Blood roared in Lushan’s ears as Carob Village streaked into his line of sight. Over his panting he could hear the crunch of the first frosts underfoot and see the tendrils of smoke from the iron chimneys, flush with the steam of his breath. The sun was almost free of the Alps and the featureless matte gray fog—almost time for village-morning activities. He would have to be back at Green-B soon. Hamstrings and triceps contracted, fueled by a fresh pump of acetylcholine. He broke into a new wind sprint.

Lushan’s breath shifted from a recovering 4/4 to 4/3 time signature. He cursed himself for not downing enough water before leaving (before dawn). The lactation in his ankles and things throbbed like battery acid. Sweat bled down into his eyes.

And—there! Finally, he crested the last slope in the dirt path and Green-B came into view, a fog-gray tuna canister cast in concrete. A steel parasol slanted from its roof, a miniature satellite array. The narrow machinegun ports were covered from the inside with black tinted bulletproof Lexan.

Green-B kept a slit eye over Carob from its sentry’s perch on Midori Hill. At 3 pm it would cast its squat shadow over the village’s rice paper walls.