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A City Near Centaurus by Bill Doede


The city was sacred, but not to its gods.
Michaelson was a god—but far from sacred!


Crouched in the ancient doorway like an animal peering out from his burrow, Mr. Michaelson saw the native.

At first he was startled, thinking it might be someone else from the Earth settlement who had discovered the old city before him. Then he saw the glint of sun against the metallic skirt, and relaxed.

He chuckled to himself, wondering with amusement what a webfooted man was doing in an old dead city so far from his people. Some facts were known about the people of Alpha Centaurus II. They were not actually natives, he recalled. They were a colony from the fifth planet of the system. They were a curious people. Some were highly intelligent, though uneducated.

He decided to ignore the man for the moment. He was far down the ancient street, a mere speck against the sand. There would be plenty of time to wonder about him.

He gazed out from his position at the complex variety of buildings before him. Some were small, obviously homes. Others were huge with tall, frail spires standing against the pale blue sky. Square buildings, ellipsoid, spheroid. Beautiful, dream-stuff bridges connected tall, conical towers, bridges that still swung in the wind after half a million years. Late afternoon sunlight shone against ebony surfaces. The sands of many centuries had blown down the wide streets and filled the doorways. Desert plants grew from roofs of smaller buildings.

Ignoring the native, Mr. Michaelson poked about among the ruins happily, exclaiming to himself about some particular artifact, marveling at its state of preservation, holding it this way and that to catch the late afternoon sun, smiling, clucking gleefully. He crawled over the rubble through old doorways half filled with the accumulation of ages. He dug experimentally in the sand with his hands, like a dog, under a roof that had weathered half a million years of rain and sun. Then he crawled out again, covered with dust and cobwebs.

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