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Chapter 10

The first slaver raid caught the colony by surprise.

It shouldn't have, in theory. The colonists had been preparing to defend themselves, and the owoc, for over ten years. Enough spears had been produced to arm every single human down to the new-born babies, with a number left over. The teenagers had been organized into five-person squads, which, in turn, had been organized into three platoons.

Hector, who was the only adult with any military training at all, had been selected as the commander of the defense force. The organizational structure was his idea, and it had been he who had drilled the young humans in basic tactics.

The other adults had participated in the training, in the first few years. But once the children became teenagers, all the adults except Julius stopped engaging in the exercises. And if Hector had had his way, Julius would have been barred as well.

"It's a young person's game, man."

"You're saying I'm too old and feeble and slow?" demanded Julius.

"Yes. Exactly. Precisely."

But Julius had refused to quit, to Indira's disgust. Indira had never been an avid supporter of the military exercises in the first place. And as the years went by without any signs of trouble, she came to the private conclusion that the training was a waste of time and energy. But she did not interfere, except in three ways.

First, she made clear to Julius that she considered his insistence on remaining in the defense guard to be a prime example of delayed adolescence, of which, to his discomfort, she pointed to numerous other symptoms.

Secondly, she insisted that if there was going to be a defense guard, the girls would participate on an equal basis. This had caused no difficulty, for Hector was quite favorable to the idea. In fact, he had appointed Ludmilla Rozkowski one of the three platoon leaders (the others were Joseph Adekunle and Takashi Mizoguchi). After the babies began arriving, Hector maintained the sexual egalitarianism by establishing a platoon rotation system. Each month one of the platoons was assigned the primary duty of rounding up and protecting the children in the event of a military crisis.

Finally, and most forcefully, Indira refused to accept Hector's proposed title for his own position.

"What's wrong with it?" he complained.

"Admiral of the Ocean Sea?" demanded Indira.

He pouted. "It's got a nice ring to it."

"Not a chance. You can be Captain Quintero."

The training had been maintained for several years, but it had slowly become more and more lackadaisical. After Hector died, the defense guard essentially disintegrated. Julius assumed the mantle of Captain, but he was too preoccupied with other matters to pay any real attention to the task.

In the last weeks prior to the raid, only a handful of the teenagers continued their training and exercises. They formed themselves into an informal squad, consisting of the three former platoon leaders, as well as Jens Knudsen and a few others.


The first sign of trouble was a sudden flurry of hoots coming from the southernmost end of the valley. When Julius first heard the hooting, while he was writing in his notebook, he shrugged it off. He was curious, for the owoc rarely hooted loudly, but he was not alarmed.

As the hoots continued, and seemed to grow nearer, he went to investigate. Still curious rather than concerned, he walked out of the hut carrying his notebook.

Seconds later he had dropped the notebook and was racing for the stand of spears next to the long houses. He still didn't know what was wrong, but he had no doubt that foul play was afoot.

An owoc stampede has a certain comical air to it, given their slow speed, but Julius was not in the slightest amused. He had never seen owoc stampede before, and at least one of the beings was bleeding from a large wound in its mantle.

Whether driven by fear, instinct, or a conscious understanding that the humans were protection, the owoc had done exactly the right thing. They ran (shuffled, it might be better to say) directly into the center of the human village. Thereby drawing their pursuers into what became an impromptu trap.

Julius spotted the first invader just before he reached the spears.

His first thought was: Tentacles.

Then, almost simultaneously: Weapons. Armor. Intelligent.

When he reached the stack of spears, Julius was so frantic that he knocked them over. Then, in his haste to pick up a spear, he tripped and fell flat on his face.

He observed the ensuing events from his belly.

Joseph was the first to grab a spear from the pile on the ground. The boy sprang into the center of the village. He was facing the invaders from a distance of five meters.

Did I call it right, or what? thought Julius. The thing's the spitting image of an owoc, except that it's smaller and has tentacles. And that lean and hungry look. The peds are less massive, too. Must be faster—but why isn't it moving?

Later, he realized that the creature must have been frozen with shock. It had never seen a human before, and humans looked like nothing else on Ishtar.

They moved like nothing else, too. Julius was amazed at the speed and ferocity of Joseph's attack. He was even more amazed that the boy never hesitated.

The spear sank two feet into the invader's head, right between the eyes. The creature dropped to the ground, instantly slain.

Three more invaders charged into the village. Joseph wrenched the spear loose from his first victim's head and immediately cast it at one of the new arrivals. The spear sailed through the air and struck perfectly.

By now, Ludmilla and Jens had arrived. They snatched up spears and took their position next to Joseph's side. Ludmilla handed him a new spear.

The three teenagers stood poised, facing the two remaining invaders from a distance of ten meters. Loud and rapid noises came from the invaders' speaking tubes. A moment later, seven more of the creatures surged into the center of the village.

Belatedly, Julius scrambled to his feet.

"Bring us more spears!" shouted Joseph.

Julius bent over and grabbed a half a dozen in his hands.

"Throw!" commanded Joseph. The three teenagers hurled their spears. Joseph and Ludmilla hit squarely, killing their targets. Jens' spear struck the cowl of his target.

In frustration, Jens raced forward and reached out for the spear sticking out from the cowl.

The monsters finally reacted. The one toward which Jens was running whipped its right tentacle around, wielding a weapon that looked something like a morning star: a wooden shaft about a meter long, from the end of which protruded eight spikes, each one about 20 centimeters long and tipped with some kind of sharp stone.

One of the spikes pierced completely through Jens' right calf. The boy cried out in pain and dropped to one knee. A moment later, another of the invaders lashed him with a peculiar weapon that looked something like a cat-o'-nine-tails. Jens threw up his left arm to ward off the blow. The weapon tore great pieces of flesh from his arm and shoulder. Anyone less massively built than Jens Knudsen would have been crippled. As it was, blood gushed all over the left side of the boy's body.

Joseph raced up and killed the one who had lashed Jens with one thrust of his spear. He timed his charge perfectly, stopping at just the right time and place to avoid the lash of the weapon.

Ludmilla killed another, using the same tactics. Race in; stop suddenly when the enemy whips the weapon around; lunge. If anything, the girl's strike was done even more gracefully than Joseph's. Julius was not surprised. The girl was not only big, she was possessed of uncanny speed and reflexes—as good as Joseph's, if not better.

As he watched, Julius was struck again by the discrepancy between Ludmilla's Russian name and her appearance.

She's the spitting image of a Manchu princess—no, warrior.

Jens Knudsen roared with rage and jerked his spear from his enemy's cowl. Still on one knee, the boy threw himself forward and drove the spear almost completely into the creature's body. He missed the brain—but three feet of spear driven through the eye, the head, and deep into the body beyond was more than enough.

God, that kid's strong! Got to work on his tactics, though.

A lifetime spent observing nature had left Julius with ineradicable habits. He wasn't much use in the actual fracas, but he never stopped observing and taking mental notes.

Julius himself squared off with another invader, but the "combat" which followed was almost comical. He skittered back and forth, well beyond range of the monster's weapons. Well beyond range of spear-thrust as well. For its part, the invader did likewise.

What a pair of wallflowers! Julius clenched his teeth, and prepared to lunge. It was not necessary—Joseph charged past him and killed his opponent.

Julius gasped for breath. Looking around wildly, he saw that the village was a scene of utter confusion. Incoherent human shouts and owoc hoots filled the air. Except for Joseph, Ludmilla and Jens—who was still in the fray, covered with blood—all the other humans were racing about in total panic.

No, not all. He saw Indira shepherding four little children toward one of the long houses. Her face was pale and strained, but she seemed otherwise calm and collected.

There were three invaders left alive. They spun around and began moving (quite rapidly, thought Julius—much faster than owoc) out of the village, back toward the south.

"Don't let them get away!" he shouted. Joseph and Ludmilla raced off in pursuit. Jens collapsed. From a distance, Julius saw Takashi Mizoguchi racing up from the upunu fields where he had been working. The boy was brandishing his only weapon—a useless hoe.

But the sight of him running toward them terrified the fleeing invaders. (The gukuy had not yet learned to distinguish between human tools and weapons.) Two of them veered farther to the right, still heading south. Julius watched with amazement as Joseph and Ludmilla slaughtered them like hardened veterans.

Joseph never even paused at the first one he caught. He simply drove his spear through the creature's left ped, pinning it to the ground. The invader squawled and spun around in a half-circle, whipping its flail. Joseph avoided the blow by leaping high into the air. When he landed on the other side, he snatched the spear that Ludmilla tossed him (she was carrying two) and continued in pursuit of the last enemy while Ludmilla efficiently butchered the pinned one.

No—not the last one! Julius watched in horror as one of the invaders turned back and raced into the village. It was heading directly toward Indira and the children.

Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Julius desperately tried to interpose himself, but he was too far away. He was a slow runner at the best of times, and the invader was moving much faster than he would have believed possible. He saw Indira spin around. Her jaw dropped open. She pushed the children behind her and faced the onrushing monster. The creature squawled and drew back its weapons.

Suddenly, from nowhere, Francis Adams appeared. The physicist was shrieking like a maniac, holding a spear in both hands. His strike was pitifully clumsy. The spear glanced off the leatherish-looking armor which covered the creature's mantle. Adams' opponent whipped its flail around; the weapon practically ripped the physicist's legs off at the knees. Still shrieking, Adams collapsed onto the monster, grappling it like a wrestler.

With horror, Julius saw the creature raise its head, clutch the physicist's body with its tentacles and six small arms, and bite his chest with its small but sharp beak. Blood spurted everywhere.

A moment later, Julius drove his spear into the monster's mantle. His own strike was poorly done. The spear didn't glance off. He managed to drive it through the armor and well into the tough tissue of the mantle. But it was neither a killing nor even a crippling blow.

He had no time for a second strike. The thing was biting Adams. He simply threw himself into the spear with the frenzy of desperation.

Luckily, Julius was a strong man. He managed to lever the monster onto its side, where it lay squirming and writhing.

God, the thing must weigh at least three hundred pounds. But it's let go of Adams.

At that moment, the rest of the defense guard finally arrived. Three boys and a girl, brandishing spears, surrounded the stricken monster. They drew back their weapons.

"No!" shouted Julius. "Don't kill it! I want to keep one of them alive!"

Hesitantly, they obeyed. For its part, the monster was now lying still. Its huge eyes seemed filled with terror; its body was colored bright scarlet.

Julius turned to Adams. He knelt and cradled the physicist. Adams' legs were a mangled ruin, and his chest was covered with blood. But his eyes were open and he was conscious.

"Take it easy, Francis, take it easy," crooned the biologist. "You're going to be all right. Your legs are a mess, but the wound on your chest isn't fatal. Looks terrible, but—" (He was about to say: "but I can see the white bone of your sternum, and it's intact," but decided against it.)

Thankfully, Maria De Los Reyes appeared. She took one look at the wounds and began bawling orders. Still blessed (cursed?) with his observer's instincts, Julius saw that a semblance of order and sanity was returning to the village. From the south, he could see Joseph and Ludmilla loping back. They were moving quickly, but it was obvious that all danger had passed. As soon as Ludmilla saw Jens' prostrate form, she raced over and knelt at his side, crying and crooning.

"Julius—" A whisper.

"Don't talk, Francis. You're going to be all right."

He glanced questioningly at Maria. She nodded.

But Adams seemed not to hear.

"Julius—I— I'm sorry, Julius."

"Sorry? For what?"

A faint shake of the head. "I just couldn't—I just couldn't be of much use."

Julius started to say something, but at that moment Adams went into convulsions. He died thrashing in Julius' arms, in less than two minutes.

Julius heard the children shouting. He looked over and saw that the surviving invader was also thrashing about. Within seconds, it too was dead.

I forgot, he thought vaguely. On earth, octopi have poisonous bites. Must be true here also.

He looked over at the dead body of Adams' killer.

Well, you bastards figured out one way to kill us. But you have to pay a hell of a price. It cuts both ways, asshole.


When they buried Adams the next day, Julius erected a marker over the grave, as had become customary. The marker, carved on a small block of stone, simply read:


Francis Adams
Born Earth, AD 2126
Died Ishtar, CY 12


"CY" stood for "Colony Year." The colonists no longer knew what year it was by the Terran calendar, so they had established the day they crash-landed as the base for their own calendar. They still maintained, out of habit, the time measurement of years, months, and weeks. Ironically, the one advanced technological device which still worked was their well-nigh indestructable watches. So the colonists were able to keep precise track of time. But on Ishtar, these measurements were arbitrary and meaningless. The planet had neither seasons nor a moon. Constellations, which could have enabled them to calculate the year, couldn't be seen through the ever-present cloud cover. The Ishtarian day was the only objective criteria. It was slightly over 23 hours long, divided equally between daylight and darkness.

After a few minutes, as they stared at the grave, Indira heard Julius mutter something.

"What's the matter?"

Julius looked at her and sighed.

"I'm going to have to make another marker."

"What's wrong with this one?"

Julius shook his head. "He was a complete jackass the whole time I knew him, except for the last few minutes of his life. But that made up for everything."

The next day he erected a new marker. The only change was the name: Doctor Francis Adams.


The one positive development, thought Julius, was that he would finally be able to dissect a pseudo-cephalopod. But, again, he was frustrated.

"They want to what?" he demanded.

"They insist on burying them," said Indira. "And they're upset at the idea of harming them further."

"The things are already dead!"

Indira shrugged. "The owoc don't look at it the same way. They're quite insistent, Julius."

Inevitably, Julius lost the argument.

"I just don't get it," he grumbled, after the mass burial of the invaders. "Why should the owoc care what happens to the damn things? They're hereditary enemies. Carnivores, to boot."

Indira glared at him, fists planted on her hips.

"Is that so? The great biologist Julius Cohen has already analyzed the situation in every detail. The new creatures are carnivores, therefore—therefore what? I can remember you giving a different speech a few years ago."

Julius looked uncomfortable. "Well, I'm not claiming I understand everything about the watchamacallits. But I know a savage enemy when I see one!"

"Really? Such a brilliant mind. Let me ask you something, O great one. What was the relationship between the Amish and the Nazis?"

Julius frowned. "I don't understand the question."

"Really? How strange. A minute ago you had all the answers. I'll give you a hint—it's obvious."

Julius was still frowning. Indira snorted.

"They were both members of the human race. So, according to your logic, it would make sense to kill Amish because they belonged to the same species as the Nazis. Am I right?"

Julius hemmed and hawed, but Indira had him cold and he knew it.

She reinforced her point a few days later, after talking to the owoc.

"They're as unclear as they usually are, but there's no question that they don't think all of the—they're called gukuy, by the way—are the same. The owoc say that many of the gukuy—most of them, I get the impression—are dangerous and dreadful. But there are others whom the owoc seem to think rather highly of."

"Which others? And how can you tell the difference?"

Indira shrugged.

"That's great," muttered Julius. "That's just great."

* * *

Within a few months, the issue was resolved. And it became clear that the difference between "good" and "bad" gukuy was not all that difficult to determine.

Before that time came, however, the colony went through a major social transformation.

The transformation occurred on two levels. On one level, the change was simple—the colony readopted Hector's military organization, with a vengeance. To Julius Cohen's great satisfaction.

The more significant change, however, he greeted with much less pleasure.

"Do you mean to tell me I'm fired?" he demanded, goggle-eyed.

Indira gazed at him patiently.

"I wouldn't put it that way, dear. I think of it as a necessary and beneficial transition in leadership."

"They're too young! Immature!"

"Really?" demanded Indira. "Then explain to me why they were the ones who—" She stopped abruptly.

Julius winced; looked away.

"Who saved the day. While yours truly, the great leader, tripped all over his feet and ran around like a chicken with its head cut off."

Indira's eyes softened. She reached out a hand and stroked his cheek.

"You were very brave, Julius. I was proud of you. And I saw no resemblance to a chicken whatsoever."

Julius puffed out his cheeks, exhaled noisily. His lopsided grin appeared.

"Nevertheless, it's true I didn't cut the most glorious martial figure."

He thought it over for a moment, then nodded his head.

"I suppose you're right. Joseph would make a better Captain. Or Ludmilla."

"Yes, they would. Much better, to be honest with you. But that's not even my main concern. The heart of the problem isn't military, it's social. And it doesn't just involve you, it involves me as well. All of us."

"What do you mean?"

"Julius, the children aren't children any longer. They have children of their own now, and they have for some time been assuming more and more responsibility for organizing the colony. As an historian, I can tell you that the way in which a society handles the transition of leadership from one generation to another is one of the key aspects of its health. There are few worse social cancers than an older generation that won't give way to new blood when the time is right."

"Yeah, I know. I've thought about it myself, now and then. I just figured—oh, I don't know. Later, I guess. I thought—I suppose I thought we still needed to lead things so that the kids would—what's the expression?—grow up in the path of righteousness."

She chuckled. "That's exactly why we have to step down now, Julius. Nothing gains greater respect for an older generation than initiating and leading a transition in authority. We won't be in the direct chain of command, any longer. But I strongly suspect that our moral authority will, if anything, increase."


The next day, Indira summoned the entire colony to a meeting. There, she explained that the time had come for the younger generation to assume the mantle of authority. She was a bit surprised at the matter of fact way in which the teenagers accepted the change.

I've lagged behind, she realized. They've been ready for this for some time. What nice, polite kids.

She was even more surprised at the outcome of the colony's deliberation. Both at the speed in which the decisions were made and the end result.

The teenagers adopted a five-person governing council, to be elected by direct vote. They ruled that the governing council would select one of its members to serve as the official leader of the colony whenever the council was not in session. The title of this post, proposed by Julius as a joke and immediately adopted, was "Admiral of the Ocean Sea."

Indira was the only one who voted against the title. But she was not too upset, for she knew it was a gesture of fondness and respect for Hector Quintero.

They also formally adopted Hector's military organization, and established the ranks of one Captain, three Lieutenants, and as many Sergeants as were needed to lead each squad.

Joseph then proposed that the Captain and the Lieutenants should automatically become additional members of the governing council, with voice but no vote. He also proposed that, by law, no one elected to any of the four major military positions could also be elected as a voting member of the council.

His proposals were adopted, with almost no discussion. (More accurately, Indira realized, the discussions had already taken place informally over a considerable period of time.)

The elections also went quickly and smoothly. Indira and Julius were elected to the governing council. They both argued against the idea, but they were outvoted. Everybody else to two.

The other members elected were Maria De Los Reyes, Jack Turrennes, and Anna Cheng.

Joseph was elected Captain. Ludmilla, Takashi, and a boy named Andrew MacPherson were elected Lieutenants. There was a bit of awkwardness around the election of Lieutenants, for there were many who thought that Jens Knudsen deserved the position. Others felt that while Jens' strength and courage were unquestioned, he lacked other requirements for military leadership.

The discussion was frank and open, especially Jens' own comments. (The boy was recovering well from his wounds. The scars on his arm and shoulders were horrible, but Maria said he would eventually recover his full strength.)

"I haven't got the temperament," he announced cheerfully. "It's that simple."

He waved off the protests.

"I didn't say I was stupid or anything. But you've got to have people who can stay calm and think on their feet. Like Joseph or Ludmilla. Or Andrew. Me, I tend to forget everything else except what I'm doing with my own spear. It won't work."

Julius resolved the problem by proposing the title of Sergeant Major. His proposal was adopted by acclaim, and Jens was unanimously elected.

In private, after the meeting was over, Julius remarked:

"I don't really understand why Joseph made his proposal. About the Captain and the Lieutenants not being voting members of the council."

"He's very shrewd, Julius. I hadn't thought of the idea myself, but it's a good one. It allows the colony to elect the people they feel most confident holding the military positions, without automatically imposing the military chain of command onto the colony as a whole."

"Still, I would have thought they'd want Joseph on the council, as a voting member. As the leader of the council, actually." He chuckled. "'Admiral of the Ocean Sea' Adekunle."

Indira shook her head. "I'm afraid the youngsters are seeing the picture more clearly than we are, Julius. They're expecting the military structure to be the dominant one."

Julius was surprised. "You mean they think we're going to be another Sparta?"

Indira shook her head again. "I doubt if they remember much of what I taught them about the ancient Greeks. And I mainly concentrated on Athens, anyway. Besides, the Spartan analogy's inaccurate. The military structure of Spartan society was shaped by the necessity of holding down the helot class that did all the actual work. It wasn't just militarist, it was class-ridden and highly oppressive. Our colony doesn't resemble that in the slightest. No, the structure's more like that of the Zulus, except it's democratic. Or the early Romans. That's probably a better analogy."

"Well, that's a relief." Then, after gazing at her for a few minutes:

"I notice that you don't seem too relieved. Why?"

"What? Oh, sorry. I'm—" She paused, heaved a sigh. "I am afraid, Julius."

"Of what? That we'll survive?"

"No, not that." A humorless chuckle. "Human beings have always been quite good at surviving. No, I'm worried about the future. What'll become of this little society we've built, after we're gone."

"We seem to be off to a good start. They're nice kids, Indira. Not a tyrant in the lot. And if there were, the rest of them wouldn't tolerate it. If I say so myself, we've raised them with good ideas."

Indira shook her head. "That means nothing, Julius. Or almost nothing. The forces that shape history have their roots in the most basic conditions of social and economic life. Good ideas are like the morning dew in the face of those forces."

"I don't understand."

She stared at him, grim-faced. "The Zulus were an impressive people, in many ways. But they were a disaster for their neighbors. So were the Romans, if you recall. It's easy to admire the culture of the early Roman republic. But the republic didn't last, Julius. It gave way to the empire, and all the rest of it. Not immediately, of course. It took centuries. But historians think in terms of centuries. Sure, our kids are filled with democratic and egalitarian ideas. How many generations will that last—in a Bronze Age society?"

She stared down the valley.

"What have we set loose upon this world?"


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