The last person the rebel base expected to see was Old man Peters especially after the falling out between Maggie and him. Still there he was. He said nothing as he made his way through the cave and to over to where Matt and Lorne sat upon rocks looking out over the desert plain. The old man puffed on his smoke.

“That thing stinks.” Stewart said waving the air.

The old man took another drag of his smelly cigar and smiled. “I roll my own,”

Matt pulled out a fresh cigar from his jacket pocket and handed it to the old man. “Name’s Matt Stewart,”

“I know who you are. News travels fast.” His eyes lit up. “Cheroot Majuro,” He asked.

“The only thing I smoke. I see you know your cigars.”

“I haven’t had a good cigar in years.”

“I’ll get you a box of them. I’m looking for any help I can get with the Khad. What can you tell me?”

“Young Lorne here is the one to talk to if you want to learn about the Khad, if you want the lay of the land that would be me, Peters the name.” The old man told Matt.

Lorne stepped in. “The Rebel uprisings have sparked increasing dissent which has spread throughout the regions.” The thin but handsome young man sat down next to Matt. “Though the miners can own their land most of the desert population is landless. The desert dwellers have had enough. It’s not uncommon for groups of discontented dwellers to try to seize the land they have been cultivating.”

“How do they decide who controls what?”

“There are seven main clans known by their house. The House of Alban, House of Beckerman, House of Amen, House of Vermont, House of Kapoor, House of Elazar, and House of Basrilian and the Khad controlled the elders and the elders maintained their authority. Many young groups are no longer influenced by their elders, realizing they would never own a substantial piece of land, have either joined the rebels or migrated to the desert and the outlands where the control over families has begun to erode.” Lorne added. “At no time since the original upraising has there been more unrest.”

“Original upraising,”

“The crew of the Lewis and Clark were executed. The Khad have used marriage between the most influential houses to keep the colony in line.”

“Jihan,” Matt said.

The old man jumped from his seat. “How do you know Jihan?”

“You know of Jihan and her marriage to Sean Basrilian?”

“We’ve never met. I’m not sure how I know of her?”

“The prophecy,” Peters said. “You know of it too?”

“You guys really believe in this prophecy stuff?”

“Personally, yes I do.” Now the Old man was smiling. “Listen carefully. What you need is to go WALKABOUT.”

Matt turned to the old man. “Walkabout, you mean male Australian Aborigines rite of passage.”

“A good Walkabout has a way of answering all questions.”

“Maybe I’ll take you up on your offer old man.”

“Good, let’s go Walkabout.”

“Wait a minute. I need to get back to my ship.”

“In two days Jihan will be married in the Central Village.”

“Draw me a map; I think I’ll attend.” Matt should have immediately contacted Horizon but he had a gut feeling. “I suspect all humans look alike to lizards.”


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