Last Dance

Acharon and Sovelet continue their adventure as they make their way to New York City and the enclave there. There, big plans are in motion, as are deep secrets.



Acharon felt the barely perceptible slowing of the monorail carriages. With a force of will, he did not look up. This wouldn’t be the first time that the carriages had slowed. Ever since they’d left Phoenix on the track to Denver and the detour via Cheyenne, Wyoming, Sovelet didn’t hesitate to decelerate when she saw wildlife. She saw a lot of wildlife.

When it came to wildlife, Acharon was okay with not seeing it. He had nothing against the fauna of the world rising to fill the gap humanity had slowly left. But it tended to remind him of San Francisco where an elk stampede had nearly trampled them to death. It especially reminded him of the wild dogs that had hunted him and Sovelet all through the city. The scars were physical and mental, and at 147 years of age, he could do without them.

Sovelet had nightmares over the San Francisco adventure more than he did. Yet, she was still enamored with any living creature that came within even binocular view of the carriages.

The carriages had been Sovelet’s idea. They had been spending days just sitting in the one carriage as it glided along the track over and through the Sierras on an as direct route a route as possible to Las Vegas. Granted, the trans-city carriages were larger and roomier than the city version. They even included a bathroom. Still, there wasn’t much else to do but sit. Once in Vegas, Acharon had spent a few days chaining three carriages together, creating flexible pass-throughs that allowed them to move freely between the carriages. The front carriage still had all the necessary controls and comfortable seating. The middle carriage housed a living room with a kitchenette Acharon had pulled out of a well-preserved motorhome, piece by piece.

The last carriage was the bedroom with a three-piece bathroom. It was here that Acharon had taken refuge with an old book, printed thirty-two years before he was born. He was trying to give it more attention than the carriages. Even though he was sure that Sovelet was slowing them down to gazed adoringly at some wild cows or deer, there was always the chance he was wrong.


And this seemed to be that one chance.

Acharon stuck a torn wedge of paper into the book and slapped it shut. “On my way.”

As he moved forward through the carriages, he briefly noted that it was still early in the day and that they were on a plain. There were animals, of course, but he didn’t give them much attention. He grabbed a fruit bar from a basket in the kitchen as he passed through. Hopefully, they’d have fresh fruit or vegetables in New York. He hadn’t thought to ask.

“What’s wrong?” he asked as he stepped through the opening from living room carriage to control room carriage.

“Wrong?” She didn’t even grace him with a furrowed-eyebrow look. “I wanted you to see this.”

Which meant she wanted him to see some deer and admit they were cute.

“Alright.” He grumbled his word as he moved next to her and looked out across the track slowly disappearing under them.

Acharon might not ever openly admit that Sovelet was right when she told him he had to see this. But this time, he was glad, and a little bit awed. As a child, in world history lesson on the events leading to the sterilization of all primate life, they always included pictures and videos of Africa. It was here that scientist confirmed that the chimpanzees and gorillas weren’t reproducing. But even while addressing the GMO dust that covered the world, they showed the plains of Africa, dotted with herds of elephants, giraffes, and wildebeests. Sparse as those herds had been, they were still amazing to see.

Those herds had nothing on what currently grazed on the plains of Nebraska.

No matter which way Acharon looked, herds of native and non-native animals roamed and grazed. On one side, there were bison and zebras. Another area, cows and elephants moved alongside each other, the cows pulling at the grass, the elephants eating from stunted trees and bushes. Beyond the nearest herds, there were more. Different types of gazelle mingled together, moving aside as elephants and bison wandered through.

“It’s amazing, Ach. Isn’t it?”

“It’s pretty impressive.”

There had been a few zoos that tried sending all their wild animals to the countries of their biological origin. That project had turned out to be a colossal failure. Nearly a dozen generations had passed for most of the creatures returned to their native homes. They lacked the ability to adapt to the environments they were dumped into, and the viruses and bacteria took care of those that did. So other zoos thought it more heroic and compassionate to euthanize the animals as their shrinking staff made it difficult to look after them. That resulted in protests and more violence. That was when they decided to release them onto the American plains. Give them a fighting chance as the angry slogan went.

But, as someone reminded them, the animals would overpopulate and overgraze and die of starvation while turning the plains into a dustbowl. That, too, had its solutions.

“There.” Acharon pointed to a spot about a quarter mile away. A herd of brown antelope-like creatures were running, clumped together, kicking up a cloud of dust and bits of grass. Behind them, close and moving closer to a lagging antelope, three female lions sprinted. Before Sovelet had a chance to gasp in surprise, the lionesses had taken down the slow-moving beast. They held it tight, one of them latching on to its throat, holding fast until all the life had drained from it. Within minutes of the assault, the rest of the lion pride, including a large and powerful looking male, trotted up and began to join in on the feast.

“I did not need to see that,” Sovelet said, turning away from the windows. She left the control carriage and slumped onto the couch, covered with Navajo inspired blankets that still hadn’t lost the mothball smell from the packages that had kept them safe for a century.

“It’s just nature, Sove,” Acharon said. He was standing looking at the cupboards where they stored all the rations they’d scrounged at each major stop along the way. They were still less than halfway to New York, but they had enough rations for a return trip. Though, that wasn’t necessary.

“Hungry?” The thought popped out as it occurred to him and instantly he knew it was the wrong thought.

“Oh, Acharon!” Sovelet threw up her hands and then stood. There was a small smile on her lips that let him know that she wasn’t actually mad. “I’m going to go lay down until the ugly has passed.”

“Could you bring me my book?”

Before Sovelet could respond with her feelings about fetching a book, they both found themselves staggering as the carriages slowed rapidly.

“That wasn’t me,” Sovelet said. She had braced herself against the couch which had slid a half meter across the floor. “Did we hit something?”

“A giraffe? I’ll go look.”

Even as Acharon moved forward, back into the control carriage, they continued to slow. By the time he was at the controls, the carriages had come to a complete stop. He leaned forward over the display and touchpads, to look at the track. The track appeared to be clear. He returned to the second carriage and reported to Sovelet.

“Nothing on the track. I’m going to go and take a look outside. Want to come?”

Sovelet looked a little shaken, but Acharon knew she’d come. If they could have put a balcony on the side of one of the carriages, Sovelet would have been thrilled. But that would have been impossible. Acharon knew this from experience.

“Okay, out we go.”

Each carriage had an exit, but the middle carriage door was blocked by the cupboard filled with rations. Instead, they had to use the forward carriage door. The door creaked open slowly. This had been an awkward door from the beginning. Fresh air, infused with the smells of hundreds of thousands of wild beasts, their offal, and the kicked up dust from their passing, washed through the doorway. Acharon took a deep breath, surprised by the tens of smells he knew he could probably identify.

“Smells like a zoo,” he said and got a gentle punch in the shoulder from Sovelet.

“Move over,” she told him.

Acharon obliged by stepping down to the monorail base. He had to be careful because unlike the cities, there wasn’t a safety rail running the entire length of the track. That and the crusted guano made the initial step precarious. His right foot did slip once, but he already had a grip on the carriages handrail when it happened.

“Should I stay here?” Sovelet asked.

“Good idea,” Acharon said. There wasn’t any need for both of them to risk themselves for a rail check. They certainly didn’t both need to cake the soles of their shoes with guano. “Should just take a second.”

He left her at the open door, breathing in the smells of nature and listening to the thousands of mouths chewing, the occasional lowing of one creature or another. There had even been one big cat roar which Acharon assumed was the male lion demanding to know what was for dessert.

At the front of the carriage, in the middle of the monorail base, the guano thinned, making Acharon’s movements less precarious. He squatted and looked under the carriage. The rail looked in good shape. Nothing seemed to have interfered with the stabilizers on either side. There also didn’t seem to be any animal or blood smeared across the rail or base. They hadn’t hit anything.

“Nothing there,” he told Sovelet. He sat on the floor inside the door and kicked off his shoes. They bounced off the base and then tumbled over, out of sight. “We might want to do a systems check.”

There was no answer. Acharon turned around, concerned that Sovelet may have attempted to exit the carriage, too, and he hadn’t heard her fall.


“Right here.” She appeared around the opening between the front two carriages, her favorite laptop cradled on one forearm. “System check is almost done. Nothing on the track?”

“Nothing.” He climbed to his feet and went over to the control panels. The indicators for the solar panels were all green. He’d replaced and tested all of them before leaving Phoenix knowing that enclaves were sparse across the middle of the country. In fact, after Denver, he didn’t think they’d find one of any use until Des Moines. Batteries showed green as well. He’d kept all the battery banks from the three separate carriages and added a dozen more, just to be safe. Prepare for the worst had been his catchphrase since San Francisco.

So, the power system seemed to be working fine. That left the computers, which were Sovelet’s bailiwick. He went looking and found her sitting on the bed, back to the headrest. Her fingers tapped rapidly across the keys. Even now he knew not to interfere when she was working like this. He turned to leave.

“It’s not the operating systems,” she said.

He turned back. “Just a hiccup then?”

“I guess.” She pushed the laptop closed and turned, setting her feet on the floor. “What do you think?”

“Well, better safe than sorry. We’ll move slow and keep a watch on the systems for a couple of hours. See how that plays out.”

Sovelet nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”

“Good.” Acharon started to turn and then stopped. “Have you gotten in touch with the New York Enclave?”

Their route had deviated twice, lengthening their time traveling to New York. Sometimes Sovelet was able to talk to someone in New York to keep them updated. Sometimes she had to resort to other measures.

“I left a message on their bulletin board back before we left Cheyenne. The network is spotty out here so I’ll try around Lincoln but probably nothing until Des Moines.”

“Right, then. Guess I’ll go watch the rail roll by.”

Up front, Acharon overrode the motion controls and set the carriages in motion. There was a gentle nudge as the carriages started to move, followed by a stuttering vibration that leveled out after ten or fifteen meters. He kept the speed down to 20 km/hr and scanned between the readouts and the track ahead. The engines drained the batteries a little faster, but they were on an incline, so that seemed within acceptable limits.

An hour passed and Acharon hadn’t seen anything wrong with the carriage systems. He’d slowly brought the speed up to 40 km/hr before walking away to grab something to eat. He’d found nothing wrong when he returned and was considering opening the throttle to bring them to 100 km/hr. That was when he noticed something odd about the track off in the distance.

Acharon dropped the energy bar he was eating onto a seat and started tapping screen buttons, slowing the carriages down.

“Ach? We okay?” Sovelet was in the last carriage. Acharon assumed she was either watching the wildlife from the back or scanning through her hard drive of baby animal pictures. She’d had to abandon the hard drive with the human baby pictures when they left San Francisco and been unable to build up her collection again.

“We’re fine,” Acharon said, over his shoulder. “Track’s not.”

The carriages were crawling along by the time Sovelet had come forward.

“What?” Her voice faded away as she saw the track before them. “Oh.”

When Sovelet had decided they should leave California to join the last twenty people in New York, she and some other savvy computer people tested the tracks, mapping possible routes. They’d managed to locate any breaks in the track so that there weren’t any surprises. That’s why they’d come this way and not one of the other routes to the south.

“Why didn’t our programs catch this?” Sovelet asked. The question was meant for herself as Acharon was a wiz engineer but not so much when it came to computer programs. “We tested every track.”

“Not sure,” Acharon said. He focused his attention on the controls and the track ahead. He was moving the carriages again, very slowly, approaching the damaged section.

The platform that held the monorail track and doubled as a walkway in case of emergencies was missing in the section just ahead. Some of the concrete and rebar that had been the platform could be seen dangling off the far end. The monorail itself was still intact, but it was sagging and twisted.

“I don’t think we’re going to make it across that,” Acharon said.

He felt Sovelet push up next to him. He more heard than felt her hair moving as she scanned the area and the damage. Small herds still dotted the open prairie of Nebraska, but not as much as they’d seen a couple of hours past when this whole new adventure had started.

“That might explain why the system hadn’t registered the damage,” Sovelet said. She pointed to the deformed track. “It’s still connected. So any electric pulse shot through it would still read as green.”

“But in other places, you got red, which meant the track was broken?”

“That’s right.”

“Which seems like a more normal situation than this.” Acharon didn’t like it. He couldn’t say why. Maybe the damage went against what he would have expected as an engineer. He couldn’t put a finger on it, but it was there.

“What?” Sovelet was grinning at him. “You think the lions did this?”

“You laugh.” Acharon turned and moved over to the door. She was teasing, but then, maybe she’d forgotten what the dogs had almost accomplished when they were both in San Francisco. Yes, it was unlikely that lions managed to destroy the monorail line. Doing just enough damage so that some unwary human might come zipping along and then crash, leaving themselves open to being devoured. But that didn’t mean they should underestimate any creature capable of any semblance of reasoning.

He pushed the button and the door slid open. The smells of nature wafted across their senses once again. Here, the guano wasn’t so bad. It still meant the loss of another pair of shoes.

“Come on,” he said, stepping down, careful not to lose his footing. “Let’s go see how bad the damage is.”


Acharon had made it safely to where the broken edge of the monorail base curved over and down like a sculpture of a waterfall. Plenty of rebar was visible, holding chunks of concrete to them like a mad shishkabob. When he ventured a little further, just enough to see the ground ten meters below, he could see where the concrete that had broken away from the rebar had slapped deep turf-ripping dents into the earth. Nearby, a small herd of gazelle had been grazing but bolted as he’d approached the edge of the tracks destruction.

“You going to fix it?” Sovelet had her mischievous grin on her face.

“I could, but I doubt we have the time.”

She was teasing him, but he knew that she knew him very well. Repair solutions and other ideas had been trundling through his thoughts the moment he saw the damage. But the truth of it was that he didn’t have the resources here to fix the track.

“Thoughts, then?”

Acharon stepped slowly back from his position near the edge. “Several. Can we go around? Take a different route?”

A sour grimace replaced Sovelet’s mischievous grin. “There’s two, but they’ll both add months to the journey. We’d either have to go back to California and up to Seattle, then Vancouver. Or we go down to Austin, hit all the major cities along the water before a zig zag zig up to D.C. and then hope the subways are working.”

“I could fix this faster.”

“You could.”

“If I had the tools.”

“Yes, if.”

Acharon looked at her and shrugged. “I don’t have those kinds of tools.”

“I didn’t think you did.” She smiled once more. “But you’ve never not planned for emergencies.”

Acharon took a deep breath and a look around the open prairie. The herds of grazers had moved away from the track. They’d been pretty close when they’d first stopped. Maybe they thought he and Sovelet smelled funny. Maybe strange was different and best avoided. Not that any of them would have been much help. Well, a couple of elephants, if they were obliging.

“Of course I plan for the worst,” he said. He started a cautious walk back to the carriages.

“Never doubted you,” Sovelet said. She took his arm and planted a kiss on his cheek.

Acharon leaned into the kiss, making it last a millisecond longer. “I’ve never given you a reason to doubt.”

“Oh, off with you!” Sovelet gave him a gentle nudge, coated with laughter.

They both worked their way to the carriages. Acharon stopped to remove his shoes and quit again when Sovelet passed him, entering the carriage with her guano-stained shoes. She looked back at him, arching her eyebrows.

“Right,” Acharon said. He climbed to his feet and entered the carriage. “It’s not like we’ll be staying here anyway.”

Under the bed in the last carriage were all the parts of a small service carriage. It was bare-bones. There was a single set of rollers and stabilizers, a platform with controls, and a shade cover.

“We’ll pull batteries from the carriages when we’re ready,” Acharon explained. “Probably nothing more than cushions to sit on. Should be okay until Lincoln.”

“Should I pack anything?”

Acharon knew she wouldn’t pack a lot, but most of what she picked would be burdensome. Several laptops, a box of external hard drives. They’d need food, too. That’d add weight. They were going to have to make several trips.

“Pack the essentials,” he finally said. “We can restock in Lincoln if they still have an intact warehouse.

He’d once had a map with all the warehouses across North America clearly marked. But that had been in his toolshed, back on their Acharon-made island near San Francisco. But every major city had at least two.

Sovelet retrieved a pack from a storage box in the middle carriage and started shutting down her computers.

While Sovelet worked on her stuff, Acharon unbolted all the parts for the service carriage. He then removed the rear window of the last carriage and began pushing everything he was going to need out of the opening. It took several hours to get everything onto the monorail base, and he only stopped for lunch when Sovelet insisted. She’d gone ahead and warmed up several pouches of a chili that weren’t half bad.

With a hearty lunch out of the way, Acharon went on to the next task, which was getting everything to the ground. For him and Sovelet, it wouldn’t be problematic. It was only a small walk back to the last support. All supports had ladders on the outsides for emergencies.

To get the equipment and supplies down, Acharon rigged a pulley system with a winch. The winch was electrical since he had power here. The whir and whine of the winch and cable as it unwound and wound was a stark contrast to the quiet of the world around them. Even the ocean-like sound of thousands of herbivores munching as one was absent as everything with four legs seemed to have retreated from the land near the monorail track.

Despite his constant gazing and reflecting, it only took another hour to get everything down to the ground. Sovelet’s stuff went last as she’d been anguishing over what to leave. Acharon finally relented and let her bring two bags of Sovelet necessities.

“Shall we?” Acharon asked once the last of their supplies were down.

They walked the fifty meters back to the last upright. Acharon tied them both off with rappelling harnesses and lines. Everything had been designed to survive until the last human had died. But many people had exceeded those expectations, and people like those waiting in New York were fifty to sixty years past the old expiration date. So, while the rungs going down the pillar might be just fine, they also might not and better safe than painfully broken.

“I’ll go first,” Acharon said. He slid over the side and found the first rungs with his foot.

“Not very gentlemanly of you,” Sovelet said. Despite her joke, there was a bit of worry around the edges of her smile. They’d both had some close scrapes over the last few years, each potentially life ending.

Once his feet were on solid rungs and showed no sign of age, Acharon felt better about this particular part of their adventure. Even though she didn’t need it, Acharon regularly acted in ways to protect Sovelet from any harm.

“Just wanted to dust off the cobwebs,” he said from five rungs down.

He was ten meters down the ladder when Sovelet whispered loudly. “Acharon, stop. Please, stop.”

Acharon shook his head. “The rungs are fine. You can start.”

“The lions, Ach.”

Acharon froze on the ladder. Slowly he turned, first just his neck and then at the waist, releasing one hand to allow for greater motion. He didn’t see them at first and thought perhaps Sovelet had been mistaken. She wouldn’t have played a prank, not in this situation. They both knew how deadly a determined animal could be.

When he finally thought he saw them it turned out to be the remains of some creature; it’s remaining hide hanging loosely across its ribcage. Then he saw them. There was a little dip in the land, a wrinkle, and in it, lined up like judges at some competition ready to raise their scorecards, nine female lions lay as still as the Great Sphinx of Egypt. Further back, a couple of cubs chewing on his mane, the male lion also sprawled, watching and waiting. Their presence may have been the real reason the buffalo and other herd animals chose to dine elsewhere.

As much as he hated to do it, Acharon reversed direction and climbed back up to the top of the monorail base.

“Good eye,” he told Sovelet.

“I almost didn’t believe it when I first saw them. Maybe we should go back to Phoenix, reroute.”

“No,” Acharon said. “For this, too, I have planned. Well, maybe not lions specifically.”

He returned to the carriages, Sovelet close behind. She slowly widened the gap between them as she frequently stopped to eye the lions. Acharon noticed her absence when he went to enter the carriage. He turned back to see her attention elsewhere.

“I doubt they’re going anywhere, Sove.” He climbed inside the carriage, reappearing at the open window. “They’re curious and probably won’t leave until they are satisfied. Mentally or gastronomically.”

Sovelet had finally entered the carriage as he’d continued to speak. “What do you have?”

Under the bed, where he’d bolted the service carriage, was a gray, metal box. He flipped the lid of it open.

“I got this.”

What he referred to was an old M4 semi-automatic rifle with a black, corrugated tube beneath the barrel. Acharon pulled the M4 out of the box along with a small case of 40mm grenades. He tapped the tube.

“This is a grenade launcher,” he said.

Sovelet did not look pleased. “I know what it is.”

In spite of the cold facts that wild dogs in San Francisco had nearly killed each of them, she was still determined not to harm another living creature. Acharon had a slightly different philosophy now. He’d do his best not to kill anything, but he’d put a little harm on them if needed.

“They’re the flashbang type of grenades,” he explained, pointing to the markings on the case. “All bark, no bite. Well, maybe a nibble.”

Acharon unpacked a shotgun for later, and they both returned to the ladder again. The lions did not appear to have changed positions, except for the cubs who had fallen asleep, one between the male lion’s paws. Acharon pulled the grenade case open and tore through the plastic to retrieve the first one. It settled into the chamber with a metallic clink. He stepped forward and pulled the butt of the M4 to his shoulder.

Before he took aim, he turned to Sovelet. “I’ve never done this before.”

“I know, I’ve been with you for near a hundred and fifty years.”

“Then you’ll know what to expect.” He turned, aimed, and pulled the trigger. There was an unimpressive whomp noise. Acharon, being aligned with the grenade saw it for a flash of a moment, and then he lost track of it.

“That was anticlimactic,” Sovelet said. She’d moved forward as she spoke, one hand shading her eyes.

“Hold on.” Acharon was loading the second round, doing it by feel so that he could watch for the flash when it landed.

The sound of the grenade exploding was sharp, the flash like concentrated lightning. Three of the female lions stood. Neither of the cubs stirred. Acharon had shorted his target and not accounted for the breeze that had been picking up.

“Short,” Sovelet said.

“Thank you.” Acharon aimed and repeated the procedure.

Again, the whomp of launch and the sharp bang as it exploded on the ground. This time Acharon had aimed well. The grenade landed only a couple of meters from the lionesses. All six bolted from where they’d been watching Acharon and Sovelet. They sprinted past the male lion who was trotting away from the monorail line, the cubs tight behind.

Acharon rested the butt of the M4 on his hip as he watched the lions retreat. To his side, he could see Sovelet stepping up to join him. She was still holding a 40mm in one hand.

“I’d like to say, ‘That’s, that,’” Acharon said, “but, according to previous experience, this isn’t the end of it.”

“We can still go back.” Sovelet held out the grenade for Acharon to take.

“I’d still have to go down there to get your computers. Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.”

Acharon turned back to the monorail track where he’d left the remaining grenades and added the one from Sovelet to the rest before closing the case. Sovelet didn’t move, her gaze directed toward the lions’ retreat. Not until Acharon started over the edge did she come out of whatever reverie had paralyzed her.

“You sure we shouldn’t wait?”

Acharon paused on the ladder. “We’re already into the afternoon. If we’re lucky, we’ll reach Lincoln before dark. That’s if we don’t dawdle.”

He continued down the ladder, and a few moments later he could see Sovelet following.

When Acharon had planned for the possibility of using the service carriage, he hadn’t planned on having to haul it a hundred meters after lowering it from the rail base, and then raise it again. So for the next couple hours, he trekked back and forth, dragging, pushing, or carrying everything to the next ladder past the broken span.

On his third trip through, pulling the stabilizers across the bumpy terrain, he stopped at the fallen concrete for a little breather. Even with all the gene correction and medical advances that made his 148-year-old body as healthy as a 21st century 50-year-old, it was still a lot of work he was doing. While he indulged in a short break, he let his gaze wander across the broken concrete.

“What do you see?” Sovelet asked. She was approaching with the shotgun over her shoulder and a thermos of water. She offered him the water. He took a long pull from the thermos.

“The concrete.” He pointed at the jagged edges. “See how much brighter the broken edges and sides are? If this had happened even weeks ago, it would be more faded than it is right now.

“So you’re saying this happened recently?”

“Yes. Less than a week.”

Sovelet took back the thermos and took a sip from it.

“I guess we were lucky to not be on it when it gave way.”

“Something like that,” Acharon said. He started pulling on the stabilizers, again, bumping them across the prairie.

The stabilizers were the last of the heavy stuff. The last bits and pieces went quickly. It’d been an hour and a half of hoofing equipment. Now, Acharon had a pulley system rigged at the top of the monorail base with ropes run and ready to work.

He started with the heavy stuff first, hoping he’d still have the energy to put the service carriage together when he had everything topside. Fortunately, Sovelet was a big help, unlashing the things Acharon pulled up and shuttling them out of the way.

It was during one of those moments when Sovelet was out of sight, and Acharon was bent over, tying the next item on, that the lions attacked.

Acharon felt the itch of being watched and heard the rustle of prairie grass that hissed faster than the wind that swatted at it. He turned in time to see a female lion pounce. Her paws were stretched wide, the claws clear and sharp, wholly unsheathed.

There was little time to react, and Acharon barely had time to snatch up the thermos before she landed on him. As she went to crush his throat, Acharon shoved the thermos in her mouth, holding it in place even as her teeth and claws slashed at arms and shoulders. The lion kept trying to shake the thermos out of her mouth. Each time she did, Acharon shoved it in a little deeper. Finally, the lion back stepped several times, pulling the thermos out of Acharon’s hand.

Acharon pedaled backward as the lion shook her head repeatedly to dislodge the thermos. Acharon could feel his clothes were wet and growing wetter. The fresh air across his shoulders hinted at the large tears in his clothes. His arm was also soaked, and he knew it wasn’t from the lion slobbering on him.

A hollow, metallic ting declared the lioness free of the thermos. She crouched, ready to leap again. Acharon was unable to think of another defense. The pain was numbing his brain.

Then, the ground in front of the lion exploded, a flash of condensed lightning blinded Acharon. When he cleared his vision with rapid blinking, the lion was gone.


He had to pause and comport himself. “I’m here,” he called back. He was doing his best to sound okay and safe. He would be surprised, though, if it fooled Sovelet. A small drawback of knowing someone for more than one and a half centuries.

“You need to get up the ladder,” Sovelet said.

Her voice was sounding more distant. Was she moving down the track? Maybe to distract the lions? That’d be a good idea. Then he could rest.

“Acharon! They’re all coming. You have to move!”

“Right.” He voice was barely a whisper, which he found surprising. Where had all his energy gone? Maybe he did need a nap. A little rest. If only he didn’t feel wet and sticky.

“Ach! Hang in there. I think someone’s coming.”

Acharon wanted to laugh. Yes, the lions were coming. There wasn’t another human alive this side of 12th avenue in New York. Was there? He really needed to rest. There was a roaring in his ears that just kept getting louder.

Yes, just a short nap.


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