Lewis turned over, focused his eyes and recoiled at the number and size of the insects perched all over the bivvy mesh.
He heard Mendoza give a muffled shriek and begin flailing away, as bugs flew off in all directions from her bivvy.
“Horrible, aren’t they?” he called.
“Ugh, ugh, ugh.” Mendoza unzipped her bivvy and scrambled out, and danced up and down. “God-damned tropics!
We should have brought one of those electronic bug killers.”
“Watch out,” said Lewis, beating upward to dislodge two tarantulas and a dragonfly with a twelve-inch wingspan.
Mendoza retreated to one of the equipment crates. Lewis crawled forth into the morning and dutifully looked elsewhere as
Mendoza got dressed.
“Oh! There are pineapple guavas growing over here,” he announced. “Shall I pick some for our breakfast?”
“Go ahead,” said Mendoza, sounding muffled. Lewis spent the next few minutes busily gathering fruit. Then a
tarantula reached out of a clump of leaves and grabbed back a guava he had just picked, at which point Lewis discovered
just how far he could jump from a standing start.
He came skittering back with his arms full of guavas, just in time to see Mendoza step forth from the crate dressed
in hip waders, into the top of which she had tucked the hem of her gown. It looked more than odd. She met his stare and said
proudly, “I don’t care. I’m insect-proof!”
“You know, you’ve got a point,” Lewis replied, and setting down the guavas dove into a crate himself, to root
through his gear for his own waders.
Fully armored against insect peril, they sat down and dined. The freshness of the morning was rapidly boiling away,
as steam rose from the broad leaves all around them. Far to the horizon, where mountain peaks were visible, lay a low line
of slaty cloud.
“Is it storming over there?” Mendoza remarked, frowning as she spooned up guava juice.
“I suppose so,” said Lewis. He peered out at the distant clouds, bringing them into close focus. “Oh, dear, we may
not have escaped the rainy season after all.”
“We’ll just take rain ponchos,” said Mendoza, shrugging. “Never understood the way mortals get upset by a few
drops of water. England, now—that was a rainy country. And wretchedly cold.”
They finished breakfast in a leisurely fashion and loaded on their field credenza packs, after which they made their
way down from their hill to the plain. Close to, it was possible to see that irregular bands of dark earth circled each of the
islands on the wide land.
“Ah-ha!” said Mendoza, pointing. “Teosinte!”
“Where?” Lewis turned his head.
“There! Growing all over the terra preta. See?”
“That stuff that looks like giant crabgrass?”
“Well, yes, it does,” said Mendoza impatiently. “But, do you realize how significant its presence is here? Nobody
thought teosinte was cultivated this far down the continent! The indigenes farmed manioc and amaranths instead.”
“You don’t say,” Lewis replied, as his brain went into comfortable shutoff mode, its custom whenever Mendoza
started in on the subject of botany.
For the next few hours he trotted after her through the shimmering heat as they explored farther afield, nodding and
making polite exclamations, occasionally holding things when asked or standing beside plants she was imaging so
as to provide a reference of scale. As he watched Mendoza working, his primary consciousness was focused in a
The hip waders impaired his imaginings somewhat, but still there was something of human passion about her when
she worked, not like the other immortals at all, such an intensity she seemed ever-so-slightly dangerous. And how
could something lithe as a tigress have such apple-blossom skin? Her hair was coming undone as she worked,
floating like flames around her face, and the long coiled braid drooping down… if he were to reach out and take
hold of it, what would she…
“…The odd thing is, it’s immense but it doesn’t seem to have been cultivated, ever,” she was saying in a puzzled
voice. “Just some gigantiform variant, but no disproportionate increase in the size or number of seed capsules.”
“How curious,” Lewis said, jerked from his reverie by something registering on his hazard sensors.
He turned his head. Far out upon the cracked and blazing plain, a mirage of silver water shimmered, rippled,
advanced. Advanced? A sudden gust of hot wind buffeted his face.
“Er—“ he said, just as Mendoza lifted her head and turned swiftly.
“What’s that?” she demanded. “Oh, God my Savior!”
“I think it’s—“
They winked out more or less simultaneously and wound up halfway up the side of the nearest island, perched on a
tree branch. Watching in horrified fascination, they saw the shining flood roll onward, unhurried, unstoppable,
surrounding their refuge and flowing on to the horizon.
“Damn,” said Mendoza, staring. “Where’d all that water come from?” Lewis pointed to the sky, where the slate
cloud front of morning was just blotting out the sun and taking on a nasty coppery tint.
“It must be from the storm in the mountains. Grover told us this turned into a lake,” said Lewis.
“So he did. Well, it doesn’t look all that deep,” said Mendoza. “We can wade back to camp. We wore our waders,
An anaconda, quite a large one, floated past their perch. They regarded it in thoughtful silence.
“Then again,” said Mendoza, just as the sky opened with the force of a fire hose.
They clung to their branch as torrents of water beat down on them, gasping for air with their heads down. The rain
shattered the silver mirror of the plain, turned it into a seething, leaping mass of brown water.
“I think we ought to wait it out,” shouted Lewis. Mendoza nodded and pointed to a drier section of branch, one
overhung with a canopy of broad leaves. They worked their way along until they reached its comparative shelter
and huddled there, dripping. Below them, various Amazonian fauna displaced by the flood was hurrying up the
hillside on four, six or eight legs respectively, likewise seeking refuge.
“But…It never does this at New World One,” said Mendoza, pushing back her wet hair.
“New World One has a forcefield projected over it,” said Lewis. “Houbert only lets in enough to keep the lawns
“Ah,” said Mendoza. “That would also explain why we aren’t besieged by insects every night.”
“Or snakes,” said Lewis.
“That’s right; snakes can climb, can’t they?” said Mendoza.
They edged a little closer together on the branch.
“Well, we did hope we’d have an adventure,” said Lewis. “And I suppose this beats sitting in on another
departmental budget meeting.”
Mendoza nodded doubtfully, watching the rain lash the surface of the water to muddy foam.
“I have to admit, this is as rainy as England,” she said. “At least there weren’t anacondas in Kent.”
“Scarcely any snakes at all there, really,” said Lewis.
“Except for Joseph,” Mendoza added, narrowing her eyes. Lewis, well aware of her feelings for the immortal
who had recruited her, made a noncommittal noise. Seeking to turn the conversation elsewhere, he said brightly:
“Think how wretched I’d be right now if I’d asked Lucretia along! She wasn’t what you’d call a good sport.”
“Mineralogist, isn’t she?”
“Mm. Emphasis on jewels. Curates the Company’s new world loot. All that plundered gold, jade and whatnot.”
“You never know; maybe she’d have found a few emeralds out here.” Mendoza turned to look at him. “Wait a
minute—there’s a rumor that somebody over in Mineralogy is kinky for gemstones. Supposedly has a private trove
she likes to scatter in the bedsheets when she’s entertaining friends. Among other things. That wouldn’t be Lucretia,
“It certainly wouldn’t,” said Lewis firmly, and untruthfully. Mendoza grinned.
“And you wouldn’t tell me if it was, would you?”
“Of course I wouldn’t.”
“You really are the perfect gentleman, Lewis,” said Mendoza fondly. “What a bunch of idiots your ex-lovers have
all been. One of these days, the right one will come along. You’ll see.”
Lewis gave her a forlorn look, which she utterly missed.
The rain continued without cease or indeed any sign that it was ever going to grow less. More things were swept by:
a jaguar, crouched on a floating tree trunk, its ears flattened down in disgust. Caymans, swimming in flotillas. A
sloth, apparently drowned but possibly not.
And then, abruptly, the rain stopped.
“Oh, look, somebody turned off the taps,” said Mendoza.
They sat there a few minutes, waiting expectantly for the water level to drop.
“I don’t think it’s going down anytime soon, somehow,” said Lewis.
A few more minutes went by.
“Well, it’s only—“ Mendoza scanned. “Just over a meter deep. We could wade.”
“We could,” Lewis agreed. A raft of broken branches drifted past, crowded with unhappy-looking monkeys.
“Or we could wait a little longer,” said Mendoza.
“Dry clothing,” said Lewis at last. “Dry martinis. Comfortable chairs.”
“Yeah,” said Mendoza. The tree tilted outward, ever so slightly, but unmistakably.
“Oh, crumbs,” said Lewis, as the tree tilted further.
They jumped and landed some distance behind the tree, which keeled over gracefully and slid down the hillside in
a runnel of flowing mud. It took a lot of the hilltop with it.
“I have this sudden compelling urge to return to our camp,” said Mendoza. Lewis just nodded, speechless.
They picked their way down the sodden hillside and ventured out into the water, which was just precisely high
enough to trickle in over the tops of their waders.
“Lewis, I am so sorry,” Mendoza said, as she slogged along. “You might have been sunning yourself in some
Venetian palazzo or other right now.”
“Oh, that’s all right,” said Lewis. “I don’t mind.”
Mendoza looked at him askance. “I’ll bet you say that to all the other girls, too. Sweetheart, there’s such a thing as
being too much of a—“ she broke off and turned, coming face-to-face with the cayman that had been advancing on
them stealthily. It opened its jaws, but closed them on empty air as Mendoza dodged and brought her fists down on
its flat head, with a crack that echoed across the water. It spasmed, rolled over and drifted away belly-up.
“—nice guy,” Mendoza finished.
Back To About Gods and Pawns
About The Author
To Mail The Author: