To nourish children and raise them against odds is in any time, any place, more valuable than to fix bolts in cars or design nuclear weapons.

- Susan Sontag - Earth (Human)


MARCH 2270

Corin was leaning into the oar next to Wilkes, bending his back as they drew hard, racing away from the setting sun.

Wilkes panted, "I didn't even know there WERE lakes this big."

Corin laughed, "There's a lot more to our planet than trees, Wilkes." The longship was making good time, the six pairs of oarsmen adding to the lateen sail hung slightly forward of amidships.

"I think I need a helmet with horns on it." he gasped out as they lifted, pushed, and drew again.

Corn laughed and asked, "Why?"

"Never mind. Are you sure Toralin can do it?"

Another stroke and Corin said, "He's a medic. And if he can't, he can call a transporter. It'll be fine. Trust me, it's better to be here than there." Another stroke and he continued, "Besides these things take time, we're only about an hour out from T'Elesh at this pace."

"It's just too damn soon."

"What do you know about it?" Corin laughed. "If you can worry that much you're not pulling hard enough, put your back into it!"

An hour later, the helmsman curved them alongside the pier and people began to pile out and tie the ship fast. Corin stood up from his bench and stretched. Making his way to the tent covering the center of the boat, he peeked his head in. "Can I see?"

Eletha waved him in and he looked down. "Well thank all the gods they're not pink. But...four? I thought one?"

Wilkes looked up with a huge smile on his face, whispering so as not to wake Sooth, "We've known for a long while, but we didn't know how many...would make it. They're still too small. They're early."

Corin cocked his head to one side trying to get a good look at the little kits. Their ears were small, and more rounded than he was used to. And their tails were tiny – almost bobbed. One with reddish, spotted fur opened her bright blue eyes and mewled.

"That one's Heather." Wilkes said, and we've got "Nollos, and Rollin, and Corin. I got to pick one name but I'm not saying which." he chuckled.

Corin smiled, "There's a float to take you to the medical bay. Wait...Rollin?"

With a quiet laugh Wilkes explained, "For my father."

"AH, of course..." and he stepped back out on deck, leaning over the rail. Watching the waves, he heard the float load the new little family up and start making it's way up the hill and into the city. Eletha came and leaned on the rail next to him, her tail draped over his.

"Well, they SORT of look like Dosadi." he said, enjoying the quiet lap of the waves against the hull.

"They know it won't be easy, Corin. Nothing either of them has ever done has been easy. But they've gotten it done, haven't they?"

He smiled at her, "That's quite true. They have done rather well, haven't they?" He could hear her kits scampering around the ropes and oars. At three, and finally weaned, they were given a lot more freedom to explore. Watching Eletha look to check on her kits he thought to himself. "Not quite yet, but soon, I think."

She looked back at him and laughed "I know what you're thinking, Corin. It does seem to be getting to that part of our stories, doesn't it?"

He shook his head, "It's scary how you do that." And he turned, leaning his back on the gunwale, looking up the hill after the float. "And now there's four new stories to tell."

Turning and leaning her chin on his shoulder she said, "That's a long journey yet."