The asthmatic death rattle of the air-scrubber was a comfortable sound, a beacon home in the crushing waves of the street. It had guided him home every night now for eight years to the same drafty building and the same putrid stairs, and the same motherless little girl at the top who made it all worthwhile. Clara was eleven and all that came with it. Her father would give his life to save hers.
“What's the word, Feng,” he asked the alien as it hovered back and forth, stirring this pot...mixing that... “I just told the blue boy I ain't seen nothing,” he mumbled. “You eating tonight?”
We pushed our way through the shattered city. All around us were the signs of a race without hope, an entire nation devoid of both love and life. "Is this what they saw at Pompeii?" I wondered. Men and women both, dead before they died.
The familiar carol's paradigm downshifted like McQueen and floored it, and I realized what the shepherds saw that had them "sore afraid."
"My friends, guests, neighbors, jokebrunts, et cetera, et cetera, I have asked you to come because Things are Happening," said the satyr.
Were those footsteps? He hid himself behind a massive oak—greater than any he had seen in Europe. The trunk was more than five feet in diameter, and smelled musty—very musty. He could almost smell the centuries of age in the bark. But there were the footsteps again! This time he was sure of it. He peered out around the trunk...
Then a roar like the fall of a second Atlantis tore the jungle behind us. The great pillar stood shuddering, and then it fell, smashing branches and saplings on its way. It shook the ground when it fell, and the treetops parted ...
Tigers walk here, where Maharajahs rode, with jackals as their grooms and serving men. There lies the ancient, ruined city. There lies Delwaar San.
"Good reflexes," Hazard thought: "just the sort Sarge appreciated when the brain behind them could keep up."
He checked his Kruger in its holster. It felt good in his grip. 'No', he told himself. 'Not just yet. Not yet.'
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