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Authors: Dustland: The Justice Cycle (Book Two)

Tags: #Science Fiction, #Juvenile Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #General

Virginia Hamilton (10 page)

BOOK: Virginia Hamilton
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“Stupid worlmas,” Miacis muttered. She flicked and flung her ravishing tail.

The great Roller grew more huge; higher it went, and Miacis mewed at the sun. Only the whunk and splatter of worlma-balls seemed to disturb her.

“Dumb bunnies!” she whinned. “Dead or alive, you is worthless. I’m the boss of this city!”

So Miacis was. Wherever she sensed, high up, over the vastness of the Roller of Dustland, and by the power of her nearness to Star, she was indeed top dog.

8

J
USTICE SAT, STRICKEN WITH HORROR.
There on the ground was the form of Levi dissolving before her eyes. And Thomas—oh, that awful Thomas!—had tricked her with make-believe so advanced it was beyond imagining.

What she had believed was Levi had been close by her and Dorian for the whole time of Thomas’ escape. She had assumed he had been struck deeply by Thomas breaking free, but there had been no reason to doubt that Levi was still himself. Justice had even entered his mind. Of course, she had found that peculiar emptiness. But now she was shocked beyond belief to see him disappear.

At once she knew that Thomas had taken the real Levi with him. And, shuddering, she grieved at the thought of Levi hurt or dying in the wastes of Dustland.

What will Thomas do to him? she wondered. Why has he taken him?

She had a sinking feeling inside, realizing that Thomas’ power seemed to grow with every visit the unit made to the future.

Because he uses his power so often—that’s why he gets stronger?

She had cautioned Dorian and had, herself, refrained from exerting any more mind energy over things than was absolutely necessary, for fear of unknown effects. She didn’t believe what they might do here could change anything in the past.

How could it change anything, when no Miacis ever existed there, or Slakers either. But am I wrong to hold back the power now, when Thomas uses his to hurt his brother?

Still stunned, she couldn’t think clearly, could no longer judge. And she despaired at having let Thomas get away with Levi.

I’ve missed it all. I flat out missed what he was up to.

And that frightened her. Confused, she wanted to cry for help, but knew there was none here for her.

The winged humanoid stood, gaunt and shaken to see an image fade. Suddenly, in Justice’s tortured mind, she became sinister, evil. That innocent creature who had stumbled into Thomas’ cliff magic, only to bring the form of Levi abruptly to an end, Justice now blamed for everything.

“Get back from there!” She turned on the Slaker, giving the Bambnua, the Dustwalker, the brunt of her fearful rage.

“You! Get
away
from him, you awful thing!” Screaming like a child at the Terrij to move away from the place in the dust where Levi’s image had been.

Swiftly, Dorian telepathed soothing power to calm Justice.
Levi was never even there, you know that. The Terrij didn’t have anything to do with it.

Nothing he did could stop Justice. She sprang up. In an instant she was beside the Bambnua.

And swung at the towering being. Stiff-armed, Justice’s hands clasped into a fist, all of her might was behind the swing, like side-winding an ax to fell a tree. The force of the blow shook Justice. It knocked the creature off-balance.

An absolutely alien gleam came into the Slaker’s eyes.

Dimly, Justice knew she had not struck out with her hands. She had appeared to swing her arms. Yet, vaguely, she understood she had struck with her mind.

I have no arms here. I am thought alone.

She knew she shouldn’t have struck out at a being who had done her no harm. Her good sense returned. “I didn’t mean to. I’m so sorry!” choking out the words.

The Terrij staggered because of the suddenness of the attack. She had fallen to one knee to regain her balance. Now she got up again, without seeming to raise herself. Suddenly she was whirling around and around a few feet above the ground. Her unearthly wings were at half-span, but were still more than six feet across. The wings did not beat the air for the lift-up. They commenced a violent trembling. They somehow took hold of the air to shape it under the wingspread. The Terrij’s third leg acted as a coiled spring, bouncing her up off the ground.

Without warning, the Bambnua was in low-grade flight. She was first in one place, then in another, with no sequence of time in between. Seeing her place and place again, merely seeing her at once so alien and so human, was terrifying. And amazing.

Justice and Dorian had moved close together without realizing it. Now they clutched each other’s arms. They stared in awe at the Slaker, the Terrij, the Bambnua, Dustwalker.

It’s an angel,
Dorian traced when at last his thoughts could move again.
But I never thought an angel would be so huge.

It’s not an it at all. Don’t you remember?
traced Justice back.
She’s a she. And she can’t see us. That’s why she lifted off, to protect herself from what she can’t see.

Well, she saw Thomas’ image of Levi.

Sure,
traced Justice,
and the cliff, too. She can see the magic.

We aren’t here either, really,
traced Dorian.
But we can see ourselves, just like some illusion.

Well, I know,
she traced,
but our minds are real, aren’t they? She can’t see us, that woman being can’t, but she can sure
feel
us. She knows something is here. She felt me when I hit her, bet you she did. I’m sorry for that.

Know you didn’t mean it,
Dorian traced.

Yeah, but she doesn’t know that. She doesn’t know
what
hit her.

Justice let go of Dorian and moved a little away from him, closer to the Slaker. The Bambnua’s sub-flight carried her yards away from them.

“What are you going to do?” whispered Dorian.

“Don’t worry, you don’t have to talk so low,” Justice said calmly. “She can’t hear you.”

The Terrij hovered, searching the ground. Apparently, she saw and heard nothing.

I want her to know I’m waiting for her on this ground, Justice thought.

And wanted the Bambnua to comprehend that what was here that she couldn’t see would not harm her or her kind. That the presence wanted only to communicate with her.

Don’t know how I can get it across to her.

Deep down, Justice hoped to discover some key to Dustland. And find some meaning for her own driving need to know the future.

I am the Watcher.

The Watcher’s power was present. Justice walked toward the Dustwalker and within her was a vast quiet of watching.

Dorian knew to stay where he was unless he was summoned. He had seen the Watcher come into Justice’s eyes.

And Justice waited for the Terrij to grow calm, hoping the creature would wing to the ground on her own.

But the Bambnua continued to swoop about the air in shifts of momentum. Each change in the Dustwalker’s position appeared to take place in another dimension. What Justice and Dorian saw was the new location.

I am the Watcher.

She could not see any part of the Slaker’s maneuver to get to the next place.

She would have to move so fast that our slower eyes would miss the motion, Justice thought.

I am the Watcher.

It came to her that the Slaker was invisible for a split second each time.

Who’s to say what is the order of things here and now? Now would have to have its own order outside the physical laws we know. Perhaps they are laws that in our time were not uncovered.

I am the Watcher.

Why must this be
our
future? But if this is not
our
future, then whose is it? That creature’s. Miacis’.

Convinced that this was not the unit’s future. Yet it was the future of Dustland.

A
future, but not ours.

All at once Justice felt tired.

I am the Watcher.

It held her in Its whole observing. A wave of feeling rushed from her to curl around the Terrij. Its force of caring brought the creature to the ground. The Bambnua, Dustwalker, fought hard against it. She flapped mighty wings, until the weight of the Watcher’s knowing made them fall still.

The Watcher will not harm you.

Wavering motion. An enormous tremor of light and dark was the Watcher’s thinking, hugely magnified. Observing.

The terrified creature did at last settle down facing Justice and Dorian, even though she couldn’t see them. She was half-crouched on her three outlandish legs. Her wings were at full span, thus signaling that she would fly if ever she freed herself from the Watcher’s strength of knowing. Welts appeared on her forearms and her craggy face. The skin beneath her hollowed eyes swelled alarmingly. Membrane under her wings grew puffy as the creature contacted others by impulses that flowed out through the skin.

Presently the Watcher dimmed in Justice’s eyes.

She had come to a decision.
Dorian.

Dorian did not move, but he was ever alert to her. And knew not to anticipate what might happen next.

You will break contact with me right now, Dorian.

At once he did so. Without question, he broke off telepathic contact and cut off that sense he had of Justice which was with him at all times. She was protecting him from something, he realized. She being the Power, he would wait for her where he was.

She would now enter the mind of the Slaker, he decided. For there could be no other way to communicate with a being who only vaguely sensed their presence. Never had any one of them entered the mind singly of an unknown creature beyond their time. Justice had first probed Miacis’ mind while still part of the unit. Thomas had probed the worlmas, but they were a lower form. To enter the mind of an alien, obviously intelligent being without help from the unit would not be easy.

He settled back to wait out the time it would take Justice. He did not take his eyes off her.

She let the shades of her fear and worry lift from her. Sallow yellows and grays of her anxious moments drifted away. In their place streamed the summer white light of home. Much of her love was homeward. There was her family, her brothers, before any of them knew of their powers. There was her home town, its people and the quiet life. The accumulated hopes and nightmares of that place would make up a large part of who she was when and if she touched the mind of the Slaker.

She intended entering the flow of the Bambnua’s thoughts.

If I’m able to swim with her mind-currents, I’ll make contact. Try to at least, she thought. What if they are too beyond anything I’d imagine, what then? What if I have to get out of there fast? Then I wouldn’t dare make contact.

She sat cross-legged. Her robe was pulled tightly over her knees and tucked under her feet. The cowl covering her hair kept the dust from her face. Her hands, pressed firmly in her lap, were concealed in the robe sleeves.

Guess I need to see myself all dressed up like this.

A moment later she forgot about it. The Bambnua, the Dustwalker, had become almost calm for the first time since her discovery of Thomas’ make-believe cliff. Her third leg had contracted to the level of a stool. And now she actually sat on it. Her wings were folded around her and appeared as solid as armor. Oblong feathers glinted. Her face and head were not concealed. The head was bald, slightly pink, and wet-looking. The Bambnua turned it 180° left, then 180° to the right.

Justice watched with wonderment. Is it owls I’ve seen do that?

She decided it was a frantic movement the Dustwalker made with her head. Around and around the head went, left to right through 360°, as she searched for, sensed, energy she was unable to see. At last, when Justice sat utterly still, the Bambnua homed in on the place.

Justice felt the depth of the Terrij being’s glaucous eyes. The grayish-blue cast over the deep green irises was not non-human. It was somehow beyond human.

Scary, Justice thought, and no way to figure what her eyes mean gaping at me like that. Or even if they know how to mean. Well, why don’t I get
on
with it?

She was about to, but she was cautious and rightly so. She would wait five, ten minutes more. See what, if anything, the Bambnua would do through her staring.

We don’t know if she has some true power besides the way she calls her crew to her through her skin. We do know that time is changed when she moves. Is that it? And does she make the change? Or is it that no change takes place? No interval, I guess you would say.

Justice waited, hoping the Bambnua would jump closer to her, then back, so she could study the strange maneuver up close. But the Terrij did not move in that way. However, she did move.

I don’t believe it!

The creature’s chin appeared to collapse and fold under the upper jaw beneath the roof of her mouth. That left her nose, eyes and skull exposed, and her nose flattened in on itself. Next her entire head lowered itself onto the first few vertebrae of the neck.

Justice gaped, fascinated. Across from her was a thing that looked like an egg-shaped column of steel, and on top of it was this pale, damp, oval object with two green slits for eyes.

And like a turtle, too. And like an owl! But she’s human, Justice thought. Don’t you forget that. I wonder can she pivot her head when it’s down like that?
Is
it human? I mean, is she? I say she is as human as I am, but maybe she’s made wrong. Oh, I’d say she’s made very wrong, like everything else around here. Does she have the sense to know? And care to be something else than herself—like I once wanted to be one of my brothers! Or, if not that, to be a grown-up teenage girl? I’ll never be a teenager now. May come to look just like one someday, but I’ll never ever
be
one.

A flood of memories. A deep, inner sob.

What’s come over me? Justice frightened for a moment. Then she found the will to concentrate on the business before her. She stared at the Terrij, who still had her head retracted. She watched for another few minutes. Who could tell what else the Dustwalker was capable of?

Justice glanced around, saw Dorian yards away unmoving. The sight of him was not a comfort. She worried that something might happen to him while she was in mind-touch with the Slaker. What could she do? She did check to see whether more Slakers were at close range. She saw none and sensed that the others were still at a distance.

BOOK: Virginia Hamilton
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