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Chapter 8

Once the survival of the colony was assured, Indira had began looking toward the future. Just a few days after the discovery of the maia-food, she had proposed, and the five other surviving adults had agreed, to begin a school for the children. They were faced with the fact that the technological base which they had always assumed would be the underpinning of the colony was almost gone. One of the landing boats was a wreck, not good for much beyond storage and scrap metal. The equipment on the other boat was still functioning (other than the engines, which were almost out of the complex synthetic chemical which they used for fuel). But Hector pointed out that the batteries which powered the equipment would soon be inoperative.

"They're nuclear batteries!" protested Adams.

Hector shook his head. "No they ain't, Doctor. Sorry. They're just little temporary units, designed to be recharged on a regular basis on the Magellan."

Adams began a vigorous denunciation of the incompetence of the expedition's planners, but Julius cut him off.

"Stow it, Doctor Adams! It's water under the bridge. Spilt milk. Let's get on with the business at hand."

Adams glared at the biologist, but he kept his mouth shut. Julius continued:

"The way I see it, we've got to completely put out of our minds any illusions that we can maintain an advanced technological culture. We've got to face the facts. Every single piece of advanced equipment on the boat—the computers, for instance—presupposes a whole technological support base that just doesn't exist anymore. The problem with the batteries is just the tip of the iceberg."

A sidelong glare at Adams.

"I happen to know how the temporary batteries in the lifeboats were chosen. Everybody on the planning board wanted nuclear batteries. But nuclear batteries are big, and there was nothing as valuable as space. So the decision was made to have nuclear batteries on the mother ship alone, and use small temporary batteries on the lifeboats. It's easy to sneer at that decision now. But it was the logical decision to make at the time.

"We're going to find the same thing is true over and over again. The minute any single component of any of the remaining equipment breaks down, that's it. There aren't any replacement parts, and we've got no way to make them. Even if we knew how, which we don't."

A shrug. "It's one of the prices we pay for having such a technologically advanced culture. We're all specialists, by and large. Take me, for example. I know how to use the equipment in a biological lab. But I don't know how to make it. I don't even fully understand how most of it works. The same's true for all of us."

He smiled. "Except Indira. The historian's profession hasn't changed much over the last five thousand years."

"So what do you propose, Julius?" asked Janet. "Specifically."

"I propose that we concentrate on teaching the children the essential tools of survival—physical and cultural. Reading and writing. Basic mathematics. Basic medicine. Shelter, and clothing. But most of all, we've got to teach them—which means that we've got to learn it ourselves, since none of us is a farmer—basic agriculture."

"That's nonsense!" expostulated Adams. "We can't eat the plants. And we don't need to, anyway—we've got the maia."

Julius stared at Adams in silence for over a minute. Indira started to speak, thought better of it. Everyone else apparently shared her reticence.

Finally, Julius spoke again.

"Do you believe in magic, Doctor Adams?"

"Of course not! And let me say that I find that remark highly—"

"Just shut up!" bellowed the biologist. It was the first time any of them had ever heard Julius raise his voice. All of them, including Adams, were shocked into silence.

Julius glared around the campfire.

"Let me explain something to you, people." He pointed to the south. "The maia are not your fairy godmothers. It doesn't matter whether you think they're animals or sapient beings. If they're animals, they're in ecological balance with their habitat. And if they're sapient, as I believe them to be, they're at the most primitive possible cultural level. Do you understand what that means?"


"It means they don't have a surplus. They live on the edge of economic survival. Every ounce of regurgitated food which they provide us is an ounce which they don't have for themselves—or their own young. As it is, we're lucky that they don't have more than a handful of youngsters themselves. How many ounces—no, tons—of food are we going to be demanding from them? Where's it supposed to come from? The maia don't grow anything. They forage. There's only so much forage in this valley, and it's obvious to me that there's not enough when you add us into the equation.

"So—to get back to your point, Doctor Adams—while it's true that we don't need to learn how to cultivate plants for ourselves, we had damn well better learn how to do it for them. Or we're going to die."

He fell silent, still glaring. After a moment, Koresz spoke.

"I believe Julius' point is irrefutable." The doctor smiled crookedly. "If we are to survive, we shall have to adopt toward the maia the classic slogan of the Vulcans. 'Live long, and prosper.' "

Indira took charge, then, proposing a concrete division of labor.

Basic education in literacy and mathematics: Herself and Francis Adams.

Agriculture: Julius, with Hector as his assistant.

("What's this shit?" Hector demanded. "I fly almost twelve light years so I can become a bracero?" But he was grinning when he said it.)

Housing, clothing and dyeing: Janet Mbateng.

Medicine: Vladimir Koresz, with Janet as his assistant.

* * *

Two weeks later, Julius added another basic skill to the list: weapons-maker.

"What?" demanded Indira. "Whatever for? We've seen nothing threatening to us in the valley except for a few small predators. We can handle those with shovels."

The expression on the biologist's face was somber.

"Indira, as part of my job I've been systematically studying the maia. I've gotten to know all of them. In fact, I've catalogued them in my notebook."


"So two of them are scarred. Big scars, too. On their mantles."

Indira had noticed scars on one of the maia herself, but hadn't really thought much about it.

"An accident—"

"Not a chance." Julius was vigorously shaking his head. "They're not lacerations, such as might be caused by a fall. The maia never leave level ground, anyway. They're puncture wounds, Indira. Caused by some kind of tooth, or claw, or something."

Indira's face was pale. Julius smiled, in his lopsided way, and stroked her cheek.

"Sorry, sweetheart. There's trouble in paradise."


The other adults—except Hector—were skeptical. But Julius insisted, and Hector was released from his former duties in order to design and construct weapons. The pilot was not unpleased at the change.

"Hey, I've gone from field hand to head of the military-industrial complex at one fell swoop." He shrugged modestly. "It's a small step for a man, but it's a giant step for La Raza."

Then, more seriously:

"But, hey, Julius—it's a weetle bit hard to figure out what kind of weapons we need when I've got no idea what we're going to be using them against. What are we talking about here? Giant snakes? Super-snails? The creature from the black lagoon?"

Julius squatted and began chewing his upper lip.

"Let me try to apply my biological expertise, such as it is. As far as I've been able to tell, just about all the terrestrial animals on this planet fall into two basic phyla—pseudo-molluscs and pseudo-worms."

He waved his hand. "Yeah, yeah, sure, the worms are probably divided into umpteen different phyla, like they are on Earth. Who cares? A worm is a worm is a worm is a worm. Most boring critters ever made. A moving hose—food goes in one end, crap comes out the other."

He spit on the ground. "So fuck the worms."

More lip-chewing.

"As far as the molluscs go, based on what I've seen so far I've tentatively broken them down into six classes: the pseudo-snails, the pseudo—oh, screw the pseudo business!—there's snails, there's these things that are like land-clams, there's the whole chiton group, there's a pile of slugs, there's those bizarre little brachiating critters that have no equivalent on Earth except (so help me!) primitive primates, and there's the maia. The Ishtarian equivalent of cephalopods."

"There's also those weird floating things, like balloons. I've seen a few of them pass overhead."

"Yeah, I forgot about them. I'm dying for one of them to land in the valley so I can cut it open. At a guess, they're probably a whole separate phylum. Something roughly like what we used to call coelenterates. But they're all small. And they don't seem to have much capability for directed movement. From a distance, at least, it looks like they're just drifting with the breeze. I can't imagine them being dangerous—at least, not to something the size of a maia."

"So what's your conclusion?"

"It has to be something relatively similar to a maia. In the same general class, at least. Unless there's a phylum or a mollusc class I haven't seen—which is always possible, mind you; we've only seen a tiny portion of Ishtar's surface—it has to be a quasi-cephalopod of some type. Or types."

"You sure?"

Julius shrugged. "No, I'm not. But it's a hell of a good bet. If analogies to Earth mean anything, the cephalopods were the only large, fast-moving, advanced predators produce by the molluscs. By any of the invertebrate phyla, as a matter of fact. Well, there were the eurypterids, but I've never agreed with those people who think the eurypterids were—"


"Huh? Oh. Sorry. Old habits die hard. All right, Hector, to cut to the chase—yeah, I'm almost sure it has to be something like the maia. More or less, you understand."

The look Hector gave him was not filled with admiration.

" 'More or less' doesn't cut it, Julius. We're talking mano-a-mano here, not horseshoes."

Julius threw up his hands with exasperation.

"So I'm not a genius!" He blew out a deep breath. "All right, Hector. Try to imagine a mean, bad-tempered maia. With some kind of long tentacles instead of short arms. The tentacles will have some kind of cutting or stabbing tip—something like a horn, maybe."

"Are they going to be bigger or smaller than the maia?"

Julius pondered the question.

"Hard to say. Among invertebrates, predators are usually bigger than their prey. The same's generally true for marine predators, including vertebrates. But the rule doesn't always hold up with advanced land forms. Quite a few mammalian predators are smaller than their prey."

"That'd be a break."

Julius gave him a sidelong glance. "Not necessarily, amigo. Predators who are smaller than their prey usually hunt in packs."

Hector rolled his eyes. "That's great. Just great."

Julius was chewing his lip fiercely.

"But whether they're bigger or smaller than the maia, the predators will almost certainly be faster. Course, that's not saying much. That'll be one of our big advantages, by the way. I can't be positive, but I'm almost certain that human beings will be able to run a lot faster than anything on Ishtar."

He pointed a finger at Hector. "But—don't assume that because we can run faster that our reflexes are any faster. These predators can probably move their tentacles as fast as we can move our arms. Hell, even the maia can move their arms pretty quickly when they want to."

"Yeah, I know. I saw one of the kids fall off a maia's cowl the other day. Damned if the maia didn't catch her before she hit the ground."

The pilot scratched his chin thoughtfully.

"Weelll. I'd kinda been thinking in terms of swords, but—"

"No! Swords would be almost useless. If you tried to use it as a chopping weapon, you'd be trying to cut through that godawful tough mantle. Take hours. Unless you were El Cid or something, which we ain't. Same problem with axes. Look, Hector—there's one really vulnerable part on the body of a cephalopod: the head. Unless these critters are completely different from Terran cephalopods, which is possible but there's no way to tell for sure without cutting open—"

"Don't even think it, Julius."

"—I'm surrounded by saints! The point is, they don't have skulls. There's nothing protecting the brain except a mass of flesh. Which is probably thinnest right between the eyes."

"Well, you can use a sword to stab. Especially something like an epee."

Julius goggled. "You want to play matador with something that looks like a walking version of It Came From Beneath the Sea? Such a hero! Such cojones! Such a fucking moron!"

The pilot laughed. "All right, already!"

"Spears, Hector. We want spears. Something we can stab straight in with, while keeping a distance."

"Sounds good. What kind of spear, do you think?"

"You're asking me?" demanded Julius. "When we've got Indira? Who's spent a lifetime studying the wicked ways of times gone by, when men were men and didn't suffer fools gladly."

Indira proved a reluctant consultant, but Hector was finally able to get from her what he needed.

"It's basically an assegai," he explained to Julius four days later, showing him the spear he had made. "The blade's heavy, shaped like a narrow leaf, about forty centimeters long. It'll stab real good, and you can still chop with it if you have to. But instead of a short handle, like a real assegai, I put a long one on it. What do you think?"

The weapon was certainly ferocious-looking, thought Julius.

"I see you made the handle out of 'sortabamboo.' What's the blade made out of?"

"Steel. It's a piece of the battery shield."

"Why'd you use that? There can't be much of it. Why not use that stuff the boat's hull is made out of?"

"How many lifetimes you got? That's stuff's a weird alloy made out of titanium and God knows what else. Ask Adams, he could probably tell you. All I know is that they have to use special tooling in factories to work with it."

When asked, Adams confirmed that the metal of boat hulls was useless for anything except shelter and storage.

"Most refractory metal known to man. Titanium, basically, but—"

He began what would have been a long and arcane lecture on the process by which the metal was made, but Julius cut him short.

"Never mind, never mind. I'll take your word for it. That leaves us with a problem. We've only got enough of the shielding, and stuff like that, to make a few hundred steel spears."

"Then what's the problem? There are only a handful of us to begin with."

Julius restrained himself. "Some day, Doctor Adams, the children will grow up. And then they will have children. And then—do you get the drift?"

"I still don't see the problem. We'll simply have to find some iron ore and make our own metal."

A supercilious sniff. "You do know what iron ore looks like, don't you?"

Julius sighed heavily. "Of course I know what it looks like. Paleontologists are just specialized geologists, basically. But I have no idea how you make steel—or even iron—out of hematite. Do you?"

Needless to say, he didn't. Nor did Indira.

"But I'll tell you one thing," she said. "It's not easy. In fact, Julius, I wouldn't even think about it. Try to make bronze, if you can find copper and tin."

He frowned. "How do you know iron's hard to make?"

"Because it was invented so rarely in history. The only case that's certain is the Hittites. Many historians think that the Hittites were the only people who ever actually invented iron—everybody else got it through cultural diffusion. Personally, I think there's a strong case for an independent discovery in West Africa, and the Chinese—"

"For God's sake! Does everybody in this place have to play professor?"

She chuckled. "Sorry. The point is that bronze, unlike iron, was independently invented any number of times in human history. So it must be fairly easy to do."

Later, Hector commented: "Hey, Julius, you'd think all you super-educated types would know how to do something as basic as make iron."

"Au contraire, mon ami. Our super-education's the problem. Did you ever read Jules Verne's Mysterious Island?"

Hector shook his head.

"Well, it's about a small group of men who wind up on a desert island in the middle of the 19th century. Without anything except a couple of matches and a pocket watch. But one of them's an engineer, and over the next few years he invents everything. From scratch."

Julius frowned. "Actually, I've always suspected that Verne was stretching the possibilities. But it's barely plausible. And you know why? Because the hero was a 19th century engineer. A basic kind of guy, you might say. Whereas we—" He sighed. "As useless a bunch of over-educated specialists as you could ask for."

He glared at Hector. "That includes you, pal. Don't give me any of this simple-Sam-the-sailor-man routine. What do you know how to do? Besides fly spacecraft? Now, there's a useful skill in the stone age!"


Julius searched, but he found no hematite. Nor did he find any copper. Nor tin. Eventually, however, he found bronze. But he did not have to invent it, for it had already been invented on Ishtar. Any number of times.


Luckily, the discovery of bronze did not come for many years. Years in which the colony slowly settled into a stable and symbiotic existence with the owoc. Symbiotic, not parasitic. For although he was never able to invent metallurgy, the biologist was able to invent agriculture.

Julius had initially concentrated on domesticating the succulent oruc, whose leaves were the favorite food of the owoc. But he met with little success, for he soon discovered that it was a finicky plant. It would only grow in soil patches with just the right composition, and, try as he might, he was unable to reproduce the composition elsewhere in the valley.

Eventually, he concentrated on a bushy plant which looked vaguely like a soft-bodied manzanita (if such a thing can be imagined), which he had seen the owoc browse upon. Here, he met with almost immediate success. The plants were rare in the valley itself, although they were profuse on the hillsides. Since the owoc were poorly equipped by nature to climb hills, they only fed on those occasional bushes which grew at the fringes of the valley floor.

When he transplanted the upunu (as the owoc called it) to the valley floor, the plants flourished. For three weeks, before they began dying off rapidly.

The cause was obvious: each plant was infested with several softball-sized snails. They were a type of snail which was common enough in the valley, but was never seen on the hillsides.

The owoc called the snails "uduwo." But Julius put his linguistic foot down. He called them "cossacks," and that was the name they used when he led a horde of eager children, armed with spears, to wreak havoc upon the snails. They began by killing all the snails in the upunu field, and then scoured the rest of the valley. After two days, they came upon a swarming nest in the far north end of the valley. Julius pronounced the nest the root of all evil, whereupon the children gleefully committed mass gastropodicide.

Thenceforth, Julius would refer to the slaughter as The Day Kishinev Was Avenged, a phrase the children happily adopted without having the faintest idea what it meant. Indira knew, of course, but she chose not to enlighten them.

Within a year, large swathes of the valley floor were covered with upunu fields. The owoc took to the fields without hesitation, and upunu soon became the staple of their diet. It was noted, however, that they continued to browse on the oruc. Adams analyzed this behavior with sage remarks regarding trace elements and essential dietary supplements. Julius did not publicly disagree, for the possibility could not be discounted. Privately, however, he suspected the owoc had a sweet tooth.

Three years later, within a space of just weeks, the valley floor was suddenly covered with tiny little owoc, and Julius cursed himself for a fool.

It was not that he was concerned about overpopulation. It quickly became evident—to the distress of the human adults and the absolute horror of the children—that the initial flood of baby owoc would rapidly ebb. For the tiny creatures died in droves.

Died from disease, many of them; many more fell prey to snails and other small predators.

No, he was concerned about the emotional state of the human children. For they were utterly unable to comprehend the reaction of the owoc to the massacre of their babies.

The reaction was—nothing. In an offhand way, the owoc fed the swarm of tiny creatures. Not individually, as they did with the small number of owoc tots in the valley (if the word "tot" can be applied to a creature about the size of a black bear), but en masse. Adult owoc would periodically regurgitate great piles of food on the ground, which would rapidly be surrounded by owoc babies. (And then, within minutes, by predators.) But other than that, the owoc ignored their offspring as if they didn't even exist. Time and again, boys and girls would bring owoc babies, cupped in their hands, to the adults. Begging them to shelter the babies and protect them. The adult owoc would simply stare, apparently dumbfounded, and then amble away.

Joseph finally cornered an owoc, and spoke with her for an hour.

When the conversation was over, he came to Julius and said, fighting tears:

"She says—it's not very clear to me—but I thinks she's saying that the babies die because they have to. She says it's part of the Coil of Beauty."

"I know, Joseph," replied Julius sadly. He reached out an arm and hugged the boy. "She's right, you know. It's the way it has to be, with the owoc. It seems unnatural to humans, because we're K-strategists. But the owoc aren't. They're r-strategists."

Joseph demanded to know what that meant, and Julius explained it to him. The boy did not understand all of it, but he understood enough. That night, after asking the adults not to attend, Joseph called a meeting of all the children. (It was the first time the boy ever assumed that mantle of authority among the younger generation; it would not be the last.) He explained, in his own terms, what Julius had taught him. The children discussed the matter thoroughly, for hours, with a seriousness and gravity far beyond what one would expect of nine and ten year-olds. At the end, they were satisfied (if not happy). But Julius noted that each child took an owoc baby as a personal pet, and kept it free from harm.

He was upset at the situation himself, of course, as were all of the adult humans. But, for he alone, the emotion of unhappiness was offset by another.

Awe, and wonder.


I would have sworn (he wrote in his notebook) that no intelligent species could evolve using the r-strategy. Prejudice, pure prejudice. We humans have always been Earth's quintessential K-strategists, so naturally we assume that the reproductive strategy of producing a few (only one, usually, in our case) offspring—and then lavishing care upon them—is the inevitable method for the higher forms of life. It's not just homo sapiens, after all—most of the mammals follow the same strategy, even if they don't take it to the same extremes that we do.

But the invertebrates have always been r-strategists. The hell with protecting a few kids. Just have a few thousand. Sure, most of them will get it in the neck. So what? A few will make it. Everything evens out in the end.

The owoc don't follow a pure r-strategy, of course. There's always been a handful of youngsters, ever since we arrived, and they take care of them well enough. That's one of the reasons I assumed, without thinking about it, that they were K-strategists. I'm willing to bet that as the babies get older—the few of them that survive—a critical point will be reached when different instincts kick in.

He was right. A year later, the surviving owoc babies began to hoot, and it was as if the eyes of the adult owoc suddenly focused on them. They were very surprised, though—according to the human children, who were still the only ones who could readily understand the hoots—at how many young owoc there were. In fact, the adult owoc seemed utterly bewildered. The reason for the surplus, of course, was the human children. Julius estimated that 90% of the surviving babies were the ones the children had taken in as pets. But, bewildered or not, the adult owoc began taking care of their young. And there was no shortage of food, because of the upunu fields. There was even an unexpected side benefit, noted Julius with amusement. The human children, who had previously complained bitterly about "field-work" and used every excuse to avoid it, were now the most assiduous of cultivators.

Of course, if I hadn't been so preoccupied with the immediate necessities of life in the colony, I would have been able to spend my time doing what I'd like to do, which is—hey, once a prof, always a prof—research. (Yum yum.) Which I've been doing, finally, this past few weeks. And made some discoveries.

The big news?

The owocs are social animals. Not social, as in: "Let's throw a party!" No, social, as in: bees; or ants.

I kid you not. All this time I thought the owoc were more or less like us. You know, boys and girls. Differences, of course. The sexual dimorphism among the owoc makes the miniscule differences between human males and females positively subatomic. The males are tiny, compared to the females. Tiny, and weak. At least, the bodies are. The heads are quite well developed. Much smaller, compared to those of the females. But I'm willing to bet that if you plotted the comparative brain sizes of the males and females against their relative body sizes, you'd find that they are just about identical on the EQ scale. So the two sexes are probably of equivalent intelligence. But other than that, the males are a shadow of the females, like super-runts. Hell, most of the time I see one of the few males (oh, yeah—note: males are only 6.25% of the population, by exact count) they're riding inside the females—nestled in the anterior mantle cavity, next to the head. Cozy as can be—even got a cowl over their heads to keep off the semi-constant drizzle.

(Time out for complaint: Is there ever any sunshine on this misbegotten planet? Day after day, the same solid light-gray sky. Makes Seattle look like Miami.)

Back to the ranch. The peculiar "riding" position of the males inside the females is so common that I'm even beginning to think it explains the (relatively) much longer arms of the males. Although that might be one of those "Just So Stories" kind of explanations. I can see where the males would enjoy it well enough—beats working—but I can't really see where there's any adaptive advantage to—Julius Cohen. Julius Cohen. Reproductive organs, dummy. That's why the male arms are so long. So they can reach way down deep inside the female's mantle, where the good stuff is. Talk about convergence! That's how male octopi transmit their sperm to the female—one of the arms is specially designed to carry sperm packets from the male sex organ to the female's. (If I remember right, that arm's called a hectocotylus.) More logical system than we have, when you think about it. Why waste valuable biotic energy growing a separate penis when you can do double duty with an arm?

OK. But why are all the arms long? If the owoc parallel the octopi, only one of the arms is adapted as a sexual organ. The others are just arms. So why are they all the same length?

Bingo. That's just the way the genetic switches work with the owoc. The regulatory DNA (or whatever equivalent exists on Ishtar—and would I love to know!—but I'm willing to bet that it's the same trusty old adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine, or at least three out of four of them) has all eight arms linked. You want just one of them long? Sorry, ma'am. Only comes in the economy eight-pack.

Anyway. To get back to the point, I always knew there were males and females. What I didn't know is that there are also mothers.

I just thought Kupu, the female who hardly ever moves out of that one little oruc grove, was the owoc equivalent of the fat lady in the circus.

Turns out the reason she's four times as big as all the other females is because she isn't really a female at all, she's a "mother." This distinction seems bizarre to humans, because for us "female-ness" and "mother-ness" are almost identical. But among the owoc, they're practically a different sex.

No, that's not the best way to put it. Makes it seems like there's three sexes. And there aren't. There's only two—female and male. But the females come in variants. Female and mother.

Why not female (meaning mother) and "neuter." Because it slides around the question. What's a "neuter," after all? It's either a neutered something—male or female—or it's some kind of bizarre sex-that-isn't-a-sex.

Fie on it. Let's stick to the ABCs of biology. In all sexed species, the female is the fundamental sex. Gotta have females. Males—the thought grieves my chauvinist heart, but facts, as the man says, are stubborn things—are unnecessary. Oh, sure, lots of species use males to reproduce. (Including mine, praise the Lord.) But they can be done away with, if necessary. Parthenogenesis, for instance. So the basic body plan of any sexed species is female. Males are just a specialized adaptation.

Since the infertile females are far and away the most common type of owoc—and the dominant ones, insofar as that aggressive term can be used with these beings—it seems to me most logical to refer to them as the females, and to call the ones which are specialized to actually reproduce "mothers."

I'll stick with that for now. (Note: ask Joseph to talk to the owoc about it. Be interesting to see what they have to say.)

He did, and Joseph reported that the owoc term for female was, just as Julius suspected, used to refer to the infertile ones. Kupu was called a term which translated quite closely as "mother." Joseph also reported that, according to the owoc, males came in two variants as well—the fertile ones, which were by far the most common type; and a rare type of male, which was not fertile. According to the owoc, there was no representative of that quasi-sex currently living in the valley. There had been one, some (indefinite—the owoc were always vague regarding questions of time) period ago, but he had died.

Julius tentatively labeled the sterile males "eumales." And then drove himself crazy trying to figure out an adaptive reason for the evolution of infertile males. ("The most useless creatures imaginable!" he exploded once, in Indira's presence; to his everlasting regret, for she expanded on the theme, at length.)

So there you are—just like a colony of bees. A queen—the mother—who does all the actual breeding. A small number of males, to service her. And a host of infertile females, to do everything else.

Like all analogies, of course, you can't take it too far. For one thing, the owoc are intelligent (not very, but intelligent nonetheless) whereas the social insects are as dumb as—hey, what do you expect?—bugs. For another, owoc society has none of the "slavish" characteristics of insect hives.

But I'd be willing to bet that if the owoc were smarter their complicated sexual relations would produce all kinds of fascinating cultural variants. Including, probably, some variants that are savagely oppressive.

He proved to be right. On both counts.


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