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Flight From Tomorrow

Chapter 2
It was broad daylight when he woke, and there was a strange throbbing sound; Hradzka
lay motionless under the brush where he had slept, his blaster ready. In a few minutes, a
vehicle came into sight, following the road down the mountainside.
It was a large thing, four-wheeled, with a projection in front which probably housed the
engine and a cab for the operator. The body of the vehicle was simply an open
rectangular box. There were two men in the cab, and about twenty or thirty more
crowded into the box body. These were dressed in faded and nondescript garments of
blue and gray and brown; all were armed with crude weapons—axes, bill-hooks, long-
handled instruments with serrated edges, and what looked like broad-bladed spears. The
vehicle itself, which seemed to be propelled by some sort of chemical-explosion engine,
was dingy and mud-splattered; the men in it were ragged and unshaven. Hradzka snorted
in contempt; they were probably warriors of the local tribe, going to the fire in the belief
that it had been started by raiding enemies. When they found the wreckage of the "time-
machine", they would no doubt believe that it was the chariot of some god and drag it
home to be venerated.
A plan of action was taking shape in his mind. First, he must get clothing of the sort worn
by these people, and find a safe hiding-place for his own things. Then, pretending to be a
deaf-mute, he would go among them to learn something of their customs and pick up the
language. When he had done that, he would move on to another tribe or village, able to
tell a credible story for himself. For a while, it would be necessary for him to do menial
work, but in the end, he would establish himself among these people. Then he could
gather around him a faction of those who were dissatisfied with whatever conditions
existed, organize a conspiracy, make arms for his followers, and start his program of
power-seizure.
The matter of clothing was attended to shortly after he had crossed the mountain and
descended into the valley on the other side. Hearing a clinking sound some distance from
the road, as of metal striking stone, Hradzka stole cautiously through the woods until he
came within sight of a man who was digging with a mattock, uprooting small bushes of a
particular sort, with rough gray bark and three-pointed leaves. When he had dug one up,
he would cut off the roots and then slice away the root-bark with a knife, putting it into a
sack. Hradzka's lip curled contemptuously; the fellow was gathering the stuff for
medicinal use. He had heard of the use of roots and herbs for such purposes by the
ancient savages.
The blaster would be no use here; it was too powerful, and would destroy the clothing
that the man was wearing. He unfastened a strap from his belt and attached it to a stone to
form a hand-loop, then, inched forward behind the lone herb-gatherer. When he was close
enough, he straightened and rushed forward, swinging his improvised weapon. The man
heard him and turned, too late.
 
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