Sangor and his fellow captives crossed Sector 127 diagonally in just under four days. A few of the men, the silent man among them, left the main group along the way to make their separate ways home in the northern part of the sector. Sangor and the rest of the men kept moving northwest towards the Sector 87. Once they crossed the border, the men cut due west over the vast flats, tasting dust and grit, but also tasting home on the horizon.
They lost several men to the hearth fires of Village 437 and 435. The remaining men made the border of Sector 84 in another three days.
Sangor reached his home base and reported to the governor. After Sangor told the governor who he was and where he had been the last few weeks, the governor told him to wait in the outer office while he closed the door and called the army sector commander on his STU.
The commander arrived at the governor’s office within two hours, passing Sangor sitting on an ornate chair in the outer office. The governor told the commander about Sangor. The commander called Sangor into the governor’s inner office and began the debriefing under the governor’s watchful eyes.
Sangor reported everything he could remember since falling captive to the Rats. He told the commander and the governor about the march to the river, looking for a place to ford the river, wading across, setting up camp on the far side, and being captured. Sangor told them about being forced to run blindly, chained to the others, about being released, and being allowed to wash himself and eat. He told them about staying with the leader of the Rats, but did not mention that he had known the Rat when they were children. He told them about asking to be with the other prisoners and about the aborted escape attempt. He told them about the Rat’s surprising decision to release them all, but he did not mention that he swore he’d never betray the Rats to his human commanders. Finally he told them how the Rat child had led the freed captives to the river where there was a boat to take them all across. Sangor told the commander and the governor how the child had disappeared just when the men planned to capture the child and bring him back to headquarters.
Sangor was awarded a medal of honor for his cunning and bravery. After the modest ceremony, he went home to his proud wife.
The sector commander called for a staff meeting and came up with a plan of attack that was certain to succeed this time.
Once home, Sangor told his wife, Sirka, what had really happened with the Rats. He told her everything he had left out of the debriefing.
“I want you to go back with me,” Sangor told Sirka as he held her in his arms, “to start a new life there.”
Sirka tensed her body in his arms. “You traitor!” she hissed. “You’ve betrayed your people and me! I don’t know what I should …” She looked away from Sangor, away from his beseeching eyes.
Sirka resisted but finally agreed to go with him wherever he went. Sangor was the only people Sirka had, the only country to which she owed her allegiance.