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"We are so out of here!" Marco grabbed my arm. "There is no reason - NO REASON - for
us to hang around. Do you hear me Jake!"
I shook off Marco's hand. "I hear you. And if you don't lower your voice, the entire
Nartec people will hear you, too. Ax? Cassie?"
"I'm with Marco," Cassie whispered.
"I'm not happy about bailing without having found the visser," I said grimly. "Or
destroying the Sea Blade. Queen Psycho may have delusions, but she could still do a
lot of damage with the Sea Blade."
attacks on Earth's coastal cities. However, eventually human defenses would be able
to crush it by sheer weight of numbers.>
"Cool. So we leave it to the navy, and we book out of this nightmare," Marco said.
But then I saw his eyes cloud. He looked disturbed.
"What?" I asked him.
"I was holding a mug from an old Soviet nuclear sub. They may have more than Dracon
beams to play with."
"You don't think the missiles survived?" Cassie demanded. "Aren't they protected
with all kinds of computer codes and so on?"
Marco nodded. "Yeah. Absolutely. And the Nartec probably can't beat the security
Probability is not certainty,> Ax said grimly.
"Great. So Queen Psycho maybe has nukes. Wonderful."
"And what about Tobias?" Rachel demanded. "We're going to leave without him?"
I shook my head. "No."
"That's your decision? We stay?" Marco asked.
"I could put it to a vote," I said with a smile for my old friend.
Marco shook his head. "I'll follow you, Big Guy."
"Okay. Look, we have the run of the place. So,
A) we find Tobias, B) we destroy the Sea Blade. And
C) - we haul our soggy butts out of here and lorget this lunatic asylum even
exists?" Marco inlorrupted.
"Got that right," I said.
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36 - The Mutation
"What's your take, Ax?"
Ax looked up from the pile of books and ledgers on the scarred wooden table in front
of him.
We'd continued our tour in the palace's library. If you asked me, the most
interesting room in the palace.
I don't think of myself as narrow-minded. But I was still waiting to discover one of
the "wonders" of Nartec civilization.
Human mummies - especially those made from the bodies of prisoners and slaves - are
not my idea of high culture.
Neither are hidden torture chambers or room
after room of scavenged, mostly decrepit stuff, randomly piled and stacked
But the library. A place filled floor to ceiling with shelves. Those shelves |jned
with documents made of some vegetable material. Pounded. Woven, maybe, into sheets
of "paper."
Pages bound together by some tough and stringy substance. Marked Wjth what Marco
jokingly guessed to be the ink Of giant squid.
Who knew? Maybe he Was right.
In addition though to these mostly indecipherable Nartec scrolls were thousands of
waterstained human books in every imaginable human language: ships' logs, nove|Si
|jsts, atlases, maps, and charts. Everything that might have sunk with a ship or
been thrown over the side in centuries.
Naca, our own private watchdog, escorted us to the large room and stood at attention
just inside the door.
We weren't trusted not to attempt to escape. But we had been trusted with the
Nartec's plan to conquer Earth with the Sea Blade. And now we were trusted with the
Nartec's entjre written history.
What did information rnatter to prisoners who were going to die before they could
tell tales?
But the flip side of the coin was.- Why waste time? Why not kill us right away? why
make nice?
originated on the Surface - that is, on planet Earth - and given the Nartec's
apparently accelerated rate of adaptation to this underwater environment - an
acceleration confirmed here in these ancient but remarkably well-preserved and
annually updated population records . . . >
"Like births, deaths, plagues, natural disasters?" Cassie asked.
Ax confirmed.
generation's physiological and biological evolution - or devolution - from a
land-dwelling mammal to a cornpletely amphibious creature.>
"Devolution?" Rachel glanced over her shoulder and gave Naca a falsely bright smile.
"What do you mean by that?" she asked tensely, turning back.
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36 - The Mutation
my own documentation . . . >
Ax straightened his shoulders in a way that made it clear dealing with
lowly humans was a sacrifice for a lofty Andalite.
Especially an Andalite who'd been referred to as a pet.
They are profoundly inbred. As I believe humans know, insufficient variety in the
gene pool can lead to deterioration over time. The Nartec population is dropping.
Fertility is dropping. Infant mortality from birth defects is rising. Life spans are
"You mean they're on the brink of extinction?" Cassie whispered.
rates of mutation. But now the destructive mutations are beginning to pile up. And
they have insufficient sources of new genetic materials
"Why?" I asked.
Cassie had the answer. "Fewer ships sinking. They must have been breeding with
limited numbers of surface humans, survivors of sinking ships."
Ax nodded.
stock would no doubt have resulted in a relatively large number of Nartec born
without their unique adaptations: gills and webbed feet.>
"So their dreams of conquering Earth are -"
"How horrible," Cassie said. "An entire people - gone."
"Oh, yeah, I'm weeping over here." Marco
snorted. "These people are planning to mummify us. After killing us. And if those
Hork-Bajir screams are any indication, after torturing us. As far as I'm concerned,"
Marco added, "the Nartec can just devolve to extinction right now."
Cassie coughed and looked embarrassed. "Actually, Marco, they may try to breed with
us first. Or at least extract our DNA, if that's possible with their technology."
"Marco may finally get a girlfriend," Rachel said with a laugh. "Of course she'll
have gills . . ."
I grimaced. "Look, we've got an immediate threat here. The Nartec have captured the
Sea Blade. We can't let them take it to the surface."
"Which means?"
"Which means," I went on, gently closing one of the old books on the table, "that we
have to either destroy the Sea Blade right where it is or steal it from the Nartec.
Use it to get out. Then destroy it."
"How are we going to destroy it at the dock?" Marco hissed. "It's sitting right out
in the open. Right in front of a palace filled with armed soldiers."
Rachel said, "We slip away from this Naca guy - knock him out first if we have to -
morph and ... "
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36 - The Mutation
"And what?" Cassie shook her head. "What's a grizzly going to do to a ship the size
of the Sea
Blade? Even if we sink it the Nartec could probably raise it and repair it. These
are people who manage to drag entire supertankers across two oceans."
"Cassie's right," I said. "Our only choice is to steal the visser's ship. Get it
away from the Nartec. Destroy it later using the ship's own weapons."
I nodded.
"Why do I know this is something I don't want to hear?" Marco said.
aboard the Sea Blade?>
I nodded. "Oh, yeah, Ax. It's occurred to me."
"This area surrounding the palace is inhabited by those Nartec of better families," [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]