Eldnium, p.22
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       Eldnium, p.22

           Enoch Pyle, Jr

  Actually, Landon realized, time couldn’t have stopped. The bullet was spinning ever-so-slowly. And likewise, he imagined, it must slowly be inching its way forward, meaning it might, eventually, find its target. By standing behind the bullet, his side still stinging, and eyeing down the metal slug, he could see that the caped man had intended to hit Li’an.

  Li’an was the target.

  Landon tried to swipe the bullet from the air with his hand, but it wouldn’t budge. He tried swatting at it with a large wooden panel, but the panel, too, was frozen and immovable. Everything, even the debris from the pile of rubble, was stuck in place.

  Another pain shot through his side, and Landon realized that he had to treat his wound. So he left Li’an and the caped man, knowing that they weren’t going anywhere at the moment, and started off in search of some kind of first aid. Upon surveying the area, however, Landon realized that the infirmary had been leveled, along with every other building around the courtyard.

  He stared over the pile of rubble that had once been the infirmary, the Jumping Stones a blur in the distance, the bodies of heroes whose names he didn’t even know littering the periphery of his vision.

  He fell to his knees, overcome with hopelessness. His pants were soaked in blood, and his side ached dully, the pain diluted by the fear of being alone. As his eyes welled with tears and the world around him began to blur, a streak of light appeared in the afternoon sky, and Landon watched it grow larger and larger until—


  —it exploded in midair, as if it hit some kind of wall, and erupted into a giant fireball, bits of what Landon could now see were spacecraft littering the fields in the distance. Among the debris, a massive lump descended through the air, falling, falling, falling, until it crashed into the ground. There was no crater. There was no sound from the impact. But when Landon saw the thing begin to stir, he realized what had happened.

  Tommy had returned.

  Before Landon could run toward the crash, Tommy stood up and began brushing himself off. Landon forgot just how large Tommy was, and again realized that it would have been incredibly handy to have had Tommy’s help fighting The Control.

  “Tommy!” Landon shouted, jumping to his feet and waving his arms up and down, trying to attract Tommy’s attention. “Tommy! Over here!”

  When Tommy looked up, Landon could see the shock on his face as he surveyed the crushed and crumbled ruins of the village, and as Tommy started running, Landon saw that he was running on top of the tall grass, which was frozen and unmoving.

  “No way…” Landon whispered to himself.

  He watched as Tommy came nearer, towering into the air, a giant among the landscape.

  “What happened here?” Tommy asked, his voice solemn and somber. Landon opened his mouth to answer, but Tommy spoke again. “The Control…”

  “They attacked,” Landon said.

  Tommy looked over the caped man, pounding his fist against him. “Frozen?”

  “I don’t know,” Landon said.

  Tommy noticed the muzzle flash, and his eyes tracked from the gun to the bullet to its target. “Li’an!” He shouted hysterically and wrapped his massive fist around the bullet, tugging and pulling with all of his might, his feet digging into the ground, but even the dirt not giving way. After a moment, he gave up on trying to dislodge the bullet from its place in space and collapsed to the ground, panting.

  “Where is Iclovar?” Tommy asked.

  “I don’t know,” Landon said again, suddenly feeling even more hopeless than he had before. “We went for weapons, and he was gone when we returned. He could be buried anywhere. I can’t look for survivors, because I can’t move any of the rubble.”

  Tommy’s eyes narrowed on Landon, and Landon could see suspicion there. “Why aren’t you frozen?” Tommy asked.

  “I don’t know that either,” Landon answered.

  Tommy got to his feet, dwarfing Landon in his shadow. “Did you do this?”

  “No!” Landon objected. “Of course not! I was fighting. Li’an and I were all that was left. But…this guy…he was too strong. He cornered us. I tried to protect her from the gunshot, but then…well…then this happened.”

  Tommy had stopped listening. His eyes had focused on something behind Landon, and Landon suddenly knew what had caught Tommy’s attention. Tommy pushed Landon roughly out of the way, tossing him aside like a falling leaf, and ran to the opposite end of the courtyard, falling to his knees at Isaac’s side.

  “How could this happen?” Tommy shouted. “How could this happen?”

  Landon crawled to his feet, his side now in twice the pain it had been in before. “Isaac must have been wounded while on his last mission,” Landon explained. “He crashed here with just enough life to warn us that The Control was coming. Iclovar ordered an evacuation, but it was too late. The Control landed just after, and the battle began.”

  Tommy turned on Landon, standing with a fierce look in his eye. “Two people here are alive,” he warned. “You and that man. I think you are with them.”

  “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Landon said, backing up against more rubble. “No way. Li’an is alive, right? Even if I did cause this…freeze…it would just mean that I have at least saved Li’an, right? And look at my side. I was wounded when that guy blasted me with his hand.”

  Tommy squinted and inspected Landon’s bloody clothes. He huffed and turned around, again surveying the damage to the village.

  “What happened to your spacecraft, Tommy?”

  “I don’t know. It just exploded. I had a hero with me…a hero I’d rescued from Narkaska in the outer rim. She was a shifter. I failed her.”

  “That couldn’t have been your fault, Tommy.”

  Tommy didn’t seem convinced. “What now?" he asked.

  Landon was stupefied. Tommy had been trained. Tommy had been on a real mission. Tommy was more qualified to take charge, but here he was seeking advice from Landon. “I don’t know,” Landon said. “I was going to ask you. I’m too new here. I hadn’t even had a chance to see the Oracle.”

  Tommy’s eyes lit up. “The Oracle! You haven’t seen the Oracle!” He grabbed Landon and began jumping up and down, shaking Landon a little too violently.

  “Tommy! Tommy, stop!”

  “Oh, sorry,” Tommy said, returning Landon gently to the ground. “You can talk to the Oracle. She might help us.”

  “But everything is frozen, Tommy.”

  “The Oracle is not a part of everything, Landon. Everything is a part of the Oracle. You should talk to her immediately.”

  Landon might have argued, but he remembered Li’an saying something about the Oracle being timeless. So maybe Tommy was right. Maybe the Oracle could help.

  “Okay,” Landon agreed. “Let’s go.”

  The Oracle

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