Author:Larry Niven [Niven, Larry]
Format: epub
Published: 2010-04-12T09:24:20.154000+00:00


Tremendous tilted faces looked out of the rock. Two Red Herders and two even larger Night People spoke secrets none could hear, for an audience—

Louis Wu was the only one laughing.

Louis tore his gaze free of the Hindmost’s show. For the locals it must seem that they were watching gods decide their fate.

The Sailing People had run.

He saw no trace of Tunesmith or Kazarp.

Weavers were all about him, but most of them were asleep. Torpid Weaver children were trying to keep their eyes open. Tomorrow they’d know they had dreamed. Louis Wu was alone before these tremendous faces.

He said in Interspeak, for the Hindmost’s benefit, “Those Ghouls came a long way to steal a webeye. They really must want to talk to you.”

The view changed. For the blink of an eye it became an infrared map of the village pool: black water, faintly glowing Weavers asleep on low tables, the brighter glow of Louis Wu’s naked skin ... and a lacework glow behind him, and another alongside the Council House.

Kazarp and Tunesmith hidden in tall grass. The Ghouls are watching, too. Will they recognize themselves?

Huge faces dimmed. The webeye and its brick backing were being set down in darkness. Now the cliff was only dark rock.

The sun was no more than a sliver of light palely glowing through cloud when Valavirgillin rolled out to see what the commotion was about.

It was about Reds and Ghouls guiding four Grass Giants who were carrying a slab of cut brick down Stair Street. A slab of brick with a bronze web splayed across it. Heavy, from the way they moved. They eased it up to Cruiser Two and set one edge on the running board and rested.

The Ghouls began to talk. The Reds wanted to interrupt, but got little chance.

When all conversation was done, the web and its backing rested on the floor of the payload shell in Cruiser Two. Sleepy Gleaners had come out to join the excitement. Sleepy Ghouls were crawling under an awning. And the way down seemed almost clear.

Somewhere behind black clouds, Valavirgillin thought, shadow must be sliding away to reveal the sun. The only light that reached through the storm was a frenzied dance of lightning.

Four Gleaners and Valavirgillin marched through the rain to the top of Stair Street. They entered the bubble, followed by every hominid save the Ghouls, and climbed the giant steps into that amazing kitchen.

Silack fitted himself into the moving box. Only the other Gleaners knew how he had been chosen over the rest. The flamer fitted easily into his arms.

“Fire it at a wall. Or a vampire, or anything,” Manack told him. He was jittery, and he held a Machine People handgun. It took both hands. “I’m coming right down after you with nothing but this, and when I get down, I want light. I want to see what comes at us. Your first move when the door opens, give me light.”

They closed the door on Silack and flipped the switch down.


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