World's Third E-BookPublished On the Web in 1997 For Digital Download
an Empire of Time SF novel
by John Argo
33. New WorldYear 3301
Something was wrong. Very wrong.
Tynan sat staring sullenly into the smoking embers where a fire had been. The fire was gone. The fire was out. Licia, standing at the edge of the woods, looked over her shoulder. Her eyes were tear-swollen. Her face was pale and bleak.
"We're leaving this morning," Tynan said.
"Come on," Paul pleaded, a lump in his throat.
"We decided," Licia said looking desperately at Tynan and defiantly at Paul.
Tynan's eyes were briefly averted. He still stared at the embers, not of the fire, but of his life with Nancy. When Tynan finally did look again at Paul, his gaze was direct, unblinking, and brutal. Tynan lifted his gaze out of Nancy's coffin and his eyes found nothing
consequential in Paul. "We have decided, Menard, that we are going back to the village."
"We?" Paul's stomach fluttered. He felt helpless, murdered, as if he had been assaulted again by a thrown rock. He looked at the truth revealed in Tynan's eyes. He looked at Licia, and the same truth was there. Licia's face mirrored guilt, fear, defiance, love, resentment,
longing, pity. In the end it did not matter anymore, and all three knew that. It was the Aerie way. He was being despoused. No, he had been despoused. Just saying so made it so.
Paul realized that he had met his aliens. Licia was galaxies away.
Tynan rose. "We listened to you, and here we are. Only three of us left, for all we know, and you bring us here. We need to be in the village, Menard, where we are safe. Where we can multiply. You are not fit to lead us."
Blindly, Paul struck at Tynan. Licia stood out of reach beyond Tynan. Paul caught Tynan's fist on his own face, reopening his wound. He cut his knuckles on Tynan's teeth, stunned his hand all the way up his wrist on Tynan's cheek bone. They rolled on the ground,
equally matched, and finally separated. Tynan dabbed at a bloody lip. "I always wondered if I could take you. You are strong."
Paul ignored him. "Why, Lish?
"Oh Paul." She sat down and cried, face in her arms on her knees. She would not come near him, and he did not go to her. Tynan was between them, but that did not matter just then. His pride mattered. And his stunned acceptance.
Licia finally answered: "Paul, we are so far away, from Aerie law. You have made yourself a stranger to me."
"You can't see yourself. Obsessed. Driven. With the mound, the city, all these things that don't matter as much as our safety. But it's more than that. I am the only woman left. I have to bear children, or we are finished. This is not about love, or sentiment. Or your
feelings. Or my feelings."
Tynan produced his rifle in one lightning move and pointed it at Paul's heart. "It's business, Menard. Work. And I'm not allowing any triangles. It's me and her."
"Licia, I'm giving you a chance."
"No Paul, I'm so sorry."
"Menard, you know what has to be, you of all people."
Copyright © 1990-1996-2014 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.