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Chapter 7

Where am I? Ponter knew his voice sounded panicky, but, try as he might, he couldnt control it. He was still seated in the odd chair that rolled on hoops, which was a good thing, because he doubted hed be very steady on his feet.

Calm down, Ponter, said his Companion implant. Your pulse is up to

Calm down! snapped Ponter, as if Hak had suggested a ridiculous impossibility. Where am I?

Im not sure, said the Companion. Im picking up no signals from the positioning towers. In addition, Im cut off entirely from the planetary information network, and am receiving no acknowledgment from the alibi archives.

Youre not malfunctioning?


Thenthen this cant be Earth, can it? Youd be getting signals if

Im sure it is Earth, said Hak. Did you notice the sun while they brought you over to that white vehicle?

What about it?

Its color temperature was 5,200 degrees, and it subtended one-seven-hundredth of the celestial spherejust like Sol as seen from Earths orbit. Also, I recognized most of the trees and plants I saw. No, this is clearly the surface of the Earth.

But the stench! The air is foul!

Ill have to take your word for that, said Hak. Could we havecould we have traveled in time?

That seems unlikely, replied the Companion. But if I can see the constellations tonight, I will be able to tell if weve moved forward or backward an appreciable amount. And if I can spot some of the other planets and the phase of the moon, I should be able to figure the exact date.

But how do we get back home? How do we

Again, Ponter, I must exhort you to calm down. You are close to hyperventilating. Take a deep breath. There. Now let it out slowly. Thats right. Relax. Another breath

What are those creatures? Ponter asked, waving a hand at the scrawny figure with dark brown skin and no hair and the other scrawny figure with lighter skin and a wrapping of fabric around his head.

My best guess? said Hak. They are Gliksins.

Gliksins! exclaimed Ponter, loud enough that the two strange figures turned to look at him. He lowered his voice. Gliksins? Oh, come on

Look at those skull images over there. Hak was speaking to Ponter through a pair of cochlear implants, but by changing the left-right balance of his voice he could indicate a direction as surely as if he had pointed. Ponter got upshakilyand crossed the room, heading away from the strange beings and approaching an illuminated panel like the one they were looking at, with several deepviews of skulls clipped to it.

Green meat! said Ponter, looking at the strange skulls. They are Gliksinsarent they?

I would say so. No other primate has that lack of browridge, or that projection from the front of the lower jaw.

Gliksins! But theyve been extinct forwell, for how long?

Perhaps 400,000 months, said Hak.

But this cant possibly be Earth of that long ago, said Ponter. I mean, theres no way the civilization weve seen would have failed to leave traces in the archeological record. At best, Gliksins chipped stone into crude choppers, right?


Ponter tried to keep from sounding hysterical. So, again, where are we?

Chapter 6 | Hominids | * * *