being drunk.
named the various places I'd been. Arnold said he'd heard the
Islanders were terrible backbiters and fighters, and it was a
wonder anything ever got done there at all. Tom said he'd heard
there was some kind of crazy rebel movement there, which just
goes to show what kind of a place it was.
you know what they say about you," I said. "They say
you're breeding fighting dragons in order to take over Earth with
Jackson and several of the others laughed loudly.
kind of nuts do they think we are?" said Arnold. "We've
got enough problems without breeding them mean on purpose. And
how're we supposed to get them thereride on their backs
as they fly there? There's no spaceship in the galaxy that could
hold enough full-grown dragons to make a difference."
arguments against Joshi's claim had occurred to me too, but I
was glad to hear them from Arnold. I ate my dinner and listened
to the men talk, satisfied that they, at least, did not appear
to be conspiring to overthrow Earth.
next day I was shown some the fertilization facilities, although
my tour was cut short by the sudden need to take down two more
dragons who had gone crazy. The day after that the president of
DragonFarmsInc arrived to see what all the trouble was about.
president of DragonFarms looked sort of like a drawing of a dragon
in a story, with a long face like that of a predatory horse, although
not like the real dragons, who had heads more like a pit viper's.
His name was Joshua Epstein, and he was not happy with what was
the hell is going on here?" he demanded as soon as he came
into the house. Arnold Jackson had brought him into the kitchen
and was trying to convince him to have a cup of coffee after the
long flight and drive. Joshua Epstein lived at the Pole with all
the rest of the DragonFarms executives.
who the hell is she?" he demanded, pointing at me and shaking
his head at coffee.
Jackson explained who I was.
get her the hell out of here," said Joshua Epstein. "The
last thing we need is some Terran inspector poking around while
we're in the middle of a crisis situation."
though this was what Arnold Jackson had said two days earlier,
now he tried to argue that kicking me out would only make things
worse as far as Terran relations were concerned.
sick to death of goddamn Terrans always hassling us and interfering
with our business," said Joshua Epstein. "Sorry, hon:
I'm sure you're a nice girl and all, but right now you've got
to go." Somehow I was sure he wasn't calling me by my name.
and the others argued, but the end result was that I was going
to get hustled off Draconia the second time even faster than I
had the first. Joshua said I should take his shuttle back to the
Pole, where I could catch a space ship to Novy Mir the next day.
I was packing my things, Tom Massino came into my room.
Honey," he said, and this time I was sure he was using my
name, "some of us, we feel bad about how you keep getting
kicked off the planet like this. It's not your fault or anything,
so we wanted to try and make it up to you a little bit."
thanks," I said.
so we got you this." He handed me a bundle the size of a
folded raincoat. I unfolded it. It was about a meter square. It
was an iridescent scaly green, so rippling with reflected light
it hurt the eyes.
a piece of hide from #10," said Tom. "We though you
might like it. And we were hoping... We were kind of hoping you
could put in a good word for us, back on Earth. Things don't look
like they're going too good over here."
I said, folding up the hide and putting it in my suitcase. "I
could do that."
after everything I'd seen, I was excited about going to Novy Mir.
On the way out we'd stopped at the Moon instead, so I'd never
been on a big space station before. I'd seen lots of pictures
of it, but walking up and down its actual corridors would be much
better, I was sure.
way it was different from a planet was that the shuttle had to
approach it slowly. We could keep the shutters up on the windows
during this, so we got to see it as we came close. It looked like
something you'd build out of modules from a kid's building kit,
and also kind of wornI could see scars and scratches from
space dust and tiny meteors. Each module had Novy Mir written
on one side and
on the other.
docked gently and got off. At Customs & Health I told the
officials who I was and that I had all kinds of possible contraband
in my suitcase. They took away my luggage and made me sit in a
little alcove for a long time before someone came for me.
Tremaine?" he said.
said yes and stood up. He told me he was Avram Osipov, and we'd
communicated several times during my travels.
can leave now," he told me. "I asked, that they gave
me all your luggage. Come with me now."
followed him down the narrow corridors of Novy Mir, which had
windows showing the stars and the Moon and Earth, just like I'd
imagined. He brought me into a cramped room that looked like a
mixture of a lab, an office, and a sitting room.
he asked, and without waiting for me to say yes, turned on his
water boiler. He brought out two glasses in fancy metal holders
and put tea leaves in them. Then he said, "I asked, that
they gave me all your things, Ms. Tremaine: all your data, all
the things you brought back. I already started analyzing it. I
can tell you my first results tomorrow. But I can say today that
the human DNA is very important. It explains the changes in the
behavior of the animals. You know, humans learn very fast. They
also are very aggressive, and, ah, they protect their territory
very hard, and their young. That's what these animals do. Also,
I tell you what I think. I think the guys at New Jo-Burg had to
use very strong mutagens in order to make their experiments work.
You know, they were under a lot of pressure. They spent a lot
of money on their facility, and they had to get results. So they
did things not so safe. But they got their dragons and their fish-whales
and their birds, and no one said, 'This is wrong.' This is what
agreed it was very possible, and we talked about the birth defects
in Little Cape Town. Avram got very excited and said he wanted
to go there and do tests on the people. I wished him luck but
thought I probably wouldn't want to go with him. Then he said
I should get some rest and showed me to my room and told me he'd
tell me what he'd found tomorrow.
midmorning the next day Avram came to my room, looking kind of
haggard. He said he'd been up all night, analyzing samples from
the dragon hide and the fish-whale roe and then running the results
through his computer, searching for human DNA. He'd just found
it, he said, very excited, and he'd sent the preliminary results
to a whole bunch of important people, including Joshua Epstein
no," I said. "He won't be happy."
I was right, because that afternoon representatives from DragonFarms
came to visit me in my room. They told me they had let me onto
their planet in good faith and I'd misused their trust, and I
said I was sorry but that was the way things were, and they said
I had no right to use stuff I'd stolen from them, and I said they
might want to worry a little less about patent infringement and
a little more about being eaten by dragons. Then they went away.
Then a little later I got a call from Senator Bryson. I recorded
it, so this is it pretty much exactly.
hear you and Avram Osipov have caused quite a fuss, Ms. Tremaine,"
thought that was what you wanted," I said.
not exactly... To be honest, what I wanted was a reason to keep
Fischer Island exports out. That's what we have to worry about,
as far as competition is concerned. But not the dragons. I don't
want any proof against the dragons."
dragons eat people," I said. "Not that I blame them.
But they're not very nice."
dragons save lives," he said. "Do you know how many
people take medication made out of dragon venom, dragon-muscle
enzymes? Five hundred million people used some kind of DragonFarms
product today, for blood clots, strokes, heart disease... You
know all this as well as I do."
I said. "I do. And I also know human DNA has been combined
with non-human genetic material in direct defiance of Article
II of the International Treaty on Genetic Engineering. And I know
the dragons are becoming smarter and more aggressive. Who knows
what will happen when they break loose and join up with the native
animals on Draconia. And the same could be said for the fish-whales
on New Arctica. Or the birds on Pangea. And I don't know what
to say about the food from Fischer Island. And the workers at
the New Johannesburg Gene Extraction Facility have been having
malformed children for decades as a result of their 'life-saving'
can't lose the New Jo-Burg facility," he said. "Did
you know they're working on a gene therapy for degenerative diseases
and damage of the brain and nervous system right now? And they're
almost to the point of success. Imagine a life where we didn't
have to worry about nerve or brain damage ever again."
damage is bad," I said. "Having a child with no arms
or legs is also bad."
figure something out," he said. "We'll find a way to
protect the workers, and to modify the dragons and everything
else so they aren't so dangerous. Just give us some time."
much time?" I asked.
eventually said something about a year. To get the process started.
Of course, it would take a while for any reforms to take effect.
So it might be several years. It sounded like a long time, of
course, but really it wasn't that long, and anyway it wasn't like
we had a crisis situation anyway...
okay," I said. "I guess that's reasonable."
why don't you just come home now, Honey?" he said. "I'm
sure everyone is missing you back home, and you must be pretty
homesick yourself by now. And after all your hard work, not to
mention traveling around, I think you've earned a promotion, don't
you? I'm sure we can find you a suitable position in Nashville,
something where you don't have to spend so much time slogging
through cow farms."
said I'd have to think about it, and then he said he hoped I understood
that of course everything I'd done offworld, including this conversation,
was of course confidential and I shouldn't talk about, for so
many reasons, like patent infringement, national and international
security, and so on and so forth. I said I understood, and then
he ended the call.
left the Info&Comm room and wandered around until I found
Avram, who had just gotten up from a short nap in order to continue
his experimenting. I found out he was the senior researcher for
the Imports&Exports division, that he preferred to work alone
rather than with research assistants, that he was originally from
Ufa but had spent a lot of time on Kalininskaya, and that he'd
just finished performing a test on his own blood and semen, and
discovered no metaplastic tendencies in his ordinary cells, but
what looked like possible mutations in the X chromosomes of his
sperm cells, so he planned to take some more samples and run more
tests right away. Despite the fact that I'd spent most of my life
around AI and in vitro fertilization, I didn't want to ask him
how he was planning to do this. Instead I told him about my meeting
with the people from DragonFarms.
them." He frowned. "They came to me too." He frowned
some more. "They made threats. And my boss doesn't want me
to tell anyone about what I found, about the human DNA in the
doesn't either," I told him.
don't pay attention to my boss very much," he told me. "I'm
supposed to be
independent on Novy Mir; that's why I work here instead of somewhere
else. We're supposed to be able to do science without anyone pressing
on us. That's why we have a research station in space. I think
people need to know. I think you should tell them too. Have you
written anything down about what you found?"
told him I had my reports, and notes and letters, and he said
I should put them together into something coherent. I told him
about being supposed to move back to Nashville, and he said I
should stay on Novy Mir for a while. So I did.
I wrote this I was still on Novy Mir. I don't know where I'll
be when you read this. Like I said at the beginning, I think people
should know what's going on out there. There's also a much more
technical report Avram and I wrote up together. Right now he's
in Little Cape Town, doing research. He was very excited because
he discovered that the number of boys with birth defects to girls
was 6 to 1. His current theory is that some of the mutagens used
at the New Jo-Burg Facility to manipulate the human DNA damaged
the X chromosomes of the workers there. Most of the mutations
(he thinks) are recessive, which is why they're so much more likely
to appear in boys.
people from DragonFarms continued to harass us until they got
sent away from Novy Mir. I have to say I enjoyed seeing someone
else kicked off for a change. Last I heard they'd had to put down
all the dragons on Draconia.
analysis of the grapefruit and zucchini I brought back from Fischer
Island showed tiny amounts of human DNA in them, too, although
there's no conclusive evidence yet whether or not they are harmful.
The birds from Pangea haven't caused any problems either. But
last week the fish-whales on New Arctica joined up with schools
of native fish-creatures and attacked some places on the coast.
The Station was completely destroyed. I don't know what happened
to all the people in it.
that's about it for now. I'll keep you informed if we find out