The flat, grassy lowland soon turned into an endless series of hills and valleys as the column of vehicles made their way across the landscape. They glided over the top of one of the hills and scattered a herd of the long haired horses the Freelancers had encountered earlier.
Mike Brackett throttled down the battle car when they approached a swift flowing river in the valley between two of the hills. He stopped the battle car, set it down in the tall grass and scanned the looming treeline on the opposite bank of the river.
“What do you think, Charlie?” asked Brackett.
The big Indian slid from his seat and walked to river’s edge, looked up and down the roiling river, then studied the treeline on the far bank. He cocked his head and tried to listen to the forest sounds muffled by the river.
“Camp here,” said Charlie, “recon the other side tomorrow.” He turned and walked back toward the battle car.
“What’s the hold up, Sergeant?” crackled Gordon Miles.
Brackett pressed the mic to his throat. “We’re camping here, Mister Miles.”
“We still have daylight left, Sergeant. We’ll cross the river and camp on the other side.”
“No can do, Mister Miles. Charlie thinks it would be better to cross tomorrow.”
“Is Charlie running the show now, Sergeant?”
“He is today. We’re camping here.”
“Very well, Sergeant. Set up the perimeter.”
Billy Gilroy was setting up the perimeter stakes when Corporal Hodges spotted Gordon Miles striding toward them. “Here comes trouble,” he whispered, leaning toward Mike Brackett.
“Sergeant,” shouted Gordon Miles when he spotted Brackett, “I want to talk to you.”
The Freelancers stopped what they were doing and watched as Mike Brackett waited for Miles to reach them.
“Sergeant…” started Gordon Miles. Brackett held up his hand to silence the expedition leader.
“Let’s clear something up here, Mister Miles,” said Brackett. “We were brought along to provide security for you and that’s what we’re doin’. If any of my people, at any time, have a problem with continuing on, for any reason, we stay put until the problem has been taken care of.”
“But, I’m in charge here,” said Miles.
“Then charge yourself right on across that river, but you’re gonna do it without us. At least, until such time as Charlie feels comfortable with moving on. And right now, Charlie wants to recon the other side before we cross the river. You’re in charge of the whole shebang, Mister Miles, but I’m in charge of getting’ us wherever we’re going in one piece. Do we understand each other?”
Gordon Miles scanned the faces of each of the Freelancers standing around their leader. His gaze settled back on Brackett.
“Very well, Sergeant, keep me informed as to when Mister Two Sons deems it safe to move on.” He spun on his heels and strode back the way he’d come.
Brackett looked up at the hum of the perimeter stakes as they lit their way around the camp. When the last stake lit and the hum died away, Brackett looked over at Corporal Hodges.
“I guess we understand each other.”