Chapter 10

Her hair was matted, her face streaked and swollen. One knee oozed slow blood; she's cut it on a steel abutment. A stitching pain lived in her side. She ran. There was a high lovers' moon and the night was full of shapes. Shadows slid on shadows. When had she crossed the river? Was it last night or the night before? Where was she now? She didn't know. Off to her right she could see an unending length of metalmesh beyond a stretch of dead asphalt. Far out on the pavement sea was a cluster of teeter-swings. An industrial nursery; it had to be Stoneham or Sunrise. Perhaps her baby was there! She veered to the left, away from the mesh, into the deep night-black between buildings. Abruptly she found her passage blocked by a high board barrier. She turned. Maybe she could double back over the river. If she could only rest. Wait! She froze, remained motionless. There was someone in the shadows ahead. A silent scream ripped at her throat. Sandman! Panic drove her heart against her chest in shuddering strokes. She spun about, clawed at the blistered boards, her fingernails breaking as she sought a grip on the coarse wood. The fence was too high.'For an instant (a century?) she clung there, trying to will her muscles to lift her oh-soheavy ''body, but all the energy was gone. Something tore inside her, and she crumpled at the base of the wood. 'Huddled into herself, she studied the charblack flower crystal centered in the palm of her right hand. A few days ago it had been a warm blood-red—just as seven years before it had been electric-blue, and seven years 'earlier, sun-yellow. A color for each seven years of her life. Now she was twentyone and her flower was dull black. Sleep black. Death black. The figure moved calmly toward her, across the moon-pavement. She didn't look up. She stared at her palm, because her future and her past were written there. All of her days and her nights and her fears and her hopes.'Why had she believed in Sanctuary? Insane. Impossible. Why hadn't she been like all the others who had accepted Sleep? Now the dark figure, in black, stood over her, but she did not look up. She didn't beg because begging was useless. Instead she remade the world. ''She was not here, outlawed and condemned, shamed and terrified; she was in Sanctuary—on a wide, wind-lazy meadow beside a cool stream of silver—a world in which time did not exist. Then why was her hand scrabbling under her torn clothing for the vibroknife she'd hidden there? Why the urgency to plunge the buzzing steel through breast and rib into her heart? Why?'She saw the Gun come up.

The homer!

She saw the moonlight dazzle off the darkblue barrel.

The homer!

She saw the pale, tight-set face of the Sandman, and saw his eyes above the Gun, as his fingers whitened on the trigger.

The homer!

There was a soft explosion.

That was the last thing she heard.

And the last thing she felt was raw, blinding agony, as the homer struck, burned, ripped and unraveled her.

L3C Continuity


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