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08 June 2018 @ 07:36 am

Amac grinned nastily. “Exactly. We’ll present them with a fait accompli.”

Arrow wrinkled her nose, but didn’t expose her ignorance of Latin.

Ditto Jack, although he knew the common surviving phrases.

“So we’ll get on with a bit of clearance so we can chat with the Governor in two days.” Jack stared directly at him. “I suggest you tell him that he is hiring, and not acquiring, so we can avoid further problems.”

Amac snorted. “I’ll let Arry know you’ve got a Witch.” With a jerk of his head his team faded back into the forest. The looks they sent back were not friendly.

Jack watched them out-of-sight and shook his head. “I should have never talked to them in the first place.”

Arrow sniffed. “Well, I’m glad. And also glad to see you were already ambitious, before you went wild with Aunt Susto’s potions.”

“She’s not actually your aunt, is she?”

“Old Gods, no!”

“Glad to hear that.” Jack picked up his chain saw and headed for his next victim.


Jack eyed Governor Arry Withione Granite Peak. Tall, like the majority of Oners, and showing his age. Which was probably a century more than the sixty years he looked, to a man used to normal humans.

“Governor Arry,” Jack gave him a minimal nod.

“Mister Hemmingway.” The governor sounded like he was talking to an unsatisfactory underling. Looked him up and down. Turned his gaze toward Arrow as she walked up.

“This is Sister Arrow Albdaut of the Black Island Pyramid. Arrow, the governor of this part of Granite Peak.”

“Governor, a pleasure to meet you.” Arrow was wearing a very businesslike pants suit, her hair professionally cut, a bare touch of makeup. “So, I understand you want some gates closed?”

“Yes. And you’re going to do it for us.”

“And you’re going to pay me, and then I walk away free. In fact, I understand you want it done a few days before the summer solstice, so I’ll remain in ///earth territory name/// until time to carry out the job.”

“Do you really think a young woman like yourself can order me around?”

“I’m not ordering you. I’m just making the terms of my employment clear. Now let’s talk about . . .” she waved a hand and the men rushing up behind them collapsed, “ . . . costs. And details. I understand that you want me to close two gates in ??? and two hours later, one in Cough Town? And standby . . .”

A wave and a tree dropped across the path of the approaching vehicle.

“And standby to close another? How are you planning on having me travel? With these short time constraints, perhaps a corridor would be a good idea?” She pulled out four pebbles. “They are labeled TL for top left and so forth. When you need me, just stick them up on a wall anywhere. The other end is currently out beyond the Earther’s farms. I’ll move it closer in as the date approaches.”

The Governor scowled, his eyes unfocused for a moment. A faint rustle from the forest. Two riflemen, with long guns, pointed down and heading for the governor’s vehicles.

Guess he finally figured out he couldn’t capture Arrow.

Jack cleared his throat. “It has occurred to me that laying in a good supply of food and ammunition might be wise, in case of either an assault or marooning. There’s a limit to what I can store without raising questions.”

The Governor turned and summoned Amac with a brusque wave. “Why don’t you two coordinate supplies of food, ammunition, and equipment. We’ve got months to stockpile everything we could possibly need.”

Arry frowned back at Jack. “I understand you approach a politician about our plan?”

“Actually, I presented it as my idea, and wondered if she wanted in. I said I was going to approach the Oners about it. At which point she said to talk to her if I survived.” Jack smiled. “I think there won’t be any resistance from my side. Especially if those Natives raided a few farms.”

He looked over at Amac. “I figure, steal some livestock—run it off a few kilometers. Maybe keep some of the best. How about you guys? Do you need to whip up a little more backing?”

Arry glared from Jack to Amac. “Very limited raids. Three raids each, spread them out. It won’t take much to change people’s minds.”

Jack grinned at Amac. “So . . . shall we raid our own or each-others?”

Amac grinned back. “Our own. I know some people who need to be raided.”

The governor eyed him. “We’ll talk. Later.”

Jack’s gut twisted. Why am I doing this? Am I crazy?

Arry swung back to Arrow. “Half a million to take down each gate. We won’t need to make a gate, Disco will be back soon enough. And we just need to be in control by then.”

Arrow nodded. “Deal. I suspect I’ll ride along whenever Jack’s delivering supplies, so if there’s a change of plan, we can discuss it then.”

Arry’s eyes narrowed. “You could stay with us.”

Arrow glanced out at the stunned men, most of them sitting on the ground clutching their heads. “I think not. A pleasure meeting you, Governor.” She walked away.

Jack nodded to the governor, and eyed Amac. “I’ll come back next week to talk about what supplies which of us is going to bring to the party.”

He walked back to the gyp, skin crawling as he turned his back on the enemy. He’d parked facing back at his path, in case they needed to leave in a hurry. Arrow was watching, standing beside the gyp. She didn’t stir until he was in the driver’s seat, then she hopped in and he forced himself to drive smoothly away, and not gun it.

Arrow sighed. “Do you know, I thought I might like them, fit into their society. But they all have some deep . . . belonging to each other. Like a Witch’s Pyramid. They were very alien to me, and untrustworthy. Watch your back, Jack.”

He nodded. “Yes.”