The Dream Compass [Book 1 of The Merquan Chronicle]

The Dream Compass [Book 1 of The Merquan Chronicle] Read Online Free PDF Page A

Book: The Dream Compass [Book 1 of The Merquan Chronicle] Read Online Free PDF
Author: Jeff Bredenberg
information.”
    “A thousand!”
    The intruder’s friendliness fell away as he bolted from the bed. “Prison, muscle boy!” he said, face reddening. He pointed a quivering index finger. Takk gagged at the sweetness of his cologne. “And I’ll tell ya this much for free: I own three garages in town—private garages, discreet garages. When I study my logs for new customers, what do I find but—hooo, boogie—a Government registration number! Now what’s a Government truck doing in a private garage? Unless it’s stolen? And it’s all full of dry food and outdoor gear and fuel tanks and old marked-up maps and—hah—books!”
    “You entered the truck?”
    “Oh, I just hear such a tale, that’s all.” He bared his teeth in a hard, exaggerated grin, his lips pushed back into a yellowish rectangle.
    Matter-of-factly, Takk rose from the tub and strode toward the desk against the far wall, leaving footprint-shaped puddles.
    “And that’s all there really is to the story, right?” said Takk. “A thousand centimes for your silence?”
    “A thousand.”
    Takk pulled back the heavy oak chair as if to open the top desk drawer. He gauged the chair’s weight, then grasped it by its right arm. With a sharp grunt, Takk hurled the chair over the bed toward that bald dome with the surprised eyebrows.
    A decade ago a hard-charging executive named Gould Papier was assigned a building project expected to be, literally, the height of his career: construction of the largest building in New Chicago, a five-story tower that would house all of the city’s Government offices. The new structure would be a monument to Governmental principles: power, efficiency, solidity.
    Papier decided that the traditional building materials, quarried stone or yellow brick salvaged from “old” Chicago, would not do; he needed a progressive and spectacular medium, and he eliminated from his board of architects those who seemed mired in the past. After months of bickering, the panel arrived at poured, reinforced concrete, a technique well known to the high-ticket builders: There were said to be two miles of poured concrete sidewalks in the affluent neighborhoods of New Chicago. It was not an unknown material in some buildings’ foundations. Never before, however, had it been used on such a grand scale.
    For eighteen months a model of the new Government office building occupied a corner of his desk. It resembled a pyramid, with eight concrete buttresses sweeping skyward, one at each corner and one on each side. Papier pictured the building as a mighty, ribbed volcano. The model gathered dust, anchored contract papers and requisition forms, and, after its newness wore off, held pencils in its center well.
    No Government workers were surprised, privately, when the final structural work on the Governmental center pushed past its deadline in November that year: What ever really got done on time? The last of the concrete was poured in the ripping, icy winds of late December.
    The first appreciable thaw came on March 21. Grateful construction workers plastering walls and installing plumbing fixtures stripped down to their tattoos in the sudden warmth of the bright morning. T-shirts, sweaters, and coats littered all five tiers. Raucous guffaws and oft-repeated punchlines to forgotten jokes rang freely up and down the corridors.
    The concrete supporting the top two floors of the building, poured in the December freeze, actually never had achieved its intended rocklike state. It was poured into a mold as a liquid, of course, and rather than drying and hardening as the builders expected, the fluid concrete just froze. When Gould Papier’s volcano melted, twenty-three workers died.
    Gould Papier, “promoted” often these days within the shifting sediment of bureaucracy, occupied an office with a door labeled TRANSPORT: PUBLIC INFORMATION. His pocked face was drained of color; his hair, combed back, was yellow-gray. When a tall, rough-clothed figure
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