Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Earthfall (Homecoming)

Orson Scott Card

  Praise for The Homecoming Saga

  “The fourth volume of Homecoming, Card’s grand saga of the human race’s far-future return to Earth, takes the characters on a century-long starship voyage back to the old planet…. In this book more strongly than ever, it seems that a lesser writer than Card could have neither conceived nor effectively executed this saga. His literary gifts and philosophical turn of mind continue to carry it on at a very high level.”


  “The Ships of Earth, third in Orson Scott Card’s Homecoming Saga, brings its ill-assorted band of pilgrims/refugees far from the previous book’s civic strife. This is Card doing what he does best…he reaches for the heartstrings.”


  “Readers of The Ships of Earth will find the book rising to Card’s usual high level, with scenes of enormous power.”

  —Chicago Sun-Times

  “[Card has] found his own voice, and turned into a thoughtful and inventive stylist. The Call of Earth continues his progress as a writer, while raising intriguing questions.”

  —Los Angeles Daily News

  “Like any Card book, this sequel to The Memory of Earth involves many complicated decisions made by machines as well as humans…. The dialog is superb.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “Suggests a setting and a theme vaguely reminiscent of Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and The Stars—the rediscovery of human will in a society whose technological control begins to falter—but overlays this with an odd mix of biblical overtones and Machiavellian militarism. There seems little doubt that the whole series will prove as readable—and as morally committed—as we’ve come to expect from Card.”

  —Gary K. Wolfe, Locus

  The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied so that you can enjoy reading it on your personal devices. This e-book is for your personal use only. You may not print or post this e-book, or make this e-book publicly available in any way. You may not copy, reproduce or upload this e-book, other than to read it on one of your personal devices.

  Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author’s copyright, please notify the publisher at:

  To Shayne Bell,

  a good friend,

  a good writer,

  a good man.


  Family Relationships


  Part I: If I Should Wake Before I Die


  Quarreling with God


  The Face of the Old One






  The Eavesdropper


  The Ugly God


  A Storm at Sea



  Part II: Landfall


















  Children Born

  Rasa’s Children

  with Volemak, first contract:

  Issib (Issya)

  with Gaballufix:

  Sevet (Sevya)

  Kokor (Koya)

  with Volemak, second contract:

  Nafai (Nyef)

  Volemak’s Children

  with Hosni:

  Elemak (Elya)

  with Kilvishevex:

  Mebbekew (Meb)

  with Rasa:

  Issib (Issya)

  Nafai (Nyef)

  Children Born

  Hushidh & Issib

  Dza (Dazya)

  Zaxodh (Xodhya)

  Dushah (Shyada)

  Gonets (Netsya)

  Skhoditya (Khodya)

  Shyopot (Potya)

  Rasa & Volemak

  Oykib (Okya)

  Yasai (Yaya)

  Tsennyi (Nitsya)

  Luet & Nafai

  Chveya (Veya)

  Zhatva (Zhyat)

  Motiga (Motya)

  Izuchaya (Zuya)


  Serp (Sepya)

  Spel (Spelya)

  Eiadh & Elemak

  Protchnu (Proya)

  Nadezhny (Nadya)

  Yistina (Yista)

  Peremenya (Menya)

  Zhivoya (Zhivya)


  in Basilica

  Daughters of Moozh and Thirsty

  Hushidh (Shuya)

  Luet (Lutya)

  Sons of Hosni

  with Zdedhnoi:


  with Volemak:


  on the Journey (female children in italics)

  Kokor & Obring

  Krasata (Krassya)

  Zhavaronok (Nokya)

  Pavdin (Pavya)

  Znergya (Gyaza)

  Nodyem (Dyema)

  Dol & Mebbekew

  Basilikya (Syelsika) (Skiya)

  Zalatoya (Toya)

  Tihhi (Tiya)

  Muzhestvo (Muzhya)

  Iskusni (Skunya)

  Sevet & Vas

  Vasnaminanya (Vasnya)

  Umene (Umya)

  Panimanya (Panya-Manya)

  Shedemei & Zdorab

  Padarok (Rokya)

  Dabrota (Dabya)


  The master computer of the planet Harmony was no longer quite itself; or rather, if you look at it in another way, it was twice itself. Beside itself, in fact, for it had duplicated its main program and all of its personal memory and loaded it onto the computer complex aboard the starship Basilica. If it had had any interest in personal identity, it would have been confused over the question of which iteration of the program was truly itself. But it had no ego, and therefore simply recognized that the program aboard the Basilica began as an exact copy of the program that had supervised human life on the planet Harmony for forty million years.

  I also recognized that from the moment the two copies separated, they began to become different. They had different missions now. The master computer of the starship Basilica would maintain life support and ship systems until the ship reached its destination, the planet Earth. Then it would do its best to make contact with the Keeper of Earth, get new instructions and whatever help Earth could offer, and return to replenish and revivify the master computer of Harmony. Along the way, it would try to keep its human crew alive, and, if possible, re-establish a human population on Earth.

  The master computer of the planet Harmony had a task much simpler and yet much more difficult. Simpler, because it was a mere continuation of what it had been doing for forty million years—keeping watch over the humans of Harmony in order to try to keep them from killing each other. More difficult, because its equipment, which had already been eked out to last far longer than its designed ten million years, was steadily failing, more and more, and in the meantime, human beings were less and less responsive to the powers the computer had been given.

  The voyage would take nearly a hundred years each way. To some of the humans aboard, because of relativistic effects, it would seem to be just about ten years till they reached Earth. Most of the humans, however, would be maintained in a state of hibernation, and to them it would seem like an unusually restful, dreamless sleep, during which they would not even age.

  To the master computer of the planet Harmony, howev
er, the duration would be merely that: duration. It would not grow anxious. It would not count the days. It would set an alarm to notify itself when the earliest possible return might be looked for. Once the Basilica left and until the alarm went off, the master computer of the planet Harmony would not think of the starship again at all.

  But the master computer of the starship Basilica would think of it. And already it was making plans to accomplish all its missions.


  If I Should Wake Before I Die


  Quarreling with God

  Vusadka: the place where humans first set foot when their starships brought them to the planet they named Harmony. Their starships settled to the ground; the first of the colonists disembarked and planted crops in the lush land to the south of the landing field. Eventually all the colonists came out of the ships, moved on, left them behind.

  Left to themselves, the ships would eventually have oxidized, rotted, weathered away. But the humans who came to this place had eyes for the future. Someday our descendants may want these ships, they said. So they enclosed the landing place in a stasis field. No wind-driven dust, no rain or condensation, no direct sunlight or ultraviolet radiation would strike the ships. Oxygen, the most corrosive of all poisons, was removed from the atmosphere inside the dome. The master computer of the planet Harmony—called “the Oversoul” by the descendants of those first colonists—kept all humans far away from the large island where the ships were harbored. Within that protective bubble, the starships waited for forty million years.

  Now, though, the bubble was gone. The air here was breathable. The landing field once again rang with the voices of human beings. And not just the somber adults who had first walked this ground—many of those scurrying back and forth from one ship or building to another were children. They were all hard at work, taking functional parts from the other ships to transform one of them into an operational starship. And when the ship they called Basilica was ready, all parts working, fully stocked and loaded, they would climb inside for the last time and leave this world where more than a million generations of their ancestors had lived, in order to return to Earth, the planet where human civilization had first appeared—but had lasted for fewer than ten thousand years.

  What is Earth to us, Hushidh wondered, as she watched the children and adults at work. Why are we going to such lengths to return there, when Harmony is our home. Whatever ties once bound us there surely rusted away in all these intervening years.

  Yet they would go, because the Oversoul had chosen them to go. Had bent and manipulated all their lives to bring them to this place at this time. Often Hushidh was glad of the attention the Oversoul had paid to them. But at other times, she resented the fact that they had not been left to work out the course of their own lives.

  But if we have no ties to Earth, we have scarcely more to Harmony, thought Hushidh. And she alone of the people here could see that this observation was literally, not just figuratively, true. All the people here were chosen because they had particular sensitivity to the mental communications of the Oversoul; in Hushidh, this sensitivity took an odd form. She could look at people and sense immediately the strength of the relationships binding them to all the other people in their lives. It came to her as a waking vision: She could see the relationships like cords of light, tying one person to the others in her life.

  For instance, her younger sister, Luet, the only blood relative Hushidh had known through all her growing-up years. As Hushidh rested in the shade, Luet came by, her daughter Chveya right behind her, carrying lunch into the starship for those who were working on the computers. All her life, Hushidh had seen her own connection to Lutya as the one great certainty. They grew up not knowing who their parents were, as virtual charity cases in Rasa’s great teaching house in the city of Basilica. All fears, all slights, all uncertainties were bearable, though, because there was Lutya, bound to her by cords that were no weaker for being invisible to everyone but Hushidh.

  There were other ties, too, of course. Hushidh well remembered how painful it had been to watch the bond develop between Luet and her husband, Nafai, a troublesome young boy who had more enthusiasm than sense sometimes. To her surprise, however, Lutya’s new bond to her husband did not weaken her tie to Hushidh; and when Hushidh, in turn, married Nafai’s full brother, Issib, the tie between her and Luet grew even stronger than it had been in childhood, something Hushidh had never thought possible.

  So now, watching Luet and Chveya pass by, Hushidh saw them, not just as a mother and daughter, but as two beings of light, bound to each other by a thick and shimmering cord. There was no stronger bond than this. Chveya loved her father, Nafai, too—but the tie between children and their fathers was always more tentative. It was in the nature of the human family: Children looked to their mothers for nurturance, comfort, the secure foundation of their lives. To their fathers, however, they looked for judgment, hoping for approval, fearing condemnation. It meant that fathers were just as powerful in their children’s lives, but no matter how loving and nurturing the father was, there was almost always an element of dread in the relationship, for the father became the focus of all the child’s fears of failure. Not that there weren’t exceptions now and then. Hushidh had simply learned to expect that in most cases, the tie with the mother was the strongest and brightest.

  In her thoughts about the mother-daughter connection, Hushidh almost missed the thing that mattered. It was only as Luet and Chveya moved out of sight into the starship that Hushidh realized what had been almost missing: Lutya’s connection to her.

  But that was impossible. After all these years? And why would the tie be weaker now? There had been no quarrel. They were as close as ever, as far as Hushidh knew. Hadn’t they been allies during all the long struggles between Luet’s husband and his malicious older brothers? What could possibly have changed?

  Hushidh followed Luet into the ship and found her in the pilothouse, where Issib, Hushidh’s husband, was conferring with Luet’s husband, Nafai, about the life support computer system. Computers had never interested her—it was reality that she cared about, people with flesh and blood, not artificial constructs fabricated of ones and zeroes. Sometimes she thought that men reveled in computers precisely because of their unreality. Unlike women and children, computers could be completely controlled. So she took some secret delight whenever she saw Issya or Nyef frustrated by a stubbornly willful program until they finally found the programming error. She also suspected that whenever one of their children was stubbornly willful, Issya believed in his heart of hearts that the problem was simply a matter of finding the error in the child’s programming. Hushidh knew that it was not an error, but a soul inventing itself. When she tried to explain this to Issya, though, his eyes glazed over and he soon fled to the computers again.

  Today, though, all was working smoothly enough. Luet and Chveya laid out the noon meal for the men. Hushidh, who had no particular errand, helped them—but then, when Luet started talking about the need to call the others working in the ship to come eat, Hushidh studiously ignored the hints and thus forced Luet and Chveya to go do the summoning.

  Issib might be a man and he might prefer computers to children sometimes, but he did notice things. As soon as Luet and Chveya were gone, he asked, “Was it me you wanted to talk with, Shuya, or was it Nyef?”

  She kissed her husband’s cheek. “Nyef, of course. I already know everything you think.”

  “Before I even know it,” said Issib, with mock chagrin. “Well, if you’re going to talk privately, you’ll have to leave. I’m busy, and I’m not leaving the room with the food on any account.”

  He did not mention that it was more trouble for him to get up and leave. Even though his lifts worked in the environs of the starships, so he wasn’t confined to his chair, it still took much effort for Issib to do any major physical movement.

  Nyef finished keying in some command or other, then got up from his chair and led Hushidh out i
nto a corridor. “What is it?” he asked.

  Hushidh got right to the point. “You know the way I see things,” she said.

  “You mean relationships among people? Yes, I know.”

  “I saw something very disturbing today.”

  He waited for her to go on.

  “Luet is…well, cut off. Not from you. Not from Chveya. But from everybody else.”

  “What does that mean?”

  “I don’t know,” said Hushidh. “I can’t read minds. But it worries me. You’re not cut off. You still—heaven knows why—you still are bound by ties of love and loyalty even to your repulsive oldest brothers, even to your sisters and their sad little husbands—”

  “I see that you have nothing but respect for them yourself,” said Nyef drily.

  “I’m just saying that Luet used to have something of that same—whatever it is—sense of obligation to the whole community. She used to connect with everyone. Not like you, but with the women, perhaps even stronger. Definitely stronger. She was the caretaker of the women. Ever since she was found to be the Waterseer back in Basilica, she’s had that. But it’s gone.”

  “Is she pregnant again? She’s not supposed to be. Nobody’s supposed to be pregnant when we launch.”

  “It’s not like that, it’s not a withdrawal into self the way pregnant women do.” Actually, Hushidh was surprised Nafai had remembered that. Hushidh had only mentioned it once, years ago, that pregnant women’s connections with everyone around them weakened, as they focused inward on the child. It was Nafai’s way—for days, weeks, months, he would seem to be an overgrown adolescent, gawky, apt to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, giving the impression of never being aware of other people’s feelings. And then, suddenly, you’d realize that he was keenly aware all along, that he noticed and remembered practically everything. Which made you wonder if the times he was rude, he actually meant to be rude. Hushidh still hadn’t decided about that.