THE NEXT DAY. GIBRALTAR. 11:45 AM CENTRAL EUROPEAN TIME. MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2026.

“First time I saw the Rock,” Ihor said, “I was fourteen, and my papers said I was eighteen, and they were working me so hard I felt like I was a hundred. But it was beautiful, and just like all the pictures.”

“It’s a big white rock,” Whorf said. It sounded stupid to him even as he said it.

As usual when coming into a port, they were standing by with nothing to do, waiting to be madly busy. On their way across the Atlantic, all the scholar-sailors had had plenty of time for study, and everyone else had been happy to help them fill it. Whorf had drawn images from the microscope for Lisa Reyes till his hand was sore, and then until it was strong, and finally till it was indefatigable. Ihor’s knack for languages had made him the pet of their three language-and-linguistics specialists, so he had spent his time cramming Portuguese, Arabic, Catalan, and Italian.

“This is nice, just waiting to pull on a rope,” Whorf said. “My brain’s about ready for a rest.”

“Yours and mine both,” Ihor said. “That is how you say it?”

“That is. You sound Old New York already.”

“Someday when we are old, nobody will believe we remember Old New York, before it was Manbrookstat, and the kids—”

Then Halleck’s bellowed orders set them scrambling, as Discovery worked her way into the harbor under sail alone, the immense white rock larger whenever Whorf had time to look.

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