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DRAGONSDAWN

Anne McCaffrey

A Del Rey® Book

BALLANTINE BOOKS • NEW YORK

Contents

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgements

PART I Landing

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

PART II Thread

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

PART III Crossing

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

APPENDIX

About the Author

Books by Anne McCaffrey

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Copyright

THIS BOOK WAS ALWAYS FOR

Judy-Lynn Benjamin del Rey

PART ONE

LANDING

“PROBE REPORTS COMING through, sir,” Sallah Telgar announced without taking her eyes from the flickering lights on her terminal.

“On the screen, please, Mister Telgar,” Admiral Paul Benden replied.

Beside him, leaning against his command chair, Emily Boll kept her eyes steadily on the sunlit planet, scarcely aware of the activity around her.

The Pern Colonial Expedition had reached the most exciting moment of its fifteen-year voyage: the three colony ships, the Yokohama, the Bahrain, and the Buenos Aires were finally approaching their destination. In offices below the bridge deck, specialists eagerly awaited updates on the reports of the long-dead Exploration and Evaluation team that, 200 years earlier, had recommended Rukbat’s third planet for colonization.

The long journey to the Sagittarian Sector had gone without a hitch, the only excitement being the surprise when the Oort cloud encircling the Rukbat system had been sighted. That phenomenon had continued to engross some of the space and scientific personnel, but Paul Benden had lost interest when Ezra Keroon, captain of the Bahrain and the expedition’s astronomer, had assured him that the nebulous mass of deep-frozen meteorites was no more than an astronomical curiosity. They would keep an eye on it, Ezra had said, but although some comets might form and spin from its depths, he doubted that they would pose a serious threat to either the three colony ships or the planet the ships were fast approaching. After all, the Exploration and Evaluation team had not mentioned any unusual incidence of meteor strikes on the surface of Pern.

“Screening probe reports, sir,” Sallah confirmed, “on two and five.” Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Admiral Benden smile slightly.

“This is sort of anticlimactic, isn’t it?” Paul murmured to Emily Boll as the latest reports flashed onto the screens.

Arms folded across her chest, she hadn’t moved since the probes had been launched, except for an occasional twiddling of fingers along her upper arms.

She lifted her right eyebrow in a cynical twitch and kept her eyes on the screen.

“Oh, I don’t know. It’s one more procedure which gets us nearer to the surface. Of course,” she added dryly, “we’re sort of stuck with whatever’s reported, but I expect we can cope.”

“We’ll have to, won’t we?” Paul Benden replied a trifle grimly.

The trip was one-way—it had to be, considering the cost of getting over six thousand colonists and supplies to such an out-of-the-way sector of the galaxy. Once they reached Pern the fuel left in the great transport ships would be enough only to achieve and maintain a synchronous orbit above their destination while people and cargo were shuttled down to the surface. To be sure, they had homing capsules that would reach the headquarters of the Federated Sentient Planets in a mere five years, but to a retired naval tactician like Paul Benden, a fragile homing capsule did not offer much in the way of an effective backup. The Pern expedition was composed of committed and resourceful people who had chosen to eschew the high-tech societies of the Federated Sentient Planets. They expected to manage on their own. And though their destination in the Rukbat system was rich enough in ores and minerals to support an agriculturally based society, it was poor enough and far enough from the center of the galaxy that it should escape the greed of the technocrats.

“Only a little while longer, Paul,” Emily murmured, her voice reaching his ears alone, “and we’ll both be able to lay down the weary load.”

He grinned up at her, knowing that it had been as difficult for her as it had been for him to escape the blandishments of technocrats who had not wished to lose two such charismatic war heroes: the admiral who had prevailed in the Cygni Space Battle, and the governor-heroine of First Centauri. But no one could deny that the two were the ideal leaders for the Pern expedition.

“Speaking of loads,” she went on more loudly, “I’d better be there to referee my team now the reports are coming in. I suppose specialists have to consider their own disciplines the most important ones, but such contentiousness!” She stifled a groan, then grinned, her blue eyes twinkling in her rather homely face. “Just a few more days of talking, and it’ll be action stations, Admiral.”

She knew him well. He hated the interminable debate over minor points that seemed to obsess those in charge of the landing operation. He preferred to make quick decisions and implement them immediately, instead of talking them to death.

“You’re more patient with your teams than I am,” the admiral said quietly.

The last two months, as the three ships had decelerated into the Rukbat system, had been made tedious with meetings and discussions which seemed to Paul to be nitpicking over procedures that had been thoroughly thrashed out seventeen years before in the planning stages of the venture.

Most of the 2900 colonists on the Yokohama had passed the entire journey in deep sleep. Personnel essential to the operation and maintenance of the three great ships had stood five-year watches. Paul Benden had elected to stand the first and last five-year periods. Emily Boll had been revived shortly before the rest of the environmental specialists, who had spent their time railing at the superficiality of the Exploration and Evaluation Corps report.

She saw no point in reminding them of their enthusiasm for the same words when they had signed up for the Pern expedition.

Paul continued to absorb the display information, eyes flicking from one screen to another, absently rubbing the thumb of his left hand across three fingers. Though not the sort of man Emily was attracted to, Paul Benden was undeniably handsome, and Emily much preferred him with his hair grown out of the spaceman’s crop that had been his trademark. She thought that the thick blond mass softened the strong features: the blunt nose, the forceful jaw, and the wide thin-lipped mouth, just then pulled slightly to the left in a little smile.

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Comments

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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