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At the moment, Ben was walking the wall circuit. Big, loping strides carried him around the yard. Men followed behind, the earnest ones matching his pace, the slower ones yakking away.

As it developed, the Captain had put a great deal of thought to it already. For the next several hours, they might as well have been discussing the release of zoo animals into the wilderness. The clones were too wild, and at the same time too tame. They were dangerous, but habituated. They couldn't be freed anywhere close to the city, or they might try to return and prey upon it. Sending them down to the pilgrim camp would be like throwing them into quicksand. It was a pit of despair and deprivations down along the river. If the deck sweeps had not been called off, they could have been transferred by helicopter to some distant place, but now that wasn't an option either. After Miranda's directive shutting down human experimentation, Los Alamos had ceased the harvesting of cities, which were probably finished anyway.

There were hundreds of Anasazi cave dwellings in the Four Corners region. With the Captain's help, he'd plotted them on a map. He could flee with Miranda, hole up, outwait the fanatics streaming toward Los Alamos, and then run loose through the world with what was left of their time. It would mean betraying her father, to whom he'd promised to deliver Miranda, or trying to betray him. Nathan Lee took it for granted that Paul Abbot had his every move under the tightest surveillance. He was more of a prisoner than the prisoners in Miranda's basement. Even if he could escape Los Alamos, Miranda would never agree to leave with him. Her devotion to the city-her utter faith in it-baffled and frustrated him. She acted as if she'd been born here.

Someone they'll listen to.

Nathan Lee guessed that was one way to view the universe. You're going to let them go? he reiterated.

Izzy balked. Why would any of them trust us? They're onto us now. In their shoes, I wouldn't trust us.

About time someone brought that up, the Captain replied.

In the meantime, Nathan Lee wanted to prepare the clones for alien times. They knew how to quarry limestone, sow wheat, work leather, smith iron, and herd goats. But survival in the ruins of America was going to require different skills. One can of spoiled food could wipe them out with botulism. One wrong highway could land them in the Canadian winter. The cities might be dead, but they were still mechanically alive, and deadly. The clones needed a crash course in the twenty-first century.

About time someone brought that up, the Captain replied.

Nathan Lee went to Izzy, who thought it was a terrible idea. I told you, they know we're the enemy. Eesho's got them ready to kill us if we show our faces.

Better me than most, said the Captain. Anyhow, I had this hunch someone like you might show up. And then it would need someone like me to be where I am, doing what I'm doing, who could nod his head yes.

The notion gratified him. He despised what had been done to them. They and their sacrificed brothers had been used a thousand different ways by Los Alamos, from serving as lab subjects to titillating the city's mystical itch. Now they could be used one final time, as his surrogate for breaking free.

Not yet. And not me, said the Captain. But when the time's right, I'm all for you.

Nathan Lee was astonished. But you're their keeper, he protested.

Their release, in short, would have to wait until E-Day, their fabled evacuation date. Nathan Lee worried that if and when that day ever arrived, there would be so much chaos the guards might forget to open the cells. In crossing America, he had heard stories of prisons and zoos filled with the carcasses of captives who had starved to death. The Captain took the job of programming the cell doors to automatically open an hour after the city emptied.

I wouldn't treat a dog the way we've had to treat those men.

Not him, Nathan Lee said, Ben.

About time someone brought that up, the Captain replied.

At the moment, Ben was walking the wall circuit. Big, loping strides carried him around the yard. Men followed behind, the earnest ones matching his pace, the slower ones yakking away.

I'm thinking the boys should get turned loose, he announced to the Captain in the quiet of one afternoon. They were watching the yard over cameras. Over the weeks, the prisoners had slowly begun to trickle up from their cells and brave the sun again. Ben was the stalwart, first every morning, last at dusk, walking, feeding the fire, walking, walking, getting those muscles ready. Nathan Lee could see his mind at work. Ben had not missed a day. For weeks he'd had the place to himself. Now it was inhabited again. The burnt sacrifices of birds and squirrels resumed, though the season was getting cold and they'd largely hunted the place out.

Izzy balked. Why would any of them trust us? They're onto us now. In their shoes, I wouldn't trust us.

I wouldn't treat a dog the way we've had to treat those men.

I wouldn't treat a dog the way we've had to treat those men.

Nathan Lee was astonished. But you're their keeper, he protested.

I'm thinking the boys should get turned loose, he announced to the Captain in the quiet of one afternoon. They were watching the yard over cameras. Over the weeks, the prisoners had slowly begun to trickle up from their cells and brave the sun again. Ben was the stalwart, first every morning, last at dusk, walking, feeding the fire, walking, walking, getting those muscles ready. Nathan Lee could see his mind at work. Ben had not missed a day. For weeks he'd had the place to himself. Now it was inhabited again. The burnt sacrifices of birds and squirrels resumed, though the season was getting cold and they'd largely hunted the place out.

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