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         “She’s going back with him,” Chess muttered, feeling numb as he stared down the highway. He watched as Razor’s trucks turned around, one by one -- the last one taking Ileana with it -- and disappeared around the bend in the road.
         But Sariel merely shrugged again, and her face held an expression that Chess could not read. And then, with the folder of papers under her arm, she slipped away, leaving Chess alone on the road.
         But he was not as alone as he thought. With a rustle of tree branches, two men appeared at the side of the road: Tez’s two men who had escaped from the burning truck. But, like Tez, they had once been Razor’s men, and Chess knew them both. And the last time he had seen them, they had been chasing him down the hallways of Razor’s compound, and he had been running for his life.
         And now they were walking toward him slowly, and glaring.

         Suddenly, Gryff was standing beside him. And he was fully, and very obviously, armed.
         “All okay, then?” Gryff asked curtly. He squinted toward the approaching men.
         Chess turned on him. “What were you doing?” he demanded. “Why didn’t you detonate?”
         Gryff frowned at Chess. “Ileana didn’t give the signal,” he said flatly. Then he shook his head, growling, “Look, you wanted me to go along with your damn plan: fine, I said I’d do it. But don’t expect me to go off-plan, ignore Ileana, and just kill everyone -- kill you -- because I think it might be a good idea.” Then, in a low voice, he added, “Although it might have been the best thing I could do for myself.”
         Before Chess could process his words, he saw Gryff turn toward Tez’s men, who were now just a few meters away. Gryff stood straight, as always, but in a casual stance.
         “Suggest you see if that truck still runs.” He nodded at the still-smoking vehicle. “And get it out of the middle of the road, and out of the area, before Home Defense takes notice of it.”
         Tez’s men, looking amazed to encounter someone who seemed fearless of them, wordlessly retreated to the truck.
         Gryff moved closer to Chess. “So, wasn’t that the famous Razor?”
         At Chess’s wordless nod, he tapped his rifle and said, “I had him in my sights the whole time.” And then he grinned. “See, no reason to worry about the big bad guy when I’m around.”
         “W- why didn’t you shoot him?” Chess gasped. “He’s taking Ileana back -- taking her away!”
         “She went willingly,” Gryff protested. “You told me that Ileana knows this guy, Razor, the best of anyone. If she saw a threat, she would have at least glanced toward me, but she never did. I could see her face through my scope, and she looked scared, but still pretty determined. She also looked…,” Gryff’s voice got quieter as he lowered his head and muttered, “like she really cares about the guy.”
         Chess let out a pained sigh, glancing once more in the direction where Razor’s trucks had gone.
         When Gryff looked up again, his face was stony. “So, Chess the big hero, you survived this one, too,” he said. “Maybe you do have seven lives.” Then he made a strangled noise, like a groan, deep in his throat. “How many times are you going to make me say goodbye to you?” he asked hoarsely. Then he turned and walked away into the woods.
         In silence, Chess watched Gryff go. He wanted to call him back, but what would he say?
         Chess didn’t even know what to think -- about anything that had happened that morning.
         And then Chess gazed in the direction of Lodestar. It was still there. And the water wizards were still free. And maybe, he thought, ...maybe Gryff was right.
         Razor and Ileana did care about each other. Chess sighed again at the thought. And, by going with Razor, Ileana was protecting Lodestar. And Ileana, he was certain, could find a way back to them.
         And Razor didn’t seem to care about the water wizards, as long as Tez didn’t get them. Razor cared about thwarting Tez, and that seemed to be, well, not a bad thing.
“Maybe we did everything right,” Chess murmured. And then, remembering that Gryff had been standing guard over him while Razor had been there, he added, “And maybe things have changed.” He looked down the road. “And maybe, in a small way… we all just changed the world.”

Continued next page...

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
- attributed to an ancient Sanskrit text on military strategy (?)

         I would like to follow up the bold statement in my last blog: history has not yet ended. We are currently viewing the world at a specific point in time, but the world, its political systems, countries, and history are ever-changing. One could, of course, draw a line right here and say that democratic capitalism creates the most successful countries in the world. But democratic capitalism has only been around for maybe two hundred years or so. The Viking colony on Greenland lasted about five hundred years -- and what about the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the various incredibly long-lived ancient Chinese dynasties, and so on... Perhaps one would prefer to stop in the 600’s instead. Or the 1500s. Or why not reserve judgment until we’re in the year 2525...

If you were an alien from Mars visiting earth in the year 1500 and viewed all the great civilizations, which would you think would eventually dominate the world? The answer would be easy: any civilization but the European one.
In the east, you would see the great Chinese civilization, which had lasted for millennia…. Its scientists are the best on the planet. Its government is unified and the mainland is at peace.
In the south, you have the Ottoman Empire, which came within a hair breadth of overrunning Europe. … Istanbul is one of the world’s great centers for scientific learning…
Then you have the pitiful European countries, which are racked by religious fundamentalism, witch trials, and the Inquisition. Western Europe, in precipitous decline for a thousand years since the collapse of the Roman Empire, is so backward that it is a net importer of technology. … Moreover, the city states of Europe are constantly at war with each other.
- Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku

A prophetic amateur of history surveying the world in the opening of the seventh century might have concluded very reasonably that it was only a question of a few centuries before the whole of Europe and Asia fell under Mongolian domination. There were no signs of order or union in Western Europe, and the Byzantine and Persian Empires were manifestly bent upon a mutual destruction... On the other hand China was a steadily expanding empire which probably at that time exceeded all Europe in population, and the Turkish people who were growing to power in Central Asia were disposed to work in accord with China.
- A Short History of the World by HG Wells



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