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From Dragon Drive Volume I Book 1: Catastrophe!:

“Hmm,” I said, looking around, “they didn’t even give us any Reader’s Digests to read while we’re waiting.”

“Hmm?” Monty asked.

“Oh, that’s right, they ceased publication around 2005 after that big scandal over their ‘Sweepstakes’ scams. Well, they could at least have left some old Gary Larson collections around or something. Wonder how long this’ll take?”

“No time at all, Hannah.”

It was Pat, who had returned with three people in tow: a dark-haired woman of about 50 who showed the ravages of long-standing endocrinological disease, but who had a kind face and carried herself like a queen, her almond eyes meeting the gaze of anyone whom she encountered with the direct fearlessness of a born warrior; a strawberry-blond girl of about 14 who looked to have the beginnings of Grave’s disease and had a nervous habit of tearing up strips of paper she carried in her pocket, possibly for just this purpose, into tiny little pieces which then got scattered all over the place; and a tallish, slender boy of perhaps 12 who didn’t look out of the ordinary at all – he had a bumper crop of zits and wore thick corrective lenses, but that was par for the course for quite a few boys of his age here in the Keep (or anywhere else, for that matter). “Hannah,” Pat said, making introductions, “this is Janis Jones, who also helps tutor English Lit. and music classes for the upper grades of the high school; Dena Jo Harrison, who is taking courses now in art and physics – she wants to join our Science staff and do research on the very sort of thing which she and her colleagues are doing for us here; and Leroy Douglass, whose life ambition is to be the world’s champion Tetris player.”

We shook hands with each of them in turn. I felt a bit sorry for Leroy, who, like any normal boy, looked embarrassed as hell at what Pat had attributed to him, and was probably wishing he was anywhere else but here right now – maybe in his room, going at his Pocket Tetris for all he was worth.

Then, putting his hands on his hips, he favored me with a long, searching stare. “You’re Batrix, aren’t you?” he asked me without preliminary.

“Yep. That’s right – and Monty, here, is my husband, the Baron of the Keep, and these are two of our best friends, Paul and Leah.”

He took a step toward me. Then he looked over at Pat, who nodded. Looking back at me again, he took one deliberate step after another until he was standing right in front of me, his dark brown eyes looking down at me with a strange intensity.

Pat looked like a dog on point, quivering with eager intensity. Clearly this was something out of the ordinary. But what?

Reaching out, Leroy took one of my hands in his. Looking off into space, he traced out the contours of my palm with one slim brown finger. Letting my hand drop, he took the other one into his, did the same. Now looking back at me, he said, “You die and you don’t die. That’s weird.”

“Leroy!” Pat, appalled, was starting to move toward him.

I held up a hand, stopping her in her tracks. “He’s just doing what he’s supposed to do, Pat. Let him alone.”

Flashing an approving smile at me, Leroy told me, “That’s really what I . . . got, ma’am. Wasn’t bein’ rude.”

“I believe you,” I told him, smiling. “It’s okay. Do you have any idea what it means?”

“No’m. Sometimes I do, but all I got this time was an image, like. Sort of like a long, red stick. A branch comes off it on one side and it keeps going on, while the main part gets cut off. Can’t get anything more than that about it.”

“Fair enough. – Pat, don’t worry,” I told her, turning to her, “I’ve seen psychics work before. They get what they get, and a lot of the time their gifts don’t pay any attention whatsoever to our common notions of manners – and if you try to ‘housebreak’ them, they just get mad and refuse to play any more. For God’s sake, don’t jump on this young man – he’s doing a difficult job and seems to do it rather well, and he does have manners, whether his Talent does or not. – Leroy,” I asked him, turning back to him, “what are your Talents, anyway?”

“Oh, I can bend spoons, you know, like St. Geller could, but anybody can once you show ’em how. Mainly I . . . see along Time. All directions.”

“Wow! The future and the past, both?”

“Time’s got more than one . . . dimension,” he said. “That the right word?”

“I think so. Einstein said time and space are just two different ways of looking at the same thing.”

“Okay, then there’s more than one kind of time. – No, that isn’t right. It’s, like, time’s a . . . plane or a space, not just a line. There’s more than one dimension to it. Choice,” he added, the words spilling out more and more rapidly as he tried to translate the concepts he was dealing with into the inadequate medium of quotidian English. “Uncertainty – that adds more, too. Maybe it’s a fractal thing, somewhere between whole dimensions, you know, like two and a half or three plus the square root of one-half or something. Quantum mechanics?” he finished, looking at Monty.

“That’s right, son,” Monty told him. “There’s a field o’ study called Superstring Theory I think you’ll find interestin’, which has to do with that, at least tangentially.”

“Yes, I know. They’re gonna let me take courses in it starting this Fall.”

Glancing at Pat, Monty said, “This young man’s gonna go places, I can see that.”

“Oh, we’re very proud of him,” Pat said, smiling. “He has an IQ of at least 180 – maybe a lot more, he tends to hide his abilities. Andrew sensei said he’s a born ninja – not to mention poker-player. He can clean you out of your life’s savings before you even know what happened – I learned the hard way last year not to use anything but match-sticks for stakes when I play cards with him!

“Anyway, he somehow combines what he learns academically with what he picks up with his Talent and gets results that tend to be far more powerful than anyone else we’ve ever had here.”

“Not ‘combine,’ ma’am,” Leroy told her, clearly annoyed. “ ‘Rifle.’ What I do is rifle my Talent with theoretical frameworks and appropriate physical models so the useless and just flat wrong stuff is excluded.”

“Whoa!” laughed Monty. “I think we’re lookin’ at the next Nikola Tesla or Paul Dirac or one o’ them here! Okay, son, what do you get from me?”

Turning from me, Leroy went over to Monty, peered intently up into his face, and took Monty’s big hands in his own, fumbling at them as he had mine, all the while gazing at him as if through a sniperscope, his handsome mouth tense with the effort of concentration, a strange sort of excitement filling him, like a cat who has just scouted a mouse in the bushes.

“You – you die and you live, just like your wife. I’m not sure I understand this,” Leroy told him, finally.

“Well, that’s okay, tell me else you see, an’ we can sort out what it means later,” Monty told him, smiling like a mother cat watching her kitten nailing its first squirrel.

“Okay . . . Hey, can I ask you a question?”

“What’s that, son?”

“Do you . . . hate me?”


Shaking his head and looking away for a little, Leroy told him, turning back to him again, “When you were somebody else, back then, you would have.”

Pat started to open her mouth, looking flabbergasted. Quickly I forestalled her by raising my hand again. Leah and Paul, utterly enthralled, were hanging on Leroy’s every word.

Shaking his head again, Leroy tried another tack. “People don’t end when their bodies do. They just go somewhere else, you know? Okay, you were in this other body, died maybe 110 years ago. I think, anyway, I’m not real sure about that part. You didn’t . . . you didn’t like people who had dark skin.”

Monty and I exchanged glances. My husband was the world’s most unbigoted human being, at least when it came to ethnic groupings. Still clinging with excited tenacity to Monty’s hand, as if somehow getting direct communication with his soul from it, Leroy went on, “Then that ended and you got born this time, a long time after that . . . death. All different. Raised different. And you didn’t . . . didn’t hit your head this time the way you did that time . . . didn’t have to be – didn’t have to be what you were from some other . . . life to keep . . . going. Th-th-thalamus?” he said, opening his eyes and looking around f wildly.

“That’s a gland in the head, son,” Monty told him. “Right in the middle o’ the head, above the thing that tells you when to eat and so on, which is called the hypothalamus. The thalamus sort o’ . . . referees things between the two sides o’ the brain.”

“Like the corpus callosum?”

“Yeah, ’cept on a more . . . primordial level. The corpus callosum coordinates processin’ between the cerebral hemispheres,” he told the boy, who was obviously quite capable of keeping up with that level of discourse. “It don’t have much to do with autonomic processes, the sort o’ thing that keeps the heart beatin’ an’ keeps you breathin’ whether you think about it or not, or with essential emotional an’ related functions, such as anger, hunger, sex, how your body responds to changes in temperature, your self-image, that sort o’ thing.”

He watched intently as Leroy, taking this all in, stood motionlessly for a moment, still holding Monty’s hands, his mouth twisted up in concentration, thinking, thinking. Finally, raising his head to look up at Monty again, he said, “Your . . . your self-image got busted. That’s the only way I know how to put it. You fell out of a tree, you were just a kid, you had a bad concussion, then you were sick for a long time. There was a . . . a clot, a little one, went from the place where you hit your head to a . . . blood-vessel that feeds the . . . the thalamus, also the hypothalamus. And maybe another one went to the base of the brain . . . or anyway, the brain-stem, the place where, where – arousal?”

“You mean the reticular activating system, I think. The job not far above where your spine connects with your brain that tells you when to wake up an' when to go to sleep.”

“Yes. That. What’s the thing called there – I can see it, but not the name – thing that has something to do with dreaming?”

“It’s called the corpus coerleus, son. It’s involved in REM sleep. When it don’t coordinate right with the RAS, the reticular activatin’ system, you can get nightmares an’ worse.”

“That. Yes. That got hit by another tiny clot. Cells died . . . not enough to kill you or even cripple you, but . . . you didn’t have good health again after that. And there were a lot of foods you didn’t like after that that you did before. You had nightmares.” Leroy’s hands were darting over Monty’s like lightning, probing, testing, questing like a hound after game. “You could feel the cold, but your body didn’t . . . didn’t respond to it the right way, so it stayed cold instead of . . . of metabolizing . . . glucose?”

“There’s a homeostatic mechanism that responds to changes in temperatures by causin’ the endocrine system to put out hormones that make the body burn glucose, that is, blood sugar, to make the body warm when it gets cold, an’ to burn less of it when it’s warm. Like that?”

“Yes, sir,” Leroy said, with enormous respect. Clearly he and this big man were on the same wavelength, something the boy must not have experienced very often. It’s hard to be a genius when you’re a kid and surrounded by dolts who, nevertheless, have real power over your life and don’t respect you for what you are. This man clearly did recognize the boy for what he was, and had real respect for him. I suddenly flashed on Leroy strangling anybody who ever dared try to hurt Monty in any way – gee, why was that so familiar? I wondered, grinning.

“Anyway, something was busted in there so that you could still feel temperature changes, and your body could still burn sugar, but the two didn’t . . . connect up any more. Didn’t . . . communicate. That was due to that blood clot blocking the . . . blood supply to that part of your brain. Something in there died when it got cut off from its food and, and oxygen that way.

“And then that other thing, the hypothalamus, got hurt, too. It, it was . . . something to do with your . . . self-image. Yes. You didn’t . . . have one any more. Your . . . your chi . . . it was starting to . . . puddle. All the . . . the structure was going out of your . . . your . . . body of light?”

“Oh, Christ, this kid’s seein’ all the stuff all the great mystics theorize about!” Monty muttered, looking more than a little freaked out. “Son, another term for it is ‘astral body.’ On the quantum-mechanical level, there’s a field that supposedly holds the shape o’ your body – if'n you like, I’ve got some books by two guys, one named Rupert Sheldrake, another named Watson, Lyall Watson, you might find of interest, because they take those ideas an’ nail ’em down tight accordin’ to what we know now in physics, biology, an’ so on.

“Anyways, if'n that field starts to break down, your body can get sick. Very sick. It can die. Acupuncture an’ that sort o’ thing works directly on that field as well as on the physical body itself, adjustin’ the field to optimal parameters so that it, in turn, will do the same for the body. So you’re sayin’ that it’s the thalamus that helps maintain that field?”

“It – it – it, like, communicates with the field. Doesn’t cause it,” the boy said, sweat pearling on his forehead from the intensity of his concentration. Eyes tightly closed, he was looking inward or thereward, hunting for concepts and words to contain them. “But if the communication shuts down, the . . . the field doesn’t have any way to know what shape it should take, like that. So it goes . . . funny. And then you get sick, like you said.

“You . . . you did something . . . interesting. Like a reflex, not thinking about it, really. Came out of . . . deep in the part of your mind, the biggest part, that does all the real work and you don’t know about most of it.”

“The unconscious?”

“That’s right, sir. Or maybe instinct – no, that’s part of the unconscious too, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, seems to be.” Monty looked so happy – he always did when he ran across people of this boy’s calibre, which wasn’t often. By tonight he’d be arranging for special classes of all kinds for the boy, doing everything he could to make sure that awesome young mind would have every opportunity to live up to the promise it displayed here. As fucked up as the world was now, minds like this boy’s were beyond price. We needed all of them – and Monty would do everything he could to cherish and nurture every single one.

“Anyway, you . . . it’s hard to get this part. You somehow . . . pulled up something from an earlier life, what you’d been like then. You had lived . . . across the ocean, a hundred and fifty or more years before. You . . . pulled on that lifetime like a, a body-cast, one for your . . . thalamus, or anyway that part that’s involved in, in self-image. You . . . wore that life for years, until your brain repaired itself, somehow, and you didn’t need it any more. And that older lifetime, that was the one that didn’t like n- nig- – I’ve heard that word, but I’m not sure what it means,” Leroy said, opening his eyes and looking up at Monty again.

“I think I do,” Monty told him, his lips tightening. “If it’s the one I think it is, it’s a bad word that some people used to use to mean people with dark skin, like you.”

Puzzled, the boy stared up at him. “You aren’t like that – now.”

“I should hope not!” Monty told him, laughing a little.


“Aw, call me ‘Monty,’ ever’body else does.”

“Monty. Monty, I see . . . universes. Six or seven or eight of ’em, it’s a little hard to tell how many, all connected together by lines of light. Where am I that I can see that from, from outside? – Only, only it’s you, seeing that. I’m seeing what you saw,” Leroy said, his eyes squeezed right shut again, his hands still working Monty’s hands.

Monty stared at me, totally at a loss. I shrugged, minutely. Completely out of his depth, he looked back at Leroy, who was going on: “That . . . that was from . . . Elizabeth’s time. The first. She . . . you . . . you were her . . . you read the stars. Astrologer? Your name was . . . I keep seeing The Empress card in that Tarot pack we were studying last week. I don’t know what it means. You . . . you did Magick. You had an assistant. He had an Irish name. The two of you found out a way to talk with angels. I think . . . .”

“Any idea of what my name was in that first lifetime you talked about?”

“I – an English name. I can’t . . . I see a valentine. There’s a man working at . . . like the Eight of Pentacles. Can’t get any more about him. You then.

“Then there’s the, what’s up ahead. The future,” Leroy said with more confidence. “You go to where . . . the Eagle flies. You go with . . . the man who is your, your husband now. He’ll still be . . . still be alive then. You’ll be . . . in another body.”

Monty and Paul exchanged startled glances.

“You’ll go to see the, the Eagle’s Eggs up close. And you’ll go to see the, the tornadoes in the Lagoon. Another place where stars are born. And you’ll finally find the, the angel, the dark angel that, that talked to you in your dreams in that lifetime where you were . . . had that busted hypothalamus. The place where beauty and terror converge, that’s the place you’ll meet the dark angel. And, and it will begin to make sense.

“What I don’t get is, there’ll be other yous alive at the same time. That branching I saw, has something to do with it. Like twins?”

Drawing a deep, shaky breath, Leroy finally released Monty’s hand, stepping back, wiping off the sweat covering his forehead with a hand that trembled. “That’s all I get, sir. I’m sorry.”

“No, no! Please don’t be – son, that was . . . that was wonderful. I’m not sure what it all means, but – it was somethin’ special. Like lookin’ into the heart of a storm or the depths o’ space. I do believe it all means somethin’, I believe you’ve got a handle on things the rest of us don’t, it’s just that right now I don’t have the knowledge to interpret it.”

“It’s like that for me a lot of the time,” Leroy told him, smiling shakily at him.

“Son, why don’t you take a seat over here, next to me on this couch,” Monty said, gesturing for him to sit down beside him. “You look like you could use a little rest.”

“Thanks, sir,” Leroy told him, falling almost bonelessly onto the couch next to Monty. Clearly whatever it is he’d been doing had taken a tremendous toll of his body’s resources.

“Pat, I think he could use something to eat. Got anything for him?” I asked her.

“Orange juice? We’ve got that and some snacks I made up with puffed rice and honey.”

“Go get some, could you? This youngster’s still growing, he’ll need to fill his tank right away or he could get sick.”

“Sure. Be right back.”

While she went into another room to get Leroy some food, I turned to Janis and Dena, who, having taken seats at the table, were staring at Leroy with an odd mixture of irritation and amazement. Professional jealousy, I realized.


“Yes, ma’am?” The woman looked at me intently.

“What’s your Talent?” I asked her.

“Clairvoyance, mostly. I also can teleport things sometimes – mostly very small things.”

“And Dena? What do you do?”

All the time Leroy had been talking, Dena had been carefully tearing her strips of paper into tiny bits, which had then gotten scattered over the table in front of her. Autistic? Compulsive? or just nerves? I wondered.

“It’s nerves,” she said, raising her head and staring directly at me. The room suddenly seemed to shift under my feet, as if I were about to fall – or as if the gravity gradient had suddenly begun to change in my vicinity.

“Don’t do that, dear,” Monty told her, locking gazes with her.

“Do what?”

“Wipe that smirk off your face, too, child. It makes you look silly.”

Rearing backward for a moment as if he’d slapped her, she scowled at him. “You can’t say things like that to me!”

“Really? I’m top boss o’ this Keep, the guy that keeps ever’thin’ runnin’ right. I think, young lady, you really had best watch your manners. All right?”

Something happened. While nothing changed outwardly – the two of them didn’t change their positions or postures in any way, their expressions didn’t change, nothing was said, no one else moved – for a moment there seemed to be a reaching that went from Monty to the girl, as if space itself had been made into a long, thin tool of some kind by which Monty could reach out and directly touch Dena's brain or mind. Dena staggered, as if she had been standing and something had unbalanced her, though she was still seated at the table.

Janis was glaring at the girl with great satisfaction. “Thanks, Monty,” she said, turning to look at my husband. “This little brat has been asking for that for a long, long time. She likes to give the rest of us migraines and cluster headaches for the fun of it, plays poltergeist when she gets bored, and bulls her way right into your mind and gets her dirty astral paw-prints all over it at even the most intimate moments. Why somebody hasn’t broken her nasty little neck for her by now is beyond me.”

“Dena,” Monty said to the shaken girl, sighing, “you’re gonna have to take a tuck in that attitude o’ yours, or else somebody’s gonna have to adjust it for you. Now, you can do the job, an’ ever’thin’ll be fine long as you don’t give no more trouble to people who don’t deserve it, or you can end up in a world o’ hurt.” Getting up, he walked over to the girl. Standing before her, he reached out with one hand, put a finger under her chin, tilted it up toward him. For what seemed to be a long time but was probably only a few seconds, he looked intently into her eyes, which got bigger and bigger and bigger, until Dena looked terrified out of her wits.

Stepping backward with another sigh, Monty told her, “There is a word for the road you’re headin’ down, dear. It’s ‘sociopath.’ Not all of ’em are born that way – some choose that path later on in life. You’ve got a chance to get off that road an’ join the rest of us an’ have a life worth livin’, or you can go on exercisin’ that jones o’ yours for excitement an’ adrenaline an’ black Magick, an’ eventually somebody is gonna fetch you one upside the head. You understand me?”

Really frightened now, her swarms of freckles floating on her chalk-white face like weird insects, the girl gulped and nodded wordlessly.

“Now you behave yourself, missy, an’ you’ll have a good life here – you’ve got God-given Talents that can be very valuable, things we need desperately. Otherwise . . . well, you’re a smart gal, I’m sure you understand what I’m talking about.”

Gulping, Dena nodded, looked down at her hands.

“What’s this?”

“Oh, hi, Pat,” I said. Holding a large, clear-glass bottle of orange juice covered with great patches of condensation and a plate full of strips of jerky and some cookies, Pat was standing by the couch where Leroy sat, staring at the little drama unfolding between Monty and Dena. “Here, why not give those to Leroy and then take a seat over here?” I said, gently taking the juice and the plate from her and handing them to the boy, who began gulping the juice down gratefully right from the bottle.

“Not a problem, Pat,” Monty told her, coming back to the couch where he’d been sitting with Leroy. Taking a seat next to the boy again, leaning back against the couch, he put an arm around Leroy’s shoulders, patting him gently on the arm. “You done good, my friend,” he told the boy. “Eat hearty.”

“Oh, I am, sir, I am,” the boy, grinning, told him between gulps of juice.

“Sheesh, you must have an afterburner like one of King Stephen’s jet planes,” I commented, chuckling. “Didn’t know jet-fuel was orange, though.”

Was that snort laughter? Regardless, Leroy went right on pulling at the bottle of juice until it was about three-quarters down. Then, wiping off his mouth on the back of his hand, he set it down, saying, “Sorry if I lost my manners there for a minute, people. I was just so . . . thirsty.”

“Not to worry, son,” Monty told him, giving him another pat. Leroy looked up at him with – no, it wasn’t the familiar hero-worship, nor even the sort of lust some adolescent boys were prone to exhibit around Monty. It was more like someone who, lost in a foreign country where nothing is familiar, has suddenly discovered someone who speaks his language fluently: joy mingled with relief and gratitude.

“What happened?” Pat asked me, staring at Dena as if the girl had suddenly sprouted horns. Or maybe lost the ones she had.

“I think Dena just found out that she isn’t as unique or as big and bad as she thought,” I told her. “I’m not sure of the details. You’ll have to ask Monty for those.”

The corner of her mouth twitching, Pat said to me, looking at the frightened girl sitting at the table, “That’s a first, you know. That girl’s been asking to get her clock cleaned for quite a while now. Her Talents are very rare, unfortunately, or I’d have kicked her butt out of here months ago. If Monty can get her to behave, he’s done something nobody else so far has ever done.

“– Anyway, what exactly did you-all want here? I realize Leroy gave you and Monty the extemporaneous reading of the century, but I gather you had something specific in mind?”

“Yeah, we did. The drive.”

“Ah, yes. Okay, I gather you want to go to Science, soon, so why don’t we cut to the chase, see what we can get? I suggest Janis go first, then Dena, if she’s willing to cooperate, then Leroy, after he’s gotten his blood-sugar level back up. I can turn on the tape-recorder, so whoever it is can just go with the flow, tell you what he or she is seeing, and you can listen to it later at home to make sure of the details.”

“That’d be fine. Would you back that up on disk, though?” Monty asked her.

“Sure. We always do, anyway – around here, you never know what the pixies’ll be up to next.”


“Oh, that’s just in-house speak for the sort of improbable events that tend to occur in paranormal research labs like this one – wiped tapes, crashed hard-drives, appliances in perfect working order that don’t work, all that sort of thing.

“Anyway, if it’s okay, we’ll have Janis give a shot at it, then the others. Okay?”

“Fine by me, Pat,” Monty told her.

“Good. Okay, Janis,” Pat said, turning to the woman sharing the table with the girl. “You’ve heard about the drive Monty and Bill have planned?”


“They want to know if you can see anything about it – or anything else you happen to pick up. You up for that?”

“Sure! Tell me when to start.”

“Just let me go turn on the recorders . . .” On one wall there was a panel full of buttons. Going over to it, she touched some of the buttons, looked at a readout, nodded in satisfaction. Turning to look at the rest of us, she said, “Okay, ready to roll if you are. Janis, just go ahead.”

Nodding, Janis turned to look at the us, sitting over on the couches. Leroy, who was now leaning comfortably into Monty’s arm as if he’d lived there all his life, grinned as if he knew something.

Putting her hands to her temples, as if holding invisible earphones tight to her skull, Janis said, “Okay, what I’m getting is this . . .”

And then she began to prophesy.

“I see an . . . an attack. By something I can’t see clearly. Maybe it’s Godzilla lizards – it’s almost impossible to read them, unlike just about anything else alive. They’re supposed to be radioactive – stuff in their bodies from wherever they evolved, maybe, out there by Fort Worth, like I heard, where they were first reported. The nasty things are like neo-dinosaurs, maybe that’s why we can’t read them. It could be them, or it could be – oh, God, anything from cattle whacked out on locoweed to psychopathic bandits.

“And – one close to you will come near to death, Monty, but I’m not sure who. Whoever it is will live – if you do something. Again, it isn’t clear what, but it depends on you.

“I do see that the drive will be successful – far more so than you envision now – thanks to one old friend and two new ones. You will also meet an old friend and a new one at the Round-Up – they won’t be able to go on the drive with you, but your fortunes will be great because of them.

“There will be casualties on the drive, but not nearly as bad as they might be.

“Two who are close to you will heal each other during the drive, to your great relief.

“And then here’s something I don’t understand at all: a son fathered by two men will walk the road to the stars, and the woman who bears him will save the life of one she loves deeply by naming the child’s real father. Later, she will bear a child sired by no man, who will carry the fortunes of all of you to the stars. – Does that mean anything to you?”

“Er, no,” Monty told her, looking bemused.

“It means ‘All’s well that ends well’,” Leroy suddenly piped up.

“Leroy –” Pat began, warning him.

“Honest, Pat, it really does! Sheesh, you never believe me!” he said, scowling, crossing his arms on his chest.

“That’s okay, son, I believe you,” Monty told him, laughing. “Anythin’ else for us, Janis?” he asked, turning back to the woman at the table.

“More stuff I’m not sure of. Uh . . . Batrix, a king will see the end of your life.

“Paul, some day you will drink the water of life of one of the greatest men who ever lived.”

Paul looked jolted – “water of life” referred to the water reclaimed from the body of someone who has died, taken from it during the process of recycling it, added to the funerary wine of which everyone present at the deceased’s memorial service partakes.

“– Ah. And here is something that does have to do with the drive . . . Beware of an ambush close to home. The Eyes of the Eagle will be your salvation. A man Paul hates will save the one Paul loves.

“Also: There will be some trouble at the Rails, but nothing you can’t handle. Someday the Rails will make the drive unnecessary.”

A spasm crossed her face; she jerked as if she had been struck by a bullet. Gasping, she raised her eyes to look at Pat. “Pat, I . . . I’m afraid that’s all I can get. My eyes

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