“Hey, what are you doing looking in my tent?”
Startled, Miriam at first didn’t recognize the young woman who’d been with Zaahir the previous day. She wore a rain poncho and the hood covered her multi-coloured hair.
“What are you snooping around for? Are you a RCMP rat?”
“I’m looking for a…friend, Zaahir?” Miriam said.
“You’re the woman he was talking to yesterday, right?”
“Do you know where he might be?”
“I do, and it’s not here,” was the belligerent reply.
“I see.” Miriam felt more than a little intimidated and prepared to move on.
“No, I don’t think you do,” said the tent owner, placing herself in Miriam’s path.
She removed her hood to reveal a face that was classically beautiful despite a nose stud, several eyebrow rings, and the tattoo on the side of her throat that read terra defendo. She was very young and, despite the veneer of toughness, achingly vulnerable. She lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. “Without using locals you cannot exploit the lie of the land.” She exhaled a cloud of smoke in Miriam’s direction. “That’s a quote by Master Sun-Tzu. Zee’s a student of his work, The Art of War”.
“I don’t understand.”
“I’ve been with Zee for three campaigns, nearly two years. He always recruits locals to help in the battle.”
“What battle? What are you talking about?”
“The battle to save the fucking planet, lady. It’s not about coffee and muffins and stimulating conversation at the cook tent. This is a war and it will be fought with whatever means necessary, including taking advantage of the local population.” She carefully butted the cigarette on a stump and put what was left in her poncho pocket. “That means you.” She emphasized the point by jabbing Miriam in the chest with a nail-bitten finger.
“Don’t be ridiculous. We’re just friends,” Miriam said, as she manoeuvred around Zee’s compatriot. “No one’s being exploited.”
“The way of war is a way of deception,” said the diminutive eco-warrior, letting her pass. “I’ll tell him you called,” she said, as she entered the tent.
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