08 September, 2015

Morning, everyone packed and Roger anxious to get moving lest time become short; Einar could sense the urgency, struggled to bring himself to wakefulness and get his limbs to coordinate usefully with one another.  Liz was off helping Susan with the breakfast, Roger and Bud conferring over maps, and Einar was glad, did not want an audience.  Had one anyway, he discovered, in little Will and the raven, child standing not two feet from his bed and bird perched on a branch not far from the little one's head, both staring, silent.  Einar gave the pair a wild grin in the hopes of scaring them off, failed, rolled quickly out of bed and hauled himself to his feet with the help of a nearby aspen.  Would not do to have them see him like this, particularly the boy.   They saw, anyway, Einar's body not nearly as well‐coordinated as his mind told him it would be, and in his enthusiasm to gain his feet he sent himself  way over past the balance point, toppling forward into a clump of currant shrubs.  Will found this enormously funny, laughing, squealing and attempting to imitate his father's movements, raven rasping, diving and settling on the boy's knee when he, too, took a tumble and ended up stuck in the shrubs.

By the time Einar had got to his feet again and extricated Will from the dense, thorny thicket of currants, the others were sitting down to breakfast and Liz had come in search of the wayward pair.

"You're two of a kind, aren't you?  What were you doing down there?"

"Just learning to walk.  Everybody's got to do it."  And he scooped the child up in his arms, brought him to the place where the others sat surrounding spread‐out map and deposited him at the circle's edge.

"You got a plan here, Kilgore, or do we just go charging down into the midst of civilization and hope we'll blend effortlessly in with the natives?"

Kilgore bellowed with laughter, but Roger shook his head.  "Do what you will, but if my plane is to be involved, there won't be any 'charging' or 'blending' going on.  We do have to make time, but once we're down there near the airstrip, everything's got to be deliberation and stealth.  Bud and  Susan and I will head out there first, make sure everything looks good with the plane, then we'll start loading our cargo.  Got three big duffel bags in there, though I think we'll only have to use two of them, and we can get you folks all loaded up with no one being the wiser.  Asmundson, you don't count for a lot more than a sack of potatoes, weight‐wise, I'm thinking, your wife here is pretty small and the little one..." he lifted Will off the ground, up and down, weighing him like cargo.  "Little one can't be much over twenty pounds I'm going to say, so we'll be just fine.  We'll just bring the bags into the brush near the edge of the airstrip, get you folks all loaded up and get out of there."

Einar wanted to grumble about being compared to a sack of potatoes—even if, as he would have to admit, the comparison was likely a reasonably factual one as far as cargo weights were concerned—but had bigger things on his mind.  "What about cameras?  Even a small airport like that probably has a couple of dome cameras on sticks, just to monitor things..."

"You bet they do.  Cameras almost everywhere, now.  But I'm real familiar with that place, know where they all are, what they cover and what they don't, and there are a couple real good big blind spots, one of which happens to be right where the oak brush comes all the way down to the flats, so we can load those bags, bring a vehicle over, shove the bags in the vehicle and drive to where I've got the plane."

Einar looked skeptical, but kept quiet.  Sounded as though the pilot had really thought the thing through, believed it could be done safely, and with decades of smuggling experience in a wide range of very hostile places, few men were more qualified than Roger to make such a call.

"Ok Kilgore, show me your route.  You got ideas on how we'll get down there without running into folks?"

"Was hoping for your input on that, Asmundson.  Lot of country between here and there, and I've never seen most of it."

Neither had Einar.  Over towards Clear Springs the country flattened out, mountains dropping off into a series of increasingly gentle hills and canyons widening, edges becoming less vertical, elevation falling and the vegetation tending towards sagebrush and juniper; too low, too open for hunted men to safely inhabit.  Forbidden territory.  Violating one of his own rules.  So he could go and violate another, and stick his family on a plane.   And go off to an unknown place, and...stop it.  Yeah, the rules have kept you all alive and free so far, but sometimes just barely.  Time to break a few.  Break the mold.  Leave the enemy in confusion, and make a clean break.

He took the map, squinted critically at it for a full minute, then handed it to Kilgore.  "Ok.  Picked us out a path.  Pretty direct but hopefully not too exposed, two or three days' travel if we keep moving and don't slow down for any sticks in the mud or sacks of potatoes, and that ought to give us time to check things out at the airport before committing to this thing.   Here."  He pointed the route out to Kilgore, who had flattened the map back on the ground, the others gathering around to see.

"Looks good," the tracker grunted.  "Lot like what I had in mind.  We may have to adjust some as we go, of course, depending on what it really looks like on the ground, whether we run across any signs of civilization before we're ready, stuff like that.  But ought to work."

Already on his feet Einar nodded, hoisted his pack and stood waiting for the others to be ready.  No more holding things up; time to move.