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Author: C. J. Cherryh
Publisher: DAW Books, 2005
Series: Foreigner: Arc 3: Book 1

1. Destroyer
2. Pretender
3. Deliverer

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Colonization
Hard SF
Soft SF
Avg Member Rating:
(28 reads / 10 ratings)


It has been two years since the starship Phoenix left Alpha Station on a rescue mission to a faraway sector of space where over four thousand human spacers were under attack by a hostile alien race.

Now, exhausted from their journey, with resources strained by four thousand extra mouths to feed, the crew of the Phoenix yearns for home. But when the ship makes the final jump into atevi space, things do not seem right. And when they make contact with Alpha, they learn the worst: that supplies to the station have been cut off; that civil war has broken out on the atevi mainland; that the powerful Western Association has been overthrown; and that Tabini-aiji, Bren Cameron's primary supporter and Ilisidi's grandson and ally, is missing and may be dead.

With no one left to lead the Western Association, Ilisidi and Bren know that the survival of their allies lies in their hands. And with the atevi world at war, the only safe landing strip lies on the human colony at Mospheira. Although there are many dangers inherent in bringing a powerful atevi leader such as Ilisidi onto human lands, Bren realizes they have no choice but to do so.

But even if they safely survive their landing, will Bren and Ilisidi together prove strong enough to muster the remaining shards of the Western Association and regain control of their planet?


Above it all, a wide screen showed a disk-shaped light, which was - God, was it really home? Was that beautiful star in center screen their own planet shining in the sun?

There, it must be. That dimmer light was the moon. And a bright oblong light that might not be a star. It might be the station itself. He wondered how great a magnification that was.

Bren found himself shivering. He suddenly wanted to be there faster, faster, as fast as at all possible, to see and do all he'd been waiting so long for. And to find out that things were all right, and that all the people he wanted to find were waiting for him.

Jase and Sabin, at the far side of the bridge, were close to another bulkhead and another shelter like the one they had left, but once they began moving about in some confidence, Bren stood up judiciously, hand on a recessed takehold on the curtain wall, and caught Jase's eye.

Jase worked his way down the aisle in their direction.

"Sorry about that little surprise," Jase said. "Is everyone all right?"

"We seem to be," Bren said, finding himself a little shaky in this resumption of normalcy. "Was that just one of those things that sometimes happens?"

"I have no idea," Jase said. "We've never been where traffic was an issue, not since this ship left old Earth, far as I know. Sabin doesn't say a thing, but we've counted quite an amazing lot of these little craft. Sabin's called the station, and if the chronometer's right, it's Ogun's offshift. They're going to have to get him out of bed."

"I don't think he'll mind," Bren said.

"Not likely he will." Deep sigh. "Time lag is a pain."

"Can you make out the shipyard? Have you been able to find it?"

"That's the worrisome thing. There's no activity out there. No lights, nothing. Black as deep space."

A foreboding little chill crept down Bren's back. A lot of robot miners. And no activity in the region that should be the focus of the effort. "That's odd." He saw a reply counter running on that image at the front of the bridge, down in the corner of the screen, now that he looked for it. It was -00:04:22 going on 23.

Four minutes without an answer. That gave a little clue about distance and magnification.


"Put it on general intercom, all crew areas, C1." That was Sabin.

"...just got here," came over the general address.

Ogun's voice. Thank God.

"Can you respond?"

"Earth had one moon." That wasn't conversational on Sabin's part.

"Mars had two," from Ogun. Clearly an exchange of codewords. "You're a welcome sight. How did it go?"

"Rescue was entirely successful. We have 4078 passengers."

A little silence, a slight lagtime for the signal, but nothing significant. "What is your situation with the atevi on board?"

"Excellent," Sabin said. "And they're hearing you, at the moment."

"Is the dowager in good health? Is the aiji's heir safe?"

Right from human and ordinary, hello, good to see you, to how is the dowager? Odd swerve in topics. Bren's pulse picked up, and he tried not to lose a word or nuance of what he might have to translate for the dowager.

"Both are here on the bridge, safe and sound. Why, Jules?"

Why in hell, Bren wondered simultaneously, are atevi the first issue?

"And Mr. Cameron? Is he with you?"

"Here and able to respond if you have a question for him. Is there a problem, Jules?"

"Just checking."

"Checking, hell! What's going on over there, Jules? Is there a problem on your side?"

"Did you find anything out there?"

Bren found his palms sweating. Sabin shifted her stance, leaned close to the communications console, both hands on the counter. And became uncharacteristically patient.

"Peaceful contact with a species called the kyo, a complex situation. They've been willing to talk, thanks to the atevi's good offices. Colonists are safe and rescued. We've got a lot to report. But I want answers. What is your situation, Jules? What's this set of questions? Where's a simple glad to see you?"

"We are immensely glad to see you. The tanks aren't finished. The ship isn't finished. Food is not in great supply here."

Worse and worse.

"Jules, why not?"

"We have an ongoing problem. Shuttles aren't flying. Haven't, for eight months. We're cut off from supply, trying to finish and fill the food production tanks on a priority basis."

Banichi had gotten to his feet. So had Jago, Cenedi, the dowager, and, necessarily, Cajeiri, followed by Gin and Jerry.

Bren gave them a sign, wait, wait.

"Why not?" Sabin asked. "Come out with it, Jules. What's happened there?"

"The government's collapsed on the mainland. The aiji is no longer communicating with us or anybody. The dish at Mogari-nai is not transmitting. Shuttles are no longer launching from the spaceports. As best the Island can figure, the aishidi'tat is in complete turmoil and only regional governments are functioning with any efficiency at all."

Copyright © 2005 by C. J. Cherryh


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