It was a long day, everyone whining about being hungry.
Oleg came back from a trip into the forest. “There’s a . . . well, more of a seep than a spring, but we can keep our water topped off, and, well, there are deer tracks around where it ponds up a bit.”
Helly stepped up to where she could peer around a tree and look down the fire break. Dozens of cars pulled off the road down there. “Yeah. Let’s start hunting before things get desperate and dangerous.”
“My Dad took me hunting twice. I know how to field-dress a deer.”
“Right. Let’s think this over . . . It would be best if no one knew where we’re camped. So if you get one, take it way down slope, and we’ll set up a big barbeque down there. Above where any cars are parked, but not too far. How does that sound?”
“Pretty good.” Oleg glanced at the Beast. “I’d like to take them silently, with a punch, but if I can’t get close enough . . .”
Helly nodded. “Shoot it.” Then she grinned. “You shoot it, we’ll cook it. And . . . perhaps when you do, telepath us and Armin and Gunter can go help you carry, while the kids and I head down hill to set up a fireplace.”
“How are you going to cook it?”
“On the skewers we’re about to start making.” Helly reached over the bed of the truck and grabbed the rifle and handed it to him. “Good hunting!”
Nasty sappy pine branches, but she wasn’t at all sure about whether she ought to use the brush . . . It’s stupid to not have a clue about edible plants, or poisonous ones. And not have any idea whether you can poison food by cooking it on the branch of a poisonous plant, even if I could identify them!
And splitting long thick splinters off of a thick pine branch and pressing them down produced the best . . . least horrible . . . skewers. Armin and Gunter were hard at work with hatchets, Helly handled the Mentalist work.
“It’s been nearly a year since Fynn started giving us Mentalist lessons, and then Lord Lorenz.” Helly sighed, and ran a push along the length of a splinter. “I could have done with another year or two before trying to live off the land.”
“Yeah, me too, but, you’d have been chipped,” Armin paused glancing at her head. “Oh, is that where the scab . . . I ought to have thought.”
Helly swallowed. Lie to my friends, or not? What if they’re captured? “No show Exec. I can’t believe my Dad actually paid for it.”
Armin’s face relaxed. “Excellent! That’s really great!”
“Of course, I haven’t had any training at all, but I guess it takes a month or two to really finish growing in.” She looked over between the trees. Three faint distant columns of smoke. “Maybe this will all be over by then. At least it doesn’t look like the whole city is burning.”
Gunther looked around. “You know we were on the road for a good seventeen hours. But between the traffic and winding around . . . we’re not actually very far away, are we?”
“No, and they’ll have a lot more helicopters . . . plus if they captured the airport, they might have the Guards’ bombers.”
“They wouldn’t . . .” Gunter sounded indignant.
Helly snorted. “We think nothing of bombing and killing the Natives. Why would those people think any different about us?”
“We’re True Men! Just like them!” Disbelief.
Armin looked around. “Gunter . . . if they respected us, they wouldn’t have invaded. Us guys? They’ll either kill us or chip us. The women they probably chip. If they’re pretty enough.”
By their standards. And most of us won’t be. So unless we’re very useful, they just kill us.
Gunter swallowed. “We . . . could go off into the wilderness?”
Helly shook her head. “Do you think the Natives would welcome us? Laugh their asses off and throw us back to the Yokos, more like. Because it’s not really a wilderness out there. It’s a wide spread network of small industrial centers, carrying on their civilization under the threat from us!”
“Helly! You sound like a Native!”
“I’m a quarter, and so is Fynn. We’ve heard our grandparent’s stories. We aren’t welcome out there. If we want to live, we’re going to have to fight. And take back the city.”
Mario Nacht was in deep trouble, no doubt about it.
I told them not to surrender! Damn Schwimmer and his “I’m the senior Administrator. You will surrender with me.”
I left, and the rest of them damn well went and surrendered.
Pity they’re all being bulldozed into the same mass grave. I’d like to think I could piss on Schwimmer’s grave after this is all over. And if Lorenz survived . . . his gut clenched at the memory of the old man out there with nothing but his Mentalist shield and a rifle . . . He blinked back tears.
Well, I’ll thank his memory for these workman’s clothes and especially the tough boots. I literally didn’t have anything tough enough to stand up to what’s going to be a long fight. Not long on the calendar maybe, but I expect it to last the rest of my life.
And thank you for this gun, Lorenz, wherever the hell you got it from. And you were still breathing when I grabbed it and started shooting.
So. I have a huge rifle, my service piece, my bedside revolver, not very much ammunition for any of them, and as much non-perishables I could add to my backpack and still carry it all . . .
Two gallons of water. And my black dress shirt over the red T-shirt.
He set down the water jugs and eased up to look around the corner of the almost-intact building and eyed Central Plaza. The Yokos appeared to be using it as a parking lot . . . with a lot of coming and going from the Schwartzen Building. The area and lower three floors were well lit, he could hear generators running somewhere.
The other Center buildings were dark.
Hardly matters. I didn’t want to go north anyway. West is right out, so east or south? I heard explosions from the eastside, all day. So I guess I’ll head south as far as I can, then cut east. I suppose the trails along the river will be well covered, so before that . . . Oh hell. Our portal is there. The one with our portalmaker, not the Arrival Grounds in the southwest where Bavaria had a beacon so they could find us. Where Yokohama opened a portal.
I wonder how they found Central Plaza? Was there an old beacon there, or did they manage to smuggle in a beacon?
He shook his head and eased back, picked up the water and headed south. I’ll take a look at the Portal Facilities and find a safe place to wait out the day.
Away from the Plaza the full moon was the only light.
It was only five miles—in a straight line—to the Portal Facilities. Detours to avoid the soldiers, to get around collapsed buildings, and a few places that raised the hair on his neck for no apparent reason . . . He got to the portal facility before the Moon set.
Yoko troops on the gate. Bright lights inside the big open bay of the portal.
Crap. They’ve captured our Portalmaker!