Authors: A. C. Crispin,Kathleen O'Malley
Tags: #Fiction, #Science Fiction, #General
A. C. Crispin
had many midwives attending its parturition and delivery, all
of whom deserve thanks. This is only a partial
My collaborator, A.C. Crispin-our long-standing friend ship was only
enhanced by our partnership in writing this book, Ann. Thanks for believing
in me and keeping me on course.
My friend, cowriter, editor, proofreader, partner, and com puter consultant
Anne Moroz-who became, during the final stages of this book, chief cook,
bottle-washer, landscaper, and animal caretaker. Now, you can finish your
For their continuing support and encouragement through the years and
especially with this project, I'd like to thank my mother, Evelyn Benecke, my
father, Al Benecke, my brother, Alfred Benecke, and Teresa Bigbee and her
family, who've been more than a family to me.
My friend Holley Stepp made significant contributions to
as did the many Deaf students and sign language
teachers and interpreters at Gallaudet
University, and else
me to the fascinating
world of Deaf
the characters an
of this book. I hope you
will be as
it as I am.
I want to thank my readers and critics Debby
Martha Midgett, and
J. M. Dillard. Your insights and encour
were invaluable. A big hug
and lots of thanks to
Jeanne Dillard, for extra help with foreign
names and phrases
For help with the scientific and technical aspects of this book I have to thank
Drs. Josh Dein, Glenn Olsen, George Gee, and Mr. Roddy Gabel of the
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center for
interest, advice, and
support. Special thanks go to Dr. David Ellis of the PWRC, for his invaluable
raptor behavior and prehistoric avians; to Dr. Hodos of the
University of Maryland for his
help in avian
opthal mology; and Dr. Yoji
Kondo of NASA for his ability to set the universe right. Special thanks must
also go to Dr. James W. Carpenter whose interest in this project never
wavered and whose constant nudging pushed this project along
days. (It's finished, Dr. C., it's really finished!)
To the many characters at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center-animal
caretakers, wildlife technicians, veterinary
, and biologists-with
whom I've had the pleasure to work with over these past years and who
helped fill these
with insight, humor, and personality-you know who
you are. Thanks, guys,
ll be in on time
To Harlan Ellison, for all his kindness through the years. I did what you said,
. I wrote what I know.
And, most important, though they will never read this, or even know of it, I
must thank the whooping cranes of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center-
especially the individuals that have meant the most to me: Canus, Lazarus,
Faith, Jack, and Blue 52. Without their beauty, their strong personalities,
power of their call, this world would be an empty place.
more about cranes, one of the most
endangered families of birds in the world, can write to the U. S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, Washington, D. C., or to
Foundation, E-11376 Shady Lane Road, Baraboo, Wisconsin, 53913.
-Kathleen O'Malley, December 1989
This book is lovingly dedicated to the person who inspired me to write
by entertaining me for hours with her own tales my mother,
You bought me my first typewriter, Mom, and my first word processor.
I only hope that someday
I'll be as good a storytell
er as you.
Scott Hedford opened his eyes and checked the time. Fifteen
daybreak. He called to his partner and grabbed for his clothes. He couldn'
at the heart of this crowded solar system that included
monstrous gas giant planet
four times the size of Jupiter, plus a red dwarf
star in its
outermost reaches. From the surface of the living world the
humans called Trinity, the
and the red dwarf shone so brilliantly
they were visible even in full daylight. The astronomical configurations of
what appeared to be three suns had, for centuries, shaped the beliefs of the
planet's people and, Scott knew, today was of special importance. The three
would rise in a tri
. Scott couldn't miss sunrise today.
His partner, Margaritka Tretiak, scrambled around just as eagerly. The gray-
haired xenobiologist was almost seventy, but could outrun him, outclimb
him, and, in the rush to see sunrise, outdress him. She was already out of
their shelter while he was still hopping around on one foot pulling on his
Silently they left their spacious shelter and walked the
hundred meters to the end of the overhanging bluff. There was litt
evidence of l
s fierce elect
Camped on this small
hill, they had an excellent view of the freshwater wetlands extending to
At the cliff edge,
the biologists viewed the expansive marsh
a collage of b
hautumn hues, colors T
nity kept year-round
The wildlife and native people were all still
Usually, none of them woke until all the suns were well up.
The red dwarf peeped over the western
zon, since T
opposite to the direction that Ea
h did. The huge
people the humans called the Grus could be seen sleeping in scattered
groups either in the water or on the small islands they built out of
rushes and grass
their black-beaked heads tucked beneath their
The Grus were beautiful to watch
especially when they
The second sun, the yellow star the Grus called the "
Father Sun," rose to
ght of the apex star
The sky faded from dark blue
black to a
startling lavender. Soon it would be
with the cool detachment of a biologist
but with the unabashed
wonder of a tou
The man start
ed as a rousette whistled in sh
scared of at this hour
fox-sized flying mammal should be sleeping in its burrow.
The call came again,
fied. The third "sun," the gas giant
planet that appeared as a small
brilliant star, w
Scott barely noticed.
just as a monstrous winged
shadow sailed over the humans
a shadow that w
bound to wake
the sensitive Grus at
And when they woke ...
It's an Aquila!
What's it doing here,
The biologist fumbled at his belt where his sound nul ifier should have been,
but it wasn
he remembered with a
stab of dismay
I was working on them last night
I left them on the
With a muttered curse he grabbed Meg's arm. "Never mind the Aquila!
nullifiers are in the shelter on the workbench. We've got to have them!
SILENT DANCES 3 They began sprinting toward the shelter, Meg quickly
the younger man. The Aquila circled closer to the Grus' village.
Then Scott saw another, and another, high in the atmosphere, winging in
from their dark forests to the west. With their bronze-colored bodies and
contrasting gold heads and tails, the Aquila bore an uncanny resemblance
to the eagles that had once been the symbol of an OldAm nation.
The big predators' sudden, unusual behavior made Scott wonder again
whether they might be intelligent. The Grus claimed that the Aquila were
nothing more than savage predators, their enemies. But why would the
Aquila use the extra energy for flap-flying when they could wait until later in
the day and glide on the thermals as they usually did? Were they just flying
by on their way to distant hunting grounds, or were they deliberately trying to
surprise the Grus before they woke? And why were these normally solitary
hunters suddenly mass
ing in such numbers?
Hoping he was wrong, that the Aquila wouldn't breach the invisible
boundary that would cause the Grus sentries to sound an alarm, Scott
wished now that he'd had more time to study the films from his hidden
Ten strides ahead of him, Meg dived into the shelter.
He'd just reached the door when she burst back out, the nullifiers in her
hands. "Put it on! Cover your ears!" he yelled-then the preliminary humming
shook his entire body.
Oh, God, no!
He clapped his palms over his ears.
The sound shattered the still morning air, ripping through him like a physical
blow. Again and again the cry rang out as the sentries sent their warning to
The frequency and volume of that call struck the humans' unshielded ears,
doubling them over with pain. The tiny, delicate headpieces went flying from
Meg's hands as she fell forward. Both humans' eardrums burst and the pain
of those alien voices drove Scott to his knees in agony.
he thought, seeing that his friend lay unconscious. Retching,
hands shaking, he scrabbled frantically through the dense rust-colored
ground cover that had swallowed the dropped nullifiers. He grabbed one
headpiece, but it was cracked-useless, he thought despairingly.
other? Oh, God, the pain
... He was crawling now, facing the end of the bluff
and the still beautiful sunrise, now forgotten. Despite his suffering, he forced
himself to search.
As his fingers fumbled over the precious instrument, the
, terrifying shape of an Aquila came winging up over the bluff. The enormous bird
loomed before him, its ruby-red eyes staring straight at Scott, its great wings
straining for altitude-
gripping a struggling young Grus.
The white avian met the biologist's eyes. Recognition stabbed through Scott,
almost eclipsing his physical pain.
his mind screamed.
Not my friend-
not Water Dancer!
The golden eyes of the avian were dimming, and in