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datatime: 2022-11-27 11:03:41 Author:OVMNDMJm

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.

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.

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?

I wouldn't treat a dog the way we've had to treat those men.

At the moment, Ben was walking the wall circuit. Big, loping strides carried him around the yard. Men followed behind, the earnest ones matching his pace, the slower ones yakking away.

They're prisoners. They have no choice.

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.

Not him, Nathan Lee said, Ben.

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 astonished. But you're their keeper, he protested.

I wouldn't treat a dog the way we've had to treat those men.

They're prisoners. They have no choice.

You've got your work cut out, said the Captain.

You've got your work cut out, said the Captain.

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

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

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.

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.

You've got your work cut out, said the Captain.

We'll select just one of them. Educate him. Show him the ropes. When the time comes, he can lead the rest.

Not him, Nathan Lee said, Ben.

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

Their release, in short, would have to wait until E-Day, their fabled evacuation date. Nathan Lee worried that if and when that day ever arrived, there would be so much chaos the guards might forget to open the cells. In crossing America, he had heard stories of prisons and zoos filled with the carcasses of captives who had starved to death. The Captain took the job of programming the cell doors to automatically open an hour after the city emptied.

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