Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Chapter Twenty-eight

The field wasn't much different than the one they had landed in several hours earlier. The vegetation was about knee high. The field was level without any ditches or rocks or hills. Just a flat plain, not unlike a cultivated field, through the crops hadn't been planted in rows and from the tangle at the base of them, it didn't seem that anyone cared much about agriculture. The field had been leveled and that was all that Price could tell about it.

Off on the horizon there was a light band of pink that faded to gray and rose toward the zenith. If they had been on Earth, Price would have called it east... and since direction was an arbitrary designation, he decided that it was the east.

Coollege, who had been about five feet behind him, stepped closer and whispered. "Sun's going to rise."

"I can see."

"Looks like the trees are about a mile away. We're not going to make it before daylight."
"I don't think it matters," said Price.

Monier, still in the lead, had tossed away the walking stick. She was moving rapidly, her head down as she looked at the ground.

Price scanned the horizon. It was definitely brighter than it had been. The charcoal grays had brightened, lightening so that shapes were now visible. All he could see were bushs and trees. Nothing to suggest that the planet was inhabited.

Coollege was staying close now. "You don't think Rocky put us on the wrong planet, do you?"

"Rocky landed us right where we're supposed to be. That doesn't mean that somebody else didn't screw up."

"This is great." The trees were closer but they were also brighter. Price noticed that the leaves looked more like cotton candy that had been painted green and glued to the trunks. He was sure that he would see a split rail fence when the sun was finally up. But as they approached the other end of the field and the ground became lighter, it was obvious that there would be no fence.

Monier stopped just before she entered the trees. She turned and looked back at Price. He waved her forward and she disappeared.

"This is the strangest assignment I've ever had," said Coollege as they neared the trees.

"Search for an enemy that doesn't seem to exist," said Price.

"Long before we jumped into space," said Coollege, "we had filled our planet with cities, factories, and farms."

They entered the trees. Monier had stopped and was standing near a large bush covered with yellow flowers. She was covered in sweat and looked tired. "I think we need to rest."

Price nodded. "Let's take a couple of hours. Eat something. Get some sleep. You picking up anything?"

"Nothing at all."

"Strangest planet I've ever seen."

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