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datatime: 2022-09-26 05:46:43 Author:FvtjgSwN

He didn't answer at first, but turned and walked back down the line of bright steel cans. Fourteen on this side of the mysteriously reactivated oil-supply pipe, and, she assumed, a like number on the other. As he walked, he rapped his fist on the side of each. The sound was dull and clunky. They were full of oil from the Citgo oilpatch.

"Then it's best you kiss and touch me no more-not tonight. I can't stand it if ye do."

Roland of Gilead found himself remembering a cook named Hax, dangling at the end of a rope while the rooks pecked up scattered bread-crumbs from beneath the dead man's feet. Hax had died for Farson. But before that, he had poisoned children for Farson.

"Death," he said, "is what John Parson's all about."

"But mayhap they're not broken. Mayhap they only need this stuff. And mayhap Farson knows it."

It seemed to the lovers (for so they now were, in all but the most physical sense) that hours had passed, but it had been no more than forty-live minutes. Summer's last moon, diminished but still bright, continued to shine above them.

She touched the side of one of the tankers. Her fingers came away oily. She rubbed the tips together, smelled them, then bent and picked up a swatch of grass to wipe her hands. "This doesn't work in our machines. It's been tried. It clogs them."

It was the pine-boughs, of course; the ones which had been whacked from the trees on the slope. What they had been interlaced to camouflage were the big silver cans now missing from the paved area. The silver stor-age containers had been dragged over here-by the oxen, presumably- and then concealed. But why?

Roland nodded again. "My fa-my folk in the Inner Crescent know that as well. And count on it. But if Farson has gone to this trouble-and split aside a troop of men to come and get these tankers, as we have word he has done-he either knows a way to thin it to usefulness, or he thinks he does. If he's able to lure the forces of the Affiliation into a battle in some close location where rapid retreat is impossible, and if he can use machine-weapons like the ones that go on treads, he could win more than a battle. He could slaughter ten thousand horse-mounted fighting men and win the war."

"For Parson," Roland said with a calm he didn't feel. "For the Good Man. The Affiliation knows he's found a number of war-machines; they come either from the Old People or from some other where. Yet the Affilia-tion fears them not, because they don't work. They're silent. Some feel Farson has gone mad to put his trust in such broken things, but..."

She touched the side of one of the tankers. Her fingers came away oily. She rubbed the tips together, smelled them, then bent and picked up a swatch of grass to wipe her hands. "This doesn't work in our machines. It's been tried. It clogs them."

Roland nodded again. "My fa-my folk in the Inner Crescent know that as well. And count on it. But if Farson has gone to this trouble-and split aside a troop of men to come and get these tankers, as we have word he has done-he either knows a way to thin it to usefulness, or he thinks he does. If he's able to lure the forces of the Affiliation into a battle in some close location where rapid retreat is impossible, and if he can use machine-weapons like the ones that go on treads, he could win more than a battle. He could slaughter ten thousand horse-mounted fighting men and win the war."

Roland inspected along the line of tangled pine branches, then stopped and plucked several aside. This created an opening like a door-way, and he gestured her to go through. "Be sharp in your looks," he said. "I doubt if they've bothered to set traps or tripwires, but 'tis always best to be careful."

He nodded without speaking and held out his hand. She took it, and they walked on in the direction they had been going when they had been so sweetly distracted.

"But why?" She took him by the arm and asked her question again. "What are they for? "

It was the pine-boughs, of course; the ones which had been whacked from the trees on the slope. What they had been interlaced to camouflage were the big silver cans now missing from the paved area. The silver stor-age containers had been dragged over here-by the oxen, presumably- and then concealed. But why?

She led him down one of the lanes to where she had tied her horse. Pylon nodded his head and whickered softly at Roland. He saw the horse had been rigged for silence-every buckle padded, and the stirrups them-selves wrapped in felt.

Roland nodded again. "My fa-my folk in the Inner Crescent know that as well. And count on it. But if Farson has gone to this trouble-and split aside a troop of men to come and get these tankers, as we have word he has done-he either knows a way to thin it to usefulness, or he thinks he does. If he's able to lure the forces of the Affiliation into a battle in some close location where rapid retreat is impossible, and if he can use machine-weapons like the ones that go on treads, he could win more than a battle. He could slaughter ten thousand horse-mounted fighting men and win the war."

"They were trigged quite some time ago, I imagine," he said. "I doubt if the Big Coffin Hunters did it all themselves, but they no doubt oversaw it ... first the fitting of the new wheels to replace the old rotten rubber ones, then the filling. They used the oxen to line them up here, at the base of the hill, because it was convenient. As it's convenient to let the extra horses run free out on the Drop. Then, when we came, it seemed prudent to take the precaution of covering these up. Stupid babies we might be, but perhaps smart enough to wonder about twenty-eight loaded oil-carts with new wheels. So they came out here and covered them."

She led him down one of the lanes to where she had tied her horse. Pylon nodded his head and whickered softly at Roland. He saw the horse had been rigged for silence-every buckle padded, and the stirrups them-selves wrapped in felt.

Roland nodded again. "My fa-my folk in the Inner Crescent know that as well. And count on it. But if Farson has gone to this trouble-and split aside a troop of men to come and get these tankers, as we have word he has done-he either knows a way to thin it to usefulness, or he thinks he does. If he's able to lure the forces of the Affiliation into a battle in some close location where rapid retreat is impossible, and if he can use machine-weapons like the ones that go on treads, he could win more than a battle. He could slaughter ten thousand horse-mounted fighting men and win the war."

"For Parson," Roland said with a calm he didn't feel. "For the Good Man. The Affiliation knows he's found a number of war-machines; they come either from the Old People or from some other where. Yet the Affilia-tion fears them not, because they don't work. They're silent. Some feel Farson has gone mad to put his trust in such broken things, but..."

"But mayhap they're not broken. Mayhap they only need this stuff. And mayhap Farson knows it."

She touched the side of one of the tankers. Her fingers came away oily. She rubbed the tips together, smelled them, then bent and picked up a swatch of grass to wipe her hands. "This doesn't work in our machines. It's been tried. It clogs them."

Roland nodded again. "My fa-my folk in the Inner Crescent know that as well. And count on it. But if Farson has gone to this trouble-and split aside a troop of men to come and get these tankers, as we have word he has done-he either knows a way to thin it to usefulness, or he thinks he does. If he's able to lure the forces of the Affiliation into a battle in some close location where rapid retreat is impossible, and if he can use machine-weapons like the ones that go on treads, he could win more than a battle. He could slaughter ten thousand horse-mounted fighting men and win the war."

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