“My men are brave, and they will fight,’ Sirik said. “But they are outnumbered, and under no illusions that they can reverse the tide of history.”

“I’m not sure what you’re saying,” replied Ames.

“I am saying that there is a chance we may make it downriver despite the mines and the gunfire and the rockets. And I am saying that, each time we stop, you should expect several of the men who go ashore to forage not to return.”

Ames bit his lip. “I understand,” he said. “Money and abstract things like loyalty can only go so far.”

Sirik nodded. “I am also saying that you should be prepared to operate the boat alone, Mr. John. I can show you a few things before we depart.”

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