Thunderbird by Jack McdevittThunderbird by Jack Mcdevitt

Thunderbird

byJack Mcdevitt

Mass Market Paperback | July 26, 2016

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The Nebula Award–winning author of the Alex Benedict novels and the Priscilla Hutchins novels returns to the world of Ancient Shores in a startling and majestic epic.
 
A star gate more than ten thousand years old has been discovered on a Sioux reservation in North Dakota. Travel through the gate currently leads to three equally mysterious destinations: (1) an apparently empty garden world, dubbed Eden; (2) a maze of underground passageways; or (3) a space station with a view of a galaxy that appears to be the Milky Way.
 
The race to explore and claim the star gate quickly escalates, with those involved dividing into opposing camps who view the teleportation technology either as an unprecedented opportunity for scientific research or a disastrous threat to security. In the middle of the maelstrom stands Sioux Chairman James Walker. One thing is for certain: Questions about what the star gate means for humanity’s role in the galaxy cannot be ignored.
 
Especially since travel through the star gate isn’t necessarily only one way...
Jack McDevitt is a former naval officer, taxi driver, English teacher, customs officer, and motivational trainer. He is the author of the Alex Benedict novels and the Priscilla Hutchins novels. His novel Seeker won a Nebula Award, and he is a multiple Nebula Award finalist.
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Title:ThunderbirdFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:384 pages, 6.81 × 4.19 × 1.13 inPublished:July 26, 2016Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0425279200

ISBN - 13:9780425279205

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTSALSO BY JACK MCDEVITTTITLE PAGECOPYRIGHTDEDICATIONACKNOWLEDGMENTSEPIGRAPHSPROLOGUECHAPTER ONECHAPTER TWOCHAPTER THREECHAPTER FOURCHAPTER FIVECHAPTER SIXCHAPTER SEVENCHAPTER EIGHTCHAPTER NINECHAPTER TENCHAPTER ELEVENCHAPTER TWELVECHAPTER THIRTEENCHAPTER FOURTEENCHAPTER FIFTEENCHAPTER SIXTEENCHAPTER SEVENTEENCHAPTER EIGHTEENCHAPTER NINETEENCHAPTER TWENTYCHAPTER TWENTY-ONECHAPTER TWENTY-TWOCHAPTER TWENTY-THREECHAPTER TWENTY-FOURCHAPTER TWENTY-FIVECHAPTER TWENTY-SIXCHAPTER TWENTY-SEVENCHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHTCHAPTER TWENTY-NINECHAPTER THIRTYCHAPTER THIRTY-ONECHAPTER THIRTY-TWOCHAPTER THIRTY-THREECHAPTER THIRTY-FOURCHAPTER THIRTY-FIVECHAPTER THIRTY-SIXCHAPTER THIRTY-SEVENCHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHTCHAPTER THIRTY-NINECHAPTER FORTYCHAPTER FORTY-ONECHAPTER FORTY-TWOCHAPTER FORTY-THREECHAPTER FORTY-FOURCHAPTER FORTY-FIVECHAPTER FORTY-SIXEPILOGUEPROLOGUEJERI TULLY WAS eight years old. Mentally, she was about three, and the experts cautioned her parents against hoping for any serious improvement. No one knew what had gone wrong with Jeri. There was no history of mental defects on either side of her family and no apparent cause. She had two younger brothers, both of whom were quite normal.Her father was a border patrolman, her mother a former legal secretary who had given up all hope of a career when she followed her husband to Fort Moxie.Jeri went to school in Walhalla, which conducted the only local special-education class. She enjoyed the school, where she made numerous friends and where everyone seemed to make a fuss over her. Mornings in the Tully household were underscored by Jeri’s enthusiasm to get moving.Walhalla was thirty-five miles away. The family had an arrangement with the school district, which was spread out over too vast an area to operate buses for the special-education kids: The Tullys provided their own transportation, and the district absorbed the expenses.Jeri’s mother had actually grown to enjoy the daily round-trip. The child loved to ride, and she was never happier than when in the car. The other half of the drive, when Mom was alone, served as a quiet time, when she could just watch the long fields roll by, or plug an audio book into the system.Jeri’s father worked the midnight shift that night, and his wife was waiting for him when he got home in the morning with French toast, bacon, and coffee. While they were at breakfast, an odd thing happened. For the only time in her life, Jeri wandered away from home. It seemed, later, that she had decided to go to school and, having no concept of distance, had begun walking.Unseen by anyone except a two-year-old brother, she put on her overshoes and her coat, let herself out through the porch door, walked up to Route 11, and turned right. Her house was on the extreme western edge of town, so she got past the demolished Dairy Queen and across the interstate overpass within minutes. The temperature, which is exceedingly erratic in April, had fallen back into the teens.Three-quarters of a mile outside Fort Moxie, Route 11 curves sharply south and almost immediately veers west again. Had the road been free of snow, Jeri would probably have stayed with the highway and been picked up within a few minutes. But a light snowfall had dusted the highway. She wasn’t used to paying attention to details and, at the first bend, she walked straight off the road. When, a few minutes later, the snow got deeper, she angled right and got still farther away.Jeri’s parents had by then discovered she was missing. A frightened search was just getting started, but it was limited to within a block or so of her home.Jim Stuyvesant, the editor and publisher of the Fort Moxie News, was on his way to the Roundhouse. Rumors that an apparition had come through from the other side were going to be denied that morning in a press conference, and Jim planned to be there. He was just west of town when he saw movement out on Josh McKenzie’s land to his right: A small whirlwind was gliding back and forth in a curiously regular fashion. The wind phenomenon was a perfect whirlpool, narrow at the base, wide at the top. Usually, these things were blurred around the edges, and they floated erratically across the plain. But this one looked almost solid, and it moved methodically back and forth along a narrow track.Stuyvesant pulled off the road and stopped to watch.It was almost hypnotic. A stiff blast of air rocked the car, enough to blow the small whirlwind to pieces. But it remained intact.Stuyvesant never traveled without his video camera, which he had used on several occasions to get material he’d subsequently sold to Ben at Ten or to one of the other local TV news shows. (He had, for example, got superb footage of the Thanksgiving Day pileup on I-29, and the blockade of imported beef at the border port by angry ranchers last summer.) The floater continued to glide back and forth in its slow, unwavering pattern. He turned on the camera, walked a few steps into the field, and started to record.He used the zoom lens to get close and got a couple of minutes’ worth before the whirlwind seemed to pause.It started toward him.He kept filming.It approached at a constant pace. There was something odd in its manner, something almost deliberate.A sudden burst of wind out of the north ripped at his jacket but didn’t seem to have any effect on the thing. Stuyvesant’s instincts began to sound warnings, and he took a step back toward the car.It stopped. Remained still in the middle of the field.Amazing. As if it had responded to him.He stood, uncertain how to proceed. It began to move again, laterally. It retreated a short distance, then came forward again to its previous position.He watched it through the camera lens. The red indicator lamp glowed at the bottom of the picture.You’re waiting for me.It approached again, and a sudden burst of wind tugged at his collar and his hair.He took a step forward. And it retreated.Like everyone else in the Fort Moxie area, Stuyvesant had been deluged with fantastic tales and theories since the Roundhouse had been uncovered, with its pathways to other worlds. Now, without prompting, he wondered whether a completely unknown type of life-form existed on the prairie and was revealing itself to him. He laughed at the idea. And began to wonder what he really believed.He started forward.It withdrew before him, matching his pace.He kept going. The snow got deeper, filled his shoes, and froze his ankles.It hovered before him. He hoped he was getting the effect on camera.It whirled and glittered in the sun, maintaining its distance. He stopped, and it stopped. He started again, and it matched him.Another car was slowing down, pulling off the highway. He wondered how he would explain this, and immediately visualized next week’s headline in the News: MAD EDITOR PUT UNDER GUARD.But it was a hunt without a point. The fields went on, all the way to Winnipeg. Far enough, he decided. “Sorry,” he said, aloud. “This is as far as I go.”And the thing withdrew another sixty or so yards. And collapsed.When it did, it revealed something dark lying in the snow.Jeri Tully.That was the day Stuyvesant got religion.ONEO’er the hills and far away.—Thomas D’Urfey, Pills to Purge Melancholy, 1719EVEN THOUGH HE’D seen the eerie green glow atop the mountain almost every night on TV, Brad Hollister was still surprised that evening as the hills got out of the way, and he saw it for the first time through his windshield. It was easy to understand why people had panicked a few weeks earlier, had thought it was radioactivity and fled the area. They were mostly back now, of course, assured by official sources that the radiation was not hazardous. The world had been shocked when a structure thousands of years old had been excavated on the Sioux reservation near Devils Lake in North Dakota. And shocked again when, a few days later, it began to emit that soft green light. And completely rattled when investigators discovered it was a star gate. That was the capability, of course, that stayed in the headlines. And kept the phones ringing at Grand Forks Live, Brad’s call-in show on KLYM.Scientific teams had been transported to three locations, a garden world that the media immediately branded “Eden,” a second location that seemed to be nothing more than a series of passageways in a structure that had no windows, and a deserted space station that appeared to be located outside the Milky Way.Missions were going out regularly, mostly to Eden and the station. A team of eight journalists, accompanied by two Sioux security escorts, were on Eden now, expected to return that evening. And a group of scientists were scheduled to head for the same destination within the hour. Brad’s callers wanted him to make the trip, and he’d been assuring them he would eventually. But before he climbed onto the circular stone, with its gridwork surface, and allowed them to send him off to another world, he wanted to watch the operation. Not that he was scared.The emerald glow brightened as he drew near on Route 32. Eventually, he turned off onto a side road, cleared a police unit, and began the long climb to the summit. A bright moon hung over the sparse land, and a bitter wind rocked the car. Eventually, as he approached the summit, the Roundhouse became visible. A bubble dome, it stood on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the vast sweep of land that had once contained Lake Agassiz. Thousands of years ago, Agassiz had covered most of North Dakota and a large section of Canada.The building lay below the level of the surrounding granite. Someone had gouged a space in the rock to make room for the Roundhouse. Brad’s callers were entranced by the theory that the construction had been orchestrated to place the star gate level with the ancient shoreline. Curved struts anchored it in the rock. The surface resembled a beveled emerald plastic.It was surrounded by several temporary structures, which had been erected to support the science teams and the security effort. The area was sealed off by a wired fence. A gateway provided access to cars and trucks.The gates were down. Brad lowered his window as he pulled alongside the security booth. A young man in a dark blue Sioux uniform looked out.“My name’s Hollister,” Brad said, handing over his driver’s license. “They know I’m coming.”The officer checked the ID, touched a computer screen, nodded, and gave it back. “Okay, Mr. Hollister,” he said. “Park wherever you like.”•   •   •A SECURITY GUARD opened the front door for him. He proceeded down a short passageway, past several doors, and entered the dome. This would have been the place that filled with water at high tide, allowing the occupants to take a boat out onto Lake Agassiz. That, of course, was very likely the boat found recently buried on Tom Lasker’s farm, which had led to the discovery.There were about twenty people, plus three or four uniformed security guards, standing around talking, a few seated at a table. Most were casually dressed, as if preparing for a camping trip. There was also a TV team. A second entrance opened into the chamber from the far side, where everyone was gathered. During the Agassiz years, it would have provided the access for the incoming tide. It had also been, according to the experts, the preferred entrance for the original occupants, the front door, looking out onto a beach. April Cannon was near the transporter, talking with a reporter. The transporter consisted of a circular grid, large enough to have supported Lasker’s boat, and a control device, mounted several feet away on the wall.April had been the source of his invitation to come in and watch. Brad had known her a long time. She held a doctorate in biochemistry and was a director for Colson Labs, the last time he’d looked. She’d been conscripted by Sioux Chairman James Walker to coordinate the off-world missions, and, as she put it, that had overwhelmed everything else in her life. April had been a guest on Grand Forks Live a couple of times. When she saw him come in, she excused herself and started in his direction.April was an attractive young African-American, with her hair draped around her shoulders, animated features, scintillating eyes, and a persuasive manner. Brad had always suspected that, had she gone into sales instead of chemistry, she would have been wealthy by then. “Perfect timing, Brad,” she said. “We’ve got some people coming in any minute now.”“Hi, April. Where are they now? Eden?”“Yes. They’re all media types. After they get back, we’ll be sending out a team of scientists. Biologists and astronomers.”“Have they figured out where the place is yet?”“No. Maybe we’ll get lucky, and they’ll do it tonight.” She shook her head. “We know it’s pretty far.”“I guess it would have to be.”She laughed. And turned away. “It’s starting.” The front area, near the transport device, brightened though Brad could see no source for the light. “Anyway, glad to see you, Brad,” she said. “The show’s about to start.” She went back to the transporter and joined one of the Sioux, who seemed to be in charge of overseeing the recovery process. A wave of excitement swept through the crowd. A few people started moving closer to the stone grid. The security guards moved in to keep them at a distance.A TV camera approached, and its lights went on. The illumination was directly over the grid. It expanded into a cloud, and Brad thought he could see something moving inside it. Everybody was leaning forward.The light kept getting brighter. The cloud enveloped the grid. Then it stalled and simply floated there, so bright it was difficult to look at. And, finally, it began to fade.It left someone standing on the grid. A young woman in a security uniform. “Welcome home, Andrea,” said April, as the cloud disappeared.It was Andrea Hawk, who, like Brad, ran a call-in show when she wasn’t on duty at the Roundhouse. She got some applause, waved to the audience, and stepped quickly out of the way. Moments later, the light was back.Another woman, this time in fatigues, wearing a knapsack and a hat that would have made Indiana Jones proud, emerged. “Aleen Rynsburger,” said a guy standing off to one side. Brad knew the name. She was a Washington Post columnist.One by one they came back, seven reporters and one more security escort. All with wide-brimmed hats. He was relieved to see the process didn’t look like a big deal. The light comes on, and somebody steps out and waves to the audience. Nobody looked rattled. When it was over, sandwiches and soft drinks were brought out of a side room, they all shook hands, and there were cries of “my turn next.” Then the outgoing science group assembled. They also had a collection of wide-brimmed hats.“They get a lot of sun over there,” April told him. “We’re only going to be a short time, unless something develops. It’s late afternoon now on Eden, so we’ll soon be able to see the night sky. They’ll take some pictures, and we’ll be back in a few hours. I’d invite you to join us, Brad, except that the chairman doesn’t like last-minute changes in the schedule.”“It’s okay,” said Brad. “No problem.”There would be a total of nine this time, including April and the two escorts. “We always send two,” she said.“They’re going to Eden again, right?”“Yes.”“Is there anything dangerous over there, April?”“Not that we’re aware of. But the Sioux are armed. And so are some of the scientists.” She put on her hat and pulled it down over her eyes.“It looks good,” Brad said.She added sunglasses. “See you later, champ.”He settled back into one of several folding chairs. An escort, a young woman, stepped onto the grid. Somebody yelled, “Have a big time, Paula.”Her family name was Francisco. Brad had seen her picture. She’d been a prominent figure on a couple of the missions. Another of the security people assumed a position at the control unit. He touched something, and lights came on. Brad was thinking how incredible it was that a machine put in place ten thousand years ago still worked. Still generated power.A group of icons was visible inside the wall behind the grid.Brad knew the routine, had seen it numerous times on television. You stood on the grid and pressed the wall in front of one of the icons. Or someone did it for you. A luminous cloud formed, and you gradually faded from view. And you arrived somewhere else. It was the story of the age.He watched. The cloud appeared and enveloped Paula. Then it faded, and she was gone.Some of those waiting to follow looked at each other with foreboding expressions. They, too, had known what was coming, but maybe being present while it happened was different from watching it on television. Next in line was an elderly guy with white hair. He started forward, but the security officer raised a hand and waved him back. Brad’s first thought was that something had gone wrong, but while the security officer watched, the luminous cloud returned. This time, when it dissolved, Paula was back. She delivered a thumbs-up, pointed to the guy at the control, and was sent once again on her way. Okay. So they do a test run first. That seemed like a good idea. He wondered what they would have done if Paula hadn’t come back.The scientists stepped singly onto the grid and disappeared in the swirl of light. The last two to leave were April and the second security guy.Brad took a deep breath. Spectacular show. But it was over.He got out of his chair and remembered he’d intended to take pictures but had forgotten. He’d also planned to ask April back onto Grand Forks Live, but he’d forgotten that as well. He walked over to the security desk and said hello to Andrea.She looked up from a report. “Hi, Brad. How you doing?”He was tempted to ask her to come on the show, too. “I’m good, Andrea. Glad to see you again. It’s been a while. How was Eden?”“Spectacular, Brad. You should go. I’m sure we can set it up for you.”“Yes, I’m looking forward to doing it when I can.”“These are pretty good times for call-in shows, aren’t they? Everybody wants to talk about the Roundhouse.”“I know. That and the invisible thing that’s been floating around in Fort Moxie scaring everybody.”“I know. You think it’s connected to us?”“Probably.” If she came over and did his show, his callers would notice how she was doing missions to Eden while Brad sat in his office. “Gotta go, kid. I’m running a little late.”He left the Roundhouse and was immediately hit by a blast of cold air. The temperature in the parking lot was about ten below, actually fairly warm for North Dakota at this time of year. What kind of technology was able to keep the place warm after thousands of years? Whoever built the Roundhouse obviously knew what they were doing. Except that they’d lost their boat. He wondered if any of them had been casualties when that happened.TWONo frigid Northern skiesChill us from far, mocking our longing eyesAnd yearning sympathies,—Ah, no! the heaven bends kind and clasping here,And in the ether clearThe stars seem warm and near.—Elizabeth Akers Allen, “The Dream,” 1866THE MEMBERS OF April’s team came equipped with cameras, telescopes, a spectroscope, and laptops. Paula Francisco greeted each on arrival. They were inside a structure shaped like a bell jar, about three stories high. It was much smaller than the Roundhouse, and walls on three sides appeared to be made of darkened glass. The fourth was opaque green, probably a plastic, similar to the Roundhouse. They were looking out at a succulent forest bathed in sunlight. A group of icons were embedded in an earth-colored post. Prominent among them was an arrow. It was the symbol for the Eden transport station.When everyone had come through, she backed off and made way for April.“Welcome to the Cupola,” April said. “I want to remind you of the guidelines for the operation. You’re free to look around. Pick up whatever information you can. But take no chances. We’ve explored only a few square miles of this place. It seems hospitable enough, and we’ve encountered no threats. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. We’d like to pin down the location of this place if possible. Anybody going into the forest will be accompanied by either Paula or Adam. Or me.” All three carried weapons. “Don’t go alone. And everybody stay out of the ocean.” She studied the group of scientists. Who’d be crazy enough to go into an alien sea, right? “Our prime concern right now is to take some pictures and get everybody back alive. If we run into anything that could give us trouble, back off and play it safe.” The security escorts were distributing gloves. “They’re made of polypropylene. Whoever built these places didn’t use locks. Once you get outside, you need to be wearing these to get back in. Or something else that’s flexible and nonorganic. Otherwise, the doors won’t open. So don’t go anywhere without the gloves. And you’ll need your sunglasses.”She signaled Adam Sky to come forward. He was a big, taciturn guy who’d spent his early years in the military. He had riveting eyes and a voice that made it clear everything was under control. The family name was actually Kick-the-Sky, but he preferred the shorter version. “Adam’s our chief of security,” she said. “He has the final say on everything. If he tells us to clear out, we do it immediately with no questions. Clear?”They nodded and shook hands and stared at the outside world. Jerry Carlucci, an astrophysicist from Jodrell Bank in the UK, said, “Good luck to us all.” He appeared anxious to get to work.Several folding chairs had been brought in from North Dakota, along with two tables and a propane-powered refrigerator. The Sioux had also provided a Porta Potty a few yards from the station.“We all ready?” said April.They were.Garth Chanowitz, a Nobel Prize winner from MIT, walked over to neurologist Michael Fossel and shook his hand. “Hi, Michael,” he said. Garth was a big man, almost three hundred pounds, with a gray beard and an expression that suggested he, too, was in a state of near disbelief about where they were. “Bet you never thought you’d get a chance to research alien nervous systems.”“I’m not sure I believe it yet,” said Michael. There were doors at opposite ends of the Cupola. One, apparently a rear entrance, was set in the opaque wall. While everybody watched, Adam walked over to the front door and opened it. A lush breeze came in, and the station filled with the scents of pine and jasmine, and the sounds of a million birds. The vegetation was a wild mix of purple, red, and gold.“You know,” said Garth, “I’ve thought a lot about what aliens might be like. But I never thought I might get a chance to say hello to one.”They went outside and circled the building. The rear exit looked across an ocean.The beach and the sea had been on all the newscasts. It could have been any oceanfront environment at home, even including seashells. Nobody had any idea what lay over the horizon. Michael stood looking at it, breathing deeply, and listening to the rumble of the surf. The air was considerably warmer, of course, than North Dakota, a blend of South Seas mixed with the scent of a forest after a rainfall. The transport station was at the edge of a ridge, in the style of the Roundhouse, although this one was only a few feet high. Worn stone steps, partially buried, were on the forest side. He looked out across a broad sweep of trees and shrubbery. The vegetation wore a deep violet hue. Enormous silver-and-yellow blossoms hung from thin trees. The sun was just over a group of distant hills. One of the astronomers, Marge Baxter, showed up beside him. “Beautiful place,” she said. “Takes your breath away.”“Even the transport station looks good. Better than the one at home.”“Well, the one at home was buried for a long time. This one, according to the experts, isn’t nearly as old.”Michael hadn’t been certain whether the sun was rising or setting. But he gradually realized it was getting dark. “I understand this place has a moon,” he said.“Two of them.” Marge took a deep breath. She was excited. “I can’t wait to see them. Can’t wait to see the night sky, for that matter. I can’t believe we’re going to be able to sit on a beach and look up at the Horse’s head.”•   •   •THE OTHER ASTRONOMERS shared her enthusiasm. Jerry Carlucci kept urging the sun to hurry up and set. When finally it dipped below a range of hills, they were all watching from the beach. Even Michael, whose prime interest was in the local life-forms, found himself unable to pay attention to anything other than the gradually darkening sky. “No clouds,” said April. “We should get a good view.”“I hope so,” said Pat Benson, chairman of the astronomy department at Harvard.But there’s nothing slower than watching the sun go down. A few broke out sandwiches. Garth Chanowitz had coffee, which he shared. Marge kept looking at her watch, causing Michael to wonder if she’d found a way to tune it to Eden’s seventeen-hour day.The tide was coming in. Michael wondered what lived in the ocean. He’d have loved an opportunity to find out. And eventually, maybe he would. First things first, though. He’d already spotted a few birds. They reinforced what he’d expected. Just so many ways to make a squirrel. Or a blue jay.The sun sank into the hills, and gradually it got dark. Stars appeared, along with a moon. It was not like Earth’s moon. This one was fuzzy and bigger. It had an atmosphere.Garth pointed out over the ocean. “There it is!”“I think you’re right,” said Pat. And he looked in a different direction. “That might be Alnitak.”“Come on, Pat,” said Marge. “Stay serious.”“Well,” he laughed, “who knows? It might be.”Michael assumed they were talking about the Horsehead Nebula. Pat caught a questioning glance and nodded. “That’s it, Michael.” Cheers rang out. They stood on the beach and laughed and clapped their hands and congratulated each another.As the other stars of the nebula appeared, somebody provided music, and they lifted glasses of fruit juice, which was all they had, to the sky. He couldn’t remember a party in his entire life so filled with laughter and celebration. “I never would have believed I’d see anything like this,” he told Paula.“Oh, God. How is it possible?” squealed Marge. She did not look like somebody who would squeal.“I’ll tell you the truth,” said Garth. “I didn’t believe this was actually going to happen. I keep expecting to wake up. How different the sky is. To be standing under that thing rather than simply looking at it through a telescope.” They were like college kids enjoying spring break. Except a lot more.They set up their equipment on the beach and began taking measurements while Adam and Paula maintained watch over the forest. Michael spent some time examining the vegetation, but it wasn’t his field, and he eventually joined April and the astronomers at the edge of the ocean. He was fascinated by the hazy moon, wondering whether it harbored life. Marge handed him a telescope. He looked at it and saw nothing but open ground. No cities, no indication of structures of any kind. It was disappointing. Ordinarily, he would have simply shrugged the idea off. Now, though, anything seemed possible. The world of Grand Forks, North Dakota, with its brutal winters and routine working days, had been replaced by a cosmos that was suddenly accessible.Eventually, April and Michael got squeezed out of the conversation. The others were trying to identify individual stars, talking about spectra and angles and checking their computers. They wandered off and talked with the escorts. “Have they figured it out?” Paula asked. “Do they have any idea where we are?” She was slim, young, attractive, but all business.“I don’t think so,” April said. “They’re still arguing. And holding their hands against their heads.”Michael smiled. “And having the time of their lives.”•   •   •A FULL DAY on Eden lasted approximately seventeen hours. Nobody slept that night. As, eventually, the eastern sky brightened, and the stars began to fade, April knew that the moment of decision was near. She’d been told that everything ultimately hung on their ability to identify Eden’s sun. So far, at least, that hadn’t happened. It was still early in the game, but they had no idea where they were other than being located somewhere in the general vicinity of the Horsehead. That was why they’d really come, to see the nebula. Michael gradually realized that establishing Eden’s location was really a made-up claim, something that sounded like a reasonable objective, when in fact the astronomers had been reduced to the status of kids on Christmas Eve. And the nebula was not a disappointment. It was far more spectacular than anything that could be seen with the naked eye at home. Michael readily understood what Marge had meant about standing under the Horse’s head.April had a somewhat different perspective. Not that she didn’t enjoy that night sky, but for her, the fact that she was there, on the ground, was all that really mattered. They broke for coffee, and everybody put sunglasses back on. Michael added a Yankees baseball cap. Marge commented that she could really get to appreciate a world that didn’t seem to have mosquitoes.“I’d be surprised if there weren’t some bugs here somewhere,” Michael said. “Pests of various kinds will probably be pretty common anywhere.”They sat on the ground, propped against the Cupola, usually saying the same thing over and over. “Magnificent.”“My kids would love to see this.”“The real Eden couldn’t have had something like this.”April got out of step by commenting that the dawn seemed so ordinary. “It looks like our sun.”“Not really,” said Jerry. He was an ordinary-looking guy. Maybe five-eight, his brown hair starting to fade, and a smile that never seemed quite real. “I have a color perception problem, but it looks—?” He turned to Marge.“You’re right, Jerry,” she said. “I’d say it’s got an orange tinge.”Whatever, Michael thought, the astronomers were behaving as if they’d never seen a sunrise before. “Beautiful,” one of them said. They clapped one another on the back and shook hands some more. They were, he thought, trying to show April that she’d taken the dawn for granted.The sun was orange, Michael decided. Unlike Sol.They trained the spectroscope on it and entered the results into their computers, argued, traded data, and debated some more. The sun moved slowly across the sky and was almost directly overhead before they finally agreed they’d done as much as they could.“So,” asked April, “do you know where we are?”Marge rolled her eyes.“Within maybe forty or fifty light-years,” said Garth.Jerry was still consulting his computer. “I think I can make a pretty decent guess.”That got everybody’s attention. “So what have you got, Jerry?” asked April.“It looks like a K5. I don’t think anybody’s going to argue with that.” Nobody did. “I got the angles to several stars in the Horsehead. Now this could be a K5 star we just haven’t seen yet. But it looks like—” He checked his laptop again and passed it around. There were a lot of designators, which meant nothing to Michael. “The one at the bottom,” Jerry said. 2MASS J05384917-0238222. “Position looks like a match.”“I think you’re right,” said Marge.April looked disappointed. “What’s wrong?” asked Garth.“Nothing. I was hoping it would turn out to be a star that people had heard of. You know, one of the stars in Orion’s Belt or something.”They all laughed. “You wouldn’t want to be living on a world dependent on any of those things,” said Jerry. “Two of them are double stars, and Alnilam hasn’t been around long enough for life to evolve.” He held out his hands, a man who at that moment owned the heavens. “I’d like to stay and spend another night here. Can we do that? It would give me a chance to confirm that this really is 222.”April looked around. “We can, Jerry. If anybody wants to go back, though, feel free.”Nobody did. They broke out some sandwiches and more coffee and sat on the beach talking about whether anybody could figure a way to move one of the big telescopes out here. Maybe one of the Corbins, or the Hobby-Eberly. “There has to be a way to do it,” said Jerry.Garth pressed his palms together and put them behind his head, a man completely at ease. “Just bring out the pieces,” he said, “and we can put it together.”“Sure,” said Marge. “No sweat.”They talked about people who’d gotten annoyed that they weren’t selected to make the trip. Jerry asked April if she knew how the decisions had been made. “The choices,” she said in a serious tone, “were based strictly on good looks.”In fact they all knew that most of the decisions, maybe all of them, were being made at the White House level. There was a selection committee in Washington, and the choices had been made on perceived flexibility, by which was meant a willingness to keep an open mind, and on accomplishments and good health. At least those were the theoretical requirements. Garth, hauling around all that weight, did not look to be particularly healthy. Michael had no doubt that April was hoping the guy wouldn’t have any kind of attack while they were out here. But his name was as big as his anatomy. Michael also assumed there’d been some political maneuvering to give major scientific figures visibility by ensuring their organizations were represented. That might have been how he had gotten on board. He had a lot of connections. However that was playing out, his impression was that they’d gotten a good team.April told Adam and Paula they could go home if they wanted. “Just send out a couple of replacements.”“That’s okay,” said Adam. “I don’t really want to leave this.”“Neither do I,” said Paula.Marge was watching Paula. “The one thing I’m concerned about—”“Yes?”“How can I arrange to bring my kids out here?”“Check with James,” she said That, of course, was James Walker, the Sioux chairman.While the sun moved across the sky, Michael wandered into the forest, accompanied by Paula. He saw some small animals, some insects, various flowers, and a wide variety of trees. Birds soared through the sky. Something he couldn’t see sat hidden in the branches and yowled at him. And a long, lizard-like creature took time to stare up at him with no indication of fear. He wasn’t sure how it would react if he moved so he remained still and cautioned Paula to do the same until it had moved on. It was much too early to begin to draw conclusions about the biology here other than the obvious one: It was similar to the system that had developed at home. But that was to be expected since the environment was similar.Eventually, he went back to the shoreline and strolled along, just out of reach of the waves, examining shells and whatever else had washed up. April asked if he’d seen any surprises?“Not yet,” he said. “Maybe with a laboratory.”Eventually the sun began to sink again toward the hills. “Beautiful sunset,” said Jerry.Marge’s eyes brightened. “I wouldn’t have taken you for the romantic type, Jerry.”He smiled. “There’s nothing like a beautiful physicist to make me appreciate the sun going down.”Eventually, the night returned. Jerry opened his tablet and began comparing his data with what he could see overhead. Garth sat down beside him.Marge was staring out toward the horizon as the last faint glimmers of light faded. “Look,” she said quietly.Michael didn’t see anything other than a handful of stars.“What?” asked Garth.“One of them’s moving.”For several seconds he was aware only of the barely perceptible rumble of the sea. Then, “Yes.” Jerry’s voice. “It’s a comet.”“Hell of a show,” said Garth.THREEFor thou art Freedom’s now, and Fame’s,One of the few, the immortal names,That were not born to die.—Fitz-Greene Halleck, “Marco Bozzaris,” 1825“WE KNOW WHERE Eden is,” Jerry told the pool reporters.“Where?” they shouted.“Its sun is a K5 orange dwarf.” He put the designator on the monitor: 2MASS J05384917-0238222.They gave off disappointed sounds. “Does it have a name?” one of them asked.“That’s as close as you’ll get.”“We need to give it a name,” the Morning Show said. “We can’t really go live calling it 2Mass Whatever.”April stepped in: “Since Jerry Carlucci discovered it, I think we should invite him to name it. He suggested Oyate.”Jerry tried to conceal his surprise.The Associated Press pointed a pen at the astronomer. “Brilliant. Exactly the right thing.”April moved close to him. “Named for the tribe,” she whispered. “We’ll make it up to you later.”“No,” he said. “That’s good.”“How far is it?” asked a woman from PBS.“It’s pretty far,” Jerry said. “A thousand light-years, give or take.”That drew some gasps. “Are you serious?”“This keeps getting crazier.”“We always knew Eden was pretty far out,” Jerry continued. “The Horsehead told us that much.”The New York Times asked whether we could assume that whoever built the Roundhouse had come from Eden? “Or can you travel out of the transport station there and go somewhere else?”Jerry drew back and let April field the question. “The equipment doesn’t seem to have been maintained,” she said. “At one time, it looks as if Eden had connections with seven other places. Other than Johnson’s Ridge. But only two of them still seem to be getting power.”“Can we provide power?”“We don’t know. We’ve been reluctant to tinker with the technology.”•   •   •JAMES WALKER WAS uncomfortable taking chances with other people’s lives. But since the Roundhouse had been unearthed on Johnson’s Ridge, he had no real option. He was fully aware that, at his moderately advanced age, he’d be in the way if he tried to accompany the missions. But to salve his own soul, he would at least have to experience passage through the portal. Or, he thought, maybe he was just making up an excuse to go. To do what he seriously wanted to. There was no reason he should allow others to have all the fun. Especially now since Carlucci had named that world’s sun for the tribe.Nine or ten hours after April’s mission had returned with its news about Eden, he visited the Roundhouse. The chairman would not have been easy to pick out of a crowd. He was short, with unremarkable features, and might have seemed more likely to be found repairing rooftops or cars than conducting meetings in a council hall. There was no hint of authority in his mien or his voice, nor was there a suggestion of the steel that could manifest itself when the need arose. His eyes were dark and friendly, his bearing congenial. Those who knew him well understood that his primary strength lay in his ability to get people to tell him what they really believed, a talent as rare among Native Americans as among the rest of the population.He’d had a television and a computer installed in the transport room. When he walked in the door, CNN was interviewing Carlucci. He was explaining about light-years. Dale Tree was the senior duty officer present. The chairman said hello to everybody and took Dale aside. “I want to see the place,” he said. “Eden. I’ll only be there a few minutes. Can we manage that without having it become public?”Dale glanced over at the other two security people, John Colmar and Jack Swiftfoot. “I’ll let them know,” he said. “When did you want to go, Mr. Chairman?”“How about now?”Dale walked over and talked briefly with the others. Then he arranged for Carlucci to take the reporters into the pressroom. When that had been done, he checked his sidearm, strolled over to a table, opened a drawer, and took out two pairs of gloves. He handed one to the chairman. “Ready when you are, sir.”The chairman nodded. “Thanks, Dale. Why don’t you stay with Professor Carlucci? In case he needs an assist. John or Jack can go with me. We’ll only be a couple of minutes.”Jack got the assignment. He was an average-sized guy who could disappear easily into a crowd. But he was a retired naval aviator who now did tour flights out of Devils Lake Regional Airport. He took the second pair of gloves from Dale, put them on, and walked over to the grid.Walker had brought a revolver. He checked to make sure it was still in his pocket, donned the gloves, and joined his escort. “Looks as if we’re off again,” he said with a smile. Jack had been the chairman’s pilot on numerous occasions.“I’ll go first,” Jack said. He stepped onto the grid and pressed the arrow icon. A sprinkle of lights appeared and expanded into a glowing cloud. It wrapped around him, and he faded from sight.“Enjoy your trip, Mr. Chairman,” said Dale. He shook Walker’s hand and left for the pressroom.Walker knew the program. The luminous cloud reappeared, then faded, depositing Jack’s pen on the grid. It was an indication everything was okay on the other end. John came over, apparently to assist, but Walker waved him away. “It’s okay, John. I’ve got it.” He picked up the pen and wasn’t entirely surprised that as he leaned forward to press the arrow he was pumping adrenaline. The cloud reappeared. It settled over him, the Roundhouse interior faded, John waved good-bye, and he was in a different place.Jack Swiftfoot was smiling. “Welcome to Eden, Mr. Chairman. Simultaneously our shortest and longest flight.”He opened the front door for the chairman, and Walker looked out at thick forest. He stepped down off the grid, walked across the room, and strode through the doorway into the new world. He’d timed everything to arrive at night. He wanted to see the two moons, but only one of them was in the sky. The night was full of stars, far more than he had ever seen from the Rez. A warm breeze whispered through the trees, and he could hear the dull rumble of incoming tides. He was no longer in North Dakota.They circled behind the structure, walked through a brief patch of forest, and emerged on a beach. An ocean glittered beneath the Horsehead. This, he thought, would have been an ideal location for the reservation.•   •   •PRESIDENT MATTHEW R. Taylor understood that whatever else he might accomplish during his years in the White House, whatever bridges he might build, whatever boost he might provide the economy, he would always be remembered for what had happened on Johnson’s Ridge. It had been an impossible situation. No way to get it right, and in the end he was the guy who had taken the country back to the Indian wars and gotten Walter Asquith killed.The incident had left him shaken.The United Nations was voting at that moment on a motion demanding that the United States declare Johnson’s Ridge an international facility. There was no question how that would go. People around the globe were arguing that the Roundhouse belonged to the human race, not to any one nation, and certainly not to those who happened to own the property on which it had been discovered.Taylor was short and heavyset. He was not as good at hiding his feelings as were most politicians. On that morning, he watched TV images of the scientists talking with the media as they came back in from Eden, going on about the incredible technology and how they now knew where the planet was, and he found himself wishing the whole system would break down. There were too many conflicting issues. If they were able to reproduce the Roundhouse technology, which centered not only on instantaneous, long-range transportation, but also solar-powered energy production, what would it do to the transportation industries, to the car manufacturers, to the oil companies? It would probably wreck the economy. And there were all kinds of other hazards. They might bring a deadly virus back from Eden. Or even an army of invaders.On the other hand, scientists around the globe were demanding access to whatever worlds were available. And some corporations wanted access to the technology. Handled properly, it could provide an enormous boost to a world with serious energy and population problems.So what was the proper course of action?It hadn’t been an easy time for Harry Eaton either. The chief of staff was the guy who’d led the charge against all suggestions that they try to buy off the Sioux. It would cost too much politically, he’d told the president. The Indians had shown no inclination whatever to cooperate, and Eaton had argued that the administration had to be tough with them. Show no weakness. Taylor had made a last-minute effort to persuade Walker, the Sioux chairman, to cut a deal. But Walker had backed off, and after that he’d seen no alternative to the use of force.Eaton had been certain that the Indians would give way at the first sign of armed marshals. And Taylor had bought in. How could he have been so dumb? His buzzer sounded, and Alice informed him that Eaton had arrived. That would probably be with the results of the U.N. vote.Eaton was African-American, about average size, with an easygoing, if occasionally stubborn, demeanor. He didn’t always have the politics right, but he was a genius at handling the media, and he usually got hold of the appropriate course of action. He came in holding an envelope. Even had Taylor not known how the vote would go, his chief of staff’s expression made it clear. “It passed,” he said.The president exhaled. “Doesn’t matter. We don’t have the authority to take the land. And the U.N. can complain all they want, but they’re in no position to take any action either.”“Nevertheless, it’s a disaster, Mr. President. If we act on the motion, we can expect another armed confrontation. If we don’t, if we exercise our veto, the Republicans will be calling it a train wreck.”“And they won’t be wrong,” said Taylor. “But I’m not going to get anyone else killed.”“That was my fault, Mr. President.” He reached into his suit coat and produced a second envelope.“Put it away,” Taylor told him.“I appreciate your willingness to keep me on board, sir. But somebody’s going to have to take the fall.”“Somebody already has.”“Mr. President—”“Shut up, Harry. If I let you go, I’ll look like all those other sons of bitches who make dumb-ass calls, then try to blame it on somebody else. That might have worked in the old days, but not anymore. So just back off.”“Okay, sir. Thank you. But where do we go from here?”The Roundhouse was a unique global problem. People were terrified of what might happen if its technologies became generally available. Some regional economies were already in a shambles. The auto-parts industry in Morocco was close to collapse. Oil prices had begun to sink, which was not necessarily a bad thing. The stock market was down. Gold was up. Capital investment everywhere had slowed to a crawl.“I’ve talked with Walker, Harry. What we need to do is demonstrate stability. Ride it out. He’s in agreement. He understands what could happen. He knows we can lend him engineers or whatever the hell else he needs to get through this. We’ll do what we can for him. Meantime we hang on, avoid explosions, and eventually everything’ll work out.”•   •   •WALKER RETURNED HOME and slept for a few hours until his wife, Carla, woke him. “I just couldn’t wait any longer, Jim,” she said. “It’s all over the TV.”He needed a minute to think about it. “Oyate?”“Yes. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but they’re going on as if we landed on the Moon again.”“Beautiful,” he said. Carla, like himself, was putting on too much mileage. But unlike him, she still looked good. Dark hair, gleaming eyes, and the dazzling smile he’d fallen in love with at the Rez school a hundred years ago. “Thanks, babe. I guess we can still do something right.”He watched the cable news while he ate breakfast. Then he headed for his office in Fort Totten. Its walls were decorated with tribal motifs, war bonnets, medicine wheels, and ceremonial pipes. His father’s hunting bow was mounted beside the door, and framed photos of Carla and the kids were on the desktop. The boys were ten and eleven, and he wondered what they would see during their lifetimes. The world was changing so fast.Miranda called. “Mr. Fleury’s here,” she said.Jason was his White House contact. “Congratulations, Mr. Chairman. It looks as if you and the Sioux are going to decide what the future looks like.”“That would be nice, Jason,” he said. “But I always get a bit uncomfortable when everything seems to be running in the right direction.” He pointed at a chair.Jason sat down and looked at Walker through his horn-rimmed trifocals. He possessed a casual manner that one seldom found in a high-level government official. He had consistently shown an ability to relax under pressure unlike anyone Walker had seen during his working career. Jason had been largely responsible for calming everyone down after the shooting that had occurred when the government had tried to seize the Roundhouse a few weeks before. “Anyhow, finding out where Eden is—that’s great. The scientific world is deliriously happy.”“I couldn’t help noticing, though, that they gave all the credit to the astronomers. I don’t recall anyone mentioning the tribe.”“The astronomers are more visible than the Spirit Lake Sioux. But it’ll be there, Mr. Chairman. The president asked me to pass along his congratulations, as well. They’re having a celebration in the White House tomorrow night. They’d like you to attend.”“I’m kind of busy, Jason.”“Mr. Chairman, I don’t want to get out of line here, but this is part of your job. You want the tribe to get the credit for their role, you have to show up for the celebration. You’re the face of the Sioux.”“But I can’t get to D.C. tomorrow night.”“Why not? There’s a private flight leaving the Devils Lake Airport at eleven tomorrow morning. Carla’s invited, too, of course.” He looked happy while Walker tried to digest the news.He was actually being invited to the White House? He wished his folks could have lived to see this. “Okay,” he said. “Tell him I’ll be there.”“Why don’t you tell him yourself?” Jason produced a cell phone. “It’s yours, Mr. Chairman. The president would like to hear from you. And he thought it would be a good idea if you could speak with him directly, without broadcasting to the world.”“There’s something special about this phone?”Fleury nodded. He touched one of the keys and spoke briefly with someone. When he’d finished he turned it off and handed it over. “It provides a secure connection, sir,” he said.“With the White House?”“You’ll get Alice Worthington. She’s the president’s secretary.”“Excellent.”“Well, considering everything that’s going on, Mr. Chairman, you need to have direct access.”“It might help, Jason. Thank you.”•   •   •HE CALLED CARLA, who couldn’t believe she was headed for the White House. She said she’d pack what they needed. “Can we get Janet to mind the kids?”Janet was Carla’s sister. “I’ll call her. Middle of the week. It shouldn’t be a problem.”Then he tried his secure phone. Just push the call button. A woman’s voice answered on the second ring. “Hello, Mr. Chairman.”“Alice,” he said, “hello. May I speak with the president?”“He’s in a meeting, sir. We’ll get back to you when he’s clear.”“Okay. And there’s a party tomorrow night?”“Yes, sir. In the East Room. The president would like you to attend.”“Yes. We’ll be there.”“Excellent, sir. The president will be delighted. They’ll be starting about eight.”The chairman was on his way out the door headed for home when the president reached him. “James,” he said, “I’m delighted you can make it.” He sounded ecstatic.First the Horsehead Nebula. Then a party with the president. Life, he thought, was good.•   •   •THEY FLEW INTO Washington in a small government jet and were taken to the Hilton, where they received a call from Alice Worthington. “We’ll pick you up at nine,” she said.Walker frowned. “Alice, we were told the party would start at eight.”“It does, Mr. Chairman. But you’ll be fashionably late. Okay?”A limousine arrived at 8:45, and they rode to the White House with a staff escort. They pulled up in front of the East Wing. Music and laughter spilled out of the building. Doors were held for them, and they went inside and were taken to the East Room. The exhilaration that arrived with the invitation was fading, and the chairman had already begun to think he’d be happier when it was over. He didn’t know anyone there, and he just didn’t feel as if he belonged.But he and Carla had barely entered the room when President Taylor, who must have been alerted to their presence, was waving at them and summoning them in his direction. He called for everyone’s attention and introduced them to a sustained round of applause. He invited the chairman to say a few words, but Walker felt overwhelmed. “I’m proud to be here,” he said. “Thank you very much.” That brought more applause, but the level of enthusiasm had diminished.Walker was usually good at social events. One had to be in order to succeed in politics, regardless of what level it played out on. But this was simply too much. He and Carla were introduced to the First Lady, the Chief of Staff, the secretaries of state, the navy, and the treasury. There were half a dozen generals and admirals, the president’s science advisor, several physicists and biologists, a mathematician, and two movie stars he’d never heard of. Walker wasn’t a fan of films.Carla was taken away from him and escorted onto the dance floor by the Speaker of the House. Guests drifted in his direction, congratulated him, and wished him well. And, eventually, he relaxed.He was talking with one of the White House staff, whose name rang no bells, when the president came over. “You’ve been doing a marvelous job, James,” he said. “I was sorry we got off to such a bad start. But you know that. This whole thing is a tough call for us. I can tell you honestly that I’m not sure where we go from here. I wish that thing had never turned up.”Walker managed a laugh. “I know exactly what you mean, sir. I go to sleep every night wondering whether a truckload of Martians will come spilling out from Johnson’s Ridge. We’re at the beginning of something that will change our lives forever.” Somebody brought over a couple of drinks. Walker thought they were rum and Cokes. He wasn’t much of a drinker, but whatever it was, it had a soothing effect on him. “I’m trying to stay optimistic,” he said.“Me, too. But we’re talking about radical change. And in politics, that’s never a good thing.” The president drained his glass and set it on a side table. “Right now, whoever’s out there has forgotten about us. The smart thing to do would be to leave it that way.”“Mr. President, the technology suggests a highly advanced civilization. I doubt they’d be interested in giving us any trouble. I just wish we could be sure.”“So do I. But I don’t think the possibility of invaders is anywhere close to the real danger. If we start transporting people from here to Chicago the way you’re doing it at the Roundhouse, it would destroy the automobile industry. The airlines, the oil companies. There are a lot of things that will go seriously wrong, and I suspect a good many that we haven’t even thought of. I’ll tell you, James, if the Roundhouse suffered a complete breakdown, I’d have no regrets. Sometimes, I’m tempted to think we should arrange it.”Walker stared at the president. “If we do, we’ll always regret it, Mr. President. I don’t think—” What did he think? “In the long run, technology is always beneficial.”“I wonder if Oppenheimer believed that.”In fact, Walker didn’t believe it either. But he was trying to keep his head above water. This was an opportunity unlike any ever provided for the Sioux. It was their chance to be at the forefront of the biggest technological breakthrough in the history of the species. To show the world who they really were. “I understand your feeling, Mr. President. But—”“I know, James. I wish I knew the right way to proceed. I think our best course at the moment is to take our time. Move ahead cautiously. And be ready to close it down if we have a problem.”“This celebration tonight is strictly a political sideshow, isn’t it?”“No. We appreciate what you’ve done. And we’ve already made some major strides. I’m just suggesting we be careful not to go over the edge.”FOURVision is the art of seeing things invisible.—Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Various Subjects, 1706RANDALL EVERHARDT HAD spent the evening at his daughter’s house in Walhalla. He was a grandfather and nothing pleased him as much as playing with the kids. They’d had a casual dinner, and afterward, Pete and Randy had broken out the blocks, and they’d built a fort. But snow began to fall at about eight, and the weather predictions weren’t encouraging. Melinda thought it would be a good idea if he stayed with them overnight, but he was supposed to eat lunch the following day with other members of the Winter Group, and that probably wouldn’t happen if he waited out the storm. So he said good-bye to everybody and headed home to Fort Moxie, on the Canadian border. It was only about a half-hour drive.“Be careful, Dad,” Melinda said as he picked his way across the icy ground to his car. It was bitter cold. Randall was closing on his eightieth birthday, and everybody had taken to telling him he shouldn’t be driving anymore. That was ridiculous. Naturally, he was having some problems with joints and ligaments, but you could expect that. It was no reason for people to assume he couldn’t get around.He opened his car door, waved good-bye to his daughter and her husband, Bill, and slid onto the seat. He had to lift his left knee with his hand to get it in. One of life’s little challenges.He started the engine and the radio came on. It was tuned to KLYM, which was giving round-the-clock coverage to the Roundhouse story. He had actually lived long enough to find out there really were aliens. That was something he had never expected. He blinked his lights and backed out onto Sixth Street.Everhardt turned north on Route 55, followed it out onto the plains, then east toward Fort Moxie. There was no traffic on the two-lane road. Maybe a car going the other way every few minutes, both cars slowing down until they got past each other. Matt Fanny was talking to somebody who was saying that he wasn’t going to deny there was some sort of transporter in the Roundhouse. “But there’s no way, Matt, it could take them all the way out to that What’s-its-name Nebula in a few seconds. You know how far that is? I mean, it’s a long walk.”“So what are you saying, Clyde?”“I’m not sure. It’s probably some sort of conspiracy. Maybe the Indians are trying to jack up interest in that place. Make some money selling tickets. I don’t know. I know Einstein wouldn’t buy it. There’s something here that we just need to figure out.”Randall groaned. He was getting tired of the Roundhouse stories. He switched over to NPR, which was doing classical music.He wondered what he could do to persuade the people in charge to let him make the trip out to Eden? He’d done a lot in his life. Fought in two wars, served as a high-school math teacher, had three kids and seven grandchildren. They were all turning out pretty well. And Melinda was a talented artist.Fort Moxie was getting close. Its lights were visible in the distance.He had regrets, of course. Everyone did. At least everybody who’d been paying attention. Most of his missteps were beyond repair now, neglected friends, failure to realize when he was needed, women who’d treated him well but that he’d simply walked away from. He took a deep breath. He’d done a fair amount of damage over the years. Without meaning to.The radio voices were still chattering, but he could not help recalling when Melinda had first settled in Walhalla, and he and Julie were returning from their first visit. She was their oldest child, and it had been a new experience. But on the way back, when the lights ahead had glowed and everything had been so serene, they’d been congratulating each other, and laughing, and he’d known at the time it was an unforgettable night.Julie had shared his reaction. “Randy,” she’d said, “I don’t know when I’ve ever enjoyed myself more than this.”It would be only a few months later that they’d discover the cancer.He crossed Interstate 29 and pulled into town, turned right onto Second Street, and followed it south through the ring of trees that circled Fort Moxie, ostensibly shielding it from the prairie winds, and turned again onto the private road that led to his garage.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Nebula Award–Winner Jack McDevitt   “The logical heir to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.”—Stephen King   “‘Why read Jack McDevitt?’ The question should be: ‘Who among us is such a slow pony that s/he isn’t reading McDevitt?’”—Harlan Ellison   “Jack McDevitt is a master of describing otherworldly grandeur.”—The Denver Post   “An intelligent, provocative entertainment by a man who brings energy, style, and a fresh perspective to everything he writes.”—The Washington Post Book World“Thunderbird by Jack McDevitt is a delightful book indicative of the author’s unique ability to put realistic characters in fantastic settings.” —Amazing Stories