Stand Against the Light Snippet Two

Her four companions weren’t so bad.  Star complained politely to her, demanding to know why she hadn’t already found the Two Dooms and the people who stole history.  After all, she’d solved the Lesser Maze, hadn’t she?  Surely there was no reason she’d need more than a half-week to solve the mystery here?  She accepted his criticisms in silence. He was, at least, honest about what he could not do.  His gifts were great for breaking things, for cutting holes in armor plate while the other side was shooting back at him, but his gifts did not lend themselves to solving mysteries. 

Star’s twin sister Aurora was harder to read, for all that she had linked to Aurora mind to mind.  Aurora was deeply annoyed by the change, but the annoyance was less that one billion people — everyone in the world including her parents — were missing, and more that her study of games — chess and stones and Territories and City of Steel — had been interrupted.  Worse, from Aurora’s point of view, people no longer honored Players like her, not the way they had before the change.  That was a change in the rules, and Aurora did not like changes in the rules.

To Eclipse, Aurora’ focus on games made some sense.  Aurora wasn’t the first twelve-year-old to be Highly Esteemed by the Lords of the Hexagon, but every historical Player from two dozen civilizations who had had Aurora’s rank at Aurora’s age could be fit comfortably in Eclipse’s admittedly somewhat large tent.  The most peculiar part of it was that neither Aurora nor the people around her seemed to notice how extraordinarily good a Player she was, how hard she  strove to cultivate her skills, or how thoroughly that work defined her personality. 

Aurora’s older sister Comet, part of a year older than Eclipse herself, was the nicest person of the four.  It wasn’t that Aurora wasn’t nice; it was that Aurora was deeply focused someplace else. Comet would say that all she did was to fly, neglecting to emphasize that she was the fastest persona in the world, had reflexes that let her snatch bullets from the air, and an acuity of vision that matched her speed.  Comet was the one who took care of her baby brother and sister.  She insisted that they all behave like grownups.  If you tried to tell her how good she was, she’d just shake her head, sending copper-blonde locks of hair flying.  All that distracted her from Comet’s other reality.  Not an hour before they left Earth, she’d invoked the Heinlein Divorce Act, cutting her ties with her parents and family. That had to be an earth-shattering event, as Eclipse knew from personal experience, but Comet seemed to be coping with it.  Blackmailing Speaker Ming, Morgan Le Fay, and the Wizard of Mars himself into giving her what she wanted had demanded a backbone of steel, but when you got down to it Comet had set a very low price for her services. Of course, Eclipse allowed, divorce from her family was what Comet had wanted, with overwhelming justification, but it was still a huge change in a great hurry.

Cloud was an enigma.  He’d actually been given his powers by a Lord of Eternity, the Screaming Skull himself, which spoke very highly of Cloud’s ethical standards.  He had to have done something extremely gifttrue, but apparently he didn’t know what he had done to earn the reward.  Why was he here?  He didn’t know that, either.

About George Phillies

science fiction author -- researcher in polymer dynamics -- collector of board wargames -- President, National Fantasy Fan Federation
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