Monday, September 12, 2011

Land of Shadows: Chapter XXVI - Showdown

Elias looked down at the trio huddled in the shadow of an overturned truck.  They were just kids.  The oldest would have been just out of diapers when he stepped into the projector chamber.  The other two were barely older than his silent companion seated behind him on Penny.

They had obviously been through Hell.  They were clearly exhausted and somewhat battered.  A large Rottweiler lay with his head across the lap of the younger girl.  The older girl clutched the handle of a beat up square case in her sleep.  A shotgun lay across her lap. 

The dog woke up as he stood there holding Penny's reins.  Elias stood his ground as the dog started growling.  The girl clutched at his collar even as she wokeup.  In the time it took him to glance from the dog to the younger girl and then back to the older girl, she had the shotgun pumped and aimed at his face. 

The standoff was brief, none of them really felt like putting any effort into a fight even had they been so inclined.  They spend most of the afternoon talking and trying to stay cool in the shade.  They were quite enthralled by his tale, but the younger  girl, Allison, was skeptical.  Dee, however was more quietly accepting of his story, as if it verified something she already knew or had heard.  She told him of her own quest that had started out as simple vengeance, but had grown into something much more.  Since it appeared that their goals were so intertwined they decided to travel together. 

They camped that night in the partial shelter of the overturned truck.  He finally did learn the girl's name was June when she opened up to Allison that evening.  They were close to the same age.  But he was still very concerned for the girl.  The image that came most often to mind when he thought of her was a time bomb with the clock face painted over.  

Being the only one not on foot Elias scouted ahead.  He found a small town a couple miles south and returned to inform them.  By that evening they had all re-equipped themselves from a small gun shop.  The dry climate had preserved the guns perfectly.  

*     *     *

The old man in the back seat of the tow truck was dying.  Sandy recognized the signs.  Puck seemed oblivious to it, but she could smell it. 

They had picked the old man up at the side of the road, next to the smouldering carcass of a dead ATV.  He had been raving about his kidnapped daughter.  That was the only reason Sandy had not put a bullet in him already.  She hoped to reunite him with his little girl before it was too late.  

*     *     *
 Deek/Jewels contemplated the old man for some time.  It was decided that at the earliest opportunity he/they would wrest control from the parasite and eliminate this new threat it he/they could.  He/they were stronger now.  It was only a matter of time before they would be stronger than the invader.

*     *     *

The trip down through Texas was mostly uneventful.  That had seen very few wraiths.  The weather was warm but dry this far south and the wraiths liked humid conditions. 

*     *     *

Global Power Management Systems Inc.

The five of them stood staring at the sign over the main entrance checkpoint.  A chain link fence topped with rusty razor wire stretched off into the distance on either side.  Empty aircraft hangers stood nearby, barracks had been replaced with low office buildings and Air Force fighter aircraft had been swapped for an assortment of private jets and helicopters, but the place still looked and felt like the military air base it had been.  The parking lot was full of cars and unmarked company vans.  But what really dominated the scene was the large domed building loomed at the center of it all. 

Elias was the only one that knew what it was,  he had spent enough time in the Alaskan projection chamber examining the latest test subjects to recognize this one.  It was much larger and above ground, but it was close enough. 

The other three looked to him, and he shrugged before leading Penny through the checkpoint and the empty guardhouse. 

There was a circle drive at the largest office building, a glass and steel cracker box.  A large awning shaded the entrance.  A UPS van with six flat tires, ramp down and the rear door rolled up was parked near the entrance to make its last delivery.  Behind it was flatbed tow truck.  Dee was just beginning to think the tow truck looked out of place when a bullet slammed into the sidewalk at her feet.  Bits of concrete sprayed her ankles and she ducked behind the UPS van.  She was soon joined by the others. 

"You know this thing is just a pop can on wheels," Allison informed her. 

"Fine, you go out there and find me an armored car!" Dee snapped back at her.  "Let me think!"

Their own personal time warp seemed to form about them as they scanned for any possible cover, but they did not even really know where the shooter was.  Finally after what seemed like an hour but was in reality only six minutes Olly spoke up.

"We're pinned down and we have no place to go.  Why hasn't he finished us off?  If he got here before us he probably had plenty of time to set up a proper trap.  Why wait?"

It was a good question. 

Dee flipped the safety off her Colt SMG and  stepped out from behind the van.  She ready to duck back at any sign of movement.  But nothing happened.  The others were calling for her to come back.  But she took a step forward instead.  The big glass doors were just twenty yards away.  She proceeded slowly, not knowing what their enemy had in mind.  At ten yards she paused, thinking she heard something.  She was ready to bolt when the door swung open. 

What she saw was the one thing she was totally unprepared for. 

© 2011 R. Keith McBride

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