They called the planet Snowball. Some people thought it was cute, but the man who named it was thinking about “A Snowball’s chance in hell.” He was talking about the survival potential of anyone that lived on that planet, and there were scheduled to be many. Hydro-farmers were always looking for places that might provide adequate water for the expanding number of colonies in new sectors the human race was moving into.

Water was still protected under The Declaration Of Human Rights, so it couldn’t be denied to others, but that didn’t mean that the territory couldn’t be bought up, and that the utilities couldn’t be monopolised. Ice planets were just as good as a water planet, but the life was harder for those who lived there.

Cargill had spent a year here before anyone arrived, taking ice core samples and running countless lab experiments on what they found. If there was life here and they missed it, it could be a fatal error, and given the wide distribution networks that immediately sprang up around water or ice planets, that mistake could take out a whole galactic network.

The monocells they found, and the weird phytoplankton, initially made him worry, but dropping the samples through Reaction Clones and noting the shift in their gut flora seemed to suggest that whatever was happening was actually beneficial. If Reaction Clones checked out over a series of tests then it was guaranteed. No knowing what it might mean long term, because even forced maturation, being lab controlled, wasn’t going to tell you how something was going to play out in the real world, but at least for now they could relax.

It takes time for things to evolve. Information buried or waiting in one place, unpacking and expressing itself in unexpected ways. It happened all the time. You look as far ahead as you feasibly can, and you make an educated guess on how something might play out.

Growth Accelerant, forced molecular bonding, all wrapped up in a wonderful parcel of unexpected horizontal gene transfer, and all your plans go to hell. Who was to know that the small living animals that found their way into a host of people now turned host had discovered the promise land they had been waiting for in this frozen place? Inside the people who carried them around unaware, their evolution was hot-housed, and the fever their hosts experienced, something that had not occurred in the clones, caused an explosion to occur.

How many years later did that ship, arriving where it thought Snowball should be, find instead a verdant planet, where plant-life was rampant, where some barely recognisable trace of the original humans who had settled there survived in the pheromone memories, whose history ringed the sentient and ancient trees? No one could answer – the trees knew that they were, but not how long they had been.

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