THE OLD CITY • by Clinton Lawrence

The ruins lay before us, crumbling stone buildings covered with moss, abandoned centuries ago.

“What about Michael?” Valerie whispered into my ear. “It’s time to make a decision, Dale.”

I looked ahead at him, already approaching the outlying buildings of the Old City. Neither of us had ever trusted him, but so far, he had kept his promises. “Not yet,” I said.

She frowned, but didn’t answer. We followed. Michael was about to enter a small house with its walls standing, although the roof had caved in long ago. We couldn’t let him get out of our sight.

“Wait for us!” Valerie called.

Michael stopped, briefly, then entered. I’m not sure what he did inside, but the ground started rumbling, then shaking violently. We dropped to ground out on the open road. Thank God there was nothing to fall on us. The earthquake lasted what seemed like forever, though it was probably only a minute or two. But the Old City wasn’t much more than a quarry after it was over. The house Michael entered had become a pile of boulders.

Valerie and I spent the rest of the day trying to dig Michael from the rubble. He was barely able to speak when we found him.

“It’s done, I’ve saved the world,” he said.

Those were his last words.

“You don’t think he really had anything to do with it?” Valerie said after he died.

“Of course not,” I said.

We excavated the site for months, but found nothing left of the weapons we sought except twisted, crushed metal.

Clinton Lawrence is a high school science teacher and former engineer. His fiction has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, Galaxy, Reflection’s Edge, T-Zero, Ray Gun Revival, and several other publications. For several years, he was a staff writer for Science Fiction Weekly. He lives in Davis, California.

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