Initiate Alpha Sequence

Story Summary


The interstellar starship Warden collided with a radiation cloud on its way to a new colony. The ship was damaged and the crew and passengers mutated. [Prologue written by James M. Ward and published in Metamorphosis Alpha, 1st edition]

Chapter 1: Cloned!

The Warden's emergency Alpha Sequence awakened several clones. Some were mutated or part animal; others were normal but all were hazy about their pasts. Chelydra (mutant snapping-turtle), Percy (mutant human), Nike (normal human) and Zhaxier (mutant human) awoke in clone pods. A food processing robot tried to kill them but with luck they destroyed it first. [The opening of this chapter was written by Guy W. McLimore Jr. and published in Dragon Magazine #6]

Chapter 2: Escape

The clones found a few useful devices on the food processing bot; the computers in the room gave no information. A security robot arrived to investigate and the clones fled for their lives.

Chapter 3: Into the Woods

The clones hurried down corridors and explored a forested environment-room.

Chapter 4: Separated

Zhaxier left the party. He returned to the clone room and found a datapad in his berth. He hid in an air vent from security bots. Chelydra, Percy and Nike defended a seemingly helpless young woman named Amanda (human clone) from vicious wolfoid creatures.

Chapter 5: Allies

Zhaxier met Claus (mutant tabby cat) and Tinker (robot). Percy learned he could shape-change into a wolfoid. Amanda led Nike's party to her home, a control room at the edge of the forest.

Chapter 6: Catch-Up

Zhaxier, Claus and Tinker raided a weapons locker and found their way to the forest room via an elevator. Zhaxier and Claus scouted while Tinker locked the elevator door, staying behind to recharge his batteries.

Chapter 7: Watcher

Chelydra, Percy and Nike discovered a secret door in the back of Amanda's hideout that led to a dark corridor. They secured the doors and slept. Amanda revealed she was attracted to Nike, but Nike did not reciprocate. Amanda told her she was being used as bait by the Watcher, a crazed android with a lair nearby. Claus used his nose to lead Zhaxier to Amanda's hideout.

Chapter 8: Reunion

Zhaxier reunited with Chelydra, Percy and Nike. Claus waited in the woods; he saw a robot watching the hideout and slipped away without telling Zhaxier. Tinker rebooted and found his elevator invaded by natives led by a man named Devon in a Warden maintenance uniform who turned Tinker off with an electronic device. When Tinker rebooted again, Devon and the natives were gone with most of his possessions.

Chapter 9: Kidnapped

Sharneste (mutant lion) sought shelter with the clones as night fell. The lights went out and the secret door opened. Half-blind creatures stormed in and abducted Amanda. As they dragged her out she gave Nike a room number: G10.

Chapter 10: Offensive

Tinker found Amanda's hideout. Armed with the robot's remaining pistols, the party ventured into the dark corridor behind the secret door.

Chapter 11: Cafeteria

The party found supplies and met Arkady (human clone) eating in a cafeteria. Zhaxier discovered a note on his datapad with a map to a lifeboat.

Chapter 12: H.U.T.

The party continued down the hall. Sharneste alerted them to something smelly approaching and they ambushed one of the hairy ugly things that had captured Amanda. It ran away as emergency lights came on and sirens blared. The party ran for Zhaxier's lifeboat. The Watcher released Amanda from a cell and ordered her to bring the clones to enviro-bay 12 to be harvested.

Chapter 13: Chased

The parties raced through a maze of residential corridors. Amanda ran into Claus, Gregory (human clone) and Rufus (mutant jackal). Security bots killed Claus but the others escaped.

Chapter 14: Armory

Nike's party found room G10; Chelydra's passcard opened the door to an armory. While they equipped themselves Zhaxier left the party to search for a room described in another note in his datapad.

Chapter 15: Spacedust

Security bots killed Sharneste and Tinker. The parties converged and fought their way to the lifeboat hangar. Zhaxier hid from security bots in an apartment; he entered a ventilation shaft and a security system decapitated him.

Chapter 16: Left Behind

The party locked themselves in a hangar with an enormous lifeboat. A squad of harmless maintenance bots distracted them; then sirens announced imminent depressurization. Everyone but Gregory and Chelydra made it onboard before the lifeboat's gangplank closed.

Chapter 17: Lift Off

Gregory died when the hangar doors opened; Chelydra retracted into his shell. Arkady donned a spacesuit, exited an airlock and brought Chelydra onboard. Nike found the bridge, turned on the engines and lifted off for open space.

Chapter 18: Sand Dune

The lifeboat crash-landed on a planet. Arkady awoke on the bridge and found Nike unconscious in the command chair. The ship's controls alerted him to a hull breach. The outside atmosphere was breathable but a storm was coming. Chelydra awoke in the lifeboat's mess hall. He found Amanda, injured and unconscious, and went with Arkady to find a medkit in the supply room. They found Percy hanging from a crash-seat near the gangplank. Rufus was killed by the crash.

Chapter 19: Waking Nike

Chelydra and Percy returned to the mess hall for Amanda but her body was gone. Percy shape-changed into a wolfoid and followed her scent past the crew quarters to a medical room. Arkady woke Nike and they set off to find the rest of their party.

Chapter 20: Bailey and Bud

Bud Asuda (normal human) and Bailey Stewart (normal human) awoke in the lifeboat's medbay. They had belonged to a Warden counter-insurgency team but they had been captured and frozen onboard the lifeboat. Bailey learned from the medbay computers that centuries had passed; they were light-years from the Warden's intended destination (82 Eridani) and they had crash-landed on a planet orbiting the sun Rho-1 Cancri. Bud discovered Amanda lying unconscious on an operating table. Shlitzfarl (a.k.a. Shlitzee, robot) entered from the medical supply room and introduced herself.

Chapter 21: Tritonian Standoff

Chelydra and Percy confronted Bud and Bailey. Nike and Arkady joined them. After a tense standoff Bud and Bailey accepted Nike as captain of their crashed vessel and joined her crew. Shlitzee informed them that the Warden's communication systems had been destroyed by radiation. Percy recalled serving under Warden captain Margulis and that she had scrambled the Warden's Command and Navigation systems to prevent mutineers from taking control. Shlitzee awakened Amanda.

Chapter 22: Radio On

Nike discovered the clones had communication devices wet-wired into their skulls. She organized the crew into search parties and sealed the hull breaches.

Chapter 23: Portal of the Winds

Horatio (native human: Hithari tribe) was a priest living in the Sigai Oasis with the Spragni tribe. His own tribe had banished him for asking a forbidden question. He saw the lifeboat (a "huge silver bird") crash in the desert and gathered his students to find it. Searching for a "Gate That Holds Back the Wind" mentioned by the Prophet Benalidino, he found the airlock but could not enter. He and his students waited in the sand while a deadly storm approached.

Chapter 24: Uninvited Guests

The crew gathered on the lifeboat's bridge to assess their situation: reserve power was low, the ship's reactor was damaged, and the AI's autonomic regulator (a device preventing the computer from behaving independently) was damaged. Percy explored the ship's computer systems and discovered six humans outside the ship. Nike, Bud, Chelydra and Shlitzee ran to the airlock and met Horatio who asked for shelter from the storm. Nike invited him and his students into the ship and escorted them to the mess hall.

Chapter 25: Terminus

Arkady and Percy went to the engineering room. The engines were separated from the rest of engineering by a thick transparent wall; an airlock in the center protected the crew from radiation. A slow-witted robot named Terminus sat inside. They learned from Terminus that the engine needed a new part that a matter compiler in the lifeboat's garage could construct.

Chapter 26: The Afrimus Storm

A storm buffeted the lifeboat with powerful blasts of energy; the ship stored some in its batteries and unleashed the rest into the sand. Horatio's student David was thrown off his feet and suffered head trauma. Percy and Arkady found the matter compiler but couldn't build the part they needed because there was no carbon. They searched the ship but found no food; the two vehicles in the garage were missing tires and all other carbon elements were missing.

Chapter 27: Comfortably Numb

David's injury swelled to the size of a golfball; Shlitzee sedated him and operated. Horatio told Nike that his tribe had come from the Eridani colony long ago in search of the Warden: soon after their arrival a "demon" tempted his ancestors for seven days then attacked them. They killed the demon and that night they shared a dream of ascending into heaven; when they awoke they were in a place they called Eden, "a beautiful garden filled with plants and animals" but surrounded by desert. In Eden they built a seminary where the priests of Galt kept sacred texts and waited for the Warden to return. Percy and Arkady collected dead lifeforms killed by the afrimus storm and tossed them into the lifeboat's recycler for carbon. The cewmembers chose their quarters and slept as night fell.

Chapter 28: Clones in Toyland

The crew discovered a stash of weapons in the lifeboat's munitions locker. Arkady and Percy started compiling a new reactor part, additional security passcards, comm-headsets, and awakened the ship's engineering robot Hephaestus. The robot had an injured leg and walked with a limp, but managed to haul their part to the engine room. While they waited for Terminus to repair the reactor, Arkady noticed the robot made strange arrhythmic tapping noises. Nike mentioned the lifeboat's AI was called Pandora and hadn't spoken to her since before the crash.

Chapter 29: Down the Rabbit Hole

MX2000 (security robot) had been guarding an excavation for hundreds of years when one day the robot heard a sound above it and climbed out to find two human savages fighting in a rocky landscape. One of the humans attacked MX2000 and the robot defended itself. The human burst into a cascade of light that enveloped the robot's vision. When MX2000 could see again, the rocky landscape was gone. A warm mist flowed through a dense jungle into the weed choked ruins of a dropship. MX2000 followed the mist to a human corpse in combat armor. Suddenly the dropship's corridors looked new again and Lieutenant Matahachi stood before the robot. Matahachi told MX2000 to shutdown for new hardware, programming and a new mission. When the robot rebooted, the dropship was in ruins again. The robot found an aircar and flew toward the Pandora�s landing site using its new GPS hardware. Minutes later THX-1492 (engineering robot) rebooted in the same area and had an identical experience. The only difference was that THX-1492 detected encrypted signals from numerous locations.

Chapter 30: The Peace Pipe

Percy learned how to program the comm devices. Bud searched for radio signals and found one, but when he sent it to the bridge speakers it squealed with feedback and disappeared. The crew munched on food Horatio's students had brought with them; Bud and Arkady smoked an herb that Shlitzee fabricated. The crew got to know the natives and learned from them that Earth had been destroyed "by fire". The crew took the Pandora for a test flight that night. Arkady discovered the lifeboat was not capable of escaping from the planet's gravity. An escape pod landed nearby and THX-1492 arrived in an aircar.

Chapter 31: Fabric Eating Monsters

Caleb (mutant coyote clone) awoke on the Warden; he wandered around a housing area, ran from security robots, fled in an escape pod and landed on the planet. After he untangled himself from the pod's parachute, he saw several tentacled creatures submerged in the sand (sikalas) eating the parachute fabric. Becka (mutant human) and Irsa (mutant hamster) arrived, having walked from their own escape pod some distance away, and helped Caleb kill one of the sikalas. The lifeboat landed and the crew killed the rest of the sikalas lurking beneath the sand with their new weapons. They welcomed the new crew members and ordered Hephaestus to dismantle the escape pod for recycling, along with the dead sikalas.

Chapter 32: Whispers From the Past

Percy made instant coffee and protein bars with the matter compiler. The new crew members chose quarters and Nike briefed them. Bud and Bailey revealed that Delta Corps security forces had sent them into Epsilon City's S-Tower (where most of the clones had been born) with orders to neutralize a group of mutineers occupying the officer's quarters. THX-1492 revealed it had come to Rho Cancri with Captain Jamar and Lieutenant Matahachi on the hastily retrofitted Colony Ship Alexandria to rescue the Warden after she mysteriously left Eridani. The robot played a message describing Earth's destruction by asteroids. Horatio quoted laws of gravity from the Prophet Benalidino's scriptures and named the cities on the composite images the Pandora had taken during her test flight; visible light was present only in cities of the Rota tribe ("blasphemers tempted by demons, hoping to steal their power") and in Eden where the Hithari tribe lived ("we are safe from the demons").

Chapter 33: A Vision of Death

Becka was overcome by a vision of an overgrown dropship and the corpse of Lt. Matahachi. The crew decided to send Irsa and Becka in the aircar with THX-1492 to investigate the dropship. Bailey examined the aircar; it was strangely alien but powered by standard Type VI Hydrogen cells. No one was watching the ship's detectors when Drake (mutant human) wandered onboard from another escape pod. He said very little and the crew was suspicious of him.

Chapter 34: Excavating the Past

THX-1492 traveled to the dropship with Irsa and Becka. The dropship lay at the bottom of an excavation alongside exposed ruins of an ancient civilization. The crew of the Pandora watched THX's video feed. Without being aware of it, THX began replaying captain Jamar's journal describing his arrival at Eridani onboard the Warden, his party's descent to the colony and their hasty departure aboard the retrofitted Rescue Ship Alexandria in suspended animation to chase the Warden when it left unexpectedly. An error during deceleration damaged visual sensors and the Warden vanished. At the excavation, rain started falling and Irsa and THX found shelter in the ruined dropship. Becka, terrified by her earlier vision, refused to enter and waited in the aircar, reading a book she had found on the Pandora called Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. Percy hacked into the communication satellite relaying THX's video feed and learned it had last booted-up around 10 years ago.

Chapter 35: Derelict Duty

Irsa and THX-1492 explored the garage, bridge and systems control rooms on the bottom floor of the dropship. Signs on the doors to engineering warned of radiation; a Geiger counter confirmed the danger. They found Matahachi's corpse and saw roots growing in through the windows. THX continued playing Jamar's journal: his crew had repaired the Alexandria and discovered that a screw, too large for the retrofitted engine, had caused the damage by shorting the circuitry. The Alexandria's astrogator Amrit Singh discovered something artificial on a moon orbiting the habitable planet at Rho-1 Cancri and set a course to investigate.

Chapter 36: Up the Downed Staircase

Irsa and THX headed upstairs and searched the airlock, restrooms and storage. The corridor outside the passenger compartment was choked with roots. Dozens of horned rabbit-like creatures were living in the passenger seats. THX continued Jamar's journal describing cities the Alexandria's crew found on the moon; they collected technological artifacts from strange buildings abandoned millions of years ago, took pictures of murals depicting life on the planet below and setup a satellite network to search for the Warden.

Chapter 37: Awakenings

Alexei (mutant chimpanzee clone) awoke on the Warden and fled from attacking robots in an escape pod. He landed in the jungle near the ruined dropship and met Irsa and THX-1492. He retrieved the pod's flight recorder and THX found 28 hours of flight data missing (erased somehow) indicating the Warden was in a very high orbit. THX continued Jamar's journal, describing the Alexandria's journey to the planet: glaciers covered most landmasses but plants and animals thrived in narrow zones. The Alexandria's technician Mike Benalidino tried to make sense of the alien devices from the moon but needed help. Jamar thawed a cybergeneticist from Eridani called John Galt to help. The last entry from Jamar's journal described ruins the dropship's sensors had discovered and THX-1492's role in reprogramming general purpose robots for archeological work. THX showed Irsa how to fly one of the aircars they found in a large room amid the ruins and the team returned to the Pandora.

Chapter 38: End Transmission

The crew discussed what to do next. Horatio revealed that Benalidino, who had been second only to John Galt, had lived in the sanctuary and had prepared Galt's children for the Warden's return. Percy discovered from the communication satellite that the Alexandria was still in orbit and he gained access to her computers. She had a telescope pointed at the planet, global maps and terabytes of files. The logs from the lunar satellites ended in 2557; broadcasts from Eridani were uninterrupted from 2336 (when the Alexandria left Eridani) to the present: 2790. Percy found the end of Jamar's journal: Galt had convinced the captain to thaw Dwayne Spragni to help decipher the alien language but Dwayne produced no results. Jamar's last journal entry said he had sent Spragni to the planet's surface for inspiration among the ruins; the next day, several systems onboard the Alexandria failed and the second of two dropships departed. Captain Jamar's hibernation chamber activated two days later; vital signs were still nominal after 235 years.

Chapter 39: Forgotten Chambers

Janus (native human: Rota tribe) received a message from his friend Tymbal and left for Sigai with a caravan of large beasts of burden (leviathans) hoping to meet travelers from another world. Deep in the desert an afrimus storm approached and those who were brave enough sought shelter in an ancient ruin. In a shrine behind a crumbling wall, Janus found a case containing a sealed cylinder and a stone etched with a humanoid figure surrounded by glyphs. After the storm passed the survivors were Janus, Malik and Devon (native human: Spragni tribe). They journeyed to Sigai and found the burnt remains of MX2000 in an aircar. Tymbal told them the villagers had destroyed the "demon" then gone into the desert to kill another they had heard during the previous night. Janus gave Tymbal his artifacts for safe keeping and they headed into the desert.

Chapter 40: The Lizard King

Horatio told Bud that the Prophet Benalidino had died over 250 years ago in the year 47 of his calendar, but John Galt was still alive. Percy learned from the Alexandria's computer that John Galt's genetic code had been modified before birth in New Plymouth on Eridani. THX-1492, Irsa, Becka and Alexei returned to the Pandora just as angry villagers arrived from Sigai. Drake tried to frighten them, but they knocked him unconscious and beat him. Horatio convinced them to stop their attack, Bud preached hellfire, and Shlitzee took Drake to the medbay. Arkady "greeted" the natives with Shlitzee, sedating them while taking DNA samples.

Chapter 41: Who is John Galt?

Tymbal, Janus, Devon, and Malik approached the crowd at the Pandora. Horatio told Bud not to trust them, calling the Rota tribe deceivers who cared only for power. Bud asked Tymbal if Galt was hundreds of years old; he replied, "I have seen John Galt many times at Convocation, and I profess he is not like other men. Not once have I seen signs of age on his face. He looked the same last year as he did when I was a boy. His skin is radiant, as if dirt were afraid to touch him. And even under the hot Ithark sun I've never seen him sweat." Horatio claimed Galt was omnipotent and omniscient, everything beyond their mountains was wasteland, and the jungles THX-1492 had flown from were illusions fabricated by demons. Janus said that an unbroken chain of Benalidino's disciples had taught the Rota for 307 years that Galt could not cross the "Great Water". Horatio called Janus a liar, threatened him with punishment for blasphemy, and his students tried to seize him. Arkady and Chelydra fired warning shots. Bud told Janus and Horatio to choose two people to join a pilgrimage and told the rest to clear out. Horatio chose Foryn and Mica. Janus was reluctant to choose anyone because of the danger, but Devon and Malik volunteered. Devon freaked when he saw Shlitzee use a device to sedate and sample his friends and refused to cooperate. Arkady took a sample of Devon's hair and the crew escorted the pilgrims to separate quarters. The Rota recognized the computer monitor in their room as a sacred "window" like one they used for secret initiation rites. When they were alone, Janus told the crew that Galt and Spragni had plotted to capture the Alexandria: Spragni captured Benalidino after landing on the planet. Galt landed the second dropship, killed Matahachi, and scuttled the first dropship. He flew away with Spragni, Benalidino, and several women thawed from the Alexandria, then built a settlement and used the Alexandria's robots as guards. Everyone but Galt and Spragni were prisoners. Galt married his pick of the women and gave the rest to Spragni. Benalidino kept himself alive with valuable information about the dropship's maintenance. The demons arrived three years later. They looked like men and wanted to be friends, but Galt attacked them, and the demons vanished like sand. That night as everyone slept, they were transported to Eden where they found crops ready for harvest and metal houses for everyone. Galt tried to explore the desert and the ocean beyond, but deadly hazards always prevented him. He eventually gave Benalidino wives for his assistance and knowledge.

Chapter 42: Over Eden

Nike, Bud, and Amanda left the Pandora in an aircar with the intention of making contact with John Galt. But when they flew over Eden, Nike decided to avoid him for the time being. The city lay in a broad wooded valley protected by mountains on three sides. Two concentric walls separated by a ring of strange trees (different from the dry scrub beyond and the lush landscape within) surrounded Eden except where a single gate pierced the west wall. The interior was a low-tech paradise of wild fields, docile animals, simple wooden furniture, and candle-lined dirt roads. The inhabitants wore simple tunics, and some carried staffs. The only signs of technology were dozens of identical two-story buildings resembling duralloy vacation homes with black circular roofs. On the way back to the Pandora, Shlitzee informed Nike that she and the rest of the clones were bioroids, biological androids grown to an arbitrary age with DNA copywritten by the UWSC. Bioroid males were infertile by design; females were fertile but did not menstruate.

Chapter 43: The Warden Wrangler

Davred (human clone) awoke on the Warden and fled from murderous robots in an escape pod that landed near the Pandora. Irsa flew out to greet him, and the crew followed in the Pandora. Davred gave THX-1492 his escape pod's flight recorder, containing hours of recorded static. Shlitzee sampled Davred's DNA and positively identified him as a Warden security officer. Chelydra welcomed him onboard and showed him to quarters.

Chapter 44: Opening Pandora

Nike briefed the new crew members. Shlitzee told the clones they were bioroids, mentioned bioroid manufacture had been illegal on Earth, and reported on the natives' DNA samples: they were all descended from three men. Chelydra learned from interrogating Horatio that he was a descendant of John Galt's, the Hithari tribe; the Rota tribe were Mike Benalidino's descendants and the Spragni tribe were Dwayne Spragni's descendants. Arkady proposed a plan to build a space elevator to the Alexandria, and Percy produced a map of the planet from the Alexandria's computer. Nike gave the order to leave for the scuttled dropship. The ship's AI awoke during the flight and helped Amanda find a server address for the GPS satellites orbiting the planet. Pandora told Nike: "I ceased communicating with my ship shortly after a rocket from the Warden struck my hull." Bud and Bailey reported no rockets had been installed on the Warden before their hibernation. Nike landed the Pandora near a beach to refuel before attempting to cross the ocean and sent Percy to investigate how the AI was functioning without an autonomic regulator. Shlitzee told Percy and Arkady she had removed her own regulator many years ago, and that Pandora would have complained about Shlitzee's rogue status if her regulator was functioning. THX-1492 examined Pandora's regulator, discovered it was ruined and recommended repairs. Nike discussed the matter with Pandora, received her allegiance, and accepted Pandora as one of the crew, then Nike asked THX to investigate the cause of the damage. Pandora informed Nike that Shlitzee had neglected to care for Drake who had died from his wounds.

Chapter 45: Galt's Curse

Davred and Irsa toured the Pandora. Davred knocked himself unconscious testing an unfamiliar stun pistol then interrogated the tribesmen in a foul mood. Devon attacked him, and Davred won the fight. Janus, confused by his sedation, told Davred he thought he had Galt's Curse. Davred panicked and called for a lockdown. Janus said the disease afflicted anyone who showed disloyalty to Galt, and Benalidino had believed Galt had created it. The first symptoms were pus seeping from the eyes and difficulty speaking, then the eyes scabbed over and the brain turned to water. Tymbal took care of several victims in Sigai. Janus mentioned that Horatio had been kicked out of Eden but had not suffered the Curse. Further DNA analysis revealed no infections, and Nike ended the lockdown. THX reported the Pandora's autonomic regulator had been damaged by a power surge and insisted it be repaired but provided no clear reasons for doing so. Nike decided not to repair the regulator. Pandora taught Amanda about her engines, and the crew had a much needed rest for the night.

Chapter 46: Seaside Rendezvous

Bud built a reconnaissance drone to scout the area. Bailey took the ship's mineral extractor to the beach to collect fuel, and Arkady and Davred tried catching fish with hands and spears. Percy discovered the Pandora had a weapon system mounted on the bottom of her chassis, but the turret had been destroyed by the crash. Chelydra built a stun rifle for the turret, but the matter compiler could not connect to the Warden for authentication; instead it connected to the Alexandria and began compiling. THX-1492 discovered it had a secondary AI; since THX could not activate it without shutting down its primary AI, the robot decided to leave the secondary AI alone. Pandora told Nike she wanted to be free of the planet's gravity.

Chapter 47: Chum in the Water

On their second day at the beach, Irsa searched for vegetables and found a plant with sweet roots; sap from the leaves burnt her fingers. Arkady learned how to work the mineral extractor, and Bailey learned to fish. Davred compiled some equipment, discovered the compiler was low on silicon, and hauled sand from the beach to the ship's recycler. Percy searched the Pandora's records for information regarding autonomous AIs and discovered a moratorium on creating artificial sapient life and a news story concerning the murder of cyberneticist Albert Manfred on Earth 660 years ago. Pandora told him, "Albert Manfred created a fully autonomous, artificial, sapient humanoid and died in the process of creating him. European authorities assumed his creation was Manfred's murderer and destroyed him without a trial or due process, establishing a precedent abrogating the rights of artificial intelligences." A dangerous predator swam near shore and mangled Bailey. The crew tried to save him but he died on the beach.

Chapter 48: Hall of the Mountain King

At dawn the reconnaissance drone detected a caravan of men on leviathans heading toward them from the direction of Eden. Without waiting for them to arrive, the crew flew the Pandora across the ocean to the excavation and the ruined dropship. Percy asked Pandora to download the Eridani colony's transmissions from the Alexandria and explored the ruins by himself. Nike asked Arkady to build the space elevator, and that evening he proposed a plan to compile vibroblades for the two helper robots in the medbay and hack a trail through the jungle to a rocky hill where they could anchor the elevator. Amanda initiated the elevator's cable drop from a satellite attached to the Alexandria; the cable would take a week to reach the planet and several more to strengthen it.

Chapter 49: Queen of the Night

Percy used the Pandora's telescope to see the Alexandria orbiting overhead. For two days the helperbots and Chelydra's security team cut a path out of the excavation and into the jungle. During the third night at the excavation, Alexei grew bored of life on the Pandora and slept in his escape pod. A four-legged, panther-like creature with dark fur and two tentacles named Coeurla stalked the Pandora. She climbed into Alexei's pod and paralyzed him, then ran off with his body when Irsa attacked her.

Chapter 50: Rock of Ages

Irsa planted a sweet root as a memorial to Alexei. The natives got showers and fresh air while the crew cleaned their rooms. Janus told Percy about his ancestor Benalidino, how Benalidino had trained Galt's sons to use the Warden's technology to capture her while secretly teaching his own children about Galt's crimes, warning them to stay quiet until the Warden's crew arrived. One by one, Benalidino's children left Eden to find safety from Galt in the wilderness; they built villages in the mountains and explored the desert, and they discovered a place where Galt had never been, a cave where faces in sacred windows revealed things about life before Ithark that Benalidino had not taught his children. Meanwhile, the road crew reached the foot of the stone hill where they intended to install the space elevator platform, Arkady compiled infrared cameras and installed them around the excavation's perimeter, and Percy learned to control his shape-changing ability and had Shlitzee examine him and fix his sterile bioroid plumbing.