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. And they're so uninhibited' Celia just gaped at her. Veronica winked and
nodded. "Really. I'll tell you about it later, I'd better go."
"You bitch" Celia protested. "I want to hear about it now.'
Veronica laughed. 'You'll have to eat your heart out wondering. Take care.
I'll call you tonight."
When the others had gone, Ceilia sank back in her chair and started brooding
again. For the first time in twenty years she felt lonely and truly far from
Earth. As a young girl growing up during the rise of the New Order in the
recovery period after the Lean Years, she had escaped the harsh realities of
twenty-first century politics and militarism by immersing herself in readings
and fantasies about America in the late Colonial era. Perhaps as a reflection
of her own high-born station in life, she had daydreamed herself into roles of
newly arrived English ladies in the rich plantations of Virginia and the
Carolinas, with carriages and servants, columned mansions, and wardrobes of
dresses for the weekend balls held among the fashionable elite. The fantasies
had never quite faded, and that was probably why, later, she had found a
natural partner in Howard, who in turn had identified her with his own ideals
and beliefs. In her private thoughts in the years that had passed since, she
often wondered if perhaps she had seen the Mission to Chiron as a
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teryear.txt potential realization of long-forgotten girlhood dreams that could
never have come true on Earth.
Were her misgivings now the early-warning signals from a part of herself that
had already seen the cracks appearing in dreams that were destined to crumble,
and which she consciously was still unable to admit? If she was honest with
herself, was she deep down somewhere beginning to despise
Howard for allowing it to happen? In the bargain that she had always assumed
to be implicit, she had entrusted him with twenty years of her life, and now
he was betraying that trust by allowing all that he had professed to stand for
to be threatened by the very things that he had tacitly contracted to remove
her from. Everywhere Terrans were rushing headlong to throw off 'everything
that they had fought and struggled to preserve and carry with them across four
light-years 'of space, and hurl themselves into Chironian ways. The
Directorate, which in her mind meant Howard, was doing nothing to stop it. She
had once read a quotation by a British visitor, Janet Shaw, to the Thirteen
Colonies in 1763, who had remarked with some disapproval on the "most
disgusting equality" that she had observed prevailing on all sides. It suited
the present situation well.
She swallowed as she traced through her thoughts and, checked herself. She was
rationalizing or hiding something from herself, she knew. Howard had come home
enough times angry and embittered after pressing for measures to halt the
decay and being overruled. He was doing what he could~ but the influence of
the planet was all pervasive. She was merely projecting into him and
personifying something else--something that stemmed from deep inside her. Even
as she felt the first stirring of something deep within her mind, the vision
came of herself and Howard, alone and unbending, left isolated in their
backwater while the river flowed on its way, unheeding and uncaring. After
twenty years, nothing lay ahead but emptiness and oblivion. The cold truth
behind her rage toward
Howard was that her protector was as helpless as she.
Now she knew why Earth seemed so far away. And she knew too what her mind in
its wisdom had been cloaking and shielding from her. It was fear.
Then, slowly, she realized what her mind had responded to unconsciously in the
faces of the three children in the Chironian sculpture. The artist had been
not merely an expert, but a master.
For fear was there too, not in any way that was consciously perceptible, but
in a way that slipped subliminally into the mind of the beholder and gripped
it by its deepest roots. That was why she had felt disturbed all the way back
from Franklin. But there was still something else. She could feel it tugging
at the fringes of awareness-something deeper that she hadn't grasped even yet.
She turned her eyes to the sculpture again.
And as she gazed, she discovered what the children were awaiting as it loomed [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]