Chapter Four Pacific Isle
Cloud, Star, Comet and Aurora nibbled at their meal. Star had heated milk and oatmeal, browned toast, and fried ham and green tomatoes. The sound of breaking waves provided a gentle background for their conversation.
A rare consensus of the four indicated that more permanent quarters were wanted as soon as possible. That meant a new island. This one was too small, and mostly wave-washed in a major storm. They’d stayed here for a few days, preparing to deal with the Andesians. Cloud had slept in a sleeping bag on lawn furniture. Comet and Aurora had shared an air mattress and Comet’s oversize Ultra-R blanket. Star’s experiment with a hammock, ‘just like in a pirate ship’, proved abortive, Star soon announcing that it was impossible to sleep with your back bent in knots. They all agreed: This was not a place for a permanent base. In fact , it was not a great place to sleep, unless they were staying out of sight, so they would return to Pickering’s home this evening.
Aurora looked over her shoulder, listening to a silent voice. “Eclipse. She’ll be here any moment.”
True to Aurora’s words, the brilliant glissando of an unseen harpsichord announced Eclipse’s appearance in their midst. The older girl brushed snow from her cape and perched on a driftwood log.
“It didn’t work,” Eclipse announced wanly. “Not at all.” She told herself that she would not beg for a food, no matter how frigid Star’s cooking smelled.
“Where’s you go?” Star asked. “Someplace real cold. Pluto?”
“Antarctica. Not real cold. That’s only water snow.” She shivered and drew her cape around her shoulders.
“You got cold from Antarctica?” a disbelieving Cloud challenged.
“Cold enough.” She touched his face with the back of her hand. “This isn’t winter-weight garb. And I was there for hours.”
He jerked away. “You’re like ice!” he exclaimed.
“I tried something for you,” a downfaced Eclipse said. “I tried listening. I can’t listen hard near people. It’s too loud. So: Antarctica. I found a crevasse in the ice, out of the wind. I grounded everything, every gift to zero, and listened.”
“What did you hear?” Comet asked.
“Silence,” Eclipse answered. “Total mentalic silence. There must be no telepaths in the world now, anywhere but Tibet. And we already knew about them and the Andesians. Those people were loud. Before the change, when I did this I could hear all the ungifteds in the world and their mentalic whispering. From all the mentalic gifts I’d hear a background moan like bees in a hive. Here it’s quiet. Even the Currents of the Earth are stilled.”
“Currents of the Earth?” Cloud asked. “Ocean currents?”
“Mentalic currents,” Eclipse said quietly. “If you listen hard, mentalically, when it’s real quiet, the Earth sings tunes to itself, songs in scales that don’t exist any more. Songs of Atlanticea and Autumnlost, Tsolrin and Rome and Marik. The Earth sang to itself. Not now. It’s silent. I’m cold, I didn’t help you guys plan, and didn’t do anything that worked. I’m sorry.”
“You tried,” Star said. “We didn’t plan yet. We just finished breakfast. So you can help us.” He patted her on the shoulder. “It really was cold there! Your cape’s half-frozen.” A thoughtful pause. “There’s an extra cup if you’d like tea.”
“Please?” she asked.
“First we talk,” said Aurora. “All of us. There’s time. I’ll make Eclipse breakfast. She obviously hasn’t eaten, because you can’t listen hard if you eat first. Besides, Eclipse cooked for us at Alex’s.” Aurora wondered if Star would notice what she said. Boys were so entirely hintless.
“Janie,” Star protested. “You! Cook? Who are you trying to poison?” He shuddered and gestured at serving dishes. “There’s plenty for Eclipse. If she’ll eat my cooking.”
Eclipse flashed a grin at him.
“Hints,” Aurora announced, shifting her weight slightly to let Eclipse reach the food. “We’ve been here for weeks! Where are the hints?”
“Weren’t you collecting them, Aurora?” Cloud asked innocently. They were all details, after all. Collecting them had to be girl’s work.