, Science Fiction - General
, Fiction - Science Fiction
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, Political Fiction
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, Technology - Political aspects
kilometers anyway), but there was something very odd about this forest. In places it was
overgrown right down to the ground; in other places, it was nearly clear. Everywhere a
dense canopy of leaves and vines prevented anything more than fragmented views of the
sky. It reminded her of the scraggly second growth forests of Northern California, except
there was such a jumble of types: conifers, eucalyptus, even something that looked like
sickly manzanita. The air was very warm, and muggy. She rolled back the sleeves of her
The fire was barely audible now. This forest was so wet that it could not spread. Except
for the pain in her leg, Allison could almost believe she were in a park on some picnic. In
fact, they might be rescued by
picnickers before the Air Force arrived.
She heard Quiller's progress back toward her long before she could see him. When he
finally came into view, the pilot's expression was glum. He asked again about her injury.
"I — I think I'm fine. I pinched it shut and resprayed." She paused and returned his
somber look. "Only..."
"Only... to be honest, Angus, the crash did something to my memory. I don't remember a
thing from right after entry till we were on the ground. What went wrong anyway? Where
did we end up?"
Angus Quiller's face seemed frozen. Finally he said, "Allison, I think your memory is
fine — as good as mine, anyway. You see, I don't have any memory from someplace over
Northern California till the hull started busting up on the ground. In fact, I don't think
there was anything to remember."
"I think we were something like forty klicks up and then we were down on a planetary
surface — just like that." He snapped his fingers. "I think we've fallen into some damn
fantasy." Allison just stared at him, realizing that he was probably the more distressed of
the two of them. Quiller must have interpreted the look correctly. "Really, Allison, unless
you believe that we could have exactly the same amount of amnesia, then the only
explanation is... I mean one minute we're on a perfectly ordinary reconnaissance
operation, and the next we're... we're here, just like in a lot of movies I saw when I was a
"Parallel amnesia is still more believable than that, Angus."
If only I could figure out
where we are.
The pilot nodded. "Yes, but you didn't climb a tree and take a look around, Allison.
Plant life aside, this area looks vaguely like the California coast. We're boxed in by hills,
but in one direction I could see that the forests go down almost to the sea. And..."
"There's something out there on the coast, Allison. It's a mountain, a silver mountain
sticking kilometers into the sky. There's never been anything on Earth like that."
Now Allison began to feel the bedrock fear that was gnawing at Angus Quiller. For many
people, the completely inexplicable is worse than death. Allison was such a person. The
crash — even Fred's death — she could cope with. The amnesia explanation had been so
convenient. But now, almost half an hour had passed. There was no sign of aircraft, much
less of rescue. Allison found herself whispering, reciting all the crazy alternatives, "You
think we're in some kind of parallel world, or on the planet of another star-or in the
A future where alien invaders set their silvery castle-mountains down on the
Quiller shrugged, started to speak, seemed to think better of it — then finally burst out
with, "Allison, you know that... cross near the edge of the crater?"
"It was old, the stuff carved on it was badly weathered, but I could see... It had your
name on it and... and today's date."
Just the one cross, and just the one name. For a long while they were both silent.
It was April. The three travelers moved through the forest under a clear, clean sky. The
wind made the eucs and vines sway above them, sending down misty sprays of water.
But at the level of