Taz and Kodak
by Rick Beck
Settling in with 1st Squad
A cot had been set up across from Taz's. Someone had put his canvas bag, a blanket, and pillow on top. This would be where Kodak slept. No one mentioned the conduct of the bedwetting, late sleeping soldier once they returned. In fact it was a friendly atmosphere as most men lounged on their bunks.
As dark set in, Kodak watched the rifle squad prepare for a nighttime patrol. He was told to leave the camera in case he had a wild urge to take flash pictures in the dark. Anything that brought attention to the patrol was certain to draw the bad guys out to meet them.
Kodak felt awkward going without his camera. Each member of the squad carried an M-16, save for Taz, who carried the biggest rifle Kodak had ever seen. It did explain his bulging biceps. Watching each soldier taking clips of ammunition, Kodak felt like he'd just been cast in a war movie.
The squad was all business and no one but Sgt. Jacoby said anything. He took something that looked like black face out of a container and handed it to the next man, who used the content to put on his face. When Taz finished, he handed the can to Kodak.
He felt odd applying it to his forehead and each cheek, not knowing why he was doing it. Everyone else applied it in a similar fashion and Kodak assumed it was important.
"Temple, take point. Taz bring up the rear. Keep an eye on Kodak if we meet up with Charlie. Kodak, you stay glued to the man in front of you. Taz will be there if we run into trouble. He'll keep you safe. We wouldn't want to lose our photographer his first time out."
It took Kodak an hour before he could see anything but Hale, the guy in front of him. Once his eyes adjusted to the little bit of light filtering through the treetops from the night sky, he felt less helpless, even if he couldn't find Taz.
Had Charlie opened up on the squad, Kodak was sure he would jump into Taz's arms to join that big rifle. Charlie wasn't likely to be anywhere close-by. The squad was never more than a mile from where they were quartered. It was a scheduled patrol to discourage Charlie from attempting to get close to camp.
Sgt. Jacoby wasn't sure how Kodak would react to being in the bush and this way the best way to find out how his squad's cameraman took to the tension. It only took a few hours to make a semicircle around the company's position. Kodak was too busy trying to keep up with Hale to feel any tension.
It was an odd time for Kodak to consider his safety. His journalism instructor coached him about how exciting it was being in a war zone. He never spoke of what it was like to come face to face with men who wanted to kill him. It would have been a good thing for him to have mentioned, even if Kodak never felt safer than he did with a military escort.
There was excitement. It came from not knowing from second to second what could be out there in the dark. He'd never been a big fan of the dark. His sisters use to tease him about monsters in his closet and under his bed just before they turned off his light.
An enemy patrol could have been a few feet away, waiting to cut down the small squad in the great darkness that hid everything. Out of sight out of mind, Kodak thought. As long as he could see Hale, he was happy.
The only sounds were twigs breaking under boots and the tinkle of metal against metal, metal against plastic, and plastic against plastic. Each stop was signaled by Jacoby, half turning and raising his arm with his hand opened, he flashed the stop sign with his palm flashed in the direction of the men following.
Each soldier, half turning, flashing the stop sign until everyone came to a halt. It was then Kodak could feel Taz breathing on his neck from behind. This startled him the first few times the squad halted. He wasn't thinking about what might be behind him.
There wasn't enough light to have taken photographs. Kodak's flash attachment would have lit up the night for an instant, but such a flash would bring the attention of anything in the jungle on the squad. It was easy to see why he'd left the camera behind. It would have been no use to him and he was way too busy trying to figure out what was going on to frame pictures that could tell a story.
It was clear to Kodak that they were safe once they came out of 'the bush' on the far side of camp. The rows of tents were mostly still except for where they played cards by dimmed lantern light. Kodak was relieved to have made it back alive. It was exciting.
There had been a bond built on patrol. He was dependent for the first time since he was ten. He was dependent and the squad had taken him out on a test of his mettle. The casual easy acceptance of a man who was there by choice, suspect for that alone, had proved he wasn't likely to run or endanger 1st squad. Men patted the rookie's back as they passed his bunk, once they were back in their quarters.
Only Taz stood off as he took more care settling his rifle in for the night. After removing the clip and clearing the chamber, he stood the big rifle against the tent supports in the front right hand corner an arm's length from his bunk. He couldn't reach it easily and Kodak was sure he knew why.
After hours of quiet, the squad joked and laughed, before settling into their racks for the night. Kodak found the cot unfamiliar and remained restless, listening to the sounds of the night. He couldn't help but run the patrol through his mind. He was left to wonder what he would have done if they'd encountered the enemy. It wasn't going to be long before Kodak would find out.
The following morning the squad was up early, some guys showered before eating, some ate first. Kodak slept late, after lying awake for a long time. When Kodak woke, he found himself watching Taz, sitting on his bunk cleaning and polishing the big rifle.
It had taken half the night for Kodak to find sleep. It was taking as long for him to find his way out of his bunk. His stomach growled but his fascination with the care Taz took in the cleaning operation kept him quiet, barely holding on to wakefulness.
After deciding he had to get up, swinging his legs onto the floor, he wasn't able to be silent any longer.
"What is it?" Kodak wanted to know.
"A rifle," Taz said.
"You eaten?" Kodak said, slipping on his shoes.
"I don't do breakfast," Taz growled.
"You've got to go with him when he eats," Hale said from a few bunks away. "He doesn't need to go with you. I'll go with you if you want company. I'm about ready."
David Hale was the picture of what Kodak would think of as a California beach boy. His skin was fair and his hair was blonder than blond. They took their time drinking coffee after they ate. The camp was relatively quiet, except when helicopters flew close overhead to land nearby.
Kodak wanted to get some pictures of the helicopters, but the only view he could get at first was of their green bellies as they streaked past the opening in the jungle at tree top level. By the time he got his camera ready the helicopter was gone.
"That's our normal mode of transportation. We go into a hot zone on a helicopter. They hover just above the LZ long enough for us to hop out but not long enough for Charlie to get into position to take a shot at them. They have door gunners in case Charlie's around. We have Taz."
"LZ?" Kodak asked, finding Hale's delivery of information a refreshing change.
"Landing Zone. That's anywhere they can land or in our case, hover."
David Hale was friendliest to Kodak as he did his best to adjust to being with a military unit. Hale came to his bunk and told him stories of the hot rods he raced and he lie on his back using Kodak's pillow as he stared into the top of the tent to recount his racing tales.
"You from California?" Kodak inquired.
"No, Wisconsin. What made you ask that?"
"Oh, nothing," Kodak said, and Hale went back to telling his story of screeching tires and rumbling engines.
Washington was most helpful and he knew Taz better than anyone else. He knew when Taz was about to go on a bender and he knew when he'd begin to sober up, which began under the shower with him breathing a combination of air and water. Washington wasn't as gentle as Kodak tried to be, but he knew what was required. He seemed efficient and thorough.
Washington had been in-country the least amount of time, which explained how he ended up taking care of Taz. He was sent to Sgt. Jacoby to get his squad back to full strength. Kodak didn't ask what took place that caused 1st squad to be shorthanded.
Washington had won Taz by losing a game of cards his first night in camp. Ramos had babysat him before Washington and then Kodak, became responsible for the drunken soldier. He saw the advantages in tending to Taz and he was determined to do a good job.
"How often does he drink?" Kodak inquired, wondering how much time he'd be devoting to this task.
"A couple times a week. Depends on the rotation. If we're on the hot spot we might go out two or three days in a row, in which case he stays sober. After a patrol if Jacoby gives us the word, we party that night or the following night. That's when he gets the worst. It also depends on the booze being available."
"Why put up with him?" Kodak needed to know. "Doesn't the army have rules concerning such things?"
Kodak was from an organized world and everything was governed by rules. He knew nothing about war or about soldiers, beyond John Wayne or Rock Hudson, who always did the right thing.
While they came with flaws in their characters, when the chips were down they became heroic. These men made sense to Kodak. If he was going to work beside 1st squad he wanted it to make sense. Babysitting Taz didn't make sense. Punishment made sense.
"It's difficult to explain, Kodak. You'll see, and once you see, you'll understand. For now think of him as one of us. We take care of our own. We leave no one behind, even when they drink too much."
"It's a little more than drinking too much, you ask me," Kodak thought out loud.
This Kodak accepted as army code, but the bigger question remained. No one carried a slacker for long, and as he took responsibility for one drunken rifleman, he knew it made no sense. His professor hadn't mentioned such things.
For every three steps Kodak took across the compound while heading for the showers, Taz managed one, which signaled his acceptance of the inevitable. Kodak, being several inches taller, found maneuvering him across the compound to the showers 100 feet away only mildly difficult.
There was seldom anyone showering in the early afternoon. Once in awhile a soldier would come off guard duty or from sleeping in, and be showering as Kodak did his best to get Taz up under the shower. Washington had made it look easy as he manhandled the smaller man. Kodak found it difficult to manage the half-conscious drunk.
Stripping off seemed preferable to getting his limited wardrobe wet, because in the humidity and with trucks running up and down the dirt strip that separated quarters side from service side, by the time his clothes dried they were smelly and useless, which meant tossing them into the laundry bag and waiting two days for them to come back.
Getting Taz up under the less then tepid water was always a challenge. They were usually ignored and that left Kodak less self-conscious about having his arms around another naked man. On the days Taz protested this introduction of water to his body, he did his best to get out of Kodak's arms.
This resulted in more physical contact than Kodak had bargained for. Washington didn't have nearly the difficulty getting Taz's cooperation. Their naked flesh rubbing together made Kodak even more self-conscious. His resulting arousal was disconcerting and Taz was no help. It was usually during this awkwardness that Taz began to recover his senses and he would question Kodak's intentions.
Taz could be anything from cooperative to feisty. He'd only swung on Kodak a couple of times, and these were half hearted attempts to get out of the way of the water.
The struggling never lasted long and Taz never mentioned the flesh against flesh conundrum as such. Kodak, who had avoided passionate pursuits to pursue his education, found his most recent arousal with Taz in his arms cause for concern. There was no attraction, but there was a definite reaction. It hadn't been part of the bargain.
Once showered, Taz could stand on his own and dress himself. By the time they reached the mess tent Taz seemed fine, but unwilling to communicate. Kodak tried to make small talk with no success. Taz only spoke when he had something to say.
Taz rarely drank two nights in a row, and this gave Kodak a break. It was mostly the afternoon after a patrol that Kodak needed to get Taz back in operating condition. It did become easier, but it wasn't any fun.
Taz remained remote, keeping to himself. The loyalty 1st squad felt for him wasn't returned as far as Kodak could tell. Taz was most at ease pampering the big rifle. He didn't have much to say to anyone. On patrol, he was almost invisible. Kodak never knew where Taz was. What good was that? If he wasn't there, where did he get to?
Were there bottles hidden in the bush?
Even more alarming was when the squad stopped to consider a new direction, Taz ended up right behind Kodak, who'd feel his breath on his neck, alerting him to his presence without him making a sound. He would at times forget Taz was behind him, which made it worse. It seemed like he was purposely trying to unnerve his nursemaid.
Kodak was aware that he didn't know anything, and he spent a lot of time listening and watching to see if he could put all the pieces together. There had to be a good reason why 1st squad treated Taz like a regular contributing member of the team, even when he wasn't.
Even with a journalism professor dazzling him with stories about the total excitement of war, Kodak knew nothing about war. He'd spent a couple of weeks following 1st squad around the jungle, getting some wonderful natural jungle photographs for his trouble, but that kind of picture was a dime a dozen and would never grace anything but his own scrapbook.
Kodak did know how 1st squad moved, what to look for, and what he needed to do to stay out of the way. He was becoming anxious, wanting more, and not sure he had signed on with a squad that could give him what he was looking for.
Kodak had learned to listen for the man two or three in front of him. It became easy to know the squad was stopping before he got the sign. At times they moved fast and the men breathed heavy, and Kodak had little trouble keeping up. Then, they'd come to a halt, as Temple and Jacoby conferred, and there Taz would be, breathing down Kodak's neck.
Sgt. Jacoby only became stern on the patrols. He disappeared for periods during the day when 1st squad was in camp. He would come back with news about where Charlie had been seen and if they'd be going out on patrol. The briefings were the best indicators of when they'd be going on patrol again.
Once Jacoby brought back the news to be prepared, it started the men preparing their gear. They took anything needing repair or replacement to the supply tent, coming back with fresh clips of ammunition for their M-16s, grenades, and anything else needed for the mission.
There was talk of a big battle in the north, which was supposed to explain the lack of contact with the enemy in what wasn't a particularly hot zone. This was good to know but didn't quiet the constant preparations. 1st squad would be ready when the time came. Kodak knew it also gave him time to adjust to being part of the squad.
Taz spent his free time breaking down the big rifle and cleaning it with loving care. It was the same ritual as when he returned from patrol. He never drank until the big rifle was oiled, wiped down, and stowed in the corner of the tent nearest his bunk. A single clip stayed on a crossbeam just above his head.
Temple or Ramos took the point and seemed the stealthiest of the group. Taz was always bringing up the rear with his big rifle. The rest of the rifles were the tightly constructed, compact M-16s that were easy to maneuver in close combat. Sgt. Jacoby, and whichever man was on point, carried a side arm.
There had been no close combat situations, and only the first night did they patrol in the dark. Once Kodak passed that initiation into 1st squad, he became less of a distraction. Kodak expected to be tested. He was sure he passed when the squad warmed up to him.
It wasn't long after Kodak had settled into life with 1st squad that he found himself loading onto a Hughes helicopter, which Hale called a Huey. Kodak thought, Baby Huey, with no attempt to verify it. Kodak had been watching the helicopters fly over the camp since he arrived, but he hadn't thought about riding one. By now he'd grown accustomed to the distinctive sound of the low flying craft.
He'd stopped racing out of the tent, camera at the ready, trying to get a picture of one flying past. With Hale and Washington laughing at his persistence when he sprang up the instant he identified the sound. He'd finally given up. The Huey was too fast or he too slow and at best he'd caught a shot of a tail rotor or two. Chasing helicopters was the most action Kodak had seen.
Now Kodak was up close, as several helicopters had settled onto the LZ at the far end of camp as 1st squad went to wait for the order to load on-board one. He was finally able to get some close-up pictures as 1st Squad scrambled aboard. He hadn't thought of waiting near the LZ for a picture of one in motion and photographing them parked wasn't nearly as exciting.
Kodak clicked off a dozen pictures and waited for Taz to bring up the rear, only Taz motioned with his big rifle for Kodak to go first. It wasn't a polite motion. This was an order and Kodak didn't argue. He'd learned how things would be done when they rode helicopters. Taz brought up the rear but it was different this time. This was more like a take charge posture he displayed.
No one seemed to notice anything out of the ordinary or to mind. Kodak was still baffled by the bed wetting soldier he babysat, but for the first time he saw Taz differently and he couldn't say why.
The squad loaded, followed by Kodak. Sgt. Jacoby took a spot on the floor as Taz joined them, big rifle pointed toward the ceiling as the idling chopper wasted no time lifting off the hard dirt surface.
Kodak noticed the soldiers all sitting on their helmets. He wore the helmet Sgt. Jacoby handed him strapped to his upper right arm. Being polite, he'd taken it without question, but he knew wearing a helmet that hung down close to his eyes would interfere with the candid shots he intended to take.
That's before he discovered one of the alternative ways in which the helmet could be employed. A metal helmet was bound to be hard on his ass, so it stayed on his arm without objection.
Each of the squad seemed off on his own. They shared a distance between them Kodak hadn't noticed before. They sat silent, eyes fixed, with no indication of what was on their mind. The rotating engine just above them made talking more than difficult. The pilot communicated with the door gunner making a rotating motion with his hand. The door gunner gave the same sign back to the pilot just before the helicopter left the LZ.
Kodak found his attention drawn to the rushing air that passed the Huey's wide open door, where the door gunner sat with his legs dangling out in the fresh air. It made for a good picture. He looked relaxed as he watched intently through the dark bubbled goggles that covered much of his face. It gave him the appearance of coming out of a science fiction movie, and he took a few more pictures.
Kodak shot pictures of the squad, their usual cheerful smiles replaced with an oblivious stare. This required more pictures than usual to capture the uniqueness they reflected. Kodak didn't know where they were going or what to expect, but he knew it was all changed this day.
The new experience excited him, as he sensed something in the air. He sat quiet after a few more minutes of flying time. His camera had done all it could do. Kodak wondered if someone on that helicopter might not be coming back. He'd captured each face as if everything was fine, but what if one of them didn't come home? What if he was the one?
Mortality was rarely on Kodak's mind. Even coming to Vietnam to photograph a war, he hadn't once thought he wouldn't make it back home. Everyone was as young as he was, except for Sgt. Jacoby. Of course they'd all return. Eighteen and nineteen year olds lived forever.
A short burst of gunfire came from thirty or forty feet below. Sgt. Jacoby casually removed his helmet and placed it under his butt to sit on before going back to the map he was studying. Kodak watched curiously not quite seeing the bigger picture. His was a world of reason and there was none to cause him to sit on a hard metal helmet.
The door gunner responded in kind at the first sound of the bullets aimed at the speeding chopper. He opened up with short bursts from his machine gun aimed behind and toward the ground, even though they were moving too fast for him to spray bullets in the area where the shots came from. There were a couple more bursts of machine gun fire aimed at nothing in particular.
The machine gun made a distinctive sound from other weapons. Kodak wasn't able to separate the sounds that came from the different weapons yet. He did recognize there was a difference but he hadn't been subjected to much gunfire yet.
It was both comforting and alarming to have the door gunner there to protect them. Kodak knew he must be necessary, which meant they weren't as safe as he assumed in the belly of the chopper. Having both feet on the ground in a line of riflemen felt safe. He was no longer sure riding in a helicopter was safe.
Sgt. Jacoby removing his helmet to sit on amused Kodak at first. When he thought about each member of the squad sitting on his helmet, it gave him more information. He looked again at the door gunner, remembering his response to the gunfire that came from directly below the chopper as it streaked overhead.
Once all the pieces were in place, he slipped the helmet off his upper arm, slipping it under him to sit on. These were lessons best learned by experience and Kodak was there to learn as well as document the war. Watching and listening to 1st squad taught him most of what he needed to know. Some things were more obvious than others, like the helmet.
Taz sat on the opposite side of the open door from the door gunner with his back resting on the helicopter's interior construction. His steady gaze was on Kodak, who sat directly across from him, directly behind the pilot. When Kodak sat on his helmet, Taz smiled, shaking his head, losing interest in Kodak thereafter.
Taz never said much, and Kodak was still at a loss in figuring out what Taz was all about. He didn't much care for unfriendly types and Taz qualified as surly. Kodak found him irritating, but remained baffled by the way squared away soldiers treated him. There was still a piece of the puzzle missing and Kodak waited for it to be set into place. He had nothing but time.
There were a couple more short bursts from the door gunner and the helicopter seemed to be using the treetops as supports to keep it airborne. Kodak photographed the gunner as he sprayed shells at the jungle floor below. It must have been from boredom. There was no more gunfire aimed at the helicopter.
He calculated by the somber attitude of 1st squad that this could be the first time he faced enemy fire, and not just by flying over it. Taking fire from the ground didn't seem to qualify. The helicopter moved so fast and so low it would take a shot in a million just to hit it. He remembered his feeble attempts at getting a decent picture of one back at camp. It had to be about as hard taking a shot at one.
When the chopper dropped out of the sky to hover a foot above the ground, Taz was up and out the door as quick as the forward motion ceased. It all happened very fast. First the chopper seemed to hesitate, bank, and in a few seconds it seemed to stand still in the air.
Kodak wasn't fast enough to get a picture of Taz's exit and he made a mental note to be ready the next time. It's as fast as he'd seen Taz move. Once Taz cleared the door, the rest of the squad filed out onto the ground in rapid succession. There was no wasted motion or hesitation. It took less than a minute for the squad to be on the ground and ready to go into action. Kodak was impressed by the unit cohesion he hadn't seen before. Most of all he admired how Taz had gone into action first. He remembered how Taz seemed in charge in the LZ at camp.
As Kodak followed them out, Taz stood off to one side watching the area where the helicopter hovered, big rifle at the ready. When Taz signaled the door gunner with the same rotating motion of his right arm, the door gunner repeated it for the pilot, and the chopper eased up, banked hard to the left, and all but the sound was gone in a flash, and the sound faded a few seconds after the chopper disappeared.
Sgt. Jacoby led the way into the bush, as the soldiers followed one by one until Taz and Kodak were the only ones left behind. Taz indicated with the big rifle for Kodak to follow Hale. When Kodak looked back once he caught Hale, Taz was nowhere to be seen.
No one said a word, leaving no doubt this was serious business. They dove into the jungle and moved swiftly along what might have once been a path or maybe not. Each man knew his place and one man followed the next with no need for conversation. It was best to save your breath. The pace was steady.
This was the first time Kodak had seen what he thought of as an away mission, but each time thereafter he'd recognize the routine. As he snapped pictures of his squad on the move, there was no doubt the feel of this patrol was different from the others he'd experienced. There was a choreography to it he hadn't seen in 1st squad before.
Only once in a while could Kodak catch sight of the soldiers leading the force. Mostly the path was so overgrown and crooked, he felt lucky to be able to keep Hale in sight. Each time the jungle opened up to offer greater visibility, Kodak peered back over his shoulder to assure himself that Taz was back there. He couldn't prove it from what he saw, but they moved fast enough he didn't spend much time looking behind once he became winded.
Kodak was a runner in high school and even without being in condition, he didn't worry he couldn't keep up. He might have thought of this as another test, except for the gunfire and the intensity.
Kodak became aware of jungle sounds around him. What he knew about the jungle all came from watching Tarzan movies and nature shows that came on television on Sunday. He knew as long as the creatures made noise it was safe. It was when the jungle went quiet that the danger was near.
The mood remained intense, the soldiers focused, and it left Kodak expectant. He felt something might happen any moment. No one had to tell him they were likely to meet Charlie somewhere along this trail, but how would they know when?
He took pictures of the impressive jungle, being careful not to fall behind. He assumed Taz was behind him somewhere, but he hadn't seen him since he took the one photo of him near the helicopter. Getting pictures while on the move was easy now. He'd been practicing since he'd arrived in camp. It soothed his nerves.
He had practiced getting his hands swiftly into position on his camera as it bounced easily against his chest. He had to be ready for any opportunity that allowed him to capture the essence of war. He had to remind himself why he'd come to join 1st squad.
He thought the word trail was too specific a word, because as quickly as the soldiers trampled down the undergrowth the jungle was reclaiming it. There was no sound of leaves crunching under foot, because all the vegetation was alive and vibrant. Kodak looked for the right word to describe it for when he wrote in his journal that night.
When the formation closed up, heavy breathing was easy to hear. At times it was only Kodak's panting he heard, but at times there was a considerable amount of heavy breathing when the squad closed up as they slowed to catch their breath. They needed to get somewhere fast, but where? Where were they going in a hurry?
He checked and double checked his camera in anticipation. He made sure there were a number of pictures left on the roll in the camera. Reloading didn't take much talent, but it had to be done properly or it was wasted effort.
He thought photography wasn't much different from a rifleman's job. You aimed, fired, kept firing, reloaded, fired some more. This idea was comforting to Kodak. This was his squad, and they were his riflemen and he was their photographer.
He wasn't tired or seriously winded. The excitement surging through him gave him an adrenalin rush. He'd never been quite this alert. After all those days hanging around, he was in the middle of it now. He thought of war movies and how seeing the movement of men like these would have him on the edge of his seat in a theater.
They had gone from the slower pace back to a trot as the jungle opened wide to receive them. Even when Kodak could see the entire squad for the first time in a while, he couldn't see Temple, who was on point, or Taz, who brought up the rear, as the route became well defined and easy to follow. For the first time Kodak felt exposed.
It was at this time Temple appeared to meet with Sgt. Jacoby, who stopped his squad. This meant everyone tightened up. The two men in front squatted on the trail with Sgt. Jacoby spreading open his map. They looked for only a minute before Temple trotted back ahead. Sgt. Jacoby stood and folded the map, putting it away before signaling for the squad to follow him at the easy trotting pace.
A couple of minutes ahead were several trails splitting off from the trail they were on since entering the jungle. Sgt. Jacoby took his squad in a westerly direction. This was what Temple came back to tell him. The trail split. They knew where they were going.
Kodak was aware of his dependence on the rifle squad and he wasn't about to lose contact with Hale, who was always the man in front of him. Hale was the chatty type but not today. It was up to Kodak to keep up. Hale never looked back for him.
Kodak instinctively suspected that if he slowed, lost contact with the squad, or in some way misbehaved, Taz would be upon him in short order. The nursemaid was now at the mercy of the nursed. This was the first time he understood that. He had more in common with Taz than he'd considered.
He turned to take a shot of the trail behind him, wanting to catch a glimpse of Taz close by, but there was no sign of him and he sped up to stay close to Hale. How in the hell could he depend on someone he couldn't even see?
No one else seemed interested in what was behind him. Moving as fast as they were, it was unlikely any force could overtake them from behind, but there was a chance, he calculated, and that must be why Taz stayed so far behind.
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