The “imaginative . . . intriguing” far-future novel about the telepathic bond of friendship between human and animal—from the New York Times bestselling author (Booklist). Exiled after his home planet was turned into a military outpost following an interstellar war, Troy Horan is relocated to the planet of Korwar. Under the watchful eye of the police state, he lives in the Dipple, a restricted area for subcitizens. He works as a day laborer in an interplanetary pet shop and has no idea why animals from Terra, a third-rate power, have been imported to Korwar—or why he has the ability to silently communicate with them, especially the kinkajou. But a murder forces him to flee with his animal friends into the Wild, where mysterious, sealed ruins conceal Korwar’s most fiercely guarded secret. With no one he can trust and an entire government under siege, Troy leads his extraordinary band of warriors in a final bid for freedom none of them may survive.
|Publisher:||Open Road Integrated Media LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
For well over a half century, Andre Norton was one of the most popular science fiction and fantasy authors in the world. With series such as Time Traders, Solar Queen, Forerunner, Beast Master, Crosstime, and Janus, as well as many standalone novels, her tales of adventure have drawn countless readers to science fiction. Her fantasy novels, including the bestselling Witch World series, her Magic series, and many other unrelated novels, have been popular with readers for decades. Lauded as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America, she is the recipient of a Life Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention. An Ohio native, Norton lived for many years in Winter Park, Florida, and died in March 2005 at her home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Read an Excerpt
By Andre Norton
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1961 Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Tikil was really three cities loosely bound together, two properly recognized on the maps of Korwar's northern continent, the third a sore — rather than a scar — of war, still unhealed. To the north and west Tikil was an exotic bloom on a planet that had harbored wealth almost from the year of its first settlement. To the east, fronting on the spaceport, was the part of Tikil in which lay the warehouses, shops, and establishments of the thousands of businesses necessary for the smooth running of a pleasure city, this exotic bloom where three-quarters of the elite of a galactic sector gathered to indulge their whims and play.
To the south was the Dipple, a collection of utilitarian, stark, unattractive housing. To live there was a badge of inferiority. A man from the Dipple had three choices for a cloudy future. He could try to exist without subcitizenship and a work permit, haunting the Casual Labor Center to compete with too many of his fellows for the very limited crumbs of employment; he could somehow raise the stiff entrance fee and buy his way into the strictly illegal but flourishing and perilous Thieves' Guild; or he could sign on as contract labor and be shipped off world in deep freeze with no beforehand knowledge of his destination or work.
The War of the Two Sectors had been fought to a stalemate five years ago. Afterwards, the two leading powers had shared out the spoils — "spheres of influence." Several major and once richer planets had to be written off entirely, since worlds reduced to cinders on which no human being dared land were not attractive property. But a fringe of frontier worlds had passed into the grasp of one or the other of the major powers — the Confederation or the Council. As a result, the citizens of several small nations suddenly found themselves homeless.
At the outbreak of the war ten years earlier, there had been forced evacuations from such frontier worlds; pioneers had been removed from their lands so that military outposts and masked solar batteries could be placed in their stead. In this fashion, the Dipple had been set up on Korwar, far back from the fighting line. During the first fervor of patriotism the Dipple dwellers met with good will. But later, when their home worlds were ruined or traded away across the conference tables, there was resentment, and on some planets there were organized moves to get rid of these rootless inhabitants.
Now, before dawn in Tikil, men from the Dipple leaned their bowed shoulders against the outer wall of the Casual Labor Center or squatted on their heels before the door that marked the meeting place between the haves and the have-nots.
Troy Horan watched the pale gold in the morning sky deepen. Too late to mark stars now. He tried to remember the sky over Norden — and had again one of those sharp picture flashes of recollection.
A silver bowl arching above a waving plain of grass, grass that was pale green, mauve, and silver all at once, changing as the wind rippled it. He knew the warmth of a sun always half veiled in rainbow haze, felt the play of muscles as the animal he perched upon as a small boy, rather than bestrode, broke into a rocking canter. That was one of his last memories of Norden. They had been out "riding track," cutting a wide circle about the grazing herd of tupan to check that none of the animals had drifted toward the quicksands near the river.
It had been that same morning that the Council ships had cut out of the sky, burning portions of the plain to charred earth and slag with their tailbursts. Within three days Troy and his people had left Norden for Korwar — three Horans, a small clan among all the others. But not three for long. His father — big body, laughing voice, quiet steady eyes, a pair of hands that did everything well, a man who was able to establish a strange bond of sympathy with any animal — had put on a trooper's tunic and vanished into the maw of a transport. Lang Horan had not returned.
After that the Big Cough had hit the Dipple, leaving only Troy Horan, a lanky adolescent who inherited skills and desires for which there was no need on Korwar. He also possessed a stubborn, almost fierce independence, which had so far kept him either from signing on as contract labor or from the temptation offered by the Guild. Troy Horan was a loner; he did not take orders well. And since his mother's death, he had no close attachments in the Dipple. There were few left there now who had come from Norden. The men had volunteered as troopers, and, for some reason, their families had been particularly susceptible to the Cough.
The door that was their gate to the day's future slid back. Men stood away from the wall, got up. Mechanically Troy made a brushing gesture down the length of his thin torso, though nothing would restore a vestige of trimness to his clothing.
Spacer's breeches, fifth-hand, clean enough but with their sky blue now a neutral, dusty gray; spacer's boots, a little wide for his narrow feet, the magnetic insets clicking as he walked; an upper tunic that was hardly more than a sleeveless jerkin, all in contrast to the single piece of his old life that he wore pulled tight about his flat middle. That wide belt of a Norden rider was well oiled, every one of its silver studs polished and free of tarnish. Those studs formed a design that was Troy's only heritage. If he ever rode the grass plains again, with tupan galloping ahead — well, those tupan might bear that same pattern on their cream-white hides. Lang Horan had been Range Master and Brand Owner.
Because he was young, tough, and stubborn, Troy was well to the fore of the line at the mechanical assigner. He watched with alert jealousy as three men ahead ran toward the stamper, assured of work — the mark on their wrists giving them the freedom of the city, if only for a day. Then he was facing that featureless, impersonal mike himself.
"Horan, class two, Norden, lawful work —" The same old formula he uttered there day after day. He stood, his feet a little apart, balancing as if the machine were an opponent ready for battle. Under his breath he counted five quickly, and a tiny hope was born. Since he had not been rejected at once, the assignor did have some request that might be matched by his meager qualifications.
The five he had counted doubled into ten before the assigner asked a question: "Knowledge of animals?"
"That of a Norden herd rider —" Troy stretched the truth to a very thin band, but his small hope was growing fast.
The assigner meditated. Troy, through his excitement, felt the impatience of the men behind him. Yet the length of time the machine was taking was so promising —
"Employed." Troy gave a small gasp of relief. "Time of employment — indefinite. Employer — Kossi Kyger, first level, Sixth Square. Report there at once."
The plates in his boot soles beat a rataplan as he hurried to the stamper, thrust his hand into the slot, and felt that instant of heat that set the work mark on his tanned wrist.
"First level, Sixth Square," he repeated aloud, not because it was so necessary to impress his memory, but for the pure pleasure of being able to claim a work address.
Sixth Square lay on the outer fringe of the business district, which meant that Kyger was engaged in one of the upper-bracket luxury trades. Rather surprising that such a merchant would have need for a C.L.C. hireling. The maintenance force and highly trained salesmen of those shops were usually of the full-citizen class. And why animals? Horan swung on one of the fast-moving roll walks, his temporarily tattooed wrist held in plain sight across his wide belt to prevent questions from any patroller.
Because it was early, the roll walks were not crowded, and few private flitters held the air lanes overhead. Most of the shutters were still in place across the display fronts of the shops. It would be midday before the tourists from the pleasure hotels and the shoppers from the villas would move into town. On Korwar, shopping was a fashionable form of amusement, and the treasures of half the galaxy were pouring into Tilcil, the result of stepped-up production after the war.
Troy changed to another roll walk. The farther westward he went, the more conspicuous he became. Not that clothing was standardized here, but the material, no matter how fantastically cut and pieced together, was always rich. And the elaborate hair arrangements of the men who shared the roller with Troy, their jeweled wristbands, neck chains, and citizens' belt knives, took on a uniformity in which his own close-cropped yellow hair, his weaponless belt, his too-thin, fine-boned face were very noticeable. Twice a patroller stirred at a check point and then relaxed again at the sight of the stamp on the boy's bony wrist.
Sixth Square was one of the areas of carefully tended vegetation intended by the city planners to break the structure pattern of the district. Troy jumped from the roller and went to the map on a side pillar.
"Kyger," he said into the mike.
"Kyger's," the finder announced. "Gentle Homos, Gentle Fems — visit Kyger's, where the living treasures of a thousand worlds are paraded before you! See and hear the Lumian talking fish, the dofuld, the priceless Phaxian change-coat — the only one of its kind known to be in captivity alive. Follow the light, Gentle Homo, Gentle Fem, to Kyger's — merchant dealer in extraordinary pets!"
A small spark, which had glowed into life on the wall below the map, loosed itself and now danced through the air ahead, blinking with a gem flash. A pet shop! The inquiry about animal knowledge was now explained. But Troy lost some of his zest. The thin story he had told the assigner was now thinner, to the point of being full of holes. He was ten years out of Norden, ten years away from any contact with animals at all. Yet Troy clung to one hope. The assigner had sent him, and the machine was supposed to be always right in its selection.
He looked about him. The massed foliage of the center square was a riot of luxuriant vegetation, which combined plants and shrubs from half-a-dozen worlds into a pattern of growing — red-green, yellow-green, blue-green, silver — And he began to long with every fiber of his semistarved body that he would be the one Kyger wanted, even for just one day.
His spark guide danced up and down, as if to center his attention on the doorway before which it had paused, and then snuffed out. Troy faced Kyger's display and drew a deep breath of wonder, for he seemed to be staring at four different landscapes, each occupying one-quarter of the space. And each landscape was skillfully contrived so that a section of an outlandish planet had been transported in miniature. In each, small creatures moved about the business of living and dying. It was all art tri-dee, of course, but the workmanship was superb and would completely enthrall any prospective customer.
Reluctantly Troy approached the door itself, a barrier where plexaglass had been impressed with a startling and vivid pattern of weird and colorful insects, none of which he recognized. There was no sign that the establishment was open for business, and he had no guide to lead him behind the mass of buildings to a rear entrance. Troy hesitated uncertainly before the closed door until, among the imprisoned creatures of the center panel, a portion of face with reasonable human features appeared. Round dark eyes set in yellow skin regarded him with no trace of interest or emotion.
Troy held up his wrist so that the employment mark might be fully visible to those eyes. Unblinkingly they centered upon it. Then the stretch of yellow cheek, the broad nose, vanished. The creatures in the panel seemed to flutter as that barrier arose. And a flow of warm air, redolent with many strange smells, engulfed Troy. As if drawn by an invisible cord, he entered Kyger's.
He was given no time to look about the outer reception lounge with its wall cabinets of more miniature other-world scenes, for the owner of the eyes was awaiting him impatiently. Used as he was to oddities, human, humanoid, and nonhuman, Troy still found the small man strange enough to study covertly. He could have walked under Horan's outstretched arm, but his small, wiry body was well proportioned and not that of a dwarf. What hair he had was black and grew in small tufted knobs tight to the rounded bowl of the skull. In addition, there was a rough brush of the same black on his upper lip and two tufts or knots on his chin, one just below the center of his lower lip and the other on the point of the jaw beneath.
His clothing was the conventional one-piece suit of an employed subcitizen, with the striking addition of a pair of boots clinging tightly to his thin legs and extending knee-high, fashioned of reptile skin as soft as glove leather, giving off tiny prismatic sparks with every movement of their wearer. About a slight potbelly he had a belt of the same hide, and the knife that swung from it was not only longer but also wider than those usually worn in Tikil.
"Come —" His voice was guttural. A crook of finger pointed the way, and Troy followed him through two more showrooms into a passage from which opened a number of screened doors. Now the effluvium of animal — a great many animals — was strong, and sounds from each of the screened doors they passed testified to the stock Kyger kept on hand. Troy's guide continued to the end of the hall, set his small hand into the larger impression of a palm lock, and then stood aside for Horan to enter.
If the yellow man was an oddity, the man who sat waiting for Troy to cross his office was almost as great a surprise. Horan had seen many of the merchants of Tikil, and all of them had been glittering objects indeed. Their jewels, their ultrafashionable dress, their eye-catching coiffures had all been designed as advertisements to attract general attention.
But Kyger, if this was Kyger, was no such starburst. His muscular body was covered with a hora-silk half tunic and kilt, but the color was a dark and sober blue, and he wore no jewels at all. On his right wrist was the broad service bracelet of a veteran spacer with at least two constellations starring its sweep, while his skull was completely shaven as if to accommodate the helmet of a scout-ship man. The bareness of that deeply tanned stretch of skin made the red, puckered scar down along his right ear the more noticeable. Troy wondered fleetingly why he chose to keep that disfiguring brand; plastic surgery could have erased it completely.
The other regarded Troy for a long moment, his stare both as aloof and as searching as that the yellow man had used through the door panel.
"The assigner reported you as Norden," he remarked, but gave the planet name a slight accent new to Troy. "I would rather have thought Midgard —"
Troy met him eye to eye. This man had a spacer's knowledge of racial types and other worlds right enough.
"I was born on Norden —"
The other might not have heard him. "Midgard — or even Terra —"
Troy flushed. "Norden," he repeated firmly. Lang Horan's father had been from Midgard, right enough. Before that — well, who traced any planet-pioneering family back through generations and star systems to the first hop?
"Norden. And you think that you know something about animals." Those gray eyes, cold as space between far-flung suns, dropped from Troy's face to the belt with its lovingly polished silver studs. "Range Master, eh?"
Troy refused to be drawn. He shrugged, not knowing why the other was trying to bait him. Everyone knew that Norden had been handed over to the Confederation, that none of her former inhabitants could hope to return to her plains.
"All right. If the assigner sent you, you're the best it could find." Kyger arose from the enveloping embrace of his eazirest. The yellow man slipped to his side. "Zul will give you your orders. We are expecting a shipment in on the Chasgar. You'll go to the dock with Zul and do just as he tells you — no more, certainly no less. Understand?" There was a flick of razor-sharp whip in that. Troy nodded.
Zul was certainly not a talkative companion. He merely beckoned Troy out through another door into a courtyard. This, too, was sided with pens and cages, but Troy was given no time to inspect their inhabitants. Zul waved him to a waiting flitter. As Troy took his place in the foreseat, the small man reached for the controls and they lifted with practiced ease to the air lanes. Zul circled, then headed them toward the west and the spaceport.
Excerpted from Catseye by Andre Norton. Copyright © 1961 Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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