Chapter 39 of The Empty City

By Andrew Looney

Jim strolled briskly through the Saturn Cafe, toward the back where The Four were at a table beneath the large neon sculpture of Saturn. "Hi guys!" he said as he approached.

Peter, Paul, Dave, and Bert all kept their attention focused firmly on the table. They did murmur quiet greetings, but not one of them turned his head away from the Icehouse game in progress on the tabletop.

Jim pulled up a chair from another table and watched the game unfold. The tension beaded on the foreheads of the players and rolled down their faces as moves were made in rapid succession. It was the most intense game Jim had seen them play in quite a while.

As the game progressed, Jim became impatient. He was running out of time-it was now almost ten o'clock-and had only a simple question to ask The Four. But they were so riveted to the game that he couldn't interrupt, and had to wait patiently for it to end. To pass the time, he ordered a beaker of C-tea, and leaned back in his chair, listening to the soothing music of the synthesist as it washed over him.

After almost twenty minutes, the game ended. Dave had won.

"Listen," said Jim, as Dave enthusiastically gloated over his victory, "have any of you ever heard of a group called the Children of Mars or a place called New Xi City?"

Peter, Paul, and Umberto quickly stated they had not; Dave, however, leaned back in his chair and muttered to himself, as if trying to recall an almost forgotten memory.

"Yes," he said at length. "Not the Children of Mars, but I have heard of New Xi City. It's a little sculpture park down by the river. It's on the purple line, I think, near the Riverside station."

"Great. Thanks," said Jim, as he paid for his C-tea and dashed out.

Copyright © 1991 by Andrew Looney.

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