thinking about him reminded me of all that blood, and the shooting, and what happened to Daddy.”
“I don’t track,” Karo said. “He didn’t start the war.”
“I don’t know,” said Jasith. “But I couldn’t think of going to bed with him after that. I don’t know why. Maybe …” she let her voice trail off.
Lonrod looked at Jasith closely.
“Are you sure this whole thing is that good an idea?” Her hand swept the temple, the twenty people waiting for the rehearsal to resume.
“I’ve got to get married sometime, don’t I? And Loy’s surely the kind of man my father’d want me to marry, isn’t he?”
“Oh, no question about that,” Lonrod said hastily. She was about to say more, caught herself.
“It’s too hot to be serious,” she said. “Let’s go see if anybody’s got anything cold in their lims.”
• • •
Three days out, the patrol reached the steep slopes that led to the Highlands. Already it was cooler than it had been in the lowlands, a chill wind blowing down from the heights.
So far, no one had quit, even though Garvin had been pushing them hard, giving them only three hours of sleep, and running regular night exercises.
He pointed up and stepped out of the line, then motioned to that day’s patrol leader, Abana Calafo, a small cheerful teenager who let nothing bother her, who — Garvin knew — would make it through the training. She came close.
“Straight up,” he whispered. “Rope up.” A standing joke was you could tell an I&R troop because she’d follow SOP of no sound in the field, and whisper at her own wedding.
She nodded, went to the point man and whispered the procedure. Garvin waited, looking impatient, secretly glad for the chance to wheeze a little before further exertion, while the patrol unrolled the climbing rope each wore around his or her waist, tied in, and started the ascent, which was just steep enough to be interesting if the climber slipped.
Darod Montagna, next to last in line, moved past him, exhausted eyes sunk deeper in her gray face, but still determined, took a deep breath, and began climbing.
The last man was Baku al Sharif, a solid block of a ‘Raum. Garvin saw him watching Montagna’s buttocks with a mildly interested expression.
The combat knife flashed from Garvin’s sheath, cut the rope linking al Sharif and Montagna.
“You’ve got too much energy, troop,” he whispered. “It’s too slick, and the rope broke. You get to solo on up … that way.”
“That way” was a steep, brush-choked ravine.
Al Sharif’s lips pursed, and he glared at Jaansma.
“A little hard?” Garvin suggested. “It gets to you. Yahweh knows I understand. You know, you don’t have to put up with this crap. I could hit the com right now, get a Grierson inbound, and an hour from now you’d be in a nice hot shower back at Mahan, getting a real meal instead of this dried crud.
“Then sleep. Nice white sheets, quiet, and maybe a three-day pass on the beach to recover from this stupid shit.”
Al Sharif looked at Garvin coldly.
“Screw you. Boss.”
He pushed his way into the brush, started clambering up the face.
That’d be at least two that’d make it.
He grunted, and started up the slope. He looked up, saw Montagna climbing just above him, thought,
She does have sort of a cute butt, pity you can’t socialize with anybody you’re in charge of.
Then he realized he hadn’t thought of Jasith at all that day.
• • •
“Y’see what you’re gonna be missing?” the man shouted at Loy Kouro over the band’s blare, waving at the three strippers onstage, who were down to scarves and smiles.
Kouro owled at them, picked up his glass, and upended it in the general area of his mouth, half of the contents making its way down his throat.
“Nup, nup, Jermy,” he said, weaving a bit in his seat. “Th’ time for that’s pissed … passed … gone.”
“Not yet it isn’t,” his friend said. “Tomorrow, you