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what are we talking about here? Evolution, or ... or engineering? Is it the plants themselves that did this,
or were they made to do it by whatever built them? Do you see what I'm talking about? I've felt funny
about- those wheels for a long time. I just won't believe they'd evolve naturally."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean I think these plants we've been seeing were designed to be the way they are. They're too
perfectly adapted, too ingenious to have just sprung up hi response to the environment" Her eyes seemed
to wander, and she stood up and gazed into the valley below them. It was as barren as anything that
could be imagined: red and yellow and brown rock outcroppings and tumbled boulders. And in the
foreground, the twirling colors of the whirligigs.
"But why this thing?" Crawford asked, pointing to the impossible artifact-plant. "Why a model of the
Earth and Moon? And why right here, in the graveyard?"
"Because we were expected," Song said, still looking away from them. "They must have watched the
Earth, during the last summer season. I don't know; maybe they even went there. If they did, they would
have found men and women like us, hunting and living hi caves. Building fires, using clubs, chipping
arrowheads. You know more about it than I do, Matt."
"Who are they?" Ralston asked. "You think we're going to be meeting some Martians? People? I
don't see how. I don't believe it."
"I'm afraid I'm skeptical, too," Lang said. "Surely there must be some other way to explain it."
"No! There's no other way. Oh, not people like us, maybe. Maybe we're seeing them right now,
spinning like crazy." They all looked uneasily at the whirligigs. "But I think they're not here yet I think
we're going to see, over the next few years, increasing complexity in these plants and animals as they
build up a biome here and get ready for the builders. Think about it. When summer comes, the conditions
will be very different. The atmosphere will be almost as dense as ours, with about the same partial
pressure of oxygen. By then, thousands of years from now, these early forms will have vanished. These
things are adapted for low pressure, no oxygen, scarce water. The later ones will be adapted to an
environment much tike ours. And that's when we'll see the makers, when the stage is properly set." She
sounded almost religious when she said it.
Lang stood up and shook Song's shoulder. Song came slowly back to them and sat down, still
blinded by a private vision. Crawford had a glimpse of it himself, and it scared him. And a glimpse of
something else, something that could be important but kept eluding him.
"Don't you see?" she went on, calmer now. "It's too pat, too much of a coincidence. This thing is like
a ... a headstone, a monument. It's growing right here in the graveyard, from the bodies of our friends.
Can you believe in that as just a coincidence?"
Evidently no one could. But likewise, Crawford could see no reason why it should have happened
the way it did.
It was painful to leave the mystery for later, but there was nothing to be done about it. They could not
bring themselves to uproot the thing, even when five more like it sprouted in the graveyard. There was a
new consensus among them to leave the Martian plants and animals alone. Like nervous atheists, most of
them didn't believe Song's theories but had an uneasy feeling of trespassing when they went through the
gardens. They felt subconsciously that it might be better to leave them alone in case they turned out to be
private property.
And for six months, nothing really new cropped up among the whirligigs. Song was not surprised.
She said it supported her theory that these plants were there only as caretakers to prepare the way for
the less hardy, air-breathing varieties to come. They would warm the soil and bring the water closer to
the surface, then disappear when their function was over.
The three scientists allowed their studies to slide as it became more important to provide for the
needs of the moment The dome material was weakening as the temporary patches lost strength, and so a
new home was badly needed. They were dealing daily with slow leaks, any of which could become a
major blowout.
The Podkayne was lowered to the ground, and sadly decommissioned. It was a bad day for Mary
Lang, the worst since the day of the blowout. She saw it as a necessary but infamous thing to do to a
proud flying machine. She brooded about it for a week, becoming short-tempered and almost
unapproachable. Then she asked Craw-ford to join her in the private shelter. It was the first time she had
asked any of the other four. They lay in each other's arms for an hour, and Lang quietly sobbed on his
chest. Crawford was proud that she had chosen him for her companion when she could no longer
maintain her tough, competent show of strength. In a way, it was a strong thing to do, to expose
weakness to the one person among the four who might possibly be her rival for leadership. He did not
betray the trust. In the end, she was comforting him.
After that day Lang was ruthless in gutting the old Podkayne. She supervised the ripping out of the
motors to provide more living space, and only Crawford saw what it was costing her. They drained the
fuel tanks and stored the fuel in every available container they could scrounge. It would be useful later for
heating, and for recharging batteries. They managed to convert plastic packing crates into fuel containers
by lining them with sheets of the double-walled material the whirligigs used to heat water. They were
nervous at this vandalism, but had no other choice. They kept looking nervously at the graveyard as they
ripped up meter-square sheets of it.
They ended up with a long cylindrical home, divided into two small sleeping rooms, a community
room, and a laboratory-storehouse-workshop in the old fuel tank. Crawford and Lang spent the first
night together in the "penthouse," the former cockpit, the only room with windows.
Lying there wide awake on the rough mattress, side by side in the warm air with Mary Lang, whose
black leg was a crooked line of shadow laying across his body, looking up through the port at the sharp,
unwinking stars with nothing done yet about the problems of oxygen, food, and water for the years
ahead and no assurance he would live out the night on a planet determined to kill him Crawford
realized he had never been happier in his life.
On a day exactly eight months after the disaster, two discoveries were made. One was in the
whirligig garden and concerned a new plant that was bearing what might be fruit. They were clusters of
grape-sized white balls, very hard and fairly heavy. The second discovery was made by Lucy McKillian
and concerned the absence of an event that up to that time had been as regular as the full moon.
 I m pregnant," she announced to them that night, causing Song to delay her examination of the white
fruit.
It was not unexpected; Lang had been waiting for it to happen since the night the Burroughs left. But
she had not worried about it Now she must decide what to do.
"I was afraid that might happen," Crawford said. "What do we do, Mary?"
"Why don't you tell me what you think? You're the survival expert. Are babies a plus or a minus in
our situation?" [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]