From Lodestar’s makeshift computer room, they watched the small group of people advance slowly down the wide highway, toward them.
“Should we go to them?” Ileana asked. “Maybe they need a place to stay.”
Looking up from the screen, Fogg sighed. “We wouldn’t stay safe here for very long if we did that for every passer-by. Unless they look like traders, which they don’t. Ah, Ileana…”
Chess watched him smile indulgently and realized that Fogg was already hopelessly smitten. And he felt protective -- or was it jealous? Shrugging and turning back to the screen, Chess was startled to see the group slowing near the archway in the trees. And then they turned off the road.
“They’re coming up the path,” Irwin hissed, as if the invaders might overhear him.
“This never happened before!” Fogg pushed back from the computer screen, a panicked expression on his face. “What should we do?”
Chess shared their apprehension, but the strangers did not remind him of any of the numerous groups that he was already fearful of. And he was intrigued. “Let’s go meet them,” he suggested.
As it turned out, the people, a weary-looking group of five men and two women, all ranging widely in age, did have something valuable to trade.
“Seeds!” Ileana exclaimed delightedly. “Some that we can plant now, and some in the spring.”
“Well… whoever thought we would find traveling seed salesmen just when we needed them?” Chess asked, grinning quizzically. They were all sitting down around a campfire that Sariel had built in the courtyard between the buildings. “Uh, what are you guys really doing out here?”
Luis, the man who appeared to be the group’s leader, ignored the question. “We can also help you with your future water needs. We can help you build a system that will, over time, purify whatever well or other water source you wish to use. Even a pond is okay.”
“I’m sorry, did you just say that you could purify the groundwater?” Ileana asked in a voice filled with excitement. She glanced first at Noah, and then at Chess.
“That is Marcello’s special talent,” Luis said, glancing to his right. “Marcello, perhaps you --?”
But the man in question was sitting a little way off, and he was deep in conversation with Sariel. And Sariel, Chess noticed, had a look of intense interest on her face. He watched her lean forward, just then, touching the man’s arm as she asked him something in a quiet voice.
Luis appeared bewildered as he shrugged at the group. “We’ll catch him a bit later, then…”
“And what other talents do you have among your group?” Noah asked with a grin. “I gather that you are all scientists? No professors of history or philosophy among your number?”
“Yes, we’re all scientists, escaped from civ, but I’d be happy to discuss philosophy with you,” one of the men answered, sounding eager. “As for history, I hear there is a booming business out here for traders of old books and newspapers, but, unfortunately, we have none of those, ourselves.”
“And you don’t have any food you want to trade?” Irwin put in, sounding disappointed.
Chess waited for a few minutes until the discussion slowed, and then he said, “You knew where we were, didn’t you? Were you tracking us through our samiz transmission?”
One of the female scientists nodded. “It’s easy to track, if you’re close by. We feel safest with those who use samiz because…” She stopped, looking unsure of whether she should continue.
“Because we share a philosophy?” Ileana prompted.
“That’s a good way to express it,” the woman answered, smiling faintly.
Ileana let out an audible breath, and then said, without preface, “Water Wizards, you’re being hunted down. Not just by the government, not just Home Defense,” she added flatly. “By someone much more persistent and dangerous.”
Luis nodded gravely. “We have tried to stay in contact with the villages that we have previously traveled through.” He dropped his gaze to the fire. “And we know about the gang.”
Continued next page...
Gumby (MP): Basically, I believe in peace, and bashing two bricks together.
Lennon (EI): I’m starting a war for peace.
Shabby (MP): I’m raising polecats for peace.
Nudge (EI): Peace? I like a piece. Know what I mean? Know what I mean? Say no more.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus, Episode 24
Good guys using violence? In this age of entertainment, even many of our superheroes brandish guns and kill people -- a far cry from the cartoonish fistfights of prime time Batman in the 1960’s. But then, in the presence of a supervillain, what use is the ability to throw a solid punch? Recently, a member of one of the fantasy writers groups on Facebook asked if anyone was writing a story that didn’t deal with violence and war. But when we see movie villains destroyed by a hail of bullets, it’s a catharsis for us and a way of momentarily lifting the fear that, as logical human beings, we always feel to some extent.
If we peace-seeking people are honest with ourselves, we will admit that the world is violent, and we rely on others to keep things peaceful for us. It’s a dilemma that I have already explored. But individuals from Gandhi to Malala have shown that there are many different ways to win a battle.
“We need people like Satyarthi and Yousafzai to show that it helps to fight,” said Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.
- Malala, Satyarthi accept Nobel Peace Prize, 10 December 2014
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