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encouragement among his people. Of course the HER was programmed to do it, but he was overcome with emotion just the same, and raised his palm to cover his eyes.



He stood by the gas-pump, its corrugated canopy rusted and riddled with holes. Still it provided respectable shade. It was designed to provide shelter from the rain, but in southern Nevada that didn’t happen much. When it did, the wind blew the rain parallel to the ground so the shelter was ineffective, but it kept the summer sun off the pumps, and was the only reason they didn’t explode in the midday heat. 

He pulled his hat off and shook his jet black hair, letting the air pass through it. He let the sweat evaporate, cooling his head as he turned his clear falcon-like eyes to the highway. His full name was Matthew James Krause; to all that knew him, Matt.

The hat went back on, pulled down in front, blocking the white glare that came ricocheting from every direction—bright white sky, white reflecting sand, bleached white buildings, and somehow the black asphalt highway appeared to sparkle white. His eyes squeezed into slits and he peered down the asphalt river toward the horizon.

“Can’t see a damned thing,” he muttered and moved from the shade toward the shimmering highway. He held his hand above his eyes, further reducing the glare. Undulating heat rose from the gleaming river of tar, broiling distant images into shapeless puddles. He squinted, but still couldn’t pierce through the distortions.

Finally he cupped one hand behind his ear and cocked it toward the highway. He heard the distant pounding of a distressed engine. Out of an amorphous pool, came a navy blue car, billows of gray percolating out from under its hood.

“The one that called is coming,” he shouted, triggering a muted clatter from inside the service station. Seconds later, Larry was there, out of breath, a dog-eared Modern Electronics wadded in his hand.   

 “No doubt they’re spending the night here,” he heaved and nodded

 beyond the steaming highway to the motel, a white-washed barracks

 plopped onto a field of blinding white gravel, the roof streaked

 black with tar, which shined like a mirror in the heat. Under the

 eaves, the windows of six rooms stared back blank-eyed. At the far

 end, a car and two pickups stood in front of the cafe. All were

 ancient, broken by rough roads, and bleached by the

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