Stento and his companions gathered food and weapons and hurried into the night. He, or one of the others would return at intervals for essentials they couldn’t make or trap, and to see their loved ones. The settlers thought their capture would be simple. With their communications satellite’s scan of the planet, they tracked them for a year. Stento and his companions hid in the mountains. Yet, time and again one of them would return to their village without the settlers being any wiser. The Eg’glis elders, with their uncanny psychic senses, knew when the satellite journeyed out of range and when one of their own drew near. They would confuse and misdirect the locals, like magicians drawing focus away from where the trick was taking place.
In the end, the tree were trapped in box canyon, against a high cliff near the back. A ten-foot wide mock bramble, with five-inch thorns, sheltered them from the fifty plus men and women who guarded against their escape. The standoff worked on everyone’s nerves. Three days and nights they attempted to trap them, burn them out and make them pay. Stavo and Eni argued about it. He thought the only outcome would be the death of the three Eg’glis. She said she didn’t intend to kill them. She wanted to bring them back for trial. He asked her to quit and she refused almost before the words were out of his mouth. He realized his mistake, but damage had already been done. She would help in their capture.
Stavo knew Eni didn’t do this work for the money or greed for power. Justice held the key to Eni. Those in power needed to help the weak and helpless among them, or all was lost. She understood the danger and violence inherent in her position, acknowledged them, but kept them in perspective. She or others might be killed, but everyone died. Stavo was driven by respect for life, all life, and thought she deceived herself. She argued that he knew how to take a life. If he found a Jondrill weed in his crops, he’d root out this choking killer and never stop until he’d eradicated it. Stavo refused to see the connection; he held human life precious. Eni felt the same, but knew that human weeds, parasites had to be rooted out to save the crop, lest all were blighted.
This problem came from weeds that grew in their own soil. Weeds they found which might nourish them, but which didn’t grow from their own labors. These plants, grown wild, alien and other, were what Eni hoped to save. Even as the others harrowed it, sought to kill it to their detriment. Though the brotherhood couldn’t see it, their chase of Stento proved a colossal mistake. It divided their once close community; the thin end of the wedge that would split them apart.
Shots were fired from within the mock bramble when the settlers attempted to advance, but only then. If they had simply left, everyone would have lived. The settlers couldn’t see it that way. They wouldn’t give them a chance to escape. On the second day, they mounted a charge. Twenty-five ran toward the fierce, barbed plant that guarder their prey. The others waited as back up and to ensure against escape. They would try and end the standoff that day. Eni, though not among the chosen would have gone, would have fired her weapon into mock bramble, though her heart would break. She had committed her hand.
Many came to watch the capture, but were chivvied away from the fray. The witnesses were giddy to see the capture of the renegades, as they’d come to be called. It looked to Eni as if the rest of Hopkins Port had come to revel in the spectacle, the travesty. Everyone but Stavo came. Eni knew he would not come. Brother Dom had come once, but only to exhort his followers to come away. They tainted their souls, their lives, their new home, he said, by seeking to witness this awful day. They stayed and cheered when the charge was launched. Yet when this foray ended, twenty-five people lay dead or wounded on the ground. The anguished cries and pitiful whimpering of the wounded finally drove most away from the killing grounds. The Fargo Norths yelled louder still for blood and glory. No capture would be acceptable now.