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date = 4531-09-08-04-37
from = stid1003@malu@244.21
to = central@rs001@4.0
importance = low
note = as related by unknown malic sage - translation may contain errors

This is the hard life, Provich thought as he walked through his ancient forest.
The real thing. We are out here in the wilderness with the lyncoor cats and the
trees, five million acres of pristine woodland protected by the Provich estate.

He owned it, down to the last square inch. His name was in the books, he had
purchased it for two krabas an acre from the Interplanetary Frontier Development
Control Institute. It was government of the new land, for the trillonaires, by
the trillonaires. Provich’s net worth was just short of a thousand billion, but
he had nestled his way into the trillonaire club nonetheless. The land was
supposedly untouched by human hands, but Provich’s agents had found evidence
that the Malic peoples had inhabited its mountainous terrain in the Precorruo
Age, and he felt confident his agents were right.

Provich had bought the land without ever seeing it, and as soon as he could get
away from his advisers’ barrage of emails regarding his numerous lawsuits, his
latest stock investments, and his mental health exams, he got together a small
group of himself and three other people - a hired Neomalic guide called Puma
and two nature nerds, Sean and Janet - to accompany him into the wilds as the
first modern humans to set foot on that land.

Provich met with his group six months before the trip in his “office,” a one
thousand square foot room with broad windows overlooking the city, expensive
paintings covering the walls, and a broad circle of easy chairs encircling a
hologram projector. When Sean and Janet arrived with their nose piercings and
their expensive fur clothes, Provich introduced Puma (who he had met for the
first time minutes before) as an very admirable person, someone Provich
respected “really very deeply,” and proceeded to summarize the Neomalic’s life
for the newcomers in a proud way, as if it were his own. 

They had set out almost a week ago. A helicopter had flown them into an IFDCI
camp, they had been pointed in the direction of the “Provich Purchase,” as the
beady-eyed IFDCI official called it, and they had left. Now, Provich felt, they
were out in the wilderness alone, without the comfort and safety of modern
society. Of course they had radio and GPS for emergencies, but he didn't like
to think of that. He liked to pretend they were all alone, removed from
humanity, surviving against the odds.

Provich wanted to find gold and silver. He knew museums would pay top dollar for
Malic artifacts, and he hoped to use the money to pay off some debt from the
lunar project. Provich laughed out loud. He hoped this wouldn't turn out like
the lunar project did. But he hadn’t been on the moon in person. Now, he felt he
could stop things if they started going wrong.


On their sixth day of traveling, they reached the remains of an old road. To
Provich, it was hardly distinguishable from the forest around it; but there were
banks on either side, and above the banks, in two perfect rows, were lines of
stately sugar maples, centuries old. He didn’t notice the road at first, and
wouldn’t have seen it if Puma had not pointed out the banks. Then, after some
puzzled staring, everything snapped into place in one moment, and Provich could
see the lines of maples. He thought of it as his mind canceling out all the
trees that grew in the road, and imagining the land as it had been in the
Precorruo Age. Once he saw the road, he could follow it easily.

The way was not straight. It wound through the hilly landscape like a tangled
ball of yarn, avoiding steep uphill slopes while trying to reach the mountains
all the time. Every now and then the wall of maples would break on one side, and
they would find an old stone foundation and sometimes a dry well, but, to
Provich’s disappointment, nothing of value. Sean and Janet, however, didn't seem
to care. They excitedly took photographs of everything they came across, tapping
away at their cameras. “As if these piles of rock matter,” grumbled Provich to
himself. “I haven't seen a single valuable thing since we left the IFDCI camp.”

But he stayed on the road, hoping it would eventually bring them to something
worth his time. Half the time he marveled at the noise of the birds and the
greens, blues, and browns that he now owned, half the time he excitedly
anticipated the money he would receive upon returning with Malic gold.

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