Isaiah Hola stood on the edge of the landing field, smiling and waving goodbye. The ship was a trader bound for Terran Space. The size of a house and only slightly more streamlined, it hovered a few hundred meters above the ground. With a windy roar, it fell up into the sky. Isaiah dropped his hand and the smile, sighed, and looked around at Carmel, the world where he was stuck.
Two suns rode side by side in a pale blue sky. They were dimmer, yellower than Sol, and cast afternoon colors in the late morning. Isaiah dredged his memory for the whiter gold and deeper blue of Earthly sky.
Beyond the edge of the landing field lay the Noah Sea. Isaiah could see a scrap of green water and scanty clouds drifting far across it. Clouds were always rare on Carmel, a smaller, drier world than Earth. The few seas moved gently to the double-solar tides. There was no moon. Isaiah plumbed his memory again for moons and stormclouds and rain.
And there were no fish in those seas, or birds overhead, or grass underfoot. All Carmel's native life was microscopic. Oh well, at least Carmelite algae were innocuous and provided oxygen. Isaiah turned on his heel and headed for the spaceport buildings.
Nearby, another house-sized ship hoisted its bulk off the ground. With alarming speed, it tipped up, pointing its nose at the sky before whisking away. Isaiah suffered through the faint waves of vertigo, gravitic backwash. He hated flight, but he would have faced it gladly to be on the Richters' ship.
The Richters had needed passage more though. Like Isaiah, they had been slowly saving fare for the journey. Unlike Isaiah, they had re-established pre-war contacts – relatives on Centauri. Word came of a job opening ... if they could come soon. Isaiah had helped the Richters scramble through the arrangements, had begged money on their behalf, and, in the end, had thrown in his own savings.
He wondered if he was a fool. Did he unconsciously want to stay? He certainly did not want to stay on Carmel with the Richters if they had lost a chance to leave because of him.
Now it was back to work. To stop his brooding, he turned his mind toward practicalities. Try to get his engineering job back at the shipyards. Advertise for students to tutor once more. Drop most of the work he did as substitute or volunteer (for it was Isaiah's old habit to work, even when he expected to leave in a few weeks). The money would pile up faster if he didn't split his pay with the Garrison. Commander Jenny had suggested that. But that felt like freeloading to Isaiah, after so many decades of chipping in. And it would mean leaving active duty, another old habit hard to break.
Old habit. He snorted. More like an old luxury he could no longer afford.
By now he had reached the spaceport buildings – white stacks of giant blocks, with people and vehicles weaving paths on the ground and in the air about them. All were busy, purposeful, and many were happy. The air was flooded with honey-tinted light. After all, he reflected with a kind of grim optimism, Carmel was a lovely world in its way, and many people lived here gladly. Just not him.
He strode up to one of the concourse gates, then held an ID card briefly before a lens and spoke his name. An observant machine recognized him as a citizen, scanned him and found no contraband, then opened the gate.
The concourse was a big, dim, drafty vault. People, baggage, and cargo swarmed to and fro. Isaiah had seen all manner of folk pass through here – human races old and new, AIs, neobeasts, and occasional aliens. There was always a good chance of something new. Since planning had turned into brooding, he gave it up and scanned the crowd for diversion. He found it.
A man with four arms caught Isaiah's eye. He caught everyone's. In fact, the next thing Isaiah noticed was the number of people staring at him. Then Isaiah saw the man had three companions who were remarkable too. This was a diversion worthy of study, he decided.
Hidden by distance and numbers, Isaiah stood by the wall and watched the quartet. No, there were only three of them now; he must have taken a passer-by for one of their party. The three looked around carefully, without anxiety, then took a table near the concession stands. A woman from the nearest stand came over to take their orders. Her flickering gaze showed her torn between fascination with Four-Arms and a fear of offending him with her curiosity. Four-Arms and his companions smiled slightly, enjoying the sensation they created.
Since the four-armed man meant to attract attention to himself, Isaiah decided to oblige him and attend. He moved in and took a seat a few yards off, staring openly.
A casual observer would have seen a man with four arms, loudly dressed, sitting with a couple of normal people. An attentive observer would have seen a four-armed man, tall and dark, dressed in the tight clothes of a space hand – orange shirt and purple pants in this case – sitting with a fair-colored couple in white.
But Isaiah was more than an attentive observer. He was a patharch. Patharchy was a system of applied psychology, a blend of techniques from bio-feedback, auto-suggestion, mnemonics, and perceptual and cognitive psychology. Isaiah was no psychic, but he could voluntarily tap abilities otherwise seen only in moments of crisis, or in idiot savants.
Normally, the threesome would be too far away for Isaiah to observe in detail. But he drew a slow breath, blinked three times, murmured his personal cue, "Old men see visions," and began to Notice them.
Four-Arms was tall and muscular, with lightly tanned skin and curly black hair. He was showing off those extra arms, gesturing with them while merely bracing the upper pair on their elbows, fingers interlaced. The lower pair looked like exact copies. The tight fit of his clothes let Isaiah study his torso; the lower arms appeared to have no shoulder blades or pectoral muscles. Rather, there was a faint suggestion of a harness. They attached further back than the natural arms, no doubt to stay out of the way when not in use.
The woman came back with hot drinks. Four-Arms paid in TSTO coins and made a small point of touching the woman's hand with his lower right one as he handed her the money. She blinked and retreated. Four-Arms raised his cup with the lower left hand and drank.
Isaiah shifted attention to the face. It was round and smiling. Four-Arms seemed used to smiling, and not just in mischief at his quadrimanual tricks. Mischievous, yes, and a little daring. He was a bit nervous. And worried. Between the smiles came subdued frowns and flashes of unpracticed introspection. Worrying was an unfamiliar exercise for him. He had to remind himself to do it. Young, decided Isaiah, not just rejuvenated; no older than he looks, and so in his early twenties.
Now for the two remarkable companions. They were a man and a woman, blond and red-head, both anatomically conventional. Isaiah followed his natural inclination and studied the woman first.
The redhead was, more exactly, a strawberry blonde, with her hair in a long braid. Zoftig, almost plump. She wore royal blue slacks and a loose white blouse with many silver necklaces. A silver bracelet gleamed on each wrist. She smiled in response to Four-Arms, but was certainly more serious in demeanor. He watched the changing tones of her expression, now calm, now wry, once simply mirthful. Between lay watchfulness. And beneath all – well, it was too early to say, of course, but ... some long-standing relief?
Her face was a pale oval, grey-eyed. Like Athena? No, too sensual for that goddess. Isaiah had once seen a devotional portrait of St. Barbara of Ganymede with that blend of beauty and recklessness. It was not a popular picture, not looking pious enough.
The blond man was short and thin, with angular features softened by longish hair. He did much of the talking, and moved rapidly. He was excited by the occasion, whatever the occasion was, but Isaiah saw he was used to this manner, habitually restless. He acted as he sat there, varying face and voice to take one part after another, each part lasting for only a sentence or a phrase. He seemed to be discoursing, listing points, planning.
He wore loose, white clothes, and a pale gray cape shot with silky rainbow-glints. Multi-colored rings flashed on his gesturing hands, and he wore an arc of pins across his shirt, faintly suggesting the wide, jeweled collar of an ancient Egyptian noble. It was not a style Isaiah had seen before. Either the man came from far away or he was a boldly individual dresser.
Their conversation died down. "They're from nowhere in the Diaspora," Isaiah said to himself. "And they're not in TSTO uniform. Three strange folk, probably from Terran Space, at least one of them worried. I'd like to snoop," he admitted to himself. "Shall I? I've got no shadow of a right. They do look like trouble. Either in it or making it. Well, I'll snoop, and if I should butt out, I'll just forget what I've heard," for Isaiah had very good control over his memory.
He took another slow deep breath, muttered, "He who has ears, let him hear." In three more breaths, quick and shallow, he turned up the sensitivity of his ears with hyperesthesia.
They spoke an obscure language, no doubt for privacy. Like Earthron, it was an English-based pidgin with lots of non-human borrows – choppy and quick. "...at least give us a layout and some faces to watch for?" The redhead was asking Four-Arms.
"But she may not contact me again at all," he answered, worried. "Contact is dangerous for her, remember." His accent was Centaurian.
The redhead sighed. "Yes, but do you think you could tell us why it is dangerous? Can you tell us yet what this contact is? Is it telepathy? Is she in danger of being caught at telepathy?" Isaiah could not place her accent.
"I... I still can't tell."
"Well, I'm assuming your contacts are telepathic. Is that okay?"
Four-Arms pondered. "That assumption will work."
The redhead and blond both sighed in exasperation.
"Where's Daima?" Four-Arms asked, to change the subject.
"Prowling, of course," the redhead answered.
"Did she go with Canorus?"
"Who knows?" Blondie snapped. "Don't change the subject." Blondie's accent was Earthly or Hellenic English. "You get mysterious, sporadic contacts from your sister, which you won't explain. She's being held in Gilgalad–"
"Gilead," Four-Arms corrected.
"–Gilead, for illegal psi. So we'll find out where Gilead is. Also, we need to know their judicial system. And that means the system for that particular village. Remember, the planetary government's very weak." Blondie sighed. "Ignorant! We always come in ignorant! We don't even know where this town is yet. And I'd like to be inconspicuous when we go asking for it, and when we get there. That means staying here long enough to learn a little blending in. That's all I ask. Just a little."
"But she said to hurry," Four-Arms protested. "I don't suppose you could, uh, go off and do your research for a week here, while the rest of us take the ship forward a week, pick you up, then bring you back here and..."
The redhead winced. "No, I don't suppose I could," Blondie returned coldly. "Better to go back a week from now, but that's still too close."
Several seats away, Isaiah raised an eyebrow. Time travel? Isaiah was no expert in it, but from the little he had heard, Four-Arms must be a strong combination of worried and reckless, to suggest time travel crowded within a single city and a single week.
"Well," said the redhead, "we'd better have Canorus look over port security, in case we have to smuggle her out. At least there's no psilence on the field."
"I'll ask when he gets back," Blondie said. "But it would be much better if we could take her through the gates in the normal way."
"That hangs on why she is imprisoned and how we get her out," the dark woman said.
The dark woman? There were now four people at the table, and Isaiah had not seen the newcomer arrive. Neither had the other three; they all flinched as Isaiah jumped in his seat. "Don't do that!" snapped Blondie.
Isaiah turned his heightened attention on the newcomer. So beautiful and so strange! She was taller than the redhead and much thinner. She should have looked skeletal but did not, her joints were so delicate. Her face was nearly paper-white, but did not look sickly, instead pure and remote. It was heart-shaped, with enormous eyes, black with silvery lights. Her hair was black, too, but glistening with rainbow highlights. Her garments were loose and a dark, dusty violet.
And her talents were as remarkable as her face and form. To pass through Isaiah's notice, she too must be a patharch. She had done a distraction, a patharchic trick, a subtle performing skill, taking advantage of obscure deficits in the human perceptual system to repel attention. A crowded public place was ideal for patharchic distraction. Four-Arms had helped with ordinary distraction. Perhaps she was the fourth member of the party Isaiah had glimpsed earlier.
The redhead recovered her poise first. "Find anything interesting?" she asked.
"Three populations," the exotic answered. Isaiah felt his ears twitch. Her voice was as exotic as her looks, high and breathy, but with a hint of howl in the breath. It was beautiful, certainly, like a flute – in fact, more like a flute than like a voice.
"Three populations compete. Dull clothes. Bright clothes. TSTO uniforms. They challenge each the other two. It is discreet or unconscious."
"Dull clothes are the locals," Blondie told her. "Bright clothes are Philippians. Or civilian space hands." He glanced at Four-Arms. "You're right about the dominance. Local politics. What else?"
"Outside is psilence."
"Yeah," grunted Four-Arms, "the whole city is psilent. She said so in her letter."
"The psilence is fifty meters deep," the exotic woman remarked. "About."
"And how did you determine that?" Blondie asked.
The dark woman blinked. "I did discover, not determine. I take an air-truck." Blondie raised an eyebrow; his other two companions grinned. "Do not worry. I did put it back."
"She said something about that, too," Four-Arms said. "The top floor of her hotel stuck up into open psi. So she took a room there."
"So is Gilead in psilence, too?" the redhead asked.
"No, the hotel is here. She went on to Gilead later."
Four-Arms shrugged, the extra shoulders echoing the gesture.
"Let's stay there tonight," said Blondie. He waved down the noises of protest from Four-Arms. "We need at least that long to get our bearings. She's already been there about a week, right? She was in good health at last contact, right? We can take a few hours."
The conversation paused again. Four-Arms and the couple sipped their drinks. The redhead offered her cup to the dark woman, who sniffed it and recoiled. Isaiah wondered if she was even Terran, though he had never heard of an alien so humanoid. Before the woman appeared, the threesome had mentioned "Daima" and "Canorus." The second name, Latin-style, was Melioran. This exotic creature was no Melior, so Isaiah guessed she was Daima. It was clear now that these people were in trouble and apt to make more. They were here to rescue Four-Arms's sister, who was imprisoned in Gilead for illegal psi. They possessed rare talents and no great regard for legality. Isaiah no longer felt guilty about snooping. These people and Carmel would clearly need help getting along with each other.
"Ho," Isaiah said to himself. A fifth member had joined the group, and he was indeed a Melior. He wore a charcoal gray garment, close-fitting, with a rolled collar. Long slits flanked his shirt, probably leading to many pockets, but they were disguised as seams and Isaiah did not notice them immediately. Like Four-Arms, he was tall and strong. Unlike the others, he did not smile at all.
"That's how to do it," Blondie muttered to Daima. "You don't just pop up at the table."
The man's nose and jaw, his wavy hair, worn a bit long, and the slightly almond eyes, proclaimed him a Melior, one of the most wide-spread neo-human races. But Meliors had bronze skin, chestnut hair shot with red or gold, and distinctive eyes as gold as a pirate's dubloon. This man's coloring was all wrong – hair and eyes brown, skin a light olive. Most would take him for a half-breed, but the markers of face and stature looked purely Melioran to Isaiah. Why would one of those proud folk tint themselves to look half-breed?
"Nothing," the Melior said to his fellows. "Too many people, too much time. Can't find her history."
"What about a data-trail?" asked Blondie.
The Melior shook his head. "Could only reach some spaceport banks. Lines to TSTO and the city are psilenced."
"Can you diddle the periphery sensors?" the redhead asked.
The Melior shrugged. "Probably. We're being watched," he added. "Hard. The man in red." He turned and met Isaiah's gaze. Isaiah smiled back cheerfully. The Melior did not glance away, as most would have done. Neither did he lock eyes to scowl back, which Isaiah half expected, or give a disarming smile. Instead, he looked Isaiah over quickly, thoroughly, calmly, then turned and spoke to the others. "Stick to Varkardic."
Four-Arms glanced at Isaiah in evident alarm. "If you'd turn off your shield, we wouldn't have to speak at all," said the redhead to the Melior, not looking at Isaiah.
Blondie shrugged. "So he's staring. We expected to attract attention." He glanced at Isaiah. "Think that's a uniform? Whatever he is, we can give him the slip. Let's get up and mingle. You two go back to Distracting–" He nodded at the Melior as well as the dark woman. "–and we'll distract, lowercase, with Borne." He started to rise.
Isaiah was not about to lose them now. He rose and approached their table. "Excuse me," he said pleasantly, "but may I ask you a couple of questions?" He spoke to them in Earthron, the trade-tongue of Terran Space.
"Hell!" Blondie exclaimed in their private language. Then, in a rapid mutter, "Hey, I bet he's a cleric. Here we go! Our first missionary."
It was a good guess. Isaiah's most noticeable feature was the old red tunic he wore, the collar clasped with a silver pin in the form of an intertwined alpha and omega. His black pants and boots were as worn as the red tunic. He was a stocky man of middle height, with gray eyes and sandy hair, cut short. His face was pale and square, lined enough to show a rejuvenation was due.
In Earthron, Blondie answered, "Sure, go ahead."
Isaiah turned to Four-Arms and asked, "How do those extra arms work? They appear to be mechanical."
"Do they?" Four-Arms asked. "They aren't supposed to." He looked down at his extra hands in annoyance.
"Oh, the hands are fine," Isaiah assured him. "But there are no shoulder blades or pectorals higher up. Do they strap on?"
"Yeah. They're a splice job. Very popular some places. Very, um–"
"Handy, yes. Thank you. I couldn't help wondering." He turned and addressed the group generally. "My other question was, Are you lost?"
The redhead smiled a bit wryly. "Thank you, but we don't need saving."
Isaiah smiled back. "I wasn't speaking theologically. Only, you just arrived, clearly, and I thought you looked bewildered."
The five of them exchanged glances. "Oh! Well, thanks," said the redhead. "Um, yes, we could use some directions. To lodgings, for a start."
Isaiah pulled up a chair and sat. "TSTO has barracks for its personnel." TSTO, pronounced tess-toe, was the Terran Space Treaty Organization. "They also let the public rent them. The price is low."
The redhead smiled. "I think not. What's the most expensive hotel in town?"
"The Tseng and Rigoli on Main Street. One to two hundred marks a day." Four-Arms winced, but not the others. "You can't miss it – it's the tallest building on the street. Moving down the scale, we run an inn at the Resurrection Soldiers chapel. It's about as stark as the TSTO barracks, but we also serve meals and I think you'll find it friendlier. The rates are on a sliding scale, down to zero for the desperate. But you folks don't look desperate." They looked distrustful, especially after he mentioned the height of the Tseng and Rigoli. But Isaiah did not mean to keep his intentions secret, and he thought a gradual disclosure would alarm them less than telling them, "Excuse me, but I noticed you were secretly conspiring."
"How about something in between?" the redhead asked.
"In between are a number of boarding houses, but I don't think many could take five people on short notice. That's about it. Horeb is still a small town. There are some other hostels, but they're very like ours."
"I think we'll take the Tseng and Rigoli," said the redhead. "Thanks." She and her fellows rose and moved off toward the door. Isaiah trailed after them.
Outside, noon light beat down in soft sunset colors. All the shadows were double, fringed in slightly different shades of gold. The nearby sea was not visible, but the breeze brought its piny scent. Ahead lay a dusty road, busy with wheeled and flying traffic. Most of the vehicles were trucks, bearing goods to and from the warehouses that flanked the road and spread in a flat array on either side, interspersed with port offices and parking lots. People bustled about, all Earth's races, in Carmelite homespun or clerical garb, bright Philippian liveries, brighter space-hand tights, or stark TSTO uniforms. Their conversations hummed in the lucid air, with the traffic and the wind.
But, although wind, traffic and people made the usual amounts of noise, and although the light was far brighter than in the gloomy concourse, Isaiah had a strange feeling that a silence or darkness had just fallen. It was a feeling he had often noticed on leaving the concourse.
His five companions seemed to feel something too. Four-Arms made a face, the exotic woman flinched, and flickers of disgust passed over the faces of the other three. "Something wrong?" Isaiah asked.
"It's the psilence," Four-Arms answered, missing warning glances from his friends. "It's so heavy! And you don't expect it outdoors..." He trailed off, having met Blondie's glare.
So they were all psychic. This surprised Isaiah not at all. His curiosity ran in another direction. "All of Horeb is psilenced," he told them. "Only the landing field, the TSTO enclave, and the spaceport are not. `Open psi,' isn't it called?"
"Yes," the blond man answered shortly.
"Psilence" was the colloquial name for a condition of space in which many psionic variables were artificially fixed. It anulled psychic powers. "Open psi" was the absence of psilence.
"Does it– does psilence muffle the ordinary senses?" Isaiah asked.
"No," said Blondie, looking curiously at Isaiah. "Why do you ask?"
"Because I've noticed, over the last few months, that whenever I enter psilence, something seems to go missing. I feel that a light has gone out, or a sound has stopped, or someone has left the area, when none of that has happened. And when I leave, it's the reverse."
Blondie smiled tightly. "Well, I hope this doesn't alarm you, but you're probably becoming psychically sensitive. Moving in and out of psilence changes the brain's spectrum of quantum noise. That often brings psionic icons to conscious attention for the first time."
"Indeed!" Isaiah pondered for a moment, then shook his head. "No, it doesn't alarm me. Very interesting, in fact. Well, you were looking for directions. This road leads from the spaceport area to Horeb proper. The bus comes along hourly and drops you off on Main Street. The capitol building is the biggest thing there – three floors of stonework around a grounded hulk of spaceship. Walk away from it down Main Street and you'll come to the Tseng and Rigoli."
"Thank you," said Blondie in a good-bye way. "You've been very helpful."
"You're welcome." Isaiah stood just where he was and stared down the road. No one spoke. After half a minute, Four-Arms said to himself, "I was expecting taxis." He shaded his eyes with one hand and looked for signs of the bus, setting the other three arms akimbo. Isaiah noted that the extra limbs worked fine despite the psilence, and therefore did not work psychically.
After another minute, the Melior muttered in their private language, "Need to drop this local." Isaiah ignored him and gazed serenely into the distance.
Finally, Blondie said to him, "I hope we're not keeping you."
"Not at all," Isaiah answered cheerfully. "I'm waiting for the bus too. It's free, by the way."
"Oh. How nice."
"What brings you to Carmel?" he asked conversationally.
"Business," Blondie answered shortly. "Oh, do you know where to find a town called Gilead? We have a friend staying there."
"It's a little farm town in a river valley southwest of here. If you go there, be careful of the local feelings about psi. I gather you're psychic, sir–" He turned to Four-Arms. "–and the Glossolalians there are very firmly anti-psychic. Much less tolerant than folk might be here in Horeb."
"I didn't know anyone on Carmel was tolerant of psi," Four-Arms remarked.
"Heavens, yes! It's a major political issue here. You see, when psionic physics was discovered, the First Union crumbled so fast and the psi lord conquest came so quickly, no one had a chance to separate the Psi War from the general issue of psi. Certainly not people as preoccupied as refugees.
"We ran as far as we could, found Carmel and settled it, and spent the first several years just surviving. Only after the dust settled did people start asking if we were running from psi or just from the psi lords. Some said one, some said the other."
"What do you say?" asked Four-Arms.
"Me? Psi is fine with me. The anti-psi people object to it because they think it's occult. But, as I understand it, psionic physics shows psychic powers are perfectly natural. Right?" Four-Arms nodded. Isaiah shrugged. "You don't chant things or draw circles and such when you do psi, do you?"
Four-Arms blinked. "What? No, you just ... do it!"
"Fine. Here comes the bus."
They boarded and Isaiah followed them to the back. He heard Blondie murmur in their private tongue, "We're his good deed for the day." True enough. Isaiah smiled to himself.
"What's your name?" Four-Arms asked after they were moving.
Bless the lad. This was easier than re-starting the conversation himself. "Isaiah Hola. And you?"
"Borne Kallinysios." He then introduced his companions. The Melior was Canorus filius Gaius. The redhead was Vivian Alistair. Blondie was "FX," which Borne hastily expanded to Francis Bacon. The brunette was indeed Daima, with no expansion offered.
"I won't ask you if you've written any Shakespeare plays lately," Isaiah said to Bacon, straight-faced. "Do you find your name a trial?"
"Sometimes. It's why I go by FX," he answered. "For Francis Xavier." He seemed unworried by the disclosure of his name. But then, they had already decided to be conspicuous.
Isaiah turned back to Borne. "Your name is a bit unusual. Did it ever trouble you?"
"Oh, not often. Well, when I was a kid..." Borne launched into an anecdote. Isaiah nodded, smiled, met his eyes, expressed interest, and in general was an excellent audience. Borne responded beautifully and passed from one tale to the next. Isaiah learned that Borne was a pilot and thought himself a good one, but was often warned or fined by various spaceport authorities.
He told Isaiah he was from Centauri, as his accent already declared. He spoke of his family, his parents on Centauri and his sister. Normally, he would probably have said nothing about her, but under Isaiah's influence, he said she was a student and had been taking graduate courses on Refuge, out here in the Diaspora beyond Terran Space. That meant the Timekeepers' College, where the Refugers taught their own special brand of psi.
Isaiah also learned Borne's voice-music and the details of his posture and facial expression. He now had enough background to try truth-seeing. Once more he rallied his energies and asked, "Were you in the Psi War?"
"Yeah." A brief meeting of eyes; a faint tone of defiance. It was a lie, though a practiced one. This fit with Isaiah's estimate of his age. "None of the big battles, though."
"Well, I still thank you for stopping the psi lords. If the Free Colonies hadn't scotched them, they could have reached Carmel by now." Borne grimaced, embarrassed. It looked like modesty, but was really guilt over the falsely-won praise. "In all your adventures, did you ever have to kill anyone?"
"Well, yes." The truth.
"My sympathy. You must be glad to see peaceful times and leave that behind you."
"Yeah." But he was not easy, not sure it was truly behind.
The others had taken notice by now. This was no longer ordinary small talk, and the patharchs among them might have noticed what Isaiah was doing. But the bus ride would end soon; he might not be able to keep in contact with them any longer. He threw a little more caution to the winds. "There's not much violence here on Carmel. Horeb is the only city that even has a police force. I'm sure you could talk your way out of most trouble, or at worst have to pay a fine."
"Oh. Great." Borne did not believe him. Well, perhaps he had reason not to.
"Surely any big city has a few muggers," FX, Blondie, broke in, "however religious the original settlers."
"Yes, but there are no big cities on Carmel. Horeb has only a few thousand souls. The whole planet has under a hundred thousand. We're very thinly spread."
"And there are some people you just can't argue with," FX continued, as if Isaiah had not spoken. Isaiah had had no chance to study FX, but his perceptions were still heightened; beside the veiled reference to Carmelite fanatics, the remark had had an edge of personal worry to it.
"That's true," Isaiah agreed sadly. "But even they can be out-maneuvered with–"
"Here's our stop," Canorus, the Melior, announced loudly. They left. Isaiah sighed, dropped the truth-see, and followed them. What should he do now?
On to Chapter 2, Horeb
Return to Dragons' Teeth Introduction
Return to Wind Off the Hilltop
Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2013