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An excerpt from A Hole in Time, Book 4 of Volume 1 of DRAGON DRIVE:

Dawn – his full name was Sir Dawnlight-on-the-Inland-Sea Son-of-Far-Roving-Adventurer First-Born-of-the-River-Clans, or Dawn, for short – had come to Hunter’s Paradise on a business trip.1 He hadn’t minded – it was the sort of place that tourists loved to visit, too. He’d been there for ten days, and had more or less wrapped up his business, and soon he’d be leaving again for home, flying back on a big transcontinental jet. So this morning he had just wanted to savor the beauty of the island, the tropical warmth baking into his bones before he had to leave, and accordingly had put on his tackiest, loudest tropical shirt, (the one his third co-husband simply loathed, so much fun to wear to barbecues and outdoor buffets held by their neighbors and friends during the Summer), a pair of khaki shorts, a ridiculous little raffia hat to shade his eyes from the sun and keep his head cool, and palm-weave sandals, and had taken a stroll from his hotel down along the great boulevard that ran the length of the city, less than a hundred yards from the shoreline. He took his time there, doing a lot of people-watching, enjoying the beauty of the day and the wealth of tropical life that swarmed the island. The streets were filled with people all doing the same as he, enjoying one another and the warmth of the day and the beauty of the island and its surroundings. There was a street-fair in progress down the way, and up the other way was a flea-market and bazaar that also boasted world-famous restaurants – he’d try to take both in before the day was through.

Hunter’s Paradise, an island situated between the east coast of Eastern Gond2 and the west coast of Malagasy3 had been given its name because, long ago, when first discovered by Dawn’s people, it had held species of great carnivores unknown anywhere else in the world, or which had been thought to have been long extinct. Eastern Gond was just far enough away that it was below the horizon, hidden from view by the Earth’s curvature; but the big island to the east of Hunter’s Paradise was easily visible as a line of low mountains covered with tropical verdure. There were smaller islands to the north, too, an archipelago comprising a long arc of closely spaced islands of various sizes, some larger than Hunter’s Paradise, some smaller. Among the many islands off the east coast of Eastern Gond there were all sorts of reefs, a magnet for sports fishermen as well as marine biologists because of the fantastic variety of living creatures that dwelled in and around them, from sponges, jellyfish, corals, barnacles, and kelp all the way up to sharks, ammonites, mososaurs, plesiosaurs, revenant populations of mesosaurs and ichthyosaurs, and the like – not to mention the wealth of plankton that supported so much of that life. Because of the protection offered by Eastern Gond on one side, islands on the other side, and the barrier reefs between, Hunter’s Paradise had offered great strategic value early in the annals of civilization, and had long since served as a military base for one nation or another, depending upon the fortunes of history and war. Right now, it belonged to North Sandstone,4 Dawn’s nation, and her allies, though doubtless, given what Dawn knew of history, someday it might well belong to her worst enemies. Well, that was for the Lady of Battles, Her consort, the Destroyer, and Her favorite companion, the little mammal His followers familiarly referred to as “Yip,” to determine, not any mortal man or woman.

There were also sea-caves along the edges of the big island, with numerous entrances into the ocean just below the waterline. These were another reason why Hunter’s Paradise was a world-famous tourist resort and scientific treasure, in addition to its value as a military base. There were life-forms in those caves unlike anything anywhere else on Earth – miniature, blind mososaurs; strange velvet-worms that hearkened back to their ancestors of the early Cambrian, when multicellular life first came into its own; tiny sea-scorpions, descendants of the giant eurypterids that had prowled the world’s seas back in the Silurian Period, over 350 million years ago; blind, equally tiny neo-placoderms, the last revenant of the Devonian populations of the fearsome, heavily armored marine carnivores that had lived more than 300 years before; small amphibians that may have been direct descendants of the ichthyostegans that were, perhaps, the first amphibians to have appeared on Earth, subsisting in the sea-caves of Hunter’s Paradise on the various types of invertebrate life that haunted the caves; strange, huge, blind sea-spiders that hunted their prey by means of the vibrations that the latter gave off while walking or swimming; even lichens that lived entirely off nutrients produced by the fungal half of the team, because the phosphorescence that was given off by various types of sessile organisms on cave walls and ceiling, the only natural light in the caves, was far too impoverished to keep a photosynthesizer like a free alga alive.

Dawn chuckled to himself over his second wife’s nervous protestations concerning his trip in the last few days before he left home for his trip to Hunter’s Paradise. Leaves-Falling-in-Graceful-Sorrow-as-the-Year-Approaches-its-End – “Autumn,” for short – was a professional astrologer, and had been looking over the transits that would be in progress during his trip, as well his progressed chart. Red-Eye,5 the Planet of the Lady of Battles, she told him, would be in opposition the whole time he was away, and, at the same time, it would be making unfortunate aspects to Big Stripes,6 the first real planet beyond Red-Eye’s orbit around the Sun (ignoring the asteroid belt between the two), as well as some hard aspects to the Golden One,7 the beautiful, slightly smaller gas-giant just beyond Big Stripes. And there were also Sky-Maiden8 and Blue-Water,9 beyond the Golden One, to consider, of course – neither were in signs of their strength, and both would be in bad aspect to the Sun, and – ‘And, and, and,’ he’d said, laughing, cutting off her anxious catalog of potential planetary disaster areas before she could get too upset. ‘Belovèd Autumn, my very darling one,’ he’d told her, taking her in his arms and kissing her tenderly, ‘believe me, nothing bad will happen to me, and I’ll be home, safe and sound, before you know it’ – and then he’d felt a sudden chill go up his spine, as if he’d had a sudden premonition of something terrible to come. Ignoring it, he’d picked her up and taken her to bed to soothe her with love-making, and had finally restored her to her normal smiling self.

Dawn looked up again at the sky, seeing the great blue-edged cumuli that floated so serenely along the edge of the world, birds flying in V-formation through the sky, an enormous pterosaur gliding smoothly overhead at a much lower altitude, the brilliant noonday Sun. The Moon would be rising soon.

. . . Odd, it had been perfectly clear this morning, and neither the weather channel on the radio nor the Weatherman Internet site had said anything about bad weather coming. What was that dark front coming down from the north? Wonder if it had anything to do with those strange aurorae that had been seen all over the world over the past week or so? Could it –

– Whut.

– Whoo-whut.

What the –? Bullets? Was some nutcase –

Something was falling from the air, making little whistling murmurs as it descended.

– Whu-whut.

– Whu-whu-whu-WHUT!

That hurt, dammit! That last one had landed on his shoulder, hard enough to bruise. – And it was hot! Jerking his hand away from it, he stared at it as it fell to the ground, smoking.

Now the things, whatever they were, were starting to fall everywhere without letup, accompanied not just by those soft, murmurous, whistling whispers like the sound of a well-made boomerang in flight, but far louder sounds, as well, building up to shrieking, roaring pandemonium.

– Oh, Gods, that hurt! Yelping as he knocked flaming debris from his shoulders and back, turning and jumping about in an attempt to avoid being hit by more of the falling stuff, he stared disbelievingly at the sky, then all around him.

The sky was on fire!

It looked as if the whole world had caught fire. Red-hot debris was falling everywhere. All around him, people were screaming, jumping, flailing and batting at the firebrands raining down on them, trying vainly to avoid them, seeking shelter anywhere they could find it. Flames were beginning to rise from the homes and business buildings that lined the street and filled the low hills stretching away from the shore. Someone’s little pet deltatheridium ran shrieking down the street, its coat blazing from head to tail. Another pet, this one a tiny coelurosaur that must once have been very handsome, a delicate pattern of blue-and-white diamonds covering its otherwise jet-black skin on its sides and back, stumbled in its headlong, panicked flight down the street and fell over on its side, its legs and feet jerking spasmodically, victim of a chunk of flaming, charred-looking debris weighing a good 60 pounds or so that had fallen squarely on its head, instantly crushing the life out of it. A few hundred feet up the street from Dawn, a woman was frantically dancing about in the street, screaming in terror and agony, her garments blazing, her face a ruined, nightmare mask of charred flesh, the left side of her face caved in by something huge and fiery-hot. At a nearby curb, a mother flung herself over her two children, trying to shield them from the fiery debris raining down everywhere – in vain, for within seconds another large chunk of incandescent material landed on all three of them, crushing the life out of them, then burning their flattened corpses to ashes in instants. A little farther down the street a vehicle exploded – something the size of a small van, white-hot and shedding droplets of incandescent metal, had landed on it.

Shelter! He had to find shelter! The initial muted susurrus of the falling debris had risen to a terrifying, world-shattering scream, and the sky seemed to have been replaced by an endless howling fall of the hellish stuff that spared nothing and no one, as far as the eye could see. The whole world was on fire! His own clothing was blazing in numerous places, now, and he could smell the frying-bacon aroma of his own flesh beginning to sizzle beneath it.

Looking around frantically, vainly trying to beat out the smoldering places on his clothing as more and more burning debris fell on him, the little flames licking up from places on his trousers and shirt and hat where the stuff had hit and clung, all he could see that might afford shelter was the ocean, less than a hundred yards away . . .

* * * * *

“Dawn was . . . lucky. He happened to be very near the shore of the island at the time, and he just jumped into the water, clothes and all, and tried to stay under as long as he could. The water never did get too hot – the air would have to have been a lot hotter than it actually was before the ocean would’ve warmed up much – but every time he came up for a breath, the scalding-hot air and the sulfuric acid fumes generated by the interaction of the incoming debris with the salty ocean water almost killed him when he tried to breathe the polluted air just above the surface of the water. But on his third dive down he saw a hole in the sloping seafloor, and on a hunch he swam into it, hoping against hope it was one of the caves that extended far back beneath the island – and that it had an air-pocket in it above the waterline.

“Dawn lucked out – it was indeed such a sea-cave, and to his vast relief he found that its roof actually went way up into the body of the island itself, above the waterline. There was even a long, canted natural ledge that went around the cave from below the waterline to way above it, and, using that ledge, he made it up to a place where he could sit down, a foot or so above the waterline, and rest. The air in the cave above the waterline was fresh, cool, and slightly moist – it never did get very warm or dry, implying that it had no direct connection with the surface, else he and every other living thing in that cave would have been baked alive as the roasting-hot air around the island invaded the cave. Where it came from was a mystery Dawn was never able to solve, but that mystery kept him and everything else in the cave alive, and right then, that was all he cared about.

“Dawn stayed down there in that cave for a long time, at least a week – he noted the phase of the Moon when he got out, and noted that it had passed from one phase to the next while he was down there, so it was somewhere between a week and 10 days when he finally emerged from the cave again. (His people measured time much as we do, with months of 31 days long, and 7-day weeks, each day of which had a distinct astrological ruler the same way ours do, each week corresponding to the period between one lunation and the next, First Quarter to Full Moon, Full Moon to Third Quarter, and so on.) There was fresh water available to him – the back of the cave opened on caverns running under the island that contained streams and small lakes fed by runoff, reservoirs of water down there under the earth that never emptied because there was nowhere for the water in them to go, the air-temperature wasn’t that great, and evaporation from them was slow. There were also cave-fish in the sea-water, large beetles, good-sized frogs, edible algae and fungi, and other things he could eat in and around the caverns’ freshwater bodies. As for light to see by, there was plenty of it from phosphorescence, so he could see his surroundings without difficulty, once his eyes became adapted to the dimmer light there. It wasn’t hot down there, nor very cold, for that matter – the undersea inlet saw to that, as well as the fact that it was a true cave, whose internal temperature remained virtually constant at all times. So he was able to take off his tunic, underwear, and trousers and rinse them out in seawater, then dry them off on stalagmites, without getting too cold (though he kept on the raffia-weave-and-plastic-soled sandals he’d been wearing when fire began to rain down from the heavens, to protect the soles of his feet, which were as tender as ours generally are, from the sharp rocks lining the floor of the cave).

“And since part of Dawn’s training, way back when he was a young . . . man, going into his people’s defense forces as a, I guess you’d say a Ranger, like Special Forces were back before the Two-Day War, except that this was a special division of their Marines – since part of his military training was in learning how to eat off the land, eating food raw if you couldn’t cook it, he didn’t need to cook his food. It never got very cold down there in the caverns beneath Hunter’s Paradise, either, so he didn’t need a fire to keep warm. So he stayed down there for a few days, until he figured whatever it was had died down and he could come out.

“Dawn wasn’t in very good shape when he emerged from that cave, however. The day of the impacts, red-hot debris had come flying through the air, likely carried all the way from the mainland, and he was hit by some fairly hefty chunks of it. One of his arms had been fractured by a blow from a piece of the stuff, and, probably during his marathon race down to the water and his dive down to the mouth of the cave, he had sprained his ankle so badly it might as well have been broken, as well. He was bruised everywhere, and he thought his spleen might’ve been ruptured – a relatively small tear, or he wouldn’t have lived through it. He also had burns all over his body – when it happened, there was so much blazing, incandescent crud coming down all over there was no way he could have avoided all of it. Most of the burns weren’t too bad, but he’d sustained a third-degree burn over most of the arm that got broken – fortunately it was his right arm, and, like most of his people, he was left-handed, or else he wouldn’t have been able to get down to that cave and survive there the way he did. One of his eyes was hurt – something hit it during those first moments after the world blew up and incandescent junk began raining down on Hunter’s Paradise, and he had become partially blind in that eye.

“Dawn wasn’t a young man any more, either. If he’d been human, I’d put him at about fifty years old, though his people lived longer on average than we do, so he could well have been a good deal older. He was in damned good shape for someone that age, at least before the impacts, but nothing like a young man at the top of his form. And he had a family back on the . . . mainland, on the Gulf Coast of North America, or what was going to become North America some day. Wives, co-husbands, grown children, their children, a brother and two sisters of his own and their children, all part of a great extended family that lived together in a huge villa there on the coast of southern North America, in a community of . . . people like themselves. They had domestic animals, work-animals and pets and some for food, like we keep chickens and cattle, and a number of tenants. Lots of his good friends there, most of his kin – and he had a dreadful premonition that by now, all of them were gone. After what had just happened, it would have been more than a miracle if any of them had survived.

“Dawn was a well-educated man, you see – his people had books, too, almost like ours, and while their writing was of course different from any written human language, it did the same service for them that our written language does for us, and Dawn had become addicted to a good read early on in life, reading adventure stories under the covers at night with a flashlight, just like so many kids do now,” he said, smiling a little as he looked off into the distance, thinking.

“You sound as if you like him.”

“Yes, very much. I guess that sounds funny, considering how our . . . relationship, such as it was, started off, doesn’t it? But you might say that things up there on top of the cliffs weren’t exactly the way they seemed at first glance. That rape wasn’t a rape, and he wasn’t the monster I saw him as at first, the monster I carried a memory of until today, when Yuri was finally able to unlock the . . . core of what really went on up there. At first, I experienced what was happening as an attack, then as a rape, because of the mind-set I had. But by the time I . . . raped Dawn back, that mind-set was starting to change, and when his mind and mine . . . our minds merged the way they did, it all turned into something very different than what it had been when our battle began.”

“Did you remember the . . . the rape before today?”

“Yes, love, I did,” he said, cuddling me close, giving the top of my head a light, brief kiss. “And all the fear, and the anger, and . . . well, other things. I talked those over with Monty that first night after I got back, talked it all out of my system, somehow, because the next day, they were all fading away. Maybe it was this other stuff starting to emerge, the new mind-set or whatever you want to call it I got into up there during that mind-merge, coming up, changing things, changing the shape of my emotions and way of seeing things. But these memories, about that . . . man, only came up into consciousness this morning when I was with Yuri, and Monty doesn’t know anything about them, yet.”

“You said he had wings. But he also had arms and legs, too? That doesn’t sound like any dinosaurs I know of – I know birds are probably dinosaurs themselves, descended from very early dinosaurs, but wings and legs and arms would have given that fellow six limbs, which isn’t a vertebrate trait.”

“I think the wings were symbolic, Hannah. They had to’ve been. Dawn was . . . you could call him a ghost, or even, in a sense, an angel. My angel, because, thanks to him, I ended up not going out into the desert, didn’t run away and leave everything behind that made life worth living. And as for why those wings were black – well, at first, before these other memories finally came back up, I thought it meant he was evil. But now I think it just fit the symbolism of the dojo – we all train in black gis, you know. You do yourself. It’s because we’re all ninjas – that’s where the Kagemushakan came from, those old, old combat skills and techniques developed by real warriors on real battlefields and crossbred with the outlook and guerilla-warfare skills of the Ninja. And that’s what that old man I . . . fought out there was, a Mesozoic ninja. He’d have fit right in with the rest of the dojo crowd – Andy’d have loved him! (In fact, Andy was down there today when I had that session with Yuri, and he and I and Yuri talked it over afterward, and it was Andy who pointed out that thing about blackness. Andy was fascinated all to hell and gone by the story – we’re gonna do another session one of these days where Yuri’s going to see if I’ve got any of the old man’s techniques and training history and so on down there in my unconscious memory.) Also, black symbolizes Void, the great unknown out of which all things come, and to which they return at the end of all things – God, by another word and symbol. After all, God is infinite, and we poor mortals can know only very little of what God really is, the rest being boundless black seas of infinity as far as we’re concerned. You could say that in a way, black symbolizes holiness – sure, we often equate it with evil, but night is dark, and is as necessary to life as the day, and without blackness, light would have no meaning. So it can symbolizes good as well as evil.”

“Did he have a name?”

“Yes. I couldn’t pronounce it or his title to save my soul, but it comes out to something like ‘sensei Sir Dawnlight-on-the-Inland-Sea First-Born-of-the-River-Clans.’ ‘Dawnlight-on-the-Inland Sea’ was his first name, while First-Born-of-the-River-Clans was his family name. I think he had a patronymic, too, the way Russians do, something like ‘Son-of-Far-Roving-Adventurer.’ Among friends, he’d be called ‘Dawn,’ a shortened version of his given name, and the name with which he identified himself.

“He had a nickname, too – a close approximation of it is ‘Sneaky Rat’ – a pet name, like the kind Big Bill gives his ferrets. Dawn and his people made pets of some of the mammals with which they shared their world, including proto-primates that did look a lot like rats but were often as smart as ferrets, with similar habits. His own sensei gave him the nickname ‘Sneaky Rat’ when he was still an adolescent, because he was so good at the same sort of guerilla tricks that those little mammals used all the time. It was a compliment, a big one, at least among others who were trained the way he was.”

“What happened to him? Was he able to leave the island he was on?”

“Oh, sorry, love, I guess I got distracted. Yes, he did. For one thing, the entire time he was holed up in that cave, one heavy, rolling earth-shock after another rumbled through it, sending bits of rock sifting down from above, roiling the water at the bottom of the cave until it looked as if it had been set on the stove to boil. Most of those shocks were fairly mild, but there were a few heavy enough to make him fear that the roof of the cave he was in might collapse. After a little over a week of enduring those aftershocks, climaxed by an especially strong temblor that brought a number of stalactites spearing down from the ceiling of the cave, the needle-fine tip of one of them missing him by mere inches, he finally left the cave and returned to the world above.

“Coming back out of the cave the same way he’d gone in, swimming back through the long underwater tunnel that gave on the sea, Dawn came up to the surface of the water to find himself in the midst of a hard, freezing storm of icy rain mixed with sleet, the air reeking of scorched metal and sulfuric acid and charred wood, concrete, and flesh. Climbing back onto the land, eventually he found a, well, we’d call it a motorized launch that was moored there in one of the island’s harbors. Dawn had always liked boats, and even owned a motorized yacht of his own, which he and his family used to take little trips up and down the coast near where they all lived. Hunter’s Paradise, the island he was on, was a little like Hawaii or Oahu in the Hawaiian archipelago was until the War, a place with several harbors, and military industries and installations all over the place, along with plenty of civilian businesses and housing. The big harbor where he found the launch was part of a naval base. Dawn was a, oh, I guess you could call him a contractor with his country’s military, something to do with manufacturing of tools and equipment used by their navy and army, and the contractors who made the boats, submarines, ships, tanks, and guns deployed by both services. He had come to the island to take part in a conference having to do with his country’s navy’s need for various kinds of tools that was held a couple of days before the, the Event. So he knew his way around the island and what sort of resources might still be there, assuming they’d been protected from the worst of the Event.

“Like I said, Dawn finally left the cavern the same way he’d entered it, diving down into the sea inlet and coming out through the cave-entrance into the ocean, then swimming up to the surface of the water and onto the shore. From there, coughing hard because of the smog and crud still filling the air from the Event and the fires it had started all over the world, he walked up the beach to the harbor, which wasn’t too far away, and started checking it out.

“Dawn found the launch in a lagoon at the back of the harbor, inside a big concrete docking facility – they’d put it in there to be painted or some other type of maintenance, and when the Event happened, it was protected by four stout concrete walls and a thick concrete roof from the rain of red-hot debris and other fallout from the Event, while the seawater all around it as well as inside the facility kept it cool enough that there was little or no substantial damage from the heat. The launch had a big hydrogen-cell battery that was fully charged and ready to go – oh, yes, they’d gotten that far along with their technology. The launch was sitting in seawater, because the foundation of the building itself was underwater, so that boats could be floated in and worked on without having to dry-dock them. So any heat build-up inside the building would’ve been dissipated in the water, which communicated with the harbor through yard-high gaps between the bottoms of the walls and the foundations of the building, except at the corners, where the pilings supporting walls and roof went straight on down into the bottom of the harbor. And it had a wealth of supplies and equipment on board that he could use – warm clothes, heaters, plenty of food, a distillery for processing fresh water out of seawater, tools useful for repair and maintenance of the boat and its electronics, neatly capped vials filled with nails, screws, bolts, hooks, and the like, and a great big military first-aid kit, which was one of the best things he could ever have found about then.

“Above all, the launch had heaters, a godsend because, when he finally left the sea-cave, the world into which he emerged was freezing cold, cold enough to freeze a man’s dick solid and snap it off like a thin plywood lath if he tried pissing into the wind. Black rain almost as acidic as hydrochloric acid, filled with a mixture of sleet, ashes, and unidentifiable char, was coming down hard enough to make the rain that caused Noah’s Flood look like high noon on the first day of Summer in the high desert in comparison. What we’d call an ‘Impact Winter’ had set in, like the Nuclear Winter scenario that Carl Sagan, Paul Ehrlich, and their colleagues came up with back in the early 1980s – the three or four years of snow and heavy rain right after the Two-Day War were a miniature version of it, one that let up much, much sooner than the Impact Winter that followed on the End-Cetaceous Event.

“Thanks to all the dust the impacts had kicked up – not to mention the pall of smoke from the burning of so much of the world’s forest and grasslands, and all their cities and industries, as a result of the reentry of the debris from all the impacts, white-hot from atmospheric friction by the time they returned to earth again – so much sunlight was cut off that the temperature dropped to around -50 degrees Fahrenheit in the tropics, where Dawn was at the time, in a world where, on average, temperatures were much higher than in ours, even now. And it was only a couple of weeks after the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere! So you can imagine what it was like in the rest of the world,” he said, gazing far off into space, at some unimaginably vast, world-devouring catastrophe haunting his mind’s eye. “God – so much particulate matter and dark aerosols from the burning of things like foundries and refineries and fuel depots got injected into the atmosphere that it must have taken decades for all of it to rain out! On top of that, the initial impacts themselves sent plumes of dust and other debris so high that some of it was actually kicked into space, where it ended up in the earth’s orbit around the Sun – the stuff the astronomers Victor Clube and Bill Napier called ‘diamond dust,’ suspensions of colloidally-fine dust with a maximum surface-to-volume ratio, surrounding the Earth, filtering down through its atmosphere, kicking back 30% or more of incoming sunlight into outer space once more. Between those two factors, it must’ve been like being in a closed meat-locker with no light for God alone knows how long, certainly for many weeks, before the clouds finally began to break up and some sunlight came back again.

“Dawn – I’ll call him ‘Sneaky Rat,’ because that’s how I think of him now – Sneaky Rat was lucky that the harbor was so close to where his cave was, or he’d never have been able to find it in the dark – or make it there before he froze to death. It was so dark that even at high noon there was almost no natural light at all, and so cold you could have frozen right through within a very short time if you weren’t protected from it by warm clothing, shelter, and a good fire. Sneaky Rat was trained in disciplines closely resembling our Zen and Yoga, and he was able to keep from freezing very nearly by sheer will-power alone before he finally stumbled across the launch, but it was a near thing. An hour or two more and he’d have died, out there in the freezing rain and snow, among the burned-out shells of navy buildings and boats burned to the waterline and bloated, rotting corpses lining the docks and streets everywhere.

“But he did find the launch in time, and when he did, he just crawled into it, sealed it up tight, and turned on its lights and its methane-fueled heaters. He doctored himself using the onboard first-aid kit, which was really more like a whole first-aid station in its own right; drank some water (the launch had a full tank of distilled water; he had an idea that somebody was to have taken the launch out to sea a day or so after what turned out to be the Event, but of course never came around to do so, and that was why it was all ship-shape and ready to go); ate some of the food in the launch’s refrigerators; and then fell into bed, completely exhausted. And then he passed out. Later, he thought he’d slept for at least 24 hours, maybe even longer, while his body did what it could to repair itself.

“When Sneaky Rat awoke, he did feel better – like, only half-dead, instead of two days dead and rotting in the Sun, say – and didn’t hurt quite as much as he had before falling asleep. Slowly, favoring his injuries, he started checking out the boat to see what else it had, and found that there was an excellent onboard navigational computer and a powerful radio, and tape-decks for recording whatever they got off the radio for the logs. He listened to the tapes, and that’s how he found out what had happened and how bad it was.

“There’d been a naval observatory on the island, and they even had observational and communications satellites – that’s how far along they were, Hannah, how advanced their civilization was. The satellites transmitted whatever data they acquired to all sorts of installations, some on the ground and others in space, and some of them were civilian satellites for scientific use. Two of the civilian satellites transmitted pictures of the initial strikes on Europe which they’d filmed, or received from other satellites, straight to the observatory, so the observatory staff were well aware of what was happening by the time the largest impactor came streaking in over the South Atlantic and the Tethyan Seaway on its way to the Yucatán. They started broadcasting in all directions, trying to warn people, telling them to get the hell under cover – they didn’t know exactly what would happen to them all the way out there, on Hunter’s Paradise, so far from North America, but they knew there could be more incoming mail at any time, from any direction. And after the first photographs of the results of the strike on the Yucatán peninsula came in from the comsats, and it was clear they’d all be in for a damned rough ride within at most a few hours after that strike, their broadcasts became even more frantic. The radio on that launch, which must have been a marvel of electronics, picked up every bit of it, at least on the normal audio bands. According to what Sneaky Rat got from the tapes, apparently they were transmitting over television bands, too, but there wasn’t anything aboard the launch to record a TV transmission.

“Which is how Sneaky Rat learned exactly what had happened and how widespread the disaster was. Up until then he’d known that something really bad had happened, especially after he came out to find it dark as the inside of a black cat at midnight and cold as the Ninth Circle of Hell, but not exactly what had been responsible for it, nor how widespread the damage was. Those audio transmission he found in the logs told him exactly what had happened, how extensive the damage from it was, what the likely consequences would be – and that North America, his home, had taken a couple of really bad hits. Hearing those tapes, he knew in his bones that his family, his people, everything and everyone he cared about and loved, were almost certainly all dead, his country a charred, frozen wasteland, all he’d worked for and dreamed of all his life long gone, destroyed by the impacts and their aftermath. . . ." . . .

Posts from This Journal by “dragon drive” Tag


Let's Roll
Yael Dragwyla

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