A heart warming tale of the Old West, where men are men, women are women, horses are horses, and the natives are expendable.

Julah twisted in his saddle as a rattle of loose shale came from the canyon to his left and Bannen appeared, his horse sidling expertly down the steep slope, hooves slipping on the treacherous rocks.

‘How does it look?’

Bannen’s face crinkled. ‘’bout two miles north.’ He looked pleased with himself.


‘Burnt-out Conestoga, bodies. Looks like a family.’

‘So they’re here?’

‘Hereabouts for sure.’

Julah congratulated himself on his choice of guide. Bannen had turned up trumps alright. He’d known others spend weeks without a sniff, now, on only the third day, they’d struck gold.

He’d been planning this for a while. As someone with Cree blood in his veins, he had a vested interest. Wapahke!


Brian looked out over the Reservation, taking in the tumbled heaps of trash and dilapidated shanties. Dishevelled figures stumbled around, lay slumped on porches or by the dirt road: the sad remains of a once-proud Nation.

‘Second class education, no jobs on the Reservation – and no-one would give them a job outside it.’ Brian had said to his brother-in-law later. ‘I’ve been going there for four years, and I’m just beginning to make some contact, get some trust. Who can blame them? They are just one big problem nobody wants. Six-year-old kids on cocaine – I ask you!’


Julah and Bannen were riding north now, their horses loping easily over the rough terrain, eyes peeled for any movement. Bannen had promised him he’d found the perfect place, a small plain with a circle of sandstone bluffs around it. Perfect for an ambush.

Night was coming on fast. They found the place and camped, gathering some scrub to light a bright fire, banking it up sufficient for it to be sending a column of smoke into the dawn sky in some hours time. Perfect.


‘The problem is they were actually too successful.’

John looked surprised. ‘I thought they just got whupped by the US soldiers and eradicated.’

‘Not so,’ Brian shook his head, ‘they were a real barrier to the early exploration of the West. Probably held back the colonisation fifty years or more. Too many of them.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, funny thing is, if they had been less powerful, fewer, they would have survived better. We probably wouldn’t have Reservations now and their descendants would be far better off, absorbed in society rather than quarantined.’ Seeing John’s puzzlement, Brian explained: ‘Some guy at Stanford, Wazolski or Waslewski or something. I was reading his paper. He had a team build a big social model, you know – big scale thing – predictive.’

Brian leaned across the table. ‘It showed that if the Nations had been far smaller and less powerful, they would have had to be cooperative: therefore, respected by the settlers, who would have had to depend on that goodwill, both sides would have worked together, grown a merged community. The USA would eventually have been far more powerful than it ever has been, with a fifty to a hundred year lead in exploration and prosperity. Think of it – all the Edisons, the brightest immigrants from Europe and the world given a much bigger head-start. If only…’


Dawn was breaking. Julah shifted his head on the makeshift pillow. He had slept well. He raised his eyes to the blue, blue sky. A thin column of smoke rose high above. Good.

Bannen had stayed awake. He also kept very still. There was no need, Julah thought. They would know if anything made a move.

The slightest movement, the glint of sharpened stone in the rays of the rising sun, caught his eye. Way up on the bluff. Coming down soon. Good.


‘It all started with Weslawski.’ The Agent stared fixedly at Julah.

‘The Stanford guy?’

‘Yes. His ideas became prevalent a hundred years after his time, just when someone put the technology together to do something about it.’

‘And they’re actually doing something?’

‘Yes. Top secret. Wouldn’t want the Asians or the Chinese to get to know about it.’

‘Surely they have it too?’


‘Then we could be fighting a war here, a war way back in our own history?’ Julah pondered on the prospect. It was so complex he couldn’t even guess at the consequences. Instead he focused on the one thing he could grasp. ‘So the blood of the Nations will become part of the USA’s success story. We will be strong – even stronger. And if we do it first….’

‘Exactly. If it works out right, they won’t have the technology or the power, the US will still be ruling the world.’

‘Why me?’

‘You’re one of the few people trained for physical action. A warrior, if you like.’

‘A rare profession now.’

‘Yes. We need someone with the power of independent thought, and the training to implement it.’

‘But I know nothing about the terrain, any of the things that went on.’

‘You’ll have a guide. He knows the place inside out.’ In answer to Julah’s unspoken question he added, ‘He’s not a warrior. He can’t do it.’


The sun was way up now. Julah could imagine what could be seen from high on the bluff: a whole tempting encampment of settlers, ready to loot. That’s all the hot- headed braves knew. The wiser heads never got a say. But they would, they would. When only the elders of the tribe and the women were left, sanity would return.

Julah checked the power pack on the projector. Fine. They were moving now, coming down for the kill. He waited.


The screaming warriors of the proud and powerful Cree Nation encircled the mass of settlers and the soldiers covering them with rifles. They would have them as well, the rifles. The war whoops were designed to cow an enemy, to dominate. If any of them had looked closer, the patterns of repetitive movement of the figures behind the circle of wagons would have struck a false note. But none did. Their blood was up, now was the time.

Julah snapped on the protective screen. He and Bannen were within its field, together with the horses.

Then he raised his head, hawk nose against the blue sky, his lined face strained. With a tear in his eye, his hand moved on the control, slowly, deliberately.

‘For the Cree Nation!’ He intoned, as the flickering blue wave licked out in an expanding circle, finally fading at the foot of the bluffs.


‘Is that it?’ Bannen asked.

‘That’s it.’ Julah flicked off the screen, moved over to the projector and switched off the noise and bustle of the settler encampment. Suddenly the air was still. No settlers, no soldiers, no war-whoops. No Cree braves.

‘Really? It’s that simple?’

‘God, I hope so.’ Julah’s voice was strained, choking. ‘I hope so.’

Better die with honour than live in failure his great-grandfather had told him.

‘What next?’

‘We go back to the pick-up point, and a medical team goes in later to inoculate the tribe. There’s a new generation coming.’

‘Come on.’ Julah wheeled his mount round, and set off.

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