Candle smiled as their eyes met, that brilliant, dazzling smile that brightened everything around her. He had a sudden sense that she could tell what he was thinking, and he looked quickly away.
Lets go, he said.
They set off down First Avenue, working their way past the derelict cars and heaps of trash, heading north toward the center of the city. He knew it was First Avenue because there were still signs fastened to a few of the buildings eye-level with the ornate streetlights. The signs still worked, even if the lights didnt. Hawk had never seen working streetlights; none of them had. Panther claimed there were lights in San Francisco, but Hawk was sure he was making it up. The power plants that provided electricity hadnt operated since before he was born, and he was the oldest among them except for Owl. Electricity was a luxury that few could manage outside the compounds, where solar-powered generators were plentiful. Mostly, they got by with candles and fires and glow sticks.
They stayed in the center of the street as they walked, keeping clear of the dark openings of the buildings on either side, falling into the Wing-T formation that Hawk favored. Hawk was at point, Panther and Bear on the wings, and the girls, Candle and River, in the center carrying the goods in tightly bound sacks. Owl had read about the Wing-T in one of her books and told Hawk how it worked. Hawk could read, but not particularly well. None of them could, the little ones in particular. Owl was a good reader. She had learned in the compound before she left to join them. She tried to instruct them, but mostly they wanted her to read to them instead. Their patience was limited, and their duties as members of the Ghosts took up most of their time. Reading wasnt necessary for staying alive, they would argue.
But, of course, it was. Even Hawk knew that much.
Overhead, the sky began to fill with roiling clouds that darkened steadily as the Ghosts moved out of Pioneer Square and up toward the Hammering Man. Soon rain was falling in a soft, steady mist, turning the concrete of the streets and buildings a glistening slate gray. The rain felt clean and refreshing to Hawk, who lifted his angular face to its cool wash. Sometimes he wished he could go swimming again, as he had when he was a little boy living in Oregon. But you couldnt trust the water anymore. You couldnt be sure what was in it, and if the wrong thing got into your body, you would die. At least they had the rain, which was more than most of the world could say.
Not that he had seen much of that world. At eighteen, he had lived in exactly two placesin Oregon until he was five and in Seattle since then. But the Ghosts had a radio to listen to, and sometimes it told them things. Less so these days, as the stations dropped away, one by one. Overrun by the armies of the once-men, he assumed.
Sometimes they learned things from other street kids. A new kid would show up, wandering in from some other part of the country to link up with one of the tribes and provide a fresh piece of news. But wherever they came from, their stories were pretty much alike. Everyone was in the same boat, trying to survive. The same dangers threatened everyone, and all you could do was decide how you wanted to live: either inside the compounds like a caged animal or out on the streets like prey.
Or, in the case of the Ghosts, you lived underground and tried to stay out of the way.
It was Owl who knew the history behind the underground city. She had read about it in a book. A long time ago, the old Seattle had burned and the people had buried her and built a new city right on top. The old city had been ignored until parts of it were excavated for underground tours. In the wake of the Great Wars and the destruction of the new city, it had all been forgotten again.
Excerpted from Armageddon's Children by Terry Brooks Copyright © 2006 by Terry Brooks. Excerpted by permission of Del Rey, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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