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The next morning Morgan arrived at the Council House room before the child was brought in. He sat waiting for several minutes until the door swung open and Maggie, the two guards, and the child came through. The child was struggling and demanding that she be let go. It was the first time Morgan had ever seen a child put up such a resistance. It was nothing new that she was a girl – those came in fairly equal measure with the boys; but, a girl with such spirit was unheard of coming out of the Skutter.

The two men ignored her demands and proceeded to strip her and douse her with soap and water. Maggie came over to Morgan and sat down.

“This feisty little kitten is named Aja. Good luck with her.”

Morgan watched the proceedings with curiosity and said, “What if she flees?”

“Then she’ll probably die,” came her curt response.

After the girl was bathed and dressed, she stood before Morgan and Maggie in a defiant pose. “Aja,” Maggie said. “This is Morgan and he will be escorting you across the Wasteland today.”

“The Wasteland?” she said haughtily. “I don’t want to go out there.”

“Well, you have no choice, child. And if you try and run, then Morgan won’t be able to protect you and you’ll most assuredly die out there. Do you understand?”

“But where are you taking me?”

“To the city of Kishmurg.”

“What is –“

“Aja! Quiet! The Council has decreed that you be taken to Kishmurg and that Morgan escort you there. No more questions and no more resistance. If you try and flee, you’re dead. Now, Morgan, take her out.” Maggie was halfway out of the door by the time she finished and the two guards followed her leaving Morgan and Aja staring each other down.

Morgan, not so much as making a sound, grabbed the back of her arm and began to walk her to the exit.

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