Special job made me nervous. The last special job almost killed me. “I’m listening.”
“Have you heard about the AmerCan project?”
“No, but I just got back from medical leave.”
“Yes, I’m sorry about that. I had no idea how ferocious the pre-wall Asianese could be, or that they were partial to dog meat. I should have recommended you merge with a horse instead.”
Grover is my boss, and my first instinct was to make him squirm, but the look on his long face told a story of regret and concern. I couldn’t bring myself to tease him, and besides, as a mana, it was my obligation to choose my merge partner.
“It’s okay. I would’ve chosen a dog also. It’s rare that they aren’t domesticated. I have to say, though, I’m glad the arrow pierced our rumps and not our hearts. I wouldn’t have been able to de-merge and get across the portal otherwise.”
Grover ran his long fingers through his short gray hair. His eyes were moist. University deans weren’t supposed to put men in mortal danger. They weren’t generals trading lives for territory, and there hadn’t been a serious conflict among men since the Thaw began, some three thousand years ago. The super-volcano eruption and ensuing ice age changed human nature.
“Thanks for being so understanding. You’re my best Chronicler. I wouldn’t send you on this assignment if you weren’t. Three years ago, we learned that a great culture had arisen on the AmerCan continent prior to the Eruption. Brito-Franco documents indicate the AmerCan territory doubled in size in a short time period. We want to know how it came about.”
“Do you have the “when-where” specs for me?”
“Yes, July 14, 1803 in President Thomas Jefferson’s office.”
Manas die in a stasis chamber if their essence is trapped in past-time. There’s no way to anticipate all risks, but knowledge of a when-where is a big help. That’s why I sat in the libraries’ reference room wearing holo-glasses, watching a brief lecture on the Brito-Franco culture.
“The Brito-Franco culture consisted of two sub-groups that controlled the political scene for five hundred years. Their influence waned during the Electronic Age. They shared many characteristics, such as architecture, agricultural methods and technology. Their languages were distinct, but shared many words. A language infusion course is available if you wish to learn more.
“War between the groups occurred frequently during this period, but when not fighting they were civilized—”
I stopped the playback, satisfied it would serve my needs and hurried to the artifacts museum for weapons research. I wanted no surprises like the first time I saw a bow and arrow. They didn’t look threatening individually, but when combined they were.
* * *
“I’m scheduled for a language infusion tomorrow and will need a night’s sleep for it to be effective, so I’ll be ready the next day.”
“What’s this?” Grover said with a twinkle in his eyes, “A Chronicler needs time to learn something. I thought you could absorb infinite amounts of data in that oversized brain of yours.”
“Infinite is a bit much, and my brain’s no bigger than yours. I’ve just learned to use all of it. But, the infusion process requires three sleep cycles to work. It has nothing to do with my Chronicler training.”
“Are you truly ready to go?” Neetang said smiling. “I noticed you limping a little. I find it mind boggling that an injury to a merge partner can cause so much pain and discomfort. If you’re not ready, I understand.”
“I’m okay. The limp’s a lingering neurological effect and should dissipate soon.” I hoped it was true. It’s what the doctors had said, but they weren’t sure, and I knew it. I’d taken enough time off; it was time I got on the horse.
David P. Cantrell is an author and member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.