The five foot seven, barrel-chested Indian lowered his binoculars; his short black hair was dust coated. "There is no way around them, Jake."
The tall skinny black man lying next to him on the ridgeline slid his binoculars into their case. "Do you think they know we're here, Joe?"
"Hard to say, but this group is more alert than the other groups we bypassed. Let's talk to Ben and see if his guardian knows anything."
They slid backwards on their bellies until well below the ridge line before getting to their feet. Slipping and sliding down the steep slope, they reached the bottom where their truck was parked.
Joe got behind the wheel and drove down the desert track that led back to the highway. On reaching the highway, they turned east and drove five miles to a side road. Joe drove slowly to keep down the dust thrown up from the gravel and dirt road. A mile ahead a small weather-worn house stood amid the cactus. Joe stopped beside the house and got out.
Jake cursed and hopped around after getting out. "You did that on purpose!"
"What the hell are you talking about?" Joe asked with a confused look on his face.
"You deliberately parked where I would step on a cactus," Jake answered.
Joe rolled his eyes upward. He walked around the truck and grabbed Jake by the arms. "Quit your damned jumping and let me pull out the thorn." He bent down and lifted Jake's foot. Sure enough two spine thorns from a cactus stuck out from the side of Jake's shoe. He grasped the first thorn between thumb and forefinger and jerked. He did the same with the next thorn and dropped Jake's foot. "Next time; look before you step."
"This is no place for a po' black man; nothing but snakes, scorpions and cactus. Give me trees, streams, and plenty of green grass anytime," Jake grumbled.
Joe laughed and wiped sweat from his face. Not yet noon and the temperature had to be well over a hundred. "Let's get in out of this heat," Joe said and headed for the front door of the house.
He was met at the door by a tomboyish looking thirteen-year-old with long straight brown hair. "I thought you could use this," she said with an impish crinkle around her blue eyes. "Where's Jake?"
"Outside cussing the cactus, Tammy," Joe answered.
A six-foot, brown-haired lanky man came from the kitchen. "Did you find them, Joe?"
"They were just about where Tammy said they would be. Ben, I think they are expecting us. Can your guardian tell us anything?"
Ben got a faraway look in his eyes. Joe knew he was communing with the part of him that protected him from harm. A few years ago, Ben had died in a plane crash as he was on his way to meet Tony--The Chosen One. He came to with a voice telling him to lie still while she repaired him. Since that time, he shared his body with a disembodied entity. This entity was a part of Mother Nature who was trying to stop the destruction of all life on the planet.
Ben's eyes cleared. "She says there is nothing she can do to help us."
"I could have told you that," a tall slender strawberry-blonde said from where she sat in a chair at the only window in the room.
"Oh, there you are," a middle aged brown-haired man with piercing blue eyes said as he walked from the kitchen. "I've looked everywhere for you, Tony."
"I needed some alone time to think, so I turned myself off, Bill."
"Can't you use another word than turned off, Tony? Makes it sound like you're a robot," Joe said.
"Well I'm not invisible to everyone; Chuka can still see me. By the way, this desert heat is really hard on Chuka."
Across the room a huge black wolf got to its feet and padded over to where Tony sat. He slumped down beside her with his long red tongue hanging from his mouth as he panted. His black-haired sides heaved in and out. He was two hundred and fifty pounds of misery.
Joe opened the door and shouted, "Jake, start the truck and put the air-conditioning on high!" He closed the door quickly, although it was almost as warm in the house as it was outside. "We all need to get out of this desert country. The heat is getting to all of us."
For the last two weeks, they had been traveling in circles, avoiding the people looking for them. At present, they were ten miles south of Minersville just off of Route 130. There weren't many roads in this part of the state. It was easy for the people looking for them to block the roads that did exist.
"Does it strike any of you as strange that the weather is so hot? It is only mid-spring. I don't know much about deserts, but I thought it wouldn't get this hot till mid-summer." Bill said.
"My guardian says this is part of the problem we are to stop," Ben answered.
They all looked at Ben.
"How the hell do we stop weather!" Joe exclaimed.
"We don't, but we can stop the people who are messing with the weather. From what I know, a group of geeks got together in what's left of Silicone Valley and created a way of tampering with the weather," Ben said.
"Do you have any more little tidbits of information you want to share with us, Ben?" Joe asked.
Ben shrugged. "My guardian only gives out the information needed to help us in a current time situation."
"How does this help us get around those men out there guarding the road? We can't go back. They moved over fifty men into Minersville. The only other choice is to take off across the desert and that will mean sure death," Bill said.
"I agree with Bill. Our trucks would break down in no time out there and leave us on foot," Tony spoke up.
"We need to come up with something; we are almost out of water," Tammy said.
"Tony, we need to make use of your abilities. I have a plan, but it will be risky," Joe said.
Tony laughed. "Risk, now there is a word we have lived with every day since we met a few years ago. Tell us your plan, Joe."