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The Link   By: (1928-1992)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from The Counterfeit Man More Science Fiction Stories by Alan E. Nourse published in 1963. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical errors have been corrected without note.

The Link

It was nearly sundown when Ravdin eased the ship down into the last slow arc toward the Earth's surface. Stretching his arms and legs, he tried to relax and ease the tension in his tired muscles. Carefully, he tightened the seat belt for landing; below him he could see the vast, tangled expanse of Jungle land spreading out to the horizon. Miles ahead was the bright circle of the landing field and the sparkling glow of the city beyond. Ravdin peered to the north of the city, hoping to catch a glimpse of the concert before his ship was swallowed by the brilliant landing lights.

A bell chimed softly in his ear. Ravdin forced his attention back to the landing operation. He was still numb and shaken from the Warp passage, his mind still muddled by the abrupt and incredible change. Moments before, the sky had been a vast, starry blanket of black velvet; then, abruptly, he had been hovering over the city, sliding down toward warm friendly lights and music. He checked the proper switches, and felt the throbbing purr of the anti grav motors as the ship slid in toward the landing slot. Tall spires of other ships rose to meet him, circle upon circle of silver needles pointing skyward. A little later they were blotted out as the ship was grappled into the berth from which it had risen days before.

With a sigh, Ravdin eased himself out of the seat, his heart pounding with excitement. Perhaps, he thought, he was too excited, too eager to be home, for his mind was still reeling from the fearful discovery of his journey.

The station was completely empty as Ravdin walked down the ramp to the shuttles. At the desk he checked in with the shiny punch card robot, and walked swiftly across the polished floor. The wall panels pulsed a somber blue green, broken sharply by brilliant flashes and overtones of scarlet, reflecting with subtle accuracy the tumult in his own mind. Not a sound was in the air, not a whisper nor sign of human habitation. Vaguely, uneasiness grew in his mind as he entered the shuttle station. Suddenly, the music caught him, a long, low chord of indescribable beauty, rising and falling in the wind, a distant whisper of life....

The concert, of course. Everyone would be at the concert tonight, and even from two miles away, the beauty of four hundred perfectly harmonized voices was carried on the breeze. Ravdin's uneasiness disappeared; he was eager to discharge his horrible news, get it off his mind and join the others in the great amphitheater set deep in the hillside outside the city. But he knew instinctively that Lord Nehmon, anticipating his return, would not be at the concert.

Riding the shuttle over the edges of Jungle land toward the shining bright beauty of the city, Ravdin settled back, trying to clear his mind of the shock and horror he had encountered on his journey. The curves and spires of glowing plastic passed him, lighted with a million hues. He realized that his whole life was entangled in the very beauty of this wonderful city. Everything he had ever hoped or dreamed lay sheltered here in the ever changing rhythm of colors and shapes and sounds. And now, he knew, he would soon see his beloved city burning once again, turning to flames and ashes in a heart breaking memorial to the age old fear of his people.

The little shuttle car settled down softly on the green terrace near the center of the city. The building was a masterpiece of smoothly curving walls and tasteful lines, opening a full side to the south to catch the soft sunlight and warm breezes. Ravdin strode across the deep carpeting of the terrace. There was other music here, different music, a wilder, more intimate fantasy of whirling sound... Continue reading book >>

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