They were in a landscape of high green hills and blowing white clouds. The morning sun was warm on them, and the air was clean and clear so that they could see for miles.

Their sensual presence was being interfered with by the fact that it bore no resemblance to where they had been last night.

“Could you go up and look for clues as to where we might be?” Jeanette asked the crows. They complied, though Thyrsis murmured something like ‘Captain Obvious’ as he took off.

While Lord Silvertyger Elphinstone paced around in a widening circle, the others converged on Jeanette. Terence Ransom held the back of his neck as he said to his daughter, “I guess we should be thankful that the gods or whatever they were waited until you showed up before banning us. That would have been messy.”

“It’s also possible,” said Grandmère Hutan, ”That they forbore to do anything until somebody filched a basket of treats from their island banquet.” The capybara said nothing.

“Also possible. But perhaps an important question is, did they push us away from something or towards something?”

“And like most important questions, probably unanswerable,” said Grandmère.

The crows’ voices came over her jewelry. “Come up to the edge of the rise to your right. There’s something you should see.”

Silvertyger joined them as they cleared the ridge. Below them, nestled among lower hills was a city. It looked big and shiny and made of metal and glass. “And there’s an interuniversal train ramp, so we’re probably not off the map entirely,” Terence said.

“Though I must say it doesn’t look like it belongs on the afterlife circuit,” Senhor Capoeirs Capybara said, his mouth full. Jeanette noted that he was carrying the aforementioned basket.

“Then let us go,” said Lord Elphinstone. “ No doubt we’ll be better informed when we get there.”

No one demurred. Jeanette, though shaken by the teleportation, saw no reason to hesitate in the presence of a mirror-armored tiger. And she was definitely of the opinion that she was being pushed towards something.

The hike downward was pleasant, and Jeanette was beginning to learn the pleasures of air without hydrocarbon remnants in it. She wondered a bit at the lack of highways or roads until a flat rectangle loaded with containers floated above their heads, destination unknown.

The city itself rose up quickly, sleek metal, glass and stone. This is what her world had once thought the future would look like, instead of the disappointing jumble it had turned out to be. The people looked human; they were clothed sleekly, although not exclusively so. They walked or were carried on a quiet system of floating glass rectangles, operating on many levels. They seemed quite expert at hopping from one level or direction to another. It made her want to try it.

Another lack was that of any signs: they still had no idea what this city was called. Since they were among the few who stayed at ground level (and of course looking the way they did) they didn’t make the jump to accosting the citizens and asking.

Then a ding sounded from Jeanette’s backpack. She knew what it was immediately, pulled out her tablet and shouted “No!” But there it was: the white apple with a bite out of it on a black background and a progress bar. She reached down and pulled out her phone: same thing. “If you delete my books, you…” she said.

But quickly the Tablet relit , showed for a moment her array of apps, and then went white.

WELCOME TO RADIANT CITY! Slid down the text.



An array of icons, most of them animated, filled up the screen


In smaller letters


She handed her tablet over to her father, took out the map and unfolded it. Thyrsis and Antithyrsis came down and perched on her shoulders, since she still couldn’t read the Old Haven characters.

“There it is,” Thyrsis pointed with his beak. “Three stations down from Ambremerine.”

“They certainly don’t show it as being this big,” Jeanette said. “Same size as Ambremerine, and that was a couple of marble slabs.”

“It’s a very old map,” Antithyrsis reminded her.

Jeanette was very startled to realize that someone was standing right next to her, staring at the map. It was a young Asian boy with close-cropped hair, dressed in a kind of black suit with white piping and a pronounced angular collar. “Whatcha lookin’ at?” He asked in perfect imperfect American English.

“Who the--are you?” Jeanette cried out. The boy grinned from ear to ear.

He clapped her on the shoulder. “Tag--you’re it!” and turned and ran.

Jeanette dropped everything and ran after him.



next chapter