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Alien Earth

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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      Alien Earth
Megan Lindholm

A classic science fiction adventure from the backlist of Megan Lindholm, who also writes as Robin Hobb.Generations ago humanity abandoned Earth. Now they have returned.Far from home, the Human race tries to atone for killing Terra thousands of years ago. Rescued by the enigmatic Arthroplana in their mysterious Beastships, they have been inserted into the fragile ecologies of the alien twin worlds of Castor and Pollux, where they must make no impact, where every drop of water must be returned. Humanity has adjusted – or tried to.Despite the constant watch of the Arthroplana and the Human Conservancy, John Gen-93-Beta has agreed to captain the Beastship Evangeline on an unthinkable journey to a dead planet… Earth.And so begins an engrossing voyage of discovery for five travellers: John, his First Mate Connie, stowaaway Raef, Tug the Arthroplana and the Beastship Evangeline herself. On a planet none quite expected, each learns the power of being human.

Voyager

Megan Lindholm

Alien Earth

Contents

Cover (#ulink_f5f5fa29-aacc-5042-94c9-c478a228b89b)

Title Page

Prologue

The table was cold and hard under his back. Metal.

1

“I HATE THESE DAMN SCREENS.”

2

IN COMPARISON TO the quiet of Evangeline’s gondola, the corridors…

3

SHE WAS WALKING TOO FAST. Connie consciously slowed her stride…

4

TUG FINISHED THE SEARCH of his archives. He signaled Evangeline…

5

“TOOK ONE A PIECE and left three in it.” He…

6

“CONNIE.”

7

RAEF STIRRED DROWSILY; his hands touched the unwet slickness of…

8

“BY THE WAY, Talbot is dead.”

9

“AWAKE, SWEET PRINCE.” Saccharine sarcasm. Tug must have been practicing…

10

“SO,” TUG FINISHED, “our point-by-point comparison demonstrates that Nero Wolfe…

11

JOHN STARED AT THE SCREEN. He was five days into…

12

SUMMONED. He wanted her to … chocolate. Brown, thick, sweet…

13

SHE LIFTED THE HAND she’d had clamped over her own…

14

BOREDOM. Tug’s anxiety had finally given way to an all-consuming…

15

“TUG!”

16

“IT’S GOING TO BE hot today.”

17

SUN ON HER SHOULDERS and the top of her head…

18

[/ / / / /]

19

EVANGELINE WAS SO CLOSE, she had become the horizon, a…

20

SHE HAD LEFT RAEF ALONE, with his own thoughts. It…

About the Author

Other Books by Megan Lindholm

Copyright

About the Publisher

PROLOGUE

The table was cold and hard under his back. Metal. Shiny stainless steel. And he was naked, save for a blue-paper hospital gown that came but halfway down his thighs. A mocking little cushion of papery tissue under his head pretended to be a pillow for his comfort. The temporary curtain-walls of the examining cubicle were made of the same papery stuff. He wanted to sit up to try to wrap the inadequate garment around him, but he didn’t dare. He was afraid it would be the wrong thing to do, that somehow it would disqualify him. All he had to do now was wait. Surely he could wait a little longer. The physical examination of his external body had gone well. All that remained now was for the lab to okay his blood and urine and stool specimens. All that remained was for the lab to find him free of drug residues, alcohol, internal and external parasites, contagious diseases, genetically carried diseases or tendencies to diseases, fungi and harmful bacteria, and anything else the Conservancy for Humankind deemed undesirable. Somehow it seemed that if he lay very still on the cold steel table, it would make it easier for them to find him pure and whole, and suitable to be a colonist. Then he could disembark from the Beastship Evangeline, and enter Station Alpha, the first step in becoming acculturated to the new ecology. He reminded himself that he had passed just such a battery of tests before being allowed to join those evacuating from Earth. This was probably just a formality, a confirmation of what the Earth team had found so many years ago. Raef pressed himself against the cold table and tried to breathe.

“Not real.” Raef tried desperately to make his lips move, to force out sounds he could hear, that would wake himself. “This isn’t real. This isn’t here, this isn’t now. Here and now, I am dreaming in a Waitsleep womb inside the Beastship Evangeline, as I have been for hundreds of years and as I will for hundreds of years to come. This isn’t real. It isn’t happening and it can’t hurt me now.”

Usually he could control the dreams. Usually he could dream what he wanted, when he wanted. The best was when he could just let himself go and sink deeper and deeper, down to where the dreams were realer than real. And better than real, too, because he could make them come out the way he wanted them to. But sometimes, once in a great while, this happened, and he got stuck. Tug gave some command to Evangeline, and in turn the great Beast adjusted Raef’s metabolism, and he got caught like this, in between, dreaming uncontrollably, and all the dreams his worst old memories.

The room was chilly, too. His bare feet were cold. He lifted his head and stared at them. How pale and uncallused they had become through the long years of existing in Waitsleep inside a womb. They reminded him of a baby’s feet, pink and wrinkled and unused. The long periods of Waitsleep did that; it could slow down an organism’s functioning, but not stop it entirely. Growth and the replacement of cells, skin cells for instance, continued. During the brief Wakeups on the ship, he had crawled from the womb, endured a cursory physical inspection by a medical team that had themselves only been awake a few hours longer than their wards. Then with the other awakened colonists, he had oiled his body and rubbed away the peeling dead skin from his hide to expose his new pink skin, had eaten a simple meal, and run in a hamster wheel to try to exercise his body against the lassitude of weightlessness. For a week or so, there had been the idle talk of other people to endure, endless speculation on what the new planets, Castor and Pollux, would be like. Interspersed with that would be the boredom of the required ecology lectures and indoctrinations into the ideals of the Conservancy, all canned stuff on video. And sometimes, whispered conversation about the Arthroplana and their strange Beastships, and why they had come to rescue the Humans from the dying Earth. And for Raef alone, when he could no longer stand the jostling companionship of the many others who shared his Wakeup times, or when the canned lectures became too didactic, there had been the exhilaration of sneaking away from the carefully orchestrated group activities and exploring the ship’s labyrinthine structure.

But not too often, for such free-spirited violations of the rules were not regarded lightly. It would be a damn shame to come this far, and then become regarded as a rebel, a maverick, someone who couldn’t be a team player. He’d seen it happen to a few; they refused the discipline of the organized Wakeup times, or challenged the information and philosophy of the lectures. They probably thought it made them look smarter than people like Raef who agreed with everything and always acted just like everyone else. Fools. Really smart people stayed away from them.
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