Taking advantage of all the shade he could, since Homeworld's sun put out more ultraviolet than Terra's, he cut sticks for a leanto framework, then climbed up the soh tree and began one-handedly hacking off the tough-stemmed leaves. It was hard work, but it shouldn't take more than a couple dozen of the big leaves to make a decent shelter.

At the Ch'kara clanhome, a youngling met them and took them to one of the smaller living rooms, with the information that Ka'ruchaya Yarra had set it aside for them so ruchaya Steve could study undisturbed. Only it didn't quite work out that way. Tarlac did learn a considerable amount that afternoon, but it was as much about his clanmates as it was about how to survive in Homeworld's wilderness.

It made him want to retreat to childhood, to find solace in his sponsor's strength as he had once found it in his father's. He couldn't. He couldn't share what he knew, that if he died in failure the Traiti race would not long survive him. And he was certain, without reason, that he would die. The Hermnaen was alone when it neared Homeworld's defense perimeter.

Arjen closed his eyes with a smile, anticipating the reunion with his clanmates, especially his two sons. Lazno, the elder, was due a leave, and Reja said Mahas was starting to talk. It would be good to see them all again, and Homeworld's still-peaceful countryside. There was the bed of star-shaped hermnaen flowers that gave his ship its name, in the clanhome's garden...

Then he lifted the car and pointed it toward the clanhome. Steve was on his own now, totally out of contact, and Hovan found himself suddenly apprehensive. N'derybach weren't the only dangers in Homeworld's wilderness. So this was Homeworld's wilderness. Tarlac watched Hovan's car disappear, then checked out his surroundings to see what he'd have to work with.

It reminded him of a Terran college campus or an Irschchan town, though with a greater similarity to Terra since Homeworld's sky was blue, not green. The air smelled good, clean and alive after the flatness of recycled ship's air, and he could tell the Traiti liked it as much as he did.

The realization of something so basic it had never occurred to him before, as he walked in the warmth of Homeworld's sun, seemed fitting to him. He'd been Kranath, he'd been Godhome; now he was Steve Tarlac again. Only Steve Tarlac, he thought with a silent laugh, but he'd found at least part of the answer he needed to bring peace if he survived.

What he learned about Homeworld's vegetation and wildlife fascinated him especially, under the circumstances, the practical details. He found out which plant parts were edible and which to avoid, and that he could eat practically everything that moved. Unfortunately, quite a few of the moving things would consider him equally edible.

This part of Homeworld's main continent had abundant drainage, and from the air he had already spotted one of the streams that fed the capital's reservoir. It was less than a hundred meters away, and it would be his guide out of the forest, as well as his water supply. Tarlac had no desire to disable his only means of transportation, so when he went for a drink, he watched where he put his feet.