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Foreigner
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Foreigner

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Author: Robert J. Sawyer
Publisher: Tor, 2005
Ace Books, 1994
Series: The Quintaglio Ascension: Book 3

1. Far-Seer
2. Fossil Hunter
3. Foreigner

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Alternate/Parallel Universe
Dying Earth
Mutants
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Synopsis

In Far-Seer and Fossil Hunter, we met the Quintaglios, a race of intelligent dinosaurs from Earth and learned of the threat to their very existence. Now they must quickly advance from a culture equivalent to our Renaissance to the point where they can leave their planet.

While the Quintaglios rush to develop space travel, the discovery of a second species of intelligent dinosaur rocks their most fundamental beliefs. Meanwhile, blind Afsan -- the dinosaurian Galileo -- undergoes the newfangled treatment of psychoanalysis, throwing everything he thought he knew about his violent people into a startling new light.


Excerpt

Chapter One

Afsan couldn't see the sun, but he felt its noontime heat beating down. With his left hand he held the harness attached to Gork, his large monitor lizard. They were moving over paving stones, Afsan's toeclaws making heavy clicks against them, Gork's footfalls echoing that sound with a softer ticking. Afsan heard metal-rimmed wheels rolling over the roadway, approaching from the right.

Afsan had been blind for twenty kilodays. Det-Yenalb, the Master of the Faith, had pierced Afsan's eyeballs with a ceremonial obsidian dagger. The priest had rotated the blade in each socket, gouging out the empty sacks. Afsan didn't like thinking about that long-ago day. He'd been convicted of heresy, and the blinding had been performed in Capital City's Central Square in front of over a hundred people, a mob packed with as little as three paces between each of its members.

The city had changed since then. The landquake of kiloday 7110 had destroyed many roads and buildings, and the replacements were often different from the originals. The growth and redevelopment of the city had left their marks, too. Still, Afsan always knew where he was in relation to the Central Square. Even now, having to walk through it made him anxious. But today's journey would take him nowhere near---

Roots!

Suddenly Afsan felt his middle toeclaw catch on something---a loose paving stone?---and he found himself pitching forward, his tail lifting off the ground.

Gork let out a loud hiss as Afsan, desperately trying to right himself, yanked hard on the lizard's harness.

From ahead, a shout: "Watch out!"

Another voice, a different passerby: "He's going to be crushed!"

A loud roar---a hornface?---dead ahead.

Afsan's chest scraped across the pavement.

The sound of cracking leather.

The hornface again.

A snap from his shoulder.

A jab of pain.

His muzzle smashing into the ground.

Blood in his mouth.

Two curving teeth knocked loose.

And then, an explosion within his head as something heavy kicked into it.

His head whipped sideways. His neck felt like it was going to snap.

Crunching sounds.

More pain.

Indescribable pain.

A scream from the roadside.

More teeth knocked out.

Afsan was unable to breathe through one nostril. He felt as if that whole side of his upper muzzle had been crushed.

Running feet.

Afsan let out a moan.

A stranger's voice: "Are you all right?"

Afsan tried to lift his head. Agony. His shoulder blade was a knife, slicing into his neck. His head was slick with blood.

The high-pitched voice of a youngster: "It's Sal-Afsan!"

Another voice. "By the Face of God, it is."

And a third voice: "Oh, my God. His head---Sal-Afsan, are you all right?"

More running sounds, toeclaws sparking against paving stones.

Agony.

"You ran right over him!"

"He stumbled in front of my chariot. I tried to stop."

Chariot. The wheels he'd heard. The hornface must have been drawing it. The kick to his head---a hornface's forefoot. Afsan tried to speak, but couldn't. He felt blood coursing out of him.

"The left side of his face is smashed," said the youngster. "And look---there's something funny about his shoulder."

Another voice. "Dislocated, I'm sure."

"Is he dead?" called a new voice.

"No. Not yet, anyway. Look at his skull!"

Afsan tried to speak again, but all he managed was a low hiss.

"Someone get a healer!"

"No, it would take too long to fetch a doctor; we've got to take him to one."

"The palace surgery isn't far," said one of the voices. "Surely Sal-Afsan would be a patient of the imperial healer, what's his name..."

"Mondark," said another voice. "Dar-Mondark."

"Take him in your chariot," shouted a voice.

"Someone will have to help me," said the charioteer. "He's too heavy for me to lift on my own."

Silence, except for Afsan's labored breathing and, nearby, Gork's confused hissing.

"For God's sake, people, someone help me! I can't do this alone."

An incredulous voice. "To touch another..."

"He'll die if he doesn't get medical help. Come on."

A new voice, from farther away. "Make room for me to pass. I'm just back from a hunt. I suspect I can touch him without difficulty."

Shuffling feet. Afsan moaned again.

The charioteer's voice now, close to his earhole: "We're going to touch you, Sal-Afsan. Try not to react."

Even in agony, even with a broken skull and dislocated shoulder, instinct still reigned. Afsan flinched as hands touched him. Fingerclaws popped from their sheaths.

"Careful of his shoulder---"

Afsan howled in pain.

"Sorry. He's pretty heavy."

Afsan felt his head being pulled out of the thickening puddle of blood. He was lifted up and placed facedown in the back of the chariot.

"What about his lizard?" said the charioteer.

"I'll take him," said the youngster who had first identified Afsan. "I know where the palace surgery is."

The charioteer shouted, "Latark!" His hornface began to gallop along the road, Afsan's head bouncing up and down, the sound of metal wheels over the stones drowning out his moans.

After an eternity, the chariot arrived outside Dar-Mondark's surgery, a typical adobe building just south of the palace. Afsan could hear the charioteer disembark and the sound of his fingerclaws clicking against the signaling plate set into the doorjamb. The door swung open on squeaky hinges, and Afsan heard Mondark's voice. "Yes?"

"I'm Gar-Reestee," said the charioteer. "I've got Sal-Afsan with me. He's hurt."

Afsan heard Mondark's heavy footfalls as the healer hurried to the chariot. "God," he said. "How did this happen?"

"He tripped and fell into the roadway. My hornface kicked him in the head before I could stop my chariot."

"Those are massive wounds." Mondark leaned closer, his voice reassuring. "Afsan, you're going to be all right."

The charioteer's voice, incredulous: "Healer, your muzzle---"

"Shush," said Mondark. "Help me bring him inside. Afsan, we're going to pick you up."

Once again, Afsan was carried. He felt cold in the side of his head. After several moments, he was placed face down on a marble tabletop. Mondark had treated Afsan kilodays ago on a similar table after Afsan had plummeted to the ground from the top of a thunderbeast's neck. The surgery chamber, Afsan knew, was heated by a cast-iron stove burning coal. He also knew that the roof above the table was made largely of glass, letting in outside light, illuminating the patient.

"Thank you, Gar-Reestee, for bringing Afsan in," said Mondark. "I will do everything I can for him, but you must leave. The physical contact for treating his injuries is something you shouldn't see."

The charioteer's voice was full of sorrow. "Good Sal-Afsan, I'm terribly sorry. It was an accident."

Afsan tried to nod, but daggers of pain stabbed through his muzzle.

The charioteer left. Mondark went to work.

"Land ho!"

Captain Var-Keenir stopped pacing the deck of the sailing ship Dasheter and tipped his muzzle up to the lookout bucket, high atop the foremast. Old Biltog was up there, his red leather cap and the green skin of his head and shoulders stark against the purple sky. Keenir's tail swished in sadness. He'd seen it happen before on long voyages, and lookout officers, who spent inordinate amounts of time in the sun, were particularly susceptible to it. Biltog was hallucinating. Why, Land---the single known continent---was half a world away.

"Land ho!" called Biltog again, his green arm extended toward the northeast. The red sail attached to the foremast snapped in the wind. Two Quintaglios moved to the starboard side of the vessel to see what Biltog was pointing at.

Keenir looked up again. The sun, brilliant and white, was climbing in front of them. Behind, covering half the sky between zenith and rear horizon, was the Face of God, its leading edge illuminated, the rest of its vast bulk in shadow. Also visible were three moons, wan shapes in the sun's glare. But along the northeastern horizon there was nothing but waves touching sky.

Near Keenir was a ramp leading below. Kee-Toroca, a young Quintaglio male, came up it. He moved closer to Keenir than Keenir was comfortable with and said, "Did I hear a shout of 'land ho'?"

Keenir had known the young savant all his life; indeed, Toroca had taken his praenomen syllable in honor of him. "You've sharp hearing indeed, to have heard that below deck," he said in his gravelly voice. "Yes, Biltog shouted it, but, well, I think he's had too much sun. There can't be any land out here."

"Ah, but undiscovered land is exactly what we're looking for."

Keenir clicked his teeth. "Aye, the final stage of the Geological Survey. But I don't expect to find any, and doubt very much we have now."

Toroca was carrying the brass far-seer his mother, Novato, had given to his father, Afsan, the day after he had been conceived. It glinted in the fierce sun, its green patina counterpointed by purple reflections of the sky above. Toroca scanned the horizon once with his unaided eye.

Nothing.

Or was there something?

He brought the far-seer to his face and slid the tube's components apart until the horizon was in focus. There was a slight brown line dividing the waves and the sky.

Keenir could see it, too, now. Biltog's greater height had let him spot the land sooner than those on deck.

"Will you look at that?" said Toroca softly, passing the far-seer to the captain.

"An unknown country," said Keenir, head shaking in disbelief. Then, rotating on his heel, he shouted, "Starboard ho! Turn the ship!"

An ark.

A space ark.

Wab-Novato leaned back on her muscular tail, placed her hands firmly on her slender hips, and looked up at the vast blue structure protruding from ...

Copyright © 1994 by Robert J. Sawyer


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