As we walked through a small clearing, we caught the sounds of work coming from over a small hillock. Several of us scouted forward, leaving the bulk of the Akatuy people in a defensive circle.
We crept up the hillock and, flattening ourselves to the ground, we edged forward the last few feet. On the other side of our position, we discovered a group of men working on a road. They called out to one another in the same bastardized Russian my new friends spoke, and it was easy to see that the men on the road were of two distinct varieties: prisoners and guards.
I took close stock of the situation, counting the men and identifying what weapons were there, and what tools could be used as weapons. The convicts were, for the most part, young and fit. Many of the guards were the same. Both types would be able to put up a rough fight if we didn’t have good ground to defend ourselves on.
Turning, I motioned for the Akatuyians with me to fall back, and they did so. We eased our way to the bottom of the hillock, and when I turned to speak to them about our plan of action, I went silent.
On each man’s face, there was a look of horror. When I asked what was wrong, only Bram answered me.
“We have to keep moving,” he informed me. “Quickly, too.”
“Why?” I asked. “Do you know those men?”
He nodded, answering after a moment, “Duncan Blood, we are those men.”
My shoulders sank as the truth of what he told me sank in.
We had stumbled into an alternate reality to their world, one where they hadn’t escaped or been cut off. The men we had seen were younger, so perhaps their chance to escape might come, but there was one thing I knew for certain, and that was the men and women of Akatuy would not risk killing their younger selves.
Without any discussion, I nodded my head and motioned for them to follow me back to the group. It would be easier to walk than to argue, and I had no desire to kill any who had helped me.
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