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.“Absolutely.You don’t think that these creatures would go through all the trouble to build a dam like this if they could hunt, do you?”“I don’t know.But if they can cooperate with each other, why can’t they cooperate with hunters?” Justin demanded.“Oh, well.” Justin swung down out of the pilot’s seat and checked his rifle.“Cassandra.What observation capability do you have?”“Satellite Four will remain in observing range for twelve minutes, resolution one meter,” the computer answered.“There are grendels in the water six hundred meters downstream.I detect no large land animals near you.”“Keep looking.” The river looked peaceful.Maybe fifteen kilometers northwest, snowcapped mountain peaks stood out with startling clarity.There was another range visible to the northeast, and behind that range the Veldt stretched north and east for a thousand kilometers.“Come on,” Big Chaka called out.Little Chaka carried a handheld scanner, and a rifle slung over his right shoulder.Justin caught up with Little Chaka.“He lives for this, doesn’t he?” Justin scanned the river.His head swept slowly from left to right.He knew, without looking, that Jessica was doing the same.The riverbed clay was yellowish, sun-blasted and cracked in rivulets.The warped and twisted trees along the banks suggested alternate periods of flood and drought.“What are you looking for?” Little Chaka asked.“Samples.The usual,” his adopted father said, but there was something about his voice that said: I’m not ready to talk about it yet.“Does this have anything to do with the grendel autopsy?” Jessica asked.“Or the deaths?”“Everything on Avalon has to do with grendels.” Big Chaka smiled faintly.“Maybe one day that won’t be true.But for now.“He knelt down and took a flask from his pocket.He scooped a small sample of mud into it.“Is this where Tonya was swimming when she picked up the fluke?”“No, of course not,” Little Chaka said.“We don’t swim here.There are grendels out there!”“Ah.Well, it will have to do,” Big Chaka said.Little Chaka looked at his scanner.“I really don’t want to stay here any longer than we have to.”Big Chaka nodded regretfully.He looked down to the south.Six hundred meters away, grendels were operating within a social contract.He would have to see that phenomenon, and study it at length.“Maybe tomorrow.Dad,” Little Chaka said softly.“Let’s get out of here.”Big Chaka nodded.“Yes, I must prepare for my presentation this evening.”“Need us?” Justin asked.“Thank you, but my son will be more than sufficient help.”Justin and Jessica followed the Chakas back to Shangri-La and watched them land safely.Tau Ceti beat on them through the windshield.The air whipping through the vents seemed to have flowed over a blast furnace first.Jessica wiped her sleeve across her forehead.“Polite, wasn’t he?” Jessica said.“My son will be more than sufficient—” she giggled.“I noticed that,” Justin said.“Imagine, he’s embarrassed to say he wants some time alone with his son.So what do we do now?”“We could go find Carlos and Katya,” Jessica said with amiable malice.“Dad and Sylvia.Aaron’s taking them up to the lake.” He banked and headed off northwest.“I’m roasting,” Jessica said.She uncorked a thermos and gulped water, then handed it over to Justin.He drank gratefully.Even the water was warm.“Pretty fierce,” he said.She nodded, and looked back down at the terrain below them.It was broken by rock and trees, sloping up toward the mountains still to the west.“You know what we could do?” she asked.Suddenly, her voice sparkled.“What?”“Let’s go to the swimming hole for a dip.”“If we can find it.” He thought for a moment.“Cassandra, did we tell you to label any place near Shangri-La as a swimming hole?”“Yes.A meadow in the woods eleven kilometers northwest of your present position is designated ‘The Old Swimming Hole.’ “ A red circle appeared on the skeeter’s map display.“That’s it.Scan the area—”“Done,” Cassandra said.“No dangers detected.The area is designated safe from grendels.You are reminded to scan the meadow before landing.”“Yeah, yeah,” Justin said.The meadow was an oval a hundred meters by sixty.A sluggish stream ran through it, deep as a shoe top, and in the exact center was a circular pond ten meters in diameter.They flew around the perimeter of the meadow.“Nothing there,” Justin said.“Cassandra, you agree?”“Affirmative.”He dropped the skeeter onto the thick grass about twenty meters from the pond that was all that remained of the lake from which the meadow formed.The meadow grass was about knee high, and not very thick.“Race you!”“Last one in is a rotten Scribe belch!”Justin reached the hole only two steps ahead of Jessica, but his momentum, belly-flopped him into the water.He glared down at the dripping muck on his shirt.“Yerch,” he said.Jessica could hardly restrain herself, and finally collapsed to the shore, holding her sides and bellowing with laughter.“You should.see yourself,” she gasped, red-faced.“Hah hah,” he said.He began to shuck himself out of the clothes.Wrung his shirt out and tossed it up onto the dry ground.Followed with his shorts.“This is great,” he called out to her.“Come on in.”She hesitated for a moment, and then said a silent what-the-hell, and shucked herself out of her clothes and dove in.Justin hurled a shoe, then another, then his balled-up underwear.Nice grouping.Jessica swam with powerful strokes.The hole was only ten meters across, two meters deep at its deepest [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]