Xenolith, Page 85A. Sparrow
Chapter 72: The Red Car
Through the windshield, opaque with condensation, a patch of droplets caught the light of a heliograph flashing in the hills. Ara recognized the pattern. It was an attention signal, to be followed shortly by an actual message.
The sight electrified her, but Canu and the others seemed not to have noticed. Canu sat behind the wheel, toying with every lever and button in reach. Vul and Pari slouched in the back seat, their heads lolled back. Vul had sworn an hour before, they would never put him alive in this metal coffin. A sudden downpour with pelting hail had convinced him otherwise.
Ara swiped an arc through the misted glass with the cuff of her shirt. The car’s interior swarmed with the odor of unwashed bodies. She opened her door to let in some air, now that the rain had passed.
The clouds ripped open like old cloth, exposing the blue flesh of the sky through their shreds. The flashing resumed high atop a ridge line, two ranges beyond, as the Mercomar station took advantage of the sun’s reappearance. “All is clear. All is clear,” it repeated; the routine message for stations with no news or orders to relay.
Ara wondered if the so-called “Lost Cadre” in the West still monitored the Mercomar stations. Baren, for his part, had been diligent in tracking and recording their messages, even those too twisted in code to decipher. News of any treaty would come quicker by Mercomar than xenolith, he had reasoned.