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The Destroyers   By: (1927-1987)

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Any war is made up of a horde of personal tragedies but the greater picture is the tragedy of the death of a way of life. For a way of life good, bad, or indifferent exists because it is dearly loved....


Illustrated by van Dongen

Anketam stretched his arms out as though he were trying to embrace the whole world. He pushed himself up on his tiptoes, arched his back, and gave out with a prodigious yawn that somehow managed to express all the contentment and pleasure that filled his soul. He felt a faint twinge in his shoulders, and there was a dull ache in the small of his back, both of which reminded him that he was no longer the man he had been twenty years before, but he ignored them and stretched again.

He was still strong, Anketam thought; still strong enough to do his day's work for The Chief without being too tired to relax and enjoy himself afterwards. At forty five, he had a good fifteen years more before he'd be retired to minor make work jobs, doing the small chores as a sort of token in justification of his keep in his old age.

He settled his heels back to the ground and looked around at the fields of green shoots that surrounded him. That part of the job was done, at least. The sun's lower edge was just barely touching the western horizon, and all the seedlings were in. Anketam had kept his crew sweating to get them all in, but now the greenhouses were all empty and ready for seeding in the next crop while this one grew to maturity. But that could wait. By working just a little harder, for just a little longer each day, he and his crew had managed to get the transplanting done a good four days ahead of schedule, which meant four days of fishing or hunting or just plain loafing. The Chief didn't care how a man spent his time, so long as the work was done.

He thumbed his broad brimmed hat back from his forehead and looked up at the sky. There were a few thin clouds overhead, but there was no threat of rain, which was good. In this part of Xedii, the spring rains sometimes hit hard and washed out the transplanted seedlings before they had a chance to take root properly. If rain would hold off for another ten days, Anketam thought, then it could fall all it wanted. Meanwhile, the irrigation reservoir was full to brimming, and that would supply all the water the young shoots needed to keep them from being burnt by the sun.

He lowered his eyes again, this time to look at the next section over toward the south, where Jacovik and his crew were still working. He could see their bent figures outlined against the horizon, just at the brow of the slope, and he grinned to himself. He had beaten Jacovik out again.

Anketam and Jacovik had had a friendly feud going for years, each trying to do a better, faster job than the other. None of the other supervisors on The Chief's land came even close to beating out Anketam or Jacovik, so it was always between the two of them, which one came out on top. Sometimes it was one, sometimes the other.

At the last harvest, Jacovik had been very pleased with himself when the tallies showed that he'd beaten out Anketam by a hundred kilos of cut leaves. But The Chief had taken him down a good bit when the report came through that Anketam's leaves had made more money because they were better quality.

He looked all around the horizon. From here, only Jacovik's section could be seen, and only Jacovik's men could be seen moving.

When Anketam's gaze touched the northern horizon, his gray eyes narrowed a little. There was a darkness there, a faint indication of cloud build up. He hoped it didn't mean rain. Getting the transplants in early was all right, but it didn't count for anything if they were washed out.

He pushed the thought out of his mind. Rain or no rain, there was nothing could be done about it except put up shelters over the rows of plants... Continue reading book >>

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