Chapter 10 (part 1 of 2)

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Chapter 10

The light shined all around the bridge, bathing every grass blade in a brilliant glow. Gravity waves shook the bridge, making it thunder and vibrate so that bits of dirt and paint rained down. Maggie hugged Gallen. Overhead, Gallen heard someone shout, "I'm not armed! I'm not armed!"

Someone's up there, Gallen realized.

"I was only out for some exercise," a man called. "There is no harm in that." Gallen recognized the voice. Veriasse.

The flier hovered nearer. "Citizen, have you seen anyone pass you on the road?"

"Indeed," Veriasse said. "A magcar flashed past me not five minutes ago."

"Can you describe its occupants?"

"It carried only two—one was a woman. I cannot be sure of the sex of the driver."

Without another word, the flier darted south. Gallen peeked out and saw a second white, saucer-shaped flier that had been zigzagging over the far side of the river do likewise.

Veriasse whispered, "Gallen? Maggie?"

"Down here." Gallen started to climb up. "What are you doing back? I thought you were gone?"

"Shhh ... talk softer. The gate we sought was guarded, so Everynne and I were forced to retreat. Don't climb up here. The night scopes on the vanquisher's flier can spot a man at forty miles. It is likely that I am being watched. Stay hidden and speak softly. The fliers can discern loud sounds, but softer sounds are masked by the fluctuation of air molecules that are disturbed by the fliers' gravity waves. I'll meet you at your camp at dawn. For now, follow the creek, keeping under heavy cover, then circle back through the woods. As an information manager for Fale, I've taken the liberty of issuing you false identifications. If you are captured, feign innocence. You will not be harmed."

"I wondered how I got credits on that empty chip," Gallen whispered. "I knew I had a hidden ally."

"Good luck," Veriasse whispered, and he hurried away.

Gallen led Maggie through the ravine into the hills. They crept under the starlight, more anxious to keep under cover than make good time. They reached camp before dawn, so they took shelter in a deep grotto to sleep.

At dawn, Veriasse woke them with a whistle. He stood at the top of a small rise, holding three bundles tied with string. He was gazing north. It took Gallen a second to realize that Veriasse was calling to Everynne and Orick. Gallen got up and stretched. In the distance, he could discern Everynne and Orick making their way through the woods. He wondered at the old man's uncanny ability to walk softly in such heavy growth, to find them no matter where they hid.

Gallen shook Maggie awake, then walked up the rise. "Thank you again for your help last night, Veriasse. How did you know we were under the bridge?"

"I watched you from a distance," Veriasse said. "I saw you enter Maggie's room and effect her escape. I was impressed at the last, when you closed her window as you leapt out. I'm sure that it confused the guards, forcing them to search for you within the compound. In fact, they are probably still concentrating their main search inside. Anyway, I saw you leap into the river, and by gauging the flow of the current was able to guess where you would exit. I would say that you planned your escape fairly well, although your lack of education was almost your undoing."

"In what way?" Gallen asked, perplexed.

"You didn't know about the capabilities of modern pursuit vehicles. That was my fault, for not warning you. But you also tried to beat the motion detectors. I suspected you would, so I went to Maggie's window and put jammers down before you arrived."

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