"Hello Major Gardener." It was the same Asian accented voice and her tone was that of an awestruck 16 year old girl. "This is Northern Arizona Control. My name is Keiku and I will be your dedicated image controller. I understand you have not used..."
"Shut the fuck up. Stay out of my head. Give me a quarter mile out, center on me, and run only on my voice command."
"Roger that. Conforming. Out."
She sounded a little miffed. Too bad.
It was quiet. The only people moving was us in two groups with 50 paces separating us. "Keiku. Give me where we just left."
That wasn't quiet. They had a fast react team and the way they were moving told me a good one at that. I stepped up the pace. I couldn't hear anyone sucking wind and I didn't expect to either.
Sweet Jesus it was a joy to run like this. I let myself enjoy it for a few beats. Damn, when did this slip away? I knew, I mean really knew, that I was only cruising and there was still more waiting if I wanted it. Getting older and the injuries had made so much of what I did something to be endured physically. This was nothing. It was fun again, I had forgotten how good it felt to move well and effortlessly, to feel like I was in my element instead of fighting it. I leaped a scrub bush instead of going around it and laughed. I bit the laugh off when I stumbled a little slipping on a sand covered rock and decided to focus on what the hell I was doing. I promised myself when this was done I would go running for a couple of hours just for the hell of it.
We ran hard. About 10 minutes into it I asked Keiko, "Anyone of these guys getting the feed too?"
There was a brief pause, not much, but enough for me to read a lot into, she told me, "Sir. They are not...qualified."
"Not qualified?" I thought. What the hell? Another mystery but one that I was used to. It was time to talk to my people, something we hadn't done much of so far. After another 40 minutes of running I called a halt.