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Chapter 20: Protection

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The rails sang to the Nayzun. The Mytro had a message.

The men are trying their tricks again.

A pause. The music vibrated in the air.

Is that all? the Nayzun asked. Is there more?

Yes, there is more, said the rails, a voice like the clatter of iron

wheels through a dark tunnel, a sound that clacked and clacked, Dopplering off into the darkness. The two children. Protect them. The girl's parents have been taken by those who wish to play their tricks. They must be kept safe, all of them.

Humans? Keep the humans safe?

These four are important. The mother and the daughter, the father of the girl, and the boy.

411 thought about the last time he had considered humans to be important, humans who move above, rustling through the grass like rabbits. The Nayzuns did not maintain the tracks for the humans. They maintained the tracks because that was their warrant.

Long ago, before 411 was born, there were questions asked about the humans. Were they free? Why did they not toil like the Nayzuns? Why were their limited desires met by the Mytro at the cost of Nayzun toil? The Mytro quickly quashed these questions with violence. There was a Great Cleansing and many Nayzuns were destroyed.

But more recently, 411 had been thinking about the humans.

What part did they all play in this skein of interconnected tracks? Were the humans the riders? Why were the Nayzuns relegated to working in the dark while the humans walked around in the light?

Those sorts of questions could bring great danger to 411 and his people. Although 411 didn't feel anything the humans would call affection for his fellow workers, he knew that, in the end, every life was important.

The Nayzun considered his next steps. The rails had told him where the girl was and where the men were. He would have to protect the children in the Mytro. It was a dark, strange place without a map, and, though the girl had many tools with her, they might not be enough.

A thought went through 411's mind, a wisp of an idea. Maybe the humans were there to save the Nayzun? Eyes that had not seen white could never see black, the old Nayzun saying went. 411 couldn't imagine freedom.

He was given his orders. He would complete them. The children would be protected as long as they were in the Mytro. option. Go. Do not fail, said the rails. Failure, 411 knew, was not an option.

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