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By S. M. Stirling

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The spearcast came with blinding speed. Girenas was already dropping and rolling as the ashwood shaft whickered through the space he’d been occupying to thud three inches deep into a beech tree and stand quivering. The second spearman was aiming more carefully when Sue’s rifle went off with a sharp crack and a long jet of off-white powder smoke. The Indian folded around himself with a surprised ooof! like a man who’d been punched in the gut. He wouldn’t be getting up again, though, not with an exit wound the size of a baby’s fist blasted out the other side of him by the hollowpoint.

The Republic was very emphatically a democracy. Back then they’d decided that the margin of survival was too thin to keep hundreds under arms combing the endless wilderness of Bronze Age Europe. And they were right, Cofflin thought. Not much prospect of catching Walker, and if they’d chased him hard back then he’d have settled somewhere deep in the continental interior, where the Islanders couldn’t touch him. Leave him alone, and his arrogance and lust for revenge would make him stop within reach of salt water—planning to build a navy someday and come back for a rematch.

The trick was finding the right ones. Enkhelyawon looked down at the clay tablet. “And . . ah, I see. ” “Small need for us scribes, then,” the Achaean went on after a moment, his voice subdued. “No, more need for scribes,” Walker reassured him. “The more that can be written, the more will be written. ” “Of course, lord,” Enkhelyawon said. “Clay is for rough notes, for monthly tallies. ” Because it was a by-product of the sheep-and-goat industry, the hide scraped and pumiced until it was thin and smooth.

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