Terce-Three Hours after Dawn
Sister Alice was glad of the rain. A steady patter of raindrops displayed a landscape to her sensitive ears and helped her find a path. Without hesitation, her feet followed a line of paving stones across mossy grass inside the courtyard. It was so early that the sun had not cleared the high monastery walls. The air smelled of damp stone and new wool and brown bread. Around her, she sensed other members of her order. She heard the soft fluttering of woolen garments and a musical clinking from their Möbius beads. Alice straightened the veil over her bandaged eyes and walked towards the Mill doors. For the nuns of St. Clare’s Monastery, it was time to weave the Tapestry.
The youngest kitchen apprentice watched the line of nuns pass and received a slap from Cook for taking that liberty. He shook his head to stop the flow of tears and muttered a question to an older boy washing pots beside him. “Where do they go?”
“They go inside the Mill to make the Tapestry. Mother Oda told me they have a second sight. They weave pictures of the future for the Brothers at St. Benedict’s, the monastery on the other side,” said the older boy.
“Do they give up their first sight, so they can have a second kind?”
“Yes, but not every nun gets the gift of second sight. It’s a risk they take. Sometimes they only go blind.”
“Talk less, work more, apprentice,” said Cook.
The two boys ducked their heads and redoubled their efforts. Sidelong glances and smirks of complicity passed between them.
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Earth rose over Poincaré Crater, and he thought it resembled a drop of pond water, full of microscopic life. Hunter had never been to Earth, but the salts dissolved in his plasym came from her oceans.
The gunpowder gray dust swirled as Hunter landed Homeseeker’s skimmer on Luna. Through the shipcams, he watched Ameena’s preparations in the airlock. On the articulated surface of her armor-plated vacuum suit, the exoskeleton aligned to her long bones. With a soft thump, her magboots clamped to the deck inside the skimmer’s airlock. He saw her nostrils widen as she inhaled to disperse the painful pull of Luna’s gravity on her space-thinned body.
“Home again, at last,” Ameena said. Longing edged into her words. “Has it really been one hundred twenty-four years since we left here?”
“Correct, that’s the time dilation. Homeseeker updated me. The Earth invaded and reclaimed Luna in 2357, twenty-seven years after we left. After Pascal Tellor was arrested, his supporters fled to the outer Sol system,” said Hunter.
Hunter watched her body sag and heard the whine of her exoskeleton as it compensated for the change in her posture. Ameena expelled a regretful sigh as she looked through the viewport onto the domed house.
“Pascal’s dream of an independent Luna only lasted twenty-seven years,” she said. The throaty Lunan accent emphasized her sadness.
“I believe that the Lunan diaspora took his dream of a free Luna with them,” Hunter said to Ameena.
On his private channel to Homeseeker, he asked, “Are we cleared for entry into the house?”
From a stationary orbit above, their space clipper, Homeseeker, responded to Hunter in shipcode.
“YES, THE LUNAN-EARTH ADJUDICATION COUNCIL HAS ISSUED AN ORDER OF RELEASE. PASCAL TELLOR IS FREE TO GO,” said Homeseeker.
“The great leader of the Lunan Revolution locked up and forgotten,” said Hunter.
“THAT HIBERCRIB IS OLD. PROBABLY BRICKED. PASCAL MAY BE DEAD,” said the ship.
“Sit, my peepers. Now is the time to tell our story,” said Nama. The fire glowed their faces as they clustered around her slippers. Nama sucked on her pipe to start it.
“A long time ago, before the Counting, our grandcestors made Hite, the Stone God. His serenity was shaped on the face of Mt. Albin,” Nama stirred the coals and tilted her shoulder towards the head of their valley.
“They believed dead souls traveled back to Homeworld through his mouth, and you could hear them singing through his stone lips.” Nama tasted the bitter smoke as she exhaled another plume.
“In the third feather-leaf season, a shatter-storm swept the valley and cracked the sky. A frozen bolt chiseled Hite’s face into two parts. One half crumbled to sand while the other stayed upright. After the storm, as they looked at Hite’s broken face, the people saw a tear emerge from his remaining eye. It slid over his cheekbone and down onto the sand.”
Nama felt the peepers’ restless anticipation as she stopped to stir the fire. Some just couldn’t sit still. They breathed with her as she took another drag on the pipe and began again.
The Day the Sandlot Sharks Played the Hardware Hammers
Under the curved sun-light, I bent over to brush a splash of mustard-colored clay off home plate as I reset the counter in my left hand. As I stepped back, I motioned the pitcher to begin her warmup throws. It was the top of the ninth in this ballgame, score tied at 14-14.
Five of the Thompson’s Hardware Hammers sat in the right field dugout practicing their synchronized jeering. Over on the other side of the infield, Salamone Pools’ Sandlot Sharks circled inside the left field dugout, or hung on the rail, too nervous to sit down. The contrast between these two teams was unambiguous. As a new team, the Sharks were under-supported and their shabby collection of athletic wear was as far from a uniform as you could get. The only thing they had that matched were their hats, black canvas with a red shark logo on the front. The Hammers worked in baseball’s sartorial splendor, even their bat bags matched the team colors of gray and blue pinstripes. Their stain repellent uniforms were always clean, unlike the Sharks who wore a green-brown-gray patina of stains accumulated from a season of sliding into bases and diving onto the outfield lawn.
These kids represented the two best Little League teams in Liberty Sandlot Baseball, and this was their final playoff game. Filling the bleachers, sitting on folding lawn chairs and lounging on the bumpers of their runabouts were a rabid species of the baseball fan, known as the baseball-dad. So far this afternoon, they had given me ample opportunities to remember that they were an umpire’s natural enemy, aside from the team coaches.