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*Maybe some of his bad luck
                                          runned off on me, I dunno. Sighing,
                                          I sit atop Loki, my horse. I was
sweeping the ring, something standard these days. Specially when animal rights folks get in the way of a
good rodeo. See sweeping is when you walk through the ring, to see if you can spot traps, or small
explosives. ARA folks are nasty when it comes to making people hurt. So, I volunteered to be the
"Stooge" tonight. I got stooged all right. Bout half way through, I spotted a field of bumps, best I could
think. And about that time I saw him. The man I havent seen in years, standing in the grandstand, grinning,
the same way he did years ago. I froze, hell even Loki froze. His ears are back. Problem didnt occur,
until he said his first words.*

I think your in trouble, Son. *He
                                          walked down to the edge of the
                                          ring.* See, earlier today, a few
people came in, and planted over six hundred explosive triggers in the sand. Amazing what can happen
when you mix up the animal people and the mutant people and get them both angry. Theyre determined
to clean your clock. O'course, the only person who knew your clock would be cleaned was me. But see,
I sorta like you. So what I did, was make sure them explosives didnt go off while that clumsy mount of
yours was trampling all over them. *He grins again, my heart leaps to my throat.*

I thought Id give you a snowflakes chance in hell to get out of there. Thats why I did it. That and I didnt
want to make the mistake that you would only take a glancing blow. All that has to happen now, is your
horse goes steppin on one of those pretty little devices, and loses a leg, thats when you get thrown and
two or three more go off. You get the picture. *With a huge self satisfied grin, he turns* Have a nice day
son... oh, and someone is phoning in the office about what they did as we speak. Camera's are just
outside, hey...arent they filming a documentary or some such idiocy today? Heck, Jordan will be glad to
see your dying moments, Im sure. *I shake my head, keeping Loki steady isnt a problem. We've been a
team since I started ropin. He and I seem to understand each other.*

*I can feel my heart pounding.
                                          Yeah, Im afraid, anyone would be.
                                          But if I keep standing still, mebbe
someone c'n help me figger out what Im gonna do. It aint long when my boss, Heff Simpson steps in.*
You alright Chris? *He only calls me that when we talk money, or sentimental things. Oh, its probably
worse than even I know quite yet.* Yeah, Im holdin. *Good, at least my voice dont betray what I really
feel.* *He nods, and leans on the rail, removing his hat to wipe his brow.* You any ideas? *I
shake my head.* *He answers with a simple.* Nope.

*Patting Loki on the neck, hes
                                          tossing his head, prob'ly wonderin
                                          where his food is.* Stay
still....please. *Talking quietly, he tosses his head again, as if to mock me. "Yes yes, Im still stickman".*

*Sighing, I shift slightly as the first couple of camera's start coming through the door. They must think this
is some kind of holiday. Whats bothering me most.* Jess, please kill the danged music man, its going to
drive me nuts. *They test the sound system, I had totally forgot Jess was even there. He's probably sitting
with his headphones on, completely oblivious. But several minutes later, the music stops, and I shake my

CJ, do you mind if we tape? We're going live, do you mind if we shoot? *WTF are these people talking
about?* I dont caaare. *Sure, get a good shot, while I try to figger out how to stay alive. Idiots.*

*I can see thousands of those
                                          raised bumps. Not knowing where
                                          the traps are, I aint takin chances.*
Chris? *Heff comes back from the office.* We can get you lifted out of there, just be patient with me.

Do I have a choice? *Puzzled look.* How you gonna lift us out of this? Ya cant get a crane in here
without making enough vibration to trigger all of these traps at the same time.

Well, I wasnt going to get a crane. They can come get ya...but...the equipment cant take Loki.

Oh **** no, I aint leavin here without him. Are ya stupid? *I wanna thwap him with my hat, and I will
later, soon as Loki and I get out of this*


Shut up. I mean it.


*Ill eat my hat if I hear reporters
                                          callin me a "lone cowboy" one more
                                          time. I aint alone, if they hadnt
noticed, theyre flooding this place, and making Loki nervous. It takes all of my willpower just to keep him
from stamping the ground.*

*Then they really tick me off. They
                                          start shouting questions at me from
                                          where they are.* Do I LOOK Like
interview material right now? PLEASE let me think a bit. *I hate getting angry, it ruins this whole quiet
look I got goin on.*

*I got two choices I can see. Spur Loki, and make a wild run for the exit. That would not only be stupid,
but suicidal.*

*Or sit here and think s'more.*

*Now where I come from.
                                          Thoughts run a bit slow. I aint sayin
                                          my kind is stupid. Im sayin we think
carefully. So I can sit here all day before making any real decision, and Loki has calmed alot, he could
easily sleep like this. In fact, he just might. The lights in the arena come on, probably Heff tryin to help me
see better. But I can see just fine. Im up a serious creek here.

I ponder every single step Loki will take out of here. Moving only when completely necessary. I pray a
couple times, it helps sometimes to do that. The reporters have gone back to yakkin at their cameras. I
heard someone in the back declarin that CNN had arrived. Oh goodie, another idiot thats going to want
to ask questions. If I get out of this, all I want is a shower. Im sweating like a pig.*
*Oh, lookie Heff doin an interview.
                                          How nice. Grumbling, I hate this
                                          whole thing, and I think he knows
it. 'Course, cant think of too many folks who would be delighted to be surrounded by mines. I can see
some folks in the back, ARA folks. Well, my day just keeps getting better dont it?*

*If I were Jordan, Id have Loki
                                          doin tricks for the cameras. But I
                                          aint, Im not quite as entertainin as
my deathwish brother. Not that I dont love him to death, dont get me wrong. I just dont share his
excitement for danger. Ropin and sometimes roughstock ridin, but nothin else.

Heff really captures everyones attention. Gads, how many camera's are there in the world. Thankfully,
they dont use flash photography. That would spook Loki, if hes workin, he dont care, but hes just standin
here, might get excited.*

*The news stories are doing
                                          everything to fill the gap from the
                                          start of this news, to finding out
what Im going to do. Apparently even Heff cant entertain them long enough. Im just glad I dont know
theyre showing old footage, and pictures of me. Theyre even doing stupid little biographies, and feeding
out information. Id kill em if I knew. But I dont.*

*Taking off my hat for a minute, I
                                          put it on Loki's ears. Something Ive
                                          always done. It dries out better that
way. They must have thought it was cute, cuz I heard some snickering. I wipe my brow and frisk out my
hair a bit. Its rather uncomfortable in here. Leaning over, I lower the left stirrup a little, and then lean to
the other side I lower the right. For long minutes, the only sound is that of the leather creaking as I
~See if I back up, one of them
                                          things might clip his legs, well, heck,
                                          if I head in any direction, hes gonna
get it. Best to stay still f'now. Sighing, I gaze out again at the dirt. Its about an hour and a half into the
ordeal. Im tired, last time I rode like this, I was aching for days. Worse, I aint moving much, so its going
to be worse. That and Ive had adrenaline pumping since this began. I think CNN has found better things
to do, because I can hear the reporter saying "Updates". Prolly means theyre getting bored of me. Good,
I hope they go home.*
*Loki tosses his head a bit, and I
                                          have to grab for the hat. I forgot I
                                          put it there. Putting it back on my
head where it belongs, I know what the horse is thinking, and Im thinking it too. Bout time we got around
to doin something. Aint nobody been in with any ideas since I told Heff to shut up. Ill be 'pologizin for
that later.* might wanna see how many folks you c'n get the heck out of here. *Thats the only
thing Ive said in over an hour, I think it startled some folks more that I actually said anythin.*
*Leaning up in the saddle, I can see
                                          Heff getting a few people out, but
                                          CNN and some other networks
wont budge. Blood sells. I whisper in Loki's ear. Hes a horse, yes, YES i know he dont understand
nothin, but I say it anyway. If this is going to be my last day, then I danged well will TALK TO MY
HORSE.* Jes take it slow, and step where ya need to. Lessgo, and please man, dont get us killed.
*Sitting back, I put my forehead on the pommel for a moment, then lift the reins. My hands are sweating
and they slip the first time, but I grab them again, and Loki looks at me, as if making sure I know what in
the world Im talking about, I nod at him. Im just glad I have no idea how odd this looks on camera.*

*The first step is hesitant, Loki knows somethings wrong, and he puts his foot gently on the ground
several inches away from where it was. I take a deep breath, and sigh a bit with relief when I dont go
boom. Biting my lip, I lift the reins again, to tell him to go on, again he looks back at me. Probably smells
all that adrenaline.*

*One camera shows something
                                          odd. A black patch of fog or
                                          something in the ring, about twenty
feet in front of the horse. It hovers, or maybe, its just a dirty lens.*

*Each step is a nerve destroying
                                          experience. Each landed foot is a
                                          prayer of thanks. Loki is taking it
extremely slow. Even sniffing at the ground ocassionally. I think I know what hes doing, but its too
uncanny, and too weird to believe it. I think this danged animal is actually sniffing out a trail. Leaning over
as he does, I try to squint at the ground, to see if hes looking, or sniffing.*
*Thirty feet to go. Just thirty feet
                                          and we're out of the arena. Looking
                                          back..I sigh with dismay, we've
only traveled eight feet in the last ten minutes.

I dont see the fog in the distance, Im too focused to gettin out of here. Loki blows a bit, and uncovers a
mine. Makes my heart sail into my throat. He wasnt lying, they really are out here. Now I am twice as
terrified as I was before. Course, for the audience's sake, one of the cameras pan real up close and
personal. Its disk shaped, with a metal button looking thing on top. Easily triggered.* Careful man. Those
things will be the death of us. *Loki looks back again. I swear this thing is talking to me sometimes, but
nobody ever believed me.*
*Stopping for a minute, so both of
                                          us can collect ourselves, I look at
                                          our trail. It actually winds, its not a
straight trail, as much as I expected it to be. Course, Im leaving alot of it up to Loki. He seems to know
what hes doing more-n-I do. Taking off my hat for a minute, I put it back on Loki's ears, and wipe my
hair back. Rubbing on his shoulder flanks, I try to relax him. I can see his muscles twitch, and now would
not be the time for him to go an get nervous.*

*Taking the hat back, I get back to
                                          business.* Ok, lets go. *Without a
                                          movement from me, Loki starts
taking more steps, again, shoving his nose close to the ground, ocassionally blowing a bit of sand to
reveal shiney metal, hes careful to place his hooves away from these devices. We move another ten feet
before we stop again. This time I notice the black patch hovering a few feet away, and squint trying to
figure out what it is. Loki was moving in its direction.*

*Loki's ears flatten against his head,
                                          and he snorts, not a good sign.
                                          Something has bothered him, and
its bothering me too. Sitting up a bit in the saddle, I look through the stands. Trying to see what Loki can
smell, or sense. The black patch is probably just some gas or something. It happens sometimes in places
like this. Loki shudders underneath me, and I rub my hand between his ears.* Dont freak on me now
man, we aint out of this yet. *Trying to stay calm, things are starting to go downhill a bit faster.*

*The black cloud swirls in front of
                                          me, and I watch amazed and
                                          mesmerized. Until I feel Loki lift a
leg and slam it back onto the arena floor, I cringe in expectation, but nothing happens. Breathing a bit
faster with fear, I look at it again, and it starts to slowly move towards us.* Dear sweet mama....

*Ripping my eyes away from the
                                          cloud, I prod Loki.* Lessgo.
                                          *expecting movement, and not
getting it. Hes cemented himself.* What? *He looks back at me, ears still flat against his head, his eyes
roll wildly.*

C'mon man, 'sup? *Loki is starting
                                          to worry me, he shakes underneath
                                          me, more and more as that cloud
gets closer. It stops though, inches from the horses nose. I can even feel a chill from it. Still cant figger out
what the heck it is. Ive lost track of Heff and the camera crowd.*

*The cloud in front of me elongates
                                          itself, and I grip Loki with my
                                          knees, it stretches for the spanned
distance between us, and the safety of the arches. Swallowing hard and pursing my lips, I rub Loki's neck
hoping he'll calm. I aint about to move now. Just stay still. Thats all. The cloud seems almost snakelike
now, weaving around in front of us, mesmerizing me a bit. I have to shake my head to refocus.* Stay with
me buddy. *Im talking to my horse again. Ok, so Im used to it.*

*The cloud snake rears back and
                                          strikes Loki on the nose. I dont
                                          know if it hurts, but Loki reacts as
though it does. Tossing his head back, he slams his into mine, and Im dazed a bit, but stay on top.
Gripping the pommel with one hand. I hear some shouting now. But I need to pay attention to this, not

                       *Rearing back again, I see the cloud about to strike, so I hold on
                       to Loki's mane. Praying Loki takes it better than I think he will.*
                       Hold on, man, we're almost there. Hold on. *The cloud strikes,
                       and Loki rears up slightly, his hooves falling back into the spot they
                       were in. I got lucky. But I dont know how much longer he and I
                       can hold ourselves together. I kick him forward, we have to break
                       this up somehow, and I dont know what else to do.* Move! *Loki
                       takes two steps and freezes. The cloud backs up as well, and I
                       gaze at it angry. Its like a staring contest, but I dont know exactly
                       what Im staring at. *

*Loki calms, and the cloud seems to lose some of its gusto, as if
                         it had a real personality, and its attention was divided. Taking
                         advantage of that, I turn the reins, and Loki puts his nose to the
                         ground again, as though our interrupted walk never got
interrupted. My arms and legs are weak, and Im not sure Im going to be all that coherant later, but if I do
get out of this, I want a danged hot shower for once. Mebbe call New York, I dunno. Ill think about that
later, for now, I lean over the saddle, and watch with Loki again. Putting one foot in front of the other, we
start again, about fifteen feet left now.*

*Midstep about twelve feet from safety one of the mines
                         explodes behind us, both of us jump, but it was too far back to
                         reach us, and I look back, huffing, about as wild-eyed as Loki
                         himself, whos tossing his head, ready to make a dash. I have to
hold on tight to keep him in check. The cloud had been hovering back there. Is it possible it did that?
People are screaming now, some just shouting again.* CHRIS GET OUT OF THERE. *Heff has been
an announcer for far too long not to know how to make his voice carry.*

*Im nearly spent, I feel like dead
               , let me rephrase that. Like Im dead in the
                get the picture. Eight feet from safety, and
                         we keep moving, despite any distraction. Heff is standing right
there, on the concrete flooring, I can almost touch him. Which is why I bear down my concentration
more. The whole arena grows dark suddenly. Someone killed the lights? What kind of assinine and
childish prank is that? Loki freezes, snorting at the ground.*

*I can hear nothing. Its like everyones holding thier breath. Its
                         not that Ive gone deaf, because I can hear Loki huffing with
                         anxiety, but no voices, no coughing, just nothing. Im still bent
                         over in the saddle a bit, getting up from the startlement of the
lights going out. The cameramen get an idea, and start shining their powerful camera beams into the ring,
and the space to safety. For the first time Im glad theyre here. I bend over the saddle again, and Loki
puts his nose back to the ground, we start to work, another foot two, then three. We're five feet from
safety. In fact, we could leap the space, but both of us are worn out, and I dont want to ask that of him.
Something cold and heavy slams against my back, knocking me from my seat. I can hear people gasping,
as I hold on one foot still in the stirrup, and holding onto the pommel. Loki sidesteps slightly, then waits
until I can pull myself back up, he snorts at me, and leaps. I have to hold on as though he was
roughstock. I know Loki is strong enough to carry us, and I have to put my faith in him, cuz right now, Im
completely out of control. In fact, I dont take a single breath until I hear hoofbeats on concrete.*

*Letting myself fall from the saddle this time, Heff catches me
                         up, so I dont sprawl on the ground. Still gripping a hold on the
                         reins nobody can grasp from me, I lean into my horse and stand
                         still for a while. Nothing has ever scared me half so badly, I cant
even look at the ring, and I dont know that I ever will again.*