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The Road to Damascus: Chapter Six

       Last updated: Sunday, January 4, 2004 01:20 EST



    "Jesus," Simon mutters with reverent eloquence, "we have to cross that goddamned river again. Whose screwed-up, asinine notion was it, to build the capital city on both sides of that river?"

    I forbear mentioning that most cities in human space that have grown up beside a river tend to sprawl inconveniently on both banks. Simon knows this. He is simply venting battlefield adrenaline in a healthier way than growing ulcers with it.  

    My aerial drone relays enemy formations, painting a grim picture.  

    "Maze Gap is held by two Heavy-class Yavacs. Another Heavy has taken up position in front of Klameth Canyon Dam." I flash schematics onto my forward screen, superimposed over a map of the Klameth Canyon complex, provided by General Hightower. "A fourth Heavy class has blockaded Lambu Cut. Yavacs in both Medium and Scout classes are scattered through the canyon complex, destroying livestock and killing the human population."

    Simon snarls under his breath.  

    "If I make a frontal assault against Maze Gap, across open ground, there is a high probability that I will be damaged severely, potentially beyond repair." Before he can offer suggestions, my drone goes dead. "Aerial drone has been destroyed."

    "Other points of ingress?" Simon asks. 

    "Analyzing data. There is no other entry, other than by water, from the reservoir."

    "Lovely. Head toward Maze Gap and search that data from General Hightower. We can put on our thinking caps while we're underway."

    I increase speed and search my tactical databases, which were upgraded with new information during my post-Etaine refitting. I find a notation that a Mark XXI/I Special Unit made use of a deep river to conceal herself from Deng forces on Hobson's Mines. This is a very appealing idea. The Adero River flows very close to my objective. The Klameth River, which joins the Adero two kilometers west of Maze Gap, flows right through the territory I must wrest back from the Deng.  

    I am not, however, a Mark XXI/I Unit. The forward-reconnaissance Special Units are the smallest Bolos fielded since the original Mark I was sent into combat. The Klameth and Adero Rivers would have to be as large as old Terra's Mississippi to conceal my entire warhull. Since they are not, I am forced to scrap this possible solution as unworkable under current conditions. I see no alternatives to frontal assault against the Gap. I file VSR to my Commander, detailing my conclusions.  

    "I'm afraid you're right," Simon agrees, voice grim. "Hoof it, Lonesome."

    The Adero floodplain offers ideal terrain for fast overland movement. I rev up to 115 kph, not quite my top speed, but close to it. I cross twenty kilometers in zero point one-seven minutes, jolting my Commander every millimeter of the way, in a long swing around Madison's suburbs. I cross the Adero River at Hakinar Bridge, leaving it in rubble behind my blurred treads. I race eastward, down the straight road that will lead past Nineveh Base, nine kilometers from the edge of Madison's easternmost suburbs. Nineveh is within visual scan range when Simon leans abruptly forward in his harness, intent on the view through my prow-mounted visual sensors. He uses touchpad controls to zoom in for a closer look. I analyze the scene, attempting to understand what has caught my Commander's interest.  

    The ground surrounding Nineveh Base is badly pockmarked with deep craters, which have taken out most of the main road to a depth of six meters. Burning debris lies scattered in a wide swath of destruction. Mobile artillery pieces are lined up for deployment to Maze Gap, but cannot be jockeyed past the deep holes. Ground crews are working to bring down enough of the perimeter fence to roll the mobile 10cm Hellbores and artillery siege guns through. I can assist with this effort when I reach the base, simply by driving over the fence, but I do not think this is what caught my Commander's attention.  

    Simon is staring intently at the Enemy ship and Yavacs I destroyed, with some assistance from the Jeffersonian air force. There is very little left of the Scout, but the troop ship with its load of fighting vehicles lies across the road like an immense, bloated slug. Beside it is the body of the only Yavac-A/4 Heavy that off-loaded, which walked straight into my guns. The Yavac's turret still lies in the heart of Nineveh Base, lodged in the wall of what had been the main motorpool, judging from the smoking wreckage of vehicles inside the still-burning structure.  

    The smouldering hulk of the Yavac's main body, which is broader than my warhull and nearly as tall, is not quite spherical. It has a slightly cylindrical shape, viewed across the beam. The central portion is virtually round, with stubby, tapering cones to either side, providing attachment points for the complex leg joints. The legs sprawl haphazardly, some still attached, some scattered. Most are missing one or more jointed segments.  

    Simon's voice comes nearly as a whisper. "Sonny, boy, can you push that Yavac down the road?"

    I scan, taking measurements of the Yavac's external dimensions, calculating mass and probable weight based on metallurgy scans, and compare the results with my own capacity to apply footpounds of force to objects. "Yes, I can push this Yavac—"

    Simon Khrustinov's brilliance breaks across me like a sun going nova.  

    I can push the Yavac!  

    Simon's sudden laughter, knife-edged, triumphant, fills my entire personality gestalt center with euphoria. Nowhere in human space is there another commander such as this, and I have known many during the century of my service. I am more fortunate than I can grasp, to have such a commander as my own.  

    "Lonesome, you wicked son-of-a-gun," Simon grins, "let's give that damned piece of junk back to the Deng."

    "With pleasure!"

    I ease up to the Yavac, using short bursts from my forward infinite repeaters to slice off the remaining legs jutting out from the main body. By nudging gently with my prow, I roll the behemoth like a lumberjack rolling a log, neatly stripping the thing of all protrusions: leg joints, guns, sensor arrays, access ladders, anything and everything that might impede its forward motion once I build up speed, pushing it. I nudge the thing around the hulk of the troop transport, which is too large for me to move without discharging my Hellbores into it, which would be a waste of battlefield resources I will doubtless need. I still face what is likely to be the heaviest combat I will encounter on this mission. It will be expensive—very expensive—to win back Klameth Canyon and its ancillary gorges. The Deng will make sure of that. It is my task to make sure the price the Deng pay in giving it up is even higher.  

    My Commander sends a short, coded burst to the commander of Nineveh Base.   

    "Put your mobile artillery behind Sonny's warhull. We'll act as a shield until we've cleared those Heavies out of Maze Gap. Once we've taken out their main guns at the Gap, you can scatter into the other canyons, wipe up their infantry and take out the Scout-class machines they've fielded."

    "Understood, Major," came the reply. "We're set to roll."

    The hole in the fence is large enough, now, to accommodate the bulk of the big artillery guns, towed behind heavy cross-country engines, as well as the mobile Hellbores, which are mounted in tracked vehicles capable of tackling extremely rough terrain.  

    "Let's get this parade underway, Lonesome."

    I engage drive engines, pushing the Yavac ahead of my warhull. The pace is slow at first, but the highway is straight and the Adero floodplain is marvelously flat, which allows me to build up speed. I cannot achieve maximum running speed, since I am pushing an object that is only slightly smaller than myself, and only marginally less dense. I am pleased to achieve—and maintain—a cruising speed of 70 kph, which grinds the rolling surface of the Yavac smooth, like a jeweler's wheel, lowering friction and allowing greater speed. We come roaring down the final approach to Maze Gap, forming a juggernaut that can be avoided by jumping to one side, but not easily stopped. Not from dead ahead, at any rate.  

    The Yavac Heavies holding the Gap take notice and begin firing. The hull steamrolling its way ahead of me takes massive abuse from plasma lances and the Yavacs' heaviest guns. The metal heats up and begins to glow, with puddles melting and flying off like droplets of wax shed by a falling candle. The Yavacs cannot reach me with direct fire, not with the dead Yavac's hull between my prow and their guns.  

    Simon grins fiercely. "They'd be gnashing their teeth, Sonny, if the hairy little brutes had any."

    I am only passingly familiar with Deng dentition, since it is more important that I render them incapable of eating than it is to worry about what they eat and how they eat it. I leave such items to the special-ops branch that handles biological warfare.  

    I concentrate on what I do best and rush toward the enemy at the gate, swatting down high-angle mortars launched at me in a wild effort to reach my turret from above. I launch mortars of my own, biding my time for the right moment to strike a crippling blow. The mobile artillery from Nineveh Base streams out behind me, unable to keep pace with my 70 kph sprint. It is not necessary that they match my speed, since the Yavacs that would normally do them the worst harm will no longer be a factor in the attack equation by the time they reach the Gap.  

    In a moment of sheer, delighted whimsey, I access cultural databanks and select an appropriate aria. Wagner roars out across the Adero floodplain, from external speakers turned up to maximum gain. "The Ride of the Valkyries" flies on the wind before us and whips back across my fenders to urge the artillery crews on toward armageddon. I do not know if the Deng appreciate the psychological boost such music instills in the human heart, but a century of service has proven its value to me. My communications arrays pick up broadcasts from the trailing gun crews, transmissions filled with war whoops and soldiers yelling their way toward glory.  

    The rose sandstone shoulders of Maze Gap loom dead ahead. The Yavac hull I push is turning to slag, melting ahead of my churning treads. I enter the Gap, running that semimolten hull down the throats of the defending Yavacs. Then I pulse my forward Hellbore. My heavy shield disintegrates. Its sudden destruction gives me a beautifully clear field of fire, with no time for either Yavac to react to the abrupt change in battlefield conditions.  

    I fire both Hellbores, point-blank.  

    Both Yavac Heavies are caught in a maelstrom of brutal energy. For one hellish instant, they glow. I pound them with another salvo and rapidly follow it with a third. Both Heavies come apart at the seams, toppling to destruction under my treads. I burst through the Gap and swing hard left for a skidding turn into Klameth Canyon. What I see there fills every molecule of my psychotronic soul with mindless fury.  

    Butchered humans lie everywhere. Simon swears in hideous Russian and his eyes blaze with a fire to match the rage in my flintsteel heart. The Deng must die. Must pay for this barbaric slaughter. I snarl. I hate. I roar down the canyon spitting death from every gun, blasting Deng fighters out of the sky, incinerating ground troops that have indulged in an orgy of murder against the civilian populace of this canyon. I turn Scout-class Yavacs into molten puddles. I blow Medium-class Yavacs apart, sending bits and pieces flying hundreds of feet into the air and bouncing them off the sandstone cliffs. I take savage pleasure in destroying them.  

    It is the work I was created to do—and in this canyon, I glory in the doing of it.  

    I can only hope that we have come in time to save at least a few human lives.  


    Smoke and noise rained down like hailstones. Kafari cringed as brilliant beams of coherent light stabbed through the murk—and everything else they touched. Ori started shooting up the stairs at fast, flickering shadows. Weird alien screams drifted down through the smoke. Then three separate beams punched holes straight through Ori, like pins through a cushion. They sliced across him, jigsaw style, cutting hideous, cauterized gashes. An agonized scream burst free as he went down, still shooting. Kafari, badly shaken, stood rooted in place, fighting the acid nausea trying to tear loose from her gut.

    Then dark shapes appeared on the stairs, moving down toward them. Kafari gulped hard and started shooting, right through the boards. Alien screams lifted through the smoke. Dark bodies fell from the staircase. Somebody else was shooting, too, from under the sink, from behind the toppled shelves. Kafari's rifle ran dry. She reached blindly down and somebody slapped another gun into her hands. She fired again and again, at anything and everything that moved anywhere near the staircase. Bullets ricocheted off the walls and the bowed, damaged ceiling. Energy weapons sizzled and cracked all around her, splashing off the floor. The Deng were shooting through the steps, too.

    Then the world turned white. A blinding flash crisped blue around the edges, a breathless instant before the noise crashed across them. A massive wind scoured its way across the open cellar door. A backblast punched through the hole in the ceiling and slammed Kafari against the wall. Pain erupted like a volcano. She was still conscious, able to think and feel, and fleetingly wished she couldn't. Everything hurt, everywhere, nerves screaming at the abuse.

    She reoriented herself gradually. The stench of burnt flesh, thick smoke, and the crisped-wood smell of a housefire left her groggy on the stone floor. She coughed, jarring bruises the whole length of her body. The afterglare of that last big salvo faded, leaving the battered basement to reappear, ghostlike, as her vision recovered. Hearing took longer, but the deep tremors still shaking the bedrock gradually resolved into the sound of massive explosions from somewhere nearby.

    She finally turned her head, creaking in every joint, and peered at the damage. There were bodies everywhere. Ugly, nasty black ones, covered with hair and weapons and alien blood. The stairway resembled tattered lace, with more holes than chewed-up wood. One whole side sagged where energy weapons had bitten through the supports. More frightening was the state of the ceiling. It had fractured along the lines of stress where the first Yavac had stepped on the house. The whole back half of the ceiling had broken and now sagged dangerously, creaking and groaning as the plascrete settled lower. Dust rained down in ominous spatters as the ceiling dropped a fraction of an inch every couple of heartbeats.

    "We have to get out," she shouted, trying to find the others.

    President Lendan was still behind her, covered with dirt and sour sweat, bleeding down one arm.

    "What?" he shouted back.

    "We have to get out!" She pointed to the broken, settling slab of plascrete. "That won't hold much longer!"

    He nodded, face grey with terror and pain.

    Hank lay under the sink, as cold and silent as the stone walls. His body was riddled with nearly as many holes as the staircase. She steeled herself against the flood of grief and sick terror trying to break loose and filled her pockets with spare ammo. She picked up three rifles in a matching caliber, then gingerly tested the steps. Dinny Ghamal and his mother stood at the base of the stairs, waiting for her assessment. On her way up, Dinny handed her a big knife. As she moved cautiously, step by step, Kafari used it ruthlessly, stabbing any black and hairy thing that twitched or tried to move. Burnt hair and the stink of blood set her coughing again.

    As she neared the top, Kafari felt the whole stairway creak and shudder. "Keep your weight on the inside," she called down to the others. "The outside supports are gone. You'd better come up one at a time or this whole thing is going to come down."

    She reached the top and peered cautiously over the lip, into what should have been the kitchen. There was no house above her. It was gone, scoured away by that last, white-bright blast. It looked like somebody had used a sharp knife, slicing right across the ground. Even the topsoil was gone, leaving only the blistered bones of the bedrock.

    How in hell did we survive that? And what in hell was that? 

    The view toward Maze Gap was a landscape littered with smoking wreckage. Yavacs—and pieces of Yavacs—sent black clouds billowing into the sky. The Aminah Bridge was simply gone, as though it had never existed. The access ramps on either side of the Klameth River had melted. Wrecked cars and farm equipment had been partly melted, as well. Debris from farmhouses and other buildings lay scattered like straw. Far worse were the dead bodies. Deng infantry corpses she could look at fairly steadily, but the slaughtered livestock left her feeling sick and she couldn't bear to let her gaze linger on the human bodies lying crumpled in the fields or jammed into the broiled wreckage of cars and farm trucks.

    She swung her gaze the other way and caught her breath.

    The Bolo was literally the only thing she could see. Its guns moved so fast, she couldn't even follow the blur. Alien fighters appeared over the sandstone clifftops and exploded midflight, as fast as they popped into view. The Bolo was shooting at something on the ground, too. The thunder of its guns shook her bones. A hellish glow of light—blue, vivid red, streaks of yellow and actinic purple—blazed like balefires through the smoke. Its treads churned the fields to muck and tore the highway to shreds.

    A lightweight Yavac darted for cover in Hulda Gorge and lost three of its legs before reaching safety. A blur of light the color of hell's underbelly lanced out from the Bolo. The Yavac blew apart. Debris scattered, some of it right toward Kafari. She ducked, only to hear Abe Lendan shout up a warning.

    "The whole ceiling's coming down!"

    She scrambled up, threw herself prone on the ground, and prayed—hard—that nobody up here noticed them. The president landed beside her, clutching two rifles. Aisha Ghamal and her son lunged clear of the collapsing cellar. The ground behind Kafari's toes was crumbling, sliding away and dropping sharply downward. She slithered forward on her belly, not wanting to go down with it.

    Then she narrowed her eyes, trying to see through the murk, half blinded by criss-crossed, unnatural flares of light. The landmarks she knew were obscured, but she caught fleeting glimpses of the river, a bend in the high canyon walls, the lay of the crushed road. If she was right, Alligator Deep wasn't too far away. Unfortunately, there was a whole lot of death flying around loose, in that direction.

    "We can't make Alligator Deep! Is there any closer shelter?" she shouted into Aisha's ear.

    "Head for the cheese room!" She was pointing toward a long, low dairy barn that was—semi-miraculously—still standing. "There's a good-sized cellar under the barn, where we age the cheese."

    Kafari nodded, then reached down deep for just a little more courage. Enough to stand up and run the hundred meters between her fragile self and shelter. Then she was on her feet and running. Her breath sobbed in her lungs. It was hard to breathe. The ground heaved and shook underfoot, jarred by the titans fighting to possess it. She had never felt so small and frail and vulnerable in her life.

    Then she reached the barn, ducked around the corner, and skidded to a halt beside an ominously open door. She snatched Abe Lendan back before he could plunge through the open doorway. Signaling for silence, Kafari slid onto her belly, holding one rifle at the ready, finger on the trigger. She eased one eye around the corner, literally at ground level.

    She saw legs.

    Lots of them.

    A few even ended in hooves. The hooves weren't on the ground, however. They were parallel to it, dangling obscenely and starting to stiffen as rigor mortis set in. The rest of the legs were spindly, hideous things with joints in the wrong places. It was too dark in there to see just how many Deng infantry had sheltered in the Ghamals' dairy barn. Even one would've been too many.

    Got any bright ideas? she asked herself.

    Then she spotted the answer. An unholy, evil grin twitched at her swollen lips. It was fiendish. Diabolical. She could hardly wait to see the results. Kafari tugged at Aisha's arm, pointed to the row of white-painted boxes lined up no more than three meters from the barn wall, situated between the dairy barn and a whole orchard of Terran fruit trees.

    Aisha Ghamal's eyes widened. Then a look of utter, malicious delight transformed pain and fear and grief into an expression that sent chills down Kafari's spine. Kafari set her guns down, needing both hands free. Aisha did the same. Dinny took charge of their arsenal, holding onto the shotgun he'd carried out of the collapsing cellar. Kafari motioned for Abe Lendan to stay where he was, then caught Aisha's gaze and nodded.

    They dove past the open doorway and hit the ground running. Something shot at them through the doorway. Heat tickled Kafari's heels. Then Dinny's shotgun roared. Kafari reached the nearest stack of boxes.

    "Top two layers!" Aisha shouted.

    Kafari nodded, grabbed the corners, and lifted. Aisha snatched up the opposite side and they ran awkwardly, toward the barn. The boxes had started to buzz. Angry honeybees were zipping out of the violated hive. Kafari felt a sting on one hand, another on her arm, a third on her neck.

    Then the doorway was right beside them. "Now!"

    Both women heaved. The beehive sailed in through the open barn door. Kafari didn't wait to see what happened. She was running for the next-closest beehive. It took agonizing, eternal seconds to haul another beehive back and fling it into the barn. She lost count of the number of bees that had popped her bare skin, but the screams inside the barn told her the Deng were getting a far nastier welcome than she and Aisha had received.

    Without warning, hairy black bodies started to stampede out of the bee-filled barn. Running aliens formed a black tide that poured out between Kafari and Aisha on one side and Dinny and Abe Lendan on the other. Lendan tossed rifles to Kafari and Aisha over the heads of the dog-sized, panic-stricken Deng. Kafari caught the guns midair, flipped one back to Aisha, and started shooting. Savage satisfaction blazed as she shot one after another, almost arcade-style, ten points for every ugly spodder that went down. Dinny's shotgun blew off skinny legs. Abe Lendan's finished them off with a load of buckshot through the resultant screaming and hairy central mass.

    When a final mob of close-packed Deng emerged from the barn, pursued by a cloud of angry, swarming bees, Kafari shouted, "Inside, quick!" An outbound swarm meant there were no moving targets left to attack inside the barn. Aisha and Dinny led the way. They stumbled and crawled over dead cows and dying Deng troopers, some of them still twitching and howling under a mantle of dead honeybees. Aisha jerked open a door and flung herself down a stairway. Dinny followed. Kafari pushed Abe Lendan ahead of her and kept watch for trouble, shooting a Deng infantryman whose twitches looked like an attempt to use the energy weapon still clutched in one hideous appendange. Bits of Deng blew out under the cavitation caused by five high-speed rifle slugs passing through it, then it stopped moving altogether. Kafari bolted down the stairs, yanking the door shut behind her and scraping off a few determined bees crawling down her bare arms and legs.

    Then she was safely down with the others, in a room half the size of the cellar that had just collapsed. Big rounds and blocks of cheese, ranging from deep gold to pale milk in hue, sat in cheese molds or stacked on shelves, in various stages of the aging process. The air smelled wonderful, particularly after the battlefield stink they'd just fought through.

    Abe Lendan swept Kafari into a bear hug, shocking her speechless, then he hugged Aisha, too, and gasped out, "Brilliant! My God, that was brilliant! I would never have thought to use honeybees as a weapon!" His eyes were shining.

    Kafari laughed, the sound rusty as last year's fencing wire. "The best Asali honey on Jefferson comes out of this canyon," she said with a tired grin. "And Asali bees take careful handling. They're temperamental little insects, bred to displace native pollinators. When I saw those hives, I knew we could drive the spodders out without having to shoot our way in."

    Abe Lendan took her by the shoulders and just looked at her for a moment, then said very softly, "Kafari Camar, you just earned a battlefield commission as captain of the president's guard."

    Kafari stared, struck dumb.

    President Lendan turned to Dinny and shook the boy's hand. "Young man, that was some of the finest, level-headed shooting I have ever seen. You kept the Deng pinned down long enough to get those bees inside with 'em. I don't think any of us would've survived, if you hadn't started shooting when you did."

    The boy gained two inches in stature, right before their eyes. Kafari's eyes misted. Aisha's overflowed, unashamedly.

    "Son," she said in a choked voice, "I am proud to be your mama."

    "And I am proud to've fought beside you," the president said quietly, meeting Aisha's wet-eyed gaze. "I'm just a politician, but folks like you are Jefferson's real strength. That's what makes this world worth fighting for." He glanced at Kafari, then. "Well, Captain, what's our next move?"

    Kafari listened to the battle overhead for a moment. It was moving steadily away from them, deeper into the canyon. The Bolo was pushing the Deng back. She'd never heard anything more glorious.

    "I think we'd better wait until that fighting gets a little farther away, then skedaddle into the hills. If that dam goes . . ." The others sobered at once, realizing the danger was far from past. "But right now, we need to catch our breath. Maybe this is a weird time for it," she added with a faint smile, "but that cheese sure smells good. God knows when we'll get another chance to eat anything and it's been a long time since my dinner last night, on that freighter."

    She'd planned on eating a big breakfast in her mother's kitchen. She couldn't bear thinking about home, not after the multiple layers of horrible things she'd witnessed during the past hour.

    Aisha was nodding. "Good idea. Can't nobody fight a war on an empty stomach. And we burned up a hard day's worth of energy, already." She hunted through the tools stored in a cabinet near the door and came up with a big carving knife, since Kafari's was covered with drying smears of Deng blood. "There's plenty to choose from. We got four kinds of cheddar, some nice Colby, several soft cheeses. A couple of those don't get made anywhere but right here, varieties we came up with, ourselves. They trade real well on Mali, where a cow'd need a pressure suit just to get herself milked twice a day."

    The image set Kafari to wheezing in helpless laughter. Dinny grinned. Abe Lendan frowned slightly, trying to find the funny in it. "I'm sorry," Kafari gasped in apology, "but after you've milked a cow at four-thirty on a dead-of-winter morning, when the power's gone down on the auto-milking machines and the pails have frozen solid to the floor and the cows are really pissed about it, the idea of putting a cow in a space suit to milk her . . ." She broke up again, wiping tears.

    Abe smiled. "Clearly, I need to remedy a serious lack in my education."

    Aisha was pulling down big bricks of aged cheeses, some of them coated with a layer of wax. She pulled some of the smaller rounds, as well, similarly coated, and even scared up a box of crackers stored in a cupboard. "Product testing," she smiled through sweat and blood and bee-stings and grime. President Lendan grinned.

    There was water, too, which they poured into empty cheese molds, as makeshift drinking cups. Kafari had never tasted anything as heavenly as Aisha Ghamal's cheese and crackers and tepid water. While she bolted down the food, she paid careful attention to the concussions of battle raging overhead. The sound continued to recede in the direction of the dam. She was just washing down the last couple of bites when the power went down. They were plunged into utter darkness.

    "Everybody out," Kafari said grimly. "And let's hope to hell that was just the wires coming down, not the power plant. Or the dam."

    They moved wordlessly in the dark, fumbling open the door, then snatched up weapons and as much food as they could carry strapped to their backs. Kafari led the way up the stairs, checked the barn cautiously, then poked her head through the barn door. She didn't see anything that looked like it might shoot at them.

    "Okay, troops," she muttered. "Looks like this is it."

    Kafari headed toward the canyon wall, knowing there would be at least a few steep, narrow footpaths they could climb. There were game trails, used mostly by wildlife native to the Damisi Mountains, paths that were the favorite haunts of gollon and jaglitch. At the moment, the danger of staying on the canyon floor far outweighed any risk from Jefferson's inimical wildlife. With any luck, all the noise would've driven every wild thing for kilometers around into dens and bolt-holes. Lips set in a thin, grim line, Kafari led the way up into the high country.

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