Monday, June 25, 2007


The sun was setting beyond the mesas, setting the sky ablaze and frosting a few high clouds with gold.

Galileo selected the best of the surviving goats from the livestock car to take on their retreat while Coyote and Will bickered over which items from the two ammo cars they would put in their wagon. "I wonder if we've got time to hide the rest in the mine," Coyote said. "We could come back for it later."

"That's a good idea, but I don't think. . ."

Diana came running down the hill, where she had spent the last several hours on watch, resting, drinking coffee and eating a mangled apple pie they had found in one of the cars. "A rider's coming!"

Will and Coyote looked down the tracks. "Damn it," Coyote muttered.

"Don't know anything about it?"


"Well, it's only one person, and we're surrounded by ammo." Will rummaged among their confiscated weaponry and handed loaded AK-47s to Coyote and Diana, then picked one for himself. "If it's not someone friendly, they're about to wish they were."

They took up positions and watched the rider approach. Whoever it was, they sat their horse well. A light flashed from something in the rider's hand-- a series of patterned flashes.

"It's Sachi!" Diana said. She laid down her weapon and took off down the tracks.

Will and Coyote looked at each other. "Not more bad news, I hope.”

"Maybe she's coming to tell us we can blow up the night train."

"You and your wishful thinking."

They walked down the line and met up with Sachi, who was walking her exhausted horse back and forth while Diana hung onto the bridle.

"You're late," Coyote called. "You missed a beautiful derailment!"

"That's what Diana was saying."

"So what's going on in Salado?" Will asked. "Is everything okay?"

She shook her head. "The elections fell apart once we got word of what happened in San Eusebio. It was a collusion, just like we were afraid of." She looked at Diana. "Your friend Libby had the local Unitas ham get in touch with us. What a mess!"

"Libby got out?" Diana asked. "What about--?"

Sachi jerked on the mare’s reins. She tried to dismount but stumbled, and Will hurried over and gave her his arm.

"Did our people get out of the hotel?" Diana asked.

"Yes." Sachi stomped her feet to get some feeling in them, then gave her friend a hug. "That should've been the first thing I told you. I'm sorry. All that trotting scrambled my brain."

"So my mother is okay?" Will said.

Sachi took a deep breath. "Amalia, Dell and Boeing are fine, other than smoke and minor injuries."

Diana was weak with relief. "How did they get out? When I left it looked hopeless."

"I have no idea. It wasn't a long message."

"What about the others? What about Patton?"


"And his lieutenant, Sputnik? Dead, too?"

"No, but he's badly wounded. It sounds like he was quite the hero. He took three bullets trying to protect the commander."

"And to think he told me he was a coward."

"Why did Harley send you?" Will asked. "We're glad to get the news, but. . ."

"He wanted me to make sure you guys were okay, since we didn't find out in time to stop the mid-day train. He also wanted me to tell you to go to our meetup place, since there won't be any more trains coming out of Salado."

"Why not?" Coyote asked.

"Because we blew up the depot today."

"No way! Without me? You've got to tell me all about it." He took her horse by the bridle, linked his arm through hers and began heading back toward camp without even looking to see if Will and Diana were coming with them.

Diana followed them with her eyes.

"What's the matter?" Will asked, putting his arm around her waist and leading her toward the ammunition cars. "Aren't you relieved Mother is okay?"

"Oh God, yes," she said. "But Patton was a good man. And Sputnik. . ."

Will looked at her sharply.

"He's a very nice man. I hope he’s going to be okay."

"I'm sure he'll be fine. I look forward to meeting him. And Libby, too."

When they got to the donkey cart, they stood for a moment, staring at it. "You think we can just leave it here for the night?" Diana said.

"No, but we can finish loading it and leave it in the mine. Coyote was working on a plan to store some of this stuff for later. He explored all the tunnels, so I'm sure he's got an idea where we can put it. It will be good to have a stash of extra supplies."

"Are these mines safe?"


"Well, I'm glad we'll be sleeping here tonight. I wasn't looking forward to spending a night on the road."

"I think we have enough extra blankets for you and Sachi. If not, I'm sure there's something we can use from the train."

"I'd be content to sleep on the ground at this point."

"And I'd give you my own bed before I let you do that."

"Thanks, shilah.”

"Quit calling me 'brother.' It confuses people." Will took her hand. "I wish I could've been there for you in San Eusebio."

"I managed okay. I suppose it'll end up making me a stronger person. That's what they always say, you know."

"You don't need people trying to kill you to become a better person."

Diana ran her fingers along the side of the cart, then rubbed Cordelia's nose. "Isn't it funny how it's all so different from when we started? When we joined up, we were just going to run errands and deliver messages, remember? But we thought it would be so much fun to be real soldiers. We were going to be all grown up and get revenge for Valle Redondo, and now look. It's not fun at all."

"You knew it wasn't always going to be target practice and sniper work. You just need a good meal and some rest. Let's get this cart to the mine, put Cordelia up for the night and see what's for dinner. I think Galileo might be going to cook up one of those goats."

"Some fresh meat would be nice."

"And then I'll make you a pallet next to mine. You can sleep as late as you want in the morning."

"Coyote won't mind if I sleep with you guys?"

"Not if I tell him not to mind. We've sort of become friends."

"Really?" Diana grabbed Cordelia's bridle and began leading her toward the trail. "How'd that happen? You two are so different."

"It's a long story, but he's decided I'm his best friend so I guess I'm stuck with him."

"A person could do worse than having another friend. It's a pretty mean world."

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Alice Audrey said...

I love coyote's innocent nastiness. Fun little bit of dialog.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Coyote is one of my strangest characters, but I love him.

Will's remark about their friendship is kind of cryptic because there was a chapter I had to take out. It made no sense to have a chapter that was entirely from Will's point of view, when there are no such chapters elsewhere, but what basically happened is that Coyote went missing, Will nearly died in the mines trying to find him, and Coyote was so impressed that he's now a loyal friend for life.

Just like Will gave all his loyalty to Diana for being the first person to think he was smart, Coyote gave his loyalty to Will for being the first person to think he mattered.

Alice Audrey said...

You took it out over a little POV thing? Like I'd even have noticed. Harumph!