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World's Third E-Book—Published On the Web in 1997 For Digital Download

an Empire of Time SF novel

by John Argo

 Preface   Chapter 1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34   35   36   37   38   39   40   41   42 


8. Old World—Year 2299

Paul and Gregory had succeeded in landing a trank pellet in the neck of the baby white condor thrashing its ten-foot wings in their trap. Dr. Mannering would pay well for the new research subject. Baby whites were rare.

Gregory, 14, held a coiled rope and waited for his 17-year-old brother to issue directions. Paul saw the sky was clear blue; not a bird in sight. He handed his rifle to Gregory. "You stay here, I'm going back to get help bringing the bird home."

Paul hurried back on the trail through the rugged cliffs with their smooth embankments of snow. The piled domes and cubes of the Aerie shone golden despite their dark towers and bleak walls. A thin powder of ice and snow stung Paul's face, making him squint as he crossed the narrow gangway across the last fissure.

He went with the intention of summoning one or two Aerie cops. As he approached the leeward portal in the high, pitted Aerie wall, he heard a commotion. It was in a separate, low building surmounted by an immense radio dish. He'd nearly forgotten in the excitement of his catch—most of the Aerie leaders would be gathered in the lab, marveling over the transmissions from an intelligent civilization 25 light years away. General Scientist Citizen SheuXe, leader of the Aerie, had only this week announced they had begun receiving the transmissions in Dr. Mannering's lab.

Paul entered the radio lab. First thing he saw was a jumble of winking lights and coiled humming wires. Two dozen or more white-coated scientist citizens stood about drinking hot coffee, listening to what sounded like a mass of loud radio static.

Paul found Dr. Mannering, the chief scientist and director of education. "We found a baby white! I came to get help so we could bring it in. Got caught in one of our—."

Dr. Mannering shook him roughly by the shoulders. "Where is your brother?" White coats crowded all around. Paul's stomach sank and he pointed over his shoulder.

Mannering bellowed: "Guns everybody, snow suits, quick!"

Paul realized he'd made a mistake. He ran out the doorway and back down the trail, out the gate, toward the fissure. Behind him he heard curses and scrambling feet. A siren began to keen. Paul ran across the fissure, wood rocking and pounding under his feet. He ran breathlessly across the snowy plain. The sun hung like a frozen star over the ghostly mountain tops. Paul heard a helicopter cough into life.

For all the help and all the love of God, there was nothing more to be done.

A vast white blanket, flapping slowly, sank down under the cruel spires, smothering two lone and last gun shots. The sun hung ever more cruelly, a red spot in the faraway sky, as the two condors, mother and child, flew away. Their chests were spattered red, and their claws dripped with gore.


Copyright © 1990-1996-2014 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.