- One evening, just before sunset, they [Cyprian and Danilo] looked up at the wall of mountains, and all the way to the ridgeline there were these strange patches of light, everywhere, too bright for snow yet not orange or red enough for fire, as great sheets of glowing vapor swept the valley beneath, and against the reflection in the river of this incandescent passage, erect on an ancient bridge, above its pure arch in silhouette, stood a figure, cloaked, solitary, unmoving, not waiting, not beckoning, not even regarding the spectacle up on the mountainside, yet containing in its severe contours a huge compressed quantity of attention, directed at something Cyprian and Danilo couldn’t see, though presently they understood that they ought to have.
- They had found a very small village, an accretion of stonework hanging from the side of a mountain, and had been allowed to winter there. One passed from one chamber to another, some of them roofed, some not, by way of rough stairs and archways, snow-pierced tunnels, muddy courtyards, whose construction, beginning long ago with a single farm shed, had extended over centuries.
- They followed her gaze to where an old structure of some kind, destroyed and rebuilt more than once over the centuries, hung above a deep canyon, seemingly impossible to get to past the rapids in the river and the steep walls of bare rock. At first they weren’t even sure what it was they were seeing, because of shifting curtains of mist thrown upward by the roaring collision of water and rock.
- Here and there steps had been cut into the rock. Soon, audible above the boiling uproar below them, came choral voices, and they [Cyprian, Yashmeen, Reef and Lubjica] had reached a path, kept clear of brush and fallen rock debris, ascending in the long departure of light to a dark mossed arch above them, underneath which stood a figure in a monk’s robe, with its hands held out, palms upward, as if presenting an invisible offering.
* * *
- Chick Counterfly had already brought out of its storage locker a peculiar-looking optical contraption of prisms, lenses, Nernst lamps, and adjustment screws, into an appropriate receptacle of which he now carefully placed the pearl. Lindsay, still clutching his jaw in dental discomfort and muttering aggrievedly, lowered the shades in the dining saloon against the tropical noontide, and the boys directed their attention to a reflective screen set on one bulkhead, where presently, like a photographic image emerging from its solution, a printed message began to appear.
- Merle now had cranked a small gasoline motor-generator into action, brought two carbons together at right angles, and eased them apart again with a blinding arc sizzling between them. He made some lens adjustments. On the wall appeared an enlarged photo of downtown L.A., monochromatic and still. Merle rocked the carbons, turned some knobs, took from a wall safe a brilliant red crystal, brought it over to a platinoid housing and carefully slid it into place.