I had to tell this story from the perspective of the lead of the wildcatter team. While I can guess at the political machinations of gals such as Fussy and Aurie, there is no way, NONE, that I could ever “get inside” the head of Kalí. Even when she says what she is, I don’t fully understand; and here I am, the supposed author.
For those few, you happy few, who have read “The Fourth Law,” yes, the opening paragraph is a clean lift of its opening paragraph. I have my reasons.
This represents in the final piece of the puzzle which is “Imperial Entanglements.” I have some introductory paragraphs to write and an editing pass to make but hope to have it to my copyeditor in no more than 48 hours. It represents book two of three of my “Three Books in Three Months” challenge.
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He paused his walk to survey the sky again. No change: cloudless, with a color that went from washed-out ochre to gray. Eyes back down, he resumed walking. The smaller, shale-like rocks crunched under his boots, but there were too many just the right size for twisting – if not breaking – an ankle. And that could doom him.
“Nothing, not a thing growing anywhere,” he muttered. We were halfway between Lubbock and Roswell, doing remote sensing for oil, when, just before dark, I told the guys I wanted to recalibrate one of the sensors about a hundred feet away. There was that little moment of dizziness, and I find myself lost. I drank plenty of water… just don’t get it.
To that end, he sat down in the shade of a boulder perhaps a dozen feet across and tried to take some water from the tube on his chest from the pack on his back. Empty.
“Dammit,” he sighed, closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the rock. “Why this, too? God help me.”
“Here.” He reopened his eyes. A young boy wrapped in dirty, torn rags from his worn boots all the way to the scratched goggles on his face and the headscarf above. Across his back was a bolt action rifle – an old k98? – which with its bayonet was nearly as long as this kid was.
“Here,” he said again, holding out a canteen from a hundred years ago. “Drink.”
He reached up and took it. Full. Drinking half, he paused.
“I’ve got my own,” the boy pointed at his hip. “Go on.”
He finished it with enthusiasm.
“Whew! Thanks, man!” he tried on a smile. “I got separated from my team, the other three. We’re surveying new oil fields in this area. I’m…”
“Stop. May I have my canteen back?” He passed it over. “So you and yours are wildcatters?”
“Yep. Don’t know exactly what I did to get lost, maybe just a little disoriented, but if you can help me look for…” he began.
“They are not here. You mistake your position.”
That, he thought, was an odd thing for a kid to say. He was about to stand when the boy squatted, the butt of his rifle tapping the rocks and sand.
“Do you want to go back?” the boy asked, voice still a little muffled from the rags. “You thought yourself lost even before.”
I thought… Well, at twenty-eight, having left my family’s farm outside Tyler ten years ago, I love the work I do. But recently, it’s been so… routine.
“You act like you know me, kid,” he sallied.
“I do. Would you like me to break your world? To end your routine?”
WTF? Reading my mind? Okay, me being lost, this kid… I’m passed out somewhere. I just hope one of the guys finds me in a little bit…
“I can guide you back. Back to normalcy. Do you want that? Or shall I bring fire?”
This is just a hallucination. So why not live it up?
“Sure, kid,” he laughed, shaking his head. “Let’s light it up!”
The boy’s head tilted right as if a dog heard an odd sound.
“Your choice of words confirms this was meant to happen,” he said, reaching up with his right hand to pull the rags down from his mouth and chin. Smooth skin, how young is this lad? With his left, the goggles and headscarf went. Filthy, long, tangled flaxen hair spilled out as he found himself riveted by this girl’s eyes: one black as coal, the other a bright green.
“I am a spear of the Change,” she said, shuffling just a little closer. “Fire is my soul, clay is my flesh. I am God’s agent.”
From her squat, she went to her knees, her face inches from his.
“And now there is you. So, as I pray,” she leaned in and pressed her dust-covered lips to his, “you are now my husband.”