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20 September 2018 @ 01:14 pm

Chapter Six

The Rip

"So . . . this Rip I hear about. Is it really a mid-continent spreading ridge?" She'd caught Xen just coming down the stairs when she walked up to the winery in the morning.

"Yep. Hang on a sec . . . " He tapped at the kitchen fabber, then ducked into the bathroom.

Proof positive that this building is fourteen centuries old and imported from Earth. An inside bathroom.

Xen returned in clean clothes and a faint scene of soap. Rael reached up and rubbed his head. "Stubble! Just as I was getting used to the bald look."

"I'll keep it shaved, if that's your preference."

"No . . . but it's always nice to know I'll still think you're handsome if you go bald naturally."

"It'll never happen." He made a grabbing motion, loaded sandwiches and bottles into the dimensional bubble and stuck it on his arm. "But you definitely should see the Rip."

He touched her shoulder and she stepped back . . . onto stone in the bright sunshine.

He pointed behind her. "The Rip."

She was a few meters away from the lip of a canyon. She blinked as she mentally adjusted to the size . . . stark gray and black layers, hundreds of layers, eroded, broken, a colorless vista, the far side was easily five kilometers away, and looking down, a river jagged through the foggy bottom. A bridge soared from somewhere out of sight on this side, arching out across the river, where her gaze was caught by the only spot of color. A building. At this distance it must be huge, sprawled on a flat layer of rock. More buildings, gray like their surroundings, became obvious once she knew where to look for them.

Xen finished off a sandwich behind her. "Fancy a stroll down? Or I can . . ."

"No. I think I'll walk. Where does that bridge start? It looks like it comes out of the canyon wall halfway down."

"It pretty much does. Come this way." He turned away from the bridge and building. "The road goes down a side canyon, then descends along the side of the Rip for a ways, before it crosses the river . . ."

Then people started popping out of nowhere.

"Hey look what the dog dragged home!" A big handsome blond man grabbed Xen and held him off at arms-length to look him up and down. "No, make that what the dog barfed up."

"Bugger off, Orion."


A man with jet black hair and curled mustachios, thumped Xen's shoulder, then examined Rael with striking golden eyes. "And is this the Rael we've all heard so much about? Yes, definitely one of Bran's daughters."

"C'mon down to the Inn." A big muscular man with brown hair and eyes. "You know everyone wants to meet her."

Xen snorted, "Rael, this is Orion, the blond, my Uncle Havi with the mustaches, and Korbin, who's being hospitable, and the Witches are Whoop and Verse . . ."

Another staggering step. Rael's ears popped and she was suddenly looking up at the canyon walls.

"And . . . Why's everyone still here? It's spring." Xen was looking around as people walked out of the ornate doors.

"Having a party. What else?" Orion grinned. "I was just laying in supplies, as everyone's started trickling in. Don't worry. The orgy won't start for hours."

Xen winced. "Sorry Rael, I didn't expect . . . everyone. Oh . . . no." He was eyeing a quartet of beautiful redheads in every shade . . .

Rael eyed them, and tromped hard on jealous reactions. "The Infamous Farmer Girls?"

Four grins.

"That's us." The one with the deep red hair grinned. "I'm Lava, this is Kyle, Gavi, and Nile."

Strawberry blonde, carrot, and almost black.

Nile eyed her. "So who'd you hear about us from?" Glances drifted Xen-ward.

"Oh, I worked with Q during her attempt to divert Helios. I met a bunch of relatives and heard about even more." Rael added a giggle and a little bounce.

They eyed her uncertainly, and Xen snorted. "Let me take you on a quick tour, then we should get out of here." He yawned as he took her hand and led her around the Farmer Girls and into . . . a rotunda with a compass rose on the floor and a stained glass dome. Down a corridor to a glassed in steaming pool.

"You two should join us." Nile grinned. "Don't worry, Rael, we only want him for a few minutes."

And then you kick him out of your bed without another thought? Without caring about him at all? Bitch. No wonder he's so wary of women.

"It's a nice place to spend a long cold winter, but by spring everyone's pretty much fed up with living so packed together." Xen shrugged. "Of course now that they have Rip World, a lot of people spend winter in the tropics. So the winter crowd now tends to be the dedicated partiers."

A loud chorus of agreement.

So Rip Crossing lives up to its reputation!

She blinked at as a gang of kids, pre-teenagers at a guess, galloped past.

"I . . . umm wouldn't have thought you guys would include the kids."

"Oh, not in the orgies, we're absolutely rigid about that!" Gavi shrugged. "But we're so spread out on Rip World that winter and parties are often the only times they see their fathers. And a strong male role model is so necessary for the kids."


"So . . . nobody gets married?"

"Eh, some people, and everyone's got favorites and often get exclusive." Nile shrugged. "Catering to some man just seems like too much trouble, when the kids need so much time and attention."


Xen hooked her arm and led her through a door to the outside behind the pools. No one followed them. They walked down to the streaming river, to admire a few alligators, and then a stroll downstream to three little houses.

"The witches—Mom's pyramid—live here. I probably spent half my childhood here, or across on Rip World."

"And the other half in Ash?"

"Or exploring the ruins in Asia. Mom tends to move around a lot."

They walked up a side stream to a grotto with a geyser spraying briefly, then subsiding to bubble peacefully. The statues of two running horses, breathtakingly realistic . . .

"Yearlings. Two of the experimental horses from TransWorld. From Earth." Xen reached into his bubble and pulled out a sandwich. "The God of Art bubbled several them, and my mother stole these and two other from him. I got Pyrite out, Richardo stole one, and Jin Genaro has one from Pax, that I think he stole from Art. There were three heavy horses, foals, Jet and the Old Dun are two, the third one we've lost track of." Xen yawned again. Bit into his sandwich.

Rael looked around the stark alien landscape. Alien to me. "Are you awake enough to get us back to the winery?"

He nodded through another yawn and touched her shoulder. And they were standing under the redwoods.

"Now, you need to finish eating. And . . . I need to run away before you fall asleep."

Back at the Inn, Rael took a long hot soak and was halfway through lunch when she caught the clink of shod hooves on stone and the rattle of harness as a horse-drawn carriage pulled up in front of the Inn.