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"Steve," she whispered, her voice going up an octave. "There's something moving between us and the rover. God, I don't believe this is happening!"
Rick forced a swallow down his drying throat. Andrea was right. There was motion between two broken columns near the yellow all-terrain vehicle. This was no ghostly figure, though he wished it were. What he saw instead was the hood of a camouflaged oval shell roughly twice the size of a serving platter. It bobbed silently through yellowed stalks of high weeds. He had seen pictures, but never thought he would witness this first hand. "It's a Me'Aukin mine."
"It's not supposed to be here," she said, shaking her head. "This place is safe. It's always been!"
Trying to keep his own wits and voice steady, Rick used his helmet microphone. "Major, we've got mine activity up here." Rick glanced around for some kind of cover, spying a dark space beneath a tilted slab of wall they passed earlier. "We're heading for shelter."
"Don't move, you won't make it," Steve answered. "We're on the way. Get as low to the ground as you can, Doctor."
Rick motioned to Andrea, only to find her staring over his shoulder. He turned around and froze, afraid even to take a breath.
It stood on the trail they just traversed, the lethal relic poised on camouflaged machine legs like a large walking clam. Rick moved to keep between it and her. Blunt twin barrels tracked him from an aperture between the upper and lower shell.
"You're Me'Aukin," Andrea said in a slow careful voice. "Try speaking with it."
Posted August 12, 2011
"THE WAITING WEAPON," a beautifully woven sci-fi tale by K.M. Tolan, goes much further than asking us to suspend our disbelief. Instead, in the tradition of Ursula LeGuin, Mr Tolan invites us to actually examine our beliefs. Here are a few:
1) RELATIVITY. We're all familiar with Einstein's now-proven theories: that mass and energy represent a single reality. But what if the very physical structure of our environment and our bodies were truly transmutable into energy or into other matter? What if a well-trained adept could mold and sculpt the very particles of existence into any form whatsoever? The exiled clans of the Me-Aukians can do it. They all but bring the stone to life-even so far as to repair an injured body with Stone. Notice it's not lower-case "stone," it's "Stone," and you can eat it like ham-'n-eggs, drink it like coffee, or use it to construct a spaceship.
2) GRUDGES FADE WITH TIME. Not on Me-Auk they don't. Just as our computer industry can etch rigid memory onto silicon dioxide (stone), the Me-Aukians, when driven from their home planet by expansion-minded humans, have sown their living hatred and contempt for their "Foe" into the soil and Stone of their world. The Waiting Weapon will exact its horrific moment of revenge (in about 300 years) against the descendents of the humans who drove them off. Yes, on Earth a rock might tumble off a cliff and strike a person; but can one's softly padded chair transform into an animated dagger of Stone that thrusts into one's heart from behind?
3) DEAD IS DEAD. Really? Refer to items #2 and #3 above. Remember, even on Earth memory can be stored on stone. Imagine what a Me-Aukian might choose to store in the substance "Stone."
4) EACH OF US IS ALONE. Not among the Me-Aukians. The ceremony of marriage, consistent with the transmutability of all reality, merges the memories, the hopes, the sensitivities and empathies of male and female. What was incomplete is now complete.
THERE'S MORE, MUCH MORE. "The Waiting Weapon" is not a read-yourself-to-sleep novel, but a wide-awake well-crafted invitation into real thought-thought about reality, science, honor, forgiveness, and all the possibilities included within the concept of "sentient." Give this one a try.
NEGATIVES: There are times when the narrative makes faster than light-speed jumps. As I suggested above, read it when you're wide awake. Tolan does not spoon-feed this novel to his readers.