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chapter twelve
Part Two

They call me MaQ, and for the Original Peoples I am meeting on my mission, my name reminds them of distant cousins and ancient tribes and they accept me as their own. They refer to my enemy as the “Whites” for in their past my “Whites” have been their enemy too.

They live among rolling hills covered in forests thicker than I have ever seen before and truly it is a majestic place. And as the river running through their village continues down stream, the land dips and a vista straight from God’s own imagination unveils itself.

Surely there is nowhere in the world with such a pristine and natural beauty.

But I am not here to see such sights. I follow along with the leader of this tribe, Chief SpottyRivers, as we discuss my wares. To him I am but a simple merchant of hunting tools. I show him the best that I have, I call it a Cody Rifle but it’s little more than a replica.

That too is by design. It is based on a ten-year-old Network made model, but our engineers have replaced certain components, parts that are famous for being unreliable in the Cody. This one will not fail once in even ten thousand shots.

SpottyRivers looks at the Cody replica admiringly. They have guns, but none work anymore, or more accurately they ran out of ammunition to fire from them decades ago.

That is when I show him the EBRAI. It’s a small device that runs on solar power. Any stone larger than the emblem on the unit can be placed inside the chamber, and once the panel is closed that stone is cut by the unit to form as many ballistics as the materials of the rock can provide.

SpottyRivers is impressed by the speed which the EBRAI transforms the stone into two identical bullets, “But without the black powder they are just shaped rocks.”

That’s where the Cody is different from the old weapons he knows, I open up the chamber and show him the driver. Anything that fits in the chamber can be propelled without “black powder”. I don’t explain the Grav-Assist mechanism that generates a propelling field, because he wouldn’t understand. Instead I load the recently produced stone bullet in the barrel, aim and fire at the side of a large tree.

The bullet pierces the bark of the old growth tree creating a shower of woodchips and the gaping wound in the trunk of the tree is like a cancer on the towering giant when the dust settles.

I hold out the Rifle for SpottyRivers to take, “Children can make the bullets and with training a shooter can take down a Bison with a single shot.”

SpottyRivers is unnerved by the destructive power of the gun and I believe he has never seen one fired before. Like all leaders who are uncomfortable with the future he turns to another and instructs them to deal with me, but he stops a moment later and looks at me suspiciously, “What do you expect in exchange for these hunting tools?”

I respond honestly, “A place to stay, some food to eat, the warmth of friendship while I am here. These are things the guns cannot provide except by trade.”

Chief SpottyRivers responds with something I never expected to hear outside the League, “You would get those things regardless of what you have to offer.”

I renew my commitment to these people in my heart. I will do everything I can to help them keep their way of life.

* * *

At first they bring me children. Adolescents drawn to the stories of the gun and interesting in learning the ways of new toys. I scoff at this but among them is a prodigy, a little one named ‘Bear’.

Bear is a gentle soul and I wonder if, when the time comes, whether he has what it will take, but on our first hunting trip into the woods this one surprises me with the heart of a seasoned warrior and for the first time I wonder if reincarnation may not be possible.

He moves through the brush without sound, eases through thicket as though it was mist and fires the weapon like a trained marksman. In fact, aside from his need to rush, an energy brimming in this young man that is nearly as unrestrained as the mighty river, Bear is already a warrior. That is good, but they will need more like him if they are to survive.

* * *

In the third week I have learned my own way in the woods. I am going this route now, not the one they normally take to the Dam but a land route. It is taking longer than I hoped; the spongy ground of the boreal forest was not designed for walking.

It is easy to get disoriented in these woods as well, for they seem to harbour demons and darkness and a cloud of confusion descends upon me by mid-day. Were it not for the steady rushing of the water over the near bank I would be lost.

I’m not seeking to actually get to the dam. I have no interest in sabotage, but before I proceed with the next stage of this mission there are things I need to know.

Thankfully while I’m still only a third of the way the rise crests and I can clearly see the valley and the magnificent creation that has survived nearly untouched for over a century. And near it the recently parked platforms and machines that tell of a recently arrived Network presence.

* * *

It’s difficult to fake nonchalance when you have a secret, harder still when you need to push a timetable fast without appearing to do so. My strategy has been to meet up with Chief SpottyRivers daily, join him on a walk, update him on the progress and feel him out for areas of interest and common grounds. They seem like harmless discussions but they are part of mapping this person, a technique that will help me guide them where I need them to go.

As we discuss the progress of the shooters I talk of their nature to trust. “It’s not something I find a lot of in my travels.”

This has him curious, why would they be any different? I reply, “I suppose the other villages don’t get as many visitors as you do. And most have never seen the Whites.”

Without pause he confirms that he hasn’t seen any “whites” since he was a child and their village hasn’t had a visitor in many seasons but he can’t understand what there would be to fear outsiders. “A traveler is just that and a visitor is a friend until he leaves, then he too is a traveler.”

“What about an invader?” I ask. It’s the most brazen I’ve gotten but I need to get him on the right track. He looks at me perplexed, “Five generations ago we were left alone by people who did not have to leave. Who would invade?”

“What if those people came back?”

“So long as they respected what is ours we would live in harmony.”

Now I’ve got him.

It’s a small village and they’ve been alone for over a century, so such thoughts are hardly surprising. One would have to go out of their way to find such a small community, I tell him this. Then he guides me out of the village, right to the river’s edge and motions me to look upstream. As I stare up the valley I see that there are many villages along the riverbanks of the Cheyenne, each thriving, each part of this reserve.

The surprise is alarming, particularly since I’d been here for two weeks already, but I hide it well, shake my head and dip it with sadness, “It’s a pity,” I say, “This will all be lost when the Whites return.”

SpottyRivers cocks a curious gaze at me, “What would they want with this, brother?” He’s very accepting, that has to change before it’s too late.

I look at him and know I have him. Like a Fisherman battling a large deep water catch he will tug at my lines, and I may wonder if I’ve lost him at certain times, but my experience tells me I will triumph in the end.

He doesn’t see the danger because he cannot see how others could take what they rightfully own and nothing I can say will convince him of the imminent threat, but I don’t have to say anything, once I plant the seed.

I point to the distant structure, the dam which restrains the river as it makes its way into the valley below, “They will come for that. If they haven’t already.”

He knows the Dam. His people have been tending it for over a century. They keep the flotsam of the river from clogging up the gates so that the water may fall unimpeded to the valley below. For them it is their divine right and, “It is our property. By treaty they gave it to us.”

“I could tell you stories, my friend.” I speak in nudges, that’s all planting doubt requires, “The Whites pay attention to treaties only when it serves them, and are famous for making up reasons why they cannot abide them further.”

SpottyRivers dismisses my statement. Three generations provides a lot of evidence, while none appear to counter his beliefs. At least, none that he knows about.

“Already there are Whites at the Dam. I saw them on my way here.”

It is a lie. I didn’t approach by that direction but the reason I have come to this tribe at this time is because our intel showed that Engineers were preparing to come to the nearby Dam. Now that I’ve seen them I know these people must be lit to action or lose it all.

“Why would they do that?”

“There are the remains of an old city nearby. It is a place the Whites intend to renew. It will be the base for an invasion of this territory.”

I am speaking nonsense to him. He dismisses me but I know the seed is planted. Soon he will send someone to the dam sure that am wrong but concerned that I might be speaking the truth.

His sidekick, an elder named Kellam Middlechild, spoke in measured calming tones. He’s the only one of the group who has visited the Whites’ land. “They have no interest in returning to this territory,” he says.

SpottyRivers counters, “That was a lifetime ago, was it not? What if they’ve changed?” His choice of words are interesting, if intended, not changed their minds but changed, period.

Middlechild pauses, seeking a way to resolve the issue with finality, “Send TenderGeorge to the dam.” TenderGeorge was their best tracker, it was said he could sneak up on a full-grown buck and snip hairs from its tail without disturbing the beast. “If the dam is empty he can do the maintenance. If there are intruders he can return without being noticed.”

Perhaps I’ve had too many years speaking to the leaders of the powerless, guiding, swaying and flaming the passions of those who can influence a group, or those who have lost much to the system and need to strike back. Perhaps my vested interest in the geo-political struggle has clouded my perception of the world.

My feeling is that is not the case. I have had my eyes opened wide, I have seen the stark beauty of the entire globe and the cold hearted impact of greedy people. I have seen the quiet desperation of those held down too long and now the peaceful innocence of those who have never known war.

When their scout returns with his reports of Whites at the dam, of speaking to someone named Foreman, I remain in the background, nodding at the call for action. I seek out the influencers in the group and reinforce the warnings in whispers.

I speak in nudges. I always have and my suggestions to act come only as someone has nearly made up their mind but is held back by the tiny voice of reason. It’s my job to drown out that voice with reminders of their passions and stories of history’s greatest challengers.

But when these people, divided on the best option before them, bow to their leader’s wish and embark on his plan to take back their property, I withdraw to the shadows. Regardless of what the outcome is these people have lost something precious and I have no interesting in seeing that loss in their faces when they return.

* * *