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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 


30. New World—Year 3301

Then it was dawn. Noise from the encampment drifted up to waken Paul. He sat up shivering and still tired; hungry. His body ached from hard spots he had not noticed before going to sleep. Tynan mixed dry rations with runoff dew from a small shelter trap. He used the last of the emergency cubes to heat the mixture. It was only lukewarm at that, and tasted like pea soup with something metallic in it. As they ate, they stared toward the city, which was hidden in fog. Avamish weighed greatly upon each of them. Tynan's face had that haunted look, that stare as if he were once more looking into Nancy's grave. Licia was not speaking to Paul.

Conquest, something reminded Paul. He almost had to laugh, were their situation here not so precarious. He remembered SheuXe’s weary, intelligent face. Ongka's also drifted through his thoughts, amid that somber and grinding clockwork.

A thick fog veiled the immensity of Avamish.

"Hello," Paul said to Licia.

She gave him a look that said, you brought us here, now what? She looked down and moved a twig around with her finger.

Tynan said: "I must have sprained my ankle again, Or else it's this damp cold that gets into everything."

Paul saw that Tynan's ankle did look swollen. "All that walking."

"I suppose that means we're stuck here until it heals," Licia said.

The fog created a sense of oppression.

Paul said: "I bet we would find Ongka over there in that camp."

Licia said: "And not live to tell the tale."

Paul looked into her eyes. "I'm sorry you're unhappy." She didn't answer. Paul added: "The sun will soon come up and the fog will clear and everything will look different."

"Paul, we shouldn't be here. We should be back in our village."

"Didn't Ongka let us dig out the mound? Didn't he send Auska to guide us here?"

"He's alien, and we don't know what's in his mind."

"You're wrong. This world is our home now. We have a right to probe into every corner."

"You're crazy."

"You're frustrated."

"Frustrated. You're right."

Tynan worked hard to get his boot off. "Stop it, you two. If I could, I'd be down there exploring that city right now. Dammit." The boot came off. His ankle was swollen and purple.

Paul sighed with frustration. He picked up his rifle and canteen. "I'm going to take a walk down there. You stay here. Stay together, you hear?" They did not answer.

Paul wanted to get away, to walk, to move, anything but stay here and soak up this abuse from her. She might have a point, but she could be so bitchy and unforgiving. It was part of the Aerie way. There was never any room for error. You followed leaders blindly, and expected them to be right. He wasn't sure now that coming here at festival time might have been a great mistake. The kind for which Aerie leaders could be executed.

Rifle in hand, he picked his way down the Avamishan hillside along the ancient post road.

He felt himself being absorbed into the jumble of buildings on either side, and he welcomed the feeling. Fog yawned out of the unseeing eyes, the windows and doorways, of the city that was now theirs too. Their world, their heritage, to be explored and set aright. She'd come around to his point of view.


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