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25 May 2017 @ 09:37 am
_Scrambled_ part 28  
 

Chapter BHG

Day 16

Ahco walked halfway down the hill before he dared to speak. "If he had said 'an incredible display' and stopped there, I'd have agreed with him."

Myyk stopped beside him, as they watched a massive tree start leaning, a ripple of cracklings as the damaged trunk lost to gravity and slowly leaned . . . accelerated and fell.

"Well, all those Grade B movies with the hundred meter death punch? Maybe those weren't quite the absurd exaggerations I thought they were."

Dipper joined them. "That's got to be at least eighty meters, and the width of his slice was nearly as wide. Cutting green wood at the far stretch of it. I . . . didn't think anyone could do that. Including Nick." She looked back over her shoulder.

Ahco turned and watched the youngsters gallop down the hill toward them. "And then there's Little Aggie."

Who flashed a grin their direction as he ran past.

Dipper sighed. "He really is safer in the Red Zone . . . but . . . "

"Our training is outraged. Yes." Myyk shrugged. "And now the priest. Ex priest, whatever. What do we do with him?"

Ahco grunted. "Train him so he's more efficient. Which I hope means safer, not more deliberately dangerous. Dough, Yucky? Go get some pack horses. And large knives." He trotted on down the hill and up to the first dinosaur.

Poe was staring down at it. Shaking.

"Perhaps you should sit down, sir. You've rather spectacularly overdone this morning."

Poe looked at him. "I do know how to slice. I've sliced up to ten meters away, before." His voice slid and squeaked.

Dipper swallowed. "Have you had any of that medical potion of Nick's?"

The short man frowned.

Ahco looked inquiringly at Dipper. "Yes. He had a double dose in the clinic."

"Nick says it can regrow entire organs. And . . . well, puberty is a major power threshold."

The priest looked at her, and his legs slowly folded. "I'm a hundred and twenty-two years old. I can't . . . That's impossible."

Dipper shrugged. "Only one way to find out. And he suggested you need more training. For control and efficiency."

Poe looked around and winced. "I just struck out, even though they were so far away. I thought if I could hurt the leader, they might go away."

Ahco grinned. "It worked, even if not quite how you'd planned it. So, I've sent for pack horses, and we'll feast tonight."

"I was thinking . . . berries and acorns." Poe looked past the dinosaurs to the fallen trees. "Do we need firewood?"

"Lumber."

Ahco spun . . . the two most wanted criminals in the empire had walked down to join them, the rest of their students behind them.

Nick and the Priest eyed each other.

Poe looked away. "I hated you . . . because you did what I wanted to do. That I was too weak to do."

"You were ten. I was fifteen and trained to fight."

"And later I despaired. What else could I do but stay. But my biggest sin was never speaking up for the boys they dragged kicking and screaming into the operating rooms. I am ashamed. I hate them, but mostly I hate myself."

"Good. You've made a start. Put the past behind you and do better, now and forever." Nick turned away from him, swept his gaze across the watchers and raised his voice. "Let me demonstrate a positive use for slice."

The other Red Zoners followed them to the fallen trees.

Ahco followed, Myyk, Dipper and the priest on his heels.

"You youngsters don't have physical shields yet. So just watch. We'll start by cutting the limbs off the trunks, and cutting them into firewood size chunks."

Ahco was sweating by the time he'd managed to flow his physical shield off his body and just on his left hand, with a needle of power extending out twenty centimeters and slicing through everything. It was probably less work than chopping the wood with an ax. Probably.

Then Nick and . . . had he called her Gamer? Cut the tree trunks into long slabs, and levitated them into a loose stack.

"To dry." Nick shrugged. "I've heard that a stack like this, with good air circulation, will dry the wood but the weight will discourage warping. One more thing I'll discover through experimentation."

Dipper pulled some long thin poles out of the heaps of fallen trees. "Shall we make more travois?"

Which resulted in a lesson on how to skin and butcher a large dinosaur.

With four travois, they were able to strip the dinos to the bone, and haul all the meat away.

As he headed back toward "home" Ahco could hear Little . . . Zog . . . complaining.

"Why didn't we keep any meat?"

"Because Captain Ahco has to feed six thousand people. We only need worry about six hundred." Nick's voice dropped down into baritone range, then up again.

Poe heard him too, and glanced back. "But he worries about your people as well as his. He cares. Despite all we have done to him, his honor remains intact."

Ahco opened his mouth to say that he was a ruthless killer.

"Everyone has a right to defend themselves, and a moral obligation to protect the weak." Poe looked back. "The One would not accept Abbas' refusal either. That's when the killing started. Too late . . . for their bodies, but they saved their souls."

Ahco stopped and watched the little man walking through the tall grass, quick feet agile on the rough ground.

All priests don't feel like that. They can't! Surely they don't.

Poe glanced over his shoulder. "There are always boys who feel a calling, or try to, to please their parents. My father tried to persuade us that it was an honor. My older brother went quietly. I tried to run."