Kenjo flies in and does an aerial survey. Samples of the life forms are obtained. The consensus is that it comes from the wandering planet, though whether it is a prelude to invasion is up for debate. The Thread can be killed by fire or water. The next day, angry and grieving colonists, led by Ted Tubberman who lost his daughter , confront the scientists for keeping a specimen alive. Mar Dook suggests giving them the dying specimen as a way to assuage their grief. Ted and his group burn the specimen in a bonfire.
Signs of an earlier fall are found, and it is concluded that this menace is responsible for the mysterious circles found by the EEC survey team.
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It is theorized that these invasions come about two hundred years apart. Also noted is that there are more than one stage of this life form. Three days after the Landing fall, a call comes in announcing another fall in Macedonia Province. Kenjo flies Paul and several others to the site.
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Work begins on a defense. Flamethrowers are filled with HNO3 for destroying burrows of Thread. Livestock shelters are constructed and supplies are located centrally. Tom Patrick suggests that a meeting should be held and someone should be named as leader for the duration of the emergency. Cabot leads a meeting where necessary measures are announced to those in attendance. Ted Tubberman disrupts the meeting several times, suggesting the colony send a distress call which would take at least ten years for help to arrive.
Tubberman's suggestion is voted down, and Paul and Emily are voted in as leaders. Pilots and gunners are sent out each Fall to destroy Thread before it lands; ground crews, accompanied by dragonets, destroy anything that gets through. At a special meeting by the colony's leaders, Joel facetiously suggests getting more dragonets for fighting Thread, to which Emily answers that they just aren't big enough.
Emily's remark gives Paul an idea. At Avril's camp, Stev shows her his discovery of black diamonds. The next day, he is not surprised to find that she has left the camp. He knows her plan is to take the admiral's gig and leave Pern, but she hasn't been paying attention to messages from Landing and will be surprised at the activity that is now taking place there. Kenjo is sent in the Mariposa to try to discover the source of Thread. When Avril arrives at Landing, she is angrily surprised how crowded it is, and can't figure out where the Mariposa is.
While she walks down the grid, Sallah looks out a window and happens to see someone who looks like Avril but doesn't believe it could really be her. Paul and a delegation of leaders and biologists approach Kitti to ask her to bio-engineer the dragonets to be large and intelligent enough to fight Thread. To their relief, Kitti agrees.
All medical and biological staff, including Sorka and Sean, are put on the project. Kenjo makes several more missions to find Thread's source, without success. Paul calls Avril's team back to Landing; when they arrive, Stev informs him that Avril left weeks ago. Unknown to everyone else, she's been hiding nearby, keeping an eye on the Mariposa.
Six weeks after the first Fall, Paul and Emily declare a holiday for everyone to gather. A short Threadfall will be attended, but everyone else will get a chance to relax and socialize. Unfortunately, the Jepson twins, flying the fall, fool around and are killed, along with Becky Nielson and Bart Nilwan. Three days later, Kitti is found dead at her microscope. The specimens on which she had been working are carefully placed in the gestation chamber.
To add to the colony's woes, every probe sent to investigate Thread's source malfunctions; they don't know whether it's a fault with the probes or if the atmosphere of the red planet is too corrosive.
It is decided to send Kenjo and Zi to the Yokohama to see what's wrong with the probes. Avril, seeing Kenjo and Zi leaving on their mission, attacks them, killing Kenjo and severely injuring Zi. She is seen by Sallah, who sneaks into the Mariposa just as Avril is closing the door, cutting part of Sallah's heel off. When Sallah recovers consciousness, she is forced by Avril to fix what's wrong with the Mariposa.
Sallah cannot do so, because Zi had removed a key component; however, she suggests they go to the Yokohama so they can figure it out. Once on the Yokohama, Sallah fixes the Mariposa enough for Avril to leave, then she contacts Landing. She performs the probe mission but informs those on the ground that she doesn't have much air left.
When she is told that Avril's course will take her straight to the Red Star, Sallah is immensely pleased. Sallah's sacrifice for Pern gives a boost to morale for a few days, until reports come in about Ted Tubberman's strange activity. He's been taking various pieces of equipment from various places. Leadership isn't too worried, because Tubberman doesn't have the skill to launch a distress probe, but Stev and Bart have been hanging around him lately.
Soon a report comes in that there has been an unauthorized launch. Paul confronts Tubberman, who pompously stands his ground. When the leadership meets to decide on punishment, Emily says that he will be shunned. It is decided that a shuttle will be taken to the trail around the red star to determine just how long Thread will continue to fall.
Unfortunately, most pilots don't want to perform the mission, so Nabhi Nabol is approached. He is offered a charterer's stake; he demands Bart Lemos as his co-pilot. Their mission is expected to last a week. Soon after the launch, the formerly predictable Threadfall pattern shifts. One of the places hit is Tubberman's stake. Drake Bonneau is told not to help out the ground crews there.
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As he flies over the stake, he sees Tubberman's son Ned standing on a patch of grass and waving to him. Drake flies back to Landing but is later approached by Ned, who calls his attention to the fact that his father is working on something that kept the green patch of grass free from Thread. Ned wants Paul and Emily to talk to his father, but they can't because he's been shunned. The dragon eggs are finally ready to hatch. Several young people, including Sean and a pregnant Sorka, are in attendance.
The first dragon, a bronze, is impressed by Dave Catarel. The last two to impress are Sean and Sorka. Bart learns that Nabhi took the shuttle mission for a reason: while they investigate the trail around the red star, they will also search the debris from the Mariposa's explosion for the gems that Avril had brought with her. The eighteen dragonriders take care of their new charges, and eventually the size of the creatures forces them to move out of Landing into nearby caves.
The dragons will need to learn to fly and to go between when they are old enough. Nabhi and Bart report to Zi that they have the necessary information.
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Next morning, a mild earthquake hits Landing, with Patrice de Broglie reporting that a new volcano has erupted out of the sea. Tarvi, now known as Telgar, plans to report to Paul and Emily the basement rock located on the Northern Continent. The following day, Nabhi and Bart are on approach back to Pern, but Zi's readings show them entering at the wrong angle. Their readings show different, however, and Nabhi won't be convinced by Paul or Zi that he needs to change his heading.
go The shuttle explodes on reentry and lands in the ocean; a team of dolphins is unable to get to the wreckage. When the leadership meets, they conclude from Nabhi's reports that Thread will last a total of fifty years. Paul suggests a restructuring of the settlement, but Zi says Landing should be abandoned.
Jim Tillek and Ezra Keroon make Telgar's suggestion of moving north to the caves on the basement rock. This indeed is what Paul and Emily have been discussing.