Ruby Collins stood on a ridge just outside Agua Dulce and looked across thesixteen miles that separated that town from Lancaster, in the valley below.It was early morning on what was to be the last day of their trek from LosAngeles and, even at this distance, she could see that their journey might have been wasted. Something had happened to Lancaster, something bad.
“What is it?” Ferret said.
“Smoke,” Ruby said pointing out the faint smudges just visible against
the pale blue of the sky.
“Doesn’t look like much.”
“Maybe so,” Ruby said, “But smoke coming
from so many different
places? Can’t be good news.”
“Could have been an accident.”
“I don’t think so, Ferret.”
“We’ll find out when we get there. Come on.” Ruby shouldered her
rucksack, climbed the crash barrier and set off walking down the middle of