Just like a woman munro said scornfully and smiled

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“Just like a woman,” Munro said scornfully, and smiled when Ross glared at him. Munro humiliated them, chided them, encouraged them—and somehow kept them moving. Above 10,000 feet, the grass disappeared and there was only mossy ground cover; they came upon the solitary peculiar fat-leafed lobelia trees, emerging suddenly from the cold gray mist. There was no real cover between 10,000 feet and the summit, which was why Munro pushed them; he did not want to get caught in a storm on the barren upper slopes. The sun broke out at 11,000 feet, and they stopped to position the second of the directional lasers for the ERTS laser-fix system. Ross had already set the first laser several miles to the south that morning, and it had taken thirty minutes. The second laser was more critical, since it had to be matched to the first. Despite the electronic jamming, the transmitting equipment had to be connected with Houston, in order that the little laser—it was the size of a pencil eraser, mounted on a tiny steel tripod—could be accurately aimed. The two lasers on the volcano were positioned so that their beams crossed many miles away, above
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157 the jungle. And if Ross’s calculations were correct, that intersection point was directly over the city of Zinj. Elliot wondered if they were inadvertently assisting the consortium, but Ross said no. “Only at night,” she said, “when they aren’t moving. During the day, they won’t be able to lock on our beacons—that’s the beauty of the system.” Soon they smelled sulfurous volcanic fumes drifting down from the summit, now 1,500 feet above them. Up here there was no. vegetation at all, only bare hard rock and scattered patches of snow tinged yellow from the sulfur. The sky was clear dark blue, and they had spectacular views of the south Virunga range—the great cone of Nyiragongo, rising steeply from the deep green of the Congo forests, and, beyond that, Mukenko, shrouded in fog. The last thousand feet were the most difficult, particularly for Amy, who had to pick her way barefoot among the sharp lava rocks. Above 12,000 feet, the ground was loose volcanic scree. They reached the summit at five in the afternoon, and gazed over the eight-mile-wide lava lake and smoking crater of the volcano. Elliot was disappointed in the landscape of black rock and gray steam clouds. “Wait until night,” Munro said. That night the lava glowed in a network of hot red through the broken dark crust; hissing red steam slowly lost its color as it rose into the sky. On the crater rim, their little tents reflected the red glow of the lava. lb the west scattered clouds were silver in the moonlight, and beneath them the Congo Jungle stretched away for miles. They could see the straight green laser beams, intersecting over the black forest. With any luck they would reach that intersection tomorrow.
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