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EAGLE was ambivalent about returning to THINKING ROCK. He had come within a fraction of a second of being killed there; and secondly, it was a known haunt of his.
Generally speaking, not a good idea to frequent a known haunt when someone is trying to kill you. Bad tradecraft.
There was another side to the argument. He felt fear at the prospect of returning. He hadn’t felt fear at the time of the assassination attempt, not even when it seemed certain he was going to die; but, a day or so later, his right talon was shaking. He was feeling the after-effects. He knew perfectly well that was quite natural, but he was EAGLE, and his code of leadership demanded that however he felt internally, he would always project calmness and confidence. His eagles deserved no less. He had an obligation to them, and he had no intention of letting them down.
He felt a great feeling of relief as he took flight and headed towards the stunningly beautiful box canyon that was home to Thinking Rock. The fear was still there, but it was contained. He knew it would vanish once he was perched inside the unusual clump of three rocks that together made up his special place, as he gazed over the lake down the valley, and thought great thoughts. He looked forward to the warmth emanating from the rocks, and the tranquility.
His small escort fell in beside them. He sent them high. If he was to be attacked in the air, he wanted his ambushers to believe he was alone. He could take care of himself, even against overwhelming odds, against any known aerial foe, for at least a minute or two. After that, only the spirits could save any attacker as his eagle flight counter-attacked at hyper-speed. You had to see the kinetic power of such a flight to appreciate the destructive forces involved. He had seen mountain lions reduced to bloody sheds in seconds. The power of eagles was, indeed, a terrible beauty.
As he flew on, he experienced a growing sense of impending danger. He could see nothing untoward; but, thought the day was sunny, there were enough clouds to conceal potential attackers. Any trace of fear vanished from his body. He was as sure as he could be that he was heading into harm’s way, and he exulted at the thought. He was a warrior and he would be true to the code.
He looked high. His four eagle escort was nowhere to be seen. That was as it should be. Nonetheless, a tingling sensation ran though him.
The sun was to his rear. That wasn’t ideal, but unless he wanted to change course, there wasn’t much he could do about it. His father had read flying stories to him when he was an eaglet. He had never forgotten “Beware of a hun in the sun.” He checked there, and all around, constantly. “Either you look and see, or you die” had been one of the mantras of his basic training. Seeing was more than visual. It was an extra sense – combat sense. You had to anticipate. It was something close to a psychic feeling.
Today, EAGLE was more concerned about clouds. They l0oked beautiful as they scudded across the sky in a brisk breeze, but they provided way too much cover. On the other hand two could play that game. He suddenly changed direction, circled back, and then climbed up into a rather large and gloomy looking cloud that he’d been about to pass. Never be predictable. The trick was to vary direction, speed, and altitude constantly. It was hard to surprise a target which was never quite where you expected.
Visibility inside the cloud was virtually zero. It was all white mist and condensation. He climbed higher, broke out into the sun above the cloud, soared, and then leveled off.
He was looking at his death. There were too many.