The Desert of Winds was inland, a four-day flight from the eyries along the coastal mountains. After the eight-day fast, it was a long journey, even for the strongest-winged. But when they felt the high, hot desert wind lift them like dry leaves, even the most exhausted stretched their wings to the fullest and surrendered to the euphoria of approaching death.
The wooden detour barricade is barely in place when I spot the car closing fast from the east. Just a glint of light against the desert hills, yet I know it is his car. I ignite the last flare and toss it onto the centerline of the lonely rural two-lane highway.
It was always dark outside the windows. Parents and teachers sometimes said vaguely that this was all because of Deep Green terrorists, but Jonathan thought there was more to the story. The other members of the Shudder Club agreed. The dark beyond the window-glass at home, at school, and on the school bus was the second kind of darkness.
Mabel blurred through the Doorway and stumbled into a wall. She groped for a fingerhold, anything to prop herself up until the gut-twisting vertigo passed. Every time she experienced the blur it got a little worse. All that worse added up to worst because she had made hundreds of auditing trips to the past during her thirty-nine year career in cross-time accounting.
I sat by the side of the road in the afternoon sun and watched the cranefly struggle. A breeze, hot and heavy as a tired dog’s breath, coated the web and fly with dust. I shaded my eyes and squinted down the road. Empty. As usual. It was almost two years since I’d seen anything but Jud’s truck on Peachtree.
A faint, steady vibration carried through the igloo’s massive ice walls—a vibration that shouldn’t have been there. Jayne heard it in her sleep. Age had not dulled her soldier’s reflexes, honed by decades spent on watch against incursions of the Red. Her eyes snapped open. She held her breath.
I found my friend Desmond Kean at the northeast corner of the penthouse viewing terrace, assembling a telescope with which to look at the world below. He took a metal cylinder holding a lens and screwed it into the side of the telescope, then put his eye to the lens, the picture of concentrated absorption. How often I had found him like this in recent months! It made me shiver a little; this new obsession of his, so much more intense than the handmade clocks, or the stuffed birds, or the geometric proofs, seemed to me a serious malady.
My mother was a colony ship. For one revolution of the galaxy, a quarter of a billion years, she carried her creators between the stars. At the end of that time, all the creators had died. My mother drifted aimlessly through space. After a hundred million years of traveling alone and empty, her drifting brought her to Earth.
People in modern times don’t like to acknowledge that some of us Radicals are nomad. They interpret that as rogue and dangerous. If you think it’s hard for us now, it was much worse during the turf wars—especially if you weren’t integrated. When Tommy died I became uni—unintegrated—and that usually means nomad. I belonged to no Streak, had no chief and no Fuses to protect me. It wasn’t overnight.
Sitting on the sun-warmed step at the end of her workday, Birha laid her hand on the dog’s neck and let her mind drift. Like a gyre-moth finding the center of its desire, her mind inevitably spiraled inward to the defining moment of her life. It must be something to do with growing old, she thought irritably, that all she did was revisit what had happened all those years ago.