World's Third E-BookPublished On the Web in 1997 For Digital Download
an Empire of Time SF novel
by John Argo
21. Old WorldYear 2299
"I just had a call from up range," Mannering said as Paul and SheuXe stood staring at the mummy in the grave. "Come on, quick!"
They followed Mannering's enormous bulk to a chopper. After a short, hectic ride through several treacherous wind pockets that threatened to dash them against the age-blackened rocks, they saw several constables waving. The chopper set down and Paul was the first
one out. He wished he had his rifle with him, for he immediately recognized the thrill of the hunt in the young constables' eyes. It was immediately clear to him what had happened. They had driven a group, a family perhaps, of the creatures toward a box canyon. Several had tried to fly
out, but they weren't fast enough; their bodies lay sprawled and broken on the teeth of the walls surrounding the canyon. "We got one trapped in there," a constable said.
"Take him alive if possible!" Mannering shouted as he came up at a run. His rifle looked like a toy in his huge hands.
The air here was actually almost warm and smelled noxious. Paul guessed there was a lava vent somewhere nearby, and perhaps that had something to do with the coming of these new creatures. Thunder growled loudly in the cloud sea. Still, the scene wasn't much
different from what he'd seen all his life in the Aeriea thick cover of ashen clouds forming a floor that ran for tens of miles, and above it bright sunshine in the upper atmosphere, and vistas of mountain ranges running as far as they eye could see.
"There!" Paul spotted flashes of movement in the thickets at the edge of the canyon. Paul felt the slow, steady movement as Mannering carefully aimed his trank gun.
Small fur-covered winged creatures ran explosively for cover.
One of the mutants confronted Mannering. The bat-man's wings spread like a fan behind. His spindly arms stretched out in defense of the others. He held a small, metal-tipped spear in one hand. A bag on a thong hung from the other wrist. The red-furred face looked half
simian, with a recognizable pride and defiance in the big dark eyes, in the sneering cast of the man-like mouth.
Mannering fired. Once. Twice. The little man looked as though he were going to cry as he dropped his spear and clutched his side where the darts had hit. His face, as he fell, had an accusing look none of the watchers would ever forget. Up on the rim, a fusillade of
gunfire erupted as the constables began picking off the other members of the clan, killing them one by one.
"We are no longer alone," Paul heard Mannering say to SheuXe behind himself. "I wonder what else is growing in these mountain peaks."
SheuXe’s reply was a whisper, snatched away by the wind, but Paul thought he said: "It's just a matter of time. Just a matter of time."
Copyright © 1990-1996-2014 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.