Derek studies the world below him. He has seen a number of planets but none that look so cold and empty as this one. None that look so lifeless.

Yet clearly, it is inhabited. White domes gleam in the black rock and one can envision the thousands of clones working in the dark tunnels in their bulky protective environmental suits.

Their eyes were probably modified to see in infrared or ultraviolet or perhaps both. He has not looked at the specs on that part of their design. It is not affected.

Their lungs still breath the same mixture of air that Derek does though it is a modified system. They can last for hours on what he uses every 15 minutes. And their tolerance to cold is impressive. He has seen the specs on that and their lungs since the problem is strictly respiratory.

There was sometimes a connection between cold tolerances and lung problems or there was in Earth myths. Derek has judged it wise to pay attention to old medical mythology. There is little understanding for sickness now that the human race has moved beyond it.

The clones have not. Lab viruses crop up during incubation when some gen-designer has been less than careful about a stray DNA strand.

This problem, however, is a strange rarity. There was a lack of sterility and a prior experimental test with an entirely different set of clones at the production facility.

Those clones had been deliberately destroyed by the Bio-Warfare Division. They were hoping to develop a resistant strain from the bio-matter for their warrior clones and they did.

But someone had not followed standard sterilization procedure. Derek is sure somewhere heads are rolling. His internal investigation team would make sure of it.

It was easy to develop a vaccine with the virus and resistant strain on hand and most of the true research already available.

The only problem was creating a cure that restored the infected clones to optimal range. Research indicated that survival was easy but physical damage, once incurred, was impossible to reverse.

There was no way around it. Some of the clones were hopelessly damaged. They could go back to work but performance would be below standard and they would terminate years before their encoded expiration date.

He is going to have to pull the damaged clones out, replace them, and pay for a loss of business revenue.

Yes, heads had better be rolling!

He has brought legal reps to do the necessary arguing. And Derek has come to Niobe himself to survey the damage, to prove that Corday Technologies cared about their good name and customers.

He would have preferred to send in a team, two of his execs from whatever regional outlet routinely dealt with Niobe and this star sector. They could have paid TJC off, soothed their ruffled feathers and he could have stayed on Gethsemane with his robots and menagerie, his gardens and beyond-his father’s former game reserves. But that would have been weak and lazy, Bad Business, and he was The Corday.

It was important that he go himself though Taylor-Johnson-Cortez Industries was a mere blip on his business charts. There were more important customers than TJC that would take note of how he handled this—his largest business disaster since he had come to the helm of Corday Tech­nologies.

Still, time was so valuable . . .

Playing in the labs, light sailing, even walking on Gethsemane was better then coming to see this. He quailed at the thought of it—

Stick to business: The revenue loss on this was only major if you were some fly-by-night clone contractor.

This disaster, if measured in blood, would not fill a thimble.

Business is business, Derek thought and gave a sigh.

The only problem now is what is he going to do with a fifty to a hundred thousand defective clones?

A fire sale was not an option. Nor was palming them off on some other rinky dinky mining operation.

That would be more disastrous to the Corday name than anything. Corday Technologies were industry leaders and their clones were quality workmanship.

Derek was left with destroying them, which is what Charles Corday would have done without blinking an eye. It was what Derek Corday desperately wanted to avoid.

But there was no way around it. In the end, he was going to have to do it. And that more than anything had made him come out here.

He would have to, at least, look one clone in the eye before he went home. One clone then . . . home to Gethsemane.

There was the other thing, the thing he had to see, and the woman . . . if only she was the one . . . Then home to Gethsemane, he corrected a heartbeat later.

But it would be the clone he was thinking of all the way home.

Get on with it!

But here he was, in orbit over Niobe, with a sudden reluctance to shuttle down.

It was his own fault, he should have looked at the bio-warfare contracts ages ago. He should have seen which ones he could safely terminate or sell to one of his lesser competitors at discount.

He should have been aggressive and said Bio-Warfare was operating at a loss and he was going to have to make some cuts in that division.

It would have been a lie and some would have even seen through it but he could have said that Corday Technologies wanted to focus more on private sector interests and less on planetary defense contracts.

Some would think he was a Corday with no business sense, the others would think he was developing a new line of research and needed extra facilities.

Perhaps he would do that. Expand Xeno­zoology, who were definitely a neglected division under his father.

No, he had delayed it, because he was afraid that someone might look beyond all of it and see who (and maybe what) he was.

Well, at least now, it was going to be easy to hack away at the BWD. He could do it with a vengeance and people would think he was massively ticked at all the hotshotting on his BW staff.

Or he could do it calmly. Make it seem introspective, shake his head a lot.

Derek had decided on introspective on the way out to Niobe. He could always find something minor to go ballistic over later.

There was a faint risk of appearing to be weak but it would fade as people saw how methodical he was. Then there would be talk of how he was cold and ruthless, in control, a true son to the late, great Charles Corday.

Business is all P.R. Just a thimble of it based on common sense.

At least, for Corday Technologies, this was true. They were large. They could afford to be stupid.

Derek could make a wild number of rash decisions, choose false focuses and things would still go his way.

The Covenant, after all, protected him.

Between fifty to a hundred thousand clones and he had come to look one of them in the eye so he could have night­mares about them for the rest of his life. Was he insane or what?

A female giggle intruded on his thoughts and he glanced about seeking but already knowing its source.

Cousin Albert had Cousin Elise pinned to a wall and was moving down her body with a large feather. Derek’s first thought was, Where did they get that from?

The other was: Why had they come along for the ride?