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Gradualism

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gradualism
ˈɡradʒʊəlɪz(ə)m/
noun
BIOLOGY
the hypothesis that evolution proceeds chiefly by the accumulation of gradual changes (in contrast to the punctuationist model).

Whenever we jumped we were accompanied by a blaze of blue sparks, which swirled around like snow before falling and disappearing like embers from a fire. I'd never noticed before, but when they lasted long enough to impact on the ground they'd sparkle and, just for a moment, there'd be a tiny dark hole, like a glimpse into a void. It would be there for half a second, then the hole would close and all would be normal.

The fields stretched out in all directions, with the mock-Aviary towering above, silhouetted in the distance. It was near dusk, with the sun fast descending and the skies a vivid orange.

"This place tastes amazing," I said, flicking my tongue out. "I'm not sure what it is, it just tastes cleaner."

"You've got weird priorities," Marv said, kneeling on the ground and breathing heavily.

I crouched down next to him. "Are you alright?" His dark skin had gone a little grey.

"I'll be fine," he said, waving his good arm, "but I've not done this as many times as you guys, remember? It's like being on a crazy fairground ride and then realising the harness isn't working right."

"You just described our entire lives," I muttered. Cal was standing a short distance away, gazing at the Aviary. "What's the plan?" I asked.

He pointed, not at the Aviary but at a nearby complex of buildings which were just visible over a hill. "We go there," he said, "and find out what's going on."

"Just like that," Marv said flatly.

Cal turned towards us. "I don't have any specifics for you," he said. "None of us really know what we're dealing with here. But you chose to come with us."

Marv held up his hand. "Don't get heated, man," he said, "I know we're making this shit up as we go. It's just worth pointing out every now and then, is all I'm thinking."

As the sun made its final descent we moved carefully through the long grass towards the complex, keeping low and watching out for any signs of life. The fields seemed empty, as did the surrounding valley. The Aviary and the nearby buildings were the only structures visible. We crested a hill and found ourselves looking down on the network of buildings, which were surrounded by an enormous metal and wire fence. The architecture was both familiar and foreign, with odd building materials that weren't recognisable but an overall sense of purpose which still made sense. They were still people, after all.

We lay down in the grass, keeping a low profile while we waited for the sun to finally sink below the horizon. Cal was off in his own little world, a few feet away from us, eyes locked on the cluster of buildings. I lay next to Marv, close enough so that our bodies touched a little. It occurred to me that this would be romantic, if it wasn't for the presence of a dimension-hopping revolutionary and a possibly evil scientific base. Other than those things.

"Sucks, huh?" I said.

"Yep."

"When we met at the Black Jasmine," I said, "you seemed to be hitting on me a bit. Were you?"

Marv was resting his chin on his remaining arm and he tilted his head to look in my direction. "Hell, yeah," he said. "You were a girl, it was a club."

"Pfft," I said, which is a noise squamata are particularly well equipped to produce, "for real, don't be a smartarse."

"Did you know," he said, dodging the question, "that squamata are a bit of an enigma to thermals? We can't read your heat signature with any kind of accuracy, because you soak up your surroundings more than most people."

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