Hegira

Hegira by Greg Bear Read Free Book Online

Book: Hegira by Greg Bear Read Free Book Online
Authors: Greg Bear
Tags: Science-Fiction
my obstinance, Bey — Eloshim.”
    “I'd never heard of Ibis before your armies came. How far did you travel to get here?”
    “Fifty thousand kilometers.”
    “How did you measure it?”
    “The angle of the Obelisks to each other, triangulating and assuming five thousand kilometers between each Obelisk. We would pick a point on the Obelisk line and set that as our triangle apex — ”
    Kiril interrupted. “So you crossed how many degrees . . . say, between the Obelisk in Ibis and the Obelisk Tara?”
    “You mean?”
    “How many degrees would they be apart if they could make an angle?”
    “Ah,” Bar-Woten understood. “Twenty-three degrees.”
    “Did your geometers decide that Hegira was round?”
    “It was round as far as they could measure. Of course there was no way of knowing if we were merely going up a gigantic hill fifty thousand kilometers across. But we couldn't see distant lands by looking at the sky, no matter where we were. So we assumed Hegira was round.”
    “Then there's a way of figuring out how big across it is.”
    “Two hundred and forty-nine thousand kilometers.”
    Kiril looked down at the Ibisian, his mouth working to repeat the figure. He could hardly grasp it. He sighed and shook his head. “It's imponderable. Earth was nowhere near that large. Some stars were that size. They were supposed to be the fiercest things imaginable.”
    “Then Hegira may be a star.”
    “I don't think so,” Kiril said. “I didn't study the texts too heavily when I copied them, but an object the size of a star would hold us to the ground like ghosts to a funeral stone.”
    “Gravity.”
    “Even if it isn't a star, though, Hegira must be very light, or it would hold us as strongly. Perhaps it's hollow.”
    “And we are on the outside.”
    “If the Obelisks lean away from each other, that would seem to be true. And as you say, we don't see distant lands when we look at the sky.”
    “Perhaps Allah meant it to be imponderable,” Barthel offered.
    “Allah, as you say, gave us brains to think and solve,” Bar-Woten said.
    Another question bothered Kiril. If the armies of Ibis had discovered so many wondrous things, why did they leave a bloody swath wherever they went? He couldn't put the concepts of barbarians and scholars in one package. He opened his mouth to talk about it, then shut it grimly. He knew so little about the men he was traveling with. Better to keep his peace and see what they offered to tell first.
    A shiver made his hands falter. “Why?” he asked himself
    silently. “Why have I delivered myself to wolves?” Then, glancing upward covertly, “Why have You?”
    Because he loved. His love would not stop clawing the inside of his chest and burning fires beneath his brain. Move, it demanded. And he moved.
     
     
     
     
     
     

Hegira

Six
    “It's called the Uhuru Massif,” Kiril said. “There should be a few small towns and forts here, but I don't see any.”
    “They could be hidden in the ridges and valleys,” Bar-Woten said. “I don't see any roads. No trails.”
    “No commerce comes this way from Mediweva. There may not be any.”
    “Have you ever talked with Lucifans?” the Ibisian asked.
    “Not often. I was very young when we went to the western end. They don't trust Obelisk nations very much.”
    “They feel deprived, hm?”
    Barthel countered strongly. “Perhaps they feel we are misled. There is much that is doubtful on the Obelisks.”
    Bar-Woten nodded and pursed his lips. “We'll probably meet any greeting parties where the two plateaus divide, in the cleft between. If you say they're not usually hostile, we shouldn't greet them with drawn weapons. But no polite society will resent our hands on the hilts.”
    Kiril walked beside the Ibisian's horse as they approached the cleft. A small stream trickled muddily down the middle of the wadi, but grotesque ridges and rills running parallel to it suggested this was a powerful watercourse when rains cascaded from

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