The Alien Years
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It Was The Worst of Times...
Fifteen feet tall, the Entities land in cities across Earth. Ignoring humankind, they wall themselves in impenetrable enclaves, enslaving a few willing collaborators with their telepathic PUSH. Then they plunge humans into a new Dark Age without electricity, allowing us to live--but no longer as a dominant species.
But a few refuse to submit to fate, including the Carmichael family, whose patriarch, an aging colonel devoted to resistance, will inspire a daring new generation of dissidents. United in spirit, these diverse rebels--an aging hippie, a cold-blooded Muslim assassin, a prodigal son, and a renegade hacker--will carry on the colonel's legacy as they attempt to kill the mysterious Prime Entity and free the planet.
SEVEN YEARS FROM NOW
Carmichael might have been the only person west of the Rocky Mountains that morning who didn't know what was going-on. What was going on was the end of the world more or Iess, but Carmichael--his name was Myron,though everybody called him Mike--had been away for a while, reveling in a week of lovely solitude and inner retuning in the bleak beautiful wasteland that was northwestern New Mexico not paying close attention to current events.
On this crisp, clear autumn morning he had taken off long before dawn from a bumpy rural airstrip, heading westward homeward, in his little Cessna 104-FG The flight was rough and wild all the way, a fierce wind out of the heart of the continent pushing his plane around, giving it a scary clobbering practically from the moment he was aloft
That wasn't so good, the wind. An east wind as strong as this am, Carmichael knew, could mean trouble for coastal California--particularly at this time of year. It was law October, the height of Southern Californias brush-fire season The last time there had been rain along the coast was the fifth of April, sothe whole region was one big tinder-box, and this hard hot dry wind blowing out of the desert was capable of fanning any little spark it might encounter into a devastating conflagration of blowtorch ferocity. it happened just about every year. So he wasn't surprised to see a thin, blurry line of brown smoke far ahead of him on the horizon by the time he was in the vicinity of San Bernardino.
The line thickened and darkened as he came up over the crest of the San Gabriels irk-to Los Angeles proper, and there seemed to be lesser zones of brown sky-stain off to the north and south now, as well as that long east-west line somewhere out near the ocean. Evidently there were several fires at once. Perhaps a, little bigger than usual, too. That was scary. This time of year in Los Angeles, everything was always at risk. With a wind as strong as this blowing, the whole crazy town could go in one big firestorm.
The air traffic controller's voice sounded hoarse and ragged as he guided Carmichael toward his landing at Burbank Airport, which might have been an indication that something special was happening Those guys always sounded hoarse and ragged, though. Carmichael took a little comfort from that thought.He felt the smoke stabbing at his nostrils the moment he stepped out of the plane--the familiar old acrid stink, the sour prickly reek of a bad October. Another instant and his eyes were stinging You could almost draw pictures in the dirty air with the tip of your finger. This one must indeed be a lulu, Carmichael realized.
A long, skinny guy in mechanic's overalls went trotting past him on, the field. "Hey, guy," Carmichael called. "Where's it burning?".
The man stopped, gaped, gave him a strange look, a disbelieving blink, as though Carmichael had just come down from six months in a space satellite. "You don't know?
"If I knew, I wouldn't have asked."
"Hell, it's everywhere. Allover the goddamn LA basin."
The mechanic nodded. He looked half crazed. Again the sagging jaw, again that dopey bozo blink- "Wow, you actually mean to say you haven't heard about-"
"No. I haven't heard." Carmichael wanted to shake him. He ran into this kind of cloddish stupidity all the time, and he -hated it. He gestured impatiently toward the smoke-fouled sky. "Is it as bad as it looks?"
"Oh, it's bad, man, real bad! The worst ever, for damn ,sure. Like I say, burning all over the place. They've called every general aviation plane there is for firefighting duty You better get with your warden right away-"
Yeah," Carmichael said, already in motion. "I guess I'd better."He sprinted into the main airport building. People got out of his way as he ran through. Carmichael was a sturdily built man, not particularly tall but wide through the shoulders and deep through the chest, and like all the Carmichaels he had fierce blue eyes that seemed to cast a lightbefore him. When he moved fast, as he vas doing now, people got out of his way.
You could smell the bitter aroma of the smoke even in the terminal. The place was a madhouse of panicky commuters running back and forth and yelling at each other, waving briefcases around. Somehow Carmichael jostled his way to an open data terminal. It was, the old-fashioned kind, no newfangled biochip-implant stuff. He put a call through to the district warden on the emergency net, and the district warden said, as soon as he heard who was talking, "Get your assout here on the line double fast Mike.
"Where do you want me?"
Copyright © 1998 by Robert Silverberg
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