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"And our weapons?"
"I'll find them. Do not fear."
"When and where?"
"Not here. You must trust me, Mildred. Be pa-tient. Please."
Nefron's dark eyes widened in a silent plea. Mil-dred felt compelled to step
aside, and the woman swept past her. As she did so, she whispered, "Go back
the way you came and report to Mimses.
Mildred had retraced half of her steps before she realized she had done it.
She found Mimses's hall again without too much difficulty, wondering again at
the absence of sentries posting along the corridors. Unlike the afternoon
be-fore, the black man was dressed in a flowing blue robe, an outfit she
assumed was his robe of office.
He stood at the balustrade of the terrace and, when she entered, he beckoned
for her to join him there.
"Did you spend a pleasant evening?" he asked, not looking at her.
"No," she answered.
"Good. If you had, Grandmother would be se-verely punished. As it is, if the
decision was up to me, I'd have you and your scavenger friends staked out in
the desert atop a bed of cactus."
An obscenely witty remark popped into her head, but she kept it from passing
her lips.
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Mimses turned, his eyes drifting up and down her body. "Do you know how Aten
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"I'll spell it out for you, brown sugar. It's divided into classes, but we
don't observe strict distinctions. We're not numerous enough for that. There's
only a handful of what you might call royal insiders. I'm at the top of the
heap since
Osorkon lost his brain and took off."
The man's lips moved in his characteristically vulpine smile. "Life in Aten is
The system is smooth, except for a little spot of bother a year or so ago.
Everybody has obligations and duties to dis-charge to the kingdom. All they
have to do is dis-charge them and they earn privileges. You know what the
first privilege you'll earn will be?"
She shook her head.
Mimses grabbed her by the upper arms and pulled her hard against him. She
splayed out her hands on his chest, first trying to push him away, then
relax-ing into his arms. He closed a hand over her left breast, fingers
kneading it through the thin leather covering. Into her ear, he crooned, "You
get to let me fuck you."
She was careful to keep her face an expression-less, bland mask. Mimses
snorted out a laugh at her lack of response and released her, leaning back on
the terrace railing.
"But not for a while yet, brown sugar. You've got to prove you're worthy. Now,
get to the kitchen. It's past time for my breakfast."
She turned, and he gave her a swat on the rear to inspire her to pick up her
She said not a word. Mildred wasn't moved by the threat of sexual
She was too angry, too consumed by the desire to murder the man with her bare
She was also too pleased with herself to speak, for fear of betraying her
small triumph. She kept her hand closed tight around the metal ankh she had
slipped from the delicate chain on Mimses's neck.
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DOCS FIRST DAY of servitude was, by and large, a bore. He had expected to feel
the bite of an overseers whip on his back or shackles to be welded to his
ankles and all sorts of humiliating abuse. His long tenure as slave and court
jester in Jordan Teague's vulgar little empire of Mocsin was still fresh in
his memory and gave him an occasional nightmare.
Assigned to a maintenance detail, he followed a crew of four into a covered
shed at the far side of the compound. Within were a number of the
solar-powered chariots in various states of disrepair. His job was to help
repair them, and so he did.
The first chariot he turned his attention upon had a burned-out wheel bearing,
and under the helpful directions of his fellow workers, he rebuilt it by
melting down the original in a small smelter and recasting it in a mold.
During the morning hours, he worked quickly and efficiently with a minimum of
conversation. Only one man tried to engage him in small talk, an old gnarled
fellow who looked to be his age or a trifle older. His name was Nasaris. His
thin white hair was arranged in several looping braids over his brown scalp.
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His smile was friendly. "Looks like we're the only snow-tops here."
Doc nodded a silent, smiling affirmative.
Nasaris touched one of his braids. "You know, for safety's sake, you ought to
do your hair like mine. You don't want to get it tangled up in an axle or
something and have yourself snatched bald. Al-most happened to me once."
One of the other men overheard the comment and laughed. "Funny as hell, too."
"That's 'cause it didn't happen to you, Zophren!" Nasaris snapped. "I'm trying
to give our new pal here a little safety tip don't need to have you butting
in." [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]