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Unformatted text preview: Cradle by: Arthur C. Clarke & Gentry Lee copyright: 1988 THE emerald water smashes against the dark volcanic cliffs. Fine white spray hovers over the harsh rock creating a misty veil that glimmers in the fading light. In the distance, two yellow suns set simultaneously, separated by about forty degrees as they disappear together below the horizon. Across the blue-black sky, on the opposite side of the isthmus that slopes gently downward from the volcanic cliffs to another ocean, a pair of full moons rise as the two suns vanish. Their twin moonlight, although much weaker than the shine of the disappearing suns, is still strong enough to create dancing moon shadows on the ocean beneath the rocky overhang. As the dual moons rise on the eastern side of the isthmus, light begins to glow on the horizon beside them, about twenty degrees to the south. At first the glow looks like the light of a distant city, but with each passing moment it brightens until it spreads across the sky. At length an awesome third moon, its first chord coming over the horizon when the twin moons are maybe ten degrees into their arc, begins to rise. Calm descends on both oceans for a few seconds, as if the world beneath the giant orb has paused to give homage to the spectacular sight. This great yellow moon, its face clearly scarred by craters, appears to be surveying its dominion as it slowly rises in the sky and bathes the emerald oceans in a mysterious reflected light. It is a hundred times the size of the smaller twin moons and its wide swath through the sky is greater in size than that cut minutes before by the pair of setting suns Below the cliffs, in the shadow of the newest moon, a long sinuous object arcs its way out of the water, rising nearly twenty feet above the surface. The slender apparition twists itself toward the cliffs and thrusts itself forward as the piercing sound of a trumpet, a solo blast, reverberates against the rocks and carries across the isthmus. A moment later another sound is heard, a muted echo or possibly a reply from the other sea. The creature swims gracefully into the moonlight, its long, lithe neck a cobalt blue above a gray body mostly submerged in the ocean. Now the bluenecked serpent extends itself upward again and leans toward the land, its face revealed in the expanding moonlight. The facial features are convoluted and complex, with rows of orifices of unknown purpose. At the peak of its extension, the creature contorts its face and a medley of sounds is heard; the trumpet blast is now accompanied by an oboe and an organ. After a short pause a muted response, quieter but with the same rich complexity of sound, comes back across the isthmus. The serpent swims north along the shore. Behind it in the moonlight half a dozen other swirling necks rise from the ocean. These creatures are a little smaller, the hues of their cobalt necks not quite so vivid. This ensemble turns as one, on cue, and blasts six trumpet calls to the east. Again a pause precedes the...
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