It had taken him two weeks by foot to reach her. A mountain range, peaks and cliffs, forests, lost trails and fallen trees. Sleeping as best he could under angled rocks, thankful for clear skies and warm nights.

In a clump of trees he had seen the first tracker drone. That the Psychic Guard had sent drones to track him should have alerted him to the severity of his danger. As he knew from his experience, those who wage war with the mind are nearly powerless against the drones, the androids, the ‘bots and the various other forms of artificial intelligence.

The Guard, though, hardly ever dealt with the art-intel community, and never directly, for fear of losing whatever control they had on the situation. In fact, the last time the drones had been used, as far as he knew, was in the Volveen Wars, and that was in the last empire.

No, if the Guard had decided to send the floating garbage bin, he should have known to just crawl under the nearest rock and wait to die. If he had an ounce of caution, of course, he would not have been in this situation to begin with. He did not have an opportunity to hide away, actually, as he was busy trying to lose the drone at the moment.

When he saw the second drone as he was racing across Baer Creek in the Brainard Province, he had decided that he was already committed to living through the day. Besides, he thought, he could use the practice against a couple of drones. Sure, two drones might push him to his limit especially since he was nearly exhausted from running, but if he were to get the Pralex Key to the right person, he would need to be able to beat a couple of tracking drones.

By the time he had reached the other side of the creek, he was surrounded by twelve drones.



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