Earthbound by Joe Haldeman

By Joe Haldeman

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It was a relief to be alone with him, the first time since we’d left the billet at dawn. He took my hand and squeezed it. ” “Me and you,” I said automatically. A song refrain from when I was eighteen. Paul an ancient man of twenty-nine. We walked in silence for a minute. ” He laughed. “Except Snowbird. ” “Poor us. Poor whole fucking human race. How many will be alive a year from now? ” “In a month, they’ll still be eating groceries,” I said. He nodded. ” I pinched his butt. ” We both laughed. Keeping that one monster at bay.

Over here, over here, over here. ” About halfway there, I could see her, a dark ghost in the dim sky light, dressed in black, her hands pale smudges over her head. “Excuse me,” I said idiotically, and patted her the way they did in cop shows fifty and a hundred years ago. She was about my size, but muscular. If she had a weapon on her, it was stuck in a place I was reluctant to touch. Her clothing was like satin, and it was a strangely strong erotic experience, caressing a person I’d never seen.

And there was a kind of joy when you hit the target, hand-slapping and thumbs-up—it was a group effort, and the guy you killed was just a grainy black-and-white image, like a pocket video game. “But I’ve done the opposite extreme, too. After Gehenna, I killed a man with my bare hands. Tried to strangle him, but he resisted hard. Finally beat his head against the concrete floor until . . until he died. I felt a different kind of joy then, fierce. ” “Gehenna,” she said quietly. ” “The bastards killed my mother.

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