Chapter 36

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Will pulled off the road at a secluded spot among a large grove of trees and parked the truck facing east. He put his arm around Terra and they watched the sunrise, a patch of low clouds making it a colorful display. After awhile, they both fell asleep leaning against each other.

Terra awoke later to find herself laying across the seat. A check of the time revealed the nap lasted just over two hours. She looked back to see Will rummaging around in the truck bed. She stepped out of the cab and stretched, her arms reaching toward the sky.

Will greeted her. "Hi."

"Hi yourself."

"Want some breakfast, or I should say brunch?"

"Yeah. But first I really need to pee."

Will pointed to his right. "There is a fallen log over there that might work for you. Go make your bladder feel gladder."

She grumbled. "You men have it so easy in the wilderness."

She returned to find apples, flatbread with honey, and jerky laid out on a towel. They sat down together on the truck bed to eat and shared a jug of water. As they finished Terra climbed on Will's lap, straddling him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply.

"Have I told you how much I love you?"

"I think you may have mentioned it a few times, but I like the reminders."

She kissed him again.

After cleaning up they took off again with Terra behind the wheel. She turned to him. "I think we need to review the fight last night."

"It turned out well, didn't it?"

"Yes. You disabled the Talent, but one of the gunmen got off a shot at me before I could put him down. I blocked it easily enough, but he could have shot at you instead or there could have been more men with guns. We need to rethink our strategy of facing a mix of Talent and armed non-Talent."

"Temporarily disabling the Talent with a Darkness cast seems reasonable enough as a first step, but those without much Talent would not be fazed. How do we handle multiple shooters?"

Terra answered. "If they are fairly close together I can push them as a group, but the force is only effective within a relatively narrow angle. If they are spread out, like last night, I have to choose which to attack first."

"You can put up a shield and block the darts like you did."

"True. But I may not be able to protect you and I would only be able to stop a few shots. I can disable a gun, like we practiced, but only one at a time." Terra paused. "Will, I need you to understand that in some situations we will have to use deadly force. It will be kill or be killed."

He nodded. "I know which option I favor."

"In those cases, it will be best if you have a gun. After you cast your Darkness, take cover and if you can, lay down some cover fire toward the gunman to your side most separated from the rest. I can launch fighting spikes at multiple targets at once and then throw up a shield to block darts from those I may miss."

"Terra, you are vulnerable after I cast the Darkness for a few seconds until you recover."

She nodded. "I know. The Darkness should affect even those with low Talent, though not nearly as much. Also, they would be confused as to what to do when the Talent near them collapse. I am counting on these to delay their response enough for me to be ready."

Will shook his head. "I don't like that. Your safety is left too much to chance."

"Stealth is our ally. If I stay close to you so that you mask my aura then we have the advantage of surprise, or better still, avoid the fight altogether."

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