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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 


18. New World—Year 3301

Paul's thoughts drove him out of the village and into the wild places.

The village seemed lost in its bowl of earth. Its sounds were muffled in the high grass. Only a meandering smoke plume from the kiln told him where the village was.

He walked faster and faster, and N60A seemed somehow primordial. The sky was big and blue, and greenery dazed the senses, like on Earth before the clouds. Insect and animal life were in summer abundance. Paul felt free, momentarily, from the pressure building in the village.

Checking his gun with a thought to roaming dogs, he walked toward the mound he and Licia had discovered. Nearby, a shallow forest glowed bright green and was noisy with twittering birds. From the village, faint echoes of voices and tools village blended sweetly with the rustling and twittering of the forest. In midafternoon Paul stood atop the mound. Its eastern, nightward side already fell into shadow. Small, round bushes clung atop the mound with gnarled, anxious roots. All around was the sea of tall grass, of trees, of hidden life—of secrets from the ancient Senders who had inadvertently convinced Earth to send its last six souls here.

Out of the corner of his eyes, Paul thought he caught a flash of light. He whirled, and saw a dark figure standing about a hundred yards away. Ongka. The medicus walked toward the mound without greeting. Paul felt exposed, caught. Did the mound have some religious significance, some taboo, he had missed? No chance to dissemble as Ongka walked toward him.

Ongka stopped at the foot of the mound and looked Paul full in the face. Paul noted the graying skin, the small narrow nose, the curvy mouth, the sharp dark eyes. Ongka's disk flashed as he walked. Paul tried to decipher the look on Ongka's face. Reproachful? But there was an immensely deeper, more melancholy something there. Not taboo, but something whose truth glowed all around them with some subvisible wavelength of revelation, something lost, a matter of long-ago glory, of vain aspiration.

Paul stood stock-still smelling the sweetness of the juice in the grass boiled to a vapor under the pressing sunlight, and watched with hypnotic fascination as Ongka fingered the disk at his chest so that the sun flashed, flashed, flashed.—

—Again, Ongka hovered over him, probing, looking for something in the depths of Paul's soul. The clockwork was there again as their minds met in dim telepathy. Ongka showed no malice, only deep, shuddering questioning, a sympathetic examination. This time, the sharing of the minds was almost equal. Each looked into the other's core. They were alien to each other. Each worked in different realms of abstract thought. Each could only wonder at the other's sense memories. Behind the pictures, Paul knew there was a tremendously intelligent mind operating on abstract paths incomprehensible to himself. Paul could feel Ongka's frustration. What was Ongka looking for? The pleasures, the horrors, the cuddlings, all the clutter of Paul's past? Paul felt more at ease than the previous time, when Ongka had drugged him. Timorously, he peeled away the sheets and sheets of images floating in Ongka's mind. What was this?—the blast and shudder of a huge rocket; pictures of a planet seen from orbit; the densely arrayed stars, the constellations. Somehow, Paul knew it was not the picture he had in his mind, the memory of the mother ship. Judging by the continents below, the planet of orbit was N60A. The pictures fluttered and became indistinct. Ongka was very excited. He'd seen something in Paul that he recognized: the orbital picture of N60A. Paul desperately rifled through the flitting shards of pictures trying to establish a link between Ongka's orbital picture and anything, anything that would explain how this stone-age man could possibly know about such things.

Nothing presented itself. Ongka and Paul were deadlocked, baffled. In the quirky world of this dim telepathic hypnosis, bafflement quickly turned into fear, then into terror. Paul struggled to get away from the alienness; Ongka, too, struggled, though he had not lost control...:*:*:imago mundi:*:*:...Ongka's mind closed up; like a pond, bombarded with light, stood clear and revealed deep, swimming life, but now the angle of light abruptly changed, so that the pond's surface turned opaque and unreadable.

Paul saw the swirl of his own mind reflected on the quivering, rippling surface of the pond of Ongka's mind...:*:*:cathedrals, pyramids, symphonies, sextants, legions, Giant White Condors, millions of acres of snow torn by mountain claws... :*:*:...When Paul awoke, Ongka was gone. Paul was alone on the mound, and an evening chill set in as the first stars appeared in the heavens. He knew only that he and Ongka were not done with this thing—not by a long shot.


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