Sariena rose and moved toward one of the sliding glass panels that
had been opened. Keene picked up a chair and followed her along the balcony to a corner,
away from the others who were outside talking. Keene placed the chair by the wall and
leaned an elbow on the rail while Sariena sat down. He began: "The person that I
mentioned is on the inside here. And I've seen something myself today of what reactions
are going to be." He shook his head. "Earth isn't going to buy this line about
Venus being an earlier Athena. Yes, Athena happened and the standard theories were wrong.
Nobody can deny that. But theyre going to fight any suggestion that the two have
anything in common. As far as theyre concerned Venus is a planet and moves like a
planet. Athena is a one-time anomaly that will be a spectacle for a year until it leaves
the Solar System, and then itll be forgotten, except as something for astronomers to
write papers about . . ." Keene paused, thinking for a second that Sariena
wasnt listening. She was sitting back against the window glass, staring up at the
sky with an faraway, almost rapturous expression.
"I love stars," she said.
Keene looked away and turned his head upward. "Polli told me we
dont have any," he replied. It was a clear night, not bad by Washington
standards. The angle of the walls faced roughly north, making just a wisp of Athenas
tail visible behind the building to their left. It only occurred to Keene then that until
the last couple of days, Sarienas only recollections of seeing a sky had probably
been from inside some kind of enclosure or a helmet.
"Paltry," she agreed. "But you know that, Lan. You've
been out there too. . . . But what you've never seen is Saturn from one of its moons. This
sky has nothing to compare with it. Pictures don't come closeany more than they can
show sunshine. It's like . . ." she turned her face up again, "all the rainbows
you've ever seen stirred together into a glowing ball ten times as big as the Moon. And
you're looking at it across the rings seen edge-on. It seems to be floating in a golden
ocean that extends away into the sky. If you're on one of the moons that has a tilted
orbit, the ocean seems to be rising and falling." Sariena looked back at him.
"Did you know that there are all sorts of legends from the distant pastbefore
the beginnings of our literate age, like those people that Catherine was talking
aboutthat make Saturn the greatest god in the sky and describe it as rising out of
an ocean? Isn't that strange? It's almost as if theyd seen it too." Keene
frowned at the city lights, searching for a way of turning the subject back to more
immediate matters. "Can you pick out Saturn in the sky?" Sariena asked him.
"Er, no. . . . I guess not. It isn't really one of my
"Not many people cannor any of the other planets. And
isn't that strange too? They're such insignificant pinpoints in the sky that most people
can't even find them. And yet in just about every system of religion and myth from times
gone by, they filled people with awe and terror and were associated with gods fighting
titanic battles in the skymightier even than the Sun and Moon. Why would that
be?" Sariena went on before Keene could respond, "Because the planets moved in
different orbits then, that brought them much closer."
She hadnt strayed off the subject, he realized. It was just a
roundabout way of addressing the issue he had raised.
She went on, "They saw Venus being ejected by Jupiter.
To the Greeks it was Pallas Athene springing from the brow of Zeus. The Hindus have Vishnu
being born of Shiva. The Egyptians, Horus. All names for the same planets, associated with
events in the sky that are described the same way everywhere, over and over. Now tell me
that Athena isnt the same thing happening again."
"You dont have to convince me," Keene said.
"Im already on your side, remember? But the scientists wholl determine
what our governments decide arent interested in old myths and legends. Theyre
going to want to see facts and evidence and numbers before theyll budge, and none of
them wants to budge because theyre happy with the ideas theyve got and making
secure, comfortable livings with things the way they are."
Sariena looked at Keene dubiously. "Is that really all that
matters here?" she asked. "Comfortable livings and safe jobs? Prestige and
promotions? Dont things like where were all heading in the longer term, and
wanting to know the truth count?"
"Maybe they did onceI dont know; you hear these
things. But people have always thought things were better in the past. Today, the creed is
make what you can now and grab as much as you can get. There might not be a
"One day, could might turn out to be a gruesome self-fulfilling
prophesy," Sariena observed. "I dont understand how a system can function
that seems to be based on nothing but antagonism."
Keene smiled humorlessly. "Most people here cant
understand how your system can, that isnt."
"We couldnt afford anything else out there," Sariena
said. "Everyones survival is at stake. We have to work together. And look what
its achieving." She paused, waiting, but Keene had nothing to add just then.
After a short silence, she said, "Of course theres more than just the ancient
myths and records. Theyre just the beginning. We do have as much fact and evidence
as anyone could reasonably need. Otherwise we wouldn't be here."
"We know about the mass-extinctions and geological
upheavals," Keene agreed. "But there are plenty of other theories going around
as to what could have caused all that. How do you positively connect it all with
"Venus is a young planet," Sariena answered. "It
hasnt been there for billions of years. The evidence has been piling up for decades.
A lot of scientists on Earth that we know of are aware of it."
"Ill be meeting one of them on my way back," Keene
said. "But even if youre right, that doesnt mean it nearly sideswiped
Earth. Thats the biggest single problem youre going to have to deal with: how
an orbit that could take it from Jupiter to an Earth-encounter could circularize to what
we see today. All of conventional theory says it couldnt happen. Thats why
people here are saying that Athena is something different. No mechanism known to science
could reduce its eccentricity to almost zero in under four thousand years. Thats
what theyre going to tell you. How are you planning on answering it?"
Sariena studied him for a moment. "Do you know about the
electromagnetic changes that have been occurring all over the Solar System since Athena
was ejected?" she asked curiously.
Keene looked at her uncertainly. "Electromagnetic changes to
"The space environment itself. It properties are being
Keene was still frowning, but with a new interest. "No . .
." He told her. "I dont think I do. Suppose you tell me."
"I dont think its something that scientists in
general here are informed about," Sariena answered. "Earth hasnt been
putting enough deep-space probes out to get the picture. We have. We must be getting a
"Whats been happening?" Keene asked.
Sariena motioned upward with an arm to indicate the night sky.
"This white-hot mass, hurtling in from Jupiter for the last ten months, pouring out a
tail of highly ionized particles that extends for millions of miles, orders of magnitude
denser than that of any comet ever known. . . . Its turning space in the inner Solar
System into an electrically active mediumat least, temporarily. Now move a in
incandescent body in a plasma state through that medium at high velocity. . . ." She
left the suggestion unfinished.
The expression on Keenes face told her there was no need to
say anymore. A charged body moving through an electrically active medium would be subject
to forces that in those conditions could conceivably rival or even exceed gravity. Forces
that conventional astronomic theory, based on the assumption of a pre-Athena, electrically
quiescent Solar System, had never taken into account.
Sariena nodded, seeing that Keene had made the connection. "Our
scientists in Kronia have been running some calculations. The preliminary results came in
to the Osiris just before we came down to the surface. Theyre being rechecked
before we present anything here officially. But perhaps you could arrange for them to be
duplicated independently here on Earth as wellthe more confirmation we get, the
better. Well give you the codes to access the files of original data from our
probes. I think youll find the results interesting."