Main     Contents


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 


16. New World—Year 3301

Home turned out to be a sunken village amid a sea of waving wheat. Licia worked hard to interpret, to learn the language as they walked—Paul had little patience for it—but no, the boys knew nothing of an object that flew from the air and crashed into the ground. The day grew warm, and they stripped off their flight suits, leaving thin olive drab fatigues. At times, Paul felt overwhelmed by the strangeness of their new world, especially of finding human-like beings who walked and spoke and could quickly learn to understand universal gestures made with the hands and head. There must be some deeper mystery to how life had spread in the neighborhood of Old Earth. But there were too many more immediate and pressing problems—finding the Tynans and the Wengs; finding a place to set up a human village.

After several hours on the post road with Amda and Dunda, making good progress despite sprains, cuts, and bandages, they came to a settled area. The smells of smoke and cooking told Paul that. He spotted distant shapes running toward the village—no doubt bringing news of visitors.

As they drew near the village, a wall of high reeds grew up on either side of the road. Evidence, Paul thought, that the settlement had a plentiful supply of water. He heard excited whispering in the reeds. Occasionally a shadowy face peered out. A dark hand would push aside the reeds, opening a spy hole; and just as quickly it would close.

The knot of emotional men waiting for them in the village was another matter. The road dipped down into a bowl-shaped depression containing about twenty mud-brick houses. The houses stood around a central plaza of hard-beaten dirt with a large kiln just off center. The post road continued through the village and over the horizon. The hillsides all around had neatly planted gardens.

About a half dozen compact, powerful men blocked the way. They wore long leather loin cloths and armless leather vests. Paul stared at them in apprehension, not for the odd assortment of weapons they sported—wood staff, dully menacing machete—but to spot any really alien traits of physiognomy that would make shivers run up and down his spine. Licia seemed to have the same thought, for she said: "You know, if they'd just kill us right now, that would be good human behavior. But if they turn out to have lots of eyes—." She made a face.

Paul raised his hand in greeting, keeping the other hand on the rifle. Licia did the same. A staccato conversation began between the slender boy and one of the older men present. This man had gray, almost transparent hair, and he was the only one who wore any sort of ornament. On his chest, suspended by a leather thong, was a burnished disk of copper about three inches in diameter. The disk hung with a kind of somber majesty that suited his aura. A staccato conversation ensued between him and the boys. This chief, if that he was, raised his arms in circles, the first contracting downward, the second spreading outward; he made a noise signifying explosion. Paul wondered if they'd actually seen the lifeboat descending. Amda shrugged and appeared to say that they'd been busy tied down and killing dogs, and so had not had the time or the occasion to look about for crashed lifeboats. He pointed constantly back to where he had met the two aliens. During this, the other men waved their weapons with muscular arms and offered vehement advice.

"If we have to shoot our way out," Paul said quietly without looking at his spouse, "I'm going to kill the guy with the disk first. You spray the ones on the right, and I'll take the ones to the left of Mr. Disk."


Hearing the click of her safety, he quickly added: "Let's try to avoid it if at all possible."

After a minute or two, the chief raised his arms. Evidently, the boys had convinced him to be grateful for saving them. The chief pointed to himself and said: "Ongka." He had dark, piercing eyes that looked deeply into Paul's soul and made him shiver. The warriors opened an alley of safe passage. Paul and Licia seemed welcome, but with some reserve.

The women and children of the community poured out to stare at their alien guests, to touch their clothing, to laugh nervously to one another and then stare at Paul and Licia.

Paul noticed a side event. Through the whirl of faces, he spotted Ongka further down the village, conferring with two other old men. Several younger men joined them. Ongka turned to the younger men and raised his hand. He issued a series of statements to them; then he waved them off, and they began running in various directions. Odd, Paul thought; were they running to notify others? Maybe it made sense—some warning probably. He shoved the thought aside and returned his attention to the throng around him.

Licia said: "Their women and children, how beautiful. Elongated and graceful." The women all wore cloth skirts. Some wore jacket-like tops, others just a kind of sling bra knotted over one shoulder. The younger women were mostly tall and graceful. Many had faces Paul found attractive, though he could not associate them with one race or another that he'd known on earth, nor could he spot individual details that one could peg—high cheekbones, for example; oriental-style eyes; in fact, they seemed to be more like the Aerie people in that they were all different. Some were lighter, some darker, though all shared that bluish tinge. Their eyes were a source of noticeable beauty. A few had blue or green eyes, though most had brown. A few of the browns were so light their eyes gleamed like maple syrup in the sun, others had eyes dark as forest honey.

Their hair drew his attention, and he tried to sort out the hair-rules in their variety. All the men had manes down the spine like Amda and Dunda. Some, however, also hair atop their heads like Mohawks. Some of the Mohawks grew naturally from ear to ear over the top of the head, while others ran from the forehead to the back of the head. Most of the men had darker, rougher third manes over their shoulders. The women had only light manes down their spines. Many of the women had fine silvery hair atop their heads, almost like Earthly Afro hair, but thinner and finer so one could see through it the dark gleaming curves of the scalp. They smiled and otherwise made facial expressions Paul could understand.

She returned his look directly. "It won't be us." She added: "We're going to have children here, Paul. I don't want my children to suffer."

She had a point there, he had to admit.

The central kiln was about fifteen feet high and roughly circular, with a ten foot diameter. Paul supposed it was a hearth fire that never went out. It had dozens of daubed-mud cubbyholes for baking, roasting, and broiling. "A community stove," Licia said.

"They are a commune," Paul said with a sense of revelation. "Wow, I didn't even learn that in Anthro. But it makes sense."

"You can learn a lot about people from their eating habits," Licia said completing his thought.

An elderly woman knelt before the kiln and extracted a baked something, fowl from a peek through the leaves in which it was wrapped to give it flavor. She offered one to each of them. Feeling ceremonial, Paul accepted with a great show of thanks. Licia muttered: "You're scoring points every minute."

He tasted it. "Mmm..." It was delicious, like baked chicken in sweet, smoky, peppery sauce. Young boys and girls wandered among the crowd, offering side dishes. A few of the side dishes were spicy and smelly beyond tolerance, but one or two resembled baked terrestrial potatoes.

The chief sat on the ground with crossed legs. Beside him sat a dignified elderly woman; his spouse, Paul assumed. Or did they marry here? A young girl with budding breasts brought clay cups and a stone jug. The chief handed a cup to Paul and another to Licia, then drank deeply himself. Paul gingerly tasted a greenish liquid that was cool as if it had come from some deep well. Tiny plant debris floated in the bottom of the jug; it had a refreshing, faintly anise taste.

"We look for our friends," Paul told the alien chief. "Friends landed in sky ships." Licia tried to help tell about it. Ongka nodded sagely, though his thoughts appeared to be elsewhere, and in any case it was doubtful he understood Aerie Anglomex.

The high blue sky was fresh and clean. Paul felt a comforting sense of being surrounded by the village—by its gardens, its homes, its greenery, its birds and insects. Here was a sense of loving and belonging he had never felt before, even in the tightly knit Aerie. Suddenly he caught himself—in the balmy influence of this place, his sense of mission was being diluted, and he realized too late that the drink was acting upon him.

Oh but how it was hitting him. He cursed Ongka, the planet, his own stupidity for walking into this trap. Where the hell was Licia? He couldn't see her anywhere. He couldn't see properly, just blurs all around. He felt paralyzed, as Ongka stared into his eyes. He felt the chief's authority. The disk on Ongka's chest flashed hypnotically in sunlight. Each flash caused Paul to feel a stab through his brain, but the stabs left no pain. Ongka kept flashing the disk into Paul's face. Somehow that disk was important, but Paul didn't know how or why. He felt sleepy and relaxed. The cup fell out of his hand. What a peaceful place this was!

The sun in his face relaxed him. The chief's face—wow, dress him in a tuxedo, send him to one of Souspolitis' parties. What a lustrous intelligence, what a tranquil wisdom radiating from those eyes. Paul began to understand as Ongka's thought-spoke into his mind. Not chief but medicus. Charge of mind and body. Not chief, only medicus. Only Ongka. Ongka's eyes went deeply into Paul's soul. There were eyes Paul never knew he had, and they met Ongka's. Paul felt as if he were swimming inside himself. He was aware of himself in a half- sickly way. He was aware of his guilts and faults, aware of his good and bad qualities. The word "conquest" cringed within him like an insect impaled by the light shooting from Ongka's eyes. Ongka saw it all, his conversations long ago with SheuXe (but could he understand?), the frantic running to save Gregory, Krings crying and blubbering at Paul's feet, all of it. And eyes they were, of fire. The orb of the medicus' skull contained knowledge reserved to himself and those of his profession. The medicine man peered through his soul while Paul could only dimly penetrate the wall of resistance inside the other's mind. Ongka peered deeply into Paul's innermost being. Paul felt the depth of that stare—and realized that, mercifully, Ongka was only looking, not hurting. What power! At the same time, Paul perceived a flotsam of filtered impressions at the edge of the other's mind: only what Ongka would let him see. Paul saw many people crying. He saw a memory of plague and smelled the stench of the dead. Then he saw a vision that conveyed Ongka's profound, sacred excitement: a magnificent city raising its ramps and towers to the sky. In that city rested the soul of everything that he was going to discover on N60A. In that city were the answers to everything mankind had sought in this new world and perhaps on its own.

Somehow, in Ongka's mind, Paul saw an intricate mechanism of copper or bronze, a machine in which moved levers and wheels of mechanistic regularity, layered behind the medicus' face, which still stared deeply into Paul's soul. As darkness reached out of the earth with long fingers and pulled Paul down, he thought helplessly: how strange, this all from a man wearing a loincloth and living in a mud hut.

It was dark out when Paul woke. A dry cool wind stirred among the village huts. This was it. The alien reality. Tallows glowed in a few doorways. Paul sat stiffly upright, feeling chilled and empty.

A baby cried nearby. A cat creature slunk around the stone shelves of the kiln; its eyes glowing like red coals. A woman murmured nearby.

Paul sat up with a terrible start as a door flap was pushed aside. Ongka's copper disk glinted powerfully in the starlight, and behind it glowered the medicus' shadow. Paul stared respectfully; the old man had his attention. An old woman approached bearing a woolen blanket and a steaming cup. Paul felt empty and helpless. He allowed the blanket to be wrapped around him. He drank deeply of a hot, bitter drink. While he drank, he shivered, and hot liquid spilled onto his legs.

Two men lifted him. They carried him through the village. Halfway there his bowels loosed and his legs warmed with it, and he sobbed in humiliation. People cleaned him up. They brought him to a hut where he promptly went back to sleep.

While he slept he dreamed that he was down by a stream in a deep wood. The very air seemed almost the color of moss, like a liquid in a bottle, so deep was he, and sunlight where it got through lay thick like butter. A native girl on a white mare rode by. (Did they know of horses here? even dreaming he was puzzled) She held open her emerald cloak, revealing smooth young skin the color of ripe plums. She had small breasts with brown nipples but he could not make out her hair. Something light, like ice or ivory. Her eyes were slitty, oriental, mysterious. Her waist was narrow and high-set, her pretty navel concave. Her belly and hips widened downward to her legs spread over the horse. A translucent corona of hairs brightened the Y-shape between her thighs. As she rode on, turning her back toward him, she closed her emerald cloak and cast a fading resentful puzzling look at him. For a moment she was Licia. Then again she was not.

Paul awakened when several small children ran laughing and playing into the hut. He sat up with a start. Licia! The rifles! Too late, he realized. Ongka was in control. The children froze and eyed him with childlike frankness. Then they burst into laughter and ran back outside. Paul lay back. His head felt fuzzy. He must have slept for a very long time. He felt safe and relaxed, and certainly sheepish. Ongka had disarmed him as surely as if he'd defeated him in martial arts, throwing him before he'd known what happened. For a moment, he had the illusion of being back on Earth. But it was only a momentary thing. Everything was different here in myriad subtle ways.

A shaft of sunlight poured through a doorway of the adobe hut, striking a pile of sealed stone jars in a corner. Their rifles and packs were neatly—by Licia's hand?—piled in another corner. Where was Licia? He checked the guns. Everything was in fine working order. Nothing was missing, not even the long knives that the natives surely must covet.

He stepped outside. Children shouted as they played hide-and-go-seek around sunken stone slabs. The kiln smoked from dozens of apertures. Women stoked the kiln and prepared leaf-wrapped food for baking. An old woman gave Paul a piece of dry, gamey fowl, which he ate hungrily. In the distance, he saw a smiling Licia, looking neat and rested, holding a baby while several young girls crowded around admiringly. Something disturbed Paul. Conquest. Their thousand year journey must not end by their assimilation into a primitive alien culture.

He started to walk toward her, but Ongka unexpectedly appeared with two elderly men. The medicus smiled disarmingly and touched Paul's shoulder. They sat down together. Children brought steaming tea in stone cups. Ongka traded cups with Paul as a gesture of trust.

They fell into a frustrating conversation in sign language. Ongka shook his hands in the air and made explosion noises. He pointed to the sky and then to the ground. Paul nodded (yes, the mother ship). How many, Ongka wanted to know. Six, Paul indicated in the dust at their feet. He attempted to show that they had landed in three pairs, scattered who knew where. Surprised, he saw that the three men exchanged understanding looks. Could they understand a map? He drew in the dust, adding detail indicating the post road, the mountain plateau. Ongka and his companions, with animated debate, filled in local details. Paul leaned forward and carefully sketched in a rendition of the alien city observed from space. For him, the city was the key. He could not rest until he stood in that place and saw it for himself.

Ongka fixed a long, speculative look upon Paul. Then, using a sharp stick, he carefully sketched circles in the dirt. Central to the circles, he placed a large round stone. On each circle he placed one small stone. Paul felt a shiver crawl around his guts. Ongka placed two tiny chips of stone around one of the small stones. Paul gaped at Ongka. It had taken Earth's finest minds thousands of years to figure out the type of facts this primitive man had casually drawn in the sand. Paul drew a sketch of the planet as he had surveyed it from space. He drew the two large land masses that were its continents and placed a pebble where he thought the village to be. "Akha," Ongka said.

The old men jabbered with delight. They placed stones here and there, naming the villages they knew. There was a comforting, if monotonous, predictability about their language. All villages were something plus ka. So, Ongka's village was Aka, pronounced "Ah- kah."

Paul placed a larger stone where the mysterious city was, perhaps 300 miles due west. Then he held his breath. Ongka stared at the rock. He pronounced: "Avamish." The other two elders nodded reverently and repeated in chorus: "Avamish."

Ongka developed a somber expression. He made motions with his hands that Paul did not understand. It seemed he was indicating something covered, something finished. Yet, something in the intensity with which he regarded Paul, holding his disk, told Paul that the story of Avamish was far from finished. Ongka rose, covering his disk with both hands. The two elders rose, and apparently the interview was over. Paul shook his head slowly, watching the three alien men walk away. What was it they knew? What was it they thought of when they spoke with him of the stars and the planets and of Avamish?

The sun drew to its zenith in the sky. The heat and light of summer burned through the green leaves. The kiln smoked and smelled savory. Villagers straggled down to eat, leaving their planting or harvesting work on the hillsides. Paul pulled Licia aside. She was eating from a scorched leaf. "Well," she said, "you did sleep a long time. Do you feel rested?"

"I was drugged."

"I was too, darling. I haven't slept this well in a thousand years."

"This place is full of surprises." A woman brought him a great-smelling leaf with steam curling from its folds. He didn't know how to go about telling her what he'd learned from the medicus. He'd try when they were alone.

She embraced him. "Paul, honey, I thought you were just sleeping. Sick, maybe. They assured me you would be all right."

"They assured you? How did they do that, in Franglo or Rockie Spanic?"

"Why Paul." She looked at him in genuine surprise. "I'm learning their language."

He laughed, softening, "You're a wonder." He gave her tattered flight suit a look askance, and looked ruefully down at himself. "Can you ask them if there is hot water for bathing?"

She laughed out loud. "Sure! And we have our own bungalow already." Her laughter was a carefree, uncomplicated gesture, as everything on N60A appeared to be.

He started uncomfortably: "Lish, it's all too sweet and easy. We're missing the other two parties, and I feel as though we are being toyed with. I want to get to that city. I want to learn what's going on here."

She touched his cheek with a reproachful finger, "What did we come here for, Paul?"

The word inside, Conquest, did not want to let itself be spoken.

"See—you don't really know. We're here to have children, to give them a better life than we had on Earth. Don't you see, Paul? This is a good place."

"It's a good place all right, like a sponge, soaking you up."

Several young women stared at them from a distance. They waited for Licia to come back and play with their babies. He shooed them off. They retreated with flashing white teeth and dark eyes. "How long did I sleep?"

"Almost two days, Paul,"

"Gawd. Any sign of the Wengs or the Tynans?"


"And you want to take it easy?"

"Relax, Paul. They know this world a lot better than we do. I've already told them all about our companions."

"We're supposed to sit and wait?"

"That's what they told me while you were asleep."

He softened. "Are they a lot like us, Lish? Do they marry?"

She grinned. "Several teenage boys have already sent me flowers."

"I guess I'd better watch my step,"

"I'd say so."

He put his arm around her and squeezed. "Okay, you win. For now."

That afternoon, Licia showed him the nursery. Several old women tended the village's children. Licia rocked a squalling tiny infant, quieting it with songs in a language from a thousand years ago and light years away. The baby snuggled against Licia and quieted, filling the nursery with peace. Soon, Licia gave the baby up to its mother and joined Paul outside.

Paul and Licia explored around the village. Outside Akha's cultivated hills, the countryside was grassy veldt dotted with clumps of trees as they had traveled through. Ongka and the villagers were busy harvesting apple-like fruits from their orchards. They paid scant attention to the two visitors.

Paul and Licia made love in a field of tall wheat away from the village. After resting a while, they explored further. No wild animals were evident except very small rooting ones. They were becoming inured to the sight of tiny birds, and stopped flinching at the thought of avians bearing down with huge talons and reptile-like eyes.

A low hill about a half mile away drew Paul's attention. Carrying his rifle in hand, he waded through waist-high grass with Licia close behind. The hill was built up artificially with large stones. A fragment of ancient cobblestone road led right up to it, disappearing under its bulk. "A cemetery mound?" Paul wondered.

"No," she said, "they bury their dead on the other side of the village in individual graves. This is something entirely different. But what?"

They lingered about the mound, soaking in its atmosphere of ageless silence and mystery.

It was dusk when they returned to the village. The workers were already sated from a meal around the kiln. Apples were strewn everywhere. The air was heavy with a nectarine aroma. Paul and Licia ate a meal of roasted meat and fruits.

"I remember now."

"What, Paul?"

"The orbital survey. This planet is a huge ball of silica, almost devoid of metals. There's an iron core, but its beyond reach of pick and shovel. Now that I think of it, Ongka's disk is made of copper. That makes it all the more special—and mysterious."

Licia sat cross-legged beside him. Something alien bellowed in the distance, but the villagers were barely distracted. "They have a stone age culture, Paul."

"I can't wait to get a look at that city. How could a stone age planet have a star port? How could they have sent the messages that got us here?"

"Unless we came to the wrong place."

"No, SheuXe and Mannering wouldn't be wrong about something like that." As N60 dropped below the horizon, the temperature dropped noticeably. Licia started to shiver. Paul felt a faint, aching loneliness despite having her curled up beside him.

The villagers laughed and cheered. A group of hunters returned through the orchards, from a long journey, and they called for food. The villagers exclaimed for joy—women for their mates, children for their fathers. The hunters were scratched and muddy. The hunks of game they brought got tucked into crevices inside the kiln for smoking and preservation.

Ongka's disk flashed in the last sunlight. The hunters gathered around him. They all spoke at once, and he held up a hand for silence. Lying at his feet was a prize brought by the hunters. Paul's heart pounded as he drew near. Ongka slowly held the object up in the firelight. It was part of an instrument panel from a lifeboat. Paul recognized the manufacture. The plex dials were still intact. Paul pushed his way through the crowd to touch the object. It could only have come from one of the lifeboats.

Far away, something dreadful bellowed.

Ongka gave Paul a strangely troubled look, holding the panel with mixed aversion and curiosity. Ongka asked a question of the hunters. They danced about, pointing toward the horizon. Ongka explained to Paul that there were more hunters coming, and they brought a person like them with them. A man or a woman, Paul asked. A man, Ongka signed. What man, Paul asked. Ongka signed he did not know more. Soon they would find out. Wait.

Paul found Licia near the kiln. The light flickering on her stressed features told him she had understood the conversation. They were unable to speak.

He went off by himself in the dark. The two moons shone like wet pebbles in the sky. The distorted constellations flowed in the clear night sky like strings of glass beads. Paul sat on a big stone. He almost felt again the delirium-inducing potion that had awakened deep feelings in him. This new horror was like a continuation of the dark dreams after Ongka's look into his soul. This, on top of the fact that they walked on a world full of half-buried ruins, tilted stone mounds, and overgrown roads, peopled by a simple folk who however understood the geography of their solar system and of the Milky Way. Paul could not shake the burning vision of Ongka's face against the background of that infinitely complex, somber clockwork whose gearwheels, cogs, and trip hammers all seemed to work against each other and yet, taken as a whole, displayed perfect harmony.

Returning to Licia's side, he curled up and tried to sleep. Far off, a dog screamed. A bird or small animal warbled sleepily in the underbrush. Alien leaves rustled against each other. Through the doorway, he stared into the blue-black night sky as if into a deep sea. The two silver moons clung together as if they, too, had come here alone from a far and forever lost place and were afraid. Afraid? Tears streamed down Paul's face. Afraid. He again faced fully his own isolation. He dreaded the thought of losing her.

A billion billion leaves rustled against each other like a clockwork, and the wax on their solar surfaces glinted dully in the double moonlight.

During the night, a runner came to the village.

Paul, sleeping beside Licia, awoke when Ongka shook him. Ongka's dark face glistened by torch light. Licia slept fitfully on. The village steeped in cold, pitch-dark silence. Paul wrapped a soft native blanket about his torso and stepped outside. Whispering and gesticulating, Ongka communicated that a ship from the sky had crashed near the village of Shka several days' steady running along the post road. A party from Shka had already left for Akha, bringing Akha hunters and a man with a hurt leg, on a stretcher. Tynan, from the description. Paul grasped Ongka's shoulder. The woman! The woman! What of her?

Ongka motioned that the villagers of Shka had buried a tall, thin woman with long hair yellow as sunlight. The woman looked as if she were asleep. Her eyes were closed, and her cheeks were rose tinged. But cold, oh how cold. Very sad.

Paul returned inside. Without waking Licia, he curled up and remembered the group they had once been. SheuXe and his senior scientists had hand-picked all 18 original candidates for the great journey. All the hours spent discussing, training, theorizing, laughing, sweating, yes, and fighting, cursing, arguing like wild beasts. Under SheuXe’s watchful and inscrutable gaze. One by one, they'd been dismissed, until there were six: Paul and Licia, gentle Ping Weng and brilliant Meiling, and then Robert and Mary Tynan. Each couple were spoused, in the Aerie tradition, not married for life, but paired for best evolutionary and survival advantage. Just as unspousing Licia from her father had brought final ruination upon Krings, so Tynan's pairing with Mary wasn't working right. Paul never really understood why. Mary was a smart, very attractive freckled redhead with a love of sports and a good sense of humor. But she was gentle, too, and the competitive Tynan evidently lost patience or desire for her. At first, Paul and Robert had avoided each other. Then, as the others dropped out from day to day, Paul and Tynan (he hated the name Robert and insisted on being called by his last name, which he said sounded tougher and more manly) came into closer orbit of one another. It became clear that Tynan was shooting head-on to spouse Licia for himself. Given her naive nature and her strong drives, and Tynan's will to succeed, Tynan had nearly gotten there. It was the thing about her that Paul hated. He himself had suppressed something of a crush for Mary, though it hadn't been enough to threaten unspousing Licia. Paul and Licia could have been on the verge of breaking up, which would have meant, under harsh Aerie law, that she and Tynan would be spoused, and both Paul and Mary would be separately dropped from the program. As it turned out, a new woman appeared on the scene—Nancy, a niece of Dr. Mannering. Right off, Nancy became the alpha woman. She was taller, blonder, more athletic, smarter, and wiser than all the rest. Overnight, Mary was quietly dropped and disappeared from the group's large but spartan overcondos. Overnight, too, Tynan turned his full attention on Nancy. No doubt SheuXe, Mannering, and the Council had reacted drastically and effectively to the crisis, for Paul and Licia were SheuXe’s favorites. Soon, the team had been culled down to the final six pioneers. They'd worked and trained together well now that they were in balance.

From the description Ongka had relayed, it was the Tynans' lifeboat that had gone down near Shka, and it was Nancy who had not survived. Poor Nancy. She had become the player that held the team together. Where Licia could be terribly stubborn, even spoiled, and where Meiling could be teasing or incisive, Nancy had this simple, playful companionableness that was most endearing. Tynan had loved her dearly, and Paul dreaded facing him. The strength of that love had carried the team through any crushing rivalries. It had been a close six-some. Paul and Tynan had even gone hunting together once or twice, while Ping kept more to his medical computers. In all, the group had formed individual friendships with SheuXe, the great genius of his age, and each of the pioneers brought a reverent something of the old man to this new world. Paul longed to put his piece together with the others'. Licia and Nancy had maintained a fairly close friendship. The news would tear Licia up. Meiling had maintained separate friendships with each of the two women. With Licia, Meiling's friendship had been an adolescent one, filled with whispered conversations and giggly conspiracies. Somehow, the six of them became a close-knit team with just the right balance in all things.


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