City of Ruins
    “Yes. After epiphany, he said transformation
follows. And with transformation, with profound change, comes
action. Meanwhile, as we ran into the dark, away from our pursuers,
Mr. Howe panted out additional explications to my friend Eli, about
the human contagion slow pox. He noted that while the disease was
indeed real, the outbreaks were something controlled by human
security forces.”
    “Whoever wields true power among them.
Apparently, their grand experiment was to make everyone believe there was a disease outbreak, in order to practice a
kind of herding, or crowd control.
    The humans’ leaders deliberately controlled
one of their own sicknesses? Toward what end?
    “Eli queried similarly, feeling not only shunt-crkked , but angry too. Mr. Howe had dissembled, shll-pkkt , lied to him, Eli was saying, when sending him
away from his nest. Mr. Howe tried to reason that Eli’s family was
already broken apart — his nest-ma’am, his mother, having
disappeared before he ever became a time voyager. And then my
friend did something very un-Eli-like: he jumped at Mr. Howe and
tried to choke him.
    “This had the effect of knocking the light
stick out of Mr. Howe’s hand, causing it to skitter away, leaving
my friends in the dark.
    “‘No!’ I chirped loudly. I believe it was the
first time I had ever reprimanded my friend, a privilege normally
reserved for elders, teachers, and nest-parents back on Saurius
Prime. But we were being pursued. And this was hardly the time for
him to wage a private Bloody Tendon war of his own.
    “Mr. Howe was insisting that everyone,
including him, had been shll-pkkt , lied to, by somebody
else, usually someone above them in the human chain of command.
Lying fascinates me — it’s so rare on Saurius Prime that shll-pkkt is considered an archaic, seldom-used word. Yet
here it seems a common mammal propensity to make things up that
aren’t true, deliberately altering facts for one’s own benefit or
    Some mammals…
    “I repeat that I am open to all new data,
once I am free to make additional studies. Though my experiences in
the field indicate you may be right. But on Saurius Prime, facts
are kd-fmn , solid as the ground. You don’t change them for
your own good. You can’t. Despite the ultimate unknowability, the
opaque srz-bnt of things — that single great mystery where
facts and science often lead — you just cannot. Because there is a
common place, a common knowledge, between us, that cannot be
unilaterally altered for individual gain.
    “Meanwhile, I hop-trekked down the tunnel,
where Mr. Howe had dropped his portable beam after my mammal
companions had raised their limbs, after hearing the words Don’t
    “Though our pursuers had many small lights of
their own, I knew they could not see well in the dark. Not as well
as a Saurian.”
    Or other types of animal folk.
    “You make me thirst for new research. There
is still so much to learn about Earth Orange. However, in the dark,
I knew I could use humans’ limited seeing to a quick advantage, and
turned Mr. Howe’s light on myself. ‘Slaversaur!’ I trebled, to keep
their interest high in chasing me. I turned and ran into the
darkness. And ran some more. I could hear my pursuers yelling,
using frk words — forbidden language — every time they
tripped and stumbled. Which was often, due to their limited night
    “But I was limited too, since I didn’t know
where I was. I decided to trust my sense of smell.”
    That’s a good sense to trust.
    “Yes. I went deeper into the tunnels,
following the old rail line, toward the smell and sound of
    “I eventually came to the tunnel’s end: a
mass of debris, and rock, and tangled rail. That’s why these
passageways had been abandoned — some earlier calamity left them
unused, and thus free to be colonized by the government of Eli’s
time, converting them to a locus with a secret purpose.

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