Ripples

Wilom was a little surprised to learn, exiting the Pathways, that he hadn’t been missed at all. Colonel Torcel and the others had apparently assumed Colonel Briar would be chewing Wilom out for a while to come, and had set about creating a perimeter, demarcating a meeting area, and waiting. True to the Mayor’s word, they didn’t enter the city, though Wilom could tell that Torcel wasn’t happy about it. He joined them in placing the last few markers. He could tell that Javrinnen and Yolin, at least, were burning to ask him what had happened, but the first of the townspeople started arriving before they could draw him aside to ask. Continue reading

Projection

Since the first evacuation had gone relatively smoothly, when they woke up and got on the road the next morning, the atmosphere was quite different. The squads were more comfortable — more hopeful. Still rattled, of course. They’d all seen Harie come back with the townspeople who had nearly been left behind. But there was a distinct undercurrent of “maybe that hadn’t gone so badly”, and that was a difficult sentiment to squash entirely. But Wilom was having trouble trusting that things would continue to go smoothly. He didn’t know whether he was affected by Harie’s persistent bad mood and the Colonels’ persistent, tired resignation — that feeling of being very near the end of a draining project, knowing that soon they would be able to rest, but also knowing that there was nothing they could do about it yet — or whether he was just starting to get cynical, but he couldn’t help suspecting that something was going to go wrong before the end of this assignment. Continue reading

The Last Assignment

Even though he wasn’t using the Ferryman’s Knowledge — at least, as much as he could avoid it — the next few hours were a blur for Wilom. They got the news first from the soldiers and conscripts who met them at the gates, excited to spread the news to new ears. Colonel Briar was immediately whisked away, in the centre of a crowd of other commanding officers. They said nothing as they left, and Wilom would have suspected, even without the Ferryman’s Knowledge to confirm it, that the Colonel was being taken to debriefings and probably strategy meetings, to keep the officers informed of what was going on. Wilom idly wondered how much of the real situation someone like the Colonel would be told. Was he high enough in rank or position to get most of the story? Or only the parts that related to his missions? Of those parts, how many were lies, like what was published in the newspapers? Continue reading

Walking and Talking

Wilom adjusted the straps on his bag, and pretended to stifle a yawn. He honestly didn’t mind the early mornings — in fact, he didn’t seem to need much sleep at all anymore — but even Harie seemed to be suffering for the pre-dawn wake up call, and the Ferryman’s Knowledge was telling him to play along. It wasn’t particularly heavy, but he hadn’t worn the backpack since he’d arrived, and he didn’t like the way the straps sat.

Two trucks rounded the corner. Colonel Briar turned to them. Continue reading

The Other Squad

Wilom didn’t introduce himself to the rest of the squad until after they’d left the training field, although most of his attention was taken up with trying not to wobble too much. He was sort of impressed by his ability to keep up — given that in the last almost-century he could count the number of times he’d moved faster than a walk on one hand. But he’d managed not to embarrass himself — he could at least keep up with Javrinnen and Yolin, even if he didn’t have a hope of matching Firin, who had the advantage of long legs, and Harie, who seemed to be able to turn off the parts of her brain that interacted with the outside word at will, if the Ferryman’s Knowledge had anything to go by. Continue reading

Day One

It was a relief to finally leave Mr Treene’s house.

Wilom had expected to go to the barracks within a day or two of being conscripted, but it turned out not to be that simple. He had had to organise some basic equipment, a uniform, a backpack that matched the regulation size and make. Continue reading