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datatime: 2022-11-27 15:40:10 Author:kDtURucT

I'm thinking the boys should get turned loose, he announced to the Captain in the quiet of one afternoon. They were watching the yard over cameras. Over the weeks, the prisoners had slowly begun to trickle up from their cells and brave the sun again. Ben was the stalwart, first every morning, last at dusk, walking, feeding the fire, walking, walking, getting those muscles ready. Nathan Lee could see his mind at work. Ben had not missed a day. For weeks he'd had the place to himself. Now it was inhabited again. The burnt sacrifices of birds and squirrels resumed, though the season was getting cold and they'd largely hunted the place out.

By the fire, Eesho was holding forth about the coming armageddon. It had been over a month since Ochs had kowtowed to him, but the encounter continued to whet his appetite for disciples. Borrowing from Revelation and from the War Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls, he had patched together a hybrid parable about a giant demon, one of the Sons of Darkness, begging him for forgiveness, and a queen of the dead, a woman with green eyes and hair like red gold whose name was Miranda, and her slaves, who were Nathan Lee and Izzy. Each day his sermons became a little bolder and more intricate.

There were hundreds of Anasazi cave dwellings in the Four Corners region. With the Captain's help, he'd plotted them on a map. He could flee with Miranda, hole up, outwait the fanatics streaming toward Los Alamos, and then run loose through the world with what was left of their time. It would mean betraying her father, to whom he'd promised to deliver Miranda, or trying to betray him. Nathan Lee took it for granted that Paul Abbot had his every move under the tightest surveillance. He was more of a prisoner than the prisoners in Miranda's basement. Even if he could escape Los Alamos, Miranda would never agree to leave with him. Her devotion to the city-her utter faith in it-baffled and frustrated him. She acted as if she'd been born here.

Izzy balked. Why would any of them trust us? They're onto us now. In their shoes, I wouldn't trust us.

As it developed, the Captain had put a great deal of thought to it already. For the next several hours, they might as well have been discussing the release of zoo animals into the wilderness. The clones were too wild, and at the same time too tame. They were dangerous, but habituated. They couldn't be freed anywhere close to the city, or they might try to return and prey upon it. Sending them down to the pilgrim camp would be like throwing them into quicksand. It was a pit of despair and deprivations down along the river. If the deck sweeps had not been called off, they could have been transferred by helicopter to some distant place, but now that wasn't an option either. After Miranda's directive shutting down human experimentation, Los Alamos had ceased the harvesting of cities, which were probably finished anyway.

Nathan Lee went to Izzy, who thought it was a terrible idea. I told you, they know we're the enemy. Eesho's got them ready to kill us if we show our faces.

Not his bloody lordship, Izzy protested. I'm not about to hand Eesho the keys to the castle. He already thinks he's God almighty.

Nathan Lee was surprised. Then you're not opposed to them going free?

Well, all right then, Nathan Lee said, trying to believe his luck. So when is the right time?

Fine, grumbled Izzy. We'll pick one. But which one?

I'm thinking the boys should get turned loose, he announced to the Captain in the quiet of one afternoon. They were watching the yard over cameras. Over the weeks, the prisoners had slowly begun to trickle up from their cells and brave the sun again. Ben was the stalwart, first every morning, last at dusk, walking, feeding the fire, walking, walking, getting those muscles ready. Nathan Lee could see his mind at work. Ben had not missed a day. For weeks he'd had the place to himself. Now it was inhabited again. The burnt sacrifices of birds and squirrels resumed, though the season was getting cold and they'd largely hunted the place out.

The notion gratified him. He despised what had been done to them. They and their sacrificed brothers had been used a thousand different ways by Los Alamos, from serving as lab subjects to titillating the city's mystical itch. Now they could be used one final time, as his surrogate for breaking free.

Nathan Lee was astonished. But you're their keeper, he protested.

Fine, grumbled Izzy. We'll pick one. But which one?

As it developed, the Captain had put a great deal of thought to it already. For the next several hours, they might as well have been discussing the release of zoo animals into the wilderness. The clones were too wild, and at the same time too tame. They were dangerous, but habituated. They couldn't be freed anywhere close to the city, or they might try to return and prey upon it. Sending them down to the pilgrim camp would be like throwing them into quicksand. It was a pit of despair and deprivations down along the river. If the deck sweeps had not been called off, they could have been transferred by helicopter to some distant place, but now that wasn't an option either. After Miranda's directive shutting down human experimentation, Los Alamos had ceased the harvesting of cities, which were probably finished anyway.

Nathan Lee went to Izzy, who thought it was a terrible idea. I told you, they know we're the enemy. Eesho's got them ready to kill us if we show our faces.

Better me than most, said the Captain. Anyhow, I had this hunch someone like you might show up. And then it would need someone like me to be where I am, doing what I'm doing, who could nod his head yes.

The notion gratified him. He despised what had been done to them. They and their sacrificed brothers had been used a thousand different ways by Los Alamos, from serving as lab subjects to titillating the city's mystical itch. Now they could be used one final time, as his surrogate for breaking free.

Nathan Lee guessed that was one way to view the universe. You're going to let them go? he reiterated.

In the meantime, Nathan Lee wanted to prepare the clones for alien times. They knew how to quarry limestone, sow wheat, work leather, smith iron, and herd goats. But survival in the ruins of America was going to require different skills. One can of spoiled food could wipe them out with botulism. One wrong highway could land them in the Canadian winter. The cities might be dead, but they were still mechanically alive, and deadly. The clones needed a crash course in the twenty-first century.

Izzy balked. Why would any of them trust us? They're onto us now. In their shoes, I wouldn't trust us.

There were hundreds of Anasazi cave dwellings in the Four Corners region. With the Captain's help, he'd plotted them on a map. He could flee with Miranda, hole up, outwait the fanatics streaming toward Los Alamos, and then run loose through the world with what was left of their time. It would mean betraying her father, to whom he'd promised to deliver Miranda, or trying to betray him. Nathan Lee took it for granted that Paul Abbot had his every move under the tightest surveillance. He was more of a prisoner than the prisoners in Miranda's basement. Even if he could escape Los Alamos, Miranda would never agree to leave with him. Her devotion to the city-her utter faith in it-baffled and frustrated him. She acted as if she'd been born here.

Better me than most, said the Captain. Anyhow, I had this hunch someone like you might show up. And then it would need someone like me to be where I am, doing what I'm doing, who could nod his head yes.

Nathan Lee went to Izzy, who thought it was a terrible idea. I told you, they know we're the enemy. Eesho's got them ready to kill us if we show our faces.

The notion gratified him. He despised what had been done to them. They and their sacrificed brothers had been used a thousand different ways by Los Alamos, from serving as lab subjects to titillating the city's mystical itch. Now they could be used one final time, as his surrogate for breaking free.

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