What the Highway Prefers

I am running into some real world issues this week that will be keeping me away from the site. This story wasn’t my first choice for the week but it is what I need to do right now. Yep, this is a blast from the past originally posted August 4, 2014.

I am hoping to be back before the end of the week to continue life as normal(ish). But we all know how life goes, soon as you think you have a good flow going, life throughs a wrench at you.

What the Highway Prefers

what the highway prefers

flickr creative commons via FotoSleuth
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Tarok scanned the roadway ahead from atop the hill. His rover quit on him about a mile back, been on foot ever since. He chuckled at the mystery of fate. Not like it was even his rover to begin with, stole it a week ago from a group of packers.

They tried to claim his sword. Ya, that didn’t happen. He cleaned out their gear and supplies from the rover, dumped the bodies into the ravine, and then drove off. Tarok was on a mission and a couple packers weren’t going to hold him back.

He pulled the medallion from his pocket and traced the surface with his finger. The dent in the center stretched the man’s face emblazoned on its surface. That bullet might have killed him.

At times he questioned this trip, this self-styled mission. How could he make the trek to the coast for her? Astrid dented the medallion when she shot him, left him for dead. Was it revenge, or something more? It had been so long, the reasoning became fuzzy, but not the drive. He knew he needed to find her on the coast, even though he knew not why.

A rhythmic thump broke the quiet. The noise behind him grew as it came closer. A buzzard, light craft skimmed the tree line just beyond the hill behind him. The first sign of life he had seen in days.

It flew off to the left of his position and did not appear to be flying toward him. Just in case he found cover within a copse of weeping willows and watched as it circled away from him.

He thought it might fly off, but then it hovered a short distance away. The mini-gun on its belly fired into the trees ahead of his position. Tarok couldn’t see outside of the tree line but the ricochet of bullets on metal replied to the attack from the buzzard. After a minute of sustained fire the buzzard flew off, away from the strike zone.

Grounders, more like him ahead, if he was quick he could salvage more supplies before the buzzard crew came back to clean up. Tarok pulled his pack tight and followed a trail of Black smoke to the victims.

The smoke spewed from the engine of a decimated rover. Broken glass, spider-webbed across the windshield hid the blood and carnage of the dead inside. Against an unarmored rover the mini-gun was overkill. The 50 caliber rounds shredded the metal frame and cloth overlay of the exterior.

He pulled off the driver side door, but knew it would be futile. The two men inside were gone. He did note the uniforms they wore though. These weren’t packers. Militia or at least they dressed like it.

Tarok opened the cargo door to rummage for any undamaged supplies. Some medical supplies and ready rations, they wouldn’t need them anymore. The rations were the older post war kind, little flavor but a supplement for his hunting and foraging.

Gunfire broke through the still air, not far from the rover. The buzzard crew must have touched down and were heading to their kill. This didn’t leave him much time. Tarok stuffed the rations into his pack and then broke for the tree line opposite from where he heard the shots from.

He dropped behind a fallen tree just as he heard voices inside the clearing. Though it went against his better judgment he couldn’t resist a peek over the log. The cover hid him well enough from view and they were preoccupied with the salvage.

Tarok hadn’t seen the crew in the buzzard but he knew there had to have been at least two, a gunner and the pilot. He counted three at the rover. Each carried a pistol side arm but one of them also carried a late model assault rifle. Expected, they had the tech to power the buzzard, made sense for them to have the projectile weapons too. Hell, they must have had a stock pile for how much ammo they wasted on the rover.

Now to get away, that was his thought. But not while they were out in the open and so close. He stood little chance of surviving a direct confrontation with them. His best chance would be to wait it out and hope that they get their salvage then leave.

Simple, low risk, a plan he could live with, that is, until he noticed two of them at the cargo hold of the rover. The male pointed at the ground and gestured into the direction where Tarok had run. The female spoke to the other male and they both walked toward him.

They had training, they must have. They picked up his hasty trail much too easily. His hiding place was blown and there was little he could do about it now.

At least if he had been one of the rovers he had taken in the past, he would be caught. Tarok had one trick, it was a big one but would only give him an advantage for a brief moment. He needed to make it count.

He pulled back his left sleeve to expose the large band around his wrist. With a finger touch and slide he heard a pop as he faded into the background. A remnant he picked up a while back, the cloaking bracelet didn’t give him invisibility. It acted more like a chameleon’s ability to camouflage. The light around him refracted and changed so that he became one with his surroundings.

He could move around without breaking the cloak, but once he attacked them he would reveal himself. With their tracking he could see no other way to get through this. Tarok moved away from his dead tree and pulled his blade. A blade and a gunfight, he felt for a moment like the punchline to an old joke but that joke never took cloak technology into consideration.

The followed his path in single file, the woman led. Let them pass and take the second from behind. He could use the body to shield himself until he could attack her as well. Nice and quick, recloak then get the last. The buzzard could save him quite a bit of hiking.

Smooth, they passed his position and he was ready. His blade bit smooth through the rear man’s throat and he dropped him before he could alarm the woman. As he stepped to fall into line with her he tripped over the victim’s body, the fall alerted her to his presence anyway.

He rolled and sprang to his feet away from where he had fallen. The shots from her pistol masked the sound of his movements as she fired into the ground.

A quick slice and he cut her belly with the blade. Not a clean kill but enough to take her out. It was her scream as her entrails dropped to the ground that brought the last man into the fray.

Away from the bodies, Tarok would have a chance to use surprise to his advantage again. But his advantage was slipping away. The man skulked into the combat zone, as his eyes scanned the area around the bodies.

Too far away, the noise Tarok would make to reach him would be the end of him. That assault rifle could rip him to shreds. He picked up a rock and scanned for a good place to throw to. Misdirection could bring back an advantage he needed right then.

He waited for the man to look in his direction and then threw the rock into some bushes off to the far side. At the moment of impact when the man had turned to see the source, he rushed forward. No battle cry, just Tarok and his blade.

The man turned with the barrel of the gun but a moment too late. The blade sunk deep into his chest as his rifle fired in quick succession just past Tarok’s head. A second too slow and the bullets would have turned his face to vapor.

He shut the cloak down and then searched the pockets of the dead. Not quite the haul he expected but he did find a few new supplies and he added a pistol and all their pistol ammo to his pack.

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