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Science Fiction (General)
Action & Adventure
science fiction (general)
By David Christiansen
E-Book (available as PDF files)
About the Author
Genetically engineered to be tall, beautiful, and incredibly intelligent, Vena 412 was a perfectly ordinary Homo savanti until the day she met Johnny Robbins, an ordinary human from a long forgotten world. Now she must choose between forbidden love and the preservation of her own species as she gradually learns the horrible secrets of the Eden Project.
“You scared?” Johnny Robbins asked, stopping to look at his nephew David, who had stopped walking and was now staring back down the trail behind them. “Nah. I just like to look at the valley from up here. It seems so small.” The eight-year-old boy stretched out his arm and pointed. “See that little hut there on the edge?” “Yeah... it’s your house.” Smoke was drifting slowly upward from the chimney of the tiny wooden hut on the edge of the village. “I know that,” David said, his voice rising in a mildly exasperated way. “My mom was born in that house.” “You’re right--that was just after my dad built that hut.” Johnny sighed. He had been born in that hut too, six years after his sister Emily. “Look Uncle Johnny--someone’s using the outhouse.” Johnny looked, just in time to see a tiny figure step into the small covered box about fifty feet from the hut. “It looked like Michael,” Johnny said. “Yeah, he always poops in the morning.” Johnny laughed. David had a knack for making observations about people they would rather not have made. Johnny turned back up the trail and looked at the mountain in front of them. A giant crack down the peak pointed, like an arrow, to a dark spot just beyond the tree line. “The Mountain of the Fifth Son,” David said. His voice was small and fearful. “Yeah.” “You scared?” David said, grabbing Johnny’s hand and holding it. “A little.” “I don’t want you to go.” “I know. It’s hard to leave.” Johnny had already said goodbye to everyone else in his family. It would be hardest to part with David, his oldest nephew and one of the few boys in the village who understood what it meant to be a Fifth Son. Johnny started to walk back up the trail and David followed, taking two steps for every one of Johnny’s long strides. Johnny was glad for the delay David caused - he was in no hurry to reach his final destination, the gate of the Fifth Son, just two days journey from the trailhead. He and David would reach the trailhead by nightfall even as slow as they were progressing. “When it’s my turn to go, I’m going to have to leave all alone,” David said. “Maybe. You can pick any of the other Fifth Sons to be your escort.” “I know. But...” David stopped talking to pick up a stick near the edge of the trail. “But what?” “Well, I don’t want to have someone from the village. I think an escort should be a family member.” Johnny laughed. “Now you sound like your grandpa.” David puffed out his chest, and Johnny realized he was proud to sound like his grandfather. He should be, Johnny thought. There were few men worth emulating as much as his dad. Johnny ruffled David’s hair, and then looked back up the trail. “Race you to that rock,” he dared his fellow traveler. Without waiting for a signal to start the race, David was off, his pack swinging wildly as he ran, his bedroll bouncing up and down with every step. Johnny, caught off-guard, sprinted to catch up, and then he purposely fell behind to let the little boy win. Both of them collapsed on the rock, breathing fast and wiping sweat from their faces. “Beat ya,” David said between pants. “Yeah. You’re getting fast.” “I know. Grandpa’s been running me.” Johnny laughed. He knew the training David was receiving from his grandfather all too well - he had started the same training when he was eight. You must be prepared for whatever lies beyond that mountain. Johnny heard his father recite that phrase nearly every day since his eighth birthday. Stalking game, setting traps, carving bows, making arrows, building shelters, finding water, and hiding in rocks, trees, bushes, grass--all of these had been Johnny’s daily education, for as long as he could remember. Eleven years. That’s how long Johnny and his father had been training for this moment in Johnny’s life, when he would hike to the crack in the Mountain of the Fifth Son and leave the valley forever. “Have you started stalking game yet?” Johnny asked. “Sort of. We’re practicing stealthiness.” “Stealthiness? How do you practice that?” This particular lesson had been so long ago Johnny couldn’t remember it at all. “Grandpa takes me down to the corn fields, by the river, and we practice moving through the stalks without making any sounds.” “You mean those fields by the pond, in the oxbow?” “Yeah. The corn is just up to here on me.” David brought his hand, flat and level, to a few inches above his head. “Grandpa sits on the edge of the field and I try to sneak up on him, through the corn. If he hears me, he...” “Throws a rock at you. I remember now.” Johnny remembered the swish of long wide leaves against his shirt, the silky golden threads poking out of the corn husks, and the sudden pelt of a small pebble against his head. “Not rocks, silly. Acorns. They don’t hurt as bad.” Johnny thought for a moment. “Acorns?” “Yeah, from the big tree, where Grandma...” David’s voice trailed off. They buried David’s paternal grandmother at the base of the old tree only a year before, and everyone in the family was still too Tender to talk about it much. “Well, it was rocks when I was a kid. I guess Grandpa’s getting soft in his old age.” “Nah. He’s still the toughest man in town.” Johnny laughed. “And the smartest.” “Yeah. He’s the best grandpa ever.” Johnny smiled. David was right. Martin Robbins was the best dad or grandpa a boy could have wished for. “C’mon, David. Let’s get moving.” Johnny pushed himself off the rock and extended a hand to David, who grabbed it and pulled himself to his feet. “How far to the trail head?” David asked. “A couple of miles. We’ll be there before dark. We’ll camp at the base of the mountain.” “And then you’re going to leave,” David said, his voice once again small. “Yeah.” Johnny didn’t know what else to say. He didn’t want to leave any more than David did, even though David’s time was still many years away. They walked in silence after that, both boys occupied with their own thoughts. After about a half mile, the trail turned off the mountain ridge with its view of the valley and into a mountain forest, thick with tall pine trees. Dry red needles covered the ground, crunching and swishing as the boys stepped through them. The shade of the trees was a welcome relief to the boys after running in the hot sun on the ridge, but in spite of the coolness of the trees Johnny’s perspiration grew heavier. They were growing ever closer to the base of the mountain on the far edge of this wood. There they would camp for the night, and then they would say goodbye and Johnny would go on alone. Every step drew him closer to the last time he would ever see a member of his family, the last moment he would spend in the only world he had ever known. What would he find at the crack in the mountain? Was there a cave there that would take him beyond the impenetrable mountain range completely surrounding his home? And beyond that, what would Johnny find? What was the world like, beyond those mountains?
David Christiansen is a writer, programmer, entrepreneur, and father. He lives in Chicago with his wife, three kids, and a dog and cat that hate each other. When he's not arbitrating disputes between his two animals, bribing software bits to get along, or imagining up wild stories, he likes to wakeboard, work on his classic Beetle, and play with legos. You can find him on twitter as @aldos.
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