Lance reined Thunder in, allowing Tommy to catch up. His apprentice hadn't spend much time on horseback, having been born and raised in the Seattle sprawl.
In spite of the difficulties with horseback riding, Lance was pleased with Tommy's progress. Although he was a mundane, Tommy had mastered taijitsu sufficiently to teach in any dojo and had developed a skilled proficiency with most firearms. Tommy understood the concepts of honor and justice and had always had a good heart. His one real deficiency was his unaugmented reflexes. All the training in the world couldn't teach Tommy to react fast enough to match a cybered or physically adept opponent. Perhaps it was time to do something about that.
"I think Gibson's got a mind of her own" Tommy said, finally catching the borrowed horse up to Lance.
"Remember that you're in charge" Lance replied. "Be firm, insistent but not cruel."
"I know" Tommy sighed. "I'll get it. Lets go again."
Tommy's usual eagerness was no less pleasing than it had been when Lance first took him as an apprentice. Lance spurred Thunder into a gallop, hoping Tommy could get Gibson to keep up this time. He wasn't disappointed.
Tommy would have to master riding and fighting on horseback if he was to visit Lance's adopted tribe of Arapaho traditionalists in the southernmost part of Sioux Nation. And he would have to visit them if he was to be a pledge in the warrior order of Sky Birds as Lance intended.
They thundered past the bullet ridden house that had been home to the plot of land's previous occupant. As he often did, Lance wondered where Aegis had retired to and if his one-time teammate's many enemies might return to Aegis' former home. One thing the adrenaline junkie was good at was making enemies.
It would be a nice house if Lance ever had it fixed up. But as long as it remained vacant, damaged and clearly abandoned those enemies would know Aegis had not returned. The last thing Lance wanted was to put his and his family's horses at risk.
Tommy fell behind again as Lance neared the barn. The mare wasn't as easy to control as the gelding Tommy had started out on, and riding here on the slopes of Cougar Mountain wasn't easy for any beginner. But Tommy would master this skill too, given time.
"Let's get them cleaned up and stabled," Lance said when Tommy halted Gibson beside him. "It'll be dark soon."
One thing Tommy had mastered was care for the animals. He had Gibson brushed, cleaned and turned loose in the pasture before it was fully dark.
"I can see why Aegis chose this land" Tommy said, admiring the view their position on Cougar Mountain provided of the Seattle metroplex at sunset.
"It probably had more to do with the rock climbing and general height" Lance chuckled. "Let's take advantage of the altitude while we're up here. You up for a run?"
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