Sangor looked across the table at the Rat. He had never seen an adult Rat in his life, only Rat children. Even though they were both sitting, it was obvious that the Rat would tower over him, standing up, though Sangor was not considered short by any means. Small head, long neck, lanky muscular body and arms, dark blue skin, blue eyes, and blue hair. He looked like he’d come straight from the mine his father had worked in, the mine that had eventually killed him. This Rat would have been invisible in the mine if he’d have stripped off his clothes and closed his eyes.
Sangor calculated the odds in his head: there was just him and this Rat. Maybe Sangor could take him. Maybe not. Anyway he wasn’t sure how he’d find his way back to the river. His best bet was to check out the lay of the land. Funny how they had no maps of this part of the world. He wondered about that. Sangor should try to find out what he could and then, when the time was ripe…
“Where are my friends?” Sangor asked Lem testily.
Lem responded after a moment, “Are you feeling any better now?”
Sangor said cautiously, “I suppose so… What about my friends, the other captives?”
“They are facing the same dilemma you are facing at different tables in different parts of the forest,” Lem answered.
“What dilemma is that?” Sangor demanded to know.
“Whether your time line ends abruptly or extends into a future that you cannot imagine,” Lem answered.
“What do you mean?” Sangor asked his captor.
“Whether you choose death or life,” Lem explained patiently, “but you’ve already chosen, haven’t you?”
Sangor had already chosen life. He had concluded from his captor that the Rat army was vastly superior to the Sap army and, one on one, they seemed quite formidable. It was also clear that the Rats knew the Uncharted Areas far better than his friends and he ever could hope to know. The smart thing to do would be to bide his time and wait for an opportunity to present itself.
As it turned out, the choice was not so obvious. More than half the captives chose death; well, they didn’t actually choose death per se. They decided they’d be damned if they were going to play nice with the stinking Rat sitting across the table from them. They’d overcome the Rat and make a break for it or die trying. Almost before the Sap captives thought about lunging across the table at their captor or running away from him, the Rats reached across and snapped their time lines, almost as easily as snapping their necks.
All the Rats were Lem.