THE MORAL INDIVIDUAL

Ascending

By Randall Chester Saunders

Yuwon wondered out loud, "should we do something with them?"

It was an awful mess, and they would stink in a day or two but Eddy made the point, "they wouldn't have done anything, why should we. Besides this is really a cave, and there'll be plenty of small animals, like the rats, who'll benefit."

Though none of them felt completely comfortable about it, except perhaps Eddy, they chose to continue. "We've lost more time and it's no longer downhill," Anthony said.

Lester and Jasmine took the lead and set out at a good pace. After an hour or so, Jasmine said she was hungry, and everyone agreed it was a good time to stop.

"How's the leg," Yuwon asked Eddy.

"Oh, it's fine," he said.

"So are you just faking the limp?" she asked

"Yep, just faking it, looking for sympathy," he said.

"Here's sympathy then," she said giving a big hug and kiss.

"I love your sympathy, Darlin'," Eddy said.

"You never called me that before," Yuwon said.

"Do you mind?" Eddy asked.

"What do you think," she said, and kissed him again.



"Do you think that was all of them?" Lester asked Anthony.

"I hope it was, but we better be ready in case it wasn't," Anthony said.

When everyone had eaten they decided to go on for another hour and stop for some sleep. Each took an hours' watch but spent some time cleaning guns and discussing the possibility of another confrontation with Nebers.

There were no incidents that night and they started out as quickly as possible after sleeping. Anthony pointed out that they were now ascending which meant the pace was slower but they were nearing the end of their mission.

"We still don't know what we'll find when we get there," Lester said, "or what we'll do. Getting there won't be the end of it."

Lester and Jasmine were leading, followed by Eddy and Yuwon, whom he occasionally leaned on in order to keep up. Anthony and Veronica followed.

"May I ask you a question, Anthony?" Veronica asked.

"Of course," he said.

"Why did you come back, really," she asked.

"I told you. There is something I have to do when we get back."

"I know you said that before. You don't have to tell me, but what I'm asking is what you have to do?"

"I'm going to tell you," Anthony said, "right after you tell me why you had to come back."

"Oh," she said. "I'm sorry I asked. I cannot tell you, and it has nothing to do with you. I'd love to tell you, but I cannot break a promise to someone else."

"I understand," Anthony said.

"I don't think you can," Veronica said.

"Of course I do," Anthony said. "It's complicated."

They were just approaching the last turn before the final ascent when they all saw the Nebers lying and sitting in front of them. Without hesitation they all drew there guns but before they could shoot the Nebers fled.

"Well, they are now between us and our exit," Veronica said. "What'll we do?

"They looked terrified," Anthony said. "I think they'll try to escape, to get out of the tunnel.

"What if they don't?" Lester asked.

"We'll shoot 'em," Eddy said.

And as though that answered all the questions they proceeded at as fast a pace as they could manage. In less than two hours that had reached the bottom of the rock slide that was their way to the entrance to the tunnel.

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