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"But why me?"

"You're the one who discovered the fault line." One of his pepper-gray brows rose. "Do you want those people to die?"

Carevei's muscles tightened through her back. "Of course not."

"Then go out there and convince them to get the blinding fire off that piece of land before it's too late. They'll listen to you, EarthHunger. You know what you're talking about."

Her ears flicked back against her skull. Carevei closed her topaz-colored eyes and said, "All right." She heard the chime that signaled the connection's close, and tilted her face slightly to the right; the warmth of Ciracaa's brilliant yellow sun painted the inside of her eyelids red, touched her lips and drew the moisture from them. She turned away to pack.

Sixty-two hours later, the Tam-illee foxine leaned against the window of the dragonfly and watched the endless gold plains rush past. She'd taken the assignment to Ciracaa after four years of wandering Tam-ley, frightened of the path that had beckoned her. Her intention had been to become a chemist, but halfway through her schooling an errant elective on seismology had seized her attention so tightly she'd been unable to resist the inevitable change of curriculum. Her father would have called it flightiness, had he known. Carevei herself didn't understand what about the breaking of the earth attracted her so, but three years later she'd emerged from school a seismologist on a planet with few earthquakes and several hundred thousand fellow earth scientists.

The university-sponsored job on Ciracaa, then, could have leaped out of a dream. It still seemed like one after seven months. The Ciracaana had proscribed high technology across most of their homeworld in an effort to preserve their ancient culture; only in the Twins, the two starport cities on either hemisphere, could off-worlders and natives alike partake of the Alliance's vast technological harvest. Carevei lived in Nguva, the northern city, but it was the wilderness that drew her--the broad oceans rimmed with pale lilac sands, the low blue mountains streaked with silver-gray, and above all, the endless plains of sun-bleached grasses, hiding beneath their velvet nap the corrugated, secret heart of a violent earth.

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