It was just the sort of thing Indians did. Had always done. Had expected to always do. His father, and his father's father, and all his ancestors as far back as he could remember, had done this. Many of his tribe had done this. he, himself, had done this many times.
But this would be the last time. The White Man had come, and now he and his women and his children and his calvary all rode off into the sunset.
So this was the last ride. The entire tribe had gathered to watch. They all knew somehow that this was the twilight of their empire. Cochise would return tomorrow with wisdom, renewed for another year to lead the People.
But only for the one more year.
Dawn arrived. As one, the People turned to greet the rising Sun, their still solemnness belying their excitement as they awaited the return of Cochise.
By noon it was evident Cochise was not returning. All turned to the medicine man, Shoshime.
"I warned you," he began softly. "I warned Cochise, too. There was not enough rocket fuel for a final, round trip. He should have left that vain ride for a White Man."
Silently, the People formed up and rode off on their war horses to their last battle.
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