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expression had grown fierce, but now her face softened.  And with
Fynn dead too, all that belongs to the past. Better it stays there than
comes out and jeopardises the future. She smiled. That mud could
save millions of lives. It honestly could. So I m going to say it was
spewed up in that mysterious volcanic eruption and file a claim in the
name of the African people.
 Seriously? Rose smiled properly.  You can do that? Adiel smiled
and lowered her voice.  With all the admin generated by our little
 natural disaster here, it ll take our sponsors months to notice.
 And by the time she s finished doing her tests and telling the world
what s what, said Basel, breezing into the room,  the paperwork will
all be sorted, nice and legal.
 Hello, here s trouble, said Rose, grinning up at him.
He took off his straw hat and chucked it on a chair.  People been
either taking from us or giving us handouts way too long, he said.
 Now we re gonna coin it, big time.
Rose nodded.  So this sort of bio-piracy s OK, then?
 When the stuff you re pirating s from, like, Jupiter, it don t count,
Basel reasoned.  Whole world s gonna want a piece of this miracle
mud, and they can pay for it. He tapped his nose. Through this.
 Pricing will be fair, Basel, said Adiel patiently. This stuff can help
starving people the world over.
 Uh-huh, said Basel.  Starting here.
Rose smiled.  You ll be sticking around, then?
 Course. And I m gonna keep schooling myself up. Gonna need
credibility. It s us against the fat cats, the big businesses.
 We ll need to buy ourselves out of the agri-unit system and set up
independently, agreed Adiel.  It s going to be a hell of a lot of hard
work. . . but we ll get there.
There were different ways to save the planet, Rose reflected. Short-
term fixes and long-haul solutions. Looked like Adiel and Basel and
the others were in this for the duration, maybe for their whole lives.
That was cool.
But what did the future hold for her? she wondered.
" " "
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Solomon wondered how long it would take Adiel to find his letter of
resignation on the shambles of her desk.
He d waited a couple of days before making it official, but his mind
had been made up from the start. It was time to go home. Not to the
city. To the old village. Gouronkah, his home.
It had been almost levelled by the tremors from the volcano. Its
people needed help; Solomon had been giving aid in secret for too
long. Now he was going to do things properly. His kids had urban
citizenship. They could make up their minds whether they would
follow him back to Gouronkah or forge their own lives in the city. He
would support them as best he could in whatever they decided.
But right now he needed to do this.
How many people had died because he d touched a golden panel?
And yet how many people might now live in the future because of the
chain of events he had set in motion?
The Doctor said that if he hadn t touched the plaque ahead of the
Wurms, the whole world might have ended up a smoking cinder. But
the only smoking cinders he had seen were those of Kanjuchi, and
the men on the gate, the animals and birds. . . They had all died in
consequence of what he had done.
Solomon knew you couldn t change what you d done in the past.
But if you wanted to, you could make amends.
No more compromises, no more standing awkwardly between two
worlds, no more wasting time. Solomon walked out through the main
gates and very nearly smiled to himself. It was time to do things right.
The Earth s solar system was dwindling on the monitors, and Faltato
was sipping tea and yawning in equal measure. He had spent a dark
day and night wondering just how he would cope with the lengthy
journey back to his ship.
The tactic he d hit on was to lord it over the battered Worm as much
as possible.
He waggled his teacup.  I think I d like another, Korr. When you re
ready.
 I am not your servant, leggy scum! the Wurm raged.
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 But you are very, very grateful, I hope, said Faltato smoothly.  I
saved you. Carried you out of that volcano myself. Under your warrior
code, you owe me your life and your loyalty. He settled back in his
seat.  So just ambulate along and make the tea, hmm?
Already he was losing himself in future plans. He would leave with
the finest of those art treasures on board, enough to pay off his debts,
impress his peers and wow the ladies. He might even fund an ex-
pedition to locate that last, lost Valnaxi ship and its hidden vault of
masterpieces. Or maybe simply set himself up in a little antiques place
on Hastus Minor. . .
Korr wriggled painfully past him on his way out towards the galley.
 Two sugars! Faltato called after him.
Rose went out to join the Doctor beside the smelly but salvaged
TARDIS, free of the mud mountain at last. Through a yellow-grey
cloud of volcanic smoke, the African sun was starting to set behind
the shattered peak of Mount Tarsus.
It was a beautiful sight  but the Doctor had eyes only for his police
box.
 You gonna wash it, then? Rose wondered.  It s well mucky.
He considered.  There s an Oulion rocket-wash opening on Titan in
900 years time. Pretty reasonable rates, as I recall.
 And what about this place in 900 years time? she asked.
 Year 3000? He grinned.  Middle of Africa s third golden age.
 So it s gonna be goodbye to the Third World, then?
He nodded.  With a little help from a fourth.
Rose frowned.  You don t normally like that. I mean, nicking alien
technology and stuff  
 Oh, it s only mud! Anyway, it s always going on  fact of life, he
said dismissively.  Is it better that the Henry van Stattens of this world
get their hands on it every time? Nah, let the little people have a go.
Let them grow big.  Cause their dreams are even bigger.
He looked out at the sunset himself for a while. Then he opened the
TARDIS doors and she walked into the welcoming sea-green coolness
189
of the control room. The Doctor banged the doors shut behind them
and was soon tugging away at the console s switches and levers.
 What about those two Valnaxi? You re just going to leave them here
on Earth?
 Africa s been their home longer than anywhere else.
She shivered.  One of them looks like me, though. . . 
 Maybe more than just looks, he said distantly.  When they sifted
through you for the template. . . 
 What?
 Oh, I dunno. . .  He looked pensive for a moment.  They get one
chance, that s all. But I think they ll be OK.
 You hope, said Rose.
 What s wrong with travelling hopefully? He gave her a beguiling
grin.  I ve turned it into an art form. . . 
He threw the final switch and the TARDIS heaved itself into the time
vortex, taking them on to new adventures.
On the edges of the desert, Male and Female sat in silent wonder,
feeling the setting African sun on their skin.
 The sun feels good, said Male.
 Free, murmured Female.  Free feels good. Free of the ancient
obligations. There is nothing we can do for our race now.
Male agreed.  They will survive in their disembodied state. Perhaps
they can sense their way back to the home world. Then  
 There is nothing we can do for our race now, Female said again,  so
we must live for ourselves. She looked down at her bare arms. The
golden pigment was slowly darkening.
 But where shall we go? whispered Male.  How shall we live?
 You know from Solomon s thoughs that the old settlements are
quiet and small and ignored. We shall find such a settlement. Or
we shall start our own. It does not matter. She closed her new eyes, [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]