Nightfall - Page 25


Chapter Twenty-Five

"Have you forgotten the Apostles so soon? Mondior, telling us for months that what was going to happen was the vengeance of the gods? The priests are the voice of the gods, isn't that so, Siferra? And if they led us into evil, so that we needed to be punished this way, why, the priests themselves must be responsible for the coming of the Stars. Or so people would think."


"The Apostles!" Siferra said darkly. "I wish I could forget them. What do you think they're doing now?"


"Came through the eclipse safe and sound in their tower, I suppose."


"Yes. They must have made it through the night in good shape, prepared for it as they were. What was it Altinol said? That they were already operating a government on the north side of Saro City?"


Theremon stared gloomily at the devastated church across the way. Tonelessly he said, "I just can imagine what sort of government that will be. Virtue by decree. Mondior issuing new commandments of morality every Onos Day. All forms of pleasure prohibited by law. Weekly public executions of the sinful." He spat into the wind. "By Darkness! To think I had Folimun right within my reach that evening and let him go, when I could so easily have throttled him-"


"Theremon!"


"I know. What good would it have done? One Apostle, more or less? Let him live. Let them set up their government, and tell everyone who's unlucky enough to live north of Saro City what to do and what to think. Why should we care? We're heading south, aren't we? What the Apostles do won't affect us. They'll be just one of fifty rival squabbling governments, when things have a chance to settle down. One of five thousand, maybe. Every district will have its own dictator, its own emperor." Theremon's voice darkened suddenly. "Oh, Siferra, Siferra-"


She took his hand. Quietly she said, "You're accusing yourself again, aren't you?"


"How did you know that?"


"When you get yourself so worked up. -Theremon, I tell you you're not guilty of anything! This would have happened no matter what you wrote in the paper, can't you see? One man alone couldn't have made any difference. This is something the world was destined to go through, something that couldn't have been prevented, something-"


"Destined?" he said sharply. "What a weird word for you to use! The vengeance of the gods, is that what you mean?"


"I didn't say anything about gods. I mean only that Kalgash Two was, destined to come, not by the gods but simply by the laws of astronomy, and the eclipse was destined to happen, and Nightfall, and the Stars-"


"Yes," Theremon said indifferently. "I suppose."


They walked onward, through a stretch of road where very few cars had come to rest. Onos was down now, and the evening suns were out, Sitha and Tano and Dovim. A chilly wind blew from the west. Theremon felt the dull ache of hunger rising in him. They had not taken time to eat all day. Now they halted, camping between two crumpled cars, and unpacked some of the packages of dried food they had brought with them from the Sanctuary.


But, hungry as he was, he found that he had little appetite, and he had to force the meal down mouthful by mouthful. The rigid faces of corpses were staring at him from the nearby cars. While he was on the move he had been able to ignore them; but now, sitting here on what had once been Saro Province's finest highway, he could not screen the sight of them from his mind. There were moments when he felt that he had murdered them all himself.


They built a bed from seat-cushions that had been thrown from colliding cars, and slept close together, a fitful scattered sleep, which could not have been much worse had they tried to sleep on the hard concrete roadbed itself.


During the evening came shouts, hoarse laughter, the distant sound of singing. Theremon awoke once and peered over the edge of the elevated highway, and saw distant campfires in a field down there, perhaps twenty minutes' march off to the east. Did anyone ever sleep under a roof any more? Or had the impact of the Stars been so universal, he wondered, that the whole population of the world had turned itself out of house and home, to camp in the open as he and Siferra were doing, beneath the familiar light of the eternal suns?


Toward dawn he finally dozed. But hardly had he fallen asleep when Onos came up, pink and then golden in the east, pulling him out of fragmentary, terrifying dreams.


Siferra was already awake. Her face was pale, her eyes were reddened and puffy.


He managed a smile. "You look beautiful," he told her.


"Oh, this is nothing," she said. "You ought to see me when I've gone without washing for two weeks."


"But I meant-"


"I know what you meant," she said. "I think."


That day they covered four miles, and it was difficult going for them, every step of the way.


"We need water," Siferra said, as the afternoon wind began to rise. "We'll have to take the next exit ramp we see, and try to find a spring."


"Yes," he said. "I guess we'll have to."


Theremon felt uneasy about descending. Since the beginning of the journey they had had the highway virtually to themselves; and by now he had come to feel almost at home, in a strange sort of way, amid the tangle of crushed and ruined vehicles. Down there, in the open fields where the bands of refugees were moving-Odd, he thought, bow I call them refugees, as though I'm simply off on some sort of holiday myself-there was no telling what sort of trouble they would get into.


But Siferra was right. They had to go down and find water. The supply that they had brought with them was all but exhausted. And perhaps they needed some time away from the hellish unending strip of demolished cars and stiff, staring corpses before they resumed their march toward Amgando.


He pointed to a road-sign a short way in front of them. "Half a mile to the next exit."


"We should be able to get there in an hour."


"Less," he said. "The road looks pretty clear up ahead. We'll get ourselves down from the highway and do what we need to do, as fast as we can, and then we'd better get back up here to sleep. It's safer to bed down out of sight between a couple of these cars than to take our chances in the open fields."


Siferra saw the logic of that. In this relatively uncluttered stretch of the road they moved quickly toward the upcoming exit ramp, traveling faster than they had in covering any previous section of the highway. In hardly any time at all they came to the next road-sign, the one that gave quarter-mile warning of the exit.


But then their rapid progress was sharply checked. They found the roadbed blocked at that point by so immense a pileup of crashed cars that Theremon feared for a moment that they would not be able to get through at all.


There must have been some truly monstrous series of crashes here, something dreadful even by the standards of what he and Siferra had already passed through. Two huge transport trucks seemed to be in the middle of it, interlocked face to face like two warring beasts of the jungle; and it appeared that dozens of passenger cars had come barreling into them, flipping up on end, falling back on those who followed them, building a gigantic barrier that reached from one side of the road to the other and outward over the railings at the road's margins. Crumpled doors and fenders, sharp as blades, stuck out everywhere, and acres of broken glass set up a sinister tinkling as the wind played over it.


"Here," Theremon called. "I think I see a way-up through this opening, and then over the left-hand truck-no, no, that won't work, we'll have to go under-"


Siferra came up alongside him. He showed her the problem -a cluster of up-ended cars waiting for them on the far side, like a field of upturned knives-and she nodded. They went underneath instead, a slow, dirty, painful crawl through shards of glass and clotted pools of fuel. Midway through they paused to rest before continuing through to the far side of the pileup.


Theremon was the first to emerge.


"Gods!" he muttered, staring in bewilderment at the scene that lay before him. "What now?"


The road was open for perhaps fifty feet on the far side of the great mass of wreckage. Beyond the clear space a second roadblock lay across the highway from one side to the other. This one, though, had been deliberately constructed-a heap of car doors and wheels neatly piled on the roadbed to a height of eight or nine feet.


In front of the barricade Theremon saw some two dozen people, who had set up a campsite right on the highway. He had been so intent on getting through the tangle of wreckage that he had paid no attention to anything else, and so he had not heard the sounds from the other side.


Siferra came crawling out beside him. He heard her gasp of surprise and shock.


"Keep your hand on your needler," Theremon said quietly to her. "But don't pull it out and don't even think of trying to use it. There are too many of them."


A few of the strangers were sauntering up the road toward them now, six or seven brawny-looking men. Theremon, motionless, watched them come. He knew that there was no turning back from this encounter-no hope of escape through that maze of knife-sharp wreckage through which they had just wriggled. He and Siferra were trapped in this clearing between the two roadblocks. All they could do was wait to see what happened next, and hope that these people were reasonably sane.


A tall, slouch-shouldered, cold-eyed man came unhurriedly up to Theremon until they were standing virtually nose to nose, and said, "All right, fellow. This is a Search station." He put a peculiar emphasis on the word Search.


"Search station?" Theremon repeated coolly. "And what is it that you're searching for?"


"Don't get wise with me or you'll find yourself going over the edge head first. You know damned well what we're searching for. Don't make trouble for yourself."


He gestured to the others. They moved in close, patting Theremon's clothes and Siferra's. Angrily Theremon pushed the questing hands away.


"Let us pass," he said tightly.


"Nobody goes through here without Search."


"By whose authority?"


"By my authority. You going to let us, or we going to have to make you?"


"Theremon-" Siferra whispered uneasily.


He shook her off. Rage was rising in him.


Reason told him that it was folly to try to resist, that they were badly outnumbered, that the tall man wasn't fooling around when he said there'd be trouble for them if they refused to submit to the search.


These people didn't exactly seem to be bandits. There was something official-sounding about the tall man's words, as though this were some kind of boundary, a customs station, perhaps. What were they searching for? Food? Weapons? Would these men try to take the needle-guns from them? Better to give them everything they were carrying, Theremon told himself, than to be killed in a vain and foolishly heroic attempt at maintaining their freedom of passage.


But still-to be manhandled like this-to be forced to submit, on a free public highway- And they couldn't afford to give up the needle-guns, or their food supply. It was still hundreds of miles to Amgando.


"I warn you," the tall man began.


"And I warn you, keep your hands away from me. I'm a citizen of the Federal Republic of Saro and this is still a road freely open to all citizens, no matter what else has happened. You have no authority over me."


"He sounds like a professor," one of the other men said, laughing. "Making speeches about his rights, and all."


The tall man shrugged. "We've already got our professor here. We don't need any more. And this is about enough talk. Grab them and put them through Search. Top to bottom."


"Let-go--of-me-"


A hand clutched at Theremon's arm. He brought his fist up quickly and jammed it forward into someone's ribs. This all seemed very familiar to him: another scuffle, another beating in store for him. But he was determined to fight. An instant later someone hit him in the face and another man caught him by the elbow, and he heard Siferra cry out in fury and fear. He tried to pull free, hit someone again, was hit again himself, ducked, swung, took a sharp stinging blow in the face- "Hey, wait a second!" a new voice called. "Hold on! Butella, get away from that man! Fridnor! Talpin! Let go of him!" A familiar voice.


But whose?


The Searchers stepped back. Theremon, swaying a little, struggled to keep his balance as he looked at the newcomer.


A slender, wiry, intelligent-looking man, grinning at him, keen bright eyes peering out of a dirt-stained face- Someone he knew, yes.


"Beenay!"


"Theremon! Siferra!"


In a moment everything was changed. Beenay led Theremon and Siferra to a surprisingly cozy-looking little nest just on the far side of the roadblock: cushions, curtains, a row of canisters that appeared to contain foodstuffs. A slim young woman was lying there, her left leg swathed in bandages. She looked weak and feverish, but she flashed a brief faint smile as the others entered.


Beenay said, "You remember Raissta 717, don't you, Theremon? Raissta, this is Siferra 89, of the Department of Archaeology. I told you about her-her discovery of previous episodes of city-burning in the remote past. -Raissta is my contractmate," he said to Siferra.


Theremon had met Raissta a few times over the past couple of years, in the course of his friendship with Beenay. But that had been in another era, in a world that was dead and vanished now. He could barely recognize her. He remembered her as a slender, pleasant-looking, nicely dressed woman who seemed always well groomed, always agreeably turned out. But now- now! This gaunt, frail, haggard girl-this hollow-eyed stringyhaired ghost of the Raissta he had known-!


Had it really been only a few weeks since Nightfall? It seemed like years ago, suddenly. It seemed like eons-several geological epochs ago Beenay said, "I have a little brandy here, Theremon." Theremon's eyes widened. "Are you serious? Do you know how long it's been since I've had a drink? -How ironic, Beenay. You, the teetotaler who I had to coax into taking his first sip of a Tano Special-you've got the last bottle of brandy in the world hidden away here with you!"


"Siferra?" Beenay asked.


"Please. Just a little."


"Just a little is all we have." He poured three thimble-sized drinks for them.


Theremon said, as the brandy began to warm him, "Beenay, what's going on out there? This Search business?"


"You don't know about Search?"


"Not a thing."


"Where have you two been since Nightfall?"


"In the forest, mostly. Then Siferra found me after some hoodlums beat me up, and took me to the university Sanctuary while I recovered from what they did to me. And for the past couple of days we've been trekking down the highway here, hoping to get to Amgando."


"So you know about Amgando, do you?"


"By way of you, at one remove," Theremon said. "I ran into Sheerin in the forest. He was at the Sanctuary right after you must have left it, and he saw your note about Amgando. He told me, I told Siferra. And we set out together to go there."


"With Sheerin?" Beenay asked. "Where is he, then?"


"He isn't with us. He and I split up days ago-he went off to Amgando by himself, and I stayed in Saro to look for Siferra. I don't know what happened to him. -Do you think I could have another little nip of this brandy, Beenay? If you could spare it. And you were starting to tell me about Search."


Beenay poured a second small drink for Theremon. He looked toward Siferra, who shook her head.


Then he said uneasily, "If Sheerin was traveling alone, he's probably in trouble, probably very serious trouble. He certainly hasn't come this way since I've been here, and the Great Southern Highway is the only route out of Saro that anybody could take if he hoped to get to Amgando. We'll have to send out a scouting party to look for him. -As for Search, it's one of the new things that people do. This is an official Search station. There's one at the beginning of every province that the Great Southern Highway runs through."


"We're only a few miles from Saro City," Theremon said. "This is still Saro Province, Beenay."


"Not any more. All the old provincial governments have disappeared. What's left of Saro City's been divided up-I hear that the Apostles of Flame have one big chunk of it, over on the far side of town, and the area around the forest and the university is under the control of somebody named Altinol, who's operating a quasi-military group that calls itself the Fire Patrol. Perhaps you've run into them."


Siferra said, "I was an officer in the Fire Patrol for a few days. This green neckerchief I'm wearing is their official badge of office."


Beenay said, "Then you know what's happened. Fragmentation of the old system-a million petty governmental units springing up like mushrooms everywhere. What you're in now is Restoration Province. It runs from here down the highway about seven miles. When you get to the next Search station, you're in Six Suns Province. Beyond that is Godland, and then Daylight, and after that-well, I forget. They change every few days, anyway, as people wander on to other places."


"And Search?" Theremon prompted.


"The new paranoia. Everyone's afraid of fire-starters. You know what they are? Crazies who thought that what happened at Nightfall was a load of fun. They go around burning things down. I understand that a third of Saro City burned down the night of the eclipse, just from people's panicky wild attempts to drive away the Stars, but that another third of it has been destroyed since then, even though the Stars are long gone again. A sick business, that is. So the people who are more or less intact of mind-you're among some now, in case you were wondering-are searching everyone for fire-lighting equipment. It's forbidden to possess matches, or mechanical lighters, or needleguns, or anything else capable of-"


"The same thing's going on on the outskirts of the city," Siferra said. "That's what the Fire Patrol is all about. Altinol and his people have set themselves up as the only people in Saro who are allowed to use fire."


"And I was attacked in the forest while I was trying to cook a meal for myself," said Theremon. "I suppose they were Searchers too. I'd have been beaten to death if Siferra and her Patrol hadn't come along to rescue me in the nick of time, pretty much the same way you did just now."


"Well," Beenay said, "I don't know who you ran into in the forest. But Search is the formal ritual down here to deal with the same problem. It goes on everywhere, everybody searching everybody else, never any let-up. Suspicion is universal: nobody's exempt. It's like a fever-a fever of fear. Only little elites, like Altinol's Fire Patrol, can carry combustibles. At every border you have to surrender your fire-making apparatus to the authorities, such as they may happen to be at the moment.


You might as well leave those needle-guns here with me, Theremon. You'll never get to Amgando with them."


"We'll never get there without them," Theremon said.


Beenay shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. But you won't be able to avoid surrendering them as you continue south. The next time you hit Search, you know, I won't be there to call off the Search force."


Theremon considered that.


"How is it that you were able to make them listen to you, anyway?" he asked. "Or are you the head Searcher here?"


With a laugh Beenay said, "The head Searcher? Hardly. But they respect me. I'm their official professor, you see. There are places where university people are loathed, do you know that? Killed on sight by mobs of crazies, because the crazies think we caused the eclipse and are getting ready to cause another one. But not here. Here I'm considered useful for my intelligence- I can compose diplomatic messages to adjoining provinces, I've got ideas about how to take broken things and make them work again, I can even explain why the Darkness isn't going to come back and why nobody will have to look at the Stars again for two thousand years. They find that very comforting to hear. So I've settled in among them. They feed us and take care of Raissta, and I think for them. It's a nice symbiotic relationship."


"Sheerin told me you were going to Amgando," said Theremon.


"I was," Beenay said. "Amgando's the place where people like you and me ought to be. But Raissta and I ran into some trouble on the way down. Did you hear me tell you that crazies are hunting down university people and trying to kill them? We nearly got caught by a bunch of them ourselves, as we were heading south through the suburbs toward the highway. All those neighborhoods on the south side of the forest are occupied by wild squatters now."


"We ran into some," Theremon said.


"Then you know. We were surrounded by a bunch of them. They could tell just by the way we talked that we had to be educated people, and then someone recognized me-recognized me, Theremon, from a picture in the newspaper, from one of your columns, one of the times when you were interviewing me about the eclipse! And he said I was from the Observatory, I was the man who had made the Stars appear." Beenay stared off into nowhere for a moment. "We were about two minutes away from being strung up from a lamppost, is my guess. But then came a providential distraction. Another gang showed up-territorial rivals, I suppose-throwing bottles, yelling, waving kitchen knives around. Raissta and I were able to get away. They're like children, the crazies-they can't keep their minds on any one thing very long. But as we were crawling through a narrow path between two burned-out buildings Raissta cut her leg on some broken glass. And by the time we got this far south on the highway it was so badly infected that she couldn't walk."


"I see." No wonder she looks so terrible, Theremon thought. "Luckily for us, Restoration Province's border guards were in need of a professor. They took us in. We've been here a week, or maybe ten days, now. I figure Raissta may be able to travel again in another week if all goes well, or more likely two. And then I'll have the boss of this province write out a passport for us that might get us safely through the next few provinces down the road, at least, and we'll set out on our way for Amgando. You're welcome to stay here with us until then, and then we can all go south together, if you like. Certainly it'll be safer that way. -You want me, Butella?"


The tall man who had tried to search Theremon in the clearing had poked his head over the curtains of Beenay's little den. "Messenger just came in, Professor. Brought some news from the city, by way of Imperial Province. We can't make much sense out of it."


"Let me see," Beenay said, reaching up and taking a folded slip of paper from the man. To Theremon he said, "Messengers go back and forth between the various new provinces all the time. Imperial's north and east of the highway, stretching up toward the city itself. -Most of these Searchers here aren't too good at reading. Their exposure to the Stars seems to have damaged their verbal centers, or something."


Beenay fell silent as he began to scan the message. He scowled, frowned, pursed his lips, muttered something about post-Nightfall handwriting and spelling. Then after a moment his expression grew dark.


"Good God!" he cried. "Of all the rotten, miserable, terrible-"


His hand was shaking. He looked up at Theremon, wildeyed.


"Beenay! What is it?"


Somberly Beenay said, "The Apostles of Flame are coming this way. They've assembled an army, and they're going to march down to Amgando, clearing away all the new little provincial governments that have sprung up along the highway. And when they get to Amgando they're going to smash whatever reconstituted governing body it is that has taken form down there and proclaim themselves the only legally empowered ruling force in all of the Republic."


Theremon felt Siferra's fingers digging into his arm. He turned to look at her and saw the horror on her face. He himself must not look very different, he knew.


"Coming-this-way-" he said slowly. "An army of Apostles."


"Theremon, Siferra-you've got to get out of here," said Beenay. "Immediately. If you're still here when the Apostles arrive, everything's lost."


"Go to Amgando, you mean?" Theremon asked.


"Absolutely. Without wasting another minute. The whole university community that was in the Sanctuary is down there, and people from other universities, educated people from all over the Republic. You and Siferra have to warn them to scatter, fast. If they're still in Amgando when the Apostles get there, Mondior will be able to gobble up the whole nucleus of any future legitimate government this country's likely to have, all in one swoop. He might even order mass executions of university people. -Look, I'll write out passports for you that'll get you through the next few Search stations down the line, anyway. But when you've gotten beyond our authority, you'll simply have to submit to Search and let them take whatever they want from you, and then keep on heading south. You can't afford to let yourself be distracted by secondary issues like resisting Search. The Amgando group has to be warned, Theremon!"


"And what about you? Are you just going to stay here?"


Beenay looked puzzled. "What else can I do?"


"But-when the Apostles come-"


"When the Apostles come, they'll do what they want with me. Are you suggesting that I leave Raissta behind and run off to Amgando with you?"


"Well-no-"


"Then I have no choice. Right? Right? Here I stay, with Raissta."


Theremon's head began to ache. He pressed his hands against his eyes.


Siferra said, "There's no other way, Theremon."


"I know. I know. But all the same, to think of Mondior and his crew taking a man as valuable as Beenay prisoner-executing him, even-"


Beenay smiled and rested his hand for a moment on Theremon's forearm. "Who knows? Maybe Mondior would like to keep a couple of professors around as pets. Anyway, what happens to me is unimportant now. My place is with Raissta. Your place is on the road-scampering down to Amgando as fast as you know how. Come on: I'll get you a meal, and I'll give you some official-looking documents. And then on your way with you." He paused. "Here. You'll need this, too." He poured the rest of the brandy, no more than an ounce or so, into Theremon's empty glass. -"Down the hatch," he said.


At the boundary between Restoration Province and Six Suns they had no trouble at all getting through Search. A border official who looked as though he might have been an accountant or a lawyer in the world that no longer existed simply glanced at the passport Beenay had written out, nodded when he saw the florid "Beenay 25" inscription at the bottom, and waved them on through.


Two days later, when they were crossing from Six Suns Province into Godland, it wasn't that simple. Here the border patrol looked like a gang of cutthroats, who would just as soon toss Theremon and Siferra over the side of the elevated highway as look at their papers at all. There was a long uneasy moment as Theremon stood there, dangling the passport like some sort of magic wand Then the magic worked, more or less.


"This thing a safe-through?" the head cutthroat asked.


"A passport, yes. Exemption from Search."


"Who from?"


"Beenay 25, Chief Search Administrator, Restoration Province. That's two provinces up the road."


"I know where Restoration Province is. Read it to me."


"'To Whom It May Concern: This is to attest that the bearers of this document, Theremon 762 and Siferra 89, are properly accredited emissaries of the Fire Patrol of Saro City, and that they are entitled to-'


"The Fire Patrol? What's that?"


"Altinol's bunch," one of the other cutthroats murmured.


"Ah." The head man nodded toward the needle-guns that Theremon and Siferra wore in full view at their hips. "So Altinol wants you to go marching off through other people's countries carrying weapons that could set a whole district on fire?"


Siferra said, "We're on an urgent mission to the people at Amgando National Park. It's vital that we get there safely." She touched her green neckerchief. "You know what this means? What we do is to keep fires from starting, not to start them. And if we don't get to Amgando on time, the Apostles of Flame will come marching down this highway and destroy everything you people are trying to create."


It didn't make a lot of sense, Theremon thought. Their getting to Amgando, far to the south, wasn't going to save the little republics at the northern end of the highway from the Apostles But Siferra had put just the right note of conviction and passion into her speech to make it all sound very significant, in a jumbled sort of way.


The response was silence, for a moment, while the border patrolman tried to figure out what she was talking about. Then an irritated frown and a perplexed glare And then, suddenly, almost impetuously: "All right. Go on through. Get the hell out of here, and don't let me see you anywhere inside Six Suns Province again, or we'll make you regret it. -Apostles! Amgando!"


"Thank you very much," said Theremon, with a graciousness bordering so closely on sarcasm that Siferra took him by the arm and steered him quickly through the checkpoint before he could get them into real trouble.


They were able to move quickly in this stretch of the highway, covering a dozen or more miles a day, sometimes even more. The citizens of the provinces that called themselves Six Suns and Godland and Daylight were hard at work, clearing the debris that had littered the Great Southern Highway since Nightfall. Barricades of rubble were set up at regular intervals -nobody was going to be driving the Great Southern Highway again for a long, long time, Theremon thought-but between checkpoints it was possible now to walk at a steady clip, without having to crawl and creep around mounds of hideous wreckage.


And the dead were being taken from the highway and buried, too. Bit by bit, things were beginning to seem almost civilized again. But not normal. Not even remotely normal.


There were few fires now to be seen still burning in the hinterlands flanking the highway, but burned-out towns were visible all along the route. Refugee camps had been set up every mile or two, and as they walked briskly along the elevated road Theremon and Siferra could look down and see the sad, bewildered people of the camps moving slowly and purposelessly about in them as if they had all aged fifty years in that one single terrible night.


The new provinces, Theremon realized, were simply strings of such camps linked together by the straight line of the Great Southern Highway. In each district local strongmen had emerged who had been able to put together a little realm, a petty kingdom that covered six or eight or ten miles of the highway and spread out for perhaps a mile on either side of the roadbed. What lay beyond the eastern and western borders of the new provinces was anybody's guess. No radio or television communications seemed to be in existence.


"Wasn't there any kind of emergency planning at all?" Theremon asked, speaking more to the air than to Siferra.


But it was Siferra who answered him. "What Athor was predicting was altogether too fantastic for the government to take seriously. And it would have been playing into Mondior's hands to admit that anything like the collapse of civilization could happen in just one short period of Darkness, especially a period of Darkness that could be predicted so specifically."


"But the eclipse-"

***



Tags: Isaac Asimov Science Fiction
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