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Wings of Creation

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Wings of Creation

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Author: Brenda Cooper
Publisher: Tor, 2009
Series: The Silver Ship: Book 3
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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Joseph has succeeded in rescuing his sister, Chelo, from a pitched battle on the colony planet Fremont. Now he and Chelo and the love of his life, Alicia, and all of their extended family, are finally returning home. Halfway there, a probe intercepts them, sending them new coordinates and a message from Joseph's enigmatic supporter and teacher, Marcus.

War is brewing.

Joseph is wanted for escaping to save Chelo. To stay safe, Joseph must bring his family and friends to the renowned planet of Lopali, where men and women can fly, and peace and freedom abound. Or do they? Alicia has always wanted to fly, but the modifications that give humans wings kill as often as they work.

Joseph must learn to actually change humans, to free the fliers of a tyranny that has enslaved them, since their species was born. If he can do this, the fliers have agreed to help him stop the war. But it's not as easy as it seems.



Space is full of stark beauty and darkness, and largely empty. But there are still surprises in it. The day our plans changed started with only the small chaos of children and a dog.

I leaned against the warm wall of the simulated sun in the nurs­ery, hearing Chelo, my beloved sister, my best support in the whole world, laugh as she watched her son. Two modifi ed maintenance bots trailed after one-and-a-half-year-old Jherrel as he toddled from Chelo’s arms toward me. The bots looked like a cross between dogs and spiders, scuttling on four feet and holding two up, ready to save Jherrel from any emergency, including himself. It amazed me that he hadn’t figured out how to wreck the whole ship yet. If he were older, he might have.

Certainly, the nursery floors and walls showed evidence of the reasons we kept the two children mostly contained; the walls were scratched and even, occasionally, slightly dented. The room smelled like bot-grease and the sweet sweat of children. “Un-cle Jo-seph!” Jherrel exclaimed at me, his mouth twisted in a huge grin. He always came to me right away when I entered the room, as if I were his fa­vorite toy or perhaps his pet dog.

Speaking of dogs, Sasha, the black-and-white stray I’d taken from Fremont, stood by my feet. Her ribs no longer showed and her coat had grown glossy. She bent her forelegs and head down in a play bow and wagged her tail at Jherrel.

Across the long silver floor, Jherrel’s slightly bigger half-sister, Caro, actually rode one of her keeper bots, while her mother, Kayleen, held her hands, balancing her. Kayleen’s smile was as wide as Jherrel’s, the one blue eye not covered by a stray fall of her dark hair twinkling a welcome even though she’d known I was coming. I’d spoken to her via the data nets as I neared the nursery, a warm sharing of our silent language.

Caro noticed me and squealed, but then Caro squealed a lot. Verbal, like her mom. Kayleen stood up and Caro got a little ahead of her. She lifted a foot up onto the robot’s rounded back, maybe trying to stand. Her foot slipped and she fell backward onto the floor with a screech.

Sasha raced for the robot, snapping at its front legs as it tried to turn around and help Caro. Kayleen came between the dog and the robot, holding Sasha off so the mechanical minder could help Caro up.

I burst out laughing, and Kayleen and Chelo both glared at me with their most severe mom faces.

I put my hands behind my back and squatted down so I’d be closer to the children’s height, marveling yet again that Chelo and Kayleen and Liam could possibly be parents. Yes, they were older than me by the three years or so of cold sleep I’d spent on this same journey when I went to Silver’s Home, but they seemed as fresh and innocent as wild field flowers in the spring.

Jherrel waited patiently for Caro to make her way over to us before looking at me expectantly. I pulled my hands in front of me and opened them, palms flat, so the two tiny aircars I’d carved of cured lace-leaf wood lay on them. The cars were baby-fi st–sized, and styled after the cars they’d see when we got to Silver’s Home. The children snatched them up, toddling around and pretending to fly the toys through the nursery. The robots clattered and whirred after the children. Caro came back to me, burbling engine noises while she fl ew hers beside my knee.

I laughed and caught Caro’s eye. “Really, they’re quieter than that.”

She ignored me, following Jherrel toward the far corner. Kayleen grinned as she watched her daughter go, completely intent on the noise of fl ying. “Thanks. It always fascinates them to have new toys.”

“I like making them things. It’s not like there’s much to piloting way out here.”

Chelo grimaced. “I know.”

“It felt good to create something with my hands.” Sasha uncurled and stood, sniffing my hand for a pet. I knelt and gave her one. I’d bathed her yesterday, so she smelled of shampoo more than dog-breath. She was the closest thing I had to a child of my own, and kept me from feeling too hungry for Chelo’s attention. Long ago, my sister had been as inseparable from me as my dog was now.

Chelo gave me a hug, her voice wistful. “If only they could have open space to run in.”

She needed it, too, but there was no point in saying that. A space ship has no fields or plains in it, no High Road, and even though it is surrounded by stars, it has no sky. We made do with the wall I stood against. It gave them a dawn, midday, dusk, and night. Liam had de­manded it, saying his kids would never acclimate to real time if all they knew was the no- time of space flight. In reality, I think he needed a clock as much as Caro and Jherrel.

By now, we were all stir-crazy.

The children were too young for cold sleep, so Chelo, Liam, and Kayleen chose to stay awake for the whole trip. They all swore they wouldn’t miss a moment of the kids’ growing up, but I thought they didn’t want to be separated from each other. How different might our lives have been if our parents had taken us when they fl ed Fre­mont? But Creator was outfitted for a waking crew, and perhaps our parents had not had this choice.

At eleven months out, we were almost halfway home. I was the only pilot, and Marcus had warned me not to trust the small ship’s defenses to autopilot. Alicia refused cold sleep, and I wanted her near me, so I gave in. She’d teased me, saying that she was afraid Kayleen and I wouldn’t be able to resist each other since we had so much in common. Silly girl. I loved Alicia with all my heart, needed her, spent my daydreams on her. Of course there were special ties be­tween Kayleen and I that came of being the only Wind Readers on Fremont; capable of plucking data from the air itself. But those were bonds of friendship, even if Alicia did not believe it.

Besides, Kayleen and Chelo and Liam loved each other. How could they not have? They were the only ones like themselves on a whole planet. Their bonds were as strong as mine with Alicia, and Kayleen often looked soft and sweet when she gazed at Liam.

Friend or not, it was time for Kayleen’s lesson. There was so much I had learned while I was away from her, and which she needed to know. The other seven people on the ship lay inert in cold sleep. When I’d protested to Jenna she had just smiled at me, and very softly said, “You are the pilot, and you are responsible. Consider it an extension of our agreement on Fremont.”

Meaning, I supposed, that I had led the attack on the Star Merce­naries. Meaning that Jenna trusted me, at least on this leg of our fl ight—the part where we flew through nothing for almost two years.

I did notice Jenna had programmed herself to wake three months before we got to Silver’s Home. Meantime, that left me to deal with lessons for everyone, and most important, for Kayleen, the only pos­sible backup pilot we had. I crooked a finger at her. “Ready?”

You are a mean man, she spoke silently to me across the data streams.

I know, I answered the same way.

She sighed and glanced at Chelo. “Can you handle them both?”

“Sure. Liam will be along any minute.”

Kayleen followed me up to the command room. At any other time in her life, Kayleen chattered. But on the daily trip to lessons, she was almost always silent. I took a seat at the table, letting her choose where to be. There were only four chairs, and she selected the one closest to me, on my right.

Copyright © 2009 by Brenda Cooper


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