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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 


27. Old World—Year 2299

Paul was twenty-three. As he hurried through the silent Aerie corridors, he glanced idly through its windows at the passing sunny fields of snow. His heart pounded, for he wanted so badly to be in engineering, and he was afraid he would be stymied again. Three years ago, the Council had pegged him as a generalist constable, and he'd lost three precious research years.

Thunder constantly shook the Aerie. Technicians never ceased combing the hive city for dangerous fissures in its walls.

Paul entered the library in search of Dr. SheuXe. He queried the librarian, an elderly man amid a world of books and carpets and musty smells. "Dr. SheuXe is in Reading Room 607," was the whispered prompt.

Paul found his mentor in a blind little room filled with gray, fossil volumes that recalled Earth's civilization. "You sent for me, Sir?"

Dr. SheuXe looked up, his eyes glazed from reading. His white hair looked rumpled as if he had often run his hands through it in perplexity. "Oh, Paul, Paul, how is my student today?"

"I am fine, Sir. I finished my constabulary ten days ago and I am anxiously awaiting the next stage of my education."

"Quite so," SheuXe said. "I have been reading about lost civilizations."

"You mean like Rome and New York?" He wondered what this might have to do with his life's occupation.

"Not exactly, Paul. I have been reading ancient imaginative literature, stories of what might have been."

"Those old rocket stories?"

"Yes. Old stories. Tales of what might have been, were it not for the clouds and the Earth's—OUR Earth's dying." The old man sighed. "Oh, Paul." His eyes filled with distance. "It could have been a glorious future, this today of ours."

"Sir, about my own future."

SheuXe snapped back to the present. "Yes!" He pointed to a chair. "Sit down, my boy. Do you know it's been over three centuries since humans went into space?"

Paul felt a rush of interest and apprehension—the first, for the smell of adventure; the second, for fear that it was a false alarm. Yes, man had gone into space, colonized the Moon, Mars, the Lagrange Points. Man had begun to build habitats even further out, had readied ships to explore the nearer stars. Then the series of natural disasters had struck, and Earth civilization had imploded on itself. The last colonies in space had been abandoned a century ago.

"There are empty space stations up there, Paul. Ships. Lifeboats. Lots of hardware. Some of it's been sieved by micro-meteorites. Most of it's simply in cold storage up there, beautifully preserved. We are already getting teams ready to start putting together what's salvageable."

"I would love to be part of that," Paul said.

SheuXe smiled mysteriously. "It will become much, much more interesting." As he spoke, the clouds below slammed with long fusillades of thunder. "And not a day too soon."


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