CITIES OF THE EAST

by

Michael Edwards

Brad ordered his people to retreat to a safer distance, then he moved to within striking distance of the object.  Taking careful aim, he hurled a large rock he had picked up along the pass, then dove for cover.  The rock landed squarely on top of the metallic object and disappeared in a blinding flash and a cloud of blue smoke, from which shot dozens of fragments in every direction, several striking Brad, but none with enough force to penetrate his clothes.  When the noise died down and the smoke began to clear, Brad arose, dusted himself off, and went to investigate the hole the explosion left behind.  A couple of  Brad's lieutenants joined him, while Darryl went about collecting as many fragments as he could find.  When he had enough, he presented them to Brad.

"These pieces," he offered his opinion, "and the way they blew apart: this was not something hand made.  This is just what it looked to be: a genuine land mine.  The question is, where did it come from?  It had to be a military base.  The only one I know of around here big enough to have this kind of weapon stored away is Fort Brag."

"Then that's where we're headed," Brad at last had a destination for his people.                                        

They were almost two days crossing the Clinch Mountains.  They camped in a clearing Brad's scouts had gone over inch by inch.  Everyone was ordered to remain in their tents until given the word to begin breaking camp.  By late afternoon of the second day, they had made it to Poor Valley, on the eastern slope of the mountains.  Three hours later, as the sun was beginning to wane, they stepped into Rich Valley, where Brad again sought out a suitable place to set up camp for the night.

They had crossed the Clinch Mountains without injury.  Several more traps were found and rendered harmless, three more land mines encountered and detonated the same way as the first.  Brad was beginning to feel more confident about the route he had chosen; and as his confidence returned, especially now that he had a definite goal, he grew impatient with the pace of the journey - a feeling his people quickly picked up on and echoed in their own sentiments.