To an anonymous prompt.
This comes some short time after Greetings ()
it had been with effort that Paz and Malia had slipped away from their “welcoming committee” who were, after five days, beginning to feel more like benign jailers. Vas was still doing the staring-slack-jawed thing he’d been doing since they encountered the purple girl, and the rest of the team were baby-sitting him, trying to get him to snap out of it. That left the uncomfortable pairing of Paz and Malia, who had in common that they thought Vas was a bit of a jerk, to handle the finding-an-escape route and generally doing the job they’d been sent here to do.
They slipped out between two of the longhouses (it seemed silly to keep thinking “longhouse-like structures”) when the rest of the village was busily chatting via giant-horse-translator with the team. Malia had found a route that was overgrown by about a generation (If these creatures had human lifespans; they were still determining that) of disuse. It wasn’t hard to traverse – the plants here were mostly hardwood, slow-growing, and the vines were, unlike Malia’s last assignment, neither thorny nor poisonous; the trees here, unlike in other parts of this planet, seemed neither sentient nor carnivorous. The hardest part was getting a good hundred feet in without leaving a path. They wanted a chance to really explore before their “hosts” managed to find them.
Once they got past that line, the travelling got easier. At first, Malia thought it was just that they weren’t as worried about where they put their feet, but as they went deeper and deeper into the forest, she realized that the path itself was clearer; the stones under their feet were dry-fitted together and dressed so that barely a weed had grown up between. “Paz, are you seeing this?” she asked, kneeling down to run her hands over the pavers. The village cobblestones were not nearly as tidy.
“No, Mal,” he answered very slowly. “I’m seeing this, though.”
She looked up, wondering what he was talking about. Another moving tree? Some more pavers? “….Oh. Oh, well. What do you think happened to them?”
“I… have no idea. But I think we need to find out.”
They stood together, shoulder to shoulder, needing the touch of someone else they knew was human, as they faced a small city, formed of stone and metal, rising to the sky. One could argue a great deal for coincidence, paralleled construction and evolution, but the “New London City Hall” carved in English gave lie to every theory they’d heard voiced.
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