Part Three (3/3)
“Are you sure we can’t use any of the other vehicles outside your place?!” Donovan was shouting as loud as he could to get through the noise of the rain and poorly-upheld little motorbike that Trevor had piled them, their gear, and the prepper’s oversized cb contraption onto. “Only one that works Donno!” came the reply, and so he hunkered down and tried his best not to crush his own genitals on the absurdly bumpy ride into town.
One look, they figured, from the trees to reassess the severity of their predicament, and then it was over to a local dockyard, into the nearest river canoes, and down the creek towards Houston. If the old paper map they’d taken could still be trusted, they’d be able to hop streams and only walk the last 45-60 miles. That alone would be a couple days if all went to plan, and Donovan wasn’t sure he trusted any plan made by his inadvertent companion. Add to that their circumstance in whatever hell had befallen their otherwise peaceful, repetitive grind of a life and he wasn’t sure he trusted any plan to get them to their suggested destination on time.
The sound of heavy crunching and cracking came then, quiet at first but quickly growing louder, and he turned awkwardly on the bike to try and see behind him. “Trevor! Trevor,” he shouted, snapping his head forward. “Does this thing go faster?! Do that!” Trevor nodded, looked in the mirror, and veered hard off course. The sound of the engine took on that characteristic whir of needing to change gears – Donovan knew it quite well from his time learning to ride the old bike. “She’s maxed out Donno, two passengers is a heavy load. We’ll have to lose it in the trees!” The old bike!
When he looked in the mirror at Trevor’s eyes, he was pretty sure he knew that feeling pretty well also, and he fought hard to swallow the lump in his throat. In the mirror, the massive white-suited man… or whatever it was, for no man should have been able to run this fast, or wreck through trees like a grizzly, or track them this far from its knock out site behind the alley… came steadily closer. “Go back towards the city,” he said loudly, nearly shouting still and trying to keep the tremor out of his voice. “No, Donno, the TREES!” Trevor sounded adamant, but Donovan shook his head. “I have a bike!” He yelled, and pointed back towards town. Trevor seemed to hang for a second, the monstrosity behind them closing fast, and then he turned low to the ground and headed back towards the treeline, passing so close the glassy facehole almost gave away a figure beneath it. “I hope you’re right,” came Trevor’s bitter response. “We won’t be able to outrun him long at all in the open, and I will not fight him!”
Donovan tried to sound hopeful but found it difficult with the fear still coursing through every muscle. He gripped the newly wrapped handle of his Sheet Metal Shamshir, as Trevor had dubbed it, and took a deep breath in hopes it would solidify his resolve. It did not. “It’s just past the suburb blocks, we can gun it through the fields and be there before he gets us!” He looked in the mirror again and cringed at the renewed hopelessness of his plan and tapped Trevor on the shoulder again. “Get some more distance between us before then. Go!” And the bike rattled and whirred and shot off in a wide zig zag arc.
When they hit the tree line, they had made little progress, but then neither had their pursuer, and so they broke free into the fields and raced along the fence line towards the nearest back alley several blocks away. Their suspicions were right however, and soon the behemoth was right behind them, grabbing and rasping and heaving itself forward on all fours like a maddened ape. In his tight buckskin trousers and the wool blankets the prepper had insisted they bring with them wrapped around him and secured with an actual brooch, he felt like they must look like something out of a Tolkien story to anyone left to look. He looked down. And he had a sword now? What the hell was happening?
He found himself grinning in spite of the situation, or perhaps because of it, and whether it was the reality of their impending demise or simple moment of delusion in a spiral of overwhelming despair, his mind was made up. He twisted back in the seat, managed to gather his legs beneath him, and flung himself point-first into the giant humanoid. His senses returning to him and his doubt rebuilding, he pushed as hard as he could as they collided, sending the blade deep into its chest with a heavy rush of air, through the rubber layers and cloth beneath, and finally stopping at bone.
He met its gaze then, through the visor, and was instantly dizzy. He felt tears stinging in his eyes and couldn’t stop them now, his muscles aching as he wrenched the makeshift blade free and brought it down with all his might. Trevor had shown him how to sharpen it, and he’d done the best he could with what little time he was given before their departure. It did not disappoint, the hit cutting deeply into the large adversary’s shoulder as it doubled over in agony. By this time Trevor had wheeled back on the little scrambler and came in at full speed now, ramming the big man in his backside and sending him sliding into the mud.
Donovan was on him before he could think, hammering again at his back, ripping through rubber and flesh and feeling like he was finally done with this engagement. Then the big beast came back with a backhand that sent Donovan flying through the air, knocking the breath from his lungs and leaving him writhing on the ground. Trevor stepped in then, and in his hand was a small pistol. He aimed it, quite professionally Donovan thought for such an obsolete weapon from his vantage point in the muck, and fired two quick rounds. The thin revolver spat flames and put the giant on its knees. Trevor closed in further and put three more into its chest, the whole of the chamber if Donovan knew anything about revolvers, then stepped back in shock at what he’d done.
Whatever contemplation or recovery he was dealing with was cut short however, and with another rasp their adversary was swinging away at the bearded gunman, who managed to back away from the first two wide swings but caught the third in the head. Trevor was lifted off the ground with the force of the blow and tumbled limply into a pile. He tried to pull himself up, but the apparent stun he was in kept him unable to find his balance. The white suit closed on him.
Spitting blood and cursing, and still trying to catch his breath, Donovan drug himself off the soaked grass and muddy patches he’d become content with and groped at his sword. Balancing it over his shoulder, he moved as quickly as he could, shuffling at a jog and holding his ribs until he was right behind their relentless attacker. Trevor had picked himself up to his knees and was fumbling for more rounds, but the white fist had already begun its swing, and he closed his eyes tightly against the oncoming blow.
Chock! The hand stopped, and Donovan peered from around the massive flimsy helmet he’d just split by several inches and hoarsely offered his condolences. “You alive down there?” he tried, but his voice failed him and so he just slumped over and laughed, an equally choked and hoarse unpleasantry. Trevor joined him, and they lay back in the pouring rain letting their aches subside and their breath return. “What in all the gods on this damned rock is that thing?” Trevor managed finally. Donovan remembered what he’d seen behind the mask and felt the tears again behind his eyes. He turned and looked gravely at Trevor. “I’m not sure. It was through the glass and in the heat of the fight….” He trailed off. “It was just a girl. Just an ordinary person. But there was something off about the eyes. They were-”
He was stopped abruptly as the massive lady in white heaved a great sigh and flared up to land another blow. Pow! The revolver smoked and the glass of the facemask shattered with a satisfying crunch into itself as the shot penetrated and hit home. The body slumped back onto Donovan, and he wretched and pushed it off him quickly with several poorly-placed shoves. “Is it dead?” Trevor asked. Donovan kicked it once, then twice more, increasing the force each time. “I think so?” he responded, as if it were a question itself, then added “We should probably not wait to find out.”
They begrudgingly worked their way to their feet and began gathering the items that had scattered during the fight, during their respective flights through the air and Trevor’s ramming of the bike into their incessant antagonist. Finally stooping over to retrieve his blade, Donovan asked Trevor, “Do you think you could sharpen this point for me? It barely made it through the suit, and I’d rather not have a repeat failure if we see another one of those… things.” Trevor picked up the bike and began working to get it started. “I think you need more strength if you plan on doing that again. And maybe a fair warning next time, eh Donno?”
Donovan sat behind him on the bike and feigned offense. “Surely you don’t expect me to devote myself of the gym with this lot running around.” “No, not you,” Trevor said quickly, pushing off towards the city line and the bike waiting beyond, “The sword. Although you’re not exactly built for melee.” He laughed, better sounding than before but still quite hoarse, and put a hand to his throbbing head. Donovan just smiled, relieved to be done with their immediate threat, and settled in for the final few blocks.
Within a few moments they were seeing dozens more of the white-clad demons, shoving and lining people up into rows, then filing them onto decrepit-looking cargo trucks, all rust and shaking parts. It was all they could do to not panic, to not be seen, and they went well out of their way to avoid conflict. Whatever was going on wasn’t something they’d be able to change, certainly not by going out there and becoming one of them. Or worse if the suits were to have any idea as to what had been done with their dispatched colleague…
They chose the long route, and at last they had reached the back entrance of his employer’s office. Donovan quickly made his way into the utility room with the spare key his boss had always left above the doorsill. An instant later he was back with another key and on the bike, which fired up with significantly less effort than it had been taking his companion’s since they left the cabin. Thinking better of his typical routine, Donovan tossed the key on the ground inside the office door and hoped that he might get in trouble for it tomorrow, thought he highly doubted it since it appeared the reich had returned and he was going to Mad Max his way South with this odd choice of friends.
The man had saved his life, he realized, and he’d never thanked him. He looked over at Trevor on his bike and met the other man’s gaze. Trevor just nodded, knowing already and probably thinking the same thing, and so Donovan – Donno – turned back and hit the throttle. At least on this backroad, at least for now, there seemed to be no presence of the rubbery bastards, and so they opened up and let the road fly by.
The rain had slowed to a steady drizzle by morning, and over the countryside that rushed by him Donovan saw a quiet peace that was very much the opposite of the havoc they had left. Their map had taken them down a series of back roads, old and cracking and winding through hills peppered with trees and troughs, and it was a welcome change from the horrors behind them. Birds began to chitter in aggravation at their wait in the rain, small foxes, coyotes, and whitetail deer rushed from one bush of cover to the next, and all before him the housing complexes and tall buildings of the city were replaced with the reds and oranges and occasional greens of the onset of fall.
They had left it behind them, he told himself again, and were now making excellent time towards whoever it was they would be meeting. Trevor had mentioned that Steve was a diver, a boat cleaner primarily, and was convinced that his presence aboard a military vessel, combined of course with their run-in with the suit and the apparent evacuation of everyone in Austin, was a sign of bad events to come. “Why”, he’d said as they rumbled along in unison across the empty roads, “would they take a cleaner on board? I know the military has a hang-up on looking good, but I think that’s a long shot Donno.
Something bad is happening, something you and I don’t understand but maybe the Navy does, and I’d prefer to find out from someone who doesn’t want to knock me ten yards every time I have a question.”
He had rubbed his head as a reminder then, and Donovan couldn’t stifle his laughter, an act that wracked his chest with renewed pain just thinking about it now. He looked up and thought of Houston, of another town full of people being herded into the backs of trucks, of more of their heavily-suited shepherds, and hoped they could make it to their spot without traversing the inner city. At least that would be another day away. A day to rest and recuperate. A day to process the absurdity of their circumstance and maybe make sense of some of it.
“Donno.” His thoughts were cut short by Trevor’s imposition, and he refocused on the road quickly, pulling on the brakes of his little motorcycle to match the other’s slowing speed. Ahead of him was a solid wall of concrete stretching the width of the road with the top of a vehicle sticking up from behind it. “More trouble?” he guessed aloud, and Trevor shrugged, their bikes rolling to a stop several hills away from the obstruction. Reaching in his bag, the woodsman produced a monocular and looked through it towards their new obstacle. “It’s definitely trouble, although I don’t see your friends in white anywhere.” He handed it over to Donovan, who took it gratefully and put it up to his eye.
The wall was easily four feet high, and the suv behind it, or at least it looked like an SUV to him, was rocking back and forth with signs of occupation. To either side were what looked to be armed guards, complete with the standard issue non-lethal firearms that law enforcement carried by requirement. He lowered the monocular for a moment and considered the implications of government involvement, then raised it slowly back up.
Would they even have a chance if this was happening from within? What would that mean for the Naval command they were chasing down? “Trevor, if these guys are police, what does that leave us? If we don’t even have the law on our side?” He went to hand back the monocular and looked around when nobody grabbed it.
Trevor was already stamping down a rusted fence line and was haphazardly preparing his bike with camouflage to stash in the brush. “We’ll just have to make a side then,” he called over his shoulder, so Donovan stepped off his bike and wheeled it over and through the newly finished gap. “Oh, after you,” came Trevor’s sarcasm, still light in spirits compared to his cleaver-bearing comrade.
“Just drag the damn thing in here and let’s scout a bit closer,” he shot back, and they moved deep within the brushline to lay over their bikes, spreading dead branches from a nearby collection of oaks on top to help assure their safety from discovery. With a cursory look from several angles, they moved on towards the blockade well away from the road. As they moved closer and topped the final hill, the wind whipping at their blanket cloaks and sending the light rain stinging into their faces, the closer of the two guards standing alongside the wall looked up.
He looked right at Donovan, or it felt that way anyhow. And as the armed guard peered from beneath a black helmet into his very soul, they did the only thing they could. They froze, as still as the rabbits they had passed as they crawled and slid around the lowest limbs of whitebrush and mesquite to get as close as they’d come to the two guards. For a long moment he stared, and for much longer they did not move, but eventually he turned back and looked off into some other dim nook in the miserable wet of their outpost. “We need to find out what’s in that van,” Trevor whispered, and without so much as a nod they continued forward, crawling on their bellies now in fear of being spotted.
After what seemed like an eternity, they came close enough to see over and into the SUV. It was heavily tinted, which didn’t lend to their efforts, but they were high enough up to see within the open sunroof, and within to the dull glint of white rubber. Donovan’s heart sank. Again? How would they get to Houston on foot? Because surely they were in no shape to take on another one or more of those glass-faced nightmares. He looked over at Trevor and nodded his head in the direction they’d come. He nodded the same way, and together they began to pick their way back through the soaked underbrush towards their bikes.
They had just topped the first hill when they heard shouting, and when they turned the same guard who’d almost seen them earlier was advancing on them, and fast. Not good. He couldn’t see them, could he? They were so careful, they went back the exact same way they’d come… the way that nearly got them spotted on this very hill?
Donovan and Trevor froze, as still as the rabbits they had passed as they crawled and slid around the lowest limbs of whitebrush and mesquite to get this far.