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glittering sword with his rifle. Uchitel put so much force into the blow that
it smashed clean through the stock of the rifle a couple of inches behind the
finger guard, cutting Smith in the right shoulder. He dropped the splintered
remains of the Remington, clapping his left hand to the bleeding wound.
"You done me, you bastard," he yelped plaintively, standing still and feeling
his doom approach.
Uchitel swung the saber again. It sliced through the fur hood, skin, flesh and
muscle, through the cervical vertebrae of Jorgen's neck, clean out the other
side.
For a long second, the corpse stood upright, head balanced precariously in
place.
Then the head rolled and toppled, bouncing on the stones to the cheers of the
Narodniki. Blood gushed high in the cold air, the body slumping slowly to its
knees, then folding on its side and lying still.
Uchitel wiped the blade of the saber on a handful of his stallion's mane,
sheathing the sword once more.
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"So die all who oppose the Narodniki," he called, pleased with his triumph.
"Not a bullet wasted," said Barkhat in his soft, gentle voice.
"One was wasted on me!" roared Stena, still holding his wounded shoulder.
"Is it bad, brother?" asked Uchitel. "Will you stay to seek poor Nul, wherever
he might be?"
"No, brother, I ride on with you. Let us take more of these soft Americans."
"We shall take the entire land, brother," laughed Uchitel. He felt good. If
this was the best this nation could do, then there was no need to fear.
Before they moved eastward, Uchitel carefully folded and put away the phrase
book. It had been disappointing not to be able to use it more, but these
peasants were such lackbrain weaklings that communication was hardly needed.
One last sentence caught his eye, and he spoke it carefully to the
blood-sodden corpse, lying decapitated in the snow beside the gurgling brook.
"Much thanks for your help, sir," he said, trying to follow the phonetic
pronunciation. "Here is a nickel for your trouble."
Uchitel heeled his black stallion eastward, and was followed by the others
deeper into the bleakness of what had been Alaska.
Chapter Nine
RYAN PARRIED THE FIRST spear thrust, but cut his left hand on the white bone
point. Grabbing the end of the shaft, he pulled hard, swinging the dwarf
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mutie to one side, knocking the second attacker off balance. With odds of
three to one, he knew that he had to do something fast. The longer it went,
the shorter his odds became.
He dropped the useless, jammed gun and tried to draw the steel machete from
its sheath, but the mu-ties were too close for that. And if he tried to go for
the SIG-
Sauer beneath his coat, they'd take him for sure. He had to buy himself a
little time and space.
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Holding the barbed end of the spear, Ryan screamed mightily and launched
himself toward the creature holding the other end of the spear. The mutie
slipped on the ice and nearly fell, loosening his hold on the spear. Ryan
tried to wrench it from his grasp, but the gloved fingers clawed on to it. The
muties had been expecting Ryan to keep away from them, and had been taken by
surprise, but now the other two closed in again.
"Bastard!" spat Ryan, dodging a thrust aimed at his ribs from the mutie on the
left, then moved a few steps toward the top of the track.
Knowing that the only way to fight close combat was bare-handed, he dropped
his gloves. The hilt of the panga slipped into his fingers and he drew the
blade, waving it in front of him in a singing curtain of death.
"Come on, now," he invited, waving the three muties toward him with his
bleeding left hand.
Making little grunts and whistles, they seemed to be speaking to each other.
Their slit eyes flicking nervously to him and then back, they spread into a
half-circle about fifteen feet away from him. Above all, Ryan didn't want any
of them sneaking behind him. Best defense was a good offense, he decided.
They had the advantage of reach with the long spears. If he let them keep him
away, they'd kill him in the end, no doubt about that. Ryan watched them,
noticing that the mutie to the left seemed crippled and moved slower and more
clumsily than the other two.
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