Chapter XV.

6 Apr

News of more military occupations of Landian urban centers came in over wirephone. All the persons in the doctor’s cottage realized that their situation was becoming increasingly serious. How long would it be before Spodumene fell under martial law like the rest of the Mineral Mountains?

No one brought up the idea of leaving until the Founder himself did so.

Sitting in a living room easy chair, Slyn surprised everyone with the suddenness of his statement. “We cannot remain here till morning. It is only a matter of time until the troopers arrive. It will be too late to move because they will have us in their hands. That is something we must avoid at all cost.”

Bato, standing on one side of the leader, asked him what everyone was thinking.

“Where to?” he inquired. “The entire country is under the state of emergency. It is impossible to find any secure haven where the army cannot reach and capture us.”

Dey, across the room, watched as the wounded man laboriously rose to his feet.

“The High Cordillera in the south, that is the place to hide. The miners in those mountains will provide us concealment and protection. At the present time, nowhere else can be as safe for us as that region. That must become our destination.”

Slyn looked about to see whether his plan was understood and accepted.

“Do you have a specific site in mind, sir?” asked Beryl Sehr at the dining room entrance. “It must be a location that all the Central Crew can get to, one that they know well.”

“Yes, that is right. We want protective concealment, but also easy accessibility. That is why my own choice would be Dysprosium Mountain. There are no towns near it. The mines there are all but worked out and hardly anyone travels through the district. The old miners, for the most part, have become woodsmen or small hillside cultivators. All of them are still strong M.O.supporters as well. They will help protect and conceal us.”

Mentin stroked his square chin. “It is the least likely place that the authorities would search in order to find our headquarters, yet it can be reached by both roads and track lines. Yes, there would be safety for us at Dysprosium Mountain. That would be our best choice.”

“I am certain that all of the Central Crew is able to get to the high Magnetic Peak,” continued the Founder. “We can break up into separate groups in different locos, each making its own way to our common destination by themselves. Each will take a different route to the place.”

“When shall we start?” asked a miner from Spodumene.

“Immediately, this very night,” answered Slyn with spirit in his voice. “There is not a second to lose. Let us get going at once. The Clandestines and the army troopers will be relentless in their pursuit. We must gain a quick head start and continue to enjoy it. That is the only way to avoid capture. Speed can become our most important ally.”

The Founder of the Miners Organization assigned Bato Mentin the task of driving the primary locomobile south. Beryl was to accompany him, along with the journalist from abroad.

Dey sat in the front passenger seat, the Founder directly behind him.

For a considerable time, as they made progress through the night-covered villages and hamlets of the countryside, no one dared say anything. Black mountain shapes drifted past in the absolute darkness. The rise of the great daystar was hours away. Until then, solid shadows prevailed in all directions, upward and down. No sounds, light, or movement came from anywhere outside. The locomobile might have been traveling through a deep mine tunnel, far beneath the surface. The absence of light was total.

What have I succeeded in learning about our destination? Dey asked himself several times.

The mountain had been given its present name a few years before the Cataclysm, when the largest dysprosium deposit ever discovered on the Continent had been unearthed beneath its steep slopes. The rare earth metal called dysprosium, the most magnetic substance known to man, was impossibly difficult to extract. Colossal investments had to be made in large, powerful boring equipment that was able to operate on inclined surfaces. Xartic venture capitalists had sunk enormous fortunes into the find, only to have it taken from them under the Confiscation Laws passed and enforced by the extremist government at the time of the Cataclysm.

Under new owners, the dysprosium was all but exhausted in less than thirty years. It was a thing of the past at the present time.

The mountain no longer provided much magnetic mineral. Only a bare skeleton crew remained at the site. Valuable ores were long since gone. There was no more profit from the mines and work activity had ceased.

Dey closed his eyes and tried to snooze. He was unable to do that, for much weighed on him. Worry burdened his thought.

They were headed toward the south, from where his mother’s people came. What buried family secrets might be uncovered once there? What might he learn in that region?

The mind of Dey centered on the Founder sitting in back of him. What might Garen Slyn know about the fate of his forgotten relatives? But this was not the moment for delving into the reputations of the victims of the Cataclysm. Patience was called for.

The voice of Garen Slyn interrupted his reverie.

“You are facing more than you bargained for, my friend.”

“I have no regrets,” affirmed Dey. “The miners’ movement has all my support. There can be no question where my sympathies are. I do not feel bad about my participation with the miners’ resistance, not at all.”

“We have all seen the nature of your character for ourselves,” murmured Slyn. “You have won both respect and appreciation from us, young man. We have great appreciation for the sympathy you give to us.”

“Thank you, sir,” said the writer. “I will always admit that my sympathies are with you and the miners of Landia, totally and sincerely. I can be trusted, believe me. Whatever is possible by me in terms of my personal capacity, that I will do for the Miners Organization and its membership.”

“What do you think about our present situation?” said the Founder in a soft voice.

Dey thought a second. “It was wise of you not to confront the military power of the government in any direct manner. That would have been exactly what your enemies would have desired. A physical conflict with the army would have resulted in defeat for the miners. Better to fight another time. The path of patience is a difficult one, but it is the only rational strategy for the movement. Timing is the most important and the decisive factor. Action must never be precipitous or based on emotion. Only when the miners are prepared can aggressive measures be taken. Until then, patience will be required on all fronts.”

“Precisely,” agreed the Founder. “Only the hotheads think differently. Bato tells me that he introduced you to Taval Renda in Corundum.”

“Yes, that is right.”

“How did our learned counsel impress you?” grinned Slyn.

Dey decided on frankness. “Negatively. Most negatively.”

“To him, this is a court room battle where anything goes and no quarter is given. Renda, an advocate for the miners, sees himself as their public tribune. That is his life mission, to prove himself the worthy protector of the workers, their champion and defender.

“He is quite willing to sacrifice the individual miner to that end, no question about that. Just so long as victory and glory are won in the fight, casualties mean nothing at all to Taval.

“He is perfectly willing to sacrifice the individual miner to that end. Just as long as the enemy is defeated, casualties mean nothing to him.”

“The man is only out for himself, then,” muttered Dey Skull.

For a time, there was no response from the leader.

“He must never be allowed to have his way,” asserted the man in the rear seat of the locomobile “Taval Renda’s mad tactics would destroy the movement. They would be disastrous.”

The vehicle rumbled slowly along the narrow, twisting mountain road.

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